Sunday, October 31, 2010

Weekend Project: The Good, the Bad and the Adorable

Millions long for immortality who don't know what to do on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
~ Susan Ertz

I don't know about immortality, but I sure know what I'd do with a few extra rainy Sunday afternoons! Even though it didn't rain in central Florida this weekend, I did get a bit of sewing done. :)

The "good" is really quite miraculous for me - I changed the thread and the set up of my serger to do a cover stitch hem on my niece's dress, and it worked perfectly on my first practice run!

I'm not sure it's ever gone perfectly the first time! In fact, as I slid the scrap fabric under the presser foot, I was actually bracing myself for another 20 minutes or so of fiddling with the machine before I could start sewing the hem!

I have never been good at getting my cover stitch to line up with the raw inner edge of the fabric - like this:

And so this time, before sewing, I carefully measured...

and carefully pinned...

and carefully ironed...

And came up with this:

(the ugly)

Yup, once again, it's trimming time... It seems that there is some fundamental aspect to this task that I simply don't grasp. Sigh... :(

This weekend I also managed to whip out the 2 baby bubbles for Juana's new baby boy. This fabric was in my queue recently, so you may remember it:

The first has elephants on one side:

And monkeys on the other...

The second has dinosaurs on one side:

And soccer balls on the other...

Not bad for one weekend, huh? Of course, that's only if you don't think to ask about my progress (or lack thereof) on laundry, bill paying, grocery shopping, etc. ;)

So, I bet you thought that those baby bubbles were "the adorable" of my title, right?

Nope - we had visitors this weekend (the niece and nephew of a friend of Ana) and with the enthusiasm of children, they braved the chilly waters of our swimming pool:

And yes, those are blue lips. ;)

I don't think it gets any more adorable than this 4-year-old:

I hope you had a good weekend and a Happy Halloween! :)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Confession

I have never entered a sewing contest.

It's not like I'm anti-competition. When my hobby was photography, I used to enter photo competitions - for example, at the State Fair every year...

But I haven't felt the pull to enter a sewing contest.

How about you? Do you enter sewing contests? If not, why not? And do you think you might someday? If so, why? And what was it like? Will you do it again? What are the pros and cons to competing?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to BConky, Mountain Thyme, Lady Jenn, Katherine, Heather, Shannon, CarlaF, Cindy, Faye, Elaina, Mulliga M, Karin, Mary, Summerset and Angela for talking back to my last confession! I confessed that I’ve never sewn undergarments of any kind (well, okay, pajamas) and asked about others’ experiences.

Wow – Reader’s Digest Condensed Version – sewing undergarments is popular! We only had 4 “negative” responses, and 3 of those 4 said that undergarments are definitely on their list of things to try. In fact, Mountain Thyme just bought her first pattern – good luck! :)

On the positive side, here are the number of people who reported having made each of the following types of undergarments:
Underpants – 11
Bras – 6
Lingerie – 2
Slips – 2
Corsets – 2
Swim suits – 1
Camisoles – 1
Garter belts – 1
Other vintage undergarments – 1

While we usually get both pros and cons, everyone was pretty solidly on the pro side this time. The major pros mentioned for sewing your own underpants were:
It’s easy! (4)
It’s fun! (2)
They are quick! (1)

And for bras:
They fit better – especially if you are a hard to find size in RTW! (3)

A couple of folks also mentioned how much fun it is to work with silk & lace, and to make coordinated sets. :)

In fact, the closest we got to a “negative” was the challenge of finding good quality elastic.

Special thanks to CarlaF for pointing me towards this YouTube tutorial and Sigrid’s page of relevant tutorials.

Thanks again to everyone who took the time to respond! I’m feeling rather inspired and want to try to sew my own someday soon! :)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

In the Queue Wednesday

I just received a new catalog from the Kansas Yarn Barn, and they have a number of beautiful weaving kits that are calling to me! Among other things, I am particularly attracted to a couple of their table runner kits.

First up is a table runner in the "log cabin" style that I used for my bathroom hand towels and rug (see this post for pictures). It's as if the weaving changes direction from length-wise to width-wise over and over again - I just love this visual effect!

My attention was also caught by this Christmas-themed table runner:

This style of weaving is called "monk's belt" - and there are many variations!

So, I'm not sure which of these table runners it's going to be, but don't worry, I'll weave one of them! It's in my queue... ;)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tuesday's Torch Story

Alas for those that never sing,
But die with all their music in them!
~Oliver Wendell Holmes

As you know, a major part of my curriculum is learning songs. My hope is that this will teach vocabulary, pronunciation, the skill of translating AND be enjoyable for the students.

Just as a reminder, we start by listening to the song once. Then I break them into groups and assign each group a verse to translate into Spanish, using a dictionary. Once finished, each group presents their verse's translation to the rest of the class. That way, everyone understands the whole song. Finally, we practice reciting the words (for pronunciation practice) and then sing along with the CD.

I spent a lot of time over the summer, trying to come up with a dozen or so songs for us to learn. It was perhaps a bit of a Rorschach test for me, as I was selecting from songs that I am familiar with - but I tried to put aside personal preferences and pick songs that met the following criteria:
(a) contained a story line,

(b) contained a good selection of concrete & useful vocabulary,
(c) were not too difficult to sing,
(d) represented a variety of music styles,
(e) nothing inappropriate for a church setting and
(e) some Christmas songs for our classes around that holiday.

Here is my final list:

  • What a Wonderful World - Louis Armstrong
  • King of the Road - Roger Miller
  • If I had a Hammer - Peter, Paul & Mary
  • Blowing in the Wind - Bob Dylan
  • Put a Little Love in Your Heart - Jackie DeShannon
  • You've Got A Friend - James Taylor
  • Cat's in the Cradle - Harry Chapin
  • Forever Young - Rod Steward
  • Turn, Turn, Turn - The Byrds
  • What a Friend We Have in Jesus - Joseph Scriven
  • In The Garden - Charles Austin Miles
  • What Child is This? - William Chatterton Dix
  • Little Drummer Boy
  • Santa Claus is Coming To Town

I picked the first song that we would learn - What A Wonderful World. After that, I decided to let the students pick which songs they would like to learn next.

While this wasn't exactly a Rorschach test for me, I think it certainly has been one for them! So far, we've done "In the Garden" and "What a Friend We Have in Jesus".

I'm afraid that Bob Dylan and Rod Stewart are getting short shrift from this group! ;)

Informal querying has shown that they are very likely to recognize the English words in a song weeks after we learn it - and that's without (so far as I know) deliberate studying on their part. And they certainly seem to enjoy both the challenge of translating the songs and the singing itself.

In fact, speaking of the challenge of translating, they are quite willing to get side tracked with passionate debates over relatively minor issues and it is a challenge for ME to keep them on track!

For example, in our first song, there is the phrase "I see skies of blue..." and they argued enthusiastically over whether that should be translated to the singular (cielo) or plural (cielos). The majority of the class felt that there is actually only one sky, and so wanted to make the translation singular. It took all my considerable force of will to get them to agree to stick with the song writer's words, however deluded he might be... ;)

The battle I lost was from "In the Garden", which begins "I come to the garden alone." They refused to budge from the translation "Voy..." which actually means "I go..." The closest they would come to a compromise was to agree to write down in their notebooks that "venir" means "to come" and "ir" means "to go". ;)

Anyways, this activity is working out well. My main issue right now is that I have 3 women who have been friends for years, and who are slightly ahead of the rest of my students in their knowledge of English. They always want to be in the same group. And then their group always gets much more translated than any other group. I'd like to ask them to split up and help the others, but I'm not sure if I should or not... They do have a lot of fun together... Any thoughts?

Photo credit: shankar, shiv

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Weekend Project: The Mummy (the making of...)

Probably the saddest thing you'll ever see is a mosquito sucking on a mummy.
Forget it, little friend.
~ Jack Handy

So, my husband is not a big fan of dressing up in costumes. (Or, when you get right down to it, in anything...) But good friends invited us to a Halloween-themed Mystery Dinner Party at their house, and he agreed to go in costume. His assigned character was an Egyptian mummy, King Ahldrinktotat.

I offered to make a mummy costume for him, and knowing how he feels about costumes, decided to try to make one that was reasonably comfortable - not, for example, asking him to spend all evening with strips of fabric wrapped tightly around his body.

So, I figured I'd use an old bed sheet to "mummify" a t-shirt that he could just slip on and off. I rarely try to sew without a pattern, but decided to throw caution to the winds with this one! Maybe Anubis, the god of mummification, would grant me luck... ;)

I was lucky to have one good idea to start with. T-shirt material stretches. Bed sheet cotton doesn't. UNLESS you cut it on the bias... So, I cut up the old bed sheet into lots of 2-inch wide bias strips.

And then I lined them up...

And stitched them together to get a single, long stretchy strip of mummy wrapping.

Then I started at the bottom of the t-shirt and sewed the mummy wrapping around and around and around, working my way up to the underarms.

I repeated the process for each sleeve- starting at the sleeve bottom and working my way around to the shoulder seam.

During this process, the amazing advantage of working on a mummy costume became apparent - they are SUPPOSED to look messy! ;)

Next, I covered the neckline binding with more mummy wrapping.

I couldn't wrap around for the top part of the shirt, and so I made a dickey-like thing to slip over his head. Here is the front (not quite finished) - note the stylish detail of the inverted triangle front and center.

And here is the back.

Finally, here is the mummy, in full, comfortable regalia!

It was all a bit of trial and error, and I would be able to do a better job if I made a second one. But, overall I was pretty pleased. It was fun to work this out without a pattern or instructions. It wasn't too stressful, as mummies are supposed to look messy! And, the most important thing is that it was comfortable for my husband. :)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Out of Town on Business Trip

Thought I could blog too, but it's just not working - I'll catch up as soon as I can...

Sorry! :(

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

In the Queue Wednesday

I just found THE most adorable fabric for a Hawaiian shirt for my husband!

Does this or does this not scream leisure time?

There are actually 9 different campers pictured on the fabric, but you get the idea... ;)

I actually have quite a stockpile of fabrics to make him Hawaiian shirts - yikes! I'd better get moving on them. I don't know when, but I will get to this one - it's in the queue. :)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tuesday's Torch Story

Write with nouns and verbs, not with adjectives and adverbs.
The adjective hasn't been built that can pull a weak or inaccurate noun out of a tight place.
~ Strunk & White

My ESL class actually started on the 14th of September. After 5 weeks I think we have pretty much settled down into a routine. I have 9 regular students - 6 women (3 named Maria) and 3 men (none named Maria).

My class session plan does seem to have been a bit ambitious - but only by a factor of 2. ;)

That's right - it's taking us almost 2 full weeks to get through the material that I had laid out for each week. On the plus side, I thought I had only completed my lesson plans through Christmas - but now it turns out that I'm actually done planning for the entire year! ;)

The one part of my plan that we are sticking to is the weekly homework and quiz plan. At first, no one seemed to take the vocabulary flashcards very seriously. But after that first quiz, that changed! We are up to 62 words already, and I can tell that many of the students are seriously studying their flashcards during the week.

In these first few weeks we have learned 2 songs ("What a Wonderful World" and "In the Garden") and covered the topics of:

(a) introductions (Hi! What is your name? My name is...),

(b) some basic colors, shapes and prepositions (Put the green square above the yellow circle.) and

(c) members of the family (mother, father, aunt, uncle, son, daughter, cousin, nephew, etc.)

Last week - with apologies to Strunk and White - our topic was adjectives to describe people. Instead of just providing them with a list, I thought I'd have them come up with the adjectives that were meaningful to them. So, I asked each student to think of a member of his or her family and come up with 3 adjectives to describe that person. Then I asked them to look up their adjectives in the Spanish-English dictionary and write down the English words.

To "reveal" these adjectives, I had pairs of students participate in a short dialogue in front of the class.

A: Who did you pick?

B: I picked my ___ . (Practice with topic of family members.)

A: What is your ____ 's name? (Practice with family members & introductions.)

B: [His / Her] name is ____ . (Practice with introductions & personal pronouns.)

A: What is [he / she] like?

B: [He / She] is ___ , ___ and ___ . (Reveal adjectives)

As each pair of students revealed their adjectives, I kept a master list on the board. I made it a competition - any adjective used 3 or more times was worth only 1 point, any adjective used only twice was worth 2 points and each unique adjective was worth 3 points.

We had a tie, with 2 people each coming up with 3 unique adjectives!

I was so glad that I did it this way, because my students came up with adjectives that never would have occurred to me to teach.

In addition to some of the arguably more common adjectives (like intelligent, hard working, tall, thin, young, fat, friendly, nice and beautiful), it turns out that they have relatives who are: creative, obedient, polite, spiritual and mischievous!

As a final activity, I put up a numbered list of 13 of the (supposedly) most recognizable names in the world (and there's a whole topic unto itself - you get Michael Jackson, the Pope, Cindy Crawford and Pele all hanging together!) and had each student draw a card from a deck of cards. Depending upon the value of the card the student drew, he or she had to come up with a sentence using an adjective to describe the associated person on the list.

(Bad news for Michael Jordan - the woman who drew his number did not recognize his name.)

I had been thinking of buying some fancy spinner designed just for the classroom, but it turns out that drawing from a deck of cards worked very well. I think I'll save my money... ;)

I'm trying to make each class build on the ones that came before, and it's turning out to be a good thing for many reasons! Among others, I often realize at the end of a class, that there was some aspect that I didn't do well enough. For example, it turns out that I didn't do a good enough job explaining what an "adjective" is. I kind of coasted on the assumption that, if I gave them the Spanish translation, "adjectivo" and said that adjectives were words that described people, places and things (i.e., nouns), they would know what I meant.

But it didn't work for everyone. I had people give me "adjectives" like "my daughter dances" and "my uncle is a teacher." When you get right down to it, those ARE descriptions of people. They just aren't adjectives... Sigh...

Luckily, in 2 weeks (next week we learn another song), we are doing comparisons ("my son is smarter than your son"), and so I'll have another opportunity to do a better job of defining adjectives.

So, I'm really having a blast! My students are great! I'm sure that I could be doing a better job in a million different ways, but I can tell that they are working hard and they can tell that I am working hard and we definitely have the feeling that we are all in this together! :)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Seeking Bilinguals

I'd like to make my web store - where I sell the "How Much Fabric?" Reference cards - more international by adding explanations of the cards (how they were developed and how to use them) in a variety of languages.

I wrote up a 1.5 page document and have been looking for people to translate it for me. In exchange for the translation, I am offering a set of cards, shipped anywhere in the world.

So far, I have versions of my document in German, Russian, Spanish, Swedish and Danish.

I'd love to have lots more languages!

If you are bilingual and would be interested in translating this document in exchange for a set of cards, please email me at Thank you!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Weekend Project:: A Welcome!

Mr. Young hadn't had to quiet a screaming baby for years. He'd never been much good at it to start with. He'd always respected Sir Winston Churchill, and patting small versions of him on the bottom had always seemed ungracious.

-- Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman, Good Omens

Remember this recent queue project? More baby bubbles for another pregnant friend? Well, the baby bubbles aren't done, but the baby is! ;)

Here are the proud parents - my sewing student Juana and her boyfriend, Abel. Abel is modeling the shirt that Juana made for him two summers ago.

And here is their son, Abel Alexander, who joined this world at 10 pm on Friday, October 8, 2010.

These pictures were taken on Friday, October 15, 2010 - when he was one week old.

Welcome Alex! I promise I'll get to sewing your bubbles soon! :)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Confession

The discussion over the last week about bras got me to thinking about undergarments in general. I have never sewn any undergarment for myself or for anyone else. Although, I have been tempted to try this tutorial from CraftStylish...

How about you? Do you sew undergarments? If not, would you like to someday or are you going to pass on this type of project? If so, what have you made? How did it come out? What would you tell someone who is considering trying it?

Photo credit: CraftStylish tutorial

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Carla, Rachel, Stitchy Witch, Alison, Mary, Mamafitz, Angela, Elaina, Claire, Shannon, Summerset and Brenda for talking back to my confession last week! I confessed that I only recently had my first ever professional bra fitting and asked about other people's experiences with this.

Of the 13 people who responded, all but one have been professionally fit at least once in their lives, and the 1 who hasn't used to work at Victoria's Secret and so has enough experience fitting others that she knows how to fit herself! ;)

While pretty much everyone has been fit professionally at least once, there was some variability in how often people get fit. Some folks have only been fit once or twice in their lives - for example, Mary as a young teenager first beginning to buy bras and Angela when she was shopping for her wedding dress. Some have been fit several times throughout their lives, and others are fit annually - sometimes (presumably) to make sure that their size hasn't changed and others, like Shannon, mostly for the help in rummaging around the displays to find the options in the right size! ;)

When people try to fit themselves, how well do they do? Stitchy Witch found that she had been buying the right size all along, but most people who commented said that the professional fitting yielded a different size. With regard to the circumference, the responses were mixed - one person had been routinely buying too small and another had been routinely buying too big. When it comes to cup size, everyone who answered had been buying a cup size that was too small - and Mamafitz said that she found this to be generally true when she used to fit for VS.

Mary reported that she has been successful in fitting herself by systematically trying on all different sizes of each brand of bra. Elaina seconded the importance of going brand-by-brand, because apparently US bra manufacturers have not standardized cup sizes as well as their European counterparts.

As usual, I got some interesting miscellaneous tips. Two people pointed out that, just because a bra fits well in the store, doesn't mean that you're going to like it once you get home and wear it for a whole day, so save your receipts! Also, putting bras in the dryer weakens the elastic and wears them out sooner.

Finally, a few people mentioned making their own bras. Summerset does it, Carla would like to try it someday, and Mamafitz has done it and prefers the type of cups that she can get in commercial bras.

Speaking of making your own, Summerset didn't say anything about this in her comment, but I know that she sells hand dyed kits to make your own bras in her Etsy shop and she has lots of great information about bra making on her second blog, Hooks and Wires. I don't have first hand experience with her kits, but it's pretty obvious from her main blog, Pins and Needles, that everything she does is amazing! :)

Finally, Brenda asked for recommendations for the Bay area (CA), and said that she hasn't been happy with her fitting experiences at her local Victoria's Secret. I'm in Florida and so I can't give specific help. Personally, I'd just try some of the local major department stores until I found someone I liked. But if anyone reading this has a suggestion, leave a comment and I'll pass it on. :)

Thanks again to everyone who took the time to comment! You guys make this series worthwhile! :)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

In the Queue Wednesday

I seem to be on a bit of a roll with regards to trying independent pattern companies. My next queue project is this Colette pattern:

I had never heard of Colette patterns before, and stumbled across this site recently while browsing for new sewing blogs. This pattern is supposed to be good for beginners as it is a wrap-around dress with no buttons, zippers or other types of closures.

I will be making version 2, which has a sweetheart neckline and uses a contrasting fabric for the sash.

I picked out these Amy Butler prints - the top for the dress and the bottom for the sash. Again, my husband should have no trouble picking me out in a crowd! ;)

I don't know when I'll get to it, but don't worry, I will! It's in the queue...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tuesday's Torch Story

In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless,
but planning is indispensable.
~ Dwight David Eisenhower

I began planning for my ESL class early this summer - months before a single student would show up in the classroom.

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while - say 2 weeks or so - have probably guessed that I'm a big fan of structure and patterns. ;)

So, just as I have a prescribed pattern for my weekly blog posts, I set up a pattern for each class session. At a high level, my plan looked like this:

10 minutes for a quiz on the previous week's homework
30 minutes to cover the topic of the week
10 minutes to practice English phonetics
30 minutes for our regular translation activity
10 minutes to go over a set of cognates
total: 90 minutes

For the weekly homework assignment, I made flashcards of the 300 most commonly used words in English, and ask my students to learn about a dozen new ones each week. By the end of the year they will have learned all 300.

Actually, I didn't make the flashcards for everyone - I printed the English words & their Spanish translations onto sticky labels and gave each student a set of those labels and a package of index cards. They are "assembling" their own flashcards. ;)

For the topic of the week, I am following the "presentation-practice-production" pyramid model. First, I do a short presentation of the vocabulary and/or grammar associated with the topic. Then we spend a little bit more time doing some exercises together as a class to practice the new information. Finally I break the class into small groups and assign an activity that requires them to use the new vocabulary when producing their own English language. This last bit is allocated the most amount of classroom time.

Some of the topics are: Colors, family members (mother, uncle, sister, etc.), parts of the body, the calendar, telling time, clothes, food, the house (rooms & furniture), etc.

For the phonetics part, just like Sesame Street, each class will be "brought to you by the letter...". I'll pick one sound, we'll practice saying it in different words, and then I'll give them practice recognizing it, with an exercise where I say words and they have to determine if that sound is in each word or not.

The translation activity - this is kind of my baby. I got many of the ideas for the previous sections from reading books about how to teach ESL. But it was my own idea to make music a major part of our curriculum. So, I thought we'd learn a new song each week. First, I'll pass out the lyrics in English. Then, we'll break into small groups and work on translating the song into Spanish. This will involve (a) looking up many of the words in their dictionaries and then (b) figuring out a reasonable sentence in Spanish given that word-by-word translation. I think these are both important skills that get better with practice.

Then, once everyone understands the words of the song in Spanish, we'll switch to English and practice pronouncing the lyrics and finally sing along with a CD. I selected 14 songs and made CDs for everyone, so that they can listen to them and sing along whenever they want - at home, in the car, etc. My hope is that most people will enjoy this, that it will be a good way to practice translating skills and that it will be an easy way to learn vocabulary.

Finally - the cognates. These are words that have (basically) the same meaning and sound very similar in English and in Spanish (for example, attention and atención.) I set up sets of 5 cognates & 1 false cognate for each week. I see this as a quick vocabulary builder and a chance to become familiar with the differences in pronunciation between English and Spanish.

So, that was my general plan! Of course, how well it will work out in the real world, is another story, as General Eisenhower has found in battle... ;)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Weekend Project: The Object of My Fascination

Whatever the medium, there is the difficulty, challenge, fascination and often productive clumsiness of learning a new method: the wonderful puzzles and problems of translating with new materials.

~ Helen Frankenthaler

I am so excited! I combined a B&N gift certificate and some money that I received for my birthday last month, and ordered a book that I have been coveting for quite some time...

It is the book considered by many to be the bible of fashion making! And it is SO cool!

An early chapter walks you step-by-step through the process of creating a basic pattern set designed to fit you (or whomever you are sewing for) perfectly - I guess it's basically a set of slopers.

Then the book is filled with massive chapters that show you a huge variety of clothing styles and the instructions necessary to modify the basic pattern to create each style. Here's an example for a skirt - I'm just including a few of the images, but there are also step-by-step written instructions.

It really is eye-opening to see all of the variations laid out side by side. I am totally fascinated by this book! Now all I need is to be independently wealthy so that I can devote the rest of my life to working my way through it! ;)

I hope everyone had a good weekend and is ready to start a new week!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Friday Confession

I finally went and had a professional fitting for a bra. I've known forever that I needed to do this. The thing that pushed me over the top was making this dress. The bodice doesn't fit well and I decided to try to adjust the pattern to fit - which is going to be a challenge for me as I haven't done anything like this before. So, I decided that I had better be wearing a well-fitting bra before I go to all the effort of doing a pattern adjustment. ;)

It turns out that I wasn't too far off when I went bra shopping on my own - I had the circumference measurement correct, but I was wearing too small of a cup size. I have to say, the girls do look better in my new bra! ;)

So, how about you? Have you ever been professionally fit? If so, did it make a difference? If not, is it something you want to do someday, or do you feel comfortable that you have worked out the right size for yourself?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Karin, Amelia, Elaina, Stitchy Witch, Summerset, Meredith, Katherine, Mary, Mamafitz & Becky for talking back to my confession last Friday! I asked how people sew their princess seams - with or without clipping first?

So people were reasonably spread on this one.

There were 2 votes for the pure brute force method - with Becky avoiding the stay-stitch and clip approach because sometimes the stay-stitching shows and has to be removed afterwards.

We had 4 votes for clipping - although 3 of those people reported that they only resort to clipping if the curve is large - they just coax the small ones into place. Amelia pointed out that draping the fabric over your fingers as you pin a small princess curve helps the two pieces fit together more easily.

The downside of the clip method, according to Stitchy Witch, is that it makes it difficult to get a nice finish on your seams.

And Meredith had a great tip - she recommends always sewing princess seams with the convex piece on the bottom - to get the feed dogs to help with the work. I have had this feeling for ages that it worked better with one piece on the bottom than the other, but I could never remember which one - thanks, Meredith!

Finally, with regards to the stay-stitch and clip method, Mamafitz emphasized that it is stay-stitching, not basting! I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that I don't know what the difference is... :(

As usual, there were additional options that I wasn't aware of - Elaina, for example, must have the magic touch because she french seams her princess curves and reports that somehow it just works for her!

And Katherine uses a technique she learned from Roberta Carr's book (pictured above) and directed me to an illustration of this technique that she posted on her blog a couple of years ago - check out this gorgeous dress!

Summerset pointed out that princess seams and darts are really just two methods to accomplish the same thing - add shaping to a garment - and that one can be converted into the other. Following up on her comment, I did a google search and found this interesting picture tutorial on how to convert a dart into a princess seam.

Thank you again to everyone who answered! You guys rock!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

In the Queue Wednesday

Okay, I am clearly hanging out with too young of a crowd. Yet another of my friends is about to have a baby... ;)

This time it is Juana, one of my two young sewing students from two years ago. She is expecting a baby boy in mid-October. So, out comes my favorite reversible baby bubble pattern again!

Happily, there are no injunctions against baby animals this time, so the first pair of fabrics I picked have an animal theme:

I did decide to honor the Dad's passion for soccer in the second set - and found a cute dinosaur print to complement it:

I'm going to have to get to these quickly - although I'm not sure exactly when. But, don't worry, I'll get to them. They are in the queue... :)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tuesday's Torch Story

We cannot hold a torch to light another's path without brightening our own.
~Ben Sweetland

Two and a half years ago, I got a crazy idea. It all started with our favorite Mexican restaurant. We made friends with the manager. I sewed some aprons for her kitchen staff. One of the kitchen workers loved her new apron and wanted to learn how to sew. She didn't speak English. I didn't speak Spanish. If I had had an ounce of common sense I would have walked away.

But I agreed to try to teach Ana how to sew. And the next thing I knew, it was Ana and Juana (who also did not speak English) at the weekly sewing lessons. For that first summer, I was dragging my sewing machine and all of my sewing equipment (scissors, measuring tape, pins, etc.) out to their UN-air-conditioned house every Sunday afternoon. (Did I mention that we live in Florida?)

I spent hours on the computer each week, using a free translation web-site, trying to prepare all possible sentences (in Spanish) that I MIGHT need for the upcoming lesson...

Each time we went to the fabric store, they were instinctively drawn to the most complicated patterns and most difficult-to-work-with fabrics...

We ALL struggled to communicate. And despite the fact that most of the time neither side really knew what the other side was thinking, we kept moving forward...

They got better at sewing. I got better at Spanish. They gained a glimpse into my world and I gained a glimpse into theirs. We became friends and I know that my path was brightened by that friendship.

Ana, in particular, has become a dear friend. Last Fall, when her church announced that it was going to start offering free adult ESL classes, and that they were looking for volunteer aides for the class, she talked me into signing up with her - she would take the class and I would be an aide and we could go together each week.

Then she found another ESL class with a more convenient location and better hours (relative to her work) and she bailed on me! But I had committed to the volunteer position, so all last (academic) year I went each week and did my best to help the teacher, Amy. And it was a challenge and a blast all rolled up into one, and my path was brightened a little more.

This led to my next crazy idea. Last Spring, as the ESL class was winding down for the year and the church organizing committee was planning for the Fall, I volunteered to lead my own class, focused on true beginners (as Amy's curriculum is geared more towards intermediate and advanced students).

So, here I am. Once again attempting to do something well outside of my comfort zone.

Once again, spending hours on the computer each week preparing for a 1.5 hour lesson.

Once again, making my plans, watching them collide head first with reality and stagger back into their corner, and going back to the drawing board to try to do better for the next time. ;)

Once again getting to know some pretty cool people and broadening my world and finding my own path is brightened even more. :)

I know it's not sewing-related, but I really want to write about this and I've discovered that I can't maintain 2 blogs (hence the periodic weaving-related posts), so I'm going to post updates about my ESL class on this blog once in a while. I'll post these them on Tuesdays so that, if you aren't interested, you will know that you can skip the entry. If you stay, I hope you enjoy the stories!

Photo credit: pratanti

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Weekend Project: A Niece Sewing Project

People used to complain to me all the time,
'I can't even hear you sing because your clothes are so loud.'
--Cyndi Lauper

I've been working on a project that has been languishing in my queue all summer - a dress for my youngest niece (9 years old) and after reading Cyndi's quote above, I'm thinking that my niece probably shouldn't take up singing... ;)

She asked me to sew her up this dress:

In some pretty wild (stretch knit) fabric!

The dress went together reasonably easily, but there were some bits about the pattern that I just don't understand. For example, the front bodice is made up of two halves that stitch together in between "the girls".

This means that, when I put in basting stitches and tried to gather the fabric, I had to gather two layers - the main fabric and the pressed open seam allowance. It was a bit of a nuisance to try to gather that thickness of fabric. And the instructions definitely had it set up like this - they did not have me trim the seam allowance or anything like that...

Next was the ribbon trim over the front center seam (above) and the halter straps (below).

More gathering through double layers where the straps met the top of the bodice:

An interesting bit - the pattern called for 1/4 inch elastic across the top of the back. This is how they set it up - note the exposed raw edge of fabric to make the casing...

Here it is with the elastic inserted:

Next there was a secondary piece along the waist - between the bra-like top and the skirt.

Back view:

Finally the skirt is attached (after more gathering!). Here's what I find puzzling about the pattern - they didn't appear to pay any attention to making the inside look neat. Lots of raw edges and seam allowances show, when the pattern includes the facings that could have been used to hide these things!

If I ever make this again, I'm going to think it through carefully and make the inside look nicer. For example, it would be easy to cut 2 pieces of the top back section, stitch them together along the top (right sides facing), trim the seams, flip them (wrong sides facing) and then stitch a casing line 3/8th of an inch down for the elastic.

Still, the final dress, from the outside, is cute:

All that's needed is the hem - I may try to use my serger. I need the practice getting the cover stitch to line up nicely with the raw edge on my hems...

I have to make a blouse for her sister before I can package this up and mail it off to her. I'm not sure about the size - but, if anything, it'll be a bit big and she can grow into it. And the fabric is quite stretchy, so it will be forgiving. ;)

I hope everyone is having a great weekend! :)