Monday, September 28, 2015

Harem Pants

I've made another garment as a Britex blogger. You can see the post on their blog here.

When Britex asked me to choose one of their polyester fabrics, I was drawn to their Japanese-Influenced Polyester Crepe. The pic on the website doesn't show its true glory, so here it's draped over a chair:

I love the texture of a pebbled crepe and this fabric came through the washer and dryer like a champ.

But how to use it?

I wanted to sew it into harem pants, but I could also see this as a stunning kimono jacket. The fabric resists wrinkles and would be great for travel.

I decided to use Sandra Betzina's harem pant pattern, Vogue 1355. This harem pant is unusual in that it is close-fitting through the crotch. The fullness is located on the inside leg, not at the outer hip.

It is designed for a knit fabric, not a woven, but this fabric has such a wonderful drape that I forged ahead.

I made a few changes. The pattern uses 2 pattern pieces: one for the leg (this is a no-side-seam pant) and one for the yoke. I omitted the yoke and extended the rise of the pant.

The ankle of the pant is quite narrow. I realized it would be too narrow in a woven fabric to get my foot through the opening. I was considering shortening the pant slightly to remedy the problem but, in the end, I really liked it finished with a slit at the inside ankle.

The best thing about these pants, besides the fun print, is that they were a quick sew! Just one pattern piece (after my alterations) meant that I was quickly done.

Thanks to Britex for the fabric!

Friday, September 25, 2015

A Flock of Skirts

One of my favorite chilly-weather outfits is a skirt over leggings, especially with boots. I'm so glad that fall is back!

I actually made these skirts over a long while and I finally took photos. Because I was feeling Very Lazy, I wanted to quickly take pics of all three skirts, with the same top, leggings, boots and jewelry. This detail factors into the section where I discuss sartorial choices—and show myself in an unflattering light. :)

I present the skirts in the order that I made them.


Guy Laroche Rayon Skirt

I actually started this skirt probably 6 or 7 months ago but it was being difficult, so it was sent to timeout. The pattern calls for a lot of fabric, for two reasons. First, the skirt has a (shaped) circle flounce, and second, the entire skirt is self lined. I was dubious about self lining the large flounce, but I did it anyway. I think, with this beefy rayon challis from Emma One Sock, that it wasn't really necessary and, in fact, caused problems. I did not line the yoke. I didn't have enough fabric and it really doesn't need it.

I did not want a zipper, so I eliminated it when increasing the waist at the paper pattern stage.

After the skirt spent several months in timeout, I decided to finish it. It's fine, but if I were to make it again, I would not self line it if the fabric had a nice drape as a single thickness. Of course, it would then require a loooong hem.

Vogue 1450

Animal Print Skirt with Binding

One day I was riding home from work on the subway, and I was mesmerized, staring at a stranger wearing a skirt—it ultimately inspired this skirt. Hers had a very different feel: It was longer, solid colored (khaki? I forget) with black binding, the slit was on both sides, and it looked more like a suit skirt.

I love me some binding.

I didn't use a pattern—it's basically a rectangle. On my skirt, the binding starts at the top of the slit, heads down and goes all the way around the hem, coming up again at the slit, and ending at the waist. The slit is designed to land towards the front of the leg—it's not positioned directly over the side seam. The fabric, a lovely stretch woven, comes from Hart's Fabric and has been in my stash for awhile. I only had a yard of it, and I wanted to make a skirt from it, so I'm glad I finally got around to it. For the binding I used a black wool jersey.

Of all three skirts, I will probably wear this one the most. A short skirt over leggings is one of my favorite grab-it-and-go looks.

Swishy Rayon Skirt

This skirt, #2913 from Silhouette Patterns, is based on a popular Nic & Zoe skirt. I've had this pattern for probably 2 years, and have finally gotten around to it. It is an 8-gore skirt and each gore is pieced, though all of that piecing is rather hidden in this busy polka dot fabric. Somewhere I have a tencel denim that I want to use to make this skirt (tercel denim has wonderful drape), but it's hiding. Instead I used a wonderfully drapy rayon faille, perfect for a swishy gored skirt.

Once again, I eliminated the zipper. If you have a big difference between your waist and hip measurements, you won't want to do that, but since my waist and hips are almost the same, I can make an elastic waist skirt that has almost no bulk at all. "Lucky" me. ;)

I shortened the skirt by about 3". I didn't want it to hit below the knee, which can look frumpy fast.

I will definitely make this skirt again in a fabric where I can topstitch the seams to show them off better. Gored skirts are wonderful to wear! I would never have bought a pattern for a simple 8-gore skirt, but the piecing on this one elevates it and I highly recommend it!

Sartorial Choices

When I was in a rush to take all of these skirt photos with the same outfit, I first threw on a black turtleneck, which is quite form fitting. Over that, I threw on one of my loose black sweaters with holes and an asymmetric hem. I thought it was fine. It looked fine in the mirror.

I went out, three times, carrying my tripod to the alley around the corner, to take these pics.

I uploaded the pics to my camera all at once.

It was Not Good.



I was still feeling lazy, so I quickly changed to one of my favorite jackets and went out three more times.

Still maybe not perfect, but So Much Better. It was as much effort as I wanted to spend on these pics, especially on a morning before work.

I decided to share the before-and-after looks, so you can see the difference.

Frumptastic (on the left)—the worst of the worst.

Reminder to self: you look best in tops that skim the form. And, if you must wear those sweaters, knowing that they aren't your best look, maybe stick to sleek pants. ;)

Artistry in Fashion!

One of my favorite days of the year, Artistry in Fashion, is tomorrow! If you are in the area of Redwood City, CA, please come! The guest speaker is Linda Lee of Sewing Workshop, and Margy is coming up for the event. If you see us, say hi!

Besides AIF this weekend, I'm also going on a staircase walk, and meeting up with some friends to have dinner at mem's house. So not much sewing this weekend, though I did recently finish another Britex garment, which I plan to wear to AIF.

I hope you have a good one!

The sun, trying to peek through at 7am when I took these pics

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Giveaway Winner!

And the winner is......

Kathleen O'Brien!

Congratulations, Kathleen! Please send me an email and I'll see that you receive your gift certificate to Smuggler's Daughter!

And thanks, again, for your wonderful comments on the giveaway post! I truly appreciate it!

I visited Seattle this past week. The trip was for work, but I managed to meet up with Claire Extraordinaire at District Fabrics, followed by a sushi dinner, and gelato. It was fun catching up! I'm now back home, but am feeling low energy and am having trouble settling on a project.

I'm not sure one can even call it dithering if I'm mostly reading. ;)

Monday, August 31, 2015

Blogiversary Giveaway and SewPhotoHop Roundup

Blogiversary Giveaway

My Tablecloth skirt, made with one of the pleated Paris stripes from Smuggler's Daughter.

On my sixth blogiversary post I promised a giveaway, and here it is!

Susan, of Smuggler's Daughter Fabrics has generously donated a $50 gift certificate to one of my readers!

If you would like a chance to win the gift certificate, please leave a comment below. I will draw a name randomly in a week or so. This contest is open to international folks.

Thanks for your generous gift, Susan! And, if you haven't checked out Smuggler's Daughter yet, please do! (You can also follow Smuggler's Daughter on Facebook.) The story of why Susan used that name for her business is rather interesting...

Good luck!

(Do remember to check back to see if you've won. If I have no way to contact you, and I don't hear from you within a week, I will draw a new name. Thx!)

SewPhotoHop Roundup

I've mentioned that Rachel, of House of Pinheiro, organized a "SewPhotoHop" event on Instagram. As you can see in her announcement photo above, each day featured a theme topic.

Hundreds of people participated. In fact, as of this writing, almost 15,000 photos have been posted using this hashtag.


Here are the photos, with text, that I posted. I really thought about each topic. Though, on some days, I felt a bit rushed getting the image made and posted. While I enjoyed it, I'm glad it's over!

And what did I learn? What did I get out of participating?

Well... a couple things.

First, I quickly learned that Instagram prefers a square image, and it (very annoyingly) crops images that use a portrait orientation. I googled and discovered that Instagram's ideal image size is 1080 by 1080 pixels. OK, I can do that. I started cropping, collaging, and resizing my images, as well as adding text on top, mostly using Preview and Omnigraffle. This helped me improve some of my meager graphic skills!

Secondly, I "met" new sewers on Instagram. IG is a lively community with lots of enthusiastic sewers! If you've found my blog through Instagram... Welcome!!

Without further ado... the pics.

Day 1. Introduction. Hello! I'm Shams and I'm 57... Or 56. I can never remember and who cares?! I've been sewing since a little girl and blogging at Communing with Fabric for almost 6 years. I work as a tech writer but sewing for my uber busty body, in my kinda weird aesthetic, and blogging about it, is my passion! This is going to be an interesting month on IG! #sewphotohop

Day 2. Things I can't live without. In this order: 1) inspiration, and plenty of it, 2) time to create and 3) my beloved tools! (This is just a sampling.) #sewphotohop

Day 3: Colorful. I wear a lot of black but love to throw in a pop of bold color, especially red and lime green. Today I am wearing red tennies and the other pic shows a chartreuse poncho I just bought from Ping Wu, a contestant from season 7 of Project Runway. Long live color!

Day 4: Work/Play. I work as a tech writer for Google, so I am on the computer pretty much all day. The pic on the left was taken on May 2014 as I worked at a walking desk. At home, I am online much of the time, being a blogger, and all. The pic on the right was taken today. In between, I squeeze in as much sewing as possible! My kids, who grew up watching me work at home for most of their lives, pretty much declared they didn't want such a "boring" job. Little do they know! #sewphotohop

Day 5. Silhouette. I often say my shape is that of "a potato on toothpicks." In other words, lots up top and little below. I can wear skinny pants, leggings, and short pencil skirts made from wild prints or white. But I have to avoid wrap tops, waterfall designs and excess fabric or frills up top. I spend a lot of time on FBAs and altering top and jacket patterns but, for me, pants are easy. A recent study in the UK showed that only 8% of women have my shape and I sometimes envy pear shaped women with actual waists who can wear so many fun tops that look atrocious on me. #sewphotohop

Day 6: Pattern that changed your life. I think it would have to be my Tablecloth Skirt. Several years back a friend saw a Lynn Mizono dress on Artful Home's website for $500 and asked me how to copy it. I didn't know. But months later I was looking at it online and a flash went off in my head and I realized it was quite simple. I posted the instructions on my blog and it was a hit. I've made at least five of them myself. About a year later #VoguePatterns came out with a pattern for Lynn's dress, though it is now OOP. But you can use the pattern for the dress or the instructions for my skirt. It's a win-win! #sewphotohop

Day 7: Sew up close. A closeup from my last make. You can see the fringed bias edging (fringed with my thumbnails) and one of the snaps covered with a scrap of lining. #sewphotohop #winsewphotohop @fabricgodmother

Day 8: Sewing playlist. I listen to TV shows or movies, generally things I have seen before or programs that don't require my eyeballs. Here is a sampling. #sewphotohop

Day 9: Stash. <ahem> Enough said. #sewphotohop (Note, I found this cartoon on Facebook without attribution, so I don't know who created it.)

Day 10: Who would I exchange closets with... While I wouldn't exchange closets with anyone, these women own the closets I would most like to plunder! Margy, Dorothy, Ann, Heather, and Sarah have exquisite taste and own wonderful shoes and accessories, including many art pieces, as well as stunning clothes, many of them self made. I am fortunate to have these women in my life! #sewphotohop

Day 11: Bucket List. I don't have a bucket list but I didn't have to think more than 2 seconds for today's topic. One day I hope to travel to Paris with Marcy and Katherine Tilton!!! #sewphotohop

Day 12: Motivation. I am equally motivated by garments I see in real life and by garments I see online. (Pinterest, anyone?) #sewphotohop

Day 13: Sewing space. This is where it all happens, baby! #sewphotohop

Day 14: Style. It's hard to choose but this pic, and outfit, sums up my style fairly succinctly. I am a bit goofy, geeky, funky, and don't mind standing out when I dress to my aesthetic. My clothes need to feature interesting "twists" and/or details; they must be at least somewhat flattering on my uber busty, waistless, and tiny-hipped figure and, above all, they must be comfy. This coat, which I call my "grommet duster", is made from pinstriped denim and features almost 300 grommets and funky bellows pockets. I started with a Butterick dress pattern. You can read more here. I have been twirling since I started blogging 6 years ago, and that represents me, too. :) #sewphotohop #winsewphotohop @stylemakerfabrics

Day 15: Secret corner of shame. Oy. Some sewists collect buttons. Not me. I collect zippers. I adore zippers. Here is a pile of my zippers. Confession 1: These were on the floor. So after taking this pic, at least they went into a bag. Confession 2: They had outgrown the previous bag! Confession 3: THIS IS NOT ALL OF MY ZIPPERS! #sewphotohop

Day 16: Tiny vs Big. Did I mention that I collect zippers? #sewphotohop

Day 17: Proudest achievement. This was a tough one for me. My proudest achievement is raising two great kids. (Raising them is much tougher than giving birth to them!) And I wouldn't call this an "achievement", exactly, but I was mighty tickled when Vogue Pattern Magazine asked to feature me as a "Star Blogger" in their Dec 2013/Jan 2014 issue. #sewphotohop

Day 18: Sewing resolutions. I am not a fan of making resolutions which can quickly lead to a sense of guilt and failure. I have lots of ideas and I choose a project based on what has the most "juice." I like a challenge...even though they often intimidate me. :) #sewphotohop

Day 19: Boldest fabric. It would have to be this beauty, which has been aging in my stash since buying it six years ago. 100% wool, it has the look of Yohji Yamamoto. The large holes are the size of dinner plates. #sewphotohop

Day 20: Learning & Practicing. I am ALWAYS learning and practicing. ALWAYS! It's important to be fearless in taking on challenges. I learned this smocking technique and then used it at the hem of my pants. #sewphotohop

Day 21: Shades of summer. One of the summer-iest things I've made. I used a rayon challis border print from @britexfabrics on a 60-degree angle bias, and I sewed the entire thing by hand to control the bias better. It is one of my favorite things to wear on those rare days I find myself in hot weather. I also included a literal pic of my summer shades! (This pic was taken this summer when Mari of @Seamster patterns came to visit!) @plushaddict #sewphotohop #winsewphotohop @ddisciplines

Day 22: Last thing I made. #sewphotohop

Day 23: Favorite sewing technique. This was almost impossible to narrow down, but I guess I choose mixing! Mixing fabrics, fibers, elements. The coat used a wool from @britexfabrics and I knit the sleeves and collar. The shirt used a fabric panel from @marcytilton as well as a rayon challis and two quilting cottons, one a batik and the other a Japanese fabric. #sewphotohop

Day 14: Worst part of sewing. DITHERING! Dithering is a huge part of my process. I also dislike taping patterns together. #sewphotohop

Day 25: Behind the seams. I finished this linen duster with bias tape. I positioned the Geisha's face so that she's "got my back" (on the back facing). #sewphotohop

Day 26: Labor of love. I guess I'd have to say my wedding dress, though I made an even more involved dress for my SIL a year later. The year was 1989 and I was 29. We had a garden wedding so I didn't want a train. I used glass pearls for the back because they had a better hang. I spent ages beading the lace with more glass pearls. I used boning, horsehair braid, the works. 'Twas a long time - a lifetime - ago! #sewphotohop

Day 27: It's been awhile. Several years back I decided to do at least one needle felting project per year. Its been several years! #sewphotohop

Day 28: Trims & Haberdashery. I don't use trims much except using a selvedge as a decorative edging. I am a fan of zippers, but I've covered that in other posts. So here I've decided to acknowledge some of the other hardware I've used. I love hardware! Toggles and closures of all kinds. Rivets. Grommets. (The denim duster has 2 gross of grommets.) Studs. Weird ass metal thingies-I never did figure out what those were for but I put them in my self drafted cowl. I love it all! #sewphotohop #winsewphotohop @girlcharleeuk

Day 29: Eye level. This is what I'm looking at today. I'm hand sewing a binding. #sewphotohop

Day 30: Favorite era. This one! I'm not enamored with any particular decade and I love that today we can wear whatever we like, pretty much. But, if I could, I'd climb into Issey Miyake's brain and watch the 70s, 80s, and 90s unfold. Miyake, born in Hiroshima, survived the bombing as a child, worked under some of the biggest French designers, and opened his own design house in 1970. He started publishing patterns with Vogue in the early 80s. His designs were completely new and incorporated origami, complex pleating, and technology. His innovations are still being copied today and continue to look avant garde and fresh. He retired from his design house in 1999 to pursue research. He also created 100 black turtleneck shirts for his friend, Steve Jobs. :) I love you, #isseymiyake! #sewphotohop

Day 31: Last thing I bought. Some fun fabrics! The colors in these photos are a bit misleading. A) Perforated purple wool coating. B) Tattered white linen. C) Black (yes, black) textured cotton with mesh between each square. --- @houseofpinheiro, thanks for organizing such an interesting photo hop with such thought provoking topics! #sewphotohop

Bonus play: Buttons or zippers. I did mention that I love zippers, right? Even my glasses have zippers! #sewphotohop