Super Stitches Sewing

Super Stitches

A Complete Guide To Machine-Sewing And Hand-Stitching Techniques

Nicole Vasbinder

Not a lot of sewing going on in my world right now. In fact, I had not one, but TWO wadders yesterday as I try to convince my sewing mojo to return. In the meantime I’m doing a lot of reading, of course, including some sewing related material. My new favorite title to add to my crafty book collection is Super Stitches Sewing which is devoted entirely to the very things holding our clothing (and other things) together.

Usually this subject matter is relegated to a chapter in a sewing book or a few pages in the manuals that come with our machines. Super Stitches Sewing is divided into three sections: Machine Stitches, Hand Stitches, and Tools and Equipment. Each entry includes a key to the difficulty of the stitch, common uses, what needles to use and other great information. My favorite thing is that the book is entirely in color. I find craft books with black and white photos really frustrating for some reason. The illustrations on how to sew each stitch are really helpful and sometimes revelatory, especially in the hand-stitching section.

Super Stitches Sewing is a perfect addition to my sewing library, but I doubt it will make it onto the actual shelf. I plan to keep it as close to my machines as possible.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

Begging Forgiveness

Please forgive the lack of posting here. I started a new job in February and after  almost 8 months of unemployment (where I settled into a very nice groove), I am still getting used to actually having to be somewhere everyday along with the non-traditional hours of the retail industry.

But this hasn’t affected my reading schedule and I have several books to review and hope to do so soon. Also, I now work in fashion retail and my current wardrobe is far from adequate for this situation, so I may live up to the name of this blog and post some sewing as well.

Thank you, readers, for your patience!

Handmade Chic

Fashionable Projects That Look High End, Not Homespun
by Laura Bennett

There has been an explosion of books and blogs lately as a part of a DIY (do-it-yourself) movement. Now, with just a little money and time, you can recreate designer looks at home without mortgaging it in the process. Sometimes, though, even at the hands of highly skilled artisans, the resulting items look a little too “homespun” and not like the things you see on current runways. And that’s fine for people who want that look, but there is a void in the market for chic diy books.

Laura Bennett’s latest book fills that void. Best known for her sleek, elegant designs on season 3 of Project Runway, Bennett has compiled a collection of accessories that are easy to make and incredibly stylish. What I loved most about it is the inclusion of materials that many shy away from: leather, fur (faux or real), feathers, and beads. Her instructions for buying and using them definitely take the intimidation factor away. The 40 projects include covers for electronics (e-readers, iPads, etc.), wallets, purses, and much more, including embellishing ready-to-wear garments.

This book is a valuable addition to any sewing and craft book library, especially my extensive one!

Illustrated Guide to Sewing Couture Techniques

Edited by Peg Couch
Some books on sewing couture are as intimidating as the techniques themselves. That’s why I love this book series. They do a great job of making sewing your own clothes less intimidating.
Assuming that the reader has some previous experience and is ready to take on more complex projects, not a lot of time is spent on the basics. Because fabric choice is important in couture, the beginning of the book gives a background on the care and handling of fine and specialty textiles.
The middle section covers fit and gives extensive instructions on taking measurements and manipulating the pattern to achieve perfection.
The last part of the book is dedicated to the actual techniques that make a garment couture, including the all important art of handstitching. Although I don’t require it, I was especially happy to see instructions for left-handed seamstresses.
I will definitely add this to my growing sewing library because I rarely see such easy-to-understand directions for couture techniques. This book makes me feel that I can confidently tackle them.

Nina Garcia’s Look Book

What to Wear for Every Occasion
by Nina Garcia

The bookstore where I worked for the past 11 years recently closed. So I am embarking on a new job search. The other day while fretting over having to update my resume, it occurred to me that not only do I not have an outfit to interview in, my current wardrobe is only appropriate for a Starbucks employee. Because of the dress code at my former job, my closet is full of black polo style shirts and khakis. Right now the only social invitation I can accept from you is one where I’ll be making lattes at your dinner party. (And I can, because I am Starbucks/Seattle’s Best trained).

It’s hard to know where to start when your wardrobe has so many holes in it, so I’m turning to my library of fashion books to help me out. I chose this one for no other reason than it was the first that I laid my eyes on. While it really does cover what’s appropriate for certain occasions (job interview, a Netflix night, volunteering, etc.), it also gives some pointers on the appropriate etiquette in those situations. 

It wasn’t very helpful in setting up a core wardrobe, but once I have that in place, I will refer back to this on how to put it together. And as always, the illustrations by Ruben Toledo are divine!

Illustrated Guide to Sewing: Garment Construction

A Complete Course on Making Clothing for Fit and Fashion

I own a lot of books about sewing and fashion, but rarely do I just sit down and read them. Mostly I use them when I need to know something specific. For this one, however, I actually sat down and looked through it from cover to cover and noted some of the things that differentiate this from other books.

This book is for a beginner and they do a very thorough job of taking you through the construction of a garment. Some of the things that stood out to me:

  • Explanations of the different type of machine stitches. That’s usually only in the manuals that come with the machine
  • The illustrations of hand sewing were very detailed and helpful
  • Assurances that space shouldn’t be an issue when setting up your sewing area
  • Guide to the use of color and pattern to enhance different body types. That’s usually in books about fashion, not sewing
  • Detail about how to straighten fabric and concise and clear instructions on preparing fabric to sew
  • Rudimentary instructions for altering patterns made the process seem not so intimidating
  • Directions on pinning patterns to fabric and matching plaids and checks. Good for those of us who are slaves to the pattern instructions
  • Shows how to assemble five basic garments based on logic not pattern instructions
  • Includes men’s clothing
  • After showing basics, goes into more details with seams, zippers, pockets, etc.

Good for a beginner and also a great addition to any sewing library. 

Miss Scarlet’s School of Patternless Sewing

by Kathy Cano-Murillo

The “Crafty Chica” has done it again with a fabulous novel about creativity and perseverance. I thoroughly enjoyed her first book in the series, Waking Up in The Land of Glitter, which not only featured women who took their crafting seriously, but also had a plot that would appeal to people who have no interest in the hobby.  Miss Scarlet’s School of Patternless Sewing achieves the same, masterfully.

Scarlet Santana has a brilliant mind and a degree in engineering that could easily bring in enough money to afford her any creature comfort she desires.  But Scarlet instead, much to her family’s dismay, has decided to follow her heart and become a fashion designer. Until her big break comes, she toils away as a design assistant and blogs about her favorite designer and inspiration. When she gets a chance to study at a prestigous (and expensive) design program, she opens a sewing school to help raise the money to attend.

This is a novel about sewing and secrets. The secrets (acknowledged and dormant) that bring her students to her class. Secret love. Secret ambition. At first it seems that this book has a lot of subplots, and it does, but Cano-Murillo is able to keep the reader from being overwhelmed and tie everything up at the end. Granted as a crafty-inclined person, I thoroughly enjoyed that aspect, but aside from that, this was an inspiring story about being true to yourself. 

A Busy Month (Hopefully)

If I act like a good girl and honor my commitments to myself, then September should be a busy month for me.  That’s because it is National Yoga Month, National Sewing Month, and Monday starts the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine’s (PCRM) 21-Day Vegan Challenge

Now, ideally, I would like to commit to practicing yoga and sewing everyday, but as I’m notoriously lazy, I doubt that will happen but I will do my best.  The one thing I can commit to doing is reading more about the subjects.  You know I’m always down to read a good book.  So here are my choices to commemorate this busy month:


The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga In America
by Stefanie Syman


 Solutions to Every Problem You’ll Ever Face, Answers to Every Question You’ll Ever Ask
by Barbara Weiland Talbert

I have a lot of books on sewing in my library, but I rarely sit down and read them cover to cover. I just reference them when I have a question.  This little book is just full of tips and tricks and I will go through every page.

Because New York Fashion Week is also this month, I will be reading this:

Nina Garcia’s Look Book:  What to Wear for Every Occasion

This is the one thing that I will definitely be doing everyday. I get recipes from all over the place but will use a couple of books and cookbooks as well.

Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook
by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Romero

Quick & Easy Vegan Comfort Food: 65 Everyday Meal Ideas for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner With over 150 Great-Tasting, Down-Home Recipes
by Alicia C. Simpson

By Any Greens Necessary:  A Revolutionary Guide for Black Women Who Want to Eat Great, Get Healthy, Lose Weight and Look Phat
by Tracye Lynn McQuirter

Join me if you want. Inspire me if you will. Support me if you can!

Best Laid Plans…

I am on a forced vacation this week.  That’s not a complaint.  I have been at my job for 10 years now and am eligible for 4 weeks vacation.  In the grand scheme of things, that’s a lot.  Because I never really travel or plan “real” vacations (money is an issue), my manager will sometimes schedule surprise time off for me now and then.  It’s kinda nice coming to work on Wednesday and find out that you have the next week off!

So, this week I’m off from Tuesday through Saturday.  Tuesday was spent cleaning the apartment, doing laundry, catching up on blog and e-mail reading and playing The Sims.  On Wednesday, I went to the grocery store, crossed some things off of my to-do list and played The Sims.  Before I went to bed, I decided that I would devote the next 3 days of my vacation sewing.

Well, it’s now 5:00pm on Wednesday and what have I sewn?  I mended holes in 2 sweaters, hemmed some store bought pants for work, and sewed up the zipper on my favorite purse (when you buy bags off the street you can’t expect them to last forever – but I damn sure am going to do everything in my power).  That’s all.  So not the intended plan.

The problem?  I need clothes. The only thing in my closet are black & khaki chinos, black polo shirts for work, and ill-fitting jeans. Confused? With a wardrobe this limited, it should be easy to add something to it, right?  Wrong.  I need anything and everything.  I don’t have any basics – little black dress, black dress trousers, white cotton shirt – the list can go on and on.  It’s so overwhelming that deciding what to sew is almost impossible.

First, I tried to base it on the thread now on my serger.  If you are unfamiliar with a serger, it cuts the fabric and sews it at the same time.  It has 2 needles and four spools of thread and changing that thread can be a pain.  To hem the aforementioned work pants, I changed the thread from black to beige.  Off I went to find some beige fabric to sew up.  I found this Ralph Lauren twill that I got from for $1 a yard.  It is a thin twill, though, so instead of chinos (always in work mode, I am), I decided to make some lightweight cargo pants.  But after going through my 200+ pattern collection, I couldn’t find one for cargos.  How is that possible?

Then I moved on to a sure thing.  I need a lightweight jacket for this early spring weather and I had the perfect light brown denim fabric and pattern and buttons.  What I didn’t have?  Thread.  So I put that on the fabric store shopping list.  I didn’t cut the pattern out anyway, because in my past I had the tendency to cut stuff out in anticipation of sewing and never getting around to it.  Moving on.

Now, what do I sew?  I kind of walked around in circles trying to decide.  Should I make something work appropriate, since that’s the only place I go?  Or should I throw caution to the wind and make a pretty dress, knowing that my social life in its current incarnation doesn’t require one?  I fell back on my self-diagnosed OCD to get me through this decision.

A while ago, I made these 3 x 5 cards with different project ideas on them so I can randomly choose one and force myself to make something.  They have words like: African (make something out of that fabric), Pants, Skirts, Tim Gunn’s Wardrobe list, etc.  You get the idea.  So, I pulled them out and the card I chose was “Inspiration Wall”.  That’s the wall above my sewing area with pictures cut out of magazines.  The one I was immediately drawn to was a clip from Lucky magazine with looks of chinos and button down shirts.  Perfectly on trend and perfect for work.

But, I don’t have a pattern that I like for chinos in my stash.  I found one from HotPatterns that I liked, but I have never sewn them before and am a little intimidated.  I set the pattern aside with the fabric because I need a zipper – added to the shopping list. For the shirts I pulled four different cottons: beige, bright orange, chocolate brown & a bright orange & yellow plaid.  I need buttons for all of these.  Have the right pattern though. 

But now I’m not so motivated anymore and am starting to think that I need to focus my energies elsewhere, like losing all this weight (did I mention that I am the heaviest I’ve ever been?  I seriously need a personal trainer), or re-working my resume (to afford that personal trainer).  It will be much more fun making clothes for a smaller body, I think.  On the other hand, I can use this time to perfect my sewing skills so that my new skinny clothes will be perfection.

To add more to the FML aspect of my day (and last weekend – that’s another story), my computer started freaking out in the middle of typing this post, so I have lost another 2 hours of faux-sewing time.  Oh well, I’ve since opened a bottle of wine and shouldn’t be wielding scissors anyway…

Butterick 5221

Before I can get started on sewing some core pieces, I decided to sew these pants that I already had cut out.

I made them in a lightweight denim that I treated myself to from Gorgeous Fabrics last year. As I’ve stated before, I have had a problem making pants since my weight gain and was determined to keep trying.  I chose the size based on my hip measurement (which was a shocker and I will not share it) and would adjust the waist later if it turned out to be too big.  Well, fortunately, I seem to gain wait all over proportionately, because the hips fit as well as the waist. I was too excited.  Sorry for the crappy picture, but here it is:

I really like wide legged pants and although they make me look huge in this picture, I’m really happy with the way they turned out.  On to more sewing.