Thursday, December 31, 2009

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to
Cindy, CarlaF, Mamafitz, Elaina, Gwen, Summerset, Uta and Patsijean for talking back to my confession a couple of weeks ago!

I asked if people felt that they had good spatial skills and if spatial skills are important for sewing. Everyone agreed that spatial skills are important for sewing. In fact, people called out two distinct spatially-related skills that they use in their sewing:

1. Being able to visually "translate" back and forth between 2D pattern pieces and 3D garments. For example, seeing a beautiful outfit and knowing what pattern pieces you would need to create that outfit.

2. Being able to figure out the sequence of steps necessary to put together a garment from a bunch of pattern pieces. And not just figuring out the standard steps - Summerset, for example, likes the challenge of figuring out alternative processes.

It seems like most everyone also agreed that these skills could be learned (or at least improved) with practice and experience. (That's good to know!)

As for their own innate spatial abilities, people were a little more spread on that question, with some reporting strong skills and others falling into the "ah, not so much..." category.

Elaina and Uta called out some other important skills for sewing - logic, imagination, perserverance, patience and fine motor skills.

Special thanks to Patsijean for pointing me to Kathleen Fasanella, who periodically posts pattern puzzles on her website, Fashion Incubator. The vintage German pattern pictured above is from a recent puzzle that she posted (here) - the goal, figure out what the dress looks like! You can search her site for all of her pattern puzzles - they seem challenging and fun to me!

Oh, and everyone who guessed that "A" was the answer to the puzzle on that post - congratulations! The website that I took that puzzle from said that 3D puzzles like that one are especially difficult for people. Looks like sewing helps us more than we realize! ;)

Wishing each of you a safe and wonderful New Year's Eve celebration and a joyous, healthy 2010!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

In the Queue Wednesday

The January 2010 issue of Burda World of Fashion produced a pattern that jumped to the top of my queue - this blue, pinstriped business blouse:
I was particularly drawn to the front "dickey" and how they rotated the pinstripes 90 degrees on that pattern piece. I also like the collar. I'm not so sure about the cuffs, but we'll see how they go. :)

So, it's a bit of a creative stretch, but I thought I'd make this pattern up in a - brace yourself - PINK pinstripe...

I know, I know... Not everyone can make that dramatic fashion leap from blue pinstripe cotton fabric to pink pinstripe cotton fabric... But I've been doing this sewing thing for several years now. ;)

This is the fabric that I bought last May, and I've been waiting for the right pattern to come along. I'm so happy that it finally did!

I'm currently up to my eyebrows in Christmas weaving (yes, I know that Christmas was last week), so who knows when I'll get around to this shirt. But I will get to it! Don't worry, it's in the queue... :)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

In the Queue Wednesday

The new addition to my queue... Wrapping Christmas gifts! :)

Among other things, I'll be wrapping some of my hand woven kitchen tea towels! Here is the set of 8 - fresh off the loom (not cut yet):

And a close-up:

Cut and "finished" (i.e., washed and dried):

I am so happy with how they turned out!

I keep looking at them in disbelief - did I really make those?

Wishing you and yours joy, laughter and love this week and always! :)

Photo (1st) credit: kevindooley

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Weekend Project: Tiny Bubbles

A smile starts on the lips, a grin spreads to the eyes, a chuckle comes from the belly, but a good laugh bursts forth from the soul, overflows and bubbles all around.
--Carolyn Birmingham

So, I stayed up late Thursday night and got up early Friday morning and was able to finish the 2 baby bubbles before Oliver's vet visit on Friday! They are reversible and I think it's pretty amazing how they go together. A good spatial exercise! ;)

I took pictures along the way:

After sewing the fronts to the backs along the shoulder seams and attaching the sleeve caps, you sew the two bubbles together, right sides facing, along the sleeve caps and neck and upper back:

Then you pull the backs through the shoulders to turn the whole thing right side out. Notice that the sides, bottom and lower back are all open.

Next there are a series of fabric contortions to get various open seams closed up by matching right sides together temporarily.

First you close up the side seams. Here I've closed up one, but not the other yet:

Next, you close up the leg seams. Again, this photo shows one, but not the other closed up:

Once the leg seams are closed, you add a second row of stitching to form a casing for the elastic.

Here is the elastic inserted into one leg casing. Note that the majority of the back seam is still open.

The last major seam to be closed up is the back seam.

The instructions have you do this one fabric at a time. First, the green fabric:

In order to do the last back seam, you have to scrunch all the fabric up inside of itself, almost like the turtle pictured on the fabric! The only opening is the seam along the crotch. That's how you pull the fabric out and get the whole thing aligned correctly.

You close up the last two open seams along the crotch with tabs that attach in much the same way you attach a collar (or collar band) to a shirt:

And this is where you add your snap tape! :)

And here are the finished bubbles! The front of the bird bubble:

The back of the bird bubble, showing off the reverse fabric. One of the fun bits was swapping the fabric for the sleeves, so that a tiny bit of fabric A shows when the bubble is showing fabric B. :)

Oh, the instructions had 2 options for the closure at the top of the neck - a ribbon or a button with a button loop. I did the ribbon mostly because I thought it would be quicker and I was short of time.

Here is bubble #2 - the front showing off the turtles:

And the back, showing off the green fabric:

I had to work on Friday, so my husband took Oliver to the vet, but he reported that she loved the bubbles and thinks they'll fit her daughter right away! And she had a Christmas gift for us - including way more catnip than Oliver needs! Do you think she's trying to get him hooked? ;)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday Confession

The topic of today's confession: Spatial Ability!

I consider myself to be pretty average in spatial ability. I am not particularly good at it, but I don't completely suck either. To me, sewing calls on the ability to visualize things spatially in your mind. Just last week I mentioned that I have trouble flipping pants pieces into the proper position after I stitch the crotch seam. I typically have to use trial and error to get them aligned correctly to stitch the inseams and/or outer seams.

This week I have been working on the "baby bubble" pattern and it is reversible - it's only the second reversible outfit that I have ever made and I find that I really have to concentrate to mentally "see" how it is going to come together. (I hope to have some pictures for you this weekend.)

What do you think? Do you have good spatial skills? Do you think good spatial skills help you with your sewing? Have your spatial skills gotten better through your sewing? Are there other fundamental cognitive abilities that you think are important to sewing?

Oh, any thoughts on the right answer to the above problem that I snagged off the internet? ;)

My "Friday Confession" series will be on temporary hiatus while we celebrate Christmas and the start of the New Year. My wish for all of you is a new year blessed with love, laughter, good health, prosperity and lots and lots of sewing! :)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Carla, Gwen, Julia, Julie, Cindy, Elaina, Faye, Uta, Ellen, Karin, SunnyQ, Gaylen, Mamafitz, Lois, Becky and Sarah for talking back to my confession last Friday!

I asked if people sewed everything – garments, quilts and crafts – or mostly restricted themselves to one category.

The majority of commenters focus primarily on sewing garments. Cindy was able to take this even further, by reporting that the vast majority of her students want to learn how to sew clothes.

Many people added fabric bags to the “garment” category – to accessorize their clothes, of course!

As for quilts – many people commented on appreciating their beauty and the work that goes into them, but a lot of those folks also said that they didn’t have the patience to sew full-size quilts. Julia noted something that also struck me during my tentative forays into quilting – how incredibly precise you have to be! And a couple of other people mentioned how fun it is to show off clothes versus how rarely you get to show off a quilt. Of course, there are always two sides to every story. Mamafitz, for example, finds quilting relaxing in a zen-like way.

No one reported focusing exclusively on craft sewing, but several people commented that it is fun for a change of pace – especially when you have been tackling a time-consuming garment project with challenging fit issues. Crafts (typically) don’t have to fit! ;)

Turns out I missed a category in my question – home décor. Half a dozen people mentioned sewing for their homes. No one really raved about how much fun it is – if anything, the theme seemed to be that you practically had to do it, because you can get exactly what you want for so much cheaper than store-bought.

Finally, a few people explicitly called out doing it all – some enjoying every type of sewing at the same time, and others, like Gwen, being somewhat serially monogamistic about it – she was heavily into quilting for years, and now is heavily into garment sewing. And some others, like Faye, left open the possibility of moving into other areas in the future, even though for now she prefers to exclusively sew clothes.

Thank you again to everyone who took the time to record their thoughts! I love reading about your sewing thoughts and experiences! :)

Photo credit: House of Sims

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

In the Queue Wednesday

Interestingly, many of the folks who reported mostly sewing garments (vice quilts or crafts) in response to my confession last Friday called out one exception - purses!

And I saw the most adorable wristlet featured on Lori's blog - this pattern by Elizabeth Hartman, sold in her etsy shop. It has some neat features, including this classy way of covering the ends of your zipper:

I couldn't resist and the pattern has now joined my collection. No fabric yet and I'm not sure when, but I'll get to it! It's in my queue... :)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Weekend Project: Watching Time Fly

Time is fun when you are having flies.
--Kermit the Frog

Yikes! What happened to my weekend? I was going to weave two more kitchen towels and make the Sis Boom Baby Bubble outfit for my vet's little girl.

I did buy the fabric for the baby outfit. Actually, I bought enough fabric for two outfits... What can I say? I couldn't resist! The bubble is reversible, so there are 2 fabrics for each one:

Remember that her Mom is a vet, so an animal print was almost a requirement! ;)

Well, Oliver has his next appointment (more shots, poor baby!) on Friday, so I'm going to try to get these made before then.

Speaking of Oliver...

Parting shot: I think Sammy may be warming up to him. ;)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Confession

Garment sewing. Quilting. Crafting. To an outsider, this is just a variation on "I say po-tay-to, you say po-tah-to" - it's all pretty much one and the same. All of them involve working with fabric to create something. But, for the most part, I sew clothes and I don't quilt or do much craft sewing. And I don't think I'm alone in focusing on one of those three...

How about you? Do you enjoy all three or find yourself drawn to one a lot more than the others? Are their similarities greater than or smaller than their differences? What do you think?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Kristine, Carla, Meredith, Gwen, Lori, Cindy, Elaina, Keith and Becky for talking back to my confession last week! I asked about people’s experiences with sewing conventions, and I got a real mixed bag of answers.

Some people love attending them. The pros that were called out included: the classes and the shopping, meeting up with other bloggers, and having the opportunity to hear (and maybe even meet) nationally known people from the industry, such as Sandra Betzina. Meredith pointed out that you can use an expo class to check out an instructor, and then follow-up with more extensive workshops with the really good ones.

But just as many people expressed disappointment and/or a lack of interest. Kristine reminded me of something that I’ve experienced, but tend to block out of my memory – some of the classes seemed to be designed primarily to sell the instructor’s products. A couple of folks indicated that, after attending a few years, it becomes a bit “same old, same old”, with nothing really new or exciting. Other cons included having to deal with crowds, too much attention on quilting and crafting, and an overemphasis on high-tech tools rather than skill.

I think Elaina summarized it best – they may be great for some people, but they are not for everyone, not even everyone who loves to sew.

Thanks again to everyone for taking the time to leave a comment! :)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

In the Queue Wednesday

Man, this close to the holidays I hate to put more items in my queue - it should be growing smaller, not larger! But I fell in love with this adorable "baby bubble" pattern and so I think I'm going to make one for my vet's baby daughter (~ 6 months old). I haven't gone fabric shopping yet - hopefully this weekend.

Oliver is due for his next set of shots in 2 weeks, so I'd like to have it done by then. I'm not sure if I'll make that date, but don't worry, I'll get to it! It's in the queue... ;)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sew, Mama, Sew: Give-Away Winners Announced

Thank you so much to everyone who entered our Sew, Mama, Sew Holiday Give-Away!

All in all, 166 people registered to win the US version of the Original "How Much Fabric?" Reference Cards and 32 people registered to win the metric version.

Congratulations to the randomly selected winners:

- Karie Steuber (US)

- Signe Simonson (metric)

Please email us at with mailing addresses and we'll get your card sets in the mail right away.

Christine and I wish that we could send out sets to everyone who entered! Unfortunately, that whole "winning the lottery" plan hasn't worked out for us just yet... :(

But if you entered the give-away, check your email for a special, thank-you offer for your consideration.

Best wishes for a wonderful, happy, homemade holiday to everyone! :)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Weekend Project: Easy Street

Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury.
-Coco Chanel

I spent a couple of hours this afternoon making my very first (but not my last!) pair of Easy Fit Pants, pattern by the Scientific Seamstress, and I don't know if these count as luxury, but they sure are comfortable! ;)
The first thing that jumps out at you when you open the Adobe Acrobat file is the thoroughness of Carla's instructions. There are about 40 pages of clearly written and beautifully illustrated step-by-step instructions that start with helping you figure out what size to make and stop just short of helping you put the pants on after you have finished making them. ;)

Now, I've been sewing long enough that one seam pants aren't exactly complicated for me, but there is one step that I always struggle with spatially - after stitching the crotch seam, realigning the legs to sew the inseams. It's dumb, but I always end up flipping them this way and that way several times before I can get them lined up. But with Carla's instructions, it was trivial. She seemed to know just exactly how to explain it so that it was obvious.

The pattern itself (taking up the next ~ 100 pages of the file!) was broken up into pieces (6 or 8, depending upon your size and 4 more for the optional cuff and ruffle), each of which prints out on an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper. (The pieces define the waist, crotch and hips - you use your desired length measurement to extend the pants leg full length to the ankle.) The pieces were clearly marked and easy to tape together. Also, all of the pattern pieces for each size (XS - 3X) were printed on separate pages, so there's no danger that a beginner would mix up size lines when tracing her pattern.

In fact, everything about this pattern is perfect for a beginner! If I am ever asked to help someone learn how to sew again, I'm definitely going to start with some of Carla's patterns.

So, enough talk, how about some pictures? Well, several years ago I made a pair of one-seam pajama bottoms using this Simplicity pattern (#9505), and I was interested to see how the 2 would compare.

In the following series of pictures, you can see the same view of each pair of pants - the pink are my new Scientific Seamstress pants and the blue are my older Simplicity pants.




As you can see, other than the wider leg of the Scientific Seamstress pants, they look pretty similar. Having the same rise in the front and the back worked just fine for these pants. And, yes, I like them that long! ;)

I'll be making more of these pants and more of Carla's patterns in the future! Right now, I'm going to go enjoy this pair on the sofa, with my husband, some popcorn and a movie! ;)

I hope you had a wonderful weekend with lots of sewing! :)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Friday Confession

I've spent most of this week at a big trade show for my job and it got me to thinking about sewing trade shows. The only pure sewing event that I have ever been to is the Original Sewing & Quilt Expo, which comes to Tampa, Florida each year. I have been going regularly for the last 4 or 5 years, and I just love it! I love it all - the shopping, the classes, the shopping, the quilt and clothing exhibits, the shopping, the fashion shows, and the shopping! Oh, and let's not forget the shopping! ;)

I did go to a "fiber art" conference in 2008 (also in Tampa) - it was called Convergence. In fact, that's what got me started on weaving. Come to think of it, my one time attending that conference has probably cost me more in "hobby money" (what with the need to buy a loom!) than all of my trips to the Original Sewing Expo put together! ;)

So, how about you? Do you go to any of the big sewing events? Do you like them? Has anyone been to the annual Sewing and Stitchery Expo in Puyallup, WA? How about the ASG Annual Convention? Any other big show? If you go to these shows, what do you like most about them? Least? Do you think they are worth the money? Which show is your favorite? What would you tell someone considering attending a show for the first time?

PS - If anyone is planning to go to Tampa this coming February for the Original Sewing and Quilt Expo, let me know! I'd love to get together! :)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sew, Mama, Sew: Holiday Give-Away!

A beautiful fabric catches your eye and steals your heart – you must have some! But, you don't have a pattern with you - how much should you buy?

These sturdy plastic reference cards – the perfect size to slip into your purse – summarize the fabric requirements of thousands of patterns with tables and images to help you buy just the right amount.

There are tables showing the minimum, average and maximum fabric requirements for dresses, tops, skirts, pants and jackets – broken down by garment size and fabric width.

The cards also include sketches that illustrate minimum, average and maximum garments, and “safety margin” tables to guide you in “rounding up” to be as safe as you want, without wastefully overbuying.

American and metric versions are available, in women’s sizes 6-22 (m: 32-48).

We will be having 2 drawings - one to give away a US version of the card set and one for a metric version.

To participate: Go to our store website (here) and leave a comment via the Contact page. Give your name and say whether you would like to be included in the drawing for the US set or the metric set.

Please note that leaving a comment on this post will NOT enter you in the give-away drawing.

The give-away is open through midnight (EST), December 6th. The winners will be randomly selected from among the commenters. Of course, we WILL ship internationally.

Good luck to everyone! Make sure you check out all the other wonderful give-aways on the Sew, Mama, Sew blog!