The Sewist

I sew, knit and crochet hats. (Not all at the same time. Whaddaya think I am - a machine?)

Friday, June 29, 2007

Sewing Something Slightly Too Small.... the hips. Yes, friends I have cut Simplicity 4674, View D, in the largest size in my envelope, a size 12, which translates to a 36-inch hip. That part of my body doesn't come to that measurement, and it hasn't in a long time; in fact, I might have been a teen when the tape measure rested at those numbers on that part of me. Yet. I'd like to think my buttocks could shrink four more inches. It's funny, I've lost 10 pounds so I can feel the different when I slip on pants without having having tug every which way, and skirts are slightly loose in the waist. Yet when it comes to the roundest part of my anatomy...well, it still looks the same. The proportions haven't changed.

So I knew precisely what I was doing when I cut my precious Anne Klein galloon-edged black eyelet. Could I have drafted the edges of the pattern to flare out more to accommodate my figure? I suppose I could have. I felt lazy, even a little optimistic that I could get a reshaped bottom (mine) into what looks a Skirt Too Small. It's kind of like those pink brocade pants I bought from Marshalls two years ago thinking I could diet my way into them. I tried them on the other day...they're still a tad bit too snug for my taste.

But back to my sewing project. I'm going to line it with black batiste (I thought for a nano-second that a fuschia version of the same fabric would look delightful - but that would mean calling up Kashi at Metro Textiles in New York City on the off chance he still has some. Besides, I want to use what I have). It will look pretty, even downright cute on my mannequin. This eyelet number is supposed to be no. 4 for my Sewing With A Plan excursion. Now tell me, do you think apparel has to actually fit in order for it to be part of the plan? If so, I'm going to have add some yoga, drink more liquids than ever for this skirt to fit. Of course, it might help to actually sit down in the front of the sewing machine.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

When I'm Feeling Deprived...

I feel like I haven't been to Vogue Fabrics in the looongest time. I wanted to the classroom Sunday afternoon and sew to my large heart's content. I've already forgotten what I did during that time (the past 72 hours have been action-packed but I'm certain I'll recall the events of Sunday, June 24 as soon as I upload this post). Then Monday night, when Vogue has its Free in-store demo, I had to go to condo board meeting. Oh, I could have blown it off but I had issues that needed to be addressed. I even thought of making my pilgrimage afterwards, then I was too tired. I thought, "There's always Thursday..." when the store is open until the heavenly hour of 9 p.m! Isn't that sheer bliss?

So I'm already thinking of doing a little fabric shopping tomorrow evening. I cannot wait. I think I last walked in the store's hallowed halls a week ago and I didn't buy an unblessed thing! Discipline. Now I need an invisible to finish a eyelet skirt, and of course, I must add to my stash. Or at least pet the textiles there. They need my caresses, my tender love. I honestly feel they perk up after my fingers have touched their surfaces, even though I swear the nap definitely looks a little limp if I don't buy a yard of two after I've made contact with the aforementioned object. It's kind of like when someone fawns overs a German Shepherd at animal shelter and doesn't adopt on the spot. You can only imagine how that poor canine feels!

It helps considerably that tomorrow is already leading into the Fourth of July weekend, when I will waste lots of time, particularly on the computer, avoiding any house-cleaning duties. I know I'll be knitting, because my hands can't be idle not for a moment. Sewing? Maybe. I've cut out enough projects to work on. It's just a matter of do I want to work in the isolation of the Klatt compound on the sewing machine or make meaningful contact with other Humans? Sometimes it's a bit much to spend too many solitary hours even if I'm stitching a beautiful piece of apparel. I don't feel that way about knitting or crocheting, which are usually done in the company of others, sometimes too many.

Unfortunately, I will not be able to use the Vogue classroom this Sunday due to a family function. I'm not sure when I will be able to enter my favorite room in the whole town of Evanston. Maybe Sunday, the 8th? I'm praying fervently nothing comes up just so I can spend time in a space surrounded by Vogue, Simplicity, Butterick and other pattern books. Now is that Heaven on Seven or what?

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Sunday, June 24, 2007


I made up that word. I have no idea what it means. It just sounds nice, very techno. Kind of mod, like this skirt here. You will not believe this - (or maybe you will considering how much I spend at Vogue Fabrics) - but I made this skirt from a pattern abandoned in the classroom at the abovementioned store.

I was trying so very hard to make this fabric - a lightweight black batiste with matching diagonal ridges, and white rickrack and lace - into Simplicity 4179 (a retro-blouse with an adorable Peter Peter collar and drop-waist). I thought I could get a nifty chevron effect going with the trim at an angle. Alas, I could not get the lace bits to match up. But I wanted so badly to make something - since I rented the classroom for a whole $7.50 - I started digging in the classroom shelves to see if there was a skirt pattern that I could use. And there was! I think I might be Vogue or maybe it was McCalls. I don't know. But it was manna for this craftster lost in Sewing Limbo.

I figured this skirt would look best and very trendy if the trim was slanted like a blackslash symbol, rather than striving for a V (the chevron). So a very sweet Vogue Employee helped to lay out the pattern on the bias. I was very nervous about that part - I've never sewn anything on the bias. I figured left to my own devices that this sewing project would end up off-grain and -kilter and the whole kit-kaboodle would end up in the dumpster on my way out.

But I bravely cut the pattern as it was laid out (and the same employee helped me cut out an impromptu yoke). But I didn't start sewing until I was in the safety of my own home. I actually hung it in my closet to let it streeeetch for a couple of days. And then I sewed the sides, putting in my second invisible zipper (boy, do I splitting the coils with that invisible-zipper foot. What fun!). Then I put my Work of Art on my mannequin, to let the fibers do some Yoga, relax, do some more poses, and streeeetch some more.

Then after 48 hours or so, I spun my mannequin around lopping off the excess fabric so I'd have a beautiul and even hem. Just that alone made me less afraid of hems - I'd always been hesitant to do 'em because who's going to help Ms. Lonely Hearts chop out the extra stuff at the bottom when the Time comes? I don't have a maid, ghost or even a dog at hand to aid in the task. Then the sewing machine, with my assistance, stitched down the hem so it wouldn't go anywhere.

That done, I tacked down the yoke with an extra row of stitching at the waist and the Viking went to work once more. I even let the machine put on the hook and eye. I'm not fond of hand-sewing little gizmos.

Now I've got a favorite new skirt. It fits me fine. Well, it's actually loose now that I've lost 10 pounds. What do you think I'm going to do with the remnants? They're going be the waist, collar and sleeves for Simplicity 4179. I'm going to do the bodice in basic black batiste so I don't have to worry about the trim coordinating. Phew!

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

I've Abandoned the Crochet Dress

I have to say one of the many wonderful things about working with yarn is how easy it is to undo a garment. If you don't like how a sweater is shaping up, you can rip it back. Ditto a crochet dress, which you can undo faster than you can run upstairs and downstairs in a 2-story house. I wish I could say the same about sewing. Last night I decide to pre-shrink this lovely super-pinwale white corduroy with these big massive black flowers and curlicue leaves (think of some those large floral prints that you've seen waltzing down the runways lately, and you'll get the idea). Just beautiful fabric, the stuff of dresses and skirts.

Well, the dye ran. Actually I think it did a marathon on my fabric. There are gray shadows behind many flowers!! I can't believe the fabric's ruined. Sure, I can cut around some of it. I'm not sure I can do the dirndl skirt I had in mind though. Might be more like funky bermuda shorts. But I can't toss it, especially after I spent mega-bucks on it at Metro Textiles in New York City. No sirree, I can forgo projects, but I cannot, absolutely pitch expensive materials. Never. Unless my mother wants them for a quilt she's making me. Then in that case, she can have them. That said, I have been known to pitch pricey textiles after the scissors attacked them in the wrong spot. Don't tell all my finds in my fabric bin. The less those babies know, the better. You know how it goes!

I actually discovered the dye problem while I was at Arcadia Knitting starting the sweater you see above. The fabric was peeking out of my tote while it was resting on a brand-new pink couch there. "Could it be? Oh no, it can't be!" I muttered to myself, while another knitter admired my fabric. "Did you make that?" she asked.

I had to tell her no, (I wanted to tell her weaving isn't one of my many strengths just yet, but I was fretting about my fabric.)

I brought the fabric with me to Arcadia just in case I got to Vogue Fabrics before they closed the doors at 9 p.m. I went to the knit shop because I just decided that the crochet dress wasn't working for me. I tried on the upper half, and I didn't like how the shoulders practically fell off of me. I despite it when that happens. I have wee shoulder-blades and I have trouble enough keeping anything with regular straps from falling off my body. So the dress went bye-bye without any regret and I began stitching this top. With luck, I'll have it done in time for the Sewing With A Plan deadline at the end of July. (I've already made three things. I have 9 to go. Do you think I'm working hard yet? No way. I'll wait til the due day approaches and then panic. Then I'll just make a bunch of easy-peasy clothes.) I haven't forgotten about my black- and -white floral textile. What do you do when fabric cries and leaves stains behind?

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Sewist - the swimsuit issue

Dear Readers,
Welcome to the first swimsuit issue of The Sewist. You're a loyal lot, so I just wanted to let you know what to expect in this special issue, shot on location near the 4-lane pool at the High Ridge YMCA in Evanston, Ill.

First, there will no be airbrushing, no faux tans or forgiving lighting. Nor will there be any pricey Prada swimsuits, or Touche tankinis. You won't find any bikinis either. We didn't have the budget for them. Nor did we have the monies for a shoot in South Palm Beach Florida or even Venice, California. Even our request for simple photographs at North Avenue Beach in Chicago was turned down without any explanation. We also weren't able to hire Gisele Bundchen or any of her former Victoria's Secret colleagues. You won't find any hot men such as the oft bare-chested actor Matthew McConaughey or the hunky Patrick Dempsey of Grey's Anatomy fame. Even the editor's hunky brother Andy was unavailable for unspecified reasons (although staff writers suspect he was boating on Lake Michigan with his dog Pablo and avoiding his females fans and paparazzi.)

In fact, our editor-in-chief Mary Beth Klatt had to volunteer for snapshots, taken courtesy of the lifeguard-on-duty at High Ridge. I think the lifeguard did a fabulous job, don't you?
Here's what you will find in this action-packed edition. You'll see plenty of varicose veins, especially in Ms. Klatt's left shoulder, caused by the straps on heavy totes, page after page of unshaved legs, moles, hyperpigmentation and cellulite. Scars, rosacea, and real sweat? It's all inside these magazine. You'll also discover untouched photos, a rarity in this industry. In fact, our editorial staff doesn't have Photoshop. We're hopeful we'll have this computer software in time for the next issue. We've got a whole section of lovely candid shots of our unpaid models in homemade, machine-stitched (but not in Southeast Asia) swimsuits. We also have a list of the best shops in the U.S. for gently-used swimwear. Turn to page 9 to learn more.

Last but not least, if you'd like to donate the use of your backyard swimming pool for next year's 1st anniversary issue, please email us now. Thank you.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

One little, two little, three little bathing suits...

I finished my bathing suit last night, sitting inside my warmer-than-a-furnace apartment, hunched over my Viking Husquvarna. I had to count on one hand how many times I've made this particular pattern. Each time the suits have gotten better. The first one had lots of ripped stitches because I didn't know you need to use the three-step zig zag to adhere the elastic. The second one? The elastic was all wiggly like wayward electrical wiring and incredibly difficult to get on...probably because the final stitching was on top of that aforementioned rubber. That suit, a lavender number, was incredibly to difficult to get on. I had a do a little shimmy to squeeze my hips through the unforgiving neckline.

The latest production? The top-stitching isn't quite what you'd find on a Speedo. It wavers, even stalls at various points on the suit, resembling Mapquest directions gone awry. I don't care - I've got a Free bathing suit (yes, all the Spandex came from a friend who knows how much I enjoy water pilates and sewing, not at the same time, obviously). Next time the finishing will be even better. My goal is to have at least three different suits, one for each of the three days I hop into the swimming pool. The polka-dot number could be for when I'm feeling really dotty (which is quite often. I'm what they would call Eccentric back in the old days.). I could make a sky-blue one for those times when I'm feeling a little under the weather (but not enough to skip a refreshing dip), and then a sparkly plush purple version for when I need to remind myself that people need to treat me like the Royal Queen that I am.

Here's the way I look at it: We all have our favorite outfits - the red suit for interviews, white linen separates for weddings or the black dress for dinners with colleagues. Why should it be any different for work-outs? I'll be darned if I'm going to show up in the same lame, saggy suit when I have a cardbox full of stretchy fabrics just begging to be transformed into something that Esther Williams would wear.

As soon as I finished no. 3 I popped her (yes, she's a girl. Know any dotted suits for men?) into my work out bag and I tossed no. 2 into the garbage. It felt so good. I wore my third work of art into the waters today. No one, not even a lifeguard, has taken notice yet, but they will, I promise. And I'll report right here. Have you ever tossed a swim suit that's gone bad?

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Friday, June 15, 2007

The crochet dress, at last

Now tell me that this dress doesn't look easy to make. (For those of you who don't crochet or knit or even randomly tie knots, hear me out for a few minutes. Then you can say, "That looks hard.") Doesn't it look a bunch of the same stitches, repeated over and over into the next millennium? That's what exactly what this pattern - about 500 shell stitches strung together.

Even so this pattern, circa 1971 and the year my mother had an outdoor baptism for somebody in my family, is difficult beyond belief. I feel like I need an interpreter and these instructions are written in English! I was about to go out of my mind and to Jupiter and back doing the first row on this dang thing (Can I call it that even though I'm only two rows into the project?). I needed to get 19 pattern stitches. I kept getting the wrong number - 25, 24, 23. So I keep ripping (and finding myself ready to roar) this dress back to the very beginning, muttering all along, "If I don't get this right soon I'm throwing in the paper towels and more and starting a bonfire."

Miraculously, I got that magical teen number early this morning, where else but on the train. I was ready to dance with the conductor and climb on the caboose and tap dance Charlie Chaplin style (only to be knocked over by a bridge as it always seem to happen in the movies). No, I stayed calm (I really need to stop doing that. Doesn't help anyone) and started on the next row. No fanfare, no drinks, no Dirty Martini or even a clean one!

But I must celebrate. It's the weekend. I've a long way to go on this journey. I need to have fun! I don't want this beautiful piece of attire to be a drudgery. (I'm using Gedifra Wellness cotton in an Ocean-blue hue for those who care.) Sometimes I get so wrapped up in those yarn-overs and counting those darn stitches, I forget to relax and enjoy the ride (we're talking the crochet adventure, not the locomotive, although the same could be said for commuting too).

There's probably a good chance that the dress will not be done in time for the previously mentioned SWAP (Sewing with a Plan) on Patternreview. Who cares? I've got something to do while I'm going places not so far and wide! I don't have to stare out the window, although that's good to do sometimes. I don't have read my neighbor's Chicago Tribune on the sly. I can be more productive than an assembly line! I can create a piece of apparel that I can brag about for years to come! I can drive myself crazy before the end of the summer! Anyone want to join me in my silly challenge?

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

When Blogger Acts Slow, Do the Hokey-Pokey
Mom said there'd be days like this when Blogger acts so pokey that only mortar oozing down a cement-truck shoot would move faster. She also added that there be other days when inanimate objects might get in your way and hurt you inadvertently. A prime example today would be the wall-mounted fire hydrant that stuck out at me while I was walking along minding somebody's else business and hit my hand. Hard. Golly, I didn't realize how much that hurt until I got home and I put a plastic sandwich bag full of ice on that aching extremity. I felt like I'd been bitten by a dog (and that has happened to me, unfortunately).

Did that stop me from picking up my crochet hook? No, I scooped that metal gadget out of my bag and began fussing with my crochet dress-in-progress after I settled in a seat on a train. I realized not only did I twist the chain (I really despise it when that happens), but I've got the wrong number of shells. I'm beginning to think that this particular piece of apparel just might not make it into the PatternReview Sewing With a Plan (SWAP) that ends July 31. I'm sure I'll still work on it (what else is there to do when you're sitting inside a train or a bus? Twiddle your thumbs? People watch? I'd rather do that when I'm sitting outside enjoying refreshments at a great restaurant or cafe).

It may well be time to call in the crochet cavalry, i.e. my friend Nancy who crochets, knits and sews. She might even do so tatting for all I know. I'm thinking she could start my crochet chain, get the gauge and the proper number of shells right and then off I could go on my merry make-a-dress-on-the-road way. I think Nancy would help me, but she lives on the other side of the galaxy as far as I'm concerned, especially when I don't own a Xebra-PX, the electric pickup that requires no gasoline. I don't even own a scooter, but I do have two legs that the fire hydrant didn't damage earlier today, thank goodness. Maybe I could use those extremities to visit Nancy.

If I don't get some assistance on this dress soon (and I already visited Arcadia Knitting for help), I might abandon it or better yet, return the yarn and start some other blasted project that has me cussing like somebody's business. I really do think my language gets much colorful when it comes to knitting and crocheting than it does with sewing. At least with the latter, you can fudge it. A wrong cut there? Fix with a stitch or two there. There's little room for fussing in knitting. Add miscellaneous loops early on in a garment you could end up with a kangaroo-sized sweater. Twist that silly chain that I mentioned earlier? You'll have a fabric that's wonky and will refuse to do anything you tell it. But I'm stubborn - I'll just restart that dress on my own. I've got all the time in the world on the No. 22 bus that moves about as fast as an elephant down the main drag, Clark Street...

What projects get you using words more colorful than your laundry?

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Shopping for Fabric, the Sarah Jessica Parker Way
I visit Vogue Fabrics in Evanston, Ill. at least two times a week. I don't always buy fabric, but always give myself the proviso that if there's something extraordinary, I can buy it. But even then, I often don't. Usually it's a matter of looking at the checkbook account balance. I rarely buy fabric on credit. My reasoning? Too frivolous. So yesterday, I passed up this lovely pink-on-pink floral burnout cotton fabric on sale, a Missoni-like zig-zag polyester and sheer white pointelle knit remnants. I figure if it's not there next time, it wasn't meant to be. It's hard for me to splurge. I come from a big family, hence my Sarah Jessica Parker analogy. She too hails from a larger-than-normal family that went through some hard times when she was young. Like Sarah, we were on food stamps at one time. So even eons later it's difficult to shake that I-can-indulge mentality. It's usually buying what I need. Last week I had to have swimswear elastic to start my swimsuit (I haven't). This week, it was ombre orange velvet ribbon for my completed indigo blue alpaca knit skirt. So I get my fabric fix in a very concentrated, handful-of-dollars sort of way. If I could return fabric easily I probably would. But once it's been cut, I think it's kind of difficult to say, "Here's my receipt. Take this back, I can't afford it!" In fact, I don't think I've ever brought fabric back. I usually feel guilty for a while, and into my Fabric Bin my latest buy goes, not to be unearthed and used for at least 24 months. In the meantime, cicadas are born, flies die and fossil fuels are burned, but at least I have something I can sew and wear when I'm 10 pounds later than I am now. Thank goodness, I don't acquire yarn the same way. I'd be knitting on my way to my funeral. "Just one more row!" I'd cry before they close the coffin. Tell me how many of you have ever returned fabric. I'm completely curious.

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Drinking and Writing? Maybe. Sewing and drinking? No way.

I happened to wander into the The 3rd Annual Drinking & Writing Festival; "Write 'Til You Puke" yesterday at Hopleaf Bar, a Chicago hangout. I was looking for a little lunchtime Guinness after volunteering at a neighborhood festival.

So I sit down at the bar, and get my brew (which incidentally comes in a can straight from Ireland - most Guinness in the U.S., particularly the liquid that's on tap, originates in Cananda.) I'm sitting next to a woman who's wearing a nametag that says "Don't Try" upside down. I thought she was being silly, until I saw other people wearing the same name tag, right side up.

I had to find out more. Turns all these beer fans were in the pub for a Drinking and Writing Festival, celebrating the Life of Charles Bukowski, who I'd never heard of. They were going to sample different brews, listen to writers talk about ale and see a presentation of an award for Outstanding Achievement in Drinking & Writing to Chicago journalist Rick Kogan. The best part? A two-drink minimum writing contest.

That last part really intrigued me. I was almost ready to sign up, and I'd done half of my minimum already. I just love the idea of loosening up, and liberating a bunch of printed words on paper, even it turns out to be unpublishable gibberish. But...I'm on a diet. Not a strict one (I just ate some Doritos dipped in avocado.) I've lost seven pounds. I want to keep that weight off and lose even more heft. That competition, at fun as it sounds, would have done me in. I have to admit if I had a guy I really liked I probably would haved signed both of us up in a matter of half-nano-seconds. Then I thought....I have to wait another year for the festival (the drinking one, not the neighborhood version)? That's a long time to do something literary with a Rock Bottom or a Three Floyd's in your hand. I told the guy taking tickets at the door they needed do something at least once a month. He said I might have to do that.

Which got me thinking (rare, I know. My brain goes on a major vacation, particularly on summery Saturdays.). Drinking and wordsmithing, a hoot. What about a beer and sewing? Eh.
For one thing, there are some sharp objects in this hobby: scissors, sergers and seam rippers come to mind. One false slip and your project could be a history project. With scribbling words on paper, only the latter gets damaged. Besides, sewing is for the most part, a solitary journey. Imbibing along the way only magnifies the solitude (and sometimes your frustrations with the stitching at hand. ) If I'm going to quaff any alcohol, it's going to be after I turn the sewing machine off and I've angrily tossed my dress-in-progress in a corner. That's when I head to the refrigerator for a libation. Problem is I don't often keep alcohol in my house, so post-sewing drinking isn't an option. In that case, I just have a glass of ice water if it's hot, green tea if it's cold. What are your thoughts on sewing and beer (or wine)?

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Friday, June 08, 2007

Two Klatts in hats

I don't know who it was that recommended that hospital visitors should wear hats. Maybe it was my friend, milliner Loreta Corsetti. I don't know. But it was advice that stuck in my head, kind of a Super-sticky Post-It note on my brain. So I always meant to act on that counsel. I had the opportunity last night when I went to visited my brother Bryan at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

I wore my silk shantung cocktail hat, the same topper that recently ventured to Ireland and back and survived to tell many tales (mostly to me though, no one else). I figured it was dressy enough for entertainment, but strong enough to weather the extremely blustery summer winds we had yesterday. I actually wore my Eugenia Kim brimmed cotton hat during my journey downtown, and then switched chapeaux as I entered the hospital.

I got attention from the moment I walked into the lobby. The receptionist said, "Who's getting married?" I told her no one, but I'd willing to venture down the aisle with the right guy at a moment's notice. Why does this hat inspire wedding-related talk? I think it's the mostly white netting. Anyhow, upstairs, a physician noticed my hat straight off and asked if me if I was going to a show. I told him, "No, I'm doing this for a patient. It's an act of charity."

So off I went to find Bryan, who wouldn't you know it, was already entertaining guests? Two of his students from a spinning (not the machine for turning wool into yarn, the exercise equipment) class he teaches! These women were dressed head to toe in Black, talking seriously with my sib. I enter all bright and colorful in the posh-pink Kwik Sew surplice top that I sewed, my way-too-warm denim jeans, cowboy boots and my quirky hat of the day. They turn to me, surprised. Who is this woman? This is our teacher's sister?

They were intrigued. I think it's the hat's work. I never have to talk or say much when I've got this topper on. It does all the gabbing for me; makes me look great, intelligent, especially when I was dead-tired from battling those 70 m.p.h. 90+ degree Fahrenheit winds outside and traveling on a bus and a train. Somehow, I summoned up the energy to talk and actually converse about life and Bryan's condition (he suffered two strokes while on vacation. He's improving nicely and should be out of Northwestern tomorrow).

Toward the end of my act-of-charity visit, I asked Bryan if he'd be up for a photo. I was delighted when he said yes. I think he wants to document his recovery. So I got up, and awkwardly posed next to his bed, nearly knocking over a urinal bottle hooked on a bar. Yipes!

What I really like about this photo is the warmth it projects, and how happy we both look. He, no doubt, is thankful to be alive. I'm just thrilled to add to his joy, and relieved I'm finally going home. I hope I made his day a little better. The hat was my kooky way of reminding him that life is a joyride. You know what though? I'm going to do this again. I plan to wear other hats when I'm hanging out with people who are sick and need a little beauty to cheer them up. I suggest you try it sometime. I'm certain you'll be glad you did. And if you do, report back to me. I want to hear all about it.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

What Hat I Want to Be Wearing When I'm Discovered...
Actually, I like to think I'm already me. That's the most important find, don't you think? Who cares if an agent chases you down while you're crossing the street, or encounters you while you're in line at the bank (Charlize Theron) or hanging out at the drugstore (1940s starlets), or nowadays shrieking on YouTube (Lonelygirl). Isn't it good enough just to be able to look in the mirror and say, "'re a star"? I'll bet a handful of almonds it does.

But my bag of Trader Jo's almonds is almost empty (or should I say it's 1/8 full?). As much as I'm really big on not relying on other people to validate you, I have to say I'm enchanted on how this girl was discovered by the Sartorialist. I daresay it's because of the hat she's wearing. She wouldn't have stood out otherwise. She'd just be another stylish local. When I was in the Big Apple recently I wondered how to catch the Sarto's elusive attention. As it was, I was too busy inside to spend that much of it outdoors which is where this popular fashion photographer spends his time capturing his subjects on film. But if I had my druthers (and I often do) I'd wear something playful, something not too serious. A chapeau that I could continue to wear if something awful happened in my favorite Eastern city (and you need to prepared. A tornado could blow through Manhattan.) I don't think you could go wrong with a cocktail hat. Something with veiling though to give it mystery. Netting is so alluring, glamorous and incomprehensible to the average passerby. Not to Sarto aka Scott. If you were anywhere near his radar, he'd snap your photograph in a New York Minute. I'm thinking an apple-themed hat would be perfect to wear. Maybe even with a faux worm hanging off of it. I'd stitch it myself, of course. What hat would you wear in New York City?

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Not Exactly Esther Williams, I'm AfraidIf the patrons at the YMCA I frequent are any indication, people are very, very attached to their swimsuits. They will wear them until they're faded, ripped, and saggy. And they wear the same one every time they hit the water. One teen-age swimmer wears her black, torn beyond recognition suit over a new pale blue one. You'd think that would slow down her while she's doing her laps, but perhaps that's the point. I remember how embarrassed I was by my dad's frayed-beyond-belief trunks when we would go swimming as a family when I was kid. I was deeply grateful we typically visited our local outdoor pool in the evening so you couldn't see too well. I prayed my father would spend most of his time in the water, where his attire would remain hidden most of the time.

I have to say I'm the same way, particularly since I have a torso longer than most maple saplings. I adore any bathing suit that doesn't give me a wedgie.

Most folk don't wear underwear the same way, I don't think. At least I don't, I have a drawer full of an assorted array of panties to meet every possible need: black, mocha, tan, plus a few very white ones. But there's enough to get through a week or so and then some.

But swimgear? Even though I go to the Y for my own version of water pilates nearly three times a week, I only own two bathing suits. One from a thrift store (that'll might elicit an "eeew" from a few of you, but I'm ok with it). The other? The lavender version of the racer-back suit you see above.

I'm at at a point where I don't like either suits. The thriftie is faded, saggy with the elastic is beginning to show beneath one of the straps. I think it's going into the garbage today. The homemade one isn't much better: it's threatening to tear at a point where I used a four-thread serger. I can see it splitting one day as walk into the pool, not exactly an Esther Williams entrance. Then my worst nightmare (the oh-no-I-have-no-clothes-on one) will finally be true. I also have to wrestle my hips through what feels like a smaller than Coke bottle neck. The elastic is also really wiggly, like it got electrified on the sewing machine.

So it's only out of not-so-bare necessity that I've cut out another Kwik Sew suit. Silly me once again opted for the racer back (so the straps don't fall off my narrow shoulders). But it's cute fabric! Basic black in the back, and black polkadots on a hot-pink background in the front. It'll match the rubber Speedo bathing cap that always feels like it's pulling my hair each time I put it on. So the pattern pieces are cut out. Do I speedily stitch up this baby in time for the next work-out session in a few days? No, not at all. All the parts are parked on a top of a blanket in my bedroom. I daresay I'll wear the falling-a-part suits until there's an intolerable hole or snapped strap on either. How long do you keep your swimsuits?

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Friday, June 01, 2007

I'm Losing Sleep Over This...Almost

I just learned yesterday that once I've paid for using the Vogue Fabrics classroom 10 times, I'll receive a $20 gift certificate. To date I've used that special space six times; yes, I can count 'em on two hands now. So that means just four more afternoons in that room and the store employees will give me a piece of paper that I can use to spend more money at my favorite shop in the whole universe (well, Mood Fabrics is my favorite shopping destination in New York City - but that's a different world, in my opinion). What do I spend the money on? I've really pondered this. More patterns, ones that are hard to get at Jo-Ann's or Hancocks? I was thinking maybe a new Silhouette pattern or two. Or even a couple of Christine Johnson ones. Or do I splurge on a couple of yards on say that the lurex-shot paisley linen from Italy that I always touch on my way to the notions room? Wait. I'd probably outspend the gift certificate on just a yard of that textile. I even thought of buying a foot or two (but not two arms, I've already got enough of those on my body, thank you) for my Viking (the sewing machine, not the Scandinavian). Or do I go crazy in the remnants section, where I nearly always find 1 1/2 yards of some jersey knit that cannot be found anywhere else in the Chicagoland or perhaps even in the Midwest. Or maybe I can get a new pair of scissors. I'm so frugal (or so I like to think, but if that's truly the case than how do you explain the bulging bin of fabric in my closet? It's so big that when I pulled it out recently, it got caught on the door, yanking out a couple of slats in the process.) that I actually think about buying fabric before I take the Big Plunge, unless there's only a few yards on a particularly popular bolt that I absolutely must have. I usually take home swatches and study them. If these materials are MIA when I return, I just figure there's always other cloth out there, especially online. In that case, I usually console myself by buying a textile I don't like nearly as much. It's kind like when you hear that guy you've liked secretly for years is getting married, you decide to go on a date with some guy you're not wild about, well, just because. What do you do when a favorite knit, wool, silk, eyelet or chiffon sells out before you can get your justifiable share?

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