The Hidden Things

Oh Austin, I love you.

{Sign on Silk Road Fabrics.}

Something about this struck me as very typical Austin. That people here who don’t generally suffer from workaholism. That there are still places one has to find by accident, or in this case rely on word of mouth for opening hours.

Austin is one of those rare cities that has the kind of places one must stumble upon. Groovy restaurants that haven’t been Yelp-ed and mapped and Twittered to death. It’s got a fair share of the Secret South. (There’s an art collective literally hiding in a forest.) The sign might be spray-painted, the pedestrian traffic nil, but those homemade Mexican grandmama tortillas are the secret everyone loves to keep secret, or just recommend the old-fashioned way. It’s one of the reasons Derek and I gravitated here. We always call it a haven for creative people; it’s urban but incredibly easy to be an artist and live an artistic lifestyle without a competitive strain to prove oneself.

Silk Road used to be just a walk away from our neighborhood, in a lovely little cottage that was torn down a couple months ago. (Sigh, no more fabric sources for me that don’t require a driving haul through a labyrinth of Austin traffic.) Long before I got back into sewing I used to browse the exquisite silks and walk out with a couple glass buttons. They have gorgeous linens too–my first-ever fabric purchase in Austin eventually became the wide-leg trousers. Last year they moved deep into the East Side, still a source of hidden creativity despite upscale development. I had to turn around twice at the train tracks before I realized the store was inside the Flatbed coop.

Now here’s a place I’ve heard about but never visited. The closed doors of Silk Road sent me wandering instead around this heavenly mothership of all things printmaking.

All in all, a very Austin experience… where you end up when you were looking for something else.

Anyhow, this would’ve been the one local place I’d find some lovely lace trims for Sherry’s Ruby Slip. I’ll have to wait. I’m finding a bit of pleasure in that, too–the pleasure of the waiting, of finding the one thing that can’t be found by anyone else.

This is about lingerie, I guess, in a roundabout way. In lieu of a slip, I made a new bra over the weekend. I wanted to sew another one fairly soon after my first try, to refine fit and design changes while the experience was still fresh in my mind.

It’s still plain and super cutesy pink, but I wanted to use up the fabric and notions I got from Bramakers Supply to test my changes. I tried changing the pattern to a more vertical seam and went to a full-band bra. I also went down a cup size, which fit just perfectly despite my worries on the first bra. (My first was a modified 32C, which as it turns out was a bit of wishful thinking!)

My sewing will stop for two weeks as we travel abroad, but my first order of sewing business in the New Year will be a luxe version of the bra from this lace-like gilded lycra. It came all the way from Germany via and took almost two months, but I am so pleased. Gorgeous stuff.

Have a wonderful holiday, and I hope that true and meaningful secrets are revealed to you!


A Tale of Two T-shirts

While working on my kimono-sleeved top for the PJs, I got a bit obsessed with t-shirt shaping. I should warn you before diving in any further–there are enough stripes in this post to make your eyes buzz.

It’s been a long while since I made a plain ole t-shirt. I mean, what could possibly be easier than a t-shirt? Right. They’re not rocket science but just start sewing and watch how even the most basic clothing turns into a scintillating dissection of fit and abstract shapes.

In the spirit of pattern face-offs, I decided to give a go at mocking up two different tee patterns. Long, long ago, there was the Lydia pattern. I’d just discovered BurdaStyle and the pattern was free and I was dying for a new stripey t-shirt. I love me a stripey knit. It wasn’t long before I was off and messing with the pdf in Illustrator turning the pattern into everything but a t-shirt.

Problem is, I never properly fitted it the first time around, sewing a 38 when 36 is usually a better Burda size for me. I had two yards of the original stripey knit left over, enough to squeeze in two tees. It was cheap and pills like crazy and will never become that striped tube dress. So side by side, here is Kwik Sew 3338, a popular tee pattern, with Lydia on the right:

The two sizes (36 in Burda, Small in Kwik Sew) were close enough in measurements, but there are little differences that stack up.

First up, the lengths. The Kwik Sew is designed to be shorter, hitting more at the hipline, while Lydia falls below the hip. The only changes I made to both patterns was to shorten the neck to waist length by an inch. Even after that, the Burda waistline is still a bit lower than mine (and an inch lower than Kwik Sew’s).

In both patterns, reducing the front and back lengths above the waist was a good idea, but I should add length into the waist-to-hip area. (Short torso, but high waist.) Shape-wise, the Lydia has a much more curved waistline and flared out hip. Which suits my hippy pear self. The Kwik Sew wants to hike up to my waist. This wouldn’t look so goonish if it was a tight-fitting t-shirt:

Now the sleeves. Burda tends toward high sleeve caps are high and narrow armscyes. Even this t-shirt has sleeve cap ease (about 2 inches of it!) The KS has no cap ease. You can see the difference in how the shoulder looks:

I guess it all depends on what kind of look one is going for. Burda’s tall sleeve cap looks good when the arms are down, a nice sleek shoulder and top of the arm. But just try to raise the arm and see what happens. Immediately the top of the sleeve puckers and pushes up, while the under arm feels a bit restricting because it falls so far below the armpit. This is more noticeable in their woven patterns.

(And if you really want to get into sleeve pattern geekery, check out this post at Pattern School. He writes a bit about the the visual and fit effects of sleeve angle–and indirectly, cap height–in stretch patterns.)

Aside from the height, the shape of the front and back sleeve cap made a difference in fit. The KS sleeve is almost symmetrical front and back, while the Burda slopes slightly to the front:

I think that’s why the KS tee has some jiggy going on around the front armholes. This is after I’ve pulled it down straight (after wearing it for 10 minutes or so these wrinkles pull from the neck more):

It’s obvious from looking at the stripes in the side view that I could be a candidate for forward shoulder adjustments, which could fix the pulling as well. Still, I’d love to know whose arm/shoulder is shaped equally in front and back like the KS pattern. I’m guessing a lot of people think they have forward shoulders when perhaps a pattern is just too symmetrical to start with?

Finally, the back. The KS definitely fits better in the upper back.

{edit: lydia is on the right}

Are those folds around the Lydia armholes from excess upper back width? Length? Armhole length? All of the above? I don’t know–but I do wish it was a little sleeker back there. Its shoulder width is slightly longer than the KS shoulder as well. I’m wondering if I should unpick my binding and see if that changes how the shirt relaxes.

The rest of the differences are just in style. The Lydia is meant to just skim the body, not fit tightly. The Kwik Sew is slightly slimmer. I like the neckline of the Lydia better–crew necks make me feel kind of boyish–although necklines are interchangeable. The Kwik Sew has unique little feature in the form of a hidden bust dart that is eased into the back. This probably adds a bit of length and better fit for those with bustage. I personally need that length and width in the hips, which are four inches wider than my bust.

Overall, the Lydia wins my favor, if I could fix the back. Or maybe morph the two to get the best of both worlds.

Well then, I think I’ve thoroughly scratched my obsession of the month! (For the moment.) Any t-shirt fitting gurus out there care to comment, or have a preference?


Lounge Set in Brushstrokes

My new lounge set came together last week. I feel like a Hundertwasser painting.

Or perhaps a tropical soldier?

But this head to toe print is only going inside the house! I wanted to photograph these a week ago but the weather has been downright gloomy and dark for days. (I’m not complaining, though! We’ve needed the rain terribly.)

I went ahead with my idea to design one based on a New Look pattern, giving me an excuse to further tweak my t-shirt pattern beyond recognition. This version at Behind the Seams first drew my attention to the New Look pattern, probably because the fabric was in a similarly swishy print. I liked how she used bands for the sleeves and an exposed facing for the neckline rather than bindings so I did the same.

I also copied the idea to make a flat hip band rather than New Look’s ruched/gathered look. It would be very easy to change to a ruched band if I were to make this again. I originally cut the band to be two inches narrower than my total hip measurement. That was a wild guess–I know nothing about negative ease guidelines–so I basted it together for a test and then took out another three inches.

The original pattern is pretty cheap but I like a challenge now and then, and this was pretty easy to draft. I’ve been playing a lot with Burda Style’s Lydia pattern over the last year and a half, and at one point came up with a dolman-sleeved top that I love and wear quite a bit. You can see here how I used the dolman top as the basis for the PJ top:

I also have a skin-tight bodice block I drafted in Illustrator way back when, but never got around to using. I finally figured out that I could simply use it as a ruler of sorts–to see where my waist, bust and other important lines are and get an idea of the ease in a pattern. (I have a paper version too.)

I really love how this turned out, and in a next (and there will be a next!) version I’ll refine the sleeve shaping. As it is, the underarm curve is just a bit too sharp and the sleeves a little narrower than I’d planned.

The pants were a very simple drawstring-waist pattern from Burda November 2009 (#131). Although they recommended silky wovens, I decided to risk it as a jersey pattern–good enough for bedtime!

The drawstrings are attached to elastic, a detail I’ve seen in other patterns (like my watercolor dress), which I love. It allows the comfort of elastic to hold things up, with the ability to tighten or loosen with the drawstrings.

Most of all I just love how this fabric feels. It’s a lovely cotton lycra that I bought specifically for PJs and has a nice weight with the bonus of a soft flannel-like texture on the wrong side. Perfect for staying cozy!

(Oh yeah, I hemmed these to my perfect inseam, but underestimated the jersey’s desire to lengthen. This seems to happen to me on every knit garment. Must plan on this more.)

Sweet dreams, all!