Sewing course completed

It really happened. I completed my sewing course a little more than a week ago. We did our fashion show. I walked the runway twice. I had so much fun doing it – what an adrenaline rush! This year has been possibly my best year yet, and I am so happy and grateful for doing it. And now it’s over. My main teacher is quitting her job to move to another part of the country, and I think myself and my class were super-lucky to be a part of her last year at Folkeuniversitetet! (I’m already planning to haunt next year’s fashion show just to see what my other teacher and her new colleague are doing).

I didn’t make a big collection of clothes this year, but every single piece I made taught me so many things about sewing and clothing construction that I never knew. I think I’ve got a great set-out point for developing my sewing skills further now, and I look forward to see where it will take me :) Plus, I got to dabble in design, which was fun, though exhausting.

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By booth at the exhibit after the show

Meanwhile, I really miss my classmates, school life, having something to leave the house to do every day. Plus, I have to eat and pay my rent. I’m officially unemployed again, and hopefully it will be better this time around. Now I have so much energy that I didn’t have two years ago (yay!!), and I know more about my own limits and how to keep on building that energy and using it in a positive way – I look forward to find a job, meet new people, going places. I’m still not completely sure of what I want to do with my life, but that’s just a tiny, insignificant detail, isn’t it?

Onwards!

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Final exams

I’ve gone quiet again lately, and the reason is simply that I’ve got my plate full of high school exams in arts, crafts and sewing.

Last week we did a two days test on costume and stage designs and today I did a presentation of a hotel lounge that I spent the last couple of days crafting. I thought I’d show my scale model (1:10) of a hotel lobby that was supposed to encompass Scandinavian Design.

Overview

Overview

Front

Front

Seating

Seating

Recliners

Recliners

Media

Media

Newspapers

Newspapers

Looking through the window

Looking through the window

I made the chairs and couches from Lithuanian linen that I bought in Riga two years ago and quilt batting. I then made the legs and armrests from lollipop sticks. I made the newspaper rack from the same sticks and the rest is cardboard and print-outs of various pieces from the design period. You have Poul Henningsen’s artichoke lamp, Tapio Wirkkala’s X-frame table and Arne Jacobsen’s AJ lamp to name a few.

It was both terrifyingly exhausting and fun to work on this piece, and I’m really happy that I passed my exam and can enjoy my weekend. The overall impression was that my model encompassed more of the 70’s as opposed to the 50’s and 60’s when Scandinavian design was at its height. Oh well, I tried, and I still really like my little room :) Only five more examinations to go :)

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Pfaff PB3530 ironing system

Update July 2014: I ended up selling this ironing system as we never really bonded (see my review below). Hopefully the new owner will be happier than I was.

My lovely hubby gave me money to buy a proper pressing station for my birthday, and after much deliberation I chose the Pfaff  PB3035.

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With this system I got a semi-professional pressing iron and an ironing board with blow and suction capabilities run by a foot pedal. The foot pedal was what sold me on this system in the end,  as none of the other boards I read about seemed to have this feature. The board also heats up and can blow steam, as do the pressing iron. There’s an info-mercial on this system here.

There aren’t many reviews out there for this particular ironing system, so I thought I’d share my thoughts on it here.

At school we have several professional ironing tables with powerful suction and blow functions that work with several pressing accessories. I guess I’m easily spoiled: My former pressing tools consisted of an ageing iron and a bad ironing board, and I became quite obsessed with the thought of having a semi-professional pressing system at home.

The Pfaff PB3550 arrived by mail, and when I first got it, I’ll admit I wasn’t too thrilled – it wasn’t nearly as strong as the professional equipment at school. (I admit my conscience wasn’t too clear as this was a gift from the person most dear to me after all.) I couldn’t get the iron to do exactly what I wanted it to do, and I was not prepared for the fumes emanating from the table. I also didn’t know that the table heated up, and I tell you it’s hot! On the bright side, the package told me it’s made in Italy, which I think is great as so many other appliances are currently Asian made (this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I prefer the shorter travel from Italy).

I tested my ironing system out ironing a couple of skirts and trying the vertical steaming of a shirt. The skirts were fine, but this iron does not make a good vertical steamer IMO. As I got to use it as a pressing tool when making my red dress, I got better results, luckily. Still, I have an allergic reaction to the fumes, which sadly haven’t lessened in the time I’ve used the system, I do think the heated board makes it too hot to work at for any length of time, and the iron itself could have been better. However this system beats the crap out of my previous ironing arrangements.

The foot pedal is great, as I don’t have to push a button every time I want the board to do something, but the suction is just not as strong as I’d expected after watching the aforementioned info-mercial. Also, the hot board makes it difficult to cool the fabric down after steam pressing it, which in turn may lead to distortions and creases…

The pressing iron itself isn’t the strongest one on the market. It’s much better than a non-steam iron, but I still think you can buy better steam-irons in almost shop that stocks any electrical appliances. I think the “semi-professional” label on the iron refers to the stainless steel finish on this one – it’s certainly built as a professional iron – but the piece lacks the power of a true professional tool.

The good:

  • A big and sturdy, yet collapsible ironing board that doesn’t leave impressions in your pressed garments
  • A proper steam iron
  • Suction and blow functions
  • So far no leakage isn’t detected on the system
  • A teflon shoe for the iron is included in the package
  • Easy to use
  • Not too loud (though it definitely makes some sound)
  • The foot pedal that operates the blow/suction function
  • It’s good as far as “all-in-one” deals go – you get what you need to do decent pressing during sewing – a steam iron and a good board with additional suction/blow function.

The bad:

  • The smell/fumes emanating from the table when it’s used – this is not a toy for anyone suffering from allergies
  • The steam iron could certainly have been better – I’ve used steam irons for home use only that are better than this
  • Especially the suction function is not nearly as strong as it ought to be
  • The table gets really hot – too hot IMO
  • For the same price I could get a great steam iron and a decent ironing board

So far, I’m giving this system a try and hope that it grows on me. It’s not a bad product, and I’m certain many people would be just thrilled by the features of the system. Perhaps it’s like a new sewing machine – I’ve heard people refusing to use a machine which they haven’t bonded with – hopefully me and the Pfaff PB3035 will be peas and carrots sometime in the near future :)

If I’d had the chance to test this (or any other ironing system) in a store before buying, I’m not sure if I’d gotten this piece in the end, as I think I would have been better off just buying a better steam iron and a new ironing board. The main problem with this all in one system is that neither iron nor board are very good. Not bad, certainly, but I find both lacking something in the execution of their functions.

That’s my experience with the Pfaff PB3035 ironing system so far. I’ll  update this post if I have anything to add in the future. If you’re looking for an upgrade on your pressing tools, I’d recommend buying a good steam iron and then find a not too crappy board to go with it, rather than buying an all in one system.

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First project on my new Janome

After playing around with decorative stitches on some scrap fabric, I decided to take my Janome MC6300 Pro for a spin around a real project. I opted for a new dress, using some leftover Tilda fabric that I’ve previously made into a skirt. I’ve longed for another Princess dress since I made my grey dress a year and a half ago – I’ve practically lived in that dress through the last two winters – so my pattern choice was easy this time.

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I measured my pattern pieces and added a bit to the circumference as this seemed to be needed. When trying on the dress, turns out it wasn’t – in fact I needed to take away a bit more than added. Still it feels slightly big without me being able to pinpoint exactly where I need to take a chunk out of it without distorting the fit completely, so I decided to leave it at that – it’s comfy and looks good enough for me to wear it at school (the ultimate test with all the trained eyes of the sewist and seamstress there).

The sleeves were altered to make somewhat longish capped sleeves.

When I looked through my zipper stash, I couldn’t find a matching zipper that was long enough, and I opted for added creativity in the back, inspired by Gertie’s “Home Sewing is Easy” dress (she has a tutorial on the back detail here, I think I made my back in a similar fashion). I’ll definitey do this again, I love the cute V-neck collar and buttons in the back! Plus I got to use supplies from my stash rather than making a trip to the capital only to buy a new zipper :)

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I’m still in love with my new sewing machine, and I find myself petting it fondly when we’re in the same room. It’s just what I needed: A stable work horse that makes sewing my own clothes a dream. I can’t wait to see what we’ll make together next :D

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Measurements, patternmaking, garment sewing, body image, self acceptance

This post is about weight and size. I’ll try not to shame any weight, because there is enough of that going around as it is. Neither “normal”-sized people or people differing from “normality” should feel inadequate, and least of all should people suffering from eating disorders be burdened with more shame than they already carry. However, this is a post where I express my own thoughts about making peace with a body on the big side, and I apologise if anyone should be hurt by any of my views.

This is a topic that’s been on my mind for quite some time now – how making my own clothes means I should be brutally honest with myself when taking my measurements and choosing a pattern size. I confess I’m not good at this, but I’m getting there. I’ve been dieting on and off for several years, and always been under the impression that me working on clothes that actually fit was a waste of my time, fabric and efforts – I was going to get thinner someday soon after all. I decided it was time to change this during the last couple of years, as I became aware of what I was actually doing to myself, living by this sewing philosophy and never being good enough to deserve something made from the good fabrics. During this time, burnout has been a blessing, telling me to slow down and don’t use all my energy on trivial things like body size.  Last year I resolved to be happy with my body by the time I turned 30, which was this February, and in the process I’ve searched around for inspiration. In my opinion, Tara Lynn is one of the most beautiful models around, and it’s so liberating that women her size finally get their due credit as being beautiful beside their thinner co-workers.

Still it hurt my pride, my self-esteem and my self-image every time I was confronted with how big my body was – the measure tape doesn’t lie I tell you, and some particular instances at school could send me spiralling downwards. But I continued to make clothes that fit me, loving the look of something that wasn’t just too tight to be either pretty or comfortable, and I realised that my body had its own unique fitting issues that should be handled, and that this was actually a great asset in the class room – learning to deal with different body types.

My teacher, who’s worked several years as a seamstress, doesn’t beat about the bush when it comes to body sizes, which can be quite harsh sometimes. When I constructed my skirt foundation I ended up with a foundation that was much higher in the back than in the sides. I asked if this could be correct, and she replied it was to be expected because of my body shape (big bum and tum).  I’d lie if I said that this didn’t set some negative though patterns in motion, but in the end I understood why my skirts usually end up looking shorter in the back than in the front – they simply lack the extra fabric needed. The same teacher also made a wonderful comment about bigger sizes when I started drafting my jacket pattern the other week: “You’re fairly big, almost plus-size, and this is a size that can inspire some great fun in a jacket as you have much more fabric to play with!”

Today society and media drills it into us from an early age (and it gets earlier still for today’s children) that our worth is to be seen in context with our achievements, our looks and our weight. Fat is bad, skinny is desired and almost nothing is too skinny (short of suffering from serious anorexia). We are bombarded with weight loss tips, glossy photo-shopped models, lists of heightened risks we meet when reaching a certain weight etc. But which size is beautiful?Skinny is considered sexy and beautiful, skinny people are happier (else, why are there so many weight loss programs out there?), skinny today is considered healthy. If someone says something about accepting your own body as it is, there are always vultures ready to tell you that you are entitled to accept your body only if they consider it healthy-looking, which mostly means skinny. Not anorexic, but still skinny – far away from slight overweight or worse, obese. Sure, there are counter actions out there – big is beautiful, real women have curves etc. But these memes doesn’t do anything about the problem, they just help fuel the ongoing war based on looks and weight. Nobody wins without dragging someone else down.  As a childhood school friend put it: “People can say all they want about me being skinny without me having the right to say anything about them being fat, as skinny is desired and fat is not to be spoken of. But still I’m hurt every time someone mentions my size, as it’s how I’m made after all – I shouldn’t be made to feel bad about it just because they’re not as skinny as I!” Weight and clothing sizes are a reversed currency – your wealth (worth) decreases with higher numbers.

I’m still heavily overweight with a BMI that’s just below the 30-mark. At Christmas my BMI indicated obesity. I still want to lose some weight, mainly because it’s easier to move around without all this extra weight, but I’m aware that this will take time, and I may or may not reach my goal. But meanwhile, I will do anything in my power to make myself feel good about myself body-wise: I will make clothes from the good fabrics, I will even make them for my current size so that they fit me and are comfortable to wear, and I will try to shut out any voices about fat being the worst thing a person can experience. I’ve been skinny once, too skinny for my own liking even, and I’ve found that I’d rather have 10 kilos (22 lbs) to much on my body than being 5 kilos (11 lbs) to thin (my big skeleton was protruding everywhere at this weight, though it was still well within the limits for a normal BMI).

All this comes down to a simple fact: In a society where people are constantly monitoring the looks and sizes of themselves and other, the same people are at a greater risk of not noticing important changes made by their governments or big happenings like a beautiful sunset. While monitoring my body and never felt adequate, I’m sure I’ve missed out on some part of my life that I’d want to experience. Let’s all celebrate the beautiful canvases we are given by buying or making clothes that fit and show ourselves and others that clothes can be fun and not constricting!

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My BurdaStyle coat is finally finished

At long last I finished my coat from The BurdaSyle Sewing Handbook.

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Coat front …

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… and back

I ended up disliking this coat in the end, though it didn’t turn out half bad for a first fully lined coat. It was just the project that stuck around a bit too long (more than a year…) and the fabric kinda lost its magic when I set it on fire only to realize that the wool percentage was very low, possibly non-existent (lots of plastics in this one!). But I managed to finish it, not wanting another UFO cluttering my work space, and I’m thinking I should give it to a thrift shop or a homeless person next winter, as it’s both reflective and relatively warm. I don’t think I’ll wear this one myself, but I appreciate the experience of lining a garment “by the book” (bagging it), and I think all the mistakes I made (quite a few) will be handy to have made before starting on the fitted jacket I’m currently making in my course. This ended up being the last project I finished on my Pfaff, before buying my new Janome, so it’s got some sentimental value as well :)

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New sewing machine

Yup. I’d like to introduce my newest member of the family. Meet Janome MC6300 Professional:

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Janome MC6300 Pro beside my Juki MO735 and my little Pfaff Select 3.0 (pink) in the background

I’ve been looking for a new sewing machine for quite some time, not because my beloved Pfaff Select 3.0 isn’t doing a great job, but because I’ve come to realise just how many stitches this little baby isn’t capable of doing after I started dabbling in garment construction. When I bought the Pfaff six years ago I only needed straight stitches and the occasional zigzag, as I was only making teddy bears back then. How things have changed! She is also in badly need of a tune-up and cleaning after taking a beating from me during the time we’ve lived together, but I couldn’t deal with the prospect of being without a sewing machine for a longer period of time.

I wanted a strong and durable machine that could do one-step buttonholes and sew through just about anything I fed it without complaining. I also wanted nothing less than a perfect straight stitch. I’ve read a tremendous lot of reviews and opinions on the Internet over the past three or so years, and followed the great sewing machine companies as they launched newer models at least once a year. This week I started a new hobby: Walking into a sewing machine shop and asking the people working there about which model they stocked that did the best buttonhole… I’ve heard many machine people praising their Husqvarna/Viking Opals and I also came across the Juki HZL F600 (which costs a lot here in Norway, it’s more than double the cost of a Viking Opal). For the money, the Juki didn’t impress at all – the tension was completely off and the guy demonstrating the machine couldn’t seem to do anything about it. Then I came across Janome’s Memory Craft 6300 Professional which is currently offered at a 30 % discount in most Norwegian sewing machine stores (this places it well below half the price of the aforementioned Juki) and fell in love with the specifications immediately. I got to try it in a store yesterday and I was hooked immediately. This big purring (yes, it purrs) baby came home with me and is waiting for some serious play time. I’ve tested some deco-stitches already, and I love them all :)

Finally I have a way to sew great buttonholes and satin stitches (the two things I’ve missed most on my dear Pfaff), and the straight stitch was impeccable and done at a speed of 1000 stitches per minute. The machine is heavy (12 kg) and made from metal – can you believe it? I love to have something non-plasticy for a change. I was adviced to buy a buttonhole stabilizer with it that works the same way as the one that was demonstrated on the Juki I saw, and am looking forward for a bottonholey project for the first time – that part was always something I dreaded before. I’m so happy :D

As for my Pfaff, I think some TLC and a new stitch plate (the current one is a bit battered) will do her good, and I’m considering re purposing her into a straight stitcher with help of a straight stitch plate. The straight stitch on this machine is still lovely, and she’ll sew through just about anything I can fit under her feet, and she’s got the IDT – under any circumstance she still has a home here along with her Juki and Janome siblings. I really ought to do a review series on my machines some day. At least the Pfaff, as that is a machine I’ve known and loved for years.

Happy Friday everyone, I’ll go back to my new play mate :)

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