Friday, April 10, 2015

Babs gone AWOL: flypaper thoughts

  • The good thing about teaching online is I can work when I am in Florida
  • The bad thing about teaching online is that I am working when I am in Florida
  • Full-time this visit
  • Might be reviewing that for next year
  • Great visit with the son's future in-laws over Easter
  • He has brought new friends into our lives
  • Made a Slip on Suzie once I realized it was not summer in Maryland
  • Made two standard sized muslins for the flower girl dresses
  • This way I can try them on four little girls and see how the basic pattern needs to be adjusted
  • Let's have a shout out for public libraries
  • I belong here and they are amazing
  • Where else in life are there so many super helpful people trying to give you a good time for free?
  • Moved RV parks
  • From the golf cart crowd to the bike riding crowd
  • More room to spread out
  • More our crowd
  • Becoming friends with my dad's best friend
  • Weird stuff happens as you move along
  • Amazing how many things don't matter anymore
  • Was decided in DC that I will be wearing merlot to the wedding
  • As in fabric not being sloppy with the drinks
  • I can do that
  • Lady in G Street most helpful
  • Going for a long skirt thing and a beaded/lacey top
  • That way my head won't explode with the fitting
  • No point in having a mother-of-the-groom with an exploded head
  • Everyone else is taking dancing lessons for the reception
  • My chances of getting the husband to do that are slim to none
  • He is of the generation of men who think dancing has to do with facial expression not foot placement
  • I usually disguise my rhythm by dancing with the kids
  • Those four flower girls are going to come in handy
  • Folks will just think I am an ace grandmother 
  • Corelle dishes are unbreakable until they break
  • Then we are talking a million shatters
  • Started on a second crochet top
  • Just got to watch the how to sew it up video
  • Still snowing at home
  • Not here
  • Off I go

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Why I am here

For those of you in Nova Scotia or parts near there this will not be news, to you but that part of the world has been under snow siege. A fellow in a neighbourhood like mine took this shot:

This is actually not funny anymore. Schools have been closed too many days to count and there is an indefinite parking ban on all the streets.

Under these conditions I am not over emphasizing how nice it is here when we talk to home. But privately I am just so glad we came down here early this year. My husband is able to take it easy and the weather is helping his hips. I just can't imagine how he would have managed shovelling all that snow. He is the kind of guy who would go out and do it even when he shouldn't.

My youngest son's girlfriend is in our house and taking care of things. Her facebook status is "sore arms" or "listening to tunes and shovelling." She is a wonderful gardener and is starting all my transplants for me to be ready when I get back (we are going mega vegetable this year - even threatening to put some raised beds in the front yard).

In exchange I am making her dresses for the wedding. Here is what she is thinking of:

Like this but sleeveless. I have to figure out how to negotiate the fit around the neck and armhole while maintaining the blouson, will probably make a muslin for that.

This looks pretty simple to sew but not sure how to rig it. The obvious choice is a lot of draping, and eventually I want to do this in a good fine knit, but I figure this might be tricky to keep it from being too bulky. Not sure if I want to break my head with a ton of muslins but draping seems obvious. And there is the wrap part. Thinking I might amalgamate a top and skirt pattern. Would like a pattern to launch me. Any ideas?

So thats what's percolating around here.

Also a Daisy update. She is doing very, very well. This is a nice simple life for her here. Walk on the beach, eat, sleep, walk on the beach, eat, sleep. Repeat. My husband built a set of stairs so she could go in and out of the RV more easily and there are lots of dogs here which she loves.

The shattered soul we rescued from the puppy mill is long gone. It's amazing what a year being safe can do. 

I was walking her a few days ago and a huge black Newfoundland lay down in front of her (the dog submission thing) Daisy just marched up and started to play. The owner laughed and said to me "That little one's full of piss and vinegar isn't she?"

If only he knew.

Monday, March 16, 2015

What an ordinary sewer bought and two garment store reviews

First off let's remember this is me writing this blog.  

Not some fashionista photographista but a person about to go online teaching who rushed her fabric bags out into the sun and threw them over a lawn chair and snapped some pictures.

OK, set up the expectations appropriately?

I am in the middle of sewing planning for some wedding outfits for various family members and collecting fabric probably too crazy for my own outfits.

Here we go:

From Mary Jo's in N. Carolina. I have some idea that I could do sleeves and a bit of a bodice with the rest dupioni. OK just idea #93.

After seeing a lot, a lot of lace with beads and sequins I was quite taken by this completely random ... stuff. Don't worry no one at home will let me wear this to a wedding.

Heavy silk jersey for my youngest son's girlfriend. From C&J

Red silk knit out of the bag obviously, heavy and a gorgeous hand. A wrap dress for me.

Melon coloured crepe de chine $15 a yard btw

More crepe de chine. My daughter said something about a striped skirt, she's probably changed her mind now. It would make a good top for me. Such a quiet dresser I am.

Beautiful silk charmeuse for another dress for girlfriend of son #2.
 And now onto two stores I want to talk about.

Both of these places do not have websites so you might miss out on them.

The first is: 

New York Elegant Fabrics 222 W. 40th.

This is a really neat place with a lot of classic fabric that so many places don't carry any more. Swiss dot in many colours, seersucker, home dec, fancy- really a fabric location of your dreams and fabrics priced well and what they are worth. 

If you are the kind of shopper who gets overwhelmed, they also have something I really like - at the end of every bolt there are 3" swatches already cut and you can just pull one of these off and take it home so if you have one of those awful "why didn't I buy that" moments you can snap a picture and email them or even send off the swatch back so they know what you are talking about.

Nice relaxed salespeople. Listen I could live there.

C & J Textiles 7th floor 230 W. 38th

C & J is like an office.

Well dressed folks at desks with papers and phones and business being done you can see through a door. They are manufacturers and garment industry suppliers - those are the deals being done in there.

However the front office is a showroom of discontinued fabrics and leftover bolts, going at good prices for superior fabrics, plus these sample cards of their silks and other fabrics:

Colour card for the silks (every kind you can think of) All fabrics in all of these colours, you just have to tell them what they want - no minimum cuts, and some person in the back will bring it out to you.

This is an upside down picture of the silk cotton (heavy like taffeta) and the colours that comes in

Fabrications means the list of types of fabric they have in the above colours - this will blow you mind - words you haven't seen in a long time - crepes, 4 ply, crepe. And this is a sideways picture in case you haven't noticed.


Good I thought considering what you are getting, for silks:

Crepe de chine  54/55" $17.50
Charmeuse 54/55"  $21.00
Heavy (as in not slinky or clingy) silk knit $33.00 also wide width

Pretty cool?

I thought so.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The ordinary woman's guide to the garment district

I have written about the garment district before and will write about it again. Thanks to the wisdom of a son who moved to NYC I go there at regular intervals.

I am somewhere between feeling pretty comfortable and finding things out that I can't believe I didn't know about before. 

What I haven't lost is my natural ability to be clueless, and like all fundamentally clueless folks I want to share when I have figured something out.

Now this is not an exhaustive or very savvy list. 

There will be more instalments when I have more to tell you in the future. After all I am not Mimi G. or Carolyn, just a visitor who is lucky to be able to go there every once in a while.


Here are some basics:


It depends if you are doing a fabric focused trip or fitting this in as part of a larger venture I guess. I have been in and out of all three airports and tried just about every configuration of taxi, shared whatever, to get myself from the airport to the garment district (West 40th- 37th between 5th and 7th Avenue).

I have tried JFK and LaGuardia. Tried booked cabs, busses and standing in those lines that never move. I have taken Ubers and illegal cabs. I have wasted hours while some shared driver drove everyone else in the van somewhere else first.


If you are fabric shopping go into Newark Airport. 

Once you get out of baggage take the Air Train (millions of signs) clean, fast and frequent which will connect you to a New Jersey train which will take you to Penn station in Manhattan where you can easily walk yourself right into the garment district. No muss, no fuss, lots of people who can help you buy the right tickets. A real get in and sit down and you are there situation. Also your cheapest option by far.

Now if you are going right from your plane to fabric shopping you might want to have a pull along case that is empty along for the ride and a change of underwear and clean socks in your purse.


I always go to Ben's on W38th. Note because the food is spectacular particularly but because it is authentic. Absolutely go there with your head set to realistic and with the knowledge cholesterol is not so much on the new hit list.

Ben's is not the place to go if you are vegan, gluten free, or want a good big salad. It is however an excellent place if you want 10 inches of pastrami in your sandwich, a matzo ball soup with one baseball sized matzo, or cabbage rolls that appear to be made by stuffing one whole cabbage.

It is also an excellent place for people watching. 

Ladies who lunch married to men who now have the garments made in the East, teenage boys actually eating 10 inches of pastrami while talking, and Latina waitresses trying to explain kosher to tables of Norwegian tourists who want milk in their tea.

Bathroom breaks:

If you forget to go at Ben's there is always the ladies at the back of the first floor at Mood.

Now the fabric:

There are the standards, Mood, and not just for the bathroom, Elliot Bermann, Parons, B and J and others like that. Most lists cover those and those are probably the first places most of us go. We figure better places better fabric.

Not necessarily so.

The thing is for first timers the garment district is sort of weird.

The best stores are often up several or many floors up in office buildings and the tiny stores at street level seem to sell only sequinned whatever, the stuff that you would need if you were in the skating competition business or going to other places at night than Joann's before they close, or the grocery store. Five inch heels kind of places.

You walk by all those stores and think "Wow that's way too flashy for this mother of three, where are the good stores?"

Aha. This is where you are being fooled by the garment district.

The idea around that neighbourhood is that the window is the best place for the fancy stuff, the fancier the better - this does not mean however that they don't have exactly what you need down back.

What you are looking for is a place so crowded they don't have a cutting table, they stand the rolls up vertical and cut like that. 

A place where they say "that sandwashed silk 54"? 

"$15 a yard," two thirds what they would charge you at Mood and half what they would charge you at B and J.

A final word.

To shop in the New York garment district you never walk into a place and say "No thanks I am just looking." 

That may work at Joann's, or Fabricville or Fabricland (assuming any staff ever approached you) but in NYC you have to tell them what is in your head and they will start pulling the bolts faster than you can look at them.

You will never find anything by yourself in these places and they expect to work it. 

In NYC everyone expects to work it.

So if what you really want to say is:

"I want something to wear to my son's wedding that is not too matronly, maybe in persimmon"

"I want something to make a summer cardigan in with holes in it"

"Or I want a summer print in cotton that doesn't have flowers in it'

Just say it.

And if they can find it at all, they will.

Tomorrow two new to me stores I really like and pictures of what I bought.

Friday, March 13, 2015

An op. ed. in praise of older sewing machines and finding them on ebay

First off this is a shot of one of the storage bunks in the old R.V. 

Pretty normal looking. In my world at least.

 (BTW I have only been here a week those swag numbers are going as soon as I develop some enthusiasm for sewing something other than clothes, which itself is iffy).

Up there I have a Bernina Minimatic ($220) , a Pfaff 786 ($200 bought for my daughter) and a Pffaf Hobbylock ($130) 603A. I also have a Bernina Sport 701 at home. ($245)

I have put the prices in here because I want to make the point that first class machines can be bought for reasonable money. The Bernina Sport is my main machine at home (I gave my Pfaff 7570 embroidery machine to my daughter, the Sport has a better straight stitch IMO and is so smooth). The 786 is going home to my daughter, the 603A (a three thread and has never been used, still has the styrofoam on it) and the Minimatic are going to stay here and wait for me to come down every year.

All are older machines, all were bought on eBay. All are first class machines and work impeccably. With some cleaning and lubricating done by me and the husband they have never had official service work since I bought them.

Now here's the op. ed. part (in the newspaper business an op ed is an opinion editorial which means its printed on the editorial page but was submitted, and the editors want to make sure you know it is just some nut's own ideas.)

These are my personal opinions on sewing machines bought second hand (I could write lots about that particular industry just let me know if you want more).

I worked once a very long time ago as a sort of free lance educational consultant for Pfaff and had a turn or two being a Vanna White to the service manager when he was doing technical training sessions. I picked up a few things.

So starting somewhere, probably in the middle and leaving some stuff out, here is how I go about finding a really good machine on eBay.

1. I only look for really strong mechanical (as in the parts are metal) older machines, made in Europe. The Germans and Swiss had great machinist traditions and good steel and excellent, although different hooks (the stuff under where the bobbin is).  

I look for Pfaffs or Berninas for that reason and nothing newer than about 20 years or so. It helps to know the model numbers. Feel free to let me know if you have other ideas but I tend to go for a Bernina 700 or 800 series (be careful you are getting the older machines, they are recycling these numbers in newer machines to emulate the classics). You just can't beat that stitch IMO. 

Pfaff also had some great mechanical models but you want to find one with the IDF, the built in walking foot that was Pfaff's claim to fame until the patent ran out a few years ago and other companies could use the idea (Janome for example). 

Understand that some in a line like the Bernina Record 830 have great cache but that mechanically all machines in that line are the same inside, just a few features are different.

One Pfaff I like is the 6091, a strong basic machine about 20 years old that was their entry level with the built in dual feed.

For sergers I like the Pfaff 786 and 788, great machines with a neat feature like you just have to change the foot to go from an overlock to a rolled hem (why did they stop making that? So easy). I also like the early Bernettes by Bernina (all sergers were always made in the east, the best ones in Japan, some by Juki in those days, none were ever made in Europe) which has a swing foot which makes threading the needle a breeze. The older sergers can be less user friendly but are reliable.

I have to tell you I would avoid an Elna serger (if I taught a class these were absolutely always the fussy ones) but would consider an older Juki, they after all made and make so many of the industrial sergers and know what they are doing.

2. I would never buy an kind of computerized machine sight unseen. If there are any issues with those machines you have to replace the boards (easy to do they generally snap in and out) but many of those boards just aren't being made anymore or if you can find one can be more expensive than the machine.

3. I tend to favour sellers who look like they are doing estate type sales (you can pick this up by what else they are selling), sometimes a dealer has a trade they oil up, replace the needle and post it and charge too much. Don't panic if they say the foot pedal is lost or the foot is missing. These are generally pretty easy to find at a good price on ebay and usually mean the machine was left aside rather than worked to death. (I basically got my Sport as a body only and assembled the missing parts and came in about half what the complete machine would have cost me).

That said it is interesting to see what they offer with the machine. Original box can be a good sign, as is the original manual.

4. What to look for when you have the machine. Well these are all very good, but precise, strong machines and assuming the electricals are all right the main issue is that they may be stiff because they are dry. The rule is to oil, just a bit but often, parts where metal moves against metal. Open it up, Bernina is easy for this, and apply the oil where they have little red dots and where metal is moving on metal, including the hook in the bobbin. And of course put in a new needle.

My strong recommendation is to go online and buy a service manual for the machine you have bought (usually about $10-15 ) and follow the instructions carefully for opening up the machine and oiling and cleaning it. 

There are two things you should never do:

  1. Use anything but a fine machine oil on the machine. A good oil is clear and is air soluble. You can buy this online. Make sure it is clear and for sewing machines and get it from a sewing machine site. Do not under any circumstances use yellow, mulitpurpose type oil, or household oil or even the general machine oil your old time dealer may try to sell you. That kind of oil will just get hard over time, never evaporate, and gunk up the machine. Actually a neglected machine is a better buy that one that got misused with the best of intentions
  2. Let anyone handy in the family near it. Just because unnamed person did a great job fixing the lawnmower and has some great oil out in the garage does not mean they are the safe person to be working on your machine. A careful woman with the sense to look at a service manual may do a better job. I once saw a serger that had the timing off that a husband had "fixed" by shaving off the parts that were hitting each other. You get my drift.
Finally know when you need professional help. Although I believe you need this less than you think (most service jobs are about needle changing and oiling to be truthful) you absolutely need someone with the right gauges to fix timing.

Timing means that the parts have to move in the right sequence at high speeds with just passing each other exactly where they are supposed to can do that without crashing into each other. If they crash that means the timing is off and everything has to be loosened up, parts that are broken and bent replaced, and set up with the right measurements between the parts so it won't happen again. (You see how technical I am). 

You know you have a timing problem (most common in sergers) if you see and hear pieces hitting each other, things stop.

You are most likely to have timing problems if a machine has bent needles or, tellingly in sewing machines, scratches along the throat plate, usually from someone "helping the machine along" or trying to keep going through too many layers.

So that's it. 

Bottom line the best machines may be the least expensive if your think about it.

Disclaimer to this op. ed.: 

Of course there are many good new machines out there but let's face it if you all you want is a nice sewing machine with a beautiful stitch and can live without needle down, thread cutters and embroidery stitches, they are out there.

Flypaper thoughts will continue

  • The long version of flypaper thoughts will continue
  • Just decided I needed a way to record things on the fly before I lost them
  • No dups
  • As if these thoughts are significant
  • By mistake bought 50/50 sheets on sale
  • Four clammy nights and switched to cotton
  • What a difference
  • Note to self
  • Big reason I sew is to avoid polyester
  • Next to impossible in the stores
  • Why would anyone line a silk dress with poly?
  • They do this
  • Husband bought a red scooter to go to the store
  • Says I can drive it
  • If I do you get pictures
  • Don't hold your breath
  • Looked at the bright orange and bright pink lace I bought and thought
  • What was I thinking?
  • Got to start the flower girl dresses soon and get myself under control
  • Man at the beach said "hey Nova Scotia, you have on different knee socks every day"
  • Lady at the store said "Love your flowered knee socks, you see everything here"
  • I think they call it branding
  • And I once tried to sew a Chanel jacket
  • You are what you are
  • Grouper is the best fish
  • More snow at home this weekend
  • Anyone ever order from Hart Fabrics?
  • Look decent
  • Fabricmart has gone a little poly on me
  • Have had great luck with ebay machines
  • More on that later
  • Have to spend a few hours altering some Landsend shorts
  • Note to self
  • I sew because I know where I am wide and where I am not
  • Landsend doesn't
  • I might look good on a red scooter
  • It's my colour
  • Just like bright orange and pink
  • Now off to mark looking at the beach
  • Sorry about that snow at home folks

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Follow me on twitter

Hi folks

With working remote from the RV and doing the other Florida things I am not getting to the laptop to blog in a way that keeps up with my random sewing thoughts.

With that in mind I set up a twitter account this morning for my sewing thoughts, originally called BarbaraEmodi since that is my name. Should serve to confuse all professional interests which will probably be good for them.

Basically I am going to use this to record ongoing flypaper thoughts so line up your expectations accordingly.

Who knows a sewingontheedge Instagram account will be next.