Wednesday, December 29, 2010


The pants are going really well so far. After reviewing the finished project gallery on the Bella page, I realized the odds of my muslin being incredibly huge were pretty good. So I made every vertical seam into a 1-inch allowance instead of the original 5/8", and it seems to have taken up the excess size without any distortion to the overall design. The fit is pretty good, but I will probably take up about half an inch on each side down to the hip, and I might take the legs in quite a bit as I look a tad stubby in the photos. Not that stubby is bad. Just not quite the look I was going for here.

Butt looks pretty decent - but hips could be taken in a bit.

Waist needs to be nipped in a bit to help everything stay up where it needs to be. Interfacing, lining and closures will help with this, too.

And holy cannoli, that's about 8 inches that need to be taken off the bottom. Jeez. With that taken off the bottom, I will definitely need to take the legs in so the overall proportions look right.

So, tell me, what should my fabric be? What lining should I do? What sort of closure? Zipper? Buttons? Zipper/buttons combo? I have $60 burning a hole in my pocket and all of the L.A. garment district (oops, sorry, Fashion District) lay out before me...

Au revoir,
Ms. May

Monday, December 27, 2010

Moving along...

Hmm, what do we have here?

This, my friends, is a bit of progress. Above we see the fabric for the coat/jacket/whateverthehell being preshrunk in the December sun. Let's not look back and find out when the coat was begun, agreed? Thank you.

And below we see what happens when I have many days off in a row. More progress! This is the Bella pants pattern from the Burda Style website. I am hoping they will be as awesome as I envision. We shall see.

No fabric picked out yet, just the muslin. I think these will probably executed in a black wool crepe, or maybe a dark gray tweed if I can find a cool one. If you peruse the finished projects gallery at the bottom of the Burda page, you'll see that people have done cool things with the pocket linings. I might do a contrasty thing there, who knows? I do think, though, that people seem to be fighting the high-waistedness of these. Perhaps I'll take them it a bit more matador-ish direction and make them mega-uber-high-waisted.

Here we have a close-up of the muslin I'll be making the mock-up out of (which, incidentally, was stained red in one of my washing oopsies I am infamous for). See those little green tufts?

Those are called speed tailor tacks, a version of the tailor tack I learned about in this book. Tailor tacks are used as little flags that mark things from the paper pattern like alignment marks, or where darts begin and end, etc. Normally I would make these marks with chalk or a disappearing ink pen, and have a minor coronary trying to get the ink/chalk out of the fabric even though it should have just disappeared/brushed off as promised. Stupid.

This is my first time trying tailor tacks out. In the speed version, you use regular embroidery floss and just make a little stitch, leaving an inch of floss at the beginning and end, as seen above. Then, after you've cut out your pattern pieces, you pull the fabric apart, as below:

And give it a little snip, which leaves you with a tuft in both layers of fabric, marking your mark:
Very nice, yes? Of course, I could've just used a marker and let it bleed through to the other side since this is just a mockup, but this was actually relatively quick... once I had found where my darning needle was hiding, and located my embroidery floss, and hunted down my little scissors, and talked on the phone a bit, and checked Facebook, and ate some Christmas leftovers, and cleaned up the box of pins I knocked off the table while angling to snip a tack.

See why this is taking a while?

The coat stays as is for now. I am afraid of a phenomenon I've heard of referred to as "over fitting." Not exactly sure what this is, but it certainly sounds like something I would do. I think I'm going to leave the mock-up the way it is and proceed with additional fitting in the actual garment, once I've cut it and assembled it from the final cloth. After all, it's my first friggin' coat and the perfectionist paralysis must cease at some point. Yes? Yes.

In other news, I still have made no inroads with the sloper. It makes me nervous. I know this isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I am having a hard time coercing Mr. Dude into finding the time to assist me in fitting it. I haven't yet figured out how to reach completely around to the center of my own back in any sort of practical way, so I still require his assistance. Dammit.

I'm off to put together the pants muslins and we'll see what happens.

Or maybe I'll go eat a leftover tamale first...

Ms. May

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Jacket (Coat) Seemingly Out of Nowhere!

Pearl would like to wish everyone a happy start of winter and a shout out for peace on earth and goodwill toward man! (Or I will laser you all with my death eyes.)

I've made a few refinements to the coat, trying to push through a bit of debilitating insecurity where patternmaking is involved. First thing I noticed after photographing myself (ignore the general wonkiness of the shot - I'm no good alone) was the need for a bit of a sway back adjustment, as seen in this photo:

See where the back is kinda wrinkly around the waist area? This is because I may have a shorter torso and a bit more ample rear than the company whose coat pattern I used as a starting point expected the average home sewer to have. And it ain't much, lemme tell you. Anyway, a tiny tuck at the waistline and it flattened out nicely:

The side view was pretty swell, as you can see below. But there are a few issues that would drive me nuts in a finished project. First, the side seam pulls a bit to the rear of the garment. I might fix this by rearranging the gathers at the back so that the seam falls where it should. Not sure how this will affect the center front panels. If it's too much for the front to take, I might need to add additional inches to the band under the butt and redraft the center front panels to absorb the alteration.
The blue lines at the side indicate where the seam should be. It's difficult to see, but the seam lies (lays? lay?) about an inch and a half behind that blue line:

I will also need to add about a half inch to the back panels (where they meet the bottom band) to make up for the sway back adjustment. I am surprisingly happy with the sleeves - which sort of makes me unhappy since it was just a happy coincident that they worked out at all. So, yeah, I'm sorta unhappy that there was no need for me to dissect them and learn from them. But then again, happy that there was no need for me to dissect them and learn from them.

And I changed the front closure from an asymmetrical, curved front (which, incidentally, would match my asymmetrical, curved mug):

to a more traditional style closure with a straight closure line down the front:

and I took up a couple of tucks in the center front panels down under the closures where the side front panels start to curve around to the back to improve the silhouette and pull the band in a bit closer under the butt for maximum bubble-ass effect. Sorta want to start a bubble-ass revolution.

In other news, we have new neighbors in the house next door. They seem young, perhaps, and sort of couple-ish. And I have the wish hovering in the back of my mind that they will never, ever want to have a topical chat as I try to get in my car to leave for work in the morning. Or wash my car, "just because," in their speedo. Or throw a brick at my mom's boyfriend. (Ask me about that one sometime.)

And with that, a special holiday shout out for my peeps:

Happy holidays -- spread the joy around far and wide. May you have plenty of light at this dark time of year, filled with loved ones, food, and celebration!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Can I just say...

...making a coat from scratch is a bitch.

A total bitch.

BUT it has been an incredible learning experience for me. So there.

I've got some semblance of a muslin worked out, sort of. And the fit is coming along better than I was expecting, given my slow progress on it. But I am terrified to cut into the fashion fabric for it. Paralyzed, really. I bought twice the required amount of fabric for it to account for screw-ups, and I still can't bring myself to do it.

I'm dumb.


My camera is dumb, too. I mean aside from it simply insisting on taking nothing but crap photos of me anytime I point it in my direction. It is now having a ball torturing me by hiding its cables and making the card reader on my computer crash, and blah, and other things that result in sum in my not posting for 2 months. Okay, maybe not totally the camera's fault, but whatevs. We march on.

In other news, Ms. Pearl is being a total doll -- which removes her from the list of excuses I can use for not getting around to finishing this coat. Also, Nutburgers-the-Neighbor has been in the clink for the last month or so, eliminating him from my excuse list as well. Though his spot on said list may have been replaced by the luxurious joy of drinking beer on my porch at twilight without worrying about whether I'll be accosted by the latest "discovery" that his ex-roommates are tunneling under the house and feeding him rat poison in the middle of the night while he sleeps. I could not make this stuff up, I swear. Amazing shit.

At some point soon I hope to make a decent attempt at finding camera cables and making an effort to be productive. We'll see how well that goes. Wish me luck!

In solidarity,
Ms. May

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Okay, so this has nothing to do with sewing...

I grew up in a great big two-story pink stucco house in a suburb reachable via a loooong four lane road that used to pass by a cattle ranch. I loved those cows.

I hated that house.

I swore to my obnoxious, 11-year-old self that when I grew up I would live in a neighborhood in the middle of a city, in a house that had character, on a street where all the houses were distinct from one another. I swore that house would be one-story, and easily cleaned in under an hour. I swore that walking two miles to the closest 7-11 would not mark the high point of my week. I swore I'd live somewhere that wouldn't require a car to experience some friggin' culture, dammit.

I now own a house in the middle of the city, on a street where all the houses are different from one another. This house has character. It is one story. If I ever cleaned it, it would take less than an hour to do so. It is mere blocks away from cafes, bars specializing in fancy beer, galleries (-ish), and a European deli for goddsakes. And, thank Baby Jesus, there's a 7-11 right across the street.

Thing is... my 11-year-old self did not foresee the interesting challenges inherent in living in my DREAM HOME. Because, as it turns out, my DREAM HOME falls just under 750 square feet. Granted, this is really only a problem of perspective. By most American standards, this is a small house. By Texas standards, I live in a garden shed. Or in the garden shed's garden shed. On the other hand, Parisians and Manhattanites would stab Mr. Dude and me and stuff our bodies in the crawl space to have this much room for what we pay for the mortgage.

Anyhoo, as Americans, Mr. Dude and I have got us some stuff. We have personal possessions that are really unnecessary. Our dog has personal possessions. I've tried to donate as much as I could pry my greedy clutches from to charity. And it was quite a bit. In fact, so much that after doing that for a while I decided to actually sell some of it. And that was quite a bit, too. And I am STILL getting rid of things.

But one area where I think we're down to bare bones is in the kitchen. I think I've gotten rid of all the excess I am comfortable with getting rid of. That's not to say that it only houses necessities (mortar and pestals -plural- anyone?). But it only houses things I actually use or love. Given this, things were still pretty tight. Like, so tight that my dear friend may have been overheard during the set up of my other dear friend's baby shower saying, "Holy shit, May, what the hell is up with your Tetris game of a cupboard?"

Well, this got me thinking about a potential project that could solve my "problem"... Tetris? I LOVE Tetris! Why fight it if it's what the kitchen wants?

...and awaaaay we go!

Step one, of course, was to fortify myself for the project:

Step two was to assess the super-meh blank space where my funny kitchen side door rests when it's open (which, incidentally, it never is thanks to cortico-steroid-induced-psychosis-neighbor-guy who likes to compulsively water the dirt on that side of the house - yey!):

Here we have the most unused space in the whole kitchen, just ripe for the taking. But shelves or another cupboard would block the functionality of the inside-opening door. Once Cortico-Steroid-Induced-Psychosis-Guy receives his sheriff escort for failing to show at his eviction court date (fingers crossed!), I'll be wanting to actually use this door. When my dear friend at the baby shower made her inspirational comment, she was attempting to access something at the back of my pots and pans cupboard. So I had pots and pans storage on the brain.

And is there any more efficient or iconic version of pots and pans storage than Julia Child's version?

Love it! However... Mr. Dude took one look at this and was like, "Peg board... in the kitchen?"

"It's painted," I pointed out.

"Well, yeah... but..."


"Well, it's peg board."


So I spent an afternoon looking at wallpapers to cover it, but at the utterance of the typical cost of wallpaper per roll, and Mr. Dude nearly put the kibosh on the whole project. Have I mentioned that Mr. Dude is the reincarnated embodiment of Mr. Old-Timey-1910 in terms of cost projections? It's a wonder I own a kitchen at all, and in Southern California, no less...

Anyway, here's our final compromise:

Super-fab, "vintage" craft paper scavenged from when my department at college moved after 30+ years of being in the same office space. Definitely closer to the price range Mr. Dude was thinking of, I'm sure. And in orange!! Amazing.

Step three was to do a preliminary layout of the pots and pans on the pegboard. Because I was going to be forced by my aesthetically obsessed husband to cover the pegboard with old pretty paper and moving the hooks around in the pegboard would be a no-go. Once the holes were made for the hooks, they would stay that way. I laid the pots and pans out in the order that I wanted and took photos to refer to later:

Step four involved convincing Mr. Dude to get off his sweet duff and help me.

Sike. Honestly, I have no idea how I even got this shot. This is not Mr. Dude OR Pearl in their natural states. Anyhow, Mr. Incredibly Sexy Legs Dude helped tremendously by METICULOUSLY measuring, stud-finding, leveling, and drilling the frame into place on the wall and affixing the peg board to the frame. There are no pictures of this because I'm new at this nonsense. Sue me. BUT, here's what resulted:

You'll notice that I made adjustments in the layout so the door could open without smacking into my colander.

Step five - cover with wackadoo paper using spray adhesive. Swear that the spray adhesive isn't getting you SUPER high. Admit that the spray adhesive might be getting you a bit high, but it ISN'T giving you brain lesions, sheesh Mr. Dude. Decide that said wackadoo paper isn't wacky enough, then go totally Mexican* and throw on some oil cloth that you've gone a little crackhead crazy with the scissors on, cutting around each element of the magnificent pattern so that every single blue rose shines in its intended glory. With more spray adhesive. Maybe.

Step six - refer to layout photos taken earlier and feel around with fingers and an X-Acto knife to make holes for hooks. Insert hooks. Get all stoked.

Step seven - Hang up pots and pans whilst praying that whole shebang doesn't come smashing down on your head.

Step eight - Get Mr. Dude to get Pearl to pose pretty in front of finished masterpiece, and stage surrounding counters with dirty dishes and such so that people find you approachable:

Waaa-laaa!! And as the French might say, incroyable!!!


*Pretty sure no one who doesn't know this already is reading this, but'chaneverknow, right?
I'm Mexican.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

How To Fit Myself?

I woke up late Sunday morning and looked out the window to find this:

And what this means is that a certain little lady: probably out enjoying being tortured by her Papa:


Which means, naturally, I lounge around said house long enough to make a giant pot of coffee, then leave the house and spend all day in the studio.

Har har.

Anyway, after a couple of hours spent watching episodes of the spin-off series hosted by various winners of HGTV's Design Star, and simultaneously taping all the pieces of my software-generated pattern together, then cutting them out with a steady hand and very sharp X-acto knife, we have this:


Then, while watching hours of the first season of Laguna Beach: The Real O.C., I traced the completed pattern onto my extremely-suitable-for-this-project-because-it's-light-but-very-crispy-with-stabilizer muslin. And cut that out using a combination of rotary cutter and the fabric scissors my amazing mother-in-law gave me. And lamented over the fact that I think Stephen is sorta hot. And that makes me sort of gross.

Oh well!

Here's the arm piece, because I forgot to take pictures of the bodice pieces... prolly because I was grossed out with myself:

Then, while pausing episodes of HGTV's $250,000 Challenge long enough to run the sewing machine, I pieced the bodice together with contrasting thread using a basting stitch. This is actually what it looked like after a few try-ons, sorta sweaty and rumpled:

The torso fit like a glove, but there was a serious issue going on in the shoulder area. By this time, Mr. Dude had come home from dragging Pearl around the elementary school yard on a glorified noose called the "Wonder Lead" and helped me fit it a bit, so we came up with this alteration:

...about an inch taken in at the shoulders. However, Mr. Dude is deathly afraid of messing up my project and refused to do any of the cutting into this sloper that I need to do to get the fit closer to right.

Also, taking in the shoulder this much brought the armscye (better known to laymen as the arm-hole) way up and caused horizontal bunching across the chest. I'm not sure if this is the best way to alter the pattern, or if I should take in tucks across the chest and redraft with a shorter upper-torso-chest-area (I have no idea what this is called...) rather than messing with the arm-scye(hole).


Mmm... Popsicle.

It's hot in my studio...

Anyway, next step will be figuring out how to fit this thing to myself without Mr. Dude helping me. Hmmm... I think maybe if he can carefully pin me into it up the back I might be able to work with it by myself, but I have a feeling this is going to result in a few different versions of the sloper before it's totally dialed in. How does Gertie do it? The good thing is that once this is figured out, I'll have a custom base pattern to draft all kinds of fun stuff from. Yey!

Trudging on...

Ms. May

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Slopers and Steroids

The results of Mr. Dude's dedicated measuring of his wife:

Here we have both a pants and a shell fitting pattern, complete with seam allowances -- what?!? That's right. Pattern Maker includes seam allowances in their computations, which excites me more than I care to admit.


So, 'member that time when I said I was off to buy muslin and a printer?

I lied.

I managed to get as far as printing out the patterns. I won't put in writing exactly how I managed, but I did. However I still don't have the proper fabric to bust these out.

We've had some... well, interesting issues lately with a next door neighbor who is experiencing a bit of corticosteroid-induced paranoid psychosis. And by "corticosteroid-induced paranoid psychosis" I mean literally. Not in the figurative sense you might be used to. Not like when you're all, "What's up with my boss lately? She's totally got a case of corticosteroid-induced paranoid psychosis. Jeez."

Nope. Not like that.

I mean like when you're all, "What's up with my next door neighbor using a sledgehammer to manually disassemble his garage all Sunday afternoon, then glaring at Mr. Dude demanding, 'Do you know who I really am???', jumping in his SUV and racing it at 140 mph off the nearest freeway on-ramp into a ditch, getting cut out of said demolished SUV with the jaws of life, then escaping the emergency room with a compound fracture in his arm and six broken ribs against doctors' warnings, removing the cast and stitches himself during a bout with insomnia, then telling Mr. Dude that if he ever feels like helping him take the rest of the stitches out to just go ahead and knock on his door whenever? Seems like he's got a case of corticosteroid-induced paranoid psychosis. Jeez."

So I've been a bit jumpy around my house lately, is all.

Hopefully I can tackle the fitting shell and pants sometime soon. And hopefully my neighbor doesn't find another SUV to use.