Monday, March 31, 2008

I Want to Thank All the Little People …

(The title, of course, is tongue in cheek.)

Thank you, Gwen, for bestowing on my humble blog The Excellent Blog award. I am grateful and flattered. I am now obliged to choose ten blogs I consider excellent. I'm submitting a "Do It Yourself" list for my choices. Just choose any 10 blogs from my side bar. I consider each of them to be excellent. There are more excellent blogs to which I subscribe and haven't yet added to my sidebar. There are also posters on Stitcher's Guild, BurdaEnglish and Pattern Review who don't have blogs, but have shared information and knowledge on the message boards. I have found this Online Sewing Circle to be an invaluable source of inspiration, information and encouragement and it would be impossible to select only 10.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Progress Report: BWOF 06-07 #129

One of the concerns I had with this blouse was (ominous chords: da-duunnn) The Sleeve Placket. It’s an important design feature of the blouse. It’s the feature that caught my attention. So I didn’t want to screw it up. I was curious about how the sparse BWOF instructions would handle the placket. After reading them several times and practicing on muslin, I decided to look elsewhere. So, I used the placket instructions in David Coffin’s Shirtmaking.

I first became concerned when I saw the pattern piece for the placket. How was I supposed to make a placket out of a rectangular pattern piece? No hint of folding lines; no sign of the triangle at the top of the placket. The resulting underlap of the placket is not bound; just folded under and stitched. And the triangle at the top is folded and shaped after the placket is sewn to the sleeve – not before. The BWOF method did not inspire confidence.

Coffin’s method starts with lots of folding and pressing and ends with a placket shape with which I am more familiar. Unlike the BWOF method, all of the hard stuff is done before the placket is sewn to the sleeve.

Then it is pinned and carefully sewn in using the old familiar "slash and leave a triangle at the top” method.

Coffin recommended using a glue stick to hold the triangle in place, but I used tape. I positioned the tape so I could sew the placket without repeatedly sewing through the tape and gumming up the needle. The edgestitch foot was invaluable at this step. I would never, ever try this without one. I'm not that good.

The result was a precisely sewn, placket. I've been re-taught the same old lesson: BWOF instructions (or any other instructions) are not delivered from a burning bush and etched on stone tablets. I can do whatever I want to achieve the best or desired results.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Next: BWOF 06/07 #129, 09/07 #131 and McCalls 4450

I have loved this blouse from the first time I saw it. But, it has 17 (count 'em - 17) buttons and buttonholes and I was intimidated! Cidell just completed blouse (01-08 #105) with more than 20 buttons and buttonholes. Ann Rowley (Stitcher's Guild and BurdaEnglish Yahoo group) made a modified version of #105, also with a staggering number of buttons. Scores of buttons and buttonholes are not new within the Online Sewing Community. So, based on my OSB's (Online Sewing Buddies) experiences, I feel empowered. Plus, my Bernina Aurora really does memorize buttonholes exactly. I should have no problem (famous last words).

The fabric is pretty ordinary. The bottomweight is a dark eggplant and the shirting is a coordinating chambray-type weave with black and purple warp and weft (I have no idea which is warp and which is weft). The photo doesn't do the fabrics justice. The colors are much richer than they appear and they coordinate perfectly. I'm going to practice the sleeve placket on muslin before I attempt the blouse. I'm much better at deciphering BWOF instructions these days, but they don't make details like plackets easy. Well, maybe I am still a little intimidated.

On another topic … here is the dress my daughter has chosen for Senior Prom.

(Did I say Senior Prom! I can't believe it's that time of year already!)

I've been lucky. Lindsey, like me, has boring simple tastes, and has always chosen simple designs for her formal dresses. This will be my third formal dress and I feel confident about making it. We haven't picked out fabric yet. Getting her to shop for fabric and stand still for fittings is more difficult than sewing the dress. Shopping for shoes is another ordeal! Eighteen year olds are soooo busy these days! I keep telling myself, "She'll be off to college soon and I'll miss these arguments over shoes and shopping." (Let me stop before I get all emotional and weepy!)

I'll be spending a lot of time in the sewing room over the next few weeks. After these projects are finished, I'll be ready for Spring and Summer sewing projects. Yay!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Label Tutorial

One or two people have asked for Fans have demanded a tutorial on how I make my labels, so here it is!

Materials needed:
  • Iron-On transfer paper
  • Packaged Quilt binding or Wide single fold bias tape
  • Any desktop publishing or word processing software that makes labels

  1. Design your label using the desktop publishing or word processing software. I chose the layout for 1" x 2 5/8" mailing labels but the finished size is less than the 2 5/8" width so it will fit on the quilt binding. In addition to my "Brand Name" and logo, I include pattern information on the label. If I want to make a particular garment again, I won't have to guess or remember what pattern I used.

  2. Print the labels on the transfer paper following the manufacturer's instructions. Remember to flip or reverse the image. If you forget this step, the text will be backwards when you press it onto the label. I make labels one at a time, as needed, and print them from the bottom of the transfer paper so the clean, uncut end of the paper can feed first into the printer after some labels have been cut off.

  3. Cut the quilt binding or bias tape to the desired length. If using quilt binding, open out the center fold and iron out the center crease to allow maximum area for the image. Fold the quilt binding in half, place the image near the bottom fold and sew the raw edges into a seam. If using wide bias tape, fold in the ends and sew the folded sides of the label directly to the garment. (see arrows; click photo to enlarge)

  4. Cut-out the image and position it on the binding.

  5. Press and transfer according to the manufacturer's instructions.

These steps are just guidelines. You can experiment and come up with a label that suits your needs. I think custom labels add a classy finishing touch to a garment. I'd love to see the designs other sewers come up with so I can copy admire them.

ETA Re: Nancy's comment about ironing - the instructions for the transfer paper warn against ironing directly on the label. They suggest using a silicone sheet. With careful ironing from the right side, I haven't encountered this problem.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Finished: BWOF 12/04 #144 & BWOF 09/05 #129C

I'm taking a huge risk posting this picture. If the press got this picture, it would totally destroy my chances of being elected president. Remember Gary Hart? Just like Gary challenged the press to "follow me around", I challenged BWOF and ignored the fabric recommendations. The recommendation was for fabric with stretch and I didn't use it. The results, as you can see, were disastrous. It's the same size I always use, and I made the same adjustments I always make. I can't blame the pattern. If this picture gets out and my political career is dashed against the rocks, I could get over losing the presidency. I might not get over losing these pants. In keeping with my resolution to embrace "slow sewing" and "enjoy the journey", I took such care with these pants. My stitches in the ditch were practically invisible. My edge stitching was precise. I was proud enough of my work to make new labels. It's a real shame I can't wear them. The fit is horrendous. I never wear blouses tucked in and, yes, the blouse would hide my belly. But the pants just aren't comfortable. I feel like I'd bust right out of them if I bent over. Fortunately, I have another pair of pants to wear with the blouse.

And, fortunately, the blouse turned out better.

I took just as much care making the blouse. Usually, my collar stands are less than stellar. I took my time and the results were better. The edge stitch foot was a tremendous asset in the construction of this blouse.

Even a bad experience, like the pants, can teach something. So, what have I learned?
  1. It's never a bad idea to take my time and do my best sewing on every project.
  2. I should pay attention to the fabric recommendations
  3. I really could stand to lose a few pounds.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Next: BWOF 12/04 #144 Blouse & 09/05 #129C Pants

My next project is a simple blouse from the December 2004 issue of BWOF and simple pants from the September 2005 issue. Some people talk about making something from each BWOF issue as it comes. I'm sure some people actually accomplish that. Not me. I see my collection of BWOFs as a pattern catalog. I flip through my BWOF index and select the patten that suits my current need, never thinking about the fact that it came from an issue 3 to 4 years old. I think these particular styles are classic and won't look too dated. I'm not so sure about the fabric, though. I was really in love with the print fabric when I bought it. I still like it, just not as much. I guess it was infatuation, not love.

I've got the patterns traced off, but I won't be able to start the actual sewing on this project for several days. My brother and sister-in-law are visiting this weekend and I have to disassemble my sewing room. When I first bought this house and had a permanent sewing space, I referred to it as a "sewing/guest" room. I didn't want my guests to feel like they were sleeping in a sewing room. I've certainly done a "one-eighty" on that opinion! Now, I almost resent my guests for making me take apart my sewing room. Notice, I said "almost". I love my brother and I'm happy and excited he's able to visit. But it would be nice to be able to sew while he's at the 76ers basketball game he's planning to attend. Oh, well. We all must make sacrifices for our families, mustn't we.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Finished: Amalgam Outfit

I had fun with this outfit. I'm usually a rule follower rather than a rule bender and I'm usually reluctant to stray from the written directions. Not only did I not follow the directions to the letter, but I had to mix and match various pieces from various BWOF issues in order to achieve the look I wanted. With this outfit, I discovered how much fun it is to put my own stamp on my projects.

The tunic: BWOF 01/08 #130B. This top called for an invisible zipper in the side. I didn't feel like taking the extra time to match up the seams, so I eliminated the zipper. Thanks to the neckline slit that goes all the way down to my sternum, there was plenty of room to put the top over my head without the zipper. The low neckline also made it necessary to wear some kind of top under the tunic. Even the BWOF editors recommended a tank top "for modesty's sake" and we all know how BWOF feels about modesty!

The top: 04/05 #133B. This was a very simple top. I sewed it in an afternoon. I made a few changes in applying the binding. The first written direction given was to cut off the seam allowance. I didn't see the logic in adding and cutting on a seam allowance only to cut it off again. So I didn't add a seam allowance to the neckline or armhole. In preparing the binding strips, Burda instructs us to fold the binding strip lengthwise and press; open the strip out flat; press one long edge in to the center crease. Knits don't really hold a crease so I chose to use a single layer binding, which is applied like a Hong Kong finish. I felt the binding would have been too thick (three layers) if I'd used the method described.

The skirt: 05/06 #133 This may end up being my favorite skirt pattern. I've made it once before and I'm sure I'll make it again. It's a simple A-line with a side zipper and elastic in the back waistband. I didn't feel like fiddling with an invisible zipper in the tunic, but I had no choice in the skirt. I have much better luck with invisible zippers when I baste them in. Unfortunately, I'm not always in the mood to baste even though I know how important basting is.

I mixed pieces. I didn't follow directions. For an order-loving, anal retentive like me, this outfit represents anarchy! You won't know it to look at me, but I'll be walking on the wild side every time I wear this outfit!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Ex Libris Elaray

Recently, I've added three books to my sewing library. These are not new publications. All were published in the mid 90s. (Isn't anybody writing sewing books anymore?) Although the information is not new, these books of full of techniques that really should be routine to me.

Beyond The Pattern is a compilation of articles from Threads Magazine when it was in it's glory days. The articles cover basic sewing techniques, like easing a sleeve cap and binding with bias, but they provide information that isn't included on pattern instruction sheets. Some of the articles are dated (like "Introducing the Rotary Cutter) but all contain useful information. Since I don't have an archive of Threads Magazine from the beginning, I'm trying to collect all of the titles from this series.

I like the Sewing Companion Library/Easy Guide series because they go into depth on the construction of a single category of garments. This series could be used as texts for sewing courses. If someone is just learning to sew, this book, and all the Sewing Companion Library, is great because it covers techniques that are usually not in most "learn to sew" level books. If I'd had these books when I was learning to sew, techniques like stabilizing seam allowances before installing zippers would be second nature to me and not something I need to be reminded to do.

Sewing Tips & Trade Secrets is full of techniques to improve sewing. The tips are conveniently arranged into chapters/categories, e.g. Patterns, Tools, Pressing etc. A chapter on hand-stitching is included and I want to improve my hand sewing so I'm paying particular attention to this chapter. The information is presented in tip format - often less than 5 sentences - so this book is great to take along as something quick to read while waiting.

None of these books contain new, earth-shattering information. I should be using many of the techniques anyway, but I have become to lazy rushed to do. Now that I'm trying to adopt the "slow sewing" mindset, these books remind me of techniques that improve the "value" of the clothing I make.