Tuesday, January 10, 2017

First Finish for 2017

Brand new PJ's
The first project for 2017 is finished, two pair of PJ's for my granddaughter. These are the only photos, as my granddaughter took them home yesterday and wore the pink pair to bed. I put piping on the pink, but not the blue.

You can tell I forgot to bring the fabric with me when I picked out buttons. If I had remembered, they just might match the fabric. Oh well, she loves them.

This fabric is from Chadwick Heirlooms and is absolutely lovely to sew on. For her first two pair I used Joann's fabric and I can really see the difference. The Joann's fabric is thicker and ravels more easily but the Chadwick is softer and finer, and presses beautifully.

Next project: pants! I've lost enough weight (25 lbs now) that nothing I own fits me. I have a big pile for Goodwill and am literally down to one pair of jeans, one old pair of brown slacks, and some baggy sweats and yoga pants.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

My new toy!
I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas and are having a Happy New Year. I'm recovering from last night's celebrations (ironing fabric while watching Twilight Zone) by watching the episode "Once Upon a Time" with Buster Keaton. It's hilarious.

I got a wonderful Christmas present this year, a Pfaff Coverlock 4.0. Actually, I got it during the Black Friday sales, so I've been using it for a month now, and already have had to empty the fabric catcher. Once I took the Jean-ius Craftsy class I realized that it would be a real help to my sewing efforts.

I know I haven't posted in quite a while and I do have a good reason. My daughter started a new job shortly before Thanksgiving and commutes to Denver each day. So we go to her house each morning, get the kids up and the older one off to school, then bring the toddler home, pick the older one up from school, monitor homework, feed them dinner and keep entertained. Her parents don't pick them up until after 6:30, so we are pretty exhausted by the end of the day. At least she can drive with her husband, who also works in Denver.

Great PJ pattern, I might make some for myself
I've done some sewing lately, and will post about it as I can. Right now, I'm working on two pair of PJ's for my granddaughter, as the ones I made in 2014 and 2013 are half way to her knees. I used the same pattern, Simplicity 2771, and even the same size. I just added 5 inches (13 cm) to the legs, and 2 inches (5 cm) to the bodice and sleeves.

Serged seam allowances
I've stitched the seams on the sewing machine, serged the edges, then topstitched the seams. I'm not ready to sew the entire garment on the serger.

Beautiful topstitched seam
My serger lessons begin on January 27, and run for three sessions. I was able to thread it on the third try, so I'm pretty happy about that. I was originally a bit nervous about the difficulty of threading it, but I finally realized that I've written more complicated procedures in past jobs. So I figured that I could handle it, and I have. Of course, I've only threaded it once, and only used the four thread overlock stitch. But I'm looking forward to trying the other stitches.

I'm trying to formulate plans for 2017, and will publish them later in the week. In the meantime, Happy Stitching in this New Year!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Jean-ius Craftsy Class

Dear Readers, I'm finally winding down from a flurry of sewing and traveling. After the SAGA convention I went to Boise for a weekend, then to Los Angeles for a wedding. Now I'm home and can catch my breath.

Very old Ralph Lauren jeans
I just finished sewing my first pair of jeans, from taking the Jean-ius class on Craftsy. The class, taught by Kenneth D King, focuses on copying your favorite pair of well fitting jeans. In the class, Prof King has you draft a pattern from existing jeans by marking grain lines and seams, tracing onto silk organza, then again onto paper. After making a muslin, you transfer corrections to the paper and make the jeans from the corrected pattern. He assumes you are using a well loved and fitted pair, but mine were so old and stretched out, I had trouble with the grain lines. As a result, they are slightly off grain, but more about that later.

I fitted the muslin by taking many photos of myself, making the changes, then taking more photos. This isn't ideal, but as I don't have a fitting partner, it's all I can do. Also, I used cotton twill for the muslin, and a heathery grey stretch denim for the jeans. So I fitted the muslin a bit snug and hoped for the best.


The pocket placement could be just a bit better
I can't figure out how I managed to place these pockets a bit off, as I did use one pattern piece for the back and marked the placement at the same time. But no one will be examining my rear end closely so it's not too bad. The construction details that Prof King uses are nicely detailed.

Self faced pockets
Instead of folding the top edge of the pocket over twice and stitching, as on most jeans, Prof King has you finish the edge, fold one, and topstitch. This give a smoother pocket and looks great. In the class, he demonstrates two finishes, a zig zag and trim, and a serged edge. Several times he assures the viewers that a zig zag edge is a perfectly acceptable finish. Which is good, as I don't have a serger. Here I used one of the edge finish stitches available on my machine.

Front closeup
 No belt loops or rivets on these. I don't intend to ever wear them with a top tucked in, so I didn't bother. I'm pleased with the zipper placket, it was so gratifying to make it and have it come out correctly. I did put the watch pocket in, just for fun. I'm sure I won't ever use it.

Quilting cotton pocket bag
 I used a scrap of quilting cotton for the pocket bag. The class comes with a pdf of instructions to drafting a pocket bag and I wish I would have used it instead of copying the too small bag on the jeans. Lesson learned.

Back seam finishes
On the back center seam and yoke seams, I used the plain zig zag for the finish. And you know what? I think it looks fine.

Nice, tidy hem finish
I love his hem finish, similar to the back pocket. Mark the hem, trim and finish to 1/2 inch (15 cm), then topstitch 3/8 inch (10 cm) from the bottom. Nice and smooth. I love it. This is another of the edge finishes available on my machine.

Hmm, should have pulled them up a bit and stopped moving
Here's the front view.  Sorry for the blur in the photo. I had it on a 3 second timer instead of 10 seconds. On the left front pocket you can see a tiny line of the pocket bag, I'll have to do a better job of turning. 


A little baggy, but so comfortable!
Here is the rear view. There are a couple of bubbles around the yoke that I hope to fix in the next pair. I'll also have to work on the drag lines lower down. These actually fit better than the original jeans, and are more comfortable than the sweat pants I'm wearing now. All in all, I'm very happy with this class and recommend it to anyone who wants to copy a pair of jeans. 

A couple of things to note: Don't use an old stretched out pair as I did. It's impossible to get the graininess straight. The side seams on this pair rotate a bit to the front, a sure sign of being off grain. But I think I will transfer the fit details to a commercial pattern I have and see if that works.  Prof King assumes you know how to hem the jeans and put in button holes, so this isn't a class for a complete newbie. But it is pretty detailed. 

I definitely recommend trying to find some inexpensive stretch fabric if you are making stretch jeans. I have some black stretch and blue non stretch denim to make two more pair, so I'll consider these my wearable muslin for the stretch fabric. If you take a Craftsy class, be sure to read all the questions and answers before sewing. And do this for the entire class. I didn't and missed a great tip about staying the waistband of stretch denim so it doesn't stretch out further with wear. If I lose more weight and have to replace the waistband, I'll definitely stay it. 

I have a lot more to share with you about other projects and hope to post more in the coming weeks. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Post Convention Blues

Needle holder, needle, and little clamps
The SAGA Convention in Hampton, Virginia, is over, and most attendees have packed and are off to home. I am staying over tonight as my flight to Denver is Monday morning. I had a wonderful time, meeting old friends and making new ones. Being in Northern Colorado, I'm a bit isolated from all of my stitching friends back in California, so it was nice to reconnect with them and those that I only see at Conventions. Several of the local chapters provide table favors with the meals, so this post will be show you what useful things we received. The theme for this Convention was "Anchored in SAGA" as it was held in Hampton, Virginia, on the East Coast. One of the chapters digitized the logo and embroidered it on felt to create needle books. There were also quilt clamps and a very large needle for making very large bullions.

Smocking Plates
We were given smocking plates at three meals.

Luggage handle cushion, coaster, visor tissue holder
 Little sewn items: a luggage handle cushion with room for address information inside an acrylic window, a coaster in nautical theme fabric, and a tissue holder with elastic so it can be stretched over a car visor.

Organza pressing cloth, pleat counter, wax
 The organza pressing cloth was actually a door prize I won (the only thing, alas), a very handy pleat counter and wax for sewing threads. I use a lot of wax so this will be handy.

Don't forget the beer!
No, this wasn't a table favor. One of the ladies didn't manage to drink the beer she bought, so I'm bringing it home for Mr CS. I'm sure he will love it. He's been babysitting since I left on Monday so will be glad to get a bit of relief. 

I took four different classes all on embroidery, and I will blog separately about each one, which I hope will make me complete them. So, more to come!

Oops, one last thing. Follow this link to the SAGA Smock Along FB page. The mayor of Hampton showed up to visit the Convention. He actually knew what pleating was and posed in front of the Wee Care gowns. What a guy! 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

SAGA Convention - Pre Day Tour of Williamsburg

He did his own embroidery!
Our pre day tour yesterday of Williamsburg focused on textiles, of course, with some behind the scenes tours. This gentleman was wearing a completely hand made outfit, complete with embroidery on the waistcoat and buttons that he did himself. I appreciate that they stay in character as much as possible, even to the extent of growing their hair long as appropriate to the period.

Tuft Weaving
When Mr California Stitching and I visited Williamsburg a few years ago, we could only see the looms standing idle with no one to explain how they were used. This time there were ladies who were  actually weaving articles to be used in the compound. This lady is "tuft weaving" in which the warp threads are tied around the weft to make a fuzzy rug, similar to latch hooking. This rug will adorn a bed in one of the homes. 

Hemstitching a Horse Blanket
This weaver is working on a horse blanket to keep one of the many horses warm during the winter. She is finished with one length, and is hemstitching the blanket prior to taking it off the loom. She will then weave another and join the two to make it double wide. 

All Natural Colors
Some examples of the dyed threads used in weaving. All are dyed using plant or insect material that was found in nature during the mid to late 18th century. 

To my non American readers: Williamsburg is a working 18th century compound in Virginia to show people what life was like for the first colonists. Well, maybe not the first, but subsequent generations. Not many of the first colonists survived.

Carding Lambswool
This lady is carding lambswool to get it nice and untangled so she can spin it into yarn. She explained  that carding was mainly a job for children, to keep them occupied during inclement weather. This particular wheel is a treadle spinning wheel, which represents a three fold productivity increase over the older walking wheel. To operate the walking wheel, the spinner has to walk back and forth to get the yarn wound onto the shuttle. The treadle operator only has to pump the treadle while sitting, much easier!

All of these photos were taken with the cell phone, as I stupidly took the camera connection wire out of my bag and placed it on the bed at home before leaving. I have to get back to my class now, and will take some photos with the cell phone this afternoon to share with you.

Friday, September 16, 2016

McCall's 7352 is Finished!

Pick stitching the zipper
The silk top is finished, thank goodness! As I mentioned in the last post, I'm making this using couture techniques, so there are lots and lots of hand sewing. I have made one dress using some of these techniques, but this is the first time I made a garment start to finish using couture methods.  I really like inserting the zipper by hand, it gives you such great control. The pick stitch is amazingly secure. I practiced on a sample and I had to cut each and every stitch to be able to remove the zipper. I was very surprised at this, it is much more secure than machine stitching.

Basting in the sleeve lining
 I lined the top with this lovely silk charmeuse. This stuff is amazingly slipper and hard to control. Here I'm basting the sleeve lining in before sewing by machine. It took a few tries to get it right.

Under stitching the lining at the neckline
 The lining was inserted completely by hand, and using the pick stitch I under stitched the entire neckline lining.

Hemming with a jump pleat
 The Susan Khaljie Craftsy class was for a dress, and emphasized the need for a jump pleat at the hem (for a sheath dress only). I decided to try this with the top, but too many times I sewed the entire fold to the hem of the dupioni. So that needs to be redone if I want it to be right.
A bit snug on Phil
And here it is finished. It's a bit snug on Phil, as I've lost some weight since I made the cover. I'll modify the cover at a later date. Now I'm rushing to get a skirt done before I leave for the SAGA Convention on Monday. I still need to pack and arrange all my sewing supplies. Also, we've been babysitting the grandson during the day. Too much to do!!



Wednesday, September 7, 2016

New Project - A Silk Top

Lovely red silks
I'm going to the SAGA Convention later this month, in less than two weeks in fact, and I decided to make a top and skirt for the annual banquet. I had the red dupioni on the right in the photo in my stash, purchased a few years ago during a shopping trip to the Los Angeles fashion district. The silk charmeuse for the lining came from Elfriede's Fabric Store in Boulder just last week. 

I purchased a Craftsy class, The Couture Dress by Susan Khalje and is it ever an amazing class! Susan has so much great experience and she explains why she does each step all along the way. Instead of a dress, I decided to try it out on a simple top.  

Awesome pattern
I'm using McCall's 7352, which is a princess seamed fit and flare dress. In this particular pattern, the princess seams go right up to the shoulder seam, instead of the ending at the armscye like most princess seamed patterns. If you remember, back in July I made a dress form cover using this same pattern, so I knew I had most of the fitting solved. 

In Susan's class, you first make a muslin, which I did all over again, ensuring that it fits properly, then use it for your pattern. I didn't take photos of the process, so I'll jump ahead to the construction. All the pattern markings are made on a silk organza underlining, rather than the red dupioni. Then the silk organza is hand basted along the stitching lines with silk basting thread.

Silk dupioni can be rather difficult to work with and wear. It wrinkles easily and ravels ferociously! The silk organza underlining gives it great body and is supposed to keep it from wrinkling so much. The very large seam allowances, along with catch stitching the SAs to the underlining, keep it from raveling.

Corticelli silk thread
This thread is rather difficult to find, especially as it's not made any longer but I managed to score three small spools at a flea market in Fallbrook, Southern California. There is also a Japanese thread that Susan recommends, which is also difficult to find. The thread I have is very soft and so easy to stitch with. The best part, however, is when you remove the stitching, there are no holes left in the dupioni.

Thread tracing the seam lines
Here I'm basting the organza to the dupioni along the seam lines. After that is done, the pieces are basted together to make absolutely certain the fit is correct before machine sewing the top.

The basted shell on Phil
Here is the basted top, with no sleeves, on my dress form, Phil (after my sewing grandmother). This is quite a time consuming process, but by focusing on the stitching lines rather than the cut edges, it's much easier to get a great fit. Well, that assumes I can fit myself, which is rather a challenge. The top is somewhat snug on Phil, because I fit it to myself, and now I'm one size smaller than I was in July when I made the dress form cover.

Next up, machine stitching, removing the basting, pressing and catch stitching all the seam allowances. Then on to the sleeves.