Category Archives: Sewing

Christmas Pageantry

Here’s a short little post to describe a tiny piece of a Christmas project we’re taking part in: helping to make costumes for a local production of the play Savior of the World.

The costumes for the play are modeled after the paintings of Carl Bloch, a 19th century Danish artist. The patterns are simple, the colors are muted, and the overall effect of the costumes is deeply symbolic. You can read more about the costume design in this article: Costuming for Savior of the World Production.

robe costume craftsbyjennyskip.com
robe costume for Savior of the World Christmas play

As a Christian, I like to go to at least one event during the holiday season that portrays the Christmas story. And by that I mean focusing on the story of Jesus, Mary and Joseph; although other productions featuring toys, dreams, visions of sugarplums, St Nick, Macy’s, animated cartoon animals, and little girls freezing to death while out trying to sell matches, etc. can be impressive.

Christmas music can elevate me to spiritual thoughts, and can bring back intense memories. Like Mrs. Horak, our third-and-fourth-grade choir teacher, banging the lid on the piano to get us to shut up and pay attention during the endless rehearsals. And fear, when she would stand next to us while we were singing, and shriek out loud “You’re FLAT!” which would cause us to sing softly, then she’d yell “LOUDER! OPEN YOUR MOUTH!” Then she would run to the piano and play the notes, and make us sing them over and over again until we were singing right. She hated it when someone would pronounce it “Christmiss.” She would yell, “CHRISTMUSS! Say it!” I must admit, sometimes when I’m singing Christmas carols, I don’t even sound like my normal self, I can actually hit those high notes. It brings me back to those frosty, dark nights in the lunchroom turned auditorium at our elementary school, taking off my coat and putting it on a pile of coats, wearing black patent-leather shoes and a choir robe, filing in a single-file line to stand on bleachers. Then, we sang for what seemed like (and probably was) hours. We sang Christmas songs, but we also sang “Oh come, Oh Come Emmanuel” and “Kumbaya,” among others, as part of the Christmas program. It was something we all looked forward to.

Thanks to everyone who carries on these traditional performances: singing, instrumental shows, dancing, displays of decorations and crafts. You bring all of us in the community together!

Modern Hemming

I always thought that blind-hemming was the only hemming that was acceptable for clothes that would be worn out in public. Blind-hemming, to me, was done by hand. Imagine my surprise, and skepticism, when I found out blind-hemming can be done on a sewing machine! Some machines have a designated blind-hem stitch, some have attachments for blind-hemming.

Sewing machines became popular in the 19th Century, but lots of sewing was still done by hand. Hand-sewing is rather an art, wouldn’t you say? I love beautiful hand-embroidery, trapunto, appliqué, quilting. Those fancy stitches make plain old blind-hemming look like a country cousin. We are a couple that is also fascinated by what machines can do. So I decided to give blind-hemming on the sewing machine a try. As luck would have it, Skip had 4 or 5 new pairs of pants that mysteriously came in with no hems at all, and each pant leg was about 5 inches too long.

pants to hem craftsbyjennyskip.com
pants

The first step was to get Skip to try them on and say where he wanted the length to be terminated. About a year and a half later, we were ready to go to Step 2: measuring the inseam.

pants inseam
measuring the inseam

Next, cut off the excess. You have to leave some length to make a cuff or turn under. I think a pants hem should be about 3/4 inch to 1 inch. My grandmother taught me that the 2nd joint of my index finger is about an inch long, so I can eyeball that distance as a rough measure.

cutting off excess
yikes, the cut-off. It’s a little scary.

What if I cut it off too short? Oops, I have done that before! To be safer, wash and dry the pants before hemming (if the label says you can do so; don’t wash them if it says: “dry clean only”), and make the inseam a little longer than you think it should be.

pants hem
fold up a hem, fold it up twice, and press

To sew the blind-hem by machine, you take the folded-over-twice hem and fold the outermost fold back in. My machine has a blind-hem foot and a blind-hem stitch that does about 4 straight stitches, then a side stitch, which is the blind-tack. If I were sewing the blind-hem stitch by hand, I would knot the thread, push the needle through the folded hem edge, then attach the thread to the pants with a tiny little stitch that can be barely seen from the outside of the pants, then grab a big stitch from the folded edge of the hem, and again, attach the thread to the pants with a tiny little stitch, grabbing only a thread’s breadth of the pants fabric with the needle.

blind hem foot
sewing machine’s blind-hem foot
Husqvarna Viking Diamond blind-hem setting
machine set up for blind-hemming
blind hemming by machine
Placement on throat plate for sewing the blind-hem

Sometimes people like to forget the pressing. But pressing is important; it makes the difference between shabby and sharp.

unpressed pants hem
These are the hemmed pants before pressing
pants hem
pressed pants hem

If you click on the last photo, and zoom up, you’ll be able to see the blind-tack stitches. They are more noticeable than if sewn by hand, but they look ok. They look good enough.

Fitness From One Century to Another

We’ve had some interesting discussions lately about how to avoid getting cancer. One way is to quit smoking if you’ve been a smoker, or to never start if you haven’t been. But, living in the 21st Century, we can benefit from LOTS of prior research that tells us things we can do to avoid getting cancer. The older we get, the more I realize that none of us is immune to it.

While surfing the list of online courses offered by University of Florida, I happened upon this one you can take for just $20: TAKE CONTROL TO REDUCE YOUR CANCER RISK. You don’t need a college degree to guess that some things you can do to head off cancer include proper diet, exercise, using sunblock, and staying away from chemical exposure, right?

Googling cancer’s history brings up a wealth of horrific lore about how the disease was looked upon in the 19th century. Apart from the various forms of gender-specific cancers, cancer overall was thought to afflict mostly women. Men were encouraged to ramp up diet and exercise so as not to be “subject to women’s diseases.” [from The Emergence of Cancer as a Public Health Concern by Ornella Moscucci, Phil, BSc ].

So diet and exercise were emphasized in the 19th century, but perhaps not to the extent they are now.  Our ancestors probably did lots more walking from place to place than we do, and had physically intense jobs to do, unless they were on the wealthy end of the scale. I’ve had ancestors from both the wealthy side and the poor side. The upscale ancestors may have entertained the notion of Physical Culture, in which exercise with light apparatus such as dumbbells, bar bells, ropes, and other props may have been employed.

Our affluence and  abundance of leisure time may have added to our risk of ill health, by allowing us to overeat and under-exert.  I just finished a 6-week class at the local gym called “Tighten Your Tummy” in which light apparatus, of the sort I’ve never encountered before, was employed. We used foam rollers, a BOSU, a Pilates ring, mushy balls, and exercise mats for two 30-minute intense workouts per week, in addition to a 30-minute minimal workout (like walking or yoga) per day.

BOSU crunches craftsbyjennyskip.com
crunches on the BOSU (note AAW 2013 t-shirt, now part of my workout clothes)
yoga mat and wedge craftsbyjennyskip.com
yoga mat and wedge apparatus

 

 

 

 

 

I go to a one-hour yoga class every morning, and I’ve been toting some light apparatus with me in the form of a yoga mat. More and more, my fellow yoginis (I go to the Women’s Gym) have added to their caches of apparatus: blocks, straps, wedges, towels, light dumbbells and gripper things. Which is kind of funny, when you think about it, since one of the 8 limbs of yoga is Pratyhara, the withdrawal of the mind from sense objects. But we don’t get far into the metaphysical aspects of yoga, it’s more of a fitness regime for us.

It was time to sew a new and upgraded light apparatus carrier, since the mat bag I made a while back is barely big enough for the mat and nothing additional. While the Gaiam online store had a nice selection of bags and totes at fairly decent prices, of course I decided to make my own. I found a piece of beige pleather in the remnant stash, some purse magnets I ordered a while back from Nancy Zieman, and a length of funky, fringe-y woven trim in the ribbon, ruffle and trim stash. That’s all it took! Easy-peasy.

pleather remnant craftsbyjennyskip.com
pleather remnant
purse magnets jenny skip
purse magnets
pleather gym bag
finished gym bag
gym bag jennyskip
carrier for light apparatus

Selfie-Tote

One last post for Selfish Sewing Week

Funny how one must proclaim it a special “selfish” holiday in order to justify making something for oneself…

I like making things for others but…

1) I don’t have a lot of confidence about my talents and abilities, and

2) It’s risky to spend a lot of time and money on something that the other person might not like or appreciate.

However, if I make something for myself,

1) If it looks crummy or I just don’t like it, my feelings aren’t hurt, and

2) I don’t worry about sending my gift off to Goodwill or the Island of Unloved Toys, Etc.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I did cut out an additional top: finished, and ok, but nothing spectacular. And I had cut out some pieces for a purse, tote, whatever you want to call it.

This item I made from scratch. No pattern, just knew sort of what I wanted it to look like, and went from there.

The body is an old denim remnant I got anciently at a yard sale.

purse making jenny skip.com
assembling the various parts and pieces

The liner is Willow Bend Bandana from the Alexander Henry Fabrics Collection c 2006 (ahem, yes, it has been in the stash that long).

bandana fabric craftsbyjennyskip.com
Willow Bend fabric for liner

The knit portion on the outside is half Picasso’s Moon art yarn and half red Mei Mei Bamboo in a circular stockinette.

denim and knitted tote craftsbyjennyskip.com
finished tote

The straps are from Cindy’s Button Company. I found a 1/2 yard remnant of Pellon Flexible Foam Stabilizer in the interfacing stash that was just the right dimensions to line the body, and used some plastic needlepoint canvas to line the bottom and top rim.

plastic needlepoint canvas as stabilizer
stabilizing the bottom

A small red zipper showed up in the zipper stash, and a packet of red bias binding provided the edging for an inner purse pocket and 4 loops to attach the leather straps.

purse lining craftsbyjennyskip
lining has a zipper pocket and a bound-edge pocket
tote bag bottom view craftsbyjennyskip.com
bottoms-up view

Had this idea in my head for years, but it took a designated Selfish Sewing Week to bring it into the real world. Thank you Rachael at imagine gnats for your inspiration!

Selfish Sewing

Um, yes…I do recall posting late last week that Selfish Sewing Week was coming up…now it’s almost over and I still haven’t done any sewing for myself. Pretty lame!

In my defense, I have been planning some projects…but haven’t carried out those plans to fruition yet (as of Thursday morning). We’ll have to remedy that.

Here’s what I planned:

1) Camel Ponte Roma & microsuede skirt

2) rayon blouse to match

3) black & gold boucle knit sweater

4) white embroidered cotton shirt

5) brown stretch jacquard lace skirt

6) white crushed voile top lined with white Posh polyester

7) denim & knitted art yarn purse with red leather handles

8) either a skirt or top in a leopard print

9) something out of that teal and gold plaid-printed jersey

10) rayon slip-dress

Have you stopped laughing yet? Looks like a tall order!

sketches craftsbyjenny skip.com
sketching the plan

But since I wrote down this list yesterday morning, I’ve already made the first two items and cut out the fabric for 2 other items. Each little project is economical in that I used fabric remnants. Sometimes it’s a challenge to come up with something wearable from a piece of fabric that is less than a yard.

#1: Camel Ponte Roma/microsuede skirt. The pattern for this is one I made, using an old skirt I bought at Beall’s Outlet, and tracing around it. I found two remnant bundles at JoAnn’s that were the same color: Camel, Cornstalk, or beige. Ponte Roma is always awesome, and to pair it with a faux Suede, seems timely!

#2: Rayon 1-yard top. This pattern was a freebie from Runway Sewing; I scoped it out on Pinterest. I didn’t have any 1/4″ bias binding around to apply to the neckline, so I used some 1/2″, and I didn’t like it all that much. And the neckline itself was way too big, resulting in a very sloppy look. I took a great big tuck in the front, making it look a bit like the Colette Sorbetto top, also a freebie pattern. You might wonder, “Why didn’t she just use the Sorbetto then?” The sleeveless Sorbetto is a little skimpy for me. I like my shoulders to be covered.

skirt & top jenny skip
Selfish Sewing Week skirt & top

So I wasn’t a total no-show for Selfish Sewing Week. I’ll be relieved to get back to non-apparel sewing, though.

Machine Embroidery Finish

Finished reversible table runner with an everyday side and a holiday-ish side.

quilted table runner
every day machine-quilted table runner
machine-quilted holiday table runner jenny skip
holiday side of runner

The design on the every day side was “traced” using the machine’s 2mm satin stitch, and free-motion settings. I feel that my machine’s specialty stitches are underused, so I wanted to try out one for this project. For stitching the outer border, the feed dogs were turned back on, and the machine’s star stitch was used.

star machine stitch jenny skip
close-up of star-stitch border

Finished just in time for Fall Selfish Sewing Week, It’s also the final wrap-up of National Sewing Month. Not sure if Selfish Sewing Week is a widespread phenom. I’d never heard of it before, but I do like the notion of it! Sometimes I don’t feel justified just sewing for myself, which is a little crazy, because there isn’t a lot of feedback generated from folks to whom I’ve given home-sewn gifts. Or the feedback isn’t overwhelmingly positive. If I sew something for myself and I end up hating it, it doesn’t hurt my feelings. If I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing it in public, there’s no visible shame, there’s no ongoing question. There’s no wondering if the other person received it in the mail, or getting the same package returned from the postal worker three months later.

What would you plan to sew if you were participating in Selfish Sewing Week? Something trendy?
Elle

Glamour

Vogue

Burda

Something for the home?

Etsy Fall Tutorials

Something for relaxation?

Spa Gift Patterns

Something to show your team spirit?

Go Gators! Etsy Offerings

The week’s wide open!

P.S. 23 December 2015

The more I looked at the finished table runner, the more that yellow binding around it didn’t agree with me. So I ripped it off and re-sewed metallic gold seam binding on the edge instead.

table runner, machine embroidery hack
everyday side with gold binding
machine embroidery hack with gold metallic binding
Christmas-y side, with gold-bound edges

Machine Embroidery Hack

This project is the second of a number of winter holiday quilts I intend to make for gifts this year.

Defining Quilting, Wikipedia writes that in America in the early 19th Century, the type of quilting done was whole cloth rather than pieced assembly. Piecework quilting would have been a thrifty pursuit, using up smaller bits of cloth. But colonial seamstresses were also able to employ thrift in the whole cloth quilts by using old blankets as batting in between layers of cloth and sewing through.

This small quilt, slated to be a tabletop runner or a wall decoration, is pretty much a whole cloth quilt, except for the addition of a couple of strips on the sides of the red panel, to make it an even match to the reverse side.

Like the colonial quilters, I decorated the whole cloth with an embroidery design. Except I “embroidered” with the sewing machine, using a 2mm satin stitch that is loose in some areas, tight in others. I switched the feed dogs’ normal setting to “free motion spring action” so that the fabric could be moved around under the needle in whatever direction I needed to sew. Then I attached the free-motion spring-action foot (I tried the plain free-motion foot first and didn’t like it a whole lot. The spring-action foot is much better). So this is not one of those machine embroideries that stitched out an automated pattern inside a fixed hoop, it’s all free-motion sewing using the machine’s satin stitch setting. A narrow zig-zag could be used with a similar effect.

To add a special holiday touch, I used gold metallic thread. I’ve had problems with metallic thread shredding during machine embroidery, but this time I wised up and used a special metallic thread needle, and it worked pretty good most of the time.

gold thread and metallic needles, craftsbyjennyskip.com
needle and thread

With a nod to the thrift and industry of our colonial forbears, I used fabric remnants for the front and back whole cloth components, with the green and black strips on the side from a Robert Kaufman Kona cotton roll-up (2 1/2″ x 44″ strips in Dark Colorstory). Love being thrifty! Love to see a cast-off roll of fabric in the remnant bin and wonder what can be done with just that one lone little piece?

Skip looked at the embroidery and said “Wow! Where did you come up with that beautiful design?”

metallic design, craftsbyjennyskip,.com
machine “embroidered” whole cloth

I just turned the little quilt over and said, “Here,” and showed him the motif on the reverse, which I had just traced over with the machine needle, and it duplicated the design on the opposite side in bobbin thread.

tracing design machine embroidery
reverse side

Are you also working on holiday gift items? September’s almost over…