California Screamin'; or, I finally worked up the gumption to do some negotiating in the L.A. Garment District

Let me start by apologizing for not posting in a while; some really exciting real-life things have
been happening that made updating this humble little blog a third-tier priority. So, let me give
you the run-down:
1. I started a new job! Yay!
2. I'm returning to college! Yay!
3. I took a near week-long vacation in California! Whoop-whoop!
4. During my vacation in California, I participated in the runDisney Start Wars Half Marathon
(my first half marathon ever)! -insert angelic choir here-

So yeah, been fairly busy. While I was in California, I did, of course, make a trip up to the L.A.
Garment District for a little shopping. The last time I was in that neck of the woods, I remember being a lot more liberal with my spending (probably because I wasn't trying to stay away from all the polyester chiffon).

If you've never been to the Garment District, I seriously recommend taking a detour there the
next time you're near L.A. There are tons of hole-in-the-wall places with persuasive salesmen
hocking cheap (and sometimes not so cheap) fabric. There are lots of places that have a rack of fabric for $0.99/yard (usually with a 5 yard minimum) so if you're not particular about fabric
content, you can get an ass-load of material that will keep you busy for years to come (case in
point: I just now used the Pac-Man fabric I got 5 years ago).

One part of the shopping experience that I struggle with is the negotiating. See, the salespeople expect you to ask for a lower price than what they're offering. I am not good at doing that AT ALL (and I probably end up looking like a dumb tourist as a result). Here's what my first interaction looked like for this linen-like floral print:

Me: How much per yard?
Salesman: $4.99/yard. If you buy more, I can give you a better price.
Me: Okay, can I get 3 yard?
Salesman: I give to you for $3.99/yard.
Me: Okay.

Clearly I should've tried to negotiate for a lower price, but timid, non-aggressive me did not want to. I did get my confidence up at the next store when I felt like I had some ammo for negotiating:

Me: How much is this leather hide?
Salesgirl: It varies- [to the salesman] how much for this one?
Salesman: $30.
Me: But there's a big stain on the other side...
Saleman: Okay, give it to her for $20.

What! A big sueded leather hide for $20? Yeah, sure, there is a stain, but it's only on the one
side and when I'm still fairly new at working with leather, I don't mind using a slightly flawed
piece. Score 1 for me!

Shown stain-side up for reference. Ruler is 24" long.

Shown stain-side up for reference. Ruler is 24" long.

I did try my best to negotiate on this beautiful city print panel, but the salesman was having none of it.

What looks like glare from the camera in the upper left corner is actually the print!

What looks like glare from the camera in the upper left corner is actually the print!

Salesman [as I'm looking at a different fabric]: You buy that one, I make sure to give you good
Me: Can you give me a good price on that city print panel outside?
Salesman: Show me. [We go outside] Ah, that one is $28/panel. My cousin sells same print in
Anaheim for $75/panel but this is downtown so I can give you good price.
Me: You can't give me a better price than that?
Salesman: No, this one very very beautiful. [to another salesman] How much my cousin sell this
one for?
Salesman #2: $75!
Salesman: You buy many panels- everyone ask you where you get such beautiful fabric!
Me: I think just one panel.
Salesman: Only one?
Me: Yeah, just one.
Salesman: [cuts fabric] Next time you come back, I take care of you and make sure to give you
good price! [kisses me on the cheek]
Me: [wonders what the hell just happened]

Clearly I'm just too much of a novice at negotiating to work past that one.

The other thing to bear in mind is that pretty much all the stores prefer you have cash. I was
able to negotiate from $10 for 2 pieces of faux fur down to $8 and then the salesman got really pissed that I only had a card to pay (after I'd spent all my cash).

One of the stores where I was eyeing a poly chiffon Apple logo (as in the computer) print for only $0.99/yard told me they didn't have a machine to process cards and directed me to the ATM down the street (spoiler: I did not go back for the Apple fabric).

If you're like me and really don't want to negotiate, want to use credit cards, and want to actually know what you're buying instead of guessing and then doing a burn test later, I suggest Michael Levine Fabrics. It's a more or less traditional fabric store with sections clearly marked out ("Rayon Jersey", "Silk Dupioni", etc), and they run specials every so often. When I was there, they had 30% off lace so I got this multi-colored chevron lace for $2.79/yard (plus no tax when I was there!).

I also got a 1.5 yard piece of wool for $5- thank you, clearance section!

I also got a 1.5 yard piece of wool for $5- thank you, clearance section!

They have a great selection of unique leather hides, but it shows in the price ($80- $150/hide). You can also do what I did and buy leather scraps for $3/each.

If you're feeling more adventurous but still want a little structure in your life, Michael Levine also has a loft where you can buy fabric by the pound.

They keep all the fabric in massive bins and you just dig out what you want.

I got this sweater knit and knit border print for $6 total.

I think I got about 3 yards but I can't recall and am too lazy to verify right now.

I think I got about 3 yards but I can't recall and am too lazy to verify right now.

The only downside is that none of the fabric is labeled so you'll need to do a burn test when you get home (burn tests to come in a few days!).

The Garment District is also really great for getting all kinds of little notions. I didn't buy too
many but I did get all these buttons and a Chloe plaque for only $1! If I didn't already have a
giant button stockpile, (and if I knew what projects I wanted to work on) I definitely would've
bought more.

Overall, I spent less than $100 for all the fabric I bought, which is really not bad (especially
when you consider the leather hide). The next time I head to California (for the runDisney
Dumbo Double Dare!), I will definitely be doing a lot more fabric shopping. Hmm... should I bring a second suitcase just for fabric?

Simplicity 1325; or, it's the little details that count

It's the start of a new year and already some pretty exciting things are happening! Namely, it's Jungle January over at Pretty Grievances and also it's the start of the Pattern Stash contest. Obviously, if I can merge both together, that's best, right? Enter Simplicity 1325.

I know, I know- right after I complain about not liking to work with knits, I jump right in with a tee shirt. And, once again, I can't help but feel like something's "off" in the final product. Maybe it has to do with the amount of ease at the bottom hem in this top; I actually considered making it smaller but decided that it's really quite comfy and to leave it as is.

Side note: does it look like I'm trying too hard in my photos? Because I totally feel like I'm trying too hard. It could also be that I'm not happy with my weight so I'm just never happy with my photos.

The one thing I did do to this top that I really like is I added some silver trim to the neckline. JoAnn's was having a huge clearance sale on trims so I was able to get loads of trim for 25 cents/yard (awe yeah!). I ended up catchstitching the cord to the neckline.


Overall, it's super comfy, and a top I can wear for work so it's more or less a win all around!

Simplicity 1104; or, the bigger the hair, the closer to God

This whole mess started with a pair of pants from White House Black Market. They're a gorgeous wide leg cream pant that I got for a low low price on Black Friday, but instead of the 14 Short that I should've ordered, I ordered a 14 Petite. Well, my plan was to wear those pants for our annual holiday party- because I ordered the 14 Petite, the size was- and still is- just a little too small. Or, as Denis nicely put it "These look like your weight loss goal pants." Thanks, honey. Always honest. Well, I was in a conundrum, and the only acceptable solution in a situation like that is to just sew something. I'd had my copy of Simplicity 1104 hanging around for a while and I was able to find a suitably fun looking fabric to make myself a party top.

The only problem with my fabric was that it's backed in a fusible interfacing. Easy solution: underline the thing! However, I had a bigger problem with the pattern itself: inside the envelope, I found all of the pattern pieces and 3 sets of sewing instructions... in Spanish. Yes, that's correct- they gave me 3 sets of Spanish language instructions and no instructions in English. I did try to contact the Simplicity hotline but never heard back about getting a new set of instructions, so I did the next logical thing: sew the top without any instructions. Hey, I have a Bachelor of Arts in Fashion Design and it can't be that complicated of a top, right?

I must admit- this is not my best fitting top, especially while wearing a pushup bra. Memo to self: always conduct fittings while wearing the bra I expect to wear. Duh.

Overall, I wish I'd spent more time working on the fit for this top because I think it's a really cute top but now that I'm seeing all the fit issues in my photos, I'm kind of.... eh, about it.

You can see in the above photo how it's standing away from the back of my shoulder.

I did end up lining the top in silk charmeuse, which of course means it feels super luxurious when it's on.

Sorry for how wrinkled the lining is. The solid pink under the lining is the underlining I added.

Sorry for how wrinkled the lining is. The solid pink under the lining is the underlining I added.

The original pattern calls for a band to be put on the hem but I ended up just overlocking, turning up, and catchstitching the hem. It just didn't make sense to me to add the band and I wouldn't have been able to figure out what contrast color to add anyhow.

Don't get me wrong, I like the top and I think it'll be great for New Years tonight, I just wish I'd made some fit changes to it.

Top: Simplicity 1104 // Pants, Necklace, Belt, Clutch: White House Black Market // Shoes: Kate Spade New York