Posted on February 19, 2013
So many of us came to sewing wanting to know more. OK, once I write that out I realize how ridiculous it sounds–I think what I mean is that no one comes to sewing thinking that we already have the knowledge and skills to accomplish the task. More so than lots of occupations or endeavors, sewing is humbling in that when we come to the table, we know that we don’t know everything we need to know. We’re not tempted to be too big for our britches right out of the gate, and we all recognize at one level or another that we have a ways to go in order to develop and expand our sewing.
I thought, when I was younger and more naive, that learning to sew was just that: you set out to learn skills or techniques, and by doing that, you’d learn To Sew. As I get older and have more experience, and most especially as I meet more and more folks new to sewing and watch what it is that helps them to learn and to grow their confidence, I have changed my opinion. I’m not convinced anymore that we learn to sew. I think, now, that we sew to learn.
Here’s what I think that looks like: you might learn a technique, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you know where to use it, but if you make a project that requires that technique, not only do you learn to perform that skill, you also have a wider understanding of how that technique fits into the greater picture of what sewing is and how it works. By DOING the skill in a practical way, you’re able to figure out where it fits in the tool belt. And by doing it, and having the tangible results of a finished project, you are more motivated to continue to learn and grow and try new things. It’s the successes that propel us forward–and we can’t have success with a few stitches on a scrap of fabric.
Sewing to learn means that you’re pushing yourself, challenging yourself, all the time. You’re not working at your comfort level, where you’re not asked to try anything new; you’re not working at your frustration level, where everything makes you want to cry and use your “driving words,” as my daughter says; instead, you’re working at your challenge level, where the task asks for your full attention and rewards you with new connections and new insights–and those revelations are what make the finished product so satisfying and encourage you to tackle something new. And then the process begins all over again.
“Learning to sew” sounds like such a loooooooong process to me. And I’m the nerd girl who loves learning ANYTHING. Something about the phrase makes me feel as though I am at one end of a very long path, so long that I can’t see the end, and that image makes me a little scared and intimidated. Makes me want to stay at my comfort level. “Sewing to learn” doesn’t sound like school, or like a series of hurdles or hoops through which to jump–it sounds like action, like forward motion, like I’m actually getting somewhere. It sounds like the goal isn’t the learning, but the SEWING. And that’s inspiring and exciting.
What do you all think? Are we so caught up in the idea that we’re “learning to sew” that we forget to put in the 10,000 hours and have trial runs and prototypes and failures and mis-steps? There are successes and epiphanies and miraculously close calls, too, chances where things go just the way you hoped, and they’re all mixed up together, the pluses and the minuses. I love that. I love that I can sew to learn, that each project is a chance to explore and discover and connect and uncover and find the joy that sewing can bring.
Posted on February 18, 2013
Announcing the winners of the A-Line Skirts from Design and Sew an A-Line Skirt! In no particular order, the winners are:
For the green Hideaway skirt, #14 Melanie C., who said:
For the herringbone yoked skirt, #41 Kelly E, who said:
For the ruffled grey-and-citron skirt, #24 Megan, who said:
For the swingy plum Patty Young skirt, #54 Laura, who said:
For the Thomas Knauer triangles Frippery skirt, #34 Laranne, who said:
For the grey plaid wool skirt with bias-bound seams, #53 Erin, who said:
For the Anna Maria Horner Field Study skirt, #59 Sara, who said:
For the eyelet lined skirt with pink lawn peeking out beneath, #5 Katy, who said:
Thanks to ALL of you who entered, and congratulations to the winners!
Posted on February 15, 2013
OK, y’all! The last day of these skirt giveaways. If you’re just tuning in, I made a bunch of really lovely skirts as samples for my Craftsy class, Design and Sew an A-Line Skirt, but can’t wear them all because there just aren’t enough hours in the day or days in the week. Yada yada, I’m giving them away and you could win one! I’m giving away a total of EIGHT skirts this week, and today I’m sharing the final two with all of you.
One is the “kit” skirt for the Craftsy class, for which you can purchase the supplies directly from Craftsy, and the other is one that I loved shopping for and making, from eyelet with a full lining.
This print is from Anna Maria Horner’s Field Study line, and I just love the colors and the design. It’s modern and funky and so AMH, right? Since this was the core style from the class, it has a single-fold bias tape waistband, and like every other skirt from this class, has an invisible side zip.
My poor mannequin has been dragged in and out of the house so many times this week that she’s listing a bit to one side like a sailor on shore leave, but I think the skirt still looks like a million bucks–a testament to how cool this print is. The hem is a clean double-turned 1/2″ hem.
I tend to use invisible zips in my garment sewing more often than standard zippers. I feel like once you learn to put them in, they’re way easier than a standard zip, and I love how clean a finish they give. This skirt measures 35″ at the upper waistline edge, and while the zip is grey, because it’s invisible, you only see the zipper pull.
At first glance, this last skirt seems way simple and maybe not that exciting. But when you look closer, you realize that it’s an eyelet with a full lining, so the candlelight cream color has bits of candy pink peeking out at you. It’s subtle but so cool, I do so love a little surprise treat in my sewing.
This skirt also has the most volume of any of the skirts I’m giving away, and lots of swishy sway to it. Very 50s in delivery, between the eyelet and the volume, and really a joy to look at.
Here you can see that the lining is understitched and the invisible zip is sewn to the lining at the side seam. Both skirt and lining are hemmed separately, so you get plenty of movement when you sashay.
And there you have it! Check out the other three posts to see all the skirts–to win, simply leave a comment on the post! You are free to comment on EACH of the four posts this week to enter to win one of the eight skirts I’m giving away–in fact, I’d recommend it, as it will quadruple your chances of getting one of these babies in the mail! International entries are welcome. Winners will be announced Monday, Feb 18 here on the blog!
Posted on February 14, 2013
For the past two days, I’ve been giving away skirts I made as samples from my Craftsy class, Design and Sew an A-Line Skirt. And today and tomorrow, I have FOUR more! Happy Valentine’s Day, y’all.
These two are some of my favorites of all the samples I made, one in an incredible wool plaid and the other in a dreamy cotton print.
This wool plaid skirt is probably going to be the hardest to send to another home. It’s 100% wool, but I can’t even describe how soft and supple the fabric is, and how drapey. It has the most lovely hand, and was a joy to sew as well as to try on and swish about the house in. The plaid is very, very subtle, and the color is a rich ashy charcoal with shots of plum and navy.
Isn’t it gorgeous? The way the fabric falls in the folds created by the volume in this version is really beautiful, and I imagine it with boots and tights for cooler months.
This one has a double-fold bias tape waistband, along with the invisible zip that all these skirts share. It hits right at the knee, and is really 50s demure but somehow also modern and clean and classic.
There is a single on-seam pocket here, on the hip opposite the side zip. Pockets get a lesson all their own in the Craftsy class, and I love adding them–I’m pretty sure that everything really should have pockets in order to be finished, and couldn’t resist adding one to this sample.
Rather than overcasting or serging the seams, all the raw edges are finished with bias tape in a contrasting cotton print, which I love. It’s like a little surprise on the inside that only you see! The waistband is hand-stitched to the inner edge for a clean, couture-style finish.
Today’s other skirt is out of a print from Thomas Knauer’s Frippery line, and I can’t get enough of these colors. It’s warm but also summery and so delicious. And the triangles!! This simple cotton version of the skirt is the basic pattern with facings and darts.
I mean, look at that fabric. LOOK AT IT. Dude.
Another invisible zipper, and here you can see that the lower edge of the facing is finished with an overcast stitch, and the facing is understitched–both techniques included in the class, should you want to make your own version of the skirt!
Just like yesterday and the day before, simply leave a comment to win! You are free to comment on EACH of the four posts this week to enter to win one of the eight skirts I’m giving away–in fact, I’d recommend it, as it will quadruple your chances of getting one of these babies in the mail! International entries are welcome. Winners will be announced Monday, Feb 18 here on the blog!
Posted on February 13, 2013
Another day, and TWO more skirts! These are both samples from my Design and Sew an A-Line Skirt class on Craftsy. A couple folks have asked whether the pattern for these skirts is also available, and it is–when you make it! This online class covers the basic skills of patternmaking using an a-line skirt as the test subject. Through a dozen lessons and more than ten hours of video instruction, you’ll learn the foundational skills that will allow you to make this very pattern to fit YOUR measurements–and that includes how to properly take your measurements, so that all your patterns will fit better.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s giveaway post, I made 16 samples for this class, so that I’d be armed with tons of variations to share on camera. I wanted to inspire and motivate every student who takes the class to feel empowered to make exactly what you dreamed of–and to maybe plant some ideas of the possibilities in your head. But I already have a whole closet FULL of skirts from Stitch by Stitch, and I hate the idea of being selfish and greedy and keeping every one of these a-line skirts to myself. I pulled out a few that I love, love, love and couldn’t bear to part with (I’ll share photos of those on Flickr later this week), and then selected others that, under the duress of an over-full closet and in the interest of generosity and Valentine’s Day spirit, I felt I could let go on to good and loving homes where they’d be worn and appreciated!
Today, two more skirts that represent additional techniques you learn in the Craftsy lessons, and ways the pattern can be adapted to your preferences as you draft it yourself!
The first is made with slightly more volume than the ones from yesterday, using the slash-and-spread technique that’s taught as one of the lessons in Design and Sew an A-Line Skirt. So it’s got more flair than the others, which makes it swirly and fun! Add this amazing Patty Young print, and the fact that with the extra flair, this skirt lacks darts, and it’s a really great, modern look to wear in warmer weather.
The odd lighting on this gloomy day doesn’t really do it justice, but the Kona cotton bias tape waistband is a dead match for the lovely plummy colors in this print. And I like that it’s a solid, so a contrast, but a subtle and classy one at the waistline. It will also define your waist with that horizontal line so, if you’re like me and pretty banana-shaped, you’ll have more curves in a skirt with this shape and a strong contrasting “belt” at the waist.
I mean, how great is this print?!? I totally love it. And this plum color has been my obsession lately. I didn’t think I could really pull it off next to my face, even though I originally bought the print to make into a Tova, but a skirt! Sure! Of course, now that’s moot, since it’s going to belong to ONE OF YOU. Yay!
Another invisible zipper, this one caught in the bias tape waistband. The waistband technique is clearly taught as part of the course, and there’s lots of up-close video action.
Second skirt today: this dreamy geometric print from Cloud9. I struggled the most deciding to give this one away, and not least because of the colors. I lurve the ruffle at the hemline, and think it’s such a simple but grown-up way to add a little sass to a simple skirt. I didn’t want to do anything too juvenile with this one, but a single, understated ruffle right at the hem seemed to strike the perfect balanced note of playful and sophisticated.
This one has a facing at the waistline, and does have front and back darts. Upper waistline edge measures 34″, and the invisible zipper is stitched to the facing on the interior. All the raw edges of this skirt are finished with a simple overcast stitch using the sewing machine–no serger required! That technique is also taught as part of the Craftsy course.
See what I mean about the ruffle? It’s dreamy. It is stitched above the finished hemline, so you won’t have to worry that it’ll fly up or reduce the overall length of the skirt–all of these are made to hit just above or just at the knee, so they’re pretty and feminine but also appropriately modest and classy. Audrey would approve.
As before, simply leave a comment to win! You are free to comment on EACH of the four posts this week to enter to win one of the eight skirts I’m giving away–in fact, I’d recommend it, as it will quadruple your chances of getting one of these babies in the mail! International entries are welcome. Winners will be announced Monday, Feb 18 here on the blog!
Posted on February 12, 2013
When I was sewing for my Craftsy class, Design and Sew an A-Line Skirt, I might have gotten a little carried away–I was enjoying the patternmaking so much, and refining the lessons before shooting the video that I got this idea into my head that I should make as many variations as possible. At one point, one of my editors over at Craftsy remarked, “You’ve made so many samples! Thank you!” I think I was surprised that I could have made fewer, since I felt really compelled to make LOTS of samples. That’s probably because I remember what my mom told me back when she was designing children’s clothing in the early 90s: People don’t know what they want; you have to tell them what they want.
At the time, that sounded super cynical, like it was a judgment of people and a ploy that marketers use. But I don’t see it that way. In fact, I think it’s a very generous portrayal of how we all get inspired: for many of us, until we see what it is we love or feel passionately about, we don’t even know that we want it, or have any idea in our heads that this could be something worth aspiring to. But once we see it…well, it can be very hard to shake that idea out of our brains. So as I was planning the lessons on making the a-line skirt pattern for my class, I really wanted to devote some energy to sewing as many variations as I could, to inspire students and spark their own creativity, give them some ideas for where these lessons could go and how they could adapt them to their own tastes and needs! At the end of the course, there’s a bonus lesson where you see all the skirts, and having that many options from which to choose and ways that the pattern could be adjusted to make seemingly-endless variations was so fun that I can’t even express it in words. (And that’s saying something, for me.)
Problem is, I made 16 sample skirts, and I can’t possibly make good use of 16 a-line skirts. Not when I already have a closet full of yoked skirts from Stitch by Stitch. I decided, rather than doing a blog tour, I wanted to offer up some of these samples to loving homes where they’ll be worn and cared for! That’s right: over the rest of this week, I’m giving away two skirts a day, for a total of EIGHT skirts by Friday. I hope you love them–and if you don’t win one in the random drawing, you can always draft your own pattern and make your own skirt through Craftsy!
For starters today, one yoked skirt and one with a bias-tape waistband.
I adore this herringbone fabric, and as soon as it came out, jumped on a yard of it for this skirt. The colors are delicious and the Tula Pink yoke works with it perfectly!
This one has a lined yoke, and all the skirts have an invisible zipper. At the upper waistline edge, the skirt measures 35″ and is designed to be worn below the waist.
This second skirt, made from the same original pattern but with tweaks, is sweet and simple and goes with just about anything. I love the green and the cuckoo clock pathway print from the Hideaway collection.
This skirt has a bias tape waistband, the basic technique taught in the Craftsy class–and one that I use in all kinds of situations to finish off edges and make for a clean presentation. It’s really magical stuff, bias tape. Another invisible zipper here, which I love. Looks SO clean and polished from the outside!
The upper waistline edge of this skirt, which is also designed to be worn below the waist, is 34″. That equates to roughly an 8/10 or so, depending on whether you want to wear it closer to your waist or let it fall closer to your hipline. Measure yourself and see if it’ll fit you–and if not, chances are you have a friend who would love to have a handmade skirt that’s been on the internet, right??
To win either of these skirts, just leave a comment–that’s it! Winner will be chosen at random, and TWO more skirts will be showcased and given away EACH day for the rest of the week! Winners for all the skirts will be announced on Monday, February 18 here on the blog. Consider it a Valentine’s Day/President’s Day gift from me (and Craftsy) to you!
Posted on February 11, 2013
So, at this point, the vast majority of Sewing Buddies have been matched. I’ve sent out one. last. invite. to those aspiring Buddies to make sure they’re not missing something in the junk folder, but with over 200 folks joining the Sewing Buddies this year, I’ve officially CLOSED Sewing Buddy sign-ups until 2014. Whew!
In years past, the Sewing Buddy Project was really just a matching system: I volunteered my time to match names to one another, and once the introductions were made, the Buddies were more or less on their own, like pen pals. When I had pen pals when I was younger (back when parents thought it was safe to assign a child’s name and mailing address to a total stranger, which lets you know just how I old I really am), I don’t recall there being any guidelines or suggested activities–and if there had been, I feel pretty confident saying I wouldn’t have followed them, anyway. But over the first couple of years of this Sewing Buddy experiment, I heard back from folks that they wanted a little more guidance and structure to their Buddy-ness, some activities that joined them and their one Buddy to the whole of the rest of Buddy-dom, in one large Buddy mass. I love that idea, and so last year we did a series of Buddy challenges. This year, we’re taking it up another notch.
When they were matched, Buddies made suggestions of projects that might be fun to do with one another, things that would bond them to each other on the small scale, giving them shared experiences to discuss via email, and also that would bond them to the larger group, with chances to be inspired and to learn from a greater canvas. I’ve selected about four of the suggestions–and trust me, there were some really, really good ones, but there were some that came up over and over and made themselves pretty obviously the best choices for the group–for us to all participate in as the year goes along. They’ll be visible and open to the public on the blog, but also shared privately within the Sewing Buddy community via our monthly newsletter. Makes me think of the Little Orphan Annie decoder ring from A Christmas Story, where he hears the code over the radio but only folks with the ring can learn the secret message. Except I can solemnly vow I won’t attempt to make you drink your Ovaltine.
image via Quilting Arts
To begin with, an idea that I’ve been captivated with for some time, but wasn’t quite sure how to inject into my daily life (or even the life of the blog): Artist Trading Cards. These are tiny works of art, about the size of a business card, that give you a chance to play around with color and fabric and fiber and texture. They have a cool history, and are simple to make for anyone who has a machine and some scraps of fabric lying around–including notions, ribbons, trims, buttons, and whathaveyous.
image via Quilting Arts
They don’t all have to be fancy–some can be incredibly simple, like this one that I made from a scrap of fabric I ran through my ink jet printer to add my logo:
(Don’t you love printing on fabric? If you haven’t done it before, it’s easy! Plenty of online tutorials, or you can find a project using this technique in my new book, Stitch Savvy. Be sure to drink your Ovaltine!)
image via JennyPennyPoppy on Pinterest
The great thing about Artist Trading Cards is they’re the teensiest of quilts to take along with you and exchange with friends. They can double as business cards. You can make one for yourself to wear at conventions and guild meetings. And they’re so small you can tackle one in just a few minutes.
via NewLeaf on Flickr
So the first activity for the Sewing Buddies in 2013 is just that: make an Artist Trading Card and exchange it by mail with your Sewing Buddy! It’ll be a small, do-able project that you can share with one another. Use this free e-book from Quilting Arts magazine for guidance, or check out the quilted artist trading cards on Flickr and Pinterest for inspiration. I can’t wait to see what all of you will make!
Posted on February 6, 2013
I can’t believe how quickly the year is flying by! It’s already time to start registration for my Sewing Clothing for Kids e-course, because spring is on the way and we’ve got sweet little babies to dress. This class has been both very popular and incredibly fun for me to teach–it includes eight great patterns and such great style for boys AND girls. That’s right, BOYS AND GIRLS. We have both at our house, and I feel your pain when it comes to finding cute clothes for all of them. Over the course of five weeks, we’ll tackle the basics of kids’ clothing construction. All you need is some foundational sewing skills and some fabric–get your patterns with the purchase of the class, and join in the fun! See all the details, plus peek at photos of the garments we’ll be making and register, all right here. Class begins March 11, 2013!
Posted on February 5, 2013
Anna over at Noodlehead has a fantastic tutorial for making a fabric tray for storage that I’ve been meaning to try for ages. I tend to take papers and pattern pages that have been printed on one side and tear them in half to use as scrap paper–mostly for making lists of things to do the next day that I stick in my calendar so I’ll be able to check them off, thereby earning myself a nice gold star and a new Netflix for a reward. Ahem.
I needed a place to keep all the bits of paper I hadn’t used yet, though. And I’m not really sure what took me so long–I think I figured that I had other things to prioritize over making a storage basket. But I was reminded when I finally DID make it that there’s a rule at play: when a task takes time but saves you exponentially MORE time than it takes, you should invest the time and be done with it, in order to save more time later. I bet there’s a more direct way to state that rule, but I think you already knew the rule, so I won’t both re-stating something you already knew.
Including the cutting, this might have taken all of 25 minutes to put together. I had all the supplies on hand–two fabrics, a small piece of Peltex, thread. Nothing super unusual (especially since I think you could get away with using cardboard instead of the Peltex, in a pinch). Anna’s instructions are really well written, and I love that she gives you the dimensions and everything. I used the instructions for the largest size, which is just right for storing 8.5″ x 11″ pages torn in half, along with a pen and the little creme brulee dish I use to corral paper clips and push pins and binder clips and occasionally stray bobbins looking for a home.
I think my favorite part is the little corners, which are so cute and so easy to make that I wanted a whole stack of nesting baskets (kinda like my fabric buckets, but for on top of the desk). I held back–I don’t want to clutter the limited space I have, and I’m looking to simplify rather than expand at the moment.
But what a great addition to my desk life. I spend 25 minutes cutting and sewing, and now I DON’T have to spend 15 minutes every day hunting for a piece of scrap paper, plus I get to save all the pages that got tossed in recycling because I didn’t have any place to store them until I needed them–at which point I didn’t have any, and would end up using a new piece of paper rather than re-using a piece that was printed on one side but still totally good! Whew. Maybe this is a leftover effect of all my closet cleaning from the new year, but I’m so glad I finally buckled down and did it. Plus, now I get to see Melody Miller’s typewriters and just a dash of Denyse Schmidt’s Flea Market Fancy every day–who knew those fabrics would look so fantastic together?
Yay for sewing organization! Somewhere around here, I’ve got some Neat as Ninepence posts, where I’ve been gradually adding in ideas and sewing that helps me to get organized and stay that way. This one totally gets added to the bunch–feel free to browse (or let me know if I’ve overlooked a fabulous idea that I totally need to add!).
Posted on February 1, 2013
This quilt was made well over two years ago for a book proposal, but the project ended up not being included in Stitch Savvy. When we moved into our new house, I re-discovered this piece, and I have fallen in love with it all over again. And now that it’s February, month of the Valentine, what a perfect time to enjoy it!
That’s me and my husband. When I first brought this out and hung it on the empty wall in our entryway–where I’ve been rotating temporary displays seasonally over the past few months while we wait to find just the right piece of art to live there permanently–the two middle children, ages 4 and 6, saw it and thought it was the two of them. At first, our boy said, “Whoa! That’s amazing!” But apparently he and his siter had some ind of conversation while I was busy patting myself on the back for sewing things that are so impressive to the preschool set, because next I heard was, “I don’t like that. I think you should take it down.” I asked why, and was told, “Because we look like we want to kiss!” I told both of them it wasn’t them (so egotistical!), it was Mommy and Daddy. And our daughter says, “Eww! It looks like you’re romancing!”
Love. It is, in fact, a many-splendored thing.
The entire wall hanging is quilted. It’s Kona black overlaid on an older Alexander Henry red-on-pink floral print. The shapes were drawn on poster board with a pencil–I had my husband sit between a lamp with the shade off and the poster board, taped to the wall. I traced his outline, then had him trace mine. After a little cleaning up to make the lines smooth, I cut out the shapes and used them as templates to create silhouettes of our two profiles, facing one another. Those were laid on the base fabric, then machine appliqued in place using a satin stitch.
The outline was made in a similar way: I created a scallop shape on poster board, and used that as a template to trace out a large oval on the interior of a border, also made of Kona black. The scalloped edges are machine appliqued with satin stitch, just like the faces.
The appliqued rose fabric was treated like a quilt top, and placed over batting a solid piece of Kona black for backing. I quilted an outline of each of the profiles, but where they face one another, I united them with an unbroken outline. Symbolic, no? Then, the entirety of the pink and red background was quilted with very closely-spaced–one inch–parallel lines from the edge of the applique to the edges of the outlined profiles.
Despite pressing, the quilt back is still fairly rumpled from its time in storage; still, this shot gives you a better view of the quilting stitches. The binding is more Kona black–I think it was after this project that I just bit down and bought myself an entire bolt of black to have for me and only me. (My old fabric manufacturer rep told me once that Kona black is the best-selling fabric of ALL TIME, and I believe him. Kona white and snow are close behind, he says.)
It wasn’t really my idea to hang it on the wall in the entryway. My intern (loose term, since she’s the same age as me and isn’t getting any college credit) suggested it, since this piece is an odd size and shape: 44″ by 52″, so too small to really be a quilt, but not small enough to tuck into an inconspicuous corner. The entryway wall is big and empty and screaming out for decoration, and from the instant we hung it up, I was in love. Now, I had every suspicion that my husband wouldn’t be a big fan–I offered to let him take it to his office back when I first made it and he politely declined. Go figure.
Every time I walk past it, though, day or night, it absolutely brings a smile to my face. We look younger, for one thing. No photo or portrait could ever do that. And I love how classic the silhouette is, but how modern the Alex Henry fabric is, and the enormous scale of these heads makes the whole thing seem updated and edgy instead of staid and boring–in the same way that papercut silhouettes against bright, cheery fabrics seem updated compared to black-and-white ones with doilies behind them.
This wasn’t a quick-and-easy project, but it was worth the effort. I love it so much more now than I even did when I conceived the idea and made it originally, and re-discovering it after nearly two years was a real treasure. It was a lot of work then, but I think I’m more than reaping the rewards now. We’ll keep this up in the entryway through Valentine’s Day, and I will never let my husband live down that he’s on fabric and we’re “romancing.”