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About two weeks ago, Dan and I found ourselves with some vacation days to use and nowhere to go. After a quick consultation with our trusty advisor “The Internet” we had bargain flights and posh hotels booked and took off to Rome the following day. (Now, before you open your mouths to complain that Selfish doesn’t deserve the charmed life she leads, I should mention that this was no dream vacation. We were called back home after 3 days due to an emergency followed by a tragic and heartbreaking loss that I can’t even bear to talk about here, and that I wouldn’t wish upon any of my dear readers!)

Rome, as you may know, is home to something really big. Something amazing, huge, epic, and legendary that you can’t see anywhere else in the world. It’s so enormous, it’s monumental. One might even say it is … COLOSSAL.

That’s right, I’m talking about Fratelli Bassetti Tessuti.

Bassetti Tessuti (try saying it five times fast) claims to house upwards of 200,000 bolts of fabric. Selfish, as it turns out, is not good at visualizing large numbers of things. She know that she is 100 times awesomer than anyone she knows, and 1,000 times meaner. But what does 200,000 bolts of fabric mean?  How many bolts are displayed in your average Jo-Ann?  2000?  10,000? What about the big Vogue fabrics flagship store in Evanston, IL?  20,000?  50,000?  What about Mood in NYC? 100,000?  500,000? Seriously, I had no idea.

Well, after visiting Fratelli Basseti Tessuti (NY Times article here), I feel fairly sure that I had never before seen 200,000 bolts of fabric in one place. The place is an endless maze of rooms packed from floor to (very high) ceiling with bolts and bolts of Italian milled fabric. Room after room after room. Need some sweater knit?  Here’s just one of multiple walls of the stuff:

Or perhaps you need some wool suiting?  There’s a whole room’s worth:

And one for cotton shirting:

Just shirting here in this room, by the way.  All the prints and other assorted cottons have their own rooms. And if you need something really posh?

Let’s take a closer look at this, shall we?

Versace, Gianfranco Ferre, Armani, Valentino, and other names I’d probably recognize if I were fancy enough to shop that room of the store.

This should have been heaven for Selfish, but as wonderful as the store is, I found it quite overwhelming. (Though lately I find even Mood and New York Elegant fabrics overwhelming, which is why I seem to spend most of my NY time at the more manageable Metro and Paron.) There’s no junk to be had at Bassetti- this stuff is high quality, and it looked like most (if not all) of the fabrics were Italian. I certainly didn’t find bargains either (though to be fair I only took a close look at about .0001% of what they had.) Wool coating and suiting looked to be upwards of 100 Euros per meter, and I didn’t even go near the silks or cashmeres. Selfish, who usually leaves no bolt unturned, was so intimidated by the sheer number of rooms and volume of fabrics, that she resorted to shopping by gut. If it didn’t catch my eye immediately on the wall, I moved on.

So what did I get? Surely even an overwhelmed and intimidated Selfish doesn’t leave a fabric monument empty handed. I ended up splurging on two pieces of beautiful stretch cotton sateen. Cotton sateen may not sound like a splurge fabric, but Bassuti prices put it somewhere upwards of Liberty fabric, albeit lower than Marimekko yardage. So we’re talking some posh cotton for a vacation splurge. And even though 200,000 bolts were vying for my attention, I did something that I never do- I bought the same fabric in two colorways – fuchsia and aqua. I just couldn’t decide which was more stunning and would make you more envious.

Although cheerful florals are rare in my stash, I have noticed that I have a particular weakness for florals without greenery. I find them somehow modern and edgy in a way that cuts the usual sweetness of floral prints. I just noticed that most of the floral prints in my stash are leaf-free.

The service here is very nice, with plenty of staff around who will gladly scurry up ladders to pull down the bolt all the way up top that you think could be pretty. And they don’t hold a grudge if it turns out that you’re not that into it. Interestingly, you pay for your purchases at this old school bank teller-esque window while a guy at another table holds your fabric hostage:

A mere two blocks from Fratelli Bassetti Tessuti, I also discovered the charming Fatucci Tessuti (try saying THAT five times fast), a much smaller store at Via dei Falegnami 63. It appears they have yet to invest in a sign.

The store is smaller, but it still boasts a lovely selection of high quality Italian fabrics. And the prices are much more splurgeable, as you can see:

Boiled wool coating at 18 Euros per meter, silks for 13 Euros per meter, etc. I love how they have it written up like a café menu. The proprietor was very helpful and I found this fabric shopping experience to be much more comfortable. Here are some of their silks and other offerings:

So what did I come out with?  Surprise, it’s another greenery-free floral cotton!

This cotton is so smooth and silky and crisp it feels like a light taffeta. Using my broken Italian (which is actually better suited to fabric shopping than any other kind of shopping in Italy due to having read quite a number of La Mia Boutique issues) I first asked whether it was rayon because it was so smooth and sheen-y. Nope, 100% Italian cotton. I was drawn to it because these “tribal” prints are so popular and modern-looking right now.  Though I don’t like referring to them as “tribal” because maybe actual tribespeople who read my blog are like, “Pfft. That’s not tribal.  That’s fake tribal.” Hello, tribal readership- thanks for visiting The Selfish Seamstress!

After returning home, I discovered as I often do that the newest fabric in the stash is the most exciting. Out came one of the sateens and Simplicity 2473 (previously made up as the English Tutor Dress). Apologies- they’re not the best photos and the skirt is a little wrinkled from wearing, which I didn’t notice until after taking the pictures:

I wanted the midriff in a black contrast fabric. I found some black suiting remnants in my stash that I think are a poly or perhaps poly rayon blend.  This seemed like a good idea because it had a little bit of a smooth sheen to it that I thought would go better with the sateen than a black wool flannel or other matte suiting.  I’m not sure about it now though because it’s also got a little bit more drape than I was expecting, which causes the midriff to sag a little bit, making it look sort of like a cummerbund.

The slim skirt variation is shaped more like a straight skirt than a pencil skirt- it doesn’t taper to the knees. So I ended up skipping the back vent as there is plenty of walking ease (plus the stretch in the fabric). I also skipped the neck and arm facings and instead went for a full lining in ivory rayon (again, wrinkled from wear- sorry):

Here’s the back view- I used an invisible zipper:

And finally, here’s this shot that I took of myself sitting – I thought it would look all elegant and dreamy, but what it really does is make my *size 5* feet look huge!

I’ve got ideas for the “tribal” print though it may be a while until I get around to it. I’m not sure what I want to do with the aqua version of the floral sateen though, as I want it to be substantially different from the fuchsia version. Maybe something full-skirted and sundressy- something to wear on my next Italian vacation.

If you’ve been thinking that the Selfish Seamstress has been a little scarce in these parts as of late, I would say that’s pretty accurate. Apparently all of the students at my university expect me to “educate” them, my research lab expects me to “mentor” them, and my colleagues expect me to “collaborate” with them. I ask you – do any of these words sound like things that Professor Selfish would actually do?? Grumble. So, things I haven’t had much time for:

  1. Sewing
  2. Reading and commenting on your sewing blogs
  3. Writing on my own sad, stagnating sewing blog

Things I do somehow manage to find time for (other than the aforementioned grudging educating, mentoring, and collaborating):

  1. Buying fabric
  2. Resenting stuff

So now that these appear to be my two main free time hobbies, I am in the fortunate position to be able to combine these two passions through my newest Selfish Seamstress Nemesis: Ann of Gorgeous Fabrics, aka “Gowachuss Nemesis,” “Fab-ri-licious Nemesis,” “Hawt Nemesis.” Ha, that’s right, Ann, I’m turning your own idiosyncratic spellings right back on you!

“Oh, Selfish!” you might protest, “Not Ann!  She’s such a positive, life-affirming soul, and gives such great, friendly customer service! How could you ever make an enemy of Ann?” Don’t let her fool you.  She made an enemy of me first. Let’s face it, the woman’s a pusher, a sneaky temptress.  She reels you in with enticing patterns and colors, and next thing you know, you’re hitting refresh on her “new arrivals” page 20, 30, 40 times a day. You’re looking at it first thing when you wake up and second-to-last thing before you go to bed (last thing, obviously, being saying a little prayer that she doesn’t post anything too amazing while you are asleep that gets all bought up before you wake up.)

Sure, I could treat this like any ordinary nemesis post and go on and on about her gorgeous silk Pippa dress, or her closetful of let-me-show-off-my-couture-sewing-skills Chanel jackets, seething with envy all the while. But I think you’ll get a better feel for just how powerful a foe this woman is if you check out her designer fabric page while simultaneously staring into the face of pure fabric-pushing evil:

That warm, dazzling smile, that chic haircut, that stunning dress … shudder. I have chilling flashbacks of typing in my billing address just looking at her. And even more dangerous – do not underestimate the ways in which Ann can mess with your head and turn you into your own worst enemy just by adding new stuff to her store. She makes me like things I didn’t think I liked (florals??), she makes me want things I didn’t think I wanted (charmeuse??), and lastly she makes me buy things that I don’t need (silk??). No, no, actually, I do need them. Like this forsythia print Milly silk charmeuse that makes one long for spring in the dead of winter. Absolute necessity and haha, sold out, suckas!

She knows what she’s doing too, that crafty, crafty Ann. I thought I had won this one.  I resisted it until it sold out. She got another bolt, and still I resisted, remembering my shame from the last time I binged on her silk supplies. And then, sensing my strength decaying, she delivered her perfectly timed shot – a sale. My resistance crumbled like a week-old cookie, and that was that. Two more yards in my shopping bag. She won. (Sigh, she won again earlier this week with another sale during which I succumbed to two pieces of black stretch leather. She knows she’s the only person on the whole internet who sells stretch leather by the piece, and she wielded that silently over my head like a giant, lethal seam ripper.)

And so, what of it then?  What did this wicked woman drive me to next?  I’ll tell you: Vogue 1236, the DKNY blouson dress.

Given how precious few my sewing hours are these days (I actually finished this a week ago, but didn’t have time to photograph and post), I figured I would opt for something very simple so that I could actually finish it. Vogue 1236 is indeed delightfully simple, but the pleats at the neckline make it far from boring, and very on-trend in the silhouette. It also doesn’t require a precise fit, which made it a lot easier to put together in my few scraps of sewing time. But, like many of the DKNY patterns, it starts at size 8, which meant I had to grade down 2 sizes, and that’s sort of time-consuming.  Plus, my choice of silk charmeuse made everything take three times as long because my clumsy fingers aren’t good at cutting, pinning, and stitching slippery, drapey fabric that changes shape when you so much as look at it. But I managed:

Argh.  I’m showing this one so you can have a better front view of the dress, but only reluctantly because I hate when photos make me look like I have an enormous balloon head, and teeny tiny freaky rubber hands! What is it about photos that make my hands so small??

I ended up using the wrong side of the fabric, because I liked the matte side better, and I thought it might be more appropriate for work, unshiny and tucked under a cardigan. The bonus is that the silky slippery side is against my skin, which feels all kinds of posh.

Other than the grading down, I didn’t make any significant changes.  I did French seams on the sides, and I used a different method of attaching the facing than the one recommended in the instructions. (The method in the instructions leaves little openings that you close with hand stitching, but I opted for my usual version that lets you do the whole thing by machine and in my opinion gives a more consistent finish.) I also omitted the pockets because having them would be a temptation to put stuff in them, which probably isn’t a great idea for a light, floaty, delicate dress.

Here’s a close up on the front pleats, which take on a nice, fluid softness rendered in the charmeuse:

So I guess something good came out of my little losing battle with Selfish Seamstress Nemesis Ann. Sure, she’s going to keep posting irresistible fabrics faster than I can sew them (especially these days) and sure, I’m going to keep buying them faster than I can sew them. But a new dress in an absolutely gowachuss forsythia print silk is still a tiny little victory that I’m going to savor. Take that, Nemesis!

Animal print is all over the place now, and as you know, The Selfish Seamstress has a bit of a weakness for the stuff.  Python is hot, leopard is a ubiquitous classic, snow leopard is waiting in the wings. Admittedly zebra and tiger have yet to pique my interest.  But what I have really wanted for the longest time is a giraffe print wrap dress.

A suitable giraffe print stretch fabric is surprisingly hard to come by.  Giraffe shows up frequently in decor fabric and quilting fabric, on velboa, and on minky. (ARGH do NOT get me started on minky and why it is that certain online fabric stores that previously sold Vera Wang and Ralph Lauren fashion fabrics at great prices appear to have switched to an all minky + cutesy cotton flannel format.  WHO is keeping the minky business afloat?  WHO is buying that much minky?  Don’t say it’s the unselfish seamstresses who sew for kids (ARGH do NOT get me started on sewing for kids…) – even if you have kids and you ugh sew for them, can you really be putting that much minky in their wardrobes?  Do they really need a whole lot of minky garments? Do your kids wear jammies all the time? Seriously?  Minky?) Umm. So, as I was saying, it took me a long time to find the right giraffe print fabric. The thing about grown-up-appropriate giraffe stretch fabric is that when you do find it, often much of the giraffiness has been abstracted away, sort of like these:

Now, there’s nothing wrong with these fabrics.  They’re perfectly lovely prints.  But this was not the effect I was going for, not the wrap dress that had been simmering in my head for more than a year.  No, I wanted something a little bit more naturalistic and detailed, something that looked as it if had been ripped right off the soft, warm neck of an innocent, adorable baby giraffe, like this one:

Or this one:

Or even this one:

You know, all the animal-y goodness with none of the cruelty. After much searching I found a suitably realistic (now sold out?) ITY jersey in shades of giraffey brown, tan, and beige at Spandex House:

I basically sat on this project for a while because I’m not fond of sewing knits. I graded the pattern down to 32, traced it, cut most of the fabric pieces and then put it aside out of a lack of desire to deal with it. And then this past weekend, a new love showed up at my door:

It was my new Babylock Evolution!  And so I replaced Dan with the new serger. And then Dan had to go out of town for a 2-day offsite at which point the Evolution, the giraffe fabric, the 9/2006 issue of Burda and I found ourselves with a few hours alone together.

(Yes, I am standing by a window in our living room that houses a small collection of carnivorous plants.  Did you expect that Selfish wouldn’t take joy in watching the helpless insects who venture into her home being viciously trapped or slowly drowned by hungry plants, leaving nothing but slowly decomposing exoskeletons?)

I have to confess that I had never used a serger before, nor watched anyone use one, so I was kind of winging it.  But the Evolution is so easy to thread and you don’t have to worry about tension adjustments that within an hour of pulling the German language manual out of the box, I was four-thread overlocking in glee:

The machine only came with black and white serging thread, so I used the black for the seams, and then used a twin stretch needle with brown thread on my Husqvarna Platinum (I still love you, sweetheart) to finish all the hems and openings.

I made some small changes to the pattern, such as making the ties narrower, removing a lot of ease from the sleeves, and omitting the facings (who does facings in jersey?) Instead I turned under the edge and used twin stitching to finish. I also shortened at the hem by four inches for an above-the-knee length.

The back could have benefited from a pinch taken out for swayback, but with this kind of lightweight stretchy fabric, I really don’t mind having a little bit of extra creasing in the lower back.

The one think that’s bugging me about this dress is that the shoulder sticks up a bit if I don’t have my arms hanging down by my sides, as you can see above. The sleeves are serged into the armscyes, so it’s not a matter of trimming seam allowance. Anyone have suggestions?  Did I need to shorten the neck-to-shoulder length a little bit? The seam doesn’t stick up if I have my arms down:

Oh, and one other thing- although I don’t *have* to pin the neck closed, I am doing it anyway, as otherwise the neck is very deep and threatens to do a little sliding door action.  The neck doesn’t gape (thanks to a SBA that I did on the pattern, and which I am thinking about rebranding as a DBA – Dainty Bust Adjustment) but it is a risky cut when not pinned, and one that I definitely couldn’t get away with wearing to work if my bust were any less dainty than it is. I’ll probably stitch a snap on.

So there you go, my first serger project and long-desired giraffe wrap dress. I must say, using the serger feels almost like cheating. The whole thing (minus pattern grading and tracing) took maybe 2 hours. I didn’t even pin most of the seams before I stitched them, and now there’s no finishing on the inside on which I am procrastinating. Just instant gratification.

And that’s right up Selfish’s alley.

UPDATE: Since there have been a couple of comments about the shoes, I thought I’d mention that they’re “Barbara” in shade rust, from Plenty by Tracy Reese. I got them over the summer and they’re fantastic- definitely some of the coolest shoes I own, and I can feel the envious stares of other women as I walk along the train platform in them. They also come in an awesome “calcium” shade, which I ruled out on account of already having another pair of wedge sandals in that color. Anyway, I just checked and they’re on sale at Endless for less than $70, which is a pretty good deal.

Ok, for those of you who drooled over the amazing Milly plaid fabric I was able to procure from Gorgeous Fabrics, I’d like to point out that a very limited quantity of another amazing Milly silk has just popped up on that great site. I’ve already laid claim to my precious two yards, so I’m graciously going to give you all permission to snap up the rest. That’s right, I’m sharing. (Yuck.) [Update: And 5 and a half hours later, this fabric is gonzo! Better luck next time, my chickadees!]

Oh, so pretty.  And it’s disappearing fast, so make haste! Look what you could make with it:

If you had that dress, wouldn’t you be making the smug “I have this dress and you don’t” face too?

And if you totally want to Single White Female me (Engaged Asian Female?), I picked up some of this silk too:

And again, no, I’m not getting paid to promote the business. It’s just really really good fabric. :)

You’re welcome.

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.

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.


As if things couldn’t get busier here in Selfish Land, the Selfish Seamstress’s parents arrived in town last night for a weeklong visit.  For those who have been keeping track, that means that both Mommy Selfish and Daddy Selfish are in town, as well as the future Selfish Mother-in-Law, and the future Selfish Father-in-Law. This is a lot of parents all at once. And not a lot of sewing time.

You may be wondering what sort of horrible selfish people must have to join forces in order to spawn something as wickedly selfish as the Selfish Seamstress. Surely many have asked, “What must her parents be like??” Well, it may surprise you to know that the Selfish Seamstress’s parents are actually remarkably generous and unselfish people. This allows them to be more easily taken advantage of by their selfish daughter. (From a genetic standpoint, it seems likely that there was some sort of selfish mutation that led to me being the way I am, as my sisters were raised in the same environment and failed to manifest or develop any particularly selfish traits.)

Case in point, they very kindly lugged a whole suitcase full of fabric on their trip.  Not the little roll-aboard kind either, but a bona fide suitcase, almost large enough to fit Selfish herself. Obviously you are not interested in the suitcase, but its contents:

Now, lest you think that my parents are actually so generous as to BUY a suitcase’s worth of fabric for me, I should state that I selected and paid for these items myself. I simply had them shipped to my parents’ house because it is cheaper to do so and I figured I could sucker them into transporting them for me. Evil plan successfully executed. And yes, before you doubt me, the Selfish Seamstress could probably have suckered her Unselfish Parents into buying her a ton of fabric, but she trusts no one’s taste but her own. And so she raided some recent fabulous sales at Fabric Mart and

Top row from right to left: 50/50 wool silk blend flannel suiting in black with a faint gray woven pinstripe; super lightweight gray tropical weight wool with a faint stripe, heathered brown tropical weight wool with a brushed finish, smooth and drapey cool brown tropical weight suiting, charcoal gray tropical suiting with a twill weave

Middle row from left to right: Rich teal wool coating (actually from The Wool Connection), deep inky blue stretch denim slightly streaky, dark gray stretch denim

Bottom row from left to right: black and white graphic print ponte di roma (this claims to be nylon, but it feels more like a poly-rayon. It’s not the nicest texture, but I fell for the print, and at $1.95 a yard, it seemed to be asking for a trip in my shopping cart), silver gray swimwear fabric (this one is wooow really shiny. Not a foil, thank goodness, but so much more reflective than I expected.)

And for all you  fabric pr0n lovers, here are so close ups, color adjusted for better accuracy:

Oh, yeah, and they also brought me shoes.

I’m not the biggest or most extreme stasher, but if you’ve been following along, you know that I can hold my own in fabric and pattern acquisition. But despite having plenty of both around the house, I often find myself running up against a bottleneck because I’m low on something else. For example, I’m forever running out of lining and interfacing and I never seem to have the right type, length, and color of zipper in the house. Frustrating, and yet I find it hard to stock up on these things strategically.

So this past weekend, I made a little trip to my local fabric store to take advantage of the 50% off sale, and came back with some of my favorites:

Covered button sets in different sizes (I love these things! I already broke into one pack for the plaid pants hat), denim needles, hook and bar sets for pants, and just because I figured I would eventually need it (and learn to use it,) clear elastic. Interfacing, lining, and zippers were also 50% off, and I picked up a few yards of lightweight fusible interfacing, but once again I stood in front of the linings and zippers with no idea of what I’d have a need for down the line.  (Doesn’t help that the linings at my local store are pretty weak and that 50% off still leaves them at $8/yard.)

Oh, and teeny tiny confession- although it had been my plan not to purchase any more fabric, I was seduced.  By a charmeuse of all things, and you know I generally have no love for slippery, silky things, either for sewing or wearing:

But ohhh the color, somewhere hovering between grass green, moss green, and olive, with a muted, subtle shine. I was sucked in by it and by the quality of it. It feels and looks like silk, but I’m pretty sure it’s not given the general caliber of my fabric store, so perhaps it’s rayon?  It doesn’t look, feel, or move like polyester, but perhaps they’ve really improved the technology for making poly charmeuse. All I know is that I’m rediscovering how little I enjoy sewing with slippy fabrics, as I make up yet another Burda blouse 119 from the February 2008 issue (still in progress):

Fortunately it requires no lining or zippers! How about you?  What notions or materials do you find yourself unable to keep in stock? What strategies do you have for making sure you’ve got a healthy supply of basic sewing necessities without having piles of stuff you’re never going to get around to using?

Remember back in the good old days before the Selfish Seamstress decided that knitting was somehow a reasonable use of her time and she actually used to sew? Remember the leopard print coat project?

Well, this is as far as I got before I put it aside. I had basted it all together, edited the fit to my liking (fitted!) and done what I thought was the final stitching and some very meticulous topstitching. All it needed was the collar, lining, finishing:

The material is so soft and lovely, the fit was looking good, and did I mention that the topstitching is meticulous? Because it is:

It’s my beloved triple straight stitch in dark brown thread. And how about this pocket?

Well, say goodbye to all of it, girls, because I’m taking the whole thing apart. Yep, I was all satisfied and on the brink of having a nice, soft, new leopard jacket, when I stumbled upon my old inspiration photo for this garment:

Sigh.  It has such body to it, such crispness. I’ve decided that I have to at least aim for a little more crispness, and soft simply won’t do. I had already lined the front with Armo-Weft. For some reason a salesperson in Germany (where I first started sewing for real) recommended Armo-Weft as a good interfacing for coats and jackets and as a result I use it often, but I think I’m going to stop as it really doesn’t seem to offer any body at all. The plan now is to interface the whole body of the coat with a heavyweight sew-in interfacing, the sleeves maybe in muslin. The Selfish Seamstress is never satisfied.

Of course, my local fabric store, which gets away with ridiculous prices and “eh” quality because it’s practically the only game in town, doesn’t sell interfacing that is wider than 22″. Seriously! So I had to buy six yards of it for an above-the-knee jacket! And of course, narrow as it is, it’s still not 1/3 the price of 60″ interfacing either. The salesperson explained, “Well, people only use interfacing for collars, so you don’t need it to be wide.” Whatever. How’s that polyester glitter organza bridesmaid dress coming along?  What’s that you say?  You finished it and now you’re working on homemade Snuggies?  How fun!

But don’t think my snobby contempt for the store kept me from a couple of fun new acquisitions. The Selfish Seamstress doesn’t really have principles and isn’t above hypocrisy.

The one on the left is another (!) leopard print, this in a very matte slightly stretch satin in a silvery shade (not metallic). I want to do something very va-va-voomy with it, or at least as close to va-va-voom as one can get without much natural va or voom. Wiggle skirt or perhaps I’ll finally get around to Vogue 1117. The one on the right is an oversize navy and white polka dot (with a quarter there for comparison.) It’s on the heavy side, like duck, and it’s all cotton with a nifty rib texture:

This one is definitely destined for a skirt, maybe a pencil or a BurdaStyle Marie, though I suspect that shape would have a foreshortening effect on me. But I love the idea of a skirt with giant navy polka dots, paired with a dainty white blouse and red accessories.

Oh, and in blocking news, Sasa has now discovered the left side of the Swallowtail Shawl:

And so I pick up my knitting needles for the first time in months and months. I don’t think I’ve knitted anything since finishing a Ticuna scarf for Dan last summer. I bought two hanks of Berrocco Ultra Alpaca Fine in a beautiful shade of rich peacock blue, which I’m going to knit up into a Swallowtail Shawl (design by Evelyn Clark) for my mother. I think she’s going to love this color.  My camera phone does not do it justice:

Here’s the swatch from the Berrocco site, which is a smidge greener than the yarn I actually have in front of me:

As with sewing, my knitting skills are decidedly intermediate. But the Swallowtail is a relatively easy knit as far as lace shawls go. And it has added benefits for other members of the household as well. As you can see, Sasa was very much on board the last time I knit a Swallowtail for my sister. She especially enjoyed the blocking process:

I expect that things will go similarly this time. Fortunately, my mother is used to living with a certain amount of cat hair, and I do not think a little more will deter her from wearing it.

After all, isn’t the best way to follow up an enormous pattern haul a trip to the fabric store to take advantage of the $1.99 Simplicity and New Look sale? Okay, the truth is that I would have let this one slip by as I wasn’t yearning for anything in particular from Simplicity, and quite frankly I *never* yearn for anything from New Look. Until this morning.

I was catching up on my blog reading, on which I had fallen sadly behind while toiling and shopping in Helsinki, and I discovered Amanda’s latest and greatest Simplicity 6909. And you know how I feel about a feminine dress rendered in menswear. Her version is chic and adorable, and I’m going to need my own for work. I might have put it off, as I’ve got other projects lined up for now, but when I checked out the pattern, I discovered this view:

And that is pretty much what I was envisioning for my new houndstooth that I picked up at Eurokangas. I was going to draft it myself, but I’d rather pay New Look $1.99 to do it for me.

I’ve only ever bought one New Look pattern in the past, and that probably over a decade ago. For some reason, I’m never drawn to them. But I think this may be because I have a hard time getting over the way they are styled on the envelopes. I’m often not imaginative enough to get over my initial impressions of them based on the photos, which is too bad because once I really look at the drawings, a lot of their stuff is cute with lots of potential. But I’m often not drawn in enough to take a close look at the drawings. Today I picked out three New Look patterns:

Those are 6824, 6587, and 6909. (Again, crappy cameraphone photos, sorry!).  My point about the styling is that I find that a LOT of the New Look pattern envelopes really don’t do a good job of showing off the versatility of the patterns. Instead they tend to stick to a very “Sunday Best” aesthetic of pastels and bedsheet florals for a look that emphasizes “pretty” and de-emphasizes “stylish.” I have nothing against pretty, mind you. Nor do I have anything against pastels or florals, both of which can be used to stylish effect. But somehow this aesthetic repeated so frequently and amply throughout New Look’s catalogue really make me think of an outdated home sewn-looking wardrobe. Maybe this is the market that New Look is after, and perhaps there is a vast sewing audience whose sewing aim is a closet full of garden party dresses and the pretty floral skirts of your favorite kindergarten teacher, and for whom “chic” is not of interest. But given how versatile these patterns are it’d be nice if they did a better  job showing off potential variety that they offer. You know, for the unimaginative people like me :) As it is, I find that only a handful of the photos and illustrations of the New Look envelopes look stylish (6909 is one notable exception, though I still take issue with the boxy fit of the sample), even though a lot of the patterns could probably be made into very stylish garments.

As a counterpoint, these are two Simplicity patterns that I picked up (What. I know I said there wasn’t anything I really wanted, but I was there and they were on sale, and they are cute. Whatever.) 2403 and 2648:

In terms of the patterns, these dresses aren’t that different in character than the New Look ones, but they are rendered in fabrics that make them look much more chic (and, in my opinion, just as pretty.) Look how much less home-sewn this dress looks. It could have walked out of Zara or Banana Republic:

Anyway, I don’t expect that New Look will be changing their stylists anytime soon, and if they’ve been around this long, then they must be getting through to the right people. I guess it’s up to me to develop the ability to look past the cutesy fabrics and see the potential for chic myself.

Or I can just keep relying on other bloggers like Amanda to make chic dresses so I can steal their ideas ;)

Well, it’s my last night here in Finland, and I’m off to the airport bright and early tomorrow. I’ve got another long time in transit ahead of me which means I’ll have to deny you my cheery and lovable presence for another day or so. But take heart, dear readers, because I’m sending you sunshine in the form of these happy yellow and white d’Orsay pumps that called out to me from a shop window as I walked by.

“Selfish!” they called, “Selfish, don’t you want to put us in your suitcase and take us home? We’re size 35, only 10 Euros, and such a lovely shade of daffodil yellow!” At least this is what I think they said, given that my Finnish is rather lacking. My ability to rationalize a purchase, however, is quite extraordinary.

See?  Don’t those make you smile and cheer you right up?  What?  Oh, they make you jealous instead? Oopsie!

My meetings ended early for me, which meant more time for consumption, which society has trained me to believe makes me happy, and for which I begrudge society NOTHING. After I amassed a small boatload of gifts for Dan (can’t show you because he occasionally stops by here), it was time to hit up Stockmann to check out the Marimekko fabrics (again, pardon crappy camerphone pics):

As is often the case when I ponder Marimekko fabrics, I came away empty-handed. I can just never make it work.  Many of the fabrics are better suited for home dec because of their weight and drape, and when they are light enough to be reasonable for clothing, the scale of the print is often too large to work. I’m sure one could make it work, but alas, I haven’t got that kind of design skill. I pondered that gingko print, but it would have been hard to fit a whole gingko leaf onto a garment. I also pondered that blue mini Unikko print on the bottom, but it’s laminated. I thought about a raincoat, but it felt better suited for an outdoor tablecloth. And at Marimekko prices, I decided it wasn’t worth it to buy some if I wasn’t sure how I’d be able to make it work.

Needless to say, I ended up being pretty glad I saved my Euros once I got back to Eurokangas. This store is all about top quality, and you’ll pay for it too:

Ooh, there’s my thumb! Here are some lovely ruby toned fabrics, including the softest silk charmeuse:

As you can see, it’s going for a steep 69 Euros per meter, and there are far more spendy options as well. I spent a long time pondering the many Burberry plaid silk shantungs, thinking that they would be wonderful lining for a classic trench:

Until I realized that I couldn’t really spend $150 to line a coat because I’m not married to a prince or a Trump. But it wasn’t all insane.  In addition to reasonably priced knits and cottons, there are also designer remnants to be had by the kilo!

Of course, that prince would come in handy in the event that you actually want to buy a full kilo of designer remnants for 300 Euros.

From the not-designer remnant pile, I snagged about 2.5 meters of very lovely quality spring green seersucker. Perhaps not the most interesting, but I’d been wanting green seersucker anyway.  Bad photo of said seersucker:

But my real splurge was this couture houndstooth that had drawn my eye almost immediately, but that I had first dismissed as being rather ridiculously priced for fabric without any cashmere in it:

At some point during my visit though, I picked it up and held it to my face in front of the mirror and I just felt so PRETTY. Not wise, mind you, but pretty. And the selvedge delights me:

I know you’re probably not seeing it from these photos and perhaps even shaking your head. But trust me- you’ll see once it’s made up :) PRETTY.

My body has no idea what time it is. The time change caused me to lose an entire day, and the near round-the-clock Finnish sunlight is also throwing me.  I don’t know if I slept an entire day or haven’t slept in a day and a half. All I know is that it doesn’t matter. Why?  Because of this sweet haul (Please pardon the cameraphone photos):

Whoo-hoo! Patrones 291 , May La Mia Boutique, June Burda, and the Spring/Summer Ottobre. (I refrained from buying the May Burda, Burda Easy Fashion, Diana, Verena, ONLine, and Filati. See?  That’s what we call restraint, kids.)

First up, LMB. Sometimes LMB is a little too out there for me, but this issue has lots of stuff that I like:

Ottobre is never really my style, but I really like this top:

And this pretty vintage-inspired coat:

And you’ll notice that they also have a feature which is based on American classic cinema, with that “can’t put your finger on it but something’s not quite right” flavor of awkwardness that comes from a not-quite-native fluency in American pop culture. Above we have our good friends Giles Davis and Minnie Holiday in “Rue de Jazz” featuring the “Silky Smooths!”

And the timeless Suri Loren in “A Trip to Remember”:

And of course, who could forget Gerry Cooper’s and Marjorie Kelly’s star turns in the sultry classic, “Orchard of Passion”?? Only ol’ Gerry could make holding a peach look so steamy:

But the definite star of the bunch is Patrones. I was a little disappointed at first to find that I had arrived in time for one of Patrones’s “Fiesta” issues. Although the clothes are usually pretty, my need for evening dresses is low and my desire to sew them is even lower, so I usually don’t have much use for the (often slim) Fiesta issues. But wow, check out some of these lovelies, which could easily be adapted into less formal fabrics for knockout office wear or dinner out:

Love it!

As for Burda, I think we’ve done a thorough job covering the June issue. But I wanted to share with you a terrifying tidbit in the July preview that almost escaped my notice. Remember when I revisited a pair of Burda issues from 1981?  I prophesied that the trend of belted athletic shorts would reappear in this year’s July issue. Well, it turns out I was mistaken- the frightening 1981 trend that is returning just in time for July is…

Sleeve ruffles.  ACK!!!

I would say it’s going to give me nightmares, except that I think my jetlag will keep me wide awake.  Miss you guys!

Back in college when the Selfish Seamstress was a mere Selfish Regular Person, or perhaps more accurately an Avidly Unselfish Crocheter, she experienced a pair of rather traumatic back-to-back events. She was minding her own business at her academically rigorous liberal arts ivory tower in the Northeast when she received two extremely disturbing pieces of post in her campus mailbox: the J.Crew catalogue and the Victoria’s Secret catalogue. You see, younger readers, it was a simpler time when the interwebs was just a nascent technology, and online shopping was a rose just beginning to bud. We would receive these “catalogues” made of “paper” in the “mail” and then promptly run off to our dorm rooms to our Apple computers (think like an iPhone but with wires and much bigger and you couldn’t take it around with you) and order things on sale online before they ran out of our sizes. We thought we were pretty fancy, snapping things up before the old people who still relied on the paper order forms in the catalogues.

Wherein lay the trauma, you ask? Well, in this particular year, within the span of a few short months, J. Crew stopped selling size 5 shoes (the only place she could reliably find them at the time), and Victoria’s Secret discontinued the only bra she had ever found that actually fit, the racerback Second Skin Satin. Between daily dance classes, a teenage metabolism, and (gasp!) cheerleading practice, she had quite the pixie-ish figure at the time, so a fitting bra was no common occurrence. Needless to say, it was shaping up to be a tragedy, and the Avidly Unselfish Crocheter feared entering her senior year barefoot and unsupported. She managed to find the occasional size 5 at Nine West and padded her toes with tissues when necessary. She prudently bought up about a dozen of the treasured VS bras on clearance and rationed them out little by little over the next ten years or so.

Fast forward to now. The addition of pounds and years has done nothing to enhance her bustline, but the flourishing of interweb shopping has made the finding of tiny shoes much easier. As for bras, the 21st century has been accompanied by the ever increasing ubiquity of H&M, which, for all of its faults, recognizes the need for a true A-cup, and is even so understanding as to provide it in colors other than white and beige.

And still, much like the 20-year old who survived these traumas, the Selfish Seamstress has the attention span of a fly. Her obsession over shoemaking is simmering on the back burner while she fixates on the idea of making her own bras (by most accounts an achievable feat with some patience). And oh how the interwebs makes it easy for her to plunge right in, despite a bunch of other projects that are still waiting for hems and zippers!

I just clicked the “Submit Order” button on the Elan B540 bra pattern (pictured above) as well as a Sew Sassy kit (actually for a different bra, but it looks like it contains materials that could be used for the B540). Yes, the kit only comes in white, but I figured it would be a good idea to get a starter pack to try it out before investing in prettier choices that will likely have to be purchased in larger quantities. Like these:

And who knows?  If all goes well, I may have to indulge in some of these magnificent (and surprisingly reasonably priced) lingerie kits from Kantje Boord. Unless I get distracted by something else first, that is.

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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