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Mar 8, 2010

Monday week in review and goals!

Can it really be Monday again already?

This was a strange week for me: the purchase and arrival of my vintage Singer 15-91 sewing machine seemed to overshadow my sewing.  But I did sew some.
1. Remember this very Eighties neon striped knit I bought last Monday?

I decided to return to my vintage McCall's mens underwear pattern from 1972 pictured above and to make a tank top.  And here it is:

I probably won't wear this exact outfit till August in Provincetown, but isn't it nice to know it's ready today on the odd chance I get flown down to South Beach for a fashion shoot?

I have no idea why those stripes photographed so yellow since they're neon green, but you get the idea.  (No, it's not in my new palette but I think I should be allowed some wiggle room for summer, don't you?)

I made the neck and armhole trim by cutting horizontal strips parallel to the stripes and I'm very happy with the result.  I should mention that I stitched this entirely on my 15-91 straight stitch and it handled the knit beautifully -- even better than my Singer Spartan!

More pics of me in my knits here.

2.  The other knit project I completed this week is my terrycloth short-sleeve shirt.  I still have to finish hemming the sleeves and make those matching Bermuda shorts, however.

3.  Just to keep you updated on my 15-91, he's doing beautifully.  Johanna was over yesterday and tried him out.  She brought me some metal polish and some sort of automobile wax to help me clean him but I'm not much of a restorer and I was secretly hoping Johanna would just do it herself.  She didn't.

Just between you and me, Johanna secretly lusts after my Elna Grasshopper (the green machine in the foreground) -- not that she doesn't have one of her own, mind you, but mine has the carrying case and some cool accessories hers doesn't.  I actually caught her trying to sneak the gunmetal case out under her shirt and it was so obvious and embarrassing.  Like I wouldn't know who took it.

Johanna had never serged before (how sad!), so I let her try my Brother 1034D.  I see a serger in this woman's life in the very near future; hopefully not mine.

4.  I wrote two popular pieces last week I hope you haven't missed:  The first is entitled "Top 10 Reasons to Buy a Vintage Sewing Machine" and I think anyone who has ever even remotely considered the purchase of an old machine would benefit from reading it.  The second is "Sewing as Protest", which sparked a lively debate about why we sew and what we're expressing in the process.  Of course, the conversation continues; that's one of the great things about a blog: a discussion can go on indefinitely.

And now on to the week to come!

1. I'd like to continue to work on my knits.  I am enjoying experimenting with these stretchy fabrics and learning new techniques to control them better.  I'd like to incorporate my serger more too.

2. I owe cousin Cathy a new dress for all her help last month -- something she reminded me of on her last call from Paris.  I'm not sure what I'll make her, but a knit is a definite possibility.  

3. I must, must, must clean up my sewing area(s).  I was embarrassed yesterday when Johanna approached my sewing table and nearly tripped -- on a dust bunny.  I haven't seen my Gingher shears for days.  I sew better when there's a little more order in my space and I think better too!

But enough about me.  How are all of YOU doing with your projects?

Somebody's been keeping up, I see...

Darci recently completed this beautiful shirtdress!  I love that bold pattern and I hear it looks even better outside the ladies' washroom.  Kidding aside, congratulations, Darci, on a job well done.  I know you're inspiring others and hopefully embarrassing them for their sloth, too.

OK, it's time to name names and this time I'm not just going to pick from the earliest commenters, which never did seem fair: some up you are obviously getting up at the crack of dawn just to get the first word in.

Mikhaela: How's the new maternity dress in the floral silk twill coming along?  We want pictures.  Aurora: Now that the Olympics are over, how's the shirtdress progressing?  Fourkid: Did you finish the purse?  Sarah: Did you finish making the pattern for your daughter's skintight leggings and are you willing to share it with my cousin Cathy? Whassup with that purse you wanted to make?

PLEASE NOTE: Now that the weather is warming up we're going to be tempted to spend more time outside.  This is to be resisted at all costs.  We must stay inside, preferably in a damp basement, dark kitchen, or drafty sewing nook, and complete our projects.  When those are done, then perhaps we can stick our little noses up against the window a bit before returning to our sewing machines.

And so, my friends, what's going on in your week?

Do share!


  1. Great tank, Peter. Oh, how I wished it was warm enough outside already to wear outfits like that...!

    This week lies before me as a week of endless possibilities. Because, yes, really, I finished the coat I told you about earlier. I finished it! After almost half a year (I know, I should be ashamed), it's finished. I am so happy with it. And so happy about the thought that I can start a new, fresh project. I'm almost a kind of giddy, with all these new possibilities lying before me.

    I think I am going to make a little baby present for a friend who recently told me she's expecting. And a shirt for my love. And a little dress for my little girl. And then a blouse for myself. Oh, so much to do. I better start sewing!

    But... I finished my coat. Yay!

  2. Working on a Burda short-sleeved shirt in red gingham. I need more shirts to wear with the cowboy boots I bought a few months ago. I am totally in love with them.

  3. You male-model you. Loved the striped tank.

  4. I am obedient if nothing else. Yesterday I pulled out older machine #2, and greased and tweaked. The apple green silk blouse that has been cut for 3 months is ready to go, and will be stitched on the older Singer, not the newer Pfaff, as we have been advised (admonished even?)here to keep those gears a-turnin'. I intend to discern this machine's strengths and my goal is to get to where all four are out and used for differing portions of projects (oh, crap I went and used the word goal...).
    And an aside- someone mentioned a button holing machine last week. I procured one two weeks ago to replace an older model. I second the notion. You will find yourself making garments just to get to use it. There were many on eBay to be had for under $10, almost all of which make button holes superior to any SM made buttonhole. They can be attached to any machine capable of a zig-zag stitch provided you are aware of your shank style.

  5. I love Darci's dress - the print is absolutely to die for. I envy people who are of normal adult height - they can wear prints. When you're as short as me you cannot wear a print like that as the print looks like it's wearing you.

    Last week I managed to crank out another pair of pants for my professor, as well as a DVF style wrap dress using the same pattern I used for Samantha's makeover. Mine is from an aqua knit fabric that I bought for $1/yard. The piece was a 1 and 7/8 yard remnant and cost $1.88. I bought it to practice sewing knits as it was way back in the summer and I had no idea how to sew knits then. Now that my knit sewing is getting better I decided to try out this dress on myself. I need to take photos and blog it but I am 99% satisfied with the fit. And seeing as the dress probably cost me less than $5, well, you cannot argue with that. We're going to the opera tomorrow night and I will probably wear this (it's on campus at my University so the dress code isn't like we're attending the Met).

    This week - I need to start work on the Burda Hikaru jacket - now that the weather here in New England is becoming spring like, I need a transitional jacket. My pea coat is a little too heavy for temps int he 40s, but I am sick of only wearing athletic style jackets. I was successful in my attempt at printing out the download on tracing paper - one pack of 40sheets from Michael's craft store was enough to print the pattern and it went through the printer without any issues. Now I just have to tape it together.

  6. That's funny, Kerry, for a moment there I thought you wrote that you were sewing for your PROFESSOR. LOL! (Could you imagine?)

    Yes, we short people have to avoid those big prints. Darci, I suspect, is a very Brooke Shields-esque 6'2."

    If you send me photos -- and this is for all of you, not just Kerry -- of your completed projects, I can post them on the blog for others to see. Why limit yourself to Pattern Review? (ha ha)

  7. This week, I am determined that I WILL COMPLETE ONE LAYETTE. I put it in all caps because I am determined. I have put it off for too long. I admit it, it's in part because I cleaned out my sewing corner in the living room and haven't managed to locate everything I need again. I mean, it was a mess, but I knew where everything was. We needed the space for the Christmas tree in December, though, and I haven't found everything yet!

    I did actually complete my goal for last week. Sure it was only one pair of pajama pants, but the baby has been sick.

  8. I'm lusting after that grasshopper Elna myself.

    Oooh!--you sewed a knit on the 15-91? I've never used knits on a straight stitch machine. I'll have to give it a try.

  9. Awesome tank! I have fabulous things happening this week Peter. I've already picked up some new patterns for inspiration. 1.99 sale at Jo-ann? Heck yeah. I eagerly await the arrival of my vintage sewing machine that you inspired me to buy. She is a beauty. I finally completed my first garment last week and now am SOOOOO inspired to get going on ten more different projects, including another wrap skirt. It was so easy once I figured out what the hell I was doing.

    I hope animal prints doesn't fall under the big prints vs. small people taboo. I'm only 4'11 but I am having a scorching affair with animal prints. My wrap skirt I just completed is turquoise zebra print. It may just be the fact that I am completely ridiculous a little drag-tastic at times. :)

    Have a fab week and good luck with all your goals!

  10. Andrea, I think it depends on the animal. Leopard, good; giraffe, bad.

    Do people agree?

  11. Fourkid: Did you finish the purse?
    Le sigh - not yet. I put the robe to the top of the list and in my overconfidence (cockiness?) made a few errors. It should be done today. I was just working on it when I decided to come read your blog! The purse must be done this week, so it is up next in my March of finishing projects - but silly me - can you believe I have a pattern I am cutting out today as well? One of my 25 cent thrift store finds from last week. I couldn't resist (and it is easy.)

    Love, love that neon tank.

  12. Great knit tank, Peter, and kudos for you for all your knit experimentation. I WANT to sew more with knits, but they do have me a bit perplexed.

    My pink dress WILL be finished... hopefully today. And I've got another dress ready to be cut out. Realized that my daughter's wedding is less than 3 months from now, and really, really must make a decision about the dreaded mother of the bride dress. I think that will happen next week when she's in town though, to do wedding stuff.

  13. Peter, any comparison between your Elna Grasshopper and the Singer 15-91? Stitch quality in particular.

  14. Anonymous (a popular name in the Sixties, apparently), here's a dirty little secret: I consider the Grasshopper something of a novelty machine and never use it for garment making -- or anything else.

    The stitch is fine, very nice, but then all my machines stitch well when their tension is balanced and their needle is new. The straight-stitch machines seem to do better with topstitching (because they handle curves better) and with knits. But I just can't warm up to the Grasshopper's free arm and the harp space feels small to me.

    The motor hums beautifully and it's a very quiet machine, but with so many others to choose from in my collection, its primary purpose seems to be to make others envious. It excels at that, however.

    Also I'm not fond of its heavy metal carrying case, however cleverly designed it is. It's clunky and ugly.

  15. Thanks for the shout out, darlin'! I'm actually only 5'9", but I just can't seem to step away from the bold prints! And I agree – leopard: YES! Giraffe: NOOooooo!

    Your tank is so fun! Love the stripes, and with your body shape, you're totally rockin' it.

    Over the weekend, I finished my Cynthia Rowley "stylish women's prison sack dress" ( in a brilliant swirly mosaic pattern. As soon as the weather heats up again, I'll wear it and send another bathroom pic. :) I suspect I'll need to make the obi belt to go with it, but in the meantime, I'll just rock it with a cute cardi.

    I was going to start on my Chanel jacket this week, but found out that I'm missing a vital "Threads" article, so that's on order. In the meantime, I'm on to cute tops (to go with cute skirts) for this summer ( Love the square neckline, and am pretty sure I'll be making this in every colour imaginable.

    I daresay, I'm on a (sewing) roll! Whee!

  16. ONLY 5'9"????

    Let me at her! (he he)

  17. Andrea - I'm 4'11" too. I think small prints work. Giraffe - no...zebra - perhaps? I have this great furry tiger print Guess skirt that I picked up at Goodwill many years ago, and I think it works on me. Although it does feel like I am wearing a stuffed animal.

    Darci - 5'9" is NOT SHORT.

    Peter - I will post pics as soon as I take's the taking them that has eluded me. And Yes, I did say "sewing for my professor"...but remember...she is one of the people responsible for my successful defense and manuscript...and she's a there's some quid pro quo going the time I can sew her a pair of pants she can figure out my repeated measures ANOVA and my regression equation - something that would take me several days.

  18. You're number 2 (behind Gertie) on! Hurrah for MPB!

    Alas, set in sleeves did me in. I spent a productive hour or two watching My So-Called Life on Hulu, picking out tiny stitches, feeling sorry for myself because I can't make cute dresses and because I'll never have Jordan Catalano. I'm starting to think the shirtdress is an overambitious project at this point in my sewing career. I might make a simple skirt this week just to prove to myself I'm capable of completing a garment.

    On a positive note, inspired by you, I went hunting for sewing books at my neighborhood used bookstores and found a first edition of The Vogue Sewing Book and a few other fun and/or useful books from decades past. Thank goodness for sewing blogs. I don't think I could go on without you!

  19. I must say I really like hearing about your knit adventures. I don't sew with knits very much because a) knits are hard to find and b) I don't have a serger and c) I'm scared to death I'm going to ruin it. I think it's time to give a knit tee a try. I've saved one such knit just for it. So happy about your new machine. I'm actually in the market for a serger and after hearing you rave about vintage machines I would love to know your opinion on vintage sergers. Congrats on making the Seamingly page! You are the best!

  20. Last week I was much more productive than I thought I would be! I am just a few steps away from finishing my dress. This week it will be done. I need to decide if the hem length is right or verges on slutty. Then I need to add buttons, finish the tie, take photos and write a review, my first ever on PR even though I have been a member for over a year. Shame on me.

    This week I should start the top I promised my sister I would make her. But, since it holds no interest whatsoever for me right now, I think I will avoid it and find something else to sew (read: cute and for me!) I think I will take another stab at a vintage dress pattern, so I need fabric. Clearly, I need to go shopping :)

    Peter, great job on the tank!

  21. Thanks, Maggie, et al.

    Sunni (Cupcake Goddess), having struggled with a vintage (20+ yo) Huskystar serger for months, I cannot recommend buying a vintage serger. A used one, maybe, if you can test it. Unlike sewing machines, home sergers have become vastly more user-friendly over the years.

    I'm glad about but can someone tell me what purpose it serves?

    I bought my Brother on for $175 and as sergers go it's a piece of cake to operate.

    You do NOT need a serger to sew knits but I would recommend a straight-stitch machine, if you don't have one already.

  22. What you said in reply to the question about your Elna Grasshopper; try setting a sleeve or hemming pants a couple of times and see how you feel about the free arm.

    I have a Elna SU. I lost the case years ago (2 moves are as good as a fire)so cannot replicate a flatbed. But I love it for the above.

  23. Awesome shirt! Very impressive bindings, but we expect no less. :-) I finished my welt pockets and bound buttonholes to boot! Still trudging along on the jacket, but I'm hoping to cut out and whip up a knit dress this week, too.

  24. is a list of the most popular sewing websites and blogs on the internet.

    Leopard, zebra, tiger, and snakey prints = love

    Giraffe = ew

    Kerry- Ahahaha, now I have an image of a dress made of stuffed animals in my mind. :)

  25. Me? Wax and polish your 15-91? IF you have any more of that artisanal chocolate we can talk =D

  26. Thanks for asking! I didn't finish it for the baby shower, alas (I actually tried to finish it by hand on the Amtrak), but I'm going to have it ready for a bar mitzvah. Here are pictures of the progress and muslins:

  27. Looks great, Mikhaela!

    (Oh, Good Lord, another witty sewing blog.)

  28. I did finish the pattern for my daughter's skintight leggings! I used the close fitting body block: leggings from Metric Pattern Cutting by Winifred Aldrich for a custom fit. It took a couple of fittings to get it perfect (one to realise and fix a drafting mistake and one for fit), but there are now 9 pairs of tights cut out and waiting to be sewn together on the dining room table.

    This week I hope to get them finished.

  29. Forgot to add: It's time to get out your french curve and make Cathy some tights too :)

  30. Ooh. I want a tank top like that!
    I sadly have no sewing time this week :( It will all be spent on internship applications.

  31. The tank is amazing. I finished the Vogue jacket and I LOVE it. Then took a weekend off because for the first time in 3 months, it was sunny and vaguely temperate. Next weekend, I may start another bra (maybe 3rd time's a charm?) or another Vogue jacket (one that will work for fall). But I'm feeling like I may do a weekend of cutting followed by a weekend of sewing. Trying to figure out how to proceed.

  32. I love your weekly planning posts! Great idea.

  33. Hey Peter! Here's my purse status: I bought all the gear, made some changes, cut out pieces, fused interfacing, and then had to leave for an extended weekend. Hopefully I can knock it out in time to enter it in the PR contest.

    Then it's all summer sewing to get ready for our trip to visit friends and family in the south (Georgia, NC, and Virginia).

  34. Peter said...
    Andrea, I think it depends on the animal. Leopard, good; giraffe, bad.

    Ooooh Peter I hope not! I am only 5'3" and there is a large giraffe print voile in my sewing line up, soon to become an Ethyl Mertonesque ( not glamorous enough for Lucy) shirtdress. I'm sure it'll be fabulous. Mae

  35. Mae, I think you mean Ethel Mertz. Ethyl Merton is a dangerous chemical.

  36. This is my first day on your blog and I think it is great. I've made all the draperies in our house and some alterations on suit jackets. Any hints on the arm pit border on your tank top-I tried something like that once and it was a disaster. Keep up the great work, man!

  37. That striped tank is fabulous - great work.

    I'm attempting something that sounds even ridiculous to me - a formal floor-length gown (in silk, mind you) by March 20th. Eeeeek! I've obviously lost my damn mind, but this is what happens when you get less than 2 weeks notice that you have a gala to attend and you don't want to just buy something off the rack. Any good sewing mojo you got, could you send it my way? Grazie. :)

  38. Go for it, Amber! (And send pics of the finished project.)

    Welcome, Steven!

  39. I always try to pick a place to sew with a window. No dark basements for me! I have a lot of space in my finished basement and do not use it except for storage. It's so important to enjoy being in that space.

    I need to finish up a flannel huge shirt, and take measurements off daughter's pants before I return them after sewing a stretchy crotch seam. ( In case I have time to sew pants or shorts for her.)

    Also I promised her this blouse for Christmas. I needed to practice making buttonholes first on some casual things. This will be a "suit blouse". I will post a review on it.

    Peter, your review are pure entertainment! Your photography skills are great and so are your writing skills. I love most of the things you sew ,, not the jumpsuit though. I am very impressed with your sewing skills. I also share your love of machines but alas, before I moved from the former sorority house I owned to a rambler, parted with all but two sergers and two viking sewing machines. I had to part with my Elna super that had so many feet and cams and singer featherweight.

    Loved the vintage men's drawers with the buckle on the back! Using an old sheet no less! I would have just thought,,, way too much work for underwear, having seen that pattern. You make me think outside the box!
    Holley M

    Hearing about other people's projects here and seeing the photos has made sewing fun again!

  40. I do not like this garment.It really is not young.What do you think.I hope animal prints doesn't fall under the big prints vs. small people taboo.

  41. The design and fabric looks good. But, what’s about the color selection. Is there more color available except light green? I like it if the color is brown or black.


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