Friday, October 26, 2007

I could make that! Episode 1

Maybe you've seen them adorning the underarms of various celeb fashionistas; I give you the Poppie Couture Fold Over clutch. It seems to be your basic trapezoid of fabric with a wire frame closure. What makes them distinctive is the funky fabric choices and their $350-600 price tag.

This bag really isn't that different in concept than the LaRue Bag from Hot Patterns. This one is designed specifically as a clutch, however, and has a 4" wide base.

So, how would I chose to replicate such a bag? Well, first I would find myself some really awesome pleather, or even genuine patent leather on pig skin. Fabric Mart has five of these left for just $25 and the one skin would be enough to make at least one clutch, with enough left over should you want to make a two-toned version. Heck, Fabric Mart even has the metallic/pearlized leather in two versions should you like to jump on the the gold/silver bandwagon that's so hot right now.

The website gives the measurements of this bag upright as 11x12x4 and folded as 11x6x4. I've looked for patterns and, well, they are slim pickings when it comes to clutches with this shape. However, all is not lost as the solid colors are just two pattern pieces (symmetrical sides and the bottom. We can determine through the bag descriptions that it is 12" tall and 11" wide. These are generous dimensions and should comfortably hold what you need. Grab your ruler, pencil and a couple of sheets of tracing paper and get crackin'!

Pattern piece one: Bag front and back
This piece is going to be kind of trapezoidal, since by examining the sides, you can see that the front and back are sewn together without a side panel piece between. We want our finished width to be 11" at the top and bottom, but we have to account for the slight triangular nature in the lower half of the bag. Also, we're going to do this a la Burda and add seam allowances later.

1. Draw an 11" line representing the top of the bag. Measure down 12" from each end and mark your paper. Draw the vertical lines on each side the horizontal line on the bottom. You should now have an 11" by 12" rectangle in front of you.
2. We can see that the triangular shape of the bag begins at roughtly the half-way point, so on the long sides, measure down 6" and mark.
3. We know the bottom piece is 4" wide and we want a center seam. Therefore, we want to extend the bottom of the panel by 2" on each side, since once sewn, the bottom will be 4" wide. Measure out 2" on each side from the bottom corner and mark.
4. Now draw a line connecting your vertical mid-point (6" on the side) and the new bottom corner.

You should have a pattern piece that looks like a rectangle on top of a trapezoid.

Pattern piece 2: Bag bottom
1. Draw a 4" x 11" rectangle. Easy enough right?

Please note my line drawing, courtesy of MS Paint, is not to scale. However, the numbers are correct.

Add seam allowances to your pattern pieces, probably no more than 0.5" to avoid bulk.

1. Roughly 1/2 yard of fashion fabric and 1/2 yard of lining. More if you want to add a pocket or something.
2. The same amount of interfacing, depending on your choice of fabrics. I would imagine skins will need less than lighter weight fabrics. One interesting feature about this bag is that it is advertised as being able to be flattened completely.
3. You would need an internal flex frame of some sort. I found a 12" one at, which would require extending the width of the bag by an inch. Entirely do-able, I think.
4. A bag bottom, probably card board or hair canvas if you can find it. Since the designer bag is collapsible, I imagine it shouldn't be too stiff.


Since I'm not sure I actually want this bag, I decided I would only make a prototype out of paper, and at half scale, no less ;-) After playing with it for a bit, I think the proportions are correct since it looked pretty good folded over. The thinness of the paper makes it look a little funky when upright.

What do you think? I think I could make it!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


I have what I call sewing ADD. It's a problem really because I start many wonderful projects and just don't finish them.

Exhibit A: The Living Room Drapes...
Started well over a year ago, I still have three panels left to do. I even have all the material cut out and ready to go and yet I can't seem to "find" the time to complete the last panels.

Exhibit B: Simplicity 4146...
My first notched panel jacket that I constructed as part of a Joann's class. Now, it was my first experience with easing jacket sleeves and elbows. I wasn't happy with the resulting notches (they were asymmetrical and resembled lobster claws just a bit too much) and so it remains unsewn at the the sleeves and hem. On second thought, this was just a wadder, so maybe its not an exhibit after all. Did this prevent me from reviewing it? Click here to find out!

Exhibit C: Kwik Sew 3151
You know, I gave this pattern a good review. However, it too hangs unworn and unhemmed and unaltered in my closet. The dress is a modified sheath/a-line and it needs, desperately needs, a sway back adjustment. Or maybe I just need to lose 10 pounds.

Exhibit D: Burda 124b
A lovely blouse, potentially, cut from a pretty georgette. That's right, I cut it. But sadly, that's all I've done. 3 months later, it looks at me every time I open the closet.

I could go on and mention McCall 5189, the pants from Simplicity 4146, or even Simplicity 3884,
but that seems gratuitous. So I have this problem where I start projects and then get distracted or bored and just put them aside. So, how many UFOs do I have? They stare at me each time I open my fabric closet, and they take up a fair amount of space. Uggh!

So, any suggestions on how to help with this problem? I always start with the best of intentions and then, well, I just fizzle out somehow. Or maybe, I get really bored and want to move on. But then, why the guilt?

Home sweet home

It's so good to be home! Truly, I never thought I would say that about Phoenix, but it's really, really great to be home. We spent a wonderful weekend with my sister and her husband in San Diego. They were there for my brother-in-law's company annual meeting so we figured they would be too close not to visit. My suggestion was to rent bicycles to ride around Coronado, which was a blast!

Near the end of our visit, we were on the boardwalk in front of the Hotel del Coronado, I looked out over the surf and noticed a brown cloud heading our way. My first thought was smog, but by the time we made it to the ferry about 30 minutes later, it was obvious it was smoke filling the air. The Star of India, which is anchored at the Port of San Diego, was really difficult to see because of the smoke.

It's very sad what is happening right now in California. My heart goes out to all those families that are struggling right now in grief and loss. Hopefully, people will be safe...

Friday, October 19, 2007

San Diego here we come!

Just when I was getting all used to Phoenix again and being perpetually dehydrated, we are off to San Diego for the weekend! My big sister and her husband are there on business so we all agreed it would be great to get together, especially since we haven't seen them since last Thanksgiving. Living so far away from family has been a real problem for me. Because the distance is so great, no one wants to visit :( To put this in perspective, we moved about three and a half years ago and my folks are visiting for the first time this Thanksgiving.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Burda Style...Free patterns!

For those who are new to Burda or read about it a lot and want to try something from the magazine, a good intro is the sister site, The site is called an "open-source" sewing site, meaning that they offer their patterns up for you to interpret and post about. It's also a good way to get your feet wet with the so-called Burda way of doing things, without having to trace out your pattern or worry about seam allowances. There is also a pretty fantastic how-to section, with things like how to sew a bound buttonhole, a photo tutorial on constructing a notched collar, and other tutorials on the patterns on the web site.

I'm going to work on this dress that I particularly like, Shari 7951. This technical drawing is typical of what Burda Style provides for all of their patterns, and as you can see it has lots of info regarding the details of the dress and for required notions, etc.

I have an orange silky embossed type fabric that will work really well, left over from the orange craze of last year. However, I do have some printer issues that have to be resolved first. One of the things that I dislike most about Burda World of Fashion patterns is the tracing and the lack of seam allowances. Burda Style is like the Big 4 in that the seam allowances are included. More posts to follow...

Looks who's rockin' out!

Lovely Laura, my Romanian sewing compatriot at Laura's Sewing Room, has nominated me as a Rockin' Girl Blogger! She did this a few weeks ago, but since I only just discovered it, it's like Christmas come early!

And for my five:
1. Carolyn at Sob-Sister...she knits and sews and is darkly funny, and she's from Massachusetts!
Melissa, a Susie Homemaker that loves to sew
3. Dawn at the Secret Pocket, a sewing professional that you should definitely start reading if you haven't already.
4. Shannon, at Hungry Zombie Couture...she always inspires me with her ideas and details
5. Claudine at Couture Details...Her technical abilities are amazing, and she loves to smock! I just hope she continues to blog

Give these ladies a read!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Sexy beast...

also known as Vogue 2980. Feast your eyes on my very first animal print in the wardrobe proper. I say this because, well, don't we all have animal print undies in a drawer somewhere? I think mine was one of the first independently purchased pair in my collection. Too much information? eh...

Pattern Description:
From the envelope: Close-fitting, pull over tops for stretch knits, have draped bolero shoulders. I made view B, with the self-lined short sleeves.

Pattern Sizing:
This is one of Sandra Betzina's Today's Fit patterns. All sizes are in one envelope, from A-J, bust sizes from 32" to 55," which is very nice, I must say. I think it is really only possible because there are just 4 pieces for both tops. 4 per pattern, with 2 sleeve options.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
I think it looks better! Actually, I was thinking this would fabulous extended to dress length. As it is, it's a sexy top in the leopard print, while still somehow being fairly conservative since there is no cleavage showing and no upper arm, etc.

Were the instructions easy to follow?
These are probably the best instruction set I've ever seen. They include 5 bullets regarding how to grade up and down in sizing, etc. She even has a sentence for the small shouldered ladies out there or if your arms have a larger circumference. I am fortunate that pretty much the only alteration I have is a sway back or maybe extending for height. She also gives a tip for cutting layout and that you should mark the pattern pieces at the pleats.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I really like the style, which is classic without being stuffy or too conservative. In general, I like to dress with a bit of a sexy edge that isn't too va-va-voom. Meaning, I like to emphasize curves without showing an excess of skin. This pattern fits right into that style. However, as other reviewers have noted before me, it is cut very close fitting. It fits roughly the same as some of my work out tops through the chest but it's not obvious because of the fabric. Also, the shoulder/collar piece is somewhat loose fitting, so it distracts from the snug bodice. Moreover, the arms are *just* right on me. I have found that nothing makes tops look too small than pinching flesh and the worst offenders are at the upper arm and at a (too short) waist. We've all seen them, but if you need a refresher, head to your local mall some Friday night and do some people watching at the food court. Thankfully, this top doesn't hit me like that and it is long enough as it drafted! Yay!

Fabric Used:
Hah! This was a 32" remnant from the 75% bin at Joann's last week. I was seriously concerned that I wouldn't have enough yardage since the envelope calls for 1.25 yards, but I figured I could wing it. It was *just* enough for the size B I cut. Literally, I couldn't have done it if I had cut a C. So, how much did this top cost me? $1.55 for the fabric + $3.99 = $5.54, plus thread, etc. I almost didn't buy the remnant because I wasn't sure what I could make with so little fabric. But then, I am an incurable stasher, so not buying the perfect animal print was impossible. This was definitely one occasion that the fabric just spoke to me. It really wanted to become Vogue 2980. Dude, it was $5.50!

I have always thought that you can usually get away with a good 1/4 to 1/2 yard shortage from what the envelope recommends.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made:
I can't say that I would make any alterations. It's pretty perfect as is. I don't think I even need to hem it since it looks fine as is. I probably will eventually, though. Hems are my achilles heel and are usually what keeps me from finishing projects. Gotta love those knits!!!!

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
I think I will sew it again, but as an a-line dress. This would be beautiful in a matte jersey at a mid-knee length. Perhaps one could also do a contrast for the sleeves and the collar. That was one of the considerations I had, actually, given the less than ideal yardage at hand. As it was, I just had to make sure no mistakes were made, but it was so easy to put together mistakes are unlikely.

A fabulous top! I love, love, love it! Make it, you won't regret it. Just keep in mind that there is zero to negative ease. If you are uncomfortable with that or want it to fit like it does on the envelope, go one size up. If you want to be a sexy beast, however...

One more view, which reminds me I really need to clean the mirror in the second bathroom. Sorry! I don't really have an excuse anymore since I'm not working 60 hours any more...

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Dear Diary,

This evening, my husband grabbed my laptop while I was in the middle of fixing the broken photo link. It was the first time I think he'd ever seen my blog. Interestingly, he was surprised that I chose to put photos of myself on the web, asking me if I was concerned with the "security risk." What security risk, I asked? He couldn't quite answer me but started to actually read the text and then exclaimed, "but this is so personal! It's like a diary."

The irony is that he's an engineer and we even took our laptops - yes, that was plural - on vacation. Oh, he's my photographer, too...

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Long way down a holiday road...

Honey! I'm home! Did you miss me? I missed you. Kiss, kiss, hug, hug. So, I am back after a long hiatus, but it was worth it. The past month was crazy hectic in the house hold, partly due to preparation for the vacation, partly due to the complete insecurity of my job situation. The first part of this post is travel and the last is sewing related...

Where we went...
London, England: 4 days
Yes, that's me in a phone booth in front of the Victoria & Albert Museum with its current exhibition The Golden Age of Couture. Did we go inside? No. Why not? We're idiots. No other excuse. Period. Well, maybe some of the idiocy can be attributed to jet lag (I did travel from Phoenix after all) but not that much...

We stayed with my husband's cousin in his flat just outside of Wimbledon, which was lovely. Truthfully, I didn't enjoy London very much last time I was there. Now, this could be due to the fact I avoided a mugging only by making a run for it. Plus, I was still a student and had no cash to spend. Being a professional this time around helped with this some what, but London is still a very expensive place to visit and the American dollar only goes half as far as it does back home. This visit was a vast improvement, I am happy to report! We had a grand time and walked about 10 hours each day. I think I could happily live in that town. I like the way the Brits do things...It's all very organized and such.

Next stop, Thessaloniki, Greece: 3 days

We flew from London to Thessaloniki, where my Aunt Tasoula and Uncle Kosma picked us up from the airport. My father's village, well now is more like a small city, hasn't changed too much in the last five years. Neither has my family. They all are rather ageless...That's me with my aunt below in front of the harbor in Nea Mixaniona. They all commented that my Greek had improved since my last visit, which I found interesting given the only person I speak Greek with these days is my father on the phone. We don't even speak Greek that much either, it's sort of a family mix of Greek and English. However, by nightfall, I had begun to think entirely in Greek and had to translate in my head to English for my husband...

Mixaniona is now the main fishing port for Thessaloniki and much of northern Greece. The pier behind us is where all the fishing boats moor in the off season. They all starting fishing again full time Oct 1... Thessaloniki, which is the second largest city is also a university town. There are lots of things to do there and we did a one day tour, with the requisite stop at Alexander's statue in his square along the waterfront. Note the scale...Greeks are certainly proud of their history, to say the least. On to Athens and the Acropolis for 1 day...

We drove through the night with cousin Kosta, who is currently staying in Pireaus, the port town within Athens. He's the first mate on a Greek 300 meter long oil tanker and is studying to for his promotion to captain. Out of all the family, he speaks the best English by far. My husband was most comfortable with Kosta, I think, because he was able to communicate independently. I did my best to translate for him, but I think I got a little lazy. Must have been the jet lag...

So we hit the Acropolis in the morning, where it was ridiculously windy. It was so windy at times I had to hold on to avoid being swept off my feet on the slippery marble! After lunch, we were walking around towards Syntagma Square and lo and behold we find ourselves in front of the Parliamentary buildings. It was 5 o'clock and we happened upon the changing of the palace guard. Yes, they do wear skirts and those are pompoms on his feet. And yes, they are all 6'4" and gorgeous. sigh...

And from Athens, on to Italy, four days between Milan, Tuscany, and Rome...

Milan brought us to the best dressed people in Europe, I think. Being that it is the fashion capital of Italy, this is to be expected, but everybody seemed to be in top form. We were there I think just after fashion week, so there were an awful lot of tall skinny women running around. Stick figures, I tell you. The best Duomo we visited was in Milan as well. It was the most inviting and beautiful.
Tuscany brought us to a nice little hotel, which was murder to find, but that's neither here nor there. Some lovely italians on their way home from a bar helped us in the wee hours of the morning. Gratzi! Prego! Highlights of Tuscany? Michelangelo's David, Renaissance art at the Uffizi gallery, the Cinque Terre (just not the drive in; in a word: harrowing), the tower at Piza (just like all the pictures!), the prosciutto, the people, and tourists carrying Rick Steves' guide to Italy. At one point, it was embarrassing, there were so many of us running around town. It kind of made me feel like I was part of a cult or something. My husband refused to carry it past that point.

And then there was Rome! Bella Roma!

By the time we got to Rome, I think I was so physically exhausted I couldn't see straight. However, that's not really a problem there since everything is colossally big. I even managed, on the last evening possible, to find the fabric district! Right around the corner from the Pantheon, if you can imagine. It was Saturday evening just about 5pm, and we had decided we had to see the inside of the dome so we left the ruins in the center and headed off by foot. I turn the corner and lo, there they were: Textiles! I really, really wanted to go shopping - I hadn't done ANY shopping at all on our trip thus far - but my husband wanted to see the dome. So, we compromised. Find the Pantheon, spend 30-45 minutes and come back. Now, we got to the Pantheon and there was a crush of people outside, but they weren't letting anyone in, except one or two at a time. I looked at the sign and realized that the place was closed for Saturday night mass! Yes! Back to the stores I went with instructions to my husband to find the nearest book store and hang...

I did buy some fabric, about $200 worth and it is lovely:

Massimo, the salesman, was wonderful. He was young, hunky, and very knowledgable and pretty much had me at hello. The print is a gorgeous silk charmeuse from last year's collection of an Italian designer, 1 meter for 18 euros.
The next is a wool navy and white houndstooth that at first I figured would do just for a jacket with paired with white silk crepe pants. The wool was 22 euros/meter and the silk Massimo brought me was 80 euros/meter. Since the silk alone would have killed my budget entirely, I said thank you, but lets see some more woolens. I purchased 4 meters of the houndstooth. It's quite possibly the loveliest 100% wool I've ever touched on a bolt. Smooth hand with a fabulous drape and good body.
I also purchased a stretch wool in burgandy, that doesn't want to be photographed for some reason. I've tried repeatedly, but it's shy I suppose. Anyway, that too, is lovely, with a subtle sheen on the right side and more of a classic wool on the wrong, but not scratchy in the least.

Oh! And lest I forget, my grandmother also gave me some fabric! From her trip to Paris in 1984, no less. Now, my grandmother gave me an assortment of fabrics, content unknown but highly suspicious because of the hand. This comes back to Gorgeous Things post about polyester, and these are definitely not modern day synthetics. We shall see how they present themselves for use...

I returned to Phoenix about 11:45pm Sunday night after departing Rome at 5am, exhausted after travelling many, many hours. Under my doormat was a Fedex envelope from my employer, and that is never good news. In the envelope were three checks, one which was two weeks severance pay. I was laid off while on vacation. I was mostly grateful I didn't have to go to work the next day, if you can imagine. Jet lag, people, jet lag. At least now I'll have more time to sew.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The subprime meltdown comes home...

As I concluded in my last post, I was given the boot at work. I was employed in the mortgage industry by the nation's largest lender. Since it was all over the news in Europe I feel it is a safe assumption that you all are familiar with the current economic situation, the center of which is the US housing market and the subprime arena. Anyway, not to long ago, there was an announcement that the company was going to be reducing its workforce by roughly 25%. I managed to get through the first 4 rounds, but the last one hit home. I was one those "released," the 1st VP of Operations informed me. I'm not really all that broken up about it, truthfully. A final visit was required to pick up the remainder of my things and everybody I ran into said it was like a morgue these days. Yet another casualty of the Subprime fiasco...

So, any suggestions on what I should do with my time now that I am jobless? I was thinking a new fall wardrobe. You?