Sunday, January 12, 2014

Walking in Tall Cotton

If you opened a recent copy of  Vogue Pattern magazine, you might have been startled  to see a picture of me on  page 14 of the Feb/Mar 2014 issue.
Vogue Patterns Feb/Mar 2014
Vogue Patterns Star Blogger
 Due to  a interesting turn of events, a  recent project of mine is featured in the magazine.   Not one of the wonderful tailored jackets or fashion forward dresses I sew using Vogue patterns.  Nope, the project is a jacket made of mesh bags and fabric scraps.   How did that come about? Do you remember the Fabricista Challenge sponsored by Fabric Mart Fabrics? The contest which I impulsively entered because I was suffering from empty nest syndrome. 

The first challenge was "Make a garment out of recycled materials or materials that would have otherwise been thrown away, such as scraps from your sewing room or grocery bags. You can reconstruct a garment to make it more fashion forward and utilize unconventional items to add accessories and embellishments. Be creative!" 

Not knowing  much about the contest judges or judging criteria. I went a bit extreme on the  use of throw away stuff. I wove fabric scraps through the holes of fruit mesh fruit bags to make a fabric. And sewed the fabric into a jacket.  I didn’t win the challenge  and the judges’ feedback was

“The treatment you used on your jacket is unique and inventive; however we were not too crazy about the look of it. It made the jacket look dated and ruggish. We would like to see you push yourself in the next challenge with something a little more modern."

The  judges feedback was helpful in  letting  me know I had missed the mark. The winning entry, a  wedding dress refashioned into a cocktail dress, gave me a better idea of what the judges were looking for. And it was on to the next challenge.

A couple weeks later I received an email.

“I’m an editor for Vogue Patterns magazine, and we’re planning a project for an upcoming issue that uses fabric strips woven into a mesh base. We saw your Recycle Challenge jacket made with fruit bags and thought it was a fabulous take on the concept. Would you be willing to have your jacket included as a sidebar in the magazine? Let me know what you think.”

My response back was “ I would be thrilled to have my jacket included in the sidebar of Vogue magazine.   I am a long time subscriber and really love the direction the magazine has taken in recent years.  I had to laugh when I thought of how ironic it is that with all the Vogue patterns I  have sewn, this jacket is the one that might appear in the magazine.”

While I was assembling the requested high resolution pictures and writing the in depth description of my creative process, I thought a bit about the magazine.

Vogue Pattern Magazine   has been a part of my life for a long time.  My mother subscribed to it when I was growing up.  I remember looking through it and admiring the dresses and suits. But Vogue patterns were expensive, advanced and the patterns/styles did not fit my lifestyle or babysitting income budget.   When I started sewing my own clothes as a teen, I used Simplicity and McCalls pattern and made no alterations except for lengthening at the hem edge.  But my mother, a stay at home mom with 4 kids, would use them to sew special occasion clothes for the holiday parties given by the company my father worked for.  And the outfits she wore when she accompanied my father on business trips.  She always compared the garments she made from those patterns against the clothing worn by the executive’s wives, and felt they more than held their own for fashion ( Vogue) and workmanship(her own).

 One article is very vivid in my memory.  It was probably in the early 70’s. Vogue selected several real women who worked in Washington, DC, and showed them in their work environment wearing clothing made from Vogue patterns.   I remember the women were mostly secretaries or assistants to congressman, and all the garments were suits or dresses. But the fabrics were high end and the garments fit perfectly. They were sewn by professional seamstresses, not the women wearing them. It was fascinating to see the pattern garments on real people in real work environments. Remember this was back before the internet, blogs, discussion boards and national sewing groups.  Seeing patterns sewn up and on real people was not common. I remember looking at one women, and my mother saying something to the effect of  “Boy, they had to make a lot of changes to the pattern to get it to fit her.”  The woman under discussion  had one of the common variations of a woman’s figure.  I can’t remember if she was pear shaped or busty. But she was definitely not a skinny  model.  That was a “duh huh” moment for me.   It had never occurred to me that the garments, as sewn straight out the pattern envelope, did not fit everyone, and that it was okay or even desirable to make changes to perfect the fit. 

Of course  now that my body has matured into its adult form, I have to make alterations to every pattern I sew.   Fortunately there are lots of books, blogs and internet sources to learn from and motivate me to keep working toward the perfect fit. My mother stopped sewing clothing when more alterations were needed,  her lifestyle changed, and RTW knit clothing became readily available.

I still subscribe to Vogue Pattern Magazine and I appreciate the changes the editors have made in recent years. It appears to be moving away from being a catalog of Vogue patterns to a sewing magazine with  articles on advanced sewing techniques, the latest fabrics, replicating interesting designer details, all which can be used with Vogue patterns.  These are things I feel are worth the magazine subscription price. The original  catalog features; the large clear pictures, sale coupons, and easy ordering are now available free on the Vogue Pattern internet site.

It was quite an honor to be featured  in a magazine that I have read and enjoyed for years, though the project was not the one I would have chosen. When I showed the article to my mother, her response summed up my feelings and made me a laugh.  “I really must comment, but what can I say!   Wow!!  I must of done something right! or where did I go wrong?  I believe that makes you a national celebrity, or as we everyday folks would say, "You're walking in tall cotton. "

Thanks Mom!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year Transformation.

I hope everyone's 2014 is off to a good start.  I have already accomplished one transformation in the new year. No, not anything personal, a sewing project.  I did a lot of traveling after  Xmas, but did get home in time to whip up a casual top to wear to the family New Years Eve celebration, which consisted of sitting in front of the fireplace while watching the countdown on TV, with champagne chilling for the midnight toast. The top is McCalls 6841, one of several loose-fitting, pullover tops with draped front, and back collar. I made view C.

  I liked the long draping at the center front  of this top and thought it was very elegant. Though I did note that neither the pattern nor the McCall’s Internet site showed a side view of this top. I wondered about all that drapery in the tummy area.   My fabric was a lightweight, crinkly textured, black knit with gold specs from the JoAnn’s red tag table. I have no idea of fabric content, though I suspect mostly poly.  Great drape though.   This pattern is really easy to make. The pieces are odd shaped, so be sure and follow the pattern direction advice and use good marking techniques. It took a couple of hours to cut, sew and finish. I used my new to me (Ebay purchase) Babylock coverstitch machine to do all the hems.  I see why there are a lot of Babylock fans. 

Front Original

Side Original
 The top is fun to wear, but as I thought, there was lots of fabric on the tummy.  On me it pooled mid abdomen, above the crotch of my pants.  On the pattern picture model, it ended below crotch which was much more flattering.  I wore it with slim cut pants to give the illusion that the tummy area was as slim as the thighs. An illusion needed because of all the Christmas cookies I have eaten.

New Years Eve
  I knew I would probably not  wear  this top again. as is.  So I did a little strategic cutting and made it into a drape front cardigan.  I simply cut up the center of the cowl/draping, which was originally on the fold of the fabric, hemmed the edges and voila, a top I will wear often. 


Front after Transformation

Side after Transformation