Thursday, September 26, 2013

Free Needlecushion Project

I'm sure this has happened to all of us at one point or another: You swap out your regular needle on your sewing machine for, say, leather or denim, and then cannot remember what's in your machine! And I don't know about you, but even with my glasses on, I can NOT read the tiny print on the needle shaft. So, here is my scrappy needlecushion to the rescue!

This is super easy... so easy in fact, that I'm not even sure I need to give pattern dimensions. I simply made a small heart template out of cardboard, and used it to cut hearts out of different sorts of materials from my scraps. You may have guessed it… I used some leather, some denim, some knit, and the base of the cushion is made out of medium weight cottons. When I pull out a specialty needle, I will simply stick it in the heart that corresponds to its recommended fabric! Genius, yes? :) You can thank me later, but for now...go pick up your scraps and get busy!

I used a medium weight mini gingham for the top and lightweight denim for the bottom, stitched them wrong side together (doing all the appliqué hearts first!) and leaving a gap. 

Note the gap!

I then turned it right side out and stuffed it like a holiday goose. Being of a thrifty nature ( because it's not hoarding if you actually USE it, as I tell my husband frequently) I happen to have a lot of cashmere scraps around from my upcycling business. 

I used these scraps to stuff my cushion, being extra careful to pop out those pesky little corners first. 

Here you see it filled to overflowing with odds and ends - this pincushion is 100% scraps inside AND out!
When it's stuffed to the gills, do a quick little hand stitch to close the gap up. My stitching wasn't pretty, I must confess. I wanted this sucker DONE!

Yes, folks, that's MY stitching, not my daughter's. I'm so proud. Not. it is, my scrappy little needle cushion dumpling!

Please feel free to share and re-post this, as long as you credit my blog and link back here. Thank you! :) Romy

Friday, September 20, 2013

Coming soon to a store near you!

Well... only if you live in the Berkeley area, but still!

I've been hard a work upcycling more fabulous old cashmere sweaters into these one-of-a-kind fingerless mitts. They will be available at 3 local stores in about a week; names, addresses etc. to follow. I will also have a selection up on my Etsy store.

I will also be offering reusable coffee mugs with cashmere cozies, PVC-free sandwich bags for lunch boxes, and leather wallets upcycled from old coats. 
Stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Jam Day

Making jam with Audrey and Rosalie today, because you always need helpers on jam day. 

We had SO many plums this year! My tree is still full. 

Pulled out all our canning supplies, plus the cute new 'vintage' Mason jars I found at the hardware store. 

My little helpers, in homemade aprons. 

I've never been quite so thankful that my husband installed a pot-filler by the stove top. This made things SO much easier!

Tea break, with my favorite thrifted teacup in my (small so far) collection. 

Our plums are so tiny, the girls used a cherry pitter and worked for quite awhile on our first 4 pound batch. 

I had time to hand stitch the collar facing down while my minions stirred the pot!

The return on our investment - not bad for a morning's work! Note to self: you can't actually see the cute blue glass when the jars are full of jam, it just looks like a mysterious black substance inside. Oh well!
I still have about eight more pounds of fruit to go...perhaps I should invest in another cherry pitter?!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Vintage Roses and Pattern Give Away

This is my favorite piece of fabric, which I found while doing birthday shopping at a fabulous vintage fabric store in Point Richmond. There was only an odd-sized remnant, roughly 1 1/3 yards on one side and a bit longer on the other. 
Today is the day I muster all my sewing mojo and finally cut into it! It's going to be my third version of Gertie's Bow Tie blouse. I found great vintage buttons to match in my stash, from a scavenging trip to the Mysterious Button store. Wish me luck!

In other news, I revisited my abject failure, otherwise known as Simplicity 1692. Whoever drafted all those godforsaken pleats needs a firm talking to. I ripped the Sleeves Full of Poof off and added bias facing, after which I detached the collar and took out all the Random Boobie Poof by stitching down all that excess fabric. 

I basted vintage lace to my black bias facing prior to attaching it as the new collar. Then I added a buttonhole and a self-covered button for the back closure. 

And here it is, MUCH improved by a day's worth of judicious editing!

Please ignore my messy studio, I tend to throw everything around when I'm working!

Would anyone be interested in a vintage pattern giveaway? I have a LOT of patterns and want to share the wealth. Do you have suggestions of what types of patterns should be included? I have a lot of fit & flare dresses, sheaths, coats, skirts...

Friday, July 5, 2013

A year later

My ever-patient little brother asked me for a custom shirt. A year ago. He has trouble finding shirts that fit, as he is 6'3" with broad shoulders and long arms from years of surfing and a slim build. Off the rack shirts fit his shoulders but billowed around his middle, or he always had to roll his sleeves to conceal how short they were. He was dutifully measured, questioned, and sent to buy fabric. Did I mention he has fantastic and expensive taste? He came back with yards of the softest white Egyptian cotton from Britex in SF, thinking it would be such a treat for me to sew such otherworldly fabric.

Uh....the receipt fell out of the bag when I was unpacking his fabric, and I had a panic attack. He wanted me to cut into THIS?! Oh good grief. I was scared to touch it, for fear of making a tiny mark and just general fear of screwing the whole thing up. Also, once I mustered up the courage to try, ALL my chalk marks were visible from the right side and I was fearful that they might not wash out all the way afterward. This is SERIOUSLY sheer cotton! And even though I had made a muslin, there were enough fiddly bits to alter that I was, shall we say, a bit nervous.

So it's not a surprise that this project sat for a bit, oh, say thirteen months or so! He gave up asking about it after six months, nice guy that he is. Meanwhile, the guilt was killing me! So, just in time for his birthday on June 26th, I bought the Colette Negroni pattern and used some blue cotton oxford cloth I has thrifted months earlier and whipped up a shirt for him in about ten days. I used his earlier measurements and did some alterations (without fear, I might add, as I have about two yards of fabric left over). The sleeve packets were a bitch, but I religiously referred to the Male Pattern Boldness sewalong and made it through. 

Anyway, here it is. Sadly, I don't have photos of him actually wearing it, yet, but I hope to post one soon. It fit great, although it was a little long for his taste. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Fun at the Hardware Store!

Being obsessed with sewing, I can find inspiration just about anywhere, including the local hardware store! On a recent trip I found the following items that will be so useful in my sewing studio:

First, I picked up fine grade sandpaper for all of 87 cents so I can sharpen my scissors. I just make small parallel cuts so that my snips are sharp and crisp. 

Next I grabbed big rolls of craft paper for $2.79 to trace my patterns. I keep my paper patterns rolled into old cardboard tubes from toilet paper and paper towels, with details written on the tube to make everything easy to find. 

This is one of my favorite tools. It's a retractable piece of string that is pre-chalked. You simply pull it out, line it up, and give it a little flick. It then deposits its chalk on the straight line. Fantastic! It makes tracing vintage patterns so much easier, at least all those with straight lines! The metal canister is refillable and chalk comes in red, blue, and yellow. Test your fabrics to ensure it washes out first!

I love love love these flat round washers for pattern weights! They are 45 cents each and are easily stored in an old yogurt container. I always pick a few up each time I'm at the store. 

This cushy sticky plastic is great for under my serger, so it doesn't walk itself off my table when it really gets going fast! Shelf liner also works well for this purpose. 

And finally, good old fashioned clothespins are wonderful if you're sewing leather and don't want pin marks left behind. I also use bobby pins sometimes to hold my delicate fabrics together without pinning them. 

I hope this has been a fun and useful trip to the hardware store! Does anyone else have untraditional tools to share?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Welcome Back!

Wow, what a hectic spring it's been! Between travel, family health issues and construction on a new deck, I haven't posted in quite a bit. I'm back though, with a fantastic new tool to recommend. It didn't even come from the notions aisle!

Please meet the wrapping paper cutting tool from the Scotch Company. I purchased this during the holidays to help wrap gifts in a hurry, but just recently realized it could be used to cut patterns too! I've been pretty good at tracing my patterns (although you wouldn't know it from the photos) and this little razor cuts through heavy craft paper as well as delicate pattern tissue.
I cut a small snip to get it started, then switch to this tool to just zoom right through my big straight cuts. So fast and so fun!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Vintage Patterns Galore!

It was my lucky day when I heard that an accomplished local seamstress was downsizing her pattern stash, and wanted to give away her boxes and boxes of meticulously preserved patterns. Once again Susannah and I piled into my trusty old car and headed on the freeway, off on a sewing adventure!

When we arrived we met Elliot, who was handling the distribution of his cousin's amazing collection. I hope he realizes what a gift he is giving the sewing community by not just tossing these envelopes out! Susannah and I dove right in to all the neatly organized boxes not knowing what we'd find, but with anticipation and enthusiasm.

And behold, we found gorgeous patterns from the 60s, and even one or two from the 50s, and marveled at the elegance of a bygone age in our country's history. People were just so suave in their dress in those days! No one shlomped around in nasty sweatpants and bedroom slippers. No one's bra straps were bedazzled and no one's pants sagged. Folks presented themselves in a way designed to evoke respect and a sense of decorum.

Anyway, it was a fantastic experience and I can't wait to get started reproducing these lovely items, whereupon I shall swoon about pretending I'm Babe Paley trading bons mots with Truman Capote. Here are some photos of a few patterns, but I literally have two cardboard boxes full of patterns from today!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Easy Zipper Bag Tutorial

I'm heading out to Florida, to sail on the Gulf of Mexico for a week, so I thought I'd leave you with this tutorial. Zipper bags are a great gift for travelers, and they're a nice way to make even the smallest trip seem really special.

First step, pick your fabrics! You will need an exterior fabric (in my case, the chicken print!) and an interior fabric (the grey floral print, below). You will also need a zipper. Don't worry about the zipper - I promise, this is EASY!

Cut your fabrics all to the same size, roughly whatever you want the size of the finished bag to be. I picked 8 x 9 inches, but knock yourself out! Whatever size you pick, make sure the zipper you use is long enough for the opening. It's okay if it's too long, as you can cut it down to size, but too short will be problematic.

Two outer squares, two liner squares, and a zipper!
You may notice that I added a little pocket to one of my liner squares. This is easy - just cut out a square from either fabric ( I used the outer fabric, for contrast) and iron the edges under about 1/4" on three sides. These will be your sides and bottom. For the top of the pocket, iron down 1/4" and then another 1/2" and sew a nice line to hold that fold in place. Then, pin the pocket where you want it (see photo) and stitch from one side, across the bottom, and back up the other side, backtacking at start and finish to prevent unraveling.

Pin around the sides and edges, and sew it on!

What I like to do, to keep it all looking professional, is to flip the liner over to the wrong side and pull the threads through. Just pull on the one thread that's already there till you see the little teeny loop of the other thread poking its head up, stick a pin in the loop, and yank that sucker on up!

Pull those threads over to the backside. It's ok, no one will see 'em there!

OK, now the real fun begins. You are going to make a zipper sandwich! Lay your lining fabric down on the table, pretty side up. Then lay your zipper, functional side up. Last, put your outer fabric, pretty side down. IF YOUR FABRIC HAS A DIRECTION, now is the time to make sure the 'top' side is pointing toward the zipper. Line up your edges (see photo) and pin.

See how the tops of the chickens point toward the zipper?

If you have doubts, pretend you've sewn your seam and open it up. Does it look right? Then you're good to go!

Put your zipper foot on and sew. See that ridge to the left of the foot? That's the zipper. Sew close to it, but not over it. The foot helps keep the zipper a consistent distance away from the needle.

Open it up and iron. Admire your work and get a fresh cup of coffee. Damn, you're good!
Now you're going to lay out a zipper sandwich for the other half of the zipper. Think of it as being the parent of twins - everything has to be balanced and equal! Keep your project folded as in the photo above for the next step.
Lay the unattached liner fabric down, then the existing zipper sandwich with the functional side of the zipper on top (see photo below). Then finally add the unattached outer fabric.

Loose liner fabric on bottom, lovely bit that you've just sewn in the middle, loose outer fabric on top. Notice how my chickens are all facing the same direction on both pieces of fabric!
Before you sew, double check that all directional prints are pointed in the right directions, with the tops toward the zipper! LIne up the new, loose pieces to the unsewn edge of the zipper, pin and sew.

Notice how I shortened my zipper - you can do this before or after the zipper installation. Just zip it up closed, snip to about 1" past the edge of the bag and zig zag a few times over the cut end to make a stopper. My zig zags are in red. See? Easy peasy.

When you're done, you'll have two floppy bits on either side of the zipper. Iron it nice and flat away from the zipper on both sides and pat yourself on the back. Almost there!

This next bit is where you sew the flappy bits into their own bags, one on each side of the zipper. The last step is where you turn the whole thing inside out and it turns into a fantastic zippered bag!

For this step, open the flaps and lay the liner fabrics together and the exterior fabrics together, right sides touching and zipper in the middle. It should look something like this:

PIn around the outer perimeter of the bag.

See the two red pins at the top there? That's how I remind myself not to sew around the whole thing!
At this part, your zipper will be a wobbly bit in the middle. Be sure it is UNZIPPED about three-fourths of the way. If you unzip it all the way, the head will get in the way of your stitching, and it if you don't unzip it, you'll have a big pain in the tushie trying to turn your bag inside out at the end.
Fold your zipper tape together nice and flat, and pin away from the main fabric, toward the lining side.

Zipper tape folds AWAY from the main fabric.
You will want to start sewing at least an inch or two before the zipper, on the liner side, sew all the way around the rectangle going around all the corners, and end up about two inches away from where you started. Stop there, so you have a little hole to turn it inside out at the end.

Voila! Look at that lovely red stitch line around the perimeter, except for the little bit on the upper right side of the lining.

If you want to be super fancy, ou can box the corners of both the exterior and liner fabric, to give extra 3D capacity once it's full of your gear. Pinch the corners so that the stitch lines meet in the middle and a little triangle is formed.

Measure in from the pivot point of your stitching (aka the corner) anywhere from 1/2" to 1", depending on how big you want the bottom to be. Draw a line. Make this same measurement on all four corners, pin, and sew 'em up!

You can even snip off the triangles, once you've sewn them, but I leave them to give the bottom some structure.
This is what the liner will look like, once you've boxed the corners. Cool, right?

Now comes the really fun part! Remember that part that you didn't sew shut on the perimeter? Find that escape hatch you left yourself earlier and turn that bag inside out!

Remember me? That mysterious little unsewn bit?

Keep going, almost there!

Whee! It's a bag! Iron all your seams and do a little dance.

Before you go getting too crazy, there's one teeny little last bit. Pin that escape hatch closed and sew it up tight. Just run it through your machine, being sure to backtack at start and finish. I like to use a really short stitch length for the backtacking, so I can just snip the ends and know it won't unravel.

Congratulations! You just made a lined zipper bag! Pat yourself on the back and go show off to your friends.