16 November, 2011

Civilization HO!

I'm  baaaack!  Here are some last-minute parting shots of my wild-wild-east, Central-Asian, rocket-attack-ducking adventure: 
Civvies wear cadpat too!!! (but no guns....)
...at (rocket-attack-siren) times, with helmets!!!
A very fond goodbye to my dear friends (with guns)...
...each week's growing crowds of running mates...
...and sleep-deprived coffee buddies (nb, made-by-me running top)!
...and Hello, sewing machine!

Well.  That was then... and this is - three months later - now. My sewing machine's on the table, with the chosen fabric - a gorgeous navy wool-silk blend - and the pattern, a classic shirt dress - nearby, all awaiting my attention.  But - ever since I got back, family life's been interfering with my selfish sewing plans.  I've been focusing on, ahem, intellectual matters - meh! big time unproductive!  So, this week, let's see if I can get my scissors & needle in gear!

29 July, 2011

Maid in the Shade :)

43 degrees tall!
In this environment, I typically prefer dressing in jacket over sleeveless shell  - the combination gives good coverage against the fierce sun and dust, and, since the jacket is invariably unbuttoned, excellent ventilation.  But I have only so many jackets here, so I like to vary the look every few days.  Since the look of the day (always Groundhog Day, remember!) is long slacks and sleeves, my range of variations is limited.  I posted the above shirt  when it was just sewn, and here it's as part of an ensemble.  The slacks are the Jalie jeans pattern, and I like them enormously. Not so much for the fit any more, they're very loose nowadays - but the fabric, some sort of nylon-dominated, maybe with cotton, technical stuff that doesn't stick and wears extremely well. Thank you, Fabric Mart!
Much cooler than two weeks ago!
So, I made three of these McCall's 6035 shirts, and I wear them with great pleasure.  Below I'm wearing another. Its cotton is coarser than the other two's, but that only makes it even more breathable, ergo perfect for this place. 
All clear - all clear - all clear!
 Why the strange pose and mis-matched headgear?  Well, periodically we have little episodes of excitement, called rocket attacks, and plopping down on the ground when the siren goes off (think London Blitz, I kid you not) is the standard way to minimize risk to one's stylish attire.  So there you go.  The grey slacks are another version of the Jalie jeans, in stretch cotton that I like but would love if they were a tad lighter weight.   The camera jitter is due to..... use your imagination!

11 July, 2011

Civvies get medals too!

I feel honoured to have received it from our Commander himself. 
This is actually a sewing-related post!  For the ceremony I picked my "almost-camo" outfit, which consists of wide leg trousers and matching bias-cut tank top (seen peeking out from beneath the jacket) in a very soft, loose weave linen (Fabricland), and the Vogue 1036 Today's Fit Betzina jacket in a cross-weave tan-peach linen (Gorgeous Fabrics).  You already saw the jacket on a coat hanger here.  Colour-wise, this is the closest I have to our Canadian combat fatigues, and it generally blends in beautifully with the local colour scheme, not to mention the locals:

Blending into the local scenery
On an average day (which is every day - think Groundhog Day - each day is just like the one before)  I can be exuberantly colourful:

The Last BBQ at TFK HQ
Again, wide leg trousers and a tank top covered by a lightweight, unlined jacket, all in linen. 

Our combat mission is now over, and I too shall be coming home. Soon.  Hello, my beautiful green Ottawa!!!

02 June, 2011

Guess Who Came To Dinner?

The big flag at the main entrance to Canada 9 is not usual - so that means the guest must've been someone special, right?

 Indeed, 'twas so:  we were honoured by our PM, Stephen Harper (speaking above), who arrived in the company of the two big guns of defence (Minister of Defence and Chief of Defence Staff, also above).

 Better yet (for some), they brought with them two young ladies from the national women's hockey team (they won gold in the Vancouver winter Olympics, thus the medals), and Jarome Iginla from the men's Olympic gold-winning hockey team (teal shirt, and he modestly left his medal at home) .

And the band played on.... a wonderful, international ISAF folk band, made up (left to right) of a Brit, Canadian, and two Americans.  They were all good, with great voices, and the Canadian fiddler  superb - I wondered if he was of Nova Scotia's musical heritage.

What am I wearing?  My blue zebra linen suit (I joke I'm the decoy - it's very non-camo!) over a printed silk crepe sleeveless top with a pleated neckline. Linen from Fabricland, silk from Fabric by the Yard, pattern, well, I'll have to look it up.  All comfortably loose and cheerful.  I get a surprising number of compliments on this blue zebra look, and frequently get asked for photos. People here are starved for a little normalcy - living in a world of camouflage, even international varieties of it, does get monotonous.  Me, I'm sooo looking forward to a dress!!!!

27 May, 2011

A Different Kind of Embroidery

The famous KAF Boardwalk is a quadrangle of sea-cans - ie, sea containers - with windows and doors cut into them, all facing inwards.  The central area houses an imported from Ontario all-Canadian hockey rink, a fenced-in basketball court that doubles as a mini-soccer field, a couple of volleyball nets, and a wide expanse used by football (the American kind), baseball, and rugby afficionados.  The Boardwalk is really truly a boardwalk, and it's nicely roofed against the blazing sun.

The seacans house a miscellany of shops, serving up fast (and not so fast, when available) food, cold and hot drinks (espresso over ice!), Afghan jewellery, scarves, woodwork and of course carpets, internet, banking, barbering, alterations, and, surprisingly, embroidery.  Let's take a peek into the embroidery shop, shall we?  Here's one of the machines:

They're serious, dedicated, computerized workhorses.  You won't find any flowers and butterflies coming out of them, though - the customers just aren't the butterfly types.  They need serious insignia, and that's what they get.  C-IED right above my right hand, for example?  That's counter-improvised-explosive-device, and the brave fellows who wear them disarm deadly home-made-mines, if you please.

I'm wearing a Vogue Montana jean jacket in grey linen from Michael's, with matching wide-leg pants, btw. Wrinkled of course, but since everyone around me parades in fatigues, I dig being a little rumpled.

 The shop is a family business, and the owners (mother and daughter, I presume) are Russian-speaking Kazakhis.  For the right price, they'll embroider any design on anything you please - flowers and butterflies included. The name tags hanging off the counter are luggage tags - ingenious!

How many nationalities can you spot on the wall?

It's really, really hot here now.  The day after I took this pic, the little thermometer topped 50 degrees Celsius, and upon cooling, promptly gave up the ghost (the surface tension at both ends broke the bead into a bunch of discontinuous little lines). 

07 April, 2011

Of boys and their toys

Life without sewing?  It demands something else by way of diversion to occupy the time. To wit:
1. work
2. work
3. gym aka PT
4. work
and more of the same.

Not much time for the internet, either.  And the bandwidth is woefully slow.

One of our diversions is the weekly bazaar at the edge of the base.  It's open for a mere 3 hours once a week, and provides a welcome high point to the week.  It's staffed by local men and their sons - like the charming young man above, who sold me one of the plastic-encased spiders for my own boy who's probably the same age.  We never see any Afghan women or girls - they're completely invisible, er, absent. More's the pity.

The other diversion takes a little more work than just spending money, but it does involve money as well:  fundraising runs.  One of the ones I participated in shortly after getting here was to support the young fellow's school. Note, my dear lady friends, one and all, that this is a boys' school.  Literacy Illiteracy rate for women in this neck of the woods runs to 90%.  Yes, that's correct:  nine adult women out of ten can't read or write.  A dismal number of girls get to go to school.   I wish we could all get together and do a fundraiser for a local girls' school, don't you?  

And now for the toy:  like my ride?  Just one of the big toys for the big boys (& girls) I work with here.  Don't I just look like a military tourist? This is the only bit of green for miles and miles of here.  

Happy sewing, everyone! 

22 February, 2011

KAF Look of the day

With  drastic temperature changes from morning to mid-day to evening,  frequent though brief showers and a nearly complete lack of any cover from fiercely bright sunlight between them, layering is the correct approach.

The long-sleeved tee is Jalie 2805, from a delicious blue-tan heathered stretch cotton from Emma One Sock; the slacks are my self-developed TNT, from a stretch cotton herringbone in very pale tan, an exact match to the local dried mud, accessorized with one of my keyhole silk chiffon scarves - wonderful for keeping the neck warm. Barbed and razor wire form a common thread in the local scenery.

The boots and coat were my big but essential purchases for this assignment.  The coat (though it has absurdly long sleeves) is roomy enough for a thick under layer and did a beautiful job doubling as a very warm blanket on the two long haul flights that got me here. 

 I'm standing in front of the Canadian memorial to our servicewomen and men, who lost their lives in the line of duty here.  The sculpture is an inukshuk.

15 February, 2011

Up, up and away!

The time has come....
...to put away...
...my sewing machines...
...my serger...
...my fabrics...
...my patterns...
...my Burda magazines...
...and return all my unconventional sewing aids (chopsticks, toothpics, the rolling pin, and the like) to their rightful place in the home...

Yesterday I made three workout tops. Today I pack. And tomorrow?

How did my self-clothed deployment project turn out?  With the exception of pj's and hats, I made pretty much everything on my list.  I BOUGHT only a suitably mud-coloured convertible winter/raincoat and one pair of gym shorts - but neither of these were on my list to begin with. 

I leave you with the trailer for Kandahar (2001), a superb Canadian-made movie that predates the current conflict, but instead shows an expat woman's perspective of her country after the Afghan-Soviet war. Highly, highly recommended.

28 January, 2011

Buttons can be beastly

Thanks to my recent push to finish the various and sundry shirts and jackets, I found myself facing 10+9+9+8+9+8 buttons to sew on.  Ummm... nope.  Mind-numbingly, tooth-achingly boring. In an instant I knew it wasn't going to happen.

My solution? I machine-sewed them on. All you need is a zig-zag foot and a cover plate for the teeth, and simple two-hole buttons. 

This worked like a charm and saved me time and sanity.  Perfectly?  Well, almost.  In my enthusiastic run to the finish I failed to align the second to last - I kid you not - button correctly - with the following result:

Arrrgh, right?  My crystal ball predicts a completely unnecessary unavoidable run to Fabricland in my near future.

As for the rest, I settled on one set of hammer-in-an-eyeblink jeans buttons (yea!), and one set of shanked metal ones.  I took my sweet time about it and sewed those 8 by hand.  Zen and the art of patient sewing!

25 January, 2011

Three button-down shirts

What I really love about my current wardrobe project is the opportunity to repeat a pattern until it's perfect.
Over the past week I applied myself to the McCall's 6035 shirt.  This is an armhole princess pattern with different pieces for A-B, C, and D bust sizes, and I was really looking forward to trying this canned approach to an FBA.

From the finished garment measurements, it was a toss up of either a 10D or a 12C.  They have almost identical bust measurements and only a little difference at the hip. Based on some of the previous comments I recalled from those of you that have already tackled this pattern and the climate I'm sewing for, I decided on the 12C.  Even if not sewing for an overheated environment,  and in this case overheated in so many different ways, I will always, always go for the looser fit - nothing says "trying too hard" than clothing that shows every lump and bump and undergarment line (yuck). I did stick to a 10 shoulder line and lowered the neckline to the 8.

You know what, I love it! Those deep princess lines I recall reading a few complaints about fit me to a T: they slide right over my BP.  It's a no-brainer that a lady with a smaller bust needs a shallow princess panel, and one with some frontal depth needs a deeper one.  Thank you, McCalls!

My first shirt, a wearable muslin made from a fairly coarse but wonderfully breathable navy-white-grey patterned cotton from the Fabric Flea Market, would've been perfect but for operator error.  The collar is not centred on the collar stand, and it's just obvious enough that I should (and will)  rip it out and re-insert (but not this month).  I also widened the back princess and side seams at the hem by 1/4", adding 2" to the overall hem.

As I was getting ready to cut my second iteration I remembered that patterns fit me much better when I shorten the back 1/2" between arm and waist. And what does that little adjustment do to the lower portion?  It flares the hem just so, which means I could've saved myself the trouble of widening the hem in the first iteration, because in the second shirt, it was not merely roomy enough, but plenty roomy.  But I don't mind. I plan on wearing them open over a tank top nine times out of ten, and I know they'll flap around me like the wings of an albatross regardless. 

In all three cases I made version C, the one with sporty rolled up sleeve and tabs to hold it up, but I lengthened the sleeve to full length (in case of being faced with a culturally-appropriate, overly modest setting) and also lengthened the tab to shoulder length, something I saw in a recent fashion show, and thought, cool -  a tab that's just a tad different! Each tab has two buttonholes and two buttons, one at the shoulder and the other at the bicep. The side benefit of this is I can lower the sleeve to not-quite-full-length, and button it into place with the upper buttonhole in the lower button.

They're not white.  They're very appropriate for the blue and olive and tan trousers I do have, however.

I have a little length of beautiful white linen, and another of a beautiful pale ice mint green linen that I'm just dying to transform into a couple of easy long sleeved tops, but I'm starting to suffer what I call "sewing brain freeze":  what to do, what to do, oh, which pattern?

17 January, 2011

Fleece in my comfort zone: Jalie 2795

Over the past couple of evenings I stretched myself, ;))), to make the Jalie 2795 fleece jacket (thanks, Kay!). Not counting the fleece interlining of my Dr. Zhivago greatcoat and some mitten-making games, this was my very first fleece garment. And the fleece was thick. Stretchy, yes, and very, very thick:

Forcing all these layers of the stuff under the needle was truly a stretch for me.  Huffing and puffing all the way.

I used size T, per my full bust; lengthened the body by 1.25" and shortened the sleeve by 3/4".  The nice soft thick fleece I sewed up yielded the desired cozy little topper.  So far so good.

However. This is a very body-conscious pattern:  the raglan armscye is very high - any higher and it would be cutting off circulation to my arms.  The sleeves are narrow, and the upper chest is pretty close to the body. I think it would work much better in a thin fleece, as a lightweight garment than an outerwear type jacket. In fact, that's sort of how it's portrayed on the envelope: a thin, lightweight topper. 

A comparison with my ancient and much loved fleece jacket from MEC (Mtn Equipment Coop) is instructive:
 They're about the same length and width at the hip but the red oldie is much roomier in the sleeve and chest area - precisely the spots I find constricting in the Jalie.

In the Jalie, the raglan seam is a good 2" shorter...

 ...  the chest is about 2" narrower on each side... (and, interestingly, the back is wider than the front - note the location of the side seam)

 ...while the lower sleeve is over an inch narrower near the wrist, and far more than that higher up.  It's a little shorter too, and the length is perfect.

I took a look at the pattern pieces with a view to revising the fit a little:

This is the back - CB on fold, with one of the two side back pieces (the side hasn't been lengthened on paper, but was cut longer).  Notice the princess seam does nothing to shape the back - it's strictly, um, decorative.  It's the same story with the front princess panels - in fact, the same pattern piece is used for the side front and side back.  And the sleeve? 

The sleeve is made of four pieces: upper centre, lower centre (cut on fold), and two sides, one of which is shown because both are cut from one pattern piece. But again, no shaping is added by these pieces.  Also the waistband is, unnecessarily, made so that it has side seams; it could so easily have been made out a single piece of fabric for a smoother fit over the hips.

I confess I find all this non-functional slicing and dicing objectionable.  It adds considerable construction time (especially if you're going to topstitch each seam), and decreases the comfort of the garment (due to all those unnecessary seams along the body and the very narrow sleeves).  I could understand if the jacket was shown attractively colour-blocked, giving the extra seaming aesthetic value. But the pattern envelope & instructions make no such suggestions. What really ups the irksomeness factor is that the seams in sleeve and body pattern pieces have no relevance to each other, as you see below:

See? the side sleeve and side princess seams don't match. To me, this looks downright ugly. Now how easy would it have been to raise that princess seam a little so it meets the sleeve seam?  Unsurprisingly, it's the same story at the back.  Picky, picky, picky, yes:  I like it not!!! 

But wait! There's nothing wrong with the jacket per se.  I love raglan sleeved jackets. And the non-functionality of the pattern pieces can be of advantage:  it's so very easy to combine them.  My second version of this jacket has a one-piece front, one-piece back, one-piece sleeve, and of course, a one-piece waistband. 

I simply lapped the bottoms of the princess seam and spread them ~1.5" at the top to create more ease in the chest, lowering the side piece to accomodate the curvature.  Similarly, I spread the sleeve pieces to match, giving them a little more width at the wrist as well (not shown). 

I moved the pocket to the side seam and curved it as above. This is less belly-bulking than the in-front kangaroo style of the original.

The result?  A jacket that's still fairly closely fitting, yet unconstricting in the slightest, and smoothly comfortable.

 I gave my first effort to an underage offspring with a 31.5" chest and a penchant for kangaroo pockets. 

12 January, 2011

Are we still making white shirts?

If so, click on the Never Too Many White Shirts Project button at left.  It'll take you to Barbara's "sewing on the edge" post on the subject, from where you can browse her other white shirt accomplishments; the latest being the very funny and very pretty Tom Jones blouse (sex bomb, sex bomb!).  Great job, Barbara!

But wait, there's more!  The NY Times has a slide pictorial on white shirts!  All men's shirts, but no matter, we can all happily wear guy stuff and call it "boyfriend" this'n that: boyfriend sweater, boyfriend shirt, boyfriend jeans, etcetera.   My fave?  #5, the Ralph Lauren,  with its cutaway collar, french cuffs, and a cool $395 out of your wallet.  I love the sense of smugness that price tag generated in me:  yessirs, I can do that! 

Parting shot:  my happy-silly 4-2008-107 waistcoat, all but done; just waiting for the last round of topstitching, buttonholes, and the buttons to be attached.

I was trying it on over my long sleeved rayon tees, and can already say I'm going to love wearing it. If nothing else, it says: come on over and talk to me! all the while professionalizing (we can "verb" anything these days, right?) out of the tees  their intrinsic casualness.

08 January, 2011

A (Straight) jacket a day

Will keep boredom at bay. That's the plan.  For my grand adventure, I'm taking along the following seven jackets:

Oh, you noticed there's only six patterns there?  Indeed.  Can we please pretend that my Xmas present, the Finny Solingen shears, are the missing seventh?  In my mad rush to tidy up for Christmas I misplaced V1036.  It's hiding somewhere, and doing it very well today.  No matter! I can prove to you I did really complete it - not that you'd ever doubt it, but it feels ever so silly to show just patterns instead of products.

Don't you hate how flat and shapeless a garment looks on a coat hanger?  It's actually a very cute jeans jacket. With a very interesting shaped waistband.

 Topstitching, oh yes. I must've topstitched a marathon these past few weeks. Are we having fun yet? Luckily, the fabric (a beautiful linen, btw) was way too thick/coarse to flat fell.  All seams are serged with thread that is such a good match, you can't even tell it's there - lucky me! and then double-topstitched.  The joys of a topstitching/edging foot cannot be overstated!  

So, progress is being made here in the Straightjacket asylum.  I will actually have eight jackets, because I decided to take along my M5396 green linen jacket.  I made another version of it - different fabric/colour/lapels - no one but you will know that it's in its 3rd iteration (the 2nd was inadvertently, sadly destroyed).

I have just over a month before I hop on that CF Hercules.  My to-do list intimidates even me:

1.  fleece jacket: a must! it's going to be c-c-c-cold when I get there.
2. wool sweater hoodie a la my daughter's Friar Tuck sweater
3. two (maybe three) long sleeved lightweight cotton shirts (at least two). I'd make more, but there's just NO time!
4. a bunch of long sleeved tees: have the fabrics, have the Jalie patterns, BUT: do I have the time?
5. two pj's using TNT tanktop and TNT pants, capri length, in cotton batik.  In a pinch, could skip. 
6. gym stuff.  Have the fabric but.... see #5.
7. sun hats to match my snazzy jackets.  Am I crazy?!!!

What I really need is the sewing version of a scullery maid.  I'm waiting, with bated breath, for a volunteer.

In the meantime, I'm about to be foolish. Instead of focusing on what I NEED, I'm officially thumbing my nose at the above list and wasting investing the next couple of days on BWOF 4-2008-107.  Oh yes.  If I can't wear silly clothes in a war zone, where on earth can I?!!!  Plus, in a neutral tan linen, it'll be the perfectly, uberly, cool look over any of my multi-coloured long-sleeved tees. 

Pencil? Check! Parchment paper? Check! Miles and miles of topstitching thread?  (sigh) Check!