Friday, December 31, 2010

Friday Confessions

It's so PINK I'm going to DIE!

(Said with a nod to Agnes from the movie "Despicable Me".)

I got a PINK Sony Vaio laptop computer for Christmas! It's actually for my small business, selling the "How Much Fabric?" reference cards - I was hogging the family desktop, downloading patterns, entering numbers, working on the website, pretending that I know what I'm doing with the business accounting software, etc. But I am totally in love with it! :)

In fact, I'm writing this blog post on it! Doesn't the post just ring out with extra zip, class, style and zing? ;)

In addition to the laptop, we got to spend the Christmas holidays with both families - mine and my in-laws - in the "Great White North" (Ohio). (What can I say? We live in Florida.) Everyone is doing well - the big excitement is my oldest nephew, a senior in high school, making plans for college next year. No official acceptances yet, but some encouraging campus visits...

So, how about you? Any special gifts under your tree last weekend? Any special family milestones and/or memories that you'd like to share?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Carla, Mamafitz, Faye, Alison, Sarah, Mary, Katherine, Shannon, Elaina, Summerset and Cindy for talking back to my confession a couple of weeks ago! I brought up UFOs (unfinished objects) and asked about other peoples’ experiences with this sewing room plague…

Turns out – you guys are SAINTS! The overwhelming response (7 out of 11 commenters) was “No, I don’t really have many (or any) UFOs.”

Even among the other 4, it doesn’t appear to be a huge problem for anyone. Sarah does well with her made-from-scratch clothes, and only piles up UFOs in her mending/alteration/refashion pile. Elaina has some periodically – especially if it’s something that’s not urgent – but often doesn’t have any. Shannon does have some, but says that she eventually finishes at least 50% of them, even the long term projects like quilts. And Cindy used to have some, but now has an ingenious method for keeping herself on the straight and narrow.

Among the majority who don’t have UFOs, there were two strategies consistently mentioned. The first was just plain old self-discipline. Many people simply don’t let themselves start a new project until they finish the current one. The second was a philosophy that I’m going to adopt – if a project loses its attraction, many people are willing to toss it. They don’t let it establish a stranglehold in the sewing room and cast a pall of obligation and guilt over them.

In retrospect, that makes a lot of sense – most of us sew out of love of the craft – if you aren’t gaining anything (either a beautiful garment or a learning experience), why waste precious time on a project? Not only are you guys saints, you are also pretty darned smart! ;)

Katherine did bring up an alternative to the UFO – the USO (un-started object) – pattern & fabric sitting together, just waiting to be the chosen one. I have half a dozen USOs myself… (Sigh…)

Finally, Cindy’s scheme for avoiding UFOs – you didn’t think I wasn’t going to tell you what it is, did you? She picked up a half dozen baskets at the dollar store and puts all of the supplies for one project in each basket. Her rule – she is not allowed to start a new project until she finishes one basket project.

Okay, there’s still a heavy dose of self-discipline needed for that plan – but I think I could work within that system.

Thanks again to everyone who took the time to answer – who knew that wise saints could rock like that?

I hope everyone had a WONDERFUL Christmas full of family and love – and maybe one or two goodies for your sewing room! ;)

Photo credit: D. Sharon Pruitt

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Christmas Cardinal

Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent
if no birds sang there except those that sang best.

~Henry Van Dyke

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

In the Queue Wednesday

Or... maybe not in the queue. I can't decide. ;)

I just received the new issue of BurdaStyle and was struck, as is often the case, by the repetition of one or more design elements across a variety of garments. Look at the above images - all 4 have the same shoulders, 3 of them have the same square armscye, and there are (basically) only 2 sleeve styles represented.

This may be obvious to you, but I am still learning (a) how to parse garments into style elements, (b) how to mix and match style elements to create new garments, and (c) how design elements translate to flat pattern pieces - so I like how there are often repetitions of a handful of design elements across multiple patterns in a BurdaStyle issue.

Anyways, living in Florida, I rarely pay much attention to coat patterns - but I like this one. I'm not sure it'll make it into the queue, but if I DO ever decide to make a coat, this one will be a competitor. :)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Weekend Project: Glitter

Pop Quiz

Why doesn't Sandra Betzina cover glitterglued-polkadotted polyester
in her "More Fabric Savvy" book?

  1. She figured that anyone smart enough to buy her book was too smart to buy this type of "fabric"
  2. She didn't want to waste 2 whole pages of her book for the phrase "Put down that bolt and back away slowly..."
  3. Her book only covers fabric, dummy!
  4. All of the above

Sadly, my niece didn't consult with Sandra before picking out the fabric that she wanted for her blouse, and I didn't have enough of a backbone to say "No" when she looked up with her big pretty eyes and smiled at me... Sigh...

Of course, that was 6 months ago, and I've been putting off this project ever since due to my aversion to the fabric. But I decided that I should try to get this done by Christmas, and I've been working on it in brief stolen moments of time over the last couple of weeks.

None of the pieces are designed to fit together as cut. Everything needs tucks or gathers to fit. Here I'm putting in the tucks on the front bodice:

My niece picked out this subtle trim to complement the subtle fabric. ;)

The fabric is stiff and scratchy, so I cut the facing out of a remnant in my stash - something a bit softer.

Here's how far I've gotten so far. I still need to do the sleeves and hem in the next couple of days. It should be possible. :)

Of course, that doesn't address the most serious problem. Our house is now covered with so much glitter that I'm afraid that, if we ever want to sell it, I'm going to have to disclose this as a material fact to the real estate agent... ;)

My posts will probably be a bit sporadic over the next couple of weeks - but I'm thinking of you all and wishing you all a wonderful time with family and friends as we say Goodbye to 2010 and Welcome to 2011! :)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday Confession

I don't have many UFOs (unfinished objects) in my sewing room, but the ones that I do can all be explained with the same reason: fabric that I'm not crazy about.

Of course, if I'm not crazy about the fabric, that means I didn't pick it out and I'm not sewing for me - it's for someone else... Or that it's a (non-wearable) muslin that I'm doing for practice before cutting into the real fabric.

So, how about you? Do you have many UFOs in your sewing room? What factors lead to you start a project, and then not finish it?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Trudy, Carla, Elaina, Rose, Cindy, Faye, Mary, Patsijean, Katherine, Lynne, Ivalyn, Julie and Mamafitz for talking back to my confession last week! I confessed that I haven’t watched any sewing DVDs (or tapes) and asked if others enjoyed them and had any recommendations.

On the general topic of sewing videos, there were 9 “yes!” votes and 4 “eh, not so much…” votes.

The most frequently called out series was the Palmer/Pletsch Fit for Real People series, with 4 votes.

And guess what tied for second place (3 votes each) with Nancy Zieman’s shows?


That caught me by surprise – you guys are much hipper than I am! (As proven by my use of the word “hip”)

The following four DVDs were each called out by two people:

Sandra Betzina’s Power Sewing Skill Series

Roberta Carr’s Couture Sewing

Claire Shaeffer’s Couture Techniques

Threads Magazine Archive

And the following DVDs were each called out once:

Threads Magazine Fitting Series

Islander Sewing System

Peggy Sagers

Cynthia Guffey

Gale Grigg Hazen

Kathleen Cheetham & Vija Anca

Kenneth King

Connie Crawford

(Note that the person who called out the Connie Crawford DVD was actually not recommending it – she felt like it was poorly produced.)

Finally, Elaina gave a shout-out to Project Runway – her favorite sewing show! ;)

Thanks again to everyone who took the time to answer! I’m going to go hit Netflix and see how many of these I can rent! ;)

Photo credit: Usako

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

In the Queue Wednesday

Nope, it's not sheets, or pillowcases, or anything home decor...

What's at the top of my queue these days is a week in bed!

I am just wiped out from work travel and trying to get ready for the holidays...

I hope you are all staying on top of things and not going too crazy. :)

When am I possibly going to have the time to spend a week in bed? I don't know, but I'll get to it. It's in my queue... ;)

Photo credit: Fern R

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tuesday's Torch Story

To watch us dance is to hear our hearts speak.
~ Hopi Indian Saying

We went with Ana this weekend to her church's celebration of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Mexico's Virgin Mary. It was a wonderful afternoon that started with beautifully costumed ancient Mexican music and dance.

They played drums, a wooden flute, and blew notes through some kind of seashell!

Even the children participated, playing maracas.

Next up was a reenactment of the story of Juan Diego and the Virgin of Guadalupe. Juan Diego was a peasant, and the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared to him in a vision and asked that a church be built in her honor.

Unfortunately, the Bishop did not believe that the Virgin Mary had appeared to a lowly peasant, and demanded proof. (Or else, he threatened, he would speed away in his Dodge Ram pickup truck - seen parked just behind his desk. The environment was not ideal for picture taking...)

When Juan Diego asked the Virgin of Guadalupe to provide him with evidence, she directed him to a group of blooming flowers, even though this took place during the dead of winter.

Juan Diego collected up the flowers in his shirt and took them to show the Bishop and his monks.

Lo and behold, when he opened his shirt to show the flowers, the image of the Virgin Mary had been imprinted on his shirt.

Then everyone believed, apologized for doubting Juan Diego, and built the church where the fabric with the Virgin's image was displayed.

After the play, there was more dancing - this time a more modern dance, that reminded me of American square dancing.

My favorites were the youngest dancers - who clearly had a blast!

Being friends with Ana yielded some privileges - such as the right to pose for a picture with Juan Diego!

Scott got to try on some traditional Mexican clothes.

And what party would be complete without a pinata?

It was a great afternoon!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Someone's Getting Coal this Year...

Yes, those are indeed the hind legs of Oliver the kitten, as he climbs up into the tree on an ornament hunt... 'Nuff said...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday Confession

I recently got this DVD in the mail from the publisher of Sew News. I didn't order it - it's one of those promotions - if you like it, send us money and we'll keep sending you more every few months. Keep only the ones you like and return the rest (remember those late night Time Life infomercials?).

Anyways, it occurred to me that I don't actually have any sewing DVDs and I haven't ever watched any... Up until now, I have just relied on books - and that's kind of odd, because sewing is a process and so ideally suited to a "show" format...

So, do you watch sewing DVDs? Do you have a library of them? Any particular ones you recommend? Any ones you don't recommend? I'm really looking forward to reading everyone's advice on this one! :)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Sarah, Karin, Mamafitz, Elaina, Mary, Katherine, Carla, Becky, Julie, Summerset, Cindy and Ivalyn for talking back to my confession last week! I asked what everyone was hoping that Santa would bring this year sewing-wise...

Three people called out a gift that I bet everyone single one of us would love to have - more time to sew! And Cindy actually has a plan to get it - for her Christmas gift, she asked her family to chip in and help with the household chores, giving her some more free time!

The other gift mentioned by three people was some kind of gift card for fabric and other sewing supplies - whether it be to Joann's, the Atlanta Thread & Supply Co, or the neighborhood fabric store.

A couple of people are hoping for books - Karin always enjoys inspirational sewing & photo books and Becky is hoping for one on fitting alterations. Along the same educational lines, Sarah is hoping for a manual and maybe even some lessons on her serger

A couple of folks called out general supplies for the sewing room - for example, Karin called out these cute wooden bobbins wound with ribbon from Clothkits.

On the "big gift" front, Becky has already been given her first non-duct tape dress form from her parents; Ivalyn played Santa to herself and got a Babylock Enterprise; and Mamafitz is hoping that Santa will bring her speakers for her iPod, so that she can have music in her sewing room & kitchen. What great gifts!

Finally, I started with one gift that I'm sure we'd all love - time - and I'll end with an idea from Cindy for another gift that I think we'd all like - more peace and love in this world, and less hate and fear...

Even if, like Elaina, Christmas isn't your favorite holiday (and it certainly can be stressful!), I hope that each and every one of you have a wonderful time with family and friends, saying goodbye to 2010 and welcoming in 2011 ! :)

In the Queue Wednesday

While I'm not REALLY sewing any Christmas presents this year, my 2 nieces DID pick out patterns and fabric for outfits when they visited in July, and given that I've finished one outfit, I am going to try really hard to get the other one completed too (before our annual pilgrimage up to the great white north).

My older niece picked out a sparkly lilac polyestor for this blouse. The pattern is part of Simplicity's Project Runway Series - have you sewn with a pattern out of this series? I'm not crazy about it - I think they would be quite confusing for beginners - with all the little optional modules of instructions...

So, I'm on the 2nd of 3 back-to-back business trips, so I have no idea how I'm going to fit this in... But I'm going to try! It's in the queue...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tuesday's Torch Story

You moon the wrong person at the office Christmas party
and suddenly you're not "professional" anymore.

~ Anonymous

Don't get your hopes up - there was no mooning at our ESL class Christmas party. This deficit of bare bottoms can probably be traced back to the lack of alcohol. Something about the setting (St. Joseph's Catholic Church) suggested to me that the party probably should not be a "kegger". ;)

But we did have lots of decorations and an unbelievably delicious spread of homemade food:

While none of our 3 male students were able to attend, all 8 female students came (we picked up 2 new ones near the end of the semester) and we took the opportunity to take a class picture.

Many brought family members and luckily I was prepared with a collection of coloring books, crayons, a jigsaw puzzle and assorted card games (Old Maid, Go Fish, Uno, etc.) So even the kids had a good time!

I was surprised and amazingly happy to receive my first "teacher's gifts" - you know, the mug that says "World's Best Teacher", etc. I'm sure that the joy wears off once you've been teaching a few years and have a cupboard full of them - but that first time was pretty nice. :)

Now we have a month off - time for me to get busy preparing for the next semester!

I hope all YOUR Christmas parties go well, full moon or not... ;)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Weekend Project: Clothes, Cats & Christmas Trees

Never wear anything that panics the cat.
~ P.J. O'Rourke

Well, it's been crazy around here, but this weekend I did manage to squeeze in a few minutes to finish up Scott's RV Hawaiian shirt.

Whether or not it will panic the cat is an open question, as the cat in question (Oliver) is still absorbed with his self-imposed task of stripping every single ornament off the Christmas tree... (The two trains surrendered days ago.) Remind me - there is research out there that says that having a pet LOWERS blood pressure? Really?

I hope your weekend was 100% holiday joy and 0% holiday stress! :)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Friday Confession

I don't have any particular sewing-related gift(s) on my Christmas wish list - there are no "big toys" that I really need this year.

Of course, my favorite gift is always a gift certificate to JoAnn's. ;)

How about you? What are you hoping that "Santa" will bring for your sewing room this year? Anything too big to fit in a stocking? ;)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Faye, Patsijean, Mary, Sarah, Mamafitz, Katherine, Carla, Gwen, Cindy and Summerset for talking back to my confession last week. Some of my TNT patterns are getting pretty worn, and I asked how others deal with this issue.

By far and away, tracing pre-printed patterns onto something else (so that the originals can be preserved) was the most popular solution, with 9 out of 10 people mentioning it.

The only other proposal was to reinforce the existing pattern with cheap, light weight interfacing - 2 people called that out.

And Katherine doesn't worry much about preserving patterns, because her motto is: "So many patterns, so little time..." ;)

The variety in the answers came on the topic of what to use for tracing.

The most commonly given option was some form of official tracing paper - such as Swedish tracing paper (2 votes), PatternEaseTM (1 vote) and pattern making paper (1 vote).

(Note how you can buy ANYTHING from these days - pretty soon you'll be able to adopt an orphan or find a mail-order husband through that site...)

Two people also called out tissue paper. Sarah gave a bonus hint for using the tissue paper - she uses different colors to trace off different sizes of the same pattern, making it easy to keep the pieces organized.

On the slightly more unusual side, Cindy uses rolls of that medical exam paper that most of us are familiar with in a different capacity - sitting on in a doctor's office! And Patsijean uses 4 mill plastic sheeting that she gets from a local hardware store. She says she can get 10' x 100' rolls for about $42.

Thank you again to everyone who took the time and trouble to answer! I see some potential additions to my Christmas wish list in this post... ;)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Make-Up Thursday Post

Thank you so much to Cindy, Angela, Julia, Summerset, Mary, Sarah, Katherine, Tasia, Lori, Gwen, Patsijean and Lois for talking back to my confession two weeks ago! I confessed that this year, for the first time in many years, I will not be making Christmas presents for my friends and co-workers. And I asked if others make many (any?) of their Christmas presents...

Overall, most people replied that yes, they (at least sometimes) make (at least some of) their Christmas presents. We only had one "no, never" vote across all of the commenters. However, many people did mention that making gifts does take a lot of time and can be stressful. Katherine, for example, perfectly described my experience, in that what seems like a good idea for the first one or two iterations of a gift, becomes much more tedious and "what was I thinking?" by the time you are working on the ninth or tenth one... ;)

And Lois used to make a lot more of her gifts until her DH pointed out how much time it was taking up and how stressed it was making her during the holiday season.

But, despite the definite challenges, most people still make at least some of their gifts. Sewing for family, called out 7 times, was definitely more common than sewing for co-workers and friends (only called out twice).

So, what do people sew for Christmas gifts? There were some clothes items mentioned - Cindy does Christmas pajamas for her whole family, Julia and Patsijean make clothes for their grandchildren, and Patsijean and Tasia are making clothes for the men in their lives this year. But I was surprised by the large variety of other gifts that people have made: items mentioned included lots of home decor items like throw pillows and pot holders, purses and assorted tote bags, Christmas stockings, cases for everything from pencils to eye glasses, covers for composition books, dolls, felt games - you name it, someone has made it! :)

Finally, there were a couple of gifts mentioned where the object itself was secondary to the nature of the gift - these are gifts of memories. Cindy makes a new 12-block lap blanket for her Mom each year, and each block has a recent picture of the grandchildren on it.

And Julia's plan for this year inspired my choice of a photo for this post. She is thinking about taking fabric scraps from all the outfits she has made for her grandchildren in the past and using them to make Christmas tree ornaments. The wall hanging in my photo was a gift to me from one of my sewing students - who took scraps from all the outfits we made together during our lessons and created a tree for me... Talk about a gift of happy memories! :)

Store-bought or hand-made - the important thing about our gifts is that they show how we feel about our friends and family. If we can find a way to combine that with our love of sewing, without getting too stressed out, that's great. But if not, that's fine too. It's amazing how often this holiday that is supposed to be about sharing joy can turn stressful. I hope everyone is able to enjoy their holiday this year! :)