One Million Muslins (aka The Great Coat Conundrum of 2015)

Hello again!

I have already failed at updating weekly while I’m taking my workshop–oops! But it’s because I’ve been beyond busy and am struggling to keep up: I still work 2 nights a week plus weekends at the shop, the workshop takes one other night each week, and we’ve had some house-related emergencies in the last week that required dedicated attention and time off of work (sump pump drain line frozen + lots of snow + thaw = Mads stays up ALL NIGHT and ALL DAY bailing water out of the sump pit BY HAND until a janky-ass workaround can be set up), so unfortunately my blog has been neglected. Hell, I’m lucky I found time to do my homework for tonight’s class!! Hopefully things will settle down soon and I can feel less rushed.

The title of this post is in reference to my homework for class each week; I feel like all I do anymore is make muslins/toiles of this coat and that it’s all I’m ever going to be allowed to sew forever. But my coat has enough fit issues (gee, maybe that’s because it’s for a 12 year old and my body is decidedly NOT that of a preteen…) that I have to keep making a fresh version each week so we can see if we’re getting close, so it is what it is. I think we’re pretty much there now, though, after my last practice version–it’s looking awesome and like a grownup coat for grownups! 😀 (Disclaimer: please ignore the cardboard box pile! Tom got lots of stuff for his studio and I am going to use the cardboard for pattern supports once I have a free evening to cut them all up.)

According to Tom, it looks like "a dirty lab coat." So helpful.

According to Tom, it looks like “a dirty lab coat.” So helpful.

Look at that straight side seam action!

Look at that straight side seam action!

My big girl shoulders are now accommodated by the coat

My big girl shoulders are now accommodated by the coat

Wingspan!!

Wingspan!!

So much better, isn’t it?? I’m very excited about how it’s coming together. The side seam issue (they were tipping toward the back the last time I showed this to you) was resolved by taking a slice of bulk from the front pieces and transferring it to the back piece at each side seam. Now they’re falling straight down as they should! We’ve done so many revisions on the shoulders of this coat, but I think we’re finally there (or close). I needed about an inch at each shoulder vs. the original width, which we added last week and which can be seen in action above. (Interestingly, I assumed my shoulders were likely wider than the average, but learned last week that they are EXACTLY average at 5″ each–I was very surprised!) Nina raised the neckline all the way around, but not by too much. She also added height to the sleeve cap, because we NEEDED it. When making my muslin for last week’s class, I noticed that I had a larger armscye than sleeve, which is not okay! Making this week’s muslin, they were pretty much the same size (which makes sense for the era of the pattern, since they weren’t into gathered or puffed sleeves/shoulders), with just the tiniest bit more ease in the sleeve itself, as it should be. I took it upon myself to lengthen the sleeve this week, since I know I’ll need it. There is a cuff and a cuff facing to consider, but I’d rather have too much length (and have to shorten) than to make my coat and end up with a 12-year-old’s sleeves on a 29-year-old’s coat, if you follow me. We scooped out the armhole some more as well, just for ease of movement and what have you. What do you guys think: does it look pretty good?? I am wondering if my upper back will require any extra work; I know I am broader at the upper back than at the upper front, but I’m not sure that I need any extra wiggle room back there.

Here are some photos of my previous muslin after last week’s class, and my adjusted flat pattern before I used it to sew up what you see above:

Nina split the sleeve open to show how much height we needed; the marker is to show me where a raglan would go if I wanted one.

Nina split the sleeve open to show how much height we needed; the marker is to show me where a raglan would go if I wanted one.

Previous muslin

Previous muslin from the front

Flat pattern with changes made at last week's class--doesn't that armhole look nice?!?

Flat pattern with changes made at last week’s class–doesn’t that armhole look nice?!?

Shoulder soulmates

Shoulder soulmates

Original sleeve tracing on the left, present sleeve iteration on the right

Original sleeve tracing on the left, present sleeve iteration on the right

Tycho demanded that I stop working and feed him immediately.

Tycho demanded that I stop working and feed him immediately.

I apologize for the lack of photos of the muslin prior to this one; ultimately, this current iteration is a big improvement! We meet for the last time tonight ( 😦 😦 😦 ) so we’ll see what Nina thinks! I haven’t done anything with my facings, collars, cuffs, or cape yet, but having the main body pieces to work from will help me figure out what to do with the rest.

To counteract the very beige nature of this post, here are some photos of some new vintage pretties that I got myself recently:

1930's jacket and skirt!!

1930’s jacket and skirt!!

1920's blouse--this will be fun!!

1920’s blouse–this will be fun!!

BUTTONS!!!!!!!!!!!

BUTTONS!!!!!!!!!!!

These look like fingerwaved hair and are thus some of my favorites.

These look like fingerwaved hair and are thus some of my favorites.

MOAR BUTTONS!!!!!!

MOAR BUTTONS!!!!!!

Gorgeous patterns, including 2 with coats/jackets and one 1939 wrap dress!

Gorgeous patterns, including 2 with coats/jackets and one 1939 wrap dress!

Close-up of THAT JACKET THO.

Close-up of THAT JACKET THO.

I got very generous Etsy gift cards for xmas from Tom and my older sister, so I put them to good use at last! And there may or may not be more buttons on their way… 😀

I haven’t made much progress on my pants–tracing the pattern isn’t even done!–and I have been trying to help a friend make a shirt for his 1-year-old nephew, which is coming along nicely. Kids stuff is so mind-meltingly tiny, though! O_o My sewing mojo (“sewjo”) has been kind of missing lately, so hopefully I can find something to make that doesn’t require much effort and that results in something wearable and awesome. I am so tired of muslin!

In Which The Blogger Takes A Flying Leap…

Out of her comfort zone, that is.

This post will be really long (mostly because it covers two weeks worth of progress–I am behind!), and I’m going to start out a little differently from my normal style. I don’t usually get all introspective on you; not because I don’t have Deep Thoughts, but because I’m usually just too excited to share whatever it is I’m sharing to get too serious. 🙂 So if Introspective Mads doesn’t do it for you (and that’s okay!), feel free to scroll down a bit and wait for the pictures to start! (TL;DR, I’m taking a pattern making workshop and it’s been very interesting and fun and confidence-smashing and fun again!) Without further ado…

*cue Deep Thoughts*

I enjoy learning. For me, learning is pretty much a desirable end in and of itself–I just like to know things about stuff (because I haz a smrt), and generally speaking, the more things I can learn about, the better! On the other hand, I consider myself a relatively cautious person; I tend to be risk-averse and enjoy having a solid routine. While I’m willing to try new things when I feel like it (for example, learning to sew!), I don’t really enjoy being prompted or “encouraged” to do things without first being interested on my own. My introverted nature does not help matters; I tend to stick to indoor nerd-ery and can become isolated. But sometimes, with the right encouragement or inspiration, I can be coaxed out of my little bubble and into the wide and wild world of opportunity. This time, the new thing is a workshop on pattern drafting and fitting, and the encouragement came from a new friend.

I became acquainted with Paula DeGrand quite by accident: I cannot remember how I found her blog, Getting Things Sewn, but once I did, I immediately subscribed and eagerly read every subsequent post, even feeling brave enough to comment from time to time. (This is one part of the online sewing community that I struggle with: I always feel like I want to comment, and sometimes I even type out a response, and then I chicken out and delete everything because these people don’t GAF what I think and also I’m an idiot anyway.) We also interacted a bit on Pattern Review, which is how I learned that she and I would very soon be residents of the same metro area! This winter, we were finally able to meet up in person and I am happy to report that she is just as intriguing and delightful in real life as she seems on her blog.

Prior to our in-person meeting, Paula had blogged about a workshop she was taking here in Columbus–a pattern making workshop! The instructor was Nina Bagley, a very experienced and talented patternmaker with decades of experience in the fashion industry. Unfortunately for me, the workshop–focused on pants, of all things!–had already started when I learned of it, and I immediately emailed the Cultural Arts Center to inquire about any future workshops like that one. While I did receive a nice but not-terribly-informative response (equivalent to, “Thanks for your interest. As to future workshops, we don’t know…we’re trees.”), the real insider info came to me from Paula, who alerted me to the opening of registration for the next workshop; this one would be focusing on coats and capes. Guys, I got the very. last. spot. in that workshop, and I squealed and bounced around with glee.

Now you may be thinking, “But Mads, you’ve never shown even the slightest interest in (or, let’s be honest, aptitude for) pattern drafting or expert fitting! Why would you think this workshop is a good idea?” And that’s totally a fair question. I’m still quite a beginner, and I’ve never made a coat or a cape or a jacket, and I assumed I’d probably be the least-competent person in the entire workshop group. But I got excited about this for several reasons: 1) Paula’s enthusiasm is contagious, 2) $100 is a bargain-basement price for a 5-week (1 evening per week for 3 hours) local workshop with a small class size taught by someone who has worked successfully in the fashion industry for many years, 3) I want to learn everything I can about sewing, garment construction, fitting, patterns, drafting, and design in order to make better things for myself and anyone else I choose to sew for, and 4) What better way to learn than from an expert, surrounded by enthusiastic people who are better than me at our shared craft? (And also 5) I’ve had that damn 1920’s pre-teen coat pattern in my mental “Gotta Sew This” queue since I bought it, and I knew this was a great chance to be successful with making it fit and look good.) So there you have it: Mads, out of her comfort zone, becomes Mads, the pattern workshop student. Back to you, Irreverent Whippersnapper Mads!

***********************************************************************

My first week of class got off to a terrible start. Like a boss, I left home 30 minutes before the scheduled start time–more than adequate to get to where I should have been going. (Uh-oh…) My directions had me get on the freeway, which should have been my first clue not to trust them, since this was a freaking 10 minute trip. Those same directions resulted in me getting off the freeway where I was told, only to find myself utterly lost in an unfamiliar (and none too nice) part of the city, nowhere near my destination. As if that wasn’t awful enough, my so-called smart phone decided that it wasn’t about to allow me to access Maps or the navigation functionality. And my GPS is buried in the house somewhere, which obviously meant it was not in my car to help me. Cue the panic attack! (No, I don’t have a generalized anxiety thing: I do have a few actual phobias that trigger these things, and a handful of other things can set me off too. Like being lost in an unfamiliar area, by myself, with no navigation assistance, especially if I’m on a timeline. Womp womp.) So to recap, I was lost in a part of town that I’d never seen before and which felt decidedly dodgy, and on top of that, I was crying and couldn’t breathe and was, as the kids say, freaking my shit. Time to call for backup!

Tom was nearly home when I reached him. I was absolutely frantic and he was trying his best to calm me down. (I don’t know if any of you have ever experienced a panic attack, but mine certainly do not respond to people telling me to calm down!) He finally got home and had the unpleasant task of trying to give me directions from a random intersection in Columbus to a place I only knew the name of, as opposed to the actual address; I couldn’t even tell him which direction I was facing, since my car lacks a compass and I had no frame of reference via familiar streets or landmarks. Tom got me to my destination, finally. Remember how I said I’d left 30 minutes before the start time? When I finally arrived, I was 10 minutes late to class. 10. Minutes. Late. This drive should have taken 15 minutes tops. And then I had to pay for a parking meter and try to find my classroom in a new-to-me building. On top of that, it was very, very obvious that I had been crying, which was *exactly* the kind of first impression I wanted to make on a room full of strangers, one of whom is widely respected and recognized in her profession and was, for all intents and purposes, in charge of me for the next three hours. After that whole ordeal, I wasn’t sure I even wanted to be there anymore!

When I walked in, I saw a huddle of people off in one corner of the room; they were all looking at something together (which turned out to be Paula’s project). I happened to walk in with another class member, so I felt a little less awkward about being late. Nobody batted an eye! After brief introductions, we got right down to business: Nina pulled and tucked and wiggled Paula’s coat, noting what adjustments she felt were needed and why. It was incredibly educational. All of us were allowed to weigh in as well, which felt strange at first but became natural by the end of our 3 hours together. (Or in my case, 2 hours and 50 minutes!) After Paula’s pattern had been cut, slashed, taped, and cut some more, Nina looked at me and asked if I had a pattern in mind. “Yes,” I said timidly. “Do you have it with you?” *RESIST THE URGE TO ROLL EYES!* “Yes.” “Well go get it and we’ll have a look!” This was the moment I’d been dreading since I realized what kind of format the class was in after about 5 minutes. It felt like those nightmares where you show up to class and the teacher announces that today, there will be a test on the socio-economic impacts of de-colonization on the African continent and you’re all, “WTF? I thought this was math class!?!” And also you’re in your underwear.

I walked back toward the group, clutching the traced-off pieces of my coat back, front, and sleeve. Being a genius (heh), I didn’t bring the actual pattern envelope with me, so Nina was sort of working blind in terms of imagining the look of the finished coat. I described it the best I could. She seemed pleased with the way the pieces worked together, but remarked that it looked “small, like for a child.” She was relieved when I clarified that it was for a child! My homework was to make a muslin of the coat body as-is and bring it back the following week. I left class that night feeling pretty good about my project and getting it to fit.

Back at The “Mads” House, I dutifully made my muslin. Nina and I had identified one sure-fire issue–a need for more length from shoulder to bust–and I was eager to see what we’d do to fix it. I packed all my stuff:

Fancy-pants bag, ready for class!

Fancy-pants bag, ready for class!

Stuffed with, er, stuff.

Stuffed with, er, stuff.

Made sure this made the trip, too--no more working blind!

Made sure this made the trip, too–no more working blind!

I made a timely arrival this week, and was really fired up to hack my muslin apart. Unfortunately for me, my rogue decision to set in one sleeve was a bad one, and Nina needed me to rip it out before we could do anything else. It somewhat helped her evaluate the fit visually, but we needed to mess with the body before we could worry about the sleeve. Feeling foolish, I went back to my seat and started tearing at things. I plodded back up front and Nina made some cuts into the front of the coat. And then she pointed out something that was terribly embarrassing: I’d cut the front piece off-grain. Badly. *sigh* Guess who is tearing their muslin to adjust the grainline before making up the next version? —–>This kid. Between that stupid mistake and my utter inability to fully wrap my head around the drafting stuff we were shown that night (different collar types–very interesting!), I left class last week feeling like I don’t have the skills or smarts necessary to do a good job on this project. I’m trying to remind myself that I’m there to learn and that if I keep working at it, I’ll get there! Besides, understanding flat pattern drafting takes time, since you have to think about things from both the 2-D and 3-D perspectives; that’s not something I really do at the moment! Would you like to see the state of my own personal Frankenstein’s Monster Coat Pattern?

Yep, that's masking tape. We created headroom for my t*ts out of masking tape. O_o

Yep, that’s masking tape. We created headroom for my t*ts out of masking tape. O_o

New shoulder line!

New shoulder line!

Original tracing on the right, Frankenmuslin on the left. Check out those neckline and armhole differences!!

Original tracing on the right, Frankenmuslin on the left. Check out those neckline and armhole differences!!

I didn’t realize that masking tape was so versatile, did you? We added some length from shoulder to bust (“headroom for my t*ts”) and scooped out the armhole. At my request, we also scooped out the front neckline–it was making me claustrophobic! The back neckline was lowered by Nina as well. She was sweet enough to clean up the lines around the neck and armhole for me and tape it all up. I also had to take a wedge out at the armhole and taper out to nothing down the side seam. Obviously my homework was to use this muslin as my new pattern and see how the changes helped with the fit; Nina will then assist me with adjusting the sleeve piece when we have class this week. My gut tells me that will result in a pretty extreme makeover for the sleeve, but I know I’m in good hands! Here is Pre-Teen Coat Muslin 2.0:

New, on-grain muslin!

New, on-grain muslin!

Trying on the new version over a hefty fleece shirt

Trying on the new version over a hefty fleece shirt

Awkward side-view selfie!

Awkward side-view selfie!

I’m mostly happy with how this is coming along. My main concerns are making sure that I’ll have enough room to wear bulky sweaters AND interline and line this thing, and that the side seams tilt to the back of the coat (which gets worse the closer to the hem you look) and I can’t tell if it’s a fit problem or due to the volume being concentrated in the front pieces vs. the back. Fastening the coat resolves that issue, so ????????????

I ordered a second, higher-quality wool for this coat than what I planned to use originally. (Don’t get me wrong: I’m still using the green and cream material for a first version.) I have a few reasons for this. First, the stuff I have is of a looser weave than I realized, and I want this sucker to be WARM, especially if the Polar Vortex insists on becoming an annual occurrence here in Ohio. Second, I’m not sure I’ll have enough of the green and cream fabric to do the attached cape, and I want a version of this coat with that damn cape, or there will be tears and violence. Third, this happened:

Yep, that's a hole.

Yep, that’s a hole.

Because I am so smart and so awesome, I decided that I could just tug this yardage out of the bin where it sleeps; naturally, it sleeps near the very bottom because it hasn’t been pre-washed yet. I may have hulked out a bit too much, because I do not remember this huge tear being present when I packed this material up the last time. 😦 It’s close to the cut end AND the selvedge, so I think I can at least get the coat itself out of this fabric. But I felt entirely justified in ordering some nicer wool coating (and interlining!) so that I can have a truly awesome, truly warm, truly cape-tastic coat one day. Behold:

This will make a fine coat and cape combo, no? =)

This will make a fine coat and cape combo, no? =)

I’ll wrap this entry up by saying that I hope it wasn’t terribly boring. I’m very excited that I’ve made a new friend (and one who is brilliant at sewing, to boot!) and I’m psyched about my workshop and hope to learn a lot. Nina is a great teacher, and my fellow students are very kind, enthusiastic, and talented. I’ll share updates each week, hopefully! (And my pants are still on the docket, so check back for progress there, too!)

Wherein The Blogger Attempts* Pants

*Disclosure: it is still to be determined whether or not any pants will actually be completed, since the ‘Mads’ house motto seems to be, “Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That.”

Another weekend draws to a close. They are simply too short, and I must find out where complaints about that may be registered. 🙂

I have been trying to get back into sewing for the new year, and I’m pleased to say that a few things are in the works. I did manage to finish one project, but it isn’t very exciting: I re-covered my ironing board!

New cover, featuring my new sleeve board!

New cover, featuring my new sleeve board!

This undertaking was, I’m afraid, quite necessary: my old cover was GROSS and I could feel the metal diamond grid of the board itself through the thin padding, so I decided to do a little extra padding while I was at it. I need to pull the cover a little tighter, but apart from that it’s working very nicely. Threading the string through the casing was the worst part of the entire operation and took far too long! I took the opportunity to use the overlock stitch on my machine to finish the raw edge before I hemmed the cover to create the casing, and it worked very nicely. (I cleared out 2 partial bobbins with random colors of thread on them, too, which is awesome.) I also added a sleeve board to my pressing arsenal! I’m excited about that, because I know I need one to help me elevate my finished garments to a new level of quality and crispness. It’s also timely, since the next project in my queue is underway…

It's THE pants!

It’s THE pants! (This is the part where cherubs sing and play trumpets and there’s a laser light show of some sort, etc.)

Ironed pattern pieces and fashion fabric

Ironed pattern pieces and fashion fabric

I’ve been excited about this pattern ever since it fell into my lap a year ago, and I can’t wait to put it together! My butt and these pants need each other like peanut butter needs jelly. (Wait…I’m deathly allergic to peanut butter. This may be a bad omen for the project!) I’ve earmarked my Marc Jacobs (hey, I bought it, I’m going to name-drop it) bottomweight cotton for this pattern, despite the fact that the envelope says the pattern isn’t suitable for plaids. The scale is so small that matching isn’t of the utmost importance anyway, not to mention that I’m not about to take orders from a 50-year-old piece of paper!

I’ve marked on the envelope (!!!!!) to note my measurements vs those of the pattern in certain places. I’ll trace it off before making any alterations; I’m happy to cut out uncut vintage patterns (excepting my mint-in-envelope 1920’s McCall patterns) but hacking into the pieces to make alterations that may have to be re-done countless times isn’t something I’m willing to do!

As if this weren’t exciting enough, I’ve got these two things in mind as well:

Baby's first Style Arc pattern!

Baby’s first Style Arc pattern!

And a Marfy! *insert dramatic "dun-dun-dun" music here*

And a Marfy! *insert dramatic “dun-dun-dun” music here*

I’m hoping that once I complete* the skinny pants, I’ll be confident enough in no-fly pants construction techniques to tackle the Style Arc “Antoinette” pants. Something about this pattern just grabbed me and I had to have it! I plan to make them out of wool crepe–which I’ve bought in 3 colors because go hard or go home, right?–and will be attempting to add a lining to them as a result. My desire for the Marfy was triggered by seeing Poppykettle’s recent version of this blouse pattern, which is/was divine. It’s practically my perfect blouse–sleeves designed to be rolled up, attractive collar, feminine details, and suitable for a sheer or luxurious fabric. Yeah yeah, I know: no instructions or seam/hem allowances. But I’m excited and think I can probably figure it out in the muslin stages. Hooray for adventure!

Hopefully I’ll have pants progress to share soon. I haven’t cut into my muslin or traced off the pattern yet, and Saoirse has ensured that all the ironing and laying out I did yesterday are sufficiently thwarted–she’s sitting on the pieces as I type this, wrinkling and furring them all up. Life with cats, right?

What are you working on, if you sew? Trying any new or particularly adventurous projects to kick-start your new year? Do tell!

*No guarantees, people–it’s me we’re talking about here! Seeing as how this is the dreamboat pants pattern of my dreams, I’m sure it will be completed at some point. Let’s just hope this project doesn’t end up being a carried-over UFO into 2016. 😉

New Year, New (Vague) Goals, and New Toys (aka A Massive Pile of Word-Vomit)

WARNING: What follows here is a very wordy post with a few pictures.

Hello, and Happy New Year!!!

I hope you all had a wonderful (and safe!) New Year’s–2014 feels like it sort of flew by, doesn’t it?!? I’m very glad that the big holiday season is over and am looking forward to getting back to my normal routine starting tomorrow. These last two weeks have been draining, despite the short respite from work; I figured I’d feel well-rested after a little time off, but I just feel exhausted! Too much socializing, probably–your pal Mads is not a social creature.

I thought about doing a year-end round up (albeit a late one) but realized that I think I only completed 6 FO’s in 2014 and that’s not really great fodder for a recap list, is it? (All but one of my FO’s for 2014 are blogged somewhere around here…hopefully an official FO post for the last one is upcoming.) I do have some general goals for the new year ahead though, so I thought I might as well log those for posterity and my more masochistic internet acquaintances. 😉

*ahem* GOALS AND SHIT, by Mads:

In 2015, I’d like to spend more time in my sewing space. Sewing or not, I just need to be in there working at my hobby in any way that makes a difference! I would also like to do a better job of sewing things that I need; I made things I really like in 2014, but I made none of the things I could really use. Blouses and tops are #1 on the “need” list. Pants are probably #2. Skirts are okay too, since my wardrobe is generally lacking in the separates department. In 2015, I would like to do a (much, much!!!) better job of restraining my shopping for fabric and, to a lesser extent, patterns. I have way more material than I could sew up in a year, and I need to just knock it off. I’m going to work especially hard on this particular goal; if it’s the only one I really achieve, I’ll be very happy! My final goal for 2015 is to invest in a dress form. I’m not holding out much hope for this one, but it sure would be nice!!

*end GOALS AND SHIT*

I do not remember what my goals for myself were for last year, apart from one: sew one garment per month. LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL.

LOLOL

That didn’t even come close to happening, and I’m okay with that. I work 7 days per week and am kind of being ground into dust by my punishing schedule (which will ease up in May, when I take an indefinite leave of absence from my vintage job in order to rest and spend more time with my family and enjoy my hobbies) so I’m not going to be hard on myself about meeting an arbitrary goal that I set in advance. I’m not really interested in setting a goal of “make X number of things in X amount of time” for 2015; I just want to spend time in my sewing area, even if all I accomplish is cleaning or organizing. Speaking of my sewing area, it’s about to get interesting in there because…

New (to me) sewing cabinet!

New (to me) sewing cabinet! Also, a Tycho.

…I got a new toy! The original machine from this cabinet–a Bernina Record 830–is not present, but that’s okay. I only wanted this piece for the storage and workspace options. The dimensions of the opening should allow me to use it with my machine without an issue. Here’s what she can do:

77" of horizontal workspace!

77″ of horizontal workspace!

Storage for feet AND thread

Storage for feet AND thread (please excuse the cat hair…)

I’m hoping that this cabinet will allow me to move permanently from the dining table in terms of my machine setup. I plan to continue working out of our dining room and to keep my cutting station on the big table, but this will free up at least 2 seats worth of space there so that we can sit down and eat if we want. (This came up during the holidays, when I had to clear off two places at the table so we could sit down and eat our fucking roast turkey breast that I spent every 15 minutes for approx. 4 hours basting!) But until I can move things around all over the house (wish I was kidding about that…), this sewing cabinet is hanging out in our living room and won’t be used just yet. The cabinet dates to about the 1980s. It’s not the greatest thing in the world or the most state-of-the-art (the machine lift is the kind that tips over as opposed to an electric straight up and down lift) but for $40, it is a great piece of starter sewing furniture.

I have other exciting sewing news, too: I just put a down-payment on a brand new machine!!!!!!! (This made me very excited and also very nauseous.)

Janome Horizon Memory Craft 8200QC (image courtesy of Janome)

Janome Horizon Memory Craft 8200QC (image courtesy of Janome)

After what happened with Tom’s Cooper backpack and my Magnolia, I decided it was time to start thinking about a machine upgrade. I want to be able to sew jeans, coats, more bags, and whatever the fuck else I decide I want to make and not have to worry about whether or not my machine can handle it. I initially thought I’d end up with a Pfaff (the Ambition 1.0) but decided that I wanted to give the quilt shop who donated my Magnolia as the grand prize in that raffle over a year ago a chance to get my business as a paying customer. I was absolutely awed by the Horizon Memory Craft 8200. Awed. The presser foot lifts up extra-high, the motor is much stronger than my machine’s, the harp is much bigger, and it comes equipped with many more features than I am used to having. It also has the AccuFeed system, which is the entire reason I even demo’d a Pfaff. I had planned to test the Janome 6600, but it lacks the free-arm capability that I have come to rely upon for sleeves and necklines and other such tasks, so I didn’t even sit down at that one. I vastly preferred the 8200 to the Pfaff I tried out; the price point is higher, of course, but I’m getting enough additional functionality over my current machine AND the Pfaff I considered that I know I won’t outgrow this one for a very, very long time. I also don’t have the learning curve with the 8200 that I would have had with the Pfaff, since I am used to Janome’s layout and all that jazz. After considering all those things, I cast my vote (i.e., dollars) in favor of the 8200.

I was able to get the 8200 for only 57% of MSRP, but that was still WAYYYYYYYY more than I had anticipated spending. Which is why it’s on layaway. 😀 The quilt shop offers no-cost, take-as-long-as-you-fucking-want layaway, so it was a no-brainer to do it that way. I’m beyond anxious to bring that machine home (as I’m sure many of you understand) but I also need to be a good adult, so I’m doing what I can, when I can on that. And yes, I made sure the dimensions of the cabinet will accommodate the new machine! *insert happy dance here*

Next up in the “New Shit at The ‘Mads’ House” department, there’s this:

New skirt--vintage Simplicity 1281 strikes again!

New skirt–vintage Simplicity 1281 strikes again!

Handpicked lapped zip

Handpicked lapped zip + linen close-up

Apologies for the wrinkles–this linen is some of the worst fabric I’ve ever worked with but this skirt has already been worn 4 times since I finished it on xmas eve, and I haven’t pressed it after its most recent jaunt. This is the aforementioned unblogged FO from 2014, and it is most definitely worthy of its own nice-looking post, complete with unwrinkled photos. This is my third version of vintage Simplicity 1281; I took this one to mid-thigh and left off the suspenders. The material is a great weight for this pattern, but apart from probably making a Cooper bag for myself, I will not be using it for anything else regardless of how much extra yardage I have left over. It has been that much of a pain in my ass.

So there you have it: my very vague goals for 2015, and an update on what the actual fuck has been going on in these parts since my last post. I’m excited to share another year of occasional successes, shockingly frequent mishaps, and somewhat regularly scheduled programming (aka unintelligible ramblings) with all of you–thanks so much for reading this junk! ❤

Mads vs. Glazed Linen, Round 2

Good Morning!

Thanks to a planned cut-back in my hours at my second job and a well-timed wife-less outing on the part of my spouse, I was able to venture into my sewing area last night. (Well, let me amend that: I was able to venture into my sewing area to WORK rather than just add new patterns or fabric or someone else’s circa-1950s UFOs to my sewing area and then back away slowly…)

My original plan was to start a muslin of my much-beloved vintage pants pattern, which I have never gotten around to messing with since it came to me many months ago. But then it occurred to me that I had never gone back to the black glazed linen version of vintage Simplicity 1281 that I’d tried to make a while ago, and I felt guilty and blah blah blah. So after about 5 minutes of frantic digging and hunting, I found the rest of the linen and started ironing. (I. FUCKING. HATE. IRONING.)

I was really careful when cutting this time–didn’t want any stupid mistakes like the last time I attempted this project, or the time before that…

After cutting 4 measly pieces of fabric, it is clear to me that I 1) need to lift more weights or 2) need a new blade for my rotary cutter, because I had to basically retrace my cuts for the whole first piece and then make sure I pressed really hard for the last 3. I mean, this linen is beefy, but this seemed unnecessary.

I sometimes (okay, often) wonder what the fuck I was thinking when I made past decisions. I think I ordered 4 yards of this linen, which is about 60″ wide. My original plans for it were a sheath dress (thank hell I decided against that…) or a pencil skirt and jacket, neither of which would have required nearly that much yardage (thanks, acquired sewing knowledge!). So not only have I now cut 2 skirts out of this stuff, here is what is STILL LEFT OVER:

One actual fuck-ton of linen, coming right up...

One actual fuck-ton of linen, coming right up…

Plenty for a jacket, so I guess that part of my original n00b plan will come to fruition. And once that is done, I am probably setting the remaining bits of this fabric on fire because I am just over it and its abundance and its linen-y-ness. OVER. IT.

In interesting (well, to *me*, anyway) sewing developments, that joke above about other people’s vintage UFOs wasn’t a joke at all. A lady brought lots of her mother’s hand-made vintage clothes to the shop a couple weeks ago, and her mother was very excited to learn that we all sew; her daughter returned with piles of sewing patterns and several unfinished projects in tow. Most of the patterns were circa-1970s but I did take a few home. The UFOs were all from the 50’s, and were wool. Very finely made, even in their incomplete states. I was given custody of the UFOs, and they’re hanging out until I feel brave/stupid/worthy enough to attempt to finish them. Apparently my house is now the Mads Home for Wayward Sewing Bits and Bobs…

Anyway, this skirt will be the first item of winter sewing for me this season–have any of you (in the Northern Hemisphere) started winter projects? Or are you just cuddling your winter-weight fabrics for warmth?

On Hubris and Sewing Miracles

Happy Friday!! I don’t know about the rest of you, but this week has felt interminably long and I am ready for it to be over!

Have you ever gotten cocky and, as a result of your hubris, not been as careful or attentive as you should have been? I’m living that right now. My current project is a repeat of one I’ve made before, and I sashayed into my work area like I’d been there, done that, and was gonna own this motherfucking skirt. I should have respected the skirt, y’all.

I’ve been working on my next version of vintage Simplicity 1281 on my evenings off (2 per week) and it was starting to look like a skirt. Well, kind of, anyway. For starters, my fabric–a stiff, ever-shredding suiting-weight glazed linen–has been impossible to keep ironed, though I’m trying. On my first workday, I made the mistake of cutting out my pieces and not labeling them immediately; when I returned to the project a few days later, I was beyond confused about which piece was what and struggled to mark them correctly. With this pattern, the front and back pieces are shaped almost exactly the same but not quite, and the right and wrong sides of my material are nearly identical. I don’t know if I messed up the marking or the cutting, but one thing is clear: I messed something up someplace. 😦

I swear I'm not making a cat blanket...

I swear I’m not making a cat blanket…

If you look closely, you might notice that one half (front, in this case, which is the layer that’s against my cutting mat in the photo) is WAY longer than the other. In addition to that, the lengths of the back panels (which are the top layer of the skirt in the photo) are not level–not even close. I have no idea if my cutting was that sloppy or if I made an error in pairing up the pieces before sewing them, but I’m going to have to figure out how to salvage this somehow. Or not, since I have enough yardage left to make another skirt. But, actually, I think I kind of hate this fabric. The finish is beautiful (not in this photo, sadly) and it’s a great weight for this skirt, but it’s impossible to deal with. It’s 100% linen and frays and shreds all over the place at the cut edges. On top of that, it isn’t particularly pleasant to touch. Good thing I bought 4 fucking yards! /sarcasm

Because of the fraying, I decided to do french seams on all of the skirt pieces. This is a hefty fabric, but I liked this idea better than using bias tape or lining the skirt (because I’m a fucking idiot). I’m happy with how those are turning out, so there’s one ray of sunshine. There’s also this:

This bobbin wasn't empty when I started!

This bobbin wasn’t empty when I started!

I’ll set the scene for you: I was nearing the end of a seam finish–the step that encloses the raw, trimmed edges of the first step of a french seam with right sides together–and could hear the telltale sounds of my machine running out of bobbin thread. (It makes a peculiar mechanical “chug” sound, okay? Trust me.) I’ve been using up the leftover polyester thread that I used for Tom’s cardigan back in December, and knew I didn’t have enough on the bobbin to do the entire skirt. I checked my little window and could see thread feeding through, so I kept going. Once I finished my backstitching at the end of the seam and cut the thread, I realized I’d only cut one thread. I sighed, thinking that this was just the kind of sewing day I was going to have: running out of thread during the most crucial part of this seam finish on top of the other mistakes/unpleasant realities I was dealing with already. But when I checked everything, I realized that I ran out of bobbin thread AS I MADE THE FINAL STITCH OFF THE EDGE AFTER BACKSTITCHING. That’s like a sewing unicorn!!! I was really excited, obviously. I stopped there for the night, thinking that this was a bit of goodwill from the universe re: this stupid skirt (and also because I didn’t feel like winding a new bobbin). I’m going to pick it up again tonight and see what I can do. I’ve got my zipper area interfaced already–seriously, the way this shit shreds, I needed to do that, despite the weight of the fabric–and need to sew the side seams to join front to back. Then it’s waistband time! (Assuming I don’t set this fucker on fire before I get to that step.)

I was very naughty yesterday (pay day, woo hoo!!) and ordered some fabric: 2 stretch denims and 2 woven ikats. In my defense, I have patterns and outfits planned for everything already, and one denim goes with each ikat. I just got the Scout pattern from Grainline Studios and the Jamie jeans pattern from Named, so I’d like to jump into those things once the fabrics show up. It’s my first time ordering from Michael Levine, and I’m anxious to see how their material handles.

What’s your favorite fabric source? Are you planning to try any new-to-you pattern companies soon?

In Which A Plot Is Hatched

Happy Wednesday, people!

Not much to report over here: still busy as hell and completely unproductive, mostly. But I thought I’d share what I’m planning for my next selfish project…

An entire outfit, OMG!

An entire outfit, OMG!

That’s right: TWO ITEMS. AT ONCE. Whoa. If you’ve read my blathering before, you probably recognize Simplicity 1281. Between the ease of the project and the way it looks on me, this is probably going to be my first-ever TNT pattern. And this upcoming version will be even easier than my first, since I plan to do the strapless version. The only bad thing is that I will have to do some grading down at the waist since I won’t be able to rely on the suspenders to hold it up, but whatevs. I’ve got a gorgeous bottom-weight glazed black linen picked out for it, too. I had originally earmarked that material for a bolero or blazer-type jacket when I bought it from Gorgeous Fabrics last year, but I felt like this was a better use of it for now. (Plus I am sure I’ll have enough left over for that jacket–for some reason, I bought 4 yards. WTF, Past Mads?????)

Advance 6426 is one of the patterns that was gifted to me by our cousin Kathy, whose mother Mary bought it when it was new. I found this pattern in my second filing box (see?? That’s why you should always look through EVERYTHING.) and saw that cuffed short-sleeved version–in a plaid, no less–and knew it was the one I wanted to use with my orange and black silk/cotton voile. It’s pretty much exactly the shirt I envisioned for that material! I will have to muslin this one first, since the bust measurement for this pattern is too small; I’m tiny, but my ribs ain’t no 30″! Because of that, I’ll be doing the skirt portion of the outfit first. (Also, I’ve never sewn silk–or a silk blend–before, and I’m beyond nervous and haven’t bought any spray starch yet.) And because this wasn’t enough…

A surprise shirt for the hubs!

A surprise shirt for the hubs!

…I’m hoping to start on View C of this shirt for Tom at some point. I bought two fabrics–one that I’m okay with using as a potentially wearable muslin, and a nice lightweight flannel that I’m hoping will be the big surprise–so that I can make this for him in time for fall. Luckily, he owns a few shirts similar to this that I can measure beforehand and use for comparison. I’m planning on this one being a true surprise, unlike my not-so-secrety surprise Christmas gift. He doesn’t even know I have the fabrics. He isn’t the snooping type, so hopefully he doesn’t decide to go digging around in my sewing room!

I also reorganized my stash a little bit. I pulled EVERYTHING out of my one and only bin and refolded some pieces that were a hot mess. I also tried to arrange them in some kind of order when they went back in: stuff that isn’t pre-washed on the bottom, followed by stuff I have no plans for and am not likely to use right away, followed by stuff meant for bottoms, followed by stuff meant for dresses, followed by stuff meant for blouses, followed by vaguely queued projects (like my trench fabric). Somehow–I’m assuming the laws of physics are involved here–not everything that was in the bin would go back into it. That’s even after scrap fabric got moved into an empty box to save room. 😦 I moved Tom-centric materials to my cedar chest upstairs (which will help with the super duper sewing surprise), and left all of my new silk/cotton voile (including the orange and black check) and nice J. Crew shit in the box it came in on the dining room table. My glazed linen is also on the table. Ugh ugh ugh. I guess that means I’d better get busy, huh?