Thursday, February 28, 2008

Spring closet clean out

It’s the end of February – well, almost, and I can’t think of a single person who’s happy to have an extra day in February This winter.

I’ve talked to many of you who haven’t even looked at the fall fashion shows and what they’re producing. It’s just too much right now, to look at fashions for Next fall when everyone is hungry for warm weather. (except those of you down under, sorry)

Since I don’t have any progress to show you on any projects, and a week from now my sister D is going to be here, and we’ll be wild women fitting in the workroom, I thought I’d devote some space to (what should be) that annual ritual, the closet clean up.

This is really just a work-around way to prompt my sister into getting into Hers this weekend and creating some room – which I know is lacking.

Doing a thorough closet cleanout is, or at least can be, traumatic. But in the end, it’s ultimately satisfying. The first time I did this extreme version of the closet clean-up was a season after I moved here, and moved in with my husband for the first time in our 3 years of marriage. He got into the act, and I can attest to the fact that by the time I (we) were done, there were some hurt feelings. “this is dated – out it goes” was said a few too many times regarding pieces I loved. In the end, he was right, but still. If you can manage it without intervention from a loved one, do so.

Tim Gunn and Trinny & Susannah (What not to Wear, Brit version) both advocate a really extreme but thorough process.

Instructions (unless you’re Miss D, go ahead and skim down to the bottom…if your name is Denise…keep reading. J )

Set aside a day (or alternately, a week night) and clean off the bed. Then take the piles of stuff (reading material, laundry, etc) from the floors and go dump it in the living room, the guest room or the kids room. Then get out a box of big black trash bags. And a smaller box of white trash bags, or dry cleaner bags.

You’ll need all that room you just cleaned out, to make your 3 piles.

Begin at one side of the closet and work your way across. To make this easier, I think it’s best to do it in several faster cursory waves across the closet, otherwise it’s too easy to get bogged down and quit. In the end though, Every single garment needs to be assessed.

First wave – anything you haven’t worn in the last year comes out.

It has to go into one of the 3 piles –

· does it still fit? Is it still in good repair? Is it something you like? It goes on the bed.

· Does it still fit? Does it just need a small fix – a button, hem, or other repair, or does it need to go to the cleaners? It goes into a white bag

· Does it not fit? Is it ugly? Is it something you once liked but can’t wear anymore, and are holding onto for sentimental reasons? It goes into a black bag.

This is the brutal part. The first time I did this with dh I ended up with over 100 garments in the black bags. And a virtually empty closet.

If your first wave through the closet is just items you haven’t worn in a year – most will end up in the black bags. What’s left will most likely be formalwear or specialty type garments – otherwise, if they fit and are in good repair, you’d probably be wearing them.

Next, go through the closet again fast and pull out everything that doesn’t fit. If it doesn’t fit, let it go! Into the black bags.

Case study – I had a pair of Calvin Klein jeans from the late 80’s that I really liked. That I looked Hot in. I saved them. Because I knew that someday I would be able to fit into them again, and they’d look good. Then I lost 40 lbs and did fit into them. Then I tried them on…and looked silly – not hot, but rather dated and pathetic. Only then was I able to let them go. Some teen wanting a denim skirt made from jeans or a purse made from old jeans or a theater costume dept wanting period jeans may have picked them up from the Goodwill where I donated them, but I didn’t have to store them anymore.

At this point, the closet is probably ½ empty. Now you can choose whatever you want to look at. Arrange by garment type and go through each type with a critical eye. Add to the white bag anything that needs attention. Add everything that is unwearable (Miss D, that includes a certain rose colored dress I just sent down and a floral top that matches a skirt you have) to the black bag.

Ideally, you'll continue this process until the closet is completely empty. Then you'll hang up the stuff left on the bed back in the closet. The stuff in white bags will get cleaned, fixed etc and go back into the closet, and EVERYTHING in the black bags will go to goodwill. If you cant' stomach taking it all to goodwill, then box up the black bags and put on a shelf in the garage. In a year you'll be able to take that box to Goodwill without a qualm, knowing you didn't miss a single item in there.

Realistically, you'll have to stage this - unless you can get kids and family to take care of themselves for a whole day - not likely.

I tend to think my closet is pretty clean. After all, I haven’t replaced very much that got purged a couple of years ago. And at the end of each season I’ve been pretty good about getting rid of the stuff that for whatever reason I’d gotten sick of or decided I didn’t want to carry into the next year.

TIP: it’s much easier at the end of the winter to get rid of the old black pants that aren’t quite flattering or are getting shiny from too many pressings, knowing that you have a whole season to replace them, than it is to get rid of it in the fall when you realize you need clothes.

Miss D: This is hard, I know. But do it anyway. I promise that when you leave here next week, you'll be taking home some new clothes, the first week in April you'll have another 22+ garments to add to the closet - that fit! That go together. Promise.

So, want to see what I’ve just purged in my closet clean-out? Take a look at the pic above too. Who knew there was still so much left to go?

A coat that I made in the late 80’s. Classic styling, beautiful double faced wool – but, it doesn’t fit me and hasn’t in years and It’s time to pass it on to someone who might be able to get some use from it. Along with much of this grouping, it’s going to the Dress For Success program.

Also included:

  • two jackets – the Ann Taylor cream with the silk charmeuse print lining I wore to death two years ago, then the fabric started pilling and I just quit wearing it.
  • The black is one I bought at Banana Republic, then never wore. It’s ok, but I don’t love it.
  • 4 silk blouses that I just don’t wear.
  • Some Harve Bernard silk suits. I don’t work in corporate America anymore, and even if I did, there is no way they’d fit me anymore.
  • A black/white tweed suit I made from a VeryEasyVogue suit pattern a couple of years ago. I’ve never been a fan of those VEV jacket patterns and this was no exception. Once I got it made the poor pattern draft and shortcut construction bothered me to the point that I never ever wore it.
  • Some formalwear. I’m finally letting go of some of the black tuxedo dresses and beaded chiffon dresses. I have a boat-load, and very rarely need any of them anymore. And when I do need formalwear, I’m likely to want to make something new, so I’m letting go of these. Along with 4 or 5 old prom dresses hanging on a rack in the basement. These are all going to Plato’s closet – a resale shop.
  • A stack (6 pair) of jeans that don’t fit me. If my weight didn’t yo-yo around so much I might have gotten more wear from these, but as with the Calvin Klein jeans, if these ever do fit me again, they’ll be outdated in the extreme. These go to goodwill.

My closet is again empty enough to see where my biggest holes are. And they are in the basics.

I need a plan to sew some BASICS for myself. Soon.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Island Pant construction, Burda 2989

Burda 2989

The design and concept for Island pants intrigued me for several seasons before I made a pair. They are lounging pants. Meant for poolside, seaside, resort wear, or the like.

The first pair I made, roughly three years ago, I used a patchwork eyelet/crinkle cotton/lace fabric, intending them to be a cover-up to wear poolside.

They were a lot more intriguing in concept than in actuality.

Island pants are wrap pants that are sewn up in the inseam and crotch seams only, with extra fabric that extends past the side seam line on both front and back, and long ties extending from the waistbands. They tie on.

After I made them, it felt a little like tying on a diaper.

There were a couple of problems I had trying to wear the first pair. The lace squares in the patchwork are so lacey and see-through that even poolside, they were a bit awkward.

And the ties never stay put, so the front or back was always riding up over the other panel. And, having a tie at center back at the waist meant that I couldn’t sit back comfortably. So I toyed with ideas about how I could change that waist arrangement everytime I picked them up and moved them from one side of the armoire shelf to the other. In any case, they languished.

Still, I found the concept intriguing. And I wanted a pair of breezy, full, lightweight pants to take with us to the Virgin Islands.

So, in the infamous words of Tim Gunn, I pulled some handkerchief weight turquoise linen out of the stash, and set about to “Make it Work”.

I cut them out, turned under the long vertical side seams on each front and each back ¼ inch twice and topstitched, then stitched and serged the inseams and crotch seams. Next, I matched the side seams lines at the waist, overlapping the back on the front, and pinned. Nope, if I stitched that closed, they weren’t going over my hips.

So, I opened out the waist opening so that it was barely an inch less than my full hip measurement, then pinned the overlap together at the waist.

Next, I cut a 4” wide waistband that same measurement long. I folded it in half, and stitched it to the waistline 1 to 1, leaving it open about an inch either side of the CB seam.

Then I inserted a 1 ¼” wide elastic in the waistband. And stitched the elastic right into the CB seam, then finished stitching the waistband to the pant at CB.

Voila, a pair of elastic waist pull-on pants that are ‘wrap’ pants that have no stitched side seam but have a comfortable waist that stays put. They are still modest enough in that they don’t fly open, even in the high trade winds of the Virgin Islands, until below the knee.

They are exactly what I wanted – definitely lounge pants. These won’t go to the grocery store, but they will do evening on the deck while barbequing here in the hottest summer months.

For this pant to be successful, I think only the lightest weight fabrics are suitable. Anything too heavy and they’re going to sit out like balloon pants.

Changes I would make on another pair, if I were to make them:

I would make sure that the width allowed the side seam markings to match and still go over my hips. In the case of using this Burda pattern, I’d have to cut a larger size…or just not stitch that shaping dart on front and back. I’d still stitch the dart at the side seam mark though. I like that shaping detail.

However, this could easily be drafted from any TNT pant pattern. Just straighten the side seam line up to the waist from the hip. Then add approximately 6 to 8” to the side seam (less if you’re petite, more if you feel you need it to balance your girth) to both the back leg and the front leg.

Friday, February 22, 2008

We're back

Click on the photo below for the link to the preliminary photo album.

And I didn't see any yarn or any knitting of any sort while we were gone - but look what I found on a side street in St Thomas:

We had big winds - the boat charter people, who were terrific BTW, said the winds were more typical of what they call "Christmas winds" than late winter wind. knot meter typically hung around 20-22 knots (a knot is 1.15 mph) and we did see 30 knots (about 35 mph) while we were sailing. The boat performed beautifully.

And we saw
1. a whale - it breached, then blew, then flipped it's fluke - just off our stern rail
2. a porpoise - just one, but it jumped up and looked in our port window while we were at anchorage and I was down looking out that same window - startled me I can tell you. Then it hung around to play in the anchorage and entertain lots of folks on different boats.
3. a sea turtle swimming along beside our boat

oops, I'm getting kicked off the web at Panera, where I'm online.
We returned to an ice storm and no internet service at home.

Later friends.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Caribbean Bound

I adore this little Adri top.

Fabric, Crinkle cotton border print from Eunice Farmer Fabrics circa 2005
Buttons are Czech cut glass. I bought these buttons from a little antique store in Racine WI at the end of a bike tour that dh and I did- the SAGBRAW along the shoreline of Lake Michigan.
This antique dealer had an incredible button collection. He told me that he bought the inventory from an defunct button factory in Czechoslovakia at the end of the 1970's.

above: detail of the neckline finished with bias binding
I had to back the buttons with little backer buttons.

Caribbean Bound wardrobe.
not a SWAP, nothing so organized. Just what I've been sewing to take with us.
But for today's news. The Caribbean Bound wardrobe is complete. Not packed yet, but on the bed folded and ready to pack
Caribbean Bound wardrobe:
1 dress
2 shorts - yellow linen with cuff and blue cotton without cuff
1 capri - black with embroidered hemline
1 island wrap pant
7 tops.

Maybe tomorrow, if I'm organized enough before we leave, I'll write the entry about the Island Pant. If not, look for it when we return

Happy Sailing!

oh, and P.S. Do you want to know what's funny?
So many of you weighed in on the options for my next significant sewing challenge, saying you "loved the Dior". I thank you so much for expressing the opinion, but, Well, which Dior?
Both the white suit with the lace overlay and the floral jacket are House of Dior designs.
In the event, the voting supports that roughly 2/3 of you favor the white lace Dior over the other two designs.
And since I really want that suit, (as well as both other outfits), when I return I'll begin the process for making the lace suit. That one I can pretty much do on my own, and I'm confident of the design and execution process. The Gaultier for Dior floral jacket is the biggest Challenge, and I think that's the garment that I'll ask for help from Susan Khalje when she's here in April.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Well, since Bravo has really messed with their schedule this season - what's with that anyway?? - and tonight we are likely to be treated to the worst episode yet - what does designing costumes for lady wrestlers have to do with fashion??? - I thought I'd bring you Victorya's runway show, courtesy of the video imbed icon on

Solid collection, but...take a look at all the pants. I'm thinking that if anyone who reads this blog who sews made a pair of pants with the crotch hanging like that, they'd be on the message boards asking how to fix it.
See post below - I couldn't add comments to the post with the video - technically challenged.

And, if you haven't expressed an opinion yet , scroll down to the end of yesterdays post to take a look-see at my contest options.

Victorya's fashion show NYC

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

some links, some thoughts, and a poll (it's election day ya know)

First off, I'd like to thank everyone who's taken the moment to write a comment lately, and to encourage me on this journey to do the long distance fittings and to creatively and optimally use the stash. I really appreciate your input, your thoughts, and your complements.

Next, I'd like to point you to some things going on around the net that you might have seen, might not have.
Jae wrote an incredibly thought-provoking piece on words that we use that define ourselves and to a degree end up limiting our craft/ourselves. Take a minute to go read it, then ponder for awhile.
Cidell wrote a post on pressing tools that is very informative, and well referenced and illustrated. If you think you could use some brush up on your pressing, def take a look
Shannon has begun another sure-fire winner of a SWAP. It's one of those fantasy wardrobes that we all wish we had in the closet, and all had the lifestyle to wear. Take a look at her Jackie Kennedy inspired plan for some pure eye candy.
Liana has written about interfacings here, and linked to a source that is def worth checking out.
And for my last link today, I'm sending you to see Claudines latest creation. Claudine is doing the kind of sewing that I find most rewarding - the kind that is labor intensive, time consuming, and ultimately results in beautiful clothes.

Meanwhile, back here in the production studio:
Yesterday I made a pair of island pants with serious modifications, which I'll write about when I can get photos - it is grey, drizzly, and depressing here right now. Bad light, bad hair, what can I say? I also got the yellow linen shorts made. Today I expect to get two more bottoms done.

This is production sewing. It feels good in that I'm getting some end product that I really really need, and all of it is going into a suitcase at the end of the week. But, it surely isn't the kind of sewing I most enjoy.
I'm going to finish this Caribbean Capsule in the next day or two, and then work some more on my sisters stuff...but I have this hankering, a deep need, to work on something really challenging.

And, the RTW/Designer knockoff challenge is going on on PR right now.
Garments for judging are due Feb 29. I'm thinking that when I get home, in between production sewing for my sister, I'm going to spend some quality time on one thing.
Question is: what? If I do manage to finish something for this contest, I'm finishing it because I want to be in the running. So, I'm looking for a project that will garner votes. I have 4 projects on my radar that have been there a long long time. I have the fabrics for all, I have places to wear each, and eventually each will get made. I was going to make this decision with the input of just a couple of friends, but you know, I'm looking for a garment that will have wide appeal for judging, so I think I'm going to open up the decision process here.
I'd really like your input. You can just vote below, you can leave a comment, or both. - edit, I don't have the fabric for the 4th, so it's eliminated already.

Thanks for considering and thanks for your input
The question:
If you were looking at a project in a Designer Knockoff contest, and the project was well-executed, photographed well and presented well, which would you be most inclined to vote for as your favorite. (that's the criteria for the general vote at PR - what is your favorite?)
I should mention here that this is the first contest they're having where there will actually be a judges panel also. The panel will be judging on more criteria than just "what is your favorite", (thank heavens), and for that, all I can do is put forth the best product I can, and hope for the best.
(as always, click on the photo to enlarge and see detail)
Option 2 below
Option 3 below

which would you vote for?
Dior white suit with Lace
Dior floral jacket
Anna Sui separates
none of the above free polls

Monday, February 04, 2008

I'm working on it...

Some of the following is finished, some have minor finishing touches needed - a hem, a snap, a buttonhole, some hand stitching. It'll all get finished this week.
I'm working on bottoms now. and one more (maybe two) tops.
All fabric has been in stash, for varying degrees of time.
Some fabric I had more than I needed for what I was doing - hence more than one top out of some of the prints. There was logic behind this madness. I wasn't at all sure I was going to like the McCalls top gathered from a V'd yoke, so I had enough fabric left to cut the Burda top too - so I did. In the event, I do like the V'd yoke top, I don't like the construction that is going to require hand stitching to finish, but I do like the top.
I cut a top from an old OOP Vogue pattern Vogue 1543 OOP
out of some border print crinkle cotton gauze I had, and after it was cut there was enough left to cut the little Adri top too - so I did. Funny, but I made the Adri top already (ignore those hanging threads I haven't cut yet.) and have yet to finish the Trapeze top. The Adri pattern is the same used for the black crinkle top - that top was cut out while I still lived in northern Michigan - I just got it out and finished it for the UFO challenge going on on Pattern Review.

Burda top, same pattern used for one of the paisley tops

Vogue 2279 OOP

Expect a more comprehensive and cohesive post later in the week - with bottoms.
At least I won't go sailing nekked.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Snow Day!

We have snow in St Louis.
This is a rare enough occurance that everything in town has closed down - including the Fortune 500 co my husband works for - they closed both locations of their complexes today.
Where I come from, this amount of snow wouldn't be enough to cause a 2 hr delay for schools, but here, well, it's a different story. It sure is pretty.

Meanwhile, the fates are surely smiling down on me. This is the pant muslin, as sent down to her. I could cry for joy.

Want to hear something funny? Last night, after helping with the ongoing fitting project, my B-in-law looked at my sister and said "wouldn't it just be easier to buy a plane ticket for you to go to her?" That plane ticket was booked before he could turn around. Um, the answer to that question DBIL, is "yes".
She'll be here March 6-10 for a 4 day weekend, and I should be able to get all the final fitting done. Even being gone for 3 weeks in Feb, I should be able to have all the garments cut and basted together for fitting so that when she gets here we can start and finish first fittings, then hopefully assemble at least the challenging garments and get final fittings and hems marked before she has to leave again. Ambitious, but not nearly as frustrating as long distance.