Monday, June 29, 2009

What Makes a Hem Gauge Worth $15?

Let me start by saying the 5-in-1 Sliding Gauge by Nancy Zieman is grossly overpriced. According to the package, this notion has five uses:

1. Spacing and marking buttonholes:
2. Seam Allowance Gauge
3. Hem Gauge
4. Circle compass
5. “T” Gauge

Click to enlarge and see details

The 5-in-1 Sliding gauge functions like most other seam/hem gauges, only better. Both the "T" top and the movable ruler are extra long allowing you to make marks anywhere along it's length. That comes in handy when drawing guidelines for buttonholes. In addition, the gauge locks in place and does not move until you press the button. There is a slot down the center so you can mark ¼" seam allowances and the gauge itself is 5/8 " wide. The slot opening is 1/8" wide. The clear plastic circle acts as a hub and the gauge rotates around it for drawing circles.

The design is quite clever and Nancy Zieman has to get her cut, but why spend $15 on a hem gauge? Because, I'm a sucker for sewing gadgets, that's why. This really proves it. And I bought this on a day when I had a few extra dollars no sales resistance. I've managed to sew for more than 30 years without this little tool. But now that I have it, I'm sure I'll use it quite frequently, so in that way, it's worth every penny.


PS: Click here to see a video demonstrating the many uses of this tool.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Next: BWOF 03-06-131C and 04-06-126

I've done a little mindless sewing, I've done some house-cleaning, and most importantly, the 2008-09 school year is history. Now, I'm ready to lose myself in my next sewing project.These patterns come from my BWOF Archives and I've made both before (the pants in the longer length). BWOF's method for a notched collar is unusual and has given me a little trouble in the past. Eventually, I mastered it, but I will probably practice the collar one more time before I start the blouse.

It's hard to tell from the photo, but the blue fabric is actually a stripe – like seer-sucker without the puckers. Since the blouse is white linen, I want to do a little something to make it coordinate with the capris. I plan to add some subtle touches of blue to the blouse, including the blue buttons pictured. I have other plain white tops, so it's not a problem if I can't wear the blouse with anything else. While I'm practicing the collar, I can play around with some ideas.


Ta- Daaaaa!

Here is my quilt top! If I remember, I'll take my camera to the next class and show my classmate's quilts. The final two classes will cover batting, backing, quilting and binding and we'll be finished.
It just so happens the colors of the quilt match the color scheme in my sewing room, so I'm hanging this quilt no matter how it looks when it's finished!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I Need a Break!

Sewing is my hobby. I sew to relax. Lately, some tension has crept into my otherwise relaxing hobby because I haven't been happy with the fabrics with which I've been working. So, it's time for a detour – a little side trip to Kwik Sew Land.

Kwik Sew patterns are not the most stylish, but there is nothing better for the mindless sewing I need right now. If there is an easier pattern, I'd like to see it. Even the tracing is easier! In addition to providing some relaxing sewing time, this project will provide some much needed summer sleepwear. After one or two night gowns, tanks and shorts using some cotton prints, I'll be ready for some more strenuous sewing.


BTW, I ended up sewing the "conflicted" plaid shirt (Click for review). It will be a great blouse for the days I don't leave home!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Never Shop for Fabric with Cousins Who Don't Sew

Back in April, I drove to Rockville, MD for a G-Street field trip. I was with four of my cousins, three of whom live in Georgia and I rarely see. (The fourth cousin lives in Philadelphia and I see her often enough.) Two of these cousins are … how can I say this …well … bossy. None of the cousins sews. As much as I love them all, these are not the people I needed with me in a store like G-Street Fabrics. I wanted to fondle the silk; they wanted to go to CVS. I wanted to search for coordinating pieces of fabric; they wanted to get dinner. Since they don't love fabric the way I do, I couldn't get them to stay in G-Street for any length of time. And the bossy cousins kept bitching suggesting we leave. As a result, I was rushed and couldn't take the time G-Street deserves.

Two months later, I finally reached the G-Street fabrics in my queue.

I bought the fabrics intending to match them up as shown. Yes, they are neutral colors, but I just don't like the match-ups anymore. If I'd had more time in the store, I would have made different choices. I bought a yellow jersey knit to be worn with a blue print with touches of yellow and I never liked that match-up! I'm sure that pairing won't last either. The only match-up to survive was the fabric I bought when I went back to G-Street alone the following morning.

Here are the facts:
  1. I'm not satisfied with the fabric match-ups I bought when I was with my cousins.
  2. I am satisfied with the fabric match-ups I bought when I was by myself.
Hmmmmmm. There is only one logical conclusion: Never shop for fabric with cousins who don't sew.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Who Bought This Fabric?

This fabric has been troubling me since I bought it. What was I thinking? No, it couldn't have been me. I think my evil twin, Elaroops, bought this fabric and slipped it into my closet when I wasn't looking. I've changed my mind about the pattern for this fabric at least three times. That was the first sign of trouble. When I assign a pattern to a fabric, usually it stays assigned. As of this minute, I've decided on Kwik Sew 3586, but who knows – I may change my mind again! I finally put my finger on the problem – it's plaid! I looked in my closet. I don't have a lot of plaid. Why not? Because I don't really like plaid. So why did I buy this fabric? I don't know – I must have liked it when I bought it. Usually, I have a feeling of excited anticipation when I start a new project. Not so with this fabric. I just want to sew it up and get it out of the way. When my sewing projects are destined to implode, there is a point where I admit defeat and projects change from "garments" to "learning experiences". That usually happens when I'm almost finished and I realize the garment isn't going to fit. It rarely happens before I even start! At least I'll get practice working with plaids. Although I don't know why I need the practice because I can't see myself buying another plaid ever in life. After this ordeal is over, at least I'll have a new shirt for knocking around. And who knows … maybe I'll like it better when it is made up into a shirt.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Finished: BWOF 03-07-130

I've made almost every piece in the BWOF 03/2007 issue's plus size collection.
If I find the right fabric before the end of the summer, I'll make the 131 or 132 top and the 130C pants.
The most recent project is the 130B Pants.

Pattern Description:
Straight legged pants with a fly front, back yoke and elastic in the back waist.

Pattern Sizing:
From BWOF's plus size collection; 44-52

Were the instructions easy to follow?
The instructions were easy until I reached the part about inserting the front band. The front pocket piece has to be traced twice: once, from lining, for the actual pocket piece and again, from fashion fabric, for the facing piece. BWOF often does this. With the myriad of lines on the pattern sheet, I missed this important little detail. I have to really study BWOF instructions, including the diagrams, before I start cutting and sewing. Important information is in the most unlikely places and are easily overlooked.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I chose this pattern because I had linen and linen was the recommended fabric for these pants.

Fabric Used:

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made:
I made a slight alteration to the tummy area. I pivoted the center front up at the waistline seam to accommodate for a protruding tummy.

The instructions called for the pocket band to be embellished with embroidered linen or embroidery. An embroidery motif was included with the instructions. I embellished the pocket band with couching rather than embroidery.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
This pants pattern has officially become a TNT pattern. This is the third time I've made them. They also come in a capri length and I'd like to make that option before the summer is over.

I can finally say I have at least one TNT pants pattern.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Embellishment Experiment: Couching to Replace Embroidery

My current project offered a small opportunity for embellishment on the in-seam hip pockets. This opportunity was just right for me, since my embellishment experience is limited to machine appliqué back in the 90s. The pattern, BWOF 03-07-130, called for embroidered linen on the pocket bands. If embroidered linen wasn't available, Burda provided a motif in case a brave and talented sewer wanted to do the embroidering herself. I decided to experiment with couching instead.

Couching can replace embroidery as a subtle embellishment.

  1. soutache trim
  2. braiding foot
  3. tear-away stabilizer
  4. stencil

I'm not very good at drawing freehand, so I used a quilting stencil for my design. These stencils are inexpensive and readily available. I traced the design onto fabric that was larger than the pattern piece for the pocket band and pinned the fabric to tear-away stabilizer to reduce the amount the fabric drew up.

It is possible to couch without a specialized foot, but the right foot made the job easier. The foot had a notch etched into the front and I used this notch to follow the drawn placement lines. It wasn't quite as helpful in the tight curves, however. Bernina's free hand system and needle-stop-down feature made maneuvering around the tight curves easier. I sewed a few stitches, raised the presser foot using the FHS, and pivoted the fabric, keeping the needle down. The braiding foot kept the soutache directly under the needle.I chose to use clear monofilament thread, although I could have used matching thread or decorative thread. If the embellishment were in a position more prominent than the hip pocket, I might have chosen something a little flashier.Once the couching was completed, I used the pattern piece to center the couching on the pocket band before cutting it out. Then I sewed the pocket band into the pants front according to BWOF's directions.
Couching is an easy embellishment technique that can be made as simple or elaborate as needed. As in all projects, having the right tools makes the difference. Couching worked well in this project as a substitute for embroidery.

I wonder if Summerset started this way!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Next: BWOF 03-07-130B – The Pants That Almost Weren't

When I buy fabric, I usually buy coordinating pieces so I can make an "outfit" rather than "separates" that don't go with anything else in my closet. The only way I can be sure a garment has a mate is to buy coordinating fabric and make both pieces at the same time. If an "old maid" slips in, I'm not satisfied until it has a mate. I'm the Dolly Levi of my wardrobe.

I followed my modus operandi when I bought this linen. I bought a plaid to make a blouse to be worn with this linen, but I kept changing my mind about the pattern. I was paralyzed by indecision. Then, I had an epiphany! I realized the pattern choices were not the problem, but the "marriage" of the linen and the plaid. I just didn't like the way they looked together. (That's been happening alot lately.) I checked my closet and found both pants that matched the plaid and a t-shirt that matched the linen. Granting a fabric divorce and knowing the garments made from these fabrics would not end up old maids liberated me. I finally felt confident and ready to use the fabric!

I'm excited about this project because it presents an opportunity for embellishment of which I hope to take advantage. BWOF suggests cutting the pocket band from embroidered linen or, embroider the band myself using the motif included. I have neither embroidered linen nor the equipment (or desire) to embroider myself, but I do want to embellish the pocket band in some way. I've got a few ideas simmering in my brain and, with the impasse is behind me, I'm eager to get started.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Finished: BWOF 03-07-129

This is the closest thing I have to a TNT blouse since I made it once before. (Click for review). I only made one change. This time, I used Nancy Zeiman's "Express Collar", ( Sewing Express, Oxmoor House, 1994) on both the collar and collar band. Louise Cutting demonstrates this method on the Threads Insider Techniques DVD vol. 1. This method really does eliminate bulk at the front of a collar and makes a neater appearance. The picture shows how thin the front of the collar can be using this method. I changed the shape of the front of the collar band slightly and used the same bulk-reducing method. The collar band needed to be less circular and more angular in order for this method to work. There is a very slight drawback to this method. Due to the shape of the altered collar, more fabric is required when laying out. I always buy more fabric than is required, so it wasn't a problem. I like the results and I'll definitely be using this method again.

As is my habit, I made pants to go with this blouse (BWOF 03-07-130) but I didn't photograph them. I didn't like the way the fabrics looked together once I put them on. Luckily, I had pants in my closet that coordinated better with the blouse.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Fons & Porter Mechanical Fabric Pencil

For most of my adult life, I have been perpetually searching for two items that are essential to my existence :
  1. a purse that is both functional and stylish
  2. a truly erasable fabric marking tool.
I haven't been so lucky with the purse. But, the Fons and Porter Mechanical Fabric Pencil just may be the marking tool I've been looking for.

Fons & Porter notions are marketed as quilting tools, but garment sewers need to mark fabrics, too! For me, the problem with most marking pencils is the chalky, waxy lead that breaks too easily when sharpened to a fine point. I re-sharpen, only to have it break again. This mechanical pencil has .9mm white leads that make a very fine line. If the lead breaks, simply advance the lead. According to the package, the "strong ceramic 0.9mm white lead is specially formulated for fabric and made from water soluble dyes." 10 white leads are included and graphite refill leads are available separately. The pencil includes an eraser (refill erasers are also available).

I bought the pencil at Jo-Ann. It's also available at several online sources, including the Fons & Porter Website. This pencil costs $12.00 and that is a lot to spend on a marking pencil. But, I'm a sucker for sewing paraphernalia. It does what I want it to do and, for that reason, it's worth the money. However, I recommend waiting for a sale or using Jo-Ann's 40% off coupon.

So far, this pencil is working for me, but as always, I recommend the user test first. I tested this pencil thoroughly and it performed quite well. I tried erasing the line with the eraser provided, using water to wash it out, even ironing over it and then washing it out with plain water. The white line came out in all conditions. The graphite line required mild soap and water, so I imagine it will come out when laundered. This may not be the perfect marking tool, but I think comes pretty darn close.


Click to learn more about my search

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Quilting Class

Two of my sewing goals for 2009 were to make a quilt and to take a class. I can check these items off my list because I'm taking a quilting class at Cloth & Bobbin, a local quilting shop. We're making the wall quilt shown in the picture. It's a sampler quilt made up of rail fence, 9-patch, log cabin, flying geese and friendship star blocks.

The hardest thing for me was selecting the fabrics. I'm a "matchy-matchy" type person and it was hard for me to put together three different print fabrics. The only guideline we were given was to select a light, a medium and a dark fabric. I could have cheated and selected three prints from a coordinated collection like Amy Butler or Kaffe Fassett, but where is the challenge in that? The fabrics I eventually selected serendipitously matched the color scheme in my sewing room, so if my quilt isn't too horrible looking, I can actually display it!

Sewing can be a solitary pastime. The best part of the class is the camaraderie that is developing from sewing with other people in the room. Right now, most of the conversation is panicked cries for the instructor, but as we get more comfortable with the process the conversation will become more friendly. We're very supportive of each other. Whenever someone finished a block, we all cheered and applauded! I got a big hand for my first 9 patch block. So far, we've done a rail fence and a 9-patch block. My blocks have turned out well, but I'm a little nervous about my flying geese. I've heard and read that blocks with triangles can be tricky because some of the edges are on the bias.

The class includes sewers with many different levels of experience. One person admits to making a quilt last year with her daughter. Another person keeps trying to make 5/8 inch seams - a big quilting no-no. My quilting experience is limited to watching Alex Anderson's "Simply Quilts" and Fons and Porter's "Love of Quilting". I started a quilt several months ago, but I all but gave up on it almost immediately. It's much more fun learning with other people. By the end of the class, I'll have a finished wall quilt; batted, backed, quilted and ready to hang!