Everyday Adventures

I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed lately–with all the things I want to do, with everything go on around me, with the desire to chuck it all and just sleep for a week–and while I’m not giving into any urges that would being permanently damaging I am trying to be a bit more conscious of a few things that I tend to forget from time to time:

It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

It’s true, I’m a bit impatient at times. I love projects and endeavors that provide instant gratification. And while I won’t go so far as to claim that the wait is always worth it, some things are worth waiting for or taking my time on. (Let me repeat that a few times to myself again.)

In the case of the house, we’re still not finished unpacking but we’re getting there. Where we’re no longer in a hurry is on the renovation front. For a couple of reasons (looming holidays, taxes, etc.) we’re putting off any real renovation until 2015 and we’re okay with that. After all, we’re planning to be in this house for a long time, so why not live in the space for a bit before we start making decisions about how to change it.


We did decorate for Halloween, though, and that was fun. So far it’s just the outside (and having a bigger outside to dress up means I definitely need more items, but it’s coming along) but the inside is high on the priority list.

Have Fun Without Guilt

All work, no play, you know the rest. But it’s less about becoming “dull” and more about being happy. Even though I have a mountain of things I want to accomplish, if all I ever do is work on whittling that list down what will I have to show for it? Where will the memories of a happy life lived come from?

So I’ve been playing a bit, lately. Last night I was feeling super rundown so I changed into pajamas right after supper and dug out my copy of Practical Magic and just chilled. the fuck. out. I’m not saying that watching the antics on-screen completely restored me (neither did going to bed a bit early) but it helped. And reminding myself that I deserve a little downtime helped assuage the guilt coming from the unchecked items in my planner.

We Make Our Own Rules

Aside from the whole ‘death and taxes’ bit, the only rules that are important are the ones we make ourselves. We agree to certain rules as part of a lawful/moral society, but beyond that we retain autonomy over our own lives. Just because ‘they’ do it that way doesn’t mean I have to; especially if their way is dragging me down.

I’ve been examining some of these ‘rules’ and finding out (like the pirate code) that they’re really more just guidelines. And some of those guidelines are going on the shelf for a bit (if not forever) while I create new rules and structures that suit my purposes better.

So, yes, I’ve been spending a bit of time in my own head these past few days as well as spending some time thinking about very little at all, and just coasting for a bit. It’s important to note that, from a creative standpoint, I’m not blocked or frozen. The ideas keep coming and the hows keep getting answered and I’m still planning and plotting my next phases. I’m just not so much on the action at the moment.

And that’s okay.

Fabric laid out on bed with half-circle skirt pattern pinned on, ready to cut

The Clothes Make the Woman

64 Arts

Or, rather, the woman makes the clothes!

Last time we talked about measurements, now it’s time to get to the fit.

I love the scene in Monster In Law where Jennifer Lopez’ character says, “Well, I’m making the dress to fit me,” talking about her wedding dress and the fact that she’s not starving herself into one. Bravo for the sentiment, certainly, and that goes for any clothes!

So! (Or, well, Sew…) Presuming you’ve bought the pattern closest to your size it’s time to compare the base measurements to yours and see what, if anything, needs to be adjusted. In my case, being more plus-sized than the pattern, everything needed to be bumped 6 or 7 inches, depending on the measurement.

If you find yourself in the same situation, keep in mind that the difference between the pattern measurement and your own is TOTAL. If you have one pattern piece for the front and one for the back (or 2 sides or whatever), remember to divide the difference by each piece of the puzzle, adjusting for whichever section needs it the most and how your particular garment is constructed.

Here’s how it worked out, cutting the pieces for my dress:

Since the front is one long piece from shoulder to hem and fairly fitted, I decided to allow 4 inches of increase for the front. Your first thought might be that it’s easiest to just add a couple of inches to each edge but your first thought would not be the best in this case. While there are exceptions, changes to the length or width of a garment are best done within the body of the pattern.

Sometimes it will be clearly marked, like here, where there’s a line through the bodice that says “lengthen or shorten here.” Basically, this is the safest place to adjust the pattern without messing with any of the fiddly fit bits, pre-marked darts and so forth. This particular line is good for those with a longer torso. Though on garments designed with a longer line in mind, a bit of a fold of the pattern to get the marked waistline to hit at the right point would not go amiss.

Close-up of a dress pattern, with adjustment line shown

I’m pretty short-waisted and this pattern seems like it’ll do okay for me as-is, lengthwise. Where I needed the change was width! Like a lot of dress patterns, this front bodice is one piece that’s meant to be cut on a fold. While it may mean adding an extra dart or two to keep the neckline from gaping, the easiest place to add the needed width was the center. I just measured and moved back the pattern from the folded edge 2 inches (remember, since the piece is folded, only allow 2 extra inches for each side, totaling the needed 4 when it’s all flat). I could have also extended the waist and hip measurements but, after seeing how the front fastens at the back of the waist and the back covers it, a longer loop closure will take care of any needed inches and the back of the dress will hide it.

Cut out bodice pattern piece showing added center section

The back is divided into a bodice and 2 parts of a skirt. The back bodice was cut out last, but I’m showing it out of order so you can see another way of making a pattern fit your measurements. In this case I needed to allow a certain amount of additional width in the center so used the same technique as above, at first. Since the waist edge goes all the way around, though, I needed to make sure it would reach. Adding the extra inches to the entire bodice would have made it way too loose but extending just the tail of the sides wouldn’t work because it would risk a bit of a gap along the sides.

So I made a slit between the pre-marked dart and the inner edge of the shoulder/neckline and added a couple of extra inches by splicing in parchment paper (from the kitchen). Because I didn’t want to create issues with the shoulder seams not matching, though, I kept the shoulder the same width and just moved out the bottom piece in a wedge. I have a feeling this will work the best. Time will tell.

Fabric laid out on bed with half-circle skirt pattern pinned on, ready to cut

The skirt was a chore. While I’m certainly looking forward to the fullness the circle skirt will provide, cutting each half out flat was more than even the kitchen table could handle. The bed was the only place large enough (other than the floor–and I really hate having to cut out fabric on my hands and knees) to accommodate the pattern. Just make sure you don’t pin or cut anything but the layer of fabric you intended to!

This was actually an exception to the don’t add inches to the edges rule. Because of the pattern being so large and cumbersome (and fairly straightforward for a circle skirt) I just added about an inch or a smidge more to each edge to increase the waist circumference. Of course, as I’m writing this and thinking about it, the way this dress fits, I probably should have allowed more. I’ll be sure to pin-fit it first, but I have a feeling I’m going to need to add some lenth at the wiast edge–the best way to do that, I’m thinking, is just to cut a large hole in the center–after all, I’m pretty sure the skirt is going to need hemming, this way it won’t need as much!

Back bodice pattern with wedge-shaped adjustment made.

Which brings us to the why of the muslin. While I’m hoping that this test-dress turns out to be something I can actually wear, at least around the house, the muslin gives you a chance to work out the fiddly bits of a pattern. Usually what makes a piece of clothing interesting are the sort of details that can trip you up in the making of it. The fact that this dress, especially when done in contrasting fabrics, looks like a full skirt wrapped around a sheath dress means that I’ve got to account for my waist and hip measurements twice: not something I’d normally have to do. Then again, since my test fabric is a knit (and the pattern was meant for a woven), the stretchiness might help cover my errors this go-round while I sacrifice the fuller skirt for a heavier, flowy one.

It’s my best intention to get this sewn up this weekend so I can show you the finished muslin and we can move on to other forms of needlework. Of course, being that it’s December and everyone’s calendars are filling up fast–mine is certainly no exception–we’ll have to see what actually shakes out. Chances are I’ll be just as surprised as you next Tuesday!
Until then, is there anything that wasn’t clear about today’s portion of the project that I need to explain better? Are you willing to try your hand at making a dress of your own, yet, or have I totally scared you off?


64 Arts

Moving along from the culinary and beverage arts, we’re heading back into the artsy-craftsy bits for a little while and I couldn’t be happier. Next on the list?

25 Needlework

This comprises sewing together, weaving, manufacturing clothes, bodices, and costumes, and darning.

This art comes at a particularly good time for me, as I’ve got a not-so-minor sewing project in mind to kick it off. Todd and I are planning to have some engagement photos done in the near future and I have a very specific sort of outfit in mind for one of the locations. So specific that it’s easier just to make the dress, myself, than keep hunting for something “close enough”

I found the pattern I was looking for about a month ago (thank you, eBay!), so that means the next step is adjusting the pattern while making a muslin. (A muslin is a test garment, usually made out of inexpensive cotton muslin fabric, that allows you to check fit and proportion before moving on to the more expensive fashion fabric. Almost any fabric can be used for a muslin, though, as long as it’s reasonably similar to the type of fabric you’ll be using for the finished garment. For instance, you can use cotton broadcloth for a test garment, but if you’re finished item is going to be faux fur, you might need to build in a little more ease to account for the bulk in the fabric.)

Butterick B4790 pattern, fabric and pins

The pattern and a possible test-fabric.

If you’ve never made clothing for yourself, I’d suggest you work from a pattern before getting all Pretty in Pink and cutting up a couple of old prom dresses. The great thing about working from patterns is that you learn new techniques from each one. I remember one dress taught me about over-stitching neckline linings, another one taught me French seams. Gradually I progressed to the point where I didn’t need a pattern for basic garments, but it’s still nice to have one.

A few things to keep in mind when selecting a pattern to make:

1. Know your measurements before you shop.

Yes, patterns are sized and they resemble the sizes you would find on the tags of your store-bought clothes. The thing is, manufacturers have a nasty habit of sizing-down over time (today’s size 6 might have been a size 8 or 10 in the past, something you’ve found out if you’ve ever shopped vintage), a practice that pattern-sizing doesn’t quite keep up with. You may need to go up a size or two in order to get the right fit and patterns usually have a range of 4 sizes in a package. Make sure you’re buying the right range.

The measurements you’ll need are usually your waist, hip and chest (that’s over the boobs, ladies, not your band size). Depending on the garment and the fit, it may help to know your inseam for pants, the width of your shoulders, the length of your arm from shoulder to wrist and the circumference of your neck–but those are fairly specialized and more important for tailoring, truthfully. Still, while you’ve got the tape measure out, it won’t hurt to jot those down.

2. Choose the size that corresponds to your largest measurements.

Or, if you are uniquely-shaped (another excellent reason to make your own clothes), purchase 2 patterns–one that matches your top measurements, the other that matches the bottom–and piece them together in the best way for the garment. While it’s easy to take things in, a dress that needs severe alterations on the top to accommodate very curvy hips is better started with two halves of a whole.

3. Make sure you’ve purchased enough fabric and notions for the job.

Sometimes you have a fabric that you’re trying to match a pattern to. This happens a lot when a fabric is on sale and you buy 3 yards of this or 5 yards of that without a specific project in mind. 5 yards will make a fairly full-skirted dress in most cases, but if the fabric has a stripe or a very obvious directional print, you won’t be able to arrange your pattern pieces so tightly, meaning you might need more fabric. Each pattern envelope will tell you how much to purchase for each size, and I usually add an extra yard, if possible, just to be on the safe side.

(Extra fabric is great for smaller projects like quilt piecing, stuffed animals, Christmas ornaments, etc.)

Next week we’ll go over the reasons why it’s good to make a muslin, first, and how to adjust a pattern to get a better fit.

Personal Style

64 Arts

“Style” is an expression of individualism mixed with charisma. Fashion is something that comes after style.

–John Fairchild

Do you know what your style is?

Here’s a quick test to see if your style matches your clothes.

  1. Write down what you consider your style to be.
  2. Go into your closet.
  3. Notice what colors, patterns, and pieces dominate.
  4. Compare the two.

Pretty simple, huh? Our clothes along with shoes, jewelry and other accessories, plus the way we put them together is our way of saying “this is me” to the outside world (or even just to ourselves).

My Closet

My Closet

For instance, I know my style revolves around simple pieces, tops in mostly solid colors, soft stretchy fabrics and that I prefer skirts with a tailored look or details and slacks over jeans. Shoes are a major draw and I like to have plenty of heel, color and style options. My closet?

The facing rack is all tops with dresses on the left and two racks of skirts and pants tucked into the right side. Behind the dresses are built-in shelves of shoes with more stored on the top shelf and still more in my office closet (more about shoes in another post to come). This was taken just after Todd installed the ClosetMaid system–it may only be a rental but that ancient steel rod I knew was going to collapse with the weight of my former walk-in closet all settled on it! I wish it was always this neat, but I do keep my tops in more-or-less color families in the standard ROY G BIV lineup with white on one end and black and grey on the other. Putting my clothes in this sort of order made it very easy for me to see what I was most drawn to.

Sometimes I think it would be fabulous to wear, as Kimberly Wilson does, all black and just accessorize with color but… as you can see, I’m drawn to tops of all hues and just don’t think I’d be happy with such a limited palette!

What if you aren’t particularly happy with your current style?

Longing for a makeover but Clinton and Stacy aren’t knocking down your door to lend a hand? Before you text a 911 to your most fashionable girlfriends, let’s try a fairly simple exercise that will show you what direction your style is heading, even if your closet doesn’t know it yet.

Lucky Style Collage, September 2010

Lucky Style Collage, September 2010

What you’ll need:

  • Fashion magazines (Lucky, Glamour, Cosmo, Elle, etc.)
  • Sticky tabs (optional)
  • Scissors
  • Plain paper
  • Glue or tape

Grab your first magazine and your stack of sticky tabs. I admit, I’m partial to Lucky as they give you the sticky tabs right in the magazine–so considerate of them! Now, you can skip straight to the scissors but I like this first-pass to be look-and-tag simple.

Simply flip through the pages. Don’t read the articles, don’t look at the brands or prices or any of the fine print, just tag whatever catches your eye and makes you think WANT or LIKE! Just do it, don’t think about how it’ll fit funny here or there, we’re going for broad strokes, here.

Once you’ve tagged a magazine or three (I usually do an issue at a time but doing 3 or 4 from the still-to-be-read pile can give you a broader look to work with), start removing pages that you tagged and cutting out the items that interested you. These can be clothes, accessories, colors, textures, the entire image or only a detail if that’s what caught your eye.

Take all your pieces and start to arrange them on your blank sheet of paper. This is collage 101: match up pieces that go together (again, I don’t necessarily mean outfits, just shapes and colors and items that look fun together–we’re not ready to analyze yet) and move them around the paper until you can see the parts you want and like the arrangement. Glue or tape them down.

Analyzing your Style Collage

Lucky Style Collage, October 2010

Lucky Style Collage, October 2010

First we want to look at colors–what color(s) drew your eye most? Going back to your recent closet evaluation, is this something you have in abundance or are you totally lacking that color in your wardrobe? If it’s the latter, you’ll want to look for it the next time you go shopping and buy one or two pieces in that hue (or at least try them on in the dressing room) to see if you like that color on you. If it’s a color that doesn’t work with your skin tone, it’s okay, look for accessories or accents in that color, instead.

Next, did you pull out any total outfits? What about individual garments that have a particular detail you like? Again, if you don’t have it in your closet, considering adding a piece or two that reflects the style your drawn to. You don’t have to buy exactly what’s in the magazine! Visa knows those sorts of things aren’t in my budget, but knowing what you like can help you be on the lookout for items of similar style in the places you already shop.

For instance, the red sweater with the black buttons in my October collage would never stay shut with just those 3 buttons at top–my boobs would make it into a gaping mess! Instead, though, I can look at updating one of my current red sweaters with some over-sized black buttons to get the look without flashing everyone! Same with the skirts–I can find a simple wrap skirt practically anywhere and add my own edge treatment to make it look more tailored.

Give yourself permission to be a little daring. After all, a makeover is most effective if it’s totally unexpected!

Why not ask your girlfriends?

Just because you bff is a snappy dresser, doesn’t necessarily mean her style is for you. Once you’ve determined what sort of things you want to add to your wardrobe, then you can call her up and plan a shopping day or a weekend at the nearest outlet mall.


Clothes may not actually make the man or woman, but I know for a fact that I feel loads better when I’ve put together an outfit that is more my style than someone else’s. Wearing jeans and a t-shirt, even if that’s what everyone else at the event will be wearing, makes me feel frumpy and uncomfortable.

It’s better to be comfortable and have people wonder where you’re going to or coming from to be dressed so differently than wear something that doesn’t reflect the real you.

So, are you planning any wardrobe updates this season?