Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Red Letter Day!

I posted my last blog entry in the wee hours of the morning and, when I woke up, I noticed that it was my 100th post and I now had 100 followers! I really really want to thank all of you who read, and post comments, on my blog. I started the blog, mostly as an experiment, and I have found I really enjoy it. Let me warn you that some personal chatter follows but, if you want, you can skip directly to the sewing bit.

There are so many benefits to blogging my sewing projects. First and foremost, I refer to my past entries all the time to remind myself how I made a particular project – especially any modifications I made, or what size I cut out, etc.

Then there are the photos. I am NOT a photogenic person. Most folks who have met me tell me I look better in person and I am mighty glad to hear it, given the atrocious pictures I take. My daughters, and particularly my youngest, tells me I am really hard to photograph because I look so stiff and... weird. It reminds me of that Friends episode when Chandler and Monica were trying to get a good engagement photo. Every time the photographer pointed the camera at Chandler, his expression became self conscious and strange, so they finally published an "engagement" photo of Monica and Joey. I can relate. It is almost impossible to find a photo of me before I started sewing because I hated photos of myself and usually was the one behind the camera.

But let me tell you about the upside of these photos. Wow, you might think you look a certain way in a mirror, even a full length mirror. But you can't really see the whole effect the way you can in a photo. All of a sudden, you can really see proportions, color, cut, etc. The photos have had a huge effect on my sewing. They have caused me to re-think my style, and what looks good on me, and have had a direct impact on what I sew. They are pretty powerful, even though I can't tell you how often I cringe when I look at them.

Finally, the biggest benefit of blogging is the community. I have met so many people and had so many great email exchanges because of my blog and my involvement in the Stitcher's Guild community. I have developed some close friendships as a result. How wonderful is that?!? I also belong to a truly wonderful sewing group, who really puts up with my foibles. Several of them read this blog and I love keeping in touch with them that way.

So, I really want to thank all of you. I know I am not as funny and adorable as The Selfish Seamstress, nor as clever and urbane as Male Pattern Boldness, and I do sometimes feel that I really need to push the bar to produce a blog worthy of anyone who might read it, so know I am grateful that you do read, and post. :)

You might know that I don't really participate in blogger awards. But I realize that those awards, in part, are a way of feeling more connected to the blogger. I try to keep my professional life and my hobby life very separate, but here are ten "facts you may not know about me", just for fun.

  1. By profession, I am a technical writer. I write primarily about the Java programming language. I like to think I can, at least, explain a process, or a product, in a clear manner.
  2. I have a degree in computer science from UC Berkeley.
  3. I do most of my writing, including the writing for this blog, directly in HTML. I am not a big User of Tools.
  4. Following my divorce, I enrolled in San Francisco State in the Masters program for Clothing and Textiles. I had a lot of undergraduate work to complete (since my original bachelors was in a very different discipline) but I had to drop out of the program about 18 months into it, because it conflicted with work. Shortly thereafter, the masters program in that department was axed. That was an extremely happy time in my life, even though I was twice the age of most of the students.
  5. I have been a vegetarian since the age of 17, when my mother unadvisedly said, "I wonder how long THAT will last!" when I told her. I love you mom, and rest in peace, but it has been 34 years, and counting. :) I was the healthiest (and weighed much less) for the few years I was vegan, but I have slipped off that mountain.
  6. I love to travel, but have done very little in the last 17 years (note: my eldest is 17), apart from a trip to Brazil 2 or 3 years ago. I once hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu – a 5-day trip on foot. After that I spent two days rafting the Ollantaytambo River, which had some class four rapids. I hate roller coasters, but I love river rafting.
  7. I like to spell and don't really use a spellchecker. I have a friend who thinks that there is a spelling gene. You either have it or you don't. She doesn't. :)
  8. One of my current favorite TV shows is Drop Dead Diva. The new season begins tonight!!!
  9. The nickname 'Shams' came about when I copied my then-fiance's favorite underwear. It was a brand called Chams that his mother bought from Marks and Spencers in London. When they changed the style, he didn't like the new underwear as well, so I copied the older style and made him several pair. He wore them to shreds. I even mimicked the style and color of the original label, but I changed Chams to Shams.
  10. In real life, my first name is Sharon. But I really like my nickname Shams and will happily answer to that. :) Have you ever noticed that there are many Sewing Sharons?

And Now for the Sewing-Related Bit

There is a thread on Stitcher's Guild discussing the pattern that I blogged about last night - Vogue 8248. I posted the photos of my black and white tops and Kathryn gave me some great insight. I just love it when someone with a good eye weighs in!

Kathryn pointed out that the wide "cuffs" on the white blouse were throwing off the balance of the top. For me, that was a "D'OH!" moment. I know the reason the pattern is drafted this way, however. This is a dolman style top, where the sleeve is cut as one with the front (or back). This type of sleeve doesn't have the fitting advantages of a set-in sleeve. If the cuff is very fitted, it's hard to, say, reach forward. However, this cuff is overly generous at the wrist, resulting in an unflattering line, so I took my remaining two buttons and made a pleat in each cuff. Sorry, I don't have photos, but I think you get the general idea. I didn't make it so tight that I can't slip it over the wrist.

I will try wearing the top this way and, if I find it is too restrictive for comfortable movement, I will just chop the sleeves off at the elbow. :)

Thanks so much, Kathryn!!! And if you haven't seen her blog, I Made This!, CHECK it out! She is AMAZING. I am in awe of her creativity, mixed with her facility with problem solving, and this beautiful package is encased in her truly generous spirit.

Vogue 8248 - Very Easy Vogue Blouse

I recently realized I need more basic blouses and this Very Easy Vogue caught my eye. It features dolman sleeves and fisheye darts, front and back. I particularly liked the notch-less collar on View A and decided it would be a good opportunity to use the technique demonstrated on Louise Cutting's Insider Techniques, Volume One DVD (published by Threads), on how to modify the draft of a collar to eliminate bulk at the center front and to cut the collar as one piece.

Nancy Zieman, Sandra Betzina, and others also teach this technique, and it's a good one. (I've been told that Nancy Zieman was the first to teach it years ago.) In fact, Sigrid recently posted a tutorial on this technique called Cutting a Collar in One Piece. And here is a Power Sewing video that shows the technique. (Just hit the Play arrow to view.)

I made the top twice. First, I used a white cotton shirting from Michael's with blue threads, in various shades, running through it. I made this top with long sleeves, as shown in View B. The second version was made from a black cotton voile from Fabrix. This fabric has wonderful woven black dots and I bought all that was left, but it was only about one and a half yards and 56" wide. Through painstaking placement, I managed to squeeze a short sleeved version from the limited yardage.

Based on the finished measurement at the bust, I used a size 20 (the largest size) and added a bust dart. (On a more close-fitting pattern, this is my standard size.)

Here is a complete list of the changes I made:

  • Changed the draft of the collar to use a single pattern piece for upper and lower collar.
  • Added a bust dart.
  • Omitted the fisheye darts on the back.
  • Replaced the fisheye darts on the front with four short tucks.
  • Added 1/4" to the side seam at the waist (for a 1" total increase).
  • Removed fabric from the side seam at the hip. (Not sure how much.)
  • Finished the side seam with slits (on the black top only).
  • Drafted a back facing.
  • On the white top, I topstitched most of the seams.
  • On the black top, I used French seams for the shoulders and center back.
  • Shortened both tops about 3". (I couldn't have squeezed out the black top if I hadn't.)

I did experience one problem when constructing the white top. The notch-less collar is designed so the top of the collar is narrower than the bottom. The bottom edge, which is wider, is sewn to the neck of the blouse. I accidentally made the collar upside-down, so I sewed the top of the collar (which is narrower) to the neck edge. This was very challenging to ease, as you can imagine, but I just thought that the pattern was poorly drafted. When the top was almost finished, I realized my error. Luckily, the poorly eased neck seam is hidden under the finished collar, and I didn't love the top (or the fabric) enough to rip it and out make a new collar, so I left it as-is. I made the collar correctly for the black version. If you look at both collars carefully, you can see that the angle of the collar on the white top is different than the angle on the black top, but I think it's quite wearable.

Here they are:

The first version, with the upside down collar, made from a slightly stiff, slightly crisp, white cotton fabric from Michaels.

On a hangar.

Collar closeup. You can see the reverse side of the fabric, with the threads running through it, just below the back facing.

Second version, with short sleeves, made from black cotton voile. I am wearing this with my cream linen/rayon/silk Trio pants.

On a hangar. The black cotton voile has more drape than the white shirting. Also, you can see the collar is right-side up.

Hem closeup. You can see the side slit right through the fabric. I may need to wear a tank under this one. :)