Sewing Organization

Sewing organization  - csews.com

I didn’t participate in Bimble & Pimple’s Sewvember Challenge – post a sewing photo every day in November – but after seeing all the photos on Instagram (#bpSewvember), I was inspired to organize my notions, fabric, and related books. (Plus I had the additional incentive of the hubster was complaining (a lot) about the fabric: “It’s everywhere! You have to do something!”)

OK, I admit there were about a couple of fabric piles in the bedroom – sitting on top of some large clear plastic tubs, which were full of fabric, my notions were also crowded in couple of small carts, and my patterns needed some organization. It was starting to get messy but really, it wasn’t as bad as the hubby made it seem. The challenge was how to find more space in our cramped apartment. And that’s partly why I procrastinated doing anything.

I don’t have a sewing room (if only!) and nearly all of the wall space was already taken up by bookshelves. The hubster is an avid reader and book collector. His books fill more than a dozen bookcases (really!). I have a few bookshelves, too but nowhere near as many as he does. So I decided I needed the following:

  • a freestanding shelving unit of some sort to store some fabric and other sewing items
  • a place for my sewing and fashion books
  • another rolling cart for notions or sewing projects
  • more plastic storage bins for fabric
  • something to store patterns

I searched “shevling unit” on Ikea‘s website a few times, trying to find something that didn’t cost too much, wasn’t too wide, and didn’t necessarily need a wall to rest against. The website can be a bit overwhelming – too many search  results – so I popped over to the store in Emeryville to see what some of them look like in person and decided to get the Vittsjo shelving unit ($49), which has four shelves with a lot of space between the shelves. I thought they would be good for storing containers of fabric and other stuff. It looks like this after you put it together (yes, like most Ikea furniture, assembly required.)

Ikea Vittsjo shelving unit - sewing storage - csews.com

It was freestanding on Ikea’s floor display but it does come with something to attach to the wall at the top. Maybe I’ll use some bungee cords to attach it to the desk. I wouldn’t want it to topple over in an earthquake.

It’s nearly 69 (175 cm) inches tall with metal supports and three glass shelves in the middle, the top and bottom shelves are wood. As you can see, it’s not very wide (about 20 inches/51 cm) or deep (14 inches/36 cm), which was exactly what I needed. It had to squeeze in next to my desk in the bedroom and not block the television.

Here’s a shot of it in the bedroom, right next to the bed. You can’t see my desk because it’s right behind the Vittsjo shelves. My back was against another bookshelf behind me so this is as far back as I could get to shoot it. You can’t see the bottom shelf.

The two larger clear bins (fabric inside!) that you see on the two middle shelves are the deep sweater box from the Container store (dimensions: 15 5/8″ x 13 1/8″ x 13 1/4″ h).  These boxes aren’t very wide but you can fit a lot in them if you neatly fold your fabric. My larger bins of fabric are on the other side of the bed.

Sewing storage - Ikea shelf

I discovered that I could fit several of my smaller plastic containers next to the fabric boxes. This is the side view.

Ikea shelves - Vittsjo - side view - csews.com

Some of my notions are in the small plastic boxes, which had formerly been piled on top of my rolling carts in the dining area.

Containers on shelves - csews.com

It’s nice to have them out of the way.

Next, I wandered around Target to see what they had and found what they call a small three-shelf organizer – really a small, skinny, cheaply made bookcase ($21.49, assembly required). Part of Target’s “Room Essentials” line of products, it’s made out of that heavy pressed board stuff, except for the back, which is actually a flimsy piece of black cardboard(!). I got it because it fit in the space – on top of a small chest near another bookcase and left enough room to put another stack of books in front of it.

Sewing book case - csews.com

I got a purple fabric bin ($6) at Target, which sits on top of this skinny bookcase. The bins are also part of the Room Essentials line; they fit inside of various shelving units. I put sewing magazines and more books in it. They are made of polypropylene textile, which is a very lightweight, nonwoven fabric. (A lot of promotional tote bags are made from this fabric.)

Sewing books and magazines - csews.com

Moving onto our dining area of the apartment where I have a row of small Sterilite rolling carts. I  already had two and I needed another three-drawer one, which I got at Target for $12.99. It’s the one on the left, which is now full of fabric and project stuff.

Rolling carts - notions - csews.com

These carts are lined up against our dining room table, which is essentially my sewing table. We don’t eat there. 😉

I’ve got three short carts, including one 5-drawer one. which has thread in zip lock bags, fusible bias stay tape, fray check, and other notions in the shallow drawers and fabric paint, glue and other things in the deep bottom drawer.

Notions in rolling cart - csews.com

On top of this cart, I’ve put this three-drawer organizer ($8.99), which I also got at Target that day. I’ve got bias tape and seam tape in the top drawer and zippers in the other two.

3-drawer storage - Bias tape and zippers - csews.com

On top of the three-drawer cart on the right, I’ve put a fabric file box I got on sale at the Container store earlier this year. I put several sewing patterns (vintage, indie patterns, patterns I’ve traced, and tracing paper) in it.

To the right of my small carts, you can see a tall, 8-drawer storage cart, which I got for $57 last year from Office Depot. At the time, it was cheaper than other multi-drawer carts I saw. I like it because the bottom two drawers are deep and the rest are shallow. This cart is now $74.89.

Here’s a closer shot of it. As you can see, it leans slightly to the left. I don’t know why it’s doing that. I moved some of the heavier stuff to the bottom drawer to see if that would make a difference but no. Oh, well, it still does a good job storing stuff.

8-drawer cart - notions - csews.com

I went through it and reorganized the drawers – tape measures, marking pens, sewing machine needles, hand sewing needles, scissors, etc.

8-drawer cart - notions - csews.com

And that’s my current sewing organization. Now I feel ready for sewing in the New Year. How do you store and organize your sewing stuff?

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Help! I Need a New Sewing Machine!

Kenmore sewing machine - csews.com

This Kenmore has been my trusty sewing machine since 2009. It’s nothing fancy (no electronic programmable anything) but it’s done a nice job on the things I’ve made. When I got it, I was just getting back into sewing after years of not sewing. This machine cost less than $200 on sale. I’ve been meaning to get a higher quality machine for a while. And now that the timing is off on this one (more on that below), it’s finally time to get a new sewing machine. But what should I get?

I know that the biggest complaints some people have about today’s machines are that most of the parts are plastic and new machines aren’t as good as older models, which have mostly metal parts. So I’m wondering if there is such a thing as a quality new machine that’s built to last.

What am I looking for in a machine? Well, I’m an intermediate sewer and I want something that can handle different fabric weights, make nice buttonholes, and sew an invisible zipper. I don’t need any electronic embroidery functions. If I’m going to embroider, I prefer doing it by hand. And I don’t need something that can do a million different stitches and tell me that I’m threading the machine incorrectly. I’m really just interested in sewing to make clothes and crafty things. I don’t think I want to quilt either. I’m willing to spend up to $1,000.

Consumer Reports did a nice sewing machine buying guide last fall. If you click on page 4, you’ll find a nice summary of the top brands, which I’ll quote here:

Brother International is one of the leading manufacturers, with a market share of 29 percent of home sewing machines. The company offers basic to top-of-the line combination sewing and embroidery machines. Models are high tech with multiple functions and advanced technology, yet easy to use. Models are available through www.brother.com and a network of independent dealers and mass merchants.

Husqvarna Viking is one of the leading manufacturers of high-tech electronic and computerized sewing machines. The sewing machines are developed and manufactured in Sweden. The company recently launched Designer Diamond, which is the newest addition to their high-end full service computerized line of sewing and embroidery machines. The Designer Diamond and others are available at Husqvarna Viking full-service dealers.

Janome America is one of the top manufacturers of more-advanced and innovative sewing machines. Janome offers electronic and computerized models from entry level to the high end. Its most advanced computerized sewing and embroidery machine to date is the Memory Craft 11000, which has patented stepping-motor technology and computer software.

Kenmore (Sears) is a leading supplier of sewing machines. Kenmore offers a variety of mid- to low-end multifunction models that are available exclusively at Sears and Kmart.

Singer is the leading brand of sewing machines, with more than 43 percent of sales. Singer offers a variety of models with style and features for beginners to proficient sewers. Models are available at specialty stores, mass merchants including Target, Walmart, Kmart, and other national retailers.

However, you can’t access actual reviews of machines unless you subscribe to the magazine. I really not interested in subscribing to Consumer Reports.

Pattern Review has sewing machine reviews as well as a page that lets you search the reviews by selecting the features you want in a machine. Then you can see all the reviews within your price range. Nice feature but it doesn’t sort the search results by year so you don’t know how old the reviews are unless you click on each one individually. Grrrr. Some reviews are several years old so it’s likely those models are no longer being sold. Not very helpful.

Some folks really like Janome so I popped over to the Janome website and saw plenty of higher end machines as well as the “no-frills”  Memory Craft 6300 for quilting and sewing, which as 63 stitches. I found a Janome Memory Craft 6300P on Overstock.com on sale for $1,199 and free shipping. I have no idea what’s the difference between the 6300 and the 6300P – maybe it’s just age, the “P” is older and no longer being made? Overstock also has the Janome Sewist 500, 40 percent off at $299. I would say that this model is tempting because of the price and because it doesn’t have a thousand stitches. It has 25. I doubt I’d even use half of them anyway. How many stitches do you really need?

What attracts me to Janome is the invisible zipper foot. It just looks so much easier to install an invisible zipper with that foot. I ordered online a so-called invisible zipper foot for my Kenmore but now I realize that it was the wrong type of foot. So I just gave up on getting a proper foot and used a regular zipper foot, which is a tricky bit of sewing. (BTW – I found a video on Janome’s site on installing a concealed zipper.)

Well, that’s about all the searching I’m going to do today. If you have any suggestions on what machines I should consider and where I should go to buy one (Joann’s? Overstock.com? Walmart? Costco? local dealer?), please let me know. If you are using a machine you really like, let me know the brand and model.

Oh, and finally, back to my Kenmore machine – well, I bought a service agreement when I got the machine in 2009. It expired in 2012 and I didn’t renew it (bad me!). Over the past year, I’ve been a careless sewer – yes, sewing over pins and breaking a needle or two. I could tell over the summer that things were getting slightly off when my buttonholes got really crappy. Then when I was sewing some double-faced fleece over the holidays I was sort of forcing it through the feed dog. So I switched to a walking foot, thinking that would help – uh, too late – timing was off. On the next stitch the needle hit the metal thing that the bobbin case sits in. And yes, I did check that the needle was all the way in and the bobbin case was properly seated.

I know fixing timing can be expensive so I called Sears to see if I could renew my protection agreement after it expired. I was told that I could get another two years for about $89. This means I can get it repaired and not have to pay anything more – the catch is that I have to wait 30 days before I can bring it in for service. Thirty days! (sigh)

So that’s why I’m looking for a new machine. And then my Kenmore will be my backup machine – because we all need backup, right?

2013 – A Year of Sewing Firsts

Thanks to Gillian of Crafting a Rainbow for spurring me and many others to look back at this past year. One thing I realized is that 2013 was a year of sewing firsts for me. So here’s a brief rundown of the “firsts” in chronological order.

I entered my first sewing contest in February – the BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern contest. You had to make something from the book BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern and post photos to your BurdaStyle profile. I made the Elizabeth Gathered-Waist Dress and a crinoline with the following adjustments: changed the neckline from square neck to boat neck, lined the bodice (first tine I lined a bodice!), added bra strap holders at shoulders. I posted about making the dress but never actually posted this photo on my blog. So here it is.

To my great surprise I was selected as one of 20 finalists. I didn’t win but it was exciting to be a finalist. (You can see more photos on my BurdaStyle Project page here.)

I participated in my first sewalong last June – making the Hummingbird peplum top by Cake Patterns and sewing by first neck and sleeve binding using knit fabric (link to pattern here). I liked the pattern so much I made three tops: solid blue, solid red, and my favorite, black-and-white striped version with binding cut on the bias.

Striped h-bird - standing

It was so much fun participating in the Hummingbird sewalong, I joined in the Fall for Cotton Sewalong hosted by Rochelle of Lucky Lucille and Tasha of By Gum By Golly, and made my first Decades of Style pattern, the 1940s Girl Friday Blouse, a bit of a challenge with three collars and a side invisible zipper.

1940s Girl Friday blouse - Decades of Style pattern

You can see more photos in the post My Fall for Cotton 1940s Girl Friday Blouse Is Finished!

This year was the first time I sewed with chevron fabric – which I discovered was not quite the same as sewing stripes (heheh). I made my Chevron Red Velvet Dress, when I participated in Cake Patterns Red Velvet Knit Dress sewalong (pattern link here).

Red Velvet Knit Dress - Cake Patterns - csews.com

And finally, I made the Emery Dress, a Christine Haynes pattern, and did my first small bust adjustment and my first wide shoulder adjustment using the tutorials she provided with her Emery Dress Sewalong.

Emery Dress - photo - sewn by Chuleenan of csews.com - Christine Haynes sewing pattern

And coincidentally, these “firsts” are also my top five. Happy New Year! Do you have any sewing resolutions for 2014?

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Cutting Chevron Knit Fabric and Matching Chevrons

Red Velvet Knit Dress - Cake Patterns - csews.com

The biggest challenge in making this dress from the Red Velvet Knit Dress Pattern (a lovely Cake Patterns design) was preparing the fabric for cutting and sewing. So here’s my promised rundown of my experience cutting chevron knit fabric and matching chevrons along the side seams. (You can see more photos of the dress and read about the Red Velvet sewalong in the post “My Chevron Red Velvet Dress.”)

This was my first time sewing chevrons so I don’t think I can call this a tutorial. But hopefully you can learn something from my experience. And hey, I’ve got plenty of photos of my side seams, which I’m really proud of. So excuse me as I insert one here of the bodice side seam. 😉

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric - csews.com

This chevron fabric is a rayon jersey by Ella Moss, which I got from Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley. The bodice fabric has chevrons that are about a 1/2 inch wide (about 1.3 cm for you metric folks) and each chevron from point to point is about 3 inches (7.6 cm) tall – with a really steep angle. The skirt’s larger chevrons are about 2 inches (5 cm) wide and each chevron is about 7 inches (17.75 cm) tall. I liked the contrast of having a larger print on the bottom.

I assumed when I got the fabric that it would be similar to sewing stripes. Hahahaha. Well, if your chevrons are shallow and the angle of the chevrons is 45 degrees, it probably is a lot more like sewing stripes. For example, the chevrons on this cotton jersey from Girl Charlee Fabrics are probably a little easier to sew than my fabric. The chevrons on this cotton knit are about 2 inches tall.

Chevron knit fabric - Girl Charlee Fabrics

Meanwhile, I’m approaching my fabric’s chevrons like they’re stripes. Before I began cutting I read a really great tutorial on matching stripes on a knit fabric on Sewholic’s site here. So I began preparing the bodice fabric according to her striped knit fabric instructions.

I folded my fabric in half. I knew I wanted the apex of my chevron to be in the exact center so I folded it right in the middle. The fabric seemed a bit clingy after I prewashed and dried it (yes, I put it in the dryer on low to ensure it wouldn’t shrink any further but I’ll air dry now that it’s completed). This cling factor was both good and bad – good because the fabric didn’t move much once I folded it but bad because it was hard to smooth it out the ripples to line up the chevrons.

I pinned through both sides of my folded fabric, placing my pin alongside a chevron. I did this every couple of chevrons. Luckily I could see through to the other side of the fabric (yay for black and white!) so it wasn’t too hard to line up. But it took a long time to get those edges to match because this is a stretchy knit. I discovered I could gently pat the fabric to get the chevrons to line up – patting it in whatever direction it needed to go.

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric - csews.com

Then I flipped over my fabric to check the match – you can (sort of ) see the two pins near the fold. The apex of the chevron is on the fold.

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric - csews.com

I think it took me about an hour and a half to do the front and back bodice. Really! (At this point in the sewalong, most folks had already started sewing and I hadn’t cut anything yet!)

After pinning the chevrons, I placed and pinned my front bodice pattern piece on the fabric. My midriff piece was a solid black rayon and I wanted the tip of the black chevron to look like it was coming out of the black. So that’s what determined where I would place the bottom of the bodice. This pattern uses 1/2-inch seam allowances so I just made sure to add that amount.

When I cut the fabric, I left the pins in place unless they were in the way of my scissors. Here’s the front bodice (note: I added about 3 inches to the bottom of my bodice – you can sort of see the faint line I drew below the bodice, which is where I cut it).

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric - csews.com

Here’s the back bodice – you can see the pins are still in the fabric. I didn’t remove the pins until I was ready to sew.

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric - csews.com

The Mistake

I cut the front and the back bodice pieces separately. I had stripes (not chevrons!) on the brain and I just assumed that if I cut each piece with the chevron in centered on the fold and cut the bottom in the same place that everything would be fine. Uh, no. That would work only if the front and back pieces were the exact same width and everything was perfectly cut. But the front bodice piece has pleats so it’s wider than the back. Duh. Somehow I wasn’t paying attention to this detail.

I also needed to pay attention to where the seam line would go on the fabric. But I totally forgot about how I would match the side seams. If you want your seam to be at the apex of the chevron, then you need to make sure you place your pattern so that the seam line will go right down the middle of the chevron. So centering the pattern piece on the fold isn’t as important as paying attention to the side seams. Have your seam gauge in hand to ensure that you’ve got the right seam allowance.

Here’s what I saw when put the front and back pieces together so the chevrons would line up. Grrrrrrr.

Red Velvet side seam - csews.com

To get the pieces to line up perfectly, I should have cut one bodice piece, put it on top of the fabric, aligning the chevrons of the cut piece and the fabric. Then I could mark the side seams on the fabric so they would match.

I panicked for a moment wondering if I needed to run to the fabric store and buy some more fabric. But then I took a breath, and pinned and basted the side seams. Thanks again to Katie of Kadiddlehopper for the advice and reassurance on Instagram (her IG handle is @kid_md, mine is @csews)!

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric - csews.com

Then I basted the midriff pieces together, pinned the bodice to the midriff and adjusted the width of my pleats to compensate for the side seam change.

I removed all the pins after I basted. Then I tried on the bodice. It still fit! Here’s the photo I posted on Instagram (@csews is my handle there) of the basted bodice. (Excuse the dirty bathroom mirror!)

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric - csews.com

And basting this short side seam was good practice for the skirt. I basted down the exact middle of the chevrons. Basting is an absolute must if you want to match your pattern. After I basted, I checked the seam to make sure I wasn’t off anywhere and then I sewed my side seams.

Because I had such a tiny seam allowance, I decided to leave my seam unfinished (I don’t have a serger) but I wanted to make sure I had a strong side seam so I used the ugly straight stretch stitch on my machine. The stretch stitch goes over each stitch three times. Here’s that side seam.

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric - csews.com

Here’s my bodice side seam from the wrong side…

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric - csews.com

and here it is from the right side. You can’t really tell where it is, can you? Well, it’s where the apex is slightly shorter than the two chevrons next to it (third chevron from the left). So I was slightly off but you can’t really tell because the chevrons are the same width so it all blends in!

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric - csews.com

So what about the shoulder seam? Well, I decided to forgo any attempt at matching the chevrons at the shoulder. I decided I would just let it be whatever it was. Plus I wasn’t sure if it was even possible to match anything there.

Here’s what the shoulder seam looks like:

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric - csews.com

Nothing matches but it’s fine with me. I’m side-seam obsessed anyway.

Now for the skirt – big chevrons! For this pin job, I put pins at the apex of the chevrons. You can see how the fabric isn’t quite flat. I spent at more than two hours (two!), getting the first skirt piece to line up and lay flat. I began one evening and then had to stop and go to bed and then the following day got back to it after I got home from work. I had no idea the large chevrons would take longer to prepare than the small ones.

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric - csews.com

The great thing about the Red Velvet pattern is that you use the same pattern piece for the front and back of the skirt. Perfect for matching! Cutting the back was so much easier! By this time, I realized that all I had to do was lay the first piece down on my fabric and make sure the chevrons at the sides top, and bottom matched. If there were wrinkles in the middle, I left them. It was only important for the first piece so there wouldn’t be any distortion.

Here’s my first skirt piece. I lengthened it by several inches as you can see below. The pattern piece has a curving bottom to allow for the pleats at the top of the skirt.

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric - csews.com

Now’s a good time to show the line drawing of the Red Velvet pattern so you can see what I mean. I used a box pleat on my dress.
Red Velvet Knit Dress - Cake Patterns

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After I cut the first skirt piece out, I opened it up and put it on top of the fabric, pinning and lining up the chevrons. I didn’t use as many pins here, most of them were near the edges (top, bottom, and sides). My table wasn’t as wide as the fabric opened up so I moved it over to cut.

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric - csews.com

Then I pinned and basted through the apex – notice that I needed to come in a bit in the hip area and down the sides so I could place my seam in the middle of the apex. Lucky for me Cake Patterns are drafted with zero ease so I could come in a half-inch on both sides and the skirt would still fit.

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric - csews.com

After I checked and adjusted my basting, I trimmed the excess so I would have a 1/2-inch seam allowance.

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric - csews.com

Then I sewed and finished my side seam…

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric - csews.com

and got this!

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric - csews.com

Yay!!!!!

Then I attached the midriff piece to the skirt, adjusting the front pleat to fit. Here’s a close up of the front with the bust pleats and front skirt box pleat. See how the black chevrons emerge from the black midriff band?

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric - csews.com

And here’s another side seam view. The bodice and skirt look like one piece, don’t they?

Red Velvet Dress - csews.com

One last thing – I used white thread at the hem and then I used a Sharpie on the white thread on the black chevrons. Thanks to Staci (@arubyrosebud on Instagram) for mentioning the Sharpie to me earlier this month. And thanks also to the folks who voted that I use a Sharpie when I posed the question on Instagram (@gjeometry aka Catja of Gjeometry, Staci, @kid_md aka Katie of Kadiddlehopper, @sewbrook aka Brooke of Custom Style, @theseedsof3 aka Melanie of The Seeds of 3, and @Sewsowninlove). Whew!!!!! Thanks for reading!

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric - csews.com

Have you ever sewn chevrons? Were your chevrons on knit fabric or woven? What was your experience like?

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Clothes My Mother Made Me

3 photos of Chuleenan

Over the past week, I’ve been visiting my parents, who now live in Delaware. (I was born and raised in upstate New York so I don’t really have much history with this state.) During my trip, I’ve had a chance to see each of my three sisters (no boys!), which has been great. I haven’t had a chance to do any sewing since I’ve been here. My mom has two sewing machines so I thought I might be able to sew during my visit. I did bring the skirt I started before I left. (I wrote one post about it here: Bemberg Lining for a Skirt.) But with various family members coming through at different times, I’d rather spend time with them. I did flip through many old family albums though – so instead of blogging about my skirt, I’ll post about some of the clothes my mother made me!

This brief selection includes photos taken on family trips and at our old house in Horseheads, New York. I lived there with my family from kindergarten to fourth grade, then we moved to Elmira, New York, right next to Horseheads. I lived in Elmira from fifth grade through high school. My mom sewed nearly all our clothes when I was growing up. I wore stuff she made up until seventh grade when it became uncool and I just had to have jeans from a store.

There aren’t too many photos of me by myself. My dad mostly took group shots of all four of us kids or us and my mom.

Not everyone was thrilled to be photographed in the photo below so I cropped out my sisters. We were at a flower garden somewhere. This is a dress my mom made with an elastic neckline and cap sleeves.

Garden.seated.jpg

This photo was taken at our home in Horseheads. I’m in the middle, my older sister to the left, and sister number three on the other side. My youngest sister is off-screen. I’m guessing that we’re smiling at her antics. See that door with the white metal frame in front of the wood one behind us? That was a dangerous door. One day playing hide and seek with the neighborhood kids, I ran out the front door to find a hiding place. My hand missed the metal bar in the middle and went right through the glass. My mom got a neighbor to watch my sisters and off we went to the emergency room. I sat in the backseat with a box of tissues holding a wad of them on my hand and telling my mom not to drive too fast because she didn’t have her driver’s license yet. I was seven years old and got seven stitches in my left hand – I still have a scar there – just below my middle finger.

Three sisters-horseheads

Here I am in a two-piece jumpsuit with puffy sleeves. I don’t remember this outfit but it is cute. I don’t think I’d wear a midriff-baring outfit today!

Jumpsuit - horseheads

A few summers we went to New Jersey so I’m guessing this may be New Jersey. Here I am in a swimsuit mom made.

Swimsuit-sunglasses

Christmas plaid! Clearly my mom made us a lot of dresses. I imagine with four girls those were the quickest things to make. I wore a lot more dresses back then. Now I mostly wear pants and skirts and I only wear dresses on occasion.

Christmas plaid dress

I’m guessing I was in fifth grade here – this photo of my Halloween princess outfit was taken at our home in Elmira. I remember the sewing pattern – it was likely Simplicity or Butterick. This was made with pink flannel (gotta stay warm when you trick or treat!), trimmed with gold rickrack, and tied at the waist with a gold ribbon.

Halloween-princess

Can you guess which one is me? I’m wearing the blue culottes and knee socks. My youngest sister is on the left wearing the pink barrettes and top.

Culottes - 4 sisters

Did your mother sew? Did she make clothes for you when you were growing up? Did you have any favorite outfits? Do you sew for your kids? Feel free to share links to any photos or blog posts!

The Search for Sewing Advice After Hours

Colette Patterns tutorials (left), BurdaStyle techniques, Threads Magazine How-to
Colette Patterns tutorials (left), BurdaStyle techniques (top right), Threads Magazine How-to

When I made a dress from BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern, I added my own adjustment to the pattern, such as lining the bodice of the dress. Though I had made a couple lined vests for my husband and lined a jacket, I hadn’t lined the bodice of a dress before. It had seemed like a simple thing but when I began to put the lining and fashion fabric together, I got confused. It was late at night so I couldn’t stop by my local fabric store for advice. Naturally I turned on my laptop and began my search for sewing advice.

I typed “how to line a dress” in Google and got a tutorial on How to Line a Sleeveless Dress on Blithe Stitches. This post had helpful photos and clear step-by-step instructions so I could easily figure it out.

The web is a great resource for sewing advice. Many sewing enthusiasts, designers, publications, and companies have sewing tutorials on their blogs and websites. So if you ever get stuck on something, fire up your computer and start your search. You’ll be amazed at the plethora of instructions, both written and video, out there.

A few of my go-to places for instructions and tips (in no particular order) are:

Colette Patterns Tutorials — Sarai Mittnick, Colette Patterns founder and designer, author of The Colette Sewing Handbook, covers a variety of topics, ranging from working with fabric to fitting and adjustments. She has a nice explanation on installing invisible zippers.

BurdaStyle’s Techniques section — If you click on “Resources” on the home page, you’ll see a wide array of sewing techniques and tips posted by BurdaStyle, members, Burda Style magazine, and others, including advice for beginners.

Threads Magazine‘s “How To” pages include everything from garment fitting to sewing techniques but some content isn’t accessible unless you are a “Threads Insider.”  To view those tips you need to join ($32.95/year for online membership or $12.95 for print subscribers).

Where do you get your online sewing tips?

Sewing Resolutions for 2013 – Revised

Vintage hat and coat from All Things Vintage in OaklandIn January I wrote that my sewing resolutions were to sew, not buy clothes. However, since then I have bought a vintage coat, a vintage hat, and a turtleneck.

So let me revise that resolution to say that I make exceptions to vintage items and certain knit items (such as turtlenecks) that wouldn’t make.

I got this vintage hat and coat at All Things Vintage in Oakland last weekend. The wool hat from I. Magnin was such a great design, I couldn’t resist — plus it was in mint condition and reasonably priced at $21. The black wool coat has some really nice details: darts around the collar, interesting buttons, curved welted pockets, and cropped sleeves.

The label says Hart Schaffner Marx, which is in fact a menswear company that celebrated its 125th anniversary last year. (I wonder when the company stopped producing women’s garments?) The coat not only fit well but it was 50 percent off (only $37.50!) — another reason why I decided to buy it.

As for the turtleneck, well, my other black turtleneck was looking rather worn out and it was time to get a new one that didn’t sag at the neck.

To help me keep my sewing resolution, in February I finished making a dress using a pattern from the book BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern. I entered BurdaStyle‘s sewing contest to give myself incentive to finish the dress and my dress was selected as a finalist. You can view the 20 finalists here and see who won (and what they won — I’m so jealous of the grand prize winner!). And if you want to find out more about my experience making the dress and photographing it, check out my February posts.

Also last month, I went to Britex Fabrics’s Presidents’ Day sale and bought a couple yards of a beautiful cotton voile from Italy. I’ll be making a lined bias cut skirt and top from that fabric. It’ll be great for the summer.

How are you doing with your sewing resolutions so far?

Repairing a Tear

When I saw this skirt by Comtoir Des Cotonniers on sale last year at A Miner Miracle Shop in San Francisco, I just had to buy it. I loved the print. Plus the proceeds go to A Miner Miracle, – a nonprofit organization that “provides professional clothing and image counseling to low-income people seeking employment.”

Everything at the shop is sold at a discount and this skirt was marked down even further. It was the last one and I think I paid about $15 for it (whatta steal!). The waist was a little big, which explains why it was still on the rack. However, it was easy to take it in a little – on either side of the six inches of elastic in the back.

But I digress – after I wore the skirt, I noticed a small tear in the back. Actually, it was more like a slice. OMG! What to do? I had already worn it and altered it so I had to fix it.

The first thing I did was use some Fray Block to prevent it from tearing any further. (Note: Fray Block is thinner than Fray Check – though you do have to run the tube under hot water before you use it.)

I was a bit sloppy with my application of Fray Block, which is indeed thin but it didn’t make the fabric really stiff, which was good.

Fusible interfacing cut into an oval

I didn’t think it would be a good idea to sew the tear because what ever stitches I made would be really obvious. So I decided to use some fusible interfacing over the tear. I had two fairly lightweight fusibles on hand and decided to go with something that was more medium weight. A really lightweight fusible could just start to rub off. The tear was in the bottom third of the skirt so my legs would be brushing up against it, especially when I sit down.

Then I cut an oval of interfacing to go over the tear.  You don’t want a rectangle because you may be able to see the corners in the  interfacing.

Ironing the fusible interfacing
The repaired tear

I turned the skirt inside out so I could steam iron the interfacing over the tear. It wasn’t perfect but it fixed the tear. And lucky for me, the pattern on the fabric is busy and bright enough that I doubt anyone will notice my repair job!

You can barely see the repair.