Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Busy little bee

I've not had much free time recently... between this little guy:
10 wk old Shiba Inu (long coat) named Koni

And these little guys:  
Tethered Threads 2 September (any block we wanted)
Modern Quilt Bee October - hst blocks from our scraps and hers
1 Year 12 Quilts September - from tutorial here
Modern Quilt Bee August - neighborhood blocks
Modern Quilt Bee August - neighborhood blocks
Nittany Quilt Bee August - using this tutorial
Nittany Quilt Bee June - from our scraps and hers
Modern Quilt Bee June - instructions here
Bay Area Modern Quilt Guild charity quilt - paper pieced block from this book
1 year 12 quilts May (8 point star requested)
1 year 12 quilts April (nautical theme requested)
Modern Quilt Bee March (my month)
Tethered Threads 2 February - from Oh, Fransson!'s tutorial
Believe it or not, that's actually less than 1/4 of the blocks that I've done since the last block post.  No wonder I don't have time to update my blog...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Pattern Challenge - Green crossover top finished

I did it!  I actually finished one of my planned out shirts - McCalls 5809.  Here's the plan I started with:

And here's the result: 

Pattern:  McCalls 5809
View:  B
Size:  I took body measurements and compared them to the pattern pieces and cut different pieces different sizes, anywhere from 12 to 18, plus I did an FBA. 
Fabric:  Free solid color stretch knit

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?  I'm not sure it really did, but what shirt does look the same on a size 4 model as on a size 14? 

Were the instructions easy to follow?  I thought the pattern instructions were fairly easy to follow.  I made some modifications because I was sewing with a knit fabric, but I was never sitting there scratching my head over the directions on the sheet.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?  I think (and saw the same thing mentioned on PatternReview.com) that the upper back piece is very oddly sized.  I cut the upper back piece smallest of all the pieces, and the shoulder width at the back is still easily 2" too much for me.  You can see in the pictures how this made the neck back sag (that and I should have stretched the binding a little bit 'cause it's a knit - I don't think it's worth fixing now, though).  The side seam between the top front and top back is displaced toward the front by about 1" on each side, but the side seams for the band and bottom are in the correct place.  It could be partially insufficient FBA but I think the pattern was also a bit whack to begin with. 

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:  The only style change that I made was to shorten the height of the middle band because the bottom edge of it fell at an uncomfortable position initially.  Well, the only intentional change.  Looking at it now I see that I reversed the wrap orientation also.
The instructions indicate to gather the bottom of the bodice and then sew the sides together, but after trying that three times I decided to sew the pieces together first and then gather them. 
I also disregarded the pattern instruction to topstitch the hems and did them by hand.  I need to level up my hemming a bit more, but I think it looks ok. 
As far as altering the pattern, as I mentioned I cut different sizes of each piece and had some fiddling getting them together.  I didn't think through the FBA completely and I cut the side of the front piece about 2" longer than it was supposed to be, so I added gathers at the side front to take up the extra inches.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?  I probably will make this pattern again, or at least a variation on this pattern.  I decided from wearing this that the crossover bodice is not a good style for me because it moves around too much.  Every time I turn around, it's gone from prim and proper (or at least somewhere near that) to... not.  But I've also been pondering fit issues, and I'm wondering whether it's easier to buy a new pattern for every style and then make all of the required modifications to make it fit, or if it's better to have just a few patterns that I've fitted and then modify them to change the style.  I certainly know what would be cheaper...

Would you recommend it to others?   I don't think I would recommend this pattern to someone else because there are a lot of similarly styled tops that hopefully would not have the same issue with the top back pattern piece.

Conclusion: I feel it's a little sad that I consider the construction of this shirt to have been one of the smoothest in my career.  Counting seams that I ripped apart and resewed and pattern pieces that I recut, I estimate that overall I sewed at least twice as many seams as there are in the garment.    Overall I'd say that it's a wearable muslin - the fit is not perfect and the fabric is pretty boring.  I very much welcome any suggestions to remedy the following, because I am likely to see them again: 

- Pulls under the bust (more FBA?)
- Wrinkles across the back
- Sagging neck in the back (I do know how to fix this one)
 - Extra material in the lower front that swings out
- Sleeve pulls at the front and wrinkles in the back (that might just be how I was standing for the picture) 

Do you see anything else?  I seriously DO want you to point out more flaws...

Monday, August 2, 2010

Let the people decide...

Not really, ha!  Like I would let you guys decide what I'm going to do with my precious sewing time.  But I'll at least consider your advice. 

This fabric... do we think it's right for this jacket?

'Cause someone will ask, fabric is from Fashion Fabrics Club and pattern is McCalls 5759.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Ok new plan

 aka pattern review update

I said that I was going to make a jacket, a ceylon dress, and the liverpool tunic, but then I started pondering issues of fit and usefulness and I've decided to put those off for a while.  Instead I'll be focusing on things that I actually, you know, need.  Namely, some new shirts for work.  (Pants would probably be more helpful but also harder to sew.)

Here's what I'm thinking of:

I just know that all of you are looking at this and thinking "OH HAI WRAP SHIRTS R US."  No?  Those weren't the exact words in your mind?  Well, to answer the accusation that you aren't making, then, the reason is that I was looking for one wrap shirt but in picking through all of the wrap shirt patterns in existence, I found that I actually consider three of them to be suitable, along with a tank top thingy that will maybe hopefully be work-wearable. 

Now as for fabric, a recent afternoon of errand-running yielded several bags of free knits from a self-confessed fabric hoarder.  I wish that my coloring was a bit more compatible with hers, because she had soooo many nice knits that she was giving away but most of them were pastels, which make me look ill. 

I'm thinking this fabric for the vogue tank top.  It looks brown but is actually gold and black woven together:

This green is (probably) destined for the McCall's top (if the line drawing looks a little funny to you, don't worry!  I swear that I tried on a top of identical design at the mall and it looked brilliant on me)

I'm thinking I'll use this light brownish fabric for the ruched top from Simplicity:

I don't have fabric on hand for the drapey/flowy Simplicity top, (that I know of) so that is likely to be a new purchase.

I'm also planning to freshen up some old shirts by painting them using freezer paper stencils.  I picked up some fabric paints this afternoon so now there are no obstacles remaining!

Monday, June 7, 2010

How to pwn at Craigslist

A couple of people have asked about Craigslist, so I thought I would share how to set things up so that you are automatically alerted of new craigslist listings in areas you are interested in.
Is this even possible, you say?? Yes, if you use some kind of reader (Google Reader, Bloglines, My Yahoo, etc) to view blogs, you can send craigslist searches to go to your reader. That's really helpful if you are looking for something specific. For example, I'm interested in finding a dressform. I go search on craigslist and don't see anything suitable, but I know I'd like to keep an eye out in case a new one shows up. The feed will bring any new listing that meets your criteria to your attention, instead of you having to repeatedly do searches.
So here's how you do it: Go to craigslist and do your search, making it as specific as possible. You don't want more than 2-3 results to come up because otherwise you will be overrun with them in your reader. You can add "-" terms to your search to help narrow things. In the case of the dress form, you might get a lot of results for dresses. You can change your search from "dress form" to "dress form -gown -evening -wedding" to eliminate any posts that also contain the words gown, evening, or wedding. The check boxes on the right side can be useful as well - when I was searching for a dining room table, I checked the "has image" box because I knew that I wouldn't even bother responding to an ad that didn't having a picture.
Once you have your search dialed in, at the bottom of the results screen you click on the RSS button (orange with text "RSS" in white).

That'll take you to a page where you can choose what kind of reader you use. Select your feed reader from the dropdown menu and click "Subscribe Now." You'll be taken to a login page so that it knows who to send the feed to. Once you're finished with that, you can sit back and relax.

I don't recommend using this method if you are searching for extremely hot items - like free furniture on the curb. The feed only updates a few times a day (I'm given to understand that updating more frequently would cause problems - feed readers would decide that the feed is spam and block it.) If you are looking for things that might be gone in 20 minutes or an hour, you aren't likely to get the news in time. In most cases, though, it takes a couple of days to make a transaction on Craiglist, so the feed reader works great.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Wench

Last week I secured this little baby - we named her "The Wench."

She's the one on the left.  With the red skin.  Me on the right.

The Wench is an adjustable dress form (brand name "My Double") that retails for about 5 times what I paid for it.  Sweet!  I also picked up a partial bolt of Warm & Natural for $20.  Double score!  <3 you, Craigslist.

The day that I got her, I spent the evening measuring and adjusting her and fitting her with a padded bra (which you can see in the picture has shifted around a bit to the side).  I'd say I've got her looking pretty good - I tweaked the waist a bit after taking this picture. 

Since then she's been lurking in the living room and waiting to freak people out with her scary similarity to my body.  And her headlessness, of course.   

Monday, May 24, 2010

Giveaway winner!

The winner of my Sew Mama Sew! Giveaway is comment # 189. Because of the way I made my list, this was actually one of the first comments:

Jackie suggested: "How about using some of it to make softees:-)"

Jackie chose the linen and linen/cotton blend fabrics and those will be winging their way to her shortly.

Jackie's was not the only awesome idea - all of the following have been added to my list for these upholstery scraps:

Fabric bowls
Small pillows/patchwork pillows
Place mats/pot holders/napkins
Christmas ornaments (from velvet pieces)
iPod/cell phone cozies
Covering bench/stool/small furniture with fabric using mod podge.
I might even do something like Vic's amazing patchwork upholstered chair - although probably on a smaller scale. My office chair might become really exciting pretty soon. :)
crayon rolls/art books
Slippers (awesome idea! I would never have come up with this one, but I love it)
Small framed patchwork art
Pin cushions
Fabric covered buttons
Fabric baskets
Scent pouches for drawers/shoes/etc

Perhaps Jackie will get inspiration from some of these ideas as well. :)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Giveaway Day!

I got this huge stash of upholstery fabrics and it was an awesome find, but there is too much. (I know, too much fabric, who would have thought??). At the rate I'm going, I'll have to beat out Methuselah in order to use it all. And soooo when Sew Mama Sew announced another giveaway, I knew just the thing.

The giveaway winner will receive a USPS flat rate box filled with their choice from the fabric sample pieces below. Don't tell me your preferences in the comments - I want to hear something interesting. ;) I'll ask the winner for their choices via email. To enter, please give me ideas for projects to do with the rest of the samples. (I really need ideas!) You can earn an additional entry by leaving a (relevant) comment on any other post in my blog history.

Giveaway will close on May 20th at midnight. The winner will be chosen at random, and I will ship internationally.

And without further ado, on to the fabrics:

These pieces are microsuade and approximately 10" x 15".

These are silk and each approximately one foot square.

These two are linen or linen/cotton blend fabrics, all of which are washable (and have been prewashed). I do not know if any of the other fabrics can be washed. Three pieces are slightly larger, but most are 12" square.

These fabrics are a synthetic blend, and the weight is like a medium wool. The pieces vary in size from about 5" x 15" to 12" x 15". They seem like they would be nice for coin purses or other small bags.

These pieces are all velvet and they are smaller than the rest, about 6" square.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The best clothes sewing advice ever

I've been rumminating lately on the matter of sewing clothing for oneself, and I've come to the conclusion that the most important part, by far, is the pattern and fabric selection. Now, you are probably reading this and thinking... "um, duh? What were you smoking before? What did you think was the most important part?" You are thinking this because I should have said under-emphasized instead of important. I could just go back and edit it but now I've written all of this stuff and I can't be bothered.

Anyway, I got to thinking on this because I've been reading "The Pocket Stylist" by Kendall Farr, which is a guide to improving your look, mostly by selecting clothing that suits your body. Bear with me as I digress for a moment, because I can't bear to bring up this book without telling you that I recommend it, with the caveat that you need to be prepared for the number of times you will be told to throw out your sneakers and switch to a minimum two inch heel at all times. Also be ready for an entire chapter on tailoring, without even the slightest hint of a notion that you could do something like taking up a trouser leg yourself. Furthermore, anticipate that you will be very frightened by the German bodybuilder necks drawn on all of the sample silhouettes (apologies to German bodybuilders). Don't cheat and read the body shape tips for other people, because you will be disappointed to learn that many of them are the same. It's not just your body shape, she thinks dark bootleg jeans worn at the natural waist with small or no waistband is best for anybody. Er... I think that might be it. Wait, no... you also must steel yourself against an onslaught of the phrase "almighty unbroken line." Ok, now I'm good.

Despite the weird bits, I did take a lot away from the book, including a list of specific style shirts to look out for and some good guidelines on pants. Everything that she said about clothes for my body type had me nodding my head and thinking "yeah, like that one shirt that I have" or "yeah, I've noticed that those look pretty good." It had never really cemented in my mind, though, and now I have a very clear list of styles to look for on the rack. Better than that, I have a good idea of how to evaluate items that don't fall in those specific categories. The last really valuable piece of advice from the book is to judge each item as you consider purchasing it and know EXACTLY how it will fit into your wardrobe. (Also to take a measuring tape with you when you shop for jeans so that you can measure the inseam and thigh width, etc, and sort through the vanity sizing so you don't waste your time in the fitting room.)

At the same time that I've been reading the Pocket Stylist, I've also seen some things in blogland that have made me consider how this advice relates to sewing your own clothes. Amy a la Mode (fellow Bay Area Modern Quilt Guild member) wrote about a shirt that she made using Simplicity 3825:

Now, when I looked at this pattern I thought, “That doesn’t look like something I would wear.” But I kept reminding myself that everyone loves this pattern, and it was only $1.99 on sale, so I bought it... I think I should remind myself of my own rules, about not sewing something that you wouldn’t buy off the rack. I knew I would never pick this up in a store, and yet I tried to make it anyhow.

And from my new blog crush Selfish Seamstress (regarding a super cute cream dress that she has never worn):

That cream dress is just wrong for everything. Too fancy for work, too white for wedding guest garb, and for any occasion in between I’d just sooner go for something in my closet that is more chic and less garden party.

Sometimes I've been known to get the hint when it's smashed in my face enough times - and I'm happy to say that I've put this one together. If the pattern doesn't flatter my body shape, it's never going to look good. If the fabric and pattern don't work together to make something that I will actually wear, it's not good. The four handmade skirts hanging in my closet are failures because I never wear them, and I'm not going to start. They don't fit my lifestyle. So here's my new rule: Before I commit my hours of labor to sewing something, I will envision the completed garment with my fabric and pattern and figure out where I'm going to wear it. I will not assume that once I have sewn myself a new party dress, I will start going to parties. I will consider that the sleeveless top I am making is only going to be wearable 2/7 days because it's not appropriate for work. I will do this because I enjoy making things, not wasting my time.

Ok, if you've made it with me this far, you probably have got the picture, but this is really important, so let's do a little quiz to check your understanding. Which of these is an acceptable reason to sew a new garment?

a) Omg, that dress is so gorgeous, I must have it!
b) That model looks so elegant when she wears that. I should make one for myself.
c) That dress looks like it would really flatter my waist. I think I can shorten it to a shirt that would be appropriate for work.
d) That sun dress would be so perfect! I can see myself walking to the farmer's market in that next week.

(hint: The farmer's market is a mile from my house and there is no way that I'm walking there in anything but sneakers.)

If you selected option c, congratulations! You have graduated to a new level of sewing expertise where you will not make any sewing mistakes because you know exactly what you are doing. If you did not select option c, you probably cannot be helped.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sewing crush...

Today I came across a new-to-me blog The Selfish Seamstress. Entranced after seeing a few of her creations, I proceeded to read her entire blog history. She makes gorgeous home-sewn garments, mostly dresses and shirts, and I find her both highly inspirational and hilarious - I particularly enjoyed her nemesis posts. I'm in deep envy of her clearly articulated bloggy voice - I feel like my own blog tends toward overly formal (and boring) descriptions of projects. Oh, and also has about one post for each 6 of hers...

Thanks to her impecible taste:

Excellent eye for drafting and improving patterns:

And the attractive and interesting photos that actually show you what the finished product looks like:

I now have a new blog to follow and a huuuuge list of clothes to sew. Not that I'm going to make all of those dresses - I hardly ever wear dresses - but my crazed brain thinks that they can all be transformed into magnificent tops. Using my nearly non-existent experience sewing clothing. And no patterns. It's gonna be awesome.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

This post isn't about sewing and doesn't have any pictures.

Are you ok?  I mean... you can stop reading if you need to.  Just wanted to warn everybody... I think the post is still worthwhile.

What the post IS about is the amazing game that I invented.  The Game.  Seriously, it's awesome.  And I'm going to share it with ya'll for free.

So here's how it goes:
You take turns saying extremely boring things to each other. 
You lose the round if you repeat something you previously said, if you accidentally say something interesting, or if you laugh at what the other person said.  The loser gets to start the next round.  You feeling this?  For example, a typical round might run something like:

Player 1:   Yesterday morning I made my bed, but this morning I didn't.

Player 2:  I have a pen at my desk and it has a lid on it

Player 1:  Every day when I get to work, I pick up my badge and clip it onto the front of my jacket. The badge has my face on it."

Player 1:  I just lost.
Player 2:  Awesome.  I rock at this game.  Your turn.

 A couple of other zingers that I've dished out (or been dished) include:

"Today I brought lunch to work in a small tupperware. Around noon I took the tupperware down to the kitchen and put it in the microwave.  When I first took it out, it wasn't hot, so I stirred it and microwaved it some more.

"This morning I made myself tea by taking a bag out of its package and putting it in a cup, and adding hot water"

"I walked back to work after lunch, but upon arriving at the building, I found that the door was locked. I took out my key, put it in the lock and turned, and then opened the door and went in."

 I've only done this with two players at a time, but it could be extended to multiple players.  It's mostly an internet/chat/text type of game - I don't know what happens if you try to play it in person.  Probably you lose more often.  But I mean that's the best part, right? If you win, man, you WON!  And that's awesome.  If you lose, it's because you accidentally had fun. Who can be sad about that? 

If you don't "get" the game... well, I can't explain why it's funny.  Not everybody's kind of humor, I guess.  But it sure makes me happy.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Kona Color Cards

are back in stock today at Pink Chalk Fabrics!  I've been waiting to order the color card and the Emmeline Apron at the same time and the day has finally arrived!

Patience, my pretties.  I will see you soon.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Upholstery Quilt

This quilt was almost a disaster.  I arranged the upholstery pieces over and over again, taking out pieces and putting pieces in and trying to make it into something that I liked.  I mean... I love the fabrics, but when I put them all together, I would look at it and think "Mess.  Mess, mess, mess."

I tried taking out the brighter colors:

I tried putting in more colors:

I even took everything to the Modern Quilt Guild meeting in the Bay Area and asked for advice.  The lovely ladies there suggested that I sash the blocks in a darkish color, maybe matching the blue solid.  I ended up finding a lovely dark green to use, but... it just didn't solve the problem.  It was still just a big mass of activity to my eyes.

I spent the afternoon last Saturday rearranging pieces again, repeatedly calling my s.o. in from the other room to find out "Do you like it?  Do you like it more or less than the previous version?"  He was very patient with me (although not particularly helpful... after the third arrangement with different pieces removed each time, it turned out that his judgments were based on how evenly spaced the pieces were, not on the colors that were present).

Finally came the moment when my brain snapped into action - the problem wasn't which pieces I added or removed.  The problem was that I just assumed that because I hadn't picked out and cut the fabrics myself, because they were random patterns, random sizes, and random shapes, I had no choice but do to a ~random~ layout.  I just assumed that I couldn't impose a speck of order.  I did one more adjusted layout and it was finished.  Perfect.  Bye-bye fabric vomit splatter, hello beautiful quilt.  I sewed up most of the top that afternoon and added in the sashing last night:

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I made a pattern!

Yes, yes, I am amazing.  I wanted to make something that looked like this piece of beauty from Alabama Chanin's Denim Look Book:

(Can you tell I'm really obsessed with Alabama Chanin lately?  I've spent hours pouring over her website and books.)  I wanted to make a shirt like that, with the many vertical seams, but she hasn't released a pattern for that dress.  Soooo... I decided to draft my own (shirt version, that is...)

I started by putting on the corset top that I made earlier, then using tape to mark where I wanted the lines to be on my new shirt.  Then I took off the shirt and cut paper pieces using the marked shirt as a guide.  I sewed a muslin from that and used that as a starting point to draft changes.  5 muslins later, I was ready to make the shirt.  FYI - while the line-marking part of this worked really well, I should have used a NON-stretch shirt that fit perfectly.  I had to do quite a few extra iterations because the starting point was a stretchy shirt, which hid imperfections with the fit (and also resulted in my first muslin being ENORMOUSLY over-tight).

The material for the shirt is from a thrifted pair of men's jeans (which looked a lot like a new pair that my s.o. just bought... he saw me on the couch with the pants and the scissors and started to fuss.)  I hemmed most of the shirt by just folding the edge under and topstitching, and then put a bit of maroon bias tape to cover the raw edge at the neckline.

I love the shirt, and I'll definitely make it again. (Doesn't the back look great?)  Next time, I'll try a stretch material and tighten things up to get rid of some of the funny spots and make it really come in under the bust.  Plus, I really need to figure out how to emphasize the seams more.  I want them to really be a strong feature and you can barely see them in the pictures.

(Oh and P.S. that is the WIP skirt that I finished up with a bit of hand sewing.  The other WIP skirt - I took out the gores and replaced them with green, found that it was not significantly improved, and took no small amount of satisfaction in placing it neatly in the kitchen trash can.)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Pattern Challenge update

Soooo an update on the pattern challenge -

I looked into the WIP skirts that mentioned and oh man oh man:

This one was supposed to be a swirly style skirt with gores - I decided to make the skirt green and the gores yellow and the effect is very "circus tent."  Plus the way it falls is totally wrong.   Honestly I should have just tossed it a long time ago, but I had this idea that I was going to take out the gores and replace them with green.  Or take out the skirt and replace it with yellow.  I'm so crazy sometimes.  It's a shame that it looks so bad... I did a beautiful job putting in the zip.

The other one I had one that was a pencilish fitted wrap skirt; I put that aside because it turned out a little bit big for me and it was all lined and everything, so I didn't want to take it apart.  Well, lucky lucky me, a year of sitting in the sewing drawer took care of that little problem (and no, the shirt didn't shrink, sadly) so it fits fine and just needed finishing touches.  I hand sewed on some frogs and a snap and it was all done... picture to follow when we get some sunshine.

I also remembered some shirts that need fixing, so I've added that to the list.  Pluuuuus I saw this:
Ceylon dress from Colette Patterns, sewn by Tessuti

I couldn't resist it.  It's been added to the list even though it looks like it will be pretty hard.  It's just so lovely.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Blue and White

I've been piecing...

And quilting...

And generally enjoying myself on a quick little project.