Monday, October 29, 2012

Give Kai a Try

As far as tools go, there's hardly a more important or more utilized one in a sewing studio than the scissor. Although there is the occasional exception of a person struggling by with a cheap and nasty pair, most sewists employ at least one, if not a dozen, "good" pairs of scissors. Whether you're a gear-head, who simply must have a specialty tool for each and every task, you're lazy, wanting everything to be just that much easier, or you find that you can actually accomplish a higher quality of work with significantly less effort, you want the best tool for the job. The best way to find the tool that works best for you is to give some a try.

Here in the classroom, we're busily "taste-testing" Kai's 10" Professional dressmakers' shears, 9" bent handle shears, pinkers and 4" scissors. Now, I must say, I've historically been pretty apathetic in my relationship with my scissors. Sure, I buy an adequate-quality brand, keep them sharpened and clean, don't cut non-fabric objects with them and am careful around pins and needles, but it's certainly not love. When I met Kai's 10" Professional Shears, I realized I'd just been killing time with interim I've found my scissor soul-mate. The weight and balance are divine and nothing beats the zen like slice of those carbon steel blades. The 9" bent-handle shear is a nice ergonomic option, too. They have all the stability and sharpness of a pair of Ginghers, but with a shape that makes cutting on a flat surface a lot less awkward, as well as a soft handle. They have a lower price tag than the 7000 Series, but they're still nothing you'd want in the hands of a scrap-booking spouse or blister-package-opening teenager.
Kai makes a whole bunch of scissors, all of which seem pretty great so far, so we've decided to make them a scissor of choice at the Schoolhouse. Please feel free to drop by for a test-drive yourself!

On Friday, November 9th, we'll be placing an order to Kai.

Below is a list of the models we'll have a couple of on hand, as well as the ones you can special-order.
Carry in Stock
4" needlecraft
4" curved
9" bent handle 5000 series shears
8" pinkers
loop snips
squeeze snips

Special Order
8", 9", 10", 11" and 12" 7000 series professional dressmaker shears
10" 7000 series professional dressmaker shears LEFTY
10" 7000 series professional serrated
4" bent handle
4" blunt tip
5" and 5.5" embroidery
5" and 5.5" curved embroidery
6" rag quilt
6" patchwork
6.5", 8", 8.5", 9", 10", and 11"  5000 series shears
8" and 8.5" 5000 series shears LEFTY

Pre-order 2 or more (any models from either list) and get an in-store discount. Follow this link to place your order and get your scissors in time for holiday gifting, winter sewing, and the Wool Retreat!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

We Gotta Get Outa Here...

As the temperatures drop, the soggy days start to stack up, and the darkness squeezes in tighter and tighter from either end of the day, two thoughts come to mind. The first is, "Oh NO! I can't handle this for 4 more months!" and the second, "Alright, where's my wool?" Delightfully, we've come up with a scheme to address both musings, a Winter Weekend Sewing Retreat in Sun Valley! A change of scenery always lifts the cold-weather blahs, especially if that scenery includes the breathtaking winter landscape of Sun Valley, and working with and then wearing wool, well that's simultaneously relaxing, rewarding, cozy and chic.

Ohmygosh! When is it? Where are we staying? What are we making?

January 18, 19 & 20th, 2013, we’ll be heading to the charming Kentwood Lodge, located in the heart of Ketchum. They've got a big, cuddly, conference room ready for us where we'll have all our sewing supplies and equipment set up, and where we'll all be working our woolen magic. We encourage you to bring a woolen project (or several) that are appropriate to your sewing skill level - whether you've been sewing 6 months or 60 years, you'll benefit from the techniques taught, the restorative surroundings and the inspiration from your fellow retreaters. Make a wool skirt, dress, jacket, pants, overcoat, whatever you like! Barbie and Erin will both be on hand to help with fabric and design choices, fitting, and general project questions and techniques. Barbie will be teaching techniques geared toward working with woolens throughout the weekend. Students will be introduced to concepts like turn of cloth and using wool’s formable properties to one’s advantage. Interfacing for wool will be discussed, demonstrated and experimented with. Participants will be taught how to construct a collar that lays correctly, how to do bound buttonholes, tricks for working with and matching plaids in wool, among other techniques. You'll be guided through making several samples and then you'll get help incorporating some of those methods into your own project. Some tailoring methods will also be covered if there is interest; pad stitching, roll lines, etc.

About the logistics:  Arrive Friday at 1pm in the conference room of the Best Western Kentwood Lodge for lunch with your fellow retreaters (included), then we'll get started sewing! If you can’t make it by Friday at 1:00, feel free to join us as soon as you are able. We’ll toil until about 7, or whenever brains feel full and tummies feel empty, then it’s dinner on your own at any of Ketchum’s wonderful restaurants (many within walking distance). We’ll regroup after breakfast on Saturday morning at 10 to resume our projects and learning. Lunch is again provided and there will be snacks and beverages available throughout the day as well. We’ll follow the same timeline for the end of the day, regrouping Sunday morning and Sunday lunch. Around 3pm on Sunday, the retreat will wind down so we can all begin to make our way back to reality...or to the ski slope.

Materials:   We’ll be bringing a couple of machines and sergers, presses, irons, a bunch of sewing tools and a bit of fabric, interfacing and trim for samples. Bring your favorite machines and supplies and let us know ahead of time if there’s anything specific you’d like us to bring along for your use. A more comprehensive supply list will be showing up sometime in the next couple of months, but probably the most pressing (har har) material you'll want to procure is some wonderful wool. Since Caledonia Fine Fabrics is not long for this world, time is of the essence. Need help picking? We have a class for that. And we're always available for quick questions via phone and e-mail, too.

The pricing for the retreat is as follows:
Sewing retreat which includes over 18 hours of sewing workshopping and 3 lunches - $200 per person
We will happily make your arrangements to stay at the Kentwood Lodge. Add $300 per person for single occupancy for 2 nights ($150/night) and $160 per person for double occupancy for 2 nights (assuming you already have made arrangements for a roommate). We’re glad to set you up with another retreater as your roommate if you are open to double occupancy, but obviously if there is not an even number of roommate-wanters, the last person to sign up will not be able to take advantage of the associated savings.

You should probably sign up sooner, rather than later...we limited the number of retreaters so everyone will get enough attention, workspace and equipment. CLICK HERE to go to the registration page.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Introducing the Sewing Scoreboard

In the Tuesday evening Assisted Sewing Lab, you'll usually find two of our teenage fashionista students toiling away on one project or another. They've tackled skirts, dresses, costumes and ballgowns over the course of the past 18 months. Both have brought their sewing skill-set up to an impressive level (neither had ever sewn before the Beginner A-Line Skirt Class) and finished numerous projects worthy of being sported to school and family gatherings, but does that satisfy these stellar students? No. Only when a new or challenging sewing task is accompanied by the elusive "Gold Star" from that evening's lab instructor are the girls truly fulfilled. Now, mind you, the gold stars doled out to these young ladies are not real. They aren't seen or counted. As far as I know, I've given them 100, and they've received the same from Lauren, Lori and Arielle for all their "jobs well done" over time (though, let's not build the pedestal too high, there have been just a few instances of gold stars being that a rotary cutter open on the table? Um...yeah, I'm docking you.). All of this, plus the late-night phone conversation with Barbie after we had returned from this year's ASDP educational conference with a booty of fantastic fabrics from Haberman, in which I heard myself blurting, "...and I'm gonna make (this), and I'm gonna make (that)!", knowing full-well I was going to add all that beautiful material to my ever-swelling "stash" and never take the scissors to it, led me to the epiphany I had last week. Let's make the Gold Stars REAL and actually have them count for something!

So, earlier this week, I came up with the Sewing Scoreboard - which is, in fact, a bulletin board covered in butcher paper and pattern tissue, but bear with me, it's symbolic AND motivational.  Here's how it works: Each student (and teacher if they want) makes a list of projects they intend to complete and pins it to the sewing scoreboard. The projects can be completed at the Schoolhouse, at home, in class, outside of class, whatever, but when a project is complete...and I mean COMPLETE - lining closed, hooks and eyes on, hems...hemmed, I'll place a star (yes, a REAL one) next to it on the list. You're probably thinking, "Hey! Nifty! I'm going to get stickers and public praise and that system is going to make me accountable to finish my projects!" Yes. (Cue late-night infomercial voice) But wait, there's more! If you earn Gold Stars (or silver or red) by finishing sewing projects, you'll also get FREE sessions at the Sewing School! Drop by and make your project list today so you can start earning stars!

Here are the details:

  • Finish 3 Gold-star projects and earn a FREE session of  Tuesday Lab or Intermediate Sewing Club
Gold star projects typically take between 6 and 15 hours to complete and might include skirts, dresses, tops, unlined jackets, hats, un-detailed pants, shades or piped cushions
  • Finish 2 Red-star couture projects and earn a FREE day of Couture Club
Red star projects typically take between 20 and 45 hours to complete and might include couture dresses and tops, pants, jackets and coats
  • Use small projects to earn more stars
Silver star projects take less than 6 hours to complete and might include purses, t-shirts, athletic pants, simple skirts, small or easy home decorating projects, quick vests, straightforward knit dresses or tops
  • Trade in 3 gold stars for a red star, or 3 silver stars for a gold star

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Sad Time for Boise Textile-o-philes

We just heard last week that our sister-business and supplier of all things touchable, Caledonia Fine Fabrics, will be closing its doors in a month or so. 

The Sewing School will journey on with the heavy hearts and added complications of having to shop for fine fabrics out of town or online. We've had some questions about whether the School will now be selling fabric. Although the sewing school doesn’t have a lot of retail space and it’s not our goal to be a fabric store, we will likely carry just a handful of bolts of fabrics that are directly related to the classes we are offering, and we’ll also place occasional orders for our students (specialty supplies, tools, interfacings, etc.). After all, how are we going to have a silk sheath dress class without any silk, or a wool cape class with just the crappy wool blends from JoAnn? We already offer a few specialty tailoring tools and books in our puny retail foyer and through our website, and as we hear of our students' needs and desires, we'll add more.

We are so sad to lose our friend, neighbor and provider of tactile treasures. Hopefully our personal stashes and small orders can hold us over until somebody picks up the mantle and opens up another fine fabric store nearby. 

 If you do need to shop online, please try to patronize independent fine fabric shops like Caledonia Fine Fabrics was. If we don't demand the quality goods and service provided by these merchants, the supply of beautiful and high-quality fabrics and specialty sewing tools will continue to dry up and we'll all lose access to them forever. Here is a link to an e-mail service that connects you to 25+ independent fine fabric shops across the US and Canada: Note the names of these stores as well, and make a point to visit (and BUY) during your travels.