Tuesday, August 17, 2010

praising the sewing gods

not sure exactly how long it had been since i had sewn before sunday. well over three months, i believe.
when i say "not sewn" i mean just that. haven't touched a needle. at ALL.

so when i finally got my new sewing room all (well, mostly) organized last weekend i did so mentally preparing myself for a couple of frustrating first "back to sewing" sessions.

much to my surprise, the past three days of sewing have gone incredibly smoothly! the sewing gods must be forgiving gods.
i expected for my machine to meet me with a good bit of anger in her face and thought she'd let her hurt feelings after having been left abandoned for so long out on me. instead, i feel a little like the lost son who's welcomed home with a fancy party and lots of good food.
so i'm thanking whatever powers are in charge of lending me such wonderful creative karma! praise to the sewing gods!

first on the (now longer than ever) sewing to do list was trying my best to catch up with the bee europa quilting bee. i had missed three full months there and getting all those wonderful sewers their fabric back, preferably pieced together perfectly, has been my number one priority.

so i dove right back in working on the perfect "getting back into the swing of things" project, some totally free form blocks made from gorgeous (but slightly challenging to work with) linen and what i assume must be a linen/hemp blend?
here's the result. oh, yes, the pictures in the post are going to suck. germany has been acting like november the past few days. no sunshine whatsoever.


next on the bee list were these two blocks for a gorgeous spider web quilt by kaffe fassett .
this is where i for sure thought i was setting myself up for failure. the contrary! i absolutely loved working on these blocks and it's further strengthened my plan to make a spider web quilt for our bedroom some time soon. i have to admit i'm at least a wee bit proud of how nicely these turned out. the centers aren't a perfect match but i got those little corners to look a lot neater than i ever thought i'd be capable of. so that's pretty good. given how i haven't been practicing at all.


last night before going to bed i got out the next quilting bee envelope and read through the instructions. the plan was to work on these blocks today. but after a very rough night and out of the ordinary morning i realized i was just feeling way too puffy eyed and cloudy headed to work on somebody else's project today.

when i came back from dropping joon off at kindergarten, i found a yucky old pile of fabric on our front stoop. it was the seat of mika's little doll stroller. it had been half torn off for a while and eventually fell off altogether a couple of weeks ago. that thing was always ugly, navy blue with little brown bear claws, and when i bought it for joon the plan was to immediately pimp it with some nice fabric. as life goes that never happened. but then this morning these stroller remnants basically jumped my leg on the way into the house and i thought "well, maybe this is what i should be doing today!"
there's no before picture, but here's the after...



ironically, when i grabbed the stroller frame to bring inside and try the new seat on i realized that the frame, too, is broken. so i suppose i could've just bought a new stroller altogether. yup.

mika is in love with her old new stroller though and i feel pretty good knowing i'm still able to whip up my own creations, too.

joon was sad though that she didn't get anything and i had to promise her i'd make her something special tomorrow morning. ideas?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

hopefully very detailled tutorial for fully lined centered zipper

zipper mania in full effect! after years of avoiding zippers at all cost, i finally braved it and sewed my very first zipper a few days ago. the first one was a test run. a simple centered zipper. i looked at instructions online and in a book and went for it only to find, that it's ridiculously easy, just takes some care, preparation and i guess, guts.

the next day i felt ill prepared but motivated for the big performance. birthday present for my cousin who had asked for a pencil case. i followed this wonderful tutorial and was extremely pleased with the result. but i did make a few mistakes that i could've prevented if i were more the type who reads directions well and maybe if the tutorial had focused a little more on the zipper part.

so here's my addition. the pictures are unfortunately not the most beautiful because late night lighting in this room is difficult. hope they'll do the job though.

you'll need
~two cuts of fabric of equal width each of the outer fabric and the lining, so four cuts total
~zipper at least a few inches longer than your fabric cuts are wide
~masking tape (not a must have, but i find it to be helpful)
~seam ripper (also not a must)
~sewing machine with a zipper foot

1. take your lining fabric and baste (using the longest straight stitch) the seam where your zipper will be installed. i sew at 3/4". you'll rip this seam open again in the end, that's why you're using the long stitch.

2. press seam allowance in lining open.
3. fold over and press seam allowance on both pieces of outer fabric on the side which will hold the zipper.

4. place closed zipper on lining fabric. the middle of the zipper should line up on your seam.
you should be looking at the wrong side of the fabric but the right side of the zipper. make sure you have a good couple inches between the zipper's pull and your fabric.
if you're using a recycled zipper, secure the top with a safety pin to keep the zipper pull from falling off while you're working on it.

5. masking tape! woo hoo! use it instead of pins to keep the zipper in place on your lining.
try not to get the tape too close to the zipper as it's preferable not to sew through the tape. easier cleanup. ;)

6. you're still looking at wrong side of lining and right side of zipper. now place the folded edges of your outer fabric along both sides of the zipper and pin in place.
i'm a sloppy pinner and you'll see further down, that my fabric moved too much on this project. what can i say, i was in a hurry and i really hate pinning. if you need this to be neat, use LOTS of pins. and pin them perpendicular to the seam. that helps, too.

7. with your machines zipper foot, sew along the zipper starting at the side with the zipper pull. (switch stitch length back to regular if you haven't done so already.)
now, i made the stupid mistake of sewing too close to the zipper on my second zipper project. not a good idea, especially if you're using a bulky zipper. i couldn't get the dang thing to open in the end, had to rip it all apart and do it over which took at least half an hour. learned my lesson though.
so make sure you give the zipper pull lots of space to easily move, but stay close enough to keep it looking clean and sturdy. how far away you should be really depends on how bulky both the zipper and pull are.

8. when you come to the end, just turn the fabric 90 degrees , stitch across the zipper, turn again and stitch down the other side until you reach the end. do NOT stitch across the zipper at the pull's end.

here's what it should look like. no really, it shouldn't look like this. your fabric ends are probably neatly matched because you're not a lazy slop like me.

9. open the zipper a few inches. feeling accomplished yet? i know it's exciting! but you're not done yet...

10. now that the pull is within the area you'd like zipped, stitch across the zippers end to secure it all.

11. turn it over and carefully rip open the seam in the lining without damaging the stitches at both ends of the zipper.

12. remove the masking tape from between your layers, stick it on your ripped seam to quickly pull up all those yucky little thread bits which could get your zipper stuck later on.

taaaah-daaaaaaaaaaah!! you did it! right?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

out of hiding

oups! it appears i had disappeared from blogland for what? three months? yeah... let's forget about that and move on to happier subjects.

a lot of my friends have recently dug out sewing machines from deep down in their closets or borrowed them from friends or family and are starting to sew. i'm so excited to know that they are finding ways to learn new techniques and ways of expressing themselves while also expressing love for their family and the planet by heading more into a "handmade life" direction.

so in order to celebrate beginning seamstresses and creating for the ones we love i thought i'd create a tutorial.

i've decided on a simple vest as it seems the most versatile piece of clothing i can think of.
anyone can wear a vest at any age. boys, girls, babies, toddlers, mamas, papas...
making clothing for kids may not seem worthwhile sometimes because they outgrow everything so quickly. a vest fits much longer than pants or shirts. it transitions well through the seasons doesn't stain or wear out easily and this one is even reversible giving you basically two pieces in one!

got the point? it's time to make a vest.

the other reason i thought this would be perfect for a tutorial is that i think it's a good example for one of the biggest obstacles we encounter with sewing... the planning and thinking ahead.
all the sewing required for this is very basic and suitable for true beginners. but putting these few pieces of cloth together in the right order seems very counter intuitive at first. and because most patterns seems to assume that the reader just knows how to do this kind of work, i haven't found the process explained in a detailed way. for me personally purely written instructions are basically worthless. i need images. so this is going to be extremely picture heavy (excuse the yucky water stains on my ironing board) and i hope it works for you.

here we go...

for this vest i'm using a pattern i found in ottobre magazine but you can easily create your own by tracing the shape of a shirt which fits the to-be-vested-person well.

trace the pattern onto left side of one of your fabrics. place fabrics on top of each other, make a decision about seam allowance (i add 1cm all around), cut.

see? two layers. cotton print and purple stuff. i have three pieces of each. back and two front pieces.

begin sewing by taking your outside fabric (cotton print in my case) right sides facing each other. now sew only the two shoulder seams with a simple straight stitch. repeat with your inner layer of fabric (purple in this case).

now spread out both layers (it'll kinda look like a big U or V), open up the shoulder seams and press with an iron if you're using cotton and are a very tidy seamstress (i didn's press. i'm not tidy.). have the right sides of the two different fabrics face each other.

do as much pinning as you feel you need in order to keep both sides in place during sewing. i use very few needles if any, but if this really is your first project, use a lot of pinning to spare yourself some frustration later on. pin along all the outsides of your fabric U or V.

now start sewing your two layers together. start at the bottom of the side seam, stitch along the whole front, up and around the neck, down the front again until you reach the bottom of the other side seam.

now do the same for both arm openings. remember, your two layers are still spread out U or V shape right sides facing each other. this might feel crazy and like it couldn't possibly work to you, but it will! ;)

here's the big U or V. depending on how much seam allowance you used and what kind of materials you're working with you should trim the sewn edges now. you can do lots of little snips where you've sewn rounds, really trim corners if you use a pattern with sharp corners or ,as i did, give it a good trim all around.
in this case i'm not terribly concerned with fraying because i've chosen fabric i know won't hold up very well with lots of washes anyway and we will also topstitch these vests all around in the end, so fraying shouldn't be an issue really.

now we turn the vest right sides out by pulling the fabric through the shoulders. crazy. i know. but it works.

see? right sides out. arm holes are sewn, neck and front opening is sewn. still open are the side seams and the bottom seam on the back.

this is where you might get really confused and it's also where the sewing could get a little fumbly. deep breaths. this WILL work.
you now close the side seams. which means starting with your outside layer fabric you put the fabric right sides facing and stitch along the side seam top to bottom. be careful not to accidentally sew onto the inside fabrics.
then you fumble around a bit more until you have the inside layer fabric's outside seam ready to be sewn the same way.

this picture shows the side seams of inner and outer layer.

repeat for the other side seam.

turn it all right sides out and find that it really looks like it actually might work out in the end! woohoo!

at this point the only part left to sew together is the back's bottom. so you turn the vest wrong side out again, neatly line up the two layers in the back (use pins!) and then stitch them together leaving a hole in the middle big enough for you to use for turning the vest right side out again.

here's the bottom seam in the back. i sewed one side, left a hole big enough for my hand, sewed the other side.

turn right side out. neatly fold in the seam allowance where you left the hole. (again, use pins.)

use your hands or an iron to press the vest into shape now and get it to look clean and even.

then topstitch all along all the sides and armholes. i start right where i left the hole. because of the topstitching i don't need to handstitch to close the hole. it also helps the vest stay in shape through washes and keeps the fabric from fraying over time.

voi-la! here are my first two vest. one for joon and one for mika. making these took far less than an hour each INCLUDING tracing and cutting out the patterns and picking out fabrics.

there are endless possibilities for different designs.
i will be adding button loops and buttons to these but needed quick gratification today so they had to be plain at first.

you could use different shapes, add pockets, do patchwork, use fleece, fake fur, leather, trims, feathers, rig rag, pom poms.... endless variations.

so? are you making a vest today?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

back to sewing

whoa. after almost a month away from my machine i finally made a couple things. nothing spectacular, but it feels oh. so. good.

it's all about refashioning during at least july and august, so i'm trying to reset my creative thinking and really enjoying the extra challenges that come with it.

here's what i've done so far...

an old skirt of mine which now enjoys a new life as a cute airy summer dress for joon.

this one doesn't even really count because all i did was shorten a dress into a skirt. but i'm so excited about every minute of sewing i get done and thrilled to have a cute new summer top. AND most importantly this piece of cloth is no longer sitting at the bottom of a closet but actually getting used! what a concept.

super comfy shirt i bought on sale. loved the shirt but hated the print. now the print is hidden under ikea cotton and rig rag and i love how it turned out.

woohoo! now i really hope i can get some more done tomorrow before dave disappears for a weekend of band fun.