Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009: The Year in Review

It's that time of year again. It's time to look back and evaluate my sewing performance and set goals for the future. This year, rather than simply counting finished garments, I chose a few projects that had the most potential for learning and rated them on a five-star scale. The star rating is based on my satisfaction with the finished project. Then, I identified a plan of action based on how well I learned the lesson the project had to teach.

#1: The Ugly Blouse
In 2009, I tried to break away from the pattern instructions and make design changes. I learned I am not a designer. This blouse (BWOF 08-09-129) didn't know if it wanted to be a feminine blouse or a man-tailored shirt. My big idea was to change the elastic sleeves to cuffs. Bad idea. The cuffs were at war with the tucks in the sleeve cap and the result was a very confused blouse.

#2: The Better-Looking Dress
On the other hand, not every design change has to be a disaster. BWOF designers saw 04-07-133 as a long blouse. I saw it as a dress. The change was minor - I just added a few inches to the bottom and changed the shirttail bottom to a straight hem. The fabric used for this dress was not cheap. In fact, it was way more than I'm comfortable spending. But it was a delight to work with and I love wearing the dress.

#3: Quilting Is Fun
One of my goals for 2009 was to make a quilt. I made TWO! I was surprised at how much I enjoyed quilting. I wasn’t sure if I could finish a quilt on my own without the benefit and motivation of a weekly class. But I did, and I think I gained a new hobby.

#4: A Clean Sewing Room is a Happy Sewing Room
I took a major step toward a permanently organized sewing room when I assembled a thread storage cabinet. It holds up to 800 spools of thread and each spool is visible! My thread collection is now sorted by color and I won’t waste money buying the same color over and over again.

#5: Love Your Fabric
I don't understand why I continue to make poor fabric choices. I don’t like plaids. I have never liked plaids. So, I bought this fabric because
  1. I was under duress
  2. I was bullied into the purchase
  3. I gave in to bad judgement
  4. All of the above
I did a good job matching the plaid and that is what saved this project from earning only one star. But, from now on, I’m only buying fabric I love … or at least like a whole lot.

#6: Muslins Are Friends
I used a muslin the way it is supposed to be used. I made of muslin of Vogue 7903, assessed the problems (and there were many), made the necessary adjustments and ended up with better fitting blouse. I still don’t like muslins, though, and I don’t make them as often as I should.

2009 was a good sewing year because it wasn't about the number of garments I produced or whether I achieved all the goals I set for myself at this time last year. It was a good year because I learned a little more about my passion and what I need to to do get better.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

What's Going On?

Burda. Babe. What's up with the web site(s)? Cidell, a fellow Burdaphile Blogger once referred to "BWOF" as "BWTF". Of course, it's not even "BWOF" now – technically, it's "BS" – and both sentiments fit.

Every month, I make index pages of the plus size patterns in Burda Magazine and add them to a binder I maintain. By the end of December I'd been trying to make my January Burda index pages for weeks - but where was the January preview? Certainly not on the familiar Burda website. Eventually, I found a preview by following a link on The Selfish Seamstress Blog. But it's … different. And I like … same. Here's the way I want it to be. I want to go to the old, familiar BWOF website and browse through the current fashion photographs and technical drawings, transfer the photographs and technical drawings to my index pages, then add the pages to my index binder. I don't think I'm asking for too much. For January's index, I had to serendipitously happen upon a link to the January issue, ignore read German (a language I FAILED in college, by the way – but that's another rant) before transferring the images to my index. And if all that weren't enough to deal with - one technical drawing did not even match the fashion photograph.

Yet, I have faith. Eventually, the website will complete it's metamorphosis and I will be able to do things my way again. In spite of my ranting and raving, I still love sewing BS ("sewing BS" – that sounds kinda funny!). But, why do things have to change? It's so hard for an old dog like me to learn new tricks.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Finished: BWOF 05-06-132B Blouse & BWOF 01-09-130 Pants

It seems like this outfit took forever to finish, but I know it was just the holiday preparations that postponed it's completion. I let three whole days pass before I sewed the last buttonhole and button on the pants!

Blouse: BWOF 05-06-132B

Pattern Description: Long Sleeved blouse with vertical darts on front and back.

Pattern Sizing: European plus sizes 44 - 52

Were the instructions easy to follow? I've made this blouse at least twice before so I really didn't need the instructions. The construction is very straightforward. I didn't like the instructions for the sleeve placket so I used the pattern and directions for Shirtmaking (Coffin, 1998)

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? This has become my TNT pattern for long-sleeved blouses. I particularly like the vertical darts in the body.

Fabric Used: Rayon from Vogue Fabrics by Mail.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I used the collar demonstrated by Louise Cutting in the Threads Insider Techniques DVD. I also applied this technique to the collar stand.

Pants: BWOF 01-09-130

Pattern Description: Typical fly front pants with hip yoke pockets. The waist band is extended.

Pattern Sizing: European plus size 44 - 52

Were the instructions easy to follow? I wish I had a nickel for every pair of "fly front pants with hip yoke pocket" I've made. I'd have enough money to buy very nice fabric to make another pair. Because of my familiarity with this type of pants, I didn't need the instructions. Again, the construction was straightforward.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: Every time I've made this style of pants, I'm disappointed when the pocket extension doesn't quite reach the center front. After 100's of these pants, I finally remembered to extend the extension to the center front. I added a buttonhole and button to the welt pocket on the back. And to think, I used to be afraid of welt pockets. I wish I'd lined these pants. I should begin to line all the fall and winter pants I sew.

Fabric Used: Italian wool

Conclusion: In the past, I rarely made patterns twice, but I've been doing it more lately. I've never had a BWOF pattern I would consider TNT, but these classically styled pieces have earned the coveted TNT status. I can definitely see the advantage of a TNT pattern.

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I'm not sure how much sewing and blogging I'll be able to do over the next two or three weeks. My daughter has invited a friend from Germany (who is spending a year in the US before going to college) to spend Christmas with us. As the responsible hostess, I'll have to come out of the sewing room occasionally. So, I'll take this opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Oh, No! It's Happening Again!

I've got a new addiction. Here's how I know I've been bitten by the quilting bug: I'm beginning to buy quilting books. I can't go into a store without looking at the selection of quilting books. Late last spring, I realized storage space in my sewing room was disappearing, so I sorted through my collection of sewing books and donated lots of them to the public library. I was very proud of myself. Now I'm buying more books. Of course, I knew this would happen. I just didn't think it would be quilting books.

As a beginning quilter, these are the books I've found most helpful.

1. Quilter's Mix & Match Blocks: This book contains instructions for 50 blocks. Some blocks are very easy and some are more challenging. As a beginner, I appreciate the step-by-step block construction directions. I bought this book a few years ago, but never found the motivation to use it. Now, I'm really glad I bought it. It also includes directions for borders, batting and binding.

2. Start Quilting: This was the reference for the quilting class I took last spring. It covers all the basics, including directions for 6 easy blocks. As with the Mix and Match book, it has all the information you need to make a quilt from beginning to end.

3. Machine Quilting: As in garment sewing, there are certain quilting "celebrities" and Alex Anderson is one of them. I think the actual quilting (as opposed to piecing) is going to be the hardest thing for me to learn. I bought this book hoping Alex would make it easier. She didn't. It just takes practice, practice and practice.

4. The Quilting Answer Book: The subtitle of this book is "Solutions for Every Problem You'll Ever Face - Answers to Every Question You'll Ever Ask" and I really think that's true. Whenever I've had a question, I found it covered in this book. This book 6 1/2 x 4 1/2 and 1 inch thick - small enough to stick in my purse and carry around.

Book buying is not the only sign of my addiction. This week I drove TWICE to Steve's Sew and Vac in King of Prussia, PA – a notorious black hole shopping/traffic area, especially during the holiday season. And, after Steve's didn't have what I wanted, I drove 25 more miles to Hayes Sewing Machine Co. in Wilmington, DE. I had to get just the right fabric!

A few years ago, I got hooked on soap making. After the initial thrill wore off (and I had almost 100 bars of soap), I settled into making soap only when the mood hits me. I think the same thing will happen with quilting. So, I'm not worried that quilting will replace garment sewing as my major obsession. I will always, always be primarily a garment sewer. Quilting just gives me more of a variety of projects to sew.