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Sunday, 31 March 2013

Things About Shopping in Stores I Can't Really Afford

Last weekend my Sweetheart and I went shopping in Yorkville and at Holt Renfrew and I saw lots of beautiful, wearable clothes. And at Holt's, at least, fitting alterations are included (which I think adds a lot of value and is much more common at men's stores). The clothes are expensive and it got me thinking about whether or not a budget is a good thing.

Can we talk for a minute about the 'budget'? I've been talking about my budget like it's actually a budget, which I really hadn't intended when I decided to track my spending this year.

Really I just want to be more aware of how much I was spending on clothes. In a way, I feel like a budget could be counter productive to what I'm trying to do with clothes.

Because good clothes are expensive.

What do you think? Do budgets work against you in the long run? How do you decide what you should spend on clothing or shoes? Or even what you should spend on a single garment? I think it's important to be mindful of what you can spend but at what point does that start working against you?

I think that if you're using a budget so you don't overspend, that's one thing. But it shouldn't be the only criterion for smart clothes shopping.

I read somewhere "Only rich people can afford to buy good shoes," and the disposability of most modern shoes was a subject that Elizabeth Banks wrote about, too. And I've seen this myself. A few years ago I bought my first pair of leather boots as a treat to myself when I finished paying off my student loans. I went all over and a particular pair kept catching my eye. They were about $400. I bought them anyway.

Let me tell you, I've gotten my money's worth! I'm careful not to wear them in bad weather (I have rain boots and winter boots), I keep them polished and conditioned, I bought shoe trees and I get them re-soled when then need it. I've been wearing them for years and they're still just as gorgeous, stylish and comfortable as the day I bought them. They're like an ace up my sleeve.

$400 for one pair of boots is a lot for me but the value of what I got far outweighed the cost. Would I have rather spent the same amount on 5 cheap pairs of boots? No, and not just because I think most cheap boots are ugly.

Maybe you should stretch your budget to buy clothes. I find I'm most happy with my clothes when I buy fewer pieces but spend significantly more for each garment. I feel like a strict budget might encourage me to buy less expensive and therefore lower quality clothes. Which is not what I want.

Also, check out this amazing Helmut Lang jacket that I spotted while I was shopping and have become obsessed with!

I mean really. How rad is that? Too bad I can't justify paying $800 for it, though. I tried but I can't.

Another thing that struck me while we were in these stores was that there's so much polyester! What gives?

The men's sections are mostly natural fibers but the women's sections still have so. much. polyester.

I can't understand why anyone would pay hundreds of dollars for a dress that feels terrible. But there was so much polyester available that I started to think maybe people want to buy synthetic fibers? Do you prefer polyester to natural fibers? Is it because it's easier to care for? I don't get it! Part of why I learned to sew was so that I was having trouble finding clothes I liked in natural fibers.

First Draft

A few months ago, I decided I would learn how to draft of it killed me. Here's my first stab at drafting a bodice block!

The biggest thing I learned is that I'm crazy unsymmetrical. How had I not noticed this before? Maybe it's just exaggerated by the fact the my floor is pretty dramatically sloped where I was standing?


I used this tutorial to draft this block.

The instructions were mostly clear but in some places (like the length of the shoulder), the measurements I ended up with were so obviously wrong. Luckily, this method is kind of a mix of direct and proportional drafting, and there were alternate instructions for some measurements.

It was also not clear what to do with the darts so I sewed the muslin with princess seams. I don't know what I'm doing!

It's pretty close for a first draft, I guess, but still needs a lot of work, especially in the back. I'm going to try to use The Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting to get this bodice fitting like a dream. Wish me luck!

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Eight Days a Week Dress

What do you think; should I make 6 more of these and wear them every day of the week? I'm pretty much thinking yes.

I feel like this last look needs cowboy boots and scarves and chunky jewelry.

Do you like how in this photoset, I'm pretending like I'm styling this dress in three different ways but really I'm just taking off my clothes in stages?

This is Kwik Sew K3559, with just a little alteration. The original pattern has the back of the dress and sleeves all in one flat piece but I had a feeling that it would be pretty unflattering on me. I need a little bit of volume in the back!

I think it ended up looking pretty nice. What I did was trace the yoke curve from the front sleeve/yoke piece onto the back and then used the front body piece for the front and the back so there was a yolk on the front and back. Does that make sense? Basically, the front and back are the same except for the neckline. It also allowed me to use a shorter cut of fabric and reduce waste.

I made this with the black rayon/bamboo jersey i bought and I love the drape. This dress is comfy! I don't usually sew with jersey, and I have to use the stretch stitch on my cheap Brother machine because I don't have a serger.

I put less effort into this garment than any garment I've made in a long time, but it turned out so well; I'm really happy with it!

This dress is so flattering and versatile. Have you made a dress like that? What pattern did you use?

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Style Crush: Damages

Do you watch Damages? I'm not crazy about the show but I love the clothes that Patty Hughes and Ellen Parsons wear.

I love that Patty always has very upright, starched collars. You can't see it in this pic, but all the collared shirts that they wear have two buttons on the collar stand.

Oh, here's a pic that shows it.

Such an elegant little detail, don't you think? Gotta say I'm not a big fan of her lapels, though. Yuck.

Is that another shawl collar? Oh, no you didn't!


Bow blouse with a cardigan is pretty much always a 'yes' in my books.

And how gorgeous is this dress? Love it.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

In a Foul Mood

Have you ordered fabric from mood? Did you loose your mind?

I'm having the worst time. I'm out almost $200 and all I've received so far is 4 swatches! My order was supposed to be here a week ago.

Here are my list of grievances, in chronological order:

1) There's no option to use USPS. It's UPS or nothing so it's more expensive than it needs to be.

2) They put the wrong postal code on it so it took 50% longer than it needed to, and that whole time I had to be on standby to pay the brokerage, which was $60! (Now I know how it works, I can avoid the brokerage fee in the future but I was curious to see how much it would actually cost)

3) I had ordered and paid for (and paid tax and brokerage and shipping for) 6 yards of fabric and 4 swatches but when the package finally arrived, there was no fabric! Just the swatches!

4) I called and let them know that I had received an incomplete order and the woman I spoke to said they would call me back and they didn't!

5) When I called them back, I spoke to the manager Nour and he was unhelpful and seemed put out when I asked him what they were going to do and to confirm that I wouldn't incur another $90 in shipping and brokerage charges. Seriously. He couldn't have been more unhelpful if he tried. And when I asked for an apology, he just got crazy defensive.

6) I asked Nour to send an email with the details of the steps they were taking to rectify the situation so I could have a record, because he sure wasn't being clear with me but the email didn't come. Furthermore, It was Friday afternoon and because I didn't get any confirmation I was stressed about it all weekend!

7) On Monday, when I finally got the automated confirmation that my package had shipped, it had the wrong tracking number, so I had to call them again to get the right one.

8) My package was supposed to be delivered today, but instead it had to go back to the central UPS warehouse, delaying delivery by another day, because they had gotten the postal code wrong again. Even though I had notified them when I called and asked that they ensure that it was corrected.

The thing is, it's not the incomplete order then pissed me off, it's the terrible customer service. They basically acted totally put out that I needed them to correct the mistakes that they made.

They didn't even apologize! They basically did eveything possible to ensure that I would never order from them again and tell all my friends that they suck. It was like they didn't even hear anything I said when I was on the phone with them.

AAAAAARGH! Am I the only one that has had a terrible experience ordering from Mood?

Anyway, I called the store and Eric Sauma is supposed to call me back. I'll believe it when I see it.

Also, happy spring! Maybe it'll finally stop snowing.

Can't you tell that it's spring? Can't you just smell the scent of jasmine blooming in the air?

Update: I never heard back from Eric but I did get a call from Nour apologizing profusely.  I'm choosing to believe that the complete 180 in attitude came from Eric putting the screws to him. I've never spoken directly to him but I feel pretty confident that Eric and I are on a first-name basis.

And my fabric finally came! I'll say this, they give very generous cuts of fabric. I bought 3 fabrics, 2 yards each and all three were a good 2 1/2 yards. Woot.

Budget-wise (but maybe not exactly wise) the whole kit and caboodle cost $190. In future, I will definitely be avoiding the brokerage fee. Ugh. So I'm at $245 for March, if I'm not mistaken. I'm pretty sure I'm gonna be over $250 this month. Still 10 days to go!

Monday, 18 March 2013

Candy Striper Button Up Shirt

For reasons I don't quite understand, I'm committed to making the 042010 Long Sleeve Blouse from BurdaStyle work. For all the griping about this pattern, you can go here.

So not great but not awful either. Definitely wearable and I don't think it looks homemade, which is important to me. It's a little less preppy and a little more candy striper than I wanted but I like it OK.

The most important thing about this shirt is that I made it using all the techniques that I learned from David Page Coffin's Shirtmaking. I bought myself the book at Christmas and also borrowed the DVD from the library.

Have you used this book?

I found it to be equal parts fascinating and frustrating. There's so much information but the order makes no sense! All the instructions for each part of the shirt will be scattered through a bunch of different sections, so I basically had to read the thing cover to cover and then flip back and forth searching out the info I needed for any given task.

It did give me very nice results, though.

I even used a rolled-hem foot to make a neat little hem. Have you used one of these feet? Once I got the hang of it it worked like a charm. I also used my flat-felled seam foot, which I'm always pretty delighted by.

In terms of fit, I've got some drag lines from my bust to shoulder and around my upper arm. The back of the collar has a tendency to tug away from my neck, too. I'm going to make another muslin before I make my next shirt, since I'm going to use really nice fabric (if it ever arrives).

I'm pretty sure there's enough fabric to cover my bust so I'm going to try out a forward shoulder adjustment and try adding some width and length to the back across my shoulder blades and see what happens. The fit definitely changed when I went from set-in sleeves to flat constructed sleeves, so I may have to play around with that a bit as well.

Gah! Damn you 042010 Long sleeve blouse! By the time I'm happy, I'm pretty sure that the only part of this pattern that's still original will be the bust dart. I really need to learn how to draft a pattern!

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Pattern Appreciation Post: 04/2010 Long sleeve blouse #114

The first thing you'll probably notice about this pattern is its sexy, sexy name.

This isn't really an appreciation post but I figured I've got a bit of a thing going with these posts and it's not like I hate the pattern or anything. If I hated it, I wouldn't be the three most recent projects based on this pattern on BurdaStyle. Which I am. I'm not even joking. Look!


Let me tell you, I'm really working my ass of to make this pattern work. For my most recent incarnation, I printed it at 90%, lengthened and narrowed the sleeves, added a sleeve placket, used different collar and collar stand... you get the idea.

It's also basically impossible to construct this shirt pattern using traditional shirtmaking techniques because the sleeve is meant to be set in. What's the point?

The instructions suck, too.

Damn, I didn't realize that I'd be ragging on this pattern so much.

One thing in its favour is that the pattern comes with dress length option, which I guess is pretty cool.

Can you recommend a great shirt pattern? I'm looking for something very menswear-inspired with traditional details (back pleats at the yoke, sleeve placket, Sleeves meant to be attached flat, etc.) with just the right amount of ease. Does such a thing exist?

Wednesday, 13 March 2013


How can Google close Reader?

Reader is the only way I can use the internet without being totally overwhelmed and confused. I learned to sew by following sewing blogs on Reader! There's no way I would have been able to access the information I did (and still do) anywhere nearly as effectively without it.

Do you use Reader? What will you use once it closes? Is there anything as simple and intuitive? Also, I really liked that it was just integrated with all my other Google stuff. Ugh. What am I going to do?

Well, at least my stash building continues. I spent $22 on black rayon-bamboo jersey and $33 on swatches (really, most of the cost was shipping) from Mood. I may have missed something by I think I'm at $55 for March. Have I bought anything else so far this month? Maybe it just seems like I'm spending more than I am.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Pattern Appreciation Post: Heidi

I love Heidi!

Uhhh, not quite.

That's more like it. Though in the grand tradition of BurdaStyle patterns, you really can't tell what this dress looks like from the picture. At all.

I've made three of these so far and now when I see a great fabric, my instinct is always to make a Heidi.

It took some cajoling to get the pattern to fit, mostly because the Burda patterns run so big, but now it's a flattering, versatile, modern dress.

I'd been thinking about the Heidi because the first one I made - the black one - was still a little big and this weekend I took up the shoulders to make it fit a bit better. You can find details of the Heidis on my BurdaStyle profile.

Have you made a Heidi? What's your most tried and true dress pattern?

In other news:
I spent $23 on black cotton lining that feels like bemberg(!) and $9 on white-with-black-polka-dots rayon. I didn't buy any ready to wear clothing.

Grand total I spent only $112 on clothing in February but don't worry! I plan on spending a huge wad of cash buying a metric f*#!ton of fabric from Mood. Seriously. I don't know what's gotten into me.