The Blue Gardenia

Sew how: Oonaballoona leaves Kalkatroona to share her story. December 11, 2013 17:30 1 Comment

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She's cute. She's sassy. She blogs. She sews. And she does it all with panache. Grab a cup of joe and learn all about how Oonaballoona from Kalkatroona learned to sew such beautiful garments. 

How long have you been sewing?

Five years, maybe six?

What inspired you to learn?

We (that is, my hubs Ruggy & I) were living in Los Angeles, and a wise friend said, “get a hobby”.  Add to that the need for fun clothing with no dough to spend on it, and hey presto!  New hobby that became an obsession.

Did your mother or grandmother sew?

My mom did have a sewing basket around  . . . As a kid, I remember my father yelling every so often about a needle in his foot. My mom's reply was always WELL WHY WERE YOU WALKING THERE. And my nan (grandmother) worked at a dry cleaner's at one point, but neither sewed garments, or on a machine.

How did you learn? A class? Home ec?

I have a dim memory of one month of home ec, and my mom still has the evidence: one two foot wide pink taffeta pig.  I remember doing lots of DIY hacks to my clothing as a kid.  I’d slice up my jeans and paint cartoon characters on t-shirts, but I didn't really learn to sew until grown-up-hood.  Burdastyle, and the community there, were my first teachers. This was back when the site first started. The internet continues to be my schoolroom. 

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What was the first garment that you made?

I always say it was the Danielle dress from Burdastyle, but now that I think about it, it was a robe I sewed up for a play I was in. I was quite, erm, disrobed in the play, and I wanted something pretty to step into when my scenes were done.  I didn't use a pattern or anything, just attached a sleevish shape to a long rectangle. I had no machine, and no idea how to use one, so I handstitched it together in what I now know was just a loose basting stitch. It's a wonder the robe kept me covered!  It was discarded shortly after the play was over, but I do still have the Danielle dress.

Did you wear it?

Danielle dress, yes, and robe, oh yes. It was either that or catch cold on my way to the dressing room.

How long did it take for you to get the basics down?

Maybe a year to feel like I had them down?  But really, I'm still getting the basics down! 

How long did it take you to feel confident of your dressmaking skills?

Again, about a year.  But that was mostly false confidence. When I look back on those early makes, I cringe!  But I think you need to feel that confidence no matter what stage you’re at, so that you keep sewing and truly get better. Delusion is sometimes a very good thing.  If I didn't think the first sad dress I made was the height of fashion, I might not have continued trying!

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Do you still make things that you simply won't wear?

Definitely. Sometimes I just want to make something crazy, and sometimes I'm dared to, like this muppet-inspired pinup playsuit . . . never wore it out. Not once. Don't know where you would wear it. Sometimes I'll make things I adore, but have no reason for in everyday life.  Also, I have an aversion to muslins, so I'll often make something and realize the fit is not for me.  But it all makes me happy  . . . and now I'm pleased enough with my finishing skills to gift them to friends when they don't work out for me!

How many hours a week do you sew?

Depends  . . . any minute I can get to sew, I'm probably doing it. About ten hours seems the norm.

What are your five favorite sewing books?

I actually have just one favorite at the moment, that I refer to constantly: an older copy of Claire Schaeffer's Guide to Fabric.  It's the definition of invaluable, and I bought it for like two dollars at an estate sale.  I had no idea what was in my hands, I just saw "fabric” and was sold.

Are there any sewing DVDs that you like? If so, which ones?

I've never tried a DVD, but I love Craftsy's online courses!  They're extremely well done.  I was thrilled with Gertie's Bombshell Dress course, and at the moment, I have Kenneth King's Jeanius and Susan Khalje's couture dress in my queue.

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If you're a fan of free online tutorials, name five for
the beginning sewer, please.

I'm not super loyal to any specific tutorials, I jump around quite a bit. Gertie's are quite clear! http://www.blogforbettersewing.com/search/label/tutorial

I've loved this free cowl dress pattern by Ichigogirl for years. http://www.burdastyle.com/patterns/cowl-dress-cowl-top

I'm constantly pinning things to try. http://pinterest.com/oonaballoona/learn-this/

My best advice is: decide what you want to do, and google it. But be wary of free tutorials, especially if you don't know what level the instructor is at. If you're willing to try something new, and you're OK with chalking it up to a learning experience if it goes awry, dive in! 

What garment would you suggest that a newbie make first?

A simple A-line skirt is a great start.  I think it's important to have a win on your first make, so that you don't lose the desire to keep sewing! However, it's also important to choose something that excites you. If that's a cocktail dress, go for it.

MeWhat is the favorite of all the garments you have made?

Hard to say . . . I go back and forth!  Currently, my vintage McCall's lace dress (http://www.oonaballoona.com/2011/10/l-lika-de-lace.html) competes with my Anna Sui draped maxi . . .

What was the first item you sewed that made you beam with pride?

This is going to sound completely obnoxious, but most of the things I sew induce that reaction!  Then, as I (hopefully) get better with each new garment, I look at those older "perfect" things and scoff derisively!!!

Name your five top tips for beginners, please.

1. Sew. 2. Sew. 3. Sew. 4. Sew. 5. You can always rip out a seam. 

Have you sewn with unprinted vintage patterns? If so, please share pointers for newbies who might want to try them.

Wooo, yes, just once, and it was a brain teaser.  My pointers would be more harm than help here. I  believe several vintage sewist bloggers have done tutorials, though. Check out Debi's site. (http://www.myhappysewingplace.com/)! 

How long does it take to get to the Vogue "Plus Difficile" rated pattern? (I can dream, can't I?)

You can and should dream!  personally, I've never tried that ranking. There are sewists who fly through those, yet shudder at the thought of draping.  I think of sewing like yoga: Some people excel at bridge position but can't touch their toes.  You'll never know till you try.

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Share with me your funniest sewing adventure, please.

Sewing up the armholes when trying to write out a tutorial for my double agent dress.(http://www.oonaballoona.com/2011/11/double-agent-dress-tutorial.html)!

And your most exasperating or difficult.

Probably my last lace skirt, for the Mood Sewing Network (http://www.moodsewingnetwork.com/candy-colored-lace). That lace drove me crazy.  Several times, I told Ruggy I abhorred it. I tried to force it into a gazillion different overworked iterations, and in the end, I realized it just wanted to be a gathered skirt. Now I love it!

What's your favorite pattern ever to sew, if you remember?

I won't say ever, because I fall in love with new patterns all the time! Right now, it's the Elisalex dress from the gorgeous ladies at By Hand London (http://shop.byhandlondon.com/product/elisalex-dress). Deeeeelicious.

Do you sew vintage patterns?

Yes! Beautiful vintage envelopes are what got me to see past the questionable envelopes of today.  

Do you find instructions easier to follow on vintage patterns?

It depends on the company. I find that simplicity is my favorite. Lots of tips, and very clear steps.

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How many hours of sewing do you think it takes for the average person to become proficient?

In my opinion, you're always becoming proficient. For example, I learned a BUNCH of new techniques for this lace and silk chiffon dress, and did a large amount of seam ripping along the way! There is always more to learn, new ways to improve, new techniques to try . . . perhaps that's why this “hobby” has stuck with me and become a true passion.  It absolutely never gets old.

Are you completely inspired now? I am. Absolutely. And doesn't Oonaballoona take the most darling pictures? A big bow to Oona for taking part in Sew How. The Blue Gardenia thanks you.

  


Sew how? Marie's odyssey has been successful. Absolutely. April 01, 2013 16:16 4 Comments

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Marie of A Stitching Odyssey is as delightful as the blog she writes, as cute as the clothes she makes.
 And she was kind enough to share her experience. Take the trip with me.

How long have you been sewing? 

I've been sewing for just over three years now, so not that long and in many ways I still consider myself a beginner . . . there's just so much to learn!

What inspired you to learn? 

A friend of mine was giving me a tour of her new house when I spotted a dressform draped with a lovely handmade dress. Up until then I had no idea this was her hobby, or that a hobby like sewing even existed. My interest was definitely piqued then!

Did your mother or grandmother sew?

My mother was very good at sewing when she was at school, but she didn't really carry on with it afterwards. The most interesting thing I found out just a few months ago was that my great-grandmother not only sewed, she also spun and wove her own silk fabric. She even nurtured the silkworms herself. I never knew this before, and I was very moved when I found out.

How did you learn? A class? Your mom? Home ec? 

I went along to a Sewing for Pleasure course with the friend I mentioned above. It was made up of 10 evening classes, and you literally took in anything you wanted to make and the teacher would help you. It was a really nice and informal environment to learn in actually.

What was the first garment that you made?  Sewhow-marie-1

It was a dress – Simplicity 2591 – which you can see here).

Did you wear it? 

I wore it a couple times, but as my skills improved I realised how many things were wrong with it — gaping neckline, uneven hem, generally a little bit wonky. It's now sitting in my scraps box, because I really like the fabric still.

How long did it take for you to get the basics down? 

Maybe about 6 months or so, but I still find myself having lightbulb moments now. I'm still discovering better ways of doing things that I thought I was doing correctly. For example, up until this very recent post by Tilly (http://www.tillyandthebuttons.com/2013/01/before-you-cut-your-fabric.html), I was folding my fabric wrong sides together when cutting out patterns. Haha! It worked fine, but it's not the correct way, and it certainly makes transferring markings harder!

How long did it take you to feel confident of your dressmaking skills? 

I think I must be a slow learner, because I'm only just starting to feel confident in my dressmaking skills now. The last couple of things I've made have been of a much higher standard, so I finally feel I'm getting there . . . only three years later!

Do you still make things that you simply won't wear?

Sadly, yes, but I've made a good start this year that I hope to keep up. I want to focus on quality rather than quantity in 2013, and I want to stay away from making things I know don't suit me . . . which is a trap I often fall into due to admiring makes on other bloggers with completely different bodies to me.

How many hours a week do you sew?

It varies a lot for me. I don't tend to sew much during the week due to work and other commitments, but I do make an effort to cut stuff out and generally prepare for projects. If I have a free weekend, I will spend most of it sewing, and if I don't, then I will try and sandwich a couple of hours in. So it will vary from 2-3 hours to over 10 hours on a good week.

What are your five favorite sewing books?

Hmmm, I’m definitely more of an online tutorial kind of gal  . . . but there are a few tried and tested titles on my bookshelf.

The Colette Sewing Handbook by Sarai Mitnick

Sew U: Home Stretch by Wendy Mullin

Metric Pattern Cutting for Women’s Wear by Winifred Aldrich

Readers Digest Complete Guide to Sewing (mine’s the 1978 edition)

Are there any sewing DVDs that you like? If so, which ones? 

I can't say I've ever stumbled across or used any sewing DVDs I'm afraid. I do keep meaning to watch the DVD that came with my overlocker though.

If you're a fan of free online tutorials, name five for the beginning sewer, please. 

Am I!?! I absolutely love online tutorials, and I have the utmost respect for the talented people who go to the effort of producing such helpful materials. Anyway, I'm going to cheat as there are so many brilliant ones out there:

Zips can be really tricky, but these tutorials can invaluable to helping you master them – Invisible zips by Colette Patterns (http://www.coletterie.com/tutorials-tips-tricks/tutorial-installing-an-invisible-zipper)

Handpicked zips by Sewaholic (http://sewaholic.net/a-hand-picked-zipper-progress-on-the-picnic-dress/

Exposed zips by BurdaStyle (http://www.burdastyle.com/techniques/exposed-zipper)

Skirts are a fun addition to any wardrobe, and I personally love – Vivat Veritas Scalloped Waist Skirt tutorial (http://grosgrainfabulous.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/free-pattern-month-day-18-vivat-veritas.html)

Elegant Musing's Circle Skirt sewalong (http://elegantmusings.com/10525/) / Tilly's Picnic Blanket Skirt sewalong (http://www.tillyandthebuttons.com/p/picnic-blanket-skirt.html)

General tutorials of infinite interest – anything by Elegant Musings (http://elegantmusings.com/tutorials-2/, anything by Colette Patterns (http://www.coletterie.com/category/tutorials-tips-tricks), anything by Sewaholic (http://sewaholic.net/category/tips/)

What garment would you suggest that a newbie make first?

When I first started I had naivity, and therefore lack of fear, on my side, and I got stuck in with a dress. It was brilliant making something so pretty, but I was being helped in a class. So if you're going at it solo, I would probably recommend a simple skirt or top, or even a cute little apron or some fun pyjama bottoms.

Second? 

I guess this would depend on how you feel after your first make. You might want to move onto something more challenging, like a dress, or you might want to revisit something similar to your first make so you can perfect it.

Sewhow-hazedaleWhat is the favorite of all the garments you have made?

I think it might be my Hazedale) — a marriage of the Hazel and Lonsdale patterns — because it's so pretty! The muslin for my Hazel was just terrible, so I was relieved that I was able to turn it into a success by combining two patterns.

Sewhow-marie-armisticeWhat was the first item you sewed that made you beam with pride? 

It absolutely has to be my Armistice Blouse! Aside from it being a gorgeous pattern, this make has great sentimental value, too, as I made it from the silk grown, spun and woven by my great-grandmother. It’s a really special make for me.

Name your five top tips for beginners, please. 

1. Relax, enjoy the learning process and don't be too hard on yourself. You'll make plenty of mistakes, but learn from them and move on.

2. Don't rush your sewing, you'll only end up dissatisfied and probably never wearing your poor make. There's something to be said about breaking projects into nice bitesized parts.

3. Always prewash your fabric to prevent your make from shrinking after its first wash. It's a good idea to wash your fabric as soon as you buy it, so it's all ready to go when you need it.

4. Pick projects that excite you and don't waste time on something you're not happy with. And if you discover you really dislike a make halfway through sewing it, don't feel like you have to finish it . . . life's too short!

5. Take advantage of online tutorials and sewalongs, I really can't recommend this enough. Despite finding evening classes helpful to begin with, I can honestly say that I learned the best methods and techniques from other bloggers.

What's the last garment that you made and are you pleased with it?

I was actually a pattern tester for Tilly and the Buttons' first ever pattern — the Mathilde Blouse — which is pictured at the very start of this interview. I'm genuinely really happy with the result, even though I didn’t think white would be my colour.

Have you sewn with unprinted vintage patterns? If so, please share pointers for newbies who might want to try them.

Although I have many in my collection, I haven't sewn with the unprinted ones yet. I imagine they seem more daunting than they are though  they have plenty of perforations, so you just need to make sure you transfer them all to your fabric.

How long does it take to get to the Vogue "Plus Difficile" rated pattern?  (I can dream, can't I?)

We can both dream I think!

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Share with me your funniest sewing adventure, please.
 

Oh dear, I knew this was coming! I wanted to make some sassy pyjama bottoms as part of Karen's Pyjama Party Sewalong (http://didyoumakethat.wordpress.com/tag/pyjama-party/) and I totally misjudged my fabric print. They turned out truly hideous . . . you literally can't tell me apart from The Big Lebowski's The Dude! If you fancy a good laugh at my expense, see them in the pic above. (Editor's note: I love 'em! She could go out and buy milk in them and give The Dude a run for his money, fashionwise.)

Sewhow-marie-lonsdaleAnd your most exasperating or difficult.

Definitely the sad story of my very beautiful Lonsdale. I totally managed to perfect the fit at the muslin stage, but I must have accidently cut the bodice a size smaller in my fashion fabric, because when I finished it, it was too small. I had followed Sewaholic's sewalong closely, and a lot of work went into making this dress as lovely on the inside as it was on the outside  . . . so needless to say, I cried when I made the shocking discovery. I've now learned to try on makes as I go along! And there was a silver lining to this story – the dress fit my mum perfectly, and she proudly wears it all the time!

Sewhow-marie-renfrewWhat's your favorite pattern ever to sew, if you remember? 

I don't have one really, ideally it would be a cute go-to dress pattern. However, I have made six Renfrews to date, which is my own personal record. It's such an easy and satisfying project to whip up when you want a quick sewing fix!

Do you sew vintage patterns? 

I do, but not nearly as many as I'd like to. This year, I would love to make a dent in my vintage sewing pattern collection.

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Do you find instructions easier to follow on vintage patterns?

In my experience, this totally depends on the pattern company, the type of garment and the year the pattern was printed in. I find that many vintage pattern instructions tend to assume you have a quite a good understanding of sewing techniques and knowledge, so I often find myself Googling and YouTubing a lot of it. It’s easy to be hard on vintage pattern instructions, especially when you compare them to the often more comprehensive modern ones, but at the end of the day you buy and use them for the unique and very beautiful details that are rarely found in modern patterns.

How many hours of sewing do you think it takes for the average person to become proficient?

Goodness . . . how long is a piece of string? Everyone’s definition of proficient is different – for some it may mean grasping the basics and for others it could well be conquering tailoring. I think a year is a good aim for mastering the basics, but the sewing learning journey never truly ends.

 Now. Rush over to her blog and read every word. That is, if you haven't already! 


Sew how? Rachel reveals her secrets on recreating runway looks. September 18, 2012 06:11 3 Comments

Pic 7Rachel combines two of my favorite topics in her blog, Shoes and Sewing. For are there any other lighthearted topics closer to our girly-girl hearts than the clothes we make and the shoes we wear with them? I say no. Emphatically.

Rachel kicks her sewing up a notch. Or two. Or three. She is inspired by a look, then she recreates it. I am impressed. Much. Read on to see how she learned to accomplish this enviable feat.

How long have you been sewing?

I have been sewing since October 1999.  I actually learned in high school in Home Ec during the late '80s.  I remember sewing a couple of dresses and a pillow, but I did not do any more sewing after that.  I started back in October 1999 when I began taking a sewing class.

What inspired you to learn?

In 1999, my neighbor was taking a smocking class.  She showed me some of the beautiful children’s clothing that she had made, and I was fascinated.  I began taking the class and learned to smock and sew children’s clothing.  This class was much more than that, though, because my teacher was willing to teach me to sew whatever I wanted.  We met on Thursday nights for about one-and-a-half years, and I learned a lot of basic techniques, but also a lot of heirloom sewing techniques. 

Another inspiration was a dress that an aunt of mine hired someone to make for her.  I remember as a child being so fascinated by that dress and thinking that one day I would love to learn to sew something that pretty.

Did your mother or grandmother sew?

My mother sewed on an old-timey pedal sewing machine.  I am not sure about my grandmother.  I remember one time there was a dress in JCPenney that I wanted, but it was too expensive.  My mother sewed a knockoff of it for me, and it looked just like the catalog picture.  She was very talented.  My mother told me about an aunt of hers who sewed suits for her husband.  He was a preacher, and they were very poor.  They could not afford to buy the suits he needed to preach in, so she would go in a department store and look at the suits.  Then from memory, she would go home, draw out a pattern and make it.  My mother said it looked like it came from the department store.

Tell us a bit more about your learning experience.

I took a class for one-and-a-half years from 1999-2001.  Even though I had taken Home Ec, I could not even remember how to thread the sewing machine the first night I sat down in class.  Once the class ended, I kept up my sewing.  I have taught myself a lot by just reading patterns and following sewing blogs.  I started out with easy patterns and have just gradually over the years tried harder and harder patterns. 

What was the first garment that you made?

The first garment I made was a dress in high school Home Ec. I don’t have a picture of it

Did you wear it?

I did proudly wear it.

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How long did it take for you to get the basics down?

Well, it depends on what you mean by basics. I could not even sew a straight line when I started taking the sewing class in 1999.  I also did not have any respect for seam allowances.  I just took them as suggestions. When the sewing class ended, and I didn’t have a teacher to look over my shoulder, it forced me to develop confidence.  I just forged ahead and became more and more confident.  I am still learning. 

How long did it take you to feel confident of your dressmaking skills?

I would say I really began to feel confident when I successfully knocked off a garment I had seen in a store.  I don’t have a picture of it, but I will share a few pics of my knockoffs.  Sewing knockoffs is really what motivates and inspires me. I particularly love sewing knockoffs of Anthropologie clothing and other designer clothing.  The hunt for the fabric and pattern is so much fun.

Do you still make things that you simply won't wear?

Yes.  I recently made a pair of pants, and I won’t wear them.  I am horrible at making pants.  Part of the reason, I think, is that I really don’t like making them.  I just love making pretty dresses and skirts much more.

How many hours a week do you sew?

I probably sew about 4-6 hours on the weekends and maybe one hour during the week.  I work full time so I don’t have as much time as I would like.  But, then again, if I didn’t work full time, I couldn’t afford to sew. 

What are your five favorite sewing books?

Reader’s Digest New Complete Guide to Sewing

Pattern Magic Books

Decorative Dressmaking by Sue Thompson

The Zapp Method of Couture Sewing by Anna Zapp

The Art of Manipulating Fabric by Colette Wolff

Are there any sewing DVDs that you like? If so, which ones?

I really don’t have any sewing DVDs.  However, I would love to get one of those DVDs that have the Threads magazines on them.

If you're a fan of free online tutorials, name five for the beginning sewer, please.

Invisible Zipper Tutorial at Adventures in Dressmaking

How to Make Perfect Scallops

Faux Welt Pockets

Anything by Gertie

Sewaholic (Her sew-alongs are great — I participated in the Lonsdale Dress Sew-Along (First pic, above.)

I love that fabric!! What garment would you suggest that a newbie make first?

I would make a simple wrap skirt.  They don’t have zippers.

Second?

I would tackle another skirt, but this time with a zipper.  You may as well go ahead and get over the zipper fear.

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What is the favorite of all the garments you have made?

A Tiffany blue coat I made that is knockoff of a coat Anthropologie sold.  Mine was much cheaper that the Anthropologie version.  It required me to draft a flounce and rework a couple of the pattern pieces to insert the flounce.  Drafting is something I prefer not to do.  I would rather put different patterns together to get what I want.  The fact that I was successful at the drafting is part of the reason for it being my favorite.  Also, I think the inspiration for my knockoff is one of the most beautiful pieces of clothing I have ever seen.

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What was the first item you sewed that made you beam with pride?

The first item I ever drafted and sewed is what I am proudest of.  Drafting is not my favorite thing, but I decided I just had to have a replica of Anthropologie’s Fluttering Pencil Skirt.  I could not find a pattern like it, so a  wonderful blogger who is excellent at drafting wrote me up a tutorial when I requested help on a sewing message board.  Here are pics below and a link to the tutorial: http://communingwithfabric.blogspot.com/2009/09/self-drafted-anthropologie-skirt.html

Name your five top tips for beginners, please. 

1.   Start with a simple pattern without a zipper.

2.   Don’t be upset with yourself about mistakes.  Right before I sat down to type this, I sewed something together backwards and had to rip out.  You will never quit making mistakes.

3.   Ask for help – the online sewing community is great.

4.   Always, always make a muslin.

5.   Purchase a good basic sewing book. 

Do you have any fitting advice to offer?

Always make a muslin.  I have been sewing long enough and am familiar enough with the Big 4 pattern companies that I have figured out that I really only need to muslin the bodice for myself.  However, when I working with an unfamiliar company, I muslin the whole thing.  It is worth the few extra dollars for some cheap fabric to check for fit, than to cut into your good fabric and your garment not fit.  Been there and done that.

Do you use a dressform?

I have one, but I only use it to model my sewn items for pictures.  I do better by just trying my garments on as I sew them.

What's the last garment that you made? Are you pleased with it?

The last garment I made is a skirt that I have yet to blog about so I don’t have a picture of it.  However, I am very pleased with it.  It is a knockoff of a skirt from Anthropologie. 

Have you sewn with unprinted vintage patterns? If so, please share pointers for newbies who might want to try them.

I am not sure what an unprinted vintage pattern is.  Is it any different than just a vintage pattern?

It has no printing, simply perforations instead of printed markings.

How long does it take to get to the Vogue "Plus Difficile" rated pattern?  (I can dream, can't I?)

It is hard to say, because it all depends on how much you practice your sewing and how consistently you sew.  I would say after you know the basics very well and have a few successes under your belt, just go for it.  I have never been scared enough, so if there is a pattern I want to make, I just plunge right in. 

Share your funniest sewing adventure, please.

The first pair of pants I ever sewed, I sewed the legs together in the middle.  That was quite funny.

And your most exasperating or difficult.

Several years ago, before I started sewing muslins, I was sewing one of my first Anthropologie knockoffs.  I made the dress, tried it on, and it was too large in the chest.  I was so furious that I packed up my sewing machine and promised never to sew again.  In a couple of hours, I decided to make a muslin, tweaked the fit, and then I made the dress.  That was a hard lesson.

Pic 12What's your favorite pattern ever to sew, if you remember?

Vogue 1174. I found the perfect fabric for it and everything came together well.

When I look at the dress, I smile.

I noticed you added straps. Was that a difficult task?

I changed it to have straps because I feel like strapless dresses are about to fall down on me.  I just cut out two strips of fabric, sewed them together, turned them inside out and sewed them on.  It wasn't hard.

V1174-my favorite garment

Do you sew vintage patterns?

I have only made one vintage pattern, V2517, a vintage Diane von Furstenberg pattern.  It Pic 13 is a colorblock dress that I made two years ago before colorblocking was even popular like it is today.  I am currently working on my second vintage pattern.

Do you find instructions easier to follow on vintage patterns?

Not really.  I think they are harder to read. 

How many hours of sewing do you think it takes for the average person to become proficient?

It depends on the person.  I read a lot of sewing blogs, and there are bloggers I follow who are newer seamstresses and are more proficient than I was at their same number of years sewing.  I think if you really want to do something, you can do it.  It just takes practice.

Completely awed? I am. And here's my favorite ensemble Rachel copied:

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She looks even more amazing in her Chanel jacket than the bold-faced type. I know you agree. So scurry over and read her blog. That is, if you haven't already. And what are the chances of  that?


Sew how? She's a sewing fanatic, and I am one dedicated fan. August 12, 2012 23:45 4 Comments

Fanatic_jacketI am so excited about this Sew how? Why, you ask? Because Carolyn's Diary of a Sewing Fanatic is one of the first sewing blogs I discovered, and I am still a loyal reader. Very. I bet you are, too.

So. Pour yourself some lemonade and enjoy the story of how she learned to sew. You are in for a treat.

How long have you been sewing?

Since I was 11. 

What inspired you to learn?

I think my grandmother pushed me more than I was inspired.

Did your mother or grandmother sew?

My grandmother taught me by taking me to Woolworth's (does anyone remember Woolworth’s) to buy a pattern to make clothes for my Barbie dolls. She gave me one of her cast-off dresses for fabric, taught me a few hand stitches, and I was off.

How did you continue learning?

Started with my grandmother and then I took every class I could. When I was younger, there were so many more of them around, besides the ones in school, there was an afterschool club as well as the classes at the Singer stores.

What was the first garment that you made?

A maxi-jumper with suspenders . . . I can still see the green plaid that I used to make it.

Did you wear it?

Of course I did, proudly!

How long did it take for you to get the basics down?

You know, I’ve been sewing almost nonstop for 42 years. I just don’t remember that anymore . . . but I do remember being fearless and sewing anything.

How long did it take you to feel confident of your dressmaking skills?

Right away. I knew I was supposed to sew, that it was my talent almost from the beginning. It’s probably why I never stopped sewing completely.  I had a sewing machine in college in my dorm room and in every home I’ve lived in since.

Do you still make things that you simply won't wear?

I don’t think there is a sewist around who hasn’t made a wadder or two. So of course, I’ve made pieces that I won’t wear.

How many hours a week do you sew?

12-16 hours . . . basically most of my weekend 

What are your five favorite sewing books?

1.  The Vogue/Butterick Step by Step Guide to Sewing Techniques

2.  Any book by Adele Margolis

3.  The Singer Sewing Library (every single book!)

4.  The Taunton Sewing Library (some issues can now be bought on ebook)

5.  Any book by Sandra Betzina

Are there any sewing DVDs that you like? If so, which ones?

I have a few by Nancy Zieman and Sandra Betzina that I would grab in case of fire.

If you're a fan of free online tutorials, name five for the beginning sewer, please.

Can I suggest blogs instead? Gigi Sews; The Sewing Divas; Ann of Gorgeous Things, who now has the video Sewing University and finally YouTube. If you don’t know how to do something, search YouTube. It’s amazing how many videos are there!

What garment would you suggest that a newbie make first?

I highly recommend and use to teach a skirt first. My thought was how could you possibly convince someone that they could make garments by teaching them to make a pillow or a tote bag. And a skirt gives you lessons in applying a zipper, some fitting, interfacing for a waistband, etc. The goal should be to teach techniques that can be carried into the next garment. I truly believe that’s how you hook a newbie.

Second?

Nowadays,  a quick knit t-shirt. There are so many great patterns out there now!

Fanatic_chanel
What is the favorite of all the garments you have made?

My pink Chanel knock-off dress — because I realized that I could cut up a pattern and get a wonderful wearable designer-inspired garment.

What was the first item you sewed that made you beam with pride?

I made a two-tone (black with black/white houndstooth) shirtdress that fit so well, and everyone asked if I’d bought it. I wore the heck out of that dress and sadly have no pictures of it. 

Name your five top tips for beginners, please.

1. Watch the grain when cutting out.

2.  Just do it.

3.  Be fearless.

4.  Learn what silhouettes work for your body type.

5.  Press your seams flat and then open. Pressing is the difference between a good-looking garment or a happy hands made at home one.

Fanatic_lace
What's the last garment that you made and are you pleased with it?

My trendy lace dress, because not only did I make another version of my TNT dress, but I also dyed my own fabric.

Have you sewn with unprinted vintage patterns?

No, I haven’t.

How long does it take to get to the Vogue "Plus Difficile" rated pattern? (I can dream, can't I?)

Honestly, even with the years of sewing experience that I have behind me, I still take a deep breath before using a difficult pattern. And there are some techniques that I avoid like the plague because I haven’t been successful with them. 

Share with me your funniest sewing adventure, please.

I can’t even remember one now . . . see what happens when you’ve been sewing so long? 

And your most exasperating or difficult.

I don’t sew chiffon anymore, because the slippery slitheriness of it drives me to distraction.

Fanatic_TNT
What's your favorite pattern ever to sew?

My TNT dress pattern. It can be whatever I want and it always fits! 

Do you sew vintage patterns?

I’ve sewn a couple. 

Do you find instructions easier to follow on vintage patterns?

I find the instructions to be more complete and hold so much more information in 2 pages than the 4 to 6 pages included in current patterns.

How many hours of sewing do you think it takes for the average person to become proficient?

I think it totally depends on the person and that there is no set formula to it. I do believe that if you keep sewing, there will come a moment when you’re sewing along and you just know what to do. You’ll realize that you’ve arrived at a point you were attempting to reach, and the feeling of euphoria that accompanies that moment propels you forward, giving you courage to attempt things you hadn’t thought of trying before.

If you're a newbie, are you totally inspired to stick with sewing now? I am. And a round of grateful applause for Carolyn. Thank you for sharing!

 

 


Sew how: 10,000 hours? Victoria's a queen with merely 5,000. July 23, 2012 23:30 8 Comments

Vic 1st tank dres
Victoria's  blog, Ten Thousand Hours of Sewing, is inspired by Malcolm Gladwell's theory that tthat it takes 10,000 hours to become  expert at a skill.  If you read her blog, I'm sure you'll agree she's already at the head of the class. She is. Totally. And she's taken an hour or sew from refining her stitching to share how she learned.

How long have you been sewing?

I’ve been sewing since 2004. I NEVER anticipated being a sewer. SERIOUSLY!!!  I’ve been crocheting and knitting since I taught myself as a little girl.

What inspired you to learn?

It was my grandmother-In-law’s legacy that inspired me to sew. She was such a loving and wonderful woman. To me, it was a means of keeping her memories alive in my heart. It wasn’t until I visited her home after she passed that I was able to see all of the things she’d made. She sewed everything from clothes to curtains. She was really gifted.

Did your mother or grandmother sew?

No, no one in my immediate family sewed.

How did you learn? A class? Your mom? Home ec?

In high school, I took a home ec  class and remember making a pillow. Lord, that was like over fifteen years ago. But after acquiring my GIL’s sewing machine, I took classes at my local Hancock fabrics for around 6 months to learn the basics. I think classes were $5 and were taught twice a week. I loved my teacher Mrs. Helen ‐ she was a seasoned sewing veteran who was very nurturing and encouraging. Strangely enough, I remember clearly how FOREIGN everything was back then. I remember the first time I looked at a guidesheet — it was completely unfamiliar. But it didn’t take me long to begin catching on. I’m a quick learner, so I picked up the basics fast and sorta outgrew the basic classes quickly, and when my teacher had to have knee surgery, I ventured on my own. I was pretty much self-taught from then on. I remember going months checking out every sewing book I could get my hands on from my local libraries. I’m a HUGE book learner, so I loaded myself up on resources. Once I exhausted those, then Ebay and Amazon.com became my best friend. I have a pretty exhaustive library (something I’m proud of) — books ranging from the basic how-to’s, to patternmaking, draping, pattern manipulation, fitting, etc. These resources have been invaluable, especially since I’m not formally taught/trained. I try my best to stay current of the resources on the market. I’m a firm believer that just one added piece of information can radically transform your sewing. So I see buying books and DVDs as huge investments!

What was the first garment that you made?

Wow, that was so long ago and I barely remember. My memory is a little foggy, but I think it was a drawstring skirt. I think I may have worn it a few times. It was really basic — nothing special about it. Can’t you tell it wasn’t that significant! LOL! The one major first project I distinctly remember making was my first Valentine’s Day dress. I was still taking classes at Hancock at the time, and we got to the point where we all finished a group project and could pick out an individual project. I decided to tackle my very first gown. It was Butterick 6533. I made this formal dress out of red and white crepe-back satin and put a red and pink flower pin on it. I used the shiny side on the dress. I was pretty proud that I took on this project and tackled an invisible zipper as a newbie. It wasn’t that painful — believe it or not (ignorance is bliss) — probably beginner’s luck — and they’re actually one of my favorite notions to sew. This dress is definitely not the prettiest thing on the market but it sure did make me proud! The hem was probably the worst hack job ever — LOL!!! And as long as you didn’t look underneath the dress you wouldn’t have known it.

Here’s the dress then: 

Vic Valentine dress past
Here’s it now:

Vic Valentine dress Now
I thought I’d try it on for kicks and giggles since it’s been about seven years since I’ve worn it. I can’t actually believe it still fits. And although it’s a bit too flashy for my taste now, I guess it actually doesn’t look that bad.

Did you wear it?

Of course I wore it and I wore it with PRIDE! I got a lot of compliments on that night!!! I can’t tell you how rewarding it felt to say I made it myself. But of course, if you’re a sewer you already know that feeling.

How long did it take for you to get the basics down?

It didn’t take too long to get the basics down. Learning the how-to’s on inserting a zipper or sewing curved seams or doing hems was accomplished within a reasonable time. I would say that after about 6-8 months I felt pretty OK with basic garment construction. But then that’s when I hit a brick wall and became extremely frustrated with my sewing. I was churning out projects left and right but none of them were fitting properly. That’s when, thorough tons of reading and research, that I realized that SEWING and FITTING were two different things. This realization was a big eye opener for me. If I remember correctly, it was at that time that I took off a few months from sewing to spend time studying the concept of fit. When I felt I had a slightly better understanding of it I took the long adventure of trying to learn how to do it. I’m still on that adventure, but I feel SO much more comfortable with how to fit my body. Plus, sewing for others has expanded my understanding on fitting as well. I’m still working on perfectly fitting pants on myself. My high derriere and swayback makes that a little tricky but I hope to master that real soon!!!

How long did it take you to feel confident of your dressmaking skills?

I’ll say that I became somewhat confident with my dressmaking skills when I started taking on clients. Heck, you better have some confidence if you venture out into that arena. I started my sewing business in 2006, I believe, and that was only due to the encouragement of my Dad. I wrote a post about that.

I literally did cry the entire first month. I felt so insecure, scared and inexperienced.  I mean, seriously, I was a fledgling seamstress. What did I know? The truth is you don’t have to know all there is about your craft to still be good and offer a service to others. I had to learn to only accept work based on my skill level and what I knew I could provide my clients. As my skill level increased so did the types of projects I took on. Sometimes I’ve taken on project slightly over my head, and they’ve helped me grow my skills (besides I like things to be a bit challenging — within reason, of course). Every project has helped increase my confidence. I don’t think you’ll ever feel like you’ve arrived or you’ve mastered your craft. I think you just build enough past experience to make good decisions going forward as much as possible. Isn’t that the very essence of wisdom! I have to mention that fear can be a major confidence zapper. The reality is that it never really goes away for good — it pops up from time to time. I recently took on a client who wanted me to make a dress for her daughter. I’ve sewn a bunch of kids clothing and after discussing the details and determining it was doable I was more than happy to take on the project. And, of course, you get that feeling in the pit of your stomach and your mind gets to racing fearing the worst.  I simply tune it out and keep on moving. For me, fear heightens my awareness and makes me more careful, but I refuse to let the fear of failure stop me. You just learn to prepare well and push past any intrepidation. Some of my best experiences and memorable lessons have been sewing for clients. I really have them to thank for helping me grow in confidence.

Do you still make things that you simply won't wear?

Yes, will that ever stop!!! LOL! But luckily it seldom happens nowadays.  When you’ve got a list as long as I do of things to sew, I don’t have time to waste by sewing a lot of things that have a low success rate. Too many failed projects would FRUSTRATE me!!! For that reason, I’m very calculating about what I choose to sew. I research the pattern beforehand and look at fellow sewer reviews. In the past, I used to make a lot of thing I wouldn’t wear after while. When I first began sewing, I wasn’t conscious of my wardrobe so I’d make a lot of stand-alone pieces. That drove me MAD!!! In recent years, I think more about the bigger picture and the longevity of the garments in my closet. For instance, I LOVE to sew fabrics with colorful patterns, but I’m even toning that down a bit and opting for more solids. I’m motivated to have a no-fuss wardrobe and effortless style that can go the distance.  With that said, there are days that maybe I feel like doing some experimenting and I may take on a risky project. If failure results then those will be the garments I definitely won’t wear, but at the same time they’re the ones that help me learn as well so there’s a trade-off.

How many hours a week do you sew?

Oh goodness, as you probably know by now, I have an entire blog dedicated to my maintaining discipline with my sewing.  On average, I like to devote 10-20 hours a week sewing. When I can slip extra in, trust me, I do. I particularly love getting up at 6am-ish on a Saturday (I’m an early bird) and sewing until noon or so. I can get a lot of sewing in, and it still leaves me with the rest of my day to do other things. If I had my way, I’d sew a lot more, but with being a wife, mommyhood, having a full-time job, business on the side, church involvement and a bunch of other stuff, I’m happy to have my sewing! Trust me, sewing isn’t an option — for me it’s a necessity. It keeps me SANE!!!! LOL!

What are your five favorite sewing books?

1. Palmer and Pletsch Fit for Real People — the pants and jacket versions are great, too!

2. Fitting and Pattern Alterations by Liechty, Pottberg, Rasband. Love this one because it takes a multimethod approach to fitting issues.

3. The entire Singer Sewing Books (I think there’s thirty-plus books in the collection ranging over every sewing topic imaginable; I have just a little over 30 of them. Three of my favorites are The Perfect Fit, Tailoring and Sewing Pants that Fit. Love the older books — they are so detailed. During a time when people heavily sewed, they had to be. FYI: These volumes were condensed and became the Singer Complete Photo Guide of Sewing.

4. Patternmaking for Fashion Design by Helen Joseph-Armstrong

5. Vogue Fitting. It’s a classic and an excellent book!

Are there any sewing DVDs that you like? If so, which ones?

Oh, I live for DVDs!!! I’m an extremely visual person, so there’s nothing like a good DVD to help ramp up my learning. I also like to get them since I occasionally teach sewing classes and know they could be a good resource for my students.  I own a good deal of videos. Some of my favorites are Peggy Sager’s Silhouette videos — I love the one on muslins, sewing sheers, etc. I own a bunch of her DVDs. I also have a bunch of the Palmer Pletsch DVDs. The Fit for Real People and Pants for Real People are great companions to the book.  I have a couple of Connie Crawford’s as well. I love sewing DVDs!!!

If you're a fan of free online tutorials, name five for the beginning sewer, please.

I don’t really hunt down any online tutorials. I’ve got quite the arsenal of info with my book and DVD library. I also love the Threads Magazine DVD-ROM, with 100-plus issues, it’s pretty informative. But one of my favorite online tutorials is Sandra Betzina’s fly front tutorial that you can find on the Threads site! She make the process SO easy!!! I also just discovered that Peggy Sager’s does webcast and stores them on her blog. They’re quite informative!!!

What garment would you suggest that a newbie make first?

That’s a tricky one. It just depends on their level of comfort and skill. I’ve had students who’ve struggled with sewing a straight line and others who were quicker learners. For the really green newbies,  I’d recommend making something that doesn’t require too much fitting. A loose tunic or an apron — you know something that can get them to focus on the skill of sewing without the added stress and discouragement of perfecting the fit. Trust me. there will be plenty of time ahead for working on perfecting a garment's fit. It has been my experience that there’s a huge misconception about sewing. People tend to underestimate that amount of skill that it takes even for really simple projects. I say take on something simple so you can learn the proper techniques and then move on up from there. To me, the proper sewing technique is the most important thing any newbie can learn. Every new seamstress needs a good foundation to build off of.

Second?

Something a tad bit more challenging then their first projectJ!

Vic Favorite dress
What is the favorite of all the garments you have made?

Ohhhhhhh . . . that’s a bit hard! I’ve made several gowns for myself and fancy dresses for my daughter. But I have to admit my favorite dress still is Vogue DKNY 1027. I LOVE the style of this dress. For me, the final dress was a perfect marriage of fabric and pattern. The fabric is an ohhhh-so-comfortable Lycra in this lovely mixture of bright blue flowers, gold, maroon and white. It’s my instant pick-me-up dress. I just so feel happy wearing it!!!

Vic Blue Gala dress
What was the first item you sewed that made you beam with pride?

Of course, the Valentine Day dress I mentioned above would have been the first just because it was my first major project as a newbie. But the one that REALLY made me feel accomplished was sewing my 2011 Gala gown (can’t you tell I have a thing for formal gowns)!!! I absolutely loved this dress!

Name your five top tips for beginners, please.

1. Practice, Practice, Practice (it’s the ONLY way you’re going to get good at sewing). And keep practicing until you get it right. There was a time that sewing in a sleeve made me so nervous. Researching various methods of doing so and really coming to understand the anatomy of a sleeve and practicing nonstop helped me overcome those nerves. Now, setting in a sleeve is a piece of cake for the most part.

2. Come to understand the way you learn and use that info to really explore the ins and outs of sewing. I’m a visual learner, and as I mentioned before, I have lots of resources that cater to how I learn. I try not to take on a project without thinking about every aspect of it. Each project consists of a formula. You have to have the right fabric, right pattern, right techniques, right fit, etc. to create a phenomenal end product. Keep in mind it’s that knowledge that improves your success rate with every project!

3. Mistakes will be your best teacher!!! Trust me,  you don’t have to go looking for them — they will find you. They’re just inevitable. You learn your lesson and move on. I used to be so heartbroken about the sewing mistakes I made when I was a newbie. Then I realized it’s just fabric (unless it’s a rare piece — that’s always hard) and focused on the next thing. Trust me, your mistakes will get less and less the more you progress and get good. And if they do happen, you get better at hiding them. I’ve heard it said that the definition for craftsmanship is being able to hide your mistakes or rebound from them (wink)!

 4. Don’t always settle for what’s easy. Challenge yourself a bit! Sometimes, you’ve just got to go out on a limb. What’s the worst that can happen? I bombed a dress the other day because I was curious what the results would be if I gave it a go. I had a gut feeling it wouldn’t work but tried it anyway. In 15 minutes, I got my answer — lesson learned. Now, I’ll find a way to find use for the cut-up fabric. As I mentioned above, I don’t do that often, but I do like to give myself the opportunity for exploration. Often, good ideas are found that way!!!

5. Be disciplined. Of course the degree depends on your goals. I like to take a break from sewing like the next person, but for the most part, I intentionally push myself. I know that if I really want to be an expert seamstress then it will require me to push past my feelings and show some real effort. Heck, I’m sure there are days that even Michael Phelps doesn’t want to get up at 4 a.m. and jump in the pool. But obviously, his success shows his discipline. Don’t underestimate the power of being disciplined — especially if you have specific goals!!!! Your hard work will pay off, I promise!!!

And one added tip: Get to know and uncover your inner designer. With every project, there’s a reason you like what you like or sew what you sew. Explore that. If you do, you’ll soon discover your own point of view with fashion. I believe all of us are gifted with perspective — and you can grow and cultivate that perspective. Don’t try to be like anyone else. Trust me, if you’re true to your own aesthetic, you’ll begin to evolve and grow in your sewing. I read a lot of sewing blogs like most of you, and I love observing other’s unique style and perspective. That’s the very thing that diversifies and yet unites us as sewers!!!  

What's the last garment that you made and are you pleased with it?

Well since it’s the summer I’ve been on my summer dress kick and recently finished my second version of McCalls 6559 tank dress! You betcha I was pleased with it!!! Just 2 pattern pieces and a feminine and sleek style. I’m all over that!!! Everyone’s been sewing this one up lately. I’m sure I’ll knock out a couple of more. They’re just great “go-to” dresses. Perfect for when need to something fast and cute to wear

Vic 2nd tank dress
Have you sewn with unprinted vintage patterns? If so, please share pointers for newbies who might want to try them.

No, I haven’t.

How long does it take to get to the Vogue "Plus Difficile" rated pattern?  (I can dream, can't I?)

I don’t think it takes long. I think the rating is based more on the number of steps and types of techniques being utilized.  These patterns are rated as such because they often require an array of sewing skills and know-how and often a lot of time. For me, it’s not often the issue of whether I can sew one of these, it’s the question of if I want to devote the time to doing so. I don’t usually wear very intricate garments (aside from special occasions) so I’m not often interested. I have to admit sewing a garment with 60-plus steps (OK, I’m a exaggerating a bit — but that’s true in some cases) is outside my realm of patience. But if I wanted it bad enough I definitely would!

Vic Black Gala Dress
Share your funniest sewing adventure, please.

You know, I just think I drew a blank. Hmmmmm  . . .  I think I got it. Well, it’s not really funny, but looking back, it kinda is and kinda sweet all at the same time (sorry, sometimes I have a twisted sense of humor). In April, I made a gown for a gala I attended.  Here it is:

I literally threw it together in just a few short days. I blogged about it here.

Fortunately, I had the aid of a custom-made dress form to help me perfect the fit. I literally was shocked at how fast I sewed and fit the dress — of course it was so easy with my body double. But I remember standing in my living room looking at the dress nearly finished on the form and without warning I just broke down crying. OK, it was just a few tears, but I was literally overcome by emotions. What in the world??? I promise you I haven’t been the same since having my daughter almost 5 years ago. There really is something weird that happens to you after you have a baby! LOL!!! To be serious for a moment, I was just so moved that I had the ability to make something beautiful with my hands.  Looking back at that moment although sweet now seems a little humorous J — told ya I had a twisted sense of humor — LOL! But at the same time, it really showed me that sewing really satisfies a big place in my heart, and I’m seriously passionate about it. The thought of that makes me smile.

Vic Julia Louis DreyfusAnd your most exasperating or difficult.

I actually never blogged about this, or at least I can’t remember, but about seven years ago I had a client who saw my business card at a local Hancock’s Fabric and wanted me to make a Narciso Rodriguez dress she saw Julia Louis-Dreyfus wear to an award show.

Hey, I was still pretty wet behind the ears but eager to take on the project and felt I could step up to the challenge (as I said before ignorance is bliss). Well, the dress wasn’t difficult to construct. I picked a basic strapless dress pattern and took the upper bodice apart to add in the black band and create the diamond shape on the side. I think the back of the dress also had a black band. So that went incredibly well. I made a mock-up dress in muslin, and the fit was good. So I moved ahead with constructing the dress which went relatively smooth. But the project became exasperating when I decided to take on the job of hand beading the black band area on the dress since the NR version appeared to be beaded. Well, if anyone has done bead work on a dress, you’ll know that even the smallest section takes FOREVER!!!!! In a week I think I spent something like 12 hours on the beading alone. It was insane!!! I ended up doing only three rows to outline the top and bottom of the black satin areas. She came by to pay for the dress and have the final fitting. We ran into a huge snafu when I discovered that she bought a new bra, and it totally changed the shape of her bust and how it appeared in this dress. That was a HUGE lesson for me. She loved the dress and would just use another bra with it. In the end, she wore it to a conference social event and she got lots of compliments. I was so happy to be done with that project that I don’t even have finished pictures of it. I mean I literally stood by the door and gladly watched it be carried out! LOL! No photos are a bummer, but I’m happy all ended well. I wouldn’t trade that experience for the world. I learned A LOT!!!

Vic Princess seam dresses
What's your favorite pattern ever to sew, if you remember?

Well, I judge my favorite pattern by the number of times I’ve sewn it and if I’ve interfaced it to preserve the pattern (wink). I have a few that I’ve sewn five-plus times, but the one I really love is  a  OOP McCall’s princess seam dress pattern (can’t remember the number). It’s such a classic and feminine design that worked every time. Here’s a pic of two of the five dresses I’ve made with it. They’re both a linen blend with Asian characters and flowers on them.

Do you sew vintage patterns?

I haven’t, but I’m increasingly becoming interested. I really LOVE a lot of the styles!!! I’ve acquired a handful and look forward to giving them a try.

Do you find instructions easier to follow on vintage patterns?

Well, until just now I’d never looked at a vintage pattern guidesheet. I have to say that it looks almost like a newspaper comic page. The instructions are incredibly clear and the drawing the same. They are definitely detailed — there are lots of notes for each step. Interesting. 

How many hours of sewing do you think it takes for the average person to become proficient?

Good question!!! Well, if you’re a follower of my blog, you know that I’m on an adventure to try and figure that out! I really appreciate the “10,000 Hours” chapter in Malcom Gladwell’s book, Outliers. If anything, it gives me a goal to reach for, which is great. I’m already half the way in and look forward to the remainder of the adventure.  I’ll let you know my answer once I’ve made it to the finish line. I look forward to it!!!

If you'd like to learn more about how Victoria learned to sew — and who wouldn't? — you must read this post on her blog. A loud yet respectful round of applause to Victoria. Thank you for sharing. Which dress do you like best?

 

 

 


Sew how? Karen did make that and that and that . . . June 19, 2012 15:33 11 Comments

V8548 coat
You are probably a huge fan of Karen, mistress of the wonderful and informative blog,
Did You Make That? I know I am. Grab yourself a cup of tea and find out how she learned to make such drool-inducing togs.

How long have you been sewing?

About three years, after I acquired a Toshiba sewing machine from a little old lady via Freecycle. She was upgrading to a new machine and was happy to give me her old one. I wonder if she has any idea what she started!

What inspired you to learn?

I’d started reading knitting blogs because of my love of knitting, and that led me to read sewing blogs. It blew my mind to see some of the expert sewing out there, and it lit a fire in my belly. I really wanted to see if I could have a go and aim towards similar levels of achievement.

Did your mother or grandmother sew?

>Both my mother and my maternal grandmother had sewing machines and used them.

Like many children in the '70s, I wore a lot of homemade outfits! I’ll always be grateful that my mum was happy to let me use her sewing machine as a child. Little did I know that I would be returning to a sewing machine 30-odd years later. Initially, it was intimidating, but it was fascinating to see how many memories came back.

How did you learn? A class? Your mom? Home ec?

Initially, I learnt entirely by trial and error (with a little help from my mum!), and through following blogs and Internet resources. Slowly, slowly, I gained a little sewing library, but the Internet is still my most valuable research tool. I am in awe of the talent and experience out there, often shared so very modestly by people who have been sewing for 30+ years.

After a while, I sensed that I’d got as far as I could take myself (you don’t know what you don’t know) so I enrolled for two intermediate dressmaking courses at Morley College in London. Since then, I have also done a beginner pattern drafting course at Central Saint Martins in London, and I have studied one-on-one with the sewing teacher, Sunny Gal, in San Francisco. I think I am addicted to learning about sewing!

First make
What was the first garment that you made?

Aw, I’m still very fond of my first make! It was a loose-fitting Vogue pattern, V8495. I’ll never throw that out. Looking back on it, I am struck by two things: that I managed to choose asoft cotton that was perfect for this make and that the work is, well, pretty good!

Did you wear it?

Yes, it’s received a certain amount of wear although it’s a while since I last wore it. It’s definitely one of those patterns that fall into the "Does this look like maternity wear?" category, but I often have days when I just want to cover up, so I don’t mind this too much.

How long did it take for you to get the basics down?

Hmmmm . . . Possibly about six months. There’s a lot of trial and error, making mistakes and learning that it’s okay to make mistakes. I think I suffered slightly from the novice’s desire to make things in a massive hurry. I’d rush down to my local market, all wide-eyed, and impulsively buy fabric to sew up.

How long did it take you to feel confident of your dressmaking skills?

About a year, I’d say — I think I had to feel a certain amount of confidence before daring to enroll on a course and take an existing make along to show the teacher.

Do you still make things that you simply won't wear? 

All the time! I firmly believe in honest blogging, and I’d be lying if I said that everything I made worked. The last dud was, I’m afraid, Colette’s Taffy blouse. I looked like a circus performer in those huge sleeves. I know this, because my boyfriend told me so!

How many hours a week do you sew?

I work full time, but generally, my sewing productivity depends on whether or not I’m going through a manic sewing period! I’ve been known to get up at 5 a.m. to sew before work, but I do not recommend this at all. On busy weeks, I’m lucky to get a couple of hours in, but on average weeks I’d say I sew for 8-9 hours a week — a few hours after work and then a decent hit of sewing at the weekend.

What are your five favorite sewing books? 

The Reader’s Digest New Complete Guide to Sewing. This is the only one I’m going to list, because it’s the one I’ve gone back to time and time and time again. So far, any other sewing books have felt like indulgences, but the Reader’s Digest is my bible.

Are there any sewing DVDs that you like?

I’ve never used sewing DVDs. Not even the instruction DVD that came with my overlocker!

If you're a fan of free online tutorials, name five for the beginning sewer, please.

Tilly and the Button’s bow belt tutorial

Anything by Sewaholic

Sunni’s tutorial for inserting an invisible zipper to a bias cut skirt.

Gertie’s tutorial on bound buttonholes.

My own set of classes for making a pair of pajama bottoms! 

What garment would you suggest that a newbie make first?

Actually, pajama bottoms are very sweet. There’s lots of room for creative fun, and if they aren’t perfect, no one other than your bed mate needs to know!

Second?

I know some people roll their eyes at the words ‘A line skirt’ but there are some stylish variations out there – just look at Colette Pattern’s Ginger skirt. They’re not too taxing, and their simplicity makes them a great project for challenging yourself technique-wise. I am a big fan of taking something very simple and making it up to as good a standard as your skills can reach. Plus, A-line skirts are a great blank canvas for fabric choice, so you can have lots of fun fabric shopping.

V8667
What is the favorite of all the garments you have made?

Ooh, good question! Honestly, I think it’s my Vogue V8667 dress. I love the colour and the wool, the fit is the best I’d achieved at that stage in my sewing career, and I have happy memories of working on this dress at Morley College. My one regret is that back then I still didn’t know how to hem wool properly — and it shows! But that’s sewing for you — it’s a constant journey with no finish line. I like that.

V1183
What was the first item you sewed that made you beam with pride?

That would be my red dress, V1183, made from cashmere mix wool bought in Paris. I’d set myself a steep challenge with this dress – to make fit adjustments on my own (I had barely any idea what I was doing) and to work to the highest level of excellence that I was capable of at the time. The fact that it turned out a success was a minor miracle to me. If I hadn’t had comments from blog readers with fitting suggestions, though, this dress would never have worked. Quite recently a good friend said to me, ‘You know, that is still my favorite dress of yours.’ I was thrilled!

Name your five top tips for beginners, please.

  • Learn self-forgiveness. It’s OK to make mistakes.
  • Give yourself plenty of time. Please, please, please don’t leave work on a Friday afternoon thinking, ‘I’ll whip a dress up this weekend.’ You won’t. You’ll just return to work on Monday morning unhappy and frustrated.
  • Engage with the online sewing community. It is a rich and free resource, full of information and kindness.
  • Work with cheap fabric that you don’t mind wasting — then work with expensive fabric that you do mind wasting. An investment of money can really focus the mind when you’re ready for the next challenge!
  • Don’t ignore those little marks on the paper patterns. They’re there for a reason! I speak as someone who spent the first 18 months of her sewing career ignoring notches.

What's the last garment you made?

Simplicity 4934I’m still working on a make from an early '60s vintage pattern, Simplicity 4934. Again, I’m trying to work to the best standard that I can, and it’s been a big investment of man hours — but hopefully a worthwhile one. Yet again, I am working in wool. I love working with wool. It behaves so beautifully.

Have you sewn with unprinted vintage patterns? If so, please share pointers for newbies who might want to try them.

I haven’t! They scare me.

How long does it take to get to the Vogue "Plus Difficile" rated pattern? (I can dream, can't I?)

Tell me when you get there!

Share your funniest sewing adventure, please.

The most laughing I’ve done is when meeting up with sewing friends. We have regular sewing get-togethers in the UK — they’re relatively easy to organize on this small island of ours! My favorite so far is when a group of us went to Edinburgh for a weekend, an event organized by My Happy Sewing Space, Kestrel Finds & Makes and Kristen Makes.

Edinburgh meet up
One of our group wore a short circle skirt she’d made in what turned out to be a very windy city! She spent the whole day patting her skirt down. I also love watching the reactions of strangers as they witness large groups of semihysterical women hugging each other and stroking each other’s clothes. I guess we don’t get out much, us sewists!

And your most exasperating or difficult?

Whoo-boy. That would definitely have to be the final sewing marathon I undertook on the V8548 coat (first picture). My boyfriend very wisely vacated the house for the day. I spent six hours in my pajamas, sewing. Part of the final process was opening up the rear bound buttonholes. I decided to sew these on the machine. Wrestling an entire coat through a sewing machine? Thank goodness no one was in the house to hear my language!

Cambie dress
What's your favorite pattern ever to sew?

I’m currently in love with pretty much anything Sewaholic produces. I adore my recent Cambie dress. I want to marry Tasia or lock her in a gilded cage, so that she can churn out patterns just for me. Except she already does that, so I guess I don’t need to lock her up! I have a huge amount of respect for her pattern drafting and empathy with a) the female form and b) the trials and tribulations of a home sewist. And most of all, she does all this with a huge amount of modesty. This woman will go far!

Do you sew vintage patterns? 

Three so far! I’m torn — there can be a lot of adjustment needed. There are so many stimulating new patterns hitting the market all the time. Yet I do appreciate how unique and special some of these vintage patterns can be.

Do you find instructions easier to follow on vintage patterns?

The Simplicity pattern from the 1960s has a whole side of A3 devoted to teaching the reader how to line a pencil skirt with lots of text and diagrams. Imagine that now!

How many hours of sewing do you think it takes for the average person to become proficient?

Define ‘proficient’? If you can sew a button on, you’re more proficient than a lot of people I know. Personally, and despite my own self-set challenges of doing my sewing best, I’m learning that there’s no time in a home sewing career when you can sit back and know you’ve done it all. I hope not — wouldn’t that be sad? I’ve seen sewing do wonders for people’s confidence, and I’ve also witnessed people cringing over their machines when they think they’re doing something wrong. The best message I can send out is: Trust yourself. We’re all capable of much more than we imagine!

Isn't that coat magnificent? Actually, all of Karen's garments look professional. Even her first top. Color me green. Sigh. But. Karen definitely gives beginners inspiration. Scads of it. Don't you agree?

 

 

 


Sew how? Take a bow, bloggers: Joanne learned from you! June 11, 2012 23:16 7 Comments

Stitch_min
I am so impressed. Joanne, of the peachy keen blog Stitch and Witter, calls herself a beginner. A beginner! But, I say, look at all she's made. Pretty darn amazing, eh? Read on for the details. Do.

How long have you been sewing?

I’ve had a sewing machine for ten years, but I only sporadically used it for cushions and basic projects until around May last year - so I’ve been sewing in earnest (and sewing clothes) for about a year.

What inspired you to learn?

I decided to take up sewing after seeing an old flatmate make her own cushion covers. I realized how quickly and cheaply you could run something up on a sewing machine. Deciding to make my own clothes took a lot longer though . . . I always shop with a specific garment in mind (I hate window shopping), and more often than not, I could never find what I was looking for, funnily enough! So I decided I would try to learn so I could create my own unique wardrobe.

Did your mother or grandmother sew?

Not at all, although my mum has bought herself a sewing machine after seeing how much I was enjoying it - so quite the reverse!

How did you learn? A class?

I took a basic dressmaking course about 6 years ago and made a dress I never wore - it was a hideous silky sixties affair. Then about a year and a half ago, I discovered the world of sewing blogs and never looked back. Everything since then has been self-taught or gleaned from sewing pattern instructions, books, blogs and helpful comments from the community. I’ve learnt more in a year of sewing at home with the help of the blogging community than I ever did in that course.

What was the first garment that you made?

Oh, dear - I drew around an existing dress and cut it out, then sewed the front to the back and hemmed all the edges (badly. Another was a pleated skirt made from a floral bedsheet with an unfinished waistline cinched in by a pink ribbon! It was an abomination against fashion AND sewing. To be honest, there were lots of fails and half-hearted attempts before I truly got into it and enjoyed it.

Did you wear it?

I wore the dress once when I was at home with a bad head cold during Self-Stitched September. I don’t think I ever had the gall to wear the pleated skirt out of the house.

How long did it take for you to get the basics down?

I would say it took about four months of sewing regularly at weekends to really feel comfortable using patterns, cutting out and putting a garment together, without freaking out at the thought of buttonholes or zips.

How long did it take you to feel confident of your dressmaking skills?

I have to be honest and say I’m still not there. In so many ways, I still feel like a beginner, and I’m happy with that. Almost every project has some learning curve in it, no matter how simple. But that’s the joy of it - and why I feel so pleased when something I’ve made fits me and looks good.

However, I suppose there must be some confidence bubbling away there as I would never have even contemplated a coat a year ago, and I’m absolutely delighted with my March Minoru. I’m still not confident with adjusting patterns and fit; I find it incredibly difficult and frustrating when you’re on your own in front of a mirror trying to assess how to fix a gaping back.

Do you still make things that you simply won't wear?

Less and less so, but yeah - I sometimes make something that after a few wears I realize doesn’t suit me. I guess you can impulse sew as well as impulse shop!

How many hours a week do you sew?

If it’s a great week, I get in around 12 hours - on a bad week - none. I hate bad weeks as they can run into each other and then you get in a rut. The only way out of it is to sew.

What are your five favorite sewing books?

The Sewing Book by Alison Smith for tips on just about everything

Pattern Magic by Tomoko Nakamichi - not for practical use at my level, but I love the photography and styling

The Colette Sewing Handbook by Sarai Mitnick - great patterns and packed full of tips for beginners and intermediate sewers

Fit for Real People by Palmer, Alto & Schilling - a great book to dip into - especially if you’re trying to improve your fitting expertise like I am

Sew U: The Built by Wendy Guide to Making Your Own Wardrobe by Wendy Mullin - a practical guide to a basic wardrobe which includes patterns

Are there any sewing DVDs that you like? If so, which ones?

Ooh, I don’t know any - any recommendations?

If you're a fan of free online tutorials, name five for the beginning sewer, please.

Got four for you that I can heartily recommend:

Sorbetto by Colette 

Make a bow belt by Tilly

Anything  by Flossie Teacakes

Prudent Baby snappy top and free pattern

What garment would you suggest that a newbie make first?

A basic pull-over-the-head top without fastenings will give a real confidence boost, like the Sorbetto, or the Grainline Scout tee.

Second?

Then move onto something like a simple A-line skirt with zipper and waistband. Nothing too detailed - just front and back. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to put together.

Fence
What is the favorite of all the garments you have made?

It’s usually the most recent! But seriously, it’s probably a toss up between Simplicity 2444 (my Portlandia dress, shown above) and Simplicity 5961 which I used for Julia Bobbin's Mad Men Dress Challenge earlier this year.  

MM1
What was the first item you sewed that made you beam with pride?
 

I think it’s got to be my Mad Men dress, made with Simplicity 5961. It’s my first lined dress, it’s made with the most divine and expensive wool, and I feel like I really made it my own with the trimming and buttons.

Name your five top tips for beginners, please.

I’m barely out of being a beginner myself! But here you go:

1. Always prewash your fabric - there’s nothing worse than a shrinking garment after you’ve spent all that time on it. Wash it as soon as you buy it and then store away.

2. Practice buttonholes and zippers whenever you can on scraps of fabric. Don’t practice on actual garments like I mostly do. That way madness and certain tragedy lies.

3. Give as much thought to your fabric as possible. Touch it in fabric shops, pull it off the bolt and drape it against yourself, consider its transparency, whether you’ll need a lining, what kind of interfacing you’ll need etc.

4. Always, always, always measure twice and cut once.

5. Accept you will always be learning and that it’s a good thing!

Kimono2
What's the last garment that you made and are you pleased with it?

A silky kimono dress from Salme Patterns, and I love it - it’s not only made with gorgeous Marc Jacobs crepe de chine, but it’s got the silkiest lining and feels so comfortable and glamorous to wear.

Have you sewn with unprinted vintage patterns? If so, please share pointers for newbies who might want to try them.

I have some in my stash but have yet to sew with them.

Share your funniest sewing adventure, please.

Um - not so funny at the time ­­- but I once had an (early) project where I not only managed to sew a sleeve on inside out, but I also managed to snip the top off the zipper so the slider flew right off the top! Needless to say it’s still a UFO in the sewing room. 

And your most exasperating or difficult.

There are exasperating bits in every project to be honest!

Stitch_violet
What's your favorite pattern ever to sew, if you remember?

So far, probably the Colette Violet - easy, quick and very adaptable.

Do you sew vintage patterns?

Yes, mostly little dresses or blouses from the sixties.

Do you find instructions easier to follow on vintage patterns?

I think it depends on the pattern maker, to be honest. I’ve found both vintage and modern patterns to be mostly quite clear in their instructions.

How many hours of sewing do you think it takes for the average person to become proficient?

I’m nowhere near proficient yet, so I couldn’t possibly say :) I think it probably takes years but that mustn’tput people off, because the journey there is so brilliant and creative in itself, and you can make wonderful garments that express your unique style without necessarily being proficient, as it were.

Not proficient yet? Mmmm . . . pardon my skepticism, but the Mad Men dress looks quite professional. Very. Don't you think so? I hope y'all enjoyed learning about Joanne's sewing journey as much as I did. I enjoyed it immensely. I did. 


 

 


Sew how? The Mahogany Stylist learned when she was a wee bit. June 07, 2012 00:09 1 Comment

S2812 Me 1
When I began to edit this, I was exhausted. So very. (We went to Prescott this weekend, loaded a truck, drove home to ABQ. The last load after six months. We can put the house on the market. At last.) I just wanted to crawl into bed. Pull the covers over my head. Sleep. Et cetera.

But then, I started reading the sewing story of Cennetta, who writes the fabulous blog, The Mahogany Stylist. I perked right up. Worked like amphetamines.  Truly. She — and her adventures at the sewing machine — are that interesting. You are in for a treat, dear readers. You are. Definitely. Read and enjoy.

How long have you been sewing?

I’ve been sewing for 39 years.  It all started when I was about 10 years old.  I used scraps from my mom's and my neighbor's sewing projects to make doll clothes. I actually hand-sewed them while “draping” them on the doll.  I guess this was my first experience with draping.  Lol! The only problem was when I wanted to change the outfit I had to cut them off the doll, because there were no snaps or Velcro closures.

What inspired you to learn?

When I was a kid, I was very tall and very skinny.  None of the RTW clothes fit me.  Everything had to be taken in. So, in the beginning, I was inspired to learn because of fit issues.  Then as I got older, I became excited about having the ability to make something unique.  And besides, why not learn?  Sewing was all around me. I come from a family of creative sewists.  It’s in my blood.

Did your mother or grandmother sew?

Yes, my mother and both grandmothers sewed — each of them specializing in a particular type of sewing.  My mother sewed mostly garments and a few baby clothes.  In recent years, she has made quilts —and lots of them.  My grandmother, on my mother’s side, also made quilts and baby clothes.  My dad’s mom made everything: clothes (for everyone), home dec, crocheted and knitted.  I think she impressed me the most with her many exciting sewing tales.  Several of my relatives think I’m most like her.

How did you learn? A class? Your mom? Home ec?

My first and only sewing class was in junior high.  It was a six-week course.  The class basically taught me how to “drive” the sewing machine, to make a straight and zig-zag stitches.  Very basic.  In class, we made a simple tote bag and hand-stitched a stuffed dog made of felt.  From then until about two years ago, I’ve learned from books, magazines, online sewing forums, and of course trial and error.  I belong to the Haute Couture Club of Chicago and have opportunities to participate in workshops and seminars.  So far, I’ve participated in purse and glove making workshops.

What was the first garment that you made?

My first garment was a pair of pants that my best friend’s mom helped me make.  It took forever to finish them.

Did you wear it?

Yes, with great pride.

How long did it take for you to get the basics down?

Oh, I guess I could say, about three or four years.  I was in high school when I started feeling good about my basic sewing skills.

How long did it take you to feel confident of your dressmaking skills?

Believe it or not, it took several years before I felt confident.  And it seems with each decade and each evolution of my body, I’m challenged with fit issues. Additionally, I try to continue to learn new techniques.

By reading sewing blogs and learning and fit books, I'm proficient with making adjustments and executing construction processes with no problem.

Do you still make things that you simply won't wear?

Yes, every once in a while, I have a wadder.  As a matter of fact, last week I produced one of these beauties.  I’m still trying to salvage it. The dress has a wonky hemline, because I cut the center front and back on the bias.

How many hours a week do you sew?

That’s hard to say; it depends on the type of project I’m working on.  But to give a rough estimate, I would say from five to ten hours.

What are your five favorite sewing books?

Vogue Book of Sewing; Palmer/Pletsch Fit for Real People; Threads Easy Guide to Serger Fine Fabrics; and the Singer Sewing Book collection.

Are there any sewing DVDs that you like? If so, which ones?

I have not. But I do subscribe to eWorkshop.com. And, there are hundreds of video clips online that are an excellent resource.

If you're a fan of free online tutorials, name five for the beginning sewer, please.

The Threads website, YouTube (many sewing bloggers post tutorials there), Sandra Betzina’s Power Sewing has some free tutorials, Patternreview.com has tips and techniques.

What garment would you suggest that a newbie make first?There are a few good projects for newbies:  an apron, simple skirt and pair of PJs. The newbie will learn/practice using the sewing machine, practice making straight stitches and possibly zigzag stitch to finish seams, practice making a casing for elastic and practice making a hem.

Second? 

A pencil skirt with darts and regular zipper is a good second project.

Ivory Lace Dress Front Hand Hip
What is your favorite of all the garments you have made?

That’s a hard question. I have so many that are favorites. But if I have to pick one, it would be New Look 6824 (ivory lace dress). And because I do a lot of sewing for others, my favorite client project would be Vogue 8355, a suit that I made for P. Bell.

V8355 Paulette Front
What was the first item you sewed that made you beam with pride?

It was the first pair of pants that I made in junior high. From that project, I knew sewing would always be a part of my life. The pants fit in the waist and were long enough plus I got to choose my fabric and pattern.

Name your five top tips for beginners, please.

  • Purchase a fairly decent sewing machine. It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. You can buy a good machine for about $300.00. Then learn how to drive your machine. Don’t be timid about testing out the features. Try projects that you can incorporate the use of those features.
  • Purchase basic sewing tools. Then build on that. Good tools are an investment, and it is important to have the proper tools to achieve great results.
  • Purchase a good reference/fit book and subscribe to some online sewing forum.  Some forums are free.  Patternreview.com is a good place to start. 
  • Practice, practice, practice . . . Don’t let a wadder or people discourage you. All sewers have produced garments that are less than show-off worthy. Keep sewing!
  • Challenge yourself. Build on your current skills. For example, make a few unlined skirts or dresses. Then try a lined one. After successfully installing a regular zipper, try a beaded handpicked one. The goal is to become proficient in your sewing.

V8190 & M4321 All Smiles
What's the last garment that you made? Are you pleased with it?

The last advanced garment made was a prom dress for my cousin (Vogue 8190). The pattern read average. But I considered it to be advanced. And yes, I was very pleased with the results.

Have you sewn with unprinted vintage patterns? If so, please share pointers for newbies who might want to try them.

I haven’t sewn an unprinted vintage pattern, but I do own a few and plan to sew one.

How long does it take to get to the Vogue "Plus Difficile" rated pattern? (I can dream, can't I?)

It depends on your eagerness to try difficult patterns. You should possess intermediate sewing skills and zero fear of an advanced pattern. If I must put a time on readiness to try an advanced pattern, I would say at least a couple hundred hours of sewing, and during that time, experience with a variety of intermediate skill leveled construction processes.

Share your funniest sewing adventure, please.

Sorry I really can’t think of a funny sewing adventure. But I can tell you about an adventure that made me cry. In 2007, I was doing the final press of an organza coat that I made for Ms. P. Bell, when I forgot to check the setting on the iron. Needless to say, I touched the iron to the coat, and immediately, the coat stuck to the iron. That little mistake made me cry. I was finished. So I had to rip that piece out, go to the store for more fabric and replace the front of the coat.

And your most exasperating or difficult.

The most exasperating was making Vogue 1015 for Ms. C. Bell, another client. Many, many steps in the making of this dress; and I had neglected to transfer some of the markings. And that worsened my anxiety.

V1250 Front Blk Floral
S4076 Green and Purple FrontWhat's your favorite pattern ever to sew, if you remember?

This is another hard question. This is like asking me what’s my favorite color? I don’t really have “one.” So here are a few: New Look 6824, McCall 5818, Vogue 1250 (shown above), Burda 7576 (pictured below), Simplicity 4076 (at left), McCall’s 5247 (used to make DD inspiration coat).

Burda 7576 Fascinator 7
Do you sew vintage patterns?

Yes, I love vintage style. Especially those from the 40s and 50s. To date I’ve sewn many re-releases of vintage patterns. But have only sewn a few original prints.

B5672 6Do you find instructions easier to follow on vintage patterns?

In my experience, I can’t say if they were easier. They weren’t difficult to understand or to follow.

How many hours of sewing do you think it takes for the average person to become proficient?

It really depends on the eagerness of the person to try different construction processes and techniques. If they continuously try new processes, I would estimate four to five hundred hours.

Did you find this time with lovely Cennetta as inspiring as I did? I hope so. I'm chartreuse over her wardrobe. Absolutely. Especially the ivory lace dress. Wow! And the shoes she's wearing with the dress are gorgeous, too. Very.

 


Sew how: Dee nurtured & sustained an interest in learning to sew. May 31, 2012 04:43

Deehead2Dee, of the terrific EC blog, Seams Sustainable, rarely fails to amaze me with her ingenuity. She's so creative. She's been kind enough to share some tidbits about her sewing odyssey with us. Enjoy, readers. I did.

How long have you been sewing?

A little over 40 years.

What inspired you to learn?

I wanted to learn to sew for the freedom! Freedom to use customization options not available in a retail store, freedom to add to my wardrobe independently (my mom was not very fashion-forward, and when retail shopping, gravitated toward things I thought were ghastly), and freedom from high retail prices.

SimDid your mother or grandmother sew?

Yes, both my mom and my grandmother sewed.  By the time I was learning, my grandmother rarely sewed garments.  At that time, she was very into knitting and crochet. I remember my mother making my dress for my sixth-grade graduation (back then, elementary school ended at sixth grade, and it was off to junior high for seventh through ninth).  It was a very cute and mod dress with bell sleeves, Simplicity 1742. She made the sleeves out of a sheer fabric. 

How did you learn? A class? Your mom? Home ec?

I began sewing in seventh-grade home economics.  The first thing we made was a tote bag.

Simplicity_9164
What was the first garment that you made?

The first garment I made was a purple-and-black maxi dress, I believe made with Simplicity 9164. This dress was NOT uncomplicated for a junior sewist. It had raglan sleeves, a zipper that spanned across the upper back, midriff piece and into the skirt piece, gathers, and elastic insertions in the neck and sleeves.

Did you wear it?

Wear it?  I practically wore it out!  I loved that dress, and I felt very stylish in it. It was definitely something my mom would never have bought for me.

How long did it take for you to get the basics down?

I feel like I'm still getting the basics down!  No matter how long I sew, there is always a technique I haven't used in a while to brush up on, or something new to learn.

How long did it take you to feel confident of your dressmaking skills?

I would say I felt prematurely confident, which was, of course, a double-edged sword.  It allowed me to try things that were probably outside my skill level, which helped my skills to grow; however, there have been a lot of failures along the way.  Plunging ahead into the abyss can be an expensive way to learn!

Do you still make things that you simply won't wear?

Unfortunately, yes. Mainly because for a while I had an unfortunate tendency toward amassing UFOs, those maddening uncompleted projects.  Now, as I finish them, I find that I am no longer the size that I cut out several years ago! (Alas! Though I am trying hard to shed some pounds.)  Also, I do a lot of restyling.  Sometimes the finished piece will look well on me, and sometimes not.  I sell the "nots", along with creations made just to sell, in my Etsy shop.

How many hours a week do you sew?

Currently, about 10 to 20 hours a week. I'm unemployed at present, which opens up a lot more sewing hours. I'm constantly impressed at the ladies who manage to sew a lot while balancing homes and outside employment.  You go, girls!

What are your five favorite sewing books?

Only 5?  I have a huge weakness for books!  Almost as huge as my weakness for patterns!

1.    The Colette Sewing Handbook by Sarai Mitnick

2.    Little Green Dresses by Tina Sparkles

3.    The Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing

4.    Make Your Own Clothes by Marie Clayton

5.    Fast Fit by Sandra Betzina

I think this is the first time the Betzina book has made the list. I have it, and I love the format. Do share the reasons you like it?

1.  It, like many other sewing books, teaches you how to take proper measurements, which in turn, of course helps you to choose the appropriate pattern size.

2.  The author explains ease really well, and gives examples of differing amounts of wearing ease in garments.

3.  She covers "simple" upsizing and downsizing.  This ability is needed when sewing vintage patterns which are not in your exact size.  For instance, I generally use a Bust 38 pattern.  Vintage ladies tended to be a lot smaller, so finding those 38s and 40s is tough.  Learning to size up (and down) is essential.

4.  Then comes the "complicated" part.  She dissects over 100 little individual differences, like small bust, sway back, protruding tummy (and obviously many more) and shows you how to correct for each one.  In the book, Betzina alters the actual patterns, but I have used her techniques to alter the muslin instead in order to keep my patterns in their original condition.  Though I'm really not sure why . . . I guess so when young sewists come to the estate sale held when I'm gone they don't cry over the abuse I perpetrated to my patterns! (Editor's note: Good girl!)

Are there any sewing DVDs that you like? If so, which ones?

As visual as I am, I don't really do DVDs.  Probably because when the medium came out, often the offerings were so expensive.

What garment would you suggest that a newbie make first?

Pink-sorbettoI would suggest something fairly simple, with no fancy closures or set in sleeves.  The Colette Sorbetto Blouse comes to mind, or an elastic waistband skirt.  What you're going for in that first garment is success.  When you've had that first success, you are going to want more.

Second?

Next, I'd suggest a sheath dress.  You can make it sleeveless to delay putting in sleeves a bit longer.  Most sheaths will have bust darts, shaping darts and a zipper.  Another option would be a skirt with shaping darts and a zip.

Steph2
What is the favorite of all the garments you have made?

I would have to say, my daughter's Odette tutu.  It was made from my mother's wedding gown.  I took apart the gown's bodice to make a corseted basque and made the top layer of the tutu from the gown's netting lace so that the two pieces would match.  This one garment made three generations happy.  My mother loved that her granddaughter was wearing her wedding gown, I loved making the costume for my daughter, and she had a professional grade tutu for far less than we would have paid a costume shop.

What was the first item you sewed that made you beam with pride?

I'd say it was that first maxi dress.

Name your five top tips for beginners, please.

1.  Make a muslin or trial garment before cutting into expensive fashion fabric.

2.  Take your time and cut as precisely as humanly possible. This will save lots of aggravation later in the sewing process.

3.  Especially when starting out, read the directions and follow them.

4.  For new techniques, consult online tutorials, books and live sewists you know.

5.  If at first you don't succeed: Try, try again!

JacketfrontWhat's the last garment that you made, and are you pleased with it?

The last garment from a pattern was Burda 8995 (out of print), a sixties-styled sheath dress with a really cute back closure shortie jacket. I'm very pleased with it, though the dress is a bit snug in the hips right now — hopefully that will change!

How long does it take to get to the Vogue "Plus Difficile" rated pattern?  (I can dream, can't I?)

I've done one.  Plunge in, give it a try — it's only fabric!

Share your funniest sewing adventure, please.

While not laugh out loud funny, the funniest sewing experience was sewing two full size (10' x 10' floor space) Viking A frame tents.  The seams were forever long and the heavyweight Cordura fabric was (go figure) heavy, so a friend would have to hold the fabric behind me and feed it to me slowly, while another one caught as it came off the sewing table.  This prevented the weight of the fabric from breaking needles or causing skipped stitches.  Sewing alone is one thing, but a three person tag team is quite another!

Stephwinter
And your most exasperating or difficult.

The most difficult was another dance costume for my daughter.  It was Kwik Sew 2796, with a sleeve modification.  The pattern itself was not the difficult part, but I hand-sewed thousands of silvered glass bugle beads to the costume, one by one.  It was hours and hours of work, but, by golly, she sparkled up there on stage!

Butterick_4228
What's your favorite pattern ever to sew, if you remember?

Every pattern becomes my new favorite, but I think my current favorite is vintage Butterick 4228.  It's a sixties pencil skirt and top. I've made a wearable muslin of the top, and I'm planning to make the whole suit from lavender linen.  The wearable muslin is made with a print which complements the lavender, so the skirt will have two interchangeable tops!

Do you sew vintage patterns?

Yes, I love them. There's something fabulous about each and every one. I love feminine little details, no matter what era they are from! I am somewhat limited in terms of collecting vintage patterns, as I am unemployed right now, but I always have a wish list to use my birthday and other gift money on!

Top2Do you find instructions easier to follow on vintage patterns?

Actually, now that you mention it, yes. I'm not a real vintage veteran, having only done a few at this point, but the directions were awesome.

How many hours of sewing do you think it takes for the average person to become proficient?

I think 10 to 20 concentrated hours of actual sewing will make someone at least able to produce basic garments.

So. There you go. Motivated to sit down at the machine again? I am. Absolutely.

(And, pretty offspring of Dee, you lucky girl, be thankful for all your momma's hard work on making your costumes shine!)

 

 


Sew how? She who muses elegantly stitches exquisitely. June 10, 2011 00:30 3 Comments

Caseyhat
Casey's blog, Elegant Musings, is fun to read. Her clothes are lovely to see. She learned to sew when she realized that doing so could lead to clothes she wanted to wear and help her attain the image she wanted to project. Isn't that the most? Yes indeed.

How long have you been sewing?

I've been sewing since I was very small; probably about age six is when I first picked up a needle and thread!

What inspired you to learn?

The idea of being able to make my own clothes – even at a young age! I have always been fascinated with past fashion and spent hours pouring over books on historic costume as a child. The idea of being able to replicate these looks (even if just for my dolls) was exciting. Making things with my hands has always had a strong appeal for me as well. I am very curious about handcraft techniques (of all sorts) and am intensely satisfied when I create something.

Did your mother or grandmother sew?

My mom sewed quite a bit when I was younger, and I think that inspired me. I still remember some of the pretty dresses and gorgeous winter coats she made my sister and me – I think that is when I started to realize (in a very tiny way!) that sewing could be a portal into both acquiring clothes I like and achieving the look I wanted to project.

How did you learn? A class? Your mom? Home ec?

Primarily my mom for the basics; although she didn't teach me to sew on her machine until I was 10. We spent several months with a "how-to-sew-for-kids" book and made some wacky little projects. But they were useful in teaching me how to operate the machine! After that it's been largely learning through books, magazines (like my favorite publication Threads) and online resources.

What was the first garment that you made?

From start to finish? Does a badly drafted and hand-stitched (this was prior to learning to use a sewing machine) top count? I found a book at the library when I was about 8 or 9 called Slapdash Sewing. It was a slim, little 70s DIY book that showed how to make your own patterns to create your own clothes. I made a flutter-sleeve top out of some awful blue cotton (quilting weight). It lasted about 10 minutes when I wore it because my hand stitches weren't all that great! But I was pretty proud that I created the pattern on my own!

Did you wear it?

Yep - outside to show off to all my neighborhood friends, before it ripped at the underarm! Hehe!

How long did it take for you to get the basics down?

I feel that for a long time I didn't focus on the quality of basics as much as I should have, because more complicated and advanced techniques were really enticing. In my late teens, I went back and started to review a lot of those basics (still am – it's amazing the things I relearn with every project!) in order to improve my sewing overall. I feel that learning to sew isn't so much a series of defined steps, as organically learning with each project. 

Caseydress How long did it take you to feel confident of your dressmaking skills?

It probably wasn't until about five years ago that I started to really think I could sew well. Even though people had told me for years I was good at sewing (and this wasn't just from people who didn't sew), I lacked the inner confidence in my own know-how. Definitely being able to write about it on my blog has helped me a bit with my confidence as well!

Do you still make things that you simply won't wear?

Occasionally! This is something I'm really trying to get better about, simply because I only have so much space to store pieces that I make that aren't worn. For me, sewing isn't always about finishing with a garment that I can wear but also learning techniques. As I said, I'm very curious when it comes to handcrafts, and sometimes I make something that is more about exploring new ideas or silhouettes then compatibility with my wardrobe/lifestyle. 

How many hours a week do you sew?

Like most other sewers, some weeks, I sew a lot, and others, I barely have time to touch my machine! I would say on average about 6-8 hours. Sometimes, it's compressed all into one weekend, and other times, it's a series of short sessions in the evenings.

What are your five favorite sewing books?

Vogue Book of Sewing (I have the '70s edition).

Professional Sewing Techniques for Designers by Julie Cole.

Sew U: Home Stretch by Wendy Mullin.

Couture Sewing Techniques by Claire Schaeffer.

Fabric Sewing Guide by Claire Schaeffer.

Are there any sewing DVDs that you like? If so, which ones?

I haven't really explored the world of sewing DVDs yet!

What garment would you suggest that a newbie make first?

A simple skirt or top. Something without too many details that require more skill (like set-in sleeves) or time, but allow the novice sewer to be able to work on mastering things like sewing a straight line, adding a detail or two (patch pockets and elastic waistbands come to mind), grading seams, and finishing. Simple gathered skirts are a great option or a sleeveless summer top is another.

Second?

Work on improving those skills by learning to add a zipper or doing a couple buttonholes. As I said, I tend to view sewing as something that you build on your skills organically, based on the projects you choose. I also think that the truly inspired and determined novice can tackle more complicated projects (as long as they have the basics down) with the proper patience and resources. It may not be the final product you are able create in a couple years, but it's worth it for the learning experience.

Caseypendrell
What is the favorite of all the garments you have made?

Hmmm . . . I always want to say the last piece I made! I've made a couple things since this, but the one project that still excites me is my take on the Sewaholic Pendrell blouse pattern. It's a modern style blouse, but I redid the neckline and added a scalloped collar for a bit more of a vintage 30s flair. 

What was the first item you sewed that made you beam with pride?

An 1830s style cotton afternoon dress. I created it to possibly enter in a contest, decided not to, but was paid quite a high compliment by an experienced seamstress and pattern maker when I showed her the garment! That was when I was 17, and it meant a lot to me and encouraged me that yes, I could sew.

Name your five top tips for beginners, please.

Don't let yourself be intimidated by other people's sewing. Each of us learn at a different pace, and some are more naturally talented than others at sewing. But just because you don't think you have a "knack", doesn't mean you should give up. Keep learning and improving your knowledge, and you'll get there.

Learn the basics well (things like stitching a straight line, clipping curves, even cutting out and marking a pattern accurately!), and spend time honing your understanding of fabrics and seam finishes.

Pick out projects that appeal to you and are within your skill set (in other words, if you just started sewing last week, a tailored coat might not be best to try just yet!). You don't have to sew a pillowcase because that's what a beginner is "supposed" to sew. Maybe a straight, gathered skirt or simple apron would be a better choice (and something you can get excited about).

Invest in good tools. While sewing isn't the most expensive of hobbies, it does require some specialized equipment. Know where you can save and not; things like machines can be bought second hand, but don't get chintzy on a pair of fabric shears!

Surround yourself with learning resources: books, classes and sewing blogs are a great place to start! I have a large sewing library at this point because it makes the task of looking up a technique or refreshing my memory on an old one very easy. Caseycami

Is there a garment you are particularly pleased with?

My first piece of lingerie that I made earlier this year. I used a graphed pattern from a '70s book for cami-knickers that had a distinct '30s flair to them. A post-Christmas splurge of some silk charmeuse and gorgeous vintage lace I found online really contributed to how beautiful the final piece turned out. I also really took my time to carefully construct this piece; it's something I love wearing and admiring!

Caseypats
Have you sewn with unprinted vintage patterns? If so, please share pointers for newbies who might want to try them.

Yes! I would say that the first step is to carefully study the patterns and understand the perforations/markings on the patterns (you can usually find the meanings for these markings on the instructions sheet). Trace the patterns on lightweight pattern paper and transfer all the markings and write in the meanings for each. This helps loads with deciphering the pieces!

How long does it take to get to the Vogue "Plus Difficile" rated pattern?  (I can dream, can't I?)

Haha! I'll let you know when I get there! LOL.

Share your funniest sewing adventure, please.

Hmm . . . Would the myriad of times I've sewn in an invisible zipper wrong be considered funny? No matter how many times I sew them (which admittedly, isn't a lot any longer; I prefer using regular zippers), invisible zippers are my sewing Achilles Heel. For some reason I always end up having to rip out part of them and redo, usually because I sewed the teeth pointing in the wrong direction. I've been working on that lately and trying to make it more second nature than comedy of errors. I'm sure I've had something completely hilarious happen with my sewing, I'm just drawing a complete blank at the moment!

And your most exasperating or difficult.

My first (and ongoing) foray into tailoring Colette Patterns Lady Grey jacket. Part of it was the fabric I chose; it was really too light, despite being described as perfect for coats (I bought it online. Live and learn.). My lack of tailoring knowledge really showed with that purchase! Thankfully, I had a backup fabric that worked a lot better and hid all those hours of pad stitches. Now just to finish the jacket . .

Caseyswing
What's your favorite pattern ever to sew, if you remember?

I would probably have say the Sense and Sensibility Swing Dress pattern, as I've made four dresses from that pattern. It's one of those patterns that goes together quickly and is flattering!

Do you sew vintage patterns?

Yes I do. I'd say about 50%-60% of my sewing is with vintage or vintage reproduction patterns.

Do you find instructions easier to follow on vintage patterns?

I wouldn't say they are easier, they tend to be a bit more complicated in some ways and vague in others. But, I do love the attention to detail that they provide! Plus all those lovely vintage touches – who couldn't resist?!

How many hours of sewing do you think it takes for the average person to become proficient?

I hesitate to say a specific number of hours, because I think it really varies from person to person and their attention to detail. Some people will naturally pick up sewing more quickly than others, but I think overall one thing I can say is that a persistence and dedication to learning are what takes one from novice to intermediate sewer.

Wasn't that informative? And inspirational? And isn't the fabric for her swing dress darling? Yes. Yes. Yes.


Sew how? Robin was inspired because she wanted more clothes. June 08, 2011 16:54 2 Comments

Sweater-coat
Robin may only admit to A Little Sewing, but the quality of her garments belies that. She makes so many gorgeous clothes. And they fit! She's skilled. She's generous. So. Read on to find out how she learned to sew.

How long have you been sewing?

I have been sewing clothes for myself since I was a teenager.  I'd rather not do the math.  (If that's OK.)

What inspired you to learn?

Wanting new clothes was the primary motivation.  My mother was reluctant to buy me a lot of new clothes, but I noticed she opened the wallet any time I asked for fabric, patterns or notions.  I took the path of least resistance and asked for fabric.  Also, she wanted to sew clothes for me, and that was a PROBLEM.  She did NOT know what was cool nor my taste, so I had to stop her from sewing anything else after a certain kelly green dress in 7th grade.  That was the end of letting her sew for me. :D

How did you learn?

Fortunately, Home Ec. was still a required class when I was in junior high school, so I was forced to learn good solid techniques.  I was around sewing all my life, and I played with fabric scraps. (Barbie dolls need clothes!)  My mom helped with tricky parts, and she was especially good at saving wadders.  She patiently picked apart my messes and fixed things.  When I jammed the machine, she took it to the shop without a lot of complaining (and I did sew recklessly!).  At one point, she bought me my own Kenmore so I would stop messing up hers.  I sewed a little more carefully on my own new machine.  My mom was very supportive of my sewing.

CPO-jacket What was the first garment that you made? There was a popular style of unlined wool plaid jacket in the '70s called a CPO jacket.  I sewed one in a Burberry-style plaid, along with a camel-colored wool A-line skirt.  I had no idea that it was hard to match plaids.  I just did it.  I don't recall for sure, but I probably had my mother take a look before I cut into the fabric, and it's likely she saved me from making a mess.

Did you wear it?

I wore it to death!  I was so proud of that outfit!  That's when I got hooked on the cycle: desire >create >wear >enjoy!  It can be pretty habit-forming.

1986 me and Bryant
And have you been sewing steadily since then?
 

No, there were some long dry spells in my sewing.  Like a lot of people, I stopped sewing in the 1980s for a number of reasons.  My new career demanded very long hours, and the dress code was very formal.  I was still slim enough that I could shop ready-to-wear and get away with the fit.  The exception came when I needed professional maternity clothes in 1986.  They did not exist!  I sewed dresses, and I was able to find an old photo of one of my favorites.  In fact, casual maternity clothes were pretty ugly back then, too.  I sewed a few quilts for my new baby when she was born.  Baby quilts aren't too big, and sewing little squares together was about all I could manage given the sleep deprivation of that very magical time in my life.

Do you still make things that you simply won't wear?

Oh yes!  I made a significant error on a recent white shirt, and I did not notice until it was completely finished.  I may pick it apart and fix it, but it will be time-consuming. 

How many hours a week do you sew?

I sew about 10 hours a week, often more, seldom less.

What are your five favorite sewing books?

I really like the Singer series, which has many more than five volumes.  There are books on basic sewing techniques, fitting, tailoring, sewing with knits and many more.  I buy them when I see a good deal, and I have most of them now.  There are many other very good books by Sandra Betzina, Nancy Zieman, Kenneth King, Claire Schaffer, Susan Khalje, Connie Long, Palmer & Pletsch, and others.  They are all good!  Most sewing techniques are generic, but teachers bring it to life.  Check them out and see which ones inspire you.  There are newer books by fabric designers like Amy Butler and Heather Ross.  I enjoy those books, and they provide great beginner's projects.  If you are attracted to the aesthetic, and it inspires you ­- it is a good book.

Are there any sewing DVDs that you like?

If so, which ones?  I love Claire Shaeffer's Couture Techniques Workshop.

If you're a fan of free online tutorials, name five for the beginning sewer, please.

I love all the free tutorials online.  I particularly appreciate that Sigrid has gathered and linked many tutorials on her blog, Sigrid - Sewing Projects.

What garment would you suggest that a newbie make first?

One good thing might be to take a class and work on the same project as everyone in the class - pajama pants would be pretty easy or maybe an apron.

If you are teaching yourself, then sew the thing you really want.  Leverage the desire to push yourself.  Also, a costume would be a good opportunity to tackle something interesting. 

Second?

Sew something with a new technique.  Perhaps a zipper?  One thing I'd recommend is to sew with stable fabrics in the beginning.  Cotton quilting fabric might be limited (an apron? pajama pants?) but it will be easy to work with.  A nice shirting is easy to sew.  Some knits can be easy (like a double knit) and others can be hard (like a jersey).  Stick with easier fabrics in the beginning.

Wedding-outfit-modeled
What is the favorite of all the garments you have made?

My favorite is the skirt and blouse I sewed for my wedding.  I spent a lot of time in the fancy section of local fabric stores.  There was still a lot I did not know, but I was in love, and that certainly enhanced the sewing experience.  The final result was gorgeous - until a last-minute impulsive decision to have a corset custom-made for me.  Folks, pick your foundations first, then sew!  The corset was amazing, and it looked totally hot, on its own, with the skirt.  However, it was way too hot for this blushing (46-year-old) bride, so I wore the wrap top I'd made, over the corset.  When I look back at the pictures now, I crack up because I look like a flat-chested board, thanks to the corset.  But, you know what, I had fun!  When else can you justify the procurement of a corset?  I rest my case!  It was worth it!

Wedding outfit
Name your five top tips for beginners, please.

1. Take apart a garment.  Find a well-loved but worn-out favorite - sit down with a seam ripper and good light, and just take it apart. You'll see how it was constructed and then you can use it as a pattern.  I have learned so much from taking apart RTW clothing.  Plus you can tweak the fit and make it better!

5. Don't hate hand-sewing (LOL).  Just decide to like it and master it.  It will really help you in the long run.  

2. Use sharp scissors.

3. Apply beeswax to thread  it minimizes tangling when hand-sewing

4. Go for it!  This isn't like skydiving, you won't get hurt, I promise!

Have you sewn with unprinted vintage patterns?

If so, please share pointers for newbies who might want to try them. Yes - read the instructions and pay careful attention to the markings.  Trace the original tissue onto sturdier pattern paper with a pencil and mark all the holes.  If you need it, take the time to make any other markings (like stitching lines, straight grain) with your pencil.  This will give you your bearings.

Wool-denim-jacket
How long does it take to get to the Vogue "Plus Difficile" rated pattern?  (I can dream, can't I?)

Read the pattern instructions to see if anything seems impossible.  If you break it down, you can do it.  Just take your time, and stop to appreciate progress as you complete each step.  I made an advanced Vogue tuxedo when I was about 20, and I just took it one step at a time.  Fortunately, the instructions were very good, and it came out beautifully. 

Share with me your funniest sewing adventure, please. 

It's hard to be funny on demand :) but I am still amused by the cat door I sewed.  At first, I tried to build my own cat door with hinges and a small piece of wood.  (The hole was already in the door, although I have no idea what the previous homeowner intended, because it was not a standard size).  After my carpentry failure, I went to JoAnn's and bought a piece of vinyl meant for tablecloths.  I just sewed a square, turned it right side out and stapled it to the door.  It worked fine!  

And your most exasperating or difficult?

Oh, that darn white shirt I made recently - I made the collar stand and collar too big and finished the whole darn thing before I noticed.  It is just enough wrong that it sticks out very awkwardly.  I need to pick it apart and fix it somehow.

What's your favorite pattern ever to sew, if you remember?

I'd have to go all the way back to my teens and recall some of the formal dresses I made.  I needed black dresses for playing concerts, and I made a cute halter maxidress that got a lot of wear.  I cannot remember pattern numbers, though!

Do you sew vintage patterns?

I have a beautiful 1940s Butterick coat pattern that I will sew for winter 2011.  I've done the pattern alterations, and I look forward to sewing it.  It will be a big project, just because of all the fabric, so it will take about a month. 

Do you find instructions easier to follow on vintage patterns?

Absolutely.  They made more effort back then to provide very specific and helpful instructions.  On the down side, they did not have a lot of the interfacing options we have today or sergers.  It's up to you whether you follow the vintage instructions or go ahead and use modern methods.  At least you know the vintage techniques will produce great results!

How many hours of sewing do you think it takes for the average person to become proficient? 

That must vary quite a bit.  I still learn from every project, and I think that is normal.  I don't think sewing would be fun unless there was challenge, so one could argue it's an ongoing pursuit of proficiency.  My answer is about 10 hours a week, sometimes more, seldom less. :) 

It's been nice chatting with you, Denise!  Thank you for showcasing sewing rooms and sewing stories of others.  I enjoy this feature!

Isn't her wedding ensemble delicious? It is. The color is so elegant. So sophisticated. Love it. I do.

 


Sew how? Debi began with a teacher found on Craigslist! May 19, 2011 01:33 9 Comments

Debi-red
Debi of My Happy Sewing Place creates beautiful garments from vintage patterns. And she's new to sewing. You'd never know it from the looks of these garments. I am in awe. I am.

How long have you been sewing?

I've been sewing for almost a year and a half.  I finished my first garment in December 2009.  I first became interested in 2005 but was more contemplating than actually sewing for a couple of years.

What inspired you to learn?

I've always been interested in vintage fashion and began looking online for images and stumbled across Casey's Elegant Musings and Wearing History blogs.  I credit these two lovely bloggers with inspiring me to learn to actually sew!

Did your mother or grandmother sew?

Both my mother and my grandmother sew, but I was never formally taught.  Now that I sew, I do ask them for advice and pick up lots of extra tips from them.  My grandma showed me how to hem when I was visiting her last summer!

How did you learn?

I took some sewing lessons (three to be exact) from a sewing tutor I found on Craigslist in New York City when I lived there (before moving to Scotland).  After viewing Casey's and Lauren's blogs, I knew that I wanted to sew using vintage patterns! That's when I became completely obsessed with vintage patterns and bought up a bunch before I even knew how to sew!!

Debi-dress
What was the first garment that you made?

It was a bit daunting and very slow going in the beginning.  In my lessons, we made a muslin of the first pattern I wanted to try.  I didn't really get the concept of the muslin at the time, and I didn't stick with the lessons long enough to figure out that you transfer any changes you make back onto your pattern! Haha!  So I did a muslin and then just started over from scratch to make the dress. I finished it in 2009 right around the time that I finished my first blouse.  However, it didn’t really fit me at all!!

Did you wear it?

No! It didn't fit!  So in 2010, after I had made a few other garments, I felt that I could tackle that first dress again.  Here's a list of alterations I ended up making to it:

I took the dress up by about 3 inches on each side in the shoulders (via darts). 

  • I put in a princess seam on each side of the back bodice (took out about 1-2 inches of fabric on each side) tapering down to the waist sides. 
  • I shortened the sleeves up by about 3 inches. 
  • I also tacked the cuffs to the bodice (because the original interfacing was too heavy).
  • I hemmed the dress and took about 4 inches off the length.
  • I made a matching fabric belt and covered a belt buckle.
  • I redid part of the center-front seam, to bring it up higher.
  • I attached the collar deeper into the dress (so that it wasn't as large).
  • I had to redo the neckline because of the darts I made in the shoulders.
  • I had to tweak the sleeves so that the cuffs fit (because I had shortened the sleeves).

 And now it fits, and I love it!  Though I don’t wear it as often as I'd like to.  I learned that while wing-tip cuffs look cute, it's nearly impossible to wear a sweater or coat with it, and well, it doesn't get that warm here in Scotland!  I do love wearing it on the few warm days we get!!

How long did it take for you to get the basics down?

The first couple of lessons helped me to understand how to cut out fabric and pin it, how to ease in and sew seams as well as the basics of the grainline, etc.  The basics were relatively quick to pick up.  Other parts of sewing, like the fitting process, is a constant learning curve.

How long did it take you to feel confident of your dressmaking skills? After I made my first pair of trousers, I started feeling like I could do this and make garments that I really adore. 

Do you still make things that you simply won't wear?

I try not to!  There are a few things that I've sewn that won't have a heavy rotation in my closet, but I try to wear everything I sew at some point!

How many hours a week do you sew?

Five-15 hours

What are your five favorite sewing books?

I have a few sewing books that I like.  However, if I am stumped by something, I tend to look online at everyone else's blogs!

Are there any sewing DVDs that you like? If so, which ones?

I haven't seen any sewing DVDs 

If you're a fan of free online tutorials, name five for the beginning sewer, please.

There’s so many that are useful! I find Tasia’s (from Sewaholic) tutorials easy to follow and really comprehensive! I also like the tutorials I have seen recently on the Colette blog and from A Fashionable Stitch!

What garment would you suggest that a newbie make first?

Whatever gets you really excited! Honestly, it's about making something that you passionately want to make.  It will help the process.  I could never get excited about wrap skirts or the other traditional‘beginner’ projects.  I wanted wing-tips, handmade belts and puffy sleeves!!

Debi-steps
What is the favorite of all the garments you have made?

That’s a tough one.  I think it’s a toss up between three items: 1) my 1940 faux fur jacket, 2) my 1933 Eva Dress pattern dress and jacket, and 3) my 1934 gown.  The funny thing is that they were all very ambitious projects that turned out OK!

Debi-woods
What was the first item you sewed that made you beam with pride?

Debi-blouse My very first blouse from a 1943 DuBarry pattern.  I still wear it all the time!

Name your five top tips for beginners, please.

1. Sew what you love,

2. Aim high and learn along the way,

3. If you are losing your sewing mojo, do another project for awhile and come back to your current project,

4. Make things you'll wear,

5. Get involved in the online sewing community (it really helps!). Starting a blog about sewing and my projects really helped me to integrate into the online sewing community (which is so supportive) and encouraged me to get over my fear and really start spending the time doing what I loved.

6. Don't compare your sewing with others — one of the beauties of sewing is that you sew what you like and to fit your own taste!

Sorry — that's six tips!

What's the last garment that you made, and are you pleased with it?

My 1970's poncho and pants.  This was a complete departure for me (I tend to sew mostly 1930s and 40s garments), so I am quite pleased with it and glad to finally use a pattern that was lurking in my pattern stash completely neglected!

Debi-slacks
Have you sewn with unprinted vintage patterns? If so, please share pointers for newbies who might want to try them.

My second ever garment to sew was using an unprinted pattern (the Du Barry blouse).  It's not as daunting as it appears.  Each symbol means something.  I've found Tasia's pin marking method very helpful in marking darts and other things on the actual fabric. (I use this for printed and unprinted patterns.)

How long does it take to get to the Vogue "Plus Difficile" rated pattern?  (I can dream, can't I?)

I've only ever sewn with one modern pattern (Colette’s Parfait which is rated Intermediate).  It all depends on what you are used to, I suppose.

Share with me your funniest sewing adventure, please.

Starting my Valentine's Day gown two days before I needed to wear it — including grading from a B30 to a B36 and sewing the hem literally seconds before walking out the door.  My partner, David, has written a great guest post on my blog about that experience!

And your most exasperating or difficult.

Having sporadic buttonholer issues while trying to finish up my 1947 blouse. (That had several buttons in the front!)

What's your favorite pattern ever to sew, if you remember?

My two favorite patterns so far (my Tried N’ True or TNT patterns) are Simplicity 3688 for 1941 trousers and Du Barry 5327 for blouses!

Do you sew vintage patterns?

Oh yes!!

Do you find instructions easier to follow on vintage patterns?

Much easier depending on the decade and pattern company.  Simplicity instructions are fantastic (even for early 30s patterns).  McCall patterns have lots of picture diagrams for their 30s and 40s patterns and more directions for late 40s-50s.  Hollywood patterns are somewhere in between.  

Debi-hood
How many hours of sewing do you think it takes for the average person to become proficient?

I think it's a constant process. You are always learning.  Depending on the person, it can take sewing up a few garments before you start to gain confidence, which is a huge step in taking risks and pushing yourself in your own sewing.

 


Sew how? Summerset's history with pins and needles April 01, 2011 14:08 2 Comments

Sewhow-sumtrench
Have you been on pins and needles wondering how Summerset learned to sew? I have. Yes indeed. She whips up some fabulous creations, like her Lacroix trenchcoat, and then she shares her experience on her blog.  So. Let's not waste time. Let's find how you she learned to sew. Now. After all, sitting on pins and needles is rather uncomfortable. Don't you agree?

How long have you been sewing?

I've been hand sewing since I was 6 and sewing with a machine since I was 12; that's about 33 and 27 years respectively.

What inspired you to learn?

I've always liked to make things, and fiber arts of any sort interested me.

Did your mother or grandmother sew?

Both my mother and her mother sewed.  My grandmother also sewed in a factory making cartridge pleats on graduation and choir robes.

How did you learn? A class? Your mom? Home ec? 

I've taught myself how to sew.

What was the first garment that you made? 

The first garment I made was when I was twelve; it was a pair of bubble gum pink elastic waist culottes.  Please be forgiving; it was the 80's after all!

Did you wear them?

Yes, I wore them. 

How long did it take for you to get the basics down?

That's hard to remember; it didn't take me long as I had been watching my mother sew for years as a child.

Sew-how-sb-fur How long did it take you to feel confident of your dressmaking skills?

I've always been fairly confident of my skills, even though I'm pretty sure there have been times when I shouldn't have been!

Do you still make things that you simply won't wear? 

Yes, unfortunately.  I've become better at making things I love and that work with my body type.  If I do make something that I don't end up wearing, it gets donated quickly. 

How many hours a week do you sew? 

LOL.  Do you really want to know?  Let's just say that I sew on an average, about 3 hours every day.  Some days, more; some days, less.

What are your five favorite sewing books?

1.  Reader's Digest Guide to Sewing.  I prefer the older 70's version, even though the info in the new one is the same.

2.  Couture Sewing Techiques by Claire Schaeffer

3.  Fabulous Fit by Rasband and Liechty

4.  Cool Couture by Kenneth King 

5.  Couture: The Fine Art of Sewing by Roberta Carr

Are there any sewing DVDs that you like? If so, which one?

I've never tried any of the DVDs, so I don't have any favorite one.

If you're a fan of free online tutorials, name five for the beginning sewer, please.

Again, this is something I haven't really looked into a whole lot except when I started to make undergarments.

What garment would you suggest that a newbie make first? 

A full or A-line skirt;  for the most part, there are not that many pieces and depending on the pattern, closures like zippers are not necessary and the fitting part is easy.

Second? 

A second skirt from the same pattern;  this time with a zipper or buttons and buttonholes.  Since one has already made the skirt once, that part will be easy, and the focus can then be the new skill of a closure. 

Sew-how-sb-wedding What is the favorite of all the garments you have made?

That's a hard question;  I've made *a lot* of garments from very simple to extremely complex! 

What was the first item you sewed that made you beam with pride?

Now, that's really hard to remember, over a lot of years of sewing.  I'd have to say, my wedding gown, but then again, I made a navy blazer in high school that I really loved, too.

Name your five top tips for beginners, please.

1.  Don't be afraid.  It's only fabric and thread.

2.  Start simple.  You may love a complicated pattern, but be honest with yourself and your skill level.

3.  Buy quality notions.  Scissors, needles, pins and rulers are the most important.  I sewed for years with those basics, and even in couture houses, the basics are still very important.

4.  Use good interfacing.  Poor interfacing will ruin a project quicker than anything. 

5.  Take time when cutting, and be sure of your grainlines.  You just cannot fix an off-grain garment. 

Sewhow-sumjack2 What's the last garment that you made? Are you pleased with it?

Let's see, I think it was my black faux fur jacket.  Yes, I love the jacket! 

Have you sewn with unprinted vintage patterns? If so, please share pointers for newbies who might want to try them. 

Yes, I have.  Study carefully the section on the instructions that shows all the pattern pieces.  You will find there what all the various sized punched holes and squares mean for each piece. 

Once you've looked at that, compare your pattern pieces to the diagram and identify the grainlines, darts and other features before cutting out and marking. 

How long does it take to get to the Vogue "Plus Difficile" rated pattern?  (I can dream, can't I?)

That is a difficult question to answer.   From my professional background in education, I'd have to say there are many variables to how long it will take each individual to get to

that level of sewing.  It depends on personal motivation, natural talent, amount of time spent practicing, etc.  That will vary with each individual. 

Share your funniest sewing adventure, please.

Well, I've been asked and paid to make a lot of things, among them a Star Trek Next Generation costume and once to sew Christmas tree garland onto angel costumes. 

And your most exasperating or difficult. 

Some of my most difficult projects were some of my art garments;  there were times when things never seem to go right, but I got each one finished in the end 

Sewhow-sumvogue What's your favorite pattern ever to sew, if you remember?

That varies depending on garment, but one that I really liked (and still do) is an old out-of-print Vogue suit from the '90s, which has a retro styling to it and can be made as either a dress or jacket and suit. 

I've made it three times, which is pretty rare for my personal sewing (that doesn't include sewing for my daughter).

Sew-how-sb-weddingbk Do you sew vintage patterns?

Yes.  I also wear the things I make.

Do you find instructions easier to follow on vintage patterns?

That depends on if I use the instructions.  I usually give them a glance to make sure there isn't anything unusual, but I do the same with modern patterns, too.

How many hours of sewing do you think it takes for the average person to become proficient?

This is another question with a highly variable answer based on several factors.  I think the answer will also depend on one's personal definition of "proficient".  For some people, that will be making simple garments; for others, that will be being able to draft their own patterns and sewing them using couture techniques.  As with any learned skills, the more hours spent practicing the better the skills become;  the amount of time would depend on the natural ability and personal motivation to learn the skill.


Sew how? Fearless Elle shares her sewing history. March 18, 2011 08:52 2 Comments

Elle of It's A Sewing Life did not feel the  fear of the needle. She did not feel frightened about ruining fabric. She was not terrified by her machine. And she wore and loved the first ensemble she stitched. Amazing! So unlike me, the sewing mouse hiding in the corner, trembling as she looks at her Bernina. Perhaps I can gain some of her confidence by reading this. Perhaps. Perhaps. It could happen.

Sew-how-ellencc How long have you been sewing?

I’ve been sewing about 38 years!

What inspired you to learn?

I’m not sure I was inspired, or it was just something I did.

Did your mother or grandmother sew? Both. A lot. Which must have been what inspired me to learn.

How did you learn? A class? Your mom? Home ec?

My grandmother taught me. And then my mom followed up with questions I had as I went along. I love to try out new techniques and have dabbled in lots of different kinds of sewing (i.e., smocking, heirloom machine sewing, quilting, home dec), and I will often take classes for these, followed up with books and now online information.

Sew-how-ellen-1st What was the first garment that you made?

I made a dark green skirt first, and then a matching vest to wear for my confirmation.

Did you wear it?

I sure did!

How long did it take for you to get the basics down?

Wow, it was so long ago. I think I got the hang of it pretty quickly. My grandmother was a stickler for perfection, so I got to know my seam ripper early on.

How long did it take you to feel confident of your dressmaking skills?

I’ve been naively confident since Day 1.

Do you still make things that you simply won't wear?

Sure! Though I’m often game to wear them at least once. Sometimes, you can’t tell a garment won’t work until it gets a test wear. Oh, except for a pair of shorts that I made last summer. Sometimes, you just know right away.

How many hours a week do you sew?

It varies. Maybe anywhere from 5 to 30 hours. I have an Etsy site that I sew for besides personal sewing, so, sometimes, it’s quite a bit more.

What are your five favorite sewing books?

Singer Sewing Book, the complete guide to sewing ©1969; Vogue Sewing ©1982; More Fabric Savvy by Sandra Betzina; Fit for Real People by Pati Palmer and Marta Alto; and my go to for quilting info: Quilter’s Complete Guide by Marianne Fons and Liz Porter.

Are there any sewing DVDs that you like? If so, which ones?

I have one for making decorative pillow covers that’s good, but I’m not even sure where it is right now. Otherwise, I haven’t used any. I’ve heard the one that Threads Magazine has is excellent.

If you're a fan of free online tutorials, name five for the beginning sewer, please.

I’m a fan, and have used these by searching for a specific technique (for ex: installing a picked zipper), especially those on the Threads website. I also use the videos on the Bernina website for specific sewing machine feet. YouTube is also great for searching out specific techniques. Individual sewing bloggers also have some great tutorials. Yikes, not the succinct list you were looking for.

What garment would you suggest that a newbie make first?

I think skirts are always a good choice, but I would suggest that you choose a pattern that looks like something you would buy in a store, or you will end up not wearing it, thinking that it looks homemade.

Second?

Pajamas or a nightgown are good because they often have some additional techniques, and the risk of being seen in public in a homemade garment is low. Now that I think about it, night wear would be a good first garment, too.

Sew-how-ellen What is the favorite of all the garments you have made?

Do I have to pick just one? I love just about all the smocked dresses I made for my daughter, but the favorite that I made for myself was a formal cocktail dress I made in 1991. I am also quite proud of the Christening dress I made for my niece. Sew-how-ellen-cocktail

What was the first item you sewed that made you beam with pride?

Oh, I was really proud of that skirt and vest I made.

Name your five top tips for beginners, please.

1. Invest in good scissors, and a decent, easy to use sewing machine.

2. Take a class (or two).

3. Take it one step at a time.

4. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

5. Don’t be afraid, and don’t panic.

Sew-how-ellen-mac What's the last garment that you made and are you pleased with it? 

I made myself the Colette Macaron dress, and I am extremely pleased with it!

Have you sewn with unprinted vintage patterns? If so, please share pointers for newbies who might want to try them.

I’ve opened one up and made a muslin of the bodice, but didn’t get farther than that. I’ll take another stab at it this year.

How long does it take to get to the Vogue "Plus Difficile" rated pattern?  (I can dream, can't I?)

Here’s where I’ll tell you how I feel about patterns. I have always just jumped in, pretty much regardless of rating. They are to me how recipes must be to those who like to cook (*ahem* not me). I just take them one step at a time, regardless of rating. So, how long? You’ll know it when you feel you’re ready. Try it out in a cheap fabric, and see how it goes.

Share your funniest sewing adventure, please.

Can you believe it? This is the hardest question. I don’t think I’ve really had any funny sewing adventures.

And your most exasperating or difficult.

Anything I made on my first sewing machine, which was my mother’s first machine, a Singer Rocketeer. Definitely a sewing adventure with a lesson in mechanics.

What's your favorite pattern ever to sew, if you remember?

It’s almost always the one I just made.

Do you sew vintage patterns?

I own several, but have only finished one garment so far. Unless you count the fact that the patterns I began with in the early '70s are now considered vintage.

Do you find instructions easier to follow on vintage patterns?

I don’t think I have enough experience with them to answer this one.

How many hours of sewing do you think it takes for the average person to become proficient?

Hmm, another hard question. It’s funny because I don’t really think of sewing in hours but in projects. I would say, by your third or fourth project you would have the basics down, as long as they increased in difficulty, adding in skills such as making buttonholes, putting in zippers, sleeves, etc. I’m just not sure sewing proficiency is quantifiable.

Sew-how-ellen-smocked Are you green with envy over Elle's sewing? I am. I love the Vogue cocktail dress. Totally grand. Totally. And isn't her daughter full of cutitude? Love the smocked dress. Precious. Precious. Precious. Absolutely.

And do check out Elle's Etsy shop, Jenna Belle Designs. Gorgeous bags. The lime green Ginny bag makes me drool. (I know, not a pretty sight. Gets the keyboard damp, too. Messy, messy.)

Check back: This weekend, we'll visit a popular blogger's sewing space. You don't want to miss it. Really. You don't.

 


Sew how? Kristin's done it in 13 months! (The show-off.) January 10, 2011 12:39 8 Comments

K-line-pants
Kristin of k-line has only been sewing thirteen months (OK, a few days more, but, really, just a very few!) and she makes her own bras. Wow! I bow down in deference and respect, woman. That is totally impressive. So. If you want to find out more about how this paragon learned to sew, read on. 

How long have you been sewing?

I've been sewing for almost 13 months. I started on Nov. 1, 2009

What inspired you to learn?

I've always wanted to sew, but my husband finally couldn't stand to hear me natter on about it any longer. When we were at Walmart (not somewhere we go regularly), we found ourselves in the sewing machine aisle. He proceeded to buy me my machine and a bunch of accoutrements. All the while I kept telling him to stop, that I'd never be able to figure out how to operate machinery!

Did your mother or grandmother sew?

No and no — but my great aunt was an accomplished dressmaker. She designed and produced garments for Lord & Taylor in NY in the 1940s-60s. She used to make me gorgeous, couture doll clothes. I so wished I had saved them.

How did you learn? A class? Your mom? Home Ec?

Well, I guess my husband taught me. But he was learning at the same time. We read the manuals (mostly him) and the pattern instructions. He understands schematics, so he wasn't intimidated. But he did think the instructions were remarkably complicated. I never took a Home Ec class. They didn't offer it at my school. I have taken a class, but it was after I had learned for a few weeks, and I knew all of the intro stuff that was being explained. I should say that I had some excellent help from blog friends like Mardel from Resting Motion :-). People went above and beyond to help me to decipher instructions.

K-line-first-skirtWhat was the first garment that you made?

An A-line miniskirt in denim!

Did you wear it?

Hell yes. I've worn it a few times. But I'm afraid to wash it. It's not exactly sturdy. :-)

How long did it take for you to get the basics down?

It's hard to answer this question. The very initial basics came in about a month (four projects). The broader basics took about 6 months. But I was sewing a lot. Some of it was not v. successful, though all resulted in good learning.

K-line-braHow long did it take you to feel confident of your dressmaking skills?

This one's also a bit challenging to answer. I feel confident about all the things I've done in the past that worked out well (or from which I learned how to do it differently the next time). Some things — that I either haven't encountered or that haven't gone well — still freak me out.

Do you still make things that you simply won't wear?

Yes. I give them away.

How many hours a week do you sew?

I sew about 20 hours a week. Most of that time is on the weekend, though I do my shopping, cutting, tracing and planning during the weekdays.

What are your five favorite sewing books?

You ask all the hard questions, Denise! I really love everything by Claire Schaeffer. Her Couture Sewing Techniques is great. The Fabric Sewing Guide is also awesome on so many levels — just in terms of telling you about fabric and how to use it and care for it. Tailoring: The Classic Guide to Sewing the Perfect Jacketby the Editors of Creative Publishing is very good. If you want to tailor, this is a must-read. I really enjoyed the three Wendy Mullin books, specifically her most recent one: Built by Wendy Dresses: The Sew U Guide To Making A Girl's Best Frock. It includes some very basic drafting/design information, and it's very intelligently written for potentially newbie, but creative, sewists. The Dressmaker's Technique Bible by Lorna Knight is a great flip resource. It's got good instructions, excellent photos, it's well laid out in a spiral bound book which isn't large. Oh, and one cannot forget Fit for Real People by Palmer/Pletsch. What a life changer that book is. But SO seriously hideous to look at. Someone should force those authors to bring the design into this century.

Are there any sewing DVDs that you like? If so, which ones?

I'm not so into the DVDs, but I have watched Full Busted? (also by Palmer/Pletsch) on a number of occasions. It's useful in nailing down the various versions of an FBA.

If you're a fan of free online tutorials, name five for the beginning sewer, please.

I do use a lot of free online tutorials which I've bookmarked.  They're numerous and not so difficult to find. I will say that there are some masters of the art. Gertie and her New Blog For Better Sewing offers up tremendous learning opportunities, especially in the form of sew-alongs. Tasia of Sewaholic is terrific. She too will be having a sew-along starting in January. Patty of Patty the Snug Bug has done some awesome instruction on the Full Bust Adjustment. No doubt I'm forgetting some fantastic tutorial creators.

What garment would you suggest that a newbie make first?

A simple skirt. It's got enough wearability to make it exciting, but it's not too complex. Mind you, for a person who's sewn nothing, its more than complex enough!

Second?

My second item was a simple cowl-neck top (with the cowl cut onto the front piece). That meant I got to enjoy the drape of the cowl without the extra step of sewing it on. I love cowls and it gave me a full outfit, along with the skirt. So I'd go with a top next. But you know, some people like starting with scarves and pencil cases. Objects with fewer curves.

What is the favorite of all the garments you have made?

Oh, I have quite a few that I really appreciate. What comes to mind: The vintage inspired Vogue 8640, which I made in navy wool. Vogue 8123, also vintage inspired, which I made in a light cocoa felted wool. The collars on these just thrill me. I've made some chic skirts which I get a lot of use out of. Vogue 8413 is a terrific pattern (six dresses, all quite different) with a beautiful cowl draped front. I LOVE it and it's very flattering on my shape. Vogue 1170, a Donna Karan sack dress, is very flattering. And yes, it's another cowl. (I think I have to branch out, people.) Vogue 8634 is my current go-to top (you guessed it, a cowl). It's got raglan sleeves, it's so flattering, and it takes 3 hours to make on a serger. I realize that all of these are Vogue patterns. I also really like Colette patterns, and I've enjoyed Hot Patterns, too.

What was the first item you sewed that made you beam with pride?

The very first skirt thrilled me to bits. I couldn't believe I'd made something from scratch. But V8123 was the first thing I made that a) looked really good, b) looked really good on me, and c) was well-constructed.

K-line-slip-patternName your five top tips for beginners, please.

1. Practice, practice, practice. When you're not sewing, read blogs and books and watch tutorials. Immerse yourself.

2. Push yourself. Make something that frightens you. You'll be amazed by what you can accomplish.

3. Create a dedicated space (however small) and keep it very tidy. Come up with a system for everything from the get-go. Then you won't ever become disorganized (which is just a distraction).

4. Read sewing blogs and, if you've got the drive, start your own blog (if you don't already have one). This will help to keep you focused and will give you a community of practice from which to draw on — and which you can give back to.

5. Join an online sew-along.

What's the last garment that you made and are you pleased with it?

V8634, my fourth one, a modified version of the three pattern options (longer length hem, three-quarter  length sleeves). I am pleased, but, weirdly, I cut the knit against the grain of stretch. It was an accident, and I've never done that before. It's pretty close to too-small. Mind you I have a slim tween daughter and a slim friend who can both benefit if I choose to regift. (On my daughter, it will be a loose tunic.) The pattern itself is drafted very large, so even mis-cut in a small, I can likely still get away with it. That's a good feature in a pattern.

Have you sewn with unprinted vintage patterns? If so, please share pointers for newbies who might want to try them.

No, I haven't, and they fascinate and scare me! I definitely want to hear more about these from the other sewists who take this survey.

K-line-lady-grayHow long does it take to get to the Vogue "Plus Difficile" rated pattern?  (I can dream, can't I?)

I can dream, too! You know, I've heard this about Vogue — and I'm inclined to think it's true: They rate the patterns largely by number of pieces and number of steps. So a pattern that you might find quite straightforward can be rated very difficult. I think it depends, also, on one's comfort level with the techniques we think of as difficult. Tailoring is labor-intensive, but it's not actually difficult. But, would I have tried tailoring on my own (if I hadn't been able to rely on Gertie's Lady Grey Coat sew-along)? I think it would have taken a while.

Share with me your funniest sewing adventure, please.

My first skirt covered all the bases — but my husband and I, even as we toiled into the night (all night) on our 1-hour skirt pattern — managed to keep a sense of humor. There was a lot of laughing and threatening to throw the sewing machine in the garbage.

And your most exasperating or difficult.

Truly, there are too many to name. If I were capricious, I would have quit sewing LONG ago, because it can be project after project of intense difficulty, especially as one is learning. For me, so relatively new to the game, every single project involves something new. New can be tricky and tiring and unpleasant. However, as I go on, I do find fewer things that are totally out of the ballpark. So the projects tend to be less intense. Well, except for that coat I just made.

K-line-sencha2
What's your favorite pattern ever to sew?

I really can't say for sure. There's been a lot of fun in a lot of patterns. I guess I'll go with the Colette patterns Sencha blouse.

K-line-sencha1
It's beautiful to sew. And it's not so complicated that a relatively new sewist can't give it a go. Mind you, I think it takes more general knowledge than the average newbie is likely to have. I'd suggest it no sooner than fourth or fifth garment project.

Do you sew vintage patterns?

I've sewn with reissued vintage patterns. Nothing that's actually from, say, 1950. I don't really have the money to prioritize on these amazing pieces of history, given that I'm still really on a learning curve, and there are a lot of modern patterns with vintage elements that are less risky to try out. Of course, as I get better (less hit and miss) I will buy vintage patterns. Complicated things you can't find everywhere — coats or tailored suits, for example. And I'll definitely trace them!

How many hours of sewing do you think it takes for the average person to become proficient?

Well, Victoria of Ten Thousand Hours of Sewing blog posits it's 10,000 hours. That's Malcolm Gladwell's (Outliers) perspective. I've been sewing a conservative average of 80 hours a month for 13 months. That gives me a few more than 1000 hours of experience, and I feel I am an adequate sewist. If you give me a pattern and instructions, I will figure it out (though depending on the complexity, I may have a dicey result or the process of getting from fabric to finished garment may be very painful!).

What can take a sewist a very long time, especially depending on the shape of his or her body and how well (s)he understands it three-dimensionally, is making clothes that fit perfectly. That's an entirely different art form. That's dressmaking or tailoring, not simply sewing. I'm going to estimate that it takes about 2000 hours to become competent at that. Some people have very challenging shapes (i.e. lots of alterations and adjustments are required) and others don't have a great eye. So if you fall into those categories, maybe it would take 3000 hours. It's well worth the effort, though. Once you can do that, you can do anything.

Sewing really is an art form. I truly believe one gets back what one puts in (unless one is extremely talented, in which case the world's her oyster). If you want to be good, I suspect you have to think about it all the time — at least for a couple of years. What I can tell you is that, by nature, I have very minimal 2D-to-3D spatial reasoning skills. I've spent the last year developing those, and I've come a tremendously far way. It's like my brain has learned another language. I LOVE that I have taught myself to do this. The moral for me: Don't let weaknesses fool you into thinking you can't get good. Rise to the challenge, and you will achieve amazing things.

How about that hubby? Is he a keeper or what? Hubbies out there, take a lesson. OK?

 

 


Sew how? The divine Ms. B. started her sewing trek in Home Ec. January 02, 2011 09:34 10 Comments

It's a new year. It's a new day. And it's time for a brand-spankin' new series. (For Sewing Spaces fans: New post coming up this week. I promise.) I'm interviewing sewistas/dressmakers/sewists/seamstresses/your favorite noun here to find out how they learned to sew. And, yes, I do have a selfish motive: I need inspiration. I do.

Erica_trench_jacketSo. First up: dazzling Erica B. of the always interesting blog, Erica B.'s D.I.Y. Style!

How long have you been sewing?

Decades!  Seriously, almost 30 years! 

What inspired you to learn?

I don't really remember.  It's been a long time.  I would assume because everyone around me did.

Did your mother or grandmother sew?

My mother and my aunts, all of the time.  They both could look at something and draft a pattern on newspaper!  My grandmother sewed too, but not often.  She was a career woman!  I can only remember her seeing her do alterations (hemming drapes, or clothing).

How did you learn? A class? Your mom? Home ec?

I was always basically self-taught.  I received a Holly Hobby sewing machine as a Christmas gift when I was around 8 or 9.  I would make doll clothes from fabric scraps.  I later took Home Economics in 8th grade.

What was the first garment that you made?

I made a summer outfit as a project for Home Economics.  It was a top and shorts.  We had to complete our outfit and model it in a fashion show for our parents. 

Did you wear it?

I did!  I was so proud of myself.

How long did it take for you to get the basics down?

I would assume years.  I never sewed consistently until I was married with kids.

How long did it take you to feel confident of your dressmaking skills?

Confident?  That's funny.  Probably in the last couple of years.  My confidence is being about to turn something I've made inside out.  If the inside looks as good as the outside, it's a winner!

Erica_vogue_8156Do you still make things that you simply won't wear?

Of course.  Sometimes I'll make things simply to try out different techniques.  For example, I made Vogue 8156.  They are a pair of Claire Shaeffer couture pants.  The techniques were incredible, and I learned a lot that I've applied over the years to different projects.  But the pants were awful!

How many hours a week do you sew?

Not nearly enough! 

What are your five favorite sewing books?

The Complete Photo Guide to Sewing, Singer

Fit For Real People, Pati Palmer & Marta Alto

Couture Sewing Techniques, Claire B. Shaeffer

Tailoring: The Classic Guide to Sewing the Perfect Jacket, Creative Publishing

and every single copy of Threads.

Are there any sewing DVDs that you like? If so, which ones?

No, I haven't bought any sewing DVDs . . . yet.

If you're a fan of free online tutorials, name five for the beginning sewer, please.

I don't know how beginner-friendly these are, but here are my favorites:

Sewing an Invisible Zipper

RTW-Style Zipper Facings

Easy, Flat Fly-Front Zipper

Welt Pockets

Bound Buttonholes

What garment would you suggest that a newbie make first?

Something they would love and would actually want to wear.  I'm not one to suggest elastic waist pants.  I would NEVER wear those.   If I were learning to sew right now, I'd probably want to start with a princess seam sheath dress.  Look at how much that one project could teach you!

Second?

REAL pants with a fly-front!  That way they can learn how to fit in the process.  People love to put fitting on the back burner. 

Erica_houndstooth What is the favorite of all the garments you have made?

Erica_baroque_jacket-c

It is absolutely impossible for me to pick just one.  There are so many for just as many reasons.  I really love tailoring projects.

I love my jacket I made recently.  I ADORE my houndstooth coat.  And I can't live without my trench jacket!

Love dresses too, especially Vogue 1154 and Vogue 1174!  

Erica_vogue_1154

What was the first item you sewed that made you beam with pride?

My Armani-knockoff jacket!  Even though if I made it today, there would be a lot more advanced techniques added to it, I still love it!

Erica_armaniName your five top tips for beginners, please.

1. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't sew something.  If you can sew a pillowcase, you can sew that Vogue dress you've been drooling over.  Trust me, it's not brain surgery.

2. It's ONLY fabric!  The world will not come to a screeching halt if you mess it up.

3. The more mistakes you make, the more you'll learn.

4. Work on projects that YOU love!

5.  It pays to be fearless and just jump right in!

What's the last garment that you made and are you pleased with it?

A pair of pants that I'll be posting soon . . .

Have you sewn with unprinted vintage patterns? If so, please share pointers for newbies who might want to try them.

No, I don't sew vintage.  It seems like I can never get my hands on the ones I really, really want (Vogue Couturier). (Editorial note: Ms. B., check out The Blue Gardenia's selection. Do. We have quite a few, and I think VCD 773, copyright 1953, is just panting to be on your cutting table! It has amazing and unusual seaming in the back. Fabulous. And it's our end-of-year sale, so you can be gorgeous and save money. So there.)

How long does it take to get to the Vogue "Plus Difficile" rated pattern?  (I can dream, can't I?)

It seems that Vogue Patterns put the fear of God in a lot of sewers.  I was always told not to sew those because they are difficult. That only made me go at VPs with a vengeance.  You'll never know until you try.

Be a peach and share your funniest sewing adventure, please. 

I don't know how funny it is, but there have been times when I've been sewing tired, and I've sewn things together wrong side to wrong side.  I mean, I serged and everything!  Not fun having to rip out those stitches.

Erica_chanelAnd your most exasperating or difficult.

This wasn't necessarily difficult, but my "Chanel" jacket was exasperatingly time-consuming.

Erica_vogue_1174What's your favorite pattern ever to sew, if you remember?

I've sewn so many patterns.  But to this date, I'll say Vogue 1174.  That dress has so many details.  Such a fun project!

How many hours of sewing do you think it takes for the average person to become proficient?

Goosh, that's IMPOSSIBLE to answer because everyone is different.  But I will say that you get out what you put in!

Do you want to see a picture of Erica modeling her very first project? I do. I do. I do. If any classmates have one around, send it in! Please. Is it possible she was ever gawky, pimply, pudgy, skinny, or any other unflattering adjective? Is it? Nah. It isn't.

So. Let me titillate you with an upcoming post or two: I tackle Colette's Crepe pattern. We view The Domestic Diva's sewing room. And it is gorgeous. The very definition, in fact.