November 14, 2012

Terrarium madness!

After a lengthy summer hiatus  – during which tea-making facilities were not available chez Cashmerette #1 and hence any civilized get-togethers were *impossible* – Crafternoons are back!  
This time, we directed our attention towards that new trend: terrariums (a.k.a. terraniums). Luckily, Mahoney’s Garden Center had a “build your own terrarium” area which was extremely helpful for gathering up our supplies: glass bowl/vase things, charcoal, potting mix, gravel, moss and little plants. 

The upside to terrarium-making: they’re so cool!

The downside to terrarium-making: they are *very* fast to make. Observe:

Put a draining gravel layer in your glass bowl

Put a layer of charcoal on top of that (apparently it stops the terrarium going mouldy given they don’t drain):

Then stick some soil in, then plants and moss! DONE!

It was a small but perfectly formed group of Cashmerettians. Scratch that – we were missing Cashmerette #2, hence it was small but ever so slightly deformed ūüôĀ 

Here you can observe the high levels of detail with which crafters attend to our projects:

And here they are! Worthy of any hipster hangout.

At this point, we descended into various jewellery making, picture framing, calligraphy-doing and gossiping, which was delightful.

Bring on Christmas Crafternoon! What do you think we should make?

November 14, 2012

Babies, babies everywhere

I seem to have acquired a reputation. Sadly, not for wild antics, but for baby-clothes-making. However, given this combines two of my favourite things in life, I’m not complaining. Plus, as mentioned before, making these adorable wee things is both quick and easy and hence the yummy sweeties of the sewing world.

So here are two recent ones:

A Cruella de Vil¬†dalmatian cape (complete with armholes!) for my colleague’s 8 year old daughter

Look familiar? Yeah, I’m still using that bunting… However these quilt/changing mats are slowly evolving, and this one features the initials of the latest recipient who is a tiny, tiny, tiny baby!
Yes, as long as people keep sprogging, I’ll keep sewing…

October 16, 2012

A Fall dress for my favourite Welsh-Midwestern toddler

My baby dresses are a hit! And the joy of being able to make a fully finished garment in an evening is irresistible.

This time, it was a Fall version for Karys, my little Welsh-American friend. I used very fine corduroy, brown for the bodice and a pink and brown pattern for the skirt. Puzzlingly, the pattern was printed perpendicular to the grain of the fabric (which, as it’s corduroy, is unavoidable), but hopefully baby K can forgive me! I finished it off with pink buttons and a pink grosgrain ribbon, which was topstiched on with pink thread.

And here is the little missus modelling it herself! Although apparently this is not a finalized outfit, I actually dig the pattern matching. Also: I think the dog is a fan.

October 8, 2012

Learning, learning, learning

Warning: this post may be a little dull for those of you who aren’t sewists (I can’t say “sewers” because that’s just an entirely different thing).

As I mentioned, one of the great things about my new sewing class is all the little tips and tricks. So I thought I’d write about some of them here so 1) I don’t forget 2) everyone else can benefit from my MassArt tuition fees.

Here goes!

Buying supplies: 
– When you’re looking at fabric in a store, check if there are any numbers or twisted threads on the selvedges – that means they found a fault when they were manufacturing it.
– To find the grain, either rip the fabric, or press a pen or pin into it, and pull it along – that separates the grain and shows the grainline.
– If you want to make a camisole without darts, cut on the bias and it will stretch where it needs to.
РWhen you see needle numbers like 70/30, the 1st number is the European number, and the 2nd one is the American one (I always wondered about that!). The higher the number is, the bigger the needle, and  the heavier the fabric.
– Microtex needles are for microfiber synthetic fabrics like raincoat or sailcloth material
– Always use cotton thread if you’re going to be dyeing the garment.
– Watch out for thread with a green label on the end – that means it’s for hand sewing only.

Interfacing special
– You must always use interfacing for collars, buttonholes and waistbands, and often for other areas.
– Fusible is the type with little dots of glue on which you can iron onto fabric. Pellon “sprayed” interfacing (which is the thin, almost cobwebby type) is rubbish – don’t use it!
– Woven interfacing has grain, and comes in light, medium and heavyweight
– Tricot is for knits – use it for wrap dresses! It comes in different weights – the heavy stuff is good for “hold everything in” lingerie.
– Silk organza works well for underlining and interfacing – though it’s never truly bright white, so if they claim something that colour is organza, it isn’t really….
– Horsehair canvas is for inside tailored jackets and cuffs.
– Wash-off stabilizer can be used on silk – iron it on, sew, and then wash off later.

Still with me? Here’s a picture of a suave dog as a reward:

Pre-treating fabric
– For cottons and wovens, cut a 1/8 yard strip for testing. Make 4 squares, and draw around one of them on paper to make a template. Wash square 1 in cold water and air dry; square 2 in cold water and iron it to dry it; square 3 in hot water and then iron; square 4 wash and then put on a towel to see if it bleeds. Then, check all the pieces against your paper template, to see what shrinkage there is.
– Before washing, hand-baste the selvedges together to make sure the grain doesn’t slip!
– If you are going to dry clean the fabric you don’t need to pre-treat it. However, test the heat resistance with an iron and if necessary tell the dry cleaners not to press it.
– Linings often have a lower temperature tolerance than the outside fabric, so watch out not to burn it when ironing. Use silk instead of acetate for the lining if you want to be able to iron it.

– Put your pattern pieces into a plastic ziplock bag and leave the instructions in the pattern envelope. Then put the interfacing, zippers and other notions in the ziplock with the pattern.

Did you learn something? Something useful? I hope so. Watch this space for lesson #2!

October 5, 2012

A new start to the sewing year

As has been noted before in these parts, the sewing adventures of the Cashmerettes tend to go in fits and starts. For me (Jenny) it’s been a summer of buying a house, renovating a kitchen, hosting visitors and running around in the sun… which meant, not much sewing. (Lauren’s hiatus on the other hand was altogether more scholarly). However, the good news is that it’s the time of the year when one’s mind turns to buying new stationery supplies, getting a new school blazer and doing some sewing (at least two of those things are true).

My big adventure is going to be doing a Clothing Construction class at Massachusetts School of Art and Design (aka MassArt). I was originally enrolled at the Boston School of Fashion Design but they messed me around and eventually cancelled the class, so I transferred over to MassArt instead, once I figured out that sewing classes are categorized under “Fibers”.  The tutor is called Maritza, and she is an enthusiastic woman from Puerto Rico with a penchant for going on tangents and laughing at herself a lot. I was concerned about whether the class would be the right level for me – it’s the first one I’ve ever taken, and I’m a sort of patchy-intermediate level. However, we’re all basically going to work on our own pieces and she helps out one-to-one. This is already proving to be great. Maritza is, er, “blessed” in a similar way to me so really knows how to help me with my particular needs. Let’s just say I hope that’s the last time someone measures the distance between my “breast apexes” (apii?)  in public.

I’ve decided to make a simple pencil skirt. I figure that if I can work out how to make it *perfectly*, it’ll be a great staple for my wardrobe. Once you have a muslin that you’ve fitted to yourself it’s amazing what you can do – all sorts of variations, but it’ll still fit well, which is the holy grail of sewing.

I’m going to use this pattern, view A (without the buttons though), and this great black and white silk wool fabric that I bought at Paron fabrics on my recent fabric-buying trip to New York City. I’m using black silk organza for underlining (which will give the skirt a great firm feel and look) and black bemberg for the lining, also from Paron. I plan to mostly stand like this woman pictured below.

I made up a muslin for class – which is basically a test garment made out of cheap material, which you use to test the fit. I forgot to take photos, although to be honest they would hardly have been the most flattering of pictures, so we’re probably all better off that I didn’t remember. Maritza showed me that the waistband needed to be adjusted in (always a thrill!) and the back darts taken down another inch – and voila, all the rippling in the fabric disappeared. I’m going to definitely hang out and watch other people getting their muslins fitted because it’s something that’s very hard to learn from reading books on the subject – hopefully the live teaching will be much better.

Coming next: Martiza’s tips! One benefit of doing a beginner’s class is that they go over everything… from the beginning. And then you realise you’ve been doing basic things wrong all along!

July 14, 2012

Tiny dresses for tiny girls

Sewing grown-up lady dresses is challenging and fun, but it takes a long time. Have you ever tried to hem a circle skirt? No? It takes about one episode of Desert Island Discs.
However there is a solution if one is in need of a quick fix! And that is: sewing baby girl dresses. Truly, one cannot make a baby dress and not be happy.
I went back to the pattern that I used last year to make Bella’s whale dress, the “Music Box Jumper” by Oliver + S (n.b. language guidance for British readers: “jumper” in an American means a pinafore dress. Yes, it makes no sense, but they’ve been so kind to me that I’m willing to let it slide).

First up, two tiny dresses for my two DC based Anglo-American hybrids.

The first, a pleated number for little miss Zoe, age 2.5 years old who recently left me a voicemail singing Happy Birthday and exclaiming JENNY PENNY!!!! in the middle which was probably the most delightful thing that has happened to me in the month of July so far.

And, for her ever-so-slightly-older sister Bella, age nearly 4, a second dress, this one in green Kona cotton and purple Amy Butler print, with some star buttons on the pockets:

And finally! There is one more baby, 1 year old Jasper, who deserved a dress in honour of her outstanding cuteness, and I took as inspiration the bunting quilt that I made for baby Lawrence last year (when he was but a foetus):

And here it is! Can you see the inspiration, readers? Would I win the “design a dress most like a baby quilt” week on Project Runway?
I also had a flash of inspiration on this one and decided to add the green waistband and a bow, which was a first for me. I used the tutorial from Tilly and the Buttons,  and it turned out to be super easy! Expect to see bunting AND bows on most things I make from now on.
Here is a sneak peek of the back, where I used pale yellow buttons. All the dresses are constructed at the back like this, and I think it’s a pretty handy way of dressing a tiny girl.
Hopefully I shall be back soon with photos of the dresses in action!

July 13, 2012

A photogenic crafternoon

For this month’s crafternoon we had a bit of a new twist: Kate, of Kate McElwee Photography fame, generously offered to share her “craft” with us, so as a result all we lady crafters now have amazing headshots! Don’t we scrub up well?

That’s not to say no other crafting went on though: some embroidered cards were made, a polka-dot wrap dress was nearly finished, and some Chinese gemstones were sorted. But mostly, it was pink-lemonade champagne cocktails, food, photography and gossip.

Anna’s embroidered handiwork:

Courtney’s outfit-matching cupcake card:

Melissa indulging in a little bit of baby-shower embroidery:

Anna doing some photo editing:

Earnest crafting will return at the next crafternoon which will also be held at the new abode of Jenny-and-Melissa!


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