I always sew a lot of Christmas gifts. All year, my kids, husband and friends ask me to make things for them and usually I say “no”. Sewing is time consuming and I don’t have enough time to sew what I want for myself. After Thanksgiving, I devote the weeks until Christmas to making gifts. I’m rarely finished in time and often give a box of wrapped fabric with a promise to sew something. This year was particularly bad because we threw a graduation party for my daughter on December 20th. The party was great but it put me even more behind than usual and I’m just finishing my gifts now.
Donna Karan shirt pattern
For this dress, I used Vogue 1462, by Donna Karan. It’s a shirt pattern that I lengthened a little and I added a belt. The pattern went together very nicely and it has an easy, full fit.
On a trip to Germany last summer, I bought a shirt with a very small collar that looks so cool to me. Most blouse patterns have huge collars but this one looked small in the sketch on the back of the pattern envelope. It turned out to be quite big, but I like the rounded shape. I have given her the dress, so I can’t take better pictures, but she promised to send me a picture of her wearing it, which I will post.
I ordered the flannel from Fabric.com, they don’t have the same plaid anymore. It was nice to work with, I meticulously matched the plaids, so it must be a pretty well woven fabric to be able to do that.
I used a new method to attach the collar band, it turned-out well. Found it on a cute blog, Four Square Walls. Instead of constructing the collar band first and then attaching it, you attach the underside collar band to the neckline and then construct the band. It makes it easier to end the collar band at exactly the edge of the front band. Always love to learn a new technique, thanks Andrea!
I made this top to wear to a piano concert at an outdoor pavilion. I wanted to look nice, but not over the top because it was outside. I wore this top with very dark wash jeans, high heeled sandals and what else? my DKNY cozy! (more…)
I had two days in India before my surgery to power shop for fabric. Unfortunately, I wasn’t getting around too well at that point. We hired a car and driver to cut down on the walking, but it was a bit difficult to communicate with the driver. He took us to places he knew about and I found what I could, though I had hoped to find much more.
I’m an A#1 procrastinator. I freely admit this and I’m always vowing to change. I have gotten a little better as my kids have gotten older and I have more time to myself. E. is unbelievably the polar opposite–he thinks of something that needs doing and he does it. Boom, done, off of his mind.
Usually he leaves me to my demons and doesn’t comment too much about how long it takes me to do things. Packing for travel is another thing. He gets his suitcase out a week ahead of departure and throws things in it as he thinks of them. I’m always thinking about what to take, but fail to make a list or start packing early like he does. He doesn’t like this, I always assure him it’ll be okay.
When we went to Ireland on a cycling vacation, I was at Banana Republic the morning of the flight grabbing clothes to take. This was before we were married and I left my bedroom in a cyclone mess of clothes, shoving things in my suitcase to get to his house by the time the cab to the airport arrived. The outcome: I forgot to pack my cycling shorts. Anyone who rides a road bike knows, you gotta have padded shorts. So, on our first day in Ireland, we were searching for a place to buy cycling shorts instead of cycling. E. took this pretty well. (But, like I said, this was before we were married!)
Our next big vacation was to France for our honeymoon. This time I sewed most of the clothes I took and was pretty smart and packed them as I finished them. This didn’t stop me from running out the morning of the flight to buy an adapter and exchange some dollars for euros. The outcome: the cab was waiting and I couldn’t find the euros (the bedroom was kind of a mess), E. found them at the bottom of a pile of discarded scarves. The cabbie was perturbed because he had to wait while this played out, E. was a little edgy on the way to the airport, but by the time we were flying over the Atlantic Ocean, he was over it.
For India I was perfect! I started putting things in the suitcase a week before departure. I made arrangements for the kitties and the mail, I tied up all my loose ends at work and shut down my computer. I was ready for the cab early! Here’s the glitch, I had surfed the web for fabric stores in Chennai and made a list of names and addresses, which I forgot to print out and bring with me.
So, we were at the driver’s mercy; he was a very nice and patient man.
First he took us to a very fancy store where the merchant laid out his wares, one at a time. We have a large Indian community in Chicago and Devon street is an authentic Indian experience, without the cows mingling around. There are multiple shops that offer sari fabrics and some yard goods, mostly silks. This merchant in Chennai had more or less the same things. Less expensive, to be sure, but still pretty pricey and mostly silks. For example, he had some beautiful printed silk Crepe de Chines for about $16/meter. (Of which I purchased three pieces, pictured above.)
I was hoping to find cottons. The silks are beautiful, but my lifestyle calls for more casual clothes and I’m always disappointed with the cottons I find at the fabric stores here. I know there are cottons in Chennai, it was formerly known a Madras and we know what fabric carries that moniker. I was hoping to find cottons with Ikat prints and large florals and maybe some embellished cottons.
So, the first shop was lovely, and I did purchase the three pieces of silk print and a beautiful scarf for my daughter. But I had a feeling because it was such an elegant store that it might be overpriced, so (I’m still kicking myself for this one), I passed up beautiful pashmina shawls in every color of the rainbow that turned out to be a very fair price. (I never did pick-up any pashmina shawls.)
We asked the driver to take us to a bazaar of street sellers, hoping for more cottons and better prices. I did find some beautiful cotton fabrics that are used to make the Salwar Kameez (pictured above). Some are very sheer, like a batiste, and have 4 yards or so of usable fabric with lots of border print. Some are lovely fine cotton, like a soft pima cotton, with a border print piece of about 2 yards and another plainer piece for pants that’s about 2 yards and a border print scarf. The sheer cottons will have plenty of yardage for dresses, the heavier cottons, probably only enough for a skirt (about 44″ wide). At $12-$20 for each bundle, they were a steal. At one shop I finally found some madras plaid by the meter and purchased 4 meters at a very reasonable price:
For the madras, I have in mind a “farmer’s shirt” for E. (I copied a favorite summer shirt for him a few years ago in a yellow seersucker check and I’ve always teased him and said that all he needs is a pair of white pants and white patented leather shoes and he’d fit right into the farming community where he was raised.) And a pair of Bermuda shorts for me.
The Salwar Kameez fabrics will work themselves into my sewing endeavors. I’m seeing sheer tunics and sundresses and hippy-chic skirts.
As I was unpacking, Willy decided he’s the Maharajah!
The kicker is, as we were driving to the Fisherman’s Cove resort after my surgery, we passed a very modern looking two story store called The Cotton House. I drooled as I saw hundreds of rolls of fabric in the windows. I was on crutches and just a few days post surgery and so we couldn’t stop. Maybe on my next visit to India, let’s hope it’s not for another new hip!
I’m so excited to have returned from my “medical tourism” trip to India!
When we began making arrangements for my hip surgery (I had bone on bone osteoarthritis of the hip which has been hampering my life for the last five years), each step we took led us to this Indian adventure. And what an adventure it has been! I’m convinced we made the right choice to travel to India for the surgery and now, 10 days post-op, I’m home and feeling great and able to do so much more than I expected.
Because I didn’t have health insurance, a glitch that I should have fixed somewhere between my 1998 divorce and 2004 second marriage, when I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis we were faced with some tough decisions. A good friend who is an orthopedic surgeon (a hip and shoulder guy), took an x-ray of my hip and recommended a relatively new procedure called hip resurfacing, at somewhere between $50,000 and $80,000. He recommended his partner, who has done five of these new procedures.
After some dedicated investigation, my dear husband found some very interesting information via the Internet (what an enabling medium!). We’ve been doing hip resurfacing in the US for about five years and many doctors here still recommend full hip replacement instead because of the newness of the procedure.
Hip resurfacing was developed in England about 12 years ago and the doctor who performed my surgery was on the team that developed it. It removes no bone compared to the hip replacement in which the head of the femur is removed and replaced with a pin and ball. The hip resurfacing prosthetic fits much tighter than the hip replacement apparatus, therefore it doesn’t dislocate like the replacement is prone to do, and performes just like a real hip. It was designed with younger, active people in mind.
I’m 50 and developed pain in my groin which I thought was a running injury when I was training for my third marathon almost exactly five years ago. It progressed to the point that I could walk only 50 yards or so at a time with much loss of range of motion (haven’t been able to cut my own toenails for a few years!). Not to mention lots of pain, because the hip joint was for all intents and purposes fused, it threw my body mechanics off and EVERYTHING hurt.
We decided that hip resurfacing was the way to go and again, thanks to the Internet we found several chat groups led by people who have gone overseas for this procedure. To be able to talk to people about their experiences was invaluable and we decided to go to Chennai India to have Dr. Vijay Bose perform the surgery, who has successfully performed 1,200 hip resurfacings. And, secondarily, with travel and accommodations, the cost was a fraction of what the surgery alone would be in the US.
We spent about 9 months in communication with the doctor and his staff planning the trip. Then a couple of weeks ago the day had arrived to depart and naturally, we had a little trepidation heading off to a culturally different country for something like this, no matter how thouroughly we had researched it.
I’m thrilled to report that every step of the way the adventure went without a glitch, and the worst I can say is that the towels in the hospital were too soft and left fuzz all over you after a shower!
Here is a photo diary of the trip:
The first two nights we stayed at The Raintree, a lovely business class hotel:
The first two days we did some sight-seeing and fabric shopping! (More on that tomorrow.) The traffic is unbelievable–pedestrians, motor cycles, cars, buses, bicycles, auto rickshaws, traditional bicycle rickshaws and cows–all intermingling in an orchestrated symphony that to the Indians makes sense but to a westerner seems like utter chaos!:
An auto rickshaw:
We stopped to see a temple:
A view of Chennai (FKA Madras) from our hotel window. One foot firmly planted in the present, one foot firmly planted in the past:
The next seven days we spent in the hospital in a modern wing built with western patients in mind. My room had a private bath, kitchenette, wi-fi access and a cot for E., he was able to run his business from India! Ready for surgery:
A successful experience, every step of the way was superbly organized and the epitome of compassionate care. Part of my medical team:
The next four nights we spent at a fabulous resort, The Fisherman’s Cove, on the Bay of Bengal. There is no better place for recuperation!:
I’ve never experienced people who are so caring and devoted to service! I’ll never forget the people who were so kind to me:
Well, as positive an experience as that was, I’m thrilled to be home with more energy and mobility than I dared hope for.
I have a month off of work for some R & R–time to get sewing!
Here’s an article I’ve been waiting to see, it says that sewing machine sales are way up. You can tell that interest in sewing is increasing just by going to a local JoAnn or Hancock Fabrics. Those stores used to be ghost towns and now they’re buzzing.
The consensus is that the renewed interest is because of a lack of original boutiques and clothing and for economic reasons. I’ll add to that and say that I think Project Runway has had a big impact on exciting want-to-be sewers.
Now, to see the reemergence of independently owned fabric stores that offer top quality fabric and knowledgeable staff…
I’m outside, rain or shine for my job and I’ve been wanting a jacket with a hood so that I don’t have to carry an umbrella unless it’s pouring. There are soooo many great anoraks out there (see one of my favorites in Spring Wardrobe ’08 part 1) and once I found this Neue Mode Pattern it was easy to come up with a great design. (You can find this pattern at My Notions.com)
I used a black silk shantung I had in my stash. It was super easy to work with and has my favorite fabric quality, it presses beautifully with nice sharp creases. Neue Mode patterns don’t have seam allowances included and I’m just too lazy to draw all those seamlines, so I added seam allowances only where I had to–around the hood opening, the center front, the armseye and sleeve head. Then I used one size larger than normal. This worked out fine, in fact the pattern is so over-sized that I still had to take in the side seam allowances about 1 1/2″ on each side side (for a total of 6″!).
The pattern does not include lining, but I used the pattern pieces to cut a lining from a heavy satin. This gives the anorak a nice, hefty weight and it will be quite warm. Because I lined the jacket, I formed the casing by stitching the lining to the silk. I used elastic and sewed a 2″ wide belt to the ends of the elastic.
I used View A for length and added a 2″ band to the bottom to give the jacket a nice finishing at the hem.
I used the pocket from View C, but instead of regular zippers, I used invisible zippers for a sleeker look.
I wanted to use 3/4″ silver snaps, a la Prada, but I tried a sample and they just don’t work! I’ve never had luck with the snap kits available at the fabric store. Next time I’ll try to find a source online for commercial snaps. So I used covered buttons instead and I like the look, they go well with the dressy fabric.
Here’s a picture of the hood pattern piece. If you can see, I added a 1/4″ seam allowance around the front opening. I didn’t even draw it on, I just added it as I cut-out the pattern. I also added an overlap for the buttons and button holes. I added plenty (around 3″) and trimmed it to fit as I was sewing.
I added a cuff and pleated in the fullness of the sleeve to fit the cuff. I used a method for constructing the cuff that gives a nice square finish:
1. Interface cuff
2. Sew cuff to sleeve bottom, right sides together
3. Fold seam allowances to inside, fold long edge first and then the short ends
4. Fold cuff on fold line and topstitch into place
This works especially well on fabrics the press nicely.
I just ordered a dressform so I can take better pictures of my creations. It’s about time I had one, I’ve been sewing for over 30 years!
Okay, so now the weather seems to be changing and before long I’m going to freak-out because I have nothing to wear! So much for my plan of sewing ahead and having everything hanging in my closet ready to go.
Today’s fashions don’t suit me. I’m too short and too old to wear clothes that are loose fitting (I did that during 3 pregnancies and that’s enough!). In some ways, it’s easier because I see so little that I like, I’m not tempted to over-do. I’ve been scouring the web and the fashion magazines and have come up with a couple of really wearable looks:
I love this outfit from Erin Fetherston…the peach and “greige” palette looks spring-y and the drapey silhouette is flattering. (I just purchased some gorgeous peach silk crepe de chine–it will be perfect for this. Crepe de chine seems to be making a comeback which I’m delighted to see. It’s got a beautiful drape and one of my high priority fabric qualities, it presses like a dream.)
This Phillip Lim outfit is great looking–classic but with an updated look. I’m usually not into colored pants, but I’m going to make some and see if they’re comfortable to wear. Rolling the cuffs makes them look unfussy. I can see wearing these pieces over and over again.
Sometimes, dressing in a current, up-to-date way is a matter of making small changes to classic styles. In this way one can be in style, but not of the style, if you know what I mean. You wear the clothes, not the other way around.
Following are some Spring ’08 styles that have interesting details. I don’t want them exactly as shown, but they inspire me with interesting little twists and turns that I can incorporate into my designs. (This is where sewing your own clothes is such a bonus–you can grab a detail here or there from designer looks.)
This outfit has an interesting, slouchy silhoulette–a way to be comfortable without looking messy. I couldn’t wear the “in your face” print–not my style. But I like the tunic style, the feminine boat neckline, the detail at the neck, cuff and hem paired with roomy slacks that would look great with dressy, flat sandals. I can see wearing this to a barbecue on a cool evening and looking dressed, but not dressed-up. (From Bluemarine Spring ’08 RTW)
This outfit is a great day look for running errands. I’m always looking for casual clothes that will keep me out of predictable jeans or khakis on weekends when I have a million things to do. It would be easy to find a tank dress and layer it over a long sleeve T. What makes this a great look is the rugged belt which I’d pair with rugged flat sandals (no gladiator sandals for me! Aren’t those soooo ’07 anyway?). I’d stick with sophisticated neutral colors for this outfit. (From D&G Spring ’08 RTW)
This would be great for work, but without the fussy blouse. What makes this an “outfit” is the full, trouser cut of the pants and the beautiful sheen of the fabric–I’d pair these pants with a simpler snow white silk blouse. When making an “outfit” from two pieces, accessories make it or break it. Pair these pieces with great shoes (red patented leather?) and statement silver jewelry. (From Adam Spring ’08 RTW)