Sunday, March 6, 2011

Great books for the new seamstress

I highly recommend the following books for those just starting out. They are very accessible and offer a variety of projects to get your arms around. Click on the links in the titles to get them on Amazon!

1. Martha Stewart Encyclopedia of Crafts
This is a really beautifully put together book with wonderful pages and lots of ideas. The projects include clothing, housewares and items for children.

2. Sew Everything Workshop
This book is great - I have made the pencil skirt three times and also tried my hand at the dress. That didn't work out so well for me but the reason was the cheap, nasty material as opposed to the pattern!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Laying down the gauntlet....

A couple of years ago I bought this fantastic Cynthia Steffe dress. It has a 60's mod feel with its slight A-line, big pockets and a little punk rocker mixed in via the patent strip on the back zip. It quickly found a place on my favourite items list and was shockingly appreciated in equal measure by my husband. That is a whole other story but suffice to say there are many clothing choices on which we vehemently disagree.

I was super excited to find a pattern for the dress and resolved to try making it in other colours. I found some lovely dark plum and dark plum material in Mood and some fantastic buttons in a little side-street shop nearby. Having the actual dress at home made me feel more confident about pulling this off.

Unfortunately said dress is no more. To cut a long story short, I managed to leave it (along with a couple of other favourite items) in the closet of a hotel in Colorado on checking out. Upon realizing my error I was hopeful that the hotel would have recovered the items and that they'd be sitting somewhere awaiting collection. Sadly, this was not the case - somehow the hotel managed to throw them out!!!! So, I am now going blindly into making this item from scratch - the pressure is on.

Stay tuned.....

If you want to have a go at this yourself - it's available on the Vogue Patterns website:

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Where to get sewing lessons in New York City

There are multiple options available for the budding New York seamstress, some of which I have sampled first hand. Below is a list of those I personally recommend and others I've stumbled upon via internet searches:

For those people looking for the Project Runway experience:
Fashion Institute of Technology
Parsons the New School

Two places I've tried - classes are small groups with a relaxed and fun atmosphere:
Make Workshop
Sew Fast Sew Easy

A number of other options from the web:
The Sewing Studio
Soul Collections
Sew NY
Sew Right Sewing Machines
Sewing in Soho

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Never a good intention goes unpunished.....

Before heading home from work on Friday I took a trip to my new favourite fabric store. Mood and B&J are indeed fabulous but I generally leave those stores having spent a lot with very little to show for it. More to the point, generally one doesn't learn to drive in a Ferrari!

Fabrics For Less, on the other hand, is the jumble sale of fabric stores. A rummage around in their off-cuts bin has generated two very large bags of material on which I can practise without fear of wasting my cash and beautiful fabric. Besides, making a skirt for $5 is as much fun as finding a vintage piece in a second-hand store.

Having acquired enough fabric to make suits for an entire office I headed home with the express intention of knocking up a skirt in an evening. The husband was impressed with my motivation and proudly watched as I set about cutting, pinning and beginning to sew. This was until disaster struck. At approximately 8pm when the invisible zipper (yes, one of those again) was pinned and ready for action, my machine threw a tantrum. The tension was all-to-cock (technical term) and no matter what I did, I could not get the machine to behave nicely.

The disappointment quickly led to total psychological shutdown (noticing a trend?) and packaging away the machine and fabric in a huff. I then wrapped myself in my Snuggie and sat on the deck feeling rather aggrieved. I wondered if I had irrevocably damaged the side-loading bobbin in a prior battle when I had taken everything apart to retrieve a broken needle! It was frustrating to be spending so much time on sewing machine mechanics rather than learning construction techniques. Humph!

A little later, the husband suggested that given I had demonstrated my commitment to learning to sew, that perhaps it was time for a POSH MACHINE!!!! My body language immediately changed from gnarled-up-with-a-face-of-doom to small-child-seeing-Christmas-presents-for-first-time. What a result!!!

Weighing it up

Here's a tip - instead of buying pattern weights, why not re-purpose the weights from dumbbells. I have to hand it to my brother for thinking of this one!!

Invisible zipper foot fail

Invisible zippers, for a novice, are the filo pastry of machine sewing. Having missed the third class owing to allergy medicine ailments I was horrified to learn that I would have to tackle an invisible zipper on my lonesome.

Matters were not helped by my deciding to leave my sewing homework until Sunday afternoon. I had figured I could catch up with the class while the husband was cooking a Sunday Roast. Had I read the instructions before this point I would have realized that invisible zippers require invisible zipper feet to attach them! Unfortunately, despite the prevalence of the invisible zipper in the modern day wardrobe, sewing machines come with all sorts of other obscure presser feet but not one for an invisible zipper!

I almost cried - where on earth was I going to get said foot on a Sunday at 4pm??? I entered psychological shutdown mode and called the end of my latest attempt at a sewing career.

Fortunately the husband showed true resilience in the face of adversity and emotion. He immediately got on to Google and managed to find a little store in the Hassid area of Williamsburg that was open. Saved! The woman in the shop seemed amused by my amateur status and blatant fear of the package of tiny beige and blue plastic paraphernalia purporting to be the answer. She assured me it really wouldn't be that difficult. I retained my skepticism.

If you've ever tried to put in an invisible zipper without being first shown how you will appreciate that I killed one zipper before finally succeeding in attaching another. I sewed the zipper to the seam and also sewed the seam back on the fabric. Fail. On trying to rip the seams out to do it again, I realized that my super tight stitches to make this secure were beyond the capabilities of the seam ripper. The seam ripper broke. The zipper also tore. Tears mark two.

Fortunately the day was again saved by the husband - the-glass-of-pinot-noir-and-Sunday-roast interlude recharged me sufficiently to tackle the beast again and win. Well, sort of.... it didn't look fantastic and I had managed to sew the zipper in too high but it was attached. I could attend class number four....

Commitment phobia

On announcing my intentions to take another sewing class the husband was skeptical. Starting new ventures with aplomb was often followed by rapid boredom onset and dropping out! This time I was serious, I told him. Sometimes I have to sew seeds for years before it's the 'right time'. Now was the right time. I'd found a class at Make Workshop on the Lower East Side. Truth be told, I'd owned the book written by the owner for at least two years and had not managed to make even a napkin! But, what of it? The timing felt good.

Having persuaded my husband of my honourable intentions, I enrolled. In the first class we made a little tie bag and in the second we starting constructing a pencil skirt. By the third class it was allergy season. In a bid to rid myself of puffy eyes and constant sneezing I had taken Allegra-D and ended up with palpitations and sickness. I was going nowhere except the couch! Missing class only added to the palpitations - I could only keep up if I undertook the next steps alone.....