Monday, November 29, 2010

Christmas Dress

In a previous post I showed you what I had intended for a Christmas dress for my granddaughter. Sadly, my extremely poor picture smocking skill are showing forth.

The smocking plate showed Santa with three reindeer flying over trees and houses. It's an adorable pattern, but I just am not experienced enough in picture smocking. This is far as I got before deciding that I would just not be able to make this look good enough to claim that I did it. The trees are too squat, and the houses definitely look different - but they are not supposed to. I think that the pleated fabric was not tight enough. I blocked it to the pattern, but the pleats were too far apart to really be able to make the smocking look good.

So back I went into my pattern archives and came up with Maggie from The Children's Corner.  I am making the long sleeved version in the same red fabric as before, but with a few changes. First of all, no lace. I just don't think lace would look good with the fabric, which is a quilting weight cotton. The cuffs are turned up and hemmed, and I wanted some trim on the outer edge, so I made them two piece.  Then I decided I needed black entredeux, which is a ladder stitched onto fabric strips and is used to attach lace and other embroideries to fabric. Naturally, I couldn't find any online, but I remembered seeing directions for making your own somewhere on line.

I couldn't find the link, but was pretty sure that I saw it on Laurie Anderson's blog, SewNso's Sewing Journal. After rifling through her website for a while and not finding it, I emailed her, and she responded with the link in half an hour. Thanks, Laurie! I made about three yards of it with black cotton fabric from Joann's, Mettler No. 50 cotton thread, a size 100 wing needle and some black tear away interfacing I just happened to have from a sampler pack. I have a Husqvarna Designer I sewing machine, and I used stitch D7, Venetian hem stitch, with the factory settings of L=2.5 and W=3.0.

Then I went to work on the dress. I think the dress in the pattern is much too short, so I made it six inches longer so it will be below her knees and have a generous hem.

This is the top and bottom of the collar, which is in one piece as the dress buttons in the front. Dresses that button in the back usually have two piece collars that meet in the front. I won't cut out the center portion of the collar until it is sewn together and ready to be attached to the dress. This keeps it from being distorted while handling.

Here is the collar sewn together, turned right side out, with the entredeux trimmed and clipped, all ready to go.

I also worked on the sleeves a bit. Since I'm putting in a french seam, I first sewed the wrong sides together. Here is it pinned and ready to be sewn.

Next I pressed the seams, turned the sleeve outside in, then sewed the sleeve right sides together, enclosing the seam.

Perfect french seam, with the cuff hemmed in place.

I'm sure you're wondering about the black entredeux, but I'll post about that in a later date. Next up, the pleated front and back.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Feather Stitch Baby Jacket

Here is another little outfit I made for my granddaughter and is now back in my keeping, waiting for the next one (if ever).

This is a feather stitched baby jacket with a matching diaper cover. We made this in a  SAGA class hosted by one of our local chapters, designed and taught by Kathy Awender, who I've mentioned before. The fabric is a poly/cotton pique which at first I didn't like, but have come to appreciate. It doesn't wrinkle they way 100% cotton does and it's pretty darn easy to iron.

The smocking is a feather stitch, which is worked from right to left, unlike most stitches which are worked left to right. You can find detailed instructions for several different varieties of feather stitch in Country Bumpkin's A to Z of Smocking, available on their website, Amazon, Book Depository and many other retailers.  The collar, cuffs and smocking all have matching pink piping which we made ourselves. It's pretty easy once you get the hang of it. Notice the extra feather stitching on the collar and cuffs. It wasn't in the original design, but I always add extra.

The flower embroider is simple, but very sweet. The flower is a buttonhole stitch worked in the round, and the leaves are fly stitch.  This was all fairly easy, and makes a great project to make in a day or two. I used a pattern I dug out of an old Australian Smocking and Embroidery for the diaper cover.

I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving. We only had my mom over, so it was a quiet holiday. I learned that you don't have to have 20+ people to have a good Thanksgiving! She went home with the green afghan, as it's been cold here, for Southern California, and it is nice and cozy.

My Christmas sewing has not been going well, but is recovering. I'll have a post about it soon.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Embroidered Pink Baby Dress

My daughter in Colorado has recently sent me several boxes of outgrown baby clothes for storage, so I've been rummaging through them to find any of the items I've made.

This is from Best Embroidered Baby Clothes One, a pattern by Jeannie Baumeister of Old Fashioned Baby.  It is made from pink cotton batiste and ecru lace. The design is slightly my own. I've taken design elements from Jeannie's patterns and arranged them a bit differently.

The tucks are hand sewn, which gives them a nice, soft look.  After I made it, I realized that if my daughter has another girl, I hope her name begins with a B so she can wear the dress.

The initial is shadow work, and all embroidery is done with ecru DMC floss. The flowers are bullions made into a detached chain. There is lots of featherstitching, with French knots for variety.

I attached the lace with point de Paris, or pin stitch, all done by hand. Instead of cutting away the fabric behind the lace, I left it on. Jeannie does this with a lot of her dresses, and I really like the look of it. It's also much quicker than cutting the fabric, then rolling and whipping it to secure it.

The actual construction of the dress is by machine, including attaching the lace to the neckline, sleeves and hem.

I also made a slip, with some simple embroidery on the front.

The neckline and armholes are hand stitched with a shell hem. So how on earth can the photos of the slip be so different from the dress? I took them at the same time in the same place.  Grrrr.

And here is a blurry photo of Bridget wearing the dress. As I've mentioned before, my daughter inherited her photo skills from her mom.

I really like this pattern, as I like all of Jeannie's patterns. Her style is very sweet, dainty and cute. You can add as much or as little lace as desired. Her embroidery is fairly simple, but appropriate for a baby dress. I generally tend to add more featherstitching, as I love it on baby clothes.

There is nothing I don't like about this, except that using fine cotton batiste makes it a bit difficult to iron. This can be a stumbling block for young moms who don't have the time for ironing, and grandma lives too far away to do it for them.

I'll write about other dresses I've made as I find them.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Hideous Green Afghan is Finished!

Finally, the green afghan I started in October is finished. If you recall, I brought it along to crochet in the car while we drove to Texas and then on to Colorado. I didn't have enough of the green, so I ended up buying six skeins of Sensations Angel Hair yarn which has green to match the original yarn.

It ended up at 47 x 53 inches, a nice size for a lap quilt. I think Oscar definitely improves the look of it, don't you think? If no one in my family wants it, I will end up giving it away to a shelter or hospital.

The pattern is a very simple single crochet developed by Mary Grace at Hooked on Needles. It certainly is nice to get rid of that yarn. It had been in the house since 1992, almost two decades!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Starting on Christmas Sewing

This past weekend I realized that Christmas is less than six weeks away. Or as my boss put it, only 26 working days until Christmas. So I have to admit that I did have a bit of a panic attack when I realized that I had not even thought about what dress to make for my granddaughter, now 2 1/2, to wear. After rifling through my extensive kit collection, I found the following:

 This is difficult to see, but it is a smocking plate on black pleated fabric. The lead reindeer has a red nose, of course! The design is "twas the nite" from Little Memories Smocking Designs in Arlington, Texas. The stars and the reins are of metallic blending filament, which is always difficult to work with, but I think I can manage these simple stitches.

The dress fabric is a lovely swirly red cotton quilt fabric. The kit comes with all the threads, fabric, buttons, needles and even cord for piping. I purchased this kit from a quilt shop in Vista, California, which closed down over two years ago.  The owner would make several kits up and charge only for the materials, so of course I bought several to have on hand. I will make this up in a standard yoke dress with a smocked insert, with puffed sleeves and more of the black fabric for the sleeve bands and collar. Since I have to get this done in the next month, I will be posting quite a bit about my progress. So far I have managed to finish the line of snow along the bottom of the smocking design. It's not much, but I did just start it yesterday.

There is only one problem with this project, and it's a biggie. I've never done any picture smocking before. For those who aren't familiar with the term, picture smocking is done to form a picture in the smocking pattern, as opposed to a geometric design.  I guess that is fairly self explanatory. So far I am being very meticulous, carefully stripping the strands, ironing them, and making sure they are laying flat against one another. As I progress, I'll show photos of the smocking. But since I only have the bottom layer of snow finished, it's hardly worth a photo.

I have a lot of other Christmas sewing to do, so we'll see how much of it actually gets done.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Embroidered Stumpwork Bag Resource

Last Friday, Elizabeth commented on my post about my Embroidered Stumpwork Bag and Accessories, mentioning that is was similar to one in the Country Bumpkin Publication, Embroidered Bags and Purses. Actually, it's the exact same bag. I just didn't realize it was in the book.

 This was published way back in 2004 and has complete instructions for 16 beautiful bags and purses. 

This photo isn't the best, but you can see the photo on my previous post of the bag I made. The book has all the thread and fabric requirements in it so you can make the bag without resorting to a kit. As always, the Country Bumpkin instructions are quite clear so this is really not a difficult bag to make. And best of all, it's available from a variety of sources, including Country Bumpkin Publications and Book Depository.  You can even get used books from Amazon for less than $3.00 US plus shipping! That's an amazing bargain.

Thanks to Elizabeth for pointing this out to me!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Stumpwork Embroidered Bag and Accessories

While I am working on my Stumpwork Initial, I thought I would show you a bag and some accessories I made from some kits by Jan Kerton. I know I have said this before, but I'll say it again, I love kits! Especially when trying out a new technique, as it allows me to sample threads and fabrics that I might not try on my own.

This is called Stumpwork Berry Workbag, and consists of a square workbag with a drawstring closure and four pockets around the outside. It is made of cream colored damask with cream cotton lining and green bias for the top finish. The threads are mostly wools, either Broder Medici or Appleton, with a bit of floss for the bee and the strawberry. None of this is particularly complicated, the stitches used are buttonhole, detached chain, and stem. The only tricky parts are the needle woven leaves for the berries and the bullion for the snail.

Here is a closeup of one of the pockets with a spider in its web,

And here is the other with a snail and a bee.  The gold beads in the strawberry blossoms really gives them a nice sparkle. I only embroidered two of the pockets, as I was working under a deadline at the time. It was September 2005 and I was trying to get this and the accessories finished in time for the SAGA Convention at the end of the month. I was determined to have a nice bag with me!

Here is the chatelaine, consisting of a scissors holder, pin cushion, pin keep and a thimble case. That pincushion looks a bit soft. I never seem to stuff things enough.

The scissors holder has faux leather on the inside to keep sharp scissors tips from piercing and tearing the fabric.

The thimble holder is three-sided, with one edge left unsewn. A gentle squeeze on the ends of the holder pops open the case. I keep a thimble with a few other tiny things in it. 

The tool pouch holds pens, an awl, manicure sticks and other useful items. It fastens with a velcro closure.

The instructions in the kit would have us make all of the cording out of twisted cotton embroidery floss, something that I really, really dislike. So I found this cording at a fabric store and thought - perfect match! This was so much easier than twisting floss together. I'm just not good at that.

I mentioned that I made this in September 2005, but I actually started in mid August. We happened to have a heat wave over Labor Day that year, and there I was sitting outside in the heat embroidering. My husband and son joined me with their books, but the cats were smart enough to go inside with the A/C. Lucky for us in Southern California the weather is rarely humid, and the porch faces north east so it doesn't get the afternoon sun.

I did manage to finish everything on time and brought it to the convention, where it drew quite a few compliments. Now I use it to take to all of my sewing get togethers.

Now for the likes and dislikes:

I really love the embroidery design and all of the gorgeous threads. Jan really puts nice kits together.
The instructions are perfectly clear, well written and very easy to follow. In addition, Jan has an instruction booklet of the stitches she uses and includes them in all of the larger kits. I now have several. She is also generous with the materials, as the kit contains enough to embroider all four pockets.

I don't like the odd shade of the green binding, but don't know if I could have come up with something better. The drawstring hangs loose, which is awkward for carrying it, so I may fiddle around with sewing the ends together and making another opening at the top.

All in all, this is a great workbag, as it has plenty of pockets both on the outside and inside. Unfortunately, Jan no longer comes to the US and doesn't have a retailer here that carries her kits. So if you want one, you'll have to order from one of her stockists in Australia, which she has listed on her website. When I was at Beating Around the Bush in October 2009, I purchased a two more kits, a sewing organizer and a zippered pouch, to go with these. Now to find time to make them.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

An Introduction to Goldwork

Since I dug out my old Stumpwork Initial and have been working on it I really feel so much better. I must have been having embroidery withdrawals.

For some time I have been  anxious to try my hand at goldwork, especially since following several blogs that often have lovely goldwork projects.  I have been regularly reading NeedlenThread, Ruth O'Leary's Textile Arts, The Embroider's Story and The Unbroken Thread, all of which have plenty of goldwork projects for inspiration.

Then I realized that I had made this is a sweet little needlecase, from a kit, of course, in a class by Wendy Schoen. It is one of her line of Le Jardin projects and is available on her website. It has been tucked into my workbag and goes with me on all of my sewing outings. It is pretty much all shadow work using floche on silk dupioni fabric. The stems and flower centers are couched gold threads and a few spangles are added for bling.

It is a very basic design, but functional. I love the teal gingham and matching trim and ribbon. 

I will not be able to get much stitching done today. I have been thinking about the border for my black and white log cabin quilt, and have a design worked out, but not enough fabric. Luckily, the local quilt store is having a sale today. Then the nursery is having its Christmas open house, and I always go to pick up a few ornaments for my angel tree. My Christmas tree is decorated with angel ornaments, but more about that later. Then it is off to have lunch with my sister and mom, shopping and who knows what else. So I am off to get a few minutes of stitching in before it's time to leave.

Have a great Saturday!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Back to Silk Embroidery

Since I've been sewing and crocheting so much lately I haven't been doing much embroidery, and do I ever miss it.  I have finished sewing the blocks together for the black and white quilt, but am undecided on the border. Since I cannot just sit down and decide on a border, but must let myself think about it over the course of several days (sort of a stream of consciousness thing), I decided to pull out an old embroidery UFO and work on it.

This is a stumpwork initial kit from one of my classes at Beating Around the Bush in October 2009. The class was taught by Jan Kerton, a very talented, and I must say, entertaining teacher. For each kit, she photographed our chosen initial that she had worked up. That's an amazing amount of work.  The kit comes with the initial, stem and leaf placement drawn on the muslin, which we place under the silk fabric. We then worked a running stitch through both layers of fabric to transfer the design to the front of the silk. The muslin layer gives a good foundation for the silk fabric and allows the transfer of the design without actually marking the silk. Jan uses this technique with most of her kits and it work quite well.

Here is my progress so far. As you can see, the initial in the kit is slightly different than the original. We put it in the frame with a layer of lightweight interfacing over the silk fabric, then cut out the interfacing to expose the area to be worked. This is a very effective technique to keep the edges of the fabric around the hoop clean. The wide bits of the initial are padded with felt and worked over with raised stem stitch using Madiera stranded silk. The raised stem stitch is really easy and looks great - giving the initial a bit of texture in the very wide areas. Using a padded satin stitch would also work, but as we all know, it is much more time consuming and difficult to get perfect.

I decided to add some butterflies to the initial, and started them here.  These are worked on two layers of silk organza fused together. The design are transferred to the silk as iron on transfers. The right side of the lower butterfly and the flower were done in class where I didn't have my 3X magnifying glass that I use with my extra strong reading glasses, so they are a bit wonky. The left side of the lower butterfly and the middle one are coming along a bit better. I'm hoping that after I fill in the right side a bit more it won't be too bad. These are worked in YLI silk floss, which is extremely fine. We only had a bit of it in the kit, but luckily I had these colors in my stash, so I can make as many butterflies as I wish.

I also started some leaves. These are worked with Madiera stranded silk, which is thicker than the YLI and therefore easier to work with. A bit about the construction: all of the outlines are worked in split stitch, then filled in with buttonhole stitch. With the YLI floss on the butterfly, I found I had some of the fabric showing through, and ended up adding some split stitches in among the buttonhole stitches to give it better coverage.

After I worked on these a bit, I realized that working in the hoop was driving me nuts! So I ordered some nice Evertite slate frames and will attach both pieces to the frames to finish them.

Now that I'm embroidering I feel so much better!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Hideous Green Afghan

I've mentioned before that I am crocheting an afghan out of a horrible shade of green acrylic yarn that I had lying about. Back in 1992(!) I started knitting a sweater out of this yarn, but what on earth was I thinking with this color? I finally took it out of the storage bin and started making a simple afghan with single crochet using the pattern posted by Mary Grace on Hooked On Needles

I just wish I could capture the really hideous shade of green of this yarn. Here I have it lying on the grass in the back yard, which is a lovely shade of green.  Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) I only had enough of the it to make a very small afghan which measured 35 by 38 inches.  This is something of an odd proportion, especially as I followed Mary Grace's very explicit instructions exactly - or so I thought. It seems as though it should be longer, and not so much resembling a square. This is what happens when you try to crochet something after not picking up a crochet hook in over a decade.

Notice the pretty yarn on the border? I picked this up at Joann's Fabrics; it was the only yarn that actually had the color of my original green. It is Sensations Angel Hair Yarn, 22% wool, 50% acrylic and 28% nylon. The wool in it makes it so much nicer to handle than the 100% acrylic. I bought four skeins, so this afghan will only be a lap size, but at this size it may be somewhat useful.  I think of this yarn a circus colors, as it is so bright and pretty.

I had originally intended to get this done while watching the World Series, but so far it hasn't worked out that way. So I'll keep plugging away in the evenings while watching TV. I'll keep you posted on the progress, and label the posts so you can ignore them at will.