Thursday, July 31, 2008

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Susan, Becky, Claire and Summerset for "talking back" to my Friday Confession last week! I talked about factors that make me procrastinate working on a sewing project - not really liking a particular piece of fabric is a big one for me.
This confession elicited a lot of insightful comments. Apparently either end of the difficulty continuum can lead to procrastination - both those projects that are too easy or boring AND those projects that involve a new, confusing technique are sometimes pushed to the back burner. A couple of people also called out the extra step of making a muslin as something that they tended to procrastinate.
On the motivating side, some mentioned that having a deadline was often the "final straw" that spurred them to work on and finish a project.
Finally, in line with my original confession, there is that "can't really define it but know it when we experience it" factor: inspiration. Some projects - whether it be the pattern, fabric, technique or combination - simply catch hold of us, get under our skins and won't let go until we make them happen. Other projects - for whatever reason - just don't have it...

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

In the Queue Wednesday

Another TENS Pouch
I have two friends who suffer from chronic back pain and sometimes wear a small TENS unit to help control the pain during the day. I have made several fabric pouches in assorted colors and prints for one friend, who often wears dresses and skirts without pockets.
My other friend usually stuffs her TENS unit in her pants pocket, and never really felt a strong need for a fabric carrying pouch ... until she saw this fabric!

She LOVES penguins (among other things, they are her sorority's mascot) and loves this cute design - but we both agreed that it's a bit much for an article of (adult) clothing. So, I'm going to use it to make her a fabric pouch for her TENS unit.

Here's a picture of one of the pouches I've already made for my other friend, so that you can see what they look like and how they "work".

Unfortunately, the 2 TENS units are not the exact same dimensions, so I'll have to modify my pattern a bit. But don't worry, I'll get to it. It's in my queue...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Weekend Project: The First Cut is the Deepest

The joy that isn't shared dies young.
Anne Sexton

Teaching sewing... Keeping this blog... Oh! Now it all makes sense. Thanks, Ms. Sexton! ;)

As you probably know, our current sewing project is this Burda shirt pattern, which Ana and Juana are making for their boyfriends:

Ana really liked the greens shown on the model and selected this pair of cotton fabrics for her boyfriend's shirt:

The solid green (on the right) will be the main fabric and the other green will be the accent fabric. (I did confirm that Ana knows what the text says before she bought it.) I imagine that the text will make it kind of young, fun and contemporary - you think?

Juana wanted something a bit more traditional, and selected only one fabric, this cotton pinstripe:

We spent this afternoon cutting out the pieces. There are A LOT of pieces - 10 altogether - many of which are to be cut out of both fabrics. One example is the sleeve pattern - you cut two complete sets of sleeves, one in each fabric. I don't think it's fully reversible, and so I think it's going to be overkill for Juana, as she is only using one fabric. Oh well...

It took 2.5 hours, but we got everything cut out, including the interfacing, and we also got the interfacing applied. So we'll be ready to sew the next time we get together!

As for my slowly growing Spanish skills, I'm afraid I was a little bit out of it today during our lesson - I had just returned home from a business trip on Saturday evening, and I was (and am still) feeling tired. Ana kept asking me the same question over and over again, and I couldn't figure out why. I thought she was asking if I sing (cante) and I kept answering that I like it, but can't (me gusto, pero no puedo). Turns out, she was asking if I was tired (cansado)... I guess, if you ask someone if she is tired and she answers "I like it, but I can't", then that means the answer is "yes"! ;)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Friday Confessions


Do you know WHY this project has been in my queue for over a year now? It would only take me about 2 hours to finish it; it would make my husband happy; I love doing things that make my husband happy. So why is it languishing unsewn?

Honestly? It's because I'm just not crazy about the fabric...

How about you? What leads you to work on one project and procrastinate on another?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Talk Back Thursday

Thanks to Lisa Laree, Emily, Shannon, Summerset, Donna, Becky, Susan and Claire for "talking back" to my recent Friday confession. I talked about hand stitching and how I used to hate it, but have come to enjoy it, over time and with practice.
The general concensus was that nothing beats hand stitching for the control it gives you over your work, and most people actually reported enjoying it - at least, if they are in the right mood and under the right circumstances (like a good movie on tv).
There were a couple of exceptions noted:
Becky, unfortunately, has recurring carpal tunnel symptoms that make hand stitching for long periods of time difficult. I'm so sorry - that really sucks! :(
Claire has an "allergy" to hand-stitching in the guise of mending. I have to agree with that one - sewing is fun, mending is NOT! ;)
Thanks again to everyone who takes the time to comment on any of my posts - I love hearing from you!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

In the Queue Wednesday

Home Dec

I have a friend who loves dragonflies. She has recently moved. So, as a housewarming gift, I am going to make her a pillowcase for a throw pillow out of this fabric. I think I'll "go commando" on this one - you know, no pattern! (What did you think I meant?)

Don't worry, I'll get to it. It's in the queue! ;)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Weekend Project: His and Hers Sewing

People would have more leisure time if it weren't for all the leisure-time activities that use it up.

Peg Bracken

First, I'm sorry I didn't manage my usual posts last week - I was very busy at work and the time just slipped through my fingers. I'll try to do better this week, but my posting may be a bit irregular during the next month. :(

Second, this weekend I finally managed to squeeze in some sewing of my own. (Yay!) I made this outfit for my youngest (7-year-old) niece:

Next, Ana and Juana DID finish their dresses by themselves during the week! (Thank you for sending them good sewing vibes!) When I went to their restaurant on Friday night, they had actually brought their dresses into work to show me! In general, they did very well. Ana only folded her hem up once, so the raw edge shows on the inside. I told her that doubling is better and a good seamstress wants her clothes to look good on the outside AND on the inside. She'll do that in the future and is currently debating whether or not to re-do this hem.

I was interested to see that they both chose to attach the facing to the dress by stitching along the bottom of the facing (all the way around the dress). That was definitely not in the instructions, but it seems to me that, if that is what they wanted, then it is fine. (Right?) It just suprised me a bit.

Juana thinks her dress is a bit too roomy in the hips, and we will take the side seams in a bit the next time I see her. (She wasn't able to make it to our lesson today - I didn't quite understand the reason why, but it had something to do with her family.)

I was able to take a picture of Ana in her dress this afternoon. Despite the temperature being over 90 degrees F, she wanted to dress the same way as the model on the pattern envelope, with jeans and a shirt on underneath the dress. Here she is:

She thinks that her stomach looks fat in this picture. (I guess some things transcend culture...) Unfortunately, I didn't know the words for "I'll trade you!" in Spanish off the top of my head, but I plan to be ready for just this situation next time! ;)

We went to Joann's today, originally to get a t-shirt pattern for the boyfriends. But Ana was attracted to this pattern, and given that I want to introduce them to collars and buttonholes anyway, I let her get it. (It is Burda #7411.)

It's going to be a bit of a challenge, but it will be a good learning experience and I think we can end up with shirts that the young men will wear. :)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

In the Queue Wednesday

Upcoming project - write an entry for my weekly "In the Queue Wednesday" post. I don't know when I'm going to have time, but don't worry, I'll get to it. It's in the queue! :)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Weekend Project: The Loosening of Apron Strings

Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.

Maria Montessori

Now we're really cooking! (And not just from the lack of air conditioning...) Their sewing machines, (Kenmore, non-computerized), arrived on Wednesday, and today was our first day sewing with them. There are so many reasons to be happy about this that I don't even know where to start!

Of course, I don't mind not having to lug my machine to Ana's house every week. ;)

Even more than that, the fact that they don't have to share - no more waiting around for one to finish a seam before the other can sew, no more changing the thread 50 times in 2 hours - it was wonderful!

The best thing of all - they are no longer dependent on me, nor restricted to sewing for 2 hours once a week... :)

In fact, we did the facings together today - and I was happy to be there for that, as I don't think that facings are completely intuitive the first time you do them - but I encouraged them to try to finish the dresses on their own this week! The remaining steps are mainly to add the skirt to the top part of the dress, along with 4 belt loops, and then hem it.

We read through the instructions together, looked at the illustrations, "talked" about the remaining steps - they expressed hesitation and doubt, but I think they will be able to do it. And this is so important - I think it is time for them to ease away from relying on me and begin to sew independently.

I still plan to do 2 or 3 more projects with them - t-shirts for their boyfriends (and experience with knits), blouses for themselves (collars, buttons & buttonholes) and maybe an unfitted pair of pants (like pajamas). (As you may know, fitting pants is not something I know how to do. Yet.)

But I'm planning to let them do more and more on their own for each project, so that by the time we are done with these plans, they will be ready to "cut the apron strings" completely. :)

Hopefully, next week I'll have pictures of their dresses to show you! Please take a moment to send some good sewing vibes their way this week... Thanks!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Friday Confession

Hand Stitching

I used to hate hand stitching and avoid it like the plague, but after all the hand stitching that I did on the wedding dress, I have discovered that I actually kind of enjoy it... Now I am much more likely to hand stitch something. Hems, of course, often call for hand stitching - but I've even started hand stitching (instead of pining or machine basting) tricky bits - like when I was trying to get that zipper into the make-believe "wedding dress" I recently made for my 7-year-old niece.

How about you? When do you hand stitch? Do you enjoy or hate it?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Talk Back Thursday

Thanks to Shannon, Claudine, Claire and Kathy for "talking back" to last week's Friday Confession! I confessed to an accidental oversized purchase of fiberfill.

It turns out that I am not the only person who periodically buys in mass quantities - Shannon has a funny shoe story, Claudine has had similar experiences when ordering groceries online and Claire made a similar miscalculation with an entertainment center!

Their stories are definitely worth reading, so I encourage you to check them out here.

In other news, Ana and I picked up their new sewing machines last night! (Juana had to work.) It was really exciting! One funny thing happened after we got back to her house. While I was attaching the cords and plugging it in, Ana was threading the machine. She easily threaded the needle by hand, as we do (multiple times!) each Sunday on my machine.
However, these machines have an "automatic needle threader" feature - a feature that I have never used before. I pointed this out in the instruction manual and we unthreaded the needle and tried to use the automatic needle threader according to the directions.

And tried...

And tried...

Finally, after several frustrating minutes, Ana looked up and said, "No es automatica."

What could I say? She had a point... ;)
We did finally get it worked out, although I suspect that she'll continue to thread the needle by hand. I probably would...
And boy, did that machine purr! It drove home the fact that I really need to take my machine in for a tune-up. I'm not saying that I need to wear ear protection when I use it, but let's just say that I'm lucky OSHA doesn't monitor my sewing room... ;)
Our lessons are going to be so much easier with two machines, plus they can begin to work independently (of me). In fact, the rest of the dress project can be summarized in two main bits - inserting the facings and attaching the skirts. We'll do the facings together on Sunday, and then I think they should be able to attach the skirts and hem them by themselves during the week. :)
Edited to add: They bought Kenmore machines. Thanks, Claire!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

In the Queue Wednesday

Every summer my mother-in-law spends a week with us, and we swing by Joann's to pick out some fabric and patterns for me to make for her two great-granddaughters. This year, the older great-granddaughter accompanied her, and so she and I sewed her outfit together. It was a lot of fun!
Here is the outfit that I'll be making for the younger great-granddaughter (7 years old) after our company leaves. It's actually the same pattern that I used last year - it still fits her and she likes it.

I'll be making views C and D, as you can see.
And this is the fabric that my mother-in-law picked out - isn't it adorable?

I can't wait to get to this one! I'm not sure when, but, don't worry, I'll get to it. It's in the queue... ;)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Weekend Projects: Sews Well With Others

The first myth of management is that it exists.
Project Management Proverb

I don't say this very often, but thank goodness it's Monday! I had way too many sewing balls up in the air this holiday weekend! Instead of herding cattle, it felt like I was trying to keep up with a stampede! Amazingly enough, almost all of the cows ended up in the barn somehow...
First, my mother-in-law and her 11-year-old great-granddaughter (Tiffany) were visiting us, and Tiffany wanted to do lots of sewing with me. We started by making this cute sock creature, which Tiffany named Star:

Next, was shopping at Joann's for fabric and a pattern for an outfit. It was quite a mad scramble to get this whole outfit finished by bedtime on Sunday, but somehow we managed. As you'll probably be able to guess, I let her pick the fabric and trim... ;)

The shirt pattern was one of Simplicity's "Project Runway" series. Truthfully, I was not impressed, although it's hard to separate out the details of the pattern from the fact that the fabric was stiff and a bit difficult to work with (maybe it was all that glitter?) and the fact that I was working with a newbie seamstress...

The shorts were also a learning experience for me - learning about junior fashion, that is! The pattern produced elastic waist shorts that sit at your natural waist. Apparently 11-year-olds don't wear shorts at their waists these days. They wear them at their hips - below the belly button!

Tiffany just pushed them down to the place she wanted and said that they were fine, but I felt that having the crotch fall somewhere around her knees did now show off our collective sewing talents to their best advantage. So, I trimmed several inches from the waist and redid the casing around hip level, to produce something that we could both live with.

Finally, a quick catch-up on Ana and Juana. It was supposed to be a super exciting weekend as we went to Sears to purchase sewing machines. Unfortunately, Sears was out of stock of the machine that they wanted. They ordered them and the machines are supposed to be in on Wednesday, but it was disappointing to leave the store empty-handed.

Our sewing, however, went well. We started on their dresses and made the darts (front and back) and installed the zippers! Here is a shot of Juana showing off her first zipper and the flattering fit of the back:

We had a brief discussion of how my Spanish has improved over the last couple of months and I made a joke about how, if I ever went to Mexico, I could talk to people - about sewing! I imagined a conversation going something like this:

Me: Hi, my name is Gwen.

Person on the Street (POTS): Hi, my name is ...

Me: How are you?

POTS: Fine, thank you.

Me: You have lovely darts and I like your hem.

POTS: ?!?!? La gringa es loco!!!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Friday Confession

My Most Embarrassing Purchase Mistake
I got this delightful book with instructions to make "stupid sock creatures" and wanted to make some myself. Here's an example of one that I wanted to make:
In order to make these, I needed to buy some polyester fiberfill. I decided to order it online. The site I went to offered two sizes - for now, let's just call them "small" and "large". They were described in terms of pounds.
I had never worked with fiberfill before and couldn't exactly imagine how pounds translated into volume. I didn't want to run out of fiberfill, so, just to be safe, I ordered the large size.
It was 20 pounds. It came in 4 "pillows". Here is my sock creature in front of one of those pillows:

Yeah, that's A LOT of sock creatures... ;)

You should have seen the look on my husband's face over dinner that night when I casually mentioned that I had ordered 20 pounds of stuffing...

So, how about you? Have you ever made a really dumb purchase? If so, I'd love to hear about it... :)

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Talk Back Thursday

Thanks to Lindsay, Vicki, Summerset and Claire for "talking back" to my confession last Friday! I confessed that I don't really iron clothes before wearing them, although I do iron religiously as I sew a garment.

Not surprisingly, everyone reported ironing as they sew. It really makes a difference in the quality of the final garment. Brand names mentioned were Rowenta, Conair and Laurastar (a new name to me).

As for ironing before dressing, the reports were a little more varied... Lindsay and Claire iron pretty regularly, Summerset has been ironing dress shirts for her husband every week for almost 15 years (I don't think that my husband really needs to know this, do you?), and Vicki (cleverly!) wears a lot of knits...

Thanks again everyone for chiming in! :)

So, each time I think that I'm running low on topics for my Friday Confessions, I make a doozy of a mistake - just wait until tomorrow, when I tell you about my most embarrassing purchase!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

In the Queue Wednesday

Meet Genevieve.

She comes to us straight from the fertile imagination of John Murphy, author of the book "Stupid Sock Creatures." My 11-year-old niece, Tiffany, is visiting us this week, and we are going to make our own version of Genevieve.
Stay tuned to see how she turns out! :)