Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Gravity Fed Iron

Silver Star gravity fed steam iron.
One of the most essential tools one can have for sewing is a good iron. When I first started out, I had a Rowenta Professional iron. It was a decent iron and lasted several years before dying. Alas, when I went to replace it the Rowenta line had become popular and they didn't make them as well built as they used to. I am guessing they moved manufacturing to China.  I noticed they didn't change the price though. I was very disgusted when my new Rowenta didn't last very long nor worked as well as the first. I started buying older irons at the thrift store and fixing them.
As a design student, I had an opportunity to use some very nice professional tools and the gravity fed iron was one of them. They are not inexpensive. I saved up for this one several years ago. It is a very basic model and was about $200 at the time. Here is a couple of close-up photos:
Water tank
Iron with silicone coated shoe.
I did a quick search online and found a similar model on eBay for $119 dollars. I didn't recognize the brand name, Consew, that is associated with it. Perhaps it was bought out.
The concept is fairly straight forward. The large water tank holds about a half gallon of water. The iron itself weighs about 4 lbs. It is heavier than it looks. You press the button on the handle with your thumb and clouds of forceful steam come forth.
When I used this in my internship with a custom bridal business, we used it on every kind of fabric, including the silk fabrics we worked with most of the time. It has the usual fabric settings and I never scorched a thing with it, even pressing delicate sari silks with real gold thread.
Most importantly, it is heavy enough to get a good press. A good press vs. ironing, is what you need when sewing.
It is now all set up and ready to go. I will also note here that my ironing board is a heavy duty Mary Proctor ironing board that I scored at a thrift store for $7. I love this ironing board. It has wings that fold into different configurations and has a large surface to iron on. It is heavy and contains its own plug to plug your iron into. I don't use that feature as this iron needs a good plug and I was not certain that the connection was heavy duty enough. They don't make them anymore and my husband was puzzled when we were pairing down our stuff why I didn't want to let it go.
Here are a couple of quick photos:

The ironing board has been in storage and moved here and there so needs a new cover and a bit of cleaning up. The top photo is with the front corner folded down, the bottom with it up. There is a side panel that folds down but I always have it up to get the nice width. There is a cord holder cleverly stored and folded on the underside along with the cord to plug the board in. I am thinking that when I make a new cover I will have to take better pictures to explain and show off this gem of an ironing board. 
Of course, the ultimate in pressing equipment would be a vacuum pressing table. That starts running into big bucks and needs room.
A quick note on my dressform and then I am off to walk Twill. I worked on it last weekend and after taking precise measurements and fiddling around with the one I made about 20 years ago, I decided that I needed a new dressform. I had some credit at Amazon so I ordered an adjustable Dritz My Double Delux dressform. One of these days I would love a professional one with collapsible shoulders but for now the Dritz will do. I will give the details of  why I decided to go that route in a post when the dressform arrives.
Off to walk in the stormy weather, -Renee

Saturday, March 16, 2013


I will be working on my dressform this weekend (my weekends are Sunday and Monday). I have a few simple projects to start out with to get me back in the groove of sewing. My sewing nook is in the corner of my now clean and organized art studio. This means that I can take a 10 or 20 minute break from painting and step a few steps over to the sewing machine. Although I don't own Nancy Zieman's book 10-20-30 Minutes to Sew, I am thinking that concept will be necessary for me to make progress.
In the meantime, I pulled a few of my books out to share. These are a few of the inspirational books I own. I know a lot of inspiration can be found online but there is nothing like sitting with a hot cup of tea on a stormy day and looking through books and magazines. Here are some of my favorites in no particular order:
These two books draw from ethnic traditions. The embellishments are gorgeous. I hope to make one or two special outfits that I can embellish. Embellishment can really set a garment far above the ready to wear stuff one sees in the stores, even on the designer level.

Ah now these, these are treasures. A wonderful, thoughtful, creative friend of ours brought these French fashion magazines back from Paris and gifted them to me. The top left one is from 1925. The top right and bottom one is from 1917! There was a bonus of a genuine pattern in the pages of the one from 1917. Later on I want to copy it and make it up for fun. I might even just make a free PDF of it as well sometime down the line.
Couture can be exquisite and I love putting in professional hand sewing techniques into my garments. Again, this sets them far above what can be found in the stores and is one of the reasons, in my view, to sew ones own clothing. I will definitely share any techniques I use on this blog. Sharing is part of the fun!
Between the weather and tides I haven't had a chance to get outside and paint. Thankfully I do get out everyday with the dog or else I would be climbing the walls! It has been a good time to clean, organize, think, dream, and plan.
Looking forward to fixing up my dressform. The next set of books I share will be on patternmaking and design. I have a good number of those and some of those are out of print.
Off to post on my Coastal Vegan blog and then dinner.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Getting Ready Getting Set

A happy Pfaff.
I took a much needed break from painting today and re-organized the sewing area of my studio. My sewing machine is a Pfaff Creative 1469. We bought it the first few months of our marriage in 1984 and we will be celebrating our 29th Anniversary this year! It was one of the first computerized machines Pfaff made and has an all metal body, which I really like. The one thing I don't like about it is that it doesn't have the wonderful built in walking foot that nearly all the other Pfaff machines have. I like the machine, it has worked quite well although I did have to have the mother board replaced five years or so ago. If I was to buy another one, I would go with something not so fancy, just a sturdy work horse and not computerized. I don't need or use all the fancy stitches.
I had to do a bit of tinkering with the machine. The presser foot was sticking and wouldn't go down all the way or stay down. I tried shooting a bit of WD-40 where I could reach but it wasn't getting to where it was needed. So, I carefully unscrewed and removed the top and was able to get in there with a shot of carefully aimed WD-40. After working the presser foot up and down for a short bit it worked like a dream. I happily replaced the top and screws and she is ready to sew! (note: I only recommend doing this if you are brave and have experience with tools)
I also had a chance to organize some of my patterns (many of my older patterns are in a bin in the storage area of the garage). I was pleased to see many I can use, at least to get me started. I am a bit rusty in the sewing department. Fortunately, that college degree I mentioned was unusual in that we were required to take several quarters of sewing in addition to design and patternmaking. Not all schools do that, surprisingly.
Even though I have thinned out and greatly reduced much of my fiber and fabric stash, I have enough nice fabrics to make a solid wardrobe! It looks like the money outlay will be start with.
I own a dream of a professional iron which I will share when I figure out the best place to install it. There is a hint for you, it needs a teeny bit of installation. That is all I will say for now.
I looked through my books and it was like a reunion with dear old friends. I even found a pattern for making a very important half size dress form for designing on. The pattern is from Mary Roehr. I picked it up years ago at the Sewing Expo in Puyallup, WA. I am not sure she sells them anymore.
This is kind of a longish post but I wanted to start properly at the beginning so I am going to also include my general wardrobe needs. I kid you not when I say all I have are a couple pair (as in 2) of jeans, about four long sleeve t-shirts, 4 fleece vests (thriftstore), a bit of rain gear that badly needs updating for protection, and that is about it except for a miscellaneous garment or two from the thriftstore and one or two pair of shorts and short sleeved t-shirts.
So here are my basic needs and a bit of very personal information. I am a petite 5' 2" with a long waist and an hour-glass figure. I have small breasts which makes it a bit easier to fit in a lot of designs. Designs with a bit of waist definition look the best on me and straight, tent like, and empire-waisted garments look dreadful on me.  The small stature with a long waist has caused no end of fitting problems in the ready-to-wear department.
I want to be comfortable too. I do not wear conventional bras, they are too painful for me. Fortunately with small breasts I can get away with it but I like my garments to be modest in that area.
I have a very active lifestyle. I walk the dog in all weather several times a day, everyday. I am out painting in rain, hail storms and squalls. I hike to painting areas with a heavy pack. I want to look nice but comfort and protection are equally important.
Most of my life is outdoor and casual but I also need something dressier for when I am minding a gallery or going to art show openings. I am also in a band, The Sedona Fire Band, which plays world-folk fusion and need fun and funky wear for that while playing the cello (yeah, the cello, not a lady-like position while playing).
Well, I think I have laid out my basic needs for now. I have a few ideas and am collecting visuals on my Pinterest board, which reminds me, I will be filling out the blog with more bells and whistles in the days to come.
So why all this information? This is some of the stuff I needed to know about a client when I did a very short stint sewing professionally. I will get more specific in the next post. It should be a good adventure!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Beginning

At the beginning
ARRRGH! I need another blog like I need a hole in my head! I am almost embarrassed to admit that this blog makes...four. Okay, my ReneeWeaves! blog is in mothballs and I plan to link that blog to this one. My Coastal Vegan blog has very few posts but I will be adding to that soon. My main blog, my art blog at Art=Life is still going strong and will continue to do so.
I have basically decided to blog my life, in three parts. This blog is all about crafting something for me to wear and sharing the skills to do so therefore, rolling up my sleeves, let's get to it.
So here I am above. I took this picture this very afternoon. I would love to say that I am wearing my paint clothes here. Well, actually I am but they are also my every day clothes. Yep, jeans, long sleeved v-neck tee and a fleece vest from the thrift store.  This is basically my uniform at the moment. I will be talking about the concept of a uniform later.
Looking at this picture, I bet you would never know that I actually have a BA in apparel design! Yep, I do. Graduated with honors no less!
I am standing next to a My Twin dressform I made about 20 years ago. I am not much heavier than I was back then but things have definitely changed shape and have been redistributed. The padding you see on the dressform was a quick fix I stuck on about two years ago. She definitely needs a lift. Ignore the paintings, brushes, easel and such behind me. That is all on my art blog.
So, what has pushed me over the edge to the point that I would start yet another blog and project? Besides the lack of clothing to wear? 
I will be brief, I got inspired.  The following inspirations are not in any particular order.
  • Inspiration #1: my friend and fellow fiber enthusiast Theresa over at Camp Runamuck. I am always oooing and ahhing over her many completed and well executed sewing projects. I hope you read this Theresa! You are one of my inspirations and I am finally going public so I can do something about my own sad and scanty wardrobe.
  • Inspiration #2: Anita Mayer. (link to YouTube video preview) Anita has long been my secret mentor. I was privileged to live in the same area as Anita for many years and took several workshops and occasionally ran into her while shopping at the local food Co-op. She has books, I found a new video (see link above), and I believe may still give workshops. If you are ever so lucky as to have the opportunity to take a workshop from her, do so. 
  • Inspiration #3: Fibershed.  Holy moly, I love this concept. Take time to explore this site. To be truthful this was the catalyst that made my head explode with this idea. I don't know if I will be able to find all I need in such an isolated area as I live but I am going to try.
Finally here is what I bring to the table and what I hope to share, besides a new wardrobe.
I know how to sew and tailor of course BUT I also know how to drape a pattern to make an original design. I can also do pattern making, that is flat-pattern making, but I really prefer draping. There are tutorials out there, this will be mine. 
I have many books and resources to share, not to mention enthusiasm and love of beauty. I also weave, spin, and dye but not as much as I used to.
I have quite a wardrobe that needs to be built in order to meet my daily life needs. I will get into that on another post.

I will soon be 51 years old. It is about time I had something nice to wear, don't you think?

Much more to come!