Saturday, September 29, 2007

Correspondently Sew, Lesson 1

I'm currently teaching a friend how to sew via e-mail. She lives out on the west coast, so e-mail is the only way to do it. I'm really enjoying sharing this with her; I think if she knew exactly how thrilled I am do be doing this with her...she would probably be worried about me! The very loose gameplan is to teach her how to sew project by project. Her first project will be a pair of PJ bottoms for her daughter. Anyway, I figured that there's someone else in the internet world that might get some use out of our "correspondent course", so here is Lesson 1. Caveat: I have absolutely no training as a teacher. Of course I try to make things as clear as possible, but they may not always come out that way!

Lesson 1: My suggested list of sewing tools. Just the basics, for now.

1) Fabric shears. I use Fiskars brand. Target and Walmart also sells a great pair of fabric shears for about $3 (I think it's a "duro" brand).
2) Quilter's pins. I prefer these pins over regular sewing pins because the longer length is easier to work with.
3) Quilting ruler: I use a a clear 2"x18" ruler; a must-have, for me.
4) Pin cushion. I like to have two, one for the sewing machine and one to carry around in case I'm doing some sewing in front of the TV.
5) Marking pen. I only use the kind with ink that washes away but there are pens that have "disappearing ink" as well. I find that the disappearing ink fades before I get a chance to sew the garment!
6) Safety pin(s). For threading elastic or a drawstring through a casing.
7) A place to lay out, cut, and mark the fabric. Probably your dining room table :)
8) Measuring tape
9) Seam ripper

Covering these broad shoulders, part deux

Okay, so I quickly sewed together the muslin this afternoon...and had a bit of a disappointment. The fit through the shoulders was great, so I'm glad that I added all that width at the shoulders. However, I still had some binding when I reached my arms forward. I double checked on the "model garment", and no binding at all there. I did notice when I was sewing the muslin together that the grain on the sleeves was all wrong (my fault, I fudged on the grain line and paid the price). With the grain all wrong, the armsceye was very crooked, the seams did not match at the underarm. I think that contributed to the problem. I went back to the pattern and checked it against the pattern I made from the model top...and I could use another inch across the back. I knew this when I was adjusting the Simplicity pattern, but I decided against it, since I wanted to add to the shoulders and the upper back just by making one adjustment. Now I know that I will need to make two adjustments. Live and learn.

I just finished taking off all of the extra vellum paper that I added in order to make the original shoulder/upper back adjustment. I think I'll trace off a copy of the pattern once I return it to its original state and start playing with the copy. The adjustments I'm thinking of using would just destroy the original...and I've learnt not to make any permanent changes to the original pattern, just in case! And I'm usually too cheap to go out and buy another copy of the pattern, even on sale.

Anyway, I will work on that tomorrow. I really hope I can solve this problem...I would be able to sew and wear all these patterns for woven tops that I have in the pattern stash!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Covering these broad shoulders...

So last night I spent the whole evening adjusting a pattern for a top (Simplicity 4017, a tunic) to match a RTW top that fits me well. I used a great video on youtube by the even greater sew-er, David Page Coffin. That man could sew up a good-looking paper hat. His video shows how to copy a shirt without ever taking it apart. Wonderful. And it works!!

I needed to copy this RTW top because I have something going on in my shoulder/upper back/ armhole area that makes me crazy...I simply cannot reach forward (like typing on a keyboard) comfortably. I always feel like the T-rex in Meet The Robinsons, where his arms are just too-too short. I have measured the RTW top and compared the measurements to the pattern. No dice. I have tried broadening the shoulders, or broadening the back, or cutting the armhole high and tight or all three with no effect. Zip. I have RTW tailored jackets that don't bind and this one top. So finally, after having discovered DPC's awesome video, I have possibly found my solution.

Comparing the pattern to the RTW pattern, I discover three things. Now, keep in mind that I wear something like a petite small in RTC, and according to my measurements, I need to sew a size 6 in patterns. First thing I discover, which surprised me, but not really: the armhole on the RTW top is much, much lower than in the pattern. It's nearly an inch lower! I always get draglines underneath the armhole on my handmade tops. So I suspected this. Second, the front and back shoulders are wider by 3/4". This surprises me but shouldn't, really. I have broad shoulders...but it's deceptive since I have a well developed trapezius (sp) muscle, so I also have sloping shoulders as well. Aha.... And finally, the upper bust and upper back are both wider than the pattern by, check this out, two inches. No wonder my tops are so tight. So I made some opportune additions to the pattern top, cut out the fabric for the muslin and sometime this weekend, I will whip up the muslin and see how all those changes work out...

The reason why I pointed out my size is because of this...this RTW top fits me pretty well. And I am IMPRESSED that the pattern size had so little ease built into it. Of course, the adjusted pattern now looks huge and weird. But if it works, and I can pull that top over my head and not feel like a 5-foot tall T-Rex with itty-bitty arms...then I am all for huge and weird!

I shall report back...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Hello! I live in NC and I've been sewing since about 2002. Although I toyed with the idea of sewing clothing for several years prior to that, I seriously became interested after I finished nursing school because, well, I finally had time (and I could afford a sewing machine!). My inspiration was a uber cool J. Crew leather jacket that I coveted. Never mind that I lived in Florida at the time, so I didn't really need a leather jacket. All of the cool kids had one :). Of course, my first project was not a leather jacket (the jacket is still in the virtual phase, 5 years later). I think I made a pair of capri pants, which has since gone to Goodwill, as the print has come and gone out of style. Then I made a whole bunch of PJ bottoms, an excellent project for any beginner. I still have those :)

One of the best things I ever did as a sewist was join an online community of sew-ers. The community that I love the most is at I joined this group about 6 months after I started sewing and honestly, I don't know if I would still be sewing without them. They are the nicest bunch of folks and incredible knowledgeable. I'm not as active as I used to be, but I check in on that website at least once a week to see the latest reviews of patterns and get a head's up on sales.

I wanted to start this blog so that I could have a diary of my sewing projects and how my skills and style evolves over the years. I'm currently making quite a few style changes or fit adjustments in several garments and I think it would be nice to be able to look back over what changes I've made. I'm also teaching a friend of mine to sew via email and I'll be posting those lessons as we go along. I figure that they will be helpful to someone else.

My plan is to write a little bit every time I sew, or at least update once a week. Life does get busy sometimes, so I'll just go with the flow.

Thanks for reading!