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!

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