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Sunday, April 30, 2006

Threads July 2006

What a fun surprise yesterday when my latest Threads magazine came in the mail. A letter that I had written to the editor was published! I really enjoy this magazine and have learned so much about sewing from reading it.

This latest issue focuses in on inspiring and teaching new sewers the basics, including a pull-out section in the middle of the magazine to use for reference. There is also an article on basic hand stitches showing the most important stitches you may need to do with a hand needle and thread for that extra special touch in finishing a garment. There is a quick to make article on making a gypsy tiered skirt, one of the latest fashion must haves. The instructions show how to make the skirt without a pattern, but if you want a pattern for this type of skirt try our store.

For the expert seamstress or those who want to be, there is a great article on finding and fixing patterns before cutting them out. I’ve always assumed when my garment pieces didn’t match, that my sewing was at fault. It is nice to know that sometimes it is the pattern itself that had the error. I did find when sewing a top last summer that the cutting diagram was wrong which meant I cut out two left sided sleeves—I was sure glad I had plenty of fabric for that project! Another article for the expert seamstress is on eliminating separate facings in a top with a couture lining technique. The technique looks like it is a bit time consuming but gives a lovely result.

For the machine embroider, there is a very interesting article on embroidering off the edge of a garment. In this case a collar was featured with part of the flower coming off of the collar edge. It certainly gives a high fashion look that is easy to achieve by following the simple steps.

For those who really have difficulty envisioning a particular pattern on themselves, there is a great article on drawing your own croquis, using pens and markers to figure out if a pattern is in the correct proportion and style for you. It is a great way to take those tall skinny models and bring them down to your size.

Friday, April 28, 2006

The Latest Fashion?

Although I’ve always kept and eye on the latest fashions and tried not to be to terribly ‘out of it’, I’m now at that point in life where comfort rules. I’m in my 50’s, have chronic sore joints due to arthritis and although I hate being hot, I can’t stand cool air on my joints. As I have time to sew I have been making more and more of my clothes to conform to my lifestyle. Most things I make are easy on and off, no buttons, no zippers, nothing that takes fine motor skills for sore fingers to accomplish to be dressed.

Some of my favorite things to wear are lightweight jackets made out of sweatshirts. I slash then up the front, attach decorative bands to the front and add pockets. With the many variety of sweatshirt colors that can be combined with fashion fabric and machine embroidery, the possibilities for designs are endless. I just finished a gray jacket this week. I used my Janome 6500 to sew lines of decorative stitches in variegated thread to white bands and then attached them to the front. As I don’t us buttons or buttonholes, the jacket was essentially done, but I always like a pocket or two. I took more of the white fabric and sewed line after line of decorative stitches. What a fun way to try out different stitches and see how they stitch out with different variegated thread. When I finally had a big enough piece, I cut it into a square, lined it and sewed it to the front of the jacket. This was a very easy project for me to do especially since I didn’t need to construct the sweatshirt. I just got to do the fun decorative stuff. I’ve lost track of how many of these jackets I have made, but I’m determined to make sure I have a lot of them stashed away for when the day comes that I can’t sew anymore—hopefully not for a long time!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Speed Sewing

Speed Sewing: 103 Sewing Machine Shortcuts by Janice S. Saunders. 1982 1st Edition Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, ISBN 0442224885, Illustrations by Alan Clever, photographs by Nicholas Yadlovsky, Design assistance Elna Sewing Machines. 144 pages, black and white photographs and diagrams, includes index.

In this age of computerized sewing and embroidery machines with mega hoops for embroidery, it seems that many books and magazine articles focus in on providing information on the use of these top of the line, expensive machines. But I am confident that out in the world there are many sewers who only have older model sewing machines with limited stitches and capabilities. These people need guidance on how to get the most from their machine. This book answers many questions that a seamstress may have on several different techniques.

While this book is limited in scope (it doesn’t take you step-by-step from pattern cutting to finished garment), it is always mindful of the different kinds of machines on the market back in the 1980’s and is still relevant for today. There are three types of sewing machines: the straight stitch, the zig zag, and the reverse action machine (the basic model in use know in the 2000’s—many with computer interfaces). The author explains the types of stitches available on each kind of machine and what they are used for. There are diagrams of the different stitches so you can compare them to your own sewing machine. With the current machines that can run up to several hundred decorative stitches, I’ve had difficulty figuring out which utility stitch is the most practical for my projects, this book is a very good reference for the use of the most common utility stitches

Each technique the author explains gives the details of which pressure foot to use, which stitch to use, and what stitch length and width to use for each type of sewing machine. The book is set up systematically to give you a speedier way of making your garments, featuring seam finishing, buttons and buttonholes, pockets, hemlines. There are also sections on recycling old clothes including furs to make something new or more in styles, how to use the different stitches and needles to make decorative finishes and machine embroidery. There is also a section on machine maintenance—but always refer to your own sewing machine manual if available for proper maintenance of your machine.

All in all this is a well thought out book with plenty of tips and techniques especially for the beginner and average sewer as I suppose a highly advances seamstress knows most of this information. I know I gleaned several useful hints that will help me with my own personal sewing that I hadn’t known before. This would be a good basic book for your sewing reference library.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Altering Men's Shirt Patterns

One of the things I have noticed as I have been reading lots of sewing books, is although there is lots of advice on altering women's patterns, there is nothing about altering for men. The latest Sewnews June 2006 has an article on Altering Men's shirt Patterns by Anna Zapp. If you sew for men or have a fitting problem for guys shirts, you may want to get a hold of this issue for reference.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Simon's Folly and Mar Jen for Error

After waiting over 3 months since I ordered them, Simon's Folly and Mar Jen for Error books are here. I have really enjoyed reading my copies today and have a synopsis for you now. I also have a review of another Jenny Haskins book The Millenium Quilt: Romance 2000.

Creative Expressions Special Edition Simon’s Folly Quilt with Jenny Haskins: a quilt by Simon G. Haskins. Included is a Design CD with 25 machine embroidery designs in formats for Bernina, Elna, Husqvarna Viking, Janome, Pfaff, and Singer. As a Janome owner, I can note that the Janome designs are in .JEF format, not .JEF+ and there are 3 designs in .SEW.

Simon is Jenny Haskin’s son and apparently decided that if he was going to work for the company, then he needed to make a quilt also. And he did! It is a beautiful quilt using both designs on the included CD and the Victorian Antique Cutwork Lace Design CD by Jenny Haskins. The colors used in the quilt are soft greens and pale pinks. Not only did he use machine embroidery designs to make his quilt squares, he used lots of stitch building using the decorative stitches on his sewing machine. This is one of the things I especially enjoy about Jenny Haskins publications is that not only do they have lots of beautiful full color photos of the work, but detailed instructions and for the stitch building, there are illustrations of each stitch used so you can use something similar. There is also a pull-out section in the magazine with templates of the included designs, and placement guidelines for the templates and quilt blocks.

As if that weren’t enough, six sewing machine companies (Bernina, Elna, Husqvarna Viking, Janome, Pfaff, and Singer) contributed a cushion (pillow) decorated with machine embroidery and a free embroidery design or two or three to make them up.

This is a lovely magazine that has much in the way of ideas, projects and instructions to make lovely heirloom quality projects. Currently we have two copies of this magazine available in our store. To purchase, click here.

Creative Expressions: Special Edition, The Mar Jen for Error Quilt by Jenny Haskins and Marti Mitchell. Includes bonus instructions for Beyond the Color Purple.

In this lovely magazine format, Australian quilter and machine embroiderer teams up with American quilter Marti Mitchell to make this wonderful quilt: Mar Jen for Error. This is a stripy quilt that features Dresden plate and fan blocks and long strips of machine embroidery roses. This quilt uses an abundance of beautiful rose printed fabric that is fussy cut to emphasize the design and the fabric. The machine embroidery made use of Art Nouveau Series: Spring Flowers CD by Jenny Haskins and the Dresden plates and fan patchwork pieces were cut using Perfect Patchwork Templates: The Dresden Plate Set by Marti Mitchell. Although simple in style, this quilt really shows how with extra care and time you can make an exquisite quilt.

Also included in this book is the Beyond the Color Purple quilt that was originally published in Creative Expressions #1. That magazine was completely sold out and is now out of print, so Jenny decided to republish the quilt and instructions again. This quilt makes extensive use of machine embroidered appliquéd flowers. The design softwear used in the quilt if Beyond Color Purple CD and Victorian Scrolls and Curlicues CD by Jenny Haskins.

There is a pull-out insert in the middle of the magazine to help with templates and setting your blocks as you make them. Currently we have two copies of this magazine available in our store. If you would like to purchase, please click here.

A Millennium Quilt: Romance 2000 by Jenny Haskins. Master the techniques of machine embroidery. Create this heirloom millennium quilt and other projects. This out of print magazine is packed with ideas for making the best of your embroidery sewing machine and the decorative stitches on your sewing machine. To welcome the year 2000 and the new millennium itself, Jenny Haskins challenged the most popular sewing machine companies to design three separate quilt blocks with each one to represent a different aspect of machine embroidery: texture, machine feet and stitches, and three-dimensional appliqué. Bernina, Brother, Elna, Husqvarna, Janome, Pfaff, and Singer answered the call magnificently. Not only did they produce their three blocks, each company designed an additional project which is also featured in this magazine.

Even if you don’t have the latest and the greatest in the way of computerized embroidery sewing machines, as long as you have a machine that makes decorative stitches, many of these projects will be within your capability. I am only familiar with the Janome sewing machine family and their projects were made with the Janome 9000.

I purchased this magazine new at a store where it had been hidden for years under other sewing magazines and it has obvious shop wear to the cover. However, the content is fabulous and worth your purchase for what you can learn about using your sewing machine and lighting your creative ideas.

This magazine is currently up for bid at eBay if you would like to purchase it. Just click here to get to the listing. Hurry, auction ends April 21, 2006

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Vogue Sewing Book Review

One of the joys of blogging is being able to go off on tangents from your own original intentions of what to blog. I started my blog about machine embroidery, one of my passions, but have found that I can’t separate machine embroidery from my love of quilting and sewing, so this blog is turning into a sewing blog.

My husband and I run an on line business selling books and sewing patterns at our store Moonwishes Sewing and Crafts Sales. The more patterns we handle, the more questions we get asked on line about sewing and my own personal sewing projects has lead me into a search for some good all round sewing books to recommend to sewers and would be sewers. Recently I have purchased some sewing instruction books on line, picked up some at estate sales and then got to peruse some of the newest ones at Barnes and Noble. I found some to be utterly worthless. Some books although supposedly for beginners would have left a beginner sewer sucking their thumb and babbling in a corner. I did find several good books and due to finances (wouldn’t it be nice to have unlimited funds to buy books and sewing stuff!) and actual inventory at the store, only got to bring one home.

My choice was Vogue Sewing (2000). It included several things I had personally been looking for in such a book and it is very thorough in its approach. This book included over 1800 illustrations, updated with the latest tools and notions available to the home sewer, and it is interesting. Interesting is a good thing in a sewing book as many can become as dull as dishwater.

In my first glance through the book, I found a fashion glossary. As we (mainly my husband) have been describing fashions on pattern envelopes, all the pictures and descriptions in the glossary are a great resource for us. That sold me on the book right there as I was tired off trying to remember what a particular type of sleeve or collar was called when hubby wanted to know. Now he can just look at the picture.

There is a section on body shapes and picking flattering styles. Only female shapes are used in this section. Is there a sewing or book on fashion that covers children’s and men’s shapes? There is also a color wheel with explanations about choosing colors. There is also a section on fibers and their weaves and care.

One particularly interesting article is on the process of how a Vogue pattern comes into being. I was very impressed to learn that the pattern tissues are cut 1300 layers at a time! And that a machine folds them and puts them into the envelope. No wonder it is next to impossible to refold them!

One section that I have had to refer to several times already is the sizing section of the book. I have had several customers email asking for recommendations for sizes of Vogue patterns to purchase and I’m happy to let them know Vogue’s official sizes according to body measurements. The entire size charts for Misses’, Women’s and Today’s Fit are included in this chapter as well as a discussion on wearing ease and designer ease. I had been sewing for years before I ever realized there was such a thing as wearing ease.

The book at this point goes step-by-step through the pattern envelope explaining each item and then the pattern instruction sheet and finally the tissue pattern piece. Then you find out about fitting the pattern and making the pattern up. Many, many illustrations help you to understand each sewing technique. With sections on tailoring, special fabrics and even one on sewing the Very Easy Vogue patterns, this is a very well rounded book. If you can only afford to buy one all purpose sewing guide, this should be one to consider.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Just In

I love getting my newest sewing magazines and always lay them aside until I have time alone to peruse them. I like to first take a quick run through the magazine and then after seeing the newest projects, I take the time to read through the magazine reading the editors comments, the letters to the editor (taking time of course to mentally agree or disagree with comments about the content), and then read the feature articles. After that I go back through and read the instructions for many of the projects. Even if they don’t apply to any current project, you never know when a gem of information will come in handy to know.

The latest Designs in Machine Embroidery(May/June 2006) just landed in my mail box today. The big feature article was on decorating denim blue jeans. And not just decorating them, having a get together of teen aged girls to machine embroider, bleach, glue rhinestones and anything else they could think of to make each pair of jeans unique. Not only did the girls have a fun time, but they were learning that ‘sewing’ wasn’t just for old grannies. However we can encourage the younger generation to take up needlecraft arts the better. Needlecrafts whether machine or hand embroidery, sewing, knitting, crochet, needlepoint, etc. help to reduce stress and gives us a calm relaxing activity that produces something lovely and unique when finished.

I have been a fan of Creative Expressions with Jenny Haskins since I stumbled upon the first issue at my local Barnes & Noble. Since then, it has been a constant struggle to find the latest issues. If I wasn’t at the store at the right time, I missed out. I finally solved that problem with getting on a subscription list to be able to sell them through my store. Now I get my copy every quarter and a batch to sell. Currently I have only three copies of issue #10 (the latest issue) left in the store where you can purchase an issue if you like Click here to purchase.

Creative Expressions is an Australian magazine, filled with wonderful colors, photos, and machine embroidery and quilting projects. Most projects are frilly and ultra feminine in nature with an abundance of flower motifs. I love all the wonderful ideas in this magazine and most especially I like the parts of projects which show stitch building. Taking decorative machine stitches and sewing them closely together to create an even bigger pattern. Even if you don’t own an embroidery machine, as long as you own a sewing machine with 20-30 decorative stitches, you can build on the ideas in these magazines. Appliqué ‘fussy cut’ flowers onto your fabric, follow the stitch building guides (substituting your own stitches as needed) and you too can have delightful results.

I have found that as newer and bigger embroidery machines come out, that those who only have an older model or no embroidery capacity at all, get left out when it comes to projects and ideas. When I got my latest sewing machine it had a couple of decorative stitches that for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what I would ever use them for. Well those same stitches (or ones very much like them) were used in stitch building in two separate articles in this issue. Now I know what I can use them for!

That is what I love reading my magazines for—Knowledge! By writing this blog and through selling needlecraft books in My Store I too hope to help impart knowledge about my love of sewing in all its forms.