Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sales Alert - Joann's Independence Day Sale

Joann Fabrics will be having a great sale for the week of the Fourth of July - Sunday July 1 - Saturday July 7.  Some of the better deals:

$0.99 McCall's Patterns (time to get the new patterns or stock up on old ones!)
$3.99 Vogue Patterns
50% Off All Thread
50% Off All Red Tag Fabric (Sale lasts through July 14)
60% Off Notions Wall (Sunday July 1 ONLY)

Not that I really need more sewing stuff at the moment...  But some of these deals would be pretty hard to pass up!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Family Jewels

Ok, so I was supposed to be sewing practice outfits for myself.  Instead I made these:

Necklace, earrings, and hair barret


Close-up of the necklace
Most of my jewelry is over the top gaudy stuff for skating, and these pieces are no different.  Basically I found a cheap(ish) necklace at an accessory store in the local mall, and I glued a buch of rhinestones to the front of it.  Then I took off the (leather-like) cords and added string of beads to each side.  The barret is a cheap one from Target, and I just glued rhinestones to the top.  The earrings were converted from pierced to clip on.  Overall I think the set probably cost less than $50, and it is totally going to match a bracelet I already have.  Procrastination?  Yes.  Waste of time?  Not so much.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Skating Equipment: Let's Talk Plates

Although I have already done an extensive number of in-depth posts on my transition to Roll Line plates, I thought I should do a more general post for my skating equipment series.

*Disclaimer* I want to state that all of my reviews are opinions formed based on personal experience and are not meant to be an ultimate guide or reflect negatively on any of the companies or products I am discussing.  I am only offering my opinions in the hope that someone might find my comments useful or offer their own suggestions in the comment section.  Everything I have tested I have borrowed or bought myself - no sponsorships or anything like that.  Like buying a high-end sewing machine, skate equipment needs to feel right to a skater, and what I like might not be the best for someone else.  However, I have been skating a long time on a lot of different equipment, so I feel like I do have something valid to contribute to the discussion.

The skating plate is definitely the portion of the skate where you want to make a good investment, as most plates stay with a skater for years, and are often only replaced when the skater's foot changes size.  My recommendation is to buy the best plate you can afford, as it will be the part of the skate that lasts the longest and a skate made with higher quality materials is much more durable in the long run.  That being said, often times the best plate is not the most expensive plate.  As with wheels, there are many different styles of skate plates that are best suited to different types of skating, so you should first have an idea of what you want to accomplish, then decide which style of skate is best suited to your needs.  As with my previous posts, the discussion here is limited to artistic skating - Derby, hockey, and speed have different needs and will have different opinions about the best type of skates.


Roll Line


Roll Line has come to dominate the skate market, especially in the area of skate plates.  With styles suited to the beginner all the way through world class competitors, there is probably a Roll Line plate to meet your needs.

Figures:  Roll Line offers several styles of figure skates.  The main ones are the Giotto and the Ring, although they also offer Raffaello skates for newer figure skaters.  I have tried both the Giotto and the Ring, and distinctly preferred the Giotto because I felt like it had a more consistent curve while still having great response and quick turns.  The Ring plate was a good figure plate, but I felt that it was not quite as stable as the Giotto, and while it was touted as a great loop skate I found that it was very difficult to create the right amount of pressure to have enough control of the skate around the crown of the loop.  I have not tried the Raffaello skates (they are sized for younger skaters), but the skate is set up to have a similar action to the Giotto, so I assume it will have similarly stable feel.  I would like to point out that the Giotto plates have a size exchange program, whereas the Rings and Raffaellos do not, so for growing figure skaters, it might be best to invest in a Giotto right away, rather than buying new plates every time your child grows.

Dance:  Roll Line probably has the widest range of options for Dance skates.  Because skaters who only do compulsory dances don't need toe stops, they can use plates that don't have spaces for toe stops, or plates that have removable toe stops.  Skaters who want to use the same skates for dance and freestyle will need a plate with a removable toe stop, although some skaters do skate dance with toe stops in their skates (I tend to trip over toe stops when I have tight footwork, but some skaters don't like to skate without them).  World class dance skaters need to do compulsory dances (without toe stops) and free dances (with toe stops), so most of these skaters choose plates with removable toe stops, although some simply use two pairs of skates.  Options for toe-stop-less plates include: Ring, Giotto, and Raffaello, and options for the dance plates with removable toe stops are: Dance, Energy Steel, Mistral, Mariner Cup, and Variant plates.  I have been skating on the Dance plates this past year and love them - they have a slightly lower center of gravity and I find I can get much deeper edges with more stability than I could on my old Atlas plates.  However, the Dance plates only seem to come in limited sizes, so if you don't fall in that range or need a half size then the next best option is probably the Energy Steel.  I imagine that this would feel like skating on the Giotto, which is an excellent plate.  Since dance skaters aren't placing the force on the axels that a freestyle skater would, there isn't really a need to pay more for titanium axels, and the Steel version should work just fine.  Only the Variant and Energy plates have size-exchange programs, which is why I would recommend those to families with growing skaters.

Freestyle:  Freestyle skaters have, by and large, almost completely gone to using the Roll Line plates, especially those skaters at the highest competitive levels.  Freestyle skaters (obviously) require a place for a toe stop, and they put far more stress on their skate than a dance or figure skater, so the options for the freestyle plate are somewhat narrowed by this.  For freestyle I would recommend: the Matrix or Energy Titanium for older high level skaters, Energy Steel for mid-level skaters, or the Variant for beginning level skaters.  While you could use the Mistral or Mariner Cup, they are made from a slightly less strong alloy than the Energy or Matrix plates, so for fully-grown skaters doing double and triple jumps, it is probably advisable to invest in the more expensive plates.  Again, only the Energy and Variant have size-exchange available, so that might be something to consider when deciding which plates to buy for growing skaters.

Pros:  These are most popular plates in the US (and possibly the world) right now, and they provide excellent stability with fast reaction times and have enough models and styles to suit a skater's specific needs.  They also have 5 hardnesses of urethane cushions and 3 hardnesses of rubber cushions, so it is easy to tailor a skate's feel to the individual who is skating on it.  Since these skates are still in production, it is possible to get replacement parts and fix them should something happen (I have seen titanium axels break when a skater landed a triple jump... not often but it does happen on occasion).  Also, other than the Matrix plates (and some parts on the Dance and Ring plates), most Roll Line parts are interchangeable, so that makes it easy to swap cushions and other parts between plates should the need arise.

Cons:  Only some models have size-exchange programs, and not all models come in half-sizes.  Roll Line plates tend to be expensive (most of the plates used by serious competitors range from $350-$1000, but even the lower end models are at least $200), and they are new enough that there aren't a lot of used ones lying around (perhaps this is a plus, as it speaks to their durability?).  Compared with Atlas plates, changing cushions is a pain, as is making constant adjustment to the action (such as switching between figures and loops).  Also, the SkatesUS is pretty much the only distributor, so if you are looking for a specific part you have to call and talk with them, and most parts are not easily orderable from the interent.


Atlas



Before Roll Line took control of the market, Atlas was the top figure plate in the US.  Many skaters are still using Atlas plates today, especially for dance and figures, though much less in freestyle, at least at the top levels.  It is a bit more confusing to keep track of all the Atlas plate models and designs, but most of them are identified with a year, and some of them are specified as having a steering damper, while others are not.  In general, the models without a toe stop were designed for figures and dance, while the models with a toe stop were designed for freestyle and dance.

Pros:  These are still excellent plates, especially for figures and dance.  I prefer the Atlas plates for loops to any of the styles of Roll Line plates.  In general they are about the same or slightly less expensive than the Roll Line plates.  Skates US also offers a size exchange program (it seems to be valid for all models), and so these can be very cost effective skates for the grown skater.  Because they were used by so many skaters who have now switched to Roll Line, you can often find used plates for much cheaper than new ones.  Also, it is very easy to change cushions and adjust the action on these skates.

Cons:  These plates do not seem to have held up as well for freestyle skaters as the Roll Line plates do. Because they have been going out of favor, it is increasingly difficult to find parts.  The manufacturers have been trying to push urethane cushions to compete with the Roll Line plates, but for Atlas the rubber cushions are far superior.  Also, unlike the Roll Line plates, many of the various version of Atlas plates do not have interchangeable parts, so you have to be very careful and very specific when you are looking for replacement pieces.


Snyder


Snyder skates used to be the ultimate in skate plates, but were replaced in popularity by the easily adjustable Atlas, and now Roll Line plates.  Most skaters who use Snyder today have kept them from the late 80s/early 90s.  Current models of Snyder plates seem to be popular with the Derby, jam, and session skating crowd, but are not as popular with the artistic group.  Several models are available, including the Deluxe, the Imperial, and the Advantage, with figure, dance, and freestyle versions available.  I have never used a Snyder plate myself, but my sister used one during her last year of skating.

Pros:  These skates were very popular, and it is usually easy to find some used plates or old spare parts.  Many skaters still love the Snyder plates, and you will occasionally see them being used by an older dance skater.  These plates are generally less expensive than the Roll Line plates, at least when compared to the high end models.

Cons:  In general these skates are heavier than the Atlas or Roll Line plates, and so were not as favored for freestyle skaters doing jumps.  They also seemed to be more difficult to adjust and I have been told that (in the 80s and 90s at least) they didn't hold up as well to the rigors of freestyle as the newer plates did, so many skaters made the switch to Atlas or Roll Line at that point.



STD



STD (Skating Technical Development) aside from having an unfortunate acronym also seems to have an unfortunate reputation.  These skates are "made in Spain" although I have heard from other sources that the skates are actually made in China and distributed from Spain.  Many people consider them to be poorly executed knock-offs of Roll Line Equipment, and the (few) people who have been able to acquire them in the US have not spoken well of their quality.  There has been speculation over the durability of the carbon fiber plates, and most people who consider these skates go with the Roll Line instead.

Pros:  They come in pretty colors, lots of styles, many sizes.  You want a bejeweled skate?  They got it.  Also, since they seem to be a Roll Line knock off, some adventurous souls have reported using a Roll Line truck on a STD plate to have the ultimate mix of style and control.

Cons:  These plates are impossible to find in the US, and I haven't heard of many people using them in other parts of the world either.  Apparently there are a few dance skaters who like their wheels, but, in general I haven't heard any favorable comments about their equipment.  With prices comprable to Roll Line (and shipping and import costs making them prohibitively expensive), honestly, I can't see why you wouldn't just go with the real deal.


Piranha/Shark/Cristal/Hudor/Paioli


Apparently there are some new plates out of Italy?  I am not sure who exactly is the manufacturer, but according to this website, they are being favored by several world champions over the Roll Line plates. It looks like they are focused mainly on freestyle skaters with their Piranha, Shark and Cristal models, as well as figure skaters with the Hudor (is the name an homage to the old Hudora skate that many people loved by is no longer available and was difficult to acquire even back in the 80s?), with the Paioli models geared towards the younger skaters.  As is often the case, the rest of the world will hear/test/see new skating equipment long before it becomes available in the US (Komplex wheels perhaps excluded), so it remains to be seen if/when these plates will become popular in the US and if they will overtake the Roll Line market share (somehow I am doubting it, as I can't imagine anyone in the US acting as distributor for various reasons), but I will be very curious to see how the news of these plates spreads and if they start popping up on various competitors (if they do, my bet is we won't start seeing them until January - after worlds).

The Piranha - A top of the line freestyle skate.

The Super Shark (notice the actual etching of a shark?  It makes me giggle)

The Cristal - looks most similar to the Roll Line design.

The Hudor.  I would be very interested in trying this out for loops
These skates look like they combine the best of the Atlas (top down action adjustment, rubber cushions for figures) with the best of the Roll Line (interchangeable parts, plate shape to minimize weight and maximize strength, urethane cushions for free skating).  I find the double toe-stop screw to be fascinating (logical, perhaps, for those attempting triples) and ponder how the action would feel in comparison to the Atlas and Roll Line plates I have been skating on up to this point.  As they are new I don't really have a feel for how they would hold up under the rigors of training.  I suppose if I ever get really curious or find myself in a situation where I am desperately needing plates and unhappy with my options, I can always order some from the UK.


Other Plates


There are many other plate brands that do or used to exist.  I know that the Labeda dance plates were favored by many world class dance skaters long ago (some people still use them today), and the old Hudora plates were much beloved by loop skaters, but as with much skating equipment, they were either too specialized or hard to find and not generally adopted and have fallen out of use today.  Kompelx has hinted that they are developing their own brand of plates, so it should be interesting t see how their model compares with the Atlast/Roll Line/new Italian plates.  There are many other brands of plates that are still in use today (PowerDyne, etc.) but these plates are not generally used by artistic skaters, and so have been left out of this discussion.


Conclusions


Well, I use both Roll Line and Atlas plates, because I feel that they have their own special niche for the types of skating that I do.  I haven't really used any other types of plates (well, I used a Sure Grip skate package when I first started) so I suppose I am a bit biased on my comparisons, but right now Roll Line has such a dominance in the market that I don't even know if it is possible to make other comparisons.  I will be excited to see if these new Italian plates shake things up a bit, but I expect that Roll Line will continue to dominate the US market for the next few years at least, if not much longer.

So, what about you skating readers?  Which plates do you use?  Which have you tried, and what did you like or not like about them?  Have you heard anything (good or bad) about STD plates or these new Italian plates?  Do you find yourself wanting to try them, or are you incredibly loyal to the skates you are on now?  Please discuss in the comments!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Willpower Fail!

Ok, so I was took my mom to the local (non-Joann's) fabric store, and she was not at all helpful when I tried to practice the art of restraint.  So, I got fabric.  Lots of fabric.

Teal rayon jacquard (my favorite!), teal rayon, and ITY knit print.

Crazy knit print and glitter stretch fabric (both for skating outfits I think).

My mom was having fun shopping too - she even bought fabric for herself!

Left: Cotton print for another nightgown for my mom.
Right: Poly charmeuse print for my sister.
Sigh.  I really wasn't going to buy fabric until after regionals.  Really.  But, well, I also really like the fabric that I got, so I suppose that makes it ok?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Skating Equipment: Let's Talk Tights

Continuing my discussion of skating equipment, I thought I would focus today not so much what goes on the skate, but what goes over or under it - namely, the skating tights.  For those of you who aren't skaters you must be wondering how tights can be considered equipment, but for those of you who spend many hours a week in this pricey leg wear, you know how important having comfortable tights can be.

While it seems that ice skaters (and some roller skaters) have gone to using yoga-pants style leggings for practice, most roller skaters wear skating dresses and tights to practice at their home rinks, and always wear full dress with tights and costumes for practices at regional and national competitions.  Most skaters have many (many many) sets of "practice tights" that have various numbers of holes, runs, and other flaws, while keeping a few sets of "competition tights" that are as clean, neat, and perfectly conditioned as possible.  Because falls are met with even more friction than in ice, holes and runs are an even greater problem for roller skater's tights than for ice skater's tights.  Finding tights can be difficult as skaters tend to prefer a specific style, while needing to find a good match for their skin tone, and wanting something that will last well without running easily or getting holes.  Most ice rink pro shops will carry some tights (mainly in child sizes), or you can sometimes find them at dance supply stores, but often finding what you want is difficult, and many skaters have turned to the internet as a supply source.

I plan on keeping my discussion and opinions about the styles of various skate tights out of today's post (I do want to have a discussion on the controversy of over-the-boot tights vs. in-the-boot tights vs. stirrup tights at another time however) and instead I am going to focus this post on the various brands that offer tights specifically geared towards skaters, and discuss the pros and cons of each brand.

*Disclaimer* I want to state that all of my reviews are opinions formed based on personal experience and are not meant to be an ultimate guide or reflect negatively on any of the companies or products I am discussing.  I am only offering my opinions in the hope that someone might find my comments useful or offer their own suggestions in the comment section.  Everything I have tested I have borrowed or bought myself - no sponsorships or anything like that.  Like buying a high-end sewing machine, skate equipment needs to feel right to a skater, and what I like might not be the best for someone else.  However, I have been skating a long time on a lot of different equipment, so I feel like I do have something valid to contribute to the discussion.

So - let's get to the tights:


Danskin

Danskin tights are the most used and most beloved skate tights in the roller skating community.  At least they were until the company stopped making skate tights.  The Danskin skate tights haven't been produced for over a year now, and finding a pair is like looking for a needle in a haystack.  I, luckily, stocked up before they went out of business, but my dwindling stash is becoming more and more precious and I am searching for alternatives to use on a day-to day basis for practices and eventually competitions.  I have heard rumors that the company had some problems but is still in business, but that they are only producing dance tights, and I have also heard that the company re-start is based in China and that the newer tights are not the same quality as the older styles.  I don't know how much of this is true, but regardless, every day at the rink there is a large discussion over tights and brands and what works the best and what everyone should use now.  There doesn't seem to be a consensus.  I do know that the old Danskin skate tights sold for around $20, but I have heard of people paying upwards of $50 for a pair on the secondary market.  It is a lot like trying to buy Patrones magazines - sometimes you wonder if the obsession is leading you towards a path where you might be dealing with selling kidneys in shady alleyways.

Pros:  These tights came in footed and over-the-boot varieties.  They were soft, stretchy, and had a decently sized waistband.  They were the perfect thickness for competition - not so thick and to be fuzzy, but not so thin as to show the skin's imperfections (aka bruises) under the tights.  The over-the-boot sort had the perfectly sized opening for the boot - not so big as to constantly slide up the leg, but not so small as to not fit over the boot.  The elastic around the bottom of the opening kept the tights in place, but there were optional hooks that could be sewn on if necessary.  The optional hooks made placement for custom sizing very easy, but most people didn't use them because they didn't need them.  These tights also came in several colors - Light Toast (for medium skin tones), Classic Light Toast (a slightly deeper tone with more red, great for darker skin or very tan people), and black (good for skaters on precision teams who need to match or need black tights for specific costumes).

Cons:  These are no longer produced.  If you are lucky and have a small child you might be able to find a child's small on the internet (most probably in black), but it is impossible to find any adult sizes anymore.  When these were sold, there were two child's sizes and two adult sizes for over the boot, and four sizes for children and adults in footed tights.  Having an even larger over-the-boot would have been nice, but these tights seemed to work well for most people in any case.  Once they got a hole or run they did tend to shred up fairly quickly, but I have also had a few pairs last for years and were only tossed once the crotch seam ripped appart.


Mondor

Mondor is probably the most popular skating tight manufacturer today.  They definitely have the largest selection of styles, and widest range of colors of any tights on the market today.

Pros:  These tights come in footed, over-the-boot, footless, and stirrup varieties.  They also come in several thicknesses (the thicker ones for long ice-skating practice sessions, the thinnest ones might be used under a second pair of tights) and various fibers (cotton, bamboo, and nylon options mixed with Lycra are available), and they come in shiny and matte varieties.  Most styles come in several colors (all seem to come in Suntan and Light Tan, with a few also coming in Back for costumes or Brown to match dark skin tones), and many of the over-the-boot styles have pre-attached snaps or velcro.  These tights also come in 4-5 child sizes and 4-5 adult sizes for each style, which might make it easier to find an appropriate size.  I have heard that the Evolution style tights (numbers 3337, 3338, and 3339) are the most popular for competition.  I have recently gotten a pair to try, so I can't comment on their longevity, but I will say I think that the over-the-boot style has a good sized opening and good placement on the snaps.

Cons:  Most roller skaters don't like having the pre-attached snaps (they are much more difficult to fasten between a boot and wider skate plate than between a boot and narrow ice blade) but the tights often ride up when the snaps are not fastened.  Also, velcro on tights tends to be a very bad idea for obvious reasons.  I have also heard that these tights tend to run easily, and most people complain that the thin tights are too thin, while the thick tights are too thick.  Some people don't like their texture, and others complain that the waistbands don't have good recovery (too big or too small).  Also, because there are so many styles in so many sizes it can be difficult to find exactly what you want as many places won't carry the full line in all of the style/size/color options.  It can even be difficult to find some of them on the internet, although I found a fairly good source at SkateBuys.


Capezio

Capezio is a company that mainly seems to sell dance wear, shoes, and tights, though they branched out into skating apparel when Michelle Kwan and Tara Lipinski took the skating craze to new heights.  They still sell footed and over-the-boot skate tights, but don't seem to offer as many skating practice costumes as they have in previous years.

Pros:  These tights come in two colors (nude and suntan) and four sizes for adults and children.  Most dance stores stock Capezio brand tights, so these are often easy to find.  They also seem to be slightly more resistant to runs, but they do tend to get holes easily if a skater falls.

Cons:  Although there are two colors available, the nude usually looks too pale, and the suntan too red.  The opening for the boot is massively large, and the material usually feels stiff and somewhat scratchy.  I don't think the legs are as stretchy as other brands, so you would want to go a size up for length, but this would exacerbate the big-foot problem.  I had someone give me several pairs of these tights for free because they tried them and did not like them.  I wore them once.  I don't even like to use them for practice.  Probably my least favorite tight.





Boddy Wrappers

These are (as far as I am aware) a fairly new tight in the skating world.  I can only assume they are going to try and fill the void left by Danskin.  I recently just got a pair to try for experimental purposes.  The Body Wrappers brand seems fairly popular with the dance crowd, so I am hoping that their skate tights will be equally amazing.

Pros:  The brand is, in general, highly recommended by dancers.  The tights have been described as soft, warm, durable, and comfortable.  My first impression is that these tights have the most comfortable waistband ever.  The tights themselves are soft, but perhaps just slightly on the thin side, especially for skate tights.  For competition one should probably consider wearing 2 layers of tights.  They come in over-the-boot and footed varieties, but the company also makes a footless dance tight that can be used as well, though it is very thin.  I really like the footless tights to wear under a second pair in competition because they add warmth without adding too much bulk.  Also, these tights are made in the USA, so huzzah for supporting the garment district and local manufacturing.

Cons:  At the moment these tights only come in one color - Jazzy Tan - which, if you are pasty white like me, should be ok (actually a great color for my fairly pale skin tone), but won't look good on people with darker skin.  The thin-ness of these tights might be considered a negative.  Also, these tights only come in two sizes for children and two sizes for adults.  These tights come with the hooks pre-attached, but for a roller skater the hooks are very difficult to attach together and the front hook is far too back on the tights to be practical.  I am going to have to adjust these hooks before I wear the tights, as it is already apparent that these tights won't stay down around the boots without the hooks to help hold them in place.  I haven't worn/tested them yet, so no word on durability - I shall have to give an update at some point.  They are difficult to find (mostly, I assume, due to their new-ness) but I found a source at SkateBuys.  I am hoping that these will be my new replacement for Danskins, but as with most things you can't really know until you try.


U.S. Icewear

This is an independent company that sells skating apparel and has their own line of skate tights.

Pros: These tights are soft, comfortable, and very durable.    I have taken some hard falls on fresh plastic that would have shredded any other brand, but these held up with only some mild fuzziness on the knee and a very minor run where my dance partner kicked my skate.  I think these tights have a higher lycra content than most, which adds considerably to their flexibility and comfort.  They come in footed and over-the-boot varieties in four sizes for children and four sized for adults.  The over-the-boot style comes with pre-attached snaps.  Usually I hook the front snaps but not the back ones and I don't have a problem with the tights riding up.

Cons:  Because these tights are made by an independent company, you can't easily find them in a store - you can only buy them online (or at skating competitions if the company is there).  They only come in one color  - it is a bit too brown to match fair skin, but too light to match dark skin.  By aiming for a middle-of-the-road color it essentially matches no one and thus can look a little funky, especially in the lighting of the rinks and auditoriums where competitions take place.  Also, the legs are so stretchy that the waistband seems slightly too small and restrictive by comparison.  These will probably end up being my favorite brand of practice tights, mainly due to the softness, warmth, and durability, but the color will prevent me from using them in competition unless I run out of other options.


Rainbo

This is another skate company that decided to make its own brand of tights.  I don't have any personal experience with these tights, so I can't make a full assessment, but I did want to mention them since the option is out there.

Pros:  These look to be fairly thick skating tights, and there are many favorable reviews.  They come in four adult and five child sizes in over-the-boot and footed.  The over-the-boot have pre-sewn snaps, and  the company claims they have been specially designed to easily fit over the skating boot.  These tights are also made in the USA.

Cons:  Again, it might be difficult to find these tights other than over the internet.  I don't have any personal experience, so I can't say how well these hold up, or speak to how natural the color is.  There is only one color available and it is difficult to determine how it will look on various skin tones based on the pictures available.


Modelini

This is a brand of tights that isn't widely available, though I often see them sold at skating competitions. The only time I see them being worn is when skaters forget to bring tights to said skating competitions. I forgot tights once (early in my skating career) and bought a pair.  They were unbelievably thin and literally shredded as I put them on.  Luckily, my mom was able to bring my normal tights and I had time to change before I actually competed.  I don't know if anyone would ever encounter this brand, but if you should I wouldn't recommend it.


Bloch

Bloch is a dance wear company that used to also make skating tights.  These are no longer produced and were really too thin for skating, but I do sometimes use the Bloch Adaptatoe or footless tights as a secondary pair under my normal tights (especially during cold winter competitions).  These tights do not run very easily, come in many colors, and are thin enough to wear under another pair of tights while still being thick enough to provide added warmth.  The only downside is that the waistband is very very small - mine ripped the first time I put them on, but despite this the tights themselves did not run.  At this point the waist band is mostly separated (I know, I know, I should just sew it back on) but the tights have held up well for over two years of competitions.


So, there you have it - my exhaustive knowledge of skate tights.  I have been lucky that I have had a nice stockpile of Danskin tights to draw from, but I have been slowly branching out now that the need to search for a replacement has arisen.  It seems that if you have fair skin, are fairly thin, and somewhat short, you have a lot of options for brands and styles.  Otherwise you might be locked into one brand because of size or color limitations.  To be fair, these companies need to produce products that will sell to the most people, but I often wish there were larger sizes or more colors available.  Many people suggest buying a size up to prevent runs and other damage, but when you are topping out the size charts like I am, there isn't really a way to do that.  At least I have a wide variety of color options, but for skaters with darker skin there aren't as many brands available.  Also, it has become very difficult to find black, white or other over the boot colors for precision and synchro teams and more dramatic costuming.

So fellow skaters - which brand of tights do you like or not like?  Do you use the same brand for practice and competition, or different ones?  Do you have problems finding tights to match your skin tone or size?  Do you stockpile tights like I do, or did the fall of Danskin leave you feeling like you were caught in the middle of an apocalypse?  Does anyone have any experience with Body Wrappers or Rainbo?  Discuss!

Monday, June 18, 2012

New Patterns Announced: Simplicity AND McCall's!

So I hadn't been checking the pattern websites for a few days, and apparently that is when they decided to put out their new patterns!  McCall's and Simplicity both have new patterns out, so I figure I will start with McCall's.

Most of the McCall's patterns seem to be part of their new "Fashion Star" line - mostly easy to sew dresses and a jacket.  They are ok, but nothing that I am overly excited about:

M6602 - Fashion Star Sheath Dress

M6611 - Fashion Star Jacket
There are lots of large baggy tops, and kids and crafts items too.  None worth showing.  There are only three patterns I am actually interested in this time around:

M6629 - I am always a sucker for costumes.

M6610 - Do I need another jeans pattern?  Probably not.
Will I get it anyway?  Maybe.

M6604 - Cowl neck for wovens!

I think it looks kinda cute in the plaid - I will probably get this pattern at least.
Overall not the most exciting pattern release.  I might get a few of these patterns, but nothing I am dying to make up right away.

On to Simplicity.  Overall this selection was pretty much a snoozefest as well.  There were some Project Runway patterns...

S1781 - I have a pile of Burda jackets I love more than this,
but this PR pattern was more interesting than their sack dress.
A Cynthia Rowley...

S1783 - I sort of like the shirts a little bit.
And a semi-interesting dress pattern...

S1778 - Meh.  Is ok.
Oh, and then there was this 1940s Retro release:

S1777 - Pretty!
Ok, so maybe there is really only one pattern in this group that I am interested in, but it is a pretty awesome pattern!

So, overall, not much to get excited over, but I will be wanting to get at least a few of these patterns at an upcoming sales.  What do you all think?  Did I miss anything?  Any of these catch your fancy?  Are you into the 1940s retro dress or no?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Sew Naughty - A Sewing Challenge Item Completed!

Ok you guys - confession time.  Yesterday I sewed.  For myself.  Not one of the five practice outfits I need to make in the next week, but some nice summery linen pants!  After the past two weeks where I have nearly killed myself with a few all-nighters trying to get stuff done for people who haven't shown up to practice for two whole weeks (not at all annoyed by this, can you tell?) and having absolutely no desire to sew a bunch of practice outfits for myself, I decided I might as well whip up something quickly to give the sewing mojo a kick in the butt.

Sewing mojo has been given a swift kick in the pants.  And now I have some.


I think it helped.

Loves me some pockets.

Note to the world: I wouldn't ever wear a shirt tucked into these pants
except to show you my amazingly well executed elastic waistband.
Note to self: Take pictures of waistbands before pigging out on Chinese food.

Even more awesome than my pants is the fact that I already used this pattern, so no tracing, no fitting, just cut the fabric and go.  My original pattern review can be read here.  Basically the review is pretty much still accurate.  The only changes I made this time around were to add the same seam allowance to the waistband as the rest of the pattern pieces so I could use the correct size of elastic.  Now that I am more accustomed to Burdaisms, I realized that if the pattern tells you to cut your own piece and doesn't specify that seam allowances have been added, they haven't been added.  I also used my serger to finish all the edges before I sewed the pants together because the fabric had a slight tendency to fray.  The fabric is a medium-weight linen from fabric.com.  It has a nice fluid drape for its weight, it was a joy to sew with, and I am pretty pleased with the overall results.

Also, an amusing anecdote for all you linen lovers out there:

Me: Look Mommy I made pants!

Mom: They are wrinkly.

Me:  They are linen!

Mom: *blink* *blink*  They are still wrinkly.

Me:  *deflated sigh* Yeah, linen does that.

So, yay, pants!  Totally worth the three hours it took to make them.  I am hoping these will be nice, lightweight, go-to pants for the duration of summer.  Oh, and they are part of my year-long Sewing Challenge too!  They are half of my "Sweatsuit Alternative" item.  I still need to make a top to go with them, but at least I made some progress on my sewing challenge this month.

Sigh.  Ok.  Back to the spandex.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Dance Skating - The Tango Delanco

This post brings us to the final dance coverage for the World Class Levels of the 2012 skating season - the Tango Delanco.  This is a brand new dance, being used for the first time in competition this year.  The dance was written and proposed (with trial demonstrations) in 2009, with minor adjustments being made and the final version approved for competition this year.  This dance is written specifically for international roller skating, so there is only one variation.  It is skated to 104bpm, and it is one of the most complex dances in artistic roller skating.

The dance description (lacking the diagram) can be found here.

Here is an instructional video:


There aren't a lot of examples as this is the first year this dance is being competed.  However, it looks like a lovely, intricate, and technically complex dance and should be most exciting to watch at the regional, national, and world championships.  If I can find more video examples I will add them to this page at a later time.

UPDATE 4/26/13:

Found a video from the 2012 World Championships in New Zealand.  The first dance is the Viennese Waltz, but you can skip ahead to about 1:20 on the video to see the Tango Delanco.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sewing Update

Sewing, I have been doing some!  Actually, a lot!  But, sadly, it has been almost all for other people...  So no pictures (I feel awkward showing pictures of things I make for non-family people because (1) I don't necessarily want them to know about the Blog and (2) I don't want them to feel weird about me posting their clothes to the internet).  But I thought I would give an update on where sewing things are and what is up for the next few weeks as we head into regional time for skating.

So far, I have finished:

(1) The Team Dance outfits - this includes a man's jacket and a dress for myself.  We have already worn them in one competition and I think they have turned out fairly well.  I didn't sleep the entire week leading up to the contest so I could finish them in time (like, the day before, barely).  I will post pictures after regionals.

(2) My solo dance dress.  I also wore this at a contest and everyone said it looked very nice on the floor.  I had to do some maintenance fixes (one of the sew-on beads had a sharp edge and was cutting through the thread that it was sewn on with), but overall I am pleased with the result.

(3) Two of the Six club uniforms for official practice days at regionals and nationals.  I have two more that are mostly finished (they need to be fitted for skirts) and two more that need to get cut out (the club ran out of fabric and so I just got more to finish them).  These need to get done in the next week or so.  (Side rant about the club outfits - we were told we could use any design we wanted but had to use the chosen fabrics, which, in my not so humble opinion, do NOT look good together.  I had to work really hard to find the motivation to work on these.  I had to pretend that it was a Project Runway challenge where you pick three random fabrics out of a hat and somehow have to make them look good enough together to not get your butt booted off the show.  It is very much a Tim Gunn Make-It-Work Moment. Somewhere in the middle of my sewing all-nighter which was only necessary because they ran out of fabric and by the time they got more I needed to fit people the next day who didn't even show up, I actually started to think my outfits looked kinda cute.  I can't decide if they actually aren't that bad, I am just a genius who came up with such a brilliant design that I can make anything look good, or my extended proximity to these outfits is making me lose my taste.  If I start making scarf shorts and sack dresses I am going to blame these club outfits as the reason.)

(4) Lots of skating practice shirts for guys.  I think I am up to 7 so far?  Not including the club outfits.  Jalie 2802 has proven to be a very solid investment for a pattern.  I might be making one or two more over the course of the summer.

I am still working on:

(1) My figure dress.  It was the first one I finished sewing.  Yet the last one I am going to stone.  Luckily it won't be using as many stones as the dance dresses.  I just have to sew a lot of them on...

(2) The dance dress for my client.  It is actually mostly done, just have to finish adding rhinestones to the top of the dress and the sleeve.

(3) The club outfits - four more to finish (two are mostly done).  I might want to add rhinestones to mine, but I don't know if I will have time.

(4) More practice dresses for me, so I can match my dance partner at practice.  I have three cut out, and another one I want to cut out this week.  I don't know if I can finish them all before we leave for regionals, but it is my goal.

And, I really want to finish all of this so I can make myself a Fourth of July dress with my recent cotton purchase...

So, I have been doing lots of sewing.  Just don't have a lot of pictures I can post on the blog.  And I can't even begin to describe how much I want to sew something without lycra in it.  Just. A. Few. Weeks. More.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Skating Equipment: Let's Talk Bearings

Since my sewing has been completely focused on skating costumes for others recently, I have very little to show, I thought I would continue my Skate Equipment review series so that I at least have *something* to talk about.  My plan is to do a weekly skate-part review post until I have covered a majority of the skating equipment in reasonable depth.  Last week I talked about wheels, so today's post is the natural progression from there - today I will be talking about skate bearings.

*Disclaimer* I want to state that all of my reviews are opinions formed based on personal experience and are not meant to be an ultimate guide or reflect negatively on any of the companies or products I am discussing.  I am only offering my opinions in the hope that someone might find my comments useful or offer their own suggestions in the comment section.  Everything I have tested I have borrowed or bought myself - no sponsorships or anything like that.  Like buying a high-end sewing machine, skate equipment needs to feel right to a skater, and what I like might not be the best for someone else.  However, I have been skating a long time on a lot of different equipment, so I feel like I do have something valid to contribute to the discussion.

Like wheels, there are a number of different companies that sell skate bearings, and every skater seems to have their own preferences.  I will admit up front I have a rather biased opinion and a very specific preference for bearings, so you may want to take my reviews with a grain of salt, although I will point out that I have come to my conclusions after many years of skating, so they weren't come to randomly or without experience.

Skate bearings are comprised of ball bearings inside of a casing, usually with a protective cover of some sort.  They come in 7mm and 8mm sizes - the 7mm size is most often used for artistic skates, where the 8mm bearings are used for skateboards and outdoor skates.  You need two bearings for each skate wheel - a total of 16 bearings for one set of skates.  Most bearings are given an ABEC rating, and many people assume a higher rating indicates a better skate bearing, which is not necessarily the case.  The ABEC rating deals with Tolerances, but won't indicate how smooth a bearing rolls, or how long it rolls bearing weight.  Like durometers in wheels - ABEC ratings won't necessarily help you pick a better bearing or choose the best bearing between different brands.  It is better to test the bearings and decide for yourself.

Bearings, unlike skate wheels, can have a much longer lifespan if they are properly cared for and maintained.  Skate wheels round, flat, wear down, and have to be replaced.  If a skate bearing is cleaned (with acetone or alcohol), dried quickly (so as not to rust), and properly lubricated (ah, the debate over bearing lubricant is vast and varied - people have been known to use everything from WD40 to rifle lubricant to brand-name bearing lubes) then they can, in theory, last many, many years.  Some people clean their bearings as often as every two weeks.  I have to admit, I am very bad about cleaning my bearings, and whenever anyone else has cleaned them I notice a very sharp decrease in performance, even when compared to the dirty un-cleaned state.  I recently acquired some Bones Speed cream lubricant and the Bones cleaning bottle system, and I plan to experiment with bearing cleaning in the near future.  If/when I get around to it I shall do a how-to review post at that time.  At this point when my bearings get old, I tend to replace them, but I am thinking/hoping that if I am a bit more proactive about my cleanings I can be a bit more cost-effective with my bearing habits in the future.

So, with that being said, let's look at the options:


Bones

I will come out and say that, without a doubt, Bones bearings are the best skate bearings available today, by far.  I have been skating on Bones almost since I started, and any time I try anything else I am disappointed.  For years I skated on the classic Swiss Bones, but lately I have fallen in love with the newer Swiss Bones Labyrinth bearings, which have an extra protective shield to keep out dust and dirt.  You can see a full list of their product line here.  All of these bearings are made in the larger 8mm size for skate boarders, but most are also made in the 7mm size for roller skaters.  I have tried the Bones Swiss (fabulous), the Bones Swiss Labyrinth (even more fabulous), and the Bones Reds.  I will say that a few years ago I tried some of the Bones Reds (these are made in China as opposed to the higher priced Swiss bearings which are, clearly, made in Switzerland) and I was not impressed.  Recently I was able to try a newer set of Reds and they were AMAZING.  Very fast, very smooth.  I think there have been some improvements made to the Reds line, and I would be confident in recommending these bearings as well as the Swiss bearings, though I will say that I do not have a good sense of how long the Reds last in comparison to the Swiss bearings. I have been known to wear the Swiss bearings for several years (at least in my figure skates) without a cleaning.  They last forever - and the newer Labyrinth ones last even longer.  I have been using some Labyrinth bearings for nearly a year, and they are just as silent as the day I put them on.  Truly, I cannot say enough good things about these bearings.  I will say I had the opportunity (once) to test out another skater's set of ceramic bearings.  They were nice, but I did not notice a drastic enough difference from my regular Bones Swiss to justify the extra expense (the ceramics are 2-3 times more expensive than the steel bearings).  You can read about why the company shuns ABEC ratings here, and about how they have developed their products over the years here.

Pros:  Excellent bearings, simply the best.  They roll smoothly and fast right out of the box, they last a long time, and they are available at many price points (you can get Reds for about $40, Swiss around $75, while the ceramics are over $200).  The company is dedicated to making great skate parts, and I have been extremely satisfied with the quality and consistency of their products.

Cons:  Many people will complain about the price of the Swiss bearings, but I really feel that you get what you pay for - I haven't found another bearing that rolls as smooth or lasts as long as the Swiss.  If the price is such an issue you can always go with the lower priced Reds.  Also, I have heard that some freestyle skaters damage the bearings from falling so often or landing jumps with so much force.  However, I think that other bearings would also have similar problems dealing with these stresses, and I would definitely NOT recommend ceramic bearings to freestyle skaters because of this.  These problems might also be lessened by rotating the bearings (or wheels) more frequently so that the stress or landing is not placed so heavily on the same bearings over a long period of time.  Figure and dance skaters do not have these problems because they are not constantly applying forces at weird angles to the bearings.  Also, I have noticed that many people don't list the bearing size (7mm vs. 8mm) when selling these on the internet.  You have to be very careful about what you are buying in terms of size, style, and quantity to make sure you get what you want.  Also, it can be difficult to get some of the varieties from the local skate shops - the standard Swiss and Reds seems to be in stock often, but I haven't had much luck getting the Labyrinths anywhere but the internet, and most people look at me like I am crazy when I start raving about them.


Qube

Qube bearings are the other big name is skate bearings.  I know several people who have been using them for the past few years and seem to like them, although I thought they felt slow compared to my (old and dirty) Bones Swiss.  I have (briefly) tried a set of the ceramics and 8-balls, and did not notice a discernable difference between these bearings, although I thought both were slower than the Bones Swiss.  Overall I was not impressed, though I have heard that these bearings do tend to last for a long period of time.

Pros:  Cheap.  You can get a set of the lower end (Juicy) bearings for about $25 and a set of ceramics for a little over $100 (half the cost of the Bones).  And I have heard that these bearings last a long time and are easy to clean.  They are also fairly easy to find on the internet and at skate rinks and are usually labeled with the size to make for easy ordering.

Cons: Not as fast as Bones.  I think that is my complaint about every bearing company that isn't Bones.  Also, apparently some of these come packed in grease, instead of coming pre-lubricated.  You might not be able to use these bearings right out of the box, and instead have to clean and lubricate them before a first use.  I am lazy and spoiled, and this seems like too much work when I compare it to using Bones bearings which come ready to work.






Other Bearings

Fafnir:  Fafnir is a German company that still makes bearings, but they no longer make skate-specific bearings.  When people gush about Fafnirs they are usually referring to bearings from the 70s and 80s that were the ultimate in skating parts.  Some people still have a set that over 30 years old but is well maintained and they claim it is faster and better than anything on the market today.  Pros: This is apparently the best skate bearing that ever existed.  Cons: They are no longer produced, you can't buy them, and anyone who has a set isn't willing to sell them.  I have seen some, but never used any.  They are spoken of in reverent hushed tones, as one would discuss a much-missed deceased relative.

Roll Line:  Roll Line has their own set of bearings (the Carbon J) and used to have another set called the "Micro Mini" bearings.  I have tried both and liked neither.  They felt incredibly slow and not as smooth as the Bones or even Qube bearings.  Pros: You can get them from the Roll Line rep and they don't have a shield, which prevents damage to the shield and problems with the bearings.  Cons: The shields prevent dirt from getting into the bearings and messing up the ball's motion, so, in general, I would think not having shields would be a bad thing (at least on the super dusty floors I skate on).  Also, for $75 you might as well get a set of Bones Swiss.

Komplex:  The Komplex wheel company has also been selling Komplex bearings.  I was able to try some, and, while I found them to be slightly better than the Roll Line bearings and comprable to the Qubes, they still don't hold a candle to the Bones bearings, and at the same price I see no reason to not go with the Bones.


Others:  There are various other bearing companies (such as Bevo, Kwik, BSB, etc) that offer bearings at various price points.  I haven't tried them, and I don't know anyone who uses them.  I do know someone who buys industrial bearings for $1 each and uses them in their freestyle skates because they seem to take a beating better than the Bones bearings.  I have a set of these and while they are fine (better than the Qube bearings even) they don't have the roll one would want in a dance or figure wheel.  Also, because this is one of those things where "I know a guy who knows a guy" I can't really point you in a specific direction because I don't know the brand or where he gets them.  I just know I have a set and I like to use them for resistance training because they are slow but not too slow.


So, there you have it - my take on skate bearings.  Clearly, you will have to pry my Bones out of my cold dead fingers before I will willingly make a switch to another brand, and even then I would be more willing to clean my old bearings than try to find acceptable new ones.  Do any of the skaters out there have a preference?  Are you all Bones junkies as well, or do you like to roll on Qubes or something else?  Are you vigilant in your bearing cleaning practices, or do you (like me) use your bearings as they came out of the package until they stop rolling?  Do you still swear by your Fafnirs?  Feel free to discuss in the comments!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

It followed me home...

Ok, so I went to Joann Fabrics to get the latest Butterick patterns on sale:

They had all the patterns I wanted!
It probably helped that they forgot to put the $1.99 sale sign out...

But I made the mistake of stopping at the good Joann's (yes, there is a good one - they have way more decent garment fabric than any other Joann Fabrics in the area, though they are also the most inconvenient to get to) and they had a lot of great summer fabrics - lots of really nice garment quality cottons and linen blends...  But I did well.  I was able to resist.  At least, until I saw:

My new cotton print!
Ok, with that halter dress pattern in the upcoming July Burda on my mind (and I had already decided I wanted to do some sort of red/white/blue patriotic thing) I just couldn't pass up this fabric.  Especially not when it was on sale.  So, I have fabric for a summer dress.  Of course, I don't know if I will have time to actually sew it together before July 4th, but well, if not for this year, then next year.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Burda July Update - I Jumped the Gun!

Ok, so yesterday I posted when the German website put up the full preview of the garment images, but today Russian Burda has put up a full preview of all the magazine images!  Awesome!

The model photos don't really do anything to change my opinion of what is in this issue, BUT it appears German Burda left one thing out...

OMG so cute!
Ok, I love this dress.  Usually I am a bit leery of broad stripes outlining the boobage area, but here I don't mind it so much.  This dress would be perfect for summer - cute design, open at the top for the days of humidity and 100+ temps (oh they are a coming), and apparently it is a "vintage" pattern to boot.  This dress could be cute in a print or in solids, and right now I am picturing a blue dress with white contrast (and maybe a red ribbon sewn over the white contrast) for a fun but not over the top summer holiday look.  I like it a lot better than the halter dress from last year's June issue, and this one might just go into my must make list.

I would like to formally change my decision for the Best of BS for July to this vintage pattern, as I feel it really fits well into a July/summer wardrobe, better than the other options I was considering and ultimately chose in my previous post.

So, while one pattern might not make up for the rest of the duds in this issue, it at least helps me feel like I will make something from July.  Eventually.  At some point.  When I get back to normal sewing.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Pattern Sales - Butterick

Jo-Ann will be having a $1.99 Butterick pattern sale Thursday June 7 - Saturday June 9.  A good time to grab the latest patterns!

Newsflash: July Burda Full Preview Posted!

The German Burda website has posted the full preview of the garment images and line drawings for July. Overall I have to say this is my least favorite issue this year so far.  There really aren't any fabulously tailored pieces, and even their easy resort-wear is sort of a joke - let's make things out of scarves?  Really?  I like instant gratification, but I also like my clothes to have some fit and shape to them as well.  And I suppose I can, theoretically, appreciate their take on 1920s and 1930s fashions, but in reality they are just presenting us with even more sack dresses that won't look good on anyone who isn't a model.  So, with that said let's see the damage...

First the flapper color blocked dresses:

Why are the buttons there? Why?

Cleverly trying to use a yellow sash to distract from the fact that this is a rectangle.
Clever, but not cleaver enough Burda.

Makes me want to sail the seven seas...
Ok, actually this *is* sort of cute, if you ignore the fact that it looks like it has been
in a moldy trunk since the 1930s, but I would probably only wear it as a costume.

Then there is the minimal effort creations:

Did we even need a pattern for this?  Really?

My crotch is exploding!

Ok, this shirt *is* sort of cool, and a nice idea for fabric with square blocks on it.
That still doesn't mean Burda gets a pass for the most basic shirt design ever.

Well, ok, at least the scarf shirt has better drape than this one.


If you pull your patterns from the Burda Plus section you are in luck this month:

A cute wrap top with coverage and style...

I love the shape and details of this skirt.

I love it even more without that print distracting me.

Classy, modern, and sophisticated.
Appropriate for a hot date and for work.
Applause.

And, well, it took some effort, but I did find a few things I actually liked:

I don't know *why* I like this shirt so much, I just do.
I think it is the texture of the fabric?
Maybe I just like the fabric.

I have a thing for swooshy summer dresses.
I don't wear them necessarily, but I like them.
Even if they are made of scarf squares like this one.
I think this could be my pattern for making Xanadu costumes.  Heh.

My favorite of the 1920s inspired patterns.

Still my favorite regular sized pattern.

Here's the line drawing.

There are, of course, lots of other patterns for you to look through, but I thought they were really too boring to mention.  I mean, they are fine, and you shouldn't be hurting for summer shirt patterns ever again, but nothing terribly exciting.  Which means we have reached the awards section of the post - time to crown the best and worst patterns of the month.

I had a bit of a debate over which dress to give the award to.  I mean, there are a lot that I liked, but none that were far and away fabulously spectacular.  And though I have been liking the navy dress since the early previews went up, in the end I think I am going to have to give the Best of BS July award to:

The classy green plus sized dress!
After looking at the garment photos and line drawings, this dress really did stand out as being the best.

The worst pattern also had stiff competition (stiff - because those cotton shirts have no drape!  Haha!) but in the end it was also rather obvious that BWTF Award for July should go to:

The "I had a strip of fabric and now I have a shirt" tie-top pattern.  Seriously?
Though those shorts are really bad too.

So, there we have it.  Not a very exciting issue, or, at least not exciting in a good way.  With half the patterns being so blah as to not worth a mention and the other patterns being almost too costume-like (or too ugly) to be wearable, I won't be anxiously awaiting the arrival of this magazine.  If you use the Burda Plus section you should be excited though, because you are getting some awesome patterns.

So tell me - what is your opinion of the magazine?  Good, bad, or so boring as to not be worth your time and attention?  What are your picks for best and worst pattern?  Did I miss anything good that should re-form my opinion of this issue?

*UPDATE*  After writing this post, the Russian website put up a full preview (how much do I love this new website format?  Oh, so much!) and I have decided to change the Best of BS pattern for July to the Vintage Dress Pattern that wasn't shown on the German Previews:

New Best of BS July
You can read about my reasoning for this switch here, and, as always feel free to debate in the comments.