Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Perfume: Perfume? Oh, yeah.

So in all this babbling about sewing and other things, I haven't been ignoring my perfume collection. I've been wearing perfume, I just haven't been making a meal of it. And I find that my perfume taste under those circumstances is a bit different.

For example, there's k. hall designs Cypress and Cassis, a solid perfume that I wear so rarely that I tried to give it away. The other day I wanted a solid perfume for minimal projection, and I was bored with Pacifica Tuscan Blood Orange, so I grabbed this one. And after a few hours with it, I've concluded that, no, I'm not giving it away, I'm putting it toward the front of the collection for a while. It has a medicinal edge, probably the cypress, and a "clean" vibe, but it's a clean that doesn't depend on either soapy musk or watery notes. The cassis is in there, but it's so well blended with the cypress that I don't read it as "fruity"; fruity annoys me. The whole package makes me feel as if I smell interesting, and I like that.

If it really were low-projection, I'd claim that as an added advantage; I like my perfume to be largely undetectable until the hug range. Unfortunately, Himself complained about it at a range of three or four feet, so apparently it is neither low-projection nor Himself-approved.

Moving on, there's Balenciaga Rumba, acquired for the "under twenty" series, which I will get to one of these days. Mals at Muse in Wooden Shoes predicted that I wouldn't like this. Having met me, and knowing what I now know about Rumba, I would have concurred with this prediction. But, contrarily, it turns out that I love it. It's sticky and fruity and slightly cloying and fabulous.

Wild divergence: Long ago, I did computer support. Although our customers were employees of our own company, under some circumstances we had to ask to be paid for our work from the customer's departmental budget. A coworker once summarized the attitude of a cat, versus that of a dog, in those terms:

"Ya got a charge number?"

OK, maybe you have to have worked there to burst out laughing, as I did. But in the cat people versus dog people contest, Rumba is definitely a "dog" perfume, eager to please and puffing friendly pungent fumes at you as it drools just a little. It would never dream of asking for a charge number; it just wants to give. I'm a cat person, but sometimes I can appreciate the uncomplicated adoration of a dog.

Image: By Anthony1592. Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sewing: Did the Buttonholes!

I hate buttonholes.

Those of you that don't read or talk about crafts online may not be familiar with the term UFO, or UnFinished Object. Every sewer or knitter or needlepointer or quilter other crafter that I've ever known has lots of UFOs hanging around their house, projects that were started with enthusiasm but never finished. There are infinite reasons for never-finishing, from not knowing how to do a step, to just rushing ahead to the next project. Or disliking a step, like, say, the buttonholes.

I have a shirt made from the HotPatterns Plain & Simple Princess Shirt pattern hanging in the closet, a UFO from perhaps five years ago. It's been waiting all that time for the shirt hem, the sleeve hems, and the buttonholes and buttons. I don't remember why it got stalled. The collar is wrong, but I didn't know that back then, and it is at least symmetrical and without wrinkles, so "wrong" is a matter of degree. It's not the fabric, which is a beautiful blue linen that I admire every time I see it. Odds are that something shiny crossed my vision and I ran away.

Yesterday I got another HotPatterns Plain & Simple Princess shirt (in lime green Brussels Washer, a linen/cotton blend) done to the same point, around 10pm. I stopped for a sandwich and, I thought, for the night. But the shirt, probably hearing fearful stories from the blue linen one, kept nagging at me.

First I stitched down the front facings, something I've been considering but thought would look funny. After pressing, it looked just fine. More nagging from the shirt, and I hemmed the bodice. I learned in the process that Brussels Washer is rather substantial, so that the front corners of the shirt (where you have two layers of fabric due to the facing, plus two more when you turn the hem down, plus two more when you turn it down again) were too fat. But I gave it a deeper hem to give the fat bit some space to relax, and topstitched and pressed it into submission, and it's wearable, if not perfect. (Edited to add: Oh. Yes. Now I see what I did wrong; you just don't hem a facing that way. Next time, I know which Outside Instructions to drag out.)

Having learned from that, I finished the edges of the sleeves with silk organza bias strips (a Hong Kong finish?), so that when I turned down that finished edge I ended up with only two layers of the main fabric, instead of four. (The thickness of silk organza doesn't really count.) That produced a much more fluid hem, and I'll remember the next time I make a version of this shirt in a substantial fabric. Of course, the white organza strip is also visible inside the sleeve when I gesture. I suppose I could buy a rainbow of single-yard pieces of China silk so that I can match colors when I do a Hong Kong finish in the future. Or I could choose to admire the crisp white line as a sign of a clean-finished interior. That's my vote today.

So nothing was left but the buttonholes. I hate buttonholes. I hung the no-doubt-still-nervous shirt up and went to bed.

And got up today, and took a bubble bath, and went out to lunch (Charcuterie plate! Fried chicken! Fruit bowl! Gluttony!) and went to the grocery and came home and played on the web and cleaned the kitchen and did laundry and folded laundry and played on the web and tidied the back room and all the while the shirt was begging, "What about meeeeeeeee?" Then I had a sandwich and played on the web.

At 7:30 I think the shirt resorted to hypnotism. I found the sewing machine manual, the fancy sensor buttonhole foot, and the card of small clear buttons left over from... huh. Probably from the blue UFO, now that I think about it. I put together a sample swatch of Brussels Washer and organza to match the shirt's facings, for testing buttonholes. I did five sample buttonholes and figured out juuuuust the right pressure to make the wad of thread from the first half of the buttonhole go under the presser foot without jamming when making the second half, but not so much that I distort the length of the buttonhole. I dug out the pattern to remember where the center front line was supposed to be. I basted a line of stitches at the exact position for the line of buttonholes. I put on the shirt. I marked the bust point and the lapel point. I measured the rest of the buttonholes. I inserted pins. I sewed the buttonholes (gasp) and cut them (bigger gasp; there's always the risk of cutting past the buttonhole and inflicting a mortal wound on the shirt) and removed the basted guide line and sewed on the buttons. (Everybody fall down now.)

See why I hate doing buttonholes?

The shirt is done. I started out to create a shirt with buttons. I created a shirt with buttons instead of a UFO. I'm not absolutely positive that I've achieved this since high school Home Ec. I'm only fairly sure it's legal.

Above is the shirt. The throw pillow that wore the notched collar in the photo of the last post was feeling left out, so they're posing together.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sewing: Bwahaha! (That collar)

Remember that collar? The Hot Patterns notched collar that rated a nine-page thread on PatternReview and a very fine tutorial on Off the Cuff? The one that defeated me and destroyed a perfectly nice rayon Dolman Blouse?


At least, half a bwahaha. The good part is that with the aid of that tutorial, I got a half-decent looking version of this collar done.

The bad news is that I somehow managed to attach it to the wrong side of the shirt - a muslin mock-shirt, so there's no tragedy there. I'm just startled that I managed to get the whole thing constructed and half of it pressed before I realized that it was wrong side around.

But all the same, I proudly clothed a pillow with the result (I only cut the shirt pieces down to the middle upper arm, because the collar is all I care about) and present a photo, above. I should now be able to produce an adequate Hot Patterns Plain & Simple Princess Shirt. At least, if I can remember to put the collar on the correct side.


Photo: Mine.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Rambling: SWAP 2012 (Again I talk about the sewing.)

NaNoWriMo is over. So I need a substitute, right? Right?

Well, there's this thing called a SWAP, or Sewing With A Plan. The Stitcher's Guild hosts an annual SWAP contest. This year's rules, as briefly as I can describe them, call for participants to:
  • Choose seven garment types from a list of fourteen choices. The choices include things like collared shirt, tee, pants, skirt, jacket, and so on.
  • Make one example each of those seven garment types.
  • Make another example each of four of the seven. That is, repeat the garment type, not necessarily the pattern. That makes a total of eleven garments.
  • All eleven garments must be sewn by the participant, but two of them can be from before the beginning of the contest.
  • The other nine must be sewn between 12/26/2011 and 4/30/2012.
People generally have a theme for their SWAPs, and a title, but I haven't gotten that far. Rather like typing at blinding speed for NaNoWriMo, I'm going to count any garment that, well, counts. Later, I might substitute in spiffier things. On those grounds, I've technically finished (or almost finished) four out of the eleven garments:

1 - Lazy Skirt (Skirt): I already own at least four self-sewn skirts, so I'm counting one as one of the two before-the-contest garments.

2 - Goth-Daffodil Cooking Coat (Overshirt): As a test garment/wearable muslin for the delightfully weird Liberty Shirt from Sewing Workshop, I sewed this up from black cotton printed with white daffodils. It's pretty weird to wear outdoors, so I'm calling it a cooking coat. (Fried chicken splatters, after all.) I intend to make a closure with a pig-shaped button and some chicken-and-egg ribbon. A cooking coat may be pushing the category of "overshirt"; we'll see if this one remains a part of the SWAP.

3 - Pink Girly Top (Blouse or shirt, collar optional): The Sewing Workshop Cowl Top in pink silk crepe, previously blogged. I used the pattern pretty much unchanged, except for adding triangular godet/gusset things at the hem to make more room for my hips.

4 - Red Polka Dot Girly Top (Blouse or shirt, collar optional): The Sewing Workshop Cowl Top again, in red rayon with white polka dots. This represents Version Two of my copy of the Cowl Top pattern. Who knew that sewing would require version control? But I'm finding that it really does; without versions it's only a matter of time before I cut an un-altered sleeve and try to install it into an altered armhole.

In this version, I shortened the hem a fraction to make it shorter than any likely jackets or cardigans, shortened the sleeves to wrist length, sewed everything but the cowl in French seams, pre-hemmed the pieces before assembly (a little weird, but it solved the rippling hem problem that I had on the pink one), and topstitched the cowl instead of hand-hemming it. I abandoned the triangular thingies; they went in just fine in the silk crepe for the first top, but I failed three times in the wobbly rayon of the second one, so I finally ripped them out and did normal side seams. Therefore, I'll be tucking this shirt in.

In Version Three I'll modify the main bodice pieces to make more hip room. I may also make hem templates to avoid the pre-hemming weirdness while still avoiding the ripply weirdness. I'm debating whether to remove some fabric from higher in the bodice, but I'm pretty sure that that would be just silly--this shirt wants to be loose and roomy. I also really want to find a way to do a completely clean finish, like a French seam, on the cowl seam, but so far I'm not sure how.

My construction skills are already improving; this version is greatly improved from the pink one. Unfortunately, I don't look so good in it. That is, I really like the head-and-shoulders view in the mirror; it's just what I wanted. But the shoulders-to-waist view makes me look a little, er, substantial. It appears that polka dots call for a few distracting details like a collar and buttons, rather than just an expanse of flowing fabric. So I'll be wearing this blouse under a cardigan or jacket and will make future Cowl Tops from solids.

So, how about garments five to eleven? Some of them are planned.

5 - Yet Another Black Shirt (Button Shirt With Collar): The cooking jacket was OK, but the shoulders were too wide, giving it a dropped sleeve when it's not meant to. I used the "narrow shoulders" alteration in Sandra Betzina's Fast Fit book to change the pattern and I (gulp) went ahead and cut it out in black linen without testing it in muslin. I may regret this, but that linen's been hanging around for at least ten years, so I'm declaring it to be fully depreciated. Or whatever you call it for sewing stash.

6 - Weird Skirt (Skirt):  I'm realizing that my taste for weird extends to sewing patterns as well as perfume. The Liberty Shirt is weird. And when I decluttered much of my pattern collection a few years ago, I kept all the Issey Miyake and Folkwear. Vogue 1082, the skirt that I'm tentatively planning to make for garment 6, is subtly weird, with lots of cool architectural seams.

Now, going full-fledged weird with this particular skirt requires absolute perfection in topstitching. I don't have that talent yet, so I'll be making it up out of some quiet matte-finish solid, and skipping the topstitching.  There's a narrow slightly pegged version and a much fuller version; I'll be starting with the weirder narrow version. For a later project, the fuller version looks good, too--plenty of walking room with not a bit of excess fabric further up where it's not needed.

What to make it in? That question highlights a conflict between sewing and decluttering. See, it's common to make a test garment or "muslin" of a pattern in cheap ugly fabric. The fabric might be actual muslin or some length of textile ugliness that you bought while visiting a fabric store with impaired judgement. That's not the decluttering conflict--muslins are made to be thrown away.

But next comes the "wearable muslin". Once a muslin is done, you may want to retest the altered pattern in, say, seven-dollar-a-yard bargain rayon bought on sale before you cut into the fifty-dollar-a-yard Silk of Majesty and Grandeur. If you succeed, you're ready to move on to the expensive fabric, but you also have a garment that is, by definition, a compromise. Unless you're fifty miles away from the nearest laundering facilities, how many compromise garments do you want in the house? As they start to stack up, will you actually wear them?

I have three different fabrics that are perfectly suitable for Vogue 1082, but I don't actually like any of them, at least not for a skirt. I also have a lovely nubbly black wool that I want for the skirt in the end, but I'm afraid to ruin it. It's a thicket.

7 - Standard Shirt (Button Shirt With Collar): I want a shirt that I can make up several times in different shirting fabrics, but I can't seem to perfect a set-in sleeve in any of the candidates tried so far.  Burda 7429 has dropped sleeves and appears to have a fairly fitted bodice, and might be just what I want while I'm avoiding the set-in sleeves. I haven't so much as unfolded the pattern yet, though, so we'll see.

8 - My Kingdom For a Dress! (Dress): I've been fighting with two different princess-seamed dresses, but I don't know if I'm going to win either battle. First was the Hot Patterns Wong-Singh-Jones Kimono Wrap Dress. After my first attempt at a bodice-and-sleeves muslin, I realized that I'd have to lengthen the bodice, modify the sleeve to account for a larger upper arm, possibly remove some ease from the sleeve cap or completely redraft the sleeve to be properly asymmetrical, and modify the shoulders to account for narrow shoulders. That's before I get even as far as my waist.

I got discouraged and tried the Petite Plus Princess Dress, because it's intended for people who are round for their height, like me. It turns out that the size that the measurement chart recommends for me is too large everywhere, so I'll need to start over with a smaller size, tracing all five pieces again--and if I guess wrong on the size, possibly again. Once I trace that smaller size, I'm pretty sure I'll still have to do a low bust adjustment and narrow the shoulders.

I'm going back to Wong-Singh-Jones; if I have to put this much work into a pattern, I prefer its shoulder princess seams to the armhole princess seam of the Petite Plus dress. But, sheesh. What's worse is that this is probably not an abnormal amount of work for fitting a pattern.

But, hmm. I dug into the pattern box to have another look at those two patterns and ran across Stretch & Sew 526, a pattern so old that I don't see even a mention on PatternReview. I remember making a perfectly satisfactory loose cotton summer dress from this. It has barely dropped sleeves, getting me out of the set-in sleeves drama, but still with the shape of a normal sleeve. I don't like the empire waist, but in digging through the envelope I see I already altered that away. I suspect that the scoop neck version doesn't even require a real button closure. Unfortunately, the dress is packed away with the summer clothes, so I can't try it on.

9: Again, again! (Dress): If I put that much work into a dress pattern, I'm making it at least twice.

10: Cloaklike object (Overcoat or Raincoat; it seems clear in the rules discussion that a cloak counts for this type): I don't know what kind--the Folkwear Kinsale Cloak, maybe? Or some much smaller elbow- or hip-length thing like Vogue 8605? Vogue 1476, a freaky draping cloak/coat that one of the reviewers says has been in the catalog for twenty years?

Oh. Never mind. Forget all that. Look at Vogue 2232. Architectural. Weird. Look at the version that appeared in Threads 91, as depicted in this post from Now Sewing. Want.

Number 11? I just don't know. The rules do say that if you wear pants, you should include them in your SWAP, and I do wear jeans and occasionally shorts. So that's what this ought to be. But.

And by the way, is it wrong to want a dressmaker's dummy just so that I can photograph my garments on it for blogging and pattern reviews? Probably.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sewing: Color?! Reprise, and Polka Dots

The above depicts most of my fabric purchases since the sewing restart. Maybe aliens have stolen my brain?

The below shows the pink silk cowlneck blouse, my first wearable garment since the sewing restart. You may observe that while I'm willing to admit that I don't actually have feathers and a beak, I'm not yet prepared to show my actual face on the Internet.

Why is that?

I've mentioned before that somewhere in my brain is the conviction that I'm wildly unattractive. The conviction that if I demonstrate that I've put any effort whatsoever toward my appearance, small children will point and laugh. I've used the phrase "pig in an Easter bonnet" in reference to the idea. I'm not sure where all that came from--though I have theories--but it's definitely in there.

I suspect that that's part of why my initial entrance into the world of girly was through perfume. Perfume's appeal does not depend, in any way, on me. Whether I'm beautiful or hideously ugly, perfume will smell the way it smells. I don't categorize it as an ornament, and therefore to wear it, I don't have to feel that I'm worth ornamenting. It's the opposite extreme from makeup, which to me is all ornament, a statement that communicates my belief that I can be made worth looking at. That brings us back to point-and-laugh.

Clothes are somewhere in the middle. Everyone has to wear clothes, so unlike perfume, the mere fact that I'm wearing some doesn't indicate that I have the unmitigated gall to have any faith in my appearance. Even fine, expensive clothes, as long as they're boring, can communicate not respect for my appearance, but respect for those who have to look at me. Now, I combine my belief that I'm ugly with a rebellious anger at the world that (according to the crazy part of my brain) thinks I'm ugly, so I don't actually do the fine expensive clothes, but they don't make me fear point-and-laugh. In my mind, people seeing me in those expensive clothes would respond with something along the lines of, "Well, at least she made some effort, but sheesh. Couldn't she just stay home?"

But, see that stuff in the photo? The stuff that, if your monitor color is like mine, looks like it's pink with white polka dots? It's actually red with white polka dots. Bright red. Fire-engine red. Red. A woman wearing fire-engine red with polka dots is ornamenting herself. I bought that fabric, and I intend to make it up using the same pattern that I used for the pink blouse, and I intend to wear it. In public.

This is a change. I must say that it's not a change that comes from a new place of peace and happiness in my mind; in fact, it's coming out at a time when, as I keep saying, I'm doing a whole lot of worrying. And maybe that's the motivation; maybe I'm finally ready to tell those worries that they can clamor all they want, and I can't ensure that they won't come true, but I'm going to focus on joy in my life anyway. Maybe I've hit just the right level of fed up, with my brain and with anyone who might happen to turn out to behave in accordance with my brain's prediction of how the world will behave.

I'm going to wear polka dots. And that, I hope, is just the beginning.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Perfume: January Clip Show

So, several days ago I wore L'Artisan Tea for Two, as I recall because I was late getting ready to go to lunch and it was up near the front and so I sprayed it on, even though I thought I wasn't in the mood for something so sweet and foody. And it was perfect - not sweet and foody, but smoky and comforting, like wearing something with the warmth and squashiness of wool but the skin-softness of... well... not-wool, because I always find wool scratchy.

A day or two later I had plenty of time to choose my fragrance, and I chose Chanel Cuir de Russie, because I was absolutely positive that that was what I had wanted when I put on the Tea for Two. And, no, Cuir de Russie was entirely wrong. On that day it felt sour and thin and not at all comforting; cold slick leather upholstery in a cold car when all you want to do is go inside.

The next day I put on Tea for Two and it was, again, perfect.

And today I put on Aftelier Cepes & Tuberose, because I was wearing that new pink silk blouse for the first time and I wanted something feminine. I though that it might not work for winter, but, no, I found that it had the same deep squashy comforting feel that Tea for Two had, but with an added feminine vibe--a sort of "optional feminine"; I think that a man could wear this too, in spite of the tuberose.

It appears that I don't know my January tastes as well as I might have thought. So I went through the blog to see what I was loving this time last year and the year before. Trends that I didn't expect include:
  • I seem to have a January craving for smoke. Last year I was longing for Heeley Cardinal and snapping irritably at Serge Noire for failing to satisfy. This year Tea for Two is doing the job; I must try to remember for next year.
  • In January 2010 I predicted that Cuir de Russie would be one of "the scents at the core of my wardrobe, the ones that make me smell like me". In January 2011 I didn't wear it once. So this year's lack of enthusiasm may not be a fluke.
  • In 2010 I was less than thrilled with Un Lys; in 2011 I was delighted with Parfums de Nicolai Number One. I've always considered these two perfumes to be functionally redundant, though I long to own them both all the same. Maybe January is an excuse for buying Number One?
  • I called Parfumerie Generale Cuir d'Iris "lovely" and "very satisfying", and I mention the sweetness in the drydown. I'm tempted to send off for some, though I said similar things about Iris Taizo. I suspect that these two are functionally redundant.
  • I surprised myself by being delighted with Balmain Ivoire, a scent that I never would have thought of as belonging to winter. I should wear it tomorrow.
  • I praised Aftelier Cepes & Tuberose, in a post that was more focused on crispy poultry skin.
  • I enthused about biehl parfumkunstwerke hb01, a perfume with orange blossom and all sorts of fruit that I shouldn't like in January. what's with that?
  • I enjoyed Cadjmere, and Daim Blond, and Aomassai, and Fendi Theorema, and Feminite du Bois. At least not everything is a surprise.
  • And I wore Orange Star twice in a row.
So what does it mean? I'm not sure, but I'll be pulling out some of the bottles that the above says that I loved, to see if there's a January trend. And I may need a decant of that parfumkunstwerke thing.

Image: By Petritap. Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Sewing: Color?!

I just finished sewing a pink silk blouse. This is not like me.

I've mentioned more than once that I have limited interest in, and talent with, clothes. But as I consider resuming this sewing thing, I find my interest in the topic growing.

Maybe part of my issue with clothes has been the fact that they weren't controlled by me. Instead, ready-to-wear clothes are controlled by companies that decide what I should wear this year, and how much I should pay for it, and whether a round person like me is worthy of wearing something decent-looking. My reaction to all of that sort of thing tends to be "Bleah," followed by, "Nothing's falling apart yet - I'm keeping my money."

I normally wear jeans with tee shirts or polos, or black skirts and black shoes and black coats and black hats topped with a very limited variety of plain shirts. Occasionally I'll branch from black to dark brown or dark blue or dark green.

But when you look at my stash of sewing fabrics, they show a very different taste. I do have black and navy blue wool crepe, but I also have a cut of cotton in gaudy peony-like flowers in several colors, and one of georgette in light blue with huge polka dots in darker blue. And a lime green and purple brocade. And now I've made that pink silk blouse, and tomorrow when the sale starts at the fabric shop I have my eye on a white lawn with nicely silly orange flowers.

And I'm thinking about garments with brightly colored and patterned linings and facings and cuffs and piping and other gaudy sparks. If I keep sewing, I may be hard to recognize in a year or so.

Image: By Asbestos. Wikimedia Commons.