Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I Love to Sweat!

We just recovered from record-setting heat, and in the interim I'm making a "Comfort" basket for the Basket Auction at my daughter's school softball fundraiser dance. While it was hot as heck outside, I'm inside making cold-weather gear. And it's just as hot inside until I turn on the air conditioners. I'm SO not ready for warm weather.

Of course, I wasn't supposed to sweat for a week as per the doctor's orders regarding my incision. And, *of course*, I had to pick probably the only week in spring where my area sets some heat records. And I'm working with fleece! It is VERY hard not to sweat under these circumstances. So today I was mighty happy to have reached Day 8. Today I could sweat! And the temps have dropped down to a high of about 62 degrees...

I've been in serious doldrums about going to the gym, but today I was happy about it. I loved to sweat. Starting to get back into a normal routine, and I was even able to throw some baseballs overhand. The only drawback is I still have the clear patch covering my incision. My ultra sensitive skin that is prone to "band-aid rash" is now itchy from the clear patch. The edges are coming off little by little, but I'm hoping that sweating will encourage more to come off.

Enough about sweating, even though I'm enjoying it.

Here are the projects I'm working on for the Softball Fundraiser Basket. They're all cut out and in the process of being embroidered. My embroidery machine is humming away as I type this post.

What's going in the basket? Here's the list:

1. 2 scarves (one for Mom, one for Dad)

2. 2 hats (again, one for Mom, one for Dad)

3. 2 softball headbands for cold outdoor practices

4. 1 seat cushion

They have to be done by Saturday so I'm busy, busy, busy! I haven't touched the semi-formal dress for pattern alterations but probably will do so tomorrow as I finish the embroidery. I had to redesign the headband because I just didn't like the design in my Great Copy Patterns book. I've made the headband many times before and decided to change it so it looks more like some of the RTW styles I've seen on the girls.

Also, please say a prayer for my MIL. She undergoes surgery tomorrow. She was in a serious car accident and came out virtually unscathed except for a fractured vertebrae in her neck. It should be a short operation to insert a pin in it. This is the woman that defies all traditional notions of aging. She's going to be 90 in December and looks, acts, and dresses like she's 55 or 60. I'm not kidding. She sharp as a tack and nothing gets by her. She still lives on her own, in her own house, is frequently in the paper and on the regional news for her volunteer work. She helps out a lot of "old" people (she is not one of them though ;) ) as well as young ones. Two months ago she was on the news being interviewed on how she helps out individuals and families with the community tax program. Still, there are surgical risks for a person her age. So if you can, say some prayers for her tonight please.

On a side note, if you a regular reader of my blog, you might remember my post on the 7 Things I Hate About Spring. Well there are about 5 or 6 things I hate about the habits of gym members. The little things that really irritate me. In order to get these things of my chest (or my case--my itchy back), I'll let the world know what they are:

1. Don't laugh or sing when you're on the cardio machines. I can time your laughter virtually every 20 seconds. And if your laugh is the most irritating laugh on the planet, it drives EVERYONE up the wall. Please, keep your singing in the shower unless you're an American Idol contestant and actually very good. And DON'T, I repeat DON'T sing along with your Ipod. I can hear you and you DON'T sound anything like Beyonce. Trust me on that.

2. Don't talk to yourself. It's distracting. And don't talk to me either. I'm trying to keep my focus. This is my workout time, not a socializing activity for me. Get in and get out. Me time. Not you and me time.

3. Wash your hands. Probably my biggest peeve of all. This one lady uses the toilet, then walks right out to use the machines. I KNOW WHO YOU ARE!!! Your personal hygiene habits make me cringe. And the last time this lady held the door open for me, it was an "Eww...gross" kind of moment. My daughters are aware of who this person is too. Sadly, she is not the only offender.

4. Don't hog the machines. You sit there. I wait. You sit there. I do cardio. You sit there. I do more machines. Why do you even go to the gym? You want to sit? Stay home.

5. Cover tattoos in *those* places. This is specifically for the lady with the tatoo above her butt crack. From a distance, it looks like an extension of her butt crack. It is not flattering.

That's pretty much it. Thanks for letting me vent. That embroidery humming is making me sleepy. 1 more minute and it's finished!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Muslin Analysis

One great thing about the Internet--comments and suggestions! So after reading comments, there are some muslin issues to be addressed.

Susan concurred--add a few gathers under the bust and narrow the straps.

Sherril is seeing too much length at the CF on the front skirt piece. I agree. This was my gut feeling, and I'm glad Sherril mentioned this.

Kim noted that I don't need any advice and know exactly what I'm doing (Kim, you're too kind! I'm just muddling through...)

Connie mentioned about patterns that are just often "...not enough" referencing the bust gathering. That would actually be my own pattern drafting faux pas. When I drafted it, I could see the dart was small but decided to go with the draft to see how it would look. Not good enough, so more will be added. The beauty of learning by doing!

Rhonda asked what DD#2 thinks of her dress. Right now, she's actually more interested in me getting her softball pants finished ;) .

All these things are are just the front view, of course, that I posted. On the back skirt piece, I'm seeing the reverse problem of the front--too little at the CB. The left underarm top edge is a little shorter than the right according to DD#2.

Overall though, these are basically minor fit issues going on here. They're all easy corrections. So that's what I'll be working on the next few days. I'll make up a second muslin in plain 'ol cotton muslin and see how it looks.

Today I didn't feel like working on pattern alterations at all. The air smells of baseball and softball, and I LOVE watching the games. It was also picture day and Opening Day ceremonies. So by the time I arrived home for good, it was 5:30 and I was exhausted. I fixed myself a nice drink, read the paper, made some burgers, made cookies, and ate my popcorn. Oh! I even won a basket at the Opening Day ceremonies! How cool is that? Lots of snacks in it and three DVD's.

9:30 rolled around and I decided to pull out the baby quilt material and start working on it. Just a little start, but now I'm off to do research on mitering quilt corner bindings. I'm assuming it's like mitering a vent corner, but we'll see. I'm no quilter.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Muslin on the Model

Here's DD#2 wearing muslin 1.1 tonight.

I think I'm going to add more gathers under the bust. Just a tad. The pattern was drafted to fit, but I think just a little more width by adding some gathering would be more flattering and make her A-cups look a little bigger. On the flip side, no cleavage is allowed to be shown at the school's semi-formal so all girls in the IBTC should consider themselves lucky. They can get away with a v-neck halter! She's only a freshman so I'm sure she's not finished "growing".

Never mind the bad muslin sewing...noticeable tuck in the right front near the armhole LOL.

I'm using her RTW top from her sports banquet last fall shown at right as my guideline. Also thinking maybe the straps could be a little thinner at the top shown on the muslin so it's more like the RTW top. Looking at the McCall's Hillary Duff dress pattern (5748), the straps on that one seem thinner too. The straps on her dress will criss-cross in the back and will be attached at the top back edge. They don't have to be like that, but I have "neck knot" avoidance. If I have that, she will likely have it too. She's a fussy girl that way like her momma.

Any other design/alteration advice would be greatly appreciated. Maybe others will see things and/or recommend things I'm not noticing.

Well, enough of muslins right now. Waiting for my other daughter to get home from her date with her boyfriend so I'll work on cutting out some fabric.

Semi-formal dress muslin: Version 1.1

Two pics here...

Fugly muslin Version 1.1 at left.

Fugly muslin Version 1.0 at right.

DD#2 has not tried on V 1.1 yet. I just finished attaching the new upper front to the dress last night. I think the style of 1.1 will be much more flattering on her figure. The deep v-neck will narrow her upper chest and shoulders, the curved midriff band will be slimming design detail.
The next fitting is tonight, after dinner.

My mobility is returning! After a very sore Wednesday and Thursday, my incision is healing nicely and my right upper back/shoulder area is feeling really fine. It was difficult cutting a new front Wednesday night with my rotary cutter. I was trying to use more of my body weight than arm weight when cutting the new front. The fabric was single layer and thin so that was good.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Can't Help Myself!

No, I can't. I have to post this. I had to go in for that minor surgical procedure at the plastic surgeon's office today from my initial visit last month. Nothing glamorous I tell ya, but putting off the surgery for two to three more years would have meant a bigger incision. No thanks! He did a kinder cut (which means hopefully a less noticeable scar) than my regular doc though. My shoulder area is mildly sore but that's the way it goes.

Anyway, I can't help myself and had to post my BP! As corny as it sounds, it hasn't been this low in 10 years! I remember being in labor with child #4 and my BP on the monitors were around 105/65 to 110/65. Some of you know I'm been working hard to keep the numbers down since they were upped in recent years.

So right before the procedure today, the nurse takes my BP and it is...


Yahoo! I can't remember when it was that low. It has been a LONG time since seeing anything less than 105 on the upper number and lower than 65 on the lower number.

I probably wasn't nervous at all because I didn't realize they had to take my BP. I wasn't even thinking about it at all.

Just good news to share. Higher-than-normal BP readings have stressed me out the past few years, although I've been able to keep them mostly under 120/80 most of the time with hard work.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Perfect Stole.

A HUGE Thank you to Mary!!! She pointed out this lovely FREE stole which is exactly what I want to make for DD#2's Semi-formal dance and DD#1's Prom.

I just want something to cover the shoulders and arms to prevent a chill, but that still looks elegant and classy. This little number fits the bill.

Thanks again, Mary!

The Semi-Formal Fabrics

First off...the purse and shawl/cape fabric and lining. White crepe-backed satin for the lining and a white/silver brocade. The pic below shows nice detail of the silver accent.

And now...the dress fabrics! To the right is the lavender dress fabric. It has a slight shimmer to it. At right is the skirt overlay part of the dress.

And then both together--the tulle-like fabric over the dress fabric:

Which brings me to my next question. DD#2 wanted the overlay fabric on the entire dress. I told her that probably wouldn't be a good idea. She might have the little nubby crystals against her skin near the top edge and when her arms dangle at her sides. She's weird about those things.

I advised fashion fabric and overlay on the skirt portion or maybe the band and skirt portion only. So what do you all think about this?
In addition, my next question is, should I baste the overlay to the fashion fabric and treat as one layer? Or would it look better if both were free-hanging and hemmed separately. If the latter would be the case, would you hem the overlay slightly longer than the dress? I see that sometimes.

And for some reason, she has the crazy idea that these dresses are gathered at the top edge of the skirt portion when examining the Hillary Duff McCall's dress pic as well as her muslin based on the Simplicity one. I keep showing her the line drawings and explaining there's a reason why they're not gathered at that seamline. It would be too full. Most people probably wouldn't want gathering at the side seams because it's only going to add "fluff", rather than a slimming silhouette. She's having a mental block with this style. She doesn't realize that the dresses are designed with tucks in certain places for a reason. Most women do not want to look heavier. She's just not grasping that design concept well.

Anyway, I really want this dress to be nice on her. Hopefully later today I can draft the halter front and see how that looks on her as well. Time is going to fly.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Down and Dirty Muslin

Here's my Simplicity (well, not really...see below) fugly muslin I whipped up today for DD#2. It's on my dressform. Our figures are similar in certain areas, however, she's more broader across the upper chest and back. Guess that's what softball pitching will do sometimes :) .

Technically, I self drafted this pattern from the photo/illustration on the cover. I didn't realize at first that the curved midriff band is only attached at the top seam as a flap. It's really not a band. However, I like the way I drafted it better. I don't want the flap sticking out in this area. In addition, I originally had the pleats stitched down 1 1/2" from the seam. Upon closer inspection of the pattern, the pleats should end at the bottom edge of the band. So I seam ripped the pleats right up to the seamline. It looks much better this way and was looking quite odd stitched down.

Here's the muslin right now on the above right.
I wasn't going to fuss with the straps on this muslin and just cut some 1/4" ribbon as pretend straps. The only alteration I had to do was let out the side seams a tad. DD#2 does NOT like things tight. The girl is no fashion diva and lives in sweatpants, sweatshirts, tees, and sports shorts. Jeans are like a dirty 5-letter word to her LOL. She never wears anything snug or tight. So this dress feels...not so good to her. Her comment, "It's snug!" Well, it IS supposed to be a little form fitted from the band up.

I do think halter straps would be more flattering on her though. We're going to experiment with 1" straps simulated with 1" ribbon tomorrow. If that doesn't look quite right, we'll try a halter top change. If the halter style is a better look on her (which I think it might be), I'll just modify the pattern. The halter style is more slimming for her upper body.
On to other news, on Sunday I found out I'm a great aunt, for the first time. How about that! I have to cut out the material for a baby quilt and embroider it. Minky on one side, cotton flannel on the other. It will be so cozy!

In addition, Robin and Laura both posted/emailed me regarding my Sunday Night Question thread about the annoyance of TOO much info. I have to agree with this. Some companies are sparse with info, some go overboard. I know, I can't please everybody. But going back to the Big 4 pattern instructions, that's probably why I generally like them Not too much, not too little, and I change/supplement with info in my sewing library or actual experience.

Looking forward to three sewing packages in the mail. One includes elastic needed for DD#2's flannel, embroidered softball pants, cotton batiste to line some capris I was supposed to make last summer, microfleece for sewing projects for a fundraiser softball dance, boob tape and other sewing/fitting gadgetry for DD#1's prom dress, etc.

Tomorrow I'll post the fab fabrics I purchased at JoAnn's for DD#1's dress, shawl and purse. BTW, can anybody recommend a great shawl/coverup pattern for a fancy semi-formal and prom dress? I'd like to make one for both to wear.

ETA--I apologize in advance for not posting alterations/pattern drafting info. I'm testing out a few concepts by making dresses for daughter, my friends and/or their daughters. Will get back to you all on that.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

My Sunday Night Question

I keep reading comments and threads lately about how Big 4 pattern *INSTRUCTIONS* (Simplicity, Butterick, McCall's, and Vogue) are particularly poor. Do you all feel that way? Funny thing is, I don't. Maybe it's because I grew up with these patterns, and I know exactly what to expect from them. And what not to expect.

Yeah, occasionally (actually it's somewhat rare) I'll get a doozy of a pattern with a section that has really horrible instructions. Then I just do "intuitive" sewing. Or pull out one of my many technique books and do it the way a particular author/sewing authority recommends.

But overall, I'm generally happy. I read them over, look at general construction, add in my sewing knowledge, and get the job done. Truthfully, I haven't been reading them much the past few years and doing my own thing instead, but these threads have me going back to the instruction sheets to read over instructions. Trying to see if they're really that poor.

They're vague in some spots and leave off things I know to do, but that's okay. Good sewers read. And read a lot. Our sewing libraries tend to be chock full of all sorts of good books. I mean, a pattern can't include all the little tidbits that are in the books. So basically I think the Big 4 instructions are fine. Not superb, not necessarily perfect, but still fairly good in my book.

What do you all think about this? Am I one of the few that is generally okay with Big 4 instructions sheets?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Phat Kat Pick of the Week: Friday, 4/17/09

Everybody moves over for the lady walking down the sidewalk. I know you seen *that* kind of lady--she looks "That" good!

That's exactly what I thought when I saw Jackie in her gorgeous, coral "Power Suit". What a color on her, and she simply looks fantastic in it! You see her husband gleaming over her shoulder? Yeah, he knows his woman is hot!

I was eagerly anticipating a pic of her in this suit from this post. I just knew it was going to look awesome and can't wait to see her upcoming projects too!

That's my Phat Kat POTW for 4/17/09.

Patterns, Prom dresses, and Pleater Boards

A few days ago I wrote that post on my concerns with patterns/companies. Geek Sewing responded with a comment:

"Do you think it would have been considered more appropriate if she had actually submitted a pattern review, say, if she had links to an obscene amount of pictures of the condition of the pattern when she had opened it, of the faint, narrow pattern lines, and of the 2-inch dark grey strip right down the middle of all the pattern sheets?"

So it got me to thinking about this. Yes, I do think that would have been appropriate AFTER she had contacted the company. I'm sure Company X would have sent her a new one and the reviewer could have commented on that. This would serve two purposes:

  1. Let the public know there could be an issue with the recent printing of this pattern and,
  2. Give Company X some good PR about how they're willing to solve the issue (assuming the outcome was a positive one).

It's not about slamming a company. Quite the contrary. It's about preventing disappointment with a highly anticipated pattern, and how the company is willing to solve a problem to keep their customers happy. I guess I wasn't the only one thinking about pattern issues. Ann's post here generated a lot of comments about pattern instructions, and we all have lots of opinions on the subject :) .

I will admit that Company X is not my favorite independent, and that I HAVE purchased a pattern from them. I've very "middle of the road" in my opinion of their patterns. I do feel pricey patterns should spoon-feed me. Not that I need it, but expect it. When you open a Christine Jonson pattern, you'll know what I mean. I ordered one from her (the princess-seamed wrap top) that I have yet to make up and I was really impressed with all the info. Ditto with Textile Studio Patterns. I own several TS patterns, and you can be darned sure I'll order more CJ patterns in the future.

On to other things. I went prom dress shopping with DD#1. What an experience! We went to a small boutique-like store in the Allentown area. The store was all special-occasion dresses only. Believe me, there were some beauties. DD#1 has a figure to die for, so she was trying on all these slinky, form fitted numbers--the kind that I really like too. It came down to two--a green-toned heavily sequined form-fitted dress or a blue form-fitted dress with an empire line and embellished band. She chose the blue. I probably would have chosen the sequin oned. But it's not my $350! I told her I would contribute $50, and she is reponsible for the rest. Consider herself lucky--my mother contributed nothing. I'l probably make her a matching purse along with a shawl or some type of cover up in case it is chilly.

I'll pay for the pre-prom hairdresser appt. so she can experiment with hairstyles, but she is responsible for her prom-day appt., shoes, nails and everything else. She can borrow my wedding jewelry. That will go nicely with her dress. That is if she is interested in the set, but I think she is. She seems to be fretting a bit over the cost. That is good. She has to understand the value (or lack thereof) of a dollar.

One thing I've noticed about prom dresses this year. Lots of pleated skirt portions, pleated bodices, and I HATE that look! It's the tiny pleats that remind me of skirts my mother used to wear back in the '70's. IMO, it looks quite old fashioned and matronly. Both DD#1 and her friend that tagged along felt the same way. Well, not for the same reasons, but they didn't like that pleated look.

Actually, I should rephrase what I just said. I hate the pleated look on prom dresses. The pleats themselves are fine with certain styles of clothing. However, I don't care to wear them because I simply don't like them (it goes back to my mid '70's memories). Does anyone want to dress like their mother? Maybe if my mother dressed like Victoria Beckham LOL. But you know...never say never!

With that in mind, I saw a fantastic post by FBeenz! Check out this post on making a Pleater Board. Isn't that awesome?!?! These are great, detailed instructions. Who knows. Next year if pleats are the must-have, in style look, I'll be wearing them LOL. And using her instructions to make a pleater board. I had to give this a shout-out because she shows in detail how to make such a useful sewing tool.

On the sewing front, DD#2's semi-formal dress is almost all cut out. I hope to get it stitched up tonight after I finish creating DH's website for him. Tomorrow, DD#2 and I are going to JoAnn's to look at material. In addition, today I'm creating a pattern for my friend to make her a dress. I'll see her this afternoon.

Gotta get busy now with my Pick of the Week post. I'm sure you'll agree it's a hot number!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

No Big News.

No big news on the homefront. Last night I custom drafted a pattern to copy this Simplicity dress (green version/lower right) for DD#2's semi-formal in May. Today I'm adding in the appropriate amount of ease and creating the lower skirt portion of the dress. I'm hoping to have a muslin done by this weekend, and we'll need to shop for fabric. Hopefully, JoAnn's will be having a good sale because there's nowhere else to shop for special occasion fabric. I don't trust shopping online for her. She has to feel the fabric first to make sure it's not "itchy" or whatever. Working on business "stuff" too.

More later.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

This Concerns Me.

There's a thread going at one of our favorite sewing websites about an independent company. Seems a person had a problem with a pattern and posted the info. Some responded they had a similar experience, some have never had this problem, most were supportive of the company however.

I am supportive of the company as well, although I've only ordered 1 pattern from them and purchased another via a used pattern sale. The pattern I paid top dollar for was in excellent condition, no problems whatsoever, and it was purchased with my eyes wide open. I know what to expect from this company because of what people have posted in the past.

Getting a new company started is tough. Even more so in this economy. Negative comments travel at the speed of light, and positive comments are like snail mail.

Overall, I didn't feel the thread was taking a spin in a negative direction. However, the thread was closed by the moderator and I respect that. She has to make a tough decision and it was made.

The one thing that concerns me is that many feel the person should go directly to the source (the company) to air their complaint. I absolutely agree with that. However, I think posting it on the boards is also a good thing. Perhaps a few people might want to wait to avoid the same aggravation. This is understandable. I know I would wait.

As some posters have pointed out, there can be pattern errors from all companies. How true! My issue is I rarely pay more than $2 for a Big 4 pattern. So if there is an error, I don't mind it as much. It's the cost principle. Kind of like a hotel. If I'm paying for a cheap hotel, I don't expect good amenities. There's likely no mini fridge, no hairdryer, maybe no sample soap etc. If I'm paying $150/night or higher, my expectations go way up. I want a coffee maker, candy on my pillow, and all the goodies that one might expect by paying more for a night's stay.

When I pay between $12-$20 for a pattern from an independent, I expect a top notch pattern. In fact, spoon feeding is really nice, but not necessary. Helpful tips are very much appreciated. Okay, okay..."expected" ;) .

Therefore, if someone has a problem with a particular run of a pattern, it's helpful to know. It's not going to prevent me from ordering from X company, but I'll likely wait a few months until I think the issue is probably worked out. It saves me aggravation. I hate to see topics closed, particularly when I think the tone was not overly negative. I mean, I've seen really negative stuff about this company when it first started and those threads, if my memory serves me right, were never closed and Read Only.

I think the original poster's comment was helpful. I think the company has always tried to do right by their customers and will continue to do so. They seem helpful and eager to help. Is the issue because of the particular company? What if it was any other company like, for example, Simplicity, Butterick, McCall's or Vogue? I don't know.

We, sewers, need to know as much as possible about patterns. And if there's an issue, I, as a customer, would like to know. I can avoid this particular run for a few months. Being a moderator is a tough job, and I respect the decision made. In fact, I'm glad the entire thread wasn't deleted. Doing so would be a disservice to the members.

What do you think? All thoughts and comments are appreciated no matter what the angle.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Phat Kat Pick of the Week: Friday 03/10/09

Wowza! That's the first word that came to my mind when I saw Cennetta's FABULOUS creation several days ago!!! It's so shockingly gorgeous I almost choked on my coffee. Cennetta looks beautiful from head to toe (nothing new there, huh ;) ?) When I was giving out my own annual awards last December/January, I gave her the "I Covet Your Closet" award. When PR had award nominations, her closet was at the top of my list. I voted for her. She didn't win that award so I had to give her my own :) .

One thing I love about Cennetta's closet is her sense of style. She is acutely aware of what works and what doesn't work on her figure. And if she feels (on one of those rare occasions--really only one that I know of) a dress isn't her fave for a certain reason she'll let you know. And the thing is, I agree with her. I can understand why. Her sewing is always impeccable. But this goes back to one of my previous posts this past week about proportion and style being right for one's figure. Cennetta knows. I always find her assessment of her own garments spot on.

So there you go. That's the Phat Kat Pick of the Week for this Easter weekend 2009.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Magic of 31

As I ponder what to do next for sewing, in addition to running measurements on and doing a muslin for DD#2's semi-formal dress, I discovered I had reached a momentous milestone while at the gym. I've been a gym member for the past 11 out of 12 years, mostly hardworking, but periods of not so regular attendance occasionally.

During one of my not-so-hardworking periods, I had to get a tetanus shot after sitting on my carpet and getting (what else!) a long quilting pin jabbed deep into my right calf muscle. It wasn't fun pulling it out either. When I go to my GP, she always takes weight and BP. She informed me my BP was 135/75. I told her I'd lose at least 10 lbs and headed straight to the gym vowing to get back to a regular cardio/weightlifting schedule.

I did. And minus a prescription along with hard work, my BP is very much normal and down. Also, the girls work out too which is nice. I've waited so long for them to join me, and it's finally nice to have part of my family working out with me at the same time when they can. It doesn't seem that long ago that they were toddlers waving to me at the playroom window while I was working out.

That was around the age of 31. My magic gym number. You see, that was the year of my peak physical fitness--the best in my life. Then I became pregnant with baby no. 4 and had to tone down my cardio workouts to keep my heart rate no more than 140. Still lifted weights but no abs as per my OB/GYN's instructions. That led to the easiest C-section delivery known to woman LOL. I was able (given the go-ahead by my doctor) to resume lifting weights at 3 weeks for upper and lower body, and start light ab work at 6 weeks. Even DH comments that my C-section was a "piece of cake". We both thought it was going to be a big issue, and it wasn't.

After that, I came close at times to reaching the a physical fitness level close to what I was at 31, but never reached it. Until now. Two years ago, I made the committment to get back to my fitness peak at that magic age. It took almost two years to get there the first time, and it has been about the same this time. With one caveat. I can assure you I have to work harder at getting there with my 42-year old body than my former 31-year old one. Believe it when people tell you things get harder after 40. What I used to be able to accomplish in 1 1/2-2 hour workouts 3X/week now takes 5X/week. A typical workout week is 3 days/week weightlifting, 5 days/week cardio and abs.

Cardio-wise, I'm about 98% of what I was at 31. As for weightlifting, I'm way over my 31-year old level at about 115-120% of muscular fitness. Overall, I'm more fit. And I'm not slacker. I work out hard, really hard. I push myself to my physical limits in both areas, and my shirt is soaked when I'm done with my workouts. My focus the past year has been to bulk up. Not like a female bodybuilder, but enough that people will notice that I work out. My least favorite thing to do is ab work. But I do it. Every day I'm at the gym I work 'em hard.

I've finally reached the magic of 31. Again. It feels good. SO good. Now I have to get ready to go work out with my girls :) .

Feel the power, women! Stay strong!!

Cape Mod and the Self-Drafted Skirt

I finished up the Cape Mod from the Sew Everything Workshop book by Diana Rupp. I wanted my friend Pat to see the finished garment so here it is. I'm teaching her how to sew and this is the project she is working on.

I tried to simulate the look in the book and made a matching, self-drafted skirt and added the boots. Diana explains in her book that there is plenty of ease in the sizes. She is so correct! I truly feel I could have gone down a size both with the tunic and cape. However, the sizing is likely good for a beginner because sewing something that is too small, and thus unwearable, is terribly frustrating.

The construction method was a little frustrating to me, only because the instructions are very simplistic--GREAT for a beginner, but tedious and time consuming for an experienced sewer. For example, the bottom hem of the fashion fabric and lining is simply turned up and pressed. A wide ribbon is handstitched to cover the raw edge. This is a long hem! I hate hand stitching and would much rather bag linings whever possible. However, for a beginner it's a really good way to practice handstitching. The ribbon is also a great opportunity for embellishing the interior too. Gives a beginner sewer design opportunities if they find a really pretty ribbon. Problem is, I couldn't find any fancy nice ribbons and just used a Walmart-purchased brown one. The lining I used is just "any old lining fabric" purchased locally. It's brown. It's matches. It works.

In addition, I didn't see any info on stabilizing the buttonholes with interfacing. There again, there's not going to be too much stress on the buttonholes because of the nature of the cape. It's not form fitting. So not stabilizing would be okay. I think Diana's perspective was not to have the beginning sewer experience what I call "information overload". However, experienced sewers know to stabilize those buttonholes.

One thing I found annoying about this pattern. The shoulders are incredibly wide! Even for a broad-shouldered person. Pat is broad shouldered. I'm narrow shouldered. She made a Large and I made a medium. The shoulders on both sizes were so broad and angular (think square shoulders!), and the shoulder area collapsed. We had to redraw the shoulder seamline on both of our capes so the fabric would curve to our body.

Other than that, it's a nifty pattern for a beginner. It produces a nice, trendy cape great with jeans or to be dressed up as I have done with a matching skirt. I wasn't going to make a matching skirt at first, but thought, "What the heck!" I'm glad I did.

Here's another view showing more of the interior. Note the cape has convenient slits for the arms.

I had a terrible time matching buttons for the fabric I used: a mostly blue 100% thick (and itchy!) Irish wool purchased at Ursula's store. I finally found some at Pocono Sew and Vac with the help of one of their employees. Would have preferred dark brown buttons, but I have no other dark brown accessories and am not a person who wears dark brown well. Another thing I'm having a terrible time with...finding a matching caramel/brown/taupe colored turtleneck to match my boots and pumps. It HAS to be a turtleneck. In the pics, I'm not wearing a top underneath, and as mentioned before, this is itchy wool. I can't have that touching my arms or possibly my neck all day. It will drive me insane.

In order to balance my proportions, since the cape is so flowy, I created a slim, short skirt. My philosophy on dressing is to follow the narrow top/wide bottom, wide top/narrow bottom, or narrow top/narrow bottom rule. Too wide on both will make me look 20 lbs. heavier in an instant.

Here's a pic of the back at left. Nice and flowing. Still working hard to get those creases out with my steam iron. Just when I think they're gone, I find they're still there! Darn. Just by luck the boots were a good match. Do you know why I have them? About three years ago, DS#1 wanted to be Obi Wan Kenobi for Halloween. I made his outfit and we went to Payless to buy the boots. There was no way I was going to pay $20 or $30 for boots he'd wear once, so I bought them knowing full well they'd be mine once Halloween was over ;) . My exact words to him: "NO ONE will know they're girly boots! No boys focus on feet. And the girls will be so consumed with their frilly, girly costumes that they're not going to notice either." That convinced him, and we purchased the boots.

As for the skirt, I used my self-drafted slim skirt pattern and put a small slit in the back. The skirt has enough blue to be able to wear it with black. Here's another pic of the skirt with a black, stretch velvet top I made from a Kwik Sew pattern about 5 or 6 years ago.

Here's the skirt with top and flats:

I really like this look. It's polished, comfortable and would be good for work and church. Proportionately, I think it works for my figure too.

For some reason, I was struck with the idea of a fancier interior finish for my skirt. One that I don't usually do. Instead of traditional lining, I underlined the skirt with lining fabric and did a Hong Kong Finish of the seams. I used purchased brown bias tape to cover the edges. Probably should have just created my own from the lining fabric and it would have been a lot thinner, but that would take much more time which isn't it my schedule. I bound the hem edge with bias tape as well. On the waist edge, I bound it with bias tape and turned/topstitched. I made sure to do it in a way so the wool would not touch my skin because I will not tuck in my shirts unless wearing a blazer (the rule of short-waisted chicks like me).

I'm happy with the result. The skirt fits like a dream and looks nice inside and out. Yeah, I should have interfaced the hemline. Oh well, next time. My sewing jumps around so much from garment to garment that I don't always remember to do these things. The zip in the back is a centered zip, forget about wrestling with an invisible zip in the somewhat thick wool. And anyway, I actually like centered zips. Although a side, lapped one would have looked nice too.

I'll leave you with a view of my Hong Kong finished skirt seams and portion of the hem. The inside skirt finish makes me Fancy. You I went shopping in an upscale boutique :) . I hope this feeling doesn't last too long LOL. You know what that will mean! A one-garment-a-month sewer :( . I sew slow and can't bear the thought of anything slowing me down even more.

Below: "Anti-Itch" Waistline binding at left shown from right side of skirt and Hong Kong finished seam and bound hem.

Till next time, Happy Sewing! Happy Easter to my Christian friends and Happy Passover to my Jewish Friends.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The "Almost, If Only" Oufit.

Years ago, (um...many years ago sometime around the mid-late '80's) I bought the Butterick pattern below hoping to make a top like the left-most illustration and a skirt with fishtail godet on the right-hand illustration. When I bought the pattern, I immediately thought, "Oh! This is SO Joan Collins!" Alexis (yeah, I'm aging myself with my Dynasty days) would have been proud.

I never used the pattern and only recently just used the pattern cover for a guide and made a self-drafted bustier and self-drafted skirt to recreate the look below:

I went all out except for my darn shoes. Alexis would have had pumps that were a minimum 3" high. Bad me! I added my Hollywood hair too. Even had some bold earrings on. Let's face it though, Alexis would have put me to shame with a great matching clutch or some fancy purse.

However, Alexis would have also chimed in with, "It almost looks good. If only you would have changed the front horizontal waistline seam to a V-shaped seam instead." Alexis was short. But I don't think she was short-waisted like me. One little change on that seam, and the outfit would have looked way better. I accept it. I still like it. It's my "Almost" outfit. After all, I designed it to look like the pattern cover and it does. Except the pattern illustration features a model with an average length torso. You can be darn sure I'm going to change the pattern to a V-waist seam. It could have been a really nice outfit. Now it is just an average/good one. (Hey! Barbie dolls are short waisted too ;) .)

Not too worry. This really started out more like a muslin. I made the bustier in Kenneth King's class. I was hard at work self-drafting the pattern before the class started so I was good to go. Here's a closeup pic of the bustier on my dressform when it was almost done:

In fact, I wasn't paying too much attention on how I was going to close it up, then it was finished and I had to put in the zipper. Therefore, the zipper installation was crap. The zipper tape should have been put in between the lining and fashion fabric layers, and it wasn't. It was put in as a last step. Think raw, bulky edges at the waistline seam. It had to be covered up. There was NO way I'd stand in front of somebody with a shitty waistline/zipper area. So I got to work creating a focal point instead with ribbon work. Here's it is:
I created ribbon flowers for a ribbon flower corsage to match the flowers in the print. Also added some hot-fix crystals for the 80's glam look. Used some long ribbons for extra camoflauge just in case. Which reminds of another snafu. When cutting out the back skirt portion of the top, I forgot to include a CB seam! I was so mad. So I created a faced opening on the top's skirt portion. That's make-it-work sewing for you. No one can tell there was ever an issue.

The ribbon work is attached to the back via small velcro strips. Here's a pic of the back of the top. It doesn't look like the long, thin ribbon colors match the floral print, but they do.

On the skirt, I bound the top edge with bias binding (I just didn't feel like putting a whole lot of effort into an outfit I'll rarely wear) and installed an invisible zip. Personally, I don't care for invisible zips that much. They seem flimsy and sometimes break on me. I used El's invisible zipper tutorial, and it turned out great. Thank you very much, El's. That's a great tutorial as many people will concur. On the back, I had to do a little fudging with the godet. I drafted the godet as per instructions in Roberta Carr's Couture Sewing book, but I was installing it in the CB seam and not as per her info. It required a little work, but I like it, and find it has more of a "fishtail look" than with a standard godet.

Here's a pic of the godet on the back:

Overall, the outfit turned out fine. Not my fave because of the waistline seam and several things I din't think about beforehand due to this and that. However, I'm very glad I put forth the effort.
On to Kenneth King's Bustier's AWESOME! My bustier is like a rock. It has so much support and is so well constructed you wouldn't believe it. There is NO chance of any wardrobe malfunctions in my bustier. In fact, I don't even need to wear a strapless bra--it's that supportive. Usually, I'd wear pushup pads in my strapless bra, but it was totally unnecessary. I can't wait to make one up again with a v-waist.
The reason why I took the class was to improve on my construction of strapless dresses. The ones I've made in the past have never been this well constructed. This info will certainly help when DD#2 asks me to make her prom dress in the next couple of years. When I do the pattern review for this outfit, I'll try to do the review for Kenneth's class as well.
Tomorrow I'm hoping to post my cape and matching skirt outfit.

Freshman High School Sewing: 2009

DD#2 just finished up her Sewing and Ceramics classes today. The upper grades use block scheduling so they're one marking period classes but double the daily time length (at least 1 1/2 hours for each class). She made so many nice things, and that's what I'm going to show you today! I think of HS as 9-12, but our school is not configured that way. Technically, she is Jr. High, and HS starts the Sophomore year. Anyway, these were her projects in her Freshman Sewing and Ceramics classes.

First, the "Really Good" stuff! That would be Sewing :) .
1. Large, stuffed pillow with quilt blocks (machine stitched)
2. Small pillow (front pieces were handstitched with different types of stitching and the back piece is just a solid piece. Both sides were machine stitched together).
3. Needlepoint (Would you believe this little thing glows in the dark? It's stitched on glow-in-the-dark fabric!)
Check out the different stitches that were used in the closeup below--blanket stitch, running stitch, chain stitch among others.

Next up, a "white" apron. It *was* white and nicely stitched to boot. This was the apron I wrote about in a previous post because I thought it couldn't be the one she made in class. The stitches looked too nice for a beginner. When everyone was finished with their white aprons, they tie-dyed them in class.

Here's the front pocket stitching detail on the apron. That's some pretty straight stitching for a 14-year old beginner sewer:

Last but not least, this neon green tote bag. One side has a long handle, the other side a short one, with a drawstring top and small pocket on the side. I was very impressed with this one and think it looks very store bought.

I asked her to write up reviews for each project at Pattern Review but, unfortunately, she's not terribly interested in doing that. I'll keep pressing her because it might motivate other young sewers out there. Her class was so talented. Her teacher kept pushing the group to do more work because it was such a great group of kids. They had potential and ability. I hope to see some of their work in the local fair this summer.

On to the "Good" Stuff. This is not all inclusive. She said her last project was a large castle. Their final project was based on a fairy tale of their choice. She said it was impressive but needs me to pick her up to bring it home. She's really proud of that one and I'll post a pic of it when it comes home but for now...

Her Ceramics projects which include:

1. Vase. She's not too happy with it, says it could have been much better. I like its quirky look though, and it has a permanent spot on my kitchen counter.

2. The cheetah. She's proud of this one. It's actually a holder with a cover on the back.

3. Little holder with handles. I use it for pins :) .

4. Spoon holder. I love this! Just what I need in my kitchen.

5. Name plate for her room. Name obviously whited out.

6. Banana holder. I stash pieces of gum or mints in there from time to time.

7. A hastily-made, small shallow dish. She's not proud of this one but it's perfect for something like salsa or some other type of dip.

So these were her projects during the last 9 weeks. Last year she took Wood Shop and made a great stool. It looks like the kind you'd buy at an Amish store--very well made and sturdy. So what classes replace Ceramics and Sewing this marking period? Gym and Gifted. She's a jock so she'll like Gym, but as far as exercising the brain, I really like her work on the creative aspect. I'm hoping she'll miss it and think about taking more "crafty" type of classes if she can fit it in her academic schedule. These are the classes that make school fun IMO.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Phat Kat Pick of the Week: 4/3/07

I looked over blogs Saturday night and came up with another Pick of the Week. There are certain things I look for when making my pick.

No. 1: It has to be on a real body as opposed to a dress form. The reason being I'm looking for the "total" look. As sewers, we make a lot of things, some are duds and some are really stellar. Some look great on a dressform, but when we put it on our bodies, it just doesn't look as nice. Sewing IS important, but proportion and fit are just as important when creating the ideal look. Another issue is, the proportion and fit can be just right, but the style itself is simply not flattering. So I'm looking at everything.

So THE pick this week is found at Quality Time . Yes! This is Angie's dress. I think it looks so fab on her and I tell you why.

No. 1: It's a youthful look that looks terrific on her. I know she has two kids, is likely in her 30's, and she looks fresh out of college in this number. We all need dress like that. Her flowy hairstyle looks perfect with the dress too.

No. 2: How tall is she??? She looks 10 feet tall :) . You really can't tell. The dress elongates her figure IMO. It highlights her nice legs and arms. It's simply a really flattering style.

Way to go, Angie! I just love this style on you!!!

Public Service Announcement

Do you suffer from migraines? They're awful! They're the mother of all headaches. And I don't even get them like some people do where they get nauseous, numb, and are out for days. Mine only knock me out for a good 5-6 hour chunk of time. Luckily, I only get them occasionally, maybe once every 6 mos.-2 years. And I'm due for one unfortunately.

Luckily I discovered that OTC vitamins (of all things!) are a migraine trigger for me. When I start taking them, I'll get something like 3 migraines/week. I found this out through careful analysis at one point.

A small percentage of migraine sufferers have visual auras like me. They are the prelude to a headache. Mine last for about a 1/2 hour followed by the whammy of a migraine headache. Guess I should feel fortunate. It's a warning--find a place to relax and get some Tylenol, Motrin, and caffeine in my system fast. Caffeine restricts the blood vessels I think? It's in the OTC med for migraine headaches.

Problem is, most people don't understand the visual aura. I told my husband about it, and he thought it was simply halos around lights. It's not. About a year ago I found an excellent link as to what a migraine aura looks like to us migraine sufferers. It is highly enlightening to those who don't get migraines and understand the aura. My husband was quite surprised. It's bothersome, annoying, disorienting, and restricts your field of vision. It's why I need to lay down and close my eyes (if possible) when it happens. Even after closing my eyes though, I can still see the aura.

So for the general population that doesn't understand what an aura is or what it looks like, check out this link:

Migraine Aura Simulation

Click on the button next to the car. This outstanding simulation will let you "see" what we see during a visual aura. You might want to share the viewing experience with others that may not comprehend what happens during an aura.

Why is this not a sewing post this morning and rather a public service announcement? Because my camera battery died! Don't you hate when that happens?!?! But I do think the info above might be useful for someone.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

13 Thank You's and Finished Projects

Last week I went into my daughter's Freshman Sewing class to do a presentation/activity with the class. The topic was Ribbon Roses and Ribbon Leaves. The info for the ribbon leaf can be found in my previous blog post on a ribbon leaf tutorial. It was a lot of fun, and a great embellishing activity to decorate their projects. A few days ago, DD#2 left a yellow envelope on my rocker. I picked it up, wondering what was inside, and found 13 Thank You notes from her class. Back to the class sewing projects, justwhat were they? Really super ones! They've made decorative samplers, craft caddies, aprons, small backpacks, and needlework. When they finished sewing their aprons, they tie-dyed them in class.

I'll post pics of most of her projects in the next few days. I thought her work was particularly outstanding for a beginner. She did, of course, take a beginner sewing class when she was 8 at our local Sew and Vac and made shorts and a fleece top so she's not a total sewing newbie, but the girl has talent. In fact, she left her apron folded on our living room rocker and when I picked it up I commented to myself, "Was this the apron she made in class? It can't be. The stitching lines look so nice and straight!" Three days later she asks, "Mom, where is that apron that I left on the rocker?" To which I responded, "That's not the one you made, is it?" She absolutely surprised me and said it was. It simply was such nice work.

Some day. Some day I tell you. She'll realize sewing is fun and she'll sit down at the machine and won't want to get back up. Not yet though. But I have to believe it will happen.

Anyway, I finally finished that super easy cape from the Sew Everything Workshop book. It's so easy, but a lot of handsewing drudgery. Very important stuff, IMO, to teach a beginning sewer how to do, but I much prefer to bag a lining. Anything but handsewing for me. It had to be done, though, for my beginning sewing students. It's nice to actually see the garment made up beforehand. Also made a matching skirt. In fact, I want to shout to the world, "Yeah! Go ahead and look up my skirt!" :) . Inside you will find an underlined skirt with lining fabric with a nice Hong Kong finish for the seams. I should have mitered the corners of the vent but simply didn't remember to do until the hemline was completely done. The hemline edge was bound in the same fabric as the Hong Kong finish.

Also, the bustier is completely finished and I made a matching skirt. The bustier is a floral print, the skirt is black with a matching floral godet at the CB ceam in the back where the slit would be. I used Roberta Carr's Couture Sewing book to create the godet.

Both skirts were made from my self-drafted pattern. I really love that pattern, and it's so helpful and enjoyable to simply be able to whip up a pattern and not worry too much about fit since those issues have already been worked out.

In addition, I made 12 individual gifts with embroidery for DD#2's travel softball team. I'd love to take a pic of those but can't due to privacy reason.

Haven't decided what to work on next for myself, but I have to get started on DD#2's semi-formal dress and a Chinese Auction basket for the school softball team's fundraiser dance. Trying to do some stash reduction as well.

Pics ARE forthcoming.