Archive for September, 2007

Basic Black (or, Why I Want to Learn to Sew Better)
September 30th, 2007 | Link

CPUs. Cayce Pollard Units. That’s what Damien calls the clothing she wears. CPUs are either black, white or gray, and ideally seem to have come into this world without human intervention.

William Gibson
Pattern Recognition

I wasn’t a big fan of William Gibson until I read Pattern Recognition, when Jane told me that the protagonist reminded her of me. And it’s true, the line above sounds a lot like my wardrobe: black, white or gray (plus a few shades of blue jeans) with as few logos, brands or embellishments as possible. Clothing that, as Gibson writes later, “could have been worn, to a general lack of comment, during any year between 1945 and 2000.”

I work in software, where the standard office uniform is a t-shirt and jeans, so I can get by with a rotating assortment of Gap classic t-shirts in long or short sleeves, in black or gray. When one wears out I replace it with the same piece. In the summer I wear tank tops, in black or white. I avoid shopping for jeans until the ones I’ve got are worn out and I’m forced to go try on a zillion pairs to find something that fits well and doesn’t make me look like I’m trying to pretend I’m still 16. For dressing up, I have a couple of black skirts (one wool in an a-line, one linen with a box-pleat), which I usually wear with black tights, and some ribbed silk sleeveless turtlenecks. Although I keep buying cute shoes at Designer Shoe Warehouse, the only ones I ever wear are a pair of chunky black Italian pumps or knee-high boots, plus sneakers for every day (which is a relatively new development – for years I wore Doc Marten’s with almost everything).

I do buy new clothes. A few times a year I get the urge to go shopping, and I buy things that fall outside the range above and are rarely worn, or I buy things that mostly fit my style but don’t quite fit my body. Either way, most of these items end up being given away. I wear the pieces that do fit until they fall apart – which often doesn’t take very long.

All this lengthy introduction boils down to why I’ve decided to try to learn to sew better, to alter patterns so they fit me better, and maybe even to modify patterns to suit my own style. I’ve done a bit of sewing over the years, but mostly piecing quilt blocks (always with straight lines). The few items of clothing I’ve made have either been from really, really simple patterns, or ended up at my mother’s to be finished (often both). I’d like to make a few well-fitted shirts and tops, some comfortable, casual pants, and perhaps a couple of dresses. I don’t need a lot of clothes, but a few options would be nice.

Shopping Bag Update: Shrinkage!
September 11th, 2007 | Link

A couple of weeks ago, I posted the various steps involved in sewing my own canvas grocery bags. The result was six bags that looked like this:

Completed bag

A few days later I set out to dye the bags blue. I only did some of them, and what I discovered almost immediately after pulling them out of the (hot water) dye bath – before even drying them – was that the canvas had shrunk!

Completed bags - before and after dying

Now it’s not like I hadn’t considered that there might be some shrinkage (100% cotton + no prewash = some shrinking), but I didn’t realize there would be so much. What began as a bag with a 34″ circumference, 11 1/2″ height and 4 3/4″ gusset ended up as a bag with a 33″ circumference, 9″ height and 4″ gusset. In other words, I lost about an inch around, which wasn’t such a big deal, but I lost almost 6″ in height and depth. The post-dye bags have only about two-thirds of the volume of the pre-dye bags.

Lesson learned: always wash and dry your fabric before you sew something, even if you don’t think it will matter that much to the result, or you may be disappointed in the results.

Things to Do with Paper Scraps
September 10th, 2007 | Link

One of my early bookbinding instructors repeatedly drilled into us the instruction, “Don’t throw away your paper scraps, no matter how small.” She took unwanted scraps from class with her to use for creating collaged covers when she taught bookbinding to children. I am not very good at the “no matter how small” part, but I do save any scraps that seem large enough to be useful for something, someday.

Last weekend, in my drive to use up existing supplies before purchasing new ones, I went through some of my boxes to see what I had around. I found a large pile of decorative paper scraps, and a number of pieces of card stock and watercolor paper that I had apparently precut in anticipation of making ATCs and postcards. I decided to see what I could make out of it all.

I’m not very imaginative when it comes to this kind of thing, so massive collages and multi-media pieces were unlikely. I did, however, come up with some simply decorated items that I might actually use. So, here is my list of things to do with paper scraps.

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Making a Cased-in Photo Album: Casing In the Book Block
September 4th, 2007 | Link

Previously, I explained how to cut the cover boards and spine piece, how to cut the decorative paper and book cloth, and how to assemble the case for a photo album.

In this section, I’ll explain how to case in the album block. This is the last step!

Rather than stopping to take pictures every few minutes while I was dealing with fast-drying glue and trying to hold the book in position at the same time, I decided to create a video tutorial.

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Making a Cased-in Photo Album: Assembling the Case
September 3rd, 2007 | Link

Previously, I explained how to measure and cut the cover boards and spine piece and how to measure and cut the decorative paper and book cloth for constructing the case.

In this section, you’ll learn how to assemble the case. Put down some waxed paper or scrap paper, because today we’re going to glue!

Keep a damp cloth close by when gluing, and change out your scrap paper or wax paper frequently. It’s very disappointing to discover that you’ve accidentally set your beautiful paper or book cloth in some leftover glue. Wipe your fingers quickly whenever you touch the glue. I like to rip off a dozen sheets of wax paper and stack them beside me before I start gluing. I fold over the glued part as I use each sheet, and grab a new sheet as I need it.

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Making a Cased-in Photo Album: Cutting the Book Cloth and Cover Paper
September 2nd, 2007 | Link

Decorative paper and book cloth, cut in preparation for covering the case

Previously, I explained how to measure and cut the cover boards and spine piece for the case.

In this section, you’ll learn how to measure and cut the decorative paper and book cloth to cover the case. How much of your cover is book cloth and how much is decorative paper is a matter of personal preference. Common proportions are for the book cloth to take up 1/3, 1/5 or 1/8 of the cover board width. You’re going to need a little math for this.

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Making a Cased-in Photo Album: Cutting the Cover Boards and Spine Piece
September 1st, 2007 | Link

Front and back cover boards and spine piece

Previously, I talked about tools and materials you’ll need for making a cased-in photo album.

In this section, you’ll learn how to measure and cut the book board and spine piece. My sample book block is a 30-page, medium-sized album block from Hollander’s, but I’ll explain how to measure for any block size.

Read more…



My name is Shannon Hale. This blog is on indefinite hiatus, but it contains archives of the last 10 years of posts about bookbinding, knitting, sewing. and other random things in my life.


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