Saturday, October 24, 2020

Random Threads #39: podcasts, jeans, and patterns that use a lot of fabric

To underscore what a strange year this is, I just checked and my last Random Threads post was way back in April. I like to do them every few months as I always have things jotted in my notebook to share here. So here are a few of the things that have caught my attention.

Let's start with things that are getting me through the "inside times" as I have seen it called. 

Do you listen to podcasts? Probably so and I listen to a LOT of them, they are such a good accompaniment to sewing, exercise, even gardening.   My new favorite is Fiber Nation, the topics are super interesting and the speaker's voice is extremely calming (something I prize in podcasts these days.) The tagline is Textiles, Craft and Culture so it will likely appeal if you love fabric and fibers.  A couple of other podcasts I like are History Extra from the BBC, and Shedunnit (topic is golden age mystery writers and books with a nice amount of 20th century society/culture included). I will give just about any podcast a try if it's about science, nature, history or sewing. (but my real favorite is How Did This Get Made, which discusses terribly movies in a raunch and hilarious way)


Are jeans over? I certainly hope not, however I've read that people are wearing jeans less and something stretchy much more. It will definitely be the winter of the sweatpant, or leggings or whatever is cozy and comfortable. With our weather here I almost never even put on jeans from June to September, and this year we are still in shorts weather as of Oct 20! And I rarely wear leggings except for exercise. So I'm actually looking forward to wearing some jeans again as our weather cools.  I like wearing them even if I'm spending the day at home, all those pockets are handy and I find them warmer than other pants. Plus I just made a new pair of Ash jeans in corduroy from my stash. For this version I tried the boot cut but I haven't hemmed them yet - I'll have to see how they look with boots or flat shoes before I commit. I bought this wide-wale stretch corduroy many months ago at Joann on a whim, and I like it so much I just bought the same fabric in black for another pair. 


Size charts - who do they fit? That is an ongoing area of discussion in sewing internet-land. I think there are two issues in that question. The first issue is the size range - whether for a particular pattern it covers all ends of the size range. In particular for sizes above size 16 or 18. Certainly an overlooked portion of the fashion industry in both ready to wear and sewing. I think it's so smart to make patterns for as many sizes as possible.  But to my mind the second issue is the pattern fit. Even if based on the pattern details you are exactly the same as the measurements listed, the pattern may fit poorly and that is due to variations in body shape. I think a lot of people start sewing, and then get a few simple (both to fit and sew) items completed and them move on to items that have a more specific fit and get very discouraged when the aren't happy with the fit. I can only say that it's something that everyone has to deal with - rarely does something fit exactly in a particular size. I think it compares to going to the store and trying on clothes, you can try on 100 items in the same size but they won't all fit. Having taught sewing classes these last 3 years has made me very thoughtful about the process of learning to sew. It actually has so many facets, from choosing the right fabric, learning techniques, fit, using sewing tools and machines and working with a variety of fabric types. Learning to sew starts to add up financially as well, with machines, classes, tools, fabric and patterns as up front costs and then the possibility of sewing something that is not what you want to wear. On the good side, there are so many more possibilities to get help than there ever have been. If fit is giving you trouble I suggest reading all the posts by Gabby on the Sewcialists blog. She is a technical fashion designer and writes so well on all these issues. 

Are you making Zoom shirts?  I think I did on that last top I made.  Basically a shirt that looks good on your computer or phone video camera - that allows you to look put together while in a meeting but you know that under the desk you are wearing pajama shorts and fuzzy slippers :)  Last week I was speaking to my neighbor in the driveway, she had on makeup, a cute top and very pretty earrings, then some very casual shorts and house shoes. Suddenly she said "oh I have to go I have a video call in 2 minutes!" I suspect this scenario is playing out all over the country. Which has me looking through my stash for fabrics suitable for interesting tops. For my December video chat with the tax accountant do you think sequins might add a festive touch or be a bit much?

Do you read Threads magazine? I think if you are looking to level up in your sewing it's really helpful. I can say that I learn something from just about every issue. Even if it's some small little tool that I didn't know about, or a new method for something I am already familiar with, I think it packs a lot in each issue. I'm sure that sewing magazines (like a lot of specialty magazines) are an endangered species but I find they way they explain and use diagrams to illustrate concepts is really outstanding. My feeling on any time spent reading, watching video etc is if I have learned something new then it is totally worthwhile. I far prefer reading to watching videos  - we can all read an article in a few minutes in the time someone on YouTube tells you all about their channel and other extraneous (time wasting) chat. 
Anyway - if your family is asking what you want for Christmas this might be a good thing to put on the list. Like any magazine, in a single issue there are things that are not of interest at all to me but there is always something useful. Look at some of the articles on these covers, better fitting pants, better lining patterns, sleeve heads, invisible zippers, oh yeah baby talk to me 😉

Threads mag image

My current peeve - style have turned to looks that use A LOT of fabric. Like 4, 5, 6, and even 7 yards of fabric. That is a LOT of fabric to haul around on your body. Not to mention cutting out. The current winner might be this Vogue pattern V1723 that takes between 5 to 7 yards of 60" wide fabric. Granted it is described as "special occasion dress" but I think that special occasion looks like you are a member of the church choir. But there are so many patterns out now with full sleeves, ruffles, tiers etc and all these features take a lot of fabric. I guess my taste tends to a more streamlined or tailored style and I can only take so much of ruffles or tiers. Also dress and skirt lengths have really changed in the last while with hem lengths getting longer recently. Let's hope this is not an economic indicator as it has been claimed in the past - here's a good explanation of that theory and why it likely doesn't really apply now-or ever. 
The other thing that always comes to mind when women's clothing has a lot of fabric is that it's actually restrictive - or maybe even unsafe. Can you move fast when wearing 4 yards in a skirt? I have read too many articles about Victorian ladies whose skirts caught on fire or were caught in machinery. Not to mention the requirement in some societies to cover women's bodies. For me, I like to buy between 1 or 2 yards of most fabrics and being short I can make most things with that amount so it's also a question of cost - extra fabric required means extra cost no matter what size you are making. 

How do you feel about message or admonitions on sewing pattern instructions? I fall into the category of "just the facts, please".  Sewing along and following the instructions, and then you come across a line saying something like "Yay, you just completed a welt pocket, now relax with a cup of tea" or "you are a sewing superstar".  Are you kidding me? They seem a bit patronizing and perhaps more in place in a children's book although I think a lot of kids can identify the same type of condescension. Have you seen a cookbook with similar line - "oh you now finished chopping and sautéing those onions, have a glass of wine". Wait a minute - perhaps that's a given in cooking :)  Anyway - I just want very specific and detailed instructions with no extras. Spend the time and space in the instruction pages for better diagrams! So what do you think, these lines in sewing pattern instructions are encouraging or annoying? 

That's enough of my editorial comments for the day - the weather has turned chilly here (meaning temps in the 60's ℉. Yeah I know this is mild for my friends in places like Minnesota or Washington where snow is already falling. For us it means I can go outside and work in the garden without boiling since it was 92℉ just a couple of days ago. Now if only it would rain!!!! Please!!!

And I didn't even get to all the topics on my list, such as pattern companies that are better at marketing than pattern making, annoying ads on Wordpress blogs - why are the ads so gross? Speaking of weird, how about the random male IG followers, so often "military officers" or "doctors" who are surely bots. Why do they choose those identities? Not that I really want to know. And how about the ripoff of the Zadie jumpsuit pattern, which is a great pattern and was copied line for line as a RTW garment by an Australian mfg. Shameless! 

What I'm sewing now:  I am completely hooked on the Patrones app - it's like a mobile game for me in that in a spare minute I scroll through the issues I've purchased (basically all issues released since I downloaded the app). Each time I find more things I want to try. I've heard their coats and jackets are good and their recent fall issues are filled with highly desirable styles. I wrote a post earlier this summer about Patrones patterns (Spanish sewing pattern magazine and app) I'm starting with this one to further test and refine my size in these patterns, and to see how I like their styles.  The fabric is a wool from with an ultra suede under collar as I was down to shreds when I cut it out. Good news is that I have 2 yards of this teal ultra suede I found at a thrift store for $ 3 so I think a cute winter dress might be upcoming. I always wanted to make this dress again although there are other patterns I want to try, but it needs to be something suitable for the ultra suede. Will have to give that some thought. 

Patrones coat plus fabric

After that - I might start on my muslin for that vintage Vogue YSL jacket pattern.
This month I've been teaching a button front shirt class for Hello Stitch via Zoom in the evenings and it's been really fun, a good group so Tuesdays are for instruction and Thursdays are a sewing social hour. Next month is a more beginner-friendly class, elastic waist pants, and then in December we will sew the Toaster sweater (knits).  Classes can be found on the Hello Stitch website. 

So that's all for today's Random Threads - I'm interested to hear your thoughts on any of the topics I mentioned.  

Take care and stay well everybody,
Happy Sewing,

Today's garden photo - while my hydrangeas are looking kind of sad now, the long hot August and September doesn't do them any favors, the leaves look terrible plus the ash from fires blown over us these last two months has left them with a dusty coating that needs a good rainstorm to clean off. But this one has put out a couple of fresh blooms and I will take my garden joy where I can find it. 


Sunday, October 11, 2020

Too much ruffle? Burda 110 from April 2018

Ok, here's the deal. Now I'm just making random things to pass the time. Yep, we are barely out of lockdown here in N. Calif so it's more than 6 months of work-at-home, not much socializing, no parties, classes or group meet ups. Yeah, it's getting very tiresome. On the plus side, this summer I discovered that I actually like swimming for exercise. Who knew? Growing up with a pool but not swimming competitively I always thought the the back and forth of swimming laps was boring. To me swimming was a means to all the other water activities I love, like snorkeling, scuba, surfing, etc. But this year with the gyms closed and the air filled with smoke the backyard pool seemed like a good option. I discovered you can really relax and let your mind drift to other things as you swim back and forth. Which means that now I'm a little crabby because swim season is just about over. The weather is cooling off (which is good after the scorcher of a summer we've had) but the pool is getting a bit too chilly. So I'm putting away my swimsuit until spring and figuring out other exercise options. 

While swimming I thought about what to sew next, and whether I wanted to plan some projects or just follow another whim. I have come up with something of a plan, but one last whimsical item snuck in and here it is.  This pattern intrigued me for these many months and I finally decided to give it a try.

purple print top 4

Perhaps this is the ultimate shirt for a Zoom call - lots of visual interest around the neckline. Maybe too much. I had serious doubts as I sewed it but once finished I think it's starting to appeal. But it feels VERY ruffle-y when worn.  

purple print top front 2

This fabric was given to me by a friend who was destashing - she gave me a bin of things and they have been a gold mine. Including the green wool I used for two different coats (tri-color coat and peacoat).
This fabric is a silk crepe de chine. I really love the cornflower blue shade and the print is nice - the only feature I don't care for is that weird yellowish flower but like the pattern it's starting to appeal as well.  

Here's the pattern drawing and the photo from the BurdaStyle website. It may not be noticeable but in their version they call for a contrast fabric, like eyelet or lace as the insert in the center front but I decided to use the same fabric.  The pattern is from the Burda April 2018 # 110.  One of these days I'm going to have to do a bit of analysis - I think I find the most patterns to make from the April issues followed by October (although I think this Oct. 2020 was a complete dud).

Burda 04-2018-110 image

Once you cut out all the pattern pieces it's time to play Burda pattern puzzle :) .  Actually there were a few small pieces that I had to look closely to see how they fit together. I should have followed my own advice of a few months ago when I posted about how to use Burda patterns and matched all the "join" numbers. 

Ruffle blouse pattern pieces

There are the pattern pieces laid out on my table, basically in the same relationship as they sew together. All that is missing are the ruffle pieces, and the button band.  You can see that it is a 2-piece raglan sleeve, and then a front and back inset piece (which look like facings) to create more seams where you insert the lower ruffle. 

purple print top1

This is looking at the center front, with button bands attached and ready to finish off the neckline with the band which extends into long ties.  The lower ruffle is caught in the raglan sleeve seam in the front. 

purple print top back 5

purple print top back ruffle

So much ruffle!  It feels very nice to wear but when I catch a glimpse in the mirror I feel like I'm channeling one of those Elizabethan portraits of the fancy people with their big neck ruffs.

purple print top 7

By the way - those are my Ash jeans, 3rd pair made in slightly metallic denim. My fav summer jeans although I don't think I put jeans on more than twice in the last 3 months. Too warm! I just finished another pair of flare leg Ash jeans in corduroy. With more Ash jeans to come, I'm sure!

Whether I will wear this top is an open question. I probably will wear it for a video call one of these days and see how it looks on screen. But this is just the type of pattern I do like to make, plenty of detail and a bit of a pattern puzzle. 
Now back to my sewing planning. As I said this summer was all over the place, but now I'm in the mood for a specific project. I've decided to go all in on this pattern which I picked up at a Bay Area Sewists Meetup sometime in the past year. It is a single size pattern, my size 12, which is probably why I picked it up. 

Despite looking like a fairly straightforward blazer and pants, it has 9 pages of instruction sheets, fully detailed tailoring steps and seems just the thing to pass the time once we jump ahead with our clocks and I will be spending even more time at home. Yves St. Laurent - tres chic right? I will try to make all 3 pieces and see how it goes. I have a couple of ideas for fabric - but the idea of a burgundy color jacket as the center one pictured is looking so good to me.  (I think I had some shoes just like that, in burgundy suede, alas long gone). So that's the tentative plan, and I will try to document and post as many details as I can along the way.  


We have hit our stride with the Hello Stitch Sewing club, the Tuesday evening portion is instruction, videos I've made to illustrate specifics, and sewing techniques. Then the Thursday evening sessions are like office hours combined with happy hour, a time to hang out together, get questions answered, sew together and talk. I miss teaching in Berkeley but this really nice considering the constraints we are under - plus you don't have to be local to do the class. I think next month we will be sewing this pattern. 

purple print top 8

Now I have to dash - it's time to pick my last few oranges before some varmint gets them. And do a bit of shopping for the garden - it will be time to plant the tulip bulbs soon 🌷.

I hope everyone is staying well and like me you are thankful for any and all creative outlets we have.

Happy Sewing, Beth

Garden photo for the day, everything is fading and dry but the hydrangeas manage to look interesting even at the end of the summer. This one was bright pink back in May.