Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Journals and me

Here it is, 2014.  How did that happen? This blog went the way of every journal I've ever tried to keep.  I wrote for a while, then went away and forgot all about it, then came back and tried to decide if I should catch up on years of missing entries, give up, or just carry on.  In the past I've given up, but I think today I'm going to try the carry on from here method, here and on Looking Heavenward, my personal blog.

But first, I'm going to indulge in some retroactive nomenclature, aka back-dating the text.  My children will hereby be known by their first and middle initials followed by their age at the time of posting.  The nicknames I would never call them in real life thing drives me crazy.

P.S. looks like I've had this exact thought about journals and this blog before!

Monday, November 16, 2009


My last post seems to be dated almost a year ago. (oops)

I've certainly been sewing during that time!

I guess it's time for a long-winded update.

But not tonight.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Custom Snoods

This custom order underwent a bit of fine-tuning along the way, but in the end I think both I and my customer were very satisfied.

My customer wanted a very specific look, and it took me a while to figure out exactly how to achieve the pieced headbands, but once I did, it was fun to assemble the different fabrics in her specific combinations.

Solid black pieced headband, butterfly fabric for the snood body:

Black and gold leaf print pieced headband;
black leaf burnout print overlaid on the gold leaf print for the snood body:

Monday, December 01, 2008

I guess I did sew a lot in the past week after all!

An email list I'm on, NMSL, is running a "sewalong" right now. Nothing fancy or formal, it's just so we can encourage each other to actually sew. I was feeling like I hadn't really been sewing, when I stopped to think about the last week and realized I had actually sewn quite a bit!

Let's see -- last week Sunday I finished a 6-gore elastic waist skirt for me. It was the same pattern as the handkerchief skirt, Simplicity 4138, but the more "boring" long view without any flounce. The fabric was a dark eggplant suedecloth with a pale pink floral print that had followed me home from Lorraine's bargain loft a couple of months ago. It was so dark that I didn't have any threads in the purple family that worked, so I wound up using brown thread!

I had just over 2 yards left, when 2 of my daughters announced that they needed brown skirts for Tuesday's "Color Day." 2nd and 3rd grade girls had been assigned brown and white. (And I don't believe in white skirts, especially for little girls!) I didn't really have brown fabric, or time to run to the store, so we declared this fabric "brown enough" and I made each of them a skirt Monday evening, without a pattern!

What I did: I cut the remaining yardage exactly in half so that I was guaranteed to have enough for both girls. Then I folded the fabric on the diagonal from the corner (twice) to make the biggest diagonal I could possibly get from that length of fabric, and cut out a circle. I used the remaining fabric to cut a rectangle to be the "yoke," then cut a second circle out of the middle, estimating to make the circumference come out equal to the width of my yoke minus the seam allowances. I adjusted the yoke seam to make it match exactly, and I made a fold-down casing elastic waist. On the first skirt, I only made the top part 8 inches deep (before seams and casing) and while it worked, I didn't quite feel it was long enough for long-term wear, so I cut the second one more like 12 inches. I was much happier with it, and it does make it easier for the girls to tell their skirts apart. (Their waist measurements are very very close.)

On Wednesday, all the kids were home, so I wasn't really planning to sew anything, but a friend called me on Tuesday and asked if I could hem a couple of pairs of pants for her. (Okay, for her husband and son.) They came over Wednesday morning for me to mark the hems. Wednesday evening I finally grabbed the time to do it: I closed the crotch seam on a pair of boy's dress pants and hemmed and cuffed 1 pair each of boy's and men's dress pants so they could have them back by Friday afternoon. (Since Thursday was Thanksgiving, and we were busy.)

Then yesterday (Sunday) I finished a custom order black velvet snood and worked on another custom order, but didn't make so much progress on the second one.

Still, I did do a lot of sewing after all.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

slacking off... well, not really.

I have several projects to finish for customers, and as we just had a month of YomTov (holidays) I haven't had very much sewing time at all.

I spent this past Sunday cleaning up the playroom (starting from the end that is really my sewing room).

What I accomplished:
  • I found a large percentage of the floor (there really was one under all that mess!)
  • I filled a big garbage bag with fabric scraps, food crumbs!, random bits of paper and broken toys
  • I sorted the unbroken toys into a multitude of toy boxes. We definitely have too many toys!
The idea is to make the playroom more playable in, so that the at-home-all-day kids (ie "the littles") will stay in there and play instead of getting bored and leaving to go make trouble.

But I didn't do any actual sewing on Sunday, since I was so busy cleaning.

Monday morning I actually played with the littles in the playroom -- good for the littles, and maybe progress towards getting them used to playing and staying in the playroom, but again, no sewing happened, or more to the point, no ironing happened. The most pressing project right now is putting the pleats back into the 4 uniform skirts I shortened several weeks ago. Taking out a hot iron while three littles play under foot... bad idea.

So this morning (Tuesday) I made sure to take some sewing time, but as I also had sole care of the three littles (ages 4, 3, and 1.5), I still wasn't willing to take out the iron. Instead, I went stash diving, and did some sewing for me. Felt like slacking off, but it was fun. And I did need it. (I so need to update my entire wardrobe!)

I was in JoAnn Fabrics about a month ago, picking up some last minute supplies for a project, and was on line to check out when I realized I was actually in the store during the Simplicity $1.99 sale, and what was I doing leaving without taking advantage of it? So I went back in and dug out my pattern wish list. One of the patterns I picked up then was Simplicity 4138:

I chose view B, the long skirt with a handkerchief hemmed flounce. (Shown in pink, on the model). My first choice of fabric, a black variegated rib knit, was discarded when I realized that after washing on hot, the fabric width was only 40" and the flounce wouldn't fit! I pulled out several other fabrics, finally settling on a 60" wide deep wine colored Bedford cord (really soft and flowy!) that I think I bought over 5 years ago. I had just over 2 yards of it, and it was a really tight fit (requiring a very unconventional layout) but I made it work.

Since I don't actually go in all that much at the waist (leftovers from past pregnancies), I folded down the top inch of the pattern to make the waist part a bit wider and closer to the hips. I also did a rolled hem on the flounce instead of the narrow hem the pattern called for, but those were the only changes I made. The instructions for the elastic waist suggest cutting a piece of elastic equal to your waist measurement and then trying it on and adjusting as necessary -- I did that and wound cutting off quite a bit of elastic. (At least 6 inches.) But I finished it in one day and I have a new and exciting skirt! (Couldn't find a hanger to showcase it properly, and didn't feel like changing just now.)

This evening I did actually get to that ironing... but I had a deadline, as Rosh Chodesh started tonight, and I don't iron, sew or do laundry on Rosh Chodesh. So I checked when sunset was, set the timer on my watch, and pulled out the iron. I finished pressing one skirt and got maybe 25% done with a second. Maybe Thursday night I can finish them and finally give them back? Then it's on to a big special order snood project.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Another Wedding!

Every so often I have a really big project, that towards the end keeps me up nights sewing, since I have kids home all day, and more kids home every evening, and I can only take away so much of their "Mama time" before they start noticing and complaining.

This time, someone hired me to make her a dress to wear to a family wedding, and before I knew it, I was making dresses for her two daughters (13 and 6) as well.

Again I was up too late at the end, but I did finish in time for them to take the dresses with them when they left!

The first item was a 2 piece dress for the mother. Luckily, she and I are similar enough in size that while of course I fitted the muslin directly on her, I could just try it on myself for small changes, like adjusting the "modesty panel."

This was the pattern:

She provided me with eggplant satin for this. She wanted the view with shoulders, not sheer, with added sleeves and an ivory triangle inset at the neckline, plus the matching skirt, of course.

She's a little thinner than I am in waist and hips so the top doesn't pull at the belly on her the way it does on me:

(Hmm, need to wash that mirror!) The safety pins were temporary. I was wearing it to mark the modesty panel location. I sewed it in on one side, plus halfway on the other, then added a small sew-in snap at that top corner so that she could open it enough to get it on over her head.

To add sleeves, I had these two other patterns (I was using them for the daughter anyway):


Initially, I thought she wanted the sleeves from the McCall pattern (because her daughter did) and that's how I did the muslin. At that point she asked for the sleeves from the Simplicity jacket instead.

To add sleeves, I had redrawn the bodice pieces of Simplicity 2953 to match the shoulder and armhole (armscye) of McCall's M5527, and just used the sleeve straight. Not wanting to re-trace my new bodice pattern pieces after fitting the muslin now that she wanted a different sleeve, I instead traced the McCall's sleeve, using that sleeve cap but merging it with the Simplicity 5561 sleeve for the sides, length, and width. That way it fit the flounce from the Simplicity pattern perfectly.

I also, based on how the muslin fit her, darted an inch out of the upper back of the top pattern, tapering to nothing by mid back, and then split the pattern at center back from the bottom up to just below that mid-back point, so that it would spread out a bit to compensate and make the pattern piece flat again. I did this based on my muslin, which had been too loose in the upper back and needed a bit more room through the waist and upper hip. Then I cut out the fabric with my "new" pattern piece.

For the skirt, she wanted to wear it at high hip rather than at her waist, so I cut off fabric from the top of the skirt until it more or less matched her measurement at her high hip, leaving the basic line of the skirt alone. I then used a bigger size for the waistband piece because it happened to fit. (Otherwise I would have measured and added appropriately.)

The finished outfit, which on her gives a very flattering hourglass effect:
(The tie sash is made from an eggplant chiffon, and the color matches exactly in real life. The flash made it show up as a different color!)

For her older daughter, she requested the more flare-y dress from Simplicity 5561 in ivory satin, but with a higher neckline, no boning, and straps to support it. She also wanted the McCall's M5527 jacket, in ivory with contrast ruffled collar and sleeve ruffles from the eggplant.

I did a muslin for just the top of the dress, to make sure I had raised the neck enough. I did discover from this that she needed more room in the hips, but I really should have paid more attention to how much more room she needed. The pattern was intended to make a tight fitting dress, and she really didn't want it that tight! After a final fitting, where I had raised the point at which the hip flare starts but had not added to that flare, I wound up taking a much smaller seam allowance at the side seams from the waist point down. (I had only basted the side seams for this fitting -- all the other seams were sewn already at that point, because I was apparently overconfident in my adjustments).

Anyway, to raise the neckline, I found a different pattern (one that's out of print, unfortunately) with straps and a shaped top and re-drew the top of the front and front side pattern pieces to follow the basic lines of this other pattern, only about three inches up from the original placement. I used those straps and shortened them. I bound the neckline with strips cut on the bias, but wasn't exactly sure how to do the corners of the front, (and at that point I was utterly exhausted, as it was easily 4am) so that part could be prettier. She wasn't going to take the jacket off in public anyway, as this family does hold to Orthodox Jewish standards of modesty.


Dress with jacket over it:

Her younger daughter's dress was easy, and was my favorite of the three. Probably that was due to my familiarity with the pattern (I had made this pattern several times for my own daughters) and the fact that I didn't have to adjust anything! I had her try on two of my daughter's dresses, one a 6 and the other an 8, and the verdict was make her a straight 7.
And it Just Worked (tm).

The pattern:
The finished dress, a long-sleeved view with sleeve flounce, plus close-up of sash and flower detail:

The sash isn't part of the pattern, although the flowers are. I simply cut a piece of chiffon the entire width of the fabric, sewed it into a tube (the ends both closed, a space for turning it left open), turned it, and edge-stitched it along the side with the seam, which closed my turning opening. I then sewed it onto the dress along the bodice seam on the front, and vertically along the two side seams. I left the top unattached, but then sewed the flowers on completely through the sash, bodice front and bodice lining.

I also made the two daughters some petticoat type slips to wear under their dresses. My sewing machine hated sewing the netting, (not onto the fabric, but when it was just netting to put in the gathering stitches) so instead of gathering all of it, I wound up pleating it on instead. Tedious, but overall easier than fighting with the gathering threads breaking every 5 inches.

Oh, and I hemmed everything with the rolled hem stitch on my serger. Quick and easy. (Except the jacket itself, which was hand-hemmed. The jacket sleeve ruffles were rolled hems, though.)

Overall, a satisfying project.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Wedding

Dresses for the wedding were a resounding success!

Well, I did lose several nights of sleep over them, and I was still finishing them up in the hotel!

Also, I was using a crepe backed satin. I totally intended to make my skirt with the satin side out (which I did) but my jacket with the crepe side out, which I did not. I was so sleep deprived by the time I got to mine, that I absolutely could not convince my brain that the crepe side was the "right side" and kept turning pieces backwards, so I gave up and just made that shiny too.

But I think we looked wonderful.

MIL's dress and jacket was a job and a half, but that turned out wonderfully too, and I got nothing but compliments on it (after the gasps of astonishment: "You made that? Wow, it's gorgeous!")