Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Tale of an Eyelet, or, Why I never get anything done around here

See this?

This is an eyelet. Specifically, an eyelet that was required in order to proceed on a project that's been stewing in my sewing room for about a month.

And this is why it took a month to sew one stinkin' eyelet.

The Beginning
My son wants a new messenger bag, modeled after a "Bag of Holding" we got for him from the Think Geek catalog. Only, he wants it to look "Tron"-ish, with a glowing wire on the front flap of the bag. No problem; I happen to have one of those I bought in Puyallup more than a year ago, from Peacock Patterns.
In order to run the wire onto the outside of the front flap, I would need to sew an eyelet onto the front flap panel. No problem; I've got eight sewing machines and one of them surely can sew an eyelet. The machine I use for all my zigzag work is my old Bernina 930 . I sat down and looked at the stitch options. Hmm; no eyelet. I looked in the instruction book and didn't see any way to sew an eyelet.
No problem; I'll just lower the 930 into the cabinet and plop my Viking 1+ on top of it and use that to sew an eyelet. I pressed the lever to lower the Bernina and... nothing. It was stuck.
I looked into the recesses of the cabinet and saw that one of the wires had come loose from the pulley mechanism.
No problem; I'll fix it. Hmm. Easier said than done. I futzed with the lift mechanism while it was still in the cabinet but there's simply no room to maneuver under there. Luckily it's easy to remove: I unscrewed the top plate, unscrewed the side supports, and... SPRANG!!! The cables were under tension, and they immediately flopped all over the place, so I had no idea where they should go.
No problem; I'll find a diagram somewhere on the web. No such luck. This is an older model cabinet, and all the current cabinets have a totally different lift mechanism. After trying to figure out the correct path for the wires, I gave up and contacted Horn of America. This was last Friday, and their tech had already left for the weekend. So I shelved the project until this week (after all, Diana was home and we were in the thick of designing her Otakon costume).
Yesterday I got a call from Jeff, the technician at Horn, and he was able to email me the diagram for the cable paths. With that assistance, it took maybe ten minutes to get the cables in the right place. But then I couldn't figure out how to reinstall the whole mechanism.
No problem; I'll email Jeff again. And indeed, he was able to email me another page of instructions to install the lift mechanism. So, this afternoon, the whole assembly was once again installed, and working better than ever (leading me to believe it had never been cabled correctly to begin with).
Back in business! I lowered the Bernina and closed the table lid, then put the 1+ on top of the table and plugged it in.
Uh... Where's the eyelet?
The basic stitch cassette included some buttonholes, but no eyelets.
No problem; I've got more stitch cassettes. I looked at each one of them... no eyelets.
It took me maybe five minutes to remove the embroidery unit from my Designer 1, find the eyelet stitch, do a test or two, and stitch the eyelet in place on the front bag panel.

My father had a favorite saying in German: "Warum einfach, wenns aus kompliziert geht?" (which translates as "Why do it the easy way when you can do it the hard way?")

It's the story of my life.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Otakon 2011: Improving on Mother Nature?

You might remember the Mother Nature costume I made for my daughter for last year's big Anime convention in Baltimore. She was delighted at how much it was admired. Well, she has asked me to create a new costume for this year's convention... and this time, she wants me to go with her, so I will need a costume as well.

During her visit home this weekend, she brought out the sketches of what she envisioned for this year. It was all inspired by a pair of earrings she found during a trip to Philadelphia last week:

These are especially appropriate for her, seeing as how she is doing an internship on the Eastern Shore, and is intimately involved with all things aquatic. So, as a follow up to last year's Mother Nature, she wants to go as Mother Ocean.

Here is her initial concept sketch:

The sketch on the left shows the underdress, which she hopes to be able to re-use as a non-costume dress in the future. So she doesn't want any adornments on it (like the leaves on last year's dress). The sketch on the right shows the proposed wrap, with strings of shells as the sleeves and the wrap closure embellished with a large scallop shell. She's also envisioning a cape made of fish netting, adorned with shells and crabs and perhaps strands of seaweed (fake, of course... we don't want to be attacked by the seagulls in the Inner Harbor!).

We went to Joanns for a quick fabric search, to at least figure out colors and drapes. Here are the three we came away with:

The center teal fabric would be the underdress; I'm envisioning it done with Fortuny-like pleats (perhaps using this method for the pleating). We also picked up a yard of the pale blue chiffon on the right, as well as some white organza.

I'm going to make a trial version in half scale, just to play around with the style.

What do you think? Remember that the goal is to be noticed, and stopped for photographs. And what do you suggest I make for myself as a costume? I was thinking of making a jumpsuit covered with plastic grocery bags and water bottles, and going as the Pacific Garbage Dump, but Diana says that political costumes tend to be avoided. Oh well.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Yet Another Dress for Diana (with Tutorial!)

A few weeks ago, my daughter Diana and I went to New York City for a few days. While we were there, we did quite a bit of snoop shopping. One of the items we found was in the Anthropologie store in Chelsea Markets. It was a very simple knit dress that was seamed in an unusual way. She really liked it, but not the price (about $108!). As soon as we left the store I sketched out the dress and said I would make one for her.
   Another stop was Metro Fabrics, where the (in)famous Kashi listened to the description of the dress and immediately pulled out the perfect knit for it.
   Today, with Diana visiting for the weekend from her summer internship, I took a few measurements and made the dress... all in about an hour and a half.

Here's the front view:

It really is a very simple dress: no darts, just two seams.

Back view:
Diana used a black scarf as a belt to give the dress some shape. Without the belt, it really is very loose.

Here's a close-up of the binding and straps:

Folks, this dress was dead simple to make. It took just a few measurements. It's so easy that I'm going to give you the instructions right here.

Here's a diagram with the measurements you'll need:
A: distance from bottom of armscye to desired length
B: distance from side to center front (baseline front)
C: distance from side to center back (baseline back)
D: distance from side to bust point
E: distance from side to desired location of back strap
F: distance from bust point to desired location above bust
G: distance from baseline back to top of back strap

Measurement A is also used for the center front and center back.

Layout and Cutting:
You will need 3 yards of 60" wide fabric, preferably a very lightweight knit. Cut it into two pieces and rotate one 180 degrees so the pattern and grain are running in the same direction. Lay them out right sides together. C will probably be shorter than B, so keep that in mind when laying out line A.

Mark the center line A as your reference line; it needs to be just a bit off-center of the midline of the fabric. Draw lines B and C perpendicular to line A. Mark the points for D and E on the baseline, then mark the lines F and G perpendicular. Connect the ends of the lines with gentle curves, as shown in the diagram.

The width of the dress is limited only by the fabric. From the outer end of lines B and C, draw a line the length of A, angled out as far as the width of the fabric will allow you. Join the ends of the A lines with a curve.

Sew the center front and center back seams, preferably with a serger.

To make the binding: use some of the scrap fabric and cut strips 2" wide. Fold in half, and then fold the raw edges in on both sides to form double-sided binding. Sew the binding to the armscyes first. Trim the ends to the raw edges of the front and back curves.

(How I sewed the binding: I matched up the raw edge of the binding to the outside of the dress, then stitched along the fold with a regular sewing machine. I then folded the strip to the inside and topstitched close to the edge to "seal" the binding.)

Find the center point of another long strip of binding and sew it to the front curve. Try the dress on and pin the straps to the back curve at the desired location. Sew into place, seaming the binding at the center back. Hem the dress, and you're done.

Diana has already requested a second dress using the same "pattern." If you decide to make one, please let me know how it went! I'm still kind of new at writing tutorials.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

One Last Smithson Picture

Several people asked what Bob's vest looked like for this year's Smithson gala. Much to my chagrin, I neglected to take a picture of it that day! However, the official photographer did get a shot of us, and I finally received a copy of the picture today.

You can see that Bob's vest and tie did indeed match my outfit!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Hey, I DO have a sewing table!

Well what do you know... There was a sewing table underneath all that crud!

The pile on the floor at lower right is the "To Be Tossed" pile. The rest of the fabric is in some new bins. Although I hated the idea of buying more bins for storage, I realize it's the only way I'm going to keep the room somewhat organized. I'm not quite done with the organizing, but am happy with the progress.

As for yesterday's Twist shirt, I've cut down the sleeves but haven't resewn them yet. I hope to get to that tomorrow, as I want to complete a show-and-tell for Sunday's PatternMaster Users' Group meeting.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

More progress, with a Twist

I'm continuing the archeological dig through the layers of my sewing table. Today I uncovered five mending projects: three pairs of pants and two shirts, all belonging to my sweet hubby, all needing very minor fixes, and all have been waiting for attention since before the move.

I did get one project finished today, because I really needed the lift that comes with completing something. It was something I hadn't tried before: a twist-front top from Wild Ginger's new PatternMaster Knits program.

Let's just say that this one won't be part of my regular wardrobe. And therein lies yet another frustration: I see pictures of garments that look terrific on a wide assortment of bodies... except mine. I have no idea why. With this one, I think it's the deep Vee neckline that just isn't flattering. And I don't like the sleeves, either; they're too long and too floppy. Serves me right for not checking the settings before printing out the pattern.

So, progress is being made. Thanks to all of you for your wonderfully supportive comments; they really do help keep me motivated.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Progress and Planning

I really do appreciate all the wonderful comments on yesterday's post. Having something of a "cheering section" will certainly go a long way towards motivating me to get my act together.

I got about a third of the table cleared off today, and in the process found a blouse that I had cut out A YEAR AGO. The cut pattern pieces somehow survived the move back to Redwall, and have been languishing under the mess on the table since DECEMBER. Ugh. So I figured I had two options: throw the pieces out, or start sewing the blouse. I opted for sewing the blouse. Now I have the front and back sewn, but I didn't want to fire up the iron because it's just too darned hot today. Still, once I press the seams I can put the bodice together, add the sleeves, add the facing, and do the finishing work. I'm hoping to get it all done tomorrow.

Part of the issue is, I'm sure, the fact that this sewing room actually has less storage space than the other house. There is storage space in the basement, but the last time I went that route it became too much "out of sight, out of mind." It was just way too easy to forget the huge stash in the basement. Now I've decided that all my stash must be stored in the sewing room itself, so I can have a clearer picture of just how much I have. There is some sorting to do, and decisions to make: do I really need 15 pillow forms, left over from my drapery business days? How about the huge box of Robertson self-tapping screws for installations?

I've really had to admit to myself that this accumulation of stuff is not helping my creativity; instead, it's distracting me so much that I can't focus on what I want to do. It's going to be difficult to find the balance between stash and space.