Friday, October 12, 2018

FO: Burgundy Melissa Skirt

It feels like this project has been a long time coming, but technically speaking it was only waiting for a few months. I am always on the look out for "Melissa Skirt Fabric" everywhere I shop. My brown version is still a beloved item in spite of its fading and tattered condition (I will be dying is soon just because I love it so much). I made that out of some brown mystery fabric I got from a thrift store and it turned out to be the best possible fabric for this skirt. The fabric feels like a cotton but it doesn't wrinkle much at all, plus it is heavy enough to not show every bump on my body, plus the fit is great and doesn't bag out throughout the day. I've made many other versions trying to replicate the love I have for that brown skirt, all to have them be disappointing due to the fabric. A couple months ago - in another thrift store - I found some fabric that was the closest I've seen. I actually bought an entire comforter bag full of fabric just to get this one piece and I donated the rest immediately back to the store, lol. I knew it was going to be a Melissa skirt, but I just had to wait until I had the time to get it sewn up.
I seriously love this pattern. It's the Melissa Dress and Skirt by Muse Patterns. I really should make up the dress version sometime since that is really the main attraction of the pattern, but I just love this skirt so darn much, guys. It's a lovely gored skirt with a flared shape and awesome pockets. All the skirts I've made with this pattern have been solid colors, so the neat shaped pockets really stand out (and I get compliments on just the pockets all the time). I do have to widen the pocket panel pieces by a 1/2" on each side to get my hands in them comfortably, but with these straight panels it's a super simple adjustment to make. They are even wide enough to fit my very large new phone, which is wonderful. My buttons had to be purchased just for this skirt - it is crazy that with as many buttons as I own tha tI didn't have anything suitable, but in the end I just bit the bullet and bought some new from Hobby Lobby and I'm very happy with them. They are metal and have a filigree design so the burgundy of the fabric shows through them.
I've also perfected the fit of the pack over all my versions - I do an on-the-fly sway back adjustment by angling 1" out at the upper center back seam. This version is the best fit I've ever achieved on the back. This is the first time I've made this pattern up since I got my serger going and oh man, did that make it go faster! Normally I overcast all the seam allowances with my sewing machine and then top stitch them down, which is super time consuming when you take into account how slow overcasting is with a regular machine. This time I just zipped it through the serger and then top stitched without having to change everything on my machine each time. So quick.
And now onto the disappointment of this version :/ I guess it was a trade off since the back fits so nicely - I'm sure you've noticed that the front does not. I technically know why this happened - my waist angles down from my hip over a very short span, not a nice gentle line like most patterns are designed for. This time that meant that my waist turned out a little too big but it's a bit tight over my high hip, causing a rather unattractive dent in my abdomen at the second button. I know how to fix this in theory, but it would take a ton of unpicking and redoing, which I flat out do not have the time to do right now. Maybe sometime in the future I will remove the waistband, increase the curve to the waistband at the sides and on the front gores, then reattach the waistband. Ugh, I am sick of it just typing that up, lol. So we shall see.
Overall, I still enjoy this skirt :) It may not be perfect, but I rarely wear my shirts tucked in so the issues are mainly covered throughout the day meaning I can wear it in spite of its issues. And what a great thing it is to have this skirt! It goes with a surprising amount of tops in my wardrobe, and this fabric is fantastic. It doesn't wrinkle, it drapes away from the body, it's hefty enough to withstand a strong breeze without exposure, and it's still soft and breathable. I have more of this fabric, so maybe down the road I can address all my fit issues and make this again - or maybe just suck it up and fix this one so I can make something else with the excess, lol. Anyway, I'm glad I have another Melissa in my closet and in the perfect color for fall :)

Fabric: 1.5 yards mystery cotton blend twill - $1.50 (thrifted)
Pattern: Melissa Skirt by Muse Patterns
Notions: Pellon SF101 fusible interfacing - $1.50, 8 metal shank buttons - $4.27, thread - $3.00
Total Cost: $ 10.27

Friday, October 5, 2018

FO: Sparkle Peony Agnes Top

Sometimes in any hobby, you just need a simple palette cleanser. It's not that I've been working on anything super hard lately - it's just that I haven't been able to work on much of anything at all. So when I finally had a few evenings in a row to sew, I decided to go for a sure fire win :)
This started with me wanting to use this fabric. This is a lovely Art Gallery jersey called Sprinkled Peonies Sparkle that I picked up at The Sewing Studio this past July. This fabric is so soft and I just love the color palette, plus the stamens are actually a metallic rose gold - very cool. I knew I wanted to use this fabric, but I didn't know which top to make. I bought what was left on the bolt, so I only had 1.25 yards to work with. In the end I decided to go with my current puffed sleeve obsession.
Yes, this is another Agnes Top because I just love those puffed sleeves. Technically this pattern takes more fabric in my size, but with some careful pattern Tetris I squeezed all the pieces in and the only change is that the sleeves were made about 1/2" shorter (but really, who is going to notice that?). So now all I have are odd shaped scraps that are too small for any adult anything. That's pretty good in my book :) Since I only had a small cut, I didn't have much choice with pattern placement, but happily this fabric didn't give me any awkward flower boobs.
This fabric performed beautifully in the sleeves of this pattern, which is something I notice and appreciate after my initial let down when using a cheapy rayon jersey.
And I did my usual forward shoulder adjustment on this version, which got everything sitting where it should be. Looks good from the back too.
My only niggle with this version is something I should've known better. I cut the neckband the length that the pattern calls for, which would normally be fine When I was pinning it into the neckline, I remember thinking, "wow, I'm not having to stretch this neckband much at all," but it was more of a passing thought and I just kept going. I know better! I should have stopped right there and shortened that band before I sewed it on. Sadly, I did not do this. I was so focused on getting a finished item in the little time I had available that I motored through. Now I have a tragically loose neckband. This is actually the only neckband I've ever had do this - it actually tips forward away from my body when it's worn. Ugh. You can't see it much in these photos because the shirt hadn't been worn yet, so the fabric was nice and taught still, but believe me it's a problem. I thought I would just leave it, but after wearing this a few times I find it is actually embarrassing that it pulls away. I ran out of my light pink thread I used for top stitching, but I have now purchased more and I will be undoing the entire band and making it shorter. Learn, Megan, learn! Ugh.
So once I fix my neckband, I will be totally happy with this little number :) In spite of the issue, I have already worn this about once a week, so I know it will be a fun item this fall. Yay for easy wins!

Fabric: 1.25 yards Sprinkled Peonies Sparkle Knit cotton jersey by Art Gallery Fabrics - $15.99
Pattern: Agnes Top by Tilly and the Buttons
Notions: knit stay tape - $0.25, thread - $1.00, elastic - free
Time: 3 hours
Total Cost: $ 17.24

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Book Reviews: 11 - 15 of 2018

The Queen of Spades is a classic Russian short story. A young man learns of a woman who was told the perfect combination of cards to play to make her fortune and save her from ruin. The woman is now old, so the young man starts making overtures of love to the old woman's companion. Once he gains access into the house, he surprises the old woman and tries to threaten her into telling him the combination. Much to his dismay, the old woman dies from shock and he is left with guilt and no winning cards. After paying his respects at her funeral, the old woman's ghost comes to him in the night and tells him the cards and how to use them as well as making him agree to the terms that were handed down. The very next night he tempts fate and tries to play the cards to a rather interesting outcome.

I am surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. It's a quick story, but it really is an interesting idea and it really could apply to any period in history. This was my first experience reading Pushkin and it definitely made me want to read more. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

The Portable Dorothy Parker is a great collection of her work. The book is made up of various short stories and poems as well as a few articles. The overall tone was snarky and poignant. I really loved The Big Blonde - I think that was the most touching story in the bunch, interesting that it is based off her own experience. Miss Parker is able to look at the women of her time and show them in a sarcastic way that they probably didn't see themselves. The poetry is admittedly of a style our time hasn't really been taught to appreciate. Also the poems were mostly about how death would be, so not something everyone can relate to but an interesting window into that way of thinking. As this is a short story and poem collection, you can just keep listening through anything you don't love and something new will come up soon. It's worth the read for sure. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

State of Wonder is the story of Marina Singh, a medical doctor turned pharmaceutical worker who finds herself on an adventure in the Amazonian rain forest. The company Marina works for has financed a new miracle fertility drug and they need someone to go down to Brazil and check the progress so they have a timeline for a return on their investment. Marina's lab partner went first, but when the company receives word that he died of a fever they ask Marina to go and find out what happened. Marina finds herself in a remote Amazonian village with her old college professor and a tribes-people whose women are able to get pregnant into their 70s. Marina assists in the research while trying to learn more about her deceased partner as well as helping the local tribes with medical complaints so the other researchers can complete their work. Eventually Marina learns to true point of the research and what it can mean for the rest of the world before a pretty interesting twist at the end.

I really enjoyed this book. The idea is pretty crazy - a fertility drug that could let women of any age have a child - yet at the same time feels fairly plausible in our modern world. The book is very well written and I was able to just focus on the plot unfolding. I'll confess that I wanted to read this book after Liz Gilbert's mention of it in Big Magic - I had to see what this story was that the two authors were both inspired by. I was much happier with this book than the other Ann Patchett I read a few years ago. I definitely can recommend this one though - I constantly wanted to know what would happen next.  I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Til We Have Faces is a retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche. I was intrigued about this book when I found out C.S. Lewis felt this was his best work. The book gives a different take on the myth we are taught, giving the whole story through the eyes of one of her sisters. In this tale the oldest sister loves and raises Psyche after her mother dies. As Psyche gets older, her beauty grows to the extent that the people in her kingdom believe that she is a God. Eventually the town decides to sacrifice her in hopes of appeasing their God and removing their famine and other hardships. They chain her up on a mountain and leave her for the God, assuming she will soon be dead and not worry about her any further. Her sister is stricken by the loss of her favorite sister, so she goes to collect Psyche's remains for a proper burial only to discover that her body is not there. Psyche appears and explains that she is now the wife of a God, but she does not know which one because she is forbidden to look at him. Her sister thinks Psyche is crazy and comes up with a plan to help her see "the truth". She brings an oil lamp the next time she visits and makes Psyche swear she will look at the God, thinking this will show that the God is a monster or not a god at all. Things don't turn out how she anticipates and she has to live with this for the rest of her life.

Overall this was an interesting idea and it definitely humanizes the classic myth. The original story has both sisters jealous of Psyche's husband so they maliciously conspire to wreck things, and I can appreciate this telling much better. This method feels more natural - that the motives are all in the best interest of the victim but that they go horribly wrong. I think this version makes the story more palette-able even for a reader that is not interested in Greek mythology. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Secondhand Time should be required reading. The book is made up of interviews with various Russians who lived through the Soviet regime, covering everything from the revolution to perestroika to the modern switch to capitalism. There are those who miss Stalin, those who hate him, and those who worked with him. There are true Russians as well as those from other Soviet states like Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Georgia, and many more. Alexievich interviews the young and the old alike, which comes across as the indoctrinated and the disillusioned. This book shows the true mix of feelings on the Soviets and opens up about things I never learned about before I read this book. Some of the tragedies people endured were truly heartbreaking, yet they still continue on in a stoic and accepting manner. If you have any interest in the state of modern Russia and how its recent history has brought it to where it is now, you should read this book. It was excellent. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Friday, September 28, 2018

FO: Rifle Sun Girls Apron for Shannon

It's my sister's birthday today! I managed to get her gift to her about a week ago, so I actually have pictures and a post ready to go on the day of - woo hoo!
This gift started several months ago when my Rifle Paper Company released a special edition apron made in their newest fabrics on their website. For $100 each. For an apron! I mean I appreciate the workmanship as much as the next person, but come on, right? Shannon messaged me to see if I would make her an apron if she bought the fabric. I said no problem, so she started narrowing down which print she liked best. At the time I had no idea how much fabric it would take to make an apron, so I looked up a pattern and told her she needed 2.5 yards. When you add that up on Rifle's canvas fabrics (the kind they used for the aprons they sell), that gets very expensive very quickly. Shannon didn't love the available prints on the canvas anyway, so after a brief moment where she asked me if rayon would be good for an apron (to which I emphatically said No), she settled on the Amalfi Sun Girls quilting cotton in the blue colorway. Knowing she didn't need this eminently, I offered to pick up the fabric at 40% off during the 4th of July sale at The Sewing Studio. And basically since she had already waited that long, what's another few months to get your dream apron as a birthday gift? lol Long story, but that is the progression of this project that only took me one night to make. But it's fancy, so read on!
Shannon just wanted a classic apron shape, and after searching all the available patterns (which only seemed to have vintage or frilly or otherwise complicated aprons) I eventually decided to just copy an apron I already had. My mom gave me a great apron for my birthday - it's covered in baked goods and it's yellow - and since it was a simple shape, I could just lay it on the fabric and trace :)
Here's where things get fancy - the quilting cotton, while lovely, was just not weighty enough for a nice and effective apron. I made my mom an apron years ago with just quilting cotton, and sure it keeps stains away, but your clothes still get wet when you wear it - I've worn it many times at her house and I've always hated that I still get wet. So to avoid that disappointment on this version, I decided to add a lining fabric. I think that Rifle would have chosen a "natural" or "linen" looking fabric to accent (like their canvas is printed on), but with this light color I really didn't want to add anything to distract. I have several yards of this great lightweight white denim I got at a thrift store in my stash, so I decided to use that to add a bit of heft. Adding the lining also simplified my "pattern making" because I was able to just lay the apron on the denim and trace its exact size. I didn't need to add seam allowances to the denim since I wanted to roll the main fabric over like a binding :) This fabric worked perfectly and now the finished apron feels substantial. To sew it together, I pinned the denim to the wrong side of the cotton and pinned it all over like you would a quilt before quilting it on a machine, then I just went around each edge, pressing the edge in twice to get that bound look and top stitched all over.
I made 3 long tie pieces, all of which are also lined with the denim for heft. Confession: this was the worst part of this project. I sewed them as tubes and then turned them right-side out, which seriously took longer than the entire rest of the project did put together. The straps are 1" wide, and I had to actually use a pair of pliers to turn them. After complaining about how long it took to my mom, she said, "Why didn't you just fold the edges under and top stitch them?" To which I had a total pause-and-blink-silently moment because I had never even thought of this and it would've been SOOOO much easier. Ah, well.
The 3rd strap piece was for the neck - interestingly on the original apron, this tie is the same length as the waist ties, which is why mine is so long; I think I would shorten just the neck one in the future. The neck is one of my favorite parts of this apron - it has a long tie on one side and a tiny tie on the other with 2 D rings that you use to adjust the length. As you can see in the photo, I wound up with a decent amount of excess once it was adjusted, but I like that you could easily slide the tie and make it longer or shorter if need be. I also copied the pocket on the original - this is just a rectangle that is sewn to the denim lining and then turned right-side out and top stitched. Oh so useful though.
And the crowning jewel - the original apron had a facing at the neck, so I decided to cut my facing from the selvage, meaning that Shannon's apron is now "officially" fancy because it says it's from Rifle Paper Company :)
Here some detail shots - first is the backside of the D ring closure (this pleases me because I think it makes the apron look more store bought). Next you can see a close up of the binding inside - I top stitched at the edge of the binding as well as at the edge of the apron itself, so everything has 2 passes and it more stable. Bottom right is a close up of the strap. I copied the original apron and I think this is a great little detail. The strap was sewn to the edge of the unfolded cotton fabric, then it was turned under with the binding before stitching down. Not only does this neaten up any fraying edges, it also makes it (you guessed it) much more secure. I want this thing to last lots of washes, so being secure was a big concern of mine :) The bottom left photo is just to show the lining of the pocket. I also top stitched 2 lines of stitching to the pocket edge before sewing it on the apron (also with 2 lines of stitching) just so it looks consistent and lays very flat.
And to top off the apron, I had to get a card to match! My husband works just around the corner from the flagship Rifle Paper Co store, so I sent him b on his way home to pick the perfect card :) Yes, I am THAT cool, lol.
I sent the apron to Shannon last week to make sure she would get it in time and she opened it early (she already knew what it was, so it's no big deal) so she took pictures with the fancy dishware she sells :) Her mixing bowl is probably Juliska here. She loves it, and my other family members have requested a few for themselves after seeing hers. I guess I know what people will be getting for Christmas this year!

Fabric: 1.25 yards Amalfi Sun Girls in Sky Blue Quilting Cotton by Rifle Paper Company, 1 yard white denim (thrifted)
Pattern: Copied from a store bought apron
Notions: 2 D rings, thread
Time: 3 hours