Thursday, November 19, 2009

Making Progress

I worked on my jeans a little more today.  Yesterday I got the fit to a place where I think I can be happy with it.  Then I took apart the "muslin" and decided to sew it for real to practice all the other parts of making jeans: topstitching, rivets, placement and design of back pockets, etc.  Ideally, I'll be able to wear them a bit, re-evaluate the fit, and then make another pair out of another cut of denim that I like better than this one.

Muslin pictures:

I'm happy with the fit in the front.  The rise is a little higher than most of my jeans, but I'm going to leave it as it is with this pair.

I'm not as pleased about the back.  After looking at these pictures, I went back and worked at getting rid of the wrinkles pointing to my high hip.  I will put pockets on the back, but wanted to work on the fit without them in the way. 

I tried pinning out the wrinkles under my seat, but when I did, I couldn't sit.  Well, I could, but it was rather inappropriate.  My bum wasn't covered so well anymore.  So, the wrinkles stay in the name of sit-ability.  When I stand like in the photo below, the wrinkles aren't so noticeable.

Okay, now let's leave my behind behind, shall we? 

Topstitching is a pretty important part of sewing jeans.  I tested out two different types of thread that I have on hand.  I thought I might need to check out a couple more, but I was satisfied with the one.  I first tried Coats jeans thread.  By the fourth pass (right to left, below) I had found the best tension setting and thought this thread could work pretty well.  Then I tried Coats upholstery thread and like the look of that better.  It's about the same weight as the jeans thread, but a little smoother and I like the color (less gold, more brown) better.

My Pfaff handled the topstitching pretty well, but I was concerned about it being able to stitch through seam intersections and doing the topstitching along those seams.  The first test wasn't beautiful, but it did do it.  For the second one, I pounded the seam allowances at the intersection with a hammer.  This worked pretty well.  The seam allowance was much, much flatter.  The denim did look slightly distressed after pounding, but not enough to keep me from using that method.

As you can see from the pocket picture below, I'm having a harder time getting nice stitches close to the edge than the second row of topstitching.

I'm not sure why it looks like the thread is different colors in different places.  Odd.  It didn't look like that before I uploaded it.

The front pockets and back yoke seam are finished and that's as far as I can go until I get some Wonder Tape to use on the fly.  I haven't used it before, but it seems pretty important for the method described in the instructions.  I'd also like to pick up some rivets and start playing with those.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I'm not going to pursue the gift card bag idea.  Again, I'm really grateful for your feedback.  You had lots of good ideas about how to improve them, but for the following reasons, I'm not going ahead:

1.  The question of what to make the bags out of is a big one.  The white felt I used didn't look that great.  I think it looks better in person than in the pictures, but not different enough to go ahead.  If I had some quality wool felt, that would be a major improvement.  It would have a nicer texture and appearance and it also wouldn't be such a stark white.  The appeal of using felt is that the edges don't need to be finished.  No seam finishing, lining, etc, and it is substantial enough to support embellishment.

2.  My thought was to make them and give them to the school to sell.  They are not a big ticket item and I can't reasonably make piles of them, so they wouldn't really bring in that much money.  Not enough to make it worth my time.  There would be more time and money spent on improving them and then all the time in production.  I'd rather just donate some of the other money I've made from sewing and be on my merry sewing way.

3.  The question of what one would do with it after receiving it is significant.  It could be re-gifted or used as an ornament or as a gift bag for some other small item, but none of those things are really necessary and I really think we need fewer unneccesary things, not more.  Christmas involves enough waste as it is, I don't need to increase that.  Interestingly, the felt that I did use was made from recycled plastic bottles.  I thought that was cool.  Too bad it doesn't look nicer.

I'll likely use the three bags I made without shame, but won't be making more.  I like sewing better than crafting.  These were definitely crafting.

But, sometimes it is fun to make something other than clothes.  Like this little ball that I made yesterday with my son:

The free pattern is available here (lower right sidebar).  He picked out the colors and helped me with the pins (taking them off and putting them on the magnetic holder) but enjoyed the stuffing part the most.  That was fascinating for him.  It's good to have a small, soft ball that can be tossed around inside the house.

Next up:  More work on the jeans.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Liturgical Sewing

This past Sunday was the start of a new sermon series at church.  It will run until Christmas, covering different aspects of prayer with the theme of "Come, Lord Jesus."  The Preacher asked me to make a small banner to hang on the front of the pulpit to go along with the theme.

This sort of sewing makes me nervous.  I've said it before and I'll say it again:  I'm not an artist.  I don't have great ideas for interpreting themes or symbols or combining them and I feel pretty inexperienced and uncreative in what media and skills I am able to use.  Church banners are a little like theatrical makeup - it has to be a bit over-the-top up close so that it looks okay from a distance.  Anything too subtle just gets lost.  Size and scale are much different, too.  I don't have much confidence in my ability to judge these things in the design/construction phase.  And then knowing that the thing is just going to hang there week after week for a couple hundred people to stare at.  Yikes.

After talking over with the Preacher about what he had envisioned, I made a trip to Fabricland and was pretty pleased with the choices I had.  I wasn't very optimistic before going.  There is a purple table runner that is also used on the communion table, so I was aiming to match that and came pretty close.

The only thing that is sewn on the whole banner is the outside edges.  Everything else is fused.  The purple ribbon is fused to the white ribbon in 7" sections.  There is a 1" gap in between for the gold trim to slide under.  The gold trim is tacked down on the purple ribbon where it passes over it.  The lettering is just a font from Microsoft Word, increased to the size we needed, printed as an outline and then traced on Heat-n-Bond.  Cutting it out was a little fussy, but they look better than I was expecting them to.

The gold trim is hard to see from the back of church and the white ribbon and satin letters look silver rather than white.  I think it would look better if there was more space between the letters and the white ribbon, but it is what it is.  My own insecurities about the project make it hard for me to be very objective.  I was grateful for a couple of positive comments about it on Sunday.

Since it has been awhile since I've done any garment sewing for myself, I thought I would ease back into it with something nice and easy.  Jeans.  I think I might be foolish.  I have the J Stern Jeans pattern and have been wanting to try sewing jeans for awhile now.  I also have the Jalie jeans pattern, but I'm not so excited about stretch jeans lately.  I have the practice pair put together and have been tweaking the fit issues for the last couple of days.  I'm not sure I'm satisfied yet.  It's going to be a long(er)-term project.  More to come...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

More Wine Sleeves

Thanks so much for the feedback on the gift card bags.  All of your comments were very helpful.  I haven't decided for sure what I'm going to do yet, but I'll keep you posted.

Three more wine sleeves, ready to go:

Now that I've made a few of these and have all the gliches worked out, they come together pretty quickly.

Two of these are going to my MIL who wants to give them as a gift.  The other will go to the shop for sale.

Next up:  Something for ME!  I don't know what yet, but it doesn't matter.  As long as it's for ME!  :)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Soliciting Opinions

When I was looking for inspiration for the stockings I made, I saw these little bags and they kind of stuck with me.  With a little modification, I thought they would make good gift card "holders".  My daughter's school sells gift cards as a fundraiser.  Many of you are probably familiar with this sort of program.  If you aren't, I'm sorry, but I can't really explain it since I'm not sure I understand it myself.  Anyway, understanding the program isn't important. 

I was thinking that maybe I could make some of these and give them to the school for them to sell with the gift cards for the Christmas season.  I haven't run this idea by anyone at the school yet, but I thought I would make some samples so that they would know what I was talking about.

I was thinking that they were pretty cute.  Then I asked the Preacher what he thought.  His response went something like this:
"Honestly, I really don't like them.  I don't think they are cute at all.  Rickrack just doesn't seem very modern to me.  It looks like something someone's grandma made that you then pass over at a garage sale."
To which I thought, "Well.  How pastoral of you."  Just kidding.  I just had that thought now while typing.  :)  I was a little surprised, but I was grateful for his honest opinion.  I don't ask his opinion unless I really want it.

So then I looked at the little bags differently.  Maybe the felt and the rickrack together was all just a little too....crafty.  And I went back and looked at Martha's site and thought, "Yeah, mine definitely aren't as cute as hers."    Maybe this isn't a good idea at all.  But, I did like them before he said he didn't.  Now I'm not sure what I think.

I included a gift card in this one to show the scale.  When all the way in the bag, the card is completely covered.

If these were just for my personal use, I wouldn't really be concerned about it, but I don't want to spend any more time or money on something that isn't going to be successful.  And I really don't want to saddle the school with something unhelpful.  So, I'm asking for your honest opinions.  What do you think of these little bags?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Draft Busters

A woman I know asked me to make these for her son who lives alone in a large, old, drafty farmhouse.  It sounds like the heating bills can be a little tough to swallow.  These will sit on the floor in front of the closed door to block any drafts that normally would come under the door.

2009-11-10 draft busters 001

They're just a tube of fabric, sewn closed at both ends.  I wouldn't have picked this fabric, but that's what she gave me.  It is some sort of knit fleece, with a fair bit of stretch.  It was smooth on one side, but very fuzzy on the other.  I wouldn't have picked white for something that sits on the floor, either, but it wasn't my call.  I wanted to get rid of the stretch, so I underlined (that seems like a much too sophisticated word for this application, but I guess that is what I did) it with bleached muslin.

2009-11-10 draft busters 005

I haven't made this sort of thing before, so I did a little online research about them.  My biggest question was what to fill it with.  Some were just stuffed with polyfil, others used sand, kitty litter, beans or rice.  I went with rice.  I thought it would be most successful if it had some weight to it, but also could be molded a bit to fit tight against the bottom of the door.  And I didn't want to it be expensive.  I think it was a good choice.  The second layer of fabric helped to keep it looking smooth.

2009-11-10 draft busters 008

One of these is really long - 75".  It's for a set of double pocket doors like the one in the picture above, but bigger.  The other is 39".  I cut long rectangles, 8" wide by the length needed plus 2" for seam allowances.  I sewed one end closed by machine when I sewed the long seam and sewed the other closed by hand after it was filled.

2009-11-10 draft busters 003

These had just been sitting on a chair in my sewing room, but the kids are having too much fun playing with these "snakes."  I put them away because I'm afraid they're going to be all dirty before they get picked up and brought to their new home!

Monday, November 9, 2009

I Forgot to Mention...

Someone (anonymous) asked where I got the embroidery designs for the tea towels.  I meant to include this info with the initial post, but forgot.  The Christmas ornaments are from a purchased piece of clipart.  The Christmas candle is available here as a coloring page.  The other two designs are from  There are a lot of other designs on this site that I would like to do someday.  For all of the designs, I printed off the design and then traced the back side of it with an iron transfer pencil (against the window to be able to see it better).  Then I ironed it on the towels.  I found this worked well because it reversed the design, making it the right direction on the towel and I also could easily see the placement of the design.

The 500th birthday party for John Calvin was a fun evening.  The hat was a hit.  Here it is in action (with "Calvin's" permission):

In my previous post, I mentioned an art show that I went to.  The woman that hosts the show asked me if I wanted to be part of it next year.  She had asked me before this year's show (after she saw my things at the fair!) if I would be interested in doing it next year.  I said I thought I might, but I'm really glad that I made it to the show this year, so I know what it's like.  I'm quite interested, but a bit intimidated, too.  I've never done anything like that before, but thoughts and ideas are already rolling around in my head.

Well, I think that's all the bits and pieces I forgot for now.  Next up...draft busters.  Yup, they're as exciting as they sound.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Fur Mitts

On Friday evening the Preacher and I stopped at an art show.  A woman that we know hosts it annually in her pottery studio.  Most of the art was her pottery, but she invites some other area artists to exhibit their work too.  One of the artists this year was a woman that makes things out of reclaimed fur.  The most common things were hats, mitts, and muffs, but there were also other things like slippers and fur-trimmed objects like purses.  The Preacher bought a pair of the mittens.

They are rather unique.  The cuffs and the palms are soft leather and the fur is Alaskan Seal.  The inside is fur, too.  They are really warm.  They are also really big.  They don't stay on my hands (but they're not for me, so that's okay).

Unfortunately, the artist wasn't there when we were, so I didn't get to talk to her.  The construction of the mitten looks pretty simple, but I would have had lots of questions for her about sewing fur.

I don't have much experience with fur, but these are the softest things I have ever felt.  This post is taking me a long time to write because I just keep petting them!  I'm not usually one to question God's good creation, but it almost seems a waste to put something like this on an Alaskan seal.  Who would ever pet it?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Christmas Stockings

So I didn't make my goal.  I was hoping to have these finished earlier in the week so they would be on display at the open house event last night.  I just finished them this morning.  But, since my son was hospitalized with the H1N1 flu and pneumonia for the first half of the week, I'm cutting myself some slack.  The little guy is doing well now - he gets tired out easily, but is taking long naps and sleeping well at night.

Anyway, I came up with three stockings.  Since these have a limited shelf life, I didn't want to invest much in them.  Everything came from my stash except for the beads on the flower.

The first is made from uphostery fabric that I picked up a few years ago at a thrift store.  The whole piece was about half a yard and the price tag was still on it: $.50.  The cuff is a velveteen that was left over from a different project. 

The flower is made from poly organza and you can find the tutorial here.  It was fun and so easy to make.  I purchased the beads since I didn't have any beads or buttons that would look good.

The next one is made from old sweaters.  The cuff came from a beautiful lambswool and mohair sweater that I loved but accidently shrunk a bit in the wash.  I washed and dried it two more times to felt it more and it came out really soft.  The green sweater was just getting too old and worn, so I tried felting that one, too.  It was a wool blend, so didn't really felt very much.  The right side of the stocking is actually the wrong side of the sweater.  The right side didn't look as nice.

The stocking is sewn right sides together by machine and then I added the decorative blanket stitch with embroidery floss by hand in the seam allowances.   The stocking is lined with a woven cotton for a clean finish, but also to make the stocking useable without it stretching out too much.

The holly leaves are cut from the same green sweater as the stocking.  I fused interfacing to the back side before cutting out to keep the edges from raveling and to keep the leaves from stretching while I stitched them down.  The decorative stitching around the leaves is done by machine.  The holly berries are buttons covered in the same velveteen as the cuff on stocking #1.

Since the fabrics I chose for the third stocking all were different weaves and weights, I used foundation piecing, even though the blocks are not complicated.  I used muslin for the foundation.  I figured this would give the patchwork front more body (I didn't want to quilt it) and also help support the trims and embellishment I added.

I wanted a bit of the crazy quilt feel, but nothing over the top, so I added some ribbon or trim to each block and a row of decorative (machine) stitching.  The outside of the stocking is piped with black satin piping leftover from this project.

The back of the stocking is a solid black moleskin - satin on one side, sueded on the other.  The sueded side is the right side, but I did use the wrong, satin side in some of the patchwork on the stocking front.

I was initially hoping to do four stockings, but the idea for the fourth one just wasn't coming together.  And then with the hospitalization "hiccup" in the week...well, I decided that three was good enough.  I dropped them off at the shop a couple of hours ago.  Bring on the holiday shoppers...