August 2016 Newsletter


Summer continues with the hot dog days of August. My daughters began a new school year two weeks ago, and the cycle of the calendar continues. The energy shifted from home to school, and I find myself a bit freer to create, write, explore, and seek.

Those of you who sew, craft, create...live...will identify with the concept of RIO: rip-it-out. It's a frustrating reality to creating, when you make a mistake, must correct, and re-do a project. It's a fact of life, and how we learn, and how we pay attention. It's how we get in touch with the fine details of our work. But rework can lead to serendipity, to finding out the meaning of the myth. We see the unexpected, and can be surprised by the end product. We experiment, see the science behind the scenes, and glory in the satisfaction of success.

Since I released my last message, I completed several more of my Baggy Bunch purses. I also completed a new pattern for a Gothic/Halloween banner. From various fabric remnants, I produced several zippered pouches. It's a pleasure to reuse a pattern, to perfect the creative process, and wind up with a quality item for others to enjoy.

The key to most projects is perseverance.  It's tough to stick it out when you want to quit. Sometimes quitting is the thing to do, but in other situations, you must hang in there. You've got to work through one failure or setback after another to get the sweet reward. Again the process can be more important than the product.  

Grit might be the life-long quality that gives the individual the edge and the will to keep going in the face of adversity. This summer, I read Angela Duckworth's "Grit" and Andy Weir's "The Martian." One book explains the power of perseverance while the other exemplifies grit.This month, instead of food for the belly, I offer food for the mind in the form of book synopses of both texts.

Whether you have family starting school or not, I think most of us sense the beginning of something new in autumn, of gaining more knowledge, and of the infinite possibilities that lie in the future. I urge you to take on a new hobby, learn a new skill, complete a project, or find a challenge this fall.


Camille Sommer
Owner and Crafter
Orange Moon Studio

Quote from sculptor Carl Andre:

A man climbs a mountain because it is there. A man makes a work of art because it is not there.
 


Food for Thought:  Grit
 
In Angela Duckworth's bestselling book, "Grit," the  author takes a look at the power of perseverance in the cultivation of success and survival in a challenging world. She examines the reasons that some West Point cadets, spelling bee competitors, cartoonists, and others achieve their goals while others do not.  A key factor is continuing to strive forward, of fighting the desire to give up. The book gives the reader tips for assessing grit, growing grit, and for teaching your kids how to be gritty. My only gripe with the book:  the lack of stories of people who have grit yet have not reached, or never reached, the apex of success they coveted.

For a fictional example of grit, consider reading Andy Weir's debut novel, "The Martian." Stranded on Mars by his NASA crew, presumed dead and cut off from communication, astronaut Mark Watney relies on all of his knowledge and resources to stay alive. His resourcefulness helps him establish contact with Earth and survive on a desolate planet until he has a chance at being rescued. The text reads a bit like a handyman's how-to manual but the reader receives the reward of cheering on this everyman hero to the story's end. The reader may develop a new reverence for the simple potato, roll of duct tape, or the DVD collection of "Three's Company." Even if you have seen the movie, the book engages the imagination and the enthusiasm for our fellow human beings.
 

 

 

How to Make a Holiday or Any-Day Banner: Conclusion

Once you have sewn all of your flags, begin assembling the banner. Lay your flags on a surface and rearrange them until you find a grouping that you like. Some suggestions would be to place one light-colored flag next to a darker flag, or place a small patterned fabric next to a larger motif. Once you find the ideal arrangement, leave the flags on the work surface, or note the order of the flags and stack them to clear space. 

Let's take a look at the completed banner in Figure 9. I had several blue flags so I put other colored flags between them as much as possible.

 Figure 9:  completed banner demonstrates positioning

Figure 9:  completed banner demonstrates positioning

Unfold the bias tape. Fold it in half lengthwise to find the center. Use a  binder clip to secure the fold. Pick up one of your flags. If you have an odd number of flags, remove the binder clip and line up the center of the flag with the fold in the bias strip. Open the bias tape and insert the flag. Clip the center of the flag inside the bias tape. Tuck each end of the flag inside the bias tape and clip. If you have an even number of flags, place one flag near one side of the centered clip. Open the bias tape, tuck the flag inside, and clip the tape closed around the top of the flag. Using a ruler, space the adjacent center flag about two inches from the flag you just clipped inside the tape.  See figure 10 for a demonstration. 

 Figure 10:  flag spacing

Figure 10:  flag spacing

Continue measuring and inserting flags until finished. Lay the completed banner on a flat surface. Adjust flags as needed.

Next, see figure 11 to follow steps for sealing the ends of the bias tape.. Steps 1 and 2:  open one end of the bias tape, leaving the inner folds alone. Step 3:  fold the outer corners of the end toward the center of the tape to make a pointed tip. Step 4: fold the pointed tip downward. Fold the tape together lengthwise to enclose the folded tip.  Use the clip to hold the end closed.

 Figure 11:  creating the finished ends of the bias tape

Figure 11:  creating the finished ends of the bias tape

Set your sewing machine to size 3 stitch length. Adjust the needle position to the far left. Remove the clip from one end of the bias tape. I prefer to sew on the side of the bias tape that is shorter on top. In figure 12, you can see the slightly shorter side. Insert the bias tape into the machine. Begin topstitching close to the open side of the bias tape. Sew a few stitches, backstitch, then continue stitching, removing clips as you sew. See figure 13. Backstitch again at the other end of the bias tape.

 Figure 12:  topstitching the bias tape

Figure 12:  topstitching the bias tape

 Figure 13: sewing flags between the bias tape

Figure 13: sewing flags between the bias tape

Congratulations! You completed your banner. Hang it up for everyone to enjoy.

Make a Holiday or Any-Day Banner: Part Two

Now that you know the basics for making a banner, let's get started. As mentioned in the first blog post, select the flag shape you prefer. Design a template to use for marking your shape on fabric. Cardboard, tracing paper, or cardstock are good options. For this project, and for frequent use, I purchased template plastic. Template plastic is available in single sheets in various weights in the quilting notions section of your local fabric store. (Dritz manufactures the plastic that I used.) 

Cut your desired shape. If you use plastic or tracing paper, you can see the fabric design through the shape. Move the shape in different directions to select the desired cutting direction. In Figure 1, I aligned my template to my fabric so that the bottom of the pinwheel handles points toward the tip of the chevron shape. In Figure 2, the tip of the shape points upward in opposition to the direction of the pinwheel handles. Since I want the pinwheel handles to point downward, I must make sure to cut my fabric correctly. Make a written or mental note of this arrangement so that you cut for fabric accordingly. 

 Figure 1:  chevron tip points downward

Figure 1:  chevron tip points downward

 Figure 2:  chevron tip points upward

Figure 2:  chevron tip points upward

Next, decide how you want to cut your fabric if you are making more than one flag from a single fabric pattern. Fold the fabric in half, cut edge to cut edge, and see how many flags can be cut. Unfold, and fold the fabric selvage to selvage. repeat the template testing. Follow the "The Old House" rule:  measure twice, cut once. (I still make mistakes with this rule! Recently, I was rechecking my measurements prior to cutting and mentally patting myself on the back for being cautious. And I cut one segment an inch short anyway. Ugh!)

For this project, I made a chevron that is 7 x 10 inches. I cut rectangles in 7 x 10 inch sections first. Then I used my template to mark the chevron tips. Finally, I used a rotary cutter and ruler to cut out the tips. See Figures 3 and 4.

 Figure 3:  template dimensions

Figure 3:  template dimensions

 Figure 4: chevrons cut and ready for sewing

Figure 4: chevrons cut and ready for sewing

Once you get your flags cut, place the two pieces right-sides together (RST) . See Figure 5. 

 Figure 5: chevrons stacked RST

Figure 5: chevrons stacked RST

Set up your sewing machine to stitch 1/4 inch seams. I used a size 3 stitch length. Remember to leave one side (the top) open. See Figures 6 and 7. 

 Figure 6: sewing a flag together

Figure 6: sewing a flag together

 Figure 7: flag sewn together

Figure 7: flag sewn together

Trim excess fabric from all points. This step removes bulk from the corners.Turn flags right side out (RSO). Use a bodkin, orange stick, pencil, or stiletto to push out corners. Use the tool to bring the seams to the edge of the flag. You want all sides of your flag to be as straight as possible for top stitching. Adjust your needle so that it is closer to the edge of the flag. Top stitch all edges except the top. See Figure 8.

 Figure 8: completed flag

Figure 8: completed flag

Make a Throw Pillow with Piped Edging: Part 5

At this point, your pillow is complete. It should work well as is. Just put the pillow insert through the opening, fluff up and adjust, and show it to your friends and family. You can turn the pillow up a notch by adding a button and buttonhole closure to the back.  

Step 9:  Create a buttonhole

Use a ruler to mark a halfway point on the top backing piece. If you're using a one-inch diameter button, draw a half-inch line on either side of the halfway point. Use a chalk pencil or air-soluble marker (aka disappearing felt-tip ink marker) to do the job. See figure 13.

 Figure 13

Figure 13

Follow the instructions for your sewing machine to create a one-inch buttonhole, or go old school and make a buttonhole by hand.

Step 10:  Add a button

Open the buttonhole carefully with snips, a seam ripper, or craft knife. (You want a tool that is sharp and precise.) Check your button size by passing the button through the hole. See figure 14.

 Figure 14

Figure 14

Lay the pillow cover flat, front side down. Line up the back pieces so that they are centered. Using the air-soluble marker, make a dot through the buttonhole onto the bottom backing piece. This dot will mark the spot where the button must go. Sew on the button either by hand or by machine. See figure 15.

 Figure 15

Figure 15

Step 11:  Enjoy your pillow, and plan to make more!

Insert your pillow form, and you are done. Show your friends and family what you made. Plan to make more for other holidays, special occasions, or any occasion. Try making a few covers from fabric scraps.  Look at how creative you are!

 Completed front of pillow

Completed front of pillow

 Completed back of pillow

Completed back of pillow

Make a Throw Pillow with Piped Edging Part 4

Step 6:  Sew front and back together

Place the front of the pillow, right side up, on your work surface.  Take the two back pieces and lay them right side down on the pillow front.  The pieces will overlap.  If your fabric pattern follows a specific direction, as the examples in this project do, make sure you arrange the pieces accordingly. Adjust the pieces until you are satisfied with the layout. Make sure you have enough seam allowance over and around the piping cord. Starting with the overlapped areas on the backing, clip or pin the pieces together. See figure 10.

 Figure 10

Figure 10

Step 7:  Sew the front to the back of the pillow

Use either a zipper foot or a cording/piping foot to sew the front to the back of the pillow. Place the needle as far left as possible to get close to the cording. Start sewing at one of the overlapped back pieces. Slowly sew around corners, close to the piping. 

The zipper foot may leave some gaps but it will work.  Even better is a cording or piping foot. With my machine, I use a pintuck foot. The goal is to have a raised area on the foot under which the piping can travel. A standard presser foot will not work for this project.  See figure 11; the piping is layered between the front and back, but the indentation of the cording is visible. You may "feel" the piping to ensure a straight stitch.

 Figure 11

Figure 11

Step 8:  Turn the pillow right side out

Once you complete sewing the front to the back pieces, turn the pillow right side out. Examine all the seams. Note any areas that leave gaps or cover too much of the piping. Restitch sections as necessary.  When satisfied, trim the excess fabric and piping to 1/8 inch. Leave the project right side out. See figure 12.

 Figure 12

Figure 12

Make a Throw Pillow with Piped Edging Part 3

Step 4: Attach piping to the front square of the pillow.

Remove the piping from the package. Near the center of one side, begin lining up the open edge of the piping to the right side of the fabric. Attach in a counterclockwise direction; this direction will follow your machine stitching later. The open edge should be flush with the edge of the front square. Use pins or clips to attach the piping. (I use binder clips purchased from an office supply store.  They work well and are quite versatile in my sewing room.) See figure 4.

 Figure 4

Figure 4

When you reach a corner, make two or three perpendicular cuts into the bias strip of the piping to make it bend to fit the corner. Take care to only cut the bias section, not the actual piping. See figure 5.

 Figure 5

Figure 5

Once you reach your starting point, leave a 2 - 3 inch "tail." Make sure you have at least an inch of overlap with both ends.  Leave a little more to be on the safe side. Cut away the extra piping.  See figure 6.

 Figure 6

Figure 6

Step 5:  Connect the ends of the piping

Use a seam ripper or snips to remove the seam on one end of the piping.  Remove the stitches. Pull back the bias fabric. Cut about an inch of the white piping. Tuck the beginning segment of the piping into the end section. Check the fit. Carefully cut more white piping until both ends are touching inside the bias covering. When the fit is right, fold under a half inch of the bias fabric from the end; this segment should be the one from which you cut the piping cord. Tuck the piping from the beginning inside the end. Adjust to fit.  Clip the overlapped section to secure it to the fabric. See figure 7.

 Figure 7

Figure 7

Step 6:  Baste the piping to the front square

Use a zipper foot with the needle position set to the far left.  Use a basting stitch to attach the piping to the front.  See figure 8. Take care as you go around corners (figure 9).  With basting, your goal is to secure the piping for the final sewing so stitching need not be flush with the piping.  

 Figure 8

Figure 8

 Figure 9

Figure 9

Make a Throw Pillow with Piped Edging Part 2

Once you have all of your material, notions, and supplies, let's begin making a throw pillow.

Step 1:  Wash your fabric

I sew a zig-zag stitch along the two cut edges of the fabric, then wash to reduce further shrinking. The zig-zag edge prevents fraying during the washing process.

Step 2: Cut your fabric

Press the washed fabric with a steam iron to remove wrinkles. 

 Figure 1

Figure 1

Before cutting your fabric, take note of the fabric pattern direction.  Does the pattern go in one direction, two (half of the images are upside down), four directions, or any direction?  Make sure you cut your fabric and lay out your pieces accordingly.

For my pillow, the pinwheels go in one direction from fabric selvage to selvage.  Had this pattern been of flowers instead of pinwheels with stick handles, I could cut and position fabric in any direction.  I want to take care that the fabric in front and back are in the same direction with the visible stick handle pointing downward.

For a  14 X 14 inch pillow form, cut one 15 1/2 X 15 1/2 inch square of the fabric. Then cut two 15 1/2 x 11 1/2 inch rectangles. If you have one-half yard of fabric that is 44 - 45 inches wide,  you will cut the 11 1/2 lengths along the width of the fabric; otherwise, you will not have enough fabric for your project. Plus, the fabric grain for front and back should be aligned in the same direction. (Figure 1)

Step 3:  Prepare the back pieces

Lay the two back pieces, right side up, on your work surface in the direction that matches your front piece.  For the piece on the left, fold the right edge under 1/2 inch toward the wrong side of the fabric. Press.  For the piece on the right, fold the left edge under 1/2 inch toward the wrong side of the fabric. (See Figure 2.) Press with an iron. Sew at least a 2.5 length stitch near the fabric edge of the folded side. You may use a basting stitch if you want to remove these securing stitches later.

 Figure 2

Figure 2

Fold the sewn edge of the back pieces toward the wrong side of the fabric again by two inches. Press with an iron. Topstitch the folded edge and the hemmed edge (the edge closer to the middle of the fabric pieces) close to each edge as shown in Figure 3.

 Figure 3

Figure 3

Pullover to Cardigan: Epilogue

So...would I convert a pullover to a cardigan again?  Well, maybe.  With this project, I learned that it's a tough conversion.  A woman with a nice, trim figure could add buttons and wear the redesigned sweater snugly to fabulous effect.  Remember, the pullover as it was fit right at the waistline.  So I opted not to make the full conversion with buttons and buttonholes

I plan to wear the new cardigan.  It contrasts well with a new abstract floral dress with a blue background that I bought for spring.  The sleeves could stand some shortening for improved styling.  I wondered if there's something I could do to jazz the front a bit.

My daughter, Diana, has a cute pink cardigan with clear jewel buttons and fine tulle trim.  Aha. That's an idea and would be simple to add. 

Like all projects, I learned a new construction technique. By looking at the clothes we buy from a manufacturer, we see all the flaws that we really don't notice until we pay attention. That's why it's important not to worry about perfection. Just make it, and it will serve you well.  In this photo, you can see how the bottom edges of the front opening shrink up a bit.  Never noticed it until I took a photo.

I plan to make a cardigan from beginning to end sometime this year. I'm a big fan of the television show, "The Closer," and I love the sweater and dress or skirt combos that actress Kyra Sedgwick, as Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson, wore in the show. Here's a link to the photo of my favorite combo:  https://www.pinterest.com/pin/186899453259976478/

 

 

Pullover to Cardigan: The Final Chapter

In my last post, I talked about completion of the front seams by hand sewing the grossgrain ribbon to the inside of the sweater using an slant hem stitch.  However, the project instructions from Gertie's book require installation of six buttons and buttonholes to hold the ribbon in place. With buttons and buttonholes, a hem stitch isn't necessary.  So why did I rebel and leave them off?

I need the sweater to be a lightweight wrap for slinkier fabric dresses and shirts.  The open style masks the waist distortion caused by my scoliosis.  Remember, at the beginning of the project, I stated that the pullover was too short at my waist.  I will never want to use the cardigan buttoned up anyway.  So putting buttons on the placket is optional.

The final product looks okay.  I had to adjust the top seam of one of the ribbons as it was pulling too tightly at the neckline.  I made this correction by hand.  The sleeves could use shortening but rolling them up works for now.

Here is the sweater paired with a new dress.  Next blog, I will model the sweater and share my thoughts on whether this project is helpful or not.  In other words, will I make it again?  And how could I jazz it up a bit?

Pullover to Cardigan: The Saga Continues

So...I converted a pullover sweater to a cardigan.  In my last post, I attached a strip of grossgrain ribbon to the right side of the sweater fabric and sewed a straight stitch along the edge of the ribbon nearest the sweater edge.  Next, I folded the ribbon toward the inside.  This step took awhile to sink in and make sense.  We seamstresses are accustomed to concealing raw edges. Because the ribbon edge is finished, there's no worry.  

DSC_0110.JPG

Then I folded the top and bottom portions of the ribbon toward the wrong side of the sweater and secured it with stitching near the neckline.  Cutting the corners of the ribbon helped it fold more neatly.  I used a basting stitch to tack the other side of the ribbon into place.  At this point, things got tricky.  One side sewed in place like a dream.  The other side had puckers.  Resewing wouldn't have made a difference, so the game plan changed.  Hand-sewing a blind hem stitch would solve my problem. I chose a slant hem stitch, but slanted the needle downward/to the right.  It was a time-consuming but relaxing, rewarding experience to sew by hand. The finished hems look good.

 Slant hem stitch

Slant hem stitch

Question:  Why did I stray from the pattern instructions and not use buttons and buttonholes to hold the grossgrain riboon in place?  Read the next blog post to find out.

Pullover to cardigan?

Many women find resourcefulness to be a virtue, perhaps even a passion.  I know I do. My family has dealt with the challenges of the economic downturn which has necessitated much creativity. Now that I am approaching the second half of my century, I need some new clothes.  Not a fan of fashion, per se, but of trusty go-to separates, I seek comfortable togs in colors I love and in styles that work with my figure flaws.  I endeavor to write about the retooling of existing tops and bottoms as well as testing brand-new patterns.

Come along with me as I test my first project: converting a pullover sweater into a cardigan.  Is this idea good or bad?  Let's find out.

I've had this polyester orange sweater for ages.  It's in excellent condition, washes easily, and comes in my favorite color. I rarely wear it because it is short and fits right at the waist, giving some people an unexpected skin showing of my lower back. I need a lightweight sweater to go with a new dress. Inspired by a cardigan project in "Gertie Sews Vintage Casual: A Modern Guide to Sportswear Styles of the 1940s and 1950s" by Gretchen Hirsch, I decided to convert my pullover.

First, I measured the front to find the center at the bottom. I cut carefully to the center of the "V" at the neckline. I used an air-soluble marker to draw a cutting line, then used fabric scissors to cut.  Easy breezy.

Next, I cut a length of grossgrain ribbon and attached it to the right side of each edge of the sweater front. I overlapped the sweater edge by a mere 3/8 of an inch. I pinned the ribbon in place and stitched next to the rolled edge of the ribbon. 

So...what happened next?  Tune in next time to find out if this project is a do or don't.

Camille

 

New Year, New Direction

I took the month of January "off" work to focus on some projects around the house.  I've been completing sewing projects that I began last year, then set aside for holiday projects.  I suppose this task is never ending as I just finished a wall hanging for my daughter, a purse for myself, and a quilt that I hoped to sell but must keep for family due to the imperfect sewing.

It's time to face the music.  My first year in business has been a disappointment in regard to sales. I had some luck selling a few goods at the Greene Street Market Store, but not anywhere else. The positive side to this situation is that my sewing skills have improved immensely in the past twelve months.  Now I must find a way to make products and offer services that resonate with customers.

Though I enjoy making home goods, clothing manufacture intrigues me.  I recently read an article about Mimi Goodwin, a single mom of four kids who made her own clothes, managed a blog, and shared loads of tips and suggestions while working full-time.  Her gig became so popular that she now makes a living from her sewing ventures.  You can view the essence of her empire at:  http://mimigstyle.com/

Her story has inspired me to create and design my own clothing and living business.  I will commit to writing a blog post five days each week to present my creative ideas. Through my ideas, tips, and experiences, I want to inspire women like me to find their voice and assert their strength within their families, communities, and careers.

Are you ready? Let the good times roll, people!

Camille Sommer

 

 

 

First blog post, October 28, 2015

Welcome to Orange Moon Studio.  I'm delighted that you are visiting my online space.  It's rustic (in other words, nearly empty) as I develop my webmaster skills.

Getting a business started has been a challenge, as I expected.  Many pieces have fallen into place with ease.  The difficulty lies in doing something I've never done -- establishing three sales tax accounts, applying for two business licenses, figuring out what an NAICS code is, and which code (among thousands) I should use -- and will never need to do again.  Much time has been spent at the computer or on the telephone as I navigate my way through the maze.  Luckily, people have been helpful, paient, and kind along the way.  I am grateful.  Telling friends, family, and even strangers that I'm a business owner keeps me accountable; now I must follow through and be in business.

Mixed together in the pot of business set up and actual sewing comes the other major time commitment of caring for young-ish children.  There are school events, illnesses (lice, anyone?...yep, dealt with that kicker in June), weekend entertainment, and -- my most demanding role -- a combo of mean cop and not-so-benevolent judge.  Thus, arriving where I am today tas taken longer that desired.  I'm tired of telling people, "I'm still getting started."  I want to be established and engaged in commerce already.  somehow, Yoda's advice to Luke Skywalker to crawl then walk before running comes to mind.  (This advice may appear only in the radio drama of "The Empire Strikes Back.")

"Patience, Young Skywalker!"