Monday, May 27, 2019

Random Threads # 36: practice, being brave, and sewing indie

All weekend I've been meaning to sit down and write a blog post, but it's been a weird holiday around  here. In the sense that it doesn't feel like Memorial Day, the weather has been cold and rainy (more snow in Tahoe!) and every is a little bit grumpy waiting for summer to start.

So I thought I might have something seasonal (meaning springtime) to blog about but many things are in process and I'm not in the mood to do photos. However my notebook page for random threads has a number of entries so onward with that.

Ban the seam ripper! Is that crazy to say? It took me a while to comprehend that in the UK it's seems to be referred to as the unpicker, which maybe is a slightly gentler word. Below is an array of items I use to undo a seam, in descending order of use. I explain below the image.

seam rippers

Small scissors or thread snips will always be my implement of choice, I find that snipping the stitches, then gently pulling apart the two fabric pieces, then snipping again and so on is as fast as using a seam ripper and far less traumatic on the fabric. I unpick a lot of seams when I teach my classes, often helping people out after they are at their wit's end. I totally understand the frustration of making a sewing mistake and then having to remove, and then removing itself is a tricky operation so I like to help people out and get it over and done with so they can get back to the project itself.
Second choice and often first depending on the fabric is the razor blade, works great on denim and other stronger fabrics. It takes practice but once you get the hang of it then it's really quick. Third, I might use the curved blade thing, this works for small spaces where you are extracting just a few stitches. Lastly I might use the seam ripper but I find you have to pull too hard to break the threads and often can poke a hole in the fabric. Anyway - try to snip instead of rip and see how it goes :)

Practice makes.....proficient: You always hear the saying practice makes perfect, and it's understandable that has become a common phrase, but somewhere I read recently that practice doesn't necessarily make perfect but it makes you proficient, defined as competent or skilled. I like the thesaurus words even better: competent, masterly, adept, adroit, deft, dextrous. I think becoming adept at something is such a good goal, learning how to do something almost like second nature. Not having to think about it, and relying on yourself and your skill to do it right every time. Sewing has so many of these tasks to learn, and granted it does take time but one day you put in a zipper or sew a collar and didn't even think twice about it, you don't look at the instructions or stress about the outcome, you just do it and then perhaps realize you have become proficient at that skill. Such a good feeling!

Sew Brave - how do you define that? I really like reading the Sewcialists blog . Because of that I've come across people and ideas that I might not have encountered, and I'm really impressed with the way writers have shared their perspectives. The topic in May has been Sew Brave, to discuss pushing out of your comfort zone and talking about sewing a pattern, fabric or style that scares you. The various posts got me thinking about this and trying to come up with my own Sew Brave moment. I don't really have any things that might scare me about sewing, granted my sewing life started early and I got most of the scary things out of the way long ago, as my high school and college wardrobe would show if it had been documented on social media as it would be today. A lot of pattern/fabric pairing mistakes and misguided style choices along the way but as we alway (sarcastically) said in my family "it's a learning experience".  So my current Sew Brave moments might be when I cut into ultra-expensive fabrics. Almost always when sewing for someone else - those $ 400 pieces of fabric make you really measure twice before cutting once but after a while it just becomes another fabric. So far I've had great success, fingers crossed for luck, now that I've said it aloud I would not be surprised to make a big boo boo in the next year. Hope not!  This silk blouse and skirt pictured below are something I sewed for a client, she bought both fabrics in NY so not something you can just run back and get some more! Also that print placement was a challenge, blog post on that outfit is here.


Sewing Indie patterns: That's not something I do all that much, I always find things I want to sew in Vogue patterns, Simplicity, New Look, Burda Magazine etc. But recently I've been sewing up some samples as we mostly do classes at Hello Stitch Studio based around popular indie patterns. We've found that a lot of people already have the pattern, or have seen versions on IG etc so they want to make the same items, which is understandable. Plus all the patterns are available at Stone Mountain Fabrics which is nearby. I'm always looking for something complex or new to me so I tend to stick with Burda/Vogue etc. But it's been fun to make some of these patterns, and I've had both pleasant surprises and some small frustrations in doing so. On the plus side, some of the styles are unexpectedly appealing.

True bias class samplesDeer and Doe dress class sample

I recently sewed these to prepare for the upcoming classes. I made the straps wider on the Ogden cami as that was a request from a few people, and it's a pretty easy change to make I will detail in class. In all the samples I make I choose my size based on the pattern envelope info, just because it's easy to sew my size and then try on to see how they fit. (also selfish sewing) The pleasant surprise of the bunch is how much I like the Emerson pants, I will definitely be repeating those soon. The Mysotis dress is a good item for learning how to do darts, plus sleeves. It's not really my style but I have a few pattern hack ideas that I will try to do before the class.
And then, ta da! The Zadie jumpsuit, which I sewed in some free fabric that Stacey from the studio gave me and turns out I really like this pattern, along with a zillion other stitchers! Although I will do a few fit adjustments on my next version and I think I will make it sleeveless or some other changes. Stay tuned!  On the not so good side, I cannot get used to the variety of seam allowances on various indie patterns, I'm a 5/8" automaton and have to really concentrate not to use that.

zadie jumpsuit 2

It was absolutely pouring the day I ran outside to take these photos - where is our spring??

My sewing worktable - I keep saying that I will show more details on this homemade item which  me and Craftsman drill created it a few years ago. Here's a completely keeping it real view of part of my sewing space featuring a dress in progress for Heather (Vogue 8787 and fabric from Girl Charlee, will blog when finished).  Anyway - sewing table in the foreground, along with power strip cords, many fabric scraps that I let fall to the floor, and the more interesting detail in the background, my low-tech way of adjusting dress forms with strategically wrapped towels or padded bras to add circumference. Works find and costs nothing, score! Anyway, I will take some 360 video and post in my Instagram story this week.


So those are my random thoughts for today, and I already have a few jotted down for the next thrilling installment. Including my opinion on a very popular dress pattern, something about it really bugs me so stay tuned and see :)

Coming up at Hello Stitch Studio, the aforementioned classes on the Emerson Pants, Ogden Cami, Myosotis dress, and the Zadie Jumpsuit. I think the next Fit Lab class is full (spaces available in the morning session which is pattern adjustment skills) and my Jacket Workshop in September is almost full (yay!!!)  All my classes at Hello Stitch Studio in Berkeley can be found here. 

Up next, I started a denim skirt yesterday, from a recent Burda magazine and I can tell it will be a summer staple. Other than that I haven't been super motivated to sew for myself as the weather is so weird but hopefully summer shift dress season will arrive soon. ugh, how boring to talk about the weather but it really affects both mood and sewing mojo, right?

Happy Spring Sewing, Beth

today's garden photo, this coral color rose was a weakling in one spot, then I moved it to a better location and wow the shade of these roses are electric on a sunny day. This one was just about to open but I liked the sunshine streaking through the petal.

coral rose 2019


  1. I always find your posts to be thought-provoking, and I am quite curious about the next installment!

  2. Your Zadie looks fab! I usually sew Big4 because I hate pdf patterns but the Zadie is getting to me. A romper in linen for summer sounds great... Seamripping/unpicking: I find straight razor blades a little scary. It's irrational, I know. That scalpel-looking thingie looks handy, though. Thanks for sharing the Random Threads!

  3. That rose looks like a fragrant Tea Rose. My mother used to have a big bush of them and I used to love cutting bouquets for her. I never minded the thorns because the roses smelled SO GOOD!
    About seam rippers (or un-pickers; either word works for me), I have several of different sizes and they all have a soft ball on the short point. I've been sewing for perhaps 60 years and I have no trouble using them to open a seam as long as I can feel the little ball through the fabric. I have rarely poked a hole. But I DO replace them often as they become dull after a while. A dull one will cause you lots of problems, including holes. But like you, I sometimes use a pair of snippers (similar to your Fiskars above) if I'm working in an area where a lot of stitch lines meet or there's a tangle of threads - it's safer.
    My only exception to this is if I'm working with chiffon or some other sheer delicate fabric. On those I'd have to unpick each stitch individually. Not fun, but necessary.

  4. Love the random threads as usual!!
    I agree with you about the seam ripper, I've had too many accidents over the years ripping the fabric. If I use one now it will actually be to snip and not to rip.

    I really like the idea of practice making you proficient, rather than perfect (who ever got perfect at anything??) it reminds me of a post on the Grainline Studio blog a few years ago about practice being the best sewing tip!

  5. I have been super-busy since May, finally in the passenger seat on a road trip, so catching up on email. I always learn from your posts! I do a lot of seam ripping; will try to snip next time and see what I think!