Archive for the 'sewing' Category

quilt of the month

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

I get the Quilt of the Month email from the International Quilt Study Center. Some quilts are old, made by unknown stitchers, others are by renown contemporary quilt artists.

This one is from January, and appeals to me since I have houses on the brain.


Reminds me of this mailbox I saw in Sunset Park while apartment hunting.

I think that was right before we saw the place where the sink was in the shower, and there was a hot tub in the closet next to the toilet…

shorter shorts

Monday, July 23rd, 2007

A little refashioning: I narrowed and shortened the legs of a pair of schlubby short pants which I wouldn’t wear out. Here’s my sophisticated self-portrait taken mid-project:

I also sewed the back pockets closed and cut out the fabric, which was annoying me by bunching. They’re not elegant, but now I have something cool to wear once it quits raining.

telling on myself

Monday, July 2nd, 2007


I bought new clothes. I could justify myself by saying that these leggings make it possible for me to wear clothes that would otherwise linger neglected in my closet, and that really leggings are more hosiery than clothing – this after selective poling. But. I shopped. So I’m telling on myself, making use of my Wardrobe Refashion Get Out of Jail Free pass, and moving on.

It’s been wicked hot so I’ve done very little knitting, although I did get a couple of rows in once things cooled down over the weekend .

Last night I mended a frayed patch at the base on the zipper on my denim skirt, reinforced the snaps on another skirt, and stitched up a tear in my happily thrifted Indian cotton summer dress. It’s amazing how much a few minutes spent mending expands my clothing choices.

pants… and the ensuing book review

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

I’ve finally done what I set out to do when I enrolled in Wardrobe Refashion; I’ve made a pair of pants using the pattern in Wendy Mullin’s book Sew U.

This project had it’s trials, and some spur of the moment fitting solutions – such as narrowing the legs by restitching the side seams, and ripping out the topstitching in the rear in order to counteract some unattractive pooching – but I’m delighted with the finished, imperfect pants, with their slight jodhpur look. A friend said, “They look store-bought” and made my day.

I approach sewing in much the same way as I do cooking, with the attitude that every recipe is a sequence of simple tasks, and can’t possibly be too difficult. This may be inherited from my mother who can tailor a suit without blinking and shrugs off her skills as unimpressive, since despite my ambitious attitude I have never made more than the simplest of sewn garments.

For the most part I found Sew U to be a good guide. The book has a practical spiral binding, and the design is hip, with simple, informative illustrations. Wendy Mullin’s writing style is friendly and encouraging. She generously shares stories of her past sewing flops so that readers can avoid making the same mistakes. There are excellent descriptions of the steps involved in prepping and sewing a garment, and suggestions for how to personalize the three patterns included (for skirt, shirt and pants.)

However there were some real problems when it came to following the directions for sewing the pants. Several important steps are missing from the instructions, and I had to guess what the correct approach might be. Also I had to flip back and forth to earlier sections of the book, tracking down information on which areas to stay stitch, or figuring out the seam allowance, which is not printed on the pattern as promised.

I felt confused when prep that was heavily emphasized at the beginning of the book was skipped entirely in the directions. I had to guess whether this pattern was the exception, or whether the book assumed that I knew to do this. I resorted to writing in the steps as I figured them out, and sticking post-its on all relevant pages. Not ideal, but a working solution.

It’s possible that if I were a less experienced sewer, or a trifle less stubborn, I might have given up the project when figuring out the missing links became a challenge. That said, without this book I would not have had the courage to make any pants, and I am now a pant-sewing fiend.

I have the bug, and at the risk of turning into Celie from the Color Purple, I can’t wait to start my next pair. The only delay is which pair (dancing in my head) to make first. So, while Sew U may not be the best absolute beginner sewing book, it’s extremely encouraging, and contains enough general sewing advice to make it a worthwhile addition to any non-expert library.

mended elbow

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

Another excavated photo; I had completely forgotten knitting this elbow patch for my college roommate’s sweater. This could be a good solution for both my moth-damaged woolens and my unused box of knitted swatches.

do we change?

Tuesday, February 13th, 2007

When I was little and stayed home sick, there were some very specific things I liked to do. I liked to get out all my mother’s issues of 100 Idées (my all-time favorite magazine) and I would leaf through them, dreaming of building tree houses, embroidering blouses, hosting tea parties, and mailing letters with envelopes painted to match the stamps. After reading the magazines, I would organize them; stacking them first by month, then chronologically. Neatly.

I would move on to her sewing box, which was a brown Tupperware container with a removable divided tray. She had a pincushion with a band of elastic so she could wear in on her wrist while sewing. It became threadbare from use and she replaced the fabric on top with a scrap from a skirt she made for herself, and passed on to me a couple of years ago:

I liked to take her glass-headed pins and stick them into the cushion, placing them where the pinheads matched the colors in the fabric as closely as possible. A mosaic on the surface. Then I categorized her buttons: by size, by color, by number of holes… those that were loners, and those that came in multiples.

We have a home movie of me, age 6, sewing beads onto fabric. Thirty years later my whole life is built around making things from beads, yarn and cloth, which makes me wonder why I ever bothered questioning my life path at all? Maybe it just takes a while to accept the six-year-old’s passions.

I think it’s time I reread Daybook by Anne Truitt. I think I remember her quoting the sculptor David Smith saying that it takes fifteen years to make an artist. It seems to me that it’s taken that long to get over my schooling, and to give in to who I am. A long beginning.

wardrobe refashion

Thursday, February 1st, 2007

I’ve signed up for 2 months of Wardrobe Refashioning. I’m kinda nervous and sorta excited, but couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make and adapt my own clothes in the company of others. Here’s my pledge:

The Pledge

I pledge that I shall abstain from the purchase of “new” manufactured items of clothing, for the period of 2 (and possibly more) months.

I pledge that I shall refashion, renovate, recycle preloved items for myself with my own hands in fabric, yarn or other medium for the term of my contract.

I pledge that I will share the love and post a photo of my refashioned, renovated, recycled, crafted or created item of clothing on the Wardrobe Refashion blog, so that others may share the joy that my thriftyness brings!

Let the fun begin…

circle play

Tuesday, January 16th, 2007

I felt a little under the weather yesterday so I spent the afternoon camped out in bed with herbal tea, a West Wing DVD, and a long-overdue sewing project.

Since July 2004 (long before I’d heard of any of the cool swaps that are happening in the craft/blog world – which isn’t really saying much since I’m invariably a late comer to these things) I’ve been exchanging small artworks with two friends, one in Maine, the other in upstate New York.

We call it Circle Play, the idea being that we explore (very loosely) the notion of “circle”, and the word “play” is a good reminder not to get too perfectionistic. We were inspired to start by a small book that S had found, and which P and I ran out and bought immediately.

It’s full of embroideries exchanged between two women in Denmark and the US – this little focussed project that went on for years. It seemed like such a great way to stay creatively connected to each other when we live so far apart. And to make experimental objects – things we might not make otherwise. We figured out what our parameters were and got started.

And it worked! After our first year we gathered for a weekend and laid our all our treasured experiments on a long dining table, covering it. I had forgotten so many of the pieces I’d made, and seeing them again was like coming back to a familiar place. With all the work together I could see the relationships between the months – unconscious similarities or repetitions of a theme, reuse of materials and colors.

Last year Circle Play slowed way down, all of us pulled in other directions. It’s been months since I received the last piece from P, and it’s been nagging at me, like a letter that needs answering. Yesterday I sat on my bed watching “good daddy president” Martin Sheen and started my reply. I’m not ready to show it yet so instead here’s my very first piece from 2004.