Monday, May 31, 2010

Monday "Morning" Quarterback

Christmas presents for 2009 DONE! :)

PS - Next year, everyone's getting gift cards to Starbucks! ;)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday Confession

This is my #1 tried-and-true (TNT) pattern.

It is a very simple, very casual men's shirt. It's a good beginner pattern - the sleeves are symmetrical, it only has a one piece collar, and there is no back yoke.

It's one of the first patterns I made, 8 years ago, when my husband got me my first sewing machine as an early birthday present.

And when I call it a TNT pattern, I am not exaggerating - I have made it 20 times just for my husband! And, if you add other male relatives and family friends, I have easily made 30 of these (although, not all in the same size, of course).

So, how about you? What is your #1 TNT pattern? How long have you been making it? How many times do you think you have made it? I'm looking forward to hearing all about your favorites! :)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Gwen, Cindy, Mary, Faye, Carla, Becky, Elaina, Summerset and Zoe for talking back to my Friday Confession post last week! I confessed that I am not much of an embellishment maker and asked if other people do a lot of embellishment on their garments.

This topic, not surprisingly, generated a wide variety of responses. On one side we have some big embellishment fans, like Gwen and Cindy. Cindy finds that creating embellishments fits in well with her love of recycling and making something new from something old.

At the other end, we have various folks with various reasons for not doing much embellishment, including Mary who doesn't enjoy the hand sewing aspect and Carla whose personal style just doesn't include a lot of embellishments.

And, of course, we have a group of "it-depends"-ers. For Becky, it depends on how the word "embellishment" is defined. If we limit it to yo-yo flowers, then that is not so much her style. But if we open it up to encompass hand embroidery, pleats, ribbons and trims, beading, etc. - then she embellishes!

And for Elaina, Summerset and Zoe it depends on the type of garment we're talking about. None of these women do a lot of embellishment on their every day wardrobes - but give Elaina an apron and watch out! ;)

Similarly, Summerset does the most amazing embellishments on her art garments and Zoe enjoys embellishing hats and scarves.

In fact, Zoe pointed me towards the Clover website ( where they have all kinds of tools to make all kinds of embellishments - like the rose making tool in the picture above. And she also pointed me to this tutorial on making your own fabric flower brooch.

Thanks again, everyone, for taking the time and trouble to leave a comment!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

In the Queue Wednesday

My husband and I visited my Grandmother in Missouri earlier this month. I had been hoping to get together for some pattern/fabric shopping with Lori, but it didn't work out this time. :(

Of course, it wasn't nearly as fun alone, but I did go into Columbia and spend an hour or so at the local Joann's. And this is one of the 3 patterns that I brought home:

I think I'll go for the view in the photograph - semi-long sleeves and no collar. The darts pulling the blouse in around the waist look great on the model, but may be a mistake for the shape that I am currently in (or not in, depending on how you look at it.) We'll see...

And here's the fabric I picked for this pattern:

Now, you may be thinking, "Oh no, she didn't!" - but this is exactly the kind of trouble that I get into when I go pattern/fabric shopping alone, without the sage advice that a more stylish and sophisticated friend can provide.

Hopefully next time I'm in Missouri, Lori will be able to save me from myself! ;)

In the meantime, this pattern and fabric have joined the pile of projects waiting for me in my sewing room. I don't know when, but I'll get to it someday... It's in the queue! :)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Weekend Project: Hidden Complexities

Everything is more complicated than it looks to most people.

-- Frederick Lewis Allen

I haven't been feeling great this last week, so I don't have any sewing of my own to show you, but Ana came over on Saturday and worked on two of the baby gifts that she is making for friends of hers who are new Mamas.

She is using one of the patterns from my stash - the infamous "onesie" that requires TEN pattern pieces!

Both new babies are boys, so she is using soft blue flannel prints, and she is sewing them in parallel. Here is the penguin version, so far:

You may recall from my sewing experience with this pattern that it requires so many pieces because the front is asymmetrical. There is an outer layer and a differently shaped inner layer that will eventually snap to the side seam:

To give you more of an idea of the asymmetries - take a look at the facing:

Here is her Curious George version:

As I was taking pictures of this one, I couldn't get the outer layer to line up correctly. Finally I realized that it was because she had accidentally attached the front piece to the back piece upside-down... (i.e., the back shoulder seam with the front crotch seam.) I'll probably try to rip out those seams for her this week, to save her some time next weekend.

I did put a little bit of time into my weaving this weekend. I am working on my very last (!!!!!) set of Christmas kitchen towels. Each set yields 4 towels and I finished the first towel (weft color: orange) and am ready to start the second towel (weft color: blue).

The white, relatively thick yarn separates the two towels, and will eventually be removed and thrown away.

I also got up on the Internet and ordered Christmas wrapping paper - it not being readily available in local stores for some reason... ;)

I can't wait to finally finish these and pass them out! :)

I hope all of you had great weekends and are ready for the start of a new week! :)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday Confession

The new issue of Threads magazine has two articles on making fabric embellishments. One describes how to make big, bold blossoms from ribbons (above) and the other explains how to make more delicate fabric leaves and bias-tube filigree (below).

So, I'm not very good at making fabric embellishments for my garments. Believe it or not, I've never even made a yo-yo flower... :(

In fact, I'm just in awe of the fabric embellishments that bloggers like Summerset put on their art garments!

How about you? Do you enjoy making fabric embellishments for your garments? Are there specific types of embellishments that you think are the most fun to make? Easiest? Most difficult? Most versatile? How and when do you use fabric embellishments? I am looking forward to reading your stories! :)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Elaina, Karin, Cindy, Gwen, Kristine, Uta, Faye, Alison, Shannon, Patsijean, Summerset, Webfrau, Elizabeth, Becky and Sarah for talking back to my confession last Friday!

I confessed that I don't use my "tube turner", because it never seems to work for me. Instead, when I have to turn a loop, spaghetti strap, whatever, I sew a length of yarn into the loop and pull on it, in order to turn the whole thing rightside out.

Across all the answers, six different methods of creating fabric loops were brought up. The two that were most popular, with 4 votes each, were (a) using some kind of yarn or cord or even the bobbin thread to pull the loop rightside out and (b) using a tool that I had never heard of, Fasturn.

The Fasturn tool, pictured above, is a series of different sized tubes and sticks that slide up inside of them. As you would imagine, you slide the Fasturn tube inside your fabric tube and then insert the stick into the tube and hook it onto the far end of your fabric tube, and then pull it back out through the Fasturn tube.

It seems to me (just by looking at pictures) that an important difference between the Fasturn tool and the tube turning tool that I had been trying to use is the "hook" at the end. Instead of the little clip at the end, like my tube turning tool has, the Fasturn sticks have corkscrew-like ends. When you are sliding it into the fabric, only a narrow piece of metal has to go through. But, when you pull it back out, the corkscrew shape of the wire produces the effect of a wider object forcing the fabric rightside out.

A couple of people did mention that the Fasturn system is expensive, but Summerset found hers for $2 at a quilt guild sale table and Kristine has what sounds like an off-brand version that she got cheaply from Joann's. This sounds like an item for my birthday wish list! :)

As for the tube turner that I "dissed" in my post, responses were more split. While it's true that 5 others also called out not liking it, 3 people reported that they are perfectly happy using it - including Summerset, who uses it instead of her Fasturn tool. Cindy, who also generally finds the tube turner easy to use, qualified that it does work better on some fabrics than on others.

Two other methods, each earning 2 votes, were (a) the safety pin method and (b) avoid the problem altogether by sewing tubes rightside out in the first place! (With the initial ironing of seam allowances, so that no raw edges show, of course.) Cindy said that this is pretty much the only reasonable approach with heavy duty fabric, like duck cloth, for tote bag handles...

Finally, we had one mention (I don't think it actually counts as a vote in favor, because it was mentioned in conjunction with cursing) of the pencil-pushing method. Oh, I can relate to both the pencil-pushing and the accompanying cursing! ;)

Cindy gave some really good advice - which I have realized on my own, but have had a hard time articulating (that's why she's the teacher!). The trick is to hold the outer column of fabric loosely in your hand and focus on only turning the fabric right at the edge. If you let the fabric bunch up on you, it's 100 times more difficult, if not impossible.

One last note - when researching Fasturn, I found this article, with photos, on several different methods of tube turning here.

Thanks again to everyone for taking the time and effort to leave a comment! Once again, I learned a lot from all of you! :)

In the Queue Wednesday

The final "flower child" pattern from the current Burda World of Fashion pattern magazine that is calling to me is this dress:
While I am open to dancing in front of water tanks, don't get your hopes up for the top hat or cowboy boots... ;)

My instinctive tendency is to pick a cotton print - but after my experience with the blouse I just finished, I think I'm going to make an effort to find something lighter and more gauzy...

The tiers, which I didn't notice on the photos of the dress, do make me a bit nervous - is this volume going to gently camoflage imperfections or exaggerate them?

"When?", you ask.

I don't know, but, don't worry, I'll get to it. It's in the queue... :)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Monday "Morning" Quarterback

There is no one giant step that does it. It's a lot of little steps.

- Peter A. Cohen

We had a big spring cleaning project lined up for the weekend, and I'm feeling a bit under the weather, so I didn't get to any major fiber-related projects, but I did take two little steps.

First, I finally finished this spring blouse. It was generally a pretty easy pattern. The big lesson learned for me - I didn't try it on until after applying the neck binding, and it hung too low. I had to take off the binding and pull up the shoulder seams AND take in more gathers around the front neckline, in order to avoid a Laura-Bennett-like plunging neckline. ;)

Also, I made it in cotton print, and that worked out okay. But it probably would have been better in a lighter-weight fabric, especially the sleeves...

I also got the loom warped for the very last set of Christmas towels. Now all that's left is the fun stuff - weaving and finishing all of the towels! Looks like we're going to have Christmas in June this year...

Heck, in Florida, the weather is not all that different anyways... ;)

I hope YOU had a good weekend! :)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Friday Confession

I never use my loop turner.

Oh, I've tried. But I could never get it to work for me as well as simply sewing a long piece of yarn into my loop and then gently pulling on that yarn to turn my loop right-side out.

So, what about you? How do you turn your loops (and sashes and spaghetti straps, etc.) right-side out? Any special tricks you can share?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Lori, Lisa Laree, Webfrau, Faye, Elaina, Mary, Julia and Carla for talking back to my confession last Friday! I confessed that I have never used a croquis, nor, in fact, have I done any design sketching (you know, like they always do at the beginning of a Project Runway challenge).

Among these commenters, the croquis does not appear to be particularly popular. In fact, 3/4 of this group do not use them (with 3 votes - never tried; 2 votes - have tried unsuccessfully and 1 vote - a what?!?). Like me, many people (well, okay, half) called out a lack of drawing skills.

Interestingly enough, the person who uses croquis a lot, Elaina, said that artistic ability is not necessary. For her and Julia, the emphasis is on sketching the garments, not on drawing the human form. Elaina gave links to a couple of examples from her blog,
here and here.

Seeing as most people who commented were not really into croquis, I did a little web searching on the subject.

According to Wikipedia, a "croquis" is a quick and sketchy drawing of a live model and "croquis" is actually the French word for "sketch".

Fashion croquis are typically 9 "heads" tall (see picture here) - although there are plenty of alternatives available (such as this one from Threads magazine) with more realistic proportions.

And making your own doesn't seem to be that difficult -I found this tutorial on making a croquis that matches your body proportions perfectly.

It seems like many people have one (or more) human figure sketch(es) and then they lay tracing paper over the croquis and sketch their design ideas on the tracing paper - using the croquis to get the proportions correct. That way, they can have a "clean" sketch of their design (without the human form) and re-use the same croquis over and over again.

I did stumble across a notepad of human forms in a blue ink that doesn't photocopy (or scan) and so you can sketch your design right on the human form, and when you photocopy it, the human form isn't visible anymore. It's called "hokey croquis."

It also seems like you can have one basic, head-on, standing croquis, if you do all of your visualizing, designing and illustrating from that pose. Or (and maybe here is where the artistic ability comes in) you can assemble a collection of different poses with which to show off your design ideas. I did find an interesting tutorial on drawing lots of different poses, by Katherine Gerdes, here.

Thanks again to everyone who commented! It was reassuring to know that I am not the only one who can't draw, and intriguing to think that maybe I don't have to be able to... ;)

Photo credit: Katherine Gerdes

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

In the Queue Wednesday

Another pattern that jumped out at me in the current Burda pattern magazine is this blouse:

Hopefully, if I make this blouse, it does not obligate me to roll tires around on a farm... ;)

I can see it dressing up a pair of blue jeans over the weekend or topping off a simple skirt for office-wear.

I haven't picked out any fabric yet - that's a shopping trip to look forward to! :)

I don't know when I'm going to have time to work on this, but don't worry, I'll get to it eventually! It's in the queue... :)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Weekend Joy

Sometimes our grandmas and grandpas are like grand-angels.
-- Lexie Saige

We're visiting my Grandmother this weekend! For a few precious days I'm not a grown-up with the accompanying responsibilities of adulthood. I'm just a granddaughter in a world apart - safe and loved. :)

Wishing you and yours a wonderful weekend of family and love! :)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Friday Confession

So, I've never used a croquis - you know, one of those generic human forms that you are supposed to use when you sketch your garment design ideas. Truthfully, I don't really have any drawing ability at all - I really envy people who can take a pencil and a blank piece of paper and bring an idea to life with a quick sketch...

How about you? Have you ever used, or do you regularly use, the croquis? Any tips on using them? Any alternatives? If you have examples that we could look at, I'll include links to your pictures in my "Talk Back Thursday" post. Thanks! :)

Image from Threads website (downloadable here).

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Elaina, Gwen, Ivalyn, Cole's Corner, Lady Jenn, Julie, Lisa Laree, Annonymous, Mamafitz, Faye, Patsijean and Tamara, for talking back to my confession last week. I asked what method people use to clip their curves - those little triangles or opposing diagonal slashes.

The Reader's Digest Condensed Version of the answer: Neither!

By far and away the most popular method of bringing curves under control is to trim them with pinking shears, with 8 out of 12 people using this approach! I never even considered this - possibly because I don't own a pair of pinking shears.

I guess a pair will have to go on my birthday wish list - although, I was a bit disappointed when I did a google image search and realized that "pinking shears" aren't actually pink...

Just kidding!

Other alternatives included steaming them "into submission" (I'm quoting both Elaina and Julie) and trimming them closely (Lady Jenn, for example, trims to about 1/8th of an inch).

As for the 2 methods that I had mentioned, nobody really argued strongly for either the triangles or the opposing diagonal slashes method. It sounds like people are pretty content to use "whichever" if (and only if) something extra is really needed.

The strongest emotions were elicited over accidentally cutting into your stitches and trying to press open a tiny, clipped seam! I can SO relate! ;)

Thanks again, everyone! As always, you guys rock! :)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

In the Queue Wednesday

The new issue of the Burda pattern magazine has a "relaxed, exotic Hippie look" AND a "sweet, rural farm look" - so, as you can imagine, I am in heaven!

One of the first dresses that caught my eye is this tunic - perfect for hanging out at an ashram with the Beatles... ;)

And, no, I am not being unduly influenced by the fact that the model is cuddling with a kitten... ;)

I'm amazed by how much less attractive the line drawings look to me - if I had to pick garments to sew solely by the line drawings, I probably wouldn't make anything! Hopefully, with time and practice, I'll learn to look at the line drawings and visualize the potential for the finished garment...

If I let my hair grow long and white, maybe I can still wear Hippie dresses when I'm 80, because at the rate I'm going, that's when I'm going to get to this dress! But, don't worry, I WILL get to it. It's in the queue... :)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Monday Morning Quarterback

In theory there is no difference between theory and practice.
In practice there is.

--Yogi Berra

Almost one year ago, during a Memorial Day sale, I purchased several yards of this beautiful pinstripe cotton.

I imagined making it up into some kind of shirt dress - cool, crisp and perfect for the summer. But the summer whisked past in the blink of an eye, and I never got around to it.

Then, last Fall, came this Burda magazine:

With a pattern for this blouse:

It was perfect! I especially loved the little dickey-like bib with the stripes flipped 90 degrees (horizontal, while the rest of the shirt has vertical stripes).

And then winter whisked by in another eye blink...

So, this is kind of embarrassing, but I've been getting the Burda pattern magazines for a year, and I haven't made a single garment from one of them yet. But, this weekend, that all changed!

I started on this blouse - following some of the "best practices" that I have learned from you guys - including (a) starting by making a muslin (especially important because this is my first time using a Burda magazine pattern) and (b) using up left-over threaded bobbins on said muslin. ;)

Probably most of you have sewn from these pattern magazines, so this won't be new to you, but I thought I'd show an example of the pattern sheet:

Stapled into the middle of the magazine are a number of pattern pages with multiple pattern pieces drawn in different colors over top of each other. My blouse uses pieces 1-7 in black ink on page F. The image above is about 1/18th of the page - it unfolds multiple times until it pretty much covers my cutting table.

You find your pattern pieces and then trace them. (For me, the finding took a lot longer than the tracing!) They don't include seam allowances, so you have to add your own. I added 3/8th inch seam allowances.

One of the reasons I wanted to make a muslin was to scope out any things that might be difficult to do well with my pink pinstripe fabric (hereafter, "ppf"). I had reasoned out for myself that I would have to be careful to get the horizontal lines to align on each side of the dickey-bib.

But I hadn't realized how careful I would have to be to get the bottom edges of the dickey-bib aligned! I don't know how well you can tell in the picture above, but even though I THOUGHT I was being careful, they don't line up on my muslin.

An interesting note on the collar - I'm used to these single stand collars having a rounded edge at the front, but this one has (or should have) sharp corners. (Another place I need to be more careful with my ppf.)

There is a nice pleat detail in the back.

I wasn't crazy about their hem instructions - I thought it came out bulky. I'll probably switch to my favorite method (
shown here) for my ppf.

So, these Burda magazines have somewhat of a reputation for sketchy instructions, and this one lived up to that reputation! I think a big part of the problem is that they don't illustrate any of their instructions with sketches, so if you can't make sense of the words, there is no back-up.

The first place that I think could have used an illustration was the button band. Luckily, I've done one before, so I eventually got through this step okay.

Next, several of the pieces were interfaced on only one half (like the button band, the collar and the cuffs, for example) and the instructions never indicated whether the interfaced side should be put on the outside or on the inside of the garment. I'm going to go look at some of my other patterns to see if there is a general rule to follow.

Finally, the sleeve placket. I've never done one before and couldn't make heads or tails of the "instructions" in the magazine. Luckily, I remembered that this issue of Threads magazine:

Had a special series on sleeve plackets:

(To be accurate, I remembered that SOME issue of Threads had an article on sleeve plackets, and then I spent an hour browsing through all my back issues trying to find it!)

By referring back and forth between the pattern instructions and the pictures in the magazine article, I was eventually able to make good progress on my first placket!

The pattern actually called for a placket with an arrow head point at the top - but I just couldn't get that to work (I couldn't get the arrow head to be symmetrical). So I went with a squared off top, which is not unreasonable given the squareness everywhere else in the pattern and the linearity of the ppf.

So, I still have to do the other placket, finish assembling and then install the sleeves, but then my muslin will be complete and I should be ready to move on to the ppf!

While I've pointed out the challenges associated with the instructions, I actually am enjoying working with this pattern. It seems like the pieces really fit together well. And I like the style - there are no darts, so it could be considered a little boxy, but it fits my body well (I think - you'll be able to judge for yourself someday soon) and I think the squared-off style works well with a pinstriped fabric.

It was especially nice to be doing some real sewing on a substantial project! :)

I hope you had a good sewing weekend and are ready to face a new week! :)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Talk Back "Thursday" (and you thought it was the weekend, didn't you?)

Yikes! Apparently, I fought the blog and the blog won... My Thursday post wasn't published and the notes that I wrote to myself for my planned Friday post were published! Sorry about the confusion. Hopefully now things are back on track...

So... Thank you SO much to Ivalyn, Elaina, Julie, Uta, Stitchywitch, Debbie, Carla, Faye, Gaylen, Webfrau, Cindy, Claire, Gwen, Lois, Karima, Julia, Lisa Laree, Becky and Mamafitz for talking back to my confession last week!

I confessed that I do not practice "directional sewing", as was taught to me by Cynthia Guffey, and asked whether or not others do this.

I'm afraid I have some bad news for Cynthia...

Sixteen of the 19 commenters reported that they do not routinely practice directional sewing (although there are some common exceptions, which I'll get to in a minute) and 6 of those folks have never even really heard of it!

Of course, there are certain times when many people pay attention to working with the grain line - laying out and cutting pattern pieces is a big one, as are stay stitching, necklines/collars and sewing a seam along a bias cut. These 4 "exceptions" were mentioned a total of 12 times.

A few people also mentioned alternatives to directional sewing - including, using A LOT of pins (1), hand basting (1) and a technique for holding your fabric as you sew (instead of using a lot of pins) called "taut sewing" (2).

Finally, 3 people reported that this skill IS a part of their regular (although not necessarily "constant") sewing repertoire. Lois gave the best explanation of how and why to use directional sewing. She was taught to sew this way and it has become "ingrained"! (I take full responsibility for the bad pun - Lois is blameless.)

The "how" seems like it might be easier than I had envisioned - apparently you examine your fabric and stitch from the widest part to the narrowest part and then from the highest part to the lowest part.

The "why", on the other hand, is apparently more complicated than I had previously understood - I said it was to make sure that your 2 pieces of fabric ended up the same length. But Lois explained that, without directional stitching, you can sometimes end up with lopsided and poorly fitting garments.

Anyways, she explained it all better than I can, so if you are interested, you might want to read her comment directly (here).

Lisa Laree and Mamafitz echoed these ideas to a certain extent. Lisa tries to minimize distortion on long seams by paying attention to the grain and (like many others) works from center outwards on necklines.

Mamafitz also uses directional sewing for all the typical exceptions (stay stitching, collars, etc.) and she also called out a certain type of sleeve pattern (one with a seam up the middle). Mamafitz also has a neat trick for the side seams on skirts and pants - she pins those seams together while the garment is hanging (as if from a body) and that way she knows that, once sewn, they'll hang nicely! Cool! :)

Thanks again to everyone who took the time to comment! I learn so much from you guys! :)