Wednesday, January 20, 2010

big story for a small brain

I spent quite a bit of time posting a blog only to be surprised that it did not show up when my husband searched for it. Come to find out I had posted it on my OTHER blog. I have that blog because I got confused when I first started and somehow ended up with two blogspots. I know--big surprise, but oh well. ANYWAY, if you want to learn about my multiple sergers, go to I also can't quite figure out how to move that post to this blog or how to eliminate the other blogspot. Sigh

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Fabric Shopping in San Francisco

We've just returned from 4 days in San Francisco. The last time we were there, we were flying, so I was pretty restricted in what I could buy. This time, however, we drove! I hit all 4 floors of Britex fabrics first and spent $132.00. I did have my hands on some fabric that was $350.00 a yard. I wish I had thought to take a picture because that is as close to having any of it I will get. It was made from tulle yo yos which were crocheted together with a black silky thread. Mostly, I purchased from the 4th floor "bargains" (not exactly on the scale of JoAnn's sale fabrics, but oh well) The people working there are top notch, so it was fun to just visit with them and also to watch the other customers.
The second fabric place I found was in Chinatown. There was a partial wall of bolts of silk, all for $19.95 a yard. I went crazy buying one yard of 10 fabrics and 1 1/2 yards of two others. I also found a book of Chinese Knots and some cute slippers I want to copy, so got those. Except for steamed and baked buns for our dinner, that is all we bought in Chinatown, but we did look a lot.
I'm glad I did some research before leaving home for the third place. Noone at the hotel seemed to know anything about a fashion district. I ended up taking a cab ($9.40 + tip each way) down to the Jessica McClintock outlet. There was a whole room of amazing formals and wedding dresses for $5 to 100.00. Most of the $100+ gowns were on sale for 60% off that price as an end of summer event. I even looked at a long black satin skirt that would have fit me for $15.00. It was the fabric I was after though, so I started through the rolls. They were all on rolls with numbers such as 6.00 on the tape. I thought the numbers must refer to the price (the sweet lady working the floor didn't understand my question, so I went with what I assumed) I picked out a few rolls and took them to the checkout lady. Come to find out, the number referred to the yards and each roll was a set price no matter how many yards. The price per roll was --drum roll here--$3.30!!! I ended up with 12 rolls of fabric which I then had to unroll and fold to put in bags to get back to the hotel. I also got a couple of purses, some feather trim, some gloves and some lace and ribbon. Now, I have to figure out what to do with 35 yards of light pink satin with darker pink polka dots! Anyway, I spent $71.00 for the whole bunch. I might not have purchased the silk if I had gone to the outlet first, but I will have a great time making real silk goodies. They will have to be priced a bit higher or else I'll just use the silk for family gifts. Who knows? I will especially welcome suggestions for polka dot satins.

Swan Lake Outfits

The Grandparents said that they like the pictures at least of the Swan Lake outfits. I will put them in the mail tomorrow, as the grandparents have been out of town. It was a fun challenge and I certainly hope they work for the girls. Their grand daughters are two super cute 4-year-olds. I liked using horsehair braid for the bottom of the short tu tu, although it doesn't give the complete circle wire rings do. Maybe in the future, I'll experiment with boning as I had originally thought. The braid is something I could see using often if I can find it at a good price. By the yard at JoAnns, it was $1.49, but I know that has it for 26 cents in big packages. I noticed that it also came in lots of other colors when I was at Britex, so will check on that too.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Design Decisions

I love to sew my own designs. I sometimes use patterns as a guide, but often diverge a long way from the intended design. Most often though, I find I get inspired by a picture I've seen, something I've seen while out and about or the fabric "talks to me". All of this jumble of information stews in my brain and somehow comes together into a design I want to make. Now, actually getting that mental picture into something real and functional is another thing altogether! Right now, I'm making Swan Lake costumes for two little girls in California. Their grandparents have ordered them. They want them to be pretty true to the ballet and to have both the long and the short skirt. I've been researching on-line and have discovered that the short tu tus have a wire rim to keep them circular, and that in the brial scene, they sometimes wear wristlet type gloves. I've got the long skirts done, have the white sparkle leotards cut out, have feather and silver trim and am working on the short tu tus. I plan an overlay of sheer white fabric I have with silver sparkles all over it. I cut out one set and trimmed the outer circle with silver glitter fabric paint, but I'm not sure I like that. Next, I might try a self ruffle on the outer edge. As I struggle to make these outfits look wonderful, I do need to keep in mind that I'm trying to get the look of a $500.oo costume for $60.00. I'll post pictures when finished.

I'm also thinking of several ideas for using old jeans. currently, I have a bag made from woven jeans seams, a skirt from the leg panels and a tu tu using the waistband of the jeans. I have cut out an apron, using the back pocket and leg as a center panel. some tote bags, a little girl's skirt, and a skirt for a woman using the top part of the jeans with ruffles for the rest. I have one pair of jeans that just need patches for a 60's look and one pair I'm trying to design with bleach on cookie cutters. I NEED MORE TIME!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sewing Machines

When I worked for the Cooperative Extension Service, I learned to teach sewing machine maintenance. The first time though that I gave a demonstration on how to completely clean and oil a Featherweight, I couldn't get it back together correctly! Well, I quickly learned and really enjoyed using machines I could "fiddle" with. All of this experience was very helpful when I started teaching at the high school and found 5 brands of sewing machines in the department. We were able to keep them all working well beyond their expected life span.

At home, I regularly use three old Vikings, one new Viking, my Featherweight, an old green Elna I got at a yard sale and 4 different sergers. I also have two Singers from the 50's, a 1922 Singer, two treadle machines and a Bernette 600 I purchased recently from Craig's list. Needless to say, I've had to rearrange my sewing room so I can set up enough tables.

It is really helpful though to have a variety of machines because they all handle a little differently and I can have them set up with different color threads, needles or throat plates (sergers). I've also given away several machines to my daughter and niece over the years.

One machine I've never used is a commercial sewing machine. The neighbor lady donated one to our department and before I ever learned to use it, I retired. I in turn, donated it to another school and she has used it.

Probably the machine I treasure the most is the White treadle that was my Grandmother's. She bought it used so she could make a living as a dressmaker. She sewed on it up until she was in her 90's. I can't even get near the quality she produced, but I keep trying. I do have some of her quilt tops that I want to finish someday and I have a few other things she did, along with the sewing machine. I've never used it, but my Sister-in-law did a few years ago, and it worked fine.

My guess as to the sewing machine I would LEAST want is a Bernina. It is a wonderful machine, but in my experience it doesn't allow me enough flexibility in changing tension and such. Here are some pictures.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

My scathingly brilliant idea

Whenever I use that statement with my friends, family and colleagues, they know that my idea will be off the wall and most likely unworkable, but it will have some flashes of good ideas.
Like many others, I've been sickened and disgusted over the actions of the so-called leaders of many of our corporations. Then I read two of Barbara Ehrenreich's books. they are NICKEL AND DIMED: and THIS LAND IS THEIR LAND. As I've pondered her writings, I wondered if using her experience from the first book as an idea for punishment for these criminals wouldn't be a good idea.
If we put these criminals in jail, then we all pay twice for their care and handling. In addition, they have all sorts of "rights" that most of the people they wronged do not have, including health care and leisure time, in their nicer than average prisons. Plus, when they get out, they still have all of the resources they managed to hide away.
How about taking everything away from them and putting them to work changing bedpans, mucking out sewer systems and so on for minimum wage or even less? They would have to find their own place to live, get food and health care all out of that wage they formerly fought so hard to keep low. We wouldn't be taking away any of their rights, because so much of America already lives like this on a daily basis. Of course, they would still have advantages because they got good health care and education for all the previous years, and most have had a pleasant life. Nothing else seems to work with these people. Maybe at least one or two would get a clue if they had to live the life of the people they have wronged so long.

Monday, June 8, 2009

How to Make a Tu Tu

Some people who frequent bazaars are just there to get ideas. Some are subtle about it and some just come right out and ask how to make something I'm selling. I thought that I mught get upset about their comments or questions, but I find that I'm not bothered by them. Perhaps it's just the teacher in me or the fact that most won't ever get around to making what I do. Anyway, I'm glad to tell them how to make something. Making a plain tote bag is the most simple thing I do, but after that, making a tu tu is probably next.

Here's how: supplies needed are cutting mat, rotary cutter, 3 to 6 yards of tulle, elastic, enough ribbon for both sides of the waist, and blossom petals if you want that kind. I find that I need to wait until tulle is on sale for 50% off, or I can't make anything on a $20.00 tu tu

1. Press the tulle first if it is wrinkled

2. Fold the tulle in half and then fold or roll the tulle carefully lengthwise into a bundle wide enough to fit on a cutting mat. A regular tu tu looks good with 3 yards, but a super full one could be 6 yards in each of 4 layers. That means that you will have to cut two sections . they can be the same colors or different. If you are making a rainbow tu tu, then you only want one layer of each of the 6 colors.

3. I like to use the scollaped blade of my rotary cutter. Trim one long edge of the tulle so all edges are even.

4. Decide how long you want the tu tu to be and cut off the tulle. I make a standard tu tu 18". If you are making a tu tu with blossom petals in it, then cut in from the folded edge.

5. For a standard tu tu, carefully place all 4 layers together so the edges are even.

6. I tighten the tension and lengthen the stitch regulator on my sewing machine and sew all 4 layers together. The machine will gather as you sew. You might have to experiment a little, as each machine and each fabric is a little different. You could also zig zag over a heavy thread and pull up the gathers.

7. The pre gathered tulle should be about twice the desired waist measurement.

8. Set your machine back to standard sewing and sew a length of ribbon along the gathered edge. This ribbon will be the back of the waistband.

9. For the front of the wasit band, you will want a section of ribbon as long as the back with enough extra at each end for ties. Find the center of each ribbon and pin them together. Sew the front ribbon on to the tulle at the top edge first. Then sew along the tulle edge.

10. Cut a piece of elastic (the width will depend of what ribbon you've chosen) 1 to 2 inches shorter than what you want for a waist measurement. Using a safety pin at the end, push the elastic through the ribbon casing you've created. Be careful when you get to the end of the elastic so you don't pull it on through!

11. Sew both ends of the elastic to the ribbon, tucking in the raw edges of the back ribbon as you sew.

12. Trim the tie ends on a slant and use Fray Check to seal the edges.

If you are making a blossom tu tu, here is what you do:

1. press and fold the tulle as described above.

2. Open up the tulle to one thickness, but make sure you can see the fold line. I use a sheet of plastic over my table before placing the tulle on it so I can glue and not make a mess.

3. Use a high quality fabric glue and put a dot of glue on the back of a flower petal. Place the flower petals mostly just at or above the folded edge, but some can be scattered through out the skirt. Allow to dry.

4. Then the glue is dry, take the tulle to the machine. Fold the cut edges wrong side out and stitch a seam so the petals will stay in. Turn right side out.

5. Add some loose flower petals in also.

6. Sew the waist band as described above.

Variations: 1. Use fabric to make a "real" waistband. 2. Decorate the waistband with flowers or jewels. 3. Sew on a narrow ribbon over the wider ribbon before attaching the two layers together. 4. Add in other decorations to a tulle "pocket" instead of flower petals. 5. used the rolled hem attachment on your serger on the edges of the tulle. 6. Use a sheer fabric for the top layer that you have finished with a decorative stitch. 7. Sew roses or other decorations on the tulle. I would be glad to send you more pictures and information.