Thursday, July 28, 2011

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Lois, Katie, Faye, Debbie, Becky, Gwen, Mamafitz, Mary, Alison, Katherine, Claire, Summerset, Patsijean and Lisa Laree for talking back to my confession last week! I asked about straight pins and, in particular, how often people replace them.

For starters, no one is living my pin-dream-life where you buy one packet and they last forever. Most people find that, over time, their pins become dull and bent, lose their heads, form little burrs and sometimes even rust. As for the people who don’t experience this, it’s mostly because they lose their pins before any of that can happen! ;)

And pretty much everyone does something very simple and very logical – whenever they find a “bad” pin (maybe it lost its head and got a tattoo or something…) they dispose of it in a safe way – putting it in an old spice bottle, an old prescription bottle, an old photo film canister, etc.

I really need to do this – I have a bad (i.e., lazy!) habit of putting the bad ones back on my magnetic pin holder, where they can mix with the good ones and stir up trouble… ;)

At this point, there is a split – most people go out and buy a new set when they find that their supply of good pins isn’t enough to complete a project.

But a couple of lucky people are able to rely on the kindness of friends and family and find that packages of straight pins tend to appear in Christmas stockings and next to birthday cakes. How nice is that! :)

If you are trying to get as much life as possible out of your pins, Mary had a tip – she uses emery strawberries to re-fresh pins with small nicks and burrs on them.

Not surprisingly some people talked about the types of pins they use – but I’m going to ask about that in a separate confession, so I’ll hold back a summary of those comments until then.

Thanks again to everyone who commented! I promise to start discarding my bad pins as I come across them - cross my heart! ;)

Photo credit: The Graphics Fairy

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

In the Queue Wednesday

It's that time of year again! ALL of my queues - sewing, work, house, etc. - are put aside for our summer vacation!

Do you recognize the picture above? It's Lake Powell - which (according to Wikipedia, here) is actually a man-made reservoir on the Colorado River, spreading out across the northern border of Arizona and the southern border of Utah.

We're doing something waaaay different this year - we're spending the good part of a week puttering around Lake Powell on a houseboat! Does that sound cool, or what?

Anyways, I'll be gone for a while, but I promise to come back with lots of cool pictures! Don't worry, I will. It's in my queue... ;)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Cool Chart Tuesday

Here's something cool. The Trulia blog surveyed over 1000 people about the features that make a happy home. Check out the infographic above to see the results.

Look - a sewing room!

(You can read the full post here.)

What do you think about the features listed here? Are they part of your perfect home? Is there anything missing? Personally, that sewing room is WAY too small for me! ;)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Weekend Project: "Waisting" Away...

A waist is a terrible thing to mind.
~ Variously attributed

So, I'm trying to get a size 4 women's evening gown dress pattern to fit my 10-year-old niece. While she recently had an upward growth spurt, she's still waiting for her curves to come in.

I would be in way over my head, except for one bit of luck - the crux of our fitting problems are based on a single pattern piece - the waist band. In its first incarnation, it would be about 27 inches (after the installation of a zipper).

It needs to be closer to 31 inches. Happily, the bodice above the waistband and the skirt below the waistband are both gathered! So, I removed the first waistband...

And cut a new one - extending it a total of 4 inches.

Now I'll just let out the bodice & skirt gathers a little bit, to fit with the new waistband. It should work, right? Keep your fingers crossed for me!

I'll let you know how it turns out...

I hope everyone had a good sewing weekend and is ready for a new week. :)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday Confession

Today's confession topic: straight pins. We've talked about them in some ways before - pins versus pattern weights, sewing over pins, etc.

But my question today has to do with replacing pins.

For some reason, I had this idea that, when you start sewing, you pick up a package of straight pins and that's it. You're done. You have spent your life-time pin budget of $3.60 and you never have to look back. (Ah, the innocence of youth...)

But my pins - brace yourself for a nasty shock - appear to be getting dull! The nerve! A short 9 years of pinning together dozens and dozens of garments, being forced into sequined-glued spandex (teenage niece - not me!), being run through the sewing machine - and they are starting to wear down... What is this world coming to?

So, it appears that I may have to shell out ANOTHER $3.60 for more pins. You know, spread across almost 10 years, that's like 3 cents a month, just for pins! ;)

Okay, seriously, in hindsight it's kind of funny that I change my sewing machine needle after every project, but somehow expected my straight pins to last forever. Doh!

And I'm curious about your experiences. Do you replace your pins? Do you have some kind of schedule or system, or do you just do it when it seems to be needed? Do you throw out individual pins as they become dull or do you just replace an old package with a new package once in a while? About how often do you feel that pins should be replaced? I'm looking forward to reading what you have to say! :)

Photo credit: LynnBsCountryCottage

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Talk Back Thursday and Give-Away Winner!

Photo credit: Stephanie at Unfinished Sewing Projects Blog

Thank you so much to Sarah, Julia, Mamafitz, Carla, Nancy, Katherine, Debbie, Gwen, Faye, Patsijean, Becky and Summerset for talking back to my confession a couple of weeks ago. I asked about neckline facings and, in particular, about understitching and tacking practices.

Many of my confessions elicit a wide variety of unique responses and demonstrate the opportunities to express your individuality through your sewing.

This one?

Ummm, not so much…. ;)

Basically, everybody understitches their facings. Also, everybody tacks at least some, if not all of the time – although most people only tack at the shoulders and not all the way around the neckline. Using a machine stitch-in-the-ditch approach was most frequently mentioned, but some people, like Summerset, use hand stitching to tack the facings on their nicer garments.

One thing that I did not expect – many people reported trying to avoid facings and either lining bodices or using bias bindings at the neckline (and armholes on sleeveless tops) instead. (Although this may not completely avoid the understitching issue - Mamafitz recommends understiching linings too...)

It never occurred to me to replace the facing in a pattern with a bias binding - this is something I'll have to keep in mind in the future.

Of course, all of this is just avoiding the elephant in the room - looks like I need to start understitching my facings. ;)

Several people chimed in with reasons for understitching and tacking - basically all variations on the theme of making sure that the facing lays nicely and doesn't roll or flip out.

There was only one small issue that generated 2 different perspectives - that of facings on knit fabrics. While Becky thought that knit fabrics, most of all, are best finished by binding with a strip of fabric, Nancy has recently started using a 3-step zig zag stitch to understitch knits. There is a tip on this in the PR book (click here) and a nice explanation with photos on The Sewing Lawyer's blog (click here).

Know something interesting? Understitching is one of the sewing skills to be demonstrated on 4-H checklists. Check it out here and here... And I've got a bunch of embedded links to understitching tutorials in the picture - not that it sounds like any of you guys need that! ;)

Thanks again to everyone who took the time to comment! Once again, you're changing the way I sew for the better. :)


And now for the moment you've all been waiting for - the randomly drawn winner of my give-away!

In honor of my 700th post, I will be sending a copy of Helen Joseph-Armstrong's book, Patternmaking for Fashion Design to...


Please email me at so that I can get your mailing address.

As always, I wish there was some way that I could let each and every one of you know how much it means to me to know that you read my blog. I wouldn't have reached 7 posts, never mind 700, if it wasn't for all of you. Thank you! :)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

In the Queue Wednesday

I caught a break (time-wise) on Carolyn's baptismal dress, as it looks like that ceremony may not happen this year. But I also promised her a "fun" dress. She picked view A (without the applique flowers) of this pattern, Simplicity 2469, and a mid-weight cotton. The fabric has a black background covered with brightly colored hearts all over. (Sorry no picture.)

I have to finish my niece's red night club dress first, but I'll get this done for Carolyn sometime this summer. Don't worry - it's in the queue. ;)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cool Chart Tuesday

Fashion is made to become unfashionable.
~ Coco Chanel

Speaking of fashion through the ages, are you familiar with the "Hemline Theory"?

Basically, it says that hemlines rise and fall with the economy - long dresses & skirts when the economy is doing poorly and short dresses & skirts when the economy is doing well.

Pretty cool, huh? Do you think this is holding true now? Are we wearing longer styles during this economic slump?

You can read just a bit more about this theory here.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Guest Bloggers: Sammy & Oliver

By associating with the cat one only risks becoming richer.

~ Sidonie Gabrielle

While I am away visiting my Grandmother, Sammy and Oliver agreed to write a guest post for me. Here they provide a photo diary of one of their hectic afternoons. Don't blink or you might miss something! ;)

PS - Don't forget to sign up for my 700th post give-away here...

Friday, July 15, 2011

700th Post Give-Away!

I absolutely love my copy of Helen Joseph-Armstrong's 5th edition of Patternmaking for Fashion Design. So, in celebration of my 700th post, I will give away a copy of this book to one randomly drawn commenter.

If you would like your own copy of this book, leave a comment. The drawing will be open until midnight EST next Wednesday (July 20th). I'll announce the randomly drawn winner's name next Thursday.

Note that I WILL ship this internationally, so everyone can feel free to participate.

Thank you to everyone who stops by from time to time to read my blog! Special thanks to the folks who take the time to leave a comment! Good luck! :)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

In the Queue Wednesday

Another swing-dancing, circle skirt, cut and ready to sew!

Our instructor had to postpone this weekend's lessons, so we're still enthusiastically tromping around our living room practicing our 5 moves.

But someday we'll unveil our dancing in public. Probably at a bar where, hopefully, most people will be too drunk to even notice us... ;)

And I may just be wearing this skirt. After all, it's in the queue...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cool Chart Tuesday

Now that I'm on summer break from my ESL class, I thought I'd do something new for Tuesday posts. So, for a while at least, I'm going to post sewing- and/or fashion-related graphics that I find on the internet.

I'm starting with this "Fashion Silhouette Infographic" that I found on The Style Junkie blog. Isn't it cool? See my dancing circle skirt in 1952?

Do any of these styles jump out at you? Perhaps a favorite? Or a painful memory? ;)

Where are we going next? Any thoughts?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Weekend Project: Red Hot Mama

A blonde in a red dress can do without introductions -
but not without a body guard.
~ Rona Jaffe

So, I've been working on my 10-year-old niece's red dress - you know, the one that was inspired by her night club avatar on Facebook?

You may remember that she wanted an unusual hem - one that was shortest in front and longest in back. Here you can see the skirt folded in half (with side seams in the center and skirt front to the left) and her desired hem marked with white chalk:

And here you can see the first version of the dress. Note the single-shouldered style and the hemline:

(Check out the embedded link in the image above for a tutorial to make another red dress...)

So, while my niece has had an upward growth spurt over the last 6 months or so, she is still relatively curve-less. This means that it is going to take some work to get the dress to fit properly. But I am incredibly lucky with this pattern! Can you see why it's going to be relatively easy to adjust the fit?

It's because the fit is primarily dictated by the band, and the bodice & skirt pieces are both gathered into that band. That means that all I have to do is cut a new, longer band and let out the gathers a little bit in the other pieces, to adjust the dress to fit her! I don't have to cut out new bodice and skirt pieces! Isn't that great? :)

So, as predicted, there's going to be quite a bit of seam ripping going on in the near future, but I am feeling optimistic about being able to give her the dress that she wants. :)

I hope you are having a great weekend and feel ready for the start of a new week.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Friday Confession

Okay, this one is embarrassing - it falls squarely in the "I know better, but..." category.

I'm afraid I'm a bit lax with my neck facings - I rarely understitch and I never tack them down at the shoulder seams. :(

So, how about you? Do you understitch? Do you tack? Do you take it as far as the photo above from St. Gemma's Art and Needlework blog and actually handstitch all the way around the facing?

Go ahead - I'm braced for the scoldings... ;)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Talk Back Thursday (continued)

I didn't post a new confession last Friday, but Patsijean added a new comment about fabric grainline, and because she described a different way to prepare your fabric, I thought I should pass it along. Instead of summarizing in my own words, I'll just cut and paste her comment:

"I do not use the torn edge method to find the grain as it is seldom accurate, and neither is the pulled thread method, except perhaps with wool. A great deal of the fabric we use is processed so many times it is permanently set off grain, to various degrees.

To make sure my fabric is on grain after washing and pressing I simply hold up the fabric with selvages together,usually in the center of the yardage, a section in each hand and spread my arms. I then adjust until the fold is hanging smoothly, and true, with no drag lines.

If necessary when working with a long piece of fabric, I will pin that section and work toward each end, doing the same thing if necessary.

The crosswise cut edges seldom if ever meet even though the fabric is on grain but the fold will be on grain.

When working with a print that may be a bit off, although I surprisingly don't have much trouble with that, I will cut single layer and fudge just a bit to make the print flow smoothly."

This method makes a lot of sense to me. It's funny, I kind of do a variation of this, although I never officially labeled it as a technique. But when I fold my fabric in half length-wise, I line up the selvedges and then work at getting the 2 layers to lie flat, without any bumps or wrinkles. I usually do these adjustments when the fabric is flat on the floor - next time I'll try Patsijean's suggestion to do it from a hanging position. :)

Does anyone have any more tips on fabric grain? I read a short article that talks about grain and draping and how we want the grainline to run perpendicular to the floor so that the garment hangs nicely on our bodies - see the link embedded in the picture for the photo credit and the article. :)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

In the Queue Wednesday

There's usually sewing involved when my nieces visit each summer, and this summer was no exception. My older niece fell in love with my pink laptop cover, and so we made one together for her mini-laptop. She chose pink with large white polka dots for the outside and a zebra stripe for the inside. ;)

My younger niece (10.5 years old) had recently fallen in love with a red dress worn by one of her avatars on a Facebook "night club" game that she plays. (I know! What?!?!) The main features were (a) it was one shouldered and (b) it had an uneven hem - shortest in the front center and longest in the back.

We searched the pattern books for quite a while, and this pattern was the closest we could find (upper left hand version - but much shorter). I figured it would be much easier to modify the hem than to create a one-shouldered pattern on my own!

Unfortunately, the pattern is for a woman, and my niece still has a young girl's shape. So this is going to give me an opportunity to practice my pattern modification / fitting skills... ;)

She picked a red "bottom weight" cotton - one that is softer than most and has a touch of stretch. But it's definitely not the typical fabric for this pattern - not slinky or silky. Truthfully, I'm happier to be making it in this less-adult fabric, and something tells me that I'm going to appreciate the sturdiness and the slight stretch...

She's waiting with eager anticipation - don't worry, I'll get to it soon! It's in the queue...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tuesday's Torch Story

Help a Bingo player when he is in trouble
and he will remember you when he is in trouble again!

We had a fun, low-key last class. We played a couple of rounds of Bingo - with concrete nouns instead of numbers. I was afraid it would be lame, but was pleasantly surprised by how much people enjoyed it - especially the 2 winners! ;)

(PS - the "prize" was lifelong fame...)

And then some munchies and lots of goodbye hugs and group photos. Here I am with the whole class:

I still have a couple of one-on-one lunches left to be scheduled - but my first year of teaching ESL has come to an end. It was an amazing experience! And I'm looking forward to next year - and using all the things I learned this year to make my 2nd time around even better! :)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Weekend Project: Fun with Family & Friends

There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured
by what is right with America.
~ William Clinton

Friday I took my youngest niece, Ana and two of her young friends to Aquatica, a water theme park in Orlando.

I think they had fun...

What do you think?

Don't they look like 3 mermaids?

We also celebrated a birthday.

Have you ever heard the Mexican birthday song? It must be the longest song in the world... I think there are approximately 37 verses. If there was 1 more verse, people would actually have ANOTHER birthday while it was being sung! (Click on embedded link for lyrics.)

Finally, even Oliver managed to enjoy a few moments in the morning light...

I hope you had a wonderful holiday weekend!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Holiday Weekend

A couple of years ago I took my nephews to Aquatica - a water theme park in Orlando, Florida. This weekend, it's my niece's turn. I'll be taking a couple of days break from blogging, but I'll be back next week! Until then, Happy July 4th to my U.S. friends! :)