Sunday, November 29, 2009


I hope everyone who celebrates Thanksgiving had a great one!

This was a productive weekend for me. Of course it helped that I didn't have to hostess the Thanksgiving meal but, instead, enjoyed a gathering at a friend's house. For the meal, I decided to make two items. First, I made maple cheesecake, which I overcooked by at least 10 minutes until it was golden brown – it then collapsed (that has never happened to me before!) so I couldn't bring that. My second contribution was the dinner rolls, but the yeast (which I had just bought) was expired. The dough did rise, kinda sorta, but it took all day and was definitely lackluster, so the resulting rolls, while edible, were a bit disappointing. My friends graciously overlooked my cooking foibles and it was a great evening. I want to track down the Chipotle Sweet Potatoes recipe one friend brought – those were truly yummy!!

The rest of the weekend was dedicated to holiday sewing. I completed the gift for my sew group's upcoming holiday luncheon. (Phew!) Some of them read this blog occasionally so I can't post it quite yet.

DD2 has her Winter Concert performance next Friday, and she has to wear black: a long black skirt or slacks and a long-sleeve black top. How funereal. For the bottom, I made a skirt that I had drafted for myself, but scaled down to fit her. For the top, I made my first pattern from Burda magazine and experienced the joys of tracing off a pattern with zillions of lines in different colors. Getting DD2 to dress up is not unlike herding cats, so I had to make it as easy as possible for her, meaning I didn't get as many fittings in as I would have liked nor did she have a lot of input. (She prefers a line item veto sort of approach.) I hope to post photos later this week when she dons the whole outfit.

I have one more Christmas gift to sew, and the fabric is on order. So I feel like I'm doing pretty well, all in all. :)

I'm still dithering on whether to enter the 2010 SWAP (Sewing With a Plan) contest on Stitcher's Guild. I think about my own [potential] plan every day. The swap would require me to sew more bottoms than I really want to, at the moment, and it limits me a bit. For example, I would like to sew up a few jackets and I couldn't make more than one for the swap, so I don't know... On the other hand, it could push me a bit and would be satisfying to complete it (I have no illusions that I would win any prizes)... I may just sew alongside the SWAP participants without actually entering, so we'll see.

The Vogue/Butterick/McCalls pattern site is having a very good pattern sale tomorrow, Monday, only. Butterick and McCalls are $1.99 and Vogue are $3.99, before the member discount. And shipping is free for members. The sale ends tomorrow night (Monday) at midnight CENTRAL time. That has bitten me more than once, when I sat down to finish an order after 10pm Pacific, but it was too late to get the sale prices.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Great Day!

What a great Saturday!!

First, I attended a PenWAG meeting, where Sandra Betzina spoke and showed many of her current, out of print, and a few upcoming patterns sewn up. Wow, so many of her patterns are really better in person. Vogue typically makes their own size 2 samples for the pattern cover, but I prefer the size 12s she has sewn up herself which better reflect her detailing and sense of style. She gave many tips on adapting her patterns for different looks and there were some I had ruled out for my body type that I will now reconsider. I can see I need to buy a few more patterns the next time Vogues are on sale. :)

For the event, I wore my Sandra Betzina skirt, my Teagarden T top, and my Sandra Betzina sweater jacket. I consider it a personal failing that I didn't have a coordinating Sandra Betzina top to wear and I will remedy that. :)

Before the meeting, I met Marlene H. We have some mutual sewing friends and she had seen my blog and knows I love Issey Miyake. She had a surprise for me – two OOP Issey Miyake patterns I had never even seen before! I was so touched by her generosity. Vogue 2437 is a 2pc dress and Vogue 1836 is a very interesting coat. It has a button flange that looks like a vest. Thanks again, Marlene!!

After the meeting, Susi L and I had a very enjoyable lunch where we talked Issey Miyake and fabric until the waiter informed us they were ending lunch service. :)

When I returned home, I had a package from Cordell with several Miyakes! Once again, it included several I have never seen: Vogue 2088, a jacket (cropped and regular length), Vogue 2572, a great top (similar to the SW Cascade?) and skirt, Vogue 2651, a jacket and pants, and Vogue 2485, a very interesting coat. There were also some tracings. Thanks SO much for your kindness, Cordell!!

I am really touched by the generosity of the Issey Miyake community.

Today I finished my holiday jacket. I would love to show pictures, but some of my sew group friends read this blog, so I won't be posting it until after the holiday luncheon. :)

I'm still stressing over the gift I need to make/bring to the sew group holiday party. Oy, so many ideas, but none seem perfect. :)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Technique -- Creating a Tiled Picture

Wow, I just learned something new and am so psyched! I've learned how to create an image that contains other images. (I took these photos at the Chihuly exhibit a couple years ago when it was at the De Young Museum in San Francisco.)

Why do I need to do this? Well, I've wanted to know for awhile, but I am thinking of joining the 2010 Swap (Sewing with a Plan) contest on Stitcher's Guild, and I felt a sense of urgency to figure it out. There is a limit to how many photos you can submit and sometimes you need several to show closeup details, the back or side view, and so on.

I use a Mac and, so far as I can tell, my software options are GIMP (free, but complex) and Photoshop (expensive and complex). However, some time ago I bought Photoshop Elements when it was on sale at I paid no more than $30 but hadn't used it much. Photoshop Elements is designed for regular folks who take photos and scrapbook, and offers a subset of the features offered by its more powerful professional (and super expensive) cousin, so I wondered if it was able to perform this task, and it can!

So, here are the steps to create a tiled image using Photoshop Elements 6 for the Mac:

  1. Create a blank image to hold all the images. Decide out how big you want the final image to be. It's easiest to specify the size using pixels, because that's how images are typically measured. For my Chihuly image, I used 800 pixels wide by 600 pixels high. You create a new image using command-N, or File->New->Blank File.
  2. Each image is going to live in its own "layer". Go ahead and create the layers you need, one for each image. If the Layers palette is not present on the lower right side of the screen, you can bring it up by selecting Windows->Layers. There is a tiny square icon in the Layers palette with a turned-up corner. Hover your cursor over that icon and it will show a tooltip that says: "Create a new layer." Click this once for each image you want to add. In my case, I had 6 images, so I clicked it 6 times. You will see the layers appear in the palette, initially blank and with the default names, Layer-1, Layer-2, and so on.
  3. Open all the images you want to add to your picture using Command-O, or File->Open.
  4. It's best to resize each image before importing it into the tiled picture. To do this, click the window that contains the image you want to import, and bring up the resizing panel using Image->Resize. Enter the size you want. For my example, I made each image 300 pixels high and I let Photoshop calculate the width that maintains the same relative proportion.
  5. Import the image into the tiled picture. First, select it with Command-A (this step is counter-intuitive, but required), and copy it with Command-C, or Edit->Copy. Select the tiled window and make sure that you have selected one of the blank layers. (You can click on the layer in the Layer palette to select it.) Paste the image with Command-V, or Edit->Paste.
  6. The photo is loaded into the center of the image, so you need to re-position it. Hold down the Command key (the cursor changes to the Positioning cursor, a plus sign with arrows) and select the layer containing the picture you want to move. While holding the Command key, slide it to its final location. If you need to move the image just a pixel or two, you can do this with the arrow key while holding down the Command key. So, Command-upArrow will move the image up one pixel and Command-rightArrow moves it to the right by one pixel.
  7. Repeat this process for each image until all are imported and positioned as desired.
  8. Save the image. I saved mine as JPEG. Bring up the Save panel using Command-S (or File->Save), and select JPEG from the Format pull-down. You must save it "As a Copy" and de-select "Embed Color Profile." Save the file. Once you save it as a JPEG, the layers are no longer available. If you think you might want to further tweak the image, also save it in the Photoshop format, which uses the .psd extension. This preserves the separate layers so you can go back and swap out any of the photos, add text, or tweak the images in any way you want.
  9. You can now upload the JPEG to Picasa or Flickr (or whatever website you use to host your photos) just as you would any other image.

Thanks so much to my friend, Kansas Jeff, for walking me through this process! :D

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Self Drafted -- Pajama Bottoms for Teens

Yes, Halloween is over. Hope you had a nice one. :)

I'm sure I am not the only mother who has heard, on a Friday, "Oh mom, I need to wear pajamas next Monday for spirit week and I could use a new pair!"

Yes, I could run out and buy a couple pairs (both daughters attend the same high school) but I am sewing now. And pajama bottoms are the easiest thing ever.

Not to mention I have several lengths of cute flannel, some of which are even acceptable to a teen. (OK, the Garfield fabrics and the starry fabrics received wordless stares. "Look," said I, "each leg could use a different Garfield fabric!" Silent pause. "Mom, I think I'll go with the monkeys.")

I traced off a pair of DD1's pajama bottoms to make a pattern. I have several pant patterns, and was curious, so I compared the pajamas to some of my patterns. Wow, what a difference. Women's patterns, like Loes Hinse or Vogue, even in the smallest sizes, differ quite a bit from these. The RTW garment has a very minimal crotch curve, (designed to fit negligible teen hineys), and is far less voluminous around the pelvis.

Just as I was about to cut out the first pair of pajama bottoms, DD1 asked me if I could lower the crotch a bit, so I lowered it an inch, cut it out in a retro black cat fabric, and sewed it up. When DD1 tried them on, she said, oh, did I mention the original jammies are too short? No, but it was easy to add a self fabric band at the hem to this "wearable muslin."

I then whipped up pajama pants #2, in the "real" fabric she will be wearing to school, which sports pigs and the word "Oink." These pants, she tells me are perfect. Cuter and better fitting than the originals. Yay. :)

My daughters could be called Slim and Slimmer, which I appreciate, because I can use the same pattern for both. I shortened them a bit for DD2 and cut them out in a flannel fabric sporting sock monkey faces. Love those sock monkeys.

It's interesting to pay attention to what they are doing in RTW. The original jammies, from Target's store brand, xhilaration, are an extra-small, and made from a green plaid fabric. Yes, Target uses inexpensive fabric, and very streamlined decorative details that are easy to mass produce with little effort, but they are cute and (most importantly) they do fit well, at least on my daughters' body type. They have spent the time to develop a decent pattern, though it certainly wouldn't fit a girl with bootay. The pattern is designed in such a way that there is no excess fabric to "pooch out" at the crotch or look baggy and ill fitting around the hips. Very nice.

When I look at a pants pattern from the big four (Simplicity, McCalls, Butterick, Vogue) I often think that the pattern even looks inelegant in how it is drafted – there is no subtlety of fit. Small wonder pants are the hardest thing to make and fit well when you are starting with a pattern like that. (For the record, Burda patterns are use a sloper that fits a wide variety of folks out of the envelope. For women that do have to tweak it, it's generally much easier to achieve a good fit when you start with a Burda. I've heard this is also true of Marfy patterns.)

The primary features of these Target-inspired pants:

  • The crotch is shallow, and short.
  • The front of the pajama is shorter than the back by about 1.5" at CF. The casing is formed by folding down the fabric, so that seam is sewn at a substantial angle (which I have never seen in a pattern).
  • The back of the leg is about 5/8" wider than the front. (This is a straight legged pattern.)
  • The original pajama pants featured a drawstring elastic, but I used what I had lying around. It's a bit soft for a waistband elastic, but DD1 felt width was more important than a stiff, non-roll waistband elastic in the 3/4" width I have on hand.
  • The original pajama pants featured a mock fly front with 3 small decorative buttons. I didn't bother with this detail, but it would be easy to gussy up this design in a variety of ways if I was making them as a special gift or using a bland fabric.

Best of all, they were free! Of course, they weren't really, but since I purchased the fabrics long ago (I think from, and they did not require a trip to a fabric store, or any additional outlay of money, they felt free. :D

Woot! Pajama pants problem solved and I have a decent pattern for future use.

Pair #1 – Wearable Muslin. This pair was too short for DD1, so I added self fabric bands at the bottom.

Pair #2 – Pigs for DD1.

Pair #3 – Sock monkeys for DD2. Yes, I matched the "plaid." Sheesh, what we do for our kids. :)

Sock Monkey Closeup. I wonder if DD2 and friends will be listening in organic chemistry tomorrow or choosing which monkey represents which classmate. :)

By the way, I was musing about the technique of copying RTW patterns by tracing, and I remembered this ThreadBanger video featuring Kenneth King. He shows how to trace a pattern using organza. (I've only used paper, but his method looks good.) In this video, he uses the technique to copy a cape with a collar, which he then makes up in velvet and satin. I took embellishment classes from Kenneth King years ago when he lived in San Francisco and taught regularly at Sewing Workshop. He's a great teacher and an amazing artist.