Friday, June 22, 2012

Kitchen Renovation: It Can't Come Soon Enough

Recently, I posted about my plans to renovate my kitchen. This is a project I want to get started on as soon as possible. Why the rush? I believe my kitchen is de-evolving before my very eyes. It began as ugly. From there, it moved to dysfunctional. Now it's heading to the territory of just plain BROKEN. Kitchen rehab becomes a pressing issue when you have to put a bucket under the garbage disposal in order to run the dishwasher.
bucket placed at proper angle to catch water spouting from the side of the disposal
To more quickly build up the Kitchen Renovation Fund, I'll be limiting my spending over the next couple of months. I'll try to stick to projects for which I already have materials on hand. For example, I can start working my way through my fabric stash.

Sitting in the air conditioned house sewing sounds like an ideal way to spend this weekend. It's too hot to go outside.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Favorite Serger Shortcut #2: Hems

My first exposure to sewing was watching my mother. She was of the All Hems Must Be Invisible school, and she hand-sewed blind hems on everything. When I began sewing for myself, I followed her lead… and quickly discovered that I am not a fan of hand-sewing blind hems.

No disrespect to the technique is intended; it simply does not work well for me - I'm clumsy with a needle - or the type of clothes I sew. On the long, full skirts common to goth fashion, it takes for-freaking-ever to hand-sew a blind hem. But it takes only seconds to rip one out! Blind hems are loosely sewn and it’s easy to catch your hem on your boot buckle or heel and rip the stitches right out.
hand-sewn blind hem (source)
Abandoning the idea of blind hems, I used my sewing machine to create rolled hems. Not a bad option on cottons, but frustrating on velvet, lace, satin, chiffon… basically all the fabrics loved by goths. Then I bought a serger (overlock machine) and discovered that hemming, even on difficult fabrics, is a task at which sergers excel, and one which they accelerate. They're about twice as fast as a standard sewing machine, so a trip around even a 7-yard hem doesn’t take long. I now rely on my serger for hemming. The photos below show the process I typically use.

First, set the serger to a narrow stitch and run the fabric through. Unless you want to shorten the garment, position the serger knife so that it just slightly trims the edge. Serge all the way around the hem.

You could call it a day at that point, especially if you used a very narrow stitch. I usually add trim using the zipper foot on my regular sewing machine. Depending on the type of trim, you may or may not need to fold up the hem.  For ribbon or tape trim, no folding is required. Just stitch the ribbon/tape to the fabric, right side up.
grommet tape trim sewn to right side of fabric
back view

This white lace has a pattern almost to the edge, so I stitch it to the right side of the fabric, no folding.

With most lace, I fold the fabric. With the fabric right side down, I fold over about 1/4 or 1/2 inch (depending on the size of the lace). I place the lace on top of the fold and stitch. I do this section by section as I’m sewing, no pins needed!
first, fold fabric
then place trim over fold and stitch

From the right side of the fabric, the stitches are visible but not obvious.
finished hem example 1
finished hem example 2

Friday, June 15, 2012

Favorite Serger Shortcut #1: Waistbands

I used to sew a little bit from time to time. But frustration with certain aspects or techniques made sewing less than enjoyable, and I didn't pursue it much. That changed when I bought a serger (overlock machine). With a serger, I can use shortcuts to avoid some of the most annoying parts; for me, those include waistbands and hems.

Many sewing patterns instruct you to use the "stitch in the ditch" method of attaching a waistband. This involves interfacing, measuring, folding, ironing, clipping, pinning... well, that's about six steps too many for me. Then there's the annoying process of sewing blindly while hoping that you're catching all the fabric layers correctly (while almost certainly NOT catching all the layers). I hate stitch in the ditch.

The serger shortcut saves me time and an enormous amount of frustration. The steps below show an elastic waistband in a casing. With minor modifications, you can also use this shortcut for a zipper waistband.

First, cut out the waistband according to the pattern. If desired, serge each end to prevent fraying. Place the ends with right sides together, and stitch just past the fold line (center). Leave an opening of about 1" for the elastic. Stitch the rest of the way. Be sure to backstitch at the start and end of each line of stitches so that your seam is sturdy.

Fold the waistband (now a loop) lengthwise along the fold line, wrong sides together. Press if desired.

Pin the waistband to the skirt, right sides together. (The side of the waistband with the elastic opening is the "wrong" side.) Because I'm a menace with pins and inevitably stab myself, I use as few as possible - usually just four. Here I have one at each side seam, one at front center and one at back center.

With your regular sewing machine, baste the waistband to the skirt. If you used more pins in the previous step and/or you're confident in your serger skills, you can skip this step.

Serge the waistband to the skirt. I line the fabric up so that the serger knife is just a hair to the left of the basting. This will ensure all the basting stitches are cut off, leaving a nice neat seam.

On the outside, the waistband looks very tidy, with no visible stitches.

Run the elastic through the opening and stitch the ends together. Done!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Red & Black Week: Boxes

As you have no doubt surmised from my blog, I spend much of my free time working on my house. What, you might ask, did I do with my time before I had a house? For one, I decorated boxes. Lots of boxes. I have a weakness for boxes. They appeal to my practical nature. I love boxes. :)

But we're not here to talk about boxes.  We're here to look at red & black!

box with handle; painted and begemmed
(the red smear-looking marks are reflections from the gems)
the center piece was an oh-so-spooky "Gothic Vampire" necklace from a costume shop
not much black visible on this one :/
a bit of red on the outside...
and much more on the inside

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Dog Bed = Love

Sometimes serendipity strikes while you're shopping.  You spot something and know instantly that it's perfect for you.  This happened when I found a $5 metal container in a thrift store.  I turned into a dog bed, and sure enough, my dog Bean Sidhe loved it immediately.  :) 

Earlier today, I was cleaning the floor while Bean Sidhe napped on the couch.  (One of us has the better deal in this relationship, I think...)  I put her bed on a table so I could WetJet that area of the floor.  When she woke up and saw that her bed was out of reach on the table, I had a good laugh at her reaction.   

Hey! What's my bed doing up on the table?!
She kept looking at the bed, then at me, then back at the bed, then back at me... as if to say, "Don't you see my bed is up there?  This is very wrong!  Aren't you going to put it back where it belongs?"

It's way over there!  But maybe if I stand on the edge and s...t...r...e...t...c...h, I can reach it.

Can't reach it!  Must jump down and get closer!
I knew she'd try to jump on the table to get into her bed, so I put down the camera and set her bed back on the floor.  She climbed in and all was right in the world. :)  She sure loves her bed.

Look at that action shot!  I can't believe I caught that!  More importantly, look at that 14-year-old dog acting spry and not wearing an E collar!  I'm very, very happy to say that her eye is healing nicely and she's feeling like herself again.  :D

Friday, June 1, 2012

Kitchen Renovation, Part 2: Additional Plans

Among the responses to my last post were wise admonitions to keep counter space in mind and smart suggestions about islands.  I had been thinking along those same lines and had created a couple of designs incorporating an island. The 3D planner doesn't offer islands, so I used a table and a cabinet as an approximation.


The planning tool does offer tile/backsplashes as well as countertop items such as microwaves, toasters and dish racks.

And that's about all for now.  I haven't made much progress with the planning (or anything else!) because I've been insanely busy at work.  Since our new CEO joined the company on April 2, I've had more work than I can handle.  I keep falling further behind and I'm very stressed.  Thankfully, relief is on the way.  A temporary employee is coming in Wednesday for short-term help, and interviews for a new full-time assistant are scheduled for next week.  If all goes well, I hope to get back to a somewhat normal work schedule soon.  Then maybe I can get back to my projects and have something worthwhile to post! :)