Friday, August 29, 2008

What a Difference!

OMG... I am so in love with my new iron!

Talk about words I never thought I'd utter! Then again, I thought I hated ironing. Turns out, it was the crappy (cheap!) irons I've been using all these years that I've hated. With the right tool in hand, ironing is soooo easy and satisfying.

So I finally grit my teeth and spent way more than I ever though I would on an iron. This one (from

TFal Aquaspeed FV-5155, I love you!

It actually puts creases into things where I want them, and takes creases out of things where I don't want them, all without a lot of huffing and puffing and swearing on my part. And without hissing and spitting back and me and dripping water all over everywhere.


Stash Challenge Skirt #1

I pulled these fabrics from the closet while looking for what to make Mum's apron from. Nice enough, but not the sort of thing I look at and think "Oooh, I'd like to wear something made out of that!"

But the apron turned out well, and was so quick and easy to make (all straight lines), that I thought I'd play around with using the same basic approach and turn it into a skirt. This involved much scribbling on a notepad with tape measure and calculator in hand, to come up with this:

A) Width: waist + 1" for ease + 24" for pleats = circumference; divided by 2 = front/back width + 1/2" SA each side = widths to cut.

B) Piece front and back. Decide on a main panel length, then divvy up whatever length is left into however many smaller trim panels you have fabrics for to get the length you want.

Add SA to each panel, top and bottom, and add a little something extra on the bottom panel for the hem.

Make sure you cut the same panel widths front/back and stitch together in the same order (you think that's obvious, but the first thing I did was stitch the narrow mustard band to the wrong trim panel, duh! It was easier to just do the other side to match than take out the seam and start over, turned out just fine.)

Top stitch along panel seam lines as desired.

C) Sew up the sides, including a (lapped 7") zipper in one side seam.

I underlined the whole thing with cotton lawn, so it wouldn't be quite so flimsy, but you could skip this whole bit and just turn up a hem. I used one long piece of lining a few inches shorter than the skirt, and sewed into a tube leaving top of side seam open for zip. Sewed lining tube to skirt tube at bottom edges, turned right side out, lined up waist edges, and pressed bottom hem in place. Because skirt was longer than lining, the bottom skirt panel folded up inside for a neat hem.

D) Make the pleats (mine are 1" pleats 1" apart, six on each side starting 1.75" from center front and back).

E) Skip the ties, and just make a waistband: waist + 1" ease + 1" to 1-1/2" overlap if you're gonna use a button (I did) + SA = length to cut.

Desired waistband height x 2 + SA = width to cut. Once again I considered using interfacing and decided not to bother.

I discovered I've lost the buttonhole attachment for my sewing machine, so "freehanded" one: not gorgeous, but good enough. The original plan was to handstitch the lining opening along the zipper, but width worked out perfectly so those are selvedge edges and for now I'm skipping that step. If the lining gets caught in the zipper one day I'll tack it down, but doesn't seem to need it.

Someday when I've got something I really want to avoid doing, I'll write up better (more detailed) instructions for this.

Best part is I thought this would be a horribly unflattering style on me, but it's not bad at all. Or maybe I'm just more at peace with my middle-aged spread than I thought I was.

I'm calling this Stash Challenge Skirt #1 because I've got a lot more fabric in the stash... surely there are more garments hiding in there just waiting for me to discover them.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sewing Wish List

Here's what was on my sewing-related wish list as of yesterday morning:
~ really good offset-handle shears
~ a new (computerized) sewing machine
~ a serger
~ a dress form
~ more free time
~ a bigger house with a projects room big enough for sewing table, ironing board, TV, big closet, and lots of shelves

Guesstimated budget: $600-700K oughta do it

Today I added one more item : a new iron.

I've been researching online: sheesh, I had no idea there were so many too choose from. Looks like I'll have to spend $55-65 to get a decent one, but don't need to go higher. Have narrowed it down to two models:
~ Black&Decker D2030
~ TFal Aquaspeed FV5155

May be other good ones, but I've reached my tolerance for online small appliance comparison shopping.

Funny, most reviewer complaints about their old irons (the ones that died so they bought the new one they now love and are reviewing) are that they leaked and/or stopped heating. Mine has the opposite problems: discovered yesterday that if I turn it past "medium" (poly) it kicks up to a new heat not on the control panel: "incinerate." Have the scorch marks on the ironing board cover to prove it, narrowly missed destroying mom's apron project.

And now it produces no steam at all, argh (how that's possible while it's overheating and water reservoir is 3/4 full I have no idea). But steam function was always so lousy and leaky I used a spray bottle of water or a damp press cloth anyway, a total pain. Well, what did I expect for the $18 I spent for it at Walmart?

Now that I think of it, I remember standing in the iron aisle at Walmart thinking, "no way am I spending $49 on an iron." Well, I've changed that tune. The cheap one I ended up with was horrible.

In a funny way, I'm looking forward to getting a new/better iron. One that actually gets the wrinkles out of things. That would be a treat. Maybe ironing won't seem like such an awful chore if I have a good one with a nice glide-plate.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

An Apron for My Mom

My Mom’s birthday is coming up, and she loves handmade gifts. Which is often a pain in the you-know-what, and many years she has to make do with store-bought offerings from me. But I do enjoy making things, and this year I (gasp!) planned ahead and got a gift both started and finished before the last minute. Could be a first for me. (Now I just have to remember not to tell her about this blog until after Sept. 13th.)

The apron idea sprouted from the Tie One On “Summer Gingham” apron challenge. All the fabrics are from my stash, except for the gingham. “What gingham?” you ask. Well, it ended up on the back, as lining:

Yeah, not quite in the spirit of the challenge, but the only gingham I could find was icky 65/35 poly/cotton and very transparent, not the sort of thing you want to feature. Also, it’s a blah pale blue 1/8 inch check, so has no visual punch whatsoever. But, because I decided to piece the front, a lining on the flip side to hide seams and wrong-sides seemed like a good idea. And the gingham was fine for that.

The pattern is basically the one from Amy Butler’s “In Stitches” except that I pieced the front and lined the back, and veered rather significantly from the assembly instructions for putting the back and front together (her pattern doesn’t have a back) and doing the bottom edge (mine folds to the back). I also made the waistband and ties about an inch narrower. Next time I’ll interface the waistband. Maybe. I hate fussing with interfacing, so maybe I won’t. But it would be a good idea.

I thought doing the pleats would be a major pain, but they turned out to be easy. I made 1-inch pleats 1-1/4 inches apart, didn’t mark anything, just used pairs of same-color pins to mark which points to bring together:

I knew I'd discover a good use for those colored-head pins someday.
Here the pleats are basted in place (with the towel loop), but not yet pressed:

Hadn’t originally planned to use the hydrangea print at all, but I only had a half-yard of the blue vines (pocket and bottom fabric on the front) and that wasn’t enough to also make the waistband and ties.

I’m quite pleased with how it turned out. Almost wish I’d gone all out and made a skirt, which wouldn’t have been much more work. And I’m thrilled to have finally made something for my mom from the blue rose and teapot/plate prints! Those were both originally purchased with her in mind, and every time I’ve made an attempt to weed out the stash over the past, oh, 15 years or so, I’ve held onto them thinking, “Someday I’ll make something for my mom from those.”

I’m so astonished the day actually arrived, I might have to pinch myself.

The final triumph was getting the entire thing done -- from plunking down uncut fabric on the dining table and plugging the sewing machine in, to final “ta-dah!” moment -- in one afternoon session. May be the first time I’ve ever started something and not had it linger for a while in the UFO (UnFinished Objects) pile.

Total effort, start to finish: about 4.5 hours. That includes several time-eating mind-changes about fabric choice and placement.

Now I want an apron for myself. But I’m gonna hold off until I get some skirts made from my Amy Butler fabrics. Then I’ll make a gorgeous apron out of whatever’s left.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Pleasant Distractions

It's Sunday, which is supposed to be "get some sewing done" day (if I'm slacking, which means not using Sunday to inch my novel a little bit closer to done).

Instead, I'm blogging, and flipping through Amy Butler's "In Stitches" which I just picked up at the library. Gotta love that interlibrary loan program. I love her fabrics, and although most of the projects in the book aren't anything I've every going to make, it's fun to peruse and ponder. Why sit down and finish a project when you can spend those same minutes dreaming of new projects to start? ("Because..." roll eyes and make snarky comments about the size of the UFO pile).

The book has to go back to the library in a few weeks, so I've copied the instructions for the apron, reversible placemats/napkins set, and lounge pants. I could use an apron, and what a great idea for a gift for my mom! I have one of those moms who answers all "Anything you'd especially like for (XMAs, b'day, Mom's day, etc.)?" questions with the same answer:
"What I'd really like, dear, is something that you've made for me."

Which is fine, I'd rather make than shop, but since my to-do list is usually on the verge of explosion, and since I often don't plan far enough ahead for mom-related gift-giving situations, "something you make" is sometimes more than I can contemplate without groaning or sighing or rolling my eyes or all of the above.

But I've got time to whip up an apron before her b'day next month. Barely. I gotta figure that if it's a one-day project, it will take me a month of a few minutes here and there with long pauses between to get it done.

I'd better go start now...

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Parrokeet Peasant Skirt

I’m not sure what I had in mind when I bought a few yards of really bright parrokeet fabric in two colorways last year:

Oh, right: it was cheap. All fabric looks better when it's only 2.99 a yard.

Whatever the original plan was -- if there was a plan -- I couldn’t resist making a tiered peasant skirt from it. Just for fun. I wore peasant skirts back when I was in high school, the first time they were in. So this is a "memory lane" kind of project for me.

I mostly followed the instructions in Sew What!: Skirts. I suspect they are starting with a top tier that’s smaller than mine, judging by the miniscule size of the slim young thing in their picture. One full width of 44" was about right to go around me and have enough left over for seam allowances and still be able to trim the selvage off. I'm not thrilled about that, but hey, having to piece the width of the hip tier would have been worse, so that's one more thing to add to my "at least I'm not that tubby" list. I think I doubled the fabric for the second tier, then something less than double for the 3rd and 4th tiers, as I could see it was starting to get a little extravagant in the fullness department.

For elastic, I cut the band off an old Victoria's Secret stretch camisole top: you know, the kind with a shelf bra inside. The top was headed for the trash, but I realized the elastic (which is just a tad tighter than necessary around my ribs) was a nice comfy size for a low waist fit. There's some risk that the weight of the skirt might pull it a little lower than planned, but unless and until I loose at least 5 more pounds it will do.

I only did 4 tiers, aiming the hem at mid-calf rather than ankle, and alternating the red and blue background. Five tiers might be rather spectacular, although perhaps too much of a good thing. Bottom line is doing any more basting and gathering and pinning of all that fabric and I mght have lost my mind.

Close up, while sewing, I was more aware of the background color difference. Stepping away, what's most noticeable is the green of all that lovely foliage:

I gotta admit, it turned out better than I expected! I thought the cotton would be too stiff, and the lowest tier too full, but it's not. I'll get hubbie to take a pic of me wearing it one of these days, but he's out doing a post-office-and-health-food-store run at the moment.

I seriously thought, when I started this, that it was just for fun and would not be anything I'd ever wear outside the house... but I'm liking it. I even have cute red sandals to go with it. And if I ever need something to wear to a Cinco de Mayo party (assuming I'd go to one, which is unlikely), I'm covered.

Hmmm, I bet I’ve got enough fabric left to make a pair of lounge pants... for sure I'm not making anything else with any kind of a ruffle or tier for a while.

My Own Private Sweat Shop

I had some time last week and decided to make a test skirt from a basic pattern: straight skirt, above the knee, fitted at the waist with tapered side seams and front/back darts,. The waist and hip measurements (according to the pattern envelope) are right on target. I could tell you what size that is, but I don't want to.

This is as close to making a "sloper" as I'm willing to get at this point in my sewing career. What I'm hoping to come up with is a bare-bones basis for drafting a 6-gore trumpet skirt pattern. (I have several pieces of gorgeous Amy Butler fabric I'd like to make swishy skirts out of. Not willing to cut it up until I'm a little closer to knowing I'll end up with something that will be wearable.) Instead of muslin, my test skirt is made from an olive and purple calico (quilting cotton). Didn't take long to whip up the skirt (have I confessed yet to being a slap-dash seamstress?):

I prefer my skirts to have as little waistband as possible, so that's a narrow 3/8" band at the top, basically just there to hold the waist in place. I moved the opening to the side seam from the center back, but couldn't find anything in my extra-zippers stash that was remotely the right color or size, so I just turned under the edges. If I ever decide to wear this I can put in a zipper.

I have way too much of this fabric: at least six yards, maybe more like eight? I think I bought it (many years ago) to back a quilt that never got made. The pattern is a little busy for "muslin" use, and it has no drape whatsoever, but I might as well use it for something. Remember that scene in The Sound of Music where Julie Andrews makes clothes for all the kids out of draperies -- and it's way, way too many garments out of the same print? My closet's gonna look like that if I ever get around to testing all the various patterns I have lying around.

Come to think of it, I have a halter-top, full skirt, sundressy pattern somewhere that might be cute in this fabric... or would be cute on the skinny model flouncing around in a size 6 on the pattern envelope. Might not be so cute on me.

The real problem is that it's been raining off and on for the past few days (typical for Hilo) and when it's not raining the sun comes out and it's just so darn humid. So by the time I was done making my test skirt I was too sticky and damp to try it on.

Nothing like pressing seams with a steam iron on a summer day in the tropics to make you realize why they call it a "sweat shop." My next house I'm gonna have a projects room with A/C, even if I only use it a few weeks (or days) a year.