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The answer to that question is yes. Apparently a LOT of people want my copy of McCall’s 4425.
In case you’re wondering, I’m not giving it away, so feel free to clench your little fists and punch your screens in frustration over the very enticing and misleading title of this post. McCall’s 4425 is one of the jewels of my hefty, enviable collection of vintage gown patterns. I stalked eBay for a long time to find this one in a small size and I had to bid-bomb many weak, inferior eBayers to win it. And it does bring me joy to gaze at its beauty and know that I have what so many others desperately covet.
What does NOT bring me joy is the sheer number of people who email me asking me if they can have it, buy it for cheap, or if I can (seriously??) make them a copy and send it to them. (This is not a knitting pattern- we’re not talking about a 3-minute photocopy job here.) Inevitably the writers of the emails justify their requests by quoting the ridiculously high prices that vintage pattern dealers want for original copies of the pattern, and by telling me that they desperately need it for a wedding/gala/cotillion but don’t want to pay that much. What am I supposed to say in response? “OMG are you serious??? They’re charging $150 for the pattern? Oh you POOR THING!! Take mine!” Listen, peeps, I know how much the pattern costs- I actually bought it, which is how it came to be that I have it. I’ve had it for so long that I don’t remember how much I paid for it (certainly not $150) but I know it was NOT CHEAP. So it drives me kind of insane when people “graciously” offer to reimburse me for the cost of tissue paper to make a copy and for the postage it would cost for me to send it to them when I actually paid the money for this pattern that they don’t want to pay. (Also not my favorite? When people say, “The cheapest I’ve seen it for online is $125, and that’s ridiculous. Would you be willing to sell yours for $50?” That’s just bad negotiation skills in a seller’s market.)
Now, I don’t mean to come across as a let-them-eat-cake (let-them-wear-cashmere?) seamstress (even though, let’s face it, I am a freakin’ empress) I realize that not everyone can afford to splurge hugely on patterns (I certainly wouldn’t pay $150 for it), and I know what it’s like to covet that elusive vintage tissue paper masterpiece. But when something is out of my budget, I’m not about to email strangers on the internet and ask them if I can have theirs for free or if they can make me a copy for a fraction of the price, and then explain the request by saying that it’s just too expensive for me to buy my own. Lots of things are expensive- Prada boots, signed first editions of Catcher in the Rye, Warhols, Bernina 830s… I can’t afford them, can you send me yours? I’ll pay for shipping.
So I received an innovative request from Traci, who stumbled upon my blog while looking for the pattern, asking if she could “rent” the pattern for a short period of time such that she could copy it herself. I have to give a big thumbs-up to Traci for proposing a solution that would require neither hours of labor on my part, nor giving up my precious pattern at a fraction of market value, while actually offering compensation for the request. Thank you, Traci, for being decent. If Selfish had even a tiny sliver of goodwill to bestow, she would give it to you. Of course, shipping my rare patterns across the oceans to strangers without any guarantee that they’ll come back isn’t the wisest of ideas, and I don’t feel quite right about distributing my patterns for a fee such that others can make copies.
What I proposed instead was that I would send her a good quality photo of the pattern piece drawings such that she might be able to recreate the dress herself. For all the hullaballoo over McCall’s 4425, it’s actually relatively simple- a basic double-darted strapless sheath with an asymmetrical front hemline, and an additional draped panel that gathers into a little loop at the hip. And being the magnanimous sewing empress that I am, I’m providing the images to you as well, out of the quasi-kindness of my teeny, tiny, almost nonexistent heart:
Photos of pattern envelopes seem to be pretty standard fare on the web, so I’m going to assume there’s nothing unethical about posting them here. If the good folks at McCall’s think otherwise, I’ll remove them. In the meantime, you can click on them for larger views. See? It’s really not that complicated a pattern. (I’m guessing that what people really want is that drape, so you could easily start with any strapless sheath pattern and just modify it to accommodate the drape going off of the photos above.)
Incidentally, there are people on the web selling what I assume are unauthorized copies of this pattern if you really want it, but even the copies seem to run around the $100 mark. I’m not going to post links because I don’t want to promote those businesses, but if you Google and check Etsy, you’ll probably find some. As for making copies of my own, I’ll reiterate what I’ve got on my FAQ:
Despite lots of inquiring and searching, I have never been able to find definitive information that convinces me that copying and distributing vintage patterns from the 1950s is legal in all cases. In addition, copying patterns is time consuming and requires big paper and lots of space. If you can provide me with evidence that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that a particular pattern is no longer under copyright (and by this I mean something along the lines of a record from the US Copyright Office indicating that the copyright on a specific pattern has expired, not a quote from an ill-informed rant about pattern copyright on someone’s blog), then we can talk. My hypothetical fee for legally copying patterns is the same as my hypothetical fee for sewing: $85/hour for labor plus all materials costs.
Now. How may I help you?
A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to meet up with fellow sewing blogger Tanit-Isis. I’d been
stalking checking out her blog and her gorgeously edgy creations for a while, and was delighted to find that we are practically neighbors. That makes it easier to stalk in person meet up for hot chocolate. And so we did. We also went and bought matching issues of Burda.
It was so fun
quizzing her about personal details chatting about sewing that I was completely obsessed distracted, and neglected to get dozens of photos a photo with her. So I was thinking, I should write a blog post about meeting up, but how lame is it to post about a meetup when you don’t have a photo of said meetup? Then I thought, “Aha! I will just Photoshop myself into a picture with her!” Because that’s not creepy at all. Especially not when you do it like this:
For those of you who haven’t already spent time enviously perusing her blog, her creations are sleek, dark, and feminine, and about as far from from homemade-looking that you can imagine. (Warning though- she’s a former model and she looks it. No doofy, awkward poses for the camera- prepare to feel a slight twinge of inferiority.)
Just a couple of examples of her sewing- her Jalie jeans with the clever detailing at the calf:
Her JJ blouse that makes me want my own black JJ blouse:
Her striped denim Kasia skirt (seriously, where is she getting these awesome fabrics? We live in the same city, and it’s a bit of a fabric shopping wasteland):
And her lovely flowy retro dress:
In all seriousness, if you haven’t checked out Tanit-Isis’s witty blog and her beautiful sewing (both for herself and for her kids, for those of you who are into that sort of thing), go have a look, and I think you’ll understand why I am a
really scary person you should never meet up with in real life fan.
On Thursday I went to my usual evening dance class to find that the regular Afro-funk teacher was out and we had a substitute who happened to be a waacking and voguing dancer and a member of the dance crew House of Dangerkat (pictured above.) Both of these types of dance are underground club dances, inspired by fashion poses and historically most popular in the gay club scene. If you’ve heard of voguing, you probably know it from its mainstream surfacing in the early 90s when Madonna released the song “Vogue,” about the dance. Waacking, with its origins in the West Coast, bears some similarity voguing (from the East Coast) with waacking being somewhat looser and more fluid in style, and vogueing having an exaggerated sharpness to it. I won’t pretend to be experts on either- this is about the extent of my knowledge of these dances and for all I know, it could be inaccurate as well.
Apparently vogueing and waacking are making a big comeback now on account of lots of mainstream artists like Beyoncé and Lady Gaga using moves from the dances in a lot of their choreography, so you’re starting to see classes cropping up for them. All I can say is it’s a great workout and SO FUN!! And if you love dance and fashion, what a great way to combine them. It’s certainly not for everyone as it’s pretty extreme stuff, but channeling your inner model, doing dance steps based on runway walking and exaggerated magazine poses, working your attitude, while getting your daily dose of cardio? Win, win, win!
A couple of neat fun facts- the dance crews are typically called “House of ____” in homage to couture houses like “House of Dior.” Also they don’t have “battles” like they do in hip hop or breakdancing- instead, a voguing battle is called a “ball.” And who wouldn’t rather go to a ball than to a battle? How awesome!
Also, the costumes would be sooo fun to make, albeit less than practical for everyday wear. Check out a clip of House of Dangerkat performing at Hotel de Ville in Paris. (The woman who taught my class is the one in the bright pink pants and super exaggerated Gaultier-style cone bra.)
I’m definitely going to try to find ways to supplement my dance diet with a little more of this :)
Selfish Readers, as you know, the Selfish Seamstress was born with a hard, sawdust-filled pincushion in her ribcage where her heart should have been, and as a result her emotions typically range on a scale from peevishness to rage with touches of schadenfreud. But every once in a while something comes along that is so amazingly, touchingly beautiful that even she can’t help but be moved to ice water tears and a weird twitching of the muscles at the corners of her mouth, somewhat akin to smiling. This is one such instance.
The other day, I received an email from devoted reader Rachel, which related a truly heartwarming tale of selfish seamstressing so lovely, inspirational, and triumphant that it has the makings of a Lifetime original movie. Below is the message I received from this brave heroine. I think you’ll find yourself on your feet and cheering along with me.
Dear Selfish Seamstress,
First of all, I love your blog.
Second, the real reason I’m emailing you – I had a “what would selfish
seamstress do?” moment and had to share it.
I work in a restaurant and my next-door neighbor happens to be a co-worker. He thinks we’re friends while I view him as simply someone I work with. He works the opposite shift I do so I rarely ever see him (I work early AM and he works afternoon/evenings) but one morning I come in to work and he is still there. He makes some awkward chit-chat and then brings up how his chef pants are too long for him. I’m in the zone and trying to plan out my day, which has had a wrench thrown into it by someone still being in the kitchen when I’m supposed to have it to myself. I say something like “That sucks,” and go about my business. (Side note: whenever my chef pants are a little too long I simply roll the waistband over once and ta da, problem solved. Why this option has never occurred to him, I have no idea…)
Then the following exchange took place.
Lame-o guy: “So, you have a sewing machine, right?”
LG: “Can you hem pants?”
Me: “Yes, but I don’t like to do it.”
LG: “Oh, well would you hem my pants?”
(At this point he’s been all up in my business for about an hour and I
desperately want him to leave me in peace. Which route to take? Say yes in
hopes that he’ll leave or say no and be a complete bitch and hope that he’ll get
the hint and leave?
Me: (WWSSD?) ”What’s in it for me?”
LG: “I dunno, whatever you want I guess.” (Said with a slight sexual induendo)
Me: “Oh well when you put it that way, no I will not hem your pants.”
LG: “What!? Why not?”
Me: “You have nothing I want and I already said that I don’t like hemming
pants. Now please go home and leave me to work in peace.”
LG: “Why do you hate me?”
Me: “Find someone else to do your hemming.”
-end of conversation-
So in conclusion I would like to thank you for teaching me your selfish ways.
Seriously, without your blog on my mind I probably would have just said yes and done it begrudgingly. Now I have the power of selfishness on my side and I can spend my time sewing stuff for me and don’t have to dread hemming LG’s pants.
Rachel, you are an inspiration to the selfish sewing community, and I applaud your bravery and your fearlessness in standing up for what you believe in. And while I appreciate that you credit me in getting through this amazing ordeal, I can say from the bottom of my pincushion that this kind of spirit, strength and badass smackdown ability cannot be learned- it’s part of your soul. Bravo, Rachel, bravo! Soldier on and keep on spreading the word. Readers, can we please get a “Woot!” for Rachel and her touching story of triumph?
Has anyone else got an amazing story to share of a would-be exploiter shown the door? Share!
I stumbled upon this image of a Banana Republic polka dot skirt a couple of nights ago and was tickled at the navy dots with yellow combination. Fortunately for me, I had some fabric in a nearly identical print (though not a nearly identical weight) in my stash.
I downloaded BurdaStyle’s free Twinkle by Wenlan A-Plus A-Line skirt pattern, and was off! Oh, I wish I had a cute yellow cardigan now, but as I do not, I’ll model it with my lemony shoes:
The skirt has a front and back yoke, and a couple of pleats down the front.
The back of the skirt is plain:
I cut the yoke on the bias to mix the dots up a little so it wouldn’t be vertical stripes of dots the whole way up. The fabric is a heavy cotton (I believe the Banana Republic one is a lightweight cotton silk blend.), about the weight of cotton duck, and it’s cut a non-stretch ribbed weave:
I used a vintage white metal zipper on the side and some white rayon lining, leftover from the Guggenheim Coat.
My New Love
Best of all, I have no idea how I remembered this, but I found some navy lace hem tape in my sewing box. I don’t know how I ended up with this, but I’m guessing it was probably in a sack of random notions I found at a thrift shop ten years ago or something. Have you ever used this stuff? I hadn’t until yesterday, and now I am IN LOVE! (That’s right, Dan was away for about 10 hours before I found a new object of devotion and affection.)
I handstitched the lace to the edge of the skirt, and then I did an invisible hem along the edge of the lace, also by hand:
And not only does this make it pretty on the inside, it makes the hem sooooo invisible on the outside!
Look, ma, no hem! The zero-bulk of the lace means that the invisible stitches are really truly invisible and there’s no line where the edge of the fabric is attached. I’m going to be buying a LOT more of this stuff.
The Gripe (stop reading here if all you want is the warm, fuzzy side of the skirt story and don’t feel like hearing me complain yet again):
Because The Selfish Seamstress can always find something to grumble about, I do have a gripe with this pattern. I love the style and the fit was great (I made the size 0, and I didn’t edit a thing except to shorten it at the hem). But the pattern was FIFTY-ONE pages. It took more than a tenth of a ream of paper to print out a simple skirt pattern. (If I were to mention this on BurdaStyle, I would undoubtedly be assaulted with a firestorm of “Stop complaining, it’s free, and if you don’t like it, shut up and don’t download it!” type responses. I do love BurdaStyle, but a lot of people there sure seem to love picking fights.) But seriously, it’s not that I’m too lazy to do the work of taping it together or too cheap to buy paper. But I don’t care for the resulting resource waste:
Moreover, the pattern itself uses sooooo much more paper than it has to because the skirt front and back are not drafted on the fold! Instead of creating half of a skirt front and half of a skirt back and instructing the sewer to cut it on the fold, the pattern includes an entire skirt front and an entire skirt back meant to be cut on a single layer of the fabric, even though there’s no reason not to cut it on the fold. Also, the drafting is slightly off so the skirt pieces aren’t quite symmetrical down the center. If one were to use the pattern as drafted, one would actually end up with a less symmetrical end product than if one were to cut it on the fold. I folded them down the middle to figure out why my polka dots weren’t lining up quite right and found this with both pieces:
See how the sides aren’t drafted the same, and the hem isn’t quite symmetrical either? I went back and shaved off the overhang so it was symmetrical and then my dots matched up after that.
I discovered this after also finding that the Sidonie skirt pattern used 26 pieces of paper because they included separate pattern pieces for the skirt and the skirt lining, even though they are exactly the same with the exception of a 1 5/8″ hem allowance on the skirt and a different grain marking.
Each of these patterns used nearly twice as much paper as they should have. I realize that they are patterns intended to appeal to the beginner sewer, and pattern companies assume less and less sewing knowledge as time goes on, and do more and more hand holding with patterns and instructions. But I think even a beginner can handle a very simple concept like cutting on the fold. Are the pattern producers worried that a beginner, confronted with only half of a skirt front pattern and asked to double it in a symmetrical fashion would misunderstand and put zippers on both side seams??
Anyway, this may seem like a petty gripe, but the truth is that task of assembling printed patterns doesn’t annoy me, even if it takes an hour an a half. What bugs me is that the assumption that even the most basic of sewing techniques, such as cutting on the fold, will be too challenging and discouraging for a beginner and the resulting repeated lowering of the bar (do we really have that little faith in people’s abilities and motivation?), combined with unnecessary environmental wastefulness which seems to run so very counter to the reasons why so many of the new generation of home sewers are attracted to making the idea of making their own clothes in the first place.
Oh well, I can’t say I didn’t get a fun skirt out of it :)
I assume that most of you are here because you have some interest in sewing and found your way here at some point via something else sewing-related, like BurdaStyle or Pattern Review or another sewing or crafting blog. And I also suspect that there is a teeny tiny handful of lurkers who have little interest in sewing but are personal friends and acquaintances and who have managed to find my blog and are spying in hopes of discovering something that they can use against me.
As it turns out, there is also one personal friend lurker who has (to the best of my knowledge) little interest in sewing and has managed to find my blog, and is now passing some good stuff my way to show to you. Hi, Steve! Thanks for the link!
Check out what Steve found- awesome illustrations by Hong Kong-based artist John Woo of Star Wars characters wearing designer clothes. No joke. Like Darth Vader in Band of Outsiders!
Or a scout trooper in Viktor & Rolf!
The whole collection is called He Wears It, and I’m not sure if the prints are available for purchase. But wow, what great sewing room decor they would make for! [Full disclosure: The Selfish Seamstress is a Star Wars nerd. The Empire Strikes Back is her all-time favorite movie. Largely because of the AT-AT battle scenes on Hoth. What. Shut up.]
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!
So, judging from the response, it sounds like people maybe didn’t like this 1981 Burda outfit so much? Maybe a faint distaste? An inkling that it perhaps wasn’t the most flattering? A commenter or two may have even implied that no one actually wore such things back in 1981?
Well, I just received the most delightful message from the beautiful Idunna on Pattern Review. Guess what she told me. Guess. Guess. Guessguessguessguessguess. Okay, I’ll just tell you.
Idunna made this outfit.
Yup- saw that in Burda 1981 and decided she just had to have it! I am squealing with joy right now. And I have to say, knickers though they may be, this outfit is pretty awesome on her. I mean, I’m not going to run out and buy my own knicker fabric, but isn’t she adorable in this? And I’m not sure what caused her to hold back on the sleeve ruffles, collar ruffle, and *gulp* coordinating giant floppy bow, not to mention tone down the major bodice-and-shoulder ruffle, but I can only conclude that it had something to do with serious fashion foresight and a highly developed hideousness-avoidance instinct. Her version of the blouse could almost work today. And she probably doesn’t have to hide her head in shame when flipping through her photo albums.
Idunna, thanks so much for sharing- this totally made my day!
Regular readers of this blog (not that you are in any way regular, as you are all special and magnificent!) are probably already aware of my obsession with vintage gowns and vintage gown patterns, namely those from the mid- to late-1950s. Of course, my occasions for wearing frothy 55-year old tulle and organza confections dwindles as my age increases (and it’s been more than two years since I’ve gotten my butt out to a swing dance, which previously was how I “justified” sewing and buying such gowns, even though 40s and 30s fashion would probably have been more era-appropriate.) But the love is still there.
If a magical fairy came to me and said she would imbue me with the design abilities of any designer I liked, there are days that I would pick Dior or Givenchy or Chanel. Ahh, to have that genius and sense of style and beauty. But today (and many other days), I crave the skills of a much lesser known creator of marvelously and brilliantly draped 1950s party garb, Ceil Chapman. I don’t know much about Ceil Chapman (you can find a bio of her from the Vintage Fashion Guild), but wowee zowee, could she drape! And her eye for those gorgeous feminine lines and silhouettes of the 50s – the wide necks, the wasp waists, the elegant deep backs, the use of ruching to flatter the bust and hips… *swoon.* Nonstop feminine glamour. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves:
Right? Am I right? Ah to be able to pull out a couple of yards of taffeta and your dressform and be able to whip up something like this. Well, we’re (sort of) in luck, because as it turns out, the Spadea pattern company did publish some Ceil Chapman designs! They’re hard to come by and can get pretty pricey, but they do pop up on eBay and other vintage pattern places:
And even luckier for us (and by us I specifically mean “me”), Vintage Fashion Library produces a reasonably priced ($24.99) Spadea pattern reproduction of what I find to be one of Ceil Chapman’s most beautiful and iconic designs, the “Skylark.” (This name should have been a more graceful and evocative dress title, but I think Buick came along and ruined the mystique.)
The portrait collar and draped bust, the draping across the hips, the slim skirt with flowing panels… it’s almost too much 1950s goodness crammed into one dress! I’d been waffling on buying this pattern for a while and finally I decided I’d better just get one because surely at some point in my life I’m going to want to wear that :) (And yes, I was sure to buy mine before telling you about it, but there are more copies still in stock, so if you want one, head over there.) Granted the pattern is for a 34″ bust and I suspect that figuring out how to re-engineer that elaborate bodice down to 29″ (Sigh. So not a figure built for the va-va-voom 1950s fashions that I love) will not be trivial.
So there you go. Ceil Chapman is the person I want to sew like today. How about you? Who’s your current fashion and design idol?
My story is a tragic one. You see, I was born with a condition with which I have struggled my whole life. There is nothing I can take to ease it, and no procedure I can undergo to cure it. Doctors have looked me over and shaken their heads sadly before delivering their invariably depressing verdict on my condition:
“There’s nothing anyone can do about it. It’s Genetics.”
Genetics affects different people in different ways. Some people even claim that Genetics makes them beautiful and intelligent. All I know is that for me, Genetics has manifested itself in a way that makes me extremely, distressingly, almost comically small. The truth is, I can’t even imagine what my life would be like if I weren’t suffering from Genetics. I’ve lived with Genetics for over three decades now, from the physical discomfort of shoes that slip off of my pygmy feet, to the social discomfort of being looked down at during conversations with tall colleagues, to the simple inconvenience of not being able to make use of the top shelves of my kitchen cabinets. And worst of all, I’ve lived with the struggles of finding a pair of jeans with an even halfway decent fit. I have grown weary of being snickered at in the cafeteria and having to stand up from my seat at the uncool kids’ table, hold back tears, tug up my shapeless Levi’s, and proclaim, “It’s not my fault. It’s my Genetics.”
But recently, you’ve given me a light at the end of my tunnel of suffering. Since I discovered your Jalie 2908 jeans pattern, I feel like a new woman! No more crying in the fitting room with a dozen pairs of ill-fitting denim balled up in sad wads on the floor. No more rolling up the hems some 6 or 7 inches only to find that the knee is halfway down my calf. No more swimming in the thighs of overpriced jeans only to find that I can’t button them closed at the waist. No more trying to squeeze a grown-up backside into a pair of size 12 kids’ jeans. Thanks to you, I have jeans, wonderfully fitting, slimming, flattering, jeans that even I can wear, despite my Genetics!
And thank you as well for constructing a pattern and instruction set that make a seemingly impossible task as simple and straightforward as assembling an Ikea shelf. Thank you for creating a construction process that largely eschews tedious steps like transferring markings, hand finishing, or extensive basting. And most of all, thank you for a cut and fit that have now yielded two well-loved pairs of jeans about which no one has ever asked me, “Did you make those yourself?”
Thank you, Jalie, for everything you’ve done to help a long-suffering woman lead a happier life and come to terms with a condition that has plagued her for as long as she can remember. Though I know that I will live the rest of my life with my Genetics, with your help I’m not going to let it keep me down ever again! Well, at least not in the denim department.
Yours in Gratitude,
The Selfish Seamstress
P.S. I’m pretty sure they make my legs look longer too. RAD.
P.P.S. In case you were curious, the sweater is from a pattern in issue 33 of Rebecca, knit in Debbie Bliss ‘Cathay,’ my favorite yarn, now sadly discontinued.
Wowee zowee, I discovered the motherlode of stretch denim, and boy is it going to come in handy now that I’ve fallen hard for the Jalie 2908 jeans pattern, a.k.a. the Holy Fecking Shet Jeans. A lot of folks have asked where I got my stretch denim for them, and it was just a lucky buy at Fabric.com. After I finished them, I immediately went back to Fabric.com and was disappointed to find only one stretch denim remaining in a decidedly “mom jeans” shade of medium blue. Denver Fabrics had no stretch denim at all in their inventory, and the higher end places don’t tend to stock it regularly as far as I can tell. After a little more digging, I hit upon Lura’s Fabric Shop, which seems to be a small family run business with an amazing selection of denim.
I promptly sent away for a bunch of swatches of dark wash stretch denim, received a friendly email within 24 hours, and an envelope full of drool-worthy denim swatches within a couple of days. Check these out:
From the upper left going clockwise, these are article numbers LDEN095, LDEN096, LDEN13, LDEN09R and LDEN12 respectively, representing a range of weights and washes, but all dark, modern, great quality, moderately stretchy and perfect for more pairs of Holy Fecking Shet jeans. The photos on Lura’s website are a little different and make the denim look lighter than it is, probably to show detail. I think my photo is represents the color more accurately, but order your own and see for yourselves. Unlike a lot of the other online fabric shops, it looks like denim and stretch denim are part of Lura’s bread and butter, so there’s no crossing your fingers and hoping that they’ll get some in. Plus how nice is it to get a handwritten note from the owner with your samples? Talk about service. Love it!
They have lighter washes too, but my preference for handmade jeans is to go dark because I think the lighter blues bear a bit of the “homemade” stamp unless you can get the ripply fading and wear effects at the seams and hems that RTW jeans get through various treatments. (I tried sandpaper and it just made the denim fuzzy.) But if you like your medium and light blue denims, Lurah’s has that too.
Anyway, I wanted to share that in case any of you have been trolling the fabric sites in hopes of a decent denim popping up, and in case any of you have been hesitating on making up your Jalie 2908s. What are you waiting for? I’m putting it on a platter and serving it up to you!
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!
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?
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 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!
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.