Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Buttonholes, Earthquakes, Etc.

Wow, thanks for all the great buttonhole feedback, everyone! It really helped me figure stuff out. Here's what I'm thinking: I wish I lived in a dream world where I made perfect handworked buttonholes and had time to make a perfect sample to photograph for the book. Alas, that is not so. I'm not really happy with the quality of my handworked buttonholes yet, so I think I will continue to work on them and probably blog about it in the future. It just doesn't make sense to include something I don't use in my sewing life at this point. I liked elizabethdee's comment a lot: "I vote for you to be Gertie, and not to demo a technique if you don't do it readily or easily yourself." Wise words.

In other news, the shoot was disrupted by an earthquake yesterday! We're in an old building in the East Village which didn't take well to the shaking. We New Yorkers don't expect such things so it was met with quite a bit of panic. I wish I could say I was calm in the situation, but readers: I freaked the hell out. I apparently get very swept up in any sort of hysteria, and there was a lot of it in the street yesterday. (Also, I was the assistant editor on a post-apocalyptic novel called The Dead and The Gone which scarred me for life.) But all is well and life is back to semi-normal.

I hope all is well with you, readers. This weird little image-less post is just my attempt to keep in touch while life is nutty! I look forward to returning to regular sewing blogging very soon.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Quick Buttonhole Poll!

Good morning, readers! I'd love to get your thoughts on handworked buttonholes--specifically, if you think they should be included in my book. If they're important to you, I will do my darndest to make a decent looking one to shoot tomorrow. (My technique is much better than when I first tried, thank goodness, but I don't know if it's book-worthy yet!) If you couldn't care less about handworked buttonholes, I'll call it a day and stick with machine and bound buttonholes. What say you?

Thanks for your input, dear readers!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Just Call Me Madam Ambassador

Happy Sunday, readers! The photoshoot for my book starts tomorrow, garments are whizzing through the sewing machine, and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Once all this madness is through, I'll be back to regular blogging but starting a new kind of madness: traveling to various expos and conferences. You see, I'm now officially "brand ambassador" for BurdaStyle, and we're teaming up to offer sewing classes at some really fun events. I thought I would mention a couple in case you'll be there--I would love to meet you in person, dear readers! Here's a little run-down for the next two months:
  • September 15-18: The Creative Connection, St Paul, MN. The tagline for this conference is "Women, Passion, Business" and it's all about blogging and creative pursuits. I'll be teaching one class on running a successful sewing blog and another on the necessary hand stitches for garment sewing. 
  • October 8-9: The Sewing Summit, Salt Lake City, UT. This is a sewing and bogging conference--how amazing is that?! I'll be teaching four classes: Garment Fabrics from Angora to Zibeline, Tailoring by Hand 101, Getting a Perfect Vintage Fit, and Essential Hand Stitches for Garment Sewing.

I'll also be attending the American Sewing Expo in Novi, Michigan, which is September 23rd to the 25th. This will not be part of my ambassador duties. Rather, I am a contestant in the Passion for Fashion competition, a live Project Runway-style challenge that takes place on the expo floor. Are you going to attend? Please stop by and cheer me on!

This is all a little funny since I've never been to a sewing show before and now I'm kind of going to all of them. Are you planning on attending any of these? Let me know so we can meet in person!

    Thursday, August 18, 2011

    Let's Try Cording!

    Cording is my new obsession, readers. It's the subject of this week's Stitch-Along post, and I feel like I could cord everything in sight! My little sample above just uses some supplies I had around the house, and I'm eager to try it with some satin cord and maybe even my own self-covered cord. It's a great detail to add around necklines and the hems of skirts.

    Here's a lovely vintage 50s dress that incorporates cording AND rhinestones--be still my heart. Just look at those pockets!

    What do you think? Would you like to give this embellishment detail a try? 

    Hope you enjoy the post!

    Wednesday, August 17, 2011

    Guest Post: Assembly-Line Sewing

    Hi readers! I have a little treat for you today: my friend Robin has written you a guest post on her method for maximum sewing efficiency when you're making multiples of a garment. Enjoy!--Gertie

    Greetings, Gertie Readers!  You may be aware that our book-writing, Bombshell-Dress- teaching, sample-sewing blogstress is just a little overloaded these days.  So allow me to pontificate on a topic I don't see much about, but gives me great sewing pleasure.  Imagine you are the proprietress of a small, but well-appointed little sewing factory.  It's OK to sweat in this shop, and in fact, I encourage it.  Crank up some Michael Jackson, and get into the groove to do some assembly-line sewing.
    The sewing factory is all about efficiency and with that in mind, I recommend using:

       a tried and true pattern – if you don’t have one yet, how about an apron pattern?  There shouldn’t be any fitting issues or construction surprises for assembly-line sewing
       multiple pieces of fabric with the same properties - this is very important!
           same weight
           same hand (amount of drapey-ness)
           same background color, so you can use the same thread on everything
       rotary scissors, cutting mat & pattern weights

    A good factory worker strives for optimal performance.  Boredom is welcome – just call it zen and relax into it.   As the boss, you get to choose how the employee (also you) will be graded.  Perhaps it’s a matter of punching in on the time clock to sew for 30 minutes.   Or the worker can be rewarded after milestones are reached.  All of the apron straps are sewn?  Let’s order in lunch to boost morale! 

    By now the fabric has been pre-washed and any fusible interfacing has been obtained. Fold each piece of fabric consistently with the rest.  For example, if the right side is folded in on one piece, make it folded in on all pieces of fabric.

    If you aren’t yet a convert, try a rotary cutter, cutting mat and pattern weights.  You can save time by not pinning the pattern to the fabric, which you only have to unpin in order to sew.  Because I prefer my patterns without seam allowances, I love a rotary cutter with a guide

    It may take practice to gain speed with the rotary cutter, but think of yourself as an ice skater doing your compulsories.  Slow and steady in the beginning will get the job done.  Speed comes naturally with practice.  Hey, all the more reason to cut out multiples, right?  Cut the fusible interfacing, now, too.

    Another time-saver is marking the notches and darts with little clips into the seam allowances and for this, scissors are a lot more accurate than rotary cutters.  To mark darts, I insert pins on both sides, like so:

    It might be time for the afore-mentioned employee morale-boosting exercise.  Donuts, yoga – boss lady (or boss gentleman) it’s your choice!

    Here is where the sweating comes in.  Fire up the iron and take the time to fuse each necessary piece now.  After fusing, double check that it hasn’t stretched or shrunk, by comparing the pattern piece your work.  Taking time at this stage increases quality of the finished goods.

    Organizational Strategy
    Lay out each individual garment in its own pile.  It is not considered anal to lay the pieces in the same order.  No, this is called efficiency and some might even take pride in their little piles of sewing goodness.  

    Let’s say you want to sew all of the collars first, then cuffs, which are then attached to sleeves, which are then sewn to bodices.  Lay the bodice pieces on the bottom, the sleeves on top of the bodices, the cuffs next and the collars on top.

    The Beauty of the System
    Not only will assembly-line sewing generate a wardrobe in short order, these techniques will build the fine motor skills necessary to master techniques.  You will never fear another zipper after you have installed three, four, or, let’s get wild – five in a row.  You can just look at the fifth zipper and see the improvement.  Awesome.

    Another benefit is less thinking.  Once you have identified the steps you will take, you can go on auto-pilot.  That allows for turning up the volume on the music, or even having a movie playing in the background. 

    One caution:  advise the spouse, the kids, or the pets that mommy gets mad sometimes.  Mommy is just frustrated about ripping out a seam now and then.  You know it will happen.  You will not sew everything perfectly; no factory worker is perfect.  And let’s assume they get a raise every year, anyway, so it is OK!

    Fun Decisions – How is it best to maximize The Win?

    When sewing assembly-line style, there are many variations on this theme.  I like to repeat as many steps as I can before moving on.  I like to get all of the cutting, the marking and the fusing done before sitting down at the sewing machine and/or serger.  Then it is buckle-down-and-master-the-skill time.  I would rather sew 30 buttonholes so that the last six are perfect than finish one shirt at a time.

    Let’s not forget that hand-sewing may be involved.  There may be times to sit and sew.  Remember, boredom can be transformed into zen and/or learning time.

    You will choose your own approach – because you are the boss of this shop and you are in charge.  (Can you tell I like that part?)  Whether you finish several garments at once, or you space them out between other projects, assembly-line sewing makes sense.  If you are like me, you have invested time and money into this hobby, so it feels good to get tangible results.  Naturally, you may simply find it easier to buy most things, but if you hanker for the perfect gym shorts, skirts, dresses, whatever – you can fill your closet this way.

    Pat yourself on the back for making such efficient use of your time and your resources.  You have leveraged the power of the tried & true pattern, you have saved money, clothed yourself, improved your skills and listened to some good music, too. 
     Check out Robin's blog, A Little Sewing!

    Sunday, August 14, 2011

    Stitch-Along Update: Pleats!

    In all of the traveling excitement, I forgot to mention last week's Stitch Magic Stitch-Along! The subject is pleats. Come by and learn some fun fabric manipulation techniques. This coming week we're talking about cording--I can't wait!

    Saturday, August 13, 2011

    Gertie's Week in review {8.13.11}

    Hi everyone! I'm back from Cleveland and trying to readjust to my crazy life. Here's a picture of me on-set, filming a segment for It's Sew Easy, season 2. Thank god for makeup artists. My skin has been going crazy lately! I have an oh-so-lovely patch of blemishes on my right cheek that seems to be here to stay. Stress is terrible on a girl's complexion. The makeup lady suggested I drink lots of water, exfoliate once a week, and see a dermatologist for cortizone shots. I'll do the first two and see if it helps before I do anything involving expensive appointments and needles. Any skincare tips, ladies? Do any of you use Bare Minerals foundation? I hear that's better for problem skin than liquid foundation.

    Anyway. I did one segment on making a simple retro pattern modification and one on making machine buttonholes. The second was completely unexpected; the producer just asked if I could stay and do one more. Sure, why not?

    I had a meeting with the creative team on my book project on Tuesday, and they are an awesome group of ladies. We're prepping for the photoshoot which will take place later this month. Eight days of shooting! First we'll do all the technique stills, which I have about a week to prep. Um, anyone want an internship with a sewing author??? (Seriously, anyone? I could really use some help this week prepping the sewing shots. I'll be working out of Chelsea. I will buy you chocolate and wine!)

    The latter part of the shoot will be the fashion shots. And then this madness will be partially over. 

    Posting will continue to be light for the next few weeks (insert sad face), but I have some great guests posts planned for you!

    Okay, it's back to the sewing room I go. How are you all doing, readers?

    Wednesday, August 10, 2011

    Hi from Cleveland

    Hi, readers! I'm in Cleveland at the moment, here to film an episode for the second season of It's Sew Easy. I woke up at 4:00 a.m. this morning and it's now 10:30 p.m. . . . so I'm just barely coherent.

    Anyway, I'm very excited about filming tomorrow morning (I'm in make-up at 7:30, filming thereafter). I'm doing a short segment on an easy retro pattern making change to a blouse pattern.

    Some other fun facts about my life today:
    • The Stitch-Along post is running late! I'm so sorry. There was a little snag with getting pictures taken as I was leaving town. It will be up ASAP, I promise!
    • On the last episode of It's Sew Easy, I very dutifully wore nude nail polish (OPI Samoan Sand to be exact), as a natural look was requested of me. It was a little conservative for my taste. Readers, I was very naughty today and got a lavender mani! (OPI Lucky Lucky Lavender to be exact.) Do you think they'll kick me off the set tomorrow? Will I never work in Cleveland again?
    • I'm reading a romance novel for fun right now, and it's delightful. I just read a chapter in the hotel bathtub! It's a bit of a bodice-ripper, I must admit. It's called What a Gentleman Wants and it's a guilty-pleasure Regency Era read. It's fun to imagine the romantic hero as Colin Firth. Any trashy novels to recommend, readers? (Also, do check out the site Smart Bitches, Trashy Books if you're a thinking gal who likes a good romance every now and then. They have fantastic reviews.)
    • I'm here with Carol from BurdaStyle, and she is so fun to travel with. I've been talking her into lots of comfort food, like chocolate and sesame chicken. And she's been balancing that with trips to Whole Foods and lettuce wraps at P.F. Chang's. And lots of water. She takes such good care of me!
    • I've only been gone for the better part of a day and I miss Jeff dearly. Isn't it fun when you get a chance to miss your spouse for a bit? Not to mention those adorable cats. I do have it good!
    • Hey, did you know you can see the entirely of my first stint on It's Sew Easy on YouTube? Here is is, even though I cringe a bit when I watch myself!

    Okay, enough rambling. Back with some coherent thoughts soon, I promise! 

    Tuesday, August 9, 2011

    The Daily Dress: Dior Velvet Floral

    Oh my. Isn't this bodice just perfection? This is a 1950s Christian Dior in printed velvet, which is something you don't see everyday! I just adore the pink tones with the black; it's a surprisingly lovely effect.

    I came across it because I was looking for pleated dresses to inspire us for tomorrow's Stitch-Along post. And yes, it does have a pleated skirt that falls in soft folds.

    But it's the print that won my heart. It reminded me instantly of the dress Joan wore in the Mad Men episode where she hosts a dinner party (who can forget Joanie playing the accordion?!).

    Sigh. So lovely. I believe the floral on Joan's dress is appliqued on, rather than printed, as with the Dior above.

    Okay, so this post became more about pink and black floral dresses than pleats, didn't it? No matter. We must take inspiration when it comes!

    Update: The Dior dress is surprisingly similar to this Vintage Vogue reissue pattern. A match made in sewing heaven!

    Monday, August 8, 2011

    Margaret's Book

    Do you ever wonder where your vintage belongings come from? I do. Last night I was pondering my favorite vintage patternmaking book, and wondering who it belonged to before me. It was then that I noticed--for the first time--that there is a name, address, and phone number inscribed in the endpapers of my 1971 copy of Design Your Own Dress Patterns by Adele P. Margolis.

    And I was shocked that I recognized the name. My very own copy of the book previously belonged to Margaret E. Islander. Sound familiar? She was the founder of Islander Sewing Systems, which continues today. I've redacted her street address and phone number for etiquette's sake, but here is her lovely handwriting:

    And indeed, my research shows that her Islander School of Fashion Arts was founded in Grants Pass, Orgeon. The Islander Sewing System is all about incorporating industrial methods into your home sewing (no pins!) just like we discussed in Jonathan's guest post a couple week's ago.

    I feel quite honored that Margaret's copy of this book ended up with me. It was purely by chance, as I ordered the copy from a used book website, by the merit that it had the lowest price of any available copy. I've read it front to back several times and it's taught me more than any other book on pattern design. I'm not sure if Margaret loved it like I do, but I am grateful to have something of hers. From what I can tell, she passed away last year.

    There is something very special about the sharing of knowledge from one generation to another in sewing. My teacher James recommended this very book to me, and he was a huge influence in my sewing career. It's a good reminder that I am still quite a young idiot when it comes to sewing, but that I have a responsibility to learn what I can well and share it. Many thanks to the likes to Margaret, Adele, and James!

    Wednesday, August 3, 2011

    Playing with Pintucks

    Oh my goodness, I had the best time experimenting with pintucks this week! Come see my Stitch-Along post at STC Craft and pick up some tucking tips. I can't wait until I have time to pintuck all of the floral silk organza (pictured above) and make it into a pretty frock. That will be a LOT of pintucking, my friends.

    I also made a plaid effect. I can't decide which I like best! You?

    Tuesday, August 2, 2011

    The Daily Dress: Pintucked Floral

    Tomorrow I will be posting my entry on pintucking methods on the STC Craft Blog! I'll confess it was the method I was most excited to learn when I started the Stitch-Along over there. In honor of the occasion, here's an inspirational dress to whet your pintuck appetite.

    I especially like the effect the pintucks make when darted. In this case, the fabric would have been pintucked before being cut.

    The neckline is bound with a bias strip and the skirt is pleated.
    I love how this dress shows what simple fabric manipulation techniques can do for a basic dress silhouette. I have some amazing silk organza printed with huge pink roses that I would love to do this with!

    Will you be joining me for pintucking tomorrow?
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