Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Most Amazing Skirt

Surfacing from my little workshop where this elf is busily making gifts to gaze in amazement at this skirt from the upcoming Alice in Wonderland remake.

Look at that! Rows upon rows of ric rac forming a lace overlay - gorgeous and perfectly insane for a Burton film. I'd love a knee-length version for myself but first I need to figure out if I'd actually wear it. Hm. But it is rather stunning and decidedly unusual. I would like to make a doll version sometime this winter, especially as the standard ric rac Joann's sells is just perfectly scaled for a 18" version of this skirt.

Monday, November 02, 2009

I live!

Eeps, it's been, what, two months since the last post? That's just sad.

Also sad - despite it being two months, I really don't have a lot to share. I got my sewing area set up in the new house but it's so dark and cold that I don't spend the time in it that I'd like to. Really need to remember to pick up some lights and another extension cord to fix that. It's just for another 6 months so I haven't stressed over it like I would if this were anything more permanent.

Anyway, next post will be SWAP related but wanted to waylay any rumors of my demise or whatnot. And hopefully pictures soon - I like pictures. :)

Friday, September 04, 2009

Can you identify this needlework method?

So these are a pair of little baby booties made for my mother-in-law's mother by her mother and they're just gorgeous. However I can't figure out just how it was made. It doesn't look quite like either crochet or knitting and it's not macrame. I know that DH's great-grandmother was skilled in embroidery and tatting and DMIL has stories of her knitting things she'd seen without a pattern in the space of a few evenings so that doesn't narrow the options too much. Still, it's gorgeous workmanship and it was a priviledge getting to pour over some of the items she made.

More of her work -

Baby bonnet also made for DH's grandmother - look at how tiny the work is!

The edge of a lingere piece. She made a set of three lingere items all from the same pattern and not a single machine stitch on them. I'll show off the full set in a future post but for now a taste of how she creatively used embroidery as a utility stitch to hold on the lace. Gorgeous, gorgeous work.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

New Toy!

I'm in love with our local Goodwill. I'm both a closet tree-hugger and a poor student so the idea of getting used but still good stuff for great prices with the proceeds going to good use? Score! So we've been doing a lot of our shopping there this past week. Got a desk, chairs, storage stuff, all for a good price. But yesterday was the definate gold mine. Looking around for a chair for my sewing are I noticed a long, slightly beat-up, rather dated box. Looked closer.

A Bond Knitting machine. From the early 90s. With all it's pieces. For $7.99. Gorgeous! Mine!

I brought it home and last night we got it set up on the one table it fits on (the kitchen table - guess we're eating at the coffee table for a while) and tested it out and I'm utterly amazed and overjoyed. It took some annoying-to-knit boucle yarn I had and turned it into a foot of gorgeousness in just half an hour with no problem. All I had to do was get it set up (admittedly rather time consuming and fiddly) and then slide the cartrige back and forth. And that's it! Love!

I need to spend time over at the bond site for project ideas - unfortunately the ones the machine came with are ... dated. To say the least. Lots of amusement value, though! And a fun, fun new toy to enjoy while I'm up here in sweater land. :)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Very vintage doll pattern: or, A Taste of Things To Come

We've moved in, most boxes are unpacked, and hopefully next weekend I'll finally get a table for my sewing area and be up and running! I even managed to find the only Joann's within an hour's drive without deliberately looking for it - just turned off the highway for a mid-day treat and there it was. And so impressive - all the fabrics I loved from my Dallas Joann's plus many more! And the clearance section! And the yarns! All swathed in wide, clean aisles and nice bright (albit florescent) lights. Happiness!

Anyway, more of all that later. For now, a taste of the long-promised photos of my mother-in-law's grandmother's sewing treasures.

The treasures included a couple embroidery patterns, a small trouseau of entirely hand-sewn lingere, all from the same basic pattern, and, my favorite, a doll dress pattern dating from the early days of patterns.

Unfortunately the best of the pics are still trapped on my home computer which lacks internet access and will have to wait for the weekend to get any. But until then, this is a taste of what I got to see:

This shows the back (sorry, no pic of front at present - coming!!) of the pattern envelope which was, if memory serves, from the early 1920s. It's far smaller than standard pattern envelopes today - maybe 5" in hight and 3" wide? One thing I didn't do was measure it, though I know I have a picture with a penny for comparison. Somewhere. If you look you'll notice how excited McCall's is to offer printed directions. :) And look at all those pattern pieces! The pattern is for what seems to be a very basic little dress and bloomers for an 18" doll - apparently the definition of "basic" has changed over the years. :)

The directions and, I believe, the pattern pieces themselves were printed on one long piece of tissue paper in blue ink. I took a panoramic series of photos to capture every last line but, naturally, in the short bit of time I had to upload to my photo album only a few made it. The rest are waiting patiently and I promise you will get to see them! Click on this photo to get a far larger view and enjoy all the wonderful little details!

Here's part 4 of the directions with the most gorgeous illustrations. And look at the techniques apparently used on a basic doll dress! So amazing.

Like I said, this is just a taste of the treasures I got to see and preserve digitally over the week with the in-laws. And MIL was probably very happy to have someone as excited about all the items as she was. :) I've also been commissioned to make a beautiful day dress for her grandmother's doll, something I'm very much looking forwards to as it's a great chance to really have fun with some vintage styles and nice fabric. I think a trip to Gayfeathers is in order!

Monday, August 03, 2009

How's summer going?

Busy here!  Hopefully in another couple weeks I'll be back in the land of regular internet access and I've been storing up things to share - fabrics acquired, a few gorgeous 1920s patterns MIL has passed down from her grandmother, hand-sewn chemises from the same grandmother, and my attempt at getting by on just 20 or so patterns for a year.  And, I'm sure, more but that's what I'm most excited about at the moment.  Unfortunately that'll have to wait a tad until said regular internet, computer, and I are all together at the same time.  Until then hope that everyone else is having a great, productive, and fun summer!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Break for Vogues

So packing is ... hectic. And I'm tired of boxes and loads of laundry (thanks to water damage and mold we have to wash EVERYTHING - fortunately the apartment's paying for it but I'm still the one doing it) so I'm taking a dinner break to focus on something rather unexpectedly happy - the Fall Vogues!


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I love the belt on this - the way it's sewn in on the back avoids the bubble butt that volume + belt can give.  And while it's still more volume than I can wear without feeling silly or overly fussy it's at least a good take on the volume of the past few years.


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What a gorgeous and smart dress for fall.  I love all the seams and the square neckline.  So beautiful.


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This is such a fabulous day-to-night outfit.  You can't see it in the picture because they picked black (why, when it photographs so badly) but there's a gorgeous bit of seaming details going on between the waist and hips.  A great way to use some nice wool.  


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More fabulous details - the skirt has a neat gather in the front (here obscured by the jacket) and a nice diagonal asymetrical seam in the back.  Very nice, great way to make an extra-special little black skirt.  Like the jacket as well but it's really the skirt that wins it for me.  I would, however, put in a kick pleat rather than that slit... that always looks like something cheap brands do to save money and time.  Not so fab.


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Pleats at the neck, gorgeous.  Not sure if I can pull off a fitted knit dress (though it does call for fairly firm knit) as those react badly with my "athletic" thighs.  But still, very gorgeous dress.


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Another fabulous little dress.  That waist panel looks so flattering and there's lots of seams to let you get the fit just perfect.  


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Ok, impractical and totally not me, but I love the high waisted skirt and little capelet jacket.  It's such an Adelle Dewit outfit (from Dollhouse - I have a rather pitifully desperate crush on her wardrobe) and I so want to be the sort of person who can pull off such a style.


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Ok, not feeling the jacket but the rest of the wardrobe is lovely.  I especially like the dress/faux top and skirt.  Very slick and chic.  And in a solid color the jacket isn't too bad.  Ok, it's kinda nice, with the slim pieces underneath.  I could grow to like it.  But the skirt and dress are really my favorites.  And the skirt and pants both have darts under the waistband which are a big plus for me - so many patterns with waistbands forget that some of us have curvy bums and need all the shaping we can get.  I'll probably still have to add to the dart but at least it's there to start with and doesn't have to be drafted in entirely.  

Ok, that was a nice break.  :)  Back to the laundry and boxes and off to pick up box tape!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Fourth of July Skirt

(btw, those are sitting, not fitting, wrinkles. Just to make myself feel better about showing this picture)

New skirt just in time for the 4th! And yes, you'll notice I do go in for themed dressing. :)

The skirt is from the sadly out of print Simplicity 3754 which is my current favorite skirt pattern. It's also my most-used skirt pattern with three different incarnations hanging in my closet. Love!

The fabric is a medium weight cotton that was originally in Joann's home dec section before getting thrown in the remnant bin. Our Joann's seems to have a new policy on what constitutes remnants because out of nowhere the bins showed up and more often then not you can find up to two yards of very nice fabric for 50% off. And when the remnants themselves go on sale it's just happy times for me. This red cotton came home with four other pieces and I think the bill was less than $5. Serious score there. Two of those pieces are "in process" as I finish little details and such so hopefully they'll make their debut soon.

But back to the skirt, it's my sole "mini" skirt (in quotes because I've found what I consider mini is simply short to most people) and a fun skirt to wear. So bright and happy! My only dislike are those criss-cross belt holders - I put them in correctly so it's not an operator error. I'm thinking that they're just drafted too long, especially since this skirt is the recommended fabric weight so they SHOULD be perfect. Oh well.

Beyond that, we had a lazy Sunday that SHOULD have been spent getting the place ready for our evacuation. Oh, well. We'll work on it tonight and I've got tomorrow morning free so it'll get done. And it was a very enjoyable lazy so the time wasn't wasted. :)

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Le Sigh

Interesting note - if you're feeling annoyed or upset, google image search "face palm." It'll make your day, I promise.

Anyway, got air tests back from our moldy walls and good news is it's not black mold. Bad news is it's just about all it's cousins and friends. So wheels are in motion to get this all cleaned out and up and whatnot. Which would all be SO much easier if we weren't moving in two weeks. Seriously. So on ... monday? ... we're getting moved to a new apartment that's pre-furnished with some basics and all our stuff gets to undergo mold detox. Fun stuff. On the good news it looks like we'll get to forego the military grade move out inspection. I've done two of those in this building already and was NOT looking forwards to a third. So yay on missing that.

On the downside we'll be seperated from all our stuff and be reunited with it box by box just in time to turn around and move it again to our new temporary location. Which we'll be in all of two days before vacation with the in-laws and then, just when all that craziness dies down, move AGAIN to Wisconsin. So, yes, four apartments in two months' time. Not so excited about that.

We asked a lot of questions and detox team #1 will come by tomorrow to figure out just how intensive the cleaning will need to be so we'll have more concrete info tomorrow. Until then it's just a lot of tidying up in prep for detox/move/storage and just one more chapter of craziness in life!

And not surprisingly sewing's a bit on hold. I hope to have a new skirt or two to show off soon, we'll see.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Pattern give-away! (or, Cleaning up in prep for move)


The patterns all have homes!  Thanks!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Work in progress and an interesting meeting

Here's Elanor modeling my drawstring skirt pattern, version 2.0. I'm trying to work up a beginner-friendly pattern that's easy yet flattering and figure if I get a few nice things to wear in the process then, hey, bonus! It's made up from some rather icky linen from Joann's (that I didn't realize wasn't part of the LINEN SALE!! until AFTER it was cut - grr) that I really should have cut out on the bias rather than straight grain since, as is, it's got all the drape of a feed sack. Oh, well, sew and learn. I have a little over a yard left so trying to decide if I want to add deconstructed ruffles for weight or cut another on the bias (need to check if there's room) or something else so at the moment it's unhemmed. But I do like the shape and it is quite comfy so if it's never anything beyond a test and swimsuit coverup then it's done it's job.

In other news, yesterday I was chatting with my parents who are back in the DC metro and about five topics of conversation in dad mentioned that they had an interesting time last weekend. Apparently they went out golfing and just as they were about to hit the greens (or whatever the appropriate term is for getting started) the whole place went into lock down and men in black with little earbuds were everywhere. See where this is going? A few minutes later Obama walked by, gave my dad a wave and hopefully went on to have a lovely, relaxing day golfing. It was another hour until the security perimeter around him allowed my parents to go on with their game but, hey, they got a story out of it. And I got to tease my staunchly republican dad since he keeps having these sorts of random run-ins with democrat presidents. Never republicans. Just democrats. It amuses me. Mom's only comment was that Obama's shorter than she thought. Just another weekend for them... Life in the DC area, how I miss you!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Update on wall and projects

Some of the damage to our frames. Ick!!

Our apartment became the exhibit of the week today as first six guys from our head of housing to some maintenance guys who (it seems) tagged along to see the Mysterious Bending Wall came by to check it out and then later a few more people from maintenance popped in just to see our little curiousity. In fairness, our light fixture has some rust running from it that looks like dried blood so it is kinda a neat thing to see - bleeding walls! Now just need stuff to start flying around.

Fortunately no holes were opened up today - since all concerned asked just when we're moving out fingers are crossed that they're waiting until then to do the messy stuff. Of course I was kinda looking forwards to the excuse to avoid at least part of the move out inspection - so whether they do or don't punch a hole in the wall we win.

Unfortunately the reason we didn't get a holey wall is because they found MORE water damage in the apartment above us, home of a policeman working night shifts and his 8-month pregnant wife. So while things are quiet down here they lived through an unexpected day of deconstruction. Sorry!!

In the project world it's a small list of UFOs. I apparently haven't fully conquored the fear of buttonholes I built up with my first machine (and fully justified, I assure you) and a top and skirt are both sitting in the pile waiting for those last details. I also started knitting a sweater out of some beautiful yarn that just hasn't found it's purpose yet. It's been the start of three different cardigans, a wrap, and at least one other false start and each time it just wasn't right. This time it seems to be working. It's a veeery basic cowlneck sweater based on a lionbrand crochet pattern. And by "based" I mean I'm using some of the measurements and the overall idea and that's it. Instead of crocheting I'm knitting in rib stitch using fairly large needles (size 13) so it's fast, the fabric is sooo soft, and hopefully it'll fit. If not then, by this point, I'm very good at unraveling projects. :) Once it's done I'll try my hand at writing a pattern - it's about as simple as it gets (which I need, knitting's still new to me, I'm a sewer and crocheter first).

Here's the start - it's larger than it initially looks since the needles are so large. Thus the hand and magazine as size references. And the color's not quite right - it's richer and less sparkly than it looks in the picture. Oh, well. I like it. :)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

That's ... not good.

So we're eating and chatting with friends last night at our place and I notice the one nice picture we have (most are just my own pics printed off at Target and slapped in Ikea frames) has condensation inside the glass. Hm. Go over, pull it off the wall and notice the back cardboard is severely damp. Hm again. Pull the next picture off the wall and ... wow. MOLD on the back. And pull another, more mold, and another ... in all four picture frames with mold on the back and another half dozen that were badly water damaged. What in the world?

Now everyone's gathered around the wall and one notices that when you touch it, it bends in easily. Not normal at all. And it's warm right where all the water damage happened, while the rest of the wall is nice and cool. Hm.

Our building apparently had some "quality" issues when built and water damage has been a bit of a constant for some rooms, but it's always been the windows that were the issue. Not interior walls. And this is definitely interior. But tracing it back, we did notice a few small things right after the big rainstorm a week ago, so it fits. But wow. Our apartment manager and a building guy (not sure official function) came by today after we sent him an email and from how he reacted it seems this is a new problem to add to his already long list of problems with the building's, well, building. Since, you know, storing water in walls isn't really a good idea. At least not this type of storage.

So tomorrow maintenance is coming by and odds are we'll be partially wall-less by the time they're done. Sigh. And we're just a few weeks from moving out, too. Oh, well... life! Guess I should make sure my fabric is nice and stored away from flying whatever that's behind that wall!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sewing Classes!

I've just solidified my Summer sewing class schedule so if you are or know of a Dallas-area beginner or advanced beginner looking for lessons, I've gotcha covered. :)

Classes are $125 for all 6 hours of instruction while micro-classes will be $45. Full-time students get a sympathy discount. :) All classes are held at my apartment (low overhead cost!) near Baylor hospital. Precise directions along with class materials list will be sent out after registering for a class as I'm not so keen on posting my home address online for any to see. Just in case.

If you're interested email me at alicia.marshevans AT (replacing "at" with "@" - doing it this way snags up the spambots) and I'll get you signed up!

You should have your own machine though I do have a couple class machines if you need one, whether because yours is too heavy to bring in or you want to take this with your child/parent/spouse/roommate/etc and you only have one between your or whatever. Just know that all classes past 101 have homework and you will need a machine for it!


101- Learning to Love Your Machine
For beginnings. Learn the basics of threading, tension, and sewing through making a number of small projects.

Session 1 - Mondays, 7-8:30pm, June 22-July13th (4 sessions)
Session 2 - Saturday 10am-1pm, June 27, July 11 (2 sessions)

201 - First Pattern (Apron)
Learn to read a commercial pattern while making a beautiful and practical apron. Cutting and marking will be covered.

Session 1 - Tuesdays/Thursdays, 7pm-8:30, June 30, July 2, 7, and 9th.
Session 2 - Saturdays, 2-5pm, June 27 and July 11

202 - Perfect Fit Pencil Skirt
Learn to fit and sew a pencil skirt that's perfect for your figure. Darts, zippers, facings, and basic drafting will be covered.

Session 1 - Tuesdays/Thursdays, 1pm-2:30pm, June 30, July 2, 7, and 9th.
Session 2 - Wednesday/Fridays 7pm-8:30pm, June 24, 26, July 1, 3rd.

In addition I have some elective classes and micro classes (one session classes) that I'd like to do, if there's interest. Please note if one of these sounds good and if there's a general time that works best for you!

Possible "elective" classes (all need 101 experience - 102 very helpful but not necessary)

Full Classes (meet 4 times over two or four weeks)
- Sewing a maternity skirt (emphasis on making one pattern up in different ways)/maternity wardrobe (top and skirt)
- Sewing a camp shirt (buttonholes, collars)
- Little Black Dress

Microclasses (Meet just 1 time)
- Next Step Techniques - setting in sleeves, darts, zippers, and different hems
- Mending
- Fabrics - different properties, choosing the right one for a project, intro to knits, etc.
- Sew a Knit Top - it's really easier than you think!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Two new garments from May

The end of May I participated in the Wardrobe in a Week contest and, while I didn't finish all I'd planned, I did get two garments out of it and that's two more than I had before!

Here's the outfit together...

The dress is from McCall'ss 5576 and this is my second time making it. The first time I went by my measurements and sewed a 14 - yeah, shouldn't have. The only fitted part is the shoulders/neckline and I'm really a size 8/10 at that point. So for the first version the neckline was huge. I pulled it in through the back (the only place I really could) and while it now looks alright it cuts into my arms if I've got less than perfect posture. So for this version I went with a size ten grading to 12 at the hips and it's MUCH better. Moral - flat measure, pinfit, or make a muslin, just check before cutting!

The fabric is pure linen with border embroidery bought at my wonderful little local Joann's.

I made a few alterations for this version - first I changed the cutting layout so I could take advantage of the fabric's border print. Second, instead of gathering the neckline I took advantage of the fabric's linen crispness and sewed little darts, topstitching them to help them hold and to give a little added visual depth.

I also made the dress sleeveless. This must be the ONLY dress in McCall's arsenal that's doesn't have a sleeveless option - usually the problem is finding a dress WITH sleeves. The dress, in it's natural, sleeved state has a high armhole so I didn't have to modify that at all. I just redrew the facings to include the armcyc and sewed up as usual with this configuration. I had planned on putting a side zipper in but the dress slips on without any opening needed so I just ditched it altogether. I prefer having the zipper in the side rather than the back but I prefer not having to deal with a zipper at all, if possible. So there you have it, one summer dress/jumper!

The top is from my TNT knit top pattern, an out of print Butterick that's no longer on their site. Sad! I snatched the sleeve from Simplicity 4076. I used the flared sleeve, folded out some of the flare, then gathered into a band that's just a little larger than my bicep. I also gathered the neckline to match the sleeve. I like how it worked out. :)

Anyway, hope to have more to show you soon - tonight is DH's guys' night so I've got the place to myself and I plan to use it to sew along to all the music that annoys him. :)

Thursday, May 28, 2009


So friend comes over today and he's just sitting around chatting when he notices the sewing machines. And, likely, the dress form, fabric, rulers, cutting mat, pattern boxes, two inches of thread scraps on the floor ... anyway, he picked up the subtle clues that there was a sew-er in the house. So he commented on it with the standard "hey, cool, always wanted to learn, great thing ..." then so casually mentions that his mom sews ... for Disney. She's head of the costuming department for Disneyland. With a warehouse of fabric, a team of seamstresses, racks and racks of costumes, designers finding ways to make two dimensional characters live and deal with all those little technical details like keeping Mickey from passing out from the heat and making sure Belle can get out of her dress without too much trouble. Also she apparently convinced the Mouse to buy what's basically a giant fabric printer so they can print up their own stuff. This woman is my idol. And friend has promised to pass on my contact stuff since his mom apparently loves chatting with younger seamstresses and loves passing on stuff she's learned. Squee!! Seriously, combining sewing and Disney and it's like chocolate covered strawberries - double the fantasticness.

Anyway, had to share my excitement de-jour. :)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Faire Day!

Yesterday we made our annual pilgramage to Scarborough Faire and had an absolutely wonderful time. It wasn't too hot (always a danger in Texas), the crowds were quite manageable and the shopping was, as always, fantastic. Funny, I can go a full year without stepping foot in a mall (and I think I have ... I really don't remember the last time we went) but trade out generic trendy clothes with ren faire garb and bath and body works for small scale lotion and oil makers and I'm totally there. Got some of the best jelly ever made - Raspberry Chipolte from Mrs. McArthur's (sold by the lady herself) - reloaded on some scented body oil which also happens to be the ONLY thing that consistently works to tame my hair (seriously), and picked up a gorgeous hand-thrown pottery cereal bowl. All while enjoying the sun and demos and fellow patrons and shows and food and time with DH. Great days!

The guy and I - my dress is a modification of a self-drafted princess seamed dress made up in a light faux suede with a boned bodice and side lacing over a very, very basic chemise. I think I need something new by next ren faire (Wisconsin's is late summer/early fall so we're double dipping this year!) as the chemise doesn't fit right and tends to ride up, requiring constant tugging to make sure my not-so period undies aren't part of the visible costume. And, on the opposite side, this is the ren faire, the one time in the year I rather want to show some cleavage. So might as well. :) The shoes are from Payless and are some of my favorites for looks but they're hot and hurt like the dickens after a few hours of walking so one more reason to retire the garb to the costume closet. Like most things in there, I'm sure I"ll find odd opportunities to pull them out again. DH is wearing a shirt I made years ago and which he also wore for our wedding. Pants are just basic dress pants - he has a pair he's making but didn't get done in time. So he's slowly building his own collection of garb.

This is the most adorable, gorgeous sculpture I've ever seen - a little brass dragon just hatching. I love dragons in general and this little guy was so alive, so personable. And, unfortunately, so very, very out of my price range. One day!

DH didn't finish his pants but he did finish making these felt boots from Butterick 5233. After a LOT of modifications, they worked. Unfortunately he didn't use enough glue on the soles and they didn't give the ankle support he wanted (granted, he seems to think ski boots are the base standard for that, so take that as you will) so he switched back to his old black hiking boots mid day. Still, I think he did a great job on these boots! They're his first finished sewing project and he survived! He did note that my perfectionistic and planning-ahead personality seems to be far better suited to sewing than his more loose, go-with-the-flow style. Since most of life seems to reward his personality it was rather gratifying to find one area that rewards my style. :) Still, he did a fantastic job (in my biased opinion) and he's still talking about finishing his pants so he apparently wasn't scarred by all the seam ripping and little problems that inevitably popped up.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Back in the game!

I live!

After the craziness of finals and finishing up the SWAP I just needed a little vacation and took it, as much as I could, last week. Now I'm back and keeping busy. Whipped up a ton of little rice and flaxseed heat packs for the shop as well as some nice little cases for them and have a few robes in process. But that's boring work stuff. For myself I'm participating in the Stitcher's Guild's Wardrobe in a Week sew along starting ... today? Yesterday? Now-ish, either way. The idea is to whip up four garments that form a little mini capsule. I want to start on a summer addition to my SWAP stuff, with the end goal of getting ready for the trip to florida we're taking with the in-laws later this summer. We'll be doing the standard sight-seeing, beaches, and snorkling. Or at least everyone else will do all that - last time I went snorkling I nearly drowned. And since I was in the "learn to snorkle" pool at Disney World it was rather embarrasing. Five year olds were flippering past me as I clung to a rock trying to breath. The problem's the mask - I breath with my nose, not my mouth, and that led to a string of errors that wound up with me almost needing the cute young lifeguard to come out and rescue me.

Come to think of it, I should have let him. Hm.

Anyway, plan is to make up three florida worthy pieces and one piece that needs ironing so no traveling but I need in my life here.

- Black drawstring skirt - mostly self-drafted by this point. It's in the background, being drafted.
- Black linen/poly sleeveless dress, with the white embroidered flowers at the hem. I think I'll add some more white details at the top... have to see what it needs. Anyway, cut out, will sew later this weekend.
- Blue TNT knit shirt from my old favorite, Butterick 3344. I'm playing with the sleeves on this one and cut out little bishop sleeves to see how I like them.
- Blue button-up shirt. I haven't cut yet but think I'll use Butterick 4985. A little labor intensive but if it takes longer than a week then that's ok.

Anyway, that's what I've been up to. It's great to be back!

Also, I'm starting up summer sewing classes. If anyone in the Dallas area is interested please shout and I'll send you details.

Friday, May 08, 2009


Thank you for the encouragement and all papers and finals got turned in and I'm officially and totally FREE from semester related duties now. And DH did a fantastic job cleaning so the place was nice and I got to doze while watching the new Lie to Me (I think I'm getting hooked) and the in laws came and were great and brought Cheerwine and we went out for the graduating class picnic and free food and now we're back, things are quiet, and I feel so wonderfully free.

Such a great feeling.

And now to pry the contacts off my little overused eyes and sleep for a day and a half. :)

Well, not quite since tomorrow DH graduates and I want to be somewhat alert ... but still, sleep for as long as possible.

Then hit the fabric store to get on the ball with the stuff I'm selling through a consignment store. My first little chance to really get my stuff out there! Looking forwards to it.

But that can wait until after sleep. :)

Odd things you think of during all nighters

The last paper is 4/5ths of the way done and now just to get it that last fifth. I really shouldn't have let it slide this long but anyway... almost done.

But on another track, does anyone from the west coast remember the Nut Tree in Vacaville, CA? For YEARS the memories of that place have been ticking the edge of my brain but I couldn't remember the name. Red Oak was my most guessed yet consistently wrong attempt. It makes sense, looking at it. Two short words, treeish in nature... anyway, it finally clicked and I was able to find pictures and stories of that old tourist place. And dear heavens the 80s were ugly. And almost nostalgic in the way only childhood memories can be. Children of the 90s and millennium, hug your parents to thank them for the far better designed (if slightly more depressing and overcrowded) world they gave you.

Anyway, back to the Nut Tree, anyone else remember the rocking horses, playground mirrors, little train, and toy shop there? We never did eat at the restaurant, at least not as I remember since my family was still living rather meager on a lower ranked officer's pay. My little brother has no idea how good he has it, being born later into a less transient, more wealthy family. Funny how a few years can make such a difference.

And that's really all. The musings of a brain on too much caffeine, too little sleep, and worn out from a long semester. And my in laws arrive tomorrow. And the living room needs only a pizza box to look like the worst stereotype of a bachelor pad. Ok, if bachelor pads had sewing machines, fabric scraps, and a dress form. Still, messy doesn't begin to describe the disaster of papers and fabric that bear testimony to all I've gotten finished in the last week. Fortunately my in-laws are fab ... but it's still annoying that their first view of the apartment can't be a little nicer. And DH has a funeral to go to tomorrow morning (no one close, but a 95 year old woman he got to know through church) so he's out for cleaning duty. Oh well. I'll try to see the mess as one of accomplishment. Four finals, five papers, and a SWAP all finished and turned in. That's something to be proud of.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

One success!

Got back my first final grade - 95%! Now to see if I can do anywhere near that good on the last one.

And still have three papers to get in. Eek!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Finals week in progress

Two finals down, two to go...

Three papers down, three to go...

SWAP finished, pictures still to go ...

I feel like I'm on that knife's edge - too far to quit, but still a lot to slog through ... but at least it's happening. Little by little it's actually happening. And many, many thanks to DH who's serving as my editor. It's fair, student wives have been doing it for ages. Time and past for a little equality. :)

Also joyous news, we got our move out date moved from next Tuesday (eek!) to the 25th. So I don't have to spend the weekend madly packing after a week of low sleep and high stress. You have no idea how relieved I am. We'll find out tomorrow if we got approved to stay through the summer but for now those extra few days are enough to make breathing far, far easier.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Writer's block

Seriously, brain is utterly blocking on me. I'm loosing the ability to form a simple sentence and all thanks to Turabian. Stupid formatting system - I know what I want to say but I keep getting tripped up with the footnotes and looking up exact details and my word processing program (endnote, not Word - endnote's free and minorly less glitchy) will NOT let me change it's standard formatting so I keep trying to fix it as I go which is NOT working. I need to give it a rest and just write the darn thing with bad formatting and go back and fix it later. I just hate how regimented it is - I totally get the need for some formatting and some way to cite sources so that facts can be checked or used to help others trace the trail of what you're saying but really, does it MATTER if I have my footnotes indented exactly 1.5" or whatever it is? Will you really have trouble reading my paper without that indent? Will my sources be any harder to find, will my research make any less sense if I don't spend a full half our changing every freakin' footnote to fit that arbitrary guideline? Grr. Making it worse, in college I got very friendly with APA style formatting and really liked it. For a bit there I could do perfect formatting without having to pause and look stuff up. And NO footnote citations, all in-text. Much nicer. Much easier. So now it's extra frustrating because not only can I no longer just type and format as I know how, I've got to use this incredibly complex, detailed system that my word processor doesn't like. Grr.

Ok, back to typing.

No SWAP photos today. :(

Meant to get the SWAP photos out of the way today but the weather went from dreary to drizzly to thunderstorm. Not so great for photos. However our apartment has the most fantastic view of the lightning strikes as the storm moves in - lots of air to ground strikes, very awesome. Must see if I can get a decent photo of that.


Update: So as soon as I got my camera the lightning strikes moved south and out of the line of sight so while they're still lighting up the evening sky quite impressively (and causing our router to go crazy for some reason), they're not very picturesque. Oh, well.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Finished! SWAP is Finished!!!!

Got the jacket finished (tricky, that, since the buttonhole die I was using on my buttonhole attachment broke part way through and had to hand sew the stupid things) and hemmed the two tops that needed it making me fully and officially done with this year's SWAP!!

I'd post a pic of all the pieces but
(A) that would require digging two of them out of the laundry and
(B) I still have a paper to write tonight. So going to do that.

Still, happy!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Last SWAP item - Just about done!

Yay! It's yet another Butterick 3344 shirt though the sleeves were stolen from a simplicity pattern. I like cap sleeves and that's the one thing the butterick pattern is lacking so had to frankenpattern. And this means that four of my six SWAP tops are from one pattern. Which I probably bought for 99c. I think that counts as a very successful tried-and-true pattern and a very good deal. :)

So the current SWAP standing (with one day left to do it all)

4 tops
4 bottoms

Still to do
- Jacket - put in buttonholes, buttons
- White top - hem
- Black sweater - hem

So close!!!

And this weekend we'll do a photo shoot so I can show off all my pretties. :) Gotta wash a few of them first- I've been wearing them like crazy. I think that's what we call a winning wardrobe!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Last SWAP item - Spray painted shirt

First, update: The coat is nearly done - it just needs buttonholes put in and buttons sewn on and it's completely finished. Yay! On the sad side, I lost two of my four green buttons so they're a no-go at the moment. Additionally, they were a little off from the green of the topstiching/buttonholes so I'm thinking black buttons after all. On the happy side I tested out my neato Geist/Singer buttonhole attachment and got the settings all tweaked to make the world's most gorgeous buttonholes. So tomorrow or the next day I'll whip those out. Happiness!

As for my very lastest item -

I realized I didn't have the time for the more elaborate silk top I wanted to make for my last SWAP item and, at the same time, realized I don't NEED an elaborate silk top. The items I'm wearing the most from my SWAP are all nice, pretty knit tops that I don't have to baby and can throw in a warm wash with all our other cottons. So went digging through my knit box and found a rather insane amount of white cotton/lycra knit. What was I thinking? White is NOT good too near my face. So began thinking and fiddling and thought - aha! - why not a white knit shirt with black screenprinting and a black collar? That should ensure it looks good on me and with the rest of the SWAP. However, I'm rather low on screenprinting materials. Like, none. What I did have is a bottle of black spray fabric paint and a small collection of stencils. I think I can do something with this.

I used a stencil originally intended for home dec painting or some such from Michaels and Tulip Cool Color Spray(c), also from Michaels. It's not the greatest fabric paint in the world and definitely has a bad tendency to squirt and drip rather than the nice airbrush spray it shows on the package, but it was significantly cheaper than the airbrush so it's not unexpected. And I rather liked the mottled look it gave. Rather faded and oddly designer-esque, if I may say so. We'll see how it looks when sewn up.

Since I wanted the stencil to be a little off the neckline I traced out the front so I could carefully position the stencil without worrying about the cut out piece stretching or moving like it always tries to do. Seriously, cut pattern pieces are slightly alive. After a bit of careful eyeballing and a lot of just throwing it in the right place and figuring it'll work I carefully covered up the rest of the top with DH's thesis rough draft (it was in the recycling bin) and sprayed until I was happy with the color. I liked it enough that I added another motif down at the bottom right hem. The whole thing took maybe 20 minutes and I like it, so far. I can see doing similar printing on other fabrics with other stencils - maybe a shadow of flowers or even an octopus. :) Fun results with low effort -works for me!

The paint needs to dry 24 hours so I can't finish the shirt until tomorrow. Good, since I'm still pounding out a paper and still have reading to get done. Sigh. The semester's nearly over, thank heavens! Now to just survive until then.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Jacket sneak-peak

Almost done! Just need to put in the partial lining, attach the belt loops, and hem it up! Oh, and a tad more topstitching. And button holes. Can't forget those. Especially since I now have an uber-gorgeous singer buttonhole attachment that makes buttonholes so very easy and so very perfect. So love my new toy.

Speaking of buttons and buttonholes, I pinned these green buttons on to see what I thought and ... not so much loving them. In real life they're not so pukey but they're still rather bright. I think I might do green buttonholes and some shiny black buttons with green thread holding them on. Might be just the thing to add a little color without going overboard. Must pick up some black buttons this weekend and see.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Jacket progress and topstitching love

I love topstitching. Is there any other little detail you can add that punches so much class with so little effort? For the coat, which I'm about half way done with now, I'm topstitching the black denim with green. Actually two slightly different green threads, giving just a slight bit of extra depth and varigation. These are two of the strips that get cut into belt loops - don't they look so finished? I love.

It's been a bit of a challenge to relearn how to top stitch now that my new (to me) machines don't have the blindhem foot that I used like mad on my old machine. And, sadly, the motor on old machine is dying so using it was only an option if I wanted to handcrank every single stitch. So learning how to topstitch using the zigzag foot to keep me on track was a bit of a lesson in creative make-do-manship. And it worked, for the most part. And I realized that in doing this I've gotten better at really controlling my machine. Of course, with that lesson learned I'm still going to go shopping for a good topstitching foot just as soon as I can.

The jacket itself is coming along really nicely - thank you all for talking me into the more trendy and fun style! The black denim, now that it's part of a garment and not on the bolt, has a decided motorcycle bad-girl air to it that just works so fantastically well with the slightly sweet empire waist and candy green topstitching. Such fun juxtaposition.

Also, thank you for the kind words about the paper - it's just been one of those semesters where writer's block has come to camp out and naturally I've got a ton of papers still due. Sigh. Happily the paper I was whining about is actually due NEXT week, not this. Yeah, slight error with my dayplanner there. But a happy error! I'm feeling much better about it now. And now I know what to do next time I'm trudging through molasses - make gingerbread! :)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Decisions and a rather adolescent whine

After some great advice I've decided to go with the shawl-front Project Runway design coat. Yeah, it's a bit trendy but, you know, I like it and I need something to make me smile. Plus, it's the easier of the two. And at this point in the game that counts for a lot. Thanks for the help and I really hope I'll be able to show off the coat in short order.

And for my childish whine - I have a paper due this evening and I Do. Not. Want. to do it. It's not that the topic's a problem or that I've had trouble finding research or anything like that. Just the simple act of organizing out my information and putting it together in coherent sentences and paragraphs and building an argument and citing everything correctly is rather overwhelming and my energy and enthusiasm for the task could not be lower. I'd really rather watch grass grow. Sigh. And there's little worse than trying to force one's self through a task that needs to be done fairly well but which one doesn't want to do. It's like dragging a full blown semi through molasses. And, worse, I can't be bribed. I wish I could do that old trick of setting an alarm and working hard until it goes off or giving myself chocolate or whatnot but repeated attempts have proven that it just doesn't work. I'll stare at the carpet until that alarm goes off or just go without the chocolate. I am, apparently, more stubborn than myself. Oh, well. Going to try talking through the paper as that's one trick that has a one in ten chance of working.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Help me pick my last SWAP pattern

I'm juuuust about done with my SWAP but my jacket piece is proving to be my sticking point. It's not that I haven't tried - this will officially be my fifth attempt.  Seriously.  What happened to 1-4?  Story for another time.  Basics being that I tried to make fabric work rather than using the right fabric to begin with.  So Friday I picked up 4 yards of black denim at Joanns and now it's washed ready to be cut.  Unfortunately I can't decide which pattern is best for it.  Can you help?

Option #1
Simplicity 4084

I'd make view C, the single breasted one shown in purple. Problem: I've lost the front yoke pattern piece back when making attempt #1 and I'm not sure the coat would look right without that overlay over the shoulder. It's not super easy to see in the pattern picture but that vertical line right at the shoulder seems to really make the pattern work. So I'm dithering on that. On the other hand the lines are good and I've already got the tissue pattern cut out to the right size. Again from attempt #1. So that's a time saver.

Option #2
Simplicity 2812

I'd make up the shawl collar version, the one shown in brown on the far right. Knee length. Problem: Not sure if the empire waist won't look totally '09 come next season. However I really like that shawl collar and if the high waist is my only issue then I could piece the parts together and cut as one, eliminating the empire waist. Right? Or is this one of those cases where, if I"m going to do it, I should just do it all the way and include the high waist? So many choices!

Ideally I want a nice lighter weight jacket that I can wear to class and out shopping, over my just-below-the-knee skirts and over my jeans alike. I plan on topstitching with some green thread that matches my green cord skirt and I bought some lovely green wood buttons so no matter what it won't be too boring.

So, what's your vote for the best use of this denim?
Thanks in advance!!!


Nothing really groundbreaking, just wanted to share some truly fantastic and decidedly gothic paper models I ran across recently.  And, even better, the artists have posted them as PDFs so you can download, print, and make them up for your very own.

Raven's Blight has a paper toy section that's beyond amazing - little gothic jewelry boxes, monsters, masks, a graveyard, board games - seriously fantastic.  There's a number of things on there I soooo want to make up for myself.

Haunted Dimensions has paper models of all three Disney Haunted Mansions (Disney fun fact: Disneyland Hong Kong is the only one of the four major Disney parks to lack this ride) and judging by the gallery of made-up models, these are incredible.  Now if only the artist would devote his every waking moment to making up same scale models for the rest of any one Disney park so I could set it all up and wander little avatars through it.  I'm a bit of a Disney dork, I'll admit.  

[some googling later]

Ooooh, my.  I'm in love.  Look!  Look!  A whole page of various Disney paper crafts from the Mark Twain to the original Disneyland Marquee, to Sleeping Beauty's castle ... so beautiful.  So want to make. 

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A quick explanation

So I'm at that age where baby bumps and the wardrobe challenges that come with it are a fairly regular concern with friends.  Not with me.  I'm still very baby-bump free and very happy to let my friends give me small ones to dote on and hand back before getting stuck with diaper duty.  

So for a friend I was trying to get together a mini-swap worth of patterns and ideas to get her through the next half a year.  And I use my blog as my note pad, especially since I wanted feedback ... unfortunately I have a bad habit of typing the title up there in that little title bar and then hitting enter.

Which posts a blank blog with a lone title.

Which is why some of you saw I had a new post.

Entitled "Maternity Wardrobe."

Which must have raised some questions.

So to clarify, the maternity in question is not mine, its' a friend's.  Not me.  Very certainly and happily not me.  If you want to congratulate me, I'll take it on that account (it's amazingly hard to not get pregnant, despite modern medicine, especially if your body goes haywire when hormonal methods are so much as in the same room as it - and unfairly fertility isn't something you can donate to someone who'd put it to good use) but congrats for coming joys go to a friend.  And another friend.  And a belated congrats to yet another couple friends... 

On the good side, western civilization will keep going another generation, if my friends have anything to do with it.  I'm just here to see they're looking and feeling good whilst doing it.  :)

So with that, any ideas for good maternity patterns?  With all the empire waists and baggy looks I'm finding a number in the women's section of patterns that look like they'll work but I'd love some voices of experience.  Morzel's SWAP on stitcher's guild has been my main source so far and it's fab but, of course, the more ideas the better!

Wearing my SWAP (day 2)

Yesterday I wore my black peasant top and denim skirt and today I wore this, my purple knit top and finally hemmed black wool skirt.  With my favorite new pumps.  New shoes make me so very happy.  When I'm done I want to do a big photo session a-la Lucky's old week of styles where they show all the pieces individually, rather like paper doll clothes, then a week of the subject wearing them all.  Similar to their current month of styles but less ambitious.  :) 

Another thought, I've really loved doing this SWAP and don't want to stop.  I might see how much farther I can take it.  Maybe a few more tops, at least one of them a nice blouse, another skirt (I like skirts), a pair of nice pants, a cardigan, a denim jacket ... 

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Warm and cozy plans

As many of you know, this summer we begin our rather protracted move from Texas to Wisconsin where we'll spend the coldest part of 09 and 10 before coming back to Texas. Talk about different needs ... my poor little wardrobe doesn't have a single jacket warmer than my mom's old leather one. Bought in souther California. And our throw blankets, at this point, hit a grand total of one. So as the weeks count down I'm finding I'm drawn to warm knit and crochet blankets to snuggle up in while reading or working. And quilts to cover the walls of my basement sewing room (if we get the townhouse that we're asking for).

So a few of the patterns on Lion Brand that have caught my attention - btw, you'll probably have to register to see the actual instructions, I'm sorry. If it helps, they take fake email addresses so you won't get bothered by them.

I am so in love with the color blending going on in this.  I love shading and watercolors and this is the knit version of that.  And with two strands of yarn it's got to be both quick and warm.  Very, very nice.

Warm and graphic.  I'd like this in a shades of green/shades of lavender mix, or perhaps cream and olive shades.  Or some other mix that catches my eye in those piles of lovely yarn.

My mom's mom must have loved making up this rickrack style blanket because we have a couple passed on by her.  Of course they're all in ever-so-70s style colors which, for most of my life, I thought were intensely ugly.  Suddenly they're looking rather nice and that worries me.  But anyway, the pattern itself triggers nice nostalgic happiness for me and I like that I can choose yarn colors that don't include the word "umber" or "brick" in them.  Greens, again, would make me happy.  I'm a very green person.  In decorating, still working on in lifestyle.

Doesn't this just say coziness to you?  Granted, with all those little holes, it's probably not nearly as warm as it looks, but it certainly shows off well.  I think it might be more country chic than I would ever truly go for but I still love it.  Especially in a nice guest room with a white quilted bedspread and light filtering through the trees outside.  Of course, we don't have a guest room.  Or a tree.  But someday.  Of course, I'll probably take over the guest room with sewing stuff ... but that's reality.  In my little dream world there's a guest room that's not overflowing with extra fabric and gift wrap and there's a tree outside and it's always green.  My dream, my rules.

So this tops the list of completely impractical yet gorgeous throws.  Really, a bit of lace will warm you up just as much but I still love the fun, bright, multicolored circles.  I think I'd make this up with a bunch of different sizes and mix and match them around until I got a growth pattern I liked (because, let's face it, even in bright colors it's rather remenicent of very pretty mold) and then back it with a nice complimentary flannel blanket so it could actually work as a throw.  Still, fantastically fun colors.  Lion brand also has a similar but more grown up (and not-free) throw called their Lock Lomond Afghan and I'm even more in love with that one.  Yes, it looks like elaborate fungus.  Maybe I LIKE fungus.  In certain contexts.  

So, do any of you have a favorite throw pattern?  Knitting, crochet, and quilting are all options.  I'm only actually good at crochet, but I can muddle through the other two and, hey, I can only get better.  :)  

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Wearing my SWAP

This is me yesterday on my way to class wearing shirt #5 of my SWAP and bottom #2. Or, in pattern numbers, New Look 6785 and Simplicity 3754. I really love my new black top and it wasn't hard to make at all. The pattern went together really smoothly with just the fabric itself tripping me up - it's rough crinkle cotton from Joann's and I've certainly learned a lot. The first being that while it said 45" on the bolt, that's before the crinkle process. Afterwards it's a lot less which makes a cutting layout fun. I could have ironed it out flat and cut but that would have made for some interesting distortions at the seams so I just went with the crinkle, cutting slowly and figuring any mistakes would be hidden in the fabric itself.

To keep the crinkle from uncrinkling as I sewed (since machines, by nature, really like fabric flat as it feeds) I started by with the collar since that was interfaced. First basted collar back to interfacing, keeping the fabric on the bottom as I sewed and letting the feed dogs do their thing and ease that bottom layer to fit the interfacing, and then I sewed the outside collar to the interfaced inside, again letting the feed dogs ease in the new fabric just enough to fit it. Next sewed the front and back pieces to the sleeves, going slow and decreasing the pressure on my presser foot to keep from stretching out the fabric more than absolutely necessary. Serged the seams to finish them. From there sewed the body of the dress to the neckline (treating all three layers of the neckline as one - no fussy sewing of the top layer then turning over and handsewing for this dress - it's too casual for that) and then, once I happy with it, serged the seam. Took a while because instead of gathering, I pleated in the front, sleeves, and back and it took a few tries to get the pleats just right.

Sewed little band to sleeves leaving 1" unfinished, serged the sides, then used that hanging 1" of sleeve band to cover over stitching and finish sleeves. Which probably doesn't make a lot of sense. Hm. Must think of better way to word that.

Serged hem, turned up and handstitched blind hem. Still deciding how I like it.

Anyway, wound up with a nice little tunic top that I really like! I'd like to make a few more, first in some gorgeous purple satin I have and then a few more breezy cotton versions though those I'd like to be closer to knee length - unfortunately, due to that whole not-really-45" thing I could only get a tunic out of this one. Oh, well. Great pattern, though, and I'm just about done with my SWAP!

And, best, I'm actually WEARING every part of my SWAP, so far. Well, except for the black sweater I didn't finish until it was already in the 70s here. But that doesn't count. Once it's cool it'll get worn too. So success!

SWAP Progress check

Top #1 - Black tee
Top #2 - Maroon Cowl
Top #3 - Purple knit top
Top #4 - Black cowl sweater
Top #5 - Black peasant blouse (this one!)
Bottom #1 - Denim skirt
Bottom #2 - Green cord
Bottom #3 - Black yoga pants
Bottom #4 - Black wool skirt

In Progress
Jacket - Black Coat (which is being a pain - seriously, I've ripped more seams out of this thing...)

To Start
Top #6 - Purple satin tunic

Sooooo close!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Apron pattern review

As some of you know, I teach sewing classes in my little neck of the woods. I've been having trouble finding a good pattern for my second level class for those who now know how to use their machine but need to learn to read patterns. Especially since my students are, inevitably, either pregnant or male. Seriously. I did have two who were female and not pregnant ... but they were in grade school. So the standard PJ pants bit is out (besides, I always hated those so I'm letting my bias steer me away from them) and robes just take up so much fabric. So for my latest class I tried out Simplicity 2824, a sewing for Dummies apron that's sized for both kids and women and, I figure, men can use it too. Or just suck it up and make it for someone else because, really, I'm tired of trying to work with every possible contingency. Ahem.


V was my only student for this class which was great for testing out a pattern. I'm still learning to read instructions as a newbie and have that bad habit of filling in instruction gaps with my own experience, something a newbie can't do. So while it looked like a good pattern, it's always helpful to have someone else who isn't used to interpreting sketchy instructions go through it. And V found some problems...

By and large it's a good pattern, very basic, very little fabric required, and very simple with a lot of the steps building on previous ones to really help the beginner learn. However if Simplicity is going to market these to total newbies (and I figure that's what the Sewing for Dummies label is targeting) then they really need to get the instructions just about perfect. Case in point: for the little tab that holds the D ring for the top strap it tells you to fold the little rectangle piece "lengthwise." defines this as being along the length of a piece. Ok. Except in this case you're NOT suppose to fold it that way. You're supposed to fold it with the short edges together. And nothing beyond just looking at it and realizing that gets you the right size and shape indicates that they're wrong in the instructions. It's a small point but, when you're helping a newbie who wants to get each step just right, it's important.

Fortunately beyond that the pattern went together smoothly and V absolutely loves her new apron and was talking about other patterns she'd like to tackle so it looks like she's hooked. :)

For those considering this pattern I would recommend going with a lighter weight cotton for the ties and regular for the body - V chose the opposite and had a tough time turning the thin straps and ties inside out. And I would never try making this from heavier fabric - it'd be an utter pain to get those edges folded and sewn. For that much work I want a fancier apron to show for it!

Still, it worked out well beyond those notes and I'll be using it in the future for other second level sewing classes. And it does sew up quickly and makes a great gift for all those chefs on the list so for that it's a win. :)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Some vintage goodies

Some pretties from my vintage pattern box.

This instruction sheet was found inside another pattern's envelope.  Unfortunately I don't have the pieces but the pattern shapes wouldn't be too difficult to recreate from a sloper.  Well, in a relativistic sense.  Compared to, say, recreating it from just a drawing.  But anyway, I absolutely love that second view, the dress with the gorgeous bishop (?) sleeves.  Isn't that utterly glamorous?  

This reminds me of pictures of my grandmother, so pulled together and just slightly sporty.  I can't really wear that high neckline and the points would probably annoy me, but I still like it.  Imagine it made up in a gorgeous hunter green twill with contrast topstitching on the pockets. 

This one is, without a doubt, my favorite.  Unfortunately it didn't have the pattern piece for those fabulous sleeves but it does have line drawings of the pieces so, once again, it's not impossible to redraft.  I'm not certain how I'd make this up for myself in this decade - perhaps as a nice coat with some redoing of that back to make it more heavy-material friendly?  Or should it stay a dress.  Hm.  I really don't plan on making it up anytime soon but it's fun to dream.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

"Hi, I'm new, what machine should I buy?"

A fact of life on sewing forums is that at least once a week a newbie will stop in and ask That Question. Faced with three classes of machines (sewing, serger, coverstitch), a dozen families (Janome, Singer, Bernina, etc) and a million individual species their eyes glaze over and they cry out, "Which one??"

Inevitably in a single post. Their first one. Some even give a wish list, hoping desperately for someone to say "here, here is your machine."

It doesn't work, though. First off, the constraints are often a bit too high. You want a fantastic, reliable, user-friendly machine that can handle leather and all for less than $100? So would I, kid. So would I. But even when the asker is within reasonable bounds it's just not an answerable question. So many variables are in place, from what dealers are near-by, how good each dealer is, what machines do they have, and how has that changed since the sewing experts you're asking has last gone in all affect the advice. And even if askee has every machine available to them at a Mall of America's worth of fantastic dealerships then, even with all that open to them, there's still no easy answer.

Just like with cars, each person has a machine personality and a machine need. That's why there's minivans, SUVs, neons, corvettes, and miatas - because we're not a nation that would all be happy with just a civic. Some are, of course, but others (*cough* me) love our more excentric vehicles. In the same way not every beginning sew-er will be happy with this model Kenmore or that model Bernette. I finally passed on my own Bernette 55 because it annoyed me - so much plastic, so many little things I didn't like about it. My friend, it's new owner, absolutely adores every bit that frustrated me. Go figure. At the same time she thinks my metal beasts, the twin Rocketeers (I've decided to keep them both, btw, they're very happy sisters), are rather ugly and overpowered. And heavy. Ok, I agree on that last point. But they're perfect for me, everything I want in a machine. And so far from what another stitcher would. So please understand if, when you ask what machine you should get, I can't give you a straight answer. There simply isn't one ... there's simply no other way to find Your One then to dive on in and test drive as many as you can to find out your own machine personality and then finding the one that fits. Knowing that if this isn't The One then no worries, another will show up. Because that's the second truth of sewing machines - once you have two a third will show up, then a fourth. Like cats. :)

So what machines do you have and how do they fit your personality? What 'type' are you? I'm an in-control, solid metal, slightly steampunk girl and my babies follow that. :) What are you?