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Has the Selfish Seamstress turned over a new leaf and learned to do things for others??

First of all, after leaving them dangling for months, I finally got around to weaving in the four little tiny yarn ends on Dan’s Ticuna scarf:

[The yarn is a local, random, heathered wine red, super soft merino worsted weight that I got at a farmer’s market in Chicago.]

But Dan is not the only member of the less-fortunate who benefitted from my skills (where “less-fortunate” is defined by inferior needlecraft skills). I bit the bullet last night.  I managed to refrain from finishing up my L’Wren Scott-inspired Simplicity 2374 and instead got started on my S.W.A.G. (Sewing With A Grudge) projects. This meant engaging in my least favorite part of sewing (cutting out the fabric pieces) for my least favorite people to sew for  (anyone but me.) Fortunately I’m making gifts for my sisters, who are among my most favorite of my least favorite people to sew for.

It’s now a matter of battling against myself and maintaining momentum.  I know if I put the projects down for too long, I will never be motivated to finish them before the holidays.  If that happens, they will sit unfinished in a heap, holidays will approach and I will hurriedly go out and buy alternate presents for the sisters, and then perhaps eventually I will return to the tops after having decided I need a couple of new tops for myself.  The Selfish Seamstress is nothing if not self-aware.

I forced myself to cut out both of the tops last night, knowing that if I cut and sewed one first, I would be too lazy to cut and sew the other. Fortunately my sisters and I are all relatively close in size and the knit is pretty stretchy so multiple sizes were not necessary.  Multiple sizes of the same garment are a surefire way of ensuring that only one will ever get sewn. (I am sewing one with slightly less seam allowance just in case.)

And, knowing that this was probably the most momentum I’d have for S.W.A.G. for the rest of the season, I decided I’d get some of the sewing done too (again both sweaters in parallel.)  Side and shoulder seams are done on both, as are sleeve and collar seams.  All that’s left is to set in the collars and sleeves, and finish all the edges with my handy new twin stretch needle. You can see the progress that I’ve made in the photo above. (I don’t know why the collar edge of the green one looks all raggedy- it’s not in real life.) I have arranged the pieces into the heartfelt poses of eternal indebtedness (left) and undying worship (right) which I fully expect my sisters to assume upon receiving the tops if they don’t want to get cut.  

What you can’t see here is that they are also on their knees in expression of their endless gratitude, but there’s NO WAY I’m going to make them pants too just so you can see that.


Every gift I sew
Is one fewer thing for me.
Bite me, holidays.

It is a common misconception that the Selfish Seamstress, and Selfish Seamstresses in general (you know who you are and I think you’re cool!), does not sew things for other people. In actuality, Selfish Seamstresses often find themselves in situations in which they have to sew for others, which is what led them to become Selfish Seamstresses in the first place. In fact, much like with bee sting allergies with which you don’t know if you’re allergic until you’ve actually been stung, you can’t really KNOW whether you are truly a Selfish Seamstress until you find yourself having to make something for someone else.

If you find that making something for someone else takes twice, thrice, ten times as long as it would take to make the exact same thing for yourself (or never gets finished at all), you might be a Selfish Seamstress.  If your only motivation to finish said object is so that you can get back to making stuff for yourself, you might be a Selfish Seamstress. If, when you finish it, you consider keeping it for yourself, you might be a Selfish Seamstress. And if you have thoughts like, “Yes, Mommy, you carried me and gave me life, raised and nurtured me from an infant and paid for college to boot, but once I’m done hemming your skirt, YOU OWE ME,” then you are one seriously ungrateful and impressively Selfish Seamstress.  Good job!

When a Selfish Seamstress cannot avoid a sewing project intended for someone other than herself, it becomes a S.W.A.G project – Sewing With A Grudge. We’ll do it, but there’s grudge sewn into every stitch. (Sometimes love too, depending on whether you are a mildly Selfish Seamstress or a full out egomaniacal B like yours truly, but always at least a tiny bit of grudge.)

And so I find myself with the holidays approaching, up to my ears in work at my job, with few precious hours for sewing.  I’m putting myself on a strict diet of S.W.A.G., namely something-as-yet-undetermined for my non-sewing mother, and cowl sweaters for my non-sewing sisters. Maybe I’ll finish the brown cotton velvet sport coat I started for Dan back in 2007.  (Selfish?  Check!) If I absolutely must sew for myself, I am only permitted to finish stuff that’s already in progress- no new selfish sewing until the presents are done.

I’ve already bought some sweater knit for the cowls, a charcoal gray for one sister, and a dark army green for the other.  Unfortunately I couldn’t find anything as soft and pretty as the teal knit I found in Switzerland, but they’re not bad.  I suppose I could give one of them the one I just finished for myself with the teal and just




Haha, did I have you going there for a sec?  Seriously.

Dear readers, I need your advice.  Please read to the bottom and weigh in! First, I preface:

Every evil mastermind has to have a feline sidekick.  Dr. Evil has Mr. Bigglesworth, Dr. Claw has M.A.D. Cat, Gargamel has Azreal.

bigglesworth dr. claw gargamel_and_azrael_from_the_smurfs

And of course, The Selfish Seamstress has Sasa, who, through some sort of baffling chain of events actually ended up being dropped off at an animal shelter before coming home with me.  Who would put this darling kitty in a shelter, when she was so clearly meant to be the perfect sidekick to an evil mastermind??


Now, even though the Selfish Seamstress’s “heart” is really just a small heart-shaped lump of ice that pumps cold water through her veins, what little love it is capable of is devoted entirely to Sasa, her beloved, soft and fuzzy animal companion. (Well, not entirely true because the Selfish Seamstress has a whole lot of love for herself too.)

I may not be the biggest animal rights activist or the most passionate of animal lovers, but I do draw some lines for myself.  Dan and I keep to a vegetarian diet during the week in attempt to reduce our meat consumption, and on the weekends if we do eat meat, we try to make sure it’s been sustainably and humanely raised.  And as a general rule, I do NOT wear fur. I do wear wool, silk, and leather, however. And, for the sake of full disclosure, in college I did have a scarf that I loved that was made of curly Mongolian lamb fur, which I rationalized was no worse than wearing leather since lamb fur and sheepskin, like leather, are also by-products of the meat industry (unlike mink or fox which are raised or hunted primarily for their pelts.) Anyway, I’m sure we’re all familiar with this debate and have heard all of the viewpoints on it a million times and blah blah blah, people get self-righteous or high and mighty, and I have no particular desire to revisit it.


It’s True Story Time!

Okay, this is a true story.  I am not lying to cover up a shameful purchase or anything like that.  This really happened. One day last spring I was walking down to my favorite fabric store in Chicago, Vogue Fabrics.  Those of you familiar with Vogue Fabrics know that it is located on Roosevelt Road and that it is surrounded by numerous men’s clothing stores and tailoring shops that skew kind of… well… is “pimpy” too strong a word?  Let’s just say that if you are a man who happens to be employed in the lady rental business, you might find that the shops along Roosevelt Road have the styles and selection you’re looking for at prices you’ll love! 

So, I’m walking to Vogue, and as I cross the street, less than a block from the store, I happen upon a trash can with THIS draped over it:


That’s right.  An ENTIRE fur coat, made of curly Mongolian lamb.  I stand there for a minute in shock, sort of freaked out at this enormous pile of fur, but the selfish part of me and the seamstress part of me and the part of me that hates to see things go to waste all get together and say, “OPPORTUNITY.” So after a bit of hesitation and examination, I pick it up.  It has some tears along the seams, some small stains, it’s definitely pimptastic, and it reeks of cologne.  But it’s not obviously infested with anything and the fur and the satin lining are in good condition. Plus it’s enormous:


And, the fur is really pretty:


I tote it off to the dry cleaner to rid it of cologne stench, trash can residue, incriminating fingerprints, and whatever else its previous owner might have left behind, and retrieve it about a week later at the cost of about $50, which seems like quite a steal for a giant fur coat, at least to someone with no experience in fur-buying.

So now comes the difficult part. It’s quite easy for me to sit on a high horse and say, “I don’t wear fur” on some vague self-righteous principle. But I feel like the fur in this case has sort of come to me and is now dancing temptingly before me. And it’s lamb, which, you recall, I rationalize is no worse than leather because of that by-product thing. And it so happens that I have some coat-weight cream colored cashmere that has been sitting in my stash for nearly two years now, waiting to be turned into a coat.  And now that it has seen the fur, it really wants to be turned into a coat with luxurious curly trim.

Dear readers, please weigh in.  If I make (and wear) a lamb fur trimmed cashmere coat am I evil (though incredibly chic)?  Or is it no worse than if I just have it lying around in my house? Would you throw red paint on me if you saw me, thus ruining hundreds of dollars worth of cashmere? Is the distinction I’m making between lamb fur and mink just a load of crap? Am I worrying about stupid stuff when there are people out there who have real problems?  Why do I care so much about what other people think?  Why on earth would I pick a coat out of a trash can when it had clearly last been worn by a pimp?  Help! I need answers!

Oh, and there’s one more complicating factor I didn’t mention.  I’m not the only one in the house who has her eyes set on that coat:


But surely she doesn’t need the whole XXL thing?

My rendition of Simplicity 2473 is almost done! As you can see here, it’s not an exact replica of the L’Wren Scott Headmistress Dress, but more of a L’Wren-Scott-flavored dress.


All that it needs now is to have the zipper installed and the hem sewn (you can see the pins are still in it). And that should be about it. The black fabric is a Sophia double knit from (polyester, rayon, and Lycra, I think).  For the white contrast, I wanted to use the same fabric, but they didn’t have it in white, so I bought some of their 100% polyester ponte di roma.  The Sophia knit is pretty nice, but I really don’t recommend the ponte di roma.  I’ve never worked with ponte di roma before so I don’t know if this is just how the fabric is, or if it’s just the particular stuff I got, or if it’s the white in particular, but it’s pretty vile.  It looks like something you’d see in a hospital for bandaging.  It looks and feels cheap, and I certainly wouldn’t want to wear it directly against my skin. If I find a better substantial white knit, I may replace the cuffs and collar eventually.

Once I’m done, I’m thinking I’ll make a Simplicity 2473 “expansion kit” available.  That is to say, I’ll post the pattern pieces I drafted for the collar, sleeves, and cuffs, all of which I did from scratch, plus instructions on how to add them to the dress. Obviously I can’t post the whole dress pattern because of copyright issues, but this way if you have (or buy) Simplicity 2473, you can download my additions to make your own L’Wren Scott inspired version.

Oh, and by the way, a little Selfish Seamstress ego trip to the cashier:

Retail price for the L’Wren Scott original Headmistress Dress: $2895.00
Total cost for Selfish Seamstress version (including pattern): about $21.00


(Of course, L’Wren Scott’s probably doesn’t have a nasty polyester collar.)

I managed to acquire a double needle and got around to finishing the edges of top #114 from the 10.2005 issue of Burda Modemagazin.  It bothers me that I still can’t seem to photograph the amazing color of this knit fabric accurately.  The real color has nothing to do with cerulean and everything to do with deep, intensely saturated, greenish teal.  Here’s a photo of the top taken outside with the color all wrong, and then a photo I edited that shows a somewhat more accurate color for the top, with somewhat less accurate color for the rest of me.

P1060035 P1060035_2

I don’t have a photo editing program on this computer that will let me just edit the color of the top, so I’ll just have to leave it to your imagination.

I love a good cowl neck and this top was a breeze to put together.  In fact, the most time consuming part was grading the pattern down to my size and tracing it all out. I like the skinny fit a lot and the cowl can be arranged in a lot of graceful ways.  (Though I seem to have chosen “dorky” mode for the photo.  Oh well.)

All in all, this pattern has a pretty high style to effort ratio.  And the fact that it doesn’t require accurate fitting is suggesting to me that this might be a good pattern for some holiday presents for my sisters, who are themselves neither selfish nor seamstresses, and who, to the best of my knowledge, do not read my blog and will therefore not have the surprise spoiled.

What.  Don’t look at me like that.  It’s not my fault that I’m not an only child and occasionally have to engage in some S.W.A.G. (Sewing With A Grudge).

Just because we’re friends
Doesn’t mean I’ll spend MY time
Mending YOUR ripped sh*t.

Little Black Dress Large


Sweet!  My LBD won first place on Pattern Review’s LBD contest! I’m so excited – I never thought I’d win a sewing contest.  There were lots of great entries, so it’s quite an honor to have my dress recognized. If you voted for my dress, thanks!

The pattern (in size 32) is available for download here.

The complete preview for the first issue of Burda of the new decade is now online!  I have to say, it’s better than I was expecting, given the rather inauspicious sneak preview that they posted a couple of weeks ago. There’s still nothing in it that is making me feel like I *have* to have this issue, but there are a couple of items with potential.  I’ve categorized them into these categories: 1) Yes, That Looks Good, 2) Probably, But in a Different Fabric, 3) Cute, But I Can Get it at Old Navy so do I Want to Sew it?, and 4) I Think This has Potential, But Something Needs to Change.

First up, Yes, That Looks Good:

000001819552There’s another version of this in the magazine in a sort of pink satiny fabric which is not good. But in a menswear fabric with that single, elegant, diagonal pleat- that’s just right.

Next up, Probably, But in a Different Fabric:

000001822011Yikes.  I feel like I’m in a science filmstrip about molecules or bacteria or something. This must be what it’s like to be inside a DNA double helix looking out.  It’s taking all of my seamstress visionary capabilities (which aren’t much in the first place) to picture this in navy blue  with a pair of chunky, 1940s-inspired tan heels. Ah, that’s better.

Cute, But I Can Get it at Old Navy so do I Want to Sew it?

000001821918000001821953I’m having trouble figuring out why I would expend the effort to make these things when I could be sewing other stuff, but they are pretty cute nonetheless.

And lastly, I Think This has Potential, But Something Needs to Change:

000001819568000001821925000001822064The turquoise coat has a nice vintage feel to it, but obviously I would require less muppet skin trim and less bedazzlement. The short jacket- I don’t know.  Something about the shape appeals to me, but something about it is off.  Might be the fabric choices, but I don’t know what would be better.  Grey plaid wool maybe?  And the last coat is nice but boring except for the topstitching.  It’d be a good to use as a block.  Some extra detailing and some more interesting fabric, and it’d be a winner.

All in all, nothing I’m dying to make but on the whole not bad.  May have to renew that subscription now.

I spent about 17 hours in transit today between flights, waiting at airports, and getting to and from the airport.  So what’s a Selfish Seamstress to do upon arriving home after a long, exhausting journey? Pull out her new Swiss fabric, a back issue of Burda (bought off of German Ebay), and get to work tracing, cutting, and stitching, of course. Here’s tonight’s progress on model 114 from the 10.2005 issue:


Sorry, Dan passed out hours ago from jet lag, so you’re getting a crappy self-taken photo. 

This is my first experience sewing with a knit with any real stretch to it. It was surprisingly easy to work with.  I don’t own a serger (boo hoo!) so I used the stretch stitch on my machine.  The knit didn’t ravel or roll much and behaved well under the needle. The fabric is super soft and I’m crazy about the color.

The pattern is ridiculously simple.  I think this is the first time I’ve ever made a garment that only has four pattern pieces.  In the past I’ve usually had a bias towards complicated patterns, but this may make a convert of me. I still have to finish the sleeve edges, hem, and collar edge, but as it turns out, I don’t own a double needle so it’ll have to wait a few days until I can go out and buy one. 

Home for five and a half hours and I almost have a whole new top to show for it.  I should probably unpack my suitcase before I go to bed. Obviously, the Selfish Seamstress knows where her priorities are.

 Although it would seem from recent posts that my trip to Switzerland has been quite heavy on sewing related activities, it really hasn’t. But I can’t help it if I happen to walk by a fabric store and need to go in and browse a bit, right?  And so it happened today just by chance that I passed by two stores on the same block, Stofftrucke, which had quite a lovely, albeit pricey selection (about $20/meter for polyester jersey, about $50/meter for silk charmeuse, and about $80/meter for wool coating), and the Bernina Nähcenter, which had a small but nice selection of fabrics at about the same prices.

But one of my favorite things was the sign in the window of the Bernina store:


“Näh it yourself!”  A sentiment near and dear to the Selfish Seamstress’s selfish, icy heart! Now, I’m guessing that when the Bernina store tells you to “sew it yourself,” they mean it in a positive, friendly way because they want to sell you sewing machines and because they’re probably nicer people than I am.  They want to empower you to create and accomplish.  Whereas I look at this and take joy in thinking, “That’s right, you näh it your friggin’ self!  What do I look like, your Mutti? Lass mich in Ruhe!”

Here’s some fabric p*rn from the Bernina Nähcenter- felt and wool loden in lovely crayon shades, and Dan examining the velboa selection:



Here’s some more amazing fabric p*rn from the Stofftrucke for you, an embellished wool loden, a rainbow of silks, a graceful embellished lightweight taffeta, and some assorted green woolly,  tweedy things:




That dark brown coat-weight loden with the teal flowers on it is pretty spectacular.  I’d love it for a long coat with dark brown faux fur collar, cuffs and trim.  But at $88/meter, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I did find the BEST knit ever though:


What makes it the best, you ask?  Well, for one thing because a meter and a half of it is sitting right here next to me and it’s ALL MINE. It’s a lovely, soft, loose, stretchy, drapey knit in a deep, intense shade of greenish teal (they call this color “petrol” here) with rich, subtle variations.  It was a bit of a splurge at $21/meter, as I think it’s just a blend of rayon and synthetics. But it looks and feels like luxury to me, and I’ve got the pattern for it all picked out in my head. All I have to decide now is whether to use it knit side out (above) or purl side out:


I’m leaning towards purl.  A little more edgy, I think.  Oh, and I probably need to read up on how to sew a non-stable knit.  That knowledge could come in handy.

Anyway, flying home tomorrow and I’ll be reunited with my stash and my machine! All in all a great trip, a couple of good finds, and a whole lot of restraint- selfishness on a budget.

Despite the constant rain, I managed to trudge out to a very design-y part of Zurich, where I had read about Fabric Frontline. It was a bit difficult to find, as it was tucked in a courtyard beyond a walled garden and a tunnel guarded by many larger-than-life garden gnomes (as pictured here with Dan):


Once inside we found the most neat and spotless fabric store I’ve ever seen, with every roll carefully tied at both ends with silk ribbon and not a single bolt stacked or leaning even slightly off of perfectly vertical.  I didn’t know beforehand but the store stocks pretty much just silk, in four large rooms.  Every color you can imagine, in beautiful prints, patterns and solids.  They have several textures and weaves including taffetas, brocades, georgette, and dupionis, but the majority of their stock looked to be charmeuse in some magnificent prints.




The store was so quiet and still, I was practically on tiptoes. Everything was so neatly arranged and luxurious looking that I was afraid to touch the fabric. The woman working in the store seemed less than excited at our presence. We got a chilly reprimand when we began to explore a corner that was apparently the “collection fabrics,” which apparently customers are not supposed to handle (we didn’t know!) Perhaps I had the look of a person who was going to waste her time by browsing rather than buying anything. But really, when has the Selfish Seamstress ever entered a nice fabric store and come away empty handed?  

The answer is: Today. That’s right, thousands of rolls of exquisite silk before me and I bought nothing.  I guess I’m not really that much of a silk person, with the exception of my Delancey Dress.  I’m much more of a wool girl. Silky slippery stuff in particular is something that doesn’t show up much in my sewing or wardrobe.  I wouldn’t even know what to make with anything there.  I did find a wonderful print of  dandelion seeds scattered over a beautiful charmeuse (no photo- I’m sure I’d have been kicked out of the store if I had tried.) And I toyed for a while with the idea of just purchasing a meter or so in case I might one day think of something to make with it.  But I just couldn’t imagine wearing it, and at $142 a meter (the price of many of the fabrics- remnants were marked down to the bargain basement $100), it seemed a bit too decadent for something that might sit endlessly in my stash. It’s hard to be that selfish a seamstress on a normal seamstress budget.

You may recall that the last thing I did before closing my laptop prior to takeoff as I set off on my trip to Switzerland was to post a question about where to go to find good sewing stuff here. As it turns out, I managed to make a new acquisition before even landing at my destination.  This, my dear readers, is surely a trait of a very skilled Selfish Seamstress- the ability to sniff out the slightest opportunity to add to her stash.  How does one do this?  Simple.  The answer is “stopover in Frankfurt.” Oh yes, I had just a slim 55 minutes in which to go through a ridiculously congested excuse for a line at passport control, navigate miles and miles of airport corridor made ten times more convoluted because of construction, and go through security yet again with both body scanning and bag searching despite the fact that I didn’t have a crochet hook this time.  Even so, I managed to snag the November issue of La Mia Boutique:


 LMB is a bit of a dangerous magazine for me because it’s a hard one to find, and often I mistake the joy of discovering it with enthusiasm for the actual content. In actually I’ve only ever made or wanted to make one garment from LMB. But when I’m in Europe where one can actually find sewing magazines if one knows where and when to look, I tend to get a little bit crazy and buy them without considering whether I’d really make anything from them, simply because when I stumble upon an issue, it feels like such a rare treat. Ugh.  (Last time I was here, I even bought an issue of Ottobre. Why?? I know I never want to make anything from Ottobre.)

I did succumb to LMB (but to give some much-craved credit to my self control, I held back on Rebecca, Verena, Diana, and Burda), and there are one or two nice basics I think I might like to make:


Sorry for the bad pictures.  The first garment is the fitted white shirt with big French cuffs (not the trouser/wrestling singlet combo), and the second is a cute coat with big pockets and topstitching.  Here are the technical drawings so you can see better:    








Nothing super interesting, but I’ve been wanting a fitted basic shirt pattern, and I think coat would look cute in cream cashmere with a belt. And that’s probably it for me and this issue.  But I do have one question about the magazine.  Who on earth thought it would be a good idea to do the model’s hair and lipstick like this???




I’ve had this vintage 1950s silk  in my stash for a very long time. It’s a creamy, papery, rustling shantung with red flowers and grass green stems. I acquired it by fighting off weaker, inferior Ebayers with my exceptional and cutthroat bidding skills.  But once I received the fabric I was too chicken to do anything with it.  Vintage fabric lovers know that fabric from the 1950s in good condition is hard to come by, but rarer still is finding continuous yardage that is enough to make anything other than craft items and doll clothes.  So when I suddenly found myself in possession of whopping five and a half yards of pristine silk shantung with a floral mock warp print (poppies?  parrot tulips?  roses?), I had a hard time working up the nerve to cut into it. If there’s any more of it left in the world, it’s probably just scraps!

When I was finally ready to take the plunge, I decided on a simple silhouette inspired by Dior’s New Look, which I thought would suit the 1950s fabric.  The print is already quite elaborate for me, so the pattern itself has minimal detail.  I drafted the strapless princess bodice and gathered circular skirt (more of a squashed circle actually) from scratch with the help of the brilliant Tchad. The first snip of the shears into the rare and precious material made my blood run cold for a second, but I managed. I made a lining from (new) silk taffeta, stitched fabric-covered featherboning to the lining bodice, underlined the bodice and facings with muslin, slip stitched the facings to the lining, and put in an invisible side zip.  



And then….

… I put it aside and ignored it for months on end, as I do with so many of my projects.  Finally I took it out yesterday and decided it was time to hem.  I haven’t measured the circumference of the hem, but it’s a *gathered* circle, so I’m guessing it’s at least 10 feet.  Suffice it to say, pinning and hemming that thing by hand took about five hours.  I had just enough silk thread.

Here’s the current state of things:


And here is the part where I twirl:



The swishy sound of this fabric is phenomenal. It’s not done yet- I still have to hem the lining, which I guess will take another five hours! Maybe I’ll get around to that in a couple of months too

I’m sitting on the plane waiting until they make me shut down my computer.  Off to Switzerland for a few days, where I won’t be doing any sewing.  But don’t worry, I’ll write a nice post for you while I’m in the air so you can see what I worked on last night. 

In the meantime, anyone have any recommendations for good fabric shops in Zurich or Basel?  The Selfish Seamstress’s addictions need to be fed while she’s away from home :)

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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