Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Holiday Weekend, Family and Sewing

I visited my family in central New York during the holiday weekend. The weather was terrific and we did lots of fun family stuff - impromptu cookouts, child's birthday party, Shrek the Third. I saw almost all of my family members ( we missed one cousin) this trip and it was really fun.

I brought home a few sewing related projects - enough to keep me busy for a while. For my nephew who opened a barber shop, I have a curtain panel to hem and a barber smock to copy. This will be the first time I've attempted to copy garment. But it's a very simple garment and I shouldn't have any problems sewing it once I get the pieces drafted. It's a perfect first "making-a-pattern-from-a-finished-garment" project. My aunt gave me a pile of vintage patterns from the 70s and 80s in various sizes. I took them with the intention of selling them on ebay, but I know next to nothing about vintage patterns. I'll have to do some research before I put them up. I'll also have to check the contents and make sure no pieces are missing. It was strange to see pattern pieces actually cut out! The pattern's aren't in pristine condition. Who knew vintage patterns would be so popular? But, it should be fun going through them, reading the instructions, seeing if any sewing techniques have changed or improved in thirty years.
So, I've got quite a bit to do over the next few weeks. It's too bad I can't take my sewing-related tasks outside. The weather is just beginning to be consistently warmer and I won't want to spend all my free time cooped up in the sewing room. I guess I'll have to be content to sew in short spurts.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Isn't It Ironic?

Some of you may remember the knock-down-drag-out fight I had with a BWOF blouse pattern. I vowed not to let that pattern beat me and I went back for more. Well, let me tell you, I whipped that pattern until it screamed for mercy and I successfully completed that Freakin' Collar. But, that's not the end of the story. I bought one of the Butterick Connie Crawford patterns today … the first non-Burda pattern I’ve bought in months. And guess what collar treatment is used?????? You got it -- the "Freakin' Collar". ( That’s the way I think of it now -- The “Freakin’ Collar” in capital letters) But, Connie Crawford and Butterick simplified the construction significantly. BWOF treated the upper and lower collar separately. Butterick treated the two collar pieces as one. BWOF had you sew the corner in two steps, stopping at the pivot point and then clipping the corner. Butterick has you clip the corner, stretch it straight and sew it all at once. Don't I sound knowledgeable now that I've been through the fire!

The whole situation is really rather funny. Something always happens to remind me I shouldn't take myself, or my sewing, too seriously.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Patterns from Finished Clothes

My entrepreneurial nephew, who recently opened his own barber shop, wants me to make him some barber smocks using fabric with LA Lakers and Oakland Raiders logos. Finding the Lakers and Raiders fabric wasn't a problem thanks to the resourceful sewers at PR. Finding a pattern for a size 4x barber smock? No Way! Fuhgeddaboudit! The only thing left to do is make a pattern from one of his smocks. To make this possible, I bought Patterns from Finished Clothes by Tracy Doyle. Several years ago, I took classes at Philadelphia University (formally Philadelphia College of Textiles and Sciences). I was enrolled in the Industrial Fashion Methods certificate program. One of the classes covered learning to copy clothing. I had to drop out in the middle of that course, so I never learned to copy a garment. In the class, we laid tracing paper over the garment to trace the pieces. Doyle uses another method -- putting paper under the garment and using a needle point tracing wheel to trace components of the garment. This method seems much easier than the method taught at Philadelphia University. After perusing the first 2 or 3 chapters, I actually believe I can make these smocks! The book is very heavily illustrated. The first half of the book gives detailed, step-by-step instructions for copying a yoked blouse. The rest of the book covers pleats, darts and other details. I wish those details were covered as thoroughly as the yoked blouse. However, I feel confident enough to attempt the smocks. I'll learn more by working through the process than by reading the book.

N. B. This is the same nephew who suckered me into trying to buy "Transformers" during the height of the craze back in the 80's. I certainly hope I'm more successful this time. It's a good thing I love him so much.

Friday, May 18, 2007

My Own "Mission: Organization"

Compared to the people on the HGTV show, my organization challenge is small. I took on this challenge for two reasons. First, my daughter played the guilt card and accused me of “cranking out” clothes for myself and not making the skirt and blouse she selected two weeks ago. Of course, she conveniently forgot she hasn’t made time to go fabric shopping or even look through my Vogue Fabric swatches. But, being the tremendously unselfish mother that I am, I decided the next thing I sew had better be DD’s skirt and blouse. Second, Sewl Sista’s New Rules got me thinking about all the stuff I’ve accumulated and how little I use most of it. So, out of my sense of commitment to my DD and in recognition of the fact that I’m getting closer and closer to the line between “hobbyist” and “mad stasher”, I decided, “It’s time to get organized.”

This is all my stuff. It doesn't look like much in this picture because it's all small stuff. When spread out, it covered more than half of the cutting table. The first task on “Mission: Organization” is always sorting stuff into piles, so that’s what I did. I sorted out the things I could safely throw away. Not surprisingly, there were very few things I felt I could safely throw away. ( I see myself getting closer to “Mad Stasher” territory.) Next, the “M: O” people categorize. I limited myself four plastic boxes in which to store my sewing supplies. There was no rhyme or reason as to why something was in a particular box. I came up with three categories to use when storing supplies into the four boxes. Soft Supplies contains things that can become part of the garment, i.e. zippers, buttons, care labels, bias tapes. The Hard Supplies box contains tools used in the construction process, i.e. tube turners, snap setters, needle-nose pliers. (Needle-nose pliers ?!?!?) The third box is for fabric paints, stamps, markers and other things used for Embellishments. The fourth box, Miscellaneous, is currently empty except for a few stray pieces of interfacing. The professional organizers always label their cute little boxes and I’ll do that , too. These boxes are kept in a bookcase. Most of the stuff hasn’t been used in years so the bookcase works. I keep the things I use most often within reach on the cutting table.

In case it takes DD too long to choose fabric, I have another non-sewing project in mind. I want to make an ironing surface that will allow me to iron lengths of fabric on my cutting table. A 2’ x 4’ piece of plywood with padding and a canvas cover should serve quite nicely. If I had an alternative ironing center I could take down my ironing board occasionally and the sewing room would feel less cramped. By the time I finish my over-sized ironing surface, DD should have selected her fabric. I plan to apply a little pressure so that she will pick out her fabric quickly! I can’t keep coming up with these “make-work” projects. I’d much rather be sewing.

Edited to add:

Finished Project - Labeled Boxes
I wish the rest of my life was this organized!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I Did It!

Last summer I made BWOF 04/2006 #126 but with a great deal of difficulty. I was thoroughly confused by BWOF's collar-collar band-lapel treatment. I tried it a second time and was totally defeated by that same collar & lapel. The carcass of that blouse is still hanging in the back of the sewing room closet taunting me. Every time I went to the closet, I shook my fist and I vowed "One day I will try again and I will make that blouse." Well, that day came. I tried again and I did it! I studied the directions for this blouse intently. I really needed visual aids with my directions and I really wished BWOF provided them. But, since they didn't, I made my own visual aids. I made several copies of the diagram of pattern pieces and highlighted the appropriate seams to illustrate what seams needed to be sewn together. Once I conceptualized on paper the way the pieces fit together, I made a muslin to work out the problem in 3D. Careful marking of the muslin was another key to solving the problem. I was able to mark up the muslin without mercy and it really helped.

Here's the before - a permanent UFO:

Here's the after - a well used muslin:

I'm going to keep both the UFO and the muslin as a reminder of my conquest over BWOF. I can't wait to get this blouse made in real fabric. And, I can't believe I used to think muslins were a waste of time.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Kwik Sew 3203

This outfit was almost too easy. If I had one whole day to sew without interruption, I could have finished this outfit -- and that includes tracing off, cutting out and sewing up. I finished this project in less than 9 1/2 hours. I know that because I listened to a 9 1/2 hour book on CD ("The Husband" by Dean Koontz) while sewing and I finished the outfit before I finished the CDs.

I enjoyed working on this project because Kwik Sew patterns are so easy to work with. The only notions required were elastic and thread! Kwik Sew may not produce the most stylish or fashion forward designs, but when I need something that I can finish in a weekend, I'll turn to Kwik Sew first.

What next?

I'm ready for another project. There are projects in my queue: fabric and notions all ready to go. So what's holding me up? My daughter, that's what! She is my "fashion photographer" and during our last "shoot" she commented on how I was "cranking out" outfits for myself every week and not making the skirt and blouse she picked out about two weeks ago: Burda 2561 blouse and 8280 skirt. I'd love to sew for her, but the problem is I have to wait until she can fit a fabric shopping trip into her busy schedule of school, study, track practice and track meets. And God forbid if we have to go to more than one store to find the fabric for her outfit! If I sewed according to her timetable this outfit might be finished by late August, if I'm lucky. She's a typically fussy 17 year old so I would never dare to select something for her. I'm thrilled that she even wants me to sew for her. But it will be several days, if not weeks, before she'll be able to go fabric shopping. What's a mother to do? While I'm waiting for her, I could "crank out" one, maybe two, outfits for myself. I'll make time to go fabric shopping with her as soon as she is ready to go, but who knows when she will find time to squeeze "fabric shopping with Mom" into her life? But in the meantime, I guess I'll have to keep shopping and sewing for myself. Oh, the sacrifices Moms have to make!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

A (Sewing) Match Made in Heaven

Kwik Sew 3203 View C is my next project. There is a reason why my fabric is very similar to the fabric in the illustration. I went to one of my favorite indie stores to buy clear elastic. While standing around waiting to have my elastic cut, I saw this fabric and liked it right away. I love it when I find coordinated fabrics and I don't have to search around the store to find something that matches my original find. But, since fabric was not in my budget that week, I told myself I wouldn't buy it unless I found the perfect pattern. I envisioned a simple pull-over top for the stripe and pull on pants for the solid. And, wonder of all wonders, that is exactly what I found! It was as if St. Ebeneezer, the patron saint of sewing patterns, ordained that I find just the match-up I was looking for. But since there is no St. Ebeneezer, it was more like I was looking through the pattern book a few minutes earlier and made a subliminal connection when I spotted the fabric. In the absence of divine intervention, the situation was serendipitous enough that I had to buy the fabric. Furthermore, as if to confirm I was destined to have this fabric, I've seen it in other places since I made the purchase. It's in the Summer Vogue Fabric Swatch mailing, my favorite online fabric store; and I saw it in a shop on Philadelphia's Fabric Row, my favorite brick and mortar location. Who am I, a mere mortal, to contradict St. Ebeneezer?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

More than a notion

My nephew recently opened a barber shop. He wants custom-made smocks with logos for his favorite teams: the Lakers and the Raiders. I found the fabric with the help of the PR message board. The problem is my nephew is a big guy - 4 x at least. I thought it was difficult finding patterns for plus-size women. It’s even harder finding patterns for plus-sized men! I recently bought two books on pattern making. But he lives in central New York State and I live in southeastern Pennsylvania so measuring for a custom patten isn’t possible. I decided to use one of his smocks to make a pattern. That’s a good thing because that means I get to buy more sewing stuff! I ordered Patterns from Finished Clothes by Tracy Doyle (after checking it out of the public library.) I ordered a needle point tracing wheel. I bought a 24” x 48” sheet of cork as Doyle recommended. The process doesn’t look too difficult. As a matter of fact, I can’t wait to start.

About the aforementioned needle point tracing wheel -- I called a few tailor supply stores in Philadelphia. I was quoted prices from $1.60 to over $100! That’s right -- OVER ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS. I believe you get what you pay for, but a $100 needle point tracing wheel? Pul-leeeze! What features could a tracing wheel possibly have to justify a price of $100. Apparently, there is a lot I don’t know about needle point tracing wheels. I hope the sales person wasn’t wearing his glasses and read the price wrong.

Update: 5/10/07
I had to go into Philadelphia today. I went to the store on Fabric Row that quoted $100 for a tracing wheel and asked to see the tracing wheel. Turns out, the owner thought I was asking for a "needle board" not a needle point tracing wheel. He also said it was very busy when I called and he apologized profusely! That makes more sense than my "not wearing his glasses" theory.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

BWOF 05/2006 133 & 130

I’m not sure if I like this outfit on me. When I make a sewing goof, it is usually because I chose an inappropriate fabric. The recommended fabric for this outfit was linen. I chose a medium weight linen from Vogue Fabrics. I could have used a lighter, softer, drapey-er linen. In my defense, I chose a medium weight linen because I wanted a more classic look. I really didn’t want the embroidered, gauzy look for this outfit.

I’m a morning person. I can wake up about 5:00 AM and I’m cheerful and ready to greet the day with plenty of energy and a smile. The problem is, by 8:00 PM I’m so tired I have trouble putting syllables together to make words. Hence, this top. Late one evening, I was sewing when I should have been sleeping and I made a huge error on the top. I traced the placement line for embroidery, not the stitching line for the slit. As a result, rather than a narrow slit held together with hooks and eyes, I ended up with a obscenely huge gap in the middle of my shirt! The only solution was to fill in the gap with something. I drafted a pattern piece using the front facing piece. Then I sewed it to the edges of the facing and let the edges of the Grand Canyon Gap hang open - as if I were wearing a shirt over a camisole; a clever solution to my way of thinking. I remembered to put snaps on one side of the inset so I could get the top over my head. I think I disguised my mistake, but it really changes the outfit. I can’t explain the sleeves. The sleeve cuffs are folded up in the photo. I didn’t adjust the length but they are soooo long. The model in the photograph is wearing the sleeves pushed up. I think I know why! I didn’t have any problems with the skirt. I made a muslin. I cut and marked carefully. I basted and sewed carefully. The skirt is really very neatly made. I hadn’t done a lapped zipper in years, but thanks to basting and The Complete Book of Sewing by Chris Jeffreys, I did a pretty good looking zipper. I think the top is too long. Technically, the top is a “tunic” and it is supposed to be long. I'm just not sure I like it.

I might make a blouse to go with the skirt and pants to go with the tunic. The header in my blog quotes Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert: “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” If Scott Adams is correct, then this is a very “creative” outfit!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Might as well face it ...

I’m addicted to Burda.

My next project is BWOF 05/2006 133 Tunic & 130 Skirt. It's been so long since I've made a non-Burda project. A few days ago, I spent some time looking in a Butterick catalog because I really wanted to find something other than BWOF and Butterick used to be my favorite pattern company. But, I honestly couldn't find anything I liked well enough to buy. I’ve subscribed to Burda World Of Fashion and Burda Plus for over 2 years and I have accumulated quite a varied collection of patterns. BWOF has career wear, formal wear, casual wear, in both classic and trendy, fashion-forward designs. The only way I can justify the subscription cost is to use the patterns. I have no real need to buy patterns anymore when patterns are delivered to my door every month. I have the patterns on hand and I don’t need to go out and buy or order a pattern when I want to start my next project. I’ve learned just what to do to get a good fit with Burda. Few people I encounter are aware that I sew a lot of my clothes. They will never know that most of the clothes I sew are from a single company. I might never have given this obsession a second thought. But, I review my projects on PatternReview.com and I write about my projects on this blog and I noticed a definite proclivity toward Burda.
So, do I break out of this rut or do I stay with what works? If I don’t actively seek out other options, I’ll never know if there is another pattern company that suits me as well as Burda. It’s never good to stay in a rut and put limits on oneself. So, I’m backing away from my “All Burda, all the time” proclamation and I wll consider other pattern companies whenver possible.