Wednesday, December 31, 2008

In The Queue Wednesday

Christmas came just in time - I was running out of new projects for my Wednesday posts! But my nieces rode to my rescue!

As usual, I scheduled a shopping trip with them to Joann's for their Christmas gift outfits. Unfortunately, only the oldest could go (12 year old), but we picked out fabric and patterns for both of them.

Now, remember that I let them pick whatever they want - no (fashion-based) censoring at all. My thought is that this is the beauty of sewing - you can get exactly what you want.

My oldest niece picked this Simplicity pattern and asked for view A - the long top or short dress:

Very cute, right? Now, for her fabric, she picked the following stretchy, spandex-y fabric:

Wow - kind of bright, huh? Can you guess that she likes pink AND shiny stuff?

Of course, she also got to pick the trim. Lace? Ummm.... no.

Try faux leopard fur:

Did I mention that I let them pick out whatever they want?

This is going to be quite a top! And wait until next week, when I show you the pants she picked out to go with it!

One thing for sure, her parents won't have to worry about losing her in a crowd... ;)

I'm going to try to get to work on this pretty quickly. In any event, don't worry, I'll get to it. It's in my queue. :)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tuesday Thoughts: Ingredients of a Special Christmas

1. Good gifts - my Mom and Dad model the shirts that I made for them:

2. Good food - our Christmas turkey:

2. Good company - my Dad, my husband and Annie visit:

3. New games - my nephew Jared plays a variant of Dance Revolution:

4. Old games - Jared plays a round of Speed Scrabble:

5. Beautiful music - my Sister and my Mom play recorders:

6. More music - my Mom and my Husband:

7. Cold, clear night skies - Jupiter and Venus visible beneath the moon:

I hope that you and yours had a wonderful holiday!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Weekend Project: All Buttoned Up

If you need six buttons, you'll only find five in your button box.
from: Murphy's Laws of Sewing
I thought I'd use my Grandmother's Christmas present to show you how I do buttonholes and buttons - it seems especially relevant as the issue of marking came up recently and I don't actually make any of the buttonhole or button marks when I am preparing the fabric and cutting out the pieces.
After the shirt is completely assembled, I use the buttonhole guide to "mark" the buttonholes with pins, as you can see here:

Then, I gently separate and remove the tissue paper, leaving the pins in place. This does result in small holes (the size of the pin heads) in the tissue, but these have never given me any trouble when I reused the pattern.

I use the pin to line up my buttonhole foot. (Of course, I remove the pin before making the buttonhole.) You just have to remember if you placed the pin at the top of the buttonhole or at the bottom... ;)

Next up - the buttons. I figure that the very best way to make sure that the buttons line up with the buttonholes is to use the buttonholes to mark the locations for the buttons! I put the shirt on my dress form and basically "button" the shirt with pins.

I've tried doing this on a hanger instead of my dress form, and I don't think it works as well. The shirt just hangs differently when there is a 3D body inside of it! After "unbuttoning" the pins, they become perfect markers for the locations of the buttons.

Finally, attaching the buttons. This step used to drive me crazy until I read about this neat little tip - I scotch tape the buttons in place over the pins and then slide the pins out.

You can stitch right through the scotch tape! And the buttons don't slide around under the presser foot, moving out of alignment...

Peel off the tape...

And you are done! Here is the finished flannel shirt:

So, that is all pretty basic stuff, but if you haven't run across the scotch tape trick, I bet you'll really like it! And it is one bit where I skip the upfront marking and don't seem to suffer any negative consequences later on. ;)
I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and that you are all looking forward to the New Year! :)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Friday Confession

My Favorite Christmas Present

Most years, this is my favorite Christmas present:
This year, I was expecting this to be my favorite Christmas present:

However, I think it's safe to say that THIS will be my favorite Christmas present:

We pick it up on December 31st, and I promise to show real pictures after that. I already have the space cleared out in the family room for it!

So, how about you? What was your favorite Christmas present this year?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Christine, Summerset, Mamafitz, Joanne, Amelia, Becky, Alison, Elaina and Nancy W. for talking back to my “confession” last week! I confessed that I don’t enjoy cutting out the fabric and asked what steps in sewing others find the least fun or most difficult.

Interestingly, the steps that received the most votes for being the least fun were all associated with the “prep work” (as Becky called it) – pinning (1 vote), cutting (4 votes) and marking (2 votes). Reasons included these steps being a bit boring, taking a long time and involving a lot of set up ahead of time and clean up afterwards.

Other steps that were called out as “not-so-much-fun” included setting in sleeves and altering patterns. And Amelia says that the most difficult thing for her about sewing is actually being able to break away from the rest of her life and get into the sewing room!

Joanne pointed out that every passion is likely to have those very important, but less enjoyable, aspects. As a writer, she doesn’t always enjoy editing, but knows that it makes the final product that much better. (Underscoring her main point, her words really echoed Summerset’s comment about marking!)

Finally, (possibly anticipating a future Friday Confession), a few people mentioned their favorite stages of sewing. Mamafitz loves pressing and both Elaina and Becky really enjoy the thinking – planning – fashion designing bits…

Thanks again to everyone for taking the time to talk back to me!

And to everyone, I hope these days of celebration are blessed with family and friends, and love and laughter!

photo credit: russelljsmith

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

In The Queue Wednesday

Something a little bit different this week - a peek into my "maybe" distant future, courtesy of this book:

We pick up the loom next week - December 31st. I can't wait! It'll probably be quite a while before I'm able to make anything as beautiful as these samples, but don't worry - I'll get there! It's in my queue! ;)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Weekend Project: Jumping into the Deep End

Challenge is a dragon with a gift in its mouth.
Tame the dragon and the gift is yours.
- Noela Evans

Last summer, a friend and I attended a convention hosted by the Handweaver's Guild of America called Convergence, which was held in Tampa, Florida. For the most part, I attended sewing-related classes and she attended beading-related classes. However, in the exhibit area, we each tried a bit of weaving on a floor loom, and I fell in love...

One day, I promised myself, one day...

Maybe after I retire, when I have more time...

So, what showed up on our doorstep last week as an early Christmas present from this friend? One of the books that kept calling to me at the conference:

You've probably seen comparable books for knitting - page after page of instructions for different patterns that could be incorporated into any project. This friend and I met in college because we were both math majors, and one of the things that appealed to me about weaving (and this book) was the decomposition of beautiful, complex patterns into systematic sequences of actions...

Now, I don't have ANY time in my life for another hobby... Between family, work, sewing, climbing, blogging, my sewing lessons, my internet friends, etc. I can barely squeeze in enough time to sleep!

But flipping through the book brought it all back - the comfort of the rhythmic motion of weaving, the satisfaction of seeing a beautiful piece emerge from my efforts... I couldn't help myself and had to do just a little bit of searching on the internet...

And that is when fate pulled open the curtains and revealed my dragon for 2009. A woman less than 100 miles from my house was selling a NEW Harrisville floor loom (the very model I used at the conference) for HALF PRICE!

If you re-read that last sentence, you'll notice that I said that she "was" selling a loom. Past tense. Enough said... ;)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Confession

I enjoy almost every step in the garment construction process.

Yes, I said ALMOST every step.

The one step I do not enjoy is cutting out the fabric - especially when the pattern pieces are too big to fit on my cutting table and I have to work on the floor...

Let's face it - I am way too old to be crawling around on the floor... This kills my back! :(

How about you - do you enjoy every single step of sewing? If not, what is your least favorite thing to do?

Photo credit: hebedesign

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Elle, Donna Hodgson, Miss Linda, Joanne, Vicki, Becky, Lindsay T and Summerset for "talking back" to my "confession" last Friday. I confessed that I sometimes copy images off the internet and include them in my blog posts.

As for the responses that I got, I have some good news and I have some bad news. ;)

First, the good news. You know how I often start these "talk back" posts with some statement like "The responses were spread across the board..." or "People were pretty uniformly divided..." ? Well, not this time. A CLEAR consensus emerged on this topic!

Now for the bad news.

The consensus was, "Don't do it!"

Okay, perhaps there were some qualifiers... For example, if I am basically giving a commercial enterprise free advertising AND if I provide credit via a link back to their web site, then maybe it's okay...

But, in general, it seems that most people are pretty darn careful to not use "personal" pictures that can be found on the internet.

Lindsay did point me in the direction of a service called I checked it out and photos cost about $7 each (medium size, medium resolution). They certainly have a wide variety, including "art" (?) images that I personally would classify as soft porn and caught me completely by surprise. (Hint: I searched on "kneeling" in relationship to a future planned confession and I do NOT recommend that particular search term!)

I don't know if I'm going to start buying my pictures or not, but obviously, I'm going to have to be more careful in the future. Thank you again, everyone, for taking the time and effort to comment on my post! You always help me with my sewing - this time, you just may be keeping me out of jail! ;)

ETA: In the first two hours since I put up this post, I have gotten three very helpful comments. Wendy pointed me towards the creative commons licensed photos from Flickr (here) and Miss Linda pointed me towards a site called allposters that actually provides html code to display their photos on your blog for free (here).

Finally, Lindsay mentioned that I had misinterpreted the pricing policy of istockphotos and said that they are actually cheaper than I indicated. Sorry about that...

These look like great resources! Thanks so much! :)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

In the Queue Wednesday

A Princess Dress!

Last weekend I met a neighbor of Ana's - an adorable 4-year-old named Mariana. I don't think she knew what to make of my broken Spanish at first, but eventually she warmed up to me and we played silly games together. For example, I'd pretend to be scared and run away when she came towards me, then she'd "catch me" in a corner and I'd give a little shriek and she would dissolve into giggles and move away from me. Then we'd start all over. The only trouble with these games is that young children NEVER get tired of playing them, and want to keep on going long after the adult does... ;)

So, anyways, I feel under her spell and somewhat rashly promised that I'd make her a princess dress. At least I retained enough presence of mind to add the qualifier: "after Christmas" !!

I'm not a complete novice in making princess dresses. I made this one for a friend's daughter a couple of years ago:

As usual, I let her pick the fabric. Believe it or not, she picked a FLANNEL! Yes, a pink flannel covered with poodle silhouettes! The dress was just adorable... (Well, SHE was adorable IN the dress...)

I'm looking forward to seeing what pattern and fabric Mariana picks. I'll let you know as soon as I get to it. Don't worry, I'll get to it. It's in the queue... ;)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Weekend Project: Nothing Up My Sleeves!

I have a tendency to wear my mind on my sleeve
I have a history of taking off my shirt
from the song "One Week" by Barenaked Ladies

Due to the Christmas rush of sewing up gifts for several family members, I find myself having a somewhat unusual opportunity. Within the same week, I am able to compare two different pattern approaches to the same basic garment component - the sleeve. Here are the two patterns that I am using:

On your left is the Simplicity pattern that I am using to make a long sleeved shirt for my oldest nephew and on your right is the McCall's Palmer & Pletsch pattern that I am using to make a long sleeved shirt for my grandmother.

And here are the two sleeve patterns (same arrangement - Simplicity, then McCall's):

Probably the first difference that jumps out at you is in the sleeve caps. Here is a closer view of those two sleeve caps:

So why did Palmer and Pletsch modify the traditional sleeve pattern?

The answer is simple, yet ingenious - they did it in order to make the plackets easier to sew. More specifically, they shifted the location of the sleeve side seam, in order to have that seam align with the placket. Take a closer look at the bottom sections of the two patterns (again, Simplicity, then McCall's):

In the Simplicity version, I have to cut into the solid fabric of the sleeve to form the placket. In the McCall's version, I simply make the placket at the bottom of the sleeve's side seam.

Now, this does make a difference in the final shirt. In the Simplicity shirt (which I haven't sewn yet, so no pictures - sorry), the sleeve seam will be under the arm and line up with the side seam of the shirt.

In the McCall's shirt, the sleeve seam falls along the back of the arm and lines up with the yoke on the back of the shirt. Here are some pictures:

First, a full view of the sleeve and shoulder from the back of the shirt.

Next, a close-up of the shoulder area (still from the back).

Finally, a close-up of the cuff, placket and side seam. See how nicely the placket emerges at the bottom of the seam?

You'll probably notice that I didn't line up the plaids very well with this pattern. That may have been easier with the other pattern, I'm not sure. But I can tell you that this placket was very easy to make.

I'm about to start working on my nephew's shirt, with the Simplicity pattern. I expect that his plackets will be more difficult, and probably won't look quite as clean and neat... We'll see.

Someday, when I'm not as rushed, I'm going to figure out how to modify sleeve patterns myself so that the plackets are along the side seams. I'm also going to figure out how to get plaids to match with this modified pattern. You know, in my free time... ;)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Confession

A Blogging Confession...

I get some of the images that I post on my blog by searching the internet.

This one, for example:

I know, I know, I SHOULD have taken a quick snap of him the last time he was over for dinner... But we got to discussing world domination and alien species subjugation and it just slipped my mind... Of course, I thought of it about half an hour after he left! :(

I do try to take as many of my own pictures as possible AND I don't use any pictures if the web site says anywhere that they are copyright protected AND I don't collect any revenue from this blog (no ads or anything), but, still, I imagine that this practice is not fully "kosher".

I'm wondering if there is some better way to go...

What about you? Do you only use images that you yourself personally created or do you also sometimes get images from the web? Do you ask permission before using any image you find on the internet? Do you always post a link to the place where you found the image? Do you know the official rules? Do you have any advice?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Talk Back Thursday

Thanks so much to Jen, Wendy, Joanne, Lindsay T, Christine, Vicki, Becky, Miss Linda, Sarah, Summerset and Amanda for talking back to my confession last Friday! I brought up the topic of making Christmas gifts for friends and family, and asked how people handled this...
Responses were pretty evenly divided.
Two people haven't started giving handmade gifts yet, but hope to in the future as they feel more comfortable with their skills.
One of those people was Jen, who would like to learn how to knit scarves for Christmas gifts - coincidentally, I recently ran across this blog post with advice for people who want to learn how to knit - I hope it helps, Jen!
Two people reported only giving a few handmade Christmas gifts each year, due at least in part to a lack of appreciation from past recipients.
Three people reported enjoying making Christmas presents, but being sensitive to who particularly likes receiving handmade gifts and who doesn't.
And two people reported trying to make many, if not most, of their Christmas gifts. Vicki, in particular, sews Christmas-themed gifts every year for her TEN co-workers! Yikes! I thought sewing for 6 co-workers was a lot!
Finally, people made these three really interesting points:
Both Becky and Sarah pointed out that, while it can be more stressful to make handmade gifts, it is also a lot more rewarding when someone loves your gift. :)
Amanda said that she doesn't expect people to appreciate a gift just because it is handmade, but puts a lot of thought into coming up with an idea that really suits the recipient.
And Christine pointed out that people don't always appreciate store bought gifts either...
A lot of good things to think about! Thanks again, everyone, for taking the time and trouble to let me know a little bit more about your sewing (and gifting) lives! :)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

In the Queue Wednesday

A different kind of project...
Hopefully most of you have already heard of Spoonflower, the site that allows you to upload a graphic file and prints your design on high quality, quilting weight Moda cotton fabric.
(If you haven't heard of it, definitely check it out! Wouldn't it be cool to sew with fabric that you designed!?! I am continually amazed and impressed by the incredible skill and creativity on display on the site...)
Long before this site ever existed, I've wanted to create my own fabric with images associated with rock climbing, in order to make shirts and other accessories for myself, my husband and other rock climbing friends.
Actually, it's not so much that I wanted to create my own, as it is that I could never find any rock-climbing-themed fabric that I liked, so creating my own seemed like a necessity. ;)
I feel like some of the gear could easily be turned into stylized graphic images and printed as colorful silhouettes in a semi-random pattern. See what you think:
These are called "nuts" or "stoppers":
This is an example of a camming device:

Unfortunately, computer graphic skills are not in my portfolio... But I'm going to give it a try. I'm not sure when, but don't worry. I'll get to it. It's in my queue... ;)