Sunday, April 27, 2008

Latest Pants




OK, I succumbed to the call of my conscience and made some white twill slacks before I made a fun-to-sew top. First, lets get the photography out of the way-I did it with a timer, alone, in the back yard and family room. By the time I got the camera positioned, over and over ran to the rock and jumped up in those damn wedges, I was a wrinkle ball. Now that's fine with me as these slacks are 100% cotton twill and I knew they would be a wrinkle ball from the get go. I almost completely sew with natural fibers and knew this was inevitable. I LOVE natural fibers. I also was after a very relaxed fit. I hate things tight. I wanted something cool and comfy, and I wanted something sewn FAST. So couture, these are not. They have no details other than darts and are serged all around. I am actually pretty happy with them, although I know they are not perfect.
I used my pants sloper which I haven't used since last summer and a winter of sewing on my arse and lots of other lame excuses has shown me it needs tweeking, the sloper that is. My butt is beyond tweaking. The rear crotch curve could use a tad more space. I also am going to make the darts deeper as I had a lot to ease in with the waistline, a la Claire Schaeffer, but on a hard twill that easing, despite lots of steaming, shows too much for me. So deeper darts next time. For the zip I used the Sandra Betzina killer fly zipper application. Wow, is that so easy! That alone makes her book, "Power Sewing" worth the purchase. These pants are cut full, as that is what I like and can carry off best. I have full thighs and butt and am only 5 ft tall so that is the style that seems most flattering. Any fit comments greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Today's Antique Lace:
This is closeup of a woman's collar made from the filmiest batiste with extremely tiny tucking. Enjoy:

Friday, April 25, 2008

Cable Stitch


Probably the simplest stitch and the first stitched learned in smocking is the cable. I, personally, feel it is the most difficult. That's because it needs to have perfectly stacked threads and thats not easy to do. I decided on my last project I really needed to pay attention and do this stitch better. So I have been stripping my threads, running them thru dryer sheets, and very slowly and carefully making the stitch. I think they have gotten better. I really need to slow down some times and pay closer attention.
ETA: If you click on the pic it will enlarge to give you a better idea of the stitches.

Guilt has set in. I cut a pair of white twill pants out from my sloper yesterday. I need to fire up the serger and get a zip and then I can whip them out pretty quickly. The big question is do I dare to show my butt on the web in white pants, Oy,,,Maybe I can borrow Lindsay's daughter to model. When done the pants, I can start making one of those cute tops. Lata'...Bunny

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Irish Tweed


Marcia, Marcia, Marcia, my cyber sewing friend, is a thrift store maven. On a recent foray to her favorite haunt, she saw this fold of wool and says she immediately thought of me! Now I am impressed with that, but Marcia lives in a very hot part of the country and I live up on the Canadian border. Did she just want to buy fabric, just having to react to that urge we all get, and having no use for wool tweed? I don't think so. You see, Marcia is a kind, caring person, who thinks of others way more than most of us do. She sincerely purchased this piece of wool for me and I sincerely appreciate the lovely gift. Did I tell you she paid 25 cents for the whole almost 2 yard piece? It had the labels attached with the pin when she found it. What a babe! Surprises headed your way, Marcia and big Thank Yous!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Inspirations!





Currently, I am hand smocking a little top for Twin Baby Girl and also sewing some little banded capris to go with it. There is a sewing rule in my world and it is to only work on two projects at a time. I am not considering TBG's outfit two projects. And, since Rule #2 in my world is one of the projects is by hand and the other is full tilt by machine, I am searching out my next "ouvre". You can see my latest stash additions above.

The green is a linen/rayon/lycra that I am considering for the following bastardized pattern: McCall's 5576 . In an attempt to knock off a top I saw in the Soft Surroundings catalogue, I would have to split it down the middle; add bands for buttons, and do lots of frilly heirloom looking "stuff" to it. Fun and doable!

For the silky floral I am thinking Vogue 2947, View B, the green baby doll.
I know it would be so cute on a 16 year old but my recent epiphany is moving me toward more youthful clothes. Epiphany? Yes, thanks to "O" magazine. A few months back was an article with lots of photos of women stuck in a clothing warp. I saw myself in one of those photos as clear as a bell, BOOOORRRRIIINNNGGG! So this top would be a strong attempt to not look like that "before" photo from "O." I think given that I am still a "petite" I can maybe pull this off. If not, well, I will just wear it to mop the floors.
And then there was the eyelet! This is the eyelet I had to have! It is "pearlized" and not a snow white but with grayish tones and a pearl luster, very different. Wish the pic showed it's "special-ness" better. I would do this Simplicity 2936 for that fabric. It would have no collar, meet at center fronts with a nifty closure idea that hit me in the bead/jewelry aisle of Joann's, and have a little tiny organdy raw ruffle somewhere.
Decisions, decisions....I am thinking all of these would look great with some white twill slacks. Maybe I should be making those.......Bunny

Lace Pic for the road: and yes, I have two of these. They are gorgeous, more Irish lace.



Monday, April 21, 2008



A week or so ago, I published a post about my grandmother Mamee who was a strong part of my sewing roots. I spent every summer with her until she passed away. One of the things we did was visit her sister. These visits as well as phone calls I remember, were filled with arguments between the two sisters. I always got the sense that Tante was a very miserable person and my grandmother a really kind one. Now Tante never married. She entered the convent to become a nun at the age of 15, an action not unheard of in those days. When she was 18 she was asked to leave the convent. No one in the family ever knew why. She spent the rest of her life being what was called a "spinster" in those days. She never married and certainly never had children. But she went to church every day and had a small job taking care of the church linens. Other than that, which many family members think was just voluntary, she never worked in her life. My father and his brothers were all professionals and all chipped in cash here and there to help the spinster aunt. She lived every day of her life in the same apartment other than a brief 2 yr period in Florida. She passed away in her 90's in 1975 or so. My cousin, an antique dealer and the family historian, was given the charge of cleaning out her apartment. Turns out Tante had a lifelong love affair with a local priest. This started when she was in the convent. The one time she moved away from New Orleans it was to a parish he was transferred to in Florida. Her entire life, until the good father died, he deposited money weekly into her bank account, one that had both their names on it. My cousin found every bank book of her entire life as she was quite the pack rat. They all were joint accounts with her and the priest. So that explains what she lived on.

When she passed, being the pack rat that she was, she left behind an amazing stash of altar linens and laces and priestly garments. My cousin, knowing that I loved to sew and really would appreciate these things, showed up on my yankee doorstep with two leaf bags full of what my mom would call "brigalia." There were amazing silk nighties and bed jackets, very Jean Harlow. But the laces, oh my, the laces. So I have decided that every few days I will close with a picture of one of the laces. I have most of them photographed but still have more to do. Tonites laces are cuffs of really fine pintucked, by hand, batiste, and Irish crocheted lace. The pintucks are no more than 1/16th of an inch deep. The top edge is beading and some sort of ribbon or rope went thru those holes. They are very large, about 5 inches deep, and clearly were the bottom edge of the sleeve of a priest's surplice. They would be way to big for any woman's garment. There was quite a bit of Irish lace in this bounty. It seems to wear like iron.
I did carry this bounty around for years and only in the past 2-3 years have gotten to cleaning it the right way and cataloging it. It is a wonderful legacy with quite a history. I have gotten so much pleasure out of handling these beautiful things but I always think of her handling them and wondering what "could have been." Kind of Thornbirds...I hope you enjoy these laces as much as I do.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Midnight (well, almost) Musings

Did you ever want to sew something just to sew it? I mean just the pleasure of seeing it happen? I don't mean sewing because I need something, or sewing because I have a plan, or sewing a gift, or sewing to use up stash. Nope, just sewing for the joy of it! Well, I do and I think I do it fairly often. I just love seeing the fabric and trims and colors come together with what is in my mind. Right now I am aching to make an eyelet blouse, a metallic eyelet blouse. This is a blouse that probably just the blue herons and deer might see me wear. I imagine its organza trim and my palms get downright sweaty with anticipation. I want to sew this blouse for no other reason than I
  • want to know I can pull it off
  • want to see my idea come to fruition
  • want to feel the awesome pleasure of the entire process.
I guess I am not very practical sometimes but who says I have to be? I think we should all be so lucky as to have something besides our loved ones that brings us great joy. Am I alone here?....Bunny

Blocked up!


Here we are with the front and back pleated and pinned to the blocking board. Its all dry now so before I take it off the board I will count the pleats. Why count the pleats? To center the design. Lata'...Bunny

Friday, April 18, 2008

Some Toile for Baby




Shouldn't every baby have a little toile to wear? La Sewista thinks so! And thats what my next hand project will be, smocked toile for Twin Baby Girl. I've made this little dress a couple of times for DGD#1 and know it will go quite quickly. My inspiration was this kind of aqua blue/brown small cotton toile. It had a dot coordinate to add to the play as well. Throw in a little brown grosgrain and some tiny blue buttons and we are good to go. The pattern is from AS&E and called Tickled Pink. A pattern isn't really necessary for this style if you know the slightest about smocking however. If you have never worked with a smocking or AS&E pattern, the pattern merely tells you what size blocks to cut and gives you a guide for blocking. The plate (smocking pic and directions) is in the magazine. The plate is quite sweet but I may improvise a bit. I thought of having a tiny border of the dot and the ribbon in between. This little top is for a 6 month size and there are 60 inches of fabric width in the top. I say that because most non smockers are blown away at how full smocked garments are. Most are two full widths of fabric wide. Here's a schematic of the top. I think I may make the little pants as well out of the dot fabric.
I did manage to get the back and front pleated and blocked tonite. It is drying as we speak.
Blocking is a little controversial in the smocking world. Some claim its a waste of time. Others, like myself, do it religiously. I will take all the help I can get in making my smocking look good, so why not? So, after the fabric block is pleated I pin the blocking guide on the blocking board, pin the pleated fabric to it, adjusting to fit the guide. Then I arrange the pleats evenly, spray a mist of water then spray starch and let dry. Tomorrow I will count my pleats, marking them in increments of ten. Then it will be smocking time.

I thought every now and then I might publish a pic of the beautiful area we live in. We are on the Deer River up near the Canadian border. The wildlife are plentiful and always fascinating. Here is a picture of our spring river. It is about 100 feet from the back door and we see the view from our living room windows...Bunny

Thursday, April 17, 2008


It was love at first sight with the vibrant colors and oriental fan and mum motif on this fabric. I also was looking for an excuse to do some self-dyed faux leather. And you all know about my continuing goal of implementing smocking into adult clothing. Those three things combined in my latest bag. Its Vogue 7701, an OOP. I did View B, which in retrospect, is too small for my taste. Next time it will definitely be the larger View A bag for me!

The fabric is 100% quilting cotton. The gusset and handle are the dyed faux snakeskin in a metallic blue. But as per usual, I could not leave that alone. I kept looking at the fabric. The night before I was up late reading Collette Wolff's "Art of Fabric Manipulation." The next day's look at the fans on the fabric was a eureka moment. I WOULD SMOCK LITTLE FANS!
The large fan is out of silk dupioni. The smocking design just came out of my head as I went along. I turned under the top edge and whipped it with 3 strands of floss. The center gathers were covered with a little appliqué of dupioni. The orange-y fan is wired ribbon. The little yellow fan is poly satin ribbon. The fans were all hand stitched to the bag side before construction. These were fun to smock and I hope to do more real soon. I thought they really complimented the fabric.

The sides of the bag are interfaced with fusible fleece and a layer of decor bond. The gusset and handle are just decor bond. I was afraid to fuse the DB to the gusset and melt the faux snakeskin or worse yet, maybe make the dye run. So I didn't. I fused two layers of DB to each other and then glue gunned that to the snakeskin. Would I do it that way again? No. It did not give the best results and I promise next time to not let my mania interfere with some experimentation with the fusing. I am thinking next time maybe glueing peltex to the faux. Keep you posted on that experiment.

The lining is a small hot pink quilting cotton print. Nothing unusual but it goes. I just didn't have anything in the stash that I thought was really great and I had plans of doing the next one "just right" so I went for the cotton. The size of the bag does not allow for much variety as far as interior pocketing. I just did the basic square of the pattern. I did do it doubled layer with the top edge on the fold and the pocket sewn wrong sides together and then turned and stitched to the lining. That is such a nicer, stronger pocket application.

Time to move on to the next projects. I did hit Joanns sale yesterday and saw some prescious little cottons to make two pillowcase dresses and diaper covers for Twin Baby Girl. I just cut them out tonite and hope to get them pleated tomorrow. I think that will have to happen after I hit the yard. We are finally having warm, sunny weather and the yard, or rather field, needs my attention. We bought this home new 3 years ago. It is truly in the wilderness and I will post pics of our white water one day. For now, it is try to carve some semblance of a garden from our woods and fields. My first purchase this spring will be some more cultivated raspberries. They do very well here and are so no maintenance. And what a substitute for candy!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Some Personal History

After attending a reception held in honor of my brother and his lovely new bride Sunday it got me thinking along the lines of family history. Dear blogger Paula G also encouraged me to pass on some of my history that I shared with her. Add to this that I am at a kink in the road of my sewing pursuits and it all seemed to make sense. So here is a little bit about Moi:

Three things play a big part in my sewing "history." One is my dear deceased Mom. Next is my sainted Grandmother Mamee, and lastly the Carmelite nuns of Spain. I will deal with each and it is a pleasure to do so. First my Mamee...

My family is from New Orleans, Louisiana, and as one of eight children who were born in the first 12 years of my parents marriage, I spent a lot of time with my grandmother, Mamee. I went to her home from Memorial Day to Labor day from as far back as I can remember to the summer before she passed away. She was an incredible seamstress and never lacked some sort of needlework in her hands. Idleness was the devil's workshop, you know! I have clear memories of beautiful little daygowns, of the finest batiste, strewn with tiny tucks and granitos, that she had made. She would pack these up along with knitted and crocheted "saques" that we took with us to local retailers. I would be in tow as she pitched her wares and they were always purchased. New Orleans, like the rest of the deep South, has always had a love affair with heirloom sewing, and her work was an easy sell. I was mesmerized as I watched her deal and haggle with merchants and as I watched her crochet, knit, hand stitch, or sew at the machine. She could haggle as well as she could sew.
We had a ritual. At the end of every summer she would always decide that I needed some "decent" clothing. Decent to my Mamee was church worthy, Sunday best clothing, THAT FIT, not the barely there summer shorts and tops I wore with my barefoot feet in the pre-air conditioning days of Lousiana heat. No, these were clothes that would turn the heads of those in St. John's Cathedral. Clothes that made people say to my mom, "where did you get that?" So, toward the end of the summer, she would open the doors of her "fabric closet" and would tell me to go in and pick out what I liked. This was nirvana! 5 years old and pulling whatever I wanted from a stashaholic's goodies ! Do you see how this all started? I would pull out fabrics and trims. What ensued after that was just sheer magic. She would move her tape up and down my little body doing some sort of mathematical calculations. Then she would start cutting with those giant shears. Patterns? They were all in her head, easily making their way from her mind to the giant shears. After that I was pulled close to her side and allowed to watch as she "whipped" my choices into real clothing at her old treadle. She pumped. I watched. It was all just so magical. When complete, I would head home to Lafayette, La. with my amazing new wardrobe, hoping to come back the next summer for more of her magic.

I will always treasure my time with my Mamee. She gave me  the passion of sewing. Many can give you the knowledge and the skill but only a Mamee can give you the passion. I hope she is watching from above and sees all I make. I hope even more that she approves....more on my other inspirations later....Bunny

Kelly asked if I still have any of the clothes Mamee had made. I only wish. In such a large family we wore our clothes till they either fell apart or outgrown and then were passed on.

Another tidbit about Mamee: she made all my underwear and my Mom's bras till she passed away. We would go to Maison Blanche in New Orleans to shop for batiste and then come home and get measured again. These were pretty little panties with double layers of bias batiste from waist front to waist back. The sides were on the straight of grain. These weren't sweet little bubbles, but slim fitting totally comfortable panties, the same she made my mom. How I remember these details is beyond me but I do. For one thing my mom would always point out to me what a beautiful job she did and why. For another, I was at her side devouring every detail. I found it amazing that she made my mom's bras. I can remember those being all cotton and having circular stitching around the cups. You know, that 1950 pointed bra Madonna look. Lycra wasn't around back then... Bunny

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Butt 4409 Bag Completed

This bag for Momma's Day is done. Not sure which of my favorite Mommas will get this one. There were a couple of challenges with this pattern. First, no matter how I match up the dots, which I did perfectly on this one, the pockets DO NOT look like they do on the bag on the pattern. Their pocket flaps are much shorter. No biggie! Just different. Also, my lining, a sand washed silk which I love, can be very billow-y. That is despite my fusing Armo Weft to all of the lining. So what I had to do was stitch in the ditch by hand from the lining to the bag to keep it all in place. I like the beads and think they give the bag a little edge. I also like the bamboo handles as they restate the bamboo that is in the print. Gotta have things cohesive, ya know! But, other than those aggravations, I really like it.

Now on to the next bag. A heads up is in order here for Vogue 7701. Check this out: The directions say that all seams are 1/2 inch unless otherwise stated. Immediately, when looking at the bag pattern piece, I noticed 5/8 inch seams. I know all you sewistas who have been sewing as long as I have can measure out a perfect 5/8 seam with your eyes closed. So I got out my trusty little measuring gizmos and yes, the bag is 5/8 and the gusset, which connects to the bag sides, is 1/2 inch. Oy,,,,So, I just stitched half inch seams and it all worked out. But this could be very confusing for a beginner, never mind a first time sewista of Vogue patterns. So beware!!!

I have to say that I am really enjoying working on this next bag. It has lots of challenging hand work and bright colors. That's a combination I really enjoy sewing. I may finish it tomorrow, so tune in...Here is a little teaser: and yes, I am smocking on wired ribbon on my jammy clad knee. Doesn't everybody do this? ....bunny

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Beaded Zipper

On the bag I am currently working on I wanted a subtle amount of embellishment and decided on a beaded zipper and some beading around the pocket flaps. The zipper is NOT secured by the beads. It is stitched in by machine. The "top" pattern piece consists of two pieces that butt up against the zipper. They are interfaced and then the SA is folded under on one side. The folded side is butted up to the zipper about a 1/16th of an inch away. I then flip it over and stitch in the well of the fold. I really like the clean look of this type of zipper installation. Once the tops are stitched in next to the zipper I marked them. I used a ruler to make a dot every 1/4 inch an equal amount away from the folded edge. This is real important as the beads will want to lay every which way and they do. They are beads. I stitch them on with a back stitch and heavy double thread.

This bag pattern and another Vogue bag that I am working on both have this same type of zipper installation. They both advise whipstitching the upper end of the zipper tape together. This "darts" the zipper in an odd way. If you let the zip lie flat without the whipstitching it lays better but, now you have a space, actually more of a hole. You do get a hole with the whipstitching, just not as big and it bulges a little. This was handled by placing a folded piece of fabric behind the upper edge of the zip and stitching it in when the zipper/top is attached to the gusset.

I like the way it looks now and you can see the results in the top photo.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Excellent Blog Award! Yahoo-ey!


Dear Blogger, Paula, of Sew Confused, has kindly bestowed the Excellent Blog award on La Sewista. Thanks so much, Paula. It is greatly appreciated. Now I'd like to thank the Academy...........The way this works is to then bestow the award on ten other blogs that you deem worthy. Many of the blogs I would honor with the award have already been well awarded and very deservedly so. I am also one who is not a proponent of chain letters so that is a dilemma too. So what I am going to do is bestow the Excellent Blogger award on just a few sewistas. I sew all sorts of garments but with my grandchildren I have really gotten into heirloom sewing for them. That side of my passion has led me to some very gifted heirloom cyber friends with blogs. I would like to bestow the Excellent Blog award on the following 3 bloggers.

Quality Time, Angie's blog, is wonderful. Angie frequents PR and Everything Sewing a lot. Her work is amazing and her recent top and skirt with its magnificent smocking and shaped lace is to die for. It was made for an "older girl" , an oft neglected group in the heirloom world, and she did it proud. Her blog has some cool tutes as well.

SewNSo is the blog of Dear Blogger, Laurie A. She is a designer for Sew Beautiful, smocker extraordinaire, and computer maven as well. Besides her sewing, designing, and computer talents, Laurie also is a very caring sewista, and Threads of Love is a ministry of hers that makes tiny little garments for babies in distress or deceased. No nobler sewing effort can be imagined. Laurie has some wonderful tutes on her site, too.

Rufflebunnies is the blogging effort of Dear Blogger, Sara M. She does incredible work that truly deserves the heirloom designation. Even more than that, her output is incredible. I truly wonder if she ever sleeps. I hope she posts more of what I know she is making. It is all gorgeous. Sara, a journalism major, writes beautifully as well and is a joy to read. If you have ever enjoyed sitting down with a cup of tea and a copy of Victoria magazine, Sara's blog is for you.

So, I hereby bestow on all of you the Excellent Blogger Award....Bunny

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Bag #1


Here is the second print fabric that called to me across the aisle at the fabric store. I watched as a lady and her daughter pulled it from the rack and opened it up. I wanted to push her down and grab it back, but I maintained my lady like demeanor and waited for her to hopefully put it back on the shelf. She did! I quickly marched it to the cutting counter before she snatched it back. Things can get rough in the fabric store, you know.

This fabric will go into a combo of View E & F of Butterick 4409. They are the squat looking bags. There will be some subtle embellishment and I am thinking some low key bead work. Since I have a habit of designing as I go, we shall see where my inspiration sends me.

I have a deadline with these two bags as DH and I are embarking on a new business venture and the clock is ticking. We'll "git 'er done", as Larry the Cable Guy says....Bunny

Bag #2


I have really been craving print fabrics lately to sew on. I love the many prints I have seen on the runways, via Ultra HD, and think they are so refreshing after years of somber colors. So the next two bags I am working on will be out of cotton prints that called out to me with their oriental colors and motifs. Hopefully I can translate them appropriately into bags for my daughters for Mother's Day. I may even end up putting one of them into the PR bag contest.

This one will use an OOP pattern, Vogue 7701, View A, and will be out of this 100% cotton print. I think I will do my usual fusible fleece and then a layer of decor bond. You can see some ribbons and painted faux leather samples on the fabric. Not quite sure how they will translate but just working on something in this vivid colorway will be a delight.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Smocked Silk Blouse Completed!


Yippee! First I want to say, I love this pattern, Simplicity 4122. It has a fit I like that kind of emphasizes my "petite-ness" and it offers lots of opportunity for embellishment with that wonderful yoke. Speaking of that yoke, I did not do a muslin for this. Of course the time I don't I come up with a fit issue. My back neck to waist is very slender and the back yoke really needs some width taken out to fit me better. I will definitely make this again and have written notes on the pattern re that adjustment.

The fabric is a very light silk crepe de chine purchased eons ago, maybe at Fabric Fix, maybe even Levine's in Manchester, NH. To smock the yoke it needed to be beefed up. So, I backed it with FusiKnit. Luv that stuff! It pleated beautifully with nice little plump pleats after that. If you scroll down you will see how I pleated this in an earlier post. The pleats were than fanned out and blocked to fit the yoke pattern. I faced the yoke area with cotton batiste from the stash, embroidering the edge with a machine featherstitch.

Once the yoke issues were dealt with it was really pretty simple from there. I did race thru and forgot to attach the piping into the yoke but I think that was for the better now that it's done. I immediately thought of some raw edge ruffling as I had seen on some high end blouses recently but proceeded to try all sorts of alternatives. Using anything raw edge was just contra all my sewing rules. But I also had this recent revelation that I am dressing a little matronly lately so I decided to go for it. The raw edge ruffle was ripped from the fabric and then backed with FusiKnit.

I am really pleased with the finished result and am thinking of making a green twill pencil skirt to go with it. I think that will make a nice summer look to wear around. I do wish I had started this in April to enter into the Pattern Review silk blouse contest but had to toss up whether to do this or a bag. I am going for the bag for the contest. More on that later...Oh, the best picture of the blouse was the one with my head cut off. What can I say???

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Silk Blouse Update

Oy! This blouse sure has given me the shiverin' fits. I have tried all sorts of trim possibilities and finally landed on a keeper. Of course that was the trim that I intuitively wanted to do at the getgo but did not trust my instincts. I am usually pretty good about that "instinct" stuff but this time I had to consider alternatives. So I tried assorted laces, ribbons, ruched ribbons, ruffled tulles, etc. But I finally landed on something and now am sewing away. I picked up some small shank opalescent buttons and should hopefully finish the blouse tomorrow. Lata'...