I’m into Squares

AQuilt_croppeddvanced quilters will have to refrain from laughing at my puny quilting efforts. Those who want to learn basic quilting, read on. Especially if you’re an experienced garment sewer like I am, eager to expand your horizons into new prints, colors and techniques. Here’s the story of my latest simple quilt.

I have been dutifully trying to use cottons from my acquired stash. It seems to me, though, that to finish projects one has to acquire yet more fabrics because you don’t have just the right patterns, stripes or solids in quantity. This time, I put out a plea to my local recycling Web site: Did anyone have fabric they were not using, so I could “finish up” projects or make lap quilts for charity? Why, yes they did. And they would be more than happy to have me pick it up from their porches or homes. In large bins. All of the fabrics you see in the pictured sample are the result. The bluish-looking solid is actually a spruce green. The red is a floral, the cream is a leafy lattice, and there’s a floral element to the dark green striped fabric. Despite the flora, and no holiday element whatsoever, my quilt looks like Christmas. Which makes it less useful, I’m afraid, as a lap quilt or to give away. I’m less enthused about it myself, in the early summertime, though the colors are lovely.

The real simplicity to this project is the squares. It’s impossible to miss if you’re a really creative quilter. My quilt has only squares! I use a “strip” quilting method, and over time I’ve perfected the quarter-inch (1/4″) seam allowance so that in the sample above, the corners match beautifully. Though I’ve read many techniques for creating triangles, especially ones that won’t distort on the bias, I’ve never tried to cut or sew triangles! There–it’s out now! I can’t be frightened of the technique, which is well explained, but I do fear combining colors and prints. After all, a triangle meets up with another triangle, and each should complement the other somehow. But soon, soon I hope to try a whole bunch of triangles. And maybe some off-set columns (strips). You see, I have a lot of fabric to practice with!

PatternReview.com comes of age

SoundStitches spring sewingPatternReview.com has really grown up. PatternReview is the online exchange of information about sewing, most well-known for its reviews of mass-market sewing patterns. Do you remember the odd pink/peach and brown interface of yore? Perhaps you’ve forgotten, since only members can use many of the functions. The site has evolved to an all-white background. The spacing, organization and swirly bullets are all still outdated and quirky–and the About page is hidden in the footer–but it’s easy to click an interesting image from the Patterns page and begin your browsing that way. I recently searched for reviews on pressing irons, since my Rowenta crashed from the ironing board to the floor (thanks, kitty). There is no category for irons, so I searched the discussion forums.

I was delighted to meet Deepika Prakash several years ago at a sewing conference, at the beginning of home sewing stardom, and glad to see in my recent visits to PatternReview.com that sewers still find the site relevant and useful. I often look to the site to see if a pattern looks good on others with my body type, and whether the instructions provided with the pattern make sense to those with about the same sewing experience as me. Maybe I’ll see you soon in my search for a pretty spring dress pattern on Pattern Review!

What a Tutu

soundstitches sewing blog oregon ballet theatreYou know what you’re working on, and how the hours pile up. Check out this bit of effort — making tutus for the Oregon Ballet Theater’s production of Yuri Possokhov’s Raymonda. (That’s okay, I never heard of it either.) Each tutu, they say, takes 80 hours to construct! My favorites are photos 13 (below) and 17 (on Web site).

What are you working on? I’m off to a sewing retreat soon, so what I’ll be working on is… packing!

Oregon Ballet Theatre makes tutus for Raymonda

SoundStitches sewing blog tutus detail

Watching is Not Sewing

o-SOCIAL-TV-facebookHere’s a new stat:

The average American spends 5 hours, 4 minutes watching TV each day (Nielsen.com, February 10, 2014).

I’m not sure whether this includes mobile devices too. Back when I had cable TV, I used to say that I “learned” from watching HGTV (Home and Garden Television), which was my favorite channel. But, really, did I spring from the couch and go DO a project? No! I supposedly stored up this knowledge for later implementation. It rarely happened.

I think the same about the growing number of sewing videos out there. It might be comforting to see someone else learn along the way. If that inspires you, watch just a little of that, then press Pause and try it yourself.

And so, go do something! Take that stuff off the shelf and rearrange it to your liking. Stop at the hardware store and price out your next repair. Grab that quilting book off the shelf and start planning your next project. Because doing — not watching it being done — is learning. Lower the quality bar you have in your head, if necessary, because it might be keeping you from trying new things.

I prefer to have books around. After World War II, jobs were plentiful and people had more leisure time. Men and women acquired power tools, sewing machines, and cooking appliances and installed workshops and rooms dedicated to their hobbies. Books through the early 1990s covered self-sufficiency topics extensively. Step into a used book store and see if you can acquire a good sewing or home improvement book with great illustrations and end-to-end instructions. You can spread these out on the floor or table as you work. Go to it!

Image source: http://i.huffpost.com/gen/1195200/images/o-SOCIAL-TV-facebook.jpg, Accessed April 7, 2015

Colorful Charity Sewing

SoundStitches sewing blog charity sewing Days for GirlsHere’s what I did last weekend: I stitched colorful fabrics to help girls stay in school! A co-worker alerted me to a sewing session to benefit a group that believes, “Every girl in the world deserves education, safety, and dignity.” Well, I decided I not only believe in that, but I could spend a few hours proving it! Here’s a bit more on Days for Girls International:

We help girls gain access to quality sustainable feminine hygiene and awareness, by direct distribution of sustainable feminine hygiene kits, by partnering with nonprofits, groups and organizations, by raising awareness, and by helping communities around the world start their own programs.

Practically-speaking, we stitched soft cotton covers and liners that will go into kits with washcloths, soap, and various plastic bags to make these necessary items easier to manage. We also consumed tasty soup, snacks, chatted, and enjoyed the great view afforded by our hostess’ hillside home! The goal of this program is to enable girls to continue attending school when they are often absent for one reason alone. More days in school leads to higher educational attainment and delayed motherhood, which leads to better maternal and infant health, and overall quality of life. Learn more or find a session near you: Days for Girls International

The organizer had assembled ready-to-sew kits. The fabrics were the delightful, high quality, and well-coordinated cottons you see in the picture, making it a pleasure to stitch together various combinations. I hope to attend the next session! This is actually the second session I’ve attended. The first was with school-aged girls, organized by a local mom, and held in a local crafts/sewing studio. Though puberty has not arrived for these girls yet, they were eager to either learn or practice their sewing skills to benefit other girls. And what a great, informal way to learn that the arrival of puberty is a challenge all girls can handle!

 

Gift Pillow

detail of knife edge pillowA guest room at my brother’s home has rust brown color sheets, so I decided on these colors for a simple pillow. I’m happy with the result, which is neither country cute nor too modern. I first had in mind a cover for a travel pillow that was resting on the bed. Silly me, I thought all travel pillows were the same size! So this square pillow is the result instead. It’s on its way in the mail, and I hope it will be enjoyed.

I used a “knife edge” technique that makes the corners tuck in instead of sticking out — with no stuffing to give them definition. The photo below shows the detail, and it’s easy to do. Wrong side out, select a short distance in from the corners. One-half inch might do, or one inch. Draw a dot or an “X” using chalk or a disappearing fabric marker. Then use a large dinner plate or some other round flat object to taper a line towards both edges. Those lines, along with a regular seam allowance, are the lines you’ll stitch along. Proceed with trimming and turning inside out as usual.

When this type of pillow is turned to the right side and filled, the corners have a nice shape — worthy of gift giving. Of course there are many other pillow creation techniques, but it’s the one I chose for this pillow. And with that, I say “Happy Holidays”!

 

 

soundstitches sewing blog gift pillow

Vogue 8742

Vogue sewing patterns SoundStitches sewing blog fashion knit Pacific FabricsI’m making this Vogue look from a rust color ponte knit. I didn’t have enough to make the dress, so I’m making a tunic length top to wear with leggings. So far the look is flattering — another waist/bust/hip enhancing look for most of us.

I searched for other ladies’ results online and the pictures bring home to me the importance of choosing a substantial knit. That means a relatively heavy knit, such as ones you would wear for leggings or pants. Think winter instead of summer weight, and to test in the fabric store, squeeze a good handful of fabric, and see how it regains shape and whether it releases wrinkles soon. The right knit weight glides over your body without clinging (though of course wearing a slip or smooth undergarments further reduces “panty lines”).

In today’s standard patterns that contain both a sleeved and sleeveless look in the same package, the bodice pattern piece is identical. But ready-made sleeveless aren’t like this: looks don’t end at the sleeve cap but rather finish closer to the neck. Imagine you were feeling punk-ish and decided to take an old sleeved sweater from your closet to hack off and make a sleeveless sweater from. You could simply draw a line from the armpit to the top of the sleeve and cut it off. But, it would not result in a flattering look. Ready-made sleeveless looks cup in a bit to flatter the neck, arm and body. The sleeved look on Vogue 8742 works fine, but for the sleeveless look you’ll want to cut out another seam allowance-width of fabric.

Rusty red ponte knit
Rusty red ponte knit

In addition to changing the top’s length, I haven’t used the prescribed single-fold binding. Binding, sold in packages by Wrights, is stiff because it contains polyester along with cotton, and this stiffness just isn’t compatible with knits. Instead I purchased rayon seam binding for the neck and sleeveless armholes. (Pacific Fabrics carries many colors of seam binding in its stores. See if it’s available online too.) While rayon seam binding isn’t stretchy, it’s narrow, lightweight and both edges are finished. You can sew it to the dress fabric, right sides together. Attach it before you sew the shoulder seams, and you can eliminate backstitching. (I take time to suggest this because delicate rayon seam binding easily develops holes after the sewing needle goes over the same spot twice.) The rayon gives a worthwhile professional finish and eliminates the bulk created by twice turning over thick knit.

Early on, I accidentally ruched all the way down to the hem, as designed for the full-length dress. As I work on other details, I wonder what I will do with the hem. I may take out the gathering stitches so it will lie flat at the hem.

Finally, I’ve got to make an alteration where the back of the dress meets the neck. The last time I worked on other aspects of the top, I wondered if I even need a button closure. Most women’s heads measure about 21-22 inches (53-55 cm) around, and if the knit stretches this amount around the neckline, that’s all that’s needed. I’ll need to baste to test that out, and after Thanksgiving, I hope to finish up this rust-colored gem and wear it out of the house!