Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday Confession

Happy Halloween!

As often as I sew for my nieces and nephews, and as crazy as some of the outfits they have asked for have been!, I have never sewn a Halloween costume...

How about you? Have you sewn any Halloween costumes? I bet it was a blast! Any stories about a costume project that stood out as especially epic in some way? If you have pictures on the web and would be willing to leave a link, I'll include some (and the links) in my post next Thursday. Thanks!

Photo credit: Elisabeth Audrey

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Gwen, Jodieth, Connie, Faye Lewis, Mamafitz, CarlaF, Lori, Summerset, Joannely, Karin, Cindy, Gaylen, Meredith, Lois, Sharon and Elaina for talking back to my confession last week! I asked about experiences with the American Sewing Guild (ASG) and other sewing organizations.

I was a bit surprised to see that almost two-thirds of the people who responded (10 out of 16) are ASG members!

As you might expect, however, among the members there is quite a bit of variability in how active people are. Some, like Joannely, Gaylen and Meredith are extremely acitve and have even started new neighborhood groups and/or served as leaders for their groups.

Other people are not as active, and you can probably guess many of the reasons why: they don’t have a neighborhood group (NG) close by, they have schedule conflicts with the local NG meetings, and/or the local NG has a different focus than they do (for example, more quilts and crafts, less garment sewing).

For the people who are able to participate, it sounds like there are both technical benefits (having workshops and speakers) and social benefits – just getting to hang out with wonderful, classy people! And the 10% discount at Joann’s and other retail stores might have been brought up a few times too… ;)

I did get the impression that that not all NGs are "created equal" and finding an NG that is a “good fit” is a very important factor in determining how much you get out of the organization. In fact, Connie recommended starting your own NG!

Speaking of advice, Meredith gave what is probably the most important advice that anyone can keep in mind when joining any organization – never leave the room when they are looking for volunteers and/or leaders! ;)

Finally, it was also cool to read about some other sewing-related groups. Elaina belongs to a Burda club, Summerset belongs to a quilt guild, Cindy has a "meetup" group and Mamafitz used to belong to an independent pattern club that sounds very interesting! They would pick a specific indie pattern to try each month, and then get together to compare notes (and garments) afterwards.

Thanks again to everyone who took the time to tell me about your experiences! I’ll let you know how it works out for me. :)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

In the Queue Wednesday

This is another of the fabric purchases that I made in Missouri during my visit with Lori of Girls in the Garden. It is a grey sheer with pink and white paisley. I think it will make a lovely skirt. I don't have a particular pattern in mind, but I'm imagining something a bit fitted at the waist and hips, and then godets or something to make the bottom very flowy and full. It will definitely have to be lined! Any thoughts?

I've got some higher priority projects that I SHOULD do first, but this one is showing signs of wiggling its way to the top of the pile! ;)

Even if I do exert some self-control and submit to more pressing responsibilities, never fear - I will get to this eventually! It's in the queue... ;)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Monday Morning Quarterback: Baby Onesie

The English language has a deceptive air of simplicity; so have some little frocks; but they are both not the kind of thing you can run up in half an hour with a machine.

--Dorothy L. Sayers

I mostly worked on my Christmas weaving this weekend, but I cut out the pieces for the baby onesie and I bought the wooly nylon thread for my serger - man, that stuff is expensive! :(

So, here's the layout for the pattern:

Okay, really? Are they serious? A ONESIE for a NEWBORN requires TEN pattern pieces? Yikes!

At first I couldn't believe it, but as I looked over the pattern pieces I realized why. There are two main reasons:

1. The front of the outfit is not symmetrical, so they have separate pieces for the left front and right front (and different facings, too).

2. They don't use bias tape for the edges - they use fabric strip bindings (not cut on the bias) and attach the snap tape to those fabric bindings. That adds several more pattern pieces.

Well, that's not much progress, but hopefully I can get some work done on this during my evenings this week! I hope you had a good sewing weekend! :)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Confession

I joined the American Sewing Guild last week. I have been hesitating for a long time, because the local neighborhood group meets in the middle of a weekday (apparently most of the members are retired?) and the closest full-fledged chapter is about an hour away. I did ask for advice on Pattern Review and got mostly encouragement. It does sound like some chapters are more active and rewarding than others...

So, how about you? Are you or have you ever been a member of ASG? How about any other face-to-face sewing groups? What is your experience and opinion on this (or similar) organization(s)?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Gwen, Myrosia, Amelia, Cindy, Lori, Summerset, Elizabeth, Lisa Laree, Elaina and CarlaF for talking back to my confession last Friday! I confessed that I often forget to add pockets to pocket-less patterns and am always annoyed with myself after the fact.

Most, but not everyone, likes to have pockets in their clothes. The main "pro" for pockets, of course, is that they give you a place to put things - including your money & keys, a bit of Kleenex, the odds and ends that children always seem to be handing to their Moms, and even your own hands. (Oddly enough, no one explicitly mentioned kittens - I guess that was just taken for granted by everyone!)

Not everyone reported being a "pocket person". Gwen only adds them to her clothes when they are an important design element, and Elaina prefers to keep the lines of her garments clean and smooth - not disrupted or bulked up by pockets.

It was a bit of a relief to know that I am not the only person who forgets to add pockets when a pattern doesn't call for them. Isn't there some quotation about how we are never quite as unique as we think we are, in either our virtues or our vices? (I'll have to look that up...)

I think I may sort through my patterns someday (in my free time, ha!) and try to establish a couple basic pocket patterns that I can reuse across many different garment types.

Thanks again, everyone!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

In the Queue Wednesday

Remember my friend, Susan? She's the reason I started blogging - I wanted to document my adventures (and mishaps) sewing her wedding dress for her March 2008 wedding. Well, she and her husband are pregnant with their first - a baby boy! :)

So, next in my queue is this "onesie" (upper left hand corner in the photograph portion of the envelope - short sleeves, snaps between legs) for the upcoming addition to Susan's family:
As soon as they found out from a sonogram that they are having a boy, they picked out a theme for the nursery - the zoo! And while I was fabric shopping in Missouri, I found this adorable knit:

Isn't it perfect? She still has several months to go, but I want to get to it ASAP. Maybe next weekend. In any event, I will get to it. It's in the queue. :)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Weekend Project: A doozy and the zoo!

What a player does best, he should practice least.
Practice is for problems.

This weekend I worked on weaving my first Christmas-gift kitchen towel. You remember the great start to this project when I cut 3 yards, instead of 4, for the warp (length)? At the time, I hoped that all of the future mistakes associated with this project had been wrapped up into a single doozy of a mistake, and it would be smooth sailing from then on.

Apparently my idea of a “doozy” and fate’s idea are not the same size… ;)

I’ll spare you the painful details - let’s just say that this towel has been relegated to a practice piece and ne’er shall Christmas wrapping paper touch its waffle-weave. ;)

Here’s a full shot of the first few inches:

And here's a close-up:

I’m guessing (i.e., hoping) that once the fabric is not under the tension of the loom it will shrink-in a bit and form the bumpy waffle pattern…?

I am way overdue at replying to some comments that folks have left for me over the last few weeks. Julia had a wonderful idea for the lace on my pink skirt. She suggested that I cut away the fabric behind it. I’m not going to try it on this skirt, because I think it would be problematic given the way I positioned the lace relative to the hem of the bottom band. But I love the idea and will keep it in mind for next time! Thanks, Julia!

Thank you also to MJB, Meredith, Sew-Ann and LaKaribane for their advice on how I should arrange the border print of my paisley jersey for a dress. I’m going to play with the layout of the pieces and see what is even possible, before I make any final decisions - but you all gave me some good things to think about!

And, as for meeting online sewing friends - Meredith, you hit the nail on the head with the word "classy"! Cindy - I can't wait to meet you too, and I can't believe I've met two people from other states before meeting someone from my own state! And Gwen - you are definitely invited to join me and Lori the next time we get together in Missouri, but you may want to skip one trip, as I'm probably going back in January, which is not the ideal time to visit that part of the country! ;) After that, I'll probably go back in May, which will be much more temperate. :)

Parting shots: The first fall-weather day in Florida was a perfect day for a trip to the zoo, with my sewing student Ana, her friend Marguerita and Marguerita's five-year old daughter, Mariana (of the princess dress and the alphabet quilt). Riding a camel...

And a tiger! ;)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday Confession

Pockets. I love pockets! I hate clothes without pockets! And I NEVER remember to add pockets when I'm sewing my own clothes! :(

I wore my new pink skirt on Monday, and wanted to kick myself when I went to slide my hands into side pockets and there weren't any! It would have been SO easy to put them in while I was making the skirt... :(

How about you? Do you routinely add pockets when you sew something for yourself? If so, always the same type, or do you have different versions that you can do, depending upon the garment? Do you have a favorite pocket tutorial? Speaking of tutorials, have you seen Summerset's recent pocket tutorial? It's excellent! :)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Mamafitz, Uta, Meredith, Elaina, Cindy, Summerset, Linda, CarlaF, Gwen, Webfrau, Becky, Sew-Ann and Alison for talking back to my confession last week! I confessed that I never really know what pattern size to make, given that my body measurements don't perfectly fit in any one size.

Cindy and Sew-Ann gave the advice that I was kind of dreading - fit your largest measurement, because taking in the extra fabric is far easier than the alternative. (But I'm partial to my smallest measurement!) Cindy has a lot of experience as a sewing teacher with many different body shapes and sizes, and she says that few people fit the established sizes perfectly. She also recommends starting with a muslin and taking notes on the adjustments that you have to make to achieve a good fit - so that you know exactly what to do the next time. :)

A lot of other people recommended a slightly different approach - well, for tops at least. For skirts and pants, there was a general concensus to use the hips measurement (the largest measurement on many of us), and adjust the waist as needed.

For tops and dresses, on the other hand, a lot of people recommended using the high bust measurement (even though this may point to a smaller size), and doing a full bust adjustment and/or adding fabric along the sides to accomodate larger proportions in those areas. Meredith and Gwen helped explain why - the size of your shoulders is relatively stable during your adult life and clothes hang from your shoulders (and hips), so those are the places to fit first.

Finally, both Uta and Webfrau reminded me that when you are tracing from a BWOF or similar pattern, you aren't restricted to picking one size. You can mark along different size lines at different points on your body, and grade in between - resulting in a pattern that is adjusted perfectly for you! :)

Thanks again, so much, to everyone! Next time I crack open a new pattern (hopefully this weekend!) I'll know exactly how to pick my "starting" size and why! :)

Photo credit: anomalous4

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

In the Queue Wednesday

I'm sorry I missed my regular weekend post! I left sunny-warm-Florida (okay, maybe it was miserably hot) and flew to freezing-cold-Missouri (okay, maybe it was just chilly) to visit my Grandmother for a few days. I gave her the scarf that I wove for her on my loom, and she just loved it! (Of course, she would have loved it if I had glued macaroni to a paper plate and spray painted it gold, but let's not go there...)

It was a great trip! In addition to spending time with my Grandmother, I got to meet a friend! Lori of Girls in the Garden lives in Central Missouri, and we spent a wonderful Monday afternoon taking advantage of Joann's Columbus Day sale!

This is the second time that I've met someone in person whom I had previously known through blogging - Summerset of Pins and Needles came down to Tampa with her husband a couple of summers ago and we browsed some of the higher end fabric shops in Tampa together.

Both experiences were just so wonderful! I may be a bit biased, but it seems to me that people who sew are some of the best people in the world - smart and sweet and fun! I get out to Missouri several times a year - I can't wait for my next shopping trip with Lori!

Okay, on to the pattern pictured - I picked it up at Joann's on Monday for the amazing price of $0.99! Let's hear it for Christopher Columbus! ;)

I like the middle version, with the flared skirt. I don't even know what fabric I'm going to make it in, but, don't worry, I'll get to it. It's in the queue. :)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Friday Confession

So, I suspect that I am not alone here, but my body measurements do not align perfectly with any single size on the pattern sizing charts. (I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to guess which measurements tend to be larger and which tend to be smaller!) ;)

My confession is that I'm not sure how to pick which size I should make. I have a tendency to try to minimize the total discrepancy across the 3 main measurements (bust, waist and hips) - but I suspect that this is not the best strategy and I probably should put more emphasis on one measurement over the other - is that right?

How about you? Are you one of the lucky ones who falls perfectly into one size? If not, how do you decide which size to make?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Cindy, Karin, Faye Lewis, MeredithP, Uta, Elaina, Mamafitz, Sarah, Summerset, V and Goodworks1 for “talking back” to my confession last week! I confessed that I haven’t done any repurposing / refashioning projects and asked about others’ experiences with repurposing.

This question brought a pretty even distribution of responses across the entire set of possibilities, including “No, not really,” “Not yet, but someday,” “Sometimes,” “Often,” “All the time!” and “Heck, I’ve been refashioning, since, like, forever!” In fact, it appears that Goodworks1 has been refashioning clothes since before she was born! How about that for a long time! ;)

Even within the “Yes, I do it!” category there were a lot of variations. Some people called out smallish projects, such as tweaking the fit of a RTW garment or prettying-up the clothes that big brother outgrows in order to pass them on to little sister. Other people described mid-range projects, such as reworking an existing, beloved garment that has an unfixable hole or stain, to give it a second life or modifying an adult garment to suit a child. And there are some hardcore repurposers / refashioners / recyclers who save buttons and zippers from cast-off clothes and scour second-hand stores to maintain a second “stash.”

Reasons for repurposing? You can probably guess most of them – saving money, simplifying and being better to Mother Earth were big ones, of course. Sarah pointed out that it gets her “creative muscles flexing” – something that hadn’t occurred to me, but makes a lot of sense.

Several folks were quick to point out that repurposing doesn’t mean lowering your standards – Uta and Elaina refuse to repurpose worn out or poor quality fabric. Summerset never wants any of her projects to look cobbled together.

Thanks again to everyone for all the great insight! I wasn’t able to capture all the good ideas and useful information in this post, so if you are interested in the topic, you might want to take a minute to read the original comments here. Also, if you are pregnant or have any pregnant friends, check out this great tutorial on refashioning maternity pants out of regular pants!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

In the Queue Wednesday

You may remember this jersey fabric - I bought it online last May, and it was that experience (not having any idea how much I should buy because I didn't have a particular pattern in mind) that started me down the path to creating the "How Much Fabric?" reference cards.
Well, I just got the new BWOF magazine, and it has a section on the "Little Black Dress". This particular dress caught my eye:

It specifically calls out "jersey" as a good fabric. What do you think? Would this dress be a good match for my fabric?

I'd align the border print to be along the bottom of the skirt, of course. The fabric is actually double border, so I'd have enough border to put it along the bottom of the sleeves too, but that might be too much - what do you think?

I haven't decided 100% for sure, but I think that this is the pattern I'll use. I don't have much experience with BWOF patterns yet, so I'll probably make a muslin first.

I'd like to get started on it soon, but I'm not sure exactly when... Don't worry, I'll get to it eventually! It's in the queue. ;)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Weekend Project: Progress on Many Fronts

Strategy is the art of making use of time and space.
--Napoleon Bonaparte

I strategically attacked several projects this weekend, and made good progress on all fronts. First, I finally got around to sewing the lace onto my new skirt! I hand basted it down the middle and then used the walking foot to machine stitch the two edges. I was happy with how the stitches hid in the small border on the lace.

What I can't decide is whether or not I should also machine stitch down the center (I pulled out the hand basting). Any thoughts? What would you do with a double band of lace like this?

I also worked on preparing my loom to start weaving the kitchen towels that I plan to make as Christmas gifts. This yarn/thread is much thinner than anything I have ever worked with before and the pattern is also wider, so it is slow going! But I am not rushing - I really want to get it right the first time.

Well, not counting that whole 1 yard too short thing... ;)

Finally, I used some TV time to assemble more card sets. I've put together over 200 sets! Yay! :)

So, I feel pretty good about my accomplishments this weekend. (Although I imagine that Napoleon Bonaparte is spinning in his grave that I would use one of his quotes to cover my activities!) I hope you had a good weekend and feel ready for the upcoming week! :)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Friday Confession

So, today’s confession is a real one: I have never repurposed a garment.

I first learned about repurposing from Becky’s blog (those pictures are from one of her projects). It’s such a cool idea – it’s like the Reese’s cup we get when the sewing movement (aka the chocolate) and the green movement (aka the peanut butter) collide. ;)

And now it’s popping up all over the place – from blogs (for example, Sew and So and Repurposed) to internet magazine articles (e.g., to online sewing communities (e.g., ThreadBanger and Wardrobe Refashion) to popular daytime tv shows (e.g., The Rachel Ray Show).

So, how about you? Have you done any clothing repurposing projects? If so, please tell us a little bit about your experiences! If not, do you think you’ll try someday? What do you think about this movement?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Linda Turske, Kim, Claire S., Ivalyn "Tee" Jones-Actie, Lois K, Lisa Laree, Carla F, Amelia, Faye Lewis, Goodworks1, KID MD, Mary, Summerset, MouseAnony, Sew-Ann, Relished Artistry, Rose, Cindy, Becky, Beth, Sabine4, and Elaina for "talking back" last week! Last week I posted a guest question from Cindy, who wanted to know how often people use their seam rippers, and how they feel about them. Cindy's question was motivated by her sewing students, who quickly get discouraged if they have to rip something out.

I think that Cindy’s question has drawn the most responses of any of my “Friday Confessions” to date. Now I am faced with the problem of trying to find some common ground among all the disparate answers. There are the 17 people who responded that they use their seam rippers on every, or almost every, project. Then there are the 5 people who reported that they love their seam rippers and consider them to be a sewist’s best friend. On the other hand, there are the 7 people who said that they find seam rippers to be so useful that they keep a stash of them in their sewing rooms. If only I could find some theme or thread going through all these positions… ;)

Seriously - Wow! What an overwhelming convergence of responses – and from people with as little as 2 years of sewing experience through people with over 40 years of experience! You guys have generally agreed with one another a few times before, but never like this!

And, of course, one of the things that I love so much about your answers each week, is that you don’t just give a bare bones “yes” or “no” – you go on to elaborate, and I always learn something new!

For example, (and this counts as a mildly embarrassing confession), I didn’t realize that there is a “right way” and a “wrong way” to use the seam ripper. Apparently you are NOT supposed to insert the seam ripper between the 2 layers of fabric and just zip it down the seam. Instead, you are supposed to carefully pick out individual stitches.

When do people use their seam rippers? Several people, like me, find that as they get more skilled in sewing, their standards also get higher, so while they aren’t making the “big” flubs that they originally had to rip out, they are now re-doing steps that are “pretty good” because they want them to be “perfect”.

Others pointed out that they are most likely to need to use their seam rippers whenever they try to hurry through things and maybe even skip some steps to “save time”! ;)

Lois K and Elaina mentioned some other uses of the seam ripper, including cutting buttonholes, pulling threads from fabric to find the grainline, and working with the threads around the presser foot on the sewing machine.

Becky uses hers a lot in her deconstruction work (she re-purposes used clothes into really cool, unique creations!) and said that it’s much more fun to rip apart someone else’s stitches than it is your own! ;)

Two people mentioned alternative tools. Lisa Laree uses a sturdy straight pin to take out her stitches, because that prevents her from “cheating” and using the seam ripper the wrong way. Goodworks1 recommended the seam rippers that come with a surgical-style blade. I had never heard of this, but a quick Google search turned up lots of links, including this one:

Some of my favorite responses addressed the philosophical side of seam ripping. A couple of people compared the seam ripper to the backspace or delete key on your computer keyboard. They pointed out that we don’t “hate” those keys and we don’t feel like “failures” when we use them. They make it easy to fix the mistakes that are just naturally always going to occur. Seven people made this analogy more explicit – using a seam ripper does NOT mean that you are bad at sewing and we are lucky that sewing let’s us have second (and third and sometimes fourth!) chances. :)

Rose and Relished Artistry were even more philosophical. Rose believes that the ability to deal with mistakes is a very important skill to develop – more important than getting it right the first time, in fact. And Corey, of Relished Artistry, argues that using a seam ripper represents an attention to detail and commitment to quality that rises above the “instant gratification” culture that bombards us (at least, in the US) every day.

Finally, Lisa Laree introduced me to a new term – “frog stitching” or “rip it, rip it”. ;)

Thanks again to everyone for your insights and encouragement to Cindy’s students! And a special thank you to Cindy - I think this will always be one of my favorite installments in the “Confession” series! :)