Friday, December 30, 2011

Friday Confession

How was your Christmas?  Did people love the gifts that you gave them?  Did you get the things that you had been hoping for?  

I asked for Jo-Ann gift cards, and it appears that people listened!  From a couple of friends at work to my husband to relatives on both sides of the family, almost everybody got me gift cards!  Will you look at this pile!

*** Arghhh!  Why does Blogger insist on flipping my images sideways?  :(   ***

Anyways, I'm going to have to take my sleeping bag to Jo-Ann's and camp out there for a few days of shopping!  These cards are likely to last me for months and months!  I am so happy and excited!  :)

But those weren't my only sewing-related gifts.  Another friend from work got me this book:

There are a lot of fun looking projects in here!  I foresee a wealth of Christmas projects from this book in my future!  ;)

Finally, Ana completely surprised me by picking out a pattern, fabric and notions for me:  

Is that gorgeous, or what?  And, most of all - is that ME, or what?!?!  There's no better test of how well you know someone than whether or not you can pick out a pattern and fabric that will make them happy, and you can tell that Ana knows me very, very well!  :)

So, those are my favorite Christmas gifts this year.  What about you?  What are YOUR favorite Christmas gifts this year?

Regardless of the gifts, I hope that everyone had a wonderful time sharing food and memories and laughter with their friends and family.  And that you are all looking forward to the wonderful things that 2012 has in store for us!  :)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wednesday Inspiration

My queue has started rejecting new projects, and so, for the holiday season, I'm going to use Wednesday posts to show you pictures of gorgeous fashions that inspire me. Enjoy! :)

Evening dress from Cristobal Balenciaga, 1950.
This sash would be a disaster on my "womanly" hips, but I love the rich, fullness of it and the colors...
Image from the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History.

Note: I announced my give-away winners yesterday.  
If you missed it, scroll down or click here.  :)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Give-Away Winners Announced

First, I'm so sorry about not getting this post up last Friday.  We went away for the long holiday weekend and I thought I'd have internet access, but the computer I was using had an old version of IE on it (and I didn't have "administrator permission" to install any other software), and Blogger suddenly decided not to work with that version!  So I couldn't do anything to my blog!  :(

Anyways, we're back home and I'm happy to finally be able to announce the 2 winners of my Christmas Stocking Stuffer give-away!  

I had 9 US entrants and the randomly drawn winner from this pool is:  

I had 7 international (to me) entrants and the randomly drawn winner from this pool is:


Congratulations to you both!  Please send me an email ( and let me know which set of The Original "How Much Fabric?" Reference Cards you would like to receive, and send me your mailing address.  I'll get everything off in the mail ASAP.  :)

As always, the only sad thing for me about a give-away is that I can't send something to every single one of the people who entered - and especially to everyone who supports my blog by leaving comments.  It may seem like a little thing, but it means so much to me!  Thank you!  :)

I hope that each and every one of you is enjoying a wonderful holiday season and is looking forward to the start of a new year!  

PS - Speaking of give-aways, I see that I am almost up to my 800th post - so there will be another give-away soon!  :)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wednesday Inspiration

My queue has started rejecting new projects, and so, for the holiday season, I'm going to use Wednesday posts to show you pictures of gorgeous fashions that inspire me. Enjoy! :)

French dresses, circa 1810.
Okay, these dresses aren't actually "me"...
But they evoke such a strong feeling of the classics in me that I still find myself drawn to them.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Monday Morning Quarterback

Size matters.
~ Anonymous

Okay, I wasn't really quite as bad over the weekend as I intimated in yesterday's post.  I made Ana's equipment roll on Saturday and went back into my sewing room on Sunday to work on the wine totes.  :)

You may remember that I complained about 2 things about this pattern.  One was that the directions for making the box-shaped bottom were unclear.  The other was that it was difficult to attach the handle because it was too short.  

Here's what I mean - when you tried to wrap the handle around to attach both ends, the tote gets squished up inside and the ends of the handle try to pull at an angle...  

Well, I managed to make it (almost) work on one tote, but there was no way I was going to fight my way through this problem on EIGHT more totes.  So, I re-cut all of the handles and added 2 inches.  Voila!  

Doesn't that look much less painful?  It made a huge difference!  The final handle is a bit longer, but it's actually better for sliding up your forearm when you are trying to juggle wine, presents and a plate full of homemade cookies!  ;)

Notice that the handle on the owl bag is straight and the other one is slightly askew?  That's because that short handle was fighting me...  :(

Anyways, once I re-cut all the handles, and given that I had figured out how to deal with the bottoms, the wine totes went reasonably quickly and I was able to finish them all!  :)

On some of them I made the handle match the outer tote fabric and on others I reversed the handle, so that it was the lining fabric that showed.  I just went by which looked better to me...  

I hope my friends think I made good decisions!  :)

It feels good to have this part of their Christmas gifts done.  Next up - casserole totes!  I think these are going to be more work...  Yikes!  

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Weekend Project: Sewing Diversion

There is no pleasure in having nothing to do;
the fun is having lots to do and not doing it.
~ Andrew Jackson

Let's summarize the most urgent projects in my queue, shall we? I committed to making 9 insulted wine totes and 9 insulated casserole carriers as Christmas gifts for my friends at work AND I decided to make a dancing dress for a New Year's Eve dance at our dancing teacher's studio.

So, what do I do in my sewing room the weekend before Christmas?

Work on insulated wine totes? - you guess...

No, try again, I reply.

Hmmm... insulted casserole carriers, maybe?

Not quite - one more guess.

Then it must be your dancing dress, right?

Strike three! And you're out! (Or maybe I'm the one who is out - as in "out of her mind!")

For Christmas we got Ana a device that will let her access the internet on her little laptop (really, a "netbook") and this weekend I designed and sewed a little fabric roll to carry it:

She really likes red and I found this little collection of bundled fat quarters that I thought would appeal to her:

The base is like one of those pencil rolls (free patterns abound on the internet).

Inside, I attached 2 pouches with flaps and one velcro strip - to hold the device, the cable and the USB/electric plug converter.

The flaps attach to the pouches with velcro, to keep the equipment from spilling out.

I put a layer of batting inside everything (the base and the pouches) to provide a touch of padding / protection for the equipment.

I'm pretty pleased with how it came out, especially given that it is my first experiment. :)

I think Ana will really like it!

And even if I wasn't sewing on what I SHOULD have been sewing on, at least I was SEWING! Yay! :)

I hope you had a wonderful weekend and (if you celebrate it) are ready for Christmas next week!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Holiday Give-Away!

I've been running around sponsoring holiday give-aways on other blogs, and it finally occured to me that I should have a give-away here too! ;)

So, in honor of this holiday season, I'll be giving away TWO stocking stuffer packages - each with three notions designed to get you to your sewing machine as quickly as possible. :)

Each package will contain:

For fabric shopping: One set of The Original "How Much Fabric?" Reference Cards (winner's choice)

For fabric cutting: One Seam Allowance Guide - you'll never have to add seam allowances by hand to your Burda Style magazine patterns again!

For fabric marking: One chalkoner - the quickest and neatest method to transfer pattern markings to your fabric.

To enter, leave a comment and tell me where you are from.

I'll randomly draw one winner from among the U.S. commenters and one winner from among the International (to me) commenters.

Good luck to everyone! :)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Mamafitz, Carla, Becky, Marie, Alison, Elaina, Debbie, Linda, Patsijean, Katherine, Christine and Katie for talking back to my confession last week! I confessed that, not counting an unfortunate tie-dye experience in the 70's and some washing machine mishaps, I have never dyed any fabric.

People were pretty evenly split - with 6 reporting that they haven't tried it (although some, like Carla, plan to try it soon!) and 6 reporting some experience.

Definitely the person to turn to for advice is Marie - she has dyed fabrics using a wide variety of techniques - such as low water immersion, tray dyeing, marble dyeing, gradients and space dyeing - and provided all of the pictures above! I didn't realize that there were so many different methods - I found her dye tray example particularly beautiful. :)

Becky and Alison also provided links to examples of their dyeing projects (follow embedded links for full posts):

Becky gave two bits of advice - follow the directions and use quality dye! She recommended Dharma Trading Co. dyes.

On the downside, a couple of people mentioned that it can be messy and non-trivial to dispose of the dye bath responsibly.

And Katherine commented that the only time she really got the dye to distribute evenly was when she accidentally put something red in the washing machine with her whites! Been there, done that... ;)

(Good thing I love pink!)

Finally, Christine mentioned that fabric dyeing has been all the rage on Project Runway this season. I've lost track of that show - I want to start watching it again...

Thanks again to everyone who took the time to leave a comment! I hope everyone is ready for the holidays and feeling excited and happy and festive! I have a special sewing stocking stuffers give-away for you tomorrow! :)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wednesday Inspiration

My queue has started rejecting new projects, and so, for the holiday season, I'm going to use Wednesday posts to show you pictures of gorgeous fashions that inspire me. Enjoy! :)

Evening dress from the House of Worth, circa 1900.
What can I say? I'm a sucker for small, fitted tops and wide, flowing skirts...
I'm sure it has nothing whatsoever to do with my figure! ;)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Weekend Project: A Reason to Celebrate!

The day is committed to error and floundering;

success and achievement are matters of long range.

~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Well, it took over two years - and there were times when I didn't really believe it would ever happen - but I am proud and happy to introduce to you:

The complete line of "How Much Fabric?" Reference cards!

It all started in May of 2009, after a particularly egregious overbuying episode during a Memorial Day sale at Gorgeous Fabrics, when I asked my blog readers how they decided how much fabric to buy when they didn't have the right pattern(s) available to guide them.

And I discovered that many people were just as stumped as I was...

I was worrying the problem in my mind, trying to come up with a rule of thumb to guide my future buying - when an idea hit me. I didn't have to guess - I could actually calculate how much fabric different types of garments needed!

And thus began my love/hate relationship with Excel. I started entering numbers from the back of pattern envelopes into a spreadsheet...

Over the summer, with the help of three wonderful friends and the support of my amazing husband, my little tables turned into a real product - statistically validated tables, representative sketches, all printed onto sturdy plastic cards that slip easily into a purse.

On September 12, 2009, approximately 2,000 patterns later, my e-store went live, with exactly 1 card set - for women's clothes. (Okay, we had 2 versions - one for US shoppers and one in metric - but let's not mess with the narrative flow...)

And now, over two years and approximately 8,000 sewing patterns (!) later, our complete line is... well... complete. :)

We have sets that cover (1) Women's clothes, (2) Women's plus sizes, (3) Men's clothes, (4) Baby & toddler clothes and (5) Children's clothes.

So much has happened during these two years and I have learned so much - things about starting a small business, stuff about accounting (yuck!), how expensive advertising is (!), how to file and pay sales tax quarterly, how to edit html code...

We have been featured as a "Cool Tool" in Tauton Press's "Quick Stuff to Sew", in Interweave Press's "Stitch" magazine, in the ASG's Notions publication and in "Sew News".

And, best of all, I have e-met the most amazing people from around the world!

My mind is already buzzing with more plans - a video showing how to use the cards, an app, getting the cards into fabric shops, etc.

But, after the holiday madness is over, I'm going to put aside time to get together with the people that made this possible and celebrate our accomplishment. :)

Right now, however, I have to get back into the sewing room and finish those Christmas presents... ;)

I hope everyone had a wonderful sewing weekend and feels that life is under control as the holiday season comes barreling down on us! :)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Friday Confession

For some reason, ever since my friends/co-workers chose the fabrics for their Christmas presents and one of them was unfamiliar with the word "batik", it seems like I keep running into things about hand dyeing fabric.

I have a vague middle school memory of an art class tie-dye project, but I certainly haven't tried any fabric dyeing since I started sewing about 10 years ago.

How about you? Have you done any fabric dyeing? If so, I'd love to hear about it - the how and the why... If you point me to pictures, I'll include them (and credit you, of course!) in my Talk Back Thursday post. And what advice would you give to someone who was considering trying it?

If not, is it something that you'd like to try someday? Or on your "meh, not so much..." list?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Becky, Debbie, Mary, Katie, Gwen, Elaina and Linda for talking back to my confession last week! I asked what sewing-related gifts people were hoping that Santa had stashed in his big red bag for them.

The most popular gift requests revolved around FABRIC! Becky and Katie are hoping that people will buy fabric for them. Becky has been restricting herself to sewing from her stash all year, so she is really excited about getting some new fabric! And Katie is hoping/hinting for some Dr. Who fabric. Gwen and Linda are hoping for gift cards to a fabric store, so that they can indulge themselves and buy fabric without worrying about each penny. And Elaina’s Secret Santa has already given her a fabric gift card – I hope she can find something truly gorgeous to buy! :)

Beyond fabric, a few tools were mentioned – Becky could also use a new pair of scissors, Debbie wants a bendable light for her sewing machine and Linda would like the binding attachment that goes with her Janome machine.

I think Mary called out the gift that all of us could really use – more TIME to sew!

Thanks again to everyone who took the time to talk back to me! And here’s wishing that ALL OF US receive the supplies, the time, the energy, the renewed spirit and the inspiration to take us into a wonderful year of sewing!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wednesday Inspiration

My queue has started rejecting new projects, and so, for the holiday season, I'm going to use Wednesday posts to show you pictures of gorgeous fashions that inspire me. Enjoy! :)

An evening dress from the House of Dior, 1952-1953.
I love the shape of this dress, the bottom ruffle and the uneven length. :)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Tuesday's Torch Story

Keep the circus going inside you,

keep it going,

don't take anything too seriously,

it'll all work out in the end.

~ David Niven

Our last ESL class of the term was a birthday party for one of our aides, Emilia.

We had a circus theme, because, as a young woman, Emilia was actually a circus performer! Here she looks at one of her gifts - a photo collage from her circus career:

Here she blows out the candles on her birthday cupcakes.

It was her 90th birthday!

I was in charge of games. I had three - throw rings around coke bottles, this bean bag toss game:

And a dart game to pop balloons.

You may be thinking that the cones are a bit close to the balloon board. If so, you would be right. This was the most popular game (sharp objects flying dangerously through the air, loud noises - it had everything!) and they went through 50 balloons!

As can be seen by this shot of the backs of lots of random people milling about, everyone had a nice time. ;)

Seriously, it was a nice evening. I think Emilia was really touched. As much as I love my class, it's going to be nice to have a break for a few weeks - we start up again in January. I have a lot of work to do to get ready for the new term - you know, in my free time... ;)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Weekend Project: Someone Knock Some Sense into Me!

If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it.

~ Lucille Ball


I haven't made any progress on the Christmas gifts for my co-workers. And yet I just took on another project.

(By the way, I'm hoping that, if I don't post this as a project in my Wednesday Queue series, my queue won't be able to reject it...)

My husband and I are taking dance lessons. (So far, we can lurch around the floor endangering other couples during swing dances, fox trots, the hustle and rumbas.) And our dance teacher just announced that her studio would be having a New Year's Eve Cinderella-themed Ball.

Yup - you guessed it - I'm going to try to make my dress...


I went shopping yesterday and picked out this pattern:

I'm going to make the version in the lower right corner - with long sleeves. It seemed like something that would work for both a swing dance and a fox trot. A compromise between bouncy-cute and regal.

I also ordered some coral silk stretch charmuese fabric - I'm hoping it will be a good compromise between holding the shape of the sleeves and flowing nicely when I dance.

Of course, most of all, I just hope that Lucille Ball is right! Yikes!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday Confession

After almost 4 years of publishing this blog, I actually have to search my old Friday Confessions to make sure that I haven't already used a topic before I post a new one... (And it is SO distressing each time I discover that my "new" confession idea is actually an old one.) But this is one confession topic that I can re-use every year! :)

We've already talked about whether or not you are sewing any of your holiday gifts this year. How about the opposite? What sewing-related gifts are on YOUR wish list? Anything big? A new machine? My sewing room is pretty well supplied (and COMPLETELY full!) and so my wish list is basically lots of gift cards for buying fabric and patterns and notions, oh my! ;)

Of course, what I really want is more time to sew, but I've been asking for that every year for the last 9 years and never received it, so I am not hopeful for this year either... ;)

I'm looking forward to hearing what gifts are keeping you on your best behavior these days!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Lynne, Shelia, Sarah, Mamafitz, Mary, Patsijean, Gwen, Shannon, Linda, Summerset and Elaina for talking back to my confession a couple of weeks ago. I asked what people think about snap tape for baby clothes, and if anyone had any tips to help me apply it more neatly...

To summarize:

SNAP! Snap tape - you have been dissed!

Not one single person spoke up strongly in favor of snap tape. Four people did suggest that, if I'm going to use snap tape, I should use a zipper foot. And a couple of those folks said not just any zipper foot - Linda, for example, recommended a Janome two-toed adjustable zipper foot.

But the vast majority of the commenters recommended using some kind of snap setter tool. Here are some of the links that people offered up to find snap setting tools:

What's funny, is that I use the low tech version of this approach (i.e., a hammer) to set in grommets on my chalk bags - but it never occurred to me that this would work for snaps too! Doh!

And two last cool ideas:

Shelia pointed us to this tutorial on making your own snap tape using twill tape and Mary said, forget the snap tape and baby clothes - a great home-sewn gift for new moms is a flannel sheet set (flat & fitted).

Oh, yeah - when I was googling snap tape to learn more about it, I found this nice overview about snaps on the Denver Fabrics website.

Thanks again to everyone for taking the time to leave a comment! I might just have to add a snap setter tool to my Christmas wish list... ;)