Monday, September 30, 2013

Quick-Stitch Pillow: PASS

I am a slow sewer. Not slow as in Slow Sewing, where one takes time to savor the experience of creating a well-made project. I'm slow as in so. dang. slow. Half-remembering an inspirational quote about learning taking place outside of one's comfort zone, I registered for Craftsy's "Quick-Stitch, the Challenge" at this weekend's American Sewing Expo. When only two of us showed up to compete, I dragged Mom (aka Slakerella for you Ravelry folk) and Mom W (aka my mother-in-law) into the contest at the last minute.

The lead judge announced our challenge and let us loose on tables of assorted fabric, notions, and trims.  She said ours was the easiest assignment yet: make a pillow cover for a 12-inch form. GO!

I have to admit I breathed a sigh of relief when she said, "pillow cover." I've made lots of these, though never quickly and never without a hitch. I found fabric I loved right away, but knew I had to combine it with something to make an interesting entry. Most of the choices were floral prints, not great foils for this African pattern. I spent 10 precious minutes wandering around trying to put together a winning combination.

Inspiration struck when I spotted some pre-cut denim rectangles and looked down at my denim mini. I half-remembered another inspirational quote and decided to "sew what you know." The frayed edge denim pillow was born.

I set my alarm to go off every 15 minutes. Each time it sounded, I got a little more jumpy. I felt an old anxiety creep in that I hadn't experienced since college exams.

When the judges started the 10-second countdown, I still had one seam to complete. Fortunately, I could sew this on the right side (aka outside) of the pillow cover because of the frayed denim design. I cut the last thread right as the countdown hit zero. Yikes!

The judges liked all of our work, and one offered to take my pillow home if I didn't want it. But the clear winner was my mother-in-law. She's creative, precise, and sews every day. Not only was her pillow cover beautifully designed and well-pressed, but she also inserted a zipper, and finished with time to add embellishments. Way to go, Mom W!

Mom said the pressure was too much like work (she's a pastry chef who regularly makes the impossible happen in short order). Mom W didn't seem to mind. Once the adrenaline stopped coursing, I realized I had a great time. (The free Craftsy class I received for participating didn't hurt.) I'll definitely try it again next year if they'll take me.

Have you ever entered a sewing contest? Did you like challenge of creating quickly? Or did the pressure outweigh the fun?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Self-Drafted Workout Pants: PASS

After last week's failed attempt at new workout pants, I decided to search for leggings tutorials instead of using a pattern. I found a winner in 0.33 seconds: Cal Patch's 2012 tutorial on Etsy.

I haven't worn leggings much since junior high. This tutorial was such a joy that I might start. These were so easy to make.  I credit Cal Patch's clear instructions and illustrations. Having ONE pattern piece made to measure also helps!

This project was a breeze until the waistband, which stymied my spatial relations skills. Once again, I copied Oona's technique. But somehow I forgot the basic steps for constructing a fold-over waistband. I folded and sewed it incorrectly four times before I got it right. Then I tried to get fancy with an inside pocket...on the outside.

When I stopped sewing for the night, the waistband was still a bit loose, but I was too eager to wear the pants during today's workout and bike commute to go back and fix it. They held up great and felt so good that I kept them on all evening. Is this how the whole leggings-as-pants thing got started? This might be a slippery slope.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Laugh-In Workout Pants: FAIL

When I wore these to class on Tuesday, one of my students asked if I had ever seen Laugh-In. Shocking as this print might be at 6:30 in the morning, it's not the reason for the failing grade. 

A one-dollar sale lured me into the trap of trying to make a pattern into something it's not (like with my flowery party dress). One look at the fashion photography for McCall's 6404  tells you these aren't workout pants. I cut a size medium thinking they might even be a bit small after my summer sloth. But no, they were baggy as all get-out, even after taking in the outside and inside seams.

My other mistake was lining them in swimsuit fabric. The print fabric was too sheer to go it alone, but adding a thick layer really keeps in the heat. It's been nice on my chilly bike commutes this week, but not during my workouts.

One thing I did do right was to swap out the elasticized waist with a mega fold-over waistband à la Oona. That woman is a genius!

The idea is to use a folded piece of your fashion fabric, so that the nice side shows when you fold down your waistband. I had to chop a lot of fabric out of the back waistband to eliminate sagging and gaping, which made the inside too ugly to show. But let's be real, I'm not going to be folding down my pants (or wearing body paint and a bikini) any time soon.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Classroom Chair Pocket: PASS

On Wednesday my son's school is back in session and his teacher will be handing out these classroom chair pockets. The students keep their pens, whiteboards, and other supplies stuffed inside. After years of use, about half the pockets were in disrepair. I volunteered to replace them over the summer. A brilliant (but unknown to me) parent came up with the design. All I had to do was copy it. Simple...

...or maybe not. It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out how to accurately copy the design. Then about 2/3 of the way through, I realized I had been finishing the hems improperly. The hem on the pocket was beautiful, but the hem on the back panel was was ugly side out.  How annoying!

To save you any such hassle, I've put together a tutorial for making your very own classroom (or playroom) chair pockets. I claim no design credit, only authorship of the not-to-scale drawings and the instructions. This is my first sewing tutorial, so let me know if it's useful!