Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mohammed-Made-June - Return of the pattern II - and this time it's pink

On our back deck with a cup of coffee in the flattering morning light.  Or perhaps you're thinking, "Not flattering enough!"  Anyway, here it is again.  I think you've seen all 4 versions of this amazing pattern.  I have gotten so much use out of these dresses & find they go everywhere, they're cool so great for hot DC summers, and dressy enough to wear to work.  With a sweater, they last until October.  YAY!  Oh, and probably the most important part?  Now that I've left Abu Dhabi, I think this would be quite an easy pattern...if I could just find it.  Music: floyd?!  How about Sparklehorse & Radiohead - Wish You Were Here?

I'm like Tilly, rather tired of having to remember to take pictures every day.  My roommate's been very helpful (as usual).  So, tomorrow, one of my all-time favorite MMJs - a jacket made from some fabric I bought in Ghana!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mohammed-Made-June - Return of the pattern!

You can see by our kitchen what our decorating style is:  put as many things as possible into one small area so you never get bored or ever see the same thing twice! 

Anyway, here it is, the THIRD version of this great dress pattern by my dear tailor, Mohammed.  Shukria, Mohammed--it still looks great & is (I think) very flattering. I'm reading my grandmother's 1956 Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book (Revised & Enlarged).  

Fabric was very cheap in Abu Dhabi (but you could only get raw silk, some linen and lots of cotton or cotton/poly blends).  Anyway, most of what I bought for these dresses (and for my roommate's shirts) was US$1.08/yard.  I bought a lot.  At that price, I bought pretty much any fabric that appealed, looked neato, whatever.  I eventually figured out what to do with it. (I still have some that is awaiting use.)

Here's a picture of the fabric, up close.  I love that it has little camels & horses & suns on it in this cool rock-art drawing style.  As a former archeologist's assistant, it really appeals to me.  And I did buy the fabric in Abu Dhabi, so the camels are perfect.  

The Paracas Textile - a 2,000 yr old treasure from the Brooklyn Museum

The Paracas Textile is a mantle made in pre-Colombian Peru and you really have to see it to believe it (and it's not always on display because it is so fragile & light sensitive--it's under a cloth that you push back to view, then re-cover it when you're done--much like the Beatles' written work at the British Museum!).  It's woven & embroidered & the people around the edge are tiny.  And extremely detailed.  A true masterpiece.  And, like the Bayeux Tapestry, historians and archeologists have learned a lot about life on coastal Peru 2,000 years ago because of what is depicted on this mantle.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Mohammed-Made-June - Recognize this pattern?

Yes, here I am after that DHS hearing; Congress is always asking me over for coffee & cookies...

No, really, it's just a podium out back of Congress.  Anyone can have her picture taken there.  So, do you recognize the pattern?  You've seen it once, and will probably see it at least twice more...though I do need to get a move on or it will be Mohammed-Made-July.  We were meeting Tilly's SO before he heads back to Blighty.  A great dinner at Good Stuff Eatery - yummy hamburgers & fries w/ rosemary & thyme!

Appropriate music? The Go! Team, Get It Together

Non-kosher sewing: a tailor's ham!!

You may have picked up that my husband and I were semi-nomadic for the last 20 yrs or so.  Some traveling overseas for long periods of time, some working overseas for long periods of time.  I had a super-wonderful sewing machine (which I'll share later) & quite a set-up in terms of notions & even a cool Ikea table to store them in when we lived in Abu Dhabi (for quilting only, Mohammed the tailor was in Abu Dhabi!), but most of that got left behind either there, or when we left Istanbul (I donated my machine to an orphanage--I hope it's being used & appreciated!).  So I've had to start over.  I bought a big box of Gutterman thread in about 25 colors--which has been quite useful, but even then, I've had to stock up on  all sort of white & off-white threads in various weights (quilting, polyester, all-cotton).  Zippers have been another problem--I thought I'd bought one for Simplicity 1011, but cannot find it.  Now, granted, there's Jo-Ann & G-Street Fabrics in Falls Church but I try to avoid using our car as much as possible.  So if I go out there it's for a big list of items, not every time I think of one little thing I need.  I suppose I could order online (Jo-Ann or Ebay), but then you pay for shipping.  So I try to think ahead & get by w/ what I have.

But about that zipper--I am so sure I bought it, but because I don't have my own space for sewing, or even a sewing box or cabinet to keep everything together, it could well be in our house--but it's not in the 4 places I usually store sewing, knitting or beading things.  AAARRRGGGHHH!  Anyone have any great suggestions for small-space super-efficient sewing table, cabinets & shelves?  Pictures or links?  In my dreams there'd be a handy way to get to an ironing board & cutting board nearby, too.  I'd love to see them as I will soon be re-doing the guest bedroom in our new place and  it will probably be my sewing room, too. Oh right, new place!  We will be settling down soon.  July 29, to be exact.

So I have started stocking up on things I couldn't carry around before. At the same time, I've decided to be much more professional in my sewing.  So...I bought a tailor's ham!  I've always had trouble w/ darts, even on ready-made clothing, and this item is proving invaluable for the bodice, which has 2 darts on each side of the front, there's another dart for the collar facing, and there are darts on the back, too.  Here's a picture to show you what the darts in the bodice look like after they've been ironed using the ham.  The red arrows are to show you what you're looking at!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sewing Simplicity 1011

Okay, you've probably seen this pattern, Tilly is using it on her blog.  I saw it, coveted it, and realized I could get it via ebay and I did.  It was $9.99, I believe.  I bought this fabric in Albuquerque last Xmas, and only bought 4 yds, which should be plenty for most dresses with short sleeves...However, not if you make it with directional printed fabric (there's a definite top & bottom for this print).  This was not that big of a deal for most of it, but my brains almost melted trying to figure out how to get the little girls on the collar to be right-side up.  Some things I'm very good at visualizing...others not so much. I thought I was being smart when I cut one of the bodice pieces upside down, but that turned out to be wrong wrong wrong.  I spent about 45 minutes trying to figure out how to get a 2nd piece out of the tiny bit of fabric I had left over--and how to get it so that the pattern would be right side up and gave up...thinking, it will make sense tomorrow.  Well, it didn't so MD had to help me.  He looks at everything differently and solves problems the opposite way that I do.  Which is just what I needed.  I got a nice right side up piece of fabric &, though I did have to piece it; it won't show because it's on the inside of the bodice at that point...

Bella loves to help
This is a great example of a pattern where they take the sewer's expertise for granted.  The instructions are rather spotty, I think, especially about the collar facing & the sleeves.  I managed to figure most of it out, but I've got quite a bit of experience (even though I don't consider myself an expert).  So be forewarned!  If you are going to be using these old patterns (which are much more intricate and  assume a lot of expertise on the part of the seamstress), make sure you have an expert around to help you.  I have had okay luck at Jo-Ann with asking questions; some people know what they're talking about, others are just there to run the cash register...

Here's a picture of the collar that gave me quite a shock.  After all the upside down/right side up business I had a minor freakout when I saw this!  Her face is missing.  I about died.  I was all ready to start hunting for more fabric online (or head over to Jo-Ann), and then I realized, "Whew!  It's on the back side of the collar.  Double-whew!!"

So, just to show you what the bodice looks like now.  It needs four buttons (which won't work because there's a side zipper).  I've got the skirt ready to be sewn on, then the zipper.  I'm definitely getting close.  With any luck I'll get to it later today.  After the gym, after skyping a friend  in Paris, after figuring out what to take for lunch this next week...

Oh, I've been wanting to add let's start with Bella Linda by the Grassroots which is a cover of Balla Linda by Lucio Battisti.  Which makes me think of my great selection of "learn Italian by singing Italian pop songs" mix.  More on that later...

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Mohammed-Made-June - comfy green dress

The purple dress from a few days ago...I have 5 different versions of that dress.  This one, with princess seams & buttons?  I don't know why, but this is the only one.  I definitely need to find a similar pattern & make myself another one or two of them.  It would also be a good dress to put pockets into.  Mohammed usually made buttons for me, if a pattern called for them. So these are fabric stretched over a plastic button back...or something.  Anyway, I've had it for years (5-6) and the buttons are holding up even though it gets washed in the machine regularly.

Friday, June 24, 2011

BTW, concerts such as Youssou n'Dour are great for checking out amazing African textiles (mostly West African prints & bogolan). The audience really dresses up & it's fun to see the mix of traditional and modern styles.  To give you an idea, the quilt pictured here is made from the 80 lbs of printed fabric & woven textiles we brought back from our trip there. Another fun aspect is the audience is not shy about dancing!  Although the music is so amazing, I don't think many people could stand still.

More Mohammed-Made-June

Okay, for all of you me-made-June-ites who are taking this seriously, please don't be insulted.  I'm doing Mohammed-Made-June because most of my non-pret-a-porter clothing was not made by me, but by my tailor from when I lived in Abu Dhabi.  A funny thing about this outfit:  I do NOT know where I got the fabric!!  I have this suit, and a similar ikat-look polyester/silk blend that was enough for a jacket, but don't know where it came from.  I'm guessing from our last trip to SE Asia?  Anyway it turned into a gorgeous suit, and I always get compliments on it.  It's in colors I like, and works well with my large collection of turquoise jewelry (a benefit of growing up in New Mexico).  The great thing about Mohammed, (and Marc's Mohammed, too) is they looked at the fabric & figured out ways to highlight the fabric's pattern on the outfit.  So the color & the hem of the skirt show the end of the woven pattern--a nice detail that most non-sewers never notice.  Apologies that it's a rather bad photo--we'd just got back from a Youssou n'Dour concert & it was late & we were tired, so didn't take a good look at the preview on our digital camera.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

More on Japanese textiles

From a friend at the Brooklyn Museum:  Textile Designs from Classical Patterns for Dyeing, from the 1930s. Thanks, ACE!    

I can recommend the online archives from the Brooklyn Museum.  Amazing photos from the turn of the last century, scans of notebooks from Brooklynites in the 18th & 19th centuries, so many cool things.   

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Japan - Textile Heaven on Earth

Front cover
Japan!  I'll start slow...there is so much great stuff in Japan, so many amazing techniques & so much style.  We have a ton of stuff (not enough, ever!).  When we lived there, we were poor & were saving for travel, so didn't spend much on souvenirs.  But in 2005 we went back for a week to see friends & our good friend, Noriko, took us to some antique shops.  We spent way too much, but even then, I didn't get a kasuri (ikat indigo) kimono.  What was I thinking?!  Anyway, in an antique store in outside of Tokyo, we happened upon this kimono pattern book. It's on heavy board, it would stand up by itself for the tailor, who would be working on the floor, as you can see on the photo below.

There are many styles of kimono in here, some very old-fashioned.  The book is about 14" tall - I've often wondered if I just cut the patterns out at this size if they'd work for a barbie doll?  

It was a real steal - about $5, and goes along well with our collection of weaving & textile tools collection (drop spindles, shuttles, fabric stamps, you get the idea).  

Fabric requirements
Pattern layout
On the picture above, you'll see 2 cotton kimono (my hapi, the roommate's yukata) which we've had since 1994.  Mine is about worn thru, so I'll probably use the fabric in something else soon, so I don't forget it.  The kanji (characters) on it are for the 4 seasons.  More Japanese  textiles later.  But now I'm going upstairs to work on my new dress!  More on that tomorrow...

More on the Kuba - everyone loves their work!

The Textile Museum in DC is going to have a symposium on Central African Textiles!  Check out their site for more info.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

New hair, old dress

Okay, I cut my hair...I've been threatening to do it for a while & the last time it was short was for our 4th trip to Africa (in 2006).  FYI, most people in sub-Saharan Africa have short hair--easy to take care of, stylish & cool.  Anyway, mine was quite long (I'll try to find an older picture), and now it's not so long.  I was threatening to do a Julie Andrews in Sound of Music look, but maybe next time.  In the meantime, this bob.  

MD at the WH
In honor of me-made-June, I'm sitting next to 2 quilts I made (folded on the back of the couch), using fabric purchased on that last African trip, in front of a painting by a friend of ours, Layton Hower.  The dress, however, will have to go in Mohammed-made-June, as opposed to me-made-June...I don't have enough clothing that I made, though I could go a few more days if I could wear quilts in to work!  Anyway, I am thinking of a Mohammed-made-July because during the 6 years I lived in Abu Dhabi, my tailor, Mohammed made my life very easy & fun.  What is better than taking in a picture (from a magazine, from a sewing book, from the web) along w/ some fabric, coming back a week later, and there it is--exactly what you had in mind!?  I'd have to do it in the summer...the coldest it ever got in AD was 65F, so I only have summer clothes.  I have formal dresses, lots of jackets, skirts & dresses, some pants, even some clothes for travelling (with hidden pockets!).  Unfortunately, some of them are beginning to wear out (especially the linen ones) and some really aren't in style outside the Muslim world (ankle length skirts), which is just another reason for me to start sewing more clothing. My husband also had a Mohammed, and he's got an amazing array of suits, dress shirts & fun shirts (see above), including a tuxedo from our time there... 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Art Admiration 101

The Kuba peoples, who live along the Sankuru river in the Congo, make raffia velvet (you'll see some of that eventually) and this, Kuba cloth, which is dyed & woven raffia (from palm fronds).  They then applique it onto the darker, woven raffia background.  I can't deal w/ applique with cooperative fabric like cotton & a sewing machine--imagine dealing w/ raffia!  And this is about 4' x 14'!  (This is just a close up of a small part.)  This textile is a wrap, for ceremonial purposes.  The symbols don't mean anything, per se, but I wonder if their intricacy indicates the skill of the seamstress?  I'll be showing you lots more masterpieces (mistresspieces?) as this blog continues.  Thanks for your attention!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Let's get started!

Route 66 ran right thru the town where I grew up.

My friend Tilly suggested I start a blog, as I usually send out more than a few emails when I complete a project (with photos, of course).  So here goes.  I've recently purchased 2 vintage sewing patterns via Ebay (thanks to Tilly's suggestion) and it jives nicely with the vintage knitting pattern I made last winter.  So here's a Slenderette pattern (Simplicity 2847 - 1950s?) I completed a few weeks ago (just in time for Tilly's DC trip, of course), made with Route 66 print fabric.  (You'll soon notice that my husband & I like "cool" prints.) I happened to have a red belt that I got at Esprit in SFO back in the late 1980s with great western-style icons on it (horse, cactus, etc), and it works perfectly.  

I don't know about you, but I think those old patterns take a lot for granted.  They seem to have less instructions than patterns do nowadays, even though the patterns are more difficult.  It must be a reflection of the good old days when most girls learned how to sew and would already know things I've had to figure out.  I wish my mother lived closer--she is an expert seamstress and can figure out things so quickly. 

Fortunately, as I've gotten older (I'll be 50 soon), I've realized that do-overs aren't time wasters.  Instead, they fix the item so I won't be ashamed to wear it!  I am also better about not getting bored with something...I either stick with it 'til the end, or I put it aside until I feel like working on it.  (I have a wool cardigan that I lost interest in when the temperature outside got to 85F, but I'll get back to it this September.)

Update: I have been wondering about the date of this pattern, so just did some research: ©1958