Monday, February 22, 2010

I Need a Victory

Here’s my next Weeknite Whip-up. Normally this would not be a project I’d do during the week. This is actually my go-to project when I’m having a bad sewing day. You know….when the machine keeps jamming or you’re constantly ripping out to re-do, or when you finish a project only to discover it looks like crap on you. On a day like that, I need a quick victory. Something to remind myself that I AM great sewist. This is typically my I Need a Victory project:

That’s a hobo bag using Butterick 3925, View D. I typically use 1-5/8 yards and can get the bag plus the half-square head bandana out of it with scraps leftover for quilting. And I can get the whole she-bang made in a half hour, restore my sewing sanity, and get back to the project that was frustrating me.

But about today….I have this thing where my stuff has to match. Look at this picture (aside from the fact that the mannequin looks like a Hell’s Angel’s escapee that got caught in the rain & had to pull a dress out of the rag bag).

But look at those shoes. I see blue, green, orange, and apricot in the dress. Yet the shoes are….red. What the heck is up with that?? That totally doesn’t match. Accessories are supposed to enhance the outfit –not stand out like a sore thumb.

I think my need to match goes back to when I was a kid. I read this book (can’t remember the title) but one of the characters had a pair of shoes and a matching purse – a different set for every day of the week. I so, so, so wanted to be that girl. The idea of matching accessories with every outfit was just so very Grown Up.

So that’s why my I Need a Victory projects are always a hobo bag and scarf. It’s a set. It matches.

But variety is the spice of life. Sometimes I don’t want to wear a scarf. I’d rather wear a headband. So far, I’ve only been able to make them out of knit fabric since it’s got the stretch. I couldn’t come up with a good way to make them out of wovens except to do a simple long, oblong scarfy thing. And I don’t like those because I don’t like a big knot under my hair and most times they slip off. Then I stumbled upon Suzanne's blog She crafted her own pattern for a woven fabric headband and was generous enough to share her pattern as a free download. Awesome!

And on days when my potbelly’s not too embarrassing, I like to wear a cute belt. In even more serendipity, I stumbled upon Kari’s post for quickie webbing belts for babies. And inspiration struck. I mentally smacked myself on the head because it never occurred to me that a matching belt could be so easy. I took Kari’s idea and added the steps of: making a casing out of my bag/headband fabric, turning it right side out, and running the webbing through. Then I added the D-rings. And this is what I came up with (please excuse my potbelly):

And I made the whole ensemble in less than one hour, after working all day. Now THAT'S a victory.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Eyelet Go of the Dream

When Sarah, the first of my siblings announced that she was expecting a baby, I thought, “Yea! A new generation to sew for.” So I immediately began accumulating eyelet. My head was full of all the gorgeous girly things I could spin all that eyelet into. First would be the pearly white christening gown with a long cascading flow of eyelet and lace. Second, there would be a crawler with ruffled green eyelet bloomers followed by a first birthday dress in pink eyelet with an extra pouffy skirt. Then a red eyelet Christmas dress followed by a baby blue eyelet romper for Easter egg hunting. Yards and yards of girly cuteness.

Well, it’s been six years and four of my siblings now have kids. All…boys. Bah!!! I stumbled upon my stash of eyelet the other night. I was about to mourn the fact that I have no nieces and then I thought, the heck with it. I’m cute! I’ll make some things for me!

Pajamas! My requirements for pajamas are simple. One, I don’t like being constricted. I absolutely cannot wear those godawful nightgowns that button all the way up the neck and button down at the wrist and hang al the way to the ankles. Gack! I also hate wearing undies to bed. As a four year old I know once told me, “Sometimes you have to let your crotch air out.” (Gotta love a four year old). Unfortunately, the houses in my neighborhood are very close together. So I also need to find a balance between proper coverage and unrestricted comfort.

I decided on a pants set from Simplicity, #4792. I thought the design would work perfectly with eyelet. The pattern is super easy. I made the pants in about 45 minutes after adapting the pattern to be ankle length. The top went together just as easily. The most time consuming part was making homemade bias binding for the arm holes. There are no zippers, snaps or closures which I love. Top slips on over the head and pants have an elastic waste. The white eyelet came from the fabric store and the green is a border print I found at a thrift store.

In time I hope to show you what I do with the rest of my eyelet. I have one in black and two color-on-white prints that I want to turn into summer tops. I also have a cute white one that I'm hoping to make into a vintage chemise.

But just watch…Now that almost all my eyelet is turning into stuff for me, one of my sisters will announce she’s pregnant with a girl.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Artsy Fartsy

The fellow I’ve been seeing (I’ll call him The Conductor) asked me to go to an art exhibit of black and white photography. I really enjoy going to art exhibits, museums, and the like. But I also find it intimidating.

Milwaukee is such a segregated town. Not just racially (which is an issue in and of itself) but sub-culturally, too. We’re a town divided into parts and neighborhoods that not only have names, but their own identities. Riverwest for the hippies. The East Side for the yuppies. The South Side is where all the blue collar workers live, and so on.

I’m a South sider, born and bred. I come from a long line of middle-class working folks. And I’m proud of it. Stereotypically speaking, that means I come from a long line of people with no couth, no sense of class, and no sense of taste.

Unfortunately our segregation has spilled over onto the suburbs too. West Allis, for instance, has long been viewed as the armpit of south east Wisconsin. Cudahy is even more working class than the south side. But then there’s the towns on Lake Michigan’s north shore like Fox Point, Glendale, Bayside, and Whitefish Bay (a.k.a. White Folks Bay). The names should give you a clue that those towns are where all the rich folks live.

This area is referred to as the North Shore.

And the rich, stereotypically speaking, are all about class and culture and taste. Which means they are far better experts on art than I am.

Thee women of this class are known as North Shore Nancys.

Which is where the crazy intimidation comes in. In the back of my mind I’m worried that they’re going to spot me and a deafening silence will fall upon the crowd and they’ll all start pointing and exclaiming, “You south side Polack, you! You don’t belong here!”

Stupid, hey? Art is subjective. Open to interpretation. So who’s to say a working class girl’s impression is any less than a rich girl’s? And I’ve met plenty of poorer people with taste and manners and equally as many rich with no sense of class at all. But still, I have just that bit of nervousness, dumb as it is.

To calm my nerves, I made this top:

The skirt is purchased but the top is Butterick 5269, a See & Sew pattern. Quick and easy. I wore it to work so my picture could be taken and, from my diverse mix of female co-workers I got, “Oooh” and “Oh! Jillain!!”

And that made me think, “Nuts to you Nancys!” I MADE this. There’s no other top exactly like this one out there. It’s an original and it’s MY creation. So is every other piece I sew. Therefore, I, too, am an artist. And what made me even happier was the thought that this top cost me less than $10 to make…but I could hang it in a boutique, call it "couture", and probably get one of those Nancy’s to pay a good $200 for it.

So if art is subjective, what does the piece I'm contemplating say? I thought it said, "Use the stairs, not the elevator". (That's my office's emergency escape route I'm pondering).

Anyways, I walked into that gallery with my head held high, at The Conductor's side, ready to show those snooty North Shore Nancys a thing or two about how to define art.

And of course the gallery was chilly so everyone kept their coats on.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Worknite Whip-Up

A little background on me…I moved out of my parents’ house when I was 17. I had an apartment and put myself through full-time college by working two jobs at anywhere from 40 to 70 hours a week. Whew!

And yet I still sewed. Every single day. I even worked in a fabric store and probably spent half my paycheck on fabric but at least then I was keeping up with what I bought.

Being single, if I want to keep swimming in the deep end of the fabric pile, I have to work for it. Boo! I don’t know if it was the benefit of youth that enabled me to go to class, to go one, possibly two jobs, and then come home and sew. But most days now I am pooped by the time I come home.

Still, I miss the days of coming home to my sewing machine. It’s like therapy to me. It’s relaxing. And maybe if I sewed more during the week, I could be much faster at using up my stash.

Hence, the Worknite Whip-up where I’ll feature a quick project that a working girl like me could reasonably accomplish after a long day at work and still have enough time to hit the gym or cook a healthy meal. (Alternatively, SAHM’s out there could do these projects when the kiddos are napping).

To make it work, a good Whip is something I can do either without a pattern or by using a pattern that’s so familiar to me that I don’t need to spend time marking fabric or reading instructions.

So this is my first project. I wear a lot of turtlenecks in the winter but don’t like wearing necklaces over them. I’m trying to accumulate more scarves to accessorize with instead. But my goodness are they expensive!

(Sometimes being a sewist is a curse. I can’t help but look at the prices of off-the-rack items and figure out in my head how much DRASTICALLY cheaper I can make them).

Jo-Ann Fabrics always has a nice selection of drapey fabrics. But at $12 or so per yard, I can’t afford to make an entire garment out of them. However, when they go 40% off, and I buy only 3/8 of a yard…I can get a simple scarf for less than $3.00. Not too shabby. This is the one I Whipped-up to wear to work this Friday for Valentine’s Day.

Try as they might, the clerks rarely cut my 3/8 perfectly straight. So first I hold it up high and fold it in half right sides together and line up the salvages. I slide the top salvage on itself until it feels like it’s hanging straight. Then I pin the top salvage to hold it and drape the piece over my ironing board.

Now that it’s laying on top of itself flat, I pin it up the length with the pins a good two inches in. Then I lay it out on my work table. Since it’s usually crooked, I find the shortest spot. That will be the width of my scarf, in this case, 6 ½ inches.

Then, I do it the lazy way and, starting from the bottom, I hold my tape at 6 ½ inches with one hand and cut with the other until I’ve trimmed off the crooked edge. With the pinning done two inches in, there’s no need to remove the pins which is great since this fabric slides.

I then sew my side seams. For this scarf I wanted angled ends so I measured one end in by five inches and marked it. Then I stitched starting I the corner until I hit my five inch mark and trimmed off the excess. I flipped it right side out, used a point turner to push out the corner nice and sharp and gave all sewed edges a good hard pressing.

Then I marked five inches in from the open end.

But THIS time, you cut off the corner first. Then turn your ends in. Pin the end shut or press it. I did neither and just held it closed as I stitched it shut.

Topstitch the first end so that both ends have topstitching. And you’re done. A nice, new scarf in about 20 minutes or less.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

And the Last Shall Be First

Welcome all to my blog. I’ve actually wanted to start this blog for over a month but I’ve gotten sidetracked by one disaster or another – including two of my three sewing machines konking out on me. But here I am! I’ve been reading so many awesome blogs by sewists, crafters, do-it-herselfers and other very creative women. They’ve given me so many great ideas and (I like to think) I have great ideas of my own so here I am.

Plus I have so many people that know I sew but, as my friend Catherine often says, “I never SEE what you’re working on”. So I hope this blog is a good way to show everyone my projects. I hope you enjoy it. It’ll get prettier as time goes on. I look forward to your comments and suggestions!

This blog would have been started shortly after the New Year. But my main sewing machine, a 1970’s Kenmore, started to die off. It would zip along just fine and then….nothing. The motor would be running but the take up lever wouldn’t go.

So fine, I moved on to my second best machine. It’s a practically new 2007 Singer. I bought it because the Kenmore doesn’t do zippers or knit fabrics well. The Singer does ‘em beautifully – but the tension is ALWAYS messed up and the presser feet are impossible to change. (I broke a nail switching them once). Which means zippers are a no-go and, with the tension issues, so is any kind of detailed sewing. Which left me with the 2005 Kenmore I got from my Grandmother when she passed. It’s one of those cracker-jack prize machines that come from local Sprawl*Mart. It moves at the speed of mud and all the presser feet were missing. Pathetic.

So I took my main machine to the repair shop. For $115 they could fix it for me. “But at this point”, the guy tells me, “you might as well get a new one.” Well, coming off of Christmas, I really didn’t want to drop $115 on repairs and I certainly didn’t want to drop $250 or more on a new one. I’ll just chug along with Gramma’s cracker jack prize machine and make do.

But then I got asked out on a date.

And I had NOTHING to wear.

But thankfully I’m a seamstress. “I’ll just make something”, I thought. But how do you make something fabulous to impress a new date when you have one machine that is no good for zippers and detailed stitching and another machine that is so slow that you just won’t have time for properly finished seams or the ability to handle harder to work with fabrics?

Thus began my first sewing challenge of 2010. This is what I came up with:

I used New Look 6204(A) to make a knit pull-over top. It features a simple casing down the front to create the rouched look. The skirt is McCalls 4245(A) which has an elastic waist and is casual enough to get away with a rolled, machine-stitched hem. Made the whole outfit THE DAY OF my date in about 6 hours. Whew!

It wasn’t as fancy as I could’ve gotten with my best machine. After this, I decided to spring for a new machine. Ironic that the last project on my crummy machines is now the first one I'm featuring on this blog.

And apparently I pulled it off. I got asked out again.