Friday, August 31, 2012

Catching up

The problem when your hobbies have hobbies is that at some point something has to give. It wasn't enough that I started up sewing again, I had to start a blog to go along with it. I have done quite a bit of sewing over the last month, but not so much with the blogging. Let's see if I can summarize some of what I have done this month . . .

Sewing has really been a boon to my gift-making life. It is far easier to whip up something sewn than something knit. For a four year-old friend of ours, I wanted to borrow an idea I found on Pinterest. I saw these great, but pricey toy mats that converted to a bag that stores the toys. I use one of the great Japanese fabrics in my stash to make a puzzle mat/bag. I made a drawstring casing by finishing the edges with a strip of coordinating fabric. When the mat is open it is big enough to complete a small puzzle on. When you are done you can pull the drawstring closed to make a carrying nap sack.

A project that I have been thinking about for much of the summer was the Sunki dress for my niece's birthday next week. After much consideration, I choose a lovely polka dot from Lecien's Color Basic line as the main fabric and Martha Negley Farmington Feathers in pink for the contrast fabric. The project came together quickly once I had the fabric. The pockets were a bit tricky and I think I would make them a tad deeper next time. I would definitely make this dress again! I also made the leggings. It wasn't the disaster that I feared it would be. I need to work on my technique and hope the Craftsy class on working with knits that I am taking will help me improve. When I do, I am planning leggings for myself in every color I can think of!

Next week my little one will head off to his first away from home care! It's a new program nearby and parents have been helping get set-up. I offered to make several of the things they needed sewn--placemats, napkins, mat sheets, and  aprons. So far I have made a set of six placemats with table setting silhouettes, 12 napkins, and two sleeping mat sheets. I am using fabric that was already in my stash, with a little augmentation from fabric I got at a garage sale ($1 for a shopping bag filled with cottons) and a few yards I picked up at Broken Things for $6. This is just my first round, so I may attempt to put together a couple of tutorials. This project was great for my point system garnering me 6 points!

Wait, what? No Seam Allowance, you might ask. I have been working on some clothes for me, but will have to report in another post. The sewing machine calls.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Made from scratch: Cal Patch study artifact 1

Armed with my measurements, I started my first project for my Cal Patch study as soon as August 1st rolled around. The first project is a basic A-line skirt that will form the basis for (hopefully) endless variations. The project only requires a few measurements: your waist (this doesn't have to be your waist, but where you want the skirt to sit), your widest part (hips or other), the distance between those two points, the length of the skirt, and how wide you want the skirt at the bottom.

When I took my measurements I made two waist measurements, one at my true waist (the smallest part of my waist) and one at my low waist (where I want garments to sit). I determined that a spot just below my belly button was the right spot for my low waist. This spot is personal preference and may change depending on the garment. It may even change during the project, but more on that later.

I followed Cal's directions very carefully. I drew lines and moved seams. I turned curves and trued up edges. Within an hour I nearly had the first pattern piece made up. Before things my brain went on the fritz I went to bed. The next day I finished both pattern pieces and prepped my fabric. I wanted to get sewing right away, but the fabric demanded (demanded, I tell you!) that I get a bright pink zipper to go with it, so the project sat for a day or two. Even though this was the muslin I wanted to give it a chance to be a wearable garment. Now wearable is in the eye of the beholder. The fabric itself was a $2 piece of lightweight canvas or linen with a very. loud. neon. print. I figured that if it worked out it could be an exciting skirt for a dreary day or even a sunny day.

At this point I had spent somewhere around three hours on this project. It might have been less, but I made an error in judgement when drafting the pattern pieces. Recently, I bought a Seam Allowance guide to aid me in adding seam allowance to Japanese patterns, so instead of adding the seam allowance to my pattern I thought I would just use this to cut it out. As it turns out I couldn't quite get the hang of it. Instead of fiddling with it even longer than I had been I laid out the pattern pieces and traced the shape adding the seam allowance as I went along. This also meant I had to work on the darts a little. Lesson learned, I will add the seam allowance next time!

I got my pink zipper and immediately got to work following the advice I read about muslins: baste! I basted the darts, got the zipper in and basted the seams. Voila! My muslin was ready to try on! The first thing I noticed was that I wasn't crazy about the waist both in terms of location and fit. The location was off by an inch or so. I actually like the skirt to cover my navel--ending right at the top edge of my belly button--which is much smaller and higher than where I had originally placed it. Cal has you work in some ease, but even if I had the skirt sit below my navel there was too much ease for me.

Since everything was basted, nothing was permanent so I went back and redrew the hip curve on the inside of the skirt. I moved the seams in 3/4" inch at the top. I also changed the distance between my smallest and largest points as I was moving the waist up. Baste! Baste! Tried it on again and it was still too big, so I moved it in another 1/2". This time I tried it on and it was perfect. I went over the seams, zipper, and darts with a regular stitch. I finished the waist with some bright pink bias tape and hemmed it. I now have a brand-new skirt made from scratch! I still want to add a patch pocket, probably just one though. This style skirt on me wouldn't take a side seam pocket very well.

I could add the changes to the existing pattern, but I think it will be a useful exercise for me to redraft the pattern using the new waist measurements. 

Helpful reminders for next time:
(1) Take the time to add the seam allowance!
(2) I noticed a funny little bump in the center front of the finished skirt. I don't think I did a great job truing up and checking for 90 degree angles. This was also evident at the hem.
(3) Since I know what I want my finished measurement to be I will not be adding in ease.

 Except for when I slept, I have been wearing this skirt since the moment it came off the sewing machine yesterday. I love it! I deem this a tremendous success. I can't wait to make another one (after a second muslin) from some printed linen I have been eying at Verb since the beginning of the summer!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Flag of the picnic nation

I have been lucky enough to live in two cities that have thrift stores that focus on reusing materials for art, craft, and learning. In San Francisco there is the amazing SCRAP and here in Oakland we have the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse or as we call it in my house, Broken Things. SCRAP is a much more dangerous place to go as most things that I am interested in--fabric, yarn, and paper goods are typically sold at a per bag price (last time I remember this was $7 for a grocery bag filled with items) though some are by the yard or lot or piece. All this to say, it is super cheap. During a time of incredible fabric stash enhancement in the early 2000s, I grabbed lots and lots of large fabric swatches. Over the years many of these swatches probably made their way back to SCRAP, but there were a number that I couldn't part with.

For some time I have been intending to take these two sets of pretty florals in similar tones and make a quilt. One idea had been to match them up with the fabric I recently used on my summer PJs, but when my mom passed along three different Echino oil cloth fabrics to me I decided to make picnic/park blanket. With the oil cloth on one side I could put the blanket down on damp grass without worrying about getting wet or having to completely launder the blanket after every use.

The front is a simple patch work of the nine swatches that made a square of roughly 43" by 43". I had about the same size piece of oilcloth that I had cut out a piece to make a wipe-able seat cover for a dining room chair. To fill in the gap I used a piece from another Echino oilcloth. The result looks like a very hip version of the American flag. I used store-bought quilt binding and the leftovers made the tie to wrap it up for portability. I rounded down for this project to get three points (1 point each for patchwork, backing, and quilting). I am looking forward to using this on an excursion to Totland or for a picnic!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Numbers game

When I finished the batch of sewn gifts I hit another 20 point milestone. When I first conceived of this project my hope was to use one yard a week, but because of the efficiency of sewing (and my current obsession) it is pretty easy to exceed that. So the numbers are:
  • Rollover from last batch = 4pts
  • New seat covers = 2.5pts. Technically this is not a sewing project, but it involved fabric leaving the sewing room so it counts. I calculated the amount of fabric used by figuring out the area of each seat and multiplying it by 3 -- for the burlap on the bottom, the layer of batting, and the exterior fabric. Then I divided that number by the area of one yard of fabric. This was an epic project. The chairs look great, but it took a long time and the difference from the earlier recovering jobs to the most recently completed one is vast.
  • Sunhat Disaster 2: The mother of all hat disasters = 1pt
  • Stuffy repair = 1pt. I made several repairs to my son's stuffed animal collection. New eyes for Mama Bear, some stitches for his alligator, etc. Alligator had been hanging out in the sewing room for months now, so I am happy that she is out.
  • Backpack for L = 1pt
  • Wiksten tanks = 2pts
  • Backpacks for E & L =1pt 
  • Little girl backpack = 1pt
  • Backpack for Cy = 1pt 
  • Backpack for A = 1pt
  • Summer PJs for me = 2pts 
  • Wiksten 3 for Mylinda = 1pt 
  • Sleep shorts for mom = 1pt 
  • Playday dresses = 2pts
  • Boxers for brother = 1pt 
Total points: 22.5pts

There will be no prize for me this time because, frankly, I have not been refraining from purchases. It is very hard to resist discounted remnants, people!! Or pretty voile for a future pair of bloomers. Or cheap, cheap yardage at the thrift store. It's a good thing I am on a sewing kick otherwise my craft room would be even more crowded than it is!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Cal Patch study

One of my goals for the Seam Allowance project is to finally work my way through Cal Patch's Design-it-Yourself Clothes. I bought this book right after it came out with the best of intentions. Jenny and I kept saying that we were going to make a date to take our measurements. We never did. Periodically I would take the book out and flip through it, but I never committed to reading it or working through the exercise of making a pattern. As part of Seam Allowance I am making myself a schedule so that by the end of the year I will have made myself the basic pattern for each garment type and have attempted a variation. The schedule looks like this:

July 2012: Read part one of the book and take full set of measurements.

Cal suggests that you work as you read and I will certainly do that. However, I am approaching her book as a textbook and this as a self-guided course, so this month I will also read the instructions for the each of the basic patterns and browse part three about customizing and stylizing.

August 2012: Basic skirt pattern

September 2012: Skirt variation, either from the book or of my own design.

October 2012: Basic T

November 2012: T variation, either from the book or of my own design.

December 2012: Basic woven shirt

January 2013: Woven shirt variation, either from the book or of my own design.

February 2013: Basic dress

March 2013: Dress variation, either from the book or of my own design.

April 2013: Basic pant

May 2013: Pant variation, either from the book or of my own design.

Anyone interested in joining me? I would love to exchange ideas with others engaged in the same study and see what others create. No one is obligated to follow along for every single month (maybe you don't wear woven tops and you're not a skirt woman, that's cool). Or perhaps you just want to do the basic patterns. Check out this Flickr group for inspiration! Comment below and leave your blog address or Flickr ID if you want to work alongside me.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sew unto others

Although I have just committed myself to making one quarter of my wardrobe, the last five things I have sewn have been for other people. It's good practice--both in the sense that I every stitch I sew brings me closer to proficiency and in that giving people items that you make is a good thing.

When I decided to start this blog I wanted to have a unique illustration for the header so I turned to one of my two renaissance sisters-in-law, this one being the wife of my brother (I will certainly talk about the other, the sister of my husband, at some point, too). Mylinda is an actress, singer, and dancer. She is also a visual artist, who works in pen and watercolor. I told her about this blog and its intention and, seriously, within hours she had created the amazing illustration you see above. As a thank you I wanted to make her something, so I turned to my new old friend, the Wiksten Tank. For this version I used my re-drafted pattern, left off the pocket, and lengthened it to 25" from under the arm to make it more of a tunic, but not quite a dress. This fabric was intended to be the muslin of the Darling Ranges dress, but in a washing mishap some of the yardage was lost. I think it looks great as this top and am excited to see how it fits.

Early last week, my mom came to visit and asked for a pair of sleep shorts like the ones I'd made myself. Using the pattern/recipe from the original One Yard Wonders I drafted a pattern for mom and managed to finish them before she left. These came out so much better than my first attempt. Unfortunately I forgot to snap a photo of them, but I used the same fabric as above.

Since I was mailing something to Mylinda, I decided to whip up a couple of little dresses for my nieces. I've tagged several projects in the new One Yard Wonders (OYW) and started with the Playday Frock. The smaller size is made in a darker orange quilting calico and the larger size is made in a white, orange, yellow, and brown vintage sheet. This is a cute pattern that is easy to sew up. I am a little unsure that it will be sufficient in length, especially for my older niece. I think that if it is too short it should work as a top and look really sweet with pants, leggings, or even shorts.

I didn't want to leave out my brother, so I sewed up one more project from the new OYW. Men's boxer shorts. They were basically like the sleep shorts and PJ bottoms that I have made, but with the complication of a fly. The directions in the book did not make sense to me (which is not to say they don't make sense, just I wasn't getting them) and I couldn't find anything useful online. Ultimately, I looked at a pair of John's boxers and realized that there was something wrong with the amount of overlap. Now this could have had something to do with that I made French seams so I may not have had the right amount of fabric to make overlap just right. That said, they look sharp and should work.

I got some practice at French seams, elastic, pattern adjusting, and being at the machine. I also got five points--one for each project!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Seam Allowance

Ring pincushion made by my mom!
I got my first sewing machine about 13 years ago after a demoralizing trip to the mall. I was shopping for clothes and as I went from store to store I realized that everything looked the same, nothing was particularly well-made, nor did it fit me properly, and the ethics of clothing industry were pretty terrible. That was it, I was going to get a sewing machine and make my own clothes.

I was pretty much starting from scratch so I took classes at first for the basics. I made purses, bathrobes, pajama bottoms, and inexplicably several pillows that were faux fur on one side and satin on the other. I moved on from there and started coming up with my own bag patterns. I made a pair of pants. I made lots of skirts (both with elastic waists and zippers). I made a couple of dresses. In short, I was pretty good at sewing, but never felt like I was.

When I thought of sewing I thought of mistakes, swearing, and the awful tension problems of my original machine. At the time, resources on the internet were not what they are today, so there were fewer places to turn in my frustration. Instead of working through the frustration I would stop sewing. When I would come back to sewing I would have to restart my learning.

This time I am having to relearn, but I feel less frustrated by my mistakes. I take a lot of deep breaths and pick up the seam ripper. After years of knitting, I realize that I even with the mistakes that I make sewing still moves faster and how fast do I need to get stuff done. This is what I do as a hobby!

That said, I am ready to take this hobby and make a commitment. I am coming back to the original intention of why I learned to sew and have joined the Seam Allowance pledge to make at least 25% of my wardrobe. I have some ideas about what that means to me and will explore that more on this blog. Today I went to the kick-off party for Seam Allowance and was excited to see how many people had signed on. It was also fun to see how many people there had not taken the pledge, but were definitely toying with it, asking questions, shopping for fabric.