Cranach and Pear Shaped Sensuality

Lately I’ve been blogging paintings in the Three Graces artistic tradition which show idealized versions of the female form that are quite different from modern standards of beauty.  It’s easier for me to blog about art and women and bodies than the sewing right now, as I’m bringing a new set of patterns to completion and that takes up all my sewing-writing expertise…!

click to zoom

click to zoom

This version of the Three Graces was painted by Lucas Cranach the Elder in 1531, and remained in private collections until the Louvre purchased it in 2010.  Cranach was a German painter, and this small oil on wood painting was completed during a time when Cranach enjoyed great artistic and financial prosperity.  He was the mayor of Wittenburg three times, and found success as a property developer.

In this version of the graces, Cranach paints the figures of the women in realistic detail against a sharp black backdrop, with a plain stone floor.  This is not an allegory of love or an artistic exercise in harmony but a much more earthly painting  showing off physical bodies and material wealth in stark black and white and red.

Beauty's Face

The eye is drawn first to the angelic, prim face in the middle.  In fact, considering her setting the face is almost too angelic.  I’m not an expert in 15th century German Women’s dress (jump in if you are!), but her netted hair and the hat suggest she’s both married and well-off.  And what aplomb, standing there naked and serene, in nothing but a hat and necklaces!  I nicknamed this one “Beauty,” following the convention found in earlier Renaissance paintings.

Voluptuas face

I decided this must be the “Voluptua” Grace.  Her hair is down and flowing around her body (also a possible sign of maidenhood), she has a worldly-wise look on her face as she stares us down and stretches her leg like a runner prepares for a race:

Leg Stretch

I think I’m actually a little terrified of this Grace.

chatity's face

Our third grace has her back turned to us and a blank, dreamy look in her eyes.  She has only one necklace and at least pretends to cover up in the saran-wrap veil Cranach provided, so I think she must be Chastity.

Thighs

It’s important to remember that Cranach was a prolific artist, often delegating tasks in his workshop to apprentices and assistants.  This work, however, bears no marks of this treatment, which means Cranach (uncharacteristically) did all of the work on this painting himself.  It was for a private collection and probably cost a fair penny.  To the artist and to the welathy patron, the lines and shapes of these bodies were worth immortalizing in oil on wood.

This backside with biggish thighs is a part of a masterpiece.   The bodies themselves are objects of beauty and status, the same way that modern advertising sells us women’s bodies as objects of beauty and status.  I suppose the difference is that in Cranach’s case, he wasn’t selling anything except the painting itself.  (Maybe hats?  It could be a hat advertisement…)

Sexy Little Pots

From a modern point of view, I know these ladies are definitely what might be considered “pear” shaped.  They have tiny breasts, pouchy little tummies and thighs of varying widths.  Chastity’s thighs would never be confused withhotdogs, and I doubt these Graces would be chosen for the cover of Vogue.   Nonetheless, these girls/models/Graces were roughly the German Renaissance equivalent of high-fashion models.

I find Cranach’s Graces confronting and interesting, but my favorite description of this painting comes from Grit in the Gears.  Maybe he’s onto something…

My two words for these Graces is “affluence” and “youth.”  What are yours?

What do you see in these Graces?  Ancestors of high-fashion models?  Mere objects?  Sharks?  Or something else?

Raphael’s Endless Inspiration

click to zoom, large file with rich detail.

click to zoom, large file with rich detail.

Today’s Three Graces come to us from Raphael, a masterful Italian Renaissance painter.  This tiny (6.5″x6.5″ or 17x17cm) oil painting resides in the Musée Condé of Chantilly, France.  He painted this around 1503, in his late teens.  This is only a couple of decades after Botticelli’s immense Primavera was painted in Florence.

While Primavera is a dense, multi-layered allegory about divine and mortal love, Raphael chose to focus solely on the physical forms of the Graces.  He was undoubtedly inspired by classical motifs of the Graces, which were common in Italy at the time.  This is a similar Pomeian example, typical of the classic representation:

PomeianThreeGraces

To me, Raphael’s vision of the Graces looks like an experiment, or maybe an artistic task.  Raphael’s Graces is more or less the size of a mousepad, with a strict color palette, featuring a well known theme from antiquity.  It wouldn’t surprise me if he used these parameters to hone other skills, like composition and brushwork.  The focus of the painting is on Raphael’s obsession with harmony and beauty and realism, expressed through the composition.

I think it’s also likely his Graces also represent Chastity (no necklace, kinda wearing clothes), Voluptuas, and Beauty.

Legs as Strong Stems

The three figures spring from the ground like flowers, their legs the stems, each with one foot solidly rooted on the earth and the other gently lifting.  Their bodies curve harmoniously like dancers though they stand still.  They wait, absorbed in their mysterious orbs while exhibiting a gentle awareness of one other.

Strikingly, the central figure faces away from us, arms outstretched.  Some see this as a deliberate mixing of classical (the nude Graces) and Christian iconography (the outstretched arms of the central figure, suggestive of a crucifix).  The far left and right figures flank the central figure with an almost perfect symmetry of torsos, arms, and heads.

colors sampled from Raphael's  work.

colors sampled from Raphael’s work.

In the same way, the colors used suggest a certain earthiness mixed with the divine.  These women represent the Italian Renaissance standard of beauty with auburn hair, fair skin, and soft bodies.  Every other color used in this painting complements the coloring of these Graces- the deliberate shades of red used for the necklaces and spheres, the blue sky, hidden green background and tawny foreground.

Beads Detail

It’s as if Raphael deliberately chose the colors that would complement the fair, firey complexions of the Graces.  This furthers the illusion that these women sprang from the earth itself or perhaps it’s the opposite.   They inhabit a world created for them.

Long Gaze at the Orb

The commonest interpretation of this painting explains that these are the Hespirades, nymphs who guard the Golden Apples in a garden at the edge of the world, but no one knows for sure.  Hercules and other heros quested to find the Golden Apples, which appear in any number of myths and generally impart wisdom or immortality, or are simply objects of desire.

This is perhaps another blending of Classical and Christian themes.  In the book of Genesis, Eve (the first woman) eats the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, gives it to her husband.  As a result, they are cast out of Paradise and the presence of God to toil in the world of sin we know today.  The fruit Eve ate is often represented in art by a bright, shining red apple.

But are they holding apples?  One orb shows the suggestion a stem, but otherwise Raphael left it ambiguous.  Why do they gaze so calmy, so intently into the spheres?  Do the orbs represent a reward?  Are they pretty placeholders?  Raphael lays bare his Graces, but draws a veil over the mystery of their gaze.  (Maybe they can see Mercury in their little red spheres? )

Raphael’s Graces were based on other versions of Graces.  His stands out for harmony of color and composition which inspires others through history (small sample!):

I particularly like that Vargas photo, though his Graces don’t have the same “earth and sky” quality.

Let’s play “two words” again, that was fun.   My two words for Raphael’s work is “iconic” and “pensive.”  Which two words would you use?  What do you see in Raphael’s Graces?

Botticelli’s Three Graces in Primavera: Golden Bellies

The three graces are symbolic figures from classical mythology represented in verses, sculptures, mosaics and vases in ancient Greece and Rome.  Their names and shapes shift through history, and I thought it might be interesting to take a look at how artists portray these three over the past few centuries.

Botticelli-primavera

This is Boticelli’s Primavera, painted in Florence c.1482 to commemorate a wedding in the ruling Medici family.  The painting itself is enormous, larger than life at about 6.5 feet tall and over 10 feet wide (202 cm × 314 cm)! (I used a large image file, click to zoom for details.)

We’re most interested in The Graces, but first let me set the stage for those graceful dancers:

Chloris

At the far right, we see the god of the west wind as he abducts Chloris.  He makes her his bride Flora, goddess of springtime and flowers.  In Ovid she describes her married life this way:

Flora’s transformation bothers me (those ancient gods were so aggressive…!), but if she’s happy, I’m happy for her.  Besides, goddess of flowers is a pretty sweet gig.  She looks rather like a hippie, doesn’t she?

Venus

Venus, the goddess of love, quietly dominates the painting from the background.  She’s framed with trees, Cupid, and flowing robes, suggestive of Madonna.  Venus represents the Italian Renaissance ideal: red-haired, pale-skinned, curvaceous.

Three Graces

Beyond Venus, her handmaidens dance, entwined.  Botticelli’s three are active, their bodies veiled but not fully concealed by their diaphanous gowns.  At first glance, their dresses look more like mist than clothes, but they’re actually cleverly seamed, with puffy sleeves and careful lines of gathering and rich embellishment.

I found a brief but rich interpretation of this painting as the average 15th century viewer would see this work, quoted above.  Voluptas faces in opposition to Beauty and Chastity, looking on as the god of the west wind kidnaps Chloris.  This lust is viewed as the “lower” form of love.  Beauty and Chastity outnumber Voluptas, and face away from the lust of the wind god.

Mercury

Instead, Beauty and Chastity gaze on the figure of Mercury, who is busy arranging the clouds with a wand.  Between the wand, mastery of the elements, the rad toe-less boots and that sword, who can blame Chastity and Beauty for staring longingly at Mercury?

Cupid

Cupid’s bow aims at Chastity, who gazes on a young god who in turn gazes up to heaven.  From right to left, it’s a 15th century allegory for the nature of love and its transformative effects.

Three Graces Clothes

What do you see in this painting?  Isn’t it interesting that Chastity has no necklace, but bares her shoulder?  What does that mean?  I suppose Beauty and Voluptas “earned” their necklaces, but in the end Charity will get Mercury.

If you could use two words to sum the physical appearances of the women figures in Primavera, what would they be?

I’d say “bellies” and “golden.”

Edited to add: I like to watch/listen to documentaries when I sew, I just found this one from the BBC about Primavera.  Should be interesting…!

The Three Graces: Women’s Bodies in Art

Hey!  I feel like it’s been *years* since I last posted, and I miss you!  Everything is working together pretty well in my corner of the universe, and soon I’ll have some new, pretty, shiny patterns to show for my time spent being a hermit in my drafting cave.

Three Graces

If you’ve been reading for a while, you know I don’t put much value in modern representations of women in the media- “fashion” photography portraying anorexic teens, predatory advertising that exploits our insecurities, shallow representations of femininity in entertainment and trumped-up cultural clashes such as the famous “Mommy Wars.”

(What a joke, amirite?  Wait, wait, I’m supposed to aspire to conform to these images, tropes, and caricatures flung at me?  That’s definitely a joke.)

I like to look for strong, positive representations of femininity elsewhere.  One of my favorite places to mine is art history, and lately I’ve been really inspired by the artistic tradition of the Three Graces:

click for source

click for source

The Three Graces are ancient daughters of Zeus and handmaidens to the goddess of Love, Aphrodite.  They’ve flitted through poetry, sculpture and paintings for the past 2000-odd years, subtly shifting shapes and changing their names to reflect the ideals of the artists they inspire.  Depending who you ask, their names are Splendor, Mirth and Good Cheer or else Aglaia (Beauty), Euphrosyne (Mirth), and Thalia (Abundance) and they represent qualities from charm to fertility to creativity.

The Metropolitan Museum says: “They bestow what is most pleasurable and beneficent in nature and society: fertility and growth, beauty in the arts, harmonious reciprocity… They enjoyed venerable cults in Greece and Asia Minor. In mythology, they play an attendant role, gracing festivals and organizing dances.”

Three Graces, Many Forms

The Graces play a supporting role in art, providing inspiration to artists and an idealization of admirable traits, embodied in the shame-free nudity of the female form.  I especially love how the Three are represented as separate entities, different in their own ways and yet each a part of a harmonious whole.  To me, this is an excellent representation of the power of female collaboration- three individuals combine to create a timeless icon portraying ideals that inspire artists even today.  I like this much more than I like Mommy Wars and body-snarking on people who are fatter/skinnier/prettier/uglier than me.

The Three Graces are comfortable in their skins and at peace with each other.  They are idealized, but imperfect.  To me, that speaks of deep beauty, that beauty which can’t be seen but is felt.

The Three Graces

Over the next couple of weeks, I want to post some of my favorite representations of the Three Graces and write a little reaction to the work, focusing mainly on the Three Graces in painting.  It is not my intention to write a series of scholarly art history posts.  Instead, I’d rather start some friendly discussions with y’all about the changing nature of female beauty (physical and spiritual) through the centuries and how that can relate to us today in our image-obsessed culture. I think it’s also a great way to add a little variety in our visual diets.

Would you like to play?  What do you think about these Graces?  They’re Roman, 2nd century, housed at the Metropolitan Museum and fairly representative of classical depictions of the Graces in sculpture.

Front View

I look at this and see nudity without lust, beauty without perfection, a marble representation of fairly ordinary female bodies with no faces but still exuding personality.  There’s no eroticism, no symmetry in their arrangement.  In fact I think I can see a little bit of “back squidge” on our Graces!  Yet there they stand- sinuous, graceful, timeless.   They’re blank marble, ready to receive our projections of female Grace.

What names would you give your own Three Graces?  I think mine are Joy, Mirth, and Creativity.

Catching Up and Hummingbird Class in Brisbane!

 

It’s been a while since my last post.  While you’re all so very understanding when I disappear into my drafting and development cave I thought I owed you an apology for not posting the rest of the House galleries.  I’m sorry.  I am really proud of the work that all the houses put into the Sewalong, and there’s more than a handful of really cool Hummingbirds and Hummingbird hybrids viewable in the Flickr group or the Hummingbird Community Gallery.

The fact is, after I spent 6-7 hours putting together the Sabrewing House gallery I completely lost steam.  Blogging is time consuming.  Even shorter posts often require 2+ hours of pulling together text and photos and links and concepts.   I often write technical posts for sewingcake all at one time and release them slowly as some bloggers do, but it never felt right for 3 Hours Past.

It's Pearl!

It’s Pearl, next appearance on RV…

Lately, I felt it’s better for me to spend my blogging time developing new designs and making Cake Patterns the best company I can.   In fact, I’d like to tell you a little about what I’ve been doing (and I slipped in little previews of the future so you can *really* see what I’ve been up to…!).

Cake Retail- The Distribution Work

I wasn’t just sewing and drafting while the blog was quiet.  I’m also tightening up every step of the development and distribution for Cake Patterns.  International shipping costs have gone up dramatically lately (especially from the US to international destinations but there’s been a definite ripple effect).  This means it’s harder/more expensive to sell and distribute Cake Patterns through Etsy for both you and me.

Penelope red Velvet

Penelope makes another appearance for Red Velvet!

But I’m working on a solution!  Cake Patterns is currently seeking retail partners (particularly across Canada and Europe) in order to make Cake Patterns available more easily to you, for lower shipping rates.  We already have a growing list of wonderful international stockists:

Australia:

New Zealand*:

Sweden:

UK:

United States:

I spent some time over the past few weeks developing our systems and digital resources to better serve our retailers.  They, in turn, make it simpler (and usually cheaper) for you to order Cake Patterns.   Retailers are an important part of the distribution process.   Over the past several weeks, I began reprinting (again) Tiramisu Second Edition and the RiFFsHummingbird is next, we’re already almost out of stock!  Every stage of the process has gone much more smoothly, I have some lovely patterns in hand and now I feel confident in seeking out retailers knowing I can provide a solid finished pattern.

Red Velvet Dress

If you’re a retailer (or you know one) and you’d like to request Cake Patterns’ retail brochure, then let me know:

 

The retail brochure contains information and previews for the upcoming Red Velvet and Cake Kid Collections, too.

Back Detail

Cake Classes- My Favorite Work!

Before I started making patterns, I taught sewing for years locally.  In fact, everything about the way I write and present Cake Patterns is informed by years of helping women fit and sew patterns that were consistently inadequate in terms of fit and instructions.  I love teaching!

Zilch to Zips

For most of this year I’ve been teaching beginners on a Tuesday night.  In five weeks we work through a tote bag, a Blank Canvas Tee and an a-line skirt.  The next round of beginners classes is on a weekend, as has been requested.  Click here to view more information about this class, I call it “From Zilch to Zips” and I’m really proud of the solid skill set my beginners build in this class.

(I’m putting together a Beginner’s Sewing pattern set based on Zilch to Zips.  I used to like that I could hand a relative beginner a Colette or an Oliver + S pattern and know they’d have good success outside the classroom setting.  I want to take that concept further to make a little useful set of beginner’s patterns suitable for either a classroom or solo learning experience… More on that very soon!)

Hummingbird Class at Voodoo Rabbit

Instead of beginners on a Tuesday, from July 30 I’ll be teaching a 4-week Hummingbird Class!  I’m really excited about this, because it’s a nifty intermediate-level class I worked up that’s very similar to the Sewalong.  We’ll spend time exploring fabric behavior and drape as well as fitting and finishing techniques.  We’ll talk peplums and proportions, bias, lapped seams, the finer points of knit binding, twin needling and denim seaming techniques (we’ll sew some denim even if you aren’t sewing with it).

As always, I teach the group but also teach to the individual and her machine.  That means we’ll get your machine twin needling no matter what.  We’ll laugh, chat, joke around and refine our techniques in a stress-free, supportive learning environment.  That’s really important to me, more than anything else:  in classes like this I want you to experience the joy of sewing, the excitement of watching a garment come to life beneath your fingertips.

If you’d like to come along, you can check out the full details on the class listing at Voodoo Rabbit.  We keep class sizes small, and the closing date for enrollment is this Wednesday so don’t miss out!  (I don’t think I’ll be able to resist whipping up some Hummingbird Cake for us to have with our tea- yum!)

Bandwidth & Balance- The Hardest Work

From next week, I’m back at 3 Hours Past, at least a little bit for a body image/art series I’ve been mulling for a while.  The RV production work is wrapping up and while I don’t yet have the paper patterns quite ready to go just yet, I also won’t have to spend so much of my time working on the production.  That means I can spend a little time writing again!

Mmmm, one of the things that colors a Red Velvet Cake is the Cocoa... A RV Collection RiFF...

Mmmm, one of the elements that colors one kind of Red Velvet Cake is the Cocoa… A Red Velvet Collection RiFF…

 

Building Cake has been more of a rollercoaster ride than I ever could have imagined, and right now I’m working hardest on finding a way to achieve balance between the work I do and the life I live.  So far, it’s been helpful to accept that the day only has 24 hours and to strive to set aside one day every week where I don’t work at all.  I don’t tend to have any problems getting motivated or focusing on the work, in fact I find it’s hard to stop working.  I’d be really interested in hearing your tips for maintaining a healthy work/life balance, especially from those who work from home or work for themselves.   When do you stop working?  Where are your boundaries?

Let us sew cake

*New Zealanders LOVE Cake despite the high shipping costs to cross the Tasman- check out this Sew and Eat Cake event in Wellington, what fun!  I wish I could be there, ladies!  I want to see the pictures!

Hummingbird Sewalong Winning House: Sabrewing

shared on flickr, not blogged, an experiment from the process...

shared on flickr, not blogged, an experiment from the process…

Hi Everyone!  I’ve been silent here at 3 Hours Past over the past almost-two-weeks while I wrote and ran the Hummingbird 30 Minutes A Day sewalong over at sewingcake.com.  Personally, this is my favorite part of the pattern production process.  I spend weeks and weeks behind the scenes working on production, sewing up my own samples and writing guides and tutorials before the patterns are even printed/distributed.  But once we start sewing along together, I can see my work in your sewing and on your back and that’s really rewarding.  Thank you for sewing along!  (And remember, there’s always next time!)

Last time, when we sewed Pavlova together, the Hummingbird presale followed close on the heels and I couldn’t fit in any group posts.  I did start making the Community Gallery pages over at sewingcake.com at that time.  If you haven’t already, do check out the growing Community Galleries, there’s one for each current Cake Patterns release.

Winner!

I love making games and giveaways, and for the Hummingbird Sewalong we sent out all pre-ordered Hummingbird patterns in brightly colored envelopes to separate anyone who wanted to play for the Hummingbird House Prize into your house:

Everyone who made a new garment or learned a new skill or pushed their sewing “comfort zones” during the Sewalong is a winner.  You won by extending your sewing experience, building your wardrobe, making new friends or even just trying something a little different.  This time around, we had 108 members join the Flickr Group and 522 photos uploaded!  That’s way more than the previous sewalongs!

I really enjoyed getting up every day and putting the lesson on, tidying it up and updating the lesson to reflect what was going on in the Flickr group.  Then I go running around and looking at all the pretty new makes and progress!  I love it, I’ve gotten to know many of you and your figure types and a bit about your life during the sewalongs.  I think of y’all while I’m working on the next set of designs, you’re really inspiring!

The tally was close, and I probably should end this series with the winner.  Instead, I’d like to announce the winner right now, then we can take some time to look through the other houses over the next week.  I thought that would be a nice way to showcase all the lovely new Hummingbirds!

Sabrewing Hummingbird

  I’m pleased to announce: The official winner of the Hummingbird House Competition was Sabrewing!

 

Way to go, Sabrewing! You sewed really well and worked hard, please visit our old Sabrewing House haunt to collect your prize code.  The code is available openly on the honor system, I know who is in Sabrewing and I believe I notified everyone.

Unfortunately, I could not link each photo from Sabrewing House above to its Flickr page, but you can find all public Sabrewing makes tagged here in chronological order.  I’m so impressed with the work you all did!

Denim waistband no zipper!

Gillian (House Sabrewing) made two Hummingbird Skirts without a zipper.  Click here to learn how.

Maryanne's Hummingmisu

And yes!  This is a Hummingmisu, one of several varieties of Hummingbird Dresses that popped up in the sewalong (stay tuned this week to see others!).  Here, Maryanne used the Hummingbird Blue as a bodice with the Tiramisu half-circle skirt!

Extra Points for Community Support

Find your knit stitch

When we were working on Finding Your Best Knit Stitch, I felt my visual reference/troubleshooting guide was incomplete.  After all, machines vary widely.  I show the settings for my machine and while the settings would be similar on other machines, I thought it might be nice to take a look at what everyone else is using for knit seaming.  So I asked, and it became a part of the game: one point for each individual’s photographed sewing machine/stitch settings for a knitstitch (at the bottom of the visual reference, here). This was really interesting, and I think I’ll use “Community Support” daily points like this for future Sewalong games.  It’s a really great resource for new-to-knit-sewing friends, too.

Been Quiet, What’s Up?

I’ve been quiet on the blog front because I’m working hard on solidifying Cake.  I’m changing up the way I handle productions, streamlining, taking stock, building infrastructure, checking the books, all of those things that take a lot of time.

I’m finishing up the next release, too- Red Velvet!  She was sidelined for a couple of weeks, but now we’re finishing up and nearly to the pre-press stage.  Originally, I had planned to pre-sale her from next week, but that is not what we’re doing anymore because I want to avoid supply chain errors bred by pre-saling.  I hope to have her printing toward the end of this month, and then dear me, don’t I just have some wonderful new things to show you?

In the meantime, I want to feature the other Hummingbird Houses (which are full of goooooorgeous work and deserve their own posts!) and then venture into a light little series I’ve been thinking about for a while- it’ll be something fun to talk about before the next round of pattern releases…

Hummingbird Class in Brisbane

Hummingbird Class at Voodoo Rabbit

If you live in Brisbane and you’d like to join me and a small group of like-minded sewists to explore the Hummingbird Skirt and Top pattern, then click here to visit the Voodoo Rabbit Class Listings for more details!  It’s a four-week Tuesday Evening class (6-9pm) from July 30- 5 spots left, book early!  (Price of the pattern is included in the class, “discount” if you already own the pattern!)

What do you think?  There’s some pretty nifty sewing from Sabrewing House, dresses and details.  Great work, Sabrewing!

Next up: Violetear

Then: Annas

Finally: Rufous

paper and pdf patterns on Etsy

paper and pdf patterns on Etsy

Finished Object: The Hummingbird Dress

worn with my old favorite, the Demilitarized Jacket

worn with my old favorite, the Demilitarized Jacket

She’s finally finished!  Lately, my sewing time keeps disappearing so I took my own advice during the 30 Minutes A Day Sewalong last week and worked on my dress in 30 minute chunks to get her done.  It really works to tackle a project in little bites to get it done and I’m really pleased to have finished this dress.  We went out to central Brisbane (where I go to run printing and scanning and supply errands) to take photos the other day, I hope you like seeing a little more of the city…

Dress dress dress!

This was the original inspiration.  For my own dress made using the Hummingbird Top as a base, I wanted another type of neckline interest and plain sleeves rather than pleated.

Hummingbird Dress

This is my version.  I used a lycra-rayon blend jersey, white with a black pinstripe.  The fabric is a little on the hefty side for a top and just a touch on the light side for a dress.  I cut a 30-length peplum in four pieces using this cutting layout, which is also great for directional fabrics.   After I tried on the dress with a single peplum, I decided to add a second, longer black peplum.

Hummingbird Dress

I felt more comfortable with the extra layer of lightweight jersey, and I like the way it highlights the peplum.  I think the lower layer affects the overall drape, however.

DSCN1328

Pinstripes are hard to photograph decently!  Does anyone have tips?  I can’t tell you how many times in the past couple of years I decided against using pintstripes purely because they don’t photograph well.  I just couldn’t summon the strength to say “no” one more time, and I’m glad I used the stripes for this dress.

Hummingbird Dress Back

The back came out pretty well, too.  I took a little wedge out of the lower edge of the CB top until the back wrinkles disappeared.  I do this reflexively and don’t have many problems with lower back wrinkles.  I also reduced the width of the sleeve hem for a closer fitting sleeve at the elbow, tapering my stitching into the existing under-arm seam.

When I cut the top, I marked the stripes on one pattern piece and transferred the stripe matching points to the front pattern piece.  You can see them in my photos of cutting the top here.  Due to the angle of the seams, I had to choose where to match the stripes along my arm as I cut.  I chose the shoulder!  It starts to go a little off further down the sleeve, and I’m ok with it because it’s relatively unobtrusive in the thin stripe and I worried this fabric would ripple.   Meanwhile, in the sewalong, Kelly made some perfect sleeve chevrons in a heftier stripe.

The Soft Bow Dickie is one of many dickey inspirations I’ve been dying to try with the Hummingbird Top neckline.  It’s made of the same soft, fluid jersey as the second peplum.   The bow section is quick and simple, easy to slip into a too-long neckline or even as a re-fashion to spruce up an old top.

I thought about making the sleeve bindings in black, but I opted instead to offset the stripes because I’m addicted.

click for source

click for source

The entire hack of this dress including neckline drafting, simple knit straight skirt draft and Soft Bow Dickie drafting and sewing notes are at sewingcake.com.

Hummingbird Top With Soft Bow

Once we finished (I thought) taking photos, I slipped into my Pinkie Pants and ballet flats to take a walk through Southbank and have sushi with Lila & Stephen.  Surprise!  During construction, I wore the top around the house for a while to check that the bow covered what it should and that the binding didn’t buckle.

I fell in love with this as a standalone top, so I used a simple quartered elastic waistband to create the skirt.  The skirt slips under the peplum so I can wear it as a dress, but since I work from home I don’t wear as many “pretty” dresses as I used to.  The pretty top slips right into my wardrobe and means I get more wear-time for my sew-time.

Funny story- we passed this train station and I thought it would make a striking backdrop for photos.  I got bold and stood up, and the second I turned around I saw an older, fatherly ticket-taker sternly shaking his head at me.  I hopped right down.

Hummingbird Dress

As a dress or a top, I really dig this latest Hummingbird.  I’m also pleased at how different it looks to my others.  It has style and a certain heft for a top, but also great recovery.  If I were to make another Hummingbird Dress at some point, the only thing I’d do differently is to choose a slightly beefier knit- maybe a nice doubleknit or ponte.  This is almost the right weight.

Notes

If you haven’t yet, check out the Hummingbird Sewalong schedule for links to each day’s lesson. We’re on Day 8 and I slipped in a few extra house point challenges for fun.  The deadline to finish all challenges and Sewalong makes to be counted for the house prize is July 1 at midnight in Anchorage, Alaska.  Then we can count up your points and assign the House Prize.

Picture 18

Do check out the Hummingbird Flickr group, there’s some REALLY nifty skirts and tops already being shown off.  I didn’t get a chance for a big 3 Hours Past group post for Pavlova (opting instead to create the Community Galleries), but maybe we should do something special for Hummingbird?  What do you think?

Find the Hummingbird Top pattern on Etsy, available for immediate shipment/download.

Coming, Going, The Sewalong Begins and Bowls of Coffee

Since last week’s post, I’ve been working, working, working.  Thank you so much for your support, it really touched me that you’d respond the way that you did and I’ve been working twice as hard since then.   The days fly by in a blur- shipping, emails, Red Velvet production thundering along, sketches, suppliers, thread, needles, finding time to make cookies with my daughter and birthday present shopping for my niece…  The other morning I poured myself a bowl of coffee instead of cereal.  Then, once the coffee was in an appropriate vessel, I topped it off with orange juice instead of milk.

You know, it was surprisingly delicious…

30 Minutes a Day Sewalong Hummingbird Headline 1

The Hummingbird 30 Minutes a Day Sewalong kicks off today!  The flickr group is already been a hive of activity, with people sharing fabric choices and getting tips for proportions and sizing.  That’s what most of Day 1 is about- getting together all the Hummingbird project tools, notions, and supplies and sorting out the Top sizing.

Picture 8

Now, honestly, the Top goes together in about an hour or even less for experienced sewists and we’re stretching it out to five days.  I know many of you participating in the sewalong are more experienced, and might find the pace a little slow at first.  It’s perfectly ok to make multiples or get ahead if you want (each completed Hummingbird Separate counts toward your House’s points), but in the interests of maintaining my sanity I simply can not keep pace with you.  I will only briefly answer questions that I know are addressed in sewalong lessons several days down the line.  Do ask questions, though!

More specifically- Skirt Fitting Day is on Day 9, or next Tuesday.  I have a whole lovely set of photos and troubleshooting tips for you that I’ll publish then.  If you upload skirt fitting pics before then, I can not respond though your Head of House may and you should trust her advice. Thanks for understanding!

Shipping

Last Wednesday, the Aussie Hummingbird and Cabarita orders came in- finally released from customs!  I dropped everything and filled a couple hundred orders:

As far as I know, most people have received their patterns for the sewalong.  If you haven’t and you’d like to join in, please please email me (Stephc at 3hourspast dot com) and I’ll send a pdf your way.  The unfortunate pieces J are in transit to me and to Leila, so we can then ship them very soon.  It took a couple of days to print them, cut them, and send them out- we didn’t want to hold the shipment of your patterns, opting instead to send the pieces separately.  Click here to register for us to send you a paper piece J or to find the 4 page pdf download.

That paper...

That paper… I’m glad we made the change…

After that whole “Piece J” debacle I was not excited about this batch of patterns.  That is, until I handled them.  Our new printer had sampled out a variety of patterns to me before I decided to work with her, and this paper impressed me then.  It’s translucent and lightweight but durable, dream paper.  When I unpacked the Hummingbird and Cabarita patterns, I was excited all over again, to my surprise.  I hope you like them, too.

The Tiramisu and Bonny paper patterns were delivered late this afternoon.  No trouble at customs, and no missing pieces!  I know what I’m doing tomorrow!! (shipping)  I can’t wait to have all the presale orders cleared out and sent to your sewing rooms.

I also have a class tomorrow night, a brand new crop of lovely baby beginners who will all go home with nicely sewn shopping totes.

PIeced, striped peplum

And- I found time to sew this weekend!  I sewed a few things for my family (my poor husband has been asking me for pants since last October and now he has two new pairs!) and made a great start on my Hummingbird Dress.  I needed to sew, it had been too many days and my fingers were itching.  I cut my peplum stripes the opposite direction to the stripes on this peplum:

Dress dress dress!

I thought it would help show two different ways and how to accomplish them, so if you decide to play with stripes you can.  I cut plain elbow length sleeves with extra wide binding bands, and I’m playing around with a softly draping bow in the front.  I love a nice dramatic design detail!  Naturally, I’ll be sure to publish the drafting guide for creating my riff on this design using the Hummingbird Top pattern.

I think I might find time to sew it on Wednesday and do a nice Finished Object post!  That’ll be nice after all the computer and shipping work I’ve been doing lately….

Picture 9

Ooooh and check out this excellent pale blue piped Hummingbird Pink out of Germany…. I love it.

Picture 10

And did you see Leila’s Tiramisu CulottesDid you? Should we try to get her to write us a hack?

Cake and the Hydra

Picture 9

The Hydra was a fearsome beast from Greek mythology- every time one of its heads was cut off, two more grew in its place.  I grew up on these stories, and can’t help thinking about them sometimes.  This weekend, I did not get a chance to sew my Hummingbird Dress or do much of anything because I was again battling my Hydra- Pattern Errata.

Piece J

Hummingbird SkirtApril26Final

This is the Hummingbird Skirt pattern that we’ve been working from behind the scenes- five of us testing, revising, tweaking and stitching to ensure you have the best sewing experience possible with your Hummingbird Separates. I sent our final file off to be printed, secure in the knowledge that your back darts would fit, your waistbands would be tidy, and your pockets would be aaaaaamazing.

If you already received your paper Hummingbird Pattern you will see an empty space on your pattern paper where the pocket piece goes.  When I discovered this had happened, I immediately began working on two fixes and also to trace the source of the disparity.   I am very, very sorry this happened to our little bird.

Hummingbird piece J

Click here to get the download and/or request a paper pattern piece.  They are being printed now and should be sent out very quickly.

The piece was lost at the last stage of the process, due to a communications glitch between software on two computers.  I had no idea this kind of problem was possible until it happened.   The rest of the pattern is so lovely though!  Check out what’s already cropping up in the Hummingbird Flickr group.

Piece A

Cabarita Piece A DigitizedUnfortunately, Cabarita was also printed with a piece missing.  It is the small, unassuming Piece A neck binding.  This was caused by another type of miscommunication that often happens at the beginning of working relationships.  Please click here for the downloadable pattern piece and the request form for a paper pattern piece.

Picture 8

While we’re talking Cabarita, I want to squeeze in a little bit of fun- the Cabarita Community Galleries page.  I wasn’t sure whether we’d do these for RiFFs, but I had many requests so here she is!

Delays

And these issues on top of the delays we’ve had getting the shipment prepped for you!  The Southern Hemisphere shipment of Hummingbird and Cabarita patterns are tied up in customs.  I expect to have them Tuesday or Wednesday and will immediately drop everything to send them out when they arrive.

Quality Control

I take your sewing very seriously, and these issues grieve me more than I know how to express in words.  Instead, I’ll tell you the actions I’ve taken lately to tighten up Cake production and quality control:

-Testing: this is done by the Cake team, and the next pattern is almost ready for the set of Red Velvet testers to play with.  This allows me to delve even deeper into fit and fine-tuning the cut, and also means we many people trialling the sewing experience.

-Editorial Checklists: I have been building extensive editorial checklists since early this year.  Putting together a pattern requires more moving parts than I would have thought possible a year ago, and the checklist helps me make sure I’ve included all the relevant information.

Picture 10

-Susan: I hinted before that Susan from Moonthirty was joining the Cake Team.  She helps me test proportion and fit, but that’s not all.  Susan’s role is to help me coordinate the files for printing for each production run and to cast a sharply critical eye over every word and line and piece of the process.

She’s objective because she doesn’t live inside the work in the same way I do.   Susan polishes.  She dots the i’s and crosses the t’s.  This is her special talent, and I’m grateful she’s joining us.   She and I have been building our working relationship in this capacity for a few weeks now.  We’re doubling down our checks and cross-checks for the Red Velvet Collection. (oh yes, oh yes, it’s a collection…)

-Presales: I would never, ever ever have been able to build Cake without your support through the crowd-funded presaling.  However, running a company this way breeds errors of the type I’m handling right now.

I am not running any more presales as the primary source of funds for Cake Patterns productions.

That is not to say we won’t have a big old party online with special introductory prices on patterns (that’s too fun to quit!), but it does mean I am no longer selling you a concept during the presale.  I will be selling you an actual paper pattern I have in my hand- one that I know is precisely the way it should be.  I came to this decision over the weekend, and I believe it is the right one for Cake.  (It will also mean immediate delivery for the next round of patterns!  Hooray!)   The Red Velvet Collection presale is still slated for next month, I will have more on that later.

I apologize for any problems or inconvenience these issues have caused you.  If there’s anything else at all I can do for you, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

Dress dress dress!

I need to be quiet this week on the blogging front while I continue to keep on top of the Hydra and prepare for the Hummingbird Sewalong, and I do so hope I get a chance to make my Hummingbird Dress sooner rather than later!

A Trip to the Hardware Store!

Sewing with Hammers on the back patio

Sewing with Hammers on the back patio

Today we have Sewing with Hammers!  Because hardware that’s available for clothing varies so widely in type and particular application, I opted this time to show what I’m working with and disambiguate the process for those who haven’t tried it but might if they saw how it works.

Sewing with Hammers

If you’re interested, check out Sewing with Hammers at SewingCake.  This is not at all an exhaustive post on the subject- I want to add jeans buttons and grommets and other fun stuff as it comes up in my sewing.

I took a little trip to the hardware store with my husband today.   I love hardware stores, scanning the shelves for tools and hardware and other things I can appropriate for my sewing room.  I picked up a tiny, perfectly calibrated metal carpenters’ square (I’ve been looking for one for such a long time!)  and a tiny hammer to keep in my sewing room:

A sewing hammer- slim and smaller scale, easier to wield with accuracy.

A sewing hammer- slim and smaller scale, easier for me to wield with accuracy.

The hammer I used last week was rather heavy and came from our house toolchest.  I figured a smaller hammer would suit my purposes better.  Besides, this hammer is clean and pretty, not all manky and manly like the household hammer.

As I roamed the carpentry section of Bunnings, I noticed some really cool work gloves:

workgloves

I really had no idea such things existed, but obviously this particular style wouldn’t suit my purposes.

work gloves

Then I saw these!  These are serious work gloves, with silicon pads to absorb shock.  I’d been tweeting while I waited for my husband to finish his shopping, so the next part I blame on Gillian:

Picture 3

I thought that sounded absurd but plausible.  Left to my own devices, slightly bored with a hammer in one hand and a silicone glove on the other, I started to tap my gloved fingers.

Then I tapped harder.  Then I properly whacked my hand with the hammer a few times and felt nothing.  They’re incredible, those silicon gloves.  I convinced myself they were a worthwhile purchase and I went to find my husband.  But when I showed him my fancy gloves, his epic eyeroll sent me back to pick up some simpler (and possibly more useful) neoprene gloves.

Sewing with Hammers

These are lightweight and while I wouldn’t purposefully bang my fingers while wearing these gloves, I do think they’ll absorb some shock and provide protection for my nails and cuticles.   They’re not exactly necessary, but I’m not the worlds most graceful person and I do work hard with my hands.

Do you go sewing shopping at hardware stores?  What have you found there?  I think they generally have higher quality tools/hardware (when you can find it) for lower prices than sewing stores.  What do you think?

Customs

Australians- I just want to let you know I found out what was holding up our pattern shipment in Customs.  I’ve sorted it out, and fingers crossed I may get our patterns tomorrow!

Peplum Dress

Meanwhile, I have a Hummingbird Dress to go play with… I’ll be sure to document what I do and upload it to sewingcake!  What do you think about this dress, made up in a black and white stripe?  Maybe with 3/4 sleeves, no collar?