Sunday, January 31, 2010

I love it when a plan comes together

Well, i put the sloper on today--i took the time to cut it out yesterday and baste it together. Before i headed downstairs to work on another order today, I remembered it and put it on. I create a whole bodice, instead of the half as Armstrong does--since i had to fit it on myself, I wanted to make sure it was correct.

Surprisingly enough, the part i thought would be off was perfect, and the part i figured would be right, wasn't. The dart, which i ahd to manipulate do to my, er, natural endowments, were perfect. I mean PERFECT. I figured if anything were to go wrong, it would be the dart--which would be the easiest to fix. The back darts weren't deep enough--but there wasn't any instructions for dealing with a sway back, so i expected that.

It was the side seam that was all wrong. I mean i had a gap under my arm that would have fit a loaf of french bread--and my waist wasn't right either. SO i have to take in the sides (an easy fix) and the back darts.

I was worried that the sleeves would be weird. I don't alter sleeves well, so this concerned me. I looked for signs of stress (there were no gaps) but really didn't see any. I was a little uncomfortable with where the sleeve sat--but there was no stress (i just don't like wearing sleeves) so i left the sleeve alone. I figure if i ever have to alter a garment made from this--it won't be a major alteration, maybe a quarter inch off or something. I didn't feel right about altering the sleeve without first fixing the sides either since that could have been pulling too.

I was also reminded that i hate things up at my neck--a phenomenon that has come on me in the lat few years. I've heard the same from"older" women, but i try not to think about that. I also noticed that my "waist" isn't where I perceive my waist(which would explain the wrong measurement) Thank you for the rise of the low-waist jean, but now i can't wear anything at my real waist.

When did i get this picky? Oh, yeah, after i gave birth and my waist CHANGED.

All in all, it was a pleasant experience putting the sloper together, and seeing where it did fit. It was nice to see that all the seams matched together well, as they should have. I didn't have two different shoulder lengths or crooked side seams. I successfully took a two-dimensional drawing and made it into a three-dimensional garment (granted, not one i would wear at present)

So, lessons learned:

always fit your sloper
i don't like sleeves or high necklines
my actual waist and my comfort waist are not in the same place.
growing older bothers me.

Next: alterations and skirt slopers!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

So, my sloper still sits in paper form. It did make a trip down to my studio yesterday, but ended up remaining in paper form while i caught up on a few orders and while my son decided to take three tries to go down for a nap.

And now it will stay down there a few days while i shake this cold. yay.

If it ain't one thing, it's another. If my brain comes out of this fog anytime soon, and my toddler REALLY takes a nap today, i might attempt to draw the skirt sloper. maybe. Between naps. and bowls of soup.

The good news was that it didn't take as long to draw the back sloper. So it's already starting to get easier--AS LONG AS YOUR MEASUREMENTS ARE SOUND. I ran into a few problems again, but was able to remeasure or estimate. Luckily Armstrong posts a chart of standard measurements from size 8-18. Granted, I'm not on that chart (sigh) but i can look at those numbers and tell if my measurement is a little goofy. I have a tendency to skim some pages, and i didn't read all the measurement instructions as clearly as i should have. Measure twice, cut once--not just for hard hats.

So, lessons learned so far:
1. double check your measurements
2. READ carefully--don't skim
3. Make sure your son is REALLY asleep before you head down to your studio
4. Fluids and Rest are just as important as fittings and orders.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

step one of five thousand

Well, the bodice is drawn. I can't say finished because the next step is to sew up a muslin to see if it fits. Which should be an adventure in itself since I'll have to fit it on myself.

I always wonder about this, because sewing is a fairly solitary pursuit, and yet most of the instructions on fitting tell you to have someone help you. And yet, after having drawn this sloper, I am supposed to wait until i can find someone who can help me fit it? This means a) find another pattern maker or b) teach someone who doesn't know how to sew what to do. right.

You see, I am ensconced in LA--and while there are a number of people in this city who know how to sew, it always seems to be this secret society here. I mean, there are all the costumers and designers, and thousands of garment district employees around, and there are always tons of people in the fabric stores, but with the exception of walking up to a complete stranger in Michael Levine, i don't know another person who sews. i mean SEWS. I blame it on the myth of the sewing circle. Yes, back in the day, women did get together and worked on their sewing. That's because they weren't allowed to socialize with men until men deemed it appropriate to do so. At which time, women found it behooved them to be engaged in "womanly pursuits" to make them more attractive and marriage material. But in all my time as a seamstress (and I've been sewing since i was 14) I've never once been part of a sewing circle. Oh, there is family--but my mother lives 3 hours away. I'm not driving 6 hours just to fit a half bodice.

Which brings on the other myth, that being a seamstress implies patience. please. Take on a project that then has to wait? feh! Put it on and do it yourself! I know a lot of my sewing sisters are with me. Sure, it may not be perfect, but it will be DONE. I think many of us in the crafty world are obsessed with done. The thing that haunts us most is that pile of "UFO's" (unfinished objects). I've seen more than a few women on my sewing forums rejoice at finishing or finally getting to a UFO! always to a resounding chorus of "good for you!" So to tell me that i have to spend a few hours meticulously drawing this thing, truing it, then cutting it out and basting it together, only to hit the top of my UFO pile? No thank you!

So between orders today, I plan to at least cut and baste. Then up here to the hall of mirrors (previous owners FILLED this house with wall mirrors--thus my previous fears about measurements) and I'm going to fit this garment if it kills me.

Of course then comes the question not answered in the book. Once i fit it (since it's just a sloper--this isn't to wear) THEN what do i do--i.e. how does that "fit" translate back onto the paper?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Justified Distraction

So far, i have only the front bodice sloper finished. That's it. With a little more gumption, I could have the front, back and the skirt sloper done by now. So what's the hold-up?

Well first of all, that first one took me much longer than i anticipated. (which other pattern makers tell you is always true of your first sloper--the next ones are supposedly cake from here--we'll see) Seems some of my measurements weren't as accurate are previously imagined, and it made for a skewed version of a sloper. Luckily, since i decided to do it on the computer, I was able to make changes quickly--but it still meant looking up the measurement again, remeasuring, plotting the lines, etc etc etc.

All the while it looked as if G-d had decided to try that whole flood thing again, and frankly i was a little concerned that i wasn't even in earshot of an ark being built. Rain, once a harmless and really infrequent guest here in Southern California, now registers on my radar as a concern. In January 2005 we had a mini-mudslide here at the house, covering our back patio and making for quite an exciting evening for us. Our house is a three story job, built into the Hollywood hills. I want to say it was built in the 50's. Pete's told me a bunch of times but i never remember. It was built by a concrete contractor, so we know it is study and practically earthquake-proof, in fact we rarely feel them here. But all that won't stop the mud from enveloping it if it so chooses.

I say mini-mudslide because in comparison to what other people went through that winter, this was just pie-making mud. We were "blessed: to only have a covered back patio which the gardeners cleaned up in a day! WE also had the sandbagging help of good friends that night, which kept the mud from entering the house. Other folks lost their homes aand lives that winter. But now when it rains, hard, FOR DAYS, i get a little antsy. Not only have i got the hillside on my radar, but I am also taking stock of the "floodibility" of my studio--which rests at the bottom of our house.

A basement in California terms, but not midwestern terms. I've got everything arranged down there that if it sits on the ground it is plastic or otherwise not prone to water damage. All my fabric, patterns, sewing supplies, as well as all my scrapbooking paper and supplies are down there, and the thought of mold or mildew or any other form of water damage gives me random facial tics. Ala Virginia Woolf, it is a room of my own, and it stresses me out whenever it rains like this. I haven't really had a flood like i did the year of the mudslide, but its always in my head. Right now i have a few puddles in there, in the usual spots, and while we have been told the storm has passed, it's still raining.

On top of this, i had a MIL in town for a week, my husband's cousin is coming for dinner tonight, i have to pick up my mother at the train station tonight, and we are heading to CHA (the biggest craft show in the COUNTRY) tomorrow. And i am the mother of a 3 year-old. And a chihuahua who finds urinating outside during the rain to be an activity beneath him. Needless to say, I am having a little trouble focusing on the task at hand. (not to mention the three orders i need to get to once it dries out downstairs) Distraction has been the rule of my day, and frankly it is a wonder i was able to make a pot of coffee today.

And its raining again. My goal is to get the back finished today. but I'm not holding my breath...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Lightning, Tornados and Dart Placement, Oh my!

So i am about to draft my first sloper--ok, not my first, but my first using the proper methods and not some thrown together research from the internet. (for those of you unfamiliar, the "sloper" is the base pattern one uses to create other patterns--the mother pattern if you will. It is the Bechamel sauce of patterns) And i've been pondering my two options--do i draw it by hand, or use my CAD program? Both have skills in which i am strong, and skills which frustrate me.

As a child of public education, my math skills are mediocre at best. I love to lay blame at education, but really, math skills just don't sit well in my wheelhouse. Don't get me wrong--i made it through the college prerequisite of Algebra II with little trouble, although pre-Calculus did prove to be my black knight. I can do math--even in my head (including fractions!) but it may take me a minute more than others. This is what i mean. I've taught myself and been taught to do the proper functions--i'm just not as speedy as others, and it's even worse if i am distracted. If that makes me a moron in some people's eyes (and you know who you are) then you can suck it.


in order to draw out patterns by hand, math is involved. Some measurements have to be cut in half, quartered or what have you. And you say--well, just bust out the calculator! Yeah, but then you still have to convert to fractions in order to get the measurement correct on the ruler, etc etc. I'm sure it's a piece of cake for some, but it turns out to be a little more work for this dominant right brain. So i figured (after the quote from Pete--"well, the computer, right?" when asked what he thought i should do) I'll do this on the computer. I have to fight the fact that i don't sit right in front of the computer, which leads to head and backaches (and yes I've tied to fix this--I'm not a moron--see above) and of course the ever present eye-strain. And frankly, i feel a little guilty about letting the "machine" do my work--even though i have to plot every line and angle.

So I work though these feelings, put the boy down for a nap, set up my work area with my measurements and my book and...Lightning. Have i mentioned that it's been raining like one might want to build an ark? Turns out this super storm is rolling through Los Angeles, and rather than the usual traffic snarling rain, we've had a few extras--thunder, lightning, and the report of possible tornados down by the beach. my my my. Even now, as i look through my front window, i can see that Burbank is catching hell, and we ain't really dry over here either.

yeah--one could interpret this as a "sign" that i should do this by hand. Except that these little storm amenities don't just affect the use of my computer. If i were to do this by hand, i have to go down to my studio and get the supplies and bring it back up here--which requires another trip outside. Rain and our outside stairs are hardly a good combo. So i interpreted it as another "sign": watching post-Golden Globe fashion reviews and waiting for it all to pass. And as the weather clears, my son awakens, and today's chance to draft this sloper is washed away. But the snow on the mountains is pretty, and sky is clear of smog for a change...

Monday, January 18, 2010


There is nothing quite a humbling as a tape measure.

In order to draft these quality patterns, I figured i would use myself as a model. That way i can test the fit more accurately (although alterations might prove a problem) While it might be educational to create clothes based on the standard measurements of a particular size, it would also be depressing if those clothes were cute and i couldn't wear them.

So i trudged downstairs in the middle of this rainstorm to grab my tape measure and the last of my dignity. You see, measurements are not a personal task--oh the basic three can be (bust/waist/hip) but the ones needed for proper drafting require proper posture and someone else's eye. So not only am i going to get a numerical reminder of the weight i have failed to take off throughout the year--but i get to do so with my husband's help. nice. Although, truth be told, he did seem to linger over any of the measurements involving my bust. Claims he wanted better accuracy. @.@

Loving our bodies and our curves, turns out, is no easy task. No matter how much we are told one thing, we are bombarded with another and left in the middle to decipher this secret language. Yes, men like curves--but should that even matter? What i mean is, should our own body image even depend on what a stinky boy thinks? if you are heterosexual, that is. And if you aren't--wouldn't women be harsher? Or more forgiving? And let us not forget the role of gay men in this whole debacle--men who love physical perfection and then run magazines telling us how we are supposed to look, when their opinion gene-poolside of natural selection shouldn't even matter to us since they will (most likely) never choose to mate with us? It is an ever present conundrum.

And before you bark at me about health and fitness, Yes, I know. But even at my "healthiest" i was a size twelve--PLUS size in the model world. PLUS size. a twelve. I would kill to see a twelve again.

well, that's not entirely true, since i've had a year to take off this weight with no success--and i can testify that some days i try and others i don't. So my passion to see a 12 again isn't as high as imagined. And in all honesty, is it a passion to see size 12 again, or a passion to be where i was 10 years ago? Because i could get to a twelve again, but i can't be 29 again. And i never thought that bugged me, until today.

In the end, i made a self-deprecating comment to my husband about some measurement--hip i think, and he looked at me and said--"I don't know what you're worried about. i don't even know what all these numbers mean anyway."

Exactly, Pete. Exactly.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


Ok--it's time to focus. I've been twiddling my thumbs long enough trying to figure out what/where my direction and focus lay.

The bible. Armstrong's Patternmaking for Fashion Design. I finally got a good deal on it last year, and it's still sitting on my shelf pristine and lovely. I expected it to be dogeared and worn by now. I figured i would never be able to put it down. This book was gonna tell me EVERYTHING i needed to know.

Problem is, it did, and little more. I have been in pattern-making overload. Overwhelmed. Gobsmacked, if you will. But too often i have let my fears get the best of me that i shy away from the things needed to be done. So, I now have a vision--and my current goal is to put it into action. I am going to work through this book, style by style until i have created, FROM SCRATCH the garments i have dreamed about making. Ok, some i have dreamed about--others i just need to create so that i understand the concept.

The fear you ask? multitasking. It's not as if the orders have stopped. I'm still sitting on one while i finish another, I'm researching one and i have two friends having babies within the next few months, and a loyal customer with friends having babies this year as well. It's not like i don't have enough to do, and a toddler to boot (and a house to manage, and a dog to feed, and a husband to cherish, all while maintaining my sanity, skin care regimen and dropping 20 lbs). I am obsessively monogamous to a project--to the detriment of my creativity (and business!) sometimes. People in the corporate world multitask daily. Hell, other SAHMs do it minute by minute--and i can to, which is why it is confusing to me that i can't seem to take that skill into my studio.

So, little by little, day by day, I am going to learn (for real this time--and not just wingin' it) how to make a good pattern, and thus the perfect garment. By the time Benji hits preschool, I want to be able to say i can make ANY garment requested of me, and not shy away from those that scare the bejesus out of me. I do not need Simplicity, Vogue or Butterick to create for me the item i want and/or need. (not that i am in any way considering giving up my extensive pattern catalog, you understand) I just need to end this dependence once and for all.

So, next step: Measurements. mine. ugh.