Wednesday, November 23, 2016

I prefer being behind the camera...

but I'm just learning.  SO new, I had to look up what "DSLR" meant.  That should give you a pretty good idea of where my starting line is.  But even as I struggle to figure out which button does what, and when to do this or that, I find I'm still having fun.  I'm guessing that's a good sign!

We visited our local alpaca farm last weekend. I figured fuzzy faces would be perfect for practice shots, and I was right.  Enjoy the parade of Farm Furs. 

T2, guard dog in training

One of the girls.

One of the boys.

Lily the goat

Lucca the donkey

I especially love the barn's warm afternoon sunlight in the last two photos.  If you're in the area, this lovely farm is located in Barrington, IL:  SafeHouse Farm Alpacas

Monday, November 21, 2016

Dress #3 ~ Vintage Strawberries

Yep, I did it.  A dress made out of quilting cotton.

I've read different discussions about the pros and cons of using this fabric for apparel.  The reason for the debate:  The fabric of quilting cotton tends to be a bit more stiff.  It doesn't drape and hang along the body the way a softer cotton might.  As a result, the finished item may look a little odd.

Yet despite this issue, I had to try it anyway.  I found this adorable Riley Blake fabric design, "Vintage Market Strawberries," and I just couldn't help myself.  

How could I pass this up?

Furthermore, I've noticed that the quilting cotton section of has a much wider selection of fabric designs that appeal to me.  I knew that if I could get this particular fabric to work, I'd open up a big door of possibilities in terms of fun fabric for future dresses and skirts. 

Sure I've read the comments from some about how they can easily spot a dress made out of quilting cotton, and that it looks so "homemade".  I understand their point.

But I'm not entirely sure I care.  This fabric is so darn cute, I am willing to be chuckled at by whatever (probably teeny) percentage of the population that might spot my quilting cotton and judge.


It's pretty fabric that's easy to work with.


As predicted, it is indeed a little more stiff.  I can even feel the difference when wearing it.  I must note that Dress #1 made out of softer cotton seems to move a little easier with me, so I was able to do a bit more with the shaping in the bodice without feeling constricted.  I might be able to adjust quilting cotton dresses by giving myself a little more room in the seams (by 1/8" perhaps), thus providing a little more "wiggle" room overall.

General sewing thoughts on this project:

Argh, I goofed up the top of the zipper by installing it too high.  This doesn't hurt the function of the zipper at all, but had I lowered the zipper just a 1/4" or so, the neckline and the zipper top would have been aligned a little more neatly.  I managed to make it look decent, but I will need to remember this for future items.

Irritated by the neckline interfacing I had purchased ~ it's way too stiff, and I hate handling it ~ I elected to skip using it completely.  This means I made my neckline facing just out of the dress fabric alone.  It looks fine, but it naturally lacks structure.  It doesn't really bother me...seems fine and finishes the neckline appropriately...but I haven't figured out how to tack a neckline facing down so that little stitch marks don't show on the front of the dress.  So for the third dress in a row, I have a floppy neckline facing that needs to be smoothed into place when I first put on the dress.

I do love this dress though!  I will have to be careful wearing it to work ~ this fabric is going to wrinkle.  I'm considering experimenting with another quilting cotton dress, perhaps with the addition of an underlining to see if that helps the drape and wrinkle issue.

Also, the stiffness of this fabric may be better used in another type of pattern.  I will be doing more homework on that.

Simplicity 1537 in Vintage Strawberries ~ no regrets!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Lessons Learned (hopefully) from Dress #1

As promised in the previous post, I'm going to share a few details and links (at the end) that I think might be helpful to a new seamstress.

 Fabric/Pattern Prep

What I discovered through this process was that the actual sewing part of the dress really didn't get going until I had already spent a considerable amount of time doing pattern and fabric homework.  I had to wash, dry, and iron my fabric.  Then I had to determine which pattern size was right for me.  That led into tracing the correct size, transferring over all the special pattern markings (and they all mean something), cutting these new just-for-me pattern pieces out, getting them on the fabric correctly, cutting the pieces out again, and transferring pattern markings ~ this time on my actual dress fabric ~ again.  Sheesh.

I list all this because I would have appreciated that warning ahead of time.  Not that it was so terrible, but it's good to know that this is what's waiting for you, and that this preparation is a critical step.  It's a part of the sewing process that doesn't involve actual sewing, but without it, the project would be a mess.

My tracing cloth was great!  It's easy to see through but not too flimsy, and it's nice and soft to handle.  My fabric pencils were not helpful, and this led to some unnecessary frustration.  I will definitely be exploring other fabric marking options!

To be fair, even though it felt like it took forever to get to the actual sewing part, once you've traced  your pattern onto tracing cloth, that's it.  Unless your size changes dramatically, you won't have to do this again to make additional dresses from that pattern.  I keep my cut out pattern pieces in a big Ziploc bag, along with the pattern and any notes I made, and it's all ready to go for me next time.

Making a Muslin

Muslin is an inexpensive fabric you can use to make a practice dress.  You get some practice putting together and sewing the pieces, you can adjust fit, and you can screw up left and right without any pressure.  I have to admit, I was relieved to have a practice dress to work on.  Even though I ended up sewing two dresses, it really was nice to work out all my issues on the much cheaper fabric.

Plus now I love having the muslin to help me remember how to insert sleeves.  For some reason, those goof me up.  But I can grab my muslin dress, turn it inside out, and study how the sleeves are sewn.  This helps me so much more than reading the pattern directions.

Basting Stitches

I sewed all my pieces the first time around with big, giant basting stitches.  Why?  Because if I goofed up and needed to rip a seam, those big stitches are way easier to see and unpick.  When I was happy with a seam, I just sewed over it again, choosing a smaller stitch length the second time around.  Yes, I sewed each seam a minimum of two times.  Believe me, that is way less time consuming than trying to unpick lots of teeny stitches.

And now, those links:

Tracing cloth, Pellon 830
An example of muslin fabric
How to insert a darn sleeve ~ for new people and people who keep me.

I'm going to make Dress #3 from this same pattern, using fabric that may or may not work.  We'll see ~ I promise to share the results of my experiment.  I'll also comment on the two different fabric choices, and my use of interfacing for the neckline.

What happened to Dress #2?  That's my Pajama Dress.  :o)  I'll introduce that little number to the blog soon.

Monday, November 14, 2016

My First Sewn Dress!

Simplicity 1537

I had promised earlier to share my sewing journey, just in the event there are curious, soon-to-be dressmakers out there who would appreciate watching a newbie like me explore this process.  And while I'm not filming podcast episodes at the moment, I am more than happy to record my experiences right here.

As the title says, this is indeed my very first dress.  The pattern is Simplicity 1537, and I originally purchased this about a year ago with the idea of making a full length dress out of funky fabric to wear to our local Renaissance Faire.  You know...cause that's a great first project, right?  *eyeroll*  

I won't go into the debacle in detail, but in short:  I chose a fabric that likely wouldn't have worked for that purpose anyway, goofed up tracing the original pattern, decided to make a full length circle skirt, screwed the waist up by cutting it too small, cut new pattern pieces out of this gigantic skirt that didn't fit, pulled the zipper I had thrown away OUT of the garbage...cleaned the ketchup off of it ...and reattached it, and made myself a regular old knee-length skirt.  

*Whew!*  Yep, that's actually minus the detail!  After all that, I'm shocked I ever looked at my sewing machine again.  Somewhere in my brain, I must have really loved the process.  The frustration I felt ~ and there was a-plenty ~ was always temporary.  I would just mumble a couple of carefully chosen swear words and move on to the next bit of problem solving.

I share all this because I want to make it very clear that I didn't just pick up a pattern, fabric, and knock out my very humble Dress #1.  I wish!

It took about a year, the reading of sewing blogs and watching tutorials, and the sewing of a few simple skirts before I found myself ready to tackle something bigger.

In the interest of keeping things short and snappy, I will share some details and products in the next blog post.  My fabric choice ended up being a good one.  The interfacing?  Not so much.  And I think I'm going to need pinking shears because my seams are really quite scary.

By the way...the skirt with the ketchup-smeared zipper?  I love it.  :o)

Friday, November 11, 2016

My Boy

Last Saturday, in the early hours of the morning, Snoopy peacefully passed away in my arms.

For 13.5 years, he was our light.  He was constant joy.  Now his absence is more painful than we could have ever imagined.

I don't have the heart to film episodes for the podcast.  At this point, I can't be truly happy about much of anything, and I certainly don't want to convey such sadness on film.  I can do fairly well via the written word though, so I've decided to keep this page as my crafting blog.  At some point, I will make a decision as to whether the video podcast will continue, or whether it will end with Snoopy's passing.

I was so lucky to be this Boston's mama.  Thank you for loving me, Buds.  Mama misses you.