Friday, August 30, 2013

A Few for Friday - #35

Let the long weekend commence! I'm a touch late posting this as I have spent all spare waking moments at my sewing machine working on a single project (what I think is the most difficult bag I've ever made) and didn't realize how quickly the week was scooting along. And here it is Friday and I'm still not done stitching (but I'm just about there). I can't wait to show you this one. Anyway, I did manage to pick up a few snippets throughout the week, so here they are. I know you've been on the edge of your seat waiting for these.

A co-worker of mine went to Europe on vacation. This same co-worker assaults me every morning with a very chipper "Good morning!" that should be accompanied by skipping or some other perky activity (which is all insufferable pre-caffeine). I give an uncaffeinated "hello" in response which is of a perfectly acceptable tone, but doesn't meet the minimum level of perkiness required for this individual. Anyway, in Germany, he went to the above cafe. He had to take a photo after his experience. He went in, chirped "Good morning!" and they gave him such a look of disdain that he thought we could possibly be related. I told him that it was more likely proof that he is annoying on a global level.

This little guy was really moving along! Every time I got my camera phone set he would already have crawled out of the frame. It took me three tries to get this blurry shot. I had read somewhere long ago that if you see an abnormal amount of these it is indicative of a cold winter. We shall see...

I will never be able to pass up a doughnut. 

 I saw this as I was leaving Joann's. I circled the lot to come back to take this. It's from 'Lost' for those of you who didn't watch it. A small piece of me wanted to steal it.

Nice and varied, eh? Now I must eat some pizza (one does need sustenance) and finish that bag. Hopefully I can finish it tonight and have a free weekend. Enjoy yours!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Sisters Who Sew Go to Fabric Row

Please excuse the cheesiness of that title--sometimes it overcomes me and I must type it :) Here in Philadelphia we have a section of the city on  South 4th Street called Fabric Row. It's like a tiny little version of the Garment District in NYC. I've never been there, mostly because I detest driving downtown by myself. Last week my sister Alica asked if I wanted to go as she's been looking for fabric for fall/winter skirts. I'm always looking for fun knits (and never having any luck) so off we went. We scored a jackpot parking space, the day was sunny and beautiful, and we had a mini adventure ahead of us. We started at one end and worked our way to the other, and then came back down the other side of the street.

Oops, wrong pic (as though you couldn't tell by the trolley tracks and nickel ice cream).

THERE we go. That's more like it!

The first place we stopped was the PA Fabric Outlet. We didn't buy anything straight away as we had four blocks of fabric to look at, but on our way back to the car we went back in and made our purchases before stopping for something to eat.

They had a great selection of quilting cottons, apparel fabrics, flashy dress stuff (like dancewear and all kinds of fringe), leather, fur, notions, and so on. I liked that it was clean and orderly--I dislike going in stores where things are stacked and crammed and the good stuff is near the ceiling and you can barely fit in an "aisle." I came away with these two cottons that struck me as being kind of Dutch-folk arty. I'm not sure what I'll use them for, but they were not expensive, so why not?

Alicia found the exact kinds of fabric she was looking for to make into skirts--a wool blend and a corduroy that is a bit more green than the picture shows.

Another place we (or I) did well was at Jack B. Fabrics. They were in a temporary location as their original location was completely destroyed in a fire back in the spring (one so bad a firefighter lost his life), but even this spot was clean and bright, and had very friendly staff. Based on their selection I would love to go back to this place when they're rebuilt and completely restocked. 

 The original site--all that is left right now is a giant hole in the ground. Their temporary site is a little further down the street.

I bought some faux suede to play around with as well as this delightful Parisian print--

There was an absolute abundance of upholstery and drapery fabric shops. We made short work of those as that wasn't what we were looking for (though it was beautiful stuff). The other apparel shops were of the fancy sort--satins, tulles, shimmery sparkly things that just won't do for the every day. We wound our way down to Maxie's Daughter.

This place had a lot of very nice things, but it was quite crammed. It was one of the only places that we found some knits that weren't for swimwear. They were priced OK, and even though they were in spring/summer colors we bought some anyway (by the time I turn mine into shirts it'll be spring, anyway). Mine are the pink and green cuts, and Alicia's is the floral--

I think we spent more time waiting for our fabrics to be cut than actually shopping, and not because there was a line but because there was hardly any space to cut anything. No matter, really, just an observation--the prices were good and the folks were nice

As we continued down the street we saw Albert Zoll's--

The sign is kind of misleading--they do sell everything you need, except fabric. They had a great notions section, but as I'm a notions fiend I had most of it already (and what I didn't was just a little too pricey to justify how little I know I would use them). I did find a couple things, though.

The strapping will be for some key fobs (yay--I found my hardware!) and the trim was just too pretty to pass up. 

Overall we were very restrained. Alicia is only buying things that she knows what they will be turned into (she's already dreamed up the garment, just needs the supplies) whereas I didn't have projects in mind but bought things mostly on a whim--naughty, naughty, I know. There weren't as many shops as I thought there'd be, and I certainly didn't think so many would be devoted to home dec stuff. As such, we made our way up and back in about two hours flat. We learned which stores we liked so when we go back we'll know right where to go. It was quite easy to get to (just a few turns once we got off of I-95), and not crowded at all (everyone was probably down the shore).

We popped a few more quarters in the meter, and stopped off for a late lunch at Red Hook Coffee and Tea. We shared a sandwich and then headed home. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. How nice to have such a spot so close by. And to have your sister with you to stop you from any questionable purchases :)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

These Aren't Your Grandpa's Flannel Shirts (Though They Could Be)...

Each year, my sister Rachel's workplace holds a fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Last year I donated a bag that I had made on a whim and didn't have any plans for (nor pictures of--it was a leopard print with brown trim in this style). This year I was told that one of my bags was being requested, which is fun and nice, right? Of course I said yes, but I was a little unsure of what to do. Most of the time, when I am asked to make a bag, I get some direction so I don't have to think too hard (heaven forbid, right?). I decided to just flick through some fabric sites for inspiration. I wanted it to be for fall/winter, but not bland (sewing is more fun when the fabrics aren't a snooze-fest). I like the way this came out so much that I really don't want to give it away.

A charm pack from Fat Quarter Shop, and some basics from Joann's...

I was a little iffy on the fabrics as I've never really used flannel other than for PJs, but wow! Absolutely great quality--it was softy but sturdy, and the colors were very vibrant. The corduroy was a pretty fine wale fabric, so they played well together as far as bulk and all that jazz is concerned.

Aren't the colors great? Bright but not a smack-you-in-the-face rainbow sort of bright. 

 I spent a good bit of time rearranging the squares for the front and back.

It's hard to tell from the photos but they are indeed delightfully lush flannels--it's hard to see the nap or the fuzz or whatever you call it--it should be easy to see as I've had to brush it so many times to get the corduroy fuzzies off (they're like glitter--I'll probably be finding them for weeks!).

I use plain cotton so often that I do forget how fun it can be to play with texture--these flannels were made to marry corduroy. And of course you get your obligatory hardware close-ups--those are my favorite.


The lining has the usual--slip pockets on one side and a zip on the other, mag snap for a closure.
Wanna hear something stupid I did with the lining? When I cut the red part I convinced myself that I should cut it a few inches longer and trim it, but I distinctly remember convincing myself not to do that as it was one seam and it wasn't going to be off, and certainly not enough to need extra to be sure. When I assembled everything, I thought "Do I need to trim the lining?" and then promptly reminded myself that I had not left it too long so I should carry on. As I was pressing the bag (final step, mind you) I could not fathom why the lining would not lie snugly within the exterior and was being baggy and long and stupid. So I measured, and there it was. I ripped open my sewn-shut gap, trimmed and resewed (thank goodness it was just the bottom of the lining so I didn't have to take everything apart). I was afraid what I had trimmed for the corners wasn't going to work where it had been trimmed back, but the cut was at the exact point that it needed to be and all was well.

Now it's all pressed, brushed, and ready for delivery.

If you'd like to give one a crack I've got the instructions over on the Sew Alongs page. And, for those of you who have asked very nicely reminded me, I'm working on getting the full set of instructions into a PDF file so you can follow along online or click and print/follow-in-one-place. I could have sworn I did that but apparently not. I'll let you know when it's up. If you do make one, add it to the Flickr pool (link in the sidebar)--I love seeing what you guys get up to with my tutorials :)

Happy, happy Monday to you! Surely if one says that enough it'll come true, yes? Maybe? Ugh, Mondays.
I'll be linking up to these parties:

Saturday, August 24, 2013

My Brother's Birthday Card

A few weeks ago contacted me and asked if I'd like to try out their service. Usually when I am asked to try out products I turn them down as I have no need for the product and absolutely zero interest in it. But cards? Everybody needs cards at some point, and the shops haven't had anything lately that makes me leap for it and think "Oh that's perfect for so-and-so!" Luckily enough, my brother's birthday was on the horizon. I had made things for each of my sisters, but was lacking in ideas of what to make for him. So I figured the card would be the 'made' part of his present.

Now this isn't an ordinary browse-and-buy kind of thing. You can choose a ready-made card (of which there are tons to choose from) and keep the caption or use your own. You can insert your own photos into an otherwise ready-made card, or you can create one totally from scratch.

The longest part of the process was finding a picture that was a bit of a sibling dig, but not so recent that it would be too embarrassing. Once I had my photo scanned and saved I headed over to the website to create my card.

You start by choosing a layout. My photo was enough all on its own, so I went with a plain, blank photo card, of which there were many styles to choose from (the photo shows only some of them)--

 Once you choose your layout it shows you the options and properties for your selection:

If you like that, you continue to make your card, following the very simple prompts. You can upload a photo from your device, from Facebook, from Instagram, pretty much from anywhere.

Then you move on to the inside. You have several boxes in which to add your own text and signature. If you choose, you can remove the boxes and make it totally blank, or just use some of them. I removed two of them and kept the one as my text was very simple.

You even have the option to customize the back of your card (which, as I'm thinking of it at this moment, I should have done), or you can leave it blank with just the shop stamp.

Once that's done you preview all aspects of your card, and can go back to change things or approve them and move on. Then you choose your delivery options. For the cost of the postage, you can have them mail the card directly to your recipient or you can have them ship it to you (which is what I did--I needed to see his face when he opened it :) It comes to your door in a fun envelope that I wish was the norm for all mail--

Ready to see the card? Here's the outside (you can see now why just a plain photo was enough)-

And here's the inside--

I loved doing this! I've tried to make cards on my computer before, and wasted so much paper and ink trying to get the right size and orientation that it became entirely too frustrating for a simple card. Store-bought cards aren't too personalized and are either overly mushy or overly terse. In the time it would take to drive to and from the store, pick out the card, and pay for it I had a completely personal thing to give my brother that had unspoken mushiness to it (he knows I'm a sap for nostalgia and childhood stuff) but kept it light in the actual words. Another plus--the cost is much less than many store-bought cards (really, Hallmark? Eight dollars? Pshh, please and no, thank you). Shipment is quick, the quality was great, and it had the desired effect (laughter, embarrassment, and much discussion over how that particular outfit came to be).

Of course I want to say "Go get one right now!" but you might not need one right now. So I say to you thusly "Bookmark this site!" Or at least head over and play around. I totally recommend this service. As a matter of fact, the only thing I think that I would change (and maybe they have it but I haven't found it) is to offer boxed sets of cards for the holidays and such (wayyyy more fun than the Walmart-style photo cards, and much more memorable).

I must now go quake in fear of the retribution my brother may or may not be planning...

I was not financially compensated for this post. I received a free card from Cardshop in exchange for an honest review. The opinions are completely my own based on my own experience. For my complete disclosure policy, click here.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Few for Friday - #34

'Allo! I must type this quickly before Z-man comes down from getting his shower and asks to "borrow" my computer. He's spending the day with my dad tomorrow over towards Lancaster County to see the train museums and such. There are some model train plans in the works that required some trips to the attic last weekend, so I don't know what will come of it all. I'd love it if he loved trains--I've always liked them, and have cozy memories of my dad's train sets from waaaay back. I dig the passing down through the generations thing that might be going on here. Anyhoodle, here are a few pics for you :)

I put this photo on my Sweet Bee FB page over the weekend. I was cleaning and organizing my sewing doo-dads. Things just kept coming out of the drawers like a clown car. Somehow I got it all back in. I have an overabundance of velcro and snaps for some reason, two things I rarely use.

My mom helped me fold and cut my yards and yards of nylon netting into strips to make my pot scrubbers (you can buy a set here--there's only one left but there will be more soon). It used to take us forever, but now we have a swell system and make quite short work of it.

 A bag waiting to be put together. It's all done now--can't wait to show you. I might not want to let this one go... I say that a lot but I might mean it this time.

 Tomorrow is my brother's birthday, but we had a little celebration tonight with yummy pastries and milkshakes. 

I'm glad I'm not the type of person who cares about winning or losing at games as I am stinkeroo at Uno. I save my competitive spirit for things like zippers.

 The moon looked really funky and hazy the other night, but I'll be danged if I could get a picture of  it that showed it well. An older man was walking by as I was taking the picture and he stopped and was making small talk. I didn't know why he was sticking around and trying to chat so I was just talking and humoring him. Then he said "Are you done with your photo? Can I walk by now?" So here he was waiting for me to take a picture and I'm waiting for him to carry on with his walk.

That's all I've got for right now, kids. Have a happy Friday! See you soon!

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Skirt

Though it seems as if we have taken August off (which, I suppose, we have) I have been teaching my sister to sew for a few months with Wednesday evening lessons. We started with hand-sewing basics--how to sew on different kinds of buttons, how to blind stitch a hem, and different ways to sew seams (running stitch, back stitch, whip stitch, and slip stitch, depending on the purpose). She did really well (her blind stitch is truly invisible and perfectly straight--she's quite meticulous). I kept trying to think of things to teach her to avoid the inevitable--helping her sew a garment. I can certainly put a garment together--it's the fit that has always stymied me. But what better way to learn than to teach someone else? Two heads are better than one, and someone unrestrained by the "rules" can sometimes come up with a perfectly good solution that works just as well as what "they" say you should do.

It came as absolutely no surprise to me that the "only" thing she could find that she wanted to sew was a Burda pattern. I had used one of their patterns before and was quite successful (she still wears that skirt), but that was a beginner pattern. She chose intermediate, from the Burda Style magazine. We got one page of print directions and the pattern pieces. So we took it step by step. We cut, we traced, we added seam allowances, we enlarged it just a touch, one bit at a time. The fabric was a very inexpensive cotton in a great shade of red called Poppy (I'm a fan of learning cheap and spending more as your skills improve). This skirt certainly won't be one that lasts forever, but it's gotten several outings and still looks great (especially considering it's her first project).

She wanted this skirt for a specific event, so we worked on it for three days straight at the beginning of July. It was a total mental marathon. The pictures aren't great as certain colors are hard to photograph, especially as solids. So here it is:

 The front. It looks quite simple, but there are a lot of details to it, many new to me (or only done once years ago--they may as well have been new). Thank heavens I've amassed a nice little stack of sewing books that pertain to garments--they came in quite handy.

It's difficult to see them but there are a few darts in there. My sisters had jokingly referred to my wheel tracer as a pizza cutter in the past--she finally realized what it was for and thought it was pretty nifty to trace pattern markings with it. The waistband is also slightly shaped--which meant we had to be precise as there was no "Oh we can just move that over a little" that could happen to correct for anything.

Pleats in the front--four of them. And a fly front. That fly front stopped me cold. The directions were useless, and the books I had weren't a great help. I found a few tutorials online and they worked a treat. In retrospect we should have interfaced the fly as the fabric isn't that sturdy, but that's a note for the future. Otherwise, once we knew what we were doing it flew along. The lapped waistband was no problem (the fly front hiccupped the seam line a little bit but it gets covered by the overlapping band so it's no biggie).

I don't like using the word 'fly.' I think it sounds vulgar. Which is interesting coming from me--I could put sailors, longshoremen, and gangsta rappers to shame with some of the things I say. The pattern refers to that piece that comes out to the right of the zipper as the fly guard. That makes me snicker.

I've also never done side pockets. Again, the directions made no sense so I turned to Google. We made it work, but they're not quite right. As I've never done them I couldn't visualize them at all and what was supposed to happen. We finally rigged a way to get them in, and called it a night. About ten minutes after my head hit the pillow I slapped my head and almost yelled "That's it!" Unfortunately, we had to trim the pockets to make our way work, so their way now would not. But I was pleased to get that flash of inspiration, late or not. I really want her to make this skirt again so we can give those pockets another crack.

I didn't want to haul out my serger to teach her to use that as well (as I haven't used it in ages and could use a refresher course myself) so she pinked all the seams. 

The pattern called for a button closure, but she didn't want that (she's quite simple in her style--tailored and detailed, but simple and understated--I think she'd do very well in France :)
So we went for hook-and-eye closures that can't be seen. This was the final step in the process. It was a few hours before her event, she was losing steam, I was standing there telling her "No! We are finishing this! We've come this far--come on!"  She said "I feel like I'm on Project Runway and I'm down to the wire!"

After the sewing was done she pressed it nice and neat. It looked like she was pressing a shop-bought item (in a good way--it looked really neat and nicely done, like she paid much more than the few bucks the fabric cost). I went off to church with my mom and she got ready for her party. She texted me a pic of herself wearing it--it looked great. I'll have to take her pic the next time she has it on so you can really see how good it looks.

You can see the pleats, the fly front and the lapped waistband much better in this pic.

I can't help but bragging to people about it when we're together and she wears it.Whether they sew or not, I tell them it's her first project, and here are the things she did: darts, pleats, fly front, side pockets, and a lapped waistband. We modified the hem so she could maintain her dignity :) and modified the pockets out of ignorance (but it's not something anyone would ever notice, just like the rest of the teeny kinks that only we know about). My first project was a tee-shirt that was immediately relegated to my pajama drawer. Her first project is a great looking skirt that she can wear proudly in public. I'm so proud of her! And I guess myself, a little bit...I learned a few things, too. I am now quite afraid for what she comes up with next. But hey, I like to learn and enjoy a challenge, so bring it, sister!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Few for Friday - #33

I have been parked behind my sewing machine all week, but I don't have anything finished to share. I was going to do a craft fair in October, but when I got the information the table fee was quite high. I thought it over and over, and under and over and around and decided not to do it. I did buy some seasonal fabrics just in case I was going to go for it, so I've been busy this week stitching those up into some whole cloth quilted table runners. I've got a half dozen quilted and almost totally bound--just have to hand-stitch the bindings to the back so they can be reversible if so desired. When I started I was looking quite forward to some simple straight stitching. Now I feel completely knackered (but also quite accomplished). My to-do list for others, as well as myself, has exploded, so I've set myself some serious goals to stick to. So far, so good.

My pics are few this week, and were taken at my sewing table (I sooo need to get out more :)

See that wee length of thread? I put the last stitches onto this table runner, and that is what was left in the bobbin. Don't you love when that happens? I quilted this diagonally and was hoping I'd have enough thread to finish--is there anything more annoying than winding a bobbin for a two inch line of stitching? 

 Really, Joann's? This pumpkin color is what I was using for my bias binding on my fall table runners. And right in the center was a lovely flaw. Thank heavens it was only bias binding and I was able to work around it. But this is the second time recently I've had an odd cut come from Joann's.

I have had this fabric for a while. I bought a bunch of different colored stripes for quilt bindings and haven't been able to find much time to quilt to use them. But for one of the Christmas runners there is no fabric that would be quite so perfect (unless maybe it was green). I can't wait to finish so I can show you. I went a little crazy with the bias tape maker, so I have a ton left over. It's so perfectly Christmassy and candy-caney I'm going to offer it up in my shop as soon as I get a chance.  

So I went to Joann's the other day to get some things I needed. One of the things was corduroy for a bag I was asked to donate to a fundraiser. When the lady unrolled the bolt to cut it, about a half yard was all squinched and scrunched and looked like it had been dragged across the floor. I asked if she could please cut that off and give me a clean, usable cut. I'm not sure how I would interpret the facial expression she made (it had tinges of annoyance combined with thinking) but she cut off way more than necessary and then gave me my cut. That's when I realized they're going to wrap that bad-boy up as a remnant and sell it. So if you go to the Joann's in Fairless Hills and end up with a wrinkly, dusty remnant of tan corduroy--sorry, that was my fault :)

In news from the idiot files, this trip to Joann's occurred during my lunch break. Usually when I run out at lunch I grab something from the caf and wolf it down at my desk before heading out, or I head out early and grab something on my way back to my desk. For some reason I completely neglected to do either, so on my way back to work I realized the caf was closed and I would have nothing to eat. The term 'hangry' (so hungry you get angry) could have been coined just for me, so this was a dire situation. I didn't pass anything where I could stop and grab something until it was too late (I was passing the one place I could have stopped, and was several lanes over in heavy traffic so it wasn't going to happen). So you know what I had for lunch? Sour cream and onion potato chips and a Snickers bar. It cost me a buck. Sort of a win-win, I suppose.

So now I must trot to bed so that I can get ready for a weekend behind the machine to make a bag. I'm so ready for fall, but it will seem quite odd to be making a very fall/wintery bag in August. Hopefully I can knock that off the list this weekend, because the bag after that will be quite the doozy that I've never attempted before. Good thing I bought extra fabric :)


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