intermittent posts on sewing, knitting, gardening, healthy eating and other random topics from two sisters

Naturally, before heading halfway across the world for two weeks, I had grand notions of sewing a entire wardrobe for the tropics, full of linen pants and such. Didn’t happen. But I did manage to make good use of a few me-made items. (Sorry all these pictures are washed out. I was having such troubles with the light I’m not sure my camera isn’t broken.)

My navy poplin a-line, self-drafted. I’m also holding a me-made sunhat. This is the by the marina in Singapore. That’s the fancy new Marina Bay Sands hotel and Double Helix Bridge in the back—Singapore has put a lot of money into their waterfront.

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Brown sateen stretch cotton, self-drafted from a yoke skirt I own. It’s rotated as I walked, sadly. Also, I have a terrible habit of blinking when people take pictures. The Banteay Srei temple in Cambodia, part of the Angkor Wat complex. I like to get my hair braided for big traveling—it handles wind, sweat, and thirty hours on the plane much better that way.

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Sage-green straight-leg pants from my Surefit Designs class. Still at Angkor Wat–trees grew into the Ta Prohm temple while it was abandoned for centuries.

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And my mom was carrying the purple silk dupioni tote bag I made her for Christmas. I told her it was machine washable, so I guess she decided to test it. Still Ta Prohm, if I remember correctly.

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I took my first sewing class on February 9th of 2010, so this seems like a good moment to look back over the year. After just one class—working on the Bernina Seams Inside Out bag—I was hooked (because I had a great teacher, Millie who is now at Paramount Sewing after my original Local Fabric Shop closed), and moved onto a pillowcase and then skirts. Here’s some numbers for the year, pulled from my handy-dandy Bento sewing database.

Completed projects: 64. The highlights are two dresses, a purse, and about 13 skirts that have entered regular rotation in my wardrobe, but some of these “projects” are as simple as a zipper bag with unfinished seams.

Projects in progress: 8. Mostly things I am having problems fitting. I hate fitting.

Projects that were wadders or muslins: 11. Some of the in-progress ones ought to be moved to this category, I suspect. Note that I don’t have a UFO category. I have projects that have been “in progress” since April.

Projects intended for material in my stash: 39. Hmm. That’s a long and ever growing list. It doesn’t even include the three cotton lawns I just bought specifically to make more Pendrells.

Fabric purchased or otherwise acquired: about 320 yards. This includes some funky counting a sheet from Goodwill to make muslins as 1 yard. I think I have 8 plastic bins worth of unused fabric. I also have about 75 colors of thread in stash.

Fabric used: 60 yards. At current rate, if I stop acquiring, it will only take me 5 years to sew down my stash. Not enough of a cushion! Nowhere near SABLE! (Stash Accumulation Beyond Lifetime Expectancy)

Patterns purchased: 58. Not counting various tutorials or patterns downloaded from the web, just the main commercial patterns.

Patterns used thus far: 8. Pretty sad. But since I have taken a custom pants-fitting class, and am going to take a dress-fitting class, to generate patterns customized to me, I expect to cut back on the pattern accumulation a fair bit. Less buying on spec when things are on sale, and more buying to get instructions on very specific design details that I can copy to my custom patterns.

As a very new sewist, I probably shouldn’t risk the hubris of giving tips. But some things that work for me:

As a good little seamstress, I change my needle. I don’t start a new needle with every project, because I’ve heard 2-3 hours of sewing (or maybe I’ve heard 8-10 hours?), and seriously, an a-line skirt takes about 45 minutes of actual sewing. But I check More Fabric Savvy or Fabric U to try to use the right needle for the fabric.

But right now, I have three projects going at the same time, and only one machine. So I used to scribble on my needle cases to keep it straight what I have done, but it would wear off. New idea! Pin the needle through a scrap from the current project when you take it out the machine. I’m not sure how this will work when I want to add another project, but it’s definitely helping me keep straight what goes where.

Second tip! Make practice projects. I bought a yard of beautiful purple silk dupioni, and I’m making a very simple totebag as a gift for my mother, but it’s teaching me the basics about sewing with dupioni and underlining with silk organza on a pretty low-stress, unruinable project. So that’s pretty handy.

Also, I use to really hate the cutting out part of sewing. Hated it. Blocked me from getting things done. A rotary mat and cutter, while expensive, have totally improved that step.

Best Sewing Tip Ever?

Not only does this sound like a great tip, it sounds like something I can do by myself!

From Cassandra commenting at Sewaholic:

Princess seams are awesome if you’re very busty and can give you a perfectly fitting blouse. When I was struggling to master adjustments for a full bust I cheated and wrapped myself (in my favourite bra) in cling/plastic wrap and then drew some lines where I though my side seam should sit (great if you have a side seam sew into a well fitted bra – use it as a guide) and a line from mid shoulder down across my nipple and vertically down to my waist.

Cut along the lines and you’ll end up with a perfect curve for the side bodice piece (that follows the contours of your bust) that you can transfer to your pattern.

Cheat method of doing a custom FBA for first timers *wink*

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At the top, turquoise silk dupioni which I love, my first expensive fabric purchase. The brocade is actually turquoise-on-turquoise instead of the turquoise on pale gold the camera brought out. I am hoping to squeeze dresses out of only two yards, for both of these. (I did test McCalls 5799 to produce an a-line sheath that requires only two yards of 52 inch fabric without nap, but am not sure how many fancy turquoise dresses I could possibly use even if I can make them fit.)

The solid stretch cotton is NOT theoretical—I made a skirt from it, and plan to maybe use the remainder to do the midriff panel on a sundress using the lightweight embroidered cotton for skirt and bodice, imagining something like New Look 6675 or Vogue 8470. Both fabrics are from the same collection, picked up at 70% off at Joann’s, so they match perfectly. I have 4 yards of the embroidered cotton, so will use it on a full-skirted dress, and am thinking switching to a solid for the midriff will be slimming.

The garden print in the middle is my sheet-set from my high-school bedroom—it might not be worthy of much more than an apron, or perhaps a tiered summer skirt. The missing picture is a basic ribbed knit that I did a rather baggy tank top in but have found impossible to get an accurate picture of.

The last picture, again is more turquoise in real life than the camera allows. It’s a rayon batik with brown flowers that I bought in a panic when the owners of my local fabric store decided to retire, and I realized feeling more rayon batik would require a two hour drive. I may buy more rayon batik, as the shelves have been thinning out lately, invoking my hoarding instincts.

The picture is a screenshot from Bento, a Mac-only (and iPhone) home database application that I use to track fabric, notions, patterns, projects, and gifts, etc.

Post inspired by Purplicity and Theoretical Clothes from Elizabeth at Sew a Beginner.

The first dress I made, McCall’s 5799, came with pattern pieces for A, B, C, and D cup sizes, so I didn’t need to worry about a full bust alteration (FBA). But now I want to try a different dress (maybe. Actually I’m thinking maybe I’ll see if I own any other patterns with separate pattern pieces for cup sizes).

So I’m googling, but a lot of the links to various FBAs are broken. Luckily, someone has posted the TimmelFabrics one as a Word doc on a forum.

To Do Someday

This tutorial for a lined zippered pouch looks very nice and easy. I expect to have some silk scraps someday….

These Japanese wrapping cloths look pretty cool.

This crayon-roll tutorial should work equally well for a knitting needle roll.

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