Saturday, August 31, 2013

Book Reviews: The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man's Fear

Ok, I feel a bit bad about taking so long to post this review - I finished this book back in the beginning of March.  And I loved it so much that I read the thousand page sequel in just under a week!  I have just been so danged busy that I have been rather neglectful of my bloggerly duties.  Expect a few more book reviews to come out in the next few weeks you guys.  Oh, and I still owe you some pattern reviews too.  And photos of my finished skating costumes.  Yeah... behind doesn't even begin to cover it.  So in that case let's get to it - first a book review for The Name of the Wind Day One of the Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss.

The Name of the Wind is the first book in Patrick Rothfuss's yet unfinished trilogy, The Kingkiller Chronicles.  It presents the life story of Kvothe told in a first-person narrative style.  The premise is that Kvothe is cajoled into dictating his life's story to the kingdom's record keeper, known as Chronicler.  He agrees to do so in a three-day span, and each book of the trilogy is comprised of the events and records Chronicler takes that day.  As The Name of the Wind is the first book in the trilogy, it starts the story of Kvothe when he is a young boy living with his family of traveling performers (known in this world as the Edema Ruh).  Of course, as is often the case in fantasy, tragedy strikes and Kvothe finds himself alone in the wide world.  The first book follows Kvothe as he comes to terms with his family's murder, and eventually finds himself at the University, studying to be an Archanist (the magical-ish professions in this world).  Kvothe finds friends, makes enemies, and attempts to woo the love of his life (in an awkward teenage boy sort of way) throughout the remainder of this story.

What I love about this book is how well developed a character Kvothe is.  Since this is told in first person perspective the story wouldn't work at all without his being a relatable and interesting person.  He tells his story in an elaborate, proud, and almost bombastic sort of way, but then his Edema Ruh heritage makes any other telling seem inappropriate.  He has diverse interests (music, studying at the university, and generally getting into trouble as teenage boys are wont to do), which I very much appreciate as I feel it rounds out his character.  It also makes him very relatable, especially to those of us who try to balance professions and hobbies (as someone who skates, sews, and has assorted nerdy interests I totally understand when he gets grumpy about lacking time to practice his lute)   Of course, that whole spending eight years studying at universities might have something to do with my ability to relate to his character as well - I feel that Rothfuss is brilliant at capturing the University lifestyle.

Overall I found that the first book was a fantastically fun read and I loved the way this story was told.  The writing itself is wonderful and the flow of this book is fantastic.  Once Kvothe started the telling of his story I was completely hooked and knew that Rothfuss would be a permanent addition to my list of favorite authors.  I started the second book almost immediately after finishing the first and I have to stay that this is definitely among my favorite fantasy stories that I have read so far.  Highly recommended.

After finishing the first book I jumped right into the second book of the series, The Wise Man's Fear.

This book continues the story of Kvothe, as he pursues his studies at the University and continues to look for answers to the mystery behind his family's murder.  In this book Kvothe takes an extended leave of absence from the University after getting in to trouble one too many times.  He continues to chase the love of his life (with mixed results), and also grows and develops as a character.  He develops foreign contacts, and learns to deal with the complexities of politics, and also the arts of fighting and romance.

All in all I have to say that while I very much enjoyed this book, I didn't find it to be quite as good as the first part of the story.  Unfortunately, in the first book, Kvothe lists all of the fantastic and crazy things he has done with his life, though very few of them actually occur by the end of Day One.  Which means that they have to get covered in the second and third parts of the story.  I felt as though the first half of this book followed rather logically and organically from the end of the first book.  While I wasn't happy about Kvothe adventuring away from the University (I like those characters and the stories that revolve around his time there), I realized that he wouldn't be able to become the man he ends up as without adventuring through the wider world.  I didn't mind his dealings in court politics as a bard (it followed logically from his musical talents), and I suppose I didn't even mind his being sent away from the court by his patron.  However, it was what followed afterwards that seemed a bit tacked on.  The rest of this review might get a bit spoilery, but then Kvothe tells you everything he does at the beginning of the first book, so maybe this doesn't spoil too much.  I found I was really enjoying this book until Kvothe finds himself entrapped by the Fae Felurian, an Aphrodite-esque creature who spends a great deal of time teaching Kvothe the finer arts of lovemaking.  Apparently the presence of sex cause quite an uproar from many of the fans of this series.  Now, I am not opposed to the copious amounts of sex that happen at this point in the story.  What I am not a fan of is that the story itself almost stops cold.  There are a few important, almost critical, events that happen while Kvothe is trapped in the world of Felurian, but it takes so danged long to actually get to them, with little of substance happening in between.  And I understand that we as the readers are also supposed to feel trapped, as Kvothe is, but it doesn't make this section any more interesting to read.  And compared to the rest of the writing it feels so tacked on and out of place.  It is difficult to say how it could have been improved (I mean he is trapped in a faery world, so it should feel different, but it is just so danged slooooooooooow), but I wouldn't have minded this section being a lot shorter.  After this, Kvothe travels to a rarely-visited society and learns the art of fighting.  While this section of the story is much more interesting than the Felurian bit, it continues to feel like there are a bunch of segments of this story that needed to be tacked on and fit in before we get to the final installment.  Kvothe ends this portion of his story by returning to the University, and I have to say that that was a welcomed devlopement.

To be completely fair, I really did enjoy reading this book.  I mean, I pounded through the thousand-plus pages in just under a week.  The writing itself is absolutely fantastic, and I loved the craftmasnship, even during the slow parts.  However, I don't think this story was quite as tight or as enjoyable as the first book.  I know some people were displeased with the copious amounts of sex in this book (though there were a lot of these scenes, I thought they were tastefully done; my complaint isn't with how they were written or that they were included - I just felt that they unnecessarily slowed down the story more than they needed to).  I also felt like sections of the story felt like a bunch of isolated incidents that were crammed in and strung together because they were mentioned in the beginning of the first book, rather than because they organically flowed from one tale to the next.  However, I do think that many of the developments that occurred in this portion of the story set everything up for a fantastic ending.  There are a lot of things that have been hinted at, and there are still plenty of mysteries to be solved, so I expect the last day of the Chronicles to be a good read.  This will definitely be a book to jump to the top of the queue once it is released, and I, like the many other fans of this series, will be waiting anxiously in the meantime.

Overall I have to say that this is a fantastic series, and I highly recommend it.  It does contain adult themes (especially in the second book), so I don't know if I would recommend it for younger readers (I think high school and up would be appropriate, maybe a bit older if you are concerned about the sex scenes, and there is also quite a bit of violence in the second book as well), and I think having a more mature view of life helps to make some of Kvothe's actions understandable, even if you don't necessarily agree with them.  Though there were sections of this story that I wasn't necessarily a fan of, this is definitely one of the best fantasy series I have ever read, especially the quality of the writing, so I highly recommend it to everyone, even if you aren't necessarily a fan of the fantasy genre.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Pattern Review: BS-02-2013-114

First I want to thank everyone for the encouraging comments on my Butterick dress post!  I don't hate my dress, I am just not as excited with it as I would like to be, and so I think my tone was a bit more dour than I intended in the post.  I also think it is one of those magical pieces that somehow photographs really well, when in real life it is a bit less flattering.  There are elements of that dress I really like, but some of the finishing isn't as nice I expect from my sewing at this point.  Ah well.  Learn from it and on to the next.

So I know we are heading into prime fall sewing time, but I completely missed out on sewing for spring and summer!  So right now I feel like I am playing catch-up, and pretending like summer really isn't almost gone.  In that spirit I have been doing a lot of easy sewing lately - skirts, tank tops, and knit dresses.  In fact, the sewing has been so quick and fast that I am already quite backlogged on the blogging!  In any case, I shall try to get caught up as best I can, and hopefully you all won't get too bored looking at easy summer clothes for the next few weeks.  Also, apparently I am really into bright crazy prints right now.  Not something I usually go for, but, well, it has been kind of fun to sew something different.  In any case, the first pattern in my wild summer sewing series is from the February 2013 Burda Magazine:


I wasn't originally planning to make this dress, but after nationals I desperately needed to clean my sewing space.  Which led to me re-organizing my stash.  And thinking about all the fun things I could so with the cheap yet wonderful fabrics I had brought home from the Michael Levine Loft.  So when I found out about an end-of-summer concert series at a local outdoor amphitheater, I decided I wanted to make some dresses to wear.  Though, to be fair, the first day I ended up wearing jeans with my teal blazer (which, sadly, is on its last legs because the lining is fraying like there is no tomorrow) because it was pretty chilly.  Taking that into account I ended up not wearing this dress to the second evening, as I figured it would also be a bit cool, so now I need to find another reason to wear it.  Oh well, I mostly like the way it turned out, so hopefully I can find an event to wear it to in the near future.

Before the pictures, I have to provide a disclaimer: I really think this style needs a belt to look good!  In the interest of keeping it real on the blog and providing you with the most accurate pattern review, a lot of these pictures feature just the dress, but in the last shot you can see how additional styling helps the fit of this dress, and is how I would wear it in real life.

My version of the Burda dress!
The back of my dress.
Close up of the front drape.
Not the most flattering from the side view though.
Much more flattering with the use of a belt!

Here is my official pattern review:

Pattern Description:  Sleeveless waterfall front knee-length knit dress.

Pattern Sizing:  Burda sizes 36-44.  I used a size 38 at the neckline, graded out to a size 40 at the bust, and a size 44 at the hips.  I found that the back neck gaped a little bit more than I wanted (the neck is super wide because of the use of facings and no other closures) so I think I probably should have used a 36 on the back neck, but otherwise the fit was great.

Were the instructions easy to follow?  Sort of.  I did the front gather wrong, I think, because I had mine sewn into the facing, but apparently I was supposed to have it go over the front facing at the end?  By that point I wasn't interested in unpicking stitches so I just left it.  The rest of the instructions weren't too bad for Burda, though I did have to read the instructions for the front gather a few times just to make sure I was doing it (mostly) right.

Did it look like the photo/drawing when you were done with it?  Yes, I think so.  I even used a wild print like Burda did.

What did you particularly like/dislike about this pattern?  Likes: I love how the pattern comes in at the side, and I like the gathering at the bust because I think those elements are very flattering.  Dislikes:  I never really like to have facings in a knit, but I think they are important here because the front drape is so heavy.  I also don't like how the front drape poofs out (not flattering from the side view) but the use of a belt helps to control this a bit.

Fabric used:  A remnant ITY knit print I found at the Michael Levine Loft in Los Angeles.  The fabric only cost me a few dollars, so this dress was really inexpensive to make.  Unfortunately, since this was from a remnant piece, I couldn't position the pattern exactly how I wanted (there was only one way for me to fit the pattern on the fabric and have enough for the dress), but I am still pretty happy with the way it turned out.  The print is really wild compared to things I usually wear, so this is a bit of a departure for me style-wise.  As has been mentioned on the other reviews, I recommend really lightweight knit fabrics (ITY weight is perfect) because the front drape is really heavy and might pull too much if you use a thicker knit fabric).

Pattern alterations or design changes you made:  None.  As noted, next time I would probably go down a size on the back of the neck (I think the opening is drafted extra wide because with the facings, the opening doesn't really stretch at all), but otherwise the dress was great.

Would you sew this again?  Would you recommend it to others?  I don't know if I would sew it again, only because it is so unique a style, and I have a lot of patterns I want to try.  I think I would recommend it to others, since it is a fairly cute dress, but I think it helps to wear it with a belt.

Conclusion:  I like this dress.  It was a quick, easy make and I think the results are pretty cute.  Not one of my favorites of all time, but I am pleased with the results and I think it was a good use of my Loft fabric.  All in all I am happy with the results and I expect this dress to get some good wear in the future.

So there we have the start of my summer sewing.  Yes, I realize September is fast approaching, but I am ignoring that for the moment.  I have quite a few more summery pattern reviews coming shortly, including the dress I actually did wear to the concert, so stay tuned!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Newsflash: October Burda Early Preview Posted

Burda Russia has just posted the early preview of the October issue, which you can look at here.  After what I felt was a rather lackluster September, I was really hoping for a knockout issue in October.  But now that I have seen the early preview?  Well, I'm not holding my breath.  Honestly, some of this stuff makes the September issue look like Burda gold...

Burda started the preview with this photo,
and I immediately knew we were in trouble...
(It looks like it is made from bath towels and skinned teddy bears...)

Boring boxy sack dress.  Ick.

Hey, look!  It's Mara Jade!
Star Wars chic is always in fashion.

I don't know if it is possible to wear this dress as an adult and be taken seriously.

Hmmm... Didn't we already do the overexposed sitting in cars photo shoot this year?
And didn't we already have several boxy Chanel-ish style jackets this year too?
Though, to be entirely fair, the jacket isn't bad.  I just want something different.

These jeans... have potential.  Assuming, you know,
that they don't give us a pattern made of 20 million patchwork pieces.

A possibly redeeming dress pattern?
I'm waiting for the line drawings.

I never thought I would be so excited to see a pair of plain grey pants!

But if you sew from the Plus section you are in luck -
you can be heading to the office in style!
I actually think the jacket and the skirt are super cute.

 So I am sad.  The fall patterns are always my favorite, but unless there are some secret gems that Burda is keeping hidden away, there hasn't been anything I am really excited about from any of the fall Burda issues.  I suppose we always have November and December to look forward to - we need our yearly dose of evening gowns and holiday pajamas.  So - what do you all think?  Anyone actually looking forward to anything here, or are you all totally disappointed too?  Who is still holding out hope for the full preview to give us something with wow factor, and who is ready to fast forward to November?  Feel free to discuss in the comments!

Wait... Someone made a dress out of it?!?!

Ok, so you may remember my first (and thus far only) installment of "What The Fabric?" where we collectively scratch our heads over some truly terrible fabric options.

Well, it seems that someone has made a dress from it, and posted their creation to the English Burda Style website.  If you want to look at it, you can follow the link here.  You guys really have to check it out.  Words can't even begin to describe...

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Pattern Review: Butterick 5886

Ok, so this was supposed to be my birthday dress.  My birthday was well over several months ago.  So, umm, yeah.  Ooops.  The silly thing is that it remained unfinished because of a zipper insertion.  And I was on the fence about hemming it (the fabric doesn't fray and probably hangs better un-hemmed) and after having it sit about in the sewing space for so long I just kind of decided that I was over it.  I wanted to make a fancy metallic party dress using Butterick 5886 (a pattern from their spring collection - I basically started making this dress the day I bought the pattern.  Unusual for me with a Big 4 pattern.)  At first I was super excited about my dress, but it just sort of feels very 70s disco.  Which might be appropriate in some instances, but I haven't found a reason to actually wear it out yet.

Butterick 5886
Here is my disco version of this dress:

Disco Birthday Dress!
Back of the dress.  Is a bit poofy.
Also, since I was doing photos of a bunch of sewn
objects in the same day, I forgot to change my bra.
Close up of the front pleating.
Also, you can see the not so fab zipper insertion on my left side.
I think the drape of the top doesn't lend itself well to a smooth zip,
but it could also be that my fabric stretched out.
Fabric close up.  In real life it is a shiny metallic,
with a colored print and raised wavy textured pattern.

And here is my official pattern review:

Pattern Description:  Lined dress with pleated, mock-wrap top and racer-style back, with two skirt length options.  I made View A - the shorter, even hem length.

Pattern Sizing:  (6-8-10-12-14) and (14-16-18-20-22).  I used a lot of sizes on my dress - the bodice was an 8/10 (I have narrow shoulders, but need the larger size around my bust) and the skirt I graded out to a 14.  As with all BMV patterns I chose my sizes off of the finished garment sizes printed on the pattern tissue, and not on the sizes printed on the envelope so I can avoid the excessive ease that usually happens in their patterns.

Were the instructions easy to follow?  I thought the instructions were easy to follow and made sense.  I wasn't necessarily a fan of the construction order though (you can't fit the bodice as you go, so a muslin is a MUST for this pattern), and I think it makes the zipper insertion a bit odd at the end (I think my fabric stretched out a bit, so the zipper ended up sort of wavy... well that and the blousey nature of the bodice doesn't really promote a smoother zipper either).  Because of the way the neckline of the dress is constructed I can't think of a better construction order, but just know that this is a dress you won't be able to try on until you are done sewing it.

Did it look like the photo/drawing when you were done with it?  Sort of.  I made View A, and from the waist down it looks the same.  But the bodice is a bit more poofy than is indicated in the drawing.  The model photo (which is of View B) also doesn't look quite as poofy as my version, but then the model is sort of covering the bottom of the bodice with her arms.

What did you particularly like/dislike about this pattern?  Likes: I like the style of the back of the dress, and I like that this pattern includes separate pattern pieces for the lining.  Dislikes: I think the bodice is a bit more poofy than I really wanted, and I don't like that you can't really fit the dress until too far along in the construction process.  I made a muslin and was a bit worried about the style of the top.  I attempted to reduce the bodice poof a bit, and despite my apprehension I went along with the construction of the dress anyway.  I also wasn't a fan of how the zipper looked because the poof of the bodice made it difficult to get a smooth zip.

Fabric used:  Mystery metallic print (pretty sure it is some sort of polyester/nylon synthetic) that I got for a few dollars at the National City Swap Meet in San Diego, and polyester lining from my stash.  For this dress to work the main fabric needs to be really light - my metallic print was light, but I really think this dress would be better if I had used chiffon as the main fabric.

Pattern alterations or changes you made:  I made a muslin before I made the dress, so I added a bit of extra length to the bodice (a common adjustment for me), and I tried to reduce a bit of the bodice puff.  I also added a bit of extra fabric for additional bust coverage.  I might need to add a little tack right over the full bust just to keep things in place though.  Otherwise I made the pattern as drafted.

Would you sew this again?  Would you recommend it to others?  I don't know if I would sew this again.  I think I look better in clothes with a more well-defined waistline, and despite the waist seam and belt-tie I think the blousey top might not be the best look for me.  And there are plenty of other dress patterns out there for me to try.  If I did make it again I would use an even lighter chiffon as the main fabric.  I don't know if I would recommend this pattern to others - I think this pattern could look good one some body types, but I recommend making a muslin before making a version of this dress out of good fabric.

Conclusion:  Not as happy with this dress as I wanted to be.  I was super excited to make it when I bought the pattern, but somewhere between my disco fabric and the less than flattering cut of the bodice I sort of lost my interest in it.  I finished it just to get rid of a UFO, and I am having a hard time finding a reason to wear it.  I don't hate the dress, but I don't love it either.  Right now it is just something that I made.  I think this pattern has potential if you want to go with a more casual summer look in a printed chiffon, but I don't know if I like the style for a more special occasion type dress.  I also think that if you make this a muslin is an absolute must - both so you can test the fit because of the construction order, and also so you can test out the style and see if it is something for you.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Newsflash: Early Preview of Fall/Winter Burda Style Easy

The early preview of the 2013 Fall/Winter Burda Style has been posted to the Russian website, which you can check out here.  It looks like most of the Burda Style Easy previews - lots of basic tops and skirts, but I do like some of the coats in the preview.  It seems like color blocking is the main design feature in this issue.  Don't know if it there will be enough for me to buy this magazine, but I am interested to see what the rest of the designs look like.

My favorite!  Love this coat.

Not sure that I like this caped version, but it is sort of interesting.

Basic dress with draped details.
Though in my world that length qualifies it as a top.

This color blocked dress is used in several of the designs.

Not a huge fan of the color blocking on these pants.

I suppose the skirt is sort of cute?
So, what do you all think?  Are you a fan of Burda Easy?  Or are the styles too basic for you to be interested?  Feel free to discuss in the comments!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Newsflash: New Butterick Patterns Announced

Butterick has announced their latest collection of patterns - you can check them out here.  All in all I have to say this is the best Big 4 collection we have seen for fall this year.  There are a lot of cute dresses, some nice coat and jacket options, and possibly the only maternity pants pattern you will ever need.  Granted, most of the shilouettes were similar to patterns I already have (how many sheath dress patterns do I need to own...hmmm...) and most of the tops and sweaters were poofy and frumpy, so the entire collection wasn't a total win, but at least there was only one PJ pattern, and at least the new releases have some visual interest to them.  Not sure how many I will add to my collection, but at least I sat up and took notice.

Let's take a peak:

B5951 - I like this dress.  Might like the sleeveless and long sleeved versions more.

B5951 - The variation.  I am really digging this version with the full skirt the most.

B5949 - Dress with two top and two skirt variations.
The shoulder pleating is interesting, but not too much.
Not sure if I really like the way one boob looks twice as big as the other?

B5953 - A new Gertie pattern.  Love the neckline.
On the fence how I feel about the dress as a whole...
For some reason I think it would look cuter with a full circle skirt...hmm...

B5947 - Sheath dress with several options for design elements on the top.
Seems like it could be a good pattern for office clothes.

B5950 - Sha-bam!  This looks very similar to the June Burda Style dress
(I like Burda's better), but this one has a waist seam that could be useful
for dealing with fit problems.  Also, don't let the photo fool you - this is designed for knits. 

B5952 - Really basic sheath dress pattern...

...but it also includes this trench coat.  Both are very basic and similar to things I already have,
but I still like this pattern.  Good to make wardrobe staples, or to highlight amazing fabrics.

B5966 - Love this dressy coat pattern.
There are collar options that make it much more winter-appropriate as well.

B5960 - A kAthRine Tilton pattern.
I feel like this style of coat just needs a belt to not look like a bathrobe.
Very similar to a lot of the Burda patterns I already have.

B5962 - Another Gertie pattern.
I think the jacket is super cute.  The skirt is nice, but its just a circle skirt.

B5958 - Cute jacket pattern.  I like it, but again,
I think there are a lot of Burda patterns I like more.

B5965 - A Lifestyle Wardrobe pattern.
The jacket is nice, I like the top and dress, the pants and skirt are boring but fine.

B5965 - The dress might be the best part!
The top is just a short version of the dress.

B5961 - Another kAthRine Tilton pattern.
The sleeve seams on the top are quite interesting.
I could see the pants being useful too.

B5964 - The only maternity pants pattern you will ever need.
Don't believe me?  Check out these options....

Every style you could possibly want.

B5970 - A Making History pattern.  Very Mary Poppins.

B5969 - Another Making History pattern.  I think the skirt is actually quite pretty.

B5968 - This bag pattern could be useful I suppose?
Don't know how interested I am in making my own luggage.
On the other hand, it would be super easy to identify your bags at the airport!

B5940 - A See & Sew pattern.  Unfortunately most of the other patterns
were rather frumpalicious like this one.
So, what do you all think?  How does this rank in the fall lineup so far?  Have to say of the Big 4 this is definitely my favorite fall collection.  Granted, there isn't a lot here that I haven't seen before, but I do think there is a nice mix of wardrobe staples and visually interesting patterns.  What do you all think?  See anything here you really like?  Or does your pattern stash already have you covered?  Are you still bored with fall fashion, or does this inspire you to rethink your next project?  Feel free to discuss in the comments!