A few months ago, I chanced upon some pictures of the Melissa plaid shirtdress by Milly, and I wanted it. I wanted it the way a toddler wants a gummi bear. I wanted it the way that annoying guy in your office wants the new iPhone and won’t shut up about it. I wanted it the way Dan wants out of the domestic prison in which I have ensnared him (just kidding, Dan’s not allowed to want things.) Basically, I wanted it the way that only the Selfish Seamstress could want something – violently and aggressively.  After all, just look how cute:

So after seeing it, I trolled the web hunting for any plaid fabric with a similar feel and colorway to make my own shirtdress and found nothing. I’m fond of plaid in general, but once I had this particular plaid in mind, every other plaid just looked comparatively dorky. I did have a moment of hope when I discovered Cidell’s plaid silk knit tunic, which was in the right plaid flavor category, and super cute on its own merit. But of course, the fabric was already sold out, which leads me to think that she planned the whole thing to get a rise out of me. It wouldn’t be the first time she’s bested poor Selfish.

So I did what any rational person would do in a state of despair – I threw myself down on the floor and pounded at it with fists and feet, screaming at a high pitch, “I hate you I hate you I hate you” at no one in particular. As usual, it worked.  My efforts were rewarded when a few yards of the exact Milly silk (a plain woven with nice body to it, and minimal sheen and slipperiness – perfect!) appeared magically on Gorgeous Fabrics, almost certainly because of my temper tantrum.* I immediately snapped up three yards of it to make sure that none of you would get to it first, backstabbing vultures that you are.

Next up was finding the right shirtdress pattern.  Given the huge scale of the plaid, I wanted to avoid piecing to the extent possible. None of the current Big 4 patterns, nor anything in my stash of Burdas had quite what I was going for, so it was off to Etsy, where I found a vintage Simplicity 8294:

(This actually isn’t my copy- mine is a size 6P with a *sigh* 30.5″ bust, but I forgot to take a photo of it.) The pattern was missing the sleeve (and it wasn’t really the kind of sleeve I wanted anyway) so I drafted my own. No princess seams or waist seam on this pattern. The only places I had to worry about matching were at the side seams, across the chest and onto the sleeve, and the center front, so my three yards was more than enough. A bit of taking in through the torso and waist and ta-da! Once again, Selfish gets everything she wanted. (Excuse the photos- the light was fading outside and it was freeeeezing.)

I realize that the navy of my shoes is not the same as the navy of my dress, but I still have every intention of wearing the two together.

Hmm.  There seems to be a little wrinkling across the bust near the bottom of the armscye that I didn’t notice during fitting.  I’m going to have to check that out. Also, I think I need to wear the sash a little looser (the way the Milly model is wearing it) so as to give it less of an Urkel-y effect.

The dress isn’t an exact copy of the Milly version, as I made mine a more work-wearable slightly-above-the-knee length, and it’s got a different placket and sleeve. Incidentally, I wasn’t too impressed with the RTW version’s placket stitching (you can learn a lot from the zoomable views on department store websites!):

Fortunately it’s not my problem now that I’ve got my own. By the way, you may be wondering more generally how it is that Selfish always gets exactly what she wants, despite being a person with no redeeming qualities, one who contributes little to the world while simultaneously exploiting it and everything in it for her own purposes. Is there a trick or magical secret, you might ask, to continually evading the karma police while managing to end up with everything one desires and never giving anyone anything?  The answer is yes. Yes, there is. Have a good day, y’all.

*Okay, perhaps I should acknowledge the the amazing Ann of Gorgeous Fabrics for having procured this wonderful fabric, rather than attributing it solely to my impressive and highly effective tantrums. But you know how I am loath to give credit where it is due unless it’s to myself.

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?

All you really have to do is mention the phrase “city full of cats,” and you’ve got Selfish’s attention. Throw in some fabric shopping, and I’ve got my hotel room booked.  And I’m filling it with fabric.

Dan and I are on vacation in Istanbul. We headed out to the Grand Bazaar today, and I finally understood why my stuffy British 5th grade teacher would always say, “Behave yourselves.  This is NOT a Turkish bazaar!” to us when the class got rowdy. It was complete sensory overload with massive crowds and thousands (not an exaggeration) of shop owners trying to draw your attention, and wallet, to millions of items for sale.  [Some terms people called out to me today in attempt to get my attention: “Chinese!” “Japan!” “Ching chong! “Ni hao!” “Konichiwa!” and my personal favorite, “Hey! This is your neighbor! I found your neighbor!” (said by shopkeeper as he put his arm around a random, puzzled-looking Asian man.)]

Amidst all of the chaos, I stumbled upon the lovely Gülipek Tekstil in the fabric section of the bazaar. The shop is delightfully serene and organized, and it’s bright and airy compared to the other fabric stores, which skew somewhat cramped and dark. The offer wonderful, gracious, non-pushy service, and amazing quality silks for very reasonable prices (their asking price was about $18/meter, though asking prices in Turkey tend to have some give…) Feast your eyes and drool with your mouth (ew, not on your keyboard):

This store was definitely the gem of the entire bazaar for me. If you’re craving a little fabric shopping in Istanbul, don’t miss it! They stock only silk, and in the ever-elusive 140cm/55″ width. Better yet, they stock mostly what I consider to be “practical” weights of silk (i.e. more twill than chiffon).

There are a number of other little fabric shops along the fabric row of the bazaar, though not much offering fabrics that would work in my everyday wardrobe. There are quite a lot of traditional Turkish hand-loomed fabrics which are lovely but better suited in weave, weight, width, or drape to decor sewing, and lots of glitzy, twinkly, sparkly stuff. Don’t you think Selfish would look great in gold hologram foil?

Here are some other offerings that couldn’t quite tempt me:

So what did I end up with?  Oooooooooohhhhhh….

Dan took that photo and I just had to put it in because it makes the silk look so luscious. Here’s a more informative picture:

These are all silk.  The beige and orange one on the left is a silk twill from Gülipek.  The aqua and brown geometric in the center is also from Gülipek- it’s the same weight as the silk twill (sort of a light dress weight), but it has a satiny surface, like a heavier-than-ususal charmeuse. And the teal and brown on the right is also a sort of dull, somwhat heavy charmeuse, but from a different store, the name of which I didn’t note.

And because a seamstress cannot live on silk alone, a couple of other purchases. The brown swirly print with tuquoise accents on the left was sort of pushed on me by an cheery old salesperson with whom I was communicating mostly through hand gestures and numbers punched into a calculator. I’m not sure I actually agreed to buy it, but he started cutting it anyway, and I guess I’m not sorry, as it’s a great print. Strangely enough, I just discovered that The Slapdash Sewist picked up the same fabric on her trip to Istanbul (what are the chances??) and that she also had the exact same suspicion that this “100% cotton” was actually rayon. (Hey, Trena!  Wanna be twinsies?) The gray and white cotton hand-loomed ikat is the only fabric I bought that falls into the category of traditional Turkish textile. Like many of the other turkish hand loomed fabric, it’s very narrow (probably about 16″ or 18″ wide?) and I’m hoping to squeeze a pencil skirt out of it, if I’m not underestimating the width of my rear. It’s crisp like a taffeta with a nice sheen and I think the ikat weave will look very current. They also had some beautiful hand loomed silk ikat weaves in rich, intense colors, but they were only about 12″ wide, and I would have needed a LOT of yardage to piece everything together and match the large-scale pattern.

After today, I think I’m pretty much shopped out (not just on fabric, but on a whole mess of ceramics and lamps and spices and sweets on which Dan and I decided to splurge.) And so I think I’ll now turn my attention away from the men trying to get my attention, and towards Istanbul’s other delightful aspects.

Once again, I opted to prioritize hiking over sewing this weekend. And that means new jumpy pictures!

Hmm.  I should really learn some new jumps. But oh how I love a good jumpy picture. So much better than standing pictures.

Anyway, I did manage to squeeze in a tiny bit of sewing, though as usual with little progress to show for it. I’ve been wanting a graphic print shirtdress for a while now, inspired by a dress I once saw on an employee at a fancy fabric store, and the rendition on the envelope of Simplicity 2403:

Look how smug she looks with her super cool fabric.  I want to outsmug her. As for the fabric store employee, I was crazy about her dress and as she was cutting my fabric (long since forgotten), I asked her whether she had made the dress and if so where she had found the fabric. She responded that she had bought the dress and they didn’t sell the fabric. Boo. After many subsequent months of keeping an eye out for an appropriately modern graphic fabric, surprisingly hard to find in a shirtdress-appropriate weight and drape, I discovered this silk twill on Fabric Mart, and snatched it up immediately, as it had exactly the vibe I was going for and reminded me so much of the dress I had admired. Then clever Toby pointed out that the print was Isaac Mizrahi for Liz Claiborne from 2009. Sharp eye there, T! A little poking around revealed that this same print had been used on a shirtdress in that collection, albeit in cotton poplin.

So now I’m pretty sure that the Claiborne dress is the exact one that the fabric store employee was wearing, and that means that, once again, the Selfish Seamstress has gotten pretty much EXACTLY WHAT SHE WANTS, except that haha, take that! Mine is silk! It’s like a fairy tale in which the evil stepsister comes out on top! (Incidentally, for those who followed the silk vs. acetate saga, the more I sew with it, the more convinced I become that it really is silk.)

I have to admit, I’ve always been a little bit wary of this view of Simplicity 2403:

because I always worry that with the wrong choice of fabric fabric and wrong fit, it could veer off into the territory of FLDS fashion, which isn’t really my style:

I’m still not convinced that this pattern isn’t going to look frumpy on me, but I’m hoping that the graphic print (and the fact that, my goodness, this pattern is a lot more snug than I’ve ever experienced from a Big 4 dress pattern!) will give it some cool. Cool like I work in an office where all the furniture and decor is white and there’s nothing on my desk but an iPad, a bottle of Voss water, a Moleskine notebook, and some very sharp pencils.

Oh, I guess you want to see the current state of the dress:

It still needs the sleeves, zipper (on the left side), hem, buttons, and sash. I like the collar a lot:

Maybe this will be finished soon. Who knows. Another really busy week up ahead.  Oh, and I may have ordered a Baby Lock Evolution today. Oops.

Readers, in these busy times my sewing hours seem to be relegated to the block of time from  11:00PM until midnight (err, or sometimes a wee bit later at the expense of sleep), and you can imagine that this is just enough time for me to pull out my materials and equipment, do a tiny bit a of sewing, make some show-stopping screwup that I wouldn’t have made had I not been so tired, and then give up in disgust. Naturally this has made your typically-grumpy Selfish Seamstress even grumpier than typical. So although I have no new sewing worth showing here, I will engage you with a funny anecdote followed by a rant regarding some recent Etsy explorations.

First the anecdote.  It was brought to my attention that an Etsy seller was offering up dresses that look remarkably similar to the Coffee Date Dress, the pattern for which I make available for free download. Upon inspection, the similarity was indeed quite uncanny.  The Coffee Date Dress, being quite simple, is by no means an innovation of design, and plenty of other designs also have a neck ruffle without being similar enough to make me wonder. But this dress was really *really* similar in those details that you notice when you’ve made or designed something- similar in the not-quite-scooped-but-not-quite-jewel neckline which is fairly unique, in the particular amount of flair of the a-line skirt, in the exact placement, proportion, and folding of the ruffle. The dress was rendered in a knit with no back darts and no zipper, unlike the Coffee Date Dress, and topstitched around the arm openings, but otherwise looked in shape and line pretty much like my own design and quite different from the store’s other drapier, ruched offerings. Realizing this could have been a coincidence but finding the similarity of the design to my own really startling, I sent an neutrally worded message to the store inquiring whether they had perhaps used my design, and if so I did not mind and do not charge, but would they be so kind as to credit me for it?

Anyway, a couple of days later, I received an email back from the store that was, let’s say… humorously defensive :) I mean, I can completely understand if the similarity was a coincidence. Free pattern production and Etsy clothing shops aren’t exactly high stakes games anyway so it’s not like I was getting my lawyer on the phone. The store basically pointed out that their dress is made of a knit and that their ruffle is hemmed rather than cut on the fold so it they clearly didn’t use my pattern or design, but their own. I don’t know if I follow that logic, but if they say it’s their own pattern and design, I can take them at their word for that.  So what’s the funny part?  The funny part was the last line of their message:

“I also removed the dress from my shop as nobody liked it and nobody wanted to purchase it.”

I love it! The Selfish Seamstress is a huuuuuge fan of passive-aggression (if you can’t tell, check out THIS VERY POST), and feels it is a tremendously underrated behavioral pattern. It’s fun to listen to, and it’s fun to do! Anyway, too bad for the Etsy store that nobody liked their dress; more than 100,000 people have downloaded mine.  (Yes! I just totally out-passive-aggressived them!)

Okay, but after that little humorous incident, onto the actual rant. A couple of days ago I was poking around Etsy, and I found a listing for this blue taffeta dress on a different store:

Whoa.  Hold up there a sec. Does that look familiar? Surely none of you have ever run into this pattern before, or perhaps even made it up yourselves? UNCANNY. The dress is available in size medium, but the seller says she’ll also make it for you custom in the size and color of your choice.*

I realize that some people may not realize that manufacturing garments from copyrighted patterns for sale is illegal**, and I have no objections when someone who doesn’t sew pays someone who does to make a garment for them from a pattern, nor do I fail to realize that we take inspiration from other people’s work as part of the creative process. But this is ballsy. Here’s a snippet from the Etsy seller’s description of the garment:

“I gave it a beautiful cut with gathered bodice and gathered skirt. There is a hand gathered ruffle around the low scoop neckline that gradually grows bigger around the back of the neck. It frames the face perfectly.”

No.  NO. No. YOU did not give it a beautiful cut with a gathered bodice and gathered skirt.  A nice lady named CYNTHIA ROWLEY gave it a beautiful cut with a gathered bodice and gathered skirt, and then a nice little company called Simplicity made that cut available to you so you could make a dress for yourself, NOT so you could take credit for it and resell it as your own.

I’m not interested in policing Etsy or playing Big 4 anonymous tipster, and I realize that Simplicity probably isn’t losing any business from this person. But it peeves me as I see more and more Etsy stores hawking renditions of commercial patterns (and it happens A LOT) and claiming them as their own designs because I just don’t understand what they get out of it. Unless you’re the next Vivienne Westwood-type innovator who can command big bucks for gorgeous, unique pieces, or you’re selling basic tubes of stretchy fabric that can be whipped up in 10 minutes, there’s probably not much money to be made in one-person operations sewing dresses to sell on Etsy. We know how much time it takes to make a dress and how much money you’d have to charge for it to make it a decent source of income as an Etsy store. So why else would you do it unless you want to scratch that creative itch and share YOUR OWN ideas and creations? And if you just love sewing that much but don’t want to design your own stuff, then why wouldn’t you say it was “inspired by” or an “homage to” the design you’re knocking off? Why would you claim creative credit for Cynthia Rowley’s ideas and put yourself at risk for a lawsuit from a pattern giant for what probably ends up being pocket change after you factor in labor and materials costs? You’re not even making a quick buck off contraband design.

Maybe it’s just me who gets annoyed at such things. Maybe it’s because I’m a science professor at a research university and in my line of work we call that “plagiarism” and people lose their jobs and get kicked out of school for claiming credit for others’ work. Or maybe I just need to find more sewing time to calm my nerves, stop me from writing pointless, bitchtastic posts, and keep me from wanting to punch everyone I encounter. I guess I could lose my job for that last one too.

*Haha! I didn’t ask permission to use your image on my blog, nor did I give you credit for it! See how that feels?  You wanna sue me over it?  Do you??

** Ok, it seems that experts who know more than I are suggesting that this practice is not technically illegal (though I suspect there’d still be a lawsuit if a big clothing manufacturer started producing from copyrighted patterns en masse). I appreciate that informed people have taken time to share their expertise – thanks! And I apologize for putting potentially inaccurate information on the internet and acknowledge my potential misinterpretation of pattern copyright. But the whole issue of legal vs. illegal was not the point of this post, and people who feel the need to write incredibly rudely worded comments (now deleted) complaining that I dedicated a “whole post” to the illegality of someone else’s actions should read before they write “whole comments” making inaccurate accusations themselves. The point of this post was not law (though I appreciate the constructive comments on that topic), but creativity and claiming credit for the work of others. And for the record, I make no claims in this post about my own pattern having actually been used by Etsy sellers, being under copyright, or legally requiring credit or compensation. I put my work out there so others can use it and benefit from it, and I request acknowledgment as a matter of courtesy and ego, not law. 

The Selfish Seamstress has a disproportionately large waist. It’s nothing that can be corrected with crunches or dieting; I’m simply built like a cylinder. And before you make any diagnoses of body dysmorphic disorder, I’d like to point out that I’m basing this on (somewhat) empirical evidence. For example, according to the Big 4 size charts, I’m size 4 in the bust and hip, and between a 10 and 12 in the waist. Even as a scrawny, smallest-in-my-class kid in elementary school, and a 90-pound ballet dancer/cheerleader(!) in college, every time I had my measurements taken for a costume, the teacher or costumer would say, “Wait, that can’t be right,” and I would have to assure them that it was indeed, and that my waist really was that much larger than those of my dancer peers, and yes, that’s just my anatomy, and no, their expressions of shock at my huuuuge waist measurement were not doing wonders for my self-esteem. Smaller-than-average hips plus smaller-than-average bust plus larger-than-average waist is sort of the opposite of “curves.” Instead of of having “curves,” I have what could be referred to as “straights.” As one might phrase it nicely, “She’s not fat, she’s just big-waisted.”

And although I’m shaped like the world’s fastest hourglass, the only real inconvenience of this shape is the occasional need to alter patterns at the waist. Dresses, jackets, and tops are usually fine without alteration; wearing ease seems to accommodate me and my monstrous midriff just fine.  But skirts and pants occasionally need a little extra room, probably because the waist of skirts or pants need to be close fitting such that they actually stay up. I’m currently making slow progress (sewing time these days is very limited) on view B of Simplicity 2451, which is going fine construction-wise but is starting give off a vague air of frump:

After holding the tissue paper pieces of the yoke up to my waist, I could see that I was going to need to add a little room just to the waist edge and that the hip would be fine. No pics from the skirt, but here’s an example of how I did this on my Vogue 1051 alice + olivia pants. I first traced the original yoke pieces onto scrap paper, made some slashes through the curved parts, and spread them at the waist edge to add about 1/4″ to each piece. If you slash each piece 4 times like I did, then you only need to spread the slashes open by 1/16″ at the waist edge.  Add all these tiny slashes together and that’s an extra inch added to the total circumference of the waistband (16 slashes of 1/16″ each.) Notice that the bottom hip edge of the yoke remains the same  because I didn’t need to add any extra at the hip. The purists would then trace the new shapes onto paper and work from those, but I just used the slashed pattern pieces and some scotch tape directly on my fabric.

Here you can see the difference between the original pattern pieces and the edited ones. It doesn’t look like much, but it makes a difference. You’ll also notice that a little bit of the curvature of the yoke is lost.  If your waist is large-ish in proportion to your hip, this is what you want.  Think about a making a cuff to go around a cylinder versus a funnel – you’d need a straight strip of paper to go around the cylinder, but a curved piece to go around a funnel. And if you’re closer to a cylinder than a funnel, then you need a straighter waistband.

Now that we’ve gone through the instructional portion of this post, I’d like to get to my real point. Much in the way that it didn’t exactly feel great when my dance teachers would stare in disbelief at the tape measure wrapped around my teenage midsection, I’m never exactly overjoyed to find that a pattern fits everywhere except for in the waist, where it is woefully small. Other deviations from the standard are addressed with names that sound somewhat flattering; you might need to alter your pattern to accommodate a “full bust” or a “swayback” or “sloping shoulders.” Or perhaps you are “petite” or “tall.” Nothing sounds good about having to alter a pattern on account of having a larger than average waist.

Obviously the Selfish Seamstress is about as perfect as one can be, physically and otherwise, so she sees no need to saddle herself with unflattering terminology. I’m therfore introducing… the FWA. Yes, I’m now going to refer to my pant and skirt edits as a “Full Waist Adjustment.” Doesn’t that sound all womanly and curvy and voluptuous? I want people to sigh with envy when they read that I had to alter a pattern by doing a 2″ FWA. People should read my blog entries, look down doubtfully at their own sad, deficient middles and wonder why they weren’t blessed by the gods with the kind of midriff endowment that the Selfish Seamstress has. Pre-teen girls should look at photos of me and wonder when their waists are going to develop. Guys should meet me at parties and then have this kind of conversation on the following day:

Guy 1: Dude, did you meet that Elaine chick last night?

Guy 2: Seriously, I know.  She was like [makes crude gesture of putting his hands in the space on either side of his waist] out to here. [Two older women at the next table look over disapprovingly]

Guy 1: Daaaamn, I could not stop staring at her waist. It was driving me crazy.  And she knew it too. She knew I was into it.

Guy 2: Whoa, dude, did you hit that?

Guy 1: Pfft, I WISH! Seriously, the last girl I went out with was, like, 23″ max. And that was AFTER eating. It was pathetic. Her face was okay though.

[Ugh, and for those of you who are about to comment something stupid like, “Haha, I have the exact opposite problem! Patterns are never small enough for my 22″ waist! It’s so inconvenient- I eat whatever I want, and my waist just stays tiny! Even my doctor says I have to gain weight, and I don’t even exercise!” you should know that my eyeroll switch is always triggered well before my envy switch. First, allow me to congratulate you not only on your figure but also on your complete freedom from self-awareness; second, yes, you can use this trick to make the waist of a pattern smaller- just overlap the pieces slightly at the waist edge rather than spreading them apart; and third, I think there are some other, more interesting blogs waaaayyyyy over there that you might want to check out.]

Hey, kids!  Are you ready for some science? Of course you are!  So, on the topic of the Fabric Mart “silk” versus the Denver Fabrics “acetate,” it’s time for a little experiment. After getting lots of helpful tips from readers and reading a bunch of web pages about burn testing fibers (not terribly consistent, by the way), I went to my local pharmacy after work and picked up some nail polish remover with acetone to see whether the fabric would dissolve in it, thus indicating acetate.

After my initial burn test I was fairly convinced that whatever the fabrics are, they are the same.  Even so, I decided it would only be fair to test both of them. So I took a scrap of each and some glass yogurt jars, figuring that would be nice and non-reactive (I save them for when I make jam or pickles – useful and conveniently sized!) and here’s my experimental setup:

I then poured in a little bit of Cutex “Strengthening” Formula, enough to cover:

I kind of figured that if this fabric were acetate, there would be a rather immediate shriveling reaction, sort of like when you pour water on the Selfish Seamstress.  But nothing happened.  I swirled it around a bit.  About fifteen minutes later, both swatches were still intact:

So. It’s been about a half hour now, and there’s little change except that it seems like maybe some of the blue dye has run off into the nail polish remover. Other than that, the fabric is holding up.

On the basis of this test, as well as the fact that the burn behavior of the swatch (crispy nubbins of black char on the burning edge, no obvious melting, self-extinguishing) was similar to my known-to-be-silk dupioni scrap (the dupioni feels, crumples, and smells like silk), I’m going to call this one in favor of Fabric Mart and declare both fabrics to be silk. I’ve already ruled out rayon, and I assume polyester and nylon would melt. Yay for science and observable phenomena!

Now, a little bit of sleuthing, as I think we were all a little bit skeptical and perhaps still are.  How could Denver Fabrics possibly have listed a silk fabric as acetate, sold it at $3.75/yard, ad then put it on sale for $1.99/yard? Well, if you look at the fabric description, you’ll see there is another error:

The fabric is described as “jacquard,” which would suggest a pattern woven in different textures. This is incorrect- the fabric I received is definitely twill, with a consistent diagonal weave, and the design printed on.  So what happened? A little poking around on Denver Fabrics’s website turns up several other “100% acetate” linings that have this pattern rendered in a single color at a 49″ width, such as this navy one:

Close inspection of the image suggests that this one actually *is* a jacquard in a solid color, and that the clover pattern is woven in (satin weave clovers on a matte ground, reversed on the other side), rather than printed as it is on my fabric. This lining is also available in all green, all pink, all purple, and a couple of other colors. My best guess is that the solid color ones actually are acetate, and that the whole bunch of rolls came from the same manufacturer in the same shipment along with my silk one, and whoever at Denver put them into the database didn’t take note of the oddball, other than that it was 5″ narrower.

So that’s how I’m going to explain this mystery to myself until any contradictory evidence presents itself. For those of you who were hoping I might write a nasty email biting the heads off of the folks at Fabric Mart, aren’t you happy just knowing that Denver Fabrics might one day send you surprise silk?

It’s something of a sport to surf the various fabric discounters and look for identical fabrics priced very non-identically, for example this stretch cotton velveteen, available in a magenta colorway and an aqua one:

 which is currently available at Denver Fabrics for $11.00/yard, and a mere $5.99/yard at Fabric Mart. Add in Fabric Mart’s much faster and often free shipping, and this one’s a no brainer. (Especially not for me since I’m not planning on buying either.)

But obviously the Selfish Seamstress is a savvy shopper, no? No. As it turns out, the big online fabric discounters have duped your innocent, well-meaning Selfish Seamstress. On a routine hunt, I discovered a wonderful navy and cream geometric silk twill on Fabric Mart- the kind of pattern and fabric I have been seeking for many moons to make the wonderful modern shirtdress that exists only in my mind’s selfish little eye. Here’s the listing:

I hastily ordered 3.5 yards and patted myself on the back for having decided against a different geometric brown and white cotton print at a London fabric store the week prior, about whose weight and drape I felt a little bit iffy for my hypothetical shirtdress. The salesperson was just about to make the first cut into the roll when I was like, “NO! I DON’T WANT IT!” They love me there, I bet. Anyway, I felt smug that I had held out for perfection, and been rewarded with silk twill in just the right print for a very, very reasonable $9.99/yard.

So imagine my joy when I discovered a perfectly matching lining fabric a few days later on Denver Fabrics! 100% acetate, not my favorite, but certainly something I could work with for that lovely pattern on a lining. I imagined myself walking down the street in my modern silk shirt dress topped with a coordinating cream 3/4-length trench lined in matching print, navy slingbacks, with a tiny dog on a leash, who in turn was wearing a matching scarf cut from the remnants. (In my mind’s eye, my outfits are often accessorized with tiny, expensive dogs, even though I have no real desire to have one.) Anyway, here’s the listing from Denver’s page (now sold out, btw):

The following week, this lining went on sale for $1.99/yard but I already felt like I’d gotten a good price, so I wasn’t too bummed. I think you know what I’m going to tell you next, and before you tell me that I should have known, let me make the disclaimer that manufacturers often use the same prints on different fabrics within a collection, to make coordinating sheers and solids, to use the same print on a blouse and a coat, etc. So really, in my mind this made perfect sense- I reasoned that Fabric Mart had bought some surplus of the dress fabric from Ann Taylor or whatever, and the Denver Fabrics had bought up the surplus of the coordinating lining.

Okay, so now to the punchline, which you should all be able to guess by now. I received the fabrics today. They actually came in the same box because I had them shipped to my mom in the US and she repacked them together to ship to me. And I opened the box to discover that…  (say it with me now)…. they’re the SAME FABRIC. Yes. (This explains why my mom called to ask why I ordered two of the same fabric and why one was so much more expensive.  I was like, “Oh, silly sewing-ignorant mother, don’t you know the difference between acetate lining and SILK TWILL? How undiscerning you are in your fabric-ly ways!” As it turns out yet again, my mother is right. She is ALWAYS right.) Here’s pics:

These fabrics are really and truly THE SAME. They have the same drape, they are the same width.  The only way I can tell them apart is that the one from Fabric Mart has a sticker on one corner that proclaims “SILK TWILL GRID $9.99.” My intuition is that this is not silk, not just because I’m a cynical beeyatch who tends to assume that the world is out to screw her over, but because the fabric doesn’t feel luscious like silk to me. Those fibers coming off the cut edge have the resilient bounce of a synthetic, not the yielding limpness of silk. Then again, I rarely sew with pure silk, so I’m not really an expert on it. The fabric has no scent at all. If I crush it in my hand, it does not retain wrinkles. If I picked this up at a store, I would guess it was a polyester or nylon lining.

Anyway, feeling pretty grumbly and still harboring the hope that one was a silk and the other a synthetic and they just happened to look and feel exactly the same (why that would be a good thing, I don’t know), I decided it was time for a burn test.

I pulled a few threads from each, and did a burn test that revealed that I have no idea how to read a burn test. Seriously. I will say that the two samples did the same thing.  They sort of balled up where the flame hit them, leaving behind a little black knob that crumbled in a “crunchy” way when I smooshed it. I couldn’t tell whether any melting was happening. The smell is supposed to be very revealing, as silk is supposed to smell like burning hair, whereas acetate is supposed to smell like burning wood chips. Honestly, it all smelled like burning match.  Maybe ever so slightly like peanut shells. I subsequently cut little squares of each, as well as of some silk dupioni and rayon lining and proceeded to nearly set my house on fire repeatedly. The rayon lining definitely didn’t ball up so I think I can count that out, but the others did, and they all just smelled like smoke. Also, my lungs feel kind of fried now.

So, anyone have any advice about how to figure this one out? Or has anyone more knowledgeable purchased this fabric from Fabric Mart and feel pretty convinced that it is what it claims to be? Either I got an amazing deal from Denver Fabrics, or Fabric Mart has incorrectly identified this as silk and I’m going to have to write them some email. In any case, I now have a LOT of this stuff.

Hrrmph.

Okay, a bunch of you asked about the shoes I was wearing in yesterday’s post on my Heidi Merrick-inspired dress.  They are Nine West’s “Elona” model in desert nude (they also came in black), and they are ridiculously comfortable for stilettos.  I can wear them the whole day with no pinching, chafing, fatigue, aches, or soreness. I can walk at my usual New Yorker “get-the-f-out-of-my-way-you-stupid-tourist” pace in them. Yesterday they were sold out, but as of THIS VERY MINUTE (3:05AM EDT, August 16th, 2011), there is ONE SIZE for sale on the website – size 9M for the bargain basement price of $29.75.

Go!  Go now, all you size 9M women!  And if they’re already gone by the time you get there, don’t look at me. I may be selfish, but I’m a size 5. And I, unlike you, already have them. Also?  Nanny nanny boo boo.

Update: As of 12:45PM EDT, it appears they’re once again sold out! Sorry, kids!

Good news for you, Selfish readers! On Saturday, soon after setting off on a lovely hike, I got stung twice on the butt by a wasp! Well, not exactly on the butt, but high enough on the back upper inner thigh that I was sitting on one cheek for the rest of the day while periodically squealing in pain. And yes, though it is my nature to antagonize all living things without provocation or justification, this time it wasn’t my fault. I actually was just walking along the trail, minding my own business when the wasp decided completely of its own accord that it was time for some target practice. And why is that good news?  Well, with every step sending shooting pain through me, I decided it was best to turn around while we were still close to the trailhead and head home for the quiet pleasures of an ice pack and my Husqvarna (which I bravely pedaled while sitting in an awkward, lopsided fashion.) And now you have some sewing to read about.

Here’s the result- a very loose interpretation of Burda 5-2008-125 (a.k.a. my favorite Burda dress), rendered in a black wool and silk blend flannel suiting with subtle white pinstripes, and off-white (though looks white in these pictures) silk and cotton voile:

I’m generally not a fan of wearing a sheath over a blouse or turtleneck.  I’ve seen other people work that look to good effect, but it never looks right or feels comfortable on me.  But when I saw L.A. designer Heidi Merrick‘s “Kate” dress (I believe from her Fall 2009 collection), I fell for the dress and for the nifty optical illusion yielded by the clever voile puffed sleeves and scarf attached directly to the sheath.

You’ll notice it’s not a completely faithful copy of the Heidi Merrick dress, but rather a Heidi Merrick-inspired dress. Among other differences, the original was done in solid black cotton piqué, has an exposed back zip and pockets, which I didn’t add to mine. I don’t have a shot of the back of mine, but it’s just a regular centered zip because that’s what I had in the house.

The pattern is my go-to for sheath dresses, actually the lining pattern of Burda 5-2008-125 with some edits to the neckline. This lining pattern also formed the basis of my Audrey dress and vintage-inspired blue roses sheath. I drafted the puffy sleeve and the scarf bow thing.

Because there’s so much scarf and the voile is quite soft, it’s a little difficult to get it to wrap nicely around the neck and keep a little body.  I can arrange it nicely while standing in front of the mirror, but it does kind of sag eventually. Maybe a little spray starch will help. Really, it’s a lot of bow.

By the way, thanks for all the lovely comments on my last post!  I tried to go through and high-five everyone back, but after a while I was starting to annoy even myself.  But suffice it to say, I have mentally high-fived all of you. And for those of you who are demanding to know where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing for the last couple of months, oh, you know how I love when people ask me to do stuff for them :) I’ll get around to posting details but it’ll probably be a boring and disappointing post.

Figure 1-1. Wasp posterior with stinger and venom. N.B. Wasps are a-holes.

In the meantime, thank the wasp who gave his life such that you might have something comparatively interesting to read about on this blog today. Personally, I hold a little bit of a grudge against that buzzy jerkwad on account of the fact that I was deprived of my hike and in an insane amount of pain for a good chunk of yesterday. But a new dress almost makes up for it.

Face it.  Sewing makes you awesome. And I looooooooove being awesome.  How awesome am I?  Am I (left) Michael Kors awesome? (center) Tahari awesome? (right)  Via Spiga awesome?

No? Am I perhaps alice + olivia awesome?  Karen Millen, L.A.M.B, Jones New York, Dolce & Gabbana, or Lanvin awesome (awesomeness pictured clockwise from left)?

Unlikely.  But I am completely and totally 100% Selfish Awesome, thanks to my old friend McCall 5525 (awesomeness pictured front, center and in your face)!

I finally got around to completely gutting my previous attempt at this jacket, and bringing it back to its pre-sewn state (note: ripping out miles of triple straight stitch topstitching is tedious). I interfaced every single piece with heavy, sew-in woven interfacing, and that finally gave me the body I wanted in this gorgeous, slightly sueded leopard fabric that I picked up last year in Montreal from Sam Textiles. And of course with that fabric, combined with my trusty McCall 5525 that has now yielded three favorite coats, my just-finished leopard version, the Key Lime Trench, and the Guggenheim Coat, I am feeling Selfish Awesome.

Here’s the obligatory photo pr0n, taken by Dan using his fancy schmancy new Nikon D7000 and budding artist’s eye:

What are you looking at?

It’s like I can’t stop checking myself out.  Ooh, what’s that on the inside?

Hey, it’s turquoise jacquard lining! Awesome! I picked the lining up on a recent trip to London to visit Martine. She’s like my snarkwife. And she’s never asked me to sew anything for her in 15 years of snark marriage, and she went fabric shopping with me for a whole day even though she doesn’t sew. She is also awesome.

Unfortunately I don’t remember the name of the store- AAA Fabrics?  A-Plus Fabrics?  It’s the big place on Goldhawk Road right near the tube stop. It is also awesome. I was going to go with green lining at first, and I was all like, “Turquoise or green?  Green, obviously.” And Martine was all like, “Duuuuh, turquoise.” And then I was like, “Well, duuuh. Obviously.” And that’s how that decision came about.

Here’s the macro shot with all of the redone topstitching:

As usual, I took everything in at all the seams to make for a slimmer fit.  I’m also considering adding the button bands on the sleeves but with buckles, but I have yet to find the right buckles so that’s a project for the future. And that’s about it.

How about you?  Are you sewing yourself some awesome today?  How awesome are you? Are you Selfish Awesome?

Well everyone, it’s been a couple of months since I moved, and yet I’m still not back on top of my sewing or blogging. Jeez, I’m still not on top of my unpacking.  I will confess to having sewn up a cowl necked sweater from a back issue of Burda which I have yet to photograph mostly because it came out kind of bleh. And I’m starting work on something new and exciting, pictures to come.

As for Burda, they’re starting the year off promptly with their January 2011 early preview already online. Readers, one of my big sewing wishes for the coming year is some *great* Burdas.  I haven’t gone back to check, but I get the feeling I didn’t sew anything from a single 2010 issue. January issues have to be judged with a bit of a handicap because they usually have the cuddly but run of the mill stay-at-home-on-the-couch sweats collection (doubtless the only things that fit after too many holiday sweets), and the Fasching gear, which is often more craft than sewing.  Let’s get our chuckles out of the way now, shall we?

If anyone makes this and can send me a photograph of the finished costume (yes, puffy arms and all) on a man out in public, I will happily feature you on my blog as one of my great sewing heroes. Even the Selfish Seamstress is not enough of a beeyatch to subject Dan to this pasty-armed, spinat-laced delight.

So, the good news is that there’s some great styling in this issue and looks like it could have quite a bit of potential for the tall ladies. These clothes would eat me alive, but look cute on the models, such as the below-the-knee flared skirt:

And this 1930s-inspired, single-breasted belted coat, again hitting well below the knee:

And this looks pretty, even though I suspect that under the cinching obi style belt, it’s just another one of those really long shirts that Burda likes so much, possibly with a slanted placket. We’ll see soon!

Then there are some other garments that I think *could* look good on the right tall women, but would probably be Hefty bags on most mortals, and certainly on the pinky finger-sized Selfish Seamstress:

In case you’re wondering what such a dress looks like on an intellectual, here it is again, this time with books and glasses:

If she’s so smart, why’d she pick that dress?  Hahahaha. I love how funny I find myself to be!

Anyway, better a roomy dress than a roomy crotch:

Please someone explain to me why this trend is not dead yet. It’s not because Burda is a European magazine. I’m here in Europe, and people are not walking around with webbed thighs. It’s aspirational dressing I suppose, if what you aspire to be is a flying squirrel:

Maybe I’m just turned off by the fact that these pants are misguidedly tucked into above-the-knee boots with giant flappy cuffs. The correct accessories for these pants would be a “what are you looking at” stance and your best bitchface:

Perfect for kicking back with some DVDs on a winter afternoon.

By the way, there’s always someone who comes by and comments that they love the Hammer/harem pants, and that they’re soooo comfy and sexy. All I can say is that although I don’t agree with your opinion, I completely support your right to wear them, as well as my right to snicker cruelly once you are out of earshot.

And once again, the plus sizes garments are the winners. So classic, so wearable, so pretty, and so beautifully styled. My work wardrobe is definitely calling out for a scarlet tie blouse and camel pencil skirt:

Based on this limited preview, there’s nothing for me yet, but overall the issue isn’t looking bad, especially if you’re tall or plus. It gives me a little hope that there might be some goodies in it for me once the full preview is out. And with the holidays looming up ahead, I’m all about the goodies for ME.

Even those of us who satisfy our hunger for darkness and solitude by living under a rock can’t help but be exposed to something spectacular every now and again. But on the off chance that the news hasn’t reached your rock yet, allow me to inform you:

November 23. Lanvin for H&M.

If you’ve been following for a while, you know of my love/hate/guilt/admiration relationship with H&M. But this collection is looking monumental, and I’ve got plans to camp out outside of H&M so I can check it out as soon as it opens. Oops, someone’s going to be a little late for work next Tuesday.

I get the feeling that I probably won’t end up buying any of it, but I do plan to try stuff on for ideas, if I manage to get my hands on any.  The gorgeous yellow ruffle dress above (even I can get on board with the one shoulder thing for a dress like that) is one that I can easily recreate at home, and in a color better suited to my skin tone (jewel-toned teal, perhaps?) This is another example of one shoulder done beautifully in this collection:

And I’m dying to slip this over-the-top jacket over the dress for an over-the-top ensemble:

Here’s another magnificent confection that looks easily recreated, if you could only find the marvelous retro rose print fabric.

The dresses and coats run between about $150-$350, perhaps somewhat out of the price range of the average H&M teenybopper client, which perhaps means that mature career ladies like me will have fewer lithe, spry 17-year olds to punt out of the way to get to the racks. They can go for the collection’s lower priced t-shirts, skirts, and accessories.

The collection also has a less-exciting but still quite chic selection of menswear. Oh, and shoes at a relatively gentle $99 a pop.

Anyway, check out this heart-breakingly, tooth-achingly delicious collection of sweets, fashion-loving members of the proletariat. It’s Lanvin for the masses! And lest you think the once-rarefied has become all too accessible, don’t worry- the video is still delightfully artsy-fartsy :)

Oh yeah, by the way, the collection is only in limited stores, so check the website before you pitch your tent ;)

The December issue of Burda isn’t usually my favorite because it usually contains a lot of evening dresses and cocktail attire that I don’t need for my everyday activities of grumbling, backstabbing, and cookie scarfing. As such, and based on the early partial preview, I didn’t have particularly high hopes when I clicked on the full preview for the 12.2010 issue which has now popped up on the German Burda site.

Umm, let’s just say that an overabundance of evening attire isn’t really a problem this time around. I’m a little more concerned about this:

On a related note, I take some issues with this:

And I’m really none-too-pleased about this:

I’m especially worried that perhaps white poly chiffon as daywear is making a comeback, because I’m pretty sure I gave that habit up after a bit of a chiffon bender at the Unique Boutique in 1993.

As for this cut, Blanche Devereaux, anyone?

Not so much?  How about some Dorothy Zbornak style?

There’s also this, which is kind of like an unsexy version of the Ann Taylor dress that I was considering knocking off for a while:

I’m tempted to make one of these hot little numbers for frisky nights at home. Seriously.  I think that would be hilarious.

Honestly, my favorite stuff from this issue is the knitted stuff. I don’t think I’ll buy the issue for the knitting patterns, but I think this is the best of December (minus the Scandinavian bands on the sleeves):

Other than that, I’m not feeling good about this issue.  And as much as I appreciate a good snark, I would gladly trade in snide Burda commentary for a great Burda issue for a month. I adore Burda- it got me sewing for real in the first place – but I haven’t loved an issue in a while (August 2009, perhaps?) It kind of breaks my heart. Here’s hoping for some great, great Burdas in 2011. And if that fails, I just ordered all the (fantastic!) 2006 issues from eBay.

Okay, readers, update on the overturned box full of crap that is my life. Dan and I “successfully” moved into our new apartment last week, and by this I mean we got all of our stuff into the new place. This can only be considered a success if you have very low standards for success. It pretty much looks like a moving truck threw up in an otherwise nice apartment. The good news is that my beloved Husqvarna is here. The bad news is that we toasted a transformer when trying to use an American projector and now I’m terrified of attempting to get the Husqvarna going on the European current. But I can’t deal with that anyway because anything I would need to sew is buried under the crapvalanche as it is.

Since folks have been asking, here are a couple of photos of the place. You can tell my priorities are in order because the first thing we had to do was to run out to Ikea to get the enormous PS Maskros hanging lamp that I’d coveted since I first laid eyes on it:

Seriously, this lamp is a BEAST. It is nearly a yard in diameter and it is a bucking fitch to assemble and install.  Plus as we have discovered, it is a “one time use” lamp. You put all the paper florets on, but you can’t take them off later, so there’s pretty much no way to move it unless you have Go-Go-Gadget arms. It will live in this apartment and this apartment only. But it makes such pretty shadows on the walls and ceiling and it’s such a joy to wake up to in the morning that I don’t even mind that Dan has blisters all over his fingers from assembling all the wires and plastic bits.  Also cool?  When you’re partway through attaching the paper flowers (the easy part, albeit quite time consuming) it kind of looks like a friendly version of the partially reconstructed Death Star.  Yeah, decor-related Star Wars reference!

Incidentally I’ve ordered swatches of celery green cotton velvet to do some drapes for that room and pick up the lighter green color in the bedding.

Here’s a partial view of the sewing room/guest room:

This room will get the blue and ivory striped silk dupioni curtains. It has two built in closets that I will undoubtedly stuff with fabric, and off on the far right hand side is one of the corners you can’t see where my sewing table is. I am currently plotting to replace the queen size bed with a daybed or other something that can fold up so that I can consume more of the room with sewing stuff. I want my guests to feel as though they are less important than sewing.  Because it is true. Take that, friends and family!

And if you’re standing in the sewing room looking out the door, you see through the dining room into the living room where one of the movers is. He’s gone now though.

There are a couple of other rooms as well, but for now these are the only pictures that don’t look like crazy town. More soon though. And as soon as the drapery lining I ordered for my curtains shows up, there may even be some *gasp* sewing!

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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