A Useful Tool

 

This weird-looking thing is a . And if your feet are AT ALL wider than “medium,” you want one. (In fact, you want two, but you can get away with one.)

I finally broke down and bought one late last year and have now managed to rescue several pairs of shoes that were previously too painfully narrow to wear. Using it couldn’t be simpler: fill a spray bottle with 50% water/50% rubbing alcohol, spritz the inside of the shoe or boot you want to stretch, and insert device. Turn handle to stretch. (The black bobbles in the picture are inserted into the holes in the fitter to add extra stretchy to accommodate corresponding bumps on your own feet.)

Although this particular model is spendy ($50!) it’s still way cheaper and faster than taking shoes to the cobbler to be stretched. The only downside is that having this is enabling my “buy vintage roper boots on Etsy” habit something awful. There’s also a that’s shoes-only, and that will stretch both length- and width-wise.

Sorry, people with narrow feet … there’s no corresponding shoe-shrinker. You’ll just have to be satisfied with being able to find vintage super-narrow and Bally shoes everywhere you look …

[If you are all “ew, used shoes!” that’s totally fine by me, leaves more for me to buy.]

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Today's Pattern Story

 

Marlene: Darlene, do you see that?

Darlene: What?

Marlene: That poor woman over there. No, not now. Now. Look.

Darlene: Oh, my goodness. I can’t believe it.

Marlene: So you’re seeing it too? I thought I was hallucinating.

Darlene: No — she’s actually wearing a dress without any pockets.

Marlene: I didn’t know they still made those!

Darlene: It must have been grandmothered in. It’s certainly from before the Handbag Revolt.

Marlene: Where does she put her keys? Or her lipstick? Or … her hands?

Darlene: We shouldn’t stare. It’s not kind. I’ve got two handkerchiefs and some safety pins in my pockets, maybe we can offer to make her some pockets? Just until she can get home.

Marlene: You’ve got a good heart, Darlene. Let’s go.

Kicking the tires

Hey, a new dress:

This is , with a few little changes. Mainly, pockets:

I tried plain side-seam pockets first, but they hung badly, and lately I’ve been really into this style of pockets (inset? not actually sure what to call them). They can be a bit of a pain to add, especially if the skirt has pleats or gathers, but they’re worth the munging and hacking.

Here’s the pattern pieces (the dress above has v1):

Oh I suppose you want to see the (badly pressed) back, huh? I don’t usually do a center back zipper, but:

I also had some fun with the neck and sleeve facings:

This is an incredibly comfortable dress — really easy to wear (especially with the deeper pockets). I have also made it in dark denim and am thinking about another color of denim, or maybe even liberating some of my stash of Liberty twill.

I’m also looking for a dress with similar lines to this one to make in softer fabrics, like silk — something with scoop pockets but gathers, I think, and a soft kimono-sleeved bodice. Anything come to mind? (Remember, I’m awfully lazy and hate drafting things …)

(Also! This is the first post at my  new blog host, the very very nice WPEngine.com. Highly recommended. With any luck this should solve some of the “stuck” posts issues and commenting problems … please let me know if not!)

Paisley, Why Not?

So here’s a dress I made a while back but haven’t posted yet.

The bodice is from , again. The skirt is the skirt from , so essentially, it’s the same dress as . But different. The fabric is from ; it was a bit on the pricey side, but then again I think their fabric is usually a bit on the pricey side …

 

Here you can see the black bias tape I used to finish the sleeves (also the neck):

 

And here’s the back:

It’s a remarkably comfortable dress … I have been wearing it quite a bit.

Oh, also, while I’m thinking about it — I recently updated this blog to a new version of WordPress and a few folks are having trouble getting to the most recent posts. I’m hoping this post gives WordPress a kick and wakes it up …

 

A Very Dangerous and Worthwhile Book: Cool Tools

Trust me, you really want this book:

It’s , and it’s the book version of the , spearheaded by (who is all cool, all the time).

Why do you want this book in book-form? Because it contains 1500 personal reviews of cool tools. Not insert-your-favorite-online-store-here type reviews, but the kinds of reviews that only come from repeated, considered use of a tool. And the tools themselves? A cool tool is (as laid out on the very first page):

Anything useful
That increases learning
Empowers individuals
Does work that matters
Is either the best
Or the cheapest
Or is the only thing that works

The definition of “tool” is broad enough to include Goodwill Online Auctions (super-cool), Amazon’s almost-secret 1-800 customer service number, and an encyclopedia of Russian criminal prison tattoos (which I suppose could be a tool given the right chain of horrific circumstances).

I think you, Dear Reader, will want this book because it’s decidedly for makers (it’s not called “Cool Stuff,” after all). Every page will help you be a better maker (or just help you make your life better). What makes it dangerous is that it is also full of ideas … if you do not think of five new projects on every page, you are reading with your eyes closed. (The “Construction Materials” section nearly sent me into a projectgasm. Check out , which Kelly calls “he-man K’NEX”.) And don’t even get me started on the “Organizers” section … and I still found things I didn’t know about in categories (like Sewing) where I think I have a good grasp of the cool tools. (Did you know there is KEVLAR THREAD? Soon, my buttons will be BULLETPROOF.)

Why do you want this book, rather than just browsing through the blog? Because it’s HUGE — roughly 11 x 14. It’s the kind of book that demands that you sit on the sofa with someone else (preferably a kid) and chat about possible projects while you page through it together. (Protip: mark pages with post-its for easy recall later — there’s a good index, but post-its mean you don’t have to remember the name of whatever doohickey caught your fancy.)

So, grab this book when it (supposedly this week or next) and then go to town. (And send me links to your projects!)

Nine Lives

I don’t think I ever posted this one, did I?

I made it for XOXO in Portland, around the same time as . The bodice is Simplicity 1577 with the collar altered to be Peter Pan, the skirt is the skirt from Butterick 8500 (as seen ). The fabric is from Superbuzzy — this particular colorway is sold out, but they have .

Here’s a closer look at the bodice:

And the side zip:

And the collar:

And the back:

It’s a little cutesy for someone of my advanced (and still advancing) age, but … [insert don’t-care-face here]. It’s definitely a fun dress, though. I wore it with a red cardigan and red Keds, and with the intention of eating lots of ice cream.

Party Dress!

My party was last night and I made a new dress for it:

The bodice is good ol’ again, and the skirt is adapted from . The fabric is a bronzy-coppery coated poly denim, which I don’t think I would have ever picked up except that it was on super-super-sale at last week, and because I already bought this I didn’t know what to do with, so I thought I could kill two birds with one stone and have both a wearable party dress AND a muslin. Woot!

The fabric is REALLY heavy but despite that is very easy to sew with, and although I used a press cloth I don’t think I really needed one — there was no transfer to my (hot) iron or the ironing board.

Next time I will probably make the patch pocket a bit deeper, and possibly extend it to the side seam (might have to see what that does to the zipper):

Speaking of zippers:

I just did my standard finish-the-neck with bias tape:

Here’s the sleeve binding — also, since the fabric is so heavy and plasticky, I didn’t feel the need to zig-zag the seam allowances as I usually do:

And here’s the back:

This is a pretty weird dress, even by my standards, but I kind of love it. I wore it with black tights and black ankle boots and a black cardigan, and a heavy black necklace, and was really comfortable all night, which I’m usually not in party clothes.

One of the things we were celebrating (besides having fun working together) was the launch of our new discovery reading app in the App Store … if you have an iPad running iOS 7 or later, would you consider ? It’s free, it will help you find cool new articles about topics and concepts interesting to you (as well as articles shared by your friends on Twitter and Facebook and top news) and if you need a recommendation other than mine, . (!)

I’m already planning to wear this dress again for New Year’s Eve …