Friday, December 30, 2011

2012 - The Year of No Goals

Table of contents:

Click a picture to see the related blog post.

Year of 12 Jackets and Coats

You may recall that last year I joined the "Year of 12 Jackets and Coats" challenge on Stitcher's Guild. I completed 8 jackets. I started (and made good progress) on more than twelve, but I now have several UFOs.

hanging head in shame

Why so many UFOs?

Well, a variety of reasons. For two of them, I needed more supplies and they languished (and lost momentum) while I waited to acquire said supplies. One was too oversized and needed major alterations. One had "bleh" issues and another had issues relating to my alterations.

So, there you go.

In fact, because I did not finish this goal, nor did I finish my Autumn 6-Pack (though I came close), I decided, no more such commitments in 2012. Despite the fact that "Shirt of the Month", "Pants of the Month", "Top of the Month", (not to mention the 2012 Swap), are proliferating on Stitcher's Guide, I am resisting. It does not help my creativity when I start to feel pressure to complete something in a specific time.

We'll see if this helps my floundering mojo. Yesterday I had to take to my bed with a full batch of fudge, so I can use some mojo resuscitation.


I must be one of the last people around who has talked about Pinterest, at least on my blog.

Have you used Pinterest yet? Have you heard of it? I resisting signing up for it, at first. For a couple of reasons. First, the idea that everyone could see what I was pinning creeped me out a bit. If you didn't know, Pinterest provides a facility for creating virtual bulletin boards. You can create any number of bulletin boards, with any categories you wish. You can then "pin" any picture you see on the internet to one of your bulletin boards.

When you pin a picture, Pinterest saves a copy of it, so even if the web page goes away, the image is still available on your bulletin board. If other Pinterest members like what you pinned, they can "re-pin" it to one of their boards. Or they can "like" it. They can also comment on it.

The other reason I was reluctant to join, is that you are required to create an account using a Facebook or Twitter account. But once you create a Pinterest account, you can "unhook" your Facebook or Twitter account, and you can create a pseudonym, so you don't have to use your real name or have it exposed to the world. I did this immediately, so my Pinterest name is "Shams", as it should be. :)

I should also mention that you either register a request for a Pinterest account, or you ask someone who *has* a Pinterest account to extend an invite. I registered a request and it took only a few days, but I am happy to invite anyone who is interested, until I run out of my allotment. Just drop me a line, or leave me a comment.

Having said all that, I have been using Pinterest now for several months and I find it to be an invaluable tool. I have learned about new shops, new products, new creative ideas. Let me give you a few ideas about how I use Pinterest.

First, I created bulletin boards based on creative things that interest me. For example, I have a "stripes" bulletin board where I pin images of clothing that use stripes in interesting ways. I have a "polka dot" board. I have a "techniques" board, where I pin techniques I have come across that are interesting. In this board I have pinned various youtube videos as well as other techniques I have found on blogs and whatnot. This is one of my favorite boards. I have a "recipes" board of recipes that look yummy, and a "healthy recipes" board for when I don't want to be tempted by the unhealthy yummies. :) I have a board for saving cool ideas for a Sewing Room. You can pin just about anything!

Whether or not you create your own boards, you can then follow other people. You can choose to follow an individual, so that you will see anything they pin to any board. Or you can choose to follow specific bulletin boards that they have created, so that you see new items added to those boards.

I have used the "search" feature to find some of my favorite pinners. For example, by searching on some of my favorite brands of clothing (like Oska or Eskandar) in the search field, I found Karyn A, who has a fabulous sense of style. At least for what I like. :) I don't know Karyn personally, nor have we ever spoken. That's the way it is on Pinterest. You aren't "friends" with the folks you follow, or the folks who follow you. You are interested in what they are pinning, and that's as far as it goes, at least inside of Pinterest. It is not a "social app", the way Facebook, Twitter, or MySpace, are.

So, not only can you search for things, and follow people and their boards, but you can see what sources people are using for their pins. I find this to be one of the most fun ways to use Pinterest. For example, say you love clothing from Anthropologie (as many pinners do). You can find out what people are pinning from Anthropologie by entering, in the URL window of your browser, the following string:<website>/. Where it says <website>, enter So it would look like this: You can now see what other folks have pinned from Anthropologie's site, even if the items are no longer available on the Anthropologie site itself.

I have spent a lot of time playing with this feature and it's very fun. If you have a blog or a website, you can see what people are pinning from your site. I've provided a few sites for you to get started:

Anyway, you might see that Pinterest can be an addictive site. I don't tend to spend a lot of time on it myself, but I find it to be a wonderful resource when I do browse there. I do often find that their servers are slow, or down, so I presume these are just growing pains and that it will improve over time.

Just be warned, it can be quite addictive. :)

Funny Video - "Like the Costume Fairy, Only Taller"

Finally, one of my Facebook friends posted this very funny video on her wall. Enjoy!

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Dancing Skirts ... and Post Christmas Wrap Up


Happy Christmas!

Table of Contents:

I have been quite busy the last week, or so, cooking, baking, cleaning... preparing for the holiday. Though, to be honest, very little decorating. This year we placed our gifts under the Christmas Poinsettia, and I drew a stocking shape on two grocery bags. That, plus a wreath, and I was done. I've been working a lot and just couldn't get into the decorating, especially as the kids weren't around much to help/inspire/motivate.

Lazy? I like to think "efficient." :) You see, my week of vacation, and sewing, begins tomorrow and I'm ready to go! My house is all tidied and ready for some serious creative work.

I hope. :)

Dancing Skirts

I may have mentioned that younger daughter is now into Swing dancing. She had many dancing activities recently, so this week I whipped up three dancing skirts for her. For all three I hit the stash. I drafted up a gored trumpet skirt pattern. I was going to post a tutorial, then I googled and discovered there are many such tutorials, so why create another? In particular, I recommend this one and this one. It really is easy. :)

I first made an 8-gore skirt in red. The fabric for this one is a red sweater knit from Fabrix. This sweater knit is very "sticky" and wanted to grab onto itself. It was highly annoying to sew. I should have lined it, but couldn't be bothered. To help force it to behave, I took a couple dryer sheets and rubbed them all over the skirt, inside and out. That helped quite a bit. It's hard to pin down DD2 for pics, as she has a very active social life, but here is the hangar shot. It's a little bumpy at the waistline where I topstitched it, but that disappears on her body. I hemmed this skirt by hand.

Next up, I made her a 10-gore skirt using a slinky green fabric, also from Fabrix. This one has no hem, and is 3" shorter than the red skirt.

Finally, I made her a black skirt, also using a slinky fabric from Fabrix. This is a 12-gore skirt, with an asymmetric (raw edged) hem. Unfortunately, I have no shots of it on her, but here are a couple hangar shots.

The technique for creating the pointy hem is quite easy. Once you create the gore pattern piece, just draw in the asymmetric hem. I made the hem shorter on one side by 4" and then drew a curve to connect it to the other side. It would have been interesting to make it even shorter on one edge and to use a straight line to connect the points - to create a more dramatic effect.

Drawing the 12-gore asymmetric pattern. The original 10-gore skirt pattern is on the left.

The resulting 12-gore skirt pattern. I photographed the back side because it continued to curl up when laying on the right side.

Note: If you do try this, make sure that you cut all 12 gores with the same orientation. Unless your fabric is the same on both sides, you need to cut them all the same - do not fold the fabric in half and cut them out and expect it to work out. You have been warned. ;)

Photo Shoot

Several weeks ago my kids and their two cousins asked me to do a photo shoot for the grandparents for Christmas. I am not a professional photographer, by any means, but I enjoy taking pictures so I enthusiastically agreed. We had to wait for finals to be over, but we finally had an hour last week where all the schedules aligned and I was able to corral the cousins at the Palace of Fine Arts in the late afternoon. It was so much fun! Besides the jumping photo at the beginning of this post, here are a few more pics, out of the more than 500 that I took.






I think you can see that these cousins are more like siblings.

Christmas Booty

My two girls gave me some fun gifts this year. Nothing sewing related, but it's not like I need much in that area. ;)

Fun felted slippers!

I love this whimsical reindeer so much, she's staying out all year!

I saw a profile about Vienna Teng on PBS recently. I was waxing rhapsodic to one of the girls about her music and was gifted with one of her DVDs.

Here is one of her songs. She is classically trained and amazing. Prepare to be enchanted!

I also received a pair of knitted gloves that had not yet arrived, so no pictures, though DD wrapped up a printout. They have polka dots!

I expect to be sewing more than blogging this coming week. We'll see how it goes. :)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tuesday Twitterings and Scrap SF

This cartoon has been making the rounds on Facebook. (It is uncredited, if you know the name of the artist, please let me know!) If you re-colored her hair to red and replaced the brick wall with the Fabrix storefront, it would be eerily familiar... For some folks, just replace the word "fabric" with "sewing machines" or "yarn". ;)

Edited to add: I searched on the cartoon image (did you know you could do that?) and I discovered that this cartoon depicts Mrs Bobbins, created by Julia Icenogle for the Kansas City Star's quilting website, Pickledish. I also learned that there is a 2012 Mrs Bobbins calendar!

Scrap SF


Have you ever heard of Scrap SF? I usually describe it as a thrift store for craft supplies. Years ago, when my kids attended a cooperative nursery school, I first learned about Scrap. It's a huge warehouse filled with all sorts of stuff. You just never know what you'll find - both companies and individuals donate goods. It's the perfect place to buy supplies for kids projects, though plenty of artists shop there for their own projects.

Today I noticed a corner filled with photos that people have taken and discarded! They have tons of foam core board and the like. They also have lots of buttons and fabric pieces. Today I saw an old Kenmore sewing machine for $5. (Nope, wasn't even tempted, as I'm not a sewist who collects sewing machines.) Anyway, it's unlikely you will see a fabulous, high quality fabric/button goodie at Scrap, but you never know and it's fun to poke around.

Eldest daughter recently needed to create an inspiration board for a fashion class she was taking at Academy of Arts University. I took her to Scrap and she was able to gather most of her supplies. That, plus a quick trip to a paint store for paint cards, then a quick trip through my own scraps, and, for an outlay of less than $5, she was all set. (She also found a huge bin of bathroom signage and she scored a Womens sign for her pad for 50 cents.)

I follow Scrap SF on Facebook and yesterday they posted that they had gotten in a lot of Natesh rayon embroidery thread and were selling it for $1 a spool. This is a very nice brand of thread, so I ran over very quickly, with Alabama Chanin thoughts in my head. I selected 35 spools in scrummy colors, and took them to the register. The sales clerk charged me $26 - they usually give a discount off the posted prices. I was dumping them into my purse, when she mentioned that this thread wouldn't be good for machine embroidery, but should be fine for hand embroidery.

This puzzled me as Natesh thread is for machine embroidery and, as 100% rayon, should be strong enough. She handed me an opened spool. (Mine were individually sleeved in plastic, as you see in the photo from their Facebook page.) I gently tugged and the thread immediately snapped. This thread, while looking perfect, was obviously ancient and brittle. Grateful that she had mentioned this, I retrieved my $26 and dug the spools out of my purse. Thanking her profusely, I told her I would not even use these for hand sewing.

This was a good lesson for me. It's easy to assume that thread is sound if it looks good. But thread ages. If I had, say, bought this on ebay, I might have been out of luck.

On the sewing front, I have been altering a coat pattern. I cut it out along the wrong size, so I *really* have to alter it, because I don't want to buy the pattern again. I also have plans to make youngest daughter a dancing skirt. And I have a jacket that has been in timeout for some weeks now. I really should pull it out of timeout and finish it. ;)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sweatshirt Mash Up (Jalie, Au Bonheur, Style Arc) & General Bead

I had a small, but wide, piece of nice fleece from Fabrix in a sage green color and wanted to squeeze out a top. I also had Jalie 2911, which had a cross-over folded back collar I wanted to use. (And I love the creative version of this top that JillyBe made last winter.)

After reading reviews of the top, and looking at pictures of the finished top, I decided to transfer the collar to one of my TNT patterns. In this case, I used the pattern I recently used for a color blocked tee.

I made a new tracing of my top (sans seam allowances) and transferred the collar and shoulder from the size AA (sans seam allowances) to my pattern. I traced off the size AA collar (sans seam allowances). I eliminated seam allowances because each of these patterns uses a different amount of seam allowance (or none at all) - I then added 3/8" seam allowance to all pattern pieces.

The sleeve and armscye are from the Style Arc Adele. The body is from the Au Bonheur Asymmetric tee, though I used just one side, making it symmetric, and I lengthened and straightened the hem. (The Au Bonheur tee had already been significantly altered to fit me.)

Other than constructing the top with side slits, I made no additional alterations, though I should have added a bit more fabric at the side seams, because this fabric, while stretchy, isn't as stretchy as the ITY knit I used for the Au Bonheurs top, so this top is a bit va-va-voom on me. ;)

Make sure you align the collar properly before sewing the bottom seam - I had to re-pin several times because I kept inserting a twist.

I think the collar is ok. I don't quite like how it behaves where it folds back at the shoulder - it seems a bit wide to me. There are 5 thicknesses under the presser foot at the bottom horizontal collar seam, which is a bit unwieldy, especially in this thick fabric. Maybe this collar would work better in a lighter weight fabric.


The nice thing is that I started this top at 6pm last night (Friday). I traced it off, cut it out, and sewed it up. It's nippy in the air this morning, so this is the perfect top for this weather!

General Bead

I wanted to mention a mini outing I had after lunching with BadMomGoodMom. I decided I needed more of the fun brass balls used in this necklace:

General Bead is one of those quirky San Francisco institutions. Though, before you go, you should check out the reviews on Yelp. I've never reviewed it on Yelp, but I won't dispute the comments on the location, smell, pets, or inventory. Nevertheless, I enjoy popping in there from time to time when I need beads, particularly seed beads or the like.

There is also a second floor with plastic beads, and sequins, including vintage sequins. Unless those have sold out... I took classes from Kenneth King twenty years ago and he used to buy the vintage sequins in massive quantities, as well as beads and findings, before he moved to NYC. :)

The object of my desire. Funky brass beads.

Also, there have been additions to the Tablecloth Skirt Gallery, so check it out!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Blogger Meetup - Meeting BadMomGoodMom!

We match!

I had the opportunity to meet another fellow blogger! BadMomGoodMom was in town recently for a science conference, 'cause she's a scientist, and she contacted me to have lunch. (Had the both of us had more time available, some fiber-related activity would have ensued.)

BadMomGoodMom (I couldn't find her first name on her blog, so it's not here either) and I have lots in common, such as both attending Cal Berkeley and obtaining a bachelor's degree, mine in computer science, hers in math and chemistry, (though she attended a few years after me), as well as our interests in knitting, sewing (including a shared love of Issey Miyake) and (formerly, for me) quilting. Not to mention motherhood and, yes, we talked about that too. ;)

After a long lunch, we accosted a stranger in Yerba Buena Gardens to take a photo. BadMomGoodMom knitted the beautiful sweater she is wearing. We are hoping to connect on a future visit where we plan to spur the local economy a bit, and she mentioned the desire of recording a podcast.

It was so nice to have lunch and gab with someone I just met but felt like I knew for ages!

Edited to add: BadMomGoodMom just posted about our meeting! And, yes, we really did talk statistics about fitting. I'm telling you, she's smart. She has to do a SBA (Small Bust Adjustment) for her tops, but it's a good thing that our brains have a hard shell casing, 'cause otherwise she'd have to do a FBA (Full Brain Adjustment) for her hats!

On an unrelated note, I urge you not to visit Margy's blog and, most especially, not this post. Unless you are willing to accept the consequences, that is. Because of Margy, well, just look at this...

And, I'm sorry to say, there is another pair which I was wearing here:

Now, in my defense, both were purchased for half off. The boots are in the "Smog" color, but it's a mix between grey and brown and, I think, it's often called Anthracite.



Monday, December 5, 2011

Tablecloth Skirt - Hexagonal Edition

This is a long-ish post. Here are some quick links:

Why a Hexagon?

When I posted the review for my Tablecloth skirt on Pattern Review, one of the comments I received was from one of my favorite sewists, rivergum. Rivergum thought that the inspiration skirt was possibly based on a hexagonal shape, rather than a square shape.

I found myself wondering what the skirt would be like when created with a 6-sided polygon, 6 rectangular extensions, and 6 corners. I couldn't let it go, so I finally decided to try it out myself.

Obviously, creating a large hexagon is a bit more complex than creating a square, but it's really not hard. I love math, but you don't need to know math to make this work, so don't let that intimidate you.

If you have not read the basic Tablecloth Skirt tutorial, please familiarize yourself with the basic version, based on a square.

Creating a Large Hexagon Pattern

I made my hexagon using a circle with a 23" radius. Note that I felt that the completed skirt was short. I would have preferred a circle with a 25" or 26" radius, but I didn't know that until the end, since I didn't muslin this. :) (In my photos, I pulled the skirt down a tad, since the tunic is long enough.)


  • A ruler or yardstick the length (or longer) of your desired radius.
  • A piece of paper that is large enough for a circle with your desired radius. So, if you are making a circle with a 25" radius, you need at least a 50" by 50" piece of paper. I used pattern paper, pieced together. In the past, I have used the back side of wrapping paper, newspaper, etc. Just tape it together to make it big enough.
  • Writing implement. I used a Sharpie permanent marker.
  • A large surface to work on. I used the kitchen floor.
  • Making the circle: If you have a giant protractor, wonderful. I've never seen one this size, so I used my 24" Olfa ruler. You can use a yardstick to measure out increments, or you can tie string (the length of the circle's radius) between a writing implement and a nail, or a pushpin, etc. Whatever works. (I just now googled "making a large circle" and found many useful links, including some youtube videos.)


  • Tape your paper together to make a piece large enough. Set it on your surface.
  • Mark the center point.
  • Use your preferred technique to make a circle. I put the eraser from an unsharpened pencil into the hole in the Olfa ruler intended for hanging it on the wall. (I turned the pencil around for the picture - I used the eraser end which provides more traction.) I then held the marker in the center of the other end of the ruler (for a total length of 23"). I then rotated the ruler around the pencil, holding the marker in place, and walked around the center point. Voila, a 46" circle. (Again, in hindsight, I would have preferred a 50" circle.)
  • This next step marks the corners of the hexagon: Make a starting mark anywhere on the circle. Measure from that mark, the length of your radius (in my case, 23"), to the next point on the circle that intersects that distance. So, I measured from the first mark 23". Where 23" hit the circle, I made a second mark. (You are measuring straight across, not along the circle's curve.) Move the ruler to the next mark and measure another 23" to the next mark. And so on. If you have done this right, you will end up exactly at the same mark where you started, after creating 6 marks, total. Isn't math great? :)
  • Connect up the marks with straight lines. You now have a hexagon! Cut it out on the straight lines and you now have your basic pattern piece.
  • Note that I do not cut the waist circle out at this time. I do that directly into the fabric.

Creating the Rest of the Pattern

Since the hexagon has 6 sides, you will need 6 identical rectangles - one to sew to each side. The width of the rectangle will be the radius of your original circle. In my case, the rectangle was 23" by 15" (I used the same length as I used on the square skirt.) You can rip these rectangles, if your fabric allows that. My fabric, a cotton lycra, did not like to be ripped, so I rotary cut the rectangles directly into the fabric using measurements (no pattern pieces).

Again, I leave the waist construction up to you. Some folks do better with a zipper, other folks sew the skirt to knit ribbing. I prefer an elastic waist casing. Refer to the original post on the square skirt for my tips on calculating the waist hole. I used the same waist hole that I used for the square skirt.

Cutting Out the Skirt

  • For this skirt, I used a cotton lycra woven from Fabric Mart in a giant polka dot pattern. It was a wide fabric and I used less than 3 yards for the total skirt. (My hexagon measured 40" by 46".)
  • Elastic for waist. I used 1.5" waistband elastic from Pamela's Patterns.

I first cut the hexagon from the fabric. I then removed the paper pattern and folded the hexagon into quarters - the corner point is the center of the hexagon. I laid my waist hole pattern onto the corner, pinned, and cut it out.

I cut the 6 rectangles and the waistband, another rectangle, from the remaining fabric.

Constructing the Skirt

I used the same construction as for the square skirt. To summarize:

  • Complete the waistband.
  • Hem the long edges of the six rectangles.
  • Sew the six rectangles to the hexagon. The stitching for each seam begins in by the width of the seam allowance (I used 3/8") and ends before the end by the width of the seam allowance.
  • After all the six rectangles are sewed on, press the seam allowances open.
  • Sew the short edges of the rectangles together, again, starting the seam exactly at the point where the other seams begin and sewing all the way to the hem.
  • Press the short seam allowances open. I then serged the edges of all the seams, but you can finish them how you prefer.

Voila! Skirt completed.



As you can infer from looking at the diagram of the square skirt versus the hexagonal skirt, this creates a skirt with more fullness at the hem. I think I like the lesser fullness of the square skirt better. Also, the corners are less pronounced in the hexagonal version. Of course, the busy print of my skirt hides the detail a bit, but I think I prefer the square skirt version - it is a bit more dramatic, or at least more "funky" and I prefer the funkitude. :) But this creates a nice skirt too. Next time I will add paper strips around the hexagon pattern to create a larger overall hexagon.

If you create either version of this skirt, please let me know so I can include your pictures in the Tablecloth Skirt Gallery. I have gotten a big kick out of watching the creative versions that have been produced.