Monday, January 30, 2012

The Answer Was Right In Front of Me

Okay, am I the only one who did not figure it out? "Sharpies bleed through sewing patterns." The answer was right in front of me the whole time.  Instead of tracing the pattern onto the butcher paper, why not switch the paper around and let the sharpie bleed through? Yes! This works much better.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Bad Idea Involving a Sharpie

I have not done a bit of sewing in over a week. This is not for lack of desire, of course. My husband has been working almost non-stop in an effort to pull the last bits of his dissertation together - most days this has meant he has been gone from ten in the morning until well after midnight, and then sleeping until nine the next morning. So, I have been seriously busy with kids and home and everything else that is much easier with two bodies around. Plus I always seem to have trouble falling asleep when my husband is not at home so I have been up late hours too, but mostly laying in bed wishing I were asleep. Right now, in fact, he is still at work and I have a world of dishes, laundry and picking up waiting for me in the other room.

But I am ignoring it. I have had a thousand projects bouncing around in my head and in my ideas book that have been waiting for me. (Maybe this is part of what has been keeping me up at night...) I want to make:

  • Placemats for the kids from Meg McElwee's Growing Up Sew Liberated
  • A few much needed shirt(s) for me
  • T-shirts for the kids
  • A birthday present for my mother-in-law
  • A pencil roll for Evan from Amanda Blake Soule's The Creative Family
  • Good morning dressing bags for the kids 
And that does not include the non-sewing projects, in particular a handful of plans that Evan and I have for some beautiful branches we found fallen after a wind storm last week.  

So, I took the kids out to the fabric store yesterday, although I should have been getting them outside for a bit of movement and fresh air. I really wanted at least to pretend that I was working on something. I picked up patterns for a couple shirts and a dress for me. I have never used a pattern to make clothing, so this will be a major first for me. I wanted a basic long-sleeved shirt or two and ended up with a few other things as well, including Burda 3197, Burda 7866 and Simplicity 2147.

The Simplicity pattern says "Learn to Sew" on the front, so I pulled that one out first. Umm...yeah, I really do not know how to read a pattern. And that is what led me to hole up in the office and forget about the work at the other end of the house. I might have another half hour before it becomes a bad decision.



I thought that part of what was making me feel googly-eyed looking at the pattern was the wealth of unnecessary information. The pattern includes four different garments and all of the sizes ranging from six to eighteen. It contains over twenty different pattern pieces, of which I only need four. Cutting the few pieces that I actually need seemed a good idea, rather than sitting in front of two giant sheets of tissue paper covered in nonsense. I did not want to cut right into the pattern - that just seems too filled with finality for my current mental state. Not that I expect to need a different size - I can eat a horse or pick on birdseed and my body size does not seem to change. (Nice most of the time, except for when you want your body size to change.) But still, cutting into the pattern just feels too...serious.

Now any reasonable person would buy themselves some nice tracing paper and would set to work copying the pattern, right? Well, I have this thing right now about using what we have in the house...sometimes a bit too overzealously. (Maybe it is because we have been "about to move" for the last year, so I feel like I need to keep things small until we do...although a year is a long time to keep the cupboards bare.)

We have a big roll of butcher paper that I bought to do projects with the kids. It is no tracing paper, that is for sure. But with a sharpie, an extra lamp, and a lot of squinting, I managed to get two pieces traced. They look so much prettier than they did on the original pattern - so clean and simple. And they do make me feel like I might actually be able to make this dress. Maybe.



One final note, in case anyone ever wanted to replicate my terribly flawed pattern tracing process. Sharpies bleed through sewing patterns. So do not trace the pattern lines on your favorite desk, please. And if you do, do not use nail polish remover to get it off. 



This desk is growing more charming by the day!


Friday, January 20, 2012

A Fabric Brain Teaser

I am really wishing for a cutting table. In my super multi-use space where I have set up my sewing machine and supplies, you will also find office supplies, computer and printer, TV and DVD player (though these are hidden away and rarely used), guest bed, household files, bookshelves filled with books, photo albums, lots of toys, yoga mats. We usually call this room the office, but it would more accurately be referred to as our office/guest room/studio/playroom/storage room/media room/workout room.

When I committed to learning to sew, I carved out a few feet of space in this already crowded room. (Here is the post over at my other blog where I wrote about this.) Imagining additional space for a cutting table is really unrealistic. I know that, but I keep dreaming.

Right now, I am cutting on the floor on a much too tiny self-healing mat.  Here is an idea of what it looks like.


The other day, I sliced my finger with my rotary cutter. Mostly the fault of my absent-mindedness, as I forgot to close the blade cover between cuts. I have been trying since then to be wholly aware of extra safety measures, but I am still learning new habits. I keep finding that blade cover open with the cutter laying in the middle of the floor. Oh, a cutting table would just make my space so much safer, would it not?

Plus, some designated surface space would make detail work easier on the eyes. I was working on another couple buckets for the kids and was cutting out pieces from this very cheap cotton fabric that I bought for the bucket lining. Apparently, the fabric was printed all out of alignment. The line of pencils leads your brain to think of straight lines and I kept finding myself wanting to cut right along them. But then my ruler kept telling me that I was cutting crookedly. Hunched over on the floor, I could not see anything well enough to be able to tell what was going on. I cannot even tell you how long I worked at squaring off this fabric before I realized it was a fault in the fabric printing and not in my cutting abilities (for once).

Take a look at this. Here is one end of the fabric. See how the straight edge of this bamboo box follows the tips of the pencils, but you can see the edge rising up to the next line of pencils in the pattern toward the right edge of the photo.


Keep following along the edge of the box and...


Astounding! It was like one of those brain teasers where you have to figure out which circle is bigger when they are actually the same size. My brain just could not cut straight lines that conflicted with the pencil pattern.

Such a silly little thing to eat up time in life...

Now a cutting table would surely solve that problem...Right?

Do you have a designated sewing room or do you fit your work into multi-use space? How do you make space limitations work for you?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Old Jeans, New Skirt

Here they are - more pictures of my skirt as promised. Not sure if they are the best pictures to see the skirt, but they will give you the idea as least. I loved wearing this skirt yesterday - it was a new addition to my wardrobe, but felt like wearing my favorite pair of old jeans...Oh wait, I was wearing my favorite pair of old jeans!




Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Jeans-to-Skirt Project (Almost) Done

I was very productive last night. I finished Evan's yellow pants, which he wore today and which fit him perfectly! This is exciting of course because I made them, but also and mostly because he is incredibly skinny and not so tall, so his pants are always falling off of him on the top and dragging on the floor at the bottom. I do not think that he has had a pair of pants in his entire life that have really fit.

When Evan put the pants on this morning, I asked him what he thought of them and his first comment was, "They don't go under my feet." So even though the sewing itself remains somewhat flawed, these pants were still a big success.

Here is my little guy wearing them with the adorably colorful outfit that he picked out this morning.


After this five minutes of finishing work, I moved on to a seriously old pair of hand-me-down footie pajamas with holes in the toes. I might have just thrown them away, but Clayton can always use another pair of pajamas. We always seem to run out of them before laundry day somehow.

I am working on replacing the gripper fabric in some other pajamas of Clayton's and I thought about doing that here too, but it almost did not seem worth the extra effort. I mean, these things are old. So, I decided just to cut off the feet up to the ankle and hem the legs over the existing elastic, which stretches around the back of the ankle. The front of the leg without elastic is a little freer than one might normally see from kids'  pajamas, but the quick hem will do the trick and will allow these hand-me-downs to get even a little more life out of them.


A few minutes of not even remotely careful stitching and I was on to the project that was really pulling me for the evening, my jeans-to-skirt project. After picking up some matching thread last weekend, I was ready to put the back of the skirt together. I worked on the center seam first, trying to get it to blend as well as possible with the existing seam. And by "as well as possible," I mean only that I did not want the transition from existing seam to new seam to be glaringly obvious. I knew it would not be perfect - if that is what I had wanted, I would have pulled out the whole existing center seam and started a new one from the top. This skirt will look cobbled together because it is. Part of that is lack of expertise, part of it is laziness, but in a way, I kind of want the skirt to look repurposed...

Anyway, here is a (rather poor quality) picture of how it turned out. Still obvious, but maybe a little less so than if I had used the same approach as I did for the front of the skirt. And besides, if anyone notices the transition from one seam to the other, well... Anyone who wants to stare at me right there should probably keep it to themselves.


I attached the sides of the two triangles just as I did with the front of the skirt. This just left the hem. My husband helped me pin and then I sewed it twice, about a quarter inch apart, with the lighter grayish thread I used for the center seam.


It was late when I finished and my house has poor lighting even in the daytime. So I did not bother taking pictures. Just this one from the side view.


So it is finished...almost. I noticed, when I put it on after sewing the hem, that I stopped one of the seams in the back of the skirt about an inch too low. So there is a small but obvious hole there. I am going to try to hand stitch it tonight, though my hand stitching is even worse than my machine stitching, so hopefully I will not make a total mess of it.

If it works out and I can call the skirt complete, I will post some better pictures of it tomorrow.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Bright Yellow Pants!

My husband is currently in the last throes of his dissertation and has been working almost round the clock. He makes sure to be home some in the morning and at dinner and bedtime with the our little ones, but he often goes back to work after the kids go to bed and he works almost every day. This week was one of the rare ones where he took the whole day off on Saturday. Whenever this happens, I always dream big. I just so rarely have time that feels in any way free, so an extra set of hands around the house seems so much more substantial than it really is.

In any case, I was determined to spend some time sewing yesterday. I thought I would start during naptime and, since my husband was here, would continue a little bit after the boys woke up. Well, the new trend here is for my little one to wake up right when I leave my big boy's room, almost to the minute. So nap time starts and ends at exactly the same time. My husband took over with our little guy, so I had a few minutes of quiet time to finally finish Clayton's pants made from my old t-shirt. They fit well, though a little on the small side. My fault for waiting so long to finish a project for a little sprout who never stops growing.

By the time I finished Clayton's pants and had started working on a pair for Evan, both boys were up and wanted to be in the office with me. I had scissors, cutters, needles, and pins spread out everywhere and I spent the next ten or fifteen minutes trying to chase them out of the room over and over again while cleaning up the dangerous tools and simultaneously continuing my project. Okay, so it did not work at all...

But despite the struggle and thanks to my husband's wrangling abilities, I did manage to get the pants for Evan almost completed - just need to sew the elastic together and close the waistband.


These pants were much more complicated than Clayton's, since Evan is much taller and I could not cut out the fabric from the edge of the pants without running into the sleeve.


The whole shirt-to-pants thing is really designed more for a infant or toddler, it seems. I had to reverse the pair of pants I was using as a pattern, which meant that the easy seamless side seams were no longer.


Well, I cut the fabric, sewed up the side seams, cut the old t-shirt sides that would now become the crotch, and continued with the process as it was meant to be.

Oh, except for one other thing. The other rather annoying part of this project was that I selected a t-shirt with a breast pocket. Mistake number three. In an ideal world, the pocket would have ended up positioned perfectly so that the new pants would have a cute back pocket. Instead it fell where I would later be sewing the waistband. I had to carefully remove the pocket before I could do anything else.


It is about the process, right? And I do love the bright yellow color...

But the good news is that the reverse lever on my machine does work again since my husband superglued it on...well, sort of. It no longer switches to a reverse setting. Rather, I have to hold the lever down while I am sewing in order to backstitch. It is awkward, but much less so than reversing the entire fabric. Maybe I will still take the machine in to be repaired, but I imagine - knowing myself - that I will live with the annoyance for a little bit longer.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Jeans Are Looking a Little More Like a Skirt

I decided to play with my jeans-to-skirt project tonight, mostly because I forgot to remeasure the kids before bed and I cannot find the random scrap of paper where I wrote down their measurements last time I did it. The number nineteen sort of sounds like something I have heard before and that might be Clayton's waist measurement, but I really might be making that up. Better that I wait to finish their pants until I remeasure them tomorrow.

Instead of finishing the kids' pants, I started tonight just cutting at my jeans to see if I could make some sense of the front and back center seams. If you remember, I was trying to figure out the best way to get rid of the extra crotch fabric. Here is what it looked like before tonight:



So, I just tried to straighten out the edges as well as I could.


And then I cut some triangles to sew between what used to be the pant legs. I decided that it made more sense and looked better to use two triangles with a center seam, especially because the rear of the jeans has a center seam that would stand out awkwardly if it was not continued,  but rather cut off suddenly for no apparent reason.

I fit a piece of fabric from the bottom of the legs into the space and cut what looked to be the right size and shape. Once I had these triangles pinned, I realized they needed to be shaped a little differently and I trimmed them down quite a bit. I wonder if there would have been a more accurate method for cutting these pieces other than trial and error. I really know nothing about what it is I am doing...

Here is what the sewn seams looked like on the front of the skirt (on the first try at least):


Well, it turned out that the pieces that I cut were way too big. When I put the skirt on to see what they looked like, the fabric between the "legs" popped out and looked really silly. I had not yet pressed the seams, so this made it worse, but even after pressing the seams, there was still simply too much fabric.


I sewed a new, tighter seam along the center between the two triangles and trimmed the excess fabric to try to pull this area a little tighter. I also cut some length off of the bottom of the skirt, since I want it to be on the shorter side.

One last picture - this is what the skirt looks like right now. Better, but I am not sure that the skirt does not look a little bit weird...What do you think? I would love to heard suggestions from anyone who might have a bit more experience with this sort of thing...or even from someone without sewing experience, but with more vision when it comes to fashion.


I need to match the existing colors used on the back of the jeans. The center seam in the back (the same one I mentioned earlier) is sewn with a bright orange thread with a parallel seam in a grayish-green. I am going to try my best to blend this existing seam as I continue with the one between the two triangles in the back. But I cannot do any more until I get some thread.

Here is one final question. I have had a problem a few times now (with this project and with others) to get my machine to move smoothly over a large bump or rise in the fabric, such as when I am sewing over another seam. I read somewhere that you can create a sort of shim out of scrap fabric to help raise the presser foot and guide the needle up over the hump. I tried this tonight, though I was pulling it out of memory and might not be remembering exactly how it was done. In any case, it did not work. Do you know of any tricks for moving smoothly over such areas?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Too Many Ideas

I have not sewn in days. I keep coming up with more ideas of things I want to make. I am so scatterbrained right now about projects. They are not all sewing projects, but they include fabric, paper, old cardboard boxes, felt, picture frames...

One thing at a time, I try to tell myself.

I think tomorrow will be a planning day. People who know me well laugh at my list and schedules. But people who know me really well (hello, sisters) understand that without these props I am a total dysfunctional flake. ("What a flake!" was practically my nickname growing up...before I discovered lists and schedules, that is.)


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Wonder Where This Is Going

I cut my jeans up last night and tore out the inside seam up the legs and in through the crotch. It took forever - jeans apparently have some seriously complicated seams.


Somehow, these are going to turn into a skirt, though I am not yet sure exactly how this is going to happen. I am still imagining I can somehow sew triangles of fabric from the lower part of the legs into the triangles left between the legs.

But I do know that I am going to have to straighten out the crotch area. I did not really think about this before I pulled the pants apart, but of course the fabric is cut with a notch on either side where it meets between the legs. Perhaps I can just cut this out to follow a more even line from the top down to the bottom of the fabric?


I know this project is way beyond my sewing capabilities, but even the process of tearing a complicated garment apart and finding how it was attached in the first place is teaching me enormous amounts. I feel like one of those kids who takes apart her toys and then cannot figure out how to get them back together again.

So, now I have three projects going at once.

  • I still have not finished Clayton's pants made from my old t-shirt. Hopefully I will make it out to pick up the elastic tomorrow and then those will be finished. I want to make a pair for older brother Evan as well.
  • I have fabric ready to cut to make a few more canvas buckets for the boys. Evan is looking forward to his with this colorful pencil fabric on the inside.
  • And of course, my jeans-to-skirt experiment.

More pieces of future projects waiting in my in my ideas basket as well. Not all of these are sewing projects, but there are a least a few in there. 


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Can It Be True?

I think my husband fixed my broken reverse lever...with superglue!

I have yet to test it out for any length of time, but the few stitches we tried seemed to work perfectly. Good thing I was procrastinating about taking it in to be fixed. See, procrastination can sometimes lead to good fortune.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Future for my Old Jeans

I just finished a second larger bucket tonight. The process was a little more intuitive this second time around, but I still had the same problems with crooked stitches and untidy areas at the end of the seams. I think I am going to get out some scrap fabric in the next few days and just practice sewing straight lines. Maybe I can figure out what is happening at the end of my seams as well. It would be nice to have a teacher to answer my questions...they are probably really simple, common beginner mistakes. It might not be a bad idea to look around and see if anyone I know locally has friends who sew. In the meantime, your kind words and good advice are always appreciated.



I have more fabric for some buckets for my boys, but I think I am going to do something else next and come back to the buckets again later...after I finally finish those toddler pants that are still waiting on elastic, of course.

So, I have a pair of old jeans - my absolute favorite early pregnancy jeans that also happen to be my absolute favorite normal life jeans as well. They recently wore through in the knee and it makes me too sad to throw them out so I have been wearing them anyway. Very nineties of me, I know.

I was thinking that I might be able to somehow turn them into a short jean skirt. If I cut above the hole and tear out the inner thigh seams and then work a piece of fabric from the part of the legs that I cut off into the center. Would that not look like a skirt of some sort? I can picture it in my head, but I am not sure if it will at all become what I am envisioning. But what do I have to lose. Otherwise, the jeans will just go in the trash. So, maybe they will still go in the trash after I have some fun with them. Or maybe it will work out perfectly.

I will let you know what happens...


Monday, January 2, 2012

Repair It or Live With It?

I finished my first bucket. I thought I was making it for toy storage for the kids, but it is so cute, I might just keep it for myself.



I am wondering about something and thought I would ask for some opinions, if anyone out there has any. Shortly after I started sewing, within the first few days, the reverse lever on my sewing machine broke. I have been manually turning my fabric in order to backstitch at the end of my seams. It is easy enough to do and gets the job done, but I am wondering if my stitches look so messy on the ends because of this...or just because I do not really know what I am doing. I am not sure how much it would cost to have it repaired, but I am considering at least asking the question at a machine repair shop.


One more thing before I head to bed. I remembered today, when I was edge stitching my bucket, that I can remove the storage box from the front of my machine while sewing. I am not sure why I never thought of this before - it made it so much easier to make it around those curves along the edge of the bucket and would have been really useful for other projects as well. Well, it will be good to know for the future, I guess.