Monday, January 31, 2011

It's Oz-some!

Hey - due to the time differences between Canada and Australia, I neglected to tell you about my latest interview on Inside Out Style - Imogen's awesome blog. Imogen is an image consultant who really knows her stuff. I've learned so much about body shape and clothing to suit different bodies in the years I've been reading her posts. Please check it out and let me know what you think!

The Bra: An Update and Questions

Well, after 30ish hours of utter stomach flu misery (17 of them spent sleeping), I returned in brief to the bra I'm in the midst of making. Yeah, I know, it's painful to sew these things at the best of times, but when disembodied from light-headedness, it's a special kind of trip...

As you know, with bras it's all or nothing. You can't determine whether it will fit until the last closure is attached. This one is practically finished and I continue to have suspicions it will fail somehow. For one thing, I'm having issues with the closure attachments. I always have issues attaching the closures to the bra back. (You think it would be easy after all the rest of it.) This time the difficulty is compounded because the shape of the bra back, where the closures are meant to attach, isn't right. It's supposed to be a closure-sized notch out from each side. In this case it's a broad, too-wide span.

If anyone has any suggestions about how to change this on the fly, at the very end - yes, I realize it's a pipe dream - pls. advise.

The good news, I suppose there is some, is that the cup fit is MUCH better than in any of my other attempts, which was my primary goal. I'm trying to take solace in that.

The bad news is that I suspect - as with every fucking bra I've made - it's not going to be adequately supportive.

I really need to start addressing this issue. Because if, for reasons of the unavailability of truly high-end bra materials, I can't find really strong fabric (that's also great-looking) and the sturdiest of wires etc., then I regret to inform you all that I will not continue on this path.

I already own some of the most gorgeous, great-fitting, incredibly supportive RTW lingerie in the world. That stuff is far more delicate (smaller elastics, no under band, predominantly lace) than any make-it-myself pattern I've come across in my size. And, to a one, they keep my tits from bouncing around.

Why on earth would I work my ass off till the end of time, were I to determine that the materials aren't out there to do create something comparable at home? I'm all but finished reconstructing my RTW bra to the T, so I know, if this one is the right size and yet does not support in the same way, then there's got to be another issue.

So, those of you with large breasts who make your own bras and who also own some excellent RTW (i.e. Freya, Fantasie, Charnos, Panache, Lejaby, Chantelle) - RTW that you know you are wearing in the correct size - tell me true: Is your homemade stuff every bit as supportive as the stuff you buy?

I know you might be able to make something fabulously supportive in a D cup - and certainly in sizes smaller than that - but what about the Es and Fs and above? For what it's worth, I don't see any Etsy or grass roots retailers making bras in large sizes. Maybe there's a reason. Please bra-makers, tell me straight.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Bright Spot

Patric Johansson Photo: Desire to Inspire

Even though I'm never eating again, this would be a nice place to hang out and drink some tea, doncha think?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Do You Have The Stomach For This?

I imagined I would have some fun shopping stories to share with you this weekend - I had plans to go out with a friend to an excellent group of shops to find her some new things / make getting dressed in the morning a less time-consuming undertaking - but instead I woke up in the middle of the night with the stomach flu.

At first, I didn't know if I'd drunk too much (3 glasses of wine, over 5 hour mega-protein dinner experience) though that seemed unlikely, whether I had food poisoning (I hoped not because a bunch of us went to a new restaurant and we all ate the same thing, more or less) or a bug.

But this morning, when the horrendous nausea switched digestive gears, I had my answer. Note: I write this in a moment of reprieve. Let's hope more of those are in my near future.

Anyway, I've had some time, i.e. a veritable capsule eternity, to consider nausea in detail. IMO, it's the worst feeling anyone can experience (though it isn't pain). It's relentless. When I was pregnant - as I had hours to remember last night - I threw up daily for 7 months. All that to say, it was a knowable, wan, almost manipulative nausea. This shit is "screaming collection officer" strength. This nausea is trying to take me down.

I will admit that the nausea of pregnancy almost did me in (my sister was medicated for hers which was so much worse than mine, even, she couldn't swallow the pills. Give that a moment of consideration.) During my pregnancy I needed only to look at something sideways and it would cause me to vomit on the spot. Like, on the subway (eventually I had to start walking to work to avoid that) or in sidewalk gutters. It was horrible and embarrassing a hundred times over, but it doesn't have an edge on "stomach bug" barf.

At this point, in this illness, time is my friend and my enemy - but more my friend than it was 8 hours ago. People who know me well, know that when I get sick, I become irrationally afraid of death. My sickness, in whatever form it takes, reminds me that one day I'm going to get something and I'm not going to be able to fight it off. You should have seen me in the 3-years of sickness phase known as "my kid's early childhood". I was that air-kiss mother from sitcoms. I know, this is such a cheery post...

Strangely, as I get older, my fear is not as extreme. My perspective on this is that, despite my ever-encroaching movement toward potential infirmity and death, I have experienced ever more recoveries from sickness with each passing year. It's a mind-fuck, yes?

It goes without saying, I'm never going to eat again. Maybe you could regale me with some stories about your own heroic recoveries from acute illness? (Lord knows, if you hit me with some stories about ongoing illness, I will most certainly come to appreciate this particular moment properly.) How do you deal with this sort of thing? Are you stoic? Pathetic? Somewhere in between?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Who's the Dummy?

I should preface this little anecdote by assuring you that, though my husband is often begrudging with his sewing assistance, he rarely leaves me in the lurch. He is an invaluable partner in my learning process. Furthermore, I have no doubt that he finds me completely attractive (because he tells me all the time). Alas, this post is not about how great my husband is. Where's the intrigue in that?? No, my friends, this is one of those "men are from Mars" stories.

About a week ago, when the dress form arrived, I convinced Scott to assist me in "shaping" it. Y'all know that process is not yet complete, but at this inception moment, I was entirely confident I'd have it all sorted out in a session or two.

We were tired. It was a Tuesday evening. The child's (traumatizing "eco house" construction) project was mid way through. It was dark and dreary. Really, it was a stormy night.

First off, the job was to take current measurements. That was Scott's role and he didn't do a very accurate job, truth be told. Instead of holding the tape measure taut (but not tight), he kept putting his finger in between the tape and my body. Or, allowing it to slacken slightly before recording the size. I tried to explain - again and again - how one measures for fit but he didn't get it. Outrageously, at one point - admittedly after I expressed some frustration with his technique - he had the nerve to suggest that he knew it was a difficult process, but I should just accept my true measurements, even if they were larger than I am comfortable with.

Um, hello?!?!? I'm the woman who just spent hundred's of dollars to undertake the worthy challenge of reproducing my true shape in an effort to design clothes of flawless fit. I'm the one who spends every weekend measuring fabric against antiquated big 4 sizing protocols - decreasing seam allowances as necessary, leaving my ego in the dust. Don't fucking tell me I have an issue accepting the fucking number on the tape!

OK, we had a moment. I suggested we should get a dress form that approximates him. We eventually got over it. I mean, I needed his help.

A (tense) while later, after struggling with the partial limbs I call "leglets", and the hips, we came upon the stomach-shaping. Scott took one look at the abdominal foam and said: Lord, there is no way that's going to be big enough.

Whereupon I realized there are some activities you should not undertake with men. And until further notice, he is prohibited from the sewga room, even if that was his secret motive.

The end.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Don't Ask, Tell

I know I suggested that you refrain from asking me about bra-making. It so happens that I appear to have been getting with the program, despite myself.

A couple of things slowed me down:
  • Disinterest in making another bra that doesn't fit
  • The RTW bra pattern I drafted (and then cut fabric to size) was missing key seam allowances (the ones on the seams that attach the 3 cups to one another). You may wonder how I made that mistake, given that I deconstructed an actual bra, having actual seam allowances(SAs), to get the measurements. Well, one of the things you do when you sew bra cups together (the inner ones that meet at the apex of the bust in a 3 piece cup) is top stitch on either side of each seam, to flatten it, and then remove the excess floppy fabric to the right of the top stitch. These SAs were the ones I missed because they were not part of the bra, unlike all the other enclosed SAs retained during the bra's factory construction. They were cut. Upshot - I had to redraft the pattern and recut the fabric. Hello 90 minutes of extra work.
  • I needed to figure out which of the 8 zillion wires I own and which of the many band elastics in which widths would work on the particular bra I'm making. Remember, I'm copying the original religiously. I thought I was missing a couple of things but it appears I have what I need, more or less.
These are just 3 of the many excuses legitimate reasons I offer to explain my delay.

When I started to make this thing I realized pretty quickly that I was not going to be able to refer to any pre-existing instructions. I'm not saying that there aren't any out there - but the type of bra I'm making is distinct from any of the others I've made for which I have direction.

In what way is it predominantly different? Well, in most bras (either full band or partial band), each cup attaches at one side to either the bridge, the back or a channel that runs between those two.

All Drawings from Bra-Makers Supply

The way it generally works is that the bridge (a triangular piece that sits between the breasts). The bra back, obvs, is the part that attaches to the side cup. And the "channel" as I am calling it (because I don't actually know what it's called) is the part at the base of the bra, that skinny piece between the bridge and back. Note: This bra is a molded cup - not a 3 piece - so I'm only using it to describe the band pieces.

Often, whether you are making a full band bra (one with quite a bit of depth under the cups - as one often sees in large bras and the one above - though it's not strictly speaking necessary to provide support) or a partial band bra (one which more or less conceals any width under the cups), you attach the bridge to the back by extending the bridge a couple of inches (to the centre point of the cup bottom) and extending the back (to the centre point of the cup bottom).

That way they meet at the centre bottom of each cup. Among other things, it gives you something to sew the cups to, which is pretty key when you're trying to attach all the finicky pieces that make up a bra. The fact that you don't see that thick, underband structure when you look at a partial band is because of the way you sew it up.

I can only imagine that this is next to impossible to picture with words alone and, if I could locate a program on my new computer that would allow me to draw, I'd mark this up for you. Hopefully I'm being vaguely clear with language.

Anyway, the bra I'm making will look like a partial band bra, but it doesn't have a channel connecting the bridge to the back. This means that I'm attaching my "channeling" (just to confuse matters, I'm now referring to the hollow fabric cylinder which is actual called channeling; it holds the wire that goes entirely around the cup) directly onto my cups with no support structure.

That hasn't been so bad, actually. What's been tough is figuring out when and how to add the back piece to the structure. You probably don't notice this every day when you put on a bra, but there are numerous elastic pieces - of different sizes and degree of stretch - holding it in shape (and, to some extent, together). There's a super complex interaction of bits and pieces to make it all work. It's pretty standard once you do it 10 times, but when you're working on a new construction order - esp. when there are no instructions - it's a fucking, stitch-ripping, pain in the ass. Which is why I'm not finished the bra.

But at least I can't say that it doesn't fit.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Smooth Like Butter(ick)

You know you have a "pattern purchase problem" when you receive new parcels in the mail and you can't even remember having ordered them. To wit, my latest surprise:

This dress has certainly been popular with bloggers. Look at Kim's version.

I don't even know where to put this in the queue of things I want to make. Hmmm...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Pendrell Blouse: Update

I have a fabric I've been saving for the Pendrell blouse. It's cerise silk charmeuse and the story about its procurement is fabulous. I'm half way through a post about that; I suppose I should keep the mystery alive till then.

The sew along is mid way through - excellent instruction from Tasia, fyi - but I appear to be finished. What can I say? I wanted to see how it would turn out:

I've made View B and it's very lovely. Totally feminine. Dare I say, girly. And while I'm generally not into frills, this has a bit of an edge, IMO.

No, you're not just seeing things. It's definitely NOT in cerise silk. Here's the thing: Though I'd made a muslin, I was not ready to use the (irreplaceable) silk on my first go around. Then, happily, last week I just happened to stumble across that lovely floral (which my obnoxious kid calls "granny fabric"), with navy background - can you honestly say you're surprised?? - and it was on sale for $4.00 a yard.

BTW, these are the new denim leggings. I'm wearing an ensemble:

Some thoughts on the garment:
  • This seems to be my regular refrain these days but I really should have made a size smaller. I've had to take in every seam twice - once on the muslin and again on the finished garment. There's alteration and then there's reconstruction and I've veered dangerously close to the latter.
  • The pattern is more intermediate than beginner, IMO. The instructions are very clear, but there are a lot of steps for a simple shell (of course, that's because it's a frilly, simple shell). It's fairly hardcore, IMO, making ruffles with slippy fabric. Not hard, but finicky. If I were a newbie sewist, I'd have a lot of questions. Mind you, that's why sew alongs save the day.
  • I don't often sew with patterned fabric. When I do, I lean towards the nebulous, the asymmetric. I don't want to deal with lining up chevrons or dots. I know I can do it, but it's such a pain in the ass. I was concerned that this pattern would be observably mismatched (since I paid no attention to alignment of the flower bunches), but I don't think my fabric (non)alignment is particularly notable.
  • Though I succeeded in removing waist bunching on the muslin, the fashion fabric is somehow still to0 long through the waist. Really, if you're long waisted - this is the pattern for you. I imagine it would fit a super tall pear shaped woman fantastically, right out of the envelope.
  • My serger was invaluable to me in this process. In the end, after determining the correct seam allowances, I serged over the princess seams to a) reduce bulk and b) finish some pretty fray prone fabric.
  • I will definitely make this again - in the size 8, with any required alterations (still more shortening of the waist!). It's a very useful wardrobe piece - a little bit fancy, predominantly simple, good with pants or skirts.
Whatcha think??

Much Better

Mercifully, I remade the denim leggings with some alterations and they worked. What I mean is, I know they look as they're meant to. I'd show them to you on my dress form but, wait, my dress form is useless to me in its current state. Even my kid came into the sewga room and said: That doesn't look anything like you. There's nothing like spending a bomb of money and, yet, being in limbo. It's moments like this that I wish I had thousands of bucks to blow on a Wolf custom form... BTW, can you believe that company has the nerve to charge so much given the crappiness of its website??

(Incidentally, two things you shouldn't ask me about the status of for the next week or so: the dress form and the bra. The form is in process, but will likely await the purchase of batting and the receipt of extra boob foams. The bra is something I just keep putting off because I have other things to do. I really don't know why I'm avoiding it so effectively. I don't feel stressed by it. Maybe, on some level, I sense that I might be traumatized by another failure learning experience. Maybe it doesn't matter when I do it, and I get that, so I'm just being chill. Really, the jury is out.)

But back to the denim leggings. This time here's what I did:
  • I cut the small - and man, was that a smart idea. I don't care if it does say the small fits a size 26 waist, I can tell you that's not true.
  • I still had to shorten the crotch length by almost 2 inches.
  • I also recreated my "sloper" crotch depth curve on front and back seams.
  • I didn't insert the ankle zippers (I wasn't going to waste my time if this version was a fit bust) and the ankles are very snug - when putting the pants on. I have super slim calves - I was going to call them skinny, but I feel that "slim" makes them sound more exotic and lovely - so it's not a problem for me, but it could be on someone more "average" in the calf width.
  • They are definitely not long. Esp. once one removes 2 inches in crotch length. If you were tall, you'd need to add length from the get go, crotch length shortening notwithstanding. I'm 5'3" and my hem was a mere half inch. I serged every edge so this was just fine for me.
Thoughts and feelings:
  • I don't know that I love them at this moment, though I will give them a fighting chance. They do fit really well in the leg and I suspect they'll look great with tall boots. Having said that, I just can't enjoy the elastic waist vibe. It screams "leggings" rather than "denim". I guess I have a prejudice. I think that elastic waistbands are the purview of the older woman.
  • Having said that, I know that the elastic waist will be totally comfortable and will diminish the likelihood of "muffin top". The elastic is 1 inch. I suspect, if your stomach were a challenge-area, you might be able to alter the top of the pants (increase them by 1 inch at the waist) and use 2 inch elastic. How supportive would that be??
  • I can't advise you if you're a pear - Lord knows, I don't understand you women :-) - but if you are an apple, def. cut one size smaller than your measurements. This pattern fits large.
Anyone else made them at this point? Any thoughts or feelings??

This Post is All Over the Map

A couple of updates before I consign myself to sewing:

The Foot:

Thank you all so much for emailing and commenting to find out how I've been feeling. Until about a week ago, while mobile, I had pain much of the time. Extremely happily, in the past week, that pattern has been shifting and the pain is greatly reduced.

I have regained most of my flexibility, though to use it all, I do hit patches of soreness even now. My strength is almost back to normal. I can walk long distances. Note: I generally don't walk more than one way to work i.e. no more than an hour a day. I find that a) the weather is terrible and it takes more consciousness to walk safely - foot injury or no and b) too much walking overtaxes the tendon where it meets my shin.

Balance is the weak point, it would appear. I'm fine when I stand on both feet, but when I do yoga to maintain/ increase balance on the left side, it's quite apparent that the left is not on par with the right side. Mind you, my left has always been weaker for balance than the right. It's just more evident these days.

What's been surprisingly hurty is my shin and lower leg in general. The tone there was very compromised in the 3 weeks I couldn't move. It's also the place where the injured foot ligaments and tendon attach to. That's the area that's finally calming down. According to my physiotherapist, whom I've now stopped seeing, at a certain point of injury healing, one hurts whether one moves or doesn't. In fact, the movement - which helps to redevelop strength and to create new muscle pathways - is necessary to finalize the healing. The key is knowing how far to go and how fast. Everyone is different. Even weekly, I noticed my healing was all over the map.

I'm not going to wear fun shoes any time soon. But, over all, I'd say I'm doing really well.

The Dress Form:

In a pique of frustration, I called the Fabulous Fit people yesterday to inquire about solutions to my foam fitting challenges. I am pleased to tell you that the woman whom I've been speaking with since the get-go (who intriguingly still didn't realize that my dress form had been shipped), offered excellent client service on the matter of fitting. She suggested I try a few things and then mentioned sending me a couple of extra breast foams (the one's I have are not up to the task, peeps). Apparently, she has cut up the foams if necessary, in the past, but she doesn't recommend that course of action so soon. Bizarrely, when I tried to put a bra on the form, the cups were swimmy but I couldn't do up the back. After hours of work and measuring, I was certain I'd recreated the correct underbust measurement, but it was somehow 2. 5 inches too big on the form. Let's just say it's not there yet. There's another option - not one I'm interested in pursuing at this point, which is a body wrap bustier. I don't think it's necessary, but at least it's there as a back up.

The Low Carb Experiment:

On the upside, I can't say I'm hungry. On the down side, I want to kill myself from boredom. How much meat and cheese can a person eat??? I've been extremely careful - almost non-consumptive - of sugar in its every form (you know, that thing I'd smack an old lady for, if she came between me and it). I've heard so many claims that this will diminish the urge to eat it after a couple of weeks. I regret to inform you, as I move into week 3, I want it as much as and as viscerally as I ever did. I now dream of cake. That other people eat.

Hilariously, when I do decide to eat a little treat - very rarely - I feel physically awful right afterwards. So I want it and it makes me sick. And I'm bored.

Have I ever mentioned that, in my book, boredom is almost the worst thing in the world.

I'm not going to go too far into this right now - I have a post brewing on the topic in detail - but I do feel there's something weirdly unbalanced about this. I am, while eating all the calories I generally do - though it's hard to get there some days, largely denying myself a whole food group. Of course, I eat the vegetables and the wine and the occasional bowl of berries. But seriously, I find it hard to vilify brown rice (a personal fave) and beans (something the old me ate much more frequently than I realized) and whole grain bread (and I don't even like bread).

Again, an experiment is just that. I'm intrigued by it more than anything else. BTW, note that I haven't mentioned any reduction in waist measurement as yet. (To determine this, I'm using, of course, a tape measure - my good friend, see above.) I'm not sure it's notable so far. I'm certainly not gaining any stomach mass, but it hasn't tipped into a visibly slimmer abdomen or looser waist fit in clothing. Remember, I'm not dieting and this isn't about weight loss per se. It's about a slenderer, more youthful, abdominal measurement.

So that's all I can say about me today.

Any thoughts or feelings about any of these items?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

All Your Dress Form Questions Answered (Or Some of Them)

We're moving dangerously close to "Dress Form Theme Week" territory. And not a photo to show for it - as yet.

A few of you have asked me about the fitting system, and about doing a fitting system tutorial, so I thought I'd take a few minutes to address those topics. But let's start with a detour...

You know when you hear a word, or you see it on a page, and all of a sudden it starts to look wrong. Like bizarre, almost hieroglyphic? Well, that's what each part of your torso starts to look like when you stare at yourself with utter intentness, trying to reproduce the uniqueness of your every contour. It's awful on so many levels:
  • It's so difficult to interpret how you are put together. Sure, you have a basic idea. If you are excellent at sizing or if you sew, you're probably better at this than most. But try to understand the intricacy of how your stomach blends into your waist and breasts. Oh, my.
  • Two women can have exactly the same measurement - exactly - and have entirely different shapes. For example: I can reproduce, on the dress form, my hip measurement (38.5 inches) any number of ways - padding the stomach below the waist, widening the upper legs, adding weight to the derriere - and only one combo will work on me. Note: It's not either / or, it's a bit of everything - except derriere. Unfortunately really, because that's the least unpleasant of the padding techniques. (Note: I'm not one who dislikes a curvy bum.)
  • Unfortunately, the fitting system only provides a certain complement of foam inserts. For what it's worth - no way are there enough of them to increase the size on the form by 3 dress sizes. There are barely enough of them to do what I need to do, and I'm not modifying the size that extremely.
  • The foam inserts are insufficiently precise, for the most part, to recreate the curve of my body. I don't know about others, I'm just talking about me. I think they are designed to work with a longer torso and wider hips. The breast and stomach augmentation options are not as targetted as I would like them to be, given I'm a large-breasted, short-waisted person. Having said this, they aren't horrible - they're just not sufficiently "right". Something tells me it's not a sustainable business model, but I'd advise Fabulous Fit to create fitting systems for different body types i.e. the "hourglass set" and the "juicy pear".
  • I have body tone. The dress form does not. That means it's lumpy (due to foam positioning) where I am not. Again, the measurement is correct, but the shape isn't. I'm going to get some cotton batting to fill out the holes in the hopes that it gets rid of the problem. But don't you think the FF people might have included some with the fitting system? I mean, it's not expensive - it's just not the kind of thing one tends to have on hand.
It has been very difficult - understatement implied - to look at myself during my "dress form sessions". The way I appear is entirely different than the way I feel. Statistically, it seems unlikely that I'm uglier than your average dress form customizer. I have to believe that many, if not most, of you are or would be challenged in a similar fashion. I mean, in general, I think I have a positive self-image. Can you imagine if I were judge-y??

Let's back track. I should concede that the linen-covered resin form is top-of-the-line. Before I started fucking with it, it was a thing of beauty. I don't mean cuz it was mini - I mean because it had no lumps and it was of perfect "standard proportion". It is also beautifully manufactured.

I now understand - and you will too, if you've ever undertaken this kind of exercise - how models grow to loathe themselves, even as they develop in their careers. Try looking at yourself critically - while a bunch of tailors and designers are looking at you that much more critically - and observe how you feel after 2 hours, much less 2 years. Those tailors aren't unkind. They're trying to adapt fabric to a specific shape.

When one sees one's body as a means to a (three-dimensional) end, it's fascinating. But let's be real, chances are you can't easily disassociate your "body haver" with your "body viewer". We are, few of us, hearty enough to observe ourselves with utter objectivity.

I've decided that the only way I can manage this is to compartmentalize. In the short term, I intend to design for my dress form (once I finally get it into some workable "Kristin-like" shape - which hasn't yet occurred) - a "real woman" of a certain size and shape. If those clothes happen to fit me too, so much the better! :-)

Will I do a tutorial?: I don't know how I can. Every woman is unique. The fitting is straight forward. You take measurements; you reproduce them on the dress form to the best of your ability. Of course, I would be happy to talk, off line, with any of you in specifics. If you get the same system, I would be willing to look at a photo of you and advise how I think you might optimally proceed.

Will I show my dress form?: The answer is "very likely". Once Mardel told me that the clothes I make (which I often hate immediately after completion) would grow on me as I let go of my criticality, of the challenges of the construction process. She was so right. I have to imagine that I'll get over my self-hatred and self-consciousness as I come to view the form simply as a means to an end. But it's not there yet. I will definitely photo my garments on it. I mean, that's half the fun of having this thing!

Would I buy the fitting system again?: I really don't know at this point. I'm not vilifying it, but I haven't got it right yet - and I've already invested hours. Mind you, maybe that's the cost of this exercise.

This Exercise is Not for the Faint of Heart

Lord, let me tell you: Customizing a skinny-mini dress form to one's own relatively short-waisted, thick-front-thighed, round-stomached reality is rough. I spent the evening, with Scott, positioning and re-positioning custom-shaped foam pads aka evil, crappy dumplings of doom. What? It's my pet name.

I think I may need some therapy.

Apparently, I have body dysmorphia on the positive scale. In my mind I look as slender as a swan's neck. (Well, not any more.)

Don't get me wrong. I don't prize slimness above all else. I put a higher value on say, intelligence, charisma, sex appeal, style and, um, food (to name a few things). I know that being lean doesn't mean anything other than having a certain body shape. It doesn't bestow royal favours. It doesn't make you cuter, richer, hotter. It doesn't give you better orgasms.

And yet I'm having issues getting acquainted with the minutiae of my every curve, lump and shelf.

Here's the thing: You can't design for what you can't see. Or, to make this aphorism positive: You can only design accurately for what you can see. Blinkers off.

On an amusing note, Scott said: I can't believe you paid $800 bucks to undertake this misery. I would never have the nerve.

It's amazing what passes for bravery these days.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Eeeek and Bitch

OK, peeps, my dress form arrived and it's fab (on first glance), despite the fact that my careful management of delivery (based on challenges I'd have with FedEx in Canada if it arrived on any day other than a Wed. - the day my husband usually works from home) failed because I have to conclude that somebody at Fabulous Fit was not paying careful attention.

Miraculously, on a whim my husband opted to work from home today, Tuesday, expecting a winter storm, so he was here when the package arrived. Otherwise, it's likely it would have gone to the warehouse and I'd have had a challenging time (for many boring logistical reasons) getting it to my home without picking it up. Fetching a 40 lb. dress form from a far-away location without a car is not in my list of "near future life plans". Knowing this, I carefully researched all the contingency challenges that could arise before buying this thing. Flawless delivery was that important to me.

To start with, given the cost of the item, I imagined that the manufacturer might have done that delivery research on my behalf. After all, isn't some complement of its client base in Canada? Isn't it relevant to them? Alas, I was on my own with that task... I accept that.

However, I don't accept - after all of my careful instruction and numerous conversations about shipping with the vendor, during which I explicated the challenges of delivery as recently as Friday, and my need to be kept directly in the loop - that they would nonetheless ship this thing without consulting me.

I know all's well that ends well - and I'm not commenting on the product, which I've scarcely had a chance to get acquainted with. It was very well packaged, I will say that. And it looks just like a dress form should.

I'm just rather pissed that I spent so much energy to ensure a smooth outcome, and it merely worked by accident. I can't say I'm overwhelmed by the client service - though I didn't expect much, knowing what I do about delivery to Canada from the US.

I promise next post on this will include a detailed inventory of its many wonderful features. (And, totally unrelated, a number of you have been, so caring in asking about my foot recovery. I didn't want to bore you with more posts on that topic, but I will do a recap in the next couple of days.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Don't Believe Everything You Read

I haven't been able to get the denim leggings debacle out of my mind. Maybe it's all of the hope I invested in this - particularly practical - garment. Maybe it's the fact that I did a ton of work and it sucked in the end and I don't know if I should blame myself or the pattern.

Who cares? Well, I do. Because if the pattern sucks, I should warn everyone away from it and throw it to the curb. However, if this is about me sucking, then I should suck it up and try again.

Don't you love how many times I've managed to say suck in this post so far?

Here's where I'm at on the hamster-wheel of my mind: I've got to make them again. And this time I have to make the small.

I put the Kwik Sew pair against my Guido and Mary's (so close to the end, my friends), and saw that the KS's are about 2 inches wider (an each on each outer seam). Interestingly, the crotch length and depth (inasmuch as one can tell in reviewing finished garments, which is difficult) seems similar on each.

But there's no way I would have done this at start of the project - hell, I'm still reluctant - because the waist on the small is supposed to be 26 inches. Which, needless to say, mine is not. Having said all this, have you ever seen a pair of too-large denim leggings with an elastic (rather than yoked "jeans") waist? OMG - it's like something out of Golden Girls. SO HORRIBLE! Somehow baggy and bulge-revealing, all at the same time, in all of the wrong places.

It was almost enough to make me feel bad about myself.

But don't take my word for it. Please, someone else make these and do a post on sizing and issues and guide me on my path.

Pioneering is such hard work.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Updated: So Much for Kwik

This morning, well rested, I started to cut the denim leggings pattern.

Back story: I bought the original stretch denim a while ago, then on Thursday, discovered I didn't have enough (or it was going to be exceedingly close, anyway). Friday evening I went out to get another batch of (different gauge) indigo stretch denim but the store only had 2 yards of it left. That was .5 less than the pattern called for, but .25 of a yard more than I had with the other denim. And, when I did sizing (given my "non-tallness"), that would be enough.

When I got home, I noticed 3 puncture wounds in the fabric, about 1/8 yard from the selvedge. Ugh. However, given my frugal smarts, I even figured out, with careful placement, how I could avoid that piece of the fabric.

All was well.

Until I (having reviewed that placement no less than 3 times - you don't fuck around when you have issues) realized that I still managed to set up the fabric wrong - entirely wrong - vis a vis the punctures.

So now the ass of these (super close fitting) denim leggings has 3 small holes. Did I mention I've already spent hours on the pattern and the fabric sourcing and the cutting??

I have come up with one more potential solution - presuming it will work once these babies are in 3D. I've drafted a pocket to sit over the holey part. Alas, pockets can only go in certain spots without looking insane, and I don't know if these holes are going to place themselves within that zone.

Not to mention the fact that I've never done a pocket and I have no idea of how to assemble it. I have to assume one places the pocket before sewing the side seams but I don't know where, specifically, to put it. I guess I'll have to baste the seams, see where everything goes, undo the basting, affix the pocket (once I figure that out) and sew things up again.

And I thought this would be a fast project.

Did I mention that there's no guarantee this garment is going to fit, even if the holes are made invisible?

Take the long view, Krissie. Take the long view.

Update: So I finished these and I have to say, they're horrible. Like leggings more than jeans. I'm going to give them another chance - do a bit more work on the front crotch depth - but I'm not particularly hopeful.

Here's what I had to do to get them to this (less-ill fitting) but still unlovely stage:
  • 2 inch crotch length shortening
  • removal of fabric (though not enough) from front crotch
  • removal of fabric (though not enough) from back leg below crotch and above knee
You know, sometimes you should just cut the smaller size and start again. I made a medium and it was way too big almost everywhere. Now I've altered the shit out of it and it's still not small enough - but weird-of-shape.

I think, in my next try I'll a) cut the small and b) adjust the crotch length and depth according to my current version - maybe just removing a bit more fabric from the front crotch area.

I can't say I love the way the elastic is sewn on. To be honest, I can't say I love the idea of elastic at all. I might try to draft a waistband. (Though that might be a third try alteration, if the second appeals. I don't want to waste my time unnecessarily).

Oh, and my pocket would have been great - I did manage to cover the holes, amazingly, but I have learned you need to sew it so it's parallel with the waist. Otherwise it will look warped and stupid.

Oh well. So much for a good sewing day.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Pendrell Blouse Muslin

Well, didn't this blouse throw me a curve (no pun intended)!

I have learned a lot in making the Pendrell blouse muslin (shell only) - and hopefully this may inform your experience if you haven't yet begun to make it.

First off, I spoke with Tasia about choosing the size that would work best on me. I thought, given bust measurement, the 12 might be in order. However, I opted to go with the 10, after consultation, the idea being that I could do a full bust adjustment if necessary, and the shoulder/upper bust dimensions would likely be better.

Imagine my surprise when the size 10 muslin fit well in the bust and shoulders but was huge everywhere else. For some reason, maybe because Tasia is so petite, I supposed that this pattern would fit small. My shape is an hourglass, the pattern is designed for a pear. It struck me that the chest would be tight and the hips, perhaps, too loose but easily gradable.

I'm glad I went with the 10 a) because it fit in the chest and I do loathe the idea of the FBA - it's so unknowable how it will translate in the finished garment, IMO... and b) because it allowed me to practice some other (strangely) less objectionable - if much more time consuming - alterations. In truth, it would have been easier to cut an 8 and (potentially, though not certainly) do an FBA.

Here are the pieces that comprise the shell of the top - in their original pattern dimensions:

On me, the waist and hips were swimming. This pattern is designed for a true pear with a LONG waist. First off I had to decide where I'd subtract the excess from. Tasia has a great post about doing this (you think I would have reread it before embarking on my experiment), but I just went with my intuition. I decided that I like where the princess seam lies, particularly at the full bust. So I didn't want to screw with those 2 seams. However, the largest amount of extra fabric was in the waist down to the hips and a bit at the back side seam. I opted to remove a total of 2.5 inches over 4 seams - those that connect the back side to the back panel and those that connect at the waist seam.

These photos show the graded new seam lines on 3 of the 4 pieces (look on the right - sorry the lines are light...)

But from where to remove? Again, I didn't want to screw with bust ease, so I chose to grade from the middle waist

I prefer to sew with 1/2 inch seam allowances - which gives me enough to finish edges with a narrow serge, but which doesn't leave a lot of seam fabric inside the garment. I believe, with the rescaled dimensions of the pattern, I'll be alright.

Here are the pieces with the excess width removed:

Alas, then I had to address the length of this top. No joke, and I would have taken a photo if Scott had been around - it was practically a tunic on me. Seriously, I considered adding 3 inches and calling it a dress. Now, we know, I am a fairly short person. And I have a fairly short waist. But this really blew me away. I had to remove 4 inches of fabric - again, I did this below the upper waist on the pattern - and that got rid of the fabric pool at my back waist. The top is still hip-length, but I could make it, easily, with 1/2 a yard of fabric less than the pattern calls for, just in the length I've lopped off.

These are the shell pattern pieces after the alterations.

I'm curious to know if anyone else who's making this has a similar shape to mine. If yes, I'd love to hear about any alterations you have made.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Shout Out to the Experts: Denim Leggings

Hello Sewing Peeps:

I decided to have a look at the Kwik Sew 3807 pattern this evening, to compare it against my other pants sloper and to see how I can realize the gains of the sloper in constructing the new denim leggings. Of course, comparing a wide leg, 4-piece pant against a narrow, 2-piece pant is not exactly intuitive. I mean, not the first time you try to do it, at any rate.

Intriguingly, as you sewists probably know, the 2-piece pattern is like the front and back leg pieces attached at the centre. Cool, yes? But I'm having difficulty determining whether I need to decrease the crotch length because the tops of the pieces (i.e. the waistlines) don't exactly align.

Here's what I propose to do: I'm going to diminish crotch length by 1.5 inches (the same amount I did on the sloper) because my only other experience of a stretch fabric pant from Kwik Sew (the yoga pants pattern) was also too long in the crotch - much as the sloper pattern was. Perhaps my crotch length is generally shorter than those in "average" patterns (at least Kwik Sew or the 2 patterns I've already tried), because a) I am proportionately petite (rather than simply short) and/or b) that's just my shape.

In terms of crotch depth (the actual arc of the curves of the crotch lines on the pattern pieces), they seem fairly consistent with the post-alteration ones of my sloper. It's hard to tell, because all the lines don't really match up, but if I just look at arc (disassociated from everything else), that's what I see.

Does anyone have any secrets when it comes to transferring the relevant sloper shapes from one pattern to another - especially when the patterns (while of the same garment type) are different in most other ways?

Thank you all for any info you can provide.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Check Me Out

I am fortunate enough to have been asked to complete a second interview with the fabulous, vintage pattern guru, Denise of The Blue Gardenia.

Please stop by and read about how I learned to sew, and other fascinating topics :-)


Monday, January 10, 2011

Get a Leg Up

Meet Kwik Sew 3807:

This is one of the most exciting patterns I've ever come across - if only for its sheer wearability in my particular wardrobe.

And it just arrived at my door today! Seriously, there is no garment I don more happily (or, potentially, more frequently) than denim leggings. With tunic tops, big sweaters, asymmetric cardigans - they're fantastic. Warmer (and edgier) than tights or "regular" leggings, they fit like a glove, but with substance.

I am happy to be the guinea pig for this pattern - as I can't seem to find any reviews...

For those taking notes: Contrary to my usual "one-at-a-time" protocol, I am currently working on 3 sewing projects simultaneously - the Pendrell top, these denim leggings and the bra. (Some new lingerie supplies arrived today, and while they're great, I think I may have to alter the size of the wires. Fortunately, I have had excellent service - and superior product - from Dini at Danglez.)

I'm intrigued to see how I'm going to manage a busy period at work and a truly full sewing schedule. Happily, I'm very engaged by all of it, so how bad can it be?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Not Half Bag

Here's what I'm sewing when I'm not sewing the other thing I should be sewing*:

Today, I realized I would need a case for my Mac Air sooner than imagined (more on that to follow), so I was shopping Etsy with abandon. Finally Scott said: Why don't you just make one?, whereupon I worked actively to come up with excuses against, each one of which he summarily shot down.

To his credit, he generously helped me to construct a simple (rectangular pattern) envelope. And I have to say, you know you are freakin' sewing obsessed, when you have fusible batting (for padding), 2 types of denim fashion fabric, and numerous lining options at your fingertips. Not to mention, 8 varieties of snaps, in 2 different sizes, and a fancy little gizmo to affix them. Note: For lining, I actually went with some patterned cotton lawn that I bought for 4 bucks a yard on mega sale at FabricLand about a year ago. (Still have another 2.5 yards, but why is it sitting there gathering dust, I ask you??)

I struggled with the edges of the envelope fold over, you'll probably notice they're makeshift. But my lining idea and execution worked perfectly - and I am NO expert on lining. This thing is so nicely finished on the inside, it's practically reversible! It fits the computer perfectly, though I'm not sure how much actual support it will provide. Having said this, based on my research, I don't think it will provide much more than anything I could have bought online... I'm hoping it will work when I pack it in a (fairly formless) day bag.

I'm really impressed with what we managed to create with some ingenuity and a stocked cupboard. It's like cooking up a feast for guests you aren't expecting - what a spontaneous joy.

*Note that I have traced and cut the paper pattern for the Pendrell blouse, and I've cut the muslin. In a totally weird twist of necessity, I used up 1 yard of 2 different types of fabric ends with the required drape (the ones I used to make the Sencha blouses), to make up one muslin for this. I imagine it's going to look totally wacky, even if it does fit. Or very avant garde :-)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

My Next Project

I've been waiting for the Sewaholic Pendrell Blouse sew along to begin - and the time is almost here!

Tasia, designer - and author of Sewaholic, the blog - is a fantastic example of how creative dreams can become a reality - a commercially viable one!

She is also a skilled tutorialist. Her Sewtionary is an excellent starting point for information many techniques.

You should consider joining the sew along - or ordering this lovely pattern and completing it on your own schedule. (It's a beginner/intermediate project.)

It's going to be interesting to see the fit in my preliminary muslin. I suspect an FBA will be in order, given that Tasia is designing, first and foremost, for a pear-shaped figure. (Alas, one never knows till the sewing begins.) I've had mixed success with FBAs - though I've never tried one on a princess-seamed top. It's the challenges that keep it interesting though, right?

And soon enough I'll have a Kristin-shaped dress form to drape and pin and check against!

Friday, January 7, 2011

In the Name of Science

You may recall that I have embraced a (Gary Taubes-endorsed), low carbohydrate lifestyle - if only experimentally - so I thought I'd give you a bit of information about how I am acting as my own personal guinea pig...

It seems that the best way to determine whether (at least in the case of my own physiology) insulin imbalance is the cause of abdominal weight is to change up the composition of my diet - while (natch) preserving a key control.

You know how those scientists like to use control methodology. In this case, while considering the number of calories consumed is not an element of low-carbohydrate eating (remember, Mr. Taubes does not promote any particular diet, simply the science that underpins them), it's the only variable I have at my disposal.

(Sidebar: I've debated discussing my food diary in detail - the number of healthy, balanced calories I aim to eat daily - have aimed to eat daily for years. I'm loathe to dig into this, not because I'm coy, but because it's not the sort of information I'd like to see floating eternally upon the ethernet. Out of context, it might be used inappropriately. So let's leave it at, if you'd like to know specifics - because you are a woman working to develop your own conscious relationship to food - give me a shout. Otherwise, suffice it to say that I believe in vegetables and adequate (though not excessive) energy intake. My pictures confirm that I have no shortage of body fat...)

Now, according to the low-carb peeps, I'm misguided to be keeping a record of calories at all. Oh, carbs and protein and fat grams, I am welcome to chart all day, but calories - those are so 1989. Whatevs, I like lists and food diaries like calories, so there you go.

Fortuitously, though, if I want to see the impact of low carb eating on my own body, I can change the composition of those calories, while not exceeding the upper threshold, and see what occurs.

If you happen to be an actual scientist, reading this, and you disagree that my experimental method has any value - by all means, let me know. I mean, I was an English major.

Otherwise, we'll see how it goes as I aim to eat approximately 75 grams of carbohydrates a day (not even in the realm of Atkins' extremism), picking up the slack with 100-plus grams of protein and however much fat I come across. There are no refined foods on this eating plan. There is, however, red wine - because I don't choose to live without it. As a result, a good amount of my daily carbs are going towards my evening "chill out". (Note: Depending on what you read, red wine has 5 grams of carbs per 5 ounces, or 20 grams of carbs - if you include the alcohol. Different people metabolize alcohol with different efficiency. I'm assuming, conservatively, that I fall into the "not so efficient metabolizer" category, at least for now...)

If any of you have tried this experiment on yourselves - or would like to debate the merits of high protein, high fat (non-refined) diets, comment away!

I'm going to do this for 2 months - or till I determine that it might not be optimal for my body, should the evidence arise - and see what happens. If I become more lean in my midsection over that time, I will gradually return the carbs to my diet, till I determine a tipping point. After all, I'm not eschewing rice and cookies for no good reason!

So far, it's been interesting, if a bit drab. There's nothing I want so much as that which I've decided to forgo... I don't even like bread, and now I look at it with intrigue. Ah, that's deprivation mentality for you.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

In Good Form

How is it that I merely need to read a post and I'm online shopping for sewing supplies??

In case you need clarification, I did buy a dress form today. A really exciting one...

The Fabulous Fit, Pro Studio Semi Professional Misses 3/4 Form with 2 arms!!

Plus the special fitting system - the pads one uses to customize the form to the exact proportions one happens to be:
One woman I read about says she keeps a robe on hers because she's totally freaked out by how "naked her" it looks!

In truth, I have been thinking about buying a dress form for a long time - even before I thought about buying my serger. But I did some research as a (more) novice sewist and I was confused. I didn't understand the collapsible shoulders (which I opted to pass on). I didn't know if arms matter (after discussion with a bunch of peeps, I decided they do). I didn't understand whether a 3/4 was as good as a full (technically it's not, but it is affordable and entirely useful - even if one makes pants and undies) It is much more multi-purpose than a cage base (which works best for skirt makers).

My new form is pinnable and adjustable to perfection. I made a lot of calls to ensure that the delivery time is knowable (theoretically) - and that there are contingency plans. It takes 2 weeks to make my linen-covered, resin form in the size I've requested.

Apparently, one should buy a slightly smaller-than-her size and pad it up - as a too-large form cannot be made smaller. I suspect - though I didn't see this written anywhere specifically - that the most non-negotiable measurement is the shoulder span - the one that most accurately dictates one's frame size. It happens that the size I was encouraged to buy matches my shoulder width exactly. Note: The woman who helped me to choose it, went by my bust, waist and hip measurements though she did indicate that the FF forms are not wide in the shoulders. As you know, neither am I.

The form can be modified up to 3 dress sizes - and to address many changes in distribution of weight. I think this is a great feature. Women change in size and shape all the time. Isn't it great to know that the dress form you've spent tons of money on will not need to be replaced every time this might occur?

So here's my question today: Do you have a dress form? If yes, what type? How do you enjoy it? How do you modify it for changes in shape (if that's relevant to you)? Does it actually get used or does it languish in the corner as some piece of art? What's the best thing about working with a form? Do tell!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Patience, Patience

I have now fully deconstructed, traced to paper and cut new fabric for the RTW plunge bra.

Sounds good, doesn't it?

But with bras, it's always a long view proposition.

Turns out I do not have the right widths of elastic to proceed. My stash is comprised of much thicker stuff. The more I compare the pattern bras for my size, against the RTW bras I own, the less surprised I am that the handmade bras haven't fit. We've been trained to think that wider or bigger is more "supportive". It's really not true. The more I consider this, the more I come to the conclusion that it's the construction mechanism which defines support. Of course, this implies use of the highest end materials and notions. RTW bra companies have ready-access to these supplies. Home sewists trying to make large bras, not so much.

My point is, if you have small(ish) breasts and you look around a bit, you can find totally adequate fabrics, notions etc. If you've got large breasts, requiring "architectural" supplies, that becomes a much more challenging task.

For example, even having spend hundreds of dollars on bra supplies, here's what I've figured out I STILL need - stuff I'm still working to source:
  • Stable, high-end wires. (Note: I have bought some I have high hopes for from Danglez. Dini, the owner, was kind enough, when I requested, to mail me 4 sets of wires in a small box for 15 euros less than 20 euros it costs to send anything from NL to Canada via Danglez. That made the risk affordable and I greatly appreciate the consideration.)
  • 2 wide x 3 long hook / eye sets that aren't made of inferior quality with badly finished siding. I also need them to be 1.25 inches wide, not the 1.5 inches that the other sets I've bought have been.
  • Top band elastic at 3/8 inch. I've got 5/8 inch...
  • Bottom band elastic at 5/8 inch I've got 3/4 inch...
  • Really high quality lingerie fabric with the smallest amount of width stretch. I've been working largely with Duoplex, a fabric with no stretch and it's limiting! I do have all kinds of stabilizers and linings and interfacing but I really don't know how to work well enough with them yet. And till I do, I need some gorgeous, stable, fashion fabric options (the likes of which all the high-end lingerie RTW companies provide).
I am also increasingly convinced that every sloper I've tried has been the wrong shape for me. When I compared the deconstructed RTW against one of my previous patterns (admittedly, the RTW is a plunge and the pattern was a balconette) I was SHOCKED by the difference in every single piece. I'm not yet skilled enough with the 3 dimensional thinking to explain how the shapes of the pieces speak to the shape of my breasts and frame, but maybe I'll figure it out as I go along. And then I WILL share.

Unless you're really skilled or really lucky, I sense that getting from "bra making novice" to "bra making expert" is a long and expensive road. The only thing I can say is that RTW bras are so costly, eventually the scales may level.

I'll keep you posted on developments...