Archive for May, 2008

Final Mini-Wardrobe

May 31st, 2008 No comments

Here are all four pieces on one storyboard:

(I really did this just so that I had a URL to add to PR’s discussion forum.)

Categories: Fun Tags:

Vogue 8499 – The Skirt, In Black

May 31st, 2008 2 comments

Final piece for Mini-Wardrobe, 2008 — and it’s still an hour and forty-five minutes to the deadline! Whew.

I have a fantasy about this skirt. It’s constructed with long, narrow pockets attached to the side panels. I want to go to an artisan bakery, pick up a couple of incredible baguettes, and bring them home in these pockets. Or maybe put a baguette in one pocket, and a couple of smaller chunks of cheese in the other. This is a garment that seems perfectly suited to my favorite portable meal.

When my spouse saw these pockets on my muslin, he suggested sewing smaller pockets inside the large ones. I thought that was a brilliant suggestion, so that’s exactly what I did this time around. I love a little hidden, subversive flash, so I chose a cotton print for the secret pockets. Here’s how they looked as I assembled them:

I cut them to fit the side panels, added a small pleat in the middle, hemmed the top edge, and double-stitched the bottom edge before folding them up. Now I’ve got functional pockets inside the funky large ones.

Otherwise, the skirt is pretty much as suggested by Vogue, except that I shortened it by two inches, and used strips of grosgrain ribbon along the top edges of the zippers. The pattern calls for leaving them ‘raw’, but that’s not a look I fancy. At least not with ordinary zippers.

This is the final piece for my entries in PR’s Mini-Wardrobe Contest. Talk about a photo finish! Now, I’ve got to get the last two reviews onto PR, and get my pictures into the gallery.

Fantasy Realized!

Categories: Skirts Tags:

Storyboard Redux

May 31st, 2008 No comments

Some nerve, huh? It’s the last day of the contest, and I’m posting a new storyboard. What can I say? This month’s been a wild and wacky ride.

Here it is:

As of this posting, three of the garments are done. But hey, I’ve still got 15 or so more hours, right?

Categories: Fun Tags:

New Look 6483 – Reversible Tank II

May 30th, 2008 No comments

When I confronted my spouse wearing the muslin version of this tank, he took one look and said “You’re puffy!” I detected no admiration in his tone, so I’m taking some comfort from knowing that this version is “puffy” on only one side. The other side is an interesting, somewhat textured, somewhat variegated green. It’s conservative, and flat. I’m expecting a slightly more positive response to this one.

Last night I dragged myself out of bed after 40 hours of vertigo-induced nausea and managed to put it together. Things didn’t start out well — my first move was to sew the two fronts together at the shoulders, but once I’d straightened that out my brain picked up speed and things went well.

Pictures tomorrow — that way I can take them in natural light. Print side:

And of the solid side:

OK, seriously bad pictures here — and what’s with the solid top?  Wrong undergarment, I think.  And I took the print picture before I’d pressed the hem.  But you get the idea.  (It’s less than two hours to the end of the Mini-Wardrobe Contest, so I won’t be taking new pictures tonight.

As with the muslin, I made a few changes to the pattern: first, making it reversible; second, removing the side vents; third, eliminating the button at the top of the neck. I also dropped the darts to accommodate my bust. This is a “1 hour easy” pattern; it took two hours (after cutting it out, which I did two days ago) including serging all the seams and making the two tanks so it reversed.

The “puffy” side is a heat-treated poly print; the solid side (which looks vaguely bamboo-ish) is a poly/rayon, if I remember correctly.

This is the third of four pieces for the PR Mini-Wardrobe Contest, which terminates tomorrow night. Tomorrow I’m making the fourth piece — Marcy Tilton’s skirt from Vogue 8499. Wish me luck!

Categories: Tops Tags:

Vogue 7914 – Jacket

May 28th, 2008 No comments

Here’s another piece for the PR Mini-Wardrobe Contest. (Will I actually make it to the finish line?) This pattern has appealed to me for a long time — it’s got easy lines, and that long tail in the back (which stretches around to the side fronts) gives it some extra interest.

According to the size chart on the pattern envelope, I should have cut between size 14 and a 16 (37 inch bust, 28 inch waist). I made a size 8, which is just about right. If anything, even that borders on the larger end of things, rather than the smaller. There are adjustments for petites; I had to double the amount Vogue suggested to shorten the sleeves sufficiently, though.

I made the jacket collar-less; I didn’t particularly like the look of the collar, and think the jacket will be more comfortable to wear in summer without it. I top-stitched around the neckline, too, matching the rest of the jacket. I’m not sure that worked — at least, the buttonhole looks a little odd fighting with the topstitching.

The directions are quite clear, except for the curious omission of adding buttonholes. Somehow they got lost between page 1 and page 2. This is unfortunate, especially since I, personally, like to be reminded of which side I’m supposed to put them. Bad editing, it seems, is becoming a Vogue trademark.

My fabric’s a turquoise linen with just a little bit of stretch. The buttons are JHB; mine are seven-eighths of an inch in size, though the pattern calls for three-fourths. I had considered going down in size, and had even ordered the smaller buttons, but realized that they would get lost in the massive expanse of the jacket.

However, this was the source of a serious miscalculation on my part. Instead of relocating the buttonhole location, I simply started them at the point closest to the edge of the jacket. This meant that the small amount of extra length leads out toward the sleeve. Net result? when the jacket isn’t buttoned, the buttonholes look a bit off — as if they were placed a little bit too far to the left. Which I guess they sort of were. I’ll have to watch that next time.

This jacket’s not lined, so I used a Hong Kong finish to give it a clean look inside. I’m happy with the jacket on the whole; but, in the end, it’s sort of neither here nor there. In spite of the fun tail, a great color and interesting buttons, it’s really sort of a plain, boxy jacket. I’ll wear it, I’ll enjoy it, but it’s sort of nebbish.

My Pfaff still doesn’t have a check spring, so I was fortunate that I was able to keep a very close eye on things and keep the thread tension where it belonged through this project. It’s really odd that the buttonhole function works perfectly when the machine is so hobbled . . . but I’m not complaining!

I remembered to sew an extra button inside the jacket. Replacing one of these buttons would be non-trivial.

Categories: Jackets Tags:

Five Fingers for the Feet

May 26th, 2008 No comments

I tried on these shoes last year at a sports store in Philadelphia. I didn’t get them at the time because I wasn’t quite sure how I’d use them, and, well, the clerk was a real jerk. (It’s the principle of the thing.) This year I have a brand-new kayak, and the idea of paddling with almost-bare feet was irresistible, so I bought these Vibram Five Fingers shoes from REI.

The “fingers” are really your toes, of course. There’s one protected pod for each of your little piglets. Wearing these is like going barefoot, but without the incidental pain or discomfort of stepping on random twigs or small pebbles when you’re outdoors. They provide enough protection that you can stride around without fear, but you also feel the ground in a way that is almost wonderful.

Putting them on the first time is a bit of a strange experience and getting used to putting each toe into its own little pocket seems weird at first, but quickly becomes second nature. I always wear shoes with roomy, boxy, toes, but the feeling of freedom this footwear provides surpasses anything else that goes on my feet.

I do spend much of the year going barefoot in my home, walking on hardwood floors. People who don’t go barefoot regularly might find that there’s some ramp-up time before they’re used to Five Fingers. The manufacturer even recommends wearing them only a couple of hours at a time until they’re familiar. I padded around the house for a few hours a day a couple of times, but on me they felt right instantly.

They’re perfection in the kayak. I have to wear a life vest, but otherwise, I prefer as few layers as possible between me and my boat. It’s smart to wear shoes, though — there’s nasty stuff on those there lake bottoms and river banks, and sometimes we like to hike in a bit and picnic while on a longer paddling trip. These feel like a second skin, but protect like a shoe.

Five Fingers sells the model above specifically for water sports, but I didn’t like the fit of the top of the shoe, or the way the strap lay on my foot. The worry is that you might lose an unstrapped shoe if you go overboard. So I did a simple mod — I just wrap elastic straps around each shoe while I’m in the kayak. I suspect this would be enough to keep them on my feet, and it’s easy enough to pop the strap off once I’m on land.

Making the straps took all of five minutes. I used black one-inch wide non-roll elastic, folded one end over a rectangular loop, folded under the raw edge at the other end, zig-zagged everything in place, and added hook and loop closures. I put the rectangular loop next to the side of my shoe (where I won’t feel it), and tuck the part that hook-and-loops closed under my instep. Eventually, I might wear out the elastic under the sole, but making new straps obviously won’t be much of a strain.

Five Fingers are machine washable (some reviewers — mostly runners — have noted that they get pretty grotty) and they are vegan-friendly. If you order them directly from Vibram, there’s a re-stocking fee; REI doesn’t carry them in our local store, but they are typically fantastic about returns, and there’s no shipping charge if you pick them up at an REI store. City Sports has them on their website, and may still carry them in their Philadelphia store, too.

Update:  April 2010 — our local REI has Five Fingers in stock, though they’ve been going fast. And Mr. Noile loves his, too.

Categories: DIY, Kayak Stuff Tags:

Return of the Pfaff

May 25th, 2008 No comments

On Wednesday, I discovered that, owing largely to circumstances beyond the store’s control, my Pfaff was still waiting to be fixed, and not likely to be touched for at least a few more weeks. So I retrieved it, since I couldn’t live with the idea of storing it at the repair shop.

The problem seems to be the check spring, which keeps the thread from going too slack on the front of the machine on its way to the needle.  That’s it in the picture above — the part is both the spring (normally the thread would go under the spring), and the curved metal part it’s resting on.  The check spring is catching and grabbing the thread where it shouldn’t, for some reason.

The jacket I’m working on right now is linen, so the fabric isn’t particularly demanding. As a result, I’ve been able to use my Pfaff through the expedient of bypassing the check spring, and tightening up the tension discs a bit. It’s working for this woven fabric, but the next garment in the queue will be made of silky polyester, so I’ll probably have to go back to my Singer Fashion Mate for it.

Whatever’s wrong doesn’t seem to affect the buttonhole function (in spite of the fact it’s tension-related), and I really can’t do quick, simple buttonholes with either of my other machines. So I’ve now finished the buttonholes in my black Vogue 8499 pants, and am getting on with my next garment — a Vogue jacket.

So my Pfaff is home, but it and I are kind of in limbo while I figure out the next step. Which may be ordering the part on the Internet, and slapping it in. I haven’t decided yet if this is a less-than-bright move, but the motivation level is high. The fortnight I went without this machine was not fun. If my kind-of-local shop can’t fix it, and I send it away, it could be months before I see it again. That would not be good.

Update 5/26/08 — Added photo.

Categories: DIY, Home Tags:

Unusual Buttons, Fast

May 24th, 2008 No comments

Is everyone as frustrated with the button selection at Joann’s as I am? If so, it’s easy to imagine how pleased I was to find this promising button at Joann’s. Unfortunately, it was stocked only in a larger size than the one I needed. I bought it anyway, took it home and hit the Internet.

This is a JHB button, so I went to the JHB site, and typed in the style number on the back of the card. That gave me the name of the button — Hanauma (which turns out to be a beach in Hawaii). Searching on Google using the style number was hopeless, but using the name turned up Dana Marie didn’t have the larger size button, but she did have my size.

She also has an absolutely fantastic collection of buttons for sale — everything you’ll never see at your local Joann’s. Better yet, if my experience is any example, her customer service is amazing: She must have mailed my buttons the minute I got off the phone. West coast to east coast = three days!

The website offers a huge assortment of independent patterns (Dana Marie was formerly Purrfection) from several designers, and lots and lots of craft/artist ideas and products.

Using Dana Marie’s search box is frustrating. Instead, try this neat trick: in your Google search box, type “ your button name here”. (Make sure there’s a space after the “.com” colon.) That will take you right where you want to go. (This trick works for any website, so you don’t ever have to be at the mercy of a poor search program again.)

Categories: Tips Tags:

Vogue 7280 Reversible Skirt

May 21st, 2008 3 comments

This is one of a series of posts I wrote for a previous website.

I got inspired after re-reading and reviewing Kate Mathews’ “Sewing a Travel Wardrobe” recently, and wanted to make a reversible outfit. I decided to start out with the skirt — how hard could it be? — and to use Vogue 7280, a terrific pattern with three skirts to chose from. Naturally, to make it reversible, I devised a fourth skirt, but never mind . . . it’s still one terrific pattern.


My fabric stash includes 10 yards each of a bright dark raspberry and a bright royal blue polyester. I’m guessing it’s meant to be a crepe de chine. I bought this fabric just to play with (the colors are fabulous!), but never intending to wear it — at 50 cents or so a yard, I could do a lot of playing without any risk.

I began with view C, which is an eight-gore skirt, no waistband, sitting below the waist, closed with a rear zipper. Because I had no intention of putting a zipper into a reversible skirt, I cut the pattern in a size 12, a size larger than I would normally make. I didn’t make any hip adjustment, because I intended that my skirt would ride a little higher, since I didn’t want to fuss with an elastic band anywhere my body isn’t naturally smaller. (I wanted that band to hug me gently without slipping or needing constant adjustment.)

This isn’t a fabric I’d normally voluntarily wear, but now that my skirt’s made, I might. In a single layer, it floats like a dream, and it’s still pretty floaty in two layers. . .


Making up was very straightforward — cut it out, sew the gores. I made both skirts, then joined them at the waist, right side to right side. Then I edge stitched the top — I’m not crazy about the way this looks, but it was the best way to keep one color from rolling to another.

Next step was fitting the elastic. I joined the elastic ends by abutting them, and then placing a small piece of the fabric across the join. I zigzagged over the join and the fabric, then trimmed to make a very flat joint — perfect where I didn’t want any additional elastic bulk.

Then I slipped the elastic between the two skirts, into the pocket formed against the waistband on the wrong sides of the skirts. I pin-basted all around the waist right under the elastic, and then stitched the casing with the elastic already in place, removing the pins carefully as I came to each one. Perfect! I was thrilled — nearly done, and it had taken no time at all. How hard could it be?


Uhhh . . . the “hard” I had conveniently forgotten about was, of course, the issue of hemming two high contrast fabrics in a skirt when you don’t want to see either color from the opposite side. This skirt’s gores are cut on the grain, so it’s not as if I had a bias problem, but, nonetheless, there were a few minor issues to deal with to adjust the lengths so that I didn’t get the dreaded peek-a-boo effect. An eighth of an inch here, a quarter inch there solved the problem, but not without a lot of fingernail biting. I probably failed to treat this polyester with the respect I would have given silk — I pinned instead of using weights, for instance, which was not, in retrospect, a good idea.

The only other alteration I made was in the length, which I shortened to accommodate my height. And I just serged the lower edge, turned and topstitched for the hem. I wanted to eliminate the frustration of doing a curved hem with the poly, and also keep the weight of the hem to a minimum.

It’s a terrific skirt, and feels wonderful to wear. However, next time I’ll make my reversible with a couple of changes:

* I might actually use polyester again (great travelability), but I think I’d make both layers of chiffon, so the skirt would still feel more “floaty” with two layers
* Next time I’ll use consonant prints, or a print and a solid, so that contrast issues won’t be such a big deal.
* I’ll probably try to chose two prints that look very, very different from each other, so the skirt will have two characters. I bought a wonderful reversible skirt from Coldwater Creek several years ago which remains the acme of this style (in my mind at least) — the two side have two very different moods — one multicolor floral, one two color abstract

I did add one extra feature. Before joining the two skirts, I serged two 4 inch by 5 inch pieces of the fabric together, attaching about a 9 inch string to each corner to make a floating pocket. I attached this to the right side of the top of the waist of the raspberry skirt, and then went ahead and seamed the waist.

This very light pocket “floats” and is worn on the inside of the skirt, but can be pulled to the outside. It’s a security pocket for passport, and extra 20 dollar bill, or whatever. I closed mine with tiny nylon snaps, but a light-weight zipper would work fine, too. I don’t notice it inside the skirt, but it’s handy to have when travelling. It also tells me where the front of the skirt is!

It looks as if I didn’t pull the pocket completely out when taking the picture. The strings are actually a little longer.

My guess about the size was just right — the skirt gathers a bit at the waist, to allow for the elastic, but the rest of the skirt just skims across me — no bulky waist/hip gathers as with most elastic-waisted skirts. These colors are far more vibrant than my usual choices . . . but I love this skirt! I may have inadvertently tuned into a wild, suppressed side. This could be the start of something fun!

I’ve planned a reversible top, but am having trouble overcoming my fear of wearing two layers of this kind of poly next to my skin. Still, the skirt cries out for the same flamboyant colors in a top, for mix and match.

Categories: Skirts Tags:

DIY Kayak Seat Modification

May 20th, 2008 No comments

On a maniacal Sunday a couple of weeks ago. I got up and made over my Vogue 8497 flop, made a kayak hanger, and designed a seat-back modification for my Tsunami SP kayak. It’s taken me until now to get this final post up after that particular marathon.

My kayak’s a Wilderness Tsunami SP. The “SP” in my kayak’s name stands for “smaller paddler”. It’s designed for bigger kids on up to small adults. I’m at the top of the size range, and the seat back just didn’t work quite right for me. I needed a little more height for better support, but there’s nothing available from the manufacturer to fix the problem.

I decided to see what I could do myself. I needed something light, but somewhat stiff, to give structure to my adaptation. I needed closed-cell foam to make the support comfortable. (Closed-cell foam is critical, because the last thing you want in a boat is foam that will soak up water.) I needed some way to attach the new support to the existing seat, and the whole thing would need a cover.

Here’s what I came up with.

Finding closed-cell foam was the real challenge. I stopped at a couple of boat dealerships, and asked about buying it, but was met with blank stares. At the second dealer, I spied this boat cushion:

The sales guy was dubious: He pointed out that these cushions are filled with thin sheets of foam, not solid blocks. I was thrilled; that’s exactly what I needed, so that I could pad out my seat an eighth of an inch at a time.

I found a huge, flexible-but-sturdy plastic cutting ‘board’ in the kitchen section of IKEA for the support piece. Armed with a black marker, heavy duty shears and a roll of duct tape, I began planning.

The back on my spouse’s seat is my preferred height, so I traced its outline on the IKEA board, and cut that out. Later on, I changed my mind, and cut the seat back lower: the greater height wasn’t perfect, and the higher back was going to be an issue when loading and storing the boat. The picture above is of that higher back, but it gives you an idea of how I began to fit the seat back to the kayak.

Here’s the template I ended up using, cut from the same IKEA board:

The angled rectangles are for the webbing straps that anchor the seat back; they got cut out later.

I ripped open the boat cushion, and, using the template, cut four sheets of foam. Three were for the front of the seat, and one for behind it.

I made a sandwich of these parts: back foam sheet, the IKEA board, then three foam sheets. I duct-taped the assembly together and fit it into the kayak seat. Webbing and buckles hold the seat back to the kayak, so I cut holes in the back foam sheet for those.

The foam holes are cut a little smaller than the rectangles in the rigid IKEA board — that’s so the the webbing will rub against foam, not the sharper edges of the IKEA template, which might wear the webbing over time.

Then I clipped my duct tape ‘muslin’ in place and sat in the kayak. (This photo’s actually for the higher back, but you get the idea.)

My back mod was nice and cushy, but it flopped (literally). There was too much ‘give’ in the existing seat back. My spouse and I finagled with it, and were finally able tighten the center buckle and strap so the the existing seat back no longer moved. This involved pulling the buckle under the seat itself, but the fit was “iffy”, and it had a tendency to slip.

Which led to another mod. I added a d-ring and a webbing extension to the buckle adjustment strap, and ran it to the front of the seat, so I could make adjustments while paddling, if I needed to, since there was no way for me to reach back and pull the existing strap while in the seat. To keep the strap from disappearing, I ran a piece of PVC piping across the underside of the seat, in front, and through the loop of the strap. You can see strap and the rubber stop I put on the end of the pipe in the picture below:

My new seat back needed a cover to maintain structural integrity. Using my foam sandwich as a template, I cut a front and back from black spandex, adding flaps at the bottom to close the cover, and appropriate seam allowances. Then I cut a strip of spandex the length of the curved sides of the sandwich, plus a seam allowance on each side.

I marked slots in the spandex for the straps, and interfaced the undersides. I used hook and loop tape to close the bottom of the cover, but I’ve heard that it loosens in water, so I also added two buckles to hold the cover on the foam back. Spandex isn’t strong enough to anchor the buckle straps, so I sewed a piece of webbing to the underside of the cover before assembling it, and then attached the buckle straps to the webbing on the outside of the cover.

Here’s how the cover looks closed. There’s a gap at the center bottom for the existing kayak seat anchor, and openings in the side of the cover for existing side adjusters that came with the kayak.

From the front, the seat back looks pretty sleek:

As it does in the kayak. Here’s the front:

And here’s how the back looks in place in the kayak:

This turned out to be a fabulous fix, and the seat now fits my body perfectly. Just like this amazing, fast and sleek kayak!

Categories: DIY, Kayak Stuff Tags: