A Cautionary Tale Regarding Dye Lots

Well not much of a tale, but a bit of a gripe and some mild self-kicking, and advocacy for buying “the fabric” when you see it…

I’m planning my next home décor project, which is this – Golden Tapestry by Anita Goodesign. I spent time in January and February auditioning many different color and fabric combinations, and decided on – wait for it – navy blue and gold silk dupioni, ha.

Sadly I won’t be able to use my sample blocks in my project, darn.

But the navy blue and gold I sampled is not the navy blue and gold that was available this week when I ordered. In the case of the navy, it was a matter of dye lot, which as anyone who has worked with fabric in any way can tell you, can vary wildly depending on the quality of the manufacturing process.

There’s not enough left of the samples to do the whole project

As for the gold, it was a matter of product change; I didn’t notice when, under My Account and Previous Orders, I clicked on the link of my previous purchase, I was taken to a page with the label “New” at the top. So even though I thought I was ensuring that I was getting the same product, the store changed the link on me. Curses. It’s not really the store’s fault; I didn’t notice, and they couldn’t get the same item anymore (I’m assuming), thus the “new” label.

All of which is to say, or rather encourage you, to buy it when you see it! Especially when you’re doing a big project like this and are making samples with specific fabrics and threads.

I guess they match well enough, but I’m none too happy

Sewing Room Storage – Yet Again

The before…

Hello everyone! I’m back with the final final storage for my sewing room. When we moved last year, we just took it all with from the old house and I used what we had and made do. And it was fine; it worked, and somehow I got everything stored (despite having more to store; see below.) But I was never happy with it, my husband was never happy with it, and I finally decided on what I did want for storage. I think it was just the oppressive feel of those big, dark cabinets in such a light-colored room. They worked really well in the old house, both as storage and as furniture but they felt out of place here.

Lots of boxes to unpack

So, out with the old, in with the new – we got a closet storage system to cover one entire wall. This particular one is by Easy Track, and I like it because it hangs from the wall, allowing you to use the space underneath as well. The units are 24 inches wide, 30 inches for the corner units, and come with your choice of shelves, rods, drawers or doors. You can also get 15-inch-wide units; 35-inch selves to use with plain vertical panels; baskets, shoe shelves and hampers if you’d like.

Nearly done…

It went in over one long week; we did two or three hours after work each day, and spent the weekend before breaking down the previous storage and rearranging the room, packing up everything that was inside the cabinets and other storage; the weekend after putting everything away again. I also made space in my office for the bookshelf and a majority of the books and my embroidery designs, though I left in the sewing room the books that I tend to use in there.

The fashion fabric is in…

The boxes come flatpack, so you do have to assemble it yourself. That wasn’t so bad though. The bad part was they sent the wrong doors, so I had to hang curtains to protect my fabric while I waited on them. And in fact they shorted me one set of doors, which I’m still waiting on…. The doors and drawers come with brushed nickel knobs, but I found some pretty clear acrylic ones to use instead. They’re a little “boudoir”, but I like them.

Finally finished!

Otherwise it’s up and done and working so very nicely! I’ve finally found the storage system that works best for me and my sewing room.

Around the corner to the left is yet a little more shelving.

As for having more to store… I was not entirely honest with myself at my old house. I was always saying that I had everything in my sewing room, except my 10-needle machine. Not true! I had at least half a closet of things that necessitated additional storage when we moved to the new house, if I were to keep everything in one room. Which I still don’t in fact; I have some lovely vintage actual cotton velveteen (which just means cotton velvet) that I keep stored by hanging in a closet. But I know that’s there, so it’s alright. Happy Spring, and see you here again soon!

An Update on MDA Software

Image from Floriani’s website

You remember my previous post reviewing Floriani’s My Design Album Software; I thought it was OK, but not terrific. My biggest disappointment was that it was such a basic software for the price. Well I decided to streamline my review a bit and post it on the company’s website, where it garnered a response.

They were open to my suggestions, though, perhaps predictably, attempted to counter and “correct” my thinking about the software. But no amount of “but it works this way” will ever change my experience of “it doesn’t quite do what I would anticipate this type of software to do based on its description.” But I did feel heard, and they did state that many of my complaints are going to be addressed in an upcoming update. They also said that they will be making more educational videos for MDA, and will have a look at their manual for it as well. Hopefully future purchasers of MDA will have an even better experience.

As for what else is up for February, it probably won’t be much, because guess what, I re-arranged my sewing studio again. Not a lot, but I did finally get new storage, and only a whole year after we moved in, ha! But everything is back in place now, and I’ll be working on a new project soon, so I’ll have lots of embroidery and tips to post in March. Take care and see you here soon!

Altering a Pattern – Knit Tops, Part 2

I’m back with the finished top; here are my notes about the rest of the process.

I’ve extended the back shoulder seam line on the pattern, and used my curve ruler to match the outer edge of the sleeve. (I keep calling it a sleeve; it’s more of a dropped shoulder, but you know what I mean.) You can also see through the paper that I marked the location for a dart (two short lines on either side of a longer line perpendicular to the shoulder seam.) When I sew up the top with a dart, I’ll drape the pattern piece on my dress form, angling it towards the bust point, and deciding on the length at that time.

For now I’ve chosen to sew the top with a tuck, and to leave the back sleeve the original length. You can see the tuck in this close-up:

The finished top is looser than I would like, so I may remove one of the inches I added to my bodice front. The fabric drapes nicely, a cuddly, cotton-bamboo blend French terry. It’s a little sheer in this off-white color, so you’ll have to admire it on Duplicate O’Neill instead of me, but maybe I’ll remember to model the next one.

As for finishing the edges, I just folded them over as per the instructions, using my coverstitch set to narrow. I did find with this fabric being so light, it made a better stitch to sew just beneath the edge of the fabric instead of catching the edge between the rows of stitching. I also used a bit of stay tape in the shoulder back neck seams for stability.

Now I just need to pick a fabric for my next muslin – I certainly have several to choose from!

Altering a Pattern – Knit Tops

The first of several new tops

I finally sat down and did the exercises for the wardrobe project that the Houston Fashionistas did a while back – only took me two years! My assessment revealed that I need more tops to wear around the house. Since I only need tee shirts, I tried purchasing them as I have done in the past from a box store (though I really like Samina’s suggestion that we need luxury PJs instead; Just because we’re at home, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have nice things to wear!) Buying from a store didn’t work out well: the quality was terrible, the fit was horrific – high necklines, too tight of sleeves, too boxy and short of a bodice – not to mention that several were sewn quite off-grain. So, I pulled the knits from my stash, mulled my patterns (had a few on hand, bought a couple more) and will be making my own tops because I am worth my own time.

I’m starting with my “Jennifer Beals” top, Vogue 1835 – you know, Flash Dance? Well some of you are old enough to remember… and I thought it’d be a good opportunity to show how I do some of my “kinda-muslins.” Samina had talked about muslins a little while back, and I chimed in that I often do kinda-muslins. Someone wrote me to ask what I meant, so let me show you.

Now, I will preface with, I am not a fit instructor, or a professional fitter, or a fashion/ home economics/ or any other kind of professor. If you’re in the Houston area and need professional help, please see Ms. Andrea. She’s a wonderful person, and excellent seamstress – and a certified fit expert!

Part of the reason I do muslins is that I have so many/ such large fit adjustments to make. No, it’s not that hard, and yes, it’s worth it. When you first start out it will be time intensive and difficult; you’ll probably mess up a lot. But that’s why we practice isn’t it?

Anyway, my first step in adjusting a knit pattern is to pin it to my dress form, see how it compares. This pattern goes up to XXL. Even though the pattern says that the XXL size has a 50 ½ inch bust measurement, it’s not nearly enough for me. Firstly, my bust measures 52 inches; secondly, while the completed garment may have a total circumference of 50 ½ inches, it’s 25 ¼ in front, and 25 ¼ in back – not what I need.

My back measurement is only 18 inches from seam to seam, which means the rest of my 52 inches is all up front. This means the back is 7 inches too wide and the front is 8 ¾ inches too narrow.

And we haven’t even discussed that this pattern is supposed to have a bit of ease. If the finished bust (which in this case matches the width of the lower edge) measurement is 50 ½, and the body measurement for size XXL (24-26) is 46 to 48 inches, then it is giving approximately 2 ½ to 4 ½ inches of ease, quite a bit for a knit pattern, which usually has negative ease. This silhouette of course is a bit slouchy, and the reason for all the extra.

Pinning the back pattern piece to my dress form shows that the XL size will suffice

I have decided I don’t want that much ease, and want it slightly fitted, so I’m going to make my first muslin with as size XL for the back, and a size XXL plus two inches for the front. How will I do that? With what I think of as the trace and slide method. Since this is a knit, and not a fitted woven bodice, I’m not going to go through all the folderol of tracing the pattern piece, doing a proper FBA adjustment, then re-tracing and re-fitting the result. As shown above, I held up the pattern pieces to my dress form to gauge how much more room I need.

For the back I chose size XL, and made a straight tracing. But now it’s time to Franken-pattern! For the front, I was short a few inches on the side, and the neckline was too high, so I traced the lowest neckline, and I traced half of the front, or one side of the pattern piece. I then slide the tracing two inches out from the center front, aligning the lengthen/ shorten line to keep it all straight. Then I just finished tracing. Yes, you’ll have to connect the two sides, but a curve ruler will help you find a nice shape for the enckline.

Don’t forget to label your pieces! I learned that from Susan Khalje; write down the name and part number of the pattern, as well as the date and whom the pattern is for, and any adjustments you made. (Sze 10 with a 2 inch long-waist adjustment for example.) This way if you have to leave your project for any reason, you’ll know who it was for, when you did it, what pattern you started with, and what adjustments you’ve already made. You should also of course transfer any markings from the original pattern piece; hem length, darts, grainline, etc.

Now let’s match up our pieces, and check out the connecting parts; for a bodice it’s usually the shoulder and side seams. Do these side seams match? Yup, the sides are good to go.

How about the shoulder? Nope, not happening. Remember, I moved the pattern piece two inches while I was tracing. So what are my options here? The typical option is to put a dart where the extra fabric was added. I can also extend the back shoulder seam to match the front. Since I have more than one fabric to make this top in, I’ve decided to do both.

Come back for part two, where I show you the details of the first top!

Sewing Room Tip – Labels for Discernment

Quick – can you tell the difference between black wool tricotine and black rayon crepe? No, I can’t either. Luckily, I cut off little samples and taped them to a page with a description in my fabric binder oh so long ago. Between the slight difference in weave and the different selvages, I was able to tell them apart.

To help myself the next time I’m looking through my stash, I added labels to the boards my fabric is wrapped on – can you tell the difference now? Yup, me too. I used these folder labels that we all probably have a half-packet of lying around somewhere… well, us older folks anyway. If you don’t have any and want to give them a try, any discount-department or office-supply store will have them.

Next test – can you tell the difference between dark navy, midnight navy, dark blue and black thread?

Nope, still can’t do it myself. How about on whites?

Which is 80wt and which is 40wt? Which is poly and which is cotton? Yeah, makes you feel really smart when you have seven different shades of white and no idea which is which.

How about now? Yippee for labels… these are the hole-mender labels we used to need for our three ring binders…

I found some a while back and they’re perfect for bobbins. I pull off the old label when I reuse the bobbin, and even if the sticker doesn’t come off cleanly, the new one sticks really well. They don’t interfere with the bobbin at all in my machine, and I can even wind more of the same thread onto it because there’s a hole in the label.

Hope you’re enjoying the holiday season – see you here next time!

Working with Waffle, Part 3

The future final placement for my patch

Moving on to the embroidery; as I mentioned I decided to do a patch for it. I did a test on the waffle weave, and while it came out pretty nice, I thought a patch might be fun to do. A quick tip: when you embroider on a heavily textured fabric like waffle, one, use a design with heavy stitching. This will “knock down” the fluff and keep your design visible. Also, don’t forget to use a topper! This will help keep any nap or fluff flat so your machine can stitch over it. I used a tear away stabilizer under the fabric, and a heavy water-soluble topper. I don’t think you’d get hoop burn with this fabric as it’s cotton, but you could float the fabric over the stabilizer just in case, as I did here.

I created the patch using my in-machine software on my 10-needle. I selected a design, then crated a circle of single-run stitches around it to size it, then deleted and added back the design (most machines have a first-in, first stitched order to the programming; you don’t have to stitch the circle first, but it’s typical with appliqué. If your machine or software can re-order the design elements, it won’t matter.) Then I added my initials withing the circle, then added the satin stitch outer ring.

You can see by my sample in the lower left, that I forgot to trim my appliqué (which is the badge in this case) before my satin stitch. And, you can also see on the lower right that my trim job was not great, lots of fuzzies sticking out.

Luckily I remembered to save my design – hit that memory button! – and I can easily stitch it out again. I hooped a heavy water-soluble topper (something like Sulky Ultra Solvy or OESD Badgemaster) and a piece of heavy cutaway (2.5 to 3 oz) to have as my badge support; the fabric is a plain weave white cotton. The satin stitch perforates the topper, and it pops right out after it’s finished. Then you just have to rinse or tear away the rest of the topper from the back – easy! And just fun… after I make the next one, I’ll use a small whip stitch to attach it to my robe.

The four in the center were used in the design

The color choice has a short story to it; a few Fashionista meetings ago, Roz gave us the low-down on this season’s colors. She said one trend is pairing unusual colors (that still look good of course.) I decided on these colors by accident; I passed my machine after doing some test stitches after using some random threads for machine maintenance, and saw the pictured angle. Somehow those colors just seemed to go together – I think they came out nicely!

Working with Waffle Part 2

In my previous post I listed some tips for sewing with waffle weave fabric; here I’ll show some detailed photos of the project, and in the next post share a bit of information about embroidering on waffle.

The first photo is the finished robe – no, there’s no embroidery on it yet. I decided to use a patch format for the design, as I’ll explain in the next post. This is Butterick Pattern 5537, one I’ve used before; it’s OOP but you might find it for sale at a third-party retailer. It’s a very easy to make shawl collar robe, with a set of pj’s in both long and short versions, and it’s unisex so good for the whole family.

Here’s where I had a major hiccup with the project; I mentioned in the previous post that I could have used about half yard more to account for shrinkage – here’s why. When I cut out the facings, I didn’t quite have a wide enough piece to get the entire facing. As you can see here, the upper collar/ facing is short and doesn’t reach the neckline. There should be about 1” more so 5/8 inch can be folded under and the facing stitched down at the seamline (denoted by the pink mark in the center of the photo.)

To fix this, I created a “design element” (i.e., I covered a mistake.) I took a piece of bias strip that I had left over from another project, and sewed it down the neckline just past the seam, so into the bodice slightly. I then folded up the strip, then folded it back again over the seam allowance, and whip-stitched it into place; if you’ve done a quilt binding or Hong Kong seam finish, you get the drift of where I was going.

This created an extension that I could now tack the upper collar/ facing to, and it also adds a pop of color – design element!

Another thing about waffle weave; this will be the neatest, fastest, easiest hand stitching you have ever done, promise! It’s a nice, loose weave, so not as hard to stitch as batik; and it’s fluffy so your stitches get lost. And, it has a regular pattern woven right in – no guessing if your stiches are spaced evenly!

I fell stitched the free edge of the facing onto the bodice of the robe; you can topstitch it down by machine of course, but I like to have a bit of hand sewing in all my projects, just makes me feel like I did something extra nice for myself.

This first set of photos shows the front and back of my fell stitching – you can’t even see where they are if you match the thread color to the fabric. I was able to get all of the hand stitching done in less than half a football game – pretty good time for such a large facing.

In this second set of photos, you can see in the first one on the back side where I got lazy and used a piece of navy thread left over from a previous project; I just didn’t want to get up to cut, wax and iron six inches of thread. You can see though, from the front, even navy thread on white doesn’t show up much at all if you’re a bit careful.

Take care and see you at the next post where I’ll show you the embroidery!

Working with Waffle

My new robe for hangin’ ’round the house

I recently made myself a new robe; you may recall my previous one from here. While it was lovely, it was made from velour and was rather heavy – good for hot-tubbing in winter, no so much for around the house use.

I got this waffle weave cotton from our local heirloom shop, Buttons’n’Bows; I don’t know if they still have it, but I’m sure you can call to ask. (Actually, they just might – here, in 1/4 and 1/8 inch.)

I’ve never used waffle weave before, and I have a few tips to share if you haven’t either! In no particular order:

  • Finish the fabric edges. Like bouclé, it ravels. Not as badly as bouclé, but enough to be annoying. Use your serger or overcast stitch if you have one.
  • Cut in a single layer. It’s kinda fluffy, and that makes for a thick double layer, so try to cut out as a single layer. I did a double layer layout and while one piece would come out well, the other one would be rather wonky.
  • You might want to cut on the waffles. In general it’s going to be on grain, but it is fabric, which moves, and this is a very loose weave, so it can move a lot. While I cut straight – or mostly straight – because of the weave it’s very obvious where I went off-grain. There are little winding ridges along edges, and topstitching goes across rows. Nothing terrible, or very obvious, but when you look that long that closely at a project, you can see it.
  • It’s got a lot of body, so some design elements may need to be changed. For instance, I realized after making this pattern the first time, I need a bust dart. Now, a bust dart in this thick fluffy stuff wasn’t going to look well, but I got lucky. Where the dart fell out, it was right next to the low, oversized armscye, so I just rotated the dart to the armscye, and luckily it fell out along a bias area of the sleeve head, so I was able to ease the dart uptake in the seam, no big bulky darts needed.
  • It presses well, but don’t expect a crease. As I said, it’s got a lot of body, so it doesn’t necessarily look pressed, but do press as there will be a difference in how it handles if you don’t.
  • Get a bit extra yardage. It’s cotton, and a funny weave, so it’s gonna pucker up on you after you wash it. And I do highly recommend washing it before you cut – you don’t want to have it shrink after you sew your project. I myself could have used an extra half yard or so.

Well those are my tips on waffle weave for now – stay tuned for part 2.

Acquisitions Management

Fabrics acquired for my stash, which align with my acquisitions management policies… i.e., they go with my color plan.

…or building your stash. I was discussing stashes not long ago with a sewing friend; she’s rather new and asked me how I built my stash, as she wanted to consider one for herself and didn’t know where to start. The truth is that I did it painfully, haphazardly and with an unfortunate amount of excess spending.

As with all new interests, especially the creative ones, we’re constantly trying out new methods, materials and techniques, not to mention being dazzled by all the pretty things… and cool things, fun things, useful things, which exposes us to a lot of stuff to buy.

And honestly, I wish I had someone to tell me when I started that I should kinda hold off on starting a stash (I didn’t know that’s what I was doing, so I forgive myself) until I had more information, like what kind of sewing I want to do (luckily I like to do all of it), what kind of things I want to make, what my personal style is, what colors I prefer. Knowing these things can help you define a process for acquiring new things – not just for your stash, but for all of your sewing equipment and supplies.

I essentially left my friend with a bunch of questions to ask herself, and these help form the basis of Acquisition Management Policies, and, by extension, Inventory Management. Sounds fancy, I know, and many of us probably do these to some extent already in our day-to-day lives, but if we do it with purpose we can have a highly functional and personally pleasing stash.

I came across the idea while I was looking for a way to inventory my stash. As you may recall, I tried several different ways, to no avail – I decided on a spreadsheet with photos on my computer. But while I was looking for this miracle inventory method, I came across an article on the why of acquisition and inventory. I’m sorry I can’t find the reference to that article, especially since it gave me so much insight into the process, but it’s out there, as are many other articles on the same subject.

The notes I took to help me define my own policies are below, as well as some other hints and help I’ve picked up along the way.

-Reason for your purchase – what problem does it solve?

-Why now? An impending project? Insufficient fulfillment by a previous acquisition?

-Plans for use of the new acquisition – what is the specific project or schedule?

-What else has to happen to use the new item?

Now, not all of these questions have to be answered for each new item, but they can help you take a step back and think more about the item you’re considering, and whether it fits in your stash.

Other more sewing-specific questions to consider are:

-Can it be used in your sewing plan/ wardrobe plan? If your plans include swimwear and vacation pieces, will buying a piece of wool fit in?

-Do the colors fit with your preferences? I had a big problem with this one myself – always buying black and white fabrics, and I don’t even like to wear black, or much white.

-Same for prints; if you don’t like polka dots, why are you buying them?

-Is there enough to make a project with? You may love the fabric and it may fit all your other guidelines, but if it’s only 5/8ths of a yard, what would you be able to make with it?

-Is there an extenuating circumstance? Is it from a small weaver in Ireland from local sheep that you won’t be able to buy anywhere else? Is it antique, handmade, lace trim from a shop in Paris that you’ll never find the likes of again? Is it a quality piece of fabric that’s in a color or pattern you’ll use in a project and enjoy wearing, and it’s on a great sale?

I hope the above gives you some ideas to for starting your own acquisitions policy; you may come up with different parameters for yourself, and remember, not every new piece is going to always fit all of them – you’ll have to decide on a case-by-case basis which guidelines to apply.