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The Confident Stitch

  • Wardrobe Architect, Days 2 and 3

    The next two topics on the Wardrobe Architect journey are: Philosophy and Culture. If I were to sum up my spiritual beliefs in one word, it would be Tzedakah — the Hebrew word for both charity and justice. I believe that giving what we can to others leads to justice in the world. My belief is Tzedakah, my upbringing in casual California, and my adult life in even-more-casual Montana shape my desire to dress well but not spend extravagantly on what I wear. Sewing clothes that fit with fine natural fibers fits with both my spiritual and cultural beliefs. Thank you, Sarai at Coletterie, for guiding us all through this introspective journey! I am learning new things about myself!

  • Wardrobe Architect, Day 1

    Here I am in a classic wool flannel blazer. Photo by the amazing Pati Palmer. Here I am in a classic wool flannel blazer. Photo by the amazing Pati Palmer.

    I am following Sarai Mitnick at Coletterie on her Wardrobe Architect journey to "design and build thoughtful attire." Our first exercise is to answer questions about these aspects of ourselves and our style:

    • History
    • Philosophy
    • Culture
    • Community
    • Activities
    • Location
    • Body

    I will be discussing one of these each day. I'll start with History. Sarai's question is: How has your personal history informed the way you dress? When did your tastes crys- talize? Have they changed over the years, and why? 

    I grew up in California in the 1970's. The cool adults were wearing bell-bottoms and polyester shirts. My mom shopped at Talbott's. I wanted to be anything but "classic." I went to college on the east coast with kids from New York City who were uber edgy with their ripped jeans and black on black on black. I couldn't figure out how to dress like them. Now I find myself dressing mostly classic, but always with a twist, a subtle nod to the tackiness of California in the 70's, or the coolness of those kids from NYC.

    How does your history affect your style?

  • MY AMAZING CUTTING TABLE

    Before I tell you about my amazing new cutting table, I want to assure you I still have my day job, and I’m not planning on quitting any time soon. My new cutting table is not cheap. It is a LaCresta Advantage workstation from Martelli Notions. I bought it at the American Sewing Guild Expo in Novi, Michigan this fall. It is big. It has a giant cutting mat, and it raises up and down with the touch of a button. The Martelli salesman gave me a great deal, shipped it for free, and threw in an ergonomic rotary cutter, a giant guide that lets me cut bias strips super fast, and a ton of quilting templates. ("But, wait, there’s more, if you order in the next 15 minutes….”)

     

    Here is the display at the American Sewing Expo. What a handsome table! Here is the display at the American Sewing Expo. What a handsome table!

    I wish I could tell you exactly how much faster I can cut out a project with my new cutting table, but I go to such a happy place while I’m sewing; Time flies by, and I can’t be bothered to look at my watch. Believe me, the cutting part of a project is MUCH faster.

    An artistic tableau on my cutting table at home. An artistic tableau on my cutting table at home.

    The two main reasons I am so happy about this cutting table are my height and friends. I am six feet tall on a short day, which makes cutting out fabric on the dining room table painful. Cutting out on the kitchen counter is not too painful, but my counters are not wide enough to accommodate a folded length of fabric, and the clearing and wiping is tiresome. My Martelli table is wide enough to accommodate a lot of fabric, and I can walk around it to get the best cutting angle.

    It raises! It lowers! At the touch of a button! It will also slant/// It raises! It lowers! At the touch of a button! It will also slant///

    Why not just have a perfect-height table built for me? That would be much cheaper. But, with my Martelli table, I can lower the table and have sewing dates with friends. Fun! I can also teach at my house (and earn enough to pay for the table!). 

    It also has wheels so it can be tucked in the corner when not in use. It also has wheels so it can be tucked in the corner when not in use.

    I know the cost of a Martelli table is out of reach for many people, and space is at a premium for all of us. If you are in the market for a fancy cutting table, though, this is a great one.

     

  • Princess Seam Class

    Sample shirt on a mannequin. Made of a soft voile from Selvedge. Sample shirt on a mannequin. Made of a soft voile from Selvedge.

    Following the instructions in Fit for Real People, I drew a box above and below the bust notches, lowered the boxes by 1.5 Following the instructions in Fit for Real People, I drew a box above and below the bust notches, lowered the boxes by 1.5", and trued the seams as instructed.

    The broadened back tissue with Perfect Pattern Paper inserted. The broadened back tissue with Perfect Pattern Paper inserted.

    The altered front reaches to my center front. The bust fullness hits at the correct spot. The altered front reaches to my center front. The bust fullness hits at the correct spot.

    And the back reaches my center back. And the back reaches my center back.

    Next week, I will start teaching a 3-part class on fitting and sewing a princess-seam top. The class will be held at Selvedge Studio in Missoula. Selvedge is an amazing boutique fabric shop. It has a well-curated selection of quilting, garment and home dec fabrics. I'm proud to be able to teach there.

    McCall's 2818 McCall's 2818

    I’m teaching how to fit and sew McCall’s 2818, a sleeveless top that buttons up the back. I sewed up a quick sample for Selvedge to display in the store. Sewing a garment without altering is so fast!

     

    Since I have never actually made this princess-seam top, I decided to fit and sew one for myself this weekend. Not because I really really want one, just because I care about my future students! Hehehe…..

     

    Trying on the tissue revealed that the bust apex was too high, and the back was too narrow. I lowered the bust apex 1.5 inches.

     

     

     

    And then I broadened the back by 1.5 inches.

     

    Since McCall’s 2818 is a Palmer/Pletsch pattern, the alteration lines are on the pattern tissue.  Easy!

     

     

     

     

    Here I am in the altered tissue. Yes, I might be wearing my PJs. It’s Saturday morning, what do you expect?

     

    Because all fabric stretches more than tissue, and my fabric is a stretch shirting, I think I’m ready to cut out and pin fit the fabric.

     

  • Guest Blogger

    We have a guest blogger here at The Confident Stitch today. While I was at work yesterday, my 18-year-old decided to make a pillow case. She photographed her artistic process for the reading public.

    Do you have a lot of fabric scraps? Do you have a lot of fabric scraps?

    Cut scraps into small circle and leaf shapes. Cut scraps into small circle and leaf shapes.

    Press the scrap pieces. Press the scrap pieces.

    Arrange the scraps on a plain pillowcase. Arrange the scraps on a plain pillowcase.

    Top stitch the scraps to the pillowcase.... Top stitch the scraps to the pillowcase....

    Et Voila! Et Voila!

    Thank you, Mairin, for keeping the sweatshop running while I was at work!

  • Great Notions and Good Ideas

    While I wait for my wonderful photographer, Andrea Jones, to recover from the illness plaguing her family so she can take pictures of my finished projects, let's talk about some great notions.

    Emma Seabrooke’s SewKeysE stay tapes played a big role during my weekend of intensive selfish sewing. If you haven’t used any of Emma’s stay tapes, you have been working much too hard. Her tapes make any project look good.

    The back neck and shoulder seams on the Jennifer Stern Tee stabilized with straight stay tape The back neck and shoulder seams on the Jennifer Stern Tee stabilized with straight stay tape

    I used single-sided straight fusible stay tape to stabilize the shoulder seams on both tee shirts. I also used the single-sided straight stay tape to stabilize the neckline on the Angela Wolf ruched tee. I used the double-sided fusible straight stay tape to stabilize the Jennifer Stern tee neckline, and just folded over the fabric and pressed it well. It looks fantastic, and I don’t have to worry about straight top stitching.

    For the sleeve and bodice hems on both tee’s, I stabilized with Emma’s one-sided fusible knit stay tape (because I want the hems to stretch over my body). Following Linda Lee's advice, I pressed the sleeve and bottom hems in place before constructing the garments.  I then zig-zagged the stay tape to the bottom of the hem "upside down". After I stitched the side seams, I was able to press the hems firmly in place before I top stitched.

    The hem of Angela Wolf's Ruched Tee with the knit stay tape zig zagged in place The hem of Angela Wolf's Ruched Tee with the knit stay tape zig zagged in place

  • Nancy Zieman's Santa Fe Dress

    The finished Santa Fe Dress. Photo by Andrea Jones Photography The finished Santa Fe Dress. Photo by Andrea Jones Photography

    Thanks to Gertie’s retro version of the Santa Fe Dress, I decided to make one, too. I ordered the pattern and Nancy Zieman’s slinky black knit from Nancy’s store. 

    During tissue-fitting the pattern, I could tell the upper front pieces weren’t long enough to reach to the bottom of my bust. To rectify the situation, I slashed the upper front pieces horizontally below the armhole, and spread 1/2” (sorry no pictures). 

     

    The instructions were great and the pattern sewed up quickly. The only challenge was sewing through the NINE layers of fabric that pile up at the center front. Nancy’s slinky knit is not thick, but there was still a lot of width in the center pile-up. I would recommend not using a beefy knit for this dress. 

    Close-up of the Nine-Layer Sandwich Close-up of the Nine-Layer Sandwich

    The sandwich ready to attach to the skirt. The sandwich ready to attach to the skirt.

     

    But…..Those nine layers make for a gorgeous center front that works for a large or small bust. I can’t wait to make more Santa Fe dresses, and to start making Santa Fe tops!

  • Are You Ever Too Laser-Focused?

    Yesterday was Saturday. I woke up at 5:00 a.m. and started thinking about sewing projects. By 6:30 a.m., I was at the sewing machines finishing up some straggler projects and starting on a Jennifer Stern tee shirt. By noon, I realized that, because I woke up at such an ungodly hour, I may be able to finish two shirts and a simple jacket this weekend. I started picturing everything done perfectly. I became laser-focused and goal-oriented.

     

    In addition to my sewing obsession, I have two daughters who are 18 and 21. Any of you with children understand what that is like: the little child who once wanted to sleep with you every single night now rolls her eyes in your general direction and starts most sentences with, “no offense, but….” When my daughters are home and they want to do something with me, my answer is always, YES! Yes, I’d like to take you to Target to buy things you don’t really need. Yes, I’d love to make chocolate chip cookies with you even though I’m trying to lose weight. Yes, let’s watch Real Housewives of Atlanta. 

     

    But….not today….not after I realized I might complete three projects for me! When my 18-year-old asked if we could work on a couple sewing projects for her, I snapped, “No! We have the fabric and the thread, but we need to order the patterns.” My daughter asked if we could use the Jennifer Stern tee shirt pattern. “Not unless you want to trace it with my alterations intact,” I snapped. Her eyes got big. Where was her mother? 

     

    I wish I could say I came to my senses, and spent some quality time with my daughter. I didn’t. I finished a Jennifer Stern tee, and an Angela Wolf tee in one day. Today I was able to cut out the Nine Lives Vest from The Sewing Workshop. Now it's time to calm down. Hope you all had a great weekend!

     

  • Pants in Portland

    During my second week in Portland, I took the Palmer/Pletsch Pants Class for the second time.

    Maria from the Bahamas wanted her pants TIGHT. Marta swoops in to tighten. Maria from the Bahamas wanted her pants TIGHT. Marta swoops in to tighten.

    Rebekah works at Fabric Depot and wrote about our class on the store's blog. Rebekah works at Fabric Depot and wrote about our class on the store's blog.

    The School of Sewing is at Fabric Depot, and the store sent its young blogger, Rebekah, to take the class with us. Because a video speaks even more words than a picture, follow this link to Rebekah’s video of the class.

    Straightening the crotch seam Straightening the crotch seam

    I  learned a lot, but I still have so much to learn about pants. If the words “crotch” and “rear” make you giggle, this post will be a hoot for you.

    Have you heard that crotch curves are like darts? Have you been told to “straighten out your back crotch?” I have heard those plenty of times, but I never understood what they meant. A crotch curve is a dart? What? Straighten the crotch curve? Compared to what?

    My rear has always been flatter than my belly, even when I was running track in my teens. That means I have to straighten my crotch curve in the back because the crotch curve is like a dart. Huh? Here is a photo of how I straightened my crotch curve to make a smaller dart – Finally, I get it! 

    Accepting my pants certificate from Pati. No, she is not a midget, I'm 6 feet tall. Accepting my pants certificate from Pati. No, she is not a midget, I'm 6 feet tall.

    As always, we carpooled to Pati’s house for graduation dinner and the distribution of certificates. We not only got to eat great food prepared by Pati’s husband, but we also got to tour Pati’s sewing room and office. Rebekah and I lingered around the office, and we got to see Pati’s collection of all the patterns she has designed: 229 at last count!

    After Pati and Marta handed out the certificates, Maria gave a tearful tribute to them. Maria's mother traveled all the way from the Bahamas to Oregon with her. While Maria was sewing up a storm in Fit, Jackets, and Pants classes, her mother wove beautiful baskets for her teachers by hand. Wow.

  • Marta's Last Jacket Class

    I had yet another wonderful trip to Portland this fall – two weeks at the Palmer/Pletsch School of Sewing! Palmer/Pletsch is the brainchild of Pati Palmer, Susan Pletsch, and Marta Alto. They aptly call themselves “the fashion sewing authorities.” They have devised their own method of fitting commercial patterns, and they have perfected all aspects of sewing garments at home.  I have a large library of their books and DVDs at home, and I am always referring to them.

    Marta wields her magic wand while Maria looks on, wearing her almost-finished jacket Marta wields her magic wand while Maria looks on, wearing her almost-finished jacket

    I took a jacket tailoring class the first week. It was Marta Alto’s last jackets class ever! I feel lucky and honored to have been a part of it. I don’t have a ton of photos or stories about the class or my classmates. We were all concentrating so hard that we barely spoke.  The classroom was strangely silent.

    Marta demonstrating how to press interfacing to fabric. Marta demonstrating how to press interfacing to fabric.

    The Palmer/Pletsch Fit class was a prerequisite for the Jackets class, so we had all taken at least one class from Pati and Marta. We were expected to arrive with our tissue pattern altered to fit. Both Marta and Pati were on hand the first day to check the fit of our tissues and give us tweaking advice.  After the first morning, Marta taught all of us herself. Since we weren’t a rowdy bunch, she seemed to handle it with ease.

    The jacket class was full of strong women -- a doctor, a casino dealer, home ec teachers, a college guidance counselor -- from all over the world. The jacket class was full of strong women -- a doctor, a casino dealer, home ec teachers, a college guidance counselor -- from all over the world.

     

    Every morning, Marta would demonstrate the steps we should complete that day. She sewed her own jacket while helping all of us with ours.  Many of us (like me) sewed up the basic McCall’s 6172, but others challenged themselves with interesting patterns, such as Vogue 1320.

    We learned a ton about interfacing, pressing, linings, turn-of-cloth, collars, and welt pockets. We all left with new skills and new friends. I can’t wait to sew my next jacket! I will hear Marta reminding me to sew each seam perfectly.

    Graduation with Pati and Marta Graduation with Pati and Marta

      

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