Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Trying to keep the momentum going

Now that my French class is over I have my Monday and Wednesday evenings back. Or should I say "J'ai mes lundi et mes mercredi soirs." I hope that was correct - I've only had six months of French. So what to do with all that time? I wanted to keep my sewing momentum going and work on my next project but I had 4 lbs of strawberries that needed to be made into jam and canned or they'd soon be headed for the compost. My husband liked the strawberry jam I made a few weeks ago so much that he bought more strawberries for me to make more jam. Thanks honey. I am not pioneer-woman-Suzie-homemaker. I only did the canning to turn the apricots and plums from our overproducing fruit trees into preserves. We grow some strawberries, but the slugs eat more than we do, so there certainly aren't enough to make jam. But it's strawberry season here and the major growers for a lot of the country's supply are about 20 miles south of here in Watsonville. Hence, we can buy flats of strawberries (6 pints) for $6. It seemed like a good idea to make jam. It wasn't really hard, just time consuming.

Fortunately I didn't spend all evening making jam and had some time to play with fabric. My box from Emmaonesock showed up. Gorgeous fabrics. I'm a little dismayed though - some of my cuts are barely the yardage I purchased and one is actually under because part of it was cut for a sample. It's a sold-out fabric so I can't get more. I hope I can still get a shirt out of it. They were rather pricey fabrics, otherwise I would have bought some extra. I think I'm more dismayed because I sometimes read on the sewing boards that people consider her cuts to be generous. I wonder if I'm not in the "generous cut" club because I request my American Sewing Guild 10% discount. Actually that's probably not true because I didn't get the discount nor the generous cuts on my previous order. She offers the ASG discount so I'm entitled to it and getting 10% off really did influence my purchase of the pricey rayons. I can afford to buy them but it's psychological I guess to think that I'm not really paying the full price.

I petted and examined my new fabric and piled them up on the cutting table Good grief, I hope my new cutting table doesn't become perpetually buried under fabric now! I decided that my next project will be another Manhattan Skirt, so I washed and dried the citrus print I bought in Mesa. Maybe tonight I'll cut the fabric and get started.

Oh yeah, I also finally used my new sewing machine last weekend. My Pfaff 7570 and Babylock Evolve serger are certainly a wonderful combination and I'm sure many sewers would dream for such nice machines. So why did I buy another sewing machine? I guess because I could. I convinced myself that there were times when I needed a second machine. That I'd take the new machine to sewing classes, use it when the Pfaff was set up for embroidery, or set it up on the dining table when I needed to sew big things like curtains or quilts. So this weekend I had a sheet that needed mending (the hem had come undone) and my Pfaff was already threaded with thread for my skirt. Perfect time to use the new machine. I set it up on the cutting table, learned how to load a bobbin, threaded it, and sewed a new hem. Yipee - I spent $900 on a sewing machine so that I could fix an old sheet! No, really, I will use this machine. I have to because I told my husband I would and I have to keep justifying my sewing purchases so that I don't feel guilty buying more fabric or notions...or sewing machines.

Finally! Some sewing progress!

With the houseguests all gone, I decided that the weekend was mine for sewing. And sew I did! I finished the Jalie 2005 top. All it needed was to be hemmed and my Evolve does a great coverstitch, so I don't know what was keeping me from finishing it. Oh, yeah. Houseguests and a final exam in French.

After I finished the top I stitched up the Textile Studios Manhattan Skirt. It's a simple pattern and design and shouldn't have taken me very long, but it did. I found a few errors in the instructions too, which only made me even more cautious. Also, the skirt has an invisible zipper and I took my time putting it in.

I think the skirt turned out really nice. I wore it today and got a few compliments on it. I think I'll make this skirt again using the cotton lycra fabrics I picked up in Mesa. But I'm going to make a few minor changes.

At first I thought this skirt had two slits but when I followed the directions I saw that it only has one on the right (although the drawing in the instructions shows it on the left, contradicting the written instructions and the pattern photo and line drawing on the back). Although I did make this skirt with only one slit, I think I might make the next one with two and do some top-stitching to make it even more casual looking. The short Manhattan skirt has a seam running horizontally as an intended design feature. However I found that with a print fabric, the seam gets lost and the print ends up just looking disjointed. So on the casual one I think I'll top stitch on either side of the seam to make it more pronounced. But on the last skirt I think I'll eliminate the seam altogether and just do one slit.

It's a nice fitting skirt. I normally don't like skirts without waistbands because the waist is almost always too big when I buy the size that fits my hips. The waist on this skirt is still a bit too big, but only in the morning - later in the afternoon when I get my afternoon bloat, the skirt fits fine. The lycra also makes this skirt very comfortable to wear.

Pictures and pattern reviews are forthcoming...

Monday, June 21, 2004

Well that's just perfect...

I am a perfectionist by nature and one of my quirks is that I must be organized before I can start on a project. In my college years when exam time rolled around, I would first make a stack for each class: textbook, notebook, homeworks, tests, lab reports, etc. Then I could start studying. I find that I must also be organized with my sewing or knitting projects. Knitting is easier. I have a canvas bag into which I put the yarn, needles and pattern for the project. A small pouch contains small scissors, tape measure, stitch markers and row counter. Sewing requires a few more notions. I have many notions and like to have them all organized. What usually happens is that I spend all my time organizing and none sewing.

I've had my Jalie 2005 t-shirt cut out and draped over the dress form for a few weeks now. All I needed to do was sew it up. Easy. Except that first I had to clean off the sewing table and organize some stuff. I'd recently purchased some embroidery software so I spent some time putting the designs into the computer. I have a lot of designs and just like organizing my project materials before starting, I do the same with the embroidery designs. I also have the embroidery software and it's all carefully installed and ready to go. I even worked my way through the tutorials one day. But I haven't embroidered much with my new software. Just one design so far. That makes it a pretty darned expensive design.

I've been reading the book Too Perfect. The subtitle is "When Being in Control Gets Out of Control." So far the book is pretty good but scary because I don't want to accept the truth about how my perfectionism is not helping me in life. But I already knew that. That's why I'm reading the book.

Anyway, back to sewing. After I installed the embroidery designs and organized my thread (of course it's arranged by color), and straightened up a bit, I finally was organized enough to work on the t-shirt. It's almost finished - just the hems are left. The fabric is a very stretchy knit and the edges curled, which made it a royal pain to work with. I serged the shoulder, sleeve, and side seams very carefully. The fabric is striped and although I carefully lined up and pinned the stripes before serging, the stripes on the side seam didn't meet up. Upon inspection I realized that the serger pushed the top fabric slightly ahead of the lower when it stitched. I compensated for this on the other side seam and the stripes matched much better. The v-neck was a bit of a pain as well. First, I had to decide what to do about the stripes. When cut cross-grain, the binding is its stretchiest and follows the direction of the stripe. When cut with the grain, the binding will have a horizontal stipe that may or may not match the stripes on the shirt. I turned to RTW sale flyers to get some ideas and found that striped shirts had either a solid color binding or one stripe, indicating that the binding was cut on the cross grain. Since I don't have coordinating binding, I went with the cross-grain cut. The instructions have you zig-zag stitch the right side of the binding to the wrong side of the top and then you fold the binding over the seam allowance to the front, tuck the raw edge under and straight stitch it down on the right side. This would have been easier with cooperative fabric. The neck line doesn't meet my perfectionist expectation, but it is ok. Overall I like the top in the smaller size. It fits better through the shoulders but the sleeves are tight. Even with the stretch of the fabric, the sleeves are too tight. Wearable, but tight. I will make this again but I will definitely add more ease to the sleeves.

And I better make it again. The above post was written last week and left in draft form. This was before the hormones hit full blast.

I just bought more fabric to make more tops out of this Jalie pattern. What about all that other fabric in my stash you ask? Oh. That. Well, it's just not quite right for this pattern and I sort of bought the fabric in a very weak moment. A hormonal moment and one influenced by three gin and tonics. Or was it four? I managed to spend about $128, including shipping, on 8.25 yards of fabric. That's a little over $15/yard. Not one of my better fabric-buying moments. But now that I have written about it in this blog, I have it on record that it was done at a weak moment. The fabric, due to arrive in a week, is of good quality (rayon knit) and I have no doubt that it will be lovely stuff. I bought enough for 5 Jalie T's and a skirt. So when my husband asks about the charge (and rolls his eyes again), I will blame hormones and alcohol and remind him that $128 would buy maybe three nice shirts of the type and fabric I'm making and no skirt. It's a good thing I don't drink much. Perhaps I should warn my husband that next time I turn to the alcohol to try to squelch the raging hormones, he'd better lock away the lap top too. Disable the wireless or password protect it. I am not to be trusted. I do regret making the purchase and perhaps my guilt will push me into getting this cloth on the cutting table in record time (record being something less than years in between purchase and cutting). First I will need to organize my sewing room though.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

New toys

I got some new toys (and a few more yards of fabric - yikes!) last weekend. A Babylock Quilter's Choice sewing machine and Horn of America cutting table. No I didn't really need a second sewing machine, but I managed to come up with a justification for why I wanted it. I already own a Pfaff 7570 and it's a really nice machine, but I've been wanting a second machine so that while the 7570 is set up for embroidery I can still do regular sewing. I also wanted something lighter in weight so that I could take it to quilting classes. Since the 7570 is in my sewing cabinet, the Babylock would be more portable and I could use it on the dining room table to sew draperies or other large items. The setup in the sewing/computer room is just too cramped for that. I'd like to do more quilting and have a Flynn quilt frame that I've never used because I don't have space in the sewing room. Yes, I could drag the Pfaff out to the dining room, but who wouldn't want a second machine? The Babylock is pretty neat and since I got the Quilter's Choice model, it's more suited to doing quilts. It has some cool features the Pfaff doesn't have, like a thread cutter and a 30 mm (that's over an inch!) basting stitch. The button holes are nice on the Babylock and the attachment uses the actual button to set the size. So there, that's my reason for the new machine and I'm sticking to it!

The cutting table is wonderful! I had been using our dining room table for tracing patterns and cutting, but the height is just too low and thus it hurt my back to use it. I had been lusting after Koala tables until I saw the price tag. Ouch. No way, no how. My husband said he'd make me one for a whole lot less. Yes, I'm still waiting (but he's also waiting for quite a few garments I said I'd make him, so we're even). Fortunately there are cheaper options, but it wasn't until we were in the store on Saturday and Eddie of Eddie's Quilting Bee told my husband that he too had thought of building a cutting table but the materials alone would cost more. Well, I don't know about that, but there certainly are a number of large and small parts to the table and since my husband doesn't quite have his workshop together (as in no room to work in the garage workshop), it seemed unlikely he'd ever build it. Seeing the table in the store also clinched the sale. Eddie also didn't have to pursuade me too much to buy the sewing machine. Actually my husband talked me into getting the Quilter's Choice over the less expensive Decorator's Choice (no extension table, fewer feet, fewer stitch designs). What a guy!

So my new toys are home now. We assembled and set up the cutting table temprorarily in the living room while mom is still here. After she leaves it will live in the guest room. It folds up into a smaller unit. Another plus is that the guest room is next door to the sewing/computer room - I was always having to trek back and forth between sewing room and dining room to get scissors, pins or one thing or another. At least they were on the same floor!

As for fabric, I "found" myself back at Stone Mountain and Daughter on Sunday. We all went to Berkeley to take a tour of the Scharffenberger chocolate factory. It was neat to see how they make the chocolate from bean to bar and they give samples. Yummmm! A definite "must visit" when you're in the area. We planned to have dinner in the café but had 45 minutes until they opened so, well, SM&D was just a mile or so up the street. I bought some blue and white striped cotton/lycra for a blouse and a 1/4 yard of a cotton fabric for a multi-fabric purse I want to make. So that's another 1.75 yards to add to my stash.

But now that I have a new machine and a great cutting table I'll be sewing up a storm. Right.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Fabric, fabric, and more fabric

My mom and I hit the fabric stores. Big time. I took Tuesday off from work and we had a full day of fabric shopping. First stop was Britex. I'd never been to Britex because SF is about an hour's drive and I hate parking in the city. There is a train that runs up the peninsula and stops a few blocks away, but that would limit the amount of fabric I could drag home, now wouldn't it? I'd heard Britex is expensive and it is. I'd also heard that the store personnel were rude, but that couldn't have been farther from the truth. They were all very helpful and friendly. I was blown away by the rainbow of wools on the first floor. I have more wool in my stash than one needs living in northern California, so I only admired it. The second floor held a more wallet-friendly selection of cottons and rayons. I had brought swatches of the Mesa travel fabric hoping to find invisible zippers for both and perhaps a fabric that would match the intense green color in one of the pieces. Mom found a rayon in a small check that matched the color pretty well. I took a mental note and we proceeded to the third floor where they have the remnants and knits. Since mom and I are both bargain shoppers, we naturally checked out the remnants where we found a 2 1/2 yard piece of the exact fabric we saw on the second floor. I mentioned to the clerk that we'd seen it downstairs for $9.00/yd and the woman said that this meant the $20 price of the remnant was wrong. She re-marked it to $12! After browsing the knits on that floor I know see what a good deal EOS has on buttermilk and onionskin. I did end up buying two prints though, one at $15/yd and another at $16. Next stop was the fourth floor where the notions are. Britex has a large selection of zippers and fortunately a nice selection of invisible ones. They had the perfect green for my skirt and a so-so match for my other fabric. Their button collection is huge and I found some orange antique glass buttons that will look great on some orange sweater knit I am expecting from EOS (see my previous post). On our way down to the first floor we stopped again at the cottons and rayons where we confirmed that the remnant was indeed the same fabric. However, I decided instead to buy a yard of a larger checked fabric in the same color and mom bought the remnant plus a yard of the large checked to go with it. Total fabric purchased at Britex: 4.5 yards.

Next stop was Satin Moon. This store is also reputed to be expensive and it is. They have gorgeous fabrics though. I was tempted by many but settled on a pink, white and gray striped cotton/lycra shirt fabric from Austria. It was marked down 1/2 price to $9/yard. Mom bought a remnant of a print upholstery fabric for a purse. But the biggest treat in that store was spotting Sandra Betzina shopping for fabric there. She purchased a lovely Burgundy colored embroidered organza for 1/2 price - normally $90/yard. Total fabric purchased at Satin Moon: 1.5 yards

Since we still had time on the meter we walked down the street to browse and maybe have something to eat but right before our eyes was Fabrix. I hadn't even looked up directions to this store but there it was, so we decided to go in. One word: BARGAIN! Oh my goodness - rolls and rolls of fabrics, most at $1.99/yard and $3.69/yard. Any fabric-buying control I was hoping to have went out the window. I found some great buttermilk knits for only $1.99/yard and a few other fabrics. Mom even got some for $1/yard. I easily could have spent all afternoon there and gone nuts but the meter was running and there were still more fabric stores to see. My selections: black knit, caramel knit, rust print buttermilk knit, bright blue twill, striped cotton/lycra shirting to match blue twill, black and gray striped sweater knit. Total fabric purchased at Fabrix: 12 yards. EEK!

After the bargain fabric shopping we needed lunch so we ate at a Vietnamese restaurant just a few doors down. Then it was back in the car and off to Poppy Fabric in Oakland. After the bargains at Fabrix, Poppy seemed too expensive. But again they had lovely fabric and it was a joy to see them, touch them, and dream. I didn't make it out without buying something though. I bought some striped denim for either jeans or a skirt, a fall colored sweater knit, and an orange stretch linen. I also picked up a cute sewing-themed journal to record my sewing thoughts, plans, etc. Total fabric purchased at Poppy: 6.25

Our day was almost done but we still had time to squeeze in Stone Mountain and Daughter, the only store I'd been to before. We made a beeline for the upstairs where the bargains were. Nothing spectacular but I still managed to find fabric that I don't need!!! I picked up a rust and gold colored print poly chiffon and a light blue rayon suiting from the sale fabrics and a rust linen to match the poly chiffon and a pink and white striped cotton/lycra shirt fabric from the regular priced stuff. Total fabric purchased at SM&D: 8 yards.

Good golly miss molly, my total for the day: 32.25 yards. I needed this fabric like a hole in the head, but gosh it was fun. And I have some really nice fabrics too. I liked all the stores but I think I'm glad none are easy for me to get to on a regular basis. I also realize what great bargains I get by shopping on-line. I recognized a few of the fabrics as exact duplicates of what I've seen at some of my on-line sources and many fabrics, such as the buttermilk knits were of the same caliber. But the online prices were up to 50% cheaper - except of course at Fabrix. What a place that was!

Now I have to sew...and sew and sew and sew.