Body Doubles

Have you met my friend, Ruby?

Here she is, dressed in a fine me-made outfit:

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Simplicity 8058 Skirt, New Look 6330 top, and Muse “Jenna” Cardigan

She’s a cheap imitation of me, but I don’t mind. (I assume she doesn’t either.)

Recently, though, I have been looking at these “body double” types of dressforms, and I have started to wonder if it’s worth the investment.

While I enjoy using Ruby to hold projects in progress or finished, I don’t really use her to tailor garments to fit me. While I have adjusted her dials to approximate my size at the neck, bust, waist and hips, as well as my height, she’s not really the same. My bust isn’t that high, for one thing, and hasn’t been since I was 25. For another, I am not symmetrical. Nor am I all smooth and fatless.

I wondered if I could adapt Ruby to mimic me a bit more accurately. I started by double-checking that all the dials were the right size. The neck, bust and waist were all fine, but the hips were too small, even on the widest setting. I scrounged through my scraps and found a few long, narrow pieces of leftover jersey that I could wind around Ruby’s hips a few times to approximate my hips. Here’s a side view of Ruby’s spare tire.

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Tummy tire

I also used twill tape to mark the widest point of the back and the bustline, for reference later. Mark these lines with something with enough dimension that you can feel them under a garment, and make sure they run parallel with the floor.

Next it was time to tackle my shoulders. One is quite a bit lower than the other. I can’t lower a shoulder on Ruby, but I can raise a shoulder. I hoped this would have a similar effect. I used two shoulder pads I’d cut out of an old RTW sweater and pinned them in place.

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Uneven shoulder compensation

Finally, I covered the whole thing with an old tank top.

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Ruby is now more my shape. We’ll see if this makes any difference.

 

 

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Tomato Roulette – August Update

My tomatoes are coming in – I have had at least one from every variety I planted, except the Brandywine, which is always late and therefore not my favorite.

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Tomato log – notes on flavor and production
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Tomato records – variety, harvest date and number, size

I already love the 4 of July variety. While they are small – between the size of a golf ball and a billiard ball – they were indeed early and have a nice flavor, a bit acidic, with a good skin – not too fragile or tough.

The loser far is the so-called “Better Boy” which has produced few fruit, and most of them are malformed, like this one:

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I have no problem with ugly produce, but I do want some normal tomatoes too. The plant only has a few other fruit on it. They taste OK – nothing special. Definitely won’t plant this again. Better Boy, my butt!

The king tomato was Big Beef – almost a one-pound fruit so far and several more on the vine:

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The other two varieties – Big Boy and Brandy Boy – also were very good. They were pretty similar really – in a taste test Brandy Boy seemed a bit sweeter, with the delicate skin of a Brandywine. We’ll see what else we get for the season.

Quilting for the Birds

I used to be a quilter, and I have lots of scraps left around from those days. So when The People’s Sewing Army put out a call to sew for the wildlife rehabilitation program with the Audubon Society of Portland, Oregon, I had to sign up.

The wildlife rehabbers needed small quilts for songbird cages and larger quilts for cages of raptors and other large birds. I had fun sewing these up:

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Scrap quilts for the birds
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Scrap quilts – other side

Fabric scraps are such a trip down memory lane for me. There were lots of scraps from a cat-themed quilt I made my mother years ago, and more from a garden-themed quilt I made for a friend. I sewed up some scraps from quilts made for my nieces and nephews (the oldest of whom is now in college) and from a batik dolphin quilt I made as a wedding present for dear friends.

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I also had some library-themed fabric leftover from pillows I made my brother-in-law. And then there were scraps left over from various apparel sewing projects, such as these:

The Audubon Society also asked for cloth napkins for its volunteers, so I raided my stash of linen scraps. Whenever you make pants, you end up with long, skinny scraps left over, so they were perfect for making napkins:

The fabric came from these projects (it cracks me up how inefficient I was with that yellow linen when I made the clamdiggers – live and learn!):

I took apart this muslin I sewed a couple of years ago out of some damaged linen and added that to the project also, saving the buttons to use again:

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Muslin of a skirt I drafted based on the Maria Denmark Yasmin Yoke Skirt

In the end, I made 18 napkins of various sizes. They were simple to construct – I just cut squares and finished the ends with a rolled hem on my serger.

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I used up some thread I didn’t need, too. The bright blue serger thread wasn’t great quality, but it was fine for a rolled-hem project like the napkins. I also used up sewing machine threads on spools and  bobbins of lesser quality in colors that I probably won’t need again.

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And I used up some odds and ends of premade bias bindings, including a few thrift-store finds. And I didn’t sweat these – they’re not perfectly rectangular, and the quilting is a bit wavy in places. I don’t think the birds will mind:

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Altogether, I used up 1 pound, 10 ounces of scrap fabric and quilt batting, oddball threads and leftover bindings – all getting a new and much needed life, instead of going to waste in my stash.

I get a lot of satisfaction about sewing for others from time to time. If you’re interested in helping out in the future, follow the link to The People’s Sewing Army or see my previous blog post.

I Hate to Put a Label on It, But…

I finally did. Behold:

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Style Arc Jasmine trousers – with my label.

It wasn’t easy.

This is my second pair of Style Arc Jasmine trousers, with custom-made labels I got at The Dutch Label Shop. I bought 100 of these labels back in December 2017. The cost was  $33.70, including shipping. (I bought them during a 30% off Black Friday sale. The normal price would have been $46 with shipping.)

I chose red – my favorite color – the Distaff name and my city, New Haven, Connecticut (USA). You can also choose a logo, and I decided after some hemming and hawing to put the astrological symbol for Venus on the labels too, just to drive home the whole “female” point.

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Custom-made labels – ready for projects!

I put the labels in a drawer in my notions and threads organizer. I looked forward to using them. And then I didn’t. I even used a label the Islay Woollen Mill gave me when I bought fabric there to hide my labels, so I wouldn’t have to think about them.

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Lonely labels

I can’t say WHY I didn’t use them. Sometimes I think it’s a bit of an affectation to put your own label on something. Sometimes I am not proud enough of a garment to label it. Sometimes I just don’t want to do the tiny bit of hand sewing necessary – lame excuse, I know.

This week I finally said the hell with it and promptly sewed a label onto three items. Besides the Jasmine pants, I sewed one onto this top from Vogue 9246.

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Label matching – oooh!

And the Osaka skirt from Seamwork Magazine:

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Labeled, bitches!

I am going to label everything from now on. Promise. Three labels down, 97 to go!

Sew Edgy Trousers

I am continuing to work on my “Sew Edgy” look for the office. Check out these trousers in black wool stretch twill:

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Not your everyday work trousers

(Sorry about the backdrop – our shittily stained fence is as close to “edgy” as my home looks.)

The trousers are a deep black, so it’s hard to see the detail, but trust me when I tell you the fit is just about PERFECT.

The pattern is Style Arc’s Jasmine trousers. This is my second pair. The first ones were pretty good, but I still needed to work out some fit issues. I also wanted to try different fabric, because the first pair, in a wool gabardine with 3% elastane are a little too stretchy. This time I used a black wool twill that I got at B&J Fabrics in New York. Gorgeous stuff! The fabric has 1% elastane for just a little stretch recovery.

I started again with the size 16 because the fit was perfect at the hips, and I took in the rest of the pants a bit from there:

  • 1 1/4 inches at the waistline
  • 1 1/2 inches at the waistband
  • Tapered the sides in 1/2 inch starting 1″ above the bottom of the pocket bags and ending at the knee. (The first pair tend to fit a bit like jodhpurs on me, given my waist-hip-thigh ratios.)
  • Sewed the entire side seams at 5/8 inch instead of 3/8 inch
  • Scooped out the back crotch 1/2 cm and extended the back crotch the same amount
  • Added 1 cm to the top of the center back of the yoke, tapering to nothing at the side seam, so the pants would not dip down a bit in the back.

I sewed a blind hem, hemming at the length the pattern comes in because I wanted to wear with patent-leather loafers for a menswear look. It’s a fine length for me, at 5’6″. I think they might be a bit long – we’ll see.

Also, this time I stay-stitched the back yoke curves because the last time that bias curve stretched out a bit during construction. And I tacked the pocket bag seam allowances down to the insides of the pockets to keep them in place.

One big fail, however, was the button. The pattern calls for one button in the waistband. Last time, I opted for a hook-and-bar closure instead. This time I wanted to do a button because I had a special one in my stash – a heavy gold button with an enameled black band around the outside. I like metal trims for work clothes as part of my Sew Edgy workplace look.

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I sewed TWO practice buttonholes on mocked-up scraps identical to the pants – same fabric and interfacing. They both came out great. When it came to the actual pants, however, no dice. The buttonhole went in wonky and started sewing in place. I ripped it out but accidentally ripped up the fabric of the pants a bit in the process. So now I had a hole in my fabric and no buttonhole. I adjusted the buttonholer to sew less densely and fast, and tried again. Same problem. I ended up doing two hook and bars on the inside and sewed the button as a faux button to the outside to cover up the little hole (which I darned closed). GRR! Tell me the truth – does the button look stupid?

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These pants are a TNT for me for sure! I am delighted to find a pair that fit and wear well yet have all the details of RTW trousers, such as a real fly and pockets. If you’re shaped like me – a bit of a pear – you may also like the way these work for you.

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Obligatory back view  complete with photobombing dog

I want to try a pair with some denim next to see if I can get a jeans look out of them.

Workin’ on the Railroad

I feel all fancy when I can use an arcane textile term like “railroading” a fabric. What’s railroading? Allow me to demonstrate.

With printed fabrics. the print design typically goes from selvage to selvage. So, typically, you cut your pattern pieces on the straight of grain, meaning the grainline marks on the pattern pieces run parallel with the selvage.

Let’s say you have a one-yard cut of fabric like this 54-inch-wide cotton jacquard from the fashion design house Milly. The selvages are at the top and bottom of the picture:

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Milly cotton jacquard I bought at Banksville Designer Fabrics in Norwalk, CT

That’s a pretty big print motif. It’s hard to work it with a simple skirt pattern, such as this one, the Osaka wrap skirt from Seamwork magazine:

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A straight of grain pattern layout won’t work.

There’s not enough room on the straight of grain to center the pattern motifs and squeeze in all three pieces – a right front, left front and back (upper right) which is cut on the fold.

Does it work better railroaded, where I lay out the pieces on the crossgrain?

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Railroaded fabric with a great pattern layout and room to spare.

Yes! With room to spare! Hooray!

Depending on your fabric, the railroaded cuts might behave just as they would have on the straight of grain, or maybe not. It depends on how drapey the fabric, whether it stretches at all, and how it’s woven. You can play around with the two grainlines to see if it works. For this fabric, it’s fine either way.

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Seamwork “Osaka” wrap skirt laid out flat.

Here’s the skirt all laid out – notice how I was able to match the motifs pretty well by railroading the fabric. The white sections and the coral sections line up, including that band of coral that runs down the middle. Keep in mind, I wasn’t trying to match up the motifs exactly, because that’s not happening without a lot more fabric – wasteful and not necessary, as you will see.

Looks pretty good on, too:

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I arranged the overlapping front pieces so that the motifs would scroll along at the hem and hip. Excuse the photobombing dog!
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Same in the back

This was a quick and easy make – Seamwork said it would take about 3 hours, and that was right, even with the modifications I made.

The original skirt includes a seam halfway down to color block or otherwise change up the design. It’s also reversible, so in theory you can have two different skirts using up to four fabrics. You’re meant to basically make two skirts, sew them together, turn out and topstitch. Here’s the technical drawing:

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Osaka line drawing from Seamwork magazine Issue #4

I just wanted to use the one fabric, and I didn’t want to line it or make it reversible because the fabric was a good weight as-is. I made these changes to the pattern:

  • Eliminated the colorblock seam by butting the top and bottom pieces together at the seamline.
  • Widened the back darts 1/4 inch each.
  • Made a bias facing for the waist that finishes at 1.5 inches wide (the skirt has no waistband).
  • Lengthened it 1.5 inches and did a narrowish hem.
  • Eliminated the snap closure inside because I don’t think I need it.
  • Added 1 inch to both ends of the skirt to allow for hems and as some added insurance against the wrap popping open.

Also, I mitered the hems, ’cause like I said, I am fancy like that.

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Mitered hems, bitches!

I got the button from a bargain bin at Len’s Mill in Ontario, Canada when I was at PatternReview Weekend last summer. To secure it, I made a slim rouleau loop and secured it between the skirt and facing.

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I got a big button and I cannot lie…

I wore this skirt Saturday night to dinner with friends. I was inspired to sew with this as part of The Sewcialists’ mini challenge to sew up something using one of the group’s logo colors. There’s a spinner to help you choose a color, and I got coral. I am glad the challenge gave me the little push I needed to find a solution for this bold, unusual fabric.

Damn You, Aphids!

When you’re a gardener, you stop and smell the roses. All the time. And all the other flowers, too. I mean, you plant them to bring you joy, right?

So it feels like someone’s stabbing me with a knife, when I peruse my flowers one day and find this:

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A metric fuckton of aphids.
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Sucking the life out of this heliopsis

I don’t begrudge a few aphids to a few bits of my garden. The birds, ladybugs and ants often take care of them anyway, and their damage won’t kill a plant most of the time. I usually let them be, or I pick off a few infested leaves by hand and throw them away. But this was a serious infestation, that left several heliopsis plants wilty and in peril. Time to take action.

If you Google “how to get rid of aphids,” you will get a lot of advice. Here’s what I tried and how well each approach worked:

  1. Spray them off with water. This is the #1 recommendation. “Just fit your garden hose with a high-pressure stream of water and spray away,” I was told. “Most aphids can’t fly, and they are too small and weak to climb back up on the plant. If they don’t die from being blasted off the plant, they’ll die of starvation.” Sounded good to me. I blasted the plants with water thoroughly, taking care to also hit the undersides of the leaves, where the little suckers congregate. I noted, with satisfaction, thousands of aphid corpses on the ground. The next day, a conga line of red aphids covered the stems again. THIS METHOD DOES NOT WORK. Maybe for a few aphids, it would do the trick, but it does nothing to stop a major infestation.
  2. Spray a solution of water and dish soap. This #2 recommendation assured me that the soap would kill the aphids by suffocating them, yet it would not harm the plants or the bees. I mixed a solution of water and dish soap in a squirt bottle and sprayed away, again with special attention to the undersides of leaves. I noted with satisfaction many aphid corpses on the plant a few hours later. I also noted with agitation many alive aphids. I sprayed again. And again. I tried adding garlic and cayenne pepper to the mix. Still no dice. I’d kill some aphids, but more would appear, and some seemed temporarily stunned but not dead. THIS METHOD DOES NOT WORK EITHER.
  3. Rely on natural aphid predators. Many experts advise releasing ladybugs into your garden to watch nature at work. When I first noticed the aphids, I also noticed several ladybugs feasting on them. When I tried remedies #1 and #2, I shooed away the ladybugs so they wouldn’t suffer collateral damage. They did their part, but we’re talking tens of thousands of aphids vs. a few dozen ladybugs. How many aphids can a ladybug eat in a day? 50 or so, I read. How nice. Maybe I could try this sometime, before an infestation gets out of control, but I am not going to pay $30 and wait a week to get mail-order ladybugs when things are this bad. JURY’S OUT, BUT I AM MOVING ON.
  4. Live and let live. I found some gardeners who noted that there’s always an “aphid season” and if you just wait it out, the aphids go away on their own. SORRY, NOT HAPPENING.
  5. The best defense is a good offense. Aphids prey on weak plants and won’t attack healthy plants, I was told. To put it another way, if you have aphids, it’s your own fault. Accept the consequences and take better care of your garden. This seems unfair to me. These plants have been well-tended, fertilized and watered. SCREW YOU.
  6. Use an insecticide. No one but the insecticide makers recommend this. The gardening world is full of people who will tell you that some combination of remedies #1 through #5 will solve the problem. Maybe with a mild outbreak, sure, but with a full-scale infestation on my hands, I opted next for the nuclear option. I cut off all the flowers so that no bees would come by. Then I mixed up some concentrated pyrethrin spray, donned a mask and gloves, and let loose. Two quarts of spray later, I had a full-scale aphid massacre on my hands. I declared victory. The next day, I noted a few live aphids, but not many. I figured the insecticide residue would get them. It didn’t. It rained. The next day, a few more appeared. I squished them with my bare hands. I got the insecticide on my skin and enjoyed a numb sensation for a few hours. I marveled that the insecticide affected me – a 155-pound mammal – while teeny aphids lived on. A week later, the infestation was as bad as ever. INSECTICIDES ALONE DO NOT WORK.
  7. Scorched earth. At this point, I was beyond angry. I decided to literally cut the aphids off in their tracks. The plants would die – or at least be very sickly – anyway, and the aphids would spread elsewhere, so I might as well go scorched earth on their asses. The aphids clustered on the soft new growth while leaving the tougher old woody growth alone. I pruned the plants back to the woody growth, taking most of the new growth and all the flowers with it. I also weeded all around the base of the plant. Here’s what I had at the end of the job:
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Pruned back heliopsis, next to one not pruned but infested.

I had a nice paper sack of aphids after that. Some managed to escape the bag, only to die on the curb. Ha ha.

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Sack o’ aphids

I sprayed more pyrethrin to kill off any stragglers.

Three weeks later, behold:

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VICTORY!

I still see a few aphids, and a few ladybugs, so I figure things are in balance, finally.

So, what REALLY works? Simply this – removing the aphids – physically – from the plant. Cut them off. Spray a little too, just in case. A healthy plant will grow back. You may lose a few flowers or fruits, but you will not lose your mind.