Friday, November 28, 2008

Too Much Fabric

Well, can't you see me standing here,
I've got my back against the [sewing] machine
I ain't the worst that you've seen.
Oh can't you see what I mean ?
From "Jump" (with apologies to Van Halen)

Van Halen's lyrics kept running through my head as I was organizing my fabric collection. I changed the lyrics a little, but the sentiment still applies. When it comes to fabric stashers, "I ain't the worst that you've seen."

My "Stash"

With all due respect to stashers, stashing is a practice I just don't get. I feel exactly the same way about majoring in Math. I respect and admire those who choose to do it; I just can't understand why they do it. I have ten pieces of fabric and for me, that's just too much fabric. Stashers may look at my fabric and see a laughable very small "collection"; I see a very long to-do list. I don't appreciate fabric for it's own sake the way some stashers do. If I see a beautiful piece of fabric, I think, "This will be good for a dress", or "I need a blouse this color". When I buy the fabric, I immediately assign a pattern to it and buy the necessary notions. That way, I have "projects in a queue" or "clothes I haven't made yet", not a stash.

After my shopping trip to NYC, I have ten projects in my queue. Usually, I have no more than four or five. Having so many projects lined up puts pressure on me to finish them. Under normal conditions, that wouldn't be a problem because I've always managed to finish what I start. Just the idea of ten unfinished projects is intimidating. Having so much fabric has taken away two of my most enjoyable pastimes - planning future projects and shopping for fabric. I can't plan anything until I finish what I already have. With ten unfinished projects, what reason do I have for visiting a fabric store? I don't need to buy any more fabric until spring. Having so much fabric puts restrictions on how I spend my spare time. As much as I love to sew, sometimes I want to do something else. How can I enjoy a movie or a book with ten sewing projects calling my name?

Since I stress like this over ten little pieces of fabric, I don't ever have to worry about SABLE (Stash Accumulation Beyond Life Expectancy). Stashing, like so many things, is relative. To me, ten pieces of fabric is a stash. To someone else, ten pieces is the result of a good day of fabric shopping. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

I Heart NY

Actually, I don't scared smileys NY at all, but it is growing on me.

First, a little history. I was born and raised in a small city in Central NY State. (How small is it?) This city is so small, the entire population can fit into any big city's NFL stadium and we could each bring a friend from out of town. Then, I went to college on Long Island, NY. Because of it's proximity to New York City, I envisioned myself taking advantage of all of NY's cosmopolitan and cultural opportunities. That didn't happen. At 18, I didn't know myself very well and I discovered small-town me really wasn't comfortable with NYC's "big city-ness". I avoided NY for the next 30 years while I worked in another big city and lived in a first generation suburb. Now that I'm 30+ years older and live about 95 miles from New York, I'm more comfortable going there. I've come to actually enjoy shopping in NY's Fashion district. My most recent trip is a perfect example.

Photo credit: Lindsay T
Karen did a fantastic job of organizing a Shopping Weekend. She and Elizabeth from NJ, Cidell from MD, Trena from DC and Connie from Canada gathered in Philadelphia to shop for fabric. I joined the group for dinner Friday evening. Then on Saturday, Karen, Connie, Kisha and I traveled to NY for more fabric shopping. Lindsay T met us there. It was very cold and very fun.

Karen applied some pressure arranged a two hour visit to Kashi's Metro Textiles for the morning when he is usually not open for business. The four of us had no trouble making it financially worth his while (in our estimation, at least). Then we met Lindsay T for a hot lunch and then made our way to Pacific Trimmings, Paron and Mood Fabrics. I got to do my bad Tim Gunn impersonation and said, "Thanks, Mooood!" as we left. (Luckily, no one was paying attention.) Connie was the only one of us truly on a mission (sewing for TWO weddings) and we finished up at M&J Trimmings for wedding stuff.

If Connie was on a mission, then I was on a budget. But I was able to accomplish my very loose shopping goal, which was, "I need some dresses." Here is my stuff:

  1. Lightweight Italian wool for a tailored dress.
  2. Sweater knit that happens to match the Italian wool. This was serendipitious and I'll make a skirt from the wool if I have enough left over. Kisha's goal was sweater knits and I shamelessly took advantage of her search.
  3. Cotton for a simple, button-down blouse.
  4. Wool for pants to match the cotton.
I forgot my camera both Friday and Saturday so I have no other pictures to show. I lifted the group photo above from Lindsay T. But, I had a great time shopping and it was fun to meet and shop with Online Sewing Buddies. I may come to scared smileys NY after all.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My Quilt

I finally did it. I started a quilt – even though I believe sewers and quilters are two different species and I am definitely the sewing species. I think Amy's Lotus Brick Path Quilt is a good first project for me. There are no corners to match - just rows of offset rectangles. My plan is to work on it between my other projects (including Christmas gifts), so it will probably take several months to finish this quilt.

Already, I've had problems. According to the nice people in the store, I only needed two packs of fat quarters to complete the quilt. I'm convinced the store's display quilt was smaller than the quilt made from the instructions on the Amy Butler website. I was supposed to be able to cut four 4 1/2" strips from each fat quarter. Problem #1: many of the fat quarters in the coordinated packs I bought were cut short so I'm only getting six rectangles instead of eight. Problem #2 is an extension of the first problem. As a garment sewer, I prewash most of the fabrics before I cut them. So naturally I prewashed the fat quarters I bought. I lost up to 1/2 inch more on many of the fat quarters (that were already too short) when they raveled in the washer. So far, I'm not a big fan of quilting!

Problem #3: I am not good at coordinating fabrics; especially finding prints that look good together. If it weren't for the coordinated fat quarter packs I probably never would had started this train wreck project. Even so, the more I work with these fabrics, the less I like them.

Problem #4: I have absolutely the wrong attitude about this quilt. I feel like the child who makes a face and spits out the Brussels' sprouts after taking the smallest taste. I'm convinced I won't like quilting even before I start.

And, if the four problems mentioned above were not enough to derail this quilt, here is another reason why my quilt might never get finished!

The universe is clearly not with me on this one.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Freakin' Placket

Back when I was a Burdaphobe, I encountered a little treatment I fondly called "The Freakin' Collar". The method was totally new to me and I failed miserably when I tried to sew it. I'm happy to report, eventually, I did master the collar. Now that I'm a Burdaphile, new and unfamiliar methods don't phase me as much and I fearlessly faced what I prematurely named "The Freakin' Placket".

Here is the Freakin' Placket in a nutshell:
  1. The fold lines and center front were clearly marked on the placket piece with thread tracing.

  2. The placket piece was folded in half and stitched to the right side of the front. The seam allowance was pressed to the front and top stitched in place.

  3. Buttonholes were worked on the center front line.

  4. The outer edge was folded over to cover the buttonholes.

  5. The placket was finished with short satin stitch zig-zags to hold it in place.

It is really unfair to call this the Freakin' Placket, because it did not give me the same trouble the Freakin' Collar gave me. Eighteen months ago, this treatment would have intimidated me only because it was new and different. And honestly, when I first read the instructions, I freaked a little. But, now that I've had more experience with BWOF, I was more confident in my attack. To paraphrase Oliver Hazard Perry, "I have met the Freakin' Placket and it is mine".

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

Burda instructions really, really, really need illustrations. Sure, the fashion photo and the technical drawings are great. But, just a little more help in the sewing instructions would be so appreciated.

Looking at the photo and the technical drawing, I liked the hidden placket on the front, the top-stitching along the placket; and, oh – little stitches to divide the placket – how cute! But, reading the instructions brought about a WTF?!? moment. After reading the instructions many, many times, I could not picture any hidden placket I’d ever seen. Friends, therein lies the problem : “… any hidden placket I’d ever seen!!!”

The hidden plackets I'm familiar with have an opening on the outside of the placket for your fingers. BWOF’s opening is on the inside.

Since there were no pictures with the instructions, I learned this by making samples. First I used instructions from a back issue of Threads. (Thanks, Nancy K!) I used that sample as a point of comparison with the BWOF placket instructions. About two minutes into the BWOF placket, I realized there was no way BWOF’s instructions would produce the placket I'd just made using the instructions from Threads. After much pinning, basting and head scratching, I figured out that BWOF's placket opened on the opposite side. Actually, this "backward" placket makes perfect sense. Since you don't have to fold back and hold the placket, your hands are in a more natural position for buttoning. BWOF - Gotta love it!

This little journey of discovery made me think about how pattern companies translate garments into patterns. BWOF might do a literal translation. If the designer’s garment has a backward placket, then the pattern will have a backward placket. Other pattern companies, like the Big 4, might change the placket to make construction easier. Or maybe, BWOF’s placket is common in Europe and, from BWOF's point of view, the American interpretation is the "backward" one.

Sewing. Not just a hobby – it's an adventure.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Next: Burda Plus Fashion FW 08 #403 Blouse 404 Pants

I'm glad my last project was so simple. This blouse scares me a little. I'm going to have to venture away from the written instructions for one part of the blouse and depend on the written directions for another part. Talk about conflicted! I've never been a fan of BWOF directions, but totally disregarding them is not easy for me. I'm not comfortable bending or breaking rules. I've gone out on my own (not too far) in the past and I've been happy with the results. I'm going to have to get inspiration at Diary of a Sewing Fanatic and Pins and Needles to remind myself of what can happen when you toss aside the directions and personalize a pattern. Carolyn and Summerset are my heroes.

The changes I have in mind are really simple. I don't like the ruffle/flounce on the cuff. I'm not a ruffle-y flounce-y woman. Eliminating it won't be difficult; in fact, it will be fun. On the other hand, the hidden placket might not be so fun. To be more accurate, the BWOF directions for the hidden placket are not fun. This would be the place where illustrations would be really helpful. I've read the directions given several times and I'll read them again while I trace (to give me visual points of reference). Nancy Zieman addresses a hidden placket in Sewing Express. So, I have the resources; I have the inspiration. I just need to gain the confidence. It's only a piece of cloth, right? I'm not trying to solve the economic crisis. If this blouse turns out to be a success, I'll never have another fearful lapse in confidence again. (Yeah, right.)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Finished: Burda Plus FW 07: 404 Top & 405 Pants

Pants - 405

This time, I wanted a simple pair of pants with none of the design details I usually love in BWOF patterns.

Pattern Description: Fly front pants with hip pockets.

Pattern Sizing: Plus 44 – 54 (Plus range)

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

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes. I’m getting used to BWOF’s directions. I've learned to look for important information in unexpected places and to read the instructions completely.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? The waistband featured a bias tape finish (essentially a Hong Kong finish) that I haven’t seen in any other patterns, but I have seen in lots of RTW. It really makes a classy finish and I may use it again.

Fabric Used: Wool twill. (probably a wool blend)

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: Usually I add length to the crotch so the waistband is higher (think Ed Grimley). I forgot to do that in this case, but I still like the results. I added one inch to the pant leg length. I added an inch to the thighs using the pivot and slide technique from Nancy Zeiman's Pattern Fitting With Confidence. This alternation is now one of my usual pattern alterations; especially when a fabric "with or without elastane" (in Burdaspeak) is recommended.

Conclusion: Many BWOF patterns are not this simple -- especially the patterns I’ve chosen lately. This is a good starter pattern for anyone wary of BWOF patterns.

Top - 404

Pattern Description: Long sleeved knit shirt.

Pattern Sizing: 44 – 54 (Plus range)

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? yes

Were the instructions easy to follow? This pattern was so easy, the instructions weren’t really needed.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I was looking for a simple pattern and this pattern certainly fit the bill.

Fabric Used: A slinky knit, I think. I don’t usually sew knits, so I’m not even sure what a “slinky” knit is. It was knit, it had a sheen and it slid all over the cutting table. To me, that’s slinky knit. This is a busy print and I think it works well with the simple pattern. (Maybe, I'm finally learning that lesson.)

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: The sewing instructions called for trimming the neckline allowance and finishing with a serger. I didn’t like that treatment, so I serged and turned under the seam allowance. I used a narrow zigzag to top-stitch.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I would like to use this pattern with a sweater knit.

Even thought it took me two weeks to finish a "quick and easy outfit", these may be my "go-to" pieces when I need or want a new outfit fast.