Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Blind Stitches: A Book Review

Before my trip to New York, I was contacted about reviewing the latest book from J. B. Chicoine, Blind Stitches.

Well, my knitting did not get much attention during the trip, and neither did the book – there was just too much to distract me in Manhattan.  But on the journey home, I pulled out the book and settled in for some quality time with the novel, and to rest my weary feet. 


I was absolutely exhausted, but the story line immediately grabbed my attention and managed to drown out the noisy children on the plane ride home.  I made it half-way through the novel before my eyes started stinging with exhaustion (thank you, delayed late-night flight).  Thanks to the twists and turns in the plot I was dying to make it to the end to find out the Solvay family secret, but my eyes were not having it.  By the next day, I needed to know the ending!  

The story is compelling and much darker than I was expecting (I do not really agree with the "contemporary romance" classification).  It reads more like a thriller/mystery to me, which makes for an exciting read.

A book review might seem an odd choice for a sewing blog, but there is a definite tie in - the main character is a seamstress by trade, and there are sewing references throughout the book, as one character's bridal gown is a crucial piece of the puzzle.

This holiday weekend, I pulled the book out again . . . mysteries are always worth a second read, in my opinion - I love picking up all the little clues the author left her readers that were missed the first time around!

If you are looking for your next read, I would highly recommend Blind Stitches as a very enjoyable story with wonderfully fleshed out characters and a healthy dose of sewing added to the mix!


Talented young seamstress Juliet Glitch has been putting the finishing touches on a wedding dress for socialite, Nadia Solvay. When Nadia’s father dies unexpectedly two weeks before the wedding, mother of the bride, Olga Solvay, a former prima ballerina and Russian expatriate, asks Juliet to hem her son Nikolai’s trousers for the funeral. He has just returned to America from England, where he has been attending a “school for the blind.”

Juliet’s life in the small but elite community of HistoriaNew Hampshire, is complicated. Her nineteen-year-old brother, Rome, has Asperger’s, and their aunt, with whom they live, raises chickens and hoards junk. After meeting Nikolai, Juliet finds herself drawn to the intense and serious young man who is not what she expected. As Nikolai and Juliet spend time together, they embark on a psychological and emotional journey into family dysfunction and repressed memories surrounding his mother’s defection from the Soviet Union twenty years earlier. Set against the backdrop of autumn 1989, during the Glasnost era, Nikolai’s family secrets crash alongside the crumbling Berlin Wall. 


[A review copy of Blind Stitches was sent to me, but the opinions expressed here are my own.]

Thursday, August 28, 2014

New York: Day Five

I had a nightmare the other night.  It was my final day in New York, and I needed to catch the airporter by 5:00 p.m.  But I was lost in the garment district, it was 4:30 p.m., and there was no way I could return to Peter’s apartment, say goodbye to Michael and the puppies, let alone retrieve my belongings.  I ended up chasing the bus from one stop to the next, finally made it to the airport, but was the last to board the airplane.  I cannot remember how it all ended . . .


I guess I am having New York withdrawal.  In reality, Monday was much more relaxed, thank goodness!

Peter and I went back to the garment district for some final day fabric shopping.  There were a couple of fabrics to pick up at Metro Textiles.  We also stopped in at Elliott Berman and I got to meet Eugenia.  The problem?  Too many gorgeous choices.  I had my lovelies shipped back; squishing of Chanel fabric is verboten.


For lunch, I met the lovely Miss Clio.  Have you heard her good news?  And once again, I forgot to take pictures – which is a shame because she was literally glowing.  We had a lovely chat over Thai food, and then walked over to Sil Thread together.  It is not as though I need any more Hug Snug, but I could not resist all of the colors.


They have an entire wall of rayon seam binding in the most beautiful colors.  I never dreamed of such riches!!


On my way home (yes, Chez Lappin felt like my home at this point) I decided to travel a bit out of the way and check out New York Vintage.


This was the first door with a lock and buzzer I encountered . . . oooh, how posh.  It did not seem like a very sketchy neighborhood, but there certainly is a whole lot of valuable merchandise inside.  I am so glad Peter suggested it.  Evidently, there is a curated section upstairs (good to know for next time!).


More examples of self-covered buttons and bound-buttonholes - I am going to have to remember this for a future project.  So many gorgeous vintage treasures!


I wish there had been more time to ogle all the pretties, but time was ticking.


When I returned to the apartment (in plenty of time to squeeze my final purchases into my expanded luggage) I got to meet Michael’s friend.  Even the friends of the partners of sewing bloggers are wonderful.  This community is pretty darn awesome!


And if there was a way of making it work, I would have informed Peter that I was not actually leaving, Tino would be arriving shortly, and we were all going to have a lovely life together, with weekly visits to the garment district, world class theatre right around the corner, and lots and lots of sewing.


All too soon, it was time to leave.  Peter, Willy, and Freddy walked me to my airport shuttle.  My flight ended up being delayed, so I had plenty of time to sit back and think about my adventures.  I was completely exhausted by the time I arrived at SFO, but it was so worth it!  And I had a wonderful welcome from Mr. Tino - I think he missed me!


Now it is back to my humdrum existence, and the daily grind.  But really, life is still pretty good, and I am so thankful for my time in New York City!  And it is great to get back to the sewing room with all sorts of new inspiration.


Oh, and you will never believe it!  I had to laugh out loud when the Fine Arts magazine addressed to my boss mentioned an upcoming exhibit at the The San Francisco Legion of Honor . . .  including pieces by Charles James!!!  I had a feeling this would happen!


So I am glad I did not go back to the Met on Sunday for a second look at those gowns . . . because I will have lots of time to visit them when they arrive in San Francisco next year!

All in all, I would have to say it was an extremely successful vacation!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

An Entirely Different Dress


I had a plan.  The leftover Asher print that Peter sent me a couple of years ago was going to make a fabulous dress for Male Pattern Boldness Day.


But time was running out, and I did not want to rush the dress and make a stupid mistake with no extra fabric available if the unthinkable happened.


So out came this cotton voile and the Anna Dress pattern.  At least I knew what to do with this one!  


I originally meant to make this more of a tea length garment, but what I cut turned out to be more ankle length.  Those ridiculously long skirt pattern pieces always throw me off!    


I rather like the end result, so I decided not to cut off the excess.


I made a self-fabric belt, but changed things up a bit by adding a wide grosgrain ribbon as a belt for my second wearing of the dress.  This breaks up the busy print better.


And now I have another comfy cotton dress perfectly suited to summer weather.



Dress:  Made by me, By Hand London's Anna Dress
Shoes:  Nine West

Monday, August 25, 2014

New York: Day Four

The Bay Area had a rather large earthquake early this morning.  Living on the fifth floor of my building made for a rather exciting wake up call (another reason those super tall buildings in New York really scare me), but other than one downed picture frame, and a few crooked ones on the wall nothing terrible happened, knock on wood.  So much for Tino’s sixth doggie sense.  He made not a peep, before, during, or after.  I suppose I should be thankful that he does not spook easily, but geez, so much for the canine warning system!


At some point last week, he did get the message that I had been flirting with a cuddly Chihuahua in the recent past, because he has been quite the lap dog for the last few days.


This was my view for most of the time spent in Peter's apartment.  Willy and I bonded immediately, and he was my constant companion while knitting, and for most of my conversation with Peter and Michael (they were very gracious about the fact that I was hogging their dog). 

With the excitement of Male Pattern Boldness Day past, my final two days in New York were not very regimented.



Michael, Peter, and I went out for brunch on Sunday morning, followed by a leisurely walk south on The High Line.


There was some window shopping at DVF and another swanky store where I spent most of my time looking at the insides of the garments and trying to guess prices.  I have to say that the employees were incredibly welcoming, even thought it was probably rather obvious that I was not going to be purchasing anything.  So much for snobby New York retailers!



At which point it was back up to The High Line for the journey north.  And look at all of those cabs!  I am confident you would never come across a cab in Marin County should you ever need one.  And they certainly do not account for what looks to be 70% of the cars on the road.  Friday evening I encountered a cabbie and another driver get into an altercation on my walk home from the theatre.  I couldn't believe my eyes when two women got into the cab while the driver was still screaming at the other driver.  I would have avoided that lunatic and his vehicle if my feet were bloody and I had miles to travel.



Once the sun went down, I walked over to 5th Avenue, and south to Washington Square for the literary portion of my adventures.


Once I found a comfy seat, I spent some time people watching.  


There were at least four separate groups of musicians playing in different areas of the park - everything from classical to reggae.  It was wonderful to slow down and enjoy the beautiful evening.


My walk home was a bit out of the way.  I traveled West to the water.  On my journey I met Monster the gorgeous French Bulldog.  Hooray for more puppy cuteness!


But by the time I was almost back to the apartment, I was tired, and my feet were not too happy with me.  Exhaustion is one way to guarantee a good night's sleep!


However, I had one more day to explore Manhattan, and nothing was going to slow me down . . .

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Imitative of a style, fashion, or design from the recent past.

Butterick 6108

While I was in the midst of preparing to travel to New York, Butterick released their new catalog.  Included were two Retro designs which I had some strong feelings about, but no time to put them into words.  

Butterick 6093

The turn of the century fashions are probably more than 100 years old, by the look of them.  I believe the proper term to use would be “antique.”  I don’t think they even fall into the vintage category, let alone retro.

Butterick 6093

I cannot get past the fact that they look like costumes to me . . . and that is saying a lot!  Most of my daily wardrobe looks like a costume to the general public.  But even without the lace, I am not sure I would wear either of these unless I was on stage or dressing up for Halloween.  Maybe the skirt portion.  I would, however, like to add those lace-up heels to my shoe collection!

Butterick 6108

These look like they belong in the Making History category with the hoop skirts and bustles and corsets.  And I love those . . . as is clear from my pattern collection.  But I never end up making them.  I would be very interested to hear what historical costumers think of these designs, or any of the Making History patterns.  I imagine the construction techniques are modernized as are the 40s, 50s, and 60s designs we have previously seen, which does not thrill me.

Butterick 6105

Gertie’s new offerings are more my style.  But jackets that have a separate belt are not my favorite.  What do you do with the belt when you remove the jacket once you get where you are going?  And the dress is cute, but not awe inspiring.

Butterick 6094

The only other pattern that I find tempting is Butterick 6090.  Cute, but I probably do not need it in my collection.  Between Simplicity 1587 and a basic button-front dress, I am confident I could make my own version.  And it really is time to get picky about my pattern purchases, or there will be no room left in my sewing room . . . oh, who am I kidding?  They have definitely spilled over into the living room!  

Butterick 6090

So, while I am not overly enthused with any of these, there are a few that I will probably pick up during the next sale.  Here is hoping that the Making History and Retro collections go back to being two separate entities, and that Patterns by Gertie is not the only vintage-inspired line produced by Butterick.  When they said they were expanding their date range, I was hoping for something 20s or 30s, not from the teens!

Butterick 6108

What do you think of the new "Retro" patterns?  Or any of the new offerings, for that matter!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

New York: Day Three

Saturday in New York was Male Pattern Boldness Day!


This was also the morning I packed up my things and headed out of the hotel and to Chez Lappin.

With my luggage in tow, I decided a cab was in order, but I almost wish I had braved the city streets on foot.  It was relatively early, but the cab and/or the cab driver was emitting a most foul smell.  And Carrie Bradshaw thought cabs were preferable to getting around on a bus or walking?!  Yikes!

But things were going to improve from there on out . . . look at this cuteness!!


I had a few minutes to meet Michael, Willy, and Freddy before heading off to FIT for Exposed:  A History of Lingerie.

Of course, no pictures are allowed.  Not only that, if you lean too far towards the pieces, an extremely loud alarm goes off – ask me how I know.  I was just trying to see the hand work, I promise!  I may have been the first, but I was not the last.  Those security guards had their work cut out for them with our group.


There was a break for lunch, a pattern swap, and lots of discussion on all sewing related matters.

Next, we all headed to the garment district!



To be honest, it was all a bit of a blur.  There were trims made entirely of rayon seam binding - oh my gosh!  Does anyone know what these are used for?  Upholstery, perhaps?  Although they might be a little delicate for that.  I bet historical costumers would find a use for them.

  
And more buttons than I could ever imagine.



And so many bolts of fabric.  A girl could get lost in all the yumminess!


By the end of my trip, I had made three separate trips to the garment district and still did not even scratch the surface.


I did end up purchasing two fabulous fabrics from Paron Fabrics on MPB Day.  I dropped in at Pacific Trim, Fabric for Less, and a couple of other storefronts that I am blanking out on.  And since Sil Thread was closed by the time I got there on Saturday, I also ended up at Mood.


Unfortunately, Swatch was not in residence, darn it.  I purchased a few pretty buckles, but restrained myself when it came to fabric.  Although, some of the velvets were hard to pass up.


I really did not have any specific projects in mind, which meant I was a bit lost at sea.  Too many possibilities was a little overwhelming.


Complete sensory overload!


I want this lace, but what would I do with it?


Oooh . . . more buttons . . .


The final destination was Bryant Park.  It felt wonderful to sit down after a long day!


And the perfect chance to catch up with new friends.


Johanna, Peter, and I headed back to Chez Lappin where we were treated to a lovely meal Michael put together - yum!  It was the perfect end to an amazing day.

I kept Peter up way past his bedtime.  Not really sure what we actually talked about . . . all sorts of random stuff.  It was like chatting with an old friend you have known for years.  And so much more exciting than an impersonal hotel full of strangers that certainly did not have a lovey chihuahua named Willy to keep me company.


I promise I will share my fabric bonanza soon – I just need to take some photos, which probably will not happen until the weekend.  But there are a few treasures!!