Page 3 of 5

Oh, phooey. WordPress blips.

Pardon the look of the site today. This site went down yesterday and in the process took the theme and design with it. This is all a part of learning WordPress, which uses php and can suck resources from your server, and I learned that one’s server can actually “kill” your site. (Yes, this is the term my host’s support used: “we killed your site!” Drastic.) Hopefully I will get things back up and running in no time!

By the way, I use the Thesis theme for WordPress. I have gotten quite used to it, and used to customizing it. There are other great themes and blogging platforms out there, but finding one to tweak and sticking with it makes life a whole lot easier, especially when one is running multiple sites on WordPress.

Lady Grey and Muslin Tweaking

The first time I made a “muslin” out of muslin, the project went awry. I was making a coat out of Chinese silk brocade. In muslin, the pattern behaved badly and I kept fitting and re-fitting the sleeves, cutting and re-cutting the muslin, until I realized that in silk the thing would have draped and fit quite perfectly the first time around.

I’ll pause here for my non-sewing readers who might ask, what the heck is a muslin?

Muslin: a term used varyingly by dressmakers to refer either to a testing/fitting garment or the actual fabric. Muslin is a cheap, often unbleached, cotton fabric. Geeky writerly explanation: using it in the former manner is synecdoche, a metaphor in which a part of a whole represents the whole. I think English dressmakers call the test garment “toile”, and the cotton fabric used to make it “calico”. I kinda like the distinction. Oh, and ‘muslin’ was an older colonial word for ‘muslim’, since the origin of the textile and clothing made from it came from ‘muslin’ traders. (Just as denim comes “from Nimes” — “de NĂ®mes”.) I just love etymology.

Read more →

Lady Grey progress and thoughts on tailoring

Things are moving fast over at Gertie’s Lady Grey Sew-Along. Apparently I should be cutting out my muslin now. The muslin fabric is ironed and laid out on my cutting table, the pattern is half cut out, but time is short and limited. I figured I have a total of 4-5 sewing hours a week. One would think that is enough but I am working on three other projects, including an apron dress for my friend Hannah and a pair of trousers that I will be posting about soon. Another is a surprise.

I really love the fabric I chose for the coat. It came in last week and is just gorgeous. I can’t for the life of me decide on lining fabric, which needs to be ordered, and soon.

This sew-along is focusing on traditional tailoring techniques. It’s an unusual project to learn tailoring on; it’s not a traditional jacket or coat, and I’m not using wool. One of my goals for the next year is to actually make a tailored blazer. Read more →

Norma Kamali and postmodern economy

Now I was just a wee lass when Norma Kamali came out with her famous “sleeping bag” coat and the Christie Brinkley bikini. My cultural memory filed her as one of the classic disco-sheen designers of the 70s, and there she lay. So when I bought a cool zippy anorak by “Kamali for Everlast” in a hunt for some funky non-yoga workout clothes, my fashion memory warmed up to the possibility of her return.

I loved that thing so much it reached a state of decay after too much painting and gardening in it. So I thought, in this day and age of you-and-me-and-everyone-we-know, of Bluefly via eBay, that I might be able to find another from someone else’s abandoned closet. I did find a few remaining Everlast pieces but discovered the brand had gone defunct. And instead I ended up at Norma Kamali’s website.

And this place is a blast.

Read more →

The Shirtdress: a curated history

I‘m a total sucker for shirtdresses (or you may be a bit old fashioned and call them “shirtwaisters”). I like the idea of a dress with a collar, or a dress that looks like one long shirt. And even if it’s fitted, it’s not telling you it is. One’s figure is definitely there, but not screaming at you. It’s so simple, so, I don’t know, 50s screen beauty sipping lemonade on the veranda.

I started thinking about them again when I saw this Stella dress last spring.


{photos: style.com and net-a-porter.com}

Read more →

Ooh la la, my swatches are here.

So I’ve committed my way to making the Lady Grey coat, at least in the form of buying swatches. They arrived yesterday, along with the pattern.


I’m an insane collector of fashion images, color schemes, design layouts–both physical and virtual–so gathering the supplies and going through swatches is probably my favorite part of sewing. Silhouettes are one thing, designs another, and I’m even less concerned with fit than many people. Even the actual sewing itself comes behind this part. I often fall asleep at night thinking about all the possible outcomes of a project, imagining details and fabrics. (I’m a fan of beginnings. I usually “hear” my best potential poems falling asleep, which doesn’t help me much as a poet.)
Read more →

Tailoring a Vest

Seven years ago my husband started asking me to design a vest. Inevitably, if you sew, someone you love is going to ask you to make something for them. I don’t know why this happens all the time, but it’s sorta like someone asking you to write a song for them if you’re a musician. And at the same time there’s something gratifying in that; somehow they perceive the skill or talent to be extraordinary.

But Derek understands what it means to ask; he knew that me making a vest for him would take on some spiritual implications. Kinda like me designing his a coat of armor. I was happy to do it, but some of the skills required were way above my level.

Read more →

Beginnings are good, but the follow-through?

I love beginnings, full of possibilities and options. And somewhere in the middle of things I get bogged down, bored or stressed, and I’m realizing it’s because I often spend too much time on the beginnings, leaving all possibilities open. I re-took the Myers-Briggs personality test last year and it really opened my eyes to this aspect of my personality. (I’m a classic, off-the-charts INFP.)

I am primarily a writer, but I’m a historian, an art critic, an armchair designer, a gardener–so topically, I could never limit my blog. That’s why I couldn’t imagine being a “fashion blogger” or “craft blogger” or “film blogger”. I worry I might bog down readers, because my obsessions and skills are so wide and varied. (I have spared you, so far, from my still-in-draft entries on Marshall McLuhan and his media theories). I can’t help but chase down my whims, research them endlessly, and write about them.

On a friend’s advice, I’ve decided that I need to narrow down the beginnings of things. Not to take away the joy of project-visioning, but to take small mental notes of the rabbit trails that interest me, and narrow down the possibilities to a few into which I can actually cut a road.

Read more →

A Winter Coat, Now? A Sew-Along

Hoo ahh, it’s a hot one today. After an abnormally cool (and cool being a relative term here) summer with lots of rain in June and July, Austin finally decided to reach its proper summer temperatures (100+) this month. And this past week has been the worst.

While stores and magazines fill with fall clothes, I’ve still got another two months of hot weather. It’s like you have to have two summer wardrobes here, your first set and your second set when you are bored with all your “early” summer clothes. So I’m still at work making tees and tanks in my sewing studio, while stalking the extreme summer clearance sales at my favorite shops.

So I must be seriously crazy for thinking about sewing a winter coat. I’m at least a month behind on all my art projects, including summer sewing. But I guess I like the challenge of thinking ahead. I need more of that. This particular project is a “sew-along”, which is a group of people that sew the same pattern and share what they’re doing along the way.

This sew-along is sponsored by Gertie’s Blog for Better Sewing and the pattern is the Lady Gray Jacket by Colette Patterns. Details on the sew-along are here

I’ve never done a sew-along, but I think it might help me actually finish something complex (rather than throw it on the mannequin for months on end when I can’t be bothered to finish the binding because it’s slipping around too much). It’ll also give me goals that have feedback.

Most of my life involves freelance work–writing, design, blogging. And it’s difficult if you “freelance” anything to find outside feedback. Feedback is good, it helps you know where you are in your process, refines your technique and goals and pushes you. I like working on my own but I’d also like to be a better dressmaker and sewist.

And it might be good for me to meet other sewers, even online. I’m kind of private and don’t belong to many forums or boards (other than one gardening forum and I dipped my toe into one sewing forum, but not for long) nor have I had my blog for long so I’m not used to internet dialog. But hey, this might let me get my feet wet.

p.s. There is a discount code for the pattern on the sew-along blog, which maybe (just a bit) convinced me to buy and try yet another new pattern from a non-mainstream pattern company. All of the Colette Patterns styles are so cute. I think the coat is more glam-me than some of their styles.

and p.p.s. I’ll try my hardest to post updates to the project. Another push to blog more often (saving you from my infrequent, yet epic blogs).

Gran Torino & the Great Masculine Tragedy

Last month I spent a lovely evening in the backyard of good friends in Prague. They were hosting a film night on the big screen with popcorn and the whole shebang. It felt just like Austin; the only thing missing were the cacophonous cicadas.

Our friends’ teenage daughter picked the film for the evening–Gran Torino. Which I’d not yet seen but when everyone says *you must*, right down to a Czech teenager, I know I’m missing something.

Gran Torino is set pretty close to where I grew up and the background subject is the ever-fast-changing racial terrain of the ex-Motor City (did I say ex?). I understood all the background jokes. (Yep, you were an eyesore if you dared drive a Toyota in the 80s. I came from a Ford family and a school full of motor company kids.)

Read more →