Saturday, April 30, 2005

A Must Read...

No thought of mine that I want to share today. However I did find meaningful words on Lisa's blog today. So click on the link and go read her "Not a Knitter" entry.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

The sewing table..

"Jo~Ann Essentials Sewing Table"
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Charleen asked about the sewing table referred to in last week's post. Here it is...I couldn't find it on the Jo~Ann's site, but it is in the current sale flyer for our zip code zone....$69 through April 30. I'm able to put the serger on the leaf of the table because the very end of the fold out leaf is supported by a 2 drawer file cabinet. If you look closely at the right hand side, there are 2 nice shelves to keep supplies and tools close to hand.

We looked at the fancy sewing furniture, but could never figure out how to fit it into the available space in my sewing room. When I saw this one, the price was right and it suits my needs.
Thoughts from the sewing room....

I'm still immersed in sewing and am really enjoying it. Yesterday I lost track of time while working on the jacket in following photo:

denim jacket
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This detail view is to give you an idea of the pinstripe denim fabric as well as some of the jacket detail. The stripes have a texture that is slightly raised on the surface of the fabric. The pattern is Butterick pattern #6376.
I'm making the view in the lower right corner, without a horizontal bottom band.

Last night was the third collar and neckline that I've dealt with in the past few weeks. It was a sort of "flow" experience, where my hands and arms knew exactly how to manipulate the fabric to feed it into the machine and get just the right ease between the collar and the neckline opening.

Thoughts of all my different fiber activities ensued. Each activity: spinning, knitting, weaving, sewing....requires a different but related set of skills. And each activity brings its own set of pleasures.

Spinning is very tactile as well as proprioceptive. There's a lot of physical labor that goes into preparing fiber for spinning. It's labor that requires some thinking. Yet it's easy to put your body on automatic pilot and immerse yourself in the senssations of spinning, combing, carding, and washing fiber. Touch, smell, color and luster of the fiber: All of these are so very nourishing to the senses.

Knitting is a little different. There are tactile and proprioceptive elements, but when I think of knitting I think of counting. From the moment the first stitch is cast on, the counting begins. There's counting in the gauge swatch and in pattern repeats and in getting the right fit in the garment. But it's often a therapuetic, meditative kind of counting, not unlike rosary beads moving under the fingers.

Weaving is a bit more complex. It begins with counting: how many warp threads, how many yards of warp, how many threads per repeat, and how many repeats in the web? But there's problem solving too. Which warping method will work best with the chosen yarn, for this item, on this loom? Are there enough heddles on each harness? What percentage of shrinkage to use in calculations? Which tie up of the treadles will require the least amount of effort?

I have to admit, this is the part of weaving that I like best. Figuring out how I'm going to get that warp on the loom so that each and every thread will be at very nearly the same fashion. There's something gratifying in standing back and looking at a newly warped loom.

Watching a web of fabric form in front of the beater is even more gratifying. This part of weaving is like a dance. Treadle, throw the shuttle, catch the shuttle, swing the beater...... an even cadence here will give the best fabric with beautiful selveges.

Sewing is more geometry than counting (to continue the math analogy). But sewing also starts with assessing the hand (drape) of a fabric and envisioning it in a completed garment, then selecting a garment that will be pleasing to the intended recipient. A pleasing garment is more than one that looks good, it must feel good too. It has to feel comfortable in the tactile sense, but also in a personal sense....does the color, pattern, and cut of the garment compliment the body type, personality, and life style of the wearer? So there's some intuition needed in sewing.

From there the geometry begins: Cutting layouts, pattern alterations, interfacing decisions, and then the construction of a 3 dimensional garment the fits the curves and contours of the human form.

There's also the mastery of machines that can ruin the product if your attention wanders or you suffer a lapse in judgement. Cutters on sergers can run amok on a curved seam. Bobbin threads can tangle and needles break. And irons will leave ugly pressing marks unless due diligence is applied. But when the potential hazards have been negotiated, you have a garment that's been made just for you.

So, there you have it. I really do love all of these activities. But never for a minute do I forget that it's a blessing to be able to pick and choose which to do and when to do it. As I stitch, I often think of textile workers who are stuck in one tiny tedious piece of production for meager wages. How difficult it must be to take any pleasure in the task when you are only a "cog in the wheel". And I do appreciate that I can run to Meijer's and pick up a new T shirt to wear under my denim jacket.

For a more informed perspective on today's commercial textile production, please go to: The World in a T Shirt

Sunday, April 24, 2005

This is just wrong...

snow on lilacs
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Snow, on blooming lilacs, on April 24th?! And the snow is still coming down. I skipped the stroll in the park this afternoon, for a walk on the treadmill.

The pink fleece vest is finished and I will wear it tomorrow.

Yesterday I purchased a new sewing table which holds both the serger and the sewing machine and has additional shelving underneath. So instead of making the denim jacket that I planned on yesterday, I assembled the table then started into reorganizing the sewing room.

Will cut out more fabric this afternoon.....after we shovel some snow. (The snow blower has been put away for the summer already.)

Friday, April 22, 2005

A higher form of justice (well, sort of).....

I am not a fan of the furry, fuzzy, eyelashed novelty yarns that are choking the aisles of the yarn shops. In fact, they seem to be choking the likes of knitters and nonknitters alike everywhere I go. So you can understand my reaction at knitting guild last night when it was announced there is a product recall on Sirdar's Fizz yarn.

Check it out for yourself at: Sirdar Fizz recall

As for the linen jacket: I did go and buy some natural colored linen (actually 50% linen/50% rayon) for a jacket. And threw some interesting denim into the bag as well. If it's going to snow and sleet this last full weekend in April, I may as well have a sewing marathon.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

More sewing stuff..

This is the fabric:

cotton fabric
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And this is the pattern:

Butterick 3532

I made top B and skirt E. The fabric appealed to me because it reminds me of some of the indigo dyed Japanese peasant least loosely translated.

This project went very smoothly. I can't think of any lessons learned other than to make this pattern again, maybe even try the pants pattern. This is the outfit that I wore to the banquet at Purdue on Saturday afternoon. Even though it's 100% cotton it seems to resist wrinkles and is a very comfortable garment. It was way too warm to wear the suede cloth outfit.

The problem with a project going smoothly is it makes you think you can conquer the world. Today a Land's End catalogue arrived with women's linen jackets on the front. They called to mind a Liz Claiborne pink linen blazer I had a long time ago (when Liz Claiborne clothes were still high quality). My thoughts then jumped to some linen that was on sale at the fabric store, wondered if they have a shade of blue or cream that I could use. Hmmm. Dangerous thoughts. I have existing projects that need to be finished first.

Stay tuned to see if I do make the dash to the fabric store to stock up on linen.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Sewing notes....

In my previous post, I talked about not having a log book of my sewing. It seems like this is a good place to start.

This is the jacket to the spring suit that I finished sewing a couple weeks ago. The base color isn't quite true in the's more of a gold color. The matching skirt is a basic straight skirt with a faced waistline (I think that's called princess waistline) and it is a solid gold color, no embroidery.
Embroidered suede cloth jacket
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This is a close up of the jacket fabric.

Jacket fabric
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Lessons Learned from this project:

1. Photographing finished garments without a model or dress form is very tricky. This sort of explains why I haven't done this before.

2. Always check the hand of the fabric before having it cut at the store. The embroidered suede cloth was much lighter weight than the non-embroidered suede cloth. I didn't notice this until I was cutting out the fabric.

3. Fusi-knit, an iron on tricot knit interfacing, was useful in improving the drape of this fabric for use in a jacket. Note to self: Buy more fusiknit in white and black at the next sale, or w/ my 40% off coupons.

4. These polyester microfiber fabrics dull needles very quickly. Change needles mid-project at the first hint of difficulty. Note to self: Buy more size 80 universal point sewing machine needles.

5. A professional pressing is worth it's weight in gold. This suit is on it's way to the dry cleaner for a professional pressing right now. This doesn't mean that you can skip all of the construction pressing....but there's just no way that my little old steam iron will make the garment look the way the drycleaner's steam pressing will.

6. Marking darts: On the skirt I used a quick hand basting technique to mark the darts. This was a tip in either Threads or Sew News magazine and it's the most accurate, stable way of marking a dart for sewing that I've ever used.

In general, I'm pleased with this outfit. It's not couture sewing...but it's serviceable. Right now I'm working on a cotton skirt and top. The fabric is navy and white, reminding me of some of those Japanese peasant fabrics. It should be cool and comfortable for summer. Actually the skirt is done, I'm working on the top.

We are going to Purdue for and honor's banquet with dear son this weekend. Hmmm...what shall I wear?

Friday, April 08, 2005

One for the record books...

I am grateful to Gloria, my weaving teacher from so long ago. It was she who insisted that her students keep records for absolutely everything they wove. Her theory was that even if the sample didn't work, you learned something and that something needed to be recorded.

I learned to weave before learning to spin. So once I started getting serious about spinning, another set of sample books became necessary. Here is my collection of sample books:

spinning & weaving record books
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They are like gold to me. Just look at the treasures they hold:

20+ years of weaving records
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These include samples I've woven when planning projects, swatch exchanges through various guild activities, and samples from workshops attended. Not shown here is the box of samplers that were too big for notebooks. There's variety in weave structures, yarns, setts, and color interaction. Some new lesson learned on every page. A wonderful supplement to any weaving reference book, or even a whole shelf of reference books!

spinning sample books
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There's not as much bulk to the spinning sample books. I've taken a variety of approaches to keeping records of my spinning. If I was trying to learn more about the fleece characteristics of the different breeds, then my records are more likely to look something like this:

more spinning samples
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The green page is from a workshop with Patsy Z. I also have created record pages of my own. There's a place to keep an unwashed lock for reference, then something to provide an example of each step along the way: a washed lock, the carded or combed preparation, the singles yarn, plied yarn (if plied), and a knitted or woven swatch.

When roving or commercial fiber is used, I tend to keep it simple with something like this:

another way to keep spinning records
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These are just 3x5 cards that I've run through the computer with spaces for fiber ID, TPI, WPI, ratio used, fiber prep method, drafting method, and plying method. I then mark 1/2" increments on the card and fold it in half along the wide edge then wrap the yarn. Sometimes I do 1/2" of the singles and 1/2" of the plied yarn on the same card. Sometimes I do different card for singles and plied, which is what you see here.

These cards fit very nicely into those plastic pages sold to kids for their baseball cards (my generation) or magic cards (current generation). Those plastic pages are also a great way to keep track of dye samples. There's a couple pages of those in with the spinning samples.

Sadly, I started knitting lo-o-o-o-ng before weaving or spinning so I never developed a method for keeping knitting records. The only thing I do is keep a photo of each garment I've knitted and perhaps some comment about the yarn and the pattern. Those are scattered all over the sewing room..some in drawers, some in notebooks, and some in piles. If I designed the garment, then all of the chicken scratch pages are in a folder somewhere...or maybe even online at my old blog.

Since I have returned to sewing this year, I've been thinking about keeping some sort of sewing journal to record lessons learned. It won't be anything as extensive as the weaving and spinning records....just notes to remind me of an innovation that worked, or an idea that turned out to be really dumb.

So that's records books. See, I'm not such a slacker after all.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Goodnight Sweet Prince

Prince Ranier of Monaco Dies
I was just 3 years old when this "Prince Charming" married actress Grace Kelly making her the Princess of Monaco. I can't say that I remember the actual event, but I do remember the story. It was one of those rare instances when real life gave substance to the fairy tales that I knew and loved. A true Cinderella story, though in fact Grace probably didn't spend much time among the cinders.

Still as a child, it was fun for me to read "Look", "Life", and "The Saturday Evening Post" magazines. To gaze at the pictures, day dream, and follow the lives of this royal family.

Life isn't like that anymore. What 7 year old would daydream over photo's leading up to Prince Charles and Camilla's wedding? (Sort of like a splash of ice water in the face, isn't it?) Yet, Charles and Camilla's situation is more typical of real life today. And today's little girls day dream over the likes of Brittany and the Olsen twins.

You know, there's something to the Disney lyric: "A dream is a wish your heart makes." I didn't marry "Prince Charming", but almost 28 years ago I married a man that is so suitable to me and my temperment that it's scary sometimes. Not that there haven't been bumps along the road. But I do think that having the kind of dreams precipitated by a culture that sustained ideals like the Princess Grace 'myth' was one of the ingredients in the glue that holds us together as a couple. Yes, we are committed to one another. But on the days we might not have been quite so committed to one another, our commitment to being married pulled us through and I hope will continue to do so for many years to come.

I'm sure there are many who could comment about the "bad old days" in the 50's and 60's. But I cringe to see Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey held up as an example of marriage to our youth. So if you want, you can call me an old fogey in the won't hurt me, nor will it change my mind.

There have been a lot of obituaries in my life lately.....I won't recount the famous ones. But their have been personal ones: mostly the parents or relatives of my childhood friends: Billy King, Phyllis Kolb, Mary Elizabeth Kolb, Dorothy Watson. These were the people who ran car pools for our after school activities, were the inspiration for me to become a Physical Therapist, and one was an older cousin with children my age.

I live over 300 miles from the small town where I grew up, but I've been able to note these passings through online newspaper obituaries. It's a rather weird remote experience since I haven't seen these people in at least 30 I will always picture them at about the age I am now.

So there you have it. The ramblings of an old fogey, who is a slacker and hasn't said a thing about fiber this post.