Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday Confession

I won't be posting for the next couple of weeks. My husband and I are off on a long-planned trip to Iceland. Let's hope the volcano seen above has made its statement and is done for a while... I promise lots of photos when we get back!

Until then, best wishes to everyone for long, happy summer days with family and enough time for your sewing! :)

Picture credit: NASA Goddard

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Gwen, Amy, Shannon, Elaina, Lois, Summerset and Sarah for talking back to my confession last Friday! I confessed that I've sewn a number of chic outfits for a teddy bear (oops, my apologies - a "Build-A-Bear" - apparently this is an important distinction in today's world!) and I asked if others also sew clothes for the less-animated set - dolls, stuffed animals, etc.

The answer was a resounding, unanimous, YES! Everyone who responded has done at least some sewing for, or of, toys. I thought it was particularly cool to learn that several folks actually got their sewing start making dresses for their Barbie dolls and stuffed animals when they were young.

Clothing projects mentioned included clothes for stuffed animals, Barbie dolls, 18-inch plastic dolls and a goose. Summerset actually made matching SWAPs for her daughter and her daughter's American Girl dolls - check it out here. How cool is that?!?!

Other projects included actually making the stuffed animals. Amy made the beautiful doll, Bianca, pictured above, and she gave links to pictures of an adorable hedgehog and robot that she has also made - warning: if you look at these you may wish that you were a kid again and she would adopt you! ;)

Elaina, whose son (obviously) doesn't play much with dolls, has had the honor and privilege of sewing sleeping bags for Transformers!

Lois pointed out some of the great advantages to sewing clothes for dolls - they stand perfectly still for the fittings, never outgrow your clothes and don't complain about the fit, style or color! ;) Shannon said that sewing Barbie doll clothes made sewing real baby clothes a breeze! And Sarah likes sewing doll clothes because it's a fast and fun way to try out a new technique.

My nieces are growing up, so my doll-clothes-sewing days may be mostly behind me - too bad, because I just found the coolest website - a size chart for dolls! It even includes armscye measurements! I don't even know MY armscye measurement! ;)

Thanks again to everyone who commented - I loved reading about your miniature projects and seeing your pictures!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

In the Queue Wednesday

More from the Joann's shopping trip with my nieces. The same 9-year-old niece who picked this outfit, also asked for a skirt made from this fabric:

And, yes, that IS glitter you see sparkling merrily in the jungle cat fur. That's how you know it's REAL! ;)

We actually drafted the pattern for an elastic waisted skirt using the directions in this book.

We made a practice version while she was here and it came out pretty short. (Think French maid - but without the frilly underwear.) I think I'll add an inch or two to the length of this one.

It's one of the quickest patterns in the world to sew up - a single pattern piece, cut 2 (front and back), stitch side seams, stitch casing, insert elastic and hem it.

So, I should be able to get it done pretty quickly - I'm just not sure when exactly... But don't worry, it's in the queue! :)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Talk Back Tuesday

I'm a bit behind in my "talk back" posts, so I thought I'd squeeze one in on a Tuesday and catch back up. :)

Thank you so much to Webfrau, Carla, Sarah, Faye, Cindy, Dana, Becky, Joannely and Elaina for talking back to my confession a couple of weeks ago! I asked if people have and/or use the Lutterloh sewing pattern system.

The Lutterloh system comes with hundreds of patterns, but (as you can kind of see in the picture above) all of the pattern pieces are scaled down to a small size (so that all of the pieces for one garment can fit on a single sheet of paper).

You expand the pattern by aligning the start of the tape measure (white part) on an x (usually near the center of the pattern piece) and then rotating it around and marking dots on tracing paper to represent the corners of the full size pattern piece. Little lines and numbers on the miniature pattern tell you where and how far out to go for each dot. Once you have all the dots marked, you just connect them (often using a curved ruler) and, voila!, a full size pattern.

I got it in part because it came with literally hundreds of patterns and in part because I hoped it would give me some insight into pattern drafting. And my confession was that I rarely use it... :(

It turns out that I am not alone on this point. Based on the small and completely NON-random sample of commenters, I do not have good news for Lutterloh. Of the nine people who commented, 1 had never heard of it, 6 had heard of it but don't have it and 2 have it but rarely use it.

Several people commented on how expensive it is and Cindy said that she was approached to sell it in her store, but the split between her take and the company's take wasn't reasonable for her.

Besides the price, most of the comments/questions had to do with the relationship between this system and drafting your own patterns. Pieceing together the various comments and my own experience, I'd say that using this system puts you somewhere in-between using full size commercial patterns and drafting your own patterns from scratch. (Note: this is my opinion, the commenters may not all agree.) It did give me more of a feel for pattern pieces and how they fit together. And you might be able to mix and match components of different garments more easily because you can do the combinations with smaller pieces. But it's definitely not magic. And if you really want to learn pattern drafting, it could be that the best thing to do is just study pattern drafting directly.

Finally, a couple of folks mentioned the pattern styles. Elaina, for example, is not so keen on the supposedly "current" patterns, but she loves the vintage ones that you can get with this system. I should look into those - you can get some of the older supplements (with vintage patterns) on ebay.

Thanks again to everyone who took the time and effort to comment! Maybe someday I'll revisit my Lutterloh book and make up a bunch of the garments! :)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Weekend Project: Sunglasses Required

Life is about using the whole box of crayons.

I've been sneaking into my sewing room recently, and managed to finish a blouse from my queue! The end result reminds me of my first foray into interior design. I picked out a teeny-tiny little paint chip of the most beautiful pink and determined that this was the perfect color for the room.

You can probably imagine where this story is going...

Once the "beautiful pink" was applied, floor to ceiling, on all of the walls in the room, you needed to put on sunglasses before turning on the light! ;)

I thought those days were behind me, but I may have relived that experience with my fabric choice for this blouse pattern:

Regarding the pattern, I enjoyed making it. One feature I really liked was that the blouse is self-facing along the center front:

I was hoping that the "darts" along the waistline would be slimming. It turns out that they weren't darts at all, but rather were tucks. So there is no blending or merging at the edges - they just end abruptly.

The way the sleeve set-in was new to me. I'm used to shirts where the front and the back meet at the shoulder. For this pattern, the sleeve itself connects the front and the back and fills in part of the neckline.

Here you can see the seam-line joining the front and the sleeve:

And here you can see the seam-line joining the back and the sleeve. There was no seam along the top of the shoulder, although there was a dart in the sleeve at that position.

The instructions called for bias tape along the edge of the sleeve, to hold the elastic:

I ended up making the elastic 1/2 inch shorter than recommended, and it is still comfortably roomy on me (even pushed up just over my elbows).

Initially I was planning to put trim around the neckline. Once it was steam-a-seamed on, however, I decided that it was WAY too much. This led to a series of abortive attempts to get the trim removed. Don't let anyone ever tell you that steam-a-seam doesn't work! ;)

It was finally a tip from patternreview (here) that saved the day! Thanks, Leslie! :)

So, the top is done and I have worn it to work (over black pants).

It's hard to say if it's slimming or not, because people generally shy away and shield their eyes when I come into view...

But it fits and I'd definitely make it again! :)

Although, possibly in something just a tad more subdued... ;)

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday Confession

This week's confession: I have been known to sew fancy dress clothes for short, furry inanimate objects*... ;)

* aka teddy bears

How about you? Does your sewing history include outfitting any dolls or stuffed animals? I'd love to hear your stories! And, if you have links to pictures, I'll include them in my "Talk Back Thursday" post. :)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Talk Back Thursday

Oh my goodness! What an incredible set of answers I got to my Friday Confession two weeks ago! I asked how people store their used patterns, and I got the most wonderful set of responses from Lori, Sarah, Stitchywitch, Branka, Webfrau, Rose, Elaina, Lisa Laree, Gwen, Marysews, Mary, Cindy, Lady Jenn, Carla, Mitch, Karin, Julia, Shannon, Becky, Summerset, Faye and Claire! :)

First let’s consider patterns that are purchased individually in their own envelopes.

The two most common ways of dealing with the cut pattern pieces were to either (a) just fold them as best as possible (but not along the pre-existing lines) and stuff them back into the envelopes (4 commenters) and (b) fold them as best as possible (but not along the pre-existing lines) and use a dry iron to press them flat before returning them to the envelope (5 commenters). And 2 of those 5 "pressers" use a ruler to get really straight folds!

As for respecting the pre-existing fold lines, 3 people carefully re-fold the UN-used pattern pieces along those creases, and 2 people carefully re-fold ALL of the pattern pieces (un-used and used) along those original lines. I am in awe! :)

Another two people reported that they don’t always save their used patterns - after making a pattern once, they are generally ready on move on to something new! :)

Finally, a couple of people don’t try to get their used patterns back into the original envelopes, but use large clear envelopes or zipper bags to store their used patterns...

...and this leads perfectly into my other question:

How do people preserve the patterns they trace, for example, from pattern magazines like Burda World of Fashion?

Zipper bags (7 commenters) and manila envelopes (6 commenters) are the most popular methods of storing traced patterns – although not everyone uses the same size. Both quart and gallon sized zipper bags were recommended, as well as 5 x 7 inch and 9 x 12 inch envelopes. Other storage methods mentioned were (a) folders with pockets (3 commenters), (b) clear plastic page holders in 3-ring binders (2 commenters) and (c) pattern keeper bags from Nancy’s Notions (2 commenters).

What was really interesting was the different methods for labeling those packets! Here is a list of all the different types of information that people include on their labels:

- The type of garment (dress, pants, skirt, etc.)
- The pattern brand and number
- The size made
- A photocopy of the garment from either the pattern envelope or the magazine
- A photocopy or sketch (or tracing) of the line drawing for the pattern
- The name and date of the magazine that it came from
- Yardage requirements
- Construction notes

You can see a nice example of a system at work in pictures on Carla's blog, here.

Summerset and Mary also include a scrap of the fabric used to make up the garment, because, as Summerset pointed out, that can help you remember a garment more easily than a pattern number or magazine date.

Speaking of construction notes, when I’m sewing for others, I jot down (on the pattern envelope) the name of the recipient, any alterations I incorporated into the pattern pieces, and the date when I made the garment. The date sewn is especially helpful when I’m sewing for young relatives who do not live nearby. I can just ask, “Does that shirt I made for you last year still fit?” and that will tell me whether I can use the same pattern or I need a bigger size.

Lady Jenn does one extra thing for her traced patterns – she puts a star next to the pattern in the magazine, so that if she ever decides to make that pattern again, she won’t accidentally go to the trouble of re-tracing it. Isn’t that a good idea?

Lisa Laree has a very well thought-out system for managing her magazine pattern collection. She keeps a 3-ring binder with copies of the line drawings from each magazine issue. And she separates out the pattern sheets from the magazines and keeps those in labeled gallon size zipper bags. Once she traces a pattern, she puts those pieces into a smaller zipper bag and slides that bag into the larger one, to keep it with the appropriate pattern collection. She can browse her binder and easily find the pattern she wants! I may have to experiment with a system like this, as my pattern magazine collection grows…

Another neat idea – Carla takes the storage bag idea even further, and she establishes a big project bag to hold everything associated with an ongoing project – the pattern, thread, buttons, zipper, bias binding, etc. This sounds like an excellent idea – especially if you ever have more than 1 project going on at a time!

Finally, Cindy and Branka suggested alternatives to regular tracing paper. Cindy likes to use the medical paper from exam beds in a doctor’s office. She said that sometimes you can get a roll for free if you are friends with someone who works there. And Branka uses PVC foil – something I had never heard of - she blogged about it, but I had a little bit of trouble finding her blog. I did find this cached version of the post.

I never can predict which topics are going to elicit the most interesting responses, and did not dream that confessing to cramming my used patterns back into the envelopes would elicit such an outpouring of excellent ideas! Thank you SO much to everyone who took the time to respond and tell us about your systems!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

In the Queue Wednesday

Our great-nieces came down from Ohio for a week-long summer vacation and one of the highlights of their visit was the traditional trip to Joann's to pick out fabric and a pattern. Lexie (the 9 year old) picked out this Burda dress pattern:

And this stretch jersey fabric:

It should be QUITE a dress! ;)

I promised that I'd get to it soon - the exact date is TBD (to be determined), but, don't worry, it's in the queue... :)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Weekend Project: Polar Bear Prep

If I were a bear
And a big bear too,
I shouldn't much care
If it froze or snew;
I shouldn't much mind
If it snowed or friz -
I'd be all fur-lined
With a coat like his.
--Winnie the Pooh (A.A. Milne)

Preparations begin for the polar bear. First, I tested the pattern by trying to sew it up in fabric.

Actually, FIRST I spent an embarrassingly huge amount of time trying to blow up the pattern to the correct size (it was scaled down in the book). Nothing is quite so humbling to a person who uses computers all day long as not being able to make sense out of a new software program. ;)

THEN I sewed it up in fabric scraps.

This exercise identified 2 issues. First, the pattern is a bit awkward where the back part of the top of the head joins the neck. I'm going to have to work on that a bit.

Second, the legs splay outwards quite a bit. Another thing to think about and try to fix...

Next up, picking the yarn! You know how some fabric stores will sell you a collection of swatches to help you pick the fabric for, say, a wedding dress? Well, it turns out that yarn stores will do a similar thing and when I first got my loom I purchased this "Yarn Store in a Box" from Halcyon Yarn:

The instructions call for 20/2 cotton and chenille. The 20/2 cotton is the THINNEST thing I have ever tried to weave! Here I compare it to sewing thread:

So, you know how I've been complaining that the weaving "kits" are just a few cones of yarn and a page of instructions? And I've been wondering how that is any advantage over just buying a few cones of yarn?

Well, I've figured it out. The effort-savings aspect is in the planning the project, not the weaving itself. It turns out that there is quite a bit of math involved in figuring out how much yarn to buy for a project!

The first step is to figure out how long the total warp will be. In the image below, the numbers in red were given for the project, and the numbers in blue are standard across many projects.

Next, you have to figure out the total length of weft yarn(s) you'll need. This project is a little bit complicated (for me) because for every 2 "rows" of the thin cotton I establish, there will be 1 "row" of the much thicker chenille. I need to figure out how many rows of each there will be in each inch of fabric.

Finally, you combine the warp measurements and the weft measurements and figure out how much yarn to buy...

Of course, you can't buy ANY random amount - the yarn is sold on 2 sizes of cones (regular & mini) and you have to figure out how many of which sized cones to buy in order to buy the least amount of extra. ;)

From there it's just place the order and wait for the mailman to bring your supplies... Giving you plenty of time to turn your attention to sewing projects! ;)

Next weekend I'll have a sewing update for you! :)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Friday Confession

Don't worry, I haven't forgotten about my "Talk Back Thursday" post. I got SO MANY excellent ideas that it is taking me a while to compile everything - but it is coming. :)

In the meantime, here's a new Friday Confession for you...

So, true confession time: I have the Lutterloh system, but I rarely use it...

It's not that I have any particular problem with the system. The idea is actually pretty cool. You get hundreds of mini-patterns (all of the pattern pieces for one outfit fit on a piece of paper that is smaller than 8x10). You use a special tape measure to "blow them up" to your size by extending the tape measure along the marked lines to make dots, and then connecting the dots to draw the full size pattern.

The aspect that I think is really clever is that you can make different sized patterns, but not by changing the ending point of your tape measure, but by changing the beginning point!

The mini-patterns give you the ending points you use on your tape measure to expand the pattern. And the special tape measure has this extra component with different starting points, and you use the size you want to pick the appropriate starting point.

I guess I just like things that turn normal thinking on its head. ;)

The other significant aspect of this system (in my opinion) is that the assembly instructions are pretty minimal, so you need to have some pre-existing knowledge and skill - it's not really suited for beginners.

Anyways, I have the system and hundreds of patterns, but I rarely use it. Not sure why - expanding the patterns isn't really any harder than tracing the Burda magazine patterns... But going back and looking through my pattern book isn't quite as much fun as getting a new pattern magazine in the mail! ;)

So, how about you? Have you heard of Lutterloh? Have you tried it? Do you have the system? Do you like it? Use it regularly? I'd love to hear about any/all experiences with this system!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

In the Queue Wednesday

Recently, I ran across this book while browsing the internet and was captured - er, rather, captivated:
I have several good friends with babies, and I fell in love with the idea of weaving the "skin" and then sewing up a handmade stuffed animal for each of them. :)

Unfortunately, I purchased the book without looking into it very carefully, and my loom isn't big enough to make most of the patterns. (By "big", I mean the number of harnesses - my loom only has 4 and most of the patterns require 8.)

But one pattern that I fell in love with and that CAN be made with only 4 harnesses is this polar bear:

Isn't it cute? It's definitely next up in my weaving queue!

Now, my Christmas weaving project took 6 months longer than I thought it would... So, when will I get to (and finish) my polar bear family? Who knows? But, don't worry, I'll get to it! It's in my queue...

Friday, July 2, 2010

Friday Confession

Another real confession today. After using a pattern, I used to try to fold the pieces along the pre-existing fold lines and put it back oh-so-neatly into the envelope. Nowadays, there's a lot more crinkling and shoving... and yes, sometimes, even cramming!

How about you? How do you put your patterns away after you use them? Do you put in the time and effort to keep them super neat?

I'm also curious how people store the patterns that they trace from pattern magazines like Burda World of Fashion - you know, the ones that don't come with their own envelopes. Any special systems you could share with the rest of us?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to CarlaF, Patsijean, Webfrau, Stitchywitch, Gwen, Sarah, Mary, Lori, Julia, Rosa, GMarie, Shannon, Cindy, Elaina and JustGail for talking back to my confession last Friday! I admitted that I sew better (more straight and even) seams when the seam allowance is to my right, as compared to when the seam allowance is to my left.

I was braced for a sound chastising, and found myself relieved to escape relatively unscathed. ;)

It is true that 4 people responded that they can sew equally well on either side. And CarlaF and Gwen gave me some good advice - practice and go slowly!

But 9 people commented that they, too, prefer to sew with the seam on the right. Not only that, but they had a couple of very good justifications. The main one, made by 6 people, is that anytime you are sewing with any size-able amount of fabric, if the seam allowance is on the left, the bulk of the fabric is likely to get bunched up on the right, between the needle and the machine body.

Cindy made a nice analogy with carpentry and using a table saw - you need to have the fabric move through smoothly and all at the same speed - you won't get a quality seam if you have bits and pieces of the fabric tugging ahead or being held back.

And 2 others pointed out that some machines only have the measurements marked on the right side...

I wondered if my preference had anything to do with being right handed, and Elaina indirectly supported this argument from the opposite direction. Being left handed, when she first started to sew it was easier for her to put the seam allowance on the left. Now, however, she can sew equally well on either side.

Two other interesting comments - Cindy pointed out that her right side preference only holds for sewing seams. When it comes to edge stitching, for example, she can work equally well on either side.

And JustGail pointed out something I had heard in conjunction with driving, sketching and cutting, but never with sewing - her work benefits from looking further ahead, rather than at the section of road (or paper or fabric) directly in front of her. I'm going to keep that in mind and give it a try the next time I sit down at my machine. :)

Thanks again to everyone who took the time and trouble to comment! You make even the tiniest details of sewing very interesting! :)