Wednesday, February 13, 2013

"Sewing Solutions" by Nicole Vasbinder


I work in a library and have a great boss. She purchases lots of books on sewing and knitting. I wonder why! She knits. This little number arrived last week and it is a solid addition for your sewing library. It is written by Nicole Vasbinder, who is a founder of "Stitch Lounge" in San Francisco and who also teaches at Stone Mountain and Daughter Fabrics. This book puts her wealth of knowledge into bytes of info that are up to date, thorough and very informative. I left reading this book very impressed.

The first thing I noticed was how current  much of the information is. Just a tiny view of some of the topics you won't find in the classic sewing tomes:

* in depth Pattern Envelope translation

* dress forms

* types of elastics

* hook and loop fasteners

* tracing wheels


That is just a sprinkling.  Each topic has a page but it gives all you need to know.  The tools and equipment pages tell you where to get it, what every sewist should know about it, and there is also some Q&A on the topic. There are references to pertinent info on that page's topic elsewhere in the book and what page it can be found on. An example from "Every sewist should know" on hook and loop tape:  "Never sew through stick-on fasteners because the adhesive will gum up your needle very quickly. Also, be careful to keep unused fasteners wrapped because otherwise the hook side will catch on fabrics and threads and make a big mess." No one tells you this stuff. It's like having your great Aunt Sophie by your side giving you all the tidbits of information she learned the hard way.I've thrown out more than one ball of velcro mess in my day. Now it's all segregated and wrapped.

Chapters are:

Sewing Tools
Notions and Trims
Marking, Measuring, and Cutting Tools
Miscellaneous Tools
Fabric Solutions
Pattern Solutions
Sewing Solutions
Embellishment and Trimming Solutions
Fitting Solutions
Finishing Solutions

The chapter titles don't show how in depth this little gem of a book goes. There are burn tests, in depth fabric info, fitting info, and so much more.

There is one drawback to this book and the only one  I have found. It is a small book loaded with information because it is written in very small print. My eyes really struggled to read it and I do hope it is re-issued with larger print. That small print however, makes this book easy to keep handy compared to the bigger sewing classics.  My only other suggestion would be to make it spiral bound to lie flat on the counter while we sew.

I'm returning my book to the library today and advise you to check this one out, literally and  from the library or just purchase it. I am sure  its on Amazon. It would make an excellent investment and I promise you will not regret the purchase and it will become a classic reference for you. Nicole Vasbinder has done an excellent job.

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Work on the Planet Earth bag continues. At this point the band is complete and it is all waiting to be put together and lined. Above you can see some triangles of  hand dyed rayon getting lined up like soldiers. Ther are fused with tricot to prevent raveling.  This project is still fun but probably won't be done in time for the PR bag contest.  Oh, well. DH and I are going South to visit children for the long weekend and packing and work demands are cramping my sewing for the next few days. Back soon,,,,Bunny

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Koos Zipper 2.0

I LOVE the Koos Zipper as shown in the View B instructions of Vogue 1311.  It is such a crisp application that would be great on any bag or jacket. It is not difficult either and there is also a tutorial in the sidebar from my first Koos bag construction.


A couple of differences here from the original construction:

* In the original zip I did not fold under the long facing pieces at their ends after turning. In this one I did. It did telegraph through upon ironing so I would not do that. To solve the issue I just moved them out of the way when I did the final press.

* In Zip 2.0 I decided, after a bit of experimentation, to triple zigzag the long edges of the facing. This helped secure the zip more than normal which I think is important for a bag and it's heavy use. I like the decorative effect it provides.

* I was able to center the zip beautifully with the help of Wonder Tape. It just looks uneven due to the camera angle.Ever notice those raised lines on zips? They are perfect for following the stitching and getting it even and centered.

* The zip was topstitched using my edge stitching foot and one click to the right. 

* Last but not least and totally unimportant I loved this zip which is a recycle from a long gone jacket. It opened at both ends. I just removed one of the pulls and sewed it shut on both ends to make it work for the bag. Zipper reused! It had a great pull on it so was definitely worth it.

Now on to the straps and sides and then lining. Maybe, just maybe, tomorrow....Bunny

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Planet Earth Bag

I've started another Koos Bag, Vogue 1311     . This one is for moi. As I started putting together my fabrics and shapes I realized my colors looked like earth from space. That required I put a circle of hand dyed wool on the bag. Now it really looked like Planet Earth. I started to get more excited about the project.

 This bag, like the other, has lots of textures going on. The bias strips are hand dyed rayons and the other hand dyeds are wool. You also see here a home dec brocade and a heavy corduroy. The brown is a poly suiting. All has been interfaced with fusible fleece. You can't see it but there is also some machine quilting happening here as well. Since I did a tutorial on the unique Koos Zipper already I thought this time I would focus on the Koos Buttonholes.

Koos Buttonholes

I followed the directions exactly on these, up to a certain minor point in the construction. My choice of fabric made a nice bias shape so I stayed with the three dimensionality of it all as you will soon see. 
The first requirement of the button instructions is to sew a 3/4 inch hem folded underneath. This did not fit on the bag and still leave room for the zipper. I decided to use a one inch hem and mitered the hem on the BH appliques.

You can see the pressed folds from the first attempt here.  The BH  appliques are placed RS of app to wrong side of the bag after marking. Here is how I marked the holes. The bag straps will eventually come through the BH when done.
 I marked the actual BHs with waxed paper and a serrated wheel. Then I realized it was exactly a quarter inch wide so outcame the 1/4 inch masking tape.

I stitched around the tape. The important thing to remember here is to not start in a corner. Start and end stitching on one of the long lines of stitching instead.
The buttonhole is now cut with a BH chisel and into the corners with the applique scissors. You will have to really push down on the chisel as there are lots of layers here. This is just like a bound BH. I guess we will call it a "faced" BH.

Now the fun part! Turn and press your applique. Pin down the folds as shown on the pattern instruction sheet. Rayon on the bias has a mind of it's own so I went for curved outer edges on one side here. As long as what you do is consistent from BH to BH it will look fine. I discovered I really liked the three dimensionality of this so made a decision to not press it down. Just my personal choice. Once pinned you are ready for topstiching.
The instructions have you not stitch the pleat. I disregarded that and stitched it all down all the way around the applique. It gave a nice tight finish.Here is my version, a totally topstitched, puffy BH:

I have a couple more to stitch down and then it will be on to appliqueing the sides of the bag. I need to get a silver paint pen today so I can swish my initials and date somewhere on this. Have you tried Sharpie's metallic paint pens? They are fabulous!

Thank you to everyone for all your kind comments and encouragement while putting together the new dress form who will now be called Tilly from this day forward. You really inspire me to new sewing levels all the time. Thanks so much for that and I treasure all of you......Bunny




Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Dress Form Wrap-Up, Part Five

There have been questions about the form, chiefly about how I went about the padding. Well, to sum it up, in layers!

There are various ways to do this project and at the end I will give you some links to other bloggers who have made the attempt. Kenneth King seems to have started this ball rolling a while back. His method which some have used and some, like my self, have not, requires that two covers be made. One cover, the one closest to the form,  fits the form tightly. Then the form is padded and covered with the "real life" form, the one made to fit your body. It all works with a zipper and can be removed without the dress form having any changes to it's structure. This enables you to remove it and then maybe make another one for your sister and zip that one on when you go to sew for her. It's a great idea.

In my case, a bit of the Selfish Seamstress rubbed off on me. I went with padding directly to the form and covering it with the final cover made to my shape. It does unzip but the padding stays on the form. I haven't made clothing for anyone but my grandchildren and myself for years so I don't need the versatility of changing covers.

Here go my thoughts in general and on padding in particular.

* Use a natural fiber that will shrink a bit. A blouse weight or quilting cotton is definitely to thin. Think home dec linen weight here.

* Shrink that form down when completely done with your spray bottle of water as discussed in the last blogpost.

* Have a readily available and willing person to measure as needed and give honest opinions of the fit while you make the cover. I went into this thinking I would do it all by my lonesome. I can't tell you how many times I called, "Honey, can you help me a minute?'


Pardon Miss Naked Form. You can see she has dials, crevasses, and ridge lines to hide. That corrugated board duct taped to the dummy is to extend the hip/thigh line so I get a realistic copy of my own hip/thigh area. My favorite bra was sacrificed to give the right distance to the apex and the right cups size. If you are anything but a B cup you will need to do this, IMO.  You will need to fill the bra with batting densely so it won't collapse in the process. Do this before proceeding.

I started by putting the toile cover on the form and zipped it up. There was plenty of space to be changed. I did this by the halves. In other words, I raised the skirt portion and padded out that first. Then I put that back down when done and upzipped the bodice portion and padded out the top. I thought this was just easier than trying to put a whole cover on the padded form and dislodging everything in the process. So skirt first, then bodice.

I have a drawer full of should pads, many dating back to that famous shoulder pad era, the Eighties. First I needed to put in a little tummy. Is anyone other than an Olympian really that flat in the gut? Not us real women, anyway! So in went the tummy. I used a large triangular covered foam pad 3/4 inch thick on the shoulder edge. It tapered to nothing on the other edges. This was a cheap ugly pad but it was perfect for this. The thick edge of the pad is horizontal on the tummy. I pinned it on the edges shoving the pin directly into the form, no in and out pinning here. We'll do the rest of the tummy when we get to the bodice.

Here is the formula: Pad, measure, pad some more until you get your real measurement. You know better than anyone where your lumps and bumps are so that's where you start padding. This single shoulder pad took care of all my tummy issue so I moved on to the hips after measuring the waistline and finding it spot on.  If you need more tummy bulk than I did here, do it in layers of concentric circles or ovals, whichever is appropriate.


My upper hips are narrow as they lead into my waistline but my hips are wide. Thank you bone structure. I padded them in layers putting the smallest layer where they were the fullest width.  Each succeeding layer gets larger and again it is pinned in. The pins worked fine for all of this for me. I checked measurements on different amounts below the waistline to get the proper amount of padding in the right place. It does look like me. This side view also shows how the tummy got it's mature look from those triangular shoulder pads.

Before I go further, at this point I am using a felted wool blanket for the padding. A  couple of layers of Warm and Natural batting would be similar to one of what I used. I also used 1/2 inch loft poly batting  in other parts of the process as you will see in a bit. But so far all I have discussed is with the felted batting.


Here you can see how I padded the booty, again using ever larger circles of felted wool.

Your cover's skirt has been up all this time. Fill in any crevasses or ridge lines.  I had to do that at the edge of the cardboard. I used a folded piece of the wool  batt with the raw edges uneven, the way you would do a sleeve head. So I had the roll of the fold butted up to the edge of the cardboard and then the two layers further up and as it reached the waistline it was just one layer of batt.

Measure everything again to make sure you are at the right sized. Next I covered everything below the waist with one layer of batt, the wool one. Not smooth enough so I put on another layer of batt, cutting slits/darts to make it all fit smoothly over the bottom of the form. Put the skirt down. Measure again to make sure you are at the right size. If all is OK move on to the bodice.

Unzip the bodice and pull it down so the waistline is exposed. At this point you have no neck or arms.

First I put the other thick shoulder pad point in the opposite direction, butting the thick edges of the shoulder pads at the waistline.

Have you ever noticed how the upper chests on these things are flat? This one even has a dial in the middle where others would have cleavage.  There is no accounting for flesh here. This bra fits just fine but ladies, I do have a bit of flesh, aka, cleavage up there so I put in the  shape you see in green up there. This was the high loft poly batting. I wanted something thick and soft for that area. Nuff said. My back and the rest of the bodice needed no further enlarging so I then covered the whole bodice area with a layer of the poly quilt batting cutting darts and slits as needed to get it all to lay smooth. This final cover which did go all around the bodice helped smooth things out . Also again, keep padding and measuring till you get it just right. Now zip it all up and stand back and look at yourself. It was not moment of pride for my body, nor was it a moment of "dear Lord" promising to diet either. It was an acknowledgement that it really did look like me and DH agreed. I sort of felt relief more than anything after all that work.

Next I stitched up the collar, pulled the casing tight on the bottom edge, and appliqued on the "arms" as shown in previous posts.  I measured it all again and it was spot on. Yippee! My weight fluctuates maybe five pounds from winter to summer so I am not concerned about making a new one too soon. I have made an oaktag copy of all the parts so it will be much easier to whip one out if needed in the future. This really wasn't particularly difficult. What it was was intense and it took me three weekends to complete and that was averaging 6 hours a day. So it's a major todo that will put your regular sewing on hold for a bit but so so well worth it. I do hope some of you try it and let me know how it all comes out.

Here are links to a few other sewing fanatics that have also made their own dress forms. I will say this way way beats standing around while my friend covered me in duct tape. Good luck with yours and have fun with it. Stay focused. You can do this!  On all of these links I have tried to put the first post in the link. Most of these cover several posts to complete the project so search forward to get all their info. Thanks to all of you who sweated through this process with me and to all these bloggers who inspired me.And a special thank you to Laura Nash and her spray bottle! She is brilliant.

Gorgeous Fabrics

Phyllis's Dress Form project

Kari's Form

Laura's Dress Form

A search on Pinterest will also bring up some good info as well. Stay in touch and let me know how this all works out for you......Bunny


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Dress Form, Part Four and Completed

That skinny hipped,flat tummied dummy is a thing of the past. Say hello to Tilly, my toile doll. She is mature, curvy, and petite and I can't wait to sew and fit lots of garments for her. Here are some of the details.









The completed neckline was a wide bias strip of fabric hand stitched to the stay stitching line of the neckline. I did an underlap and then an overlap which I hand stitched down. It would be no big deal to unstitch it and use the zip to remove the cover.
The bias strip was stretched as I hand sewed it to the neckline. This way it hugged the neck. I just turned in the upper side of the strip.



An oval was cut of the fabric on straight of grain and hand appliqued to the armhole. The only drawback with this form is the shoulders are slightly wider than mine but I think that will be as good as it gets. I know exactly where my shoulders end and think that I will do a running stitch in black embroidery floss to mark the shoulder line. It actually ends about 3/4 of an inch from the applique stitching. This armhole area is not padded. It is filled with the form. At the bottom of the armhole is a pleat to accomodate the shaping of the armhole and excess fabric in the oval. The gathering stitches that show have all been removed at this point. This part was a  bit intense as I took the form off of the stand and rolled her as necessary on the cutting table and my lap to sew around the armhole. It really was necessary.


When everything was done to my satisfaction I employed the secret I read about somewhere out in cyberspace. I so wish I could credit the brilliant person who figured this out and can tell you it really makes a difference.  It is the secret to getting the smooth, tight finish and starts before you even take the first stitch.

MAKE SURE you purchase fabric for your form cover that is either 100% cotton or linen. Make sure it is a heavier weight than quilting fabric. Home Dec fabric is great. DO NOT PRE WASH YOUR FABRIC FOR THE FORM COVER. Once more, DO NOT PRE WASH YOUR FABRIC! Got it? I know it's against all the pretreatment rules of sewing but trust me on this.


When the form is padded out to your satisfaction and all hand work done and all looks good enough to be made permanent, fill a spray bottle with the hottest water you can get into the bottle. Put your lovely new form on a floor that can take water. For me this was my back tiled entry to the house. Now start spraying. Spray and spray and spray. You want your form good and wet, but definitely not dripping. Now just walk away. Come back tomorrow. The form will shrink ever so little but just enough to smooth out the lumps and bumps. It is quite amazing the difference this makes. I really wish I could remember who, what, or when to credit this brilliant idea but my memory fails. Whoever you are, thank you so much. All I know is that I read this trick on line at some point and it stuck with me. It makes a difference.

I will be back in my next post to show how and where I decided to pad this thing out. In the meantime:





The first thing I made after completing Tilly was a pair of leggings for DGD's American Girl doll, part of an outfit she saw and wanted while visiting last week. Took me all of ten minutes and was the perfect return to sewing after such an intense project. Not sure what would be next...........Bunny