Darn it!

Surely, even if you have never performed this sewing operation before you get my corny pun. Most of us to sew also have to at least admit to ourselves that we should mend, as well. What better way to keep my six-month commitment (in my case, for four people) then to learn how to repair well-loved clothes with a catastrophic tear.

A word about patches. Most novice stitchers have put on a patch like this:

"Traditional" patch
A typical patch. (Check out how frayed these jeans are! A good pair of Levi’s can withstand a lot of play and be worthwhile to keep wearing for a long time). With regards to the patch, we are looking at a piece of fabric applied with a perimeter stitch. If you put the patch on the front of the pants, you can provide a bit of color or interest. The problem is, this sort of patch, especially if applied to an area of stress (as patches often are), will wear out fast as the breach of the weave will slowly (or quickly) work its way to your stitches. A zig-zag or several rows of stitches may forestall tearing but the patch isn’t built to last.

Which leaves me to the process of darning. With machine darning you are generally doing the following:

1. Setting your machine to straight stitch.
2. Lowering the feed dogs (the little teeth underneath the foot that scootch the fabric along).
3. Applying a darning foot – a specialty foot with a circular base and (usually) a side-spring or arm.
4. Securing the tear (with hoop or hands) and guiding the work in a series of parallel stitches, effectively weaving over the tear (either with or without a patch applied).

Lowering the feed dogs is on most newer machines a quick flick of a plastic switch. Not so on my 1950 Singer, although it’s almost as easy. Setting the machine back on its hinges, loosening a thumbscrew, and toggling a cast-iron tab to a different setting (you can see the two screwhole settings roughly in the center of this photograph):
Lowering the feed-dogs

Darning is kind of odd and terrifying at first. For those who have never sewn without feed dogs lowered, it takes some time to get used to using your hands to move the work along. There is some danger of sewing your finger as you gain experience. Not to mention the darning foot (if it has a spring or arm attached) is meant to release pressure at the needle upstroke; this provides more free range of motion but is also a bit alarming. As with many new sewing techniques: go slow!

The finished work is posted above; here is the back of the work:

Ugly, But Works
Crotch-side of the patch. Not pretty, eh? Note: this was only my second darned patch and in a difficult-to-darn area; technique will surely improve. The important thing is it’s sturdy. The rest of the pants will fall apart before this crotch does.

At this point, you could apply a pretty patch to the public side of the garment if you like: I didn’t bother since this was at the crotch of my 3-year old’s pants and not a highly visible area.

Darning work usually requires the use of a hoop to really stretch out the area needing work. It is hard to control the straightness and evenness of the stitches when you are also using your hands to hold the work flat. I don’t have a hoop but I would have had difficulty getting one small enough that would hold the bulky fly flat.

However, after this exercise – which really did take a torn pair of pants and render them wearable again – I plan to keep on the lookout for darning hoops and technique!

OPPs and me

The quilters call them UFOs (“unfinished objects”) but I have contemporized the term to OPPs – “oppressive pending projects”.

Here’s my latest, as photographed by my brother today:

2 shirts for a coupla sibs
One of the best things about sewing for my children is that they *watch*, sometimes help, and always enjoy what I create. I don’t know if that will last through school years and brand names. If it doesn’t, screw them. I’ll sew for myself more.

Lady - I mean Boy - in Red
I decided not to post the very Tommy-esque hiking-up-shirt shot where he’s flirting with the camera.

Sophie’s shirt is top-stitched with my favorite color, poison green.

Close up of Siamese twin patch
From Etsyan chaingang. Etsy is my sometime-inspiration but more often, my guilty buying pleasure. I used lightweight fusible web and then Satan-stitched (dumb sewing joke, there) around the edge twice.

Sparrow patch closeup.
I wish I could remember which Etsy shop I bought this from – I don’t even have the purchase on record. I thought the heart motif went well with the red shirt. I did two passes around the patch – once in purple, once in red.

As always, here’s my pattern review and a Flickr tag set.

Today’s crafty lecture: What keeps you from creating? Do you not desire to create in the first place? Or do you desire it, know what you want to do, but find too many obstacles in your life? Or worst of all – are you pretending you don’t desire to create because you just don’t think you CAN?

Me, I live with a fear of being bored coupled with an over-active mind. I started these shirts out in November, planning them to be long-john style tops for winter PJs at Christmas. As is the case with me sometimes, I did not push through a project fast enough at which point it becomes an OPP – a distraction, an annoyance; un-done, sitting in a drawer reminding me that I suck – a feeling only bolstered if I run out and treat myself to another fabric purchase, or trace another pattern. I decided to go through my OPPs when I got my new digs set up. I pushed through a purse I’d started my brother’s girlfriend two years ago, then these. Now I have to finish up a few PJ bottoms and my drawer full of “projects” will be reduced to a tiny handful.

In the meantime, I am trying to 1. be very deliberate about what I start, 2. work on and finish my projects in a TIMELY manner, and 3. allow a way out or a fun upgrade – like these patches, with made me want to complete the shirts. Sometimes when I talk about my sewing it seems more like WORK than fun – but that’s because I’m trying to get myself to stick to things more.

Happy creating!

Spider-pants (for a birthday boy)

Dear Flickr: Thank you for making it about twice as fast for me to blog my sewing projects.

My son turned three on Saturday the 7th and I spent the day (besides cooking, cleaning, and kidcare) in a sewing marathon making him these pants. I finished them ten minutes before we were due at the restaurant for his birthday celebration.

front view
Here are the front of the pants. I wish I could figure how to get the cuffs to not look rumply. Stronger interfacing? Who knows? Who cares. They’re done, they fit him. Finit.

Here we see the adorable spider-patch made by LoriV at Etsy (who has since disappeared). I originally commissioned this patch for Sophie but my very considerate daughter was willing to let me put it on her brother’s pants, as a birthday present. How sweet!

I love making these pockets. They could be used on any pair of pants as they are stand-alone pockets topstitched to the leg. The bias facing (binding) along the pocket opening is easy and fun.

you fucking suck Billy
The back of the pants indicate plenty of room should they eventually be passed along to a boy still in diapers, and if you look closely you can see I only bothered to make three belt carriers. First off, my son doesn’t own nor wear a belt. Secondly, I would rather sew an entire prom dress than make and attach belt carriers. Ugh! I really enjoy the look of the flat-front / elastic backwaist. For kids with their slim hips and virtual no-ass, it works well.

fly and button
My brother took an “artistic” closeup shot of the fly. Thick-wale corduroy is rumply. What the hell did you expect? I used a white zipper I had lying around as I didn’t have a grey one.

Dear Billy: Thank you for coming over and taking pictures for me, since I’ve got no camera.

As always: my pattern review and Flickr tag set.

she rides again…

Well, I finally finished a sewing project besides organization of my sewing room (ugh) and mending here and there. Just two simple school shirts for my girl who is growing alarmingly fast and her closet shows it. Ottobre 05/2006 #14 in 110 cm, for the curious (I know, you’re not):

Vintahttp://www2.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifge fabric shirt
Sophie in vintage fabric which was $20 a fucken yard! I don’t know why I bought it (months ago) but I hacked into it because just because it is expensive does not mean it is holy!

Little girl + owl shirt.
Sophie in beloved owl shirt.

Ottobre 05/2006 #14
Both shirts from on high.

Smoove sleeve
Armpit. Hey, flat-felled seams after sleeve assembly? Kelly, how did you do it?

Sassy Sophie displays collar
Sassy little tiger!

Here’s the Flickr tag set for this project as well as my pattern review.

"Science Casual"

Please ignore my brother’s pasty, Gollum-white arms.

I started this shirt before Christmas; I fucked up part of it, then another part, and I got sick (twice) and I just gave up. I pulled it together and finished after we moved my sewing room. He just received it in the mail and he wore it to meet up with his girlfriend on their visit together. So apparently it was booty-worthy!

The shirt is wrinkled because the fabric is very soft and thin. I love the color. It has “fancy” pocket topstitching you can’t really see here.

The pattern was Kwik-Sew Mens Western shirt, #1603. As always, a link to my pattern review.

suave, yet small and pink

Last night I finished an Ottobre pattern (05/2006 #20 Reefer Jacket) I’d been lusting after. I think I did a great job! More importantly, I can move onto something new today. Hurrah!

Some details:

Lining. Ralph mocks me for being a sucker for asian-themed prints. Note curved intersection of lining and shell hem – not a mistake, but the method of construction. Kinda odd.

Big ol’ buttons for li’l fingers.

A welt pocket! Yeah bitches. Can you do that? I thought not. OK, I’ll admit – the ones on my last welt pocket project fell apart (must sew down triangles! must!) but I learn from my mistakes.

Pockets are lined with a beautiful, vegetable-dyed organic cotton. So soft.

A hanging loop, cute, practical. Just somethin’ you gotta do when you sew a coat.

Kicking ass and taking names, pigtails at the ready.

Link to my pattern review.

window treatment from Hell

Occasionally I take a step. A bold, visionary step. Occasionally the boot that takes that step lands in dogshit. For instance:

A beautiful fabric, non? Well yes. Unless you have to sew with it. Like, eight yards of it. Making perfectly rectangular window panels. Please Lord. It’s thick. It’s slippery. It has a grain like the wily Chinese dragon embellished on its surface – wiggling and taunting and breathing fire at me.

Not quite as bad – at least, not slippery and thick. Slippery and wafer-thin! Yay! Well, it’s not sheer. At least.

I am praying to my gods. At least, begging the Fuck-Up Fairy not to visit. I will keep you posted.

the ghosts of patterns past

I made these “flat pants” (scroll down for pattern) three Halloweens ago. It was one of my first experiments with french seams (which, as it turned out, was a bad idea for the intersection of the rectangular crotch-gusset to the pantleg).


A picture of the backside.

Look. At how. Little and chubby she is. Oh my goodness.

My kids have worn these pants tons over the last three years, in diapers and without. They are currently favoring Nels, and are shorter on HIM than they were on HER in these pictures.

Viva la home-sewn love!

their impeccable tailoring will make up for their horrid table manners.

Fuck the more typically thought-of Thanksgiving traditions: the food, the family, the good times, the awkward, drunken conversations. It’s all about the outfits. When I told friends I was (geekily) sewing my kids clothes to wear for dinner, I was asked (every time) if I’d be making them pilgrim outfits. WTF? Anyway, here’s what I *did* make:

First, Nels. Cavalier, yet commanding in this vintage-casual effort in an Alexandra Henry western pattern (“del rio”) with moss green accent (pattern review here). A closeup:

I sewed the buttonholes at the cabin in between Thanksgiving dinner dishes and on my (or rather, Sophie’s) Spartan machine. So vintage, so tiny, so heavy, so much fun!

Sophie was a doll in her, um, brown-on-brown plain cut Thanksgiving dress. She didn’t like it at first but gradually warmed up to it. Pattern review here.

Closeup of the invisible zipper and, more importantly, you can also see here a little warm neck I get to kiss daily.

The rolled hems on skirt and underskirt. Thank you, Abbi, for the serger (indefinite) loan. Your serger is waving at you. Hello!

who knew being dead looked this good?

I am such an ass. I sew, sew, sew and rarely do I manage to take pictures. My geeky love efforts are not being recorded for posterity! Eh.

That said, thank you to my lovely friend Mia’s photo of Sophie in this year’s costume (Nels’ Ice Bat is recorded here). This was one of the funnest projects I’ve had to sew yet. And yes, my girl loved it – as you can see by her very serious and in-character posing.