Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Pastel Dye Sticks+Fabric+Vogue 1020=Great Top (The Kind You Wear)

Ok, this is a project for someone who likes to sew and draw. Not everyone who enjoys lowering the presser foot likes to cut loose with crayons (in this case, Pentel Fabricfun Pastel Dye Sticks). I do. I have ever since I was less than 4 feet tall. I'm a leftie, so all that painting, drawing, doodling comes naturally to me, although none of creative scribbles are valuable yet. That last word is the operative one.

Here's my recipe for success, at least for this particular pattern. Vogue 1020, view B. Your sewing-mileage may vary (well call that YSMMV).

1. You need a lot of space to draw. I choose to do my artwork in the Vogue Fabrics classroom where there are several cutting tables. I don't have that kind of furniture in my own home, so when I must spread my stuff out like that, it's off to the Vogue I go. You can draw on the floor if you don't mind kneeling on a hard surface for a long period of time (or you can wear knee pads, another item I don't own right now).

2. Sullivan's Fabric Stabilizer is your BFF, although it failed me miserably in my time of need. It wouldn't spray, not even when I poked the nozzle with a pin. I proceeded forwarded without it, but my masterpiece would have been easier to create with fabric temporarily stiffened by the spray.

3. Think larger than life when you're decorating a t-shirt. A gorilla-sized fruit (strawberry), a humongous smiley face, or porthole-sized sun or moon. Actually my blossom was too big, and I had to cut away some parts, especially the part when I signed my initials and dated it 2008. Sob. If I had to do it over, I would trace the pattern piece first, do my scribbles, plop the pattern on top of the fabric again and snip. I'd also use fabric markers that instantly set - I had to press an iron on top of paper to make my flower permanent.

4. Do the creative stuff one day, the nitty-gritty cutting and sewing another. It makes the process so much more enjoyable and satisfying, besides there's the danger you'll smudge other pieces of fabric while you're sewing and that will make you so cranky, you'll want to ditch the whole thing!

5. Do some strategic placing. I really tried to put the flower center elsewhere besides my bust, but it just didn't work. Oh well. It doesn't bother me that much, but will my friend Paulette care? She's getting this top for a Christmas present. I trust she will not say A Word about the stigma.

6. Embellish with embroidery and crystals to make it look it super ready-to-wear. A NY Collection tee decorated with a woman's face had purple crystals on the brow, red ones on the lips. I thought that was so clever, and I just might try to create my own version sometime.

More on the pattern shortly.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Bring on the Poodle Skirts at Vogue Fabrics in Evanston*

USA Today interviewer: Why a poodle-skirt class?
Mary Beth Klatt (MBK): Well, you know the poodle-skirt is so quintessentially 1950s. You never really saw them before that time and you haven't really have seen them since except for small revivals here and there and for movie and TV show costumes. Even so there's this mystique and certain silliness to them. What's with all that fabric? You can only imagine what it was like to get in and out of an automobile without getting stuck in the door. It's kind of like your wedding over and over again without the pressure of getting everything just right on that special day. I just love how women personalized them - it's like the custom t-shirt today, but not quite so serious with this Big and Important Message.
USA Today: ....and the class?
MBK: Oh yes, the class. I actually got the idea from Faith Popcorn, of all people. I was looking for some helpful stories to give to my students in my Introduction to Fashion Business class at Columbia College. Popcorn has been forecasting doom and gloom for the next year, but the one thing she did predict is the return of the 1950s, 60s, even 70s with a vengeance. She also said that people would be looking for escapism. I thought, why not a workshop to mix the two? I'd been looking for a teaching opportunity, particularly since my Columbia gig was ending soon. Hence the poodle-skirt class.
USA Today: It's not your ordinary class either. Students are expected to dress up?
MBK: There's the escapism part. You know how people often say half the fun in life is getting ready? You know everyone has something vintage in their closet that they hardly wear. Now's the time to dig it out and put it on. Besides, Americans are so competitive. Why not dress the part and win something for your efforts? It'll be fun. I'll be playing the part too! I am especially interested in seeing how Chicagoans respond to my class. The Midwest is not especially known for wearing retro clothes the way folks on the West and East Coasts are. The only residents who seem to wear vintage on a regular basis are those in the rockabilly crowd. I should note also that winners will have their pictures uploaded to the Vogue Fabrics web site.
USA Today: How long do you expect to offer your class?
MBK: For three hours on Sunday afternoons. Honestly, I hope the workshops eventually become unpopular. As soon as the economy pick ups, those poodle skirts are going into hiding, and everyone will be back to wearing the latest and great microfibers faster than Flash Gordon could zap across the sky.
USA Today: Until then....
MBK: Yes, until then you'll find me at Vogue Fabrics helping more people align their zippers than ever I've done in my life! To my credit, I've been sewing for years, and I make a lot of clothes for myself. See this top. I made it. The scarf? I knitted that. And I really know the Viking machines at Vogue Fabrics, because I own and use one myself.
USA Today: I think that's about all. Thank you so much for your time.
MBK: Oh, you're most welcome. I hope you sign up for the class. Nothing like a little sock hop with a trip to SuperDawg afterward to get the blood flowing!
* The interview with USA Today is pretend. I made it up. Okay? But the class is blood-and-flesh reel. Here's a link to check it out.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sewing One for Me and One for You*

I'm returning to Vogue Fabrics on Sunday for another installation of the Sewing Salon. For the uninitiated (I was going to say uninformed, but I'm working on being more kind), the Salon is kind of like open call at the local comedy club, but significantly less intimidating. You will not be expected to get up on a stage (there isn't one, so this is not an issue). You will not be booed. Your jokes will not be met with silence (you might hear the hissssing of a steam iron). Finally, your sketch or routine will not be met with an over-enthusiastic round of applause the moment you finish ("I really suck. I can tell!"). You're not even expected to sew, but it would hard not to surrounded by a dozen or so sewing machines, two irons and what looks like a mile of cutting boards. You'd have to nearly insane (or half-dead) not to want to even turn on a Viking Husquvarna and watch the needle quiver awake (does anyone know why it does that? It makes me think of a cat's purr.) Truly, you could sit inside the salon (otherwise known as the classroom) and just hang out. Plenty of entertainment holds for even those who don't want to lift a presser foot. Little kids wander away from mothers lost in the dream world known as the pattern books. Admirers or wanna-bee sewers peer in and ask if you're taking a class. Store employees come in, try to shut the swollen wood door shut, slide two metal chairs next to each other, plop down on one and prop their feet on the other (she stands all day!) and open a brown-paper bag lunch in what looks like one motion. Amazing feat (not feet). Anyhow, this is Pat, who works in the notions department. Then there are the ladies who come in to do eyebrow-threading (they always stop to admire my work-in-progress which is nice). I want to stare, but that would be rude. (I do get eyebrows trimmed using the threading technique, just not at Vogue Fabrics.)

What else? You could always explore the store if you're really bored. Three huge rooms! You could get lost or find the fabric for your next project. I often like to go next door to the local grocery store for a soda pop (yes, we use those words here in the Midwest. Our new president will likely too when he goes to Washington, DC) and a bag of Sun Chips. I sneak snacks back into the classroom (what's a salon without refreshments? Not a proper one).

So anyhow back to the Salon, which by the way, summons images of Victorian-era ladies in bustles and crinolines working on embroidery and craft projects using human hair. Most of the time, I'm all by my lonesome with nary another sewer nearby. I love the inherent drama of kindred spirits, like the fellow PatternReview sewer who burned the ironing board. Or the African girl, dressed in native attire, who asked me a thousand questions on how to sew with patterns (like so many of her peers, she can cut out her own patterns, but she's at a loss with our American system of tissue paper pieces, cussing, sitting and stepping on our own pins). I don't mind stitching on my own and hear the chatter just outside the door, it's just much more fun with others. Then I'm not so tempted to spread myself around - a table for my jacket, scarf and hat, another for my purse, still another for my projects.

Anyhow, this Sunday I'll like be working at least one Christmas project (a top I started this year for a friend)...but I plan to do plenty of sewing for myself. It's the whole shopping concept just applied to sewing. You know, buy one for me, buy one for you. That means I intend to finish a couple of hats I started a few years ago and a swimsuit half-born but not baptized in water earlier this year. Oh, I might embelllish some fabric with some of these neat heat-transfer crayons I tested out last night. But that is it. Nothing overly ambitious. After all, I must devote time to eating and enjoying the holidays, no use slaving over the Viking, eh? I do have a knitting project that I intend to finish before December 25th, but I don't need the Salon for that, just the cozy comfort of a couple of loooong bus rides. How about you? What are you working on for gift-giving?
Finally, a couple of hatty links I found yesterday that you might enjoy:
Number One.
Another Burdastyle hat and mittens combo for those of you who like to sew, but not knit.
* The 1930s-era fabric above is from one of the unfinished hats. I actually made a pair of shorts from it a while ago. Not sure if I still have them. I might have given them to the Columbia College study collection.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Quilting Tools To Sew Clothes*

I used to look at the Nancy's Notions catalog with some disdain. All the tools, patterns and fabric looked more suitable for the Christmas sweaterset crowd, not super-stylish self. But I just flipped through the latest edition (they added me back on the list, apparently, even though I received a "this is your last one ever!" issue a month or so ago and failed to buy an item to stay on the mailing list). I saw the entire 56-page mailer in a new light (although not the Ott-Lite as I've been wanting for quite some time).

Paintstiks on Fabric. I could rub these onto a tissue-thin jersey knit. Do just like the major manufacturers and just embellish part of your fabric. Nancy's Notions suggest rubbing color over a unique rubbing plate, but I'd imagine you could use just about anything three-dimensional, a textured rubber mat comes to mind.

The Simply Crazy Quilt Template, intended to create the popular Victorian-era bed covers, actually looks useful for making ties, the kind the men wear around their necks to work and big, important job interviews.

Oh, the Lightracer is the stuff of delightful dreams. The catalog says it's a "must-hve for tracing quilt designs and applique projects." I envision it as a wonderful tool for tracing and drawing cartoons. Maybe I'd use it for sewing, just perhaps. This has me entranced in a Lite Brites sort of way.

The Yo-yo maker. I have this idea that one day I'm going to make a 1950s circle skirt out of yo-yos. Out of all my retro fabric scraps. I'll just sew all of these hundreds of circles together on my sewing machine, pop the whole thing over a big red crinoline so I can look rockabilly silly and then I'll wear it to Martyrs and lindy hop the night away in bobby socks and a pair of canvas sneakers.

Zip & Carry Bags. I've never been a fan of the totes that look like leftovers from Laura Ashley. This book, however, has me intrigued in a Nancy Drew sort of way. I have two bags, promotional pieces, that, when completely zipped, are just little puffy pocket squares, handy to have when you think you'll be picking up groceries on the way but you don't want to lug a cumbersome, hard-to-fold fabric bag. Actually, upon closer look, this book and the concept, is different. According to the Zip & Carry book, you make your entire carry-all from 5 1/2 yards of Make-A-Zipper and 6 yards of grosgrain ribbon. Still an interesting idea.

Here's my favorite, and something that would be high on my Christmas wish list: a quick easy mitred binding tool. It's for quilt edges, but it would make for lightening-quick work out of making sharp, hospital-bed crisp corners on scarves, skirts, jacket edges, and I don't know what else.

The Sixth Finger (TM) stiletto
is right up my alley and down my lane because I'm always burning my fingers on the iron. I'd practically have to wear the thing draped around my neck for it to be practical since I can see myself pressing fabric with my handy dandy gadget in a drawer or lost in a jar of pens.

Now tell me that Pins with a sense of direction (unlike myself sometimes while driving a car) wouldn't be helpful while cutting out a pattern, particularly one with nap? These would the sewing equivalent of Mapquest. By the way, I can't find the URL for this one. I think I need a GPS system.

And you got to love the Oliso Touch & Glide Auto-Lift steam iron. I mean, who hasn't burned an ironing board cover at least once in their sewing career? I mean I have. I'm certain Coco Chanel, at least a Project Runway winner or two or three have. The iron rises up on its own (kind of spooky, don't you think?) when you release the handle. That function alone would be worth the $109 pricetag.

That is all, for now. I don't expect to receive any of these toys for a certain upcoming holiday. 'Tis ok, I have enough toys on my desk and in my sewing machine tray to play with. Take, for starters, the Husqvarna circular attachment. Given to me by a fellow enthusiast and friend, I haven't even opened the package. It's been more than a few months. What attachments have you purchased that you haven't used yet?
* The dress pattern above? From Anna Marie Horner.