Tag Archives: sewing

The January project – a reversible apron

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For 2015, I set myself the goal of completing one craft project per month. January’s project was a full-length reversible apron for a friend – a belated Christmas gift.P1050674

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[True disclosure: I finished the apron on January 30, but wasn’t able to post about it before the end of the month because I was away for the weekend and then WordPress ate the first several drafts of this post].

I’ve made a couple of half aprons in the past, including a reversible one for my mother a couple of years ago.

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However, this was my first time making a full-length one. For the apron itself, I used fabric from my stash, including a red and green holiday print that I bought at a flea market. I love Christmas aprons, but their really only wearable for about a month evry year. Although the fabric isn’t overly christmasy, I wanted my friend to be able to wear her apron any time of the year, so I chose an abstract stripe in bright colours for the other side. I used a contrasting green with tiny white squares for the neck and waist ties that I found at my local fabric store.

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I couldn’t find any apron tutorials online to fit my friend, so I drafted my own pattern based on the one of my own aprons, using XL women’s measurements I found on a website: chest = 43 1/2 inches; waist = 35 inches; and hips = 45 1/2 inches.

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I used newspaper to make the pattern, as it was all I had on hand. I wasn’t worried about the newsprint leaving marks on the fabric, since both pieces were brightly coloured with lots of pattern. I probably wouldn’t use a newsprint pattern on light fabric, but it worked just fine for my purposes. When I was finished with the pattern, I just tossed it into the paper recycling bin – extra points for being environmentally friendly.

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For the ties, I cut out 2 pieces 32 x 4 inches for the waist and one 22 x 4 inches for the neck piece. I was guessing about the length of the ties. The final measurement is about 17 inches, so I ended up cutting an inch or off both ends of the neck piece – 20 inches would have been plenty long enough. I angled the ends of the waist ties, following the “Big Bow and Sash Sewing Tutorial” on The Mother Huddle. Rather than eyeballing the angle, I measured it out with a ruler and marked it with tailor’s chalk, which made cutting a crisp angle a snap.

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Since the main fabrics for the apron were fairly busy, I decided to keep the decorative elements to a minimum. I came across a tutorial from Sew4Home for the citrus holiday hostess apron, that used jumbo rick rack, inserted into the top seam of the apron. I found some pale blue jumbo rick rack at my local fabric store that matched the blue in both main fabrics. The instructions in the tutorial are quite clear about how to put the rick rack in the seam and how to position the neck ties behind the rick rack. Except there’s no explanation of how to position the rick rack correctly so it doesn’t bunch up when you sew up the side seams.

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I’ve come to the conclusion that there must be some sort of secret rick rack club – none of the other tutorials or resources I consulted provided any directions on how to correctly line up the rick rack so it lies flat in the seam (even my go-to apron resource, A is for Apron only explained how to insert the rick rack into the top of a pocket). I ended up ripping out the rick rack out of the apron 2 times and making 2 samples before I figured  it out. I had to make an emergency trip to the fabric store one Sunday morning to buy more rick rack. Even on my third try, I still had to adjust my seam allowance so the stitching caught the rick rack at the right point. Very happy with the final result.

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If this hadn’t been my January project, this is probably the point where I would have tossed the whole thing aside and stuffed it into the recesses of my sewing basket. Once I had conquered the rick rack, I added a red button on the Christmas side, right below the ties, for a bit more visual interest.

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I’m not going to lie – rick rack crisis aside, there more than I few moments when I could have cheerfully walked away from the sewing machine and not looked back. A more experienced sewer could have knocked off this project in weekend (or less). It took me several evenings and a good chunk of two weekends to complete the entire project. However, I learned a few important lessons that will hold me in good stead for future projects.

Firstly, tailor’s chalk is my new favourite sewing tool. It allowed me to make much more precise markings than straight pins. After I cut the two main pieces out, I folded them in half together and traced the necessary adjustments directly onto the fabric with the chalk. It rubs off, so making corrections was easy. Tailor’s chalk doesn’t leave any residue on your hands. I was using yellow chalk and it didn’t leave any marks on my fabric.

Secondly, not all online tutorials show you every step of the project. I appreciate that people take the time to post tutorials online and find them incredibly useful. However, in my experience, sewing tutorials often assume the reader has some sewing experience and can fill in the blanks. If you’re a beginner like me, this can create some frustrating moments – when you discover that your seams look wonky because you haven’t pressed them flat or your corners are round instead of square because you didn’t mitre them. I’m still going to keep checking out online tutorials but I’m going to read them very carefully before I start a project. And then re-read them. FYI – I’m working on a step-by-step tutorial on decorating a seam with rick rack.

Finally, my January project underscored the old adage, “practice makes perfect.” The top-stitching on the apron ties is a little crooked. I pulled out the worst sections with my handy seam ripper, but decided not to drive myself crazy trying to sew it in a perfectly straight line. For one thing, the fabric and the thread are almost the same colour and for another thing, you can’t see the top-stitching when the ties are done up. I top-stitched around the entire apron and to my surprise, my stitching was much straighter and more consistent. It was nice to see a noticeable improvement in a short period of time.

 

So that’s it for January. One project down, 11 to go. Haven’t decided on the February project yet – it’s a short month, so I better get busy.

Special thanks to M for taking time from playing MindCraft to take photos of me modelling both sides of the apron.

 

Hello 2015

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It’s a new year and it’s a good time to reflect on 2014 and think about the possibilities for 2015. I’m not big on resolutions but I like setting a few manageable goals to guide me over the next twelve months.

I did pretty well in meeting my goals for 2014. On the sewing front, I started and finished my Staples dress.P1040384

I also made a zippered sleeve for my laptop, which is very useful.

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The zipper is sewn in a little tight (it was my first time putting in a zipper), so it jams from time to time. Usually not a big deal, except for the time it decided to seize up entirely as I was going through security at the airport. Fortunately, the security guard was very nice and didn’t demand that I take my laptop out of the case (that would have involved scissors).

I made a few pieces of jewelry, for the Bead Soup Blog Hop and gifts for a few friends and relatives.

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Earrings – Bead Soup 2014

BD gift for a favourite niece

BD gift for a favourite niece

I finally organized my craft space, which was a 2014 goal (no pictures until I can improve the lighting).  It’s small but functional. While my paper and sewing supplies are easy accessible, I still need to spend a bit more time on organizing my beading supplies. Mostly because I need to find my box of jump rings – as I discovered recently, it’s pretty hard to make a piece of jewelry without them. In the course of the cleanup, I collected and sorted all my art beads and various hand-made components to several containers, so when I do find the jump rings, I’ve got lots in my stash to work from. So much, in fact, that I don’t need to buy any beads.

The one thing I made lots of this year was cards. Once my supplies were in one place, it was relatively easy to spend an hour putting together a card or two. In November, my sister-in-law and I went out of town on a crafty weekend. It was organized by a woman who sells StampinUp products and she brought all her own dies, punches and equipment to use. It was scrapbooking/card making heaven. It was fun and I got a head start on birthday and Christmas cards.

Birthday card for a friend

Birthday card for a friend

Crafty weekend Christmas card

Crafty weekend Christmas card

Christmas card - my own design

Christmas card – my own design

However, my SIL and I discovered that while we like making cards, 12 hours a day, two days in a row is a bit much for us. Between the weekend and my own time, I made about 25 Christmas cards. Unlike last year, I actually sent them out too.

2014 was a good year for M. He wasn’t too happy with his marks at the end of Grade 7. We didn’t make a big deal about it as neither his dad nor I care much about his grades. He’s a bright kid and we figure if he does his work in class, he’ll do fine. Sure enough, since he started Grade 8, M’s been completing most of his assignments and his first term grades were significantly higher than last year’s. He got a zero on a French assignment that he didn’t hand in (and no sympathy from his parents who thanked his teacher – much to her surprise). When he told me about it, he said that would be the last time that would happen. He was recruited by a couple of very high-achieving girls to be on their team for the school’s annual stock market event, which was very good his ego, even though he told me they were bossy. He’s even keeping up in Art – the bane of his existence last year. He still has the same teacher as last year and while they’re getting along better this year, it is not his favourite subject. He snapped at me when I suggested he could take it next year, in high school.

That’s our big family challenge for 2015 – M starts Grade 9. I expect I’m a lot more nervous about it than he is. He decided he wanted to go to the same school as most of his friends, which is fine as it’s a good school and has a good support system for ADHD students. It’s closer than the middle school, so he can walk. But it’s big – well over a 1000 students. That’s a huge change compared to the program he’s in now, which has less than 200 kids. I worry that he’ll fall through the cracks or fall in with a “bad” crowd. Even with his meds, M is pretty impulsive. The challenge with having a child with ADHD, is that as a parent, you’re never quite sure if silly behaviour is normal 13-year-old boy stuff (with two younger brothers, I know teenage boys do goofy things) or the attention deficit. It’s reassuring that M tells me that drugs and drinking are really stupid, but I fully expect he’ll drink before he’s 18 and try at drugs at some point – to think otherwise is naive on my part. I do try to live in the moment and enjoy my child – he’s much easier to live with at 13 than he was at 7 or 8, despite the occasional bouts teenage angst/surliness. But past experience has taught me that if I don’t acknowledge possible M’s challenges and work with him to plan for them, the results are usually messy and stressful for all concerned. M’s in a good space this year and I want to help him maintain his forward momentum, throughout the rest of Grade 8 and into Grade 9.

In terms of my goals for 2015, I’m going to continue to run and go to the gym regularly. After a hiatus of several years, I started running again in July and ran 3x a week until the late fall. Between the time change and a couple of illnesses, I dropped to 1x a week and then before Christmas, after a bad cold, I stopped altogether for a few weeks. However, I’ve discovered that I really love running and am going to work harder to get out more often. I’ve already been out twice since Christmas and will start going out for my long runs on Sundays again. When we finally get some snow, I can go x-country skiing on Sunday mornings with friends. Going to the gym a couple of times a week breaks up my routine, plus it’s helps strengthen my muscles for running.

My personal challenge for 2015 will be dealing with my hearing. It’s gone from being a minor annoyance to being an impediment. M now automatically puts the closed caption function on when we’re watching TV together, but following along in large groups, movies and plays is often a struggle. I attend a lot of meetings for my job, so being able to follow the conversation is important. I’m getting a hearing aid for my left ear, which is a big step for me. However, I continue to have issues with my right ear. At my request, my specialist put a tube in it just before Christmas and my hearing is worse than it was before. Having a hearing aid in one ear may improve my overall hearing, so I’ll wait and see. I keep crossing my fingers that my right ear will improve. However, in the grand scheme of life, a hearing problem is a minor bump.

For 2015, I’ve decided to complete at least one craft project a month – sewing, knitting, jewelry, etc. Cards won’t count, unless it’s a particularly elaborate project, a  set of cards or mastering a new technique. A project a month may not sound like a big deal to most people, but it’s realistic for me. I’m going to do my best to start and finish the project in the same month, but I may use this as an opportunity to complete a couple of works-in-progress. By December 31, 2015, I want to have completed 12 projects.

I’ve already got the January project lined up. It’s a sewing project, as a belated Christmas gift for a friend.

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2015 project #1

I’m not going to commit myself to posting the finished project on a specific day of the month. I want to nurture my creativity, rather than setting conditions that will get in my way. I haven’t selected any of the projects beyond January, so that will be part of the fun each month.

Best wishes for a happy and healthy 2015.

More adventures in sewing – upcycled laptop case

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About a year ago, I bought myself a MacBook Air. I take my little beauty with me to the cottage, to visit my mother, or any where there’s WiFi. I don’t have a sleeve or a bag for it, so I usually stuff it in a bag and carry it with me, sometimes wrapped in a t-shirt.

Not anymore. Fresh off my Staples dress success, I have been busy at my sewing machine and now have a funky zippered case that fits my laptop perfectly.

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Making a case for my laptop was one of my goals for 2014 (and the year’s barely half over). Plus, I added another skill to my sewing repertoire – putting in a zipper. Hitherto having previously avoided any pattern that involved any type of closing, I’m pretty chuffed that I managed to put in a zipper by myself (still a few kinks to work out – more on that later).

For the laptop case, I used a tutorial by Char from Crap I’ve Made that was featured on Skip to My Lou, as part of the 2010 Holiday Bake, Craft and Sew Along. I came across the tutorial on Top Dreamer – Easy DIY Laptop Case Projects. I liked it because the directions were relatively straight forward and the case itself is pretty simple. The outside fabric is an old pair of cords of my husband’s, while the lining is made from 2 fat quarters of Acacia Pixel Dot in Honey from Tula Pink. While I’m not a big fan of yellow, I love dots; plus the colours go really well with the grey/green colour of the corduroy.

My laptop measured 26-3/4 inches (long edge) by 19 inches (short edge). As the tutorial indicated, I divided these measurements in half and added 1.5 inches for seam allowance – 14-3/4 by 11 inches. I cut a section off each leg of the pants, somewhere below the knee, where the material was worn and shin and then cut open each piece along one leg seam and removed the side seam and the hem.

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This left me with two rectangles of fabric with a seam running from across the short side of each piece. I trimmed the rectangles so they were approximately the right measurements and the same size, making sure the seam was closer to the top of the fabric. One of the seams wasn’t lying very flat, so I decided to cover it with a 2 inch strip of the lining fabric, which I top stitched to the outside of the corduroy, right along the seam line, so it wouldn’t be lumpy (totally optional, but I haven’t totally given up my perfectionism). I rooted through my big jar of vintage buttons and found a gorgeous big green one that I sewed on the outside front.

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Up until this point, I had more or less been following the directions in the tutorial and had already attached the fusible fleece lining to the wrong side of the corduroy. I could have sewed the button on through the lining or after the bag was assembled but I wanted to avoid any lumpiness where the button was stitched on (that perfectionism thing again), I pulled up the fleece a little bit, just enough to I could get the needle and thread through comfortably – when I was finished, I re-ironed the fleece back onto the corduroy.

A word about fusible fleece lining: in anticipation of making a laptop case, I had already bought double-sided fusible fleece lining. It adhered very nicely to the cord fabric, but also to anything on the other side. Through trial and error, I discovered that covering the fleece lining with an old t-shirt and then ironing worked best. While the fleece will stick lightly to the t-shirt, it’s easy to pull off and will protect your iron from getting crap all over it. If you forget and put heat directly on the fleece, rub the sticky residue off your iron with the t-shirt while it’s still hot (in the interest of discovery, I tested the effectiveness of technique more than once). If you’re using single-sided fusible fleece, it’s probably a good idea to do a test swatch to make sure you know which side will stick.

I deviated from the tutorial by installing the zipper along the short, rather than long edge.Although the tutorial recommends using a zipper that is 4 inches longer than your laptop, I used a 16 inch zipper which gave me 5 inches extra, 2.5 on either side. On the advice of the lady at the big box fabric store, I used a heavy-duty zipper. I chose orange for the contrast with the exterior and lining fabric (I originally wanted a zipper in dark turquoise but it wasn’t available in the right length – the orange adds just the right amount of pop).

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Next time, I would use a regular zipper, as they aren’t as bulky and would be easier to sew down (plus they come in a wider range of colours).

The tutorial’s directions for inserting the zipper into the laptop case are probably fine for someone who’s actually done this before. Since I had no idea how to put in a zipper, I didn’t find the instructions or the pictures in the tutorial to be very helpful, except for the part about snipping the edges of the zipper so it will curve around on each side.

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I couldn’t find another tutorial that explained how to insert the zipper so it extends down each side of the bag for a couple of inches (the wider opening makes it easy to get the laptop in and out of the case). In the end, I followed the directions for using the zipper foot in my sewing machine manual and winged it. The first time I sewed the zipper in backwards. With a little help from my husband (I’m a bit spatially challenged), I figured out how to position the zipper so the raw edges were captured under the seam. I ended up sewing too close to the outside edge of the teeth on both sides, with the result that the lining fabric has a tendency to get caught when I zip and unzip the case.

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I could fix this by top sewing along the outside top edge of the case – I did a text and didn’t like the results (could change my mind if it starts driving me crazy).

I found it hard to sew down both ends of the zipper with the machine (the industrial strength zipper is very bulky). I fixed this issue by hand sewing the edges of the outside fabric together on both sides.

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While I measured it before I put it in, the zipper isn’t perfectly centred and extends a bit further down on one side. But it opens and shuts (with at little attention to make sure the lining doesn’t get caught). Not too shabby for my first ever zipper installation.

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I ran into a couple of challenges sewing the outside and the lining together. I discovered that I’d trimmed a bit too much fabric off the bottom of the front piece of the corduroy and I had to add a couple of inches to the bottom. I had to do the same to the lining, but it ended up being too long and I had to turn it inside out and trim and re-sew it several times so there wasn’t a lot of extra fabric wallowing around the bottom of the case.

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Sewing the fleece into the seams will make them thick and lumpy, but I found manouevering around it to sew to be a pain; next time, I would iron on the fleece lining after I had the zipper in and the sides sewn up. I’d moved the fleece on one side around so much that it was loosing its shape and stickiness, so I tore it out and ironed on a new piece – you can’t tell from the outside.

 

I also learned that sewing when I’m tired is totally not worth it. One night I had to rip out the same seams three times; it took me only a few minutes to sew it properly the next morning.  Now when I feel my energy flagging, I tell myself: WALK AWAY FROM THE MACHINE. Words to live by.

In addition to being thrifty, the old pair of corduroy pants was a good choice for the exterior fabric. Not only is it a sturdy material, it’s a neutral colour, which means it will never show the dirt. If I was to use corduroy again, I would add a seam allowance of 2 inches to take into account for the fact that corduroy frays like crazy (I kept a pair of scissors handy to trim off the loose threads) and it makes for a thicker seam when it’s turned. However, it’s easier to trim the edges after you’ve sewn it rather than having to sew a narrow side/bottom seam and run the risk that it will tear out (I minimized the likelihood of this happening by double stitching the side seams in the exterior fabric). Although the tutorial doesn’t mention it, cutting away the excess material on each corner as close to the stitched seam as possible will help minimize the thickness of the seam and ensure a smooth looking corner when you turn the case inside out (exterior fabric showing and the lining tucked inside.

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This is more important when you’re using a heavier fabric, like corduroy or canvas, as opposed to a quilting weight cotton. I used the end of my stitch ripper (a chop stick works too) to poke out the corners.

My laptop case is not perfect. Not only is the zipper not centred properly, it isn’t lying completely flat on one side.

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Thankfully, no one will ever be able to see my inside seams – even uglier than the pockets in my Staples dress.

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However, the case fulfills it’s intended purpose – to protect my laptop when I travel. It cost about $10 to make (zipper, lining material and the fusible interfacing). I haven’t seen a lot of cases for the MacBook Air and the ones I’ve found were ugly and/or  expensive (often both). Mine has just the right amount of functionality and detail, not to mention a pop of colour.

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It’s fun, but not too cute. Perfect for me.

Links for this post include: Think Pink Sundays at Flamingo Toes ; Monday Link Party at Craft-O-Maniac; Motivate Me Monday at Keeping It Simple; Making Monday Marvelous at C.R.A.F.T. ; Made by You Mondays at Skip to My Lou ; Market Yourself Monday at Sumo’s Sweet Stuff; Get Your Craft on Tuesday at Today’s Creative Blog; Tuesday To Do Part at The Blackberry Vine: Take-a-Look Tuesdays at Sugar Bee Crafts; Wednesday Wowzers at oopsy daisy; Flaunt It Fridays at Dotted Line Crafts; The Cure for the Common Monday at Lines Across My FaceSix Sisters Stuff – Strut Your Stuff Saturday

 

Sew it again

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One of my goals for 2013 was to improve my sewing skills. We’re now well into 2014 and I can honestly say that I haven’t made much, if any progress, in this area. My one serious foray into sewing, ended in futility and frustration, when I took a class to make the Colette Crepe dress. Despite making 3 muslins under the direction of a sewing instructor, I couldn’t get the top of the dress to fit. I later discovered that Colette patterns tend to be generous in the bust area. Since I’m barely a 32B, it may not have been a good choice for me. I didn’t even get as far as cutting into the fabric.

Needless to say, the experience put a bit of a damper on my enthusiasm for sewing. Since then, I’ve had my sewing machine out a few times, but I haven’t finished anything. I even stopped visiting fabric stores.

The fact that I was so easily discouraged by one pattern mishap may be a sign that sewing is not for me. However, I’n not ready to give up quite yet. I’ve decided to give sewing lessons another chance. Another dress, but a much simpler pattern – the Staples dress by April Rhodes.

The Staple Dress - PDF Download

According to reviews on Pattern Review, the Staples dress is a good pattern for beginners. It has no darts (the Crepe dress has 6) or zippers. It’s loose-fitting, with a shirred waist. Thanks to ShannonSews, I already know that since I’m long-waisted, I’ll need to lower the waist line. Relatively easy to do with a shirred waist – just a matter of moving the sewing line for the elastic down a couple of inches.

The dress takes about 2-1/2 metres of fabric. Before buying new fabric, I decided to check my stash. Voile seems to be a popular choice for the Staples dress. I knew I didn’t have a piece of voile that was big enough – for reasons I haven’t figured out, it’s a hard fabric to find in my local fabric shops. After consulting with a friend who’s an experienced sewer, I choose a light-weight cotton with a funky print.

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I have no idea where the fabric came from – it’s probably a fabric flea market find. I doubt I paid more than $10 for the entire piece (there’s about 3 metres). That would be on the high side, as I tend to be quite cheap when it comes to flea market purchases, fabric or otherwise. Even though it’s woven, the fabric has a nice drape. I like the geometric print – it’s vaguely reminiscent of the late sixties/early seventies.

Sewing the dress will take place over 3 classes, starting next week. I’m optimistic that this time, I’ll actually cut into the fabric and sew the dress. In the meantime, I’m taking my inspiration from Kristen, who wrote a great blog post about sticking with a sewing project. She’s made 6 muslins for her current project and she hasn’t chucked it in the garbage bin. Sewing, it seems, doesn’t always come easy.

Top 5 for 2013 – hits, misses and reflections

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Since it’s New Year’s Day, it seems like a good time to throw a quick glance to the year that was and look ahead to the next 364 days. I’ve been enjoying Gillian from Crafting a Rainbow’s year-end posts, so I decided to join in (albeit with my own adapted version).

Top 5 List

Misses – Learning to sew

This was top goal for 2013. And an epic fail. Despite taking sewing lessons, I never got further than making a muslin (actually 3).  I loved the pattern – Colette’s Crepe dress, but it was just not to be.

The pattern is well-used (more likely abused), but the fabric itself remains untouched by scissors.  Although the instructor suggested that the pattern was too complicated to complete over 3 classes, I expect that it was probably beyond my sewing abilities. I did finish re-fashioning a dress into a tunic (started in summer 2012) and made a funky vintage apron for a friend for her birthday (love the birds!).

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Hits – Bead blog challenges

This year, I pushed myself to participate in a number of bead challenges/blog hops. This was a bit intimidating for me since many of the people who participate in these types of challenges are professional jewelry designers.  Each one was different and I created a number of new pieces of jewelry and experimented with a number of techniques. I was particularly happy with the bracelet and necklace I put together for Bead Soup, using beads and components I received from a beader in Serbia.

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Reflections

The jury’s still out on sewing. I think I may actually like the “idea” of sewing more than actually doing it. However, I’m not willing to give up on it quite yet. I think I need to focus on smaller projects and develop my skills before tackling another pattern. I bought a new computer early in the fall and I need a case/sleeve. I’ve been hunting around the web for options, but haven’t found the “one” yet.

Vintage towel sleeve from Vintage Chica

Quilted button-up laptop case from Amy a la mode

Laptop Sleeve Tutorial 12

Or this funky laptop sleeve made from fabric scraps (Ars Technica). This one might be the front runner, since I have a pair of old corduroy pants of my husband’s that would make a sturdy outer layer for a laptop case. Plus, the pattern seems simple (famous last words).

I know that I’m happiest when I’m doing something creative – the specific project doesn’t really matter. While I certainly accomplished more in 2013 than I had in the previous year, there were periods during the year where my crafting supplies sat gathering dust. Deadlines are always a good motivator – hence the bead blog challenges and making gifts for family and friends. I’d like to find a bit more balance and use my evenings a bit more creatively, rather than watching mindless TV. I often come home and read for a couple of hours after supper and it may be difficult to resist curling up with a book, especially after a long day at work.
Inspiration and goals

I’m constantly inspired by the many amazing bloggers and artisans who share their work. A few of my favourites in 2013:

  • Andrea from Stitch Parade, who sews and knits beautifully. Last year, she tried her hand a making jewelry, with impressive results;
  • Rebecca Anderson, a Scottish jewelry designer, who has a blog and two Etsy shops. I was lucky enough to receive some waxed cotton thread from her just as I was figuring out my design for my Bead Soup necklace;
  • Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing – I will never sew like Gretchen but being a fan of vintage clothing, I love her outfits. Her blog posts are very informative and she has a knack for explaining complicated sewing techniques in uncomplicated terms. Plus she has pink hair!

In terms of my goals for 2013, as I noted above, I’m still going to work on my sewing. I’d also like to get back into knitting. I used to be an active knitter and fell out of the habit a number of years ago. I have a new bright red winter coat and I haven’t been able to find a hat in a complementary style/colour. Since I live in Eastern Canada and winter tends to be long (last year we had snow until early April), I figure I’ve still got time to find a pattern and yarn and make a hat before the snow melts.

I don’t have any specific goals in terms of making jewelry, but I’d like to continue to try new techniques and designs. My beading supplies are a total mess and it’s hard to find anything, so the first step is bringing some order to the chaos. Organizing is not my favourite activity, so I need to figure out a way to break the job down into manageable steps. I did manage to bring some order to my scrapbook supplies, so I know it can be done.

My biggest goal for 2014 is to enjoy what I’m doing. While I often work better when I’m under pressure, rushing to get a project done by a specific date can be stressful and often takes the fun out of it. So for 2014, I’m going to practice mindful crafting. Plan a bit more and focus on what I’m doing.

Whatever your plans are for 2014, I wish you all the best for a happy and healthy new year.

Birdie – a sewer’s best friend

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Meet Birdie. She’s my pin cushion. More importantly, she’s my faithful sewing companion.

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Birdie didn’t start out as a pin cushion. I bought a bag of fabric scraps at a craft sale for a $1 and was trolling the blogosphere looking for ideas. I came across a pattern for bird mobile by Spool Sewing. I cut several birds in different prints and made a couple. I strung them on fishing line and gave them as gifts. I’m  not sure if Birdie was supposed to be a gift for someone and I just forgot to give her to them. But when I started sewing again last fall, I found it hard to keep my pins organized. They kept falling on the floor. Messy and potentially hazardous to the dog and M, who always goes barefoot in the house. So when I came across Birdie in my sewing bag, I decided to try her out. We’ve been together ever since.

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In my opinion, Birdie is a perfect pincushion. She’s just big enough to fit in my hand. She also fits nicely into the pocket of my sewing machine case. When I’m sewing, she sits on the table beside me and catches all the pins that would otherwise end up on the floor.

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While she’s a great pincushion, Birdie’s best quality is that she’s totally non-judgemental. No matter how many times I have to rip out and re-sew a seam, Birdie never criticizes. She just offers quiet support. I couldn’t ask for a better friend.

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Birdie on a break

Birdie and a few friends

Birdie and a few friends

 

 

Adventures in sewing – part 1

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English: NYA: Minnesota:young woman learning t...

English: NYA: Minnesota:young woman learning to sew. Русский: Молодая женщина учится шить. Миннесота, 1936. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of my goals for 2013 is to learn to sew. Not just play with material and thread, but actually sew a piece of clothing I can wear. Proudly. Outside my own house.

Thanks to my mother, who is an excellent seamstress, I understand the basics of sewing. I have my own sewing machine and I can sew a more-or-less straight line. I can read and follow a simple pattern. However, I wouldn’t say I’m particularly good at sewing. A 2-3 hour project takes me at least 6 hours, often more.

If I stuck to simple patterns and projects, I’d probably be fine. But what’s the fun in that?  The beauty and the folly of the  blogosphere is that I when I find an online tutorial for a dress or a skirt. When I see a fun project or  outfits on Tea Rose Home and Stitch Parade, the rational part of my mind understands that these ladies could already sew before they started blogging about their creations. The fact that I’ve never sewed anything more complicated than a pin cushion or an apron doesn’t seem to matter (Never mind that said apron took 2 weeks and 1 and a half spools of thread to complete).

So this year, I decided to take a sewing class and learn how to sew properly. I signed up for the dressmaking class at fabrications , a funky new independent store, with really lovely fabric that has been hitherto hard to come by in my burg, except by mail order (and huge shipping charges) from the US).

Everyone in the class in making the same dress – Crepe from Colette patterns. Since it’s a wrap dress, with ties, instead of a zipper or buttons, it’s considered a “beginner” pattern (famous last words).

For my dress, I chose a pink and purple paisley – Grace – RubyWine (Cocoon Collection) by Valori Wells for Free Sprit. It’s busy, but I think it’s rich looking and will compliment the simple lines of the dress. Plus, I have a pair of pink shoes that will look almost as cute with the dress as the yellow shoes in photo.

The pattern calls for 4-1/4 yards of material, which even for a total non-sewer like me, seems like a lot of fabric for a sleeve-less dress with a V-neck back. But no worries – I washed it and pressed it  out with the iron. I figured laying out the pattern pieces would be easier without wrinkles.

The course was 6 hours – over 2 nights. For the first class, the instructor told us we would focus on fitting the pattern and cutting out the fabric. On the second night, we’d sew the dress and finish it (once again, famous last words).

The first step was to take our measurement and figure out what size to make the dress. The pattern comes in sizes 0-18, all printed on the same tissue. Each of the sizes is identified by a different cutting line. Based on my measurements, I was a size 0 on top and a 6 at the waist and hips. The instructor did caution me that Colette patterns tend to be generous on top, so I might have to make further adjustments to get it to fit properly.

The second step was to cut out the pattern and make a muslin. Since my mother has always cut straight from the (Vogue) pattern, I’d never actually made a muslin before. In this case, we only made the top, which featured 6 darts, 4 on the front (bust and waist) and 2 on the back. I’d never made darts before either, but the instructor provided very clear directions.

Putting in the darts and sewing the top together weren’t terribly difficult. The dress has a small cap sleeve and the shoulder seam is curved which is was a bit tricky to iron. Other than that, so far so good.

The muslin didn’t fit very well, and as expected, I needed to adjust the pattern. By this time, we’d been working for over 3 hours and time to go home.

At the second class, we worked on adjusting our patterns. The instructor had all the necessary tools and tricks, plus an amazing amount of patience. For me, the biggest issue with the fit were the double darts on the front – very pointy a la Wonder Woman. Not at all flattering (I didn’t have my camera with me, so there are no photos).

It took me most of the class, but I managed to make all the recommended adjustments – add an inch to the length, take out excess material below the shoulder, etc. I made so many changes to the original pattern that the instructor suggested I re-copy the pattern onto plain paper, so I could cut it out properly.

At this point, we were at the end of the 6 hours. Carrie and Curtis, the lovely owners of fabrications, invited us back for another week. We were supposed to cut out our material at home and come back, ready to sew.

Despite having followed all the directions, I wasn’t a 100% confident about cutting out my material from the re-adjusted pattern. I really liked my fabric and wasn’t keen on wasting it on a dress that didn’t fit. So I dug through my fabric stash and found a piece of fabric to make another muslin.

The second time around, the muslin came together quite quickly – much faster than the first time. In class, we’d used tracing paper to mark the darts, but I didn’t find this very accurate – my darts weren’t exactly the same length. Since this makes a big difference in the fit, I decided to mark the darts on my second muslin with thread. This way, I’d be able to tell exactly where the dart ended as I was sewing. While using thread took a bit longer than just tracing them out, I had a much better results – all 6 darts were more or less in the right place and the right length.

However, despite my new-found talent at sewing a dart, the second muslin didn’t fit. In some ways, it was worse than the first one. It was too tight under the arms and pulled across the neckline. Even worse, the darts were too close together. I’d gone from merely pointed to bullet-boobs. Not only was it not pretty (again, no photos), but it was discouraging. I had no idea how to fix the pattern.  There was no way I was going to risk cutting out the material.

Back to the store for the last session. The instructor made several more suggestions and while I re-drafted the pattern, she took apart my muslin, so I could make a THIRD one. Meanwhile, everyone else in the class had cut out their patterns and are busily working on the top of the dress. My fabric hadn’t even been out of my bag.

At this point, I decided that if the muslin didn’t fit, Crepe and I were done. We were never, ever getting back together. If I couldn’t get the pattern to fit after 3 tries and 9 hours, it was not meant to be. Besides, this was the last class and unless the instructor was prepared to make house calls, I had no idea how I could get the pattern to fit. Since I like to know as much as I can about a subject, I’d ordered every book I could find in the catalog on alternations and pattern fitting from the library. But as I’ve learned from experience, reading and doing aren’t the same thing. I was not feeling encouraged.

Muslin #3 was closer. The double dart was definitely not my friend. I was totally prepared to bail, but the instructor re-drafted the pattern while I was sewing up my muslin. The biggest adjustment was taking out that pesky bust dart.

Since the instructor went to so much trouble to help me, I feel obligated to give it one more try. Crepe and I are still together for at least one more day. Just to be on the safe side, I’ve started checking out possible replacements. Suggestions are most welcome. Anything with darts need not apply.