Thursday, February 22, 2024

Not Modern Enough to Use Modern Conveniences

This is for all of you out there using something other than your hands to raise and lower the presser foot on your sewing machines. 

knee lift rodsewing machine
I have two Bernina sewing machines and both have the option to insert a rod like this into that little hole on the front.  This view is on my 1001 model but my newer 350 model has it as well.  Both came with the knee lift rods.  The bend in the rod allows it to go under your table so you can "simply" press your knee against it and it will raise and lower your presser foot, hands free.  I say "simply" in quotes because I have no idea how simple it is to use. 

Confession:  I've had my Bernina 1001 for almost 30 years and a newer 350 but I've always been afraid to use the knee lift.  Why?  Two very silly reasons.  For one, I don't know how to use it and never bothered to look at a video.  But mostly because I've always been afraid that I'd get so used to it, I wouldn't ever be able to use a sewing machine that didn't have this option, no matter how good the rest of the options might be.  

Anyone else out there have this problem?  You have access to a modern convenience that will make your life so much better but you won't use it in case you love it and can't live without it?  I'm looking at you, backup cam in my car.  I refused to use it in case I become so reliant on it, I can't back up the old fashioned way.  This happens more than I'd like which is a great example of irony because the very crux of my job is technology and how it can be leveraged to improve things.

This must be a GenX problem, right?

Back to why I've called you all here.

The more I see people in their videos appearing to magically raise and lower presser feet without no hands, the more I wonder why on earth I have two machines that will do this and refuse to bother.  Isn't this the kind of thing I would LOVE?  I'm all about efficiency and surely the micro milliseconds I will save not moving my hand to raise and lower the presser foot will make my life so much better, right?  So I keep thinking, I should really figure this out.

sewing space
And I sat down to think about thinking about it and came up with a new dilemma.  How does the knee lift work if you have a standing desk?  When I upgraded my sewing space a few years ago, I left behind the old sit at a table thing and put in a counter where all of my machines live.  The 350 is missing from this picture but it sits to the left of the 1001 most of the time.  I stand or use the stool.  When I'm quilting or trying to sew something unwieldy like these grain bags, I bring it to a table so I can spread everything out.  At that table I do sit, but when I'm doing anything else, I'm at this counter.  I don't think I can stand and press the knee lift and the way I have everything arranged, I'm not sure I can sit on the stool and use it either.  I know I could just try it and see what happens but I also know that if I use it once and LOVE it and then find out I can't use it in my current set up, I'm going to be so mad and rethink everything about the set up I like so much.  

It's very complicated here in my brain when I'm having such first world dilemmas.

I'd love to hear from you if you use a knee lift system and especially if you use it with a standing desk or something similar to mine.  

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Not Your Average Grain Bag

grain bags repurposed

A few years back, I learned how to make a bag from some kind of tutorial that had very specific dimensions in mind in the tutorial.  

One thing led to another, and I realized you can make any size you want, make it as deep and wide as you want, add handles, etc.  You can even add pockets inside or outside!  That one takes some pre-thinking and I won't tell you how many times I didn't pre-think correctly and have had weird pockets in weird places.

I did correctly pre-think on this one and successfully incorporated the whale into my design.  The inside pocket locations were questionable though.

I don't remember if the original had you make a lining, but it's as simple as making another bag with the same dimensions and then sewing the two together.  This hides all of the seams and you get that fun experience of "birthing the bag" where you pull it all through so everything is right side out. 

I made this tutorial to give everyone just a nugget of an idea.  Once you get the concept, you'll be off and running!

My  latest endeavor has been trying to find ways to upcycle grain bags from the barn.  We have all of these grain bags from the enormous amounts of grain they eat, and most just get thrown away.  I've seen a lot of people just wash them, cut them down a little bit, make handles from the parts they cut away and sell them as is.  

I tried that but I didn't like the result.  Too noisy and the handles were terrible.  I didn't really trust their durability.  I learned after making this bag with the fancy handles that webbing is really the best way to make durable straps for a bag.  They last forever and I've been known to upcycle from one bag to another.

Fast forward to my overactive brain thinking I should quilt some batting scraps to the back of the grain bags and then line them.  That quieted things down nicely and then I got creative with pockets and linings.
My favorite addition is this green fabric on the webbed straps.  Webbing comes in a variety of colors, but darker is really better if it's going to be a bag that might get dirty or used a lot.  The green in the brand name got me thinking and I found some fabric in my stash to match so I sewed it on top.
The fun didn't stop there.  From the scraps of leftover scraps, I made a little clip holder for my sewing room.
All of the bags (not my little clip holder) are available in my etsy shop.

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Winners All Around

back view of a hoodie
A couple of months go, I won some "misprint" fabrics from Waymaker Fabrics.  They were hardly misprints.  Two of them seemed to have absolutely nothing wrong with them and one had a clear misprint but it was easy to work around.

Melvin's birthday is right after Christmas and while I found things to get him for Christmas, I was really stuck for something for his birthday.  I don't usually make clothes for other people, mostly because I don't think I'll get the size right or they will pull too hard and a seam will pop, but his mother has made some clothes for him, so I asked if there was a pattern she uses for a hoodie.  I figure you can't really go wrong with a hoodie.

She recommended the kids Classic Sweatshirt from Peek A Boo patterns.  I thought about fabric I had on hand and thought this black and gold from Waymaker Fabrics might be kind of cool.  It's not my kind of print but it seemed like something he'd wear.  

side view of a hoodie
The fabric is an athletic stretch, like you'd wear for leggings, so I wanted to line it to  make it a little warmer.  This kid lives in hoodies and tries to wear them as coats.  I had some thin waffle knit that I thought would be perfect because it's a little too thin to make a shirt out of but it would give a little warmth to this without making it too thick to sew.  
excited boy in hoodie

I cut the pieces out of the main fabric and the lining and then just sewed them together as thought it was one fabric.  I didn't want to go through the effort of sewing two hoodies and then sewing them together.  They stuck to each other pretty well, probably because it's winter and static is the name of the game around here in the winter months.  

The instructions were clear and easy to follow and I kind of guessed on the sizing.  At first, I felt like it would almost fit me and he's not that big, so I was afraid it would swim on him.  I think it's a pretty good fit and he seemed to like it!

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Falling For A Henley

Henley line drawing
I’ve never been quite sure if I like a Henley neckline.  They look like this line drawing that I grabbed from the pattern, in case you don’t know what I’m talking about.  I’ve seen them with and without buttons and sometimes, the buttons even go up higher than the buttonholes which has always puzzled me.  I’ve seen the placket this width but also wider.  The biggest reason I’m never sure if I like a Henley is because it usually looks very casual, to the point of just rolled out of bed and grabbed some long underwear to throw on before I do chores.  Is it old timey?  That’s not usually a reason for me to avoid a piece of clothing.  I don’t really know what has turned me off to them in the past.

Fast forward to the beginning of the month when Rivet Patterns was looking for testers for a Henley.  But not just any old Henley.  The Hawthorn Henley could be a top or a dress, has a bunch of sleeve lengths and it’s designed so that you could have buttons or no buttons on the placket.  The no button option piqued my interest because I thought I could class it up a little and change my mind about henleys.

And by class it up, I mean make it look like more than just a shirt to do chores.  My clothing tends to be work wear or looked like I climbed out of the gutter.  There’s no weekend casual for me.  It’s “nice” or “WHAT have you been doing?”.  There’s no in between,  For me, a typical Henley isn’t really work wear and I don’t need extra clothing for mowing the grass and getting dirty. 

I had just the fabric in mind for this classy idea.

But first, as with every pattern, I needed to do a muslin, which is a test drive.  It’s best not to just wing it with a new pattern and use your favorite fabric, especially if it’s a pattern test.  Pattern testing can sometimes have many versions before the final is working for everyone, so sometimes, you have to make it a few times to get it just right.  

Even with designers I’ve used before, I always do a muslin to make sure a new pattern fits the way I expect because things don’t always sit on the body the way we imagine.  Especially with my vivid imagination that forgets I’m not tall and my torso is smaller than clothing thinks it should be.

Test fabric
My muslin was done in this stellar fabric that I got in a mystery box.  It’s some kind of double brushed poly and I knew I’d never wear this in public.  Not even for “WHAT have you been doing” activities.  But it was perfect to test a pattern and I had enough to make the top twice which was fantastic.  

When testing, I don’t like to change fabrics if I have to make a second or third version because then I’m not sure if the changes in fit are due to a different fabric or because I made a change to the pattern pieces.

In this case, I went down a size at the top and graded to the larger size after the waist.  You may wonder where that Henley placket is.  I did it for the first one, to make sure I knew how to do it and that I could follow the instructions.  When Rachelle gave me tips for my second attempt, she wisely said not to bother with the Henley placket and just to do the regular neckline to save time.  

There are instructions and a pattern piece for just a regular neckline like this!  This pattern really covers it all!

Long sleeved top
This fabric is a crinkle rayon and my original thought was to make this a dress with the regular placket length and no buttons, and long sleeves with the nice flow but no cuffs.  Just elastic.  This ended up being the last one that I made and  it is too sheer to work as a dress so I made a top.

While I normally have to shorten patterns up to 3 inches at the shorten/lengthen lines in the torso, for this pattern, the waist actually hit my own waist,  The length turned out to be below that for me, so I just shortened at the hemline.  It turned out to be about 2.5 inches and seeing it now, I could have gone the extra half inch and I wouldn’t be disappointed.

Short sleeved top
My first version was this pointelle that I received in a mystery box.  I love the color even though periwinkle isn’t really my thing.  I had a top like this a long time ago and loved how  the color looked on me, so I was drawn to it.  It was probably just about 1 yard, so I had to go with short sleeves. I also didn’t want to use buttons because the pointelle makes it feel a little classy.  

Classy or not, this fabric was a bear.  It didn’t quite drape the way I wanted and the holes end up being big enough that I think I need to wear something under it, which wasn’t at all what I had planned.  I love the color but, I’m really not sure I’m going to wear it.

My final version that I ended up falling in love with is one of the “grannies” fabrics from The Fabric Snob *affiliate link*.  It’s an organic cotton waffle knit that’s incredibly stretchy.  It actually has terrible recovery and shows every little finger mark as you touch it to straighten it out, but I love how this came together.  It’s very cozy with a tank top underneath for warmth in this frigid weather.  

I wanted a tunic, but we had an interesting chat in the pattern testing group that lead me to think tunic isn’t really what I mean.  I want something I can wear with leggings but most tunics end up being just a little shorter than I want.  In truth, the ideal length is something that I could wear with bare legs but might raise some eyebrows at the shortness.  I’d mostly wear it with leggings but could go bare if I wanted.  

That led to doing view B, the mini dress version, with the sleeves from view A with cuffs and a hood.  I did the placket in a very light but extremely lovely fabric that I had used for a sunshirt and added buttons (with actual buttholes that really aren’t even necessary) and decided to give the hood the same fabric as a binding.  

And then, I drove this bus completely off the road and bound the hem!

None of this binding nonsense was suggested in the tutorials but sometimes ideas take over and lead to something I end up loving.  We won’t talk about what happens when ideas take over that lead to something else.

As I wore this in the cold weather, I kept thinking that with this fabric in particular, this could be a GREAT beach cover up!  It’s absorbent and soft and cozy so you could totally end up wearing this on a cool beach afternoon!

On their own, each of the patterns is fabulous, but you might as well get the bundle because you will undoubtedly want to use something from one view on the other!  The placket isn’t hard, it just involves several steps.  It’s magic when it comes together. 

If you just like the fit, save time and effort  by going with a regular neckband and no placket.  

You could spend days deciding which sleeve style and length to do.  Better yet, make one in every sleeve style!

The tutorials from Rivet Patterns are so well done.  They are thorough.  They have excellent drawings and videos if you need the actual step by step help.  They have great links to fitting advice and tips.  I sew a lot and would say I’m advanced in my skills and I always learn something with one of their patterns.  

It’s almost like the designers actually WANT you to be a successful sewist 🙃