Thursday, January 1, 2009

It's a Mom Pinata!

That's what Andy, my college freshman, said. I thought that was a good description. My husband, Mark, and I decided to make me a dress form for Christmas. Now, when I say "we" decided, I mean I worked on getting him to agree to do this for a few years, finally announcing last Christmas that it was what I wanted for Christmas. It really took awhile to convince him to do this, but once he decided to do it, he was a real sport. He tried to do a good job.

I took an old turtle neck and sewed it a bit tighter, to get rid of the extra material. He wrapped some duct tape around my indentation areas, to get a closer fit. We used artists gummed paper tape, which I got at an artist supply store. I bought five rolls, but we only used three and a half.

I was so cold. As he wet each strip, it slowly soaked through the shirt. I was wet inside there the whole time, even when the tape was dry. We set up a little space heater that blew heat on me, which also helped the tape to dry, and while it helped, I was still very cold. If I were to do this again, I'd put a garbage bag over the shirt to keep me dry.

This boob shot shows how hard it was to really make a "casting." My boobs are the same size. These are not. It was harder to get the tape to stick with consistent pressure than one would think.

And yet, oddly, he diligently got every swerve here. Hmmm. I had him put little caps on my shoulders, since this is a difficult area for me to fit. I didn't worry too much about making the perfect form. Since fitting is hard for me, even a slightly distorted form will help! Besides, I'm hoping to use our new-found knowledge to make another one.

I had anticipated that it would feel very claustrophobic, but it did not. I made this with someone I trust. If I was afraid I was with someone who'd wimp out and claim to be unable to cut through the tape, I might have been nervous, but Mark's pretty strong and determined, so I was quite relaxed, but still cold.

We wanted to do five layers of tape, but after four hours, we had three layers or one layer, depending on the location. We both bailed. Mark said he didn't feel it took an unusual amount of strength to cut off of me, but he's very strong, so I'd take that with a grain of salt.

We discussed options for strengthening it from the inside, to avoid adding more distortions through additional outer layers. I was going to paper mache the inside, but when I read about bugs and mold, I decided against it. Mark recommended this product, then he went and bought it for me. By this time, he was very invested in our success!

It comes in two parts, which you mix together. It then has 12 1/2 minutes to stay a liquid. I found that precise time funny, but when I experienced it turn to a solid almost instantaneously, I realized they weren't kidding! Here's how much I could get done in 12 1/2 minutes:

The can suggests that you only mix 1/4 of the can at a time. Turns out to be good advice. I slapped the last bit on as it was hardening, so it was just the right amount. I just used a foam paint brush and applied resin to the turtle neck. The fabric soaked it up and turned the shirt into a rigid form. I love to tap on the hardened part of the turtle neck. It's as hard as a rock. I think I could do everything short of sit on it and it wouldn't distort the form.

The only hard part was creating a true representation of my form in the right size. There was no way to pull the tape tight enough to get my actual dimensions. It came out one inch bigger than me. The paper tape just didn't hold well enough. It was hard to get it to told the shape of my body, too. Hollows were particularly hard. While it will help me a lot, it will not replace me. I tend to like my clothes with plenty of wearing ease, so I'll just fit them tighter on her and I'll probably like them.

Price: $20 in tape and $15 in epoxy so far. I might buy a second can of epoxy, but I won't need it all. Next we tackle building a stand.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Dog Walking Clothes Part 1

Whenever I walk the dog in cold weather, I envision the perfect hat. It covers my forehead, while being high in the back. I like scarves and coat collars, but they have a tendency to push my hat up in back and down in front over my eyes. I hate that. In the perfect hat, I can lift my head up high to look at the sky and my hat never touches the back of my coat.

The perfect hat also covers my ears well, and withstands cold winds. One day I was browsing the catalogs and found simplicity 4801. It was perfect.

According to the outside of the pattern envelope, it comes in both youth and adult sizes, but I swear I could only find one set of pattern pieces inside the envelope and the instructions said nothing about other pieces, nor did it refer to youth or adult sizes. I made a muslin and decided it was definitely a youth size!

My kids kept calling me a pilgrim. I said they were jealous because they wished they were little and could get a World War One Flying Ace hat out of me. This is the perfect pattern for that!

I just sized it up myself. I increased the width of the top triangles to add an inch around, added an inch to the band, and lengthened the ear flaps.

I used black fleece, lined it, and included an inner layer of rip stop nylon. I added ties, too. It looked plain, so I made a tassel of fleece and attached it to the top.

In this picture it's tipped back a little because my photographer kept telling me that I looked like a dork. He'll still freeze to look cool. Not me. But, I'll only wear this to walk the dog. It's designed to withstand walking in cold, blowing winds whipping across open fields for half an hour. It's so warm, it's too warm for casual use. When I say it's warm, I mean really, really warm. And it meets all my persnickety desires.

Two Very Different Ties; Two Very Happy Guys

Cidell wasn't the only one making ties for guys this Christmas, but this was no seven fold tie.

Rob, my high school freshman, goes to an all boys' school with a dress code. He must wear a tie every day. I guess, after two years, this becomes boring. Rob requested a Sponge Bob light up tie. I love a sewing challenge. Of course I could make one!

We searched for small lights, which we found at the grocery store. Wegmans never fails! We considered a small necklace with lights from Hallmark, but this much larger string cost the same amount, and Rob felt it was more obnoxious, thus good. For someone who desires a more subdued light up tie, the necklace would have been nice. We bought the fabric using the yardage amount from a tie pattern I've had for thirty years. Yes, when my husband attended this same school, I was dating him and made him a tie! So I guess this is a second generation tie.

I ended up not using the pattern, though. I took an old tie and opened it for the interfacing. I sewed the lights by hand onto the interfacing.

That's when I realized that it would be much easier to just use the old tie for a pattern. My plan was to make circular buttonholes to slide the lights through. Um, bad idea. There was no way I could place the button holes correctly, so I fused interfacing onto the tie front and planned to make small slits, slide the lights through, and use glue stuff to seam them. Um, bad idea. After three holes, I determined that I still couldn't line up the holes. They were too big and raggedy, and the tie was looking bad.

I was very distressed, but for some reason, I just flipped the lights on. They looked great inside the tie! I interfaced the holes I'd made, glued them, and I sewed the tie closed. Success!

I can see in the picture that the little pocket that holds the battery pack is peaking out. I'll cinch in the top of that. The lights don't show in the picture, but they blink. I can just imagine Rob's teachers saying with a big sigh, "Rob, turn your tie off."

He's very happy. He's already decided on the next tie he wants: an Advent tie. It would have four candles, and each week of Advent he'd light another one. He knows how hard it would be for the teachers at a Catholic school to tell him to turn off his Advent lights!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Simplicity 3790

I was tempted, after muslin two, to skip the final version, but I wanted to carry this project to its end. I think the extra fabric right where I have extra me is not a good look for me, but one of these tops isn't too bad to own. I'm glad I finished this, since I discovered that it's not as bad as I had envisioned.

There are the changes I made to muslin two:
  • trimmed a little from the sleeve cap in the front and back
  • trimmed some of the front edge of the criss cross so it would end closer together. I wanted to create a deeper V in front, hoping to create a stronger vertical line and less bulk in front
  • lengthened the bodice top three inches.
  • replaced the fabric that I had removed from the bottom in muslin 2
  • did a full back adjustment
  • removed 3/4" from the back neck edge.
If I was going to make it again, I'd remove about an inch of that 3 inches I added to the bodice top.

The biggest thing I learned is that I need to adjust for my high round back. I thought I had a broad back, but considering my narrow shoulders, that didn't seem to make sense. I have a hump on my back, which I share with many family members. My son asked if he has one, and yes he does. I suggested he get a good look at his relatives' backs this Sunday. They are all coming for dinner. I don't know what he's more horrified over, that his mother said he had a hump, or that his mother said to check out all his relatives' humps.

I wore muslin two a few times around the house, and I found myself pulling on the back, trying to get it off my neck. It felt high on my back neck and like it was riding up. If you click on the picture for the big view, you can see the hump.

I used the directions on page 86 of Perfect Fit from the Singer Sewing Reference Library. Their directions are much like the directions for a high round back alteration in Fit For Real People on page 123 under add a neck dart.

A high round back alteration is really a full bust alteration where you put the dart into the neck edge instead of the side seam. Once I thought of my hump like one boob centered high on my back, I realized I had the skills to deal with it.

I like it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

It's a fine line

When do you go from being a quitter to wisely cutting your loses and moving on?

When I decided I wanted a cover stitch machine, I made the decision not to be frustrated by it. I would choose to see every obstacle as surmountable and I'd just slow down and tackle that problem. I have, in the past, tended to create artificial time lines in my head that magnify the significance of a problem, causing me to accept poor quality work or to give up on a technique. I resolved to change. My successful sewing was to be measured by being an adventure, not by a production quota.

I wanted a binding on a thin jersey. I think it's rayon/lycra. I got it at Joann's. I tried it and it was a disaster, but I remembered a solution where you interface a thin jersey, so that was my first step. I used a fusible knit interfacing. Didn't work. I cut different width strips. Didn't work. I moved my adjusters on my binding attachment numerous times. Didn't work. I took day-long breaks and even did a UDP (undocumented project). At least I hadn't given up.

This morning I moved this project into the coveted "first thing in the morning when I'm most patient and smart" spot, a rare thing for a sewing project. I still couldn't make it work.

I felt like there was one more adjustment I could make, but I was running out of ideas and patience. As I sewed, I prayed, not so much that my sewing would work, but that I was quitting appropriately. I also prayed for those in India, and how lucky I am to be fussing over some sewing. I felt thankful for all I had, even failed sewing, and boom, out came an acceptable binding!

I went for it and bound my edge. Not bad! After six days of work, I'm quite pleased with this!

Does God hear your sewing prayers?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Is there a sewer in the house?

When I was newly married, I had a neighbor, Darren. He was a tanker pilot in the Air Force. One night he was over and talking about being a pilot. He said one of his dreams was to be on a commercial airline when the flight attendant came out and yelled, "Unless there's a pilot on board, we are all going to die. Is there a pilot in the house? Is there a pilot in the house?"

Dareen, being a few beers in, then demonstrated how he would stand up and say, "Why yes, I happen to be a pilot," and stroll into the cockpit and save everyone.

This was followed by his realization that, as a tanker pilot, he was really a gas station attendant. He basically went up to fighter jets and asked, "Fill 'er up?"

I've never forgotten Darren's ability to laugh at himself. When Rob was in fifth grade, he became an altar server at church. We happened to be in a dearthly phase of altar servers. Rob would go to church each week and hope that the server would not show up and he could serve. I'd think of Darren's joy every time and say, "Maybe Irene will look out and yell, 'Is there an altar server in the house?'"

Saturday it was my turn. Julie called with a problem. The purple altar cloth used for Advent was missing. She had already bought material, but it needed hemming. Could I hem it? Sure! Sue dropped it off and I got to work. I only had a few hours.

I realized how having the right tools makes a job easy.

I spread it out on my long sewing table and squared the edges with my rotary mat and rotary cutter, using my big t-square ruler. It looks blue here, but it's a deep purple.

Then I covered the table with my handy dandy ironing board cover that I made for ironing large pieces of fabric. I used my new Dritz hem marker to iron up a 1/2 inch seam allowance on the two long sides. I got it Friday at JoAnn's during the 50% notions wall sale. It turns out to be well worth the money!

I folded under the seam allowance as I sewed, which resulted in a 1/4 inch hem. I managed (I really don't know how) to slide in too far three times, and had to resew a few one or two inch sections.

I ironed, folded, and sewed the two short sides, then used the thread tails to sew the corner folds shut. I had considered making mitered corners, but I remembered that I don't know how to do mitered corners, so I dropped that idea.

Hemming a simple cotton cloth is easy sewing, but I kept thinking how big a difference the right tools make. Julie has many amazing talents, but if she had tried to hem this, she would have had to work much harder than me mostly because she's not a sewer and doesn't have these tools.

Here is is on the altar Sunday morning.

And here's Julie, pleased as punch that it all worked out. I'm glad you called, Julie!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Muslin #2

My goals for muslin #2 were:
  • make fitting changes to Simplicity 3790
  • learn to use my binder attachment for my brother 2340 CV coverstitch machine


  • I added a separate sleeve by overlaying the bodice from view D on view A.
  • I added length for my dropped waist to the "flounce," as it is now called at my house, and also to the bodice.
  • I brought in the neckline a little.
The shoulder was way to big. It just flopped off of me.

I cut out a 22. According to the measurements, it would be too small for me, yet I still needed to take 2 inches off of each shoulder. I went to both Sherril's and Debbie's blog and stared at some of their knit tops. In their knit tops, the shoulder seam sits on the shoulder point. I took a deep breath and did it.

I'm glad I did it. I don't think the style suits me, but the shoulders fit to beat the band! I really learned something. Apparently, the only part of me that is small is the distance from my neck to my shoulder. Humph.

My husband took the picture of me in the sleeveless version. I told him that if one takes a picture of something sewed for a sewing blog, it is customary in include the sewed garment. He said, "What? The flounce matters? Tell them it looks like every other flounce." Usually my son takes the pictures. He's more patient.

I ended up taking 3 inches of length off the flounce and four inches off the bell shaped sleeves at the wrist, tapering to the seamline above the elbow.

Thanks to Sherril and Debbie for including muslins and discussions of fitting issues. You have helped me push myself out of my comfort zone to try to tackle my fitting challenges. I am tempted to leave off pictures of myself in anything less that successful garments, but showing each other how we get to success is as worthwhile as sharing our success. Thanks, guys!

Binder Attachment:

The binder attachment was easy! I was so afraid that I'd have trouble getting it right. I have little patience with sewing machines. But it was easy! I had to fiddle a bit, but things got corrected simply and quickly. I like it! It looks so professional. I am also getting smoother with thread removal and such. My problems the first day were definitely thread related. For this project, I started with two new spools of thread, and I had no problems.