Friday, June 24, 2016

Flypaper thoughts early summer edition

  • When someone shouts "Do it Babsie, do it."
  • Maybe you shouldn't listen
  • Particularly if the shoutee is four
  • And you are on a trampoline
  • You should probably never crochet anything with orange in it
  • Children are like transplants
  • You start them in the house under wraps
  • When they get bigger you might move them to bigger pots
  • And eventually a few hours out on the deck to get them used to the outdoors
  • Then you plant them outside and watch them from the window
  • You share the harvest
  • Can you believe a person can be this profound with her feet up on a beach ball?
  • Surprise party for the youngest tomorrow
  • He is too busy to read this blog
  • Good thing
  • I have been working on food all week 
  • I made six quarts of pickled carrots
  • Why?
  • Girl friend wants to borrow my cutting out table for Beer Pong
  • Not sure what that is but suspect it will be a first for that table
  • I have noted that whenever any one has to go to a costume party they shop my closet
  • I bet those minimalist folks who dress like French woman can't say that
  • When they tell you not to grease the angel food pan because the cake won't rise
  • They are right
  • Big news in politics right now
  • All I will say is that I watch the news these days on my laptop with earphones
  • Some presumptive nominee's voice scares the dog
  • Nothing and no one is allowed to scare the dog
  • Do you think I can make blue jello look like water?
  • How much do vegans eat?
  • Do vegans eat blue jello?
  • I think I have figured that one out myself
  • Never be someone who says "at my age'
  • Don't even think it
  • Except
  • On trampolines

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Handy sewing hint of the day #19 and pattern review

It is interesting to me that many Indie patterns are reviving an edge finishing technique that might of being more familiar to sewers of the 1950's than those who have stitched their way through the Big Four patterns in the decades since.

I am referring of course to bias binding.

At one stage, pre-serger, binding raw edges was a sturdy way to finish seam allowances, and for budget minded home sewers, a fabric thrifty way to make simple garments without facings.

Think of all those traditional aprons, single layer, finished with miles of seam bound edges:

On the finer side of dressmaking nicer garments have also used bias binding instead of facings, neck and armhole for instance, with the effect of finishing these edges elegantly with less bulk.

I have to detour here a bit too with my own statement of self-disclosure.

I hate many forms of facings, and never use them in my own sewing.

Too many, I feel are in the category of strange home sewing inventions that you just don't often see in well- made purchased clothing.

The top of the hit list for me are of course the notorious back neck facings that IMO plague so many home sewn garments, particularly blouses and shirts.

The thing to think about is what is the function of a back neck facing in these garments?

Basically to cover the raw edge of the back neck.

For this do you really need a kidney shaped piece of interfaced fabric that, because of turn of cloth, hardly ever fits to the shoulder seams you are told to tack it to?

Myself I never use them, either looking for shirts with yokes (the Negroni by Colette has a brilliant yoked treatment for a convertible collar shirt that totally dispenses with the need for back neck facings) or serging or binding the collar/neck edge along the back.

IMO yet again, this is a wonderful use of bias binding.

I also prefer to use binding in many necklines and armholes of sleeveless tops and dresses for the summer because eliminating all that extra fabric in facings just makes for a lighter, more comfortable garment.

And of course binding the seams around the armhole of an unlined jacket, or along the edge of a hem or the outer edge of a front facing adds a nice touch that will make you smile to yourself when you see them - a small and reoccurring pleasure that is worth the initial effort. I have just finished, almost, a mohair coat where I have done this and will post that soon.

I like binding. 

However there are a few things you should know that make applying it easier:

  1. Forget the stuff you buy in those little packets. I know it is tempting to have the stuff all thin and folded and easy but my best comparison is that this stuff is to sewing what instant mashed potatoes are to cooking (apologies in advance to anyone who was going to make those up for dinner tonight). Near enough is not good enough. The fabric in purchased binding tends to be a cheaper fabric than you would use to sew a garment, and is full of sizing (starch). 
  2. I always make my own bias from fabric (you can use strips of masking tape or painters tape laid on the fabric for a bias cutting guide) and use bias tape makers to help pressing the edges under.
  3. Take advantage of the curvability of bias fabric. If your binding is going to be attached to a curved edge get it to your ironing board and press it into that curved shape before you apply it to the garment. It will then go in so easily and you won't have any weird pulling, puckering or diagonal wrinkles to deal with when you are done.
  4. One of my rules is I never, never attach the binding, as most patterns say, by attaching the binding on the right side, wrapping it around to the back and topstitching from the right side and hopefully catching the unsewn edge of the binding on the wrong side. Instead I sew the binding, one raw edge right side of the binding to the wrong side of the fabric, then wrap it to the right side and edge stitch it in place. So much less stressful (and no turning it over and seeing you missed a spot) always nice and neat on the right side. Make sense?

A bias tape maker:

So I do use binding a lot and am interested in the number of new patterns that require it.

Patterns like this, the Lakeside pyjamas by Grainline that I made for my daughter-in-law's birthday.

I really like the shape of these for summer, and made them out of seersucker because it is the coolest fabric for hot weather because the ridges keep the fabric from sticking from to your body.

Here is my version:

The front, I had to shorten the straps about 3 inches, not sure what that was about, but I figured it should sit above and not below the boobs.
The back, overlapped for breeziness - these would be good menopausal nightwear but since DIL is about 20 years away from that I won't mention it
These seemed so tiny when I was making them, I felt I was making doll clothes, but they fit. To match the overlapped back these have sort of overlapped side seams like gym shorts.
Now a few of my own technical notes:

  1. Lovely pattern style wise and easy to sew, with one exception.
  2. Personally I would throw the binding instructions out the window (there is over seven yards of bound edges here). I was annoyed to no end to see this pattern described as for beginners with complicated instructions for applying narrow 1/4" seam binding. Listen by the time you wrap a 1/4" around to the wrong side there is not going to be much left and you certainly will have a tough time catching the wrong side from the right side. I suggest you use the technique described above and make your own 1 1/2 " binding so there is actually something to work with. All those poor beginners working quickly during nap time in tears.
  3. The instructions for putting the shorts together with a series of complicated start and stops of the binding at various stages should be thrown out the window and way past the driveway, IMO of course. Best bet is to just bind all the pieces and then overlap the side seam sections where they should go and top stitch them down. Easy and you will have all your nerves left at the end of the process.
Final verdict, great pattern but there are much easier ways to put them together than the instructions suggest.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Taking orders

Scarlett did her sewing presentation for her grade one class. It went well and afterwards kids approached her with orders.

She has yet to learn how sewing for other people can get annoying. But then again she is only six, still time. In the meantime she is pretty pleased with herself:

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Scarlett sewing

My granddaughter Scarlett was given an assignment to do a presentation to the class of something she is really good at.

She chose sewing, and made this video at home tonight.

My own little Nancy Zeiman:


Saturday, June 11, 2016

Handy sewing hint #18: buttonholes

I must confess that life/family and actual sewing has interfered with my blogging lately. The good news, if you think this way, is that I am full of new ideas on handy sewing hints.

Here goes, and as usual please add your own insights into the comments.


This week a notice of a new Indie pattern arrived in my in box. This detail caught my eye:

A couple of things I noticed. 

First of course was that the buttonholes were way too big for the buttons and that shirtdress was sure to come undone at some point, which is not really a great outcome for a shirt dress or the person in it.

The second thing I noticed was that the buttonhole at the top was dangerously close to the end of the placket likely to fray through. It needed to be moved down so the end of the buttonhole was at least 5/8" below the neck edge of the placket. Of course the sewer might have wanted to keep the placket ends right on top of each other at the neckline but buttons aren't staples. If you want that to happen what you really need is to end the top of the buttonhole that 5/8" or so below the neckline and sew in a small snap to keep it all neat.

All that is showing here of course is inexperience and there isn't a lot of information around on buttonhole fine points, and so I will try to make a bit of a contribution here.

First of all buttonholes freak sewers out. 

I was once followed around a fabric store by a woman with a blouse in a bag. She had heard I sewed and wanted me to put the buttonholes in her finished blouse for her. For 20 years she had sewn snaps onto her blouses with buttons on top because she had such terrible luck making buttonholes.

How nuts and how identifiable is that?

The thing with buttonholes is they are the last thing. It is entirely possible to ruin a perfectly wonderful garment in the last 5 minutes with a buttonhole disaster or buttonhole cutting disaster. I know. I once made a suit for a friend and sliced through the entire front cutting open the very last buttonhole.

I have tons of stories like that.

Truth is that some machine do a better job with making buttonholes than others. This is often a case where it is not you it's them.

My personal view is that many of the super duper computerized gadgety buttonhole systems are not as reliable as the sales person will lead you to believe. When they tell you "You will be able to make buttonhole after identical buttonhole, after the first one because the machine will memorize it" what they should add is that the "sensor" most often is just counting the number of zig zag stitches on the first side and of course if fabric layers change, as they can do in a garment, this may not be the right number of stitches to match the sides, and despite the miracles of New Machines your buttonholes can unexpectedly still turn out uneven even in your $5,000 machine.  (Does that make sense or only to me?) 

I have a former top-of-the-line for example that does this and, even worse, has a default where the sides of the buttonholes are so close together there is a 105% of cutting some of the stitches when the buttonhole is cut open.

So back to the machines.

I personally prefer old school four step buttonholes where you turn the dial - down one side, bar tack at the button, up the other side, bar tack. I have a couple of vintage Berninas and an expensive Janome that make buttonholes this way and I trust them.

This system allows you to control what is happening and that is a good thing.

Of course the nicest and completely most foolproof buttonholes in the world are make with the old template attachments, that you can buy anywhere, eBay, or at consignment shops sometimes (I got a spare at Value Village for $3.50).

Here is what those look like:

These units require you to cover, or drop your feed dogs and remove the presser foot and screw them onto the needle bar.

The buttonholes are made by inserting cams or templates of the buttonhole (including keyhole) of various sizes into a trap door in the bottom of the unit.

To operate you line up the foot, lower the presser bar and give it gas. These devices make a real racket, sort of like a tin truck on a tin road and you really wonder if this is a good idea.

The thing is that totally without any skill at all they make gorgeous round ended buttonholes with zero skill or involvement from yourself, which is kind of nice.

This week I made a short sleeved Negroni shirt for my youngest son's surprise birthday (music festival theme, hence the tie dye) and I made the buttonholes this way.

Here is the shirt:

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Very quick one

This week has been a blur.

It started on Monday morning with me sitting under the dining room table beside my daughter's wonderful Golden on her last day while Katrina had to go out (middle child orientation for starting school next year) while we waited for the vet to make a house call. 

It is amazing how the space left when an important soul has gone can feel even larger than their presence.

It just got busier all week but I did manage to get some sewing cutting out done, my husband's pants (guess what, his hip size is three times smaller than his waist - it is not just women who have these issues - and it explains a lot about why he hates clothes shopping) another pair of Talia pants for me, a shell and a birthday present for youngest son (who probably doesn't read this blog but you never know). Tomorrow I am off to see if I can find fabric for an idea I have for my polite and long suffering DIL in NYC who has a birthday fast approaching too and is a recipient of many of my experiments.The more hectic my life is the more I regroup with some sewing fit in in the corners of the day.

I have some more handy sewing hints in my head but just didn't have the focus this week. Bear with me. I am taking care of the three kids while their parents are off to a wedding this weekend so might not get around to being informative until Sunday night.

I had to share a bright spot with you before bed though.

This morning I picked up a little Kenmore sewing machine, a real one not a kid's type but smaller in size that a big machine - must be some sort of older travelling model. It worked well and the stitch was perfect.

I brought it home and gave it to Miss Scarlett after school and she was very pleased. She has set up a sewing station in her room and this means she can sew whenever she wants to now, not just when she visits me. Yes I know she is only six but really that girl can thread and pivot with the best of them.

She told me today that some of her friends have formed a sewing/knitting club on their own. Six and seven year olds. Most of the girls knit she tells me, a few hand sew but she is the only one who can operate a machine (probably the other grandmothers have more sense).

This interests me because her mother and her friends would never have had this interest at this age and most of the other mothers who where my peers didn't sew at all. I realize I am of the generation when sewing was not real cool, good with your hands meant bad with your brains in some circles. I know I certainly didn't talk about sewing much in my professional life. I remember a young colleague once dropping something off at the house on a weekend years ago and he arrived when I was sewing - he told me that his grandmother from the old country sewed but didn't think women like me did.

Does this have any resonance to other women of my generation?

I guess all of this, the split lives we had to lead, persons with interests versus working person, professional woman and mother, make me glad that stigma is vanishing. Those older sewers who look down at bit at the sometimes reckless creativity of the Indie pattern crowd need to remember this - these new sewers have done this, and maybe it is they, not us, who are opening this creative life up for the youngest sewers.

Does this make any sense to anyone but me, late in night, typing from my bed?

At any rate, cleaning up tonight I found this, left behind by Scarlett on one of the practice scraps she was working on with her new machine before she took it home.

This does my heart good I can tell you:

Friday, May 27, 2016

Thread theory, info and birthdays

I have a real nice husband. 

He pretty much spends all his time taking care of this family. He cries more easily than I do, at TV commercials with small children in them, and when he looks at Miss Daisy. His cooking, to quote one of the kids, is so good its its own food group. He thinks he can fix anything and will break it trying. I have seen him do innumerable eccentric things but never once be uncharitable or mean spirited about anyone. He has no dress sense. He will leave the house with four items of clothing all with a different team name on them, from places and states he has visited. He will put on brown socks with grey pants. He cooks dinner for me every night and makes me coffee before I get out of bed in the morning. He fixed his slippers with duct tape. He once asked me if I thought he could make a hot tub by cutting the old oil tank in half. He painted most of the youngest son's B and B after a week of 12 hour days and a 5 hour drive home. He is under the impression I am a real catch. 

Tomorrow is his birthday and when I asked him what he wanted to do he said have dinner with me at home. He then brought home 20 pounds of lobster that he is cooking in the bathtub as I write this in a plastic pail with the Sous Vide and his app. 

He is making his own birthday dinner. 

When I asked him what he wanted for his birthday he said nothing, he has everything he needs.

I have decided to make him some pants, some Jutlands from Thread Theory. If I can get a pattern to fit him he can avoid the stores and he will like that.

Here is the pattern:

Least I can do.