Valient Viewers of Braver Homes and Gardens

Monday, September 27, 2010

Vogue 2787

I made this dress back in February, intending to wear it to the symphony.  I tweaked it over the weekend and I finally got to wear it out on the town. 

I used Vogue 2787 which is a reprint of a vintage pattern from 1948.
The pattern is labeled "advanced".  But fortunately I checked Pattern Review.  All reviewers said to mark pieces carefully and make good use of all markings.  Because of the design, there's really no way to do much altering either.  Thankfully I used markings - even notches which I tend to not bother with.  And it turned out to be a perfect fit. 

Here's my version

I actually didn't think it was all that advanced.  You just really have to pay attention to your cutting and use the markings just like the reviewers said.  I asked the Conductor's opinion and he said the skirt would look better a little shorter on me.  My sister Carrie always tells me to wear my skirts shorter, too.  I briefly thought of shortening it...but it's supposed to be a vintage design and this version falls just to the length of women's skirts from the mid-40's.  So I'll have to think about whether I want to stay true to the era - or go for a cut that's more flattering. 

The fabric has small, white polka dots on it so I got the idea to use piping to make the dots pop out more.  In retrospect, I shouldn't have done this.  The top portion, where the S-shaped seam is, involves the top of the left side being under the right....up until the bottom tucks.  Then it flips to being on the top. 

So, because of the switch in the middle, it was impossible to get the two ends of piping to meet up in one flow.
A noticeable flaw.  My only recorse was to cover it with a button. This, naturally, will draw the eyes right to one of my problem spots - my potbelly.  Ugh!

Pattern Review posters all said they wouldn't make another version of this dress, but I would.  Next time I'll be smart and not use piping!

So!  The show!  First we started out with dinner at Mader's - a German restaurant.  I'm German.  I've lived in Milwaukee more than half my life.  But I've never been to Mader's.  Boy, what a treat!  Milwaukee has a ton of really good restaurants.  But Mader's is one of only two or three that draw out of towners and celebrities.  So you know it's awesome. 

We started out with (what I thought would be) a before dinner cocktail of brandy old-fashioneds, a southside Milwaukee tradition.  This is what we got:
Holy Horseradish!  They were huge!! Like three cocktails in one.  I was drinking mine all through dinner and finished the last of it after my meal.  And it was well made too - considering the size, it was mixed right and didn't have any overly boozey taste.  Plus, they put a TON of cherries and oranges in it so by the time I got to the bottom, there was a crazy-delicious sludge that I ate as my dessert. 

I got the German sampler which came with five favorites - wiener schnitzel, sauerbraten,  sauerkraut, a smoked pork cutlet (that totally reminded me of my Gramma Nancy's smoked pork butt) , and red cabbage that tasted like candy.  Man!  If cabbage didn't make you do what it makes you do, I'd've eaten a plateful of just that. 

But the most exciting part of the meal was I got to have a food adventure.  I always keep my eye out for flavors or dishes I've never tried before and at Mader's I found one.  Take a guess what it is:

It looks like an unassuming bowl of beef or veggie soup, no?  It's really:    Oxtail soup!!  Contrary to Saturday morning cartoons, it does not come with two cut off, hairy ox tails draped across the top of the bowl.  (That was a childhood vision totally shattered).  This soup was amazing.  Very deep, loaded with barley, the ox-y meat was yummy (tasted like really great beef).  And the broth!! The broth was like liquid silk.  If I can find a way to duplicate that, I'll be as close to nirvana as a person can get.

After dinner we went to the symphony which featured a crazy mix of wonderful music - a fanfare by John Adams, a ballet suite by Aaron Copeland, and Beethovan's 9th which ended with the famous Ode to Joy.  Which they sang in German.  I don't speak German, so I found myself making up words to the music in my head.  It was pretty much a song about all the good German food I just ate. 

And for as much as people talk like Milwaukee is so uncouth, and as though we're all just a bunch of working class slobs that don't have any class or appreciation for the arts....this was the second symphony in a row the Conductor and I have been to where the seats were sold out.  So take that, all you snoots!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lady Grey part 2

Back with the Lady Grey sew along.  Last time, I stopped short of putting the sleeves in.  I prefer one piece sleeves because I find them easier to set in.  But this pattern features a two part sleeve.  I started by sewing together the top and bottom of the sleeve.  Because I only paper pieced the sleeves before cutting the fabric, I wanted to try on the sleeve first before I connect it to the body just to double check the fit in the bicep - my problem area.

As you can see, I'm wearing the same shirt I wore last time.  I'm doing that because this shirt has a typical weight of clothing I wear in spring/fall and  I want to to ensure a consistent fit as I go along.  Hmm....there's (thankfully!) enough room in the bicep area.  But I'm a bit concerned that my sleeve pokes out of the bottom.  The pattern is described as having a 3/4 sleeve...but I just had getting a draft up the arm.  Hopefully it will fit better once it's attached - otherwise, I may need to consider modifying the length.

My biggest challenge with sleeves is getting a nice, smooth shoulder.  When the sleeve isn't set in right, there tend to be puckers up at the shoulder.  The result is either an amateurish looking piece or the poufy little girl shouldered look.  Neither of which I want. 

Taking advantage of this jacket's current status as a muslin, I decided to experiment with two different sleeve methods.  I used blue thread on one sleeve, maroon on the other so I could remember which method I used on each. 

For the first method, I started by basting in only the top three inches or so of the shoulder seam.  This will guarantee that the top is pucker free.  (Once I was done setting in the sleeve, I noticed a pucker at my high bust.  Now I know I need to sew from my high bust and *then* over the shoulder by about two inches so there's no puckers at the bust).

Once I did this, I then sewed the side seam of the body.
Then I went and pinned the rest of the sleeve into the armscye.

Drat!  The area in between the yellow headed pins reveals extra fabric. 
Fortunately, this twill has a slight stretch and all I had to do was ease it in by stretching slightly.  Smooth as ice!  I forgot to take a picture of the finished sleeve.  It resulted in a nice, smooth seam all the way around except for the slight pucker at the high bust.  Which will be no big deal to deal with, should I go with this method.

At this point, I had to take a break because my airheaded dog (ONCE AGAIN) got her leash wrapped around a planter and was barking for help.  I put the planter there because she used to wrap her cord around the mailbox.  You can see how well that strategy worked. 

Egad!  I really need to fix my porch steps. 

Back to the second sleeve.  For this method, I first pinned the sleeve in, stopping where the side seam would go.  You can see in this
picture that I'm short.  Galdarnitall! 
But I sewed the side seam.  Then I sewed the sleeve in.  I left a two inch-ish opening so I could set the sleeve in. 

This time, there was NO stretch to simply ease it in.  That meant I had to "pin the heck out of it", as my home ec teacher used to say, so that all the extra gets flattened by the pins. 

Except that no matter how much I pin in situations like this, I never eliminate all the tucks.  Fortunately I sewed the sleeve in from top to bottom again.  So:

by this method, I also achieved a nice, smooth shoulder.  (The puckers were from me yanking on that piece of basting thread like an idiot).  But....

Horrors!  Look at all the puckers under the arm!!  Some good all that pinning did!

Yea, yea.  It's the armpit. Who's going to notice, right?  Well, I'LL know they're there.  And I'll feel like an amateur wearing something I can't be proud of.  Now that I know that my first method allows the sleeve to set in super easy, and that it gives me a smoother seam all around, I know which method to use on the final version.

BING!!  This is the point at which the lightbulb went off and I finally understood the value in doing a muslin.
I'm so glad I took advantage of the chance to try different techniques to find the best one. 

So, now it's time for a first fitting.  Here's the front:

Clap!  Clap!  Clap!  By the looks of it, the "too short" sleeves actually aren't too short.  Yippee! 

I also wanted to check the back, since many sew alongers are having swayback issues: 

Yippee!  Turns out having a Polish dupa sometimes pays off.  No swayback problem for me!  I do need to press all my seams and try it on again. I see wrinkles in both views so I want to make sure, before I go on, that these are just due to lack of ironing - and not the fabric being pullled oddly.  But I'm loving it so far!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Lady Grey Sew Along

Don't think me being stuck on my Nina Garcia project means I haven't been sewing.
I am SUPER excited to be joining Gertie's Lady Grey Sew Along.  I've always wanted to participate in a sew along but never caught one right at the beginning. 

Plus, I desperately need a nice looking spring and/or fall weight jacket.  The only ones I have are very casual sports jackets or jean jackets.  Nothing I can wear with fancy clothes. 

The first step was to choose your fabric and get ready for the muslin.  I've always hated muslins because I feel like I'm sewing the same thing twice but I only get to wear one of the two things I made.  It feels like a waste of time - and fabric!  But I've read so many good blogs out there, like Gertie's, that show how much better the quality of your item becomes when you use a muslin.  Plus there are all the projects I've had to scrap because I mistakenly thought I could sew things right off the pattern without making adjustments first.  Muslins prevent wasted fabric.  And if I'm gonna waste fabric, I'd rather waste muslin than fancy fashion fabric.

And yet...all that work on a muslin and you can't even wear it!  That's why I'm in the camp of sewists who use "real" fabric - cheap fabric or old sheets and the like - as a muslin.  That way, if it's screwed up immensely, it's affordable enough to rip apart or toss.  But if the muslin works out, you can finish it appropriately and have an item you can wear. 

So, for the sew along, I bought two fabrics from the same group - cotton twills.  This green one will be my final product, made after I work the kinks out on my muslin.

Gertie recommends having fun with the lining since the jacket is wide in the hips and the inside will be visible when it's opened up. 
The print is the lining I chose.  It's an ugly fabric I've passed by on the "value" table many times.  Too ugly to use as a blouse or dress, but a fun lining,  indeed.  I'm hoping I'll have this green jacket done in time to wear this fall, yet.

This pink one will be my muslin and hopefully I'll land up with a nice spring jacket. 
Isn't the lining fabric insane?  It's a bunch of fashionable girls in turquoise, lime, and pink against a black background.  By itself, it's even uglier than the other one.  It's been on the store shelves for EVER and they have the gall to charge $3.95 a yard for it!  It hasn't moved in months.  Until today.  I thought it would be super fun to use as the  lining. Something very unexpected.  Added bonus, it was on sale for 60% off!  Plus the store clerks gave each other that "oh my God I can't believe someone's actually buying this" look. 

I'll show them! 

With my fabric prepped, I started to cut.  Because the pattern is a swing style in the hip and falls over the shoulders, I'm taking a leap and assuming I don't need to adjust for two of my problem fitting areas - the bust and belly. 

But I thought I'd paper piece the sleeves and try them on over a medium weight sweater since my arms are another problem area to fit.
It looks like I'll have extra room which is good - I'm not so hot at adjusting arms

I cut out the muslin pieces:
Easy peasy.

Then I basted most of the shell.  I didn't do the arms today because I was starting to get tired.  And I tend to make dumb mistakes when I'm tired.  So far, this is what I have:
This fabric is amazing to work with.  I'm hoping to do the sleeves and sides in the next few days and then I'll have my first fitting. 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Nina Garcia #5 - Ballet Flat

My Nina Garcia project has come to a complete standstill.  Only because I'm stumped. 
Number 5 on her list of The One Hundred things every woman should have in her closet is.....ballet flats.

Brigitte Bardot and Audry Hepburn made them famous. Nina Garcia describes them as "the go-to shoe for those times when heels are out of the question".  This is where I'm torn. 

I thought about sewing a ballet skirt.  But the last time I've taken dance classes (and worn one) was at least 12 years ago. And I don't WANT to make a ballet outfit.  This is how I picture myself when I think of me doing ballet:

So then I figured I'd make an outfit similar to those worn my Audrey Hepburn or Brigitte Bardot.

Well, Bardot wore a lot of leggings.  Which look nice with ballet flats.  But which don't look so nice on my Polish dupa.  And, in Milwaukee, most women seen in leggings also wear baggy shirts, don't do their hair, and generally look like they've given up.

Audrey Hepburn, with her small nose and her pixie looks is just unappealiong to me and I don't wish to duplicate her look at all.  When you get right down to it, I don't like wearing ballet flats. My feet are too wide, for one.  And I walk fast so I feel like they're going to fall off.  Committed to my Nina Garcia project,  I've been stuck on how to incorporate ballet flats into this project. 

Then the Conductor and I went to a Wine and Harvest Festival in Cedarburg, WI and found a bead shop to poke around in.  I was pretty tipsy but I managed to control myself around the beads (I'll show what else I bought in an upcoming post). Anyway, I stumbled upon the perfect solution:

Aren't they cute!  Ballet flats as a jewelry charm!

I turned them into a bracelet.

So...technically....I now have ballet flats in my collection of The One Hundred pieces every stylish woman must own. I'm unstuck and moving on! 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Plant Cabinet

Here's a super quick project I did on vacation.  I found this plant stand at a thrift store for $5 on sale for half off.

I just primed it then put two coats of my living room shade of white paint on it and Voila!

A pretty new plant stand. 
You can see how the white paint matches the chair on the left that I renovated a few months back.  I'm on my way to a matching "set" of living room furniture.  It's awesome how you can transform a room with just a container of paint. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pimp my Cabinet

I know it's been over a month since I last posted.  But really, there's been nothing to post.  August in Wisconsin was unbearably humid.  The kind of weather where you can't even breathe outside and everytime you set out to do something you just turn into a slug.  I got a whole lot of nothing done.

It was too hot to be out in the garden.  So this is what I ended up with:
This is supposed to be two tomato plots, a raspberry bush, two separate flower patches, and a squash patch with beautiful grass paths dividing each.  The brown strip is my sidewalk that should be 24" wide, reduced to about 12 inches with all the overgrowth.  An urban jungle if ever there was one.  I was too hot to even go out and water.  But despite no water and the heat, I've had pretty good luck with just about everything I planted.

And my sewing room is upstairs.  I was infomred by my A/C man that my unit is too small to boost the cool air to the upstairs.  Since heat rises, it was to dang hot to be up there sewing.  Even though I wasn't up there working, my sewing room still turned into this:

Can you even spot the sewing machine in that whole mess?

But the heat finally subsided in time for my vacation and I managed to get some of the projects done that I've been putting off all through the heatwave.  Here's my first one:

I got this cabient from my friends Amy and Shane who rehab houses as a side business.  I had mentioned I was looking for a used cabinet to put on my enclosed back porch which is just off my kitchen.  My plan was to use it to store dishes and appliances that don't fit in my kitchen cabinets.  This was torn from a house they were working on.

Um, yea.  For now, it's doubling as a workbench for my miter saw.  My basement is a disaster.  As you see in this picture, the doors don't even close because there's so much crap in there.  Even worse...well...brace yourself for the inside view:

Yikes!  Everytime I go inside this thing, I have to prepare for an avalanche of dishes and appliances.  Time to pimp this cabinet! 

I have a lot of different sized cake pans, bundt forms, jello molds, tupperware, and holiday shaped cake pans.  The upper left is an attempt to stack all these but you can see how great that's worked.  I managed to find two pullout drawers for a buck a piece at the Habitat for Humanit ReStore.

Mounting them was easy-peasy.  After deciding to put one on each shelf, I just screwed the bases right into the main shelf. 

The the drawers slid right on.

I also have a lot of cookie sheets and cookie racks.  Those slide all over and are just a pain because they usually land up on the bottom of a huge pile of dishware.  I've even broken finger nails trying to separate them to pull one out.  A slash rack was the perfect solution for storing them upright - I can pull them out easier and I can spot each one easily.

I found some scrap wood and used L-brackets to attach one to the main shelf. 
I initially thought I'd need to make two, but one did the trick and left enough room in between the slash rack and the pull out drawer for two big appliances to sit.  The oblong pans nested nicely and also left room for two more bigger items. 

In the process of organizing, I even found four items to pack up for Goodwill.  I have two other casserole dishes I like already so I gave the peach one away.  I tossed the square cakepan because I can fit the same amount of batter in one of the many circle pans I have.  The cheesecake pan went because I have one that's almost similar that was a gift from Amy.  Why I have two , I don't know, but it was clearly time to clean because I also found TWO angel food cake pans.  I make angel food cake maybe twice a year so I hardly need two pans.  Geez!

The whole project took about 20 minutes.  Which is sad because I've been staring at this mess for two years!

When it was all finished this is what I ended up with this:
Isn't it beautiful?  The stuff I use most is near the front.  Less used stuff is in the back but easily accessible in the pullout drawers.  No heaping piles of dishes.  Here's an even better view:

Nothing like the  look of no clutter!  And now that I have organized my cabinet, I'm off to make a pie for the Conductor.