My Sewing Mess -or- Shout Out to Karen!

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Hello Friends,

Recently, Karen of Sewing by the Seat of My Pants posted about the, erm, tremendously cluttered state of her workroom. I thought I would attempt to stand in solidarity with her. Here are a few before and after photos of my sewing space.

Here I have attempted to label all of the interesting and not-so-interesting clutter. I was totally at my limit trying to organize this space and get the fabric to fit neatly into my bins. You see them below blocking the doorways. They usually live in a closet off our daughters' room, but I had dragged them out so things could be put away.

My worst enemy are my remnants. In my mind a scrap is something smaller than my hand, but a remnant is larger. I have no good system for keeping them tidy. I know that fabric remnants can be terribly useful with crafty sewing, but they drive me crazy. As I have gained more experience with sewing, I have become more of a fabric snob, so getting rid of some of the fabrics was easy. But the cottons and the wools and the lining and the fleece... I finally had to hand my husband a bag of possibly useful scraps and tell him to just stick them in some bin. I just couldn't make any more organizational decisions!

I kept at it, with David sitting at the kids' art table working at his lap top and playing upbeat music. Slowly, everything found a home (or its way into the fabric recycling bin). Look! I can actually access my BurdaStyle and Threads collections without knocking over other pattern books or bike locks or anything else:

And there are no bags of fabric on the floor. Here is the proud stack of bins:

The blue plastic Ikea bag holds foam and stuffing. Below it is the uncloseable bin of large pieces of thick fabric, then craft sale/Etsy materials, and finally a bin of home dec, vinyl, and quilting cottons. The shorter stack is topped by a white plastic bag holding the materials for my Cruella DeVil fake fur coat, underneath this is a bin of lighter weight fabric (which is far heavier than anyone ever anticipates), and finally a bin with fake fur and batting.

The good news is that I was inspired to whittle down the uncloseable bin and now it can close with plenty of room to spare (blog posts forthcoming). The bad news is that my sewing space is getting a little ridiculous again - so much so that I am avoiding being in there. The never-ending cycle begins again...

Sham's Tablecloth Skirt

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Another moment of planets aligning! Toward the end of November, I was given the task of making seven "simple" skirts for a group of girls to wear in a presentation at our church. I agreed to do it even though I am not thrilled with the thought of making seven of anything, but then I was given the fabric and nearly fainted. Polyester organza, people. Just about my least favourite. And the girls who were to wear the skirts are roughly 10 or 11 years old (larger than any of the child models I have running around my house) and not at all the same size. Ack! This project went from simple to not-so-simple in the blink of an eye.

Then I stumbled across Sham's Tablecloth Skirt tutorial. Actually, I think I followed a link to it from Myrna's blog. Anyway, the simplicity of the rectangles appealed to me and my loathing of laying poly organza out for cutting. I asked a friend if I could borrow her serger, which I thought would make the process easier. This was my first time using a serger and I did appreciate not having to finish the seams.

Here is one of the finished skirts backstage. I couldn't get a decent shot of all eight on stage together. As it turned out, I ended up making eight skirts. There were two skirts made from pink squares, two from navy blue squares, two from forest green squares, and two from light blue squares. The pink fabric shredded when you looked at it funny (certainly when young people are struggling into their clothing during a quick scene change), so there were repairs that needed to be made after the first rehearsal to the ones with pink. I used a very wide black elastic for the waistbands, which helped them to blend in with the black t-shirts and pants the kids wear during the performances.

The girls loved their skirts and so did the director. They were easy to make - so easy that I didn't bat an eye over making an eighth one the night before the opening performance.

I've actually torn the fabric to make myself one of these skirts. Mine will be a linen-rayon-lycra blend.

Here is the serger I have borrowed. It's a Pfaff Hobbylock 2.0. I made a few other things with it (posts forthcoming) and have enjoyed having it around, but I am ready to send it back.

My Birds on a Wire/Blank Canvas Tee

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Many of you know that Steph of 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World has drafted a t-shirt pattern with cut on sleeves. She has also, kindly, drafted it in various sizes and made it available to anyone free of charge. Steph's generosity was the last planet to come into alignment as I happened to have a length of sequined fabric that wanted to be made into a simple top as well as tickets to a show this past Monday.

My bust is 35" exactly and my waist is not well-defined, so I printed out the 35II pattern and grabbed a length of bamboo/cotton jersey that has been aging in my stash and whipped out a shirt - as is, no measuring. Here are the results:

Hoo boy! That is one tight shirt! It's a good thing that jersey is very stretchy, or I wouldn't have been able to get into it. And it is short - I didn't hem it and it barely covers my belt. It certainly wouldn't stay tucked into anything.

Now, I am not pointing any fingers at Steph. I very easily could have made a mistake when I printed the pattern. And really, that's neither here nor there. With every pattern I make I have to remove almost all of the waist shaping, so this is nothing new. I did notice that the shoulders of the shirt did not land on my shoulders properly - the only part that was too large.

So I thought about it and tried again. Of course, I still did no real measuring (I might could have saved myself some work if I had), I added one inch to the center and one inch (roughly) to the side seams on the front and back pattern pieces. Obviously, I was terrified of making another too small shirt, because instead I made a too large shirt! I added about 2 inches to the length and I smoothed out the shoulder line. I also changed the shape of the front neckline a bit - raised it and widened it a tad - but maybe I shouldn't have.

Ha! I saw from the pictures (and the mirror) that the added amount to the center front and back made the neckline too large. I did the math and realized that I added 8 inches to the girth of the pattern overall. Silly me. So it was back to the drawing board. I removed half of what I added. I unpicked version two and was able to cut out version three from those pieces. For version three I did no hemming or finishing of the neckline.

This was a pretty close fit! For my final version, I scooped a bit more out of the underarm to make the bust a bit more snug. The final version is two layers, square sequined mesh on the outside and a soft thin jersey on the inside. I decided to wrap a binding around the raw edges of the two layers on the neck edge and the sleeve hems. I will also do this for the lower hem. For this picture (and for our night out) I wore it unhemmed.

Aside from finishing the bottom edge, I also want to handstitch a few "quilting" lines between the rows of sequins to connect the layers. As I wear it now, when I lift my arms, the outer layer lifts up more than the lining and then doesn't slide back down into place. I am hoping that if the two pieces are connected throughout, it will behave better. I also need to remove the sequins that are caught in the side seams - they are poking out and are uncomfortable on my bare arms.

All in all, I like this shirt. I am not as thrilled with the fabric - sequins just aren't nice to touch - but it's a useful addition to my wardrobe.

Sewing Geek Moment


One Sunday in late November, we took our kids to the movies. Now this was only their second time in a movie theatre for two reasons: 1) we are not made of money, and 2) a year and a half ago, when they went to see a movie for the first time (it was some talking dog movie), it was TOO SCARY for my 6 year old son who had to keep leaving the theatre - yes, we were that family.

So anyway, this time we took our kids to see The Muppets. We have rented DVDs of The Muppet Show, so they were acquainted with the characters and some of the regular jokes. The movie was a hit with all of them. But this isn't a charming family moment blog post. No.

Throughout the movie, I was struck by the costumes for Amy Adams. Very vintage inspired. But toward the end of the movie something made me sit bolt upright in my seat and poke my husband and whisper furiously to him. Unfortunately, he was entirely the wrong audience.  You are the correct audience.

So I'm calling a do-over. You sit there all still and attentive, scroll down to the picture, and then imagine me poking you in the arm.

Sarah: (whispering loudly) That blouse!! It's made of silk twill! Some of the bloggers I read have sewn with that EXACT material!
Esteemed Blog Reader: You're right! How fun is that! (end scene)

For the record, Carolyn made a jacket from it, Elizabeth made a dress from it, and Trena admits to buying the fabric and later says she made a dress - but I can't find the evidence. I am sure other bloggers I read bought and sewed up that fabric, but my rudimentary Google searching skills haven't located them.

I'm such a sewing geek.

Dropped Off the Face of the Earth


You know how it goes when a blogger stops posting for a long time and then they come back with either lame excuses for not posting (like life got busy) or some sad story (death of a beloved pet)?

Well, I actually dropped off the face of the earth. And there's no internet connection out there.

But I'm back now.