Monday, February 23, 2009

A new iron! (And possibly the most boring blog post EVER.)


I'm telling you, little things can really make a difference. For years I've been using an ancient (I'm guessing late 1970s? early 1980s?) Black & Decker iron. I think I got it at a garage sale or inherited it or maybe it was just living at a house I moved into, ten years ago or so. It doesn't work that well. It takes forever to heat up, and rather than steaming, it spits brown rusty water onto my fabric. But actually, this didn't bother me that much - it gets hot eventually, and that's all I really need (I sprayed water on things occasionally when I wanted some steam, which incidentally is how women did "steam" back when irons were made of iron, and were heated up on the woodstove).

An aside: I do like to buy new things now and then (ha ha), but I must say, in the world of sewing, old equipment has always served me very well. My sewing machine (a 1970s Singer) is probably older than I am, has been with me for at least a decade, and is wonderfully indestructible. I'm loyal to some of my old stuff.

But the real problem with my iron is that it doesn't turn off unless you unplug it. You can't even turn it off on the handle - all I can imagine is that this iron predates our current litigious society. Now, irons that stay on are usually considered a positive thing for sewers, because we tend to be up and down to our ironing boards between bouts of sewing. Committed quilters and sewers do not want to have to turn the iron on every time they need to press a seam. Many a seamstress swears by her ancient, pre-safety-mechanisms iron.

Except. My sewing space is in our dining room, and the ironing board (which is nice and wobbly) is conveniently located in a doorway (albeit a wide doorway). And, we have two dogs. Dogs who essentially run laps around our house during "frisky" periods. Dogs with muscular bodies, long tails, and rambunctious, playful, naughty personalities. I did the math, and this is what I came up with:

2 * (Crazy pooches) + (Wobbly Ironing Board * Doorway * Hot Iron) = Very High Risk of a Major Claim on our Homeowner's Insurance

This is predicated on the assumption that our dogs and us would survive the fire and be able to file said claim. As Steve said, it'd be nice to know in advance if I was planning to burn the house down and collect the insurance money,* so that he could be sure to be out of the house running some errands at that time. Really, it's only polite to inform your housemates of any such plans.

Enter my new Rowenta Iron! It steams! It does not spit rust! It turns itself off! Even better, it turns itself off very quickly if knocked over! (I have also found it turns itself back on and gets hot pretty darn quickly, so the inconvenience of having to turn it back on every time I stand up to press a seam is minimal.) It wasn't particularly expensive, and judging by my iron-ownership history, it should last me at least 20 years.



*Note to Farmers Insurance Group: I'm not.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

An even more pregnant Inder models a new apron.

I am daily amazed by my expanding girth. Here I am, 30 weeks pregnant (but not barefoot, it's too cold) in the kitchen, modeling the "1940s Apron from Val's Kitchen" from the Decades of Style pattern company. Rest assured that despite all appearances, I am a career woman.

As you can see, I decided to stick with the heart-shaped pocket after all, and it turned out adorably. This is a very simple, lovely pattern. Note that I made my own bias binding from a soft yellow calico! I machine sewed the binding on one side, and then slip-stitched the back down by hand, making what could be an hour project into one that took several evenings. But the extra time was well worth it. The final result is very clean and simple.

But the big hassle with making bias binding is not applying it (hand-sewing takes a while, but you can do it while watching television), but creating it to begin with. Cutting it is a fussy business, involving finding the grain of the fabric, then finding the bias (at a 45 degree angle to the grain), then either doing a continuous bias loop or using the rotary cutter to cut strips and then sew them together. Both techniques are a bit tedious. And I don't know how women did it before the invention of clear plastic quilting rulers with angles marked on them. Once you've cut and sewed the binding, you have to iron it into "tape" with the appropriate folds for your project - let's just say the burns on my knuckles are just now healing up. (Here, but not before, one of those bias tape makers they sell at the fabric store would really come in handy - you feed the flat tape into one end, and it comes out folded and ready to iron. Note to self: buy one.)

Despite the hassle, I love the way it turned out, so I'll be doing it again. Maybe I'll get better and faster at it.

I'll be giving this apron away as a gift, but I'm not disclosing to whom. If possible, I will post photos of it on this mystery-non-pregnant-recipient.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

What's next?


This may be my next project,* using a contrasting fabric for the neck, back tie, and pocket (which I think I will do in a leaf, rather than heart, shape). I'm also going to make my own bias tape, which will be a first for me. I've been reading up on continuous bias tape tutorials. This technique hurts the brain a bit (and involves more advanced mathematics than I have seen since I ended my formal math training in college), but I've been assured it's easy once you get the hang of it. I have fantasies of binding practically everything (hand towels, blankets, all kinds of baby stuff) in adorable, one-of-a-kind printed bias tape. Luckily, I find hand-sewing relaxing! Stay tuned!

* Not including works in progress - I am also working on a crewel-work embroidered tote bag for my step-mom.

A very pregnant Inder makes a hippy top.

Here I am, 28 weeks pregnant and modeling a top I just sewed up. The pattern is the "Smashing Smock" from Seams to Me, by Anna Maria Horner (such a pretty book). The problem is that it's not a maternity pattern. So I fussed and fussed with the pattern, adding inches practically everwhere, but in the end, it is still a bit small. So I am categorizing this as a "wearable muslin." I have great plans for an even better follow-up maternity smock.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

No peeking, Mom!



This Friday is my mother's birthday. She has been crocheting up a storm for my unborn babe, so I wanted to do something really original and crafty for her birthday. I saw Pretty Little Potholders at the bookstore, and was inspired by several of the pieced potholders (and, honestly, I thought I could do even better).

These were machine-pieced (my sewing machine just got its first tune-up in ten years, and it's running like an absolute dream), hand-embroidered, hand-appliqued, and hand-quilted. The bias binding was applied almost entirely by hand, because I find it easier to hand-stitch when I'm working with a very small piece. Lining up and pinning bias binding for machine sewing is a pain. Also, in my book, hand-stitched bias binding is just cooler.

The fabric mostly came from my stash, with a few vintage pieces. The theme is cowboy/southwestern. Why? I like cowboy fabrics and have a lot of them in my stash.

Special thanks go to my dear friend Kim (now an artiste/superstar at the Rhode Island School of Design) for teaching me improvisational piecing. That one afternoon really transformed the way I think about piecing. My piecing went from uptight to wildly creative overnight. Now I get really excited about patchwork.

I used vintage (60s and 70s) cotton/linen tea-towels for the backs. And some yo-yos. I love yo-yos.