Thursday, May 27, 2004

Just call me weak

I know I write about the guilt of fabric buying - quite often in fact. I'm ok with the fact that I buy it and I'm ok with the money spent on it. The only thing I'm not ok with is that it takes up room to store it and that my wish list for the projects I want to make exceeds my ability and time to make them. My weakness for fabric falls into three areas: 1) unusual fabric 2) bargains 3) travel fabric. When something satisfies all three, look out.

Buying fabric while traveling is part of the fun of traveling. It's a souvenir that I can really use. I wish every tourist location sold fabric then I wouldn't have a collection of enamel pins from all the places I've been. When I travel on vacation, I enjoy seeing the sites, learning history, and sometimes shopping. I don't like to just lie on a beach and I don't play golf or tennis. Too often the shopping districts one sees as a tourist cater to tourists, which means you're often prone to buying trinkets to remember your vacation by. I don't need more refrigerator magnets or floatie pens or t-shirts, but I feel compelled to buy something as if the memory of the vacation will fade without a material possession. Fabric would be ideal. Sometimes I am fortunate to find the local fabric shops and seek out a treasure to bring home. More importantly is the fact that my hubby indulges me in this area of weakness. He understands both my obsession for fabric and my need for a token.

My buying of fabric while traveling is not limited to vacations. I have had many business trips to various parts of the country and while there I'm apt to flip through the local phone directory yellow pages looking for fabric stores. What starts as curiosity often ends with a purchase. Although I'm sure that fabric in California is the same as it is in Virginia or Florida, buying it someplace else makes it different in some obsessive fabric-buying way. My last conquest was a dumpy fabric store in Mesa, Arizona. I had nothing to go on but the small yellow page add proclaiming it as the "place for all your fabric needs." The store was quite large and was stocked with lots and lots of fabric, however it was mediocre stuff at best. No unusual fabrics. No fine silk or wool. Nothing that was a must buy. Well, there were a couple fabrics. And yes, I bought them. I was disappointed at first by the humdrum prints and patterns of the crepes, rayons, knits, and cottons. I only had to look around to realize the age group the store catered to so I shouldn't have been surprised. Nevertheless, I wandered among the bolts of fabric because sometimes just smelling and feeling the stuff is enough to satisfy. I contemplated heading to the airport early but then I spotted some interesting prints. They were a stretch woven in a cotton lycra, similar in weight to the EOS cotton/lycra I purchased to make the Textile Studio skirt. My spirits brightened over a tan, black and white floral but plummeted when I saw that the fabric was flawed. Oh well. A similar print in black, red and white didn't hold the same appeal. My eyes fell onto a happy summery print. Slices of oranges on a bright green background. Quite bold amongst the other prints of floral bouquets and tiny flowers. Dare I make a Textile Studio skirt out of this? Would I wear it? I might. If not, the fabric would make a cute apron or summertime handbag. Then, lo and behold, another oddity. A black and white toile. Ok, two more Textile Studio skirts. The price was not a bargain but less than EOS so I felt the purchases were ok to make. Besides, there was plenty of room in my suitcase.

Travel fabric is one thing. I allow it. Online ordering is going to kill me. Either all this fabric I buy through the internet is going to bury me or the boxes will fall over on me and knock me out. I just had to visit EOS today, didn't I? There was a most unusual fabric there that I just had to have. It was a single cut piece, so I had to act fast or someone else was going to get the pleasure of having it in her stash instead of me.


The little photo doesn't really do it justice. It's 76%viscose/14%linen/10%nylon and the more solid looking part at the top shows what the other side looks like. I think it would look really cool in a jacket with the reverse side as accent. Of course I can't just order one fabric. The shipping is kinda high when you do that, so...

photo photo

These found their way into my basket. I've been eyeing the linen (55 linen/45 rayon) for a while now and had decided not to buy it because I thought I can always get floral linen. But I really like this and I think it would make a lovely dress. The orange knit (51%acrylic/28%rayon/21%cotton) would go well with the citrus cotton lycra I just bought in Mesa. I'm hoping the color matches. I got a yard and a half to make a little sweater jacket.

So much for a my no-buying streak of a few weeks this May. I was on a roll! But I didn't really have hope of making it to the end of the month without buying anything because my mother is visiting starting tonight and we will be going to some fabric stores. The next best thing to buying fabric while traveling is to show your traveling visitor around to your local fabric haunts and well, how can you resist a fabric if it's unusual and/or a bargain?

Travel fabric: 3 yards
EOS: 6.75

Monday, May 17, 2004


The pants muslin fits! The pants muslin fits! That deserved to be said twice. I am totally blown away that they actually fit. Can't you tell? Even my husband understood what a good thing this is! Pants are most definitely the hardest garment to fit for me - even with RTW I end up trying on about a dozen before finding something that will work. So did I cut out and sew up a bunch of pants with this wonderful pattern? Nope. I hoped for a streak of luck and traced off the short version of the Manhattan Skirt by Textile Studio. My luck didn't quite hold out. But first, about the pattern tracing.

I used the soil separator fabric that other sewists at rave about for use in tracing patterns. The stuff actually worked well. It's flimsier than I thought it would be but it was much more pleasing to work with than crinkly tissue paper. I didn't realize how annoying the tissue paper had been until I worked with something quiet! The roll is 36", which is quite wide and at $15 for 150' it is much cheaper than the pattern paper I buy through Nancy's Notions, which is $7 for a 21"x77' roll. Due to the width, I was able to lay out all the pattern pieces at once. I like to use colored pencils when I trace on the pattern paper because the pencils are softer and thus glide easier plus I could color code sizes, pattern pieces, or alterations if I wanted. However the colored pencils didn't work very well on the soil separator fabric. I found that a regular ball point pen did the job but because all I had was black and the pattern lines were black it was tough to see if I'd already traced a line. I think I will purchase some different colored pens or see if I can at least dig up a red one. I wouldn't dare use a felt tip pen or sharpie - the fabric is rather thin and the marker would bleed through for sure. One surprise is that the soil separator fabric sort of "stuck" to the pattern pieces. It didn't really adhere, but I guess because of the fibrous quality, it was rough enough to not shift once I placed it over the pattern I was tracing. I didn't really need to use weights! I also found this to be the case when I went to cut out the muslin, however on my fashion fabric I will be more careful and use the weights to prevent any mistakes. Since many of the pattern lines of this skirt are straight, I simply used my quilting ruler to aid in drawing/cutting the lines. Another bonus is that the soil separator fabric cuts much easier with my rotary cutter. I found that with the pattern paper, I had to pre-cut my traced patterns otherwise the rotary cutter got bogged down cutting both paper and fabric. Perhaps the paper dulled the blade or it was dull to begin with but I always had problems unless I cut out the entire traced pattern ahead of time. With the soil separator fabric I don't have to and this is a huge time saver!

I eagerly sewed up the skirt muslin and tried it on. Too tight! Well, I should have expected this because my hips measure one inch more than the pattern size. I don't know why I didn't take this into account when I traced the pattern. I guess after my pants victory I was eager for another win and wasn't thinking. I let the side seams out 1/4" on each side - better but still a bit too tight. It might be ok because I'm using cotton lycra (pattern calls for a stretch woven), but if my hips are 1" larger than the pattern size I cut out, then I'd need to add 1/2" to each side seam, now wouldn't I? Since I really want to wear the skirt and like the fabric I'm going to use, I think I'll add the 1/2" and take in if necessary.

But yeah! The pants muslin fit! The pants muslin fit!

Thursday, May 13, 2004


I cut out the pants from view B of the Kwik Sew 3040 pattern last night. I used plain 'ole muslin. I bought a bolt of the stuff from and used a 40% off coupon so it was pretty reasonable. I figured it was better than buying muslin in 3-5 yard pieces and ending up with short remnants. I also figured that having a bolt of muslin would spur me on to make more muslins and thus try more patterns. Fitting is the most difficult part of sewing, I think. Patterns that boast "Fast and Easy" and "1 hour" or "2 hour" sewing really do a disservice to new sewers. The garments often don't have darts or shaping of any kind. How is an ill-fitting garment going to encourage a new sewer to sew a second garment?

I didn't make any adjustments to the pattern, just traced off a size L and cut it out. This pattern has 5/8" seam allowances so that gives me a little bit of wiggle room. I thought all Kwik Sew patterns had 1/4 inch seam allowances so I was surprised to see this one didn't. Perhaps because it's for a woven fabric.

I hope to find a little time to baste the seams together. If by some miracle it fits, I'll practice making a zipped fly and go ahead and put one in.

I tried on my Kenneth King pants moulage recently and was surprised to see that it fit. I took his class a few years ago, when The Sewing Place still had their B&M store. The class cost a few hundred dollars but was well worth it. I actually took two classes, one to make the moulage and one to make trousers. In the moulage class we drafted a pattern based on our measurements: waist, hip, crotch depth, inseam. Then we sewed up the pattern, which had just front and back darts and a zipper fly, in muslin and KDK checked each one of our muslins for fit. Nearly everyone had to make adjustments. He had a really cool way of pinning out the excess and transferring the changes to the pattern. Then I made a second muslin to check the revised moulage pattern. It's this muslin that I tried on recently - I've lost weight since the class so rather than having no ease, like a moulage should, there is now wiggle room and I think they could work to make pants from directly. In the trouser class we started with the moulage pattern we made and added ease, pockets and pleats. KDK loves pleats. He also loves button flies. I almost finished the trousers in the class. The waistband, hem and buttons are all that remain, but the trousers are much too big now since my weight loss. I also don't like how they look. The pleats are much too voluminous and I don't like the button fly. It's a shame because the fabric was really cool. It's a rayon blend that I bought for only $2.40 from a long time ago - in fact it was one of my first purchases from them. KDK even liked the fabric and wanted to know where I bought it. The fabric wasn't that easy to work with though and unraveled like crazy.

I really should dig out the moulage pattern - I must have it somewhere - and make a test pair of pants straight from it. But at the very least I should compare it to the Kwik Sew 3040 and maybe a Burda WOF pants pattern. I know it's delusional to expect that the Kwik Sew pants will just miraculously fit me. My problem area is my hips. They're a bit wide - or my waist is small. I have to try on lots and lots of RTW pants before I find a pair that won't pull across my hips yet fit in the waist.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

T-shirts Part II

The ugly floral rib fabric in the Kwik Sew pattern didn't work either. Same stretched out neckline as the Jalie. I really think it's the fabric because I've made a few nightshirts using Kwik Sew and didn't have problems with two of them but the third, using the same exact pattern, was a dud and I blame the fabric on that one too. It was also a knit with poor recovery. So I turned to my stash to look for other knits to use for the elusive t-shirt. Fortunately I spent loads of time cutting swatches of all my fabric and taping or stapling them to index cards, along with yardage and box number, so I only had to browse the cards and not wade through many boxes of fabric (and get depressed doing it). I found numerous potential candidates and removed them from their rings (they're organized by box number). I finally settled on a blue stripe cotton lycra that I purchased a few years ago from The stripes are about 1/4" wide in shades of light grayish blue, navy and white. I tossed the fabric in the washer and dryer and set about cutting out the Jalie pattern in one size smaller than I had tried before. I'm hoping the extra stretch of the fabric, plus my desire for a closer fitting t-shirt will work with the smaller size. I fussed way too much over the pattern layout. The front and back are cut on the fold so I periodically pinned along a stripe through both layers to ensure the fabric was lined up. Despite my perfectionism, the top of one shoulder is just a tiny bit off from the other. This fabric rolls like crazy so I really doubt I'll be all that accurate in my stitching anyway. After I'd cut it out, I checked a few books to see what they say about knits that roll and at least one suggested increasing the seam allowances if the pattern calls for 1/4". Too late. I'll have to make due. I was really thrifty with the layout and managed to cut out the pattern in about 1 yard, leaving at least a yard, if not more, for a second shirt if I mess it up. It helped that the fabric was 64 inches wide. I also paused when it came time to cut the neck banding. Crossgrain or not? Crossgrain is stretchier, which may be overkill with this fabric, and the stripes run crossgrain so the neck edge will be either one solid color if I'm really careful with my stitching, or a stripe. It could look really nice or really bad depending on my ability to sew it on. Along the grain still has stretch but would result in a striped band. I wasn't sure that it would match the striping at the neck and thus would look really awful. I tried it with a scrap but couldn't tell. While taking a break I flipped through Sunday circulars and spied a RTW striped shirt with a band that was of the same fabric and cut on the cross grain. So there was my answer. I think. I'm anxious to see how this turns out but nervous to try it. The story of my sewing, really.

Thursday, May 06, 2004


My Wazoodle fabric came yesterday. Three plump plastic wrapped packages waited for me on the doorstep. Wazoodle doesn't pack in cardboard boxes, they use a plastic packing wrap that I imagine must be custom formed to the fabric and vacuum sealed. My fabrics were packed so tightly that they literally burst out of the wrapping when I cut the bundles open. No extra packing material or even air to cause higher shipping fees and it's a good thing because the order cost me a whopping $18 in shipping. The fabric cost me $50, so that's a bit steep and it was a far cry from the $8.60 estimate of the shipping costs when I placed the order (but they do say it's an estimate and it may cost more for bulky fabrics). The fabric prices were really really excellent, an average of $4/yard, so I can't really complain. I got 2 yards of very nice quality thick red sweatshirt fleece with matching ribbing, 2 yards of a thick piled Malden Mills corduroy-like fleece that'll make a nice pullover, 2.5 yards of real Levis denim, 2.5 yards of black wide wale corduroy, 2 yards of a thinnish popcorn stitch 80% cotton/20% rayon Italian knit, and a yard of some Sesame Street flannel that was cute (I'll use it to make a baby blanket). All nice fabrics.

I've been thinking some more about the failed Jalie t-shirt and wonder if I should try a smaller size. My bust size puts me between the W and X sizes in the Jalie pattern but I cut an X (38"). I'm sure I've got some stash fabric I wouldn't mind using to try it out. I haven't had a chance to sew the Kwik Sew I cut out. I had a test in my French class this week so my evenings were spent either in class or studying. Or watching TV.

I forgot to add to my "to do" list: make curtains for spare bedroom. That should be number one. My mother is visiting in a few weeks and I hoped to finally get the curtains made for that room. I'm running out of time.

Monday, May 03, 2004

In search of the perfect T

I decided to sew last weekend. The doors could wait to be painted and I knew it would be too hot to work on the yard. Besides, with my recent purchase of more fabric, I decided I better hurry up and sew. My buying is certainly outpacing my sewing but I hope to at least make a small, teeny tiny, infinitesimal dent in the stash.

First I put away the quilted wall hanging - definitely a project for another day. Then I thought about what I wanted to make. The fabrics and patterns and ideas were all swimming around in my brain. There seem to be so many and I was beginning to get antsy at what to do first. Here's the list:

1. Pink EOS butterknit top, Jalie 2005
2. Pink/lime/cream/gray poor boy knit top, Kwik Sew 3003
3. Pants - try Kwik Sew 3040
4. Pink denim skirt, Burda 4/2003 pattern
hmmm, I see a "pink" theme here...
5. More t-shirts using the EOS butterknits
6. Purse from the hippo fabric
7. Purse from the pink Burberry plaid
8. Purse from the asian cotton fabric - found the right size bamboo handle for it finally
9. Blue sweater knit hoodie
10. Blue sweater knit pullover
11. Lime/blue/white striped sweater knit jacket
12. Off-white sweater knit (linen) cardigan
13. Blue floral cotton/lycra skirt - fabric is on order

Oooof, that's a lot. I traced off the v-neck version of the Jalie 2005 t-shirt and the long Kwik Sew 3040 pants (no cuffs). Then I located the ugly flowered rib knit to use as a muslin for the t-shirt. This was fabric I'd ordered from a long time ago. It wasn't exactly what I thought it would be but then when I washed it, the dark pink ran and turned the background pink. The rest of the floral print looked awful too. It sort of looks like a crayon drawing of flowers. I don't know if it always looked that way and I just didn't notice or if something went horribly wrong in the washer. The knit had pretty much no recovery too, so I deemed the fabric a dud.

After making up the Jalie t-shirt, I have some thoughts. It's not necessarily a good idea to use a poor recovery knit as a muslin. I decided to give it an honest go anyway in case the shirt fit great, but now I doubt I will wear it and don't think I'll even bother hemming it. The neck of the shirt appears to be stretched out. I tried it on and my husband thought it looked ok. "Like ready to wear" he said. Is that a compliment? I liked the fit across the bust and under the arms but the sleeves seemed to fall off my shoulders, the neck line didn't lie flat and there was too much fabric across my upper chest. I pinched out vertical sections of fabric below each shoulder and that seemed to make it a bit better. I then sought out the wisdom of Sandra Betzina in her book Fast Fit and also thumbed through Real Fit for Real People. Sandra Betzina described the excess fabric problem as having a "hollow chest...common with aging", she wrote. Harrumpf. I don't like the aging part but ok, but her description and solution of pinching out vertical sections of fabric fit my problem. Her other solution is to go down a size and do a full bust alteration, however I'm leery of going that route because the shirt fit well in the arms, bust and waist. But before I reworked the pattern, I decided to pull out the Kwik Sew 3003 top and see how the patterns compared because I've had better luck with fitting with Kwik Sew. Aha! The Jalie was larger across the upper chest. The shoulder seam was wider too. The Jalie pattern is more angled and curves in more under the arm - whereas the Kwik Sew is a bit "boxier", despite the pattern description of "close fitting." I altered the Jalie pattern per Sandra's suggestion and again compared it to the Kwik Sew. Much closer match at the upper chest. So I decided to use the remaining ugly floral rib knit to try the Kwik Sew pattern. Unfortunately I only have enough fabric for the bodice and one sleeve, but who am I kidding, was I really going to wear the ugly floral rib knit? I think my husband was just being encouraging about my sewing. I traced off the Kwik Sew pattern but ran out of time last night to sew it up, maybe I'll get to it tonight.