Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Photoshop Effect

I felt it was somewhat important to post this here. Its a brief talk about the role of advertising and its effect on women. Not only to the point of giving us a complete unattainable ideal, but objectifying women's bodies in a way that can create a culture of violence against women.  Not directly, but in the same way any violence against peoples has happened throughout history. First you dehumanize, then its OK to commit such violence.

I think, among other things, this is one of the reasons so many of us sew.  We can look at clothing as things that cover our body, not things that we have to fit into.

I admit that I use photoshop to crop, play with light settings,  and remove the occasional zit, but not much beyond that.  Ladies such as Mrs. Bug have helped me feel braver about how I look and comfortable in my own skin.  If I can help pass that on to someone else then maybe the world will be a better place for it.  The most important thing is to be healthy.

**UPDATED**  This entire lecture is on youtube in two parts.  I want to point out that I cancelled our broadcast television BECAUSE of advertising and not because of the programming.

What about you dear readers? Do you still struggle with these body image? Or has sewing helped you feel more comfortable in your own skin?

The Donna Karan "Make This Look"

Net-A-Porter $600 smackers
Really it was serendipity that I got a wild hair and decided to attempt my own version of the blouse. I mean seriously, 600 for THAT?  I used two different Simplicity patterns.  One for the cowl, and one for the sleeves.  I figured if most of the designs are based off the same block the sleeves can't have much difference.  I did a measurement of the armhole and the sleeve cap and was quite right! There was really only about an inch difference which was easy to gather and ease into the cap. It gave me some more wiggle room in the shoulders.  I also added an inch of width to the arms, cause well, all that wood chopping as a teenager.  The main blouse was from Simplicity 2345, view A. And the sleeve from Simplicity 2181 view B. Since the blouse was drafted for a 1.5 inch ease in the bust I had to add 4 inches total.  I'll be posting about a cowl FBA later.

I really like how it turned out but because I chose a deep deep black rayon knit it is super hard to get it to show up.  I have to wear a cami underneath to make it "Corporate Friendly".  It gets the "husband seal of approval" for sexy factor (more so without cami).  I think it would be a bit more modest on its own had I actually read the instructions first and assembled it as written. OOPS. Oh well. I still love it!  I'm gonna make more, totally.

Fabric: Rayon/lycra knit from Fabric Mart 1.99 yard (clearance!)
Patterns: Simplicity 2181, 2345 (on sale, about $4)
Notions: None
Time to Complete: Including the pattern drafting, about 6 hours, another one would probably take two.
First Worn: January 21rst!
Wear Again: absolutely!
Total Cost: $9  (not counting time and effort, of course)

Click on picture for more detail,
please excuse cat dish in background.
 Here it is paired with some Michael Kors black pinstripe trousers. My friend Amanda scored these at a thrift store and then gave them to me when she realized they were waaaay too long on her. This is the length AFTER hemming them two inches. I love them with my red patent heals.

The back, let me show you it.
After taking these and the photos of my dancing dress I've decided I still haven't gotten the hang of indoor photography. I'll figure it out soon.  Also, my floor isn't really that spotless. I have three cats, two kids, and two men living in my house, so hooray for photoshop! I've been promised bamboo flooring when the kids are in high school. And a jacuzzi. I'm holding him to the jacuzzi.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

What I Did When I Wasn't Sewing

Almost Perfect
I made bread! In fact, I've been doing this for some months now and I've just about got it down. I usually eat the crust end right out of the oven with butter.  When we get to the other end we cube it and stick it in the freezer.  So when I'm done here I'm gonna go make bread pudding. I'll tell you how that comes out!

Its really the first thing I'd felt like doing for almost a week now. The crazy weather, super long work hours, and my car having to get towed took its toll.  My back's been acting up (I had a bad injury five years back). But enough pity party for me. This week is looking up most definitely! I finished hand overcasting the inside of my blouse so I could wash it. I have the pieces of my bolero pattern ready to be cut out of muslin and I'm starting on my daughter's coat. So that's what is on my sewing table. What have ya'll been up to?  And its OK if you feel the need to vent about something too!  

I'll get the new project photos taken soon, promise.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Rock Star Couture

First of all! Welcome all the new people that have found me.  Nice to meet you and welcome to my little corner of insanity.  I actually have some cool posts coming up about recent things I've made, even a tutorial! WOO!

So, I have to  confess that Jean Paul Gaultier is one of my favorite designers out there. And not just cause he designed all the costumes for The Fifth Element.  No, he's totally a rebel. His spring couture show just made me all kinds of happy and I kept envisioning which rock star would wear what look. Apparently this was his homage to Amy Winehouse. (all photos from

This screams Paloma Faith!
Katie Perry!


But then there were some that had my name ALL OVER them. I've decided that the color of the year for those of us that can't wear orange is High Tech Blue.

ME! Or Lady Gaga. This made my inner Goth go Squee!

But this one:  

This one is ALL MINE.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Species Confusion Fabric

leopard-zebra-cheetah thing...
I'm a predator! No, I'm prey! Predator, Prey. Predator vs. Aliens! Wait, that's not fabric...
I cut out a dress last night for going dancing. Some friends finally convinced me to go out and be social this weekend. So of course I looked at a closet full of clothes and said "I HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR!".

The dress would probably be done except I decided I really wanted a long sleeve black cowl neck. But I don't really like the TNT cowl neck pattern I have. I ended up doing a franken-pattern with a bodice from one Simplicity and a sleeve from another simplicity. Also knits. We'll see how this goes.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The ONLY blatant activism I'll ever post, because its IMPORTANT.

if you are in the US, have you heard of SOPA?  Or PIPA?  If not, you need to know.  If these two pieces of legislation pass they could forever alter the way we share information and creativity on the internet.  I work in this industry and I've read a number of papers on what the proposed legislation would do. In laymen's terms, it would drastically reduce internet security and do nothing to actually stop piracy. Not to mention this:

Go here:  to write your congress representatives and tell them you DO NOT support this legislation.  And if you don't live in this country, its still bad because, guess what? Most of your content is hosted here.  There are places around the net that will allow you to add your name to a petition. And the above link also has instructions.

As an aside, your letter has more weight if you fax it in. is free for one or two pages.

You might notice some of your favorite sites go dark today. This is why. Now, go do your civic duty so we can keep pinning stuff that inspires us and making jokes about Twilight, k?

Edited In:  Another Video explaining how this effects you.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Predicting Spring Fashion Trends

Givenchy Spring 2012
All the cool cats will have a large glittering vagina on their chest.  I'm assuming this is a continuing trend of capitalizing of the Twilight Fandom *.

*My apologies to any actual Twilight fans out there. I grew up on Bram Stoker and Bela Lugosi.


The Classic Pose
I finished the blouse! Well almost. I still have to overcast three seams on the inside. But other than that it is DONE and I'm very happy.  I feel like I leveled up or something. I really should be asleep right now cause I have to work tonight but my stupid internal clock is working against me. So I took photos and edited and put them up here for your viewing pleasure.

Relaxing and reading in five inch heals. 
The buttons on the back of the blouse are vintage glass. I dug them out of my mother-in-law's massive box of buttons some time ago.  And in taking photos I realized I tilt my head a lot.

This photo is to show off my Grandmother's brooch. Its a Phoenix, which is awesome.


Or not. I dunno.  They aren't my favorite, but whatever. I FINISHED THE BLOUSE. Its so pretty and sumptuous. I'm wearing it with my finished wool circle skirt. Its finally cold enough to wear that thing, too.  I like it together with my corset belt. It makes it feel more modern to me. Anyway. Bed. LATER!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Blouse of Perpetual Tedium

I want to wave a magic want and make this blouse done. Its taking forEVAH! I've done most of the hand stitching so far watching Downton Abbey, all the way through the Christmas Special. Now I have to figure out what I want to watch while finishing the rest of the hand stitching. I love this fabric so much that I don't want to take short cuts but its going to need a wash when I'm done because of all the handling.  I've TRIED to keep possible dirt and such to a minimum. Its not easy.  I'm doing the Colette Sencha, in case you are just joining us.

You can see the hole darning, overcasting, AND my hand stitching of the sleeve here.

how the stitching looks on the outside

So far, I've gotten the sleeves done and hand overcast one of the side seams. Truth be told I've had a lot of success with pinking silk, but my more couture minded readers will probably scold me for such atrocities. As it is, I ended up nicking a hole and darning it when trying to finish the sleeves. I'm sure had my kids been awake they would have learned some new swear words. As it was my husband got up to find out if I'd hurt myself. Oops. (Oddly, my kids can sleep through my temper tantrum but panic in a storm. My husband gets up if he so much as thinks I hurt myself but will sleep through a tree falling on the house.) Anyway... where was I? Right, the blouse.

 I did decide to use silk organza for the interfacing. When I was cutting out the blouse I used the selvage on the center back, to reduce bulk needed for finishing seems.  After consulting the instructions, I confirmed I only need interfacing on the buttonhole side. This meant I could cut the organza on the selvage side as well, sew up raw to selvage, and then turn the selvage in without having to 'finish' the inside seem of the organza. Make sense? Here's a photo*;

I undid the very end of the bias binding as I'm going to tack down the organza and then finish off the binding.  Then I'll just fold it over as per the instructions. I think I have how I want the hem to be figured out, but its hard to explain without photos. And those will come later.  And before I full committed myself to the organza interfacing I DID do a test run.

test run. 

 They look a bit wonky here because 1) I didn't line up the grains well and 2) I tugged and tugged as hard as I could. No ripping. I'm satisfied it will stand the test of time. Also, aren't those pretty buttons?

That's all for now. I might have to take a break from this thing and go sew something instantly gratifying, like another pair of Clovers and a knit top.

*If you are wondering why the orange pencil, its because my 55mm lens REALLY does not like focusing. Having that color contrast helps, but I"m gonna have to get a new 55mm for my close ups soon.

Friday, January 13, 2012

When You Have Children...

You turn the corner and find this...

nom nom nom

Now, this mask lives at the top of my stairs. My stairs land in the foyer of the front door. Its purpose is to scare away evil spirits (If you believe in such things).  Finding this random sort of thing is not uncommon in this house.  Ask me about the time they created an instance in a kids MMORPG  called RoBlox where they convinced the other players all squirrels are brain eating zombie agents of the devil. No, I'm not making this up. To say I have interesting conversations with their teachers would be an understatement.

I will have sewing related posts this week, promise.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

But I still have to buy the fabric!

A while back I was perusing online videos and came across this one called "The Corporation". I started to watch it and then stopped about halfway through due to its rather depressing nature. Essentially they compare corporations to sociopaths. Unless you've been living under a rock, you might have noticed this goes along with the zeitgeist of our times.  But, I'm not going to get into all that. I'm gonna focus on one element. Cheap manufacturing of clothing brought to you by cheap labor. But here's the link if you feel like getting into it yourself.

So, fast forward a couple months and I get into a conversation with some friends that are definitely activists. They mentioned how they thought it was so cool I make my own clothes and not supporting an evil empire. Which yes, that is certainly a great side benefit but I came back with "Yeah, but I still have to buy the fabric".   This caused them to pause a moment and consider the implications of that. The manufacturing of fabric is just as problematic in the social justice and environmental arena as any other massively consumed goods. This caused me to ruminate a good bit on the topic.

I don't have a loom in my living room. Or my own sheep, or silk worms, or cotton fields. And speaking of cotton fields, that's a fairly touchy subject in the south. The above photo was used for promoting cotton clothing (Jezebel did an article on it). Beautiful photo, right? Yeah, it was rather upsetting to a certain demographic of people here.  Have you ever walked through a cotton field before it was picked? Those things are thorny nasty little bugger. If they didn't produce such an amazing textile we would have killed it as a weed.  And recently a friend sent me this article about Victoria's Secret cotton coming from Africa picked by underage girls.

Then there's that wonderful thing called Lycra whose patent is owned by The Koch Brothers (They're no Bill and Melinda Gates, but any stretch of the imagination).  Going further back, there was the Threads #149 article "No Waste Allowed" that had a fairly harrowing pictures of what the back side of a textile manufacturing plant looks like. Found a photo here if you want to look. And then going back to the above movie, the fact that the workers (usually young girls) get paid about $.06 per t-shirt made from those textiles. No idea what the actual textile workers are paid. I'm sure its not so awesome either. Though there are many arguments that employing people in developing nations is actually helping to raise their standard of living.  I'm certain that can be true, but many of the nations we're talking about do not have governments willing or capable of enforcing environmentalism and human rights.

So, what does that all add up to? For me it adds up to the fact I feel guilty every time I purchase fabric, or clothes at the store. I know that many other sewing bloggers have talked about, or at least mentioned, this issue. People have suggested buying thrifted items, or upcycling old tablecloths/curtains/whathaveyou and all the rest. I think these are all fantastic ideas. Heck, I made my son's costume out of an old bed sheet that had all manner of holes through it. Some of my favorite pieces of clothing have been thrifted. But for the most part I have trouble imagining a table cloth into work appropriate clothing.

Which brings us back to the title.  "But I still have to buy the fabric."  How do you, dear reader, feel about these issues? How do you reconcile the cognitive dissonance that comes from knowing these things intellectually?  I feel that every little bit helps, buying natural fibers, buy local, or buy 'made in my country'.  I feel its somewhat inevitable that we are going to run up against these issues in a globalized community, but it means making smarter choices whenever we are able.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Featured Member!

I'm over on BurdaStyle!  I got to do the interview thingy.

Troublesome Zipper

I see what you did there. 
My circle skirt took way longer to complete than it should have. Mostly because I kept making stupid mistakes. First in calculating the waist size. Second, I couldn't seem to to get the zipper to cooperate to save my life. First, by putting the right side facing in. *facepalm* I will post more details later, including finishing.

Anyway, its done now, though I may unpick the hem and sew it again as it looks.. off. But maybe the weight will pull it down.  I have to work the next three days so proper pictures by Friday and maybe with the silk blouse even! Wish me luck.

Friday, January 6, 2012

More Saving Money: DIY Laundry Detergent

So this has been floating around on the internet for some time, and in fact I found it on pinterest. You can go here to link back to the original. I don't take credit for making this up, but I did modify it a bit. So here's the recipe:

1 4 lb 12 oz box Borax (2.15 kg or 76 oz) found in the detergent isle
1 4 lb box Arm & Hammer Baking Soda (1.81 kg) found in the cooking isle
1  box Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda 55 oz (3 lb 7 oz) found in the detergent isle
3 bars of Fels-naptha soap, found in the detergent isle
2 small containers of oxyclean or store brand oxyclean (try to get about 3.5 lbs total (1.58 kg)) found in the detergent isle.*(optional, see below)
Use 1 tablespoon for a small load, two for a large.

The three bars of soap you will want to grate with a large holed grater. Don't worry, it dissolves just fine. If you have a traditional top loading washer, I recommend putting the scoops in first, let it fill about 2-3 inches and then put in your clothes.

So, there is the recipe. I mixed it up and put it in a large sealed container and use a small jar with a flip-lock lid. This stuff is perfect for high efficiency machines because it does not foam. This will freak some people out, but don't let it. Its still cleans quite well. The majority of your pre-made detergents have softeners and other chemicals that make it foam because people associate that with 'clean'. Its really a marketing trick.

Given the rate at which we do laundry 'round here this $20 worth of product will last about six-nine months. Possibly longer, but that remains to be seen. And it seems its fairly hypo-allergenic.

*On to the optional part. The 'oxyclean' is a brightener. Yes, it does help remove stains but it also acts to makes brights brighter, and so on. I left it out, but still bought a container to add to things such as sheets, towels, whites, and jeans. If your family wears a lot of black (like mine) don't add it because it causes dark colors to fade faster. If not, well, feel free to add it. Also, if you don't add the oxyclean this works well for woolens (just don't put them in the dryer, but you should know that already).

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Facing the Interfacing Question

The sewing bug is back. I'm not sure how much I'm going to be able to fuss with it, but its definitely occupying a large portion of my idle brain processes so that's good. I think the progress on decluttering/cleaning (more to come on that!) is helping a lot. SO! This particular separates set idea bit me a while ago. In fact, I've had the blouse cut out as long as the Clovers. Its a Colette Sencha in blue silk and a blue and white houdstooth circle skirt in Shetland wool.

Letting it hang so the bias stretch will do its thing.
Please excuse the wonky lining. It will be getting the whack-fu after it hangs for a bit and settles out. I will probably also have to use the great shrinking properties of wool and steam irons, as the waist is about an inch too big.

Circled area is the un-mitered corner.
 The Sencha is such a delicate fabric that I decided I wanted to take my time with it and add some couture touches.  So far I did a bias binding on the neck which I sewed closed by hand.  I still need to interface the self-facing but I don't want to use iron on interfacing. I have some relatively stable silk organza in skin tones, though if I had been thinking I'd have sewn that on before doing the bias binding.  Since I haven't mitered the ends, maybe I could un-pick them and do that, then redo them? Any tips would be great.  Also, any tips on doing the mitering of the corners would be awesome too. Though I think Miss Lauren on Wearing History just did a series on bias facings/bindings.  I should try re-reading those. Still, advise welcome here!

That's it for now.  And one last photo where I show off my hand-stitching. I'm quite proud of it!

Click to Embiggen
Next up, waistbands, horsehair braid hems, and buttonholes. What are you working on?