Sunday, September 28, 2008

Ten years of the Simplicity Sewing Book

1962—no notions to be seen.

1970—the notions creep into view.

1972—ohmigod, she's got notion fingers!

On Amazon: even more editions

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tutorial: (Almost) All-Purpose Appliqué Board

A few weeks back, I spent the weekend stitching with some women from my quilt guild. This was the perfect excuse to finally get some needleturn projects going that had been languishing in set-up phase. While I was gathering all my bits and bobs to shove into my quilting-to-go bag, I came up with my new favourite quilting tool. Keep your bobbin winders and your Thangles; I'm all about the clipboard.

appliqué clipboard

Yes, a boring old clipboard is the current apple of my eye. Mainly I needed a sandboard, something the Mother has for keeping fabric from stretching while tracing appliqué shapes. She also makes crude versions by spray-mounting a sheet of sandpaper insider a file folder. And while this is a clever trick, I wanted something a little sturdier. I clipped a sheet of sandpaper to a clipboard, and behold! There it was. But my thoughts kept drifting to other 9" x 12" accoutrements to trick out the board with. So I now present my (Almost) All-Purpose Appliqué Board. This may seem like a long-winded tutorial for a tool that's really pretty simple, but the sequence of the stack is important to access everything properly.

  1. You'll first need a letter-sized clipboard. Mine cost all of 39¢ at a thrift shop.
  2. appliqué board cutting layerA self-healing cutting mat is the first layer of the board, useful for cutting out appliqué pieces with an 18mm rotary cutter and, for straight lines, a credit-card-size ruler (a much appreciated freebie from a local quilt shop). I happened to have a 9" x 12" mat on hand, but they can be tricky to find. Here's a Fiskars one punched (but too tall) to fit in a three-ring binder, an X-Acto 8.5" x 12" mat, or an 8.75" x 11.75" one from Omnigrid. You might be able to use a cut-out section from an older mat instead. My ungridded mat came from a start-quilting combo pack (can't find anything to link to, sorry) that I bought so the Other could have his own rotary cutter (it was a pretty crap gift, since I kept the cutting mat and the ruler for my own evil purposes and am now eying up the cutter for permanent pinking blade installation). When clipped, the cutting mat will probably be a little longer than the clipboard, but it's stiff enough that it shouldn't matter.
  3. appliqué board tracing layerOn the cutting mat goes a sheet of sandpaper. Standard sheets are about 9" x 11", so they'll fit right over the cutting mat. Put your fabric down against the sandpaper when tracing around a template, and it won't slip and stretch as much.
  4. appliqué board design layerPut a sheet of white felt on top of the sandpaper. No need for fancy wool—one of the precut sheets of acrylic craft felt will work perfectly. This can be used as a mini design wall for laying out whatever block you're working on. I use it when I'm gluing the pieces down onto the foundation.
  5. I'm also planning to try adding an overhead transparency with a block design printed onto it to help position the pieces on the foundation. The felt will help keep the foundation in place while using the overlay.
  6. Clip everything into the clipboard. You just have to lift back the layers to get to the one you need. If there's any info you refer to frequently, you could stick it on the back of the clipboard. Templates can be tucked between the layers so they don't get scrunched in your workbag, and you can even leave fabric bits stuck to the felt layer during transport if you're not too rough on the board.

Simple, right? I've been using it quite a bit at home for working on appliqué in front of the TV.

So why is it only almost all-purpose? Well, there's no ironing surface. You can't press on it. I'm sure some industrious someone could come up with a way, but for something cobbled together from what I had lying about the sewing room, I'm pretty satisfied.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Silverware in the sky—what decade is this?


Metal cutlery seemed like such a small thing in the olden days of flying. Who even thought much about it until it went the way of water past the security checkpoint? Now you just feel grateful if you're served anything in the air that requires the use of a knife, chintzy plastic or otherwise. We'll be telling out kids "I remember when they served food on aeroplanes—with actual metal cutlery!" instead of "I remember the days before remote controls!"

In our thrifting sojourns, the Other and I have taken to scrounging out airline silverware. We have so many dishes we don't know what to do with them all, but our cutlery has been bog-standard Ikea or some ming thing with twisted-loop ends that the Other bought before I moved in and demanded veto power. Since we can't afford the Arne Jacobsen cutlery I once loving caressed (in stainless and silver!) at St Catz, these airline relics seem like a fun way to go. We came across a few bits randomly and have built quite a collection over the past months. I guess people nicked the stuff as trophies for a collection, 'cause when we find one logo sticking up from a silverware bin, some digging usually reveals several more.

airline spoons
L to R (click images to enlarge): SAS, Air Canada, Eastern Airlines, Pan Am, Western Airlines, Lufthansa, Korean Air.

We really splashed out for a few choice pieces that were $2 each—not bad consider most were got for 25¢ or less. The one piece that's actually silver, the Pan Am spoon, was one of these big-ticket items. It was completely tarnished when we found it, but I managed to make out the logo, and the Other cleaned 'er up nicely with a little toothpaste! Pan Am was definitely on our wishlist, since there just seems to be something glamorous about America's only real international airline. Really, all the defunct airlines are extra fun; the Eastern spoons came from the most recent dig, but Western I'd never even heard of till I identified the logo.

airline knives
L to R: Singapore Airlines, China Airlines, Northwest Orient, Cathay Pacific, UTA, United.

Air Canada is another favourite as a nod to my Canadian heritage (so glad I didn't pay $15 a pop for the ones we saw in San Francisco!), and we were also happy to find the Lufthansa forks and spoons for the Other, who has spent much time in Germany. The flag carriers/national airlines seem more distinctive somehow, though it's also been fun to track down airlines I didn't recognize, especially when presented with only a logo. My family will vouch that I've always had a logo fetish (which sits oddly with my refusal to wear branded clothing). Now I know we had a KLM fork or something. Where the fridge has it gone??

airline forks
Top to bottom: Lufthansa, Mexicana, Iberia, American Airlines, EVA Air.

Aside from the logos, some of the cutlery is quite elegantly designed. The Cathay Pacific knife has to be one of my favourites. The very geometrical Lufthansa teaspoons are nice too, and so is the curvier Lufthansa fork from a different period. It's also interesting to look at the manufacturer's stamps to see pieces were made in the country of the airline's registry and which were made in Asia or Japan despite being registered elsewhere. And sometimes cutlery that looks essentially the same (we have multiples of some of the pieces) were made by different manufacturers in different places.

I'm not offended if you've just looked at the pictures, but if you're not bored yet, I compiled some figures for my own curiosity:
  • Total countries: 11
  • Total continents: 3
  • North American airlines: 8
  • Asian airlines: 5
  • European airlines: 4
  • Defunct or absorbed airlines: 4

Our eagle eyes are out the lookout for more (hopefully the summer dry spell will end at our local thrift stores!), especially these choice numbers:
  • British Airways—even better, something with the BOAC Speedbird! And while we're at it, throw in British Rail—who says we have to stop at air travel?
  • Braniff, especially from the Alexander Girard years
  • Continental from the Saul Bass years
  • TWA, the other long-gone American international airline
  • Qantas, especially if it shows the kangaroo!
  • Aeroflot, especially if it shows the hammer and sickle!
  • something from Africa, South America, and Australia to round out the continents
I'd totally be pinching them the next time I flew, but a plastic spork just doesn't have the same appeal.