Sunday, January 31, 2010

Weekend Project: An Idea

"The old lemon throbbed fiercely. I got an idea."
--P.G. Wodehouse

After a couple of weekends with no progress on the Christmas towels, I was inspired to get back to work on them and measured out most of the warp (length-wise threads) for the next set of four. Here are a couple of my thread chains:

What inspired me was an idea that just might help me shorten the time it takes me to prepare the loom. "Threading" (or warping) the loom is the major time sink (for me) and it takes me on the order of 6-8 hours. This week it occured to me that maybe I could borrow a trick from sewing.

What do we have that is difficult to thread? The serger. And what method is recommended for threading the serger? Tie the new threads to the threads that are already in place and just pull them through...

There are some differences, of course. Mainly the 4 or 5 threads on a serger versus the over 400 threads on the loom... But, I'm hoping that it will still work. So, when I pulled the most recently completed set of towels off the loom, I left the threads on - ready to be tied (one at a time - yikes!) to the new threads...

Keep your fingers crossed for me that this works!

Meanwhile, ever helpful, Oliver checks out my most recently finished set of towels:

I think they pass inspection! ;)

Don't worry too much about Oliver - these pictures (and the one where he was chewing on my point presser) do not represent typically allowed behavior. I just let him get near my stuff for a minute or two, long enough to get a picture! And then my sewing tools and finished products are tucked safely out of his reach.

At least Ana got some sewing done this weekend. On Saturday she (basically) finished her patchwork purse:

She wants to put appliques on the lower left and upper right quadrants - that's why the seams aren't showing there. But we have to go shopping for just the right patches. It's not really my style, but she loves it! And that's what sewing is all about - getting to make exactly what you love. :)

I hope you had a wonderful weekend and are ready to face a new week and a new month!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Confession

Today's Topic: SLOPERS

Ooops - not THAT kind of sloper! That's what we call a "sloper" in climbing - a hold that you can't get a good grip on, because of it's slope.

But my confession has to do with garment slopers. I have never made one and while I (vaguely) know what they are, I am not 100% sure how you would use one once you had made it. (My hope is that, if you leave it in the same room as a new pattern overnight, they merge and the new pattern automatically fits you!)

How about you? Have you ever made a sloper? If so, for what type of garment? A top? Pants? Was it difficult to make? Did you find it useful for adjusting other patterns? Did it solve all (most?) of your fitting issues?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Julia, Julie, BConky, Gwen, Cindy, Becky, Mamafitz, KnitMachineQueen, CarlaF, Faye, Mary, Gaylen, Amelia, Patsijean, Summerset, Sarah and Meredith for "talking back" to my confession last week! I asked how faithful people are in pressing their seams open as they sew a garment.

The Reader's Digest Condensed Version of the comments (with apologies to Nike): JUST DO IT! ;)

In fact, only one commenter joined me in the "I don't press as often as I know I should" club - everyone else is pretty seriously committed to the slogan (with apologies to former Chicago mayor Richard Daley) "Press early and often!" How committed? Judge for yourself, here are just a small sampling of quotes:

  • Mamafitz - Press, press, press! You should be spending at LEAST as much time at the ironing board as you do at the machine.
  • CarlaF - Not pressing my seams is like not breathing... it just doesn't happen.
  • Faye - Someone once called me a career presser, meaning that I press like I was getting paid to do if. Can't help it, I'm a press fanatic.
  • Meredith - Nothing will make more of a positive difference in your sewing than excellent pressing.
  • Patsijean - I press every seam I can get my hands on. "Sew with my Iron" is my motto.

Other comments can be organized into three categories, addressing the why, how and with what of pressing.

As to the "why" of pressing - beyond the general "it makes your clothes look professional" statement made by many, Julie explained that it helps the stitches sink into the fabric to reduce some bulk, gets rid of minor waviness caused by stitching and Cindy said that is the only way to get all of your seams to line up properly.

The "how" of pressing was really interesting to me - turns out I've been doing it wrong! Most people reported starting by pressing the seam as it was sewn (neither open nor to one side). I didn't know you were supposed to do that! From there, some always press open next, and then press to one side if necessary; while others either press open or to one side, depending on the seam. And some folks stressed the importance of letting your seam cool before moving it - another thing I didn't realize was important.

Folks MAY differ a little bit on how they intersperse ironing with sewing. While no one came right out and said this, it sounds like some folks (maybe those like Julia who keep their ironing board right next to the machine and at the same level) basically iron each seam as they sew it. While a couple of other people, like knitmachinequeen and Amelia, go out of their way to sew as many seams as possible (none overlapping) before doing a solid chunk of ironing.

Finally, in the tool topic, several people mentioned tailor's hams for pressing curves. Most people who brought up irons grumbled a bit about having trouble finding one they liked. Patsijean was an exception - so far she really likes her Reliable i300 steam generator iron and vacuum board combo (purchased last Fall from Allbrands). Other tools mentioned included sleeve boards, pressing cloths and a point presser / clapper.

Speaking of point pressers, Oliver is considering making an instructional DVD series for amateur seamstresses and, in the photo above, he is demonstrating his innovative approach to working with a point presser. I am reasonably certain that you will not find this approach described in ANY of the sewing resources out there right now. What do you think? Should he go for it? ;)

Thanks again to everyone who took the time to comment! As usual, I learned a lot from you! :)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

In the Queue Wednesday

I'm afraid I may have been a bit gloomy lately about my queue. I'm sorry about that. :(

I thought I'd work on being more positive... So, look what's waiting for me as soon as I have a few minutes! FOUR gift certificates to Joann's! They were all Christmas gifts from assorted friends and relatives. That's going to be a fun day to look forward to! :)

I don't know exactly when, but don't worry, I'll get to them! They are definitely in my queue! ;)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Weekend Project

I'm visiting my Grandmother this weekend, so no weekend post. I'll leave you with this shot of Ana (my sometimes sewing student and always friend), receiving an award for being the "Exemplary Student" in her ESOL class:

Wishing you a wonderful weekend full of plenty of time for everything you want to do! :)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday Confession

I have a real confession for you today. I don't always press all of my seams open.

Now I do press open the long, straight ones that I want stitched open to reduce bulk when two pieces of fabric are sewn together.

But those little curved ones, that are hard to access and that eventually I want pressed to one side anyways (to tuck under some overlapping piece of fabric) - well, some of those never get pressed open.

How bad is this? I've heard that pressing a seam open "sets" the stitches somehow. But I don't know exactly what that means...

So, how about you? Do you press all of your seams open? Do you think it makes a difference?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Julia, Kristine and Cindy for talking back to my "confession" last Friday! I never can predict how many commenters a particular confession will draw forth. Last week's topic - sewing blessings or toasts or sign-offs - was low on the quantity of responses, but made up for it with quality! :)

Julia suggested: May your creative juices continue to flow and may you never have a wadder!

Kristine suggested: May your stash never leave you wanting, and your patterns always fit!

Cindy suggested two:

Enjoy your moments ~ make them "sew" much fun!

Enjoy your sewing moments!

All wonderful sayings! Thank you all! :)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

In the Queue Wednesday

Here is the last of the Vogue patterns that I got on the Club BMV buy-1-get-2-free sale - Vogue 8571. At least it's a little different from the other 2 patterns I got! ;)

Although, the fitted bodice and flowy skirt seem to be a definite draw for me. :)

Have you ever been so overwhelmedly busy that the thought of signing up to do ANYTHING else - even something that normally would be wonderful - seems like too much? Well, I've just renewed my membership in that club and I'm thinking of running for president (except that that would be one more thing to do!).

But, I'm going to do it anyways... This pattern... Someday.... Maybe... It's in my queue...

Monday, January 18, 2010

Monday "Morning" Quarterback

No pleasure endures unseasoned by variety.
-Publilius Syrus

This weekend was seasoned with the spice of life itself - variety! On the sewing front, Ana came over on Saturday to work on a patchwork purse with this pattern:

The interesting thing about the purse is that you expose all of the seams and fringe them. I'm not overly impressed with the directions, but luckily the construction is simple enough to not really need directions. She took it home with her to work on the fringe (sore finger alert!), but I'll try to have a picture for you soon. She is feeling pressure to finish it, because she bought the pattern at the Original Sewing and Quilt Expo in Tampa last year, and she wants to finish it before this year's Expo! ;)

I also continued to weave on the "Christmas" kitchen towels. (Sigh...)

And my husband and I (and I use the words "and I" loosely) tackled a very novel project - furniture restoration. I needed a good way to store my fabric yardage reference cards - they have been stacked up on our dining room table since last September. I stumbled across a used library card catalog on Craigslist. It had been kept in a garage, and used to store hardware, so it was in pretty sad shape. All of the outside was that stuff made of sawdust held together with glue:

My husband covered it with a sturdy white laminate, corner-trim and all:

Is that cool or what? The drawers are a bit wider than necessary for my card sets, but it still makes an excellent storage cabinet for me! I am so happy with it! :)

I hope you had a wonderful weekend! Until next time, may your needle stay sharp and your grainline run true! :)

PS - No, I did NOT make up the name following the opening quote. ;)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday Confession

In addition to resolutions, the New Year always makes me think of toasts, blessings and sign-offs.

Friends of ours are amateur astronomers, and they always toast "May you have dark, clear skies".

The traditional sailor blessing is for "...fair winds and following seas."

I've seen weavers sign-off with "Treadle on!"

Of course, all this got me wondering about sewing toasts and blessings. I've been trying to come up with my own. The best I've got so far is: "May your needle stay sharp and your grainline run true."

How about you? What are some of the sewing blessings (or toasts or sign-offs) that you can think of?

Photo credit: zenobia_joy

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Lori, Gwen, Cindy, Carla, Julie, Petra, Patsijean, Webfrau, Alison, Faye, Mary, Gaylen, Meredith, Summerset, Claire and Sanhan for talking back to my confession last Friday! I asked how people open their buttonholes.

Ten people use a dedicated tool called a buttonhole cutter or chisel (see picture above).

Okay, since when is there a dedicated tool for opening buttonholes?!?! I feel I have been denied, critical, need-to-know information! What other cool tools are you guys using that I have never heard of? ;)

Other approaches included:
- Seam ripper (regular or surgical): 3
- Xacto knife or other retractable razor blade: 3
- Tiny snips or needlework scissors: 3
- Combination of seam ripper and tiny snips: 1

As usual, I also got some excellent tips:

Webfrau folds the buttonhole in half and uses tiny needlework scissors to start the hole.

Petra uses a seam ripper, but she works from each end to the middle, rather than from the middle to the ends.

Faye sews all of her buttonholes twice, and she loves the way those look.

The “tip of the day” award goes to Gwen, who recommended applying fray check to the inside of the buttonhole (both sides) with the head of a pin (Alison uses q-tips) before opening it. Some others (3) do this too, but lots of people commented that it was a new idea and they were going to adopt it posthaste.

And a couple of people recommended using fray check on the back side of buttons, to prevent them from coming off down the line.

Speaking of fray check, Meredith hinted that she has quite a story that ends with the moral of “Don’t apply fray check directly from the bottle!” if we are interested in hearing it. Count me in! So, Meredith, why not?

Gwen also suggested using colored markers if the interfacing shows around the inside edges of the buttonhole.

Finally, Sanhan, I hope you did not inadvertently doom your next buttonhole by mentioning your success to date! Knock on wood! ;)

Thanks again to everyone! I’m always surprised by how seemingly minor questions can bring forth so much good advice! :)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

In the Queue Wednesday

This is the second pattern that I ordered under last month's Club BMV special (buy 1, get 2 free) - Vogue 85544.

It's funny, at the time I thought I was picking out 3 different patterns, but when they arrived in the same envelope and I saw them side by side, they are actually quite similar. As with the last one, I was drawn to the v-neck and the full skirt.

I'd make the version with the sleeves for work. Still no fabric - just a couple of Joann's coupons burning a hole in my pocket...

Thanks for all the reassurance last week, regarding the nature of queues! I'm trying not to be discouraged, but even though I love most everything I'm doing these days, I hate how busy I am!

As for this dress? Someday... It's in my queue...

Monday, January 11, 2010

Monday Morning Quarterback: A Blessing Way

The ultimate inspiration is the deadline.

--Nolan Bushnell

Remember that asymetrical onesie that I was making for my pregnant friend Susan? Well, I was having trouble with my serger and I put the project aside for a while... This weekend, inspiration struck - aided in large part by the fact that her "baby shower" was on Sunday! ;)

I still had major grief from my serger. One of the needle threads kept breaking from too tight tension. I loosened the tension dial all the way, but that wasn't enough. Finally I ended up sewing very slowly and loosening the tension on that thread manually periodically.

(Sounds technical doesn't it? Translated: I pulled a little bit of extra thread through the tension disk.)

Thank goodness I was almost done with the onesie and didn't have too much left to do!

I put my label on the outside, so that it wouldn't rub up against his soft baby skin.

I had trouble sewing the snap tape neatly (even with my zipper foot - is there some secret to using this tape?) and so I used velcro for the front enclosure.

Remember that one inner snap?

And the snaps along the bottom:

Thank goodness the fabric is adorable, as that hides the less-than-perfect execution! ;)

So, Susan didn't really have a baby shower - a friend held a "Blessing Way" for her. Have you ever been to one of these? It was my first. Instead of being about showering her with baby gifts, the idea was to shower her with blessings and love and support to prepare her for the days ahead. (Everyone else gave her gifts for her - but they cut me some slack on my gift, as at least I had made it... plus, the fabric is irresistably adorable!)

Ana went with me. I got this nice picture of the 2 of them together:

I hope you had a wonderful weekend and (especially if you are in the States) managed to keep warm! :)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Friday Confession

My method of opening buttonholes has gone through several changes over the years. At first, (exhibiting more enthusiasm than common sense) I just plunged in and applied a seam ripper with gusto!

You can imagine (or, perhaps, remember!) what that led to - and I'm not just referring to the cursing... ;)

After a few of those experiences, I started taking a moment to insert straight pins at each end of the buttonhole before using my seam ripper, to prevent those accidental rip-throughs.

Now I poke a hole in the middle of the buttonhole with my seam ripper, but then use my snips to open the buttonhole with precision and control.

How about you? How do you open your buttonholes? Any special tricks that you would like to pass on? Any classic "disaster" stories (or close calls) to share?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Cindy, Julie, Mamafitz, Gwen, Faye, Julia, Summerset, Elaina and Becky for talking back to my confession last week! I asked whether or not people set New Year’s “Resolutions” or goals for sewing.

I have been torn between two different perspectives. On one hand, sewing is my hobby, and hobbies are supposed to be fun – not the place for the stress and pressure that I associate with “resolutions”. On the other hand, growing and gaining new skills is a good thing too – and those are more likely to happen if I set some goals.

The responses that I got were split mostly along these lines. Five people reported setting specific goals for their sewing in 2010. Julie, for example, has goals like using up her fabric stash, sewing regularly and learning new skills by working her way through a Singer sewing book. Faye explained that she likes goals because they keep her focused during the year. Summerset pointed out that you can have goals that help keep you moving forward, without being so obsessive about them that you end up restricting or punishing yourself.

Four others reported not being into the once-a-year, year-long, goal-setting scene. Some have shorter term goals and projects. Julia, for example, knows that she’ll have some sewing projects this year (like birthday presents and Halloween costumes). And Cindy thinks of goal setting as a day-by-day process. Gwen and Elaina prefer to just take things as they come.

Obviously there’s no single right answer for everyone – because all of the people who commented create some beautiful garments!

Thanks again to everyone who took the time to “talk back”! :)

Photo credit: Cliff1066

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

In the Queue Wednesday

A friend gave me a subscription to Club BMV for my birthday last year, and shortly before Christmas I got an email flier advertising a "buy 1, get 2 free" sale on Vogue patterns. This is one of the patterns that I got - it's Vogue 8443. I like the short sleeved version. The aspects that appeal to me in this pattern are the full, swirling skirt and the v-neck.

No fabric yet, but I got a couple of Joann's gift certificates for Christmas, so I'm looking forward to going shopping! ;)

You know that I always like to end my Wednesday post with the same, optimistic phrase. But, given the current state of my queue, I'm afraid that the best that I can say right now is this:

There's a chance that I'll get to it. It's in my queue...

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Weekend Project: A Mouthful!

Bite off more than you can chew, then chew it. Plan more than you can do, then do it.


I've got the first part of each sentence mastered - it's the second part that I'm struggling with! ;)

It's official - when I decided to weave kitchen towels as Christmas gifts for friends and family, I bit off more than I can chew. I took off the week between Christmas and New Year's Day and, once we returned home from the frozen hinterlands up North where our relatives live, I attacked a lengthy to-do list, including tons of weaving...

And the list fought back, and won. :(

I determined that it takes me approximately 16 hours, start to finish, to complete one kitchen towel kit (4 towels - gifts for 2 friends). The kicker is that only 4 of those hours are actually weaving! The first 11 hours are preparing to weave - measuring out the warp (length-wise threads) and warping the loom. The last hour is pulling the towels off the loom, stitching up the cross-wise edges, cutting them and washing them. (Of course, note that a more experienced weaver could probably do this more quickly.)

I finished one kit and I'm approximately half-way done with a second (although I'm hoping to get further before bedtime tonight.) That leaves 3 more kits to go - or approximately 48 hours worth of work! For Christmas presents! As in - Christmas, 2009! The one that is OVER! :(

WHAT was I thinking? (Well, not realizing that whole 16 hours per kit thing put me at a disadvantage during the planning process...)

Here's a picture of the set that I completed (although they haven't been washed yet).

The one advantage is that this extended project is really giving me practice with all the steps and skills... And I really do enjoy the process - it just stresses me out when I am so far behind a deadline.

I also squeezed in some time to work up a pattern for a little fabric pouch for the how-much-fabric cards. I was stumped for the longest time because I was putting the band along the shorter side of the rectangle, and then I couldn't get the mouth open wide enough to add any type of closure (like the buttonhole).

It's lined, so the whole pouch is closed up (with no seams showing) before I add the closure method. FINALLY it occured to me that I could put the band along the long side, making the mouth wider. It's still a challenge to get that buttonhole in, but it's possible.

What I need is a method (or sequence) of assembly that allows me to put in the buttonhole BEFORE I close up the pouch, but still allows me to close up the pouch with no seams showing. A bit of a spatial puzzle to ponder... I'm certainly open to suggestions - hint, hint! ;)

I can't believe I have to go back to work tomorrow... Sigh... Oh well, at least I have a job! :)

Not to mention very understanding friends who will not lynch me just because I still don't have their Christmas presents ready... ;)

(Just in case any of them are reading this.)

Parting Shot: Meredith recently asked how Oliver is doing. It's a miracle, but even Milly's frozen
icy heart is beginning to thaw... ;)

Friday, January 1, 2010

Friday Confession

Happy New Year!

This is a traditional time to reflect on the past year and set goals for the new year. Overall, the last year was a big one for me - I got into weaving and started a small business. Sewing-wise, I guess I mostly puttered along, enjoying myself. Plenty of fun little projects, but no big challenges, no major growth...

I'm not sure what 2010 will bring for my sewing. Generally I'm not big on setting goals for my hobbies, but I am feeling like it might be time for me to push my sewing skills somehow. I'll have to think about it...

How about you? When you look back on 2009, what do you think? When you look forward to 2010, what are you hoping for? Did you have sewing goals for 2009? Will you set sewing goals for 2010? Do you think setting goals for a hobby helps you enjoy it more or makes it more like work and less like fun?

I hope that the new year brings you everything you hope for and more! Thank you for all your support and friendship in 2009! :)