Saturday, January 31, 2009

Awards and An Apology

I have been nominated for two awards! As all of you other bloggers know, anything that lets you know that there are actually people out there who read your words and enjoy seeing your work - whether it be comments, awards or just hits on your counter - is a real treat! :)

The extra nice thing about these awards is that it gives me a formal opportunity to call out some of the blogs that I really enjoy!

But first, the apology. Elaina of Sew Ducky nominated me for this first award a loooong time ago, and I truly intended to accept it and pass it on much more quickly. Thank you so much, Elaina, and I'm sorry it took me so long!

According to the originating blog, The Scholastic Scribe, the theme of this award is captured in the following quote:

"Diverting the internal traffic between the Writer as Angel of Light and the Writer as Hustler is the scribbling child in a grown-up body, wondering if anyone is listening."
~Herbert Gold, Elder Statesman of The Beat Generation~

As usual, there are conditions attached to the Award. In this case, the rules are a little bit more complex than usual:

* Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.

* Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author and the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.

* Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to this Post, which explains The Award.

* Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we’ll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!

* Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

With that being said, here are my nominations:

  1. Jeannine at SewPink
  2. Mamafitz at Whatever is on my mind today
  3. Caity of Caity Quilter
  4. Alison of sewing with cats
  5. Ed of Dear Dave

I hope that each of you will accept this award, but of course it is optional and just for fun! :)

Next, thank you so much to Alviana of Sewn by Alviana, Lisa H. of Sew On and Sew On, Donna Hodgson of Donna's Den and Mary of MarySews for nominating me for the Kreativ Blogger Award!

The rules for this award seem to be the pretty standard set:

1. Copy the award to your site.

2. Link to the person from whom you received the award.

3. Nominate 7 other bloggers.

4. Link to those on your blog.

5. Leave a message on the blogs you nominated.

Here are my nominations:

  1. Christine of And Sew it Begins
  2. Sarah of In a Nutshell, Anachronism
  3. Amelia of Amelia Sews
  4. Luppylulu of Nibbles and Bytes
I hope that each of you will accept this award, but of course it is optional and just for fun! :)

If any of these blogs in either list are new to you, I encourage you to stop by and check them out. All of these are special people who inspire me! :)

Friday, January 30, 2009

Friday Confession

Sewing certainly can be challenging. And there are definitely moments when it's frustrating! So how can it also be that I find it relaxing?

Turns out someone has studied that... ;)

In 1995 the Home Sewing Association (HSA) paid Dr. Robert Reiner at the New York University Medical Center to conduct a clinical research study on the short term physical impacts of sewing.

Dr. Reiner and his team had thirty women - 15 novice sewers and 15 experienced sewers - come into the laboratory and participate in 5 short activities:
  • playing a solo card game (War)
  • playing a hand held computer game
  • reading a newspaper
  • painting at an easel
  • sew a simple pattern on a pillow
Before and after each activity (which different women completed in different orders) their heart rate, blood pressure, skin temperature and perspiration were measured.

Four of the five activities led to increased heart rate. Only one of the activities led to decreased heart rate! I bet you can guess which one... ;)

Yup, it was the sewing. Sewing led to statistically significant reductions in heart rate, blood pressure and perspiration rates when compared to the other activities. While these are phenomena associated with stress reduction and other good-for-your-body things, the researchers were quick to point out that all they have shown is a short-term benefit and the public shouldn't draw any conclusions about long-term health benefits from this study.

So, I think I'm allowed to say this, because I work in the field of doing psychological research: once again, research has been done to show us something that we pretty much knew all along! ;)

While the results are pleasantly validating, the bit that I found more interesting was the various explanations that have been offered up for this finding. Two main hypotheses appear to be:
  • Crafts like sewing and knitting have a rhythmic and repetitive motion component that is inherently soothing.
  • By definition, if you are focusing on a craft, you can't be worried or upset or anxious about other things going on in your life.
Of course, there's no reason that both can't be true...

My question to you has to do with the WHY? Assuming that, like me, you are frequently challenged and sometimes frustrated by your sewing, why do you think that we love sewing so much and often find it relaxing?

Photo credit: zappowbang

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Talk Back Thursday

Thanks so much to Claire S, Mamafitz, Alison, Meredith, Elaina, Caity, Sarah, Summerset and Donna Hodgson for "talking back" to my confession last Friday!

I confessed that I tend to apply the exact same interfacing to every fabric, rather than adjusting based on the fabric and garment...

Well, I’m feeling a bit lonely out here. Just about everyone adjusts their interfacing use to meet the requirements of the fabric and the garment – if not frequently, then at least in special cases, such as tailoring.

Several people described their guidelines, and there was a lot of overlap. Most people use a light weight fusible knit interfacing for the majority of their outfits, and specialize for collars, cuffs, jackets and other tailoring details with medium and heavy weight wovens or weft interfacings. (A weft interfacing is a knit interfacing that has threads woven through it, hopefully giving it the best of both types.)

The specific types called out most often were Featherweft, Textureweft and Armoweft (all manufactured by HTC).

More types can be found in this handy table put together by Threads magazine.

The following sources for ordering interfacing were mentioned:

Fabric Fashion Sewing
Nancy Erickson via The Fashion Sewing Group
Judy Barlup’s Unique Techniques

Related to interfacing usage, people encouraged pre-shrinking the interfacing and making test swatches to see how your fabric and interfacing work together – at least in important and uncommon situations, if not all the time! ;)

In fact, Claire pointed out that Fabric Fashion Sewing sells an interfacing sample kit. I checked it out and for about $13 you get pieces of their six most popular interfacings – the web site says that the pieces are large enough for you to make multiple test swatches to see how different fabrics work with different weights and types of interfacing.

Here are some other links I found that might be helpful:
This table published online by Threads magazine, which helps troubleshoot interfacing problems.
This brief tutorial on interfacing by Judy Barlup.

People did suggest some alternatives to interfacing. Silk organza, in particular, was called out by several people. Mamafitz sometimes uses muslin and Elaina shared a neat tip – sometimes she reinforces buttonholes with used dryer sheets!

So, it looks like this is an area where I really need to ramp up my sewing. I’m going to look into the sample set that Claire recommended.

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

Photo credit: Silk and Sunbrella

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

In the Queue Wednesday

Next up is the princess dress for 4-year old Mariana. She picked the pattern and fabric on our shopping trip to Joann's last Sunday. This is the pattern she picked (pink version drawn in the lower right hand corner):

The colors didn't come through on my scanner very well, but she picked a light blue polyestor satin (oh, joy) and a matching tulle with sparkles. We found a nice blue grosgrain ribbon and fabric flower.

And the ultimate accessory for a princess dress - a princess patch! ;)

I promised that I'd get to this within a couple of weeks, so it is currently top priority. I've got a business trip this week, but don't worry, I'll get to it. It's in the queue. ;)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Monday Morning Quarterback: Reunited!

Reunited and it feels so good...

--Peaches and Herb

Yes, my sewing machine has returned from the tune-up at Sears! And I'm so happy to have it back!

After two weeks of no sewing I was eager for some instant gratification, so I started with this skirt for my youngest niece:

The fabric is brown corduroy with pink dots. There is an elastic waistband in the back. It came together in 3 hours from cutting to hemming. It's a very simple pattern - only 4 pieces. I may add a pink flower or bow, but other than that, it's done! :)

My Sunday afternoon sewing lessons with Ana and Juana were disrupted by the holidays, but we finally got together yesterday. Juana finished up her Patrones skirt. (It's not pressed yet.)

That was our first experience sewing from a foreign language pattern magazine and it was interesting, to say the least... While Juana, of course, speaks Spanish fluently, she doesn't speak "sewing" yet, so she wasn't as much help as I had hoped in making sense of the instructions.

Also, we made some changes. We had to line the fabric, so we ended up sewing the fabric and the lining right sides together and then turning it, so that she didn't use any of the facing pieces. I mostly just intently stared back and forth between the fabric pieces and the model photo and took my best guess as to how to get from A to (somewhere in the neighborhood of) B. ;)

Ana whipped out two aprons (I didn't bother photographing them because they were black) in one afternoon - her second "commission"! Word is getting out among friends and acquaintances that she sews. Her first commission was to hem half a dozen pairs of store-bought sweat pants. After these aprons, a friend has asked her to make a skirt! :)

While I was sewing-machine-less, I spent some time working on my loom. This first "piece" is just a sampler, where I experiment with different patterns. It's so cool - there is this "language" that is like binary (heddle condition: thread in or thread out; pedal position: up or down) and by different combinations of these two variables, you can make the most beautiful patterns!

Life is pretty hectic right now - business trips 3 weeks in a row (this is week 2) - I can't wait until things settle back down to normal. I'm looking forward to the Sewing and Quilt Expo in Tampa, Florida in March. I think that 5 of us will go - me, Ana, Juana, Susan and Christine. Anyone else going?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Friday Confession

Before I start this week's confession, a quick correction to yesterday's post, thanks to Lindsay! So many commenters on last week's confession talked about pattern weights and rotary cutters in the same breath, that I assumed that they always went together. Wrong! Lindsay uses scissors with her pattern weights and reports that it works just fine! Thanks, Lindsay! :)

I use Palmer and Pletsch interfacing. I switched to this (from the stuff that I used to buy in Joann's) because it was so highly recommended on PR.

According to this article, there are four basic types of interfacing: nonwoven, woven, knit and weft-inserted. The type pictured is (as far as I can tell from reading the packaging) weft-inserted, which give more structure than a knit interfacing, but has more drape than a woven interfacing.

The confession part is that I use the same interfacing for everything that I sew. I don't swap out different weights depending on the garment and fabric that I'm using.

How about you? What type of interfacing do you use? Do you change weights and/or types depending on your project?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Alviana, Mamafitz, Lisa Laree, Beth, Lindsay T, Claire, Eliana, Summerset, Debbie, Donna Hodgson, Miss Linda, Sarah, Claire S. and Amelia for talking back to my confession last Friday! I confessed that I have never used pattern weights, and asked what others thought of them.

Wow, few people were lukewarm on this one! The tally was 9 "love thems", 4 "no ways" and only 1 "it depends on the situation". (Lindsay mentioned that her ASG instructors also highly recommend using them.)

It turns out - and I would not be surprised if I was the only person in the world who didn't realize this - if you use pattern weights, you use a rotary cutter, not scissors. Here's my real confession - I had been wondering what kept the weights from shifting around when you tried to cut the fabric near them with scissors... Doh!

So, the interesting thing is that the people who said no to pattern weights, seemed to be (for the most part) saying no more to the rotary cutter than to the weights per se. I can certainly understand this - it's embarrasing the number of fabric strips that I had to re-cut for those pencil rolls because my rotary cutter slipped off the mark...

Perhaps one of the coolest things that came out was how many different alternatives there are to buying the "official" pattern weights. The following objects were mentioned:
  • rulers
  • kitchen knives
  • small objects filled with BBs
  • cans of food
  • small decorative tiles
  • flat washers
  • piping flanges
I can just imagine the look of surprise and confusion on my husband's face if I said that I was going to the hardware store to pick up some sewing tools! ;)

Amelia pointed out the cutest pattern weights ever - check out this post on Peacock Chic!

One last tidbit - several people who use the pattern weights mentioned that they still pin grain lines.

Thanks again to everyone who took the time to tell me about their sewing practices! As always, I learned a lot and had fun reading your comments! :)

Photo credit: AH Exports

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

In the Queue Wednesday

Finally, the last of the Christmas outfits for my nieces. My older niece also picked out this jacket pattern for her younger sister (view C).

This time, I picked out the fabric, although I got the big sister's approval. After selecting the cute-but-nothing-flashy corduroy for her skirt, I was afraid that the younger sister would feel hurt that her big sister got all the shiny, fun fabric. So, I picked this shiny and soft, velvet-like fabric for the jacket.

She hasn't seen any of it yet. I sure hope she likes our choices! I need to get to it pretty soon, as the jacket will be better for colder weather and not so useful in the summer. I'm not sure exactly when, but don't worry, I'll get to it. It's in the queue.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Monday Morning Quarterback

Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.
Kahil Gibran
This is truly a sad sight:

Yes, it is the desk in my sewing room, with a large bare spot where my sewing machine should be... :(

Not to worry too much, it is a temporary situation. After seven years of regular use, I figured it deserved a break, and took it to Sears for some maintenance. I should get it back this week. :)

However, the weekend was not a total waste. Ana and I took her young friend Mariana to Joann's to pick out a princess dress pattern and some fabric. And what would a princess dress be without a big Cinderella patch adorning the skirt? ;)

I also used the time to work on my loom. I tried warping it (similar to threading a sewing machine, only with A LOT more threads!!!) for the first time.

It looks okay to me (like I'd know!), but the real question is whether I have the tension tight and even. I guess I'll find out when I try weaving!

If you are interested in seeing more pictures of the loom in various stages of being warped, they are posted on my other blog, Looming Disaster.

I have business trips for the next two weeks, so I won't be able to get much done with either craft. I'm looking forward to things settling down and getting back to normal! Although, I guess I'll have to redefine normal, as I figure out how to incorporate weaving into my life...

I hope you have a good week! :)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday Confession

I have never used pattern weights. (I don't count it when my cats sit on my pattern pieces, because they usually claw up the tissue paper and then attack my scissors if I try to do any cutting - I'm pretty sure that store bought pattern weights don't have these "features".)

So, how about you? Have you ever tired to use pattern weights? Do they really work? Do you need a lot of them? Any special requirements to use them?

Picture of "Wonder Weights" from The Sewing Place.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Wendy, Summerset, Lindsay T, Becky, Lisa Laree, Mamafitz, Lori, Miss Linda, Christine, Karima, Sarah, Gaylen and Elaina for "talking back" to my confession last Friday! I confessed that I'm not super conscientious about transferring pattern markings to my fabric, and asked how others dealt with this.

The two big issues were (a) when to mark and (b) how to mark.

On the question of when to mark, there was a range of responses. Some people transfer every single pattern mark to fabric conscientiously, while others only mark when “absolutely necessary”.

Features that were called out as important to mark include: tuck & dart lines, sleeves (especially to capture front versus back), princess seams, collars and any unusual constructions.

The how to mark question also brought out a variety of responses, including some neat ideas that were new to me!

Six people called out tailor tacks and/or thread tracing, making these the most commonly mentioned methods.

Next up, paper and a tracing wheel, cutting notches (outward from fabric) and snipping into the seam allowances were all tied for “second place”.

Wendy explicitly called out Clover® marking paper as being better than the chalk-based paper that is readily available at Joann’s, although it contains wax and so you have to be careful not to iron it into the fabric.

Other methods mentioned included chalk, pins, and water soluble pens – although Mamafitz has a nightmare story about making a dress full of pleats and tucks while in high school, and having the supposedly disappearing ink of her marking pen REAPPEAR after she washed and ironed the dress! Needless to say, she has never used this since…

Two new ideas to me – Summerset sometimes uses a regular pencil to mark her fabrics and Lindsay sometimes uses adhesive label dots to flag notches.

Summing up, while no one really seems to love marking, everyone seems to agree that, at least for certain aspects of a garment, marking is very important. ;)

Thank you again to everyone who took the time and trouble to talk about your philosophy and method(s) of marking! :)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

In The Queue Wednesday

I'm still on the topic of Christmas shopping with my nieces for fabric and patterns. My younger niece (8 years old) wasn't able to shop with us, but her big sister and I picked out patterns and fabric for her.

Her big sister thought that she'd like this skirt (view A):

In this corduroy fabric:

I think it's going to be really cute! I don't know if I'll add the flower or not, but I'm definitely going to pick up some pink ribbon for the trim.

Sadly, my sewing machine is STILL at Sears for its tune-up. :(

But, don't worry, I'll get to it. It's in the queue...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Monday Morning Quarterback: Give-Away Winner

Drum roll, please!

And the winner of my pencil roll pattern give away is: Dawn

Congratulations! Please send me an email ( with your mailing address, and I'll drop that in the mail to you ASAP.

Thank you to everyone who commented! I'm sorry I don't have enough copies of the pattern to send one to each of you.

Parting Shot: My friend and co-worker Natalie models the blouse I made for her birthday last Fall, using fabric that she fell in love with on our trip to New York City:

Photo credits: motorpsykhos and Natalie's husband respectively.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Weekend Project: TENS Case Project

The two enemies of human happiness are pain and boredom.
Arthur Schopenhauer

One of the projects that has been in my queue for a while is to make fabric pouches that my friend, M, can wear to hold her TENS machine. She has chronic back pain, and the TENS unit sends a small current through electrodes on her back. Apparently pain is primarily an electrical transmission along nerve endings and this small current disrupts the pain cycle and may bring some relief.

This is one pattern that I completely made up on my own, using the measurements of her TENS unit that she emailed me. It was a bit of a challenge, because I didn't have an actual unit that I could test myself, and she lives in the UK! But, with some iterations, we worked out a pattern that suits her reasonably well.

She visited last May and we went shopping for some fabric for more pouches. Here she is in Joann's:

Here is the basic pattern. I cut two of the main piece to make it lined, and the small piece is a flap that gets doubled over. It's a pretty standard approach to making a fabric pouch, but I'll show you some pictures and discuss the special features that we added due to our preliminary experiments.

Originally I put in 2 windows - one for the on/off switch on the side and one to allow her to read the digital display on the front. But she decided that she doesn't really need to see the digital display, so I've quit putting that window in. Putting the switch window in is a bit of a nuisance - I cut it kind of like a bound buttonhole and iron it open.

My original version didn't have a flap - her belt attached through the back of the main pouch. But she felt that it was insecure, and was afraid that if she leaned down to pick something up, the TENS unit might fall out. So, we ended up adding this flap (for the belt to pass through) above the pouch itself. That puts the center of mass of the unit lower and allows it to swing forward if/when she leans over.

Making the flap:

This shot shows where the flap gets added to the pouch:

This shot shows the flap, inserted between the outer layer and the lining:

In addition to adding the flap, another detail of this pouch that we had to work out over time is the top stitching. This top stitching isn't just for appearance's sake. The original pouch didn't hold its shape well, and the TENS unit tended to slide around inside of it. This was a problem because often the switch didn't line up with the window. I got the idea to "force" the shape of the pouch into a rectangle by adding the top stitching, and it works!

And the third feature that we worked out over time was adding an elastic strip along the outside back of the pouch, to hold the extra length of wires between the unit and the electrodes, so that they don't dangle all over the place.

Here are the three new cases that I made over my Christmas holiday:

Note the buttonholes in the flap, to allow a belt to be threaded through... Here she is modeling one of the pouches that I made during her visit last Spring:

And here she shows off the back, with the extra wires tucked into the elastic:

I dropped the new ones in the mail on Monday (5 Jan) as a belated Christmas present. And another project from my queue is complete! Yay! :)

Friday, January 9, 2009

Friday Confession

I'm not the world's most conscientious person when it comes to transferring marks from pattern pieces to fabric.

When I took Home Ec. in high school (back when it was required of all girls and forbidden from all boys), marking was a big deal. We dutifully transferred every mark using tracing carbon paper and a little rolling wheel. It seemed to take forever and I hated it.

Now, I'm a bit more cavalier. I "transfer" marks along the periphery of each pattern piece by taking tiny snips into my fabric (anything smaller than the seam allowance works just fine). I don't do any other markings until I get to the point in the construction when I need them. Then I typically use pins. Sometimes I use tailor's chalk or a fabric safe ink pen.

What I NEVER use is my old high school nemesis tracing carbon paper and wheel!

How about you? How religiously do you mark your fabric? What tools do you use?

Photo "credit" clearly goes to me. Sorry for the blurriness!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Joanne, Miss Linda, Amelia, Mamafitz, Becky, Myrosia, Summerset and Elaina for "talking back" to my confession last Friday! I confessed that I'm not much of a "resolution person" and haven't made any for the new year.

Almost everyone reported that they avoid making RESOLUTIONS, but many people do seem to at least think about some goals for the upcoming year.

Some of the goals are on the abstract or general side - like Joanne's goal to be "open to possibility" or Miss Linda's goal to "persevere". Mamafitz also reports that she typically sets general goals, like sewing more dressy clothes.

Others are more concrete. Amelia says that she'll set some goals to be accomplished in 2009 AFTER she finishes a 5,000 piece wedding quilt! Yikes, that sounds like a pretty big goal in and of itself! ;)

And Becky would like to learn how to make jeans that fit, although she isn't going to obsess over it. She prefers to work on those things that inspire her at the moment.

She's not the only one who feels this way - Summerset and Elaina both report taking things as they come, sewing based on inspiration and/or need, and not feeling guilty if they don't get around to something.

Finally, Myrosia grew up in a country that doesn't have the tradition of establishing New Year's resolutions, and so she takes the quite reasonable position that she makes changes in her life when they are needed, not on a particular date.

You all have got me thinking that taking stock once in a while is a good thing to do, to make sure that you are following your heart - challenged and inspired, learning and growing. Setting goals to help move forward can also be good. But setting resolutions can turn a love affair into a chore and it can become the equivalent of setting yourself up for disappointment and failure.

Thanks again to everyone for taking the time to talk to me! You always make me smile and give me something to think about... :)

Photo credit: kafeole

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

In the Queue Wednesday

As you may remember, I took my nieces shopping over the Christmas holiday to select patterns and fabrics for their gift outfits. Last week I showed you the top pattern, fabric and trim that my older niece selected. Thank you to everyone who reassured me that this is just exactly the kind of outfit that most any 12-year-old would love!

To go with the top, my niece selected the white pants (view C) pattern:
And she selected this shiny pink spandex fabric!

I think the one thing that we can all say for sure is that her parents will never lose her in a crowd! ;)

My sewing machine is currently at Sears, getting a tune-up, but don't worry, I'll get to this. It's in the queue... :)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Monday Morning Quarterback: Gift Reveal and Give-Away

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for!

One of the great mysteries of all times will be resolved before your very eyes!

What Christmas gift did I make for my friends, using the fabrics and ribbons that they selected and only my bare hands and cunning wit?

Oh, okay, maybe there was a sewing machine involved too... ;) Party poopers! In any event, I give you: pencil rolls!

Now, before you look askance at your computer screen and think "What kind of a dumb gift is that?", let me fill you in on the back story...

Every day at lunch, we work cryptic crossword puzzles together. Those puzzles are difficult and we definitely use pencils, not pens. We've been doing this for a couple of years, and over time we have gotten to be quite the connoisseurs of pencils. Whenever one of us goes on a trip, she always brings back souvenir pencils for everyone. So, lame as it may sound, pencils are kind of a big deal for us.

In addition to making the pencil rolls, I also ordered pencils for each person, inscribed with their names and in a color to match the roll. Here are the individual rolls.






And one for me:

And now for the give-away. Under the circumstances, what better gift than a pencil roll pattern? I purchased this from Pink Chalk Studios, but ended up working out my own pattern version before this one arrived in the mail. Hence, it has never been used (not that it matters with this pattern).
Leave me a comment telling me who you'd make a pencil roll for, and I'll randomly select one person and get this right in the mail. Good luck!