Thursday, 2 October 2014

Wardrobe sewing: The winter work 6pac demonstrating unusual virtue

I think a lot about  my wardrobe. I find this an engaging pastime. Unfortunately, most of the thinking seems to avoid the fact that I spend a considerable part of my time at work, which necessitates trousers. I have not yet overcome my aversion to sewing trousers. Thank goodness, I can force myself to sew them by joining in a sewing project. (I assure you, buying them would be more work, and with no chance of success, but still, wasting valuable sewing time on trousers is deadening to the sewing enthusiasm)


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To entice myself to sew dull work clothes, I started with my fabulous-almost-a-disaster winter coat.  I told myself in October last year, when I finished it just in time for warm weather,(as one does when the sewing ambition outstrips the available sewing opportunities), that I would definitely wear-it-all-the-time in order to distribute the cost of the fabric over many occasions of use. This is how I manage to convince myself that pricey designer Winter fabric fits into my tightwad fiscally responsible life in the subtropics.
Unusual virtue 1.
Completing the entire project
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I report success. Not only have I actually (although belatedly) completed a dull work 6 pac mostly according to my plan, I wore the coat nearly every work day for 2 months (assisted by a particularly cold Winter), on my pleasant, short but sometimes frosty walk there, because these 3!! pairs of trousers all co-ordinate quite nicely with it. (Sewing trousers is the second unusual virtue - I can't bear to write a post solely about the trousers so they are previously unblogged -2 Burda Style 04-2009-118 variations, one self drafted and all tropical or lightweight wool, all lined with cotton batiste).

technical drawing from burdastyle.com.fr
 You can probably see that my personalised versions are rather different, I don't do cuffs, and the zip is on the side (blue pair) or at the back (grey pair).


 I do admit that the third pair, grey, has been languishing in a partially sewn manner on my sewing table for at least 2 months and has not actually been worn with the winter coat- yet. I wore them today though.

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Fortunately, you can't see any of the blouses when I wear the coat, so I didn't have to think hard about that element of co-ordination. Blouse 1 here, Blouse 2 here and 3 here, Burda Style (when it was BWOF) 01-2008-106/7
(I have also worn the coat quite often over my lone pair of denim trousers in my soccer mum role). I am loving having a knit coat that bears no relation to polar fleece other than its flexibility.

Unusual virtue 2.
Stash and scrapbusting
The blue and grey trousers are not my usual colours, but I am quite happy with them for work clothes with some warmer shades in the blouses to prevent a terrible sallow appearance from scaring off all my clients. As I have purchased a few fabric bundles (see fiscally responsible self reporting above - it takes creative self accounting to convince oneself that purchasing a fabric bundle is really saving money, but I am quite accomplished at this aspect of fiscal irresponsibility), there are beautiful quality fabrics in my stash that are not necessarily perfectly suited to me, and I don't want to palm them all off on my long suffering daughters. All the fabrics used in this wardrobe (cough, except the fabric of the coat) are from 2010 or earlier stash - or are remnants from other projects.

Unusual virtue 3.
Wardrobe culling
I actually threw out one dismally faded pair of trousers and  one pair with unfortunate signs of insect affection. I don't think I've ever thrown out a pair of trousers that  fit me and had mostly intact fabric/hardware before. This unfortunate tendency to retain clothing has led to occasions of unsuitable scruffiness in the past. I now only have respectable and presentable work trousers in my wardrobe - not even an laundry emergency pair lurking in the top of the cupboard.( I may regret this)

 Unusual virtue 4.
Thinking about the accessories. As my (inside whilst at work) work wardrobe is invariably a pair of trousers and a blouse, my opportunities to accessorise are limited.
I made an accessory. This is a leather version of the Hot Patterns Nombad Hobo Bag. My accessory mostly co-ordinates with my new work wardrobe. This is much smarter looking than taking one's lunch to work in a supermarket bag. I also already have work shoes to co-ordinate with the trousers (one pair black, one pair dark brown). There will be no new trousers languishing in the wardrobe because I don't have the right shoes.I may be learning something from all these wardrobe planning threads after all.


Unusual virtue 5.

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Cutting my losses when the inner layer cardigan did not look good with a collared shirt and trousers. - Formerly, I would have made a different cardigan, or different tops, or gone off on a tangent to force the cardigan into the 6pac. Instead, I worked out that I did not really need it to complete the wardrobe for my needs, and kept to the core plan of trousers and shirts for work with something to wear as an outer layer for commuting. I virtuously made a third pair of trousers to make sure it really was a 6 pack. See my halo?. I have left the inner cardigan in the "wardrobe" shot because it will remind me not to make it again in a work colour.

Unusual virtue 6
Not starting a new project in the middle of the schedule. Unfortunately this is a very unusual virtue for me, I failed to display this virtue.
I was very distracted by the Vivienne Files posts about a starting from scratch wardrobe, and the discussion concerning this that started in July. I feel it is an unusual virtue to have restrained myself from instantly starting a 4 piece collection in the same colours that I would never wear for work anyway. However, I did make the blue trousers without any pockets, belt loops or details, to make them unnoticeable, as the Vivienne Files suggest, and unfortunately, I find them not only boring, but impractical.
The other pairs of trousers have at least one pocket for my phone, which sometimes needs to be on my person whilst both hands (and shoulders) are free. This is how I did it.  I think my  pleasure in wearing hand made clothing is more "non boring basics" as described in Imogen Lamport's post here.


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To reward myself for all this virtue I am planning a lovely virtual shopping trip with some vivid prints- or maybe I should put in some more work on that formal dress.

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Here is the walking to work look, which I probably should not admit to, as I allow my hair to dry on the way there.... I promise it looks OK by the time I get there (you can see why I wear a hat in the top photo ;)

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Project formal: The day version, frankenpattern Burda Style 12-2013-122 and 123 with a dash of Colette Parfait

When I made a formal dress for my older daughter, two years ago, she wanted a lattice smocked bodice, so I made a practice version of her formal dress in linen,as a day (or casual evening) version, so as to test the properties of this never-seen-anywhere lattice smocking application.

 This time, as I am not manipulating fabric and drafting my own bodice pattern, I saw no need for this step in the process. However, daughter the second, pointing out that the day version has been an extremely useful garment for her sister, described a sense of unfair garment distribution when I disclosed my intention to move straight into tracing pattern pieces on organza for the evening extravanganza version after fitting her dull calico toile. Being putty in her hands when she fancies a dress I fancy sewing, I have obediently made a more casual version of her frock, as a trial, using the pattern pieces I had selected for the evening gown, and practicing my techniques and finishes for sheers with a lace overlay.

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technical drawing from burdastyle.com

The bodice is taken from Burda Style 12-2013-122, which conveniently comes in a size 34, so only needed petiting and taking in at the waist.
technical drawing from burdastyle.com
 
The skirt, which I really did want to try before wrestling with the chiffon, is from 123A of the same magazine issue and starts at size 72, which is the tall version of size 36 - too big, and my daughter is petite, so normally I would avoid a "tall" pattern like the plague. Fortunately, as this is a simple half circle skirt I was able to merely add a  big seam allowance at the waist line ( 2inches) and to draw a line parallel to the long-legged hem length at a more appropriate level to make this skirt approximate my daughter's measurements. The skirt was a bit difficult to handle due to using slightly unstable lace. I cut out the lace and thecotton batiste underlining in one layer (as I did for the bodice) then handbasted a strip of silk organza to the waist at both the cutting line and the seamline of the lace and the batiste separately, whilst the skirt was still lying on my cutting mats to minimize distortion. To fit the skirt to the bodice, I marked centre front  and back of both pieces, pinned, then draped the skirts around my daughter whilst she wore the bodice, and took in the single seam at the side (where I had chosen to place the invisible zip opening)

The bodice pieces were sewn with the lace and batiste together as one layer, and lined with another layer of batiste ( the pattern gives a bias layout for many of the lining pieces). I used silk organza to interface the upper edge of the finished outer bodice layer before applying the lining,and understitching the seam to prevent the lining showing to the right side.

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The two layers of the skirt were sewn as one at the waist, but separately in the skirt itself, below the zipper. I reinforced the lace seam with a strip of silk organza selvage.

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The straps are from the Collette Parfait sundress. I like these wide straps for lingerie coverage, and also because the shaping at the shoulder keeps them actually on the shoulder. Instead of having the seams at the sides, I moved the seam to the underside of each of the front and back shoulder piece for a clean finish at the edges of the strap.

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Having bias sections, the frock was hung for a few days before hemming - lace layer with a 3 thread rolled hem on the overlocker and batiste layer with a machine rolled hem.

She is very pleased with this frock, and although she plans to leave it languishing in her wardrobe until after the formal so as to keep her fancy dress a Big Secret (although really, I don't think any one who doesn't sew would guess that both garments are from the same pattern), I am allowed to show it off for the blog. You are under strict instructions to ignore her sock tan line and to instead admire her beautiful shoes from Grandma. Isn't she lucky?

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I am also lucky, because fortuitously, this frankenpattern frock has been made within the time frame when there is a frankenpattern challenge on at Pattern Review, so I shall enter this concoction (which was very easy to franken) just for fun. I am in favour of adapting patterns.

2014 FRANKENPATTERN (Sept 16th - Oct 15th)

Stashbusting statistics: about 2 metres lace yardage (Jan 2014 Remnant Warehouse, about 2 metres of cotton batiste, 2009)

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Sorbetto second serving. Lace.

One of the advantages of taking on an ambitious project, is the opportunity to stretch the sewing repetoire. Having lace in The Formal Dress means that I have been making practice garments with lace in order to refresh my skills. This has led to some very pleasing garments as a (much more useful) side effect.

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I made this little top to use up some remnants, but ended up liking it just as much as the practice dress (which I haven't shown you yet due to henious inavailability of the model)

The pattern is Sorbetto again, this time made in its original sleeveless version, and with the centre panel folded out.
The underlining is poly/cotton batitste, and the outer lace a non-stretch but mysteriously non-ravelling lace yardage I bought a few months ago from The Remnant Warehouse.

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I sewed the lace and underlining as one( using a size 60 universal needle) except for a few centimetres at the side seam, where I sewed the pieces separately  to allow a free hanging, shorter hem for the lining.

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 The neck and armscyes are finished with bias binding made from the batiste, turned to the inside and sewn to the underlining by hand - as per the excellent pattern instructions.

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To finish the lace hem, I sewed the trimmed scalloped lace edging to the lace yardage using a zigzag stitch, following the inner curves of the lace motifs. This also makes the top a more suitable length for my tall daughter-the-first.

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I am very pleased with the effect. Sorbetto is rapidly becoming one of my favourite patterns, and I am keeping to my goal of restricting small pieces of fabric in my stash.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Hobo Bag in leather

Back in April, I bought myself leather to make the Hot Patterns Hobo Bag. I nearly made it straight away, in fact it got to 3/4 completion in a week, then I wrecked it, so it had to sit in the sewing room in disgrace for some time before undergoing rehabilitation of sorts.

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First the good parts.
I thought I'd made the bag before, but actually, I had previously made the Soho Slouch Tote, for a reversible linen/hemp bag that was definitely on its last legs by April, as the denim hemp was disintegrating -just like the jeans I made from the same fabric. I found the Soho Slouch very useful, but seriously lacking in pockets, and I much prefer leather bags to those made of cloth.

It could have been a very bad decision to make my first version of the Hobo Bag pattern in leather, as having very large pieces, is probably less suited to a leather bag than the Soho Slouch- it took 4 kangaroo skins, and the scraps were legion. Had it not been a shape I like, this might have been rather an expensive experiment. I must have been feeling very confident when I cut this out (I used a rotary cutter). As lining, I used a thick shirting cotton from Michael's fabrics
I enlarged the internal zipped pocket of the pattern, in cotton, then continued with the following additions

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1. Leather sunglasses pouch in the strap - the top is gathered with elastic in a casing.This was a little difficult to construct with the edges turned in with the leather, and I decided to have all the other pockets inside the bag on the lining - however, it is in a particularly useful position for quick access to my sunglasses and I would repeat this pocket in leather for a second version.
2. Leather loops, one for a pen, one with a small clasp for my keys and an USB. I would add another loop in a second version and possibly also a loop strap with buckle - It is amazing how many things I carry about that need to stay upright!
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3. Cotton pocket with a buttoning flap made to the dimensions of my phone in its wallet case.
4. My best addition, never found in a normal handbag - a waterbottle pouch made like a poacher's pocket with folded expanding corners and elastic at the top in a casing. I have found with recent use that this pocket is also remarkably useful for a folding umbrella on days so wet that no waterbottle is necessary ;)

Construction:
Having previously sewn kangaroo leather, I was all prepared to glue and stitch with my handcranked Singer as previously, but a bit of trail and error allowed me to construct this primarily using a size 100 needle and jeans topstitching thread at 3.5mm stitch length on my Janome after my 1933 Singer had an episode of o ring disintegration that required ordering a new part from the U.S.A.
I didn't bother gluing, and used a teflon foot, but made no other concessions to sewing with leather. Things went swimmingly, even when sewing and turning seams in the leather through 4 thicknesses, until I came to the topstitching of the incorporated handles. At this point, the extra thickness over joining seams led to horrible stitches and stretching of the top layer of the leather. I was not happy.
Now most sources about sewing with leather say you cannot unpick. This is completely true, unpicking does leave holes and marks, however, I unpicked, and I have decided that these damaged areas are mostly apparent to myself, rather than the casual observer.

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Here is the unpicked, then hand sewn stitching around the edges of my bag. Yes, a little bit unsightly, but not too bad for for use in my opinion. The hand stitching took ages, and was very hard on my hands - I used some of the original needle holes, but for most stitches had to force the needle through at least one layer of the leather, and as there were several already sewn layers to get through, it was not possible to use an awl. I rested the needle on a nice thick Ikea catalogue and pulled the leather down over the needle for each stitch. Its not a technique I recommend! and was the main reason this bag took a long time to complete.

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Overall, I am very pleased with this bag. It has room for all my bits and pieces, even a nice large knitting project, some groceries of the bread+milk- has- run- out variety, or a parcel-to-post, yet my phone and keys never fall to the bottom. I love the colour  and softness of the leather, and it is comfortable over my shoulder.
I will use this bag until it wears out - then I might make an even better version with beautiful topstitching the first time around.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Project formal, the foundation. Burda Style 01-2014 113 + Patternmaking for Underwear Design

I've made a couple of formal dresses before, but somehow, this is turning into one of my most technically challenging projects. Most of this is self inflicted! Some of my blogging absence has been due to a lot of unblogworthy thinking and planning time. (The rest was knitting.....)

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 Most strapless dresses need a foundation to prevent wearing malfunctions. For my older daughter's formal dress, also strapless, I made a traditional princess line bodice foundation, based on Claire Shaeffer's somewhat scanty instructions in Couture Sewing Techniques, and was happy with it. However, daughter the second has a more curvaceous figure, and more exacting requirements, and wanted more shape and structure in the bust of her foundation to emphasise the sweetheart neckline of her dress. She wanted something more like a long line bra or corselet.
Unfortunately, the bust section of the Burda bustier toile I made earlier was not at all flattering, nor supportive. I decided to add bra like cups and bridge to the bustier,  for more structure,and went looking for either my Kwik Sew bra pattern, or my Leanne Burgess bra making book. 2 days later, my pattern collection and fabric cupboard were unaturally tidy, and I was forced to realise that I had carefully put all my lingerie sewing references in a Safe Place, from where they would only emerge again when they were not immediately required.
My long suffering family (one of whom suggested that I buy a corset!) was greatly relieved that I was rescued by Kristina Shin's Patternmaking for Underwear Design, a book that has been lurking on my sewing shelf since Christmas, after my inital perusal filled me with disappointment. I had bought it with the intention of drafting myself a bra pattern, but the only bra drafting instructions in the book are for a 75B, which fits no one in our house, and the measurements for each drafted line are given  within the instructions, with no tables for any other sizes, making the usefullness of the bra instructions quite limited - but we decided to increase the cup size of the foundation for illusionary purposes, and decided the given cup size of 75B would do for the size 34-taken in bustier, with a bit of discreet curve enhancement.

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I drafted a 3 part T cup underwire bra cup and bridge, following the instructions without undue difficulty (although having 2 unlabeled markings that were only identifiable by reading two separate earlier chapters of the book was annoying, as was the tendency to constantly refer back to the basic bra block- which uses the same letters as point markers as the 3 part cup, only in completely different places!).
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This was not quite the shape we wanted, so I then rotated and split the lower cup and drafted an upper cup to fit a slightly higher bridge and not require a strap - a shape that is not given in Shin's book.
The cup was larger than expected, despite being cut out in a woven rather than a knit, as assumed in the instructions. This could have been operator error and was fixed with a bit of trial and error trimming. Fortunately I do not plan to make a lot of these garments in the illusionary size.
I used foam bra lining (cut out and pieced to fit from an existing bra, and added a small "fillet" made from 2 layers of cotton/wool quilting batting to the lower third of each cup. The "pad" or "cookie" shape given in Shin's book was not the correct size nor shape for the cups, so this was again made by  trial and error.
As the upper cup was still too large, and we did not want excessive padding, I applied 3 rows of shirring elastic by this method through the outer cup fabric and foam lining at the top of each cup and gathered these to fit. Although producing the desired effect, this looked rather messy, so I lined the corset with a rayon knit (I draped this over the finished outer corselet and cut to fit - much easier than applying all the fitting changes from the woven outer pieces to a woven lining)

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The entire upper border of the corselet is finished with  slightly stretched lingerie elastic for added security. I hand appliqued a stretch lace to the upper cups to cover the shirring (this is practice for the actual dress), and also to most of the upper border of the remaining corselet because it looked pretty.

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The remainder of the construction was much more straightforward. Each vertical seam is boned with rigeline on both sides of the seam. The outer fabric is a firm weave silk (from my grandmother's silk painting supplies), and the underlining is silk organza. The boning casing is herringbone weave linen.
As it is still 9 weeks to the wearing of the dress, I wanted to allow some room for girth changes.  so I used a commercial elastic fastening (Prym) instead of the right centre back section . As you can see, I actually used two of these, as the fastening is designed for a long line bra. The two fastenings are abutted, joined with zigzag stitch, and a ribbon applied over the seam for prettiness (she doesn't need the stretch at the waist). I chose to fit at the wider of the two hook and eye loops as my daughter tends to lose weight when under stress, and is currently finishing her final year at school, with constant assignments and exams. If the opposite occurs, well there is a bit of stretch in the elastic ;).
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The lower border of the corset is zigzagged to attach all the layers, then non stretch lace was applied to cover the zigzagging. I did not want to add bulk with a hem or binding.

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The finished foundation met with approval, and I am well into the next stage of the dress.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Project Formal: Dyeing the lace

All this prosaic sewing has been very useful for halo shining, but today I had the day off, and have devoted the sewing portion of it to delightful frivolity. (There has been a small amount of hinting, increasing in frequency, that there are Only 130 something days until I have to come up with the  formal dress)

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I've dyed the lace.
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I'm not sure that the outcome is successful, as the recipient is not home yet, and may reject this black and pale purple combination as not being true to her vision, but I think its quite interesting in its new shades
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When I burn tested the laces (there are 3 differently sourced laces), I had a quick ignition, bright flame, a woody smell and an ashy remnant, no beading, which I thought indicated a natural fibre, such as rayon or cotton. As this is elderly lace and was quite costly at the time, this seemed a likely fibre for its composition, so I dyed it using a fibre reactive dye, by the tub dyeing method, using these techniques from Dharma fabrics specific to black.
Note: Soda Ash is called Washing Soda in Australia (sodium carbonate) and I bought mine very inexpensively from the supermarket.
I had several dyes, and chose #300, as it is described as having a blue cast, and the under fabric for the dress is a silvery blue. I now strongly suspect that the netting of the lace is a polyester, and in my opinion, the cast is purple, rather an attractive purple, but definitely not blue.
At the same time, my older daughter threw in a cotton/lycra singlet to tie die.

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Quite interesting again, and much more purple than blue.
In the left over dye bath, I soaked some some allegedly Irish Linen placemats that my mother retrieved from a church garage sale in case I might need them.

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They were a pastel blue that I find hideous, and I much prefer their new colour. They may end up in a garment, or we may have new placemats.
All this dyeing took 3+ hours of activity, and 30 minutes soaking time in dye fixative solution. I enjoyed it, but I don't think I'll be doing it regularly.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Pseudo Sewing

My sewing machine sometimes has to earn its keep with a dutiful task.
I am trying to improve my attitude about this.

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These amusingly colourful chairs are a necessity project that improves the appearance and function of my back verandah and saves me a packet (which I can then spend on vital sewing supplies for my inadequate hoard - or apply to the mortgage, hmm).

The fabric this time is Sunbrella (my new improved attitude still wants to put off the inevitable repetition of this project for as long as possible). This allegedly sun and mould resistant product is shockingly costly in Australia, so I imported mine from Fabric.Com at approximately 1/3 of the fabric price including shipping. I bought the super resistant version and poly thread for marine use. I am expecting longevity now!

I now see though, that there is an Australian online source with some Sunbrella at low prices which did not appear on my internet search a few months ago when I bought this fabric. FabricTraders. Has anyone used this company? It sounds promising for next time.

I did not buy myself too many fabric presents at the same time as my Fabric.Com order...(mostly voile for lining, really, not even interesting)

I used the plain with the stripe for variety and also to reduce the cost. Plain colours are much less costly than stripes. There were no issues with the construction - I just traced off an old cover, added some bias bits to finish curves and presto, new chairs.
My next project is also upholstery. I am really saving up some sewing brownie points here.