Sunday, February 14, 2016

Random Threads # 18, saving, keeping, treasuring, hoarding?

Still an extravaganza of shirt sewing going on here, this latest one using the same pattern (why change a good thing) but this version is silk crepe de chine, in a lovely teal green color. I am trying to sew with perfection as this is the type of thing that stays in my wardrobe for ages, a solid color silk blouse is such a great item. Also I am doing the hidden buttonhole placket down the front - so stay tuned in the near future for a comprehensive post on how to do that.

But today's title is Random Threads - so here are a few of my random topic notes. And keep reading if you like 50's vintage - a peek at one of my treasures lower down in the post.

Hemming RTW jeans - are you like me and need to lop off a good 3 to 8 inches depending on the style? I always wonder who they are made for and then I talk with taller friends who complain about too-short RTW jeans. Something for everyone (to be bothered by). I have a process which might seem a bit convoluted but you know, shrinkage, ha. Anyway I usually wash jeans immediately, and let them hang dry, then press and try them on with various heel heights, decided on a hem length. and then just tack the hem well enough so it stays but can't be seen on the right side. You can see here that the hem allowance is tacked to the side seams and just a bit in center front and back. So I wear them this way for a while - a good while, and decide if I like the length. I might wash again to see if they shrink any more. Jeans always seem to shrink in length not circumference, right? Sometimes wearing them this way even starts to make that wear line right at the edge. which is the beauty of the second shrink - then I lengthen them about a half inch, hem and machine stitch over any wear line. Does this sound like a lot of trouble? Possibly but I hate it when I have jeans just right and then they come through the wash a good bit shorter. Also  - the duct tape hem. Or packing tape, or any tape at hand. I have done that a LOT! In college, traveling in Europe, new jeans plus a roll of tape and a few minutes of focus and you are good to go. Using whatever is at hand for a measuring device. Folded paper works perfectly! So this week I just hemmed these jeans which are a year old. Decided the length was OK so time to hem :) I still have no interest in sewing regular denim jeans despite getting very close to a good fit on my Bootstrap Pattern jeans I showed in my previous post, but I do want to sew some other types of pants. I have had a craving for some "crazy pants" i.e. some wild print pants in a casual cotton to wear in the spring. So that might happen.

hemming jeans

Do you keep scraps? Paper, fabric, vegetables? Turning to my desk I find plenty of paper scraps with various topics scrawled on then. I have some nice notebooks and always have the idea to keep all my sewing notes in one, but I am a scrap paper saver thus they are always at hand. Are you a paper saver? It seems a shame to waste big gobs of blank paper that come in the mail,  all sorts of stupid things, bills that have "this page intentionally blank". What idiot came up with that one? So wasteful. But on my desk, at the kitchen counter, even a few in my car, scraps of paper for lists.

Consequently I will claim that I am not a hoarder but I hate to throw out things that are still useful or potentially so. It seems so wasteful. I have mentioned before but I come from a long line of string savers (didn't you have a grandma that saved string or a dad with cans of assorted nails, screws and other fasteners tucked away on the workbench?) Here is my small bin of interfacing scraps. They get used for things like stabilizing hems or testing interfacing choices.

Interfacing scraps
I have fabric scraps and awkward pieces of muslin that get used in patchwork style when doing garment testing (who cares if the muslin colors are all different?). Actually I have found a lot of my fabric scraps useful for sewing small examples to go along with Craftsy blog posts I have done, so that has worked out. And plenty of what are sold as throwaway plastic plant pots which get scrubbed out and then used to plant cuttings. But other things are more of a difficulty

In my last Random Threads I briefly mentioned the idea of "Tidying Up" by that I meant the Marie Kondo method which is so popular. Having not read the book I only have a passing idea about it but the overarching theme of minimalism is not my style. And there are things in my house that are not sparking joy but are completely useful - even if only at certain times. I can deal with most things but the category that is a conundrum is the meaningful, sentimental or beautiful but useless item. Do you keep or not?  I have some things that I just can't get rid of. Here are a few.

I bought these shoes the first time I was in Paris, at the end of a long trip that took me through Italy and onward to France. By the time I got there I had bought 6 pairs of shoes/boots and other assorted leather goods. But then I saw these and they came home as well. I did wear them a lot, but now they are about one size too small plus those heels and my back issues don't mix. But they are so pretty! So I keep them.

Blue shoes

And now please don't laugh! Yes these are the original Calvin's. I seem to recall they were dark blue when I first bought them so obviously well used. Hey, teenage me thought they were utterly cool.

CK jeans

and another pair. These are Levi's with the iconic red tab on the pocket. I believe 525's for those of you who know your Levi's. Although they have messed around with the styles and they are not as reliable as they used to be. These are totally wearable now, straight leg jeans except for the color. But oh the denim. As perfect as denim can be, those old Levi's......

levis jeans

Saving the best for last, this is a cocktail dress from the late 1950's that belonged to my mother but which I adopted (stole from her extra closet) ages ago and have worn to so many parties. I know I have said many times that I rarely wear black but there is something about this dress that makes it one of the very best dresses I have worn. I lightened the picture so you can see the detail but it is inky black.  I think it looks good on the dress form but on the body it transforms to the ultimate va va voom vintage style - very 50's movie star. The dress is a black crepe and then the section at the waist is draped with chiffon, even a little bow. It is fitted but not tight, curvy in all the right places. The pleats in the bodice emphasize the bust and those little corners on the neckline just add some zing. I love, love, love this dress and have often thought about making a pattern from it to copy. One of these days.
Vintage black dress collage

And yet there is always something new to sew. I think that is the issue with making things, unless you give away or sell then you end up with stuff. Clothing is useful but at some point you have enough clothing, however I like to sew for the challenge, it is just something I enjoy doing and so I will continue although I should try to purge more things that are never worn.

Next random topic: Colette patterns. I am completely an outside observer when it comes to most of the independent pattern companies. As I have mentioned before I am not their target market which I think is now more geared to people beginning with sewing. Analyzing their business moves of late they are probably smart to try to diversify, creating an on-line magazine, changing the style of their patterns from a vintage-inspired to a more modern and simple look. But whew - I think their patterns are mostly blah - with a dash of sad and shapeless. If you are going to the trouble to create an online magazine with high quality photos then the examples shown should be stellar - and theirs seem to be barely adequate. Some of the things they show are really poorly done or have a terrible fit. I don't think it is deceptive to show a perfect version as the example, I want to see the way it should look. On another note about independent pattern companies, I just received the latest email newsletter from Stone Mountain Fabrics  and Suzan the owner mentioned that they would no longer be stocking Vogue/New Look etc. based on the pricing and what they are sold for in the big chain stores it was financially untenable for them. I completely see her point and if I do buy an indie pattern I try to buy it there at the store.

Let's talk about feet. Sewing machine feet. My various sewing machines have all kinds of different feet and yet I almost never change them. Including several different walking feet or ones with rollers etc. Just have not needed to do so and truthfully I forget they are even in the drawer. I would probably be happy with a straight-stitch only industrial machine. The machines for a home sewer that are made for a variety of stitches have that throat plate with the horizontal opening for the zig-zag and that thing seems made to swallow delicate fabrics. Which is why I will keep my old Singers humming along forever. But back to feet. Do you use this one - the open toe foot? Whew these things have funny names when you stop to think about it. But sometimes, particularly at night I find it impossible to see the stitching due to the plastic/metal pieces in the center of the regular foot. The open toe foot is better for seeing where the needle is going. But not as good at feeding the fabric along. I do tend to use it for really precise sewing, like on a collar edge where I want to be absolutely sure I am following the stitch line. Usually after I have messed up something, had to pick out the stitches and am ready for round 2.

Regular and open toe foot

The future of sewing is in good hands: I direct you to this blog: I'm not sure where I came across her blog but she was still in high school when I first read it. Now she is at MIT, still sewing and pursuing all kinds of interesting things, including academics :) And finding time to go to Boston Fashion week! I love her tag line "it's not bragging if you made it". Totally agree! Check this out, she made the Ralph Rucci Vogue pattern coat, in winter white. Fantastic. So another brainy stitcher to keep your eyes on.

I didn't even get to some of my other random topic scrawls, such as exposed zippers which I just don't get. What is the point? I find them jarring and they rarely add interest. Probably just me as their popularity doesn't seem to wane. This one falls in the category of to each her own. Actually I'm not much of a zipper fan in general, as a design element so actively avoid patterns that have a zipper for things other than closure. Personal sewing quirk - we all have them. What is yours?

Enough random thoughts for today - as usual I need to get outside and pull some weeds while the ground is still soft from the January rain. February has been dry and today it is supposed to be 75˚F.  What?  (my apologies to those of you in the eastern deep freeze) Oh well, it's a nice long weekend so we are enjoying it. Now off to Home Depot to buy mulch. What an exciting day, right?

Happy Valentines and/or President's day weekend sewing, Beth

how about something pink for today's garden photo? Things are starting to bud and bloom around here - as I mentioned, winter weather is just about over and I am already thinking about tomatoes :)
a pink azalea that lives near the front door.

Pink Azalea 0311


  1. Love your "random thoughts" posts, Beth! Scraps: Pattern tissue scraps for making alterations, interfacing scraps for testing and buttonholes, stabilizer scraps for starting md ending seams on thin fabrics, thread scraps (I hate to waste the thread I cut off when removing a spool from the machine "the right way") for basting, fabric scraps "because I might need them." I should subscribe to Sandra Betzina's theory of throwing away all scraps right away! When the box gets too full, I do take them to Goodwill. It's a sickness! :)


  2. That is a marathon post, Beth! Your mother's dress is gorgeous - I can see why you have worn it a lot. (Unfortunately my mother and I are different heights and widths, and so sadly, I wasn't able to wear her fun but petite-size early 60s outfits since I was in about 6th grade or so).

    Beautiful azalea too. We are in the midst of a 'polar vortex' weekend on the East coast. I don't mind - it gives me an excuse to stay in, sew and read, but it's nice to see some signs of spring too...

  3. I am not a hoarder Beth - the opposite in fact. I hate clutter and will keep a few things which hold sentimental value carefully. But I do keep tissue paper - large pieces - when I cut patterns and from packaging and haven't bought any tissue paper to alter patterns for probably 4 years now. I love your mums cocktail dress!

  4. A beautiful azalea! We're still in winter here but bulbs and camellia in flower. Your post resonated strongly with me, particularly about Colette! I could add some of the photos on magazine covers (with free pattern) DH and I are both hoarders, sadly, though for many good reasons! We're hoping to downsize later in the year and that will be a big task!

  5. This is such an interesting post. We sewing nerds eat these posts up! Thanks. Karen

  6. Great post. I really enjoyed reading it. Feet - I have about 35 now, and only use 3 routinely. 1/4", regular, and walking. I do use the open toe foot occasionally, for the same reasons as you noted. I even have 8 feet for my juki serger and have never used anything but the regular foot. Guess I don't bead, cord, pipe, scallop, etc etc, very often!

    I have a couple pairs of heels I cannot let go, even though I can't wear heels any longer. But the memories that come back when I see them in the closet are worth the space they take... and if I had those blue and black ones, I'd keep them too.

  7. These random threads posts of yours just may be my favorites!

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Lots of nodding going on here! Yep, I do exactly the same thing to jeans hems, save fabric and interfacing scraps in a box, can't toss beautiful shoes that are too small now and hate Colette Patterns' sloppy sample execution. My pink azalea next to the front door is covered with snow, but otherwise yes, yes and yes! I checked Anelise's blog and it's wonderful. Just the kind of blog I was looking for the other day to inspire young beginners!

  9. I save scraps too. Paper, tissue, fabric, interfacing etc. etc. I also have a jacket I can't seem to part with. It is black silk, the sleeves are too long, I don't like the collar and I have only worn it once, but it was marked down from $225 to $29.95. It's silk, how could I let it go!! I live in Perth, Western Australia and tomorrow is going to be 40 deg. celsius.

  10. I I also pretty much keep the same foot on my machine about 90% of the time, with those tiny Teflon strips on the "fingers? Toes?" and noted that we both use blue painter's tape to give us more stitching guidelines!

  11. Just want to agree that I have had the same issues with Collette patterns. Many of the younger sewers in our area use them. Our ASG group went to visit their group to help with fitting. They were all using the same Collette pattern and it didn't fit any of them! And they were 20 somethings with good figures. We spent a lot of time teaching them to read the wrinkles and get good fit. I just read an article in their Seamwork magazine about adapting woven patterns to knits. They suggest just folding out and eliminating the darts. But if you are bigger than a B cup, eliminating darts won't work. I don't like the bad advice they give as if it's gospel. Incorrect advice and ill-fitting patterns discourage new sewers.

  12. Also, our Viking machine dealer has started a foot/accessory of the month class. it has been very helpful to learn what they are all for and interesting ways to use them. I have used many as I have done a lot of home dec- welting feet are wonderful. And I love my hemmers, that turn under the narrow fabric width as I stitch. But there are many other feet that I have that I have never used- and now I am.

  13. If you do decide to make a pattern from that gorgeous black dress could you please keep me in mind ;) Thank you so very much. What an absolute beauty!!

  14. I love reading your thoughts on sewing. :) For the record, not a fan of shapeless garments. Plus, they're not as fun to sew! I pretty much never change out the standard zig-zag foot. I was reading through my machine's manual the other day to figure out twin needle settings, and realized I have a bunch of feet that can do cool things that I was ignoring! (Also, turns out my machine does a bunch of things I didn't realize....)

  15. How could I laugh when I have two pair of my old Calvins on the closet shelf. Holes in a couple of the wrong places. Yet I keep them. They fit me perfectly! Thanks for the opportunity to know I am not alone.

  16. Yes to crazy pants, I want some too. And the dress, wowza, gotta see that in person, Jackie was so chic.


Related Posts with Thumbnails