Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The 3 Year Rule

Until I moved to France almost 5 years ago I had a 3 year rule for all of my UnFinished Objects (UFOs). If it sat, no matter what it was, for 3 years without me touching it, I would pull it out and evaluate it as to what to do with it. I find that after 3 years one tends to be less attached to things so if brutal methods need be taken, they are easier to do.

In ruffling through my UFOs, there are two things that could happen.

1.  I really am going to finish it someday and so it goes back onto the shelf with hopefully thought toward finishing it.

2.  There is no way I am going to finish it. In this particular case it is sorted out of its bag, fabric and materials back into my stash or in its entirety it is tossed out into the trash.
Nothing is exempt from the three year rule.
On one of the trips into the packed away things I found a kit.

The kit was from a week long licensing class I had taken just months before  moving to France. I had received the kit in class but I had never touched the kit, never opened it, never fondled the beautiful silk ribbon and satin materials inside the bag. When the licensing class was over the kit came back with me, intact, and had been stored away in a box.

The kit was everything I needed to make a Tea Cozy. Worthless to me really, since I do not own a teapot, hence the reason it had never been started. Even as a never opened kit, it was, by my definition, classified as a UFO and it was subject to the 3 year rule. Over the past 5 years I have wandered upon it twice when searching for other things. It was too pretty to break-up into its parts so it had be exempted from item number 2 above.

Last year, my mother asked if I had a pattern for a tea cozy. She enjoys tea and could not remember what had become of her old one. I remembered to kit somewhere in my stored away stash. With some lucky searching, it was almost like it had heard the news and had jumped to the top of the first box I opened, I was able to pull it out, find it's directions and threads and get it to a place where there would be a sewing machine available for construction.

I had the kit and instructions sent down to Florida, to my parents house, about 6 months ago when my little sister made a visit. During the holiday break, I was able to finally be in a place where I could make it. I have spent the last day doing just that. I am pleased to say that it is finished.

Now where is my cup of tea I was promised in trade?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Tablecloth

I belong to a Yahoo forum newsgroup and every year they host a Christmas ornament exchange. I watched it happen for years when I lived in the States, but it took moving to France for me to join in the yearly fun.  

This is now my fourth year participating. This year I had been waffling about what to make. I had decided that I was going to do an ornament that resembles the ones I had seen in Alsace France.  On one of my trips to Strasbourg I had even gone as far as buying a meter of a fabric I thought would be perfect for the design I had in mind. I had drafted the design, simple as it was. I had even cut one out and was in the process of experimenting on how best to sew it together along with thought on what type of embellishments it might need.

Well with some good plans, something unexpected comes along that just falls into place and says it is better the better choice.

A couple of months ago I was in a second hand store in Ludwigsburg Germany (near Stuttgart). In the stack of linens in the back room, I found a table cloth.  It was no longer a beautiful tablecloth, although it once had been. It had been given to the second hand shop with wear on it saying it was once well loved and used. Near the center of the tablecloth was a large stain that had been either coffee, or most likely red wine. The stain looked to be permanent and showed the fading that goes with an attempted cleaning process that had gone very wrong.  The table cloth was made out of a damask fabric. At equal intervals along with the pattern of the fabric there was a medallion of cross stitching in a darker color than the base color of the tablecloth. The tablecloth was light pink.

Pink is an unusual choice of colors unless of course you live in Germany. Germans have an interesting eye for color. Where France degrades into grey and black as the days get shorter and darker, the Germans refuse this lack of color. Pink therefore was not a surprising color to see for a tablecloth for use in any season.

In the second hand shop I laid out the tablecloth looking at it for some sort of idea of what I could do with it, if anything. The stain made it unusable for use as it was initially intended. The repurposing part of my brain sprung into action. Suddenly it occurred to me what I could do with it. Into my bag it went for the trip to the checkout counter. At checkout, the cost of the tablecloth was 50 euro cents or about 65 US cents. Worst case, I thought at the time of purchase was that I was out nothing, really, in cost since it made a great wrap for some wine glass I bought. A wrapping which would keep the glasses from breaking on the way back to France.

Thinking about it for just a moment, it is funny what is sold at second hand stores. Here was a damaged tablecloth, and it sounds crazy, but I bought it! Now it was to become the base to my Christmas ornament.
Fast forward... A couple of weeks ago I was in the Stuttgart area again for the weekend. A friend and I decided to go the Zweigart Factory outlet store. The last time I had been there it was actually in part of the old factory, It has been twenty years since my last visit. Now it is in a refurbished area capable of heat and good light. This was a vast improvement!
In the back room of the store, one can buy fabric by the kilo. All sorts of fabric sorted by type and fiber content  As I walked around this part of the shop, I could not help but notice the fabric and the design. I suddenly realized that my tablecloth and my soon to be Christmas ornaments for the exchange was made of Zweigart fabric! Suddenly I understood why someone did what they did embellishing the tablecloth. I am betting it was a kit. How fun.! If I knew who they were I would thank them for doing all that work for me so that I could cut it up. They did donate it to the second hand store after all so they cannot be mad about a little bit of scissor action.
I love cross stitch but it is one of those thread art forms I cannot do. I think it is because I can't count. In my defense, I can't knit or crochet either. These art forms take the same sort of counting that my brain does not want to do willingly. Very frustrating, but I am beyond that now. there are so many other things I can do and some of them well, so why dwell on what I do not find fun and appreciate someone else's workmanship. 

I cut out one of the designs, a simple heart, and started to play.
A French friend suggested a way to finish the edges. I needed beads so I was able to buy some nice ones that match in both France and the US. Most amazing and I suppose lucky, I bought 3 types of beads without having the fabric with me and all 3 matched!
Here is a picture of the prototype. As usual it is a far cry from the finished item. Frankly it was pretty horrible.
The cross stitch was not shown off very well, the ruching, although pretty needed something. Finally the tassel at the bottom was anemic.
I went back to the pattern and tried again. This time improving on the design.
Much better! This is the final design.
This ornament is a HUGE departure from what I normally do, but I like it. It is simple, interesting, light weight, European vintage and well, pink. The top tie is pink 1/8" silk ribbon that was threaded through the center bead.
The ruching was surprisingly easy to do . Shown is Step 1 - a running stitch curved in to a sort of half moon shape that extends in about 1/4".
Step 2 - Gather the half moon, take a stitch to secure it so it does not come un-done and then to add a bead and repeat with another half moon of running stitches. This is repeated all the way around the heart. I used a pink coordinating floche, not the black thread shown. It held up well and did not break.
Step 3 - Once all of the gathering and beads were in place, the tassel was made.
Tassels are done in many different ways, this is how I do mine. First I love texture so I used 7 different threads. I tossed in a metallic for a little shimmering effect. The threads are anywhere from 30 to 12 wt.
All 7 threads were wrapped around a piece of cardboard 30 times. The left over floche from the beading and ruching ( I did not cut it off when I was done) was then looped around the top of the wrapped thread and tightened into place before the card board was removed,
The thread was slid off of the cardboard and then holding the thread loop tightly, a threaded needle, this time with 3 of the threads was inserted though the center of the tassel. A half loop is made and the needle is inserted back in the same place it is in the picture. This was repeated twice so that when pulled the threads did not pull out.
The thread was then looped around the loop of thread 4 or 5 times. the needle was sent through the center, looped around again and then looped back through the center. One last loop and the thread is then inserted though the center to the bottom of the loop, the side away from the heart. threads were then clipped to make the tassel.
 I repeated this process making 5 hearts. Completing them all, they are now on their way to the other Christmas ornament participants. I hope they like them.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Teaching Children to Sew

As some of you know, teaching children to sew uses a very different skill set that does teaching adults to sew.

Adult students will fight with you on how something should be done even if they have no clue how to do it.

Children will willingly take orders from an adult teacher.

Adult students can problem solve. Machine not moving forward? Why is not sewing? They learn to stop and look.

Children don't quite have the problem solving ability yet, but it comes with time.

Adults will plow through sewing seams that look terrible, know they look terrible but continue anyway.

Children are not aware how bad something may look because they made it. They see beauty in what they have done.

Adults have the dexterity to make beautiful things with a sewing machine.

Children are developing those skills so some things might be just beyond their grasp for another year or two.

Earlier this year, a friend of mine approached me asking if I could teach her daughter to sew. Finding a sewing teacher in France is hard to find and expensive.  I am cheap, I work for good wine of which she and her husband have in their wondrous roman era cellar.

This child, 10 years old, is a fashionesta. I have never seen a child love fashion as much as this child. She wanted to learn to sew so that she could learn to make purses and bags mostly, but clothes as well.

Her mother, when we began, went out to buy a book of patterns. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find this type of thing? Something with patterns for the size of a 10to 12 year old female?

Well, I will tell you, It is hard, at least here in France.  Her mom found a book that her daughter liked the fashions inside but, the book sizing put her in the upper edge, actually just over the edge of the largest  of the pattern size in the book.  The book is a very good one by Yuki Araki.

This was the book they brought me. Sizing was going to be a challenge. But I am always up to a good challenge.
My 10 year old student had already found her first project. She wanted to make the purse. As I paged through the book I agreed with her, it would make a very good first project.
One small difficulty was having a book clearly written in French. So I tackled the pattern first. My logic being that I needed to make it first to see if I could read and understand the directions before having a 10 year old native French reader in my home wanting to make it. It is always good to be prepared.
As I have said before, I am a repurposer. I love to take old things and make new and useful items out of them. What better to use as our purse fabric than a pair of old worn out men's jeans? It turns out with left over's that a pair of men's jeans will make 2 purses. One for my test and one for my 10 year old. So here is the finished project.
It turned out very well, I think. The project taught straight line sewing and how to gather. We learned about stabilizer and why it is important in the lining. We learned how to apply buttons and we learned about several different feet that come with the machine and when we should use them and why. The elastic band that goes over the button keep the purse closed is actually a covered small hair rubber band. How cute!
On to project 2 and the last one we were able to do this year. It was a swing jacket.
Given (almost) free rein to dig though my stash, the fabric chosen by the student was the linen blend. She loved how soft it was and she has an eye for fabric. Not a surprise based on her fashion sense.
I want to draw your attention to the neck edge. Between things to do while I was preparing something for her to sew, she had the machine sewing. She had discovered all of those wonderful specialty stitches that most of us adults ignore. Watching her do that it occurred to me that the inside neck was the place to show those stitches off. Giving her a piece of woven tape, off she went choosing her favorite design in a color that suited her. The rayon thread she chose was dug out of the box containing all of my embroidery threads. Children have no fear where adults second guess and hesitate.
In this class we learned how to use a serger, how to make tucks and we were going to make button holes, only we never got there. Unfortunately, due to her school, our schedules have not met up for a while. She had gotten all the way to the button holes on a swing jacket So it sat, all complete except for the buttons.
Finally last weekend, knowing we would not meet until next year and that she is growing, I finished it.
I delivered it this last weekend to her. It still fits. Her mother marvelled at the fact that she had made most of it herself and for good reason. We will work on schedules next year. Hopefully we can continue her sewing adventure.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Christmas Bag

Sometime earlier this year I took a sewing class at a shop in Bertrix Belgium called Stecker. It is a small shop with every brand of machine imaginable  They installed floor to ceiling shelves with every shelf filled with machines. If you want to test drive one, they take the machine off the shelf and place it in a center area where you can try it out. Economic times being what they are, the town has many empty shops. Across the street, the Stecker has taken over a store front where it offers classes.

So back to earlier this year. A friend and I took the trip to Belgium to take a class on making bags using something called Quiltsmart. I had never heard of this.  Basically the company Quiltsmart prints bag patterns on fusible interfacing. Your job is to iron it on to the wrong side of the bag fabric and then just sew the whole thing together following the lines. The cut-out areas are used as pockets later on. And the largest bag is reversible.

We "made" 3 bags that day. I say "made" because none of them were finished in the class.  I brought them home and there they sat collecting dust.

Being that it is Christmas season, I pulled out the Christmas bag that I had almost completed and just finished it. It took 30 minutes. The fabric came from my favorite fabric store in Strasbourg France called TOTO tissus. I bought 2 linen Christmas print fabrics several years back and when I saw what we were going to be making in the class, I could not help but choose those fabrics.

So here are some pictures.
Inside larger pocket
Inside smaller pocket

I love the pocket. I had to fussy cut that one to get it to work.

I have received lots of complements on this bag. I have found it to be just the right size to carry around what ever stuff I need to or to carry those items I have bought at the various Christmas markets one finds here in Europe this time of year.
So, on the  hunt to complete my next project...