Monthly Archives: May 2011

Memorial Day is evidently not a sewing day

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The weather was just too good Monday around here, and my DH and I decided to take our funny little pooch on a short hike instead of hanging around the house doing chores. It needed to be a short hike because he has short legs, and because I am not exactly in prime hiking condition either.

Twin Falls, about 45 minutes east of our house, fit the bill perfectly. It is only about a 2 hour hike, some flat parts and plenty of switchbacks to help cut the elevation. The big payoff is the beautiful lower Twin Falls, and a super cool bridge across the river. During construction, the bridge span had to be lifted into place by helicopter! Super-pooch Toby thought his nature experience was fantastic. Lots of new places to sniff and explore, even though he had to be on the leash the whole time. Probably wise or he might have gone over the trail edge while exploring.

All this to say, no sewing was accomplished on Memorial Day, but a fun family time was definitely enjoyed by all. Somehow we managed to forget to snap a pix of the pooch, but trust me, he was with us.

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Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

Grainline, sch-mainline, who cares?

One concept that many of my students have questions about is “grainline”. No wonder! Like lots of things in life, there is a relatively straightforward answer that provides 88.5763% of the needed information, but there are many little nuances that are often ignored or not dealt with.

What I tell students is that for woven fabrics, the lengthwise grain (called warp threads, tho I often forget this detail) is ALWAYS parallel to the selvedge edge of the fabric, and the crosswise grain is ALWAYS perpendicular to the selvedge edge.  Usually the next question is “What’s the selvedge?”. OK – that is the tightly woven edging that runs the length of the fabric, sometimes a different color, sometimes with fuzzy loose threads on the outside edge, and is always perpendicular to the cut edge of the fabric. The selvedge is what attaches or holds the fabric to the loom during the weaving process.

Well, all of the above is true. But it is not really complete. It is basic information intended to start introducing a complex concept to beginning students. Because there is also a bias grain, which is any angle on the fabric other than parallel or perpendicular to the selvedge. And true bias is exactly 45 degrees to the lengthwise grain.  Of course, we haven’t even started talking about knits. Knits are made up of knitted loops, not lengthwise (warp) and crosswise  (weft) threads. The vertical loops are called ribs and the crosswise loops are called courses.

Are you confused yet? I looked in many of my reference books, as well as online, and IMHO the Threads SewBasic : Grainline article is both comprehensive and understandable.  Download the PDF file and see if it helps your understanding of grainline. The main thing to keep in mind with grainline (from my perspective) is, why is it important? The reason is because it determines how the finished garment falls on your body, and whether it will maintain it’s original shape over time. The “grainline police” will not pay you a visit if you cut a pattern piece “off grain”. And maybe it will not even be noticeable in the final garment. Maybe. 🙂

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

Pattern making made accessible

Are you intimidated by the very idea of making a pattern? Have you tried make a pattern and been disappointed in the results? The other day a student of mine was extolling the virtues of a book about pattern making she had checked out of  the library, so while she was stitching up a few seams on her blouse, I took a quick look at Patternmaking for a Perfect Fit

I already own quite a few pattern making and pattern alteration books.  Patternmaking for Fashion Design by Helen Armstrong is the textbook used at Seattle Central Community College, and I have used it in patternmaking classes I have attended and also for my own personal patternmaking. It is very thorough, and a pretty technical book for what is honestly a pretty technical skill. I am a bit of nerd so I do enjoy patternmaking, but you definitely have to have enough caffeine in your system to plow through this baby.

I also own and have used Fitting and Pattern Alteration, Fit for Real People, Pants for Real People, and probably a few others lurking around my bookshelves. But what struck me immediately about Patternmaking for a Perfect Fit was how accessible it was to the beginning sewist. The author, Steffani Lincecum, shows you how to rub off a pattern from an existing garment, and she does it clearly and simply. The illustrations are clean and understandable. The projects are modern and look like garments you might actually wear outside your home where other people will actually see you. I was particularly intrigued by  her chapter on rubbing off purse patterns. Clever! Maybe obvious, but I had never thought about doing this. 

This book is not going to teach you everything about patternmaking. But it is will get you started using some simple techniques, clear explanations, and fun projects. It was intriguing enough for me to order my own copy for my personal library. Seems like the kind of book many of my students might enjoy.

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

Pretty in pink

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Well,  this week has taken me back a few years to the time I smocked many an outfit for my two youngest children. (No, I didn’t discrimnate against the two older ones – I just didn’t know how to smock when they were small!) I love heirloom smocking, both the process of creating it and the final outcome. I don’t think there is anything sweeter than a smocked outfit for a small child.

What I have completed so far is the front of what will eventually become a dress for a one year-old. The “plain” areas on either side of the smocking will eventually get cut away for the armholes.

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I am using a TNT pattern that I have used countless times –  Chery Williams Basic Square Yoke. Pretty much your classic little girl’s dress, with plenty of opportunities for design variations. I think this dress will eventually morph into a short-sleeved version with a gathered self-fabric ruffle around the neckline. Maybe a little lace too.

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For now, this smocking is on its way to the Bellevue Pacific Fabrics as a sample “garment” for the Heirloom Smocking class I will be teaching on June 12 and 19th. Come join me, and learn this beautiful and enjoyable sewing art!

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

Where has all the glamour gone?

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A post on the Burda Style blog caught my eye this morning, and spurred me to reserve Glamour, a History, by Stephen Gundle, at my local public library. The dictionary defines glamorous as “full of glamour; charmingly or fascinatingly attractive, especially in a mysterious or magical way”. Wow! Who wouldn’t want to be charmingly or fascinatingly attractive? In our modern era of blue jeans and casual wear, it is pretty safe to say most of us fall short on the glam scale.

I sure don’t want to wear hoisery every day, but while I was going thru some family photos a few weeks ago it struck me how glamorous my mom looked as a young wife and mother in the early fifties. I don’t know what she was going to do the day this photo was taken, but I am pretty certain this dress would have been considered a “day dress”. She looks so pretty and feminine!

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Now this is a total glam shot of both my mom and dad not long after they were married. I wish I had a formal event coming up soon so I could emulate this look. Wowsers!

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Maybe I will start trying to up the glam factor in my life a bit…..seems like fun!

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

Recipe for happiness

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Take one young child, add a sewing machine, a simple pattern, some fun fabric of her choice, and you have a great recipe for fun times. My newest young student wants to be a fashion designer, and is getting an early start on her career. We decided at our first meeting that pajama pants would be a good first project, and I sent her off to purchase an easy pattern and some fabric.

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Good choice! McCall’s 4963 has pants, a simple top, a nightie with a kangaroo pocket, and a blanket included. So far we have had two sewing lessons, and this young designer already has completed a simple drawstring bag (forgot to take a pix!) and her pants are well underway. Doesn’t she look cute working on her pajama bottoms?

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And here’s the  close-up of her pants. I love her fabric choice – wild and a  little girly at the same time – awesome!

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She should be able  to complete her pants in our next session together. I wonder what she will want to work on next?

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

A fabulous online find

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A friend of mine recently posted about a “new-to-her” online fabric store, Banksville Designer Fabrics, and since I love new fabric sources, I decided to check them out. Boy, am I am glad I did! I gave them a call a few weeks back, and asked for a set of shirting swatches for my DH, as well as some silk charmeuse and silk taffeta samples for my online wedding accessory store. I talked with a lovely lady named Lori, and she was both incredibly helpful as well as patient while I talked thru what I was interested in seeing from their current inventory.

I couldn’t wait to get my swatches, and I was not disappointed when they arrived within just a few days. Look at the size of these samples, people! Actually big enough to really see the fabric texture, color, and drape – awesome! Already happy with this new supplier. 🙂

Lori had told me they didn’t have many shirtings in the colors I was looking for, but I was very happy with two of the swatches. Both the fabrication and the price were spot on, so ordering those two was a no-brainer. Good price, beautiful silky cotton, done. I also thought their selection of silk charmeuse and silk taffeta was was quite good – definitely better than what I can find locally. I called Lori immediately, and placed my first order last Monday. My new fabric arrived yesterday, and I am THRILLED. The shirting is already washed, dried, and ready for cutting out, and I hope to get some new silk sashes up on my Etsy store later this week.  Thank you Lori!!

My suggestion for today: call them (203-846-1333). I am pretty sure you will be glad you did. Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

My dream life

In my dream life, I lead a well-organized and smooth functioning life. I clean my house daily and follow a routine to ensure all tasks are completed on a regular schedule. My garden is well tended, weed-free, and all plants are planted at the correct time of year. I never have “unfinished objects” in my sewing room, my dog gets his shots on schedule, and I make delicious and nutritious meals for my husband every day. My quarterly taxes are done early, federal taxes are done and filed by February 10th, and my business paperwork is completed weekly. My sewing room is neat and clutter free at all times

Ummm, yeah. In my real life, consistency, routine, and regiment are not descriptors used for Sew Maris. I am frequently overwhelmed, under-rested, and unsure of which priority task to tackle next. The  last week or so has been fairly insane, and has included lots of sewing lessons for new and continuing students, family obligations, business deadlines, and more! All that to say….no blogging has occurred this week, dear readers. My apologies!

Happy sewing! I hope you are getting more done in the sewing room than I am!

Maris Olsen

Summer fun

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I told you I was in the mood for easy and fun, right? Vogue 8596 (OOP) definitely fits the bill. I have had this pattern in my <extremely extensive> stash for a long while, and have been anxious to try it out. Last night I decided that some clipped dot white cotton I had in my also <extremely extensive> fabric stash would be perfect for this blouse. Sweet! No trip to the fabric store required!

Since I woke up about 2:30 this morning, and finally got out of bed at 3:30, I used my time well and had the blouse cut out and finished (minus hem and ribbon bow) before 7:00. I had plenty o’ fabric so I decided to cut it for the tunic length so I could decide after trying it on where I wanted the hem. Options,  I am all about options. After running some errands today and picking up a piece of white ribbon, I popped the blouse on and marked the hem length I wanted. A quick double fold on the ironing board, a row of straight stitching on the machine, and I called it done. Super cute!

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I decided the self fabric bow would be a bit too bulky, which is why I used ribbon….but I am not sure this is going to work long term. My LFS does not have the soft silk satin ribbon, so what I ended up with is a little crisper than I want. Also, since I will be removing it and reinserting it with every laundering, I am not sure the ribbon is going to withstand being poked a couple of million times by a safety pin to get re-threaded thru the casing.  I do have a some very soft white batiste that would likely work well as a fabric tie….but as of now I have a feminine and simple spring/summer blouse to wear. If we ever have a day above 60 degrees that is!

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

Luxury of linen

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The shirt fetish continues, and my DH has another custom shirt hanging in his side of the closet. This one is linen – a  beautiful taupey beige that will look great with a selection of pant colors. This is the first linen shirt I have made, and it went together like a dream. I think I only ripped a small section of the neckline to remove a little bubble – other than that it was a piece o’ cake.

Again, I just have to say I double-heart David Page Coffin’s shirt placket technique. I think it looks so “Brooks Brothers”and I find his process to be very simple. Well, maybe it is simple because I have done it 18 times now.  🙂  Anyway, I am very happy with the outcome.

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My DH loves buttondown collars. And especially in this heavier linen fabric, the “cut on” under collar process is the ticket. Anything to reduce bulk in the collar points.

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Another thing I have learned after making 9 shirts for DH – nix the fusible interfacing. I have tried several different types, but I find some, especially woven fusibles, tend to “bubble up” in the dryer.  Yeah. You know that  Becky-Home-Ec-y look.  Just screams “homemade” instead of “custom”. I know, I know. If I just popped his shirts into the dryer for a few minutes and then hang till dry all would be well. But sometimes things happen in my house that cannot be controlled. Like dryer regulation. So I find it safer to use a traditional woven, non-fusible shirt interfacing on DH’s shirts.

I am pretty sure it is time to make a pretty spring blouse or skirt for me next…or maybe go back to my bustier that got waylaid. 

 Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen