Friday, January 30, 2015

Fashioning My Cyber Microcosm: The Best Homework Ever.

As most of you know, it's time for yet another of Dr. Z's fun homework assignments.
This months assignment is probably my favorite to date, because she asked us "What's on your cutting table?"

Well, Dr. Z... surprisingly not a lot, heh. I like to finish a project that I start; sprinkle a little unwillingness-to-create-more-clutter-in-my-small-room into the mix and I have myself a cocktail of a pretty productive, and in constant use, sewing room. Still, some things do fall off the table, so to say... and for those projects, I commit this post to.

Last year, in Sept. I made a craft exchange deal with a friend. My side of the deal was to knit her a true to show Dr. Who scarf... little did I know what I was getting into....

Don't get me wrong, I am way more than happy to oblige a friend, especially when it's a craft exchange. I love making and receiving handmade things... but this thing is a monster! 
It's 19 inches wide, and its finished length is 13 feet. It feels like it's endless sometimes, and I work on it an hour or two a day, and it's only about 6 1/2 feet so far. Phew! Though, I admit I am a pretty slow knitter (I average about 2 1/2 of these rows every 15 mins) and for some of November, and most of December there were stretches of days I didn't work on it at all.

Another thing I started in September was my first quilt.

In my defense, in the post where I showed it off in the link I did say there wasn't going to be a chance anytime soon to see this quilted. The shop still has a full quota, but the bats and webs will be worth the wait.

Yet another thing I started in Sept. (or was it earlier?) was something I really wanted to be a surprise, but now I am realizing that it's a cursed garment.

I kept saying I was going to finish it; the plan was to have it finished for Halloween, as I was intending to go as a gender swapped Beetlejuice from the 50's. Hair and everything was going to be fantastic... at least in my head it seemed like it was going to be fantastic. I even printed out a cover for one of my books to read as the Handbook For The Recently Deceased, where in a photoshoot I would handle the book with disgust.

I was in the middle of View A. It might still happen... if I can actually sit and work on this dress in peace. Something always comes up.

Finally, I started this early in the month.... I can't truthfully say I lost the steam to finish this project. More like, I realized I have too many other things I should be finishing, so I put this down.

What it is, is a series (4 total) of mixed media pieces I'm doing inspired by images of the Joann's bag I bought. Only, they're going to feature some (also borrowed) vintage hallowe'en images. I have only finished the line work, but my plan is to use watercolors, acrylics, and pencil crayon.

That's it, folks! Hopefully one day these unfinished projects see the finish line! 
It's exciting to see all of the other projects people have on their tables.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Mortem's Tricks or Treats: Notion Commotion, Part 1

I have pretty much neglected this sub section of my blog. It was supposed to be the place I share my sewing knowledge... but I'll be frank, looking on it now, it seems kind of redundant, seeing as I typically do that somewhere on this blog anyway. The only difference is that I'll be adding my sewing buys and reviews, which might've made it to Spooky Basket in the past... but I'll keep that for my non sewing related rants and raves.
That said, I think it's about time for another post consolidation session, AKA a blog clean up.

What was formerly Creepy Crafty Crusades will be henceforth known as Mortem's Sewing Tricks or Treats.
I like the sound of it better than C.C.C ... I feel like it better reflects what I do, and it fits better with the new design I have going on.

To begin this post kick off, I want to share some of my favorite notions.

The inspiration for this post came during the beginning weeks of January, the shop where I work at has been buzzing with the new floor plan laid out by boss lady and her best friend. Why is this relevant to sewing notions? Well, dear readers, along with the "unsalable" outs of the shop, we have uncovered a few unsold old notions-- notions from the 80's and 90's hiding away all this time...

We didn't uncover anything that significant, but the discovery reminded me how much I absolutely love sewing gadgetry. Things that are pleasantly helpful but ultimately frivolous... not that I care whether or not my sewing room is wracked with capriciousness.

This is what this post is about. Cool things, neat things, things that make you exclaim 'Ahhh' gleefully.

I know, in the same post I talk of redundancies... I beat the 'sewing notions' dead horse some more, heh.

In my selections, I have included a few of my recent purchases, mixed in with older but they all serve me very well despite not technically meeting the "absolute must have" criteria for me, that so many people seem to place them under. So while I do rave about the items, I do mention their alternatives.

Anyway, onto the product rambling.

1. Dritz Quick Turn 

There are plenty of ways to turn a tube in sewing. Lots of frugally inclined people prefer the ever economic pencil, which has the only benefits of being cheap and easily accessible... but, it's a tool that has been vastly improved upon since its humble beginnings as a writing implement... you can choose from many tube turning gadgets, which include the point former and tube turner, (that looks as though it belongs on a medical tray than in a sewing box) and the classic Loop Turner for example (which offers nights of shrieking in frustration because that darn hook frays your fabric like crazy).

All great choices ultimately, but for my dollar and highest recommendation, I love the tube turners pictured; The Dritz Quick Turns. It's not a new revelation, in fact people used different size straws and chopsticks before this was mass produced... but certainly one nevertheless. To turn tubes with these, one of the ends of the tube is basted shut and the plastic portion shoved inside to that end on the inside, then it's a matter of taking your stick portion and pushing through the tube from the outside. The result? Making extremely quick and easy work of one of the most tedious tasks in sewing, with little to no shrieking in the process. It helps that they're also purple. Can you believe I phoned 3 different Joann's in the surrounding area and even contacted a Dritz representative to find these in a purple colorway? Yes, I am that passionate about my sewing equipment, especially if they're available somewhere in the world in the color purple. By the way, the customer service rep at Dritz was a doll, she was extremely amenable to a sewist as picky as me-- you're technically not supposed to use that channel for purchasing, but I was very persistent (bad me for being so pushy-- do not follow my example in that regard *cough*).

2. Seamfix Seam Ripper

I received my first Seamfix from a retired (and escaped to Phoenix) friend in Holbrook who was downsizing a few things from her sewing room. She gave me a teal one, and I have never looked to another ripper since. As you can see I upgraded to purple, and the usefulness of it continues to gain copious amounts of popularity.

The rubbery/silicone tips remove the cut trimmings after they've been ripped. I am not a pro seamstress, I make many mistakes... so this is just beautiful and saves my poor RSI/CT ridden hands from having to pick them out. They're easy to clean, and much more portable than your average travel sized reusable lint roller (but it does do the job, if that's all you have).
I find the hive like side the less useful of the sides surprisingly enough... perhaps it's because I deal more with fiddly curved areas than the typical straight line in quilting (the target audience for this tool). The "nipple" side is the best side for us garment sewists-- small and pointed for more accurate short strokes.

It really looks like mammary gland.
Unfortunately, these aren't at all cheap in their full sizes-- averaging about $12 U.S. for one... they have little pocket sizes, but they're not that much cheaper and you lose out on one of the two sides. Still, once you try it... you won't be able to look at seam ripping the same without one.

3. Bohin Silicone, Steel tipped Thimble

I'm not 100% on this, but I am pretty sure Clover was the first company to mass produce these sewing marvels that combine the flexibility and grip of a silicone thimble with the added strength of your typical metal one... but Bohin made it heaps more attractive by adding little designs and of course, being the only of the two companies to offer one in purple. Sadly enough, just like Clover's, the color indicates the size of the thimble-- I should've technically bought the pink one, as it's the small, and purple represents the size large... but, purple... 
That's ok though, I forgive them for that slight oversight, I'm fine using a thimble two sizes too big because the silicone makes it practically a non-issue.

Like many sewists, we sometimes face a very stubborn seam that likes to play tug of war with us and our needles, and in this situation when I usually reach for a needle gripper pad, I simply use the same thimble I used to push the needle through to pull it out. Easy peasy.

4. FriXion Erasable Pens by Pilot

Another popular one that is much raved about, these Frixon pens are very dandy... not just for the quilter. The ink disappears with enough heat; by friction or the steam from an iron.
Being a "non pro" sewist, mistakes also happen in the drafting process... where a dart may be placed an inch in the wrong place; a quick blast of steam will make those markings disappear quicker than you can ctrl+alt+delete.
I like the clicker model much more than the needle tipped; it doesn't get caught in the folds as often, but really it's preference because pen style markers are always going to get caught in the drape of fabric. It just depends how heavy handed you are, and I am oafish.

These are fairly reasonably priced... compared to other novelty type pens. The markings are clear, and extremely easy to remove, and that's enough reason for me to buy them, though I also highly recommend the chalk pen, chaco liners, and duo tipped water/air solvable marker-- which are a lot easier to find and cheaper to get a hold of at your local shops than the Frixion pens.

It comes in a variety of ink colors... one being purple that I don't currently own; the reason for that is that I haven't had the chance to go shopping for that color set... especially having drained my significantly smaller disposable income for the month, having allocated more of those funds towards more important matters.

5. Clover Point 2 Point Turner

Finally this last (but not least) product is probably the most underrated-- even I admit to a little halfheartedness towards it (I debated its inclusion to this list). The Point 2 Point Turner by Clover. Maybe it's because it looks underwhelming in which many people tend to overlook it...  
The opinions tend to stay very tentative about this product, and I agree to a certain extent. I bought it because my kittles chewed up my last point turner that I bought at the dollar store up in Canada. My key complain with many generic point turners is that they're a little stubby, so when I laid eyes on this one my main attraction to it was its length. 
After the first few uses, the other uses began unraveling, and unveiling like it was the most natural purpose of a point turner-- every curve on it adds comfort and works to smooth out harsh and soft curves, and turning out the pointiest of points, to the dullest ones. The edges are made so that they can make temporary indentations on fabric that act as markings for a variety of purposes-- like marking the center seam when joining binding ends, or a line that you can follow when stitching ribbon into a design that you won't worry about removing after its sewn on.

A tailor's board is meant to answer the need for smoothing out clipped curves during ironing, but it doesn't always handle well on smaller curves, and it's definitely not cheaper than this little tool. Another thing is simply using the other end of a standard point turner to smooth out the curves, or something similarly rounded off... but it does not have the ease of this tool when doing so.

Tell me what you think; have any of you tinkered with these notions?
Up next, the notions I don't own but definitely have on my wishlist....

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Mortem's Tricks or Treats: There's No Such Thing As Problems...

Only opportunities!

Or, At least I am attempting to convince myself of such...

To get to the point, I grew fatter and my DIY dressform no longer reflects my true body shape. I had to increase its size by one.

Part of the reason I didn't want to doodle on Frankiestein much is because I knew eventually my wayward ways will start to accumulate at an incredible rate as I get closer and closer to my 30's-- the idea of spending that much time cursing over my bad joints attempting health always leaves a bad taste in my soul. So, in saying that... it truly disappointed me to know I would have to cover up what is still the best tattoo idea I've ever conjured on a whim. C'est la vie.

I researched a little on how to tackle this problem, and the solution was unanimous-- quilt batting and a 4 way stretch cover.

The supplies are extremely inexpensive (not including my store discount): $6.99 per yard for my swimsuit lycra spandex, $3.50 per yard of 4oz batting, $2.99 for a large needle set that includes a curved or tapestry, cotton tatting thread for $3.99, and finally an old bra.

I didn't use any fancy method of fitting my batting, I cut rectangles and drew with a sharpie marker the relative curve it had to sit on, cut and then tape it down till I found a seam to pin it together, often creating darts.

There were some areas that needed a little extra loft (my bust and derriere), and I shaped and pinned them accordingly, until finally everything was ready to be sutured up.

One of the most alarming things about creating a double is taking on a third person perspective of your entire body. It gives you a truly unbiased look of every nook, every cranny that ultimately makes up you.

Once the batting is sewn in place, it was time to ready the cover... but unlike others, I didn't seem to gain as much weight on my collarbone and neck area. That measurement stayed the same, so I didn't have a space to pin and make taught the fabric I was to use.

I grabbed a garment that had enough curve and was tight fitting... which sadly happened to be something I made not too long ago.

I pinned around it and cut along the inner edge of the pins. Serged the sides and began creating darts until, inevitably, I came out with a true to shape dress form, with every number matching up digit for digit...

I even wore some tight clothing to show my... umm... "curves".
Unfortunately, during the slipping on of the cover, Frankiestien suffered an arm and boob collapse, but it didn't seem to affect the overall look and sizing-- likely because of the bra... but she'll need repair when I eventually drop the weight we both gained. If that day even comes...

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Mortem's Tricks or Treats: A Day In The Life Of.

Last weekend I endeavored to finish a project that was meant to be completed before last year's Halloween, but still present circumstances have lifted my attentions elsewhere.
However, last weekend in my efforts to better balance my time for Bat Fit and most importantly, for my sanity, I made some time to continue work on it.

I tried the individual pieces on before setting them on Frankiestein... it was during this time, while glancing at the cuts and curves of the pieces on myself, I caught a glance of something off. Checking over the fit on myself, I took the same piece to Frankie...

Yup, my fleeting suspicion was quickly confirmed. I grew a size.

Luckily the pieces can still be increased with cleverly added inserts... but that would mean some very meticulous tailoring, which in turn means I would need a dress form to execute this change perfectly. Increasing the size of my dress form is a whole other can of worms I didn't have the will to deal with at the time... so I decided on something simple, with very little need for fitting details.

A skater dress.
Specifically McCall's M6754 in view B-- I bought it during one of my biggest Joann's hauls.

I bought a size lg to xxl not having much to pick from... I may have grown, but I haven't grown enough to fit into any of the predetermined sizing of my copy, so I had to grade it down to a medium using some less than "expert" ways of downsizing a pattern. I grabbed the smallest thread cap I own to mimic this little gadget from clover, which I only just discovered the previous week, and wanted to see if I could justify actual purchase through a DIY knock off. Let me just say... I want it. If your hands quake like mine do sometimes, the lines can be... funny looking, but I used my slew of rulers to clean up the lines. After that, the construction of the mock up went with barely a hitch... I say barely because my head grew a little foggy and I almost forgot how to sew on stretchy fabric. Some of the seams of my mock came out a tad lettucey due to that haze.

Here is the mock up, it's perfectly wearable despite that haze, and I am considering painting bats all over it to sell or trade to someone who might appreciate hot pink more than I currently do. I wanted to note that I kept the hem of the mock up a little longer keeping in mind it's next owner... the length I require for my height would not be very classy for the averagely "statured".

For my own dress, I had just the right fabric in mind.

With the Joann's gift cards given me this past Christmas, I bought what was left of a stretch velvet bolt in a color labeled "mystic purple" (among other decadent fabrics for my stash).

I also dug around my lace to find some flourish appliques I was saving for more coffin purses that never made it to fruition.

Armed with a un-fogged brain, and some delightful materials I made quick the work of the newest edition to my wardrobe.

And here are shots with a little accessory I acquired last year from Ebay

I had to fix this little underbust vest belt thing with a little elastic sewn to the straps... they were a little too broad shouldered for my stature. It now adds to the design and functions to keep the straps on.

I've been a rather selfless sewist. It feels like forever since I've sewn anything to actually wear for myself; something I can hang in my closet. Perhaps this is the tiny beginnings of a new trend... to temper work and home time, self love and family love.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Spooky Basket: The Simple Fit Dressform, and Simplicity Sidewinder

If there's one thing that's true in a sewist... no matter how much you've been distracted by other things, maybe even other projects... the ones for ourselves seem to come back and haunt us with an unearthly strength.

The planning stage is always the best part... it's the preparation that becomes the obstacle to overcome. I begin the drafting and revisions, and it's about halfway through that point that I lose my steam. I've been lucky (in the sense that I didn't have to think about it) that since August I've been preoccupied with other obligations... but with my Christmas and New Years break, I have found I have no more obligations left but to my own self. Those unfinished garment patterns waving at me from the shelf.

With a day left to my break, I have finally sat down and started on the one closest to being finished, armed with new equipment to make revisions with much more ease.

One of those items is a new dress form that I could actually pin on and adjust.
I don't even remember if I wrote about this... but back in August, my boss and I made an agreement that if I was to sew costumes for her daughter, her daughter's husband, and her son's companion for their Halloween in Disney trip, that I would get a dress form and a large table top omnigrid mat in return. Sufficed to say, I spent many hours under the light of my sewing machine and got it all done just in time.

But I greatly digress...

I haven't looked twice at the dress form since receiving it, because in the following months I've been knee deep in other such projects for work and loved ones. Since the rekindling of my garment creations, I have been able to acquaint myself properly with this new piece of equipment, and I have found one crippling flaw.

Dritz's dress form to the left, my DIY dress form to the right

Perfect Fit Dress Form by Dritz

I consider my body to be well enough into the average spectrum that dress form selection is quite abundant; my dress form back in Canada was a size or two larger, but proportionally correct... and I bought it from the thrift store. I should have known there would be a major flaw, since Dritz has offered nothing but disappointment lately... but the promise of added features blindsided me. As you can see, the bust apex's are extremely different and cannot be adjusted. To give perspective, I included the line that represents the highest point of the hip where they both seem to match up well enough. I scratched my head at how low the bust is... in my experience, I have never worked with anyone who had these similar proportions to have such a low standing bust. That's not to say it doesn't exist, but it's definitely not average for youth. This shape reminds me of a mature figure-- I feel like that should've been mentioned somewhere, as it's a make or break kind of detail in tailoring for the obvious reasons.

It would seem Frankiestein cannot be retired just yet, even though she's had just about enough...

Simplicity Sidewinder

With my "new" machine, I just couldn't get the hang of winding a good and proper bobbin on it, so I flipped flopped from machines just to wind bobbins... it was tedious and I had enough after the 30'th bobbin winding floundering.
I bought the Simplicity Sidewinder.

I never gave this thing enough thought until my machine family grew by one, and then I've come to heavily rely on this little piece of gadgetry. I had a weird hiccup where it just seemed to sputter and completely stop working... but after some tinkering it's back to working order. I still don't know what the heck happened, it's almost like it wasn't taking the juice from the A/C plug. With batteries it worked fine albeit it a little slower, but I don't like the idea of constantly buying batteries. I took out one of the two batteries and tried the adapter again, and that's when it worked once more at full speed. It hasn't done that since, but then again, I haven't removed the sole battery.

It wasn't meant to take from large cones of thread, but a little ingenuity goes a long way-- it doesn't have to be a hindrance. A little wood, a little glue, and some hardware and I remedied this minor dilemma.

It also doesn't have a cutter of it's own, and I'm a chronic misplacer of scissors...
Then I remembered that I bought an adhesive cutter for my singer, since it was also lacking one.

Pretty cool, eh? And yet another problem is solved.

I haven't stuck it on yet, as I am still trying to find a comfortable position for it. Between the extra bobbin holders seems logical, so it won't get knocked off when I pack it up.

With the time spent winding one bobbin perfectly on a sewing machine, I can wind 2 even 3 perfectly in that time.

And now I have perfect bobbins every time, at the drop of a pin.
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