Friday, November 30, 2012

Two down, uncounted to go

I've been a busy little beaver up here in the sewing room, pounding out garments for my Etsy store.

Finished what I like to call the "Polka-stripe" dress the other day, and a really nice pima cotton batiste blouse.

I finally wised up and put the zipper in first, so if I screwed it up I would be only out a handful of minutes' work. I did good. It was easy to match the stripes in the skirt, and I decided to pleat on the stripes for the puffed sleeves. Due to no planning on my part, the pleats were perfectly spaced for the sleeve pleats.

This is the same pattern as the blue and white gingham ruffled dress I posted about earlier.

The blouse caused me to sweat a little, although it did only take me 3 1/2 hours, about what a human-sized blouse would take me, so I guess that's OK. The cotton was a delight to work with, and I have more in white and light blue to play with. It cries out for rows and rows of pintucking.

And, I finally caught on to 3/8 being larger than 5/8 and set up my Singer automatic buttonholer to make the buttonholes. Yes, those buttons really really work.
Hancock Fabrics carry Slimline buttons, 6 to a card. On sale the other day for 60 cents. These are 1/4", the smallest buttons I'm willing to try and do and undo. 
The blouse-sweat came from the darn vintage collar construction. I cut a white blouse out at the same time, so I might change the order of operations just a bit for the next try. AND, by cutting two blouses out in 1/2 hour, I saved 1/2 hour of time! Sweet!

Etsy has a suggested formula for figuring the asking price for an item: material (ALL, including packing materials) + profit + labor. Then you double the resulting wholesale number for retail. There might have been something like overhead in there. 
Anyway, my material cost is quite low, and I've had to set my labor quite low, or the garments would be seriously overpriced. 

Well, enough whinging.

I have a couple of improvised photo floods, and today I kluged together some barn doors out of disposable pie pans and also a diffuser out of kitchen parchment paper to help direct the light where I want it and make it a little less edgy.

I played around with a backlight to show off the batiste. 

The doll's face was quite dark with the backlight, so I deployed the barn-door/diffuser thing and all was well. I still had to lighten up everything in the GIMP, since it is raining like mad today and my lights are 75w equivalent daylight fluorescent bulbs.

I stuck the Nikon on a tripod, framed the photo I wanted, and started waving the big light around over my head while clicking the camera. I'm sure the termite inspector person thought I was absolutely off my head. (No termites, by the way.)
I picked the version I liked best.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Black Coat

I finally finished a black corduroy coat for my Etsy shop: The Educated Flea

Everything takes longer than I want it to, but I think this came out great so it was worth the wait. This is the same pattern as the pink wool one that I put shoulder pads in (Hello Dolly Boutique pattern).

I decided to skip the pads since I want this coat to fit a variety of dolls, and the shoulder pads do take up a little room.

Speaking of fitting dolls, I need to take some of my Etsy things, or duplicates of them, to doll meets so I can ask folks to try them on their SD dolls. It would be nice to list a range of dolls the garments fit.

Anyway, black is hard to work on in anything but good, strong, natural daylight. So the short winter days limit my sewing hours. I'm glad I finished sewing it before it started raining buckets, although I did manage to photograph during a rainy day. I am using 75w equivalent daylight florescent lightbulbs in cheap heat lamp reflectors from the home improvement store.

The color temp is ok but the light is not very bright. However, it is bright enough to make for dramatic shadows. I suppose dramatic shadows will have to be a "feature" from now on.

More photos of the coat.


Added a half-belt to give the coat a more defined waist.

The blown-out highlights illustrate my photographic ineptitude.

Daft me set the lining in by hand. I actually enjoy that part of the process!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Starting an Etsy shop

Well, this is quite an adventure. My husband is tired of hearing about it so you will have to listen instead.

Etsy, for those few of you who do not know about it, is an internet site where resellers and crafty-types can sell their stuff.

Finding the Answers to my Questions
If you superficially scan Etsy, you find there are four easy steps to starting a store.
I suppose they do not want to scare folks off. It is more complicated than that.

Figure out what you want to call your store. Spend hours trying names that some person has already laid claim to. Finally settle on "The Educated Flea." I'll explain that later.

Decide to use Paypal. Find out that you have to alter your existing, personal, account to one of Paypal's business types.

Wonder about shipping costs and sales tax. Decide to worry about that later.

Cruise other people's Etsy shops and borrow some of their policies for returns and so on.
Wonder if that's really what you want to do.

Sales tax. I'll think about that tomorrow.

Realize that, in your county, you have to get a business license. Head to the county seat and find out that they now charge for Doing Business As and that's nearly the same cost as the darn license.  And I'll have to publish in the paper.

Poke around on the Board of Equalization's web site and decide to worry about sales tax later.

The process of setting up a shop generates a lot of questions. Finding the answers is not straightforward. But I think I've gotten it all worked out.

Oops. Taxes.

Sales Taxes and the Great State of California
I think I am supposed to collect 7.25% tax for any sale I make that is shipped to California. How I'm supposed to set that up in my store, I have no idea.

Trolling the 'help' forums, I find that I cannot do that until I've opened my shop. Sigh.

I start the process to get a Seller's Permit, necessary to collect sales tax.

Shipping and So On
While wandering dazedly through reams of tax law, I suddenly wonder how shipping fits into that. (you can't do shipping until you've listed an item, but you can list an item before you open your store).

CA says that (and don't believe me, go look it up for yourself or pay an expert) if I use a common carrier to deliver my package, and the shipping cost is called out clearly on the invoice, and I charge exactly the shipping cost, I don't collect sales tax on the shipping.

Getting Up the Nerve
In order to list an item, I have to have an item to list. So I sit down and bust out a cute doll hat. Then I try to take pictures. I need lights. So I go to Home Depot and get some daylight florescent bulbs and a couple of clamp on light reflectors. 

How much to charge for the hat? No clue, so I cruise Etsy and try to figure out other people's pricing. I think they throw darts at a board and stop when their arm gets tired.

OMG I have to write copy.

AND figure out the shipping. So I head out to the office supply store to look for little boxes. After checking out the Post Awful's website and trying to guess how much it costs to ship something. I guess I'll have to calculate domestic shipping for each item by packing it up and weighing it before listing, then wondering how a second item might affect that, then taking a flying guess for Canada, Mexico and Everywhere Else.

Trying to Look Professional
I've ordered business cards and created a site banner and even ordered clothing labels. Yes, it seems overboard, but I'd like to come across not like a middle aged broad stuck in a home sewing room. Oh wait, that's what I am.

Why a Flea goes to School
I like vintage stuff, and Cole Porter songs. And I've got a Masters degree that does me no good (Education). And I hop from task to task and from enthusiasm to enthusiasm (flea).
"Birds do it, bees do it
Even educated fleas do it
Let's do it
Let's fall in love." 

Thank you, Mr. Porter.

Swimsuit, again

I've bitten the bullet and will be opening an Etsy shop.

So I've had to get serious about making saleable garments. I am very picky. I want things to be just so.

So, I picked up 3 cheerful small scale prints that I thought would make nice vintage style swimsuits.

I kind of screwed up this one, but I'll probably finish it and call it a learning experience and keep it for myself. I really like the print, so I will pick up more and try try again.

There is a previous post here here, in the dark about the swimsuit pattern (click on the big blank space).

I tried integrating the short wrap into the shorts by using just the front draped panel. I like it! 

I tried a cb zip. Oh my, that did not work, since my doll is very curvy and the zipper would have had to go too far into the curve of her rump to be truly long enough. So I will try a side-seam zipper instead.
These bottoms go on, but it is a stitch-popping struggle.

I converted the straps to a halter type, since I plan on offering this in my store and I would like customers to have the option of adjusting the fit of the top a bit.

When I last made this suit, I altered the back of the top so it fit my doll snugly. I shall have to undo that a little bit at make the top a little bit adjustable for larger-busted dolls.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Flannel dressing gown

This is a pattern I drafted myself. 

It is based on the envelope image from a 1940's era dressing gown sewing pattern.

The yellow version (along with a nightie) is in this post this post here, the invisible one (you need to click on the blank spot since I still am too lazy to fix the background/link issue).

I decided that I would try some baby-weight flannel in a nice tiny stripe. And I decided to bust out some buttonholes. 12, to be exact.

I am fairly pleased with this, although I do need to include the back neck facing next time and also widen the top of the front facing so the gown can be worn with the lapels turned back and not look dumb.

I used my old Singer Featherweight 221 with a buttonhole attachment (3/8"). It works so well, I just love it. 
I made an attempt with my zig-zag machine to do the "sew on flat buttons with a machine" trick, but 1/4" buttons are TOO SMALL for this. So I sat on the floor with the family dog and sewed the 12 buttons on. That is the only handsewing in the whole garment.
I like the visual effect of the buttons, but doing them up to dress the doll is a bore. I'm not sure I'll do the buttons again.

I did all the construction seams on my big fancy electronic machine, with a vari-overlock stitch. It worked well in this weight fabric, and saved me beaucoup time, sewing and finishing the 1/4" seams in one step. 

The hood I borrowed from a reproduction pattern (Butterick) of cloaks and wraps. I had tried a hood on the original version but made it WAY too small. 

This hood is very sharp looking. I can use this hood pattern again and again so I am extremely pleased.

The gown came out wider in the back waist than I liked (I may narrow the whole back section of the gown next time) so I threw in some instant gathers.

I tried a honeycomb stitch (again the electronic machine) for the hood and sleeve hems and I do like the results but it does not show up well on the flannel. 

It is a sneaky way of finishing a hem: sew from the wrong side, with the raw edge of the turned up hem right in the middle of the presser foot. Voila! No fraying and decorative, to boot.

I would like the pockets to be a little bit more to the front, but then they'd be too close to the front facings. I did sew the pockets on with the sides not quite parallel (top corners closer then the bottom on purpose) to make it easier to get the doll's hands in them. It worked OK so I won't mess with it further.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


There is another sewing thread on Den of Angels: "Winter Wonderland"
I participated in the last version of this thread: Halloween, and had a blast making costumes.

This time I'm aiming for skiing and skating costumes, vintage of course. I consulted my Dover reprint of selected images from the Sears catalogs of the 1940s and set about altering a coat pattern into a skating jacket.

I am fairly pleased with my prototype and I've decided to share it and my thoughts on where to go from here and what decisions I made that did not really work out.

I tried several new things: polyester microsuede fabric, quilting, a zipper, and vented sleeves.

The microsuede is a royal pain the butt. It does not want to feed through any of my sewing machines. It stretches and curls unexpectedly. 
I hate it. 
I'll use a cotton poplin (what winter outwear was often made from in the 1940s) for the next version.

Some of the examples of jackets are quilted. I quilted a layer of microsuede and cotton quilting fabric together then cut out the pieces. 
Quilting did help tame the microsuede but was actually quite bulky. I like the quilting on the front of the jacket, but I think the back will be plain next time. I wisely did not quilt the sleeves.

The zipper (from ZipperThatDoll) is a nice lightweight separating zipper. The non-separating zipper she sells are even smaller scale. I like the zipper but I think I'll try finding an alternate zipper pull - maybe some kind of winter-themed charm I can jump-ring in place. Snowflake? I'll see what I can find.

I am not going to finish this jacket since it has enough flaws I don't want to look at it any more, so I will not be finishing the sleeves. I believe my vented sleeves will work, and make the garment easier to put on over the doll's hands. 
I need to figure out when in the sewing process I can most effectively finish the cuffs. My goal is to do NO handsewing at all on this type of garment, since I think I will eventually offer this kind of thing for sale and want to be as efficient as possible.
I shall consult a lined jacket pattern (human-scale) from Jalie patterns I've made in the past. It has no handsewing at all and I think I can adapt those construction techniques for a doll jacket.

Part of the bulky seam issues I had with the quilting came from my successful attempt at an "action back" cut.
The action back has either a single pleat in the center of the back, or, as in this case, pleats at the upper edges of the jacket.

Part of the point of collecting and dressing ABJD is their amazing posing ability and I hate to see the dolls in garments that interfere with that ability.
My placement of the back pleats required me to construct the sleeves in two pieces, with a top seam and a bottom seam. I don't mind that, as it does give me more flexibility in laying out the pattern pieces, and I have better control over setting in the sleeves to the body.
However, my quilting made the pleated shoulder seams incredibly bulky. I will not do THAT again. An alternative may be to start the action back pleats below a back yoke. I might consider that for an upcoming man's jacket.
I should probably sew the top 1/4" of the pleats down, as I did at the waist. This may let me revert to a single-piece sleeve.

The fit of the front is not quite what I'd like: I got the bust of the garment too high and the front waist a bit too wide. Both are easy fixes.

I deliberately poked the offending section here, to make it even more obvious.

The side seam is rotating to the front in this picture, meaning there is excess fabric at the waist and below on the front of the garment only.