Wednesday, November 18, 2015


Some weeks ago, while attempting to sew a perfect French Seam for the floral dress in this post, I remembered that I learned a pretty nifty technique from Lyn Weeks in the Frannie class I took from her a couple of years ago.  Of course, all my notes are in storage awaiting construction of our new home in Colorado, so I searched online and found a tutorial of this very technique by Southern Matriarch. Since Martha mentions in the tute that it is from Lyn's book Precise and Professional, and I knew it to be out of print, I decided to take a gander on eBay to see if I could find it.

Well, believe it or not I found it. Only $14.00 plus shipping (almost as much as the book), but now I have it! It arrived within 4 days, perfectly wrapped and is brand new, not used.

It has all of the standard heirloom sewing techniques, such as attaching entredeux to fabric, also to laces, around corners, etc.

The tuck section is almost 20 pages in itself, covering pin tucks, release tucks, hem tucks, twin needle tucks, you name it.

And of course, the French Seam tutorial I was searching for. The illustrations are all very clear as are the directions for each technique.  If you can find a copy of this book, I heartily recommend it. As I mentioned, the book is out of print, but Lyn has said she may publish some smaller texts about heirloom sewing. Her blog hasn't been updated in a while so I don't know the status of the project. So I encourage all of you who are interested in heirloom sewing  to email Lyn and ask her the status of her new books.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Richelieu Embroidered Tea Towels

Here in Northern Colorado there aren't many SAGA chapters to join, in fact, I have to drive two hours to just south of Denver to attend a meeting. So I've joined two EGA chapters here, Centennial Chapter in Greeley and Rocky Mountain Chapter in Ft Collins. I was reading the Regional Newsletter back in August when I saw that the Turquoise Trail Chapter in Albuquerque was having Marian Scoular in for three classes over Labor Day weekend. I've taken a couple of classes with Marian over the years, and I jumped at the chance to take another, Richelieu Embroidered Tea Towels. So we drove down a day early, and spent some time looking at the petroglyphs, basically ancient graffiti by Indians and Spanish travelers.

And of course, I couldn't leave out this guy, a real road runner! They are really neat birds. They will eat snakes, and since they often can't get a whole snake down in one go, they will run around for several days with a piece of snake hanging out of their mouths, digesting it over time until it's all gone. That's a tough bird. We used to see them on and off in Southern California.

Marian drew the design onto the tea towels, so we were able to get right into stitching. The embroidery is done in blanket stitch, with bars floating in the flower center and one of the leaves. We had the loveliest Ulster linen and embroidered the design with DMC floche, one of the nicest threads for embroidery. This is the towel before cutting and washing. You can see how crumpled the linen gets. The folded area on the bottom right was my trying out Point de Paris for the side hems. I decided to go with just a simple blind hem. Our kit contained size 140 sewing thread, which is much too delicate for Point de Paris, as it kept breaking and driving me nuts.

I was fairly nervous about cutting the fabric, after all the work I had put into it. But the duckbill appliqué scissors make this a breeze!

I got these a few years ago as a Christmas gift and they are just what's needed for appliqué. You can get them at Joann's.

Finished towel, washed, ironed, and with all the little thread ends trimmed. The circle in the rose was a new technique. We were instructed to wind the floche around a finger a few times, then work the blanket stitch on the ring. I ended up using a marking to get the right size, and it only took two tries to get it right. It's a bit hard to see here, but I padded the blanket stitching right around the center of the rose, to give it a bit of dimension. 

As usual, I ordered a companion piece, a darling hummingbird. I'll probably do a bit of padding on the wings. Then when I got home, I ordered two more linen pieces for towels and the few colors of floche that I didn't already have. 

I can't wait to hang these in my new house.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

New Project - Scalloped Corduroy Dress with Jacket

My latest project is this beautiful Dress and Jacket combination from Gail Doane (her picture, by the way, not mine). If you have ever taken a class from Gail, you will recognize her exquisite workmanship, attention to detail, and beautiful color combinations. This is bright, but not overly so. I'm not a fan of the current trend of loud clashing prints on little girls clothes, so this one is just right.

If you click on this link, it will take you to her Etsy shop so you can see all of her other beautiful kits.

So, after washing, drying and ironing all the fabrics, my first task is to make nine yards of pink piping. This tumble of bias strip is made with a lovely pink corduroy included with the kit.

I went out and bought a clear mini piping foot for my machine just for this project. Well, I did have it on a list to buy for some time now. I had been using my buttonhole foot, which has a channel under it for piping, but the channel is fairly large and the foot was hard to use, being metal. This clear foot has a smaller channel, perfect for mini piping, and works beautifully. It also helps to stitch very slowly.

The bodice of the dress has pleats, not ruffles, so I made the pleats with a 1/2 inch quick pleater that I picked up at the SAGA retreat in Valley Forge (more on that in another post). I can't get over how well this worked. You just insert the little fork, turn and stitch. Perfect pleats every time.

A sample of the pleated fabric.

Finished pleats sewn to the bodice front. The instructions call for making a strip, folding the fabric right sides together, pleating with the folded side out, then sewing to the bodice front with the raw edges right on the center. Then I made another strip and sewed it to the other side of the bodice front butting the raw edges to the strip already sewn on.

Then I made another strip, folded so the raw edges met in the middle in the back, and topstitched it to cover the raw edges of the pleats. There has to be an easier way to do this, so maybe I'll experiment a bit once I'm through with the dress.

The dress is pretty much completed now, but there is a storm coming in and the lighting isn't so good right now, so no picture. I forgot to take pictures of the collar construction, but I will for the jacket. It's fairly easy to get right and works beautifully. It's definitely a technique worth mastering.

Since I've been in Colorado, I've tried making cookies for my granddaughter with limited success. They all seem to turn out very flat. This is probably due to the high altitude (about 5,000 ft, 1,524 m), so I'll have to do some research on this. Does anyone out there have this problem?

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Elsa Costume Finished!

Or the Awful Elsa, as I call it. Mainly because of the terrible to handle polyester chiffon from Joann's. My granddaughter, Bridget, clearly specified the costume from "Frozen Fever", not "Frozen".  For those of you who might not know, "Frozen Fever" was a short that was aired with the live action "Cinderella" earlier this year.

The bodice isn't quite as glittery as the pattern specifies, but that is because I didn't purchase the sequined fabric. Instead, I opted for a glitter covered satin, at about $20/yard cheaper. As you can see, Bridget doesn't mind a bit.

The chiffon was truly awful to handle, as it doesn't take a press at all and tends to pucker, especially on the hemlines. But I managed to slog through it, and she does love it. Now she wants me to make Anna, but that will have to wait. I wish I had made it first as it would have been a lot easier, as I could have made it from much easier to handle cotton.

Some construction details: I looked up how to hem very sheer fabrics and got some good ideas from Threads website. I stitched 1/2 inch from the edge, then folded the fabric to the inside and stitched again, and trimmed the fabric close to the stitching. If I held the fabric slightly while feeding it through the machine, it didn't pucker (much). The pattern called for finishing the neck edge with purchased bias binding, which was impossible to find in this shade of green. So I made my own, easy enough, except that it doesn't take a crease. It was very difficult to sew and is a bit puckered at the top, but hey, it's a costume.

Actually this is more like a prom dress for a little girl. I hemmed the satin skirt with a bias facing, which eliminates the puckering that occurs with a turned up hem on such a flared skirt. It took longer to do, much was easier. I really hate fighting with fabric; I never seem to win.

On another note, I just came back from the third Smock Across America SAGA retreat in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Mr California Stitching came with me and and we drove down to Washington, DC for a few days museum hopping. I'll report on the two projects from the retreat as I work on them.   My next project is another dress for Bridget, this one with a jacket, and I will try to post on that as I go. It's pretty complicated and will consist of some precision sewing. It will be fun!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Up in the Atmosphere Quilt

I've just completed a baby quilt for my great nephew, who should be arriving in a few weeks. Very long weeks for his mother! She is decorating the room with an airplane theme so I manage to find this nice fabric with several different realistic airplanes on it. I'm not a big fan of the stylized images so often found in baby fabrics.

Since all of my fabric stash is in storage, I went into a local quilt shop and asked for help. The very helpful staff member showed me several books and helped me pick out all the accent fabrics, and I bought just enough for the quilt, no extra as I usually end up doing. The pattern is "Surf's Up Baby" from the "Big Book of Baby Quilts", available on Amazon.

This monkey print is pretty cute, so I used it for the backing. The quilt is all quilted, washed, and ready to go to the little bundle of joy!

I mentioned above that I went to a local quilt shop. Here in Northern Colorado there are five within about 15 miles, whereas when I lived in South Orange County in California all the local shops closed in the last few years. I can't get over how nice it is to walk into a fully stocked quilt shop that has so much to choose from. Heavenly!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Some Snowflake Tatting

In the last post I mentioned how I was having difficult in tatting "Hearts in a Snowflake" by Jon Yusoff. Well, after several attempts, here it finally is. It still doesn't look right, so I may attempt it again after a bit. My previous attempts were tatted in DMC Cebelia 20, but this and the ones that follow are tatted in Handy Hands Lizbeth 40.

This is Snowflake 2, from Festive Snowflakes & Ornaments, published by Handy Hands, Inc. It was much easier to work that the Hearts.

And finally, this is a doily from a book that is currently in storage, so I can't give you the reference. As I recall, it's a pretty good book, with clear instructions and diagramming. But what is odd about this pattern is that the outer row, the "hens and chickens" is just too big to fit properly. If I were to take a (much) better picture, you could see how the rings are somewhat squished together. I could only get it flat by steaming it pretty hard with the iron. I worked this in the car earlier this month when we went back to California to help with my niece's baby shower. Speaking of which, I need to work on a quilt for her.

Next few posts will be about quilting/sewing! And maybe some embroidery.

Happy Stitching!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Tatting in Colorado

We sold our house and have moved to Colorado! The library in town has a tatting group that meets once a week and we are making snowflakes for a fundraiser. This is my first attempt at Hearts in a Snowflake by Jon Yusoff. Please follow the link to see how it's supposed to look! This is absolutely a wretched piece of work, with gaps in the clovers, twisted joins and all sorts of other twists. Setting it down uncompleted for several weeks didn't help, either.

I started it again and already it's looking much better. I colored the picots that the second row needs to join to with a blue washout marker because when I started it, I joined to three rings in a row. That certainly didn't work, so I snipped it out and started the second row over.

Here it's completed, still not great, but better. I need to block it much better and stretch out the clovers so the insides look like hearts. They certainly don't now.

This is a snowflake from Rebecca Jones' book, The Complete Book of Tatting, which is a great resource for tatters. But I always thought that snowflakes were six sided, and not especially round. There are some in the book that are a little more pointy, so I'll try them. I made all of these with DMC Cebelia 20 thread, but after a few more I'll try a finer thread.  I know the photos could be much better; I'm lighting challenged.

Now that I'm no longer a Californian, I've been asked if I'll change the name of the blog. Yes, but I still haven't settled on a new name, so please be patient.

About our move: We closed escrow on the house on July 20, the movers came the next day and Mr California Stitching and I took our 19 year old cat, Oscar, and left that afternoon. Oscar was surprisingly good on the trip, as long as we left his cage open so he could stretch out and sleep. We are now pretty much settled in an apartment waiting to start building our new home, which should start in a week or two. Later this week we travel back to California for my niece's baby shower and will be back in Colorado next week.