Sunday, March 29, 2009

How cool is this?

photo from costumes. org
In Threads magazine a month or two ago there was an article on making of dress forms at one of the oldest dress form makers in the country. Well in my blog surfing today I found a link to a video the Science channel did on the same company. Too cool.

Click here to see how Wolf Dress Forms are made. I laughed when they talked about the "incision" on the side for the collapsible shoulders mechanism. And check out some of the perky "girls" on those forms. They must be for alien women who have never had children or gained 5 pounds they didn't need.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

How to host a succesful SAGA workshop (Long)

I have had several comments, email and phone conversations about the workshop that my local chapter puts on. I was asked from more than three different people to write about it. So I figured as my mother would have said, "Forty thousand Frenchman can't be wrong." If I am being asked this much about it, then maybe it does warrant a post.

First of all, don't for one minute think that I am smarter than the average bear, or any craftier or handier than anyone else. Are you reading this on the internet? (That is a rhetorical question.) Then you have at your fingertips the same information that I do. I admit that I am blessed to belong to a great SAGA chapter. But I think any chapter has the potential to be a great one. It just takes consistent enthusiasm and a genuine desire to be there to make a change. The only other experience I have under my belt is marrying off two daughters and what is known as an excessive personality.

  • Of course first of all is securing a teacher, a date and a class project. No mystery there. You do have to get out of the mindset of choosing the perfect teacher, the perfect date or the perfect class. It doesn't happen. You choose the best you can and work with the rest. Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly. In other words, "Do SOMETHING! Don't just talk about it."
  • Advertise your workshop within your chapter and any other chapters in your area and members at large. Don't forget chapters and members that are within a reasonable driving distance to you. (Be sure to include hotel information for out of town visitors.) SAGA's website and your region rep are both good sources of chapter and MAL information. Other types of chapters, EGA and ASG for example are also good places to advertise.
  • A venue can be a bit trickier. Our chapter has a great place now, a community room in a bank. Has lots of windows, a full kitchen and a bathroom right across the hall. But we have used rooms at churches, basements, community centers and our regular meeting place. You need enough space for your projected number of students, it helps if you have a kitchen or kitchenette type space where you can prepare drinks, coffee, hopefully a fridge. Our room is also large enough for us to eat in as well.
  • That brings up another aspect. Meals. We have done catered box lunches and included that (approx $10) in the price of the class. We have done pot lucks or had members sign up to bring meals. There is something to breaking bread together that brings a group together and allows new people and visitors to get to know one another. After you have spent the morning together, to pack up get in the car and go somewhere to me just seems intrusive. So we eat in. We have class from 9-12, break for lunch from 12-1 and resume class from 1-4. Also would you invite someone to your home during a meal time and not offer them something to eat? I am not in the habit of saying to a friend, "Oh I would love to have you but make sure you bring your own snack." I call that rude.

My best friend and I always ascribed to one thing in most things, "Presentation is everything." I want it to look good. I want the Norman Rockwell, Martha Stewart kind of atmosphere. Does it matter that you can't look in one closet in my home? That the dirty laundry is piled high on the other side of the bed when company comes to dinner? No! I'm not inviting them to my closets or my bedroom. Well I might but that is a different story. So for a workshop I want it too look good. That means tablecloths, centerpieces and table favors. "oh but that is so much trouble." I hate that word. No, perhaps it is more effort but that does not mean it is more trouble. So it is more effort, I want to give those that come to our workshops the things that I would want. So what if it is more effort? We already know I don't do it on a daily basis, so I can muster the energy to do it occasionally. So exactly how much effort does it take?

  • Tablecloths/table settings - almost everyone has a Party City, a Michael's or a Hobby Lobby nearby. To drive there and purchase some pretty disposable tablecloths and fun paper products is not trouble.

  • Centerpieces - My girlfriend and I who usually do this together and have gone to varying degrees of effort for this. Once it was themed centerpieces to look like snowflakes, this time it was inexpensive ($1.50 each) glass bowls filled with Gerbera daisies. Not much effort there. Or the one above, a large mason type jar with some artificial Easter Eggs and a couple of bunches of spring blooms bought at the grocery store. I think most of you can muster that.
  • Table favors - I love me some table favors. Margot likes to shop and make phone calls, I like to make table favors; so therefore we make a good team. Again if you have searched the internet and found yourself here, then you have searched other blogs and sites and have seen some of the cute things that people are making. That is how I found the ones I posted a week or so ago. They are just a little happy for attendees to take with them. They took some time but not tons of time. I made most of the pincushion tops in a couple of evenings in front of the TV, then Margot and I assembled them over a weekend. The pattern weights took an afternoon and evening.
  • Be respectful of the teacher's time and efforts. Don't be the student who is talking in the back of the room when she is trying to explain something to the group. Refrain from letting everyone know how YOU would do it, or even worse "when I went to so and so's class, she taught it this way." There is not one way to do anything, but you have contracted with this teacher to hear about her way. Let her tell it and at least try it. Then decide if you like this new method or not.
  • Pricing. Oh is this a touchy subject. Our chapter does not put on workshops to make money. We put on workshop to live out the mission statement of SAGA:

"Our purpose is to preserve and foster the art of smocking and related needlework for future generations, through education, communication, and quality workmanship."

That being said, we use a simple way to price our workshop. We add up the costs incurred to bring in the teacher:

Teacher fee
Teacher travel
Teacher accomadations, (usually a member hosts the teacher)
Meals (if we do the box lunch)
Materials costs for room rent, party supplies, snacks, drinks, table favors and door prizes
TOTAL divided by number of students we expect (project lower than you think) = cost per person. Then we add the kit cost to that.

We don't set kit prices, the teacher usually does. If a class has a more expensive kit, work with the teacher to economize if you think it will be a problem for your attendees. You can also offset the class cost with your chapter's fundraisers and SAGA sponsored grants as well.

The number one thing about the atmosphere is making people feel welcome. Be glad they are there. Introduce yourself. Have name tags ready and make sure people wear them. Then no one, including the teacher, is put on the spot of remembering a name and can concentrate of what is being said instead. THANK people for spending their oft too little time and hard earned money with you. They could have stayed home. Have a generous spirit. If you are inwardly pissing and moaning your guests will know it. Just ask my kids, "Happy Heart!" And don't think about the extra effort as a burden, think of it as a gift you give to your members and guests.

I hope this edition of War and Peace has been helpful.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A couple of things

First off I think I had mentioned in an earlier post that my #2 daughter has learned to smock. So I made her a couple of ready to smocks for her to give as baby gifts. I hope she takes pictures of the finished gowns so I can brag on her. But here is the gown I made for her. It is the same gown as the ones from the Wee Care post except in an infant size. It is from the Ginger Snap Daygown Book IV. Imperial batiste. And I used a simple Swiss beading for a sleeve cuff. An added pretty without being fussy. She can leave it plain or weave ribbon through it if she wants to dress it up some more.

I am a big believer in natural fibers but there is very much a time and place for a poly/cotton blend, especially if it is as nice as Imperial by Spechler-Vogel. It washes well while still looking nice.

The second finished project is an Easter Egg. I know this has no place in the grand scheme of usefulness but it is cute. A friend and I were asked to teach smocking for the local EGA chapter and since it is almost Easter we thought Easter Eggs would be appropriate. I am a project class taker, I personally hate a "practice piece" class. The challenge in that though for a chapter program is that it had to be small and simple because there isn't much time. So this fit the bill. My picture has a blue cast to it and I have no idea why. I could work and work on that or I could just post the picture. I chose the latter. It pretty much has all of the basic stitches, outline/stem, cable and baby waves. There aren't too many stitches that a person can't make if they have done these. All others are just a combination of these.

I won't say that this is the best stitching I have ever done but it conveys the idea so I can go with it.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The look of determination

You know some people have lofty goals in life, they want to be President, or climb Mount Everest or run a marathon. Me? I just want to master this *&^% teeny tiny feather stitch that Jeannie Baumeister of the Old Fashioned Baby teaches! I had a goal once of mastering the biscuits my step father's mother made. I did that about 10 years ago. A worthy life long (I hadn't seen my step grandmother since I was about 14) goal. And now this one. I have a couple of UFO's that aren't finished simply because I can't get this antique double feather stitch. This is a hunk of scrap I picked up last night with the first floss I laid my hands on. I sat and studied the pictures in Jeannie's book and attempted this before I went to bed. Its not there yet but it is light years better than I have been able to do in the past. "My name is Martha and I am feather stitch challenged." I will get this if it is the end of me! Hopefully I will have pics of those UFO's soon with sweet teeny tiny feather stitching on them.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wearin' of the green

In honor of St. Paddy's it is a sweet romper in a pale green. It is Old Fashioned Baby's Embroidered Baby Clothes pattern. I used the embroidery design included in the pattern. Love the little B is for Besty pockets. Mine is a little askew but that is okay I think.

Did you read that book as a child? I did and loved it. I can even picture the cover. Just now when I Googled it I found that this book has never been out of print. I prefer this cover from the 60's as opposed to the one now.

I need to do one of these with gathered pockets. That would be sweet too. It is a sea mist green Imperial Batiste embroidered with Anchor floss. Very easy simple stitches, lazy daisies, running stitch and French knots.

Sweet simplicity. And can you go wrong with the pink and green combo. At first I thought the lime green floss would be too "aggh" but I liked it when I got it finished.

Enjoy and I hope you are stitching as well.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Pattern Weights-a tutorial

As promised here is the tutorial for the pattern weights I made a couple of weeks ago. These are easy peasy and anyone can do these. Every time I do one of these tutorials I am reminded of a horrific assignment I had in Senior English Comp. A paper writing the instructions on how to tie your shoes. Sounds easy doesn't it? NOT! I failed abysmally. So hopefully the tutorials here are a bit more successful.

As I said in the previous post I use a rotary cutter for almost everything, even Swiss batiste and silk organza. I use pattern weights when I can. I am less apt to run over a pin when using weights and that results in less nicks in my cutting blade. Using a rotary cutter is more accurate and if you are doing baby clothes a consistent error of 1/8" or 1/4" all the way around a piece can make a difference in construction and fit. If you don't believe me, do an experiment yourself. Trace out a sleeve pattern. Pin your sleeve to some Swiss batiste; now cut it out with a pair of shears. Next trace out your second sleeve. Place it on the batiste either with weights or pins. Cut it out with a rotary cutter. Now compare the two sleeve pieces. Are they the same? When you use shears, you lift and cut the fabric. That can result in inaccurate cutting. Plus for me using a rotary cutter is wayyyy quicker. I am an American living in a microwave age, I want results and want them now! So if I can get through the mundane part of the project faster then that is more time to spend on the fun part.

Now off with the lecturing and on with the tutorial!

What you will need:
  • Ultrasuede, color of your choice with matching thread
  • #14 Sewing machine needle
  • Rotary Cutter
  • Rotary Mat, works better than cutting on top of your great grandmother's dining room table or your new hardwood floors. (You laugh, I guarantee someone had done this. So just consider this my way of saving you from yourself.)
  • Ruler
  • BB's (available at most sporting goods stores)
  • Measuring spoon or kitchen scale
  • I used a walking foot but not required.

I copied my weights, (there is NO original thought) from some table favors I received at a SAGA National convention. They were 2.5 inches square and so are mine. At my local fabric store they had 9 x 12 pieces of Ultrasuede for $5 each. You can get 6 weights out of each piece. More if you make them a tad smaller.

Straighten the edge of your suede by trimming a scant amount off with your cutter and ruler. Cut strips 2.5 inches wide. Then cut those strips into 2.5 lengths to get your squares. Of course you know that it will take 2 squares for each weight. I know I didn't need to tell you that, but on the off chance you didn't know.

I used a walking foot to stitch my squares. It helped keep the edges even without pinning which you don't want to do with suede. If you don't have a walking foot don't worry. They are small so you can get away without pinning.

The squares are top-stitched together with a 1/8" seam. A more accurate way to get 1/8" seam is to line your fabric edge up at the 1/4" mark on the throat plate of your machine. Then you bump your needle over to the right 1/8". This allows both feed dogs to come in contact with your fabric and your fabric to be more firmly held down by the presser foot. The result is a more accurate seam with less wobbles.

A button I rarely use, the back-stitch button. In clothing construction I rarely use this button. I dial my stitch length down to a .5 or less at the beginning and end of a seam. It creates less bulk at your seam ends and intersections. But I used it lot making these.

I didn't want to just pivot at the corners, I was afraid with the weight of the BB's and regular use that the pivoted seam would give way and I would be standing in a puddle of BB's so I decided to stitch off the edge of the fabric on all four sides. Well I also didn't want to cut threads on all four corners either. Time consuming and can get raggedy looking. So I back-stitched at every corner.

I hope this is clearer than mud. I stitch to the fabric edge (#1) then I back-stitch back to the upcoming seam line(#2), pivoted my fabric, back-stitched to the fabric edge on the upcoming seam(#3) then proceeded to stitch the seam (#4). Stitch 3 sides of the square leaving one side open.

You now have a little packet ready to fill.

The pattern weight I copied contained 2.5 oz of BB's. Or for me 1 tablespoon. Not all tablespoons are created equal so you might want to check yours against a kitchen scale.

Carefully pour your BB's into the packet. Try not to get as many BB's on the floor as I did. I hope I found them all or my poor husband may end up replacing our Dyson vacuum. That would not make him happy.

The tricky part is that last seam. Again without spilling your BB's all over the floor or (gasp) into your machine hold the edges of the opening together. Though I think it would be really hard for the BB's to get into your machine . Using your fingers, hold the BB's back away from the presser foot and keeping the suede packet closed stitch that last seam from edge to edge back-stitching at the beginning and end for strength and safety.

Ta-da!! Your first pattern weight. I takes longer to cut these out than it does to stitch them together. They are very durable, heavy enough to hold your fabric but light enough to be manageable. The slight nap of the suede helps them grab the fabric. I hope you will send me pictures of the one you make.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Some stitching at last!

Okay folks. I have been HARANGUED because of my lack of blog posts lately. As I have whined before I am like a kindergartner, I like pictures with some words. And since I hadn't been sewing there was nothing to take a picture of. But I did sew some in the last few weeks, getting ready for our SAGA chapter's workshop. A friend and I share the task of preparing for our chapter workshops. I do the part I like and she does the part she likes. It works for us. She emails and makes phone calls. I do favors and little pressies. So for table favors I made some wool felt pincushions and ultra suede pattern weights. My personal preference is to keep the table favors sewing related for a sewing workshop.

Felt Pincushions by May Blossom

Are these cute or what??? And so much fun to do. I did all the tops and my girlfriend helped construct some. I got the e-pattern from May Blossom from Australia. I happened to have the wool felt and beads. They are filled with craft pellets and fiber fill. They looked cute on the tables but I forgot to take a picture of the tables. Brain wasn't fully there, what can I say?

Pattern Weights

At SAGA convention a few years ago, one of the table favors at a meal were pattern weights made from Ultrasuede. I love them! I rotary cut out almost everything so pattern weights are the way to go. These are heavy enough to stay put but light enough to be easy to use. Since I didn't have a pattern or supply list I had to unstitch one of the ones I had to figure out they were filled with BB's. Goes to show how of touch I am, I didn't even know they still made BB's or even where to buy them. I have to confess when I opened it, I didn't know what the little round balls were. Had to ask my husband. When he saw them sitting there he asked, "Where did you get the BB's?" Well FYI, you can get them at a sporting goods store. Maybe I will do a tutorial on how to make them in a couple of days. Right now I have to finish 40 smocked Easter Egg kits for an EGA chapter program on Tuesday. So I will have more pictures on Tuesday.

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