Saturday, August 29, 2009

Why I Prefer Independent Fabric Stores

Chain stores have their place. But, I've always preferred independent fabric stores. Once again, an independent fabric store performed services I would never expect from a chain.

My daughter needed curtains for the kitchen and dining area of her off-campus housing. We have totally different tastes so I didn't want to pick out fabric without her input. The only guidance she gave me was, "The rug in the dining room is blue". I went to Cloth and Bobbin in Narberth, PA, where I'd taken a beginning quilting class. My plan was get Lindsey's input electronically by using my cell phone to take pictures and transmit them to her so she could approve the fabric. However, I couldn't get a signal on my cell phone. It seems T-Mobile doesn't work well in Narberth. (Sorry T-Mobile! In my opinion, you suck.) Johanna, Cloth & Bobbin's kind and generous owner, offered to take the pictures with her cell phone and transmit them to Lindsey. The cell phone pictures were too small for Lindsey to accurately judge, so Johanna scanned the fabrics into her computer and e-mailed them. Linds and her housemate chose the fabric they liked, I bought it and drove home - happy and satisfied!!! Can you imagine that level of customer service from a chain store? I can't either.

So, if you find yourself in the Philadelphia suburbs and looking for fabric, I strongly recommend Cloth & Bobbin. Johanna sells primarily quilting cottons and notions; Amy Butler, Favorite Things and Oliver + S patterns, but she is considering stocking Kwik Sew Patterns. The local chain store is more conveniently located, but good customer service is worth a few extra miles.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Sewing Gremlins

I want to sew. I've been trying to sew. Really, I have. My mojo is intact and in place. But the sewing gremlins have crept into my sewing room and they don't seem to want to leave. This unwelcome visit from the gremlins has reinforced lessons I already should know.

Lesson #1: Don't by fabric you don't love, even if it's on sale at a great price. I bought this fabric at Les Fabriques (Charlottesville, VA) last May. It was on the sale table and was about $3.00 a yard. I didn't really love the fabric, but I liked it better than anything else on the sale table and it was hard to say "no" to $3.00 a yard. "Yes, I'll take it" turned into "What was I thinking?" pretty quickly. I bought it with the plan of using it for BWOF 03-07-128 – which lead me to the second lesson.

Lesson #2: Don't use a pattern that didn't work the first time. I loved BWOF 03-07-128 when I saw it in the magazine. But when I saw it on me, I didn't love it quite so much. I couldn't accept maybe the pattern just didn't work for me and I was determined to try it again. I began to doubt myself and the pattern more and more as I laid and cut it out and I convinced myself I wouldn't like it. This doubt trumped any investment I may have had with in dress. I never got the second chance because I never made it past laying and cutting out.

Lesson #3: Don't waste time on uncooperative fabric, especially fabric you never loved in the first place. The fabric had a really nice hand. It was drapey and would have added movement and a "swishy" factor to the dress. Unfortunately, the bias was unstable and quite a few pieces were cut on the bias. One piece grew about 2 inches! There was no way it could be pushed and cajoled back into shape. That is what finally convinced me to give up and call the time of death. I unpinned the pattern pieces, put them back into the envelope and said "goodbye and good riddance" to the fabric as I threw it in the trash. Linen is the recommended fabric and I still may give the pattern one more chance if I find the right fabric.

So far, the gremlins have been here for a week. I've begun my next project, BWOF 05-09-133, and there is evidence one or two little buggers might still be here. I always buy more fabric than I need, just in case. Apparently the gremlins cut off and stole some of my fabric because I had barely enough to layout the pattern pieces. I had to eliminate the collar (which I didn't love, anyway) and replace it with a back neck facing. The worst part of this gremlin invasion is the time they've stolen. A whole week has passed and I have nothing to show for it! I think I'll wait a day or two to make sure the sewing gremlins have gone.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Interesting Times

"May you live in interesting times." This quote accurately describes the past week. In my case, it was not quite the curse it is intended to be, but this past week has most certainly been "interesting".

The week started with a five hour drive to Virginia to deliver my daughter's things to her at UVA. She'd gone to Virginia the week before, but since she was a guest and a passenger in someone's car, she couldn't take everything she needed. It was my job to load up my car and schlep her stuff on Monday. I left at 4:00 AM and I still managed to get stuck in the morass that is I-95/Baltimore/DC traffic. After unloading the car, I checked-in at the hotel and, thanks to a hotel error, I walked into a room that was already occupied. The occupants were not in the room, but it was disturbing to think about the embarrassment and discomfort that could have happened if they'd been in the room. The high point of the day was meeting Linda, the Danville Girl, at Les Fabriques in Charlottesville. I love it when I get to meet the real people behind the blogs. We only had time for a quick visit, as Linda had to return to work. Linda bought a beautiful piece of unusual fabric I can't begin to describe! I hope she does a "show and tell" soon. I bought the less spectacular fabric pictured above for a blouse.

My daughter is living off campus this year, so she has a little more freedom in decorating her living space. By the time I arrived, she already painted her room and the bathroom. She wanted a beach theme for the bathroom, blue ( to represent the sky and ocean) and tan (to represent beach sand) being the featured colors. We shopped in every store along Route 29 (in 90ยบ + heat) before finding an appropriate shower curtain. Luckily, all I've been asked to sew are curtains. In keeping with the beach theme, I was able to use my one and only stencil to couch a wave pattern on the curtains. DD has no plans for the kitchen curtains. We have totally different tastes and I'm a little reluctant to select fabric without her pre-approval.

My daughter returned to PA with me on Wednesday. One of her good friends was killed in a tragic accident and DD wanted to attend the funeral. It was a very difficult time for her. It was so sad to attend the funeral of a 19 year old, who died as the result of a dreadful, yet avoidable, accident. Let this tragedy be a lesson: Please stay focused when driving. It takes only a second for a catastrophe to happen.

Needless to say, I haven't been sewing much in the past week and sewing is not in my immediate future. I have to deal with two major mojo squashers – housework and "Back-to-School/Work" –before I get to relax and unwind in the sewing room. I want to get the housework done early in the week so I can end the summer doing what relaxes and renews me.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Finished: BPF SS-09-403 & KS 3203

While my daughter was home, I had a photographer, albeit an unwilling one at times. I was able to pose outside in natural light and offer a little more variety in the backgrounds. Now, I'm back to my makeshift backdrop and the self timer. I miss my daughter for so many reasons!

Kwik Sew 3203

Pattern Description:
Although this pattern includes pull on pants, I just used one of three featured tops. My top has a slit opening in the front neckline. Other views have a collar or a plain neckline.

Pattern Sizing:
Plus size 1x - 4x

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
Yes, very much so.

Were the instructions easy to follow?
One of the best things about Kwik Sew is the easy to follow instructions.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I needed something simple that would not detract from the tone-on-tone embroidery of the fabric. Another of the best things about Kwik Sew is the simplicity of most of their designs.

Fabric Used:
A piece of tan tone-on-tone embroidered cotton begged me to take it home. Being a compassionate woman, I obliged. Click the photo to actually see the embroidery. I love the subtlety of tone-on-tone.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made:
Pattern alterations and design changes were not needed in this case.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
This simple top can be a great wardrobe builder. It is a good showcase for really fantastic fabric

Conclusion: My goal was to finish one more summer outfit before I started sewing transition/fall clothes. Kwik Sew patterns are perfect for projects you want to finish in a day or two.

Burda Plus Fashion (BPF) SS-09-403

Pattern Description:
Fly front pants with in seam pockets and side and center front.

Pattern Sizing:
European plus size: 44 - 52

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

Were the instructions easy to follow?
You always take a chance with BWOF instructions. Sometimes they make a little sense; sometimes they make no sense at all. This time they made a little sense - at least enough sense to follow without scratching my head and saying "Huh?"

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I liked the subtle detailing on the front. Most of the pants I've made have a fly front and hip pocket. In these pants, the hip pocket is an in-seam pocket and is continuous with the seam connecting the side front to the center front. The legs are a little wider than I'd anticipated. BWOF's technical drawings are extremely accurate and show details like leg width, so I shouldn't have been surprised.

Fabric Used:
Cotton/poly twill with a little lycra

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made:
I always add 1 inch to the legs when I make pants. I must be shrinking because these pants seem a little long to me, in spite of my bare feet.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
These pants went together quickly and easily.

Conclusion: These pants were a good complement to the Kwik Sew top and make a good late summer outfit.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Quilting and Me

Both Melodye and Nancy W. predicted I would love quilting. I'm not sure I've progressed to love, but I am deeply infatuated.

I was afraid I would be bored by quilting. That is not the case. Yes, I'm sewing the same block over and over - 42 times to be exact - but the repetitiveness is more relaxing than boring. Sometimes a numb mind is just what I need. More than once, I sewed both my class project and this current project way past my bedtime. I plan to sew several blocks between garments. When the process gets too dull, I can switch back to clothes.

Here's what I've learned so far:
  1. You have to look carefully at the diagrams and follow them exactly. In order for this pinwheel design to work, the two smaller triangles have to be sewn together exactly as shown - background triangle on the left and pieced triangle on the right. I thought it wouldn't make a difference, but it does. I had to rip out about six of them.

  2. It's best if I don't buy the background fabrics and block fabrics at the same time. The fabrics look different when they are sewn into blocks because of the way they interact with regard to their positions. I originally chose a light blue fabric for the background and it looked great in the store. But, when the blocks were assembled, I wasn't as pleased with my choice.

  3. Since I have such a problem with putting fabrics and colors together, I should stick with the readily available, coordinated, pre-cut bundles and packages. The bundle I bought for this quilt contained 40 different prints. I would have had a stroke right there in the store if I had to select 40 different prints. And, the owner may have banned me from ever returning to her store.

  4. Sometimes, it's best not to over-think things. I'm putting very little thought into which triangles go together to make the pinwheels. This isn't easy for an anal control freak like me, but it's a lesson I have to learn.
This quilt project will be the ultimate test. I finished my first quilt because it was a class project. The fate of this quilt is totally up to me. I'm counting on my aversion to UFO's to sustain me though to the end.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Unfocused, Non-Productive Bits and Pieces

Lately, I haven't been productive in the conventional way. Most days, the weather has been beautiful and didn't want to spend too much time cooped up in the sewing room. I preferred to be outside, even if I wasn't doing anything more than reading on the porch. In addition, my daughter decided to go back to UVA early and I wanted to spend some time with her before she left. (She shared a ride with a friend starting law school nearby, so I'll be driving to VA soon to take the rest of her stuff.) So, I've been in the sewing room sporadically and not really focused on finishing anything.

Bit #1
This non-productive period began with another orphan top! This knit is the last (I hope) of the fabric from the infamous G-Street Field Trip. I liked the challenge of finding a satin to match the knit. This top was shown in black and in white in the January issue of BWOF. I didn't like it in either color and I thought I'd have to settle for those colors if I couldn't find a more colorful knit and satin match. Luckily, I found a much cheerier yellow. This is an orphan top because the original coordinating fabric no longer went with the yellow knit, as is the case with most of the fabrics I bought at G-Street. I'm sure I can find something in my closet to wear with this top - even if its jeans or black pants. Knits are not my favorite fabrics to sew. The edges of the binding on this top was supposed to be pressed inside first, but the knit didn't want to hold a crease. Why can't knits be more like linen? Linen stays where you press it. I had to use a clapper to make the crease and I had to sew through many layers when sewing the binding to the neckline. My machine was able to handle the layers easily, but it doesn't look as neat as I'd like.

Piece # 2
I've started another quilt. I found a free downloadable pattern online made specifically for precut strips. I bought a package of 2 1/2 inch strips of coordinated fabrics. These coordinated packs are perfect for me until I get more confident selecting fabrics. After I bought the strips, it was such a beautiful day, I took them to a nearby state park and I was able to sort and match up the fabrics for the strip sets there, so I was able to satisfy my need to be outdoors while doing something sewing related. I plan to work on the quilt in between clothing projects. This quilt will be quite a bit larger than my previous wall quilt. The actual quilting should be quite an adventure.

Bit #3
My thread is organized and I'm very happy with my new thread storage! There is room in this little unit for over 800 spools of thread and it's almost full. But, now that I can easily see what I have, it will be easier to use the thread I already have rather than buy more. It's hard for me to believe I've accumulated nearly 800 spools of thread. I buy 3 spools for each garment. One spool is used on the conventional sewing machine and two spools for the chain stitch on the serger. The unit fits very nicely into a corner of the sewing room. I only had to completely remove everything from the adjacent bookcase and move it to the right about 4 inches to make the thread storage unit fit. I was able to purchase all eight bins with 40% off coupons, either online or in-store. I was even able to get the storage cubes at a discount. I can now see every spool of thread I own and I discovered I have about 8 spools of the same blue thread. Now that I have this excellent thread storage unit, that won't happen again. And to further organize the sewing room, I installed a serge protector on the wall behind the sewing machine to eliminate the jumble of extension cords.

So, I'm through with the orphan projects, I have a plan to accommodate sewing and quilting, and I have a clean, organized sewing room. I'm ready and eager to get focused and productive again.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

How Do You PR or SG?

Several days ago I was waiting for a technician to come and fix my phones (for the THIRD time – long story). I couldn't spend the time sewing because I can't hear the doorbell when I'm in the sewing room. So I spent the time doing something I rarely have time to do – reading the forums on Pattern Review and Stitcher's Guild. I wondered how my pattern usage compared with that of other PR members. Since I had time on my hands, I studied the numbers and I made a pie chart. The numbers represent the total reviews posted for each pattern company listed as of July 20, 2009. Usually, I only have time to skim over the forums and reviews on PR and SG. So, I only read the reviews of the pattern companies I'm likely to sew and reviews of a few favorite reviewers. I use the "unread posts since last visit" button on the message boards to see what new and interesting topics are being discussed. Since I don't have lots of time to spend reading PR and SG (except when I'm at work - wink wink), I began to think about how to use SG and PR more efficiently and how other sewers use these resources.

Here are my questions:
  1. Do you read only the reviews of favorite pattern companies or members?
  2. Do you read only the reviews of patterns you plan to sew?
  3. If you post reviews, do you post reviews even when everything goes well and the pattern has nothing to teach?
  4. When you have a specific question, do you post it in a forum or go to one of your sewing books?
Please discuss how you use message boards and reviews to enhance your sewing experiences.