Sunday, August 31, 2008

Weekend Project: Dragonfly Pillow

How come the dove gets to be the peace symbol? How about the pillow? It has more feathers than the dove, and it doesn't have that dangerous beak.

Jack Handy

Ta-daa! I finally got to the dragonfly pillow project that was in my queue! As you may remember, I saw the fabric last February at the Sewing and Quilt Expo in Tampa, and bought some because I have a friend who absolutely loves dragonflies.

Here is the lay out of the fabric pieces for each side of the pillow:

Let's just take a moment and pretend that this attractive layout was, in fact, my plan from the very beginning...

Ah, wasn't that nice? Now, for the truth. I purchased one yard, intending to make one pillow case for Ani. Then, another friend of mine, Allison, saw the fabric and commented on how much she liked it. So, I decided to make two.

Alas, I didn't have quite enough fabric to completely cover both pillows. It occured to me that I could cut four square pieces and add a small border around each (like a picture frame) to make the squares large enough to cover the pillows. The border would add a nice decorative touch.

I searched my stash and found a solid that blended quite nicely. I used my new rotary cutter to cut strips - two inches wide and the same length as the sides of the squares of the dragonfly fabric.

Those of you with experience piecing quilts already realize exactly what that means. That means that I had square gaps at each corner, where my border strips didn't extend far enough..

A quick trip back to the drawing board and I realized that I had enough leftover of the dragonfly fabric to add corner boxes, 2 inches by 2 inches. Thank goodness!

So, the road was a bit circuitous, but the end result is nice. ;)

A few miscellaneous details. Real quilters sew with 1/4 inch seams and iron open. I used 5/8 inch seams, pressed them open and then top stitched them open.

My first seams created three pieces of equal length (but different widths):

Next I connected those three pieces to create one front face.

I did the same for the back, except that I added an invisible zipper, so that the pillow case can be removed and washed periodically.

I had to mail one to Ani, and haven't heard yet how she likes it. But Allison loves hers!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday Confession

Accounting Practices

I have none. I don't keep track of anything - how much money I spend on sewing, how many yards of fabric I buy, how many yards of fabric I sew - nothing...

How about you? What, if anything, do you keep track of? Why do you keep track of it and how do you use those numbers?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Talk Back Thursday

Thanks so much to Toni, Christine, Mamafitz, Emily, Lindsay T, Summerset, Vicki and Becky for "talking back" to my Friday Confession last week! I confessed that I am bored with my current labels and described the new ones that I am planning to get (see left sidebar).
First off, thanks to everyone who said that they thought that my new label design suits me! After living with it for a week or so, I'm still very happy with it. :)
It was cool to learn that I am not the only person who turned to a foreign language to come up with her label. Toni uses the Swahili word for dressmaker, MSHONI, on her labels - a word which, by happy coincidence, rhymes with her name! :)
What I found most interesting and a bit surprising was how many people don't use labels. For some reason I took it for granted that they would be common. Putting in my label feels like signing my work - the finishing touch to sewing a garment - the "now it's done" last step...
However, many people reported that they couldn't see much point to putting labels in clothes that they make for themselves. Mamafitz, for example, puts her labels in the garments that she makes for other people but not the ones she makes for herself, in part because she actively dislikes the feel of labels in her clothes.
Summerset has only recently found a style of labels that she likes enough to order and Christine is also waiting for her first order of labels to come in. Emily - whose designer labels were my original inspiration - reports that she is really enjoying using hers.
Thanks again, everyone! I love hearing these little bits and pieces about you and your sewing lives! :)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

In the Queue Wednesday

More "loot" from Colorado (Hi Fashion Fabrics in Grand Junction)... This cotton print is perfect for my mother, a professional musician who plays violin and viola.

I think I'll make view A (short sleeves) of this top:

My goal is her birthday, which is near the end of September, so I'll have to get moving on this one! Don't worry, I'll get to it... It's in the queue. ;)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tuesday Thoughts

I note the obvious differences between each sort and type, but we are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.

Maya Angelou

One of the things that I find so interesting about sewing with Ana and Juana is learning more about their culture. I am sometimes caught by surprise by the similarities - not because I expect differences, but mostly because I hadn't thought things through very deeply.

Here are two recent examples. At Joann's, Ana was trying to decide between two patterns. She wanted to know which one I thought was prettier. I kept telling her that it was her choice, but she didn't want to pick one. Finally, mostly as a joke, I took turns pointing to the two patterns as I recited the children's chant, "eeny, meeny, miney, mo..." A big grin broke out on Ana's face, and when I was done, she pointed back and forth and recited the chant that Mexican children use to decide! I seriously doubt that the words translate to mean the same thing, but the intention and intonation were identical. Children are children everywhere! :)

The next example is very sweet and touching. Before going to Joann's, Ana was putting on her make-up, and she asked me why I don't wear make-up. It was a bit difficult to explain in Spanish, but I tried to convey the idea that I realized, a long time ago, that I'm not pretty and I never will be and so I don't worry about trying to make myself look pretty. Ana looked a bit stricken for a minute, and then she told me very earnestly (in Spanish, of course) that I am pretty on the inside. In hindsight, I guess probably every culture has the notion of inner and outer beauty, but it still caught me by surprise when she used that exact phrase - "Usted es bonita adentro." ;)

They are really special young women - I can't begin to describe how much joy it has brought to my life to spend time with them. :)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Monday Morning Quarterback

Well, after a week of traveling around town by canoe (thanks, Fay!) the rain let up enough for us to spend Sunday afternoon at Joann's, shopping for patterns and fabric for our next project. I let them each choose whatever they wanted, which led to an extraordinarily long time at the pattern books! ;)
In the end, Juana decided to make a zippered sweatshirt for her son from this Burda pattern:
She is actually making view A below (not being modeled by either boy above). She picked a red fleece and matching red ribbed knit.

Ana decided to make a robe and pair of matching pajamas for herself. She is going to make the camisole (view B) from this pattern...

and the robe (minus the hood) and long pants from this pattern:

In an attempt to encourage more independence, I suggested that Ana and Juana cut out the pattern pieces and pin them to the fabric sometime during the week. I'll do a quick doublecheck on Sunday, before any fabric is actually cut. They seemed nervous, but I think this will be another very good step for them. (We did go over the instruction sheets and layout illustrations before I left.)
And now, the moment you've all been waiting for - David and Abel model their new shirts! First, David (who, it should be noted, prefers his shirts a bit loose)...

Then Abel...
As I think you will be able to tell from these photos, everyone agreed that this project was a complete success! :)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Weekend Project: Sew Much Comfort

Everyone who receives the protection of society owes a return for the benefit.
John Stewart Mill

I finally got around to making my "quality check" pair of adaptive pants for the organization "Sew Much Comfort". As you may remember, this organization seeks volunteers to sew clothes that wounded veterans can easily put on and take off over medical "devices", such as casts and braces.

In general, they went together well, but it is a little bit unnerving working on a project that you know is going to be judged by experienced sewers...

As you can see from this layout, the adaptive pants have one "normal" pant leg and one extra wide pant leg to accommodate a medical device.

The assembly steps are pretty standard. You start by sewing up one side seam, the crotch and then the inseams. The only difference between these pants and regular pants at this point is, of course, that you leave one side seam open (on the extra large leg).

Next they ask you to attach their label on the center front of the pants.

Then, you form a facing on the two sides of the adaptive leg by folding and pressing the fabric.

Next, you make the casing for the elastic waist band,

insert the elastic and attach near each end.

The next step is to add hook and loop tape along the two edges of the adaptive pant leg. The instructions describe the "x in the box" stitching method to reinforce the hook and loop tape at the top and bottom.

The instructions direct you to put the soft (loop) tape on the inside of the front pant leg and the rough (hook) tape on the outside of the back pant leg, so that this opening doesn't show from the front.

Finally, the hem...

and a snap. (Sorry for the blurry picture.)

My husband graciously modeled these 'shorts' for me (even though they aren't really a good fit for him.)

They seem pretty long for 'shorts' to me, but the instructions specify a 15 inch inseam measurement.

Back view - you can see the seam on the adaptive pant leg.

Not very exciting, but I guess that's kind of the point - nothing fancy, just ordinary looking clothes that veterans can actually put on over casts and such.

I'll let you know whether or not I pass my quality check. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Friday Confession

Labeling Myself

I'm bored with my label. I have used the same one for years. It is one of the standard options available from NameMaker:

I was inspired by Emily, who "named" her clothing line and had designer labels printed up (see this post). I decided to do the same and spent quite a bit of time playing with ideas for a name of my own.

I wanted to capture the joy and happiness that sewing brings into my life, as well as the love that I feel for the people that I sew for. I thought about using a foreign word, such as "joyeux", the French word for joyous.

But for some reason, I struggled with picking a language - French, Spanish, Italian... Nothing seemed right. None of those languages really have anything to do with me. Then it hit me - I'm half Welsh. Why not find a word or phrase in Welsh for my label?

As usual, the internet rode to the rescue and I found a number of English - Welsh translation sites to help in my search. (Click here for the one I used the most.) Imagine my delight to discover that "gwyn" (a variant of my name) means (among other things) "blessed" and that one of the Welsh words for "cloak" is "hug"!

In other words, the phrase "gwyn hug" looks like "a hug from Gwen" in English, and (loosely translated) means "a blessed cloak" in Welsh! How perfect is that for a label for my clothing? (Especially for clothes that I make for others!)

Note: I say "loosely translated" because apparently, in Welsh, adjectives are supposed to follow their nouns - so strictly speaking I have the order wrong. On the other hand, Welsh doesn't have an indefinite article ("a" or "an"), so "hug" really does translate to "a cloak".

I'm thinking of making my label look something like this:

I picked a fun font, instead of a flowing, graceful font, because most of my sewing is bright, happy and fun. (Think Hawaiian shirts, wild outfits for kids, summer sundresses, etc...)

So, what do you think? Do you like it? And how about you? Do you put labels in the clothes that you sew? What do your labels look like and where do you get them?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Talk Back Thursday

Thanks to Carolyn, Donna, mamafitz, toni, Vicki and Claire for "talking back" to my Friday Confession a couple of weeks ago! I confessed that I don't always read the sewing books that I buy as thoroughly as I should...

It sounds like most people are better than I am at reading their books through, at least once, pretty much cover-to-cover.

Almost everyone agreed that having a library of reference books available for help with new or difficult projects was invaluable. One slightly different perspective was offered by mamafitz, who doesn't buy many sewing books, and prefers books of sewing projects and text books on topics like pattern making, over general reference books.

Donna is incredibly disciplined (in my mind) and regularly purges her library of books that haven't proven useful, in order to make room for new purchases. (And here I was just bracing myself for a move to a bigger house!)

One thing is certain, lifelong sewers are lifelong learners - always pushing, always growing...

Thanks again to everyone who responded! :)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

In the Queue Wednesday

In between all that hiking, climbing and communing with nature in Colorado, I did manage to sneak in a little bit of fabric shopping! Turns out, Grand Junction Colorado has a really huge, really nice store called "Hi Fashion Fabrics". I found this cotton print for my Dad, an avid bicyclist:

I think it will make the perfect Hawaiian shirt with my gold medal winning TNT (tried 'n true) pattern:

My goal is to make it before his birthday (which is not until January). In any event, don't worry, I'll get to it... It's in the queue. ;)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

KISS: Keep it Simple, Stupid

Feed Dogs and Buttons and Keeping it Simple...

Of all the issues I never thought I'd have teaching sewing in Spanish - a language I don't actually speak! - "rambling on unnecessarily" was probably at the top of my list. Apparently, however, a tiger can't change its stripes, and my tendency to ramble transcends my lack of fluency in a language!

As we were setting up Ana's machine to sew the buttons onto David's shirt, I managed to generate a multi-sentence monologue about how normally the fabric moves when you sew, but when you are putting on buttons you don't want the fabric to move... etc. All leading up to showing her how to drop the feed dogs.

All this time, Juana was still working on her buttonholes, and so she missed it all. A few minutes later, when Juana was ready to attach her buttons, I asked Ana to explain it to her - figuring that Ana would be more coherent than I had been.

Ana pointed to the feed dog switch and said "normal" and then she pushed the switch into the other position and said "boton".

Enough said... ;)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Weekend Project: Another One Bites the Dust

See everything; overlook a great deal; correct a little.
Pope John XXIII
A good motto for a sewing teacher, I think. I have gotten together with Ana and Juana twice since my last report. A week ago we assembled the main bodies of the shirts. The boyfriends, David and Abel respectively, tried them on and announced the fits to be good. (Phew!)
Today was a long, but very productive day. Our goal was to get enough done so that they could finish the shirts by themselves during the week. In other words, I wanted to be with them while they did the collars, the sleeves and at least one buttonhole and one button.
Have I mentioned that they seem to be naturally drawn to difficult patterns? I had hoped that their first collar would be a one piece collar, but no, Ana picked a pattern with the additional collar stand... Still I was very happy with how well the collars came out. Here is a picture of Ana's collar right before she closed up the collar stand:
Notice the two rows of decorative top stitching around the collar proper. :)
Here is Ana's (David's) shirt with the collar completed:

Note the contrasting inside button band. :)

And here is Juana's (Abel's) shirt with the collar completed:

Not bad for first timers, huh? In fact, we worked for a little over 4 hours, and we were able to finish everything except the hems! They'll finish up the shirts this week easily, and (hopefully) I'll have pictures for you next week of the boyfriends IN the shirts. ;)

One nice thing about the pattern - the sleeves went in perfectly! No need to adjust with basting stitches. That was a pleasant surprise! Speaking of the sleeves, they are double thickness. The inner layer is the alternating fabric, so if David rolls up his sleeves, the light green ("woof") fabric will become his cuffs. (Sadly, I did not think this part through carefully, and the lettering on the cuffs will be upside-down...)

I introduced a new concept to them today - the "you are the only person who will ever notice that tiny imperfection" concept. I don't know about you, but this is certainly the credo that allows me to keep sewing!
So, that's another project ticked off our list of sewing lessons! We may only do one (or at most two) more projects together. The time has really flown and I am already feeling a bit sad to think that the end is in sight...

Friday, August 15, 2008

Colorado 2008: Wild and Crazy Guys

This week I will be posting pictures from our summer vacation in Colorado. Sewing-related posts will begin again next week.

You may be thinking, "Wild and crazy guys? In Colorado? What wild and crazy guys is Colorado known for having?"

Well, those wild and crazy guys were us! My husband and I lugged our gear all the way out to Colorado and went rock climbing!

Here is my husband approaching, and then "summiting" the Bullet Hole Boulder, just outside of Colorado National Monument:

And here are two pictures of me at the Rink Wall in Ouray, Colorado.

Finally, some shots from our favorite climbing day at Hartman Rocks, near Gunnison, Colorado. Scott approaching the formation we climbed:

I hate to admit it, because it doesn't sound all that impressive, but the name of that formation is Beginner's Slab.

Here is Scott rigging the rope...

...and at the top of a challengingly smooth friction climb that we both did that day:

Thanks to everyone for indulging me while I posted these vacation pictures! As you can tell, we had a wonderful, wonderful time! This is the last such post, and now I'll turn my attention back to sewing. I have an update on Ana and Juana and their shirts that I'll post this weekend and some sewing of my own to report on, if I can ever find the time! ;)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Colorado 2008: Wild Life

This week I will be posting pictures from our summer vacation in Colorado. Sewing-related posts will begin again next week.

While we never saw anything "dramatic" like a bear or moose, we did enjoy watching these birds and animals: