Monday, May 06, 2013

have you watched the Great British Sewing Bee?

I just finished watching all (4) 1-hour episodes.  It was *wonderful* ... precisely everything that I had originally hoped that "Project Runway" would be.

Let me back up just a bit.  When Project Runway first aired, I was eager with anticipatory excitement!  Here we would be able to see how designers actually designed!  How they came created their outfits; what obstacles they came up against and how they overcame them; what small but important items make a creation special instead of off the rack.

How I was disappointed.  Instead of a high-brow how-to show, what I saw was a bunch of drama queens, contention, arguing, back-biting and silly, silly challenges.  Stupid stuff.  Obviously, I am in the minority, as Project Runway is in its 11th season.  Enough people are watching it to encourage the advertisers to continue their support.  But then, it seems a lot of people like those atrocious reality shows too.

So, when I first saw that PBS was putting on a Great British Sewing Bee .. a national competition for the Best Amateur Sew in Great Britain, I was very skeptical.  Since my PBS station didn't carry it, the only way I could watch it was on YouTube.

Well, I really do NOT like to watch lengthy videos on my computer.  It's just one of my quirks;  I didn't save any of the URLs and I promptly forgot about it.

Until one of my quilting friends blogged about it.  Now, I truly respect her opinion when it comes to quilting matters, so I was willing to risk watching at least PART of the first video.  After all, no one was forcing me to watch the entire thing. :-)

Much to my utter surprise and immense delight, this show is EXACTLY what I was hoping that Project Runway was going to be.  The Great British Sewing Bee starts at the point where we have 8 semi-finalists.  We don't go through all the auditions.  Each episode has 2-3 challenges, which are all exceedingly spot-on when you want to see how well a sewer can *SEW*. 

One challenge is usually how well can they follow a printed pattern.  The patterns aren't anything unusual, despite what the hostess voice over says.  :-)   One pattern was to make a man's shirt (simplified because it didn't have cuffs and plackets). One pattern was to make a man's trousers. One pattern was to make a little girl's sundress.  These are items that any sewer might make as a matter of course.  (That being said, I've never made men's trousers, but I have no doubt that I could follow the directions, if they were half-way decent.)

Another challenge was to design and make something of their own choosing.  They could use a commercial pattern or draft something themselves.  These challenges usually involved fitting the garment onto a live model so that the sewers needed to know how to *alter* the pattern to fit body issues (something that I've never really mastered).

All the challenges have a time limit.  Since I normally don't sew under extreme time limits, I'm not sure if I could have finished any of these challenges myself.  But to embellish a blank purse with handwork only in any way you wanted in only 1 hour AND be the best??  I dunno.  It might take me that long just to THINK  of what to do!

There are 2 judges: a gentleman from a Savile Row tailor and a lady who has spent a lifetime teaching couture sewing.  They were both very down to earth people.  The hostess was an enthusiastic (in a subdued British sort of way!) lady who was the cheerleader for the group.  :-)

The program focuses on each of the contestants in turn, asking questions.  Everyone is very focused on what *they* are doing,   No one was bad-mouthing anyone else.  It was so, so refreshing.

As for the judging .. oh my!  THIS is what Project Runway should have been about.  Both of the judges talked specifically about each sewer's project, what they were looking for, the good points about the projects while being very diplomatic about the deficiencies.  And yes, many of the projects had quite a few major flaws.  (If I was trying to make a formal gown in 8 hours, I might have some major flaws too.)  It was *wonderful* to hear exactly what specific things made a project standout from the others, as well as what flaws made it classically "home made" in the worst sense.

Each episode eliminated 1 or 2 contestants until there were 3 finalists left.

After I watched the first hour-long episode, I promptly watch the other 3, one right after the other.  They were all Very Very Good.  And honestly .... how can you NOT enjoy those wonderful English (and one Scots) accents??  :-)

So, without any more blathering on my part, here are the YouTube URLs for you to watch each full length episode.  I promise .. if you enjoy sewing garments, you will thoroughly enjoy these 4 shows.


Sunday, May 05, 2013

Hawaiin Applique: top *now* finished; new project started

The handwork for one applique project is done; another one is started.

I like to always have a handwork project in-progress.  It's my Grab-n-Go project, continually ready to be snatched as I head for the car.  If I know I'm going to have substantial downtime someplace, I like to be able to productively occupy my time.

It was only this past January that I started the needleturn applique for Nancy Lee Chong's "You are in our hearts" Hawaiian applique.  The project, as determined by the pattern, is about 40" square.  I finished *that* part of it last February.  In terms of Forever Projects ™, that's a pretty pathetic one.

I also don't particularly care for small square quilts; they aren't useful for me.  So, instead of leaving this pattern as-is, I decided to put a top & bottom border on it.  Fortunately, I had extra background fabric and extra applique fabric.  Using the Hawaiian applique design as the base, I made my own linear border.  The picture to the left is the top only, hence the wrinkles.

*NOW*, I'm pleased with the final, overall dimensions.  At 42" x 63", it's a more useful size.  It'll decrease slightly once it's quilted and bound, but it will be nominal.  The quilting part will need to wait it's turn behind all the other previous projects.

Because I knew that the Hawaiian Applique was coming on an end, I started the prep work for my next handwork project.  This one is called "California Poppies", which are one of my very favorite wild flowers.  I purchased the pattern and fabric at a local quilt show recently.  The pattern is designed by Bobbie Y Jarrett of Shingle Springs, CA and it was she, who was manning the vendor booth at the show.  When I realized this was *her* design, I asked her autograph the pattern for me; she graciously signed her name.  I'm such a fan girl. :-)

This project was originally designed as the center medallion of the 2012 Opportunity quilt made by the Gold Bug Quilters of El Dorado county.  Unfortunately, I can't seem to find a picture of that Opportunity quilt. 

But I do love this center medallion!  At a finished 18" square, it will make a wonderful throw pillow.  I'm thinking I might do "something" in the border area; I'm not sure at this point.  I'll need to wait until the applique is done to see what it says to me.

I did have one nitpick about the kitted fabric: the green batik for the background was perfect; the step-value oranges for the poppies were perfect.  But for the stems and leaves, the fabric was a bright BLUE.   Yes, that's right: blue.  It was incredibly jarring.  Apparently, this coordinated with the other blocks in the Opportunity quilt.  It may have looked fine in that setting, but as a stand-alone?  No way.  I substituted my own gray-green fabrics from my stash.

You can see that I have front-basted the stems and leaves onto the batik background.  Since the orange poppy petals will overlap the green parts, the stems and leaves need to be done FIRST.

As far as my (infamous) List of 17, I don't have anything loaded on Lizzie right now.  Later this week, I'm having an internet quilting list member come to my house where I will share with her how I do things on my Lizzie.  She has the same machine and was asking on the list if there was anyone "nearby" who could show her some hands-on things.  I'm always happy to share (and, as Mr. Pirate will tell you, talk.  And talk. And talk.  :-)  )  so I invited her up.  She wants to know about everything from the ground-up: loading a quilt, pantograph, ruler work.    I've told her that I can show her how *I* do these things but that's not necessarily the ONLY way to do it.  Even if she ultimately decides that the way I do things isn't working for her, the time isn't wasted: she learned something new, decided against it and would then be able to look for a different method.  But, I hope that what I show her is actually helpful.

If I load a quilt onto Lizzie for me to work on, I'm not sure I would get it finished before my internet list buddy arrives.  It's better to simply defer my quilt until after the visit.  It's not like I have nothing else to work on. :-)

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Happy Star Wars Day!

"What's that?", you say? "There's no 'happy Star Wars day'."

Poppycock, I tell you.  *OF COURSE* there is.  It's today,  5/4.

Drum roll, please ....

May the 4th be with you!    LOL!  :-)

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

"Peace": another project finished!

The Reader's Digest version is that in July 2012, I completed the hand work on a needleturn applique wall-hanging.  The top was put on the Pile of Tops to be Quilted and there it sat.  And sat. And sat.

Eventually, it became an item on my (infamous) List of 17 (tops to be quilted).  And still it sat there.  Very patiently waiting its turn.

Which I can NOW happily say has come!  I have finished the quilting and the binding and the labeling AND the hanging sleeve!  Woo hoo!!  This puppy is done!   :-)

I'm pleased with the stitch in the ditch around the appliques; this is no mean feat with a longarm!  I *much* prefer SITD on my home sewing machine; the control is much greater.  

I'm not entirely certain I chose the absolutely, 100% "correct" quilting for the background around the applique.  It works; I think it looks fine but wonder if I couldn't have found something better if I had only looked for about a gazillion hours longer. :-)  I tend to get impatient after only a bazillion hours.

I'm *very* pleased with the binding.  There is a long, vertical, high-contrast division between the background fabric and the applique fabric.  I didn't want the binding to be a distraction so I used the applique fabric on the applique and the background fabric on the background.  Normally, when I join the ends of my binding, I do a diagonal seam.  This distributes the bulk of the seam allowance over a greater distance and makes for a flatter binding.

But if I did that on this project, the diagonal seam would be horridly obvious.  Instead, I made a straight, vertical seamline in the binding to match up with the division on the wall-hanging.

Those pictures are just teasers! For all the gory details, links and more pictures, please visit my web page for the Peace wall-hanging.