FIT – Skirt is finished!

You feel like you missed something, right?  The skirt was in pieces and now it’s done and all you get is this ONE photo.  Apologies.  I took it to FIT to take photos on a dummy and then the professor ‘collected it’ before I could take more.  It came out exceptionally well, especially the waist and the hem.  The zipper was a TRIAL but I finally got it right (enough).  I will post more photos when I get it back.

For now, we’ve moved on to the blouse.  Wow, this was some tricky work tonight.  I went with the floral after all (going to attempt a sundress with the deep blue and white) and it is so busy I can’t see the markings and so thin that it is tricky to work with.  That said by the end of class tonight it actually looked like a blouse already – wild.  Still, curves. OMG – so tricky for me, although by the end of the evening I feel like I had it.  The teacher was really great with me – I got very upset and she yelled at me “I will not let you fail at this!”  It was very sweet in her snarky way.  I got a moment later to tell her how much i appreciated it and I really did.  Very glad to have her for an intro class – she really sticks with us all to the end.


See that side curve.  Looks so innocent there but truly a pain in the ass.

IMG_0042As you can see we’re doing french seams throughout.  The equation is that for a 1/2″ french seam, you start with a quarter inch plain seam with right sides OUT and then cut it down by half, fold the right sides around that plain cut down seam and enclose it with another 1/4″ seam.  The trick is to sew the first seam right sides out.  See those needle marks on the top of the fabric?  Yeah, I didn’t do it right the first time.

Close up of one of the diamond darts that pulls in the back. I love all the shaping in this shirt.  Imagine if you could actually see it? LOL. Top is yet another curved french seam; bottom is the dart.


The back:


You can see now how the diamond darts really shape that back.  I’m amazed it already looks like a shirt.  I love the fabric, it’s super fun and I like the weight of it to wear so I’m glad I’m getting used to working with this fabric.  Still, all those curves – which you really can’t even see since the fabric is so busy… totally exhausting evening.

And now, more flowers.  One last shot – this time of the mums in our garden.  They are liking the summer!


More soon.


FIT Classes #6-7: Sample Skirt Part 1

The past few classes we learned a TON about sewing but mostly the theme was that it’s all about prep.  Prepping your fabric to be cut, prepping things to be sewn, etc.  Prepping well means an easy sew.  And for the most part, that does seem true.  Sewing is the last bit of making a garment; the main part is prep!

Our first project is making a straight skirt with a back kick pleat, pockets, pleats in the front, and darts in the back and an inset waistband.  Great project in that it covers so many techniques including several things that stumped me in the past.  Score.  We are using our teacher’s stock  pattern which we copied over onto pattern paper we’d each bought and then cut out.  PROTIP: When copying a pattern onto pattern paper, it is important to copy everything on pattern including grain line indication and all notches and other markings for darts. These are important later.

First we learned how to prep our fabric.  First, you neatly press your fabric on the ‘wrong side’ to minimize shine, pressing to get rid of all the lines, including the ‘fold’.  Then, for the final product to hang properly, you need to make sure the pieces are cut on grain.  To find the grain, you  match the selvedges together, ignoring the cut ends which will likely NOT match up, and then smooth the fabric it out from center to flatten.  When smoothed, you will be on grain enough to cut.

(Sorry, there are no photos of any of this; we are go go go in class, no time to stop and take even a breath!)

Then we pinned our pattern pieces to the fabric, following the grain lines indicated on each pattern piece.  PROTIP:  When pinning (pin a lot), some find it helpful to pin corners diagonally pointing to the corner so when you cut your fabric really stays square around the cut.  When cutting, you want to keep the bottom of your scissors in touch with the ground/surface and use your non-cutting hand to hold the pattern paper to the fabric so you get a nice edge.

After cutting we used our tracing paper to mark the notches and darts indicated on the pattern (marking both sides) and she had us also use rulers to fill in the darts and pleat markings and to mark the center back (CB).  Note:  As I’ve been sewing my marks have been disappearing/rubbing off.  I’m using Dritz non-wax paper.  People who are using the waxed paper are not having these rub off problems.  Might be worth switching. As it is, I have to go back and remark my fabric – not so easy now that it’s half sewn!

Because it is FIT, we are doing some basting.  This basting is not to hold anything in place but rather to mark.  Since it is for marking, we are doing ‘uneven basting.’  We basted to indicate CB on each piece and also down the center of CF.  She suggested that instead of marking a sewing line in pencil on CF, we just iron in the crease.  Easy-peasy.  Me likey.


Finally, to set us up to start to sew seams (I assume), we sewed the darts using her super easy pin method (I like) and then also put in a tailored finish on the CB pieces.

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We then continued Tuesday (class 7) with more machine work.  We pinned the pleats using her dart method and then sewed the pleats (back tack each end, and sew from bottom to waist of skirt) and learned how to press both pleats and darts.   This part was really interesting.

Pressing darts:  Since the dart is putting a curve in the fabric and making it more 3D, you want to make sure you honor that in your pressing.  Press the dart ‘take up’ (the pinched up amount) to the side of your choosing but be consistent side to side.  When pressing you want to just press the dart part and only to just shy of the point b/c going beyond that will flatten the fabric and you want to have that curve.  So just press the dart take up area, then flip the fabric to press the dart tips (again, making sure not to mess up the curve) and that’s all the pressing you do.  All pressing is from the inside of the garment.

Pressing pleats:  Again, it is sewers choice about which direction to press pleats but if you press the pleats with the fabric (pleat take up?) facing in, it creates – visually – a smaller waistline.  Interesting right?  It’s just an optical illusion.  Similarly, press on wrong side only and then just press the pleats.


Then we continued with adding the pockets, using interfacing (which was pressed onto the CF piece, not the pocket (interesting) and then sewing in the pockets for this particular skirt using a stay stitch and then – gasp – serging some of the side edges to finish.  SERGING.  A WOVEN. AT FIT.

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I know!  It turns out we never serge a woven at FIT… until we do :)  In any event, these industrial servers make my Brother sound like a toy.  Truly it’s crazy – it sounds like you are going to lose a finger should you go wrong.  We learned how to thread them (and despite copious notes I have no idea if I could do it again) and then serged a scrap and then did our actual skirts.  It was a bit hair raising but I got through it. Whew!

I still have to do a little basting but I think we are finishing up on Thursday (inserting zipper and waistband and hemming) and then we cut out our blouse.

I went to Paron for blouse fabric but didn’t like anything so I checked out HM Fabric next door and hit the jackpot!  Wow, did they have a huge selection of cotton prints and almost all were $5/yard.  I got 2 fabric options – the more floral one, I think may become a countryish dress for me (I bought this Rebecca Taylor pattern last year and think this print might work) or a similar vibes blouse; the more African on the right will be for the class sample blouse.  I think the blue will coordinate nicely with the skirt and change the vibe from pure ‘corporate’ to something a little hipper – at least that’s my hope.  It’s a bold print – it may look terrible –  but that’s how you learn, right?


More soon.

June is busting out at the garden!

I visited the garden quickly this morning after a week of ignoring it (thank you rain from sky), and things are really popping.  I only had my 2-pixel Paleo phone camera (yes, folks, I do not have a smart phone) so these are not the best but check out my plants!


downsized_0611050810 Snapdragon (sorry a bit washed out):

downsized_0611050810aBlue Phlox:

downsized_0611050811aStill no sign of blooms from the white phlox or the 2nd blue phlox but both look healthy enough as do our recent seed plantings. We need to weed badly.  Hopefully I can get down on Sunday and get this place cleaned up.  More soon.  For now, happy summer!


FIT Class #5. Sigh.

Feeling a bit frustrated after the last class.  We finished most of the hems, drew out the skirt pattern which looks like a great learning experience with pockets, a kick pleat and other details, and then in the last FIVE minutes before the end of class, our professor did the fastest demonstration of a curved hem ever…. much to my personal detriment.  I just don’t get it.  I don’t get how you get the inside gathered part to lay flat.   This is a KEY ELEMENT.  And I don’t get it. I’m not sure anybody else did either.  Sigh.


I’ve done three so far.  The tan one I did tonight.  I honestly don’t know if it looks better than the last one I did in class (green).  The frustration is not that it looks bad but that you do have to do most of it (45 minutes of work) before you know it’s not going to work.  I really want to (a) avoid this hem like the plague, (b) do it the way my mother used to do it which is a variation on what she showed but way easier/possibly not as neat (although neater than what I churned out here) or (c) find a completely different way to do this.  Perhaps this is the couture way but I’m sure no couture person would find my hems acceptable.

GRR. I hate when I can’t figure stuff out. Even my edge stitching on tonight’s is not so great.  The plus is that the edge stitch on the Juki at FIT is not so bad.  So some progress there.


Purple Edgestitch at home – not so straight.

On a positive note, both look great from the front.  If she’s grading on that, I’m golden LOL.


Hopefully I’ll get some good feedback on this but I think this is one I’m going to have spend more time on.

Tomorrow, we start cutting out our skirts.  After a frustrating shopping day Monday, today I went to Paron, where I got – in five minutes – a fantastic Donna Karan khaki fabric for $8/yard.  It feels *amazing* and fulfills all the teacher’s requirements so I’m pretty psyched about that.  Got a few different zippers and threads – might try a contrast thing. I’ll show that next.


FIT Class #4, Hems Part 1

We spent last Thursday whipping through a bunch of hem finishes.  We are learning a total of 6 types:

  • Baby
  • Flat Fell or Double Fold
  • Hong Kong
  • 2″ with hem tape using catch stitch
  • 2″ with hem tape using slip stitch
  • curved hem

We got through the first two and parts of the next 3.  We also learned the two hand hem stitches we’ll use.  There was so much material I had to bring it home and do it here which, to be fair, makes life a LOT easier.  Using a home machine – while the stitches don’t look as nice – has so many features that make my life easier.  For one thing, I can move at a snail’s pace.  i have not one but TWO task lamps on my sewing table so I can really see what I’m doing.  My machine has automatic threading, automatic needle down positioning when you stop sewing, and you can move the needle left and right which makes lining up an edgestitch a breeze.  Feels like cheating but my work looks much better.  Let’s review.

Baby Hem.  Considering my blindness for fine stuff, I’m shocked this came out so well on the Juki.  It’s a teeny tiny hem used on the edge of chiffon or other thin fabrics.

Front is on left and back is on right.  There’s actually two layers of stitching but you only see it on the back.  It’s about an 1/8″ from edge – ‘as close as you can get it.’   Cool, right?

IMG_0008 IMG_0009The next one we did was the Flat Fell or Double Fold.  It involves a lot of edge stitching and I just really struggled with this on the Juki.  The sample on the left is one of the four I did in class and the right one I did quickly at home.  As you can see on the left (done in class) the stitch quality is nicer but the home version is much much straighter and consistently near the edge.

IMG_0012 IMG_0011Then we took a break and learned how to do the two hand stitches we’ll be using for hemming – slip stitch and catch stitch.  On my sampler, top is slip stitch and bottom is catch stitch.  They are actually the same stitch ultimately but one is sewn left to right, the other right to left.  The one left to right (bottom) is used for stretchy fabrics  – the little cross builds in some stretch potential apparently. IMG_0002Close ups of each:

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And this is what it looks from the front of the garment. Just a pin prick.


Prep was then done for the next three hems.  Hong Kong and then learning how to attach the super slippery hem tape (all about the basting).  I’m proud that the HK prep was done in class.  I did a bang up stitch in the ditch on the Juki.  Go me.  That said, I redid the hem tape samples at home, edge stitching using my adjustable needle position.  So. Much. Easier.


So that’s where we are.  This Tuesday, we complete these latter 3, learn a curved seam, and trace the pattern to get started on our ‘sample’ straight skirt.  It’s a whirl!


Etsy Craft Party

NYC… the noise, the crowds, the expense.  These are the things that wear on most NYers but the ability to do/try/eat practically anything (and also STUDY practically anything) is what keeps most of us here, definitely me.  (Well, that and there are few cities where one can actually work as much as a musician but that’s another story….)

For the non-1%ers of us, because it IS so expensive to live here, you get really good at finding cheap or free fun things to do on a budget.  Awesomeness.

After last month’s successful fun evening at Craft Night, I decided to attend Etsy’s similarly free, much larger June event, the Brooklyn Craft Party, held under one of the arches of the Manhattan Bridge.  The theme was paper crafting and participants were provided with supplies for 2 options – making paper beads for a necklace (many moms/little kids embarked on this as a team project) and/or do a basket weaving type things using paper strips.  I chose the latter:

IMG_0003There were a ton of people there including many dogs and kids; it was loud – lots of music, etc.; but within that, this simple ‘craft’ of weaving two different papers together was incredibly relaxing.  I made two.


It continues tomorrow so if you’re local and want to go, you can still make some easy, fun, relaxing craft art!  Go for it.

Thoughts on the whole thing, though:   I had a great, relaxing fun time.  Doing work like this, while repetitive, activates a part of your brain that is very healthy and revitalizing.  When I looked around at others gently weaving the strips together you could see how engaged folks were i.e. there are a lot of people who hunger to do simple crafts.  So why do we yank it out of school at so early an age?  All work and no play, etc.  WTF?  For me, I technically stayed active in arts, choosing music at some point, but that meant visual art had to go by the wayside (as well as sewing).  I get it – there’re only so many hours in the day – but I also think it is a lack of respect by Americans for active decompression time built into the school day and then continuing into our adult lives.  Decompression in America is about (passive) ‘relaxing’ (read: watching TV).  For people who have physical jobs, this makes sense but so many of us sit at desks – is that really what the doctor ordered?   At times like this I’m grateful not only to Etsy for hosting things like this but also to NYC for so many artistic options and the larger blogging community for letting me see likeminded people making stuff like I long to do and continually inspiring me.

So thank you to YOU for being interested and doing your thing and showing it off.

One last close up.  Thanks Etsy Labs!

IMG_0006More soon on FIT and, in case you forgot about it, the Medallion quilt!


Lost sessions

The Rolling Stones are re-releasing Sticky Fingers on June 9th which will contain previously unreleased studio takes.

Not to be outdone  – I am now releasing previously unreleased material in the form of several photos ‘lost’ on my camera hard drive.  Or ignored.  In any event, when I was downloading my FIT photos, there they were.  I knew you all would enjoy – nay, crave – this update and I’m not one to deny you.  And thus:

Previously unreleased macrame shots:


Iowa’s macrame in situ.IMG_0889Mine.

But wait, there’s more!  Previously unreleased garden shots.  These were from a couple weeks ago and these flowers have passed.  They are ONLY AVAILABLE HERE. So enjoy them.   In other more recent garden news, the Snapdragons, Blue Phlox and Mum are all showing signs of blooming.  There was an window box collapse and we lost a fair amount of those buds and some of what was underneath.  Nature is unforgiving.   I’ll post photos of that shortly, or at least the happier bloomy parts.  For now:

IMG_0895 IMG_0894More soon, peeps.  Thanks for reading my blog.