Saturday, November 28, 2009

Yo Mama Is So Cheap…

Sorry, I seem to be on a late-80’s Yo Mama kick lately.  Must be midlife nostalgia of some sort (although why Yo Mama jokes would make me feel nostalgic, I have no idea).

So this weekend I rushed rushed rushed (always a bad idea) and made up this little jacket for TLo.  The idea was for her to get to wear it for Thanksgiving dinner, but of course I just finished it tonight.  This is, basically, the story of our  lives.

I used Ottobre 4-2008 #4 “Hiippa” jacket.  Actually, this jacket pattern is shown two ways in the magazine and I sort of cherry-picked from both versions.  The second was 4-2008 #7 “Venny” jacket.

4-2008-4 4-2008-7


Now, the observant amongst you might be saying to yourselves, “Those models looks suspiciously like babies”.  You would, in fact, be right.  They are babies.   This pattern was sized 62 cm – 92 cm.  TLo wears at bare minimum a 110 cm.  She’s better in a 114-116 cm for width.   But this is the pattern that I was dead convinced would be the only one in my voluminous collection of patterns that would work with my fabric.  What to do, what to do? 

(sigh)  Grade it up.

I have to do a lot of size alterations on my own clothes but I’ve never done anything this extensive for the kids.  Still, unwilling to put aside my dogged pattern convictions, I didn’t have much other choice.

In a nutshell, I used the “how to upsize a pattern that is ludicrously below your own pattern size” instructions from Barbara Deckert in her lovely book Sewing for Plus Sizes: Design, Fit, and Construction for Ample Apparel.   (I’ve never actually needed to try this technique before since, although I definitely do wear a “plus” size,  I only need a size 14 at the upper chest measurement so I have ample pattern choices to alter from.  Her technique is really geared for altering beyond the standard pattern size ranges, which made it perfect for this project.)  Here’s the result on the front bodice pattern.  


The concept is to slice-and-dice the pattern into a sort of grid and spread apart the pieces by however much extra you need.  In this case I theorized that I needed about 4” in width and 2” in length across the entire garment.  I based this theory on subtracting the differences in body measurements between a size 92 and a size 110 (based on the size chart in the magazine) and adding a little more for ease.   

Essentially, all the other pattern pieces had the same frankenpattern chic going for them when I was done.  You don’t even want to know what grisly remains were left of the sleeve pattern.  I had to retrace that one completely once it was altered.

It took me a crazy-long time to get the pattern all sorted out.  Then I finally was able to cut out the fabric and sew it up, which took relatively little time at all.  I didn’t finish the inside very nicely, but since this is made from Christmas fabric and can only be worn for the next  30 days, I didn’t figure it really mattered.

And speaking of the fabric: “Yo mama is so cheap…  that she made two whole sweaters out of a minky sofa throw that she got at WalMart for $7.50.”   Here’s the first one.

Ottobre-4-2008-4-finished Ottobre-4-2008-4-finished-2

Not brilliant pictures.  TLo isn’t feeling so great and in the end my upsizing theory wasn’t spot-on.  I needed to add more than 4” to the width in the chest and this one just fits.  But it’s too bad we don’t have Feel-O-Vision, because that minky fleece fabric is To. Die. For. Soft.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

More Crack Smokin’ Fashion Madness

So I don’t normally feel compelled to comment about Burda Style. It’s a goofy magazine at the best of times, with an oddly eclectic assortment of fashion “points of view” as they say (ad nauseum) on Project Runway. I mean, this makes sense: it comes out once a month and it has an average of 25 patterns in it. That’s a lot of magazine to fill and a lot of patterns to design. And let’s be honest, there are only so many things that can be reasonably done with a jacket. I expect to not love every issue. Some things are going to be more appealing to me than others. Fair enough. And then yesterday the December 2009 issue showed up in my mailbox.

All I can think is that the good people at Burda have finally succumbed completely to what used to be an occasional crack habit and they are now living in a box under the bridge and shouting incoherently at people who walk by.

First, there’s the “Party” section. Fine. Clearly they’re aiming for the young 20’s market. But really, is this something that’s appropriate for any party that isn’t one where you’re working as the “entertainment”?


And then, there’s this.

football-shirt football line drawing

But wait, here’s what the text said: "Our extravagant brocade evening blouse with big, shoulder-puff sleeves is particularly flattering on tall women."

This actually left me speechless for several seconds.

They think a tall woman would be better off in this thing? Right. Because that’s what all the tall women I know want, to look like a linebacker.

After that rather breathtaking weirdness, I decided to just skip ahead to the “plus”-sized section. Compared to the rest of the magazine, they usually have pretty dull offerings in this section so I figured, “How bad can it be?”


“Hey Sailor, want some company?”

Seriously? And it just goes on from there. I mean, really: this month they have four different styles of capes. Capes, for crying out loud!

I just can’t get behind this issue. Maybe next month’s will be more inspiring.

edited to add: I saw this review by ALY at PatternReview and while I still can't really get behind the linebacker garment (or this entire issue, for that matter) I will say that she did a really spectacular job sewing this up and it looks pretty good on her. So you go, ALY! (And she's tall, too, so there you go what do I know?)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Ah, Farewell Sweet Polo, We Hardly Knew Ye.

Here is the LAST THING I AM GOING TO POST ABOUT POLOS.  Ever.  Or at least until I think of something else I might want to say about polo shirts.  I am way sick of them at this point.  Also, my neighbor just gave me two shirts and a dress that her daughter outgrew.   We have enough polos to last awhile.   And speaking of dresses, here is the dress that she gave me:

Target Polo Dress

Here is the dress that I made.  This was my last polo effort to date.  See?  It's a polo.  It's a dress.  It's a POLO DRESS.  Oooo.


(Sorry about the wacky skewed image, it's that stand-at-the-table-with-the-camera-over-my-head thing again.  I have to find the stepladder.)

BORING TECHNICAL DETIAILS: Basically, to make the dress pattern I took the bodice of my KwikSew polo pattern (aha!  something useful came out of it after all) and added extra width on each side seam tapering from nothing at the armscye to a half-inch at the bottom hem.  Then I added a big rectangle of gathered fabric for the skirt.  (I created the A-line shape for the bodice because I was afraid it would be too narrow for easy movement if I left it straight.  In retrospect, I didn’t need that added width at all.)

I didn't do much with the skirt on this one and it's a little floppy.  This particular article of clothing combined several "firsts" for me and that was just too much for my brain to deal with.  I couldn't add the extra brain-drain of trying to calculate even pleats with the very specific length of fabric I had.  Which leads me to my first "first".

Question: "Can you make a dress out of an adult-sized (albeit pretty large) polo shirt?"

Answer: "Why, yes.  Yes, you can.”

Not only was I able to squeeze all the bodice pieces into the top half of the old shirt, but I cut the sleeves from the old sleeves (thus utilizing the pre-made knit cuffs)


and used the collar (see this post about cutting down a collar). 


All that careful squishing gave me juuuuust enough fabric left over at the bottom to make the skirt. 


This photo is from the beginning of the school year.  SuperGirl here has grown a little since then so it fits her a little bit better.  It's still pretty floppy, though.  When I make more of these (like in the far far distant future) I might have to just cut them from actual yardage so I can have pleats instead of gathers.

So, what were  the other "firsts", you ask?  Honestly, I can't remember now.  Ack.  My brain is melted.  I have Polo Brain.   Clearly a case of Polo Brain requires extensive rest.  And possibly hot chocolate.

Oooo, but here is another “first”":  I just used Windows Live Writer to create this blog page and it is so cool!  I thought it would be dumb, but it’s way easier to do it this way than with Blogger’s tools.  So “Yay, Windows!”  Who woulda thunk?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Well, we're not Russian but...

We are shaped like peasants. It's genetic.

There are about fifty things in the 4-2009 issue of Ottobre that I would like to make. I especially like the Russian Peasant section, but then I've always been a sucker for Eastern European stuff (you know... vodka, borscht, that guy named Boris that I dated for a few weeks).

I started with pattern #21 "Anemone Stripes" tunic. This isn't a great photo, but it's what I have.

I made two versions of this t-shirt for TLo several weeks ago. I have to say, I'm really pleased with this pattern. I wasn't totally convinced about the sort of faux layered look from the magazine photos. But this shirt is just cute! It has a very nice shape and the faux layering thing isn't as tacky as I thought it might be. I know, I know... I should never have doubted the great Hepola design instinct.

Version 1 was made with that stripey black fabric as the main body and then two different scraps of orange and peach/orange knit. I wish that part showed up better in photos, I really like the subtlety of the two oranges. The peach is the bib and sleeve fabric and the orange is the sleeve and neck binding-- the picture above shows it a little bit better. Since I apparently have acres of the black stripey fabric on hand from a three-year-old FabricMart purchase, you could say this entire shirt was made from stash scraps. I still have acres of that fabric.

I like this t-shirt so much I'm tempted to make a few more, although it's sort of a very obvious look. I don't suppose you can really have too many of these in one wardrobe. Too bad, because the style fits TLo especially well (not that you can tell from the bad photo above), but it looks pretty good on The Big One too. She's worn version 2 twice already. Speaking of which:

Here's version 2.

I did a sort of fake triple coverstitch on the hem (despite the fact that I have an actual triple coverstitch machine). This is because my first pass at the hem missed about 75% of the actual hemline. Doh! So I just ran over it again. This actually gave the hem a nice weight, the shirt hangs nicely now. The fabric is really heavy and has a lot of lycra in it so it could take the extra stitching.

I think that's about all I have the strength for tonight, I'm off to bed. I am so glad it's Friday tomorrow. Although Saturday would, I suppose, be even better.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Yo Mama ('s Shoes) Revisited

Yes. I know you are all just so interested in my footwear. I mean, who wouldn't be?

So I got the votes in on the shoe thing, which appears to be unanimous (spelling is not my strong suit, so I'm just assuming that's correct). Either people who didn't like these shoes didn't vote out of sheer horror or these are very cute shoes. I'm going with "very cute shoes".

(note: clicking will take you to

And then, I turned around and didn't buy them. Doh! See, the Clarks at that I thought were really cute were completely sold out in all sizes but 5 and 10. I'm taking that to mean they're popular. But then it occurred to me that I had a $65.00 credit at Dillard's. I went in and Lo! and Behold! There they were in my size. So I bought them instead. Since they were only $69.00 (compared to the $100.00 Zappos was asking) and I had a $65.00 credit... well, heck! It was practically like free shoes!

No really. It was like FREE SHOES. It does not matter that I had already paid that $65.00 last summer. Seriously. That's how it works. The shoes were free. Lalalalala... I can't hear you saying that I already paid that money last summer... Lalalallalala. Free shoes!

(note: clicking will take you to

So anyway, I have shoes.

And thanks for all your votes! I am soooo excited about my free shoes!

Oh and they are super comfortable, if anyone needs some "I have to stand around on my feet in 2-inch heels all day" shoes. I can't guarantee you'll get them for free, of course, but....

update: later that night
I happened to click on the link to make sure it worked... and thought "hmmm... I wonder how many they have left now?" Apparently the stock has been replenished, they now have a bunch of sizes. Go figure. Still, mine were free!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Polo or rugby... what's the difference?

My husband would say "The difference between tw**s and Real Men".

(You can't see it, but I'm rolling my eyes. )

Honestly though, this is the most difficult question to find an answer for on the internet. No one seems to have devoted any bandwidth to this issue. Is it really as simple as solid vs. stripe? Maybe so.

Whatever. Here's my fourth polo/rugby shirt.

This one was made using the same pattern as the last, which I wrote about in this post.

There wasn't much difference in this one, except instead of cuting it from an adult-sized t-shirt I cut it from an adult-sized polo shirt . Which meant I had an adult-sized polo collar on hand. Neato! Time to experiment with adapting a large knit collar to a smaller size pattern. I find making collars out of knits unsatisfactory for the most part. They're usually bulky and awkward. But knit collars aren't always easy to come by, especially in the right color.

So, how to make a collar smaller? I dismembered the original shirt including trimming the collar away from the neckline. After cutting out and starting construction on the new shirt, I resized the collar. In this case I decided to have the collar meet up at the edge of the placket rather than offset the way it was in the red shirt. To scale the collar to my new shirt, I measured how long I wanted it to be by pinning it to the neckline starting at the front and marking the center of the neckline on the collar. Next I drew a straight line at the center marking on the collar and added a seam allowance. I cut the collar at the seam allowance and then laid the resized piece over the remaining piece. I trimmed this to match so I had two equal pieces.

I seamed it back up with a straight stitch, pressed the heck out of it and there you have it: kid-sized collar.

The rest of the construction was as usual. Piece of cake!

Mmmm... cake.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Yo Mama ('s shoes)

Ok. So many of you all (and by "you all" I mean the five or six people who read this blog and the many many voices in my head) will not be aware of my Great Shoe Tragedy. See, once upon a time I was a single, non-mom type person who blew vast sums of her discretionary income on the thing she loved most.... shoes. Just in Doc's alone, I had eight pairs (eight, it's totally ridiculous). I had flowery boots, red shoes, black mules... even a true thing of beauty: midnight-blue steel-toed Mary Janes (sob). Oh how I love Mary Janes. The little strap. The rounded toe. The... Mary Janieness of it all. And there were all the other shoes. Heels, flats, sandals, boots.

And then, they happened. Children. Sure you're supposed to love them unconditionally, but it's just so hard when they make your feet get two sizes bigger.

Words fail me.

I'll... try to... take a deep breath... and tell you the awful... truth.

After I had my kids... I had to give away all my shoes. (sob)

I need a moment.

I still haven't recovered from the Great Shoe Tragedy. I have about six pairs of wearable shoes and really they're all ugly. You see, I just couldn't justify having expensive shoes when the kids needed stuff like diapers and clothes and food and stuff. But now, I'm trying to "be cute everyday" as so eloquently extolled by The Slapdash Sewist in her blog yesterday. Unfortunately, the kids still want clothing and food (they're so needy) so I can't buy the ten different pairs of shoes I want (fine, so 7 of them are Mary Janes. They're all different.)

So, before I return to the endless polo slog, I mean blog, I have a question: Are these shoes horrible?

(note: clicking will take you to

I need something to fulfil my requirements:

1) comfortable to stand in at length (like, 5-6 hours)
2) can be worn with skirts and/or jeans if needed
3) don't cost the $420 that the Taryn Rose shoes I wanted to buy cost

My hesitation on this pair of shoes, despite fulfilling all my requirements, is that they are Clark's. Typically I think of Clark's as being... matronly. This is most notably reinforced by the fact that my mom wears them. A lot.

So. Clarks Mary Janes. Yes? No? Oooo. Let's try out the PollDaddy thing. I've never had a reason to use that before.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Short Fat Woman from Texas Proves Existance of Parallel Universe

There is no other explanation for the good ladies at thinking that this item would fit me.

And yet that is exactly what they claim, as attested to by the big giant banner that runs across my "shop" which declares "Everything in your Personal Shop™ fits you."

Alternate universe? Or serious crack problem? These are the only explainations that would allow anyone to believe I am able to fit into a pair of DKNY jeans. Trust me.

Oh, those crack-smokin' fashion ladies. They are so entertaining. When I win my Nobel Prize for proving the most important theory in quantum physics (... EVER!) I'll be happy to share the credit with them. I can wear this dress to the reception. The crack-smokin' fashion ladies think it fits me.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

My New Wardrobe: First Item

Ok, so I am still in the process of trying to figure out what the heck I'm going to make for my New Wardrobe. So far, it mostly consists of a variety of knit tops in various colors or prints, with a few woven shirts thrown in, all on top of a bunch of black skirts. The slideshow at the side of the page gives you an idea of what I'm thinking.

Yes. I am very boring. In my defense, I'm a Winter so I can get away with lots of black and white clothes.

Anyway, since I haven't really been able to focus myself well enough start fitting a pattern, I decided to begin with something simple. Really simple. Astoundingly simple. So simple, in fact, that it only took me twice as long to complete as predicted by the authors of various books and patterns. This is something of a coup for me, as I am The World's Slowest Sewer.

Um. That would be the slowest sewing person in the world. The World's Slowest Sewer, as far as I can tell, is in my old house in Papakura. Seriously. Flushing there was always a Russian Roulette experience. (Ha, see? I was going to say "a craps shoot" but I restrained myself. Admirably, in my opinion.)

My point is, I bought this panel of poly jersey from Fabric Mart (for a whopping $1.99!) with no clear idea of what I was going to do with it. However, since it's black and white, I couldn't really see any reason why it wouldn't fit into my plan.

OK, so that whole long intro is to say: "I made this skirt and it was really simple."

Here's how: I trimmed the two-yard length at the pattern repeat and then cut one side so that I had a rectagle that was 2.5" wider than my widest measurement (in my case, my lower hip). I seamed it up the side with a 1/4 seam on the serger. Then I measured and sewed together a piece of 1" elastic about 3" narrower than my waist measurement. I put this elastic loop around my waist and marked the top of the waistband so that I had an even hem (I always have to pull up quite a bit at the front waist). I sewed a fold-over waistband with the elastic inside and hemmed up the bottom with a narrow hem to preserve the white border.

Viola! Insta-skirt. Sort of. This all actually took me waaaay longer than it should have.

These are really bad pictures. I took them myself and it did not go well. Plus, I did say that I have not one appropriate thing to wear and I meant it. In these photos I'm wearing an old t-shirt that is way too big and also I don't think I would wear black with this skirt. I probably would wear a white top. I think (or hope) that it would balance my shape out a little.

And then after all that, I'm now a little unsure that I can include this skirt in my new work wardrobe plans. Does it look too... tropical? I thought the print was sort of interesting, but the more I look at it the more I worry that it looks like beachwear or something.

Thoughts?? Cool for the office or only for a cruise?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Polo, onward!

I'm already sick of them. However, I will perserver... persever... holy crap! How do you spell that?

I will continue on.

When last we left our story, I had made a very odd little blue polo shirt using KwikSew 3226 and added a vast array of alterations to the pattern. I decided in retrospect that KS 3226 was not the pattern for me, so I moved on to a different one.

Here, then, is my Second Polo Shirt. Despite her many many appearances on Go Fug Yourself, I used this Hillary Duff pattern from McCalls.

I liked the looks of the line drawing for the shirt and the jacket. I thought it would work out for the Great Uniform SWAP. I should have noticed that this shirt is veeeeery narrow in the body, but I didn't.

I find that I am repeatedly fooled by the line drawings of Big 4 patterns. You'd think I'd learn my lesson, but no. This instance was no different. The body was veeeeery narrow indeed. Even The Big One, whose ribs are showing, only just fit into this shirt. TLo would never have gotten it over her head.

In any case, I followed the instructions very closely for this first shirt, which is unusual for me. I usually glance through the pattern pieces and the instructions and then decide what I'm really going to do with the pattern. This time I followed the instructions as written (mostly) and the white shirt was the result.

This is actually much cuter in person, it did not photograph well. It has cute little ruffle details on the hem and sleeve hem, which I made from some scrap yardage of white seersucker I had leftover from summer.

I wasn't very happy with the collar opening on this one, because the heaviness of the collar drags it open and the slit is very low on the chest. I did like the cut of the shirt, however. It fits Skinny Minny Big One just right (this is seriously a bad sign about the actual design of this shirt, as that child is positively scrawny).

On the to the next trial: I decided to leave off the extra frills and ruffles on my second version and I used a standard rugby placket instead of the v-neck placket from the original pattern. This is the result.

NOTE: You may think that all my shirts are horribly skewed or lopsided or something. It's actually the camera angle, these shirts really are even on both sides, I promise! I take the photos on my cutting table, which comes well past my waist (good for a cutting table, not so good for trying to take photos). I guess I should get out a stepstool or something, but instead I hold the camera waaaay over my head and then try to get the correct angle through the screen display.

You won't pretend to be surprised by this amazing display of laziness, right?

I'm really pleased with this shirt, it fits The Big One perfectly and looks quite feminine. I also made this from an old long-sleeve t-shirt that I got from my mom (I think it was from Talbot's or Neimans or some such; the fabric is very beefy and of good quality).

So that's it for tonight. I'm off to watch Flash Forward.

And yes. I have MORE polo-related things to share. Next time on The Polo Channel: All Polo, All The Time.