Sewing Blogger Meetup

Leila was in town for a short visit when we recorded the podcast. And good blogger that she is, she already posted about our little get together. Now, we didn’t just gab about what we call ourselves as people who sew. We also hit up the Vogue Fabrics flagship store with her costuming friend Kate.

Kate, me & Leila post-podcast recording
Kate, me & Leila post-podcast recording. Since we were talking about indie pattern designers & giving away some Cake Patterns I thought I’d wear my Tiramisu t-shirt!

As you can see, there were a lot of pretty things that wanted to come home with us.

Oooo! Wool jersey!
Oooo! Wool jersey!

Sigh, I don’t know how I was so restrained. Actually, I don’t know how we were all so restrained. Our wallets largely remained intact. Kate didn’t even get anything- can you believe it?! I think I need some of that amazing fabric self-restraint.

Pom pom trim!!!
Pom pom trim!!!

Leila & I hope to do more podcasts together, but that’s all dependent on when she can next make it back to Chicago. In the meantime, what would you like to hear me talk about on the next episode of Stitches? How long do you like a podcast to be? Shorter like parts 1 & 2 of episode 1, Steam. Or longer like episode 2 with Leila?Podcasting with Leila


Stitches, a Sewing Podcast – Steam episode 1.1

I’m as excited as if I had received free vintage fabric! But I haven’t.

The thing that’s got me dancing around the house is a podcast. I’m starting one!
Stitches, a sewing podcast - Steam episode 1.1
Stitches in a podcast for people who love to sew, with a tiny bit of knitting thrown in. It’s for people who have an interest in fashion & an addiction to fibers- as in fabric, yarn, wool, cotton, linen.  And yes, I too am surprised that a few searches turned up no other programs named ‘Stitches’.

Stitches isn’t like your usual crafting podcast. I won’t be talking about the projects on my sewing table or knitting needles. Instead, we’ll have conversations about sewing related themes.  And episodes won’t be a half an hour long or more. We don’t always have time to listen to such long podcasts- especially not when there are new episodes of Downton Abbey to watch! Instead, monthly topics will be broken into a few 5-10 minute long episodes.

Our first theme is steam & I really hope you enjoy it. Down below you’ll find some podcast notes for an easy reference to the tips I talked about- or for if you’re at work & can’t listen.

*update- I just realized that some people might have problems loading the podcast widget thingie. If so, just refresh your page or click here to listen to my podcast on PodOmatic.

  • Steam is made up of excited water molecules that relax your fabric & make it more pliable.
  • It can help smooth out you fabric or warp it out of shape.
  • Torquing happens when fabric is warped out of shape during manufacturing, but you can also do it at home.
  • Pants pockets can warp out of shape with use. To help reinforce them make stay tape by cutting a strip of muslin the width of your seam allowance & steam it a lot as you pull it out from under your iron at an angle. This will torque the fabric into a curve that should match the curve of your pants pockets.
  • Steam especially relaxes & shrinks wool.
  • To unkink yarn after it’s been knit or crocheted with, steam it. Don’t iron it. It will relax before your eyes like magic. Watch this video from the awesome TECHknitting blog to see how quickly it happens.  
  • To keep wool fabric from stretching as it hung off my ironing board I tried ironing on top of a wooden table with a mattress pad covering the table to protect it from the iron. I didn’t realize the bottom of the mattress pad was made with interfacing & not fabric. After I was done bits of interfacing were stuck in the wood grain of the table, but only in blotches where I had steamed. Water wouldn’t get it off so I scratched it off with my finger nails. I scratched little butterflies into the interfacing marks.
  • Next time I will make my ironing board the same height as my table so that as I’m ironing I can move the finished parts to the table so they don’t stretch out of shape.
The little butterfly I scratched out of the interfacing that got steamed into my sewing desk.
The little butterfly I scratched out of the interfacing that got steamed into my sewing desk.

Episode two of Stitches will talk more about interfacing, steam shrinking wool, steam related sewing gadgets & listener tips.

A HUGE humongous thanks to my boyfriend Quincy. He spent tons of time sampling the introduction music (while I lounged in bed knitting) & editing the final podcast. And re-editing as I kept re-recording. Thanks Q!

And thanks to everyone who took the time to listen. I’d love to hear any feedback, good or bad. Do you like the topic & format? What themes would you like to hear about next month?

The blobs of interfacing that were steamed into my desk.
The blobs of interfacing that were steamed into my desk.

What is a good stitch length?

Threads Magazine recently published an article called 10 Better sewing Habits with tips from various sewists. Peggy Sagers said that the proper stitch length for construction seams- not basting- is 3.5mm.

Peggy’s reasoning is when tension is put on a garment, the threads will snap at 3.5mm. At 2.5mm the fabric will rip.


2.5mm stitch length on a bag I made.
2.5mm stitch length looks very tiny on a bag I made.

My sewing machine automatically starts sewing at 2.5mm. My basting stitch is programmed to be 3.5mm. I’m guessing that most people sew at 2.5mm too.

While I haven’t had time to test out these different stitch lengths, I have noticed that the fabric of my vents will sometimes tear right at the seam line.

Stitch detail on a tote I bought. It is much longer at 8mm for the top stitching & seam construction.

In contrast, the tote bags I’ve bought haven’t ripped, even when weighed down with heavy glass bottles. The one seen above has a stitch length of a whopping 8mm. However, for the main seams of the bag the stitching was doubled up.

Any thoughts on this? At what stitch length do you sew? Any ex-industry workers out there who can tell us what the industry standard is?


Meeting In Real Life

I generally don't care much for Thanksgiving because of its hypocritical heritage, but this year I am thankful for something that has come to mean a lot to me: this blog & all you lovely readers. It's been rather lonely around here with friends moving across the country & people dying. This blog has helped reconnect me to the world & I'm incredibly grateful for that.

Somewhere around middle school/junior high I would go into chat rooms & have silly conversations with anonymous people. This was when chat rooms & instant messaging first came out & anyone who wanted to be cool just totally HAD to do it. Having had that as my first online experience, I wasn't expecting too much when I started blogging, just a way to get free patterns & some good vintage sewing love from the 1912 project. But once I started blogging I met people, real people with real faces. And we had real, substantive conversations. While I haven't had a chance to speak with you all, I am grateful you are reading, that we are not alone in our somewhat esoteric pursuits.

Even though having good, long conversations with some of you online has been fulfilling, I was always envious of those people who got to meet other bloggers in real life. It seemed like all the seamstresses I saw online were from California. I've never even been there. Well, I got lucky. In the past two weeks I met two bloggers I admire. The perfect Thanksgiving present.

The first blogger I met was Becky from DomesticNews. She was in Chicago for a few days & had just enough time to squeeze in a fabric-filled day. Her friend Ginny (who sews & knits but doesn't have a blog) drove. First up was Vogue Fabrics in Evanston. I think Becky was a little bit in awe of just how much stuff there was. With Vogue in my backyard & a three story fabric warehouse not too far away, I've taken huge selections for granted. It was a nice reminder that I'm privileged to live in a city with so much to offer the sewing crowd.

We also made our way to an African fabric store with amazing batiks & the Art Institute for an exhibition on Japanese fashion designers. It was nice to see garments in person that I had originally seen on slides in a classroom.

Real, high quality tailor's chalk. It has a waxy feel to it.

The highlight of our excursion was Adler's, which has been open since 1908, but is rarely heard of outside the industry as it supplies professionals & design schools. Such wonderfully obscure products! Like a clamp thingie that cuts blades for cutting fur, a stretchy thing for pressing sleeves (not a sleeve board although they have those too) & many other contraptions I don't know how to use. So many things to delight, but the simplest brought me some of the greatest pleasure. When I was first learning how to sew I had a wonderful piece of tailor's chalk. It's taken me well over a decade to find chalk of this quality again. Baby this stuff glides! And it does not crumble into a powdery mess. Oh heaven.

Becky, me & Ginny at the Jeanne Gang Exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago. The weird blue lighting is from a projection we were standing under.

Readers, I have something to relate that makes me very proud. Shoes & winter coat aside, I made the entire outfit I wore that day, right down to the unmentionables! Top, bottom, undies, bra, socks, knit accessories & purse. I have some blogging catchup to do. Those are my first pair of jeans & under that shirt is my first bra. Just thinking about sewing bras makes me smile.

I met up with the second blogger this week, Rhonda from Rhonda's Creative Life. We went to the Textile Discount Outlet, a three story warehouse that is so full of fabric & odd notions you can trip over them. Literally, there's a lot that's on the floor. I forgot to have a photo taken of us, but here's a picture of just one half of one aisle. I'm not sure I can adequately convey the enormity of this place, except to say again, three floors! And the building takes up the block.

Somewhat ordered chaos in the Textile Discount Outlet

Again, simple pleasures won me over. Strong steel underwires. I had searched high & low for good underwires in this city & never come up with anything save one awful plastic option. But it got better, Ambiance Bemberg Rayon, $0.99/yd- what an unreal price. One end had a stain, the rest was perfectly fine, but it was enough to get me an amazing deal.

And Rhonda had a beautiful purse with her. I've had my eye out for a good, tough yarn ever since I saw her post about this knitted handbag that she designed. What a treat to see it in person. The detail work she did was fabulous, with a handsewn lining- swoon! While the bag is full of details, it is not dainty & was much bigger than I had expected. This is a bag that is both pretty & functional. Now more than ever I can't wait to knit one up myself.

Thank you ladies for such wonderful times! And thank you everyone who reads this blog. If you're ever in Chicago give me a ring; I'd love to meet up for a fabric hunt or even a mellow cup of tea.


Combining Aesthetics with Foundation Garments

Since I decided to re-make my wardrobe, I started gathering all the patterns I like to see how they’d fit together. I didn’t get far.

Wardrobe planning, wardrobe, pinterest, clothing, sewing, knitting
The top row is mostly full of Jane Austen Knits patterns & the bottom is full of designer Vogue sewing patterns.

It seems I’m doing a Jekyll & Hyde act with two distinct aesthetics: sleek & modern, antique & very feminine. The divide also separates media, with my chosen sewing projects being modern & my knitting projects decidedly un-modern (save one).

Basics v. Foundations

Basics are generally simple separates in solid colors- i.e. a regular black shirt or a-line skirt. But in my Dressing to Alter Your Mood post I talked about making special pieces. I want to go beyond the simple basics you can find off the rack & instead sew interestingly cut patterns. I want to sew foundation garments. Disclaimer: I’m not saying that foundation garments are better than basics. For me a good wardrobe is a balance of things that includes both.

Foundation Garment

  • A garment that goes beyond the simple solid colors, materials, or construction of basic garments.
  • Any garment that can anchor multiple outfits as the focal point.
  • A garment upon which you layer other pieces.

Foundation garments should act as bridges between the two aesthetics so my overall look is more cohesive.

Silk, fabric
A silk fabric from Mood I have dubbed shattered tundra although looking at it from this angle I can see a chicken taking up the right side of the frame.

Take this beautiful silk, a fabric that’s been waiting almost a year for the right project. It will become a camisole. It can be paired with a multitude of things like skirts, pants, under a jacket, under a sweater, with a scarf, etc. It will become a foundation garment not because of an interestingly cut pattern, but because of the design on the fabric & the yumminess of the silk. Since I should be able to pair it with modern patterns like the Issey Miyake jacket & separately with Miss Morland’s Neckcloth, it can also bridge my aesthetic divide. And it should be able to hold up (mostly) on its own too (don’t worry I won’t be roaming the streets in just a cami & skivvies!). I should be able to pair it with a plain pair of pants or skirt & have it be the focal point of the outfit, no need to layer anything on top of it. It can stand on its own.

Wardrobe, camisole, scarf, jacket, Issey Miyake, planning, Vogue patterns, Jame Austen knits
Once this fabric becomes a camisole it will be able to go with both pattens separately, bridging the divide between my two aesthetics. The neckcloth will be made in burgundy & the jacket in a similar color to that in the picture.

While basics are mainly separates, foundation garments can also be dresses. The black DKNY dress will probably work with the Issey Miyake jacket & as a different outfit with a cardigan I already own. Its interesting design will allow it to function separately as its own outfit without anything layered over it.

DKNY, dress, vogue patterns
DKNY dress, Vogue 1280

The design won’t just separate this dress from other little black dresses, the fabric will too. I’m planning on making it in a moisture-wicking fabric by Nike. Why aren’t more things made with such fabric? Every summer I see business people sweating it out in their suits & I think they’d be much more comfortable if their jackets were moisture-wicking. Ditto bras- no one likes a sweaty boob! But back to the dress, the moisture-wicking fabric will make it wearable beyond the fall & into the summer.

Shifting Color Foundations

It seems my color pallet is changing as well. I’ve decided to make up many of my basics in black & gray, whereas the previous year saw brown as my foundation color. I don’t want to ditch my brown things- I really like them! And while I’ve combined black & brown in the same outfit before, I generally wear them separately. The solution will be to make my accessories in colors other than black or brown. That way, I’ll be able to pair them with my old things & new.

I also seem to be taking a shine to colored pants. The brightly colored skinny jeans that were popular awhile ago reminded me too much of the leggings I wore in the 90’s & I really don’t want to go back to my childhood. But the other day I saw a woman in forest green skinnies & they looked fantastic. I had been planning on making a pair in black or gray, but after seeing the green ones on the street & the burgundy ones by Katherine Tilton, I think I want to make some pants in jewel tones.

Katherine Tilton, pants, Vogue 8837
Katherine Tilton pants, Vogue 8837

The jewel tones would let me coordinate them with my black & brown wardrobes. A solid pair of pants could also span my sleek & feminine aesthetics. Do you think colored skinny jeans are passé now? I think I might make them anyways.

I like where my wardrobe is headed. I’m off in a new direction but incorporating what I already own & combining my love for different styles with quality pieces. Never before have I made such a conscious effort to evolve my wardrobe. This planning is fun! Come on over & see my evolving wardrobe ideas on Pinterest.

Your Thoughts

Do you agree with my definition of foundation garments v. basics? I’d love to hear your definitions. I only just came up with this one & I’m sure if I looked around I’d find more thoughtfully written articles on the subject. Please pass along any you know of.

Stash Management

I’ve had my clothing organized for years. Look, color coordinated! Not just that, but also organized by sleeve length, with spaghetti straps first & progressing to long sleeves. OCD much? You should see my book shelves.

My closet, organized by color & garment type.

If I’ve been so well organized with my clothing, why not with my supplies? Previously, I’ve kept them in boxes. Right now I’m thinking things should be organized by color & type of fabric. Say, knits with knits, linings with linings & printed cottons with printed cottons. Ditto for yarn. Moving is the perfect time to stir things up & get organized.

What I’m afraid of is the size of my stash. Here’s the lovely (needs a bad re-paint job after moving) console/chest of drawers/not sure exactly what it’s called (which is ironic considering I minored in architecture & design history- guess I didn’t study much furniture!) thing I have to work with. In absence of a real name, my boyfriend & I have been calling it the blue thing. We similarly have a piece of furniture named the green thing.

The blue thing, which in real life is a pretty shade of teal. Soon to be the home for my fabric stash. Oh moving clutter can look so embarrassing!

I have boxes & boxes of fabric. I’ve been too chicken to count how many & have been feeding myself the excuse that it would take too long to walk through our little one bedroom apartment to figure out where they all are. I know I have at least six, varying in size from tiny to pretty large. Why is it we sometimes don’t want to admit just how bad we’ve been with how much we buy? I’ve also got a few boxes of yarn. I absolutely know that all my yarn & fabric won’t fit into that one little (actually fairly big) blue piece of furniture. So it’s going to be just for fabric. But where do I put my yarn? And what do I do with the fabric that doesn’t fit into the blue thing?

Ideas would be very welcome.

The funny thing is, while I can’t tell you how many boxes of fabric I have, I can give you a really good estimate of how many different types of fabric I have. I love Bento. It’s an app for Mac devices that lets you inventory things & do a whole bunch of other stuff. I have almost my entire fabric stash listed in there, with details on width, yardage, cost, where I bought it, projects I’m going to use it for, etc. While I might know that I have 137 different fabrics categorized in Bento (including ones that have been completely used up for prior projects), I don’t entirely know just how physically big this is. All I can see is that number, climbing steadily higher to 200. I’ve got my notions catalogued too. So you see, it’s ridiculous that I don’t have my stash physically catalogued when I already have it electronically done. With all this cataloguing I should have a been a librarian.

In case you’ve been considering stash reorganization, here are some links to great ideas other people have had.

How do you organize your stash? Care to share any tips?

Disparately Dorky Links

Hope you enjoy the links- this time we've got some Emily Dickinson, embroidered portraits, aphids, cork fabric & more.
Knitting, sheep
I saw this on Facebook & the artist wasn't credited, so let me know if you find out who drew this.

Amazing. At first, the documentary sounds like a spoof. A man becomes a turkey mother- cue music & serious yet vague narration. But as the story goes on, it becomes an amazingly engrossing tale of how a man raised a group of wild turkeys. My Life As A Turkey is a moving documentary about a unique man & his interesting birds- yes, wild turkeys are interesting & intelligent. Check it out. It's well worth it.

Fabric made out of cork.

A nice tutorial on proper serger tension.

I hate aphids. I loathe them. They eat my garden. But apparently they're kind of cool. I knew there were different colored aphids, but I didn't know that their color is determined by their changing environment (explains why I'm plagued by different colored aphids different times of the year). But the most amazing thing, is aphids undergo photosynthesis! Yes! They generate their own energy just like a plant does!

According to a recent study, an increase in trees means a decrease in crime. I especially find this interesting as some of the purportedly most crime-ridden areas in Chicago are parks, which I have walked by late at night without hassle- but don't worry, I don't make a habit of it.

Ten water towers converted into homes. I love it! And the picture of the one near the middle/end where the room is white but there's a black thing hanging from the ceiling? I'm pretty sure that's a fireplace.

The Cookie Monster's cookie recipe. I would be curled up in a ball if I ate these because of my food allergies, but I love the Cookie Monster. My friends & I have been known to sing his song. Yes, I'm proud of my ability to do a decent Cookie Monster impression. “C is for coookie! It's good enough for me! OOOOOOHH! C is for cookie! It's good enough for me! OH! Cookie, cookie, cookie starts with C!!!!!!” it must be sung with exclamation points.

I'm not sure I'd be up for all that plain garter stitching, but I really like the look of this hoodie knitting pattern. It reminds me of the hoodies I made some months back. Plus, the name 'Rock & Purl' is kind of great.

An English to English translation of Emily Dickinson's poems.

This is the perfect mat to have at your front door: Keys, Phone, Wallet. I'm going to learn weaving & this wil have to be one of the first things I make, after I learn how to change colors.

The mystery of brain freeze has been solved & dilating blod vessels are to blame.

Artist Cayce Zavaglia makes beautiful & realistic portraits using hand embroidery.