Join me in my adventures as I write romance novels and sew vintage and contemporary fashion.

Monday, April 29, 2013

40s Suit Hits the Road

The Traveling

The pictures tell a story. My husband and I weren't trying to tell a story during this particular photo session, which was all about the suit, but it happened and reminded me of how many of my stories form.

Pictures 1 and 2--Once upon a time people could wait for buses in the middle of nowhere instead of actually traveling to the bus stop. I can imagine a woman heading off to the city from her ranch. Why? Perhaps she needs to find work. Perhaps she has offical business to attend to or she's going to stay with a relative. My woman would probably be going to Reno. The highway I'm on is a very old highway, so there may well have been people waiting for a bus on it in the 1940s.

Picture 3--For some reason my woman has abandoned the highway. If I were writing this story, I'd probably start at this scene and try to figure out what happened on the highway. The highway incident (whatever that had been) would be fed in as the scene progressed.

Picture 4--The sun is going down and it's time to make a decision. This would be a turning point that would propel the rest of the story. The call to adventure, if you will.

That's how my writing process works. I see a scene. I wonder how my character got into the place he or she is in, then I throw in a disaster and the real story begins.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Once A Champion Review

The Writing

The review for Once a Champion is now available in the June edition of RT Book Reviews

by Jeannie Watt
RT Rating
ONCE A CHAMPION (4) by Jeannie Watt: Physical therapist Liv Bailey is surprised when calf roper Matt Montoya arrives at her family’s ranch, looking for the horse his ex-wife sold while he was away. She can’t deny she still finds him as attractive as she did in high school, when she tutored him. But Matt’s unwilling to accept the fact that a knee injury means he’ll likely never rope competitively again, and Liv isn't sure she can have another relationship after breaking things off with a controlling ex-fiancĂ©. Watt brings her complex, wonderful characters to life. Both Matt and Liv are likable and warm, in spite of Liv’s insecurities and Matt’s reluctance to realize he can no longer compete in rodeos.
Reviewed By: Alexandra Kay
This encourages me to soldier on with the revisions for my next book, which has yet to be assigned a title. For now it’s called Ryan’s Story. 

Titling a book is a joint effort. I send in to my editor a list of 15 to 20 possible titles.  Those titles are reviewed and used as a brainstorming springboard by several  editors and then the final title is assigned. 

My first book, A Difficult Woman, retained its working title, but that never happened again—probably because I tend to call my working manuscripts things like “Ryan’s Story”. The next book I’m contracted to write is called “Shae’s story.”   Speaking of which, the first three chapters of Shae’s Story are due mid-May, so I need to get cracking on those. Shae is the bridezilla in Once a Champion and now I have to redeem her. I think it'll be fun turning a self-centered bridezilla into a sympathetic character.  I do love a challenging character arc.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

30s Dress Goes to the Pub

There are a lot of pluses to having a husband who's a photographer. Granted, sometimes he has to pry me away my sewing and/or writing to be photographed, but that's usually because I'm in the process of being beat up...I mean a sewing project or story scene. This was one of my favorite photo sessions ever. What's more, he wants me to make more vintage clothes for vintage photo shoots. Yay!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Return of the Bound Buttonhole

I am not a coat-making novice. I enjoy making coats and jackets and last year I tailored two wool frock coats for the Great Dicken's Fair in San Francisco.

Neither of these frock coats (one is hanging in the background) had bound buttonholes. The directions did fantasize about me hand binding slashed buttonholes, but I ignored that part...just as I considered ignoring the buttonhole directions for my 60s coat, once I found out about them.

I'm notorious for forgetting to buy at least one key component of my current project, so last weekend I carefully read the directions before starting my coat. In step 5, I was startled to discover instructions for making seven--count them, seven--bound buttonholes. Oh, happy day.

Again I was tempted by my 1955 Singer buttonholer, but the reason I'm sewing retro is to learn and practice new techniques, so even though I was smacked around by a bound buttonhole while making the Sew for Victory jacket, I decided that I needed to suck it up and try again.

I followed the pattern directions--I was pleased that this pattern actually gave directions, unlike the 40s jacket which tersely commanded "Make bound buttonholes"--and made a practice buttonhole. It came out cute as a, well, button. Perfect.

But I'd fallen for this before--being lulled into a sense of false security by a perfect practice buttonhole--so I made a second.

Scary little dude, eh? Let me explain that I made a couple errors on this one (no kidding--right?) I wasn't as careful with my grain lines, but the big mistake was that I didn't tie off the thread ends by hand on the back. Instead I back stitched, and the stitching on the scary side started to come undone. No more back stitching.

Fraying was also a problem with this silk linen fabric.

And when I tried to stitch the little triangle to the welt ends, there was no triangle. It had frayed away.

To deal with the fraying, I reinforced both the welt strips and buttonhole area on the coat front with knit fusible interfacing. It was light enough not to add bulk to the narrow welts, but kept the fraying to a minimum. I had a triangle to stitch!

I marked the buttonhole placement with thread as the pattern said to do.

 The fabric strips for the welts are very narrow:

To make certain that my grain lines were perfect, I carefully placed the strips and then taped them into place instead of pinning or basting. The tape worked excellently.

I drew the stitching line on the welts--which were only 1/4 inch wide when folded--then  tied off the thread ends on the back (three knots and snipped 1/8 from the knot). I can thank the scary second practice buttonhole for this grain-line/thread-end vigilance, so as frighteningly as it turned out, it was worthwhile.

By employing a great deal of sweat and anxiety, I ended up with seven nearly perfect bound buttonholes, four of which are shown above prior to being sewn shut. They're very delicate looking and I'm quite pleased.

The big lessons:
1) Never give up, never surrender.
2) Make more than one practice buttonhole, just in case.
3) Don't hurry.
4) Experiment with tape.
5) Don't turn your back on the cat.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Pantone Color Contest 60s Coat~ Rough Draft

I love this coat pattern and it takes less yardage than any of my other 60s coat patterns—only 2 5/8
yards of 54 inch fabric. Ironically my muslin fabric for the Pantone Color Contest is the color of mud. It is, however, the proper weight and only cost $1.50 a yard.

The jacket went together easily. The only problem is that the princess seams are made for a larger busted princess than myself.

I solved this by pinching out the excess and marking it with chalk on the side panel. 
Then I took took the seams out of that part of the muslin and matched the chalk line on the side panel to the regular stitching line on the front panel. 
The result was a much better fit. There's a tiny pinch, but that's because I didn't release the sleeve seam.

Since I was happy with the new fit, I took apart the muslin, ironed the side panel and adjusted the pattern piece.

The sleeves were 1 ½ inches too short. My husband, a child of the 60s, quickly explained this to me—women wore gloves in the 60s. Sure enough. I decided to lengthen the sleeves by 1 ½ inches.

The only other issue is the belt. The smaller coat pattern I bought came from a university home ec department. It had a penciled note on the front saying to add length to the belt so that it would lie nicely. I made the belt without lengthening it, and this is the result. 

I'd rather not have the coat cinched in, so I lengthened the pattern piece. I can always take it back in if necessary.

After spending two days with my mud colored fabric, I'm very, very excited to finally tackle some color! 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Becoming a Book

French edition of Just Desserts~
April 2013

I received  the revision notes from my editor late last week. She had excellent suggestions for the areas that needed work and actually liked one part that I thought needed tweaked.  I love a second pair of eyes. Now I have until the end of May to get this book into its almost final form.

In case you've wondered about the process that goes into shaping a book from start to finish, here it is:

1) I write the synopsis of a story that’s bouncing around in my head, along with three sample chapters, and submit them to my editor. If she likes the project, she sends it on to the senior editor and if she likes it, then I get a contact. I set the due date for the first draft. I always think I’ve factored in tons of extra time, but invariably something happens (hot water tank explodes or something of that nature) or I get hung up on one part of the book and write it and rewrite it and rewrite it, instead of moving on, and the deadline comes barreling up on me. I somehow get done.

2) My editor reads the book and then sends me notes about what revisions she thinks are necessary to strengthen the story. I’ve been through this process enough that I usually know the weak areas and work on them while I wait for my editor’s notes. Sometimes, though, something comes out of left field, such as “this character isn’t working”. This happened to my hero named Rex. My advice—don’t name a hero Rex unless he’s a dog. I renamed Rex and the new character acted differently and worked much better. Names matter.

3) I revise over the course of several weeks and send in the revisions. The editor then does a line edit,
Once a Champion hits the shelves
in June.
where she reads and edits the manuscript line by line. My manuscripts are 85K or around 375 pages, so she has some reading ahead of her. Then she sends the line edits to me and I go over the manuscript line by line reviewing the changes. I send my changes back to her.

4) Finally, I get a PDF of the book in its semi-final form to proof read. This is my last chance to change anything. After that, the book goes into production. Six months later it’s on the shelves.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

80s Summer Dress!

The 80s dress! I first made this dress in 1987 out of dusty pink cotton fabric (remember dusty pink and country blue?) and I remember wearing the dress to get my driver’s license renewed. I couldn’t believe how old I was. Heh.

This time around, I changed the sleeves. I wanted an 80s style dress, but I have to be careful of some cuts of sleeves that simply do not look good on my shoulders. I raised the arm hole and drafted a new sleeve pattern for a simple short sleeve rather than the straight bands that acted as sleeves in the original.

I had in my possession exactly twelve burgundy buttons—the perfect amount for this dress--and they complimented the fabric.
I had to re-mark the buttonholes because I lowered the neckline, so I was very glad I didn't make said buttonholes prior to discovering I had to lower the neckline.

Maybe it’s the painter coming out in me, but I love this fabric. It’s a rayon challis called Van Gogh. I like the colors, the splashes, the way it feels. 

Confession—I tried to put in shoulder pads to get that 80s feel,  however, the shoulders were too narrow. So I’m padless.

I asked my husband why he kept this shot, which is kind of funky and he said he thought it showed the dress off well. And so it does. And now my attempt at the pattern pose.

I think I hurt myself.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

60s Coat ~ Prologue

The Sewing
I’m excited for my 60’s coat and shift. I was very young in the 60s, but I remember the styles so well.  Or maybe it's all those reruns I watch. I've had several 60s patterns call out to me as I've perused eBay and Etsy, which means they are now in my collection. In my world, Call out = Buy button. 

I decided to make this coat, McCalls 8353 from 1966. The design reminded me of an Easter coat my mother once made me, so I bought the pattern in a size 10, which is three sizes too small. Less than a week later I found the same pattern in a size 14—much closer to my size, which means less pattern grading. I debated about buying the same pattern twice, but eventually pushed that Buy button. Now that I'm grading, I’m glad I did.

The fabric is a silk-linen blend that I bought at Britex on my last trip to San Francisco. It has a wonderful drape. I’d planned to buy something in green or blue to make the coat, but this color shouted out to me. It’s so 60s and so me.  I love wearing orange. Being able to wear orange almost makes up for not being able to wear camel, a fashion staple that turns me an odd color and has people asking me if I feel all right.

The shift fabric is chiffon and I’ve decided that it’s Lemon Zest, another Pantone Spring 2013 color. This is good because the Pantone Color Contest calls for two pieces.

I’ve only sewn chiffon once before, but it was low-cost chiffon and I wouldn’t have curled up in the corner sobbing if I’d ruined the garment. Of course it went together easily. This chiffon is a bit pricier—to the point that I only bought 1.5 yards. The fabric is railroaded, meaning that the lines go selvage to selvage or crossways. I’m hoping the waviness of the lines adds a vertical component so I don’t look like a box when I wear the shift.  

Now my only question is which shift to make.  As you can see, I’m going with contemporary patterns and I plan to make a (hopefully wearable) muslin of each before deciding. I've started with McCalls 6123. 

Nora is helping. As usual.

Friday, April 12, 2013

30s Dress Goes To Work

I wore my 30s dress to school today. It's one of the most comfortable dresses I've ever worn. I can't say the same about my red shoes, but I love them.
I only had one comment from a kid, which I consider pretty amazing because 8th graders feel very free to make personal comments and observations whenever they feel like it. The kid thought my sleeves looked very samurai. 
Perhaps he has a point. By the way...can you guess what I teach?