Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tuesday's Torch Story

People don't care how much you know
until they know how much you care.
~ from compilation by Dr. Mardy Grothe

I am so surprised and happy and proud! When I came up with the idea for my ESL Challenge Course - sending my students out into the local community to interact (in English) at stores, the library, a restaurant, etc. - I was hoping that maybe 4 students would take me up on this challenge. And I was bracing myself to accept it if only 2 students went for it.

But FIVE students have already completed the first mission and 2 more have committed to doing it!

I'm not going to have enough room on my bulletin board to fit all the pictures!

Interestingly, I think that putting pictures up on the bulletin board for each student and for each completed mission is contributing to the number of students who are participating. Of course, I might make a bit of a fanfare about it... ;)

Another good bit - I came up with an activity to help them practice their listening comprehension. I got a set of 11 x 14 images (from a Norman Rockwell series on boy scouts) and displayed a couple of pictures on the white board. Then I would say a sentence that fit only one of the pictures and had them indicate (with "voting cards") which picture I had just described.

It seemed to work well - it took some concentration on their parts, but it was possible.

The funny bit came when I let the students give the sentences. One of my students would walk up to one of the pictures, lean over to study it intently, and then - with her face only 6 inches from that picture! - slowly say her sentence.

It didn't take much English comprehension to guess which picture she was describing! ;)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Weekend Project: Plunging In

Keep care of thy shop and thy shop will keep care of you.
~ Poor Richard's Almanac

Organization has really been on my mind lately - I think maybe I'm coming to the "spring cleaning" party a couple of months late... ;)

This weekend I finished organizing my new mini-office:

AND I cleaned up my sewing room:

The wide-open cutting table inspired me to cut out the pieces for a Hawaiian shirt for my husband:

And there still was enough time for a Memorial Day weekend pool party with friends:

Whether hugging closely to the safety of the side...

...or venturing out into the middle for a swimming lesson...

I think the party was a SPLASH hit with everyone!

And I still have one more day! ;)

I hope you are having a very special holiday weekend! :)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sister, Can You Spare a Dime?

If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.
~ Thomas A. Edison

I am just in awe of Nancy Winningham. I have taught sewing to a couple of young women here, I have sent fabric bundles to women in Iraq and I have contributed to micro loans for women all over the world who want to build their sewing businesses, but Nancy has left the comfort of her house - her city - even her country - and traveled to the other side of the world to teach sewing and help women build better lives for themselves and their families.

Here is someone like me - "normal" - no special training, no special background, no magic connections - who didn't stop with the daydream of maybe someday helping women in a third world country by teaching them to sew.

She made it happen.

She left the world of highways and shopping malls and McDonald's and electricity and indoor plumbing and traveled to a place that must have been totally foreign, and a bit frightening and unimaginably heartbreakingly poor - and she made a difference, face-to-face, one woman at a time...

Currently, she is preparing for her third trip to Uganda and struggling to raise the money to cover her expenses. If you would like to contribute, she is gratefully accepting donations. As little as $5 would help... You can send it through PayPal to her email: nwinning@gmail.com.

Or, check out her blog for other ways to contribute.

Thank you! :)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday Confession

This picture of my cutting table is embarrassing to show... But working on setting up my new mini-office and learning that Mamafitz won 4 hours with a professional organizer in her sewing room got me to thinking about the typical state of unorganized clutter in my sewing room.

I know that it would be easier and more enjoyable to work there if I could get it organized and keep it neat. But there's a bit of a gap between knowing and doing... :(

So, what about you? When it comes to your sewing supplies, what is your biggest organizational challenge? What is your favorite organizational tool or tip?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Mamafitz, Nicole, Wendy, Patsijean, Faye, Katherine, Mary, Carla, Debbie, Shannon and Elaina for talking back to my confession last Friday! I admitted that I can never remember how to orient my fabric to take advantage of the feed dogs.

While most people gave good advice on this one, I was relieved to learn that I’m not totally alone. Two other commenters also have trouble remembering which piece should go against the feed dogs…

So, here’s what I got out of the comments (please correct me if I’ve misinterpreted anything!):

Basically, the feed dogs move the layer of fabric that they are touching just a bit faster than the top layer. So, in general, if you put the longer layer on the bottom, the feed dogs will help make it even out with the shorter layer.

Here are the times when people use them:

In general, put the longer piece of fabric against the feed dogs (5 votes)

Put the weaker grainline against the feed dogs (1 vote)

When attaching a waist band to a skirt or pair of pants, put the main garment piece on the bottom and the waist band on top (1 vote)

Put the back shoulder seam against the feed dogs (1 vote)

(I never realized that back shoulders are supposed to be longer than front shoulders; I always just thought that I didn’t cut them precisely enough!)

Good for princess seams and sleeve caps – the more sharply curved piece is the longer piece (1 vote)

Now, the feed dog feedback wasn’t 100% positive. ;)

Nicole, for example, always puts the minky fabric on top, away from the feed dogs, or else they stretch it out of shape.

Mamafitz and Debbie sometimes like to keep the more sharply curved piece (like the sleeve cap) on top, so that they can see exactly what is going on as they sew and take steps to correct any minor glitches before they become major problems.

Shannon doesn’t feel like the feed dog effect is such a big deal on the sewing machine – she only really pays attention to it on her serger, which moves much more quickly and thus is more difficult to make those small easing adjustments by hand.

Katherine sometimes feels like she has to fight the effect of the feed dogs – especially on long, straight seams – and she does this by either holding the fabric taut or by using her machine’s walking foot.

And Carla prefers the method of sewing princess seams that is explained by Kenneth King in this article.

And Elaina is so pregnant that right now she just doesn’t care. Oh, I’m sorry, Elaina! :(

Thanks again to everyone who left a comment! With all your help, I actually think I’ll be able to remember this now! :)

Photo credit: Sherry at pattern ~ scissors ~ cloth

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

In the Queue Wednesday

A celebration! My husband's first text book was just published!

Congratulations, sweetie! I am so happy and excited for you! :)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tuesday's Torch Story

What most of us are after, when we have a picture taken, is a good natural-looking picture that doesn't resemble us.
~ Peg Bracken

Last week’s class felt quite eventful. We had a story of success, a story of failure and an interesting cultural difference emerge.

The success story – two of my students completed the first mission of the ESL Challenge Course! Each went to the local post office and purchased a postcard stamp (29 cents), on her own, speaking only in English. I had each woman pose for a picture with her evidence (postcard, stamp and receipt) in front of a (plastic) “red curtain” backdrop. I used my portable photo printer to print their pictures on the spot and post them on the bulletin board. They seemed pretty happy and proud. I ceremoniously gave them Mission #2 packets. Two other students reported that they plan to complete Mission #1 this coming week. Yay! :)

It felt pretty happy and exciting – a nice counterpoint to the other major event – a student broke down in tears because she felt overwhelmed. (Interestingly, it was one of the ones who had completed the first mission.) All year long I’ve felt pressure from the Board of Directors to quit allowing and using Spanish in class and insisting that it all be in English. Up through March I was mixing the 2 languages liberally. This summer, I decided to try to switch to exclusively using English. It looks like it was too big of a jump – one of my better students became distraught by not understanding enough of what I was saying and began crying. We spent the last 15 minutes or so of class dealing with this. Other students commiserated and expressed similar feelings. We all tried to say encouraging things, etc.

I understand that learning a second language is a difficult task and some frustration is unavoidable. But I don’t believe that anyone is learning at her best when she is driven to tears. I’m going to scale it back a little bit – try to remember to speak more slowly, allow some Spanish, etc. I’m also going to look for activities to help everyone practice their listening skills…

When I got home that night, my husband (a college professor) asked how my class had gone. I said it had gone poorly because I had “made” one of my students cry. He said his day had been worse – he had made 4 students cry! At first I didn’t believe him, but it turns out that it was true. He is also the undergraduate advisor for his department and that particular day 4 students had been in his office crying because, after failing a pre-requisite course in the Spring semester, they had been dropped from their summer classes… So, I guess it could have been worse…

Anyways, we also had something happen that I thought was very surprising and funny. For their reading homework, I had them read some advice columns from the newspaper. With one of the letters, I did not include the columnist’s answer. Instead, I asked them to imagine how they would respond. Briefly, a woman wrote in complaining about her boyfriend. Apparently he asked her for her idea of a perfect romantic evening. She told him. A few weeks later he “surprised” her by doing everything on her list – down to the last detail, exactly as she had described. She was complaining about his lack of creativity.

I asked the first student for her advice and she said that this woman should leave this boyfriend because he was no good! What!?!?! It was my opinion that the woman was being unreasonable. I think that men are often straightforward creatures – when you tell them what you want, they take it at face value and try to give it to you. So, I took a quick poll. The 3 American women in the room (me & 2 volunteer aides) all said that it was the woman’s fault. All 5 of my Hispanic students said that it was the man’s fault. I concluded that Hispanic women must have higher expectations for their men than American women do… ;)

So, I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me, trying to ease this transition for my students… Wish me luck.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Weekend Project: A Different Type of Assembly

Coming together is a beginning.
Keeping together is progress.
Working together is a success.
~ Henry Ford

I didn't get in any sewing this weekend, but I did make something - with my husband's help. :)

Between my small business (The "How Much Fabric?" Reference cards) and my ESL class, I've been accumulating piles of papers, printouts of pattern envelopes, books and assorted educational materials throughout the house. Recently I decided to rearrange the furniture in our guest bedroom to free up one corner of the room and establish a small office.

Our major project this weekend was assembling the desk. On first glance, it is a normal L-shaped desk:

But the thing that makes this desk so unusual is that, when we have company, I can close it up...

... to free up the floor space for the guests!

Isn't that cool?

My husband and I had a pretty fun time assembling it. We have a system - while he is using the tools to complete a step, I am reviewing the next step of the instructions and assembling the required parts. So that each time he finishes one step, I can tell him exactly what comes next and hand him all the pieces he needs. He was pretty impressed with the quality of this kit - we'd buy from them again. (You know, if there was any more room in our house for more furniture!)

I had hoped to have everything put together and put away, so that I could show you nice pictures of the completed room. Instead, you'll have to settle for a view of the work in progress.

Here's a shot of the day bed and 1 of the 4 huge bookcases that dominate the room and hold our extensive collection of leisure reading materials.

From the corner that you can see on the right above, here's a shot of my desk, chair and small storage tower:

My husband will install the white board / bulletin board combo on the wall to the left of the desk sometime this coming week.

And I even managed to squeeze in a 4 drawer filing cabinet next to the bookcases:

Please pardon all the piles of paper and boxes and climbing helmets, etc. I hope to have it all put away and cleaned up to show you next weekend! :)

I am SO excited to have this new space to work!

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

Saturday, May 21, 2011

New Blog "Toy"

It's called "ThingLink" and it's free and it lets me create clickable hot spots on any image that I put on my blog.

I first found out about it from the BurdaStyle blog.

I imagine that I'll use it a lot... You know, for a week or so... ;)

I've embedded some links for you to explore in the picture above - have fun!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday Confession

Patisjean's comment last week reminded me that I don't take advantage of my feed dogs the way that I should. Across the history of these confessions, several people have advised that sometimes it makes a difference which piece you lay against the feed dogs - one way, and the feed dogs actually help you get the 2 pieces to fit together. My problem is that I can never remember which way...

So, how about you? Do you pay attention to which piece you position on the bottom when sewing a seam? If yes, can you elaborate on when and why?

Photo credit: Mr. Vac & Mrs. Sew

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Mary, Judidarling, Mamafitz, Lisa Laree, Summerset, Shannon and Patsijean for talking back to my confession last week. I asked about the methods that people use to attach sleeves to garments. In particular, I was curious about the differences between addding the sleeve in the "flat" fabric stage (before sewing up any side seams) versus closing up the shirt and sleeve individually first, before inserting the sleeve in the "round".

We got a lovely distribution of responses and - as usual - I learned something completely new!

Four people said that the method they use depends on some aspect of the particular project. Several said that this decision is based mostly on the shallowness versus steepness of the sleeve cap - with shallow capped sleeves assembling nicely flat, and steep capped sleeves assembling best in the round. Summerset called out the type of garment - she generally uses the flat method for knits and men's shirts and the round method for most other garments. (Note that this MAY somewhat correspond to the steepness of the sleeve...) Lisa Laree also mentioned t-shirts as having shallow sleeves that can usually be assembled flat.

At the same time, we had a couple of people who generally use the flat method, even if the round method is called for in the instructions. Shannon feels that she can adjust the gathers more evenly when she is working flat. And Patsijean picked up some pointers on flat sleeve inserting from Peggy Sayer, including placing the sleeve fabric against the feed dogs and letting them help you ease the 2 pieces of fabric together. Patsijean gave this link to an online video that she found really helpful: click here and watch the one on blouse-making.

At the other extreme, Mamafitz strongly prefers the round method of inserting sleeves. She says that her sleeves hang better when she inserts them in the round and that this method allows her to pre-shape the sleeve cap to her preferences before inserting it.

So, it turns out that these (flat and round) aren't the only two options... Both Mary and Judidarling use a combiation method! They start by attaching the sleeve "in the flat" between the notches (over the shoulder, I'm pretty sure). Then they stitch the side seams of the shirt and the sleeve separately. Finally, they connect the rest of the sleeve "in the round." Judidarling says that the side seams lay flatter, she has better access to the areas that need easing, and it's worth the little bit of extra time that it takes.

This sounds very interesting! I'm going to look into it some more and see if I can give it a try...

Thanks again to everyone who took the time to leave a comment with your suggestions and advice! :)

Finally, thank you to all the reassuring comments about my impending mid-life crisis. :)

What I have learned is that (a) women DO have them too, and (b) but ours are much cheaper than mens' - think hair dye and braces versus a sports car and young mistress. ;)

Oh, and also that they are survivable. :)

Photo of sleeves that don't need to be attached: My tattoo designs

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

In the Queue Wednesday

Are women allowed to have a mid-life crisis, or are those reserved exclusively for men?

Because I think there's one waiting for me in my queue...

My husband sailed smoothly through the big 5-0 as if it was nothing. In fact, he routinely says things like "What's the big deal? It's just a number."

I still have almost 18 months to go, but already I'm feeling the symptoms of an encroaching freak-out... Among other things, I'm considering letting my hair grow out (already started), getting braces, quitting my job and becoming a hermit living on the top of a mountain...

What do you think? Any advice from those who have "been there, done that" and lived to tell about it?

Because I'm afraid that I'm going to get to this one whether or not I want to! It's in the queue...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tuesday's Torch Story

Babies have big heads and big eyes, and tiny little bodies with tiny little arms and legs. So did the aliens at Roswell! I rest my case.

~ William Shatner

As we do fewer scripted grammar lessons and more open discussion in our ESL class, I learn more and more about my students.

For example, during our guessing game, one of my students gave this clue for an animal:

It is like a person. Some people think humans grew from this, but we don't believe that because we believe in God.

(The answer was: Monkey.)

Not completely inconsistent with teaching ESL in a Catholic Church... ;)

The next one, on the other hand, caught me by surprise. We were discussing the previous week's reading (a humorous fictional letter from aliens to the human race) and one of the discussion questions was whether or not they believed in extraterrestrials.

One of my students is convinced that they are real, because she SAW a UFO, over 20 years ago, in her home country of Nicaragua! It was in the late evening and the sky was growing dark. She was walking across a field with her young son. The sky suddenly lit up and 3 huge objects with brillant lights raced by overhead. She and her son were terrified.

So, to summarize:

  • Evolution - eh, not so much.

  • Aliens walking among us - absolutely! ;)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Weekend Project: The "Quick and Easy" Project Take 2

Confidence is the feeling you have before you understand the situation.
~ Mark Twain

I had a couple of free hours and decided to try my "quick and easy" RTW-copy project a second time. There were 2 issues with my first attempt (here).

First was the neckline - I cut a neckline band the same length as the neckline, and got a rippled, lettuce leaf effect. The second was the sleeves - they had too much fabric that bunched up the arms.

I noted that the sleeve pattern I copied from my RTW top was very flat and some internet research suggested that a steeper sleeve cap would reduce the amount of underarm fabric. Although, Debbie pointed out that another important variable is the depth of the underarm seam. (She recommends 1/2 inch below the armpit - especially for knits - see here.)

So, I took the very flat sleeve pattern from my first attempt and a commercial sleeve pattern with a steep sleeve cap...

... and sketched an intermediate version:

I figured that I might need to modify the armholes a bit to fit these revised sleeves, so I took the same commercial pattern and overlaid it on my RTW copied pattern and, again, sketched a mid-way line:

Once the fabric was cut with my revised pattern, this knit top serged together in a heartbeat. My order of construction was: shoulder seams, sleeves, side seams (including underarm seams) and then coverstitch hems.

I always have a hard time getting my fabric edge to line up nicely with my coverstitch. This time I tried basting a guideline first:

I turned the fabric along the guideline as I fed it through my machine.

The result is okay - possibly better than my usual results, but still far from the perfection that I see on other blogs... :(

Finally, issue #2 - the neckline. Between advice from commenters and a couple of my sewing books, I saw a huge range of recommendations for how much to shorten the neckline band before attaching to the shirt. I (somewhat randomly) picked 20%.

The result is a nice-looking neckline - but unfortunately I lost the original shape - which was a boat neck.

Also, given that the cut of the neckline was for a boat neck, it isn't scooped enough for this style of collar and it kind of rubs against my neck in the front.

So, here are some comparison shots of attempt #1 and attempt #1. Blogger flipped this first picture and I can't figure out how to get it flipped back. But it's my first version - notice the wavy collar and the practically straight line from shoulder through sleeve...

And here is my second version. As you can see, the collar is much improved and there is a slight downward angle at the end of each shoulder for the sleeves.

Looks like my "quick and easy" project is going to require a third attempt! Oh well, I think I'm learning a lot on this project! And hopefully I'll end up with a TNT pattern for many knit tops. :)

I hope you had a wonderful sewing weekend and are ready for the work week to start. :)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Friday Confession

Last week I asked how faithfully people follow sewing instructions when you are directed to stitch the same seam twice - first basting and second stitching. In the discussion, several people brought up the topic of sleeves and their preferences for attaching them. That got me curious about how everyone else feels.

The two basic methods (that I know of) are (a) attach first (when flat), before closing up the side seam:

and (b) close up both side seams and then insert the sleeve tube into the round(ish) armhole:

When I first started sewing, I definitely preferred the flat method. Now I'm getting less particular. It seems like the open & flat method is easiest for shallow sleeve caps and the tube insertion method is easier for steep sleeve caps. Also, obviously, the tube insertion method is best if you are adding any gathers to the sleeve...

What about you? Do you have a preference? If so, which and why? If you have a preference, is it strong enough that you use it, even when the instructions describe a different method?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Talk Back Thursday

Sorry for the delay - BLOGGER has been been down for the last 24 hours or so... :(

Thank you so much to Carla, Mamafitz, Sarah, Katherine, Sarah, Debbie, Lisa Laree and Shannon for talking back to my confession last week! I asked if people diligently followed the sewing instructions that direct us to do a seam twice – first basting and then, immediately afterwards, stitching.

It sounds like most people do at least some basting. Only 1 person replied “never” and one other replied “rarely.”

As for when to baste, I got the impression that the commenters rely more heavily on their judgment than the pattern instructions. The most commonly mentioned reasons to baste were:
- “tricky bits” that might not line up (2 votes)
- to check the fit of a garment before committing to small stitches or the serger (2 votes)
- pleats (2 votes)

Other circumstances for basting first, each called out by one person, included: stay stitching knits, gathering, curvy seams, trim, straps, invisible zippers and expensive or fragile fabric.

Interestingly, the topic of basting sleeves brought up the most discussion.

Three people reported that they never baste their sleeves. They seem to rely on a combination of heavy pinning (and thanks to Carla for a link to this tutorial! - ) and/or attaching them flat (before the side seams have been sewn up) and trimming any excess fabric at the edges.

Some will do ease stitching to set in a puffy sleeve – although Mamafitz does her ease stitching with a regular length stitch. When Lisa Laree is feeling the pull of perfectionism, she’ll baste 2 rows of ease stitches into each puffy sleeve and adjust each row separately! Now that is attention to detail!

Finally, a couple of people reported that, while they don’t baste their sleeves, they do stitch them twice to reinforce them. Sarah E. stitches two seams – one at 5/8ths of an inch and the other at ¼. Shannon doesn’t go all the way around a sleeve twice, but she does reinforce several inches of the underarm seam with a second row of stitches. (And she does the same for crotch seams.)

Thanks again to everyone who took the time to comment! I learn so much from all your advice and experience! :)

Photo – in honor of Sarah, who does about half her basting by hand! – from: http://www.squidoo.com/handstitchingtechniques

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

In the Queue Wednesday

Still finding lovely fabric in my sewing room that is just waiting for my attention...

Here is a classic pinstripe lightweight suiting material that is just crying out to be made into dress trousers suitable for work.

I'd like to keep trying to draft my own pants pattern from this Threads article (January 2008):

I got close last time - the main change I'd like to make is to have the pants stay wide, instead of narrowing so much.

Oh, beautiful fabric, don't give up on me! I'll get to you someday... You're in the queue. :)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tuesday's Torch Story

This is not a clue... or is it?

~ Bart Simpson

I unleashed the hinting/guessing game on my class last week and, once we got past some initial stumbling blocks...

...it was a big hit!

Tonight we'll play again and I'll pass out the envelopes for the first mission of our ESL Challenge Course.

I've been searching for more reading assignments. For next week I have them reading a couple of classic Ann Landers columns - and then trying their hand at answering a letter. I can't wait to see what they come up with. ;)

After that, I think I'll have a short biography of Mother Teresa and maybe a story or two from the Panchatantra - a collection of Indian fables originally written in Sanskrit!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Weekend Project: Finishing Touches

My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace is to finish what I start. So far today, I have finished two bags of M&M's and a chocolate cake. I feel better already.
~ Dave Barry

While I may not have achieved this level of chocolate nirvana, it does feel good to finish up this dress, for my vet's two year old daughter:

I took Gwen's advice and made up the pocket and then compared the dress with (pinned on) and without it. Both versions looked cute. I could imagine a little doll peeking out over the top of the pocket, so I stitched it on. ;)

I tried something I've read about, but never done before, for the button. Given that I was using an elastic hair band for a button loop (rather than a button hole), I thought that the button could use a bit of a thread shank to hold it up away from the fabric just a smidge. So, I stitched it on with a toothpick between it and the dress:

It worked well and the loop fits perfectly. The only minor issue was that it was easy to stitch in one direction with the toothpick, but a bit of a challenge to stitch in the other direction...

I was happy with how well my label - and its black & red colors & graphic heart design - blended with the dress. :)

I have an appointment to take the two older cats to see the vet for their annual shots around the end of the month. I'll give it to her then. I hope that she and her daughter like it! :)

Speaking of cats, here is a parting shot of Oliver, lounging in one of our pool chairs (NOT in the pool) and enjoying the sun...

I hope everyone is enjoying a wonderful weekend! Happy Mother's Day to all the Mothers out there! :)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday Confession

These classic shampoo bottle "instructions" are practically a joke nowadays, and I don't know anyone who actually shampoos twice each time (much to the disappointment of the shampoo companies, I'm sure!).

But it occurred to me that we have something similar in our sewing instructions. Certain seams - such as when you are inserting sleeves - often call for two passes with the machine - a row of basting followed immediately by a row of stitching.

My confession - I rarely do this. Basically, I only do it when I am doubtful of my ability to get a good fit (no puckers, etc.) the first time.

So, how about you? How often do you do the row of basting first, before the regular stitches? When do you do it? If you don't do it, why not? Does anyone know the reasoning behind these instructions?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Talk Back Thursday

Photo credit: Mrs. Williamson at Stitch and Boots

Thank you so much to Becky, Julie, Mamafitz, Claire, Nicole, judidarling, Anne, Debbie, Carla, Mary, Dana, Gwen and Summerset for talking back to my confession last Friday! I asked how often people adjust the needle position on their sewing machine, and for what applications.

For a while after reading these comments, I found myself suffering from some serious ANP (available needle positions) envy. My machine offers 3 positions - left, centered and right. Becky's machine has five positions. Debbie's machine has FOURTEEN positions! And it sounds like Mamafitz's machine has an almost INFINITE number of positions!!! (She said it can "move over incrementally.")

(It's funny that I should have experienced ANP envy, because I rarely use anything other than centered!)

Then, when I was looking into this on the internet, I came across this site that made this point:

"Some sewing machines offer you left, right and center needle positions, but you can adjust those settings by making adjustments in the stitch width."

So, it looks like my machine offers quite a few needle positions too. ;)

Anyways, everyone who responded takes advantage of the ability to shift the machine needle left and right from center. By far and away, the most common application of this capability is for top-stitching and edge-stitching - with 9 votes.

Julia expanded on how she top-stitches - with the needle in the leftmost position, using a 1/4 inch foot with an edge guide.

The second most popular reason to shift the needle position is installing zippers - 6 people mentioned doing this.

After this, there were a variety of reasons called out by 1 or 2 people each:

Summerset and Becky both pointed out that sometimes a particular foot (the zipper foot, in Becky's case) actually requires that you shift the needle off-center.

Claire and judidarling shift the needle to increase the amount of fabric that they can have under (or in contact with) the foot - they like having that extra control.

Debbie also called out increased control - she moves the needle to get each seam to line up exactly where she wants it.

Gwen mentioned shifting the needle position when applying cording and piping.

Similarly, Nicole shifts her needle to the far left when applying bias tape.

Finally, Claire also called out understitching.

So, it looks like are quite a number of good reasons to experiment with moving your sewing machine needle left and right!

I was happy to hear that my application - getting 3 rows of gathering stitches nicely lined up - was new to at least a couple of people. And I've already put your advice re. top stitching to use with the dress I started last weekend!

Thanks again to everyone who took the time and trouble to leave a comment! Now I'm going to go stitch a sampler that shows off all the many needle positions I have available on my machine! ;)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

In the Queue Wednesday

Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.
~ Carl Sagan

Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be sewn.
~ Gwen Campbell

And here is more beautiful fabric, just sitting in my sewing room and waiting for me... I even have the lining on hand!

The print is gauzy and, despite its appearance on my computer monitor, is gray-hued, not brown...

I think it will make a lovely skirt - hopefully a cross between romantic and professional enough for work. I don't have a pattern in mind yet...

It almost hurts sometimes, to see all these projects that I so badly want to get to, and to watch the days and weeks slip through my fingers...

But, I promise myself as I slowly fold it back up and replace it in my project bin, I will get to this someday. It's in the queue...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Tuesday's Torch Story

Our Similarities bring us to a common ground;
Our Differences allow us to be fascinated by each other.
~ Tom Robbins

While browsing the internet, I found this game that I thought I'd try with my ESL class this summer. It's a lot like the old TV show, the 10,000 Dollar Pyramid. One person has a game card that lists 8 words that fit a category. That person announces the category and then has 1 minute to give hints to try to get his/her partner to guess the specific words listed on the card.

Rather than rush out and buy it, I made up a few of my own cards and gave the game a trial run with Ana. Even though she had never heard of it before, she got the general idea right away.

On the other hand, it was challenging to play with her because she didn't quite seem to realize the difference between a true statement and a good clue...

To be fair, she wasn't that crazy about my clues either, as illustrated below. See if you can figure out which girl grew up in the city surrounded by children's books and which girl grew up in the countryside surrounded by the real world!

The game really does show the importance of common ground. Ana and I had the most success when one of us could hint with some information from our shared past - for example, under "Articles of Clothing" I hinted "the first thing you ever sewed" and she immediately replied with the correct answer, "skirt".

Anyways, regardless of our minor set backs, Ana LOVED the game and promptly commandeered my card set to take with her to school and play with her classmates. (She studies English at a local adult school from 8:00-1:30, Mon-Fri.)

So, I'm going to make up a bunch more cards and try it with my class. I hope they like it even half as much as Ana!