Wednesday, February 29, 2012

In the Queue Wednesday

My intent is to "kill two birds with one stone" with this project.  I thought I'd dabble in historical costuming (relevant to the 1912 project) AND make myself something cute to wear under my swing dancing skirts...  

Here's the "bloomers" pattern I chose:  

Notice that the bloomers are not what you would call fitted...  ;)

You should see the pattern pieces!  (I'll post pictures when I actually sew these.)  First, it's what some people call a "one seam" pants pattern - there is no outer leg seam, only an inner leg seam.  Second, the pattern piece is HUGE - accounting for all that bunched up fabric you see in the picture above.

So, I'm starting with an unusual pattern.  Next - on to the fabric.  

Hmmm...  How do I put this...?

I'm using a bed sheet.  

There is this 500-thread count bed sheet with damask stripes that I just love - it feels so comfortable.  And so I bought a sheet to use as my fabric.  Am I crazy?  

I'll probably make the bloomers shorter than they appear in the pattern photo, but I'm going to put in the horizontal pintucks - I really like that detail!  :)

Finally, I looked through my lace "stash" (yes, all 3 pieces) and decided that I'll probably use this along the hem:  

It may be uncomfortable, dangling against my legs - we'll see...

Again - the goal is to dabble in historical costuming and produce an undergarment suitable for my swing dancing skirt.  I may just be setting myself up to miss two birds with one stone!  ;)

Don't worry, we'll see...  It's in the queue.  :)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Weekend Project: Odds and Ends

It's better to take many small steps in the right direction 
than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backwards.  
~ Chinese proverb

It has been a busy weekend of odds and ends.  On the sewing front, I did get the bodies of 3 more doll houses mostly assembled.  These are the doll houses that Ana is going to give as gifts to her nieces.  Here are our fabric choices:  

The pink house outside:  

The pink house inside:

The red/yellow house outside:

The red/yellow house inside:

Somewhere along the way I apparently became fixated on the idea that wall paper should be striped!  ;)

Last, but not least: the green/blue house outside:

The green/blue house inside:

Another miscellaneous bit - Yesterday, Ana and I walked the exhibit hall for the Original Sewing and Quilt Expo, which was in Lakeland, Florida this week.  I was a little disappointed - mostly because I was hoping to find some lace for my 1912 projects (of which I have not yet been assigned any).  

There is usually a booth full of lace from a company in Netherlands - but he wasn't there this year...  Here's his website:  

I may have to order online - with international shipping that is going to be a nuisance.  :(

Finally, I spent some time working on preparations for Ana's going-away party.  Among other things, I worked on the invitations.  I found a woman who designs passport-based invitations on etsy - here is one of her samples:  

Isn't that cool?  An invitation done up like a passport and an RSVP card done up like a boarding card!  How perfect for a going-away party!  :)

Finally, I had a meeting today with 5 of Ana's friends - from her school, her work and her church - to talk about planning her party, and especially the food.  All of the food - except the cake - will be homemade.  I would have taken a picture of our meeting, but at one point or another almost everyone was teary-eyed at the thought of her leaving us...  Yikes!  :(

I hope people can be happy and enjoy the party itself - what if everyone breaks down and cries?  I don't want to host a party where everyone is crying...  :(

So, now it's time to finish up my assorted weekend chores and snuggle up with my husband to watch a movie.  I hope everyone had a wonderful sewing weekend!  :)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Confession

Image #1 credit: Threads Magazine (click here)

Image #2 Credit: Threads Magazine (click here)

Today's topic is altering patterns.  My confession is simple: I don't know how to do it.  

I have taken 2 classes at assorted Sewing Expos over the years.  One class advocated the "seam" method - opening up the seam allowances (image #2 above).  The other class advocated the "slash and burn" method*...  or something like that...  ;)

My questions for you:  How do you adjust patterns?  Do you use an official method or have you worked out something for yourself?  What can you tell me about the official methods?  Is one better than the other? Any advice?  I'd love to hear anything and everything you want to tell me!  Thanks!  :)

*When I tried it, it was eerily similar to a "crash and burn" method.  

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Wendy, Katherine, Katie, Sarah, Lynne, Elaina, Debbie, Patsijean, Shannon and Linda for talking back to my confession a couple of weeks ago.  I asked about sewing doll clothes.  

So, the doll-clothes-making experiences generally fell into 2 life-stage categories and 2 types-of-doll categories.  The 2 life-stage categories were (a) I made doll clothes for my own dolls when I was young and (b) as an adult I make (or have made) doll clothes for the dolls of young girls that I love (daughters, nieces, etc.).  People who said yes, usually gave examples from one or the other of these times in their lives.  

Ditto with people who said no.  For example, Patsijean said no, because she was too much of a tomboy as a young girl and would rather run around playing Cowboys and Indians outdoors than sit inside and play with dolls.  

Similarly, Elaina reported that raising a son did not produce many opportunities to make doll clothes.  Apparently her son DID have a Barbie doll for a while - strictly as a helpless victim to be rescued by his GI Joe and Optimus Prime action figures - but apparently her one outfit - a bikini - was sufficient.  ;)

The 2 types of dolls that were generally called out were (a) Barbies and (b) larger dolls, like American Girl dolls.  The big difference, of course, is size.  Making Barbie clothes (or other similar sized dolls) was generally called out as difficult or not fun because they are so small, so fiddly, etc.  Some people, like Shannon, don't even try to do these on a machine - she just sews them by hand.  

In fact, overall the 2 main thoughts echoed by many of the commenters were (a) that sewing with such small bits of fabric isn't always a lot of fun and (b) it's more rewarding to sew clothes that real people can wear.  

As for advice, Wendy strongly recommended flat top construction - putting sleeves in flat, not as columns after sewing up the side seams of the top.  Based on my one experience with Mattie's shift dress, I second that!  ;)

Lynne, who has an amazing amount of experience - even professionally designing doll clothes! - gave a list of such excellent advice that I am just going to cut and paste it in directly:  

"Okay Gwen...sewing doll clothes takes a lot of patience because you do a lot of problem solving quite honestly its a lot of trial and error. My advice is: 
1. Don't attempt doing it for longer then 3 hours at a time.
2. Use size 10 needles, and fine thread.
3. Reverse grip tweezers for holding parts you cannot find with your fingers.
4. A single hole needle plate for your machine is a must. 
5. Use 1/4 seam allowances. 
6.fray check and 1/4 steam a seam lite(works well for hems).
7. super fine silk pins, fine point mechanical pencils and marking tools
8.Sew with a 1.5 - 2. stitch length."

Thanks, Lynne!  This is going to get me off to a great start.  :)

Thanks again to everyone who took the time to share your stories and advice!  I especially loved your doll clothes stories this time!  Wish me luck with Mattie's clothes!  :)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

In the Queue Wednesday

Last two pieces of fabric from my work trip to Pensacola - these are for me!  

I'm picturing a short sleeved button-up blouse in the light green and a skirt with the grey.  

What do you think?  Wouldn't this make a cute outfit?  

I still have to find the specific patterns...  But I'll get to these.  They're in the queue!  :)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Weekend Project: "Home" Decor

The things which the child loves remain in the domain of the heart in old age.
~ Kahlil Gibran

I must be reliving my childhood or something...  First I'm buying a doll and sewing clothes for her.  Now ... I'm making doll houses.  

I never thought of myself as being into crafting, but a pattern in the One Yard Wonder book for a doll house caught my attention and just had to be made.  ;)

(I said it's for the daughters of my friends at work, but I think the argument is weak, considering that it is appropriate for a 3-5 year old and they are still pregnant!)  

The inside is made by wrapping craft-weight fleece around piece cut out of plastic.  Here are the 6 basic pieces laid out in the way they will be assembled.  (The top & bottom "roof" rectangles are a bit smaller than the middle 3 "wall" rectangles.)  

Here is the plastic that is cut and encased in fleece:  

Man, I love cutting that stuff!  It's so easy to cut in a straight line!  ;)

Once the individual plastic pieces are encased in flee...  Oops, I may be missing pictures of the middle steps in the process - sorry about that.  :(

But it's pretty straightforward - you insert all the plastic pieces between two long pieces of fashion fabric and create the body of the house.  Then you hand stitch the back closed and decorate with felt inside and out.  Buttons and elastic loops hold the front closed and 2 ribbons serve as handles.  

I'm not done, but here are some shots of my doll house so far:  

Above: Front and side view

Above: Back and side view

Above: Inside view

Above: Close up of front yard

Above: Close up of house interior (with easy chair, television and light fixture)

I'm thinking to add a bed on one interior side wall and a table & chairs on the other interior side wall.  

I also purchased some little fabric dolls from JoellesDolls on Etsy to populate my doll house.  It was hard finding dolls small enough, but I think these will be perfect.  

As you can see, a little girl could carry this around like a purse or lunch box, with her dolls inside, and then open it up and play with them whenever she wanted.  Isn't it an adorable idea?  

Ana loves it and she wants to make 3 of them to give to her young nieces.  We picked out the fabric today at Joann's.  Hopefully I can get the next ones to fit together a little better...  

Let's see - I know I still owe you all a "Talk Back Thursday" and a "Friday Confession".  I'm sorry last week got away from me.  :(  

I'll catch up next week.  In the meantime, I hope everyone is having a wonderful sewing weekend!  :)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

In the Queue Wednesday

A couple of more finds from the Pharmacy/Fabric Store in Pensacola, Florida - these will become Hawaiian shirts for my husband:

Boy, I'm just on a roll with loading photos into blogger...  

Is this one fun, or what?  

Poor Scott - I've got a pile of about 5 fabrics in my stash, waiting to become shirts for him...  But don't worry - I promise I'll get to these.  Because I love him.  And they're in the queue.  :)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Weekend Project: Dressing a Doll, Take 2

The sound principle of a topsy-turvy lifestyle in the framework of an upside-down world order has stood every test.
~ Karl Kraus

You may remember from last weekend that my first attempt at dressmaking for Mattie using Patternmaker software yielded a dress that was baggy in the bodice, but fit well in the hips.  I tried printing the pattern again in the same size, but using smaller seam allowances - 1/4 inch instead of 1/2 inch.  

I also switched from a cotton print to a linen remnant from my stash.  

While the fit is generally improved, for some reason Mattie feels off-kilter in this new version of the simple shift...  ;)

Or maybe she is just a fan of Karl Klaus?  (see quote above)  

(Sometimes I hate Blogger.)

Notice that I've already broken Wendy's guideline to always insert the sleeves flat - before closing up the side seams...  Oh-oh...  :(

Guess what thought did NOT occur to Mrs. Genius here?  

If reducing the SA might tighten up the extra fabric in the bust and waist area, it might also tighten up the nicely fitting hip area!  ;)

It's not too bad, but it's definitely snugger in the hips than the first version.  And it might be pulling downwards somehow - do you see those wrinkles slanting downwards from her right side towards the center of her back?  What do you think is causing that?  Tightness around the hips?  

Working with Mattie's clothes may help me learn more about fitting - that would be a nice unintended consequence...  :)

Another thing keeping me busy these days - planning a going away party for my friend Ana.  Who knew, when I, a mono-lingual English speaker, hesitantly offered sewing lessons to a mono-lingual Spanish speaker 4 years ago, that I would end up with such a good friend?  

Anyways, we looked at venues over the weekend and we are going to use this one:  

Isn't it beautiful?  (We'll be using larger round tables that seat 8.)  Ana has put together a guest list of about 100 people, and a small group of her friends are going to be making the food and providing live music.  I think it will be a very special night!  :)

Finally, Oliver gives a sleepy-eyed blink "Hi!" from atop a pile of fabric remnants in the sewing room.  

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Confession

As many of you know, I've decided to participate in the 1912 Vintage Pattern project by sewing the patterns for a 24 inch doll.  I've never really sewn doll clothes before - with the minor exception of a couple of outfits for some "Build-A-Bears" belonging to my nieces.  

So, this has got me wondering - do you sew for dolls?  If not, why not?  If so, what can you tell me about it?  How does it compare to sewing for people?  Similarities?  Differences?  Any advice?  Can you point me towards any helpful resources?  Do you have any favorite doll outfits or stories?  If you have some pictures, I'd love to see them!  I'll post then and link to you (of course!).  

I'm looking forward to reading about your thoughts and your experiences!  :)

Talk Back Thursday

Image credit: Moma advertising agency, as found here.  (Follow the link to see more delightful images like this one!)  

Thank you so much to Wendy, Lynne, Becky, Carla, Katherine, Linda, Gwen, Patsijean, Elaina and Mary for talking back to my confession last week!  I confessed that I don't have any experience sewing vintage patterns and asked for input - pros and cons, advice, etc.  

One topic that came up - and inspired my image selection above - is what exactly counts as "vintage"?    As Patsijean pointed out, it can be quite disconcerting to learn that the clothes you wore as an adult are now labeled "vintage" !  

Well, I looked it up in the most comprehensive collection of unassailable wisdom on the internet - Wikipedia - and discovered that some random person believes that clothing between 1920 and 1960 is "vintage" and clothing before 1920 is "antique".  ("citation needed")  

Other websites say that anything 20 years old or older is "vintage".  This is going to bum out Ana, who is in her mid-20s and still considers herself young.  ;)

So, do the commenters sew vintage?  Well, we had our fairly typical spread of answers.  We had 2 "No" votes, 4 "Some, but not much" votes and 2 resounding "Yes!" votes.  Can't spread much more evenly than that!  

Oh, we also have a bit of a celebrity in our midst!  Lynne used to sew historical costuming in Hollywood!  How cool is that?  Lynne - can you tell us any of the shows that include some of your work?  

Regarding the folks with vintage sewing experience - what time frame are we talking about?  Well, again we got a good range - everything from turn of the (last) century up through the 1970's.  While not everyone reported this, several people find themselves drawn to clothing styles from their own teenage and young adult years - whenever that was.

The "why not" answers were pretty straightforward: 
  • Modern patterns fit better - whether that be fit to the body or fit to the person's style (or both).  
  • Vintage patterns can date you.  
  • Already has enough modern patterns waiting to be sewn up - doesn't need to start a collection of vintage patterns!  ;)

There was an interesting "no, but..." group.  A couple of folks reported that they don't sew vintage patterns, but they regularly "borrow" vintage details and incorporate them into their modern patterns.  

The "why yes?" answers were generally what you would expect - love the styles and the illustrations!  Elaina pointed out that fashion really cycles, so that what was once "old-fashioned" and "out-dated" will come around and be in-style again someday.  She also believes that vintage patterns were flat-drafted more accurately, so that even if the instructions are spottier, they come together better.  

And that brings up the instructions - the main difference called out between current and vintage patterns.  Five people weighed in and all pretty much agreed - the instructions and markings are different from what we have get on modern patterns.  

Most said that the instructions are more sparse - although Wendy said that they can be more sparse in some areas and more detailed in others.  

It makes sense - no pattern can explain every single detail - every pattern assumes that the reader has a certain basic knowledge of the sewing techniques that are common at that time in history.  So vintage patterns will assume a different knowledge base on the reader's part than we are accustomed to (or that the typical seamstress of today is likely to have...)

Others also called out the markings as different.  The vintage patterns that Katherine has used, for example, mark everything (grain lines, match points, etc.) with holes.  She reported that it's very helpful to have a key to know how to interpret those holes.  

Linda may have pointed out the most important bit of knowledge that you need to deal with vintage patterns - order of construction.  I am already experiencing this issue with the one pattern that I printed for Mattie from the pattern making software.  I've sewn 2 versions and found that using a different order of construction on the 2nd version was a big improvement on how easily it came together and how nice it looks on the inside...  

A second big topic was (body) fit - although there were differing opinions on this.  Wendy, for example, finds that she needs to make the same adjustments on her vintage patterns as on her modern patterns, to get a fit she likes.  Lynne, on the other hand, has found that the fit can be very different - with smaller armholes, less ease in the bodice and the shoulder seams laying differently on the body.  

I imagine that these different experiences may arise because Wendy's vintage patterns are from a different era than Lynne's vintage patterns.  After all, the commenters were addressing patterns from anywhere between 1901 and the 1970s!  

So, I had expected discussion of the instructions and the fit, but a couple of people brought up another significant consideration - the fabric!  Lynne pointed out that historical garments were created from very high quality fabrics, which are not easily replicated.  And Elaina explained that the textiles available 100 years ago were different from the ones available today - vintage patterns were designed to work with vintage fabrics.  So, adopting them to work with modern fabrics can yield unexpected challenges.  

Along these lines, Patsijean tells a story of making a smoking jacket for her husband and the "fun" of hand-stitching a poly lining!  (Check out her whole story here - it's really interesting.)  

Finally, Elaina, who loves vintage patterns, brought up one more challenge - giving a vintage pattern enough of a modern take to make sure that your garment doesn't look like a costume.  This is why sewing is both a skill AND an art!  :)

Thanks again to everyone who took the time to tell me about your experiences and your thoughts on vintage sewing!  :)

PS - don't worry, it's actually Friday!  ;)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

In the Queue Wednesday

During my various work trips this last month, I've managed to squeeze in some fabric shopping.  In Pensacola, Florida I discovered one of those wonderful Mom and Pop Pharmacy/Fabric-Store combinations - I'm sure you've seen those before, right?  ;)

Here is the fabric for 2 more of those 1-yard toddler skirts.  I figured I might want some easy, fun projects for when my 1912 project becomes a bit overwhelming.  ;)

Not sure when I'll get to them - it'll depend on how soon my first 1912 project shows up.  (And remember, these baby girls haven't arrived yet!)  But don't worry, I'll be making these skirts someday!  They're in the queue...  :)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Talk Back Tuesday

Thanks so much to BConky, Katherine, Alison, Linda, Debbie, Shannon, Gwen and Elaina for talking back to my confession a couple of weeks ago.  :)

I confessed that I have some tools/notions in my sewing room that I've bought and then never used, and asked if I'm alone in this...

The Reader's Digest Condensed Version of the comments: "No."  ;)

Everyone admitted to having at least one thing in her sewing room that she doesn't use.  Linda represented one end of the continuum with her comment, "I buy them all and use most of them."  A couple of folks were on the other end, with "many" untried or unused tools, notions, fabric and patterns in their sewing rooms.

The most commonly called out "never been used" item is machine feet - whether for a sewing machine, serger or coverstitch machine.  Specific feet included: fagoting, ribbon, piping, elastic and gathering.  

I'm not sure if those really are the most unused tools in general or if people were reminded of their machine feet because that is the thing that I called out as most neglected in my sewing room...  

Other unused items called out included tailor's chalk, pressing cloths and Wild Ginger pattern making software.  (I hope I don't end up in that category with the PatternMaker software that I got for the 1912 project...)  

A couple of interesting themes emerged from the comments.  

First, I didn't sense a lot of guilt.  ;)  

Elaina expressed it succinctly, "I don't feel too bad, because you know, one day I might need them."  

And then there was Linda's thought, "She who dies with the most sewing notions... wins!"

Second - and this struck me as pretty insightful - why don't these items get used?  It's the classic learning curve problem.  Learning to use something new takes time - and for most of us that means taking precious time away from our sewing.  

But, if we would devote a little time to getting good at using these new tools, they might prove worthwhile.  For example, Linda talked about the Clover desktop needle threader (pictured above).  She had one that languished on a shelf for ages, before she was inspired to try it.  Now she loves it.  :)

So what are my take-away messages?  One - go easy on myself.  Instead of feeling bad that I haven't used those feet, I'll modify that statement to "...haven't used them YET" and remember that I'm planning on many more years of sewing in my life!  

Second, when opportunities do arise, I'm going to try to be patient and give myself some time to practice and really learn how to use each new tool.  I'll try to remember that it won't pay off immediately, but if I give it some time, it may become one of my new favorite tools.  :)

Thanks again to everyone who took the time to leave a comment!  As always, you help me feel not so alone and you inspire me!  :)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Weekend Project: Dressing a Doll

He dares to be a fool, and that is the first step in the direction of wisdom.  
~ James Gibbons Huneker

Well, guess who showed up this week?  

Yup - it's Mattie.  My 1912 project model.  :)

I would have preferred darker hair and eyes, but other than that, she is beautiful.  And I was happy to discover that she came with a bathrobe - so I didn't have to wrap a hand towel around her to preserve her modesty until I could make her some clothes.  ;)

Now, before she arrived, I scoured the internet looking for pictures to help me get a sense of her size, relative to every day objects.  And couldn't find any!  It's almost like there is a conspiracy to maintain the illusion that these dolls are full-size people.  

So, I'm probably breaking some major taboo - but here is a shot of Mattie next to my Grandmother's sewing machine:  

I don't have a pattern from 1912 yet - but I decided to use the pattern making software to try to make her a dress - mostly to get used to the software.  It came with some basic patterns, and I decided to make her a basic shift dress.  

This was a special type of file called a macro - you can enter a table of body measurements and the software automatically adjusts the pattern to fit those measurements.  I started by putting in Mattie's measurements, but the software kept giving me a "math error" every time I tried to use it.  I figured that maybe the software couldn't deal with measurements that small...  

I saw that, in the print screen, I could scale down by different factors, so I multiplied Mattie's measurements by 4 and created a new table.  At this point, I realized that I had entered Mattie's actual measurements incorrectly - a couple of measurements were supposed to be cut in half before entering them into the table - that probably accounted for the math error.  

But I went forward with the (4x) larger measurements and had the pattern printed, reduced by 25%.  In my very first version, the seam allowances were too small.  (Turns out that 25% of 0.3 inches is, for all intents and purposes, 0 inches.)  So I tried again - setting the SA to 2 inches before the 25% reduction to 0.5 inches.  

Finally, pattern pieces that I could work with!  :)

Mattie oversaw the process of pinning and cutting.  (Okay, I know it's hokey to pose her like this - don't worry, once the novelty wears off I'll quit, I promise!)  

Oh, one interesting thing - the program put seam allowances around all sides of the pattern pieces - even the edge that was supposed to be lined up along the fold.  I cut that one off.  

Of course, there were no assembly instructions, but I've made enough dresses that it wasn't hard to put it together.  And here is my first attempt at sewing for Mattie:  

The fit was okay - but not great.  The fit was actually pretty good in the length and around the hips.  But the top half - not so much.  

The shoulders were too long and the top was baggy around the bust and waist - although the princess seams lined up pretty nicely where they were supposed to.  

If you look carefully you can see the 2 pins (with red heads) below:  

I'm wondering how much of this was mis-adjustments on the part of the software and how much was because of my seam allowances.  Making 1/2 seam allowances on such a small pattern didn't work very well - look at how the front and back neckline facing patterns fit together with such a large SA:  

So, I went back to the software and changed the SA to 1 inch (with 25% reduction that became 0.25 inches).  Take a look at the SAs around the 2 sleeve patterns - my first and the new one:  

We'll see if this produces a dress that fits better or not.  I also may go back to using her measurements directly, now that I realize that I made that mistake the first time.  

Of course, the 1912 patterns are not going to come as these nice macros that automatically adjust to a table of body measurements - so I have a lot more to learn about the software!  

But, so far, I'm pretty happy with my plan to sew for a doll this size.  Too small (i.e., Barbie) would bring its own challenges!  But at this size, Mattie's clothes don't use much fabric and go together quickly, but are big enough that I can handle them on my machine.  

That's about it for me this weekend.  I doubt I'll get any more sewing in, as I have to get ready for my Tuesday night ESL class today.  I know that I owe you all a "Talk Back Thursday" post - sorry about that.  I was on a work trip all last week and wasn't able to get it done.  I'll get it up sometime this week.  

I hope everyone had a wonderful sewing weekend and feels ready for the start of a new week!  :)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Friday Confession

My upcoming foray into the world of vintage sewing has me wondering what I am "in for" - and so, of course, I am turning to you guys to hear about your experiences, opinions and advice!  :)

Do you sew vintage patterns?  
If no, why not?  
If yes, why?  
What is the oldest pattern you have ever sewn?  
What do you like / dislike about vintage patterns?  
What are the most significant differences between vintage and current patterns (from a sewing perspective, not from a fashion perspective)?  
What are the biggest challenges associated with sewing vintage patterns?  
Any advice for a newbie?  

I can't wait to hear your thoughts!  Thanks in advance!  :)