Archive | August, 2012

Crafting with kids

27 Aug

Even vacations are not entirely craft-free.  One of the projects I did this summer was a fun fashion design project with a young friend. It’s fun to see the “do it yourself” bug catch early, and creativity naturally expressed.
My crafty friend had cut off a pair of jeans into shorts, but the removed pant legs had embroidered gold stars, which she felt (and I agreed) were too fun to simply throw away. Her quest: to make a handbag or tote bag, out of the leftovers from her previous project.

The fabric, typical of re-purposed scraps, showed some wear, and required us to design around the frayed cuffs. So I trimmed off the most  worn pieces to see what size and shape this bag might want to be.  The following photo shows the embroidered star detail  that my young fashion designer friend wanted to preserve, in her design:

Then, we set about making all the choices inherent in up-cycled sewing designs: what  shape should the bag be? What kind of strap should it have? One strap or two? How long should it be, where do you want the bag to hang, on your body, as you carry it? What kind of closure: velcro, snap, or zipper? What fabric to use for the lining?

Of course, as with most projects, we were limited in the amount and styles of supplies we had on hand. But we went through the process step by step, and ended up with a bag.

Click to see how it turned out!

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Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing

25 Aug

Hello, sewing and fashion friends.  I took a little time off–off from sewing, and off from blogging, off from reading blogs about sewing (or anything, really).  I look  forward to catching up, and to giving my sewing room the  cleaning-out it needs so I can get started again.

In  the meantime, I received the most wonderful shipment in the mail: my copy of the long-ago  pre-ordered book,  Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing It’s a delightful, beautiful book.


I particularly love these illustrations, done by Sun Young Park. They’re part vintage pattern cover art, and part modern fashion illustration, and wholly contemporary and perfect for the subject of the book.

I’m going to assume you know about Gertie’s blog, and all the background, and that her book is about using couture techniques from vintage sewing in modern versions of retro styled pieces, and just  tell you instead why I, personally like this book.

First, though, I should confess that I have no patience for vintage couture sewing techniques. As you’ve seen, I am an “instant gratification” type of seamstress all the way. I have a short attention span, flit from project to project, and am the target market for all the “two hours or less” projects and patterns ever published.  I once signed up for an online sewing class on improving techniques through  learning couture methods (yes, that one) and I watch all of half of one lesson. Half.  Once I saw the recommendation for hand-stitching the muslin, I was out. I love my sewing machine, it makes things go fast. Hand-picked zippers? I have no interest. I get bored with a project far too often just between muslin and fashion fabric…if, in fact, I bother with a muslin at all. Patience, it is not my forte. When I see someone hand-stitching their seam-finishing, I want to scream “That’s  on the INSIDE! No-one will ever SEE it! It’s not holding anything together!” I have never, and might not ever join one of the millions of online conversations about the beauty of a well-finished buttonhole. The magic of sewing, for me, lies elsewhere.

Which means, in short, that I might not even have the patience to read all the chapters of this book, let alone try one of the projects. (Patterns are included with  this book, in sizes from 32″ to 46″ bust.)  For me, this a sewing cookbook. I have a whole shelf of cookbooks and I generally use no more than three of them for actual propping up in the kitchen and following along to make a meal–the three where all the recipes have ten ingredients or less, and whose meals are based around ingredients which I already stock in my kitchen.  If I have to go to a specialty market and ask for food items I can’t pronounce, it’s unlikely that I will ever accomplish any of those  recipes in my own home, unattended.

Sewing is the  same way, although I do like to try new techniques (one by one) and experiment with new gadgets (like my recent excursion in home-made bias tape). But  I also like to peer into how other people do things, in both their kitchens and their sewing rooms.  Gertie has given, in this book, as she does in her blog, a really good window for how-to voyeurs like me.  She gives good, clear pictures and simple illustrations so that if one day I really do want to do a faced horsehair hem, or bound buttonholes, I will have them in one place, on my bookshelf.

The very best part of this book, for me (beyond the beautiful projects and the retro styles, which  of course I love) is that she displays her projects inside-out. “Here, come look at what I’ve done,” this says. If I never use a Hong Kong seam, at least I have a reference on hand for what it might look like, if  I did. And seeing a horsehair braid used as a stabilizer in a skirt waist, from the inside, I  can understand why that might  be a useful step, and maybe one day might be tempted to try that one, myself.  So there’s a strong bit of fantasy to it, as with my gourmet  cookbooks: some day, I might  be the kind of seamstress who stabilizes waists with horsehair braid, or the kind of chef who has time for dumplings. But my turning everything inside-out, Gertie makes it seem not so difficult, after all, and maybe worth trying, one step at a time.

But until then, I will enjoy the lovely photos of multiple variations on each pattern provided, the encyclopedic illustrations of techniques  I might have elsewhere in my sewing library (like the old swayback  adjustment) but still appreciate seeing again.

In my fantasy future where I don’t get so impatient with things, I would make both the Wiggle dress and the Coat Dress. Yes, part of my problem is that it’s the more intricate designs that call to me…I should probably start with something simple, like one of the blouses, and go from there. But alas, it’s the more advanced ones that I favor! So I will trot off to my quick and easy projects, with visions of pad stitching dancing in my head…