9 Favorite Small Tools I Use All The Time

Nine Favorite Small Tools I Use All The Time

 

With the Holidays fast approaching I thought a list of my Ten Favorite Small Tools would be fun. These tools are listed in no particular order.

Pattern Weights/Washers

3 large meatl washers on a work table with 4 smaller washers nearby. I use the washers as weights.

Washers as Weights

I use large washers from the Hardware Store to hold my fabrics and patterns in place on my work table.  The size of the washer does not matter, but the weight of each washer is important; look for stainless steel or steel, zinc washers are too light. Washers come in many sizes from Grainger.com or special ordered from your local hardware store. The large washers are 3/4″ washers; washers are measured by the size of the inner hole ( to fit around a 3/4″ bolt.)  The smaller washers are 1/2″ washers. On the far right is a small washer that was spray-painted white to disappear in photos. I like 3/4″ washers as I can easily grab a stack with my fingers to distribute or gather up.  You can buy washers singly or in boxes of 20 for $43.41, plus $12. shipping, from Grainger or another hardware distributer.

https://www.grainger.com/product/FABORY-3-4-x2-O-D-22UG68

 

3 small magnets on a work table

Magnets

Magnets:

Keep a small magnet near your sewing machine and/or cutting table. When you tip over your box of pins a magnet will make picking up the pins much easier.

 

 

 

Seam rippers

A sharp seam ripper makes the annoying job of ripping out a seam much easier.

2 seam rippers on a work table

Seam Rippers

The small seam ripper is an inexpensive version like this one from Gold Star Tools.  I have  these inexpensive seam rippers in multiple locations in my work room.

https://www.goldstartool.com/seam-ripper–3-1-2-extra-fine-blade-fortiny-stitches.htm

The larger seam ripper was a gift from a cousin. It is double headed, with a large ripper on one end and a smaller ripper on the other end.  I use this tool if I have a long seam to rip out as the large, ridged handle is comfortable and easy to hold for that annoying,  mis-sewn seam. I have seen rippers like this one at craft fairs and small sewing/quilting stores.

Snips

I keep these by my sewing machine for clipping threads. The upper snips are inexpensive and efficient, but can’t be sharpened.

2 pairs of fabric snips on a work table

Fabric Snips

https://www.wawak.com/Cutting-Measuring/Cutting/Thread-Clips/thrifty-4-14-thread-clips/?sku=IS25 at $2.98

https://www.goldstartool.com/thread-clippers-springtype-all-metal.htm at $1.99

The lower snips are heavier and can be sharpened when needed. I keep these snips by my sewing machine and on my worktable; they are great for cutting notches.

https://www.wawak.com/Cutting-Measuring/Cutting/Thread-Clips/gingher-4-12-thread-snips/?sku=IS27 at $12.49

https://www.goldstartool.com/stainless-steelthread-clips.htm at $7.99

Fabric Markers:

There are lots of different fabric markers on the market. I have lots of fabric markers in my workroom, but these are the two I reach for most often.

2 fabric markers on my work table

Fabric Markers

The Chaco Chalk Maker leaves a fine line that can be brushed away. In the photo is my blue Chaco chalk Marker; they also come in white.

https://www.wawak.com/Cutting-Measuring/Marking-Chalk-Pens/Chalk/clover-chaco-liner-marker-white/?sku=CK4 at $5.81   Little bottles of ground chalk for refills in a 2-pack cost $3.44.

Frixon Pens are the newest version of “disappearing ink” pens. The ink in Frixon pens is heat sensitive; the heat of an iron (140°) makes the ink “disappear”. The ink does vanish from view, but will reappear if exposed to extreme cold: 14°. I recommend the “Fine” point at 07. I find the Extra Fine at 05 is too fine.

https://www.amazon.com/Pilot-FriXion-Erasable-3-Pack-31578/dp/B004JXHTDK/ref=pd_cp_229_2/143-5975381-7412206?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B004JXHTDK&pd_rd_r=9cc92d31-dabc-463d-865e-00f7a66a128a&pd_rd_w=zqHkG&pd_rd_wg=hl2No&pf_rd_p=0e5324e1-c848-4872-bbd5-5be6baedf80e&pf_rd_r=41K6MQM2CECJR619W5GY&psc=1&refRID=41K6MQM2CECJR619W5GY for a 3 pack at $5.79.

https://www.staples.com/Pilot-FriXion-Point-Erasable-Pens-Extra-Fine-Point-Black-3-Pack-31578/product_343209 for a 3-pack at $5.79.

Hole Maker and Pattern Notcher

Hole punch and pattern notcher on my work table

Screw hole punch and pattern notcher

The Screw Hole Maker is perfect for making a hole in your pattern to mark dart tips, button placement, the break point of the jacket lapel, etc. With changeable bits, you can make a small hole, a medium hole or a large hole; the large holes are large enough to sew Tailor’s Tack through.

https://www.goldstartool.com/japanese-book-drill—screw-hole-punch-with-6-bits.htm at $13.99

A pattern notcher eliminates the fussy cutting of the triangle notches the major pattern makers use. Instead of cutting out 3 triangles, squeeze the pattern notcher once (or three times side by side) and get a cut into the pattern’s seam allowance. When cutting out your garment in fabric make quick snip into the seam allowance to mark the notch.

Three overlapping triangles and 3 vertical rectangles, representing pattern notches.

Different pattern notches: triangles or slits

 

Pattern notchers are available at Gold Star tools, Wawak and other sewing tool suppliers.

https://www.goldstartool.com/pattern-notcher.htm at 14.99

https://www.wawak.com/Cutting-Measuring/Patterns-Supplies/pattern-notcher/?sku=TOOL15 at $18.35

Special Needles

Both of these needles help finish a seam. On the top, an Easy Thread needle, which threads from the top, is perfect for hiding thread ends.

2 special needles: an Easy Thread needle and a double eyed needle on my work table

Easy Thread needle and Double eyed needle

On the bottom, a double eyed needle has an eye on each end. Thread the ends of a serger chain into one of the eyes. Slide the other end of the needle back through the serger seam and bury the thread chain ends to prevent the chain from raveling.

Easy Thread needles are available at Gold Star tools, Wawak and other sewing tool suppliers.

https://www.goldstartool.com/selfthreading-needles-10-pc.htm at $3.99 for a 10 pack

https://www.wawak.com/Sewing/Needles/Hand/john-james-assorted-easy-threading-hand-needles-4-size-4-2-size-8/?sku=NEDE48 at $1.79 for a 4-pack

The Double ended needles are harder to find.  I found them at Sewing Machine Plus online:

https://www.sewingmachinesplus.com/havels_dbleneedle.php?gclid=CjwKCAiA5JnuBRA-EiwA-0ggPRwVPbTWsVMHRBbgbolswUNnQDq_fI-j_mUayHqFVQ3gPLkyQmYWGBoCMQMQAvD_BwE at $3.99 for a 2 pack.

I hope you have  found a new tool put on your Holiday Wish List or buy for yourself.  I’m sure you have other tools you love that aren’t listed here.  Please share!

NB: all of the links to the shopping sources are provided by me, without any sponorship from the vendors. I have received good customer service from GoldStar, Wawak and SewingMachings Plus.  Please let me know if the links don’t work!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salmon pink short sleeve with grey Sashiko stitching

Sashiko instructions

Long ago, in June 2019, I promised to post instructions for Sashiko.  Six months later I am finally posting the instructions.   I took the instruction and photos directly from Creating Couture Embellishment, which means the text is quite small; I’m sorry.

In Step 1 of the text below it says to “see box, right” to learn about adjusting the tension of the bobbin case but those instructions have been moved to the bottom of this post.  Enjoy!

First page of instructions from Creating Couture Embellishment describing how to do Sashiko.

 

Second page of instructions from Creating Couture Embellishment describing how to do Sashiko.

Diagrams and text explaining balanced machine stitching.

 

Amazing Price for CCE

#37 – Amazing Price For Creating Couture Embellishment

 book-cover-creating-couture-embellishment

Amazon/ Super Book Deals is offering Creating Couture Embellishment for only $42.52 (+ $3.99 in shipping, total = $46.51)   Amazon/ txtbroker is offering  CCE for only $42.63  (+ $3.99 in shipping, total = $46.62)

The wholesale cost of Creating Couture Embellishment is $42.50.  If you have any interest in buying CCE now is the time to do it! click here.

For those of you who shop all year round for Holiday gifts, now would be great a time to buy Creating Couture Embellishment  for anyone who in your life who sews.

If you do buy CCE I’m happy to send you a personalized book plate you can add to your book;  write me a note in the comments section or send me an email.

Also, if you would be kind enough to leave a review on Amazon here,  or Goodreads  here, that would be lovely.

The glass-1/2-empty part of me says that Amazon is selling my books super cheap to get rid of them.  The glass-1/2-full part of me says the more copies that are sold, the more the word gets out that Creating Couture Embellishment  exists.

Please note: Amazon is offering  “flexi-bound” or “hard cover versions of Creating Couture Embellishment.  They are the same book; there is only way printing/binding of the Creating Couture Embellishment .

Happy Shopping everyone!

I’m Teaching at the ASDP Conference

#36 – I’m Teaching at the ASDP Conference!

It’s Official!  I’m teaching at the ASDP Conference!   I emailed a proposal for a class, which has been accepted and I’ve been put on the schedule.

Friday afternoon, October 18, 2019 in Milwaukee WI.  Here’s the class description:

Tempted by all the lush ribbons in the stores but not sure which makes the best flowers?  Wondering how to make a beautiful Dior Rose? Come spend an afternoon with Ellen W. Miller, author of Creating Couture Embellishment to learn all about making flowers and ribbon trims to suit today’s fashions. Using different kinds of ribbon and fabrics we will make lots of flowers: Peonies, Pansies, Geraniums, Foxgloves, Dior Roses, Poinsettias, with leaves and stems to round out our bouquets. Lest you think that’s all the ribbons are good for, we’ll make some Shark’s Teeth trim, a glorious Butterfly Bow and other ribbon trims. This class will spark lots of creative ideas for adding contemporary flowers, bows and ribbons to future projects.

If you are interested in signing up for the class here is a link to the ASDP Conference site.

ASDP Conference Schedule

ASDP Conference Schedule

 

I hope to see you there!

Inexperience and It’s Sew Easy TV

#35 – It’s Sew Easy TV 1505

In March 2018 I went to Cleveland to video-tape a 10 minute segment for It’s Sew Easy TV. Before I went I wrote about my preparations: Going to Ohio & England!

This was way out of my comfort zone; I was a professional stagehand, backstage, for many years. I think of myself as a support person, not the onstage, out-front person. I had never been video-taped but the producers of It’s Sew Easy TV assured me it was just like teaching. I’m comfortable teaching, so this should be different but fun. OK…

The rest of this post is about that experience, most of which was really difficult. Most of the problems were due to my inexperience and few miscommunications with the producers of It’s Sew Easy TV. Also, I want to emphasize how much I admire the people who do this really well- like Joanne Banko and Angela Wolf of It’s Sew Easy TV.

At home I prepared my 10 minute speech and my samples. I practiced at home in front of my cousin and my husband, until they could recite my lines. Then I packed my large suitcase filled with clothes and samples and flew off to gray, sleet flecked Cleveland.

The It’s Sew Easy TV offices and studio is in an industrial park: gloomy and unwelcoming. I opened the door to the offices and was greeted with big smiles by Sarah Gunn, Cheryl Sledoba and JoAnne Banko! Michelle Paganini was video-taping her segments. I spent a lovely afternoon getting to know these lovely sewists. Wicked Cool!

Problem #1: I am not a morning person. I was scheduled to video-tape first thing the next day. I had to be at the studio at 7:30 am for Make-Up. I got up extra early to drink lots coffee before heading for the studio. OK…

Problem #2: After make-up, I went into the studio to set up my samples. That’s when I was asked what was I going to sew during the demonstration? Why…. Nothing! I had all my samples pre-sewn as I didn’t think there would be time to get used to sewing on a new sewing machine before the video taping. Since Bernina is a big sponsor of It’s Sew Easy TV, everyone must sew something on the their machine during their segment. OK…

Problem #3: There was no tele-prompter and when I started to “recite” my script, I was told it too rote. Improvise more. OK…

Problem #4: When I teach I spend a lot of time looking at my students and gauging their reactions to see if they comprehend what I’m saying. When video-taping you are supposed to look at the camera: not the camera man who’s behind and slightly above the camera, the camera. And did you know cameras don’t show any sign of comprehension when you tech them something? OK…

Problem #5: It is really really hard to demonstrate a sewing technique with your hands, explain what you’re doing and look at the camera; don’t look at your hands or at the sample. When I teach I look down at the sample and my hands, look up at the students and make sure they are following along with me, look down at the sample- you get the idea. When you are video-taping a How-To segment, you must look at the camera, not at your hands. OK…

Problem #6: A very small amount of time was allotted for the video-taping of my segment. No stopping or redoing if I left something out or misspoke, both of which I did. Keep talking, even when you forget what you were supposed to say. When I started to cough during the taping I was told to keep going; I finally stopped when I was coughing so much I couldn’t speak. The tape was backed up to where I started to cough and we went on from there. I expected a second recording would be made and the two versions would be spliced together to get a good version. I didn’t know there would be no second recording until we were “through” the segment. OK…

Problem # 7: In an effort to streamline my presentation I simplified my presentation. In fact, I simplified it so much it’s completely incomprehensible! OOPS…

Solution to problems #1-6: If I am ever recorded again I will rehearse with a professional director recording until I am comfortable with the results on the tape, be recorded while teaching a class with students present. Combining both of these solutions would probably be the best: rehearse a ton and have students present.

To anyone who tried to follow my directions for Sashiko from It’s Sew Easy TV the directions in my book, Creating Couture Embellishment, are very clear and good. I will post the direction in my next blog post; this blog post is plenty long!

A second technique was recorded immediately after Sashiko: Flounces. I don’t know when It’s Sew Easy TV will be airing this segment. I haven’t seen it. I hope it’s better than the Sashiko segment.

Have you had an experience like this? Something you thought would be fabulous, but turned out to be awful?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Which way should I go?

Just when I thought I wouldn’t be teaching anymore, I was asked to teach a class at the ASDP Conference in October.  So much for my understanding of The Way I Am Supposed to Go.   “What?” you ask, “No teaching?  How did you get there?”  Let me explain…

Since Creating Couture Embellishment was published in August 2017

My book, Creating Couture Embellishment sitting on my work table.
Creating Couture Embellishment aka CCE

 

I have applied to various conferences and conventions to teach. For one reason or another, all of my proposals were rejected.  To make this more insulting, many conference/convention organizers never wrote to say, “Thanks but no, thanks.”  I thought about teaching in small fabric stores and studios around the country, but that has a whole bunch of other problems, the most serious of which is that I don’t have a big mailing list of students who want to take a class with me. So despite the fact that:  I have taught at a post college level for more than 10 years before writing CCE,   I love to pass on the sewing and pattern-making knowledge, and I am a very good teacher (I really am), I thought the universe was telling me, “No teaching, go another way.”

I found another way to go…

A cuff with Braided Bias strips pinned to it

Cuff with Braided Bias strips pinned

I wrote an article for ASG Notions Magazine, vol. XXII, no. 4, Fall 2017 about Embellishing Ready to Wear shirts.

Boston University's Seal

Boston University’s Seal

I wrote to various alumni magazines touting CCE.

 

Fleece hat prototype with lots of ribbons pinned to it

SFD hat prototype

I made an apron and a hat for auctions at the School of Fashion Design to benefit the Scholarship Fund.

Navy blue soutache trim sewn to yellow-gold wool in a braided pattern.

Soutache trim around the collar

I wrote an article for Threads Magazine, issue # 202, April/May 2019 about Soutache trimming on a wool jacket

 

Logo of LinkedIn Learning

LinkedIn Learning Logo

I indulged in Procrasti-learning, as in: I can’t write blog posts until I learn PhotoShop.

Bixby International logo

Bixby International logo

I made a dress for Rubbish to Runway auction to benefit Long Way Home out of industrial discards of poly-urethane fabric.  Reminder to self:  get the photos of this dress from the photographer!

 An open book

I’m even thinking about writing another book- something I swore I would never do. (Cue James Bond and Never Say Never Again).

ASDP logo

ASDP logo

 

 

 

 

And then ASDP came calling- or rather emailing. To paraphrase their email: since the number of conference registrants is very large, they need more classes. Would I be willing to teach- but not what I had proposed earlier.   OK… Truthfully, having seen the class list I understand that my proposed classes duplicated what other teachers also proposed. We quickly settled on a class topic, which I am calling “An Afternoon of Rose Petals, Sharks’ Teeth and Butterfly Bows.” The class will make some flowers out of ribbon and fabric, some folded ribbon trims and some plain & fancy bows. I am very excited about this class; it should be really fun.

 

Maybe the universe does want me to teach. Or maybe this is a one-off opportunity. Either way, I will keep writing, which doesn’t come easily to me, as it’s a solitary, isolating activity. According to Gretchen Rubin’s The Four Tendencies, I am an Obliger: good when I have outside imposed deadlines, not so good with my own personal deadlines. You can attest to this, as there has been an eight-month gap in Blog Posts.   I would promise to do better, but I don’t make promises I may not keep.

How do you keep on yourself on track? And how do you manage commitments to yourself?

Threads Gift Guide, 2018

#33 – Threads Gift Guide

November’s Threads Magazine features their annual Gift & Goodies Guide – For the stitchers in your life.

Cover of Threads magazine, novemeber 2018, featuring their annual gift guide

Cover of Novemeber 2108 Threads

Creating Couture Embellishment is among the 16 fabulous items they selected this year. “I’m chuffed!” as the English say. Or as New Englanders say, “I’m wicked pleased!”

one of four books picked for the gift guide is Creating Couture Embellishment

Threads recommendation of Creating Couture Embellishment

Need I say more?

Ellen with a gleam in her eye

Wicked Cool!

SFD Distinguished Alumna Award

Distinguished Alumna Award

Distinguished Alumna Award

On Friday, May 11, 2018 I was awarded the Distinguished Alumna Award by the School of Fashion Design in Boston, MA.

SFD Distinguished Alumna Award

SFD Distinguished Alumna Award

{For those who don’t know the School of Fashion Design in Boston it is a small school that only teaches Fashion Design and related classes: sewing construction, pattern making, draping, sketching, CAD for pattern making, Photoshop & Illustrator, fashion photography, couture details, 2 and 3-D design, fashion history, hand-bag design & construction, shoe design, and so on. All the classes are limited to 15 or so students, with most classes being much smaller. I love the student: teacher ratio; in every class the teacher has time to check in with every student making sure each student has understood and has successfully completed the lesson/homework assignment from the last class. Located in downtown Boston, it has day, evening and weekend classes.}  http://schooloffashiondesign.org/ 

I graduated from the School of Fashion Design (SFD) in 1998, with a Certificate in Clothing Construction and Pattern Making. (SFD only awards Certificates, not degrees.) I started teaching a Level 1 Construction class the following year.  By the time I took a leave of absence from SFD 10 years later, I had taught Construction and Pattern making levels 1 and 2, Construction levels 3 & 4, and Couture Details. I really love teaching, and I’m good at it, if I do say so myself. I love seeing how each student learns: some students need to read a book, some students need to see a demonstration and some students need to do the project themselves. Of course, we all learn best by using a combination of all 3 methods: reading, watching and doing.

My book, Creating Couture Embellishment, came from teaching the Couture Details class, with some bits and pieces from other classes thrown in, too.

As the Distinguished Alumna, I had two duties: helping to select the garments that would be in the annual Fashion Show and giving a graduation speech. The garment selection process is called “Judging”. As in “Is your dress ready for Judging?” “Oh, no. I still need to hem to my dress and add the hook & eye at the top of the zipper on my skirt!” I was one of six judges; all of us are professional fashion people. We were shown over 100 garments and we loved most of them!

The Fashion Show was held a week later, and it was stunning.

Fashion Show program, front cover

Fashion Show program, front cover

Fashion Show program, back cover

Fashion Show program, back cover

Graduation was the following day. The six members of the graduating class listened to three speakers: Dr. Denise Hammon, the current head of the school. Denise, who is retiring, will be sorely missed. She kept tearing up during the ceremony as she said good bye to the graduating class and to the staff at SFD. I spoke next—the text of my speech is below. Olivia Spence, the recipient of the Isobel Sinesi Lifetime Achievement in Fashion Award, spoke next. Olivia told us of her experiences in Saudi Arabia in the late 1970’s as the co-designer of hundreds of outfits for the Saudi royal families’ wedding season. Each woman needed several outfits for each wedding ; there were many women and many weddings. Now, whenever Olivia is unsettled by an upcoming event or project, she tells herself, “If you can manage the royal Saudi wedding parties, you can mange anything!” It was a great speech and wonderful reminder that we can conquer just about anything we set our minds to. Finally the graduates were handed their Certificates and a rose. All in all the graduation ceremony lasted about an hour, just the right length if you ask me!

 

Graduation program, front cover

Graduation program, front cover

Graduation program

Graduation program

Here is my speech. I was quite nervous. I tried not to speak too quickly. I was so pleased when the audience laughed. I have added <laughs> where the audience laughed. Everyone liked my speech. Olivia and I agreed that if we had planned our speeches together we couldn’t have gotten them to compliment each other any better. Hooray!

Good Morning.                  I started to write a speech telling you about the 5 years I spent writing my book, Creating Couture Embellishment and about the 10 years before that, that I spent teaching at SFD and the 20 years before that, that I spent working in the theater. Several people said this would be interesting to you. Two pages into this reminiscence I was bored to tears. <laugh>

I thought about my SFD graduation day – well really all I remember about that day was that on my way up to the podium to receive my diploma from Mrs. Cushing I tripped. <laugh>

I thought about what would I like someone to tell me on graduation day.

Your work should be something that makes you happy.    

It is work so there will be times when it’s really, really hard: when you pin and baste the left sleeve into the right armhole, when rip out every seam you sew, and when press in creases where they don’t belong.     There will be times when you would rather not bother: when you would rather stay in bed and watch Netflix, or be outside in the sunshine. <laugh>     And then there will be times when everything goes right: when the zipper goes in on the first try, when the pockets match, left and right, and the piping goes right around the corner without bunching or pulling. Those are the times that make all the other hours worth struggling through.   And you can say,  “Yeess! I do know what I’m doing!”

Whatever it is that you do: give it your all.

The prime example of this is hemming a gown: the hem you know you should sew by hand, but you really want to sew it by machine because it’s a really full skirt, and it’s way down there on the ground and who’s going to look down there, because if people are looking down there, then your client isn’t very interesting is …  <laugh>  But you know you should sew it by hand because the rest of the garment is really great and to skimp here… This is when you have to step up and give it your all.  Put on some really good music, or an audio book and sew the hem by hand because you know it will be worth the trouble. When you’re done you’ll be able say, Yeesss! It was worth it!

Don’t worry that you don’t know everything.

It’s true, you will never know everything- that’s impossible. There’s always something new to learn- My sister is a Harley Davidson Motorcycle dealer in Wyoming. She taught me that Harley Davidson Motor Clothes have extra long sleeves. That’s so that when you’re riding your motorcycle with your arms outstretched, your sleeves will still cover your wrists. Yeess! You have learned something new today! <laugh>

However, you know a tremendous amount. For example, you know about pivoting a dart, adding seam allowance, sewing in a sleeve, a hundred ways to hem a dress.  You know how to design a line of clothes and how to present that line of clothes with hand drawn sketches and computer graphics.  You know the difference between cotton and silk, underlining versus interfacing, 2 way stretch versus 4 way stretch, woven versus braided elastic, wearing ease and something that’s just too big. And you know how to take-in that too big garment to make it fit.  You know how to drape a skirt, a blouse, a dress and a gown. You know how to thread a sewing machine in your sleep and how to model a garment on the runway. And it’s very clear that you know how to create a beautiful, original, custom made white dress for this graduation. So, Yeess! You do know a tremendous amount!

You’re graduating from this “wicked hard”  program at the School of Fashion Design. Congratulations! you’re amazing!

After all of this we trooped off to a delicious Brunch at Post 360.

Brunch Invitation

Brunch Invitation

The SFD Apron- Seminole Patchwork

#19 – The SFD Apron- Seminole Patchwork

The School of Fashion Design in Boston, where I went to school and later taught, has added a December couture detail garment auction to its annual calendar. This year’s garment to be embellished is an apron. I was asked to make an apron for the auction; the apron is due December 1, 2017  for the auction on December 12, 2017.

SFD Apron Flyer

SFD Apron Flyer

Here is rumpled flyer; it’s been through the USPS to get to me.

As I have mentioned before designing is not my strong suit, so I set up a Pinterest board about Aprons. https://www.pinterest.com/coutureellen/apron/ I wanted my apron to be useful: machine washable & dryer-able.On the Pinterest board were photos of apron made from shirts.  My husband recently cleaned out his closet and a bag of his shirts was waiting to go to the thrift store.  There is a standing joke in our house: which blue & white striped shirt will he wear today? Blue & white stripes and Seminole patchwork could work!

The shirts on the table

The shirts on the table

First step: cut the shirts into 2” (5 cm) wide strips. Second step: create an order for the strips. Did I create an easy to replicate repeating order? No, of course not.

The first set of strips

The first set of strips

 

Cut into strips

Cut into angled strips

Third step: cut the strips into angled strips on a 45° angle.

Sew the angled strips together

Sew the angled strips together

Fourth and fifth steps: Offset the strips by one block and sew them together to make the “new fabric.”

Working on the base shirt: I cut away parts of the yellow and blue checked base shirt leaving the fronts shaped into apron-like pieces with the collar. I opened up the collar stitching from the edge of the button placket around through the back neck and forward to the other front placket. I also opened up the stitching on the buttonhole placket that attached it to the shirt front.

Sixth step: Place the strips on the base shirt. When I made the set of strips for the right hand side I had to cut all the strips in reverse to get the diagonal pattern to mirror the left hand side. All good. But when I laid the strips out and sewed them together I saw that I had added an extra set of narrow blue striped blocks into the pattern. I took apart the blocks around the narrow blue stripes, laid it out again and the pattern still didn’t work. I asked my husband to come help. His verdict: I was missing the narrow blue striped blocks. Argh! We placed all the blocks in the correct order and I pinned them into place. Then I took photograph below.

Laying the new fabric on the base shirt

Laying out the new fabric

This photograph shows the missing pieces on the right hand side, as you look at the photograph.

 

Close up of the missing pieces with numbers

Close up of the missing pieces with numbers

After looking at the photograph I decided I could still get mixed up so I numbered all the pieces to be added: the strips/columns (vertical) were labeled 1-11 and additions were numbered A-D using bits of masking tape. Columns 1 and 3 just got numbers as they were complete. All the other columns got numbered and lettered A through D as they needed pieces added. I didn’t think to take a photograph of this, but I labeled the photo in Photoshop; I hope the numbering is visible. Column 11 didn’t exist, so I hadn’t screwed up that piecing!

The next steps have no photographs.

I placed the “new fabric” on top of the shirt fronts and aligned the diamond pattern, vertically and horizontally. The raw edge on the right side at center front got tucked into the buttonhole placket and then I re-sewed the placket seam. The raw edge on the left side at center front was folded under ¼” (6mm) and top stitched down to the base shirt, right next to the buttons.

Working across the fronts I matched the vertical seams of the new fabric to a blue stripe in my base shirt, every 3” (5.5mm). These lines were then top stitched/ machine quilted to keep the two fabrics together. There are a few places where my attention wandered while I was top stitching and my stitching line went astray; I left these bobbles as it shows the garment was made “by hand” rather than by machine. OK- I was too lazy to undo the stitching.

Step one hundred: I cut away the extra new fabric around the outside edges of my apron base. Now it really looks like an apron! I stitched all around the edges of the apron at 1/4″ ( 6mm) to hold it all the raw edges together. Bias binding made from a shirting remnant was sewn around the outside edges and made into apron strings. The apron strings were stitched onto the sides in big Xs. Finally the collar was re-sewn catching the top edge of the apron and closing the back neck. DONE!

The completed apron on the table

The completed apron on the table

What I thought would be a one day project was a 2+ day project.

The completed apron belted on a dress form

The completed apron belted

 

The completed apron tied in back on a dress form

The completed apron tied in back

 

I’ll let you know how the auction goes!

ITAA Conference

ITAA 2017

Last week I went to the ITAA Conference in St. Petersburg, Florida. ITAA stands for International Textile and Apparel Association, a mouthful in initials or spelled out. http://itaaonline.org/event/2017Conference

My editor at Laurence King Publishing, Anne, always liked going to this conference, but could not attend this year. Anastasia, also from LKP, encouraged me to join here there. Kara and Helen completed the team from LKP attending the conference.

My Wednesday afternoon trip to St. Petersburg was easy. After I checked into the Hyatt Hotel where I was staying, I ran to the Hilton Hotel where the ITAA conference was being held. I found the ballroom where the 6-8pm Fairchild Publications cocktail party was winding up, as it was 7:45 pm. I quickly put my purse down next to a woman who was eating and said, “I’ll be right back — with some food.” She replied, ”Pile your plate up, they’re shutting down the buffet very soon.” My kind of woman! Deborah Vandermar, the Executive Director of the Makers Coalition, and I quickly found many things to talk about. We were soon joined by Dyanne Marte of American River College, who had just arrived from Sacramento CA, and the three of us found even more to talk about. Eventually, the hotel staff turned on all the fluorescent lights in the ballroom and Deborah, Dyanne and I reluctantly wrapped up our conversation and said good night to one other; this scene was repeated all over the ballroom: small groups of attendees talking animatedly about fashion and related fields, and reluctantly concluding their conversations, but agreeing to meet up again tomorrow.

Meeting Deborah and Dyanne, having a long conversation with them about fashion and fashion production was great. These women were like me, and they liked me. This conference was going to be fun!

On Thursday, I met Anastasia, Kara and Helen in the Exhibitor’s Hall, where they were presiding over at two tables of LKP books. They were very welcoming. When I blew up my inflate-able mannequin and dressed her in the feather bodice that’s shown on the cover of Creating Couture Embellishment they were impressed. Kara took photos of me holding my book next to the feather bodice; I will add that photo here when I get a copy from Kara.

After a bit of chit-chat with Kara, Helen and Anstasia I went off to my first Breakout Session. All the sessions are 1 hour and 15 minutes long; four papers are presented and there’s a little bit of time for Q & A. Of all of the presentations I heard, the paper that caught my imagination the most was Shifting the Basic Pattern Block into a New Framework to Fit the Demands of Post Double Mastectomy Women. The team of researchers asked if women who are Living Flat (women who can’t tolerate implants or prosthetics, or don’t want to) would they be willing to buy new clothes to fit their new shape? The majority of respondents said they would like new clothes that fit their new shape, and would pay for them. What caught my attention was the next step: what do these clothes look like? Do they have 2 waist darts that taper the fabric from the shoulder to the waist? Or shaped side seams? The paper’s authors made 2 muslins showing both versions: they preferred the waist dart solution.

My questions went beyond the basic pattern: Do the tops have bulky fabric manipulations (e.g. a cowl neckline) to camouflage the flatness? Or ornamentation to proclaim a woman’s successful battle against cancer? Or just flat, subtle clothing that doesn’t hide, but doesn’t shout “Flat” either?

Thursday’s luncheon speaker, Chris Lane of 3dMD, spoke about using 3-D scanners to gauge how clothing fits bodies. http://www.3dmd.com/  Actually, he talked about a lot more than that, but that’s the part captured my attention the most. The images of men jumping up and down and watching the clothing move with them, or not, and of women bending over and seeing how far the seat of the pants needed to stretch while the waistband stayed at the waist were amazing.

2 photos of women in workout wear

3dMD photo

 

I know that Harley Davidson™ motorcycle clothes come with extra long sleeves so that when you ride with your arms outstretched your wrists are still covered, but when you’re not riding there’s a lot of extra fabric at the wrist that I always fold up into an awkward cuff. Another scenario, having baggy knees in your pants after you sit for a long time, which comes from stretching the straight leg of your pants around the curve of your knee, is also not great. Getting fabrics to look good relaxed or stretched, straight or curved is still an issue- even with lycra.

 

To cap off the day Claire Shaeffer presented a collection of Chanel and St. Laurent garments.

 

Claire Shaeffer

Claire Shaeffer

Many of the garments had been opened up so we could compare the interfacings and construction methods. Claire had cotton gloves for everyone to wear so we could handle the garments while she explained how they differed from one another and the purpose of each couture technique. Claire couldn’t have been nicer. What a marvelous opportunity to meet and talk to an idol of mine! And she asked me to autograph a copy of my book for her!!!!

Friday morning there was a Book Signing for me in the Exhibition Hall starting at 9 am. I brought 3 more inflate-able forms and the bodices from the Tucks, Lace Trim and Passementerie chapters to show.

Table with Tuck, Lace Trim, Passementerie and Feather bodices. Also books

Ready to sign books

Here is the table all set up: imagine me standing in the space between the Passementerie and Feathers bodices, smiling and ready to sign your copy of the book. Someday I will master enough of Photoshop to be able to add me into a photo like this.

2 tables with books and bodices for Laurence King Publishing

The Laurence King Publishing tables

The book signing was scheduled from 9-10 am but went on until 12 noon as women kept stopping to look at the book and chat. At 12 noon I signed the last of the 16 copies LKP had shipped to St. Petersburg. WooHoo!

Although the conference continued for a few more days, I was done. I met so many remarkable women at the ITAA conference. (There were very few men there.) Often I was greeted with a chilly “hello” because my name tag didn’t say “University of…” but when I said “textbook about sewing” everyone smiled and wanted see the book.

I am eager for my next adventure publicizing Creating Couture Embellishment.  I’m still thinking about women who are Living Flat and what their new clothes could look like. Any design ideas?