Monday, March 30, 2015

Spring Cleaning 2015 & Pattern Pattern Everywhere!

Keeping my room tidy was particularly difficult last year while studying full-time for my board exam. With barely enough free time for my projects, keeping the space clean became a low priority. Up until yesterday, I had the bulk of my stash sitting on every available table space so I could see everything. After a year of semi-neglect, and a lot more stash, quality time spent on organization was long overdue. I don't mean just sweeping the floors, dusting, and putting things away. I mean pulling everything out, and then re-sorting.

Up until this month, I had what I considered an average to low collection of patterns. I have been stumped with what to make because I had more fabric than actual pattern choices. I realize now that it should really be the reverse. 
These are my original pattern containers that I now have categorized by type. The left box is filled with dress patterns. The blue striped box on the right are separates, costumes, men's, and accessories (basically, all the other categories). Before yesterday, I had all my patterns crammed into this shelf space. It was a mess.
I found these IKEA storage boxes on my top shelf, and realized they were completely empty! Since these were solid, I made labels to help me sort them in the future. The lidded boxes made stacking a breeze, not to mention tidy.\The green box above is for jacket patterns, and the red box is for odd-sized patterns like my Folkwear, StyleArc, downloaded Burda, Eva Dress, and random Indie patterns. 

One of the really difficult things about using a lot of patterns is what to do with the patterns when I'm done. I would be interested in knowing what others are doing. I keep telling myself that I might use them again, and I think for patterns I really, really love, I should transfer them to tag board so they can be a part of my permanent collection. But that is a project I have not attempted, even though I have a small roll of tag board ready for use. My current used-pattern drawers are full. My next project is sorting through these and throwing out patterns I don't like.
These drawers are filled to the brim with used patterns.
Used patterns on top of those white drawers. It's difficult to store without folding them down to smaller pieces. 
I bought this gift wrap storage container on sale at Joanns, and it's long and wide enough to fit all those taped-together downloaded patterns. It's already mostly full, so I have to start throwing some of these patterns out. 

I repurposed my extra clear shoe boxes for storing notions a couple of years ago. But I didn't really do a good job sorting out all the notions into categories. Items were scattered across boxes, causing me to waste time digging through several boxes for items I needed. My zippers are now all in one box, bias binding in another, and so on...
Even after sorting and labeling each container, I think I could separate items out further. For example, I could go through the buttons and separate them out by size. I'll let you know if that happens.

Here's a picture of my more organized shelf. Even though it doesn't look less cluttered, everything is a lot more accessible. 
 Here's an example of narrowing down my notions to a specific category by task. I placed all my hemming supplies in a single bin. This included fusibles, lace, and any other task-specific tool. These are items I use really often, and spend lots of time looking for in bins.
Since purchasing my new Juki, having a convenient place for all the feet accessories was a problem. I like to use the extension table, and the storage space is in the regular pull-out table. I emptied everything, and placed all the feet in a small rubber container. Up until today, I had the feet scattered around the table, and inside the extension bin. 

My needs shift with my sewing skills. As I'm utilizing more complex sewing methods, my need to have tools scattered across different areas of my room become very important. I was worried about the number of scissors I owned, but now, they are just enough to have at every work station. I need some identical tools as well as project-specific ones. 
This art caddy was originally at my cutting table. I found that the deep and wide bins did not really hold all my cutting, marking, and measuring tools well. But it is a perfect caddy for my ironing station where my needed tools are taller and bulkier. The similar items are scissors, chalk and tape, but I have found that I like to do a lot of hand basting, collar or corner turning, as well as ironing. With everything organized mostly in the caddy, it makes it easier to move it around the ironing board. I replaced the pink caddy with this popular desk organizer.
I opted for this little spinning number over the art-specific ones because I don't need to store markers. I prefer having more tiny trays for the small, hard-to-store tools. I use lots of clips to hold pattern pieces for example. I also like various chalk and marking pens visible.
This is another view of my spinning tray. I remember donating this very item a few years back before I started sewing again because I found it cluttered up my office desk. I am not suggesting that we should keep everything we own. But many office supplies I used to own could be great storage now. 

Another item that I never regretted buying was a simple tall basket from TJ Maxx to hold all my rolls of fabric, paper, and miscellaneous vertical supplies. This bin keeps all these items in one corner without tipping over, and the bottoms clean from dust.
My IKEA shelves got a slight adjustment after repeatedly digging around for my interfacing, lining, and muslin fabrics. I decided once and for all that I needed to have all these items visible, and roughly organized at all times. I use some bit of these materials for every sewing project. I took a shelf out of the top, and moved it into the open shelf section where its at arms reach. 
By eliminating one of the top shelves, I created more room for thicker and bulkier fabric inside the top cupboard. The third shelf was often too high for me to see or organize the stash. It ended up being a space I rarely used.
I store my most frequently used knits and cottons here. Here's a picture of the cabinet now.
A few feet away from my sewing studio, in the second and bigger half of the barn sits a china cabinet. I sold the matching table and chairs during one of my many moves, but no one wanted the cabinet. My don't have room for it now, so it's been relegated to storage. With its glass doors, it's a perfect storage unit for some of my fabric stash. I've still got more stash that's hidden under tables around my sewing studio. I don't judge either...

My sewing area is an ongoing organization project. The re-sorting of thread, bobbins, and re-tidying of the tools tray which houses everything I need for the machines will never end. If I do not clean regularly...usually after every sewing project, I find it difficult to be efficient. Here is what my table looks like as of today. It might look different next week!
This sewing table is crowded! If I had a choice, I would love to have about a foot more space between each machine. My sister visited this week, and we shared this sewing space. Let's just say, we bumped into each other a lot. Behind the three major machines are two backup machines in the far corner. They are there because I don't have any other place to store them. But I'm considering relocating them into one of the shelves as soon as I sew some of my stash down. That might not happen for a while...or never. My stash tend to multiply and grow with very little effort. I need stash contraceptives...

If you want to see how much more stuff I have now compared to before...check out my previous blog entry on my sewing room re-org in April 2013 HERE. It's two years...and much fabric shopping, including trips to Asia later, I'm still busting at the seams. This little Spring cleaning took me nearly six hours. But I did it leisurely, and enjoyed every minute of it. Happy sewing!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Knitted Six-Point Tee - A Not-So-Spring Sweater

This was a super easy and very well-written knit pattern by Cathy Carron. I read from another reviewer on Ravelry that it only took her three days to complete the project. I'm a slow knitter, so it took me closer to two weeks. This was also my first top-down knit sweater. Surprisingly, I didn't make any mistakes! I was attracted to this pattern because I'm going through a Raglan sleeve phase. I also thought this design had a bit of Asian flare.

If you are interested in the pattern, you can get it HERE on Ravelry. I used the exact same yarn that the author recommended. It's a bulky cotton Rowan Yarn which might be discontinued now. I ordered my supply from an online store in the UK called Deramones. I don't know if I can wear this in a California Spring. The weight of the sweater felt suffocating. Even though I really love the design, I dislike wearing the yarn. I might make it again using wool.

I considered making a matching skirt, but gave up the idea because the only style I felt would work was some sort of ballerina-esque, gathered full skirt in light cotton. Wouldn't that look just fabulous? Except for one thing...I look horrible in gathered, pleated, or dirndl skirts. They all make me look 20 pounds heavier. So for now, it's going to sit indefinitely on my sweater shelf. Sigh.

Here are photos of the sweater in Interweave's Knit Wear, where the original pattern was published. The little eyelets on my sweater were smaller. I think my tension ended up tighter even though I tested the gauge beforehand. Don't you think the sample sweater looks much lighter?

Happy knitting!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Rowe's Tunic Dress - StyleArc

Northern California weather is erratic. We can switch between wearing flip flops and fleece-lined shoes in the same week. The only thing we don't wear these days are rain boots. This teeter tottering of temperature (ranging from freezing to 75 degrees fahrenheit) has allowed me to sew garments covering three seasons: late Winter, Spring, and early Summer.

This new dress is another StyleArc number. I didn't bother with a muslin (tricky I know), especially since the last pant pattern came out a couple sizes too small. It's not really the fault of the pattern or designer. It was my choice to not use the recommended stretch fabrics and thus lose all the ease. I'll report on those pants a little later.

So here's the pattern... It doesn't look like a lot of ease, and my fabric of choice doesn't have a lot of stretch... But I am darn set on using it.

Now look at my dress... It came out pretty close to the pattern style, and this is after I added quite a bit of ease to the dress (see bottom pictures for pattern adjustments).

I used a combination of four types of fabric: a lovely fleece meshed lace...yes, you heard me correctly. Let me repeat: fleece meshed with lace! It is freaking gorgeous. There's some stretch, but not nearly as much as a jersey. For the sleeve and neck and arm trim, I used a silver-speckled stretch cotton I picked up at Gorgeous Fabrics. The other fabric can't be seen until I turn the dress around to the back.

No...this is not the front, although, in a pinch, I guess it could's the back with a silk organza backed ivory lace insert (another Gorgeous Fabrics find). The back image is a little wonky... Here's a close-up.

When a pattern says it wants a stretch fabric it means using a semi-woven isn't going to work...elementary. I knew this going into the project, but trying to figure out the exact ease is a bit tricky. All I can say is measure, measure, measure! Treating this fleece like a woven was best, but it's really bulky.  I decided two inches for bulk, and then another three inches in the front piece for my tummy. I know it sounds like a lot, but we're converting a fit for jersey into a thick woven fabric here.

Here's how I modified the pattern... I added side ease, and then the front panel.

Creating ease in the front might have turned it into an A-line...I was a bit worried about that. I took the lazy route and decided against making any drastic style changed to the neck line or side seams by slashing up to the very edge of the neckline, but not cutting it through. This is a common slash and spread method for creating A-line styles. But I didn't do it to the back, since my weight sits in the front. I knew the bulkiness of the fabric was going to hide any issues. Perhaps this was not the best design choice, and adding more to the side seams would have been best...but I still wanted a semi-fitted look.

If anyone else decides to make a change to side seams, make sure you "true" any changes by matching the sides against each other.
See here...

Stack the two paper pattern pieces together as if you were going to pin them for sewing, and match the edges. This is how you true patterns. This a pretty vital step that I have forgotten to do in the past when I'm altering patterns. I have started "trueing" all my patterns these days, whether I make changes or not. I have found that errors abound and it's better to know beforehand that piece A is not matched up to piece B. I recently had this happen with a collar. It's a painful realization.

For once I had a lot of fabric choices for this pattern. I don't condone buying fabric unnecessarily...I mean, just buying on a whim without a project in mind. It can be a waste of money...but I know we ALL do it right? As embarrassed as I am as of late of my stash size, I love going into it and finding gems to create something unique. Sigh...

Happy sewing!

Monday, March 9, 2015

My $200 Sweatshirt

You're probably wondering why this simple velour top costs $200. You see...when I finished sewing the main pieces, I decided I wanted some bias binding for the neck, and I was too impatient to make my own using the same fabric, especially since it curled like no one's business. This meant I would need to use fusible interfacing to control the curl before I could measure and create the binding. It was entirely too much work for a little neckline. Soooo....long story short, I set out to order some binding online. In case you're wondering, I have not been able to find a source for velour or velvet binding in the US.

After a couple of Google searches, McCulloch and Wallis, a fabric store from the UK popped up. They were having a blowout sale on trim because they're moving shop, and I went a little nuts when I realized the sale binding was about 25 cents a meter. Six Kilos later, I forgot how much shipping could run after the exchange rate. I think the shipping was actually more than the cost of the binding. Shush...don't tell my husband. I could have NOT ordered it, but they didn't quote my shipping cost at checkout. So I was clueless. (Yoda voice), emailed they did...two days later. Shocked by the cost was I.

The irony of course is that the binding was not even a close match. But it's passable I guess.
I know...after looking at all this money spent, I could have gone out and bought all kinds of fabric to make this binding. Well...yes and no. Yes...yes...yes...I could have. But in reality, probably wouldn't have unless I was under some major sewing pressure. It's not my favorite project. I rather cut corners here than in the actual sewing. So what did I get for all that money (mostly the cost of shipping)? Here's my smorgasbord of trim...satins, linens, cottons, velvets, velour, polyester, organza, and other stuff mixed in for good measure... There are several hundred meters of delectable trim here.
A mixture of bias binding, zippers, and lacy elastics (for future knickers project).
Pretty binding from China...not silk, but it's okay. 
Close-up of my grab-bag binding. 
Oh...I almost forgot. I used a McCall's Pattern for the sweatshirt, which was really a t-shirt with narrow sleeves, and fairly fitted. Of course I butchered the pattern, because I wanted shorter true raglan sleeves, and a looser fit. See the pattern...

Even though my rendition looks nothing like it...I made the model's version E, sans the cuff and neck trim. 
Onto other stuff...

You know that bit that Ellen Degeneres does on her show about Epic or Fail home videos? Today I'm showing two sewing room gadgets...



My bobbins always run matter how much time I spend winding up the threads back and popping them into the bobbin box, nothing helps. This little bobbin gadget solves two problems...matching my thread and keeping these little guys intact. I bought them from Sewing Machine Plus Online when I picked up some extra feet for my new Juki F600. They are very reasonably priced. You can also get a pack of 18 for $7.95 from Amazon on Prime (free shipping if you're a Prime member). See them HERE.



This is the Sidewinder...another bobbin-related gadget. The spring broke off after one use. I repaired it, and then it snapped off at record speed across the room. It's hard to believe the whole machine's usability is based on a wire the size of a paper clip. This piece of plastic costs $30 at Joann's. I got it cheaper with a coupon, and lost the receipt so I couldn't return it. I could have gotten four spools of thread for what I wasted on this. Someone recommend me one that works...please! Don't write me and say..."I have a SideWinder and it works great." That will just make me hate this one more. Maybe it was produced on a Friday or a Monday...whatever day, it was junk.

Happy sewing!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Winter Into Spring Wear Tunic

Fabric from FABMO. An unknown taupe wool-tweed blend, with tiny pastel specks.
I picked up this five-yard piece at a sale last year for $20. Bargain.
After weeks of sitting close to 70-degrees (fahrenheit), we suddenly dropped down to freezing and even had a day of blessed rain. The cold spell incentified me into sewing something warm.

At a quick glance, this Vogue pattern looked like any standard tunic. But it is far from a Plain Jane top. I was originally attracted to its design because it had a similar smock feel that I fancy so much from my Japanese pattern books. As I moved through the sewing steps, I started to realize this tunic was filled with many design details seldom found in Very Easy labeled sewing patterns. Don't let the few pattern pieces fool you. I wouldn't recommend this project to a beginner.

I morphed the short sleeve with the collar because I wanted to wear it over blouses and shirts, almost like a light wool jacket.

Wool tweed is often itchy, and this blend was no exception. To combat this, I added some really soft polyester charmeuse that I picked up ages ago at Stone Mountain onto the collar facing, and part of the neck opening. It's a nice contrast if I decide to open the collar.

The fabric was extremely thin and slippery. I used Colette's recommendation by spraying some Sullivan's Fabric Stabilizer to stiffen the facing. You can read her article HERE.

I bought three bottles of Sullivan's for silk projects but have been too scared to use it. I am glad I tested it out on the polyester silk. It worked like a charm. I also fused woven interfacing to add more bulk.

Here's the tunic with an open collar...

The pockets were a bit of a pain to sew, not because they're tricky, but because the fabric was difficult to pre-crease. Creating a mitered corner was challenging. I almost gave up, but glad that I persevered, because the pockets are super cute and useful. The other two design details include the back dart, and the curved hem.

The dart looks so basic, but after it was stitched, I thought it was elegant on such a simple design.

The curved hem could be tricky, and since the front pockets were such a bear to tackle, I feared a smooth hem. The instructions said to do a double fold narrow hem. Instead, I used a technique I learned while sewing the curved Kimono sleeve on my Satsuki Dress from Victory Patterns.

To accomplish a smooth curved hem, it's best to stitch a longer straight stitch halfway between the final hem mark and the edge of the fabric. So if your hem is one inch, then stitch a straight stitch around the curve at half an inch. I tied one end of the stitch and then created a gentle ruffle around the curve. This allowed me to ease the fabric into the curve without any bulk, similar to easing a sleeve into the armhole. It's really a lot faster this way, especially with unruly fabric.

The last bit were the closures for the collar. I think adding a bold decorative button could be used here, but the snap (which were recommended in the instructions) left a cleaner look. I don't know about other sewists but I've always had difficulty making sure the second half of the snap matched up to the first stitched half. I figured out a quick-and-easy method by using tailor's chalk.

1. Stitch the first half of the snap at your preferred location.
2. Then snap the second half of the snap onto your stitched half.
3. Rub some chalk on the second half of the snap, and then carefully close the opening. The chalk mark should now be on the other side of where your other half of the snap should be sewn. See pics...

Rub the chalk generously over the second half of the snap.

Make sure you push down with some pressure to transfer the chalk to the fabric. 
It's not a strong chalk mark, but good enough for placement. It might not work with all fabrics,
so consider using different colors as well. 
Voila! All snapped in for the rest of Winter and hopefully into a lovely wet Spring! Happy sewing!