Monday, September 30, 2013

sometimes a great notion (with apologies to ken kesey)

From left: wooden knitting needle, sharp shears, big mechanical pencil, permanent ink pen with fine nib, rolling chaco liner, dental mirror, awl, reverse tweezers with long tips, fat handle ripper, applique scissors, wonder clip, cheap plastic clothes pin, computer cleaning brush, magnetic pin holder. Also shown: plastic basket for projects, note pad and measuring tape (one of many). Above: sorta sorted pattern box (one of many)

I am 54 years old, I have been sewing my own clothes for over 40 years, i haven't changed size much in the last fifteen, and I have no more room in my closet.

If I am going to make something new, it has to be pretty damn nice to earn space in there.

The unholy mess I sew in. I do clear the chair (covered with jammies on the lower left) to sit on. And I do remove the cover.

Given this situation..  

What defines my sewing is attention to detail and quality materials.
(and honestly, the details are often overlooked when I'm in a hurry)

Sooo.....the quality materials....  

I can buy great fabric. I can buy a great machine (either one new or used).

I cannot buy: a good zipper, good snaps, good thread. I can get decent versions if I go online. As an over the counter customer, all I can buy is tolerable.
They ride in a threepart vanity table cup on a lazy susan that does turn. Now and then. The terracotta pot has the dreaded Bernina feet. I think that's a snowdome to the right, below the head of a superbright drafting table light my dad bought me.
If I buy bias tape, I expect it to come without seams. 
Ribbons and facings should be marked as machine washable in regular sized type.
Zippers should be able to withstand a cotton setting temperature iron bumping into them.

I would spend more for quality. I HAVE spent more. I have paid more for the notions for some things than  did for the fabric; it paid off in a lifetime of good wear.

Honest product reviews are hard to find. I do like to touch what I'm buying. I understand the economies of scale that a curated collection of quality items has. There are lots of boutique online stores selling to niche markets. I do get tired of paying

Pattern Review has  a section for reviews of notions, and like most reviews, just mention the ones everybody loves. Amazon is an entertaining place to read reviews of sewing needles.  

First, I prewash everything. 

It's easier to mention what i don't: snaps and thread.  I cannot afford dry cleaning. I wash my wools, my silks, you name it. if it can't survive a kindly handwash, forget it.

Ribbon has been ruined by craft stores. The washable is all mixed in with the crafter, the content is often not listed, whine whine whine. I assume all ribbon is crap until I've washed and ironed it. Even the fancy schmancy stuff. It shrinks so much, it hurts.

I no longer assume iron on facings will stay on. I sew them; I consider the iron part a temporary attachment. I use better facings and linings for the clothing I expect to last longer.
Sewkeys bias knit, Seams Great in the old wide width and in black, Dritz Stay tape both old and new.

I have developed a sewing dependency on nylon bias seam tape.  I run it under button holes. I put it in armscyes, in pretty much any seam that is going to have a stressful life. Seams Right is now only made in a 5/8" width in white. Booooooo! Emma Seabrooke has a fusible bias tape which will do the job, but have to be careful about the fusible nature of the beast. I am trying to make myself create and use silk organza cut into bias strips, but I am rotary tool challenged and YOU try cutting strips of it with shears. I double dog dare ya'. 

Snapsource: Found out about them when i did a pattern for Sewbaby (The Wonder Jacket).  Yes, you have to buy a tool to install them, but it's well designed (I've had mine for over ten years), and the snaps are pretty high quality in terms of size, length of prongs, color choice and repeated wear. Nothing will beat a hand sewn snap. Nothing. The prying apart force eventually opens up the gap between the fabric and the metal. But for decorative/useful purposes, these are good.

Thread. You get what you pay for, except when you don't.  I've purchased super cheap thread that outperformed expensive stuff. I've cursed the day I threaded up with some cheap stuff that I had to remove every bit from a project.  
Bagged by color group. I loves the ziplock bags. This might be a problem.

An important concern with thread is using the appropriate stuff for the job. What would be a hazard in one arena is a benefit in another.

A really fine survey of thread is here: your thread under a microscope.  from Owen's Olivia.  Way down past the photos are links to Threads/Taunton Press's article from 2004 to which thread for what job, Superior Thread's thread types and's thread science article.
 Be prepared to settle in for a good long read. You won't be disappointed.

Buttons. I buy old ones at garage sales, sample sales, wherever bags of old pearl buttons are sold. Pawn shops are a new fave right now. If I don't expect something to last, I'll buy the plastic bag craft collections and PREWASH them. That paint can come right off damn quick. And always sew some spares into the seam allowance for later.

Zippers. I ... I hate zippers. The dress weight zippers generally are okay. All zippers will gap and fail if pulled on in an half-open position, so be prepared to replace zippers for jackets and sleeping bags and (lord help me) tents. Metal lasts a little longer than plastic, but it's the tape that fails, not the teeth.

 I no longer put zippers in jackets unless I put buttons in as well; the button will hold the jacket half open (an action that will destroy the zipper). I only use the zipper zipped all the way up. Even then, the plastic connection at the bottom will pull and fail. It's like a light bulb. You will need to change it if you use it.

All that said, the product comments on make me think she's a reliable source (any seller that admits that products fail sometimes is alright with me). I am not going to pile on the story,  being that in the real world, at this minute, right now, I do incoming customer service calls for a sports publication.

You cannot win that game. You can only postpone losing.

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