Weekend Reading: “effortless” beauty, infinite lists, and the Myrtle sewalong

rooftop-cinema

Every summer, I wonder how it is I got so busy.

One of my not-so-secret dreams is to be able to afford to work shorter weeks in the summer, maybe taking fridays off to enjoy the sunshine, go hiking, and sit on my patio. Instead, I always seem to find myself buried under a pile of projects, unable to find the time to do simple things like make dinner before 10pm.

So I’ve been scheduling in time for happy summer things, like watching Hitchcock’s Notorious from a rooftop. Summer has a way of reminding you when you’re missing out on things, doesn’t it?

Weekend Reading

For more links every week, you can follow me on Twitter, where I’m always posting interesting tidbits I find.

image above via colettepatterns on instagram

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Sewing Machine Feet from A to Z: Free class from Craftsy


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When I bought my first sewing machine, it came with a bag full of presser feet. To me, they might as well have been spare parts from a rocket ship, that’s how foreign they seemed.

There they sat, hidden in their little case while I tried to eyeball edgestitches and sew most hems by hand.

I was a newbie, but I also didn’t have anyone around to show me what was what. Little by little, I started experimenting and over the years came to love all those specialty feet.

Lucky for today’s sewists, you don’t need an experienced seamstress by your side to avoid the years of guessing and shrugging and hoping for the best that taught me to sew.

When I saw this free class all about presser feet that’s available over at Craftsy, I actually felt a little jealous! It’s so much easier to learn now, and a class just about sewing machine feet would have saved me a heck of a lot of time and trial and error when I was 16.

If you’re not familiar with Craftsy, they provide online interactive classes. So in a way, you do have an experienced seamstress by your side.

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This class is called Sewing Machine Feet from A to Z and is taught by Steffani Lincecum, who has over 25 years professional experience.

What’s covered

Steffani goes over 11 of the most common sewing machine feet.

It starts with feet that you’d use for closures, such as the all-important zipper foot, the invisible zipper foot (a personal favorite), and the buttonhole foot.

She then goes on to talk hems, and you’ll learn all about the blind hem foot and the rolled hem foot, both of which can make it easier to get a professional finish without a lot of hand stitching.

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She also covers specialty feet like the quarter-inch foot and roller foot, and fun feet like the free-motion foot, couching foot, and ruffler.

If any of these feet are unfamiliar to you, you’ll learn something in this class that you can take with you to future projects, that’s pretty much guaranteed.

Take the free class – Sewing Machine Feet from A to Z >

[This post about this free class was sponsored by Craftsy, one of our partners this month. They have some amazing free classes and resources for sewists that I'm excited to share. Thanks Craftsy!]

How to shop for inspiration instead of clothing

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The other weekend, I went on a shopping expedition to Steven Alan, a branch of which recently opened up in Portland.

I came away with a whole lot, and I didn’t spend a dime.

Inspiration shopping is one of my favorite activities. It turns the act of spending, which is usually loaded with difficult decisions and stress for me, into something creative and inspiring. Not only that, but I actually learn how to improve my sewing and expand my options by looking at really well-made garments.

There are a few things I do to maximize the inspiration I gather while I’m out shopping. Here are a few of my techniques, and I’d be interested to hear yours in the comments.

Where to shop

The most important aspect of snoop shopping is deciding where to go.

If you choose middle of the road or cheap chain stores, you might glean a few things about how garments are mass produced quickly, but not much beyond that.

I look at sewing as a way to produce garments I otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford (at least not often). So when I shop for inspiration, I go high end.

This is my chance to shop at my dream stores. I go for independent boutiques that stock emerging designers, or stores that stock high quality fashion forward basics like Steven Alan. It’s always interesting to me to see how basics can be elevated with small details and fabric.

What to look for

I love to really examine the clothes to look at the choices the designer made, and think about how they could be used in different contexts.

It isn’t a matter of knocking off any particular garment for me. It’s more about seeing what makes something interesting and how it could be incorporated to solve a different problem. That’s the heart of creativity, taking in inspiration and using it in a new or different way.

Here’s what I look for:

  • Fabric. Seeing what fibers nicer garments are made of, the weight and drape of the fabric, and how different fabrics are combined will teach you a lot. You can carry that knowledge right into the fabric store. It’s interesting to note when unusual fibers or blends are used.
  • Style lines. Examining trends in the silhouettes and shapes of garments can give you new ideas and take you out of your comfort zone a bit.
  • Finishes. Take a close look at how seams, hems, and necklines are finished. You’ll be surprised at how many of these you can recreate, and you’ll be inspired to switch out finishes when you sew. Note where facings are used, when bindings are chosen, what types of hems you see on various garments. This can get really fun.
  • Details. In addition to the overall shapes and finishes, you’ll discover a wealth of interesting details you may not have thought to use.

Keeping track of your inspiration

Unlike online window shopping, in-person shopping is a little harder to keep track of.

Here are a few ideas for utilizing what you observe:

  • Photos. This can be a little awkward in a shop, but it’s pretty common to take photos of yourself in a dressing room when trying things on. You can even upload your photos to a site like Pinterest, or use Evernote to keep track.
  • Notes. I always carry a little moleskine notebook in my bag, and have for years. I use it for everything, but that includes notes and ideas for things I’d like to try with my sewing.
  • Sketches. Sketching is my favorite way to quickly jot down sewing ideas.
  • Go online. If the shop has an online store, you can sometimes go online when you get home and find the garments you saw in person. Save photos and take notes about what you observed when you looked at the garment up close. This combination of in-person observation with clear photos can be a great method for tracking inspiration.

Where do you shop for inspiration? Do you have any other tips to share?

How do you get rid of things you’ve made?

summer-dresses

There’s something very freeing about de-cluttering. As you get rid of the things you don’t need, you start to realize that your stuff is not all that important.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been trying to rid myself of at least one thing a day, and it’s been surprisingly easy. I’ve gotten rid of a ton of clothing that I don’t miss at all.

But there’s one category that I still have a little trouble with, and that’s the stuff I’ve made with my own two hands.

Is it because this stuff actually is important? Or is it something else?

I’ve tried to dig a little deeper and think about why this is. Here’s what I’ve come up with.

Why getting rid of handmades is so hard

  1. It feels like failure. Admitting that you don’t need something you made is admitting that you made a mistake. Of course, the same could be said of something you buy, but it feels much less personal.
  2. I am attached. I grow attached to the things I make, even if they aren’t useful. They still feel special.
  3. It feels wasteful. Often, I will still be in love with the fabric I used, even if I no longer love the garment. Saying goodbye makes me feel like I wasted the fabric.

I’m not saying these reasons are logical, just that they are there, buried deep in my brain.

There are a few things I’ve noticed that make getting rid of these precious projects a little easier.

Dumping the baggage

  1. Documentation. First, if I’ve photographed it and wrote about it on the blog, I find it easier to part with. It seems odd, but I feel like it’s been documented and loved and will continue to exist in some form in the world. I learned from making it and can move on.
  2. Transitioning. Second, putting it aside for a while helps. I can pack it away into a temporary holding area before getting rid of it. Once it’s out of my sight for a while, I know I can say goodbye. If not, I can still hold onto it as a keepsake.

  3. Last chance. Third, I can try giving it one more shot. If I wear it one last time and don’t feel beautiful and comfortable in it, it’s time to go.

Do you have any tricks for making it easier to part with your precious handmade garments?

Weekend Reading: Womanly models, mortality, and communist fabric

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Last weekend, we took a drive out to the Maryhill museum. After getting my socks knocked off by the Rodin collection, we stumbled randomly into the collection of Théâtre de la Mode.

Théâtre de la Mode was an exhibition of 1/3 scale models and clothing crafted by the top fashion designers in 1945, and intended to help revive the French fashion industry after world war II.

I’d always wanted to see this collection, but had completely forgotten that it was part of the museum. The dolls were absolutely stunning, as were the displays and tiny-sized couture they wore. I highly recommend a visit if you are ever in Oregon or Washington.

I hope you find some serendipitous inspiration yourself this weekend.

Weekend Reading:

For more links every week, you can follow me on Twitter, where I’m always posting interesting tidbits I find.

image above via colettepatterns on instagram

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