welcome to the jungle

Mood Fabrics Carolina Herrera Brocade Pants
Hi ya'll!  So I know the weather has been pretty much crazy all over, and I totally don't envy all you northeners and your frozen eyeballs, but man, here in Galveston it's pretty much been driving me in.sane. One day it's in the 60's, the next it's in the 30's... oy! What's a girl supposed to do? Or, perhaps a more pertinent question: What's a girl supposed to wear? I just can't get a grip. Is it gonna be warm(ish) or freakishly cold? Am I gonna be pelted with sleet on my bike commute, or showered in sunshine? (I know, I really can't complain, but I'm gonna do it anyway.) (Also, is there any worse way to start a blog post than by complaining about the weather? My life is officially boring. I have nothing of interest to say anymore... apparently!)

Mood Fabrics Carolina Herrera Brocade Pants
Since I don't have any good chit-chat for you today, let's just jump into the meat n' potatoes, shall we?? I'm super excited to be sharing my first make for the Mood Sewing Network with you guys today - a pair of cropped trousers made with this fantastic Carolina Herrera coffee and white brocade! Generally speaking I like to let my choices in fabrics dictate what I'm going to make, since I'm a huge sucker for interesting textiles, and being let loose on Mood Fabrics' online inventory was like a crack addict being let loose on... I don't know... a pile of crack? (Ugh. Lame! What's with me today??) In the end, I decided to stick with a garment item I know I'll wear a ton (in this case, pants) but to challenge myself to use a fabric I've never worked with before. Which led me to Mood's amazing collection of brocades. Brocades you guys. How had I never explored these delicious fabrics before??

Mood Fabrics Carolina Herrera Brocade Pants
There were so many gorgeous brocades that were tempting me (like this one, and this one) and I could imagine them all as a fancy-pants pair of... well... fancy pants! (Gah! I did it again! I am need of a writing intervention!) But in the end I was sold on this incredibly unique polyester brocade.  It's truly unlike anything I've ever seen! Now normally I avoid polyester like the plague (in my climate, polyester usually means a prickly, sweaty mess), but Mood's description of this fabric as having an "abstract basketweave texture and ikat pattern" that is "simultaneously edgy and elegant" made me feel like passing this over simply because it is a synthetic would be a fabric tragedy of epic proportions. Also, I feel like somewhere along the line I heard someone much smarter than me say that modern synthetics get a bad rap based on the downfalls of their predecessors (read: every awesome late 60's, early 70's dress you ever thrifted that coated your back in sweat and hung on to your BO like it was it's job) but that new technologies are making synthetics almost as breathable as natural fibers. (I could have made all that up in a dream, but it sounds legit, right?) And let me tell you what, I'm so glad that I didn't let my fiber bias dissuade me from this fabric!

Mood Fabrics Carolina Herrera Brocade Pants
Okay.  I will admit that when this stuff arrived on my doorstep I may have wondered if my envisioned fancy pants may not end up looking more like crazy pants.  But then I wrapped the fabric this way, and that (like you do) took a couple of deep breaths, consulted my ever-wise gut (pfft!), and decided, no, these were gonna be some awesome pants. This fabric has a really wonderful texture - basketweave is one way to describe it, my husband keeps saying it looks like birch bark - and yet it's not stiff, or scratchy or bulky, or even difficult to work with. I cut my pants out on the cross grain because I really liked the way the pattern looked running down the front of my legs. Vaguely reptilian, but more geometric. I spent a little bit of extra time working with the pattern placement on these, making sure that each leg was a mirror image and that the strong horizontals and verticals met up.

Mood Fabrics Carolina Herrera Brocade Pants
I'll be honest, after getting my hands on this fabric, breathability really wasn't at the forefront of my concerns. Since this brocade definitely has some weight to it, it was pretty clear right off the bat that these would be winter pants, and I think the fabric worked great for that (although I could also see it making a really tremendous spring dress coat). And I have to say, I was truly surprised by how nicely this fabric presses, given it's texture and also that it's a polyester (I've always had miserable luck getting poly's to hold a crisp press).  This fabric just might make me rethink my polyester-ban!  I even left the pants unlined because the fabric felt fine against my skin. I did use some silky rayon bemberg lining in a lovely royal blue, also from Mood (here), for the pockets and to bind the inside of the waistband and leg hem, to add a pop of color to innards. I love little touches like that. However, you'll just have to take my word for it, because I forgot to get a shot of the insides. All other seams were simply serged and pressed flat.

Mood Fabrics Carolina Herrera Brocade Pants 
I used Ralph Pink's Cigarette Pants Pattern in a size US8/UK10 for these. It was my first time using this pattern.  I liked the overall shape of the pants in the illustration - the trouser pockets, front fly, single-welt back pockets, and cropped length - but overall, sadly, I'm not in love with this pattern.  I think the main issue is just that they were not made for my figure. They turned out insanely huge through the hips and legs when I sewed them up as directed (like, clownishly huge) and I had to take them in a ridiculous amount along the side seams, seat, and really anywhere I could get at them without having to totally undo some tricky areas (like the fly). This threw off some of my carefully strategized pattern placing along the seams (bummer), and also rendered those cute trouser pockets almost completely useless! I can just fit my hand in there! And to add to my frustration, the finished waistband feels just a mite snug (obviously Mr. Pink is designing for a much curvier lady than me!) I based my size choice off of my body measurements as listed, which was taking a bit of a leap of faith, since I usually choose sizes based on finished garment measurements, however there were none to be found! In this case, some finished garment measurements would have been extremely useful! I was also kind of bummed out that the pattern sizes weren't nested, so I only received the one size with my purchase.

Mood Fabrics Carolina Herrera Brocade PantsMood Fabrics Carolina Herrera Brocade Pants
But all pattern woes aside, I still think these pants turned out really great! I really love the combination of pairing an unexpected fabric with a basic, classic pattern to make an exciting statement piece to add to your wardrobe.  These pants pair great with a lot of the neutral tops in my closet, and they automatically make the outfit way more rock and roll! (As you might have guessed from my blog title, every time I look at these pants, this song keeps playing in my head, and I get an urge to do the Axel Rose shimmy... rather inexplicably really...) Now I just need a few more cold days so I can actually wear them!



new year, big news!

A glimpse at some of my sewing-related gifts

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you've all had a happy holiday filled with lots of food and surrounded by some of your favorite people. I know I did! I had plans to jump on the bandwagon and do a 'sewing year in review' sort of post to start off 2014. However my focus totally shifted when I received some exciting news that made me less inclined to reflect on the past year, and more interested in planning out the future. 

I've been asked to join the Mood Sewing Network, and well (holy crap!) I accepted! (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) 

If you follow the Mood Sewing Network blog (and you should, it's excellent - and not just because I'm about to be contributing, but because all the other fantastic people that already are) you might remember some weeks back they announced that they were looking for new bloggers to fill their ranks.  I dashed off an email with my blog link in it, thinking vaguely that it would be awesome to be offered a spot, but without any real hope. It's still pretty hard for me to think of my blog as anything more than this side project that only my Mom and Dad (and sister) read, an outlet for my thoughts and passions that don't get enough play in my day to day life. So I was floored (to say the least) when I got an email from Mood the day before I was set to fly back east for the holidays saying they wanted to talk to me about joining the team!

So what does this mean for my sewing practice and my blog? Well, let's talk about the business aspects first. As some of you might know already, Mood Sewing Network bloggers receive a modest stipend once a month to buy Mood fabric, sew it up, and blog about it.  The post first appears on the MSN blog, then a day or two later, on the bloggers own blog.  Mood has always been the first place I visit online when I'm looking to buy fabric, so I feel like I'm supporting a company that I was going to support anyway (see: my last post - totally bought that fabric before any of this was a reality). I will always be transparent about what is fabric bought with my Mood allowance, and what is not.  As someone who has always sewn and blogged completely on her own dollar and in her own time, I'm looking forward to the bit of material compensation and accountability as a way to actually make me a better blogger. Far too often I feel like my hands are tied creatively because I want to make something, but don't have the funds to make it happen. This is one of the reasons why I occasionally have to go longer stretches between posts, because I simply do not have enough cash to make anything! Bummer! Joining the Mood Sewing Network team will help lighten the strain on my bank account (a little, as I said, the stipend is modest) and free up some funds for me to pursue some of my crazier ideas (leather! dyeing!) and I'm expected to post once a month, so posts will become more regular around here.

But, really, the main reason I am excited about this opportunity is not financial (because, let's be real here, I'm the kind of lady who takes a pay cut to do work she believes in - accumulating financial wealth is not my forte) or related to my blogging productivity. The main reason I am absolutely psyched to be a part of this group is for the creative challenge! I feel like this is a chance to experiment with different fabrics, and to shake myself out of my comfort zone a bit. I've always been in love with textiles, and I can't wait to push myself to try out some fabrics that, given budget constraints and a more practical mindset, I wouldn't normally try.  

I still plan on continuing to experiment with dyeing my own fabric. This is something that I feel very passionate about and get much personal satisfaction out of, so don't expect that to go away.  Really, don't expect anything to go away! I see this as an opportunity to push me to grow in my sewing practice, and as a blogger, and quite frankly, I feel like it's time for growth.

And speaking of 'time for growth' - I finally learned how to knit while I was home for the holidays, thanks to my beautiful and talented big Sis! This is pretty huge, you guys.  I've been way too jealous for way too long seeing all the gorgeous hand knitted goodness that so many of you whip out like it ain't no thang (I'm looking at you, Lauren - Miss Nine Sweater in 2013!!) I've always felt like I had some sort of mental block when it came to knitting.  Many years ago my sister and I decided it would be fun to learn how to knit and proceeded to try to teach ourselves. She took to it like a duck to water and I... well... I ended up with a ridiculous, hole-y mess, and a headache. Whatever slight enjoyment I may have been able to get out of it was totally eclipsed by my frustration, fumbling fingers, mutters of "wait, why doesn't that look right..." yarn slipping off needles, and disgust at whatever I was making.  So I wrote it off as a 'not for me' type thing.

But then again... I once thought sewing was 'not for me'... Proving yourself wrong is a wonderful thing.  I had decided that this winter would be the time that I would grapple with knitting once and for all. Cross it off my bucket list! And with just a bit of determination, and a slightly obsessive attitude, I am proud to say that I am making serious tracks on Wiksten's Jul Hat pattern.  Of course... this is my second attempt.  I already tore apart one go at it - just before I was about to start decreasing - so saying that I 'conquered' knitting might be a bit rich.  Let's just say, I won't be so easily discouraged this time!

So Happy 2014, my friends! Here's to a year of growing, challenging ourselves, and many many awesome hand made garments!