Trial and ERROR (and error) and try again!

I’ve been teaching myself some embroidery for that hoopie swap I’m doing.  One of my fellow hoopie swappers linked to this great online source for embroidery stitches, which has been incredibly helpful.

I started out by making that paper pieced split hexagon in six different colors and had embroidery floss to coordinate with each one.  Then it was time to start the embroidery.  And the project just sat there staring at me for well over a week without being touched because … well, I was scared of messing it up.  This was totally new for me!!

Finally, I decided I might as well just give it a go.  The thing certainly wasn’t going to stitch itself.  I started out by just outlining each triangle of the split hexagon with a basic straight stitch.  It’s pretty difficult to screw that one up, and it looked pretty cute, so it gave me a little confidence.

Then I decided to create a little flower above each triangle using a chain stitch called the lazy daisy.  Not too tough, and really cute.  I’m feeling like I actually might be getting the hang of this!

I wanted a little something extra in the center of my flowers, so I thought I would move on and try a french knot.  And here is where things got a little dicey.

The first one actually seemed to work out okay, but I wrapped the thread around the needle too many times, so the knot ended up sticking out too much and looking a little bit phallic.  Eep!

The next two attempts, I wrapped the thread 3 times around the needle, but realize now that I had wrapped too far up the thread.  When I inserted the needle back into the fabric, it resulted in this weird knotting thing with loose threads sticking out.  I tried to remedy the situation by just stitching over it a few times.  Bad idea.  It looked a mess!

Finally, I went back and reviewed the French knot directions one more time.  And the 4th attempt was a success!  Hooray!

I let the project sit for awhile, trying to decide if I was going to redo it or just let it go.  But ultimately, I cut out the three unsuccessful flowers and started over.  I got more practice at that lazy daisy stitch, too, because when I cut out the center knots, I also had to cut out the flowers since they were connected.  Boo hoo.  But I’m much happier with the second attempt.

On being a better blogger

I started this blog in January, just four short months ago, as place to put all my sewing endeavors, projects, ideas, processes, et cetera, et cetera.  It’s sort of like a digital portfolio of my creative medium of choice.

Of course, if I just wanted a digital portfolio, I could simply document my projects photographically and save the digital files.  Part (a big part) of why I want to put my art online is the community aspect.  With a blog, I have the opportunity for interaction, conversation, sharing of ideas.  I don’t often get to sit in the same room and sew with friends in real life or ask someone in person what she thinks about a certain project or what direction I should go.  I want to be able to learn from those who have been doing this longer than me or who have a different perspective just as much as I would like to inspire and teach with my own projects, ideas and experience.

I was thrilled to have a real life sewing play date with Katie of swimbikequilt, Amy of amylouwhosews, and Kim of mygogolife.

That brings me to this: if I want to be part of a community, I need to have something valid/interesting/useful to contribute.  I want this blog to provide content that inspires.  Inspires someone to comment, “Hey, nice to see what you’ve been up to/great idea/lovely finish/better luck next time/did you think about x?”; inspires a project idea in someone else; inspires you to try something new, or a new take on something old.  In order to do that, this blog space needs to hold information that people actually want to read and comment on!

I’m pretty confident in my ability with a sewing machine.  As a writer/blogger?  Um … notsomuch!  I’m trying to be proactive about making my blog better, though; I signed up for an online class!

Content Brew is presented by Melissa, the author of MomComm, a blog about helping bloggers be better bloggers.  Who knew!  Anyway.  The course lasts 7 days and promises to give me lots of ideas about brainstorming new/interesting topics to write about in this space.  There’s going to be homework.  Imagine that!  It’s been awhile.

But since I’m thinking about it right now, I’m interested to know what you’re looking for on a blog like this.  What would you like to see me write about?  Do you want to read about projects I’ve finished?  The process I work through to complete a project?  Supplies and fabric I’m using?  Tutorials?  A look into what’s in the works in the sewing room?  Where I’m finding inspiration?    What else?

The welcome email for Content Brew is expected Friday; course starts Monday.  I’m looking forward to it, and I’ll let you know how it’s going next week.

Look how far I’ve come: comparing curtains

My opinion of my own sewing is pretty high.  I don’t say this to “brag” but just to acknowledge that’s I’ve worked really hard and put in a lot practice to get where I am in terms of skill with a sewing machine.  I think the stuff I make is good enough that someone else would want to buy it.

The other day I washed two sets of curtains that I’ve made.  I don’t normally go back and closely scrutinize something after I’ve made it, but when I pulled these two sets of curtains out of the dryer, I couldn’t help but notice some difference in the construction of them.

First up, we have our living room curtains, made for another house at some unknown date.  I can’t remember when these first appeared, but it was sometime prior to 5 years ago.

These are compared against the tab top curtains in the girls’ bedroom, made approximately 2-1/2 years ago.

Both are very similar in style with the different band of color at the bottom of the curtain, but when you look closer, you will see the differences.

Here’s the point where the band at the bottom joins the rest of curtain.  It’s a just a straight seam, which is fine when it’s on the inside of a garment (though serged seams are better there) or hidden between the layers of a lined bag.  I guess I figured that this was the back of a curtain so it didn’t matter how it was finished?  If I were to do it today, I would have done something called a french felled seam, which is like the seam on the outsides of jeans.  The raw edges are completely enclosed.

Another option is what I did here, on the improved model.  I made the entire curtain out of one piece of fabric and added the accent at the bottom, on top of the other fabric, to give it additional weight.  The only way you can tell from the back that this is where the band is attached is the single line of pink stitches.  Much neater, I say.

Also note the side seam on this curtain.  It’s folded under and then sewn down, so there is no raw edge sticking out.  This is how it should be done.

As for this next side seam, I cringe when I look at it!  Not only did I leave the raw edge exposed to fray and look sloppy, I increased the slop factor by failing to even trim up the accent band to the same width as the main part of the curtain.  It sticks out all weird and uneven.  And I left the selvedge (the edge of the fabric as it’s manufactured) on.  You don’t typically do that because it washes/wears differently than the rest of the fabric, but in this case, at least it doesn’t have additional fraying.  I guess that’s a plus?

Next up, the bottom hem.  First, notice the not-straight lines of stitching.  Okay, so they’re straight-ish.  You probably wouldn’t notice unless you are looking close (which we are).  When you look at it like this, it actually looks not-so-bad, right?  The two lines of stitching give it a nice finished look, and the raw edge is actually turned under.  Right?

Uh, no, actually, flip that hem down a touch and you will see that I sewed up the bottom hem, and then folded it over and sewed another line of stitches.  The problem here is that I put the second line of stitches below the first instead of enclosing the raw edge like I should have done.  Who does that?!  (me, apparently, several years ago!)

The bottom hem of the more recent curtains?  Lovely, right?

And that ends my self critique.  It’s nice to know I’ve learned something over the years, and I’m fairly certain that I’ve improved since the time the better curtains were made.  Practice makes perfect.