Wardrobe Analysis, Slopers, Muslin Test Garments, and a Fashion Fabric Stash

It’s November!  I have a plan for November.  Now I know my topic is usually related to the art of quilting, but I decided I seriously need to do some garment sewing for a bit, delaying some of my quilting plans while I do.  I have a really beautiful collection of fall, winter, and early spring fabrics stashed in three under bed storage units and in my blanket box I had built to match my bed some years back.  I also recently added a full 8 yard bolt of faux leather, and three pieces of fabric suitable for dress slacks for me. It’s literally been a decade or more since I replaced or added significant clothes to my wardrobe, and my son needs a new coat.

Over the past few years I have lost a couple of dress sizes although I am still quite a large woman with long arms, a smallish waist, and big hips.  So purchased clothes seldom look good on me, though a few simple styles can serve.  I also have worn out most of my old collection of nice shirts and slacks I used to wear to work even if the style and fit is still ok. Then there is the fact that I am now a fabric artist, retired from government work, so even if it was still serviceable, my wardrobe doesn’t fit my lifestyle anymore.

Analysis of my current wardrobe tells me that the addition of several nice pairs of slacks, a few simple jackets, and some tops would make the rest of it work (I no longer wear dresses and I have black jeans, blue jeans, some nice sweaters and just a couple of shirts).

Now I know from having once had my own fashion design/tailoring business long years ago that once one gets a perfectly fit pattern for slacks, I can make a pair in less than a day.  At my top speed at that time, I could make a beautifully finished pair of well fitting slacks in an afternoon, including the cutting.  The big problem with that is getting the pattern perfectly fitted. So the first step is to get a sloper (or basic slacks pattern) flat fitted from measurements and then make up a pair of muslin test slacks.  After that I will make any changes to the test slacks and adjust the flat pattern.  That is step one.  Then I can zip through the three pairs of slacks.  I might make my poly/wool pants I have stashed away and add a simple cute jacket to get a nice dressy suit for winter…but maybe in December.

For my son David’s “leather” coat, I already have a sloper pattern and need to make a muslin fitter test for that before I add the style touches and make the coat.  That will probably take me a week or week and a half to make his coat.

Faux Leather..looks good. Has a nice weight. When I finish sewing it, one may not readily be able to tell it isn’t real leather. Real leather was out of my budget.

I recently flat fitted the cutest McCall’s jacket pattern to make a denim jacket out of some of the on hand denim.  It has places for adding some interesting embroidery.  I’m not going to make a test muslin for that, mostly because it has a lot of style ease in the pattern and also because I have a whole lot of denim, and since I have had it for a long time, I figure it is about equal to the cost of the muslin.  I buy my jeans from Lee Jeans, which has a style that fits me well surprisingly.  I may take a pair and add some corresponding embroidery at the bottom of the blue jeans, thereby giving me an attractive  blue denim suit to wear when teaching or even go to church or some such.  This will probably take me less than a week.

This is the denim jacket pattern. I will do the embroidery too.

Then I will make myself a faux leather jacket, for which I have a pattern that I already know fits me, though I still think I will make a muslin fitter before I cut the leather, since it cannot be unstitched even the slightest because of the holes from the stitching.  Leather…faux or real…has to stay like you sew it!  This is a more complex jacket and will probably take me a week to make.  This will be fun.  My new machine came with some feet designed to sew on leather/faux leather.

I have a stack of blouse/top fabrics that will make nice year round tops and also a piece of  black faux suede to make an elaborately embroidered, but otherwise simply styled jacket to wear for Holidays or some such (I’ll make this for Christmas, but not until December).  I just ordered a couple of new tops patterns that look fairly simple to make.  I’ll make those across the next year with one every once in a while.  So I am not counting them on my initial wardrobe redo timing.

Sew my initial wardrobe update seems to me to be doable by the beginning of December, especially since I am still quilting my Mom’s memory quilt, which is coming along nicely.  Don’t forget, I made myself a beautiful overcoat last year that has a faux fur collar and I love it.  It also told me I still love making clothes, but doing them right and carefully fitting them.  This wardrobe update will be using on hand fabrics and thread.  I probably have all the interfacing and other additional notions I may need.  So the entire cost of this year’s update will be really low and I will end up with a wonderful wardrobe.  I will construct most of the items so I can take them up as I lose more weight. I am, of course, planning on embellishing,  embroidering, and adding some interesting style touches for most of the new clothes I make (not the slacks). That’s what makes constructing my own clothes so much fun. I’m excited.

Meanwhile, I have made a very nice start to the quilting of my Mom’s memory quilt.  I will work these things together.  This makes it really fun for me in my studio.  I also have gotten mostly ready for my next workshop I am teaching at G Street Fabrics on 15 November…Embellish This! in which we embellish a fabric panel I designed that makes a 15 inch by 15 inch square suitable for a pillow top or wall hanging (Christmas present?).   That class is going to be a lot of fun and not a lot of stress, plus you end up with a very nice selection of decorative threads you can use for Holiday embellishment (purchased kit $45, worth at least twice that much).  So I encourage my local friends to sign up.  I think there is still room in this class.  Call G Street and ask.

So I have a plan in addition to continuous periodic work on my Mom’s memory quilt:

  • November sewing
    • David’s “leather” coat
    • My three slacks
    • My denim jacket
    • My “leather” jacket
  • December sewing
    • My “suede” embroidered jacket for Christmas
    • My wool suit????
    • A new bag from leftover “leather” and “suede” together
    • A simple top or two

Will I finish all of this?  I’m thinking I actually might with careful planning with no additional costs.  That way I will save a lot of money and have a good wardrobe for my current lifestyle.  Then I can get back to focusing on quilting full time.

Happy sewing everyone!  Make yourself some lovely garment or garments to make you happy, but I encourage you to make a muslin fitting test piece before you cut your expensive fashion fabric if you do not already know the pattern fits.  Then you can make the same pattern with different style touches with several fabrics…stack them up, cut them out, embellish them, make them all at once!  Then let me know how it went.

 

 

 

Sew Happy with My New Machine

I have been blessed with a really fine new Bernina 880 Plus, aka Odette.  I have been doing a lot of work with the machine since I got it all settled down and I learned its little ins and outs.

I have been working on a quilt in  memory of my Mom.  Mom was a great beauty, a fabulous sewist. a woodworker, had been a nurse, and a home decorator.  She was a wonderful mother and wife during her life.  She taught me to sew and knit. This quilt is a hug and a bow to her sparkling memory.  I’m really enjoying working on it as I remember all the wonderful things she taught me and shared with me.

Mom (Zephana Bivens) in her woodshop at 78.

So my design for Mom’s memory quilt has a considerable amount of in-the-hoop embroidery in it.  Some of the embroidery designs came with my new machine, were some I had purchased or collected  in the past, and two of them I purchased just for this quilt.  In spite of when I got them, all the designs are from OESD and are amazingly well digitized and have stitched out wonderfully on my new machine.  I am so impressed with how beautiful the stitches are, how they don’t overly pull, and how wonderful they look when done.  I have three more to go, each requiring about two hours to complete.  Then I will sandwich, quilt, paint, wash and block, bind, and add crystals and pearls.

Mom, Dad, and my brother Pat before I was even on the way.

I also have done some additional sewing just to see how the machine works, testing all the attachments.  I got some special feet designed to work with leather and vinyl.  Just this week I bought enough beautiful faux leather to make my youngest son, the writer who shares this house with me, a coat and myself a jacket.  I’m excited about this project.

One of the things that came with my new machine is Bernina’s Big Book of Feet. I have been reading through it while babysitting the embroidery module doing its work.  I find I have most of the feet, since I had a Bernina 830 prior to this one and had collected them across the eight years and I got some new ones that came with the deal.  It’s so exciting when I can do and I will be sewing a lot of clothes and home decorating items over the next year as well as the planned show quilts on my list to explore some of these interesting techniques.  I’m thinking I might make some of the clothes as wearable art and enter them into shows also.  Maybe I will make a few bags and hats too.

Mom and me in May 1967. I am showing off the dress I made.

How exciting!  Will I get it all done?  Probably not, but it will be fun trying.  After nearly three months of working to get a good new machine following the breakdown of my 830, and another couple of weeks learning Odette’s ins and outs, I have concluded I have the best machine I have ever had.  It sews evenly, beautifully, and smoothly.  I foresee many years of exciting new projects ahead. Knock on wood!  LOL

I’m currently writing a book about embellishment that will include several sampler projects, just to fill in my spare time…hahahaha.  (Also, I am going to teach a class at G Street sometime in November on embellishment).

Embellish This! workshop sampler for November 2019 class.

Sew happy everyone!  Take time to learn what your machine can do.  Even some of the more basic machines will help you do some remarkable work if you take the time to explore it, but especially if you have a more advanced machine….take that time to read the manual, and try some new techniques to enhance your sewing.  It will give you lots of happiness in the process and with the items you make.

New Machine, Managing Stash

Quilting on my 830 in my studio

OK gentle readers, many of you already know that I had a major crash of my wonderful old Bernina 830 LE (Gibbs).  I had it for eight years.  I used it a huge amount, especially since my full time retirement at the first of 2012…hours and hours.  It suddenly had problems in the bobbin area and I took it to my terrific Bernina tech Lew.  He is one of the best  He gave it a full service and adjusted a few things and got it back to work, for all of five minutes after getting home (it stitched out a nice couple of test stitching pieces at the store beautifully).  So I took it back and he managed to get it working again. 

I came home and got my little Bob Ross Cherrywood Fabric challenge quilt completed.  Then I made a shirt for my son for his sci-fi/fantasy writers’ conference down in Chattanooga where he is now.  But I made it on my little Bernina 350, which I use for taking with me places.  I also use it for several specialty sewing techniques and attachments I don’t particularly want to use on the big machine, like needle punch and the ruffler.  But I was wanting to give it a good little workout (machines are better if they are used at least a little bit, but perhaps not as much as I used Gibbs…LOL). 

Sew I got down to the top stitching around the edge and buttonholes.  I decided to do those on Gibbs.  First of all, all three of the thread sensors said I had problems with my thread and bobbin, so I turned them off.  Then the auto buttonholer messed up several buttonholes.  I managed to get the messup out (hard to do if you have ever tried it), and I used the manual buttonhole buttons to complete them.  Then I tried to do the topstitching.  I got three stitches along and Gibbs hung up (like before) with the gears of death.  I cleaned it, rethreaded and oiled it and tried again…again, the gears of death.  Just to make sure, I rethreaded it one more time and still got the gears of death.  I concluded that Gibbs has reached the end of its professional life. Even if Lew got it going again, it would not take the high level of work I put on my machines any longer.  Lew had told me that he thought there were signs that the mother board was failing, in addition to the bobbin case hook assembly probably needs to be replaced, he was pretty sure .  I am fairly certain he was right.

Well Gibbs, thank you for waiting until Bernina offered a great trade in deal for all 830s and 820s, and in the month they also are including a great package of gifts with it and a 60 month with no interest.  I traded for a Bernina 880 plus, which I will likely get in a couple of weeks from now.  It was a fortuitous timing on Gibbs’ part.  In human terms I think Gibbs was probably approaching 100 if you think about the hours and number stitches I have put on that machine….LOL…of course, that is just speculating.  Lew said I had an exceptionally large number of stitches on the machine.

* * * * * * * * *

So while I’m waiting I decided to address my huge studio storage of my stash and notions issue that has gotten increasingly messy and overfilled in the past five years since I did this last.  My dear friend Anita, who is an artist in her own right, and my student/apprentice came over and helped me for a full day of sorting through the fabrics.

We threw away two big bags of unusable scraps, filled another big bag for Anita to take away, go through and keep what she wants, and get rid of the rest somewhere.  But of course we didn’t finish.  She is coming back tomorrow afternoon for another session. 

Today, I am going through my threads and organizing those as much as possible, and sorting through my clothing and accessory patterns to try to reduce my three and a half filing cabines full of patterns I have collected for at least the past 15 years.  I want to eliminate enough patterns so I only fill one filing cabinet with them.  Then I can use them to store things like stabilizers, interfacings, other notions, and bag making supplies.  I have a lot of these things…Sigh.  So that will empty several of the drawers in my oak cabinet that I want to use for really special fabrics like my silks, satins, and so forth. 

It is my hope to end up with empty storage spaces.  This way, I can maybe even keep things in order for at least the next five years (I’m a realist…I know this will have to be repeated sometime down the road).

This way, when the new machines comes home, we can launch right into productivity.  I was really upset at the expense right at first, but now I believe the new machine will be a great blessing.  I developed many of my techniques on Gibbs and pretty much literally wore it out.  I now have a Bernina Q20 for my quilting and free motion embroidery.  I will still be using the new machine for feed dogs up quilting and zig-zag free motion, which can be done with the new BSR that is included in the package.  I suspect the old one I had with Gibbs, which goes back with him, is near being worn out itself.  It also comes with a new embroidery module and the old one goes back with Gibbs.

Sew I will likely be able to use the new machine for much longer if I don’t trade it in for the next top of the line in four or five years from now–which I might–since I have split off the major part of the quilting to my Q20 and some specialty attachments and activities to my B350.  I suspect there are a lot of new advances I will also like.  Despite my disappointment over Gibbs, I am really getting excited about this refreshment of my studio all ready for new quilts, book and workshop samples, and a few other projects.

Sew happy everyone!  May your stitches be beautiful and your machines work without problems for years and years. 

 

Turning Pages in My Studio and Practice

Sew my second workshop on quilting with feed dogs up at G Street Fabrics in Rockville, MD went well on Friday and I am nearing completion of preparations for workshops three and four, which are both reportedly full and may even have a waiting list.

Ruler workshop sampler/design just completed the quilting. Ready to block and bind.

Yesterday I finally completed designing and quilting the sampler quiltlet for my fourth class, which is ruler work for sit down machines.  I had quite a challenge with that one, because G Street asked me to use the Bernina ruler set for sit down machines.  So it has taken me several designs and test samplers, but I wasn’t pleased with them until the one I finally finished yesterday (I still have to bind it).  I will now adjust the schematic for the handout to match the end results and that is all I have to do to complete the handout.  I was so happy to get this class designed.

Now I can turn the page to creating for the rest of the year and can think about my new show quilts I will make.

Speaking of pages, I created a new page with a link at the top of the blog on the right called Downloads and Links of Interest.  This page so far has schematics for markging guidelines for practice quiltlets.  In all my classes I am recommending that the quilters make themselves more quiltlets and practice, practice, practice. Actually, that sounds like work, but really it is more like play.

One of my students said she has been making a baby quilt to perfect her quilt making, though she has no baby in her family coming and was going to give it away.  I suggested she give it to Project Linus, so I added a link to that on the new page. This is a wonderful way to improve your quilting and do something wonderful at the same time.  Don’t send them real disaster quilts, but as you get some that are pretty and nice, though not necessarily perfect, wash them and go ahead and send them.

I also added links to rulers I like and videos of their creators using them.  I will be adding more links in time, and plan on making videos myself of work at my machines and more Bernina V8 embroideries, and I will provide links to those on this new page.

I was considering stopping making show quilting earlier this year, wondering if I was accomplishing anything with them.  So after some thought and prayer, I woke up one day really excited about work in my studio.  I decided I can use my show quilts for examples in new books and showing how tos for my classes.  Making a show quilt keeps me on my fabric art toes.  I don’t let things that should be unstitched and restitched go by.  I fix what is “wrong”, and I come out with a better quilt.  So for a few more years at least I will continue to compete.  I always get excited when I start working on a show quilt.  I get frustrated too, but will usually come up with a solution when I run into a problem.

So the future in my studio now seems bright and interesting with a concentration on show quilts and books, together with the occassional set of classes.  Join me in my journey…check out the new page.  I am also planning on providing more little tutorials here in my blog space and alerting you to my videos in the future.

Sew happy everyone!  Try something new in your sewing space and practice…consider it playing because it is fun!  Be sure to branch out and make a beautiful project.  Smaller quilts are great first items…table runners, lap quilts, baby quilts, dog quilts, vests, and quilted bags.

 

 

 

How to Stop Fearing Your Machine and Start Having Fun

I love this picture from early in the twentieth century.

Periodically in some of my Facebook groups that are focused around quilting and sewing I see a surprising number of people who have sewing or quilting machines they are truly afraid to use.  Now I can see how this might happen.  Today’s machines are often technically advanced, big, powerful, and fast.  That can be very intimidating, especially if you fear making mistakes on your creations or breaking your machine.  Maybe you are afraid of sewing through your fingers.  Maybe you think you can’t possibly figure out how to use that advanced machine.  These are legitimate fears, but you can take steps to stop them in their tracks.

Let’s talk about this a little.  In almost any creative situation you can figure out how to make an approach of taking things apart and moving step by step to find you can do far far more than you ever thought you could.  And yes, you will almost certainly mess up, make mistakes, have to unstitch, break a needle, break some thread, or even mess up so badly you throw a project away.  Give yourself permission to throw things away, and realize they have served their purpose in teaching you something.  This is just sign of progress and that you tried.  So here is my suggested method to overcome the fear of your machines, or even to advance your understanding of them:

  • Read the manual of your machine.  Yes, read it even if you have been sewing for 65 plus years, even if it is a somewhat simpler machine, or even if it’s boring or you don’t understand it, but read it anyway.  Later you will remember that there is an answer to a question you have along the way in your manual so you can go back and look it up in the index at the back when you need it.  You don’t have to remember it until you need it.  You just have to remember that there is an answer there.  Sometimes you may find you do things differently with this machine than you did with your mom’s machine you learned on.  If you don’t find the manual, they are often online free for download.
  • Get yourself a small notebook and make notes as you go.  Keep a record of your steps, the settings on your machine you used for what. Even after 65 years plus of sewing, I still keep notes on projects I do.  It’s so handy when I want to do it again, or have gone out of my project to hem my new jeans and need to get back to where I was on my project.  I have also taken those notes and made spreadsheets or lists that I can print out and stick on my wall for reference.
  • Take advantage of the tools your machine has.  These tools include both the functional tools built into your machine and the accessories (specialty feet, magnifying glass, differing sole plates, optional threading aids, cleaning aids, pinpoint lasers, and other things).  Yes, you have spent a lot buying your machine…so spend a little more and get those specialty feet as you need them for particular projects.  It makes your initial investment truly worth it.
  • Realize that even if you paid a lot for your machines they are not perfect (nothing manufactured is, really!), but usually they will work if you do things right.  They may have some things that might go awry from time to time.  So join those Facebook groups where you can ask what other people do about some things, look in the manual near the end where they have the section usually entitled  “Troubleshooting”, go on YouTube to find if it is something you can fix yourself (if you have a Bernina, take a look at Bernina Boys  on YouTube), contact your machine’s online support (I can’t tell you how many problems I have gotten solved this way without having to lug my machines to the dealer), or yes, lug your machine to the dealer and get that problem fixed.  But start with a cleaning, check on the tensions, and change the needle…maybe even change the thread.
  • And if you are not getting that nagging problem fixed by your dealer, contact the manufacturer (using the online support) and ask them what to do.  Remember, they WANT you to be happy with your machine.  If you are happy with your machine you will tell others about it, and they will buy one.  If you are happy with your machine, you might buy another one that has another function (I have three Berninas).  But I will suggest that if you buy a solid advanced machine and LEARN HOW TO USE IT, you will almost certainly be amazed at what you can do with it.

    My Bernina 830 LE named Gibbs

  • Realize that, surprisingly, sometimes it is the thread, the needle, and something amiss with your machine.  But normally problems can be solved by cleaning the machine, changing the tensions. using a different sized needle, or just replacing a needle that may be slightly bent or have a blunt end.
  • Learning to use your particular machine is like learning to play a new instrument.  You HAVE TO PRACTICE!!!  Yes, practice a little bit frequently and a lot once in a while at the very least.  Practice even if you have sewn for 65 plus years.  Practice is just that.  You are making a practice piece…something that may even end up in the trash.  But this can be really fun.  Remember that..it’s ultimately fun!

    My Bernina B350 named Edith Claire (E.Claire) after Edith Head.

     

  • Plan out your project in small steps.  Prepare your pieces (make the markings you need to make).  Be sure you have the right threads, needles, backings, battings, stabilizers and interfacings on hand.  These things make using your machine so much easier.

    My Bernina Q20 named Fritz.

     

  • And finally, if you have a computerized machine, make sure you keep it updated with the latest updates.  Sometimes the updates are put out primarily to correct some bug they have discovered and so you won’t have that problem happen to you.  Sometimes they add new stitches or new functions.  Find out how to do this in your manual.

Here I have attached a pdf file to print out a small practice project for free motion quilting.  It is sized so you can print it out with normal letter sized paper and tape it together.  Then use it as a marking guide for your fabric.

FMQ Practice

I developed it for a FMQ workshop I will be teaching at the sewing machine department at G Street Fabrics in Rockville, Maryland in October of this year.  I’d love to see you there.  There are only eight spots for students, so call them (ask for sewing machine department) and reserve your space.  It’s about organic fmq for fabric artists…no fancy feathers, but lots of fun.  I’m also teaching a class on 22 September in Machine Applique for Fabric Artists, and one in October on Feed Dogs Up Quilting for Fabric Artists.

Sew happy everyone.  Go read your manual and practice.  Then have some fun making a wonderful project.  You will be happy you conquered your machines…well almost conquered…or at least learned to use them.  LOL

 

Encouraging Enthusiasm in Quilting and Sewing

Woman sewing

Gloomy feelings are prevalent in the quilting community recently at the announcements of the closures of several quilt-related magazines and businesses, or parts of businesses.  I was recently talking with a close friend of mine about this. These things have a way of being self-fulfilling prophesies by making people hesitate to dive in and do things because they think the industry is closing and they don’t want to invest their time and money in a failing pursuit if supplies, or when fellow quilters might not be around.  Linda Thielfoldt captured it well in her blog post in which she ends up by calling on us to mentor a child.

Sew let us think about this a bit and brush the dust off of our dreams for making that piece of funky or pretty art for your wall,  a well-tailored jacket, a set of decorative pillows to spruce up your living space, a really nice outfit to wear to special occasions, some new pot holders, or how about that costume for your favorite fun festival or party.  Sewing and quilting can be calming and also a fun adventure.

I’ve actually seen recent comments from quilters or sewists criticizing other sewists for the way they shop or buy a class, or blaming problems on the “aging” quilters, who, they assume, don’t buy anything anymore (WRONG!!!); or on young sewists and quilters who have very little time and not so much money so they pull learning and patterns from where they can. Such comments are not helpful.

I call upon these naysayers and those who are worried to welcome all manner of quilting and sewing into our folds…the costume maker, the art quilter, the modern quilter, the traditional quilter, the tailored clothes maker, the hat maker, the bag maker, the doll maker, the sewist who makes items for charity, the ten minutes-at-a-time stitcher, the incredibly talented hand stitcher, and those who do all of these things just because they can.

man sewing 1912

Sewing and quilting is an adventure, an occupation that takes our minds off of the difficulties of life, the politics, the horrible things happening in the world, and gives us the opportunity to think about how to construct that tote bag, or make that art quilt, or tailor that jacket to wear to work.  In the end, moreover, we often end up with something truly wonderful.

I do also hope we can stop categorizing the sewists of this world into preconceived ideas in a way that may limit opportunities.  The younger quilter is not always interested in modern quilting.  The older quilter is not always interested in traditional quilting.  The middle-aged quilter is often ignored in discussions of this type.  The art quilter is often as committed to excellence in their craft as the traditional quilter.  Some people have jobs or other responsibilities that don’t allow them time to take half a day to shop or  go to that show.  Sew, wonderfully, they download classes (some of which are wonderful and thereby they support that teacher), they order on the Internet (maybe even from their local fabric store)…but they order and they take classes, they buy that fabric and thread and machines.  This activity will keep the industry alive even if it doesn’t help our neighborhood fabric store with the owners who have been in business for decades and are ready to retire to do their own sewing.

Red, my favorite color, is not as plentiful in my home as I would have expected. I staged this in my studio using the red things I could find that seemed to go together. Interesting challenge. Shot with my Nikon D200 on tripod, no flash, f14.

I hope we will continue to support each other and encourage the “ancient quilter” making something spectacularly different, the middle-aged man sewing a vintage costume, the college student making something for their dorm room, or the twelve year old boy quilting.  Let’s keep this industry alive with enthusiasm even as it changes to encompass the new methods of communication and shopping!

DSCN0129

Sew happy everyone!  I loved Linda Thielfoldt’s blog about mentoring new young sewers.  This is important.  Might I suggest, also, that it does not just have to be a young person (though, again, this is important)…an older person with a little more time and money on their hands might also want to get in on the fun and then pass it on to their young person.