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Friday, November 30, 2012

Further Adventures of the CA Romance Dress

Ingredients for my CA Romance Dress

Being the further adventures of the California Romance Dress

I talked about my plans for my CA Romance Dress in my October Podcast, Romancing the Dress (Ench-002). It was in my sewing basket for November, but I put it off because:

1) I wanted to spend my sewing time reinforcing pants/trouser sewing skills I was working to improve in two different sewing classes at Cañada College*. There's not point in sewing all those different pants pieces samples and not getting abundant practice in making use of the bits and pieces learned in the real deal. Pants sewing isn't really exciting, but is sure is useful. Plus, as I've mentioned, I'm working towards learning to sew jeans so I want my basics pants sewing skills to be really solid.
2) My friend Susan had suggested that the pattern I planned to use could use some alterations in the bodice. Gee, it didn't really soooouuuund like those alterations would be a ton of work.....

Oh Har de Har Har (there's an expression you don't hear much these days)

I had the opportunity to work with Susan in sewing lab on those alterations today. I had the pattern muslin/toile mocked up in a combination of tissue and old sheets (why waste new fabric?). 

It took four hours to make the adjustments and I'm still not sure about how to cutout the sleeve, given the alterations Susan made. I'll probably be basting the ones I toiled onto my dress before I cut them. I'm really short on fabric and I can't afford to mess them up.

After Susan finished her changes to the pattern I spent the next two and a half hours cutting out the skirt and the bodice. I still have the front band and sleeve to layout and cut.

Why so long on the cutting you ask?


My next Blog Entry will be "Technicos: Don't be Mad - Be Plaid"

Daydreams and pattern details for this dress are in "Romancing the Dress: Envisioning the CA Romanced Dress"

Have you downloaded any of the free episodes for the Enchanted By Sewing Podcast, from the iTunes Store?

I take sewing classes in the Cañada College Fashion Department, Redwood City, California

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

My Newest Greenie Stick 'Em Pants

A Recent Sewing Creation
Photoshop Filter "PaintDaubs"
     When I was a kid I had a pair of green pants this same color, that my mother had sewn for me. The went well with a little green striped tee shirt I had.

      I well remember an argument with my father about these pants. He wanted me to wear this ensemble, which he termed my "greenie stick 'em outfit" when he was taking me some place and I just downright refused. Why, I wonder now? I'm pretty sure I liked the outfit. Likely, I was just being ornery.  I bet you anything I outgrew them soon after. Wonder if some other little girl inherited them. Did she cheese off her parents with her own ideas about clothing choices as well?.....

      I'm still partial to green pants, though I noticed when taking an informal poll at the shopping center that no other women were wearing colored pants.  Sometimes I have to nerve myself up to wear what I like, and ignore the prevailing mode. I blogged about that a few days back in What the Arty Romantic Wears on Black Friday, but I'm still mulling it over.

I finished sewing these elastic waist, corduroy pants about two weeks ago and I think I've worn them five or six times since. We've just hit slightly cooler, and occasionally rainy, weather here in our temperate climate. These and my new print cord pants have been just the thing for the current spot on the thermometer. I've put off getting out my light weight wool pants in favor of these comfortable, cotton charmers. 

My experience with this thin corduroy is that it doesn't last much longer than one, or maybe two, seasons. But it's still worthwhile sewing pants that feel so good and work well walking, biking or hiking. They'd be good for travel too. 

These are another shot at an old favorite tried and true pattern, MCCalls 2791. As I mentioned in my November Podcast, "The Lady Wears Trousers", this pattern is out of print. But it's still available through many resellers on the web inexpensively.

created thread belt loops in these pants as well as the linen ones I made several weeks back. I'm loving those loops. Links to Suzanne Beaubien's youtube tutorial that shows you how to create these loops in the show notes for the November Podcast.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Technicos:Let's Snap To It

Things I learned about sewing on snaps today.

1) If your needle and snap will handle it, you might want to use 4 threads, that's two lengths of thread through the needle, hanging down on either side. Why not add a little extra security, eh?

2) Work just on the right side (RS). Trim the knotted end and position the snap above the knot to hide it, and keep the back side neat

3) When I finish sewing on the snap, I now run the (threaded) needle through the threads beneath the snap piece (the half of the snap I'm currently sewing to the garment). After I knot the end several times, I snip close to the knot right on top and bury it underneath the snap piece.

Here's a nice posting from Ashley's "Make it and Love it" blog, with lots of useful information about using and sewing snaps. Thanks Ashley!

Friday, November 23, 2012

What the Arty Romantic Wears on Black Friday

I sewed these pants
and vest for a Fashion 110
class project
My daughter just took me out for a post-holiday celebration where everybody spends a lot of money, for which we didn't actually budget. I know others do, but I always expect to do a lot of sewing, and other creative goop,  to accomplish  holiday gifts. It doesn't always work out that way.

Didn't buy any gifts today, but I did check out the fashions of the different ladies shopping at Stanford Shopping Center. (There were fellas there too, but I don't do a ton of sewing for my husbands - mostly only nightshirts and boxer shorts.) I decided to analyze what was typical shopping garb.

About 80% of the women, seemingly independent of age, were wearing jeans. Many were very fitted. The majority seemed to be straight leg jeans, though boot cut was definitely well represented. Many of the rest were wearing some form of leggings or heavy tights. More were worn with skirts than I would have expected, though a goodly number were combined with a tunic-length tee, sweater or long jacket (that hid what went under).

I was dressed in the outfit to the left, recently completed as part of my sewing projects for Fashion 110. I like this kind of clothing, because it does make me feel arty and romantic. No other women were wearing any kind of print pants. I didn't even see any print skirts or dresses. Very monotone, few colored pants (except a pair of great yellow one on a handsome young man, who was there with another handsome young man.)

I do have jeans I like, and plan to begin working on learning to sew jeans. But you'll still see me in my pretty new print corduroy pants and vest, from time to time.

It is important to stick with my own sense of style, what I like to sew and wear. Maybe I'm better off not keeping score, though. It might keep me from following my own inner enchantment.

Piece of My HeartYou may also enjoy this posting about the piecing project involved in creating the above vest. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Avoiding Auntie Seama Rippah for the Holidays

Auntie Seama Rippah  
Let's just forget to invite Auntie Seama Rippah to the holiday table this year, OK?

She's so durned irritating. Remember what it was like last year? We spent all that time at the embroidery machine creating those turkey napkins, and then she sat there picking over every one, and looking for all the spots where I didn't clip the threads perfectly.

And of course she found the spot where I had to reposition the hoop, and couldn't get the needle to startup in the right place. I mean, who cares if one turkey has less feathers and a rather suggestive spot on his anatomy?

It's as though she thinks it's her mission in life to point out everybody's errors. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Scraps:Covering Buttons (Letter to Sharmila)

Dear Sharmila,

In sewing class the other day you asked me about the covered button I'd made for my vest using scrap fabric from the project. Here's the lowdown.

* The covered button forms are available in normal places, like Joannes. There is a version with a tool or a no-tool one. I just get the no-tool type and snap them in place with my fingers. Maybe the other kind is good for heavier fabrics? I'm not sure.
There are different sizes of button forms
They come in round head
or flat head style
I have also used the flat head style for
creating beaded buttons, using
scrap fabric as a base to attach the
Make sure the beads don't go to far out if you
do that, but far enough to cover the scrap fabric
You really need to make a test covered button with
the same sized forms to figure that out!

* I use a piece of scrap paper (like a recycled mailer card) to match the pattern on the back of the package. It's just a half circle, but of course I cut out the entire circle. Some covered button packages have multiple circles depending on the size you bought.

* Then I center the pattern over a great design in my fabric. I have also cut up an old stained embroidered linen napkin, making use of the embroidery and cutting away the stain. (I need to find the jacket I put that on and photograph it!)

* I glue stick the circle on top of the rounded button form. When you and I were talking about this, Ronda suggested that you could interface with a lightweight fabric, like silk organza, if you were using a light or sheer fabric, like the beautiful sari fabric you were sewing with when I first met you.

* Then I turn the form over and catch the edges of the circle on the teeth on the back of the button form. I have to do lots of smoothing of the edges to avoid puckering.

* Once I'm happy with the placement of the fabric and it's caught well on all the teeth I snap the button back in place. I always get confused by which side goes inside, but one part has grooves that fit better. I have to push hard, but eventually it snaps in place with a satisfactory click. They don't come apart after that.

* Sometimes I make them up with scrap fabric, not knowing how I will use them and just put them in my button collection.

Hope you enjoy making some. I'd love to see what you come up with!

Your sewing buddy,


I forgot I had these with me yesterday.
I made three different types and tried them all out on my vest.
I might use one like a pin on the vest, just for decoration.
They are also nice on a purse or bag.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Scraps of Wisdom

Birds Nest ?
Or does an environmentally conscientious sewist live here?
These scraps from my pieced vest project
Are just too pretty to toss
And what a waste of resources, eh?
Heather's idea would be great for these
I save strips of pretty fabrics that get cut off along the edges of my sewing. I use them for

- Stabilizing the edge of an inseam pockets
- Hair ties
- Ribbons for presents and other packages
- The string that goes through the hole in a vintage-styled luggage tags I create in Photoshop.

A frayed edge is great for an arty look in any of these reuses. The stabalizing strip doesn't care if it's frayed.

Scrap Strips
Awaiting Repurposing
I keep a cup hook screwed into a bookcase near my sewing machine and toss them over that as I'm working on projects.

Heather of The Sewing Loft had a posting about turning even smaller fabric scraps into yardage, that I plan to try. I love using up every bit of fabric, which clearly don't do much good in the landfill. I get to a point where I have tiny, tiny scraps and this looks perfect. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Vests: Another Piece of My Heart

At this point I had basted the reverse side
of a piece of brocade onto the corduroy vest front
I had just over 17" of cord for the front, leftover
from sewing pants, not enough for even one front length.

Take another little piece of 
my heart now, baby,  

Break another little bit of my heart now, darling.  

Have another little piece of my heart now, baby.

You know you got it, if it makes you feel good, Oh yes indeed.

* * *

Did you know that?
Like most people, I associate it with Janis Joplin

*    *    *

I'm just coming down off a piecing project, feeling a little bit like what Janis was singing about in this performance of  "Piece of My Heart".

Piecing always sounds so straightforward. I take two or more remnants of material, and combine them to make one. It always takes an awful lot more time to create, than I expect. My goal is to make it look arty, not like something I did because I ran short of fabric.

Well.... in truth I was short of fabric. I think I got the last three yards of this corduroy from my local Joannes. Apparently I wasn't the only sewer who found this print irresistible. Even the online Joannes  had only one yard of the fabric. OK, I admit that I put that last yard in my cart, just in case I wasn't happy with my vest. Or maybe I bought that final piece just because I love this material so much. Those long ago French textile merchants didn't name it cord  du roy - fabric of kings- for nothing!  

In fact, a shortage of goods inspires me to piece. It's a bit of time travel back to our past-times sewist ancestors. Scissors in hand, I'm spinning through the closest appropriate time portal to Depression times flour sack shirts,  late nights in the slave cabins stitching together scraps and ends from the big house, or needling together worn bits from different family members clothes - an art form that will one day be known as Sashiko,  after a hard day in the rice paddies.

Piecing lets me pay tribute to lessons learned from the folk who created more than utility garments, with very little on hand. It reminds me that clothing, even clothing with limited resources, can be  art. 

And maybe that's the most important time and place to be making art.

You know you got it, when it makes you feel good!

Here's what I had left from the corduroy
I made the decision not to cut any off below the pieced brocade band
because I thought the weight would be better if I kept as much as I had
At this point I had backed the front band with a long remnant of
silk organza (tough yet light), then stitched the corduroy to the organza-backed brocade

The back of the vest was what remained after a pair of linen pants
I made at the same time I sewed the cords.
I couldn't quite eek out enough for the linen back,
though I had more of it than I did the corduroy. But by this point
I wanted the brocade piece to wrap around from front to back anyway.

Coming Soon To This Blog!  A view of the whole vest (Yes, I finished it early this morning). I'm looking forward to doing a photo shoot of my entire Sewn With a Plan (SWAP) four garment mini-wardrobe, created for my Fashion 110 Introduction to Sewing Class at Cañada.

* I take sewing classes in the Cañada College Fashion Department, Redwood City, California

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Lady Wears Trousers: Elastic Waist Pants Checklist

Right Sides (RS)
Wrong Sides (WS)

 a. Mark each leg front, front, back, back. I like to pin a piece of posit tape marked 'F' or 'B' on each leg. It sounds simple, but those legs can get confusing
b. Use Continuous Stitching(CS) whenever possible. It helps keep track of all four legs as well as the usual benefits of C.S.
1.  Sew Inseam pockets
2.  Front legs to back legs, Right Sides (RSs) together.
3.  Create two separate legs
1.           Sew both side seams of each leg separately (continuous stitching is a good idea)
2.           Sew both inseams of each leg separately
(continuous stitching is a good idea)

4.   With one leg RS out and the other leg WS out, slip the RS out leg INSIDE the WS out leg.
5.   Stitch entire crotch seam
6.  Press
7.  Put pants Rs out
8.  Waistband
1.           Put pants on and tie a piece of elastic or string around waist at natural waistline. Good time to use actual elastic waistbanding too. Try 4-5 inches less than actual waist and see how everything looks in the mirror.
2.            Mark natural waistline using chalk . I also had success folding the ws over the top of the wide elastic waistbanding (not the way it actually will go on!),  safety pinning it front and back on myself, then pressing in crease after I took them off, and marking that crease (on the inside).
9.  Check, is there sufficient casing depth for elastic width used? Add extra strip along casing edge if needed. Twill tape or self fabric
10.      Press actual casing in place
11.       Slip elastic through, safety pin and  eyeball fit.
12.      Measure actual waistband elastic Try 4 inches less than actual because of stitching through center will stretch it out
13.      Sew casing fold, leaving elastic gap
14.      Pull elastic through Safety. Pin well and check fit
15.      When fit ok safety pin or baste through long center
16.      Check fit again
17.      Sew edges of elastic together butted together or lapped over, using zig zag stitch.
18.      Sew along center of elastic all around waist to give doubled look
19.      Hem
1.           Fold up, press and pin. Try on with clogs to eyeball hem.
2.           Turn in quarter inch fold at raw edge and sew that or finish the edge if not turning under. On linen pants I didnt turn under. On courderoy pants I sewed on seam tape. Both avoided a bulky look
3.           Hand stitch hem in place for linen pants . Fused stitchwitchery between the two WS’s on the courderoy pants.

* I take sewing classes in the Cañada College Fashion Department, Redwood City, California

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Lady Wears Trousers: Mystery of the Double Needle

 I knew what twin needles did and I loved the look of the belt loops on  commercial jeans (as well as their use to embellish other bits of jean'ery).  But for some reason, it never occurred to me that I would learn how to sew with a twin needle. That skill was for a sewist who really knew how to sew well, somebody who had taken sewing classes.

Do you ever find yourself creating mental blocks like that without realizing it? Apparently I was able to pass Calculus (and that as a teenager), hold down professional work at a young age, and bear and raise a child but a twin needle was beyond me.

Well no more.

I was inspired by the desire for classy belt loops. During my pants construction class, I was told a few secrets concerning the wiley twin needle. They aren't that all secret.

While using the double needle
I sat this thread holder behind my machine
1. Though my machine doesn't have a spot for the  two spools of thread needed to run through the two different needles, there are a variety of ways to mount them. One is an external thread holder. I'm sorry I don't know what they are called. I bought mine for less than $20.00 at a Viking dealer.  It looks like this.

When I watched Lynda Maynard, who taught my Pants Construction Class, use her double needle, I learned that you simply run the thread from both spools of thread along the same standard thread channels. They don't get tangled or unhappy running together. I was pleased to realize that I wasn't the only student who found the whole deal unfamiliar. Even the lady who has never bought a commercial pattern, because she just whips up her own, was surprised by the thread dancing merrily together.

2. Another cool thing about the twin needle, that I learned from Lynda, is that the back side of double needling makes a zig zag stitch. So, I can count on that stitch to cover up any rough edges on the back side of what I'm sewing.

3. With the magic of the twin needle, I can simple put wrong sides together on a strip of fabric to make my belt loops, zig zag the long edge, then press the resulting tube with this external seam running down the middle. Entonces, I run a line of twin needling down the non-seamed side and ¡Qué bien!  a strip ready to be cut into belt loops.

Belt Loop Strip, Ready to Go!

Here's the front side of the twin needle's work
I sewed this sample on a piece of crinole, which is a
slightly sheer material. So the back stitches show a little bit
Here's the back side of the double needle's work
Notice the zig zag

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Lady Wears Trousers: Inseam Pocket Checklist

Inseam Pockets
Elastic Waist Pants Under Construction
The long strip is the Stay for the garment front
The pocket and stay are cut from "Drill"
The Leash running from the top of the Drill pocket
up into the waistband is cut from Silk Organza - sturdy yet light

* 1. Notes 
* 2. Checklist

1. Notes
1.   Pocket bags can be cut any shape that works for person wearing. Make sure they are cut deep enough!
2.   Remember to add extension to pant front and back when CUTTING OUT pattern
3.   Adding extension to front and back of pants (skirt) helps match up where pocket bag fits in better (for me) than notches
4.   Use continuous stitching wherever possible
5.   Remember to mark F and B and Right Sides (RS) of all four pieces
6.   Cut pocket leash from Silk Organza for front of pocket only. This will tie into the waistband, will not add bulk and keep pocket in place
7.   This is also an excellent time to stay the fork of the crotch (fronts only)

2. Inseam pocket checklist

1.  Cut stays from selvage edge or folded muslin strip at least an extra inch above and below
1.           Make sure opening fits hand At least six inches wide

2.  Reinforce front and backs along pocket opening an inch or two above and below hand opening
1.           Sew Stay openings to fronts and backs
3.  Press stays
4.  Pin all four pocket bags carefully
1.           Eyeball check both fronts to backs, make sure it all seems to be laying correctly for the garment
2.           Sew all four pocket bags to fronts and backs. Use a 3/8 Seam Allowances (SA)
5.  Press SA
1.           Towards pockets
2.           With Pockets facing out
3.           Press each SA open
6.  Grade front SAs only
7.  FiNISH seam edges
8.  Hand baste front pocket bags to back along across opening
9.  Sew side seams above and below
10.      Reinforce stressnpoints
11.      Press step three
12.      Sew pocket bags
13.      Deal with extended leash here. BASTE to waistline marking
14.      Catch front seam in stitching
15.      Seam finish edges
16.      Clip bottom, back SA to but not through
17.      Press open below clip
18.      Press pocket towards garment
19.      Catchup pocket leash with basting in waist area

* I take sewing classes in the Cañada College Fashion Department, Redwood City, California