Sunday, September 30, 2012

These are a few of my favorite things [from the past week]

Eee! My little tiny garden is growing! Lettuce, rosemary, and pinto beans.

I didn't sew at all this week because of this guy. He's taking 2 different medications via syringe that need to be given 5 times a day. He has to wear that poor cone that he hates. And our biggest difficulty is getting him to eat...he refuses cat food, so the first few days we had to hand feed him canned chicken and baby food. Good thing he's still cuddly.

We harvested this watermelon at one of the neighborhood centers that my program works out of. Sitting in a bed of mint and basil and some weeds.

Started my weekend off right with a rainbow on my commute home! And yes, my car was stopped for this photo.

Started playing with some ideas for the Pillow Talk Swap. I'm kind of terrified to create something for my partner...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Just a wee bit o' sewing

Amidst some pretty serious happenings these past couple days, I did some sewing. Not a lot of sewing, but I'm a little behind on bee commitments, which I feel terrible about because in real life I'm an extremely punctual person.  

It's a Mod Mosaic block, but I just couldn't follow Elizabeth's directions. I understand that it might have been easier to put together by making neat little rectangular chunks like in her tutorial, but I just couldn't get my brain to make it look mosaic-y without just kind of haphazardly cutting pieces. I think I was having trouble picturing the nice little charm squares in my fabric package turned into something all angular and cool. Needless to say, I have this nice little Y-seam waiting for me to set in the last bit of fabric. Sigh. 

And I finished making the last of my tiny HSTs. That have no purpose. They'll probably sit there for a while. With no plan. 

Ares loves HSTs

As far as the serious happenings, my tiny cuddly adorable kitten has been incredibly sick for the past 5 days. He won't eat, he throws up all the time, he's lost a ton of weight, he's been to the vet twice and had lots of tests done, and now he's having surgery today to try and figure out what's going on. I'm incredibly worried and I'm hoping to list some quilts and pillow covers in my Etsy shop in an effort to offset the $2000 in vet bills that I've racked up in 5 days.

*Linked with Fabric Tuesday at Quilt Story for the first time in forever!

Monday, September 24, 2012

The 100 Day Hustle

Kelsey over at Kelsey Sews had a great idea...The 100 Day Hustle! Apparently Saturday was 100 days left in 2012?! ZOMG. 

This is a little stressful to me for a number of reasons. First of all, my new job - I have a coworker right now with the same title as me who has essentially been running the program since its inception, but as soon as 2012 ends he will be leaving and it'll all be on me. So I have 100 days to soak up as much as I can from him! The other reason it's so stressful? I have so much sewing I want to do before the holidays! Seriously. Lots. So this is where The 100 Day Hustle comes in.

Make a To-Do List of things you want to accomplish before the end of the year. The ingenious part is that there are check-in link-ups through the remainder of the year to bring in that elusive accountability factor.

So here goes nothing:

Must Do
1. Commissioned quilt with American Jane focal fabric [already started, but stalled while I figure out how to make it not suck]
2. Commissioned pillow with The Hungry Caterpillar fabric [just received the fabrics this week]
3. Blue and orange quilt for my little sister [still trimming blocks, ew]
4. Set of pillows for my older sister's birthday [maybe 1 with some Potter Pattern embroidery?]
5. King-size quilt for my bed [this is on my 2012 resolutions list, but I haven't been able to buy the linen because it will obviously be quite a purchase...maybe this month!]
6. Pillow Talk Swap 9 [we should be getting partners any day now]

Really, Really Would Like to Do
7.. Halloween pillows for my couch [super simple, I have some cute Riley Blake panel pieces cut for this]
8. Washi tunic [since I've already successfully made the pattern making the tunic version should be quite simple]
9. Banksia top
10. Pencil skirt out of linen
11. Autumn bunting [everything is already cut for this, I just have to actually sew it]
12. Christmas tree skirt
13. Shower curtain for my bathroom

So that's it. Sort of. I have some ideal things out there, like putting together another pattern for sale, and I'm sure I'll want to make lots of things for people as the holidays inch closer. But that's sort of the big stuff that I know right now.

And that list of projects up there certainly doesn't mean that I'm not dreaming up new projects. Particularly with the bundle above, completely inspired by the Jenean Morrison Grand Hotel print on the far left.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

These are a few of my favorite things [from the past week]

Hey, I have an office! Ok, so this isn't mine...mine's actually to the right of this, but it looks the same and didn't have a computer, so I borrowed my coworker's [messy] space.

A big part of the program that I'm now in charge of is bringing container gardens to inner-city kids. So the kids in each of the sessions planted their gardens this past week! Everyone got a variety of herb, some lettuce seeds, and some pinto beans. I have rosemary in mine and it smells delicious! [In case you wanted to know, this young man has collards in his garden. I can now identify a collard by sight!]

I had to attend an evening board meeting this week and luckily there was a party going on next door. The party-goers were nice enough to share their pig-shaped cookies with us. And they were delicious :)

Baby kitty got a new toy at the end of last week...a crinkly little tunnel that he loves playing in. Unfortunately, on Tuesday he started getting sick and hasn't really been eating, so he's been to the vet and we're just trying to nurse him back to health :(

The view behind my office! Those are the employee gardens and are planted and worked entirely by the staff. There's a space for outdoor events, a butterfly garden, a vegetable garden, and more! When it cools off a little bit I'm going to start eating my lunch back there.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

When Quilts Go Bad - A Horror Story

My commissioned quilt is NOT going well.

The client chose the disappearing nine-patch based on the above quilt, which resides on my couch. I tried to explain that it wouldn't look exactly the same because there would be a wider variety of colors in the quilt I was making for him. He was adamant, and so I pressed onwards.

I think I'm going to replace the just doesn't fit the vibe...

And I still hate it. Seriously. It's BAD. Like, please don't comment and say it's not, because it is. I don't feel bad about posting about it because it's nice to know that people slip up every now and then. That's what this is. My fabric pull was all looked awesome in a stack. Now that I'm cutting and sewing, not so much.

1. Joel Dewberry Heirloom Quilt Top, 2. Wedding quilt - bound!, 3. Disappearing nine patch for mum, 4. Happy Holly Days - Jan2010

So I was looking at how I could alter the layout of the disappearing nine-patch, and came up with some examples that might lend themselves better to the fabrics that I have to work with. It was suggested on Flickr that I need larger solid areas for the eyes to rest. I agree, and I'd love to work in some more cream-colored and neutral fabrics. The only problem that I'm working with now is that I can't buy any fabric, I have to work entirely with what I had. It's a little bit of a challenge.

It's my personal opinion that most bloggers out there don't show things that go bad. Sure, quilting lines might be wobbly, or there might be a pucker in the finished quilt, but I can't remember the last time I saw a post where a quilter admitted that "Wow, I thought this fabric pull looked great at first but when I started sewing it was just awful."

So. Here you go. I thought this fabric pull looked great at first, but when I started sewing it was just SO awful. Now I need to turn it around!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Schoolhouse Tunic Fabric Ideas

For those of you who are sewing along and would like to show it off, I'll have the button up on my sidebar this evening when I get home from work. But right now is all about what fabric to use for your Schoolhouse Tunic!

The pattern fabric suggestions read: "lightweight cotton or linen fabric with a nice drape". So what exactly does that mean?

Obviously that means that you can use quilting cottons, but the "nice drape" part is very important. The tunic used in the button was made from a Khristian Howell fabric that was fairly crisp, like the feel of the Washi fabric. If you want to use quilting cotton but are concerned about the drape, consider using an Art Gallery fabric or Cotton Couture [such as Sarah Jane's new Out to Sea line!] because they have excellent drape and a silky feel. Quilting cottons are the 44-45" width listed in the fabric requirements, so you will need 2 3/8 yard for the shirt length and 2 7/8 yard for tunic length. Please note that fabrics with a directional print, such as the anchors, may require additional yardage to ensure that the print is facing the correct way in all pattern pieces [for example, you might not be able to just lay a sleeve in a leftover square of fabric because the anchors would end up sideways, etc]. If you already have a directional print fabric and want to see if it will work, lay out all the pattern pieces first to find the best layout. You can always lay the placket pieces out last since they will be inside the fabric, so it doesn't matter as much if they are a little wonky.

What if you want the simplicity of sewing with cotton but don't want to use quilting cotton? Chambray is an excellent fabric to use for this. I personally love the look of chambray, and think it's such a classic fabric. You'll usually see it in a blue, but I've had my eye on this gorgeous plum chambray that I might have to pick up soon if my resolve weakens. Cotton seersucker is also nice. Seersucker is that fabric that has a slight nubbly texture to it. You can find seersucker in all sorts of versions, including variations that aren't as obviously textured as others. I made my 2nd Schoolhouse Tunic in a seersucker plaid.

Now I know that many people are starting to sew for fall, so these next options might not be for you. But if you live in an area that won't get cold for a few months, or you want to make a tunic/shirt that will be great for the spring and summer, voile is a great option. It will create a finished garment that is more flowy to the body then the crispness of the 100% cottons mentioned above. Voile would be perfect if you're looking to create a dressier top, or if you're looking to make it sleeveless to wear under a cardigan. The thing to note with voile is that it is slipperier to sew with, so if this is your first garment then I might hold off. However, it is a luxurious fabric to wear against your skin. The voile on the left in the picture has more of a sheer cotton feel to it, while the AMH voile on the right is very silky feeling. The other thing to note about voile is that it is traditionally wider than quilting cottons...anywhere from 50-60" wide. Take this into account when purchasing yardage. If you're nervous then you can purchase the regular amount listed and you will just have extra fabric leftover, which is not a bad thing!

If you're even bolder you can sew with a cotton blend, such as a cotton-silk blend. This will be even slipperier than voile, but can have very lovely results. 


And linen...we can't forget linen! I love to sew with linen, and think it makes great clothes that can be casual but "nice casual."  I have yet to make a linen Schoolhouse Tunic, so the lovely example above was made by Evelyne at Hand Sewn Home Grown. 100% linen can sometimes be tricky to sew with, but luckily we have those great Essex cotton-linen blends to solve that problem. And they have so many beautiful colors now!

Have you sewed a Schoolhouse Tunic before? Perhaps you can take it to the next level on this tunic by using a border print fabric? Fabrics such as the one shown above take a little more thinking when laying the pattern pieces out to cut. You could have the border print just on the bottom of the tunic, or it could appear somewhere on the bodice, etc. I would not recommend using a fabric like this if you are a new garment sewer.

Moving beyond cotton fabrics you can use a variety of dressy fabrics that tend to be polyester blends. Obviously this will create a completely different look for your finished garment. A fabric such as the one above would make an excellent flowy, fancier dress. It would also create a top that could be worn much more easily with dress pants. This type of fabric particularly would lend itself well to the optional elastic at the sleeves.

I am currently making a Schoolhouse Tunic for fall out of this Amy Butler lightweight corduroy. I bought it completely without a plan earlier this year and had thought to make it into a skirt. But hey, a tunic is better! So if you are willing and comfortable enough to perhaps have to alter some of the pattern instructions in order to use fabrics like this then by all means, please do so. Just make sure that the fabric has a nice drape; you don't want your body to look like a box. To test the drape prior to cutting into the fabric just pinch a bit of it in the middle and hold it up. Does it fall gently or does it remain stiff?

I don't have any pictures but I'd imagine that a lightweight wool would make an excellent Schoolhouse Tunic dress too!

Just a quick note on the yardage amounts: No, I've never used the full amount of fabric listed on the pattern. First, I've never used a directional fabric. Second, I still buy the listed yardage because I like to be safe. Then you have some extra if you want to change the pattern or you mess up. I like to keep all the extra bits of fabric from projects to use as pockets or facings or bodice muslins, etc.

Just keep all of this in mind as you shop for your fabric! There are some great sales going on right now to take advantage of, including the code SPIN15 at Pink Castle Fabrics for 15% off, and the automatic discount on 3+ yards at Hawthorne Threads! If you're nervous and want to check that your fabric will work, feel free to email me!

Make sure to come back 3 weeks from today, on October 8th, for the very first post of the sew-along :)

These are a few of my favorite things [from the past week]

This was my entire week [I actually did a lot of other stuff in the evenings, but I was like a zombie when it came to taking pictures this week]. I came home every night mentally drained from a week of intensive training. Friday night I even fell asleep for 2 hours after work. I just need to get back in the routine of constantly being around people...I'm lucky in that I'm a person who runs great on 5-6 hours of sleep, but always having your "face" on at work is definitely draining at first. I'm loving it though!

Does anyone have any good recipes to take to work for lunch? I don't always want to eat peanut butter and crackers but I'm not really a turkey sandwich kind of gal.

**My friend Jennifer over at Knotted Thread just opened up a fabric shop! So now she has a fabric business and lives in Hawaii...sigh...but let's all support her in this venture and so make sure you stop by and read all about it in her post!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Sew Liberated Schoolhouse Tunic Sew-Along

I'm very pleased to announce that the overwhelming majority of responders wanted to make the Schoolhouse Tunic by Sew Liberated! This is a fantastic pattern, especially if this will be your first garment experience!

Meg was so gracious in allowing me to lead a sew-along, and she has also offered a 10% discount on her website to buy the Schoolhouse Tunic pattern! Their discount code section is currently experiencing problems, so to receive the discount please email  orders [at] sewliberated [dot] com and mention that you are participating in the sew-along at Sew Festive Handmade. Meg and her team will then issue you a refund via Paypal. 

The sew-along will officially kick off on Monday October 8th, leaving you over 3 weeks to purchase and receive your pattern and fabrics. I will be posting this upcoming Monday, September 17th about the variety of fabrics you can choose to use on your tunic and will have a fancy schmancy button by then too!

We will work through the pattern in a total of 4 Mondays, so that by Monday November 5th you should have either a tunic/shirt/dress! Then on the 5th of November I will host a link-up here so that we can all ooh and ahh over everyone's fantastic garments!

-October 8th - Sizing and Cutting
-October 15th - Assemble Bodice Pieces and Sleeves
-October 22nd - Make Skirt and Attach to Bodice
-October 29th -  Finish the Sleeves and Hemline
-November 5th - Link up your finished Schoolhouse Tunics back here!

-Sew Liberated Schoolhouse Tunic Pattern
-2.5 yards of 44-45" fabric for shirt length, 3 yard for tunic length, and additional if you want a longer dress [this fabric should be lightweight cottons or linens; quilting cotton works great if it has a nice drape...more will be discussed next Monday!]
-1/2 yard of 1/4" elastic for the sleeves if desired; I will also be giving alternative sleeve options
-Coordinating thread - there is topstitching in this garment, so be aware of that
-Tracing paper for tracing off the pattern

Each of the days will include pictures of each step of the process, along with tips and tricks from me. I will specifically be addressing things that I think might throw a quilter off during the sewing, along with just general information. And because this is such a versatile pattern, I'll also be walking through the various adjustments and modifications you can make to the pattern so you can have a completely original Schoolhouse Tunic, such as sleeve differences, embellishments, etc.

So who can participate? Anyone! Haven't made a garment before? No problem! Don't have a serger? Me neither! I want to make sure that everyone can be successful, so please let me know if you have any questions :)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A New Normal

Yesterday was my first day of work.

For those of you who don't know, I'm now working with the domestic version of the Peace Corps, called Americorps. This federal program works all over the United States to combat social injustices like homelessness, literacy issues, general poverty, etc. I am specifically working with the Orlando government because our city was awarded a federal grant to implement a number of programs. I'm now responsible for recruiting and training volunteers, marketing, and community outreach for a program that has set up community gardens at inner city community centers. These gardens will be planted and cared for by at-risk youth as they learn about gardening, healthy eating, and the fact that there are indeed adults that care about them and can be consistent in their lives. Some of these children come from terrible backgrounds, and many have home lives where they may never have a parent home, or may not yet know how to read, or have enough to eat. This program has already proven to be very successful in its objectives in just the first year of operation, and I have a plethora of plans and idea for how to build on and improve from here.

So anyways, it's a job that may just be full-time but often requires additional hours at nights and on the weekends, as nonprofit agencies are often severely understaffed*. This may affect the blog for a little while as I get in a rhythm and learn to balance home and work life [which I've never been good at; I'm one of those employees that will work through the night if needed, regardless of additional pay]. Another enormous part of the job is the fact that those of us who work under this federal grant do not earn a salary...we earn a living stipend. This stipend is specifically set below the poverty level so that we can better empathize and understand the communities that we are serving. As a result, I'm not sure how my fabric-buying will be impacted. I'm lucky in that I've basically been living at this same level for the past year as I finished up school and lived on savings from previous jobs, but it will be a mental shift to know for a fact that I won't be getting a job that has a more stable financial background [it's only for a year, because that's the term of service].

*Please please please consider volunteering within your community if you don't already do so. It does so much good!

All that being said, I'm incredibly excited, and looking forward to soaking up all the education I can about nonprofits, because my goal is to eventually work in nonprofit management with at-risk youth, so the fact that my job entails grant-writing, media appearances, and corporate fundraising will be especially helpful! 

Oh, and I plan to make a Banksia for my new professional wardrobe with some blue dressy fabric that I have in my apparel stash...I need more work clothes and I already have the pattern and fabric, so it's basically free, right?

All right, after all that personal mumbo-jumbo from above, I did a teeny tiny bit of sewing earlier this evening!

My brain is filled to the brim with knowledge from training, and whirling with the fact that I've landed myself in a bevy of local politics purely by the fact that I work out of City Hall and represent the mayor when I'm out in public. I wanted pretty much the easiest sewing ever for some mental breathing room!

Enter a baby charm pack, courtesy of the last round of the Pillow Talk Swap. No fabric cutting, woo!

Simple HSTs. They'll only finish at like 1.5", so I'm not really sure what to do with them yet. They totally worked for what I needed at the moment though!

And for those of you who voted on a clothing sew-along, thanks so much, and I'll have some more info for you later this week!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Would you like to sew along?

I've been toying with the idea of hosting a clothing sew-along for a while now. I specifically want to cater towards quilters who might want to expand their sewing skills into some clothing for themselves. I'd like to tackle a pattern together and demystify some of that weird clothing pattern language for you!

Burdastyle Kasia Skirt - this version sewn by Eunny Jang

Burdastyle Jenny Skirt - this version sewn by Kelli of True Bias

Victory Patterns Ava Dress or Blouse [I know, not super autumn-y, but classic!]

Fall is right around the corner for anyone who doesn't live in Florida, so I'm looking to make some clothing that can straddle the summer/fall season line. I'd like to sew-along in October. I have put together a list of possible options for a clothing sew-along [see pictures and links above]. If you say to yourself "I can sew a perfect 1/4" seam allowance and FMQ the crap out of a flat piece of fabric, but buttonholes and 3D sewing gives me the heebie jeebies," then this might be the perfect opportunity.

Please take a moment to fill out the survey if you're interested in sewing some clothing along with me so that I might know where to go from here. The pictures of the finished product are above, and are in the same order. Thanks!

These are a few of my favorite things [from the past week]

My little sister turned 18 this week, so I went up to UF and stayed with her for some of the Labor Day weekend. I certainly do not miss dorm beds!

We splurged and got an awesome 50" TV during the holiday sales. Loooove. Project Runway looks much better on the big screen :)

Because sometimes you just want to eat donut holes for lunch. And sometimes, you wish you had gotten more pumpkin ones.

Decorated for fall earlier this week with floral arrangements and autumn leaf door hangers and window stickers, but couldn't resist already putting up the "Funkin" that my dad carved me last year! The holidays are coming, yay!

This week we took a lot of kitty naps. Under a quilt, being hugged by a kitten? Yes, please.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Sartorial Saturday: Washi Dress

So what is it about this Washi dress?

That's a question I got last week from someone. And I thought about it and didn't really have a good answer. I'm not sure what made me greatly anticipate the release of this pattern. I think the simplicity of it appealed to me, and as someone who finds the Big Four pattern company patterns to really be lacking in instructions for beginner clothing makers, I was hoping that an independent designer would take more time in the directions.

So I cut out the pattern pieces for a size Medium, as that is what best matched my bust measurements. But as you'll notice, I made some significant changes. I wanted to make the dress for a wedding I'm attending next month, and I wanted to use 2 yds of a linen-rayon blend that I bought months ago. I thought that the shirring on the back, while a fantastic aspect of the pattern, would make the dress more casual than I wanted. So I decided to omit the shirring and instead add an invisible zipper on the side seam.

What do you need to do to the pattern to accomplish this?

Cut the back piece as a separate bodice and a skirt. Cut the back bodice at the bottom shirring line. Follow the rest of the markings. I cut the front skirt out again for the back piece...because there's no shirring in the back of mine, I wanted to have the pleats in the back for extra shaping. Make sure that your new back skirt piece is as wide as the back bodice piece, or adjust accordingly. I had to remove one pleat from each side in order to achieve the right width. To clarify, I did not pleat the outermost set of pleat markings on each side of the back skirt.

Follow Rae's instructions to make the front of the dress. I also altered the pattern instructions a bit by not cutting into the bodice for the bust darts [see picture of the seams further in the post]. This means that I didn't have to finish the edges of the darts, and it doesn't affect how the bodice lays on my body at all. I also didn't add pockets, because I don't tend to use them in nicer dresses. To omit the pockets you just follow the dotted line down the side of the skirt piece that marks the tunic sides when tracing on your fabric, and just extend it all the way to the bottom.

After I held my pattern pieces up to myself I realized that I didn't like where the bodice hit on me. It hit right under the bustline, and I would have wanted to lower it by an inch or two so it hit more at my natural waistline. However, I had already cut all my pattern pieces. I solved my problem by adding a waistband. I simply cut two strips that were 3.5" wide by the length of both the front and back bodice. I sewed those to both bodice pieces before I continued making the dress.

In order to add the invisible zipper you will simply sew the shoulder seams first, then add the zipper to whichever size you prefer. I sewed the zipper up to approximately 1/2" away from the armhole so that I could finish the armholes properly. Then add a hook-and-eye closure at the very top.

I should have known that everything was going so well that the zipper would be a fiasco, and it sooooo was. I'm actually a pro at installing invisible zippers by now, but you know what I did not once, but TWICE? I pulled the zipper pull off the teeth after sewing the zipper to the dress. I don't think I've ever cursed that much in my entire life. Sailors would have blushed had they heard. Good thing I had 3 zippers on hand...

I chose to finish all the seams I could as French seams, so the inside is the cleanest garment that I've ever made. Woo! You'll notice the seams are pretty wide. I had to remove almost 4 inches from each side of the dress [I didn't make a muslin; I just fitted as I went] and almost 3 inches from the hem [I'm almost 5"3] so I made the side seams wider and the hem deep so that I could have a little wiggle room if necessary. So next time I think I'd make a medium bodice and a small skirt.

My favorite things about the pattern? The different colors for the different sizes on the pattern is fantastic. Seriously, so helpful! I also enjoyed learning how to make a placket, and it came out really nicely for me! Rae gives a few different options for finishing parts of the project, which is also awesome, because I don't really want to hand-sew on garments if I can avoid it.

Things I didn't enjoy about the pattern? It's pretty vague when discussing understitching the placket to the bodice. I have absolutely no idea what that means, and the pattern didn't give me any clues at all. As a result, my placket is still wiggling free until I figure out what to do with it.

My final verdict? Great pattern that has the ability to be adapted to make several different items. Totally worth the price. So go get it! I'll be making a tunic version next :) This time with shirring!