Thread is thread, isn’t it?

How choosy are you when it comes to thread? Or does price drive your decisions? Here’s a fun .pdf graphic of the different types of threads from Nancy’s Notions and Madiera threads.

To download the .pdf to keep in your sewing room or to save to your smartphone or tablet for the next time you go shopping, click the graphic below.

Free PDF for Choosing Thread by Nancy's Notions

Dazzling Dancewear

Those attending the 2013 ASG Chicago fashion show were treated to a display of absolutely gorgeous dancewear. These are the creations of two of our members, Karen and Lisa. Enjoy!

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Fabric Challenge 2013

Every year, we give 1 yard of fabric to members who are up to the challenge of incorporating it in a project that falls into one of five categories: children’s wear, toys, quilts, adult wear, accessories or home decor. This year’s fabric was a multi-colored stripe, some on a white background and the rest on a black background. It was donated by ASG Chicago supporting retailer Linda Z’s.

The projects are displayed at our annual meeting/luncheon/fashion show and attendees vote on their favorite in each category. This year, the fabric inspired lots of great entries. See for yourself:

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The voting is anonymous, and it was tough to choose a favorite. They all look like winners, don’t they?

Workshop Alert: Don’t Miss Piecing with Silks, Satins & Other Fun Fabrics

Hope Quilt Designed by Judy Zoeler

Hope Quilt by Judy Zoeler

Workshop alert!!! Are you a quilter who feels your repertoire is limited to only cotton? Then we have just the workshop for you. Join us for Piecing with Silks, Satins & Other Fabrics with world-renowned quilter Judy Zoeler. For one day only Judy will conduct a hands-on workshop, Saturday, March 16th at the Holiday Inn Express in Palatine, Illinois.

Judy will introduce 20 students to the joys of quilting with silks, satins and other fun fabrics. Using her patters and fabric kit, Judy will help students create a fan-themed quilt square and learn special techniques for working with these beautiful yet delicate fabrics.

Space is limited and early bird registration is still available; $60 for American Sewing Guild members and $75 for non-members. Early bird pricing ends this Friday, February 15th. The workshop pattern, kit and lunch are included in the registration fee. To register and for more information click here.

You don’t want to miss this all day workshop. Sewing friends, quilting and good food – what more can you ask for? Hope to see you there!

Float quilt by Judy Zoeler

Float Quilt by Judy Zoeler

Mac Berg Directs the Drama of Serging

You have a serger and aren’t sure what to do next. Do you remain afraid to plug it in or do you fearlessly embrace all it can do?

What we recommend for any serger owner (fearful or fearless) is a day or two with Mac Berg, sewing instructor and serger guru who has years of experience with these mechanical beasts. And that’s just what we did. On July 14, a group of ASG Chicago members crowed (literally) in a meeting room at the Holiday Inn Express in Riverwoods. (Writer’s note: Yep, the room was too cozy, but the facility was great. We definitely would recommend it as well as Tasty Catering for lunch!)

Mac Berg, in white t-shirt sitting at serger, spends time with ASG Chicago members.

Mac, who can be contacted for classes at macbergsews@gmail.com, explained that a serger is like a drama set in an apartment building where the tenants don’t speak the same language; however, when they find ways to actually communicate then something wonderful happens. It can be dramatic, but there are ways to avoid or benefit from that drama. The key to using any serger, as Mac explained, is understanding the basics and building from there. For example, in her apartment complex drama:

  • Lucy, the left most needle, has a controlling personality. She controls the seam.
  • Rosie, the right needle, is very calm, and she adds stability to the building and to the stitch.
  • Bambi, the upper looper, wants to be the center of attention and she dates Rual.
  • Rual, the lover…opps…lower looper, workouts a lot and is very strong, though he instantly reacts to stress and tension.

Once you know that neighbors, it’s a matter of helping them get along in a balanced stitch kind of way. A couple other players every serger owner should know are Knife and Tension, the maintenance team of the complex.

  • Tension can be tense. You can follow what the manual states, or you can use the additional tension tools that just about everyone owns, which are the thumb and index finger. Tension disks, Mac explains, are just squeezing the thread so if you want to alter a stitch, try squeezing the thread with just your fingers. Try it. Go ahead. Then when we adjust our tension dials, we can create decorative stitches. For example, if Bambie has had too many tasty beverages at a party, she is a bit loose and she visits the lower side of the fabric where Rual lives. This makes Rual then tightens up and he runs away from her into the arms of Rosie or Lucy. Oh, the drama!
  • Knife can be a little more complicated. Everyone feels differently about disengaging the knife when serging or changing the set-up. Mac suggests trying avoid disengaging the knife because if you forget to re-engage the knife the damage to the machine can be costly. Rather than disengaging the knife, owners can practice and gain confidence to serge against the knife; just because it’s engaged doesn’t mean it has to cut the fabric. If you do disengage your knife, Mac strongly recommends putting notes, signs, or any reminder to re-engage it. Also, remember that the knife is nothing more than a pair of scissors attached to the machine and you control where it cuts.

Using the serger, like any machine, is about building confidence and that is best done by using it and taking notes. Take a piece of paper and note what is indicated in the  manual and then as you play with it:

  • Name of stitch
  • Left Needle tension
  • Right Needle tension
  • Upper Looper tension
  • Lower Looper tension
  • Stitch Length
  • Cutting width
  • Differential Feed setting
  • How the stitch should be used
  • Attached (stable or tape) a sample of that stitch to the paper

Having this sample library will help when you want to remember what a change in the tension did to a stitch or how it gathered the fabric. Consider saving these papers in a binder with your manual for easy access.

As the day went on, Mac gave more nuggets of information to the class, such as:

  • 3-thread wide is good to finish raw edges and to attach elastic. It’s the stretchiest stitch and most decorative.
  • The closer the knife is to the needle, the more fabric it cuts; you can move it away from the needle, but try to avoid disengaging it.
  • 4-thread is the perfect construction seam for knits.
  • 5-thread seams are better for woven construction.
  • Never put serger thread in your sewing machine, but sewing machine thread can be used in the serger.
  • You can but more than one thread through a looper; think of it as a creative license to be decorative.
  • The thicker the thread, the more the tension will need to be adjusted.
  • Fingers are external tension devices.

Eventually, the apartment complex quieted down as Lucy, Rosie, Bambi, and Rual said goodnight to the ASG Chicago members who attended the class. Keep any eye on the ASG Chicago website for future classes with Mac or contact her directly (macbergsews@gmail.com).

Fit: The Final Frontier

Sometimes, it feels as if fit is the Final Frontier; just beyond our reach; an ever-elusive goal; the missing link. You get the idea. No matter how many techniques we master, no matter how meticulous our sewing, for those of us who persist in making garments for ourselves, none of this does us any good if the fit isn’t right. Or if the garment doesn’t flatter our bodies. (The ones we have now, not the ones that persist in our heads!) Lots of books, workshops and instructors promise to give us the perfect fit, but I’ve never felt that any of them got me where I needed to be. Then I took some online classes from Sarah Veblen and found that what she wrote in her class materials made sense to me. Many emails, phone calls and hours of planning later, Sarah came to Chicago and gave a combination lecture/workshop that represents a turning point for all of us who participated.

Sarah’s approach to fit is set out in her first book, The Complete Photo Guide to to Perfect Fitting, which stands out from all the other fitting books on the market. It’s not just that it’s comprehensive.  It’s not just that it’s written in Sarah’s clear, thorough and understandable style. It’s not just that it has so many photographs that show you exactly what she is talking about. It’s that it introduces you to the concept of the fitting matrix, formed by the center front or center back and a horizontal balance line. From there, the muslin (and the body inside the muslin) can be divided visually into quadrants to achieve balance and proportion. For example, a skirt hem can be brought parallel to the floor if a horizontal balance line drawn below the widest part of the body is brought parallel to the floor by adjusting the waist. 

Sarah is a truly gifted teacher. In her workshop, she taught us to “take charge of the pattern” to make it do what we need it to do. She taught us how to use a Fashion Ruler properly to get a smooth transition from altered seamlines to original seamlines. She gave us lessons in the basics of patternmaking that are needed to understand how to translate the contours of our bodies to a flat pattern. And, unlike many instructors, she taught us exactly how to transfer the pinned alterations on the muslin back to the paper pattern and walk the adjoining seamlines to make sure the revised pattern will go together as it should. The work was intense. For me, it took a lot of concentration and was frustrating at times. But it was well worth it.

Like most of my fellow participants, I thought the muslin I prepared before the workshop fit pretty well. It did fit better than just about everything I’ve made in the past couple of years, but that’s not saying much. What I ended up with made me feel better in clothes than I’ve felt in years.

Some participants have already finished their first garments from their new and improved patterns.

Others are still works in progress (but let’s not name names). As I work on my two-piece princess seam dress, the optimism is still there. That’s a feeling I haven’t had after any other fit workshop. Thank you, Sarah.

Details Take Center Stage

ASG Chicago’s talented fashion show coordinator Jeanette Bussard’s “Larger Than Life” raincoat is featured in the Reader’s Closet section of Threads Magazine this month. She chose the name because of the bold details that give this coat the power to overcome the dreariness of a rainy day.

Jeanette lengthened the Simplicity 2645 jacket pattern to three-quarter length, added patch pockets and constructed the exterior from pale lavender vinyl with a hint of sparkle. The scene-stealing exterior details include white vinyl piping, oversized covered buttons, corded buttonholes and hand-painted white grommets embellishing the pockets.

 

As if that weren’t enough, Jeanette created a one-of-a-kind floral hand painted silk lining using a glue-resist method.

Jeanette also added a cotton flannel underlining to support the structure and add a bit of defense against the nip in the air that accompanies spring rain showers. Well done, Jeanette!

Sewing Circles Around Chicagoland

Here’s a quiz for you. If you were to tell your friends how frustrated you are with a sewing challenge, such as keeping your bias bindings from rippling, would they:

a.  Ask what you’re talking about?

b.  Roll their eyes and ask why you spend your time on such things when you can buy ready-made?

c.  Give you a great suggestion, draw a diagram to explain it, offer to email you a link to a blog that gives a step-by-step tutorial and tell you to call them if you have any questions?

If you answered c, you’re probably an active member of ASG. If you answered a or b, see what you’re missing!

When I finish a project (a pretty rare occurrence for someone suffering from Paralyzing Perfectionism), there is nothing like the feeling of showing it to my sewing friends, who appreciate all the work that went into it. When I’m stuck on something I just can’t get right (see the reference to Paralyzing Perfectionism above!), I know I can count on my sewing friends to come up with helpful suggestions, offer encouragement and, yes, even suggest ways to turn mistakes into design details. Where did I get all those great sewing friends? Do you have to ask?

Walking into a an ASG Neighborhood Group meeting or Chicago Chapter event is always a treat. We come together as a community. We inspire one another. We learn together. We share our knowledge freely. We encourage one another. We enable our mutual obsession. We reassure one another that there are worse fabriholics out there, or someone else has more UFOs (white lies are absolutely acceptable). We speak a common language. And many of us become lifelong friends.

In almost any given week, at least three ASG Chicago Neighborhood Group meetings are held in and around Chicago. Each of these groups has its own unique personality. Each is a sewing circle that welcomes newcomers and long-time members; those who quilt; those who sew home dec and crafts; those who sew garments; and those who think about sewing more than they actually sew. If you are already a member of ASG, you are not limited to any one Neighborhood Group. If you are thinking about joining, you are welcome to attend two Neighborhood Group meetings as a guest before joining.

For the most part, sewing is a solitary pursuit. For those of us who participate in ASG, that solitude is balanced with a strong communal experience and unbreakable ties to others who share the same passion. I look forward to strengthening those ties in the coming year (and, yes, to overcoming the Paralyzing Perfectionism long enough to complete a few sewing projects).

Tangerine Tango Quilt Challenge

Tangerine Tango Quilt Challenge logoI know, I know…you’ve barely have any of your holiday sewing finished and I’m suggesting a quilt challenge? Well, not me specifically.

a.squared.w is, though.

What is Tangerine Tango? tsk, tsk, tsk. If you don’t know, that means you haven’t been reading the color forecasts here. “Provocative Tangerine Tango, an enticing juicy orange, is a vivacious and appealing refresher to enliven anyone’s outlook this spring.”

Now, I’ve heard from some of you that Tangerine Tango just doesn’t fit into your wardrobe..either you’re just not an “orange gal” or that it’s too bright for your classic wardrobe. So, why not take up the Tangerine Tango Quilt Challenge and make a cheery quilt?

If you’re a tried and true Chicago Bears fan, you could use the orange as a memorial to the season we almost and could’ve…should have! had before Cutler’s thumb injury.

Line Your Spring Coat with Tangerine Tango

Still not convinced of making a quilt because it’s too fussy? Still want to hold true to making garments? So, why not challenge yourself to add a bit of Tangerine Tango as a trim…perhaps, some piping…or be bold and use one of these tantalizing Tangerines to tango as a lining in a new spring coat.

Tangerine Tango fabrics
1. Free Spirit Designer Solid in Tango 2. TaDot Tangerine 3. Lizzy House Jewels in Orange 4. *VOILE* Solid in Tangerine 5. Alice Kennedy Orange Crush Wavy Optical Stripe Punch 6. dear Stella Meet Me at Sunset Stella Dot Orange 7. Half Moon Modern Big Zig Zag Tangerine 8. Kona Tangerine 9. Half Moon Modern Scissors Tangerine

Here’s the simplest reason to try Tangerine Tango: Winter is finally creeping up on us today with a very cold chill in the air. Maybe a little Tangerine Tango will bringing warmer thoughts until the temperature starts rising again. Follow the quilts that will be posted on the Tangerine Tango Quilt Challenge Flickr album; I’m sure that if nothing else, you’ll love seeing what others will be inspired to do with this beautiful, bright hue.

Happy Sewing! Happy Holidays!


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Spooky Sewing Tweet Day

Spiderweb Table Runner

Spiderweb Table Runner from The Crafty Cupboard

The temperature may feel like June, but the calendar is saying it’s October. And time for Halloween sewing! Unless, of course, you’re running the Chicago Marathon today.

In case you’re not making a Halloween costume (you know, you don’t have to be going to a party to dress up for Halloween), and you’re just NOT going to applique yourself a Halloween sweater, here are some fun Halloween sewing projects that we tweeted out yesterday with the hashtag #spookysewing. Enjoy!

  • Free Cats & Bats quilt pattern from the blog of Lovely Frankenstein’s Quilt Laboratory (great name!)
  • An adorable Halloween pumpkin baby bib from LoveToSew.com
  • Charlie the Ghost is a cute doorstop or companion to watch out for trick-or-treaters. From Polka-Dot Umbrella.
  • Not enough time for a Halloween quilt? Sew up a goblin-friendly door hanging with this free downloadable PDF pattern from Cranston Village
  • This fab spiderweb table runner will test your cutting skills. Tack down with pom-pom spiders or fabric tack for a no-sew project. From The Craft Cupboard.
  • It doesn’t get much cuter than this Felty Frankenstein applique! He’s a quilt
    block, Felty Frankenstein Appliquéhanging, or sew him onto a treat bag. From Holiday Crafts & Creations.
  • These super-cute FREE Halloween ponchos from Simplicity almost make you wish the weather was cooler, don’t they?
  • We’ve all seen dog costumes, but these Halloween dog costumes have to be a collection of some of the best. A corn cob, Underdog, a dandelion and a French outfit for your French bulldog! From Doggie Stylish.
  • Pick a peck of pumpkins with this Halloween pumpkin wall-hanging. Instructions from Jo-Ann Fabics and Sewing.org
  • Da-da-da-da-da-da…Bat-mobile! (The scary part is if you remember the music from the original Batman series!) from Sew4Home.
  • Don’t forget to hang this Vampire Bat Softie upside down; he prefers it that way. Free tute from Silver Bug Studio
  • Zombie Felties bookWhat would Halloween be without zombies?! This is a cute book with patterns to “raise” 16 zombies from the undead.
  • Halloween bunting! Mix black, s-lime green, orange, spiderwebs and purple for a fun look! Tute from Yards and Yards.

Here’s an extra #spooksewing link that wasn’t tweeted yesterday: A video tute to needlefelt Halloween scary eyeballs from the crafty folks at Etsy.com.


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