Sunday, May 27, 2007

Introducing Bessy

Remember this little gal from the 1970's? I had one. She and my Pooh Bear were my constant companions when I was little. I LOVED them! She still reminds me of me. Bad fashion sense, red round cheeks, and all.
Well, now I have my own grown up version. My present for Mother's Day was to get help making my own paper tape dress form.

We didn't make it until this weekend due to time and material constraints.

To make the dress form, I mostly followed the instructions as per an article in SewNews: Sewing Stunt Double. I made one big change though - I wanted a dress form with legs since I don't wear dresses all that much. Weddings and interviews have been it as of late. (Although, with all the cute dresses I've seen all the sewists make this year, that may change.)

We started with a fairly large garbage bag and did the requisite shaping with duct tape. To shape the legs, DH slit the garbage back up to the crotch, and then wrapped the cut edges together around my legs.

Then we wrapped the bottom.

Lesson Learned #1: When the instructions don't work, ditch 'em!!

I hunted high and low locally for the "real" self-adhesive paper tape (not the shiny stuff). I ended up buying 12 small rolls of it online.
And after all that effort? The paper tape was great for its firmness, but it did not want to stick to anything. DH would lay some on and it would immediately start peeling back off again. He was getting very, very frustrated. I was getting very, very hot and sweaty.

Our solution? Clear packing tape. That stuff will stick to anything. We put a base layer of clear tape down, then paper tape, then clear tape, etc. and finished of with clear tape. (We also had to use some brown packing tape because we ran out of the clear stuff, but the clear worked much better.)

The down side to this method is that we didn't put as many layers of paper tape as called for and I think that effected the over all firmness of Bessy. I would like to have put more on, but both DH and I were already getting tired by the time we figured out how we wanted to proceed.

Lesson Learned #2: Crank down the AC, turn on a fan and UNLOCK your knees. After about 15 to 30 minutes in just the garbage bag and a little of the bottom wrapped, I started getting really, really hot - fainting hot. So, we cranked the AC way down (72), brought in a tower fan, and I bent my knees ever so slightly. That helped a lot.

Lesson Learned #3: OTC painkillers are our friends. I can't stand in one place for very long without my feet, knees, and especially lower back hurting. After the first 30 minutes or so, I was not feeling great at all. A couple of ibuprofen later and the world was good once again.

The bottom part took the longest to complete. It would have taken a lot less time if we had not done the legs. But I wanted legs so there ya go.

After the bottom was completed, we did the back, then the chest area, and lastly the diaphragm area. These all together took roughly a third to a half of the time it took to get the bottom done.

Lesson Learned #4: Yes, you can still breathe. Warning for the claustrophics out there. Everything was hunky dory until the last part. As soon as my breathing started getting a little constricted, I got a little panicky/anxious. Just stop for a few minutes, realize you can still breathe and that you're not going to suffocate, and soon you will be able to continue.

And here I am all wrapped up.

Then we cut her off.

Lesson Learned #5: When the instructions say to move around as little as possible, they mean it.

Bessy is pretty representative around the legs and hips, but the waist and diaphragm area are out of whack. That would be in part due my efforts to keep my lungs as expanded as possible while being taped up.

I also have either sway back or big bootie (or both) and that was not captured quite as well as I would have liked. We got enough of it though that I will be able to tell when my fabric is pooling around my lower back area.

DS is an artistic photographer with the point of view of a 6 year old (because he is one). He was completely fascinated with the inside of the dress form and decided it needed a few pics too.

Here we have Bessy with some PJ's on as proof of concept.

And finally, here she is almost ready to go to work. I have to finished the leg, neck and arm edges, stuff her and get a stand for her. I'm hoping that the stuffing will help with her tendency to buckle in the pokie-outie spots. Well see!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Excellent Customer Service

I live in the boonies - the fabric boonies that is. My nearest source for fabric is WalMart. My 2nd nearest is a smallish Joann's, which is more than 20 miles away. There's really nothing else around for 100 miles or more. I know, I've looked.

As a result, I do much of my fabric shopping online. As my fellow online fabric shoppers are aware, it can be a tricky business at best.

So I want to recognize Ann at Gorgeous Fabrics for her excellent customer service. So rare these days, and so refreshing.

Her site has most of the standard online shopping conveniences to be sure. But sometimes, the real test of excellent and not just good customer service is when something doesn't go quite right.

I made my first purchase from there recently, and the fabric arrived in a timely fashion and in excellent condition, but was the wrong item. The email I sent reporting the problem was not only answered quickly, but also resolved the problem to more than my satisfaction.

No hassles, no questions, no inconveniences. Just a simple acknowledgement of the problem and a commitment to fix it - all with no action needed by me.

I can't tell you how grateful I am to get customer service like that. If every company and vendor out there matched Ann's standards, we would all be much happier customers and shoppers.

So thank you Ann. You can bet your bunnies you'll be getting more of my business.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Simplicity 4096 - View A - Muslin #1

Hope everyone has had a good mother's day - even if you're not a mother! :)

I got to spend my day sewing. I started Simplicity 4096 - View A - Wrap top a couple of weeks ago and finished up the first muslin today.

I say first muslin because there is going to have to be at least one more.

Lesson #1: Pay attention to those reviews on Pattern Review.

I had read through a number of reviews on this pattern, but the part about there being a lot of ease in this view didn't stick. So, the top part of the top is about 4 sizes to big. Talk about a gaping mess!!!

It's so bad I can't even put a picture of it up - wouldn't be decent.

I did try out an idea for the side gathering which I think I will use again. Instead of using gathering stitches to gather the runched side, I used clear elastic tape pulled relatively taut to create the gathers. I think this worked pretty well and made the gathers more even than I could have done otherwise. I'll take a few pics on the next try to show what I did.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Went Camping Instead

I didn't get to do much in the way of sewing this past weekend. But that's OK. We went (car) camping at a place called Torreya instead. It's a very pretty park with some nice hiking trails.

I try to stick to sewing here, but these pics came out too nice not to share (double click them to get a larger view)...

We took a fairly short hike on Saturday. The trail we went on crossed one smallish stream. There were these little dragonflies flitting near the water. Their wings were jet black and their bodies were iridescent green/blue. Just beautiful.

The main blooming season is over, but there were a few pretty wildflowers to be seen along the way.

Lastly, a little proof that Florida is not completely flat. Only mostly flat.

And now, as they say, back to our (ir)regularly scheduled program! :)