Friday, February 27, 2009

We Interrupt this Regularly Scheduled Broadcast... announce a give-away in honor of my 200th blog post!

After some deliberation, I've decided to do the same give-away as I did for my 100th post - a $50 gift certificate to Kiva.

You may remember from last Fall that Kiva is a non-profit organization that allows individuals to join forces and contribute towards micro-loans for entrepreneurs in third world countries. I have two loans out right now to seamstresses in Africa and South America.

Each loan has been 50% repaid to date.

Here's how it will work for the winner of this give-away. The Kiva website is constantly adding new loan requests. You can watch it for a while until you find someone whose request speaks to your heart. Then you apply the gift certificate towards the loan request.

Of course, it doesn't have to be a seamstress. Last Fall, Summerset applied her gift certificate loan to help a woman restock her fabric store - in other words, Summerset found a way to help a bunch of seamstresses! ;)

When the loan is repaid (usually within 6 to 18 months, depending on the size of the loan), you can claim the money and put it towards something special for YOUR sewing room - maybe some special fabric or a subscription to Burda World of Fashion magazine...

If you'd like to be considered for this give-away, just leave a comment. Good luck! :)

The winner will be announced next Thursday and your regular programming will resume next Friday! ;)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Gaylen, Mamafitz, Emily, Becky, Elaina, Gwen, Faye Lewis, Sunny, Marianne, Summerset, Vicki and Amanda for talking back to my confession last Friday! I confessed that I rarely make muslins.

So, it turns out that no one reported making them ALL of the time and no one reported NEVER making them (although Elaina often substitutes flat measuring the pattern or pin fitting the pattern to her body). In general, people reported making them some of the time.

The big difference was in whether a person was satisfied with her policy of when to make a muslin or felt a bit guilty about not making them more often. It seemed like people were kind of evenly split on this. ;)

Gaylen captured why she makes muslins – without them she sometimes ends up with “…ill-fitting, unflattering garments that take all the wind out of my desire to create.” Several other commenters echoed this sentiment.

And Becky captured the reason that she doesn’t make them as often as she thinks she should – “…I’m too impatient and just want to sew.” Again, several other commenters came back with an ‘Amen, Sister!’ on that one! ;)

Emily had another reason for not making a lot of muslins – she is familiar enough with Vogue and BWOF patterns that she knows the standard adjustments that she needs to make for those patterns.

As you might imagine, there was a lot of agreement regarding when to make muslins:

- Expensive and/or limited amt of the real fabric (4 votes)
- Pants (4 votes)
- Fitted clothes (3 votes)
- Gowns (wedding, evening, etc.) (2 votes)
- Untried and/or unusual pattern (2 votes)
- Modifying a pattern (1 vote)
- Body changes (1 vote)

One last issue was whether or not people tried to make “wearable” muslins. Some people mentioned trying to make their muslins carefully enough that they have at least a chance of getting wearable garments out of them. I imagine that this makes the time and work feel less “wasted” in the short term.

Others, like Mamafitz, go to the opposite extreme and make really “quick & dirty” muslins (no hem allowances, mismatched threads, written on, etc.). She has no intentions of wearing it – just wants to learn what she needs to know (how it fits and what changes it needs) as quickly as possible.

Finally, both Mamafitz and Summerset mentioned that, for casual clothes, they don’t officially make muslins, but often think of the first version as a trial version. They use reasonably nice fabric and wear the garment. But they also note any changes that they’d like to implement the second time they make the pattern, and they aren’t deeply committed to that first one and will give it away if it just doesn’t suit.

Thanks again, everyone, for taking the time to tell me about your sewing habits! I love to read your stories and I learn so much from you!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

In the Queue Wednesday

Another gently-used "in the queue" project revisited:

I'll be using these knits to make the four baby buntings mentioned here. Two will be for boys (top blue fabric) and two for girls (bottom green fabric). I'm girl-ing up the green fabric by using pink bias tape and pink zippers. ;)

I've already cut out all of the pieces, so they'll come together quickly - I'll probably have completed pictures for you by this weekend. But if I don't, no need to worry, I'll get to them... They're in the queue.

PS - Don't forget to stop by on Friday for my 200th post give-away!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Project-less Weekend

'Cause I'm leaving on a jet plane...
John Denver

Oh okay, not a fighter jet, just a regular airplane...

But when else am I going to have the opportunity to use this picture (of mine) on my blog? ;)

I'm spending the weekend visiting friends and family out of state, so no sewing projects for me. I hope your sewing is going well!

It looks like next Friday will be my 200th post, so I'm going to have a give-away! I'm trying to think of something special - stop by to see what I come up with! :)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday Confession

I rarely make muslins.

I certainly made a series of muslins for Susan's wedding dress. And I made a couple of muslins from the pants pattern that I hand-drafted following instructions from an issue of Threads magazine. But, for the most part, I don't make them.

How about you? How often do you make muslins? How do you decide whether or not a project calls for a muslin?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Summerset, Claire S., Elaina, Sarah, Karima, Lindsay T, Lisa Laree, Faye Lewis, Becky, Mamafitz and Vicki for talking back to my confession last week! I confessed that I don't have experience installing many different types of zippers.

The most commonly installed type of zipper was the centered zipper, called out by 8 people. Here are the other types, in order of decreasing popularity:
  • Invisible - 6 people
  • Lapped - 5 people
  • Hand Picked - 4 people
  • Fly - 3 people
  • Mock Front Fly - 2 people (this was a new one to me - thanks, Faye!)
Some people seemed to feel kind of neutral about zipper styles. On the other hand, three people argued pretty strongly for the hand picked zipper - they all said that hand picked zippers are faster, easier and more attractive than machine-installed zippers.

Threads magazine has a tutorial for the handpicked zipper here.

Many people mentioned the methods that they would most like to master. The invisible zipper and the fly zipper were tied, with three votes each. One person called out the lapped zipper and Lisa Laree would like to branch out and learn several techniques for "elegant" zippers.

As for me, I guess I'll try a hand-picked zipper one of these days. You know, in my free time! ;)

Thanks again to everyone who took the time to tell me about their zipper experiences! I love reading your stories and learning from your advice! :)

Photo credit: superfem

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

In the Queue Wednesday

I'm running out of brand new queue projects, so today I'm going to give you an update on a slightly-used queue project. ;)

As you may remember, I'd like to use Spoonflower to print fabric decorated with rock climbing gear, to use to make a Hawaiian shirt for my husband. I was kind of nervous about tackling the design - I am definitely not an artist.

Then, last Friday (Feb. 13th), Erin of A Dress A Day posted about a designer on Etsy, MissBlackPepper (aka Beth), who will create custom designs suitable for Spoonflower use! I immeditely began a conversation with her - and the image above is the first one she sent me, just to give me an idea of what she could do. Pretty cool, huh?

She thinks she can finish this for me this week! Then I ship the *.tif file off to Spoonflower and next thing you know the fabric will be delivered to my door... :)

I'm not sure when I'll get to it (he already has several Hawaiian shirt fabrics in the queue, but something tells me that this will bump up to the top!), but don't worry - you'll be seeing the final version in a shirt! It's in my queue... :)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Monday Morning Quarterback

Challenges are what make life interesting;
overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.
Joshua J. Marine

Remember that battle I was predicting, with me and the serger against some spandex? Turns out I was over-estimating my odds. It was actually me (all by my little lonesome) against the serger, the wooly nylon thread AND the spandex fabric.

Like any good movie fight scene, for the majority of the battle I was getting my butt kicked. But, at the last minute, I found an inner reserve of strength and surged up and conquered all! :)

I've never used wooly nylon thread before - why didn't someone warn me how difficult it is to thread it through anything?!?! Most of the challenge was in the lack of ability to cut a sharp point in the thread. But add the limited and awkward access to the serger needles and you get a full-blown nightmare!

In the end, I devised a multi-step process to be able to thread my serger needles. First, I used a needle threader (pictured below) to thread a straight hand needle. Then I used the needle threader and the threaded hand needle to thread the serger needle. I know this method works, because I had to re-thread those serger needles many, many, many times...

I used the three-thread ultra-stretch mock safety stitch - for the first time. It literally took me hours to get it to work correctly on my serger. But, once it was working, I was really happy with how the seams looked:

In an ironic twist, shortly after my Friday post about following instructions, I breezed through these instructions just a little too quickly and put the zipper in the wrong place - in front instead of in back. Luckily, not a show-stopper, but hopefully a lesson learned for next time...

So, what can I say about these pants? They are bright. They are shiny. They are stretchy. They are pink. That about sums it up. ;)

Hopefully she'll like them and hopefully they'll fit! I'll try to get a picture of her modeling them sometime soon. For all the hassles I experienced up front, I'm actually pretty pleased with how they turned out - I'll be less afraid of spandex in the future. A bathing suit seems like a real possibility now...

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday Confession


In my last confession, I mentioned ignoring the construction sequence in some pattern instructions so that I could insert my zipper between two flat pieces of fabric, instead of having to insert it into a completed child's dress with a very narrow circumference. In response, two people mentioned that they prefer "picked zippers."

My confession starts here: I had never heard of a picked zipper before.

And it continues here: In fact, the only two types of zipper installations that I have ever done are standard-centered and invisible.

I know that there are other types - fly front and lapped, for example. (And picked!)

What about you? Which ones are a standard part of your sewing repetoire? Which ones have you tried? Do you have a favorite? One that you really want to learn or improve on? Where do you reside in the world of zippers?

Photo credit: Threads magazine

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Becky, Lisa Laree, Elaina, Amelia, Sewuptight, Alison, Gwen, Lois, Summerset, Claire S. and Sarah for talking back to my confession last Friday!

I asked if people follow the instructions that come with their patterns, or do things their own way?

There was a pretty strong pattern in the responses. Most people described a natural progression of following the instructions most faithfully early in their learning, and then relying on them less and less heavily as they gain more and more experience and comfort with basic techniques.

Elaina’s story was one exception to this progression - she reported that learning how to sew with vintage patterns on a vintage sewing machine resulted in an early independence from pattern instructions. Of course, I know that this worked pretty well for her, because she has told the story previously about how she wasn’t allowed to take sewing in high school, because she could sew better than the teacher!

At the same time, Elaina also mentioned that she follows pattern layouts pretty carefully and that she doesn’t hesitate to consult a sewing reference book when in doubt... And she’s not the only one who mentioned either supplementing or replacing pattern instructions with other sewing reference materials – including the web.

While most intermediate and experienced sewers reported relying more heavily on their construction knowledge and skill to guide them than the pattern instructions, many also said that they did at least skim the pattern instructions up front to make sure that there weren’t any surprises (or new techniques to learn).

One thing I found interesting was the variety of experiences / events that contributed to people moving away from a strict adherence to the pattern instructions. Becky called out her projects reconstructing old clothes and Amelia mentioned doing alterations. Neither of those activities comes with instructions, so you do end up learning to work without them.

Amelia also mentioned a couple of other contributing factors to her instruction-independence: first, the experience of teaching someone to sew – someone who is always challenging the conventional way with “Why?” and second, the experience of sewing from international pattern magazines like Ottobre and BWOF, which only come with sparse instructions.

Of course, even the Big Four can have confusing instructions. Sarah, for example, refers to instructions as "destructions". And Lois told the story of how she used to work in fabric stores, and over time she earned a reputation for being the “go to” person to help make sense out of confusing pattern instructions – she says that she enjoys that kind of problem-solving! :)

Lisa Laree has a great post on her blog about her transition from faithful instruction follower to independence. For her it was kind of a “Eureka!” moment brought on by a design detail in a pair of RTW pants that she couldn’t find instructions for in any pattern. It took a while for it to hit her that she could try it without instructions – but once she had this realization, she never looked back… (This is just a summary and I encourage you to read the whole post on her blog – it’s really interesting!)

Finally, a couple of people confirmed that their attitude towards sewing instructions was a lot like their attitude towards life – interested in knowing the “right way”, but generally doing things their own way… ;)

Thanks again, everyone, for your insightful comments!

Photo credit: specialkrb

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

In the Queue Wednesday

Pay it Forward Gifts

Last Fall I joined a Blog Game that Sarah posted on her website. I was one of the first three commenters on her post and so she'll be sending me some homemade crafty gift sometime this year. Claire, Reethi and Amelia were the first three commenters on my post, and so now I need to make some crafty gift for each of them!

My plan is to make three of these fabric gift bags and then slip inside some fun little sewing notions. I'll keep the exact contents a secret, as I've just revealed the main gift idea - I'd like for there to be some element of surprise!

Plus, I haven't figured out exactly what yet... ;)

Kelly has a tutorial here.

There are Christmas gifts (yes, 2008!) and baby gifts jostling for the head of the line, but don't worry, I'll get to these! They are in the queue... :)

Photo credit: Kelly

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Weekend Project: A Princess

The prime purpose of being four is to enjoy being four -
of secondary importance is to prepare for being five.
-Jim Trelease, The Read-Aloud Handbook, 1985

Mariana's princess dress is finished!

It was a pretty routine pattern. The only interesting thing about it was that I used a number of seam treatments in an attempt to minimize the fraying.

Depending on the location of the seam, I either used a zig zag stitch, like this (beneath the zipper gap on the lining):

or a Hong Kong finish, like this (beneath the zipper):

or a French seam, like this (most other seams):

She doesn't talk much around me, but I think she really like her new princess dress! :)

Next up, my serger and I have an "appointment" with some bright pink spandex! Who shall emerge victorious? Only time will tell! ;)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Friday Confession

Following Instructions

By nature, I tend to obey the rules, follow the instructions, color within the lines, etc. But the more I sew, the more willing I am to ignore the instructions.

For example, take my current project, Mariana’s princess dress. The instructions would have me insert the zipper last, after the dress was constructed. I don’t know about you, but I much prefer putting a zipper between two flat pieces of fabric over inserting it into a completed column of fabric – especially when that completed column is as small as a four year old girl! ;)

So, I spent some time thinking through all the construction steps, and finally decided that I could complete the front and the back of the dress independently first (facilitating zipper installation), and then connect them along the side seams afterwards.

Ana, on the other hand, is of the personality that is always questioning the “accepted way.” Even with her small amount of sewing experience, she’d be happy to throw out the instructions without glancing (much less reading) them! It took me a while to convince her that it’s worth following the instructions the first time you sew a particular pattern. The second time, I told her, she can make whatever modifications she wants. But the first time, she might consider the possibility that the person who drafted the pattern knew what he/she was doing and did things for a reason! ;)

So, what about you? When sewing, do you stick pretty faithfully to the instructions or are you quick to throw them out the window and follow your own path? If the later, were you always this way, or did you slowly grow into it as you gained experience? And does the way you approach sewing mirror the way you approach other things in life?

Photo credit: Sister 72

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Gaylen, Alviana, Summerset, Kristine, Gwen, Debbie, Miss Linda, Emily and Sarah for talking back to my confession last Friday! I told about a research study that found that sewing really is physically relaxing, and asked how something that could be so challenging and (at times) frustrating could also be relaxing.

The responses were very thoughtful and insightful, and it's worth reading them directly, if you have a minute (link here).

Of course, I'll summarize for you. ;)

There were two aspects of sewing that emerged as the clear front-runners. Six people explicitly called out the sense of accomplishment that comes with finishing something and either wearing it yourself or seeing another wear it. I know that the concrete nature of the produce is important to me, because most of the "products" in the rest of my life are much more abstract (like giving a good presentation).

The second most frequently mentioned feature of sewing (called out by five people) is the fact that sewing allows us to set aside the cares and worries of our daily lives and escape into a private world. People pointed out that things "slow down" and we can control more in this sewing world.

And there were a number of other reasons identified. Three people mentioned sewing satisfying their creative urges. A couple of people called out enjoying the processes of problem solving and learning that are inherent in sewing. The exposure to beautiful fabrics and the calming, repetitive motion of the activities were also mentioned.

The notion of competition was brought up, and how sewing doesn't have the same level of competition that, for example, a video game does. While it is certainly possible to compare your sewing to others and feel disappointed or proud, I do think that sewing sets you up to make the most reasonable and fair comparison possible - comparing yourself to yourself in the past. In other words, instead of asking "Am I as good as X?", asking "Am I learning? Am I getting better?".

Finally, Sarah had the most amazing story of her personal experience of the physical benefits of sewing. Sewing has actually helped her recover from asthma attacks!

I think there's no doubt that sewing can have a beneficial effect on our minds and our bodies. Thank you again to everyone who took the time to share her thoughts about how and why this happens with us! :)

Photo credit: Stein Eriksen Lodge

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

In the Queue Wednesday

Babies, babies, everywhere... One friend is pregnant, another friend has a new son, and yet another friend has new twins!

As I think I've said before, this is my favorite gift pattern for baby showers and new Moms. It's quick and easy to sew. It gives me an excuse to buy some of those adorable flannel prints that are available. Moms seem to really like it! What more could you ask?

So, I'd like to make up four of these relatively soon. My nieces' outfits are up next, but don't worry, I'll get to these. They're in my queue! ;)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Weekend Project: Let the Glittering Begin

Childhood is a short season.
-Helen Hayes

Somehow, inbetween work craziness, I managed to start working on Mariana's light blue princess dress.

You may remember that she picked this pattern (pink bib version sketched in lower right hand corner):

After some consideration, I decided that I wanted to treat the overlay glittery tulle and the underneath polyester satin as a single sheet of fabric. So, I carefully lined up the two along their selvedges (does tulle have a grainline?), cut the pattern pieces out of both fabrics together and then hand basted each pair into a single piece.

Possibly overkill for a make-believe dress-up outfit, but I figured that practicing a technique never hurt anyone! ;)
I have everything cut, basted and ready to go. Unfortunately, I brought work home for the weekend, so it's going to have to wait a while... Hopefully my 30-minutes-per-evening approach will make short work of this dress and I can deliver it next weekend! Wish me luck... :)