Friday, April 29, 2011

Something Fun

So while most of the performances from the ice worlds have been pretty fun so far, there are those few that make me long for skates of the past.

I am sorry, but no!  There is only one East of Eden.

Chills and goosebumps.  Michelle Kwan I miss you!

And one particularly slow pairs short program to a certain fast song made me long for the amazing that is Luca.  Enjoy!

The Wedding Dress

Ok, so the world has seen and been wowed by the royal wedding dress.  I must admit, it is stunning.  I have been sort of falling in love with the images of the Grace Kelly and 50's era gowns popping up all over the internet, so I was not at all disappointed by the gown she chose.  Everything was just perfect - it was fitted and modern, but classy and elegant, with a 6 foot train - enough for the grandeur of the cathedral with not too much excess that would have been bashed in these current times of hardship.  The tiara was perfection.  It was totally worth losing sleep over.  The only sad part - the American commentators made me ashamed; the British commentator guests had interesting intelligent things to say (discussing the black sheep of the royal family, purposeful political slights on the guest list, and the history of all of the amazing things in the cathedral, the carriages, and the palace), while the Americans.... ugh we sounded so dumb and superficial talking about nothing but the dress, jewelry, and the garage for the carriages.  Garage, really?  Sigh.  In any case, a spectacle well worth seeing.

So now, of course, being a superficial American, I must examine and dissect the gown.  The official royal description is quite amazing.

Lady Catherine the Duchess of Cambridge in her wedding gown.
Most people have compared the gown to the one worn by Grace Kelly, but there are some differences.

The iconic Grace Kelly gown.
On Lady Catherine's gown the lace is more sheer, the neckline much lower, and the skirt is less of a poofed bell shape.  The resemblance is there, but Catherine's gown is much more sleek and modern.  I actually find the overall shape of the dress to be more similar to the two Burda Italia History of Fashion pictures that I posted previously.

The shape of the bodice and skirt more closely resembled this gown.

Mashed together with the sleeves and train from this one.
All in all, I don't think there are any current patterns with any of the major pattern companies that quite capture this shape.  I expect that will change when the fall collections come out.  In the meantime, those with large vintage collections are probably in luck, while for the rest of us it might be possible to Frankenpattern if one starts looking into costume patterns where there are a great many more options for full length skirts.  Indeed, I think that some of the best options may be offered from McCall's catalog.

M5321 - The bodice part has a similar shape to Catherine's gown.

M6139 - the skirt is actually a very similar shape.
Ok, so while the skirt on M6139 is not as architectural as the one worn by Catherine, it is one of the few that would have a similar silhouette.  I suppose it might even be possible to use the collar and sleeves to acheive the lace overlay from the original gown, if they were made smaller and actually fit the the person wearing the gown.  Not that I am needing a wedding gown at any point in the near future, or that I would be copying Catherine's.  But it is fun to see what is out there and what options we as home sewers might have in comparison to the commercially available gowns.  In any case, I expect this event to change the styles and offering of gown makers and pattern companies alike in the near future.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Yet Another Pattern Sale

Jo-Ann is having the last sale of April: one day only - Saturday April 30.  McCall's and Butterick patterns for $1.99 and Vogue for $3.99.  I am going to try and get the remaining patterns on my list of wants; hopefully then I will only be on the watch for a Burda sale at some point in the future; at least until the fall pattern collections come out.

A Conundrum

As I am sure the world is aware, the Royal Wedding kicks off within the next few hours.  However, the broadcast will be overlapping with the live streaming from Worlds.  Indeed, as fate would have it, it appears the moment everyone has been waiting for (the moment of the reveal of Kate's gown) should occur at about the moment that Jenna McCorkell (representing Great Britain) takes to the ice.  Since the exciting ladies won't really be taking to the ice until later in the morning, perhaps a little bit of wedding watching followed by a lot of skating watching is in order?  I suppose as long as I get to see the Czisny, Mao, and YuNa's Giselle from the ladies, and all of the short dances all is well.

Royal wedding video feed here.

Live from Moscow!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Could I just get a print out of the measurements?

So, apparently, the clothing retailers have realized that vanity sizing only frustrates and confuses consumers.  Which results in consumers who don't consume.  Wow, what a concept.  I am sure this has turned more than one person onto home sewing.  But, since clothing manufacturers are sort of married to their own vanity numbers and sizing, this problem probably isn't going to change for quite a while (or ever).  So, what are the retailers to do?  Apparently they decided that having their own Watson was a good idea.

The latest in mall technology?  Getting a full body scan to help you determine clothing sizes.  Yes, that's right, a full body scan, just like at the airport.  Apparently your body gets scanned and your measurements compared with those of all of the styles and sizes of about 50 retail stores.  The company MyBestFit is behind the idea and runs the mall body scan kiosks.  The good news?  Free for you.  The possibly creepy news?  They may share your scan info with clothing companies.  However, this could in theory produce better fitting ready to wear.  I am not holding my breath.  How does MyBestFit turn a profit?  They charge the retailers when they get included in your results, but the retailers cannot pay in advance to be included.  They need to actually have a reasonable chance of fitting your body.  So you get a list of where to go and what sizes you should try on, and retailers get a bunch of potentially less frustrated customers.  Apparently you also can sort by price, brand, style, etc. to help you find something you actually might want to buy.  And you get to have an online profile, which I suppose could be used to plan future shopping trips when styles and seasons change.  Sadly, the only current location is located in The King of Prussia Mall in PA, but there will be 13 more west coast/east coast options available by the end of the year.  Sorry entire middle of the country, guess you just need to take a vacation.

Now, since I have only recently started home sewing, I haven't fully forsaken ready to wear as a source of clothing, although I usually only go on a shopping spree during the Gordman's summer sale because (1) we don't have this store at home and (2) they are the only store that I know of that carries the brand of jeans that I really feel comfortable wearing.  I always find jeans when I am in the midwest.  The rest of the time?  Not so much.  So you know what middle of the country?  I guess I don't feel too bad because you guys have jeans that fit.  In any case, my fav brand isn't one of those in the MyBestFit database, so while I don't know how much this would help me right now, the idea of technology helping me to find a better fit is sort of interesting.  However, I have and even better idea.

Since I really do like sewing and want to make my own clothes, how about this: you scan my body and give me a print out of the actual measurements?  Since you are using 200,000 data points from my body, don't you think you could share exactly how round my thighs are, and exactly how long my shoulder is?  I mean, if you were going to sell it to Levi's anyway...  What's more, you could compare this to the pattern sizing from TheBig4, Burda, Kwik Sew, Jalie, and several other of the more popular pattern companies.  Since this sizing is, actually, fairly regular, you could help me pick out which sizes I should start with, what adjustments to make, and how much adjusting needs to be done.  Think about how many fewer muslins I would make?  And how much less debating over sizes and patterns and I adjustments I would be doing?  Ah, well.  I suppose that is all part of the fun and challenge of home sewing anyway.  I mean, analyzing and trying to fit my own curves gives me a better appreciation of why everyone else has failed so miserably at it before now.  It also makes me feel sort of awesome when I get it right.  I mean, I suppose understanding curves is sort of challenging.  I guess this is why so many people freak out about calculus.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Story of German Engeneering - My Relationship with Burda

Since I only started sewing about two years ago, and have only been interested in sewing normal clothes for less than a year, I avoided being part of the Great Burda Schism of Ought 10.  This was when all English speaking followers of Burda felt lost and abandoned as their beloved burdafashion dot com was torn from them and replaced with the work-in-progress Burda Style beta.

When I first heard of Burda (through a sewing google search) I did what any relatively tech savvy person would do - I looked at the Burda website.  This, of course led to massive confusion.  What was Burda exactly?  A company?  A project sharing website?  The lack of advertisement for their patterns and magazine left me thoroughly confused as to what Burda was actually supposed to be.  Now, I may not be a business person, but if you are selling a product and a potential customer can't even tell what or where that product is, you probably aren't going to be making much money.  I was able to figure out that you could buy patterns to download and print at home, but ink and paper are expensive, and then you have to piece them all together... it seemed like such a hassle.  This was back in the time when I would blindly cut directly into my pattern tissue sheets (no longer an issue, I assure you), and doing all of this extra work seemed silly.  So I left the website and didn't bother going back for several months.

Well, a few months latter another google search led me to the Selfish Seamstress.  Alas, for I only started to appreciate and enjoy the snark a few weeks before she left the internets.  Of course, there was a lot of back posts to read, so I was thoroughly entertained for the better part of a month.  In any case, it was through her wonderful assessment of the ridiculousness of Burda's costumes and styling that I came to understand that Burda was much more than a pattern download website.  The company actually does, in fact, make real patterns and monthly fashion magazines.  Indeed, the Burda Style Magazine (formerly Burda World of Fashion; again, I am sorry I am not from that era and I won't refer to it as such) harkens back to the age old tradition of American seamstresses waiting for the latest fashion plates and fashion dolls from Europe to arrive so they could copy the latest and greatest from that side of the Atlantic.

Tales from those who used these strange European patterns were wild and slightly frightening - European sizing (I'm a size 42?!?!), no seam allowances (ummm, wait, what?), crazy awful instructions (translated from German to Korean to English?), and pattern tracing (wait, you can't just cut it?).  It seemed so bazaar.  So of course I was desperate to find one of these mythical magazines just so I could take a look.  Which is actually a more difficult task than it may seem.  I had never seen any Burda patterns or any Burda magazines at JoAnn, all of the Hancock's within a 50 mile radius are gone (one of the great things about regionals - different fabric stores!), and the local/independent fabric stores stock KwikSew, but not Burda.  So, indeed, a conundrum.  That was when I went to Borders.

This was one of the newer Borders book stores in the area - a parking nightmare, but a much larger more well stocked store than many of the others.  That was where I saw it.  Burda Style Magazine for January 2011.  I was able to look through the pictures, look at the line drawings, and stare perplexed at the mass of patterns stapled in the middle of the magazine.  Those of you who know, know.  Those of you who don't - I will post a picture sometime, but let's just say that if printers could vomit ink, this is what it would look like.  In any case, I decided that there weren't any patterns I really needed to have, but I was happy because I had found a store that at least carried the magazine.  We all know what happened next, right?  Yup, that's right, Borders announced chapter 11.  Sigh.  And guess which ones were going under?  Yup, the nice big fancy Burda-carrying one.  And the close one.  Yeah.  I know.

So anyway, I thought I would at least make the best of a bad situation, and high tail it to Borders to hopefully pick up a remaining Burda at 40% off.  Well, when I got there they didn't have any January 2011, but they did have one February 2011.  So I got it.  I decided at first that I didn't really like any of the patterns, but at 40% off I wasn't going to complain.

So a few weeks passed, and I looked at the pictures, and I looked at the line drawings, and eventually I decided I should try to make something, just to get the Burda experience.  I decided I should ease myself into the process, start slow.  So I first traced not a Burda pattern but a Simplicity one.  I figured fewer lines would mean a better time of it.  And that actually seemed ok.  In fact, I liked tracing the pattern because I could make some obvious adjustments on the spot without cutting and taping and all that other pattern adjustment nonsense.  So after that I figured I could move on to the Burda.  I picked a simple shirt pattern - just three pieces, so not too much tracing.  It took a while to find things, but once I figured out the system it wasn't too bad.  And, actually, going on a limb here - I like tracing the pattern pieces.  Cutting them, no, not so much, but tracing is ok.  I know, I know, I am a heretic.  I actually don't find the directions to be that beastly either.  I mean, sure, they forgot to tell me to stitch up the side seams, but really nothing was too hard to figure out.  I think Burda instructions are like cook book instructions - they tell you what to do in what order, but not how to do it.  They leave the fussy details up to you, which actually gives you more freedom for what you want to do.  So, even the instructions I didn't mind.  And then there was the fit.  Oh, the glorious fit!  I made a knit shirt, which hides a multitude of sins, but really, without any major pattern adjustments it fit right out of the book.  Amazing.  Now, I don't expect this to happen on more constructed pieces (ok, I know it isn't going to happen on more constructed pieces) but really an un-adjusted Burda pattern seems to already have fewer fit issues than most of the Big4 patterns I have tried.

So after using the February pattern (and using the online preview to decide I could live without the March edition) I turned my attention to the Burda pattern line.  I saw a few patterns that I couldn't live without, and ordered them from PatternReview.  Of course, no sooner did I order these than all of the local JoAnn stores started carrying the Burda envelop patterns.  Perhaps around the country you all had more access to these?  I don't know.  But I know for a certainty that none of my local stores had these patterns until the end of March.  So I haven't tried the enveloped patterns yet, but it will happen very very soon.  If they are anything close to the magazine patterns then I expect very good things.  Now here's hoping that a $0.99 Burda sale may occur at JoAnn at some point in the future?  And that JoAnn gets some sense and starts carrying KwikSew as well.

After the happy incident of newly available Burda envelope patterns, the April magazine previewed and then I saw these:

Ok, so while I agree that Hollywood has taught us that it is acceptable to use curtains for clothes, using the bed sheets is just not cool.  Indeed, the pint on these pants may just be one of the ugliest things I have seen in a long time.  But then I looked at the line drawing:

Heaven!  It is the pant pattern I have been looking for.  Slight flare but not too much.  Fitted at the hip.  Fitting darts on the back.  I can change the waistband from straight to a curve.  Back Seam for easy swayback adjustments.  Pockets for a nice pair of trousers, but with a change to the pockets - the perfect pair of jeans.  I have some pants from the Big4, but they all seem to have something about the fit that I just don't like and can't find a way to fix.  And by then I was drinking the Burda fit Kool-Aid, so I simply had to find this magazine.  A scouring of the remaining Borders yielded nothing, and a scouring of the internet reviled little.  But then, by happenstance through a blog discussing their latest stash acquisitions, I found it - a website that sells individual Burda magazines!  Score.  Fashionista Fabrics you are officially on the permanent list of awesome.  (By the way, for those interested - they already have the May issue for sale.  I already scored mine, so it's ok, you can order one if you want).

So while I ordered the magazine for the pants, in a recent epic failure of a dress pattern (review to come) I was desperatly searching the stash for a quick and suitable replacement.  Indeed, I am making a second dress to wear to the wedding.  My first dress - very "bride, mother of the" if you know what I mean.  So in my frenzy I saw a dress pattern in the April Burda which I had originally dismissed but decided would be perfect for my stash fabric.  While the fabric was pre-washing I was madly tracing and stitching up a muslin.  The result: despite needing major alterations (needs length, needs FBA, needs swayback adjustments) it looked amazingly cute.  I mean, we are talking crappy ill fitting muslin and already I am looking much better than my fully fitted nicely made, perfectly-invisible zippered Simplicity pattern.  A few pattern adjustments, some good fabric, and I am thinking the result is going to be on the money.  I hope.  We shall see.  If, indeed, it does get to go to the wedding you get to see it after the big debut at the event.  There will be a full pattern review in either case, once the thing is finished.

So yes, I have drunk the Burda Kool-Aid.  In the era when many a home seamstress is dropping subscriptions, complaining about pattern choices, and, in general, proclaiming their displeasure with the company, I am starting a new love affair with German engineering for the human body.  My first impression of most of the Burda patterns usually falls somewhere between "boring" and "wtf," but when I go back and look at the actual designs I find so much to love.  Very Beauty and the Beast.  So much good stuff hidden behind crazy prints, dowdy florals, and crazy poses.  I suppose we are still in the courting stages; I don't have a subscription yet, but I think my infatuation is growing.  So, dear Burda patterns, I see that a rocky relationship may be in our future; I am not loving the potato sacks, and how many shirt dresses does a person really need?  But then you give me something simple, classy and elegant and I go weak in the knees.  Try to understand that I tease you because I love you and I accept you for what you are: a totally awesome but rather insane product of German engineering.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Pattern Review: Kwik Sew 2601

Alright, this will be the first and official review of my skating costumes made using Kwik Sew Pattern 2601.  This is my only TNT (tried-and-true/tried-and-tested) pattern as of yet.  I have used it for every single skating costume I have made.  I have recently acquired some new KwikSew patterns with different sleeve options (raglan sleeves), which I plan to test out next year.  This will be the longest-post-ever since I have so many crazy opinions and pictures of awesome dresses.  In any case, let us get on with the review!

Kwik Sew 2601

Pattern Description: Two styles of leotard with three sleeve length options (sleeveless, short, full-length), and an optional skirt.

Pattern Sizing: XS-S-M-L-XL; the size ranges from 31"-45" (bust), 22"-37" (waist), 32"-47" (hip) on the package

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? I use this pattern as the basis of all of my (roller) skating costumes. I have made about 20 costumes from this pattern, but not many of them look the same, because once I knew how the pattern fit I changed the style of the top for however I wanted my design to look. The first two costumes I made did look like the pattern when I followed the directions and pattern exactly, with the exception that the neckline was a bit higher as were the sides of the hips. After that no, because I changed it. I don't find the skirt flattering at all, and so I made my own skirt patterns, and sew my skirts to the leotard directly. I have never made the skirt with this pattern, but it looks very easy as it is just parts of a circle with a waistband.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes, the instructions were quite good. The instruction about how to measure and calculate the amount to shorten/lengthen the pattern is CRITICAL to a good fit but also very accurate in the instructions. This is especially important with sleeves. For activewear like this it is important that the sleeve attach to the body directly under the armpit, otherwise you will limit your range of motion and you will have over stretched/gaping armholes. I have used the sleeves in this pattern with excellent fit and no problems. The other instructions about construction are also quite good, and I still follow the order used by the instruction guide during construction even though I do not need to look at them anymore.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I like that is came with sleeve length options and 2 styles on the leotard. I didn't particularly care for the skirt, but I haven't seen a skating costume pattern where I have liked the skirt. I liked that it came in multiple sizes, so very easy to use M on top, XL on the bottom, or whatever size adjustments you may need. The pattern also is printed on very heavy paper so it is quite sturdy. Also, the pattern is very good at covering the bottom, without being too low on the hips. It makes the leg look super long, while covering the behind sufficiently. Another nice thing, the size ranges are large, so it is easy to fit people who may not be your "standard dancer size".

Fabric Used: Mostly lycra/spandex but also stretch velvet, slinky and other dance/swim/skate type fabrics. I have used non-stretch lace *gasp* as an accent on one dress (not all over the dress, but strategically placed). However, in general you want some nice 4-way stretch material. A hint on buying fabric: if you look at the cut edge on the bolt in the store and it is rolling, don't get it. It is better to go with something higher priced that doesn't roll because it will turn out much nicer, sew much easier, and save you money on headache medication. Also, this way you can make a skirt with a raw edge and it will hang nicely.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: For sizing this pattern I was between sizes and multiples sizes (Ex: measured 36.75" bust where max small is 35.5" and minimum med is 37"). I went to whichever size measurement I was closest to, which usually meant going up to higher sizes. I recommend using full bust measurement (not upper bust) to get top size, as the fabric will stretch into place and fit snugly. When I started making this pattern I used a size M on top and size XL on the bottom. I have since lost 4 inches in the bottom (mercifully stayed the same on top) and so now use M top and L bottom, although soon I may have to go to a size M all over.

The pattern uses (in general) a 3/8" seam allowance. I use a 5/8". I am usually on the small side of whichever size I have chosen (as in, smallest size for the size M range, as indicated on the back of the pattern package). I also usually have to take in the waist area, and occasionally I have to add back darts because I have a swayback. Depending on the fabric I also sometimes add darts on the front from under the bust down to the hip-bone level, because I have a full bust. Some fabric is more clingy and I don't need to do this, but some of the stiffer lycra or hologram type fabric doesn't fit well under the bust. If you have a full bust, you may need to make the under bust darts as well.

The pattern only lines the bust area, but I tend to sweat a LOT. So I usually line the entire leotard, unless it is made of velvet. Velvet is already hot enough and it will hide the sweat stains better than lycra will.

The pattern also uses 3/8" elastic for the entire costume. I like to use 1/2" elastic around the legs and 3/8" everywhere else. The pattern also tells you how much elastic to cut for leg opening, etc. I think it grossly overestimates, or they must use much less stretchy elastic. When I used size XL on the bottom, I was cutting a size M amount of elastic for a comfy fit. Now that I am using size L, I have gone down to size S amount of leg elastic. If I go to size M for the bottom, I will probably still use the 20.5"/size S elastic length though. The problem I had was when I used the recommended amount of elastic I had saggy tights. There is nothing more uncomfortable than skating with saggy tights. So I use a lot less elastic, no more saggy tights, and nice tight fit around the legs. I think some people might find it too tight, but if you get the pattern be prepared to need to experiment with elastic lengths (probably going smaller). Also, this can be difficult to feel until you are moving around in the leotard, so you may need to wear it and then go back and adjust the leg opening.

As for design changes, I made 2 skirt patterns (one symmetric one asymmetric) that I have used and sew onto the leotard. I also have altered the top various ways (higher V neck, no gathers, one-shoulder, used elastic straps instead of sleeves, etc). I have changed the height of the V on the back and also sometimes made it more square and less V-shaped. I have added various embellishments and other design details. I never alter the bottom of the pattern as leg holes are leg holes and these ones fit well. As a side note, I have not had formal training and this was my second pattern I ever made, so really, it isn't hard. Actually the first time I try a new style I usually just eyeball my pattern alterations when I am cutting (more gasps) and it comes out ok. I do mark where things are on the pattern as I cut, so I can raise/lower things in the future though. And I think once you see how simple this pattern is and where things end up on the body it is pretty easy to alter the pattern yourself. Overall, I think this is an easy pattern to alter after you have made it once and tried it out to see how it looks.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes, I have used it about 20 times! I do, of course make pattern design changes often, which some people may not be comfortable with. Also, the pattern uses 2 fabrics to create the design contrast, but it is easy to line up the pattern pieces and cut the leotard out of one fabric if you don't want the 2-tone look. I would recommend this pattern because it gives a lot of flexibility in terms of finished look as well as being well drafted with clear instructions. Also, I am (as indicated by the sizing) more of a curvy/full figured type body, but I have seen the pattern used on a stick-thin teenager and it looked good on both of us. I think this pattern can be flattering to many body types.

Construction Tips: This isn't part of the normal pattern review, but I thought I would add it.

Cutting the fabric: I like to use rotary cutters on this type of material. It gives a nice clean cut and can have a nice smooth line on the skirt hem. Since I leave my skirt hems unfinished (this type of material doesn't ravel in general) having a nice clean smooth cut is important. Also, because it is a leotard, it is easy to fit the entire pattern piece on a rotary cutting mat, which is nice.

Sewing seams: I don't have a serger (yet...) so you can make this on a regular sewing machine. Up close or on the inside, maybe not as nice on the seams as a serger would be, but when you are dancing/skating no one will notice. I used a 3-step zig-zag or a stretch overlock stitch that is on my sewing machine. The overlock stitch gives a nicer look to the seam on the outside, but the 3-step zig-zag gives more stretch. While you are performing, no one will really be able to notice, so as long as it stays together, use any stitch you want that has a little stretch/give. When I put on my skirts (again, self-drafted/not part of this pattern) I topstitch them with a small zig-zag. Some people find this tacky, but if you have larger hips this method usually prevents the skirt from rolling along the seam and making them look even bigger. Also, you can't really see the stitching if you match the thread well to the fabric. Again, once you are actually moving the stitching is not noticeable, but the nice form fitting shape of the dress will be.

Darts and fitting: If you have swayback or full bust you may need darts. This is generally how I would recommend deciding if you need these. First, sew up crotch and side seams, add the leg elastic. Check the fit by holding up the top/pinning to bra. It should be snug around the legs and butt. Don't worry about the top being big or baggy or droopy. Elastic will fix this. However, if there is large amounts of gaping on the lower back and saggy-ness around the waist, you probably need the back darts, and possibly to take in the waist. Sometimes I have to do both. It is important to make the back darts before you sew in the upper body elastic so it will lay smoothly. Make adjustments and check until it looks reasonable. Then sew in the rest of the upper body elastic, sleeves, etc as recommended by the instructions. At this point you may want to add under bust darts if you think it looks too gappy or saggy under the bust. Again, this will probably depend on bust size and fabric. If you make bust darts, have them go from directly under the bust at a slight angle toward the belly-button - this can make you look like you have a smaller waist. I usually stop the darts at about hip bone level, which will be under my skirt.

Sewing elastic: I like to sew the elastic to the fabric, then fold over and sew again (as recommended in the instructions). However, the instructions say to stretch the fabric and elastic together. I only stretch the elastic. This makes the fabric look sort of gathered, and then stretches out when you put it on. I like to use regular zig-zag on elastic as it doesn't stretch it out as much as a 3-step zig-zag, and thus is will hug your body better when you wear it. Also, if you decide to alter the pattern and change the back/add straps then I usually like to use the larger sizes of elastic (1" - 2") and sew fabric around the elastic to make straps. These tend to be quite snug while looking nicely finished because the elastic will regulate the strap width. In this case, I don't stretch the elastic or the fabric, so that the straps will look nice and smooth. There won't be a problem as long as the fabric stretches and you use a zig-zag type stitch.

Undergarments: I like to sew a bra into my dresses if they will be used for competition, so that there aren't any distracting lines on the back (ok, well I WILL be doing this this year, last year I was just happy to have dresses). Bras that are smooth (no lace, no embellishment) tend to look best as the fabric will be tight over it. If you will sew in a bra, I recommend finishing the dress, put on the bra with its tightest hook/setting and tight straps. Then pin the bra (maybe get help) to the elastic parts of the dress. Use the zig-zag to sew on top of the elastic and cut off the parts you don't need. Without the back part, it will relax a bit, which is why you want to set it to maximum tightness before you sew it in. I have full bust, so unless you are really large it should work ok. If you don't want to sew one into the leotard, you can make tan straps (as described above in the elastic section) and add them to a normal bra by cutting off the regular bra straps and back with the hooks. Usually criss-cross in the shoulders with another strap around the back gives a lot of support. Then it will look like you have reinforcement straps on the leotard and not like you are wearing a normal bra under it. Also, you can use the altered bra with a lot of leotards/costumes without the added expanse of $20 bra in each one. I use altered bras for practice and sewn in bras for nice practice costumes (stuff I would wear at regional/national competition practice or for tests) and competition costumes. Also, I like to wear 2 pairs of tights for warmth and because it does a better job of sucking things in/smoothing things out.

Conclusion: I think this is a great pattern for someone who is just beginning to sew skating/dance costumes. The fit is in general pretty good, and the instructions will teach you how to make these types of costumes, so that you can apply the skills to your future creations. And the overall result will probably look good at the end, or at least give you enough confidence to keep sewing. I made the two styles on the cover of the pattern first, but had more success and fun when I used this as a template for my own designs. I try to do something new and interesting with each costume, so some are better than others, but overall I find that sewing for skating costumes is the most fun and rewarding thing for me to sew.

The original View A.

Original View A Back.

Original View C.

Original View C back.

Ok, so since this is the "official" review for this pattern, I posted some (rather awful) pictures of the original practice dresses I made above.  Now for the good stuff: the ones I actually wore for competition.

The first competition dress I ever made was sort of a last-minute deal before nationals.  This was just after I had started sewing (about 3 months) and my usual seamstress was very sick and couldn't sew.  My old dress was a bit big and not fitting super well, so I decided to do some serious stash-bustin' and use leftover fabric and rhinestones from previous dresses.  Now, I hadn't been sewing long, but I had been skating a long time, so my stash of skating fabrics is vast (with 2 girls skating for close to 10 years, there was a lot of stretch fabric purchased and used and leftover from various previous skating costumes).  In addition, I had/have a large rhinestone stash where you always have a few dozen of a certain color left over from a project, so I decided to use them all for this costume on the lace.  I used a mix of garnet AB, volcano, siam, capri blue, and crystal AB on this dress.  I also sewed on some of the large Swarovski jewels, and used sequins to make some of the smaller sew on stones look larger from a distance.

The definition of stash-bustin: My first competition dress that I ever made all by myself.

This dress was made last-minute before nationals out of leftovers from many previous skating costumes.

Leftover lace, leftover rhinestones.

A few large stones, and then stones with sequins to make them look larger.
The lace is actually a red metallic with lots of different colors of rhinestones.
My next competition dress was less flashy, since it was used for figures.  I used a black stretch velvet, that had an interesting texture and color effect.  The under part of the fabric is red, but the fuzzy part is black, with a crushed sort of texture in a wavy pattern.  I used garnet AB and hematite stones, as well as some patterned sequins on top of the lycra strips I used for the design.  The fabric strips are sort of an applique that I pinned on and attached with a zig-zag stitich.

My figure dress, using the sleeves from Kwik Sew for the first time.

An action shot!

Fabric and rhinestone details.  You can see the red/black/sliver look and texture of the velvet.
The other competition dress I have made is very, um, latin ballroom, I guess?  I went the cheap route, using mostly sequins for the design.  The entire dress probably cost less than $50 to make.  Fabric is lycra from JoAnn (I loved the color, I couldn't help it!).  I used long bugle beads with bangles (ok, paillettes if you must) for the skirt, and smaller shaped sequins on the top.  A few square rhinestone beads in the gold design areas.  Nearly all of the sequins and beads are sewn by hand, with only the small flat ones being glued onto the dress.

My version of a cross between latin ballroom and a skating dress.

An action shot.  Despite the heavy bangles, the skirt had nice flow.

A close up of the sequins on the top - I used the "carnival" iridescent color.

The gold stripes are not as nice looking close up.

The skirt bangles.
I also want to show one of my favorite non-competition dresses that I have made.  The lace was a bargain bin remnant find at FabriX on a trip to San Francisco, obtained for $1.50 I think.  There was just enough for a dress, but not enough for one with sleeves.  The base fabric is from JoAnn (I know, right?) back when they had decent dance wear options.  It is actually very light blue/shiny/foil dot/mystique fabric.  Through much pestering, my mother got me to put some jet AB and blue flare stones on it, but they don't show well in the pictures.  They do, however, look stunning on the floor.

My favorite practice dress ever.

The back.  I don't know why the skirt looks crooked - it isn't really.

A close up of the lace and fabric.

Gather on the front - I used the technique in the Kwik Sew pattern.
Anyway, so I have made many other practice dresses, but I don't have pictures of many of them yet.  They aren't as awesome as these ones are, but I do like most of the dresses I have made.  Some of them are getting quite worn, and some are now a little too big, but I do wear most of the dresses I have made a couple of times a month to practice.  Currently I am working on my costumes for regionals (all stitched up, but playing with rhinestones), but you don't get to see pictures until after the big event.  Perhaps next year when I am in my next round of making practice costumes and competition dresses I will post a step-by-step tutorial with construction pictures and such.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Ice Worlds - Starting in Russia

As many of you may or may not know, the ISU (ice) World Figure Skating Championships were to be held in Japan at the end of March.  Sadly, due to devastation from the massive earthquake, tsunami, and radiation problems, Japan could not host the championships this year.  The ISU danced around the issue for a bit too long, but eventually decided to hold the championships in Russia starting April 25.  After a long post-Olympic season with new program requirements (the short dance), many injuries, and a few beautiful come-backs (here's lookin' at you Czisny) this year's world championships should be very exciting to watch.  It should be interesting to see who has benefited from the extra training time, and who is running on empty after a long season.

In the ladies should be fun to see Yu-Na Kim's new programs, as she hasn't skated all season.  Should also be interesting to see if the extra training time has helped Mao with her jumps and new technique.  I expect Miki will skate like Miki, and we can all only hope the the "new Czisny" shows up at worlds.

For the men - that should be a good event, as the men's field seems to be much deeper than the ladies in recent years.  Any of the skaters from Japan could take it, but I am unsure how the events in Japan may have affected their training or their mental states.  I will go on record saying I am rooting for Daisuke Takahashi, but somehow after this season of crazy PCS that Patrick Chan is probably going to take it...

Pairs... it will either be the Germans or the Chinese.  I think it depends on how the extra month has affected the teams.  Third place will probably go to the Russians.

Ice dance - now here will be a fun event.  Obviously, like last year, it is going to be a battle between Virtue/Moir and Davis/White for the top two spots.  Third will be between the French team, the Russian team, and the other Canadian teams.  Probably will go to the French, but the extra time and the change of location may have given the Russians a boost.  Also, looking forward to seeing the Shibutanis (henceforth the Shiblings) because they are so clean and lovely to watch.  Somehow the event that used to be to worst for any North American team (we were lucky to crack a top 10 spot, placing would have been unthinkable) has somehow become the event of North American dominance.  It is bizarre and perhaps a sign of the apocalypse.  Ah, well.  As long as I get to see Virtue/Moir's entire free dance at worlds I don't really care.

In any case, here is a schedule.

Also, free live Russian video stream.  Sweet.  Starting time is, on average around 5am for east coast/2am for west coast.  Looks like Friday is going to be a very early morning to watch the ladies and the short dance.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

But I Can't Wear Prints!

Alright, I know there are many crazy bright print lovers out there - I am not one of them.  I mean, sure, I like the prints.  The look cool.  But, I can't wear them.  No, no, don't argue with me about size, scale, color - I have tried it all and it just. doesn't. work.  I don't know, maybe wearing prints is a mental thing?  I think I look bad in them so I do look bad?  In any case, time and experience has taught me that prints on my body are a bad idea.

Then I saw a link to Spoonflower.

At first I thought, well, sure quilters have all the fun, being able to upload their own fabric designs, but these guys print fabric to order on quilting cotton, cotton sateen, cotton knit, cotton voile, upholstery twill, canvas, or silk crepe de chine.  So really, you can use the print for pretty much anything you want.  It is sort of expensive ($18-$38/yd) but then again it is unique quality fabric.

Now, as I said, I don't usually go for prints, but they have so darned many that are so crazy awesome!

For example, imagine this as a fitted dress:

Ocean Ripple

I don't have a clue what this would be for, but I love the colors:

Blue Roots

Another crazy graphic print:


And look! They have fractals. I may have to squee. Which I don't ever do. But I may have to for this.


This one is also pretty fun:

Computer Circuits

And then there is this. Perhaps a little too suggestive for a cotton dress?


I am madly in love with this print, for a shirt? A lining? I don't know, but I am in love:

equations and equations

Major pattern love for this as well - imagine it as a lightweight coat:

dark blue fibonacci

And, finally, this:

Tetris Border Print

I don't know how I can live without this fabric, honestly. It needs to be made into a 50's style dress with a big poofy skirt. In fact I think I may just have a pattern....

In any case, no, I am not going to go on a spoonflower fabric binge (haha, 4 yards of the wearable stuff would cost more than I spent total at the JoAnn sale), but I am most seriously contemplating if/when/why I would have a need to dress like Miss Frizzle and how seriously awesome it would be. Actually, it would be sort of amazing to make the geekiest summer coat imaginable and wear it to a Comic/Wonder/Dragon*Con type event. This may just have to happen. Indeed. I like this plan.

Skating News

The USARS national office has posted the latest edition of the Nationals schedule.  Doesn't look like much has changed since the original, but events expected to be skated as finals only have been starred.

Download the latest copy here.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Newsflash - May Burda Style Preview Posted!

Ok everyone! It is that most exciting time of the month - yes, it is the day of the Burda Style magazine previews!

Now, as we are all aware, the English Burda Style website is essentially useless in terms of finding out any information about the magazine or patterns offered by the company. So we all turn to alternative sources in alternative languages. I know the home is the German site, and many people favor the Russian site as well. I have also heard people extolling the virtues of the French website, but I will go on a limb and state that the Italian website is the best. Why? Because it is logical and posts things first. Now, I don't actually know Italian, but I did take a little Spanish, which perhaps helps the comfort level. But in any case, over the past three months I have developed a level of commitment with this website and will tout it over the other Burda options.

Now, for the preview!

Perhaps it is me, but Burda seems to be infatuated with the potato sack look this year:

The boyfriend's punk rock potato sack tee.

The potato sack with sleeves.

A pink potato sack.

Because one pink potato sack isn't enough.

Sleeveless potato sack.

A potato sack for the plus size ladies.

Then, of course, we couldn't possibly have a Burda magazine without a shirt dress:

The infamous Burda shirt dress!
Now, there are actually quite a few cute things that I am sort of drooling over in this issue:

Love love love the back.

The same back, with more details.
Madly in love with this dress.
The line drawing.  Mad crazy love.
More dress love.
Also as a shirt!
I even want to make this!  Probably will be a "what were you thinking" but I like it.
And I feel like these dresses could be quite fetching or at least nice for summer on a certain family member:

Ok, maybe right now reading schoolmarm, but you know Burda will use it as a base in one of the future "Best of Burda Styling" pictures.  Somehow they will add a belt, vest, or jacket and we will all think, "Wait, why didn't I make this?"

Nice, soft, cool for summer.
And now, of course, the best part of the preview.  As homage to the now gone BWOF, I would like to dub this segment of my review, "BWTF?":

Oooo, risque.
Because my hips aren't big enough already.
Pockets so deep you need to hire Indiana Jones to excavate the stuff you will lose in their depths.
Good thing you triple line your dresses.
I apologize to all the pocket lovers in the audience, but really?  Those things are freaking huge.  You could be like a double-pocketed kangaroo and carry a child on each hip.

In any case, I suppose like all good fashion shows we need to have a best and worst pattern award.  Feel free to debate, argue, and denounce my choices in the comments.

The winner of the Best of BS Award for May goes to:

I can't help it, I just loves it so much.

And the winner of May's BWTF Award goes to:

Ummm, miss?  Your top is falling off.
The verdict:  I may just have to buy this one.  I have been known to buy an issue just for a pair of pants, and the sheer number of dresses I am loving here is enough to justify the shipping costs.

There are, of course, other offerings for the month of May, but you just have to go here to check them out.  Tune in next month to see the the June offerings.  I predict beachy, breezy, summer offerings, more potato sacks, and at least one shirt dress.