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Pattern Testing the Belcarra Blouse – Take Two

April 23, 2014

Sew Well Belcarra Blouse

Finally!  I’m pleased to present my first finished garment of 2014 – a simple cotton/linen blend Belcarra blouse, the most recent addition to the Sewaholic Patterns line.  My new top is a perfect classic white top to wear with just about anything, and I foresee it becoming a wardrobe staple.

Sew Well Belcarra Blouse

This pattern is super easy to sew up since there are no darts or fiddly bits – just fronts and backs and sleeves and bindings.  But, it’s not fool proof.  My first attempt was out of a much loved silk, and I totally screwed up the bias neck binding and the French seams around the sleeves.  I plan to have another go with silk since the lack of darts make this pattern a perfect candidate for a tricksy fabric like charmeuse, but next time I’ll try taking advantage of fabric starch to get nice French seams – I’ve heard good things about that tip lately.

Sew Well Belcarra Blouse

My silk version was supposed to be a test of the pattern for Tasia.  But, as the testing deadline neared and the silk continued to be uncooperative, I realized I was only going to be able to send written feedback, no pictures of a lovely finished garment.  Disappointed, I vowed to try again. But, this time instead of continuing to struggle with silk, I turned instead to a very forgiving cotton/linen blend I have had in my stash ever since my big trip to FabMo. Version two came together in no time.

Sew Well Belcarra Blouse

For this version I neatened each seam with my serger and took my time with the bias neck binding even though the cotton/linen blend was so much easier to work with than the silk.  I sewed the binding to the neckline, trimmed the seam allowances, turned the binding inward, pressed everything over a tailor’s ham, pin basted, and then sewed again.  Tasia provides lots of markings that help make sure the bias binding is perfectly aligned around the neck, but I still got a few subtle twists where I must have gotten things just ever so slightly off.

Sew Well Belcarra Blouse

The hemline is just an edge-stitched double fold.

SewWell-Belcarra-5

It should be no surprise that I love Sewaholic Patterns.  I’d own them all if money were no object.  Yet, even still, this top has to be one of my favorites.  It can be dressed up or down depending on the fabric and the styling.  The raglan sleeves allow for lots of fun fabric combinations.  I’d love to try one where the entire top was made in a sheer, but the front and back were lined in something opaque.

Sew Well Belcarra Blouse

So far this white blouse is turning out to be a good mommy top.  And, the bonus lesson from having to make two versions before getting one right is that the cotton/linen blend is much more forgiving than the silk would have been.  That said, I don’t seem to be taking that lesson much to heart though as I have so many silk tops planned for this summer!

SewWell-Belcarra-Baby-1

It turns out baby girl is very skeptical of the tripod and wouldn’t smile for the camera no matter what I tried, but I promise this top has her drool seal of approval.

SewWell-Belcarra-Baby-3

Look at how big she’s gotten!  I just can’t get enough of her!

Sew Fun Winning

March 28, 2014
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Sew Well - Sew Fun Giveaway

It’s always sew fun winning, right?!  No less so than when you’re actually winning a copy of the book Sew Fun.  Well, congratulations this time go to auraoriano!  A copy of Sew Fun: 20 Projects for the Whole Family will be on its way to you soon.

For the rest of you interested in sewing crafty things with and for kids, I really do think you’ll get some good ideas and projects out of this book.  If buying it isn’t in the budget, then go check it out from your library like Bonnie of Jaded Optimist did.  She recommends the Landscape rug.  So cool!

Sew Well - Sew Fun Giveaway

Another reason this book is awesome is that the author herself is pretty awesome.  I was very surprised and incredibly flattered when Deborah Fisher, the author of Sew Fun, emailed me to say,

I loved reading all of the comments! I have always been in awe of garment sewers. That is one of the skills I really hope to work on someday and Sew Well is the first place I am going to come! Many thanks to you, Amy, and all of your readers for your interest in Sew Fun.

Many thanks to you, too, Deborah!

A Cation, a Crab, and an Alchemist walk into a… Well?

March 25, 2014

…and I don’t have the photo to prove it!

Does a meet up really happen if there’s no photographic evidence?

Last Thursday Cation Designs, Morgan of Crab & Bee, Meris of The Fabric Alchemist, and I met up for brunch at Lola in downtown Seattle.  Cation Designs was in town for a few days, and her visit was the inspiration for our little get together.  I’d met her back in the Bay Area a year and a half or so ago at a meet up at Cañada College, but I’d never met either Morgan or Meris.  To say I was excited would be an understatement.

We were supposed to meet at 10 am, but I was running late from an earlier appointment with baby girl.  Really late.  As in everyone had waited and waited and then given up on me and ordered their food already really late.  But, the restaurant was awesome and took my order as soon as I was ready, and my food came out at basically the same time as everyone else’s (the Garlicky Baby Beet Salad is delicious, by the way).

After brunch Meris had to get to work, but the rest of us had a bit of time to peruse Seattle’s fabric selection.  We knew we were about a mile away from both Stitches and Our Fabric Stash, but Meris’s parting recommendation was for us to check out the Pacific Fabrics in SoDo.

I’m glad we listened to Meris.  I hadn’t found a good notions store yet in Seattle, but it was because I’d never been to Pacific Fabrics before. This place has it all.  Even YKK zippers, which my old go-to for notions in the Bay Area did not carry.  They also had a large selection of waterproof fabrics (hello self-stitched Gortex running gear), designer cuts at deep discount, and every other kind of fabric one might want, from home dec to swimsuit fabrics.  I was good though and only picked up a random, somewhat beat up and therefore over 50% off Oliver + S School Days Jacket and Coat pattern, which I think will be super cute on baby girl next winter as she’s hopefully making the transition to bipedal.  I resisted any and all fabrics because we’re currently in the process of moving. In fact, I should be helping to pack boxes as I type (shh!). I haven’t mentioned it yet, but we after months and months of searching, we finally found the perfect house!  Yay!  But, it means I’ve decided nothing new is allowed to come in until after the dust has settled and the current stash has been organized.  Cation Designs and Morgan both bought fabric though, so I got to vicariously share in the rush of buying new fabric anyway.

As we were leaving, we decided we had enough time to stop by Our Fabric Stash before we each headed our different ways.  Our Fabric Stash is a bit different from your typical fabric store.  They sell fabric and patterns and random sewing things from other people’s stashes.  Because I’m a curious sort, I spent quite a bit of time quizzing the owner (?) on how their business operated.  Curious yourself?  Here’s the deal. If you have stash you’re looking to unload, you start by paying them a $25-a-year membership fee. Once you’re in their system, you can then bring them the items you’d like to sell.  You price your items yourselves, and they display everything for you.  If someone buys something from your stash, you get 49% and Our Fabric Stash gets 49%.  The remaining 2% goes to charity.  It seems like a win-win-win.  You get an audience to offload the portion of your stash that no longer appeals to you, Our Fabric Stash gets merchandise to sell without having to fly around the globe selecting stock (though that might not be a bad thing…), and charities get a little something off the top.

Again, fabric was bought by the group, but, again, I abstained.  I did find another Oliver + S pattern though, which also came home with me.  The Tea Party Sundress and Playsuit.  This time for $2.  I should have put the same ban on patterns as I did on fabric! But, I love thinking that baby girl will be a sundress laden six-month-old this summer and a properly outfitted for the rain one-year-old next winter.

Sew-Well.com

All in all it was a great day.  I hope Cation Designs will find more excuses to visit Seattle, but, until then, I plan to take full advantage of knowing two more wonderful local sewing bloggers.

Bunny Love: Sew Fun Book Review and Giveaway

March 21, 2014

Sew Well - Bunny Love:  Sew Fun Book Review and Giveaway

2014 appears to be the year of polyfill (the stuffing, not the code) here on Sew Well.  Dragons, pillows, and now bunnies.  I miss sewing garments, but how could I pass up making these cute little bunnies out of nice well behaving cotton after my failed experiments in silk the last few weeks?

Just like last week, this post needs a bit of backstory.  In honor of March being National Craft Month, I was sent a review copy of Sew Fun: 20 Projects for the Whole Family by Deborah Fisher thanks to F+W Media Distribution and Interweave.

Sew Fun

It’s a sewing-for-children book, and I wasn’t sure what to expect being new to this whole having-children-to-sew-for game.  But, I was very pleasantly surprised at what I found inside.  The book begins by discussing ways in which you can make sewing fun for the whole family, including ways to introduce the sewing machine to young ones and ideas to keep “sewing space interlopers” busy while you’re working on a project.  It also details the tools and techniques that are used in the book, from basic sewing supplies to embroidery stitches (I finally know how to make a French knot!) and more. Then it launches into five chapters devoted to different themes:  wear, play, celebrate, love, and rest.  Each chapter has four different projects associated with it.  For example, chapter one, Wear, describes how to go about making capes, slippers, bags, and chenille boas.  And, to help you get started, full-scale patterns for the projects can be found in the back of the book.

My favorite chapter was chapter four, Love, which is all about making dolls.  The author, Deborah Fisher, grew up making dolls, and it shows in this chapter.  She teaches you how to make a doll from all those scraps you’ve been saving over the years, then she steps it up a bit with a pattern for a 28″ tall doll with a sculpted nose and a hand sewn wardrobe (including instructions for how to make matching capes, slippers, and boas to those found in chapter one!).  The third project in this chapter is the lion seen above on the cover.  What a mane that guy has!  And, finally, there is the Little Smiles Bunny.

Sew Well - Bunny Love:  Sew Fun Book Review and Giveaway

This little guy seemed right up my alley.  The perfect amount of cutting and sewing for my busy schedule these days.  I ended up making two since I thought it would be sweet for my baby girl and my niece (who lives a block and a half from us now that we moved to Seattle!) to have cousin bunnies.

The instructions have you cut then embroider then sew, which means you have a lot of control when you’re making the cute little bunny face.  They also suggest how you can involve young ones.  For example, for these bunnies the book suggests little sewing helpers could pick out the fabrics or add some of the stuffing.  My little one is too little to do either, but I imagine those are more than reasonable tasks to encourage a bit of family fun while sewing with older children.

I cut the fabric for both bunnies at the same time, using left over fabric from my husband’s shirt for the body of the bunnies and choosing different but similar quilting cottons for the ears. But, instead of sewing one them at the same time, I sewed them up one after the other.  I’m glad I didn’t assembly-line sew them since I was able to use what I learned while making the first to improve the second.

Sew Well - Bunny Love:  Sew Fun Book Review and Giveaway

For bunny number one (above) I took tight turns around the legs, arms, and neck, which resulted in lots of pulling away from those spots once they were stuffed with polyfill.  For bunny number two (below) I took the turns more gently where I could.  Bunny number one’s ears were stitched on, ripped out, stitched on again, ripped out again, and then stitched on a third time.  Bunny number two’s ears went on correctly the first try.  Bunny number two was also stuffed to the dickens since bunny number one didn’t end up quite a full as the bunnies in the book.  Even when I didn’t think any more stuffing would fit into bunny number two, I shoved more in anyway.  I also used two different hand sewing techniques to stitch the two bunnies closed, both of which were detailed in the book, and the second of which is more invisible.

Sew Well - Bunny Love:  Sew Fun Book Review and Giveaway

I think the two bunnies are really cute, and I’d actually be excited to try out the majority of the projects in the book, even without a young one old enough to help out.  It’s definitely not super glossy wardrobe sewing, but it is cute and fun!

Sew Well - Bunny Love:  Sew Fun Book Review and Giveaway

If you’d like to make your own Little Smiles Bunny or have a little one you’re excited to sew with, you’re in luck!  F+W Media Distribution and Interweave are giving away one copy of Sew Fun: 20 Projects for the Whole Family to one lucky reader (retail $26.99)!  If you’d like to be entered into the drawing, just leave a comment below letting me know. I’ll pick a winner at random next Friday, March 28th at 7 am PDT. Good luck!

And the iron goes to…

March 20, 2014

Sew Well - Experiments in Silk: Durathon Iron Review and Giveaway

Rebekah of Art and Needlework!  Congratulations!

And, for those of you interested in more on sewing with kids, stay tuned for yet another giveaway tomorrow!

Sew Well - Experiments in Silk: Durathon Iron Review and Giveaway

 

Experiments in Silk: Durathon Iron Review and Giveaway

March 13, 2014

Sew Well - Experiments in Silk:  Durathon Iron Review and Giveaway

Recently, my sewing machine hasn’t been silent, but it also hasn’t exactly gotten a workout.  A few weeks ago I was super motivated to sew something special for me.  My first garment postpartum.  I pulled out a favorite bit of silk (first used here) since I figured my love for the fabric would make sure my motivation stuck around regardless of the other demands on my time (read:  baby girl).

I spent all morning one morning carefully cutting out my garment pattern pieces from the silk.  And, I literally mean all morning, hours and hours, even though there were relatively few pattern pieces.  You might be thinking, “Wow, she’s really meticulous when she cuts silk.”  But, in reality my cutting was only so-so.  The reason for both the lengthy time and the so-so effort was baby girl.  These days she can only stand to be by herself for a few minutes at a time.  I can put her down for a nap, and she’ll be fine in her crib by herself for maybe five minutes.  If she’s awake and I lay her on one of those mats with tons of dangly things overhead, she’ll happily play away… for fifteen minutes tops.  The rest of the time she wants to be held close.  She’ll nap just fine while being held.  She’ll explore the world with great interest while being held.  My solution has been to nearly constantly wear her on my chest in one of those snuggly things.  In fact, she’s there right now.  And, she won’t stand for laziness.  No sitting allowed!  My ironing board has become my work station since it’s tall enough for me to work at while standing.  I can get by with a bit of laptop work since I can reach around her, though I have to admit I’m thankful I learned to type without needing to see the keys!  Anyway, I always used to cut on the floor since I didn’t have a great table space for laying out fabric.  But, working on the floor is almost impossible for me with a baby strapped to my chest.  So, the silk got cut out in fits and spurts.

Then, I sewed off and on for much of a week.  A seam here and a seam there.  I wanted the garment to be perfect, so I used French seams and silk thread (the latter because of a tip I read on this post at Goodbye Valentino, where silk thread was recommended when using silk fabric).  Unfortunately, the French seams were my demise.  Having to sew each seam twice with pressing and trimming in between – oh my!  If only I had learned Lorene Bonewitz of Sew It Up‘s tip to use your serger – blade only, no needles – to trim the seam allowances between steps.  Anyway, long story somewhat short, having to sew a little bit here and a little bit there with a baby strapped to me means the garment’s construction does not meet my standards.  The bias binding around the neck is a bit wonky and the sleeves… Oh, the sleeves. My efforts to use French seams for the sleeves were just all wrong.  I’m still trying to figure out how to salvage the garment…

Thankfully, my efforts were not all in vain.  Constructing this garment did allow me to test out an iron I was sent by Hamilton Beach.

Sew Well - Experiments in Silk:  Durathon Iron Review and Giveaway

First, a bit of backstory.  Hamilton Beach reached out to me to ask if I was willing to try out their Durathon electronic iron with retractable cord.  The iron I’d been using was ancient, it sprayed rusty water because I used to always forget to empty the reservoir after use, and it’s cord no longer retracted.  I figured anything was better than it was, so I happily said yes!

Sew Well - Experiments in Silk:  Durathon Iron Review and Giveaway

The Durathon electronic iron with retractable cord promises to be 10 times more durable than traditional nonstick irons and to have 25% more continuous steam power than the leading competitor.  I can’t speak to either of these claims, but I can say that the iron performed just fine for me day after day as I snuck in time to sew.

Unlike my old iron, which just had a temperature dial, the Durathon electronic iron has pre-set temperatures for different types of fabrics:  synthetics, silk, wool, and cotton/linen.  Each day I would plug in the iron and press the temperature settings button until silk lit up.  Since each setting has a different colored light associated with it, I quickly learned to look for the yellow light at the start of each day.  Once the light was done blinking, the iron was good to go.

Sew Well - Experiments in Silk:  Durathon Iron Review and Giveaway

You’ll notice above that the iron is proud to display its ten year warranty.  That round sticker you see above is even on the other side as well!  I did a bit of digging in the manual and determined that the iron comes with a limited warranty of one year on defects in material and workmanship and ten years on soleplate wear.  This sounds great in theory but since you are responsible for shipping costs both to send your iron back and to receive your replacement iron, at this price point it might not be worth the time and effort.

Anyway, back to my test.  Pressing went as well as I imagined it would.  No magic was performed, but nicely pressed seams were had.  One thing I noticed was that I couldn’t keep the iron horizontal and resting on its soleplate for too long before it would beep at me.  When I looked in the manual, I realized that the iron has positional sensing and will turn itself off after 30 seconds if it is motionless while resting on its soleplate.  What I was doing was leaving the iron in place to press the seam, then scooting it along the seam a bit, then leaving it in place again, and repeat. My little scoots were not enough to reset the position sensor.  The manual notes that the iron needs to tilt more than 30 degrees to avoid triggering the auto shutoff.  I learned to lift and tilt the iron in between areas of pressing so as to fend off the beeps.  I guess that’s worth it so as to not burn my fabric!?  As a note, the iron will also shut itself off if it is left resting on its side for 30 seconds and on its heel for 15 minutes.

Since I didn’t take advantage of the steam setting while working on my silk blouse, I tested the steam function on a wrinkly piece of black cotton (which I ended up using as the backdrop for the photo below since it turns out steam is hard to photograph!).  The wrinkles fell out of the cotton quite easily, even though I realized after the fact that I had the steam set to its lowest setting.  In fact, it turns out the photo below is capturing the least amount of steam this iron produces.  Way to go, Amy!  But, I guess we all now know that if you want low steam, you should aim the tail end of the iron at your garment! (Though perhaps the steam is coming out of the base because that’s where the water is when the iron is sitting on it’s heel??!)

Sew Well - Experiments in Silk:  Durathon Iron Review and Giveaway

interpreted “continuous steam power” to mean that this iron can create lots of steam without any real pause in steam production.  I will say that I was able to get it to produce a pretty continuous stream of steam if I pumped the steam button.  But, even on what I later realized was the low steam setting, I burned through the water reservoir pretty quickly.  In the future I think I’ll keep a pitcher of water nearby so I can get lots of nice steam without having to keep making trips to the kitchen over and over.

Sew Well - Experiments in Silk:  Durathon Iron Review and Giveaway

Now for my favorite part – the giveaway. As much as I enjoy testing products, the biggest reason I do it is because I enjoy sharing the wealth.  In this case Hamilton Beach has offered to give away a Durathon Iron to one of you!  If you’d like to be entered into the drawing, just leave a comment below letting me know. I’ll pick a winner at random next Thursday, March 20th at 7 am PDT. Good luck!

Sew Expo Recap: Classes and Fabric and People, Oh My!

March 6, 2014

SewExpo

Photo of Helena of Gray All Day, Leah of Away I Sew!, and me at the Sew Expo

Sunday, March 2nd

It’s 5:45 am, and I am up, which is unsurprising these days thanks to our precious baby girl.  But, this morning I’m actually excited to get out of bed while it’s still dark.  Today I finally get to see what the Sewing and Stitchery Expo is all about.

After a quick shower and an even quicker breakfast, capped on all sides by some not-so-quick tending to the baby girl, we’re off to Puyallup.  This morning “we” not only includes baby girl but also includes my husband.  As we pack all of baby girl’s things in the car, I can’t help but be so very grateful that he decided to tag along and get a bit of work done while we were at the Expo.  I know having him there will make me feel so much better about being away from home for so long with our one-month-old child.

As we pull into the fairgrounds, we’re greeted by masses of people crossing the street from the parking lot into the expo.  Even though I should have expected it, I’m still a bit surprised by the gender ratio I see headed that way – it seems like there are hundreds of women for every one man!  It’s quite the opposite of my experience in graduate school!  But, nonetheless, I have to admit to myself that I thought an event like this would pull all kinds out of the woodwork, resulting in a less extreme gender ratio.  But, then again, weren’t most of the teachers and featured guests women?

We are on time for my first class, and I’m eager to get in and see what it’s all about.  Baby girl has other plans though, and we’re not out of the car until we go through two diaper changes and a long bout of feeding.  The friendly parking attendant seems keen on chatting up my husband while he’s standing in the rain trying to help me change a diaper awkwardly in the car.  I hear the attendant telling my husband how he’d typically expect hundreds of more cars by now, but he thinks the weather combined with a bit of expo fatigue has kept many people away.  Yet, to me it feels like we’re already parked really far away from the expo entrance, so I’m thankful that some of the area’s sewing enthusiasts decided to sleep in this morning.

Once baby girl is in order, I think we are golden… until I can’t find my expo ticket.  As I stand in the rain emptying all of my pockets looking for the pinkish colored slip of paper – with the gate keeper yelling at me to get in, get covered, and get that baby out of the rain – I can’t for the life of me recall where I might have left the ticket.  I swear I had it just before we left the car.  As my husband starts backtracking, I follow the gate keeper’s advice and get in, get covered, and get my baby out of the rain.  And, wouldn’t you know, as soon I’m safely out of the weather and can slow my frantic searching, I see that the missing pink ticket is sitting right at the top of my diaper bag.  Crisis averted, just in time to catch my husband before he crosses back over to the parking lot on a wild goose chase.

Entering the expo for the first time is an awesome experience.  There are booths filled with fabrics and patterns and machines and notions as far as the eye can see.  I do my best to take it all in as I speed walk towards my first class, for which I am now extremely late.

I enter the Strategic Sewing class taught by Nancy Nix-Rice just as she is talking about the benefits of accessorizing the neck.  And columns.  Inside and outside columns created by pants or skirts and tops or jackets in similar colors that together make a column of color that draws a viewer’s eye up to the face and serves to make the wearer look taller and thinner. I later learn that you’re best served if the color of said column is similar in shade to your face and hair.

The class is loosely structured around Nancy’s new book:  Looking Good… Every Day: Style Solutions for Real Women.  I learn that her book covers various techniques to flatter and enhance a multitude of different body types, but today we focus more on generalities, sticking mainly to her method for planning twelve garments that can combine to make over 96 outfits.  The key to the wardrobe is finding a print fabric that you love and that flatters your face.  From it you make a top and a skirt.  You pull colors from the print to make ten other pieces, which include two pants in two different neutrals; two skirts in the same two neutrals; four tops in the same two neutrals and two complimentary accent colors; and three over layers in the same two neutrals and one of the two complimentary accent colors. Nancy explains how to pull these twelve pieces together to make outfits that fit and flatter.  Interestingly, it’s not a matter of just mixing and matching exactly, there are other little details that she’s learned over the years that make a lot of difference in how the outfits work.

Sew Well - Nancy Nix-Rice's Strategic Sewing

Image above from the Sewing and Stitchery Expo’s website

I chose this class because I was hoping it would help me tackle my second resewlution for 2014:  be more conscious of sewing with fabrics and patterns that flatter and fit my lifestyle.  When I listen to the lessons, I try to think about how they might apply to my own particular wardrobe. Black is one of Nancy’s no-nos, and I know that my wardrobe is filled with black (note my black sweater, black baby carrier, black bag, and black Converse in the photo above!).  But, interestingly, last fall after delving a bit into seasonal color analysis thanks to this post on color by Thewallinna, I had already begun to question whether black was a great color for me. I find it hard to believe black is universally bad, especially when Nancy says not to listen to anyone who says “always” and “never” in regards to fashion, but the idea of minimizing black still resonates with me personally.

I chuckle as Nancy breaks her rule again with another always-and-never situation:  hourglass and pear-shaped women should tuck in their shirts, while rectangular women such as me should not.  Yet, this again resonates with me.  Over and over I try to pull off the skirt-at-the-natural-waist look, and over and over I wonder why it just doesn’t feel like it flatters me the way that it does for so many others.  And, lest you think I’m being overly self-critical, though my husband is quick to praise, he often questions my judgement when I try to walk out of the house with my shirt tucked in to a skirt.

My mind wanders as I dream of going through my closet with an eye for garments that I already own that would fit into Nancy’s strategy while also working with my body type and current lifestyle.  What prints do I have that I love that could be a basis for one of these mini-wardrobes? What are my neutrals?

Nancy returns back to neck accessories and drawing the eye up.  I scribble notes as she further praises scarves, twin-sets, matte jersey dresses, shoulder pads, and three-quarter-length sleeves. Even though I can’t remember the last time I thought of using shoulder pads in anything other than a tailored jacket or the last time I owned a twin set, Nancy does such a great job selling me on both of their merits, as well as the merits of her new book, that I make sure to write down her booth number before heading out of the lecture hall at the end of the class.

I have just a few minutes before my next class.  I find my husband and drag him around to a few of the booths, trying to get a better idea of what this expo is really all about.  My husband points out a cute crafty pattern in one of the more quilting-focused booths, and I am tempted, but I don’t want to break out my wallet just yet since I know that once it’s out, it’ll stay out!

Before too long I have to make my way back over to the class area for the Couture Finishing Techniques class taught by Lorene Bonewitz of Sew It Up.  I again seem to be late though as she’s already discussing needles and stitch length when I enter.  She quickly moves to the importance of not only directional sewing but also directional cutting and pressing.  We then whiz through turn of cloth and six different kinds of seam finishes.  I’m writing as fast as I can while again standing and bouncing at the back of the classroom…  …Press only after a collar has been turned so as not to undo the work you put into creating the proper turn of cloth… …Sew first from breakpoint of lapel down with front facing against the feed dogs…  …Remove the needles from your serger and then use the blade to trim the seam allowance when making French seams… …Try to find rayon seam binding for Hong Kong seams…

Next we’re on to hems.  She discusses many different types of hems, but I try to focus in on her tips for rolled hems.  For a serged rolled hem, I note that she suggests that you fuse 1/2″ strips of French tricot something or other along the fabric’s edge, that you use wooly nylon thread, and that you run the edge through the serger a second time without the knife for a more finished look.  Or, if you’re making a rolled hem using your machine, I learned that you start by sewing with a short, 1.8 stitch length all around the hem.  Then you fold the hem over on that line, press, and trim.  Finally, you roll and sew the hem again, using the line as a string and working two to three inches at a time.

We move on to pressing, and I make a mental note to find my pressing cloth, which went missing last summer after the move, and to make sure to let a garment cool before moving it back to the machine.  Then I’m frantically scribbling again until the end of the class.  When Lorene starts wrapping up, I glance back through my notes and marvel at how much information was packed into less than an hour. I had low expectations since the class only cost $5. I actually even thought I might already know a decent amount of what would be taught, but as I stand at the back of the lecture hall bouncing with my baby girl strapped to my chest, I realize I have quite a bit to learn when it comes to sewing.  I’m still very much a novice! Then, to finish the class, there appears to be a raffle.  I can’t even believe my fortune when they announce my number as the first of two winners! What a pleasant surprise, and a great end to a great class.

As I pack up my expanse of baby things littering the back corner of the lecture hall, I notice two very familiar faces walking towards me.  I’m pleasantly surprised to learn that Helena of Gray All Day and Leah of Away I Sew! were also in the class.  As we are introducing ourselves and chatting it up, Far of Memoryseed also appears.  She, too, was in the class, but she can’t say much more than hello since she has to run off to a fitting session she scheduled with a teacher earlier in the day.

I’m tempted to skip my next class to go tour the expo with Helena and Leah, but like the diligent student that I am, I leave them to their fun and head over to the Sew Instantly Slimming Pants class taught by Kathy Ruddy.  She launches right into tricks to get great fitting pants.  I note her trick for getting the bagginess out of the under seat area is a different than the method I learned in Kenneth D. King’s Jean-ius class, though I decide it probably removes fabric in mostly the same way.  I also note the simple tricks she learned by dissecting a pair of Not Your Daughter’s Jeans.   Though the denim they use is very stretchy, the front pockets, which are sewn from side seam all the way to the front, are made of a woven fabric.  Kathy explains that the clever design uses the woven to cinch you in at the front, while lifting the back as the woven pulls the stretchy denim forward.  I smile from ear to ear when she pulls out an SA Curve Ruler to mark the seam allowances of the pattern she’s drafting at the front of the room.  I’ve written about those rulers many times on the blog (most recently here), and I love knowing they’re used by the big names as well!

After this class finishes, I find my husband again, and we talk food as we’re both starving.  He runs off to get us something to eat, and I snag another peek at the expo.  I notice that most of the women with babies or toddlers are pushing them around in strollers.  I laugh at myself for never having even considered a stroller, which would have made touring the expo so much easier, but I know it’s because baby girl has trained me to carry her at all costs.

My break quickly ends, and I run off to my next class, Tailored Jackets Made the Modern Way taught by Nancy Siefert.  I realize it’s not only me that’s hungry – baby girl is as well.  As I sit on the ground at the back of the hall and secretly nurse baby girl, I still try to take a few notes.  I learn that a favorite detail of Nancy’s is the inner cell phone pocket, that sleeve length is set by where the sleeve hits the top of your hand as your hand is pressed flat against a table, and that by modern tailored jacket she means one that uses fusible interfacing to direct its shape.  I note that you use heavier fusible interfacing on the front and under-collar, lighter fusible interfacing on the facing and over-collar, and sew-in interfacing for the back stay.  I also learn that you should always test fuse your interfacing to your fashion fabric to test its drape and stiffness, and then you can then use that sample to make test buttonholes.  And, I learn that before fusing your interfacing to the actual cut fashion fabric, you should check for any distortion since you’ll lock them in once you fuse.

In fact, I learn quite a lot:  how to cut and add extra oomph to the under-collar, tips on pressing, how to sew a welt pocket, how to sew the roll line as well as the neckline, how to clip the arm seam, how to ease in the sleeve using a bit of bias self-fabric, and more.  I do get bit lost when she’s covering mitered corners and bagged linings though, a bit due to subject overload and a bit due to baby girl.

After the tailored jacket class ends and I inhale the food that my husband brought me, I head off to another class by Nancy Nix-Rice, Sew Skinny.  This class starts off very similar to the first by covering shoulder pads and color continuity, but I figure I’m getting to hear a bit of what I probably missed this morning.  Then we dive into color and dressing for body types.  Since the lessons on color are all relative and seem to be set by what looks best on each individual, it’s hard to take too many notes for what might work for me per se.  But, I do try to take a lot of notes on what flatters a rectangular shape:  straight, semi-fitted silhouettes; no color break at the waist; long column of color with a small amount of shaping; long jackets that hit at the hip; skinny pants; over-layer tops; untucked shirts; details that give motion…  I can’t catch it all, but I think I get the general gist.

After another quick glimpse at the expo, I head to my last class of the day:  Sew Like a Pro with Connie Crawford.  Connie starts off by sharing her path into fashion design, and I’m nearly knocked off my feet when she gets to the part where she explains that she learned on day one in the industry that you should cut your fashion fabric when it is pinned to a paper backing since the paper backing serves to keep the fabric perfectly in place.  Supposedly fabric and paper together won’t dull your shears any more than fabric alone will.  Furthermore, she goes on to knock down so many other of my home-sewing truisms.  You should not use tracing paper.  You should use 1/4″ seam allowances instead of 5/8″.  You should not clip into your seam allowances.  You can sew over your pins when they are properly inserted into the fabric.  You should not use a basting stitch in order to set in a shoulder but instead “crimp” it prior to setting it in.  You should not gather anything at all period with a basting stitch but instead use a gathering foot…

I scramble to write down technique after technique, but, as the list goes on and on, baby girl let’s me know that she is finally done with classes.  She’s awake, and she’s ready to go home.  Leah is also in the class with me, and though I had started off the class hopeful that I would get at least a quick little tour of the expo with her, I realize instead that I’m going to be headed home sooner rather than later.

After the class is over I do catch Leah for a few minutes in the hopes that a bit of walking will help calm baby girl down.  We run into Far again and start talking fabric as we head over to the American Sewing Guild booth.  Baby girl doesn’t last long though, and after Far leaves, I say my goodbyes as well.  It’s been a long but very good day.  I know I’ve learned a lot, and I’m hopeful I’ll be able to come back again next year.

My little family packs up and heads out without buying a single thing at the expo.  Except for a strawberry shortcake.  There just wasn’t enough time to even consider buying the books and notions I was so convinced I needed during the earlier classes.  I am not leaving empty handed though.  My raffle prize from the Couture Finishing Techniques class was a cute little tailor’s ham.  My third, in fact.  I think I may need to have a tailor’s ham giveaway here pretty soon…  Does anyone out there need a tailor’s ham?!

And, my other big question – what do you think about cutting out your fashion fabric when it’s pinned to paper?  If I had any paper large enough, I just might be tempted to try it on the silk blouse that’s currently on my sewing table.  Too bad I stopped getting the newspaper years ago…  Though, who knows, maybe my shears are rejoicing that the only paper I have around is 8 1/2″ by 11″…

Helena’s write up on the Sew Expo can be found here. Leah’s Sew Expo sewing celebrity (sewlebrity?!) posts are here and here.

UPDATE:  Ever since the birth of baby girl, I hardly have any time to read blogs (you don’t even want to know how many unread posts I have!), so I only now found Sham of Communing with Fabric‘s posts on her trip to the Sew Expo:  why she went, her whirlwind day, her meeting with Vogue, and the inspiring garments she saw.

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