Classy Iron

Last year I ordered a new iron. More on why later in this post. But I was reminded of my purchase when I watched old episodes of Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries.

Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries

The iron I bought is just like the one the classy lady detective is holding (with a few more features, see below). If you have not seen this show, and you love well-fitting, elegant clothing, from our era or any other, do search, borrow or order right away. The Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries are set in 1920s Australia, a country recovering from losses in World War I Europe yet embracing such newfangled concepts as automobiles. I watch the series for the wardrobes, especially the graceful outfits on Miss Fisher herself. This is a woman who can find herself being shot at and return fire with her pearl-handled pistol, which she whipped out from beneath her silk and furs. Quite a few well-dressed young men are attracted to Miss Fisher, so their outfits are also fantastic. While Miss Fisher is incredible, many episodes highly implausible — but good fun to watch just the same! By the way, despite holding one in the scene above, Miss Fisher spends zero time using an iron, as a classy and wealthy lady detective.

Now the story of the iron. I had a Rowena iron for a long time. The models have declined in quality over time, apparently; one story is they were previously made in Germany to higher quality, and quality declined when manufacturing moved to Asia. My iron was by no means new, so it wasn’t of the older, higher quality. But it had a large water reservoir, and worked fine. The iron rested, heal down, on the ironing board. One day, my younger cat decided to launch from ironing board to nearby sofa, the ironing board wobbled, and the iron went crashing to the floor. Even then it worked. But it sprouted a crack somewhere, and no longer held water well. I adapted for a while by using a damp ironing cloth, as all good sewists should when they are adhering interfacing, etc. Then I ordered this Panasonic: Panasonic iron on (It is not an affiliate link, which means I will not profit from your purchase in any way.)

ironsideIn the product pictures, I could see that it has two pointy ends, and could see the advantages in sewing projects. I could also see that it might press less fabric at a time, and take longer. But how would it sit upon the ironing board, with no trusty heel? Turns out it has a heel that looks like a bracket, coming down on either side. I now keep this iron on the floor, to avoid another kitty-crash incident. The hardwood floor storage works because the iron features an automatic shutoff. reviews indicated some customers were irritated by the shut-off mechanism, because they had to wait for warm-up. But I found the manufacturer true to its promise, and the iron heats up quickly. Therefore I leave the dial at the last setting, and keep it plugged in. The only drawback regards the amount of water this iron holds: It just does not hold a great amount compared to others I’ve owned in the past. But I’m not a tailor or a dry cleaning shop, so I don’t mind taking a minute or two to fill the reservoir.

Now don’t forget to find out why Miss Fisher is holding an iron which she never uses, by looking up Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries on! (link is not an affiliate link).


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 (, 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:, Accessed April 7, 2015

Hat With a View

IMG_0480_revisedNo it’s not Photoshop…it’s a hat with a fantastic view of downtown. This is a great project for your knit scraps, whether those scraps are fleece or some other mid-weight knit. I recently made a fleece hat to be given to a charity that will distribute winter items. I made it from blue polyester fleece that was used for pants — and if you’ve made pants you know there’s that wide piece off to the side of the center crotch seam that you wonder, “How can I use this?” And here’s how:

You will use six “Gothic window pane” pieces and one headband.

Draw a hat pattern — a single piece that resembles a Gothic church window. The height of the hat is up to you. Some like a “high hat”; others a low. The height of this pattern is about 8″. The width of the bottom of the “window pane” here is 5″.

Cut out six of the pattern. Leave the headband for later, because it will have a custom fit.

SoundStitches c 2013 Pin two panels (formerly, “window panes”) right sides together. You’ll need no more than four pins per panel.

Starting at the point, stitch the panels together using the smallest seam allowance you feel comfortable with, from a narrow 1/4″ to a wider 1/2″. The fluffier the fabric, the more issue you’ll have with a backstitch at the top. As long as you start at the very top, you can omit it. Same with the bottom edge — you will sew a band onto the hat anyway.

Pin and sew a separate set of cut-out panels together as above. Then do the same for the last set of two. You will have three sets of two-panel pieces.

Lay all three double panels out flat to see what length of band you need (picture below). It’s easier to measure the bottom edge for a headband now rather than after you’ve sewn all panels. The measurement tells you the circumference of the hat after only half of the seam allowances. Here you see a width of 26 inches. If you used a quarter-inch seam allowance, you would subtract another .75 inches. Please don’t get hung up on the math here: Simply remember the total width if you need to keep it simple.soundstitches sewing blog c 2013

You’ve got the width, but how about the height of the headband? I find 2.5 inches is a good guide for fluffy fleece — the headband is folded in half before it’s sewn on. Cut out a headband of 4.5 inches high and with a final width of the circumference you measured minus three seam allowances, and round down to a lower whole number. In this example, it’s 26 – .75 = 25.25 – . 25 = 25 inches. This lower number encourages the hat to squeeze a little bit over the wearer’s head instead of just sitting on top like a beanie!

You’ve left the panels in two-piece combos, so it’s time to join them up. Stitch one two-panel piece to another, then add the final two-piece panel. For the last stitch, take a wider seam allowance to avoid a hole in the top of the hat. A hole in a winter hat exposes the wearer to wet and weather — hardly the purpose of a hat! If this doesn’t make sense to you yet, I think it will when you stitch that last section; then you can make a larger seam allowance at the top of the hat. Try on the hat, and if it’s way too big, then use a wider seam allowance and trim away.

Now you only need to sew on the headband. The height and length was described above, but you’ll sew it “in the round,” so stitch wrong sides together on the short end to form the band. Then pin and sew. Voila! Winter hat.

Want to spruce it up a little bit? Cut a very small strip of contrasting fabric, no more than an inch wide and, if a knit fabric, as long as the length for the band you cut. (If you choose a woven fabric that doesn’t stretch, either cut on bias or add .5 inch to the length.) Iron strip in half so that you have a skinny strip. Sew the short edges together and press them open with your fingers. Hold your hat so that the raw edges are to the right. On top, align raw edges of contrast band in the same way. Finally, add the hat band whose short edges have already been stitched. Pin and stitch. The contrast fold will peek out between the band and the hat body, adding just a bit of pizzazz. No picture of the added detail, but below is a finished hat pick again.


Changes Big and Small

I’m inspired by this lady’s story: How I Lost 140 Pounds. Yolanda started with small changes, after coming to the realization that she needed to make big change in her life. Here are some excerpts:

In November 2009, I attended my 10-year high school reunion and had a great time catching up with old friends. But when I looked at pictures from that night, I was surprised and embarrassed by how big I was compared to everyone else. I weighed 271 pounds.
That’s when I realized I needed to do something about my weight, but it took a few months to start.
My favorite TV show was The Biggest Loser—seeing how hard they trained spurred me to exercise. As I watched it, I walked in place. During commercials I counted how many sprints I could run across the first floor of my house, then I would try to beat that number during the next break.
To change my diet, I focused on making simple swaps instead of counting calories or grams of fat. I traded ground beef for lean ground turkey. I started using skim milk instead of whole, ate whole-grain sandwich rounds instead of white bread and replaced chocolate ice cream with low-fat chocolate pudding.
In five months, I lost 50 pounds and had the confidence to join a six-week boot camp with a group of coworkers.

She goes on to describe other activities she added, and how her faith spurred her on. For motivation, she says, “As I lost weight, I donated my too-big clothes to Goodwill and treated myself to a few outfits.” I believe her story is all about how small changes can lead to big changes that lead to long-term health and happiness.

You might think the following anecdote completely different, but I think it’s related. I recently read the book, The Brain That Changes Itself, and I learned that making a seemingly minimal change can increase your chances of aging well. Author Norman Doidge described, for instance, that if you are strongly right-handed, try using your left hand instead. I thought, “I couldn’t do that. I’m so right-handed, I’m not even safe!” Reading further, Doidge recommends attempting it for only 15-minutes at a time at first. So I’ve begun to use my left hand to pick up pins around my sewing machine and from the floor. The author maintains that doing the same type of thing regularly — such as a crossword puzzle — doesn’t use different parts of the brain, so we need to alternate completely different activities. I use the crossword puzzle analogy because isn’t that the advice we been giving older people to stave off memory loss? Personally, I know I’ve got to come up with something other than picking up straight pins — it simply doesn’t take me 15 minutes to fetch errant pins! Perhaps I’m avoiding more exercise!

What Do You Think About the New Vogue Lineup?

The summer Vogue pattern lineup is here. What do you think? Vogue Summer Patterns seems full of drape-y tops and dresses. What do I think? I’m surprised to see how very easy these styles are to sew up.  I think that the styles of the last two years are especially for the Dramatic woman. All that draping is wonderful if you’re what they call a “dramatic.” You like drama in clothing, and don’t mind lots of fabric around your body. It’s a great time for the Dramatic with curves, as well, because the fabric notices the curves but doesn’t cling to the less-flattering spots. I’m more of a “Classic Bohemian,” so this is not my time.

Tell me what you think of the new Vogue line by leaving a comment. Are these drape-y styles for you? Do these look easy to sew and wear?