July 24, 2010

Killing Two Birds

Posted in Sewing 101 tagged , , , , , , at 11:57 am by kdthreads


One of the best ways to learn and master new sewing skills and techniques is following directions on commercial patterns.   Sew and Stow by Betty Oppenheimer has some great visual explanations and the text does a good job of communicating instructions to beginning sewers. What I like about this book is the number of projects that create organizational devices for sewing! As you are collecting tools and learning, you can make some storage solutions at the same time and “kill two birds with one stone.”

If you buy the book and sew one of the items, post a photo (or several photos of your creative process) and post it in the comments section!

July 23, 2010

Filling the Dressmaker’s Tool Chest

Posted in Sewing 101 tagged , , , , , , , at 12:09 am by kdthreads

It will not take you long (or cost much money) to gather the basic tools needed for sewing. (If you did not view the videos on sewing tools, do so now!) As your skill set and confidence level grows, your tool kit will probably grow too. The notions wall in the fabric store can seem like a disorganized, intimidating mess tucked away so no one has to help you! If you do not have an experienced sewer to bring along or a quilt shop in your area that sells supplies, read on and familiarize yourself with these products.

A Word About Sewing Baskets

If you are like me, part of your sewing dreams included a sewing basket, tastefully adorned, and practically a time machine transporting you to an era of simplicity and elegance. Unfortunately, these darling icons of homemaking are not practical. They are generally too small and are not configured to house the tools for the job. Even if you are only doing some hand sewing and want to keep a minimal amount of tools, the basket won’t be big enough to hold your project, or secure enough to keep pets or children out. If you are taking sewing out with you, a storage device that keeps your tools locked up and protected from any weather are both a must. I had a lovely sewing basket (a grandmother’s) carefully placed on the floor the the foot well of my car, but after a winding road and slamming on the brakes, I had 250 glass-head pins strewn around the car. I spent my day searching for pins with a flashlight and a magnet instead of sewing.

At the same time you create a budget and plan for purchasing/acquiring your supplies, also decide on your organizing. If you do not have a sewing machine and plan on hand sewing, maybe you could designate a sewing “chair” under a good lamp next to an endtable with storage space. If you have a machine and a place for it to stay out permanently, store your supplies there in drawer unit (either clear plastic type, or a desk or dresser.) If your sewing supplies need to be portable, try a large toolbox or bag from the hardware store. A plastic container with clip-on lids with a handle makes it easy to see inside and come in multiple sizes. A favorite place of mine for drawer dividers and tiny baskets (made for things like cosmetics) is the Dollar Tree. My main sewing toolbox is actually a miniature cleaning caddy on a table, and I have wooden racks for storing thread. Most of these items are plain, functional, “Made in China” boxes and no where near as sweet as a basket, but with your new skills and wealth of knowledge your creations will be so beautiful you will forget about the lure of the sewing basket.

Shopping List :

July 18, 2010

Is “Project Runway” the Motivation Behind Your Sewing?

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , at 2:59 am by kdthreads

Project Runway Season Four

It is time for true confessions!  If you have watched more than 5 episodes of this favorite reality show, leave a comment!  If you are a fan of Seth Aaron Henderson, leave a comment!  If you wish Tim Gunn would pop up in your life every few hours to check on you, leave a REALLY long comment!  For those of you who don’t know what on earth I am talking about, visit http://www.mylifetime.com/shows/project-runway at your own risk.

I avoided this show for a while convinced that it was obnoxious, tacky and tasteless, but then my boys went camping for a weekend and there just happened to be a Project Runway marathon on Bravo.  I went from hating Heidi Klum to thinking she is adorable and an incredible business woman.  I had no clue Tim Gunn existed, but now “make it work” and “you need to resolve this” are part of my daily conversations.  Michael Kors was just another random store and Elle magazine was something I avoided, but now I keep Michael and Nina Garcia’s (now Fashion Director for Marie Claire instead of Elle) critical voices in the back of my head because they know their stuff! 

I would probably never wear 80% of what went down the runway in the last 7 seasons, but I can appreciate the work (or sometimes lack thereof) that goes into each challenge.  Personally, I don’t think making a garment in 24 or 48 hours is intimidating (especially with no kids running around,) I would struggle most with having to sketch, design and commit in 30 minutes then shop at Mood and purchasing everything in 30 minutes!  I have spent over 4 hours in a fabric store firming up a design, calculating yardage, choosing fabric and trying not to forget all the notions I need. 

One thing I’ve discovered about the show is the level of sewing skill impacts the competition.  Many a tasteful and prioneering designer were booted off due to poor “execution.”  Yet the designers who know how to sew but have done very little fashion designing often stick around (like Wendy Pepper or Laura Bennett) and even show as finalists at Fashion Week.  Could this be you?  Absolutely, but you will need to add some additional items to your Shopping List (see my page about assembling your tools .) 

Tools Specifically for Fashion Design:

  • At least one dressform sized for the person modeling the garments (this could be you, a friend, spouse, etc.)
  • Draping tape (the ribbon-like strips you see designers sticking to the dress form to create style lines.)
  • A full-length mirror or three full-length mirrors that can be placed in a corner for enhanced viewing.
  • Muslin and pattern-drafting paper for creating (and saving!) your patterns.
  • Curved and straight styling ruler
  • Patternmaking tools such as a tracing wheel and pattern punch.
  • Awl
  • Hand tools and hammer for applying snaps, eyelets and other hardware.
  • Fashion Design textbooks: either visit your local library, or shop online towards the end of Spring and Fall semesters for students selling their books.  Books on fashion history, fashion drawing, figure drawing, patternmaking, and a basic concepts and techniques book should get you off to a great start. 

Project Runway has a retail website which includes suggested sewing kits and other fun stuff (Prym USA is the parent company for Dritz, Omnigrid, Project Runway sewing supplies and more.)  Threads magazine has a great article on making your own dressforms here.  If you make a purchase from Fabulous Fit, you get free access to comprehensive information on designing, draping and fitting with a dressform; visit FabulousFit.com and click on “ebook.”

Note: if you just want to sew clothes from commercial patterns these items are optional.

Whether you are an aspiring Project Runway contestant, or you just want your own clothes to fit like a glove, you do not need a pricey degree from a Fashion Institute.  If you are on a budget, grab your duct tape and follow the tutorials with Threads magazine.  A video tutorial by me on how to measure for clothing is coming soon!  Thanks for reading and please subscribe.

Carry On!

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July 16, 2010

Irons: Tips, tricks and what NOT to buy.

Posted in Sewing 101 tagged , , , , , at 4:59 pm by kdthreads

Every seamstress needs an iron that has the ability to steam or successfully NOT steam when you only want heat.  When my mother bought her first Rowenta iron back in 1997, I suddenly fell in love with ironing.  The generous weight pressed down on the garments with less effort, the steam shot was so powerful (it scared our Cocker Spaniel) that is could set stitches or remove wrinkles in just one pass with the iron.  It felt good to use and seemed to make ironing easier and anything that makes ironing at all enjoyable is worth every penny! 

That is the other element of Rowenta irons: pricey.  Imagine my delight when my mom made a gift basket out of a laundry basket with starch, lingerie bag, sizing, and hangers for my bridal shower, and tucked in the center was a Rowenta box!  I was thrilled to begin keeping house (or apartment) with my Mercedes-Benz of household appliances at my side. 

Well…not too long after my wedding, the Rowenta stopped working.  Around the same time, my mom’s Rowenta began spitting hot water any time it was plugged in (3 years after purchase.)  We both thought these irons would be the last we ever bought.  Somewhere in the last decade, my sister also bought and lost a Rowenta.  My mother purchased a replacement Rowenta, and it did not last long either.  You may be wondering if we are running some sort of pressing service that we are exhausting our irons so quickly, but I promise we are not! 

The iron my mother gave me was $99.99.  In our early marriage years, we did not have $100 to spend on anything, much less an iron.  When no irons showed up at the thrift store, I headed to Target where I figured I would by a Black and Decker or even some off-brand iron for $14 or so.  The cheapest iron only had one heat setting which is only useful if you are ironing nothing but linen.  Most people have a variety of fibers in their clothes, and a seamstress certainly needs a few options on her iron.  I found a Hamilton Beach for $19.99 that fit the bill; however, it was out of stock.  The next iron up was $44.99 and out of my budget.  I took a chance and asked an associate if there were any more in the stock room, but the answer was “no” since the iron was discontinued.  Aha!  I quickly haggled for a bargain on the shelf model and came out with a new iron for $10. 

The Hamilton Beach is no where near as heavy as a Rowenta, nor does it have the “power shot” steam feature, BUT I bought it 7 years ago and it is still working fine.  The moral of the story:

  • Look for an iron with at least 6 heat settings to ensure an actual variation in temperature.
  • In addition to steaming, make certain there is a way to turn this feature “off” as well.
  • A spray nozzle is a bonus, but a spray bottle can do the job.
  • If you can’t decide between two irons, choose the heavier one as it puts more weight on the fabric with less effort.
  • If you must own a Rowenta or other expensive brand, buy from QVC or any other company that backs up a product indefinitely.
  • Even if your cord swivels, buy an extension cord ($1.00) that will forever cleave to your iron.
  • Slowly invest in accessories like a tailor’s ham, sleeve board, Magic Sizing, and Steam-A-Seam to make the most use of your iron.  Buy a pressing cloth, or designate a piece of muslin. 
  • The key to efficient ironing is your ironing surface; do not settle for a wimpy little cover from Wal-Mart.  Seamlessly cover your board with as many old sheets, big towels, tablecloths, and curtains as you can manage.  Secure the layers under the board with rubber bands, safety pins or clothes pins.  The top layer can be attractive fabric of your choice!
  • Under all that padding, wrap the metal frame that makes the board in a smooth layer of tinfoil.  The foil will reflect the heat and moisture back up through the garment making the iron more powerful.
  • Keep a jug of Distilled Water or a recycled juice bottle with tap water near your iron.  No one wants to leave their iron unattended to run to the sink for water!  Keep your water in a cabinet or other dark area to prevent algae growth! 
  • Every few weeks, run white vinegar through your iron to clean any residue (of course be certain not to breathe in fumes or use your iron until all vinegar is rinsed through.)
  • Keep an old rag handy to frequently clean the iron’s surface.  You would be amazed at what happens to a white shirt when you were previously ironing black corduroy!

Do you have an iron you love?  Tell us about it in the comments section!

 


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Free Online Printables for Sewing

Posted in Assemble Your Sewing Notebook, Sewing 101 tagged , , , , at 3:56 pm by kdthreads

Prym Consumer USA is the parent company for popular brands like Dritz, Omnigrid and Fons & Porter.  Their website contains a summary of useful tools for any seamstress, and these free sheets with tips and concepts are a great way to start your reference library.  If you are like me, any chance to turn a three-ring binder into some kind of organizer provides an odd sense of accomplishment.  Sewing will be no different.  If you haven’t grabbed an old binder, page protectors, three-hole punch and some tabs for labeling, get to work and start printing the first pages of your own sewing manual.

http://www.dritz.com/tips/index.php

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July 3, 2010

Do you own a sewing machine?

Posted in Polls, Contests and Giveaways! tagged , , , at 11:00 pm by kdthreads

Click on the  tab in the upper right corner to tell me about your machine!

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Q & A from You!

Posted in Q & A from You!, Sewing 101 tagged , , , at 8:56 pm by kdthreads

1.) What is the difference between a handsewing needle and sewing machine needle?

2.) What are pinking shears?

3.) Do you use a thimble?

My computer is crazy and for some reason I cannot upload this video into this post. Clicking the link below should take you to my YouTube Channel where the video uploaded no problem!

Keep sending questions and please subscribe!

http://www.youtube.com/user/kdthreads#p/a/u/0/03H1XOSfkkk

http://www.softexpressions.com/software/notions/chaco.php

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What do You Really Need to Get Started?

Posted in Sewing 101, Videos and Step-by-Step Tutorials tagged , , , , , at 3:22 pm by kdthreads

You probably already know what tools are necessary for basic sewing, but here is a little more information.  Start gathering these items together to join stitch-alongs in future posts.

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Unprecedented Response to this Blog.

Posted in Sewing 101 tagged , , , , , at 1:06 pm by kdthreads

My insomnia lead me to start this blog.  I wrote the first post at 1 am with very little cognitive power.  I am wasting time looking for fonts and templates because I am just not satisfied with the blog’s appearance, but apparently, I do not need to worry myself about this as all of you are begging for more! 

Be patient, I am filming and blogging as fast as I can, and I promise this site will not suddenly dissolve.  Subscribe, Like on Facebook, tell your friends, etc.  Tutorials will be uploaded by the end of the day!

Just a Needle, Thread and a Pair of Hands

Posted in Sewing 101 tagged , , , , , , at 5:17 am by kdthreads

I grew up watching my mother sew.  Trips to the fabric store, digging through old patterns and a healthy stash of fabric were all parts of my childhood.  I wore homemade outfits to school thinking this was normal, and when no one believed me when I claimed “my mom made it,” no one believed me!  Time and energy (and my own behavior) kept my mom from intentionally teaching me how to sew until I was 16.  At last I could trade in my toy Singer machine (used to make hundred’s of pincushions) and my parents bought me a high-end Kenmore machine.  It was on this little machine that I made my first dress, countless bags, skirts, baby quilts and much more.  I took the Kenmore with me to college and even lent it out a few times to the two other girls on campus who knew how to sew. 

It was around this time when I realized that not every woman knew the basics of sewing and schools were no longer teaching it in home ec.  I cannot imagine my life without this skill!  My dad always said learning to sew was more important than most of what I would learn in college (he was right.)  Even on the projects I consider setting on fire, sitting down at the machine, smelling the hot iron and even the fibers that get stuck in my nose all calm my soul. 

I am still no where near the skilled seamstress my mother is, but I’ve come a long way from my Kenmore in the dorm room.  I now own four machines: Husqvarna Viking Iris, Husqvarna Viking Freesia, Pfaff Hobbylock Serger, and Huskystar Felting Machine.  I am also married and mother to three sons, each adopted with special needs from foster care.  I also own a 1910 Sears’ Bungalow.  I have 14 nieces and nephews and one more on the way.  I’ve made wedding gowns, covered sofas, made diapers, covers, wipes, toys, curtains and the list goes on.  When I am stressed, I make an accessory.  If I am behind on washing diapers, I whip up a new one.  If I see something around my house or in a store that could have a fabric, sewn-by-me equivalent, I will try it.  (For example, sandwich bags, shower caps, feminine products, teething blankets, I will try to sew anything!)

Now, I know what you are thinking.  I am a crazy granola crunchy tree-hugger who says sewing is easy because she has four machines and a mom as a sewing oracle.  I do not hug trees, I hate granola, and though I am not at my mother’s level, I can draft patterns and construct beautifully.  As for the four machines, my mother works as a dealer and teacher at a Viking Sewing studio.  All the machines I own where either gifts to me on various occasions, or a hand-me-down when my mother bought a newer and more advanced model.  So basically, I am just blessed.  But I am assuming that most of you have the basics necessary to get started and keep going: one sharp, metal sewing needle, thread (even if you harvest it from an old hem) and your hands.  I have watched women sew with no scissors and no eyesight!  After machine sewing and quilting for 15 years, I am slowly doing more and more by hand.  It is accurate, portable, and relaxing.  It requires no electricity, and if you do not have access to a reliable machine, it is not necessary.  If you pass by the sewing machines at Target and sigh, “I would love to be able to sew,”  STOP!  One, never buy a machine at Target (or rely on consumer reports,) and Two, don’t stress about a major purchase when you have no knowledge, practice or skill.  Pick up supplies for a sewing kit and head home.  Brew some tea, find a comfy chair near a window or bright lamp and start stitching. 

It is my desire to teach you to sew.  I don’t want you buying Martha Stewart’s Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts!  

Beautiful and Tasteful, but.....

First of all, I loathe the word “craft.”  It makes me think of camp, popsicle sticks and visors made from foam.  Secondly, this book will not teach you to sew.  I have no doubt that anyone could complete any of these projects, but all of you are  perfectly capable of learning and mastering a few classic techniques that will build your confidence and lead you to creating beautiful garments for yourself (that will actually fit) gifts for your friends or curtains for your windows.  Your list of projects may grow and your unfinished or never started stash may threaten your sanity, but you will be a capable and talented seamstress who may take joy in the fruit of her hands.

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