December 2009

Holiday Sewing

I will admit that one of my thoughts when I first took up sewing was that it would let me make cool and useful gifts for my friends and family.  For years I’ve been giving my parents paintings for Christmas.  And really, how many paintings do you need?

I will also admit that once I started sewing I became something of a “selfish seamstress.”  In my defense it’s not just that it’s more exciting to sew things for yourself.  Its also that I kind of suck at sewing.  I don’t really care if the lining of my own dress rolls outward or the hem is wonky or the seam lines aren’t straight.  But on a dress for my mom, no way!  Then there’s the matter of fit.  Since I fit by the method of Trial-and-Error, when I make something for myself, I generally try it on about 50 times.  I thought a single muslin would do for my mom’s dress (Butterick 5277) but not so.  When I shortened the back according to the alterations I made on the muslin, it made the front enormous.  So Christmas evening I found myself picking out the seams holding the lining to the dress and taking it in at the shoulders.  Let’s just say I was an unhappy roo.

I had a bit better luck with my sister’s skirt (Vogue 8603).  That’s because I made up the skirt and lining separately at home then fit them to her at my parent’s house before sewing them together.  No surprises on Christmas morning but I think it was worth it for the saved frustration.

Here’s a better picture of the color.  Aren’t Sam and Rebecca adorable?

I decided it was all worthwhile the day we left to return to Boston (also the day I finally finished re-sewing the dress lining, then tacking it down behind the belt because the lining was rolling outward, grrr…).  Giddy about her new dress, my Mom announced that she was going to wear it to her friend’s New Year’s party, in hopes of making the other ladies jealous.  Not that I’m taking any more orders for clothing.  Would anybody care for a painting?

Thanks to David for the awesome photos.

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I have a wool problem

Of all the lovely fabrics out there I love wool the best.  Particularly at this time of year when the outside world is trying to kill us and particularly if they are dyed in vibrant rooish colors.

Being on sale doesn’t hurt either.

The plaid on the left came from Gorgeous Fabrics, the orange one is from Fabricmart, and the rest are from fabric.com.  The three on the right are all more purple (and thus more beautiful) than I thought from the pictures and incredibly soft.  So pretty!  I had to have them!

Now of course I have to figure out something to do with all of these.  I’m tempted to just make many versions of my favorite basic skirt pattern, because I think they’ll get the most wear that way.  The delicate plaid on the right might become a dress.  The GF plaid and the orange wool might make good jackets because they are a bit coarser and heavier.  But what would I do with all those jackets?

Suggestions?

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Value, edges

It’s been too hectic here to paint but I did get a little sketching in.  These value studies are great for loosening up and solving some visual problems before painting.  Sometimes I’ll draw an image a couple of times, deciding what details to keep and which to ignore.  And doing it in black-and-white forces you to think out the values.  You can never think too hard about values: its amazing how much of color boils down to light versus dark.

There’s a nice post over at Laurel Daniel’s blog on how to paint a landscape.  She starts with a value sketch and then adds the color.  I think this is a very sensible approach and I will try it on my next painting.  I basically took that approach in my first rainy day painting and was pleased with how it turned out.  Looking at the last Wardsboro painting I think it could have benefitted from starting this way.

A bonus of starting with a value sketch is that it helps soften the edges of objects.  I’m always tempted to outline everything and it really kills the light.  Not to mention the contrast of hard and soft edges can add a lot of texture.  It took me a long time to let go of outlining everything in my drawings.  Now if only I can transfer that to painting…

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What I learned from Vermeer

I started this watercolor over a year ago.  It was a part of a series of drawings of women doing various thing and I had the idea that maybe someday when I got better at oils I would paint them.  But I thought I’d do some watercolor sketches first.  I got it to this stage:

and then I got stuck.  I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with it, so I stuck it in a box and forgot about it.

At the Vermeer exhibit earlier this fall I remembered this series.  In the painting I posted, there is a similar lighting scheme: cool light in the foreground and warm light from outside the door.  I suddenly realized that what was wrong with my watercolor was a third source of light: the foreground was much too bright and it sapped the light from the window and door.  It’s such a simple lesson but it’s easy to forget: if you want to make something look bright put something dark next to it.

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Weekend update

Right.  So one approach to the problem of planning too many projects is to start all of them at the same time. This weekend I cut out fabric for four (four!) different projects. Unfortunately I can’t post any of them because (a) after all that cutting I was too tired to do any sewing and (b) all of them are for people who have been known to check this blog.  So instead I’ll post a picture of this cardigan I made for myself last week.  This is another version of my cafe cardigan, except that sometime since making the last one I misplaced the pattern.  So I faked it. I used my t-shirt pattern for the shoulders, enlarged the sleeves a bit, and drew a line somewhere between the t-shirt width and my woven dress pattern width for the sides.  The back needed a lot of corrections after it was cut out but I think it turned out ok.  If you look carefully you will notice that there is only one pocket.  I decided I wanted to wear it to work on Friday and I figured it wouldn’t be very useful without a pocket.  But after one pocket I got tired and had to go to bed.  Notice a theme?

For this version, I cut the shawl part much wider (13″ instead of 5″) because the last one didn’t seem full enough to me.  I also made a kind of funky hem at the bottom which I think makes it flare out nicely.  I finally learned the trick of hemming knits with a double needle so they stretch, perhaps from Elaine’s blog, though I can’t seem to find the post now.

Also this weekend I’m enjoying my new spectacles, freshly arrived from the internets:

What do you think?

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A little list

Along with my ever-expanding list of paintings-to-be I have an equally long list of sewing-I-imagine-I’ll-get-done.  When I’m feeling too lazy to actually sew its kind of fun to draw.  Here are some at the top of the list:

Number one is a sweater-jacket made from one of the gray wool knits I bought at the beginning of the fall.  I don’t actually have a matching rib-knit for the collar but I think just an oversized collar will do.  I’m thinking I’ll start from my basic jacket pattern, maybe shrink it a bit for the stretchier knit, then figure out the collar.  Not sure what I’ll do for a belt.

Another Korean-inspired dress, with fun layers at the hem.  I think I can make this fairly easily from the tunic pattern I worked out last summer.  The main part will be the other gray wool knit.  For the hem I am thinking some oatmeal-colored wool I just got from fabric.com and a bit of a cotton print I just got from Gorgeous Fabrics.

A funnel-neck top from the rest of the paprika-colored cotton knit I got this summer.

A ruffle-collar t-shirt with a center front seam.  I’ve seem these CF seams a couple places now and I really like them.

Finally, a plaid shirtdress made from this wool I’d been lusting after for a while.  I’m thinking of using V8021.  The envelope doesn’t look great but I love Cidell’s version.

What are the chances I’ll actually make all these?

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More Chicago pics and a dress for my mama

Can I say again how gorgeous Chicago is?  The area that is now Millenium park was a giant hole in the ground when I lived there but I think it was worth it.  This is one of my favorite areas of the city.

I especially love this garden.  It perfectly captures the low curves of the Midwest, sets off the skyline, but doesn’t feel exposed the way many parks in flat places do.

I also managed to get a few cool reference pictures at the airport although I was terrified the TSA was going to show up and handcuff me at any moment.  As far as I know its not illegal to take pictures in an airport but I felt really weird doing it.  Not weird enough to pass up this light and geometry though.

I have been promising my mother a dress for months now and I’m hoping to have it done for Christmas.  I brought the muslin for Thanksgiving and tried it on her.  It was much easier to fit the back on her than on myself although I still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing.  I should really take a proper sewing/fitting class one of these days.

Best of all I got to spend time with two of my favorite people:

Hooray for Thanksgiving!

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