Monday, November 17, 2014

I Should Have Retired!

This fall I began working on my beautiful cousin's wedding dress.  I wasn't excited about using those rusty skills again, but I love my cousin and would do anything for her.
I have now officially retired from that line of work!  I am so happy to have been a part of her wedding, but will never alter another wedding dress.

Frankly, this one put me over the edge.  I could have made two dresses in the time it took me to take in 6 1/2 inches, hem, and bustle this dress.  I won't name names, but it came from the largest bridal chain in the country. I can't imagine why they would carry a dress that was not made to be altered

  It consisted of  a sateen strapless dress full of boning. Attached at the empire waist was another dress made of netting with numerous seams.  The lace was then sewn over the seams apparently with the feed dogs down using a minuscule stitch length.  Atop the lace was beading.  Hence, I had to remove the beaded trim around the waist, remove the beading on much of the bodice and below the waist, remove the lace from bodice and all seams involved in altering the skirt, remove the bones from the lining of the dress, take in 6 1/2 inches from the bodice tapering down at the hips, and make a sway back adjustment.  It was like removing knots!  I can't believe that I didn't rip the netting.  I sounded like a sailor at times and had to stop when I got a headache from looking at the white on white with magnified glasses.  I didn't begin the hem and bustle until 6 days before the wedding, and I had parent-teacher conferences all week! Ugh!  Sleep? What is that? I finished at 2:50 A.M. Thursday night.  The wedding was Saturday.

Funny thing is -- I would do it again! Look at that sweet face.  She is always kind and always cheerful.  My frustration with the dress is nothing compared to the joy I felt seeing her so happy.  Love you A.

P.S. I used to be a procrastinator, but that is not why I worked until the last minute.  The amount of work and a little mishap kept me from finishing.  I fell on my stairway as I was leaving for church the day of the wedding shower in September and broke my tailbone.  I doubt most sewists ever think about how important their bottom is to the hobby.  I never did.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

On My Sewing Table

Life Lesson: Procrastination = Nightmares
I learned this lesson years ago, yet I continue to relearn it every now and then.  This lovely pink ball of fluff is a prom dress with five layers with many fishline ruffles and layers of tulle attached to the top layer.  It is truly beautiful on the very sweet girl who will wear it tonight, but from the point of view of the person hemming it -- well you can imagine.  
Fortunately, I didn't have time to procrastinate as I have in the past.  She brought it to me last Thursday before I left for a weekend quilt retreat.  Monday night I began on the under-layers. No time to work on it on Tuesday.  Changed methods for the top layer Wednesday.  No time Thursday.  Worked, cleaned my classroom, finished lesson plans, set up classroom for Monday, and stayed up until 1 a.m. last night finishing the most unusual hem that I have ever done.
Ready for the prom tonight.  The lighting is not good at nine o'clock in the morning for pictures.  I took up 2 1/2 inches all the way around on the underside.  Because the ruffles are attached vertically, I had to sew between each column of ruffles staring and stopping to avoid catching the ruffle.  Normally, I would have taken it up at the waist, but the ruffles were shaped beautifully, and I would have lost the effect.  It felt so wrong to do such an unconventional hem, but I am happy with the results.  No one will ever know where it was shortened but me.   The hem can even be removed if the dress goes to her taller, younger sister.  Can't wait to see the pictures tomorrow!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Wearable? T-shirt Muslin

In the early 90s I made most of my clothes.  Many of them came from the same go-to patterns McCalls 3064 and Butterick 5384.  Not sure why I kept them.
Wow!  Has the t shirt style ever changed.  No fitting issues there.  The shoulder pads and loose style was so simple.  I put velcro on the shoulder seams and used one pair of covered shoulder pads.
This is my favorite t shirt now -- very fitted.
I have a lot of t shirts that just don't fit as well or do not look age appropriate, so I wanted to copy this style.  I started by modifying Angela Wolf's ruched T.  I raised the neckline, eliminated the ruching, and tried to use the same measurements.  The plan was to use the ivory fabric I bought last week at B&J Fabrics in New York.  

This is muslin #1.  I like the sleeve length better than the original, but there are several problems.  It is too tight across the chest, I sewed the sleeves on wrong side out, and I am not thrilled with the fit under the arms.  My photography leaves much to be desired.  I reacquainted myself with the self timer on my camera.  The fit over my hips is not as bad as it looks.  I will be tucking it in. 
I learned a few things.  Knits differ in the amount of stretch.  This brown knit has a fabric content of 95 percent cotton.  The cotton has less stretch than the ivory fabric which is more of a ribbed knit.  This pattern may be perfect for a more stretchy knit.  
I love the way my coverstitch machine finished the collar.  Since I raised the neckline, I couldn't use the pattern piece from the ruched T.  Threads has a fantastic video tutorial for t shirt collars.  It worked like a dream.  I highly recommend this video for anyone learning to sew with knits.  The video clearly explains how to stretch the collar more in the proper places to make it lay correctly.  
Looking at the RTW t-shirt, I saw that they had used an extra layer of fabric in the shoulder.  I used Emma Seabrooke's fusible knit stay tape instead.  
 It took a bit of practice to start and stop the hems in the round.  This one looks rough because of the change in thickness.
The other side looks better because I took a snip at the fold of the hem and folded the seam allowance the other way eliminating some of the bulk.

I can wear it like this, so it isn't a total fail.  I needed a shirt to wear with this flannel.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Shopping in the Garment District

I ventured out on my own to shop the garment district last week without my guide daughter.  LOL! It sounds like I have a disability, but the description is not too far from the truth when you see her leading me along through the hustle and bustle by the hand.  It feels like it wasn't too long ago that the roles were reversed!  Well, anyway, I mapped out my day with the help of a great blog called Shop the Garment District and made my way into Manhatten on the subway alone.
First stop Pacific Trimming
I really wish that I had taken some pictures of the inside of Pacific Trimming.  It is too incredible to describe.    Thousands of zippers, walls and walls of buttons, isles and isles of trim and fasteners made me giddy at first and a bit overwhelmed after a while.  Luckily, I had a list.  The buckle and slides are for my next fanny-pack, though I couldn't find the navy blue slide I was looking for to finish the one I made for my mother-in-law other mom.  I also found these great buttons for the shirt I have been working on for quite a while.
Oval button made from shell -- 35 cents each
And this set for the Archer I plan to attempt soon. 

Next stop B&J Fabrics

This is what you see when exiting the elevators.

The store is well organized and the staff is incredibly nice.  I found a beautiful selection of shirting fabrics right away and texted a pic to my daughter of my fave.  Thinking it was too soon to make a choice, I decided I should look some more before making a purchase.  Ultimately, I regretted that decision and raced back in a time crunch to get it because it stuck with me.
Can't wait to make the Archer
From there I peeked in numerous stores that had mostly synthetics and fabric for pageant or prom dresses on my way to Paron Fabrics where I found this beautiful ivory knit and lightweight, fusible interfacing.

Of course, I couldn't miss Mood after getting stuck on the subway and getting to spend only 15 minutes there before they closed in August. If you have never been there before, this is all that you see.  There is no sign, and it looks like you are in the wrong place.  But, get on the elevator, and the attendant might ask you if you are going to Mood.
Get off the elevator and this is what you will see.
My 15 minute trip to Mood
They had a nice selection of shirtings, but I couldn't find anything I liked as much as my first find at B&J Fabrics.  By that time, I realized that I was too exhausted and overwhelmed to shop anymore.  Could that be?!!! IN A FABRIC STORE?!!! I walked down the stairs to discover that it was pouring rain, and I had forgotten to bring an umbrella with me.  Wanting dry hair much more than dignity, I pulled out my Paron Fabrics bag an put it on my head.  To my horror surprise, Helen Castillo from season 12 of Project Runway giggled at my ridiculous rain hat and held the door open for me.  Like a tactless fool, I uttered something silly like, "I know you,  I loved you on Project Runway."  She was very sweet and said, "Nice to meet you."  Poor girl can't even go to Mood without fools like me saying dumb things.  She was absolutely beautiful in person.  I have seen at least one celebrity every time I visited New York.  
photo via:
Final Tally: 2 pieces of fabric, one piece of interfacing, 22 buttons, one buckle, 3 slides, one piece of webbing, one pattern, 100 lace pins, and one needle threader.  
Fitting it all in my carry-on luggage kept me from getting more, but I have plenty in my stash to keep me busy until next time.
Thought I would leave you with a picture of the hail storm we had last night.  Looks like snow, but more like 1cm pieces of hail that chipped the paint off my garage door and left many without power.  Weird weather again?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Shopping NYC

Just back from my favorite place to shop for fabric!  I have to appreciate my daughter's new home for the shopping opportunities in spite of the break in my heart.  She is happier than ever -- what more could a mom wish for?
Waiting for the bus to take us to The Brooklyn General Store
She helped me navigate the bus routes to find The Brooklyn General Store where they sell Colette patterns among many other goodies.  I highly recommend this little gem if you are ever in Brooklyn.
They sure pack a lot into this space.
I would love to have joined in on the class going on in the back, so I lingered for quite a while looking at books and listening in.  
Great selection of books bloggers love.
The staff was incredibly nice and never let on that the store had closed fifteen minutes before I left, but the class was still going on in the back.  What a contrast to the night I decided to stop shopping at JoAnn Fabrics (but that is a story for another day.)
The Colette Negroni, lace pins, and a needle threader
I controlled myself this time because I knew I would be back in June.  They have a wonderful selection of Liberty of London fabrics including fabric intended for bathing suits on the rolls hanging from the wall. How fun would that be in a Bombshell bathing suit! 
Liberty of London
One of the dress forms in the windows sported the Jasmine blouse and Ginger skirt by Colette.  The other one looked like the Ceylon dress.  I may have to make that skirt.

How funny, I just now realized that there was a huge picture of what I assume is an alpaca hanging on the wall where I spent so much time looking at notions!  I have an irrational fear of llamas and alpacas after being chased by a few as a child.  If my daughter is reading this, she is cracking up.

 Can't wait to shop here again.  

Next stop -- The Garment District!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Teaching My Nieces to Sew

I am blessed to have two beautiful nieces who both have an interest in sewing.  How fun it is for me to sew with them!  We started by making pillow cases a few years ago.
They loved using my machines.
The older one made a pair of pajama bottoms not long after.  I matched it with a pajama top from OOP M5744.  She was a natural.  Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures.  However, she came back for another lesson -- a sleeping bag for her American Girl doll.
We used some vintage fabric from my childhood.  Does anyone else remember the "Smiley Face" craze?  It took more than one visit to finish, but she did a fabulous job.
The quilt on her bed is another project we worked on together when my quilting-aunt came for a summertime visit.  The quilt top was a family collaboration, but my aunt did all of the machine quilting. 

For most of last year, (2013) I was on a mission to find two good-working, used, sewing machines that were easy to thread for each girl.  By the end of the summer I had found one in a resale shop and one on Craig's List.  Niece # 2 (daughter of brother # 2) received her Janome Sew Petite for her birthday, and Niece #1 (daughter of brother #1) received her Singer machine for Christmas.  Their excitement made my year.  

The winter break provided an opportunity to sew a little with Niece #2.  She is using the same pajama pattern to make a pair of pants from the fabric I gave her for Christmas.  As the equal-opportunity aunt that I am, I made her a matching top from OOP M5744.  I really like that pattern. She hasn't quite finished the elastic or hem yet, but here is the top.

You may have noticed the picture at the top of my blog.  My sweet little guy is well loved by the nieces and nephews.  The print on this fabric looks a lot like him and was a hit.  

Sadly, the print was not done well, making it noticeably crooked on the finished garment.  I started the lesson on using a commercial pattern with the importance of cutting on the straight of grain.  How disappointing!   We lost more than a quarter yard of fabric by washing and straightening and had to go to the store for more.  I carefully explained that we would probably not find the fabric, but could use black for the bottoms and some white flannel I had for the bodice.  She decided she liked that idea, but could not live with the white bias tape I had in my stash.  It had to be black.  

Off we went to JoAnn's.  I was horrified to find that the store had only one yard of black flannel.  Panicking, I began to assure her that we could come up with Plan C just as I spotted the dog fabric!  She wanted both pieces made with "all dog."  I was a little disappointed because the straighter print on the new piece of fabric looks a little wonky with the crooked bottom piece.
I used my serger to finish the inside seams, but had my niece use the zig-zag on her machine for the pants.  She was very excited to see that her machine could finish the edge so nicely.

Can't wait to show you the finished set.  She is a natural sewist--just like her cousin.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Sewing Room Reveal

I have been anxiously anticipating the winter break this year.  My sewing room has been a black hole for too long.  Last night, I was up until 3 a.m. working.  I was having to much fun and getting really excited about having a place to sew.  Sadly, I found items I hadn't seen in years, some I don't remember buying, and others I completely forgot about.  Sleeping was out of the question.
I just dumped everything in the middle of the room as you can see in the following pictures and forced myself to follow a few rules.
1.  Everything has to have a place.
2. Sort it or toss it now. (There won't be time later.)
3.  Get rid of the craft stuff. (I barely have time to sew.)
I am sure I should have gotten rid of more than what is in the bags to go to Purple Heart, but I am pleased as punch with the results!
 Somehow I lost the before pics of the sewing room.  These pictures are sort of in between.

New curtains made and hung.  New vinyl covers fitted and made for the table tops - then covered with crap clutter!
And now -- the after pics:

Though I tried, I couldn't avoid storing several things under the work table.  Fortunately, most of it is on wheels and can be accessed easily.  
I just have too much.  It is time for stash busting.

I like the cleaner look my brother's old entertainment center provides when I close it up.

The closet is also filled with stash fabric.  My pressing tools are in and on top of the white drawers.  That is the one glitch.  I purchased a new-to-me Bernina sewing table from a seller on Craig's list for only $50.  I love it, but it leaves little room for my ironing board.  I can set it up in front of the closet,  However, the pressing tools will be hard to get to.

This table provides a lovely surface, and I find it to be great for my back.
I could replace the serger/coverstitch machine with an ironing station, but I'm going to try this arrangement out first.

 This yellow thimble waste-paper basket is one of my favorite things in the room along with my Singer "Sew Easy."  I found the first a flea market and the machine at an estate-sale.
Finally, a peg-board is fabulous for a person like me who has trouble keeping track of her tools.  My grandfather would be proud.  I plan to paint it white, but haven't decided yet whether to trace around each tool like Grandpa did or something like this lovely pic over at Wit and Delight.

The idea of tracing around each tool is only appealing because I would know immediately if something was missing.  The family may be tempted by this display, but they should know that anyone using my scissors to cut anything but fabric is taking an unimaginable risk!  

Well, you now know where to find me now.  I plan to live in this room until the weather relents.  We are getting another 5 to 6 inches tonight here in Michigan.