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The Hidden Superpower

This is Edna Mode:  

She makes costumes for all the superheros of Disney’s The Incredibles. 

She knows each person’s skills, personality, and she creates a costume to compliment both. 

Edna is strongly supportive of her clients and opinionated about functionality. 

  
In preparation of Halloween, many of you have wielded needle and glue gun for children, grandchildren, even yourself. You used your superpowers to help someone become another, an outfit to last through dark tromps, rain, and sugar highs. 

As you put final touches on capes, makeup, glitter, and headgear, remember this: you may not wear a mask; many will be unaware of your work. But everytime you see a smile run past you, fringe stay put, and gemstones shine, remember that someone helped put it there. 

And when anyone asks what you are for Halloween, just say you’re Edna Mode. 

Resting on my Laurel

What happens when life influences art?

So, I have a developing obsession with comfortable yet professional items of clothing. This leads to Laurel, a long-admired design from the always-wonderful Colette Patterns. Semi-fitting, all-season, easily modified, it would be quick to sew and a great canvas for experimenting with style and pattern.

Caribbean Laurel

I’m also currently in a mood for bright colors and borders prints. Imagine my delight when I found this print on sale at Hancock Fabrics. Despite a snobbery against anything synthetic, I couldn’t resist.

A border print!

I could immediately see my dream dress, even if it is a little summery for September. But, this is The South, and it’s not like I’d be wearing white shoes after Labor Day. While a version of the pattern included an interlining (backing for lace, for instance), I wanted a true lining. Thankfully, the softer lining happened to be on the clearance table and marked down to $.88/yard. Hard to pass that up!

There were some slight alterations to assembly to accommodate the lining. For instance, I only lined the bodice, not the sleeves. Rather than add more bulk with a French seam or bias binding, I opted to sew a reinforced seam and finish with pinking shears.

Lined bodice

On the positive side, the lining allowed me to cleanly finish the neckline instead of messing with facings. After sewing the neck with the lining and shell right sides together, I pressed and topstitched it to lay flat.

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A zipper is always a great opportunity for accent! A shock of pink, perhaps? But no, this lace-edged design perfectly coordinated with the scrollwork of the print. Of course, it means modifying the pattern to accommodate a top-stitched zipper. In order to keep continuity of the large print, I sewed the zipper in place from the right side of the fabric, then cut and folded back the fabric underneath. Wash-away basting tape made this a breeze.

Applying the zipper

After securing the cut away fabric with another pass along the zipper teeth, I hand stitched the lining in place.

Finishing the Zipper

All that was left was the hem! Both the print and lining were a slippery polyester, but I decided to give the narrow hem foot a try, rather than press up anything bulkier. To my relief, it performed beautifully.

Hemming the lining.

And that’s it! The pattern, true to Colette standards, was super straightforward with excellent directions. If that weren’t enough, Sarai Mitnick has created entire booklets for download on ways to modify Laurel. I’m looking forward to many more of these comfortable yet appropriate dresses joining the closet. Perhaps with a touch of smocking or an inverted box pleat at the center back?

Bias Bound?

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So, I was constructing a child’s bishop dress over the weekend and became introspective (as you do).

As a librarian, I teach people how to evaluate content for its credibility, which often translates into the author not showing bias or opinion. While some professors do allow non-objective sources in their assignments (as long as the point of view is noted), most want their students to rely on peer-review articles that have no bias, or slant.

One of the last things you do on a bishop is apply the neckband. This is made from a strip of fabric cut on the bias, on the diagonal of the fabric’s weave. Because the threads cross on an “x” instead of a “+”, it has flexibility and elasticity.

In sewing, knowing if your fabric is on-grain or on-bias is essential to creating something beautiful, lasting, and functional. A grainline marking can be found on every commercially-produced pattern piece.

Given that fabric can be distorted by pulling on the bias, I can understand perhaps why this word was chosen to denote personal opinion that might sway or influence a writer toward a certain conclusion.

The thing is, bias is as beneficial to sewing as on-grain. It allows binding to curve around necklines and armholes. It creates gorgeous evening gowns that flow around the body.

The dress that started this all, if not a curvy evening gown…

Look inside the collar of your favorite button-down shirt. Odds are good that one side of that neckband is on-grain, while the other is on bias. That gorgeous pointed collar stands up and curves around your neck because of the bias side. The grain side keeps it in-form and undistorted. In women’s trousers (and many men’s), you’ll find the same thing on your waistband. Bias has flexibility; grain has strength. By laying them against each other, you can have the benefits of each without weakness.

Which brings me back to research and information literacy. It’s so easy to default to the idea that opinion, or bias, is bad, objective is good. That’s only showing half the picture. We rarely talk about the value of opinion and that it can also be credible, if you evaluate the source just like a journal author.

I don’t know how to go about this. In the end, we help patrons (students, in my case) fulfill their information needs, often outlined by a professor.

But are we truly making them information literate, or just teaching a bias against opinion?

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