Monday, September 19, 2016

Of Skirts, Blouses, and Forgotten DVDs

Well, looky what I found in my studio the other day, all brand-new, still wrapped in cellophane and nearly forgotten in a corner! 

Threads Magazine Blouse DVD
It appears that, amongst my many purchases at last year's Sewing and Quilt Expo in Atlanta, I bought a Threads DVD featuring Sandra Miller's blouse construction techniques.  In my defense, I crashed on my bike a week after returning from the Expo, smashing my collar bone into little pieces and snapping all the way through the bone at the tip of my left thumb.  Humpty Dumpty didn't get back to her sewing room for a few months, and by then I didn't remember what all I'd bought and planned to work on.

Sounds like EXACTLY the supplemental information I need to walk me through my first blouse project, don't you think?  Anyway, before I spend any money on any online blouse sewing classes, I'm going to go through this DVD and watch the whole thing.  And take notes.  And maybe practice stuff.  We'll see.

Harrison Blouse Pattern, available from Cashmerette here
Another blouse resource that I discovered this week comes from Jenny of Cashmerette, an indie pattern company that specializes in patterns that fit and flatter curves.  Jenny's new Harrison Blouse pattern, shown above, fits exactly the way I'd hoped my White House Black Market blouse would fit after alterations (didn't work out that way, though).  I really like how the double princess seams on the Harrison blouse originate from the armscye instead of being straight lines from the shoulder seams; I think that will be more flattering on me.  The Harrison Blouse is available either as a PDF download or as a paper pattern, and they even have an online "Plus Size and Curvy Shirtmaking" workshop that walks you through their pattern step by step.  The only glitch is that the smallest size the Harrison Blouse comes in is a 12 and that might still be too big on me in the upper chest, shoulders, and upper back.  But it's nice to know I have some options.

Meanwhile, my skirt looked like this a few days ago after I'd cut everything out and then walked away from the project (again):

Paralyzing Mess Prevents Progress!
You are looking at not just the skirt pieces, but stacks and stacks of fat quarters for those 6" Farmer's Wife blocks, and a pile of prewashed and folded fabric and templates for Anders' quilt.  Too much started, not enough finished -- and I hardly had any time in the sewing room all week, because I've been working on a project design for a client.  Work before play.

But I'm trying to maintain that elusive balance in my life by observing a work-free weekend rule, or at least a No Working On Sundays rule, so I did manage to sneak into the sewing room for a bit on Sunday afternoon.  Now, my skirt looks like this:

One Side Seam Accomplished
You are looking at the right side seam of my skirt, and you are supposed to be admiring the precision of my pattern matching.  So, what I accomplished so far was to stay stitch the top of the skirt front and back and the lining pieces.  Then I sewed that right side seam in both the skirt fabric and the lining fabric, and serged off the raw edges of the seam allowances.  The skirt and lining were matched up, wrong sides together, and I basted the two layers together at the top of the skirt inside the seam allowance.  This took more time than you might imagine due to the slippery, shifty voile and my determination to match that pattern as precisely as possible at the seam.  There was obsessive pinning and basting involved, and I am pleased.  My skirt is an A-line shape, so the rows of flowers converge diagonally at the seam line, but I am satisfied that the rows of flowers will appear to be straight on the finished skirt.  Now let's hope I can match up the print so nicely on the other side, when I install my invisible zipper!

I still have to make and attach the yoke thingy to the waist of the skirt before the zipper goes in, and I'm still kind of foggy on just HOW I'm going to put that zipper in, because I am adamant that it's going to be an invisible zipper (in defiance of the dorky pattern instructions) and I am determined that the zipper tape is going to be hidden between the skirt fabric and the lining, just like it would be in a nice store bought skirt.  I found a couple of video tutorials online for inserting invisible zippers into skirts, a few that even showed how to do it with lining, but I'm going to have to adapt and combine techniques from different videos to make it work for my particular skirt style.  ALL of the video tutorials say to put the zipper in FIRST, before sewing any side seams, and I have to say, it does look like that would be easier.  Too late now! 

I don't know whether I'll get a chance to do anymore sewing before the weekend, but may be able to conduct additional zipper insertion research at odd moments in the carpool line.  Wish me luck!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Online Sewing Classes: Yea or Nay? Considering Cynthia Guffey's Women's Shirt Class

Through coincidence, serendipity or magical Internet cookie goblins or whatever, I received an email advertising Cynthia Guffey's online women's shirt making class within days of my Epic RTW Blouse Alteration Fail.

Cynthia Guffey's Women's Shirt Class, more info here
I'm intrigued!  I was literally just telling my husband that I wish I could find a teacher with a class like this only minutes before I opened my email and saw this.  If you go to the class description on the Martha Pullen website here you can view the course outline and watch a brief video about it as well. 

I know these online classes are all the rage now, but I've never taken one before.  I did purchase a Craftsy online class once about quilting with rulers on a domestic sewing machine, but I only watched the first lesson and never had time to actually go and attempt to DO what I watched the instructor do in the video.  Not the end of the world; I saved the link and I plan to go back to it when I have time and have a project at the quilting stage (right now I'm piecing and appliqueing several different things but nothing is ready to quilt). 

But that ruler class was priced similarly to a paperback quilting book, maybe $20 or so.  This online shirt making class costs a whopping $279, which seems like a lot of money for a class where you are watching videos online but not getting any individual instructor feedback on your work.  Even if I watched every lesson and reinforced what I was trying to learn by actually making my own shirt along with the lessons (and this is a big if, based on my track record from the ruler quilting class), what if I run into a problem and can't figure out what I'm doing wrong?  If this was a local class with a dozen students and Cynthia was going to be right there with us, walking around the room and giving feedback on what we were doing as we were sewing, I would sign up in a heartbeat.  There are nine "sessions" to the class, and if I took a nine-week class that cost $31 per session, that would feel reasonable.

Original Edition (the one I have)
Have any of you taken online sewing classes, and if so, did you like the format and would you do it again?  I'm imagining that these online classes are a lot like the old VHS tapes we used to be able to buy.  I remember that when I was learning to hand quilt, I read Roxanne McElroy's That Perfect Stitch book but also bought and watched the accompanying VHS tape (now available as a DVD here).  I liked the combination of seeing the video of the rocking hand movements involved in the quilting stitch, with the book as a reference to quickly locate information as I needed it.  But it wasn't until I actually took a class with Dierdre McElroy in person that everything clicked, when she observed me quilting and told me that my thimble was too big.  Since it was a Roxanne thimble and she had them for sale at the quilt show, she exchanged my thimble for the correct size on the spot and it was smooth sailing from then on out.  I think she also gave me some useful feedback about how tightly I was hooping my quilt. 

The updated DVD tutorial video of That Perfect Stitch is about two hours long, and it retails for $38.  The shirt making class has nine sessions, probably at least 30 minutes each, so maybe the class is a total of 4-5 hours worth of videos.  Even if you adjust for the shirt class offering more than twice as much instruction time, it's still outrageously more expensive than the quilting DVD, especially since the Martha Pullen company is not incurring the costs of actually manufacturing and distributing DVDs of the video content, since it's all online.  The course description says that students can "access the courses any time, anywhere, from computer, smart phone or tablet" and that there is "no set class time...  courses structured to fit around your schedule."  All this is true of a DVD, but I would have an actual, physical DVD rather than a link to an online account somewhere.  A DVD I can put with other DVDs in my sewing room and find it again easily 6 years from now.  I am notorious for forgetting my login information and passwords for all of my numerous online accounts, and 6 years from now I would probably remember that I had paid for an online shirt making class that I was supposed to have access to "any time, anywhere," but if I didn't remember the instructor's name, the name of the web site I bought it from, or any other specifics, it would be nearly impossible to locate and access the course again online.  Then there's the possibility that the Martha Pullen company might go out of business or discontinue their online classes, and the content might be removed from the web altogether when I tried to access it again in the future.

Obviously, an in-person nine week class would be ideal, but the sewing stores near me only offer quilting classes or very basic beginner sewing classes, like making a pillowcase or an apron. 

What do you think, folks?  Has anyone taken a class like this, and how did you like it?  Is there a better one out there for me that you would recommend instead of this one?  I have taken in-person pattern alteration classes and I feel confident there.  What I need help with the most is the construction process from start to finish and all of the sewing techniques (like sleeve insertion, collars, cuffs, shirttail hems) that are specific to sewing a garment rather than something I would have encountered in quilting or home dec sewing.  Watching the video description of Cynthia Guffey's class, what is most appealing to me is that she says that there appears to be a lot of hand work involved and she says that she does not teach "shortcuts," but foolproof methods for achieving superior results the first time.  That's the way I want to learn to sew.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!
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