Saturday, October 22, 2016

Jean-ius Craftsy Class

Dear Readers, I'm finally winding down from a flurry of sewing and traveling. After the SAGA convention I went to Boise for a weekend, then to Los Angeles for a wedding. Now I'm home and can catch my breath.

Very old Ralph Lauren jeans
I just finished sewing my first pair of jeans, from taking the Jean-ius class on Craftsy. The class, taught by Kenneth D King, focuses on copying your favorite pair of well fitting jeans. In the class, Prof King has you draft a pattern from existing jeans by marking grain lines and seams, tracing onto silk organza, then again onto paper. After making a muslin, you transfer corrections to the paper and make the jeans from the corrected pattern. He assumes you are using a well loved and fitted pair, but mine were so old and stretched out, I had trouble with the grain lines. As a result, they are slightly off grain, but more about that later.

I fitted the muslin by taking many photos of myself, making the changes, then taking more photos. This isn't ideal, but as I don't have a fitting partner, it's all I can do. Also, I used cotton twill for the muslin, and a heathery grey stretch denim for the jeans. So I fitted the muslin a bit snug and hoped for the best.

The pocket placement could be just a bit better
I can't figure out how I managed to place these pockets a bit off, as I did use one pattern piece for the back and marked the placement at the same time. But no one will be examining my rear end closely so it's not too bad. The construction details that Prof King uses are nicely detailed.

Self faced pockets
Instead of folding the top edge of the pocket over twice and stitching, as on most jeans, Prof King has you finish the edge, fold one, and topstitch. This give a smoother pocket and looks great. In the class, he demonstrates two finishes, a zig zag and trim, and a serged edge. Several times he assures the viewers that a zig zag edge is a perfectly acceptable finish. Which is good, as I don't have a serger. Here I used one of the edge finish stitches available on my machine.

Front closeup
 No belt loops or rivets on these. I don't intend to ever wear them with a top tucked in, so I didn't bother. I'm pleased with the zipper placket, it was so gratifying to make it and have it come out correctly. I did put the watch pocket in, just for fun. I'm sure I won't ever use it.

Quilting cotton pocket bag
 I used a scrap of quilting cotton for the pocket bag. The class comes with a pdf of instructions to drafting a pocket bag and I wish I would have used it instead of copying the too small bag on the jeans. Lesson learned.

Back seam finishes
On the back center seam and yoke seams, I used the plain zig zag for the finish. And you know what? I think it looks fine.

Nice, tidy hem finish
I love his hem finish, similar to the back pocket. Mark the hem, trim and finish to 1/2 inch (15 cm), then topstitch 3/8 inch (10 cm) from the bottom. Nice and smooth. I love it. This is another of the edge finishes available on my machine.

Hmm, should have pulled them up a bit and stopped moving
Here's the front view.  Sorry for the blur in the photo. I had it on a 3 second timer instead of 10 seconds. On the left front pocket you can see a tiny line of the pocket bag, I'll have to do a better job of turning. 

A little baggy, but so comfortable!
Here is the rear view. There are a couple of bubbles around the yoke that I hope to fix in the next pair. I'll also have to work on the drag lines lower down. These actually fit better than the original jeans, and are more comfortable than the sweat pants I'm wearing now. All in all, I'm very happy with this class and recommend it to anyone who wants to copy a pair of jeans. 

A couple of things to note: Don't use an old stretched out pair as I did. It's impossible to get the graininess straight. The side seams on this pair rotate a bit to the front, a sure sign of being off grain. But I think I will transfer the fit details to a commercial pattern I have and see if that works.  Prof King assumes you know how to hem the jeans and put in button holes, so this isn't a class for a complete newbie. But it is pretty detailed. 

I definitely recommend trying to find some inexpensive stretch fabric if you are making stretch jeans. I have some black stretch and blue non stretch denim to make two more pair, so I'll consider these my wearable muslin for the stretch fabric. If you take a Craftsy class, be sure to read all the questions and answers before sewing. And do this for the entire class. I didn't and missed a great tip about staying the waistband of stretch denim so it doesn't stretch out further with wear. If I lose more weight and have to replace the waistband, I'll definitely stay it. 

I have a lot more to share with you about other projects and hope to post more in the coming weeks. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Post Convention Blues

Needle holder, needle, and little clamps
The SAGA Convention in Hampton, Virginia, is over, and most attendees have packed and are off to home. I am staying over tonight as my flight to Denver is Monday morning. I had a wonderful time, meeting old friends and making new ones. Being in Northern Colorado, I'm a bit isolated from all of my stitching friends back in California, so it was nice to reconnect with them and those that I only see at Conventions. Several of the local chapters provide table favors with the meals, so this post will be show you what useful things we received. The theme for this Convention was "Anchored in SAGA" as it was held in Hampton, Virginia, on the East Coast. One of the chapters digitized the logo and embroidered it on felt to create needle books. There were also quilt clamps and a very large needle for making very large bullions.

Smocking Plates
We were given smocking plates at three meals.

Luggage handle cushion, coaster, visor tissue holder
 Little sewn items: a luggage handle cushion with room for address information inside an acrylic window, a coaster in nautical theme fabric, and a tissue holder with elastic so it can be stretched over a car visor.

Organza pressing cloth, pleat counter, wax
 The organza pressing cloth was actually a door prize I won (the only thing, alas), a very handy pleat counter and wax for sewing threads. I use a lot of wax so this will be handy.

Don't forget the beer!
No, this wasn't a table favor. One of the ladies didn't manage to drink the beer she bought, so I'm bringing it home for Mr CS. I'm sure he will love it. He's been babysitting since I left on Monday so will be glad to get a bit of relief. 

I took four different classes all on embroidery, and I will blog separately about each one, which I hope will make me complete them. So, more to come!

Oops, one last thing. Follow this link to the SAGA Smock Along FB page. The mayor of Hampton showed up to visit the Convention. He actually knew what pleating was and posed in front of the Wee Care gowns. What a guy! 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

SAGA Convention - Pre Day Tour of Williamsburg

He did his own embroidery!
Our pre day tour yesterday of Williamsburg focused on textiles, of course, with some behind the scenes tours. This gentleman was wearing a completely hand made outfit, complete with embroidery on the waistcoat and buttons that he did himself. I appreciate that they stay in character as much as possible, even to the extent of growing their hair long as appropriate to the period.

Tuft Weaving
When Mr California Stitching and I visited Williamsburg a few years ago, we could only see the looms standing idle with no one to explain how they were used. This time there were ladies who were  actually weaving articles to be used in the compound. This lady is "tuft weaving" in which the warp threads are tied around the weft to make a fuzzy rug, similar to latch hooking. This rug will adorn a bed in one of the homes. 

Hemstitching a Horse Blanket
This weaver is working on a horse blanket to keep one of the many horses warm during the winter. She is finished with one length, and is hemstitching the blanket prior to taking it off the loom. She will then weave another and join the two to make it double wide. 

All Natural Colors
Some examples of the dyed threads used in weaving. All are dyed using plant or insect material that was found in nature during the mid to late 18th century. 

To my non American readers: Williamsburg is a working 18th century compound in Virginia to show people what life was like for the first colonists. Well, maybe not the first, but subsequent generations. Not many of the first colonists survived.

Carding Lambswool
This lady is carding lambswool to get it nice and untangled so she can spin it into yarn. She explained  that carding was mainly a job for children, to keep them occupied during inclement weather. This particular wheel is a treadle spinning wheel, which represents a three fold productivity increase over the older walking wheel. To operate the walking wheel, the spinner has to walk back and forth to get the yarn wound onto the shuttle. The treadle operator only has to pump the treadle while sitting, much easier!

All of these photos were taken with the cell phone, as I stupidly took the camera connection wire out of my bag and placed it on the bed at home before leaving. I have to get back to my class now, and will take some photos with the cell phone this afternoon to share with you.

Friday, September 16, 2016

McCall's 7352 is Finished!

Pick stitching the zipper
The silk top is finished, thank goodness! As I mentioned in the last post, I'm making this using couture techniques, so there are lots and lots of hand sewing. I have made one dress using some of these techniques, but this is the first time I made a garment start to finish using couture methods.  I really like inserting the zipper by hand, it gives you such great control. The pick stitch is amazingly secure. I practiced on a sample and I had to cut each and every stitch to be able to remove the zipper. I was very surprised at this, it is much more secure than machine stitching.

Basting in the sleeve lining
 I lined the top with this lovely silk charmeuse. This stuff is amazingly slipper and hard to control. Here I'm basting the sleeve lining in before sewing by machine. It took a few tries to get it right.

Under stitching the lining at the neckline
 The lining was inserted completely by hand, and using the pick stitch I under stitched the entire neckline lining.

Hemming with a jump pleat
 The Susan Khaljie Craftsy class was for a dress, and emphasized the need for a jump pleat at the hem (for a sheath dress only). I decided to try this with the top, but too many times I sewed the entire fold to the hem of the dupioni. So that needs to be redone if I want it to be right.
A bit snug on Phil
And here it is finished. It's a bit snug on Phil, as I've lost some weight since I made the cover. I'll modify the cover at a later date. Now I'm rushing to get a skirt done before I leave for the SAGA Convention on Monday. I still need to pack and arrange all my sewing supplies. Also, we've been babysitting the grandson during the day. Too much to do!!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

New Project - A Silk Top

Lovely red silks
I'm going to the SAGA Convention later this month, in less than two weeks in fact, and I decided to make a top and skirt for the annual banquet. I had the red dupioni on the right in the photo in my stash, purchased a few years ago during a shopping trip to the Los Angeles fashion district. The silk charmeuse for the lining came from Elfriede's Fabric Store in Boulder just last week. 

I purchased a Craftsy class, The Couture Dress by Susan Khalje and is it ever an amazing class! Susan has so much great experience and she explains why she does each step all along the way. Instead of a dress, I decided to try it out on a simple top.  

Awesome pattern
I'm using McCall's 7352, which is a princess seamed fit and flare dress. In this particular pattern, the princess seams go right up to the shoulder seam, instead of the ending at the armscye like most princess seamed patterns. If you remember, back in July I made a dress form cover using this same pattern, so I knew I had most of the fitting solved. 

In Susan's class, you first make a muslin, which I did all over again, ensuring that it fits properly, then use it for your pattern. I didn't take photos of the process, so I'll jump ahead to the construction. All the pattern markings are made on a silk organza underlining, rather than the red dupioni. Then the silk organza is hand basted along the stitching lines with silk basting thread.

Silk dupioni can be rather difficult to work with and wear. It wrinkles easily and ravels ferociously! The silk organza underlining gives it great body and is supposed to keep it from wrinkling so much. The very large seam allowances, along with catch stitching the SAs to the underlining, keep it from raveling.

Corticelli silk thread
This thread is rather difficult to find, especially as it's not made any longer but I managed to score three small spools at a flea market in Fallbrook, Southern California. There is also a Japanese thread that Susan recommends, which is also difficult to find. The thread I have is very soft and so easy to stitch with. The best part, however, is when you remove the stitching, there are no holes left in the dupioni.

Thread tracing the seam lines
Here I'm basting the organza to the dupioni along the seam lines. After that is done, the pieces are basted together to make absolutely certain the fit is correct before machine sewing the top.

The basted shell on Phil
Here is the basted top, with no sleeves, on my dress form, Phil (after my sewing grandmother). This is quite a time consuming process, but by focusing on the stitching lines rather than the cut edges, it's much easier to get a great fit. Well, that assumes I can fit myself, which is rather a challenge. The top is somewhat snug on Phil, because I fit it to myself, and now I'm one size smaller than I was in July when I made the dress form cover.

Next up, machine stitching, removing the basting, pressing and catch stitching all the seam allowances. Then on to the sleeves.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Construction and Finishing

Sewing the bag to the frame
The title of this post is a bit of a misnomer, as I forgot to take photos of the construction. Which is no big deal, as it was very simple, just the lining sewn to the silk embroidered piece and turned right side out. The tricky part was sewing the bag top to the purse frame. I ruined at least two needles doing this.

Carefully stuffing the bag into the frame corners
I keep a package of manicure sticks on hand for pushing fabric into tight spots without puncturing the fabric. The sticks are perfect for this.

Berries made from pebble beads
For a long time now, I've been of the opinion that beads make any embroidery, whether smocking, surface embroidery, or counted work, much better and more exciting. I love to add a little bling to the pieces I work on. Evidently, the designer, Susan O'Connor, must feel the sam way, as she uses beads quite extravagantly in this purse. First of all, the yellow berries are made of pebble beads wrapped with thread and secured with a red seed bead on top. The large pink flower looks like it sneezed a few beads.

Even the blackberries have beads
The blackberries are adorned with little blue seed beads to give them a bit of dimension and light. 

More beads on the blue flowers
The blue flowers (what they are, I haven't a clue) have lots of gold beads surrounding them. There are more than the pattern specified, so I had to raid my stash to finish the somewhat dense bead pattern that I made.

Spangles and beads on the back
 Even the back of the bag has spangles attached with beads.

The finished bag
There are a few spangles with beads on the front of the bag as well. And look at the big pink flower on the right, the center is surrounded by beads.

The bag is lined with burgundy satin, but all of my photos had too much light reflecting off the hardware, so you will have to take my word for it. I just couldn't get a good picture. If you look closely at the frame, there are two little triangles for a strap to be attached. They are too small for a fabric strap, as the instructions state, and besides, I think I prefer a clutch. Maybe if I find a nice, delicate chain, I might buy one and attach it, but I will decide that later.

All in all, I'm pretty pleased with it. It's big enough for a phone, some cash and a lipstick, which is all I need. Now to find a dress to go with it for the Convention banquet!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Embroidery Finished!

Odd looking leaves for the blackberry bunches
There are just a few finishing touches on the embroidery for the Embroidered Silk Evening Bag. As I was looking at the photo of the finished bag, I noticed that I had completely forgot the leaves and sepals for the blackberries. The chalk markings had completely rubbed off the silk fabric. So I carefully drew them in by hand with a chalk pencil. Then I realized that the center thread is supposed to be Au Ver au Soie, Soie d'Alger No 516, a dark green that you can see in the centers of the other leaves above. Unfortunately, I am completely out of it. I looked through my stash and decided No 514 is close enough, so that's what I used. With the lighter green outlining the leaves I think it looks fine. 

What do the beads represent, pollen?
I placed little gold beads around the blue flower spray. I used many more than the directions specified, so had to raid my stash for a few more. Luckily, I have plenty of the same color. I also filled in the center of the large pink flower with yellow Ghiordes knots and encircled it with beads.

Blue buds added to the blue flower 
In the last post I mentioned that I couldn't figure out what the flower spray below the blue flower is supposed to look like, so I rubbed the chalk away and drew in new markings. Then I added the blue buds with pink accents and a brown branch.

Finally finished! 
Here is the entire embroidery, all complete. Now I just have to make it into a bag. The directions include a fabric handle, but the joins on the purse hardware are just too tiny to make it work. I'll head over to Joann's to see if I can find a small chain that will fit, otherwise I'll have to look online. Can't wait to get this done.

If you would like to see all of the posts for this project, this link will take you to them.

A quick PSA (Public Service Announcement for those who read in other languages): I am now starting to answer comments in the blog directly below each comment, so please check back a while after you leave a comment. Thanks for all your lovely remarks, I do appreciate them. Now I'm off to do some grocery shopping. We just got a freezer for the new house and it's time to fill it.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Embroidered Bag Progress

Pretty needle minder
I hope those of you in the Northern Hemisphere are managing to stay cool. It's been pretty hot here, getting to 101 ℉ (38℃) on Monday. Tomorrow we may get some cooler weather, and I must say I am looking forward to it. It's been over a year since I posted on the Embroidered Evening Bag, but I've been working hard lately to finish it. Above right, you can see that I've finished the blue/purple flowers. Since this project is worked entirely in Soie d'Alger silks, it's pretty expensive. I had run out of the light blue, but ordered more from Hedgehog Handworks. To save the silk for surface stitching, I made the padding of the blue flowers from a corresponding color of DMC floss. As the silk is upwards of $4.90 per skein vs $0.39 for the floss, this is quite a savings, especially if you do a lot of padding.

Pink buds almost finished
Here I only have the tips of the pink buds to finish, along with the center of the large flower. Since the center will be Ghiordes knots surrounded by beads, I'm saving it for last.  This will help to avoid any snagging.

The grapes are a bit more grape-like
If you look at the link to the previous post (over a year ago!) the grapes sort of flowed together in a mash up. I seriously considered taking them all out, but after thinking about this for maybe five minutes, I added a few strategically placed French knots which seemed to make them rounder and more grape-like.

What is the mystery bud below the blue flower?
I finished the little blue flower, again padding the petals with DMC floss. There are some sketchy lines just below the blue flower that don't seem to correspond with the original drawing. I'll have to figure out just what to do with it. Besides the mystery bud(s), I only have to finish the centers of the blue and pink flowers, the pink flower buds, a few tendrils and stems here and there, and add a lot of spangles overall. Then comes the construction, which looks pretty easy.

One aggravation that creeped in a few days ago is that I broke the broke the post of this embroidery hoop. It is a large sit upon hoop so now I have to hold it in my hands to work on the project until I can find a replacement.

I'm sure you are all wondering why I have picked this particular project to finish now. Well, there is a very good reason for it. In September, I will be attending the SAGA Convention in Hampton,  Virginia. This particular project is from a class my SAGA chapter in California held back in November, 2013, almost three years ago by the talented Susan O'Connor from Australia. Besides wanting to have a nice bag for the annual banquet, I will be taking three days of classes from Susan. I will definitely want to show this evening bag off!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

New Project - Dress Form Cover

Very sad dress form on the right
I bought the dress form you see in the above photo while still in California, and for a while, it worked pretty well. I had it pretty close to my measurements. But sadly, neglect set in and I've gained weight. In this post, you can see how loosely the dress hangs on the form. It fits on me a whole lot better, but it's not perfect. Since I paid good money to have it stored for nine months and then shipped to the new house, I thought I had better make use of it.

As I mentioned in the last post, I purchased a Craftsy class, Customize Your Dress Form with Judy Jackson, on how to make a dress form cover to match your own body. I took inspiration from Bunny at La Sewista, who made her own cover a few years ago. Click on this link for her last post on it. I also studied the tutorial on by Laurie Nash of Sew Chic, which is very in depth. This link will lead you to her first post of the tutorial.

This pattern has princess seams to the shoulder
One of the things that is all important is to make sure to pick a good pattern, specifically one with princess seams that run up to the shoulder, not the armscye. I used McCall's 7352 for this.

First attempt on the dress form cover
For the fabric it is important to use something not too light. I thought I had the perfect fabric, some pink drapery fabric from about 30 years ago. It was nice and stiff, but it had a distortion that no amount of ironing would remove. After washing it, the distortion came out, but now it was just a lightweight cotton fabric. So I went ahead and made the cover anyway. After about five or six fittings with only Mr CS to help, it was pretty well molded to my body.

New pattern pieces in pink/grey toile fabric
Then I realized that it looks like a micro mini skirt, way too short, and the neckline isn't quite high enough. Rummaging through my stash I found a darling pink toile upholstery weight fabric that would be perfect. So I took the first attempt apart and used it to cut the toile fabric.

Matching the thread traced seams
I transferred all seam lines to the new fabric with a tracing wheel, but realized that I need to see the marks from both sides. So I thread traced all seam lines. What a great idea. I could match all the seam lines pretty accurately now.

Almost finished! 
The Craftsy class instructed us to pad the form with polyester batting, which I thought made it too soft. Besides, I had only a bit of batting and a lot of look fiber fill, which was impossible to place on the form and hold in place. Laurie at Sew Chic said to use cotton batting, which I have a lot of, so that's what I did. I used lots of paper tape to keep everything together. 

Adding the neck fabric with a curved needle
 I also copied Bunny's method of adding a neckband and covering the armholes. Luckily I had a set of curved needles used for tying quilts, which really helped to get the neck and armholes in. I used a 30 inch separating zipper in the back, and ran a cord around the bottom casing to gather the extra fabric in.

Not quite tight enough, but it matches!
Laurie also says to spray the form with water and let dry to help smooth out the bumps. This photo is before I did that. It's now dry but doesn't look all that much smoother. But, I have a form with correct measurements and that's what matters. Since I'm not likely to make anything very form fitting, a few wrinkles in the hip area won't matter too much. I still need to mark the waist with a ribbon (it's now only chalk) and the shoulders, since mine are a bit narrower.

This whole process makes you look at your figure very critically and gives you more insight into how your body looks. I discovered I have a bit of a swayback, which I never realized before. Since I've started this, I've really made sure I'm eating right and have been exercising, so I expect to lose a bit of weight. But that's OK, if I lose enough weight I can take it apart, refit, and take away some of the padding. Which would be a very good thing.

I want to thank Bunny at La Sewista and Laurie at Sew Chic for kindly posting on how they made their forms. I read all the posts several times along with the Craftsy class and now feel I almost have a handle on this.