Showing posts with label sewing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sewing. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Simplicity 4927

I've been doing just a little bit of sewing, despite the fact I have several things cut out and sitting on my sewing table. Here are a pair of dresses I did get done. It's a very simple pattern, yet because I've been enjoying the nice weather just a bit too much, it took me a month. After I made them, I discovered a bonus. They are big enough and the style and color of the dresses is just right to put over longer layers in the fall and keep using them. I love that.

My two little models were feeling cooperative when I took pictures of them in their dresses. G. has a pair of pink sandals that match L.'s purple ones, but they must have been kicked off when she came in from church. J. and I think they are not looking quite so look-alike in these pictures... or is it just us?

(L. on left and G. on right)

And as a bonus, I was able to use some of my grandmother's antique buttons for the fasteners. You gotta love dresses without zippers of button holes (these use elastic to close attach to the buttons).

The question is, at the rate I'm sewing this summer, will I get to the things I planned on making in time for the intended wearers to wear the clothes before it gets too cold or they are outgrown? I guess we'll have to wait and see. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Adventures in sewing circa 1943

Hmmm... well I certainly don't want to write about the snow that fell last night. Writing about taxes doesn't seem terribly fun, either. Really, I don't have anything to write about because I have spent every waking moment working on sewing this pattern.

Cute dresses, huh? I found it for sale when the little girls were babies and have been holding on to it until they can wear a size 6. Since for the next 10 minutes they wear a size 6, I am finally making the dresses. I very nearly let the moment get away from me. They are tall girls and between their height and the shorter style of girls' dresses in 1943, I needed to add a couple of inches length onto the pattern as it is. Since they are also rather narrow little girls, with the added length, I think I will have time to make the pattern a couple of times before they completely outgrow it.

And I do want to make it again. I have the short-sleeved version still to make after all. Well, that and the fact that the learning curve for putting these dresses together is extremely steep. I don't know if you've ever looked at the instructions for vintage patterns before, but let's just say they're not verbose. They also assume the seamstress knows what she's doing. I think I have spent as much time figuring out how to make the pieces fit together as I have actually sewing. While the dresses are looking pretty decent, all I can see are the places I want to redo because having made it once or twice, I finally understand how it all works. At least they will be easily finished in time for Easter, which is good, because they are not the only children in the house whose clothes need figuring out.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Out of sorts

That's how I'm feeling, and I better do something about it soon because the hyper-sensitive among us are starting to pick-up on it and then it will be all downhill from here. I have the beginnings of a big art project planned for everyone on Friday, so perhaps I will spend some time making examples to show everyone this afternoon. That sounds more inspiring than paying the bills, huh?

While I'm sorting myself out, here's a photo of the t-shirt I made for K. for his birthday. That's the Incredible Hulk on it, and I've never had such trouble sewing an item of clothing. The embroidery took hours to sew out and I had multiple broken needles and other frustrations. But K. loves it, so it was worth it.

Friday, March 14, 2014

H. has been home for two years

I'm really bad at remembering these anniversaries, but when a friend posted about being home for two years with her two children, I realized that that means H. has been home for two years as well. I think nothing quite describes how far H. has come in these two years than to show some pictures and describe our day yesterday.

One of the things we really like to do when we are here is to take a picnic to Papago Park. There are lots of places to explore and hike around, plus it's just a lovely park.

Here's H. hiking around.

Do you remember our trip to New Hampshire two years ago, right after H. came home? We did a lot of things, one of which being a nice long hike up in the White Mountains. That would be the hike where J. and I literally dragged H. up and down the mountain. It was not a lot of fun and her inability to navigate terrain which did not involve a sidewalk caught me completely off guard. The combination of undiagnosed eye issues and a complete absence of muscles combined with life experiences which involved sitting in a room doing not much of anything creates a child who cannot engage with her environment in ways one expects a child to.

How much has changed... she can now run (really run) a fairly long distance, her muscle tone has improved significantly, she is curious about her environment and is able to ask appropriate questions to get the information she wants, she understands past, present and future (so that we didn't have her asking where we were going every 30 minutes as we did when we went to New Hampshire), she asks for things and joins in instead of passively just watching other people enjoying what she would like to (we never intentionally leave her out, but it helps to have her ask instead of waiting for us to notice), and she will turn down food when she is not hungry or doesn't like something (you just can't believe how huge this one thing is). It is like watching the real child bloom from an empty shell. I know that sounds a bit melodramatic, but it is truly what it is like.

Some pictures. Here is the first small hill H. was able to go up and down without a problem.

Some pictures from the picnic ramadas.

This picture does a great job of capturing the extent of the muscle tone H. is developing.


We noticed while we were there that more than a few people chose to wear blue shirts.

(l-r) G., L., M., K., and H.

Because of B., we notice all things bees. This sign made me chuckle because I wondered what the opposite would be... lazy bees? couch potato bees?

When we were done with our lunch we drove over to another part of the park to climb up to Hole in the Rock. Here is everyone inside. M. noticed that there were people taking pictures of us trying to get everyone together to take a picture. I guess we're our own moving tourist attraction.

K., M. (who looks as though she's texting, but is really trying to figure out the panorama feature on her phone which is what she said when I mocked her for it), P., and B.


B., with the view from the top behind him.

Here is the view up the path to the hole. H. did this entire thing herself, both up and down. Only once she needed help on the first step down, after which with her new confidence, she then jumped (JUMPED!) down each step the rest of the way. There was no dragging involved anywhere. It seems fitting that this occurred on her two year anniversary home.

We all had a nice time, though when you are the father of so many, you don't really get a chance to do what you would like to do... rock climb.

I have another article up... The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Yes, we all have them.

Also, if you are in the Chicago area, go see Thin Ice Theater's latest production, Pride and Prejudice. A. is (obviously) not in it, but you should still go and see it anyway. (A. really, really, really wishes she could have been in it.)

And really you should go just to see the dozens of dresses that were created. I made a few of them before I left town, such as this one:

Please notice the yards of piping... and the lace... and the gathers everywhere... and the piping....

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Making stuff

Have you noticed we like to make stuff around here? (I use the word 'stuff' because it annoys A. I'm always telling her she may not use the word in her writing because she can find a more descriptive one, so when I use it, it gives her something to comment on. I point out that knowingly using a term is fine. But I digress... again.) Aside from the Roman mosaics, there have been a few other things which have been created.

M. is taking a three-dimensional art class at school and their first assignment was to install in a large project made out of fabric in a place of the student's choice. M. received permission to install hers in an unused shower.

It's a difficult project to take a picture of, but do you see the large tentacles coming out of the shower door? Supposedly they just want to hug you, but I have my doubts. When she writes more about making the project on her Tumblr page, I'll share the link with you.

My own creation was a bit more pedestrian. I showed you the skirt I drafted and made a while back, and now I have made a second one. This one is a bit fuller in the skirt and is very comfortable to wear. I also very slightly tweaked the fit, so I think it fits even better than the first one.

The trouble with showing you the fit of an item of clothing is that I have to appear in the picture.

Me: Hey, A., take of picture of me in this skirt.
A.: You look really stiff. You don't really stand like that.

Me: Well, how do am I supposed to stand? (Trying to look more natural.)
A.: Hahahaha... now you look like you're trying to look like a model. (I tell you there's nothing like your 15 year old daughter laughing at you.)

Many small people: We'll stand with you, Mommy!

A.: But now you're all covering up the skirt! (Can you tell she's laughing at the whole project?)

There... best picture yet.

Here's what I really want to show off. Invisible zipper (with matching seams) and notice how the pinstripes on the skirt line-up? This makes me happy.

And forgive me while I continue to push traffic to A.'s new blog. She has another post up about her next experiment. I'm actually a little impressed with how she is writing about what she is trying out and the way she is using the blog to keep track of what she's learning. My checkbook is also happy that she's found a way to practice cake decorating which doesn't involve making more cake. Take a look:  ABCakes

Please keep H. in your prayers on Monday. Her surgery is scheduled to begin at 9:30 am. And so begins our adventures in tissue expansion. Deep breath.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

The Coat Route

Let's start out the new year by talking about books. It's pretty appropriate because I spent a good chunk of yesterday just reading. It was wonderful. I also stayed up far too late in the evening (early morning?) reading as well. What absorbed my attention? Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers. It is the best of the Lord Peter Wimsey series and is far more novel than mystery. If you haven't read it, be sure to start with the other books in the series, first. In order to really enjoy and appreciate it, you have to know Lord Peter and Harriet Vane. A warning, though. I'm pretty sure the series would never get published today. Dorothy Sayers was a proponent of a classical education and was extremely well-educated herself. As a result, there are chunks in her books in Latin, Greek, and French. The Latin I can get one or two words of, none of the Greek, and I can make a passable attempt at the French. She doesn't ever translate, but you can appreciate (and understand) the books without it... you just have know ahead of time it will make you feel somewhat small in regards to your education. Unless, of course, you do read Latin, Greek, and French.

But that's not really the book I want to discuss right now. Another book I finished reading over the holidays was The Coat Route: Craft, Luxury & Obsession on the trail of a $50,000 coat by Meg Lukens Noonan. Yes, you read that right, $50,000 for one coat. I picked it up because I was interested in what could have cost that much money and because I knew it was about the world of bespoke tailoring and hand-made clothing. It could have been interesting or I could have just been disgusted by the whole thing, I had no idea when I started.

My reaction is somewhere between the two extremes. In the book, Ms. Noonan takes each facet of the coat and delves into the processes involved in making it... the wool (vincuna), the silk lining, the buttons, the weaving, the bespoke tailoring. This part was fascinating. It was also vaguely depressing, though not for the reasons you would expect. Each of these components (with the exception of the gathering of vicuna fiber; that was a happier story) was something that involved knowledge and craftsmanship at an expert level. In each case, the craftsmen involved were older and near retirement. The sad part is, there were no younger men or women who were in line to take over. No one was interested in the hard work of learning to master the skills needed to create the beautiful items. In each case, while there were remnants of craftsmen making the item, the bulk of the production had shifted to massive factories, turning out cheap and unremarkable items, by people working in horrid conditions. All so we can go to the store and purchase $5 shirts which will fall apart after several months of washing.

The interesting part of the book was what it had to say about our disposable, consumer culture which expects new and cheap fashions all the time. Instead of investing in a few good and classic items of clothing, we spend money on clothing that is worn for a short period of time, whose production caused waste and pollution and human misery, and which will ultimately end up in a land-fill. One particularly telling story was told by one of the craftsmen, the button-maker, I think. Several years ago, they tried to start on apprentice program to teach their craft. It would both teach the craft and give the apprentices a job which would support them and allow them to make items of beauty. No one signed up. No one signed up when the business was located in a small town with over 65% unemployment. It was just a sad commentary all the way around.

Of course, there was also the portion of the book which made me roll my eyes and politely suggest the men she interviewed really needed to get a life. Men who pay for bespoke tailoring (the word 'bespoke' refers to tailored clothing created for a specific person... made to that person's specific measurements and much of it sewn by hand) have bought into a very small and very private club. They can often spot bespoke tailoring on another person and there is a strong bit of pridefulness which goes along with the whole thing. (It also fit in very nicely with my Lord Peter Wimsey binge, as he would never wear anything but bespoke. But he gets a pass, being fictional and all.) I grew just a little impatient with these men. There are so many more important things in the world.

I will admit to being torn, though. I hate to see knowledge and the ability to create beautiful, useful items disappear. I hate to see the ability to support oneself and ones family through being a craftsman disappear. the world seems a more generic, more harsh, and less beautiful place as a result.

In between their whinings about good dry cleaners, a couple of the 'bespoke club' (as I termed them in my head) had something interesting to say.

"'I don't know what happened to the old European trade idea, but it's gone,' David [Cutler, owner of the coat] says. 'And if we don't get it back we, as a culture, will be the poorer for it.'
'People still desire quality, but they have forgotten what it is. They buy things that are expensive and think they are getting something good, but they're not.'"

We have forgotten what quality is... in many, many aspects of life. We take what's easy and cheap instead of holding out for something better.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Champagne tastes

Ask my mother, I've always suffered from Champagne tastes without the checking account to go with them. In some ways it's served me well because I'm willing to pay a bit more thing items that are well made and that I know will last the 5-10 years that I'm going to be wearing them. In other ways, it's just a bummer, and I've had to learn to scale back my desires a bit.

And it's not just my own clothes. I have a thing for well-made, classic children's dress-up clothing. I think that what passes for much of today's children's dress clothes is a bunch of tatty schlock that isn't worth the price tag they put on it. (Not that I have an opinion or anything.) It's one of the major reasons I like to sew for my girls. I can make what I want at significantly less than I can find the same styles ready-made.

If you've seen my children in their everyday clothes, you know that I've pretty much given up the well-dressed-all-the-time-dream. But when it comes to dressing them up, I like to take back control a bit. (This is all a prelude for telling you why I didn't buy fabric to make the girls Christmas dresses at the store today, so hang in there.) I would be quite happy if I could spend my time making beautiful children's dresses for the children I love. The trouble is there just aren't a whole of occasions to warrant having huge amounts of dress-up clothes and the fabric to make them doesn't come cheap.

Ever since I saw this pattern (Claire's Vintage Velvet Dress) a couple of years ago (it's from the Sew Beautiful Magazine, issue 133), I have wanted to make it.

(This is the pattern photograph... the little girl is a model.)

It's a beautiful dress, isn't it? It's appropriate for our weather and it look comfortable (though I think the bodice is a little too tight on the model). Cute, cute, cute. For a size 6, though it takes nearly four yards of fabric and then multiply that times 2, well, that's 8 yards. I did find some non-stretch velvet (not an easy feat these days... evidently velvet isn't terribly popular right now) in a deep blue, but the price was $25 a yard. Even if I had that sort of money to throw around it would be a little difficult to justify spending it on dresses that would only be worn a couple of times at most. Little girls who wear a size 6 grow too fast.

So I didn't buy the fabric. In the long run it's probably best that I didn't find fabric to make the dresses because I know it would make me a little crazy to try to finish them before Christmas and do everything else I want to do as well. Plus, it's not like G. and L. don't have scads of dresses in their closet already which were worn by older sisters. 

But someday I'm going to make that dress. 

Oh, and one more thing I wanted to share with you. Here is A.'s cast photo for Romeo and Juliet which Thin Ice Theater will be doing on January 10, 11, and 12th. Isn't it a gorgeous picture of her?

Monday, November 11, 2013

It fits! It fits!

I've been facing a steep learning curve over the years trying to make myself clothing that actually fits. I'm great with children's clothes, but sewing for myself has been an abyssal disaster. Too big, too small, too big and too small, too unattractive. It's as though two completely different people have been using the sewing machine... the competent one who can match fabric and patterns together to make something nice and the clueless one who churns out item after item that lands in the trash. I had just about given up ever sewing something for myself that I would actually wear and admit to making.

Then two things happened that made me try one more time. An older friend at church gave me some old skirts that she no longer needed and I saw some really cute skirts in the LL Bean catalogue and I really, really wanted. The skirts were plaid and I was suddenly consumed with the need for plaid skirts. At least one of the skirts that was handed down to me was a very nice plaid, just in a style I knew I would never wear, but there was enough fabric to use to remake a new skirt. So I held my breath and decided to try one more time.

I knew that I have had no success using printed patterns, so decided to pull out a book I've had on my shelf for a while and try drafting one myself. It truly couldn't turn out any worse than my previous attempts. So I opened up the book, How to Make Sewing Patterns by Donald McCunn, and very carefully followed the directions step by step. Every single one of them. (It is very difficult to fit a muslin on your own body and I was heartily wishing for a dressmaker's dummy.) I ended up with a muslin that seemed as though it would work, held my breath and cut the fabric. Then I let the cut pattern sit for a few days, hardly daring to venture further.

Yesterday I decided to give it a try and put the skirt together. I was glad that I had lots of practice following skirt construction directions from sewing for my girls because when you draft your own pattern, there are no instructions for putting it together included. And when I finished it and put it on... IT FIT! And it fit well. Probably much better than if I had bought the skirt off the rack. I was so excited I walked around the house wearing the new skirt trolling the population for compliments. (D. will make a great husband. Right on cue he said, "I like it. It looks very nice.") Even better I had everything in my stash to make it and didn't need to buy anything. Free skirt.

Here it is.

I found a fun navy paisley fabric for the facing for the waist.

Here it is on. I'm not destined to be a clothes model. "Do something else with your hands," J. kept saying.
"Like what?" I kept replying.
"I don't know, but you are standing so stiffly it looks odd."
"I feel odd... I hate having my picture taken."

Now to pull all of the winter plaid fabric out of stash and make a whole bunch more.

Friday, October 25, 2013

I do not heart minky

I thought that making G. a panda costume would be a good idea. She loves them and she is still little enough to think dressing up as a panda would be fun. So I bought I pattern that looked as though it would be fairly simple to change into a panda and started looking for some fabric. Then a bit ago, I discovered on one of my many trips to Vogue (I live just a few blocks away and just run over anytime I need a sewing notion... which seems to be a lot) I happened to notice that minky fabric was half off.

You know minky fabric, right? It's that super, super soft fleece that many baby blankets are made out of. It's the fabric, that when you bring your children to the fabric store, they stop and pet the whole time you are looking at other fabric. It really feels good to touch it. And wouldn't a panda made out of minky be just so soft and cute? I thought so, so I bought a bunch of black minky and white minky.

Those of you who have actually sewn with minky fabric before can see what's coming already, can't you? I really had no idea. I thought it would be like sewing with any other fleece fabric. Ha! It's too soft and too stretchy and too fuzzy to be able to work with easily. It's only plus is that it's nice to touch as you swear at it while you are sewing. At least I tried sewing a sample before starting on the actual project and alerted me to the difficulty of the task I had set before myself. Googling 'sewing with minky' turned up some good hints: pin a lot, like every inch; do NOT iron it; use a walking foot; pin a lot; keep the minky fabric on the bottom if sewing two different types, and so on. I will add that it's not worth it to try and serge it. I did try... on a scrap and it was just too difficult. My other tip would be speed. The faster your machine goes, the easier it is to feed the fabric through.

Having figured out the technicalities of working with the fabric, I was ready to start the costume. I sewed and sewed and sewed. Did I mention that the fabric also sheds along the cut edge to an amazing degree. By the time I was done it looked as though a panda has exploded all over me. I was covered in black and white fuzz. I also had the body of a costume... that looked like a backwards skunk.

I should have known something was wrong when G. was watching me sew and couldn't figure out what I was sewing. Black... white... it seemed as though it should be pretty obvious. I should have also listened to that little voice inside my head that said, "Why don't you actually go and look at the dozens of stuffed pandas in the room across the hall just to be sure you have the colors correct?" Did I listen? No, of course not. Sometimes my self-confidence is a little misplaced. After I finished the costume and looked at it and realized that other than the colors there was nothing about even remotely panda-like I decided to actually look at a panda.

Be impressed that I neither ripped up the costume or burst into tears when I looked that the pile of stuffed pandas across the hall. I held in my hands an all black costume with a white circle on the tummy (yeah, I know, I don't know what I was thinking) when the pandas all had completely white middles with black necks, arms, and legs. Just because I didn't burst into tears doesn't mean I didn't want to.

At this point I finally did a smart thing and put it down for a while. I had to go pick-up my children from a friend's and decided to try to fix it later. When I came back to it, I was a little more balanced and had a plan. I took the extra white minky fabric that I had and cut a new middle section and just sewed it right on top of the costume. About the only good think about the fabric is that you don't have to finish the edges (they eventually will stop shedding... I hope) and you can sew right on top of the fabric and not see the seem. It's the only thing that saved the costume... and my sanity.

It worked well enough. I just hope no one looks to carefully at it and G. certainly doesn't care. It has to be the worst construction job I have done in the past several years. But it fits, G. loves it, and she is very, very soft in it. Here's a really bad picture of it:

Monday, September 30, 2013

A wee bit obsessed with Burda 9614

Remember the t-shirts I made G. and L. with Superman and a panda embroidered on them? Well, I was so pleased with how they turned out that I decided to make another version of it with long sleeves. (The little girls are growing through their clothes and are in dire need of things that actually fit.) So I dug out my embarrassingly large stash of knit fabric and made this. (There are actually two of them, but L. took hers somewhere and I haven't found it yer.) 

Cute, huh? I love the fabric. But then they needed pants, so I tried making some leggings to match. I see a lot of leggings in their future because I was able to make two pairs, from tracing the pattern to the final hem in one afternoon.

And I'm a little proud of them. They look as good as the leggings I recently bought for the girls at the store, but with the fabric I already had, they were cheaper.

Well, then I was on a roll and I had yet more knit fabric, so I decided to try a different version. This one has a hood and contrasting long sleeves. The pink version is G.'s and she loves it. I have a red striped one cut out for L., I just need to find some time to make it.

G. particularly loves the hood.

Lastly, because everyone needs a Monday morning laugh, look at this most excellent photo bombing that L. managed. A. was taking a picture of G. and when she looked at it afterwards discovered a crazed L. in the background.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Making stuff makes me happy

Somehow or other I ended up with quite of bit of time this weekend and was able to make G. and L. a pair of t-shirts. Creating things really does help to relax me and put me in a healthy frame of mind. I truly believe that people were meant to create, in whatever form that takes, and it is in this way that we show how we are made in the likeness of God, the ultimate creator.

Besides, who cannot help but be happy when you see four big spools of this color of blue on your serger?

It also makes you especially happy when, after a good chunk of time, you finally feel as though you have truly figured out how to thread that serger. Plus, being able to change the thread on the serger allows one to make a couple cute t-shirts in the same pretty blue. (These are from Burda 9614)

Oh, how I love my embroidery machine (and my parents for giving it to me several years ago). Because then I can make these...

a panda for G....

and Superman for L.

It felt as though it was a educational experience, for not only did I finally overcome my fear of threading the serger, I also figured out how to use a double needle on my sewing machine so I could do neck edges like this.

Or sleeves like this.

J. gave me the nicest comment when I showed him the finished t-shirts last night, "It looks like something you would buy in a store." Music to my ears.

And the girls pretty much love them. It was pretty difficult to choose whether to show the photo of the nice smiles, but with hair in the face,

or no hair in the face, but extremely goofy smiles. So you get both. It probably won't surprise you that G. and L. getting dressed this morning was quick and drama-free. If only I could give them new t-shirts every morning.

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