Archive for May, 2007

Links. Coz I’m lazy today.

May 29, 2007

I’ve been away on vacation for the last week, hence the radio silence around here. It was a gorgeous lazy week on the water in southern Maryland, with lots of paddling around in kayaks and gazing at bird life. Ospreys. Bald eagles. Heron, which are much larger down there than I’ve seen elsewhere, and manage to be amazingly graceful and slightly gawky at the same time.

Having stuffed myself full of steamed crabs and exhausted myself paddling around the byways of the Potomac, I haven’t gotten much sewing done. Instead of a substantive post, you’ll be getting a round up of the catching up on reading I’m doing today.

My pal Krupskaya over at the Edit Barn blogs about returning garments made in the Mariana Islands.

If you want a half hour of talk radio in your sewing room, check this podcast on fashion magazines from the fabulous Julia at As We Are Magazine.

For those of you who haven’t yet heard of the Little Brown Dress project, go check out the archive of Alex Martin’s year of wearing the same dress.

A Dress A Day features a magnificent tribute to His Unpronouncable Purpleness.

And to round up with some Other Small Crafts; a how-to on capturing sunshine in a jar.


Problem Solving

May 17, 2007

I posted on Tuesday about my plans to convert a long dress into a cocktail length one.

Now I have some problem solving to do.

1. I need to figure out where to cut off the dress at the waist.

2. I need to figure out how to cut the bottom part so I have the right length.

3. I need to figure out how much to add in the shoulder.

Normally I’d do this by measuring and cutting on a flat surface, but because the dress is bias cut, and because the fabric is slippery, I’m a little worried this strategy won’t work.

I can’t really do 1 & 2 before 3 — because the waistline will shift when I move the shoulder. And I can’t do 3 before 1 & 2, because I need the fabric from the cut piece to add to the shoulder.

Here’s my plan of attack.

Step 1: Open up the shoulder, and pin in some spare fabric to establish the neckline I want.

Step 2: Establish the waistline. I’m doing this with elastic — basically, you take a length of elastic and tie it around your middle, and let it settle at the narrowest point, which is your waist. I did this and then pinned the elastic in place.

Step 3: Establish the length from the hem to the waist. I’d like to preserve the original dress hem, because it’s a lettuce hem, which suits the fabric, and which I don’t know how to do.

Step 3 is causing me some problems. I have already set the waistline where I’d like, and I’m going to cut it on the dress form so that I can get the lines right. But I haven’t figured how to cut the length of the skirt yet.

Stitch ‘n’ Pitch

May 16, 2007

It’s baseball season!

I was never a sports fan until three years ago. I had been to maybe a handful of live sports events in my entire life. My parents took me to see the Harlem Globetrotters when I was a teenager. I’d been to a softball game with my seventh grade best friend who was into the game. A bunch of my friends who are big into football went on a road trip to see a college game in Ohio, and I tagged along. The road trip was fun. We drove six hours in a sweet 70s era Cadillac convertible with the top down. We stopped at Dennys and stuffed ourselves stupid.

The game, though, was a very, very disturbing experience. The folks there were tapped into some deep, deep tribal loyalties that were extremely foreign to me. Our party consisted of one Ohio State alum, and one guy who supported the Other team. He wore purple. As we were walking around the streets outside the stadium, other purple-clad tribespeople leaned out of cars and made howling dog noises at him.

The inside of the stadium was inhabited by the largest mass of conforming humanity I’ve ever seen. 100 000 people, all dressed in red. All freely expressing their distaste for the supporters of the Other team. And then springing to attention for the performance of various nationalist songs and anthems. They had a marching band in red berets. Mussolini’s Italy came to mind.

I realize, of course, that this is somewhat unfair to the good people of Columbus, OH. Although I think maybe not quite so unfair to the assholes who thought it was okay to make remarks at whatever woman they decided was fair game in the tailgating lot. Nonetheless. I find football is not my cup of tea.

Baseball, on the other hand, is a whole different, well, you know.

For starters, it’s a summer game. A slow, long draft of game played on a summer afternoon. The fans are waaay more mellow. It doesn’t have war chants. It has a song about peanuts.

But here’s why I’m really a baseball fan. In the summer of 2005, Washington DC got a new baseball team. They weren’t a great team. They came from Montreal, and they hadn’t been doing too great. Some of my friends, including Spouse Phor, had bought partial season tickets. I wasn’t particularly interested, but I said I might go see a game or two if there was a spare ticket around.

The first time I went, I was hooked. This was such a joyful game. It was sunny! People came by and brought you beer! There was a food called crackerjack! How could a food with such a name not be fun? There was all sorts of cool music, prominently featuring the very funky Godfather of Go-go, Mr Chuck Brown! And signs that told you when and how to cheer, so newbies like me didn’t feel like outsiders.

But really, what hooked me was that the Nationals won. That very first game I went to, and maybe the next four or five after that, they won. This was the beginning of their ’05 season, when for a glorious month or too, they were up toward the top of the rankings, and people were talking about Going All The Way with just a little bit of hope that maybe, maybe. Of course, come July, after the All-Star Game, the team tanked. And they aren’t doing so grand right now.

But right then, when I was falling in love, they were winning. And I had never supported anyone before who won. Ever. Most of the time, what I’ve been supporting has been a left-of-center political party in an election. And they lose. When I’m around, they always lose. I grew up under the cold iron fist of Thatcherism. My family moved to Australia in the 80s, and in quick succession the ALP lost first the state Premiership, and then the Parliamentary majority to Howard’s coalition. I came to the US in 1998; two years later, George Bush was President. So my approach to being a supporter has not been exactly joyful.

Damn you, beautiful winning ball team! You captured my heart, and now you suck. But I’m still going out to the ball park on sunny summer evenings to sing songs and cheer you along.

This lengthy digression brings me to the point of this post, which is to let you know about Stitch N’ Pitch, where you can combine your love of baseball with that of needle arts. As their website says, It’s The Perfect Double Play!! It’s primarily centered on various embroidery arts, but they also have a Baseball Team Theme category. So I give you my DC no-taxation-without-representation, perfect-for-a-summer-night shoes!

DC Flag Shoes

New Project

May 15, 2007

Somewhere in my head I have this idea that I shouldn’t start a new project until I’ve finished the one I’m already working on. But you know what? Apparently, it doesn’t work like that. When I’m writing, I always find that I do my best writing when I let go and just write what I feel like writing. Trying to force myself to write stuff that I know I should write doesn’t work too well for me. So I’m not sure why I think sewing should be any different. So, a new project. This time, an alteration. Or maybe an adaptation, since it’s a pretty radical alteration.

I have a gold silk dress that’s been sitting in my closet for a long time. I bought it at what was, then, to me, a “fancy” recycling store, as opposed to a thrift store. It cost me thirty dollars, which back then, was a lot of money for me to spend on one item of clothing. I wore it to my graduation, because it was the fanciest thing I had. The last time I wore it was to a wedding, at least five years ago. The problem is, it doesn’t fit very well. (Yes, I’m standing on the side of the bathtub. It’s the only place in the house I can see myself in a full length mirror.)

Gold dress front

It’s bias cut, which can often be very flattering, but I find that if a bias cut garment isn’t cut right for my curves, it has the opposite effect. This has a waist and hip that’s too high for me, and because there is no flare under the hip, it tends to cling around my legs.

It’s also too high in the armscye. See the wrinkles across the shoulder?

Armsyce wrinkles

The only thing I particularly love about it right now is the back view:

Gold dress back

I think it has a lovely drape in the back of the skirt. (Sidenote: Do you know how hard it is to take a picture of your butt? I just about pulled myself into contortions for that picture. Never say I never did nothing for ya, dear reader.)

So here’s what I’d like to do. First, I want to lower the armscye and the bustline. To do that, I’m going to unpick the shoulder seams and then add some fabric at the top of the shoulder. The shoulders are finished with a self-fabric bias binding, and I should have plenty of fabric from the next part of the alteration to add more binding to my insert.

Second, I want to cut the dress off at the waist, and then add a shorter, knee-length skirt. The finished product should look something like this:

Gold dress design

Maybe with a waistband. Maybe not.

p.s. I’m not that demure. I just can’t draw hands.


May 8, 2007

It’s prom season, and that means it’s time for … duct tape prom outfits! Every year, Duck Brand Duct Tape runs a contest for the best prom outfit made entirely of duct tape. The winning couple each receives a $3, 000 scholarship.

I looooove this contest. It has just the right combination of DIY style and kookiness. And let’s face it — for some young women, the high school prom can be a source of some anxiety. Can you find a dress that fits? Will you have a date? (My source of anxiety was my hair. I went to the hairdresser beforehand and asked for some curls. She took my waist length hair and curled it in such a tight spiral that it only fell to my shoulders. The curls were so stiff I could have taken someone’s eye out on the dance floor.) This makes prom fun again.

Here are last year’s winners:

Stuck At Prom Winners 2006

I rather like this butterfly themed entry:

Stuck at prom butterfly entry

And these boys are stylin! (but are their ties made from duct tape? I can’t tell.):

Stuck at prom stripes

The contest is still open, so if you are over 14 years old and attending a high school prom this year, you have until June 8 to send in an entry. Full rules & entry guidelines are here. More pics of previous entrants are here.

Standing up for women at Liz Claiborne

May 7, 2007

Sunday’s Washington Post carried a story about workplace outreach strategies for victims of domestic violence: Office Awareness Can Head Off Abuse At Home. It highlights corporations which are acting to protect and assist women and men in domestic violence situations. Liz Claiborne is apparently one of the most progressive companies in the country in this regard; it’s called the “gold standard” by Kay Wells, executive director of the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence.

Liz Claiborne instituted its program after a survey found that 23% (!!) of its employees had been victims of domestic violence. They approach the program from a bottom line perspective, pointing out that domestic violence gives rise to absenteeism and and increased health-care costs for the company. (Although I did hesitate at the spokesperson who compared DV to “alcoholism and drug abuse”.)

The company sponsors a domestic violence awarness website, Love Is Not Abuse.

Key points of the Liz Claiborne policy (pdf) include:

  • Allowing short term leave for employees who want to leave violent households.
  • Assigning parking spaces in well-lit areas (this is so simple and easy for any business to do)
  • Making sure that communication with corporate security is kept confidential.
  • Removing employee’s names from telephone directories.
  • Instituting non-discrimination policies to cover victims of domestic violence.
  • Retaining the right to pursue disciplinary action or dismissal if employees are found to be engaging in acts or threats of domestic violence while at work or using company resources.

As well as protecting the bottom line, DV prevention policies also act to reduce the risk of workplace violence. Perpetrators of domestic violence don’t leave their violent behavior at the door in the morning. State Farm, another company mentioned in the piece, cites the stat that 28% of reported threats of violence in the workplace had a basis in domestic violence.

In March 2003, an employee’s husband was sent away from a Liz Claiborne distribution center because he didn’t have security clearance. He returned with a gun. The company’s security team got local police involved and locked down the facility, and after a standoff the husband was caught. The company’s security practices may have saved lives that day, said Mark Couch, a Claiborne human resources director.

So kudos, Liz Claiborne. And I like your shoes.


May 3, 2007

The pinstriped skirt is coming along nicely. (Although it’s one of the slowest things I’ve ever made.)

Pinstriped Skirt in Progress

I drafted the waistband today. Drafting was a simple affair; I just laid the skirt on some tracing paper, and drew along the line of the waist. I wanted my waist band to be 2″ thick, so I extended 2″ from my traced line, then added seam allowances. To draft the back of the waistband, I split the pattern at CB, and added a half inch seam allowance to one piece, and an inch and a half to the other to give lappage for my buttonholes.

Sounds simple, right. Except that I didn’t line up the edges properly when I sewed it in.


Oh well. That’s what seam rippers are for, I guess.

Lining. Or Not.

May 1, 2007

I was planning to line the skirt I’m working on. The wool is kind of scratchy, and I even had a fabric picked out for the lining — and recycled to boot!

These gold silk pants have been with me for a long time, but as you can see, they are through.

Gold pants

I must have had these at least ten years. When they were new, I wore them out clubbing. They picked up a couple of stains in their life, but for years I wore them under long skirts and tall boots in the wintertime. Silk makes fantastic long underwear. (Yes. I’m a woman who’s not afraid of unconventional unmentionables.) It seemed in the right spirit that this fabric should go into the lining of a sturdy wool skirt.