Friday, March 28, 2014

Belated World Water Day

I was on the road March 22, 2014, so I didn't post about World Water Day, as I have done in previous years.

Fortunately, Aquafornia has posted everything that I want to say (and then some!) about California and water.  So go read that great site and then we can discuss the Pacific Decadal Oscillation later this weekend.

Meanwhile enjoy these links:
Please leave more links in the comments.  Thanks!

PS, March 22, 2014 was also International Cut Into That Fabric Day.  I want to celebrate that, too.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Boomerang Trends

Before I rushed off to run errands and volunteer at Iris' school last week, I snapped this picture.  It proves that, if you wait long enough, you will be instantaneously trendy for some non-zero length of time.

Check it out. I'm rocking Black and White, Floral and Lace all at the same time!

No, I'm not a fashion victim. I made the white eyelet skirt ~1997 with a remnant I found at SAS Fabrics. I cut out and interfaced the black and white rayon crepe blouse around the same time. Last year, Little Hunting Creek inspired me to pull out some UFOs and finish them. It took less than 2 hours to sew this blouse up.  Why did I wait so long?

This skirt and photo makes my hips look really wide.  Are they really this wide?  Depends on the angle and what I am wearing.

Sociological Images asked why we dress to minimize our body differences.  Why are magazines always showing tall people how to look shorter?  Short people how to look taller?  Fat people how to look thinner?  Busty women how to look less so?  The list goes on and on.

They asked, what if we dressed to .emphasize. our body differences instead of diminish them?

Don't we teach our kids to stand out, especially in their college application personal statements?  Tell us what makes them especially them?

Then what do we teach them when we dress to conform to an ideal body image that has nothing to do with health and function?

These hips bore a healthy ~8.5 pound baby and carried me up many a mountain pass (by foot, by bike and on telemark skis).  They don't need de-emphasizing.

After snapping the picture above, I saw this Chimayo weaving I purchased last year in New Mexico.   It makes me happy.

Welcome Home AcaDecathletes*

We welcomed home our little competitor from the state championships in Sacramento.

A Los Angeles Daily News story about the tournament includes a picture of the three "honors" students of Iris' school.  Iris is the one with the long, wavy hair on the left.
They came in 9th in California and 3rd in Los Angeles County excluding LAUSD. That's the first top-ten finish for her high school.   Although only the top two teams in California advance to Nationals, their team had a phenomenal season.  Because Southern California is the most competitive part of the nation, many of the teams whose seasons ended today actually scored twice as many total points as qualifying teams from less competitive states.

She's home.  She's exhausted.  She came down with a cold and an excruciating ear ache coming over "the Grapevine" aka Tejon Pass, elevation 4144'.  I'll be busy babying her tomorrow.

While she was competing, Bad Dad and I drove up to the SF Bay Area to help my mom with a move and her taxes.  Finding a "moderate" rent apartment for a senior on a small fixed income in Silicon Valley is an experience.  If you have a lot of time, I can tell you more about that journey.

Although our trip was mostly family work, we did take some time to hang out in Berkeley.  I bought a linen shirt at the Bryn Walker boutique (made in Berkeley!) and a book of poetry at Black Oak Books.

Life will be extremely busy chez BMGM as I prepare our LA home to function without me, pack,  and move 1000 miles away for a full-time job that is just too good to pass up.  Life just gets more and more complicated.

I am glad I had time out of the paid labor force to help my mom and my daughter through challenging times and our local school district through severe budget cuts, to facilitate my husband's career as a field scientist, and to pursue self-study in statistics and modern programming languages (Perl, Python, R).  But, I am also very grateful to have found a fantastic (and paying!) job that uses my very unique (odd?) skill set and past work experience.

* Addendum
The LA Times story adds:
The only other LAUSD school to place in the top 10 was Franklin High, which finished eighth. Beverly Hills, South Pasadena and Redondo Union, all representing Los Angeles County, also finished in the top 10.

California has won the last 11 national titles and 15 of the last 18. In the 32 years of national competition, the state has placed first or second every year but one.
Academic Decathlon has its roots in Southern California and the region dominates. The competition is stiffer at the California championship than the National one.

The complete CA results

Monday, March 17, 2014

Wake Up Call

6:25 AM wake-up call this morning.

The shaking went on for a very long time for an earthquake. The shaking was mild at our house and we wondered if it was a very big earthquake far away, or a moderate one closer to home.  The SCEC map shows we live about 50 km from the epicenter.

Check out the waveforms.  Notice how, the further from the source, the longer (and weaker) the shaking?

I guesstimated, in my half asleep state, that the shaking went on for 15 seconds.  The waveform plots show 120 seconds, so each major tick represents 12 seconds.  The shaking at the stations ~50 km from the epicenter showed pronounced shaking for ~15 seconds.

The earthquake was widely felt.  Notice that ground motion does not go down monotonically with distance.  Factors like bedrock versus alluvial soils also determine how much shaking an area experiences.


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Jalie 3243

Remember the shorts worn with Simplicity 2339 shirt?

I wore them with my slightly tweaked version of Jalie 3243.

I put the patch pocket underneath, instead of on top of the front pant piece.

To reduce bulk, I used a cotton shirting for the pocket and waistband facings.  Although the pattern envelope says that you can use a non-stretch woven, I'd recommend using a stretch fabric or going up a size.  My stretch twill feels tight at first, but stretches out after a short time.

This is a favorite knockabout pair of shorts.  Next time, I'd use a stretch waistband facing, put in back patch pockets and add a bit of room for cyclist thighs.  This is a pull-on short that looks sleek, not sloppy.

No zipper insertion means that you can cut this out and sew it up in less than two hours. Narrow seam allowances save you fabric and trimming time.  I especially like that Jalie gives you all sizes--from little girls up to women's plus sizes--in one envelope. They are a really good value.

 My only caveat is to switch up the sewing order. They have you sew up one leg and then down the other like in Figure 1 of Fashion Incubator's Dominant Seams post.  I much prefer the method in Figure 2, where you stitch the crotch seam last in one continuous seam.  Try both and you will see Kathleen's wisdom.

BTW, I do purchase RTW on occasion.  I was so happy to find a nicely-made Oxford shirt without a no-iron resin finish at the Torrance Sears Lands End boutique, I ordered one in my size.  It's perfect for a walk to the beach and lunch with Bad Dad.  Can you believe this picture was taken in the middle of February?  Winter (and rain) skipped us this year.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Happy pi day 2014

But, I want to point out, Pi is (still) Wrong!

Vi Hart explains:

When sewing neckbands on t-shirts, I recommend using your preferred circle constant, the minimum circumference necessary to pull over your head, the stretchiness of your fabric, and the width of the neck band to determine the optimal circumference.

For thicker neck bands and smaller openings, the 90% of neckline rule will result in a neckband that is too loose.  Do you need a drawing or an you visualize it?

Suppose you want a neckband that is 1 cm (about 5/8") wide and your neck opening is about 43 cm/17" (7 cm radius).  Using the 90% rule, you'd cut the band to finish at 39 cm circumference.

But, wait!  The radius of your opening is not at the sewn edge; it's at the inside edge, which has a radius of 6 cm and a circumference of 38 cm.

Your 39 cm tube will be too wide and floppy!

On a larger, scooped neckline, say 55 cm circumference and 8.75 cm radius, the inside edge would be 48.7 cm or 7.75 cm.  That's awfully close to 8.75*0.9 = 7.875.

Anyway, the 90% rule does come from geometry, but it only works for a range of neck opening circumferences.

Other sewing gurus say 85% of opening.  They mean smaller openings.

When in doubt, it's best to go back to first principles and calculate what you need based upon:
  • the minimum circumference necessary to pull over your head
  • the stretchiness of your fabric
  • your neck opening measurement at seam line
  • your neck opening at the folded inside edge
Your neck band should be a tube with a circumference a bit smaller than the inside, folded edge. Yet, it should not be so small as to distort (gather in) the shirt neck opening. If you have trouble with distortion, then change to a lighter neckband fabric, or reduce the difference between the two circumferences by either cutting a larger neck opening or using a neckband that is less tall.

Read past pi-day entries.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Simplicity 2339

I finished the shirt.  Iris got out of school early and we had lunch by the beach on the way home from school.

Click to embiggen and see the final button selection.  In the light of morning, I realized that the top two button types have color variations.  I went with the darkest 4 of the second color and am quite pleased with how it looks.

After I pulled it out of the dryer--while still damp--I let it hang dry a bit.  The fabric has a no-iron finish and the batik trim has enough body that it doesn't wrinkle.

I put in back darts but omitted the front ones.
This is Simplicity 2339, but with the center front opening placket from page 74 of David Page Coffin's Shirtmaking book.  I made View A, in size 14A, with a few tweaks like shortening the sleeves and changing the straight hem to a gentle elliptical shape.

I really like patterns that give different pattern pieces for each cup size. This one also comes with 1" seam allowances to adjust the width of the sleeve and torso. The rest of the SAs are 5/8", including at the neckline. I wish it was 3/8" or 1/4" SA there but I can trim that myself next time.

I sewed with a 1" SA down the sleeves and sides, tapering to 5/8" at the hips. In a stretch shirting, that would have been fine. For this non-stretch fabric, I wish I had used 5/8" seams for a bit more mobility.

I eked out this shirt from a 3/4 yard piece left over after making a robe (Butterick 5452). When I purchased this fabric at Fabrix during SF PR Weekend 2013, I thought it was cotton. After making the robe, I thought it might be cotton/poly due to the lack of wrinkling and difficulty getting it to take a press. A subsequent burn test and the itchiness factor suggests that this is pure cotton with a non-iron resin finish.

That resin drives my skin crazy. How do people stand it?  And that resin sure makes the cotton more flammable.  This is one shirt you don't want to wear near bunsen burners.

Anyway, I exercised my shirt-making muscles after a long hiatus. I have a gorgeous piece of cotton shirting from Britex (also purchased in SF at PR Weekend) and some coordinating poplin for trim from The Fabric Store. I'm hoping that the resin will wash out and become tolerable.

The beach photograph shows a peek of Jalie 3243, a very sleek pull-on elastic pants/shorts pattern.  If you lack the time or skill to put in a fly zip, this is a great alternative.


I did some research on non-iron fabric finishes and why they make my skin itch.  The fabric is impregnated with a resin that releases formaldehyde.  For most people, that is not a huge problem.  But, for sensitized people, it can cause itching and contact dermatitis.

I recall becoming sensitized to formaldehyde in high school biology class.  It was so bad, we had to find somewhere else for me to perform my lab work.

Thanks to Little Hunting Creek's suggestion, I searched for ways to remove the resin.  Synthrapol, aka Dyer's detergent, removes fabric coatings.  It doesn't do a complete job, but it helped.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Pick a button

But which one?  Discuss.
 So many choices.
 Guess where I went yesterday?
 My absolute fave.  I'd take it home if I could.
Run, don't walk.  See it.


At the intersection of yuppies and middle class people of color. I love my neighborhood. Does that make me meh?

How does your neighborhood rate?

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Simplicity 1661

Because she stole the navy and white bird fabric from me, I think it is only fair that I should sew up my own piece first. Right?

I actually bought this floaty piece of cotton/silk voile with this pattern (Simplicity 1661) in mind.  That's unusual because I normally just collect things that I like without immediate plans.  OTOH, I usually buy my fabric for peanuts by the pound and I have to either buy it or else never see it again.

When I shop at a real fabric store and spend real $$, I try to buy with a plan. BTW, The Fabric Store is a wonderful addition to the LA retail landscape. Though the fabrics aren't cheap, they are a good value for the quality.  Mood LA has just opened up down the street from them on La Brea, making mid-town even more of a destination.

Untucked, it's a casual and airy blouse with a slightly longer hem in the back.

It looks business-like tucked in.

The back pleats are fine.  The front pleats are wonky on the right side due to operator error.
I also paired it with a navy skirt to show you that the print contains both black .and. navy (as well as light and dark taupe).
Other than the wonky front neckline pleats and the mysteriously long armhole binding, I quite liked the pattern and recommend it.  Notice that they use 3/8 inch seam allowances on the curved seams at the armhole and neckline.  This makes matching up the marks dead simple and reduces the need to clip and trim.
The pleat lines would be difficult to distinguish if all 5 sizes were nested in one.  So they broke the pleated pieces up into 2 and 3 sizes, printing every other size so that adjacent sizes don't obscure each other.  Simplicity deserves kudos for good systems thinking.

Simplicity patterns also come with an email address.  If you get stuck on a step, you can send them email with questions (identify the pattern in the subject line) and a home economist will reply.

Simplicity, Burda and Kwik Sew don't go on sale very often compared to BMV.  But, I do value good engineering and service in my patterns and am willing to pay for it.  Jalie doesn't ever go on sale and they are well worth the $.

I shortened the ties by 6" because I know that I will never tie a bow; I prefer the ties to hang loosely.

I used this clamp tool to help turn the ties.  I'm not sure what this is called, or where I purchased it. If you know where to get these, can you leave a comment?

I pulled the strap through one end, closed the clamp...

and then pulled the strap over the other arm.

This is much easier than futzing with chopsticks or tape or string. It also works for turning collar points.


View C, straight size 12.  Mine is not as loose or hi-low hem as the envelope picture.

The fabric requirements are overly generous.  The envelope recommends 1 5/8 yards of 60" wide fabric and I purchased 1 yard of 54" wide fabric.  With the generous cuts at TFS and minimal shrinkage, I had over 37" after pinking the cut edges and prewashing/drying.  I didn't have to match patterns or worry about nap so YMMV.

The bias bands for binding the armhole came out too long.  The pattern piece provided didn't take into account that bias strips will stretch.  OTOH, the amount of stretch depends on the fabric and operator (rough handling will cause more stretch).  So, maybe they are right to give the exact armhole dimension and assume that the sewist will know to trim to the appropriate length.  I used my quilting ruler to cut the bias strip and trimmed to fit.

Making the neck pleats in this slippery and floaty fabric was challenging.  I couldn't see the chalk marks and didn't dare thread baste for fear of leaving holes.  Moreover, the fabric didn't hold a press unless I used steam.

There were times I questioned if it was indeed a cotton/silk blend.  I had to do a burn test to convince myself it wasn't mis-labeled.  Like a true analytical chemist, I touched, smelled and tasted the ashes to confirm the fiber content.  I don't recommend that practice, because fabric is generally not food-safe (mostly because of the dyes and finishes).

Come to think of it, barbequed food is carcinogenic due to the burned bits and that's stuff meant to be eaten.  What can I say?  I'm an old-style chemist that uses all of my senses in the lab.  Besides, this is how we live on the edge in suburbia.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Sweatshirt Sweatshop

I'm on a roll with sweatshirts.

Well, I had a mogo blockage when I opened up my TNT sweatshirt pattern (remember the Camp Beverly Hills line by McCalls in the 1980s?) and discovered the pattern pieces were missing. Remember when patterns came single-sized?  I also have the same pattern in Bad Dad's size, but the missing pieces for my size weren't in there.  I lost my sweatshirt mojo for a while.

But, I found a similarly oversized (circa 1980s) Kwik Sew sweatshirt pattern on the free table at a recent quilt guild meeting. I was so excited, I didn't notice it was a maternity pattern until I used it for this project.

I de-maternitized it by checking the sleeve. It was symmetrical, so I copied the armscythe from the back to the front and then pulled the front side seam in to match the back. There was plenty of room up front for all but the uber-busty so no further alterations were necessary.

I couldn't resist adding a front handwarmer pocket.  I copied the proportions and technique from the Kwik Sew 2893 hoodies pictured here and here.

I used two short pieces of printed cotton/lycra twill that I found at Trash for Teaching. (You will see more of this lovely stuff later.)  The gray sweatshirting for the sleeves magically materialized (pun-intended) on the free table at quilt guild, too.  White ponte knit from deep stash substituted for ribbing at the neck, cuffs and bottom.  Another project from "found" items!

Iris gave the sweatshirt to a friend and AcaDec teammate for her birthday.  I couldn't measure the recipient without giving away the surprise.  Thankfully, it fits.

Actually, it fits me rather well, too.  Now I have a new retro-80s over-sized sweatshirt pattern in my size.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Pattern placement FAIL

Petit Main Sauvage and Little Hunting Creek have been discussing pattern matching and placement.  Lauriana wrote, "For those and for anyone who feels intimidated by matching prints, I'd like to present this picture as a bit of encouragement."

In that same spirit, I would like to own up to a recent spectacular FAIL from my own studio. I've been meaning to try Vogue 8805 for some time, especially after I've seen several cute versions crop up on the internets. The custom-fit sizing for A/B/C/D cups holds special appeal; no futzing with SBAs.

Most reviews mentioned that it fits like a loose sack and that they went down 1-2 sizes.  My upper chest is about 12A, but my upper back width is more like a 10.  So I traced a size 12A front and 10 back.  Some reviewers mentioned that they shortened the top yokes to cap sleeve length and I did the same.

Look how nicely the shoulders and bust fit.
I eliminated the back opening and used a self-fabric knit neckband.  Again, the fit is spot on.

One reviewer added pockets, which sounded handy.  I followed suit.

I found the navy slub knit (yoke) and cotton border print bark cloth at SAS Fabrics.  The bark cloth is a panel print, roughly 37" long and 45" wide, counting wide white selvedges.  I would have listened to my inner voice that said that I need to add girth at my size 14 hips.  And the warning light that suggests adding a little bit extra for the pockets.  However, there just wasn't enough fabric, as you can see from the scraps left after cutting.

Because I had only one panel and barely enough width, there was no point in trying to balance or match the patterns.  I just laid down my pattern pieces and cut.

Can you see the problem on the front?

How about on the back?

Yeah, it's that bad.  Oh, well.  The two fabrics feel lovely.  My construction was superb.  The lack of pattern matching was unavoidable.  The pattern placement?   Well, can I also plead lack of fabric?  Or does my total lack of judgement take the blame?

I'm going to place the traced pieces back into the envelope along with a note to myself about what to do next time.  The dress might fit Iris, who is narrower in the hips and all legs.  The sunflower motifs might hit her in less unfortunate places.  If she gives it the thumbs down, it goes to Goodwill.

Meanwhile, I purchased this cotton/silk camo print for Iris and the flying bird cotton for myself at The Fabric Store.
Would you believe she does NOT like the camo and loves the birds? Ever the self-sacrificing mom, I'm going to swap pieces with her.  The birds are overprinted on a jacquard with solid and sheer areas.  Oddly, the birds fly down the length of the yardage instead of across.  What should I make with  (1.5 yds of 44" wide) this?  A skirt?  A blouse?