Spring Cleaning and Other Good Things

After pretty much freezing my business, and everything associated with it, in a last ditch effort to survive the semester, I have decided to just bite the bullet and get started up again.

For firstly, this store represents the culmination of my life’s dream (the dream to be a fashion designer, not the other dreams!!), and it’s been absolutely heart breaking and neurosis inducing to not be able to sew, or to sketch. So I’m cleaning of the poor neglected sewing machine and getting her fired up!

For secondly, First Friday season is here, and my brain has been overflowing with new ideas for that. So I’ve recruited two assistants to help me with the folding and the glazing.

Today, unfortunately, doesn’t look like it’s going to have much sewing in it. My house is absolutely trashed, and the weather is so nice that I thought I might do a Spring cleaning. If there’s any time left over to the day after that, then I can get started on a cute little sun dress I’ve been sizing hour. It’s going to be made from absolutely the most fun fabric ever!

Although, I must say, I have learned an important lesson from sizing it out- don’t cut your nice pretty fabric first before testing the pattern….

Confessions of an Unapologetic Caffiene Freak

The facts were these-

Three months ago, I RSVP’ed to my cousins wedding. Of course, I had to come up with something stunning to wear, and any old clothing store wouldn’t work- I have an IMAGE to maintain; a standard of (neurotic) excellence to uphold in the eyes of my family. So I decided I was going to make a dress. I had three months. No problem.

I settled on a stunning 1930’s evening gown pattern (not one of my own, shockingly enough, although I did have to size it up from a size 6 to a size 18), and with two months left, I picked out my fabric. I had two months to get it done. No worries.

And then school came along like a rider of the Apocalypse, and gobbled up all my time. When I wasn’t desperately cramming in as much Japanese and Chinese vocab as I could before a test (a test every week??!! That’s pure sadism!!), or maniacally hammering away on my laptop to crank out ANOTHER anthropology essay, I was either folding origami for First Friday until my fingers were numb, or was flopped out in the house in a state very similar to that of a human vegetable. I was exhausted every day, and felt like I’d been run over by a truck. A big rig truck. Multiple times.

Well, my cousin’s wedding is tomorrow.

I started the dress on Tuesday.

For four hours, I sized out the pattern, sewed together a muslin sample, and with a quick prayer, cut into the fabric.

On Wednesday I had a nervous melt down.

On Thursday I worked on the dress for six hours, around a full day of classes and two tests.

On Saturday, I finished the dress, jumped into the car, and scampered off to the wedding.

Is it 100% perfect? Well, to me, no, it’s not. I always struggle with satin, because I don’t actually have a good workspace for laying it out and cutting it. And I skipped the very necessary French seams completely in deference to my limited time.

But that’s not really the point. The point is that with the assistance of seven energy drinks, I managed to put together a stunning evening gown in four days.

Working around five classes, three language exams, and two anthropology assignments.

The moral of the story is this: Caffeine makes the world go around. When you’re at the eleventh hour, line up a few cups of coffee, and get to work! 🙂

The Right to Bear Scissors

Sometimes you come across people who really drive you up a wall. I met one such person at the local fabric store.

The facts were these; I absolutely destroyed the bodice of the dress I’ve been working on, so I went to go pick up another yard of the fabric to redo it. There was a scrap of the fabric left on the bolt, maybe 3/4 yd if I squinted. But I needed the fabric. And it was all they had left in the store. So I took it up to the counter to measure.

I handed the fabric to the cutter, and she unfolded the fabric. And folded it so the two cut edges were together.

“A yard and a quarter,” she informed me

I stared.

“I’m really sorry but you miss measured,” I said. “You should be measuring the length of the fabric, not the width”

She looked at me like I was mentally handicapped.

“Along the selvedge,” I explained.

“Who taught you to measure fabric?” She snapped. “It’s a yard and a quarter.”

I argued with her for half an hour. There were a whole bunch of problems in the store that day, and no manager in sight. If I hadn’t needed the fabric so badly I would have just gone home. But I DID need it. So before my very eyes, she cut a quarter of a yard off the selvedge.

Okay. Maybe she was new, and sometimes people make mistakes.

But then I bought an entire bolt of fabric, and asked her to measure it for me. She was displeased. On e she was done, I asked if she could just roll it back on to the bolt.

“No,” she snarled.

I persisted in getting a bolt for the fabric to be rolled on to. So she grabbed an empty bolt from a fabric hat was 20$ a yard, and scanned that bolt end. So my ten yards of 6$/yd fabric was suddenly 20$/yd. I couldn’t take it.

“Excuse me, but you scanned the wrong bolt,” I said, maybe a little more hostile than I intended.

What followed was another half our argument over who was right.

I won. Because she was wrong.

The moral of this story is that some people shouldn’t be allowed to wield scissors. Or to reign over the cutting counter. Or even touch fabric. Ever.

Beware the fabric store gremlins!!!!

Of Ancient Egyptians and Bias Tape

First, let me introduce you to Hatshepsut!!

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She is my brand new industrial sewi g machine that I bought for 50$. No joke.

She needs some living care, like some oil, and a new cord, and maybe a new lamp, since the old one got smashed in the moving process.

But other than that, she runs like a dream!! I can’t wait until I have her back in ship shape, so I can put her to work… And let my moms sewing machine take s vacation. That poor little Viking has really been a trooper for me!

So what I have for you today is a rant about bias tape.

I just spent two days making 5 yards of shantung bias tape from 1/8 of a yard of fabric. “Why?!” You ask.

Because the fabric stores near me only sell decently priced cotton bias tape, and for this new panty design, I needed cherry red shantung bias tape like this.

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I’m going to cry blood when I run out of this bias tape!

The Fine Art of Frolicking

There is something magical about a full skirt with a flouncy petticoat underneath it. It evokes the fairy tale princess, dreams of Cinderella and Prince Charming, and the delicate femininity of the 1950’s fashions.

I have been working on a 1950’s style dress for this Sunday, and, as luck would have it, unearthed a black net petticoat from the maelstrom that is my costume shop. I pressed it, tried it on, and swirled through the shop in a tee-shirt, beat up jeans, my petticoat and sandals, like a little girl at the holidays.

Having finally finished my dress (by finished I mean that it’s not held together with pins, and has a functioning zipper, but still requires hemming and a few fitting alterations), I was determined to try it on with the petticoat underneath.

The result was fantastic. it added just the right amount of body to the skirt, and gave a wonderful twirly effect when I turned around to show my patient mother. I jumped up and down, and swirled the skirt.

“That’s not how you frolic!” my mother admonished.  “Stop looking down at the skirt! Stand up straight! Now you can frolic!”

I followed her directions, and frolic, I did, through the living room, and the dining room. And then, having entirely too much fun, I careened into a table in the kitchen and knocked over a bowl full of fruit.

The moral of this story is that as much fun as it is to prance and dance around in a full petticoat and skirt, it is important to keep one’s surroundings in mind. you must be graceful and princess-like… and princesses DO NOT slam into tables! 🙂 Also, remember that a full skirt can knock things off coffee tables… like your coffee mugs! BEWARE,  and, most importantly, have fun!! 🙂

The Story of the Living Dolly

Yesterday I got all dressed up in my FINALLY finished and perfected “Lil Munster” dress, a pair of lime green-and-black striped stocking, and bright red lipstick, and tromped off to work.

Lil' Munster dress

On the bus I was immediately confronted by a little girl, maybe five or six years old, who was with her mother. The girl took in my outfit for a moment.

“What happened to YOU?” she asked, in that tone of incredulity that is usually only found in an adult.

I stopped, thrown. I looked at her mother for help. Her mother looked like she had surrender for today.

“Nothing HAPPENED to me,” I informed her, unloading a huge sewing/first aid/make-up/emergency kit, a large hat box stuffed full of unfinished hats and a laptop bag crammed full to bursting with laptop, paper work, daily planner, power cords for more electronics than NASA, a journal, and a reading book, all onto the luggage rack.

“But why do you dress like that?” insisted the girl. I thought about all of the smart ass remarks I would normally give an adult. But she was five.

“Because I can,” I said honestly. The girl thought about this. When she was all grown up, could SHE dress like this strange woman?

“You look like the other girl,” she decided.

“Other girl?” I asked. I looked at her mother. Her mother was just as confused as me.

“The other girl. The one under the house.” Her face informed me that I should know EXACTLY who this was. Now is a good time to admit that I adore children. I don’t have any, and because I dress bizarrely, most parents don’t let me near them. I’ve had parents with small children actually CROSS THE STREET. You get used to it.  Some people have small minds.

The fact that this precocious kid’s mother wasn’t running for the hills in fear encouraged me. True, for the first few minutes, she watched me like a hawk, but she didn’t see anything in me to be afraid of.

After a few seconds of contemplation (trying to think like I was twenty years younger) I put two and two together.

“The wicked witch of the West? from the Wizard of Oz?” I asked.

“Of course!” Her mother sucked in a breath. Was I offended? The girl grinned at the joke. I started laughing.

“You’re a sweet kid,” I chortled, well aware that sarcasm was lost on a little kid.

Encouraged by this, she began to interrogate me. Did I always dress like this? Only in October. But why? Because it’s Halloween Month. But it isn’t Halloween!!! It might as well be.

And then she said absolutely the cutest thing in the world.

“Do you turn into a dolly when people aren’t around? Because then I could take you home and keep you and play with you all day long!”

“She’s not a DOLL!! You can’t just take her home! Stop being ridiculous!” her mother admonished. I assured her that I wasn’t a doll. She didn’t believe me.

“What’s under your skirt?” she asked.

“What do you think is under my skirt. Legs! What’s under your pants? Legs!”

She tugged at my skirt. then she grabbed the hem and yanked it up to my thigh.

“Whoah! Kid! I’ve got a real body under there! And I’d like it to STAY under the dress!” I tugged the skirt away from her.

“I’m sorry,” her mother said helplessly. “She wanted to see if you were wearing stocking or knee socks. I’m really sorry.”

She still thought I was a doll. And she informed me that her mother was really a big puppet. Then she wanted me to show her everything in my kit. And then she wanted to see the hats. She was disappointed by the hats.

“You lied! There are no KITTIES in there!” (your guess is as good as mine on that one).

The entire ride, she bombarded me with millions of questions, trying to prove to every one that I REALLY WAS A DOLL. And she planned on keeping me. Apparently she hadn’t heard about human trafficking laws, but I’m sure she will when she is older.

A few minutes before they got off the bus, I handed her mom my business card.

“I usually make adult clothing. But if she really wants a rag doll that has this outfit, I could make one.”

‘Will it talk?” demanded the girl.

“No, ” I informed her. “Dolls can’t talk.”

I doubt that I actually will ever hear about the doll. But the little girl and her mother gave me a really wonderful present – one of acceptance. The little girl wasn’t afraid of me because of how I looked, and her mother wasn’t worried about the affect speaking with me would have. By now they will have forgotten about the woman in the funny dress. But for years to come, I will remember the young girl who swore with all her heart and soul that I would turn into a dolly after work.

 

A Case of Auto-Pilot and a Missing Key

Let’s face it, ladies and gentlemen- adults seem to busy to pay attention to the world around them.  We run through our lives spending half the time on autopilot while we think of other, more important things.  You know it’s true.  Maybe you came home from a really rough day at work. You walked through the door, you took off your coat. Then the next thing you know,  your on the sofa with some hot chocolate, or what ever always makes you feel better. You don’t remember getting it. You don’t remember  going to the sofa.

Or maybe you’re driving to work. you get into the car, you pull out of the drive way, and the next thing you know, you’re merging for the exit ramp. You don’t remember any of the drive. You don’t even remember changing lanes the first time.  (this brings up a question on whether or not adults should be permitted to drive, unsupervised. but I leave that to you to ponder today).

In both cases, you were on autopilot. You’re brain just didn’t care enough to pay attention. Besides, your body clearly could do everything all on it’s own, with out YOU to bother it.

I am often guilty of not paying attention. I search for my workshop keys for at least half an hour everyday. I can never find my glasses when I wake up in the morning. To find my cell phone when I’ve put it down, I have to call it and follow the ringtone like a bloodhound. I found it in the refridgerator once.

This week, however, I had the most amazing memory lapse in the history of my life. I lost the key to my work shop. Not as in  “oh, silly me, I put it in the icecream box!”, or “oh! It fell under the sofa!” I mean REALLY lost it. I ripped apart my house. And it was NOWHERE. SO then I spent a day prowling the streets of my neighborhood, examining sidewalks. No luck.

I should probably explain why I was so worried about this key. If you wanted to get VERY technical, I wasn’t supposed to have it. Sure, I worked for the school, and so obviously needed to be able to get into the costume workshop to do my job.  The administration felt differently. I wasn’t a full fledged teacher, so I was not, in their eyes, worthy of possessing the mystical magical key that let me in to a 10×20 ft windowless box that was tiled with asbestos. Because I might STEAL something.

Never mind the thousands of hours I log working on the productions. Never mind the fact that I was the one who restocked the first aid kit in the shop out of my own pocket because the school was too cheap.  And never mind the countless fundraisers I’d organized to get supplies and money for the costume shop. In their eyes, I was nothing more than a 5’10”, 160 lb., well corseted FELON.

The moral is that they didn’t want me to have this key.

So it would be no far stretch to think that the administration would dance a jig over me losing my illegitimate, bastard key. “Lost it, dearie? oh GOOD! Replace it, dearie? Oh, sweetheart, I don’t think we could!” So I started thinking up more and more far fetched plans for getting in and out of my workshop. How much did a lock pick set cost? Could a lock pick turn a dead bolt? Maybe I could borrow my boss’s key, and then get a copy made? All horrible ideas, especially the last one, since the key said DO NOT DUPLICATE, and it would have involved fraud, bribery and the cunning use of a micro mini skirt and a push up bra to get a new copy made.

As it got closer and closer to me having to tell my boss that I had lost the key, I became more and more panicked. I couldn’t sleep. I was too nauseous to eat.

And then, last night, my mother came home. She dropped her purse and her coat next to the phone, and looked over at the computer desk.

“Isn’t that the key you were looking for?” she asked me.

It had been sitting on the computer desk. Not hidden. It was placed neatly in front of the keyboard. I had spent three days looking for it, and yet had managed not to see it.

Was it simply a case of autopilot? Had I taken the key to the computer to use the USB attached to it, and gotten side tracked? Or had I realized in the middle of the act, that I was trying to use the WRONG USB, and so had gone to get the other, forgetting the first? Had I run out of coffee and needed to refill my cup, and then decided that coffee and brownies were perfect together, and so had decided to make brownies?

I may never know.

Personally, I am maintaining that my house is haunted by a poltergeist, that decided it was bored with my key, and was kind enough to return it.

The conclusion you draw from this tale is up to you. However, once you have finished reading this, I suggest you take a moment to look around you, and really look. other wise, next time it might be you, searching in vain for a missing object that is right in front of you!

Until next time… ::sinister laugh and creepy organ music::

The Death of a Sewing Machine

I have a sewing machine. My sewing machine is named Neffi. She is a Bernina, and she has seen me through many theater shows, and many sewing projects. My heart is broke.

Let me try this again. Up until 30 minutes ago i HAD a sewing machine. her name WAS Neffi, and she WAS a Bernina.

Now she’s just a stupid chunk of metal that only runs backwards. No. REALLY. She sews back wards.

At first i thought is was a jammed reverse button. No problem. Couldn’t I just jimmy it a little with a screw driver? HA! NO! not even with a CROWBAR. The button is fine. The button is NOT jammed. Neffi is just possessed by the devil.
And this brings up a disturbing question. if my sewing machine is possessed by the devil, then will the effects of the possession stop at just sewing backwards, and only doing a basting stitch length? What if my sewing skitters across the floor while I sleep and starts chanting voodoo curses in my ears, and then i wake up and I’m a 95 year old crone?

Do priest’s even DO exorcisms on machines? And if they do, then doesn’t that mean that my sewing machine has an eternal soul?

Perplexing. I leave you to ponder this.

The moral of the story is that my sewing machine broke and needs a doctor. In the mean time, I’m going to padlock it in a steamer trunk and bury it in the back yard. I don’t want it to put the voodoo-hoodoo on me!

A Stitch in Time Keeps the Doctor Away

Ah, my sporadic blog. How I love it.

I recently relocated funds (very paltry funds, used in conjunction with an army of coupons), to buy most of the materials to begin work on the constantly mentioned, but never seen (okay, well, now you can see it- isn’t it gorgeous?)

Antoinette Dress (Acheron Violet)

Original design for Antoinette dress set, by Mack McKamey August 29, 2012. For KSSD’s Vices&Virtues.

And while I was working on the actual sample, I decided to do something incredible stupid. I decided to make TWO dresses to go together as a set.  So I got the materials for the under-dress, and drafted out the pattern for that.

Antoinette Underdress

Original design for Antoinette under dress, by Mack McKamey, August 29 2012. For KSSD’s Vices&Virtues

 

So 5 yards of muslin later, I figure out the pattern. I redrafted the pattern on to paper and painstakingly marked every single seam allowance, every single notch, ever reinforced stitching line. I marked EVERYTHING.

With a slightly pounding hear, I traced out the pattern on the fabric, a dusty rose shantung that is currently worth more than my life, as far as I’m concerned. I got it cut out with out any incident. I transferred all of the pattern markings to the fabric with meticulous care. And then I sewed the stupid thing together wrong.

It’s true. The upper bodice, where I was supposed to gather it? I didn’t make the basting stitches go far enough, so when I gathered it, the bust would only really have fit a boy who had glued two apples to his chest. And to add insult to injury, I’d clipped the seam allowances BEFORE checking it on the mannequin. Stupid me. So now I have to re-cut the upper bodice (THANK GOBLINS that I thought to buy a little more fabric than I needed!!!!).

The moral of this story is that regardless of how carefully you plan, it is the actual execution that matters. t doesn’t matter if you spend a month perfecting a pattern and marking it. If you don’t put the same amount of attention and care into the garment you are sewing, you ill end up feeling the same way I did- stupid. Don’t be stupid. Take your time. Because it’s not how you get there, that counts. It’s what you have when you are done!

The Lie of Lace

What’s the first thing that pops into your mind when you hear the word “Lace”? Some people think “The curtains my cat ripped to shreds”. Others think “Something I wish my wife/girlfriend/finacee/lover would wear more often…”. Still others think “I wonder if they finished altering my wedding dress yet”. And of course there’s a plethora of people who think in abstraction : Sexy, pretty, girly, flirty, soft, decadent, expensive… the list probably keeps going on into eternity.

Now, with a show of hands, how many of you thought “I hate you”? Not many, am I right. Maybe a few new sewers, who are in the same boat I am. Those of us who are still getting the hang of working with lace twitch in horror. I have nightmares. I’m being chased by a bolt of lace that is screaming “SEW ME!!!!”, and I can’t escape.

My fear of lace is actually pretty logical. It gets pulled down into my machine while I’m sewing, and then rips. And if it doesn’t do that, then it stretches while I’m sewing (now matter how many pins I use), and then has a bubble effect. I can’t mark it very well when I’m cutting the pattern. And let’s not talk about how many times I’ve sewn something together backwards and then had to take out every. Single. Seam.

I recently encountered a new problem with lace. This time my problem arose with the lace trim. Those dainty strips of gorgeous lace that you can use to trim skirts, and dresses, and socks and gloves, and, well, anything at all. The sewing instructions called for lace that was 1″ wide. I’ve got a HUGE drum full of vintage lace, in every width, and color and pattern. So i dove in to this barrel-o-lace (literally and figuratively) and like a cat with yarn, I started unrolling the lace until I’d made an ungodly mess.

And not a single lace was 1″ wide.

Sure, there was scalloped lace that in PLACES was an inch wide… But in other places it was 2-3″ wide. i had lace that was straight edged and 1.5 ” wide, lace that was .75″ wide, lace that was 6″ wide… but no 1″ lace.

“What the heck,” I said to myself. “Does it REALLY matter? I’ll just use a thinner lace!”, and so I did.

Now is when I should probably say that the lace in question was going to be used for inserts. What is this “insert”? you may wonder. Basically, I was supposed to sew the lace flat against the finished dress (or stitching line on each side of the lace), and then slit the fabric behind the lace, fold it back, and sew it into place, thus creating sort of windows. Doesn’t that sound pretty?

Now that you know what I was supposed to do, please divide .75 by 2. If you don’t want to, that 3/8 of an inch. That’s not a whole lot of a seam allowance to be sewing on, especially with a machine.

My machine agreed. It sucked the fabric down into the hole for the needle, and ripped a big old hole in the dress. I screamed a little. Then I swore a black streak. I stomped my feet, and pounded on the table, and, after three more failed, and destructive, attempts, I surrendered and threw the dress into the garbage.

This week, I decided to try the dress, all over again, with many modifications on the sewing instructions. As for the question of lace, I took two thin trims and sewed them together with a zig-zag stitch. The machine enjoyed this, and did NOT try to eat the lace. And while I have not yet gotten around to doing the inserts, I have a feeling that this time, with the help if a zig-zag stitch and a WHOLE lot more patience, I will be much more successful.

In conclusion, I offer these words of advice on using lace: patience is a virtue. So is a fresh needle and a zig zag stitch. And if you feel like I did, and want to eradicate lace from the face of the planet because it just DOESN’T BEHAVE, do as I did. Take a break. Drink some decaf herbal tea. Do some yoga. play fetch with your dog. Take the time to unwind, and then, once you feel calmer, return to your project. It will go a whole lot better. I promise!