Sunday, January 31, 2010


Um.  So this weekend I didn’t have tons of time to sew or fit patterns (and oh man do my patterns need drastic fitting efforts).  I mean, I had to go to a hockey game and then I had to do some housework and then… uh… I had to watch some TV.  You know.  Important things.

Which is all to explain why I’m posting yet another of my (apparently) on-going series of Image Collection links.  Hey, at least I’m posting the ones that have fashion and/or textile collections.  So it’s, uh, moderately relevant.   Really.

This week’s Project Runway reminded me of something that I wanted to add back to the list.  So here’s a goliath of a resource: The Metropolitan Museum of Art Collection Database.  Wowzer.  With just under 150,000 works cataloged online, there is plenty to look at.  And since most of us can’t make a quick run uptown to take a look whenever our fancy takes us, this gives us the next best thing (and to be honest, I find actually being at the Met a little overwhelming and I never seem to find my way to what I went to see in the first place—curse you ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and your mysterious power to ensnare us).  Plus, not everything is on view in the real world.  In the magical world of the Interweb you can see everything!


1958 Dior ShoesDior Shoes, 1958

Worth dress c 1874 Worth Afternoon Dress, c. 1874

Zandra Rhodes dress 1969 Zandra Rhodes Dress, 1969


There is some disadvantage to not seeing things in person.  I want to see the back of that Worth dress.  What kind of interesting bustle must it have?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Inclement Weather Day

I didn’t get one.  Awww, man!  What a gyp.

(What the heck does “gyp” mean, anyway??? I always wondered that when I was a kid.  Where does that word come from?  Seriously.  If you know the etymology of the word “gyp” I’d very much like to know.  I don’t think people say that anymore, so old people: step up and let your voices be heard.  Gyp?)

Anyway, schools are all 2 hours delayed but of course I’m a grown up (unlike my husband and my children) and I have to go to work.  On time.  Hmmph.

So you might not know this, but I’m something of a visual kleptomaniac.  I have been since I was a teeny tiny tot of less than two years.  I collect images.  Oh my dear lord, do I love images.  When I was painting every day (back, far back, in the hazy mists of time) I did mostly collage.  Most people thought it was because I like collage (well actually I do, I’ve been doing that since I was two years old also).  However, the real secret reason was, in fact, to facilitate my image hoarding. 

With the advent of the Interweb, my image collecting has changed somewhat.  Instead of perusing magazines and books and library collections, now I spend a lot of my online time searching for good image collections.  I used to have 110 (seriously, that’s one hundred and ten) links to online image databases.  Then my computer crashed and took the backup with it and I lost them all.  Oh, the humanity.

So I’m slowly piecing in new links.  Here’s the one I rediscovered today.  VADS (the Visual Arts Data Service) from University College for the Creative Arts in England.  These image collections are copyright free in the UK.  Awesomeness.

So here’s a little preview from a few of the many many collections.

ST4613_1 turkish velvet, 17th C.


one of many many many pattern envelopes


William de Morgan ceramic tile,  c. 1888

Oooooo.  Pretty.  Again.

And now I have to slog my way to work.  Have a good snow day, all you Okie readers.

(edit at 8:48 a.m. to say:   Oh, sure.  Now the schools are closed for the whole day.  This is totally ridiculous as it is currently RAINING.  Oooo, water fall from sky.  Gods angry.  Must close schools.  But not place where people work.  People work, make gods happy.   Double-hmmph.)

Thursday, January 28, 2010


And now for something random.  Again.

Did you know that the New York Public Library Picture Collection is available online?  I did not!  I don't know why I never thought to look for it until this week, but I didn't.

The NYPL Picture Collection (located in lovely Midtown Manhattan, parking not available) used to be one of my go-to places to hide out for an hour or two when I was sort of bored or needed something to jump-start a new idea for a painting.  I mean, how can you not love a place where you walk in, say to the lady behind the counter "I'd like to see... um... frogs!" and she magically brings you a file folder full of, well, frogs?  Frog pictures, that is.  Awesomeness. 

That was a long time ago.  Now through the wonders of modern science, you can tell the magic library lady inside your computer to bring you pictures of frogs.  And she does!  Neato.

So here's an image that I found when I told the magic library lady in my computer to bring me "fashion".

Poiret-Winter-Coat Poiret Winter Coat illustration, 1913

Ooooo.  Pretty.  I want to dress like the Parisienne bohéme.  Don’t you?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

You Need Another Tutorial, Right?

OK, so to answer two questions with one fell stroke:

I did sketch my mini-wardrobe line drawings by hand, scan them into a file and then alter them in Photoshop.  Normally, I would just use the online line drawings from the pattern company.   But in this case I was trying to put everything together while watching "Life On Mars" (yes Angie A., John Simm does love me) and I didn't want to drag out the laptop just to do my planning.  So instead, I sketched the garments I wanted to work with onto one sheet (this was handy for layout purposes anyway) and then I scanned the whole thing in later when I was ready to mess with color.

So in thinking about that, I decided I would waste a bunch of blogging energy by writing a tutorial.  Yay, tutorial!  My thoughts are that this will be totally old hat for some of you, totally boring for others and maybe helpful for a handful.  Yay, handful! There are lots of online and magazine resources for a billion different ways to do wardrobe storyboards, so if you're interested you might do a search and see what you can see.  However, here's my two cents.  My really really long-winded two cents (yes Angie A., I'm talking to you again).  This process looks way more complicated than it actually is, so if you haven't ever tried it, give it a chance.  It's fun!

I would normally do this (and I did do this) with Adobe Photoshop.  However, Photoshop isn't accessible to everyone.  But Lo!  There is a free-ware photo editing software from Microsoft called  As far as I can tell, this is a like a scaled-down version of Photoshop.  It's also freeware, which I can guarantee you Photoshop is not. And holy Hare Krishnas, have you seen Adobe's latest prices??  Oops.  I probably shouldn’t say that.   I work for an Adobe Service Provider and I'm the Adobe Girl. 

Awesome.  Now I'm imagining being made out of wet clay.

So anyway, I'm going to do this tutorial with which should be interesting since I've never used it before... this should at least tell us if it is actually "like Photoshop but easier".  

If you're not interested, now would be the time to bail.


Don't panic if it looks difficult, it's not.  Just follow the steps closely.  It takes way longer to read this all than it actually does to do the work.

STEP ONE - Getting your line drawing:

Find a line drawing of your garment.  You can either copy-and-save the image from an online source, scan from the pattern envelope or hand trace a hard copy. If you hand trace, you have to have the ability to scan in your drawing to create an image file (for instance, a nice happy .JPEG).  I found this line drawing at the Burda Fashion website and right-mouse clicked to save the image.

 BWOF 9-2009 #111

Next I opened up and used the "open" menu command to open the drawing (by going to File>Open...).  The file you're creating is called a "drawing" (not to be confused with the "drawing" of your garment). 

In your workspace you will find several palettes (these are the boxes with tools or pieces of information relating to your drawing). 

STEP TWO - Making Your Cut-Out, Part 1

Basically we want to make a cut-out of your garment so you can add color to only the inside  of the line drawing and not the background.

Go to the Toolbar palette, which is the long skinny palette on the left with lots of icons in it.  These are what you use to select, move, color and do lots of other things.  For our purposes, we want to select the white background of the line drawing.  "Selecting" means that only whatever is highlighted blue can be altered (for instance only that area will be painted or copied).  Click on the fourth tool in the left-hand column, which is called the "magic wand" tool (if you hold the mouse over the tools without clicking a pop-up will show you what the tool is called).  The magic wand tool selects based on similarity of pixel color.  In other words, it tries to find everything adjacent to the place where you click that is relatively similar to what you clicked on.


Using the magic wand tool, click on the white background of the line drawing.  This should select everything that's white on the background of the line drawing.  If you've selected something you didn't  want, you can go to Edit>Deselect (or Control+D key command) and unselect everything.


To add to your selection, you can also use a keyboard command.  So for instance in this example there's a white space above the neckline that didn't get selected when I clicked the first time.  To add this area, hold down the Control key.  Notice how the magic wand pointer changes to include a little plus sign. That means you can click again and add to your current selection.


(Side note: if you're new to this whole process, this system works best with a high-contrast line drawing like the sample.  If your image has a lot of gradient detail or lots of gray area, using this tool is more complicated.  I would still use it but I'd have to mess with it a bit.  High-contrast black-and-white line drawings should select well because you mostly only have white or black. 

Also note, if your line drawing has gaps in the black lines, the tool will bleed through that gap and select part of the image inside the garment.  You can close up these gaps by using the drawing tool with black selected.  If you're scanning your own drawings, be sure to keep this in mind and close up any gaps before you scan it.)

When you're satisfied with what you've selected we can move on to the second step of making the cut-out.  Be sure your selection stays selected throughout the next steps.  If you accidentally lose your selection, go back and reselect or go to Edit>Undo until your selection shows up again.

STEP THREE - Making Your Cut-Out, Part 2

Now we need to get the area inside the dress selected and not the area outside the dress.  Go to Edit>Invert Selection.  This causes everything you don’t have selected to be selected and vice versa.  Now the shape of the dress and everything inside is selected.  You now have a cut-out of your garment.


STEP FOUR -Making Layers:

At the bottom right corner is a palette called "Layers".  Think of layers as pieces of transparent acetate. You can color or draw on each new layer, stack it up on top of other layers (in whatever order you like) and make complex images.  Just like your teacher used to do in 6th grade with the overhead projector, only better. 

When you opened your image, that became the "background" layer.  Next you need to create a New Layer by clicking on the "Add New Layer" button at the bottom right corner of the Layout palette.  See?  A brand spanking new layer with nothing in it called "Layer 2".  You can change the name of the layer if you want to but it's not necessary.


Those grey and white checkers mean it's transparent.  This second (and any additional) layer is where you'll be adding your color to test out what fabrics you want to use. 

STEP FIVE - The Really Fun Part (a.k.a. Adding Color)

To begin with, don't get overly concerned with what color you use.  Just pick any color. You can change this later.

Be sure you still have Layer 2 active in the Layers palette.  You want to do this next step in the empty layer and not on your line drawing layer.

Go to the Tool palette and select the Paintbucket tool (this looks like, amazingly enough, a little bucket of paint).  At the bottom left you should have a color wheel.  Click anywhere in this to select the color you want.  When you have your color chosen, click in the middle of the dress shape with the Paintbucket pointer to fill the whole selected area with a solid color.  You should end up with a block of color that is dress-shaped.


STEP SIX - Show The Drawing Lines:

In this last step, you want to make the line drawing under the color block show up again.  Make sure you continue to have Layer 2 selected in the Layer palette.  Now go to the menu bar and select Layers>Layer Properties... and in the dialog box under "Blending Mode" selected "Multiply".


To describe it easily, this setting causes the layer to visually merge with the layer below it.  You're "multiplying" the pixels of both layers.  You should be able to see your line drawing and the color you chose.


Now you can fill the Layer 2 cut-out with any color you want.  Use the Paintbucket tool, choose your color and be sure to click inside the previous color in order to fill that shape. If you click outside the previous color, you'll fill the background.

If you want to try multiple variations, use "Edit> Save As..." to save a new file for each change and you'll have a new image for each color.

And there you have it, the fast-and-dirty way to make some storyboard images.

No really.  That's fast and dirty.  Seriously.

You can do it!

Now go forth and create some storyboards for us to admire.


(disclaimer: I take absolutely no responsibility for the accuracy or coherence of this tutorial.  Use at your own risk.  If your computer blows up or your brain melts, that is completely and utterly your own fault.  Really.  On the other hand, if this works out amazingly well for you, I am brilliant and you must send me presents.)

Saturday, January 23, 2010


Details, details.  I am so a Big Picture kind of person.

Here are the actual items in my Mini Wardrobe.  In reviewing them, I also made a change to the plan.  Or rather, I added another item to the plan.  Or rather, I decided to change one of the fabric choices.  Maybe.   No wait.  After reading MaryBeth’s comment about bias-cut plaid, I’ve decided to change two things.   Argh.


Here are the items with link to the patterns where available.  All the skirts are “plus” size and half the shirts are plus size.  Since I’m a fat pear (that made me laugh out loud) I typically cut a smallish in a plus skirt but for tops cut a “regular” size and alter up at the hip.  The plus shirts will probably cause me no end of trouble since they’ll be too big in the shoulder.

I did tell you these are all really OLD patterns.  Only one dates from this season and the next newest is from early 2008.  The rest are much older than that.  A trend-setting fashionista I am not. 

NOTE: Clicking on the images will take you to the websites.

BWOF-1-2008-122 BWOF 1/2008 #122


PP #104 Petite Plus #104 Shapely Shirt


Vogue 8508 Vogue 8508


KnipModeXL Winter 2006/2007 #11 Knip XL (Knip Mode) Winter 2006/2007 #11


BWOF 4/2007 #136 BWOF 4/2007 # 136


BWOF 9/2007 #128BWOF 9/2007 #128

BWOF 11/2007 #132B BWOF 11/2007 #132


Change #1: I never was convinced about the bias-cut plaid.  I love it in theory but I’ve never actually tried it on me (because nothing RTW in bias-cut plaid comes in my size… this should tell me something).  Saying that, my plaid is a little more subtle than MB’s but… mulling.  It’s raining and thundering right now so maybe winter is over already anyway.

Change #2:  After looking at the magazine photos of BWOF 4/2007 #136 again, I think for summer (assuming the pattern comes out ok) I’ll try it in a mid-weight linen.  I have some in the stash that would probably be perfect for it.  So that at least takes care of one summer skirt. 

Assuming I get anything done.  I’m still altering TLo-The-Amazing-Beach-Ball-Girl’s jeans pattern, which I have to finish because I can’t take one more morning of her wailing “But I want to wear JEEEEEEANS”.  Bear in mind that two months ago I specifically asked her if she wanted some jeans and she insisted that she wouldn’t wear anything but skirts.  Not dresses.  Not leggings.  Not jeans.  Skirts.  And of course, now she won’t wear skirts.

5-year-olds.  They are lucky they’re cute.

(edit: I forgot to mention, but maybe you figured out, that I plan on shortening the Vogue pattern into a top rather than a dress.  I'm  not sure if this will work or not yet, I may have to narrow the skirt of the top a little so it's not too full.  Can't know until I get it ready to fit.)

Mini Me

In Bridget Jones' Diary Bridget goes on a "mini break weekend", which to me is an oxymoron as it is a way longer break than I've had in at least three years. 

I think the average Mini Mart is way too big.  And probably just shouldn't exist. 

I think Mini Coopers are sort of a nice comfortable size. 

Apparently I have a little trouble with the concept of "mini". 

I mean, I'm not totally sure if 5 blouses and 5 skirts count as a "mini-wardrobe".  That's a lot of clothes.  But then on the other hand, maybe because my own so-called wardrobe is so lackluster and small, this actually is a mini-wardrobe and I just don't know it.  Huh.  That's kind of depressing.


Anyway, I have this idea to make these five tops (although in all fairness, one is a duplicate pattern) and these five skirts (ditto on two of the skirts).  I'm going to use only stash fabric, of which I have more than ample supplies to create this tiny wardrobe.  For me the skirts are all-season, despite being black.  Except for that duplicate in denim.  Even a normal person would say that could be for summer.

But then there's that plaid.  That is totally a winter skirt.  Today it's 75 degrees out.  I may have missed the boat on the plaid skirt.  So do I try that one first and, assuming I actually complete it and it fits (which is an enormous assumption), wear it for a few more weeks?  Or do I just skip that one for this year and go with the all-season skirts, which it will in all likelihood take me until autumn to actually complete and are highly unlikely to fit right anyway?

You can see why I never get much accomplished.

The five tops (well, four tops) are all patterns that I've had for at least two years and wanted to make for two years but in the past two years managed to completely avoid making because I decided to make kids' clothes instead and then of course none of those were made with any sort of cohesive plan at all so I had to make more kids' clothes to create some sort of wearable outfit out of the clothes I made before.   Oh wait, one of them I bought last week.  And that’s for winter/spring, so I guess I have to make that first. But otherwise, what I just said.

You can see why I never get much accomplished.

So.  Mini Wardrobe.  This is my tentative plan.  Because I have at least learned to not declare any of my plans as being a done deal.  I'm not totally clueless.  Just mostly.

Friday, January 22, 2010


This is sort of how my daily internal life goes.  I know.  You're totally interested.

1) Did I ever mention that my husband is a rugby nut? 

I mean, he's certainly nuts in lots of other ways, but he's very specifically nuts when it comes to rugby.  Well, to be even more specific, when it comes to Rugby League.  (Because of course we all know that Rugby Union is just so many prissy southern prats fannying about on the pitch.  We all knew that, right?  Ok, well for those of you who are sane and didn't know that, this is sort of the sporting equivalent of Sunni and Shia Muslims... to the outsider the differences seem bogged down in minutiae.  To the participants?  Not so much.  And probably you'd be wise not to suggest it.)

go to National Rugby League online

As you may know, the United States of America is not so big on rugby.  Which, besides meaning that my husband suffers greatly, also means that we don't spend as much time watching rugby as we used to.  And by "we" I mean my husband.  Which leads me to:

2)  So my husband and I get these DVD lecture series from "The Teaching Company". 

go to The Teaching Company online

These are totally awesome lectures on just about any topic your heart could desire.  We tend to delve pretty deeply into the ancient history section, with minor forays into modern history.  Last week my husband ordered "The Rise and Fall of the British Empire".  I'm pretty sure this was some sort of passive-aggressive response to the "American Identity" series that I bought him for Christmas last year.  Although, had he asked, I would have pointed out that having the words "Rise and Fall" in the title isn't necessarily the best "in your face" that you could hope for.  Actually I'm going to point that out anyway, whether he asked or not.   (Note to self: harass husband.)

In any case, last night we watched the introductory lecture and in it the very English lecturer happened to say "...and Canada, where the hinterlands of the plains provided a bounty of wheat".  This made me giggle.   Based on my husband's reaction (i.e. he looked at me like I was a lunatic), you folks aren't going to find it very funny.  But having grown up in the (only slightly more southern than Canadian) hinterlands, it just cracked me up.

The thing is, I'm feeling a little hinterland homesick lately which is in part what made me giggle.  I know that my husband, for one, thinks we live in the middle of nowhere here in Texas and it's as flat as can be.  He is wrong.  He has never been to the northern hinterlands and so he just doesn't get it.  Right now we live less than two hours from a major metropolitan area.  And I mean, you can only see about four miles in any direction here.  Psssht.  That's not what I call flat.

link to travel blogphoto copyrighted by Dusty Davis

This is what I call flat.  Imagine this picture continuing on for, oh, let's say two hundred miles.  That's flat.

And while surfing for a nice photo of the hinterlandishness of it all, I happened to come across this photo. 

go to the Rugby, North Dakota homepage

Which leads me to:

3) Did you know that the official geographic center of the North American Continent is Rugby, North Dakota?

Look. There's a plaque and a nifty marker and everything.   I mean, it couldn’t be Lacrosse or Cricket or Bowling, North Dakota right?  Nope.  Rugby.  I've never been there.  Maybe Big in Japan has?  Let's ask her. Yo, Big.  Rugby? 


Next I could tell you about how the local college rugby team here (there actually is one, but it is Rugby UNION- gasp) is managed by this Irish bar owner who is from the town in Ireland where I met this girl from the hinterlands of Canada and her brother wanted to go to an Ivy League school to play... hockey.  Sorry.  "Rugby" would have been awesome.  But no, it was hockey and I'm pretty sure they don't play hockey at Ivy League schools.

And the whole thing just goes on like that all day.  Of course, I have a really boring job and a lot of time on my hands to ruminate (have I mentioned that the construction industry is, in fact, dead?  Yeah.  It is.  Dead dead dead.  Slap a shroud on that sucker and dance it to it's grave. Dead.)

And so, patient Gentle Readers, I make you this promise: I will be sewing something soon, I will write about it and this will all seem like a bad distant dream.  In the meantime, you get to suffer through these little walks through my inner life.  Although you really only have yourself to blame.  Well, you’re the one reading this after all.  And I’m in a sewing slump this week.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


I have “O Canada” stuck in my head.

Help me.

(edit: of course now, thanks to the evil genius of Big In Japan, I have "A Horse With No Name" stuck in my head... but oh no, not just ANY version.  Remember that gay barkeeper in "Good Morning, Vietnam"?  Oh yes.  That one.  "Ra rah rah  ra ra-ra-ra".  Good. Grief.)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Baby, It's Moderate With Wind From The S-SW Outside

(We’ll just assume from this point forward that you are ignoring the horrid photos of moi, right?  Right.  Because if I find out you’re not ignoring my really bad hair and horribly unflattering jeans… )

I hate sewing for myself.  Have I mentioned this before?  There are several ramifications to this, but the one most relevant to today's post is that I have suffered for five long ugly years with this atrocity of a winter coat.

bad-coat-closed  bad-coat-open

It's from Target.  It’s hot pink.  It’s shapeless.  I hate it.

I hated this coat when I bought the stupid thing, but at the time I A) didn't sew clothing and B) really really needed a winter coat which C) were not plentiful on the ground - or in the stores- and this is what I ended up with.  Yuck.

The sad thing is that I have continued to wear this hideous nightmare for so long.  But every winter I think "Well, I guess I should make myself a new winter coat... something simple... go ahead and make it in fleece so it's easy to sew and warm to wear... it would be nice to have a coat that fits properly, think how much better you would feel in one that did... blah blah blah..."  But the fact is, by the time I actually get around to pulling out the coat patterns and contemplating what fitting adjustments I'll have to make, our short coat-wearing season is almost over.  And then since there are only four or five weeks left of coat weather, I just decide to make do with the World's Most Shapeless Coat and resolve to think about it next year.

So this year, even though coat-wearing season is still almost over, I made myself finish a coat.  Any coat.  In particular, Vogue 8460.  Remember that one?  And of course because I was rushing to get the stupid thing done before the temperature reaches 85, I didn't really pay so much attention to fitting it.

Ok, I'll admit it.  I didn't totally know how to do an FBA on this particular pattern.  Or rather, I did know I just didn't like what I knew so I pretended that I didn't.  Know, that is.  And I didn't do it.  Big mistake.  I also decided that because when I was fitting the tissue the pattern didn't meet my center back, I would just add four inches to the width.  At the hip.   That’s sort of like deciding that because there’s a crack in the plaster of your living room, you need to tear down the house. Yes.  I am flippin' brilliant sometimes.

So now I have a sort of ugly winter coat that fits sort of ok but not really.   But I finished a project that I’ve said I would finish for the past five years.  So there.

SDCBH-Girl-arms SDCBH-Girl-closed SDCBH-Girl-open

I’m not sure the photos really do it justice, but this is still way better than the Hideous Coat Of Shapelessness, so I guess I should be happy.  But I won't.  That is not how I roll, baby.

(You’ve completely ignored these photos of The Amazing Closed-Eyes-Double-Chin-And-Flat-Hair Girl, right?  I thought so.)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

International Man of… Smells

So I have an anecdote.

When I was teaching ESOL (that’s English for Speakers of Other Languages) in New Zealand, I worked with this guy.  He was just one of those kind of squirrely guys who always was a little too hyper, a little too intense.  An ok guy from all I could tell, but just… wound up.   And you never knew what he would say next.

One day I walked into our office (I forgot to mention we shared an office) and he looks up and says very intently (I also forgot to mention he was a Close Talker), “Kristine.  Can I ask you something?”

With a rather large amount of trepidation and my usual stunning eloquence I said, “Uh.  Okay.”

“So….  what would you think if I said the word….  ‘smellage’ to you?”

Uh.  “That you were a lunatic?”  To which, fortunately, he laughed.  But not like a lunatic.

“I know, right?” he said.  “But I just had this long conversation with three of my Chinese students about how ‘smellage’ isn’t a word.  And they just kept insisting it was.  And I would say ‘No, it’s not!’ and they would say ‘It is!  It is! Smellage!’” 

I can’t say for sure what look I had on my face, but “disbelief” is probably accurate.  He just laughed some more.   “So I finally say, ‘No.  It is not a word.  I actually speak English as my first language and I am telling you, that is not a word.”  And then of course the three students did what Chinese ESOL students do.  Pull out the ubiquitous electronic dictionary.

Now, I don’t know who makes these dictionaries but I can tell you with complete confidence that English was not their first language.  And of course the three students simultaneously tippy-typed with intent determination and then triumphantly waved the result in my colleague’s face (obviously I wasn’t there, but I can confidently base this on extensive personal experience). “See!” they exclaimed with joy.  “SMELLAGE!” 

“And I’ll be damned,” continued my co-worker, “there it was.  Smellage.  So I asked them, ‘What does it say this word means?’”  At this point he stopped his story to give me a beady stare.  “What do you think it would mean?” he asked darkly. 

“Um… something that smells bad?” I answered.

“Aha!!” he shouted.  I jumped a foot and then, against my better judgment, said “Yeah?”

“That’s what I thought too!  But when I asked them they all insisted that it was something that smells really good.  ‘Like flowers.’”  He shook his head in disbelief and wandered off to the staff kitchen to make a cup of tea.  People in New Zealand will shrivel up into prunes if they don’t drink a minimum of twenty cups of tea a day.

And there I sat, abruptly left on my own to contemplate the vagaries of electronic dictionaries made in Taiwan and the whole strangely existential concept of smellage.

All of which goes to explain my husband’s sudden horrified outburst this afternoon of “Oh my god!  The SMELLAGE!!”

It is not my fault that cats poop indoors.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Last week when I posted up the I Heart Hearts skirt, I was surprised to see that I had in fact sewn all three garments in the Ottobre layout photo.  I’m pretty sure that’s never happened before.  Ottobre produces too many patterns for me to complete very many from any given issue (bearing in mind that I own 14 issues, not including the latest which I haven’t received yet).  Or at least, there are more patterns in an issue than I have time to trace off and figure out how to construct.  Despite wanting to make almost everything in every issue, I end up reusing already-traced patterns.

Here’s the layout page again.

Ottobre 1-2009


And here’s what I made.  Not the greatest photos.  #18 was made from an old Cacique Sleepwear tee that I got from somewhere (I didn’t buy it so I’m not sure where it came from).  It’s super-lightweight jersey and probably wasn’t the best choice for this top.   I’ll post something about it next week.

Ottobre 1-2009-18

#17 was made last spring from some Angelina Ballerina fabric that TLo Just. Had. To. Have.  This is a perfect example of “Making Clothes From Quilting Fabric That Look Totally Homemade But Make Your Five Year Old Totally Happy”.  From a making it perspective this pattern was a bit of a p.i.t.a. due to the funky gathered darts, which I wasn’t sure I was doing correctly and, much to my expectation, didn’t hold up well.  I’m going to post a review of this and see if anyone can help me because I like this pattern and I thought it would be cute in plain fabric for a School Uniform Jumper (lengthened appropriately, of course).  But if I can’t get the darts sorted out it’s not worth the effort.

Ottobre 1-2009-17

And the third one you’ve already seen.   Hearty Hearterson.  This one has been, as expected, very popular.

Ottobre 1-2009-19

Three in a row.  Maybe I should try my luck at the track.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Cat's Meow

So.   I could burn your ears with the long, melodramatic (and blood-pressure raising) story of how we didn't get the cat we were told we could adopt from the animal shelter.  Instead I'll just say that I will have to think twice and then three or four times more before I ever donate money to those people again.  The sheer inefficiency of their operation leaves me to believe that my money would not be well spent.

However.  After several outraged phone calls from some very generous donors we know (which we did not ask them to make but on the other hand: ahhhh, it's good to know millionaires), we did manage to harass the shelter people into letting us adopt the sister of the cat they virtually snatched from my poor sobbing traumatized children's hands. 

This was also a long and brutal process because apparently the shelter people don't believe in making notes.  Or speaking to each other in a professional capacity.   And so every time we talked to someone new they insisted that we could not, in fact, adopt that other cat.  Why, you ask?   I have no flippin' clue.  Every time, a new reason was proffered- none of which seemed reasonable.  We're "approved" to adopt an animal.  That cat is, coincidentally,  an animal.  The problem is....?  But every single person we spoke with was obstructive.  Resistant.  Un Helpful.  Do they want to put down these animals?  Are they secretly some sort of animal serial killers?  Do they, as KIDMD suggested, think we're going to eat the cat for dinner??

Ooops.  Sorry.  I said I wouldn't burn your ears.

Anyway, they finally upheld their promises and so today we have a new addition to the family.


Meet Cricket.  The Other Sister.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Selfishly helping the world

I’m pretty sure anyone reading my blog already reads the Selfish Seamstress, but just in case:
If you go to her blog and click on the link in this post, purchasing a lovely (and perfectly snarky) Selfish Seamstress item will donate 30% of the proceeds to the Red Cross.  With Elaine’s generous matching offer, this makes a 60% donation.

(Edited to show what I bought, 'cause it's so cool.  I went with the one that actually works for everything, not just sewing.  I plan on keeping it on my desk at work, where it will be highly useful.  I added a by-line for The Selfish Seamstress because I like to give credit where credit is due.  The Selfish Seamstress has updated her post to say that anything you by through her blog link will result in a 120% donation to the Red Cross.)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


So this weekend I headed out to Hancock Fabrics.  I didn't really plan on it, but let's just say I really needed to get out of the house for an hour or two and without a specific place in mind to get out to, I thought "What the heck... Vogue patterns are on sale".  Yeah.  It was a real arm-twister for me.

Actually, I don't typically do Vogue patterns.  Generally speaking the styles are not suitable for my figure (or lack thereof).  I was mostly interested to see if there was any winter coating on sale.  I am in desperate need of a new winter coat.  But I figured I could take a look at the Vogues while I was there, which I did.  Because despite owning four years' worth of Burda World of Fashion, which should be called Burda World of Coats and Jackets, I figured it couldn't hurt to just take a quick snoop at Vogue's coat offerings. 

I'm so glad I didn't make that "use up all the patterns in your stash before buying more patterns" resolution.  Um.  I didn't, did I?  No.  I didn't.  I'm pretty sure.

I liked these:

go to: Vintage Vogue 1083 go to: Vintage Vogue 1023

go to: Vintage Vogue 2884

I bought this:

go to: Vogue 8460

I am a coward.  I just couldn't cope with cutting straight into my hoarded wool melton and fitting and tailoring a whole coat... but I didn't think any of those pretty vintage patterns would really lend themselves to my Grand Plan of making a "muslin" (which I will then wear for five years) from polar fleece.  Well… maybe the third one but it would be a bit squirrelly.  So.... boring old tent-coat it is.  I'm making the version with the flat collar.  My only hope of a saving grace on this is that I will hem it shorter than I normally do and therefore I might actually look more stylish than I normally do.  That's the Plan anyway.

Having proven my cowardice at the pattern table, I headed for the wool section to see if I could talk myself into buying a cheap enough wool to make a vintage coat after all, without having some sort of sewing seizure.  I say I went to the wool "section" but "micro-area" might be a better description.  Our Hancock's normally has about 5 wool selections a year, some of which have been there for three or four years as far as I can tell and at least half of which are in shades of lavender and baby pink.  Apparently they think people only make coats for 4 year old girls.  This may in fact be true.  Regardless, I do not want a baby pink coat. 

However.  Since early this autumn they have had one really fab piece of fabric over in the sad little wool section.  Since I have at least four pieces of pricey but unused wool lolling around in my stash I have studiously avoided buying anything over there, but last autumn this piece screamed "Take me home with you!"  Only my steel-like hardened heart allowed me to ignore it's pleas and cries.  Until Saturday.  When it shouted, "I'm on SALE, you heartless woman!  HALF PRICE, for crying out loud!  What, are you made of STONE??"   Well, fine.  I put it out of it's misery and bought 3 yards.


Except I have not one clue what I can make out of it.  It's got black and white wool yarn attached mysteriously (i.e. I haven't bothered to see how) to a synthetic jersey knit.  So it's fluid and drapey but also, you know, wool.  I can't wear wool next to my bare skin, so it's got to be an outerwear or layering  item (even though it would make a totally funky sheath dress or something if you were inclined towards the slightly off-beat).


This type of pattern is probably what it should be made into:

go to: BWOF E 927 Autumn/Winter #411


Due to it’s apparent popularity in European pattern magazines the past five years, I personally own at least five patterns of something like this.  And you constantly see this type of garment showcased in "plus" sized magazines and catalogs all the time, so presumably this is a good plus-sized garment.

(Saying that, they also tend to showcase things like housecoats, weird bib-front shirts in ugly prints and, my personal favorite, caftans.  So I am definitely willing to consider that these people do not, in fact, have a flippin' clue what looks good on anybody and the whole drapey-cardigan thing is just a joke along similar lines.)

Unfortunately this type of garment is most decidedly Not Me.  It is very much My Mom which makes me tempted to donate this fabric to her except that every single offer I've made to sew a garment for her has been (politely) rebuffed, which causes me to think "I'm not wasting that awsomely fabulous fabric on her".  I'm selfish like that.  And it leads me to something of an impasse.  What can you make from a drapey-wool-jersey-knit-backed fabric?  That won't make you look like a deranged 400-pound yeti?

And so after ten thousand words, you now know that I am the proud owner of a piece of fabric that I have no earthly idea how I will use.  Again.  It's a gift I have.

Monday, January 11, 2010

I Heart Hearts

TLo is rapidly outgrowing everything I make for her.  Outgrowing in width, that is.  I'm pretty sure she hasn't actually grown in height for at least two years.  That kid is a midget.  A very round midget.

Now, I'm not complaining about her size out of meanness or to be judgmental (because obviously that would be crazy-hypocritical).  I'm complaining because fitting her is rapidly becoming like fitting a beach ball.  Seriously, have you ever tried to put a rubber band around a beach ball?  Now picture trying to make that beach ball a pair of jeans.  Ack.

So poor little TLo wants a new pair of jeans, which I will make for her this week after I finish making a muslin of my new winter coat.  In the meantime, because I actually kind of sort of maybe a little bit was feeling guilty about not making her any pants at all this year, I made her this cutie-patootie skirt.


An offering to assuage my (sort of) guilt.  A consolation prize if you will.  I had a feeling the large quantities of flowers, ruffles, ribbons and general decoration would make her happy.  I was pretty sure the heart-shaped pockets would push us into "O.M.G.   I love it!" territory.  I was right. (Ah, children.  They are so predictable.) 


I used the Ottobre 1-2009 #19 "Hertta" skirt.  Now, my Finnish is significantly worse than my German or even my Ojibwe (which is to say, I speak no Finnish whatsoever) but even I could figure out that "hertta" was probably in some manner cardiac-related.  I was right (I figured this out through the ingenious use of google-translating... oh Google, you make us all look so smart).  "Hertta" = "hearts".   Shocker, I know.

go to Ottobre Design Magazine online

I'm not sure how well the photos have come out.  The colors are robin's egg blue, sky blue and a sort of salmony-pink.  I'm pretty sure I cut this as a size 110, which I was hoping I could get away with due to the gathered nature of the skirt. 


I did have to make a change to the pattern to accommodate the Beach Ball effect.  The pattern calls for gathers in the yoke of the skirt to fit the waistband.  This would have made the skirt impossible for TLo to get on, so I extended the waistband to match the ungathered width of the top of the skirt and omitted the gathers.  The elastic took care of the rest. 

Oh yeah, that was my other change.  Instead of elastic all the way around plus a drawstring, I did my usual method for drawstring garments.  Which is: cut a piece of elastic to about 3"-4" smaller than the child's waist measurement.  Sew a finished string tie (however you're making those) to each end of the elastic and thread this through the waistband (this assumes you've already made buttonholes or something for the ties to go through).  If your elastic tends to slip, you can bar-tack it at the center back, but I didn't need to do that in this case.  Just be sure that your drawstrings are long enough to tolerate being pulled into the casing of the skirt by the elastic, which will happen.  I learned that lesson the hard way.  Which explains why when my mother asked me, "What's up with those really long ties on that skirt?" I just shook my head sagely.  Better too long than too short.

Too bad I didn’t think to take a picture of that method, huh?  Doh!  Oh well.


Awww.... such a happy little beach ball dancing in the pantry.  With a packing-tape bracelet.  And some serious clothes-matching issues. 

I heart hearts.  Good thing I heart weirdos, too.