Tag Archive | sewing

The Great Purge: Spring Cleaning

It’s March and that means one thing:  SPRING CLEANING.

cleaningNow if you are like most people those two words send shivers up the spine far worse than anything our recent mild winter produced.  You may be thinking of this mountain of work and indeed depending on your household, spring cleaning may involve anything from simply tidying every room  (including scrubbing the shower, toilet, and every sink in the home) to something much more drastic.

 

For me, spring cleaning is the first of two yearly household purges where I look through everything in every cupboard and closet and decide what to keep and what to throw out or donate.  It’s been this way for the last two years as I anticipate moving overseas.  Because let’s face it:  the more stuff you have, the more it costs to move it.  When it comes to a long distance move, that becomes prohibitively expensive!

So here’s the standard I’ve adopted:

  • Anything expired gets tossed.  Some people argue that food, medicine, and cosmetics are still good past expiration dates.  I refuse to risk that.  My health is worth more than whatever the replacement cost is.  To help prevent food loss implement better storage plans where fresher items are at the back and older items are at the front of your shelves and cupboards.
  • cone threadAnything that is not worn or enjoyed at least ten minutes straight in the last two years gets tossed, donated, or downsized.  For example chinaware.  Keep only the number of place settings used in the last two to five years.  A family of four which rarely entertains using chinaware does NOT need twelve place settings. Purge it to one to two place settings above the number of people who live in hour household and/or you entertain regularly.  Likewise if you sew or enjoy crafts, go through your supplies and only keep the items or colours you actually use on a regular basis.  Remember that unused supplies often degrade with time.  Keep your stash fresh!
  • Throw out or recycle any electronics or small household appliances that no longer work — including holiday lights.
  • Digitize vital records (birth certificates, passports, etc.) and keep copies in a safe place.  Mementos should also be digitally copied so you can preserve them against loss (storms, moving, etc.).
1-1034d

Brother 1034D overlock machine.  I gave away mine as part of my spring cleaning because I no longer sew.

Most of the things you think you need and cherish you actually DON’T.  Does it really matter what your daughter got on a test in the third grade?  Do you really care how much money you spent on a pair of eyeglasses in 1992?  These sorts of things seem important when you file them away, but lose most of their importance as time goes on.   Don’t be afraid to take a hard look at your stuff.  For example, I used to sew.  I don’t now and I don’t particularly enjoy it; it was my mother’s thing and not mine.  So I recently gave away my overlock machine.  I don’t need it and it was taking up a lot of precious space while being too heavy to move easily.  Same with fabric.  If you don’t have a project for it, either designate it to a project with a set deadline for completion or get rid of it.

Remember that space is expensive in both time and money.  Take this opportunity to purge your home of what you do not need.  You’ll be happier, healthier, more organized, and you’ll get more enjoyment out of your home.

 

 

Silk Basics: Mommes and Fabric Types

Originally posted March 1st, 2012

 

Silk is a fashion mainstay-particularly for formal wear. Spun from un-wound moth cocoons that dine on mulberry leaves (aka silk worms) and woven into a broad range of fabric types, silk is the original luxury fabric. Silk fibers are extremely strong, yet fine in thickness, enabling it to be both extremely wind and puncture resistant, making it the perfect base for armor and the perfect winter coat material (historically Chinese and other East Asian societies wore coats, not cloaks, for winter protection).

Silk is versatile! Yet for all its history and impact on both Asian and European history and cultures, few people understand its weights and fabric types well enough to make truly informed choices at both fabric stores and clothing stores.

Silk weight is measured in a unit called “mommes” (abbreviated mm in textile contexts) which is how many pounds a silk bolt 45 inches wide by 100 yards weigh. The smaller the number, the lighter weight the fabric. The lightest weight silk I’ve located is a 3mm silk gauze. By contrast, many silk noils (aka raw silks) will weigh between 30mm and 35mm, depending on where you buy it. That makes the silk noil 10 times heavier than the very light and sheer silk gauze. Your average crepe de chine is in the middle, ranging from 12mm to 16mm. Doupion (i) is typically around 19mm (see http://www.dharmatrading.com/html/eng/1665272-AA.shtml for actual fabrics at these weights).

Weight alone will not determine how hot or cold your silk will be to neither wear nor what sort of garments it should be used for- though it is critical to that equation. Weave is the other major consideration needed to make that determination. Weave is about how the fibers are put together-how densely and in what arrangement the threads are interlocked. Weave transcends fibers. Gauze, an open woven fabric, may be made of silk, cotton, linen, or any number of artificial fibers and/or blends. Gauze is, by its nature, at least somewhat sheer-as an open weave, the strands are not very close together. Gauze is highly sought after for veils, sheer blouses or shifts (in historic clothing), and so forth. On the other end of the spectrum are velvets (woven with a deep pile), organzas, silk noils, doupion(i), and brocades (silk brocades are typically silk-rayon blends). Weave is easily seen with the eye-if it looks densely or tightly woven, it’s probably a tight weave.

Combined, momme value and weave will provide you will a good sense of how any given silk fabric can and should be used. From crisp weaves like doupion to softer, more clingy fabrics like habotai (aka China silk) and chiffon, the combinations of weight and weave are almost endless. With a little thought and experimentation, however, you can find a silk that cool for summer, warm for winter, and everything in between.