Monday, May 23, 2011

Fabric Avalanche

Vogue 1244 ,by Koos van den Akker

It's time I used some of the stash that has taken over my basement. While Koos van den Akker and an anonymous designer for McCall have stash busting ideas, I can't say I'm inclined to use them.

There was an avalanche in my basement last month. A mid-April thunderstorm that caused flooding in many parts of Ohio also caused a terrified cat to leap at the nearest shelf. The flimsy gray metal shelving toppled, spilling its sewing notions and handmade doll clothing over 1/4 of the basement.  

Picking it up, I faced something I've known for years: I must sort, prune, and whittle away the stash. For fifteen years, I have acquired more fabric than I can sew. Friends who collected fabric died and left me their stashes. Other friends pruned their stashes and although I resisted mightily, I came away with fabric. I have quilt pieces deceased grandmothers cut out, of fabrics too delightful to ignore.

 Even though I sorted through and only kept things that I would use or things that answered some visual need, I've got  the monster of all stashes. It might be known as the stash that ate Ohio. I have given to young seamsters, to quilt groups, to service organizations, and in desperation, to Goodwill. I threw away some polyester double knit as being too ugly to exist on the same planet with me,  but I know it will be in a landfill long after I am worm food.

Fabric bought for humanscale projects sits neatly and obediently in boxes labeled pants lengths, dress rayons, wool, silk, linen. Everything else is in silky/sleazoid and quilty.

Quilty is a misnomer. Some of the stuff in those boxes could be used for quilts,  but most of it is just fabric bits too small to be folded neatly. I'm thinking seriously of cutting it into 3 inch wide strips and making tiered skirts until I run out of scraps, or in 2013, whichever comes first. I'd like to make one of Kay Whitt's 5-fabric A-line skirts, too. This means that I will have to start wearing something other than pants. 

Some if it is ditsy country-ish prints and silky sleazoid fabrics I'd never in this blue-eyed world wear, but is  the right scale for dolls 12 inches and smaller. At one point I sewed for charity dolls, creating wardrobes for 2nd hand Barbie and other fashion dolls that were given to an assortment of charities. I've got leftover dolls too, and no interest at the moment in doing anything about them.

McCall 6322
My box for red cotton prints is still red cotton prints, but blues have scattered, and the silky filmy things I hate to sew? They infest every box. Children and some adults adore fancy dresses for dolls. I used to try to get people to take their scraps, but they regard that as part of my pay. I am really not thrilled to be the repository for all fabric scraps in Ohio.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Stash Exploration

Playing with fabric is a very messy occupation. When I'm planning a project, I drag out every bit of fabric I think I might want to use, then winnow my choices down to about seven. I fold the rest and put it in a bag to be returned to the basement, where it stays in a bag awaiting the day of the next sorting. Sometimes the entire bag gets tossed into a box. There are many partial boxes, relics of previous sorting expeditions.

I do not have a neat system of storage that tells me where each item is. Nope. Fabrics are in copy paper boxes and bankers storage boxes. Patterns are in plastic crates. I happily go through the patterns , sometime sorting them by date. I can get lost in the graphics on pattern fronts.

There are too many zippers to fit in a single shoebox, so they went into a used plastic grocery bag. Periodically the bag disappears. Recently the bag disintegrated and was replaced. I have not bought new zippers in years. I suspect they propagate. What else could explain the preponderance of 7-inch zippers in colors I cannot stand?

Needles are in a plastic shoeboxes, supposedly visible. Buttons are everywhere. Some are in a shoebox, some in plastic candy jars. Odd loose metal buttons are in the plastic crate with bead supplies. Tiny doll sized buttons and buckles are in another shoebox in a cardboard drawer. All of this would be really nice if I were in the same room as my supplies, but they are in the basement. I shop the basement before each project, dragging out way too many things before making a final decision.

Lace is unruly. I only use a few inches at a time for dolls, but yards for humans. It was neatly sorted and pinned until  the basement flooded 4 years ago, and I ended up washing everything. Now 1/4 inch wide polyester lace mingles with poly/cotton eyelet, wide laces, vintage machine lace. Most of it is shades of off-white. Picture a ball of stuff the size of boxes that hold sneakers for teenage boys. Picture three of those balls. I am a little behind in my untangling.

There are years of stalled pants projects. One is obviously too small. but another needs minor tweaking and it will fit! Amazing. And I still have the fabric that will allow me to finish the project. Ah. Being a fabric hoarder is not entirely terrible.

Other pants news: the elastic-waist pants pattern produced by the PatternMaster book does almost fit without major alteration. I lowered the front waist by an inch and added an inseam pocket on the left, but otherwise sewed the pants unchanged. Their instructions for elastic waists leaves me with a too-large waist, even after 2 reductions. The book also has a pair of tailored pants. I should at least print out the pattern.

I also came across another way to copy patterns from existing clothing: cover the clothing seam to seam in masking tape, lift off the piece and put it on freezer paper, then add seams.

None of this gets me any closer to having a dress to wear to a wedding, but that is months away, and my battles were pants patterns have gone on  thirty years or more.

Pinterest is a site where you can share links to goodies you've found on the web.  Anyone can look, but you must request an invitation to join. Take a look at

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Sewing Books with Patterns

Even though I have cut out 3 muslins and have a pair of pants waiting for a zipper, I'm prowling through a stack of books with patterns the library bought within the past 5 years.

Are books with patterns a new fashion  in publishing? Some have three patterns from current catalogs and show enough variations to make life interesting. Are the patterns ever used by humans? Do they stay pristinely folded in their cardboard envelopes? I have 3 from earlier eras, all unused, plus several British books that require you to create gridded sheets and then to copy patterns. I lust for some of those fashions, but drawing grids is not my idea of fun.

 Each of the current batch has something I want to test. Sew U from Built by Wendy has a pair of pants I want to test. Sew U Home Stretch has a batch of dresses I'd like in anything but knits. Sew Serendipity by Kay Whitt speaks to me the loudest because she mixes fabrics  the way I used to. I may have to buy this book.

Although these are library books, there is no sign that anyone actually traced a pattern. They are still in their original folds. I did trace part of the pants from Built by Wendy's Sew U, but the printing on  Kay Whitt's patterns is so pale I can't see through the tissue to trace it.  Scary, eh? The one with a CD, Make Your Own Clothes, has been used.

I'm astounded, because pasting patterns together is horrible. Way back in the early 90s  I bought expensive pattern drafting software and entered data hopefully.  It took 2 days to align all the pieces of paper, and when I finished, I noted somewhat grumpily that less than 1/4 of each sheet had been printed on. I never made the blouse. What lunatic would offer free pattern making software with a book?

Easy-fit pants, they offered me. You all know how I feel about pants patterns. Just drop in your measurements, it said. And I did. The result looked pretty much like the bizarre drawings I come up with when I try to draft a pattern. "Watch our video on how to print." I couldn't. It wanted outmoded Adobe flash, and wouldn't work with  the latest. If it had worked, I would have known how to move pattern pieces closer together to save paper. I told it to print anyway. The printer spat out only 24 pieces of paper, labeling them by row and column. 

The glue-together laps are only 1/16th of an inch! Wonderful! I tried using a glue stick, but it doesn't hold for long enough to get the pattern together. Tape. It took less than an hour to put all the pieces together, even with the cats helping.

The pants pattern I printed is for an elastic waist. We'll see. There are more tailored looks, including jeans and an incredible short jacket.

You can have free pattern making software from PatternMaker because they want you to buy the deluxe package after trying the free version. If you mix and match pattern pieces like I do, the idea of having a pattern that actually fits to try up against the new ones is irresistible.