Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Roman Holiday Skirt--Not quite an UFO, more just a FO that needs landing at last

The Audrey Hepburn skirt came too late in the season to finish, so it ended summer 2012 in a plastic bag. Taking it out for the Russian excursion, I decided I'd been penny-wise-pound-foolish, because in buying an IKEA cotton that is both loosely woven and wrinkles easily, I had the worst of all worlds. To rescue the project and give the skirt some flair, I'm cutting out an underlayer of white cotton to emphasis the flared gores and help the swing a bit.
We'll see if I'm just digging a deeper grave for it, or giving it some character. I hate to give up on any project.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Repairing a bike cover

As any sewer with a family knows, a lot of what goes under the needle started as something very practical or loved that finally wore out. I think that  I spent 25% of my sewing time in the 1990's patching the knees of tiny chinos and jeans or tending to beloved soft toys losing their eyes and tails.

Now it's a bike cover and it brings back the old days of the tearful "Can you fix this?"  It's zig-zag darning-stitch time!

One of my sons is taking a marathon bike trip across Europe before he starts his job in September. Europe has wonderful dedicated cycle routes. He's heading off in a week to explore one.

There was no bike shop in our Geneva area that had a full-sized cover in stock for shipping the bike by plane to his departure point. They offered some smaller covers that required dismantling the whole bike, but he preferred something full-size. So he found a used 'housse' in France full of weatherbeaten tears and splits going for only 20 euros.

This cover is going on the trip, but only after some serious rehab! It looks like it did the Tour de France one too many times. I'm using a jeans needle, a lot of thread, and patches made from worn-out dark blue jeans from my rag pile.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Great British Sewing Bee— two farewells, rather than one.

Bravo for the winner of BBC2's The Great British Sewing Bee (last episode), in which Ann Rowley won the trophy and Sandra and Lauren came in close on her heels.

What touched me about the production were the programming elements that felt less ruthless than some of the moments in earlier episodes, and more embracing: a moment with the families of each sewer, that charming last sequence, when the surprise fitting models were members of each contestant's own family—now there's a realistic scenario!—and the finale in which all the original contestants returned to congratulate the winners and celebrate the show itself.

It felt more like the sewing world I know.

Well done to all, and a special shout-out to the sewing adviser, Claire-Louise Hardy of The Thrifty Stitcher whose backstage notes are a delightful resource for those GBSB addicts looking for more info on the patterns and techniques employed on the show. I, for one, have already used her video on sewing a fly zipper while finishing my floral pants for the summer.

Meanwhile, a sad farewell to fellow blogger Karin of Sew Here We Go Again! who wants more time for family. But we can still catch up with her sewing on Pattern Review.com, so it's not totally sayonara. I will miss her generous comments, though. Big hug, Karin.

Monday, April 22, 2013

the Celine summer neckline from Burda's May issue

The floral trousers are coming along, but I've gained weight since the last use of this Burda pattern, so they need altering along some seams. But they're surprisingly cheerful and not too ludicrous after all.

Another "Separated at Birth" item:
The pink blouse below is from Burda's May issue and the catwalk shirt in champagne silk is from Celine in Paris for summer 2013.
 So if you sew it yourself, you save a gazillion dollars and you can opt for sleeves to boot!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Floral Trousers

Normally I avoid fads that are so faddish, I assume they'll be "out," before my needle is "in." Flowered trousers for the summer of 2013 might be one of those items. One minute, you've got to have them poolside—and the next, you wouldn't get caught dead in them. Timing might be crucial here.

Apparently this last designer hasn't seen that particular illustration in every issue of Burda Facile/Easy where the "wrong layout" mismatching the flowers on the skirt is a big no-no.

Well, count me in, although I may live to regret this. My husband is taking me to Russia in June and I don't know anybody in Russia who gives a hoot what I wear. 

And so that my wallet keeps smiling, my budget for this one-season fad is about ten bucks, max. I found my floral in the IKEA fabric department for nothing, (it's a bit chintzy in every sense of the word) and although I'm having a doozy of a time keeping those florals as neat as number 1 in the first picture, I'll hold my fashionable head up in these ridiculous trousers for, say, the six weeks this fashion lasts. I'll wear them under a khaki Swiss Army jacket on top for daytime sightseeing. That baby cost Sf 5 at Army surplus, bringing the cost of this outfit so far to...Sf15?
Hey-ho for sewing! Not everything has to be tasteful or couture, right? I recall the 1961 summer my father moved us to Hollywood. My poor mother, intimidated by all the gorgeous showbusiness women he'd be working with all day, promptly went out and bought herself a pair of leopard print slacks. We kids were stunned. Michigan Mom went shopping and Gina Lollobrigida came home. I never stopped loving her for that bid for instant glamour.
I'm reusing a simple Burda trousers pattern, 108B-8-2010, skipping the back pocket flaps and the ankle zippers. Last time I lengthened the pattern by four centimeters but we'll see what shoes we need for these before the final hemming. I don't want to crisscross Red Square or The Hermitage in stilettos or platforms.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Accused of being an ungracious, acidic, snotty and ageist "wretch," regarding the Great British Sewing Bee

I have been taken to task by another blogger for being an "ungracious wretch," ageist and snotty and acidic. 
As in:

"Inkstain, you are an ungracious wretch!"

Well, I was a bit snotty about the moderator whose interruptions were annoying, but not the contestants.

Wow, did I touch a nerve out there in someone who misread me as dissing experience in favor of telegenics.

"Specifically, the author complained that the two people who were sent home were young and telegenic.."

Nope. Not guilty. Not true. Absolutely not true. That would be very weird, to complain that Tilly and Mark were telegenic or younger. They are, but misreading me says more about the critic's sensitivities than my post.

I observed that Tilly and Mark were eliminated on the basis of their inferior stitching skills along a narrow range of tasks and I decried the format that did that. They had other things to offer, sewing wise, quite irrespective of their age or looks. They offered fashion sense and variety.

I’m sorry my indignation at the "elimination" format was confused with ageism, when I’m closest in age to the older ladies than the younger ones myself, with 47 years of sewing behind me. I think Ann is wonderful. I think Sandra is wonderful. I admire their skills no end.

But my point was that a show that doesn’t place a little more emphasis on fashion and up-to-date style opportunities in balance to technical skills, risks conveying a lopsided message about the varying rewards and joys of sewing to younger viewers.
That would be a shame.

As a cliffhanger, the program fails to be exciting viewing, when the undoubted skillsets of Sandra and Ann are obvious (and well-earned.)

Also, it is my “ungracious wretch” humble opinion that a couple of the winning choices, the denim shirtdress and the ribbon in the broderie look by the two older contestants veered on the dowdy side. And to be fair to me, remember, even the judge Patrick chided Ann for being too conservative with her skirt pockets.

I'm not anti-age, I'm anti-staid. Ann's Burda blouse was very fashion forward, although retro at the same time. Burda called that particular feature, "forties style," I recall. Cool.

So, well then, who do I think should “win?” asks this blogger, declaring her "hackles raised." (Where are hackles, I always wonder, and do they pose a fitting problem when they rise? Is she doing a Full Hackle Adjustment thanks to my ungracious post? But I digress.)

My critic has missed, missed, missed the point I made, utterly.

Everyone. Everyone should win.

Thanks, Lisa Laree of Sew Random, for defending my point (so some people were reading more closely, thank God, and not obsessing over my reference to hair-sprayed aunts. btw. I'm a hairsprayed aunt and I sew ruffles myself. Remember the 'Aurora Quandry' post?)

I want everybody to be valued for the different things they bring to the party, and I don’t want any one person to win over the others. Is there a word like “counter-ageist” to describe a show that doesn’t give a few handicaps to the less experienced or differently skilled?

I cherish the Anns and Sandras, (amusing that my harsh critics don’t seem to realize I’m in that demographic) but my post was really about the programming format and its overall chances for success in promoting a hobby I love.

I find the elimination process vicariously cruel and inappropriate when it comes to sewing. I’d love to see Ann or Sandra helping Tilly finish that self-designed blouse. I’m sure they’d do it with great kindness and patience. That’s what sewing is about.

That was my point. Hackles down. Time's up.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Backstage at The Great British Sewing Bee (the consultant's insider tips, including the patterns chosen and some background guides on the technical challenges)

I was thrilled to stumble across a blog written by the sewing consultant to The Great British Sewing Bee, giving us all the references for the challenges they're putting to their victims contestants. It confirms many bloggers' guesses about which patterns were picked and where the fabrics came from. Lots of fun! Read on:

Episode One: The Thrifty Stitcher backstage at the Great British Sewing Bee

Episode Two: The Thrifty Stitcher backstage at The Great British Sewing Bee

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Great British Sewing Bee (episode two)

I got hooked watching the Great British Sewing Bee after seeing the first episode on YouTube linked here: Episode One, and last night, via my Swiss computer hookup, I caught the second episode. (If you're in the UK, you can watch that here on the IPlayer here: Episode Two.)

After forty-seven years of happy home-sewing, (yeah, sorry about that) I still found myself asking, could I do what those sewers are trying?

Because as the most experienced of their contestants, the charming gray-haired Ann, points out, one is used to having time to do everything right, or at least to rip it out, like the much younger Scot Lauren (pictured below) often finds herself doing.  But here, two rather fiendish judges say there's only one hour to put on patch pockets or three hours, say, to adapt a neckline on a purchased blouse.

Their rather snotty and rueful pseudo-sympathies are enabled by the host of the show, one Claudia Winkleman who, I suspect, has never, never, darling, worn a hand-sewn garment in her entire be-fringed life. (Are you under those bangs, Claudia, and what the hell was that joke about Tom Cruise from "Cocktail" all about? Don't you realize these people are fighting the clock while you swan around making idiot jokes? These people are armed with scissors!)

So, while I applaud the show for giving us impassioned sewists of all walks of life, and I applaud the winners and losers for their sportsmanship and game faces when confronted with the nicky-picky judging, I condemn the show for missing the whole point of home sewing:

SEWING IS ONLY RELAXING AND REWARDING AND PROFITABLE WHEN YOU HAVE THE TIME AND PEACE TO DO IT RIGHT! (yes, I'm shouting, lean back from your computer to avoid the full force of my indignation at the idea of making sewing a "bake-off.")

What would I have done? Oh, I'm so glad you asked, BBC2.

I would have given each of the contestants the challenge of making one demanding Vogue Designer pattern for man or woman, one costume, one Burda high-fashion quickie, one home dec project, one self-designed pattern, and one children's item and maybe more? Slow them down a little and lets see some ensembles emerge to highlight the possibilities of individual style. Let their skills develop over time, rather than do them in under the pressure of the clock. This road leads inevitably to a victory for the home ec teacher, Ann. Instead, let these projects develop over a season, stop eliminating people, and let us love their different sewing styles and root for them until the season's grand judging at the end.

Every time they eliminate a contestant, starting with the vibrant, gracious (only) black lady on the show, they narrow their viewing audience. That's dumb. No! Let the London bookies take our bets for months on end.

Stretching the contestants' chances over a whole season would have let Mark do both a costume in his style, with the needed time, and a pattern for men devised by himself. Stewart could let fly with his fabulous quilted pillows or drapes or amusing little boys' clothes. The odds would have been soaring as we watched Tilly do an original Alexander McQueen knock-off!

But no, it's all about the neatness of invisible zippers. It's all about the "excitement" of seeing people axed, like sewing was some Donald Trump, "you're fired" moment. These producers so don't get sewing. It's inclusive, supportive, generous in spirit and all about broadening rather than narrowing options, about exploring rather than judging.

The sorriest event so far is the (spoiler alert) elimination of the studded, pierced and roughly handsome Mark who specialized in eighteenth century costumes for his steampunk festivals. Did you see the photo of him in full rig? Didn't he look happy and proud in his homemade kit? Did you see the work he did on the row of buttonholes lining the front of his piratical jacket?

No. What do the producers do? Give him a handful of challenges, at least two featuring invisible zippers, when he's never had to do a zipper in his life! Or a flyfront! He's been doing buttoned flies from the historical past. Give the guy a handicap, for God's sake. Haven't you ever been to a horserace?

The next sorriest event so far is the (spoiler alert) elimination of Tilly, who had by far the most fashion sense of anybody in the room and was caught out first by trying to fit a black Chanel collar on the white blouse instead of the winning tacky ribbon stitched on by Ann, and second, for being the only contestant to be trying to fit her own pattern design onto a busty live model who looked nothing like the slim Tilly in size or shape. This meant that while all the other contestants were cutting commercial patterns to the size of their live models, Tilly had to REDESIGN AN ORIGINAL PATTERN. Doesn't she get mega-points for that?

The elimination of Michelle was a bit awkward, but her wrap dress was a disaster, I admit.

Bravo, Tilly! Bravo Mark! You're my winners for your originality and pep! It looks already like the winning ladies will be the least adventurous in fashion sense and the most reliable at putting in zippers. They will give home-sewing no fresh reputation, and just reinforce the idea that it's best left to aunties in hairsprayed helmets, armed with ruffles and rickrack.