Tips for Moving a Sewing Room

Whether it’s to a new neighborhood or a new state, moving can be stressful and chaotic. But it can also be an opportunity (sorry, I can’t think of any way to make it fun; “opportunity” was the most positive thing I could think of.)

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve recently moved to a new home. Luckily it was only two and half miles away. Unluckily we’d lived in our previous home for fifteen years – and had the accumulated stuff to show for it. I’m going to list some thoughts and tips on moving in general and a sewing room specifically, in no particular order. I hope it’s of help to you in your next move!

Start packing now. Now being as soon as you decide on a new home; don’t wait until a week before the movers arrive to start packing. That goes for the whole home as well as your sewing space; start packing up everything that you won’t need between now and your moving day.

Leave yourself one box that you move yourself, that holds any essentials you’ll need those first few days. Think of it like a carry on – what do you need to have with you in case your big suitcase is lost by the airline? What will you need to have easy access to in case you don’t unpack all your boxes that first day? (Because you won’t, unless you’re moving out of a dorm room, and even then you may still not be completely unpacked.) That can be one box for household essentials, one box for personal essentials, and another box for sewing essentials, especially if you need to keep sewing during your move.

Label those boxes! And I don’t mean “kitchen” or “sewing room”, I mean write down as much detail as possible on the outside of that box about what’s in that box, because when you need that one thing so you can finish a project or cook dinner, you don’t want to have to wade through 45 boxes marked “kitchen” or 62 (yes!) boxes labelled “sewing room.” Yeah, it takes a lot of extra time, but you’ll spend a lot more timea lot more time – looking for stuff if you can’t get unpacked within the first week (or longer.) And no, “sewing room, supplies” isn’t specific enough, not when you have three or eight boxes labelled that way. As an aside, I had over 220 boxes – and that’s not counting the stuff that didn’t get packed because I couldn’t get it to fit in a box – or because I just ran out of boxes.

Don’t forget to take your machine boxes out of the attic. Because you saved them like you were supposed to, right? This is why you saved them – so you could safely move your machines. Whether you’re moving down the road or across the globe, pack your machine with its original box and stuffing. Because I had my original packaging, I felt just fine about letting the movers handle my machines.

Consider sending your machine(s) to the spa. I really should have done this myself, dropped my machines off at the dealer to get all spiffed up while I was setting up my new house and sewing room. I went two and half months without sewing as it was, that was plenty of time to get them all their annual tune-up (I have five that I use regularly.) If you have more than two machines, you might call your dealer in advance and make sure they can take them all at once. This way if you didn’t save your boxes, you can have them safely put away somewhere until you’re ready to bring them to your new home.

Make a diagram of your house, showing where all the rooms are. Then, label each room – on the door, or the door frame – so the movers know where each room is, and they can put those boxes where they belong. Hang the diagram by the front door so the movers can see it and don’t have to ask you about every box and piece of furniture – they will be so thankful! I myself am thankful to my sewing buddy Jodi for this wonderful piece of advice – thanks Jodi!

Take the time to cull your belongings. This is a popular one with advice columns (blogs?) because it’s a good one – if you get rid of your crap stuff first, you won’t have to move it! Genius, isn’t it? I wish I had gotten rid of more stuff before we moved, because we got rid of a heckuva lot after we moved, I can tell you. Really go through your stuff too; you’ll be touching each and everything anyway, you may as well decide whether you should keep it, toss it or give it away.

And if you have lots of time, make an inventory of your sewing stash if you need to. I stash patterns, fabric, buttons and ribbon. And buttons. Did I mention buttons? I love buttons.… Ahem. I actually started to inventory my fabric and patterns long before we even though about moving. You see, I was having trouble keeping track of all my thoughts and ideas in regards to projects. I tried several different methods, I even tried a couple of different programs (software?) Nothing really stuck. My latest revelation was that I like to browse my stash for inspiration, So I came up with – wait for it – an excel spreadsheet, with links to the photos of my fabric. In addition, I have folders with subfolders on my computer that have the photos from my patterns. Yeah, I know – boring and old school… made more so by the fact that I keep a running list – on paper! – of project ideas… go ahead, giggle, it’s good for you. Where was I… You can actually do your inventory before or after you move, since you have to take it all out of the boxes again anyway. But doing it before gives you the opportunity to cull, instead of just shoving stuff into boxes.

Know where your furniture goes before the movers’ put it there. Huh? Yeah, I know. What I mean is, get the layout for your sewing space (or any room really) decided beforehand so the movers can actually put the furniture where you want it, instead of saying “oh, put it anywhere, it’s all on wheels so I’ll just move it later if I want…”  Moving it later is a bear, because it’s not all on wheels, there are dozens of heavy boxes in the way, and it’s holding your collection of very heavy books that you now have to take all down to move the bookcase and then put all the books back – know where you want the furniture in advance!

About those boxes – keep them small. I know how tempting it is to get great big boxes and fill them as much as you can, but eventually you or someone else has to lift those boxes, and stuff gets heavy fast. Save the medium and big boxes for pillows, comforters, batting and other exceptionally lightweight stuff. I found the “book” size boxes – about 12 inches square – to be the most useful. Small enough for me to lift, even when actually filled with books.

Find a place to stage those boxes. We were lucky; we park in our garage, so we only had to move our cars to the driveway for a few weeks while we slowly filled the garage with most of our boxes. And the movers were glad too – it was all right there when they pulled up the truck. They only had about a dozen boxes to pull from inside house, in addition to the furniture. Speaking of…

If it has to be disassembled, do it at least a few days in advance. I know: you know how to take apart that piece of furniture or exercise equipment or playset or whatever it is that needs to be disassembled. Guess what? Something will happen, and you will be frantically trying to take apart that easy-to-get-undone thing while the movers stand there waiting for you to take it apart because it’s the last thing that needs to go on the truck… and then put your back out and cut your arm while doing it. Because that didn’t happen to me or my husband… right.

Bookmark your projects in some way. I pushed to get all my hangers-on projects done before we moved. Not that I didn’t have a few projects that were long term hangers-on… and this is something you should be doing anyway, because you never know when you may have to put a project down or be able to pick it back up again. I go into a bit more detail in my post here.

Well that’s about all the wisdom I gleaned from my recent experience in moving. I hope you were able to pick up some good tips, and if you have any to share please do so in the comments! See you here next time…

Igniting That Ol’ Sewjo

Who puts a window in a location like this?

Sewjo being your sewing mojo of course. I don’t remember where I heard the term first, but a lot of sewers have to take time away from their sewing for whatever reason. And whether you’ve been away for a long or short while, it can be hard to get back into your groove.

As you know, I myself have moved to a new home, in addition to which, the home itself needed a lot of updating and care. That caused a lot of frustration and anger for me – most of which has been expressed in movie form in The Money Pit, starring Tom Hanks and Shelley Long. Ok, it’s not as disastrous as that, but the something-new-every-day-that-makes-me-want-to-cry part is quite accurate. Even knowing going in, everything that was wrong as stated in the home inspection we got, it was worse (it always is, isn’t it?) Very much worse. Unfortunately, Texas’ housing lemon law only applies to new builds, else we’d be all over that.

Steering back to this post – after finally being able to set up my sewing room and unpack all but five boxes (seriously, it all fit in my storage at the old house, why do I need to buy more for this house?) I needed to excise the negative energy and get some good vibes going. I decided to do what I call a “quick’n’dirty” project. Quick because my attention span is a bit short right now and dirty because, well, I wanted to make it pretty quickly, and didn’t have time for excellent technique.

I chose one of the awaiting curtain projects, and I chose the one that was most irritating. Our master bedroom has a window that is a half moon, at the top of a 12-foot wall. The purpose of the window seems to be to let in the light from the overly bright street lamp, as well as the light from four different neighbors’ driveway flood lights – which all turn on and off all night long. (And not in a good way like the song…) While the window does let in some nice daylight, it doesn’t have a view of anything so I decided to put up some light-colored curtains.

Said curtains though, upon arrival, turned out to be an open-weave and thus semi-sheer variety. What to do? I had some white fabric to hand, so I did a quick lining and hem.

Definitely See through!

Since these curtains are going at the top of a wall, where no one will be able to inspect or disturb them, I did a bare minimum to them. First I shortened them on my serger to a suitable length (I picked 50 inches; there’s lots of math on how to do curtain lengths. My window is 35 inches tall, plus the rod is 6 inches higher than the window, plus a nice hem.) Then I pieced the lining on my serger; the curtains were 49 inches wide, and my fabric only 42.

Then I pressed the piecing seam, then pressed a half inch or so at the top of the lining. This made a nice clean edge to attach the lining to the curtain. Then I turned under and pressed the sides of the lining so the raw edge wouldn’t show.

I then used a straight stitch to attach the lining to the top of the curtains under the rod pocket (which are actually loops on these panels.)

Then I turned up a hem on both the panel and lining in one pass, attaching it with a straight stitch. It’s not terribly clean, and there’s a small bubble in one of the panels, but this was supposed to be quick and dirty, remember?

And now I have perfectly acceptable curtains finally blocking all that night-time light pollution…!

How would I have done this the “right” way? The better things to do would be:

  • Opening the top hem, and slipping in the lining there, re-stitching to enclose the lining edge
  • Which edge should have been finished all-around with the serger or zig-zag stitch
  • Those side edges of the lining then tacked down either by straight stitch, or machine blind hem for an extra-fancy finish
  • The lining would then hang free, not be caught up in the panel hem
  • The panel hem could still have a finished inner edge with the serger or zig-zag, but then the hem would be completed with a machine blin-hem stitch, or maybe even a hand-sewn blind hem, for extra-fine fabrics.
  • The outer panel would have gotten weights, and if it were a very long curtain, the lining would be weighted as well

So yes, I know how to do curtains the better way – but if anyone is examining these curtains that closely to complain, I think I have bigger problems than quickie curtains, don’t you?

Stay tuned for a future installment on curtains for your new home!

Hello and Happy Spring

I love a chicken in the Kitchen!

Hello everyone! It has certainly been a long time! I believe I last left you over at friend Roz’s blog, with a five-part series describing my latest fashion project.

What have I been doing since then? As you know, I take the holidays off – so much cooking to do and so much family to visit! Unfortunately no one was able to do much of that this past year; I instead busied myself with the search for our new home. My husband has been furloughed to a more permanent work-from-home, and trying to have meetings all day next to a room full of embroidery machines running at top speed – and sound! – was not happening.

So, I spent most of fall searching and we found our new home. After a quiet holiday season with just us, we bought our new home, moved into the new home, sold our old home, and now my husband has his own, quiet office upstairs at the front of the house, and I have my own sewing studio downstairs at the back of the house.

Still, I intended to be back at my machine by the second week of February, but as they say, even the best laid plans…. You see, we did not buy a fixer-upper, but it turned out to be one. The poor house was unoccupied for over two years, and was not well cared for in that time. We’ve had to have most of the major systems attended to, and that did not allow for setting up the new sewing studio. Between carefully letting contractor after contractor into our home, and waiting for the last of the drywall dust to settle, it took an extra seven weeks before I could even uncover my machines. But now the dust is gone, the house is functioning well, and I have a fantastically- large new sewing studio to share with you!

In addition to the usual details on my embroidery and sewing projects, the coming months will also bring some tips on moving your sewing room to a new house, setting up and organizing a sewing room, and other related items I’ve learned along the way.

In the meantime, why not take a look at what some new and old sewing friends are up to (I had to do something with myself besides unpacking boxes!) Roz has introduced us to a new sewing friend over at her blog, K.C., who will be sharing her entry into sewing with us. Old friend Ann (who is not at all old!) is continuing to share her wardrobe journey with us – I know I’ve gotten a lot of inspiration from her posts. Samina is on hiatus this month, but left us with lots to read about before she left (and a nifty guest post and project!), and will be back soon with her always fun and thought-provoking ideas on sewing. And of course, friend Andrea has, as always, great video classes, patterns and other tutorials at her website and YouTube channel.

Take care, Happy Spring, and be with you soon!

Pattern Companies

This is an essay about my experience with pattern companies; it’s long, and, obviously personal. If you aren’t interested in my thoughts on the subject (which can be strong) I invite you to skip it.

I recently wrote a guest blog series over on SMFabric and Friends, which is hosted by our lovely local fabric maven, Roz. She and I received a lot of questions after that first post – and there are more posts to come!

One of the questions I got several times was which pattern companies I use; I was also asked why I don’t use certain Indie “Curvy” companies. The short answer is I use Big 4 patterns from the five (I know!) main companies: Vogue, McCall’s, Butterick, Kwik Sew and Simplicity.

I know this is a rather “hot” topic, and there is even some debate about using indies vs. big companies; who you are supporting, which business model is better, the social issues around body positivity and inclusion. And certainly, all of these things are important, and I am very happy to see so many companies offering extended sizing, for “curvy” people or not. But leaving all this aside, I use the Big 4 most of the time because they work best for me.

I am a size 20, when using the traditional method of measuring your upper bust (under the armpits and higher up on the chest) to determine your size. And all the patterns I have ever wanted (well, maybe one or two exceptions) have come in that size. Most of the patterns I buy go up to size 22 or 24, and some are even up to 24W, 32W and 44W. Yes, some Big 4 sizes go up that high. Granted, they are precious few and you could get very disheartened trying to make a very full and complete wardrobe from them, but one of those is a swimsuit so perhaps not all is lost. (Sizing and selecting your size is a whole other subject, and I may talk on it at another time.)

Now don’t get me wrong, I have tried many indie patterns over the years, and I am glad that they are there to serve people who are larger and otherwise not at all served by the Big 4. But I have had so many problems with them, I just gave up.

Peeve number one of mine: I hate PDF patterns. If the patterns were sold for $5 or so, it wouldn’t bother me to spend the time, money, paper and ink printing them, taping them, tracing them off. But if I’m paying $15 or $20 or more, I’m not going to print up 50, 80, over 100 pages just to get a pattern – no. Ten pages or less, ten dollars or less, that’s my personal PDF limit!

Alright, that’s very personal so perhaps not a legitimate mark against indie pattern companies. My next one is though: too many times the markings haven’t matched, or lined up, or been listed in the instructions. I’m experienced enough to get around this, but for someone new it might be a problem. And yes, I’ve reported the problems to that company, and while they’ve always been polite, the response is usually some version you must’ve done something wrong. Which I don’t appreciate. Of the dozens of Big 4 patterns I have made over the years, only one has had mis-matched markings, and it was simple pattern so it was easy to figure out.

Concurrent to that are poor instructions; and weird or wrong instructions. Again, I would report this, only to be told I probably did something wrong. Having to take a project apart to repair it is not fun, especially when you’ve been told it’s your fault.

Another problem I have with indie patterns is their lack of proportion. What I mean is, certain design elements are the same size for all sizes in their pattern, even when it goes from 0 to 28. For instance, I was doing a tee shirt once and the pocket was the same size for each pattern size. So what looked like an oversized pocket on their size 0 looked like a mini-pocket on size 28. Yes, I’m an adult and can create my own square for a pocket, but that’s not the point. Another person may not know to do those things, and may have been frustrated at the result.

Another instance of poor proportioning or grading; I tried a tank top once. The shoulder area, what would be the “strap” of the top, from the bottom of the armhole to the shoulder seam, was simply elongated for each size; it was about 4.5 inches for the smallest size (I think a 2) and was over 14 inches long for the largest size, on the front bodice. (Yet the width of the strap was not changed, so bad proportions again.) Well that’s far too long; yes since I’m sewing it I can change it, and maybe it was meant to be a low-cut armhole. But to me it shows they have no concept of sizing or grading (not that I’m an expert); sleeveless garments should have a fairly high-cut armhole to my mind. But I feel they aren’t thinking, and are making the same mistakes that clothing manufacturers do – just making it bigger all over for bigger sizes.

As I understand the principle, the shoulder, that “saddle” that is made up of the armscye and shoulder area, thus the use of an under-bust measurement for size selection, that area doesn’t change that much between sizes, so making widely different sizes for that area is not correct. I could be wrong, but since I almost always have to reduce the shoulder area in indie patterns, I may not be entirely wrong.

In contrast, with Big 4 patterns that have certain details (Simplicity 1460 comes to mind with its scalloped neckline) they are proportioned and graded for, if not each size, then for maybe only two sizes. So instead of a single pattern piece with say, all five sizes, you’ll have three, or even five different pieces.

Speaking of adjustments, I have always have a hard time making adjustments to indie patterns. With a Big 4 pattern, I almost don’t have to make a muslin, just do my FBA, adjust the back waist and I’m within a half inch of a good fit. With indie patterns, it was always a struggle. I would check to see what their cup size was, alter my FBA to accommodate it, and still have to do a further FBA; or shoulder adjustments; reduce the armhole; use a two-piece sleeve; add lots of darts at the waist; yeah, most people who sew have to make these kinds of adjustments anyway – no pattern is perfect! But even with all these adjustments, indie patterns still didn’t look well or fit right. I simply don’t have these struggles with Big 4 patterns.

Another thing about indie patterns – and this is a personal peeve so more salt – they are usually very simple. I mean very. Don’t misunderstand me, we all want a simple pattern sometimes; we need a quick make, or have a fabulous print to play up; or we’re just starting out, or it’s our first pattern of a particular type and too many details will add frustration. And I think for beginner pattern makers, simple is where they’re going to start. But very few seem to graduate to anything more complex. Maybe they’re catering to their market, maybe they don’t want to make more complex patterns; but at some point, I believe a sewer should move forward in their education, experience and ability. Or at least be able to if they want. And this point touches on two other peeves of mine – how we teach sewing and the lack of advanced sewing education – but again, another story for another time. For me, the Big 4 offer a range of styles and levels of complexity; if I want to tackle a challenging project to improve my skills, I can.

But there are good things about indie patterns, as advocates on Pattern Review and other spaces have noted. The first being the size range, and consideration for larger, curvier bodies. Second is PDF’s – they’re available to anyone with an internet connection (just because I don’t like them doesn’t mean they’re wrong.) And they have more and different (some call it better) instructions, as well as lots (lots) of social media support. I think calling indie instructions better than Big 4 is a misunderstanding (yet another story for another time!), but the person making the argument was a much more experienced sewer and teacher than I am, so I defer to their judgement on this one.

Well there we are, my thoughts on sewing patterns – that was long! And if you’re still with me, thank you for reading! Take care and see you at the next post….

Dress Forms

My Dress form, Duplicate O’Neill – you’d have to watch a particular scifi show to get the reference.

This is probably the most frustrating area for home sewers: finding a fast, reliable, replicable way to get a good fit. Many of us, especially those of us who are larger, come to sewing to begin with because we got tired of shopping for clothes that don’t fit well, if they fit at all. So for us, fitting is the whole point of sewing. Unfortunately, even if we learn how to fit well (a whole other topic), fitting ourselves is nearly impossible, or at least tedious, difficult and frustrating.

Many sewers I know gave up on sewing, or moved to home décor or quilting because there’s no fitting involved. Or, they only sew oversized, loosely fitted clothing, or only sew for other people. That makes me really sad! Sewing should be a revelation, a revolution, a release – and it is for so many! But for so many more it became instead a struggle that caused them to turn away from sewing for themselves.

If you’re at all serious about sewing for yourself, you need to find a way to fit, and a dress form is the simplest way; unfortunately it’s also the most expensive way. Other ways of getting a good fit are to get a sewing buddy – someone you can consult with on sewing projects, fit issues, whose opinion you ask for color guidance, selecting fabric – and someone to meet with on occasion and gush about all things sewing! Because no one else in our lives wants to hear about it….

I am very lucky; I found a wonderful local fashion sewing community in the Houston Sewing Fashionistas, any of whom are always happy to help or offer an opinion – and many of whom are professionals! So lots of help available there. And I have a sewing buddy. She unfortunately lives an hour away (which is not a long distance for the Houston area, trust me) so we don’t get to meet as often as we’d like, but we each have dress forms so we can work on our own mostly and communicate long distance, getting together occasionally for big issues.

Yet another option is to get well-fitted slopers, which you can use to check your adjustments to patterns. This does require a fitting buddy or hiring a seamstress at the beginning, but you won’t have the expense of creating a dress form. If you are fairly standard in shape or size, and only have a few, small adjustments to make to a pattern out of the envelope, this may be all you need.

But if you are very large, very small, or have large variations to make from the pattern, you really need a dress form.

If you are close to the size of a standard dress form, you can probably get away with padding it out; check different brands, they each have a range of sizes and shapes so one brand may work for you while another is too far off. Also, there are padding systems like Fabulous Fit which make the process easier. Some brands even offer personal or community guidance for shaping a dress form to fit you.

My dress form is a Uniquely You, and as I mentioned in a previous post, I thought it was the best option between a dress form you have to really work to customize, and a made-to-order form.

The UY works like this: you buy a pre-made foam core that’s closest to your size, but larger. Then you fit the cover, very, very tightly, to your body. Then you place the cover on the dress form (sitting on it like trying to close an over-stuffed suit case works well) and check the measurements, adjusting as needed. It worked very well for me, except the bust which I had to pad out more to get my full forward projection, but otherwise it was fine. It took about 2, 2 ½ hours for me and a sewing buddy to fit and sew up the cover.

There are custom dress form makers out there, doing everything from 3-D scanning and foam creation (Ditto or Beatrice), to traditional custom dress forms from PGM and Wolf, and independent craftspeople who can help you make one. And there are make it at home types like Uniquely You and BootStrap, and of course really make it yourself with homemade ways of creating a body double from paper tape or plaster.

The 3-D and custom forms are very pricey as I understand, north of $1000 or $1500 dollars – not to mention the expense of travelling to the manufacturer (or getting an iPhone.) But if it’s in your budget and you don’t have a sewing buddy, or you have a highly irregular body shape (which is probably why you’re sewing your own clothes anyway) then it may be worth saving for.

I think though if you have a sewing buddy, or a local professional seamstress who will work with you to adjust and fit the cover, the Uniquely You or Bootstrap would be your best option. I am not personally familiar with BootStrap, but it seems to be the same principal as UY: adjust the cover to fit you skin tight, so you can replicate your measurements when you stuff the form.

I know a lot of sewers find dress forms frightfully expensive; either you have to pay someone else for the materials and to do all the work, or you have to spend money and your own time to get it right. As with all things, only you can decide which combination works best for you.

My dress form is in need of a small shaping update, but is current to my measurements. I covered it in satin to allow garments to slide on and off (the UY canvas cover makes clothing drag), and I currently have pins marking my guidelines, but that’s an old rig-up that needs to go; loose threads catch easily on the pin heads and can cause pulls. I need to finish my original plan and use ribbon and flat head pins or small U-shaped staples to mark and hold the cover in place. It’ll probably be a couple of months before I do, but once it’s done I’ll share a photo.

Other notes about my dress form; the base is formed from a table top from the craft section of the home store, and has casters on the bottom. I wish I had made one of them a locking caster, but it still works. I also used a piece of all-thread for the stand, and a set of two nuts and a washer to support my form at the right height.

Answers to Your Questions

I got a lot of requests for information after my last post on Roz’s Website, SMF Designs and Friends. I was asked about fitting, my machine, my dress form, and what patterns I use. I believe I answered everyone’s questions personally (and if I didn’t, send me another email!) But I thought since there were so many, I’d answer them here as well for everyone to read.

First question – Do I teach fitting for plus sizes/ where did I learn to fit? No, I don’t actually teach fitting; I do try to offer a larger person’s perspective of fitting to my local sewing club, The Houston Sewing Fashionista’s (contact Roz for more info), and I am always happy to try and help my local fellow sewers with basic fitting. But for professional help I recommend Andrea, our local fit expert.

Andrea has been certified as a Palmer Pletsch Fitter, and has developed her own techniques for fitting over the years. If you’re in the Houston area she offers consultation, and if you’re not in the area, she’s got a YouTube channel, blog, Instagram, her own pattern line, and many other ways of teaching and reaching others. She’s a wonderful person, a terrific seamstress and has lots of information and experience to share.

Second Question – What machine is Sunny that you can digitize embroidery? Sunny is a Baby Lock Solaris, and has IQ Designer Technology. IQD is a built-in embroidery software that, coupled with the on-machine camera, allows you to scan an image and create an embroidery design (it digitizes it for you.) So any Baby Lock machine with IQ Designer (or any Brother machine with My Design Center) and a camera will get you this ability. If you’d like to read more about Sunny you can here. But looking at it, it’s a bit preliminary – I think it’s time to do a follow up on Sunny, so you’ll see that soon.

Third Question – Where’d I get my dress form? My dress form is a Uniquely You, and I bought it from SewVacDirect, but they list it as discontinued on their website. I have seen them listed at AllBrands.com as well, so either of those or someone else may still have some in stock. I thought it was the best option between a dress form you have to really work to customize, and a made-to-order form. Since it’s such a hot topic, I’m going to do another post to go into details.

Fourth Question – What brand of patterns do you use? You know, this is another hot topic, which I may write about later, but the short answer is I use Big 4 patterns – Simplicity, Vogue, McCall’s, Butterick and Kwik Sew – which is five, I know. I find them to be the easiest to alter to fit me, and I tend to favor Vogue and Kwik Sew, followed by Simplicity, then Butterick and McCall’s. I have tried other pattern companies, but that’s another story for another time as they say.

So, I think those are the questions that were most often repeated, and asked by lots of people – thank you! I hope I’ve answered your questions, and if you have any more don’t hesitate to ask!

Tip for Layered Fabrics (Underlinings)

My Finished Skirt

With a skirt, or shorts or slacks, every time you sit you put a bit of stress on the fabric, and the heat of your body helps set in the wrinkles and puckers that form from stretching over knees, hips, etc. You can reduce this of course by pulling up your clothing a bit when you sit (men tend do this naturally; ladies, we need to do it too!) Another way to help is by supporting lighter weight fabrics with an underlining. Even medium and heavier weight fabrics can benefit from an underlining too: it helps retain the garment shape, and reduce wrinkling.

An underlining gives your lighter fabrics structure, as well as a place to hide your blind hems and catch stitches

Since I was making this rayon challis into a skirt, I knew it would be prone to stretching out of shape. I used a cotton/ poly batiste (Imperial Batiste from Mr. Halpern, perfect for many underlinings!) to help support it. When you underline a fabric, you’re actually creating a whole new fabric that gets treated as one. The best way to do this is to thread baste the layers together.

Lots of thread basting for the front panel of my a-line skirt

I really like this Japanese cotton basting thread; it comes in four colors, and is easy to baste in and pull out (while you’re there, get the basting needles – really great!) I get it from Susan Khalje, but any cotton sewing thread will do in a pinch. One word of caution: don’t use polyester thread, use cotton. Poly is really strong, and when you pull it out of your completed project, you can cut your fabric or even yourself with the thread – yes, I’ve cut myself with thread! It sounds lame, but it’s true – and hurts.

I’ve also got a teaser photo for you below – I finished my capsule wardrobe! Keep and eye out on Roz’s blog over the coming weeks for my 5-part series. In it, I share my insights into capsule wardrobes, how I came up with the scalloped shape of my skirt pocket, and how I’m planning my future wardrobe projects.

First look at my finished capsule – more to come on Roz’s blog!
Pockets don’t have to be straight!

P.S. If you like a fun pocket, check out fellow Fashionista Samina’s Blog – she does cool stuff with pockets!

Why I have a 10-Needle, Part 2

My 10-needle, “Enterprise G”, ready for the next project

Here I continue with my reasons for the multi-needle machine I chose. It’s really long, and if you aren’t interested in buying a multi-needle, then you may want to skip this post. But if you’re on the fence or want more information, I invite you to read my experience below.

Firstly, the domestic vs. commercial argument; yes, per unit, commercial machines are less expensive, offer more embellishment options, and have as many as 15 needles. And yes, if you have the space and are going straight into the embroidery business, then getting multi-head embroidery machines (most companies offer single head and compact machines too) makes sense. They can not only embroider, but couch sequin tapes, thicker decorative threads and yarns, and do cutwork and chenille techniques.

But they are commercial machines; you usually need a separate (sometimes proprietary) software to run and/ or use them, they’re meant for large-scale production, and they often have manual adjustments. For myself, the interface of these machines is not something I like – little to none, just a small screen that has the basic information of the design you’re using, or you use a computer you’ve networked with the machines. Some manufacturers have created full-color screens similar to domestic machines, especially for their single-head models, but this is the exception rather than the rule.

And then there are things like sales and maintenance; you work with a regional sales rep who I imagine gives you some information about how the machines work, then you (as I understand it) have a regional maintenance person who comes to you when you need. But mostly you rely upon yourself and any staff you hire/ train to figure out how to use and maintain the machines. And there is nothing wrong with any of this, absolutely nothing; it’s just not what I want.

I started as a home sewer, and I enjoyed embroidery. I had a combo machine, and if I only did very simple or occasional embroidery, that would have been enough. But I really enjoy large, complex embroidery designs, so getting a multi-needle made sense. And I started taking orders for embroidery right around the time I got my 10-needle, so it worked out very well. I didn’t intend on going into business, but that’s where I am now.

I was able to get training from my local machine dealer, and I can take all of my machines to them for maintenance. And whenever I have a problem they’re only a phone call away. As fellow sewers, the people at the local shop understand the type and level of embroidery I’m doing. And I like the interface much better on my domestic machine; it’s a large, full color touch screen that doesn’t require software to use (you do need a computer to load designs onto a USB pin.) I can change the design in the machine – colors, sequence, resizing, etc., and this particular model has a camera for background scanning and placement.

And a lot of professionals do have domestic machines; they’re like me, working from home, maybe don’t have a lot of space, and offer what I call bespoke embroidery. When you go to most embroidery stores, they have a minimum number of units you have to buy, usually won’t take your items to embroider, and you have to order what they offer, in the numbers they specify. This has to do with the number of heads they have on their machine, i.e., if they have a 12-head machine, they have a minimum order of 12, and you order in multiples of 12. An embroiderer like myself though is able to take your own items for embroidery, and can embellish as few as one item.

In short, since I don’t take large orders, mostly use my machine for my own sewing, and am short on space and wanted something with a much lower learning curve, I chose a domestic multi-needle machine.

Sewing Tip: Decoy Scissors

One pair of scissors left out all the time

Everyone at home needs scissors at some point. And everybody at home knows where to find them – your sewing room. For those of us who saved up to get some really nice shears, this is unfortunate. Because, even when they’re in the kitchen and know you keep a pair of scissors in the junk drawer, they still go all the way to your sewing room to get scissors. Why? ‘Cause they’re cool, or extra sharp, or pointy, or, just because, I imagine.

But wait, what’s this below?

Many of my sewing associates have told me stories of loss and damage to a highly valued (and valuable) pair of scissors to a family member, despite “all the times I’ve told them not to touch my sewing scissors!…” I decided to take a different tack. I know my husband, and however much I love him he would never remember not to use my sewing room scissors, so I put out a pair just for him to use. They sit there, left out on top of the sewing table, ready for him to grab. And he does, all – the – time. They’re sticky from packing tape, scratched from opening boxes, and may even be a little bent from being dropped many times, but that’s what they’re there for.

Shhh! This is where the good scissors live…

 If you have little ones in the house, you may want to try hanging your decoy scissors higher up on a wall so they can’t reach them, but you definitely want them to be out and obvious as soon as someone goes into the room. Well I’ll just put them away you say; no, then they start looking for them and then they find the good scissors and now they know where the good scissors are and they go right to them every time – ask me how I know! So find a new hiding place for the good shears and scissors, then put out a decoy pair for the household to use.

Why I have a 10-Needle (and a Preliminary Photo)

 

I’ve finished the Crane Tapestry, and the preliminary photo is above. Why preliminary? This isn’t the final placement for the tapestry, I have to do a bit of rearranging on that wall first. When it’s in place the lighting will be much better and I can post a more detailed photo. The final size is 60×75 inches – definitely big! It took about 70, 75 hours to complete, including the piecing, quilting and binding. For those who are interested, the price for this piece (or rather a similar, as this one is for myself) is just above $3000. It can be made in much smaller sizes as well; this is the largest size. It’s done in silk dupioni with a cotton batting and cotton backing. The design is Crane Tapestry by Anita Goodesign, as well as the supplemental design from Geisha, also by AG. A border can be added to change the framing, as well as different sized bindings (the outer-most edge.)

Did I do it on my 10-needle? Yes I did, as I discussed briefly here. I’ve often been asked why I have a multi-needle machine; I’ve also been asked why I have a domestic multi-needle instead of a commercial one. A lot of different reasons, but mostly because this is the machine that suits me and my sewing best. In my next post, I’ll go into more details about why I chose my machine, but for now, I’ll give a brief overview about why a home sewer might want a multi-needle.

So, you walked into your local sewing machine dealer and saw this fantastic wall hanging and asked how they did it? Or you went to a demo at the store for new machines and you became entranced watching that combo machine whip out lace and buttonholes and greetings cards? And you went home with one: you can sew on it, it’s nice and large for quilting, and most of all, it embroiders!

You’re giddy with ideas swirling ‘round your head, all the possibilities for new projects. Then you buy one of those big wall hanging designs, load them into your machine and – sit, and watch, and change the thread color; and sit, and watch, and change the thread color; and sit, and watch, and change the thread color; and sit, and watch, and change the thread color – and repeat for that block. Then repeat for the remaining blocks: repeat; repeat; repeat. Yeah, most home sewers with a combo machine (a regular sewing machine with a single needle that also embroiders – thus, combo) only do one or two big projects in the lifetime of their machine. If they even finish it.

No really, I’ve talked with them. Now, there are those who don’t really mind, and don’t do much actual sewing, they just do the embroidery. And space and budget limit them to a combo machine and they’re happy. But most home sewers only have the one machine, so they can’t do anything else while they’re embroidering. Or they get frustrated that it’s taking so long (sooo looong) to finish one. stinkin’. project. That would be me. I had my trusty combo machine, had an armload of big embroidery projects, and either had to sell all those designs at a loss or find a way to do the projects. So I found a way, by getting a multi-needle machine.

Now I can do big projects, whether they’re single color free-motion designs, or big, long, complex multi-color designs that look more like tapestries than quilts. And I can do them more quickly, and I can do multiple projects at a time. My machine has ten needles, but there are machines that go up to 16, or just six or seven. And yes, once in a great while I wish I had more than ten, but so far it’s worked out fine.

Next post I’ll talk in more detail about why I chose my particular machine – see you there.