Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Burda Early Preview

The BurdaStyle early preview for October is posted on the German website here.  Usually I refrain from posting comments until the full preview (with line drawings) is available, however, this issue looks like it could be a good one.

Normally I am not a vest person, but wow I really like this:


These pants, I wants them!  I wants them soooo bad!  I need them.  I. Need. These. Pants.  I even know exactly which stash fabric is destined to become these pants.  Love them sooooooooooo much.

In fact, I think, maybe I love them enough to... gulp.... take out a subscription.  With a subscription, each issue is only $7.50, however, since I buy per issue from a secondary source I am currently paying $12.50 per issue (that price includes shipping).  On the one hand, I am giving up my ability to scoff and reject atrocities like the September issue since they will come to my door regardless, and arguably wasting money in that way.  On the other hand, assuming I would have bought an entire year's worth of issues (based on this year so far, a valid assumption), I will be saving $60 a year.  That is a lot of $0.99 patterns.  I also won't have to stress over the issues selling out from the online dealers, and I will get the magazine at the beginning of the month, not in the middle/end of the month.  Hmmmm.  Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.  Hm.  I like this plan.  And I will now be obsessively checking the Burda websites for the full preview so I can obsess over the line drawings and see the pattern sizing.

Fancy Italian Footwear, Part V

Ok, so this may be the last skating update for a while.  I wore the yellow rubber upper/blue urethane lower cushions for a week, but by the end decided I didn't really like it all that well, at least not for the big figures.  Whereas the all urethane felt fairly stable on the large figures, but too stiff for the loops, the rubber/urethane combo felt better for creating the curvy loops, it was far too wobbly for the large figures, even with incredibly tight action.  So I decided to try the all rubber yellow in the figure skates the other day.  Wow.  I mean wow.  The all rubber make them feel a lot more like my old skates (in a good way) but like a crazy amazing version of my old skates.  I guess you can take the girl off the Atlas but you can't get a figure skater out of the rubber cushions?

After trying all of these combos I have come to the following conclusions:

(1) I feel that the Roll Line Ring and Novita/Dance plates are superior to the Atlas figure and dance plates I had previously in terms of design (more lightweight) and ability to create very deep edges.  I still think the Atlas is a good plate, especially for skaters who are learning to skate because it really forces you to learn how to control your weight placement and how to get a good edge.  However, I am finding that I am enjoying skating on the Roll Line plates a lot more, especially for some of the more advanced dances and loop skating.

(2) I like having the longer dance plates and shorter figure plates.  When on the Atlas I wanted them to be as similar as possible (and there was only one size that actually fit my boots), but now I appreciative of having more specialized skates.  The shorter sized figure plates allow me to have very precise weight placement which is important for doing the turns and loop figures.  I am even finding that on the Roll Line plates I can feel even more specific weight placement than I could on the Atlas plates, although I am not quite used to it yet.  Some turns (brackets) feel much easier and faster, whereas others (rockers) don't feel quite smooth yet.  Of course, it could also have something to do with the fact that I practiced brackets and three turns like crazy last year, whereas I haven't touched the outside edged rockers or counters in a long time (like over five years....).  In any case, I may have passed all of my figure tests, but there is always something that can be improved.  As for the dance plates, the longer wheel base gives me more to push against and added stability, so I feel like I can go much faster while doing deeper edges (because the new skates curve so much easier).  I am still getting used to the plate on my turns (and just in general... accidentally locked the wheels and did a faceplant the other day because I am still not totally used to the extra length), but I think that some of them are much easier than before and I am really hoping this will help me get through my remaining dance tests.

(3)  I like the urethane cushions for dance (soft grey) and the rubber cushions for figures and loops (hard yellows).  It has been described that urethane cushions have more "bounce back" whereas rubber cushions "take a set" more easily.  Basically, what this means is that when the rubber gets compressed, it stays compressed longer and takes more time to return to the original position.  The urethane has the opposite effect of returning to its original position much more quickly.  In my experimentation I have found this to be the case for all of the cushion combos I have tried.  I think these features of rubber and urethane are both good and bad.  When you are skating figures you want a consistant curve so you can create that perfect circular edge.  However, when you do turns and loops you need to be able to have much quicker changes in the edge, so some people prefere the urethane.  I did like skating in the urethane for figures, although I think I like skating in the all rubber a lot more.  I suppose it would depend on the skater and what they like and what they are used to using.  I do, however, think that the rubber is vastly superior for the loop skating because while you do need to have more drastic changes in the depth of the edge, it is a gradual change.  I found that using urethane (both on Atlas and on Roll Line, although the Roll Line urethane is a much better quality) has too much of that bounce back and almost pushes me off of the edge I am skating on.  Since so much weight is focused on an specific part of the skate, the other truck that doesn't have that weight wants to bounce back to that original flat position, which isn't good.  It makes the skate stop partway through the loop motion.  The Roll Line plate has the ability to create superior curves, so it counteracted the bounciness of the urethane much better than the Atlas, but the issue was still there.  I think skating loops on urethane requires the weight to be much more centered so that both trucks will curve enough to go around the loop.  With the rubber the weight placement can be much more specific and drastic, which I think aids in getting a better quality flow around the loop itself.  Since I am currently using the same skates for loops and figures, I like the rubber much better because I feel that the edge quality is much more consistent.  Of course, the opposite it true for dance skating.  In some of the dances it is important to be able to create fast changes of edge.  In this case the bounce back of the urethane really helps because it aids in the quickness of the edge change rather than delaying it slightly like the rubber.   I am not sure if the rubber or urethane would be better for free style skating.  I know I have seen more and more skaters move to the urethane, because I think it would help with their jumps.  However, I could see where rubber would be better for spinning, so I suppose it would depend on the skater and what they felt was more comfortable.

So yeah, that is pretty much how I feel after two full weeks on the skates.  While that is not enough time to be totally comfortable on them, it is enough time to know that I really like them.  Also, in the celebrity death match that is Atlas vs. Roll Line, Roll Line wins.  The newer debate between rubber vs. urethane ends in a draw.  Hopefully these skate posts haven't been too boring, and they should be thinning out in the coming weeks as life at the rink returns to practice as normal, instead of a crazy adventure in new skating equipment.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Obsessive Sewing

Have you ever had a project where you decided you were going to finish it tonight, no matter what?  Well, I just had one of those projects.  I have three more items I am wanting to sew before the sibling heads overseas.  However, I know that the black coat is going to take quite a bit of work, so I decided that I was going to finish the other two projects (a skirt and a cape) tonight.  No matter what.  The skirt was mostly done (just had to sew the side seam after a fitting), so that didn't take hardly any time at all.  I mean, I still need to hem the thing, but I can do that by hand later.  And the cape looked pretty simple, so I figured I could just bang it out.  I mean, a few mostly straight seams, how hard could it be, right?  Well, hard it wasn't, but loooooooooooooooooong it was.  Silly Burda and all their tricksy details.  Like flaps, pockets, and topstitching.  Not to mention I had to cut out 21 pieces plus interfacing.  Ugh.  Cutting takes forever.  In any case, I am sure the neighbors hate me (well, I did move my sewing machine so it is now sitting next to an outside facing wall) since I stayed up sewing until nearly 4am.  Woo.  But. It. Is. Done.  Except for 4 buttonholes (doing those by machine when I get up), interfacing the hem (I forgot to do it earlier, so I will do that in the morning also), sewing on the buttons, and sewing down the hem and facings by hand (to be done later in front of the TV....).  But yeah, I really wasn't motivated to do this project, so I sort of forced myself to finish in one sitting.  I was calling it the "European Travel Cape" because that is its intended purpose, but after staring at it for so long and puzzling over the Burda directions, and because of how it looks I am nicknaming it the "No Sh*t Sherlock Cape."  I think once I post pictures the reason for this will be more apparent.

In any case, does obsessive sewing infect anyone else?  Or is it just me?  Do you get obsessive over projects you like or projects you don't like?  When sewing for others do you wish you had stolen the fabric for yourself so you could have used it for something else?  This is what I ponder after sewing for seven hours....

Saturday, August 27, 2011

What I bought on Ebay

Ok, so I don't usually (well, ever) buy things on Ebay.  But I had heard it was a good place to look for Burda back issues, so I thought I would check it out.  What I found was an advertisement for 11 "like new"  issues from 2006.  Now, I haven't been sewing that long, but I have looked through the Burda archives and 2006 was a good year for Burda.  The price was pretty reasonable, so I thought about it for a bit, but finally decided I didn't want to miss the opportunity to own nearly the entire 2006 Burda collection.  Fearing a bidding war, I went with the "Buy it Now" option.

Yes, I fear the 2 second sniper.  Yes, I blame Weird Al.  And, yes, I know all the words to this song.

In an case, what I was expecting (as listed by the seller) was 11 issues from 2006.  What I got was:

11 New Burdas
Yup.  Eleven new Burdas complete with pattern tracing sheets.  Except these Burdas are from 1996, NOT 2006.  So, yeah, not exactly the issues I was hoping for.  Sigh.  I suppose I could complain or moan, or send them back.  But I think there was a no return policy, and I guess I don't mind keeping them.  I was just really looking forward to owing the September 2006 issue (well, and January, October, November, and December).  There aren't nearly the number of garments I would want to sew up in these issues as I had been planing for from the 2006 editions, but, well, there are a few coats I kinda sorta like. And maybe a few dresses that I could frankenpattern to make them look not quite so, well, 1996.  I don't know, I think I need to look through them a bit more.  There do seem to be quite a few good articles about altering Burda patterns, Burda sizing, sewing techniques, and general construction information.  There are also several recipes for goulash.  And there are beauty, skin care, and make-up articles as well.  Burda definitely used to be more of an all around woman's interest/general style guide type magazine.  I don't know, I almost prefer it now with more of a focus on the sewing patterns, but I am tempted to try out some of their recipes just because.

In any case, I think I will post some of the more WTF moments in the future.  Trust me, in these issues there are more than just a few.  I mean, I was around in 1996, but looking at what was considered "fashion" (even considering that this is Burda we are dealing with), no wonder I had exactly zero interest in clothes growing up.  The one thing I will say - the wedding dresses (though fewer options than in more recent years) are gowns I would actually consider making at some point.  Granted, I wouldn't make them as they have been done up by Burda, but I would most definitely consider making them in the future.  (Not, you know, as actual wedding gowns, but as some fabulous evening gowns for sure.)

So yeah.  I am a bit sad and disappointed (I really wanted those 2006 issues!) and I don't think I would have bought this lot if it had been properly advertised as 1996 instead of 2006.  On the other hand, I don't think it is worth the hassel of returning these issues, so I might as well see what sort of use and enjoyment I can get out of them.  I don't think anything from these magazines will be shooting to the top of my gotta make it now list, but there are a few classic looking styles that I will be considering making in the future, and I do want to read through some of these articles.  All in all, this was not the amazing find I had hoped it would be, but I did get a lot of Burdas for a reasonable price, so I guess I can't complain too much.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Real Life Spectra!

I don't know how many of you have read this news blurb about the newly discovered diamond planet, but to those of us who watched Rainbow Bright and the Star Stealer religiously as children, this comes as no surprise.  Now we just have to be on the lookout for evil princesses who want to keep the sparkly for themselves....

In any case, regardless of whatever crazy name they come up with, to me this planet will always be know as Spectra.

Newsflash - Winter McCall's Patterns

More new patterns!  I have only really been following the pattern release cycles for a few months, so I was rather unaware of how often new patterns are released by the Big4, but I will say that because they are all released at different times, there do seem to be new patterns rather frequently.  Which is sort of fun, actually.  In any case, you can look at all the new winter McCall's here.  There seem to be a decent mix of lightweight jackets, a few dresses, some tops, kids clothes, pajamas, aprons, doll's clothes, and holiday crafty items.  A few things stood out...

First of all, this top.  I don't like the way it is made up on the envelope, but I do think it could be a fun pattern.  I like the idea of the lace sleeve.  I shall be interested to see in anyone makes one of these, and if it turns out, but I want to add it to my pattern stash in any case.
Nextly, this doll's pattern:

I think these are some pretty cute doll's costumes, so I will probably be needing to add this pattern to my stash as well.

Now for the few I am on the fence about...

First up this dress pattern:

When I first saw it I wasn't too impressed, but I do like the line drawing....

M6433 line drawing
So... I don't know.  In the photos I am just not that impressed with the fit on the top or the shape of the skirt.  I probably won't get this one... I don't seem to have as much luck with McCall's as I do with the others of the Big4, so if fit seems dubious on the envelope it is probably best for me to leave it well enough alone.  Also, the more I look at it... the lower that top seems to get.  Yeah, this one can stay at the store.

Moving on, I also sort of like this simple coat pattern:

I like that it has a hood option, and I think the short (grey) version is cute with the little bit of flair at the hem.  It also says that this pattern is lined, which I prefer to unlined coats.  And this pattern is fitted through the waist (it doesn't require the belt for the silhouette) of which I also approve.  My only reservation is that I have been loading up on the coat patterns lately, I may have to get one more.  Yup, for me it is all about the coats and the costumes.  And usually I am all about the details with the coat patterns, so it might be good to have a simple pattern (no buttons, zippers, etc) when I don't want to fuss with details.  The more I look, the more I like.  Ok, yes, going onto the list.

The next pattern I debate because I always like the peasant blouse look, but every time I put one on it looks awful.  Very ridiculously bad.  Maybe I should wear them with a belt, maybe I just need to try different fabric, I don't know.  But I do know they look bad on me.  Yet, I still want it...

What makes it worse is my sister can rock these things like nobody's business.  She has all the fluffy floaty tops I dream of, but on her they look super cute.  On me... sackville.  On the other hand, I suppose if I do get it and it doesn't work for me I could always give it to her.... Hmmmm.......  I shall have to... ponder this.

In any case there are a few other patterns I wanted to point out.  Firstly, there is this dress:

This does come with cup sizing and is intended for non-stretch fabrics.  However, it seems very similar to a certain Burda pattern from earlier this year...

I know the picture doesn't show the back, but they are very similar.  I think that, despite the Burda being sized for knits, it would be possible to go up a few sizes and with a few alterations use the Burda pattern to make a dress similar to the new McCall's dress.  On the other hand, if you don't have access to the Burda May 2011, but love this pattern as much as I do, then McCall's may have helped you out quite a bit.

Also, apparently capes are the in thing this season?  I mean, McCall's just came out with this:

Right after Burda put out an entire magazine full of this:

I would have to give the win on this pattern to Burda.  I find the Burda pattern looks rather chic and retro-inspired, whereas I think the McCall's heads into Little Red (green?) Ridding Hood territory.  I really want to know how many people are going to be going for the capes this year.  I know I am making one (right now actually, it is still in the tracing stage) but I don't know if this is something that is actually going to be fashionable or just something the pattern companies think will be fashionable.  Hmm.  Remains to be seen I guess.

Also, while we are on the McCall's/Burda pattern comparison:


Hmmmmmmm......  Let me just point out that Burda had four (4!!!) versions of this, plus a plus-sized version in their August issue.  It even made the cover of the English edition.  Seems like everyone is jumping on the drapey sweater bandwagon.  I still don't know if I even like the way this looks!  In any case, needless to say, I won't be needing to get this pattern as I already have the Burda issue.  But if you liked it and don't want to deal with the Burdas, here is your chance.

So overall, not a bad set of patterns from McCall's.  I think I will probably get the four I am considering and leave the others alone.  There are some other decent basic patterns, but nothing that had me super excited.  Did I miss anything fabulous?  I mean, aside from the crazy dragon headgear...

I'm not an egg anymore!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Newsflash - Burdas Abound

Ok, so while I will spend hours pawing through the new Burda Style previews each month, I am only giving the announcements and previews of their other product lines a cursory review.

The full preview of the Fall/Winter Burda Plus can be seen on the Russian website.  This is actually a great issue.  Can't resist showing some of the fabulous coats:

And this nice dress:

And these fabulous pants:

Lucky BurdaPlus sized ladies.  I mean, Burda either gives them a sack or some of the most elegant patterns I have ever seen.  This issue also has some great staples like simple long sleeved fitted t-shirts, some simple but not totally sack-like blouses, and even a few evening gowns (simple, understated, and elegant looking).  If this were regular sizing in Burda I would snap it up in a heartbeat.  I suppose I could try to redraft for sizing, and the pants might fit.  But no.  I have other Burdas to sew up, so I suppose I shall be content.  Sigh.

The first preview for Burda Easy Fashion is up on the German website.  This magazine isn't available in English, so I don't know where one could find an individual issue, but it is possible to subscribe to the Russian or German versions from GLP News.  In any case, from the early preview I don't see anything I am too drawn towards.  I usually like the structured, detailed offering from Burda, and Burda Easy Fashion seems to have more of the simple loose flowing type garments.  In the other hand, I do appreciate the younger aesthetic they have used for some of the styling in the preview photos.  There were a few things worth pointing out, for one reason or another:

I do like this skirt...
These pants... not so much.  Hammer time!
In what universe would this be considered "fashion"?
Ok, so the last dress... has potential.  But as is it is pretty tragic.  Overall, the first preview doesn't inspire any feelings of covet, so I can pass it by.

Finally (ok, so I know this isn't really news as it has been announced for a while), but the new Fall/Winter Burda envelope collection has been posted on the German website.  You can also look at the patterns on  Overall these envelop patterns look pretty good.  I mean, yes, Burda has put out more than their fair share of dirndl skirts and peasant blouses this time around, but there are some lovely coats, jackets, and pantsuits available as well.  I know those of you lucky enough to live near a Hancock sometimes get $2.99 sales (lucky!) but here in the middle of Joann land those things never go on sale, but are perpetually 40% off, and not valid with coupons.  Yeah, they are pretty much the only patterns I consider paying "full" price for.  I am hoping that maybe Joann will do something crazy, like have a Burda sale on Black Friday, but I am not holding my breath.  In any case, here are some that might just have to come home with me, $10 price tag or not....

Burda 7284

Burda 7269
Love those pants!  And that coat!  In any case, I suppose I should just be glad that the Joann stores around me are at least carrying them now, so I have access.  I suppose I should be willing to forgive Burda that September issue, since they look to have been so busy with everything else...  In any case, lots of fun stuff to look through, although not too much I am interested in actually getting, other than some of the envelope patterns.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Neither Skating Nor Sewing

When I go places my favorite things to look for are fabric stores and used book stores.  While I was at the regional meet this year, I found an interesting cookbook.... all about cheesecakes.  Somehow me acquiring said cookbook resulted in some sort of bet about clothing sizes, which then resulted in me losing said bet and needing to eat half a cheesecake.  I really don't know how it happened.  I just know that somehow I am now down to single digit RTW when I shop at old lady clothing stores.  Not that I frequent old lady clothing stores.  But when I do go inside, I am in the single digits.  I suppose the cheesecake was supposed to remedy this.  Of course, when I go into regular clothing stores I am borderline-plus sized so, you know, whatever.  I think I will stick to sewing.  At least then sizing is sort of consistent.

In any case, this is what I made (and ate):

Cheesecake, graham cracker crust, raspberries, and whipped cream

I tried to make it pretty....


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fancy Italian Footwear, Part IV

Ok, so I switched out the figure cushions for the yellow rubber top/blue urethane bottom.

Rubber/urethane combo.
This was actually quite an interesting experiment.  It gave the skates a feeling of stability a bit more like my old skates, but still had the responsiveness of the new skates.  It almost felt like the yellow rubber had practically no bend, and that all of the movements were being transfered directly to the lower blue cushions.  It felt pretty fantastic for the loops, actually.  I felt solid but able to create a very deep curve.  I am not sure how much I like this combo for the large figures, but it did feel more solid than using all urethane.  Some of the turns didn't feel quite as good with this set-up, but then it may just have been me having an off day.  Or I may need to tighten the action a bit more.  I plan to keep this set-up for a few weeks to see how it feels after the rubber cushions have settled in.  I may still want to try the rubber lower cushions, but they may be too hard for me to use for the loop skating.  I do want to explore my options though.

As for the dance skates - I didn't spend much time in them today, but they still feel good.  It was super hot, so I was already sort of exhausted by the time I got to dance, and so I was a bit wobbly and tired, but the plates still feel good.  I may need to still play with the click action adjustments, but I am still liking the grey/grey combo, so I think that will probably stay.

Dance skates - all grey urethane.
All in all things seem to be settling into place.  I think now I just need more time on them, but overall I would have to say that between the Altas and the Roll Line, I would have to vote for the Roll Line, hands down.  Of course, remains to be seen how well they last, as the Atlas did stand the test of time, but I am really enjoying skating on them.  If only there were more time to skate....

Monday, August 22, 2011

Pattern Review: Simplicity 3842

Although I really need to get in gear on that wooly winter coat, I wanted to do a few simple projects to get back in the swing of sewing, and I thought a few "instant gratification" tops would be good projects. I have been doing a lot of sewing for the sister, before she is gone for an extended period of time, and I decided to try out Simplicity 3842 on a top for her.

I really like both views of this top - I think they are both pretty cute.  For my sister I made view B out of a purple plaid cotton knit (very stable, practically no stretch).  The lace and bias binding on the neck were gifts from another sewer's stash (for which I don't believe I ever properly expressed my gratitude, but truly, I am eternally grateful), and the cotton was $2.50/yard, and I used only a little over a yard, so total cost of this shirt was definitely under $5.

Here is my version:
The front.
The back.
Fabric and lace.
I really kind of like the green lace.  I tried a navy blue, but it was too dark and not really noticeable.  The green has a nice pop to it.  It picks up the most subtle color from the plaid, so I think it works pretty well.  This top was really simple to make, only took a few hours to sew up, and the end result is pretty cute.  I might make a few changes for fit in the future, but overall the pattern is great.  Here is the official review:

Pattern Description:  Tunic top in two styles.  View A with long sleeves and longer bodice, view B with shorter sleeves and shorter length.

Pattern Sizing: (8-10-12-14-16-18).  I really like that all sizes are included in one envelope.

Were the instructions easy to follow?  Yes.  The instructions were quite straightforward.  The only tricky step is turning the loops for the ties.  I have a loop turner, which actually worked on this fabric, so it wasn't too bad for me, but this could potentially be a major pain.  Other than that the instructions are very simple, and the top is quick to make.

Did it look like the photo/drawing when you were done with it?  Yes!  It looked very much like the view B drawing, except for the colors.  But the style of the shirt looked remarkably like the drawing.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?  I really like the style of the top and the easy instructions.  There aren't too many pieces.  Also, the instructions include finishing details (like ribbon supports and bias binding) that help make the results more finished and better quality.  As for dislikes - I think the B view top is simultaneously a bit low and a bit short.  Normally, I do not make length corrections for my sister, but I think I would have added 3/4 inch of length just to make the top a bit less prone to rising up in the back.  I did not hem the bottom as instructed because it would have been much too short.  I would also add an extra inch to the top of the front inset piece. Looking at the model in the envelope photo, it looks a bit low there as well.  I think for view A the length would be good (as the pattern is much longer) but the top would still need to be raised a bit.

Fabric used: Stable cotton knit.  It has practically no stretch to it and was pretty cheap - about $2.50/yard.

Pattern alterations or design changes you made:  None.  Normally my sister fits into patterns out of the envelope fairly well (don't even have to mix sizes), but in this case I could have made a few changes (see the "dislikes" section) to make a better fit or more comfortable garment.

Would you sew it again?  Would you recommend it to others?  Yes to both questions!  I think altering length and adding a bit to the top are minor alterations that can be easily done in the future.  I would totally make this top again for my sister, and I would love to make both view A and B for myself as well.  I think the results are really good considering how quickly this pattern can be sewn up.  Overall I would say this pattern is highly recommended.

Conclusion:  Great pattern!  Although I think a few minor alterations would be necessary (raising the top a bit), this pattern produces some nice results without any major changes.  The results are simple to obtain and the end product looks very finished.  Overall, I really like it!

Yay, more sibling sewing finished!  Right now I have left: the European travel cape, the wooly coat, and the plaid skirt, which are all in various states of completion.  Hopefully these can all get done within a month, but we shall see.  The cape and coat at least will get finished sooner rather than later.  Then I can return to sewing for me.  I have so many projects I want to work on, I can't even decide what I want to play with first...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fancy Italian Footwear, Part III

Ok, so I am really starting to like my new equipment.  It still takes me a while to get settled into them (they don't feel quite natural yet), but I think overall in the lessons today they performed pretty well.

After two more sessions on the figure skates, they are starting to feel a bit more normal.  Having a lesson on them helped a lot - my coach was able to help me fix my body positions, which helped me focus on the feel of the new skates.  We are still playing with the tightness of the adjustments, but overall my edges feel a lot better than the first day I wore them.  Also, I loosened the action quite a bit more for loops this weekend (nearly all the way loose) and it was much better.  I think I had them too tight on Tuesday, because the loops felt quite a bit easier today.  I am also liking the feeling of pushing in them quite a bit more than my old ones, which was something I had struggled with quite a bit last year.  I feel like my weight transfer happens much more quickly than before, which helps me feel more secure.  I think I still want to test out the rubber/urethane and rubber/rubber combos for the figure skates, but I think the clear/blue combo could be a nice match in terms of stability and responsiveness.  Although I think the urethane still feels weird, it seems to be reacting well enough that I think I would be able to adjust to the feel quite nicely in a few months if I decide to go with this set up.  Overall I am growing to like these plates more each time I skate in them, and now I will just be testing a tweaking with the different cushion set ups.

On the other hand, I tried out the blue/grey combo on the dance skates, but I did not like it.  As much as I tried to adjust it still never felt quite right.  I think perhaps because the dance plate is longer so the pressure is a bit more spread out over the skate, so when I press it isn't quite the same response as the figure skate.  I think if I had a shorter plate like on the figure boot the blue/grey combo might have been good, but after practice yesterday I went back to the grey/grey.  I played on them a bit and I am slowly adjusting the action, one click at a time.  One thing I have noticed is that the urethane seems to "puff up" as I skate on it.  The skate will feel a bit loose, but after I skate for about 15 minutes it will start to feel much more solid and secure.  I originally had my dance skates tightened quite a bit, but by the end of practice I have them nearly loose.  I will see how they skate over the next few practices.  If I keep loosening them then I might perhaps go to a grey/green urethane combo (green is the softest urethane), but I don't think I will try that unless I keep loosening the dance action a significant amount.  Right now I am very happy with the dance plate, but I need to re-work my pushing technique.  Since this plate is a bit longer than my old one the push is on a slightly different part of the foot.  When I do it correctly I get a lot more power.  I have to think about it though, because it isn't natural yet.  Overall though, I am really liking the dance skates, and they have taken much less adjustment than the figure skates.

Overall I am quite pleased with the new set up.  I think there still need to be some tweaks and minor adjustments (and I still want to play around with the figure skate some more), but I do quite like the new skates.  I still think the Atlas plates were good skates to learn on, because you have to really learn to press your edges to get a good curve, but I would have to say that for the more advanced dances and figures, Roll Line is more fun to skate on.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Online Order Review: CTS USA

After the death of my twin needle (I know, I know, one should ALWAYS have a spare twin needle, but I had been using the one that came with my machine up to this point.  It has served me well.  It may now rest in pieces), I decided I needed to get some more so I would have them when I wanted to sew up more knits.  Of course, all of my other needle supplies are running low as well, so I figures I would best do a massive online order to get them cheap from CTS USA.  This website was recommended to me when I was complaining about the cost of stretch needles from Joann.  Let me just say, THEY ARE AWESOME!  Free shipping and my needles showed up within 2 days.  I am now the proud owner of 4 twin needles.  And also 200 ball point stretch needles and 300 sharp needles, of various sizes.  Yeah... won't be running out of the basics anytime soon.  In any case, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND that website for needle orders  - fast, cheap, and lots of variety to choose from.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Fabric Store Adventures: Encounter of the n00b

Ok, so I needed to pick up a zipper for a skirt I am working on (well, ok, and some lining because I just really didn't like the color combo of fashion fabric/lining I had going on), so I went to local (non-Joann) fabric shop to get some stuff.  Of course, as we all know, going to a fabric shop to "pick up a zipper" actually entails thirty minutes minimum to walk around the store and see what is new.  This store is a bit out of the way, but I hadn't been in a while so I figured it was worth the trip.  And oh man, have they been upping their game.

While I wandered around pondering a linen boucle (Would I look fabulously colorful or would I look as though a bag of skittles had barfed all over me?), some stretch lace (Does the wonderful pattern offset the baby shower blue color?), and some stretch knit (would I look comfy and sophisticated or would I look like my dress was a tragic Burda styling choice from the September issue?), I went over to examine the now expanded wool section.  I noticed a younger (nerdy-ish looking) guy who was looking totally lost.  He looks at me, with a bit of a desperate glint in the eye and we have a conversation that goes something like this:

GUY: So, ummmm, do you come here often?

ME:  Uh, yeah, sometimes.  You know, when I need fabric and stuff.  (Thinking: I would come here more often if time and budget permitted.  Did you see all the new silks?  When did they start carrying so much silk?)

GUY: Oh.  Ummm, what do you use fabric for?

ME:  I mostly sew clothing.  And skating costumes.  Stuff like that.  (Thinking: Uh... what do you use fabric for?  Wait.  Do I even want to know?)

GUY:  Oh, costumes are cool.  I don't think I could ever make one.  It would be so hard.  So, umm, you go to school for this?

ME: No.  I go to school for chemistry.  (Watching the guy's eyes get sort of big.  Thinking: Ha!  He is a nerd.  And I totally exploded his brain.)

GUY: Oh, I um, sorta do physics.  And stuff.  Ummmm, can I ask you a question?

ME: Uh, I guess. (Thinking: You already asked me like five, but I am in a good mood today because I am in a fabric store.  And I really want to see where this is going...)

GUY: How do they sell this stuff?

ME: Uhhh, you pick what you like, take it to the counter and tell them how much you want.  By the yard.  They cut it for you.  (Thinking: Don't laugh.  Don't laugh.  It is NOT funny.)

GUY: Ooooooooooh.  Ok.  How do you know how much things cost? (At this point he is lovingly stroking some grey wool.)

ME: Oh, it says on the bolt end.

So I go over and touch the wool.  Softest wool I have ever felt in my entire life.  I am thinking, no.  It couldn't be.  Could it?  Here?  Really?  And I pull back the fabric end to reveal:

Cashmere.  $59.98/yard

OMFG what?!?!?!  When did this place start carrying cashmere?  And when will I be able to afford some, because really, I mean, dang that stuff is nice.  After a pause of stunned silence...

ME: See, this here is cashmere, it is $60/yard.

GUY: Oh.  Well, I am looking for something for my car....

ME: .....(stunned silence)....  Oh.  Ummm, well, they have other things that aren't as expensive.....  (Thinking:  Your car?!?!?!?!  What, is it like a freaking Rolls Royce or something?  I mean, &@^$!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  This is ^&**^#@ cashmere!!!!  Get your hand away from the fabric and wander over to the synthetic upholstery section before someone gets hurt...)

GUY: (Probably noticing my slightly crazy eyebrow twitch) Yeah, guess I will look around.  Thanks for the help...

Guy wanders off.  I stand and pet the cashmere.  I want to tell it, "It's ok, don't worry, nobody is going to use you in their car.  You will be loved and appreciated as some fabulous coat somewhere as the sewing gods intended....."  I mean, I didn't really talk to it, but I did send it telepathic waves of comfort.  And petting it did help me calm down.  A bit.  I mean, his car, honestly now....

Of course, after petting the cashmere, the rest of the fabric just seemed so sad.  I did get some lining for the skirt though, and a zipper, so mission accomplished there.  Except that I will now be hoping and dreaming and thinking about that wonderfully soft cashmere for the rest of eternity.  I really do need some.  I just don't need it right now.

More Vogue 1051

I have already done an official pattern review for Vogue 1051 here.  This time around I made a few moderate fit changes:

* I took in 1/4" from each side of the back pant leg at the knee

*I took in 1/2" at the top of the side seam on the waistband

Since I was making these pants on a budget in terms of time and money, I still haven't done any of the fiddly bits of this pattern like the welt pockets.  I would have loved to explore my other pant pattern options, but I needed navy and grey pants, and I needed them fast.  Since I had already used this pattern, and the fit was pretty good the first time around, I went ahead and used it again.  The fabric is $3/yard polyester gaberdine, and with thread, zipper, and hooks, each pair of pants costs somewhat less than $10 in materials.  I could not have found pants this cheap that fit this well in RTW, I am sure.  The workmanship is not my best (the navy waistband is a bit wonky), but they got the job done.

Also, please excuse all the wrinkles.  The photo shoot was quite impromptu and did not have time to press out the wrinkles from having been shoved in a suitcase for a few days...

Navy pants... no cuff

Grey pants - with cuff

Grey pants front.

Grey pants back.
So yeah, not too terribly exciting, but sewing projects none the less.  When I bought the pattern I had originally thought I wouldn't like the cuff look, but actually I think it looks a lot better than the pants that are cuff-less.  Huh.  I will have to ponder the implications of this.  In any case, I don't know how much wear these will see.  The material is less than luxurious feeling (but not so awful that I felt the need to bother with lining them), and these are a bit too formal for my current work situation.  I am hoping by the next time I am in need to navy or grey pants I will have some newer, nicer sets.  With pockets.  But, we shall see.  Who knows, with the way my sewing projects pile up I may need to pull these out again next year.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Joann Sales - Patterns and Thread

This weekend (Friday August 19 - Sunday August 21) Joann will be having a 50% off sale on all thread (regardless of brand) and a 5 for $5 sale on Simplicity patterns.  I am only looking for one pattern, but regardless I may get some more thread.  Really, what I will be needing soon is more needles, but I am planing to order from CTS USA, since buying needles in bulk will be far less expensive than purchasing the 4 packs from Joann.  I haven't bought from them before, but I have heard good things, so I will be dedicating part of the next pay check for to a major restocking of the needles.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Fancy Italian Footwear, Part II

Ok, so I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to practice on my new skates the day after they were mounted.  This is good, because it gives me a week of adjustment period before I have any more lessons, so I can hopefully get them somewhat stable, if not actually completely correct, in terms of adjustments.

First of all, let me show you the amazingness that are my new skates:

My Figure Skate - Harlick boot, Roll Line Ring Plate, Roll Line Giotto Wheels, Bones Swiss Bearings

My Dance Skate - Harlick Boot, Roll Line Dance Plate, Roll Line Grease Wheels 95A
Clearly, the boots and wheels have seen some use.  My boots are about three and a half, almost four, years old.  This is the longest I have used a single boot without it totally breaking down.  I did use a Jackson figure boot for about 5 years once, but it was pretty shot after 3.  This was when I was sick, so I was having a lot of other issues, and new skates were not a priority at the time.  After I was over my illness I moved to the Harlick boots, because I wanted a custom fit since all the illness-related weight issues had been giving me foot pains.  I know there are many people with many opinions about the Harlick brand, but personally I love them.  My skating has improved so much with these boots and I think they are fabulously comfortable.  Sometimes I still get awful foot pain and cramps (I think still related to the former health problems), but my feet feel pain free when in the Harlick boots.  At this point, I can't imagine skating without them.

As for the wheels - I have been on the Roll Line Giotto figure wheel for quite some time (somewhere between 8-10 years I think, although these particular wheels are only 2 years old, but probably in need of replacement this year or next), but I only started using the Roll Line Grease dance wheel last year.  I really like the Grease for dance.  It seems to give added stability to my dance skating, while still having good roll.  Recently, I added spacers to the inside of the wheel (between the bearings).  I had heard that spacers will slow a wheel down, but the spacers in the Roll Lines seemed to speed them up!  There has been some theorizing that the metal spacer adds stability that the plastic hub is lacking, and helps keep the bearings aligned, leading to better performance.  In any case, I liked them before, I love them with the spacers, and now I want to try spacers in the figure wheels to see how that goes.

As for the equipment that I am replacing... My previous plates, the Atlas brand, used rubber cushions - medium strength (black color) for dance and hard strength (natural/tan color) for figures.  For dance I had a fairly tight action (between 8-10 clicks), and for the figure skates I would adjust to all the way loose for loop skating (the small circles), and about 12 clicks of tightening for the larger circle figures.  For figures, you want to be able to create a stable consistent edge and sustain it for a long period of time, so you do not want as much give or motion in the skate.  For the loops you need to be able to get a very small, tight curve so you need a much looser action.  In any case, that is what I was using before, for comparison sake.

I know, I know, that's all about the old stuff, and my point in writing this is to blather on abou the new stuff.  So I shall.

I decided that I would first experiment with the new figure skates, since I was accustomed to adjusting the old ones often, and so I would have a better feel for what needed to be done to adjust them correctly.  These plates came with grey urethane cushions as the default.  In order to understand the color schemes, allow me to provide a Roll Line Cushion Color Guide:

Green = Rubber = Flexible
Natural (Brown) = Rubber = Medium
Clear Green = Urethane = Extra Flexible
Grey = Urethane = Flexible
Clear Blue = Urethane = Medium
Yellow = Rubber = Hard
Clear = Urethane = Hard
Clear Yellow = Urethane = Extra Hard

As you can see, there are two different types of materials, rubber and urethane, and various hardnesses for each.  The urethans are all harder than the softer two rubbers.  The grey ones are just about in the middle, so I figured they would give a good indication of how much I would need to go up or down in terms of hardnesses.

In any case, after a few minutes on the grey cushions I knew they would be way too soft for figures, and possibly even too soft for loops.  So, off to the side and me popping on the clear blue urethane cushions.  Or, well, trying.  Luckily and awesomely one of the other skaters, who is quite knowledgable about these skates as his family had at one point 11 pairs in use between them, was able to help me remove some of the original parts which felt as though they had been assembled by a gorilla.  Once the new ones were on he also helped me crank them all the way tight.  He is also going to look at them in a few days/weeks after I figure out the cushion settings I want so he can adjust the pivot pins for me.  Sweet.

Went out to skate, and the whole skate still felt like it was shimmying around the figure line. Sigh.  My turns, however, felt pretty good.  Just can't hold an edge.  So back off the floor and switching out to clear uppers (hard urethane) and clear blue lowers (medium urethane).  This time the parts all switched around much more easily.  I still had to crank them fairly tight, but I was able to skate some ok figures on them.  I will say I do very much like how the plate feels.  It feels like I am really up over my skate in a way that wasn't possible on the Atlas (I should know, I skated on them for 13 years).  This is good because I don't have to do nearly as much work to get the skate to do what I want, although things don't feel precisely right yet.  On the other hand, I don't know how I feel about these cushions.  They feel like they are constantly moving, and any miscalculation on my part sends them off on a crazy trajectory.  Perhaps I need to adjust to the skates and how they react.  Perhaps they need to be adjusted to how I skate.  Somehow I don't think things are quite exactly right for them at the moment, but, I do like the way the plate feels under my foot, so hopefully we are headed in the right direction.

The current figure combo: clear/blue urethane.

After playing about with the big figures, I did loops for a little while.  Loops were... somewhat terrifying but interesting.  With the same clear/blue combo, I loosened the plates up by about 12 clicks.  This was pretty much a PITA.  I will definitely need a different wrench or, more likely, a torque amplifier.  In any case, I think this adjustment may not have been enough.  In any case, when I did get a good edge it was very nice, but I think that overall I was shifting my weight far too much to get the loops accomplished in any sort of acceptable fashion.  Not sure if it was me adjusting to the new position of the plate, me not skating well on account of not trusting the new skates, or if the urethane is just so reactive that it won't keep the curve as I shift my weight around on the skate.  I did often feel like the skate was resisting me a bit on the loops.  I think perhaps I will try to loosen them up nearly all the way and see how that goes this weekend.  Hopefully I can at least get through another practice and lessons with this, because I don't want to be trying out new cushions during my lesson.  After that... I might start playing around with the rubber cushions.  Based on the hardness chart, I wonder if using a yellow hard rubber upper with a blue urethane lower would be a better solution?  Or even yellow hard rubbers all over?  I do know that rubber has a bit more of a "break in" period than the urethane does (it was the same with the Atlas), so I may have to give them a few weeks of try out time, but hopefully if I can keep getting 3 days/week of practice I can have this all figured out by mid-September.  In any case, overall the new figure plate gets a tentative thumbs up because I really do like the way the plate feels, but I just don't know how I want things adjusted yet.

As for the dance plate - let me just say it now: MAD CRAZY OBSESSIVE LOOOOOOOOOVE!!!!!!  

My new dance plates are 5mm longer than my new figure plates.  This seems to have been a good suggestion by the sales rep.  The figure plates are 1mm shorter than my old ones (in terms of wheel base length), so the new dance ones are 4mm longer than the old ones.  Let me just say, wow, what a difference.  For the figure skating, I want to keep a shorter wheel base to make the quick turn and loops easier, but for the dance skating, having a longer wheel base to push off of really helps in terms of power and stability.  As far as I know, the old plates do not come in half sizes like the new ones do.  So I really don't think having these different length would have been possible before.

In any case, the dance plate also came with the grey/grey combo, and by the time I had finished messing about with the figures, I didn't really have time to change anything out there, so I just went out and skated.  It felt a bit wobbly, so I cranked the action down pretty tight.  They were just shy of being unstable, but they felt amazing.  After a mear thirty minutes I had gone from having no idea what to expect to skating some of the hardest American dances much better than I had ever skated before in my life.  I think I need to play a bit more on them to get the feel of the turns, but overall even those were feeling good.  These things are fabulous.  The extra length allows me to push harder, the design of the plate puts my weight exactly where it needs to be over the skate, and they can get a crazy deep curve like nobody's business.  They are super lightweight too, which is good for not getting tired so quickly.  I love them.  My only issue is that I think the grey/grey combo is just a bit too loose for my weight, since I did have to crank them down so much.  After practice I popped in my clear blue urethane uppers, but keeping the grey lowers.  Changing things out on these skates was MUCH easier than changing them out on the figure skates for the first time.  In any case, I will test this combination out this weekend and see how it goes.  I really don't think I want to test out any of the rubbers for dance - the urethane seems to provide enough stability while still getting very quick response.  If I do not like the blue/grey combo on Saturday I will put the grey uppers back in for Sunday, since I already know I like that well enough.  My overall assessment of the dance plate: Standing ovation!  I love this and even after only thirty minutes I totally think it was well worth the cost of the upgrade.  Amazing, and I can't wait to see how much I can get myself to improve now that a lot of things that I was working so hard on now seem so simple.

The next experiment - blue/grey combo for dance.
In any case I am very excited for the weekend - can't wait to test out the new dance combo and play with the figures a bit more.  Hopefully I find some sense of stability, but if not then I will be playing with the rubber cushions soon enough.  In the meantime, I can keep working on trying to finish up the remainder of my summer sewing projects.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Return to Sewing: Black Twentyone Copycat Shirt

My sister loves her back shirt with the "twentyone" label.  It is simple, drapey, comfy... what's not to love?  However, like a lot of clothing these days, it hasn't stood well to wear and now is getting holes and tears.  She is so in love with the style, she asked me to copy it for her.  I decided to make it out of a slightly thicker, but still drapey, rayon knit fabric.  Hopefully this will stand up to a bit more wear, and she already claims it is more soft and comfortable than the original.

Basically to copy the pattern I literally traced the shirt, since the design is so simple.  Originally, mine was a bit big (I think the extra weight of the fabric stretched the neck open more), so I had to modify and make it a bit smaller with a few tucks in the back and one in the front.  Overall though, it looks a lot like the original.

The back - you can see my tucks at the neck.

The front.

From the side.  It is a true black, so the color in this picture is the closest to reality.
Overall, I am pleased because my sister is pleased, but also because this only took a few hours to make, from creating the pattern to finished product, and I am by no means a fast sewer.

What I am not pleased about: it broke my twin needle.  I only had one, so I had to very carefully hem the other sleeve.  Apparently the piece that holds the needle had come lose on my machine, causing the needle to hit the throat plate at an angle and snap.  I was able to re-screw the needle holding piece back on.  Hopefully it stays.  Hopefully I won't be needing a new machine soon.  What with the new skate parts, I really don't think I could afford one for a few months, and I really don't want to live without sewing that long (although I suppose I would get a lot of pattern tracing accomplished...).  In any case, it seems to be sewing alright now.  We will see how it goes this week.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Fancy Italian Footwear, Part I

When I had originally started this blog, I was intending to mostly post about my adventures in sewing, with occasional updates and news posts about the goings on of the artistic skating world, and a few book reviews.  I had not planned on detailing my daily or weekly triumphs and tribulations at the rink.  Honestly there are many more exciting blogs about adults starting to skate, or parents trying to understand the sport their kid is participating in, or people discussing rink life and culture.  I really don't think people care if I practiced brackets today or how many times I did that awful counter on the Pacifica Foxtrot (seven, by the way).  However, in my personal skating life, it is the start of a new era, as there has been a mass exodus and major change of location for a large chunk of our former skating club.  We recently had a meeting.  It was good.  Everyone was in high spirits and people were really happy.  This past year has been very draining on everyone, and it has been a long time since anyone has felt really comfortable at the rink.  And, despite the new location, most of those present were from our former club, so it really felt like home.  This past year has been one of discouragement, disappointment, lies, and just plain ol' shit.  Today, for the first time in a long time, things felt like they could be good again.  This change has been a long time in coming, and I am really hoping things are going to work out.

In any case, in addition to changing rinks, I will also be changing part of my skating equipment this year.  I have skated on the Atlas brand plates almost since I began skating, but lately the Roll Line brand has really been taking hold of the artistic skate market.  With Atlas trying all sorts of new things on their line of plates, and parts not being interchangeable between models, I have had some issues acquiring parts this past year.  So I have been thinking about this switch for over a while, and it just felt like the right time to make the investment.  What with the recent economic craziness, I guess I was right.  I can only imagine the prices going up from here.  Both companies are based in Italy, and manufacture their goods there.  The Roll Line plates are truly works of art though.  The craftsmanship is just lovely.  Now I only hope the skate as pretty as they look.

So I, of course, must show off the goods...

Roll Line Ring - My new figure/loop plate.

Roll Line Novita/Dance - My new dance plate.
I have been doing this too long to expect new equipment to make me into a new, fabulous, amazing skater.  However, I am hoping it will help with some of the more tricky, difficult maneuvers and deep curves I have been trying to skate in recent years.  Pretty much all the things I have heard about these plates have been good, so I am really hoping the results will be worth the cost of the upgrade.  I do expect a bit of a transition phase, and I plan to document my skate trials and tribulations here.  Sorry to those readers who are here for the sewing.  I will be doing sewing posts as well though, so hopefully it won't get too boring.

I want to apologize in advance, though, because I expect to be doing a lot of cushion combo posts.

Extra cushions!
The cushions are the rubber (or urethane) bits that go into the plate and allow it to curve and create edges.  Different compounds have different levels of softness or hardness, which allow the skate to curve more or less.  Height and weight of the skater and intended purpose of the skate determine which cushions are best for the job.  In addition, rubber and urethane can have different feels, and different hardnesses can be mixed and matched to get a very tailor-made skate.  Since I have only really skated on Atlas, I don't have any idea which cushions or cushion combos would be best for my new Roll Lines.  Luckily, I was able to get a lot of different types at the national meet, so I will have a lot to play around with.

Of course, that will have to wait until after the plates are mounted on my boots, which should hopefully happen in the next few days.

In any case, at the end of al of this, I hope to have a detailed Roll Line vs. Atlas, rubber vs. urethane, cushion combo post and a better feel and understanding of the two different lines of skates.  I hope these posts won't be too dreadfully boring.

EDIT:  Update as of 11pm.  They are done!  This guy works fast.  In any case, the experimentation should commence tomorrow.