Thursday, August 30, 2012

My Favorite Sewing Tools - The obvious and the unconventional

      Well, as far as storms go, God was very good to us, and we got off rather easy. We lost power for a day and a night (a very hot and muggy day and night I might add!), and the yard is rather trashed, but other than that, no damages. Funny how the loss of electricity always shows real quick just how spoiled we are! It'll probably take a decade for things to dry out around here, it's one soggy world outside my window.
      Okey doke, now that you've gotten a weather report...lets move on to the real post! It's no secret that sewing is my thing, I enjoy it completely. One of the purposes of this blog, is to help folks understand that sewing isn't as complicated or hard as people like to think it is. One way to make sewing easier is to have the right tools to use to do it. In this post, I'm going to show you some of my favorite tools of the trade...some of which you may already have, and some you may not have thought would be helpful.
  1. A sewing machine. Get the best one you can afford, and know how to use it, 'nuff said. I have a Bernina sewing machine (which I love), and a Kenmore serger (which I'm hoping to upgrade soon). By the way, don't assume a brand new model is better than an older used your homework. Sometimes the older models, although they have less bells and whistles, are actually of better quality than the new. 
  2. A cutting board with a measuring grid. I have a hard one that can be used with a rotary cutter, and this  card board one. The card board one is very inexpensive, less than $10 I believe at any local craft or fabric store. I use it every time I sew. The reason being, the grids lines save me from having to do more measuring and marking than is necessary. I can cut by following the lines on the board.

    3. A measuring tape. This is an absolute must. A sewn product will only be as good as the measurement you took to start with. Numbers are everything, and you need accurate ones. Again, this is not an expensive item to purchase, it is well worth the few dollars.

     4. A GOOD pair of scissors to cut fabric, and a small pair for snipping threads. Scissors are not thing to scrimp on, cheap ones will not do the job. I went for a long time hacking fabric up with the $10 pair of scissors. When I finally broke down, and bought a decent pair I saw the affects in my sewing immediately. I have several pairs of the small size that I keep wherever I work, I hate threads hanging out of things. Nothing screams handmade like hanging threads.

     5. French Curve Ruler. This isn't a "must" per say, but I highly recommend getting one. See this post if you want to see why I think they are so helpful to have.

     6. Marking utensils. I use tailors chalk (found at any fabric store), and a China marker (found in craft stores). The trick with a good marking tool, it to find one that doesn't require you to press down hard to get it leave a mark. Delicate fabrics, like chiffon, will slide everywhere if you've got to press hard to mark on it. The China marker does not wash off, so you if you use that, you need to make sure you cut the line off as you are cutting out the fabric.

      7. A note book. If you use patterns, using a note book will help you organize any changes you made to the pattern as you sewed it. If you don't use patterns, than the notebook becomes your "pattern book" to allow you recreate something you've already made.

      I use mine like this. I draw a sketch of what I want to make. Then I draw it out how I plan to cut it on the fabric. I figure out all the measurements of each piece needed for the garment on paper. I adjust the measurements for each size I plan to make of that garment. I make any notes about cutting or constructing on the paper to remember for next time. I try to make all the mistakes on paper first, before I've done it on fabric. I also give it a style number for organizational purposes, if I plan to sell it.  It doesn't matter how messy the paper is, or the bad spelling, as long as the garment works out correctly.

      8. A calculator. This goes hand in hand with the above. There is a lot numbers involved with sewing, and my little head doesn't work just perfectly. The calculator is my trusty sidekick to help keep me from stupid mistakes.

     9. Guides. This is a matter of preference for me. I like to save myself time whenever possible, so I cut neckline guides out of empty cereal boxes. I know for example, that when I want to make a boat neck top out of knit fabric, I need to use the guide that is 4 inches across and 3 inches down.

     10. Lastly, tweezers, a small screwdriver, and a stiff bristle brush (not pictured). Sewing machines are just like any other machine, they break, need adjusting, and need basic maintenance. Tweezers help me thread my serger and pull jammed threads out of small crevices. The screwdriver is needed to change out parts, or tighten loose ones. The brush is needed to  clean out all the fibers that collect in the machine parts, which if left, will cause the machine to malfunction.

       Obviously, a lot could be added to this list. I hope that pointing out a few of the less obvious sewing tools might be helpful to someone. Do you have a favorite thing to help you when you sew?

1 John 4:19   We love him, because he first loved us.
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Monday, August 27, 2012

I'm Back!

     So, just in case you were wondering, I did not fall off the planet. I've been travelling for the last two weeks, and I'm finally home! I got to see some family, hang out with my kiddos and my mister, learn that traffic around here is nothing compared to Chicago traffic, and drink way too many Starbucks coffees. I didn't even peek at Pinterest, read a blog, or touch my Etsy shop the entire time...and it was fabulous! A good break just has the best way of clearing your head a bit you know?
     There will most likely be many changes in the future for us, as we are making the jump from the military world to the civilian world. Very scary, and very exciting...I do love a good adventure! I'm not sure what that will mean for this blog, I suppose we shall see!

      It would seem I've arrived home just in time for a nice little hurricane to blow through, so that's just dandy. I'll be spending the day picking up, and putting away anything loose laying around in my yard instead of sewing the new projects I had planned. What was I just saying about adventures?...oh yes, I'm supposed to like them, even if they include hurricanes.

Smile, Smile, Smile Smile:)
     Hopefully I'll have internet later this week to post a real post! Have a happy Monday!

Psalms 104:24   O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches. 
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Friday, August 10, 2012

Friday Favorites

    1. This blazer which I managed to find for a ridiculously low price and purchased in both black and khaki. (In store is always cheaper than online for some odd reason) I do adore a good deal. 

Apt. 9 Peplum Jacket

      2. This little saying, which I pretty much just need to stamp on my forehead.

Before you act

      3. This recipe which I found on Pinterest...and made...and ate way too much of. Proceed at your own risk.

No Bake: Oreos, mini Reeses cups, chocolate pudding, cool whip, and peanut butter. aka heaven.

      4. The fact that my three year old walked up to me with her night gown wrapped around her waist and announced..."Mamma, if you cut the sleeves off of this you can make me a skirt!"...truly a girl after my own heart. Of course, I might not think its so cute when she's about 5 years older, and starts chopping up her clothes without asking! Hmm...maybe I should be more careful about which projects of mine she watches me do!

     5.  This little girls dress. Too cute. A little past my sewing skill level, but something to aspire too.

fashion forward little one

      Have a happy weekend!

Psalms 37:7   Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him:
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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Circle Skirts Reinvented - Hi/Low and Asymmetrical Hemlines

       Circle skirts are fun to wear and fun to sew. I thought would play around with changing up the hemlines on the basic circle skirt with some soft, drapey fabric I recently purchased. I did a hi/low hemline and an asymmetrical hemline, and I rather liked them both!

      I used black elastic for the waist, and lined them with a short underskirt. The fabric is thin, with a lovely drape, which is exactly what you want for a circle skirt. You don't want to add any unnecessary bulk to the hips with thick fabric.

(White top can be purchased here or made following this tutorial.)

      For the hi/low hemline, cut out a basic circle skirt as long as you want the longest length to be. (Made has a great tutorial, so go there if you need help with that.)

     Unfold the skirt.

      Start cutting one side as short as you want the short part to be and slope it down to meet the long part of the skirt. You want the slope to end about halfway around the skirt.

        For the asymmetrical hemline, leave the skirt folded and do the same thing.

      Check out this tutorial if you need help putting on an elastic waist with an underskirt. This is such a simple way to take a classic cut, and make it a bit more modern.

      I had to be content with short ones, because of the width of my fabric. I'd love to try long ones if I can get my hands on some 60" apparel fabric. So, what do you think? Are circle skirts allowed to be tampered with?
These skirts are available in either color in my Etsy shop.

2 Peter 3:9   The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Time...Fifteen ways to get more of it.


        Ever use the phrase, "I just don't have time for _____"? Not "having time" is a something I'm pretty sure we all have in common. It's by far my biggest complaint. The clock and I have race everyday, and it usually wins. Whatever your job, responsibilities, commitments, and hobbies may be, you have got to accomplish them in 24 hours just like the next person. In my opinion, time management is a skill, just like any other skill, that improves with discipline and practice. In other words, it doesn't come naturally. Some people are more organized than others, but even those people have work at it.
      For me, I have my set responsibilities....two little girls, a house, a hubby, selling hand made clothes and accessories both online and in a local shop, a blog, and the other social responsibilities and commitments that come with life. We live no where even close to family, so there is no sending the kids down to Grandma's so I can get an hour's worth of work done in peace. My sewing room is a converted storage shed, and not attached to the house. While my oldest is fine doing art projects while I work out there, the baby absolutely cannot go out there...its a baby's disaster waiting to happen with threads, pins, bolts of fabric precariously stacked, etc. That means sewing can only be done while baby is asleep. Needless to say, my time is precious and must be used wisely or nothing will ever get done. I've compiled this list of things that I try to stick to in order to make the best of my time. I am no expert at this, and certainly have much room for improvement. Just because these things work for me and my personality, may not mean they will work for you. This list is just meant to show you some ways you may not have thought of to help you make the most of your day.

  1. Have a routine. - I do the same things, at almost the same time, every single day. I get up by 6 AM, exercise, shower, eat a blueberry bagel and a cup of coffee while reading my Bible (yes, I eat the same exact breakfast every single week day. Lame. I know.), get kids up...ect. Not having to think about what is supposed to happen next, and what I need to get done in an of itself is a time saver. I stick to the routine, and even when I'm half asleep, I can get done what needs to be done, because it's muscle memory. 
  2. Exercise. - I hate exercise, despise it really. But, exercising give you energy, and energy = more done in a day. I carve out 30-45 minutes first thing every morning for it...and because I hate it so much, I do the exercise that gives me the most "bang for my buck", running. I do a five minute walking warm up, a  twenty minute run, and a five minute walking cool down a minimum of four days a week...but since it's part of the routine, its not hard to do more than that, and for a little bit longer than that. 
  3. Get ready for the day. - I'm a stay at home mom, so I should wear my PJ's all day right? Wrong. I've found that if you wear t shirts and yoga pants, you'll do t shirt and yoga pants level work. A matching outfit, brushed hair, and a touch of make up goes a long way to feeling my best and doing my best work.
  4. Multitask. - Gotta run outside to pick up the mail, take the trash out with you. Put a load of laundry in while your in the bathroom washing your hands. (my laundry is in the bathroom) Got to run upstairs to break up a fight, take the clean laundry up with you. 
  5. Work while you wait. - How many dishes can you put away in the 43 seconds it takes to warm up your kids lunch in the microwave? Make up the bed while the bagel is in the toaster. Put the coffee on before you run take a shower so it's ready when you get out. I think those who are best at time management are those who have figured out how to make their actions flow continuously and purposefully.
  6. Limit internet, TV and phone time. - I don't own a television so that takes care of that one for me...but the internet can be just as huge of a time waister. I could literally spend all day doing nothing but reading blogs and browsing Pinterest. So, to keep myself from falling into that black hole, I limit computer time to when I must be sitting kids lunch time. I can dish peas and pin at the same time. When they are done eating, I am done browsing. I don't talk on the phone usually, unless I'm driving (not the best advise I know), or I'm outside supervising kids playing. I can't be doing other work during those times, so that's when I can talk.
  7. Get kids involved with house work. - My girls are still pretty little, but the oldest is big enough to help a little. If I'm doing laundry, I give her one thing at a time and send her off to put it away, and she thinks its the funnest thing ever. She works off energy, and it helps me get work done win. 
  8. Prioritize. - Decide what is absolutely a must do, and what is not. For me, the kids and family come before my shop... my customers and getting their orders out, comes before getting a blog post up... etc.
  9. Keep the kids on a schedule, and work on that schedule. - When the girl are up and about, I do my prep work so that I can sew like a mad woman when they are asleep. I cut out a whole stack of things on the kitchen counter in the morning. When afternoon nap time rolls around I can get right down to business without wasting any time.
  10. Keep things in their place. - How much time does it take to go hunt down that thing you KNOW you left right THERE?! Been there done that. If everything has one spot, it takes one second to find it. 
  11. Plan ahead. - Decide the night before what exact work needs to be done the next day.
  12. Plan to do twice as much as you could possibly do. - By planning twice as much, you push yourself harder and you will finish more than you thought you could. 
  13. Make lists. - Write things down when you think of them, it frees the brain to focus on the task at hand.
  14. Take a nap. - Sounds counter productive doesn't it? Well, I can tell you some days I am just dragging. On days like that I sew sleeves to necks and cry over the scissors I can't find. I can get a lot more done by taking 45 minutes for a nap, and it will be much better quality work. I will say though, that naps can be mostly unnecessary if your routine includes a decent bedtime and exercise. 
  15. Last, but most important...Start the day out on the right note. - No, I'm not talking about the blueberry bagel and coffee...I'm talking about spending a little time before your work day starts talking to the one who loves you the most, God. No orchestra would ever dream of giving a performance without tuning every instrument to the tuning note. You'll find your day's performance to be much more in harmony with those around you if you've tuned yourself to God and His word at the start of it. Its a little less likely you'll explode at your kids, if you just spent 20 minutes reading a chapter about patience. When your mind and heart is at peace, your actions will be much more balanced and productive. 
     Like I said, I'm no expert at all of the above. Some days are a complete and utter failure. I know though, that the clock does not have to be my master. I can get done what I want to get done if I want to do it bad enough. Each new day is just that, new. I can do better today than I did yesterday, and so can you!

Philippians 4:13   I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. 
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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

How to add shape using a french curve ruler

       Ever seen one of these deally-bobs before? My mom bought me mine...and it sat collecting dust for ages. I didn't see the point of curved ruler, and I didn't have a clue how to use it. As expert sewers go, I'm sure I still don't have a clue how to use it! Ha! So, I'm going to show you how I use it, whether it's how the books say to or not. This ruler has become indispensable to me, because I don't use patterns to sew. This ruler makes sure that everything I sew has the correct amount of curve...and ten months from now, I can make another of whatever and it will turn out exactly as the first one did. 
      Almost everything I make starts out as a rectangle as wide as the garment needs to be and as long. By adding curves, and curved cut outs (neck holes, arm holes) it becomes the garment.

       This dress is going to be my example. It was constructed the same way I explained in this tutorial.(only without the sheer insert obviously) A dress has got more curves to work around than just a top, because it goes past the hips. For a dress like the above, I want curves in the sides, and the center back. I cut the front part of the dress on the fold, and the back has a center seam.  We are essentially going to use the curved ruler to cut a dart into the dress, without sewing a dart into it. For a side curve, I would first measure down from the top along the side where the armpit should fall...normally about 8 to 9 inches from the top. Then about 9 inches below that, I would mark a little dot about a half inch from the side. 

      Then I would play connect the dots using the one inch mark to about the nine inch mark on the french curve.

      Now I would flip the curve and trace the other half of the curve. By doing that, I get a completely symmetrical curve, that angle is precisely a half inch in the center of the curve.

      Once you cut that off, it doesn't look like much. Trust me though, these little cuts make a world of difference on how well something will fit.

      Now, for the back panels, I would cut the same curve into the side again. I would also cut a longer one about 6 inches below the neck on the center seam. The reason for that one is, your back is not straight. If you look into a mirror, your back curves like an "S". To have the dress follow the curve, you must cut one into it.

       This fabric had enough of a stretch that these little cuts was all the shaping it needed. Any other curve, such as an arm hole, or a hi/low hem line can also be made using this ruler.

       By flipping it around, you can get any curve you want, and more importantly, get the measurements of any curve. Measurements are the key to being able to reproduce something multiple times. I know that all is a bit technical, but I hope it's helpful to someone. At the very least, try drawing some curves out on paper first to see what variations you can come up'll be wanting to try it on fabric in no time!

Psalms 103:2   Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: 
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