Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Zebra Fur Burda Easy Skirt FW 2014 and why I should give a f...inger about 'age appropriate'

The other night I was dining with some friends on the staid side, (all of us on the wrong side of 60.) One of the guests described her son's girlfriend as 'blowsy, blonde and wearing some leopard print thing.'
There was an awkward pause at the table as everyone realized I was blonde and wearing a leopard print sweater. I actually got a flustered email of apology from the guest the next day who realized she could have been misunderstood. But she wasn't misunderstood. I know that in the world of Talbot/Land'sEnd good taste, no one my age wears a leopard print sweater...or a leather jacket...or half the other things I love to wear.

These are the same people who probably hate my crocodile leather skirt, which I just tightened and shortened for good measure. I love this lady, but I don't care what she thinks of blowsy blondes in leopard print.

Which brings me to my next defiant act—to sew up the zebra fur skirt in the last Burda Easy mag, even though
1. I'm too old,
2. I'm sure it's going to be deemed in garish taste in certain quarters,
3. It's almost too late in the season to be embarking on a fur project.

TOUGH! Here goes! (I'll be adding a lining, eliminating the lower zippers and lowering the hem to just above the knee (by 13 cm.)  Otherwise, no drastic changes so far.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Burda does Kenzo Spring 2015

Were you wondering about this oddball white pique blouse in the February edition of Burda
with the slanting peplum line? I stumbled across its Kenzo origins quite by accident, (see below in cotton and denim.) Instead of offering two flounces like Kenzo's original, Burda simply lengthened one. But the idea is the same. This prompts me to suggest that Burda do more of this, by showing us their model but also, the inspiration from the runway. (One reason I'm a fan of their style trend features doing just that.)




Friday, February 6, 2015

Great British Sewing Bee S3E1 S3E2 S3E3 IS UP!

During a terrible snowstorm, with the Snowbound Blues that strike without warning in this part of the world, what a pick-me-up to discover that the Great British Sewing Bee is up here:

EPISODE ONE https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owkF9RKvnQM

EPISODE TWO https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5we8MkKxON8

EPISODE THREE https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3OR4abKUYY

Thank you BBC2, sooooo much!!


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

TNT replacement pencil skirt in crocodile 'leather', Burda Easy AW 2008-2009, Tribute to Peter Pan's crocodile?

(I read that the recent 'live' update of the beloved Peter Pan musical starring Mary Martin in my childhood days was a complete bust. That is sad, but the fantastic original is out there on DVD. Let's hear it for the ticking crocodile!)

Sometimes, if you haven't been sewing with a plan, or even shopping with a plan, you find that something languishes in the back of the closet because it has no 'friends.' Some years ago, on a whim, I bought an expensive brown leather coat that went with nothing. Not only was it not in a stylish motorcycle cut, but on an off day, it made me look something like a Stasi interrogator from the 1970's.
(In case you're too young or whatever to know what that implies, you're lucky.)

I had also restyled the Ralph Lauren brown tweed hacking jacket my daughter found in a vintage store last year, but again, it got less wear than I would have liked, because it was missing a match for the bottom.

Not that I didn't once have a brown skirt. Some years ago, using a pattern from Burda Easy I had sewn up a skirt in antiqued pleather with a bronzy leaf pattern on it. But as you only get what you pay for, it has now lost all its sheen and, cracked and shabby, joined the 'rack of shame' with other overloved items I can't bear to let go.

(I just read that hoarding is a possible sign of impending dementia. If that doesn't motivate me to donate half my closet to charity, what will?)

 In better days...

So, I realized that I would get a lot more wear from my chocolate-brown genuine-leather jacket, brown tights, brown turtleneck, brown shoes, brown boots, and various blouses with brown notes, not to mention my Bobbi Brown lipsticks :) if I filled in the gap with a new hard-ass brown skirt.

All I could find was crocodile pleather. Now, frankly, there are a lot of textures I find alluring, but generic man-eating reptile isn't one of them.

Still, that was what I could find. So I used the same Burda Easy pattern as above, (eliminating pockets, bows, etc. and leaving off any facing, but attaching the lining to the upper edge and turning down. The outer 'fabric' was too substantial to include facings with darts as well as lining.)
and with some care, produced a new skirt for wintry, wettish weather. And here's a better shot of the 'crocodile' finish:

Here I am, above, in Nyon, committed to lunch  a la croc. with friends(Please ignore Nyon's weird orange street planters. It's a charming town otherwise, with a Roman Museum, lots of music and film festivals and very friendly people.)
 I made the skirt slightly longer than before to accommodate high heels on occasion. The skirt also had to be carefully calibrated at the sides, so as not to be left ripping out seams. Below is the fitting progress of a side seam at the butt level to find the best fit using what is, basically, fancy plastic. I pegged the skirt in at the hem one inch on each side. Glueing the hem up three inches wa also a bit of an experiment. The first glue was too liquid and in the end, a variety of Elmer's worked best.



Sunday, November 16, 2014

Back at the machine! Burda 2-2012-117A, the much-beloved black knit cheongsam dress for me, at last!

Whew, I've been AWOL for a while! One reason was the coming of the third newborn in our circle of family and friends in a row, necessitating yet another baby sweater in a lighter blue than the navy and pink one. No surprises here, but each one this summer was a labor of love and each a better rendition of this Elizabeth Zimmerman classic design that expands as the baby grows;

Then something for myself. I rarely make a design twice but I was quite frustrated that my earlier multi-blue version of the cheongsam knit dress didn't turn out so well, plus its combination of colorblocking made it a summer staple at best. So I ran up a black version in a thick black doubleknit that really was satisfying to work with compared to the cotton and viscose materials I used for the blue.
I've already worn this into London for a quick visit to the children and to a Sunday lunch today. A very versatile dress that I can highly recommend as the perfect LBD to dress up or down.





Friday, August 29, 2014

A Last Graduation and the Simplest Mom Dress of All, Burda cover dress, April 2014, Model 108

This last Wednesday we
had in our family one more graduation, only daughter's BSc at University College London, of which we're very proud.
Why are we so proud? Because after a very scary start the first year, in which she sobbed long distance, 'She couldn't do it,' and failed one class outright, she pulled up to the finishing line with upper second class honors, (2.1) in Natural Sciences/Zoology, a credit to her guts, smarts, (and sibling pride not to be outdone by her brothers.) And all this when she's been pursuing her acting and modelling career in London, and part-earning her way, too. The littlest one of the family has determination-plus. She even painted the soles of her M&S shoes with red paint to have "Louboutins" for her appearance on the podium.

 I planned a simple white linen dress based on the Burda trapeze dress on the April cover, but without the 'wings' or pockets. I got away just with 1.2 metres of fabric, plus lining, because the English weather promised to be iffy, with a red pashmina. I didn't notice until I sewed it that it had a raised waistline in front and a lowered one back, a nice feature, but one that prevents finishing the waist with a  belt. It had too square a shaping to be flattering at my age. I also had to add two darts on either side of the back zipper to allow for a shallow back. Otherwise, the 38-44 worked without any fitting problems and I sewed most of the dress and lining together before doing the side seams last for the best silhouette I could muster.

Yet, my dress itself turned out to be a 'beast' (to quote Heather in the Great British Sewing Bee,) because the viscose linen and lining I chose were so thick to prevent see-through, my plan to use the sewn-in lining method, where you turn the two back sides of the dress through the sewn shoulders turned out to launch WWIII between dress and me. Fingers were rubbed raw, blood was spilt, dress had to be handwashed with blood remover and left to dry for two days on a hanger, then carefully pressed all over again.

Now, to look at the photos, it's a bit of a blah wash-out—more Mom in Sack than Jackie Kennedy or Michele Obama as such shifts are supposed to look, but folks, it had been a long journey, a long and emotional day, and the important thing is, we were all together. It looked simple enough on the day and when it comes to young adult children, it met one criterion: it didn't embarrass them. I changed into a more flattering dress, the off-the-shoulder ruffled 'Carmen' dress from an older Burda issue for dinner at Joe Allen's in the theater district. The night before she took me to see The Crucible starring Richard Armitage. A great visit to London. A meh dress.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Another 'Best Baby Sweater in the World'

I have 'committed sweater' again, using that Elizabeth Zimmerman pattern that grows with the infant up to nine months, so my apologies to the sewing fans who have noticed by now that the sewing has slowed.

Part of the reason for a sewing hiatus is a weight gain that has discouraged my enthusiasm for trying to fit things around my waist and part of the reason is a flurry of health emergencies and summer visitors combining to distract me from both work and hobbies.

In the meantime, the coming grandchild of old friend is going to be a girl, hence I'm sending the previous blue sweater posted below to a niece expecting her third boy in October and this pink one to the other mother-to-be.

In the process, I've changed back to the traditional stitch just to show you how the pattern should look when the non-butterfly lace rows are done knit-purl instead of knit-knit.

(The wool is washable merino.)



Monday, June 2, 2014

Finishing Projects...the Audrey Hepburn Skirt 05-2012-106B

It seems that when I took a break from drafting Book 4 in the series of espionage novels I'm writing under a pen name, (click on the yellow E&E logo to link over to those) and before I tackled planning Book 5, my "month" off involved too many projects which are only now all coming to fruition around the same time.

One month ended up as two in order to make progress:

1. Two 'Japanese' patchwork duvet covers from old shirts, kimonos, pyjamas are done, see blog post below.

2. The Burda safari vest-blouse from the recycled chinos, photo in a previous below, below.

3. The baby sweater only waiting for the right buttons, (now 70% chance of a girl!) see blog post below.

4. A new white linen pencil skirt to resuscitate my civil-wedding Dior skirt suit, after downsizing the late-80's shoulder pads in the jacket, ready to cut out. Photos to come.

5. A two-year-old project, the Audrey Hepburn-Roman Holiday skirt from Burda, 05-2012-106B. Audrey Hepburn Roman Holiday Skirt Original Post  I didn't like it at first because it seemed that the heavy linen skirt combined with the IKEA 'Ditta" cotton lining was too much weight, but I finally wore it through a couple of rainy summer days and realized that it is perfect when you want to look summery but actually need to be protected from near-winter Swiss May temperatures. There is a lot of fabric in that baby and if I made it again, I'd definitely choose lighter weight materials, but it's not quite the wadder I feared. I wore it with a black belt, but for purposes of illustration here, left the belt off. I kept all the buttons inside the placket instead of leaving three up top on the outside. I only realized this booboo when I saw another nice version on Pattern Review. But since I'm wearing a belt over it, maybe it's best that the buttons are concealed.



It's been refreshing to get away from the computer, but actually, I feel like leaving the crafts to one side for a while, unless something really grabs me. Still looking for the right affordable fabric for that dream jumpsuit.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Safari Shirt-Vest Burda 5-2010-129 Finished! and invitation to a free concert at the RAM, London

I guess this is my obligatory safari item for 2014, and Lord knows, I have a lot of safari clothes, but it's such a dependable look for me that I've finally scratched my longtime itch to make this Burda cover model from a favorite safari issue years ago. This is my third garment from one theme in a single issue—definitely a sign that they were hitting the mark for me.

Normally, I don't look good in the modified halter-style cut-in sleeve as it only emphasizes my pear-shape, but this particular design is very flattering because of the fitted waist and modified peplum.

I used only recycled khakis, buttons, and zip, so the entire garment cost me nothing but time. There were a few little squeaks due to limiting myself to recycled fabric, including having to use a slighter darker trouser for the inner facing and (having flubbed the cutting of the shorter the left side front band although I remembered to cut the right side long and pointed and the inner side shorter and straight, I forgot that the shorter end also needed a seam allowance added—my bad) I was forced to resort to a 'dirty fix.' This will never be visible except to you, my friends, below.

I am very happy with this, and if the UK weather is warm enough, I'll be wearing it on Wednesday to fly over to London. Why? Son T. is giving a MA violin concert open to the public on Thursday, May 29, at the Royal Academy of Music, Marylebone Street, at 1:45. If you're in in the mood for a FREE concert of Bach, Brahms, Englund and Vieuxtemps, please join us! (Doors to the Duke's Hall close around 1:30. Free seating.)



Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Best Baby Sweater in the World by Elizabeth Zimmerman

I know. You didn't know I could knit, did you? You thought the only one who could knit was The Sewing Lawyer? Hah!  I did have a knitting passion in the 80's, when in my opinion, knitting really was high fashion and Vogue Knitting was one of the greatest magazines for crafts around. They actually sold it on every newstand in those days, even in Hong Kong! And I made some great sweaters that I still wear, by Donna Karan, Perry Ellis, Calvin Klein and other top designers.

But knitting for fashion no longer interests me, even though I live in a cold climate. A 'knitter's elbow' did me in after two Kaffe Fassett sweaters for the boys. Here I was with a growing family and I couldn't so much as lift a milk carton. One cortisone shot later, I'd sworn off major knitting projects.

On the other hand, when one of your friends is going to become a grandmother (a young one!) for the first time, it's a good occasion to pull out the old bag of needles. I'm zipping through my variation of the Vogue Knitting baby classic by Elizabeth Zimmerman, featured back in the 80's as the best sweater for newborns. It's also in the Knitters Almanac. This model expands for months, thanks to the extensible lace pattern which I modified by accident once and now stick to—just to be stubborn.

(Instead of doing stockinette stitch between the 'gull' rows, I use garter stitch. The result is less refined, totally chunky, and looks something like chain mail in yarn.)

As the child grows to six months, the lace stretches out and the pattern becomes more and more distinct. This is how it's supposed to look—



Mine (just below) isn't quite so polite, what with a very tweedy alpaca/wool yarn, but it will take on more refinement when we know whether it needs boy buttons or girl buttons later in the summer!


But I'm relieved to see somebody who was even more radical than me, and just ignored the lace pattern entirely, and went hog-wild with buttons instead! Lilac Baby, up top, skipped the bottoms below the yoke, too.
In principle, you could do any kind of stitch pattern underneath the yoke. It takes about two-three days to knit up, even for a rusty knitter like myself. I had a long car ride planned to attend an 80th birthday party in another party of the country, and got most of the first half done during those hours, even though I had to refresh a lot of basic skills and actually had to start three times over. Not a bad thing in principle, and perhaps a reason to check and see if I can still rollerblade, play Grieg on the piano and do a respectable backstroke. (Sort of a week-long retreat of time-travel to see what happened to the Me of twenty-five years ago.)