2012 June

Archive for June, 2012

29 Jun 2012

Estate Sale Junkie

5 Comments Of Note

I have no shame.

I greedily sit on the dusty floor of some dead old lady’s house down the street, rummaging through her most treasured sewing fabrics and supplies, selecting gems for my own excessive and obsessive collection.  I sneeze.  Neighbors pass through the room, not recognizing me due to my crazed smile and the devilish glow to my eyes.  I mutter to myself, conjuring the spirits of secret sewing caches to direct me to the best of the old lady’s possessions.  Another hoarder walks into the room, and we laugh lightly and insincerely at each other’s mutual passion for cast off notions and textile scraps.  She is my competition and her presence accelerates my searching.  The crinkling of the plastic bag as each item falls into its depths urges me to find more.

And more and more and more.

She who dies with the most fabric, wins, right?

Here are a few of my most recent finds.  How shall I put them to use??

English sport coat buttons depicting sheep atop weather vanes

 Large gray coat buttons…. don’t you love finding old buttons that are sewn onto the card with twine?

The perfect length of cotton eyelet trim for a skirt hem… but should I think outside the box?

Sparkly silver trim.  I’m thinking holiday.

 Wobbly cotton seersucker in pink and grey.

Happy sewing!


23 Jun 2012

Sewing Studio Basics: Sewing Stuff I Hate

6 Comments In the Workroom

On Monday, I posed the question, Must polyester always have a bad name?  My answer then, was no.  Today I present the stuff that did make Ms. Poly Ester the household scourge of the 1960s and ’70s.  

My venerable collection of scratchy, polyester Dotted Swiss–in an array of enviable chalky colors such as Pepto Bismol pink, Creme de Mente green and Laffy Taffy banana yellow—is, hands down, the most hated material in my fabric stash.  

The quick backstory here is that several years ago, Carla and I got a tip about an old house not far from us that was being gutted and sold after the owner moved into a nursing home. From what we can tell, the owner had either been a seamstress in her working life or just one heck of a fabric hoarder.

The ground floor of the house was filled with dozens of  boxes of vintage fabric—home dec and apparel fabrics in every imaginable color and motif, faux fur—you name it.  Carla and I sifted through the lot for an hour or so, freely grabbing anything that wasn’t moldy and could be deemed “retro cool” or otherwise serve a useful purpose like linings or muslins.  The polyester Dotted Swiss was assigned to the latter category for purposes of making muslins.

To its credit, the fabric holds a fold like a dream and replicates lightweight cotton fabric pretty well, so it does make good on its value in making test garments. These are small consolations, however, for its nauseating odor, especially when ironed, and aforementioned dispirited colors.  The swiss dots are so tightly woven that the machine needle often slips off of them rather than piercing cleanly through.  And speaking of ironing, you have to remember to keep your iron on low or else risk irreversible melting of the fibers.  Nasty stuff, I tell you.

Fast forward a few years and I fear that I have yet to make a dent in this collection, despite the many, many muslins I have made from it.  It does make me appreciate working with modern-day polyester, which has improved fantastically in the last 40+ years.  The odor and melting issues have been resolved and polyester is often blended with other fibers to fight wrinkles and give fabric a softer hand.  Check the label of the commercial clothes in your closet and you may be surprised how many garments have some polyester in them.  

Still, when selecting fabrics to work with, I pause when I see poly in the fiber content. The negative stereotypes associated with polyester are hard for me to shake, but I am coming around slowly.

All this leaves me to wonder whether this fiber has risen from the ashes of polyester leisure suits in the minds and hearts of my fellow sewists.  So tell me, dear readers, do you have a love or hate relationship with polyester or a feeling of indifference?

Happy Sewing!

~ Erin

18 Jun 2012

Sewing Studio Basics: Sewing Stuff I Love

4 Comments In the Workroom

Today I thought I would share a few sewing items that I consider staples in my studio. You, my trusted fellow sewists, have your own list of favorites, no doubt. 

Clover Silk Pins

Carla got me hooked on these–Clover Silk Pins are longer, sharper and thinner than most standard sewing pins and have iron-proof glass heads. Intended for very fine fabrics such as silk in which you don’t want your pin to leave a hole, I find that they work great with most apparel fabrics. Their extra length and sharp point are admirable for getting through multiple layers smoothly. They can bend easily if you aren’t careful, so I don’t recommend them for heavy duty fabrics like denim or canvas.

Vintage Sheets

Unique patterns and great colors –there’s so much to like about vintage sheets. I love them for making muslins, finished garments and appliqued accents.However, I don’t love them for the effort of finding them–unlike a lot of bloggers, I don’t have much luck at thrift shops, much less the time to drive around town trolling their aisles. But I have had much success if I let my mouse do the walking…on over to Etsy, that is. There are dozens of sellers on Etsy who specialize in vintage sheets–the cheery stack below is by Pink Fawn Designs:

Personally, I like the bundles for the instant variety they inject into my stash and I like the fact that the seller has often selected a well-coordinated packet of threads (and done all the pre-washing too). Of course, for sewing garments, you’ll need larger yardage amounts–which may be available if you contact the seller. Just one caveat for sewing with vintage sheets–they can be very worn out and threadbare in the middle which can make for faded colors. Even in good condition, white sheets in particular may be a little too transluscent or shear for your project, so keep that in mind.

Heat’n Bond Iron On Adhesive

This stuff is the bomb when it comes to gluing two fabrics together–such as with applique.  There are other brands out there, but I haven’t had a need to buy a second package yet.  I can’t count how many projects I have used with this stuff in the nearly 2 years since I purchased it, so I can safely say that the amount in this package is generous.

Symphony Broadcloth 

Must polyester always have a bad name?  Symphony Broadcloth does not wrinkle, not even just a tiny bit. Available from Joanns, it comes in a lot of colors and drapes nicely too, so it is perfect for apparel linings. While not what I would grab for my finer sewing projects, at $3.99/yard, it’s easy to keep a small stash on hand for emergency needs.

Dritz Marking Pen

Finally, I wouldn’t get very far without my Dritz Dual-Purpose Marking Pen to accurately transfer pattern markings, embroidery patterns, etc. This pen has two ends–the purple side will fade and disappear over time and the blue pen is water soluble, meaning a light rub with a damp cloth will erase the mark away in no time. I also like having the two colors because, inevitably, one color shows up on my fabric better than the other. This pen is available in store at Joanns  (but not online, apparently) and is one to stock up on when on sale (each pen runs about $6).

So, tell me, what’s on your list?
Happy Sewing!

07 Jun 2012

Lola Pajama Pillow

9 Comments In the Craft Room

Katie’s Once Upon a Thread, Chapter 3 is drawing to a close and I couldn’t resist playing along with my Lola Pajama Pillow.  

The pillow is a small quilted sham in which Nora’s PJs (such as these) can be tucked out of sight each morning.  It’s big enough to hold a blanket too, so it could also make a cute “going to grandmas” overnight travel accessory.

My children’s book inspiration is I Am NOT Sleepy and I WILL NOT Go to Bed by Lauren Child.

I am drawn to all of Lauren Child’s books as much for her illustrative style, which combines textiles and real paper elements with Ms. Child’s sketched drawings, as for her infectious and charming characters.

I am NOT Sleepy is one of a series of stories (based upon the Charlie and Lola television series) about a little girl (I am guessing 4-5 years old) and her older brother Charlie. Charlie is often tasked with keeping his capricious sister in line–in this case, he has the monumental job of getting her ready for bed.  Lola pulls out every stalling technique in her arsenal and several make-believe animals all to avoid going to bed. Will Charlie succeed?  

As for my sewing project, I selected a trifecta of illustrations from this bedtime book that would make for perfect embellishments for Nora’s PJ pillow–Lola in her pajamas, her toothbrush and toothpaste, and her favorite snack: strawberry milk (for my daughter, it matters only that the milk is pink). 

The finished pillow uses a combination of linen, quilter’s cotton, vintage sheets, and, for the toothpaste tube and pink milk, a few scraps of Umbrella Prints left over from my Trimmings Pack.  And if you look closely, you’ll see the real 1/4″ buttons I used on the front of Lola’s pajamas.

I’ve used one of my favorite techniques–raw edge applique–to apply the pictures to the pillow front.  Here’s where I traced the shirt to the vintage sheets for Lola’s pajamas: 

A few more mid-process shots:

Once I finished up the design, I quilted it to a neutral interior fabric (with a bamboo batting sandwiched in between for stability and shaping).  The finished dimensions of the front are approximately 12″x14″.  

The 2 back panels are also quilted with a curly-q design similar to something I saw in the book.  The dimensions of these panels are 12″x9″–which provides about 4″ of overlap on the back of the pillow and easy access to the PJs within.  Here’s a shot of the back:

The raw edges of the back panels are finished with the same binding trim I used for the piping around the outside border.

Finally, here’s the construction of the pillow, showing the right sides of the two back panels against that right side of the front panel.  You can see me starting to pin in place the piping to be  sandwiched in between all these layers:

I can’t lie, this final step was a gigantic pain to sew because of all the layers (upwards of 8 in some places if you count the batting layers).  But remarkably it came out pretty well when turned to the right side. This type of opening is ideal for a quilted pillowcase such as this one since you can turn it to the right side through the finished opening.  Otherwise, you’d have to leave a 4-6″ opening and then try to hand stitch it closed after turning.

If I were to make the pillow again I would make the overall final dimensions a bit smaller (so the pajamas really fill up the pillow). I also think wider seam allowances, including that on the piping, would also make assembly a bit easier.  None of this seems to bother Miss N, however!

We’re off to bed!

Happy Crafting!