Sunday, November 30, 2008

Weekend Project: Holiday Countdown

I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph.
Shirley Temple

It's crunch time for making holiday gifts. During a boring telcon last week, I listed out the gifts that I want to make and estimated the time each would take. Then I sketched out a calendar for the month of December and penciled in the hours that I would have available for sewing. The resulting clash of incompatible numbers was not pretty... :(

I will try to follow Summerset's example and sew for at least 30 minutes each day. It's amazing how much she has been able to accomplish in those small bursts!

Of course, over the weekends I must get big chunks accomplished. I only did so-so for this weekend. I did make a shirt for my youngest nephew. I'm embarrassed to admit how long this has been in my queue - he picked out the fabric last Christmas! :(

The most fun part of making these shirts is planning the pocket. Sometimes I cut it to blend in with the shirt. Other times I cut it for the impact of the graphic. This time, I went for the impact...

I also cut out all of the pieces for a flannel shirt for my grandmother (left) and a shirt for my father (right).

I spent Sunday afternoon at Ana's house, helping Ana and Juana make their practice pair of pants. We used the patterns that we drafted a few weeks ago. Both pairs of pants were short and so the patterns will need to have an inch or so added to the length to allow for hems. Both girls also trimmed down the waist by 2 - 2.5 inches, to have "hip-huggers".

For some reason, Ana's pair came out too tight around the hips. She came up with the idea to add an extension on one side to salvage this pair of pants, but we definitely need to add another "seam allowance" of half inch or so along the inner and outer side seams.

Oddly enough, Juana's fit better. Here are front and rear views before we added darts around the waist or the waist treatment (bias tape binding):

And here she models the finished pants!

Given that we followed the same instructions to make the two patterns, I'm not sure why the two of them ended up with such different results... Still, I had definitely established that the goal of this exercise was to refine the patterns and that getting a wearable muslin would be a bonus. So, we accomplished our goal. Ana's next pair will fit better. :)

How are you doing with your Christmas sewing projects?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Weekend Project: The End is in Sight

Magrat has adpoted trousers as practical wear for traveling by broomstick.
"I don't 'old with it," said Granny. "Everyone can see her legs."
"No they can't," said Nanny, "the reason being, the material is in the way."
"Yes, but they can see where her legs are," said Granny Weatherwax.

Witches Abroad, by Terry Pratchett

Trousers... The last official sewing project for me, Ana and Juana (although we will undoubtedly continue to sew together.) As you may remember, a couple of Sundays ago we drafted pants patterns for each of them, using their measurements and following instructions in an issue of Threads magazine.

This afternoon, Ana and I shopped for their "practice" fabrics. (Juana had to work and couldn't join us - but we picked up fabric for her too.) We'll assemble the practice pants next Sunday and figure out any pattern adjustments they want before we make the real pants. ;)

Of course, I tried this method with my own measurements first, to make sure I could do it, and to see how well it worked. My first two versions were noticeably too large on me; so for my third attempt, not surprisingly, I trimmed the pattern down too much and produced a pair that are a bit too tight. Sigh...

Here are front, side and back views of the unfinished (waistband & hem) pants. (I lost some motivation when they were too small.)

Before I make the pants again, I think I'll modify the pattern so that the pants aren't so high-waisted and aren't so narrow-legged. I also need to read up a bit on drafting darts - the ones I put in back aren't right somehow...

These pants aren't a total loss, because I am in the midst of an active weight loss program. So, they should fit somewhat better relatively soon. I've been using a software program, DietPower, that I learned about from Shannon's blog, and it is really helping me keep on track.

This morning I worked out our menu for Thanksgiving, made my grocery list and cooking plan, and even had time to create a menu in Spanish! (Hopefully it's accurate!)

I'm going to suspend my usual posts this week, in order to focus on the holiday. But I'll be back the following week. (Possibly with bells on!)

In the meantime, I am wishing you, your family and your friends the most wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and many, many things in your lives to be thankful for! :)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

BookWorm Meme

Both Miss Linda and Becky have passed on a BookWorm Meme to me this week. The rules are simple - open the closest book to me (not my favorite or most intellectual) to page 56 and write out the 5th sentence, as well as two to five sentences following that. Then, pass this along to five blogging friends.

Well, it turns out that I keep a book of quotations right next to the computer, because I like to start each of my "Weekend Project" posts with a relevant quote. So, pages 56-57 feature quotes by Mother Theresa, and the 5th quote is this:

The other day I dreamed that I was at the gates of heaven... And Saint Peter said, "Go back to Earth. There are no slums up here."

I have actually used a quote from this page already in my blog. When I was struggling with the choice of whether or not to offer sewing lessons to Ana and Juana (afraid because of the language barrier), I started a post with this quote:

God doesn't require us to succeed; he only requires that you try.

Next comes the nominating bit. I'm never sure who has already done these things and who enjoys them - so please feel free to disregard if it doesn't suit you.

1. Amelia of Amelia Sews
3. Alviana of Sewn by Alviana
4. Amanda of Butterfly Blue

Thanks so much to Miss Linda and Becky for thinking of me! :)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Confession

I may (she leans closer) sometimes (she glances surreptitiously over her shoulder) accidentally (her voice lowers to a whisper) use Coats & Clark's thread...

So, here's the thing - I picked up the impression from a class on PR that all brands of thread are not created equal and some really are higher quality than others.

What do you think? Do you just buy whatever thread your local store stocks, or are you particular about your brand? Have you noticed a difference across brands? If so, what brand(s) do you recommend?

PS - that is a picture of an approximately 50-year old spool of thread, found still threaded on my Grandmother's sewing machine. From back in the day when it was cool to be "mercerized" ! ;)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Wendy, Amelia, Lindsay T, Emily, Claire, Myrosia, Summerset, Miss Linda, Vicki and Alviana for "talking back" to my confession last Friday! I confessed that I haven't used an international pattern magazine before, and am just now trying my first project from Patrones.

Wow! These pattern magazines are well-known, well-used and well-loved! The ones that were specifically mentioned included:

As with everything in life, there are pros and cons.

The pros: Reliable fit, beautiful details and well-drafted patterns.

The cons: Minimal and sometimes confusing directions, no assembly illustrations, tracing can be daunting.

Best of all - the advice:

  • Think everything through carefully first; make sure you can visualize all the steps.
  • Have a good sewing reference book available.
  • Feel free to go to the blogging sewing community for help.

Guess what - I've decided to take the plunge and asked for a subscription to BWOF for Christmas! I'm really excited! :)

Thanks again to everyone for taking the time to share your experiences and your advice! :)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

In the Queue Wednesday

Do you remember Amelia Bedelia - the maid who took everything literally? She would "dust the furniture" by covering it with the dusting powder she found in the bathroom and "dress the chicken" in baby clothes...
Hence, my illustration, because this week's "in the queue" project is making next week's Thanksgiving dinner - a project that only Amelia Bedelia would see as related to sewing! ;)
We've invited Ana, Juana, David and Abel to join us and experience a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner. Ana offered to bring a dish and I accepted - but she quickly generated ideas for half a dozen Mexican dishes to bring and so finally - seeing our traditional dinner disappearing - I proposed an alternative:
They'll join us for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner next week, and we'll enjoy a traditional Mexican dinner at Ana's house some night later in this holiday season.
I bought a DVD of A Christmas Story that has Spanish dubbing for the evening's entertainment. We think it's funny and perfect for the holiday season - hopefully the humor will translate!
Okay, next time I'll go back to actual sewing projects, I promise! In the meantime, what are your plans for Thanksgiving? I hope you are looking forward to it!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tuesday Thoughts: The Pitfalls of Mixing Foreign Languages and Faulty Memories

Ana is a "farm girl" and somehow got the impression that I am a bit of a city slicker. However, I did live on a small family farm through my junior high, high school and college years. So, recently I was talking about my parent's farm and trying my best to relate some funny stories.

Using my English-Spanish dictionary, I told her that we had had goats. She seemed interested and somewhat impressed. Thus encouraged to go on, I wanted to tell her that I could milk a goat.

I wasn't sure if I could use the Spanish noun for "milk" as a verb (as we do in English), so, to be on the safe side, I started to form the sentence, "I can take milk from a goat" in Spanish.

At the last minute, I realized that I couldn't quite remember the Spanish word for "goat" and I had, unfortunately, let the dictionary fall shut. Instead of taking the time to look it up again, I decided to wing it, and took a stab using only a fuzzy memory as a guide.

A look of surprise flashed across Ana's face, followed immediately by amusement - which was also quickly squelched and replaced with polite interest.

Well, I didn't know what I had said, but clearly it hadn't been the word for "goat", and I immediately picked up the dictionary to translate back into English.

Ana actually tried to distract me from looking it up, but that just made me all the more determined.

Those of you who know Spanish might be able to guess...

In fact, I had just rather proudly announced that I could take milk from a bast*rd! ;)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Weekend Project: Confirmation (and Blouse)

There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.
- Albert Einstein

No sewing today - David (Ana's boyfriend) had his confirmation in their church. As you might imagine, it was a very special day for both of them, and we were honored that they invited us to attend. Here David and Ana pose with the Bishop who conducted the ceremony for the 54 people being confirmed.

You can't see it very well, but Ana is wearing the blouse that she made. :)

I spent much of last week visiting my grandmother in Missouri. She loved the potholders and we spent quite a bit of time discussing who should get each pair. Apparently red kitchens are all the rage among my grandmother's friends (in other words, I was denied "critical, need-to-know information") and I should have used more red fabric. But in the end she came up with a distribution plan that she was happy with. ;)

Now, on to the next Christmas project! :)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday Confession

International Pattern Magazines

I am about to embark on my very first attempt to sew from an international pattern magazine - Patrones, to be specific.

I picked up two issues of Patrones for Ana and Juana when I was in New York City. Juana decided to make the (yellow) skirt pictured here - second row from the top, third picture from the left.

So far, we have - much to my amazement! - managed to locate the correct pattern pieces, trace them, tape them together as directed, and cut out the fabric. If you have never seen one of the pattern pages, brace yourself - they are a bit overwhelming the first time you see one:

So, we have a number of obstacles facing us. First is that, from what I've heard, the instructions in Patrones magazines are somewhat minimalist.

Then there is the bit where they are written in Spanish... Hopefully, between Juana - who speaks Spanish but doesn't know much about sewing - and me - who is pretty much in the exact opposite boat - we can make sense out of them. Yikes! Wish us luck! ;)

So, what about you? Do you use international pattern magazines? If so, which ones? How and when did you get started? How do they compare to the patterns of the Big 4 U.S. companies? Any words of advice for a couple of newbies?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Talk Back Thursday

Oh, the stories that are out there just waiting to be told...

Thank you so much to Toni, Sarah, Becky, Lisa Laree, Mamafitz, Summerset, Joanne, Alison, Miss Linda, Claire S, Amelia and Claire for talking back to my confession last Friday! I confessed that sometimes I wonder about turning my sewing hobby into a small business and asked if others had any experience in this area...

I'll try to summarize what I learned, but this is really one of those times when it's worth going back and reading the first-hand accounts of people's experiences taking on sewing jobs for pay (click here). There are some very interesting stories out there! ;)

The stories seemed to fall roughly into three camps.

There was a sizable group of "No, thank you - not for me." (Said with varying degrees of vehemence!) A few, including Toni, Alison and Claire S, have tried it and had bad experiences. Becky, relying on her experience as a musician, reported that turning something you love into a paid job can take a lot of the fun out of it. Lisa Laree pointed out that the legal and financial paperwork necessary to becoming a small business is overwhelming and a couple, including Miss Linda and Claire, simply said that it's not for them.

At the other extreme, two people have experience working as a full-time dressmaker at a retail store. Interestingly enough, both of them spoke really highly of this experience. Sarah stressed how much she learns there and how creatively inspiring it is and Mamafitz reported that she loved it and the good experiences far outweighed the bad.

Finally, in the middle, are people like Summerset and Amelia, who do take in sewing jobs. Both reported a mixed bag - they certainly get tired of hemming pants and replacing zippers. At the same time, each has a few special clients who make it all worth while. Apparently the trick is getting lots of the later and none of the former! ;)

What about me? For now, between a full-time job and all the sewing I'm trying to do for myself and my friends, my plate is full. But maybe, someday...

By the way, one of the blogs I subscribe to is the Sewing Business blog - it's worth checking out if you are in, or are thinking about going into, business for yourself.

Thanks again, everyone, for taking the time and trouble to share your stories! :)
PS - I had to prepare this post ahead of time, as I will be computerless at my grandmother's house from Wed. through Fri., so my apologies if someone else commented more recently and was not included in this summary.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

In the Queue Wednesday

Secret Christmas Gifts - Part 2

Last Wednesday I showed you the fabric that 3 of my friends picked out for their Christmas gifts. Note that they don't know what I am making for them - only that it is not clothes and that I asked them to pick out a colorful, fun fabric and complementary ribbon.

Here are the rest of the fabrics. First up, Allison's choice:

Next - Wendi. She was torn between 2 fabrics, and given that I am going to be purchasing a handful of other fabrics to supplement each person's primary choice, I just went with her top two. The one on the left will be her primary fabric:

Finally, I will be making one for myself (first in the queue, no less) - mostly to work the kinks out of the pattern, but also because I'd like one! ;)

So, here is my fabric and ribbon:

So, last week I did get one legitimate request from Joanne (and one completely illegitimate request - yes, I'm talking to you, Christine!) for a hint. It's difficult to come up with something that would help everyone EXCEPT for my friends, because they are the people who know the context - thus, they are most likely to be able to piece together any hints...

(Plus, they are a sneaky and clever lot!)

But, I'll give it a try. Here are some hints:

  • I got the idea from one of the (~140) sewing/crafty blogs that I read.
  • There is quilting involved.
  • It might be considered a type of container or organizer.

Okay, that's it. ;)

As Christmas gifts, these are pretty high priority. Don't worry, I'll get to them. They're in my queue...

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Weekend Project: Six of One, Half Dozen of the Other

There's no such thing as a free lunch.
My Statistics Professor in Grad School
(& Undoubtedly Many, Many Others!)

So, the thing that attracted me to this particular potholder pattern (yes, we're still talking about the potholders that I am making for my Grandmother to give as Christmas gifts) is that it does not use bias tape to finish the edges. Frankly, I have a difficult time making bias tape look really nice - and I want these to look really nice.

However, after assembling the potholder bodies, as I considered quilting them I realized that this pattern has its own particular challenge. In particular, I wanted to quilt in a tic-tac-toe pattern that enclosed the center square...

That would be the center square on each side.

You know, the side that I could see while I was stitching and the side that I couldn't see...


As a first step, I quickly hand stitched around the center square on each potholder, trying to line up the squares as closely as possible. I think you can just make out some of my yellow stitches along the bottom edge of the red square in this picture:

The hope was that these hand stitches would keep the squares lined up as I machine quilted each potholder. The results - not perfect - but I have to believe that they came out better than they would have if I had not done the hand stitching first...

Here's the side I could see:

And the side that I couldn't see:

Let's just hope that my Grandmother likes them because she loves me, and that her friends like them because they love her. ;)

I'll be hand delivering them this week - I'm flying out to Missouri to spend a couple of days with her. :)

And now, let's repeat the mantra:

There's no such thing as a free lunch.
There's no such thing as a free lunch.
There's no such thing as a free lunch.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Friday Confession

Hanging out a shingle...

I bet every one of us has thought of this at one time or another. Wouldn't it be great if I could quit my day job and just sew all day long? Hmmm... If only I could get paid for it...

So, would it be great? Or would it end up being an unending stream of hemming pants and sewing on buttons (the dreaded "mending" masquerading as sewing), and sewing up hideous outfits in garish, uncooperative fabrics for demanding and unappreciative clients on ridiculously tight deadlines? In other words, would it just be another day job? ;)

So, what do you think? Have you ever, or do you now, take on sewing jobs? Or worked full-time as a professional seamstress? If so, what is it like? If not, is it something that you dream of doing someday? Any and all stories and dreams welcome! :)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Amelia, Lisa Laree, Lindsay T, Miss Linda, Claire, Summerset, Caity, Nancy W, Sarah and Mamafitz for "talking back" to my confession last Friday!

I confessed that I don't use many different seam treatments - mostly just regular seams and French seams.

It turns out that almost everyone uses some type of special seam treatment once in a while. What was the most popular? Well, here is how it fell out:
  • French seams was the most commonly mentioned treatment and people reported using them with silks, organza and other sheer fabrics.
  • Hong Kong seams (like the one pictured above) were second and are commonly used when the seams will show (as in an unlined jacket) and/or when the fabric is likely to unravel.
  • Flat felled seams (particularly for shorts, men's shirts and theater costumes that have to be really strong) and serged seams (especially for knits and children's clothes) were tied for third.
  • A couple of people mentioned using pinking shears to finish plain seams.
  • Finally, rolled/whipped seams and turned/edgestitched seams got one "vote" each. ;)
I can see that I'm going to have to work on expanding my repertoire of seam finishes! And I found the information on WHEN to use the various treatments really helpful! :)
By the way, Nancy W has a wonderful photo tutorial on the Hong Kong seam finish! Other tutorials that I know about can be found at BurdaStyle and Laura's Sewing Room.
Thanks again everyone for taking the time to say Hi! and write about your seam treatments! :)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

In the Queue Wednesday

Another Christmas Gift Teaser...

Remember how I complained mentioned that I can't tell you my Christmas gift idea for my friends at work, because they read my blog and I want it to be a surprise?

Well, that is still true, but what I CAN do is show you the fabric and ribbons that they have selected. I asked each of them to pick out one bright, colorful, fun print and a ribbon to go with it.

Here is Susan's choice:

Here is Christine's choice:

And here is Natalie's choice:

Next week I'll show you Wendi's and Allison's choices, as well as my own. (I'm going to make one for myself first, to work out the kinks in the pattern.)

These have a real due date - Christmas would be nice, but the first day back in the office after New Year's Day will suffice. So, don't worry, I'll get to them soon! They are in the queue... ;)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Weekend Project: Watched Potholders Boiling

You don't sew with a fork, so I see no reason to eat with knitting needles.
Miss Piggy on eating Chinese food

Cooking is like sewing - it's all about having the right tools for the job. I spent much of the weekend working on the potholders that my Grandmother requested to give as Christmas gifts to her friends.

I have them basically assembled and only need to quilt them. I am planning to do a quick hand basting stitch to ensure a good alignment between the patterns on the front and the back of each potholder before machine quilting.

Note that, within each pair, the back of one potholder matches the front of the other (and vice versa), so that each person can expose two matching faces if so desired. Without further adieu, here they are:

In other news, my Mom and Dad (69 & 71 years old, respectively) returned from their six-week biking & camping trip through Croatia (yes, you read that right!) and my Mom was delighted with her birthday blouse. Happily, I picked the best size (given that I didn't have her measurements or anything).

Finally, a quick update on Ana and Juana. Everything is going really well! They are each working on a project with the fabrics that I picked up for them in New York City. Ana is making a blouse using the same pattern that Juana used for her dress. Juana is making a skirt using a pattern from the Patrones magazine - this is a new experience for ALL of us! I'll tell you more about it later.

Today, however, we took a break from those projects to make pants patterns, using the article in an issue of Threads magazine. Susan (the bride of the Wedding Dress Saga) came over to help us. Susan and Ana made her pattern, while Juana and I made hers. It took us about 2.5 hours. Afterwards, Ana served us all a Mexican specialty - arroz con leche - sweet milk with rice (and a dash of cinnamon).

I was really happy with how well it went - especially Ana working with Susan, as Susan doesn't speak any Spanish. Susan also took the time to admire the clothes that Ana and Juana have made so far - and they really enjoyed showing off for her! It was a really nice afternoon. :)

I'll be sure to show you how their pants come out! If the pattern is a success for them, I think we'll work on translating it into Spanish, so that they can make pants patterns for their friends.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Participating in History

If you want to know who is going to change this country,
go home and look in the mirror.
Maude Barlow