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.