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?