Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Three crazy days

Last weekend was our guild retreat.  Wow.  It was so busy and exciting and fun and amazing and exhausting that two days later I am still processing it all.  

I worked on:
  • Table runners:  Much progress was made.  One more strip will finish this quilt top 
  • Art portfolio:  Done!
  • Picnic quilt binding:  I hand-stitched one section of binding every morning and every time I switched projects, and then finished the last two sections after I got home.  It turned out soooo cute!
  • Skirt to match Alabama shirt:   Done!  I drafted an a-line skirt from the instructions in Sew What! Skirts.
But I didn't get to: 
  • Echo challenge
  • Bed Quilt
  • Ginni's sampler
  • Pastille shirt
There were loooong hours of sewing at the retreat and I felt like I wasn't getting a lot done but I guess I actually did.  I brought enough stuff to keep me busy for three weeks, so if I finished half of the projects that means I got a week and a half of work done, right?  I did take a break on Saturday morning for a group trip to Harts in Santa Cruz (since it's only 30 minutes where we had the retreat but more like an hour from my house).   I spent more there than I had hoped, but I loooove the fabrics I got. 

That brings me to a New Year's resolution update: 

UFO reducing:  After finishing the Alabama top and the picnic quilt, my total UFO reduction score is now FOUR out of five.  Woot!!  I will be taking a break from busting the old projects because I have a guild challenge and a swap both needing to be finished next month. 

Fabric buying:  Eek.  Between the Harts trip and Julie having her shop (The Intrepid Thread) open at the retreat, well, I binged.  With the yardage for all the projects that I finished at the retreat, I'm oooonly at negative 1.75 yards, but I really wasn't supposed to go negative at all.  I'm gonna have to finish up a big quilt to get myself back on track.

Clothes sewing:  So far this year I finished the Taffy Blouse, the Alabama Shirt, and a tan a-line skirt.  I have a Pastille in progress as well, so I will count that as 3.5/6.  Lookin' good.

I tally my total sewing hours from the retreat at a whopping 23 hours.  I loved all the projects that I saw there, and I was really impressed by how much charity sewing people did.  It was really amazing!  I need to know when the next retreat will be so that I can start counting down the days.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cheeseball sewing

Still excited... still can't stop sewing random things. Last night I finished the Alabama shirt that I decided not to hand sew.  For now you get to see it on the Wench,, who is sporting a piece of sheet as a neck because purple necks are crazy: 
Those wrinkles under the bust are caused by it being crooked on the dress form.  No worries guys.
By the by, does anybody else have a dress form?  Aren't they creepy?  For my sanity, I have to keep mine in the closet when I'm not using it.  If it's out, every time I walk into the room I get a bad shock thinking that it's a creeper waiting to get me.
Today I had it set up in the bedroom to take these pictures and then we left the house for a while.  When I came out I turned on the bedroom lights and gave a small shriek.  "Hellloooo little giiiirl" says Creeper Wench.

Oh right the shirt.  Let's talk about this shirt.  First... pretty!  It's totally pretty.  I decided to be intrepid and finish the seams to the outside for once.  I love how it turned out.  I seriously could not be more impressed with myself about that.  Let me get you a closeup picture:

Cool huh?  I finished the raw edges at the neck and sleeves with my contrast thread, using the overcast stitch on my machine.  I think the shirt has a bold look and I'm very proud of that.  I have this shirt (another shirt) that I really hate.  The bust fits terribly and the fabric is very wild and totally not my style.  However, every time I wear it I get a lot of compliments.  I decided that it's because the shirt looks very interesting, causing people to notice it among my other clothes, which are almost uniformly solid colors.  So, because of this hated shirt I have been making an effort to wear more exciting clothes (but ones that I actually like).

So, that is what I like about this shirt. Sadly, there are three bad things.
1) The fabric is a jersey knit so the pattern is sized for stretch, but there is no stretch in the stenciled areas. As a result, the shirt is tight. It's not too tight to wear, but it's definitely at the edge of acceptable. My bust is kinda smashed and the sleeves want to pull the shirt off my shoulders.  Stupid sleeves.
2) I accidentally painted the wrong side of one of the panels that goes next to the front middle. I couldn't repaint it because I custom mixed the paint for my stencils so long ago that I don't even remember which paints I put in it.  The piece was close to symmetrical, so I ended up putting the two pieces on top of one another and re-cutting them to BE symmetrical.  As a result, the armscythe and neckline are both slightly wonky and it only looks right if you constantly pull it down in front.
3) I picked badly on the fabric color, I really did.  It is a little bit of a purply navy blue.  I do not own a single piece of bottomwear that goes with this color.  It clashes with jeans.  It's too dark of a blue to wear with black.  With the dark and the gold it is too much contrast to add in white.  I am actually going to have to SEW something to wear with this.  GAH. 

I'm so so so seriously mindblowingly glad that I didn't hand sew the applique on this one!  I can't even express my gladness that I didn't spend hundreds of hours on my too small, wonky, wrong colored (pretty) shirt.

P.S. I found fabric in my stash to sew a skirt for it.  I am going to manage to wear this thing...

Monday, February 20, 2012

So freakin' excited

The guild retreat starts in 4 days.  4 days!!  I am obviously very excited about this and I have been "getting ready" for 3 days of nonstop sewing by... *drumroll*... sewing nonstop.  Not sure how that works logically but I can't seem to resist.  Or control my sewing, which is stuck on "randomize".  My Pastille shirt will be done as soon as I put in the neckline facing, do the back zip, and hem it.  Instead, I tossed that project aside and worked on my picnic quilt.  Today I abandoned that as well and sewed charity blocks.

What does it mean?  Probably that I'm so freakin' excited.  It seems that this is the sewing equivalent of stuffing a cheeseball in your mouth. 

So right now I'm taking a breather and thinking about my retreat projects.

I have these Alabama shirt pieces that need assembling:

And of course the Pastille shirt to finish up.  

For my wedding back in September, I made around 10 or 11 of these pieced table runners.  I want to take them apart somewhat and rearrange the blocks (the ones that escaped bbq sauce) into a quilt top:
Table runner - it is actually folded in half because it was too long to photograph.  There are 10 blocks in each.
 These fabrics need to be turned into the secret project that I have in mind for the guild Echo challenge:

I need to finish the borders on this quilt back:

 And get it basted to the front and ready to quilt:
Yes.  I lazily cloned the messy corner out of the second photo but then was too bored to do the same to the first one.  Sorry about that.

And on top of those projects, I'm working gradually on blocks for a sampler quilt that is going to my eldest sister and her family, and I need to sew up a little "art portfolio" that my niece requested.  

Will that be enough, do you think?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Want to trade?

I have a special scrappy quilt in mind but I am short by, well, a lot of scraps.  For some weird reason (who'da thunk??) all my scraps are teal and I need red, orange, and yellow (and blue and green though not as badly).

So, I thought some of you might be interested in swapping your modern scraps for yardage.

I was thinking of a straight trade by square inches, but in fat quarter increments.  (i.e. Your scraps laid out make up about a fat quarter so you pick a fat quarter to get from  me, etc).  Send me an email or post here if you're interested. 

Here's what I have to trade:

 If nothing catches your eye, tell me a color you want and I'll see what else I can offer you.

And here are the colors I'm looking for (2.5" strips any length or scraps min. 2.5" square)

So are you in?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Picnic Quilt progress

The girls in my 1 Year 12 Quilts bee made these blocks for me in 2010 (2010??? Where did time go??) 

 Thanks to my WIP-clearing challenge for this year, I finally got around to bringing them out and piecing the top.  I got some additional sheets bits in the last year, and after looking the blocks over, I decided that my new yellow and orange pieces were a necessary addition.  Surgery time.

When the patient was in recovery, I turned my attention to the back.  A green and yellow stripe from Joann's was calling my name, but the amount left on the bolt was exactly the same area as the finished top... leaving no room for piecing it to the correct dimensions, especially considering that stripes would need to be matched.  In the end, the fabric refused to stay at the store and I solved the size issue with a little border of a vintage yellow flower fabric that was in my stash.

Then it was time for basting... Private Practice helped me get through that without too much pain.  Quilting is barely started but I'm just going to outline all the little squares with straight line quilting.  Hopefully I will be showing the finished quilt before too long!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Pastille in progress

Have you seen Sew Colette, the sew-along for the Colette Sewing Handbook? I sat out for the first round (Meringue Skirt) but I spent my time drinking Gatorade and doing pushups to get ready for the Pastille dress. Well, it's time so I am off the bench and rarin' to go. I'm on muslin round 4, and it is looking preeetty good to me. Except in this picture. Actually, I'm not sure why I'm showing you this horrible picture.

I can juuust barely squeeze the shirt on without a zipper installed, so to make it easier to muslin on my own, I sewed up the back seam instead of pinning it each time I put it on. Without the ability to squish and squeeze and twist and wiggle, my dress form is sadly unable to get into it, hence a silly and useless picture of the muslin pinned to the front of it.

Ah, that's better. Wench, you're fired for not being able to dislocate your shoulders and shimmy into small things.

Oh by the way! The Pastille pattern is for a dress, but I'm making a shirt. Yes. That is why it is so short. Not because I am planning to leave my day job for an exciting night-time position on the street corner.

I recommend to everyone that you actually follow some of the many tutorials available at Colette patterns for doing adjustments. I got too hasty changing the darts on the first muslin without really thinking through the process. As a result, most of my seams ended up crooked. This created a bunch of wrinkles and pull spots on the top that baffled me until I remembered the difference between the way the seams had looked the first time I sewed them and the second. I actually didn't try to pin anything on muslin #2, I just took it apart somewhat and retraced my steps to correct my adjustment mistakes.

I do say, the muslin doesn't look very pretty in these pictures, but I don't think I'm being too optimistic in thinking that I'm almost there. I had to stand a bit crooked to get the pictures and the muslin fabric doesn't have the stiffness of my real fabric to keep it from wrinkling all over.
I'm cutting my fabric tonight to get started on on the real shirt, so we will find out soon enough!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Push to the finish line

I spent January rocking the WIPs... but there was one tough guy, one hard egg, that I took a while getting up the gumption to approach... The %@#$*! Alabama Shirt.  (Official name)  I started this shirt early in 2011 - enthusiastically drafting sleeves, testing the pattern, picking fabric, stencil, paint, thread... cutting, basting... and then I hit the a wall when it came to the hand-applique outline stitching.  Guh.  (That's the sound I make when I hit a wall.  Believe me, I know.)

I do not know how anybody, anywhere, finds the patience to do all that hand stitching.  I could see if the stitching was of normal difficulty.  It just takes a long time, you spend hours puttering along, do it while you watch TV, whatever.  BUT NO.  The thread is so freakin thick that pulling it through 2 layers of jersey requires a pair of pliers for every stitch.  Plus, the fabric rubs on that fat thread and encourages it to unwind, making a twisted, tangled mess that has to be straightened out... every stitch.  Kill me now.

This is an actual photograph of me sewing the %@#$*! Alabama Shirt.  Note my red eyes of rage. 
I didn't go to kindergarden, which is probably where they teach you not to scream and throw things when you are frustrated.  I am just guessing about what they teach you in kindergarden.  The only other thing I know for sure is that they teach you is how to get in line.  The point, though, is that I have been known to scream and throw my sewing projects.  Somehow I never made much progress sewing this shirt.

For my WIP-busting extravaganza this month and on the recommendation of a fellow guild member, I took another whack at this project last week, armed with beeswax for my tricksy thread.   I waxed the heck out of that thread.  It took care of my twisting problem in a kind of amazing way, but those pliers were still unfortunately required.  I looked at the project, I looked deeply into my soul, and I decided the shirt either had to be altered or scrapped.  With a joyful heart, I used embroidery scissors to clip out what little stitching was there.  Now I just have to sew up the stenciled layer up and I can call it done.  Hooray for progress(?)!