Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pattern Review: BWOF 09-2003-104

Alternative post titles: "Look ma, no belt!" or, "I've got Burda butt!"  This is my second step in my epic quest to find the ultimate pants pattern.  The first pants pattern I used was Vogue 1051, which I did like very much, and have made three pairs from.  However, since I am fairly new to sewing, I want to try out different styles and pattern companies to search for the ultimate pants.  I figured since I have been getting along so well with Burda that they would be a good next stop on my pants quest, and I settled on trying the BWOF 09-2003-104A pattern:

BWOF 09-2003-104A
I really wanted a nice pair of pants with a side zip, and this seemed like a simple enough pattern.  Here is my version:

My pants!
Back view
Front waistband

Invisible side zip

Back waist with darts
Inside with Bemberg lining
Overall I am fairly pleased with these pants.  The fit is pretty good, especially at the waist.  I don't get any pull lines when I stand perfectly square, but since this fabric has no stretch it does seem to wrinkle a lot when I move.  Ah, well.  It is wonderfully soft though, so I guess that makes up for it?  I don't know if I am quite sold on the style - in the magazine the pants seemed to be a bit more flared at the hem, but in reality the legs were a bit more straight.  I don't know what it is exactly, but something about the the style is just not my favorite.  In any case, here is my official review:

Pattern Description: Pants with slightly flared leg, front crease, and side zipper.

Pattern Sizing: Burda sizes 38-46.  I used a size 42 at the waist and a size 44 at the hips.  I think if I had used a stretch fabric I could have gone with a straight 42, but since neither my fabric nor the lining had any stretch I thought it would be better to go with the larger size.

Were the instructions easy to follow?  Erm...  Mostly.  Kinda.  At least the instructions made sense until the lining was attached to the pants.  At that point the Burda speak left me scratching my head.  I think they wanted me to understitch, then ditch stitch at the front waistband?  I did understitch, but I only tacked the front facing to the front waistband at a few points, instead of ditch stitching the whole length.  Other than that section, the instructions were pretty simple.

Did it look like the photo/drawing when you were done with it?  Not as much as I would have liked.  In the photos and drawings it looked like the pants were a bit more fitted through the thigh with a bit more flare at the hem.  What I found was that these pants in practice looked a bit more straight-legged.  They actually looked a lot like the 105 model photo in the magazine (styles 104 and 105 use the same pattern), but I was hoping for a bit more of a fitted look like the 104 pictures.  I suppose the line drawing is a bit less shaped than I had originally thought, but I was trying to get a sense of the shaping from the magazine photos.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?  I did think the fit at the top of these pants is quite excellent.  I usually have issues with the gaping at the back of the pants, but since these did not have a back waistband the fit in the back seemed much better than many other pants styles.  I do think the fit is decent and they are very comfortable.  However, I had been hoping for a bit more of a fitted look at the upper thigh with more flare at the hem.  Even though I did alter the pattern to try to enhance the flare look the pants still seemed a bit more straight legged than I originally wanted.

Fabric used:  Polyester/rayon blend for the pants with Bemberg rayon for lining.  This was my first time using Bemberg - it is so nice!  The poly/rayon is actually quite soft while still being weighty and drapey. I think my fabric selection really helps me like these finished pants more than I would if I had used a different fabric.

Pattern alterations or design changes you made:  Mostly fit changes - I made the back darts a bit wider and I took out 6/8" from the back leg pieces at the knee area.  I also tried to adjust the shape to give a bit more fitted look through the knee.  I didn't press in the creases as much as I should have - they sort of uncreased after wearing them for a bit.

Would you sew it again?  Would you recommend it to others?  I don't know if I will sew this pattern again any time soon.  I have quite a few pants patterns I want to try out on my quest for the ultimate TNT pants pattern.  Something about this style just isn't my favorite, despite the fact that I do like the fit at the waist.  I would recommend this pattern, but with the caution that the results look a bit more like the style 105 photograph than the style 104 photos in the magazine.

Conclusion:  Not my favorite style, but I do like my finished pants.  I am excited to try some different Burda patterns in the future because I do like the fit I get with Burda.  I will probably get a lot of use out of these pants, although I don't know how soon I would make this pattern again in the future.  Basically the pattern is fine and I like my pants, but I think I should try some more styles to try to find something I like a bit better.

So far on my quest for the perfect pants Vogue 1051 is winning out, but I still have a lot of patterns to try.  I think my next few projects will be some quick tops, skating costumes, and pjs because I really want to do some instant gratification sewing.  After that... I may want to make another pair of pants or perhaps a jacket or coat.  We shall see how I feel when I get there.  I definitely have a large enough pattern and fabric stash to choose from!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pattern Sales: McCall's

Joann will be having a week long pattern sale on McCall's patterns - Sunday October 30 - Saturday November 5.  Good time to get the new McCall's winter patterns....

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pattern Sales: Butterick, Vogue, Simplicity

The last weekend of the month, Thursday October 27 - Saturday October 29, both Joann and Hancock are having some more pattern sales...

Joann's will be having yet another pattern sale (seems as though they are having more this month than usual?), this time for:
*$1.99 Butterick
*$3.99 Vogue.
*50% Off Notions Wall

Hancock will also have
*$3.99 Vogue
*$1.99 Simplicity
*50% off buttons
*50% off Guttermann thread
*50% off scissors
*75% off Halloween cottons
*80% off random Halloween decorations (in case anyone decided to do last minute decorating?)

Right now all I really want to get that new Vogue jeans pattern.  I missed out at the last sale - I could only find the small sizes.  I am hoping they have had a chance to restock their Vogue supply.  It is probably a bit early to be thinking of Thanksgiving already, but I think other than the one Vogue I am going hold off and wait to see what sort of Black Friday sales are going on...  This will be my first Black Friday where I will be following sales for sewing stuff, and I am sort of excited to see what sort of deals are available either at the craft stores or online at some of my favorite fabric sites.  Or on Amazon... I am still eyeing my theoretical future serger....

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Exciting Event: Skate America 2011

In my last post I got to show off my green wool coat, which I made specifically to wear to the Coldest Arena in the World, which happens to be the Citizen's Business Bank Arena in Ontario, CA.  Which also happens to be where Skate America was being held this weekend.

Inside the cold arena

Panel of judges and wall of sponsors.
I was lucky to be able to attend both segments of the men's singles and ice dance events.  I was not able to view the ladies or pairs events, but I should be able to see it all on tv later.  Overall it was super exciting to be there live and in person, although it was really cold!  I was really happy I made my coat.  I didn't know we could take pictures until the second session, so I don't have any short program or short dance photos.  In terms of costuming....  there was a distinct sense of "start of season" syndrom.  A lot of the costumes seemed incomplete or unfinished.  I don't know, perhaps everyone is going for a more subtle sophisticated look this year?  Perhaps I am old fashioned, but when there are more rhinestones in the men's event than in the dance event something is wrong with the world.  I must say Meryl Davis looked amazing as usual though.  Even if she had to reuse a costume from two years ago for the free dance.  If it is pretty and it works, go for it says I.  There is lots of other debate, discussion, and analysis out there on the web, so I won't go into detail.  I will say, however, that nobody (and I mean nobody) looked super ready to start the season.  For some skaters the routines looked finished but the conditioning wasn't there.  For others the conditioning was great, but the routines had some rough spots.  The delay of last year's world championships is showing, and it will be interesting to see how the skaters progress through the season.

1st - Michal Breznia of the Czech Republic
I have always loved watching Michal Breznia skate, although he has his ups and downs, and I was very excited to be able to see him skate live and in person, and I was happy for his win, despite quite a few errors at the end of the free skate.

2nd - Kevin van der Perren of Belgium.
He was not afraid of the sparkles, and that made me happy.
3rd - Takahiko Kozuka of Japan.  Great program, but too many mistakes.

1st - Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the United States.  Fabulousness.
2nd - Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France.
3rd - Isabella Tobias and Deividas Stagniunas of Lithuania.
Isabella Tobias was sitting in the row right behind me when she found out that they had placed third.  It was wonderful to see someone so genuinely happy and excited about their placement.  Since I see most ice skating on tv, I always get to see the "for cameras" reaction, and rarely how non-US and non-gold medalists feel about their placements.  I felt that they skated a nice free dance, and I was very happy for their success.

So, it was a really wonderful weekend.  While my fantasy team took a few hits (and more than a few falls), it was so much more exciting to be there live and in person and I really hope I can go to another large ice skating event in the future.

Also, a few more shots of Meryl and Charlie.  World champions, what can I say?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Pattern Review: BWOF 01-2001-120/121

I am super excited because at last I can show off my green wool coat!  I have been working on this for the past few weeks and hours before the big event at the Coldest Arena in the World, the hemming was finished.  I am pleased to report that it is both comfortable to wear and very warm.  Although there are a few things I would have liked to tweak, overall I am quite pleased with the results.  It could have used a final pressing before taking the photos, as the hem looks a bit wrinkly, but that is mostly a result of poor packing on my part, and a problem that will be fixable once I again have access to my iron.  I used a mash up of some old BWOF magazine patterns, 01-2001-120 and 01-2001-121:

BWOF 01-2001-120

BWOF 01-2001-121
I used the collar from style 120, and the sleeves from style 121.  I used my green wool from my visit to Yoder's earlier this year.  Here are some pictures of my finished project:

Front of my coat.

Back of my coat.

Sleeve tab and button detail.


I thought my right sleeve looked pretty good!

Lining fabric.

Another lining shot.  You can also see the inside stabilization buttons on the right.
Other than the hem not looking super great in the photos, and a slightly wonky left sleeve cap (after setting it in six times I was over it), and a slight puckering on the left collar I am very pleased with the outcome.  I did my fair share of ripping out stitches (I changed my mind about what color thread I wanted to use for topstitching) but all in all I really like my coat.  I really love the wool color, lining fabric, and buttons together.  And, despite my lack of alterations, overall the fit is quite wonderful and I have great mobility in my arm and shoulder area, which is often an issue in RTW.  Here is my official review:

Pattern Description:  Classic style caban coat/pea coat.  I used a combination of two different style numbers.  Style 120 has a traditional notched collar with cuffed sleeves.  Style 121 has a hood and sleeves with sleeve tabs.  I used the collar from style 120 and the sleeves from style 121.

Pattern Sizing: Burda sizes 36-44.  I made a size 40, which is my usual sizing for tops in Burda.

Were the instructions easy to follow?  Actually they were for the most part.  The bit for the collar was a little confusing, but not too hard to figure out.  The part about finishing the vents was also a little confusing, and even after I did figure it out, using the instructions in Burda kept causing the vents to hang funny.  I decided to finish the vent hems by hand instead.

Did it look like the photo/drawing when you were done with it?  Yes, for the most part.  I did use elements from two different style numbers, but overall I thought the coat looked very similar to the photos in the magazine.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?  I really liked that the pattern has a very classic traditional look to it.  I love the in seam pockets, and I like the sleeve tab detail.  As always, I love the two piece Burda sleeve.  The fit is amazing, right out of the magazine.  I considered making the hood instead of the notched collar (looks much easier construction-wise), but I am glad I went with the traditional collar.  I like the topstitching detail, although my machine had a bit of trouble topstitching over the thick sections on the collar.  I was trying to use a thicker style to emphasize the topstitching, but my machine can only hand long straight stitches with regular thread.  I don't know that this is a dislike of the pattern, but I tend to prefer more fitted styles, and I found the back of this coat to be a bit boxy.  This style has minimal back seaming, which combined with my swayback makes me wish I had done a bit more agressive swayback adjustment, and a bit more fitting in the back to avoid the boxy look.  Overall though I have no major dislikes.  Truly this is a great pattern.

Fabric used:  Very thick felt-like green wool/nylon blend from Yoder's in Shipshewana, IN.  I used a poly print charmeuse from Joann's for the lining, and I interlined with cotton flannel for added warmth.  I also used muslin for back stay and sleeve cap interfacing, and fusible interfacing for the front, collar, sleeve tabs, and hem.

Pattern alterations or changes you made:  I did make a minor (1/2") swayback adjustment, but I should have made a slightly larger adjustment.  Other than that I used the pattern as drafted for the shell.  I used the information in "High Fashion Sewing Secrets" by Claire Shaeffer to draft interfacing patterns for the back, sleeves, and front shoulder areas, and to draft my own lining patterns.  I also added sleeve heads as suggested in the book.  Other than that I mostly followed the directions in the BWOF magazine.

Would you sew it again?  Would you recommend it to others?  I was considering sewing the version with the hood, but I think I would rather sew more fitted styles in the future.  I have lots of other coat patterns I want to make, so I don't know how soon I would make this style again.  While I don't think this is necessarily the best style coat for my body type, overall I am quite pleased with my coat - the fit is great and very comfortable, and because of the interlining it is quite warm and cozy.  This is without a doubt the best quality coat I have ever owned, and I am sure I will enjoy it greatly this winter.  I would definitely recommend this pattern to others - as with most of Burda's patterns, the drafting is top notch.  It is a great classic style and could be a great addition to any wardrobe.

Conclusion:  Great pattern!  I am so happy I was able to order this back issue of BWOF, and I am excited by the results of my coat.  While the thick wool pushed the limits of my sewing machine, in the end the results were worth the effort and I am super pleased to have this coat in my wardrobe.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Pattern Review: BS 07-2011-103A

I have been sewing quite a bit over the past few months, but most of the finished projects went to my sister.  After that I embarked on a (finished, not yet photographed) coat that took a few weeks.  Although it was almost done, I just had the feeling that I wanted to make something right now that I could wear right now.  So in a flurry of late night sewing, I turned to my stash and pulled out my July 2011 Burda Style Magazine with the mind to make a simple knit top, BS 07-2011-103A:

BS 07-2011-103A
Although in the magazine I think the top looks a little crazy (hot pink mesh?), and that's after you get past the baby crocodile, I still thought with some editing it could be a nice top.  I wasn't in the mood to do a lot of fit alterations, and since this top already looked super long, I thought I could probably get away with not lengthening it.  And, actually I do think it turned out pretty well:

The front

The side

The back
The fabric is this fabulously soft (if somewhat thin) mystery ribbed knit that I got for $2.49/yard.  Other than a slightly wonky left shoulder, I don't think I could buy this shirt for less than $5 anywhere.  Obviously, I made a few changes to the pattern, which I discuss in my official review:

Pattern Description:  Extra long v-necked shirt with long sleeves.

Pattern Sizing: Burda sizes 34-44.  I cut a size 40, my usual for Burda tops.

Were the instructions easy to follow?  I did read through the instructions, since I can usually follow along with what Burda wants.  In the magazine, this pattern is made from a mesh fabric and the instructions are definitely geared towards using a serger to construct and finish off the edges.  Since I don't have a serger and since I used a knit and not a mesh I decided to use some different techniques.  The instructions are, however, very straightforward, especially for Burda.

Did it look like the photo/drawing when you were done with it?  I think it did look a lot like the line drawing, although I made a few style changes in terms of hem and sleeve length.  Hard to compare to the picture because the fabric and styling are so different.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?  I think the pattern is a great basic top that is a very flattering style.  This shirt is super long, so I didn't have to do my usual length adjustments. The hem is maybe even a bit too long, but I don't consider that a dislike, as that is an easy fix.  The v-neck is quite deep, but I wanted to use it for layering, so I actually like that feature.  Lastly, the sleeves are tight fitting so make sure the fabric has some stretch.  I don't think the sleeves are too tight (I don't have particularly thin arms, and the fit was fine without alterations) but they are definitely sized for fabric with some stretch.  Overall - three pattern pieces and a top that can be sewn up in an hour, what's not to like?

Fabric used:  Mystery ribbed knit.  I found it in a $2.49/yard flatfold section so I have no idea what the fiber content is, although I would guess some sort of cotton or rayon blend.  This fabric is a little thin, but fabulously soft and drapey.

Pattern alterations or design changes you made:  Ok, so there is quite a bit here.  As I stated earlier, the construction is geared towards a meshy material and use of a serger in construction, so I made a few design and construction changes.  First, I added a binding to the neck edge.  I worried about it stretching out, so I cut a strip of fabric lengthwise in the non-stretchy direction to use as a binding for the front and back of the neck.  I used my twin needle to stitch on the neck binding and all the hems.  I used my machine's "stretch overlock" stitch to sew the inside seams.  Next, I decided to make a three quarter length sleeve, just because I wanted a top with that length sleeve.  Lastly, I did not add any hem allowance to the bottom of the pattern, but I had a 1.5" double fold hem (meaning I took 3" off the bottom - this thing is looooong).  I also added some clear elastic to the shoulder seams to help give the knit some stability.  In the future I will probably do a slight swayback adjustment, but I don't think it looks too bad without the adjustment.

Would you sew it again?  Would you recommend it to others?  Yes and yes!  When I saw this pattern in July, I thought it would be perfect as a fall top in a lovely knit fabric.  The pattern went from tracing to finished in just a few hours, and I am not a fast sewer by any means.  It is so simple and I love the results.  I think I can play with the sleeve and hem lengths to get different variations.  I highly recommend this pattern because I think the style is basic and can be quite flattering to many body shapes,  the pattern is easily altered for sleeve and length variations, and it can be a great layering piece in a wardrobe.

Conclusion:  Wonderful pattern!  I love the style and the fit.  I could see myself making another one in a print or in a slightly shorter length, maybe in a thicker knit as a sweater top with full length sleeves.  I made a slight puckery boo-boo on one shoulder, but overall I love this shirt and I think I will wear it a lot.  I think once I do a minor swayback alteration this could be heading into TNT territory...

So yeah, I love my new shirt!  Although I have lots of other patterns I want to try out, I wouldn't hesitate over using this one again.  I really like the style and I think I will get lots of wear out of this top.  Next up: my coat reveal and pattern review!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

More Fabric Gluttony

Alright, so this looks like a lot of fabric, but I actually ordered some of it several weeks ago.  It just all arrived on the same day.  Since my next project will be a pair of lined pants, I thought I would try out the wonder that is Bemberg Ambiance Rayon lining.  I have heard its virtues extolled across the internet, but I have never had the chance to see it live and in person before.  So I decided to order some from Michael Levine in LA.  Although there are other online sources with more color options, this was one of the cheaper options, since I was just looking for basic grey.  And since fabric loves company, I decided to throw in a poly charmeuse print, that will also most likely be used as lining at some point.  The charmeuse was only $3/yard, and this packaged arrived only two days after I ordered the fabric.  Great speedy delivery.  In addition to the Michael Levine fabric, I also got some 50% off fabrics from Joann while I was stopping in to stock up on thread.

Left: Grey Bemberg Rayon and poly charmeuse print from Michael Levine.
Right: Grey poly/rayon for pants and "April Johnson/Project Runway" poly knit print

In addition to all the fabrics I managed to pick up this week, a while ago I ordered some fabric from Fabric Mart.  It always seems like Fabric Mart fabrics take a long time to get to me, but then again, I usually order things during one of their crazy sales.  In my last Fabric Mart order, I got some great stretch cotton poplin for $1.99/yard.  Of course, the next week they put about 20 colors up at the same price.  So, of course, I had to get some more.  Although I tried to order more variety, I only ended up with two of the colors I wanted (the rest were sold out).  I also got some striped polyester shirting for $3/yard and splurged on some teal wool melton.  All I can say is wow.  This stuff is so fabulous.  I know exactly what I am going to do with it, although it might have to age in my stash until next year.  After having just made two wool coats I am not exactly wanting to make another right away.  On the other hand, I fell in LOVE with a pattern in one of my old BWOFs, and after having a vision of what I want to make I have been searching for this exact fabric for months, so I didn't want to pass it up when I found it.

Left: Stretch cotton poplin.
Right: Teal wool melton, purple poly shirting.
The teal is actually a bit darker and more subdued in person, but I really love the color.  Overall I am super pleased with all of my purchases and I can't wait to to sew them up.  Next up of course are my pants (pattern is ready to go), which look like they will (hopefully) be a semi-quick project.  After that I decided I wanted another quickie and plan on doing a knit top, then some practice dresses for skating.  Beyond that I have a big list of projects I want to work on, and I will see where my capriciousness leads me.

Also, instead of hemming my coat I did a quickie top.  Of course, since I want to wear my coat tomorrow that means hemming is getting done before the event.  It wouldn't be a major sewing project if it didn't get done with only moments to spare.  In any case, with any luck there should be two finished object posts this weekend.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Why is it...?

Why is it that the weather always zigs when you want to zag?  As I progressed with my super warm coat, the temps reached over the 100s.  Ugh.  Now, granted, I am making this coat to wear inside the Coldest Arena in the World, so I suppose it shouldn't matter what is going on outside.  On the other hand, it doesn't make me super excited about trying it on for fittings.  I made a summer dress and it got cold, windy, and rainy, and I make a winter coat and it gets hotter than it has been all summer.  Arg.  Apparently I can control the weather with my sewing machine, in a roundabout counterintuitive sort of way.

Also, why is it that the closer you get to the end of a project, the more tedious it becomes?  Always it is the hemming, and button sewing, and finishing off of things that I don't want to do.  I won't move on to a new project until it is done, but I don't feel like doing all the hand sewing necessary to finish the current project either?  And yes, I am aware that it is possible to bag a lining and not have to do any of the hand sewing at the hems, but in this instance I didn't think it was a viable option.  My coat fabric is so thick I worried that the turning process of the bagging wouldn't go well and decided not to risk it.  Ah well, time to just deal with it.

I will be most excited when this coat is finished and I can move onto my next project - pants!  I have decided on using the BWOF-09-2003-104A pattern, although I have my doubts about how well my fabric will take to the center creases:

My next project.

Also, apologies for the long string of photo-less posts; I have been a lazy/forgetful blogger and left my camera at my parents house.  This next weekend will have coat pictures, promise!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Newsflash - New McCall's Patterns

McCall's has just introduced its new patterns for winter.  Check them out here.

Other than the Holiday Party looks, this doesn't feel much like a winter collection to me.  Where are all the coats?  Where are all the pants?  This collection seem very focused on party dresses, sleepwear, children, and crafts.  They seem to have zeroed in on the ruffle front blouse trend and applied it to everything...

M6467 - Ruffly shirt

M6469 - More blousey ruffly shirts

M6470 - Blousey shirts without ruffles

M6471 - They even added ruffles to skirts!
They have lots of new party dresses:

M6460 - simple lines, good for sequined fabrics.

M6462 - This feels very summery to me.

M6463 - Interesting dress with pockets.

M6466 - Youthful party frocks.
They have some other (unexciting) dress patterns and tops and lots of uninspiring sleepwear.  While I do like the black dress on the last pattern (M6466) I think I could probably use one of my Burda patterns and just create the top without help from a pattern.  I don't really have much interest in the other styles, and I think I could probably create them using some of my existing patterns.  The other dress patterns have interesting lines, but I don't know that I necessarily think they would look good on me.

I am debating on the skirt pattern - I think it could be cute, and possibly something my sister would wear.  I might get it at a pattern sale.  I am also leaning towards getting the M6469 and M6470 patterns, despite my better judgement.  I usually don't look good in blousey tops, but I do like their style.  I could always use them for my sister though...  She looks great in that style.

Of course, if I don't go for any of the actual clothing patterns, I could opt for some of the crafts...

M6477 - Technology pouches.  Look to be sized for iPod, iPads, and Kindles.

M6481 - Angry Bird plush patterns?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fantasy Figure Skating 2011-2012

I know - lots of skating posts, not lots of sewing posts, but skating stuff is busy right now.  Anyway, for those of you who enjoy watching ice figure skating, USFSA is once again starting their Fantasy Figure Skating Challenge.  I really enjoyed playing last year, although I started a bit late in the season and was drastically behind in points by the end.  Also, having ALL of my dance teams pull out of Cup O'Russia (I know, I know, Rostelecom Cup or whatever it is now) with injuries didn't help either.  But this year I am starting off right at the beginning - Skate America starts this weekend and my choices have been picked!  Last year I got sort of obsessed with my fantasy choices - I was living and dying with the outcomes of the Grand Prix Series.  The next six weeks might see a lot of skating recaps and costume analysis.

If you want to play along go sign up - it is free and fun!  You can opt out of random USFSA emails - I only ever get confirmations of my Fantasy Picks and no annoying emails in the off season.  What with all the new dance and pairs teams this should be quite the season.  Can't wait!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fancy Italian Footwear, Part VIII

Alright, I thought I was done playing around with stuff, but after thinking about things (sometimes I think too much) I decided I wanted to try some more experimentation with cushion combos.  Since there have been some seminars (thus no lessons what with absent coaches) I thought this weekend would be a good time to play.  I want to try and get my skates settled before the competitive season starts (in a few weeks!), so I can spend the rest of the season focusing on improving myself and not experimenting with my skates.

Firstly, I am absolutely loving my figure skates.  I adore them.  The boots are still feeling a smidgen too tight, but they no longer feel as though they are compressing my foot.  Since before I was doing figures and loops in the same skate, I was spending a lot of time in those boots and they did break in much faster.  It is taking a bit longer than I would have liked to break the boot in, but I really love the entire set up.  The Giotto plate is fabulous, almost too good.  It feels like it minimizes my tracing errors and is super responsive during turns.  I haven't felt a need to adjust it since the initial set up, and once the boots are fully broken in I think I will really love skating in them, even more than I do now.

Nextly, my dance skates.  I have really enjoyed skating on them, but I have been called out for not getting deep enough inside edges of late.  It was suggested I try the green urethane (extra flexible) cushions on the lower portion of the skate.  I tried them and while I can get some CRAZY deep edges without trying, I think they are just too soft for me.  It felt like the skate did not offer enough support and it felt like I was pushing through mud.  I think the extra flexibility in the cushions sucks up a lot of the force being transmitted to the floor and kills a lot of my push.  Since a lot of my competition dances this year are what I consider "power dances" where I will be needing to get as much push as possible, it doesn't make sense to handicap myself with the softer cushions.  In addition, the skate seemed to flop over when doing turns, and it was difficult to do some of the flats that occur in the higher level dances (I know - crazy right?  When you learn to skate it is all about curves and edges, and just when you thought you understood what was going on, they throw you a bunch of dances with steps that are supposed to be skated on flats!).  In any case, I am going to go back to the all grey combo, but perhaps loosen the action a click or two from where I had it previously.  This should provide the stability I was enjoying and also help me press some deeper inside edges.  I am happy I tested this combo though - now I have tested the grey/green (too soft), grey/grey (just right), and blue/grey (too hard) combos, I have a good sense of how drastic the differences between the cushion levels are, and I am sure I have the right combo for me.  I am also quite happy with the urethane on the dance skates, and I won't be trying the rubber.  I have been using rubber for figures and loops, and I am quite convinced that they available options would be either too hard or too soft for my dance skates.  So overall I am quite pleased with my dance skates and I am sure that they are almost set up exactly right.

Lastly, but not leastly, my loops skates.  Actually, these are what started my whole cushion swapping mess this weekend.  I have been thinking about my loop skates a lot.  Loops used to be my favorite thing to practice, but after getting the new plates they just feel more like a chore that must be done.  Sometimes I would hit a good edge, and get a great loop, but I just haven't been able to get back to my old consistency.  I think if I had not been able to do them before, I would not have noticed a difference, but I really felt like it was taking me too long to adjust to these new skates.  I have been having difficulty with my outside edge loops, and time and effort was not helping.  While I know part of my issues have been dealing with new floors and hills and skates, by this point I honestly feel like I am good enough that I should not still be having the problems I am having with loops I have been skating consistently for the past few years.  I wasn't expecting miracles from the new plates, but I also wasn't planning on taking a step backwards.

In my loop skates I have been using the hard yellow rubbers, with one failed experiment with the medium rubber top and yellow rubber bottom.  Originally, when I was planning on using one set of skated for both loops and figures, I was more concerned with finding cushions that would be appropriate for the large figures, and then figuring how to do the loops on them.  At the time, the yellow rubber was the best solution for the figures and the loops, and in Part V of my odyssey, I compared my feelings on rubber vs. urethane.  While this still holds true, I had been pondering if perhaps using softer urethane might change my feelings about its application to the loop figures.  So I figured this weekend I would have 3 practice opportunities to play with different adjustments.

Experiment #1: Soft grey urethane upper, medium blue urethane lower.  Since the harder lower, softer upper is recommended for loops by Roll Line, I thought I would give it another shot in the urethane.  This combo was much much much too hard.  I could do forward loops with much difficulty and didn't even attempt the backwards loops.  The skates couldn't even form a deep enough curve to get around the top of the loop.  I switched to dance practice instead of trying to force the loops from happening.

Experiment #2: Soft grey urethane upper, extra soft green urethane lower.  I actually mostly liked this combination.  It was still a little too hard for outside edge loops (I had the action all the way loose), but my inside edges felt pretty fabulous.  I also felt that the circle (non-loop) section of the loop was much more solid than it had been with the hard rubbers.  I think using the all green urethane cushions could be a viable option for loop skating, but since I did not have a green urethane top cushion, I wouldn't be able to test this out unless I ordered some.  Testing this option gave me the idea to test it in my dance skates, which I am glad I did, but I still think this combo is too soft for me for dance.

Experiment #3: Hard yellow rubber upper, medium brown rubber lower.  After trying the hard/soft combos with the urethane, I though trying the hard upper/soft lower combo with the rubber might be a good experiment.  Ah.  I had to tighten the action a bit more than I thought I would, but I am so glad I tried this combo.  It is excellent.  I finally feel like I can skate loops again.  My circle edging is not as solid as it was with the urethane, but it wasn't as wild as it was with the completely hard yellows on a totally loose setting.  Of course, when doing loops the important bit is the actual loop.  And that bit was much better.  A lot of bad habits that had been creeping in due to the skates not curving the way I had wanted suddenly went away.  I felt like my old self again, and I think with a few more hours to let the new lower cushions settle into place, this could be my happy place.  I plan on practicing with the combo later this week and seeing how my lesson goes next weekend.  As a side note, the floor was excessively slick on the day I tried this combination, so if it was stable enough on a slick floor, it will probably feel pretty good on a tighter floor day.

Overall I am quite pleased with my experiments.  Yes, my hands are a bit sore from changing so many cushions this weekend, but I feel a bit more confident about moving forward with the rest of the season in my new skates.  Overall a few observations:

(1) It is important to try out different cushions.  You can't know what will feel "right" to you unless you try things out yourself.  Sometimes there will be an instant wrong, and sometimes you need to give it a little bit of time.  And, yes, it can get a bit expensive, but see if you can borrow cushions from other skaters for testing purposes.  While the recommendation of others is good, nothing beats testing it out for yourself.

(2) While I have heard some debates over whether the top or bottom cushion is responsible for creating the edge, I can confirm that the large upper cushion supports the skater's weight and gives a solidity of an edge, and the smaller lower cushion is responsible for the depth and how tight the curve will be.  By having the stiffer cushion on the bottom, the skate cannot create as much of an arc, and it will slide a bit more.  Since I am skating on some very slick floors, this not not good for me.  Perhaps on a tighter floor this could help slide the loops around the deepest part of the curve, but on a slick floor the skater and the top part of the skate are curving, but the wheel base is not, so it skids and slides out from under the foot of the skater.  Not fun and not safe.  Having the stiffer cushion on top and softer cushion on bottom allows the skater to get a better edge and roll around the top of the loop.  On a slick floor this is a much better way to go, because as long as the skater is using proper technique, they will be firmly over the skate and can perform the loop.

(3) Sometimes it can take a long while to find the perfect combination.  Sometimes it is difficult to know if the problems come from the fault of the skater/technique (more often the case) or the fault of the equipment (more fun to blame).  Sad to say, but I skated for almost a decade before I found skating boots that I really loved to wear, and several more years before I tried the Giotto plate, which I am really loving to skate on.  While I wouldn't say that my previous equipment hindered me, I will say that having skated on it I can really appreciate the quality of the new stuff.  I wouldn't recommend this equipment for a beginner - it is far too much of an investment and will probably be too reactive and wild for them to handle.  Even for a newer competitive skater this might be too much of an investment.  However, for a high level competitor finding the right equipment can really help with the progress of the skater.

So, all in all, things seem to be going well.  I had hoped to be done with the tweaking by this point, but I suppose as long as I feel confident with everything by the time regionals rolls around, that is what is most important.  Now to focus on actually fixing my skating and learning new dances...

Friday, October 14, 2011

Newsflash - 2011 USARS Board Meeting Minutes Posted

For those of you interested in the goings-on at USARS, they have posted there meeting minutes here.  Some highlights of interest:

*Proposal to hold the 2013 and possibly the 2015 USA National Championships in Albuquerque, NM.  Final approval depends on financial negotiations with the city.  I am sort of excited by this prospect, and the details in the proposal look like it could be a great host city.  Every year spent dealing with metered parking in Lincoln makes me that much more excited by the prospect of "parking structure."  The proposal to have a practice rink inside the actual convention center facility also sounds rather swanky.  It would be much easier for coaches to attend to the needs of all of their skaters, and it would keep more skaters in the building, and in the stands.

*Pershing Auditorium in Lincoln, NE may no longer be available to host events (like the national championships) after 2014.  It has long been rumored that the city either wants to demolish and rebuild, or build a new auditorium farther from the center of downtown, which could more easily facilitate large events.  In either case, this could put a damper on the USARS attempts to host a World Championships in the US at any point in the near future.

*The artistic committee is discussing alternative methods of choosing the world team members.  Up to this point, world team members have been chosen by placement at the national championships.  However, the committee is looking to add provisions for naming ill or injured skaters to the team, or to prevent skaters from being named to the team who they consider non-competitive at the world level.  They are taking into consideration how the world team choices are made both in ice figure skating, and in other countries.

*USARS is trying to create a rulebook for roller derby.  Its popularity has skyrocketed over the past few years, and USARS wants to give the sport a more structured foundation.  There are talks about organizing regional and national level championships, as well as involving FIRS to perhaps get derby up to the world level.

*The much discussed removal of "C" level events from the national championships has been given a stay.  While the artistic committee feels that it would be beneficial to the sport, the USARS office wants approval from the finance committee before committing to this change.  It appears that C level events will continue to the nationals in 2012, and beyond that it remains up to the financial department.

*USARS members under the age of 4 will be given free membership.

*Proposal that once a medal is given to an athlete, that placement is irreversible.  They must check with the USOC to see if this is an acceptable rule.  I think this could be problematic, since often times the score sheets are not available until after the medal ceremony, at which point it is too late to reverse any mistakes.

*Discussion about creating a bronze-level pairs RSA test program and grassroots instructional information for coaches.

*Skaters placing in the combined figure/loop events but not in the individual loop or figure events do not have to move out of those figure events.

*The Junior/JrWC events will not be split for this season.

*Request for judges committee to discuss appropriate method for dealing with an interruption of a two-person flight where skaters are scored in a set order.

*CIPA figure events will be conducted as at the world championships with the referee signaling the skater to start.

*Skaters placing 1-2-3 in Primary at the national championships must move up to the A level in that event when moving up by age.

*The Jr/JrWC event will have the jump requirements as determined by CIPA (ie, single, double or triple is allowed for the axel and the toe-assisted jump).

*There still seems to be discussion over combining the Freshman/Sophomore age levels for the girl events, since this has worked well for the boys events.  Personally, I do not think this is a wise move.  Honestly, I feel it ignores the 12-18 age bracket.  That is the age when the rest of life becomes more appealing, and in a sport where numbers have been dropping, it seems a bit heavy handed to remove a division from an age group that is already wavering between staying and going.  If skaters have nothing to look forward or advance to, they will find something else to focus their time and energy on.  This, coupled with the current rule that only first place at nationals is required to move out of the division will be discouraging to many of the skaters in that event.

Overall it looks like there was quite a bit being discussed at this meeting.  It seems like events at the 2011 nationals gave them much to talk about.  Should be interesting to see how the board rules on the proposed changes in the coming years.  And, personally, I would be excited to see nationals in Albuquerque in the coming years.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Newsflash - November Burda Style Preview Posted

Burda Fashion Russia to the rescue once again: full preview of the November issue is available here.  All I can say is, oh man I am so happy I got a subscription when I did.  While October had a lot of great classics I will want to sew for years to come, November is filled with a lot of trendy items, but in a good way, I think.  There is one section full of wearable clothes, but I find them to be mostly unremarkable.  Same for the plus sizes - the clothes are not bad, but they are not exciting.  Most of my picks from this issue would go into my fantasy wardrobe (how many gowns does a non-movie star really need?), but I think I will still enjoy looking through this magazine and dreaming about the possibilities.

In any case, let's get to the goods, shall we?

Looking through it all, there is really only one item in this issue I could see getting regular use in my wardrobe:

Simple wrap shirt.
It isn't anything too exciting, but I could see me making it and wearing it a lot.  Of course, this isn't one of the patterns I am swooning over in this issue.  What usually captures my fancy are the Burda coats:

Interesting neckline

Love the fitted shape!

Love this coat!  It would be so wearable during the winter.

The line drawing for the much discussed jacket/cape (jacape?).

A nice long jacket...

I like the line drawing even better.

But I don't find that any of these jackets scream "make me right now!"  I do like a lot of them and would consider making them in the future, however.  So while I am not usually a dress person, I can't help the fact that for me, this issue is all about the gowns:

I love this dress!  Interesting details without being crazy.
I predict this will be a hit on PatternReview.

More dress love.  Might be a bit low in the front...

The same, but easier to see the ruching.

Love!  This neckline feels classic, but the details feel modern.

I love it even more at full length.  Swoon.

I love this gown!  I wants it.

The line drawing.  Update: I needs it.
Sigh.  Do I really need a full length gown?  No.  Do I have some $3/yard party fabric that is going to be made into one?  Yes.  The problem now is to decide which one....

Sadly, not all of the dresses in this issue were the stuff Hollywood dreams are made of....

It looks like a sleeve got torn off as she was escaping the hospital...
No!  Bad Burda!  Bad!  I thought we had gotten away from the baggy, boxy, shapeless dresses!  Ugh.  They didn't even have the decency to give the model a belt:

She just looks crazy.
Speaking of crazy, aside from the cape thing, apparently the other trend this season is crazy pants:

Crazy leopard pants.

Crazy full diaper pants

Crazy gold pants.
Crazy pants attached to a crazy top.
Ugh.  Yeah.  After the last issue where I was loving the pants I was really hoping for some more good ones.  Alas, no.  Also, on the crazy note - I ponder, am I crazy?  This is from the kids section, but I think it is cute:

Why so grey panda bear?
I don't know if I would make it or wear it, but I still think it is cute.

In any case, it is time for the picks for best and worst looks of the month.  It was a difficult decision what with so many pretty dresses and so many ugly pants.  I had to come to a decision though, and I have decided the Best of BS for November goes to:

One shoulder movie starlet dress!
I think I have to make that gown, despite having no where to wear it.  I might have to make the blue one too.  I could justify it for de-stashing purposes, right?

Last, but not least, my pick for the November BWTF award goes to:

Hammer time!
MC Hammer called.  He wants his costume back.  In the 90s.  Where it belongs.

All in all, no, this Burda isn't filled to the brim with classy, wearable wardrobe staples.  I probably won't get nearly as much use out of this issue as some of my other ones.  Do I love this issue anyway?  Heck yes.  Thus far I am quite pleased with my decision to get a subscription, and I look forward to getting this one in the mail, and seeing what Burda has in store next month.