Saturday, December 21, 2013

Almost Christmas!!

I've finally finished all of my Christmas sewing, as least what I can reasonably accomplish. There's always more to do, just never enough time. This is the top of the pj's for my granddaughter that I mentioned in my last post.  The pattern is Simplicity 2771, size small (6-8). Since she is just now getting into size 6 I figure I'll make at least two more before going to the medium size. And maybe there will be more grandbabies? I certainly hope so. I made a back facing for the monogram, tucking it under the band and topstitching it to the back. It doesn't take much time, but looks so professional and gives a platform for a nice monogram or other design.

I have to give a big THANK YOU to Bunny from La Sewista for the pattern advice and her technique of finishing the seams, overcasting, then topstitching for that flat felled seam look. I cut out the small size of the pattern, then fused it to lightweight fusible Pellon from Joann's. This not only gives the tissue stability, it also keeps the pattern pieces stuck on the fabric fairly well, eliminating the need for pinning or pattern weights.

I finished the piping by trimming the cord and folding the fabric around the end piece, like you do with quilt bindings. Even though I didn't get the seam of the piping quite right on the sleeve seam, it still looks so much better than just sewing the piping into the seam. It takes a few minutes more, but I'm getting so picky in my old age that I'm willing to invest the time and effort to do this.

Here's a better shot of the piping seams on the sleeves. I love piping, it makes such a nice touch to a garment, even though it's just pajamas.

Get a load of this foot! It's a button foot. The grey thing on the left is a sort of tweezer that you pick up the button with and position it into the foot. My machine has a button stitch that works absolutely perfectly with this. All five buttons took ten whole minutes to attach! The foot even has two different levels for the shank height. When I first saw it demonstrated I knew I had to have it and I'm so glad I purchased it. Notice that there is no yellow cast to the photo. This machine has LED lights which give a pure white light.  The machine is a Husqvarna Viking Diamond Royale which I've had for almost two months now. I absolutely love it.

In the last post I mentioned that this was lovely flannel from Chadwick Heirlooms (which, by the way, has a really good sale going on right now). But as it turns out, I was standing in Joann's and saw the same fabric! Sure enough, upon examining the selvedges at home, I found the Joann label. The other telltale sign was how off grain the fabric was cut. I don't know about you, but this really annoys me. I know they don't want to take the time to pull a thread to get it exactly on grain when cutting, but a little care care of at least making the fabric smooth and the selvedges even does go a long way. I always end up buying more fabric than necessary, just because of this and also as I'm so afraid I'll goof something up. The piping fabric is a lovely Swiss flannel from Chadwick.

As I write this it is Saturday evening, and on Monday we will travel to Colorado, pick up our son who flies into Denver on Tuesday, then stay with our daughter for Christmas, returning home by Friday. So Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you, and thank you for reading my blog and leaving such lovely comments. I'll be back to write some more of my sewing and embroidery efforts in 2014.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

More Holiday Sewing

Thanksgiving is over and all that is left is the cranberry sauce, which no one in my family likes anyway. So now it's time to focus on Christmas. I bought this cookie recipe fabric from Joann's last year on clearance, and I thought it so cute I bought all of it, about four yards. When my granddaughter was here for Thanksgiving I made her a three tiered skirt out of it, just copying the jeans skirt she was wearing. It was a snap to make, and of course I didn't get a photo of it. If I can manage to make another I'll get a photo of it. For now I'll make a dress for her Raggedy Ann, then will have to think of something for the rest of it. Any suggestions will be welcome. It's low quality quilting fabric from Joann's, so nothing elaborate.

Two years ago I made a nightgown for her and told you about it in this post. Well, she was deep into her Elmo phase and wouldn't touch it. I don't even know what happened to it. So this year, I let her pick out fabric from my stash for pj's and will make them as shown above. This is a lovely flannel from Chadwick Heirlooms, so I'll take the time to make the pj's really nice. Maybe some pink or white piping to set it off. Thank you to Bunny from La Sewista for the advice on the pattern. I bought several when they were on sale for 99¢ at Joann's so I won't have to trace each size, although I probably will iron it onto lightweight interfacing. I plan to use this quite a bit.

In the last post I showed you the fabric for the aprons, here is mine, with some Battenburg lace from my stash to adorn the pockets.

And all three together. I think we all had them on at the same time for maybe a half hour right before Thanksgiving dinner, so no photo. Maybe at Christmas, as we will be traveling to Colorado to spend some time with them. Of course, that means I'll have to remember to pack it!

These are the patterns I used. I bought them as kits at a quilt show a few years ago, so I'll have to remember to label the fabric so I don't forget what they were for. I modified it slightly by making the ties narrower and the neck strap adjustable. With the wide ties, they just get wrinkled. I cut the ties four inches wide, folded each long edge one inch to the center, folded again and topstitched. this makes a nice sturdy tie that doesn't wrinkle when laundered. I also added the pocket on the bodice, as I need it for my glasses, and dispensed with the Ric Rac. It's a fun little pattern, and takes only a short time to make.

So now on to the pj's.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Some Holiday Sewing

The hand embroidery projects are set aside temporarily while I get some holiday sewing done. A year ago, I posted how I made a Raggedy Ann for my granddaughter's Christmas gift. I did mention how I would have Andy finished by the New Year; well here he is, all finished only 11 months late. I'm hoping to make another dress for Ann for this Christmas.

Lately I've been trying to learn the embroidery software for my sewing machine, but I think Andy looks a bit confused by it.

I purchased a five-pack of kitchen towels and embroidered an open design on the three that were flat cotton, similar to canvas. I didn't use any wash-away stabilizer on the top, and I think the embroidery is just fine. But I should have used the darkest brown for all three.

On the two waffle weave towels I used a denser design. The one on the right took over 2 1/2 hours as I was constantly misthreading the machine and creating a bird's nest underneath the embroidery with loops on the top. Once I figured out what was wrong and took special pains to thread the machine correctly, the embroidery progressed fairly smoothly and the second towel came together in less than 1/2 hour. I watched a lot of TV on the laptop while taking out stitches. I've just finished watching all of Sherlock, and noticed that there will be a third season, starting in January in the US.

I bought this fabric last year intending to make aprons. Yesterday I washed and ironed the fabric, and found some ecru Battenburg lace for the pockets. I forgot to include it in the photos, but will with the finished articles. These need to be finished by next Wednesday so my daughter, granddaughter and I will all have matching aprons for our Thanksgiving preparations. I also hope to embroider names on the pockets, which will be the darker fabric.

Thanks to alindbergh who alerted me to The Paradise on PBS. It turns out that I have automatically recorded all available episodes (I think the last one airs this coming Sunday), so I've started watching it. The story line so far is a bit dull, but the costumes are wonderful! The only problem is that I have to be downstairs in front of the TV to watch it, so I usually iron while doing so. Right now I'm pretty much caught up on ironing. My husband only works 2 1/2 days each week, so it doesn't take much time to iron his shirts.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Working on the Leaves

I'm trying to work an hour or two on the Embroidered Silk Evening Bag every day or so, and I am making some progress. Here I'm working on the second leaf.

Blending in the light yellow green over the darker green.

The tips of the leaves are actually a gold color, which you can barely see. Well, maybe you can't see it, I think I can because I know it's there. I picked up the thread for the stem and used it to make the vein, which I'm not sure is quite right. Do green leaves have brown center veins?

During the class our teacher, Susan, had us start different items on the embroidery so she could touch on the different techniques. Now that the class is over, I'm trying to stick with the order of work in the instructions, so I'll be doing all the leaves next. This will be pretty dull, so I won't bore you with each leaf's progress.

Those little yellow circles were driving me nuts, so I finished them along with the buds at the ends of the stems. As you can see, I've started on the third leaf. I'm sure I'll need to try something else while working the leaves, so I'll probably finish the French knot berries at the top. Those are fun to do, and don't require much concentration so I can watch TV. I've finished with Merlin and have started Sherlock, which apparently is coming back next year for a third season.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Embroidered Silk Evening Bag

This past weekend our local SAGA guild had Susan O'Connor from Country Bumpkin in Australia over to teach us how to embroider this stunning bag, named Caprice. This first appeared in issue 44 of Inspirations, published nine years ago. Susan was on her way home after having taught in New York and at the SAGA Convention. This was perfect for us who didn't make it to the Convention, as we got a beautiful project from an extremely talented teacher and no travel expenses. The photo above is from the magazine.

The photo is a bit wonky as I placed the fabric on the lawn to get the best light. The lawn really needed cutting, so the fabric isn't too flat. Since this design is embroidered on black silk, marking it is a challenge. Susan gave us some Saral white transfer paper for tracing the design on the silk. It comes in several colors and you can buy it at Dick Blick art supply. I first ran the design through the copier onto a sheet of vellum craft paper, then taped the design and transfer paper to the silk and traced away. It really works beautifully, but does tend to wear off. To revive the design, I bought this mechanical pencil, available at Joann's, after the Saturday class. After marking the design, I fused the fabric to a length of interfacing to help stabilize the stitching.

Since we had the actual bag in the class, I had to take a photo, so you can see how nice it looks in real life. Susan had also stitched another variation but had not made it into a bag, but with my poor photographic skills I don't have a good photo of it. I hope some of the other ladies got a good photo.

All the embroidery is worked in Au Ver a Soie, Soie d'Alger, a wonderful silk floss that is a delight to use. There's just nothing quite like a beautifully design stitched in silk on silk fabric. One of the nice things about taking a class as opposed to working the project from a magazine is all of the extra little tips and information you get. Susan gave us quite a few tips on working the various aspects of the bag which I'll share with you as I progress in this.

This is as far as I got in two days of classes, not much, is it? I plan on concentrating on it while I'm waiting for my threads from Australia to arrive.

Lately while I've been embroidering I've been watching TV on my laptop. I just finished binging on Downton Abbey Season 3, and also have been watching the British TV series Merlin. This is a family oriented version which is so goofy I can't even begin to describe it. However, it's been fun except for the last two episodes (after all, we do know what happens).  Now to find a new series to watch while working.

Since I really don't care for the name of this project (look up the definition of Caprice and you'll know why), I plan on calling this by the very unimaginative name of Embroidered Silk Evening Bag.  Using this name you'll be able to follow along with the project, if you care to.

Friday, November 1, 2013


I've been quite happy lately working on the Celtic Hearts Blanket, adding little rosebuds and leave to the vines. However, I made a very frustrating discovery: I ran out of the thread for the vines. This is Kacoonda Hi Twist Silk thread with very subtle shading. In the last post I mentioned that I ran out of the DMC wool and had earlier run out of the Colour Streams Exotic Lights.

This is as far as I can work at this time. The vine on the right has a little curlicue left to work on the left side of the heart, so I don't want to add the rosebuds or leaves until I get than finished. So now I'm stuck. I did find a supplier who carries both the Kacoonda and the Colour Streams, and of course it's in Australia. So until they arrive, this is getting put away.

Here is a shot of the whole design. I had less than half the necessary amount of the Kacoonda Hi Twist to finish the design. There are supposed to be vines going around all of the hearts on the outside.  So I've ordered several skeins of the Hi Twist, also some silk ribbon just in case I'll need it for the leaves, and more of the Colour Streams Exotic Lights. I want to add some hearts in the corners of the blanket to balance it out a bit. If you would like to see my previous posts on this project, click here.

I find is so very frustrating to run out of threads during a project. I know that many teachers want to keep the costs down on their kits, but I would be happy to pay more to have enough threads to be able to do over some of the work I'm not happy with. But this is ridiculous! There just wasn't enough threads to complete the project. It's especially frustrating because these are threads which are not easily available. I had to hunt for the DMC wool and found it locally, but the others are Australian and not even available in the US. I love the idea of kits, but this one is starting to make me dislike them.  Time to calm down.

Tomorrow I start a new project! Susan O'Connor of Country Bumpkin is coming to our SAGA guild to teach her lovely silk shaded purse, Caprice. You can find it in issue 44 of Inspirations, and I'll post photos soon.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

More on the Celtic Hearts Blanket

I've been furiously stitching away on the Celtic Hearts Blanket and have reached a few major milestones. In this photo I've finished the tassels. These are worked in Colour Streams Ophir, Antique Ivory and it is a truly lovely thread. The bottom of the tassel is worked in stem stitch, with satin stitch for the band below the ball of the tassel.

The inside of the chain stitches is Double Pekinese Stitch, which is a figure eight stitch worked entirely on the surface of the blanket. Then the chain stitches are whipped. This is all worked in Colour Streams Exotic Lights, also Antique Ivory, and a fussier thread never existed! I have to keep the lengths short as it frays very easily, being a fairly loose silk thread, but look at the sheen, it's worth all the fussiness!

Here is the progress so far. I've finished the tassels, all of the outlined hearts, and filled in with the Double Pekinese and Whipped Chain stitch on the wool chains. Next up are the vines with leaves and buds.

What is really griping me about this project is that I just didn't have enough threads. I had to hunt down the DMC wool, luckily I found it only about 25 miles away from my house. Back in 2009 when I returned from Beating Around the Bush, I managed to find a supplier for the Colour Streams threads. I bought what I hoped would be enough to make four hearts in the corners of the blanket, but no such luck. I have less than one skein left of the Exotic Lights, which is used for the Double Pekinese and Whipped Chain Stitch. It takes just under one skein for each heart. The one and only supplier here in the US doesn't have Antique Ivory in stock, so that means ordering from Australia with huge shipping costs. So I have some decisions to make on the corners of the blanket. I do have two skeins of the Ophir left, but I don't need much of it. I'll have to think on this one quite a bit.

But not for a little while. Tomorrow is oral surgery day, ugh! I'll be completely out of commission for at least two days, then we'll see. My son will shop for some nice sharp Cheddar to make mac and cheese. At least that will be a comfort.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Back to Embroidery!

I'm been focusing so much on garment sewing lately and I've become frustrated by not having any embroidery projects in work. Well, I do have several in work, I just haven't been working on them. This is a project called Celtic Hearts from Beating around the Bush way back in October of 2009. And it's been sitting in the hoop all this time! See the band? But if you look in the upper right portion you can see where the fabric is nice and smooth. This is beautiful wool blanketing and the band steamed right out. But it's still not a good idea to leave projects in the hoop, especially for four years!

The chain stitch knot design is worked with DMC wool in color 7746, or ivory. After the chain knot is stitched I'm adding Double Pekinese Stitch using Colour Streams Exotic Lights in Antique Ivory. It's going to be a challenge to figure out how to stitch that after all this time.

I'll add more photos as I progress, I'm determined to get this finished soon.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Two More Dresses

As I was looking around the sewing room yesterday I realized that I had two size 5 dresses that I made years ago that need to be sent to my granddaughter. This is made from Children's Corner Charlotte, and if you click on this link and scroll down to the bottom of the page you'll see it. It doesn't look like the pattern, and there is a very good reason for that. Back in 2007 our SAGA group had the designer, Lezette Thomason come and teach us how to draft a change to the pattern and make the dress. We redrafted the front of the dress to have the asymmetrical opening, and added the cute appliqu├ęd leaved to the flower buttons.

 Close up of the leaves and buttons.

This dress is completely lined, and has rick rack up the front and around sleeves and armholes. The weather is starting to get cool in Colorado, but it will still fit next summer. It's a bit windy today, so it was all I could do to get this pictures, so please excuse a bit of fuzziness.

I also found this smocked Christmas dress. It was supposed to have a picture smocked insert, but as this was when I was just starting to smock there was no way I was going to attempt that. So I dug up a niece geometric design and smocked it.

I made the piping from the dress fabric, not the best choice but I couldn't find another fabric that I liked. This was made from the standard Australian Smocking and Embroidery size 5 yoke pattern, and they run quite a bit larger than American patterns. So this will be for Christmas 2014. Also, for some reason I interfaced the bodice. Don't do this, it's way too stiff and heavy. This is quilt fabric, and I certainly won't do that again.  As I look at the details on this dress, I can see how much better at sewing I've become. I'm much fussier and more willing to spend the time to make the garment more precise. It's very instructive to look over the items made in the past and see how you've progressed.

Since I'm such a pack rat, I was actually able to find the scraps from these projects and made bows out of them.

I attached the bows to clips found at Joann's. They come about 15 in a package so I'll make them for quite a while!

Luckily, Loveland, where my daughter lives, wasn't too affected by all the flooding. Now to package all three dresses and get them in the mail.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Frannie Dress is Finished!

Wow, a finish! Doesn't finishing a project make you feel good? It certainly does for me, especially as I started this in April. Now my granddaughter will have a nice dress to wear to school. This is actually called Frannie's Big Sister. I mentioned in the previous post the pattern comes in three size groupings, however, I was mistaken, it comes in two sizes, 6M to 4 and 5-8. I made the size 5 thinking that she was this size, but as I found out when making the Flower Girl Dresses, she is actually a 4. You can buy the pattern from Chadwick Heirlooms or from the Sew Beautiful store, but for some reason Chadwick only carries the largest size. I made this in a size 5, so it should fit her for some time.

Closeup of the smocking. I started using a couple of rows from an old AS&E smocking plate, but made it completely different so I guess you could say it's my own design. The bullions match the butterfly fabric, but if you look closely you can see that the green I chose for the leaves matches the green fabric a little too well so they pretty much disappear. I have since washed out all of the blue markings.

A closeup of the skirt fabric, note the darling horses, castles and I think there is a unicorn somewhere. It even has butterflies to coordinate with the bodice.

This was not a particularly easy pattern, but since I made it as part of a class with the pattern designer, Lyn Weeks, we had some expert advice. The pleating is done on a curve, and it doesn't go from end to end, which is somewhat tricky. Attaching the bodice to the skirt is also difficult due to the curves in the seam. I made all the piping myself as it would be very hard to find piping in a color to coordinate with both the skirt and the bodice, but as it happened, I had the perfect choice. Making your own piping isn't nearly as difficult as you would think, and it gives you great color options.

We will be seeing our granddaughter in about six weeks, so I hope to take some pictures of her in it and will post them. In the meantime, please check out this post by Saint Nolt Sews, she made the dress in a size 8 as a top. I will be posting a review for this pattern on Pattern Review shortly.

Now, which UFO to tackle next?

Happy Sewing and I hope all of you have a great Labor Day! We will be smoking salmon on the charcoal grill and making kebabs (not from the salmon), with lots of tomato salad from the garden.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

New Dress in Work

One of my retirement goals is to work off the inventory of UFO's in my sewing room, and there are lots of them! In April I attended a SAGA workshop in the LA area taught by Lyn Weeks on construction of her Frannie pattern suite. The fabrics I chose were this darling unicorn/castle fabric and the diamond patterned mauve fabric for piping. I wasn't happy with my choice of bodice fabric so after arriving at the workshop I visited a local quilt shop and picked up the butterfly fabric you see in the lower right. The color is perfect and there are even butterflies in the green fabric.

Frannie comes in three size groupings. I'm using the largest, and making a size 5 to fit my granddaughter, who by the way, started school this week. Where does the time fly? This pattern is modeled after a gown that Lyn found in an antique shop and she drafted the patterns from it. It has an unusual bodice/smocking treatment that you can see above. In fact, we had to curve the fabric in the pleater, which was pretty tricky. In addition, the pleating did not stop or end at the edge of the fabric.

You can see how I marked the end of the smocking. Gotta love those washout fabric markers.

There are three different collar options in the pattern. I'm using the same collar as on the flowered dress on the envelope cover, shown upside down in this photo. Although the one on the cover seems to have an embroidered scallop edge on it. I opted to pipe this one with piping made from the diamond patterned fabric in the first photo.

The pattern came with a smocking plate was rather plain. So I'm merging bits of smocking patterns from different sources, so we'll see where this leads. I also plan on some bullion roses in the mauve colors, which I hope will look nice. The row of cable on the top is to hide my somewhat uneven sewing. Originally I had a row of cables in light green that was supposed to be covered up by the piping, but there were a few spots where it peeked out. So I added the cable row to hide it, and I like the effect. I think it would have looked a bit bland without it.

In the class we constructed the dress first and now I'm smocking the almost fully constructed dress. Normally you would smock the pleated fabric first and construct the dress after all smocking and embroidery was finished. As this class focused on the tricky construction of the bodice to skirt the teacher reversed the order. But it seems to be working out quite well.

Back to work, I want to finish this and send it off so she can wear it to school while the weather in Colorado is still warm.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Hand Sewn Baby Slip Finished

Goodness, but I love being retired. I'm actually ahead of the curve on a project, the first time in a very long time. As I mentioned in a previous post on this project, I decided to make this baby slip entirely by hand. This month at our SAGA meeting we will be working on buttonholes.

I did most of the construction in the car while riding to my niece's wedding, but did all the feather stitching both at home and while flying to Michigan for another niece's wedding last weekend.

I did make the buttonholes by hand, but did not make a machine buttonhole and work a hand stitched one over it as I mentioned in the last post. There just would have been too much thread build up for that. So I practiced a few and went ahead to the actual slip. They don't look too bad, and if I were a decent photographer you could see them a bit better. So I'm actually finished with the project ahead of schedule. What a nice feeling!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Transforming the Flower Girl Dress

Remember the Flower Girl Dresses from last month? If you look at the second photo in the post you'll see my great niece off to the right. She will be baptized next month and her mom wanted to use the dress for this occasion. I removed the sash and overskirt, luckily I didn't follow the pattern directions to sew everything into the seams. I found this tulle in my stash, starched it so it had a bit of body, then made a new overskirt. I used a zig zag to finish the hems and sew the seams together and it worked quite well on this flimsy fabric. The dark with thread at the top is the gathering thread. It is Mettler gimp with a zig zag over it. All I had to do is to pull on it and the skirt gathered beautifully. After whipstitching the overskirt to the dress, I cut the end of the gimp and pulled it all out. Perfect!

I made a self fabric sash and attached it to the dress. That tuck in the center really bothered me, so I took it out. This is polyester, so it doesn't gather as nicely as silk does, and I thought the tuck would be needed. It turns out that it looks fine without it.

And the back. Yes, I did follow the sash tying instructions in A-Z of Sewing for Smockers, I just need a lot more practice.

A note about the wedding. The little girl who wore this dress has an abundance of energy, more so than the average toddler. During the reception, she would go out onto the dance floor and dance around by herself, so many of the guests, including the bride and groom, formed a circle around her and danced away. I love weddings like that! After all, those little darlings are an important reason for getting married.