Friday, February 10, 2017

Embracing Hand Sewing with Sore Fingertips

It's finally winter here in Eastern Massachusetts, after a long spell of barely cold, non-snowy weather, and my hands are showing it. After just a few days of below freezing weather, my fingertips begin to crack and my cuticles get ragged, the remnants of a horrible battle with eczema that I went through as a teen and young adult. It's gets to the point where I could end up with bandages on more than half of my fingers. To make matters worse, I have a ton of bridal sewing to get done.

They say it's good luck when the bridal gown gets a drop of the seamstress' blood on it. That sounds like an old dressmaker's tale made up to calm the young woman whose gown was just soiled, and I don't know of any bride who'd be happy to hear that if she were to see the spots I often find on the gowns I'm stitching! That darn hand sewing needle just pierces my already fragile fingertips while I struggle to get a stitch completed. You see, in spite of having learned from some of the best couture instructors in the country, I never have been able to master using a thimble while hand sewing. (I'm sorry Susan Khalje!) As a result, when I'm faced with having to hand sew to understitch the straplesss bridal gown bodice I've just finished taking in, I poke my fingers repeatedly with the force of pushing that needle through all those layers. (Good thing I also learned the trick that my own saliva on a ball of thread is the best way to get a blood drop back out! Icky, I know - but it works, thank goodness!)

I've run across several articles and blog posts on hand sewing and thimbles, lately. The other day I posted this nice graphic on the ladder stitch to close an opening in a seam, and I was struck by the precision of the illustration. The blog post is quite well-written too, and a good teaching tool. Then today a new post from Brooks Ann Camper popped up in the list of blogs I follow. She's a fellow member of ASDP who specializes in custom wedding gowns each individually designed and patterned, and sewn with beautiful couture techniques. Today's post seems to have been written as if she's speaking to me! "How to choose and use a thimble" hit me like a smack upside the head.

Brooks Ann says: "Enter another grouchy professor, this time at the Master’s degree level, who would not allow me to do handwork without a thimble. Once I (quickly) got over the initial “this feels unnatural” phase, I was hooked! As my thimble now feels like an extension of my hand and is quite possibly my most treasured sewing tool, I owe her a huge thanks for making mandatory something I strongly resisted."

Maybe if Claire Shaeffer or Susan Khalje had been a bit grouchier, I'd have learned to love a thimble a long time ago. (Or maybe I chose to ignore their advice because I was an adult and not a college student, so I knew better.) I urge my young sewing students to learn good techniques and practices from the start, giving them rules for safety and protection around sewing equipment, even charging them to scold me if they catch me breaking one of the rules (like no pins in my mouth, or never sew without shoes on - both very bad habits of mine!) I have thimbles of various kinds all over the studio - because I tried them at one point, but didn't stick with it - so maybe this will be a good time to push myself and establish a really good habit, one that might even have healing benefits for those fragile fingertips?

So that's my plan - I will begin with the thimbles I already own, following Brooks Ann's advice and wearing one around for a while to get used to it being there. My hope is that there will be far fewer finger pricks and blood dots to remove from this new crop of bridal gowns that has landed in the studio. I'd love to know how you feel about hand-sewing and thimble-wearing, too.

Wish me luck - I'll keep you posted.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Adding a new hat to the business wardrobe -

I hope all my US readers had a Happy Thanksgiving!

It's been a while since I've posted a blog entry and I apologize for the long silence. This year has been one of transition for me, since I've been able to devote my full attention to my business. Now that a year has passed since I stopped working for Sawyer Brook, I can see real growth in my alterations and custom sewing business, and the volume of work that has been flowing through the studio since the late winter/early spring is really astounding - I've barely been able to keep up with all the necessary tasks to keep the business running smoothly, besides the sewing itself. But along the way I've added another facet: I've started teaching!

Friday, June 10, 2016

A week full of good stuff

My inbox contained some wonderful goodies this week! 

First up, a nice thank you from one of my recent bridal clients. I restyled the gown worn by both her grandmother and mother, removing the high neck, collar and sleeves along with taking out some of the fullness in the skirt (I'm working on a post all about this process, hope to have it ready to publish soon.) The wonderful words of gratitude from this bride filled my heart:

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Bridal specialist or Prom alterationist - this time of year, I'm both!

I often wonder if it’s the universe punishing me for getting too cocky and sure of myself, putting me back in my place with some humbling experience…..

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

An abundance of Lilly Pulitzer!

A new client called me about alterations a few months ago. She interviewed me at length, something that's quite unusual when I'm first contacted to sew for someone, unless the project is a custom garment. I got the impression that she's pretty particular about the sewing that is done on her clothing, and this was solidified by her statement that she had several vintage garments needing work.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

First Garment of the New Year

My chapter of ASDP (Association of Sewing and Design Professionals) had its holiday meeting last Sunday. Most years we plan this as a museum visit followed by lunch at a restaurant, and we schedule it for early January to avoid conflict with everyone's holiday events.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Why make a muslin?

This question has been tossed around on several blogs recently, and since I feel the constuction of a fitting muslin is a valuable first step in any sewn garment I was thrilled to come across a post that really resonated with me. I shared this on my business Facebook page today, and reactions have been coming in from all over the place - new people I've never been in contact with have found my page because of it! So, thanks to Claire at Sewing Artistry, I'd like to share her "To Muslin or Not to Muslin"  post with you, too. I'd love to hear your thoughts.