Sunday, January 30, 2011

Weeked Project:: Desert Country

Opportunities multiply as they are seized.
~ Sun Tzu

It's been a bit of a dry spell in my sewing room, ever since the PINK laptop case was finished. I REALLY want to get back in there and feel the sewing machine humming along under my fingers again... Work has just been super busy and there seems to be a lot of stuff going on at home too. :(

I guess I'm going to have to take Sun Tzu's advice and start seizing some opportunities, even if they are little ones, in the hopes that they multiply... Please send me some good sewing thoughts! Thanks! :)

Photo: The Racetrack, Death Valley, CA
Photo credit: Jeff's Nikon

Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday Confession

One sewing project that never really occurred to me was sewing any kind of footwear. But right from the beginning, Ana has been into sewing bedroom slippers, adult boots and baby booties. She gave the pair of penguin booties (pictured above) to a mutual friend, who recently reported that these booties are the ONLY thing that her almost-one-year-old son will allow to stay on his feet. Socks - OFF! RTW shoes - OFF! It's these or barefoot for him.

So that got me thinking that maybe I should re-visit my "no footwear" position. What about you? Have you ever sewn any footwear for babies? For adults? If so, what did you sew? Was it a success? Any special challenges to sewing footwear? Any recommendations? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Becky, Cole’s Corner, Mamafitz, Taki J, Webfrau, Sarah, Elaina, Brenda, Summerset, SunnyQ and Shannon for talking back to my confession last week! I confessed that I really want to sew men’s ties, but can’t justify it because none of the men in my life wear ties, and asked if other people feel the same way about some particular type of garment…

And the winner is… DRESSES!

Formal dresses, elegant dresses, wedding dresses, girly dresses, heirloom dresses, corseted dresses, frilly lacy dresses, party dresses, going-out dresses, slinky evening dresses, historical dresses…

It sounds like almost everyone is hankering to make a one-of-a-kind, over-the-top, I-am-woman-hear-me-roar dress!

The motivation is there. And I’ve seen your blogs – the skill is there too! What we seem to be lacking, on the other hand, is opportunities to wear this type of dress…

Of course, there were a couple of other garments called out – a couple of folks would also love to try their hands at making men’s ties, there was a vote for jeans and Elaina would like to make herself a flapper coat with real fur.

But, by far and away, the most popular answer was… DRESSES!

As for not being able to justify a project, Shannon says that she can come up with a justification to make ANYTHING she wants to make (including her next project of leggings). Hmm… Maybe I’m just not trying hard enough on the ties… In fact, three people suggested good reasons for me to make ties – weddings, little boys (I do know some, even if we aren’t related) and/or selling them on Etsy.

I may just have to do it.

Who knows? Maybe after he sees one of my beautiful ties, my husband will want to start wearing them around the house on the weekends?

Okay, that’s probably pushing things a bit too far! ;)

But we DO have a wedding to attend this May…

Thanks again to everyone who commented – I’m going to be dreaming of dresses for days… :)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

In the Queue Wednesday

Another project just sitting in my sewing room, waiting for me.... This time it's a dress pattern by Colette - her "Crepe" pattern. It's a wrap-around dress with a tie - no other closures such as zippers or buttons.

And the fabric? Well, I picked out these two pieces - the top piece for the dress and the bottom piece for the sash.

I'm trying to learn to not be so "matchy-matchy" with my fabrics - what do you think?

Actually, Gertie over at Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing is having a sew-along for this very pattern.

She started last Nov/Dec - obviously I haven't joined the sew-along, but I am going to carefully read all her posts again before I start my version of this dress.

And when exactly will that be? I'm not sure, but don't worry, I'll get to it. It's still in my queue...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tuesday's Torch Story

Having a good discussion is like having riches.
~ Kenyan proverb

Our new semester has started up and for the most part I'm following the same schedule of activities as last semester - weekly vocabulary quizzes, phonetics practice, five cognates & 1 false cognate, learning songs and grammar lessons - with one exception. I've added an activity to help the students practice conversing - the weekly discussion question.

Each week we'll break into small groups and spend some time talking (in English, obviously) about that week's question. I passed out a schedule that listed each week's question for the entire semester, so that the students will have time to think about each question before the class and prepare themselves to talk about it (maybe look up some words in the dictionary, etc.)

I tried to come up with a mix of serious and silly questions - nothing too controversial, but all things that people will have opinions on. Here is my list:

  1. Do you believe in New Year’s Resolutions? Did you make any this year? If no, why not? If yes, would you mind telling us what they are? Are you good at keeping your resolutions or do you usually break them?
  2. What are the most important lessons to teach a child?
  3. If you could be any animal, what animal would you be? Why?
  4. What is your favorite movie? What is the plot of that movie? Why is it your favorite?
  5. If you could visit any place in the world, where would you go? Why?
  6. What is the secret to a happy marriage?
  7. How is the world different for children today than it was when you were a child? How is it the same?
  8. If you had to leave your house forever and could only take one suitcase, what would you take with you? Why?
  9. What things are the same in the United States and your home country? What things are different?
  10. If you won a million dollars in the lottery, what would you do with the money?

We'll see how it goes - keep your fingers crossed for all of us! :)

Photo credit: Eleaf

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Weekend Project: Blog Catch Up

Thank you so much to BConky, Mamafitz, Julia, Sarah E., Carla, Myrosia, Elaina, Debbie, Cindy, Shannon, Summerset, Becky and Sarah for talking back to my confession a couple of weeks ago! I confessed that I can mess up the simplest sewing tasks when I am tired, and asked if others have the same experience.

The answers were pretty unanimous:

  1. It's not uncommon to make stupid mistakes when you are tired, stressed and/or simply not "in the mood" to sew.
  2. When you start making mistakes, just walk away!
  3. If you don't walk away, the mistakes will likely build on themselves and things will get worse and worse...
Interestingly, we had the same comment - I can't sew at night - from both a self-proclaimed morning person AND a self-proclaimed night person.

Only one specific cut-off time was mentioned - 9 pm - but it was mentioned by 2 different people. Summerset, for example, will do sewing-related chores, like cleaning up her work room or threading her sewing machine, but rarely does any real sewing after 9 pm.

Myrosia pointed out that this isn't just true for sewing - in her experience, it's true for work and for dancing. She also noted an interesting thing about tiredness - it probably clouds your judgement regarding what you are capable of doing at the moment - kind of like a tipsy person being confident that he/she can drive home safely.

Shannon had a great story about trying to sew simple elastic waist pants when she was tired, and actually attaching them incorrectly 4 times in a row - each time making a different mistake! That's practically genius - I could definitely mess up sewing on pants legs, but 4 different ways? I'm not sure I could do that if I tried! ;)

And Cindy said that, if you think you get frustrated when you make stupid mistakes out of tiredness, imagine teaching a class where ALL of your students are in this type of slump at the same time, and you can't "walk away" because it's a class... Yikes, that does not sound fun.

The 2 Sarahs summarized things nicely. Sarah E knows that it's not a good sign when she finds herself putting pressure on herself to get something done quickly. And Sarah points out that sewing should not be stressful - it's what we do to escape the stresses of the rest of our lives...

Thanks again to everyone who took the time to leave a comment! And I'm sorry I'm late with this follow-up post. I was on a business trip last week and time got away from me... Anyways, I don't feel like such an idiot and will try to learn to walk away in the future. :)

Photo credit: digging90650

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday Confession

I'd love to try my hand at making men's ties. It seems to me that this would be a great project - you would get to work with top quality silk fabric, fun prints (okay - depending upon the guy), and immediate satisfaction!

But my husband just doesn't wear them. (And, while he will do many things to support my sewing habit, wearing ties is simply not one of them...)

Nor does my father. And neither of my brother-in-laws. So, unless I want to hand them out on street corners to random, well dressed strangers, there are simply no men in my life for whom I could make ties... :(

How about you? Is there anything that you'd love to make, but just can't justify?

Photo credit: audiophilia

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

In the Queue Wednesday

So, I'm still working my way through the un-started projects just waiting for me in my sewing room.

Last week it was shirts for my husband - this week, it's a shirt for me. I have this interesting, stretchy & crinkly fabric:

I've never sewn with this type of fabric before - I wonder if it will be fun or annoying? ;)

And this cute pattern:

I like the version in the photograph with little cap sleeves. The style is probably too young for me, but I'm hoping that the way it emphasizes the narrow up high and then is flow-y around the stomach will work with my "figure".

Even in Florida, the weather is a bit cool for this top right now. But don't worry, I will get to it. It's in the queue. :)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Weekend Project: Jackets for One and All

"You can always spot clothes made in a good place."
~Lillian Hellman

TWO jackets were finished this weekend!

First, Maria finished her first-ever jacket:

I think it came out very well, and she was extremely pleased with it. In fact, she wore it home! :)

Second, I finished the PINK "jacket" for my PINK laptop.

You may remember that I used the Amy Butler laptop case pattern - even though I wasn't sure that a pattern was truly necessary for what is essentially a series of rectangles...

And this pattern truly is a lot of rectangles! Between the fashion fabric, the lining fabric, the canvas and the interfacing, you end up cutting out over 25 rectangles!!

So, was the pattern truly necessary? Well, she did include a handful of tips that helped minimize confusion (such as labeling the back of each piece with masking tape) and made the final product more professional looking (such as ways to minimize bulk on corners and at intersections).

And, of course, it's nice to have someone else work out all the dimensions for you. (She explains how to make pattern adjustments for larger and smaller laptops.)

But I wouldn't say that there were any real surprises or amazingly clever bits that I couldn't have worked out on my own if I had tried to go patternless...

Note that the case is basically in the shape of a big plus sign. You place your laptop in the middle, fold the 2 sides over (velcro tabs to secure) and then fold the top and bottom over (more velcro tabs). There are no strap or pockets - it's more like wrapping your laptop up in a padded blanket.

One last comment - I misinterpreted the picture on the cover of the pattern envelope and thought that the side flaps had one fabric showing and the top & bottom flaps had the other fabric showing - sort of like a patchwork quilt. But, in fact, the instructions have you stick to one fabric on the outside and the other fabric on the inside. If you want the bohemian patchwork appearance, you have to make that happen yourself.

To summarize, Maria has a beautiful, classy, Sunday-go-to-church jacket and I have the PINKEST laptop in the world! ;)

I hope you had a great sewing weekend! :)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday Confessions

Are there ever times when you just know that you shouldn't be sewing? Times when you mess up stuff that you normally can do right in your sleep? Times when you have to push away from the machine, or else you'll set yourself back on a project instead of making progress?

This happened to me the other night - I thought I'd just spend a few minutes and sew some of the velcro tabs onto my PINK laptop case. Sewing on little velcro tabs with reasonably straight and narrow seams is something that I can do. Seriously. I have done it many times. I can do this.

Not that you could tell that from the picture on the right above... :(

I would have been better off just watching tv...

So, does this happen to you too? If so, any thoughts on why? Is it just being tired? Or do other factors contribute? When you're in this "zone", is there any way to get yourself out of it? Or do you just have to walk away and wait it out? I'd love to hear your thoughts! :)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Mamafitz, Julia, Elaina, Debbie, Mary, Sarah, Alison and Shannon for talking back to my confession last week! I asked if I was the only person who had trouble sewing together big rectangles of fabric without bubbles or mis-alignment of edges, and whether or not anyone had any helpful advice for me.

While the nicest thing about these confessions is always the excellent advice that I get, I must admit that it never hurts to hear that I am not alone in the world when I get confused, have problems and/or make silly mistakes... And that was the case here - pretty much everyone agreed that, even though it seems like it should be easy, it can be difficult if you don't take special steps.

The solutions fell into 3 categories. The first was to use something sticky to hold the pieces together while you are sewing.

Candidates included:
  • stabilizer,
  • temporary spray adhesive,
  • a glue stick (although Sarah recommends the clear glue stick over the purple one!) and
  • something that I had never heard of - fusible thread!
So it turns out that there is this stuff called fusible thread, and if you use it with your machine (possibly only in the bobbin - depending on what web site you read) and stitch the outline of one piece of fabric, then you can iron the 2 pieces together and they'll stick, before you sew them together (with regular thread). Isn't that cool? I'm definitely going to have to try that!

ETA: Oops - my mistake in the above paragraph. It turns out that Mary (who recommended fusible thread) just lays it between the layers of fabric and then presses them together. She doesn't actually use the machine to put in a row of fusible stitches, as I mistakenly inferred... Sorry, Mary. And thanks for the great suggestion! :)

The second category includes mechanical (as opposed to chemical) solutions. The first solution, proposed by Mamafitz and seconded by several others, is to iron the pieces together and then pin them extensively, while the fabrics are still cooling.

Other things called out that might help include:
  • reducing the presser foot pressure,
  • loosening the top tension a bit and
  • feeding the fabric through the machine with the fashion fabric on the bottom and the canvas (heavier fabric) on top.
Shannon also follows the edges of the sturdiest fabric - for example, the canvas instead of the cotton - as it is the least likely to shift out of alignment.

The third category was proposed by Elaina - if a project requires sewing blocks of fabric together around the edges with minimal bubbling, place it in the quilting category and "just say no". I didn't go TOO crazy on the laptop case, because I found that using the walking foot helped quite a bit - but when I was doing the potholders (same principle), there were times when this solution really appealed to me! ;)

Thanks again to everyone who took the time to leave a comment! You guys might be a bit sticky, but you definitely rock! ;)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

In the Queue Wednesday

Many people celebrate the ending of one year and beginning of another with some kind of review and/or planning process. Lots of sewing bloggers, for example, review and summarize their sewing accomplishments of the past year - while others set sewing goals for the coming year.

I'm not big into these activities (Freud could probably have a field day trying to figure out why!), but I did decide that I have too many un-started projects stockpiled in my sewing room and I'm going to make a serious effort to inventory and complete them.

So, for starters, Hawaiian shirts for my husband.

I have been known, on occasion, to lure my husband into a fabric store on the promise that, if he found a fabric that he liked, I would make him a Hawaiian shirt.

And I DO make him Hawaiian shirts. Sometimes.

Possibly not quite as often as I use this ploy to lure him into fabric stores, however...

So, to start off this process, I present to you, the FOUR fabrics that are still sitting in my sewing room, just waiting to be turned into Hawaiian shirts:

Up first, we have petroglyphs and palm trees in blues.

Followed by abstracts and atlases in browns.

DH, I promise you, I WILL make you these Hawaiian shirts. They are in the queue...

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Weekend Project: Starting the New Year off Right!

Many people have trouble sticking to their resolutions, and there is a simple scientific explanation for this. In 1987, a team of psychologists conducted a study in which they monitored the New Year's resolutions of 275 people. After one week the psychologists found that 92 percent of the people were keeping their resolutions; after two weeks we have no idea what happened because the psychologists had quit monitoring.

~ Dave Barry

My New Year started off with a "bang" - a sew-along at my house. Ana is making a blue flannel shirt for her Dad...

and her new boyfriend is making a good impression on Ana by helping! ;)

I've probably been "helping" Ana too much with her sewing, and thus not letting her develop the skill of working independently. This time, happily, my attention was distracted by Maria - she is one of the students in my ESL class and asked if I would help her sew a jacket.

This is the pattern she had picked out:

Luckily, it's an easy one!

And here is the fabric she had:

Unfortunately, it's a very loose weave that falls apart quite easily as soon as it is cut. :(

It turns out that Maria has her own sewing machine and has made simple skirts for her granddaughters without a pattern and done lots of hemming in her time, so she is quite comfortable with the actual sewing. She just has never used a pattern or made something as "complicated" as a jacket - although this is actually quite an easy one...

So it was easy and enjoyable to work with her. Mostly I just pointed to the pattern illustrations and helped her line up whatever pieces we were working with to match the pictures. We did use my serger to protect each cut edge from fraying.

And she does want to take in the side seams to give the jacket more shaping at her waist. We got about half-way done during our first sewing session. I'll try to get you a picture of her modeling the jacket when we finish.

In between all this, I did sneak in some sewing on my PINK laptop case too. I'm going to try to finish by next weekend, and get some pictures up. (So prepare your sunglasses!) ;)

I hope your 2011 is getting off to a great start sewing-wise, too! :)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Friday Confession

I've started working on my PINK laptop case and, not surprisingly, it involves cutting out a lot of rectangles of various materials (exterior fabric, canvas, interfacing, lining, etc.) and basting them together along the outside edges.

This seems like it should be SO easy - but I often have trouble in that, by the time I've worked my way all the way around the rectangles, either one side has a bubble or the edges no longer line up perfectly. I used a walking foot this time, and that did seem to help...

But I'm wondering - am I the only one who has this problem? Does anyone have any suggestions as to how to minimize this issue?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Claire, Elaina, Ivalyn and Shannon for talking back to my confession last week! I asked if people had any special Christmas gifts and/or Christmas memories... Each of the commenters shared a very special story!

Claire wasn't expecting much under the tree on Christmas morning, as her husband recently upgraded her treadmill for her as her early Christmas present. But her husband surprised her with an iPod Touch! She gave him a Canon camera, and they've both been enjoying their new electronics ever since!

Elaina's 11-year old son gave her a beautiful pair of earrings. They were special for several reasons. One, he found a quirky pair (one is pink and the other orange) that suits her personality and shows how well he knows his Mom. Second, it turns out that he had to go to a lot of trouble to make sure that they arrived on time for her Christmas morning. Finally, the best gift of all is to see that her son is growing into such a fine young man who cares about others, not just himself!

Ivalyn's husband surprised her with a deluxe Kuerig coffee maker! There is one in the office at her work, and she really wanted one at home... So she is very happy! I think we should all stop by their place for a delicious cup of coffee! ;)

Finally, Shannon's husband showed that you don't have to spend a lot of money to give someone the perfect gift. She is a stay-at-home parent with a toddler, and he gave her two of his vacation days! Two days all to herself, to do whatever she wants! A real luxury in her life these days. :)

I know it's a very busy time of the year for all of us, so extra thanks to everyone who took the time to share their stories with us!

I hope that ALL of you have special memories from the holidays and are looking forward to 2011 ! :)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

In the Queue Wednesday

Question: What does a PINK laptop need?

Answer: A PINK laptop case!

So, what do you think? Is this fabric PINK enough? ;)

Okay, I was hesitant to actually buy a pattern for a laptop case - it seems like this is something that I should be able to work out for myself... How hard can it be?

But I was intrigued by the image on the front of the Amy Butler pattern, and I really liked the only Amy Butler pattern I've ever made (this Lotus Cami), plus I figured that you all would be waiting for me to tell you whether or not it is worth the money... So, obviously, it was my duty to buy the pattern. ;)

(That's my story and I'm sticking to it!)

As you might guess, this little baby has moved to the top of my queue! :)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Weekend Project: Years (and Years) in Review

Last year I read the book "Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years" - which details how the earliest roots of commerce (circa 20,000 - 50 B.C.) were based in large part on the textiles woven primarily by women.

Over the holidays I started another book, "The First Conglomerate: 145 Years of the Singer Sewing Machine Company." The author D.C. Bissell argues that the advent of the household sewing machine has had a larger impact on the course of human events than the personal computer has had (so far).

Here are some other tidbits from the first half of the book:

The Singer Sewing Machine Company (SSMC) was the first multinational, monopolistic conglomerate.

The company was founded and run by two men - I.M. Singer (the inventor) and Edward Clark (the business man).

The SSMC beat out an estimated 150 competitors and survived a monumental legal battle (over patent rights) dubbed the "Great Sewing Machine Wars" in the press.

The Singer sewing machine was called "The Great Civilizer" and contributed significantly to ushering in the Age of Automation.

The SSMC revolutionized the business world by introducing innovative marketing techniques (possibly based on I.M. Singer's early experience as a traveling actor!), modernized manufacturing techniques and was the first company to offer an installment plan so that the sewing machine was in reach of even the poorest families.

The technology for sewing machines was also developed in Europe, but it never took off - because it was repressed by anti-technology mobs (neo-Luddite tailors?) - people who feared losing their jobs to this new technology (much like the weavers who had lost their jobs with the introduction of automated weaving technology such as the Jacquard looms several decades earlier).

The mothers of Nikita Kruschev and Joseph Stalin sewed on Singer sewing machines.

The Russian czar Alexander III purchased Singer sewing machines to make 250,000 tents for the Russian army.

Admiral Richard Byrd took six Singer sewing machines with him in 1930 on his Antarctic expedition.

The Wright brother's used a Singer sewing machine to sew fabric for their airplane wings.

Of course, no story is complete without some juicy gossip. In addition to being a brilliant inventor, I.M. Singer was a bit of a dog - apparently he had numerous "wives" (simultaneously), several mistresses and lots of children. He even (shocked gasp!) CURSED in public! It was such a disgrace that Edward Clark's wife wouldn't allow I.M. Singer into her house. ;)

Who would have thought that the small, powerful machines that grace our homes and provide the most important tool for our passion has such a compelling and complex history of it's own?

Happy New Year to everyone! May 2011 bring only the best to you and yours! :)