Sunday, August 29, 2010

My very first blog

I'm taking the plunge and starting my own blog. I've been thinking about this for several months now, walking around composing posts in my head. This year I rejoined Wendy Schoen's Embroidery Club, which you can access here, and follow to Embroidery Club 2010. I was in it several years ago, and made quite a few of the darling items. Wendy is a very talented Embroidery and Heirloom Sewing designer, and this year she has several toddler dresses. So I rejoined to make some items for my granddaughter, and decided to blog my progress.

I love to read other blogs, and I hope that by blogging my work others may get some enjoyment out of it. I am not a teacher, so I won't teach any stitches or techniques, and am only a moderately skilled stitcher, so please don't expect perfection. I don't have a business, so I won't try to sell you anything. As I write this first blog, I realize that there is quite a bit more to it than I had originally thought.  I really need to improve my picture taking skills!

I am making the Lesson 1, the Shirley Temple Dress. This is a sweet dress made of white dotted swiss with cotton organdy lining and blue linen bows at the shoulders. It is embroidered with lazy-daisy flowers, which are easy enough, but the lining and dress are joined at the top by sewing them together with buttonhole scallop. All of the embroider is done with cotton floche. This takes some work to do properly, and I will share my progress with you. I started working on the dress earlier this week by marking the fabric and cutting out the pieces. Yesterday I spent all day on it, managing to get the dress and lining fronts and backs sewn. This is a somewhat lengthy process, as all seams are French seams. Each seam is pinned and stitched wrong sides together, trimmed, pressed, then stitched again right sides together and pressed again. It's quite a process but produces lovely enclosed seams that won't scratch tender skin. I also managed to finish all of the embroidery.

Today I sewed the fronts and backs together and am attaching the lining to the dress. This shows the dress and lining pinned together, with the flowers finished and the markings still in. On the right you can see where I am basting the two layers together. There are more flowers near the bottom of the dress, out of view. Once I finish basting, I'll make the back placket, then start on the scallops.

In future lessons I will show you the kits when they arrive. Wendy's kits are beautifully packaged, and always consist of very high quality materials. This means that they are not cheap, but if you put so much work into making a garment, you do want it to last for several children. There is always the option of buying the lessons and then using your own materials. But I love kits, so I'm buying them all. Wendy also has well written and beautifully illustrated instructions, making the garments fairly easy to construct by someone with moderate sewing skills.

I hope you like this foray into blogging, and please leave comments! I'll also eventually show  you some of my other projects.

One warning, please expect changes in the site as I learn to use the blogging tools. I'll get some photos of my other work posted soon.

Smocked Christening Gown

I'm back after a two week absence from posting. We had visitors, 2 children and a granddaughter, a sister, niece and grandniece, but luckily not all staying with me. We had my mother's 80th birthday party, and many other get-togethers while the whole family was in town.  But now everyone is gone, and it's time to get back to stitching, blogging and cleaning the sewing room.

But first I'd like to show you a Christening Gown I made when my daughter got engaged. (nothing like jumping the gun - she's been married six years!)

This is from Australian Smocking and Embroidery (AS&E), Issue 53, made from ivory silk dupioni and embroidered and smocked with YLI silk embroidery floss. I got the silk from Joann's bridal collection. It's really a nice quality of silk, with a nice hand and very few slubs. Since I used their ubiquitous 40% off coupon, it was fairly inexpensive.

The close up of the smocking shows the beads I added - I just love beads on smocking. These are Mill Hill Glass Seed Beads No. 00123. If you look closely, you can barely see the feather stitching I added on the yoke above the smocking. I'm pretty sure the patter called for pintucks.

The hem detail has three rows of tucks, and feather stitched scallops with bullion roses. The original pattern called for scalloped pintucks, but since I really like feather stitching, I did that instead.

Issue No. 54 had the pattern for a matching bonnet and booties, so I made them, too. Since then I've decided that I don't like smocked bonnets, they are too full for the little faces. I've come to prefer a more tailored look, but still with plenty of embroidery. But since there are no prospects on the horizon for another grandbaby, I have plenty of time to make another.

Unfortunately, Issue No. 53 is now all but non-existent. Country Bumpkin has none, nor did I see any on ebay the last time I looked. Wouldn't you know that I can't find my copy? Maybe it will turn up during the Big Clean.  I did see a few copies of Issue No. 54 on ebay, and Country Bumpkin does have it for sale as a shop return, listed under the rare issues.

If you really want to make this dress, it shouldn't be hard to recreate it. AS&E has several smocked yoke christening gown patterns, especially in their book, Embroidered Christening Gowns. The pattern, Tenderness, by Kris Richards, is quite similar, being a smocked yoke pattern. The book is on sale right now on the Country Bumpkin website for only US$11.13 plus shipping. On Amazon the lowest price is $44.90 for a used book.

Now back to work. I plan on stitching my biscornu, then boxing up some of the fabric on the tables and in the closet.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Time to Clean and Organize

My lovely daughter and granddaughter arrive on Wednesday, and guess where they will sleep? In the sewing room, of course!

Hmm, looks like I have a bit of work to do. Believe it or not, a queen-sized Aerobed fits right on the floor between the table on the left and the cabinets on the right. This is a view from the door,

And this is the view towards the door. See the boxes my husband so thoughtfully placed for me?

I read about DMC discontinuing Coton a Broder No 12 on Mary Corbet's, and found that I had only 3 skeins. I really need to throw the ironing pad into the wash!

I'm even spilling out into the hallway. So, time to clean up for the visitors, then after they leave the plan is to really clean out the room. I plan on removing the acoustic ceiling, the mirrored sliding closet doors, and the shelf in the closet. Then it will be painting, new closet doors, and some sort of organization system for the closet. Busy, busy, but I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Bullion Wrap Dress Issues

I've been working on the Bullion Wrap Dress, and have some issues. Don't get me wrong, the fabric is a nice white tiny lined pique and the embroidery threads are all DMC floche. So what's the problem? My flowers don't look too great.

Notice the one on the lower right hand side, the fabric is somewhat puckered. I sprayed some water on the other two, in the center and on the top, and ironed them on a thick folded towel from the wrong side. Still somewhat puckered. And I did this all on one side of the front and on all the bodice pieces.

 I resolved to start the second front piece and work more carefully. If you remember, this is a wrap dress and can be worn with the wrapped part in the front or the back. This definitely looks better, much less puckering. So, if I can manage to make the other front and the back without too much puckering, I can use the puckered piece as the part of the wrap that goes under, and only redo the flowers on the bodice. That's only four, so it's fairly manageable. I also changed the lazy daisy leaves specified in the pattern for the fly stitches shown. I tried several leaf variations and ended up with this one.

The other problem I have is time. There is just no way to get this done before the granddaughter arrives late next week. Every single edge of the dress has a hand embroidered scallop edge to it! Normally, when working a scallop edge, you first have to mark the scallops by hand (very carefully), then outline them in the same thread used for the scallops, two very time consuming steps. It was suggested by several people that I try machine stitching the scallops first, then embroidering them. Hmmm, this might be promising.

This is my sample piece in which I tried several scallop variations on a scrap of the dress fabric. I used a Mettler Size 40 thread in a dark pink for the samples, and ended up with stitch H33 (on a Husqvarna Viking Designer I) L = .2, W = 4.0, with tearaway stabilizer under the fabric. Then I decided to try it in the DMC thread that is the same color as the floche, which you can barely see on the upper left hand side of the photo.

The bodice has a fairly tight curve to the shoulder pieces, so I practiced several times on this.  I traced the inside edged of the scallops onto to fabric. Not exactly on the straight of grain, is it? But for this test it really doesn't matter.

I then stitched the curves a few times to see if I could produce a fairly even scallop on a tight curve. Some of them are a bit uneven, but I found I got better the more I practiced and the slower I went.

I even stitched some of the buttonhole stitches over the scallops. I think it will work out fairly well. I'm liking this machine stitched foundation! I went ahead and stitched the scallops on all the dress edges. This was a huge time saver. Some of them are a bit uneven, but I think the buttonhole stitch will be fairly forgiving.

Now the problem is just finding the time to finish it. I know I won't get it done before next week, but I would like to finish it before the next kit arrives. This one arrived in late June, so the next is due in a few weeks, in late August, and is yet another darling toddler dress.

Monday, August 9, 2010

June Baby Almost Finished

It's been over a month since I wrote about my progress on June Baby, from the Stitching Serenity X class I took in late June in Santa Barbara.

Well, it's almost finished!

 I've attached the collars with bias binding,

 and the sleeves with the organdy with scallops for embellishment,

and finally the organdy with scallops hem trim.

Notice the nice French Seam?  I'm in a bit of a quandary about that. Will the seam stay up even when ironed? I have my doubts about that. I'm seriously considering a row of featherstitching to catch the French Seam to the linen. Of course the featherstitching will be made using the same shade of Coton a Broder as the scallops. 

I still have all the blue markings on it, and there is a reason for that. I managed to make six buttonholes but have only five buttons. (grrrrh!)  So it's off to the fabric store to find six buttons that will fit the buttonholes I made.  What is so irritating about this is that for the life of me I can't find the five buttons that came with the dress, so I substituted some really cute heart shaped buttons that I found in my stash. But I only found five, but somehow made six buttonholes. This is so annoying.

I will stop and find some buttons on the way home from work one day this week, sew them on, wash the dress, then take some photos when all nice and clean and pressed. The lovely granddaughter shows up in only 7 days, so I may wait until I take a photo of her in the dress to post on this again. I can't wait!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tucked Baby Daygown

For my granddaughter's first Christmas in 2008, I wanted to make a quick and easy dress that would look great. They were getting ready to move from Southern California to Colorado (sniff!) so time was short. The answer was to use the pattern Tucked Baby Daygown by Collars, Etc. Just follow the link down to almost the bottom of the page and you will see it, along with the other patterns offered by the same company. This was a cinch to make and looked great!

This was a pretty breezy day last month that I took this photo. I must admit it does look a bit odd to see all the green plants in the background of a Christmas dress, but then it's almost always like that here. (not to brag or anything, but we in California have our own problems, what with budget crises, earthquakes, fires, and so on)

Isn't the Christmas tree fabric adorable? As I recall, it is from Makower, a UK fabric company whose fabrics I absolutely love. I made the piping out of a scrap of green fabric that I happened to have that was a pretty good match to the green of the trees. The tucks give the dress its fullness with a  simplicity that is both easy to construct and elegant looking. While it is always nice to smock a dress for the fullness, I needed quick and easy, and this was certainly that!

And finally, here is Bridget at eight months old in her Christmas dress in front of our tree. She is sitting against a rather large stuffed dog my mother bought for her. She couldn't quite sit up straight on her own at the time, so we propped her against the dog and took quite a few shots before she started to tip over. We ended up with this one lovely photo of her.

You can't really tell from the photo, but all of the ornaments are angels. Don't ask me why, as I don't know, but several years ago I got into this angel ornament kick and have been buying more angel ornaments as the years go by. The model certainly looks like a cherub, doesn't she?