Monday, April 23, 2012

Feeling Crafty; Sewing a Card

Do you ever use your sewing machine to make cards? I'm not talking about the Olympic-level paper crafting kind of thing that involves edge punches and heat guns and embossing powers and inks and stamps. That stuff is awesome and I am never going there. No way do I need a whole other crafty hobby.

But I do like sewing cards from time to time. This is a very simple one I made using an image from the most excellent Cathe at Just Something I Made, a printed piece of twill tape that had been lurking on my sewing table and a little leather and suede doodad I made for some other unfulfilled purpose.

In other not-really-sewing news, this online photo-cool-making app is so fun: Pixlr-o-matic. The application has two parts; one is a straight-up image editing program that seems at first glance to be good. I haven't used it with any intensity because I immediately develop a splitting headache upon trying to use any image editing software other than Adobe Photoshop. But that's just because I'm not open to change in that sphere of human endeavor.

The second part of the program is a special effects editor that imparts some really nice vintage coloring, noise and borders. I'm not sure whether the time I've spent playing with it today is long minutes lost to frivolity or productive in a manner yet to be revealed. But I recommend checking it out either way!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Video Tutorial: Convert a Sewing Machine to Handcrank Operation

My new, pretty, pink Atlas sewing machine had a big problem: no functioning wiring. I believe I have a true DIY spirit, but when the terms "solder" and "flux" and "heat shrink tubing" are mentioned, my eyes glaze over. Actually I did try a bit of soldering a few years back, at the frenzied insistence of my Asperger's son, who was desperate for us to jointly rewire the world. It didn't go too well.

So although I do intend to learn basic wiring skills some day, it hasn't happened yet, what with leaky basements, work and obsessions of various kinds.

But then I remembered my semi-abandoned handcrank conversion kit, slumbering peacefully on the flank of a decrepit Singer 128. Here is how they came together.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

How to Get Your Husband or Boyfriend to Mark Your Hem

No, not that! Naughty readers! I'll leave you to your own devices when it comes to envisioning...rewards.

But less delicacy is needed for this tip: use a laser level! See, it's like carpentry, you can explain. We need things plumb and square.

Simply set up the level on a stool or other item of appropriate height, stand next to it, and turn slowly as your cooperative partner inserts pins (or makes marks) on the bright shiny line.

I want you to know I don't think only men can or do use tools. Of course a female helper can make great use of this tip, too. It just seems that they are often in short supply when hemming time rolls around.

Friday, April 6, 2012

So That's What Happens: Neckline Distortion

One of my wardrobe heroes for the past 17 or 18 summers has been a black and white print dress from Laura Ashley. Bought in a Laura Ashley store, back when there was such a thing. It is a linen and rayon blend, cut on the bias, pulls over the head, and has a modest v neck with a narrow binding.

I always wanted to make something similar, and there have been attempts. This week I've been attempting it again, this time with an OOP Burda pattern. I will retrieve the pattern number for my pattern review of this dress, which won't happen until I get it hemmed.

The Burda pattern had a scoop neckline, but I wanted that v neck. I consulted books and proceeded to cut out, stay stitch the neckline, assemble the panels and bind the neckline. I put it on and gasped out loud: the neckline was drooping and sagging and gaping. Darn it: I thought I was doing the right things, but it went all wrong.

Uncharacteristically, I realized that this problem needed some thinking over rather than some frenzied ripping apart. I posted a question on PatternReview, and received many helpful suggestions.

My solution as of this evening was to make a pleat to pull in the excess fullness. I am thinking it maybe looks like the pleated necklines that are in style; you know, the ones that are not covering up a mistake?

What do we think? Does this look okay or odd? The alternative is to remove the bias binding, try my best to reshape and stabilize the cut edge and finish it with fold over elastic. Miraculously, I have a color which matches very well. I think the elastic could possibly work, but there are so many variables that I hesitate to try it.

I am so grateful for all of the very helpful responses on PatternReview! What a terrific resource to have access to such knowledgeable and generous sewers.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Simplicity 2599, with a side of Sorbetto

Nearly a year after its release as a free downloadable pattern, the Colette Sorbetto top is still going strong. I love looking at all the inspiring variations.

Even though I'm a fan, I've never wanted to print and assemble the pattern. I worried about the openness of the neckline and how much trial and error and error would be required for me to tweak it to fit properly. And I generally don't wear tank tops, preferring a little sleeve. Using Simplicity 2599 (which I've made several times with varying degrees of success) as the starting point seemed to make more sense than starting over with the Sorbetto.

To make the pleat, I simply arranged the front pattern piece two inches from the fold and proceeded according to the directions in the Sorbetto file. For the black and white version, I lifted a flutter sleeve from another pattern. Fit perfectly into the armhole; actually, it fit better than the sleeves provided with the pattern.

The black lace trim is from the fifties, bought at the yard sale of a fabric hoarder. Putting a white button in the center of each black lace flower is intended to make the front pleat look as though it might be functional (totally untrue) and to add another texture. The polka dot rayon fabric came from a bin at Foam & Fabrics of Arden, N.C. It was narrow, only 36", so this was a good project for it.

Here it is with a new skirt, Kwik Sew 3672.
When I bought the pattern at Hancock's, the only likely fabric candidate was swimwear fabric. I should have lengthened the skirt a couple of inches. I had just enough fabric left over from my one yard cut to make a flounce around the bottom. 

With Simple sneakers. I am in love with this brand, which has been acquired and discontinued. Argh! I'm clicking pics of these sneakers with skirts to explore the implications of wearing the two together this summer. Even though I've always thought this sort of combo was too young/unflattering/funky for me, I'm digging it now.

Another version in Kaffe Fasset millefiore rayon print, purchased last summer from This is a nice fabric. Much better quality than the bargain bin dot!

In the back, I used the leftover bias binding tape from the neckline to make a casing for elastic. This draws in the back waist and provides some definition above my swayback. Wish I'd placed the casing about three inches lower, though.

Side view: the hem is not perfectly level, but I'm calling it good enough for a casual summer top to wear with jeans.

And finally the big picture. 

That center front pleat is the genius of the Sorbetto top. Left plain, it provides a subtle vertical interest. Embellished, it offers almost unlimited opportunities to dress up the top.