Saturday, May 2, 2015

Standing Sewing Station

Have you heard that sitting is the new smoking?  Hmmmm...  It's easy for me not to smoke, but what do you do when most of your favorite things are traditionally done while sitting?
Let me introduce you to (drumroll...)  my Standing Sewing Station! 

For the past year or so, I've been having back pain that was exasperated by sitting.  If I would sit for even 30 minutes at my desk, I would stand up feeling really stiff with a sore back.   I didn't have a terrible case, but bad enough that I knew I needed to change something.   I tried so many chairs- I switched from a regular office chair, to a exercise ball, to an exercise ball on a pedestal, back to a different office chair.

Nothing helped!  Whatever chair I was using, I still had the problem.  I saw a spine specialist- she told me that I was getting old, and I just have to accept the reality that I will have aches and pains.  Really?  I'm 52, in relatively good shape, and you are telling me that I'm "old" and this is normal?  Well, that really ticked me off, and I just started researching on my own. Sometimes you just have to take matters into your own hands.

I started reading about standing computer stations, and since I do spend a good chunk of my day at the computer, I decided to try one out.  First, I just rigged up something temporary with plastic crates and footstools.  After a week, the pain was completely gone!  No joke. 

Standing desks can be pricey, so rather than buy one, I decided to construct a more permanent version.  I sent my daughter, who lives in Chicago, to IKEA with the shopping list to build this $22 standing desk.  I had her get enough supplies to make two- one for my computer, and one for my sewing machine!  They have the side tables in all kinds of fun colors, but I decided on black.  I don't spend long amounts of time sitting at the sewing machine, but I figure that every bit that I don't sit might help in the long run. 

I will admit that it did take some time to get used to it.  My legs started feeling a little wobbly at first, but it didn''t take too long to get up to speed.  I started this in late January, and am standing whenever I use my computer at home now.   Standing all day is not good for you either, but I have a regular sitting desk at the school that I work at, and I spend most evenings sitting watching TV, so I'm still getting in plenty of sitting.

For sewing, it definitely takes more coordination, as you are effectively relying on one leg to steady yourself, and the other to run the foot pedal.  You can see here that my cord is just barely long enough to still rest on the floor.   If I were to need to do some sewing that requires more precision, I would definitely take it off the table and sit down.  But for the majority of my sewing, standing is just fine.  We didn't need the shelf part of the standing desk plan for the sewing machine, just the side table.  The height is absolutely perfect for me when I am standing.  I have a very clear view of the area right under the presser foot, without having to bend forward at all.

My serger doesn't have a long enough cord to sit on the table, so I have it sitting on 10" high storage container.   It's not my dream solution, but it will work until I can find a 10" high table that is sturdier.  My husband found a extra large computer mouse pad that fits underneath of it and helps stop it from traveling.  This is important.  Otherwise, the container will just slide once the serger starts up.

I've gotten a lot of very interesting information from the Katy Says blog about body alignment and prevention of back pain.  I purchased two of her books- Alignment Matters and Move your DNA, and had several light bulb moments from each of things that I was doing that could be potentially damaging in the long run.  I highly recommend checking it out if you are anyone you know has back pain issues.

My lesson learned- if you have back pain, don't stop sewing, start standing!

Happy Sewing!


Sunday, April 26, 2015

The "Wear Everyday" Coat from Ottobre Woman 2/2015

Have you ever wondered where the word "notion" came from?  I looked it up, and found this:

Notion- Word Origin and History for notion  n. "miscellaneous articles," 1805, American English, from notion with the idea of "clever invention."

This finally makes sense to me! Zippers, buttons, elastic- all fit the description of a clever invention!  Alas, all of these clever inventions can often add up to cost more than the fabric for a project, so that's why I usually choose notion-lite projects.  I bristle at the price of zippers these days- grrrr.

But this particular jacket, the Wear Everyday Coat from the Spring/Summer Ottobre Woman issue, caught my eye, because of the notions.  The plain white coat, accented with bright yellow cord locks and contrasting zippers was something that I wanted to copy.  I had a really nice white synthetic knit with a fleece back in my stash- just enough for this jacket, with barely a scrap to spare.  I made a size 42 in the neck/shoulder, and 44 in the body, and I'm happy with the fit. 

I cut it out first, then went to look for the notions to go with it.   Here's a pic of all of the notions that I got for the project:

The cord locks were the hardest to find.  I really wanted a bright lime green, and the only place that I could find them in small quantities was on Ebay from this vendor.  They took about a month to get here, but I think it was worth the wait.  A word of advice- if you order some notions from China, put everything else in one place while you wait.  By the time they arrived, I had completely forgotten where I put everything else, and wasted a couple of hours tracking it all down!  I had bagged up the cut out pieces, but my husband had thought it was a bag of leftover scraps, and used one piece to clean up some oil.  Yikes!!!!  Luckily it washed out.  Whew!

Since Ottobre doesn't have illustrated instructions, I took photos along the way of some of the more unusual steps, so that if mine turned out okay, I could pass this process info along to you- just a little supplement to their written instructions.  A warning, my sewing is imperfect at best, so if you are a perfectionist, and get caught up in my crooked seams, then just squint.  It all looks fine when you squint.:)

First, interface the edges of the pocket opening.  Then,  place the zipper next to it to determine how much it needs to be shortened. Stitch back and forth over the teeth at the new zipper stop, and cut off the rest of the zipper, leaving about 1/2" below the new zipper stop.
Next, sew the center fronts to the side fronts, leaving the pocket openings unsewn.  I pressed the seam allowances back, although my synthetic fabric didn't want to hold a crease, so it's hard to see here.  Apply Wonder tape to the right side of the zipper, and then press to the seam allowances.

Using a zipper foot, stitch the seam allowances to the zipper, trying to show as much of the zipper teeth as possible for that pop of color.

Apply Wonder tape to the wrong side of the zipper tape, and press the pocket bags to each side of the zipper, folding the pocket bag back and stitching from the top of the zipper to the bottom.

Place the pocket bags wrong sides together, and stitch around the open edges. I serged mine. 

Lastly, thread a short piece of elastic cord through the zipper pull and cord locks, tie a knot and cut off the excess.  Pockets- done!

Next up was the hood.  This is where you need the eyelets. 
I used 4 mm white eyelets, applied with the Dritz pliers.  I made and attached the hood facing, and trimmed the facing with the single fold bias tape.  The pattern instructions actually have you make the bias yourself from fabric.  However, if you just want a solid color like I did, then a 4 yard package will do all of the binding in the garment without a little left over.

Next, thread the elastic cord through the facing and cord locks, and then stitch the ends down at the front casing.  This is what it looks like at this point.

Then the last step of the hood is to attach it to the jacket body, and cover the neck seam with the bias.  Hood- done!

Then on to the big zipper.  First, interface the front edges with a 1" strip of fusible interfacing.  This is really a critical step.  If you don't do this, you'll end up with a wavy zipper. (My zipper is a 24" Ghee's separating zipper, that has black teeth on one side, and white teeth on the other.   Isn't it cool?  It's a little short- a 27" zipper would have been perfect, but I placed the top of the zipper a couple of inches lower to account for the shortness.) 

Insert the zipper to the front edges with the teeth exposed, and stitched in place.  The last step is to bind the edge of the zipper and seam allowance together with the binding fabric, and then stitch down.  Zipper- done!

Here is what this looks like from the outside:
And turning the jacket wrong side out, here is what it looks like from the inside:

The last step is to hem the bottom edge and the sleeves.  For this I used a twin needle with lime green thread.  Just one little last touch of lime to tie it all together.  Hems- done!  I hope these visuals will help if you decide to make this jacket.  I'm up to 10 items sewn from this Ottobre Woman issue!  This is a record for me- I'm having so much fun with it.

Do you avoid patterns with lots of notions?  Or do you seek them out so that you can use cool inventions?

Happy Sewing!


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Culottes Conundrum

In my last post, I made a muslin of a pair of culottes from Hot Patterns Camera Ready Culottes pattern.  Since then, I've had a few weeks to wear them, observe people's reactions to them, and decide whether I wanted to cut into some good quality linen for another pair. 

I did and here is my 2nd pair!


I used the same pattern again for this pair from the soft blue/grey/green windowpane linen at Fabric Mart.  After wearing my test pair a few times, I definitely felt a little weird with the legs being so wide, and I discovered that the waistband kept stretching out, and I was constantly pulling them up.  

So, this time I made two changes- I reduced each leg circumference by 6", and I used a grosgrain ribbon for the waist facing.  It's a great waistband finish if you want to reduce bulk and add stability.Here's a photo of what this looks like:

My top is made from Bright Mint Linen from Fabric Mart.  The pattern is the new Hot Patterns Plain and Simple Woven T and Dress.   I'm sorry to say, it did not live up to its name.  I had major problems with the sizing and the shoulder seams.  I ended up making several muslins, and determined that I needed the size two sizes smaller than my measurements would have indicated!  Even with cutting two sizes down, it is still very loose fitting, so I added some waist darts to bring it in a bit.  I should have stuck with Butterick 6175, which I had already made and was so similar.

The shrug is from the new McCall's Khaliah Ali pattern 7135.  I'm not sure why they call this a shrug instead of a cardigan.  Whatever they call it, I like it!  I used a tissue weight linen blend knit in a silver grey that I bought last year.  I shortened the sleeves 6", just because I didn't have quite enough fabric to make it full length, and I'm glad I did.  I like the 3/4 length on these.  I left all of the edges raw.  This is one of those fabrics where the edge wants to curl, and I just let it do it's own thing.

And the cherry on the sundae is the scarf.  This is a 1-3/4 yard length of silk chiffon that was cut in half lengthwise, and then finished with a rolled hem on the edges.  It had all the right colors to tie this outfit together.  I love it when that happens!

So, finally I'm getting to the title of this post- my culottes conundrumI have to tell you that when I wore my test pair to the school where I work, I definitely got some looks- like "What the heck is she wearing?" looks.  Particularly from younger people who just have never seen them before.   I remember when I first saw skinny jeans, and I thought that they were really awful.  Now 20 years have passed, and everyone is wearing them and I think they are great.  So, it should be interesting to see what happens.

Even people who were familiar with culottes from "back in the day", said that they liked them, often added "Well, you can wear them because you're so tall.  They would just make me look fat."  Which that makes me wonder- will anything that isn't all about making you look thinner make it in our society these days?  We are pretty obsessed with our weight, and these definitely are not "slimming".   My radar is on to spot someone else wearing them in my community, and so far, I've had no sightings.  
No matter!   I really do think that I'll enjoy wearing these culottes, along with all of the other pieces. What do you think?  Will you be experimenting with any new or old fashions this Spring?

Happy Sewing!

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