Thursday, January 29, 2009

Home Sick (and my overdue Back Story)

No, not "homesick", but home and sick. We've all been healthy since Christmas (gee... a whole month!), but cold season still lingers, and I'm home with a sinus headache, runny nose, and chest congestion. Little Man, too. :( So, since I really don't feel like grading that stack of Probability Quizzes in my bag, I think I'll update my blog instead, while Little Man watched Power Rangers!

Ladies (Angie), ladies (Dawn), ladies (Bunny).... THANK YOU! 3 Kreative Blogger nominations? I'm really flattered!

Like Dawn, I don't consider myself too creative with my sewing (or productive these days!), and agree that people who drape and draft are truly the talented ones, but it's really nice to know that there are people out there who appreciate my work. Bunny said, "Kristine's sewing talents go in all sorts of different directions and her love for the sport shows." I absolutely love to sew, have since I was in middle school, and in the last couple years, have really gained a lot of lost ground, thanks in large part to all of you.
The Back Story
(grab a cup of coffee, this will take awhile... I've been sewing for 20 years?!)
As a child, I remember shopping with my Mom for fabric and patterns for school clothes in Kmart. I remember trying to figure out where the paper pattern went when she made my shirts (I thought it became part of the garment, silly 5 yr old!). I remember the doll clothes she made for my Cabbage Patch Doll and her warning not to trade them for any of that "store bought crap". Mom didn't sew a lot, but my Grandmother sewed quite a bit. My mom told me once that she basted all the seams, ensured the fit, then used her treadle machine to complete the garment. She made my mother's wedding gown in 1951, and I've always wished I could've seen it in person (I believe it was cut up and turned into a baptismal gown, a very, very long time ago.)

My mom taught me "the basics", starting with "If you can't find what you want in the store, just buy a pattern and make it!" I was in middle school, and had dragged her from mall to mall, searching for the "perfect" skirt, but it was nowhere to be found. She, in turn, dragged me to Joann Fabrics, and introduced me to sewing. I can't remember how that skirt turned out, but I do know that I was hooked. From then on, sewing brought me so much happiness, a huge sense of accomplishment, and boosted my self-esteem and confidence. To start with a flat piece of fabric, and end up with a well-fitted, stylish, unique garment... I just couldn't get enough of it.
By the 8th grade (1988), I had my first paying sewing job: to make 10 matching outfits for my show choir. For $100 ($10 per person), I made each girl a skirt and top (ivory cotton) with a pastel colored sash).

My first part-time job during high school was (of course) at Joann Fabrics, where I quickly accumulated my first fabric stash. With remnants priced at a penny an inch (for employees) and all the discontinued patterns I could carry home, who needed a paycheck??? My bedroom was slowly being taken over by sewing stuff, and my parents bought me my own machines: a Kenmore and a Toyota serger. I also got an adjustable dressform, and traded in my double bed for a twin so I could fit everything in my bedroom. I had business cards made, and was doing alterations and making clothes for my friends. I was absolutely definite that fashion design was my future. I was even able to win $1500 in scholarship money for college by showing my success as a young entrepreneur! Junior year of high school (1991), I was hired to make all the dresses for a bridal party, the bride included. Whoa, this was huge! I remember hearing somewhere to charge triple the cost of materials, so the bridal gown was $250, and I remember thinking it was too much! The bridesmaids wore black knee length princess seamed sheath dresses with poofy while lace short sleeves. I can only imagine what they were thinking when they came to my parents' house for a fitting in the bedroom of a 17 yr old girl (That's my room in the pics below). They must've thought the bride was nuts to trust me, but the dresses all turned out great. I did another bridal gown and maid of honor before the year was over.

Naturally, I wanted to go to design school for college. At this point, I had taught myself anything my Mom didn't know how to do. My high school never ran a sewing class because there was never enough girls signed up for it, but my parents said "NO WAY" to New York. It was too far away, and dangerous. Very, very dangerous. I didn't want to give my parents matching heart attacks, so I reconsidered and looked at fashion merchandising at a local school. This is 1992, and the economy was a little iffy. My Dad had to take a demotion to keep his job, and I started to rethink my future. Running your own business seemed really risky to me, and I thought about other things I was good at that seemed more stable. I had a knack for explaining math to my peers in class, and being a teacher seemed like something I would enjoy. I decided to pursue a teaching degree for my "fall back on" strategy, if the sewing business didn't pan out. Well, college was a lot of work, and sewing had to be set aside. I found myself really enjoying teaching and too busy to sew, and dating, then engaged, and planning a weddiing, then starting a family... My sewing passion had taken a back seat to "real life", and while I always longed to get back to it, I simply didn't have the time.
My husband had seen me complete some projects, like quilts & valances, and after my daughter was born, I tried to get my feet wet again sewing for her. I was able to find a little time to sew again, and for my First Mother's Day, DH got me a Viking Iris sewing machine. Wow, it was so much more than I expected, or had ever worked with. Made my Kenmore look like a clunker!

The Viking had/has an embroidery attachment, something completely new to me. Between the fire department DH works at, and the school that I work at, the embroidery demands soon ballooned, and that little 4" x 4" just wasn't cutting it! I invested in a Brother PR-600 a few years ago, and the coordinating digitizing software this fall. It's a nice side business, has paid itself off, and the money it generates helps pay for my fabric addiction!

I started my blog so that I could share my sewing projects with my Mom, family and friends, and I never dreamed I'd find so many ladies like myself that love to sew and create. It always amazes me how surprised and impressed my students and friends about my sewing, but I guess it is (sadly) becoming a lost skill. Project Runway is my absolute favorite show (I have the first 4 seasons on DVD), and I think that has really helped generate interest and encouraged more girls/women to sew. I'm currently planning my first trip to New York City where I will tour the garment district and do all things "sewing and fashion", and there aren't even words to describe my excitement. Lindsay T had a been instrumental with this endeavor, and I can't thank her enough! The internet has finally allowed me to feel part of a sewing community, even though we're spread all over the country (and beyond). I really don't feel the distance when I'm reading your blogs and comments, and think that technology has really enhanced my skills (tutorials ROCK!), and encouraged me to push myself farther (thanks to Dawn for introducing me to BWOF!).

What's left? I've only ever worked from a pattern, so I'd love to learn how to drape and draft patterns. Formalwear is probably my favorite to make (can you tell from all the pics?), and with a prom dress and Mother of the Groom dress on my job list, I'd like to know more about working with those types of fabrics and doing special embellishments, like beading (Summerset, do you hear me?). I get a huge sense of accomplishment from sewing for my family, so I'll continue to dress my husband and kids (and I'm pretty sure they like it, too.) and myself (of course!). Little Miss is learning how to use my machine (slowly), and likes to help pick out the fabrics for her projects.

If you're still awake and reading, thanks for taking to time to hear my story. Thanks to Lindsay T for encouraging us all to share, and I'm sorry my assignment is late. I was home sick with a cold...

p.s. Finding and reviewing the pictures for this post reminded me of a couple things. I'm so glad my mom photographed everything I ever made. Not only does it remind me of how proud she was of everything I made, but it showed me how far I've come. One dress I completely missed the facings on, another shirt had a hole in it because I knicked it with the scissors as I was trimming the last threads. I was learning as I went (and boy, did it show!), and never learned the word "wadder" until just last year. Not because everything turned out perfect (far from it!), but because my Mom was born and raised throught the Depression and WWII. Nothing ever goes to waste, and I can still hear her voice when I lay out a pattern, "Move that piece over here, and you'll have enough for a matching headband!" Ha, Ha. Miss you, Mom.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Birthday Gifts!

Lookie ,Lookie... Look at what I got for my birthday!!! (I'm such a book freak!)

From my In-Laws...
I buy a good amount of fabric online, so this book will really help me learn more about different fabrics and how to properly prepare them for sewing. From "African Mudcloth" to "Woolens and Worsteds", 100 fabrics are defined, along with what it's suitable for, how to preshrink, layout, mark, cut, interface it, what thread, needle, stitch length, presser foot and seam finish to use, how to press, topstitch, hem it, and what closures may entail. Each page has a general sewing tip, and in the back of the book, there is an illustrated glossary of seams, details, closures, and hems. It describes how to do burn tests to determine fabric content, explains when to use certain linings, and has 3 pages of stain removal techniques. I am amazed at the wealth of information in this book, and highly recommend it to anyone who wants to explore new fabrics with confidence. This is my third Betzina book: I have Fast Fit, Power Sewing, and now this one!
And from myself...
My local quilt shop is going out of business, which completely bums be out. Although the selection was limited, it was so nice to go in there and talk "sewing" with the ladies. I think it's a shame that more people don't sew, and it's always sad to see local businesses fail. So anyway, I stopped in there today to see what's marked down (everything) and this book caught me eye.

"Warm Fuzzies" by Betz White (30 Sweet Felted Projects)
"Explains how to transform felt made from old sweaters and other garments into a series of unique and different craft projects through a combination of such techniques as needle felting, applique, knitting, basic embroidery, and more, featuring everything from cupcake pincushions (see cover at left) to small hand puppets and comfy throw." I've never felted wool before, but there are so many projects in this book for my kids, for my friends, for myself... I couldn't pass it up. There is a new Goodwill shop opening soon locally, and I imagine I can find wool sweaters there for these projects pretty cheaply. Amanda and Dawn have got me thinking about recycling with their reconstruction projects for the Pattern Review contest! Here's just a few of the other projects shown.

The new semester starts tomorrow, so I'm rather swamped, but I will be posting some new completed garments this weekend! Hope everyone is staying warm!

Sunday, January 18, 2009


I don't know about you, but sometimes I get a little ahead of myself when I'm considering my next sewing project. Here's a perfect example:

This skirt is halfway done, so it's only natural to think, "What next?", right? So, considering the plethora of colors in the wool, I dug in the stash and found 2 knits that would work for cooordinating tops. Royal blue and Chocolate brown jersey would both match, so I went to the pattern drawer and dug through my BWOF to find appropriate patterns. While the fabric was in the wash, I traced off 12-2008-113 for the royal blue, and cut out Vogue 7799 for the chocolate brown.
I've also been really wanting to do a new white classic button-down for myself (which would also match the half-done skirt), and that would go with lots! So, this morning, I cut McCall's 5522, and am trying very, very hard to listen to Ann and make a non-wearable muslin. Amanda has made this shirt twice, both times turned out so great, I'm really anxious to make it!

Yesterday, more sub-zero temps and more snow (we won't be using the barbecue anytime soon), so the blue top got cut out. Meanwhile, there are 2 UFO's from December that just need a couple finishing touches, but they aren't getting done. Why hem and attach buttons when it's so much more fun to cut into fresh fabric and plan a new garment, ya know?

And, in the back of my mind, I'm already debating on the next item in line: skirt or jacket? The wool on the left is stiffer, and the stripes run on the grain (horizontal on the body), while the wool on the right has a really soft hand, and would be a better jacket than the other, but I'm not opposed to 2 skirts, either...

Not to mention that I have a muslin of a prom dress I'm supposed to be working on, and I've got a potential customer for a Mother of the Groom dress (July 09)! So, my brain is about 10 steps ahead of where it should be, and it's time for me to relocate my butt from the laptop to the sewing machine! Did you notice my new homemade gadget in the very first picture? The two pencils taped together with popsicle sticks between them? A lovely person on the Threads board tipped me off on a cheap and easy way to trace BWOF patterns to include a seam allowance. One tip follows the seam line while the other lays down the cutting line. Cool, huh? It has really helped speed up my tracing time! Speaking of which, I'm really leaving this time...

Friday, January 16, 2009

No School? Now, that's a birthday gift!!!

At 5:50 this morning, I was all ready to start my day. Showered, dressed, hair done (and I do mean curled), and make-up applied, I just needed to pack the lunchbags, and wake up the rugrats. Then the phone rang...

"School will be closed due to dangerously low wind-chill temperatures."
Good: A day off from students!
Bad: It was a half day, and I was supposed to have a long overdue lunch date with a friend.
Good: It is below freezing outside...
Bad: What about the last final exams for the semester??
Good: A day to sew and finish "Eclipse" (the 3rd Twilight book)!
Bad: My sewing back story is nearly finished, but saved on my hard drive... at work!!!
Good: Tomorrow is my birthday, and a day off has been earned after 35 years, don't you think?

So, why let a good hair day go to waste? DH (I love you!) took my picture (check out the profile pic!) and I will spend the day playing hide and seek, cutting a skirt pattern (Dawn: the fabric's in the mail!), and thinking about turning 35 tomorrow... not a bad thing, really. 25 seems so young (It was my first year teaching and I was planning my wedding!), and 45 seems so far away (my kids will be teenagers... Yikes!), so 35 seems perfect to me.

Yesterday, DH was interrogating me about my (non-existent) birthday list. I had told him he could just put the money aside for my New York City trip (date to be determined, Hi Lindsay!), but he had some other ideas...

1. A Kindle, an electronic book gadget that I would love to see in person before choosing. I love to read, and this eliminates the bulk and allows you to also view newspapers, magazines, and some blogs. Really neat, but stupid expensive.
2. A remote car starter. I appreciate that he wants me to be warm, but I'll pass.
3. Leather high-heeled Harley boots that I've been coveting since last summer. Love the thicker stiletto heel and that they're ankle height.

I know it slightly frustrates him, but it really doesn't matter to me what he chooses, because I have everything I could ever want. I am blessed in so many ways, that I feel a little weird asking for more. I'm in love with and married to my best friend, have 2 wonderful, happy and healthy kids, am gainfully employed (See, Dad? Becoming a math teacher instead of an engineer wasn't such a bad plan!) and *love* my job. My family is mostly nearby (gotta love Facebook!), I am healthy (but working on the excess pounds gained since marriage and motherhood), and in the last year have established a new circle of sewing friends online (Yay! I'm not alone anymore!) I think I've finally reached that point in life when I'm not waiting for the next chapter (graduation, employment, engagement, marraige, motherhood... well, except for retirement!) and I'm pretty content with who I've become. There are a few things I need to work on, but if I could stay at this point in my life forever, I'd be just fine (been reading too many vampire stories lately)! Wow, this blog post wasn't supposed to be so deep and reflective, sorry!

So, leather boots, reading gadget, cash for NYC... it's all icing on the cake! Here, have a slice with me...

Better Than Sex Cake
(That's what my friends call it...)
1 chocolate cake mix
1 can Eagle Brand condensed milk
1 jar Sanders milk chocolate hot fudge
1 med. tub Cool Whip
1 bag almond toffee bits by Heath

Bake cake as directed on box. As soon as it comes out of the oven, use handle of wooden spoon to poke holes in top. Drizzle can of condensed milk into holes until gone. Pour Sanders hot fudge topping on next. Let cool, then top with Cool Whip. Refrigerate until ready to serve, then sprinkle on toffee bits, just before serving. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Last post, I was frustrated with the fit and said I needed help to improve. Well, I got some help, and today's product had perfect fit! (Nevermind that it's a knit, it fit right, so it counts as a success!!!)
Apologies for the photo quality, it's all the best my 5 yr old can do. I won't tell you how many tries it took to get this shot...Last night, DH and I used the book "Fast Fit" by Sandra Betzina to properly measure all necessary body parts. It's a fabulous guide, and I'm so glad I already owned it when the fit instructor I contacted recommended it. The first 50 pages of the book explain and SHOW how to get proper measurements, then the rest of the book explains and SHOWS how to make 45 pattern adjustments for all "trouble areas" of the body. I used it last summer to do a full bust adjustment, and didn't realize how great the measurements section was. So, it took about 30 minutes, but DH and I managed a full set of accurate measurements for me. (BTW, it also covers properly measuring for the right size bra... now I'm curious to hit Victoria's Secret and see if it's right...)
This morning, I got to work on my second sweater, using Burda 7724 and some great small gauge sweater knit from Haberman Fabrics, the best fabric store in the area. I'm so happy with the outcome, I can't even begin to tell you. It's "close fitting" for sure, fits like a dream (I know, I know... it's a knit, it's not that hard...) and I'm really excited to wear it. It's been a long time since I made something I was excited to wear, so this is a big deal! The pattern is so easy to put together, I was able to cut it this morning while the kids watched cartoons, then do all the sewing during naps (2 hours). Not that I need another sweater like this, but I'll probably make it again since it was so easy and the fit is great. Notice the shawl collar can be worn 2 ways: folded neatly, or loosely gathered for more coverage.I have a couple of loose ends to tie up on 2 projects: a pair of pants for myself that just needs a clasp closure and DH's last Christmas late gift needs hems and 2 buttons. Then it's onto a wool skirt for myself to wear with this great new sweater! Hope everyone out there is staying warm and making good on those resolutions. I'm up 1 (improving fit) and down one (couldn't say "NO" to the 50% off Red Tag fabrics at JoAnn's for the kids and DH)). Don't even ask about the diet...
I haven't been doing too well with updating the blog either, but it's all Angie's fault. Because of her blog, I asked for "Twilight" for Christmas, read it and the sequel (both since New Year's) and I'm into "Eclipse", the third book of the series. It's addicting, so beware... I've been bouncing back and forth between the book and the sewing machines!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

I need a fitting class...

Here is top #119 from the October 2008 BWOF (line drawing here). The magazine version is shown below.
I'm happy with it, but am frustrated (unsure?) of the fit. The waist and bottom are perfect, but I *hate* the extra space in my armpit area. I keep forgetting that I should be doing a FBA (maybe subconsiously avoiding the extra work), but wouldn't that make it even bigger in this bust? Here is what I suspect... I should've traced a 40 or 42 and done a FBA. I think the shoulders will fit better then, and I'd have less gaping in the neck. But, according to my measurements, this makes absolutely no sense! All I know is that the magazine version has a tighter fit in the neck and waist.

I'm such an idiot... I got so excited about sewing something for myself that I kept forging ahead, forgetting to interface the facings. Not a huge deal, but it might've helped with the gaping. Sometimes I think I have ADHD when I'm sewing, because I let the excitement (devil on one shoulder) beat the proper technique (angel on the other shoulder) too often.

Anyhow, I'm happy with it. Will definitely be wearing it to work (with a cami underneath) and love the fabric. Funny how similar it is to the magazine version! There was no fraying (because of the lycra?) and the stretch allowed me to remove the zipper and slip it over my head. Another glaring piece of evidence that I need know more about my measurements and choosing the right pattern size! DH has offered to help me make a duct tape double, so I think it's time to find a babysitter and read up on the tutorial that Dawn followed to make her's, which she loves.

Here's the sewing goodies I got for Christmas:
Along with a couple of sweaters, a couple of books (Twilight and The Lucky One), a Bluetooth cell phone speaker for the car, and a very awesome Rabbit Bottle Opener. If you like to drink wine, hate cork floaties, and tend to demolish the cork upon removal, you *need* one of these! I also got the first season of Project Runway on DVD, which I love to watch while I trace and cut patterns in the kitchen.

*Bonus of the week* I won $50 playing Texas Hold'em on New Year's Day, so I'm ordering myself a Point Press/Clapper and a Double Tracing Wheel. 2009 is off to a good start!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Hello, 2009!

The Oakland Press 1/1/09

In 2008, I'm most proud of these sewing accomplishments:
1. I copied a ready-to-wear formal gown successfully. In 2 weeks. Proud is an understatement.
2. I was introduced to BWOF, and made 7 garments from my subscription. 4 skirts, 1 top, 1 dress, and 1 pair of dress pants. I'm getting faster at tracing...
3. I sewed for my husband. It only took 14 years, but he has 2 new shirts, another almost done, and a pair of pants in the works.
4. Taught my daughter how to use my sewing machine. She's great at going slow, keeps the fabric straight, and takes the pins out. No cutting of patterns yet, but we'll get there! She is 5...
5. The embroidery business has finally established itself on a regular, steady pace. Although this is something that keeps me from my "fun" sewing, it also pays for my addiction, so I can't complain!
6. The friendships I've made through blogging! I'm grateful for my "sounding board" buddies and their support and feedback, not to mention the enjoyment I get from reading their blogs that inspire me and make me laugh.

In 2009, I'd like to:
1. Continue making formal wear for clients. I already have a deposit for a prom gown!
2. Try making bags/purses. I have a few patterns, just have to dig in. Why am I such a chicken when it comes to trying new things???
3. Buy less fabric. There, I've said it. In the process of re-organizing, I discovered that I really only need to buy fabric if I'm working for a client, copying a specific look, or completely out of a particular fabric (lining). I've also curbed my pattern shopping by tracing the original (especially for the kids), and I want to do more copying of RTW and try pattern drafting this year.
4. Fine tune my fitting skills and hand-stitching for a more professional and finished look.
5. Get better (faster) at updating my blog!

Simplicity 3668
Miss D wanted her Christmas dress to look just like Nina's from the children's show, "Imagination Movers". I used Simplicity 3668 (already in the stash), red stretch panne velvet from Jo-ann's, and striped grosgrain ribbon. The pattern actually called for a woven, but when I read a review that said the pattern runs a little small, I decided it would be okay for this knit faux velvet. I used the size 4 according to the measurements on the envelope, shortened the sleeves, skipped the elastic cuffs and skipped the zipper. Yes, I skipped the zipper. It slips over her head just fine, and the more I sew for her, the more I know how much she likes to get ready by herself. (I think I'll be finding more ways this year of altering the closures on the clothes I make for her.) The ribbon and bow in only seen in the front, stitched into the side/sleeve seams. It's hard to see in the picture, but there are some vertical pleats in the front, where the skirt attaches to the front bodice yoke. The pattern was easy to make, and I'm glad I traced off the original, as it will be used again, especially since there are pants, a shirt, a vest, and this dress as a jumper. I highly recommend this pattern.

Thanks to Summerset for her recommendation on the ribbon. Yes, it will also serve as her "Valentines" dress!