Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Sewing Year-in-Review Recap

Do you know what these are?

It's that time of year again for personal performance reviews:  The Sewing Blogger Year-End Recap,
2015 edition.  So, self, how did I do????

Machine Sewing

In 2015 I made:
  • 9 shrugs (1 not blogged, but on IG)
  • 5 bags (1 not blogged)
  • 4.5 tops (the half is a UFO)
  • 4 dresses
  • 4 tanks for the gym
  • 2 skorts for the gym
  • 2 skirts 
  • 2 pants
  • 2 zipper pouches (1 not blogged, but you've seen it before)
  • 2 pillow covers
  • 1 costume
  • 1 sweatshirt (not yet blogged, but on IG)
  • 1/2 of a sweatshirt dress (not finished yet, but on IG)
Grand total:  39 items.  Out of the above, 4 were gifts (two zipper pouches and 2 tote bags) and if you know me, you know I don't usually sew for others!

Machine Sewn Favorites
Hands-down, my favorite item from this year is my Butterick 6072 backpack.  It is definitely the best item I have ever sewn....which leads to my favorite comment, from a non-sewing friend, upon seeing the backpack, "Are you sure you didn't buy this?"
I *love* the shrugs.   Since I make a lot of sleeveless dresses, they are the perfect complement when I just need some sleeves and don't want to cover up the dress.

Here's my collection of them so far (9 of them sewn; just 1--the white one--is a dud; see lesson below)
I also loved the costume I made for my birthday
And I loved this tank for the gym:
S9776 tank + Jalie 3025 skirt + Jalie 2796 shorts

My favorite dress, even though I cut out a size too small in the bust, is the Lady Skater. I really want to make this dress again soon!

And I love the Mimi G 1283 pants.
Simplicity 1283 View C Mimi G pants in black ponte

These MimiG pants, yes, same pattern as above, but a miss because of poor fabric choice.  The fabric is gray, sparkly, beefy and appeared stable, and start out looking great, but it grows throughout the day, UGH.  After washing, it shrinks back up and then grows once more.  UGH UGH.
Gray Simplicity 1283 view C Mimi G pants in Gray
The fabric for this dress.  The pattern is fine, but somehow the dress really highlights my bra, even if my bra is black, even if I wear a full black slip underneath.  After taking your comments into consideration, I have a plan to save this dress.
Also, two of the gym tanks (that I made for the PR activewear contest in February) weren't so great.  Overall, not too many misses this year.

Hand Sewing and Sashiko Stitching
I really got into hand sewing and sashiko stitching this year, for reasons I outlined in this post.

I started getting into sashiko at the end of last year.  13 kits completed (one not pictured as I have given away) and 1 sashikoed zipper pouch (I think only one of these below--the blue with hot pink dragonflies--was actually completed last year; the rest are from this year).

The blue kits are much more striking in pictures
But in person, the white kits are pretty too!
Mollie Makes
I saw the constellation kit on twitter this summer and never looked back.  I bought a big lot of 33 Mollie Makes mags on eBay and have been enjoying leisurely reading through them and making some of the kits.
3 Mollie Makes kits completed

Heidi Boyd handstitching kits
I saw my first Heidi Boyd kit in August and have not looked back.
4 hoop kits and 1 and a third softie kits complete.  (Still have one more squirrel and the acorn they live in to go for the Scampering Squirrels kit!!)

New Machine
Dad bought me the Baby Lock Soprano at the ASE in September.  Thanks Dad!  I'm still getting used to it because it has so many buttons, but I love love love the sheer power it has and also love the sewing bed extension table.  It easily sews through thick junctures, no problem.

action drama....
There were a lot of sewing-related meeting up this year!

  • PR Weekend in LA in April
  • Tomasa from Sew Much Fashion visited me in May
  • ATP in NYC in July and in Austin in Nov
  • Lynn of You Sew Girl visited  my home in early August
  • Anne of Sewing to Soothe My Soul also visited my home in early August
  • MPB Day in August
  • American Sewing Expo in Sept, featuring a raid of Lynn's closet.
  • Velosewer in NYC in Oct
  • Leslie of The Seasoned Homemaker in Austin in Nov

I joined Pinterest last year and never got hooked into it.  I just don't use it.  However, I joined IG at the end of August and I am totally addicted!!!   I have met more new-to-me sewists on IG in the last 4 months on IG than in 5 years on Twitter, thanks in part to participating in #bpsewvember and #sewphotohop.

Follow me on Instagram at VacuumingTheLawn.

My old camera is barely clinging to life support, so I've been using my phone almost exclusively for taking pictures.  When I used my camera, I was diligent about labeling the pictures and putting them into albums (such as Sewing 2015) as I uploaded them, via an old-fashioned cable, to Flickr.  However, now that I use my phone, the phone auto uploads them to Flickr for me, and I have abandoned labeling them and putting them in albums.  This makes it easy for me in the moment, but more difficult for me to find later.

Lessons Learned
I feel like the Elna Press is my miracle worker, and corrects many of my wonky seams, but I really overdid it using it on *certain* sweater knits (like the white failed shrug).  Not every sweater knit likes the EP.   Always make a sample that is large enough to be half pressed and half unpressed, so it is easy and clear to see exactly what the press is doing to the fabric!!

Also, the fabric has to be right for the pattern and vice versa.  That lesson never gets old.  ;)

Goal Review from 2015 / Accomplishments
Last year I stated my goals for 2015 were to make a denim jacket (still hasn't happened, but I think it will happen by spring) and to get real about fit (I am tracing all my patterns onto Swedish tracing paper first and doing some basting/fitting that way, which helps.  My Lady Skater is actually a wearable muslin!)
I had not stated it as a goal, but I feel like I finally know how to finish armhole and neckline bindings on knits properly, and have a method that is working well for me.  I feel proud of the interior finishes of my dresses now.  It took about 5 years from the time I decided I wanted to get the insides to look as good as the outsides to accomplish that goal.

Goals for 2016
Honestly, the number 1 goal, in my sewing and my life, is to have more fun and rest more.  I don't know exactly how I'm going to accomplish that, but, I need both.

Also I'm kind of surprised I didn't make any underwear this year.  I definitely need to get back into that.  Speaking of which, I would like to organize my collection of underwear elastic.  It's a hot mess.

And, I need a new phone, one with more storage that takes better pictures for IG.

That all sounds accomplishable!

Thank you!!
Thank you for reading, and for taking the time to comment!!  This year I tried to reply to almost every comment on almost every post.   Thanks also for meeting up with me, taking me on a tour of your sewing room, and fabric shopping with me.

Here's to a 2016 filled with fabulous makes!  Rock on with your fabulous selves!!

And, of course, be well!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Tips for Sewing the Jalie 3246 Shrug

Hope everyone had a great holiday!  I am off all this week, which is such a delight.  Highlights include cooking a healthy Christmas lunch for Dad (and enjoying all the leftovers every day), purging some parts of the house (still not done), taking care of neglected things, reading, writing, and napping.  

I did a quick redesign of my blog header; what do you think?  (Top font is Habaneros, bottom font is Gingerbuck).

Yesterday marks the 8th and 9th Jalie 3246 shrugs I've sewn.  It's a really simple sew but there are a few tips that I want to share with you and document for myself!
  1. Cut out the two shrug bodices single layer.  Even if I'm not doing stripe matching, I always cut single layer.  This helps ensure accuracy.  Here I've already cut out one side of the shrug, then flipped it over and used the cut piece as my pattern piece because it makes it easier for me to match up the stripes (instead of using the real pattern piece again).20151227_154930  
  2. The Jalie sleeves are quite long for me, so I removed some length in the sleeve on my traced pattern.  However, it also depends on your knit.  If your knit has vertical stretch (meaning it stretches not just crosswise like usual but also lengthwise) then I can cut my sleeves shorter. However, this knit has 0 vertical stretch, and when I cut it out, the sleeves were too short, ha ha ha.  I fixed that by adding a cuff, as in the last step below.
  3. Baste the shrug CB seam with the sewing machine to make sure it is flat. Every knit is different so it's important to me to not skip this step. Since I was trying to match stripes, I used my walking foot.  (This cued "Walk This Way" replaying in my head over and over....) .  I use Wonder Clips instead of pins because I feel like the fabric doesn't shift as much with the clips.20151227_160722  
  4. Then, I cut a sample from the scrap of the same knit, baste it, then test serge it.  I basically cut that CB area at the same angle out of the scrap, then practice serging it.  This is because every knit is different, and sometimes I need to crank up the DF to get the knit to lie flat.  I might have to cut and serge a few samples to get the DF right.  Then I serge the CB seam.
  5. Then I baste the arm seams.  Again I used the walking foot, then checked that the stripes basically matched. 20151227_170013
  6. Then I serged the arm seam.  BIG TIP:  Be sure to leave a long serger tail at the underarm when serging the arm seam.  Do not cut that serger tail off!  The reason is when serging the band on, that's kind of a sharp angle there at the underarm and it's hard to make sure that the shrug is totally connected to the band. 20151227_165915  
  7. Next I baste the upper collar to the lower band of the shrug.  Again, every knit is different and it may be that I need to use a wider seam allowance but at this point I don't know that yet.  I then binder clip the collar/band to the shrug and try it on (yes, with the wonder clips!)  Yes, it does look funny, but it gives me a good idea if the band is going to sit snug across my back or if it is going to flip out.  If it's flipping out, the collar-to-band seam needs to be sewn tighter.
  8. Baste the collar/band to the shrug with the sewing machine and try it on.  How is it looking?  Is the band still flat or is it flipping out?  If it's flipping out, see step 5.  
  9. Now it's time to serge the collar to the band.  I unpick the basting of where the band is attached to the shrug, just in that underarm area.  Since this is a vertical seam and the CB was an angled seam, I take another scrap of fabric and practice serging it to find out the right DF for this vertical seam.  Serge the collar-to-band  seam.
  10. Since I already checked that the collar/band is lying flat because I basted it, I then serge the collar/band to the shrug. When sewing the band on, put the band against the serger bed and have the shrug on the top.   That way, when you're serging the band to the shrug, you can pull on the serger tail so that it lines up with the band and there will be no "hole".   Below I am pulling on the serger thread tail, but aviary won't let me edit the photo.20151227_192239  
  11. Now it's time to hem the sleeve.  Try it on and determine the amount of hem that it needs. I serge the raw edge just to make it look professional, and then I usually blind hem it by machine.  In this case, I had cut the sleeves too short, so I made a black cuff, basted first and serged that on.20151227_201705  
  12. And now it's done!!

Front--sorry for the full frontal nudity here, I probably should have dressed Izzy up first.

I think it looks cute and maybe a little star-trekkie and a little caterpillar-y, ha ha!!!  I can picture wearing this with my black lady skater dress, gray belt, gray tights and black Mary Janes.

During the purge of my bedroom, I cleared out half a dresser drawer so all my Jalie shrugs can be together.    I love the shrugs and wear them all the time!!

Be well!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas my blogging friends!

I started this Mollie Makes issue 47 kit late yesterday afternoon and stitched the whole thing by hand. I finished it this morning.  I'm really trying to fight my perfectionistic tendencies to not fix how the top of the bauble is somewhat angled and how the 2015 is not centered.  I have to start cooking very soon, as my Dad is coming over at noon, so I'll see how I feel later on today after taking a break from it.  I have a feeling I'll take that part off and do that part again.
Updated:  I redid the top part of the bauble tonight and replaced the picture above with its current state which is much better than it was this morning!

Do you want to play spot the differences?

I think my favorite part is how the "blush" on the deer is a red crayon.  I don't have any standard issue crayons but I do have red tailor's wax, which is what I used instead.  I think that was a clever detail. All deer obviously blush, right? :)
Here is what the kit looked like at the start.
There was no "nose" template included so I used the eye template as the nose.  I had cut the actual eye smaller for better scale. That's one of the differences; there are at least 4 others!

Have a fun, low-stress day and be well!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Handstitching vs Garment Sewing

Heidi Boyd Fox Softie Kit.  Handstitched by me.


I've loved all your comments about my last post on the origin of the name of my blog.  It sounds like a few of you have your own stories to tell about your blog names--maybe you'll write a post about your blog names?

Olympus Flower Sashiko in turquoise on white I want to chat a bit about handstitching little items vs machine stitching garments.  I started to get into handstitching at the end of last year.  First it was the sashiko and then this summer I started stitching embroidery hoops and softie kits.  When I was a teenager I did a lot of cross-stitching, mainly Suzy Zoo kits, often times on family trips in the car back and forth from NJ to Myrtle Beach.  I have done a smattering of cross-stitching since then, but not much.

Heidi Boyd "Hedgies" Whimsy Kit

This week marks 11 years since I moved into my townhome.    Starting this fall I have found myself spending loads of time in the living room when I never had before.   My townhome has two levels and in the fall/winter they seem to consist of tropical warmth upstairs and arctic chill downstairs.  This fall has been the warmest it's been for awhile and I've been spending a lot of time in the living room.  It feels great to actually *use* this room.    I've been burning fake logs in the fireplace like crazy and probably burned more logs in the past few weeks than I have in the past few years combined.
Olympus bunnies kit.  For whatever reason, this was really hard for my phone to photograph.

I've found the handstitching to be quite satisfying in a number of ways that garment sewing is not.

I love that I can sit on the sofa in my living room, or in a waiting room, or anywhere at all, and stitch.

If I am tired at the end of the day, and still want to feel creative, I can stitch a line of sashiko and it's no big deal.

There is no fitting involved, just stitching.
Heidi Boyd "Fox" Whimsy Kit

I've been using pre-printed sashiko kits, or the Heidi Boyd hoop kits or softie kits, and so there's really no points where I can get totally lost, veer off course, or fail.  It's just stitch-stitch-stitch.  If I don't like how a line of sashiko stitching looks, I can easily pull it out.  If I don't like how I stitched on something in the kit, I can easily undo it and re-stitch it.   If I don't like how I cut out a piece of the kit, the pieces are so small, it's easy and straightforward to cut out another piece. So, the frustration level is pretty low.

And I'm still learning things too.  Last week I learned the lazy-daisy stitch in embroidery.  It was fun to learn a new technique, and it didn't take a long time to learn it.

Heidi Boyd "Chickadees" Whimsy Kit.  This is my favorite so far. It was the most complicated and intricate of the Whimsy hoop Kits.

Compare that to garment sewing, where it basically has to be done in my sewing room, where I do not have the energy to sew after work, where if I make a mistake, it could mean cutting out the whole thing all over again, where the frustration level, especially with fitting, can be high...welll....
Before attaching the fox head to the fox body

I'm not giving up on garment sewing at all!  but the hand-stitching is a really nice and surprising complement to my garment sewing.

With greetings from my living room...

Be well!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Story Time: What's in a Blog Name?

The sun rising over Lake Carnegie in Princeton, NJ on Friday morning, December 11, 2015

Where did my blog name come from?

Sometimes I transpose words in my head.  For example, I would see someone mowing the lawn, and I would think they were vacuuming the lawn.

I thought that would be a great name for a novel, if I ever wrote a novel.

I'm never going to write a novel.

In 2006, I stumbled across a Project Runway marathon on Bravo.  It happened to be judging time, and Michael Kors was talking and I was like, What.Is.This.Show????  Since it was a marathon, I kept watching and was hooked. I had been sewing off and on since I was 12, but wasn't actively sewing in 2006.   That weekend, after watching PR, I sewed a tank top from stash fabric (that's back when my fabric stash fit in a laundry basket).  I kept on sewing after that and haven't really stopped since.

Meanwhile, in 2007, I was heavily addicted to drinking bottled water, and the empty bottles were taking over my house, my desk at work, and my car.  I decided that for 2008, I would try to do a year without bottled water, and that I would blog about the experience.

What to name it?

Vacuuming the Lawn.

As it turns out, doing without bottled water was not a dramatic experience and not all that blog worthy.  I think I wound up drinking less than 30 bottles of water that year (mainly while traveling) when I was drinking more than that a week previously. It was really not a big deal.

In March of 2008, I joined Pattern Review because I was desperate to read a review that was more than 6 months old, and you had to have a PR account to read reviews older than 6 months.   I started reading lots of reviews.  It was through a review that I learned about setting sleeves in flat. What an eye opener!!

Meanwhile, I was sewing, and uploading pictures to my Flickr account, but not labeling them with pattern names or numbers.  Red dress felt like an appropriate label.

In June of 2008, I wanted to give back to the PR community by writing my own reviews.  I wrote 6 reviews in one day, and the very first person to comment on my reviews was ATP.

ATP had a blog at that time,, which I started reading.

She started going through my Flickr photos and wanted to know pattern names or numbers.

She also wanted to know if I had a blog.  Yup, I do, but not about sewing.

She said I should write about sewing.

So I started writing about sewing in Sept 2008, using my Vacuuming the Lawn blog.  It never occurred to me to start another blog with a "more appropriate" sewing name.

Periodically I would think about renaming my blog, but then last year Meg at McCalls introduced me to the McCalls President at their booth at the ASE, and she said I was "from Vacuuming the Lawn".  I kind of cringed at my own blog name.    The name had no connection to sewing.

I got new labels over the summer this year.  Having Vacuuming the Lawn printed on them didn't seem all that exciting (and kind of long) so I went with my name.

So, I started thinking about what I would call my blog if I rebranded it.

My maternal great-grandmother's name was Betty Little, and I thought that would be a cool name, albeit that has nothing to do with sewing either.  And then it turned out there already is a sewing blogger whose blog name was Little Betty Sews (she has since changed it), and I didn't want to get confused with her.

I was on a work conference call and the discussion was about "unstitched" forms, which made me think about changing the name to Unstitched.  But that turned out to be a home decor blog.

I brainstormed with the temp at work, and the best name that came out of that was Jersey Stitched.  I'm from New Jersey, I live in New Jersey, I love sewing with knits (jersey), and it has a sewing term in the name.

However, after talking to many people this summer, particularly at MPB Day, the overwhelming opinion was to NOT change my blog name.  It is unique and people generally remember it (or some variation on it, like Mowing the Lawn).

And so, my blog is still Vacuuming the Lawn.

For now.  And maybe forever.

Be well!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Kitschy Coo Lady Skater

This was going to be a muslin, then it turned out to be wearable so I kept going....
And finished it off .

I've purchased a lot of knit fabric with texture lately, and I wanted to sew it up in dresses with as few seams as possible so that seam lines don't break up the lines of the texture.  The lady skater has no bust darts (no darts at all) and no vertical seams.  It does have a horizontal seam to attach the bodice to the skirt.

The sizes were 1 through 8....I went with the 4 based on the instructions to use my high bust measurement.  The recommended stretch is 40% and my fabric had 75% stretch.  It's a little too tight so I will go with the 5 next time....and depending on the stretch in the fabric I will have to go larger than that.

My fabric also had vertical stretch.  I had to remove 2" from the shoulder seam and 1" at the horizontal seam to get the waist seam to be in the vicinity of my waist.

This meant it wound up a bit shorter than I like it, but it's fine with tights.  Next time I will take the inches out of the bodice before cutting.

The armholes and neckline were bound with Nike Dri-Fit.  (That's my gray label but my cell phone camera can't handle photographing those labels.
The fabric is sooo stretchy that it doesn't create any drag lines; it just conforms to the body.
Interior hem shot.  The raw edge was serged and hemmed using the blind hem stitch.

I love the fluted skirt.


The back waist seam is lower than the front waist seam and I'm not sure if that was my tracing and/or cutting error or just the way the pattern is designed.

The fabric is from Joann's, and I bought it in teal too.
Here it is with my Jalie shrug. I wear that shrug all the time.

I finished it on Sunday and wore it to work twice this week.   I don't know if anyone noticed.   :)
20151130_134340 <
Caption this picture. :)

I don't like PDF patterns but this one was worth the time it took to tape it and trace it.  I will have to trace it again for the larger size bodice.  I will definitely make it again especially in super stretchy fabric.  :)    I don't think it would look as good in not-so-stretchy knits.

Be well!