February 2009

Color studies

With the jacket out of the way, I thought I’d go back to painting this weekend.

I had an idea for a series of studies inspired by Eric’s comment about mixing big and small brushes.  The idea was to divide up the paper so I had an approximately uniform distribution of spatial frequencies about the same number of big, medium, and small shapes, and then to color each shape in inverse proportion to its size.  So the smallest shapes would have the most intense colors, while the larger shapes were more muted.  The thought was that this would make the bits of color look a bit jewel-like.  

I drew out the design with pencil on gessoed paper, and then painted it in oil.  This is the same combination I used to illustrate my second paper (which, sadly, the journal didn’t run).  I like the texture provided by the paper, the way the oil smudges the pencil in places, and the way the oil paint holds intense color even when it dries (as opposed to watercolor, which always gets duller as it dries).

Of course I did a little sewing too.


This is the second skirt I’ve made from my cloned skirt pattern.  I really like the shape and fit although it still has a bit of a tail in the back. 

When I studied art in Italy, our teacher told us that after painting for a while we would start to see more colors.  I didn’t believe her until I got back to Wisconsin for Christmas, and for the first time saw all sorts of pinks and blues in the formerly gray branches behind our house.  I had the same experience this weekend when I went to cut this fabric after painting all day.  Would you believe that this skirt is full of purples and blues?  

So now I have versions of this skirt in fall and winter colors.  Clearly I need spring and summer versions too.  I already have plans to do a summer wrap version with these two cottons:

But I’m not sure what to do about spring.  Normally I don’t go in for spring colors, but, in the spirit of artistic symmetry, I dutifully went to the Fashion Fabrics Club website and typed “mauve” into the search field.  Currently I am thinking about a jeans-skirt styled version in this dark pink corduroy.  

And I’d love to incorporate this stripey satin somehow:

What do you think?  Good idea/bad idea?  Ridiculous excuse to buy more fabric — absolutely!


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How rooish is this jacket?

Item #1:  Rooish green on the outside

Item#2:  Soft and gray on the inside

Item #3:  Pockets!

Item #4:  Raglan sleeves keep my shoulders in proportion.

Item #5: Funnel neckline allows easy attachment of a space helmet.

Item #6: WARM!!!


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A birthday for Rebecca

I was going to make my sister a dress for her birthday.

But, I wanted her to make her a dress she would like. So, I pointed her towards the Simplicity website and told her to pick out a pattern. Then I took her to the fabric store in Cambridge, and had her pick out some fabric.

Here are some pictures of “us” making her dress:


I have been thinking for a while how nice it would be in my sister took up sewing. So I’d have someone to share my…uh…enthusiasm with.

She returned to New York with six yards of green and red striped fabric, a second pattern, and assurances that I wouldn’t work on the dress—so she could come back and finish it in a few weeks.

Why do I feel like I just ate an enormous chompo bar?


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What progress looks like

On the sewing front last week I went from this:

To this:

And this:

To this:


On the science front, I discovered that my stimulus isn’t what I thought it was, and the model I’ve been using can’t possibly account for my data.  Yesterday Rachel talked me down from abandoning the project, tossing the data, and starting over.  And David pointed out that usually when I decide its time to chuck all the data, it means I’m actually getting close to the end.  (See stage #5 in my previous post). But somehow the jacket is more rewarding.


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Pilot experiments

Do you remember leaning about the Scientific Method back in grade school?

There were all these stages: Observation, Hypothesis, Experiment, Analysis, etc.

Having now gone through the process a couple times I think I can safely say that this is not how science proceeds.  Not that there aren’t stages.  In my experience, the stages of a science project are something like this: 

  1.  Building Equipment
  2.  Troubleshooting
  3.  Pilot Experiments/Messing Around
  4.  Data Production
  5.  Panic
  6.  More Troubleshooting
  7.  Data Production, part II
  8.  Storytelling

Most people seem to have the most fun during one of these stages.  Lots of people I know went into science because they like building things.  It did not surprise me at all to learn that my boss loves the data production part.  No one likes troubleshooting.

Personally, I like the messing around stage the best.  You’ve got your equipment up and functioning.  You can run basic experiments.  You know roughly what question you want to ask but not exactly how you are going to ask it.  And then you get to play.  In graduate school I spent two years playing around: making up stimuli and playing them to cells, trying out analysis techniques, building up intuitions that helped me design my “real” experiments later on.  I like this stage because the stakes are low: you haven’t invested a ton of time collecting precious data, so its not a huge deal when an experiment doesn’t work or a hypothesis turns out to be wrong.  You get to try a lot of different things quickly.  And you’re feel like you’re learning all the time.

I mention this because I think I have now reached the pilot experiment stage with sewing.  I can thread my machine.  I can sew a basic seam.  And after the cloning snafu I went out and bought some muslin, so I could test out patterns before I make them up in “real” fabric.

The first pattern I tested was this vintage dress pattern I found on Ebay:

But, when I made it up it looked kind of like a hospital gown on me.  So I cropped it, stitched up the back seam, and sliced it down the front, and voilá! its a jacket:

Then I tried changing the darts on the front and back into princess seams.  Here is my franken-jacket. The right side is the original pattern and the left side is the one I modified:

And here’s the back (now the right side is modified):

I think I like the modified front but the original back. But maybe I will try making the back seam hit higher on the shoulder. What do you think? (oh, and please ignore the seam sticking out on the modified shoulder. I put in in backwards. Clearly I still have some troubleshooting to do.)


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The perils of cloning

I originally took up sewing so I could make myself pants that fit.

I have one pair of pants that fits perfectly. I bought them off the back of a truck in Italy. I am never going to find those pants again. I thought if I learned to sew then I could clone them.

But it turns out that making pants is hard, so I started off trying to clone a skirt.  The skirt I tried to clone is this one, that I found at Goodwill in San Francisco. 

I copied the waistline from this New Look skirt, then pinned the pattern paper to the skirt, stuck pins in the skirt seams, and drew dots where the pins were. Then I connected the dots.

To test out my new skirt pattern I took some fabric with similar stretch to the stuff I wanted to use, made a quick version, and basted it together. This version was about an inch too wide, so I trimmed a half inch off each of the center back seams on the pattern.

But when I started to put together the real version I put interfacing on the waistband. That made it less stretchy. And then it was too small.

So I cut a new version from the first pattern, interfaced that, and assembled the skirt.

But while I was doing this the interfacing stretched out, and now the skirt was too big again!

Eventually I gave up and just wore it as-is. I do like the shape, and the fabric.

But it still has this TAIL in the back where the zipper ends. I think I redid the back seam on this about 6 times and I still can’t get rid of it. Does anyone know what to do about this?



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First productions of Atelier Roooooo

Here is the dress I made over Christmas:

I wore it to the Symphony last week.  Because really, when else am I going to wear a dress?  I like that it’s made out of coat material and so is super warm.  Also that it makes me look a little like my cat (minus the stylin’ red chapeau):

I wrote a review of this pattern and posted it on Pattern Review.  I love Pattern Review.  Everybody there is so nice.

I also made this floppy-neck t-shirt from some extra-soft cotton I found at Sew-fisticated (no I am not making this name up) in Somerville..

I tried it on before it was hemmed and it was so comfy I didn’t take it off for three days. It’s still not hemmed, but I did make another for my sister. I also washed mine. Not that I think anyone in lab would notice.


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