Friday, February 27, 2015

Delaying my wardrobe...

I was going to try to get this month's wardrobe challenge completed by the end of February, but I don't think that it will get done.

Evaluating and shrinking my wardrobe has been a goal for a while now, and something I just can't quite achieve.  It may be how dauntingly large it is -  a full dresser, three Rubbermaid bins worth of costumes/specialty clothing, a medium closet-rack worth of dresses, and overflow from all of that.  It may be how connected I feel to my clothes - these special pieces, a lot of them thrift store finds, vintage or handmade.  It may just be that I have a lot of costumes and not as many "real clothes", but I don't think that's true.

I did do some sorting last night, of the bins I have - which are a combination of costumes, skirts and dresses.  I pulled a bag full out of things that don't fit or that I've rarely or never worn.  It feels like a relief, but there is still quite a ways to go.  I loved those things, but they weren't me.  It's helping to think "if I don't love it, let it go."  That, and owning a mirror again.

Still to go is to dig through the costume bins completely, then tackle the dresser (which I have few qualms about, because I think I may start wearing my professional shirts again.  Maybe take some old shirts and turn them into pillows? Double check my pants collection, but I think I already took out the ones that no longer fit me.) and put away all the t-shirts still in the "washed" hamper.  It's not too many steps, it's just the time and space it takes to go through things that seem to be at a premium these days.

It's going to take some time to coalesce, but I know I would prefer to have a style that I can feel comfortable wearing to work and while at home.  I like the feeling of dressing up to go out, but I don't love the feeling of needing to peel off a costume when I get in my house.

I'm just going to keep pushing myself.  Finish this sort, then maybe do another one in a month.  Maybe have a friend over to help tell me that things look great/terrible on me.  I will have a wardrobe I'm proud of soon enough!

(After doing some sorting, I came across a Butterick 5032 I made a while ago.  I actually quite like it!  It fits nicely and I forgot how cute and flattering it is!  So it's going back into rotation, and I'm wearing it today.)

Monday, February 2, 2015

January's Wardrobe Challenge post

The exercises for January (weeks 1-4 of the original Wardrobe Architect) have helped me start to coalesce what I want my style to be at its core.
When I was a teenager, I was not at all conscious of the body I was in.  It took until sometime later in college, maybe even after that, to understand what fit my body and that showing it off was ok, and even fun sometimes.  I took a lot of cues (and even got a lot of clothes) from my mother, whose primary concern was being able to move and get dirty if need be - she's a gardener first and foremost in my mind.

Even when I didn't know how things looked on my body or what the correct proportions to anything were, I always loved to experiment with clothes.  I love putting on a costume or seeing what I look like as a fairy, a goth, a raver, a 1930s screen siren.  I'm addicted to the drama in clothes - you walk into a room and everyone takes a look at you, if even for a moment.  (Often I'm of the opinion that all attention is good attention.)  I want to maintain the ability to costume and take a chance with fashion sometimes, but to pay attention to proportion and fit when it enters my wardrobe for good.

My history has kept me covered up, and I still hang a great importance on being able to keep a conservative wardrobe.  My body will often make clothes skew trashy if they're cut in the wrong way.  I do want to start taking the proportions and cuts to a flattering place, but it's important to me that it doesn't cross that line on a daily basis.  (I have a lot of skirts and dresses that are too long and need to be shortened - and on a smaller person such as myself, the increments there can sometimes feel dicey.)

I look forward to keeping plenty of color and joy in my wardrobe.  I love being the girl in the bright green coat every winter - it keeps me noticeable and makes me feel like I bring a smile to some people as everyone else goes by in black, black, black.  I think that my community has helped me maintain and blossom in this wardrobe joy - they encourage me to be silly and cute and fun.

I also have to keep my daily wardrobe active-ready.  I walk over a mile each day, to and from work, and I'm considering biking as a commute, at least some days, during the spring and summer.  So, a four-season wardrobe is critical to me, as I don't have the luxury of a car 7 days a week.

In defining my core style, the words I chose were: bright, cute, distinguished, active/comfort, and drama/shock.  Those last two are couples because I feel like they're two sides of the same coin I can't find a word in the middle for.

In my shapes, I look for somewhat fitted silhouettes overall.  I prefer a natural or high waistline (though being petite, my waistline is naturally somewhat high) and a very long or above-the-knee length.  As I now own a mirror again, I know that skirts that hit me at or below the knee are not flattering to my height, and long tops may as well just be minidresses.

I haven't selected any patterns yet for this challenge.  I bought the lovely Butterick 6130 this past week, which I hope works with my proportions.  I think maybe a jersey version of Vogue 8728 a la Jennifer Lauren Vintage.  I'm going to go through my giant pattern library soon and find more patterns to add to this.  Maybe also the Syrah Maxi Skirt.   Expect wacky fabrics (I bought a shrimp African wax print recently) and bright colors.  I can't help it.

I also recently got an amazing pair of Old Navy high-waisted jeans in a clothing swap.  If I get the gumption, I'm going to try pants - wide leg, high waisted pants.  They're so amazing!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Back to the Future (of the Past)

I know I've neglected this blog for a while.  Life has gotten hectic, and I've been re-discovering myself.  This year, I'm going to take the Colette Wardrobe Architect challenge.  I think it'll help me be more myself in a lot of ways.

I have too many clothes, I'll be the first one to admit.  And I didn't own a mirror in my bedroom for... quite a few years.  Especially not since I've realized that fit is a combination of feel and look.  I also feel far more confident in my sewing skills. (Not necessarily in my fitting skills, but hopefully this challenge will help me with that!)  I've just got a mish-mashed collection of things that are ~interesting~ or easy to put on.  

Well, looking nice is just as easy, most of the time.  I do love to remind people that a dress is ONE article of clothing, and pants and a shirt are TWO.  (The laziness is strong with me.)  So, I'm determined to take back my ill-fitting, weird wardrobe and turn it into the slightly retro, still wacky, properly fitting one!

See you towards the end of January!

P.S. - Oh, and I got a serger.  Lazy, well-fitting and well-finished clothes in all fabrics are in my grasp now!!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Getting back in the sew-ing of things (hey-o!)

I'll be honest with you, readers.  I haven't been sewing much in the last year or two. I've sewn some cute, silly costumes, but they're usually a last-minute struggle against my sewing machine, not a fun and relaxing project that helps me revel in creating.  Depression has been a struggle, and I feel better than I've felt in a while.  Creativity is flowing back into me, I'm not just wrenching it out of myself anymore.  It's a good feeling.

A few weekends ago, while my boyfriend was out of town, I spent time sewing a muslin of the Colette Cooper backpack.  I'm going to make one for him in the next month or so, but I wanted to give it a run through to see where I could make it special for him and how it all comes together.

And it came together beautifully, if I do say so myself.

Top view - check out that sweet flap action!

This is the first indie pattern I've ever really used.  I have a sale-related addiction to the Big 4 (or 5?  I really like Burda, but it's really just 2 companies in the end, McCall and Simplicity.) which I am now seeing the light of the wonder of getting so much more and helping someone grow their business.

The instructions were so easy, it felt comfortable and helped me ease myself back into pattern sewing.  (I bought the Crepe pattern at the same time, so I look forward to being guided through a pretty little wrap dress as well.)

I also got suuuuuper friendly with my new pal, the edge stitching foot.  I know I need to work on the straightness of my edge stitching/top stitching, but I knew this was a muslin just for me so I didn't mind at all that things were a little wobbly/speedily done.  I'm the only one who's going to be paying any kind of attention to it.  I know I'm going to be more smooth, slow and attentive on my next sewing mission through this.

Flap open - it's got a few nice little pockets hidden under there.  I placed a bright red bird for interest.

My one main goof on this was buying 1-1/2" wide nylon webbing for the straps.  It was a last-minute run on a Sunday (when all the fabric shops in Philadelphia are closed, save one which is only going to be open a couple more Sundays..) and I forgot how smart the indication of "cotton webbing" was. (And a smaller width, too - the 1 1/2" is pretty unwieldy on a tiny person such as myself!) The straps are really uncomfortable now.  Hopefully they wear out a little bit and get more comfortable, but I'll probably just end up making little matching pads to put on them.

The handle and two straps in in the back, and a duck with weird feet

I was going to go and purchase actual muslin to do this in, but remembered how badly I need to cut back on my fabric stash, so I went shopping back in there and found this bolt of cute IKEA fabric, called Barnslig.  I know I must've bought in on clearance/as-is or something, but they sell decently sized mini-bolts (I think they're about 5 yards, by my calculation. I may have picked up another one last weekend while out shopping for nothing... I think it's going to be a cute dress.)  in these interesting prints.  I'm pretty sure they're supposed to be curtains or upholstery, but I'm one of those people who hasn't learned better than shopping in the quilting cottons for apparel, so.. there's that.  I really love this print, so instead of using the contrast for the flap like the pattern indicates, I used the main fabric for it as well.  (That, and I scrambled through my stash for just-about-enough contrast to do the bottom pieces... whoops!)

Check out this cute bear hiding in the bottom pocket!

The bottom/contrast is black taffeta that I previously used for my spaceship dress, and the lining is a red that I found.  It's a little suede-y for whatever weird reason.  It was in a remnants bin at a local fabric shop and had an interesting print, so I picked it up a while ago - for almost this express purpose - and forgot it existed.

Full of all the stuff you really need - knitting needles, iPhone cables, mascara...

The main fabric isn't structured at all, and I think this pattern needs a little something more than a lightweight cotton to dig into.  This Cooper is floppy all over, which isn't the best.  I also didn't feel like putting in the magnetic snaps, because I am lazy and it seemed a little silly at the time. (NOTE - THIS WAS A HUGE MISTAKE.  I am now holding  it together with safety pins when I over-stuff it, which may or may not be frequently when I use it.  This is not attractive or super-great for the fabric.) The flap does still keep the top of the backpack covered most of the time, but it's not secure at all.  The taffeta gives it a nice sturdy bottom, though I'm sure it'll end up getting all kinds of nicked-up and dirty soon enough.

I'm really proud of this, and it's exciting to start making beautiful and quality pieces again.  It's building up my confidence to try new things soon - like sewing knits, and working with quality fabrics instead of weird novelty prints.  (I do have like 5 yards of this AMAZING black fabric with cougar heads all over it, though... that's going to make something absurd.)  My fingers are itching to make more things and do it all well, because that little extra time I took to finish this (and the little bit more time than that I know I need to work on taking in the future) really made the difference.

Thursday, July 10, 2014


So I know I haven't posted here in a while.  It's been a combination of a handful of things - moving, adjusting to the busy life of a 40-hour work week in a city full of people, and handling my two best friends in the world - laziness and depression.  But I'm carving out time for myself and for getting crafty, so look out!  I'm (hopefully) going to be back in full force soon-ish.

(I add the -ish because we only air condition our living room and there's no room to cut fabric in there.  So, I'm praying for cooler nights just like everyone else.)

In the course of my last few moves, I forgot to get all the cute retro dresses I had made into my closet and therefore haven't been wearing them for at least a year or two.  Maybe more like three or four.  (Whoops.)  But I just picked them all up maybe a month ago and have been wearing them non-stop.  I forgot just how fun it is to wear clothing that you've made and how much I love vintage styling.  I am far too lazy to take the time out to do my hair every day (not that it likes to hold style anyway), but just having a nipped-in waist and a sense of frilly quilting-cotton girlyness gives a little extra bounce to my step.

That - and having hair that looks like something between a traffic cone, a day lily and a blood orange - are what really bring a little joy to my day.  Yes, as a young professional I have decided to join the ranks of the creatively styled in Philadelphia and have turned my hair bright orange.  Not just some of it, all of it.  It makes every day a little more fun, and makes all the orange things I own pop just a little more - and I own a lot of orange.  I went through a few different brands, but my current color is a blend of Special Effects Hi-Octane Orange (which should glow under blacklight, but my hair currently doesn't) and Color Ion Orange.  The Special Effects is quite red for my tastes, but it should hold in my hair a lot longer than the plain Ion.  I bought the last two bottles out of the one store in Philly that had it (which I went in on a whim, like a champ - best recent random shopping experience)  but they're finally starting to restock colors, so hopefully oranges will be soon!

I've also been spending a lot of the summer alone.  My boyfriend has been out at festivals and other events a lot of weekends and I just don't have the time off to be there most of the time. (I did go out to PEX Summer Festival last weekend, which was a great experience.)  It's been nice being more independent, though I also haven't bought real groceries in like a month.  I forgot how wonderful it can be to be by yourself, or to connect with friends on your own.  My boyfriend is a stunning conversationalist, so people often either make grossly inaccurate assumptions about me (based on him) or don't feel like they get to know me at all.

In other words, the creative juices have started to flow again (I actually have a post backlogged here because I haven't gotten any good shots of it yet - maybe I'll get those tonight!) and I've made time in my life for them to get all out and wiggly.  Here comes a flow of awesome stuff to wear and cuddle and dance and play in!  Here's to the second half of 2014!  Here's to that Cookie Puss cake at the end of the month!

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Color shifting

So, it appears that the colors of my world are shifting, weirdly, to pink.  Every new and fabulous thing that I am welcoming into my life - my awesome new winter boots, a lovely winter muff I was gifted, the warmest 85-cent Goodwill sweater that I haven't been able to stop wearing - are all shades of pink.  (I often try to refute this in my head - telling myself things are coral or magenta or something... but they're totally pink.)  It's not a color that I have had a real affinity for (even though I somehow chose my childhood bedroom to be a Pepto-Bismal pink - still don't know what I was thinking when that happened) but it hasn't ever really been so prevalent in my life until this winter season.  Who knows if it will continue into the spring - I kind of doubt it now that I'm aware of it, and I'm pretty sure that spring and summer lead to a far bigger selection of my clothing than the winter does.

What's been going on in my life aside from everything turning out rosy?  Well, Philadelphia has been treating me better, or I've just become accustomed to its bizarre ways.  My boyfriend and I are enjoying the life of young adults in the burner scene here - dressing up in crazy outfits, going to wacky parties, making the most exciting and interesting friends possible.  I haven't really documented it at all, but I've been making some interesting costumes in the last year.  Things like:  blue lobsters, silly onesies, toast with butter berets, coats, capes, all kinds of wacky things.  It's often a sewing challenge, but I love stepping up to the plate to make something different from what a pattern calls for and with strange embellishments or fabrics.  This year should lead to more of the same, I think, and hopefully I'll be able to make more wearable every day pieces too.

I will try my hardest to put up some of the things I make here, and I am working towards having a space and a mentality about sewing and creating that will make me the clothes I want to be wearing - appropriate, slightly vintage, fancy clothes that make me feel powerful and fantastic about how I look on a daily basis.  And, if not that, than completely absurd and covered in a bright and silly rainbow-barf of colors.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A bag with a heart

So, today's post is about the bag I just finished yesterday.  The body of the bag has been finished for a bit, but I just had to attach the strap to make sure it was ready to go out into the world.

It's a bag with a heart!  One of my friends commissioned this bag from me, for her when she's out at burns and needs to carry her things with her and wants to do it oh-so-fashionably.  I think that she might end up using it in regular life, too, as I just see it as such a nice and functional bag.

You might notice that the heart seam at the top of the bag looks a little different left-to-right.  That's because the right hand side is hiding a secret zipper.
This is a pocket to hold sunglasses and other semi-large things that need to be easy-to-reach but kept inside a pocket.  This is the first curved zipper I've ever inserted. I was incredibly nervous and even thought about not putting this zipper in as it was.  But this was where it was requested and the only place I could really innocuously put a zipper on the front flap.  Through a little extra effort and a lot of planning, it turned out perfectly.  I love learning new techniques whenever I do a new project and I feel so much more confident having accomplished a curved zipper.

I added a series of zippers on the inside of the flap, including a water-resistant zipper (the heavy black one at the bottom).  The coils of the water-resistant zipper are backwards, almost like an invisible zipper, but with a large tab like there are on regular coil zips.  I also made a covered mirror which matches the bag and has its own special zippered pocket to live in.  These pockets are for all those little essentials - lip gloss, eye drops, car keys, cell phone, and what-have-you.
On the front of the bag - a pocket for cigarettes.  (I personally don't smoke, but my friend does, and I managed to scavenge an empty pack of Newport Reds from some smoker friend of mine.  This will now forever be my test-pack to make sure cigarette pockets are just the right size because I just think Newport Reds are some of the silliest cigarettes.)  It actually fits a lighter with the cigarettes, which is a totally awesome accidental bonus.
What's that zipper in the center back of the bag for?  That's kind of odd, right?
Nothing less than a pull-out and zip-off towel, complete with a little rose embroidered on the towel.  It fits into the large back pocket (which actually has one final zippered pocket inside, pencil-sized - for makeup, perhaps?) and can be zipped off to be washed or used elsewhere if need be.  This was at the suggestion of my boyfriend, who regrets that he can't just wash his bag's towel and must wash the whole thing.

I'm so excited to give this bag away to its owner.  I'm pretty positive she's going to love it.  She chose the lining/contrast fabric, which is actually a laminated cotton so it's waterproof and somewhat more stain-resistant as well.  It was really exciting to do a commission for someone rather than just doing sewing for myself or my boyfriend.  I'm looking to start my own Etsy shop, and this was one of the first steps out into that world.