A charity and a giveaway

I’ve recently become a fan of Green Fairy Quilts. Judi, the talented lady who owns it, invited me to be a friend on Facebook, and me being me … well, I can’t pass up a good quilting friend! I am so glad I accepted her invitation! She does beautiful work – patterns that are simply beautiful. She has a jelly roll quilt I cannot WAIT to try out (you know, because I simply do not have enough quilts in progress/in line/in mind!).

But what impressed me most about her is that she and her husband have a HUGE heart and they’ve started a charity that takes quilts to people in Romania. She’s planned a trip for September, and I plan to send at least one quilt – maybe more, depending on what I can get finished up in that time frame. To help them buy food for people in Romania while they are there, she’s doing a silent auction for a lovely quilt in her blog. If I had the money right now, I would totally bid on the quilt – it’s simply outstanding. AND she’s doing a give-away, so be sure you check her out … I mean, who couldn’t use a freebie now and again? 😉

My weekend in the studio

Let me preface this by saying, I know the techniques for fashion sewing; I’ve employed them with some success in the past. But my first love is and always will be quilting. I am likely never to give Ralph Lauren a run for his money in fashion design. That said, however, I have, in the past, done a fairly good job of making clothes following patterns.

The thing is, it’s probably been at least five years since I made anything to wear. It’s possible that it’s been even longer than that. But armed with the knowledge that I once possessed the skills to make some pretty decent clothes, a four day weekend and a pretty good sale at a major fabric store, I was ready to try my hand at a few blouses. I started by taking my measurements (which were far from where I would have liked them to be) and determining that most of the patterns I had in my boxes were not going to fit. Off to the fabric store I went, armed with my coupons and sales flyer, a few pattern envelopes and a debit card.

After going through the McCall’s pattern books (they were on sale for 99 cents, limit 10), choosing a few, and retrieving the ones they had in stock, I was ready to hit the fabric area. I walked around feeling fabrics, checking sales prices, and looking for yardage requirements on the pattern envelopes. I chose peach, tan and seafoam green colors from the georgette that was on sale, and a very pretty navy blue silky solid. I was flying high when I walked out after spending less than $40, which included some new Gingher scissors and threads to match each fabric.

Once home, however, I realized that I was missing thread for my serger that would somewhat match the fabrics I had purchased. A little wheedling and I was able to talk my husband into riding with me back to Joann’s where he would wait in the car while I ran in for the thread I needed, and to return the scissors – I had accidentally purchased knife edge instead of pinking shears. I jumped out of the car, found the scissors I wanted quickly and then looked around. I couldn’t find the serger thread! I asked someone, thinking it had been moved to some obscure location. No, they no longer carry the Maxi-Lock brand I was searching for; all they had was some Gutterman, which was twice as expensive and less than half the thread. When I mentioned it to the girl at the register, she said they were told their store “doesn’t fit the profile” in order to carry the serger thread anymore.

(Insert a look of incredulity here)

So off I go in search of serger thread. I knew there was another major chain in the next town over, so I figured I would try there. Sure enough, they had it, and I was back on the road after waiting in line for an eternity.

Back at home, I iron my first piece of freshly-laundered fabric and laid out the pieces of the pattern. But the pins didn’t want to go through the fabric! I managed to get it all pinned down and cut out and got ready to assemble the top when I read the first line of the instructions. “Unfold bias tape and … ” Bias tape? I didn’t have that, and I wasn’t going back out, so I gathered up the pieces of the top and took them out to the game room to lay them on the pool table to wait. I went back and laid out another top on the same fabric (I had bought this fabric originally intending to make a dress but changed my mind). I cut out the front piece and the two smaller pieces, but when I laid out the back, I didn’t notice that I had pinned down the pattern in such a way that it was over a part of the already-cut fabric.

Did I mention I was making the blouse to wear to a wedding on Saturday? Yeah. So I ran down to my closet to see what I could find that I could wear to the wedding, because it was obvious I wouldn’t finish my top in time.

Finding something suitable there, I waited until this morning to return to my studio, where I unpinned the back and repinned it correctly. I cut it out and started to assemble it. All I can say at this point is, I really need to do more fashion sewing, if only to keep my skill level at an acceptable threshold. Sewing is definitely a skill one needs to practice regularly in order to stay sharp, so to speak.

I started the weekend with the idea I could get at least three tops made, four if I was lucky. Now I’ll be happy to get one done!

Beware the person of one book

Or so the Latin proverb goes. I love books – books of all sorts, but I really like books about sewing, quilting and other crafting techniques. I love them because it gives me the chance to see multiple ways to see how different people handle the same issue or concern, and I can use or modify whichever technique suits me the most. Like a cook who doesn’t follow a recipe to the letter, I seldom follow a pattern completely. I am, as a friend succinctly put it, a sewing hack.

Not a hack in the traditional sense of not knowing what I’m doing, but rather a hack in the sense that if I find, know or conceive of a better way to do something, I will do it. And like a good cook will tell you, experimentation has it’s limitations – sometimes you have success, sometimes rousing failure. But it’s always interesting (fortunately for my family, if something I do in the studio doesn’t work out like I intend, it doesn’t usually affect their dinner!).

Now, a confession. Several of my general sewing books – the “how to” sew books – have been lost. I don’t know where they are or what happened to them. My guess is that they ended up either left behind in my last move two years ago, or they’re still packed away hiding somewhere. And that is extremely frustrating to me. I haven’t rebought them yet because everytime I consider doing that, I convince myself that they may yet turn up. However, I know the books very well, and which ones I like the best, so I’m going to share a list of sewing books with you today.

So, here are my top five picks for books for new sewers, in no particular order …

1. Sewing for Dummies – yeah, I hate Dummie books too, but there is some really good advice in this book and it’s well worth the price. A must have for someone who’s a complete novice. I’m not a novice and I keep this one close all the time. It’s the one book I’ve replaced because I missed it and couldn’t live without it. OK, that’s not true – someone actually gave me a second copy, and I was actually quite happy to receive it.

2. The Sewing Book – I want this book, after reading it far too long at B&N recently. It starts out fairly simple – how to interpret patterns, measurements, etc., and then gets more detailed – invisible zippers, blind hems, and so on. It’s a book that will grow with you, definitely. And it’s a great reference for those who are a little more advanced in their technique without seeming too basic.

3. S.E.W. Sew Everything Workshop – I bought this book for my daughter a year or two ago, because she wanted to learn to sew. She didn’t, but it wasn’t because of the book! It’s clear, easy to understand, and gives you some projects to practice on. I like the section on setting up your workspace – since my daughter is VERY disorganized, this was one part she actually followed, and it worked very well.

4. Simplicity’s Simply the Best Sewing Book – I don’t know if it’s really “the best” but it’s good. My mom gave me this one when she ordered it by mistake. I’ve used it a couple of times, but a friend of mine raves about it. She says it’s her “go to” book all the time.

5. Singer – The Complete Photo Guide to Sewing – This may be the only thing that carries the Singer name I would dare to recommend these days. My mother “won” an older version of this book several years ago and passed it on to me, as she didn’t feel she needed it. This has been MY go to book for ages now. I see they have an updated one, so it might be time to buy a new copy – mine’s pretty worn. I haven’t looked at this new version but the old one I have is a treasure trove of wonderful illustrations and directions – it only scratches the surface, but seriously, what book is going to be really in depth anyway?

I have to admit – I caught my husband looking at this book last night. At first I thought he was just trying to be funny, but then I realized that he’d actually read some of it. He was only in the first few pages when I emerged from my shower, and he looked thoroughly confused with the picture of the serger, but he had actually learned about bobbins, for all that he still didn’t completely understand how they work. LOL

There are a few others I want to check out but haven’t had the chance to do so just yet – Complete Photo Guide to Sewing, Sewing 101, A Beginner’s Guide to Sewing … Also, if you can get your hands on an older version of the Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing, snap it up. The new one I’m not so impressed with but the older version was incredible. I never bought one myself because I was too poor, but I must have had the library’s copy out at least half the time. LOL I have intentions to check out Half Price Books to see if I can find the older version because it’s well worth the investment of time and money.

For those who are interested in books about using your serger, I offer a short list below.

The Complete Serger Handbook

ABC’s of Serging

Serge with Confidence

Each of these books is wonderful; I don’t have enough good things to say about them. If you’re looking for something to help you with your serger and learning to use it, or if you know what you’re doing but just want a good reference, you cannot go wrong with any of these.

Hopefully soon, I will have a completed baby quilt to share with everyone. I sort of run into a small problem with it that I’m having to fix, but hopefully it will be ready to go by the end of this weekend. I can’t wait to share it!