Saturday, November 30, 2013

November Garment of the Month is Finished!!

So excited to be posting my November Garment of the Month! Because of SarahLiz and her Challenge,

I have made more time to sew for myself than ever before. Thank you SarahLiz for administering this great group of sewers and the Challenge. It is a real treat to go and read other's blogs and see what they have been up to!

For my November garment I went back and forth between an Ottobre Design Magazine or a Vogue dress pattern. I ultimately settled on the Ottobre sheath type dress because I thought it would sew up quicker. Well the dress did sew up quick, with the help of my Serger, but tracing the pattern and grading between pattern sizes proved to be a bit of a hassle. There are soooo many patterns on one sheet it got a bit confusing and I ended up starting over a few times. It wasn't really a HUGE deal but when I have limited sewing time I want things to go as smoothly as possible. Here is what one side of a pattern sheet looks like:

A lot to process for my brain!
I had bought some really nice stretch brocade for this months project but got nervous about cutting it up when I changed my pattern so bought some less expensive heavy stretch knit from Joanne's. With a good coupon, I paid about $6 a yard for it. I thought it would not be the end of the world if I messed it up!!

So, here is my November completed garment! I am really pleased with the way it turned out and have worn it numerous times already. It is very comfortable and because the knit is heavier weight, plenty warm for our cooler late fall days here in southern Indiana.

I made a fabric belt and shortened the sleeves to break up the pattern a bit. 

Neck got a little wonky due to lots of stretch but all and all turned out okay.

Citrus photobombing (again!)
I will probably use this pattern again but might try adjusting the neckline to be a cowl.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Cooper Bag Sew A Long - Day 1

Today the Cooper Bag Sew A Long (SAL) began.

Since I am on eastern time and the SAL peeps at Colette are on pacific time, I started without them. Here it can be 11 am or after when the west coast folks wake up and get going and since I had the entire house to myself  during that time, I didn't want to waste it. When I purchased my pattern for the bag I also purchased a booklet which was described as an "... in-depth guide to bag making" and in which also gave me the assurance that I'd be "walk[ed through]...from start to finish." 

The Cooper Companion booklet was a pdf document that was able to be instantly downloaded.

The Cooper Companion
I actually sent mine to UPS and had them print it up. Because it was color printing and 134 pages it ended up being a bit more than I wanted to spend. But today as I started construction of the bag, I was glad for the quality print job and the color photos. The Companion provides the same information as the actual pattern  PLUS a lot more. There are tons of photos (400 according to Colette) of each step and lots of good explanations. The Companion also gives tips here and there on various bag construction subjects such as working with leather and vinyl. It cost $9 (plus my printing costs).

Pattern comes with a comb binding.
The Cooper Bag pattern itself cost $16. That is if you want an actual paper pattern that is real fancy.
Pattern sheets are printed on quality paper. 

I think that is pretty steep for a bag pattern but figure over time it
will pay for itself since contained are 3 different bag variations and I loved all three. I could have gotten the pdf version for $12 but frankly that isn't a big discount when you factor in your printing costs. Besides that, I have been using a lot of pdf patterns lately and am tired of them.

Finally, I ordered the Version 3 hardware kit for an additional $6. It came in a sweet little box. Again, somewhat pricey but convenient to have all one needs in a box ready to use.

Hardware Kit for Bag Version 3. Cute but probably wouldn't order this accessory again.
In my last post I mentioned all the fabric needed for the bag, except for the vinyl, came from my stash. You don't have to make the bag from water repellent fabrics but I chose to. The outside will be vinyl and a nice sturdy blue outdoor fabric.

I am pretty hard on my bags so wanted to beef this one up. Amazingly, while searching through my stash, I found some ripstop nylon in blue for the lining. I seriously have no clue where the nylon came from, what I bought it for or what grand sewing plan prompted it's purchase. It looks like it may be a thrift find. However it came to be in my stash is just fine because I didn't have to buy it.

I was a bit surprised but guess it is good that the SAL instructions posted today are exactly what is in the Companion Book. This is the first SAL that I have actively participated in so don't really know what to expect. Because the SAL instructions are the same as the Companion I probably will forge ahead instead of waiting for the next post. I was a bit timid about the vinyl but it sews up beautifully and easily. Leather sewing machine needles and those clippy things definitely make the job easier. Today I was able to get the front bag piece pockets sewn and the straps completed. The finished SAL bag submission is due Dec. 13th and there is a little contest to go along and already there are gorgeous bags submitted!!!

Today's Progress.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Great Big Sewing Community and A Bag Sew-A-Long.

One great thing about sewing these days is how one can be, if they choose, a part of a much larger sewing community than just close sewing friends next door or the great and talented folks at the local Sewing Guild. The possibilities for learning new skills, meeting new people, and seeing their work through pictures, is really limitless due to the Internet.

10 years ago or so it was hard to find a decent sewing pattern online, especially for garments, or to know much about like minded sewists who may live all the way on the other side of the world. Now, as you all know, there are literally thousands of avenues and areas and interests to pursue in the sewing world as well as a world of free patterns and thousands again of patterns for a few dollars or more. A world that can connect you with any number of sewing aficionados in an instant. A world that can set you up with others who share your passion. And it is a lovely world that should be delved in to and pursued by the home sewists!

There are any number of blogs about any number of sewing subjects. There are youtube videos (and other videos at other sites), entire pdf books and patterns ready to be instantaneously downloaded, linky parties (which link up blogs where the bloggers then discuss and share their similar sewing projects). There are professional designers such as Angela Kane, or Nancy Zieman with websites and memberships (free or not). There are the big three pattern company(ies) with their own sewing videos, affiliated sites such as Sew4home or Professor Pincushion with tutorials and communities as well as independent pattern shops producing custom designs from all over the world and doing sew-a-longs to promote their products. There are weekly giveaways and contests at any number of blogs and online fabric shops. There are opportunities to be pattern testers. There are Blocks of the Month and Garments of the Month.

While I am sure to have forgotten some other way to pursue sewing online I think you get the idea. There are countless opportunities out there.

Really, there are as many contests or as much education, help and assistance with any sewing issue or problem that anyone could need or want. I once bought a book on couture sewing and had a question regarding one of the techniques shown.

The Author was very friendly and quickly answered my question!

Why, I just emailed the author and received a very nice, detailed answer. The information, techniques and how-tos are just there waiting to be tapped, most likely free and usually pretty darn good. Take Sew-A-Longs (SAL). Here is a way to meet other sewers, brush up or learn new skills, and have a cool sewn item at the end!

A couple of weeks ago on a whim I googled "2013 sew a alongs". While things from earlier in the year popped up so did a few in progress or coming up.The Cooper Bag Sew A Long at Colette Patterns really caught my interest and I decided to take on the challenge.


The Cooper Bag does not seem all that complicated and the pattern is rated for beginners but the recommended fabric used for the bag is leather, vinyl, wax canvas or the like. In order to expand my experience with these fabrics, and I also happen to really LOVE messenger bags and their next of kin, backpacks and satchels, I put it on my newly developed SAL excel sheet and ordered the pattern. I did have to purchase the vinyl but the rest of the supplies I already had in my stash so it hasn't cost me a great deal to get involved.

The Cooper Bag SAL begins on Monday and runs until Dec. 13th. I am really looking forward to "working" and sewing along side other Cooper Bag sewers, seeing their finished product and learning some new skills along the way. All that and more in the comfort of my own home.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Some Seriously Good Thrift Finds and a New Knit Blouse.....

These days due to my work schedule I have not been able to do my normal amount of thrifting. I freely admit that I am a serious "thrifter".  One thing I have found and an important component of serious thrifting is to be well...not very serious when setting out and to keep your options open. An open mind is essential when entering the world of thrift. 

I hardly ever pass up a suit like this because of the buttons!

That bright green double knit suit from the early 70's that looks remarkably like what your Mother wore (maybe it WAS your Mothers, who knows?) could surely be turned in to a new wallet, a wine holder, a very durable pot holder and if nothing else, take it home for the buttons!!

Buttons from my day of thrifting!
All those funky sheets could be rag rugs or tents for the young'ens when they play outside, those 90's upscale place mats...why there are numerous patterns for place mat purses out there.  When I enter a thrift store I am prepare to give anything a chance.

Disassemble and add thingys to a cool backpack? And oh my, look at all those straps and buckles!!

Over time my thrifting has allowed me to acquired a substantial amount of heavy 100% wool sweaters and heavy wool coats but there is always a chance things won't turn out like you expect. Sometimes things from the past, like some things now, are just shoddily made. This coat is an example. Dud.

A recent find...but this one didn't turn out to be so good.
In the back of my mind is this awesome idea for a cozy dog bed that would require LOTS of wool scraps... but it has yet to come to fruition. Someday soon. In the meantime, my stash of wool keeps growing.

Use to be one could walk in to any thrift store and buy a boatload of these sweaters and coats but, as crafty types have started to rule the world and snap these up for various projects that they later sell at the local art show, the wool is getting harder to find in my town. And in fact, in reality there are only so many of Gramdma's sweaters and fancy woolen coats around. There is an end to the supply of vintage stuff such as wool sweaters.

Another thrifted textile that has accumulated is quite a supply of vintage type fabrics. Just recently for a couple of bucks, I picked up three heavier weight fabrics. One was a nice green flecked 100% linen. I am a sucker for linen, even though I hardly ever sew with it! I keep envisioning these designer type tailored suits for my 17 year old. She is still waiting.

This is a serious linen...Might have a bit of silk as well. Very chic!
 The other two were home dec types.

I'm thinking floor pillow or pouf  in our "green room"
One was a vintage Waverly. Just cool to own.

Kentucky Belle by Waverly

Most of my thrifted fabric finds are for garment sewing. I don't think quilters readily give up their stash. I find a lot of knits. Some great, some not so great. I guess they are less expensive to buy to begin with but sometimes harder to sew so that great garment is given up on. I have scored entire bolts of muslin, yards and yards of upholstery type fabrics and many fleeces. I did make this sweet top with a sweater knit. The fabric cost me exactly $0.49! Yes, that is forty nine cents! Who says it doesn't pay to sew your own clothes?

Super easy knit top made by me. Photo bomb by Citrus. :)
On Tuesday, I am headed over to the thrift store again. The sweet lady who works there said she had a stack to show me. Who knows what I will find.

Sew On Friends, Sew On!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Read this book and ditch your ready to wear!

The other day while visiting Gorgeous Fabrics I discovered Ann (the owner) has a blog! I love Gorgeous Fabrics and have ordered lots of fabric from them over the past year. She has a wide selection of quality knits, some outstanding woolens and an abundance of designer type fabrics.

While scrolling through her blog I came across a recent entry about a book she was reading. The book entitled, "The Coat Route: Craft, Luxury & Obsession on the Trail of a $50,000 coat" immediately became of interest. Over the years one thing I have discovered is, it is important to me that I become the best seamstress, sewer, textile artist, couture student that I possibly can within the time, resource and opportunities I have available. This means I subscribe to many teaching type website such as Threads
and have a dozen or so subscribed Youtube channels about sewing and sometimes even purchase memberships to designers websites such as Angela Kane. BTW, if you haven't watched Angela Kane's free videos you need to. They are super easy to follow, clear and can definitely help one improve their sewing techniques! Here is a link to a sample.

Along the path of this self improvement goal I have noticed a serious lack of quality in store bought clothing. Things are just made so darn cheap these days. They look cheap, they feel cheap, they wear out quickly and frankly I don't like buying them. So I haven't been. I am gradually changing over my wardrobe to clothing I have made myself with fabric that I love and believe to be of good quality and in each piece I try to put some fancy technique in its construction. No, everything doesn't turn out perfect. I have discarded things. No it isn't easy. And, no, it is NOT less expensive than purchasing from the local outlet mall. But, it feels so good. Literally it feels good when I put on that skirt with the hong kong finish or the knit dress that fits me perfectly or the silk chiffon scarf with ruffles which looks and feels soooo high dollar.

Which is why when I read Ann's blog about the book I immediately bought it.

I want to know about the $50,000 coat. Not because I will ever own one, I won't. But because I want to know the exacting process that makes the coat so special. Every detail. I have not been disappointed. It is a page turner. :) No really. Not like a Stephen King but if you love craftsmanship and textiles you won't be disappointed. The book has inspired me to keep trying and moving forward in my sewing. I hope it does the same for you too!

Gieves & Hawkes on No. 1 Savile Row
(from Wikipedia)