T’was a unlucky weekend…

…when no sewing can be done. Because…

Saffy the sewing machine is still sick. And on top of that, my Horn Eclipse Sewing Cabinet‘s lift mechanism had decided to pack in too. Being of superstitious stock I’m blaming it on Mercury Retrograde.

So Saffy has been sent to the local dealer for “Servicing” on Saturday. And with the retrograde ending today and the dealer being closed for Sundays, fingers crossed that when they get around to her it’ll be a simple “Servicing” to fix the whacky tension problem (and not some major operation that’ll take months and cost a fortune).

As for the cabinet, I think the problem might be a tension wire gone off track. One of the two grooves on the black dial is empty. I suspect the wire is suppose to go into that empty groove. I can’t think why else there would be two grooves. Does anyone else have an Eclipse and can check for me where that wire is suppose to go?

We tried disassembling the lift to get the wire back in place. But there’s no clearance above the dial to maneuver the wire back in place. I have absolutely no idea how the wire managed to escape in the first place.

The cabinet is less than a year old as well! I’m hoping Horn Furniture will be nice about it and help me get it fixed. Wish me luck!

LA Shopping Spree…Part 2

Next up on my shopping list are books. London used to have a bookshop aimed at fashion students with hard to find text books etc. But it seem to have closed down. Last time I was in LA, I come across one such book store in the Fashion District. So this time I decided to stock up on unusual finds to keep me busy on that sleepless flight back home.

An Eye-Opening Education

First up is the Fashion Book Store in California Market Center building on E 9th St between S Main St & S Los Angeles St. Here I took the plunge and got a couple of specialist books. They cost an arm and a couple of legs. But I figured that I can’t get the same info easily elsewhere. Plus they’ll last me a lifetime (or what’s left of it anyway). Besides, someone took the trouble to collect, collate, and share all these insights (rather than regurgitate what others have already written loads about). And they deserved to earn some money for their effort.

The Bra-Maker Manual, vol 1 & 2

By Beverly Johnson. It’s not just a book about sewing bras. It actually has lots of discussion and pattern diagrams for different types of bras. Some shows the different grainlines required for different pieces. There are also info on pattern alterations for different bra fitting problems. Very interesting.

Designing and Patternmaking For Stretch Fabrics

By Keith Richardson. This one is very timely for me. I’ve been compulsively shopping a bunch of stretch knits at Tia Knight’s Tissu online fabric store, and trying to devise a basic knit pattern block.

This book has just what I need: Instructions for creating slopers for different types of stretch fabrics. It also has a stretch terms and jargon buster, and simple flat pattern design instructions for stretch garments.

It even has the answer to a question that has been bugging me for ages: What does bias on knit do? The answer: Not a whole lot. It says “bias garments are never created with knit fabrics. Knit bias does not have any of the stretch and drape characteristics that woven bias would impart to garments.”

v1282-layoutWhich begs the question: Why does the cutting instruction for V1282 top recommends a bias layout. For 2-way stretch fabrics no less!!!???

Speaking of 2-way vs 4-way stretch – another question that has been bugging me for a while – this book again has the answer: 4-way stretch is essentially 2-way stretch with spandex added to help with recovery. Stretch outward sideways and up & down without spandex = ‘2-way stretch’. Without the spandex this eventually sags or stretch out of shape. With  spandex added to aid recovery, it becomes ‘4-way stretch’. Presumably the additional ‘2-way’ refer to the fabric ‘stretching’ back into shape – ie inward sideways and up & down.

(I just checked the Amazon reviews for this book. I was surprised to see the low score. This seems to be because of numerous typos in the book. But considering the scarcity of pattern drafting books for knits, I still think the book is worth it. As Kathleen Fasanella aka the Fashion Incubator says in her review of the book: “no book is perfect”. I will just keep an eye out for those typos.)

I almost got “Professional Sewing Techniques for Designers” as well. But I decided it was too similar to other sewing technique books. And I already have too many of those and not enough room to store them. Besides, the tips for working with difficult fabrics don’t cover the type of temperamental fabrics I’m currently wrestling with – stretch fabrics.

I also visited Kinokuniya the Japanese book store in Weller Court, Little Tokyo. Surprisingly it also has a good selection of fashion and sewing books. I was a bit tempted by the Pattern Magic & Drape Drape series and others like them. But my days of weird boxy Japanese garment aesthetics is really behind me. There was a time decades ago when I was a big fan of COMME des GARÇONS. But now I’m making the most of what figure I still have. Maybe one day I’ll get back into hiding the body again! For now I got this:

Fundamentals of Garment Design

By Bunka Fashion College in Japan. This is the first in a series of textbooks. Thankfully they have all been translated into English. I only got this one because the other focus on specific types of garments like dresses and jackets, and again, they’re a bit too boxy for my liking.

Unlike western fashion textbooks, this intro book covers a wider range of topics. The bits I find particularly interesting are the overview of how anatomy, different body proportions, and movements affect garment design; measurements insights; Bunka-style sloper instruction; and examples of sloper fitting adjustments shown on Asian women, some with combinations of fitting issues.

Then there’s the answer to my other pestering question: What happens to that back shoulder dart in designs without a dart in that area? It seems like the dart is pivoted to the armhole and/or neckline as eased volume (presumably held in check by sleeves and collars). But it’s never pivoted to the waist dart. So that’s this sloper axed then!


There’s also a curious mention of a “Half Bias Tape”. The photo illustration shows a tape with grainline that doesn’t look like true bias grainline. But there’s no mention of “Bias Tape” at all!!!??? It’s described as having “moderated stretch and to some degree controls stretching. Front edges, shoulders, necklines, etc.” So I’m assuming it’s used instead of true bias tape. But why?

Last but not least are a series of Fabric Dictionary & Swatch Books I ordered directly from Rain City Publishing:


Thanks La Karibane for suggesting this series. It’s great to have nice fabric samples illustrating the different types of fabrics. Descriptions alone are no good as most are so generic as to be pointless for identifying fabrics.

And that was it…Or was it?

Well, not quite. There are always those bits and pieces that are  invisible in the results, but absolutely essential in the making. Like…

patternsA bunch of Vogue, McCall, Butterick patterns bought during the recent online sale.

interfacingA bunch of highly recommended interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply of Pam’s Off-The-Cuff sewing blog.

threadsFrom Wawak, formerly Atlantic Thread Supply, more MaxiLock overlocker threads than I have storage space for.

Plus a small velvet pressing board at the cheapest price I can find. Everywhere else I looked it’s over $100. It’s pictured here with my sleeve board for size comparison.

zippersI also got a bunch of zippers to catch up with the wilder color fabrics I started collecting. These are from Mood Fabrics and B. Black & Sons. Zip Up Zippers has a wider selection of zippers and notions.
But it was too chaotic to find what I want and I can’t just help myself. I don’t like getting a sales person involved unless I’m desperate. I always feel too much pressure to buy.

rulersFinally, there are these C-thru rulers which I got from Golden Cutting & Sewing Supplies. You can also get them at art stores like Pearl Paint. I’ve tried lots of different rulers, but always come back to these. They’re thin, so don’t cast shadows that make it hard to align the ruler edge with lines. I’m a imperial measure girl, and I like the handy 1/8” grid which make pattern work easy.

Unfortunately the # 1 item on my wishlist was nowhere to be found in LA. It’s loose sheets of large 26” x 19.5” dressmaker’s carbon paper that I used to get from Steinlauf & Stoller in NYC. (It’s not listed on their site, but I swear they carry it. Or used to anyway.) All I can find in Downtown LA were pre-packaged small sheets. I guess I will just have to stick to Burda Carbon Paper for now. Or plan a trip to NYC soon!

As you can imagine, it was a bit of a struggle fitting all these into my luggage. In the end it was like 13 lb overweight. And at $200 surcharge you bet I was frantically transferring stuff into my carry-on’s at the airport check-in desk.

Now I better get back down my rabbit hole and churn out some more garments, so I don’t feel so guilty for spending a small fortune and taking over so much space in our tinsy winsy London apartment!

Overlocker Virgin No More. Just.

So I finally sat myself down and read through the Bernina 1150MDA overlocker manual. It’s only been 7 months since I got it as a present.

Truth be told I was scared of that beast. Compared to a sewing machine it just seems so complicated, so daunting. So many parts. So many thread paths. So many thread spools. So big a spool of thread!

Join a class you say? Easier said then done I say. For an introvert type. Who live in part of London without any sewing machine shop near by. And who doesn’t drive. Not even bike.

So it was with trepidation that I finally put the spool guide on and turned to page 1. Now I never read manuals. But I read this one cover to cover. Almost.

And actually it wasn’t that bad – serging my first practice swatch. But you won’t find me whipping up a wrap dress like the Selfish Seamstress on her first date with her Babylock.

No, I’ll be taking baby steps.

Next stop, figuring out how to live without pinning. And how to guide the fabric so that I’m sewing on the seam line with the 5/8″ pre-trimmed seam allowance.

Any tips and advice from all you overlocker old timers?

Oh boy! A present. A Very Big Present!

Yeah! My Horn Eclipse sewing cabinet is here. Unfortunately my sewing room is not ready to welcome it.

Six coats of paint on the ceiling & four on the walls later and I’m still not finish with the decorating. My arm is not exactly happy either. Probably should have tested the colors & techniques first. But I just didn’t have the patience.

Bright but boring after coat 2:

Hmmm… Looking rather Lemony after coat 3:

Ceiling looking like a cheesy Italian restaurant after coat 6:

Then I ran out of glaze medium, so couldn’t finish the walls,
even if the arm were willing – which it wasn’t.

So the Eclipse is now waiting in the hallway:

Hopefully I’ll get the painting done this weekend. So no sewing for a while 🙁

All change in the sewing room

Nope, no sewing show & tell yet. But I’ve been replanning my sewing room.

I had originally wanted to move into a bigger place so I can leave sewing mess around like the Other Half does with his dirty laundry. But we’ve given up. London is just too expensive. And I’m frightened by news story about people going on holiday, or even visiting family for the weekend, and coming back to find their house broken into by squatters, their belongs strewn all over the garden. I can’t bear the thought of anyone doing that to my fabric piles.

So we’re making do with our small place and decent neighbours. And that means rejigging things around, and clawing more space from the Other Half.

The fabric piles have moved into the bigger bedroom. Sewing gadgets & books are staying put. I’ll need access to fabrics less frequently than gadgets at the rate I sew.

I’m also taking the opportunity to repaint the room. I got patches of test paint on the wall: white, white, & off-white. Tempting. Especially as the room doesn’t get strong sun-light. But too boring for a hopefully creative space.

So I’m debating between sticking with the same colour as now (top 2 Dulux paint chips: Coral Canyon 2 & Pharaohs Gold 1) or going crazy (bottom 2 Dulux paint chips: Moroccan Sands 1 & Grecian Spa 3).

I chose the latter. Sod resale value. I’ll only live once & I want my sewing space to be a happy space. So bright orange & turquoise it is then! 🙂

The inspiration came from this picture in my Paint Recipe Book:

Oh yes I am. I’m so sticking to my so 90’s paint effect tricks. Sod the modern trend for matt flat colours. I think in a small space like mine, matt flat colour is going to be too claustrophobic.

Maybe not quite as runny & ready-worn as the picture above, but a glaze of transparent colour over white I think will make the walls feel deeper, more interesting, jewel like.

My current colour is a 3 layer colour wash: cream base + yellow, peach, cream washes. It was inspired by this Shaker style decor from my Decorative Style book – yes, another paint effect book, this one by Kevin McCloud of Grand Design fame, who used to do theatre set designs.

And it can be used on ceilings for that sunny blue sky effect. Mmmm… Holidays!

That was inspired by this Grecian style decor from Decorative Style:

Back to sewing room…

I’ve also taken the plunge & ordered an ugly Horn sewing cabinet.

I’m hoping the medium oak colour will at least match the fake oak laminate flooring. In reality, I would like to paint both. But I’m not sure if you can paint either.

So my Eclipse should arrive in 3 weeks. Then my sewing machine & overlocker will both have a home to hide in.

What about you?

What does your sewing space look like? Is it a happy place full of engery? A calm & orderly place? Am I totally mad with my colour scheme?