Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Good Things

So last week I was in Whole Foods, and there was this girl in this really awesome skirt. It was unique and interesting looking to my eyes, and so I boldy went up to her and asked if she happened to make it. She replied that she had not, but that she wanted to re-create it. We started talking sewing, and ended up exchanging numbers. A sewing buddy! A buddy to sew with! She hasn't called yet, as she said she would be busy for awhile, but I certainly hope to hear from her! That would be so awesome!

Tomorrow I am going to purchase muslin for my 6-hour Labor Day class in which we learn to create patterns from garments we don't want to take apart. Yes!!! And I might pick up some of this amazing cotton that I have been fully in love with the past 3 times I've been in the store. It would make such perfect work blouses...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Post Four

Yeah, I'm really rolling with the post titles. Oh well - creativity elsewhere!

Due to a series of interesting events, I only made it to the last half hour of my last class yesterday. That was a real pity, because I really really really did want to hem some of my work trousers. And I learn so much just from watching people do their other projects and listening to what Alice The Teacher has to teach them. But oh well.

I hemmed up my pj bottoms and I even wore them to bed last night!

It all worked out rather splendidly.

I got to class and popped on my bottoms, Alice measured how long they should be, I pressed up the hems, pressed the raw edge under, pinned it all, and sewed. It took a little longer than it should have, because I had to try on my bottoms twice - instead of pressing up an inch and 3/4 as per Alice's first measurement, I went with an inch and a half. And then I ran out of bobbin thread. Damn it! I was sewing away madly till the very end. But the project is finished! I was happy to wear them last night, as it was deadly cold here. Ugh. So much for summer.

I used a Kwik Sew pattern. I would not at all recommend those patterns. They pretty much suck. Alice and I did some figuring and measuring, and the legs were even wider than the finished measurements were supposed to be. Really, really, really weird.

I can't say much about the pattern directions, as I didn't follow them half the time. Alice took a more intuitive approach with teaching - she had us look at the pattern, but mostly she just taught us how things work, what steps to follow. There were a few points at which we just tossed the directions out of the window.

The fit on these things is kind of stupid. I'm really really glad that I took the legs in - they would have been HUGE otherwise. As it is, there's just enough fabric to be comfortable and not constrict me. The crotch area is a little poofy still, but it's not bad. Kind of just normal for pajama pants. If I hadn't taken the legs in and taken the waist down - oh yeah, I took the waist down like THREE INCHES! - there would have been so much fabric! I do NOT recommend Kwik Sew patterns - they are not at all au courant.

It is highly satisfying to be wearing something that I made myself. And that even looks good. It's pretty awesome.

It is official. I am hooked on sewing.

For those of you who don't yet know - I am pretty lazy when it comes to blogging and pictures. So I hope you appreciate the fact that I took a minute to set up the timer on my camera and scamper over to the wall so that you could get the full effect of the bottoms. You only get the bottoms though, because I'm on my way to changing for a run, and the rest of the picture is me looking down and holding my boobs. Cute, but not quite something I want to post on the internet.

In case you want a pattern from which you have to cut 3 inches off of the waist, add length to the hem, and bring the width in by 3 inches on each leg, it was Kwik Sew 3602.

Funnily enough my bottoms look like the picture, but only because I modified it quite heavily. Weird!

One more thing:

Here is the original Vogue pattern I fell in love with and wanted to make. Well, actually, heck - maybe I will make it in my next class. I purchased it yesterday. Stone Mountain and Daughter had my size in stock. YESSSSS!

I'm completely undecided on the fabric though.

Something new to dream on.

Maybe next time I'll break out a few pictures of my beginning-to-burgeon (oops!) fabric stash.

Yeah, yeah...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Post... Three?

I've had two more sewing classes since my last post. They've gone well. I am just two hems away from having a finished pair of pajamas. I would have had them done last Saturday, but I decided to take them in for width, and I was 15 minutes late to class. I got lost. Oops. I did get the waist band done - elastic in and everything! I learned about stitching in the ditch on each side of the waist to keep the elastic from twisting during use. Cool.

I would say that all in all, this has been a very successful class. In two days I will have a finished pair of pj bottoms that fits me. I've learned a lot of things, and most importantly, I've learned that I actually do like the process of sewing. It's a nice process and knowing what the hell I'm doing helps immensely with the whole thing.

I'm very excited for this coming Saturday because I will also be hemming 3 pairs of trousers for work. Trousers meaning nice pairs of pants that I got at the Gap which were ridiculously expensive. They fit me well though, and the only thing wrong with them is that they're too long for little ole me.

My fabric scissors are working as beautifully as ever.

And I have another pattern picked out for my next class, slated to start the beginning of October - Vouge 1043. I'm thinking charcoal grey wool crepe. Que-pensez vous?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Post Two

Ok, so I really did just take a picture of my flannel into which I am making pajamas, but my room is such a huge disaster that I can't find the connecty cord thingy that goes into the computer. So a picture will just have to wait.

[eta pictures!]

So. I fell in love yesterday.

With cotton lawn by Alexander Henry to be precise. I really LOVE this print. I am going to buy some. As soon as I can justify to myself 4 yards or so of $13+ per yard fabric, since I don't actually have a specific pattern in mind (well, I kind of do, but, you know.) Do you know how delicious this fabric is? Incredibly delicious. Really, really, really delicious. Like, have an entire wardrobe of blouses and dresses delicious. YUM.

Since I don't want to be really crazy with fabric buying (at least not as crazy as I am with yarn), I bought $225 worth of classes and scissors instead!

I know, right?


The scissors were completely necessary. I already know about and appreciate having good tools to work with. If you are making something, whether it's cutting wood, hammering nails, painting a wall, chopping vegetables, knitting yarn, or cutting fabric, a good tool will really help you out. The scissors I had purchased for cutting fabric were really crap. Like, total crap. Big, clunky, hard to maneuver, the blade too long for my hand, the handle totally uncomfortable, not balanced or weighted well - overall they just fucking sucked and made cutting fabric a living hell. Since I relaxed into sewing yesterday and decided that I actually liked it, this whole process of fiddly bits, I decided to make the investment in a good pair of scissors.

I spent probably an hour cutting up lengths of scrap fabric at the counter. I was introduced to some Wolff scissors, and I really liked the handle, it was quite lightweight and fit my hand well, but I just wasn't quite satisfied with the blade. It was not quite sharp, precise, long enough for me. I tried the Ginghers out too, but the handle was uncomfortable (that classic all-metal design), and after the comfort of the Wolff, I really didn't want to give that up, but god how I loved the cutting action of the Ginghers. So slick. So sharp, so precise, so nicely weighted. Really great scissors. But I'm a bit of a weenie when it comes to extra weight and discomfort. Why be uncomfortable if I don't need to be? So I tried out a pair of Kai scissors, and I finally went with them. It was a close call between them and the Ginghers, but the ergonomic handle finally got me. If the shop had had the ergonomically handled Ginghers, I probably would have gone with them, but as it is, I'm happy with my Kais.

I bought the 8" pair. (Model N5210). My handle is green for whatever reason. It is a very awesome pair of scissors, and I have apparently inherited (or learned) the gene from my mother that is VERY protective of fabric scissors. (NO ONE BUT ME SHALL TOUCH THESE AND YOU SHALL DIE IF YOU EVEN THINK OF CUTTING PAPER WITH THEM!!!!)
Yeah, that gene.

I am very happy with them. They're beautiful and precise and I can imagine happily and precisely cutting many a pattern with them. I heard something from the woman at the store who sold them to me - she told me I should wipe them clean after a day of cutting. She said that the fuzz that is left on them can dull the scissors. I don't know if that's true, but I'll go ahead and remember to do it. Why not. Make it fun.

So. Me. A pair of fabric scissors.

I also spent an hour or so looking at patterns. I asked my teacher if I repeated her class, if I could please make a skirt that wasn't on the suggested pattern list. For the love of Gawd, Kwik Sew patterns are just fucking ugly and hopelessly out of fashion. I mean, for pity's sake - if I am going to spend 15 hours in a class, $140 on the class time itself, and money on a pattern AND fabric - I had damned well better want to wear whatever the hell it is I'm making. Kwik Sew does not cut it (ha ha.)

I found this beautiful pattern from Vogue and almost had a heart attack - sticker shock. $22 for a pattern?! Shit! I could buy a dress for that! Thank god for Jo Ann fabrics and online and so on and so forth. And then we get into the whole hand-made versus ready-made discussion of longevity, quality of materials, and so forth. Go see Needled. She ruminates well and at length.

Anyhow. Patterns. So - my teach said I could make this pattern in her next class if I so desired. I was like - really?! It's lined and everything. But I think it'd be really cool to do. I tend to love to plunge into things and just take it on and do it, you know? I think I learn best that way - to have a challenge, and rise to meet it. And I would say that generally, I do pretty spectacularly in that department. Since I have 2 months before I start the next class (the soonest one was already full, darn it) at least that will give me time to save my pennies for nice fabric and fabric for lining the dress. Oy. And a petticoat. Ha. Even if I don't make this dress right away, I would like to do so at some point in the future, because I think it'd be a really great thing to make. I actually already have a dress very similar to it that I bought at a vintage shop. Fits me like a dream. I really need a petticoat for it. It's cute without, but it would be just amazing with one. I've worn it out to a nice restaurant once, so I know it's a dress that would actually get wear. And how fun would it be to be the crazy med rec clerk in hawt vintage? Hee hee. Though I'll have to make sure to make a dress that actually lets me move my arms around - the dress I've got doesn't allow for much arm movement.

Ok. So I started and then stopped this entry like two hours ago.

Let's see if I can sum up.

This Saturday I cut out my fabric pieces. I learned how to make sure that the fabric was folded on grain, I learned how to lay down my pattern on the fabric and make sure it would be laid and cut on grain. I sewed a little bit - I sewed the inseams of the fronts to the backs. I trimmed up the fabric next to the second line of sewing on one of the inseams, then I overcast the edge with a zig zag stitch. Next Saturday I shall start by overcasting the other inseam, and then I guess I'll sew up the next thing. No idea what that is though. My teach is bypassing the directions which she says are unneccesarily comlicated and out of order. I spent a lot of time ironing and learning about the whole grain thing. All in all I enjoyed the session this time, and I really relaxed when I finally started sewing. Ah! Went my little brain. This is what it's all about! So I should get to have a little more of that next week, which shall be nice.

I also signed up for a "learn to make a pattern from your ready-to-wear" for Labor Day. I'm really excited for this workshop. It's six hours and at the end of it you go home with a muslin sample, not just a pattern, which is really cool. This is what I've really wanted to learn how to do! Re-create!

Anyhow, that's the summary for this weekend, I've got to go to bed and get some sleep.

Ciao ciao my fellow stitchers.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

First Post

What a terribly interesting title.


So, let us (well actually, me) let ME set MY intentions for this particular blog.

I love this part.

I'm starting this particular blog as a log of my new craft - sewing. (I'm enhancing this part, because I just realized I'm going off on tangents. Read on, dear ones.)

Sewing clothes, mainly. I love clothes. I sewed a couple of teddy bears when I was in my early teens, but that's really been about it. I've made a few (rather pathetic) attempts at curtains.

I have a machine - a nice basic little Bernette (by Bernina!) with no computer parts, thank god, nothing to break. Model number? I dunno. I'm not going to go through my box of crap that has more crap stacked on top of it to find out.

I really need to get said machine serviced. I think I got it when I was 16. Holy shit, that was 10 Fucking years ago. (Oh my god, I think I might have a heart attack. Let's not though.) So yeah, I must have been 15 when I made those teddy bears, because I got the machine for my birthday after that summer. And then I didn't really do a damned thing with the machine for ten years. Why do I feel like I was 14? Eh.

I made a quilt, sort of.
It was a horrid experience. I picked out the fabric from my mom's stash (she's a quilter) and then I freaked out when I realized that I couldn't use a rotary cutter worth shit, and flipped out on my mom and got her to do it for me - the cutting out of millions of 5x5 inch squares, that is. I sewed them together, with the batting in the middle, and then she sewed together these long strips and then I cut up the seams that were left on purpose and we tossed it into the wash, and voila, a baby blanket was born.
I did this when I was 21.
It was fucking miserable.
I hated doing it.
It took so long, and the thread kept snarling, and it was just so boring and wretched.

Since then I've made a few potholders, and I made a horrid set of curtains with this fucking awful slippery ass fabric (oh my god, now I see why people come to my sites when they're searching for porn) for this woman I worked for. The horrible curtain episode was when I was 23. I don't even want to think of that curtain episode.

I've hemmed a few jeans, sort of miserably. When I was about 18 or 19. Do you know how next to impossible it is to hem a pair of jeans and make it look right when you've got thread that is so not the right color, and probably (looking back) the wrong needle on your machine for the job, and you never read (I don't think) the instruction manual for your machine?


To put it gently, my sewing skills are nada, and they're pretty terrible at that. I think you get the idea.

So I decided to rectify the situation.

I decided to do so earlier this summer - actually, it was more like spring, but I had to wait till dates came up that I could attend for sewing classes.

I am taking Basic Sewing and Beyond - or a title to something of that effect - at Stone Mountain and Daughter in Berkeley, CA. (Please, stalkers, stay away.) I had my first class this morning. It was a little boring, and during the last hour I was viciously hungry, which made it damned difficult to care or concentrate, but I stuck it out. My teach is Alice, and she's really great. She's been sewing for 60 years, which is basically wonderful. I actually learned quite a bit in the first class, though at the end of it I was feeling bored and discouraged, because really - sewing is so much work. It's all in the prep, just like painting (a room, not a painting.)

Pick out a pattern. Make sure you've got the right pattern for the type of fabric (or vice versa). Wash your fabric. Iron the fabric. Cut out the pattern. Extend for length! (Aack!, that one gave me some trouble.) Learn that fabric has a grain and you've got to line up the grain with the way the pattern says to do so or else your shit is going to be wonky. (At least I finally learned what the hell a bias is and what its properties are.) Learn about making seams and sewing them. Finish the seam. Press the goddamned fucking seam. Then press the the goddamned fucking seam again. All this shit about making sure your thingumy is in the home position before taking your first stitch. Making sure the thingyumy is in home position before you take the fabric out of the machine. Locking your stitches down. Cutting the threads. And my god, we haven't even cut out the fabric yet! And boy, when that happens, just wait - I'm doing stripes!

In short, sewing is so much work that it is almost ridiculous. It's so - not portable. (I am a knitter since almost 4 years. I am so accustomed to knitting and its seemingly easy ways that this wily, tricksy sewing shit is just - exhausting.)

So, I was tired and bored and discouraged after my first sewing class. I couldn't believe what a dope I'd been with my machine. I'm not sure I'd even been putting the bobbin in right. That would really explain some messes. I so need to get my machine serviced, it's not even funny. I probably need new needles. I'd been thwapping the lever down to make the presser foot go up and down. I've had so many snarled, tangled messes of threads that it's pathetically sad. I've felt like I could never get the hang of my machine, that it was a mess, and that was ridiculous, because it was NEW! The real problem is that I never had an inservice on it, no one told me to not sew over pins (oh my fucking christ, what was I thinking!?) and so forth.

So, I was feeling all of these feelings of basically being bored and like sewing is so not worth it when I have a figure that's actually pretty damned easy to fit with ready-to-wear. Why bother sewing my own damned clothes? It usually costs more, after all. And then I came home and got some sleep and then my roommate's photo text woke me up (so ridiculous to have left my cell on noisesomeness) and then I couldn't go back to sleep, and I started envisioning the clothes I will be able to make if I keep up with my classes for a year.

Back in spring I went a leetle nuts and bought 4 different fabrics by Kokka and spent some serious time drooling over Echino prints (whoa for double gauze!) and the prints are So cute, and I So wanted to make some really cool dresses out of them, and that was the whole POINT of taking sewing classes. Learning to make the patterns I see in my head. Being able to copy ready-to-wear if I wanted to. (Which I do want to do, I have 2 awesome dresses that I could really use more of.) (And thank goodness, that is a class!)) It would be so cool to have some cool, OOAK (one of a kind) garments with really cute prints or lovely fabric, or whatever attracts me. I don't want to go hella crazy, and have more clothes than I've got space for, but I think I'm not at all in danger of that at the moment. I've only got 5 pieces of fabric and it only takes up the space of a mid-size stack of books. And I might make pillow cases with the remnants.

Basically, I also really want to be able to hem my own pants. I want to do this without fear of making them too short, without fear of having unmatching thread, without fucking them up. I really want to be able to make the perfect, cute dress(es.) I want to have some skillz. I wouldn't mind making my own jeans.

I'm different now than when I was a teen, or in my early twenties. In those times, I wanted to have hella jeans, hella t-shirts, hella clothes. Now I have exactly one pair of jeans that I've had for 7 months, and it's worked out fine. I wouldn't mind having one more pair, but Gap is ridiculously expensive (come on, 70 BUCKS?! for a pair of jeans that I'm going to have to cut the bottoms off of anyhow, because they do not make size 0A? (that's Gap-speak for zero, ankle-length, which in real terms translates to someone with a 30 inch inside leg seam and a 36 inch booty (er, hips.) there, now you now my measurements.))) and I work 40 hours a week at a Business Casual office, which means no jeans, so there are only about 20 hours a week I wear jeans, tops, during the work week, plus the weekend, which means that my pair of jeans is really just "gently used." So why would I spend 70 bucks on another pair of jeans I'm just going to have to cut the bottoms off of and I don't even like the color of the denim?

Um. I digress. As usual. Let's see, what else? Oh yes, being in a Business Casual office means that I can't really wear t-shirts that look casual, though of course knits are ok. So that means nice-looking shirts, and basically I just shop at Gap, because their clothes fit me and they've got pretty classic/basic styles. I mostly buy stuff on sale, but I don't always find stuff and I don't always want to be buying stuff, because you go into a store for a shirt or two and then either you find nothing, or you find 20 things and buy at least 5 or 7, which even during a sale translates to a receipt total I probably shouldn't be indulging in. Now, I'm not stupid. I know that fabric and patterns cost money too. But the point is, is if I would like to add a few garments to my wardrobe, well, I could find a pattern and use it a few times, and I could get some nice half-price cotton in a cute print (or plain, whatever) and make a few different tops. I don't need to be buying 14 and 18 dollar a yard fabric for everything. As it is, I bought some really nice cotton at half-price, which worked out to be $4.25 a yard and $4.50 a yard, respectively.

(And it is nice stuff, Stone Mountain and Daughter doesn't really carry nasty, cheap, ugly stuff. They are Berkeley Berkeley!) (And if you don't know what that means, envision yuppie, sun-tanned trophy wives who don't say excuse me, with Cal educations and little brats running around and entitlement issues so huge and annoying it just makes you want to say GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY WAY, BITCH! and SAY EXCUSE ME! while they are being so bored and in your way. (Sorry, I lived in Berkeley for 2 years and 4 months, and the people there are just so much ruder than anywhere else I've ever been, it's not funny. I liked Berkeley till I moved to Oakland. /endrant.))

If I make a shirt out of that, what's that, like 8 bucks tops for the fabric, and a few bucks for a pattern? Boom. Cheaper. And then I'll have added to my work wardrobe. And the good thing about my work wardrobe is that I always choose pieces I would be comfortable wearing in my non-work life, so they do double-duty.

So, this is all a long-winded way of saying that I've taken up sewing garments. Never mind that I actually haven't cut out my fabric yet, but I will do that next Saturday, and until then I will idly dream my dream of cute dresses and such.

And I thought it would be fun to document it, because I am after all, a blogger, which really means that I am a writer.

You know me, expect some tangents and such, curse words galore. Though since I've already got a blog for life and knitting, I would like to keep this blog focused on sewing and any tangential thoughts/experiences. Not much else. No life stuff. Y'all'll have to go to my usual address for that dish.

I want a log for my patterns. The stats! Pictures! Of fabric! And finished items.

The good thing about sewing, for me, is that I look at it as more of a skill, not a hobby. I don't get all weak-kneed over fabric the same way I do with yarn. Yarn is more of a sickness, and obsession. Fabric is more like - useful. Like a potholder. Functional, I guess they call that. No one goes nuts collecting potholders. So I don't really foresee my fabric stash getting out of hand. Not like my yarn stash, cough, cough. Another good thing about fabric and sewing is that it takes time and space, which I don't have a lot of. It takes some good, flat space to be laying out your pattern, ironing (which I kind of hate) and time. Mostly, I cannot see devoting large swathes of time to all that shit. I am committed to devoting enough time to learning to do this, and learning to do it well. I think it will fit and aggravate my perfectionist tendencies, the work ethic my daddy instilled in me - do a good job. Take pride in your work. Finish it well. Pay attention to the small details, they indicate pride in a job well done and add up to a pleasing whole.

I am mildly excited (the excitement is so mild that excitement is the wrong word) and mostly just satisfied to be learning a new skill. I am content with spending 3 hours every week learning this skill. For the next couple of years. It will give me something constructive to do while I abstain from casual dating. It will give some structure to my weekends. And maybe, who knows, it will open up an interesting avenue or two in a few years. I am open to that. Because I really do love textiles and garments in all their forms. I wish I had taken home ec in high school. It is just such a useful skill to have, knowing how to read patterns and translate them into a wearable item.

Let's do some links.

Kokka! Fabric. From Japan. So fucking cute.
The definition of double gauze.
Emily - she sews too, and the woman inspired/inspires me. She's so good at les petites details.
The fine people of Stone Mountain and Daughter (it's not their fault they have annoying customers who NEVER say excuse me.) The staff really are helpful and nice, I've found. And they do have some yarn.

And the real reason I started this sewing blog? Because it BORES ME TO TEARS to read about sewing on knitting blogs, and I don't want to do that to my non-sewing-caring knitting readers. Yup. That's it.


Pictures next time.

Oh, and my URL? Fabulous joke, donchya think?