Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The perfect blue room.

Our friend Reid lives in the cutest little house in Austin. It is THE BEST place to stay when we visit, for a few reasons. 1) Reid and his fiance Cameron are great hosts. They even put tiny shampoos and conditioners and toothpaste in the bathroom for their guests. 2) Reid's dog Lola is an English bulldog and perhaps one of the cutest, calmest, most lovely little dogs I have even been around. I would make the drive to Austin just to pet her. And 3) Reid's guest room is this tiny oasis that makes me want to move in, or put the room on a flatbed trailer to take back to San Antonio to be my master bedroom.

The walls are this deep, peacock blue. And Cameron has decorated the space absolutely perfectly, so that it reminds me of an Anthropologie catalog, only tempered appropriately for the real world (in the catalogs they are always doing crazy things, like putting the bed in the middle of a drained swimming pool at a mansion in the french alps, then lighting 10,000 candles on the floor... nobody could actually sleep like that!). The bed at Reid's place has a big, deep brown leather headboard. An antique dresses sits under a scalloped and etched wall mirror, with a vase of pink and yellow flowers and stacks of books adorning the top. The walls have two pieces of distinctive and one-of-a-kind art, including the above picture of a vase of blooming buds. When I wake up there in the morning and open my bleary eyes to the world, I feel so content to stretch out in the sheets and just enjoy the space for a few minutes before getting up. It is nice to be greeted by an aesthetic that makes opening my eyes first thing in the morning a treat.

And the bed is so very comfortable. But most of all, the little room is beautiful. Soothing. Rich. Vibrant. Calm. I hope someday to emulate its best feature in a room of my own, in a home of my own, to make a place for sweet dreams all my own.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Lady Grey Phase "Ghaaaaah": The fit problems.


That is what I have been saying all week (alongside some light expletives and some self deprecating and unfair internal chastising). This tissue fitting is a wreck. A hot mess of a wreck, I tell you. The bust is now too big, the lapel gapes hugely from my shoulders, and the entire fit is wonky and messy. I am not sure where to go with this. Back to the beginning, I fear.

So, after round one of the pattern alterations, I had the back fit pretty good. It might need a bit more room added in the seams or with a broad back adjustment to allow ease of moment, but all in all it was and remains pretty decent.

The front, however, needed more full bust room. I originally gave it an inch and a half FBA on either side, but my knockers wanted more (they always want more, they are such demanding knockers!). So I diligently traced a new front side and front center, with the first round alterations intact. Then I performed a second full bust adjustment using the same method, adding another 1.5 inches to the full bust.

Then I put it on. It is crazy huge. "Gaaaaaah!"

(I was trying to make a concerned face for theatrical effect, and it turned out like this... ha!)

With a bit of frustrated assessment, I see that it's as though my pattern demands the width, but not the fullness or length, of a second FBA. This second adjustment pulled the princess seam to my center front, and that is good. It also gave me fullness for a whole other boob to sit on top of my already ample bosom, and that is bad. And it added inches of length above my bust, toward my shoulder. This is one of the biggest problems because now there is an extra six inches or so of length that the two adjustments added to the front center piece. It is unwieldy.

In looking at these adjustments, it is as though I am short chested... is there such a thing? In the same way that a short-waisted person must tuck out length in the torso, I feel I need to tuck out length along the high bust. Otherwise the shoulders want to press up off my upper shoulder and around my neck, and my upper chest fabric gapes and flops open. I repeat, "Gaaaaaah!"

Oh man, I am SO discouraged. Given my feeling of failure (and the fact that I am out of tracing paper to redraw and start from scratch until my order arrives) I am going to set this project aside for a bit. Just until my tracing paper arrives. In the meantime, I will try a simpler Colette pattern. I have the Sencha blouse and it looks easy enough.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lady Grey: The lining fabric is in too.

I received another envelope, this time with lining fabrics to match my favorite shell options. Now I can make the final decisions on fabric, finish fitting, and get on with the business of sewing this Lady Grey Coat.

The wonderful Elfriede in Boulder mailed these my way last week, with some help from my sister Anne. Anne knows I have been in a panic over the fabric choice, so when she offed to go look at Elfriede's inventory on my behalf, I had to say yes. Yes, I know it was out of her way, but I also know Annie has great taste. Plus, she knows my style and preferences, and I wanted her eye on this project. Thanks to her, I received these samples to match the shell options.

I am deep in conflict (again). Now I have so many pretty choices that I am nearly paralyzed. No one single combo stands out as perfect. Each has merits, each has flaws, and I find myself still concerned over price, ease of sewing, and wearability. So I don't know if that means that NONE of these choices are right, or if it means instead that there are just so many choices that no one combo will ever feel absolutely perfect. Or is it that I haven't struck the ideal option yet? I go back and forth and back and forth in this debate. The more I think, the worse it gets. Please offer your advice.

The first combo option high on my list is a cotton twill shell with cotton batik lining. The pros are that this fabric is easy to sew, will result in a casual (and thus easy to wear) garment, and is the least expensive of all of my options. The cons are that I don't love the batik lining, because in general batiks are not my favorite look. Additionally, batik is not a traditional lining because it is not thin and slippery, so I will be deviating from tailoring norms with this choice.

Cotton twill shell: $54 (4.5 yards x $12/yard)
Cotton batiste lining: $19.50 (3.25 yards x $10/yard)
Total fabric cost: $73.50

I do LOVE this silk tweed with blues, browns and taupes intermixed, and Elfriede sent a lovely golden china silk lining. The pros are that this is a very grown up look. The lining option is slippery, as a lining should be. The entire jacket will be silk, which is breathable and feel comfortable to wear in my south Texas climate. The cons are the expense of the fabric, plus a concern that this will be hard to sew. I have been warned I should serge every edge of the silk tweed before sewing, which will be challenging because I do not own a serger, nor have I ever worked on one before (I do however have access to one through my work, and would like to learn). Additionally, silk is slippery to work with, so the lining may be frustrating. But, then again, this is the fabric option I am most drawn to, pluse I think it will look classy with some tan gloves.

Silk Twill shell: $119 (4.25 yards x $28/yard)
China Silk lining: $32.5 (3.25 yards x $10/yard)
Total fabric cost: $151.50

Finally, Elfriede sent this abstract floral gold and teal silk charmeuse as an option for the silk tweed, but it turns out it matches a teal wool she sent with the shells samples. I love this combo, except for the price and the promise that the silk lining will be hard to sew. Pros are that this would be a traditional winter jacket, warm from the wool shell and slippery from the thick silk lining. The wool should be easy to sew. And the teal is a vibrant color that will stand out in this jacket pattern. The cons are that I do not need a warm winter jacket. Additionally, is it silly to sew a warm winter jacket with bracelet length sleeves? It strikes me as ironic to make a warm coat that will let cold air up the arms. Finally, this is very expensive. For the $200+ dollars I will spend on fabric alone, I could purchase a really nice jacket and have it tailored.

Wool Twill shell: $119 (4.25 yards x $ 28/yard)
Silk Charmeuse lining: $91 (3.25 yards x $28/yard)
Total fabric cost: $210

So I am again at a crossroads. You see, I have a history of purchasing more expensive fabric than I should, and then not succeeding on the final project. I don't want to do that again. But on the other hand, I am really trying to use this Lady Grey sewalong to complete a project by avoiding shortcuts and excuses, while using the opportunity to learn the professional tips and steps needed for a tailored jacket. In that regard, a pricier, lovely fabric is in order.

I would love any feedback. In the meantime, I will continue to refine my fit and study my tailoring guidebooks. Perhaps I will wait until I have the fit of the muslin 100% perfect before determining the final fabric. If the jacket promises to be a knockout, I can splurge. If my fit attempts falter, I should go with the less expensive option. Now I just need more tissue tracing paper for fitting... onward and forward!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Lady Grey Phase II: Pre-muslin tissue fit.

Oh lawrdy, how in the world does anyone fit themselves by themselves? It ties me up like a pretzel, and I am certain that my contortions limit an accurate fitting. But struggles aside, I am moving into the pattern adjustment phase of my Lady Grey. I know, I know, I'll admit it... I am woefully behind on my Lady Grey progress. But I am chuggin' along slowly but surely just the same, and I haven't lost any motivation.

So here is the tissue pattern pinned and on my bod for a basic tissue fitting. Looking at the fit, I can tell I needed some basic width across the back to bring the center seam to my center back. The side seam also looked too far back, letting me know I need more at the waist. However I did feel the arm opening was big enough. Or course the front was vastly small, but fitting the front comes after fitting the back.

I started from a point of mild confusing about adding width at the waist without adding too much extra width at the hip. I have what can kindly be called a protruding tummy. That tummy of mine is round, almost like a pregnant figure. Granted, I am not prego, and under normal circumstances, I am fairly embarrassed about my shape. But hey, in the name of both healthy body image and accurate pattern adjustments, I need to admit my shape and work with it. Considering my round belly, I considered doing and adjust like one might do for a maternity alteration. I saw an actual pregnant blogger do a wide waist adjustment on one of her Colette Patterns to accommodate her belly, you can see it here. It's basically a slash up the grain line near the side seam, rotated out to give more width around the belly (and the extra length added).

This inspired me to add width to my own pattern on both the side front and the side back pieces. However, I want to minimize additional width at the hips, since I have narrow hips. So this is what I did. I did a slash and spread to add 1" at the waist, then cut and opened a tiny dart at the waistline so I could bring the bottom of the pattern back down to its original hemline. This mini-dart basically eliminated the "dip" that contours the waistline in the pattern, and I added width where I need it without affecting the armhole or hemline. I have no idea if this is a legit alternation, but it made sense to me. I hope it works out in the fabric fitting.

Below is my second tissue fitting, brought to you after a good three hours of adjustments and taping and pinning. Oh my, but this is a time consuming process! What do you think?

Here are the adjustments you see in pink.

On the back:
  • 1/2 inch high round back adjustment, standard for me.
  • 1/2 inch in a broad back adjustment, trying to bring the center back to my center back.
  • 1 inch to the side back piece at the waist, ultimately eliminating the curve at the waist while retaining the same line and proportion at the hem.
On the front:
  • 1 1/2 inch Full Bust Adjustment (FBA)
  • 1 1/2 inch center front full bust adjustment, by slashing and spreading the piece open to add width across the bust and to the waist
  • 1 inch wide waist adjustment, using the same method as used for the back
I WISH WISH WISH I had followed my instinct and done a full three inch FBA at once, because in the second tissue fit the princess seam is still about an inch and a half outside of my apex. I plan to retrace the altered front patterns with their current changes to start afresh and conduct a second 1 1/2 inch FBA. Hopefully this will add the remaining width I need to get the wrap front across my wide waist. I also have a hunch I will be taking a tuck or two out of the lapels (as many have found a need for) both below and above the bust, to prevent gaping. I also speculate I will need a swayback to pull the hemline even over my flat derriere.

Current concerns are that the back is still not big enough, but I plan to wait until the fabric muslin to decide whether to add more room. I am also only cautiously optimistic that the second bust adjustments will do what it needs to do and move the seam to my apex. The 1 1/2 inches today worked wonders, so I have hope, but then again, this bust of mine has a history of giving me fits.

With that said, I am very optimistic. Stay tuned. I won't be sewing this weekend because I will be at the Austin City Limits Music Festival, but I plan to crank through these changes next week and move on to the fabric fitting. Wheeeee!

Monday, October 4, 2010


Saturday I received a big surprise in the form of an intimate birthday party, orchestrated by my darling husband and enacted by a group of my closest friends. I was completely surprised, and it was so fun!

Thursday was my real birthday. But Friday was the start of an eight-day work marathon that requires waking up at 5:30 a.m. daily and working through the weekends, so my birthday celebration was minimal. We went out for a nice dinner, but I didn't even have time to bake a proper birthday cake. It was less hurrah than a usual birthday, and while I was not broken up about the mellow day, I was a little bit underwhelmed.

Well... Saturday after I got off work Sam explained he had made plans for us to go out for drinks with our friends Will and Carmen downtown. The weather was beautiful and we were going to drink beers outside, after a cocktail at Liberty Bar. I dressed up and headed out. When we arrived at the Liberty Bar we headed up stairs, and as we hit the top floor the Sam grabbed my hand and firmly pulled me toward the back room, known as "The Porch."

Inside was a long table covered in balloons and seated with Jules, Roger, Casey, Jarrett, Ted, Anne, Will and Carmen, with two seats for me and Sam! Everyone said "Surprise!" and I was completely shocked and delighted and overwhelmed and so, so flattered!

And we had cake, and cocktails, and goat cheese with chili morita, and then we ate dinner. And everyone sang me happy birthday. And I received a few presents. And it was very very special. What a nice husband and nice friends I have to do such a thing for me. I am a very lucky girl.

That's my birthday cake! It's called "Virginia Green's Chocolate Cake" and those of us that ate full slices (as opposed to sharing with significant others) definitely made ourselve a bit ill with sweets. It was great.

And this is my beau Sam, who planned the whole surprise. He was very proud of himself and I felt so special thanks to his efforts. Happy birthday to me.