Saturday, April 18, 2009

Sewing With Reckless Abandon

I'm being foolhardy. I've been invited to a swanky do next Saturday and I intend to make my dress. My usual rule is that I never sew on a deadline, especially for a black tie benefit (for heart disease, I think) but I have decided to live life on the edge. Which means I didn't have much time to dither about my fabric, so I went to Couture Fabrics, the most expensive fabric shop we have in town on Thursday during my lunch hour. I sort of had in my mind to wear sapphire blue dupioni silk, but there was none to be had. They had red, they had black, but I had my heart set on blue. And the dupioni. It's easy to work with, even though it won't ease at all and I have experience with it. I nearly gave up, but just as I was walking out the door, I saw this silk jacquard: It is clearly a lighter color than I had wanted, and it is more of a springy fabric, but it had a nice hand to it. Here is a close up:
Really lovely stuff. Normally I would have thought about it for three weeks while I checked the internet for all other available options, but I didn't have the luxury of time. I put it on the cutting table and only slightly blanched at the price of $ 35 a yard.
I had already decided that I would make an easy dress with lots of drama, something I have made before. And that would be a tried and true bodice, with a full circle skirt (1950's style full crinoline underneath, already owned) and a sash for waist emphasis (and to hide any sewing imperfections). I am going to use the circle skirt part of this pattern which I have used before:

And the sweetheart option bodice from this out of print pattern which also happens to be the very first dress I ever made:

It's hard to see the sweetheart bodice on this pattern - the option is one of the small drawings. But these photos can be clicked on to enlarge.
I say this is foolhardy because I will have to work on the dress when I have the energy and I'm not working. Those are small increments of time. So I cut the bodice out today and actually got it finished!

This pattern has facings, but I usually like linings better; they are sometimes easier, and always cleaner-looking. I also usually line with the garment fabric, but this silk jacquard ravels like the very devil and I didn't need that aggravation. I lined it with a light pink batiste I got at my LQS. I also figured it would feel better and be more comfortable.

I made the bodice by sewing the shoulder seams together, connecting the front and back pieces, then I laid the garment bodice out and put the lining on top of it, sewing the garment fabric and the lining fabric at the neckline. Then I understitched the neckline. Next, I sewed the garment fabric and lining together at the armholes, understitched as far as possible, and then turned the whole thing inside out. Finally, I sewed the side seams, sewing the garment fabric and the lining fabric together in one seam on each side. Sorry I didn't take photos, but I was just so thrilled I was making progress at all. And I was working as quickly as possible because this silk unravels just by looking at it:
I know what you are going to say, "But Kim, why didn't you use that great serger you just got and finish those edges right after you cut everything out?" And you are right, but I've yet to actually figure out how to go from 4 thread to 3 threads and set the stitch length and width to do all that. Plus, I suspect I will have to remove one of the needles (though the manual doesn't explictly say that), and I haven't done that yet. I will learn all this, but sewing on a deadline isn't the time to be fiddling with a new piece of machinery. It is just an opportunity for frustration and dispair. Did I mention this fabric is $ 35 a YARD???
No Parting Shot tonight, but I was able to participate in the MS Walk this morning. They were expecting 1500 people, but I think they got close to 2000. We all walked three miles under perfect weather!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Looky what I got!

I got a serger!!! This is a big deal; VickiW and Chris B (of my sewing guild) have been after me for a couple of years to get one. I've resisted, mostly because of the cost inasmuch as most of my sewing doesn't require a serger. Of course, I realize if I had one, I'd choose projects that do require a serger. And if I can't think of any, I'm sure Vicki will think some up.
I got this serger, used, from Paula in our sewing guild, the Fashion Focus Group. Paula had already upgraded years ago, but had not yet gotten around to selling this one. It is a Baby Lock, Eclipse, Model BLE1, and it has the all important jet-air threading which makes threading this sucker a whole lot easier. She showed me the basic mechanics and then I came home to play with it. I decided to start with an easy project to become one with my machine, so I made the same thing I start with my sewing students: a pillow case.
I realize this is a Christmas fabric and it is Easter, but it is just so cute I couldn't resist:

It was fun! Here is a shot of one of my first seams on it:

This isn't the first time I have used a serger; I made a knit skirt on Vicki's serger which is pictured here, and I made a bathrobe on Anne's serger a couple of years ago at Craft Week. So I know the basic mechanics. But I don't know yet what it can all do, especially how to sew a 5/8 seam so I can use this for garment sewing. I'll have to spend some quality time with the manual, and maybe an afternoon in Vicki's sewing studio for a lesson in sergering basics.
I don't really have anywhere to put it. My sewing studio is the entire downstairs of my townhouse. The sewing machine is in the living room, the dining room table is used for cutting out, and the ironing board is next to the kitchen counter island. For right now, I've put the serger on the kitchen counter island, and I am using it standing up, which seems to work fine, but I'll figure it out as I go along.
No progress on my bed quilt; the weather continues to be rainy AND windy, so I still haven't been able to lay out the whole thing outside to see how I want the blocks arranged. But until then I have the serger to fascinate me!
I wish everyone a very blessed Easter. May you and your family experience the peace and joy of this holiest of days.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Progress is Being Made

I haven't posted about the Double Wedding Ring Quilt lately, but progress is being made; I have finished half of the blocks. Woo-hoo! Here are 5 "A" blocks and and 5 "B" blocks:
I photographed them on my kitchen floor due to gusty winds outside on this beautiful day. Which seems to always be the case, except when it is raining. When I started blogging, I had no idea how many days of the year are unsuitable for outside photography of my sewing projects. But I know now. Thus, the inside photography. But you can see the nearest right block is still experiencing wind: that is from the refrigerator kicking on and blowing on it!

Having completed half the blocks needed for the DWRQ, I decided to take a break and work on my other goal for the year: a quilt for my bed. I already had a bunch of fat quarters, mostly from the "Freshcut" collection by Heather Bailey from Free Spirit fabrics that perfectly matched my bedroom decor. I wanted a pattern that was easy, fast, but not so simple that I would become bored. I search high and low at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Show, and I considered using the Strip Gift Quilt Pattern, but in the end I used a Kaffe Fassett design from one of his books, which I believe was this one.

Kaffe Fassett's designs are good for fabric collections because they usually don't rely on contrast, so this was perfect. I can't remember the name of this quilt he designed as the pattern was so simple, I didn't even buy the book. (Sorry, Mr. Fassett.) Here are some of the blocks laid out, again, on the kitchen floor:

They aren't sewn together yet, and these aren't all the blocks. I need a bigger surface to lay them all out to make sure I have them arranged the way I like. The finished quilt will end up 88 x 88 inches, so I may have to lay down a sheet in the driveway tomorrow (if the wind would quit blowing) and arrange the blocks on it. I have no floor space in my house big enough for this quilt.

I did modify the quilt a bit so as to use fat quarters to make this quilt. For example, the middle block was supposed to be 19 1/2 inches square with a 2 inch border. My fat quarter couldn't be 19 1/2 inches square, so I cut it 17 1/2 inches and added a 3 inch border.

I also discovered that one fat quarter can make two blocks: 1 "A" block and 1 "B" block (the ones with the border). So I needed 31 fat quarters to make this quilt, plus some yardage for the border for the big block, which I will also use for the binding. Good news about this quilt top: no big borders! Just the big block, the "A" blocks, and the "B" blocks. All I have left to do is arrange the blocks, sew them into rows, sew the rows together, and get it to the machine quilter. I plan on asking for heavy quilting on this quilt: the pattern is so easy and basic that you need interesting quilting to make it attractive. Can't wait to get this on the bed!

Parting Shot: Darned refrigerator kept blowing on my blocks!