polka dots and crescent moons

oh hai!  do you like my megan neilson crescent blouse?

because i made it into a dress.


spring seemed to overflow with opportunities to share-in & shout-about sewists' offspring.  lemme break it down: nikki's booktilly's skirtsuperheroine missionstempest's sewalongheather's sew bossy, but still, when megan put out the call for pattern testers for her stunning breakwater collection, i couldn't tweet fast enough.  i was honored to test the absolutely delicious crescent blouse and one more bit of good goddy goodness i'll show you later on....and let me tell ya, these patterns are DELIGHTFUL.  in fact, they're so good, i felt my first try at the crescent didn't do it near enough justice, so i immediately made the sequel.  megan's tweaking advice in the back of the sa-weet pattern booklet suggested going for a dress.  ah yes, please, i could live in dresses.  Summer.  Is.  The.  BEST.

(well, fall is good too, it's ruggy's birthday season.  also winter, for christmas.  okay everything pretty much rocks except for that half-light-time right after valentine's day and before spring finally hits.  that time suckity suck sucks.)

i simply made the pattern as directed using only the bodice sections.  the sequel you see here is sans collar, but my first go has the sweetest little peter panner you ever saw.  unfortunately, my fabric choice made the collar the only good thing about that run.

to make the skirt portion, i used two very long rectangles of this floaty rayon from fabrics for less.  the owner sam and i marveled over the drape (and i marveled over the price.  you know sam?  sam rocks, he is the nicest man in the garment district.  just ask seam ripped).  

next, i sewed the rectangles together at side seams... the wrong side is very similar, so once i had my skirt tube, i folded the fabric to the inside down to slip length, sewed along that tube fold to create a waist "seam", and attached it at that seam to the bodice.  then i opened up the long side seams to just where the slip hits. 

instead of using elastic, i grabbed this extra leather buckle from my technicolor boucle jacket (or i should say, mommaballoona's boucle jacket, IT LOOKS AMAZING ON HER).  hand stitched them to the waist, and buckled her up...

she moves in the breeze with no worry of a peep show! 

(obviously these were taken in new york, before my secret agent journey to texas, and before spring decided to take a long nap in the east coast.  sending some warm breezy thoughts your way, ruggy...mwah.)


you sew, girl! and have a prize while you're at it.

update: all right y'all, i've got my cocktail handy and will announce the winner shortly!  bonne chance, peeps...

happy memorial day, all!

some time ago, probably when there was still snow on the ground in new york (which actually could mean any time at all, couldn't it?) brilliant gal sewist nikki of you sew, girl! asked me if i might like to have a peek at some of her garment patterns, but most importantly her book, to celebrate its northern american release at the book depository.  nikki has always been a favorite blogger of mine, so i gleefully accepted...

OH HAI PRETTY BOOK.  you want one???  read on...

yes spiral binding.  THERE MUST ALWAYS BE SPIRAL BINDING.  and look at that, there's a wee kalkatroonaan running around in a tutu!!  almost enough to make me sew up some girly clothing for a child or two...

what's that you say?  I DO NOT SEW FOR CHILDREN?!  you are (mostly) correct, my friend!  luckily it's an equal divide for the over-21 set as well.  (and i'm not above making a tutu or two for myself.)  

after comprehensive chapters on equipment, skills, and techniques, we begin sewing with all-ages-access to accessories.  tutus, belts, hats, bags-- let's talk bags.   confession:  i am sore afraid of making a purse.  did it once: a diaper bag for a new mom, to be exact, and when it was done, i was certain i would never ever never make one EVER NEVER EVER again.  the hate mail i wrote in my head was long and stupendous, pages of it, had they ever materialized the pattern company would have drowned in my novela, never to be seen again.

but nikki's drafting desk would get no such mail!  she holds your hands and your eyes with detailed, calmly worded steps, which is great for visual learners like me.  i've been slowly purchasing carefully selected parts for a go at the City Shopper.  or maybe the Bus Stop Bag.  (and speaking of parts, i read every bit of this lovely book, although i assumed i'd know most of the 43 page "skills" section.  i did not.  learned a thing or seven, including using a dowel for tubing.  MWAH.)

the book finishes with garment goodies, both adult and kid sized.  nikki's approach now takes a different path than the structured accessories: here, you need a sense of adventure, a pencil, and some well explained diagramming.  patternless!  i LOVE this, obviously.  and this isn't "sew-two-rectangles-together-and-call-it-a-couture-top."  you're instructed to use everything you've learned in the previous chapters, and really think about the shape of the body, the shape of the fabric, how they jigsaw together, and let fly.  and you've already gone through bagmaking sans terror, so obviously it's time to wing a cowl top.  

(you can also see how her garment brain works in her draped t-shirt dress pattern, which i tore through for tempest's bowie sewie.  i have three of them now and they are in HEAVY rotation.  i like to stare at the line drawing like it's a television show.)

appetite whetted?  want a copy of this gem?  nikki would love to give one away!  we all know shipping is a bear between the hemispheres (dude, we need a teleportation device STAT) so this giveaway is a happy dance meant for northern america.  if you call usa or canada home, to grab your chance, hop over to nikki's blog and have a peep at her three delicious bag patterns, then come on back and tell me which is your favorite in the comments here.  or, if you're garment minded, peep her line and lemme know which pattern floats your boat. (of course, feel free to say hiya to nikki while you're browsing the goodies.)

the winner will be drawn a week from today... if you just can't wait that long, you can snag a copy at the book depository or on amazon.  good luck, and thanks for the giveaway, superstar nikki!

this book was provided to me by Nikki in exchange for an honest review!


spy games: dallas edition

Howdy, hotel ironing board.  

(I'll be kickin' it Texas style through august. If everything truly is bigger in Texas, the next kalkatroonaan birthday celebration may actually end the world.)

Number one on the list of last minute mission supplies: an entire suitcase devoted to my truncated sewing studio. My Ricky Riccardo was shipped separately to me by Momma Ruggy, and I spent cocktail hour going Macgyver on its ass. Or, to be exact, its foot.  

Free for the night, I hit play on a most excellent episode of Thread Cult (#14), involving all manner of sewing machine knowledge from an obviously learn-ed man, Harvey Federman, the owner of Sew-Right in Queens. A delight to listen to. As I started my first seam of the evening, this statement came forth from my laptop speakers: vintage machines are only worth sewing on if they are metal, black, and pre WWII.


Cloth cut, makeshift table top set up, I plugged in my Ricky. Huzzah! The light blinked immediately on. Yet, another warning wafted through the air: many post WWII metal machines came from Japan, and were branded by department stores. They aren't worth the cost to fix them. I shuddered uneasily. You see, my Gimbels-branded, Japanese-made, beloved Kenny sits in NY, comatose; I can't bear to pull the plug.  Aright, I thought, I've got my Ricky, he works fine, maybe it's time to let Kenny go. I shook the image of Kenny's tiny, closeted sick space away, and gently pressed down on Ricky's engine.


As Harvey continued to wisely direct on all manner of new and vintage machine pros and cons, I fiddled desperately with switches and outlets and wheels. Occasionally I would sigh and drop my head: this poor white machine, with its made-in-japan stamp, it is not worth it. Thoughts of combing Dallas thrift shops or (shudder) getting a new plastic job (read: the cheap worthless kind) filled my weary traveling mind. I walked away to pour a glass of pinot to clear my brain. It didn't make sense! With his thirty pound metal housing of the wrong color, Ricky seemed impervious! Finally, a light shaking of the metal presser foot revealed a loose, rattling sound... 

Still enjoying the company of Christine & Co, I unearthed my handy machine screwdriver, which unfortunately was NOT a phillips head, and managed to pry the tiny screw off without stripping the damn thing. Harvey breathed: just because a machine is metal doesn't mean it's worth it. There are plenty of machines out there with plastic parts that are worth the money, and plenty that aren't. Holding my all metal foot, I scoffed, wrenched the plate off... and a plastic thingamajig promptly fell out.  


Shoving fingers and screwdrivers into the tin nooks and crannies of the foot's guts, I realized the lone plastic part could only fit into one impossible hole.

Let's just say I had to sweet talk it into that spot with a long metal stick. It was quite naughty.  

As the show ended, so did my tinkerings. I poured another glass of vino, applauded the truly brilliant (and unsettling-- did an opposing spy install an observation device in my hotel room? Must check that out) episode, and patted myself on the back for being  Such. A. BADASS. Yeah, my machine was the wrong color! The wrong age! (hrm, sounds familiar...) But i beat the odds! I fixed it all by myself! And I even remembered to unplug the presser foot while I jammed metal and flesh into every steel corner for twenty minutes! Ruggy would be so proud!

With a force borne out of victory, I plopped myself down on the hotel-side-table-serving-as-sewing-chair. I carefully lined up my sweet Ricky with the edge of the hotel-dresser-turned-on-its-side-serving-as-sewing-desk. I leaned over to plug the foot back into the socket, and of course, found it already plugged in, as it had been for the last twenty minutes.

I'm assuming the fact that the thingamabob was plastic was my saving grace. Ruggy says I should've just jumped into the bathtub while I was at it. 

So, apparently, there's something to be said for plastic parts.

Touché, Mr Federman.


conquering heights

if i look self satisfied, IT IS BECAUSE I AM.  the reasons are twofold:

1.  i conquered this cotton.
2.  i conquered myself.

I CONQUER, YO.  I AM A CONQUISTADOR OF COTTON.  (that may not mean what i think it means, but i’m going with it.  i have a sazerac in hand and no desire to use my dictionary widget.)

last month, i decided to try my hand at what most of my fellow mood sewing network bloggers are old hat at: ordering online from mood.  within a minute, i stumbled upon this thakoon cotton, and these decorative coconut shells.  (update! it's sold out at the moment...but check this one out.  YUM.  don't grab too much though, leave some for me!)  it is almost certain that i would not have paired these two up had i been in the store– if only because the coconut shells are placed about 5 feet in the air above my head, and i rarely look up that high.  nothing of note is taller than my 5’3 frame, you see.

erm, except these rooftop shoots….

THOSE are taller.  the images don’t do the edge of the building  justice.  that’s a steep ramp right up to a free fall on a windy day.  FUN.  and, quite dangerous.  i thought the location fitting, considering the vicious way i started this garment.  one breezy saturday afternoon, ruggy caught me chopping– literally chopping-- into four yards of this luscious stuff.  oona, he said, don’t cut angry.   although i had to laugh in appreciation of his deductive skillz, i WAS angry– irate, in fact, for reasons which are boring and not worthy of telling.  suffice it to say the sound of my shears gave my mood away.

and he was right:  Don’t.  Cut.  Angry.  the reasons for this are twofold:

1.  you might hack off a finger.

2.  you will most definitely cut into what was an ample amount of designer cotton, forgetting that you needed six panels instead of four for the sweeping and carefully drafted maxi skirt.  you will instead insanely and wantonly cut three on the bias.  you will then spend the next five days trying every possible combination to make the five unmatched panels you eked out work in some strange jigsaw puzzle configuration.

but then of course you’ll be totally full of yourself when you DO... which is a bonus.

it was pretty windy up there, and impossible to get a shot of the hem.  it's curvy!  the side seams lift, the front and back dive.  i lurve it.

and hey didja notice those bust darts?  ME NEITHER!  i would say i planned it that way, but i don’t like to lie.  more truth telling: i have 7 extra coconut shells languishing on my table.  they were meant to be a statement necklace for this dress.  however, the statement ended up being: we'd make better earrings.

more truth be told, i’m even okay with the slightly wonky back, which was where the real jigsaw came in.  the bodice is vintage vogue 2970, and the six-come-four gored skirt is of my own drafting.   i used two bias cut panels for the center front and back, and two regular joes for the side panels.  however, the center back panel was sliced up the middle to accommodate the invisible zip.  in hindsight i should’ve done a slash zip opening, since there was no seam allowance down the center back.  but, i was still a little peeved and not thinking correctly…one might even say, still angry

i am nothing if not hard headed.  was counting on that fact, in case of a skyscraper fall.  by the way, does my dress remind you of anything?  any new yorkers out there care to hazard a guess on thakoon’s inspiration?  i don’t know for sure if my hunch is right, but let’s just say i found the city view… appropriate…

this maxi dress was made using my monthly fabric "allowance" as part of the Mood Sewing Network.


if you teach a woman to sew...

here's a little something that is actually in fact quite large.  if our corner of the blogisphere isn't the right place to share it, i don't know where is.

i look at pictures of collapsed buildings and raging fires, the products of which make up far too much of my closet, and i think about the lives of others around the world and the ways in which we simply can't make it all better, and so i stand motionless.  and i am amazed by those who can see past the enormity of problems out there in the world, who are able to do something to make something BETTER. 

two such ladies, nikki and kria (the latter being my friend, and how i came to know about this), have hatched a plan to make something better: empower widows in india with the skills and tools they need to support themselves and their families, through sewing.  why?  well, here, they explain it best:

In India, a widow is the ultimate social outcast. Seen as a burden whose bad luck caused her husband’s death, a widow is stripped of her colorful saris, jewelry, and bindi. A widow is no longer referred to as “she” but “it,” and is expected to mourn the loss of her husband until her death. She is left to care for her dependents with little or no resources.
We are traveling to southern India for two and a half weeks with the goal of establishing a small sewing cooperative for widows in Coimbatore. Ultimately, our hope is to provide economic opportunity and empowerment to women who need it the most.

they've already traveled to coimbatore, to begin the process with their indian counterpart, sister stella baltazar, a woman who runs a support group for over 200 widowed women at the franciscan missionaries of mary.   

it's the kind of thing you wish you had the energy/power/courage to do, yes?  in my case it is.

and of course (and you knew this was coming), we can all be a part of this, by helping to fund their mission. you can check out their indiegogo campaign page, read up on it, and if it's your bag, throw a little change their way. they're almost halfway to their goal.  or, if there's not a dime to spare, you can share their campaign and spread the word.

as a me-maker, as a sewist, as a human, i'm in.  i'd love to see them realize their mission.

 update: thank you all so much for your thoughtful comments and your contributions!  they are so much closer to their goal because of peeps like YOU.


that's a horse of a different color

I'm seriously in love with this fabric. And, in keeping with my pledge, I'm gonna be honest with myself and say there's a 3% chance of wearing it as-is. And how is it, you ask? If you didn't swing by the Mood Sewing Network yesterday, it is thus:

I call this pose "reflections on how I can hack this up the minute I get inside."

Trying to style this was a bit of a letdown after the joy of sewing up this silk chiffon. Did I say joy and silk chiffon in the same sentence? YES, JOY. Because it had a secret weapon in it: LYCRA. I was shocked to find supreme stretch in my hands when I gave it a tug pre-sewing! Months ago, I had bookmarked this cacophony in my Mood online portfolio, heart beating wildly over the crazy animals. When the lovely Joshua led me to the silk chiffon shelves where it lived IRL, we simply cut away, I never touched the bolt or looked at the content. Turns out it has a healthy dose of le lycra in it (marked clearly everywhere, and even lovingly mentioned in the beautiful wee blurb on the site, but again: CRAZYANIMALS).

I have come to the conclusion that the lycra is what made this fabric a walk in the park. I had left it languishing on my desk, looking at it occasionally in terror, remembering just how careful I had to be on my last go round with silk chiffon–but this li’l piece of insanity was a piece of cake (by which I mean technicolor diabetes inducing frosting). No seam rippling, no slippage…

no center back seam on the very no-fancy-pants pattern…

But yes pockets. We have pockets. Which are EXCEEDINGLY HARD TO FIND, as they're cut all-in-one with the skirt panels. The pesky pockets are probably the most exciting detail of this very meh pattern, vintage Butterick 3100 sundress. Basically two rectangles with elastic. I thought the gathers would be fun, hiding and revealing my animal friends, but whaddayaknow, there aren’t as many gathers as I expected.

Honestly, I wish I'd chose something a little more involved for this print, maybe some very wide leg flared lounge pants, but there was the matter of (unnecessary) fear of fabric, and the tres tricky print. All too possible to end up with a leopard on one's ass. And, I didn’t get near enough to allow for careful pattern placement. Something to think about, yo! Always buy extra when you’re buying insanity on a roll!

My seam ripper is itching for some work. What do you think it oughta be reborn as??? The absolute cylon proportion of Burdastyle Laurels going on has my trigger finger twitching...

this sack was made, quite unfortunately, using my monthly fabric "allowance" as part of the Mood Sewing Network.