Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sewing Videos Online

Just thought I'd start putting all those videos I find online into a neatly organized section on the blog so I (and others!) can find them again. Because it's so annoying to spend 20 minuets googling that video when all you remember about it was that it was about sewing and absolutely fabulous.

Singer Sewing Company quicktime videos. - Lots of short videos on how to use their feet. Since one manufacturer's feet look like another's, useful to anyone who has a machine.

Threads Videos - Quicktime and Realtime. Good videos on pressing (by GorgeousThings!), a tour of a fabric store, knit neckline bindings, and a video showing Pancho Martinez do amazing embroidery with just a zigzag machine. It's not something I'll be doing any time soon (especially after watching how close his fingers get to that unguarded needle!!) but it's pure inspiration and eye candy.

That's it for now, I'll get more up later!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Vogue Summer 2008 - The Anime Collection

(this is totally cut-n-paste from my comments on PatternReview's message board so if it looks familiar it's not just you)

Is anyone else getting an anime vibe from this collection or was it just me? As I was looking the thought "if I ever get into cosplay I should stock up on some of these" kept going through my head.

These pants are so cute mechanic chick (helped greatly by the tank top) while the jacket with the collar up is ... someone else. Still trying to pin it down.

Sexy, but the odd (in a good way) front placket is right on the edge. Just what the mature love interest is likely to wear. Sexy but in control.

First off, love the neck treatment of the purple one. If I get into making tees I might have to pick it up just for that detail. The other two with the curves and zigzags have to be standard costume for at least a few anime characters.

Total anime or sci-fi villian. Or fan service, that works too. But you'd have to add a thigh-high slit. :)

That jacket so looks like a anime futuristic military uniform. I think it's the lapel in that color. I feel the need to add random pins and braid.

The vibe's not so strong with these but the over all asian feel still qualifies them as honorable mentions. And despite having none of the characteristics needed to pull off these pieces, I'm still tempted just because they're so totally unique.


Ok, that was all the seriously anime stuff I found. Still, interesting. Beyond the desire to buy for any future costume needs that may come up, I really didn't fall for anything in this line. But, well, that's standard for vogue and me. That's fine, I love the more plebian other 3 so we're good. :) I did appreciate some stuff though. For example:

Hidden under those large (but strangely attractive) tailored shirts are hollywood pants in 8502.

The dress in 8491 is so Laura Bennet with the great squarish neckline in front and v in back. Also love the many darts which make fitting easier.

8494 is one of those dresses that manages to be totally current with the beaded neckline but will still be chic many years from now.

I kinda want the Ralph Rucci shirt dress just for the instruction sheet. The halter-ish style top is bad on me but it shouldn't be impossible to take it's better parts (like that braided trim, pockets, and construction) and morph them with a shirt dress better suited for my figure.

I LOVE the new Alice+Olivia pants though I'll need to do a review dive to see what body shape they normally draft for. I'm all curves which sounds great for a 50s bombshell, not so great for fitting pants. And speaking of 50s - I like the vintage patterns they released even if I'm just so no a fan of the Dior New Look. I'm a 40s girl at heart. Fortunately Vogue already has more 40s stuff out than I can keep up with so I'm not complaining. :)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Simplicity Summer of 08

Hot off the presses and (even better) 99c at Joann's this weekend, Simplicity's Summer offerings.  Overall I liked this line.  Yes, there are a lot of bags posing as garments with various details but, well, that's the style.  Besides, after seeing so many I think they're growing on me.  Dangerous, I know.

So let's look at the looks I'll be adding to my collection and what looks really should be avoided, 99c sale or not.


*crickets chirp* 

You know, no matter how hard I look I can't find any actual garment travesties in this group.  There are some I won't be adding (specifically anything with square necks or for children) but none that I can really hate.  At least in the garment devision.  However in the craft division....

A pattern for a clown.  I HATE clowns.  Scary, creepy, twisted things.  I've never really liked clowns but then there was that time at Busch Gardens when a mutant undead clown chased me through a whole forest of limping, grasping, hideous undead clowns ... I'm totally scared for life.

Bad pattern for making me relive those nightmares.  Ick.

Onto much happier thoughts...
So Hot, So Mine

1. S2941

If you know me, you know costumes are my weakness.  After all, a good, historically accurate costume just doesn't go out of style.  And they're so much more fun to wear than everyday stuff.  Sadly there just haven't been many good patterns released recently.  So it's good to see Simplicity and Andrea Schewe (my favorite designer) releasing at least this one pattern.  It's something!  And it's a something I think my husband would highly appreciate.  :)  I really like all the different pieces in the pattern though I wish they'd stop using those barbie dolls for the front and back views and switch to the nice basic line drawings they use for all their other patterns.  It's hard to see the details with those dolls.

4.  S2938

I really like the dress in this pattern, it's got that easy-breezy black dress look with just a nod to current trends with the gathered neckline.  And it's got a size zipper!  I so prefer those over back zippers as they're much easier to reach to zip up.  I always have trouble contorting myself just right to zip up those last three inches with back zippers.  In regards to the rest of the pattern, I can't say I'm a fan of the boxy hobbit jacket with just the single button.  I really don't get why I'd want a jacket with sleeves too short to keep my arms warm and a front that gapes open giving me a cold tummy.  Plus, as a pear I really don't need that tent like line making my hips look even bigger.  So a pass on that one.  The pants look nice but as pants and I don't get along I'd rather that they'd included a skirt.  Oh well.  Still, I'll buy it for the dress and that's enough for me.

3 S2940

I'm a fan of all things kimono at the moment.  It started with sewing one up for a friend's wedding present and then another and then one for myself and then, well, it kind of went from there.  I love how, with the right fabrics, one pattern can be a shirt, a jacket, a cool weekend robe, a sexy geisha robe, and, I'm sure, much more.  While I'm really pleased with the pattern I've morphed beyond recognition into my own creation, that doesn't keep me from wanting a whole slew of similar patterns to draw details from.  In this particular case I really like the sleeves and the boxy and potentially authentic lines.  And just look at that skirt!  Is it really a high waisted wrap skirt with just a hint of an obi?  I so want.

2.  S2927's getting to me, I love this pattern in part because it has pockets. I didn't used to have a thing for pockets. The buttoned collar is a great detail, giving it a nice 60s vibe and all the graceful lines look like they add nice shaping. I also like the short little sleeves, though it's driving me crazy that I can't remember the name of that style. It'll come to me. Overall it's a cute little summer dress that would look ever so chic with wedge sandals and a kitschy necklace and it should whip up in an afternoon of easy sewing. What's not to love?

And my favorite and the one I vote most likely to make the Best Patterns of 08 list...

1. S2923

Shirt dresses take a little extra work in construction but pay off so well. They've got a forever-chic look and blend professionalism with comfort. Fantastic. This one is an especially good version. I love the flattering princess seam, the pencil and aline skirt options, the buttons that stop a little below the waist (buttonholes are a pain on my machine so the less the better), the graceful back yoke, the gathers, the many sleeve options, and, best of all, the mandarin collar. I think my asian side is showing. The asian side gained from living in asian neighborhoods, not through any bloodline. Sadly my body is pure western european with all the difficult to fit curves that come with it. But back to the shirt dress, I can so see making that up in three or four versions for throwing on for classes next semester. So easy and so chic.


So, what was your favorite pattern from this collection? Any you thought should have gotten nixed at the drawing board?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

McCall's 5576 Step-by-Step: Cutting

Now that your pattern is nicely laid out and pinned to the fabric it's time to take a deep breath and cut!  No going back now!

First, take a moment to look over your layout before cutting.  Are all of your pieces perfectly on grain?  Are you missing anything?  All the pieces facing the right way?  If so, great, let's go!
Although I normally use a rotary cutter, for this pattern I pulled out my trusty scissors just to ensure I still knew how to use them.  It was also a good reminder for why I prefer my rotary cutter.  Make sure you're using nice sharp scissors reserved for cutting fabric.  If your scissors have nicks and rough edges they can snag your fabric and ruin it before you have a chance to use it.  I've written "Sewing Scissors DO NOT USE" all over mine to help tell them apart from our regular scissors.  

Start with a long, mostly straight edge (the hemline is good) and cut with long, clean, controlled strokes.  Don't hurry!  Cut on the OUTSIDE of the black cutting line.  Again, go slow, there's no reason to rush.  Enjoy the cutting process and the sound of the scissors.  Be careful not to lift the fabric up any more than is necessary to fit the bottom blade under it.  This is one of the many reasons I love my rotary cutter - no lifting of the fabric.  However the mats and blades are relatively expensive so most beginners have to serve some time cutting out their patterns the way their grandmothers did.  It builds character.

When you get to a corner (such as when you move from cutting the hem to the side seam) cut a little past the turn then come back and start cutting up the side.  This helps keep everything neat and sharp.  

When you're cutting along a curve, especially a sharper one like you find at the neckline, continue with the long cuts but pivoting the scissors as you cut to follow the curve.  What you DON'T want to do is take little snips.  It's far too easy for those to turn out a jagged edge.  

After the piece is cut out take the time to mark it then and there.  (Lesson on marking coming soon.)  After marking the piece, leave it there if possible and move on to the next piece.  Picking it up can shift the fabric and mean a minute or two of resmoothing before cutting the next piece.  Unfortunately my cutting space is so small that I can only cut one large piece at a time so I do pick up just cut pieces, fold them a time or two, and put them in a neat pile off to the side.  Basically, do what works for you but do it knowing the reasons and (potential) consequences.  

Continue cutting out the various pieces until you're finished.  Now take a moment and look over the instruction sheet to make sure you've got everything you need.  More than once I've thought I was finished when I'd only cut out one sleeve or forgotten a facing or some other thing like that.  Double checking can cut down on a lot of frustration.  Now you're ready to sew!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

McCall's 5576 Step-by-Step: Pinning the Pattern Pieces to the Fabric

Now it's time to pin the pattern pieces to the fabric.  This is an important step and well worth doing carefully because if you mess this up there's not much that can be done.  No pressure, though.  :)
First look over the pattern layout in the pattern instructions and take a moment to recheck which pieces you'll need and how many times you cut each.  Now lay down your first piece according to the instructions.  Don't pin it yet!

Find the grainline on the pattern piece.  Unless the piece is on the fold (we'll get to that in a moment) it's the long line with an arrow at either end.  Measure from it to the selvage or fold (whichever is closer) at several points.  Is it the same distance from the selvage/fold at each point?  If not (and it's probably not) then adjust it until it is.  Now put two pins in along the grainline.  If you skip this step you're likely to cut the piece off-grain and that can later cause the piece to hang wrong and try and twist around your body.  If you've ever had a garment whose side seam wanted to be in the front then you know what a pain it is.  And no, there's no way to really make an off grain piece behave like it should.  So don't cut off grain!

Now smooth out the pattern with your hand, making sure it and the fabric are flat.  Pin around the edges of the fabric, putting the pins parallel to the cutting line and about 1/2" in.  I put pins ever 6 or 7 inches on long straight edges and every few inches on more curved edges.

If you look at the picture you'll notice how I pin the corners.  Rather than pinning parallel there I put them at an angle.  It seems to hold the fabric better.  Make sure all your corners have pins as this will help you a lot when you get to cutting.

Excursus: Pinning patterns that go on a fold.

Placing and pinning a pattern piece that goes on a fold is, in some ways, easier than other, non-fold, pieces.  Pieces that go on a fold are indicated by, instead of a grain line with arrows on both ends (or on one end in some cases), a line about 1 inch in from one side with arrows pointing to the edge.  That's the side you'll want to put on the fold.  I just lay it down and adjust it until the pattern is right on the fold all the way down and then pin it.  You can measure the distance from fold to grainline if you really want (I usually don't) but if you just line up the pattern edge with the fold then you should be fine.  And that's it!  Easy! 

Repeat this for the rest of the pieces or at least as many as you can fit onto your cutting surface. Now you're ready to cut!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

McCall's 5576 Step-by-Step: Tracing and Getting the Fabric Ready

I'm a half-and-half tracer - half the time I do it, the other half I just use the pattern directly.  So why trace at all, especially when you can get patterns at $1.99 on sale?  Lots of reasons but I do it for the fit and durability.  I trace onto the cheapest interfacing I can get at Joann's and because it's fabric-like I can sew it up, pin it, and generally assemble the pieces as though they're fabric to check for fit.  You'll see below how I did that with this pattern.  It's also great for doing modifications - I can draw all over with my colored pencils taking in some here or adding something there and it won't tear like the cheap tissue pattern.  Also it means if I need a different size then I can get it, even if the pattern's out of print.  This is the big one.  So there's a bit of an apologetic for tracing.  With that done, let's get onto the dress!

Tracing the Pattern
(1) Gather the Materials
- Pattern
- Something to trace onto (I used non-fusible interfacing, 99c a yard)
- Dark colored pencils
- Ruler

(2) Unfold pattern, find each piece needed, and trace over your size with a bright pencil.  It'll make the next step far easier.

(3) Lay the tracing material over the first pattern piece, pin the two layers together or use a heavy object to keep them together (I use the ruler) and trace the pattern.  Make sure to include cutting lines, notches, and all triangles and circles.  Label with pattern piece, pattern number, and the size you cut out.  Repeat for all other pieces needed.

(4) Pinfit.  Pin the pattern pieces together as they'll go in the final product.  Don't bother with facings or hems unless they're vital.  You're just trying to get an idea of how the fit is on you.  Put it on and see how it fits - is anything too tight?  Too loose?  How's the fit in the shoulder area?  Yes, it's hard to do this with only half a pattern but soon you'll be a pro.

Getting the Fabric Ready
(1) Look at the pattern layout carefully.  Look again.  It's not the ONLY way to cut out the pattern but it's a really good place to start.  Unfortunately this dress's layout for sizes 8-14 is HORRIBLE for a new seamstress.  Instead of an easy fold in half like the other sizes it has you fold in one side just enough to fit on the front and back pieces.  That's hard and it takes a lot longer than is fun.  So if you're reading this prior to buying fabric - BUY ACCORDING TO THE 18-22 LAYOUT.  It's just half a yard more (2 5/8 rather than 2 1/8) and worth every inch.  Unfortunately I bought according to the smaller amount so that's what you'll see.

(1b) If you haven't yet, wash the fabric.  Cotton especially has a tendency to shrink in the wash and you want this to happen BEFORE you've spent hours cutting and sewing.  Wash it on the hottest setting it'll take and, if your cotton is strongly colored, don't put lighter colored stuff in with it.  Dye always bleeds the worse the first couple washes.  

(2) Prep the fabric for laying out.  "True" the grain by taking a snip half an inch down from one edge, cutting far enough in to get past the tightly woven selvage.  Now rip along that cut.  Yes, you read right.  Cottons rip wonderfully along their grain line and it's kinda fun.  Now the top edge should be perfectly perpendicular to the selvages.  Lay it out along a grid to make sure.  If not tug the fabric into shape.

(3) Fold the fabric according to layout instructions
(3a) If you're following the 18-22 layout then fold the fabric in half length wise.  Pin along the selvage ever 6 or so inches to keep it all together, especially if you're cutting on a table smaller than the fabric length
(3b) I bought according to the 8-16 layout so I had to do this the hard way.  First I measured the widest part of the front and back pieces.  This plus half an inch (just in case) is how much I need to fold over from one edge.  The magic number for my size (12 tapering to 14 at the hips) was 11.5 inches.  I folded then measured at three different spots to make sure it was all folded evenly.  Of course it wasn't.  Fold and measure again.  And again.  This is why that extra 1/2 yard would have been a great investment.

(4) If your cutting surface is shorter than your fabric (and mine usually is) then there's a danger of the fabric getting stretched off grain as it hangs off the edge of the table.  This is a slight to moderate risk for firmly woven cottons and a guarantee for looser wovens like chiffon and some satins.  I just take the bit that would hang over the edge and fold it up to sit on the end of my table.  True, it makes my small cutting area even smaller but it's better than dealing with a skewed grain.  Trust me on that one.

Now you're ready to pin the pattern pieces on!  You're doing great!

Friday, March 14, 2008

McCall's 5576 day 1

I have four classes sketched out so far - an introduction to the machine, first pattern (a robe), introduction to zippers and sleeves and darts, and a skirt fitting class. I'm considering using McCall's 5576 for the intro to zippers et al class and figured that maybe, just maybe I should make up the pattern myself to see if it would work for newbies. Plus I get a couple dresses out of the bargan. Score. :) So the making of the dress, day one...

I bought some snazy (and, for Joann's, expensive) black quilting cotton with silver sparkles. I keep hoping I didn't make a mistake - it was more than I wanted to pay and it's pretty stiff - certainly not the nice soft stuff I'd recomend to students. But it looks really fantastically sharp. Part of the trepidation is knowing that I can't frankenpattern or modify this pattern like I normally would. The standard saves I'd typically make really don't help the students see what their dress will look like. Though, if it really looks that bad, it could be an example of a creative save. But hopefully it'll work out fine. For my trial version, though, I'm going to use a much softer cotton (also from my little local J's) in a beautiful black and green geometric print that I love and which has been aging a year in my stash but has waited until now to tell me what it wants to be. The print should help hide errors, as well.

Back to the black fabric, it came home and I wanted to wash it immediately but we just did laundry yesterday and I'm not spending the 75c our apartment washers cost for one length of fabric. So I googled how to wash clothes in the bathtub. Ask and you shall receive! I so love all things Wiki.

After washing the fabric I traced the pattern. I'm a very slow tracer. An hour and a half later I finished and pinfitted the traced pieces - looks good! Tomorrow I hope to cut and start on the actual sewing. Tonight I'm tired and I know better than to cut while tired - very odd things happen. So avoiding that. :)

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

New Class to Suck My Time!

For my internship I have to teach at the lay school my seminary hosts. Makes sense. So I go in to interview for a position and the director asks what class I'd like to teach. I reach for the list of standard classes on his desk and he pulls it away and says, "no, not what class of our normal roster you'd like to teach, what class, if you could design one, would you like?" Well, it just so happens I'd been dreaming. So I describe this class looking at the New Testament cannon and the various criticisms it's come under recently from everything from the Gospel of Judas to Bart Eerhmans' questions about scribal corruptions and next thing I know I'm down to teach The New Testament Cannon: Do We Really Have God's Word? next semester. Over the next few months I need to get together either a textbook or selected readings, a schedule, and a syllabus for this brand new class. Eeep! And, at the same time, very, very exciting!

In other news there's no way I can teach that class, take 4 classes myself, and still put in the hours they need me at work. So something has to give and it looks like work is the one that will. Financially things work out if I just bring in a couple hundred a month and so I began thinking ... is this the year to finally do what I've been wanting to do and start teaching sewing classes? There's been a bit of a convergence of stars here with more people living near campus, a woman donating new sewing machines, an increase in interest among those I've talked to, and our apartment is just right for a class of 6 people and sewing machines. It's not spacious but, well, neither are the places that my students will be sewing in. First on the docket - get caught up with classes so I can dream without guilt! But after that I need to do test runs of the class projects, get tables for sewing on, rearrange the living room, advertise, and, I'm sure, so much more. But I'm excited and, after a string of jobs that have left me more worn out and discouraged than anything else, I don't mind a bit.