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If it’s my birthday, that means I must be cooking up a massive Ethiopian dinner for twelve! Dan and I are in the thick of it, making five stews and cake on top of that. No sewing for me today, kids!

But don’t worry, I’m not one to live solely for others. In fact, I bought myself a couple of presents yesterday, including an impossibly crisp and lustrous cotton voile in watercolor shades of mauve and brown:

And finally, a pressing ham!

Look out, darts, I’m coming!

A more foolish woman than I might sigh and lament today that she is halfway to 68. But 68 sounds plenty young and vital to the Selfish Seamstress. (After all, her grandmother will turn 104 in a few months!) Therefore, she feels much more ecstatic to be a mere 1/4 of the way to 136. Just think how much sewing stuff I’ll have by then!!

I don’t know what’s gotten into your beloved Selfish Seamstress, but lately she’s not feeling all that selfish. Oh, don’t get me wrong- I’m not going around giving hugs and offering to make skirts for co-workers. It’s not so ridiculous as that. But lately I just kind of feel like I’ve got enough fabric. Some of you praised my restraint on my recent trip to Vogue, admiring my prudence in walking out with just a wool remnant and a couple of Husqvarna feet. But to be honest, I wasn’t really holding back; I just didn’t see anything else that I wanted. In all FOUR enormous rooms of fabric. And this past weekend during my unexpected abduction, thanks to all of your wonderful suggestions I headed up to Rue St. Hubert, with tons of fabric stores crammed into a few blocks. There were stores ranging from miniscule to fairly large, couture quality to questionable, immaculately organized to jumbled. Many of the stores were primarily home dec, but there was more than enough to keep the home fashion sewer well-occupied for hours. And yet, I VERY NEARLY left Rue St. Hubert without any fabric at all.

I had Dan in tow and was pressed for time, so I didn’t take too many photos nor take much note of the shop names, but I was sure to hit two that were highly recommended by my trusty readers:

The former, Couture Elle, is beautifully organized and definitely a place to go if you, say, get nominated for a Best Actress Oscar and want to make your own gown. Many of the fabrics are beyond “special occasion” territory and well into the”once-in-a-lifetime” realm. And the latter, Sam Textiles, reminded me of a smaller Mood- comprehensive, high quality, and well-organized as well. Sam Textiles also had the friendliest service I encountered on my jaunt- the super cheerful employee praised me for being “smart” and knowing how to sew my own clothes (surely this would make most of their clientele “smart”?) and offered a hefty discount too when I was waffling.

Okay, so like I said, I nearly didn’t acquire anything at all. It wasn’t that there wasn’t anything good- I just wasn’t feeling tempted. I have a decent stash of wool basics to work through, and a stock of pretty prints and knits (more than I need considering that I rarely sew with either), and there just aren’t that many gaps in my collection at this point. Except for this:

I’m not 100% sure, but I think this is ultrasuede.  If it’s not, it’s something else that feels very realistically suede-y, without actually being suede. Here’s a close-up where you can sort of see the barely-there nap:

The back side is sort of satin-like, though not exactly in a standard satin weave:

Whatever it is, it’s soft, it’s luxurious, and it’s mine, thanks to the aforementioned hefty discount the Sam Textiles guy offered to entice me to buy stuff that I don’t need. Or do I?

After all, doesn’t everyone need a sassy leopard trench, like this one from Karen Millen? Perhaps another good use of my McCall 5525 pattern, already nicely graded and altered to fit me? If you’ve been keeping score, you might remember that I already made myself a leopard trench back in 2007:

But that trench is made of velboa, which in the intervening years has gone sort of limp and matted, and I rarely wear it now because every time I put it on, I kind of feel like I’m wearing this:

So I think it’s time for a grown up version! It’s funny, I never thought I would have *two* leopard print coats. Leopard print (and its buddies cheetah and jaguar) is one of those polarizing things.  People generally either find it chic or tacky. Where do you stand on it?

Welcome to the Montreal edition of The Selfish Seamstress!  (Wow, go Rachel- first person to guess, and nailed it!) Having a great time in this lovely city after having been whisked off to it in a most mysterious fashion.

So far we’ve eaten our fair share of poutine, and wandered around the charming cobblestone streets, which on first glance look very much like textbook old Europe:

But when you look closer, you realize that all of the shop windows are packed with Native Canadian crafts, Montreal Canadiens reproduction hockey jerseys, and other bits of Canadiana:

Just by chance, we happened by Fabricville (Quebec’s version of Fabricland), and I couldn’t help but take a quick jaunt through it. No pictures of the store (trust me, it just looks like a Hancock but with all of the signage in French), but I found this gorgeous vintage-inspired rose-print dull satin (with just a tiny bit of stretch) that I couldn’t walk away without;

A close look at the beautiful smudgy navy flowers:

Three meters of it are already tucked into my suitcase and begging to be made into a late 50’s/early-60’s style cocktail dress with a bit of Mad Men flavor.

But now the Selfish Seamstress is hungry for more! Where are your favorite fabric haunts in Montreal?  Tell me quick because I get whisked back home tomorrow!

I have no shame. I actually headed up towards my friend’s wedding an hour early so that I could stop by Vogue :)  I spent 45 minutes shopping in taupe satin T-strap heels and seafoam teal lace and with silk velvet trim. 

The Evanston store is the flagship Vogue store, and it’s huge- four large rooms of fabric and then a couple of smaller rooms with trims and equipment. Most people prefer the Evanston one to the downtown one, but visiting again I remembered that I actually prefer the downtown one.  For some reason I always feel like the fabric in the downtown branch is a little more “serious” and the stuff in Evanston is generally more novelty and colorful, with lots of dressy fabrics and prints:

Having already stocked up on prints at Whipstitch, I wasn’t too interested in most of Vogue’s current offerings.  But I did peruse their massive selection of remnants:

And pulled out a lovely gray plaid wool remnant (I know, so very typical of me), which will become a skirt at some point:

Oddly, I’m feeling mostly fabric-satiated at this point.  I don’t have an enormous stash, but I’ve certainly got more than I need.  It’s sort of like being offered dessert when you’re already full- just not that interested.  I did, however, pick up two lovely little additions to my Husqvarna feet family:

Those are a 7-groove pintuck foot and an invisible zipper foot.  I currently have a cheapo plastic invisible zipper foot, which always seems to gradually push the zipper away from the fabric edge in an annoying way.  I’ve heard the Husqvarna zipper foot is brilliant though. As for the pintuck foot, I didn’t know what kind to get and the Vogue people were remarkably disinterested in helping. 7-groove seems like a good starter one though. I’m actually miffed because I noticed right after buying it that the chrome is already chipping off the foot (you can see a little brass-colored spot on it at the bottom of the second picture).  The feet weren’t packaged, just loose in a box. But I won’t have time to go exchange it before I leave, so I hope the chrome doesn’t continue to peel. 

Heading home tomorrow, suitcase ever so slightly fuller than when I left!

Shhhh… don’t tell, but last night I played hooky. I skipped out on a conference function (with some 3000 delegates, I’m hoping no one noticed.) The Selfish Seamstress gets tired of smiling at colleagues all day, because she was born without the smiling reflex and therefore has to contort her facial muscles into a simulated smile-like positon for the sake of maintaining social norms while interacting with people. Instead I met up with a dear old friend, and we went for a casual belated birthday dinner (his birthday, not mine), but perhaps of more interest to you, we made a little side trip to the fantastic fabric shop, Whipstitch.

It’s a good thing that Whipstitch wasn’t around back when I lived in Atlanta because I’m sure I’d have been spending too much of my meager student salary there and making up for it by not eating. Whipstitch is nothing short of a fabric candy store:

The store is full of lovely multi-purpose fabrics from design masters like Amy Butler, Michael Miller, and Joel Dewberry. And as you know, I am somewhat print-challenged, but I very much wanted to grab up two yards of everything and pack it into my little roll-aboard suitcase. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about prints though, it’s that I shouldn’t buy them unless I can envision myself in a garment made from them. And so I picked out this dainty black and white floral from Sharon Evans Yenter which looks so wonderfully wearable:

I know, leave it to me to ferret out the black in a rainbow of a shop! It’s 100% cotton, I think, but has a very silky hand and lovely drape. Dainty florals aren’t usually my thing but this one is so soft and pretty, and I can see this made up in a lot of ways- I’m currently pondering it for a slim blouse, or perhaps as the top or bottom of Simplicity 2724 with a contrast fabric:

I may have picked up another adorable fabric too, but I can’t tell you about that one yet. Soon though. I have my reasons. Do not question the Selfish Seamstress.

Whipstitch itself is a charming, independently operated store (don’t you just want to cheer for wonderful, local, independent small businesses?)  in a neat little area of Atlanta, and they just moved into their lofty new space two weeks ago from their previous, smaller digs. They’ve already got a selection that will have you drooling and trying to restrain yourself, but there’s more on the way to fill out their lovely open space. Can you imagine what a paradise it will be when they’ve got this filled?

It won’t get too crowded though, as they’ve got a great open area in the back where they hold sewing classes. I really don’t remember the last time I saw such a pleasant fabric store. Hancock and Jo-Ann fill a need but offer little in terms of ambiance. I love the cramped and crowded offerings of the NYC garment district, or the massive emporia like Vogue, but none of them have comfy armchairs that make you want to sit down and soak up the fabric-y serenity. Whipstitch does, and looks like a studio, loft, shop, and classroom in one.

The business is co-owned by Deborah and Chrissy- unfortunately I missed Deborah and the time of my visit, but got to chat with the delightful and sweet Chrissy:

As you can see, she loves her some fabric:

Swing by on your next trip to Atlanta (I know I will), and these ladies can hook you up with more pretty than will fit in the overhead compartment.

Oh, and for those of you who have no immediate plans to head to the deep south, you can feed your addictions at Whipstitch’s Etsy shop!

Hi all!  First off, thank you so very very much for your help yesterday with sleeveboard/seam roll advice and for your many great button suggestions! I ended up picking up a seam roll because the sleeveboard in question didn’t seem like the greatest quality, but don’t worry- it’s on my list for the future.

And now for the all-important button decision, which I will tell you after drawing out the suspense much longer than necessary. For those of you who were rooting for the color “pop!” of fuchsia or orange or red buttons, I totally get the kitschy-chic aesthetic you were imagining. And if I were a super cool burgundy-haired 20-something Brooklyn-dwelling post-hipster with a graphic design career and fabulous nerd-chic glasses, I might go for it. On me, though, I think it would look too “homemade Easter coat.” Plus I think the golden-lit aesthetic of an Anthropologie catalogue photo has become too ingrained in my mind with this coat already (Dan said last night that it looked like it could come from Anthropologie! Ok, not that he shops there or is familiar with its product line, but still- he said it!) But don’t worry, fuchsia fans, I will steal your idea for the pop of color (well, even though the coat is already quite a color) and do you proud by wearing it with fuchsia suede footwear (Miss Sixty):

And bright orange shoes as well (Yoki brand from ModCloth):

So for buttons, that left the other suggestions of more neutral tones like wood or cream. First of all, at the moment I do not live in a major metropolitan area like Chicago or New York. The only fabric store near me is a rather depressing affair. Their button selection consists of three of those rotating “trees.” I spun each of those trees around several times in hopes of finding something similar to the wonderful round bone buttons that Shelley suggested yesterday (thank you!), which I didn’t. I pulled a couple of cream selections and a wood one, both of which were reasonable with the coat, and the wood ones especially were a cute-but-not-in-your-face look. I was sort of leaning towards them, as the cream button options were a little bit cheap-looking, when I spied these little Gutermann fellows hiding near the bottom of the brightly colored buttons tree on which I had been focusing less attention:

Lime green with a cream stitch print around the edge (the stitch may actually be white, but if so, the detailing is too fine to tell). Almost breathless, I plucked them off the tree and held them against my nearly-finished jacket to check… 

Dead-on perfect color match like you wouldn’t believe.

What are the chances? How on earth does one match a particular shade of lime green with such a tiny selection of buttons? I had pretty much ruled out green buttons before going to the store because I was fairly sure I wouldn’t find them in the right shade (you know what happens when you have the idea for something very specific in your head and then you go to the fabric store to try to find it… that never works!) They’re a little smaller than I was envisioning, but when I laid them out on the coat, I decided they would be just fine:

Ok.  Rail all you want about them not being what you would have chosen… my mind is made up! This jacket is so close to being done, I can taste it. And once it is, I will stop yammering about it and you won’t have to hear any more about it.

Well, except for when I post the finished pictures. Soon, kids, soon.

A friend of mine once remarked that physically attractive women could be divided into three categories of attractiveness: Beautiful, Sexy, and Cute. I don’t think this is the only possible way of dividing the space, but it seems as reasonable a taxonomy as any. I also don’t think it’s quite so simple, as I find that women generally possess all of these qualities in different measures and ratios, and perhaps some even in equal measure. But I think my friend’s point is rather valid that for many or most women, one of these qualities is more dominant (Primarily Beautiful, Primarily Sexy, or Primarily Cute) than the others in their attractiveness. (I think the same taxonomy could also be applied to men, but I think people use those words differently when talking about men, so I’ll just ignore the topic of men’s attractiveness for this discussion.)

If the Selfish Seamstress may be so bold as to assume that she is at least somewhat attractive to some person somewhere (and we are talking about being attractive on the outside, as everyone knows that on the inside the Selfish Seamstress is purely hideous with no redeeming inner beauty), then she would have to also (somewhat grudgingly) place herself squarely in the Primarily Cute pile, rather than the Primarily Sexy or Primarily Beautiful pile. Moonfaced, round-eyed, and no larger than your thumb, this seems the most obvious categorization.

So why am I thinking about this today?  Because I’ve recently purchased some awfully cute prints (contrary to popular belief, the Selfish Seamstress does not hate prints):

That’s an Amy Butler polka dot cotton, earmarked for a light spring trench jacket.

That’s a bold floral Amy Butler cotton sateen in a light decorator weight, intended for a simple 3/4 length coat, to be worn with the simplest of sheath dresses and updo. (Sigh.  If I must be forced to admit it, I got the idea for such a coat after seeing a floral coat on some random lady on some random TV show.  She’s NOT my style icon, but I just like the coat, okay?)

This was a vintage find- 8 yards (!!) of cotton with a French market scene border print, destined to become a sundress with spaghetti straps and a full, full skirt. I would love to find a cardigan in that shade of French blue to belt over it. 

So what was the point of that whole prelude about cuteness?  Simply that I think that if you fall into the Primarily Cute bucket (not literally fall into a bucket of cuteness), you have to take especial precaution with your cute prints. A tall, skinny, exotic model can make a pink flowered chiffon Anna Sui babydoll dress look chic and edgy; the same dress on the Selfish Seamstress would look as though she had indeed stolen it off of a baby doll. For me, it is imperative that a cute print be paired with a sophisticated or even austere cut, unless I want to look like a giant toddler. 

Particular details of cut about which I have to be careful: the aforementioned babydoll silhouette, puff sleeves, flounces at the hem, Peter Pan collars, empire waists, a-line dresses (a-line skirts are ok), bows. Most of these I think I can pull off in some cases with a sophisticated or plain fabric, but you won’t catch any of them stepping out with any of the prints above. Incidentally, I would also warn the ladies in the “Primarily Sexy” category to be careful when pairing cutesy print + cutesy cut.  Could end up looking a little costume-y, if you know what I mean.

In any case, prints are still a gamble for me, and even sticking to simple fitted bodices and tailored trench details don’t guarantee that the garments I have planned for those fabrics won’t be flops. But I guess that’s just trial and error at work.

How about you?  What elements and combinations do you love and what do you know to stay away from?

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I’ve hit a sort of rocky patch in my relationship with BurdaMag in the last few months. My subscription ran out and I’ve been sort of holding off on re-subscribing until I see an issue with stuff I really want to make. I don’t think there’s anywhere local where I can pick up single issues so a subscription with its not unsubstantial price tag and 12-month commitment is really the only option if I want my Burdas. (Well, that and purchasing the odd back issue off of German eBay which I do from time to time.)

And then I discovered the cheater way to Burdify. As it turns out, once the month’s new Burda issue hits the newsstands (typically around the 20th of the prior month), Burda makes all the patterns from the previous month available online for download for 3 Euros 99 cents (and usually one free one, I think. Go get it!) At first I stupidly thought you could get ALL the patterns from the issue for that price (kind of makes sense because that’s slightly less than the price of an issue in Germany but they’re saving on printing and shipping costs and you don’t get any of the articles or photos or anything), but it’s actually per pattern. Duh.

If you think about it (especially if you are an American and your currency is weak weak weak right now), this is not exactly a great deal – about $5.40 per pattern, roughly half the cost of a full issue of Burda at Barnes and Noble. But if you’re in my situation and there have really only been one or two patterns you’ve been interested in making in the past five or six issues, and a subscription is your only viable alternative, it’s actually a pretty reasonable choice from an economic standpoint. (Plus I’ve got a European bank account and somehow paying Euros for it makes me feel like it costs less than it $5.40, even though that’s really not true. Ah, the little games we play with our money.)

So I like this pattern from the February issue:

And I was kind of curious to try out the new download service, so after a few days of waffling, I took the plunge and bought the pattern. You receive the pattern itself as a pdf after you purchase, and there’s a pdf of the instructions available online as well that you can download:

That’s just a snippet of it there, but as you can see the pattern and instructions include all of the variations of that pattern (even though when you purchase, it looks like you’re just purchasing one variation) and the instructions are exactly what you would get in the magazine (do I hear a collective groan?) You do have to tape all the sheets of paper together, which I know a lot of people hate doing, but it’s no more work than tracing the pieces off of the pattern sheet which is what you have to do anyway if you buy an issue of Burda.

So, there’s the cheater way to get your Burda magazine patterns without a subscription and without access to a store that sells the issues. I have to say, it’s awfully convenient, and now that cute strapless dress from the March issue is getting awfully tempting. But it’s not without its downsides too. For one thing, like I said the patterns are perhaps a bit on the pricey side for something you have to print and tape together yourself, and they’re really not worth it if you think you’ll actually make more than one pattern from the issue. Plus, although the downloadable patterns (unlike the ones in the magazine) are laid out such that the pieces are not overlapping, thus eliminating the need to trace them, they don’t include seam allowance. (Sigh. I wish Burda would just get on the seam allowance bandwagon already.  Are you listening to me, Burda Easy Fashion?) I prefer to have seam allowance on my patterns, rather than add it on the fabric so there’s more work there. (Seriously Burda, if you’re just selling pdfs and don’t have to worry about getting them to fit on your big piece of newsprint, why not just give me the seam allowances? People who don’t want them can cut them off!) Oh, another potential drawback for some- I think the instructions are only available in German and the downloads are only available on the German site so you have to be able to navigate an online purchase in German. Details, details.

But the biggest drawback to this I think is that I really love having back issues of my BurdaMags. I often buy them even when there’s only one pattern in them that I like, but later find other things I want to make from them, or just enjoy flipping through them over and over until they are dog-eared and slipping out of their covers. And while their snippets on sewing and technique may not be as useful as say, Threads, there are often little useful tidbits that I discover after the fact. And when you buy the downloadable pattern, that’s all you get- the pattern. No discovery, no bedtime reading, no added value two years later. 

But then again, maybe my library of sewing magazine back issues doesn’t need to be fed any further  :D

No, that’s not all of them. Not by a long shot. Anyway, I know that I’ll eventually resubscribe, maybe after the summer issues (I’ve always been a bigger fan of their autumn stuff than their summer gear), but during this Burda dry spell, this seems to be a nice option for me to get my Burda fix without the commitment and superfluous blah issues.

How about you?  Anyone else Burdifying the cheater way?  Thinking about it?

Sometimes it’s hard to avoid peeking into the mouth of the gift horse when it’s standing right in front of you. In a twist of karmic imbalance, I woke this morning, my day of departure from New York, to find an email in my inbox from BurdaStyle, telling me I had won one of their Holiday Giveaway prizes! A Threads DVD box set about fitting, a year’s subscription to Threads, and 9 issues of Sew Stylish. All this after having spent nearly two weeks selfishly running around New York, collecting beautiful yards of fabric, notions, and sewing books with which to pad my suitcase. It seems almost wickedly unfair, but not so much that I won’t happily accept the prize AND brag about it to you on my blog. But really, isn’t it about time that the sewing gods lay some smack down on me for my greed and hubris?

I didn’t enter in many of the BurdaStyle Holiday Giveaways- just the three or four that I thought I’d really like, like the serger and sewing machine and the $100 gift certificate for Mood.  I skipped out on the irons (having just won one a super nice one from Pattern Review), the craftier fabric giveaways, the accessories and gifty items. I certainly wasn’t expecting to win anything, so it was pretty exciting, especially considering that I just bought my first issue of Threads in December and had been thinking that I should subscribe. I had never really considered it in the past because the garments in Threads always feel a little… “mature” for my taste.  But as I’ve actually started to think more about workmanship and technique, I’ve started to realize what a nifty resource it is. THANK YOU, BURDASTYLE!

So, undeserving as the Selfish Seamstress is of yet another sewing windfall, she’s eagerly anticipating yet another batch of mine-mine-mine! goodies. 

And as if that weren’t enough to tempt the gods to strike me down for my gluttony, as I was doing a last pass through my parents’ place before departing for the airport for things I might have left behind, I happened upon an adorable little Burberry tote in a box in a closet. After a (very cursory) investigation into the bag’s provenance, I determined that it was an orphan that my sister had abandoned some years ago.  And so it went into the last bit of space in my suitcase. And that, my friends, is how you do Selfish right.

And don’t think for a moment that it didn’t occur to me to make a last-minute jaunt to Mood to pick up something tan and expensive to match. If I’d have just one more spare hour in NY, I would have. But that probably would have been the Selfish Seamstress’s last straw with the sewing gods.

With all of this recent talk of buying fabric for myself and buying more fabric for myself and buying yet more fabric for myself, it may seem to you that the Selfish Seamstress has lost sight of the true spirit of the holidays. But don’t you worry, dear readers, she is well aware of the fact that the holidays aren’t just about getting fabric, they’re also about GETTING OTHER STUFF. Oh yes, and I have certainly done that with the help of a couple of trips to Kinokuniya, the Japanese bookstore near Bryant Park that is a sewer and crafter’s dream come true.

They have a beautiful selection of Japanese and non-Japanese fashion books and publications (dare I say I found their selection more interesting than nearby fashion publication mecca Around the World?):

No matter what your fashion interest, they have a book on it.  Jeans? Check. Flowered dresses? Check. Kimono design? Check.Cynthia Rowley? Check. Judaism-themed shoes?

Check.

They even have two entire racks of Japanese men’s fashion magazines. Notice that unlike many American men’s “fashion” magazines, the covers actually feature (gasp!) men wearing (gasp!) clothes, rather than nearly naked women!  [Note to Rihanna: If you're reading this, the Selfish Seamstress is no Puritan, but did you really have to be that naked on the cover of this month's issue of GQ? Do you really think the readers of GQ deserve that much of your 21-year old goodies? And no, the unzipped hotpants do not qualify as "clothes." P.S. Thank you for reading my blog, Rihanna, I love "Umbrella"!]

(Oops, I think this was the point at which I realized that photos are not permitted in the Japanese bookstore. Sort of ironic, actually. Sorry, Kinokuniya- let me know if you want me to delete the photos!)

And of course the craft and sewing sections were enormous, with all of the usual suspects like the Pattern Magic and Bunka series, Mrs. Stylebook and Lady Boutique, as well as tons of pattern books:

Fortunately for my already-depleted wallet, I didn’t have too much trouble resisting the dozens of books full of dress, blouse, and skirt patterns. I do like Japanese pattern books in theory and the sizing certainly works for me. But I find that many of the mainstream clothes in Japanese pattern books have a gently relaxed, almost smock-like fit (dirndl or a-line skirts that hit below the knee, jumper-style dresses) that is cute but don’t do any favors for my decidedly little-girl-not-yet-a-woman figure. Doll-like is not the aesthetic I go for, and I much prefer the more sophisticated styles in Japanese pattern magazines like Mrs. Stylebook. Still, I thumbed through just about all of them with delight.

There were also a few fantastic men’s pattern books featuring wonderfully classic patterns and even (on the left) the Book of Aprons for Men. That’s right, a whole book full of apron patterns specifically for men. How great is that?

The book on the right is full of coat patterns for men- trenches and car coats, duffle coats and overcoats, each one perfectly classic with all the traditional details. I thought about getting this to make some coats for Dan (interestingly, Dan cooks without an apron and probably would be perfectly fine with a unisex one if the occasion called for it!) but decided that the Japanese sizing might not work so well on him. He flipped through it himself and didn’t get too excited over anything so we left it behind. And oh yeah, making coats for him would interfere with my busy schedule of sewing exclusively for myself.

I did snag a couple of books. First off, the delightful Drape Drape pattern book, which I have coveted ever since reading about it on The Slapdash Sewist. My assessment of the book is pretty much on par with hers (I covet dress number 5 and find most of the others wonderfully artistic but unwearable from a practical standpoint unless I get a job that requires the regular exposure of my bumcrack). Here’s dress number 5:

And because the Selfish Seamstress is incapable of being positive about something without getting in a jab or two, I’d like to point out that this book features some freaky thin models in some kooky childlike poses:

I also picked up a book of hat patterns, which I think will be a good way to use up some of my nice wool scraps and remnants. The patterns range from adorable and practical:

To wacky:

To flowerpot-shaped (i.e. also wacky):

Many of the photos make me excited to sew some cute accessories (which I rarely do), and all of them make me want to break out my curling iron.

On your next trip to the garment district, be sure to swing by Kinokuniya for more irresistible sewing and crafting treats. And even if you don’t pick up any pattern books or sewing magazines, you’ll have a hard time passing up the other adorable items like Totoro stuffed animals in every size imaginable. And fortunately again for my wallet, my 15″ laptop would not fit in this, otherwise Professor Elaine would be lugging her computer to lectures in a most childish and inappropriately cute Jetoy kitty cat case:

As you can see, the Selfish Seamstress knows that the holidays are more than about just getting fabric. Kinokuniya bless us, every one!

Dear Readers:

I’m writing this post from under the mountain of fabric that toppled on to me after I attempted to stack all of my recent acquisitions into a neat ceiling-high column. I fear the end may be drawing near for me, but  if I’m going to go, at least I can say that this is exactly the way I wanted to go. Crushed by dozens of yards of wool knit and sleek suiting.

Based on some of your warm recommendations, I decided to take a little trip to Metro Textiles with Dan in tow. I had already feasted heartily at Mood and Paron, so this was just icing. And readers had mentioned a lovely proprietor and bargain basement prices, so I figured I had nothing to lose. Well, both were certainly true. Kashi is a lovely person who is passionate about his business and genuinely wants to make his customers happy, and my goodness, the deals are better than internet prices!

Look at that smile!  Who wouldn’t want to get their fabric from this man?  And if you’re wondering what he’s holding, it’s three yards of luscious aubergine lining -100% rayon (the good stuff!) in a rare 60″ width, for $6 a yard! Good luck finding that on the internet! I can see why some people had said that the selection is hit or miss- Metro Textiles is a tiny little shop compared to nearby mammoths like B&J or Mood (you have to do some creative walking in some cramped corners to get to some of the stock) and can’t be as comprehensive. But there was a lovely selection of wool suiting, jacketing, and coating, which are my favorites. There were also lovely knit prints and solids, and some beautiful silks as well. If you go in looking for something very specific you might not find it, but there’s quite a lot of fabric crammed into the space and it looked like great quality to me. 

Having binged so much earlier, I managed to hold back a bit, even though the prices are certainly binge-friendly. I came away with the aforementioned rayon lining, a whole lot of lightweight fusible knit interfacing (also 60″ and crazy cheap! Is it just me or is 60″ interfacing something really special?), and a beautiful black and white houndstooth wool suiting that is too smooth to be true:

 

Here’s a closeup of the wool ($10!!):

Kashi had some interesting stories about how the garment district has changed in the ten years during which he’s been in business, and about how the fabric stores in the area have been disappearing at a pretty fast clip. I guess this makes sense, as manufacturing has been moving out of the area and gone overseas. It’s a shame considering what a wonderful area it is, with such great history and of course such beautiful fabric. I hope the industry doesn’t erode any further and people like Kashi can stay in business. (Call him if you need something- he ships!) Did I mention how nice this guy is?

While in the area, I also hit up the famed trim store M&J Trimming. Unlike many hobby seamstresses, I’m not a trim fanatic, so I didn’t go crazy in there (a good thing too, because I’m pretty sure the woman ahead of me in line paid $70 for a bag of what looked like 5/8″ polyester satin ribbon, but I could have been mistaken).  I just picked up a couple of belt buckles, but that’s not to say I wasn’t blown away by the beautiful store:

And that’s just a tiny part of it. Trim addicts could spend a whole day (and paycheck) in here, and then come back the following day for more.

Finally, because I was in the area and because a certain mulberry sweater knit had been chewing at the edges of my consciousness since I had left it behind at Mood, I headed back there again. As I had sort of expected, it was more beautiful in my memory than in real life (probably the reason I had left it there in the first place.) But it just happened to be next to another wool sweater knit in a lovely army green, which I did annex:

And that was probably what did it.  This last unnecessary bit of fabric gluttony is what pushed the sewing gods over the edge. As this soft, thick knit teetered high atop the stock of new stash I’ve acquired in NY, the sewing gods unleashed their fury and struck it down, which is how I ended up under the avalanche of beautiful fabric. 

I think I may be done with fabric shopping for this trip. Unless I can manage to get out from under all this stuff.

Hugs,
Elaine

I was foiled in my attempt to go get the mulberry sweater knit that I can’t stop thinking about since I left it on the bolt at Mood because as it turns out, Mood was closed on December 24th. (What!  Do they not realize how short my time in New York is??) Fortunately, on my way there, I bumped into the Japanese bookstore Kinokuniya (more on that expensive and unexpected happening later) and Paron. Having filled up on basics already, I perused their extensive 50% off heaven/annex for things that caught my eye, and fixed on this nerdy-chic chocolate and burnt orange Banana Republic plaid wool:

It’s sort of a shetland weight that would make for a nice substantial pair of pants or fall jacket. My first thought was a high waisted pencil skirt of the sexy-librarian-shakes-out-hair-good-heavens-you’re-beautiful! variety.  (I don’t know why I always think I can pull that off when I haven’t got anything in the va-va-voom department.) In particular, I would pair said skirt with my new also nerdy-chic Sweet Pota-toe Heels from ModCloth (believe it or not, my first ever actual ModCloth purchase):

(If these are your style, I should let you know that they are a bargain at $39.99.  Grab them while they still have a few pairs left!  And I am the reason that they’re sold out of size 5.)

I asked for a yard and a half of the fabric (originally $24/yard, but $12 after the 50% off), but the woman unrolled everything that was left on the bolt and said she’d give me the whole piece for the price of two yards. In the interest of not accumulating too much stash I thought about wisely saying no.  After all, it’s not a super basic like black wool gabardine or white cotton poplin. But she was so nice and it was almost Christmas eve and she was really selling hard to the selfish in me. And there went another $6.

I took it home and measured it and found that the entire piece was actually four yards long. Plenty for a pencil skirt and something else (which I would not wear WITH the skirt because I do not want to dress like a crazy lady.)  What do you think?  Three-quarter length coat with chocolate brown faux fur trim?  Trench-style jacket?  Trousers? What does one do with so much sweet potato plaid?

It had not been my intention only to go to Mood.  I actually trekked down to the garment district with a Post-It with several addresses on it.  But once in Mood I found everything my selfish little heart could desire and more (plus more than my selfish little arms could carry, making further shopping impossible.) I skipped out on the silk organzas and velvets, the gorgeous silk and cotton jersey prints that would inevitably languish unused on the shelf were I to take them home with me, and headed straight for wool.

After so much guessing with wools purchased online (and they vary so much in hand and quality), it was a joy to wander through the aisles stacked up the the ceiling and pet every fabric picking only the softest. Here’s my haul of wool suitings up close.  A super soft heathered taupe flannel:

A chocolate-y tweed in a fine herringbone pattern, darker in real life than in the photo:

And a lightweight soft tweed in various shades of brown:

You may be looking at these and thinking that The Selfish Seamstress sure does have predictable taste.  A year ago I myself would probably have only picked one of these and then substituted the other two with something a little wilder. But I think this is just me maturing as a stasher, knowing that these are the kinds of fabric I wish I had when they’re missing from my collection, and knowing that these are the things that I ultimately want to sew and wear. Plus I’ve done a lot of grey wool in the last year or so, and good browns are often hard to find. And ohhhhhh the quality!  These wools are so soft and rich and fine, they could probably be worn right against the skin without any itching at all. But I’ll line them anyway because they deserve it!

Then I went to pick out some knits, which is a bit of a gamble since sewing knits is sort of new to me and building up a big stash right away might not be the safest of bets.  But at least all of these are earmarked for specific patterns, so that increases the chances that they’ll get used. First I found that most elusive of fabrics- black wool double knit.  They had so many different black wool knits and it was a luxury to pick out the softest and smoothest rather than settling for whatever I could find.  (No picture because it just looks like black fabric when I photograph it).  Then a lovely eggplant (or grape?) ponte double knit:

And the softest, silkiest bamboo jersey in French blue:

I’m not necessarily done with my fabric shopping in New York, and I’ve got quite a few more days in the city.  Thank goodness that I have status on United, which means that Dan and I can check a total of four suitcases on the trip back :) Dan plans to fill some with sporting equipment, but he may be mistaken in that assumption.

I left Mood with my wallet about $130* lighter, and yet I still can’t help but think about a particular mulberry sweater knit I passed up, and a wine-colored wool jersey. Fortunately, it just so happens that I have this afternoon blocked off in my datebook with the words, “Make you even MORE jealous.”  I’ll get right on that.

* This number is a lie.

I like Fabric.com. I like their generous free shipping policy for orders over $35. I’ve gotten some lovely fabric from them in the past. Today in a fabric shop in NYC, I saw one of the same Vera Wang brocades that Fabric.com was selling for $3.79 last week going for $40 a yard. But I must take issue with the fact that the Vera Wang Lavender Label jacquard that I purchased from them was pictured on the website like this:

 

And when I took it out of the shipping box, I found it actually looks like this:

As you can see, this is more than just a small matter of monitors varying in how they display color.  The name of the fabric on the website is, “Designer Woven Jacquard Circles Navy.” Granted, I thought (based on the website picture) that the classification of the color as “navy” was a bit off, as I would sooner have called it “periwinkle” or “blue-violet” or something like that. But as it turns out, we were both wrong. The fabric is pretty much black.  There may be the ever slightest tinge of blue to it, but you’d have to know it was there to notice it.  My greatest concern when purchasing it was that I didn’t know how big the circles were going to be! Turns out there were other surprises in store.

The fabric itself isn’t horrible for what it is.  It’s stiff and synthetic-feeling, but if I saw it in a store, I wouldn’t think it was bad.  It was just that I was expecting something much more special- those nifty bull’s eyes in lovely graduated shades of violet. Ah well. Disappointing. But I got some pretty stuff in the brick and mortar stores today in which I will be rubbing your envious noses just as soon as I can get some nice photographs taken :)

I love “The Office.”  I can’t get enough of it.  As of this season, it has surpassed “30 Rock” as my favorite show on TV.  It’s hilarious, and the Selfish Seamstress just loves funny. Last week’s Christmas episode was no exception.

In the episode, Angela (notoriously prim, unsympathetic, judgmental, and uptight) is opening her Secret Santa gift, and exclaims:

“It’s fabric.  I really wanted this!”

To which her boss, Michael, replies sardonically:

“That’s fantastic.  You can make another dress that goes past your feet.”

Her reaction to this puritanical gift from a work colleague is supposed to be funny, and it is. Most of the millions of people who watch the show would agree– in normal society, it’s weird to give fabric as a gift and it’s dorky to get excited over a gift of fabric.  And yet, in the selfish seamstress world, who wouldn’t eagerly accept fabric over just about any other gift her friends or family would think to proffer?

I come from a family in which we didn’t ask for specific presents. You got what you got, and as a result, to this day I never ask for specific gifts. Odd for someone as selfish as I am, right? The truth is, once Christmas rolls around, there usually isn’t anything I want anyway.  In recent years, I’ve asked close family (the ones who wouldn’t be offended, like my sisters) not to give me presents as I have too much stuff already, and some make donations to charities instead, which works out great. But despite my desire to reduce the clutter… ahh, to receive a gift of fabric… Can you just imagine opening the package from your mom, and surprise!  It’s three yards of charcoal and white chalk-stripe wool flannel suiting!  Visions of perfectly cuffed trousers with front welt pockets are dancing in my head.

Tomorrow, (weather willing!) Dan and I will fly back to New York for the holidays, our home and native land.  And that means Christmas and Hanukkah celebrations, catching up with old friends, meeting the new babies, seeing loads of beloved relatives, eating all sorts of good things that you can only find all in one place in New York, museums, Central Park in the snow, and handing out the S.W.A.G. projects I have painstakingly sewn instead of making wonderful things for myself. Damn you, family, and your stupid unconditional love and support of the last 33 years!

But most of all, going home for the holidays means:

ONE NO-HOLDS-BARRED DAY IN THE NEW YORK CITY GARMENT DISTRICT REPLENISHING MY STASH.  

It’s a Very Selfish Seamstress Christmas, and I’m going to be on the prowl for:

  • Ever elusive wool and rayon jersey and wool double knit
  • Classic, high quality suitings in menswear solids, stripes, plaids, houndstooth, and herringbone
  • Lightweight wool tweeds and flannel for pants and skirts
  • Wool and silk boucle for jackets and sheaths
  • Poplin in rich colors for shirts and dresses
  • A perfect plaid wool coating
  • Sophisticated sweater knits

And whatever else happens to strike my selfish, selfish fancy. And after every acquisition, I plan to exclaim, “It’s fabric.  I really wanted this!” (But no more dressy fabrics.  My stash of classic wools has worn down to scraps, while my stack of embroidered georgette and and silk chiffon remains unchanged since last year.) 

So.  Shall we shop?  Mood, Paron, B&J…. what are your favorites?  Share!  The Selfish Seamstress will leave no bolt in New York unexamined!

About this blog

The Selfish Seamstress loves to design and sew garments, but only if she gets to keep them. I'm Elaine, known in the online sewing world as elainemay, and welcome to my selfish sewing blog.

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