Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Scalloped Corduroy Dress is Finished!

But first, I promised to show you how to construct a piped collar using Gail Doane's technique.  First, trace the pattern onto the fabric, in this case, navy blue corduroy. The important thing is to keep the fabric in a block. It's much easier to handle and won't stretch.

Pin the piping in place. Since the seam line of the piping is exactly 3/8 inch (10 mm), line the outer edge of the piping with the cutting line of the collar, and the seam line of the piping will fall right on the seam line of the collar. Sew the piping in place, very slowly, using the needle down feature on your machine if you have it to help with stitching around the curves.

Back view of the interfaced collar. At this point, add the lining (the blue micro check just barely visible on the lower left hand corner). Sew over the stitching line from when the piping was sewn on, then sew again 1/16 inch (1.5 mm) into the seam allowance.

Trim very close to the second stitching. Look, no clipping the seam allowance required!

Turn right side out, press well, and rough cut the neck opening. I stitched just inside the cutting line for stability. At this point the collar can be attached to the neckline of the jacket and will fit perfectly.

This shows the piping added to the back yoke overlay; lots of clipping and pinning to get the piping to fit around the curve. The clipped seam allowances will all be cut off, just as with the collar.

The finished coat, with micro check cotton lining and contrast cuffs.

The back has a yoke overlay.

The overlay has the micro check lining, and three covered buttons.

The finished dress. I like that it is a bit tailored, the only the sleeves are gathered, and those very slightly. The skirt and the ruffle on the front are pleated, as I mentioned in the previous post on this dress. 

Close up of the buttons. The coat and dress had a total of 10 covered buttons. Gail's instructions are to embroider cast on flowers on the fabric before making the buttons, and included in the kit was the floss for this. However, I find cast on flowers very frustrating, as they are made with three strands of floss which I find don't slide well on the needle. Gail's of course, are beautiful, mine, not so much.  So I ordered a variegated pink/white size 40 tatting thread along with some green, then tatted the flowers before sewing onto the button fabric. The ladies in the tatting group loved them.  I hope to get a photo of my granddaughter wearing the dress soon. I am amazed that these photos came out as well as they did, as it is grey and snowing outside. 

If you get a chance to take a class from Gail or make a kit, I encourage you to do so! They are not for beginners, so you do need to know a bit about heirloom sewing before you tackle a project like this. You also need to have patience and to willingness to take things very slowly, especially with piping. However, her instructions are extremely detailed with lots of photos showing what each step should look like. The kits are pricy, this was $125, I think, but the materials are very high quality and everything matches beautifully. There is also plenty of fabric to make the largest size without having to skimp and rearrange the pieces so they fit. Maybe after the New Year I'll try another! 

I hope all of you have a very Merry Christmas with your loved ones! I'm very busy with preparations and will post sometime next week, but may not have much to show for it. 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Several More Flowers

Block 4
We've been binge-watching Doc Martin on Netflix, so I've been able to get quite a bit done on the Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt.

Blocks 5 & 6
I mentioned previously that I hoped to make each one unique, but already I've broken away from that. I kitted up many of the blocks, and failed to catch this copy.

Block 7
For some reason, I have quite a few of the orange centers, but will have to break away from that.

Block 8

Block 9
A couple of purple centers.

Block 10
And a green.

Helper Approving Finished Flowers
My quality control inspector seems to be happy with the work in process so far. See the black furry cat behind the pillow? He is sleeping in front of the window. 

Mr. California Stitching left this morning for New Haven, to help our son move to Seattle for a new job, and the little ones have decamped for California with their parents. So I should be able to get quite a bit done in the few days before Christmas. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Diabolical Quilt Shops

Block 1

Here in the US, the Saturday after Thanksgiving is beginning to be known as "Small Business Saturday", a way to get consumers to shop at small, local, brick and mortar businesses. So I decided that I really needed to visit the local quilt shops in nearby Ft Collins. Well, one especially diabolical  shop was giving away laser cut hexagons, seven for walking in the door and an additional seven for each yard of fabric purchased. I ended up with four sets of seven hexies.

Then I went to another shop, where another customer walked off with my Christmas fabric for stockings that I need to make (since mine are all in storage). By the time I got the fabric back (only an hour later) I was given a fat quarter bundle for my inconvenience.  I picked one that coordinated with the hexies I got earlier.

Block 2

So now, I absolutely have to make a Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt. The centers will all be bright fabrics, purple, pink, orange, green and blue.

Block 3

I'm not paper piecing these, as I am starching the fabric really well, then cutting with a special hexie cutting ruler. I mark the seam intersections (with a template made from cardboard), then just hand sew away. I have these three finished so far. I plan on making them into a twin quilt for a daybed I'll be buying for the new house.


These are my "connecting fabrics", some pink, apricot, yellow and a smidge of very light green. The yardage on the left will probably be the hexies for the border. I have absolutely no idea of how I will finish this, but will see how it goes.


I'm trying to make each flower unique, so am bundling sets together without duplicating fabrics. One thing I'm finding is that some of these batiks are hard to sew through, probably due to all the dye in the fabric. Hand quilting is definitely not an option.

Helper Falling Down on the Job

I had a bit of help with the photo shoot, but my little helper got bored and decided a nap was a better use of his time (my mother made that little afghan for my children).  I'll post photos as I complete a few of the flowers. This will enable me to sew while watching TV, as I can't seem to tat or embroider very well in front of the tube. I make too many mistakes. With the hexies, a mistake is very easy to remedy, just two inches of hand sewing to take out.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

My New Home - UPDATE!

Some of you have expressed interest in knowing how the new house is coming along, and I had idly thought of starting a new blog just for my new home construction. But I thought better of it, as I worried about maintaining two blogs when I have enough to do with just the one. Instead, I'll have a series of posts describing the building and all we went through to get to this stage. Just click on the label "New Home" in the cloud to see all the posts (but not now, this is the first post). Here is the house a few days ago, and already it looks different! The windows are in and some of the shingles on the gables are being installed. On the left, behind the Port - a - Potty, there is a baby park, which is nice. So far the lot in back of us hasn't been sold. The neighborhood is about 80% built, which means there shouldn't be a lot of construction going on for a long time. Altogether there are six houses in work, including ours.

And this is the house today. The roof tiles are still there and won't be installed until all the snow melts, which may be a while as we have more snow in the forecast for Tuesday.

We are hoping for a completing date of March or April at the latest, and will stay in our apartment until April 19, when our lease ends. This will give us time to get all the closets installed, and have all of our furniture moved in and put away. That's the theory, anyway.

Sunday morning update: I'm so sorry that I haven't been very complete in the posts. We are located in Loveland, Colorado, to be near our grandchildren. While I have been here since late February for the grandson's birth in March, we sold our house in California and my husband (and cat) moved in late July. Almost all of my sewing stash and tools are in storage, which makes for an interesting sewing experience here in Colorado.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Attention All Heirloom Sewers!

Last week Classic Sewing Magazine delivered its first issue, and it's a beaut! I was a bit skeptical when I signed up as a charter subscriber, having seen so many magazines folding over the last several years. Creative Needle, Sew Beautiful, and Australian Smocking and Embroidery all bit the dust recon the past several years. Of all the three now defunct magazines I believe that, at first glance, Classic Sewing Magazine, hereafter known as CS, most closely resembles Creative Needle.

There are tips for sewing, new products to make your sewing life easier, and general news about heirloom sewing.

What I really like is the cover project. It's a beautiful Swiss voile dress with lots of lace designed by Gail Doane, and has the pattern included with the magazine. (Something CN and SB rarely did, but AS&E always).  There is a lovely hand embroidered baby bib by Claudia Newton, a very talented designer and teacher, who isn't known nearly well enough.

There are also machine embroidery projects with free downloads online. In fact, if you are a charter subscriber, you can download an alphabet designed by Alison Banks for free, something I haven't done yet.

Many of the projects are variations on existing patterns, something that CN and SB did all too often. I much prefer having the pattern included with the magazine, as AS&E did from very early on.

The christening gown by Connie Palmer is a stunner, but is regally long, and probably very unwieldy. Does anyone really use a gown like this?  But I would love to sew it, it is so very lovely.

The magazine also contains at least four smocking projects, all suited for spring events. Janet Gilbert's pink dress is especially beautiful, with the three tiered "rumba skirt" ruffle attached to the back. Also included are small projects that can be made by hand or machine, such as Bible (or other book) covers, a bib, bonnets and a couple of projects for little boys, several of which have free downloads available.

Likes: There is a nice tribute to Martha Pullen, who did a great deal for heirloom sewing in the US, a very nice article about constructing a reproduction Williamsburg dress, and the great variety of projects, many by teachers that all of us who are into heirloom sewing should know. The inclusion
of patterns for some of the projects is very welcome! The magazine is printed on high quality, heavy paper, with plenty of illustrations of both the projects and the techniques used.

Dislikes: There are some inconsistencies in the articles/projects. For instance, on the Williamsburg dress, it is stated that it is fit for a Queen but it is really a fairly simple dress from the era, lovely but not regal at all. While the beautiful christening gown has a monogram on the gown, the article suggests that you can put the baby's monogram on the slip. I would think that on the gown a religious symbol would be more appropriate and the monograms kept to the slip, to make the ensemble usable by many babies. Maybe I'm nit picking this point a bit, but I think it should be obvious. Also, where are the kits? There are no kits offered for any of the projects! I would love a kit of the cover dress, as well as the boy projects for my grandson. This magazine seems to be geared towards the US market, but having a few fall projects might increase its audience to the Southern Hemisphere. AS&E always had projects for both hemispheres in each issue. I would like to see more emphasis on hand embroidery vs. machine embroidery, but since there are four smocking projects I can't complain too much.

I am so glad that this magazine is here at last, and all in all, it is a very, very good beginning, filling a void left when the others folded. If you would like your very own issue, visit and order a subscription now.

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!