Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Because I am a sucker for a cute project . . .

So we were hanging out with my boyfriend's family, including his new baby niece, last thursday and mom happened to mention they were going to be at barbecues all weekend and she was worried about the sun on baby's head.  Grandma mentions offhand they should just use a bonnet, to which mom replies, "But we don't have one."  Ah ha moment in my head - I could totally make one!  Rest of evening is me planning said bonnet in my head until they leave and I can get started.

Step 1 - find a pattern or tutorial, preferably free.  No problem.  Gotta love Sew Mama Sew, because they had just what I needed here.  Perfect and so cute.

Step 2 - fabric?  Concerned about baby's skin, I chose some prewashed t-shirts I was looking to do something with anyway that would offer super soft fabric and it was white.  Baby is a girl, so no blue or grey allowed (which happened to be the only other two colors available, so white it was.)  Since t-shirt knit is unable to hold even the mildest structure, I also cut a piece out of a white curtain made of a cotton weave material for an inside lining.

Step 3 - construct.  This tutorial is really good so the construction was a breeze.  Only a few hiccups trying to get the knit to sew straight, but it worked out okay I think.  No bias tape, and no gumption to try and make my own (plus never done it before), but thank goodness I had bought a roll of lavender grosgrain ribbon for another project so I just cut a length and folded it over to take the place of the bias tape edging.  After reading through the steps I figured out what the purpose of the bias tape was so I could make improvise a replacement.  Same on the back.  Reading through the steps, it is a complicated way of saying sew a channel and thread something through to tie tightly.  Again no bias tape, but I had a length of narrow ribbon I could use instead so that worked out alright.  Hooray for improvising!

Step 4 - results.  Below are pictures of the finished product, one with the brim folded back and one with it forward.  No pics of the baby wearing it yet.  Hopefully I'll be able to add one later.  I think it came out cute, but it will depend on what Mommy thought so I'll have to get back to you.

Skirt 1 beta testing

So after a few small projects and buying fabric, eyeballing it suspiciously, I have decided to take the plunge.  I picked one of the patterns I bought on sale, McCall's 3830, and decided to make View D in size 12.  I totally flummoxed up my measurements, so I'm not sure this will fit.  Trying on while pinned was encouraging, so I am moving forward to sewing and keeping my fingers crossed.  The darts are sewed, as is the center back seam, and the invisible zip is basted in placed.  The fabric, quite crazy, is actually from a set of three valances my mother donated to my muslin fabric stash.  The pattern is bold, so if the muslin comes out okay I might keep the skirt to wear.  See below, the skirt beta testing in progress:
You are looking at the front, the fold on the fabric was quite defined, being the bottom edge of the valance so some serious pressing will have to go into making that look flatter later.  This pattern just screams 80's chic to me.  Hehe.

Below is the cotton fabric I pre-washed (no bleeding yay) for phase 2 of this skirt if the muslin comes out okay.  It is called olive tonal, but my camera has been recalcitrant in the making-colors-look-like-themselves department, so hopefully it looks olive-y tonal.
I'm so nervous, even though this skirt requires less sewing than the smaller projects I have already managed to pull off.  I guess something I might wear myself in public ups the pressure to do a good job.  I'm confident though.  Gotta stay positive.  Hopefully pics when it is done.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

All Systems are a Go

So I finally got my sewing machine running.  Turns out I had the stitch length knob backward with the stitch width knob wondering why material wasn't feeding through the machine.  After re-threading both top and bobbin several times I finally read my manual again and discovered my error.  Of course once I got it working I was afraid to touch it.

First project was a wallet for my cousin using the tutorial here.  The original attempt, also my maiden voyage with my sewing machine looked like this:

You can see the uneven edges where the corners don't match up well at all as well as my wandering stitches.  Not a bad first try, but not gift-worthy.  I talked it over with my mom on how to improve upon my initial attempt.  I decided to increase the size of the bottom pocket row (lower blue row) because while you can't see it in the picture, it is pretty shallow to hold a card.  I left the whole to turn the thing right-side out on the top, but left a wider seam allowance on the top and bottom so I could top stitch on the right side to close the whole once the wallet was turned.  This also doubled as a decorative line of stitching and something to stabilize the top edge more.  Also I decided to trim more of the excess on the sides before turning the wallet right-side out.  And I was more careful to make tight corners and straight seams.  Here was the second try:

Corners match up this time around.  Seams are much straighter and the card pockets are more secure.  The outside edges still look a bit bulky, but some blind stitching to pull the fabric together should decrease that problem.  Altogether I am pretty happy with it.  I just have to buy some velcro to sew inside to make the thing stay closed.

At this rate I might actually try making some clothes now that I've gotten the hang of my sewing machine finally.  I got it for Christmas, but am only now getting acquainted with it.  I am such a slacker.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Response to "Are Sewing Bloggers Cultural Leaders?"

An interesting question posted by Tilly on her blog here relating to a paper she is writing.  The questions were as follows:

  • What does the online sewing community mean to you? Why do you participate?
  • What are your favourite examples of projects initiated by sewing bloggers that capture this spirit of collaboration, creativity and innovation?
  • Who are the “leaders” in the sewing blogosphere? Is everyone / can anyone be a leader?
  • Are you involved in any other network of makers, whether online or offline? What makes sewing blogs unique?
1) The online sewing community means a place to gather inspiration and learn from other people who are making the same journey I am, though they are often much further along.  There is something comforting about knowing that I am part of a community of like-minded people.  I participate because my participation along with the participation of others means that the community exists.  A community cannot exist without the people in it to give it form and direction.  I believe that we as people naturally form communities from the people we come into contact with and those communities often influence how we think.  The online sewing community has boundaries indeterminate and a scope that might never be measured and it influences how I think because I can see that anything I want to try is possible, whether it be a sewing project that is currently beyond my skills or making my passion my living as Tasia over at sewaholic has done.  It influences how I act because it has inspired me to finally try this sewing clothes thing I've always kindof wanted to try and to explore my personal style in a way I never thought of before as a concept independent of what limited clothing might be available in my size at stores.

2) I don't know if I could choose only a few examples of projects, not because there aren't amazing works being created out there in the world, but because I've been reading so many posts from so many blogs I can't remember them all or keep them straight at the moment.  So to substitute, I can link to some blogs that I enjoy reading and I am sure have some of these very creative works on them:
Ali at wardrobe reimagined
Tasia at sewaholic

Zoe at So Zo

3) I don't know about leaders.  I think the leaders change because those who know a particular skill are so open about sharing their knowledge that they serve as leaders until other skills are explained by others and so on.  Leadership is a fluid thing as knowledge and teaching are shared freely among the participants.  Ideas and inspiration come from all corners so no one person is directing the style.  Each person builds off what others have done.

4) This online community has inspired me to try and start a small crafting circle among my friends because in-person interaction is something there is really no substitute for.  Sewing blogs are unique in that they can pull in comment and interaction from so many people you could never get together in one place at the same time.  Off-line crafting groups provide the intimacy of physical closeness that can make the activity more fun.  Both have distinct value that together can make crafting of any kind an even more rewarding experience than either alone as an outlet.

Well, I hope my musings have some value to you Tilly.  In case you couldn't tell from my answer to #1 I am a political philosophy and theory junkie so the nature of a society and how that instinctive drive intersects all avenues of our life (especially the political world in how we form political opinions and interactions) is of interest to me.  Good luck on your paper.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Gauntlet

So I totally intended to break out my new sewing machine and actually try to make something now that I have both patterns and fabric.  Then I found out about the gauntlet.  Two of my cousins have birthdays and graduations in June.  Another cousin has only a graduation, while another family member has only a birthday. 

Totally don't have the money to go out and buy presents, and each occasion requires separate presents.  Call me crafty because I am going to have to come up with something.  It helps that I am a packrat so I actually have lots of gifty stuff I pick up cheap different places and hold on to waiting for gifts.  Unfortunately, this doesn't help me much considering two of the recipients are boys.  Two birthdays and a graduation's worth of gifts for boys!  Argh, I can never think of what to get for the male of the species when I have money to spend, let alone something I can craft.

No idea what I'm going to do.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


Well, this is why I shouldn't go to a craft store by myself.  I ended up with 18 patterns (yes, 18) though at only $1.99 each I figured why not.  Who can afford to pay $16-18 per pattern?  Plus they had fabric on sale so even though I hadn't intended to buy any - I got three pieces of 3 yards each.  I'll update this with pictures once I get my camera working again.

Friday, May 13, 2011

On the Hunt

So Joanne's is apparently having an awesome sale this weekend and I am hoping to get in on the action tomorrow morning to score some goodies.  My hit list is assembled so we'll see how I do.

McCall's patterns on sale for $1.99:
6038; 5591; 6308; 5292; 3830; 5811  (Discontinued, but hopeful: 6011; 5686; 5911)
But those are predominantly skirts you say.  Well, I'm trying to expand my wardrobe from its current denim heavy state for casual wear.

40% off sewing books:
Design-It-Yourself by Cal Patch
Twinkle Sews by Wenlan Chia
Make Do and Mend
Built by Wendy
Sew U books
I've seen these books mentioned time and again on other blogs written by people much more creative and skilled than I so they must be worth the time and money to procure for myself.  I have ambition so with any luck I'll be able to use these books to expand my very meager skills.

Oh, and I need some grosgrain ribbon and/or bias tape for a v-neck pullover to v-neck cardigan refashion I'm working on to deal with a permanent stain problem.

Wish me luck and I'll update with my haul tomorrow.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Oh the Things I Would Knit

. . . if I only knew how.  I used to be able to crochet - and I mean that in the loosest sense possible.  I could do a chain stitch, though once I tried to actually create anything the rows would miraculously shrink as I went a long in a pretty rapid taper.  So I had a lot of roughly triangular pieces lying about until I finally gave up.  That most likely came of being too impatient at a younger age to learn how to crochet properly.  Of course, at that time I told myself "I won't ever need to do it anyway."

Which puts me in my current conundrum.  I want to make a snood for my mom, because she wants one, but I can't crochet worth anything and according to her, the pattern she found involves crocheting with embroidery floss.  Lovely.  Which leaves buying one if I could find one, and I was so specifically hoping to make her something for a (belated) mother's day present.  Belated because she can't decide what she wants.

Oh well.  Have to keep looking I guess.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Why do we Buy?

I've seen a lot of posts trying to examine why we buy and why we buy so much.  Reason or emotion, it used to be a badge of honor that you could make what you needed and were self-sufficient.  That pioneer spirit is supposed to be the underpinning of our culture in the U.S., but what happened to it?  It seems like now we are supposed to buy buy buy.

Now, buying is the symbolism for the ability to buy.  Having bought things proves we could do it, that we are successful enough to buy what we want.  The whole "keeping up with the Jones" mentality.  If you make things that must mean you aren't successful.  The whole point of our working lives seems to be to buy things so that others will know we can buy things.  Making things is an activity for people who have to, because who would want to go through the trouble when you can just go to the store and pick something up on sale for a low low price.

It seems like we're not supposed to take pride in what our possessions say about our personality.  It is only what they say about how much we have and how successful we are that matters.  Labels and who wore it matter more than what the item actually looks like.  How many pictures do you see of celebrities and fashion models wearing things we think "no normal person would want to wear" and yet there we go, following the next trend no matter how strange or unflattering.

I was introduced to this really interesting website The Story of Stuff from Ali's blog.  It was a real eye-opener in that it articulated perfectly the feeling I'd had for a while but couldn't quite put my finger on.  Why should our stuff define us, not as interesting people with values but simply as people who own stuff?  Our clothes should be evidence of our style, not the driver of our style.  People should define style, not clothes.  We should be proud of clothes we make because they look good and are what we wanted.  How many people who only shop RTW get to wear exactly what they want?  Your style doesn't have to be bound by what the shops have for you to buy.

Reading all the wonderful blogs out there written by so many talented people making their own clothes from scratch or refashioned so they have what they want, not what company executives decided they should want, is so inspiring.  These are the blogs I read most frequently, but there is so much creativity out there I couldn't begin to catalogue it all.

* http://www.blogforbettersewing.com/