Thursday, October 23, 2008

Do Sewers Quilt? Do Quilters Sew?

I love patronizing independent fabric stores. Whenever I'm going to a new city, I use the internet to look for fabric stores in the area. Sometimes, the stores turn out to be primarily quilting shops. I recently learned about a new store in Philadelphia, Spool, that sells quilting cottons. I don't quilt, but that didn't stop me from visiting Spool. I've often thought about making a quilt, but I haven't yet followed through and actually made one. Maybe I'm afraid I'll run out of clothes if I stop sewing to make a quilt. I bought a book (Quilter's Mix & Match Blocks) and played around with piecing using fat quarters. I was never happy with the way my corners came together, so I didn't give quilting serious consideration. Then, I found Amy Butler's Brick Path Quilt on the Spool website. It is a quilt pattern in which my corners don't have to come together in precisely the same place. It's tailor-made for me. And best of all, I don't have to worry about selecting several different fabrics that coordinate. I'm convinced my head would explode if I tried to do that! I can buy coordinated packs of Amy Butler fat quarters. I even downloaded free instructions from Amy Butler's website. So what's stopping me from quilting? It seems to me that garment sewers and quilters are two different species - like dog people and cat people. ( Summerset and Nancy W. are two exceptions to the rule. Their quilts are beautiful.) Most of the independent fabric shops focus on either quilting cottons or clothing fabrics - seldom both. Are garment sewing and quilting mutually exclusive? Do they require different skills – different personalities? Please share your opinions and experiences.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Next: BWOF Plus Fall 07 #404 Top & #405A Pants

No one loves BWOF design details more than I do. But, every once in a while a woman just needs a break!!! My next project has no design details - none! The neckline on the shirt is just turned under - not so much as a band!!! If I complain about BWOF instructions for this project, I need to turn in my sewing machine. The hardest part will be laying out the knit for the top because knits don't like to stay where you put them. Other projects in my queue are more detailed, but at this time, I really want something quick and dirty. I will not get over-confident about this project, though. I am quite aware that Murphy's Law applies to sewing. This would be the time I cut a big hole in ……… no, I will not speak that into existence. Just because this is an easy project doesn't mean I'll finish it quickly. My schedule is full this week and I'll be away this weekend. This is a good time for a little hiatus from sewing – just long enough to make me hungry again.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Finished: BWOF 03-2008 127 & 126B

I took Lindsay T’s posts to heart. (July 14 and July 12, 2008) This project represents the first time I used an interfacing other than the Pellon I buy from JoAnn. I ordered Pro-Woven Fusible from Fashion Sewing Supply. Working with non-Pellon interfacing was quite an eye-opening experience. I kept thinking, “This really makes sense; woven fabric – woven interfacing.” The interfaced areas had noticeably more body, yet the fabric was not stiff.

BWOF 03-2008-126B - Pants

Pattern description: Pants with invisible zipper on the side, elastic in the back waist and double welt pockets.

Pattern Sizing: Plus size

Did it look like the photo/drawing once you were done sewing with it? One of the things I like about BWOF is the garments always look like the photo or technical drawing.

Were the instructions easy to follow: I’ve always said BWOF instructions were sparse, but that isn’t really accurate. It’s just that the instructions aren’t what I’m used to. There is essential information in places I’m not used to looking. For example, hidden in the "Seam and Hem Allowance" section, the instructions say to cut the seam allowance on the center panel 1 inch wide rather than the usual 5/8 inch. When reading over the instructions, I sometimes skip the seam allowances section to go directly to the construction directions. Needless to say, I was confused when I read the directions for the flat-fell seam: “Turn in panel seam allowance on side front trouser pieces 5/8 inch next to marked seam line, and press.” What the … ??? That sentence didn’t make sense to me when I thought the seam allowance was 5/8 inch.
The pants included double welt pockets in the back. I had little confidence in the BWOF directions for welt pockets. Luckily, I found help on the BurdaEnglish website and in "Pants for Real People". I also spent some time last summer practicing welt pockets.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I liked the decorative flat fell seam on the front of the legs. It adds a subtle decorative feature. I also like the double welt pockets on the back. I think double welt pockets add a little class to garments.

Fabric used: 100% cotton twill

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: The only pattern alteration was to add 1 inch to the length.

Conclusion: Making these pants will have a lasting influence on future projects. First, I no longer fear welt pockets. As long as I don’t try to take shortcuts, welt pockets are not that difficult. Second, working with the Pro-Woven Fusible interfacing was a dream. (NAYY) I don’t think I’ll be going back to Pellon.

BWOF 03-2008-127 Blouse

Pattern Description: Long sleeved blouse with princess panels on the front and back

Pattern Sizing: Plus sized

Did it look like the photo/drawing once you were done sewing with it? Yes

Were the instructions easy to follow: I’m becoming more familiar with BWOF English translation. The instructions presented no problem.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? As usual, I like BWOF’s design details. The shape of the hem, the collar, the princess seaming all appealed to me. However, the design details presented challenges. Practically every seam had to be eased in some way or another – sometimes quite a lot.

Most of the time, the ease could be controlled with 50 million pins.

When attaching the rounded corner of the hem band to the bottom of the blouse I used long gathering stitches, but I had to be very careful so it didn’t look gathered. In addition, the seam allowances in the corner had to be clipped.

Fabric used: 100% cotton. Fabric with lycra was recommended. I didn’t use it, but I wish I had. The blouse is a little snug. I used Pro-Woven interfacing in the blouse and I was thrilled with the results.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: Usually I lengthen blouses. I didn’t in this case but I should have. Since I chose not to use a stretch woven, I should have increased the bust a little. I don’t have wiggle room the bust area.

Conclusion: My expectations for this blouse were high and I am I a little disappointed. But the fault is my own. I was being lazy. I should have lengthened the blouse as I usually do, and I should have used a fabric with stretch. From now on, I’ll pay more attention to the fabric recommendations.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Is Sewing Making a Comeback?

It is, if you believe Philadelphia Magazine!

Last weekend, I got an e-mail from a local independent fabric store telling me the store would be featured on an early morning news broadcast. Naturally, I watched.  The report said, and I'm paraphrasing, "Sewing is the new knitting." and cited an article in Philadelphia Magazine as it's source.  Not only has sewing been given the seal of approval by the magazine, but new stores have opened!  Cloth and Bobbin recently celebrated it's first anniversary.  Based on information on the website, it looks like Spool opened in March 2008.    It looks like the two stores carry almost identical merchandise,  i.e.  Amy Butler and Favorite Things.  

I never stopped sewing, so this isn't really a comeback to me.  But I'm glad to see new businesses opening and more publicity about sewing.I knew if I waited long enough, sewing would be "in" again.  I hope this "new sewing trend" continues.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

In Memory of my Cousin Muriel

I grew up in Chemung County, in the Southern Tier of New York State (light years from NYC). I’ve spent the last 30-plus years in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Periodically, I drive to New York to visit family who still live there and I’ve just returned from such a visit. While driving through the Pocono Mountain region in Eastern Pennsylvania , a realization came to me – after living in southeastern Pennsylvania for more than 30 years, this was the very first time I'd driven to NY during the fall when the leaves are changing color. The colors were absolutely beautiful. I wanted to stop several times to take pictures, but there are very few places along the PA Turnpike I considered safe enough for a photo shoot, so I waited until I reached a turnpike rest stop. I was traveling to attend the memorial service of my cousin who left us much too early (she was only 42 years old). In spite of the sad circumstances, or maybe because of those circumstances, I could not help but be inspired and uplifted by the beautiful scenery. I realized I must stop more often to appreciate the beauty around me. The loss of my cousin made me appreciate the experience more profoundly than I would have under different circumstances. I hope these pictures serve as a reminder to us all – we must stop and appreciate even the smallest miracles in our lives. Life goes by too fast.

(click images to enlarge)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

There's No Business Like Show Business - Pt 2

It occurred to me that I never showed a picture of the dress I made for the Curio Theatre's production of "The Trial". This was really a fun project because it forced me to think outside the box - something I rarely do (and should do more often!). Aetna, the costume designer and one of the actresses, sketched her ideas and then found a pattern to use as a foundation. She chose Butterick 5049 for this design. She does some sewing herself and she knows her way around a pattern catalog. The challenge was adding the collar. I used Make Your Own Patterns by Rene Bergh for help on drafting the collar. I'm so glad I had this book. Drafting a pattern piece is much easier than I thought but I couldn't have done it without the clear instructions in the book. I plan to do more of it. Now that I've successfully completed this project, I have the confidence to make design changes to the garments I make for myself.

So, if you are in the area, come on down to Southwest Philadelphia and see the play. I'll be the one signing autographs!