Wednesday, April 16, 2014

New Toys and Past Lessons Remembered

I bought a new sewing machine!  Or rather, I financed a new sewing machine. I'm excited either way because I looked at my numbers before taking the plunge. This ain't my first rodeo going down this road, you see.

Let me back up a second though and give you some photos. I finally decided to go with this one after pondering it for some time because of Caroline's one year review. Its a Janome 8900 that I bought from Ashby Sewing during their annual Sewing Expo sale. If you live in the Atlanta area I HIGHLY recommend them, especially for getting your machines serviced. The guy that does the work is recognized nationally for his expertise.

At this time I don't have a special table that the machine sets into, this is one that husband and brother in law built for me. Its very sturdy, just like this machine. Full speed and everything in the sun room vibrates, but you can barely hear it, which means I can sew when my husband works from home. SCORE! I decided to not install the knee lever because I'm more likely to injure myself on it than find it useful. For whatever reason my hips are always larger than I think they are, come to think of it so are my bewbs. I run both into door frames ALL THE TIME.

Stop laughing.

So as you can see this thing is huge. Lots of stitches, lots of carriage space, and I even got the extra spool holder for my larger thread spools.

One of my more favorite features, slots for the most used feet! The tension is automatic but has an override button and there's a walking foot in the storage container at the bottom (not pictured) along with bobbin storage and even more feet. When I was checking out they asked if I needed more bobbins.

"How many are in a package" I asked.
"Ten" she said.
"I'll need two then" I said
"What in the world are you sewing!!" she exclaimed.

Apparently quilters don't switch bobbins out that often. I know I need a black, red, and blue wound at all times, and really several other colors. Or two of one color if I'm working on something with lots of stitching. I don't know about you but I hate stopping to wind a bobbin, so lots of bobbins it is! Oh, and it takes standard needles so I didn't have to rush out to buy more. In any case, I love this machine to bits.

But lets go back to about this not being my first rodeo when it comes to financing. We bought our house back in 2002 before the prices skyrocketed but the regulations for financing had begun to loosen up. This was also before the bottom dropped out of the tech industry when outsourcing became the norm. I had done a lot of research and when we chose the house we chose one that we could pay on one salary, despite it being a tiny house. This turned out to be a decision that saved our asses. Even so, what happened to many in 2008 happened to us in 2004. One or both of us were out of a job at any given time for several years.  During that time I was staring down the long road of possible foreclosure and lots and lots of credit debt. We did the credit consolidation, we liquidated all our retirement funds (what little there was), we had to turn to friends and family. This was a time of hardship for us but we made it through. A decade later we both have steady jobs (queue superstitious knocking on wood) and our credit has been repaired. We have, on several occasions, used the X number of months no interest financing. These are great deals, and how I financed my new sewing machine. THE TRICK, however, is to be absolutely certain you are never late on your payment, because then they charge you an obscene amount of interest. And the laws being what they are, they will then share that information with all the other credit companies and they will jack your interest based on that one card. And if you overpay it goes toward principle, not the next month's payment.

Its a racket.  Its a racket I would not gamble with unless very certain I could do the monthly payment on time. When I financed this through Ashby they made sure to tell me this all up front before I sign the documents, which I thought was amazing. Most places don't, but I already knew because, well.. been there, done that.

I know that was long winded and maybe a bit off topic but I believe in sharing knowledge, be it how to do an FBA or how to keep from getting scheistered by credit companies. Got any nuggets of wisdom to share?

Monday, March 31, 2014

10,000 Hours

Another pair of Simplicity pants and a modded Lady Skater t-shirt.

I've had this thought in my head for some time now, the idea of becoming a master at something by spending thousands of hours doing it. Ten thousand hours, give or take a few. It was an amalgam of different thought threads, one was of a conversation I had with a dear friend about how, as we approach our fourth decade of life, things keep getting easier. Like, we really have a handle on it. Things like cooking or driving, writing, reading, running a household, games, and our chosen professions.

And those thoughts led to a phrase I hear all the time. You might have heard it yourself "Gosh, I wish I could sew like you do, I'm just no good at it". And I always want to tell these people that I didn't start off being good at it, I worked my way toward it. In fact, I'm still learning more as I go. Lately, however, I've found myself coasting just a bit by making more knit clothing than anything else. Granted I've hacked and slashed any number of patterns without much anxiety because hey, knits are very forgiving. But then I found myself putting off things I NEED because I didn't want to challenge myself anymore. So, I pushed myself by taking my serger in for badly needed repairs and facing the wedding sewing head on (which is not a complaint about sewing for a wedding).

I had forgotten how much I liked the challenge.It also made me realize just how much I have learned about fitting a garment to myself in the last year. The non-euclidean topography that is our bodies is making more sense to me. I think I even have started wrapping my brain around fitting trousers. And here's the funny thing, its not all from doing, a lot of it is from actively working the problems in my head. I suspect I am not the only one that uses idle brain capacity for solving the complex geometry problems that making a garment can create. In fact, I think it is a trait found in most creative people that gets applied to computer programming, science, math, engineering, and domesticity.

Which leads me back to the hours I've spent in my head thinking of creating. For a while now it feels like there was some sort of block between ideas and action upon those ideas. I want these things to materialize out of thin air but it doesn't work that way. Finding a way to make myself visit challenges head on and start DOING again has felt like a huge hurdle. I'd like to say that kids, husband, job are keeping me from doing it, but really its my own anxiety of feeling like I'm shirking everything else.

Which is totally crap because when I create I feel better. That's the whole reason my tagline is "Sewing to Stay Sane". I really should learn to take my own advise. I'm halfway to 10k, I just gotta keep going, learn to take the time for myself.

Because if Mama ain't happy, Ain't nobody happy.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Trifecta Two and a TNT

I did not make just one Trifecta, I made two! In fact, if my main serger didn't need to go to the sewing machine doctor I'd probably have cranked out another  two or more. And a whole slew of Simplicity 2369 variations. But for this post we're going to focus on view D, the pants. But first the top.

Is this how I smile? 

Contrast lace sleeves! In fact this is almost an exact copy of one I made for Felicity and failed to blog about it. I did put it up on Instagram sometime last summer though. The stretch lace I got in 2011 at the Sewing Expo. The black fabric is a medium weight bamboo knit from Its 5% lycra so has great recovery and doesn't grow like most bamboo knits which is awesome.  They have several basic colors that are re-orderable. I want all of them because they are so soft and snugly. I could just throw them all on the bed and make a fort.

I think I might be scowling at the neighbor's screaming kids.

Uh, I'm not sure how this one got so washed out but hey, at least you can see my butt clearly. And now would be a good time to mention the pants. I love them! I can actually pair them with a nice knit top and wear them to work, like this set, and be comfortable. Like I said, I want to make many more of these along with the view C tops from the Simplicity pattern. I could wear them and feel put together at work even during The Monthly Visit (its really the worst four days of the month).  In fact, a few more fancy stretch laces and such and I could get away with the Trifecta as well.

Almost bitchy resting face.

Did I mention that these pants go perfect with Kitschy Coo tops? They totally do. The blouse didn't require anything special other than elastic along the arm seams. I also put clear elastic in the crotch and inseams of the knit pants to help them keep their shape.

My husband posed this one.

Ya know, I'm not getting any kick backs or anything for telling you how much I love Kitschy Coo patterns. They really are just that awesome.

p.s. I just got my Espresso leggings and Riff shrug in the mail and its killing me not to start on them RIGHT NOW. I have to make some frosting.

Monday, March 17, 2014

KitchyCoo Trifecta Top!

Have you seen the latest Kitchy Coo pattern yet? If not, there's a whole lot to love here! This is a raglan sleeve knit shirt that has lots of customization as shown above. The top I'm showing you here was my first test, straight out of the package. Its a bit tight in my shoulders but I think that's me going off old measurements*.

This is a poly ITY knit from Fabric Mart. I also made a pair of slacks out of this, I'll show you that one later. My favorite thing about this pattern is that I didn't have to do a large arm adjustment. WOOT!!

I could probably do with a sway back adjustment. However, I usually just make the hips wider. This does not always turn out as planned.

I put the neck binding on in the round, as well as the sleeve bindings. I just turned under and cover stitched the hem.  That's about it, really. The whole thing took me about an hour after I was done fiddling with the fabric to cut this out of leftover scraps. So, not counting my time this shirt was basically... .50 cents worth of material.

So you really need to run and get this pattern RIGHT NOW. Its easy to put the pdf together, not very many pages at all and there are endless variations. Ok, not endless, its actually 27. TWENTY SEVEN VARIATIONS FOR A SINGLE KNIT TOP!! Holy crap. So if you take the $7.20 UK (11.98US) and divide it by 27 that's .27uk (.44us) per variation.

So what I'm really trying to say is "BUY THIS PATTERN".  Ok, that's all for now. Love all y'all crazy folk.

*new medications and new diet have had me swinging widely on the scale. I'm currently at the heaviest I've ever been outside of pregnancy. I'm NOT happy with it largely for health and pain reasons. 

Friday, February 28, 2014

Fancy School Pants

So my children have hit that time in their life when they're likely to grow an inch in a month or two, then not grow for for months, then SPROING! Up they go again. This means that, not only are they eating me out of house and home, all their pants are too short.  I've been wanting to make jeans for a while but still feel intimidated, mostly because of the thickness of denim and top stitching. I decided I would start with something a bit easier, such as a pair of side zipped pants with cuffs. What I didn't do is re-measure Felicity because I thought 6 weeks couldn't be THAT much of a difference. I was wrong.

The pattern in question is an OOP Simplicity 4518 (side note, these are easy to find second hand)

Just about everything in this envelope has Felicity's name on it. She really like the pants, which I made from some remnant cotton/rayon blend suiting. Problem was I didn't give myself extra seam allowance for the hips and waist, because she's inherited my build. We vikings have ample muscle mass and lots of booty. I ended up having to take the center front and center back seems how and was unable to flat fell the crotch seam. This turned out to be its demise.

But let me go back a bit first. I should probably add that I somehow forgot to sew when making these. They were doomed to begin with. WORST waistband and zipper insertion I've ever done. It took me no less than three tries, and due to needing to take out the seams I had to do some weird darning stitches  to add to the SA. It looked horrible.

Bad zipper, no cookie.

See, it sucks. But I had to finish these things out of sheer stubbornness.

Fancy School Pants  (and my Green December UFO)
I also finished at the beginning of my bout of the flu, which for means a week of sick and two days of fibromyalgia flare up. Poop. BUT, she loved them and put them on before going over to her Grandmother's for a few days. I told her not to get them dirty. Not that that would do much good, because this is how they came back to me.

Ripped seat and Georgia red clay stains

Yup. Not only not enough booty room, but she was playing outdoors in the mud with her cousins. And if you didn't know, we don't have dirt, we have clay. RED CLAY. That shit doesn't come out of anything. Because what you see is basically no seam allowance left, I had to throw these in file thirteen. Fudge.

However, the punchline to all this is we now have a new thing in my house. Because what I said was "What did I tell you about playing outside in your fancy school pants in the first place!!". This made both my children start doing a sing song and a dance.

FANCY SCHOOOL PANTS, FANCY SCHOOL PANTS!! *kermit flail with butt wiggle*


She now wants a pair out of stretch satin leopard print.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Rules, Sew-a-Longs, and Pledges

Hello all you lovely people in the Sewcialist Land, I've had this thing on my mind lately. Its a thing about sew-a-longs, themes, and pledges that have proliferated of late. I mean, I'm totally happy that they do, and I'm fully aware that I'm an enabler and instigator.But for myself personally I feel like I can't keep up with the pace of sew-a-longs, et al. I'm totally a rules breaker and usually a non-conformist. Which is a polite way of saying I'm contrary. Sorry, not contrite at all.

To be honest, I love making plans but rarely follow them. Its kind of like that saying "Life is what happens while your busy making other plans", except I do it to myself.


What was I saying? Oh right, inability to keep up with the pace. You know, I figure I'm probably not the only person that feels that way, and I thought I would share. Because seriously, don't let yourself be distracted. Or go along with things as you like, its all good.

And something else, too. I discovered I sew the way I think. To use crankysysadmin terminology, I've got a quad core brain and its multi-threading processes (projects) all the time. I like to cut a lot of things out at once, then sew them up as I like. I'm not very "one project at a time". Sometimes a process gets stuck and I have to reboot, or sometimes the file gets corrupted and we got to scrap it and re-install. And sometimes I just need to power down and chill out.

Can you believe its taking me over a week to write this much? I've been overcome with a great amount of lethargy and I'm going to blame it on the weather. In the 22 years of living in Atlanta I have NEVER experienced such a cold, wet, and miserable winter. Ok, its not totally miserable, there was some beautiful moments. But the problem with climate change is we don't know what to expect anymore, ya know, other than volatility. But any way, its been a major contributor to my lethargy. There's promise of high 60's low 70's next week, and that's good.

Also I can finally share another bit of great news because its official. We are going on an 8 day Caribbean cruise with our dear friend Dreama and her family, which includes me being her Matron of Honor. I have to make something to wear for that and will do double duty as a dress for the formal dinners. Along with some sun dresses and other cruising attire. This will be happening in May and the kids are beside themselves with anticipation.

And last but not least, February is BLUE! I will say I love the color themed months the best because it leaves style and pattern up to the person.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Stash Busting and TNT's (Tried and Trues)

I have spent the first two weeks of 2014 contemplating my very large stash of fabric. I can't even remember how I acquired all of it, well mostly I can. Its called working graveyard shift and being the first to receive sales flyers in my inbox. For the record, buying fabric does not replace talk therapy and anti-depressants, just so you know.

Though, I can't deny the tactile pleasures that come with a new box of fabrics. I'm sure if I did some digging there's be research on a small endorphin rush that temporarily satisfies the mind and body. But I'm totally feeling lazy so lets just pretend I might know what I'm talking about, k? 

But what I wanted to talk about is actually sewing up all this fabric using Tried and True patterns (TNT - patterns that have already been fitted and can be made up again and again. The Hawthorn being one of my example). It was after reading Cation Design's post about continuing the stash busting into 2014 that I sat down and made a list of all the patterns I've done the work for and will probably make again. I was kind of surprised at the list. Here they are in no particular order.

Current TNT Patterns:

Simplicity 2369 Wrap Dress
Lady Skater (and a million variations)
Vogue 8747 Princess Seam Blouse
New Look 6564 cropped jacket/bolero
Vogue 8701 raglan sleeve dress 
Vogue 8679 raglan sleeve knit sheath dress and a-line skirt

Wow, that's actually a lot now that I think about it. I mean, that's what I thought to myself after writing it all down. But I also decided there were several gaps to fill in and made another list of patterns I WANT to become TNT's. 

TNT's To Be:

Which, looking at it on screen instead of my Sewisit's Notebook (Thank you Dad!) its seems like a way bigger list to tackle. I think I'm going to focus on separate for a bit. Those being Jasmine and Thurlows first. 

And here's the thing, the majority of my stash was bought with one of the above patterns in mind already, with several one off statement pieces on the back burner. Some of them have been on this back burner for years, waiting for me to level up my skills, I may not have been prolific but I certainly had a lot of DING! moments (gamer humor, i can never escape it).

I, ladykatza, in an effort to be frugal with my purchases pledge to sew with stash fabrics at least 85% of the time. I shall continue to expand my TNT pattern selection as well as use existing ones thoughtfully to make a more cohesive and functional wardrobe. 

I also want to get back to writing process posts on my works in progress so as to help other sewists along in their journey to a self-made custom wardrobe that will make them happy.  Oh, and be better about replying to comments. I LOVE COMMENTS. Seriously, I read all of them. I want to get better at keeping up with other sewcialists as well.

So, what patterns do you have that you want to make into TNT's or are already TNT's. I'd love to hear your thoughts. Take care and have a wonderful day!