The blogs roundup

Via Into the Fray, check out this wacky article at Outside magazine about Brit Eaton, a guy who makes his living going around the West looking for vintage and antique jeans and other clothing. When you have to watch out for rattlesnakes and angry men with shotguns, it brings a whole new meaning to thrift hunting.

February is fat quarter month at Sew Mama Sew, and each weekday they're posting a project to do using fat quarters. Lots of clever and useful ways to use up small pieces. I should really be making the travel tissue holders, given how my cold refuses to go away.

On another topic, one of my favorite 'daily wardrobe photo' blogs is Fashion for Nerds, and she's got a wonderful series of posts up about kicking your style up a notch. It's a great combination of the practical and the intellectual visual/aesthetic, and not the same old boring stuff you get from fashion magazines. I think many sewers would find it inspirational, particularly if you're working on a SWAP or wardrobe collection.

Creative space Thursday

Recently I discovered the blog Hoppo Bumpo - which is doing a great series on seam finishes BTW - and her weekly Thursday creative space photos, a group effort organized by Kootoyoo. So I thought I'd take my own and join the list of participants. Mainly I'm excited that I'm sewing again, even if the Cold of Doom is still slowing me down a bit.

The white/black plaid and the pattern instructions are for a jacket I'm working on from Vogue 8562. I'm making it unlined from a really ravelly boucle, so I have to figure out how to finish all the seams - right now I'm thinking of binding them all with bias. The white and blue calico is a bag lining for a bag from Oh Fransson, and the jeans peeking out are going to become the bag exterior - I'm trying a little creative reuse. The zipper's destined to replace a broken one on a skirt I bought at an after-Christmas sale (at an additional half off since the zipper was busted), but I've been putting it off because I didn't want to have to change the thread color and then change it right back. I swear, I'm a lunatic.

BurdaStyle changes

In an astonishing display of ignoring their users, BurdaStyle is now charging for most of their formerly free patterns. It's not so much the change itself - I think everyone expected them to start charging for more of their patterns in order to make their business model work long term. It's the way that they did it without any warning, solicitations of suggestions, or even care of what the member response would be.

Sewers still aren't 100% on board with print at home patterns. They use up a lot of paper and toner, and the assembly process is fiddly and time consuming. The ability to print a pattern without leaving your house still isn't as convenient as being able to buy a pattern and have it already printed on easy-to-use tissue. So, in order to get sewers to put up with an inferior process, you have to give them something that they can't otherwise get. For home patternmaking software and sites like m-sewing, it's the ability to customize every detail as well as customize fit. For independent pattern designers who sell, for example, digital downloads on etsy, it's the unique aesthetics of the designs and the personal connection that the user feels with the designer and brand.

For BurdaStyle, it was the free patterns. If they'd done a better job drafting the patterns or writing the instructions, they would have had quality on their side. But only the patterns reproduced from Burda WOF seemed to be 'Burda quality'; the patterns designed by the BurdaStyle folks themselves often had many problems. But they were free, and a lot of people will put up with a lot for free. One of the BurdaStyle staff actually said in one of the blog entries talking about this change that: "If you are not happy with the design it won't make a difference if they are for charge or for free." Anyone who's thought about this for five minutes knows that this isn't true; people will ignore a lot of problems with something they got free that they won't for something they pay for. It's not even the cost itself - the difference between free and something costing one cent is a lot bigger psychologically than the actual difference between $0 and $0.01. It's amazing that BurdaStyle doesn't have someone on staff or consulting with them that understands these basic tenets of online community building.

I've always thought BurdaStyle had problems. Their site, despite redesigns, is awkward to use; their forums are poorly moderated and not user-friendly. The only thing they had that other sites didn't were the patterns. Now that they've managed to alienate much of their user base with their ham-handedness, I'm not sure how much longer they'll be around. Which is a shame, because it was an idea that could have been really great.

Garden 2009

Ah, the new year. Bringing the new seed catalogs, harbingers of spring! Just like in my fabric buying habits, I tend to be wildly over-optimistic in my garden planning and seed buying. This year I was uber-responsible and went through my remaining seed packets and my notes from last year before buying anything (ok, I did drool over the catalogs first, but then checked my favorites against the list). I really need to find some gardening friends around here who want to share seeds; I can never use a whole packet of anything before the seeds are old and won't germinate anymore.

Last year's garden was kinda sad; the two successes I had were tomatoes and bell peppers. This year I want to widen my tomato varieties, and try some cucumbers and zucchini, as well as lettuce and a chili pepper plant in containers. This will mean that I will need to clear more space in our backyard. Right now the sunniest area is covered by a lemon tree, our compost pile, some sad-looking roses, and a volunteer mint plant that's more like a shrub, despite how many times I've chopped and dug it up - thanks so much, old tenant! (Note to all: if you live in a place where it doesn't reliably freeze in the winter, never plant herbs, especially mint, in the ground. They go viral and you'll never get rid of them *ever*.)

2009 sewing goals

I cleaned up my sewing area the other day (sorta), and tried to get excited about my SWAP plans. And failed. I'm now thinking that the SWAP may not be my best plan for the beginning of the year. If I'm honest I need fill-in-the-blanks pieces more than I need a whole 'nother capsule. Right now, and maybe always, I'm not the kind of person who wants to make everything they wear - I don't have either the skills or the time. And since I've lost weight I can find decent-fitting things at the store (eventually). So it makes more sense to make those items that I can't buy or can't find to fit, or those things that I just think would be fun to sew.

I have two weddings to go to next year; both of my DH's cousins on one side (siblings) are getting married, one in April and the other in October. Both weddings are in the midwest, so it's hard to predict the weather. It could be springlike and warm, or it could still be cold. Of my nice dresses, the only one that's not black or summery is the dress I wore to my DH's sister's wedding last year. And the same folks who will be at both these weddings were at that wedding, so I'd like to have something new (preferably two somethings new). I'm thinking about something like a sleeveless dress and jacket combo, or a sleeved dress. Vogue has some good options. Some of the vintage patterns I have are possibilities, but they may look too costumey. Something like Vogue 7963 (the short skirt version), perhaps?

Another idea for fabric sourcing

A lot of people are watching their budgets these days, and I know a lot of sewers are working through their fabric stashes and not buying a lot of new fabric. Here's another idea for getting nice fabric to work with at a low cost.

If you're looking for a particular fabric, consider buying a discounted RTW garment a size or two bigger than yours, and recut the fabric. With many items you could also reuse some of the plackets, fly fronts, zippers or buttons. I was at the mall the other day, and many of the stores had serious sales on. I was looking for pants, and I saw a lot marked down to below $20 that had originally been priced three or four times as much. And these were decent colors and sizes, not just bright orange in sizes 2 and 4. I saw nice RPL pants for $18; you couldn't buy good RPL yardage for that. (I also got a nice black pencil skirt for an additional 40% off, because the zipper was broken. Yahoo!)

I've done this with some Goodwill garments in the past and it's really not much more fiddly than using yardage (and it keeps clothes out of the landfill). I try to remind myself that clothes are just fabric, and if there's enough fabric I could turn them into something else entirely if I wanted.

The Slapdash Sewist has a nice blog entry up on making an oversized sweater into a sweater dress; it's super-cute.

Stitching up 2008 (ha!)

I hope that everyone is having a wonderful holiday season.

When I was at the bookstore picking up books for gifts the other week, I also bought the first issue of Stitch, a new sewing magazine put out by Interweave (they do a lot of knitting and other fiber mags). I highly recommend it. It's modern yet wearable in style, the projects are doable but interesting, and the articles are excellent. There's an article on sourcing green fabrics and an interview with Natalie Chanin; projects include bags and sewing room accessories, small gift projects and home dec, and 5 interesting skirt designs with patterns included. The one skirt pictured on the cover, is from Martha at UNIFORM Studio, and she also has an article in the magazine about her sewing inspirations journal. A couple of the skirt patterns are also available on the Stitch website.

Sister Diane at CraftyPod has written a more detailed review of Stitch including several pictures. I really liked Stitch, and if it were a monthly magazine I'd subscribe ASAP (it's a "special issue" right now, a la the Threads spinoff mag, but hopefully they'll publish it regularly). Now to actually get back into the sewing nook and finish some projects!

Winter inspirations: Boden: Embellishment

Ok, if you know my taste at all, you'll know that lots of embellishment and *stuff* is not my style. One of the things I like about Boden is that they do interesting details on some of their clothes which are just enough - not crazy out there, but add a little something. In most of my sewing I tend to make things even more on the plain side that what I buy; at least that way I won't mess something up with a bad choice of embellishment, I figure! I probably need to be a bit bolder, so here are some ideas in that direction.

{There are several examples in the catalog that I wanted to share but aren't up on their website yet. I'll wait a bit, and if they don't show up I'll take a quick picture of the page in the catalog. So, round 1 of 2, hopefully:}

You can't see this except in the close-up shots, but this wool crepe dress has tonal contrast pick-stitching (which apparently in British English is 'stab stitching') on the bodice pintucks.

Knit wool dress with 'jewels' around the neckline. (I'm not convinced of the shape for most of us, though.)

The empire band has studs and beads added (and the shape looks good on almost anyone). There's an identical one in black in a dress length.

Boden always does a few skirts each season with cute embroidery or appliques. I particularly like this one with the bullseye sequins.

And here are a couple more skirts, this time with applique.

The rows of topstitching on the collar, pockets, and cuffs of this blazer are done in several different tonal colors of thread. I wonder if you could get a similar effect using one of those spools of variegated quilting thread?

Winter inspirations: Boden: Coats

There's some cute things in the new Boden catalog. The two themes seem to be embellishment and coats. They have several coats that I just love; retro-inspired but also clean and modern.

The gray/black and brown/navy colorways are perfectly classic, and the violet/red is fun but still wearable. I've seen this seaming detail a lot recently on coats and jackets; there's a raglan sleeve and then the bodice is paneled, but not as a typical princess seam - the seam starts from midway between the CF and the raglan at the collarbone and angles out toward the side. It seems to give a bit of a swing coat flair while still being fitted.

This is a simple raincoat shape but in a satin. One of these would be a great topper to wear to any holiday parties (the dressy dress with an everyday coat look never seems quite right to me), and easy to put together.

And this is a classic wool coat with great seaming; I like the yoke detail, which is also repeated on the back.

Winter inspirations from Coldwater Creek

I'm in the throes of National Novel Writing Month, so I haven't done any sewing. I do have several pieces for my SWAP picked out and ready to cut. I was almost to parity with the fabric stash, but then I went to Hancock's last month and they had several lovely pieces. Most of which I plan on using for my SWAP, so hopefully they will not stay in the stash for long.

I saw some cute pieces in the most recent Coldwater Creek catalogs, though, which I thought I might share.
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