Wednesday, 14 December 2011

The loss to us of Lesage and Christmas embroidery—monogrammed pillowcases

The great Lesage has passed away. The greatest embroidery master of Paris.

A break from sewing garments, Christmas embroidery or knitting always has more of a holiday spirit to me. Here's one of the two pillowcases going back to London with our freshman biology student. I know she'll like them, since she requested them, right down to the black and silver threads, and font, (Lillith Initials.) A little Twilight-y for my taste, but hey, it's her gift, not mine. The pure cotton pillowcases are generic IKEA's I keep on hand for just such gifties (housegifts, birth gifts) and the variations are endless, thanks to computer free fonts and a sheet of carbon paper. Considering the low, low cost of these pillowcases and the zilch cost of embroidery thread, you get a lot of glow for the time/cost invested. You just fold the case into quarters, mark the center, trace the letters, temporarily rip open half the bottom seam for access, watch a few good TV shows, restitch the case, wash, iron and wrap.

And don't forget to pick up your gift, a free download of a book until Xmas Day as described below, offered via, using coupon  FA47T. 

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Resist Big Foot Amazon: Download a mystery for free on Smashwords

Did you know that two days ago Amazon asked publishers and authors of e-books to sign an exclusivity contract (ruling out not just sales on Apples' iBookstore, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Diesel, Kobo and Android outlets other than Amazon) but even sales on our personal websites? Under this program, they'll offer your books for five days for free out of 90 and give you a few pennies for every time your book is borrowed.
Clever marketing, but they own you. It's called Kindle Select. I'm thinking it's evil and monopolistic and risks an anti-trust action.

A lot of authors are arguing about what to do as we're grateful for what Amazon does do well.

My response is to arrange this new coupon which allows readers of this blog to download The Wardens of Punyu for free from Amazon's competitor here: The Wardens of Punyu on Smashwords.

The coupon will expire Xmas day.

Yes, the whole book. FREE 'til Christmas.


Friday, 2 December 2011

Art Deco party dresses

I'm a great fan of the "Hercules Poirot" television mysteries based on Dame Agatha Christie's novels, and can rewatch episodes many times over for their wonderful styling of art deco furnishings (his office), houses (certain hotels and homes for the wealthy) and of course, costumes. Designers have picked up on the Deco look for 2012, in part, because of the Woody Allen comedy, "Midnight in Paris," and the homage to silent movies, "The Artist" coming to an Oscar ceremony near you soon. Here's how it looked on the catwalk, (above.)
The Burda design in December's issue above captures certain elements in these dresses, e.g. the waist-less boyish silhouette, the pleated frill of the last dress, the geometric plastron effect of the second, the linear contrasts in all of them. What might you do with this design using Deco colorways and gleaming fabrics of silver, black, champagne and gold?

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

A simple trick to cut waste when cutting!

After too many years of trying to reconcile Burda's insistence that all fabrics come in metred widths of 140-150 cm, when Thai Silks and other emporia of delicious luxuries sell 45 inch fabric ordered by the yard, I devised a simple way to measure how much I'd need to order, without unnecessary waste or customs duties.
I bought three metres of cheap but sturdy muslin at IKEA and marked off the whole length in washable pencil at the 45 inch width point (bottom photo with finger) and from one end, the yardage at intervals of quarters, thirds and half yards, (middle photo.)  Now I can lay down a pattern, plan the cutting layout, and then buy only exactly what I need.
These photos are pretty drab, but perhaps you can see how handy a pre-measured layout cloth is, not only for those of us ordering long distance, but anyone trying to use a Burda pattern in a 45-inch world.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Nabbed the last two metres!

I had a hunch that the faux fur I wanted for the big-collar Burda December coat was going to sell out. I got to the store Friday night just in time to nab the last length in a soft, soft grey. Now I can stop obsessing, and  will be a good Mrs Santa, and get some Xmas presents, knowing that my present is in the bag, waiting for a little downtime.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Full December Burda, a few lurvely items.

Oddly enough, I like some Burda designs for December that didn't make the preview. For one thing, there's a great tea dress in the first design, and the importance of tea dresses was a feature of this fashion video from the Guardian last weekend.
Tea Dresses.  I adore the "I'm your Xmas present" style of the big bow on the next one, and the flapper effect on the third.
As for the fourth, I'm going to make that fur coat. Watch me. Just watch me!

Friday, 4 November 2011

A temporary offer of $1.50 mystery e-books using Smashwords coupons

Dear Sewists,
It's holiday time coming up, and if you click here on Smashwords Booksthey're offering a 50% introductory offer on the first volume of The Handover Mysteries, available in all e-reader formats for everything from PC's to I-Pads including Kindle (or you can use amazon and cough up $2.99) using this coupon number XV42W.

There's also a special coupon PP37D for Chanel No.6 readers for the A Visit From Voltaire e-book in all formats including Kindle. 

The coupons expire first week of December.

And all The Handover Mysteries can be ordered now in paperback by clicking here to The Handover Mysteries in good old-fashioned paperbacks!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

December Burda preview

Well, I don't want to declare the Burda December issue a dog just yet, but I've looked:

while this blouse is one Tie-on-Steroids, one to shame and mock anybody (your future sister-in-law?) showing up for Christmas lunch in a normal tie blouse like the one I sewed two posts back, but this one is  destined for the dry cleaners the first time Auntie Hilda asks you to pass the gravy bowl. It's the kind of style that belongs at a Big Event where you want to stand out but not around the Christmas Tree when you're meeting the boyfriend's parents. (Also kissing the moldy ornaments that Cousin Boris just unpacked from the attic might not be wise, either.)

But I am interested in the new quality of the fake furs I ran my hand across down at our Nyon fabric store. A whole new world of softness and credibility. I am tempted. There are a couple of evening dresses, Burda Generic, without the oomph of our Heidi Barbara a few issues back. 

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Guest speaker at a Feb. writer's conference—so what to sew?

I'm really excited because yesterday I was asked to be a panelist at a writer's conference early next year. Hundreds of other writers will be there, as well as guest publishers and literary agents. Having attended these things before, I know that they are really, really fun and after another year of working alone, (especially with the husband in hospital for more than six months) it's a bit of a jolt to be surrounded by other mole-like authors blinking into the glare of real social interaction that for once involves actual human beings you didn't make up.

Pretty scary for some of us. You may have noticed that most of my social activity involves me sitting in a safe seat and watching other people play music, a fairly unthreatening excursion for somebody who hides in her head for years on end. I'm not so good when the tables are turned.

So, one wants to look good, (or at least clean and sane. Help!)

You'll notice I didn't ask, "What should I wear?" or even, maybe, "What should I say?" because it goes without saying, right, that with a lead time of months before I have to appear at a writers' conference, I'm only thinking about what I should sew.

I know—sick.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Oh my God, speaking of the ruffled blouse I just sewed-on Hillary Clinton?

I guess this week's TIME cover puts paid to my "fluffy Aurora" worries about sewing the exact same style blouse. Certainly this is a great way to see how it would look in white silk. Thanks, Madame Secretary! (Do you think her dressmaker reads Burda?)

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Burda blouse 121 October 2011, much easier than it looks

Just turned in the latest domestic comic novel, in the same vein as A Visit From Voltaire, to my literary agent in London.  It's been a very productive summer (working with publishers to re-edit/digitalize three mysteries and the Voltaire comedy into e-books was very time-consuming) but partly because with my husband in hospital most of the year, it was very quiet for me at home between daily clinic visits.

I'm thrilled to report he's finally back on his feet and we're really enjoying our hard-won time together.
Facing an uncertain future with him so ill, my sewing mojo dropped pretty sharply over the summer, but against all the odds, we now have the chance to look forward to a busy autumn of MET opera transmissions, live concerts and even a little trip to England in a few weeks, instead of me finishing the year alone. Prayers answered! So here's a post along the lines of Ageing Love.
They say this is the season for ruffles, but as I sewed this up, using the last of the Indian silks from my son's Calcutta summer adventure, I couldn't help worrying that I was veering into Aurora territory. Terms of Endearment  is one of my favourite movies, but certainly not because the feisty Aurora is anybody's style icon, even when you're close to her age. In fact, her uptight fluffy fussiness as she relaunches herself into romantic and sexual adventure is one of the comic counterpoints to beau Garrett's sexy "relax, Aurora," astronaut. Still, I think under a black tuxedo jacket, I could just carry it off.

Nevertheless, this very romantic blouse is temptingly easy and quick to sew. I mean, the finished product looks like a bigger deal than it is, but there is absolutely nothing technically difficult about it, not even interfacing required on the blouse version, nor cuffs/button/buttonholes. (There are also two dress-length versions without the ruffling. I expect you could even do the full-length dress with ruffling in chiffon as a peignoir for a knock-em-dead New-Year's-Eve-for-two outfit. I will not be responsible for the outcome of such an assignation. Remember my mother's sage advice, "Never drink more than two martinis with a man you're not engaged to." Yup, my mom was the original Aurora!)

All you need is the patience to machine hem and re-hem ruffles and hems and long edges. I used a French seam on the body sides and shoulders, and zigzagged the raw edges of the sleeve seam, and skipped the body darts for a soft and flowing look. I'm sure the front and back darts would, however, be advisable, if your fabric has more body, e.g. a taffeta or cotton.

This item will travel, along with the paisley blouse posted earlier, to a November concert conducted by son at Cambridge followed by a day in London with the elder and youngest kids, at UCL and the LSE. I mean, if someone brings you silk from India, the least you can do is show up wearing it!

But for now, I think, what with the royal blue satin ruffled blouse, the navy polka dot sleeveless ruffled blouse and this one, I'm set for the season as far as blue ruffles are concerned. I also counted some five "tie" blouses in my collection going over the years, so that's done, too.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Burda, I apologize, November issue


OKAY, Burda, I apologize. I am bowled over by your November issue in full, all laughing at naked smokin' TV presenters aside. I especially love the Red Feature that opens the Russian preview. I mean, wow!
If I hadn't sewn a red coat last year (see review archived below) I would be sewing up that duffel coat NOW! But look at this gorgeous, body-fitting red dress with the ruffle down its mid-seam, also shown later in black and impossible to make out in their own photos.
And finally, the beautiful fitted brocade jacket for tall sizes. I find it peculiar that the photographer of this issue systematically obscured the clothes, so that only when you look at the line drawings, is it obvious that these are great designs.

They also have a super glam evening dress, a rocking brocade jacket and finally, because they really don't want us to stop laughing, what I will dub the Pencil-Holder Dress. Make it, somebody, please!

Saturday, 8 October 2011

The Burda October tie blouse 128a, pros and cons

(OFF-TOPIC OFFER, FREE REVIEW COPIES OF BOOKS) Before we go into the blouse-making, if anyone out there wants to be part of a book promotional giveaway, please send me an e-mail at letting me know your preference a) social comedy b) Asian mystery, as well as a postal address for paperbacks. Of course, these can also be intended as gifts in time for Christmas. Unfortunately, the publishers aren't allowed by Amazon to send e-books out as gifts,, although they allow sending a certificate for use against an amazon purchase on an honor-system. 
The idea is to garner word-of-mouth support in the US and UK preparatory to a new release. The publishers will acknowledge your name on their list separately from this blog. Thanks!

When the eldest child returned from auditing an oncology unit in Calcutta (this with a degree in history, go figure!) he brought back presents for the whole family and of course, knew exactly what would make his Mom happy. This teal and tobacco paisley pure silk was perfect for one of the new (actually classic) tie front blouses. 
The pattern has one strange feature, a serious drop shoulder seam, which I didn't expect and actually discovered only when I returned to the technical drawing after sewing the blouse:

I cut a 38 in the neckline down to a 43 at the hips. The only thing I think I'll change the next time I sew this up, and I intend to, is to interface the front facing which is a bit softer than I'd like. As the blouse is so soft a look anyway, it's not really an issue.
I used two gold "Chanel" buttons on the cuffs. The whole project took only a few hours of straight stitching and a few hand finishes at the interior of the collar and the shirt cuffs.

I'm tying the bow a little lower  than Burda's technical drawing above, (in the mag, they show it tied and untied in different versions) as they're showing it lower and less perky in the fashion mags this season You can take this "lady" look too far and with the kitten bowtie, you might up like you're about to take dictation (does anybody do that anymore?) or check out somebody's library books for them.

I'm going for "Lady Louche,"not Miss Marple!

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Burda loses the plot, November issue

I thought today I'd be showing you my finished Burda tie blouse but I still have to finish the cuffs. Maybe later. I lost many days editing my latest domestic comic novel about a heartbroken librarian fighting to get back her man, a BBC TV producer, by secretly studying Sun Tzu's Art of War and the ancient Chinese "Thirty-six Stratagems' to be published soon. Look out for lots of sage advice for the lovelorn in a hilarious narrative set in London.

Back to the blouse. I love it and I'm going to wear it tomorrow hosting friends for dinner.  Overall, it's such a simple pattern that I thought anyone looking at the similar recently-released Vogue blouse should ask themselves if they really need four extra seams and buttons and buttonholes when you get the same look in half the time from Burda?

But instead of the blouse, I just had to share this photo with you from the new Burda November issue, (above) wherein, I fear, the Burda people have lost the plot.
Apart from the fact that the model is naked and just holding the dress to her stomach, so we can't really see how it looks on her generous curves, she's smoking to beat the band. She's what my husband calls "envelopée" by which he means fat (and this is not a "plus" dress.)
 It's as if there was some kind of collective nervous breakdown at the Burda studios on shoot day. Or a heatwave.
In a weird way, I love it.
The pressure was on, obviously, during this shoot to get this model into the clothes. Here they are, applauding themselves for squeezing her into this dress, (above.) I fear, friends, we're being sold the "Anita Ekberg" look, which lives on in the collective German imagination, and for good reason:

I see very little in this issue to applaud, especially after their super October offering, with so many classy blouses and dresses. But here's an item that appeals to me, someone who is always tying her cardigan around her hips.

Okay, okay, I'll finish the blouse.

Oops! German reader Uta sets me straight. We're not looking at a model up top, but one Barbara Schöneberger, a huge German television star. As Uta says, another example, like Carnival and Oktoberfest special editions, of an insider view Burda's domestic readers will appreciate better than us outside Germany. 
I'm very grateful to Uta for letting us know that, in fact, in her own clothing, Barbara does not look fat. I hope her libel lawyers appreciate the bold emphasis. And I agree with Uta that it's nice to see normal women featured in fashion or sewing mags.
Meanwhile, neither Uta nor I get the smoking angle.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

And she closed the Katy Eary show Under Kanye West's eye...

While I finally cut out my Burda blouse. . .  goddaughter had a good London Fashion Week and after New York and London, she's now doing Paris. Kanye West attended the Katy Eary show "walked" to his music, so here is H. closing the show in the last evening dress as Mr. West approves.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

And she also "walked"Chris Benz.

Here's a great shot of goddaughter H on the Chris Benz runway in New York this week. With her height, she can really carry off this kind of vivid look.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Goddaughter "Walking" Vivian Tam and Duro Olowu Shows in NY's Fashion Week

H. is doing great this week, "walking" New York's Fashion Week for designers like Vivian Tam and Duro Olowu. What she's "thinking" about is her BA thesis due this year at university.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

First blouse of the season, (okay, don't yawn) Burda 128a October preview

My eldest brought me home a beautiful silk crepe de chine from India in teal blue and tobacco paisley which is going to be this blouse from Burda (above), although the ruffled one (below) was a runner-up. The October issue of Burda is crammed with classics (if like me, you've already fashioned your way through the 70's, it's a bit of a retread season, nonetheless.) There are classic full-length coats, fitted blazers, draped blouses, straightforward trousers. 

I'm actually getting more fashion sense from Burda Easy which showed trousers in silk velvet with an enclosed ankle which looked pretty cool after all the cropped skinnies. (on the right.) I'm showing the fashion photo because I noticed how much the Burda Easy military jacket on the left in the photo resembled the military jacket shown in the Mother Daughter feature in the September Burda. Notice the features they changed to make it easier for beginners. (Thanks to the book Theatre Shoes, I will never hear the word "beginners "without hearing the echo, "Overture and Beginners, please." The curse of a literate childhood.)