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Woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning after a possible sewing failure last night (more on that later) and now I’m feeling the need to take it out on someone. A new nemesis.
Enter Yoshimi, a.k.a. “Flying Squirrel Nemesis,” a.k.a. “Elegant Nemesis.” Some of you may know Yoshimi from her blog, and may be saying to yourself right now, “How can Yoshimi be your nemesis? She seems so sweet!” The operative word here is “seems.” The Selfish Seamstress also thought Yoshimi was sweet, until Yoshimi launched a full scale attack on the Selfish Seamstress from all angles. Look at some of the unprovoked and insulting comments Yoshimi has made about the Selfish Seamstress:
“Very elegant, you look beautiful in it.”
On Pattern Review:
“Gorgeous jacket. It’s very nice on you.”
And Yoshimi has even left abusive comments on the Selfish Seamstress’s very own blog, like this:
“Every one of your posts makes me smile.”
Obviously, Yoshimi is looking for a fight. She is out to terrorize, and the Selfish Seamstress cannot condone cyber-bullying unless she is the one doing the bullying. Therefore Yoshimi has been upgraded to Selfish Seamstress Nemesis status, and it’s time to give her a taste of her own medicine.
1) First off, Yoshimi is not to be trusted. For example, she states on her blog that she has trouble making pants that fit. Well if that’s true, how do you explain THESE?
Seriously, are there any of you out there who wouldn’t consider giving away half of your stash if it meant you could get a fit like that on your pants?
2) Yoshimi’s sense of style is so impeccable it’s like she’s TRYING to breed resentment. Can she go Jackie Kennedy elegant? Yes. Can she wear what the 19-year olds who work at Armani Exchange wear and look great in it? Yes. Can she make clothes in all of these styles such that the look like they came straight from a boutique and not from a home sewing machine? ARGH, YES.
Extra bonus nemesis points: the ability to photograph her outfits in a way that puts the J.Crew and Banana Republic catalogues to shame. Seriously, did anyone else forget that they were looking at home-sewn garments while going through these photos and start looking for the “Add to my Cart” button? No “sorry-this-looks-like-crap-I-took-this-at-night-with-flash-while-standing-in-my-messy-sewing-room” photos from this nemesis!
3) Yoshimi commits the greatest sin of all in the Selfish Seamstress’s book: sewing for others. Now, I know that a lot of people sew for others. But Yoshimi sews for others so beautifully that it almost (almost!) makes the Selfish Seamstress wish she could sew for others. Since when has the Selfish Seamstress ever envied someone’s ability to do something for others?? Yoshimi puts terrible, terrible thoughts into my head! But can you blame me? Have a look at these two shirts she made for her husband:
I can’t even stand to look at these masterpieces of workmanship, they tear me up so inside.
4) Finally, the thing that will push you over the edge with rage directed at Yoshimi: her shoe wardrobe. Oh yes, scroll back up and look through those pictures. As if it weren’t enough that she’s made herself a closet full of beautiful, graceful clothing, this nemesis has also has amassed a shoe collection clearly intended to breed spite and jealousy. Sure, her blog is about sewing, but she sneaks those shoes in there just to provoke your ire.
Well done, Yoshimi. You are a formidable nemesis. But if I were you, I would sleep with one eye open. Everyone else- march on over to Yoshimi the Flying Squirrel for more fodder for discord and more reasons to envy! Go forth and avenge!
[Not angry enough yet? Check here for more nemeses!]
[Note: The weather here just keeps getting colder and colder, and yet my outdoor photo shoot outfits keep getting skimpier and skimpier!]
The Selfish Seamstress has been described as “nitpicky,” so as you can imagine, ballet suits her just fine as a hobby. She is therefore also very picky about her ballet skirts. If you have a perfect ballet body with perfectly long toothpicky ballet legs, you can get away with wearing just about anything to class. The Selfish Seamstress, however, has the short, squat muscular legs of a gynmast and therefore has experimented quite a bit to get the right flattering grown-up skirt for ballet class (for stage, anything goes.)
A ballet skirt for grown-ups can’t be too long – once it starts approaching knee length it it cuts the leg line making you look shorter and prevents the teacher from seeing what you’re doing with your turnout. Also, the privilege of wearing a long skirt is often reserved for the teacher herself. Unlike a ballet skirt for little kids, it can’t be ruffly or gathered or elastic waist. For the Selfish Seamstress, the classic ballet wrap skirt is the only option she’ll consider. And it has to have minimal flare, again to lengthen the lines. So basically it has to be clean and simple and all business, but still pretty and elegant. I’m even skeptical of the floral pattern I used in the skirt pictured above and would much have preferred solid black, but that’s all I had in my stash as I’m not much of a chiffon stasher.
A ballet skirt is just about one of the easiest things you can make (provided you can bear to work with sheers) – one piece and some ribbon and that’s just about it. Nice since they usually run about $25 in a dance store (and never fit and hang the way I want them to!) If you’re going to make one for yourself or for the special dancer in your life (sigh, because some people will never learn), take my advice: polyester. Ballet clothes may look all dainty and delicate, but they are hardcore athletic gear that have to stand up to the rigors of ballet class, which means sweat and a lot of movement. And it’ll be balled up in a ballet bag afterwards with dirty dance shoes and other sweaty clothes, so you want to be able to toss it into the machine or at least do a vigorous hand wash. Silk is a not a good idea.
The pattern for my simple ballet skirt for grown ups is available on my downloads page. It’s tapered to be slightly longer in the back than in the front. It should fit most people, but ballet large is not the same as regular people large so I’ve specified it for XS-M to be on the safe side. If you’re not sure, you can add a few inches through the center and it’ll just wrap a little more. So, here you go, dancers and people who sew for dancers – a pattern the perfect ballet skirt for grown-ups. At least according to the Selfish Seamstress’s nitpicky standards.
P.S. Sigh. Since you asked, yes, you could make this for kids and teens too.
Okay, not really famous. But! My pattern for the Coffee Date Dress (available for free download) is featured in Kate MacKay and Di Jennings’s new book on DIY fashion, Recycling is Chic! This wonderful project from Alchemy Arts offers lots of great projects for reusing materials to create really beautiful garments, and Di Jennings’s photography is lovely:
Doesn’t that illustrated dress have you reaching for your Sharpie right now? That hula costume is made of shredded grocery bags!
I have to say, I love the concept of the book. The Selfish Seamstress is a big fan of reusing and reappropriating materials, and this book does that with great results. The following image is not from the book, but did you know that the Selfish Seamstress does some of her very best work in bubble wrap?
Hahaha. Ok. It’s not exactly up to the authors’ standards for chic. I guess that’s why they are the authors of a book about DIY fashion and I am not! :)
I should be getting a copy of the book from the publisher soon, but I just had to share it now because it looks so pretty! Want your own? Get it here!
Many a hobby seamstress, me included, takes advantage of her skill to knock off something she covets but cannot afford. Currently this is not easy for me; it takes quite a lot of effort and trial and error, and the replica always ends up somewhat approximate, which is usually fine. But it’s skill that I would like to become very good at because it’s something of a sewing superhero skill in my opinion, to be able to see something you want and then really just “make your own” like it’s no big deal. [Aside: Anyone who has just started to sew will find that when she tells her friends about her new hobby, they will immediately begin gathering up photos of designer clothes and asking if she can make this for them. The answer should always be NO. Trust me on this one. Unless you can make it look exactly like the Dior she wants, you're setting yourself up for a situation in which you hand the garment to your friend and you see her face fall in disappointment for a second before she brightly says, "Thank you!"]
In an interesting turn of events, I happened upon a picture of this capelet/vest/jacket thing and now I think I’d like to make one. (I’ve cooled on the Burda cape idea, which I’m taking as an indication that I probably wouldn’t wear it much either if I were to make it.)
I don’t remember where I first saw the picture, but as it turns out, this rather sophisticated garment is from that beloved Jank Mecca for teenyboppers, Forever 21! Granted, F21 puts out some cute stuff (and why shouldn’t they considering that they themselves are knockoff experts?) but I don’t think of them as my go-to place for chic office separates. They’re out of my size online, but then again, I’m not sure if I’d buy it even if they did have my size- too hit or miss with the fabric and quality. And it looks like it could be an fun draft and good practice. So now I guess I’m into knocking off cheap stuff too? I’d like to say I’m taking a design I like and making a better quality version, but truth be told, I don’t think my workmanship is really any better than F21’s yet. Those little kids are pretty handy with a sewing machine and I’m no couturier.
In keeping with the F21 theme, I’ve got a fabric which seems like the right color and drape but somehow looks cheaper than I want it to :) This Vera Wang Lavender Label that I bought during one of the Fabric.com sales was described as a wool and nylon twill, which it is, but somehow I was thinking it would be of a pant or suit weight when I ordered it. In actuality it’s somewhat spongier and fluffier, better for a light jacket, weird for pants. And somehow the 20% nylon component is very noticeable- a plasticky sparkle like that of carpet or acrylic yarn. Hard to tell from the photo they had on the website:
In any case, it’s the only thing in my stash that is really suitable, and I don’t expect this will be a garment I’ll wear every day, so it’s not really worth buying any more fabric for it.
So, it’s come to this. The Selfish Seamstress is making knockoffs of cheap mall store garments. Wish me luck!
Readers, as you may know, the Selfish Seamstress does not contribute to the lovey-dovey feel-good world of sewing blogs. She feeds on strife and animosity and is therefore pleased to bring you a new recurring feature called “Selfish Seamstress Nemesis,” in which she will rip apart and humiliate other sewers and sewing bloggers out of spite and envy. Up first: Peter in NYC, a.k.a. “Advanced Beginner Nemesis,” a.k.a. “Guy Nemesis.”
Many of you may know Peter in NYC from Pattern Review. He has recently started a hilarious blog of his own, which the Selfish Seamstress can only interpret as a hostile and aggressive tactic directed squarely at her. Why she interprets it this way, she can’t really say. Mostly she just needs an excuse to rail on Peter in a public forum. So here are some of the reasons why I have decided to upgrade Peter in NYC from mere Fellow Sewer to Selfish Seamstress Nemesis:
1) Peter in NYC started sewing a paltry six months ago and yet his workmanship and precision are already outstanding. That jerk. A mere three months into his new hobby, he up and made this:
Yes. That is a lined jacket. With collar and welt pockets. ARGH. How long did it take the Selfish Seamstress before she even worked up the nerve to try a buttonhole! Wipe that smug grin off your face, Peter.
2) As far as I can tell, Peter in NYC never spends more than pocket change on fabric and yet his clothes never have that crafty made-it-myself-out-of-old-quilts look. He relies on old bedsheets, and sometimes even fabric he finds in the trash (apparently in his neighborhood, entire bolts of silk knit count as trash), with an occasional splurge at the $2/yard section of actual fabric stores. And still, the results are envy-inducing and fantastic. ARGH! Check out this bedsheet number:
Why is it that if I make something from bedsheet it looks like something from Mama’s Family, whereas Peter’s shirt probably has hipster kids begging to buy it off of him as he walks down the street?
3) Apparently a couple of months of sewing experience is enough for perfect plaid alignment if you’re fancy schmancy smarty pants Peter:
And as if that weren’t enough, should I mention as well that he’s a topstitching fiend?
4) Finally, as if all this technical skill weren’t enough, I should also mention that the man can design womenswear. His enviably long-legged “identical cousin Cathy” is the frequent model of his gorgeously chic creations, as featured in stunning and artistic photo shoots. What seamstress in her right mind wouldn’t snap up this pattern if McCall’s put it out?
Peter in NYC had better watch his back; the Selfish Seamstress is not someone you want as your enemy. For more reasons to despise and envy him, check out his riotously funny new blog, Male Pattern Boldness. Leave nasty comments on it and tell him the Selfish Seamstress sent you! Mwahaha!
[Think YOU should be a Selfish Seamstress nemesis? Let me know! I'll fight with you too. I'll fight with ALL of you!]
Things were casual,
Another freezing day, another super quick, ridiculously frigid outdoor photo shoot! Here’s blouse 119 from the 2.2008 issue of Burda, a simple sleeveless top with slightly gathered neck opening and an attached scarf collar:
[Hmm. I think I need to add a second hook closure on the tab waist of those pants (self-drafted pattern) because it's not sitting flat against the waistband.]
Yes, another 16 degree Fahrenheit day with crazy wind and snow (the little white streaks!) And this time, unlike yesterday’s Vogue 8379 shoot, I wasn’t wrapped in wool knit, but instead in filmy sleeveless silk. This silk, you may recall, is one that sneaked into my stash and had me puzzling over what to do with it. I’m actually pretty satisfied with how it rendered in this blouse and have decided it was probably the best use of it. I can’t say it’s made me a pattern convert or that I’ll be wearing this weekly, but it’s less clown-y than I feared. There was some lively comment discussion of the fact that the colors might not suit me, but these are all colors that I wear regularly so I wasn’t too worried about that. If they don’t work on me I have yet to figure that out, and I’d have to purge my wardrobe of much more than just this blouse. Or perhaps the Selfish Seamstress defies all color theory!
The blouse itself is pretty simple to construct with just 3 main pattern pieces and two bias strips to make a sort of bias facing for the arm openings. You stitch a folded bias strip along the openings on the outside of the garment, trim the seam allowances, flip the bias strip to the inside, press, and topstitch for a clean finish with no exposed raw edges:
As you can see, I also used French seams throughout. I must say, although I like the blouse, working with this kind of slippery silk is not my cup of tea. It doesn’t stay put and it doesn’t behave the way I want it to. So although this pattern was pretty easy, I didn’t find it to be tremendously pleasurable sewing. And I guess that is why I now have no more silk in my stash!
I’m often a little wary of Burda difficulty ratings because I feel like they often don’t take the fabric challenges into account. Burda gave this pattern one and a half dots for difficulty, which I suppose makes sense on account of the simplicity of construction and small number of pieces. At the same time, I wouldn’t wish this on a novice given the kind of tricky fabrics to which this pattern is suited. That bias faced armhole, while not that much of a technical feat, takes a bit of coordination with a slippy fabric with an unstable grain and could be discouraging for a beginner.
That being said, I could see myself making another one of these. In a solid of course ;)
For your entertainment, here are some blustery out-takes. As you can see, I could barely keep my eyes open in the wind!
16 degrees Fahrenheit, winds gusting at 25 miles per hour, and the tiny white streaks you see are the snow. Needless to say, this was the shortest outdoor photo shoot ever. And seriously, go make yourself a Vogue 8379 if you haven’t already. If you have, make yourself another one. This pattern rox my sox.
I check the sales on Gilt.com from time to time but rarely get excited over them. But today there’s a sale on Magaschoni (why oh why had I never heard of them before??) and it’s like a dream in which Audrey Hepburn takes your hand and says, “Would you like me to take you on a tour of my closet, delightfully updated with current colors and detailing?” I would happily wear almost anything from the sale, but here are the ones that are really getting me:
I think I can figure out how to draft most of those myself as the shapes are pretty straightforward. And I’ll probably never even get around to most of them because my need for silky things and flouncy ruffles is not super urgent. But what is urgent is this top which I *MUST* have and have no idea how to draft!
Brilliant readers, I implore you to help me! How do I do this? What does the draft of that center bib piece look like? How can I make something so impossibly gorgeous and graceful? Your advice please- I must have this top, and my French blue bamboo knit is languishing in my stash. It is an emergency because I will indeed perish if I don’t have this top. Please help.
[P.S. I think Gilt.com is now open to anyone to browse and shop, but if not and you need an account, just email me at selfishseamstress[at]gmail[dot]com, and I’ll send you an invite.]
The Selfish Seamstress has a confession: she can’t accessorize for squat. Other than what I believe to be a decent eye for shoes and an occasional scarf, I have no aptitude whatsoever for accessories. In general this is not a problem- I have no desire to wear jewelry, so it doesn’t bother me that I don’t know how to pick it. I get by on basic belts and plain hosiery and am not interested in stepping that up. On a related note, I own one eyeliner, one lipstick, and no blush. Basically, there’s no space in my brain for anything other than sartorial basics. This does, however, get to be a problem when it comes to bags. I have a small set of nice purses that were gifted to me by my mother or sister, but in general I carry everything around in a set of sloppy totes or spacious and decidedly casual messenger bags, incongruous with my usual sheath-dress-and-heels uniform. I don’t know what the root of the problem is- decent bags are expensive and I simply have no interest in shopping for them or developing a sense of “bag fashion.”
Until now. Don of Weekend Designer, the wonderful drafting and design blog that shuttered several months ago, is back with a new blog called Bag’n’telle and it’s so exciting that even the bag-averse Selfish Seamstress is giddy over it. In this blog, he is going to teach us how to design and create bags. And not just any bags, but bags using designer methods and techniques adapted for the DIY crowd. And wouldn’t you know it, when you tell the Selfish Seamstress that she might actually be able to make bags, suddenly she cares about bags! The initial posts on Bag’n’telle look extremely promising- Don definitely knows what he’s talking about and is great at communicating his knowledge. His musings on creativity and design considerations are wonderful inspiration.
Now I know that a lot of hobby seamstresses make their own bags, and there are some very cute patterns out there for them which have been made with lovely results. At the same time, sweet printed fabric purses, crafty totes, and adorable satchels of the Amy Butler, Etsy, or Vera Bradley variety aren’t what I need in my wardrobe and aren’t what fit my personal style, pretty as they may be. My bags need to have hardware, look tailored, and not involve pretty printed canvas. And I’m not keen on carrying a bag that gives off slightest whiff of “made it myself.” So I’m delightedly anticipating what comes up on Bag’n’telle and hoping that the look and construction of a “tailored” handbag can really be reproduced at home. Can’t wait.
There’s already quite a bit of fascinating expert information on the site about design, construction, tools, and materials, so head over there and start dreaming!
Sure, I’ll sew for you
What you see above is my entire stash of silk fabric. Well, aside from the remnants from my Delancey Dress, that is. It may strike you as surprising that a Selfish fabric glutton like me has only one piece of silk in her possession, but as far as I am concerned, filmy, floofy, fancy, slippery, temperamental fabric just takes up space that that could otherwise be occupied by my beloved, well-behaved, practical wool suitings and cotton poplins. (Ok, I just remembered that I have some cotton and silk blend poplin. But it’s all business.)
This blouse weight piece of frivolity sneaked into my stash during a moment of weakness while I was strolling through the aisles at Vogue. When it comes to silks, Vogue is all about gorgeous quality for polyester prices, and somehow this one caught my eye like a puppy at a shelter who desperately wants to come home with you. And then you take it home and realize that you have a whole shelf full of puppies stacked up to the ceiling and didn’t you just swear last month that you would NOT TAKE HOME ANY MORE PUPPIES UNTIL YOU USED UP THE PUPPIES YOU ALREADY HAVE? Wow, that metaphor fell apart quickly.
Anyway, I think it was something about that sophisticated Banana Republic-esque color palette of tan, rust, and grape soda purple on the creamy ground that made me forget that drapey silk and geometric prints aren’t really my thing. The thing is, despite my commitment to boring solids, and a recent lively comment debate about the merits and disadvantages of prints, I don’t actually dislike prints. I just don’t find many that suit me and most of my ideas are solids, stripes, or plaids. I have made the occasional floral garment, and they tend not to see much wear.
But now I have this print, and it’s been sitting in my stash for some months, so I’m considering using it for one of these (Burda 119 blouse from 2.2008):
The weight of the fabric seems like it would work well with the pattern, and I could see a print blouse like this pairing reasonably with the more tailored and practical items in my wardrobe. But I’m still feeling kind of funny about that print- will it make me look like I’ve broken out into some crazy pox?
Because I could always put this back on the shelf and use it as jacket lining at some point in the future. Talk me down if I’m about to do something stupid.
Thanks so much to those of you who purchased Selfish Seamstress merchandise! I wanted to give you an update on the donations. Because I was worried that the Salesforce matching program for donations to the American Red Cross might meet its $250,000 limit, I made a donation on Saturday night of everything I had earned until then, which I matched, and then put in an additional $50. For those who want to do the math, this was $91 + $91 +50 = $232. With Salesforce’s matching, this brings the total to $464.
On Sunday and Monday I repeatedly attempted to donate to the Red Cross both through the matching campaign and directly and the webpage simply kept giving me errors. I can only hope this is because they’re getting more donations than they can handle right now! Anyway, I decided today to make an executive decision and donate the new earnings, which I matched, to Doctors without Borders. More math: $59.78 + $59.78 = $119.56.
So, Selfish Seamstress readers, this means that we have been able to contribute a total of $585.56 (with some matching help) to the relief efforts underway in Haiti. I will continue to donate all of earnings from the sales of Selfish Seamstress stuff to disaster relief in Haiti until further notice, so please keep visiting the Selfish Seamstress Store! And as always, if you navigate to the store from a link on my blog, that means 30% of your cost will be donated! Thank you so very much for your generosity in this time of need.
-Elaine, The Selfish Seamstress
Just a quick progress report and followed by a quick lament: Vogue 8379 is coming together quickly and neatly. Everything is done except for the hem and the sleeves, and the bodice is fitting like a dream- who ever thought that I might one day wear a wrap dress without a strategically placed safety pin! (Obviously, if this was something you ever wondered about me in the past, you might do well to pick up a few more hobbies or something. Or at least turn away from your computer for a few minutes a day.)
The lament: I’m starting to fall for this dress in its sleeveless state. It’s something about that sleeveless wrap bodice and that sharp collar. I’m tempted to cut in the armholes a tiny bit, find a way to finish them neatly and call it a dress. The only thing keeping me from it is that this dress is 100% wool, which would seriously limit its season in a sleeveless incarnation.
I’m feeling a sleeveless ponte de roma version in my future…
I mended your pants.