Saturday, May 31, 2008

and the kicker is

I'm on my way to see Sex and the City, like every other female under 89 in America, with a co-worker. I hope the storyline is good, but of course there'll be great fashion to check out.

I've cleaned, chatted with friends and am almost caught up on e-mails.

Everything's been looking good all day, and I just got this e-mail:

Greetings from

We thought you'd like to know that we shipped your items, and that this
completes your order.

You can track the status of this order, and all your orders, online by
visiting Your Account at...

There you can:
* Track your shipment
* View the status of unshipped items
* Cancel unshipped items
* Return items
* And do much more

The following items have been shipped to you by
Qty Item Price Shipped Subtotal
--------------------------------------------------------------------- items (Sold by, LLC):
1 When You Are Engulfed in F... $17.15 1 $17.15

Shipped via USPS (estimated arrival date: 04-June-2008).
Tracking number: 91020900945472750

Item Subtotal: $17.15
Shipping & Handling: $1.99

Super Saver Discount $-1.99
Books Pre-order $-0.86
EB Pre-order Guarantee $0.00

Total: $16.29

Paid by Mastercard: $16.29

See that? When You Are Engulfed in Flames. Eeeeeeeeeeee!

Friday, May 30, 2008

a dollar and a dream

Today I went to have my teeth cleaned by Dr. Kim. She's not my regular dentist, but handles cleanings and such for him. Dr. Kim might also be called Dr. Rock 'n Roll, because underneath her dental smock she was decked out in jeans, a studded belt, and a black hoodie. Slightly off-putting when someone's coming toward your mouth with a metal instrument, but I went along for the ride. We chatted a bit as I was getting ready to leave, and Dr. Kim said to me, You seem like a happy person. I thought, Yesssss! I'm back!

I said all that to say I'm feeling better, thank goodness. Not that I go around sprinkling flower petals on passersby, but as I said to Dr. Kim, I've really got nothing to complain about. The pall that was hanging over me was frustrating. I like to walk in gratitude, even when my dentist shows up looking like Black Sabbath.

Besides, why be a Debbie Downer when there are 99 cent stores in the world?

I don't make it to the 99 cent store nearly as often as I should. Probably because I usually don't need anything, but that's beside the point. I should go for the adventure. There's one right across from my dentist's office. I wandered in today and found all kinds of fun stuff, including great cotton kitchen towels that feature the days of the week in Spanish and English. My favorite Spanish day of the week is miƩrcoles. The word is so lovely, plus it's hump day. I bought two sets of towels for myself, because I think they'd be cute to use as napkins, and a set for my friend Sandra, to celebrate her new Harlem condo.

And look here:

Laurie Ann and I are sweater twins. Don't you just love her colors? You might not be able to tell, but we're both using the Easy Baby Cardigan pattern.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

two on the needles

Today I'll post my baby sweaters in progress as a quickie.

The teal-y one is what I swatched the other day for Bubs's friends' baby, Africa. (Yes, that's her name. A continent full of beautiful girl names and her parents had to go literal.) The impossible to photograph red one is something my friend Carol offered to pay me to knit, a sweater for her new cousin. I'm so slow in knitting it that I might not charge her for it. I've got no interest in seaming that other sleeve (the first one has its share of lumps 'cause seaming ain't my thang). The lace panel is easy but takes too much thinking for me these days.

But lovely patterns, these:
Easy Baby Cardigan
Presto Chango

That's today's offering. I'm going to try to get to some e-mails. I received such wonderful, supportive comments/e-mails on St. Vincent de Paul, Savior of Man
that I want to send out some thank yous (as well as some overdue hellos). And if Blogger obscures your e-mail address so that I can't write to you personally, I'll say it here, Thank you. :) In fact, thanks for the love on all my posts. It makes this blogging thing precious and worthwhile.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

better than the original

Remember this?

Denise Huxtable's famous Gordon Gartrelle knock off. That Denise, such a character. But I think anyone who's ever had a pattern and a plan can relate at least a little bit.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

st. vincent de paul, savior of man

Something's been off these last few days and I haven't been my walking-on-the-sunny-side self. I've been rippled and agitated, like people are throwing rocks to upset my surface. And the well of stillness down below? The one Tolle talks about? I can't seem to access that. It's like it's been roped off from me.

This state of flux is kicking my ass.

Make friends with uncertainty, says Tolle.

I mean damn, says I. Me and uncertainty go all the way back. You even need a break from friends you like. I want uncertainty to take a trip, starting right now today. I want him to go anywhere I'm not. I want him to love it there. I want him to decide to buy a house and put down roots.

Just leave me alone, uncertainty. You've upturned my picnic long enough.

Now that I've gotten that said, I want to talk about one place where I always feel at home, never leave empty handed, and know I am loved.

St. Vincent de Paul's thrift store. Not just any old St. Vincent de Paul's thrift store, but mine, the one on Washington Street in Toledo.

I started going back in 9th grade, when I was living in the uncertainty of the Port Lawrence housing projects down the block. I'd become hard for my mother to manage (not that she was trying much), and I'd gone to live, for the first and only time in my life, with my father. My father had married Blanche by then. They were raising two of her children, my sisters, from her previous marriage (her other two, my brothers, were with their father), and together they'd had my baby brother, Aladdin. Unless you count the drugs, the poverty, and the prostitution, the six of us did okay. That might sound sarcastic, or even ridiculous, but while those things were a large part of our lives, due to my parents' choices, they weren't the things that caught my focus every day. It was only a matter of months before my mother took me back, but while I was with my father I had the usual concerns of a 9th grade girl -- boys -- and of an eldest sibling -- looking after my sisters and brother (while scheming up ways to spend less time doing that and more time with boys). And it wasn't like I wasn't accustomed to drug addiction. My mother had it worse than my father.

With drug use comes an insidious form of neglect. My parents, all three, were around but not around, and even when the hustles that kept them absent paid off financially, the money went right back into the family business. Regardless, my mother was a southern girl and hardly messed around when it came to food. But in living with my father, this lack of money meant eating lots of egg salad sandwiches on white bread, deviled eggs when we didn't have bread, and just plain boiled eggs when we didn't have bread or whatever generic brand of Miracle Whip. This is what my sisters and I remember the most, eggs. If I'd stayed with them any longer, I would've been ruined for eggs forever.

It also meant that I couldn't keep up with the Rita and Pams of the world. Rita and Pam were the queens of my high school, firmly established as such by the time we hit the second week of classes freshman year. I could live with this. I hadn't emerged from a pool of popularity out of junior high. They had.

The one thing that pained me, two things, actually, were their Gloria Vanderbilt designer jeans, and their authentic Bass leather penny loafers. These irked me more than all the drugs and egg sandwiches and prostitution on earth.

There was no way I could compete with such symbols of prosperity. Every time I looked at Rita and Pam in their nouveau preppy outfits, I knew that their parents had good jobs, put them first in family life, and worst of all, spoiled them rotten. I would've hated them, but I wanted too desperately for them to like me.

When the school gave out vouchers to poor kids, I knew what I wanted to buy with mine. Unfortunately, the voucher wasn't enough to cover them, plus it relegated me to shopping at Picway Shoes (now commonly known as the more fashion forward Payless). So my father took me there, and I got the most pathetic pair of penny loafers your eyes have ever seen. To call them pleather would be an upgrade. When I bought them, I knew they couldn't compete with Bass loafers, but I didn't know how truly horrible they were until I wore them to school and compared my feet to Rita and Pam's. (I mean to use them as a single unit here, Rita and Pam's, rather than Rita's and Pam's, as they still appear to me as one entity, sharing feet and everything else.) Their loafers were crisp, rich in mahogany brown, and expertly stitched, with sturdy heels providing lots of cushion and support for the long walk through life. What's more, Rita and Pam had upgraded from pennies to dimes. The eyes on my loafers were too wide and flimsy to hold dimes, and the shiny pennies I'd placed just so in them appeared worth more than the shoes themselves. In fact, the coins seemed to mock the shoes, which within a few weeks buckled under the weight of the taunting and began to come apart at the seams.

My Picway penny loafers made me see that it would never be RitaPamandCarla's world. They signaled to me that I needed to go and find a world of my own, or lose myself in comparison, and in longing for things I couldn't have and only wanted because other people did.

But I was 14, and the lesson didn't hit me the way it would now. Instead, what I got was: Go secondhand, young lady. It wasn't vintage then. It wasn't even thrift. It was hand-me-down. It was used. It was old. It was what I could afford. And St. Vincent de Paul was full of it, especially when it came to shoes.

Around St. Vincent de Paul's shoe section I developed an entire "look." Let's call it classic secretary. Vintage 50s pumps could often be found there. A blue pair that I will never forget sparked numerous navy and white pairings -- a white blouse with navy piping worn with navy slacks; a navy and white diagonally striped dolman sleeved sweater worn with the same slacks, or with a navy skirt to mix things up. Navy or white tights to polish the look. Everything topped off by my navy pumps. I wish I had a picture of them. Once I got into this look there was no stopping me. I went crazy for pumps, from St. Vincent de Paul and elsewhere, and tights and pencil skirts and blouses were my best friends. No one else dressed this way (Who would've wanted to?), leaving me in a class by myself. I looked like I was out of school and working already, which implied an element of direction and ambition that I didn't have, but liked to look like I did.

Here are some pictures of things I bought/saw when I was home last month. My interests have changed, and St. Vincent de Paul still delivers.

If you ask for it, they'll give you a free plastic rosary as a parting gift. (The ones made of wood or glass are 3 dollars.)

Like those navy blue pumps, One Great Thing can usually be found. This trip, it was my new coat.

This coat goes a long way in aiding my bid to look like Willona Woods. I bought it because I'd gone to Toledo unprepared to freeze my askalattabackbone off, and we were going to Chicago the next day. Schmin and I ran into St. Vincent de Paul's about 15 minutes before closing, and there it hung, the coat of my 1970s "Good Times" dreams, in perfect condition. (Nature played a trick on us and it was cold enough to wear it here last Friday.) Schmin also found some things he liked, and I'd passed the torch on to a new generation.

(Please ignore the sale sign on the front of St. Vincent de Paul's. I just noticed it while posting the first shot. I cannot think about this place closing. Not today.)

Monday, May 26, 2008

the girl in blue

Sewing, not so much, but finally finishing my mother-in-law's shawl has fired me up for more knitting. With sewing, I think the problem is I'm not at home, y' know? The thought of pulling out all my sewing stuff knowing I can't put it anywhere for keeps is unsettling. Some days I think I should have put all my machines in storage.

But I do have to make that apron for the swap. Hopefully it'll help me get over this feeling and sew more.

Meanwhile, Bubs's best friends had a baby girl, which means it's time for some baby sweater sweetness. That's Artyarns Supermerino, by the way. It's my favorite baby sweater yarn, and the most easy care, delectable stuff on earth.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

bad boy

iTunes and Windows don't play nicely together. Guess which one I'm going to throw out the window.

(I'll give you a hint. It starts with a W.)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

pod world

It's not pretty, this often gray, lukewarm to chilly weather we're having this weekend. I'm not motivated to do much. In between whatever, I'm tinkering with my iPod. This is what I got at Amoeba to feed it today.

The Patti disc has my favorite song by her, "I Don't Go Shopping." I used to own this record, but I'm not sure if it was on tape. (Or maybe I own it on CD and it's in storage, which means I now own two copies. Oh well. It was cheap. And Bubs bought it for me.) I also got a stack of discs from the library to do a little "burn and return." Hey, I figure I pay for this music in fines.

Let's see, What's in the library tunes? Jill Scott's Beautifully Human and The Real Thing. Tom Waits's Orphans. Jelly Roll Morton. The World of Nat King Cole. Rick James's Anthology. Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Song Book. Justin Timberlake for "What Goes Around...," which I find catchy, and I try to overlook that it might be about Britney Spears (good lord). A Dean Martin set that contains two of his records. The soundtrack from the movie Ray. Bruce Springsteen's Magic. Some other stuff. The library is fabulous for music. Oh and books. They have those, too.

Friday, May 23, 2008

mojo so so

I can't top yesterday's post today, so I won't even try. Instead I'll let it inspire me to get my sewing mojo working, so I can have something to show for myself next week. Happy weekend, everybody!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

this is: trista of sugardale

Long ago, in a galaxy far away, I worked as a freelance entertainment writer. It's something I've wanted to get back to on my own terms, interviewing people and checking out places I personally find interesting. There's no better time than the present (actually, there's no other time than the present), so today I'm kicking off a series of interviews right here at Purly V. I'll occasionally be talking to sewists, knitters, artists, writers -- makers of all stripes -- about whatever there is to talk about.
My first interview, which I am thrilled to present, is with Trista Roland, of Sugardale clothing. I was eager to talk to Trista because she is the maker of the Completely Magnificent Dress, so named in this post by Erin of A Dress A Day, and so agreed upon by me.

Truly, it's one of the most beautifully sewed dresses I've ever seen, and the fit is superb. This dress hasn't left my mind since the day I saw it, and it incited a burst of questions to ask Trista about her sense of personal style, how she developed her sewing skills, and how she views the art of sewing in the digital age. Luckily, she agreed to an e-mail exchange.

Trista is 22, anachronistic, self-contained, bright, eclectic, and irreverent. What she isn't is easily categorized, PC, or one to let the world go by unexamined. She lives in San Diego, but is looking to move to New York City. Even though she's a contemporary, if you mention the name Christian Siriano to her, she probably won't know who you're talking about. (But she will know Snooks Eaglin.) For her, sewing is not the latest trend; it's a vital creative endeavor, and beyond that, a tool for personal expansion and a larger life.

Through this meaty interview in which there is talk of bound buttonholes, Prince, and the aesthetics of the human foot, you'll see what I mean.

Without further ado, this is, Trista of Sugardale.

Give us the basics. When did you learn to sew? Who taught you? Have you done formal training?

I took home economics my sophomore year of high school, and that was the first time I learned how to sew a commercial pattern. Before that I would always modify my clothes (cutting off lace, adding buttons, using my mom's machine to make other various improvements). I was never taught by anyone, besides my college teachers. My mom did show me how to thread a bobbin, and the basic operations of her machine, but when my interest in sewing started, she wasn't sewing anymore, as she had a full-time job and 5 kids.

When I moved out, the first thing I bought was a cheap Singer. (I have since upgraded; I now sew on a Bernina Activa 210, and I also have a Baby Lock serger.) Not long after that I went to Mesa College and took an apparel construction class, and loved it. The next semester I enrolled in pattern making, tailoring, and any other fashion classes I could get my hands on.

Where do you want to take your sewing/design work?

I am not quite sure where I want to take my design work yet. I know I don't just want to design, because I love the sewing part of the process. So for now, just custom work. Costume design is always in the back of my mind, but I don't quite know where to start, and I am not finished with school yet, and doing custom work has just started for me, so I want to see how that goes.

Must someone with your talent be subjected to a "day job" or do you make a living off sewing/design work?

I do have a day job; I work at a coffee shop. In my spare time I sew and design. Currently I am making a wedding dress for my first client. She is having a wedding at the beach and wanted a cute dress she could wear again. It is a pretty simple dress made of white cotton with blue trim.

The thing I notice most when looking at your work is that you're a stickler for fit and detail. What's the worst fitting garment you've ever made, and what did you learn from making it?

The suit I made for my pattern making class.

It turned out okay. I love the design, but making and fitting the pattern for this was a nightmare. I tried to draft my own slopers using my measurements and the directions in my pattern making book. Slopers are the first and most basic pattern sets you use to design. For example, one of the slopers is the single-dart bodice front, which has one waist dart. From this you can close the dart and move it somewhere else, cut it to the shoulder to make princess seams, add gathers. Whatever design elements you decide to do, you start with a sloper. Anyway, I could not get this thing right! So I finally reached a point where the basic pattern slopers were good enough, so I used one to make my final suit pattern. I had to continue because I had to make the whole outfit for an assignment whose deadline was quickly approaching. So, the skirt doesn't fit me at my waist, it sits about 1" lower. The jacket was too tight in the waist and bust, not tight enough right above my butt, but then got too tight again right on my butt. The sleeve caps don't have enough ease. Basically I can't breathe if I wear this thing. Luckily all of the fitting problems were so small, and almost unnoticeable (as long as I was really sucking it in), that it won first place in a category at the Mesa College Fashion Show. I later found out in my Pattern Making II class, from a different teacher that I liked so much better, that the directions in the book had to be wrong or there had to be a mistake somewhere, because even she couldn't draft slopers from those directions and she has been pattern making for 20+ years.

Mostly, I learned patience. I don't know how long I spent on making those patterns, or how many sample garments I went through trying to get them right, but I couldn't just give up. I also learned a lot from that design, which I think with improvement (yes, I am going to remake this thing someday) will be one of my favorite designs that I've made. Seeing the completed suit, some of the design elements don't quite match in my opinion. The skirt is great, and I wouldn't change anything about it design-wise. I would make the sleeve cuffs look just like the skirt, I would change the collar, and I would add pockets (I wanted to put pockets on this one, but I didn't have time).

This is Southern California, and we are mightily influenced by Hollywood, whether we want to admit it or not. Do you have a favorite costume designer? When I see your work, I can't help but be reminded of Edith Head.

Richard Hornung, mostly for the Coen Brothers movies he has designed for, such as Miller's Crossing, The Hudsucker Proxy, and Barton Fink (I am a big Coen Brothers fan). I also like Milena Canonero; she designed the costumes for The Godfather, Parts I, II, and III, also she did A Clockwork Orange, and more recently The Life Aquatic, and The Darjeeling Limited -- I’m also a huge Wes Anderson fan. Speaking of Wes Anderson, Karen Patch was the costume designer for The Royal Tennenbaums and Rushmore. I really love the green velvet suit/gold shirt and bow-tie/red beret/Rod Laver Adidas shoes ensemble that Max Fischer wears in Rushmore. I actually want to make that exact outfit someday and be Max Fischer for Halloween, and then just have a really cool suit to wear for the rest of the year. And I also have to add Colleen Atwood, with such films as Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Big Fish, Sweeny Todd, basically all the stuff she has done for Tim Burton I think is great.

You do custom work. If I walk into your studio and want a dress made, what in particular do you hope I don't ask for?

A prom dress, or wedding gown.* Yards and yards of silk/satin/tulle, that is only going to be worn once? No thanks. I didn't even go to my senior prom. I am guilty, however, of going to my junior prom, which I was totally against attending, until the guy I had a huge crush on asked me to go. So I borrowed a dress from a friend, and went to prom, where I mostly just sat around all night. Bleh, what a disappointment that was.

*I know I am making one right now, but I don't want to make one again. First of all I don't want custom wedding dresses to become "my thing," when I don't even believe in marriage. And when someone wants a wedding dress made it is basically want she wants, so my design kind of gets lost in the making. So this one is the first and last. Luckily, she did want something she can wear again, and liked my designs in the first place, so I don't feel completely lost.

Also anything 1980s.

You're drawn to vintage styles. So am I. So I get it. But there must be something outside the clothes that attracts you to that aesthetic. What is it about that period in American life, 1940s through the 1960s, that you feel we're missing today?

1) Good music. I really just can't get into any post 60s artist, besides Wynton Marsalis, Harry Connick Jr., Leon Redbone, and Prince. Everything out there just completely lacks soul. Give me Louis Armstrong, Jack Teagarden, Billie Holiday, Snooks Eaglin, Sam Cooke…. Music like that just doesn't exist anymore.

2) Even good literature. I can't think of a contemporary author that I really like. (Well I really liked the Harry Potter series.)

3) And good art. I hate contemporary art, except for the very, very, few rare pieces.

It comes down to 4) Quality. I just think this current world is so washed out, pre-fabricated, mediocre, too money driven, too nice, too politically correct, too laid back, and too unchallenged. I think that technology (Internet) is to blame, which ironically, I think is one of the greatest achievements of our time. Because of Internet technology, everything just moves and processes so quickly. News can make it around the world in seconds. I mean, why spend this extra money on quality, when, tomorrow, something new already beats it, and everyone wants that?

Take fashion, for example. We can look at an entire decade, say the 50s, and the styles are roughly the same from 1950-1959. Look at 2000-2008, styles have changed dramatically because these style changes can be seen right away, and people must have the latest thing.

And unfortunately, I don't think there is an answer, and it is only going to get worse. We people who still respect true quality are an endangered species.

What are your favorite vintage clothing details?

Functionality. I love that things make sense, not only aesthetically, but functionally. Claire McCardell's designs are a great example. Another example is the buttonhole at the top of a man's lapel. That was there so men could button their jackets all the way up when it was a little cold. Today, the buttonhole is still there, but there is no button on the other lapel for buttoning. And most of the time, the buttonhole is just sewn on, and doesn't open. It has lost all of its purpose.

What famous person do you want to rip the clothes off and replace them with something way better looking?

Scarlett Johansson. First of all she is gorgeous, and in many of her photo shoots she looks great, but I have seen some pictures of her on the street wearing trendy (uninteresting) clothes. I am thinking man, she has been working with Woody Allen (one of my favorite directors), she was in Ghost World, all these things I think are cool, but it doesn't carry over into her fashion sense. Is she really just another trendy star?

If you could romp around in a pile of fabric in your birthday suit, what kind of fabric would it be?

Cotton. I just love it. It's easy to sew, it drapes well, it's natural, it feels good on the skin, you can iron it on the hottest setting with all sorts of steam (I really find enjoyment in ironing), it comes in all sorts of prints, colors, and weaves, it is easy to care for. It's some good stuff.

Would you ever apply for "Project Runway"?

No. I hate reality TV. I don't have cable, but I did catch a few minutes of it at my parents' house. It was terrible! In the part that I saw, the designers designed some skimpy outfits for these models that the models had to wear at some bar/party, and one of the models ripped her -- well it was basically a bathing suit -- and she didn't really care, and the designer that made it was so upset that she didn't care about the dress/beach wear, and it was cutting to all these other designers that were all whining about something... I had to turn it off before I vomited. I don't know exactly how the show works, but I did hear that one of their "design projects" was making an outfit for the latest fashion accessory craze: the dog. Man if I were on the show, I would have voted myself off! Dog is man's best friend, not a dress-up toy.

When it comes to sewing, pattern making, and designing, what would be the pinnacle of creation for you? In other words, is there anything that you have yet to try because of its level of difficulty?

Suits. Particularly a three-piece custom-tailored suit for a man. It is just going to be so hard, especially the pants. I have made two pairs of pants: one pair of plain black cotton cropped pants with no pockets for a fashion show, that I have thrown away due to ill fit, and a pair of jeans (for the same fashion show), which didn't fit my model very well, either. I am keeping those for reference and sentimental value only. So a pants suit will be a really good challenge.

Also fashion sketching. I am terrible at drawing anything! I really need to take a class and learn how to do it. I have never sketched anything out before I designed it, unless I was forced to for an assignment. I can take a design straight from my head to my machine, but I would like to have sketches. Also, if I am going to make it in the fashion/costume design world, I am going to have to know how to sketch.

Do you think Heidi Klum has any right to tell us how to dress?

No. Has she been telling us how to dress?

What do you think was lost in the sewing decline that followed the feminist movement?

What was lost and is still lost is a creative outlet. Fortunately, I was one of the lucky ones that had a sewing machine in the house growing up. I also took that home ec class in high school where we had to sew. I think those types of classes are disappearing, maybe not in small towns like the one in Kansas where I grew up, and where the class probably still exists. If those things weren't available to me then, maybe today I would be just another person who goes to work then comes home and watches TV.

Unfortunately, if kids don't see something in use, then their interest in that thing won't have a chance. And that just becomes one less thing for them to do other than things like drugs/alcohol/TV/video games/other completely unproductive, unimaginative things. I do enjoy a video game and a TV show (if I happen to have it on DVD) every once in a while, and that is fine, but when that becomes the only thing someone does, its pretty lame.

That is the only thing good about “Project Runway.” At least kids are exposed to that creative outlet. Then again, they are watching crappy reality TV. Hopefully everyone who watched that show turned it off, and went out and bought a sewing machine.

I read on your blog that you were a tomboy growing up. What sparked your love of the fabulous frock?

Growing up, I was always paired with my younger brother, as we were closer in age than I was to my two older sisters. So I always enjoyed "boy" things. I wanted to be like them, be tough like them, play in the dirt, catch bugs, play with them at recess, but still appear available, so I had to be somewhat feminine. I think I realized this at a very young age, because I remember always wanting to wear dresses in grade school (with shorts under them, of course, so I could climb the trees with the boys). I think "dressing up" has always just stuck with me, even though -- especially in high school -- I'd get questions like Why are you so dressed up? What's the occasion? Gah! I hated those questions. Then, of course, I really got into vintage clothing (and music and dancing) and if you like dresses in general, what's more remarkable than a 1950s dress?

How much do you love sewing? Like, if you were handless, would you find a way to sew with your feet? You know, like Daniel Day Lewis in My Left Foot?

Yeah, basically. Although, I would really have to come to terms with my feet. I just hate them. In fact, I hate all feet. I don't even own a pair of sandals because I don't want anyone looking at my abnormally wide feet, and ugly toes. And I try not to look at and/or touch other people's feet.

I'm a beginning sewer and I want to sew my first dress. Being a beginner means that mama will be using a pattern. What are three things I should be prepared to tackle in order to ensure good fit? (Because, generally, even good patterns call for adjustments.)

1) Make a muslin sample first. Make all necessary adjustments on the sample, and transfer them to the pattern.

2) If you haven't chosen a pattern, choose one with a full skirt that fits at the natural waist. That way you can concentrate on just fitting your torso. Then, you can add the hips for a future project.

3) And choose a pattern with princess seams. They are more difficult to sew than darts, but once you get the hang of them, they are great. And they will follow the contours of your body beautifully.

I'm adding a 4th:

4) IRON your seams! First press them how you sewed them, then press them open before crossing them with another seam. Ironing just makes your dress look so much better. If your dress looks like it was sewed up in three hours, then what does the fit really matter, right? Also a tailor's ham works really well for pressing curved seams, such as the princess seams that I suggested.

Do you personally have to make adjustments to commercial patterns, based on your shape?

I always have to adjust for my long torso, usually adding an inch to the bodice. Also, if I am making something that is fitted for the entire body (bust, waist, and hips) I usually have to let the pattern out for my hips and butt. And I usually have to shorten the hems on pants or skirts. I've got short little legs, and I don't like skirts that go too far below my knee. I have, by no means, "a standard body" as I am sure a lot of us don't, which is why I think making your own clothes or having them custom fitted is so much better than buying from stores, especially something you’re going to spend a lot of money on.

I get the idea you're not much into commercial patterns, but for those of us who are, do you have a favorite or least favorite brand?

I've only used a few commercial patters in my life. Because of all the adjusting that I must do, I like to just start from scratch. I did just get a bunch of mostly 50s patterns from a friend of my boyfriend's, and they are all my size! They are definitely not going to waste. Of those that I received, I am going to make this pattern first, with the same fabric, too.

It is just so cute! So, currently this one is my favorite.

On your custom work, do you earn what you feel is a fair amount of money based on the time and effort you put into it?

Actually, with this wedding dress that I a made, I don't think I got paid enough. It was my fault, though. I just undershot how much time I was going to spend on it with all the fittings, and pattern making, and fixing mistakes. When I make something for me, I let myself get away with a few mistakes, but when I am making something for someone else, I can't just let stuff go, it has really got to be perfect, no matter how much I am getting paid.

This wedding dress was a good learning experience for me, though, especially with regard to how much I should charge someone next time.

I'm thinking there are a lot of women who would like to dress in vintage styles but are daunted by what it takes to develop an overall "look." You pull it off flawlessly. What goes into creating a vintage look for you?

I just like to keep it simple and classy. Also, with the 50s-style dresses that I love most, I wear a petticoat underneath. It just helps pull off the style. I think maybe my cat-eye glasses help, too.

I think sometimes people try too hard, and get caught up in the "vintage look" when they really should be thinking about what actually looks good on them, and what they enjoy wearing. There is a vintage look for everyone out there, and not all vintage looks look good on everyone. I, for example, can't wear gathers from the shoulder or from the neck (the really 30s looks that I love). I don't have a big bust, and anything like that just looks big on me. I am not saying that you have to dress for your body type, but if you are going to be self-conscious about what you are wearing, then don't wear it.

Some people just stink with talent. Look at Joni Mitchell or Billy Dee Williams, who paint as well as they perform in their respective fields. Do you do anything else as well as you sew?

I'd say that sewing is it. I would like to think that with enough practice I could get really good at the clarinet and swing dancing. I haven't gone dancing in such a long time though. I really do spend most of my time designing, pattern making, and sewing. I need to free up some time for my other passions/hobbies.

How is your clarinet playing coming along?

Oh, it isn't really. I just bought Benny Goodman's Clarinet Method, and have been practicing my scales, and other technical things, but I don't practice nearly enough. I think that when my roommate gets his guitar, and I see him playing a lot, it will inspire me to do so, as well. We want to try and form a little jazz band with a friend who plays piano, and sings. We'll see…

You're invited to a once-in-a-lifetime, pee-your-pants-upon-getting-the-invitation affair. What do you make to wear?

I will wear a 3-piece brown/tan hounds tooth suit: The jacket will feature peak lapels, a breast pocket, in which will go a red silk pocket square, bound buttonholes, covered buttons, cream silk lining with red trim, and functional sleeve vents. The vest will be just like the jacket (you can't go too crazy with a vest). The pants will have a flat front, back welt pockets, and wide cuffs. I will wear a crisp, white, high-collared shirt with French cuffs, a red silk tie, and red patent-leather heels. I would also like to have a matching fedora (which I would have to get made. I wouldn't dream of making my own hat). I think that is it.

Why not a dress you ask? Well, I think that all the other women there would be wearing a dress. So a suit on a woman would stand out. Plus, I think that a tailored suit is a really impressive outfit. I would enjoy boasting about how I made it, how long it took me, and that I even made the tie.

Is the black polka dot dress featured on A Dress A Day (and pictured above) your favorite of all the things you've made? I hope so, ‘cause I love it. If not, what is your favorite?

It was until I made my latest dress. A pouffy white dress with black polka dots, and red trim.

I tend to like the latest thing I've made the most, probably because I just spent hours on it and feel really quite attached. We'll see if this one stays the favorite after the attachment phase.

Who's the most stylish person you've ever seen (living or dead)?

Prince. He can look cool in outfits that I don't even like.

And my roommates: my boyfriend Mikey, and my friend Joey. They just know how to dress. They are the kind of guys who wear suits, ties, fedoras, sweater vests, wingtip shoes, cuff links, pocket squares, bold colors, and for no special occasion. They are a couple of good finds, I must say.

Is there anything -- sublime, ridiculous, or in between -- that you would like to add?

I don't think so, unless any of my answers sparked new questions…

If Trista's answers sparked questions for you, or if you're interested in having her make you a fabulous frock, she can be contacted at

Thank you, Trista. It's been a blast.

Bernina Activa 210
More on slopers
Just who is Snooks Eaglin?
Edith Head
Max Fischer

(All images courtesy of Trista.)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

getting it while it's hot

Lilia, you little rascal. Thank you for the Finders Key Purse! (Get it, gang, finders keepers? Um, I needed a friend to point this out to me.)

I don't know if it's an LA correction, seeing as we had yarn stores stacked on top of each other for a while, but are we noticing the number of stores closing? Or being offered for sale? Seems like quite a few. Last month was the end of Knit Cafe. The store's rent was raised from 3k to 16k a month (yep, you read right), and there was no way for it to stay in its newly swank Melrose Ave location. Black Sheep's closing also had something to do with a pending rent increase. It's funny how the economy is bad but everything is going high end. What's that about?

Today I went to The Valley to pick up a Basic Tae Bo Workout tape that I found on Craigslist (it came with its own '90s crowd, Buns & Abs of Steel, Power Yoga with Rodney Yee, and Yoga Journal's Introduction to Yoga. I think these tapes have crossed all our VCRs at some point). It's the replacement I was looking for, so Billy and I are back in full swing. And you know I love him because I went to The Valley to get him. People who live in LA proper act like The Valley is another country. (Myself included.) If traffic is light, I can get there in 25 minutes, but traffic is rarely light.

I'd been planning to go over there anyway, because I had gift certificates from last year to Stitch Cafe. The owners of Stitch Cafe are looking to sell it, so before they do, or before they decide to close the doors altogether, I figured I'd best use my bucks. The Black Sheep closing sale was like being busted smoking by a parent who then forces you to smoke the whole pack: It ruined me for yarn. Still, Encore Worsted's always good for baby stuff, so I got that. The blue is really pretty, like robin's egg. If there's fabric within a 50 mile radius, I'll sniff it out. They had the beautiful print you see to sell as purse lining. I'll use it for that or something else. A flower pin, some darning needles, and some buttons, and now if SC closes I don't have to be like those Sharper Image gift card holders, meh.

The thing I can't figure is if these yarn shop closings and changes of ownership are due to the economy, or if the knitting revival is waning. Probably it's a mixture of both.

Tomorrow, a post I'm damn giddy about.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

who did this?

This cute thing appeared in my mailbox yesterday.

I didn't order it, and for the life of me I can't figure out who did. It didn't come with a note or anything. Sooo... if you're reading this and you sent it please let me know. I love it and I want to thank you. :)

You guys are in trouble now that I've got this iPod. Music suggestions will be coming out of the wazoo around here. Alright, I'll try to control myself. But I have to tell you about this one.

Aretha Franklin's Rare and Unreleased Recordings from the Golden Reign of the Queen of Soul. I'm all over Aretha, my desert island artist. I've read her autobiography, and I know a lot, a whole lot, of her music, particularly her older stuff. It's a happy occasion to discover music from her classic era that I haven't heard. Many of these B-sides, demos, and outtakes are so stirring and perfect that they could have been major releases. I mean, these are her lesser efforts? It's no wonder she's been so successful. If back-in-the-day Aretha means anything to you, get this disc.

Monday, May 19, 2008

silver surfer

The b-day fest has caught up with me and I'm nearly typing with my nose touching the keys.

Before I get the sense to go to bed, I'll answer a couple of questions on a very important topic, the purse and shoes in yesterday's post, ha ha.

They're what I wore to my birthday festivities. I got the shoes the day before at Jet Rag for $18. They're the Nordstrom brand. I have no problem with used shoes, but I don't suppose everybody is willing to stick their tootsies in other people's castoffs.

The purse, which I love because it's so Spacely Sprockets, I bought last year at the Rose Bowl swap meet. It was lying on the ground amid an array of odd items, so I knew it'd go on the cheap. The seller wanted 10 bucks; I gave him 8.

I almost never have matching handbags and shoes -- Are we still doing that, anyway? Or have the fashion dictators ruled it passe? -- because I don't think about it, but I like my little silver set. Thanks, guys, for asking about it.

Later this week, I've got a reaallly good post coming up. I'm excited about it, and I hope you all will like it too.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

all over but the shoutin'

The passage of time is pulling me kicking and screaming away from my birthday, so I guess it's time to bid it adieu and get on with things.

I'll put up more party pics this week, to put a fine point on the good time that was had by all.

Meanwhile, I'm reuniting with Billy Blanks. My father called the day before my birthday while I was doing one of my tapes (from the original set. I know. So late 90s). I picked up and said, I gotta call you back. I'm turning 42, it's time to exercise. My dad laughed and said, Get it on, get it on!

So, I'm getting it on. Me no likey exercise much, but I'm accepting it. Billy I love, especially early Billy. He was so cheesy, even when he first came out. I get a kick out of his Spandex jumpsuits. When things get rough, they help to distract me from the torture of his workouts.

My favorite tape for busting out of slugdom is his first Basic Workout. When I put my copy in the VCR (that sounds so ancient, like saying, The other day I was driving along in my Studebaker...), I heard crunching, then nothing. The thing ate my Billy. I took it out and the tape snapped. Schmin said he'll take it to the shop and try to fix it, but why don't I go ahead and get a DVD? He said this like I've never heard of DVDs. So far, I haven't found the original set on DVD for less than a bajillion dollars.

Anyway. Do you guys Freecycle? To replace my tape I went on and posted a want ad. The same day a guy who lives around the corner responded and said he had a couple of Tae Bo tapes (he'd gotten them as part of an all-or-nothing lot on Freecycle). I think they're the 2nd or 3rd incarnation of Tae Bo, not the originals I'm looking for, but for free, they're perfect. I did one today and I think I have a broken ass now.

Welp, I'd better get going on... something important. I've been lost in iPod land. I mean just glued to iTunes importing songs and arranging things and syncing the Pod. Googling songs I haven't heard in ages to download. I feel like I'm smoking crack. I have to make a decision about a major move, but all I can do is paste album art while marveling at how sexy the iPod looks and sounds in its docking station.

Ah, well. The move will get made or it won't. I'm a Pod person now. As long as we have our crack, we don't care.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

why turning 42 rocks

Because first there was this:

And then there was this:

And today there was a long afternoon at the pond, which included public napping -- and not in a sitting position -- a tasty smoothie based on a stranger's recommendation (show me who can resist something called "Raspberry Romance"), and now there is fooling around with my iPod and the fabulous iHome docking station given to me by Schmin.

Oh, and one more wonderful thing: Reading all your lovely birthday hellos and good wishes. You guys are the cherry on top.

Why haven't I turned 42 before?

Friday, May 16, 2008

birthday baby

Don't look at me unless you're bringing food.

At this hour (4 pm), on this day 42 years ago, I was born with chubby cheeks, squinty eyes, and an air of intensity.

As a friend's young daughter once said when it was her turn to introduce herself among a roomful of adult women, I'm just happy to be here.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

hello, dollies

This year I have pimped my birthday to the max. I've used it as an excuse to buy myself stuff, and to beg stuff from other people. (Thank you, Mister Stevens. Thank you, Schmin. You two are my heart.)

The booty I have so far collected is outstanding, and tomorrow I am having a birthday gathering, where there will likely be more.

I can hardly stand it.

Blanche was my early b-day gift to myself. Then I picked up an iPod last week (as probably the last living American who didn't know anything about them). And today, the coup de grace:

Nesting dolls! And they're me! I mean, seriously, aren't these just taking things way too far?! I LOVE them.

The middle doll is my favorite. She's not holding anything, but the trees on her babushka floor me; she's all about peace and stillness.

And look at the little knitter, and the tiny mama with a tiny camera.

This one is reading a favorite book of mine.

Big Mama has herself a vintage Featherweight sewing machine, complete with thread!

Where did I get these wonders, you ask. Where can you get some for yourself, you want to know.


One day I was Googling or Flickring some sewing thing or another, and I came across a blog called Lady Harvatine. On said blog, Lady posts things she makes, and other interesting items. Her blog is lovely, so I forgot whatever it was I was looking for and stayed a while. Reading through her posts, I saw this one. This would be when I flipped my lid. All I needed to know was that Lady Harvatine's friend Melissa had an etsy shop and would make such dolls for all comers. I contacted her, and a wonderful exchange began. She asked for a photo and some personal interests to base the dolls on (I wondered how she'd work in my tree worship). Quite naturally I was ready with this info, I have a blog, don'tcha know. I told her every conceivable thing about myself, and she went to work.

Here's where things get wow. We started the process last month. Melissa kept me posted along the way, then today sent me a message saying the dolls were ready to be mailed. I really really really wanted them in time for my birthday, like really, like a two-year-old would mean really. So, knowing she lives in LA, I asked her where and suggested that I could pick them up, depending (LA is humongous). I told her what area I live in. She wrote me back, and guess what: Not only does she live in the same area, but when she named her street and its cross street, it turned out she lives on the next block from where I live! I swear, one block over. We met on the corner about 15 minutes later and she handed over the dolls. I will be tickled about this forever. You might call it coincidence. I call it God's way of saying Happy Birthday.

We favor, yes? Ellen calls us The Great Carlavskiovich, in honor of our Russian heritage.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

and so is she

I realize I scraped the bottom yesterday. I posted pictures of sleeping people. Sleeping people, people. But when you're blogging every day, you're entitled to a little filler here and there. And really, that Schmin and his antics just tickle me.

Today, I've got serious content.

This here is what they call knitting. I wanted to post it yesterday, but it wasn't dry yet, hence the filler. Once I finally got the pattern settled, I worked on this a good while ( 4 - 6 weeks off and on, roughly). The whole affair got off to a rocky start. I tried to make the yarn into this at first:

Much too busy. No sleekness whatsoever. Plus, the needle size was too small (US 7) to give the proper drape. I switched patterns -- from the Feather & Fan Comfort Shawl to Laura Chau's Simple Yet Effective Shawl -- upped the needles to 10s, and finally hit the sweet spot. The yarn is Elann's Sonata in the Southwest Sunset colorway.

It's for my mother-in-law (my father-in-law's current wife, not the mama of The Bubs), who was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago. Yes, it's taken me this long to gift her with the comfort of knitting, even though straightaway I asked her favorite colors, told her I'd be sending her something, and bought the yarn. Best laid plans.

Now it is done, in spite of my fussiness over it (because of it?). It's what I wanted it to be. It has all the corals and turquoise blues and peaches she loves, with some red thrown in for passion. It'll be perfect for cool summer evenings. I'm sending it in celebration of her being wonderful and cancer free. And I think she'll like it, which is the best part.

Project Notes
Yarn: Cotton. Mercerized. I enjoy working with this fiber. Many people don't. Somewhat obnoxious number of knots. About 7 balls used.
Pattern: Excellent, because you don't really need it. You just increase, knit, and purl. You decide when to do the last two.
Measurement: Approx 76" w and 44" h
Happiness: Mucho