Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Book Review: The Princess Bride by William Goldman

I found myself without a book to read and a few hours to kill, so I decided to go for something a little familiar. I grew up watching The Princess Bride and loving the quirky fairy tale, but I had never read the book it came from. Technically speaking, I still haven't, lol, but it was a fun read nonetheless.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman is actually an abridgment of the S. Morgenstern epic tale. Goldman injects his own opinions in several places, and to be honest it was basically like reading the movie script. There are a few things that differ from the film, but on a whole the sarcastic language and jokes are the same, and the book has the same overall feel.

My favorite part is still Miracle Max, and I love that he says that true love is the greatest thing in the world ... except cough drops. I  also love the final line of the story (in Goldman's words):
"Life isn't fair, it's just more fair than death, that's all."
I enjoyed every minute of reading this, and I would recommend it to anyone wanting a fun story to escape for a short time and laugh a bit. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

FO: Take A Seat Dress

This is an epic project - I actually used one of my "love it too much to risk messing it up" fabrics from my stash! And I LOVE IT!
I purchased this fabric last 4th of July from Fabric.com in the sale they had that weekend. The fabric is called Perfectly Perched Chairs in Steel designed by Laurie Wisbrun for Robert Kaufman. This line had several designs featuring chairs, but I liked this one best due to the colors - steel gray, white, and bright turquoise. I bought 3 yards with no specific pattern in mind, just knowing I wanted a simple dress. Then it sat... and waited... I didn't want to just chop into this awesomeness without knowing I would like the results, you know? I mean, those chairs needed their day to shine! I started off thinking Simplicity 2444 would work, but I didn't want to break up the lines of chairs with the angled bust darts on that pattern. So, I raided the pattern stash for a bodice with more simple, straight darts that could be used for all my lined novelty prints (seriously, I seem to be unknowingly drawn to lines and geometric patterns that need pattern matching - it's a dilemma). Simplicity 1419 seemed to be just the ticket, plus it had the fun option of the keyhole neckline and peter pan collar. So I muslined the daylights out of that pattern, and made my Skewed Flowers Dress first. Once I worked out my little kinks, I decided to take the plunge!

Now, I did make a few changes from my Skewed Flowers dress - most obviously the neckline. I love the keyhole and collar the pattern includes, but I think a cutesy collar on a dress covered in bright colored chairs would be a bit much. Just a personal judgement there. I actually just traced the Simplicity 2444 neckline onto my traced 1419 pattern piece - quick and easy change. I also really didn't want to have to figure out drafting a facing, plus I've had a problem with my dresses standing away from my back more than I like and I'm pretty sure it's due to the stiffness of the interfaced facing back there. This time, I decided to try bias tape on the neckline. I will admit it was a bit fiddly since I only had double fold bias tape on hand (and I was in to much a "quick satisfaction" mood to make any), but I made it there in the end. It's actually much easier than following all the directions for a traditional facing, plus I hate that facings always want to pop out, so I will certainly be employing the bias tape method on future makes :)
As you can see form the side view, I still have a bit too much fabric at the upper back. It drives me nuts. I hate that can't reach back there to pin everything in place just right, you know? My hunchback needs some assistance. Oh well - I'm going to look up how to address this before my next make. The back view ... I'm almost ashamed to show you because it shows the problem with the other change I made to the pattern. Honestly, the dress it too tight. I've worn it out now, and it did stretch out a bit so that it was more comfortable, but it tends to look a bit sausage-like in the back unless I'm standing just right (clearly I'm not standing just right in this photo). I also had just washed the dress and ironed it before taking these photos, so trust me it isn't always this tight. But good grief the zipper is actually stuck in a wonky position halfway down my back... and you can see the white line of the "invisible" zipper. Ugh. Maybe I'll lose weight someday, lol, just for this dress. My invisible zipper does look very good other than the tightness issue. The thing I changed was that last time around I had to add a tiny extra pleat to the front skirt to make my pieces match the bodice after all the alterations I had made, so this time I just figured I could cut the next size down in the skirt - apparently this was not a wise decision.
Not a lot of hanger-appeal to my dresses, lol.I think you can see the effort I made with pattern matching though. I knew I didn't have enough fabric to even try a seamless match up of the pattern, but I wanted to make sure the lines of chairs were consistent, and I paid particular attention to make the center front waist seam on the gray areas between the chairs. I think it came out really well :) This is my first official time pattern matching, so I'm pleased.
Close ups: I decided to use some chartreuse colored bias tape from my stash (left over from this Sorbetto) at the neckline just for fun. I love a little hidden pop of color and you don't see it from the outside at all. I followed the suggestion of a reader on my zipper and placed the top of the zipper tape just down from the seam edge - this caused a definite need for a hook and eye, but the zipper doesn't seem to make the dress want to pull away more, so that's a win :) My waistline seam is just ever so slightly off at the zipper, but it was so close that I couldn't be bothered to rip it out and try again. Also, my darts still don't line up from the bodice to skirt on the front due to all the changes I had to make to the pattern. One of these days I'll figure that one out.
Now for the other icky mistake - that picture above shows my side seam. Yeah, it totally doesn't line up from the bodice to the skirt. More than that, it's almost a full inch off! This is another issue I had from cutting the smaller skirt, so I will certainly not do that next time. When I ear the dress though, the print is so busy that no one has noticed this little flaw, plus let's be real I don't usually walk around waving my arms in the air, so I'm not that worried about it. It's just being documented for internet shaming purposes *sigh*.
So there you have it :) A new dress that I absolutely adore in spite of its issues. Seriously, how awesome is this fabric?! I just love it, and I know it will get lots of wear. Even The Gordo had to photobomb me so he could be seen near this dress, lol. Don't let that corgi smirk fool you. He loves the dress too.

Fabric: 3 yards of Perfectly Perched Chairs fabric in Steel colorway by Laurie Wisbrun for Robert Kaufman - $13.32 from Fabric.com (no longer available)
Pattern: Simplicity 1419 with Simplicity 2444 neckline
Notions: 22" invisible zipper - $1.50, thread - stash, chartreuse bias tape - stash
Hours: Approx. 5

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Book Review: An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin

I've meant to read this book since hearing of its release even before I had any idea what it was about. I'm a big Steve Martin fan when it comes to his writing (Shopgirl is still listed in my top favs), so I knew this would be another good experience.

An Object of Beauty tells the story of Lacey Yeager, an up-and-coming member of the art selling world boom of the late 1990s. The story is told through the eyes of a friend who recounts what happened to her. Lacey went to New York after college and secures a job at Sotheby's cataloging the paintings in their basements, eventually working her way up to assessing customer's pieces of art for sale. For a while she seems to climb the ranks quickly, when suddenly she is fired with no explanation to others she works with. She goes on to work for a private gallery, building a loyal clientele of collectors who trust her opinion. The only strange twist is that Lacey inexplicably has a much more disposable income, paying for expensive dinners with friends, investing in clothes to look successful, and even purchasing valuable works of art for her own collection. A scandal is hinted at with her release from Sotheby's, but only one former colleague seems to know anything about it and her record with others is never tarnished. When the art market collapses along with other non-commodity businesses in 2001, Lacey's gallery closes soon after, sending her home to Atlanta and removing her from the art scene. Before she leaves, she is approached by the FBI about her reason for being fired from Sotheby's all those years before. I don't want to divulge more info because it's treated like a sort of twist in the book, but it is certainly an interesting story. It's strange to say that there really isn't a huge climax or even massive consequences for what went on, but in a Karma-like way, she does eventually get dropped down a peg and has to live with what she did.

This was a quick read, and was very well written. Even though I didn't much care for Lacey as a person, I did enjoy hearing the story as just that ... a story. It felt fairly realistic, which is odd considering the story involves such an "upper class" industry, so I have to give Martin serious credit for that. In spite of my issues with Lacey as a person, I still enjoyed the book, and for me that is a notable success. I recommend this to anyone who just wants to escape their own life for a short time. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Friday, May 22, 2015

FO: Skirt No More Renfrew

As I've mentioned many times before, I am a big time thrift store shopper. For a long time, I only looked for items I could already wear or that I could alter slightly to fit me. After taking the Tailoring Ready-To-Wear class on Craftsy, I learned to look at my thrifting differently. I started to look for things that I could remake completely - I mean, fabric is fabric, right? I started looking at curtains and sheets and even dresses and skirts and whatnot to assess their potential remake-ability. 
I purchased this skirt several months ago - it's an Indigo Moon poly/cotton knit skirt, and it's a size Small. I looked this up before I cut into it and apparently Indigo Moon is known for their crazy "art teacher"-like jackets (seriously, Google search them). I paid 50¢ for the skirt, knowing it would be a prime candidate for a refashion - plenty of fabric to play around with and cheap enough that I wouldn't be too upset if it didn't work out. I liked the floral appliqué (and it has sequins too!), so I thought it might make a pretty t-shirt. A few weeks ago I finally picked it all apart and laid out my t-shirt patterns to see what would work. The Plantain was my first choice, but the skirt wasn't quite wide enough plus to be honest the fabric was a bit too thick for that. I pulled out the Renfrew and the pieces fit great :) I had literally just enough fabric - I even had to unpick the elastic waistband to use as the neck binding piece - I was left with just a few small scraps afterward ... and a new shirt!
At first I was afraid that the flower hit in a strange place - ideally I would have wanted the flower along the side of my torso, but now that it's finished I don't mind where it ends up :) The fabric is wonderfully soft and thick enough to look nice and smooth without being too warm. And I love the color!
I'm not entirely sure if the wrinkles on the back are because of how I'm standing or if I need a sway back adjustment - is that possible on a knit? Anyone know for sure? The only change I made to the pattern was to leave off the hem bands. I'm not a big fan of the bands on my first Renfrew (I have to adjust the bottom of the shirt a lot when I wear it), so I just added 2" to the bottom hem when I cut out the pieces. I also just used the skirt hem as the shirt bottom as well - why make more work for myself, right?
Up close shots - I love the subtle sequins in the appliqué. They mean that I do have to hand wash this, but it's not a big deal. I decide to twin needle around the neckline for a more professional looking finish - I'm sure it's just in my head, but the zig zag stitch on my first one kind of makes me crazy, lol. I also had to get really creative with the neckband. I was able to squeeze it out by unpicking the elastic waistband (which was serged to the elastic all the way around - ugh), but it still wasn't quite enough fabric so I had to piece it together. I made sure to put the extra seam at the back and it ended up near the shoulder seam. I don't think anyone would even notice it, so that's good. Also I made sure to match up the coverstitching on the hem at the side seams (I guess I should cut that thread I see in the photo too, lol). This part bugs me a smidge when I look at this photo just because I know that ready to wear shirts are always coverstitched last. It doesn't wear any differently though, so I just try not to think about it :)
All in all, I'm pretty pleased with this experiment :) The shirt is very comfy and easy to wear. It's one of those items that I can dress up or down depending on what skirt I wear with it. I love the color in particular, and I think the appliqué makes it look more store bought. I love that I can wear it with lighter colored bottoms to be more casual and summery too. I'm sure this see lots of wear in the future and it was such a success that I hope to find more jersey maxi skirts to chop up, ha ha!

Fabric: thrifted Indigo Moon size small maxi skirt - $0.50
Pattern: Sewaholic Renfrew
Notions: thread and knit seam tape - stash
Hours: 3.5 including unpicking the skirt