Friday, March 27, 2009

More Sew Stuff

I think I've managed to fulfill most of my notions wish-list, thanks to 40% off notions at JoAnn's.

I gave in and bought two hams: one in a traditional ham-shape and the other a seam roll . Without a wool remnant to make my own, and knowing I'll use them frequently, they were worth buying at 40% off.

I bought a new rotary blade. I nicked mine years ago on a pin. I knew I wouldn't want to have to hand cut those threads missed by the cutter at every rotation.

I also chose a new rotary mat. Mine was one of those old (old!) green ones and a bit warped, not to mention really used with stuck on glue and glitters. My new one has grid lines and is double sided. Ah, smooth clean surface!

Other items:
-silk pins (to use on silk and fine fabrics)
-stay tape
-magnetic pin wand
-magnetic pin catch to stick on my new machine
-I stocked up on non-roll 1 inch waistband elastic in black and white as well as 1/8 inch elastic
-Lite SteamaSeam 2. I later ralized this comes in different widths. I bought the 1/4 inch. Hope this is sufficent for my needs. People who like this product joke about buying it by the case.
- disappearing ink pen
-fray block (hoping that this is the brand people have recommended)
-spring action scissors for quick thread snipping
-bobbin box (unfortunately, I didn't know what size bobbin my new machine uses, so I wasn't able to stock up on bobbins - making mental note to find out)

My sewing box is fat-n-happy. I cleaned it and threw out old pins, picking them off the pin cushions and out of the corners.

My sewing box is old. I think it was my grandmother's. There's a widget in there I've never been able to figure out. After a bit of searching, it turns out to be a hard to find vintage Dritz tool used to bind button holes. Secret Pocket blog has a tutorial on how to use it. I'll surely have to find a project that needs bound button holes.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Watching While Waiting

It will be a couple more weeks before I can take the new machine for a test drive. I hesitate to play with it until I get it serviced. I’m afraid I'll be disappointed with it if it has glitches.

I’ll be getting it serviced at my “vacation” home, which is really a corporate townhouse in the southern Virginia town of Abingdon, near my husband's work. I’ll be joining him there in a couple of weeks for an extended stay. In town, there’s a quilt shop owned by the same woman for 40 years. Her husband services machines (and magically digs out Gandini silk from the back room). I’m pretty sure he knows what he’s doing. I hope he gives my new machine his stamp of approval. Just wait till I tell him I saved him from having to give me bad news about my Viking 4500!

Meanwhile, I’m not wasting time while waiting to start on my sewing projects. I’ve been reading sewing blogs and posts on the Stitcher’s Guild Forums, watching helpful tutorials, gathering yet more essential supplies.

Some favorite tutorial sites:
-Thread’s Magazine Video Tutorials: I had oodles of “ah-ha” moments watching these videos. Simple things. Big results.
-Palmer Pletsch: Body type advice.

Fashion Incubator is a site for a more professional sewist than I will become, but I found this article “How to Sew Faster” quite an inspiration. I’m glad I found it now, at the beginning of my sewing venture, rather than later. You might be surprised at what you learn. has oodles of information.

I have also bookmarked quite a few patterns I’d love to try. I think I'm going to be a pattern junkie. I even bought one! Saf-T-Pocket’s Flounce About Jacket 2009. I know exactly how I want the final project to look: all I need now is to find a lovely, soft, winter white wool. I won’t make it right away, even if I do find the wool, as I’d like to refine what sewing skills I do have. I envision the lining an off white silk with self-florals (there’s got to be a name for this type of fabric) and with a gold trim. Since I want this to be a bit formal, I’ll probably omit some of the saf-t-pockets.

I still need to learn about facings. I know how to work with them (sorta kinda). What I don’t know are about the varieties and what type of facing I should use for which material. I’m still hunting down a succinct tutorial or article. It seems that everyone has their favorite brand or weight or fabric. I want that knowledge!

I think I need a good book or two. Maybe that will help fill in a few of the missing holes in my information.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sew Stuff

I have a dream list of sewing things I want. Good machines aside, there is all the stuff I wish I had.

I want a tailor's ham for pressing. When I read recently that they are essential for pressing curved seams, it made sense as I remembered the great difficulty I've had pressing armholes and necklines. I think I'll make one using this pattern.

I bought several items on my wish list today:

- two yards of graphing material for use in altering patterns. I think I bought the wrong stuff. I should have chosen something closer to this paper.

- new and sharp pins with glass heads

- a fine line yellow chalk marker

- a measuring gauge

- 6 inch clear ruler

- (my favorite of all) Dritz Machine Seam Gauge and Adhesive Guide. This is the tool I have always wished existed to help guide fabric for accurate seam widths.

Successful haul makes a happy sewist.

The Sewing Machine Saga

I've been unhappy with my machine - a Viking 4500 - for years. I always felt something was wrong with it as the stitches don't lay end to end, in a completely straight line, like good little soldiers.

Yesterday, I found out that the bad stitch line was not due to an inherent problem with the machine, but with threads and needles. Jenny at Sew-Classic Blog has a great tutorial on the subject.

Sadly, that doesn't redeem my machine. I sent a request to join a yahoo group for owners of Viking Sewing Machines. Here's the reply I received:

Unfortunately, your machine is not a Husqvarna built model. The 4500 was one of the models that was produced at the old Meister factory in Germany, after Husqvarna took them over. There is absolutely no resemblance between the two types of machines except for the name on them. Viking sold these machines as low end models to compete with the Asian machines of the day, and when they had lots of trouble with them, they refused to stand behind them. If you remove the top of your machine, you will find that the camstack is a mass of cracks, and the part is NLA. In fact, the part was NLA within five years after they were produced, and if it had been available, it would have cost more to change it than the machine was worth.

What's a new sewist to do?

One thing came to mind fairly quickly. Cry.

And check Craig's List, which I've never checked before. To my glad surprise, amid the antique Singer's, there was this ad:

Sears Kenmore Free Arm Sewing Machine Model # 385.121714
Used approximately 5 times over the years... kept in box in hall closet.
This is as NEW... as a USED UNIT... could possibly be.
Tons of stitching, Straight, Zig-Zag, Utility, Stretch stitches and Buttonhole settings.
Owners manual, stitching chart and box.

I bought it this morning.

Sew, within 12 hours I went from being the despairing owner of a rip-off of a knock-off to owning an adequate machine in good working order.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Not Quite Novice

I had a sudden realization that I have made a few - a very few - garments over the past 20 years that are note worthy.

The Wool Skirt
This past winter, I wanted a wool skirt. I searched the stores in my small city to no avail. One day, on a whim, I made an almost illegal u-turn to pull into the JoAnn's. With a mental image of what I wanted, a subtle wool in brown tones (I have a brown turtleneck sweater I wanted to match to the skirt), I wandered the aisles. To my delight, I found just what I'd imagined!

It wasn't too difficult to find a simple pattern, Simplicity 4881. With the help of a delightful salesclerk, I bought a good quality elastic in a wider width than the pattern indicated. I realized I'd have to tweak the pattern a tad, which I did without much ado (I must have learned to do that in a GStreet class 20 years ago) by eyeballing what was needed and cutting out the alteration.

A simple skirt, but perfect for my needs.

And without much ado, a few other projects I've made.

The Pink Silk Dress
First up, a pink raw silk dress, needed for a formal dinner in celebration of my mother's 60th birthday. Again, even though I lived in DC at the time with access to the nicer stores, I did not find what I wanted. I hired someone from GStreet for an hour to tutor me through the selection and sewing process. It looks awkward hanging here, but it fit perfectly and I felt lovely. The fabric was a vibrant purple pink (but not garish).
I lined the dress, but did not turn the skirt part inside-out, so that the raw edges of the skirt lining show. Furthermore,, now that I am looking with a critical eye, I can see that my thread tension was probably off, as the seaming and zipper show puckers (I don't know why I didn't use an invisible zipper).

The pleats: The difficult shoulder points. I got them fairly accurate, but I do remember suffering over them. This photo also shows a bit of the lining and my very uneven finishing. The vent lining. I was so proud of this effort. I had no clue. Remember, this was before the days of the internet blogging showing what this SHOULD have looked like. The Flower Girl Dress
My daughter wore this at age 4 or 5. It has been hanging for 15 years and I took the photo without steaming. I remember this was far more elaborate than what was available in the stores at the time and it was perfect for the very formal wedding.

The flower girl and ring bearer (her brother).

Over the years, I've made bedskirts (with pleats), oodles of decorator pillows (ah, those yards of bias for the cording), curtains and these plus a few more garments. Can't wait to see what the next year holds in store for my closet.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Fabric Awaiting Transformation

The fabric I collected this past month in southern VA and Tennessee.

The Gandini Silk that I found in the back room of a quilt shop in Abingdon, VA.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Today I Start

And with this post, I enter the world of garment making.

About a year ago, I started reading A Dress A Day. My favorite posts are not the enchantingly glorious stories about the pattern ladies, but those with actual photos of dresses sewn. I want to touch those garments, examine the seams, ask "how did you decide...."

How does one decide what to sew - there are so many options!
How does one decide what fabric to buy?
How do you match a fabric to a pattern?
How do you determine which pattern is flattering to your figure?
How do you get the pattern to fit your figure?
How do you obtain the knowledge about fabrics?
How do you sew with a knit?
How do I know the difference between a knit and something called a jersey knit?

So many questions!

Enter the blogs of sewists or sewers. Heck, enter the world of linguistics! The sewists verses the sewers.

Speaking about linguistics: my blog is Remnant. I started using that word on other blogs to remind me that the Lord God of Israel saves a Remnant for His own. It, somehow, speaks to my heart as a Jewish believer in Messiah Jesus. How awesome that it can also be used to keep record of my sewing journey.

In the last few weeks, while visiting out of town, I spent an inordinate amount of time reading and studing sewing blogs. I started collecting a stash. And patterns.

When I got to the point where I started thinking: God bless her, but I would NEVER have chosen THAT fabric for THAT garment, I knew I'd crossed the fear barrior. There is no right or wrong. Trial and error is fine. And when I found one sewist who recently posted about her failures last month, I said, "Aha!" Not everything must be perfection.

Yes, I will aim for HongKong seams. Eventually.
Yes, I will aim to make a FBA.
Yes, I will make a duct tape "me" whose name will be clever and charming, I am sure.
Yes, I will one day, make a jacket. Fully lined. Using the bagging technique.
Yes, I will start small. A simple skirt. A dress. A top (without set-in sleeves!) (Thank God it spring/summer time!)
Yes, I will not give up with a failure or two or three.

I have chosen these few things to tackle (once I locate my machine and get it serviced)...
Dress pattern:
Kwik Sew 2809

Two skirt patterns:
Loes Hines Tango Skirt - still need to order this
McCalls 5431 - I'm beginning to think this is a mistake due to the drop waist. I think I need a fitted waist - but I can always tweak the pattern. Right?

Three top patterns:
Butterick 5217 - for some 35 inch wide Gandini silk I found in the backroom of a quilt shop
Simplicity 2892 - I want to make in white cotton with the ruffled yoke
Kwik Sew 2694 - to learn to sew a knit (I bought a deep, dark purple)

With this, I have a variety of pattern companies, a variety of styles, a bit of creativity. I plan to make some bias tape (I made bias tapes eons ago for a project I can't recall, but I do recall making the tape, cutting yards of spirals) to add to the skirt, perhaps.

I plan to post pictures of projects as they are completed.

One day, I dream of owning a binding machine, oodles of fancy feet and a serger. I'll settle for a good sewing machine.

My fabrics are bought, washed, ready. Sew am I.