Monday, September 24, 2012

Project 27: Resort Wear Mini Collection

Lingoman and I decided to take an impromptu extra trip this year. It came down to a decision between Montreal and Hawai'i. He has been to both places but I haven't so that couldn't be used as a deciding factor, but we eventually settled on Maui since I love mountains and beaches so much. Shortly after making that decision we found ourselves (read: I drug us to) Fabricana in Richmond. They have a great selection and very helpful staff. As we were strolling by the sale table I spotted a bolt of black crinkle-cotton for $4/meter. Pretty good deal, even with the unfavorable exchange rate just now. It's light weight but strong with lots of texture.

I made three pieces to mix and match with my existing wardrobe of summer clothes. Two of them I know I'll wear and the third… well… it might turn out to be just for lounging around in private!

black crinkle cotton tank top on hangar.
First is a tank top. Pretty basic, but I finished the neck and armholes with bands of the same fabric and topstitched every serged seam which gives it much sturdier feel than the lightweight fabric would otherwise. Even though it's a woven fabric, the crinkles give it just enough stretch that it works in this kind of garment. It is really comfortable and just the right length to be worn tucked into pants or left out.

Black crinkle cotton bowling shirt on hangar.
Second is a bowling shirt with a single breast pocket for cash, hotel key card and ID. I've made quite a few of these now, so the basic construction isn't a challenge. In the interest of ease-of-wear, especially when on vacation, I topstitched the front facing to the body and also put a line of topstitching around the collar and down the opening on both sides. On flat woven fabric it would look kind of weird, but on crinkle cotton you hardly see it. The biggest benefit of doing that extra stitching is that the collar and front don't need ironing. They're just a little wrinkled and they look fine. I think this piece will be especially nice for lounging poolside.

Last is my experiment. It was inspired by the King Tutankhamun exhibit in Seattle right now. I've been once and am going a couple more times, I'm sure. The pharaohs are always shown wearing beautiful gathered kilt-like garments that look so elegant. I wanted to create something I could wrap around my waist over a bathing suit, or wear on its own for that matter as loungewear. I'm not sure the result would make anyone think of the pharaohs, though, even if it were being modeled by a 20-something with a striking physique. It has a wide waist band with two ties. One on the inside a little to the right of center-front and one on the outside that ties just to the left of where a side seam would be. If it were either longer like a sarong or stopped at the knee like a kilt it would look more masculine. Anyway, It's super-comfy and will make for awesome loungewear on warm summer evenings when nobody has to look at it but Lingoman.

Together, they are Dark Aloha, the 2012 Autumn resort wear mini collection from Taigh Sheumais Fashions.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Ding! Level 46!

As I've been thinking about writing this birthday blog post I have reached the conclusion that this year for me was about recording Baile Àrd and producing the CD release concert. Lots of other things have happened, but this was a life-changing experience.

I stopped writing updates about my recording project a really, really long time ago. From the point at which I realized I needed to do serious work on my singing skills I stopped most activities that weren't directly related to the project because I had this horrible anxiety that I was going to fail and that it would break my spirit to do so. I was terrified of how deep a depression I would fall into if I gave up on my CD. I went into a strange kind of survival mode and it has had some repercussions.

I finally started recording at Empty Sea Studios last September. Getting all my harp tracks down was just the beginning. As I ran into obstacle after obstacle I got very good at letting go of long-held wishes and finding a different way forward. I probably wouldn't have made it through without the wisdom and support of my engineer, Michael Connolly. He reassured me that what I was going through was normal and that it would be worth it, and he was certainly right. He expressed his view of the process once by saying "Making a CD is like pooping a diamond. It's really, really hard, but then you have a diamond."

CD package design, liner notes, and convincing the manufacturer that I really had the necessary license to record the copyright protected tracks took lots of effort and time while I was simultaneously producing and promoting the concert.

Posters, postcards, rehearsals, volunteers, CD sales, AND a big vinyl banner! It's one of those experiences that I look back on and wonder how I managed to do all those things. One at a time, I suppose. It was a magical night from load-in to cast party. There so much more I could tell about it, but maybe this is enough to make the point and bring me back around to the subject of my birthday.

It is my birthday, and in sharp contrast to many others, I'm actually feeing OK about it. There's something about having proven myself by making this CD that I love and am proud of that has changed everything. I can finally say to myself, "Self, have a happy birthday. You've earned it."

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Perfect Pants Pattern: An Unfinished Quest

Ever since I finished Project 26: Boy's Kilt, I have been working on drafting and executing the perfect pair of pants for myself. I'm using Garment Designer 2.5 and discovering that even though there is a drop down sizing chart labeled "men" I have to keep a lookout for womenswear silhouettes. I made the mistake with the first pattern I drafted of going straight to fabric. I had a length of beautiful thick black linen that I had purchased back in January to make pants for my concert. Didn't quite make that deadline, but oh well!

The really great thing about Garment Designer is that you can set up slopers* for different people and then invoke them from the size drop-down and everything gets re-sized for the person's exact measurements. I, unfortunately, trusted that process a little too much. I got a pattern that fit me and I executed it with ease, but when I went to try them on, the waist was up where a woman's pant would be, covering my bellybutton. Not a good look on a man.

Back to the drawing board! I was heartbroken to have wasted that gorgeous fabric, so I decided to just use left-overs until I was absolutely sure the pattern was right. I had some of the beautiful brown wool from Project 12: Halloween Costumes left over, so after shortening the waist I printed out the new pattern, taped the pieces of paper together and made my plastic pattern pieces. Again, I executed the garment very well, but did so at night. With dark brown fabric and black interfacing. Imagine my horror when I had a very well-fitting pair of wool pants with one of the back pocket welts in black interfacing instead of brown wool. Grrr!

At least the wool was used up. Next I made a couple tiny adjustments and tried again with the leftover black linen from Project 17: Black Linen Dress Shirt . The execution was even better this time and I was sure that I had a hit. I wore them to perform at an event up in B.C. and my brave and wonderful fiancé informed me that the fabric was a little too light for pants. Ooops! Thank gods we have the kind of relationship that allows him to say things like "Honey, they're beautiful and everyone can see your underwear" without fear of repercussion.

So I'm taking a short break from the perfect pants pattern quest to sew up some resort wear for our upcoming trip to Maui. Stay tuned for my all black resort wear mini collection! After that, I'm conquering pants. Really.

* A sloper is a two-dimensional representation of a body which allows two-dimensional patterns to be adjusted precisely.

Project 26: Boy's Kilt

My godson and youngest harp student decided that he wanted a kilt to wear to the various highland games in our area this summer, so I volunteered to make it. He's growing crazily fast, so I didn't spend the money on real tartan, but used some less expensive nearly-Dress-Gordon that I found at my local fabric store.

I need to get a better photo while it still fits!
It all went smoothly as soon as I realized that the secret to getting the pleats to be exactly where they need to be was to use the basting process to make them. Easy as pie.

I did discover that there are different opinions on how to deal with the pleats in the drop from hip measurement to waist. Some kiltmakers take in each pleat a little bit across the back, but my kilt which was made by the spectacular North Channel Kilts, takes in all the drop at the first and last pleats on the side. That way the pleats stay absolutely straight along the tartan pattern all the way up.

My measurements were a little off, so the flat apron across the front is a little too narrow, but I have a feeling I will get the chance to make more kilts for him as he grows up. By the time I make him his wedding kilt, it will be world-class.

What agenda?