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If I didn’t scare you sufficiently with my last post, allow me to repeat myself:


As there was some ambiguity, I should state that I do not plan to crochet curtains (my wrist would not stand for that), but rather to sew them. Some of you have suggested that I’ve fallen off the edge of Boringville and into the depths of Lake Snoozington with this latest planned endeavor, but believe me, the cunning Selfish Seamstress is too sharp to let that happen. You know how I feel about home dec sewing, but that doesn’t mean I can’t use still it to incite envy among the sewing masses, and I plan to. With fifteen yards of blue and ivory striped silk dupioni that I hope will arrive at my door any day now.

Here are my inspiration photos:

Okay, that last one isn’t blue and white, but I like the pooling at the bottom. Suddenly curtains don’t look so boring, right?

Dan and I, after having bounced from cookie cutter shoebox to cookie cutter shoebox all over the globe for years, have finally signed a lease on a grown-up apartment- a whole floor of a rather lovely 1894 villa, complete with original parquet floors, Art Nouveau moldings on the ceilings, wainscoting for miles, our own garden with an apricot tree, climbing roses, and grapevines (prepare for yawn-inducing posts about gardening, readers), and giant windows and glass French doors to the garden, all of which will need CURTAINS. (An apartment that didn’t come with ugly Venetian blinds already installed in each window? Who knew??)

The fifteen yards of silk should be good for at least two windows (4 panels of 50″ x 108″ plus extra for hems, tiebacks, and matching cushions if necessary), and if all goes well, I’ll do the rest of the windows in other colors of silk or perhaps in cotton velvet. I plan on lining the silk with cream cotton muslin to prevent sun rot, doing a simple pole pocket top (not the biggest fan of pinched pleats at the moment) and using drapery rings to hang them from the curtain rods (not the biggest fan of pole pockets used as pole pockets at the moment.) And I’ll likely eschew the frou-frou tassel tiebacks that I see with most silk drapes in favor of a more tailored-looking self fabric sash.

And one more great thing about the grown-up apartment… finally– my own sewing room! Well, okay, it will double as a guest room, but given the unpopularity and extraordinary unlikeable-ness of the Selfish Seamstress, you can imagine how infrequently she has visitors. If you do insist on visiting, you’ll have to content yourself with unrolling a sleeping bag under my sewing table. Voilà! Welcome to the guest room. Don’t touch my foot pedal.

Well, based on my recent query as to what to blog about while new sewing projects go on hiatus, the response seemed to be an overwhelming, “Blather on about whatever!” And so I shall, time permitting. You may be sorry later!

I’m thinking about what knitting project to take on (there are many long plane rides in my immediate future, and I will be separated from my beloved Husqvarna for weeks- agony!) I’ve decided that I’m going to try my hand at what is sure  to be the controversial Carlos Miele sweater, pictured above, assuming I can find appropriate yarn for it that doesn’t break the bank. Love it or hate it?  Let the debate begin!

Here’s what it looks like in context:

I’m already picturing it with my Vogue 1051 alice + olivia pants!

I’m not a great knitter. My skills are intermediate at best and they certainly haven’t improved since I realized how much faster sewing is in terms of time to a lovely completed garment. And I think I’ve learned that it’s best to stick with sleeveless sweater patterns, or at least patterns for which the sleeves are not knit separately, because once I knit the first sleeve, I’m often too bored to knit the second sleeve. This would explain why I have so many unfinished one-sleeve sweaters.  (A corollary to this would explain the existence of single hand-knit socks lying around my house.) In truth I’m a much more skilled crocheter, having been at it for 27 years now, but I rarely find patterns for crocheted garments that I really like and my house is not in need of doilies at this time.

For those of you who do like the Carlos Miele sweater and are capable of deciphering German knitting patterns, you can find the pattern available for free download from Für Sie magazine.

It’s OVER!!! I sent in the BurdaStyle book coat yesterday after too many late nights of tearful sewing, too many fun outings missed on account of grudging, miserable sewing, too many other things I could have been making and didn’t, and far, FAR too much whining about it all! Haha, you think I’m done whining? I’m not.

In the end I would have to say that the coat is neither beautiful nor well made. It is passable. But as the deadline grew tight, the quality of the workmanship on this decidedly work-intensive project became increasingly more “brute force” and with rapidly diminishing finesse. My general high-and-mighty philosophy of, “If you’re not going to sew it well, don’t bother sewing it at all” disintegrated quickly under the weight of a deadline and the drudgery of a project I did not enjoy. There are known puckers. There are corners cut. And after spending waaaaay too much time on this coat in the last two weeks and dropping quite a bit of my own money and digging into my personal stash for materials, I have taught myself my own lesson about S.W.A.G. sewing once again. BurdaStyle unfortunately did not cover the cost of linings, trims, and notions, which I imagine wasn’t much of a big deal except for the people working on the coat project, but it did end up being a little more than I wanted to put into it. Plus due to the necessity of a last-minute redesign because of a supplies miscommunication, I made an executive decision to ditch the fashion fabric that BurdaStyle picked out (sorry, BS! Thanks for sending it though! You can have it back if you want!) and sent to me because it wasn’t going to work and ended up using my own fabric instead. So suffice it to say, by the end I couldn’t bring myself to invest any more time or resources in dainty details or hand finishing. It’s okay though.  Not gorgeous, but hellz, it’s still a handmade freakin’ coat.

I can’t show you pictures of the final product, but I’ll show you something I bought from the thrift shop so I could cut it up to make part of the coat:

It’s a big ol’ fake fur coat!  And the best part of it (because the fur itself feels kind of heinous in the way that fake fur does after it’s been around the block a couple of times) is the label!

Oh yes this is a genuine Tissavel from France.  Originally purchased at Sears, which some of you may know better as “The Fashion Place” or “Place de la Mode.” I think from now on I’m going to refer to Sears as Place de la Mode (with my best French accent, bien sûr!) as in, “Darling, I think this weekend we’ll need to make a little jaunt over to Place de la Mode. I am just aching for some snow tires and a new Tissavel.”

Back on subject- I’m sort of excited for the book to come out, but if I never see the coat again, so much the better! It’s not my style anyway so I probably won’t wear it even if it does get sent back to me eventually. But I’m hoping that the good folks at BurdaStyle pull out all of their art and styling big guns for the photoshoot. They do have fantastic stylists. Under the right conditions and on the appropriately gamine-like model, I think the coat could be made to look chic. Those conditions, however are not “on the Selfish Seamstress, walking around on the street.” But whatever, done! Done, done, done! Out of sight, out of mind, which means I can stop sewing it and stop whining about it, and finally get back to sewing other things and whining about other things!

Permit me to get started right now with me me me me ME ME ME me me me ME! Me me me leopard pencil skirt me me ME TWEED SKIRT SUIT me me ME ME me me new sleeves on blouses me ME me ME me ME flowy pants me me me me me me me me me me black wool trench coat me me ME ME me finish leopard jacket me ME me ME me ME me ME me ME tux dress in plum and gray me me ME me me ME plaid wool jacket me me ME ME ME me me me ME ME ME me me me mod stewardess dress ME me ME ME me me me me me me me me houndstooth sheath dress me ME ME me clown costume just kidding ME ME me me ME me ME me ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME

Nope. BurdaStyle book coat is not done yet.  It’s close though.  I should be able to put it in the mail tomorrow.  Maybe. I couldn’t help it- it was such a nice day yesterday that Dan and I decided we needed to go wading in the river. And to the Asian supermarket to buy sweets. Don’t tell me I don’t have my priorities straight. (Plus I actually had some work work to do, like for my job.)

More importantly, let’s talk about clothes. I’ve always had a bit of a love affair with black with white accents, or white with black accents, à la my Orwell Coat or my English Tutor dress. And when I saw Gertie’s post this morning on her latest adorable dress (actually navy and white), it reminded me of this black and white dress that I discovered in of my closet some weeks ago. I purchased this stretchy little number about ten years ago:

I had a little flash of nostalgia for my early 20s after pulling it out and thought to myself that I ought to make a new version of this dress at a more age-appropriate length and with nicer fabric. But then I put it on and looked in the mirror and was all like, “Hey there, leggy 20s, where’d you come from? What are you up to tonight? Just hanging out in front of the mirror?  That’s cool.  Me too. I guess I’ll see you there then.”

So what do you think?  Can I still get away with this?  (Not for work, obviously- I may still make a version inspired by this better suited for the office.) It’s a bit dated in that sort of Friends-era Jennifer Aniston miniskirt way, and I’m really not concerned about whether it is “immodest” to show so much leg in public (Interesting discussions about that going on though), but more whether this screams 1999, or comes off as “trying too hard to be 24” (which I am so not!) So, to wear or not to wear? And if to remake instead or as well, what to do different?

Slow progress is being made on the BurdaStyle book coat– I managed to cut out all of the outer pieces yesterday and get started on assembling it. But as I mentioned previously, the fact that this feels like S.W.A.G. sewing rather than selfish sewing means I’m not particularly driven and am dragging my feet. (This, incidentally, is through no fault of the BurdaStyle folks who have been great, or the project, which is a fantastic opportunity. Rather it is the direct result of the Selfish Seamstress having a particular tendency towards whining and self pity, even when they are not appropriate to the situation.)

As is often the case when I get tied up in any sort of S.W.A.G.-ish sewing, I start fantasizing about all the stuff I would make were I not S.W.A.G.-bound. And this dress from Burda 12.2006 is my latest obsession:

I’m sure the first time I saw this dress, I had a serious WTF moment. It’s so over the top, it’s so tacky, it’s so ridiculous. Dare I say… ugly? Oh, the black moiré (when was the last time you saw someone wearing moiré in real life?? I’ll tell you the last time I saw that- it was on the gown of one of the parents in the party scene when I was in a production of the Nutcracker at the age of 10. I’m pretty sure I thought to myself, “Man, I can’t wait until I’m a grownup and can wear moiré too!”). Also, the iridescent purple bow, the high ruffled collar, contrast bib, and sleeveless bodice. All together, it’s the female equivalent of a Chippendale dancer costume, or perhaps the uniform of a cocktail waitress at a seedy casino in the 1980s. Who on earth would wear such a dress? Well, as it turns out, I am strongly suspecting that I would, which is why I went to some lengths recently to acquire the 12.2006 issue of Burda from German eBay. Just not quite like this.

I think tux styling is a bit like animal print, ruffles, or metallic leather. A hint of it can be elegant and ladylike. Push it a little further and it can be edgy and daring. But push it a little bit further over that very thin line and suddenly you’re splat in the middle of Tackyland, which is where I believe the moiré dress above resides. TOO TUX-Y. (Side note, wouldn’t Tackyland be the greatest amusement park ever?)

But look what you get when you strip down some of the bells and whistles and craziness, and stop trying to force it to be a lady tux, and instead just a pretty dress with some tux-inspired details:

Lots and lots of cute potential! Imagine it all in one color- maybe a lightweight brown sateen (sooo Zara) or a pale yellow lawn. Or navy with tiny white pin dots and white accents. Or the whole top in ecru with the waistband and skirt in black. Or plum batiste on top with businesslike gray wool for the skirt?

Myself, I’m thinking the whole dress in white poplin with the tie at the neck, buttons, and waistband in black, minus the bow at the waist. After all, I’m not a 10-year old in the Nutcracker anymore. Or a Chippendale dancer.

By now it’s probably old news to many of you that BurdaStyle is coming out with a book that will feature some new BurdaStyle patterns and variations on them created by BurdaStyle members. I was invited to submit a top-secret design, so I sketched up a variation on the coat design they sent me, without entirely thinking through the consequences. And then the actually chose my design, which I was not expecting. At first I was like, “Sweet! My sewing is going to be in a book!” And then suddenly, I was like, “Oh crap, I have to sew a whole coat in a couple of weeks.”

I’m very proud to be a part of this great project and this is a very cool opportunity. But a piece of me is pretty apprehensive as well about being able to get this finished and having it turn out ok. I should have thought this through beforehand! I rarely ever sew on a deadline and I’ve got a busy month ahead of me. I haven’t got all the materials I need for the coat yet, and I’m not sure where to get them, and the fabric I received from BurdaStyle is not exactly what I was picturing for the design, though it is very pretty. It’s not entirely free labor- in addition to the glory, the designers also get the garments back to keep after the BurdaStyle folks shoot them on models for the book. But they said to expect about an 18-month turnaround time, which means it will be long enough before I get the coat back that for now it feels like I won’t be sewing it for myself, but for someone else. And you know how that usually goes for the Selfish Seamstress ;)

Wish me luck!

The silver leopard print satin that I used to make the now the destined-for-my-mother’s-closet Drama Queen Jacket (McCall 5487) was actually purchased without a plan in mind. I generally try not to purchase fabric without having a specific garment for it, as I try to keep my stash relatively small (though it has been growing a bit in recent months, to my chagrin.) But in a way, leopard is its own kind of neutral and makes sense for a variety of garments, so there was no doubt that I’d find a use for it. And I guess I did.

But prior to deciding on the jacket I was playing with the fabric in front of the mirror, and I wrapped it around my waist and turned to Dan and said, “How about a pencil skirt?” He looked at me and his eyes lit up and he exclaimed, “Oooh, cute!” And while I’m not generally the type to make an effort to cater to my guy’s taste in matters of dress, the delighted expression on his face sort of sealed the deal. Plus it did look pretty cute as a quasi-skirt. I did all kinds of interesting fabric acrobatics when cutting out the McCall jacket to make sure there would be enough left over for something like this J.Crew skirt ($138 and sold out!):

Don’t worry, I won’t style it like this. I will not tuck a tie into my waistband and I will (probably) brush my hair. Sloppy-from-the-waist-up is a look that models can pull off and make it look intentional and chic. On me, it’d just look, well, sloppy from the waist up :)

One of my prolific sewing-blogging heroes has been whipping up adorable pencil skirts right and left lately and doing plenty of legwork on pattern and style reconnaissance. Unfortunately for me, I don’t have any of those patterns, and I decided that I should just put on my big girl panties and draft one already. I mean really. A pencil skirt is practically a sloper, and I already have one of those. And what’s the point of having taken drafting classes if you can’t be bothered to flex your drafting muscles every so often? But the thought of pulling out the craft paper was somehow so daunting for your very lazy, Selfish Seamstress.

So I went with the easy route:

That’s the high-waisted pencil skirt #138 from Burda’s main collection, I think only available as a download.  It was on sale for 99 cents (lots of their downloads are on sale at the moment on the German website – just be sure you’re comfortable navigating the German online ordering system if you want something because I am not going to hold your hand and translate!), and that seemed to be a fair price for some continued laziness. Here’s their finished garment photo:

As you can see, the model and I have practically the same figure, so I think this should work out just fine.

Oh my goodness! Dear readers, thank you for your outpouring of warmth and congratulations over my recent engagement-inducing puppetmastery of Dan via sewing. Hopefully Dan will not realize how he has been manipulated into matrimonial subservience until it is much too late. And I am so very happy to receive all of your warm wishes and words, I can’t even express it. The Selfish Seamstress is at a loss for words. All I can say is, thank you, June, Cidell, Bernadette, Koritsimou, lunatepetal, Amber, Amanda S., Rachel, Daci, Hashi, sa, Auntie Allyn, Brooke, Jan, jen, Elizabeth, sandoz18, Karen, Rachelle, Karin, Kathleen, nettie, Colleen P., Sewing Sue, Tasia, Belly, a peppermint penguin, Christy, Rachel, Debi, Shelley, Leigh, Susan Davis, MakingTime, wendy, Claudine, CGCouture, HollyS, Nikole, Katie, Trisha, Meredith P,  NT, Dora, Peter, wan-nabe, Cindy, Angie, Megan, Lee, meli88a, Trena, LindaC, reilly, Beangirl, Susan, Margaret, bookishbella, Len, Angela, Tracy, Uta, Nancy K, Debbie Cook, earthanddust, Karin (the Mrs.), Alison, Stephanie, Crystal, CarmencitaB, girdtmom, Stef, JillyB, Jenny, D, Venus de Hilo, Isaspacey, Plummy, Kim, Lee-Ann Galway, Vicki, Samina, Eloise, Janice, Paula Lemos, BeckyMc, Sue Prichard, beth, Silvia, Sherry, Daisy, Sue, Karen, Stephanie, Jessica, becky, Elly, Remnant, yazmins, dana, yoshimi, Shirley, Joanna, Ann’s Fashion Studio, Vivienne, Jean S, AllisonC, AlewivesGirl, Amy, Nikki, Victoria Baylor, Noile, A Sewn Wardrobe, AmyG, Reethi, Karen, Andrea, Whitney, Jennifer Susannah (the other one), Lise, Vicky, Jane, Henriette, Shannon, jenny, seemane, Becky, Renee, Vicky@coffeeandmilkies, Laurie, Sara, Erin, Benny the Bunny, Melissa, Pattie, line3arossa, Sarah M., various Anonymous commenters, well-wishing lurkers, and anyone else I might have missed. I would hug you all personally if I could! And this coming from the Selfish Seamstress, who has NEVER hugged anyone in her entire life except her cat.

Just a thing or two about the ring since there were so many comments about how interesting and unusual it is. Don’t worry, I am not becoming one of those engaged people who blabs and blabs about her ring.  Just this once. Dan picked the ring out from a company called greenKarat, which sells ethically and environmentally conscious jewelry, relying on recycled materials and conflict-free stones. The ring itself is made from reclaimed platinum and set with a lab created emerald (i.e. not mined.) I adore it, not least of all because he put so much thought into finding a ring that I would love to wear and that works well with our values. I’ve never been much of a jewelry person and would probably not have minded if the ring had come from a cereal box, as long as it was from Dan, so the simplicity of it suits me well. Not that I’m against big fancy engagement rings in general- I’m always thrilled when friends of mine who really know how to appreciate a giant rock get the ring of their dreams. Such a gem would be wasted on me though. Had Dan presented The Selfish Seamstress with such a ring, her unappreciative and ungrateful response would most likely have been something like, “Seriously?  What were you thinking? We could have put all that money towards our retirement!”** Anyway, check out greenKarat if you’re on the market for some new (old) sparkly stuff.

As for the dress, I do plan to make my own, but before you get your hearts all a-flutter, I should burst your bubble by making the disclaimer that we intend to have a very simple, very casual wedding. (We’re hoping for a simple Jewish ceremony followed by a big backyard barbecue with Filipino food, but it’s all still barely in the planning stages and neither of us seems to have access to a big backyard.) I apologize to those of you who were hoping for a fairy tale wedding gown sewing blog saga, complete with tutorials on how to construct a cathedral train or hand bead Alençon lace with individual Swarovski crystals, but right now my dream dress comes down just past my knee and is made of plain white cotton voile.  The Selfish Seamstress intends to be a dull bride, indeed! Don’t worry though- there may be a fun tulle underskirt hidden somewhere. (Probably under the skirt.)

Of course, I’m looking to all the usual sources for inspiration, like Audrey in Funny Face:

And Grace.  No, not that Grace Kelly wedding dress, but this other one from High Society:

I’m not planning on copying either of these wholesale (definitely can’t pull off those balloon sleeves), but I do hope to capture something of their flavor. Not thinking too hard about it just yet though :)

As for the bridesmaids, my sisters have already been informed that they can wear whatever they want, new or from their closets, matching not required. (Do I even have to state that I will not be sewing dresses for them?) And my other attendant will probably be a guy, which means boring clothes. Leave it to the Selfish Seamstress to suck all the fun and pomp out of a wedding, right??

** “our retirement” is the phrase the Selfish Seamstress would have used in this situation, but in her head what she really would mean is “my Bernina 830.”

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.

My Montreal trip, despite not being a sewing-centric voyage, turned out to be quite the sewing windfall. Not only did I come back with a beautiful satin, a stunning leopard print, and a funny fabric story, I think I may have also found the inspiration necessary to rescue my boring Swiss dot JJ blouse, which is still hanging unfinished on a hanger.

So I’m in my hotel room in Montreal, using the bathroom and flipping through one of those upscale magazines that are nothing but glossy advertisements for jewelry stores and restaurants in the area, probably called “Bon Vivant Montreal” or something cheesy like that. Oh what.  What. So I was reading on the toilet.  I was on vacation already, stop looking at me like that. Anyway, it was a fancy magazine, so that makes it classy. Sure, like you never do it. If they didn’t want you to do it, then they wouldn’t put fancy magazines in the bathroom. So obviously that’s what it’s there for.  Hotel sanctioned toilet reading. Whatever. Anyway you can’t make me feel bad about it because if I hadn’t done it, I would never have stumbled upon this ad:

Yes, yes, yes!  Is that black trim not exactly what I need to take my JJ from blah to badass?? Here’s a quick reminder of the JJ pattern, which I was currently rendering in white Swiss dot without the ruffles. To clarify, the pattern itself and design are not boring, just my version.

Incidentally, what sort of machine is she working on in that ad?  I realize I grew up more in the computer era than the typewriter era, but I was under the impression that typewriters took individual sheets of paper, not long rolls of paper like an adding machine- did that thing she’s working on ever really exist, or is this an indication that some 20-something year old kid designed this ad based on his/her misconceptions of the technologies of the past?  Whatever, let’s get a close-up of that blouse, ok?

Oh yes.  Sassy, sassy, sassy, and since I haven’t sewn anything on my blouse except the princess, side, and shoulder seams so far, I don’t have to unstitch anything to get started on Plan B! (I’ll skip the trim on the shoulders.) I guess I’ll be putting a ruffle on after all!

I haven’t done much bias binding, but I get the impression that the usual Wrights packaged tape might be a little clunky for this. What would you recommend instead?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Selfish Seamstress loves exploiting her readership as an idea factory. And you’ve all been bending to her wishes so well in the last few days that she’s going to issue yet another challenge.

Now that she’s on the verge of wrapping up one cheerful print project, she’s contemplating future such conquests. And she could use some design help. What, dear readers, would you do with this?

For those of you who hate it, the incorrect answer is, “Burn it.”  For those of you who love it, another incorrect answer is, “Send it to me!” Don’t be silly.

I’ve had this bold vintage border print cotton in my stash for a while and I adore it, but I’m always at a loss as to what to do with it. It’s a little bit 70’s, a little bit art nouveau, ever so slightly kimono-flavored, and so very different from anything else I have. The fabric is fairly lightweight, but not floaty, and  it’s about 45″ wide.  I don’t have too much of it, maybe 2 yards or so.

So what should I do with this? The pattern is so huge that I want to avoid too much piecing, and of course I want to preserve the border-y-ness of it. A maxi-dress is the obvious choice, but I’m not so keen on hippie-style dresses for myself. Any ideas, my clever readers? Patterns or styles that jump to mind?

[UPDATE: Oooh, the suggestions are rolling in fast- thanks!  One clarification though- the picture above shows the whole width of the fabric- it’s not folded lengthwise.  The white is only on one edge. So something like a knee-length skirt or sheath (especially on my short little legs) would be almost ALL border and barely incorporate the blue, even if I cut off most of the white. Sorry, I should have wrapped the fabric around myself to give you an idea of just how deep that floral border is (and I think Katherine is right- now that I look at it, they do kind of look like nasturtiums, not poppies!)]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve been waffling on what to work on next, tracing out the odd pattern and then deciding I don’t really want to work on it right now. Last night, I think I finally settled on something, the Burda 114 blouse from 4/2007, the second issue of Burda I ever bought. The photo from the magazine is kind of bad in a 1995 way:

But I think the line drawing is great- it would be a nice fun blouse for under a cardigan or jacket for work:

And I’ve got some dark brown stretch poplin with white woven pinstripes and a nice sheen in my stash that would be great for it:

This is no mere blouse, however.  This is a blouse that defeated me the first time I tried to make it.  It was one of the first real sewing projects I ever attempted, perhaps a month or two into my garment sewing hobby and I ended up abandoning it pretty quickly. At the time, the concept of a muslin was foreign to me, and after grading it down to a size 32 and cutting it out of white shirting, it became clear that the blouse was going to be a bra-displaying failure. A whole lot of things seemed like they were going to go wrong with this blouse.  And judging from Cidell’s experience, it seems like they would have gone wrong had I proceeded. (Cidell, as far as I can tell, you are the only other person in the world who has ever attempted this blouse!)

Last night I looked over it again and tried to figure out what I would need to change so that the neckline wasn’t hanging halfway down my torso.  Petite adjustment above the bustline? SBA? And then it occurred to me, DUH, MAKE THE NECKLINE HIGHER. It’s funny- I’m so used to cutting chunks and slicing slivers OUT of patterns to make them fit, it never occurs to me to actually add more paper to them. I plan on making a couple more adjustments as well based on Cidell’s experience and what I can remember from my first attempt of almost 3 years ago. 

This is going to be a first for me – actually revisiting a pattern that failed badly enough that I didn’t finish it, didn’t fiddle with it and make hacks until it was wearable. Usually if something looks like it’s going to flop completely, I decide that the pattern just isn’t for me. But I think I might be able to make this one work this time. Maybe.

How about you?  Have you ever revisited a failure pattern to make it work?  What did you do differently and how did it go?

Back issues of BurdaMag are like favorite songs to me. I take them out and flip through them over and over and never get tired of them even though I know them by heart. Or at least, I thought I knew them by heart.

The first issue of Burda I ever purchased was the February 2007 issue. I was living in Germany and had just discovered Burda through a friend after she told me that she had made the gorgeous red coat she was wearing. That was the point at which I decided it was time to learn to sew for real, rather than just doing crafty stitching projects and taking the occasional stab at a dress every couple of years. I promptly went out and bought myself a Burda and to this day I’m still more comfortable with German sewing terminology than English. Anyway, I pored and pored over that issue even though as far as Burda issues goes, it’s not the greatest.

The other night, I pulled it out, dog-eared and worn, and flipped through it again. One of my least favorite features was this blue-themed one. Something about it is very 1995. Even though some of the individual pieces are not objectionable, it’s somehow entirely lacking in chic or edge, the wardrobe of a woman who cares how she looks and tries to look pretty but doesn’t have much sense of style. The whole color scheme (and don’t get me wrong, blue is my favorite color), assembly of outfits, everything is sort of blah like the 80% off clearance rack at Marshall’s:




You can probably see that some of the pieces aren’t bad.  That first suit jacket would be nice if the lapels were edited to be a little less Easter suit-y. The blazer in the middle might be a practical piece if not rendered in a fabric that attempts to mimic patchwork AND denim simultaneously (yikes!). The little short sleeved blouse is cute and versatile. But altogether, this feature always felt so lackluster and un-stylish and unexciting that I was never remotely tempted to make any of these pieces.  And then the other night, I had a closer look at this and my eyes bugged out:

And just like you sometimes find something utterly amazing on the 80% of clearance rack at Marshalls, so it was with me and this jacket. Never mind that it’s rendered in a fabric that looks like fancy rental tablecloths from a catered function, or that it is paired with wallpaper themed pants, and accessorized with a very unfortunate bag that is somewhat reminiscent of a butt in jeans. Have a look at this technical drawing:

Awesome, yes?  It reminds me of my beloved BurdaStyle Hikaru jacket, but with a shorter, sleeker fit:

Anyway, this hidden gem from my very first issue of BurdaMag might just have to go on my list, three years after the fact. I’ve got a black satin-faced wool jacket fabric that would be great for this pattern. Who knew that it was hiding amidst all that frump the whole time?

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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