Thursday, September 30, 2010

Systematic for the People

Don't kid yourself, no matter how well you function when disorganized, you will still function better with a system. (I can feel the free spirits who love clutter giving me the death stare right now but I stand by my words. I'm not saying the clutter-lovers aren't fantastic. I'm not even saying you can't have your share of clutter and be optimally effective, if said clutter is methodical. But picking up crap to find other crap which requires wading through crap isn't efficient.)

Of course, putting everything away instantly after usage in tiny compartmentalized spaces when you'll need them again 5 minutes later isn't efficient either - even if it is organized. That's the camp I fall into but we all have our issues...

My compulsiveness has been tested by all the patterns I've purchased in the last 11 months. Including a mere handful of the patterns that come with certain sewing books, I appear to have collected an additional 35 or so. How this has happened is kind of beyond me. But hey, they're cheaper than RTW.

Recently, Victoria mentioned this incredible system she uses to organize her patterns and I was hooked. You should know, I haven't adopted it to the hard core standard she applies, which is to say I haven't grouped my patterns by garment type because a) I don't have that many and b) I'm happy to flip through the book or the index page to find what I'm looking for.

She uses smaller envelopes than I do; right now I'm keeping muslins in my envelopes for future reference. As I've never referred back to a muslin yet (save my bra muslins), I don't think I'll do that for the long term. But the great thing about this system is that it's so modular!

It starts with the binder:


Which contains a pattern index:

Note the index numbers in the left column. The other columns give info about the pattern company, its pattern number, and a description of the pattern. In my case, I've put a little heart next to the patterns that worked out especially well...

Those index numbers accord with the clear envelope encasing the pattern cover:

They also accord with the number on the envelope, in which the pattern pieces and instructions live:

The envelopes live in the fancy new organizer bin system:

And voila!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Work Space I Love

I guess this is a case of "ask and you shall receive". As soon as I posted about my sewing space, I found this on Apartment Therapy:


Don't you love it??

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Summertime

Oh, the fall is here, not that I begrudge autumn. It is my fave season though, alas, it fades into winter, which will utterly suck about 5 months from now.

Let's look at a few, gorgeous photos from my summer hols in Quebec. These were taken in Baie St. Paul, a spot whose claim to fame is Cirque de Soleil...




Don't you love that track? It seems to go nowhere and everywhere all at once...

We had one of our loveliest meals here. In fact, it was the scene of the best glass of California zinfandel EVAH. It was chilled within an inch of its life, which seems an impossibility given how freakishly hot it was in BSP when we were there. Honestly, that wine was life-altering, especially as I sipped it under a shade umbrella beside a tributary leading straight to the St. Lawrence. The relaxation almost did me in.

During this road trip we also decided to check out les Sept Chutes. After much traveling and anticipation, we eventually crawled down the penultimate scenic, gravel road for about a thousand miles, our crap-car air conditioner diminishing in efficacy with each revolution. My, we were excited by the anticipation of viewing this natural wonder.

When finally we arrived at the end of the path, we found an unexpected booth, in which an overheated, less-than-cheerful ticket taker once-overed us and said (with nary a second glance): "Trente-deux dollars."

We each of us (Scott, Nicole and I) took a long look at each other as if to validate what we had heard. I mean, we're anglo. No doubt we merely thought she said thirty-two dollars, but we must have been wrong. Those French people speak fast sometimes.

And in a moment out of some kind of low rent comedy, we all said simultaneously (mostly in English): No freakin' way. You want to charge us 32 bucks to see this thing and you didn't even have the decency to pave the road??* At which point Scott took out his PDA and crowed: Look here, I'm checking out the falls for free online! (Torrents of giggles ensued, from the car only.)

The woman was incredulous. I doubt anyone had ever traveled hours in a car to turn around at the gates over a $32.00 surcharge. And the wild thing is, if you know Scott, Nicole and I - and our holiday spendthrift ways - you'd be shocked to find that we'd all agreed categorically to walk away. (Or should I say amble in a compact car with practically no air circulation when traveling under 80 km/hr.) I mean, really, I've been known to pay 32 bucks for a glass of wine.

So the closest I've got to the seven falls is photos on the web. Apparently, I've heard, it looks just like them.

*If you happen to be Canadian, from some locale other than Toronto, I suspect, on reading this, you are thinking something like: OMG, those people from Toronto are so classless. They're as bad as everybody says! Rest assured, it is merely we who are classless. And hell bent on mod cons for fees.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Room Tour: The Sewga Space


There's a post series going on out there, in which rather well known sewists show their sewing spaces with fascinating explanation.

Alas, no one's asked me to participate, so I feel the need to take matters into my own hands. What I lack in sewing clout, I posit I make up for in style!

For starters, I am fortunate that I have come to sewing relatively late in life - because it gives me a bit more disposable income to spend on the important things, like hideously expensive (but top-of-the-line) sergers:


Yes, there she is, the Babylock Imagine, facilitating all my interior finishing needs at a moment's notice. You can also see my chic denim "regular machine" cover, though now, when I look at the inside seams, I want to start all over :-) I know I don't deserve this high end equipment at my novice stage, but that's between me and my line of credit. I've decided I'm going to improve adequately to meet its standard at my earliest opportunity.

Intriguingly, I have 2 other machines - the $200.00 Brother (encased in the cover), which Scott bought me and which kicked off this spectacular life journey, and a Singer 185J, which was gifted to me by my MIL a few months ago. Both of them are also great machines and I feel tremendously lucky in the sewing mechanics department.

Between yoga and sewing, I spend a lot of time in this space, so I feel two things are de rigeur: flowers and utter organization. Enter my latest purchase, which I've been waiting on for weeks:


It's modular plastic bins with a wood plank top. Likely I could have found something just like this at IKEA for half the price, but I opted to support a local business and it does fit perfectly in the mini (formerly wasted) space I have to use. The book situation is going to change. They're just hanging out there till I can find a chicer solution. I don't like to cover up a window with stuff...

Here's a longer shot...

In the first shot you can see the "paper bag" binder I have in the corner. That's the subject of another post, coming up soon, in which I advise you about my pattern inventory system. Note: I stole it from one of the most terrific sewists in the 'sphere, Victoria, but I don't think she'll mind... (Other note: Victoria - I'm working on the award post "interesting things about me". Will put it up soon and thanks!)

A couple of interesting facts about this room:
  • My husband lawn-surfed the oil painting on the wall. It was so made by some family guy in his art room in 1972, which is why I love it. Art rooms are the thing peeps. Or art cubbies, if space is short. I've said it a thousand times - I am so grateful for my creative space.

  • The sewing table is not an antique! I just learned from my mother that it's a reproduction she commissioned in the early 80s. It was designed with a special cut out in the back to fit over the rads we used to have in our old west-end home. Needless to say, one day it will be an antique because it is just beautifully made.
I'm not in a rush to perfect this room - an extremely unusual state of affairs (or admission) knowing me. I want to watch it develop into the most functional place for work. Functional, but with lovely form, natch. Two things I desperately need, but haven't been able to source affordably as yet are task lighting that really works (and looks awesome) and a decent chair. My back and neck are really taking the brunt of this, working as I do, but it hasn't come together yet and I guess I'll need to be patient. I think the universe is urging me to finish paying off the serger first, yes?

On the other side of the room is the fabric storage unit / ironing board / yoga prop section:


See the green genie i.e. Singer machine in its case on the floor there? Every single scrap of fabric I own is in the (ugly but endlessly functional) chest-thingy. You may be intrigued to know that's the first furniture I ever bought in 1986. I was with my mother and we found it outside a wood shop in the Beach. It's good to remember that, time was, I had really questionable taste. It keeps me on my toes.

I have all of my muslin, fashion fabric, fabric notions (i.e. shoulder pads), lingerie supplies, lining and scraps in that cupboard. My rule is, when I can't (neatly) fit those in the piece, then I can't buy more. So far it works. Note: I do believe in buying fabric to suit pattern purchases. Though I, like every sewing obsessed person, can barely resist fabric (it's like drugs) in its natural habitat, I have to remember that a) it's really expensive and b) it's useless if it sits in a closet gathering dust.

That mirror is excellent, btw. It makes you look super skinny :-)

Y'all know I love looking at interior spaces and I love sewing spots, so please respond in kind. If you have a sewing space (or a yoga space! or a fitness space! or an art space!), show it off. You can attach a photo in comments or link to a post of your own. I really would love to see where you discover your best self.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Adjustable Me

One of the things I love most about my life is the ability to walk to and from work every day. It gives me some (much needed) exercise but, more to the point, it keeps me sane. You think I'm being glib, perhaps. Alas, I'm not. Fortunately I have strong legs and I love to move so it's an entirely optimal form of therapy.

Walking facilitates my segue from working person to mother person. It takes quite a while to shake off the first and accept the second. And as I go, I think.

One of the other things I love most about my life is my ability to think. I am the best company! I come up with all kinds of crazy theories and associations and blog posts and ways I'd like to change the world and stuff I want for dinner. And I do it all simultaneously. They may say multi-tasking is a fallacy, but they obvs don't know my mind.

I also mull over sewing matters. It might be more accurate to call them issues. Or problems. Or things I can't figure out and it's really bugging my ass. I think of the super smart posts of other sewists I've read and life-altering book chapters. I consider the intricacies of the pattern, of my shape. And I come up with a plan. (FYI, in case I haven't made it clear, this thinking can be very painful. Hitting up against the brick walls of my inexperience or inability or limitation or whatever you want to call it is SO viscerally unpleasant.)

With the Lady Grey coat, based on all of your wonderful feedback, I've made the following alterations on the paper pattern, which I'll use to cut the fashion fabric and lining soon:
  • Removed a (graded) inch of fabric from the lower (under) sleeve. I didn't impact the armscye so I wouldn't have to adjust other pieces. Also, the shoulders fit well so I didn't want to mess with them. I took the fabric from the centre of the sleeve piece and the seam allowances will remain the same for the side seams joining the upper (top) to lower sleeve. Thanks, Stacy for your feedback. Can you confirm that this method of removing the fabric will work?
  • Speaking of seam allowances, or SAs, I am going to make all of them slightly under 1/2 inch (instead of 5/8 inch). I always intended to do this (pending the fit) because I prefer smaller SAs and because, given the vast number of pieces in this garment, it will give me an extra inch at the bust.
  • I did modify the collar slightly - just a touch - by cutting the unencumbered sides to a size 6 (I cut the rest of the pattern in an 8). This won't impact any joins.
  • I opted not to adjust the lapels - but instead I'll use a wider seam allowance on those. Once the facing is attached they will be 5/8 inch (by pattern SAs) smaller. If I increase that to a graded inch (merging back to the regular SA at the waist) I can diminish the lapels without sacrificing fabric I may need to reincorporate.
  • The really intriguing alteration was for my short waist. (Of course, my waist is perfect, it's the patterns that are too long! :-))Remember those weird fabric bubbles at my waist? It turns out a lot of LGSA participants are having the same issue. For some, the problem requires a swayback adjustment. For others, such as me, it's a bodice length issue. On the muslin, I took an inch out of the waist length (1/2 inch below the waist and 1/2 inch above it) and the problem was solved!!! Of course, transfering that to a paper pattern which is a) flat b) bias cut on some pieces and c) many pieced has turned out to be a fascinating alteration lesson. For starters, I did it without a book. I know, what am I, insane??? Seriously though, the method came to me by osmosis (i.e. the hive mind of my sewist collective) and I knew how I had to do it. I could have disassembled the muslin and placed the altered fabric pieces on the the paper. But I didn't want to for a few reasons. So I came up with a system (Alert: it may bore you if you don't sew - or even if you do): I determined the centre panel point at the waist of each piece and the height from the bottom of the piece to that centre point (15 inches up from the bottom). It meant I had to estimate the waist on the pieces that didn't label it for me (all but 1), though I did have that one piece (the centre front) as a guide. For the bias cut lining pieces, I made sure that the grain arrow continued to align after the length was removed from the waist area. As such, on the paper pattern, I'll need to cut the new lines around the waist to true up the shape again - somewhat more so than the tiny amount I may have to do it for the on-grain adjusted pieces.
The reason this short waist adjustment thrills me is because I feel like my experience - in addition to my community - has contributed to my action! To some extent, I intuited the methodology and intuition is a beautiful gift. Never ignore it.

The caveat is, if it fails, you are going to have to read an epic post. But we all have a while to come to terms with that potentiality :-)

PS: If y'all think I've done the wrong thing with any of these adjustments - PLEASE SPEAK UP!!! Thank you. xo

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Malaised and Confused

You know those months when you can't take a good picture?

Well, I find myself in the midst of a "questionable photo quarter". All the fun and it lasts longer.

Nonetheless, I feel badly that I make all these clothes (which I'm super proud of or horrified by) and I make you listen to the full construction story and then show you a flat photo on a hanger. Or one of a muslin.

So here's my Vogue Very Easy jacket. (The skirt I made recently in herringbone is the bottom that goes with it though, obvs, I made them as separates.) I can't believe I made it 6 months ago! I sure have come a long way (as a sewist if not as a model).

Here's as much of me as I can bear to reveal...

Why am I wearing a Gap T with a fancy jacket?? It's some wacky kind of dress down thing I thought would work... And don't you love that smile? It says "Mona Lisa, I'm going to give you a run for your closed-mouth, wan-smile sensibility." Seriously, did I just compare myself to the Mona Lisa???
Oh, and apparently I need a haircut.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I Love This...

I don't do much Sartorialist-promotion. I do read the blog daily, but I find the general attitude off-putting. Nonetheless, I couldn't fail to show you these shots from the latest Paul Smith collection:



Photos: Sartorialist
How elegant is this?? I love the nod to the forties and the subdued, but rich, colours. See how the model stands upright in these statuesque clothes? Notice - while very slender - how she doesn't look as if she's about to keel over from hunger.
This is my kind of look.

Monday, September 20, 2010

You Can Take the Girl Out of Toronto...

Rather amusingly, today when I was looking through Apartment Therapy in my reader, I came upon this:

I thought to myself: Wow, that's a nice room in a totally real way. It's not matchy, it's not "perfect". The colours are lively, the decor eclectic.
And then I opened the actual post and discovered it's a place down the block from me. OK, not entirely down the block - maybe 2 km away - but you get the point. The house is entirely the same vintage as mine. In truth, I like my house better (it is my house after all), but it's amusing that the photo caught my eye for its existential familiarity.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Lady Like?

The reason I don't show you photos of myself very often these days is because I spend most of my weekend with greasy hair, in the same pair of yoga pants.

So it's not going to do much for my fashionista street cred to show you these:







Seriously, would it kill me to wash my hair??

My vanity compels me to tell you - in case it's not entirely apparent - that one cannot look worse than in stringy, white muslin cotton, sweat pants and unwashed hair. But at least I've got lipstick on!

Hideousness notwithstanding, I'm going to post these on the Lady Grey Sew Along Flickr site later today to see what kind of muslin-improvement feedback I get.

But I'm interested in your feedback too. I know something is weird with the back waist. Any idea of how to improve it, sewist friends?

Also, I feel the shawl collar is too much - too wide - so I'm probably going to hack away at it. Thoughts about how much to cut? One more thing, I've tightened the waist to suit my current (thin) shirt but there's quite a bit of give. I will make sure to position the button such that a sweater can be worn underneath. This is Canada, after all...

Reader question update: Andrea says: I was more than a little overwhelmed after reading Gertie's muslin post. All that work for just the muslin? I'm starting to get cold feet. How many hours have you put into it so far?

My answer (started in the comments) is convoluted (but optimistic!): Try not to think about the investment or it will freak you out when actually, doing it is not hard. The muslin actually goes together quite quickly after the cutting and thread tracing. In total I've prob spent $150 bucks and 20 hours so far (includes buying fabric and notions, reading pattern and reference books, cutting, thread tracing etc. - the whole shebang). Not negligible - but that's over the last 3 weeks. Today was veritably easy as far as muslin fitting goes. The pattern instructions are very clear and the princess seams give a lot of fit latitude. Join the Flickr group. It will keep you involved because you'll see what everyone else is doing and you'll get feedback.

I've cut some corners:
  • Made the size 8 (instead of 6 with a full bust adjustment). (Smart to go up a size because Colette patterns owner, Sarai, so much as tells you that she doesn't add a lot of ease into her patterns. And it's a coat so you need some give.)
  • Sarai says she cuts for a C cup, but you have to consider that a C cup on a medium to broad frame is going to go a long way on a person with a 32 inch under bust. Especially since the pattern has princess seams.
  • I did NOT trace the pattern (for shame!). It was going to be too painful. My rationale: I'm never going to make this for anyone else. Under any circumstances. And I cut the 8 even though my measurements are between the 6 and the 8. Cutting took over an hour. Tracing would have taken 3, at least.
  • I didn't add 1 inch seams (per Gertie's suggestion). I went with the 5/8 SA, again, because I cut up a size. Adding the extra 3/8 inch gets labour intensive for reasons that aren't interesting.
  • I haven't really felt the value of the thread tracing (which lets you see the seamlines on both sides of fabric. Chalk markings are only visible on the wrong side (inside) of the fabric. If I needed to make a lot of alterations, I think it would be very valuable. For a coat or large project, I'm all for it. But for a skirt or something simple, I'm unlikely to invest the time. Baste the threading, don't properly sew. It saves time. Also, baste the muslin. While it tends to unthread, unless you're careful, if you need to rip out stitches it will be a cinch.
In short, I'm just mucking in. Enthusiasm is everything here. Don't give up Andrea! You can do it.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

I Want to Have Dinner Here...

Lord, I love this kitchen:

Photo: Desire to Inspire (the whole post is great so click on the link...)

It's so Victorian servant's quarters with a touch of modernity.

And you? What do you think of it?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Overexposure

I'm loathe to show you these photos of my Lady Grey Sew Along lining because they aren't accurate. The colour is actually not green at all (or teal as it seems here) but a rich jewel blue (to go with the navy boucle fashion fabric, every photo of which was wretched and flat or overexposed).

Nonetheless, observe the wrong side in the photo directly above. Do you see how it's flannel? This will add a layer of warmth without necessitating lambswool interlining (which I couldn't find) or yucky synthetics (which I couldn't bring myself to buy). I hope it's going to be effective. If nothing else it will repel the wind better than a regular, thin lining. And the satin is rather rich.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Wiggle Room

Here's the finished Vogue 8413 retro dress:





Of course, it doesn't help that I made it using the worlds most flammable fabric (Note the synthetic, see-through shot? Nice!) - I like to call it "space aged" and contend that it's authentic retro cloth. In fact, it's just really cheap ponte double knit I found for $5.95/yd on fabric.com. I don't know why I thought this would be a successful purchase.

Only in a way, it was. See, I didn't care a whit about wrecking this fabric as I was making the dress. It functioned, in my mind, as expendable (potentially wearable) muslin. And, even as I was constructing the dress (and realized that it was going to work very nicely on my frame), I went to FabricLand and bought some lovely orange ponte double knit for $16.00/yd, which will actually make a beautiful garment.

Some thoughts:
  • No FBA (full bust adjustment) required. Mardel said something so smart, when I emailed to inquire how it could be that some patternreview.com posts mentioned that the pattern fit huge in the bodice and others indicated it was tiny. She suggested that the people who thought it was tiny were likely actually (accidentally) cutting the pattern piece on the grain when the instructions note to cut it on the bias (which is a pain in the ass, btw).]
  • I cut it on the bias and it fit beautifully. What drape! It's def. got 38.5" in the bust. If I'd FBA'd it, it would have been too large. If I'd cut it on the grain, it would most certainly have been to tight.
  • I actually think the sizing on this piece is fantastic. The fact that you get 6, rather different from one another, dresses with this pattern (each cuter than the last) - and the sizing is terrific - means that everyone should run out and sew this.
  • I did have to cut 4" off the bottom just to get it to knee-length. Why does Vogue make the skirts so long?
  • The instructions are very clear, if not quick, and I think it's about as simple as a "tailored" dress can get.
  • What I lack in natural "zipper insert" talent, I make up for with pleats! Seriously, check them out.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Time, Time, Time

One of these days I'm going to count up the number of references to "time" on this blog - to not having it or needing it or enjoying it or wishing for more of it. I observe this in my writing all the time (ha!) - moreso than in any that of my fave blogs, many of whom are written by extremely busy people. (Dare I suggest it, they may be people even busier than me :-))

So here's another go at telling you that I have tons to say. Really, the details of my mind are so utterly fun and full you would love to take a ride on "Kristin's Tilt-A-Whirl Brain". (You do have to be a certain height though. It's not exactly PG in there.)

Meanwhile, let me give you a few sewing related updates:
  • Even if you don't intend to do the Lady Grey sew along, you should bookmark Gertie's site and read along. It's totally fascinating. I'd be interested to hear about it - and to read the comments and view the Flickr page - whether I sewed or not, never mind simply not "actively" participating. I very much appreciate the opportunity to sew in a community, to the completion of a common goal. In truth, I am lonely in my sewing sometimes. I mean, sometimes it's tough having only your stealth and newbie skills for company. I rely on my sewing friends (see sidebar) for all kinds of support - emotional to practical. I am so glad to have a chance to do something that 140 other people will be doing simultaneously. I'm a big believer in group energy, so I'm intrigued to see how this is going to play out.
  • It's going to be full-on coat sewing during a month when I'll also be traveling on a few occasions for work. So I wonder how I'm going to fit it all in. I mean, where will I find the time??? (please see above).
  • FYI, the fashion fabric I bought for my coat is a navy boucle boiled wool (not matted like so much boiled wool. That's a look I do not like.) Still haven't found the perfect lining. Have the muslin but need to get a bunch of interlining and interfacing supplies. I'm prob going to try to do this hardcore, with the group, so I'll need to use hair canvas (for tailoring) and lambswool interlining (for warmth) etc. If I stop to think about it, I get a bit nervous. So I don't bother to do too much thinking.
  • Another FYI, in case you're still considering joining this sew along, you should know the coat will have cost me about 150 bucks by the time I add in all the supplies and fabrics. That's before I spend 30 plus hours making it. So maybe, unless you're really stoked, you may want to go to Club Monaco and buy yourself something warm and chic. I bet you could work out a participatory blog experience out of that, with a little thought. And I'm likely to join, knowing me.
  • BTW, don't begrudge the cost of your coats. Now that I'm making one, I don't think I could consider spending less than $500.00 on one ever again, economies of scale notwithstanding. I used to wonder how people spent thousands of dollars on garments. These days I can't believe that one can buy a pair of pants for less money than it costs to purchase the raw materials to make them.
  • The Colette Patterns Sencha top is finally available for reorder: It's been out of stock forever (she says, like she's been sewing for years or something?!) because everyone in the freakin' sewosphere wants a chance at it. I just snapped it up to make with 2 woven fabrics I LOVE. One is an animal print (vaguely sheer) and the other is a merlot-coloured matte silk. Here's hoping I can pull this one off so that I look that much more elegant in my new pencil skirt.
  • BTW, I'm totally thrilled with the new pencil skirt. I've practically forgotten all the ways in which it is imperfect.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Creamy Delicious Goodness

Let's say you don't read this blog to keep up on my novice sewist experiences... If that's the case, you're in luck because today's post is all about dessert! And not just dessert, but dessert with cream, chocolate and salt - or as I like to call it, nature's divine combination.

I love to eat creme patissiere (aka pastry cream aka that stuff that sits between the sugar crust and the fruit in a tart) with berries or, if we're being honest, out of the mixing bowl with a spoon till half of it is gone. Usually I make it in its purest iteration - with vanilla bean - but sometimes a girl likes to shake it up.

I've tried many recipes for this treat but, for texture and overall fab, Joe Pastry's is the best. Joe's is my go to baking blog. His sciency interpretation of all things sweet really contextualizes why we bake the way we do. And he is always there to answer reader questions.

All pastry cream versions involve the yummy, and chemical, interaction of:
  • egg yolks
  • some sugar (or chocolate, in this case)
  • a binding agent (either flour or cornstarch, in general)
  • flavouring i.e. vanilla bean or chocolate or coffee or caramel or whatever you like
  • dairy - sometimes it's only milk, sometimes a mixture of milk and cream
Some thoughts, based on my own experience:
  • milk and cream are superior to milk alone
  • cornstarch is the better thickener
  • Joe, and others, suggest about 4 oz of sugar (total) for 2 cups of liquid - I prefer half of that or even a little bit less. I don't like pastry cream to be notably sweet, just as I don't like ice cream to be notably sweet. In whipped cream, if there's even a hint of sugar I won't eat it.
  • I love anything sweet with added fleur de sel. It makes the salt better and the sugar better.
I'm not sure if I've written about this before (in almost 3 years and 1000 posts, I can't remember what the hell I've said half of the time) but I'm continually amazed that you can bake just about anything - from solid to liquid to somewhere in between - with eggs, butter, sugar, flour and milk. Talk about the versatility of nature.

OK, Joe talks about the basic recipe far better than I could duplicate it here (follow the link above), but below are a few gratuitous photos of my experience:





For this variation, note:
  • When you make chocolate pastry cream, use bittersweet (about 3 oz for 2 cups of liquid), reduce the sugar content (if you use any at all), and melt the chocolate with the liquid. You can also add the salt to the liquid as it's heating.
  • Really mix the cornstarch well with the egg yolks. Sometimes I get a little bit of lumping and it's likely that this happens when I don't whisk like my life depends on it.
  • This is a beautiful, traditional recipe that dresses up or down, depending on how you serve it. Put it in a pate sucre crust and it's the basis of a very chic tart. In ramekins with berries and a dust of cocoa, it's homey - but elegant - like pots de creme, without the bain marie and all the fussing with setting the eggs.
  • It's really, really easy, peeps. Anyone can have fun making this in 15 minutes (ish). It's kid- and grown up-friendly.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Thursday, September 9, 2010

In Case You Were Wondering

The reason you haven't heard more about sewing lost long weekend project three (Vogue 8413), is that it's still not finished. I know you're shocked by this admission.

OK, it's actually fairly close to being finished but an obnoxious half-day power-out on Monday really killed my momentum. Not to mention that it ate into the time remaining to finish the dress.

What's left to accomplish is easing the pleated bodice into the darted skirt at the waistline, adding an invisible zipper and then hemming the skirt. A long-time sewist could probably finish that in an hour. I don't know how long it will take me but I need to be rested before I tackle it.

Though I was going to take a break from sewing this weekend, I imagine I'll finish this and then trace the coat pattern for the Lady Gray Sew Along. I mean, it's not going to trace itself. I'm intrigued to learn that Gertie is a cutter, not a tracer. I was so not a tracer till I wrecked (by cutting) a chichi pattern and the Presbyterian in me couldn't deal with the waste. Weird, given I was raised Catholic. Note: I did feel guilty as well as wasteful!

Now it occurs to me that I can make the garment in other sizes, should I ever decide to sew for someone else. Of course, how I'm ever going to find time to sew for someone else given my current schedule and level of disinterest is beyond me, but you never know.

To follow up on the imperfect pencil skirt, I'm actually really liking it now. I wore it yesterday and discovered that the lining has stretched (somehow) and I will need to press the hem up and stitch it shorter. But the fit is much better than I originally understood. It's not as fitted as some things I wear, but it's really comfortable and it doesn't look loose, even as it gives me some breathing space. With flat boots, it's rather flattering. Oh, and I did match up those chevrons freakin' perfectly! See, sometimes I'm an enabler of perfection :-)

I say, take what you can get.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Happy Ending

I'm supa busy at work right now but I have to show you my latest Figleaves purchase. It finally arrived after a shipping debacle the likes of which one only sees during mercury retrograde (if one believes in that sort of thing and, after dozens of like irritants, who wouldn't really?)

Panache Sienna

In brief, this bra (and its matching undies) has been a long time coming. Like over a month. With lots of twists and turns and emails back and forth with Customer Service and admissions of error and declining to expedite replacement shipping etc. Let me say that, on balance, I still have the utmost respect for Figleaves, but this irksome scenario has sucked the joy out of the perfect online bra shopping experience. It was bound to happen eventually I suppose, but I really hope we go back to "yay, it fits!" status quo on next purchase.

The shortie undies are totally adorable - and fit beautifully - as does the balconette bra. Note: In the photo above, the bra looks more "full cup" than balconette, but it is deliciously cut to highlight one's decollete. I don't know if that bra is in a larger size or if it just fits that woman differently than my bra fits me. I'm just saying that this is one to run out and buy. They've already sold out once...

The satiny pink underlining, with delicate lace atop, is totally appealing to the vixen in me.

I'm so grateful to try on a bra that didn't take me 14 hours to make and then turned out to look crappy.

All's well that ends well, don't you agree?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Open Letter

Dear Omnipotent Goddess Who Oversees the School Year:

Another year, another grade. Somehow I didn't stop to consider, when I decided to have a kid, that it would be tantamount to revisiting every grade, every subject, every heartache. I know there are a lot of children you oversee who are really struggling. Some of them are working through some tough family shit. Others are significantly academically challenged. I realize that my own child is very fortunate in her small school, in her safe clique. She has parents who really care to help her to achieve.

Nonetheless, as we stand on the precipice of another school year, I have to ask you to benevolently grant us the following:
  • A good teacher, who will engage my child without stressing her out. One who will require her to think, even as her mind wanders.
  • Some clear assignments (with articulate and age-appropriate instruction) to help her to learn.
  • Some traction. Please let us take some of the lessons learned from last year and apply them to this one - any and all of them.
  • A focused child - one who has the ability to keep it together after a 10 hour day so that she can do another hour of homework.
  • Patient parents who have the ability to keep it together after a 10 hour day to help the kid to learn (without semi-regularly throwing out snide remarks about not wanting to do this anymore because it's too unpleasant).
  • Good humour (see above).
  • No assignments that have anything to do with Nunavut. Please.
I really appreciate your consideration and anything you can do to assist us in achieving a harmonious next few months.

Thank you and best regards, K

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Here's the Pencil Skirt

You know, the one you're supposed to say you can't find a flaw in? To make it easier for you, I'm only posting shots that make it look as flaw-free as possible...

You know it's rough when I spend a free evening (kid and husband out) posting about sewing rather than actually doing it :-)

Fun fact: When I bought the fabric and lining, the woman who cut them for me told me she thought the lining was utterly hideous and that it would look terrible with the taupe fashion fabric. "Big waste of Bemberg" was how she put it. Ha! I think they look fantastic together.





In Which I Discuss the Merits of not Discussing the Merits of Sewing aka An Update

I'm taking a break from the sewing lost long weekend to give you a brief update:

The Bra

No joke, I utterly loathe hand made bras - at least my hand made bras. In case you're wondering, the latest attempt, the Merckwaerdigh, did not work. What a surprise (uttered with dripping sarcasm). Not only didn't it fit but it was entirely unsupportive - which given the density of the structure boggles the mind. In case you are keeping score, it is a) unattractive and b) useless in its given purpose. Oh, and it took about 10 hours to assemble and another 4ish hours to set up.

What?! Do I have so much time and energy in my life that I can continue to throw it away on wasted attempts? Oh, I know that learning is the path to success and every overnight success first slogged for years (or whatever that stupid expression is) but I am not patient and I am only as up as my latest down - a personality flaw at the best of times, never mind during the sewing times (when it's suicidal ideation-inducing).

I've got to take a class. Or find a teacher who can work with me one-on-one. Universe, this is Kristin putting it out there: Please find me a teacher who is fun and friendly and talented and affordable and in my general neighbourhood. Thanks. (Cuz till then, my hundreds of dollars of lingerie supplies are going to languish in the cupboard.)

The Pencil Skirt

My lined pencil skirt has had its share of challenges but, on balance, it's a success. I mean, I can wear it and the lining is sweet and the finishing isn't horrible (thank you Babylock serger!). Given the pattern didn't come with lining instructions, I'm pretty pleased. I also matched up the mini-pattern at the waistband and side seams perfectly.

I made the zipper invisible (not in the instructions) and it looks great - but, though I chose the right size and lined it up with the notches, it didn't fit to the top and I have had to hook/eye in a rather significant way. Did I mention that I suck at hooks/eyes and it looks rather mediocre. Fortunately, I don't think people will be staring at that detail. Until I point it out to them which I am honour-bound to do and then I'll want to kick myself for having thrown my hand because they'll see the flaw like I see the flaw. You see my dilemma?

Its "improvement opportunities": Well, it's too big. I should have cut the 12 not the 14. Note: I made a muslin and it fit well. Of course, muslin has no give and this worsted had more than I bargained for...For some reason, waistbands confuse the shit out of me. I ended up top stitching this one (not the most elegant figure an out of keeping with the formal herringbone worsted), not the end of the world, but not optimal. I also opted to cut the skirt on the width of the herringbone pattern i.e. the chevrons don't run vertically along the length of my body, but horizontally. This was intentional. I thought it would be interesting and, since I'm not wide in my lower body, I guessed that it wouldn't create the illusion of too-much additional width. Hmmm, not so sure now that it's all said and done.

Reading this, I"m sure you think "K, why do you bother?". I have to stop dissecting my projects immediately after completion because my perfectionism is beating me down. I mean, I'm not simply unfortunate enough to be a perfectionist (psychological "issue", ya know). I'm a perfectionist who isn't perfect!?!? Can you imagine my pain?

I'm going to go upstairs and take a photo of the skirt, as soon as I drink a glass of wine. Or two. And then I'll post it with the expectation that y'all will tell me it's fantastic and I'm crazy for thinking otherwise.

I've decided to wait to tell you about the retro dress (Vogue 8413) till tomorrow. I have some stuff to say, but I feel it's inappropriate to comment on a project till its complete. At that point, however, all bets are off.

Pls. stay tuned...

Friday, September 3, 2010

Just a Pool Before I Go...

...to whom it may concern.*


Let the sewing lost weekend begin.

* In case you are under the age of 40, title refers to this utterly awesome song.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Weekend at K.Line's

Somehow my posting vacation keeps being interrupted by, um, posting. So let's say I'm on half-time posting right now. I'm continually amazed by my motivation to write (even when taxed by everything else) and to communicate with y'all. Really, I miss you when I'm not posting, weird as that may sound. I mean, I can understand missing you when you're not posting - but when I'm not posting? Hmmm. Must be very attached to your comments :-)

I seem to be in a rather sewing-fixated phase - thank goodness based on the money I'm spending on this habit - but I feel a growing urge to show you some nice interiors and maybe a new Lingerie I Own piece. So don't give up in disgust if you are totally sick of K.Line the budding sewist.

Having said that, I'm about to embark on the Sewing Long Lost Weekend (or is that Lost Long Weekend?). As I said to my friend Jennifer, it's like a regular lost weekend but with more clothes rather than fewer!

On the list of items:
  • Merkwaerdigh bra (This is a pattern I haven't tried. It seems fuller in the upper cup than the others, which is where I need the fabric. I may have to revise the sizing because this pattern is geared towards a larger range i.e. I'm on the cusp. But because I've been so disappointed with the other bras, and their lack of effectiveness with upper bust fullness, I'm going to give it a go.) Let's leave it to my kid to ask the tough questions i.e., Mummy, do you really think this one is going to work? I'm doing the upper cup in underlined lace (my new fancy products arrived and I've already fused the underlining to the lace), and the lower cups in indigo duoplex. None of the fabrics stretch (except the indigo powernet on the band), so fit perfection is the order of the day. I'd like to tell you I'm optimistic, but I strive for honesty on this blog...

  • Pencil skirt from Vogue 8640. I've made the jacket and I love it. This skirt will be in a taupe herringbone (first time matching stripes) and a yellow lining. The pattern doesn't offer lining instructions so I'm going to make them up. I know, feel free to laugh perversely.

  • Vogue 8413, retro-inspired dress in poly doubleknit. I'm going to make version B. I bought the fabric online very inexpensively. On receiving the goods, I can see why. If this thing turns out to be a muslin, it will most certainly irritate me from a time perspective, but I won't feel like I've sacrificed the world's most perfect fabric. I bought more doubleknit in the store this week - burnt orange poly blend - much nicer hand, and I'll use it for a second attempt / second garment (depending on how it goes). The dilemma with sewing stable knits (any knits) is that you can't use woven muslin to check it out for fit. You need to use another stable knit. Preferably one with similar properties because the drape is everything. I'm still debating the value of an FBA. I think there will be enough ease given the bias-cut bodice, to give the FBA a miss. I've done some measurements and I'm fairly sure. But built in ease (an element of fabric and pattern construction) is difficult to assess from a paper pattern.

The wild card additional sewing item: a Simplicity pattern I bought months ago for M. She's finally engaged with sewing and wants to make the v-neck, short sleeve, elastic waist top. I've told her she needs to trace the pattern today, including marking, for my review this eve. We'll see how that goes. We measured her last night and I was amazed to discover that she's a size 8, measure for measure. How odd to see someone actually conform exactly to the pattern numbers! Ah, kids.

I really hope she can keep her focus and work amicably with me to put this garment together. We tend to lock horns easily and her organizational skills are still under development. Given that I have so many personal objectives this weekend, I don't want to lose my patience.

In case you think this is an insane amount to accomplish in 4 days - it is, IMO - you should know that I've spent the last 2 weeks collecting the materials and tracing the patterns and cutting the muslins and the self-fabrics and considering the best methods of assembly based on pattern instruction and other sources. So my aim is to simply SEW on the weekend, not do all the lead up and prep which should, by then, be complete. Natch, sewing is largely unknowable to me, so it may be smooth sailing or a lot of high waves. We'll just have to wait and see.

That's me. Whachoo doin' this long weekend?