Saturday, September 29, 2012

Very Hungry Caterpillar Skirt

 The skirt is done! And yes, you're right. It wasn't supposed to be a skirt. It was supposed to be a dress. For some reason, it didn't work. I could not get my altered pattern pieces to make a nice bodice. They wrinkled and looked strange and bunched and didn't line up. I think I altered them wrong somehow.

There was probably a way to rescue it, but remember, I wanted easy. Enter plan B: a pleated skirt. I took my scraps, drafted a waistband, and pleated in the skirt pieces from the dress. It's not done, and I love it! I have a bunch of pictures, sadly all cell-phone quality. Here they are!

This is the skirt unhemmed. It's not an awful length, but it's rather matronly, and I'm not a matron.
 This is it pinned to the length I hemmed it to, hence why the right side looks lower--I didn't quite pin it there. It falls to just above my knees.
 I am so pleased with this waistband. It fits me perfectly. There is no gaposis anywhere. Of course, the downside is that if I gain any weight, it won't fit any more! Haha. I drafted it using the saran wrap and masking tape method, and I love it.
 My waistband looks nice and professional. It folds over the zipper. I put the zipper in by hand, as I always do, and it lies nice and flat. I love the fact that I could use an interestingly colored zipper.
The funniest part of this project might be the fact that this skirt fits little J as well as me.
It rides lower on her hips, of course, and it's much longer, but it does fit her. In the past few months, my siblings have been growing like weeds. Th is now 13 and has only about two inches to go until he passes me in height. People sorting clothes regularly confuse my T-shirts and 10 year old B's. I think I am on track to be in the smaller half of my family within the next year or two.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Skills I want to learn

I need to work on my skills gradually, because my current method of sewing is stupid. Currently, I pick things I like and do them as well as I can--if there's something I don't know how to do, I skip it or do a poor job of it. I wind up with ill-fitting or badly constructed clothes, and this makes me unhappy.

So. These are the skills I want to learn, in no particular order. Please recommend your favorite resource for learning them--book, video, blog, class, whatever!

1. Bodice alterations. My particular issues are narrow shoulders, slumped shoulders, and a small bust. I think probably a princess seam is the easiest to alter, so I may start with that.

2. Pockets. I can easily sew pockets if they're in a pattern, but I would love to know some pocket theory so I can add them to patterns that don't have them.

3. Buttonholes. They're easy on a machine, but my machine can't do them, and my handmade ones are sad and pathetic.

4. Facings. Mine never work right. They always flop and stick out. I need to learn either how to do them properly or replace them with a lining. Or something.

5. Underlining. The one time I tried it, it did not work well. I don't know what I did wrong, but the top layer stretched out and got all baggy. It's not pretty.

6. I don't even know how possible this is, but it would be nice to know how to alter RTW tops. (See fitting issues above.) I don't really feel like sewing complicated things like jackets, at least not yet, but they never fit me!

Any other skills I should know, but clearly don't?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Costumes and clothes

I am first and foremost a clothing seamstress. It's what I do best, what I enjoy most, and what I find most useful. And yet the vast majority of my sewing these days is in the costume shop at school. I spend 10 hours a week there, plugging away at all sort of things--making quilt squares, fixing stuffed animals, altering patterns, altering clothes, making muslins, and all sorts of things. I enjoy this job, I really do. It enables me to keep up and improve my skills through tons of sewing.

But at the same time, sometimes it feels like taking a path that runs right next to the one I would really like to be on. I am getting better at sewing. Since starting to work at the costume shop, I've learned how to do things I didn't know how to do, like cuff men's pants or make machine buttonholes. These are useful. And yet if I had the choice, I would cut back my costume shop hours and spend more times sewing clothes. Costume sewing is sometimes more and less precise than regular sewing, and I find this to be frustrating at times.

It's helpful for it to be more precise, when it is. I have a tendency to say good enough and let it be. On stage, the bright lights make it easy to see flaws such as poorly done hems or color mismatches. The need to get these things right is good for me.

However, there are times when you can cut corners in a really serious way, and it's fine. Last time I was in the shop, I altered a pair of pants. I needed to make them smaller. I picked them up, and this is what I saw:
The pants had been too small for someone else, and had been altered by sewing a triangle of flannel into the back of a pair of dress pants. It looked awful. But in the costume scene, it probably didn't matter--the actor probably wore a jacket to cover it up. Since costumes will be used for specific, designed movements with preordained matching clothes, there's no need for them to be able to be worn in any other circumstance. As long as no one will see it, you can cut corners in a pretty serious way. That, I think, is not so good!

For as long as I need to work this many hours a week, I will continue to be grateful that my job is in a field I love. But if I ever get the chance to step it down at the shop and up at home, I will be, as a friend would say, on it like Blue Bonnet.

Anyway, I'm sorry for the total lack of sewing reports lately. My Very Hungry Caterpillar dress has taken an unexpected and major deviation, but I should be able to report on that soon. Maybe by the end of the weekend? We'll see.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Updates from the tech side!

So, a few updates! These are all tech side updates, although I do have a sewing update, as well as some photos!

First off, I found out where my disappearing comments went. Apparently Blogger puts all anonymous comments into the spam folder automatically. So that's solved--I'll just make sure to check the spam filter regularly.

Second of all, I added a blog list on the right. Due to either a Blogger glitch or my technological stupidity (I never know which...) I couldn't add blogs from my following list. So I had to add them all manually and individually. This means that I am sure I have forgotten some. If your blog isn't on my blog list and you think it should be, let me know! Criteria are just that I like the blog. Feel free to suggest a blog (yours or someone else's) even if you don't know if I already read it--I'm happy to discover new blogs.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Sewing machine musings

So, as people who have heard me talk about sewing machines know, I would like a new one. My sewing machine is very simple, which is ok, but I would like more features. Mine can go backwards and forwards and that's it. I don't need a lot of bells and whistles, but I would like the capability to do buttonholes and zigzag stitches! (I don't think there's anything else that's I forgetting something?)

My first thought was to get the Bernina 1008. This is the machine we have in the costume shop, so I know how it works. It's also reliable and sturdy, since it withstands the abuse that novice sewers pour on it every day. Sounds great. Except for the price tag. $1400 MSRP. Ouch, and I mean OUCH. That's a ton of money. I have read that you can get it for about $800 if you shop around, but that's still a pretty hefty sum.

So. I was looking around on Amazon for something else, and the Janome HD1000 popped up at the edge of my screen. That seems more reasonable--$300 selling price, with a list price of $600. Janome is the brand of my first sewing machine, Marianne. (I gave her to a friend last month, by the way, in an effort to declutter.) So I have pretty good experiences with them--yes, Marianne developed what I think were some timing issues, but that was after I shoved her in a trunk and drove her 1200 miles. So I will cheerfully accept responsibility for that!

Does anyone have any comments on either of these machines, or a suggestion as to another brand or specific machine to look at? I don't have a specific price range in mind, but all other things being equal cheaper is better. I don't want to pay more than I need to, but I don't want garbage. I want a machine that will last, and last well.

Suggestions? Thoughts? What machine do you have? What are its pros and cons?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Want to help a little orphan?

So! Big news. Those of you who know me in real life know that my sister has a heart for the oppressed, disadvantaged, and handicapped, especially children. She is involved in the Reece's Rainbow project, which is an organization that raises money to help handicapped children be adopted and families to adopt them. (As you may know, adoption can be extremely expensive!)

Teresa has committed to fundraise for a child this Christmas, and I have said I will help her. We're going to do an online auction to raise money for the child Teresa has chosen to help, as well as some other things.

I'm asking you to help me! There are three things you can do.

1. Donate something for us to sell. It doesn't necessarily have to be handmade, but it should be something that actually has some resale value--it's a little late in the year for a garage sale.

2. Give me some ideas of things I can sew that are not that hard to make and people will actually buy.

3. Pray/offer good thoughts/hope/insert your verb of choice for the success of our fundraising!

Please do 3 at the least, and if you can do 1 or 2, that would be amazing! To help us out, leave me a comment or email me. (I think Blogger provides a way for you to email me without me posting my email address for the spambots of the internet to feast on.) For more information about the fundraiser and about Reece's Rainbow, you can check out Teresa's blog, Sleeping Under God's Wings.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Back to real work!

Today in the costume shop, we were working! Our shop manager is back and I walked in and was assigned a job immediately. I made the muslin for a skirt. It took a little under two hours to cut out the muslin and sew it together. I don't have any pictures, but I hope I will be able to get some later. (When the head of the department is in the costume shop, I don't like to bring in my phone and start snapping photos.)

The play we're doing is Hedda Gabler. There's a Wikipedia page about it with a long plot summary, if you, like me, are unfamiliar with the play. I think our costumes are going to be gorgeous. I love the piles of fabrics sitting around the shop and the sketches are beautiful. I'm super excited for the costumes to come together! There are lots of purples, and I love purple.

Let the semester's work begin!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Disappearing Comments?

Twice in the last week, comments have disappeared from this blog. I'm not sure why. One of them was clearly a spam comment, the other one didn't seem like one at all. (I know what they said because I get email notifications from comments.) Both were anonymous comments. Both times, when I clicked on the link in my email so I could respond to the comment, it had disappeared. I don't know if the author(s) deleted them, or if my blog is screwing up. Any input would be appreciated--and don't worry, even if it does disappear, I see the text of all the comments, so if someone wants to try sending through an anonymous or non-anonymous comment to test, that might be helpful!

In actual sewing news, I started work at the costume shop on Monday. The shop manager had an accident and has been out the whole week, so we have been organizing and working on packets. I finished my packet last year, so I worked on my quilt square. (Then I finished that, so I drooled over Patternmaking For Fashion Design a little bit more.) I thought I would share a picture of my finished quilt square.

Can you guess what emotion it is? It's torment. When everyone is done their square, we'll sew them all up into a wall quilt.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What's a $4,000 Suit Worth?

I really enjoyed reading this article from the New York Times. It's about the custom garment industry, and how it's, somewhat surprisingly, not a very lucrative industry at all. Well, I guess it's surprising, but also not surprising. A gut reaction to a $4,000 suit is that it must be insanely overpriced and the creator must be making a killing. But these $4,000 suits are custom made, so there are no economies of scale, and I am sure the fabric is insanely expensive too. The first man the article talks about only makes about $50,000 a year.

I wonder how much of a market there is for this kind of suit. On the one hand, having something truly custom made must be completely awesome. I have one dress that I did enough alteration on to consider it custom made (that is to say, I have one dress where my alterations actually worked...) and it's incredibly wonderful to wear. But I wouldn't pay $4,000 to have another one like it. I wouldn't pay $500. On the one hand, I am a poor college student, so that probably affects that fact quite a bit. On the other hand, being extremely oddly shaped, as well as knowing how to sew, I know exactly how awesome a custom made dress would be. If I had $4,000, would I consider it? Probably!

It seems even more attractive when you consider that people who wear suits probably need to look professional. I mean, I'm a college student. I try to look reasonably nice, but if I don't, it's really not that big a deal. In terms of work, I could wear anything I wanted to the costume shop, and almost anything I wanted to tutor in--the standards there are obviously a little higher, but still not hard to achieve. I can go with the styles that work around my figure oddities. Imagine if I worked on the Hill, or something! The thought of trying to find a blazer that fits makes me want to cry.

So, what's the conclusion of my ramblings? I don't even know. The more I think about it, though, the more sense this makes...if you have that kind of money, which is obviously a big big if! What are your thoughts? Have you ever had anything custom made?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Book lust

Today at the costume shop, I got a chance to look through a book, and now I want it. The book was Patternmaking for Fashion Design, and it looks awesome. It has directions for how to draft custom patterns for just about everything you can think of--swimwear, pants, tops, dresses, leotards, and so on. I would love to be able to make patterns that were custom to my body.

The tricky thing is the price tag--at $90, I would want to be super confident of following through before I bought it!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Today's Duh, I'm a Moron Moment

Sewing machines work a lot better if you put the bobbin in. You know, just in case you were wondering.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

No More Captchas

JillyBeJoyful alerted me to the fact that those horrible captchas which are totally illegible are Blogger's default. I had thought that mine were still the easy-to-read ones they were when I decided to add comment captchas.

Anyway, they're gone now. I can't read them, and I'm 20 and have excellent vision. I can't imagine what sight-impaired or more, shall we say, well-seasoned people do. If I get a lot of spam I'll moderate comments, but I'm not too worried. Those captchas are not an option to me!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Jelly in Pictures, Part 2

(Here is part one.)

After you have made the juice, you have to turn it into jelly. Essentially, you add a bunch of sugar and cook the sugared juice until it's reaching the jelling point (8* above boiling).

Here is the process in pictures.
The juice with the sugar, cooking. I put the sugar in too early, but it doesn't seem to have caused a problem.
A tricky part (for me) is remembering that all the jars and lids have to be sterilized! I did it in a steamer basket, but you can use paper towels and a pot with water in it just as well.

A jam funnel makes it easier to not get jelly on the threads of the jars.

The finished product!
 Except, there's a little lie there. The picture above is not the finished product. My jelly has turned into a three step process again! Stay tuned for part 3, which will come as soon as possible, pending schoolwork.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Jelly in Pictures, Part 1

Yesterday I set out to make more jelly. A colleague of my father's has an orchard, and he gave Papa a bag of apples with the caveat that they were better suited for applesauce or something similar than for regular eating. I decided to make jelly. This time, though, I took pictures!

Jelly is a two step process. You cook the fruit and drain it to get fruit juice. Then you turn the fruit juice into the actual jelly.

Here is the process in pictures!
Start with apples (or another fruit)

Quarter them, but don't core or peel them. Stick them in a pot.

Cook them until they're mushy, and then let them strain through cheesecloth.

If you have a fruitfly problem in your house like I do, cover your fruit!