Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Smocking! But not for clothing...

When you think of smocking, if you're like me, you think of this:
This is from the mid-1890s, and it's Liberty of London!
Or, perhaps you think of this:

Or, you might even think of this:
 Bottega Veneta
I must say I love this pink dress.  Smocking is an interesting way to add elasticity to a garment, especially back in the days before rubber & elastic.  For me, just another ingenious technique humans came up with to solve problems.  

I learned a bit about smocking when I lived in Abu Dhabi.  The quilting group there had a demo about it & I was fascinated how flat fabric became richly textured fabric with a few simple marks & stitches.  When I was at my sewing class last week, I bought some fake suede remnants to do some experimentation with smocking.  I'm thinking that when we get our sun room finished and finally buy a couch, we're going to need pillows.  And smocked pillows would be pretty fun.

Also, it's a by-hand hobby (like knitting or crocheting).  Whereas I can only do sewing in my sewing room.  I can smock in the comfort of our sun room with the new fireplace! Obviously I'm planning for winter already!  

Here's a photo of some before navy suede.  Next post I'll show you what I've been doing with it!  

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Workt By Hand: Quilt Show at the Brooklyn Museum

Flying Geese, 1847
We spent a few days in NYC recently (no, I didn't go to Mood; instead I spent my retirement savings at the Strand Bookstore!)...and happened upon a quilt exhibition, Workt By Hand, at the Brooklyn Museum!  

The idea of the show was to place value on the work of the women who made these quilts, who weren't paid for their work (except the joy of keeping their families warm). 
Flying Geese, again!
Of course I took photos, and thought you'd like to see some.  One impressive aspect of these quilts is they were much older than the ones I usually see in exhibitions.  Easily pre-dating many of the Amish quilts we've seen in Pennsylvania, or the quilts in the collection at the Quilt Study Center in Lincoln, NE by 30 years or so!  

 As always, clicking on the photo will get you the largest version available...

Delectable Mountains, 1850
Wedding Ring, 1850
Another view of Wedding Ring, 1850
Star of Bethlehem, 1850 - ALL silk
Tumbling Blocks, 1850, the colors are mostly silk
Maltese Cross, 1870
Log Cabin, 1890 (Barn Raising Arrangement)
Double Wedding Ring, 1930

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Some Standing Issues

I've been using my standing desk at work & standing while sewing for a 2.5 months now.  I thought I'd post a few comments on how it's working out so far.

First, I've noticed that I do many things well while standing.  Surprisingly, sewing is easy.  Since I stand to iron and cut out fabric, it seems to be natural to just move over to my sewing machine.  But I notice for more detailed work, hemming by hand, sewing thread chains, I feel like I concentrate better and longer if I'm sitting down. 

It's similar at work. I find I do better with short-term tasks and projects (sorting through email, answering quick questions, reviewing schedules, light research).  For longer term/heavier concentration work, I really feel a need to just sit & concentrate.  Standing & concentrating just doesn't seem to be that easy.  

Another issue is that I only have one way I can put the standing desk in my cubicle (facing south).  Which means I am distracted by everyone who comes in either door (I sit by 2 exits).  Most people don't speak, just go about their work, but I see them, and that's distracting.  Whereas when I'm sitting at my desk (facing west), my back is to whomever comes in either door, and with my headphones on (I get thru lots of podcasts), I can really just focus.  I have really noticed the last few weeks that I'm having trouble focusing.  (A big deal as I have to do quite a bit of writing & writing is not ever easy for me.) 

I can totally see how a geek desk is the perfect solution if you want to stand more.  You can set it for 2 levels, and the punch of a button just sends it down or up to one of those pre-sets. However, at $874 for the small one (includes shipping), that won't be happening anytime soon!  
If you are interested in making your workspace (sewing or otherwise) more ergonomic, check out this post on Craftsy.  They mention chopping off table legs down to fix the height...instead I put cans underneath my cutting table legs to raise the height. (UPDATE: This totally rocks; I do tons of work standing at that table now.  Pinning, cutting out, reviewing pattern instructions, much better done standing.)

So tomorrow at work, I'll be using my lunchtime to undo my standing desk & go back to sitting.  I think I'll miss the standing, but I'm fortunate in that I get many opportunities to stand and walk in my job. I also walk from the metro, and stand in my kitchen & sewing room.  I won't be standing quite as much...but hopefully I'll get some more writing done instead!  

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Bits & Bobbins from Around My Brain

I wanted to post a few things I thought may be of interest.  First, I was thrilled to find Erin's interview with Winnie (aka Scruffy Badger) on Seamstress Erin's site.  Winnie's blog is one of 3-4 I try never to miss, she's a nut, a stylish dresser, an expert sewist & fast, too...it seems like she posts new items at least twice/week...oh and I want her shoes.  Here's hoping she's up on the next season of the Great British Sewing Bee!  (All the episodes are available on YouTube, so catch up there.)

Second, you've seen the Roommate's math-flavored shirt, but I decided it needed a pocket, even though there's not one on the pattern.  I got the fabric at Bits of Thread, DC, & it was only $3/yard.  Problem is it's from a donation (they work with ScrapDC), so I bought all they had, but it wasn't much.  I had originally run out while making it without even putting a pocket in it...so the back yoke facing is from this same material, while the back collar & front plackets are from a bag of quilting cotton I got from freecycle.  I looked & looked thru my scraps, but just couldn't find the right fabric to match, so ended up using this stripy cotton, which you may recognize from my knickers obsession a few months ago.  

I am currently adding a slash pocket to another shirt he's getting, and because I don't have instructions, I have to keep walking away so I don't mess up.  I logically figure out the next step, do it, and then have to think a bit (away from my sewing room!) while I work out the step after.  So, I've been working on this post as a way to distract myself & think of something else!  Disclaimer:  I am messing up & have done lots of un-sewing, too, today, but, still, walking away means I mess up less.  

There's actually quite a bit of distraction around here...we're getting a new gas fireplace installed so there's a carpenter, a gas expert & 2 electricians here.  Very exciting, especially as our bookshelves are arriving from ISS today, too.  Bella is NOT supervising today...she's afraid of all these new & noisy people.  I'm on my own in the sewing room! 

Finally, another rearrangement of my sewing room. (The 84th time?!)  I decided to raise the height of my cutting table, as my back gets quite sore if I'm doing a lot of cutting out.  So, I swapped tables. (Yes, we have an abundance--three!--vestigial furniture from a 4 bed/3 bath apartment in Abu Dhabi.  They're all solid wood, so very hard for me to get rid of.)  I was using this with my sewing machine, with the machine sitting on a crate, and this one, which is wider, was my cutting table.  But I decided I needed a higher cutting/work table, so bought these lovely cans to raise the height 6".  And decided that the Norden gateleg (6 leg) table would not be as stable resting on 4 giant cans of green beans & whole potatoes in ham sauce, as the 4 legged Björkudden would.  
Another pocket!

If you don't live where there are floods, canned goods are a great way to raise furniture out of harm's way (if the waters don't come up higher than your cans!).  If I decide I like this set-up, I'll probably cover the cans w/ cloth so they're a bit prettier.  

It remains to be seen if this will be okay, I've dropped half the Norden, can now get to its drawers better (well half of them, where I store my muslin & interfacing) & it has changed how I get to my drawer of tools.  But I cut my workspace by 25%, too.  I promise to put a photo up soon...in a newly-finished dress!  

I did finish the 2nd pocket today...it took a long time & wasn't very easy.  But I think it looks pretty good!  

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

You Ain't Woman Enough, or, Style Icon Loretta Lynn in Concert!

The Roommate & I were lucky enough to be in Charlottesville a few weeks ago & Loretta Lynn was performing!  Neither of us had ever seen her and the concert was outside (I've an aversion to further ruination of my eardrums), so of course we went.

She's 81 & I hope I'm half as with-it when I'm her age.  Her voice sounded great & she did many of her hits (certainly most of my faves), plus a medley of a few others. No surprise that her band is rockin', too.  
I found her audience quite interesting...in contrast to the Camper van Beethoven/Cracker concert from a few months ago, which was about 80% men aged 40-50s, her show was about 80% women, all older than me (early 50s). Lots of groups of women sans roommates waiting in line with us.  Which isn't really a surprise as she's been an outspoken proponent of women's rights and she really knows what she's talking about. (Ever heard "Mother at 15, grandmother at 29"?  That's her life.)  Here she is singing "One's On the Way" and "The Pill."  She didn't write either, but showed some courage singing them in the late 60s/early 70s.  Actually, 9 of her songs were banned by radio stations--something to be proud of!  

If she has an area of expertise, I'd say it's the double standards for women & men in the US...thank the gods things have changed quite a bit, and she can take a lot of credit for highlighting those inequalities--and bringing some change.  

At the concert she chastised her back up singer for having his sleeves rolled up & said she felt it's important to look like a star when she's on stage.  She's also tiny (5'2"), so I expect these glittery dresses, besides showing she's a star, also ensure she doesn't get lost on stage.  

I'm including some of our favorites, all videos, so you can see her excellent fashion sense, along with some great hair: 
  1. You Ain't Woman Enough (To Take My Man)   
  2. Don't Come Home A Drinkin' (With Lovin' on Your Mind)  
  3. Blue Kentucky Girl  
  4. Portland, Oregon (with Jack White)