Friday, May 24, 2013

New Cutting Table -- It's For Real this Time!

Excuse the messy table. Oh, and did you notice it's new? This is from IKEA, from their Galant office line. This is the largest table they have, and it's a conference desk. It does have a built-in insert to manage cables, but I just keep it covered with the cutting mat, and there's no problem. The legs are adjustable to just about 34 inches in height. I'm short, so it works perfect for me. Taller folks might need to add height to the legs. The cost was around $230 plus tax.

Here are the dimensions: 76 3/4x43 1/4 "

Get more information about the IKEA table HERE.

Because the table comes as a separate piece, you can get shelves to put underneath instead of the legs. This works better if you're taller. I couldn't find shelves that were short enough at IKEA to make it fit my height. I originally wanted shelves, but I'll just have to look for the shelves another day.

Old padded cutting table with extension.

Cutting was difficult on the old table because the cutting mat did not lay flat. The padded table is great for ironing large pieces of fabric, and for hand cutting. You can also pin the fabric directly onto the table and keep everything from slipping and sliding around. I picked this table up for $40 off of Craig's list. It included an extension which made the table six feet long. The extension is unstable and required another table under it to keep it from falling off. This got annoying.  I'm keeping it as an extra ironing table now.

Another picture of my new cutting table with the IKEA drawers that I keep my supplies and cut patterns. Now I can utilize the table top to hold cutting supplies without taking up valuable space on the cutting table. The drawers are on wheels so I can move it around and it does fit nicely under the new table if needed. 
This table/desk has a lot of flexible uses. It can serve as a dining table, and be converted to a computer desk if needed. The best part is that it can be disassembled and stored flat.  So if you live in a small space, and need double-duty furniture, this piece might fit the bill.  Happy sewing!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Life Gets in the Way of My Sewing & My First Shirt Pattern

The above picture is the entry to my sewing room. You've seen pictures of the interior the last few weeks as I transformed it from an unused office for my husband into my beloved sewing sanctuary. For those of who have any sewing space at all, you understand my obsession.  I decided to share this photo so I can always be reminded of how much I love this place, and how I miss it when my life gets in the way of my sewing.

I had to drop out of my pattern drafting class this its final stretch. It was the last week, with the last two projects, and final exam in order to finish the class. But studying got in the way again! I'm working on finishing my Master's program...studying non-stop five to six hours a day and taking mock exam after mock exam, and not getting the scores I need for my boards. My husband who is equally disappointed with my scores commented on how I could have gotten that extra percentage had I spent less time in my lovely sewing room. I say "poo" to that comment...even though he is probably right.

I have committed to refraining from sewing for the next three weeks so I can buckle down yet again. My new term starts next week, and I am working at the clinic and piling on the patients because I'm down to one shift instead of my regular four. This means I don't have enough appointments available for all my regular patients. (I'm not a MD in case you're wondering. I'm an acupuncturist-intern.) With all the stress that comes with my day...sewing and designing heals me.

So before I step away from stitching and blogging for a few more weeks, I just wanted to share the final project I was going to turn in for my class. I drafted my very own shirt, and made it in this horrible valentine cotton that actually feels closer to paper than cotton. Why so cheap? It's drafted in a tiny size eight wolf form, and I knew that I would not be wearing it, but may be a younger girl might like it. It looks good...but I never made it back to school to fit it on the model dress form.

The pattern had eight pieces in total. I struggled with the collar. I haven't sewn a proper collar in may be 20 years. Yes...that' right, I was only ten years old when I sewed my last collar.  I made the collar twice, the second time, I extended the collar band an inch so it would sit further out and reach the center front of each side of the shirt. I still sewed the band crooked, but I was pleased by the overall shape of the collar. I learned later in the Reader's Digest Sewing book where I strayed with the collar band. My other problem was the sleeve. I redrafted the sleeve after realizing that it was a puffed sleeve rather than a straight sleeve with a single pleat at the cuff. The length looked a little long, or the shirt itself was not long enough.  I'm not sure which one was the problem...may be a little of both.

I made French cuffs, and realized that I had to do four button holes instead of the standard two-button cuff. I was nervous because I'm notorious for making things uneven, particularly button holes. My 20-year-old Bernina automatic button hole feature doesn't work every single time. Sometimes it sews all of them the same size...which it did for the shirt front button holes, but when it came time to doing the cuffs, it became schizophrenic. (I have considered buying a new machine just to make button holes, but is it worth another $1,000? Tempting...)

I thought I'd be cute and make my own button cufflinks. I wanted to show my teacher Cindy that I really loved her class, and these little cufflinks was my small tribute to her. I had this custom button kit in my notions box for years. I loved how they turned out.

The final, final project was a skirt. I felt rushed when I drafted this. I didn't really like the style, and I wanted to really show that I could do something better. As I cut out the fabric and began stitching the pieces together, I realized that spending another three hours sewing a skirt that I did not like was a waste of my time. I took the class to push myself, and be proud of my end product. This was when I decided to stop attending the class and broke the news to my instructor. What's the point of doing something very mediocre just to pass the class? I've already passed this class before, and I did it with flying colors. It's just a review, and a chance to become better.

This is my skirt pattern. When I stepped back to look at it, I thought...this is just a sloper with a ruffle and a waist band...and I'm a complete loser for making it. I threw the ruffles in because I wanted to do something to pay tribute to Frida Kahlo this month. But it only made me feel worse, because Frida Kahlo deserves better than this.

This is the sketch of my skirt. Yeah, it's cute. It's also very basic, and something that I could make without much effort. The older I get, the more I value my time. Every moment I have should be valued and spent in such a way that it either helps me grow, or at least makes me happier. This skirt did not satisfy either criteria.

I am sad that I did not finish the class. But it was not meant to take over my regular studies. I can't help but be haunted by my husband's words, "What were you thinking?" I was thinking that I could do it all...but just not all at the same time. Happy sewing!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

All Things Frida Kahlo!

Frida Kahlo
Photo from Collectors Weekly Article
I have always been curious about Frida Kahlo. When her art exhibit landed in San Francisco a couple of years ago, I dragged my whole family to see her work. Looking at her in live photos, one would never guess that beneath her iconic wardrobe was an injured and disfigured body. Her paintings are disturbing and sometimes haunting with themes that reflected both her pain and desires. A single painting could inspire a whole story.

Inspired by one of the members of my Google Plus community who recently finished a two-piece outfit dedicated to Frida Kahlo, I suggested having a Frida sew off. It's kinda like a cook-off, except we're making clothes or accessories influenced by Frida. While Googling images of the artist, I stumbled upon a a recent article published in Collectors Weekly about my very topic: Frida Kahlo, the fashion icon. Few artist are remembered for their fashion sense. But how could we not focus on all those self-portraits and not wonder what Frida's closet looked like?

Well...look no further. Frida's closet has finally been opened and is an exhibit available for viewing.  Get a sneak preview of her wardrobe, and her fashion influences into commercial fashion designers by reading the article at Collectors Weekly.

The "Sewing on My Kitchen Table" Sew-Off officially starts tomorrow in tribute to Cinco de Mayo, and then ends on July 3rd when sewists will post their completed projects on the Google Plus community and honor their Frida influenced ensembles by wearing it to Independence Day.

Question to self: What's my inner Frida?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

I Love My Body

Australian book cover from Guardian Faber Publishers.
Click publisher link to take you directly to their site.
There's a new book out written by a former Australian Vogue editor Kirstie Clements about the world of modeling. In a nutshell, it writes about how runway models torture their bodies to stay slim.  The book is called The Vogue Factor, and it's currently available on Amazon. I think more of these kinds of books need to be published and given ample publicity to help debunk the so-called glamor-obsessed commercial fashion industry. I love beautiful things, and fashion is one of those beautiful things, but I am reminded every time I see a fashion cover or a runway model this: "How high is the cost?"

About three or four years ago, I cancelled all my fashion magazine subscriptions. It wasn't a protest against emaciated cover models, but because 70% or more of the magazines were and are about advertising. I know it is their bread and butter, but advertising can be an evil business because behind those perfume ads, it's all about the money for every one. Watch Mad Men to see a fictional (but how fictional really?) portrayal of the corruptibility of American media.

I posted on my Google+ community today about teaching our daughters (and even sons) how to sew because it can empower them to appreciate their bodies by customizing their clothes to look and feel good on them. Yes...let the high-fashion designers continue to inspire us with their creativity but bring that inspiration closer to our very own cutting tables. People are taking charge of their food by growing it themselves, why not as much of our own wearables and have some creative fun at the same time?

Tips On Making Our Bodies Look Good All The Time

We're all shaped different.  Some of us are short, tall, apples, pears, triangles, and squares. But whatever shape we think we are or are not, I've found some basic rules when it comes to fashion that really applies to everyone.  Everyone? Yup, everyone.

Good fit is the key.  
Don't buy clothes that fit us poorly. Get the most comfortable piece, and then get it tailored or altered to fit. If you're sewing the garment, then, there's no problem at all. Measure the largest part of your body. (For me, it's my waist. I check patterns to make sure they fit my waist first, and the rest I can take in, make shorter or longer.) Oh, by-the-way, big clothes just makes us look bigger and tight clothes makes us look a little bloated in the wrong places.

For women: wear a well-fitted bra.
I don't wear well-fitted bras all the time. I like my girls to be loose and free the majority of the time. But when I'm wearing a nice outfit or have a date with my husband, I will put on a bra with good support. A good bra makes EVERY outfit drape better, and can make us look five to ten pounds lighter. I own two good bras: a nude strapless, and a regular nude underwire.

Cap sleeves can make a chubby arm look thinner.
I learned this ages ago. I didn't like the tops of my arms as much when I was younger, but I'm mostly used to them now. I think it's a little too fleshy looking in general. Adding cap sleeves or any sleeve will create a more slender looking arm. Make sure there's no pinching in the arm holes, then we're back to item number one on this post (see above).

V-Necks make everyone tall and thinner.
I tend to purchase a lot of v-necked pieces because I know that the shape elongates my neck. If you don't believe me, try on a few things with different neck shapes and take a picture of yourself. Wear a good bra too!

The right hem line will make your legs look great.
High heels also makes our legs look great, but I hate wearing them. Next best thing is to make sure that the hems of your blouses, skirts, and dresses are proportional to your body. I like my blouse to fit right above my hips (if I am not tucking them in), and my skirt or dress lengths to hit an inch or two above the knee. Yes, there will be times when fashion will dictate our hemlines, but I'm speaking about the "classic" hem line. Oh, but a little drop-waisted top or dress can hide the post baby-bulge too.

A-line skirts are good for our bodies.
Hands really doesn't matter what size you are. This is just a great cut. Not sure what an A-line skirt is? Do a search on Google, and check out the images. Feeling bloated? Ate too much over the holidays? Wear an A-line skirt and all your worries will fizzle away. This guideline extends to dresses too. Just a quick sentence about hosiery, if you ladies still wear pantyhose, nude is the best color.

Dresses and skirts look better than pants.
This has nothing to do with women's liberation. Skirts and dresses just hide more. So if you want to look a few pounds lighter at your next event skip the pants. If you must wear pants, then wear pants that have no pleats...kind of a no brainer...I'm just say'n.

Clothes with darts can be our best friend.
I hate sewing darts. But they make my girls look better, my back and hips more (or less) shapely. Look at quality, tailored clothing...those pieces are meticulous about darts. This is really a repeat of item number one.

Monochrome dressing makes us look taller and thinner.
If you wear a floral skirt with a solid blouse, you might look heavier on the bottom, unless of course it's intentional. Dressing non-monochrome can help us in the reverse as well. Small busted and wide hips? Floral top and a dark solid skirt will balance your proportions. I wear a lot of black...just a city thing I think. But I'm starting to get a lot more colorful these days, especially when I care more about looking "fun" than looking thinner. It's just a basic rule of thumb when it comes to dressing in one color.  I might add that, it doesn't have to be exactly the same shade, various shades of the same color can have similar effects. I don't even want to justify another item by reminding folks that the darker the color, the thinner you look...that's just given right?

Cuffed pants stunt our growth.
We don't need to eat badly for this to happen, we can wear cuffed pants, and it will happen instantly.  I will admit that I love the look, but in reality, the cuffs cut us right at the ankles. I am not tall enough to carry it, and "good-for-you" if you are five-feet-ten-inches or that case, please milk those cuffed pants to death. On the flip side, pants with a little flare like bootlegged jeans can make our hips look smaller. Straight legged pants are always more pleasing than tight fitted pencil pants. I don't need to write about leggings right or worse, jeggings.

Just a little final tidbit about the shoes.
Yeah, if you wear similar color shoes with your pants, you can get your legs a bit longer (granted that you're not wearing cuffed pants), but who really does that these days?

With all these points written and committed onto the WWW, I want to now recant everything. At the end of the day, none of these things really, really matter. But just in case there's a day where it might, I hope the information was useful.