Sunday, January 26, 2014

Ready, Set, Snorkel!

Wow, was this a quick sew!

I needed something I could wear swimming and snorkeling and I had very little time to get it together.

I purchased a swim tee from Lands End, in navy with white polka dots. (I really liked the blue tie dye swim tee, but it was not yet in stock.)

Yes, I could sew this, but I was in a rush.

To go with the swim tee, I sewed up a pair of swim shorts. I just happened to buy several coordinating nylon lycra swim fabrics more than a year ago from The Fabric Fairy, so I used the navy-and-white diagonal stripe.

I used the Style Arc Laura Legging pattern, which I have used before. It's a great pattern - it has just one pattern piece - there is no side seam or separate waistband. I chopped it off a bit above the knee, cut it out, and sewed up the three seams, lickety split.

I had plan to complete the shorts using gripper elastic but my order of gripper elastic didn't arrive in time, so I used regular elastic.

I also sewed two short lengths of elastic into the top, one at each side seam, several inches above the hem. This elastic will be attached to the top of the swim shorts, once I have them on. This will prevent the swim tee from flying up in the water and exposing the goods, but there is some play so it can move a bit.

Besides protecting me from sunburn, this swim top lets me wear an actual bra - I will have much better support than if I wore a bathing suit with built-in cups. (Those are not nearly supportive enough for me.)

As you can see, I also ordered a custom snorkel mask from Snorkel Mart.

The process was quite easy - I entered the corrective value separately for each eye - you don't actually need a prescription - it's sort of like buying reading glasses in that regard. (My eyes are -3.75 and -3.5, and the options don't include quarter fractions, so I rounded down and ordered -3.5 for each eye). I haven't worn the mask underwater yet, but I can *really* see with it on dry land. The mask feels very airtight, so I am hopeful that it won't leak.

It will be so nice to *see* the Hawaiian fishies, rather than a big blur, and the mask cost only $55, which seemed pretty reasonable.

And, yes, I have shaved my legs.

To my colleagues and the denizens of Maui: you're welcome.

By the way, the corrective snorkel mask can be used in the shower, too, for useful activities like leg shaving.

If you haven't yet seen the gorgeous jacket that Margy made for the workshop I led, check out Margy's elegant jacket! Also, Gayle has made a beautiful jacket using a pocket pattern that I provided at the workshop. Check out Gayle's beautiful and wearable jacket!

Monday, January 20, 2014

WTH, Shams? A Floral Maxi Dress

Why the heck am I wearing a floral maxi dress?

Good question!

Yes, it's true that our weather has been in the 70s.

This is just not right for January.

We've had almost no rainfall this winter so, unless things change soon, we are facing a real drought this year.

But that's not why I've made a floral maxi.

On my first day of work I learned that there was going to be a team building event in Maui.

I had almost no time to prepare for it (no time to shop for fabric or patterns) and I own almost no warm weather clothes. You don't really need them in my corner of San Francisco, where summer almost never visits.

This piece of rayon lycra knit came in a free bundle from FabricMart many months ago. I immediately earmarked it for donation, as I really don't wear prints like this in my everyday life. When I learned I was going to Maui, I dug it out. It's pretty perfect for Hawaii, I think.

The pattern is Annie's Cami, a woven tank top pattern from Style Arc. (I would never call this style of top a "cami" since, to my mind, a cami has spaghetti straps.) I already had this pattern in my stash.

I omitted the bust pocket, the center back seam (which is shaped - a nice detail but I didn't need another seam in this flimsy knit), and lengthened it by 25". I made the hem about 60" wide, thanks to a friend (Lynn C!) who measured my stride with a tape measure. I just barely had enough fabric to cut it out and I wish I'd made the dress another inch longer.

After sewing it up, I removed fullness from the side seams - about 5/8" from each side seam (2.5" total) from the bust and about 2.5" (10" total) from the waist, tapered to nothing at the hip. (This pattern is designed for a woven, not a knit, so it has more ease than I needed, plus it's a size 18 which is not my current size.) I eased the dart (which I had lowered) at the side seam.

You can hardly ask for a simpler sew. I love the fit. I am even happy with the neckline, which I often raise, but I didn't this time.

I plan to wear this with the black voile Butterick tie top that I made in July.


This is a quick team-building work trip, so I don't need a lot of clothes (thank goodness), but I have decided (largely because of the print of this dress) that the primary colors of my travel wardrobe will be black, white, and orange. Yes, ORANGE. I have some new orange shoes from Lit Foot, and plenty of orange jewelry (that I already owned, plus my daughter gave me a beautiful bracelet with orange in it for Christmas).

I also have a great collapsible orange straw hat that I bought second hand some time ago and packs flat. I love red, but orange is fun, too. :)

This hat collapses so that it's completely flat.

My swim "suit" will be in blues. It's not really a swim suit, but I'll post more after I have something to show.

I also can't resist sharing my favorite new sleep shirt.

At work, employees are called "Googlers". There are various riffs to this theme. When you are a new employee, you are a Noogler. In my first week of work, I joined a group called the Greyglers. Yes, these are folks who self identify as older and who might discuss issues relevant to older employees. They also have a workout group which I have not yet checked out.

I was thrilled to buy the Greygler tee-shirt from the Google store. In fact, I went back and bought two more of them so I'll have spares. You can buy one, too.

In the Google store, they call this shirt the "Wise Android Shirt". I don't work on an Android project, and I don't have an Android phone (at least not yet), but I love the little robot mascot, which is why I bought the giant stuffed Android for my daughter (also available in the online store). And I really do plan to give it to her.

Maybe. :)

Clothes for the Hip Dude

Several weeks ago a colleague was visiting my (shared) office. He was standing so that his side was to me as he was speaking to another colleague. Imagine my surprise when I spied an octopus print peeking out of his side pocket.

And my delight.

I could see that the double welt pocket on the back of the pants also had the print peeking out and I gently moved his shirt a couple inches so that I could see better.

Then I thought better of this and I knocked it off. (Though not until after I'd noticed that the same print lined the front fly.)

Those of you who love clothes as much as I, will understand.

I asked and learned that he has lots of these pants. He bought many pairs from a local company called Betabrand.

So I looked them up that evening.

This company, located in San Francisco, has really cool clothes for the hip young set. He favors the pants called "cordarounds". I assume that they are so-called because the wale of the corduroy goes horizontally *around* the body, rather than in the conventional vertical direction.

I now enjoy catching a glimpse of his fun contrasting pockets, but you don't have to resort to any untoward behavior to see for yourself. Here are a few pics from their website, which is a lot of fun. They have women's clothes as well, but I will save that online investigation for a bus ride.

(While I wouldn't wear most of their clothes at my age, I get a lot of inspiration from creative clothing like this. And if I had a son to shop for, I would totally buy these for him!)

UnGreen Cordarounds with Octopus Contrast
Khaki Cordarounds with Geisha Contrast
Chestnut Cordarounds with Bunny Contrast
Graphite Cordarounds with El Diablito Contrast

Friday, January 17, 2014

Happy Endings - Update on the Epic Fail

One of my most popular blog posts of all time is about my "Epic Fail" jacket or, what I referred to as the "Ladybug Lab Coat".

I posted this jacket a little more than a year ago, in early January. It hung in my closet, unworn, for months. Last September, during the FabricMart competition, I pulled it out and started wondering if I could refashion it somehow, to make it work better.

Nothing came to mind.

After the competition was over, I put it on my dress form so it would be constantly in view. I spent a lot of time and energy trying to figure out what I could do to improve it.

Nothing came to mind.

When I was packing for last weekend's workshop, I decided to throw the ladybug coat into the car, along with the other garments I was bringing to show.

Once I arrived in Santa Cruz, the jacket was laying on a table in the classroom. (Or maybe it was hanging on the rolling rack, I can't remember.)

Margy spied the jacket and put it on.

It looked good on her.

Really good.

She ended up wearing it for awhile.

Later that evening, I was sharing the garments that I'd brought. Towards the end, the Ladybug Jacket was mentioned, as I hadn't talked about it. I mentioned that it didn't look great on me, but I sensed disbelief in the room, especially after they had seen how great it looked on Margy.

Margy had taken it off so that I could put it on.

So I did.

There was no mirror, but I did not need a mirror.

In an instant, I was able to absorb the expression on most every face in the room.

I might describe the reaction as "polite shock."

This cracked me up and confirmed my belief that this jacket really does not look good on me.

I sent it home with Margy.

She was happy.

I was happy.

It turns out that last year, I thought I was making myself a jacket, but I was actually making a jacket for a treasured friend.

And now I don't have to cut it up.

I am not really a refashion-er at heart, anyway.

Margy has been busy lately, but in the next week or two she will hopefully have some time to post and, just maybe, she will include some pics of herself wearing the Ladybug Jacket.

You will be amazed at how the same garment can look so good on one body and so bad on another.

Too Many Clothes

I recently participated in an exchange in one of my online sewing groups. A couple people asked if I would mind sharing my thoughts in a broader venue, so here it is:

It bothers me when sewers say that they can't justify making more garments, because they have enough jackets/tops/pants/coats.

So what?

My grandmother was an artist of the painting variety. She never sold a painting in her life. When she passed, her house, and her attic, was full of paintings. I say, good for her. Does my daughter, who writes poetry, write too many poems? Does my other daughter, the dancer, perform too many leaps?

Once we pass, it's a lot harder to sew/craft/paint/sing/dance/create. :)

My clothing is my art. So what if it's all over my house. I do give clothing away to various friends/charities, but I reject the notion that I shouldn't sew/acquire things because I have "too many". (Though, sometimes my mojo insists that I clean up, but that's different.)

And, sometimes, I give things I've made to friends and that is pretty great, too. :)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Checking In

Several of you have sent some very nice, very supportive emails. Thank you! You have also commented on my lack of posting. So let me give you a bit of an update.

Lots has been going on, but not a lot at the sewing machine.

Table of Contents:

Here's a bit of a summary...

A Day in the Life...

First up, there's work:

  • Work continues to be a massive learning experience. I like it, but sometimes I feel quite whelmed.
  • I have been learning Dart (of course), JavaScript, Git, App Engine, Markdown (the version we use is Kramdown), and CSS, to name a few things. And, of course, there are so many new processes and workflows to learn. Plus, there is all of the mandatory training one must take so that I understand how not to inside trade, sexually harass, or violate export law.
  • There are also so many acronyms, code words, product names, third party products, and concepts to learn, that I've started a file that I call "getAClue". In there, I save FAQ-style tuples, like "What is AWFE?" "What is Heroku?" "How do I create hover text in markdown?" "How do I request software?" It's already an alarmingly long file.
  • I sometimes wonder what the heck I was thinking to take on this career change in my mid 50s.
  • I have been really enjoying wearing my wardrobe to work. At first, I started with my more "tame" clothing but, as time passes, I have been letting my freak flag fly. No one bats at eye, which is nice.
  • Speaking of which, I enjoy wearing my Trippens to work about once a week. I learned that they work excellently on a bicycle. No problems whatsoever. In fact, the space between the blocks on the sole really holds on to a bike pedal.
  • My days are long. I leave home in the dark and return in the dark. I have been enjoying the gorgeous full moon of the last few days. I am also looking forward to longer daylight hours!
  • At first, I planned to document my wardrobe in a new (private) blog called "Sartorial Shams". HA. Leaving in the dark and returning in the dark makes that almost impossible.
  • At first, I planned to select my daily outfit the night before so it would be ready to go the next morning. HA. That idea lasted me ONE DAY. Seriously, by the second day of work I couldn't be bothered.
  • I have gained weight. The "Google 15" is real. In fact, for many it's more like the "Google 50".
  • I am working on developing better strategies to deal with the ever present and seductive food. Have you ever been on a cruise ship? So have I. You know what the food is like? This is worse. Or better, depending on how you look at it. Thirty cafes/restaurants serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, and manned by real chefs? And it's all free? Yeah. There are even cafes that specialize in truffles, ice cream, or fro-yo (frozen yogurt).
  • My team (who is fabulous, by the way) has an ethos that we do not use the elevator. (I sometimes cheat.) We work on the 4th floor (on one campus, and on the 6th floor of another). As a result of the stairs, and the bikes that I ride when I need to travel to another building, my thighs are becoming rock hard in a way that doesn't happen with just walking.
  • I think that the exercise, coupled with the bounty of fresh vegetables and fruits, is keeping me pretty healthy despite the weight gain.
  • There is a motto at work: "You are never more than 50 feet from food." This is true, though I don't quite understand the need. (Are we infants?) Most floors are equipped with two mini kitchens. These mini kitchens are quite impressive, and include attractive jars of cereals, several bowls of organic fruit, racks of snack foods, two stocked fridges, and at least two espresso/cappuccino machines. I learned yesterday that I love kumquats. There was a bowl of kumquats and instructions on eating them. Yum.
Yay! Kumquats!

My First Workshop!

I have mentioned several times in the last months that I was going to be leading a 3-day workshop in January. That happened last weekend for a small group in the Santa Cruz area. The theme was "fabric mixing" with an emphasis on making jackets.

I spent a lot of my free time in the last couple months preparing handouts and samples. Some of the information was from my blog, but some was specially prepared. I provided patterns for some elements that I created, such as some unusual pockets. I also brought some patterns for tracing that I had worked up over the years. Finally, I brought several Au Bonheur patterns that are now out of print. I also spoke at length about how I do FBAs, narrow shoulders, widen sleeves, and how I construct garments to ensure a good fit through the bust.

I also brought Margy along. She was my pillar of support and it was fabulous to see her again in the flesh. We hadn't seen each other in a couple of years. Margy took lots of pictures and will be posting some, I think. (She sent me the one I posted above.)

In a nutshell, I felt like it went pretty well. Some of my lectures seemed to be well received and others could definitely have been improved. This group of sewists are lovely, and many are more creative than I am, which is a bit intimidating. But they were wonderful, open, gracious, good humored, and took amazingly good care of Margy and myself. (This was an informal group of friends and are not affiliated with a store or a school.)

While at the workshop, I made 2.5 trips to one of my favorite brick-and-mortar fabric stores - Hart's Fabrics in Santa Cruz. This store just continues to get better! (I count the "half trip" as when two of the women in the workshop headed over, and I asked them to pick up a couple fabrics for me.) I have been buying less fabric in general recently, but I couldn't resist some of their tasty numbers!

Margy and I also visited CrossRoad Fabrics in the same area. (They don't seem to have a website.) They had some lovely Ralph Lauren black woven trouser-weight fabric for $12 a yard that came home with each of us, as well as a few other pieces. All in all, a good fabric haul!

It's a Long Weekend!

Now that the workshop is over, my weekends are my own again. This coming weekend is 3 days long and I am eager to get to the sewing machine. I think, for now, most of my sewing will be of the quick and easy variety, but I am looking forward to sewing at least some on each of the three days! So stay tuned.

By the way, I wrote this blog post on the bus to work. I usually avoid using the computer on the bus, as I like to meditate, listen to music, and watch the sunrise. Plus, I can get motion sick. But this worked out ok - I started it on the morning ride and finished on the evening ride. This is promising!