Wednesday, September 30, 2009

American Sewing Expo - Trim

Two days ago I woke up, freezing cold thanks to Michigan's fall making such a grand entrance, and jumped out of bed to take a hot shower.  And as quickly as I stood up, I hit the ground like a pile of bricks.  I'll say this to all of those who I might have not taken seriously in the past:  Back Pain Is NO JOKE.

Like the true savvy, independant chick that I am, I smiled throught the pain grabbed my phone and laid in bed until my mommy came to the rescue me and helped me hobble to the Urgent Care. 

It was all very glamourous, my day.  Now, from my sick bed, I've got the upper body strength (read: muscle relaxers) to sit up and show you the freaking sweet trim that I snagged at the American Sewing Expo. 

I had just spent last Friday browsing Etsy shops and saw this fabulous cotton trim with script from a love letter printed on it.  It was pricey, and shipped from Japan, so I admired and kept on clickin'.  Imagine my glee when I saw almost AN ENTIRE BOOTH OF COTTON AND LINEN trim the sewing expo. 

The company was Nifty Thrifty Dry Goods, and they were stocked to the rafters with some of the best trim, tape, rick rack, buttons and patches that I've ever seen.  Visit this site.  Everyday.

Nevermind that I don't know any sweet baby girls, and the only sweet baby boy I have regular contact with is no longer interested the cutesy phase this trim fits into, I'll find some reason to use these. 

I'll find some reason to use them all!  (As soon as I can manage to sit up unassisted.)

Monday, September 28, 2009

American Sewing Expo - Fabric

I had a super packed weekend, but with the American Sewing Expo right in my backyard (or 25 miles away) how could I pass it up.

I managed to wake up earlier on Sunday morning than I do on most workdays and made it to Novi just as the show was opening.  It still took me 15 minutes to find a parking spot.  I didn't get a chance to attend any of the many seminars or classes thanks to a wedding, bowling outing and craft fair also taking place that weekend, but I at least made it to the vendor floor. 

Some of my local fabric/quilt shops (Haberman Fabrics and Material Girls, LLC) had booths, as well as a ton of other local and not-so-local shops.  I was really hoping to find some unique, new or hard to find items, but I'm super sorry to say that I was a bit underwhelmed.  Material Girls did have a decent Japanese selection at the show, but I didn't spend to much time looking because I can pop over to the store almost anytime.  I did take an opportunity to feel Heather Ross' Far Far Away which they have an awesome selection of, and I know I'll snag some someday, but I really need to justify the price.

I did find a bit of Kokka home dec fabric at the Material Mart booth, which is the pink and orange.  I saw the polka dots from across the aisle, and once I got closer and found the gingham on the bottom half, I was sold.  I think it was 30% off, too, which was a good deal.  I also got this adorable Route 66 fabric from them, and it is so perfect for my nerdy mom who has a love of all things Route 66 and Western.  I'm hesitant to even post it, but I doubt she'll stumble far enough on to the internet to see it before Christmas, which is when I'll give her something made from it.  My other fabric purchases were a few cute fat quarters, this golf ball stuff that will turn into a gift, too, and some strips that aren't pictured because I cut them into squares as soon as I got home.  And because they'll become a patchwork bag for my roommate, who WILL stumble this far (go away, NOSY!). 

Friday, September 25, 2009

Lickety Split

I often buy fabric on a whim.  I try my best to think of a project that it will be used for, but most often, I see something I love and I just grab it.  (Especially if it's on sale.)

This past weekend, I went to Joann on a mission.  I was armed with a pamphlet full of coupons, and I wanted to make a Lickety Split bag (designed, of course, buy the fabulous Rae).  I've made a few of these bags as gifts and commissioned by friends and finally decided it was time to have one of my own. 

I'm in an orange phase (I suspect it to be my fall color of choice) and though I do not usually fall deep in love with Joann fabrics, this time I was lucky enough to find two.  I'm still not 100% that they actually fit with each other, but I loved them both so much that I decided to throw caution to the wind and go for it. 

I modified the pattern a bit by taking two inches off the handle (I don't like bags to hit to far down my hip/thigh) and didn't add any rick-rack to the pockets (because, well, Grey's Anatomy was starting) but did toss in a decorative stitch on the top just for kicks.  I used no interfacing because I wanted a bag that could be folded, wadded, stuffed and was still large enough to hold a good amount of loot.  This bag is about 9.5" by 15", so it definitely holds loot. 

I think I'll use this side predominately, since, you know, it's got that orange.  Joann also had this print in a gorgeous brown/green colorway that I almost grabbed until I spied this.

This print is so vibrant that I couldn't help but want to use it in a bag.  It's full of great fall colors.

Kinda makes me want to take a little shopping trip and buy something to fill it!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

What a doll!

Each Holiday season the Detroit Goodfellows sponsor a variety of children's gift programs, one of them being dolls that are purchased, dressed and then given to thousands of little girls around Detroit.  Each Holiday season my aunt purchases a few dolls, and this year instead of buying an outfit she asked me to make one.  Her company sponsors a best dressed doll contest, and when she asked for my help, I told her in one sentence everything I know about making doll clothes.  "If you want to win this contest, look elsewhere." 

But, I've had some pretty successful garments that I've made, so I figured that to make a doll outfit, one would just take the same principle and make it on a much smaller scale.  Easy peasy, right?


These two little outfits took me about an hour to cut out, and I don't even want to calculate how long to make.  I finished in a day, but it wasn't a smooth ride, I'll tell you.  I had a pretty rough time with the sleeves.  Being so small it was pretty impossible to contruct and then sew them on, so I had to wrestle them into a curved seam and then sew up the underarms while I sewed the side seams of the shirt.  Once I had that down, it went quickly.  (Perhaps I should give this a shot next time I make my own shirt?  I'm not sure the same principle will apply.) 

The dresses turned out pretty well, even with a few pretty easy to fix mishaps, and I hope they find nice appreciative homes.  I'm also not thrilled with the quality of the dolls themselves, but I understand why they want each one to be the same. 

Doll 1 got a black and pink cotton dress (both dresses close with velcro in the back) with a pink hem. 

She was meant to have black knit pants, but when I pulled out one doll, I assumed they were identical size.  They weren't, so her shirt ended up being too long to pair with pants.  I added the pink strip to give her some decency.  (Which, looking at the picture, was a good idea.  I should have had her stand for her photo.)

Doll 2 had a floral cotton dress with a bias tape ruffle.  I had planned to pleat a strip of muslin for the skirt, but found this brilliant trim at Joann and took advantage.

Her dress actually hits about two inches above her ankle.  You'll have to excuse my poor photo angle/quality (as well as my dirty basement rug), by the time I finished the dresses it was all I could do to even turn on the camera. 

Monday, September 21, 2009

Material girl

I didn't get much sewing done this weekend, so much else was going on!

Browsing my Google Reader this afternoon and looking at everyone's wonderful creations really made me want to rush home and whip something up! 

There is a local nonprofit here in Detroit, Arts and Scraps, that uses, well, scraps, for educational craft products.  They've also got a little store full of castoffs from people and businesses and you can almost always snag something really great for a hugely discounted price.  This Saturday was the last day of a "3 Ton Fabric Sale".  I don't know if they really started off with three tons of fabric, but they still had quite a bit when I arrived at noon.  I snagged a HUGE amount of material --a full brown paper grocery sack-- for $5.


I got silk, cotton, knits, suitings, canvas, upholestry and a few mystery pieces.  It took me an hour to fold and iron them all when I got home, and I couldn't even fit the whole stack in my camera lens. 

None of the pieces are perfect squares, but plenty are big enough for bags and pouches, two pieces I've got skirt plans for, and some, like the gorgeous linen-like prints in the middle here, are begging to become pillows. 

I haven't cut into even one piece, yet.  I've been content to just look at the folded pile.

I've also but a ban on myself, that I will NOT.  BUY.  NEW.  FABRIC.  At least until the Sewing Expo in Novi, which is next weekend.  I'm a little nervous for my wallet, but I'm so excited for the Expo!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Whatever is bought is cheaper than a gift

That's a Portugese proverb up there in the title line.  It's true, really, seeing as most of the gifts that you can buy in a big box store now are cheaper and less time consuming than anything we can make by hand, but it's the thought and work you put in that really makes a handmade gift worth giving. 

I've been seeing cross-body bags everywhere.  Everytime I see one I think about how easy it would be to make, and have been meaning to try one out.

Thanks to a wonky work schedule I found myself with a few extra hours of spare time today, and decided to give it a go.  The thing is, this bag isn't much my style, so I thougt about my roomie (forever the saint for putting up with my sewing machine taking over the basement, and always having to step over fabric piles and wayward scissors and that pesky ironing board), who is very much the type to wear a cross-body hobo and decided it was time for a surprise. 

I'll admit that I'm not really in love with the fabric, but I wanted it to be reversible and I needed a pretty good amount of material, so my stash made the choice for me.   I bought this at a fabric warehouse last Christmas.  I thought the greenie-blue and gold shimmer would make a nice Holiday table runner, but for whatever reason I never got around to making one.

This is a home dec weight cotton, so the bag is pretty sturdy, but I wanted it to have a lot of drape, so there is no interfacing.  The closure is a simple tie made of twill tape. 

I actually really like how this turned out, and I'm thinking about maybe making another for myself.  Just as an experiment.  Maybe.  (I do have some Chocolate Lollipop that I've been trying to find a use for...)

I finished the bag just as roomie was getting home and, as always, she yelled "what are you making me?".  She was pretty geeked to find out it really was for her!

I took pictures while I made it, so if the desire for a tutorial ever comes about, I'll post one.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Give me a hand

My trip to Toronto was an absolute blast.  With family, friends and food?  How could anything go wrong?  I love being in vibrant, lively cities like that so I didn't doubt that I'd have an amazing time.  My only twinge of sadness came when I was basking in all of the buildings, stores, people, accents, business and realized just how far Detroit lags behind it's other big city friends.  When I'm home I love the energy that Detroit has, but when I'm away I realize just how far we really have to go. 


It's official.  I am totally and completly in love with hand embroidery

I'll admit that perhaps a moving train was not the dream location for testing out those delicate stitches, but I made the best of the situation and went with it.  I spent about an hour pouring over the directions in the Sublime Stitching book, and when I just couldn't take reading one more word, I let my needle take the plunge.

There is something so relaxing and so exciting about seeing those stitches start to fill in a beautiful design.  So far my favorites are a stem stitch and a split stitch.  I think a chain stitch looks gorgeous, but I think I'm a bit of practice away from actually succeeding with a chain.  I haven't even attempted to try a knot or a decorative stitch yet, but my embroidery love is young, and has so much time to grow.

For now, though, I think I've stitched up the loveliest blue and peach cherries that one will ever see.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Choo choo! Stitch stitch!

I've had so much fun making bags for my trip that I (almost) forgot that before I get to birthday party it up, I have to spend FIVE HOURS on a train!  I've spent a few hours madly downloading episodes of Dexter to my iPod (and mere minutes bummed that True Blood costs so much on iTunes meaning I'm STILL not going to know what the world is buzzing about) and throwing books in my tote bag.

Given my sewing indulgences the past few days, I was afraid of going through withdrawl without my sewing machine, and wished there was a magical way to sneak it onto the train so that I could stitch away.

See?  I love how sewing relaxes me, and I love seeing how a new project turns out, but I've always been about 98% machine, with a little whipstitching and button attaching by hand. 

I repeat, I am NOT a handsewer.  Yet.

I was at Joann's today using a coupon at the last minute, and Sublime Stitching caught my eye.  Of course, I've seen Jenny Hart's patterns and stories everywhere, but, I'm just not a handsewer so I'd read them and keep scootin'.  Then, last month, Sew, Mama, Sew! hosted Hand Sewing Month and my interest was a little bit spiked, but I didn't print the samplers, or read many directions or put a lot of faith in my ability.
Then I remembered I'd be on a train for five hours.  Both ways.  That's ten hours of nothing but time to learn some hand embroidery.  I fished out my coupon, found a supply list in the book, grabbed thread (ahem.  floss, per page 11), a hoop and some muslin.  I precut some pieces and tranferred a few of the designs and made room for the book in my tote. 
I even pre-hooped the Stitching Lesson transfer.  Maybe by the time I get home I will be a handsewer!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Leaving. On a jet train.

I'm leaving for a birthday soiree (I had to google "party synonym" to learn the proper spelling of that word.  I could have used 'bash' or 'shindig', but I had my heart set on soiree) on Friday, and the oilcloth that I bought at Haberman's was trying to get my attention so that it could quietly remind me about the last time I put toiletries in my travel bag and they LEAKED ALL OVER MY CLOTHES.  And how my makeup brushes were soggy and ruined.  And how the inside of my bag smelled like spoiled Garnier, until I finally gave in and trashed it.

The oilcloth, it seems, was also reminding me that even if my stuff leaked this time, it was pretty much spill proof and that damage would be contained to a smaller area.

I made a bigger boxy bag, and then I remembered the brush catastrophe, so I threw all my wet beauty wares in the box bag, and then made a smaller flat bottom bag for brushes and dry goods.  Then, since I still had a little scrap left from my first cut (too small to save, to big to throw out!) I stitched up an even smaller zip pouch for my contacts and eye drops.  I really planned on mitering the corners, but it was getting awfully late and...well...oilcloth is hard to turn.

So that's that.  I was so proud of my new set that I had to take a second to remind myself that I'm only going to be gone for three days.  It's not even just the sewing that has me in a feverish rush to overpack, because I've also got enough clothes set aside to last me at least a week.

I think it's safe to say it's been waaaay too long since I've gone anywhere fun.  It's also safe to say that I just remembered I haven't packed any shoes, so I'll be up a little while longer tonight.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Meeting the machine

Alright!  I'm bringing another post over from the dearly departed blog.  Maybe I lied when I said I was too lazy to transport them to the blogspot address.  Maybe I will, just in bits at a time.

Back in June one of favorite websites, Sew, Mama, Sew!, hosted sewing machine month.  They had a meme all about sewing machines (drool!) and since I said this blog was the stories behind the creations, how could I think about leaving out the most important part of that story.

Meet my machine.

What brand and model do you have?

Kenmore 18221.  Yes, I had to look at the manual before I could type that.

How long have you had it?
About a year now.

How much does that machine cost (approximately)?
I THINK it was $175, and I also THINK it was on sale.

What types of things do you sew (i.e. quilting, clothing, handbags, home dec projects, etc.)?
Anything that strikes my fancy!  I've been stitching up handbags lately, but some garments and few other gift-ish items are made regularly.

How much do you sew? How much wear and tear does the machine get?
I try and sew at least a little bit every day.  Sometimes I can fit in 3 or 4 hours, sometimes I grab 30 minutes before bed.

Do you like/love/hate your machine? Are you ambivalent? Passionate? Does she have a name?
I really like my machine.  I know that there are better models out there, but it's what I could but at the time I dearly needed it.  So far she hasn't let me down at all, so I certainly can't complain.
What features does your machine have that work well for you?
There are quite a few stitch functions, a one step buttonholer is a must-have, I love the drop in bobbin so that I can change it quickly, and I can see how much bobbin thread I have left.

Is there anything that drives you nuts about your machine?
I wish I could change the sewing speed.  I like to really mash the foot control, and I'd like to have less of a surge.

Do you have a great story to share about your machine (i.e., Found it under the Christmas tree? Dropped it on the kitchen floor? Sewed your fingernail to your zipper?, Got it from your Great Grandma?, etc.!)? We want to hear it!
I got this machine when another machine that I had received as a gift failed miserably after about three hours of use.  I fully believe that I just got a lemon of a machine, but taking it back to the store was one of the most HORRIBLE EXPERIENCES that I've ever had.  I ended up so upset in the store that I started to cause a scene without ever realizing that people were watching (I mean, I was REALLY MAD).  The manager ended up coming over and tried to placate me with an "upgrade credit", and I picked out a new machine.  15 minutes later I find out that one it out of stock.  Fearing I'd cause another uproar, the manager gave me the "upgrade credit" on a gift card so that I could come back a few days later to check to stock.  On my way out of the store this machine was sitting on a endcap because it was on sale.  It caught my eye, I grabbed the box, and one trip to package pickup later I had a new machine.

Would you recommend the machine to others? Why?
I would.  I've sewn on a lot of machines, and for the price of this machine, it really is the tops.  I've not had any trouble with it at all.  It's a breeze to clean, simple to use and it a little workhorse!

What factors do you think are important to consider when looking for a new machine?
Price, for one, at least if you're me.  Keep in mind what you want to use it for.  I know quilters like a larger throat, stich selection in important to some, but each project has it's own special needs.  Find a machine that fits the type of sewing you'll do most.

Do you have a dream machine?
A serger.  Someday soon I'll take the plunge.  All those threads and loops and such are intimidating, but I'd really love one.


I have two vintage machines, too.  They're beautiful and I love to look at them, but they don't get as much use as this girl here.  I'll introduce them one day.

Not Sew Scary: Easy peasy zipper pouch

Sewing with zippers can be daunting.

I know this, because every single one of my early projects was chosen and created simply because there was no need for a zipper. If I needed a method of closure? Iron-on velcro to the rescue.

It didn't take long, though, for me to make friends with the zipper. And once I did, I learned they're pretty fun! not so bad after all.

There are a few different ways to sew a zipper in your project, but the centered zipper is east peasy and ready for a beginner to take on. By the time you finish with this tutorial, you'll have a great looking zippered pouch.

1. Gather your supplies. For this project I ran around a grabbed:
A rotary cutter
Cutting mat
Scrap fabric (make sure you've got enough for two good sized pieces, mine were 9" X 6ish")
8" zipper (that looks neato with your fabric, also, get a zipper that's longer or shorter if you use a different size fabric)
Zipper foot (I'll get busted in the photos, and totally did not use a zipper foot. Mine was in the basement and I caught a case of the lazy. I'd recommed you use yours.)
Seam ripper

2. Cut your fabric to the size you want. Again, I cut mine about 9" X 6". I was using an odd shaped scrap and the biggest part of the scrap dictated the size of the pouch sides. Use a ruler of something stiff to guide your cutter. You'll see I used an advanced sewing tool called "American Girl Magazine"
3. Put the two pieces of fabric, with the edges lined up, right sides together (the pretty sides in), and baste (I use the longest straight stitch setting on my machine).  No need to backstich here, we'll rip them out in a minute.
4. Press the seam open

5. Center your zipper FACE DOWN on the seam that you just made, and pin it in place, or baste the short sides of the zipper to keep it in place.  I guess I forgot to take a picture of this step, but as long as you have the zipper snug on the fabric, you'll do fine!

6. Sew around the four sides of your zipper. With the needle down, pivot the fabric at each corner to make sure your stitches line up. Backstitch to make sure that zipper stays on!

P.S. THIS IS WHEN YOU WANT TO USE YOUR ZIPPER FOOT. Do as I say and not as I do, and all that jazz.

7. Right now, your zipper is covered by fabric and the basting stitches. Using your seam ripper, rip out the basting and the zipper will make an appearance.

8. Unzip the zipper about two or so inches. Really, do it. It won't be pretty to forget this step.

9. Make sure the zipper is unzipped about two or so inches.

10. Turn the fabric back out, so that the right sides are facing. Line up the sides and get the zipper to lay as neatly as possible. Pin the sides and sew the three sides of the pouch that don't have the zipper attached. Guide your seam allowance by the end of the zipper. You want to sew about 1/4" inside of the end of the zipper. My seam allowance was 1/4". Don't forget to backstitch to secure it!

11. Clip any fabric bulk that's hanging around after you sew up the sides. Be careful not to cut your stitches. Cutting the leftover fabric will leave your pouch smoother inside.

12. Turn the pouch right side out (see why you opened the zipper?), and push out the corners (with your finger, a pen bottom, chopstick...something thin but not too sharp). Press again if you want your pouch really polished. (You'll notice I skipped the press.)

13. Admire! You totally sewed up a zippered pouch! Throw in pencils, change, bobbins, WHATEVER! (Oh, and if some fuzzies from your basting reappear, just brush them off.)

Bad news + a new beginning

Well.  My blog is lost. 

Not really lost, I'd guess, because most of it is archived on my laptop.  Lost, more, in the sense that I don't have the energy to move everything over.  It's a lesson that I learned trying to host my own blog, and now I'll let someone else do it for me.

I've decided that I'll bring over my tutorials, little by little, and start anew with all else. 

Don't we all need to do that from time to time, anyway?

Welcome, blogspot, I can't wait to be friends.