Tag Archives: sewing

Sewing: Pin or Weights, which is better?

16 Aug

 

When working with patterns, it’s necessary to make sure that nothing slides around while cutting the fabric for the design.  That leads to the question of whether to use pins or weights.   Traditionally, pins are used to hold things in place.  With that said, using pattern weights to hold things down quickly & easily isn’t new either.

They sell special pattern weights.  I’m sure they are wonderful.  I’m seriously cheap though, and I’ve never bought them, although I have weighted many patterns over the years.

Long ago, I made a lot of small stuffed creatures, for gifts and for sale.  They ranged from a tiny stuffed rocking horse about 4” tall (for a Christmas decoration) to large stuffed dolls.  This is when I used  a lot of weights in laying out patterns.

But have you ever cut out a gusset or ear for a 4” tall stuffed horse?  Neither pin nor weight will actually fit.  Heck, a DIME won’t fit!  For those pieces, I would cut out a template from thin plastic or cardboard (disposable food container lids are great, as are cereal boxes) and hold that down with one finger, while I drew with a pen right on the fabric.  Not a special pen either, just a plain jane black ink pen, the kind you use for writing with.  Then, I’d cut out the pieces following the marked cutting lines.

But for weighting those patterns when I was churning out a batch I used food cans, straight out of the pantry.  Anything would work, but I favored tomato paste cans (small diameter) and tuna cans (short).  Tomato sauce ran a hot third in the weighting contest.

When would I weight instead of pinning?                  

I would only weight when it was a relative small, simple shape, especially if I was cutting multiples.  I also had to be familiar with the pattern.  I rarely would opt to use weights if I was cutting out a new pattern to make a prototype design.  I also would not be using a tissue paper pattern—they are too prone to floating, flying, fluttering and inspiring other “f” words.  I always cut out a sturdier paper pattern for a pattern design that I will be using repeatedly.  For those heavier papers, weighting works wonderful, as long as your table is big enough to lay out the pieces and weight them into place without having to shift fabric this way or that way to get at it.

Weighting also meant not using any tailor marks, which was part of the reason I had to be familiar with the construction of that particular design.  I personally found that transferring tailor marks on a weighted pattern was a situation that invariably resulted in disaster.

At the same time, weighting made a project’s construction much faster.  Eliminating 2-3 minutes of pinning may sound inconsequential, but when you are trying to cut, sew, and assemble a dozen of something after a long day of work, that 2-3 minutes may be enough time when it is multiplied over that dozen to actually put one of them together.

On the other side of that is the simple fact that saving 2-3 minutes of pinning on a garment can cause problems to appear in construction that could have been avoided if the pattern had been more accurately cut out after pinning it in place before cutting.  Don’t do it—you will regret it!

NOTICE: Don’t forget-this blog is MOVING to www.exogenynetwork.com so go check out the site as we work on getting it up and running.  For the month of August, all posts are being posted in both locations.

10 Aug

I bought a blouse pattern recently from Hot Patterns.  I’d heard great things about their patterns, and decided that I would try the Classix Nouveau Peasant Blouse.  It looked like a simple, straightforward kind of blouse.  Most importantly, it looked like one that I could get on and off easily without help.

Now sewing may seem like an odd choice for someone who is disabled enough that I choose clothing for its easy on/off abilities.  The reality is that I have lost almost everything that I dearly love in terms of hobbies due to the same disability.  Everything is now the abridged version, if I can do it at all.  None of it can be done without someone helping me through some of the process.  For an independent person, that’s nearly torture.

I waited over four years before even trying to sew.  I was terrified it was going to be another thing that I could not do, and not trying meant I didn’t have to face another barrier that was not going to vanish.  Finally though, I gathered up my nerve and tried.

I can sew, but I have some serious limits that mean that everything takes a lot more time than recommended, and is far slower than my previous abilities would have allowed me to complete things.  A two hour project now typically takes at least two days.  There is no such thing as quick and easy anymore.

I discovered that regular scissors were hopeless.  Too much reaching, too much hand movement, and it resulted in too much pain and frustration.  Special scissors, approved for arthritis patients, made things easier.  Electric shears, which I had used before, require too much arm movement and work more quickly than I dare go with an arm that sometimes has its own agenda, unrelated to the rest of me.  Greg is also willing to help me with anything I am trying to do.  It’s likely much easier to help rather than deal with me during a total melt down.

I have a fantastic sewing machine that nearly sews things for you.  It has little vibration and rarely misbehaves. So with that running, I can get to work.  For 5-10 minutes, or about enough time to do one seam.  Then, it’s break time.  It’s aggravating to someone who likes to just finish something now, but I’ve had time to adjust.  I only get mildly annoyed at this continual interruption that being me mean I have to have.  The payoff of facing that mild annoyance is the ability to create something without excessive pain resulting.  It gives me a sense of accomplishment that I can rarely have independently anymore.

So, without focusing on the restrictions that my disabilities have foisted upon me, I can now tell you about the pattern I am attempting to sew.

I’ve learned a lot.  First of all, if you want to use Hot Patterns patterns, you had best have internet access or else enough experience that you really don’t need written directions.  They have great tutorials on YouTube and they are also on their website, but the directions aren’t written for someone who prefers to see it written down in black and white.  Okay, I’ll suffer through trying to watch a video and then translate it to what I’m doing on the table and sewing machine.  I am not sure I like that though—it’s a pain to have to go back to the tutorial and then try to find the spot, say for the neck, and replay that portion.  I also am one of those people that do not do well with being told how to do something, but rather I prefer to read how to do something.  I was told long ago that it is a learning style, and I need to see it clearly rather than hear it.  Until now, that had never been a problem with learning how to put a particular pattern together.

The other thing I learned about Hot Pattern is that I should watch the tutorial for a pattern before I buy it.  The blouse I bought is put together differently than I am accustomed to, and it hasn’t been easy.  That may not be their fault, but rather the old rut thing—doing something differently is probably good for me, but like many other people, I sometimes get into ruts of wanting to do it exactly the same.  Nothing about this pattern has been the same.

Including the measurements.

The pattern is multi-sized, and I took my measurements (with help even) and then re-took my measurements, just to be sure.  As I checked my size, I told myself it was high time to get a bit more serious about weight loss than I have been, as the size I was going to require was two sizes larger than my usual off-the-rack size.  That’s not uncommon with patterns—they don’t use the same sizing as clothing manufacturers do.  I think it’s part of a global conspiracy to further erode the confidence of women and ensure they remain ambiguous about their personal body image.

But body image aside, I laid out the pattern pieces, cut out the cloth, and proceeded to start putting this blouse together out of some cheap fabric I had bought out of a clearance bin.  It’s not pretty fabric—it’s a rather bleah medium brown with small white dots.  It certainly isn’t a slimming or fun print, but it didn’t require pattern matching or fussing a I was cutting it out.  I felt like I was sewing a tent together.  Not only was the construction method different than the patterns I’d sewn in the past, but it seemed huge.

I felt like I was literally making a tent.

Finally, I reached a point where I could try on the garment, though it was far from finished.  Greg laughed.

It was quite obvious that I had been sewing a personal tent.  The garment was big enough that Greg and I could both wear it.  At the same time.

There is a reason Hot Patterns advocates making a “muslin” (test garment out of cheap fabric with a similar hand to the planned garment).  Maybe it is because their sizing chart isn’t very accurate?

So, I was now faced with a choice.  I could rip out the seams, cut the pattern pieces down two sizes, and resew it.

That’s a lot of work.  I also can’t really see the thread I sewed with (dark brown) to make ripping it out very easy.  Greg does a lot of stuff for me, but did I really want to ask him to rip out all of those seams?  I thought about the problem for a bit.  Then, I thought about the oversized “blouse” in a cotton fabric.

It would make a great over-blouse to wear in cooler weather.  It’s practically a painter’s smock in its original design, with a simple shape, raglan sleeves, and an open v-neck.  Add a couple of spacious patch pockets, and I’ve got a great top to wear while doing things and wanting an additional layer, plus it’s already sized to wear over clothing.

Am I just rationalizing my laziness?

Maybe.

So I’ll make it two sizes smaller in more cheap fabric.  That’s okay.  It seems likely that it will be easier to sew after the first one.  I also know that making these test garments is good practice anyhow.  Nothing is more disappointing than using expensive fabric only to have it be ill fitting or make an error in construction.  Not all fabrics are forgiving of having seams ripped out either.

I’ll finish the garment—it has three steps left now before I’ll be snipping off the last stray thread tails and deeming it done.  Unless I add the pockets, which will be relatively easy to do.  I think I will add them—and sizing one just to fit my Kindle.

I’ll call it my indoor jacket for when I want an additional layer, but not an actual coat.  It will go great over a t-shirt, as well as being something easy to pop on to go to the mailbox or make a store run too.  Yep, definitely a case of rationalizing going on here!

 

Notice: Don’t forget–this blog is being moved to www.exogenynetwork.com very soon.  During August, posts are being made in both locations.

Sew aggravating! Plus size patterns and new book

3 Aug

I recently got the sewing machine out and faced the music about whether or not I was still capable of sewing and enjoying it after becoming disabled.  I have a large collection of sewing patterns, but I bought a simple, easy-to-sew pattern to use for my initial foray into sewing again.

I was ecstatic to discover that yes, I could.  I couldn’t sew very long, and cutting the fabric is a huge challenge that has resulted in Greg being recruited…but I can do it.  I was off and running again, with something that I could do and enjoy.  I refreshed basic sewing skills through making my granddaughter and grand (or is that a great?) niece some skirts that were ideal for twirling in.  The pattern I used just asked to have the techniques upscaled  a bit from beginner to more finished, as well as for a bit of embellishment.

My creative juices were flowing again, only this time, it’s a calorie free pleasure!

That has me working on the next non-fiction book.  I’m going to do a book of projects, including sewing patterns and instructions, for dogs & their doggy people.  It’s a sort of super-sized pattern, I suppose, although it’s also about teaching people to make customized projects that actually fit their dog, rather than being merely a duplication of off-the-rack projects that may or may not work for their beloved companions.

So, while I’m working on that project, I decided my next project for myself would be some clothing.  I wanted a new sewing pattern or two as well.

Now that sounds easy enough, right? After all, women’s clothing sewing patterns are available with hundreds of variations.

Wrong.

With disability, I’ve gained a lot of weight.  Far too much, to be honest.  That has resulted in my clothes size going up.  A lot more than I’m comfortable admitting.  I need  plus size sewing patterns now.

Then, I made a horrible discovery.

Major pattern manufacturing companies don’t have much in terms of options for plus size sewing patterns.  To make it worse, they also don’t have much in anything I could wear.

Let’s amend that.  They had very little, if anything, I would wear.  They had even less in things I wanted to make at this point.  There was a handful of sewing patterns for plus sizes.  There were more options for maternity clothing than plus sizes in their sewing patterns.

As I recall, when I was pregnant, I spent a very brief time in maternity clothes compared to how long I’ll be in plus size clothing.  I’m not alone in that either–just walk through any mall or big box discount store (you all know which one I’m talking about here) and you’ll see plenty of plus size men and women, and you’ll see some that dwarf even plus sizes.  A lot of them surely sew? Or want custom clothing?

Apparently they either make their own or make do with off-the-rack clothing.  Maybe that explains some of the “fashion” we see on the plus size crowd.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m no fashion plate myself.  I pay very little attention to the latest fashions, actually.

What I want is along the lines of classic, with a focus on easy to sew, easy to get on, and easy to get off again.  Oh, and comfortable to wear.  Right now, I wanted a simple tiered skirt pattern and a pattern for a pull on tunic with a collar and options for either short or long sleeves.  On the sleeve thing, I could adapt a long sleeved pattern to a short sleeved one, even if it didn’t include that as an option.  I wanted the patterns to be designed with sufficient ease to make them out of lightweight and medium weight cotton or cotton blends as well–while summers are boiling hot in Mississippi, winters can be chilly too.  Sounds simple enough to buy a sewing pattern like that, right?

Wrong again.

I came up with exactly zero for the tiered skirt or the tunic in sewing patterns.  On the tunic blouse front, there were some pretty awful designs, usually with ruffles, some odd asymmetrical design, or horrible extended collars that had dangling bits to tie (and get caught in things when I’m doing stuff around the house.)  Even a full skirted, easy-to-wear dress wasn’t an option, as the offerings leaned towards knit fabrics (too hot for summer) zippers in the back (impossible for me to put on without help) boat necks, ruffles, more asymmetrical designed skirts, and overall just too fussy for my more tailored preferences.

Searching the independent pattern companies was my next option.  With higher overhead per pattern, their patterns are slightly more expensive, but my experience has indicated that they usually have far better directions as well as come in a bigger variety of sizes on one pattern.  This is fantastic if you tend to need one size on top and another on the bottom, or are sewing for more than one person.

Plus size patterns had slightly better options here, but once again, I was out of luck on the tiered skirt and the pull on tunic.  If you know of a small pattern company that has more classic and plainer designs, comment and tell me!

We can insert a long suffering sigh here.

So, years ago, I had made a pair of pants using a pattern from Suitability.  This company caters to the equestrian crowd.  The pants pattern, long discontinued, was for a zippered pair of unisex pants with cuffed ankles, waistband, was lightly gathered at the waist (maybe just in front?) and was the absolutely most comfortable pants I have ever owned besides my karate pants.   No matter what you were doing, they never restricted your movement.   They looked great too.  Unfortunately, the pattern was lost in moves, and I never could get another one.  (if anybody has that pattern…I think its name stared with a b?  You’d be my friend for LIFE if I could get it again!)  I even wrote to Suitability and plead my case to them, hoping they had a forgotten pattern package lingering somewhere…but no such luck.

I did find a pattern that looks like it might be a great one for me.  This time, instead of Suitability, it’s with Hot Patterns.  Hot Patterns also had a free downloadable pattern for what they called a waist coat and we’d call a long vest.  I may make that too!  They call them cargo pants, and they come in a multi-size pattern with both long pants and capri pants.  Instead of a cuffed bottom, they have a drawstring bottom.  I think I may just have to order that pattern…

So, without a pattern that I can purchase for the desired pieces I want to make, I may have to either design my own or modify some existing pattern into something I’m willing to sew and wear.  Not easy, but not impossible, even though I’m far from what I’d consider an expert seamstress.  I’m just long on sheer guts and creativity, I suppose?  I also know what I can and can’t do easily in terms of sewing, so I’m not going to jump off into the world of sewing a fitted fully-lined blazer just yet.  I have had a number of years in hiatus from sewing anything at all.

With regards to my upcoming book with projects for the dog lovers and their four legged companions, there is a list of projects already appearing, but I am still thinking about what people would want to make.  Everyone loves the quick & easy projects to use up scraps, recycled clothing, and cute projects, but what kinds of things should I include?  What do other dog lovers want for projects?

Personally, I think that sewing a dog bed is very expensive compared to ones that are purchased–I’m not inclined to regard that as a good project.  Most people don’t have the heavy duty machines necessary to sew actual collars and harnesses out of poly or nylon webbing either.  (I don’t!)  Are people more inclined to make things for their own dog or for gifts for their doggy friends and their companions?  Should I include items for the people that love their dogs as well as the dogs themselves?

So many (or should I say sew many?) choices to make!

What do you think I should include?  Comment and tell me!

Don’t forget–this blog is being moved to a new location.  Go check it out at www.exogenynetwork.com and click on Gia Scott Blog.

Sew creative

14 Jul

Okay, I’ve figured out how to sew.  I’m slow, and I mean seriously slow.  But, at least I can still do it.  The really difficult part is cutting out the fabric, but I’ll get Greg to do that from now on or see about electric shears.  I felt like I had been swinging one armed over the Grand Canyon after cutting out 3 pieces for a toddler size skirt–really out of proportion for the amount of work it really is.  Obviously, that’s a type of motion that isn’t going to agree with me, so I have to come up with a work-around.  Even stopping frequently didn’t make it easier–just prolonged the agony.

But I can still sew, albeit slowly.

That makes me very happy.  I’ve lost a lot of my favorite things in terms of activities, and I had postponed this so very long, for fear that I would not be able to enjoy one of the creative activities that had always appealed to me.  I can, and I love it when I can. For me, there is something immensely satisfying about making something that is useful as well as pretty and unique.  Sewing is something that allows me to do that.

But, I knew that hand hemming was going to be not-so-fun.  I have a machine with a blind hem stitch, but I had never used it.  It was just a funny looking sort of zig zag thing to me before, and the directions sounded complicated enough that I would just press and hem by hand, the same way I did the very first time that I made something on a machine that had been made before WWII in Japan.  It only went forward and backward, forget zig zag.  Even buttonholes had to be done the same way my great-grandmother would have sewn them, which meant I didn’t do button holes!

This machine, bought a number of years ago, is a computerized machine made by Brother that has now been discontinued.  I don’t even remember why I had to have it–I bought it to replace a nearly new Kenmore that still works today, so the reason was not something immediately obvious.  I’m pretty frugal, so just because I could isn’t a reason that would have flown with me.  I just don’t remember why now.

I do remember that when I got it, it was so quiet, smooth and easy to sew on that it made the old one seem like it had been made in the stone age.  It is really seriously the best machine I’ve ever used.  Sure, there may be better ones out there, but I’ve not encountered them myself.  There is virtually no vibration, despite the fact that the machine is very lightweight and easy to move around.   It has a ton of features, most of which I haven’t used, but they include a self-threading feature, and that alone makes the machine worth its weight in gold–my eyes are not what they were a few years ago even.  You have no idea what kind of joy it is to replace the spool of thread with a new one and just push a button to thread the needle!

But back to the skirt.  I had my granddaughter with me one day while we were in Hattiesburg for a doctor appointment for her mother.  We went to the fabric store while her mama was in the doctor’s office (it’s always a 2 hr thing!) I had a bug–I wanted to make SOMETHING.

Sure, I have tons of patterns for stuff.  I used to be willing to try complicated patterns, finding the challenge a thrill.  This time, I wanted to make something for her, but I wanted it something that was very simple.  I didn’t want a challenge, I wanted an easy success this time.

So, it was a cheap pattern to make little girl’s skirts.  Four views, all for a skirt about knee length and flared, with an easy to put on elastic waist that was great for a 3 yr old who is still mastering dressing herself.  With the pattern in hand, we started looking for fabric.

Of course, Grandma has a thing for fabric that is easy care and easy to match with a variety of tops.  Three year old granddaughters want their favorite characters though.  So we compromised.  Two pieces of easy-to-match fabric, and one piece of Hello Kitty fabric, add a few yards of elastic, and we were set.

Somehow, “Grandma is going to make you a skirt” and buying the fabric translated to “I can wear it right now” to a three year old.  We had a hard time with the bit about me having to take it home with me and sew it, but we got through that.  She’s growing in spurts, and her mother wanted me to make it long enough that she wasn’t going to outgrow it in a few months.  I also made the elastic waist “expandable” so that it can be let out as she grows bigger.

We both remember her brother and his Power Ranger costume.  He wore it until it was nearly obscene and I had to hide it then.  Hello Kitty skirt might be in that same category.  My daughter also had a pink denim skirt that she wore from the time she was about four until she was nearly ten and it had become the mini-skirt it was originally meant to be.  Having this skirt long enough to last if it becomes a favorite is probably a good idea, never mind that I’m making her two other ones.

But I am not making the next one for her.  I have several great nieces and a nephew, along with the impending arrival of a pair of twins this fall.  The next one is for Mikey, a great-niece I’ve never been able to meet yet. Tall and thin for her age, I’m told that finding clothes to fit can be a challenge for her.  Plus, neither my sister nor her mother are able to sew.  So, I’m making her a skirt too. This one is going to be pale purple with a Disney princess theme and “Princess in Training” on it.  Like the one for my granddaughter, the elastic waist will be adjustable, since the recipient will be across the continent from me and impossible for me to adjust the waist size exactly.

Did I mention that they are nearly full circle and ideal for twirling?

Dancing little girls, whether they are pretending to be on Frozen or just dancing for the joy of life, are a real treat, and skirts that twirl with them add to the pleasure.  Don’t ask me why, but I remember that from watching my own daughter as she was growing up, dancing through the backyard, unaware that I was watching her through the kitchen window. Watching her as she leaped and twirled, you had to feel happy yourself.

So when I finish the skirts, I’ll move on to something a little more complex but still in the realm of “easy” with some aprons.

What can be more practical than an apron? Plus they offer plenty of opportunity to be a little creative!