Giving up the dotcom

Hello reader(s),

I'm giving up my dot com address, which has always redirected here to my blogspot anyway.

If you have the site bookmarked for any reason, please switch it over to http://thebitchinstitch.blogspot.com/



Keeping me on my toes

Interwebz, I have a problem.

I have over 100 crafty/fashion/sewing/costume blogs in my rss feed. A year and a half ago, it hadn't really occurred to me to seek out or read crafty blogs, but now I just can't stop. There are only a handful of them that I will actually stop and read every post, usually I just skim down until I see a picture that catches my eye, and maybe, just maybe I'll read some of the associated text. And I wonder why I can't focus on anything. Blame the blogs.

Design Sponge is one of the ones I usually skim past, to be perfectly honest. Don't get me wrong, it's a finely crafted blog. But it's updated about one million times per day which makes for a lot of posts to get through in the old reader. It's also one of those blogs that makes me feel inadequate for not living in an ultra-hip apartment made fabulous through my own handiness and eclectic design genius. My apartment looks nothing like anything on Design Sponge, believe you me.

But every now and then I see a post that is actually something I would actually do in my real life, not my fantasy fabu-life. So I thought I'd share a couple.

Mine looks much less romantic, and I skipped the strawberry consommé (this time).

(brb - just going to fill up another glass.)

Aaaaaahhhhhhhh. This is so amazingly simple and rewarding. It's basically grated ginger, sugar, water, lemon juice and yeast, mixed with two days of patience and a little ice. Sipping on this soda pop that I MADE makes me think of how great it would be to be sipping on actually alcoholic ginger beer that I MADE. There is research to be done. For now, the virgin version is fine by me.

I've had a similar version of one of these for a long time that I stuffed with newspaper as emergency seating when I have too many guests in my tiny, and not fabu-furnished apartment. I also have bags AND boxes of scraps in my closet to deal with, so more floor cushions are on the horizon. I plan to use the larger scraps for the cover and the smaller scraps for the stuffing. I also plan to add a zipper on the side to jam more scraps in there as time goes on and the stuffing compresses.

So, reader(s), wanna feed my addiction and let me know about your favourite blogs?
Or projects you've recently bookmarked? Those of the scrap-bustin' variety are most welcome.


On A Go Forward Basis

How do these bloggers do it? I mean, I have a had enough time actually getting around to doing stuff, and then to write about it? I have developed such immense respect for people out there like Gertie, Peter, and The Selfish Seamstress, who not only embark on amazing and inspiring sewing adventures every day, but find the time to write about it in a wholly entertaining and engaging way. Just had to send out some props to those guys (and the hundred or so other blogs that keep me on the computer and away from the sewing machine!).

I'm into the second week of my internship with a production of The Jazz Singer (in Yiddish no less) and it's been so refreshing being back in a theatre environment after a while away. I've worked on a couple of little projects since I started sewing school, but it's great being in the costume shop all day working with fantastic people. So far I've drafted and sewn a couple of camiknicker sets (I don't know if that's a real word) and cut out 9 identical sequined chorus girl dresses.

Now, I can't claim the ones I made are quite as glamourous as this, but they're pretty sweet if I do say so myself. I'll try and get some photos of the costumes we're working on at some point.

In other news, I'm making myself a jean-ish jacket, sort of based on this one but not quite:

I have never in my life found a jean jacket that looks good on my big busted, narrow back-ed, short waisted physique, and am not crazy about the double-denim look (and do wear jeans at all times). So it's a jean-ish jacket. Found some white stretch cotton twill that I've had in my stash for, oh, 10 years now (actually recalling the age of items in my stash sort of makes me queasy). Got the jacket mostly made up except for collars, cuffs, facing and zip, but then the old machine called it quits. So I moved on to dyeing while waiting for my aggravation level to subside. Was hoping for a purplish grey colour, but ended up with a very much purple. We'll see if I overdye it or leave it be.

That's it for now, dear reader(s).


Spring has sprung!

Well, interwebz, it's been awhile.

I'm almost finished my diploma program (which I initially started this blog to document - oops), and will soon be looking for work as a certified seamstress. I sometimes feel like a bit of a crazy person trying to make a career out of something so chronically low-paid and under-appreciated. But one of these days I'll be in business for myself, and that's definitely something to look forward to. For the next year or so I'm stoked about sewing in theatrical costume shops around town and learning all kinds of amazing things - and getting paid! Student living begone! I really am getting too old for that kind of thing. The plus side is that after a year of living on student loans, even minimum wage will make me feel rich!

Yesterday I cleaned out my sewing space (also known as the kitchen). Everything is organized into cute little (labeled) drawers, and I have a cabinet for my machine now so I don't have to heave it up onto the kitchen table every time I want to sew. I think this will help me get around to my home projects. I haven't been bringing much home since I started sewing school; six hours of sewing a day is usually enough for me. But if I just have to flip open the cabinet, and reach into one of my ergonomically placed drawers for scissors, pins and needles, I suspect I'll get a lot more done.

There she is, before and after. Kind of makes me want to sit down and do some sewing right now. But, I'm afraid there's still the matter of the closet....


It must be done. I finish school this week, and have to make room for all of my notes and projects I'll be bringing home over the next few days. It's my intention to have a skim through them and do a few posts on the most interesting things I've learned over the past year in sewing school.  And this time I mean it! 

I've always thought spring resolutions were much better than New Year's resolutions. After all, spring is the real new year, January 1st is just a hangover. So here are my spring sewing resolutions:

1. Finish clearing up the sewing area, and making it a nice and easy place to work.

2. GET RID OF STUFF. See how full that closet is? NO NEED.

3. Make myself a wardrobe. With inspiration from The Uniform Project, I'd like to make myself a series of tunic style dresses that can be worn with tights or pants, with a cardigan type thing over top. 

4. Make me some underpants and bras. If anyone has a line on an underwear pattern that doesn't ride up, you know, where the sun don't shine, please share! 
5. Get back into fabric manipulation, felting, dyeing, embroidery, etc. I did a diploma in textile studies, goodness, almost 10 years ago, and would love to put into practice all of the amazing things I learned there. Have been very curious about compost dyeing, anyone out there ever tried it?

6. And of course, blog more! I must admit, with so many great crafty blogs out there, it's easy to get swept away reading, and never get around to contributing. And so I resolve to stop being such a little lurker, and step up!

And what about you, dear reader(s)? Has the coming of spring renewed your inspiration?


Lessons learned

Right now, I'm enjoying a (second) glass of wine, having (finally) delivered my most recent sewing job for someone else. This is not something I do often, and when I do, it tends to be for dear friends. This particular job was for a relative of a friend, and seemed easy enough at first (famous last words).

This dress had a lovely ruched bodice with a three layer skirt. The top two layers (chiffon and a sort of polyester lining fabric) were gathered at the waist, something my client was not fond of. Easy enough right? Detach skirt from bodice, pull out gathers, recut side seams and sew. The problem? Firstly, slippery fabric is slippery and hard enough to cut when it's painstakingly laid out flat on a table. When it's still attached to a dress (cause I sure as heck didn't want to detach all those layers from the zipper and reattach them), it's a little more evasive. The second problem: fabric cut on the bias.

Now, awhile back, I had read a feature in Threads magazine about Charles Kleibacker "Master of the Bias". You've probably read this article, because Threads has rerun it about three times now (is this a pet peeve of anyone else?) What I learned from this article is that fabric cut on the bias has, well, a bias, in that it leans more heavily in one direction than the other. This is because of the way fabric is woven. Wovens, you see, have a warp and a weft. The warp is threaded onto the loom (vertical threads) and the weft is shuttled back and forth between (horizontal threads). This creates a fabric which is more stable vertically than horizontally. This is why when you cut your pattern pieces, you lay them out with the straight grain indications running parallel to the selvedges of the fabric (the vertical sides).


When you cut on the bias (on a 45 degree angle to the straight grain), you still have to contend with the warp being more stable (taut) than the weft. This causes the fabric to lean more heavily to one side. According to Kleibacker, to rein this in, you want to add a centre seam to your garment, and cut so that the warp is radiating out from this centre seam, instead of across the whole of the garment, causing the fabric to bias evenly on either side. Allow me to illustrate (for actual photos of an actual garment, click on the Kleibacker link above):


On the left, we see a skirt front fully cut on the bias (no, my arrows are not perfectly on the 45 degrees - I mentioned I'm on my second glass of wine?). The arrows represent the warp threads leaning in one direction. On the right, we find a skirt with a centre front seam, each side having been cut with the warp radiating outwards. Now, picture a slightly a-line skirt that forms slight waves towards the hem when worn. The skirt on the left will have a more prominent wave on one side than the other. The skirt on the right will have equal waviness on either side, obviously the more desirable effect.

This lesson remained somewhat abstract to me until I undertook this project. This particular dress, having much fullness in the skirt, did not concern itself with a centre seam, since there was so much excess fabric, that gravity pretty much took care of any biased waving. Gathers removed, however, it was quite an endeavour to get a slimmer look without more of a wave on the sides (or, on one side) than on the front. The more I tried to slim it out, the more I got a pronounced "pook" on one side than the other. I ended up leaving more of a flare on the sides than desired, because at least it looked more even.

On the left is the result when I tried to slim out the skirt. It had a much more pronounced lean on one side than the other because it was cut on the bias in one piece. On the right is the skirt with more fullness than desired (as in, more on the sides than on the front), but at least it was even.

Well, I hope that made some sense. I didn't quite understand it myself until I tried to explain it to my boyfriend over dinner (yes, I do subject him to this sort of thing). I'm not very on the ball about taking pictures of my process, so line drawings shall have to suffice for now, dear reader(s?).

A review of lessons learned:

1. It's never as easy as it seems. In fact, sometimes, it may be easier to just make a new frikkin dress than to alter one.
2. You can't fight the fabric.
3. Until I have actually produced a complete wardrobe for myself, I shall not embark on any alterations for others, unless I truly love you. 

A Selfish Seamstress inspired haiku to leave off with:

It may seem easy.
I forgive you, you don't sew.
I should know better.