Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Body Image, Clothes Sewing, and Elitism

One of the reasons  I decided to learn how to sew garments was due to my feelings about body image. Specifically, I feel that the mass media and mass market do not  allow for the reality and variety of body types  in the RTW clothes that they sell.
I just finished reading a post by Ohhh Lulu about body image in regards to self-sewn lingerie and negative commenting on the internet. The article addresses how we need to stop judging each others bodies so harshly and vocally. While I agree with the spirit of what the author is trying to say, this does not address the root of negative rhetoric regarding body image in our culture.
What most people don't realize is that the hegemonically "perfect" body, which many aspire to but no one can achieve, is driven by elitism. When you really consider what the "best" bodies consist of, you realize that the "bad" bodies are really "poor" bodies.
For example, most people do not find a body wracked by malnutrition, abuse, and disease to be attractive. This is not only because this body looks unhealthy and possibly close to death, but also because it it obvious that the body does not have access to the resources reserved for the elite.
Contrary to popular belief, the majority of obese bodies, also considered unattractive, are from backgrounds of poverty as well. In fact, that the greatest indicator of obesity in the first world is poverty. In America, the poor deal with excessive stress, known to be a trigger for weight gain, as well as working irregular and/or long hours, have little leisure time apart from that which must be spent sleeping or maintaing their person-and-household, have little to no vacation time, and few benefits such as healthcare. They often work in stressful, demeaning, and unsafe environments, for little recognition and low pay. As a result, they have little money to spend on food, and focus on cheap, quick, "filling" foods which are high in calories but low in nutritional value.
Finally, the elite structures of society send messages to these people with "bad bodies" through media, the true opiate of the masses, to make them feel ugly and unaccepted. This can lead to depression, feelings of inefficacy, and complacency which insure that individuals are focused on their inner turmoil and  personal flaws instead of joining with their peers and affecting change.
So yes, we do need to stop judging each other and using mean language against each other. But more importantly, we need to stop judging ourselves and focusing on ourselves. When we focus instead on the world as a whole, we can be more effective in serving each other and God.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Little Tip: Reviving a Squashed Hat

I ordered a cute synth-straw boater hat from an e-bay China based seller. It came quickly, but flat-packed in an envelope. (Of course, I didn't think to take a 'before' picture.) It was pretty squashed, looking more like a fisherman's floppy hat than a pert boater.
But I had anticipated this, and was ready to steam it back to its prim-shaped glory.
All it took was:
  •  an iron
  •  water
  •  some brown packing paper
  •  a 6 in small round cake-pan
  •  spray-starch (optional.)
I folded and wrapped the brown paper around the cake pan and stuffed it into the crown so it was nice and tight.
Then I set it on my ironing board and went to town! I puffed steam onto the hat on the wool setting, then turned it down to synthetic to iron the brim, crown, and top back into shape.
I made sure to keep the iron moving quickly the whole time to avoid singeing whatever the hat is made of (probably paper or polypropylene).
I had to go over it a couple times, but it looked great once I was done.
I let the hat sit on the ironing board to cool and dry, then applied a coat of spray-canned starch to help it hold its shape.
Forgive the over-brightness. My phone camera isn't great, but this hat is!

It looks great! I'm sure I will be posting pics of me wearing it this summer!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Summer Sewing Schedule

It has been awhile since I have blogged... for a couple reasons.
The main reason is that I have been stalled on my Gatsby blouse. Obviously I had tackled a project that is a little bit beyond my current skill level. I am picking away at it now, even though the Gatsby Challenge deadline has passed. However, I think I will post the completed outfit on the Dressing Downton Flikr group. The blouse and skirt were really more inspired by that aesthetic anyways.
In other news, I have decided to create a summer sewing schedule. Most of these items have the outside goal of being completed before I go on our annual family beach vacation in the third week of August. But obviously they will be useful for the rest of the summer as well. Here is my schedule month-to-month:



Looking over my list I think "Wow, that's a lot of chambray!" But really, it's a great warm weather neutral. It's basically like a very light-weight denim, so when I consider how many days a week I wear jeans, it doesn't seem so excessive.
I hope I can keep up a steady pace and get all these done by the time we go on vacation!

Do you like to make a schedule of projects you hope to complete in the coming months?
Are there any summer sewing projects you are excited about?

Have a great Tuesday!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Zipper and Tragedy

While working on my skirt for the Great Gatsby Sewing Challenge on Sunday I came across some difficulty in the zipper department.
I am making have made the skirt in  a nice medium weight poly/ wool blend coating in an eggplant purple color. When I got to the zipper step, I tried to be a good girl and go by the pattern instructions and sew the zipper from the right-side of the skirt. However, with the thickness of the wool and the bias-tap seam binding, I had to start over twice when I had a thread snag after the initial few stitches across the base of the zipper. I think it was the weight in combination with the dark color of the fabric that was making things hard.
I stood up to unpick the snags in front of my ironing board and when I turned to sit back down in front of my sewing machine I tripped over my iron cord THROWING MY IRON TO THE FLOOR!
Now, our sewing room is in the basement, so this was a fall to wood over concrete floors. As I looked in disbelief at my iron, now laying in a puddle of water on the floor, I was sure that my it was totally broken and would never even turn on!
This was even more sad, because I had bought the iron, a Rowenta, at a great mark down, almost 60% off since it was a floor model at Target. I knew I would never be able to replace it for the $36 I had originally spent.
When I looked it over I could hear a rattling behind the bottom of the faceplate. It turned back on and it seemed to heat properly, but any water I attempted to pour into the steam reservoir quickly leaked out of the base of the iron.
I sat down and finished my zipper. From the inside this time, with a piece of  1/2 inch tape over the zipper seam as a guide. It came out perfect, looking great from front and back.
When my mom came home and came in to check on my progress, I told her about my iron tragedy, and how I wouldn't be able to finish my project, let alone future projects without a good functioning iron, and I didn't know how I was going to come up with the money for a new iron.
Luckily, she said that she would help me out by buying it for me so I could stretch the purchase out between two paychecks. Yeah mom!
And I was only set back by one day, because she was able to take me shopping on Monday night.
I got another Rowenta for $89 (eek!). I know you don't have to pay that much for a good iron, but I didn't want to have to order from Amazon and wait a week for my iron only to find that mine had been damaged in transit. I don't shop at Wal-Mart for moral reasons, so the brands they carry there were out. I didn't want to buy one at  Jo Ann's, since I know their appliances are usually pricey unless they have a sale on them. So I went with what had worked for me last time and bought a Rowenta at Target. I also got a new ironing board so I could have one with the iron holding rack at the end and not risk another one falling and dieing.
I finished up the skirt on Tuesday and it looks pretty good if I do say so.
My camera batteries were dead or I would have uploaded a picture.
I will have to remedy that.
Next up, I will start on my blouse. Wish me luck on the sleeves!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Mood Board: What's Inspiring Me

I haven't posted in a couple days and I thought I would check in and share a few things that are inspiring me right now.
1. Yesterday I watched the film La Fille du puisatier: The Well Digger's Daughter (2011). The film takes place just before the onset of WWII and is set and shot in Provence.

The plot centers around a rural laborer Pascal, widower and father of six daughters, and his eldest daughter Patricia whom he idolizes. At its center it is a story about the dichotomy between love and honor. The film was visually pleasing, as the majority of the film takes place outdoors in beautiful rural Provence among streams and hills and orchards and simple but elegant masonry buildings. 
With six daughters playing prominently in this story, there were plenty of simple, light, floral, 1930's dresses in this film as well.

2. Seychelles Footwear, BAIT Footwear, and Saltwater Sandals- All of these are available in some adorable summer shades and vintage styling. I am currently stalking all 3 online for sales and dreaming of being able to wear them in warmer weather.
B.A.I.T. Footwear

3. Dwarf-Hotot Bunnies- This dwarf breed of rabbits look like they have eyeliner on, which gives their eyes a cartoonishly large quality.
4. 1930's Storybook Print Fabric- These 30's feedsack fabric inspired prints just say spring to me.
5. Vintage Perfume Ads- I love vintage advertisements from before photographs were the most common type of image in advertisement, especially ads from the art-nouveau and art-deco eras. Perfume ads always seem to be the most whimsical and feminine.

These last two are some nice mood-inspiration for the Gatsby Sewing Challenge!

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Great Gatsby Sewing Challenge: Patterns and Fabric Choices

After my post yesterday I considered a little more about what type of garment/s I wanted to sew for The Great Gatsby Sewing Challenge. As I said, being a full figured lady the thought of making a gamine, dropped waist flapper-style dress is pretty much a joke to me. Also, living in a post-feminist (kind-of) world today I realize that subduing the female form into pre-pubescent boyhood is not the best way to empower women.
I did start thinking about all the things that were brought to our modern world of fashion in the 1920's.
The step-in dress, one which didn't require assistance from servants or family members to get dressed, not only revolutionized the fashion world and ease of movement for women, it also assisted in delineating the separation between classes made apparent by costume. The step-in dress often had only a few buttons on the front-bodice, making it the link between the fitted shirtwaists of the Edwardian era and the shirt-dress of the 1940's which is still a fashion staple today.
And of course the little-black-dress assisted in this process too, as there was not as much variance or visibility of fabric quality in evening wear in the inky-shades and simple shapes.
As for my challenge project, I always gravitate toward day wear when selecting vintage styles because of their ability to mesh with a more modern aesthetic. Also, at my current skill level it is much easier to work primarily with natural woven fabrics, so that would indicate day wear as well. Then, back to my dread of the dropped-waist, I had decided on focusing at the very beginning or very end of the decade. I finally decided that some 1920's inspired separates would be best.

Day wear can be made in easy to sew fabrics, such as this skirt
which appears to be in a  cotton or linen woven.

These separates allow a natural waistline to be visible,
although the  hip is still emphasized by sashes and  banding.
I chose to use McCalls 3830, which is a straight-skirt with multiple length options.
I will be making version B, which is a mid calf length that I felt hearkened to the early 1920's. The techniques needed to make this skirt are all familiar to me, such as making darts and inserting a zipper. I considered trying to change the closures to something more period appropriate, but ultimately decided that I would put all the learning in with the blouse.
For the blouse I decided on Simplicity 1779, which I already had in my stash. 
The blouse has multiple sleeve and collar options. I decided on the long sleeves and the flat collar, but I may add in the bow- tie as well. I will definitely have to learn on this one, as I haven't done sleeves before and find them pretty scary for some reason. I also haven't done buttons or button-holes before, but I think that must be pretty straightforward.
I know I want to use a lilac colored lightweight woven fabric with a contrasting white collar on the blouse in tribute to my favorite dress from the Downton Abbey series.
I haven't quite decided on the skirt fabric yet. I have it down to 3 options.
1. An aqua textured bouclĂ© lightweight coating I have in my stash, which I may want to keep for its original intended use for a jacket.
2. A wool blend ribbed medium weight coating in dark purple.
3. A wool blend smooth-finish medium weight suiting in navy.
I'm leaning toward the latter two options. What do you think?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Great Gatsby Sewing Challenge

Hello all. I am snugged up in the den this gray morning with a quilt on my lap looking out the window at the little leaf buds on our oak tree and wondering when the spring weather will show up. Having lived in Northwest Washington for twenty years, I know not to trust that spring is here until after the lilacs bloom in May. But after an unseasonable warm and sunny Easter weekend followed by two weeks of clouds and rain,   I am longing to sew up some dainty spring fashions.
While I was reading around the sewing-blogs looking for inspiration, I came across The Great Gatsby Sewing Challenge over on Miss Crayola Creepy. Now, being a curvy pear-shaped lady I am no fan of the dropped-waist and shapeless torso associated with Flapper Era fashions. My eye-for-vintage usually gravitates to the va-voom curves of the late 1940's through early 1960's. But as a modern lady I can appreciate what the 1920's did to try to free women from both the corset and the confines of gendered and socioeconomic elitism. The introduction of sportswear, the slip-on dress, and the use of knit fabrics all contributed to the breakdown of both gender and economic power structures during this period.
As I was reading the guidelines for the challenge, I saw that Erin referred to  jazz-era styles seen on the tv shows Boardwalk Empire and Downton Abbey for participants who wanted a little more inspiration. 
Any time I think of the fashions on Downton Abbey, the first thing I consider is the beautiful purple dress worn by Lady Sybil in season one. Of course this dress is a classic Edwardian shirtwaist-dress, but I think that it may be possible to take inspiration from it and bring it up to a 1919-1920 era style. And that shade of purple is apparently my best color. And the challenge will allow me to finish right in time for lilac season!
As I have been perusing 1920's fashion plates online, I have pretty much decided that I will either do a shirt-dress from very early in the decade, before the waistline dropped to the hip, or do separates from the very end of the decade, in which the separation of skirt and blouse allowed a natural waist to be visible again. I think that either of these options could be styled with hair, make-up, and accessories to read as a jazz-era outfit.
1919 Shirt-dress. could raise hem to mid calf for a bolder flapper feel.

1929 Sportswear Separates. The waist line had moved back above the hips by this time.
What do you think?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Beginner's (my) Guide to Beginner Sewing

As someone who is just starting out, I know how daunting this world can be. Even with the very little knowledge I have acquired, I now have an arsenal of sewing jargon that amazes my non-sewing friends. Here are 4 tools that helped me acquire the necessary knowledge to begin sewing:

1. Books- I checked out a few books from my local library that helped me. I looked for books about sewing that stated they were at the beginner level. The three that I found most helpful were "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Sewing"by Missy Shepler and Rebecca Brent, "The Burdastyle Sewing Handbook" by Nora Abousteit and Allison Kelly, and "Fabric by Fabric: One Yard Wonders" by Rebecca Yaker and Patricia Hoskins. The latter two I ended up buying because I felt that they were going to continue being useful to me as my skill level grew. All included step-by-step instructions with the assumption that you had never even plugged-in a sewing machine before.
"The Complete Idiot's Guide to Sewing" If you haven't used a Complete Idiots Guide book before, you can find titles on a wide variety of topics and should go look at them now. This edition follows the usual format of the series. Don't be put off by the inclusion of idiot in the title title. I didn't find that the authors talked down to the readers in any way. The book is written in an exhaustive style, making sure to explain and define every new concept or term that the reader may come across. It does include some simple projects as well as an introduction to technique for both hand and machine sewing. However, I felt that most of the projects they included were a bit dull. This may be in some part due to the plain gray-scale photographs that accompanied, but all in all this book was an excellent resource for a new sewist.
"The Burdastyle Sewing Handbook" If you are a visual learner, like me, then you will love this spiral bound book. It introduces the tools and language of garment sewing in a slightly less comprehensive manner than the Idiots Guide, but still assumes that the reader is new to the topics. It also includes beautiful full color illustrations and photos of tools and projects. The included projects and patterns, which make up the majority of the book, are stylish and relevant and range in difficulty from beginner to advanced focusing mainly on machine-sewing techniques. The most unique feature of this book is that with each pattern and set of instructions is a variation by a member of the Burdastyle online community. It is really helpful to see how much simple variations in fabric type, color, and embellishment can completely change the look of a garment.
"Fabric by Fabric: One Yard Wonders" If you are looking for a set of projects which will allow you to spend little money on fabric and materials as you are learning to sew, this is the book for you. All of the projects in this book require one yard or less of fabric to make. The book is organized by fabric type, and offers insight into working with different fabric types as well as outlining what kinds of fabrics are best for different applications. Once again, this book is great for the visually oriented learner with both photos and step-by-step illustrations for each project. The projects focus on machine sewing, with some limited hand sewing as well.
2. The Internet- The internet is obviously an excellent resource for the beginning sewist. An added benefit is the continuous dialogue between website managers, bloggers, and readers. The content of sites such as Burdastyle and Sew-Mama-Sew are largely user generated, and therefore set up in basic language that should be accessible to most new sewists. For example, I found the Sew-Mama-Sew post about non-serger seam finishes to be extremely helpful, as are the many youtube videos on how to read a sewing pattern. Furthermore, the blogosphere is full of sewing information directed toward any number of interest specific areas. I spend hours skimming blogs dedicated to sewing vintage style clothing. And don't forget to read the comments too, there can be valuable tips in that dialogue.
3. Classes- In my experience, there are two kinds of sewing classes available project-specific or general instruction. A project-specific class has a predetermined curriculum involving the whole class completing a project or projects together as a group. A general instruction class briefly introduces whatever the instructor or institution deems the basics, then lets each student pick their own project to complete within the frame of the class. I have attended both types, and in my opinion the project-specific class is more helpful to the beginning sewist. The general instruction class tends to be a larger classroom setting, and usually through a school type entity with classes lasting for multiple sessions. In my case it was a high-school sewing class that lasted for a full semester. The variability of a dozen or more students each picking a different project means that the instructor has less ability to help each individual student. In a project-specific class, everyone is working on the same project, so the instructor can assist each student more efficiently because they are already familiar with the project, and they can address the answer to the whole class incase anyone else needs the same help. That's just my opinion though. The other benefit of a project specific class is that they are often only one or two sessions, which will limit the cost. I was lucky enough to be able to take a single session class with my local sewing machine supplier through a Groupon deal. The class met for one 2-hour session in which we each made a tote bag. There were about 8 students to one instructor, so there was still plenty of ability for students to get one-on-one help and to work at a slightly different pace. The fact that they picked a project that can be completed in the course of a couple hours definitely helped my confidence.
4. Beginner Sewing Patterns- I find that sewing with envelope/ printed patterns is a bit easier for the beginning sewist. And there are a lot of options specifically for beginners. Most of the major pattern suppliers list the level of experience needed on their patterns. Some have lines that are meant to be learning tools. For example, one of the first garments I made was from a Simplicity Learn-to-Sew skirt pattern. These patterns often list what new material you will learn right on the front of the envelope. However its also a good idea to look at the instructions and line drawings inside the envelope to asses the level of difficulty specific to your existing knowledge. Also, look for pattern sales at your local craft and fabric supplier. Many large supply stores have a rotating pattern sale schedule allowing you to buy patterns at as little as $1 each. At regular price these patterns can be anywhere from $5 to $15 each!

Alright! I hope that you will be able to use these resources to build more confidence in your ability to learn to sew! Good luck

My first post!

Hello, and welcome!

This is my first post on this blog, so if its a little unsteady just bear with me...
In fact, you're going to just have to bear with me a lot of the time throughout this blog because I am very much a novice at sewing in general and garment construction specifically....
That also means if you are new to the world of fashion sewing, I will try my best to make things as accessible and un-intimidating as possible.
In addition, I also like to try my hand at a variety of no-sew or non sewing related crafts and household projects. And I love to cook, so I may share the occasional recipe as well.
Hope you enjoy!

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