Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Back From Stitching Serenity

I made it back home from Stitching Serenity X, a two day class held at St. Mary's Seminary in the hills above Santa Barbara. This is held every year and is sponsored by the Berry Good Smockers Chapter of SAGA in Woodland Hills, California. As I mentioned in my previous post, the class was on making a baby dress called June Baby and taught by Vaune Pierce.  Since my granddaughter is two years old and a bit tall for her age, I had Vaune make the kit up for a size 3 dress, as opposed to the six month size for the rest of the class. There were two special techniques used for this dress: 1) inserting organdy into linen fabric with point de Paris, or pin stitch, and 2) making scalloped edges on organdy.

This is the insert, with the embroidery finished. Since the base fabric is a fine linen, it's pretty wrinkled. The organdy, a light violet color, is stitched in place using point de Paris, which gives the characteristic holes in the organdy. The embroidery is done with DMC coton a broder #25, which gives a lovely sheen. Coton a broder is a 4 ply thread that is used one strand at a time. It's perfect for monogramming and cutwork, and is often referred to as cutwork thread. You can buy it from Vaune, and she carries all of the colors. I really like the way the bullions come out using this. On the left you can see the pin tucks that were stitched by hand. Each one is only a few threads wide. They are pretty easy, but time consuming.

Sometimes you think you know how to work a particular stitch, and then take a class or pick up a different description which gives you a whole new insight into it. I had made the Shirley Temple Dress, which had scalloped edged all along the neckline and sleeves. I wasn't entirely happy with the scallops, and after taking Vaune's class I found out why. I was packing the stitches too close together! This caused the purl ends of each stitch to ram together and sort of bunch up. Vaune told me to space the stitches a bit apart, and lo and behold, they lay much smoother and really looked much more even.

On the left you can see where the stitches are too close together and looking somewhat uneven and bunchy, but on the right they are nice and smooth. I finished the two sleeves and one collar, and just need to finish the other collar and the hem - that will be a job! And that's just the embroidery - I'll still have to put the dress together. I plan on getting a lot more of this finished this weekend.

There is an excellent reason that this class is called "Stitching Serenity".  St. Mary's is no longer a Seminary (a place to train priests) but now functions as a retreat center. Up in the hills above Santa Barbara, you couldn't find a lovelier place for a weekend away.

Off to the left is the Pacific Ocean, mostly obscured by the low cloud cover which never really went away. Right in the center, what looks like very ordered rows of plantings is just that, the replanting after the Santa Barbara Tea Fire in November 2008 (We in California name our wildfires). The air is perfectly clear and the nights are silent, except for the bleating of the goats brought in to keep the brush eaten and the fire hazard lessened.

I've only attended one other Stitching Serenity, and if I can dig up the materials I'll share it with you. I had forgotten how lovely and peaceful it is, and definitely plan on attending again!

Now that I've written this post, I realize that I need to explain a bit more about point de Paris, the type of thread used, and so on. But that will be in another post.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Bullion Wrap Dress Kit Arrived

Yesterday I received the second kit in the Wendy Schoen Embroidery Club for 2010, the Bullion Wrap Dress.

As usual, it is beautifully packaged. The gray and white envelope on the right contains the instructions and the pattern, a size 3. The pink package on the left contains the kit materials. Looks like the packers forgot the mini skein of floche.

The fabric is a white cotton tiny pique, the elastic and snaps are for the panties, and all the needles are included on the cute rhino shaped felt. All of Wendy's needles come in some cute pattern. We had a choice of the color combination, either pink, blue, or yellow. I chose pink, as I seem to make a lot of blue dresses. Look at the buttons in the center, those are mother of pearl buttons in a butterfly shape. In my last post I complained that I used butterfly buttons on the back of the dress. These go on the shoulder straps, so they probably don't need to be worked so much. It's hard to see in the picture of the dress on the link, but the neckline, sleeves, and hem are all worked in scalloped buttonholes. Notice that the fabric is completely plain. All of the color comes from working bullions on the dress. This is really going to be a job! But, I'll certainly build my skills with this. 

If you remember from my posts on the Shirley Temple Dress, I had a bit of trouble with the scalloped buttonhole edging. I think this will be easier just because the dress doesn't have all those seams in it. But I will be much more careful on transferring the pattern and outlining the scallops. Having a nice, precise pattern will certainly aid placing the stitches correctly.

I won't start on the dress this weekend, as I'm off to Santa Barbara for Stitching Serenity X, and will write about it when I return.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Toile Eyelet Dress

Back in 2005 I joined Wendy Schoen's Embroider Club, which I've mentioned several times on this blog. The first item I worked was the Toile Eyelet Dress, but I didn't buy the kit for it. I decided I would be "original" and buy my own fabrics and make my own version of the dress. So off I went to Sew Special, now out of business, (the owner retired) in Vista, California and bought a lovely toile fabric. It had an ecru ground, and all I had was white linen for the yoke. So I dyed the yoke in coffee with a bit of vinegar, and lo and behold, it came out a perfect shade of ecru. Now the linen matched the DMC shade of ecru perfectly!

This embroidery on this dress was challenging, but that is the whole point of the Embroidery Club, to learn new techniques. It had not only round eyelets, but teardrop shaped ones as well.

The teardrop eyelets were the leaves on the stems, and the little bluebirds were worked in blue floche. Round eyelets are fairly easy, once you do a few hundred or so, but the teardrop eyelets are a bit more harder to work. You have to mark the outline with a very sharp pencil, work a running stitch over it, then another running stitch to fill the gaps. Then cut the fabric inside the outline in an asymmetric cross, fold the fabric to the back, and stitch the eyelet, trying like the dickens to keep it symmetrical. At the last, trim the bits of fabric, which are now worn to a few frazzled threads, from the back of the embroidery.

And here are my somewhat asymmetric eyelets. Now don't get me wrong, the instructions were very detailed and easy to follow, in theory. They were just very difficult to get worked correctly.

I used a purchased piping I found that matched the peach color of the fabric perfectly.  But I found these adorable butterfly buttons that I just had to use. This was a Big Mistake, they are a real pain to button and they distort the shape of the buttonhole something fierce. My advice - use round buttons, they are so much easier to use when drying to dress a wriggling toddler.

This was my first and last time buying the fabric on my own for Wendy's Embroidery Club. It didn't take too much time, but I decided that buying the kits was much easier and faster, and from then on in that's what I did. I only ever finished one other garment that year, and if my daughter ever finds it, I will post a blog about that one.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Elizabethan Sweet Bag

Several years ago I took a class with Susan O'Connor of Country Bumpkin of Australia when she came to the US for a SAGA convention. This was for an Elizabethan Sweet Bag, her third design of this type of embroidery. It was one of the pre-day classes, that you have to pay extra for, but it was well worth it. Susan is an extremely talented designer and a perfectionist of a stitcher, just see any of her work in the Country Bumpkin magazines Inspirations and Australian Smocking and Embroidery (AS&E). I took the class in 2007, and last year, two years later, I finally finished it.

It consists of silk embroidery, all Au Ver a Soie, Soie d'Alger threads on silk broadcloth. I especially love the Red Rose of Lancaster near the center, on the left.

The outer border and the stems are chain stitches interlaced with gold metallic thread. The hearts are padded satin stitch outlined with gold metallic thread, which disguises the slight imperfections that I made in the shape of the heart. Here and there are sprinkled little spangles, to add more sparkle to the bag.

It is lined with a shimmery green silk dupioni, but I cheated a bit on the cord. The pattern called for making twisted cord out of the silk floss, something I really dislike doing. So I purchased the green beaded ribbon to use instead. I also made an silk-covered elastic band to keep the top partially closed, definitely a modern touch!

Believe it or not, I actually use this bag. When I travel, I put my ipod, earbuds and electrical cord in it to use in the hotel gym. I do wrap the bag in a sweater or blouse when packing, to help protect it. I am also making another sweet bag, from another of Susan's designs in Inspirations.  And if I ever finish it, I'll show it to you.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Birthday quilt for a First Communion

Odd title, isn't it? My niece, Claudia, had her First Communion this past April, and didn't want a fancy dress. My sister, who makes custom wedding dresses, and I were itching to make a smocked, beaded, embroidered silk dress. But my niece likes plain and simple. We were so disappointed and her mom was so sweet and apologetic. Thinking I should really give her something handmade, I rummaged around my sewing room and found a birthday quilt kit that I had bought last year. I then realized that I had promised her mom years ago that I would make Claudia a quilt, and had neglected to do so. Bad Aunty.

The original quilt design had "Happy Birthday" along the right side, and the name quilted on a removable banner on the top. I thought this was odd until I realized it was probably meant to be left at Grandma's house and the name changed whenever the relevant birthday granddaughter spent the night.  I left out the "Happy Birthday" banner and incorporated the name into the main body of the quilt. This was a really easy to make quilt - it consisted of square panels joined in sashes with a simple border. I used lots of gold machine embroidery in it to go with all the gold in the fabric. I quilted around the candies, cake layers, candles, etc., using a nice Mettler variegated thread. The quilting isn't too terribly precise, as I had only allotted a few days to get it all done. The fabric is "Party Time" by Makower. If you ever get a chance to make a quilt with this particular brand, try it out. Their fabrics are nice and moderately heavy, with plenty of gold in them. I have loved every bit of Makower that I've ever come across.

The quilt came out relatively nice, certainly not an art quilt by any means, but a good quilt for a young and darling niece. And we did have a celebration for her First Communion, so the theme of the quilt fit right in.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Crewel Work

This past January my husband and I drove north to Sacramento to attend our niece's wedding. While there we decided to drive into San Francisco for lunch, and visit a needlework shop along the way. I have purchased some supplies from Needle in a Haystack in Alameda in the past, so decided to visit the brick and mortar shop.  What a great shop! They are soooo helpful - they will serge your fabric for you and go to great lengths to find what you need. Try to visit it if you are in the San Francisco area!

I haven't ever done any crewel work, so while there, I picked up a few kits by Tristan Brooks Designs. The only one I completed so far is the Newbury Small, mostly done while on Jury Duty in February. (I didn't even get called to a case, much less picked).

Cute, isn't it? Just some Long and Short stitches, stem stitches, French knots, herringbone, etc. Nothing too terribly complicated. Theoretically, it was quick and easy to stitch, but I started it in February and just now finished it, in June.

I mounted it in this trivet frame I also bought there, but now I'm not sure I want to I want to put a pot on it. My husband wants to hang it in one of the bathrooms, not too sure about that, either. Maybe a grouping of four or six of them it would look good.

So how was the wedding? Absolutely lovely! It was held in a B&B near Folsom with the ceremony outside in the drizzle. The chuppah was made of a old tablecloth that had belonged to the groom's grandmother, outfitted with new borders.  The bride and groom are both PhD candidates in English Literature, so of the course the theme was books. In fact the centerpieces of the tables consisted of books they bought on eBay. We came home with several table's worth, which we haven't read yet. But as we are great readers, we will get to them eventually. Now I want my daughter and son-in-law to dig up their chuppah, so I can embroider their names and the date of their wedding on it. It's a lovely prayer shawl of cream wool, so will look good with wool embroidery, of course being careful so it looks good on both sides. They plan on emptying out their storage unit this summer, so I should be able to get my hands on it then. It will make a great heirloom, especially if any of the children (1 so far) are married with it.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Needlework Nibbles Part 1

Some time ago I purchased one of the "Needlework Nibbles" sold by Tricia Wilson Nguyen on her  website Thistle Threads. She puts these little projects together so you can try out a new thread or a different embroidery stitch in a quick, little project.

I have only completed one project so far, Gilded Grapes.  If you follow the link you can see how much nicer the sampler is than mine. This was a pretty interesting project as it used Gilt Sylke Twist in quite a few different colors to make the grapes. Gilt Sylke Twist, or GST, is a silk floss with gold thread wound around it. It was developed for  the Plimoth Jacket project that Tricia is overseeing. You can read all about this fascinating project on her website. The leaves are made with an experimental run of Silver Sylke Twist, or SST, which has, of course, silver instead of gold wound around the floss. Both require a lot of patience and short lengths of threads. The metal does break fairly often but Tricia tells you how to rescue most of the broken thread in her directions. It is difficult to work with but the results are worth it. The finished embroidery has a very subtle sparkle to it that is quite appealing.

After I finished the embroidery I made it into a little pincushion, using a scrap of linen for the back, dyed with coffee to match the front. Isn't it darling? I've ordered several other of the kits, so I can't wait to work them.

Please visit Tricia's site to read about the Plimoth Jacket Project. It's a bit hard to find the chronology of the jacket, so you'll have to spend a bit of time wandering around the site.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Stitching Serenity

This is just a quick little post to tell you about a weekend retreat coming up in Southern California. I'll be attending Stitching Serenity X at St Mary's Seminary, in Santa Barbara, from Friday, June 25 to Sunday, June 27. St. Mary's is a lovely place in the hills above Santa Barbara, with the most incredible view of the ocean and the Channel Islands. We will be stitching with Vaune Pierce, who will be teaching us how to make June Baby, a lovely little baby dress with an organdy insert. You can read about it and see the picture in her June newsletter

The cost is $375 and covers lodging for Friday and Saturday nights, and meals from Saturday breakfast through Sunday lunch. There are a few places left, and you can sign up by emailing Roseanne Saldinger of Berry Good Smockers in Woodland Hills, CA.  This will be a fun, relaxing time in incredibly beautiful surroundings! Hope to see you there!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Shirley Temple Dress Finished!

Finally, I have finished the Wendy Schoen Embroidery Club 2010, Lesson 1, Shirley Temple Dress. And not much too soon, as she will soon be shipping Lesson 2.

This is the finished dress. It's a size 3, but can be made wider or narrower according to how much seam allowance used in all the various pieces.

This is a somewhat closeup of the top. Notice the blue "bows" that are fastened on the shoulders with tiny mother of pearl buttons. I just love them, they really add a special touch to the dress. All of the buttonhole stitch around the edges of the dress and the bows are done by hand, with DMC floche in color 800. The flowers are pretty easy, all detached chain stitch, or "lazy daisy", with french knots in the centers.

I had real problems with the sash. The instructions called for a narrow hem around a single thickness of the dotted swiss outer fabric, but after trying to get this done neatly, shown at the top of this photo, I gave up and made the sash with the dotted swiss and the organdy lining, shown on the bottom. I sewed the two together right sides together, then turned them right sides out before attaching them to the dress. The allowed me to add a flower to each sash end, as the wrong side would be enclosed by the lining.  I think the bottom sash looks so much better!

Here is the back of the dress with the sash tied. I can't wait to see it on my granddaughter, and will post a picture when I can manage to get one.

So, here are the likes/dislikes:

What did I like about this? I absolutely love the fabrics and other materials. Wendy always has the best quality materials, which makes her kits such a joy to work. Her stitch illustrations are very clear, as are her instructions. She often uses DMC floche, which is a lovelier, richer embroidery thread than DMC floss. All the buttons are mother of pearl, not plastic, so they won't melt when ironing. The fabrics are all 100% cotton, which require ironing, but these fabrics iron up so very easily. I ironed the dotted swiss and the organdy lining together. This resulted in a bit of wrinkles in the organdy, which are not at all noticeable. If you wanted, you can iron these separately, but I don't think that is necessary.

What are the dislikes? Not much at all. It would have been nice to have a bit more length of fabric to adjust the length of the dress as desired, but that's about it.

What would I do differently? If I were to follow all the hand work again, which is definitely worthwhile as a skill builder, I would be much more precise in transferring the buttonhole scallop pattern to the fabric. I would use a very light hand with the blue fabric pen, and then I would machine stitch the outlines with matching thread. In fact, I actually have the matching DMC cotton machine sewing thread, but didn't think of this until after I had finished embroidering the scalloped edges. Only after machine stitching the dotted swiss and organdy together would I then outline the scallops with either a running stitch or a back stitch (which is what I used).

 Would I make this again? Definitely! I'd like to see make in a pretty cotton print with a machine zig-zag fastening instead of the hand worked buttonhole. And I may just do this soon...

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Beach Cities Quilt Show

Today I attended the Beach Cities Quilt Show held at Soka University in Aliso Viejo, California. I love seeing all the quilts and the talent and hard work that went into making them, especially the really large hand quilted ones. There was a small exhibition on wearables right by the ladies' room.

Look at this beautiful quilted coat! It's too bad it never really gets cold enough in Southern California to wear something like that.

Then there was this gorgeous dress and cap, Elizabethan, I think, but am not really sure.

I didn't get a good picture of a lovely christening gown by Kathy Awender. She doesn't have her own website, but you can buy the pattern on line at several places, one of which is Kehler Klassics.  Kathy is in our local SAGA chapters (we have two), so I've seen this gown while she was embroidering it. It eventually appeared in a Sew Beautiful issue.

This is a quilt made by the members of the guild, and of course it has a beach theme!

I'm always drawn to anything with hummingbirds. We love sitting on the patio watching them fight over the feeder, an essentially unlimited food supply.

On another note, I finished the Shirley Temple Dress, and once I have ironed it and taken photos, I will post the completed dress. Although I won't see the darling granddaughter in it for some time yet.