Saturday, January 28, 2012

Not sewing today!!

I'm a little under the weather today -- been coughing for about 48 hrs and I have a stuffy head.  This is disappointing, because normally Saturday is my big day to sew.  It starts Friday evening with my visit to the 'secret sewing sisters circle' at my aunt's house.  I blogged about that a couple of posts ago.  But this Friday I was feeling crappy so I begged off, saying I was too tired and didn't want to infect everyone else.

So today I was a lazy slug, vegging on the couch and watching some old reruns of Murder, She Wrote.  Now this is possible since DH is retired and does most of the normal household chores like laundry and vacuuming.  In fact I'm no longer allowed to vacuum or load the dishwasher, since he has become so particular about how it gets done.  So usually the weekends are for visiting family, working on projects, church and other fun activities.

DH had a tooth pulled yesterday, so we both decided to be lazy.  He brought in the mail.  I love the mail!  Several times a week there will be a magazine or sewing newsletter that arrives, or a new catalog.  Sometimes I order things and the days when a package arrives are lovely!  Today, the quilt kit from the upcoming retreat arrived.  The fabrics are beautiful, browns and teals.  The project is a wall hanging using a bargello technique.  I opened the box to check it out.

According to Wikipedia, the word "bargello" appears to come from the late Latin bargillus (from Goth bargi and German burg), meaning "castle" or "fortified tower".   In quilting, strips of various colors are sewn together, subcut into various widths and resewn into a configuration that could resemble mountains or castle walls.  If you have good contrast between the extremes of your color selection, it can make a striking end product.  If your colors are too similar, it will just be a muddy mess and won't be worth the effort it takes to make all those cuts and all those seams!  I'm on the fence about this project as I said in a previous blog.

Very brief instructions in the box say to cut strips from each of the 20 fabrics.  The strips are to be one and a half inches wide by the width of the fabric (WOF).  OK...  a strip loses 1/2" in seams, so what will be visible on the top of this project is the width less one half inch, or ONE INCH!!  Wait, this is nuts!  OK, an inch isn't the smallest piece I've ever cut, but people, ONE INCH!!

 I LOVE scraps, don't get me wrong.  But the smallest thing I save is 2"x2".  The other stuff, like 1" strips or less than 1" strips go into bags of strings and usually don't get sewn into quilt tops.  Or even wall hangings.  I'm going to have to think about this one.

The directions say, if you're making a queen sized quilt, cut 2" strips x WOF.  Not that much bigger, but you cut more strips, 9 as opposed to 4.  I know there's a method to this that I'm not seeing so far, but I am not loving this project at this point!  What size is a wall hanging?  36" square, 42 inches? 

OMG maybe I'm just not supposed to be thinking about sewing today!  If I'm habing a code in my dose I should just hab the code and give byself one weekend not to sew!!  Oh, my head hurts.  Time to lie down.

Did I say I also got a box of books in today's mail?  A lovely box of seven used books by Margaret Truman about murder... Murder at the Smithsonian, Murder at the White House, Murder at the Opera.  Yes, it's a much better day for murder than it is for thinking about bargello!!

Sew on, or not as the case may be...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sewing and Quilting Retreats

Since I've been sewing a long time (I'm afraid to put down a number of years, it's such a scary number!!) I know a lot of other people who sew.  Lots.  Members of my family, friends, ladies at church, members of quilt guilds and the American Sewing Guild.  One thing we have in common is that we love to share our projects and experiences.

I've read about a lot of sewing and quilting retreats.  There are groups that go to the shore, or on cruises, or just 'up north' or away from home to get together and sew.  Sometimes these are week-long events, and sometimes they're for weekends. 

My extended family has an almost-every-Friday night sewing get together.  It's not a retreat, but it IS very social.  It started a couple of years back with a family quilt project.  People signed up, everyone made a number of the same quilt square (one for each person who signed up), and they were traded so everyone ended up with one square from every other person.  After those projects were all done, we just kept getting together -- aunts and cousins and second cousins and in-laws and whoever is around come for the fun.  Sometimes we sew and sometimes we just eat and think about sewing. 

We've made quilts, start to finish.  We've remade a couple of UFOs that were inherited from other people.  We made skirts and dresses for the little girls and their dolls, and Halloween costumes.  We made a camouflage prom dress and other interesting stuff -- no project too challenging!  

Twice a year some of the ladies go on a quilt retreat in Central Wisconsin.  I went once, and -- well -- it wasn't exactly my cup of tea.  The place we were using wasn't all that well lit, and the project was BIG.  I'm not a late-night person and people stayed up late sewing or playing games.  Plus since I work full time at a fairly challenging job, I need my weekends to rest, and this retreat lasted from Thursday night to Sunday afternoon.  I did finish my project at home later.  I loved the pattern and my quilt turned out well.

I went on another sewing retreat one summer with a different group.  We were having so much fun I stayed up later than I should have.  Now, let me tell you, I have never watched the Tonight Show or Jay Leno on purpose!  By 9:30 or 10 p.m. I am usually out for the night.  And I must have eaten something that didn't like me because I ended up in the emergency room with the worst migraine headache I'd had ever.  It was the worst trip of my life to that point!

I skipped the next couple of retreats because I wasn't prepared to spend time and money to repeat a bad experience.  But I do love spending time with family members working on projects!  So once again I've forked over the deposit and kit fee for a retreat in February.  I'm telling myself that if it's tiring or boring or I just don't like it, I have permission to leave early!  And I'm going to bed by 11 or so at least one night.  Promise

We planned some extracurricular activities too.  Lunch at a Chinese restaurant, a little antique shopping on the side, a book on my Nook in case my hands get tired, and a couple of alternate projects.  I'm sure we'll have fun.  And maybe I'll have to call in that Monday with a hangnail or something.   Hmmm, you don't know my boss, do you?  Don't tell!

Sewing with friends is a lovely thing.  Sew and tell is an excellent way to get ideas and inspiration.  Years ago women had sewing bees for the social aspects, and because they had so little time to visit that a joint sewing session was permission to get together.  I highly recommend sewing with friends, even if you can't 'retreat'.

I'll let you know how it turns out!

Keep on sewing...

Monday, January 23, 2012

To PFF or not to PFF...

There's a debate going on over at Gertie's blog on whether when you are sewing you should press any seam flat first before you press it open (she's coined the acronym PFF - Press Flat First).  I left a comment over the weekend when she brought it up.  If you want to check out what she said, there's a link to her blog on the right in my blog list.

Now when I was learning to sew, back in the stone age, I was taught to sew-press-sew-press and not to sew across a seam before it was pressed.  I was also taught that pressing was an up and down motion with the iron.  "Ironing" was a term for what you did after you got the clothes in off the line or out of the dryer.  This was before permanent press.  THAT is one of my favorite modern inventions! 
Ironing is different than pressing.    I learned to iron by watching my mother.  She didn't have a nice fancy steam iron, so she used a sprinkler top on a bottle, sprinkling all the garments and folding and rolling them up.  She put them in a plastic bag in the laundry basket, then started ironing the smaller pieces first, because they would dry out more quickly than the big ones.

My six brothers and my dad wore white shirts to church every Sunday.  Those shirts needed ironing every single week.  So did the five oxford-cloth dress shirts that Dad wore to work during the week.  In addition we ironed our blouses and dresses, pillow cases and Dad's work pants.  Believe me, I know how to iron!!  My DD asked me how I learned, and I told her by watching my mom.  She promptly covered her eyes!

I learned to press in my first sewing class in seventh grade.  I can't remember the home ec teacher's name, but I do remember some of my experiences very well.  I had to tear out a lapped zipper three times because I didn't do it her way, and she hated my blind hem (by hand, no less!!)  That class put me off sewing for a while!  If it wasn't for a friend of my mom's I probably would have stopped sewing completely by the end of ninth grade.  But that's a blog for another day.

I learned to sew about age 10 or so on my grandma's treadle machine.  Of course she thought I would burn my fingers on the iron, so the stuff I did was what we now call 'finger pressed'.  But finally in home ec class, I was taught to press.  Up and down, slide the iron as little as possible.  The goal is to flatten an area without distorting it.  Today's fabrics, with their blended fiber content and wrinkle resistance, are less in need firm ironing than light touching up.    Lots of times, after prewashing a fabric, I find the only area that appears wrinkly could be the selvedge edges.

My fellow sewing guild members say they can tell who presses and who doesn't; that garments that were unpressed during construction look 'home-made', while garments using the press/sew methods look hand-made, or more like ready to wear. 

When I sew garments, I sew/press/sew/press religiously.  When I'm quilting, sometimes I finger press the small pieces, or use my 'Little Wooden Iron', or press a quantity of pieces after assembly line sewing them.  But the point is, I still almost always press after each round of sewing.  And I can tell right away when I break my own rules!

I'm not saying that anyone who doesn't PFF is wrong.  There are always multiple ways to do almost anything.  You have to find the right method for yourself.  It's like a recipe book, use the ones you like that give you the results you want, and pass over the others.  But if your projects are not turning out exactly the way you want them to, one thing to look at is whether your pressing techniques need a little tweeking.  Try PFF, you might like it!

Sew on!