Thursday, March 13, 2014

Darting a Confession

I have a confession to make:   I never (actually: no longer) mark darts in any traditional way.

There, I've said it  --  let the guilt of non-compliance and the fear of social reprisal set in.  [You know that neither of those keep me up nights, don't you?]

I, like most sewists, was taught to transfer the darts, and, indeed, all markings from the pattern tissue to the fabric via tracing paper and wheel.  If, like me, you truly mourn the destruction of a pattern that you love and intend to re-use; then, likely you have thought:  "there's got to be a better way."  In fact, there are several.  Here are some that I have considered over the years:
1) Fold back pattern tissue to edge of dart/pleat/tuck/fold/etc. and mark with dressmaker's chalk.
     Well, gee  --  that doesn't sound difficult, time-consuming, or potentially inaccurate at all, huh????
2) Same method with dressmaker's pencil instead of chalk.
    Same comment applies.
3) Trace the pattern, transferring ALL markings to more durable pattern-making material, and mark that up as you please, saving the commercial pattern for re-drafting ad infinitum.
     Many sewists do this.  One of whom I am related to by blood. {and isn't genetics amazing??}.  If there are many alterations to the pattern needed, or design changes desired, or, if the pattern is likely to be shared by several friends/family members, then this is a very good option.  If more than one of the above-mentioned criteria apply, then this is the method I recommend.  I don't do it, mind you  --  but I recommend it.  I find that this gets very expensive very quickly.  Some see the expense of  pattern drafting materials as protecting the investment in commercial patterns wise.  Considering the ever-increasing cost of patterns that nearly always require some alterations, I can see the point.  I, however, abhor the extra expense, and the need to store yet more pattern.  I nearly always hack up, fold down, or otherwise make the commercial pattern work!!
There's another reason I broke with tradition.  Other than basic rebellion, I mean.  Commercial patterns  are designed/engineered primarily by CAD (Computer-Assisted Design).  This means that darts, etc., are marked according to exact mathematical precision.  This is great if your body is proportioned according to exact mathematical precision, but perhaps you are normal?  If so, you might need the back dart on the left side a little deeper than the right.  Or longer.  Or curved.  Transferring those lines off the tissue don't seem such a good idea, now, do they?  Marking (with pins) only the beginning and terminus of the dart allows you to get the precisely the dart you want.  Isn't custom-control part of the reason you sew your own clothes?

4) Don't mark the fabric at all.  Just pin the dart/pleat/tuck you intend to sew.  Here's how:

With the pattern still attached to the fabric, place a pin at the head of each side of the dart (the dotted lines on the pattern).  Place another pin at the bottom of the dart, through the paper and fabric.

Fold back the pattern, and place another pin across the stopping point of the dart.  [BTW:  the very tip of a dart's point on the bodice of a woman's blouse is, professionally referred to as:  'the bust point'.  Why is it, that even women can't admit that breasts have nipples???  I do not understand this.  But, I digress  .  .  .]

Remove the pattern.  Bring the two vertical pins together, and pin the fabric together at this point, removing one pin.

Stitch the dart.

And here, I must make another confession:  I don't sew darts the way I was taught to anymore, either.  (and 6 generations of my family's women just spun in their graves, accompanied by Clothing & Textile teachers from High School and College)

I, like most of you, was taught to stitch darts from largest end to smallest (the point), back-stitching at the beginning, and tying-off the threads at the point.
Firstly, why are you backstitching the stitches that are made into the seam allowance??  Don't waste the time or the thread.  Hold the lose threads at the beginning of your stitching, and have at it!
Second, the point:  okay  --  tying off the threads works, but if the garment's fabric is sheer, they will show through.  ICK!  Here's what I do:
Begin at the wide end, yes, then as you close in on the point (you just pictured a nipple, didn't you?), reduce your stitch length poco a poco, ending with the tightest stitch your machine will do.  That stitch is secure, and you can lop off those threads right at the point.


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Fuzzy-Wuzzy Blankie

I know.
A pieced, quilted, fur blanket is decadent - even for me.  I offer no apologizes for this.
You see:  it gets COLD up here on the mountain!!!   I have always maintained that, given a choice, I prefer a cold climate to a hot one.   Now, we all know why:  so that I have a reason (I do try to be pragmatic!) to sew, and wear, warm, fuzzy, soft, bulky and cuddly things.  Sybarite that I am, I love texture - and plenty of it.  Hence: this quilt.

This is not a typical quilt by anyone's definition of the term.
But then, I have never aspired to be typical.

I started with a kit for assembling a fake fur throw.
I read the directions, really I did.  I even thought I was following them.  However, the first instruction  --  "cut printed fur into 9 - 8in wide strips"  --  threw me.  I started cutting the strips, following the instructions to cut each fabric, single layer with scissors rather than a rotary cutter.  This I did, until after the 7th strip, when I ran out of fur.  S * I * G * H.   A closer look at the instructions revealed that there had been no mention of which direction to cut the strips.  Selvage to selvage??  Lengthwise??     I used the SWAG method and cut selvage to selvage, which gave me the longest strips.  The process deteriorated from there.
Once I was done cutting the fabrics as close to the instructions as I could, I proceeded to arrange the strips of fabric according to the photo on the front, and attach them to each other.  Having no advice on this from the instructions (it was roughly around this time that I tossed the instruction sheet into the recycling bin), I attached the strips with my serger set on a wide 4-thread, with Wooly Nylon in the upper looper.  So glad I thought to do that!!!   Fake fur creates A LOT of lint.  A LOT.  My cats loved chasing puffs of fur lint around the house.  My vacuum cleaner was less enthusiastic.

I could have pieced the strips, borders, and sashings together, and been done with it  --  that was the original design. [as near as I can remember].  But I didn't like the networking of serger thread that only matched some of the fabrics, showing.  Also, as I may have mentioned, it can get a tad nippy at this elevation, so I didn't think a warm backing, with tight, cotton batting between would hurt a thing.

Since I have taken the Stashbusting 2014 pledge, I couldn't run to a store, or website to buy backing fabric.  Not to worry  ---  for several moves now, I have carted around a thick cotton flannel fitted sheet that no longer fits any bed we own.  I couldn't get rid of it  --  it was great fabric.  I cut out the elastic (yes - I saved it.  I'll use it someday), and used the sheet for the backing.  It feels great!!!!

Black machine quilting thread (Gutterman) was used to stitch-in-the-ditch on the topside, using my Pfaff's Quilting stitch.  This is a back-and-forth stitch that, on the bobbin side, looks like hand-quilting. [which is as close as any project I ever make will come to actually being hand-quilted]

For binding, since this blankie was all about texture, I wanted a satin binding.  Behold!  My stash contained 3/4 yd. of a black crepe-back satin that I cannot remember buying or using. (!?).  It took some piecing, but there was just quite enough to make a wide bias bound edge.

When all is said and done, the most important thing you need to know,
 is that this blankie is kitty-tested,

and kitty-approved.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Project Reveal

Warning!  Serious cuteness follows:

I finished the Grand-girls' dresses.  Oh(!)  My stars!  I can hardly handle how gaudy-cute they are.  Really  --  the riot of bright and bilious pinks, paisley, dots and stripes is a significant affront to all that is tasteful.

Myra and Emma are going to love them!!!

I started with a pattern from modkid that was on sale @ Waechter's  (one of several places in Asheville that I plan to pleasantly haunt after I die).  This purchase was made in August, with no immediate plans for use.  That changed a couple of weeks ago, when a post-holiday sale at House of Fabric included 3 of the brightest Hot Pink prints at 60% off.  I made a wild guess and bought 3/4 yard of each.  Once I started laying the pattern out, I realized that my estimate was conservative in the extreme.  a quick trip to Needle Me This netted 2 more prints --  the pink/brown batik and the bright stripe  --  and a search through my  stash added the narrow stripe, solid (Emma's dress) and the pale pink spot (Myra's dress).

I mightn't have needed so much more fabric, had I omitted the hood  --  but, I had no intention of doing that!!!

The pattern proved interesting.  Instead of line sketches in the information sheet(s), glossy, full-color photos are used.  This seems like a good idea, and for me it was fine; but a novice sewist might find the plethora of details difficult to focus on.  A line sketch generally only shows the details that are pertinent to each step.  It didn't slow me down, since I use information sheets as a 'suggestion'; but I wouldn't suggest this pattern to someone who is just learning to sew.  Modkid patterns are best for a sewist with a little experience under his/her belt.
Otherwise the instructions mostly made sense, except for the hood.  I was instructed to completely construct the hood, and its lining, then set it aside until the bodice was completely constructed.  Why not just include its construction at the time it is attached???
Overall, these were fun to make!
I shall include pictures of the girls' wearing them, as soon as I receive them. [AHEM!!]

Added, 17 Jan 2014
As promised, some adorable pic's of one of the dresses, modeled by its new owner. 
I give you, HRC Myra, Princess of Hearts:

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Bustin' the Stash

Or, in my case:   the ST-A-A-A-A-SH.

I'll take that pledge:

     I, Sarah Colley Jones, aka:  SarahbelleSews, commit to fabric from my stash for at least 90% of all sewing projects in the coming year (2014); purchasing only such fabric or notions as are needed to complete a project that is 'stash-derived' in is genesis.

This should be fun!!

  Join us, won't you???

Flab update (sans photos)

Firstly:  why no photos???
So many reasons:
   1)  changes aren't profound enough to be visible, so  --  what would be the point?
   2)  it's awfully cold on the mountain, today, and this much goose-pimpled blue flesh in not at all appealing
   3)  can't find the blue polka-dotted swimsuit.

I shall, instead give what vitals I have.
This does not purport to be stupendous.  It has been very slo-o-o-o-o-o-w going.  Things started off nicely, with me attending a 12-week-long course of nutrition, exercise and behaviour modification taught at a local hospital.  It was a really good course, with some wonderful teachers, and great materials.  I can't honestly say that I learned a lot of new things (as an Extension Agent, I had all ready taken/taught much the same course, with many of the same materials); but, being accountable helped me stay on course.
Until I got a new job, that required immediate travel.
For 2 months I lived in a hotel, ate in restaurants, and never exercised.  I didn't even weigh myself.  I really didn't want to know.
Then the job started, and things went from bad to worse.  It was a horrible job, full of stress, late hours, crazy hours,  erratic eating schedule to NO eating schedule, and  --  did I mention stress???
The job now exists only on my resume (as I once again embark on THE JOB SEARCH), and my eating and exercising are back on track.  I'm even sleeping regularly. (!!)

Here are the numbers at this point, in what is proving to be a long journey:

Weight:  238     [down:  22 pounds]
BMI:      37.3    [down:  3.7pts.]
Bust:     49.5     [down: .5 in]
Waist:     45      [down:  3in.]
Hips:      52       [down: 4in.]
BP:        108/68    [down from (day I quit my job) 210/168]
Serum Glucose:  105   [down:  85]

So, my clothes aren't exactly falling off of me, but the ones that were uncomfortably snug, are now comfortable, and a couple of things that I couldn't even zip up 6 months ago now fit - more or less.  But the labs are far less scary-looking  (YAY!!!), and I am starting to feel better, sleep better, and have slightly more energy.

It's a nice, little start.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Sneak Peek

I have just started sewing matching dresses for my grand-girls  [aka:  Myra Moo and Emma Boo, whose nicknames not only rhyme with each other's, but also with, "I love you"].  No other details, yet, but some calico found on sale, and many scraps/remnants from my stash are involved.

Here is a picture of the hood:

Yes, I said: "hood".

I think it wants a Hot Pink tassel, don't you?

Monday, September 30, 2013

FINIS! (finally!!!)

OR:  why my next several quilting projects will be MUCH smaller.

This began as a "Mystery Quilt" retreat at my local quilt shop, Needle Me This.   Intended to teach quilting skills, it didn't take long for me to learn something about myself:  I don't like working on a project and not knowing my goal.  For me, "Mystery Quilting" is a bad idea.   This is no fault of the teachers or their excellent written instructions.  The step-by-step guide, augmented with sketches, was well-written, and did not miss any needed steps.  I  followed along, and achieved the desired results.  I just felt uneasy the whole time, not knowing if I was on the right track, or not.  Had their been a picture of the finished project, I would had caught on quicker, and enjoyed myself more.  That would, however, have defeated the purpose of the "mystery".  So, I learned something useful about myself.  Mission accomplished!

This quilt began with cutting fabric into 5 in squares, and those squares being sewn into a 4-patch of precise order.

Each of 120 4-patches was then sub-cut, and re-arranged, then re-sewn to make a pinwheel.

Then, each (of 120) pinwheels was sub-cut into 9 tiny squares, some of which were re-arranged, then re-sewn to make  a diamond, surrounded by bars.

Then, the newly re-designed squares were sewn together in a precise arrangement to make  a larger 4-patch which featured diamonds and crossed lines that resemble an Argyle plaid.

Fascinating as this was, I was starting to lose interest in the whole project.  Plus, looking at those tiny squares, diamonds, and bars was making me bleary-eyed.  And this process was to be continued until it was Queen-sized???  Not by this quilting queen!

So, I decided to let my creative juices flow!  With feedback from hubby, and daughter, I quit sub-cutting the pinwheel-squares (having made 120 of them assembly-line style), and sewed them together for a boarder.  then I added strips of batiks whose colors went with those all ready used, and repeated this process until I had pieced a Queen/King sized top. [reducing a process that may well have taken months, into 3 days]

                                     Ta da!!!

How do you like it?  As soon as the backing fabric (a cream and cafe-au-lait batik) I have ordered arrives, it is off to a friend with a long-arm quilter, to be quilted, then I shall bind it, and be completely done.  For now, I feel that most of my work is done, so I am finished.  Whew!!

One more thing:  I didn't realize it, until it was done, and hung for the pictures, but there is a major flaw in it.  At least, it is obvious to me.  No one else I have asked can find it, so I am disinclined to rip out 1000+ stitches and re-do it.  But, I am wondering if someone else might see it??

Ergo, I propose a contest:   to the first one of my eagle-eyed readers who finds, and can describe to me the flaw, I will give one whole piece of fabric from my stash of his/her choosing.  (from among the considerable array of choices I will make available). 

And now, I am off to cut out some clothes to make!!