Saturday, November 6, 2010

Sewing Genius Bar

The cooking newbie has it easy. There are any number of easily accessible places where one can call in and ask why the egg whites aren't whipping, or why the turkey "looks funny". King Arthur Flour has a website with a blog plus recipes and pictures to show baking newcomers every little step. There are entire cooking TV networks with stars like the hunky Eric Ripert showing where he gets his inspiration. But sewing newbies...those poor people! They have to search. There is no equivalent Butterball Party Dress Hot line for sewistas in a panic to turn to. The pattern companies have incomplete, crazy or just plain weird instructions (I'm talkin' to you, Burda.) It can be scary. Plus everybody eats, so cooking advice is everywhere, but not everyone sews, so unless you know a sewista, where do you get advice?
My phone number is on my website, and so I get lots of calls from sewistas from all over asking for sewing advice. (Of course I'm not an expert, but I have been interviewed on NPR talking about sewing, so I guess that counts.) It occurred to me that sewistas everywhere need a Sewing Genius Bar (like Apple's) where sewistas at all levels of experience can call or write in and get help. I was on the phone this very morning with Jane from Alexandria (Hi Jane!) and she was looking for advice for sewing from the Italian sewing magazines.
(The Sewing Genius Bar will have an Italian Translator on staff...and a German one, of course.)

Jane had the following questions:
1. How do I know what size to sew?
2. How is the fit compared to the U.S. Big Four pattern companies?
3. How do I sew without instructions?

Sewing Genius Bar Answers:
1. Sizes are tricky. The measurements are listed, but in my experience, the European sizes run smaller than U.S. sizes. There is less ease, and they seem to be based on a smaller boned body type. So making a muslin the first few times to determine your size is a must. I recommended tracing a simple pattern, and then laying a tried and true pattern that you know fits you on top, lining up the center fronts and shoulder seams. Compare - do you need to go up a size? or down?
Make a muslin and try it on, making note of the ease allowed. This will give you a more accurate idea of what your Italian size is.

2. How is the fit? I find that the fit runs slimmer. The sizing block used fits better in the shoulders, but uses less ease than U.S. patterns. They seem to use a C cup as the base instead of a B cup like the Big Four. Since the majority of women in the US are C cup, this works for me. You may or may not have to do a full bust adjustment. Make a muslin! Do I sound like your mother yet?

3. How do I sew without instructions? Instructions? You really don't need them. (haha just kidding! We geniuses have a wicked sense of humor.) Anyone who has attemped to sew with Burda Whatevertheirnameisnow knows that bad instructions are actually worse than no instructions. Here's what I do. With basic patterns like t shirts, blouses and tops...well, they are all made the same way. First you sew the shoulders, then you finish the neck, then you add the sleeves, and so on. Use the instructions you already have as a guide to completing your Italian masterpiece, with a sewing guide like the Vogue Sewing Book or Reader's Digest on hand for questions. Think about this: if you were designing your top, there would be no instructions then. You would have to make up your own. Visualize yourself as the designer and imagine your own next step. In some ways I prefer figuring stuff out on my own anyway. But if you've never sewn before, you need to think of yourself as an apprentice in the middle ages and find a Master to Apprentice to, until you learn the ropes. If you really are a beginner, put DOWN the Modellina right now. That's for later, missy. Baby steps.

Do you have questions for the Sewing Genius Bar? Let us know. Who knows? This could be the beginning of Something Big.


The Slapdash Sewist said...

LOL, what a fun idea. It would be nice to have someone on call, though some things just have to be shown in person. Could I get a fly front Genius sent to my house?

beangirl said...

Ha, I want a Genius to come to my house too! But this is a great idea.

cidell said...

What a GREAT idea! I bought material this weekend for a La Mia Boutique pattern that will be my first kind of confusing one. I would muslin it, but it's a thick beefy knit so I think I'll be a'ight this time.

MushyWear said...

Great post. I loved reading it!

Nancy K said...

Fun. I like the foreign pattern magazines and I often hesitate to make things that are not immediately clear to me visually. Wouldn't it be great to have translators for Italian, Dutch and German? Or at the very least wouldn't it be nice if Google added sewing terminology to their data base?

Echo said...

Brilliant! Can we have one of those genius thingies in NZ too? And, well in every timezone?! :o)))) If not I'll just settle for the bar....