Sunday, April 20, 2014

5 Reasons You Don't Want to Make Clothing - (and why I will try to change your mind!)

As I was working on making a skirt for myself yesterday I began thinking of all the reasons many of us don't want to make our own clothes anymore.  And just to be clear, this is the first garment I have made for myself in many years!  So I know all of the excuses, and have used them myself many times.  But as I thought and sewed I realized that many of my excuses were simply that - excuses.  So I thought I would share them with you and see what you think, and if you might re-consider sewing something new to wear.

Reason Number One: Pattern Sizing is totally weird.  This is my number one stumbling block.  I wear a size 12 pants.  I can walk into about any store, pick up a size 12 pair of pants and they will fit fairly well.  If I made myself a pair of size 12 pants from a commercial pattern, I would not be able to even get them up over my thighs!  I have never found a reliable reason for this size difference, but to choose a pattern size you actually need to know your correct measurements.  I always go with the measurement for my waist since that seems the most out of synch with the rest of the measurements.  You can easily take the garment in if it is too large, but you can't add more if it's too tight!  For my skirt I decided to make the largest size because that was closest to my waist measurement.  Size 22!  What?  Pattern sizes are definitely way different, so just don't think about it too much.  They do not resemble ready to wear in any form, so you just have to get over it and not think about the large numbers.  (In the end I took in the waist and could have made the size 20 easily.  I marked the pattern so I would remember next time I make this skirt)

Reason Number Two:  I don't understand the instructions.  Yes, pattern instructions can be hard to understand.  Most patterns are written assuming that you have a basic, if not higher, level of understanding.  Luckily, most patterns do have a glossary of terms, and if you still don't get it - try google!  Call a friend, or a mom, aunt, or other person who sews.  Don't let it stump you, be persistent and you can figure it out.  I've been sewing since I was little and I get confused, too, sometimes.  So don't let it be a block for you, there are ways to figure it out and you can do this!

Reason Number Three:  I can buy the same thing at ____ for less!  Oh boy, I can relate to this one as well.  I made a simple A-line skirt.  I spent $15.00 for the fabric, $6.00 for the lining, $2.00 for thread, plus a zipper and interfacing.  That's probably about $25.00 just for the materials.  Once you factor in the time spent, my skirt is probably worth about $60.00.  Yes, I might be able to find a skirt for less than that if I go shopping - but it would not fit me just right.  It would probably be made out of cheaper material, not lined and would not last through several years of use.  And, knowing me, I would spend an entire afternoon shopping for said skirt anyway, and I'd rather spend my time sewing than shopping :)  I have never found the perfect skirt in the first store I shopped in - and mostly when I shop for clothing I come home without anything at all!

Reason Number Four:  I'm going to spend money on fabric, and all my time, and it is still not going to fit right.  I have had this happen.  But, face it - when you are buying ready made, is it going to fit perfectly?  Generally, you either don't purchase an item that doesn't fit right, or you pay to have it altered (or alter it yourself).  At least if you are making it, you have opportunities to tweak the fit before you finish.  If you are really concerned about the fit, you can always make a trial version in muslin to double check how it is going to work.  Just remember, if you are making yourself clothing, you can make it to perfectly fit if you put in the effort!  If you just make it from the pattern without ever measuring or trying your project on, you are quite likely to end up with an item that does not fit perfectly - so make sure you measure and fit as you go!

Reason Number Five:  I don't want it to look home-made.  So what is wrong with that?  Just kidding...I have experienced what you are thinking.  Sloppy home-made.  Imperfectly made home-made.  But, what about hand made?  Custom tailored hand made?  One of a kind, just for you, unique hand made?  How to achieve that special look?  Press as you go.  Trim seams properly, trim threads.  Match your thread (and zipper) to your project.  The details.  Seriously, it truly is the small details that elevate your project from just home-made to hand crafted special.  Don't just whip your way through your project, but put a little special effort in to elevate the look from just ok, to absolutely awesome!

I hope my musings will help you think about why you might avoid making yourself something uniquely yours to wear.  You might have fun, and you will definitely create something that is special!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

WIP Wednesday - Satin Binding

I am smack dab in the middle of prom season, so not as much quilting going on as I would like, but I did get to finish up a project for a nice lady.  Now, I know that some people will shake their head over her choice of finishes, but it is her quilt, and she can have it finished how she likes....there are plenty of old tops that will be hand quilted and carefully bound in vintage muslin.  But this one, it has a lively pink satin binding and a pretty floral back to go with it!

As you can see this top has quite a few age spots....the piecing is ok - not perfectly flat, but I find that not many old tops really are!  Many of them are quite lumpy and the extra fabric definitely needs "quilted out"!  This one had a very interesting finish on the sides.  Instead of having the jagged ins and outs, this quilter pieced arcs of feedsack (you could even still faintly see the printing on some of the pieces!) set into the sides.  Ingenious!  This is the only quilt I have ever seen done this way.

I sewed the pretty pink satin on with a wide zig-zag and mitered the corners nicely.  This will be a neat blanket to snuggle under when it's finished - I hope she uses pink to do the ties as well.

I had already planned to post about this quilt and how I liked the non-traditional finish and was really affirmed in the choice when I read this article - All Inclusive.  I think it's time all of us quilters stopped turning up our noses at each other's choices in quilting and learn to embrace the fact that there are so many ways to do what we love, and we all just need to support each other in our choices!  This quilt is in no way diminished by finishing it in this manner.  It elevates it from being just a top on the closet shelf and allows it to be used and enjoyed.  Which is really why it was made....after all, no one makes a Grandmothers Flower Garden because it is the only shape you can use to make something useful out of those scraps!  Someone had fun making something pretty out of fabric.  She spent time cutting out those hexagons and piecing them together because she enjoyed the process!  And now someone else is going to enjoy being able to actually use it for a snuggle blanket - it just makes me smile to think about it :)  I hope if I don't get to finish making all of my tops into quilts that one of my kids or grandkids will feel free to finish them however they desire and USE them!!

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

WIP Wednesday - April Showers and Glamping Table Runners

After a busy couple of weeks we are ready to get back into a more "normal" routine around here.  Which means going out and walking and running, watching a bit of TV to catch up on our DVR'd shows and making regular meals...I was content eating leftovers all week while DH was away, but he kind of likes to have a nice meal now and then!  I did manage to finish two new table runners over the weekend and got them quilted this week - they are both from patterns I have available for sale, I just wanted some updated samples to show them off!

This first one uses my Cobblestones Pattern.  So easy to make, and a great way to show off a charm pack with some planned randomness!  I used April Showers by Bonnie and Camille.  I really love their look, very retro with lovely colors.  I figured it would be an appropriate choice for this pattern, and it surely was!  I quilted this with a pretty green thread in a design I learned in the Craftsy class by Angela Walters on quilting Negative Spaces.  It's fun to do something new and not in my usual mode, and I think it is lovely.  The thread is Essentials thread, so it's a little heavier and lays nicely on top of the quilt allowing the quilting to pop just a bit.  Cotton batting, and a pretty gingham binding.  The backing I found in my stash -Lilies of the valley on a blue background.  Perfect!

For the second table runner I used my Windmills Pattern and a Glamping Charm Pack.  This line is by Mary Jane Butters for Moda.  It's also a retro looking print (guess that's my happy place right now!).  Lots of blues and pinks and cute little vintage campers.  The focus prints feature little blips of print, my favorite is Camp Like a Girl!  That really sums up the idea of Glamping doesn't it?  Fun stuff!  I quilted this with a creamy white Essentials thread and I did the same quilting I've done previously on samples of this runner.  Swirls in the white and pinweels and straight lines in the border.  I used a pink shot cotton on the back and was not really thrilled with it.  It's lovely and soft, and would be perfect for a snuggle quilt, but I like a little more body in my runner backings.  I found a pretty aqua for the border and used up the last bit from my stash - yeah!

Here is the top from my March UFO Challenge.  I was going to quilt it as is, but it may be starting a new life as the center of a special quilt I was asked to make.  I just have to find out if cats will be good on this project and I will be off and running turning this into a lap quilt instead of a wall hanging.

For April my UFO project will Blue and Yellow round robin.  This one will take a bit of thinking to decide what I want to do with it.  Right now the quilt measures 60 inches square.  The original concept was to make this into a curtain for the closet in my sewing room.  I don't want to do that, it's a little too bold for that and I would have have to either make a roman shade out of it or cut in into two panels and I don't want to do that either!  I might just quilt this one and call it finished.  We'll see.  

As usual, check in at the Quiltsy Team blog for more WIP's by some of the best quilters on Etsy :)  I'm off to the quilt shop for work....I'll be cutting some strips for jelly rolls today, fun!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Easy Flying Geese Tutorial

My "Big House" quilt features a border of 6 inch star blocks.  I have seen these blocks called Variable Star blocks or Sawtooth Star blocks.  In their simplest form the center is simply a plain block, but for this quilt I felt like I wanted to add a little pizzazz so I pieced all the centers (except for one).  It was fun coming up with 19 different variations of piecing.  I love miniatures so this was a fun way to combine that with regular piecing to come up with a lovely design.

I wanted to share how I did the points on the stars.  For this block you can make half square triangle units to make your points or you can make the points by making flying geese units and not have the extra seam between the triangles to deal with.  I think the flying geese are easier, particularly if you have to make quite a few of them like I did!

There are several ways to make flying geese.  You can cut the pieces to the exact size needed and piece them in a traditional manner.  Eleanor Burns has a neat method (and ruler) for making them.  See her instructions and video here.  You can paper piece them for pure perfection.  Or you can use the sew and flip method that I will show you.  I like this method because it requires very little math, the cutting is easy and the results are always great.  If your units are small there is very little waste and if you are making larger geese you can save the bonus triangles for another project....not sure if this is a plus or a minus, but I hate to throw away good fabric!  Here is a post I wrote on how you can use those, if that helps!

For sew and flip you start off with a rectangle the size of your flying goose plus seam allowances.  For example my 6 inch star blocks require a flying goose unit that is 1 1/2 inch tall and 3 inches wide.  When I add 1/4 inch all around for seam allowances I see that I need a starting size of 2 inches by 3 1/2 inches.  Since my triangles will be the dark fabric, I will cut the rectangles for the geese out of my background.  For the triangles you will cut squares equal to the height of your goose rectangle...2 inches.  You will need two squares for each goose.   (Ok, that word is starting to sound really weird...goose, goose, goose)

You will need to mark a diagonal line on the back of all your squares.  You can use a pencil and draw a line or you can fold them in half and gently finger press a diagonal line.  You could even be like me and live dangerously and eyeball it (my personal rule of thumb is that this only works for squares under 2 1/2 inches). If you have one of these nifty Angler 2 tools you could use that as well! I have one, but don't know where I put it at the moment.

Pace one square on one end of your rectangle right sided together and edges matching.  Sew on your diagonal line.

 Fold your square back to make sure everything lines up, then trim away the extra fabric on the back 1/4 inch from your sewing line.  Press toward triangle.

Repeat using another square on the other end of your rectangle, making sure that your stitching crosses over at the middle of your rectangle.  (If you sew it the wrong way you end up with a funny chevron type of unit that will not work!)
Sew -

Trim -

 Press -

And there you have a perfect Flying Goose block!

I saved four of the cut off corners for this size block and sewed them together.  They ended up being enough to make a 1/2 inch finished block half square triangle block (1 inch before sewing).  I used them in one of my mini blocks in the center of the stars and decided they were small enough to throw away guilt free.  I have decided that I can't save everything and if it's smaller than 2 inches square it can go away without remorse :)

Hope you enjoyed the tutorial - however you decided to make your flying geese, enjoy the process!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

WIP Wednesday - Lots of Stars

It was wonderful to get back to doing some sewing this week!  I've been working hard at getting all the stars done to go around the center panel of this month's UFO project.  Of course I decided that each 6 inch star would have to have a unique 3 inch center - don't know why I like to make things hard on myself, but I do like seeing all the different stars and think it adds a lot to the quilt.
I used the fabric I had that matched the block, and chose a few coordinating fabrics from my stash.  I didn't have enough background fabric for all the stars so I added a few more similar tones and did a mix and match.  
One of my favorites is the second from the left on the bottom of this picture - a spool block!  The mini Shoo Fly block next to it is pretty cute as well :)

Sorry for the bad night time pictures - I seem to do a lot of evening sewing!  It was getting a bit difficult to think of new centers at this point, but I kept it up!  I had spent my first day just making the flying geese units for the stars, so all I had to do was make the centers, then add the points and corner squares.  Doing it this way really streamlined the process for me and made it possible to focus on the center blocks.
And I finished up the last few tonight!  Now, I just have to decide on whether to add an inner border, or maybe just a flange?  Then I can get this baby quilted and off my list!  That will be three of my UFO's done this year - woohoo!  So excited to be making progress and emptying out that drawer - of course I've got fabric pulled for several more projects now, so it's not like I won't have anything left to do anytime soon ;)

Check out the Quiltsy Team blog for more WIPS!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Joan's Vintage Butterfly Project

Craftsy promoted my Vintage Butterfly Pattern on Friday again - I really can't tell you how much that delights me ever single time :)  It's quite fun to read the comments.  The original block I made for the pattern was featured several times, and I could not believe all the people that did not like the fabrics!

Eventually I decided that I really needed to make a new sample block so I picked some gorgeous batik fabrics that I thought would make the block really stand out. Now no one comments on the ugly fabric, but there were quite a few uncomplimentary comments about the block itself this time around.  Didn't those people's mothers teach them the "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" rule?  To me, that's just basic manners.  Now if someone asks you, you can give them criticism, but not in a mean way.  Maybe I'm just too nice.  Good thing I'm not offended really easily, either.  In any case the positives are way more than the negatives, so I just laugh it off and think about all the people that are enjoying the pattern!

And, I was thrilled to see someone post a project they made with the block pattern!  I think Susanne might have enlarged the block because it looks larger than 9 inches in the picture.  She says it took her two days to make it - I love it!  I need to make a finished something out of my blocks, but can't decide what to make.  

If you are on facebook, go like Quilting Club.  I enjoy seeing all the patterns and projects they feature, and they always let you know when there is a sale on the classes, too!  

If you want to see how to make the block, see my tutorial here - and make sure to send me a picture or link to your project, I'd love to add it to my blog.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Little Craftsy Love

Have you noticed I'm a big fan of Craftsy?   If you haven't given it a try, you really should!  They have a wonderful assortment of online classes, and there are several that are absolutely free.  The 2012 block of the month class was really fun - well, the first few months that I actually finished was, but no worries - I can come back anytime I want and finish them up because the classes never expire!  No TV in your sewing room?  That's not a problem either because you can watch the classes on your phone, iPad, even your Kindle Fire!  You can pause, rewind, and even ask questions.  Right now they are having a terrific sale, so it's a good time to pick out a class and try it out.  My favorite so far has been Angela Walters class on Machine Quilting Negative Space - I played it on my Kindle while quilting, it was a great way to learn some new ideas.  The next one I am going to take is Perfect Pizza at home - we love pizza here!  I think I might need to try this one as well!

Another reason I love Craftsy?  The patterns!  You have never seen such a selection of patterns, all available at a moment's notice.  I needed a boys vest pattern and did not want to run to the fabric store, so I went to Craftsy and found just what I wanted.  Chose my pattern, paid for it (only via paypal), printed it up and had my project underway before I could have been to the store and back.  Plus, by buying your patterns on Craftsy you are supporting the independent designers who are designing those patterns - Craftsy does not charge anything, all the profit goes to those hardworking people who labor to share their ideas and help others create!  I am one of these - see my pattern shop here.  I love that Craftsy helps me to get my patterns into the hands of people all over the world!  I could never do that on my own!

Craftsy also has supplies.  Of course, I go for the fabric, but they have an awesome selection of yarn!  Oh, it's so much fun to shop there, and you don't even have to get out of your jammies.  I have a link on the right to some of my favorites...charm squares of course!  So tempting.

If you haven't joined their online community, you really should.  Share your projects and check out what other people are making!  Kind of like Pinterest, you can find some really amazing things that people have made.

My last reason, and the reason for this post is that Craftsy really shares their love - I've seen my patterns and pictures featured on Facebook several times and you would not know how much it thrills me to see my items scroll by on my newsfeed!  Today they were promoting a blog post on table runners:  10 Quilted Table Runner Patterns to Celebrate Spring.  So fun to see my pattern on their list!  I love the way Craftsy shares the love of making every way they can!

Thanks, Craftsy, for encouraging us to make more pretty stuff!

***Edited to add the fun for me of seeing my pattern as number one on the trending list :)  Always an encouragement to find myself there!