Thursday, March 27, 2014

Three Sewing Breakthroughs

I'm thinking a lot about learning these days, as I progress into my second month of intensive Swedish class. Learning a new language is a huge time commitment, and between that and a small business that keeps growing, it is often challenging to find time to do the things that I love -- sewing and blogging. I'm sure many of you will relate to this challenge!

As I learn Swedish, it's interesting how it's not just Swedish that I'm learning, but a new worldview (according to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, anyways, or the latest version of it). It's kind of exhilarating to feel yourself learning -- thereby transforming -- so quickly. Grown-up life can be mundane sometimes, between kids, work and everything else, so it's a real treat to be in a position where I'm still learning, and I feel very grateful and privileged for that.

So today I want to talk about learning. Learning to sew. And experiencing breakthroughs in our learning journey. Here are my three biggest sewing breakthroughs:

1- Embrace hand-sewing. I used to think: Hand basting? Pfff. That's what a sewing machine is for! Erm, actually, hand-sewing is quite important. It's the difference between off-the-rack, fast-fashion garments and high-quality, custom-made ones. Also, if you haven't discovered the handpicking method to zipper insertion yet, well... do yourself a favour. :-) I also started enjoying hand sewing a lot more when I realized how much of a difference it makes to wax your thread and then to iron your thread to seal the wax, preventing those annoying knots from forming. Then I found I could really appreciate the relaxing nature of hand-sewing as a true tactile experience -- feeling the fabric in your hand, the thread as it passes, and having full control of the fabric.
The thimble is actually made of moose skin, and made exactly to fit my finger. It is definitely among the most memorable gifts I've ever received, from someone who had spent a lot of time with the Cree First Nations of Abitibi, my home region
2- Always, always, always make a muslin. At the very least, make a wearable muslin. It took me all too long to realise this! With experience, it is possible to get away with measuring the pattern pieces themselves against our own body measurements. But more often than not, there are elements of a pattern to tweaks and perfect that can only be noticed with a muslin, even for an experienced dressmaker.
3- Fifty percent of your time should be spent by your ironing board. I had previously never heard of the three-step pressing, but that simple rule instantly took my garments from "Becky Home-ecky" to "designer quality". Really, this point is as much about realizing that sewing is just as much about putting different pieces of fabric together as it is about shaping the fabric with your iron. This is traditionally especially true when working with wool, and this is what tailoring is all about. But it is also true of all fabrics. (And this is why some garments can absolutely not be washed and must be dry-cleaned, at the risk of damaging the shaping that has taken place during pressing. Another thing that took me far too long to understand!)
Have you experienced sewing breakthroughs in your learning journey? I'm curious to hear about them! If you're fairly new to sewing, what are you finding the most challenging?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Welcoming Spring with Ruched Sleeves

Such a beautiful, sunny day in Goteborg today. The days are getting longer, the streets are smelling of fresh earth, and before we'll know it Spring will be here! (At least for us in the Northern hemisphere.)
With Spring on my mind, I'm finding myself reaching for this shirtdress these days, which has already gotten a lot of wear in its 18 months of existence.
And my ruched sleeves tutorial (with Part Two here) is now the #1 most popular post of AS+AS, which is making me very proud, too.
If you have made anything with ruched sleeves, why don't you post a link in the comment section so we can all admire your work! And get inspired!

Happy sewing everyone!
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