Monday, October 20, 2014

New Books

I occasionally visit kijiji.ca looking to see what people are selling under a "sewing" search.  Usually I find sewing machines with very little detail or description.  Sometimes it's a sewing table, or a batch of thread, or sewing lessons, but usually nothing that makes me want to jump on it.  That is until I saw this collection of sewing books from the Singer Reference Library.

I first saw it a few weeks ago.  When I noticed it is still there this weekend I made an offer - and got it!  There were 25 books first listed but it turned out one is missing (working with different fabrics or something like that).  So 24 books for $40.  They come very highly rated by all the reviews I could find.  There are lots of pics and detail.  I have only started reading the "Sewing with Knits" one so far but I picked up several new things after just a few pages.  And people have very good things to say about the pants fitting one.  I suspect this will turn out to be a very good investment.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Butterick 6049 Started

Daughter was over tonight and together we got started on the muslin for Butterick 6049. This is her first time following a pattern so I had her trace out the pattern pieces and cut out the muslin fabric. Then she did some initial sewing before I tried the tricky bit of joining the colour blocked bust pieces. It's a good thing we started with a muslin because the "easy" rated pattern is quite challenging in this point.

This is how the points are supposed to look:


And this is how mine look:


And this is all the directions you get for this point:


Even Gertie says "Warning: those points are a little tricky to sew!"  Fortunately we've got some time so I can do a little research and play with some scraps before cutting into the fashion fabric. I so want her first project to be one she will be proud of!

The Ruffle Knit Top


I've been thinking about changing the name of my blog again. For some reason it just seems more appropriate to call it "the thing that I screwed up today".

I bought two yards of ruffle knit at the Novi Sewing Expo the other weekend with the idea of making a tee. I did some googling and decided that a sleeveless tank would probably be the most flattering in this fabric. I (of course) used New Look 6735. I eliminated the back seam because of the ruffles which made this a three piece top including the neckband. I was careful cutting it out to make sure that all my ruffles were laying in the same direction. then I basted a 1/4" from all edges to keep the ruffles flat while basting the top together. All in all it went together really well and I was really happy with it. Then, of course, disaster struck.

I usually really like my serger, and I like all the knit tops that I have been able to make with it. Yet for some reason I STILL keep catching fabric that is not supposed to be caught and then not finding it until I have sliced through it. This is not the first time, and I'm guessing it won't be the last {big sigh}. In my defense there was layers of fabric with all the ruffles so I didn't pick up on the fact that it was suddenly too thick as I was feeding it through Sergio. If there is a bright side to this big cloud it's that I'm getting really good at fixing my screw-ups! I got out a needle and thread and hand sewed the cut bits with tiny stitches. It's not completely invisible but I think it is wearable. It's more visible in the pics than in real life; if you didn't know it was there you probably wouldn't notice it, and if you do you are looking at it much too closely!

I used a ruffle with backing fabric to make the neck binding. It was a bit of a pain to work with but again I am happy with the final result.

I sewed along the 5/8" seam line for the sleeve openings, and then did a double fold to finish those edges. I was originally going to do a band there as well but thought it would be more work that it was worth, especially trying to catch all those ruffles properly. The hem is left unfinished, just cut short behind a ruffle. The top is cute and something different for an evening out, and I have enough fabric left over to make my darling daughter a skirt.

Novi Sewing Expo Review and Inspirations

Mom and I went to the Novi Sewing Expo last weekend. Overall the show was smaller than I expected. Perhaps because previous shows I have been to there have been RV shows or snowmobiling shows that tend to be huge and completely fill the expo space, I was expecting there to be more vendors. For example there was only one thread vender that I saw but although they had a lot of product I didn't find any wooly nylon. There were some nice fabrics and some that were simply so-so in a variety of price ranges.

The "Chico Twist" Neckline
I took a one hour class in the morning, "Wow Necklines for Knits" with Londa Rohlfing. Being a one hour class there isn't any hands-on and there isn't much time to cover a lot of things, and there are not detailed instructions provided so there is an assumption that you already know how to put in a knit neckband or will buy one of her patterns. I did come away with a few ideas to try such as the "Chico Twist". Basically you make a wide neckband and then offset the long edge. I folded the neckband over as normal and then clipped it every inch and a half. This made it really easy to line up the offset evenly. then I basted the edge before attaching it to the neckline. Londa filled the hour and had examples on hand to see and relevant handouts.

Fabric Requirements
Another idea I took away from this class was the little cards you keep in your purse that give fabric estimates for basic projects. I like the idea in principle but I really don't need any more clutter to be carrying around. I also don't need to carry fabric requirements for every size out there since I mostly sew only for myself. So I adapted this idea to make a tiny spreadsheet of the most common projects I am likely to pick up fabric for on a whim and taped it to the back of my fabric store membership card. I know - brilliant, right?!

I took a four hour class in the afternoon, the "Cover Hem Workshop" with Gail Yellen. The organizers of the event didn't leave enough time between workshops to switch the machines over from the serging class in the morning to the coverhem class in the afternoon. This resulted in the class not starting until 45 minutes later so that the machines could be converted. I don't blame Gail for this, and she was very apologetic, but you shouldn't lose almost a quarter of your class time for the room to be prepped. Another issue that I thought was a big deal is that there weren't enough machines for everyone and 4 people had to share. This didn't effect me directly but I didn't think it was appropriate that these folks had spent their money for the class only to have to share a machine. Again, poor organization. Having said that, Gail put on a great class. I came away with quite a few new ideas and I found her to be a very good speaker and teacher. Also, because of the hands-on format of the class, I met and chatted with some wonderful people. It was a fun afternoon.

I did try out a couple of machines, but I was well behaved and didn't buy any lol. I was impressed with the Juki 1000 serger, and when the time comes to replace my Brother 1034D I think this is the way I will go. I could have got a really good show price on it but having bought two new machines already this year I managed to be disciplined. I also used the Babylock Ovation for the four hour class. This was a great opportunity to try out a machine that everyone raves about. I didn't find it any easier/better for coverstitching than my Janome coverstitch machine. The lighting is better, and the air threading is a nice feature that I could probably get used to quickly. They were offering the machines heavily discounted for the end of the show but I didn't feel the need to go put my name on one. It did seem to take them quite a long time to convert the machines over, so I do think that having a dedicated serger and separate coverstitch machine makes more sense for me.

We did have some sewing "rock star" sightings. I bought Angela Wolf's jeans pattern and Mom had a class with her. Also mom got to chat with Gertie. All in all we had a good time and I'm really glad we went, but I don't see a need to do more than one day. I will probably go back next year.


Monday, September 22, 2014

Going Retro


My daughter messaged me late last night to tell me she's been invited to a birthday party with a 50's pinup theme - and of course she has nothing to wear. I told her I would sleep on it. Feeling somewhat refreshed this morning, I agreed to make her a dress. Mom turned me on to Gertie and her blog, and I knew that I would find something appriate starting there. Darling daughter and I messaged back and forth today and we have settled on Butterick 6049. Here's Gertie's blog post about this dress.

Daughter loved this dress right off the bat, which made me really happy because it is marked as "easy". As I told her, that makes the whole thing much more likely to happen lol. We have to decide if we are going to go whole hog with a crinolin and all, but that decision can wait until the dress is done. In the meantime here is a little gif that made my inner geek smile.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Happy "Talk Like a Pirate" Day!


 I love Talk Like a Pirate Day. Every year I get into the spirit with lots of "Aaarrrr"s and "Aye Matey"s and "shiver me timbers". When I was leaving work today I reminded the guys that tomorrow is Talk Like a Pirate Day. So imagine my face when I ran across this fabric at the fabric store's 50% off sale! I mean really - what are the odds of running across this adorable pirate fabric the day before TLAPD? It's not like I was looking for it; I was there buying lining for a couple of jackets I'm thinking of making. So needless to say I knew what I had to get done tonight.

I washed and dried the fabric - a cotton poly blend with no lycra. Somehow I managed to stretch out the neckline when topstitching. I'm still not sure how that happened, because I thought Phoebe's IDT system was supposed to stop that from happening. To try and fix it I tried sewing a bit of clear elastic across the back of the neckline. It's minimally better but not very smooth. So I wet it down again and right now it's back in the dryer. Hopefully that will resolve it.  Either way you know what I'm wearing tomorrow!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Frankenstein Reincarnated

I've been busy sewing for my daughter for the last while. She's got a skirt, a sleeveless tee and a short sleeved tee from - what else - New Look 6735. The problem, well actually there were a couple, is that the skirt ended up a little on the short side (in my humble opinion) for my tall daughter, so I added a yoke from McCalls 6966. The other problem is that she didn't want the back seam on the tees. No problem, I can cut it on the fold. Except that I forgot when I laid it out and cut it for the seam. Twice. I have fabric to make her two more tees but I need her to try on what I've got done so far. I did write on the bag with her pattern tracing to "cut with a double fold!!!", so hopefully I get it right next time.  Sheesh!

So my aim this week has been to do some sewing for me.  An idea I picked up from the internet was to made a 3/4 sleeve tee with a matching infinity scarf.  I saw this done in a pretty solid sage green, and it looked almost like a cowl neck tee.  This would give you options and make a basic tee more versatile.   I finally got into the sewing room tonight, and just as I was about to rummage through my stash to see what caught my fancy I instead saw this top sitting on my cutting table looking at me accusingly.  So I gave in and had at it.

My mom had suggested running some thin elastic through the neckband, so I did.  Then I took it in quite a bit through the sleeves and the bodice.  I didn't even take it apart first to redo the ruching properly.  I just basted, checked for fit and then sewed.  I was afraid of doing anything more than absolutely necessary because this fabric stretches out of shape so much.

The conclusion?  Well the neckline is not as smooth as it should be, but it is a huge improvement.  The fit of the bodice is generally much  better except that the shoulder seams are a bit wide.  I may even wear it in public at some point.  I am playing with the idea of replacing the neckband completely (again!), this time with another more reliable fabric.  I'm sure I have something in my stash that would work, but depending on how this fabric behaves I could end up with something completely unwearable again.  So I'm not sure if I should tempt fate.  Sometimes I think it's best to leave well enough alone.

Hey - maybe I should do an infinity scarf with this tee!  I'll bet it could hide a ton of neckline sins.  I wonder if I can still get this fabric?  Hmmm...

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Wardrobe Planning

When I first got back into sewing last winter I started stockpiling fabric. Initially I was more disciplined and bought fabric with specific patterns in mind to use them for. Then I started having some success with knits, and bought knits every time they were on sale just to build a stash. The whole fabric-buying concept has turned rather willy nilly with no game plan in place. This isn't quite as disastrous as it sounds because I mostly live in jeans and so knit tops always "go". But I've read a couple of posts lately about wardrobe planning that has made me think I need to be putting more planning into my purchases. Sometimes less is more.

I found a new blog to follow, The Vivienne Files, which is all about wardrobe planning. There is an excellent post that talks about the Chanel theory where the author quotes Chanel as saying "One shouldn't spend all one's time dressing. All one needs are two or three suits, as long as they and everything to go with them, are perfect." She then goes on to lay out an entire wardrobe with examples of all the outfits that can be pulled together from it. I absolutely love the wardrobe, and it would be perfect for my fantasy life, but not so much for my real one. Well, others must have spoken up about this because she later wrote another Chanel post that she has converted to a more casual wardrobe. Brilliant!

What I have done with my new sewn-for-me wardrobe so far has not been a complete disaster. Yes, I haven't planned very well, but I do find that I tend to stick with colour groupings that I like so I inadvertently end up with pieces that go together after all. For example, this weekend I wore (for the first time) the brown pinstriped jeans with the orange topstitching along with the burnt orange tee. These two pieces looked really good together even though they weren't planned with each other in mind. I think this is going to be a favourite fall outfit for me. Then when I got chilly I put on the beige cardigan and it still looked pulled together without being too matchy-matchy.

So what's up next? I need to check and see where there are holes in my wardrobe, and then see what I can build with from my stash. I guess you'll need to stay tuned to see where that leads! ;)



Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Pressing Matter

Yes, that's a very corny title, I know. I've been intrigued by the idea of using a press iron ever since I saw one on the website from the shop where I ended up buying Phoebe. The really pretty fancy-dancy red one shown in that video is the one in the pic from my sewing machine store but they don't actually carry that model. Just as well because I believe it runs for around $1,200. The model they do carry is "marked down" to $600, although a quick internet search has it showing up from a number of U.S. retailers for $400. But once I add the Cdn conversion, shipping and duty charges there's not much of a difference in price.

My mom has an old cast iron model that she lent me to see if it is something I really want to get. I did struggle with getting the "perfect" press I wanted out of her press, but I think that is party due to not being able to press hard enough on hers and partly due to a lack of experience on my part. Which still left me with the dilema of whether to fork out a rather large sum of money for something I still wasn't sure I wanted or needed. Enter Ebay.


You are looking at an Elnapress 2000, vintage unknown. (That is the Ebay pic, and therefore not my ugly shag carpeting lol) From what I can find out online the Elna's seem to be the best on the market. With a pull of a handle they apply 100lbs of pressure. My "local" dealer (2 hour drive away) is getting rid of the Elna line and only has one left in stock. It is the lowest model with no steam or any other extras. I got the impression the lack of steam is why he is no longer carrying them. He is the one who said that the sexy red top-of-the-line machine is about $1,200. He is replacing them with the "Reliable" brand which does have steam and also has a bigger bed for the same price as the Elna. I initially thought this was the way to go (the bigger bed would be a very nice feature) but then I've read a lot of people talking about the steam hole "witness marks" left on the fabric from machines with built-in steam, even when using them dry. This makes sense to me because this happens with a standard steam iron if you don't move it around. So rather than built-in steam you just use a spray bottle. Also I can't find anything in the Reliable literature that speaks to pounds of pressure. I suspect it is one where you just hold the handle down and that's a hard as you can press it. So the Elna really seems like the way to go after all.

The Elnapress 2000 is a higher-end machine. It even has the built-in sleeve board, currently only available on the high-end presses. The Ebay ad said that they plugged it in and it got "very hot", so hopefully it works for me. This also makes me think it came from an estate sale or something. If it does work then I saved myself at least $500 which makes the cheap bastard in me VERY happy. I really want to try it for all of my ironing, but for the price I paid, even if I only end up using it for interfacing and pressing napkins I'm good to go. For what it's worth I use perfectly pressed napkins daily in my fantasy life (but not so much in my real life).


The tag shows it is made in Switzerland, which is what you want it to say.  I don't have any way of understanding the code, but I do wonder if the "1984" in the I.D. number is the production year. With any luck this will be a unit previously owned and lovingly cared for by someone who took care of their things. I am always the optimist!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Oooops! Or... The Style Arc "Ann" Tee

Thor loves a good photobomb

Well, here's the first incarnation of the Style Arc "Ann" tee.  Let's see if we can count how many ways it went wrong.

This was a downloadable pattern being offered for free for a limited time.  Style Arc is a popular indie pattern company out of Australia, and they have a strong following.  It's a scooped neck tee with side ruching on the front. The pattern prints out with full front and back (rather than half cut on the fold).  This was my first time with this and a bit of an adjustment for cutting out.  I used the 12 because that is what my measurements called for, compared to the 14 I use in "Big 4" patterns.  I need to fold the pattern in half to compare it to my TNT NL6735.  It didn't seem too big until I started sewing it together.

To be honest I think most of the problems came from the fabric.  This is a thin mesh polyester knit.  I bought it because I loved the pattern on it.  And because the cheap bastard in me loved the $3/meter price.  As you can see it is too see-through, at least for work.  But the biggest thing is you would think I sprinkled fertilizer on this fabric.  The more I sewed with it the more it grew.  And grew.  I had to remove the neckband and take out a full 10".  And as you can see it then still stretched (again!) to unwearable proportions after putting it in a second time.  I was originally thinking about using a cowl neck collar, but I'm really glad I decided to do it "as is" for the first go-round.

It isn't hemmed yet.  Although I prewashed the fabric I may throw it in the wash again to see what happens.  With the free pattern and $4.50 in fabric I really have nothing to lose other than my time.