Thursday, July 31, 2008

Another Christening Gown


Our favorite niece has asked me to make her upcoming baby girl a Christening gown. I am really looking forward to this project. I thought I would try a new technique. It's actually more a style than a technique. It will be a bishop with a lace collar overlay. While I have done lace overlays, I have never done one on a bishop or as a collar. I try to do with my smocking the same that I've done for years with garment sewing, and that is trying a new technique with each garment.

The fabric is a striped sheer. Bullion roses and some tiny pearls are coming to mind for the smocking and embroidery, but that is just a thought at this point. At least I am firmed up on the fabrics and the style. A pink petticoat with shell stitching will also be part of the ensemble. If I have enough of the dupioni pictured for the slip, and I think I do, I will prewash it so it will be nice and soft next to baby's skin.

My one concern with the sheer fabric is that it will not have enough oomph to pleat nicely. It is actually pretty certain that it will be too flimsy for nice plump pleats. I have interfaced underneath the area to be smocked with Formflex or Fusiknit in similar situations. A little experimentation seems in order here before I get going. The stripes will be on the vertical and I am anxious to see how that affects the pleating. Pleating stripes and plaids always shows if you've kept the fabric on grain, part of the skill involved. It can be a real truth telling. Since I am usually pretty anal about grain I rarely have a problem with the fabric going off grain while being pleated, but you never know. Those stripes will tell all.
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Got my return receipt in the mail that my bag arrived at contest headquarters. Still crossing those fingers and toes!..........Bunny

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Becentennial Celebration!

Our little village here (actually they call them hamlets up here) in the Adirondacks is celebrating it's 200th anniversary next Sunday, August 3rd. Our hamlet has 350 villagers, and DH and I are proud to say we are two of them. There will be a parade with all the area towns and their fire engines, a chicken barbecue, craft and quilting demonstrations, and more. I have been asked to do a demonstration on smocking and of course agreed. Luckily, I have some inserts that will serve as samples, my book of completed garments, and a current project to show the techniques. I thought I would demonstrate how to use a pleater. I am going to have samples for folks to try their hand at smocking and also will have some completed garments for viewing. This should be fun. It is so great when all the villagers come out at the same time. This usually happens at our annual town wide yard sale. You get to peruse the possessions of your neighbors and catch up on the local gossip. I am really looking forward to it.

I have often thought that life up here in the Adirondacks is still back in the 50's. DH agrees. Its a good thing and one of the reasons we love living here. The whole greater Boston, Southern New Hampshire thing that we lived for so many years is such a rat race by comparison. Our daughters still live that life but so love it when they come up here to visit. Actually, all the company that comes to visit seems to just take life down a few notches. They enjoy and become much more aware of their surroundings. And somehow there is this feeling of life proceeding at a different pace. No one minds.
So while I may not be wearing my designer knockoffs any more, and spending a heck of a lot of time with dirt under my nails, life is good. And frankly, I think it is the way it should be for all of us......Bunny

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hand Dyed Cotswold Wool



Would you just look at these beautiful curls! They are from a weaver and "raiser" of Cotswold sheep here in NY state, Robin at Nistock Farms. A while back I saw for the first time this marvelously curly wool used in a felted jacket. This past spring I purchased a felter. As Fall draws near, my mind is wandering back to the felter and all the rovings I have accumulated. I am not quite sure what I will make yet but this curly headed roving, if that's the right term, is just so inspirational. Robin, if you see this, please forgive me. I am not a weaver or sheep farmer so really don't know all the proper terminology. I do know when I see something that inspires me and Robin's hand dyeing certainly does the trick. I will put some creative head time into this winter project and hopefully come up with something worthy of the generous Cotswold sheep who gave so freely of their curls.

A couple of side notes: First I would die for curls like that in my hair. Second, that beautiful reddish brown is the exact color of one of my daughter's hair. It felt strange to see it tumble out of the box!

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While thinking winter, I also have to ponder what to make for a new arrival in the family. Our favorite niece is expecting a girl baby in October. Her mom has expressed to me that she would love a Christening gown. Well, I would love to make her one. So its been searching for inspiration in AS&E and SB and fingering my stash of heirloom fabrics. I am close on a design but not there yet. It depends on what I can find for laces. So more research is due and I will keep you posted......Bunny

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Starry Night Bag Construction




Tonight's post shows a few of the details that went into the construction of the bag. Going into this I knew that the smocking I envisioned would cause a lot of fabric to be dealt with on the eleven by twelve inch bag. To achieve this I engineered a "stay". This was a flat piece of flannel cut to the pattern piece for the front and back of the bag. I have made this bag before and knew it needed some serious structure. A layer of fusible fleece was first fused to the back of the flannel. Then a layer of Decor Bond was fused on top of that. When the smocked fabric was laid on top of the stay, the pleated area just collapsed. I took a thick piece of fleece, cut to fit the pleated area, and stitched it to the stay with a loose zigzag. This supported the smocked area nicely.


The outside edges of the smocked panel were gathered with a basting stitch on the machine and then fitted to the stay. It was then stay stitched in place and ready for construction.







To give the bottom of the bag some more structure I used a plastic dollar store cutting board. They usually come in a bag of three and are basically throw away cutting boards. I know many use Timtex or even plastic canvas, but I have found this works better. It is flexible, cuttable, and hard. It was perfect for the curved bottom of the bag. I cut a piece to fit the bottom of the bag and used a glue made for plastics to stick it to the inside of the bag. The bag then went upside down over a jar with a stone to weight it down and to dry overnight.

The contest required a label with lots of info on it to go inside the bag, nothing detachable. After playing with some fonts, always fun, I typed a label up in Word. White broadcloth was ironed on to freezer paper and passed thru the printer. Voila - the label was done. It went in tucked into the inner pocket and attached with a wavy bead thing I cooked up.
In the past this pattern presented problems with the zipper directions. It has you butt the two sides of the zipper lining together and stitch to the bag and gusset. This leaves a v shape that does not accommodate the zipper pull or teeth. Not good. So I added a tiny fold of the lining fabric between to give the zipper pull room. The outer sides of the zipper lining needed to be cut back a an equal amount to prevent excess fabric from wadding up in the corner of the bag.
I detest floppy linings. To prevent that I backstitched in the ditch from the seam between the zipper side to the same seam on the outside of the bag. This kept the lining tucked up into the top of the bag and not getting the droopsies.

To me, designing is having a vision and then overcoming the problems associated with that vision to create an artistic, functional work. Sharing that process with you has been very enjoyable. On to the next project.....Bunny

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Starry Starry Night Bag


This is my entry in the Robert Kaufman "Anything Goes" bag contest. both sides are pleated, smocked, embroidered, and shirred. Each side is unique. The bag was launched from Vogue 7701 OOP.
I will go thru the construction over a few posts, starting with where I started, the pleating.
EACH side of the bag (11 inches) squeezes in a full 45 inch width of 100% cotton fabric from Kaufman. Kaufman is known for its fabulous prints. I chose to use a more subdued smaller print in order to not compete with the embroidery planned.

I cut two widths of fabric, the full 45 inches and about 3 inches wider than my "stay, " the stay being based on the bag front and back. A mechanical pencil was used to mark a line the full width and down the exact center of each panel. I knew how many rows of pleating I wanted and that they would be half pleats. Needles were inserted, threaded with quilting thread, and the fabric rolled onto the dowel.
I measured the distance of all the needles and divided by two to find the center. This was temporarily marked with a big headed pin.


The fabric was fed into the pleater off of the dowel, with the pencil line lining up perfectly with the notch in the bar where the pin had been. Care needed to be taken to continue feeding this pencil line right down the center of the group of needles. This insured that the fabric on either side of the pleats would be of equal size.
Here you can see the fabric pleating thru and the pencil line down the center of the pleats, wrong side. My pleater pleats equal stitches on right or wrong side of the fabric. Many don't so care must be taken here if yours doesn't. In that case I think I would baste down the center line in a contrasting color and use that to follow from the right side. My smocking buddies pretty much know all of this but for those who don't smock but love to sew, this can look pretty intriguing.

Next came the smocking. I did two intertwining rows of wheat stitch. I love this stitch but do get frustrated at how the stitch can open as it climbs the pleats and then tightens as it descends the pleats, or is it vice versa? Actually, it is both. One side is a stem stitch, the other an outline stitch, and they both do it. Then came a meandering trellis/ cable combo in medium blue across the pleats as well. This was all quite free form, as you can probably tell. After the smocking was done I stitched little stars out of copper colored holographic thread all over. The same was also done with some gold metallic thread. They were my background stars. Then came my tiny shooting stars. These were flat gold sequins with a floss bullion trailing from the hole in the center. In the center was a french knot of the same metallic gold. Once the shooting stars were done, it was time to do bigger stars. This was where the "free form" really set in. I know these are not the perfect bullion roses of heirloom smocking. That's not what I was going for here. I WANTED EXPLODING STARS. I just did whatever my needle told me to do, combining french knots, bullions, straight stitch to varying degrees. I even did a "frizzled" bullion for my brightest star on one side. The threads were loose and curled into tiny banana curls. The center was french knots. It was all great fun trying to get each different and starlike. I just continued this way until I felt it was done. The camera does not seem to show all the embroidery like you can see it in person. It seems much more heavily embroidered IRL. I think it is the way the light bounces off the metallic and holographic thread. With the embroidery completed, construction can finally begin and I will tackle that in tomorrow's post.....Bunny

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The contest bag

Today I finished my bag, well, 99.9 % of my bag is finished, for the Kaufmann contest. I am pleased so far but will feel best when it is in the mail and on its way. I am hoping for that to be tomorrow. Once it is in the mail I will post all the details. What I have left is to just hand sew the lining in around the zip and to attach a little chochtkey to the zipper pull. Then off it goes. Oh, and it requires some special labeling for identification so all of that will happen tomorrow. I worked hard on it today, cutting and doing the lining. I also had to re do the zipper area 3 times on one side and two times on the other. It was just downright awkward. I ended up doing about 4 inches of the zipper placket by hand as I just could not get a decent seam despite basting by hand. I think it will be OK. Last night I spent the evening perusing the winners from past years, not the first time I have done this. I think I have a pretty good chance, but that's all I am saying, just pretty good. If I win it will be nice, if not, I will have enjoyed the competition.

For those who don't know me, I love competition. I grew up with 6 brothers and compete is what we did all day, every day. We would compete at monopoly, compete at building forts, compete at picking berries, and even compete at having the coolest bikes. We would compete at everything. Our parents encouraged this behavior every step of the way, feeling that if we could compete in our youth, we could compete in our adulthood as we made our way thru the ways of the world. So this competition thing is something my brothers and I share to this day and we so enjoy it. To say this personality trait stood me well in my sales career is an understatement. It's just another reason I am glad I had 6 brothers, too.

It seems we are all catching the "parting shot" bug from Summerset. As I sit this evening in air conditioned comfort I share with you a picture from last winter. It's VERY hot out tonight. This picture is of our "front forty" some time around last January or February. To me it looks like a travel brochure for Jamaica. You see when I look at this cold scene, I acknowledge that it is beautiful, but I also know that it is about 20 below and I want to get the hell out of here and head to the islands! Hope this leaves you feeling cool....Bunny

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bag Feet Tute #1



There are lots of ways of doing bag feet. The simplest would be to just buy the feet at an online site such as here and here.
But if you are inclined to do your own feet, here is one of several methods I have used.
I chose this particular method as I wanted a really small bag foot. The bag is feminine and small and I just wanted to keep the bottom from hitting. I settled on a tiny shank JHB button. The gold was in keeping with my embroidery and the size was just right. You will need 4, duh, but I found most buttons come in threes so you may have to spring for an extra card. Also needed will be some tiger tail beading wire. To use it will require a large eye needle. I used a large chenille needle. A clear acrylic ruler and seam gauge will be helpful also.

On the inside of the gusset piece I measured accurately to find the center of the gusset. After establishing the midpoint I measured out equally on each side of the midpoint and drew a line with sharp pencil and ruler. A clear acrylic ruler is great for this. Then on that line I measured down equal amounts so that all four points of the rectangle (future home of the feet) were equidistant from the center along the length and the width. If you click to enlarge you can see this a lot more clearly. Double check with your ruler on this. The bottom of the bag is reinforced with an extra scrap piece of Decor Bond. Make sure that the positions for the feet are far enough from the seamline to prevent any distortion when sewing. Once that is all double checked it is time to thread the large eyed needle with a length of tiger tail, about twelve inches. Thread the needle but just insert the other end of the tiger tail into the shank of the button. Push the needle thru the marked spot for the foot, coming from the right side. Once thru, take the needle off and thread the other end that is still on the right side. Now bring that end up thru the marked area but a few threads away from the first stitch. Take off the needle and put aside. Take the tiger tail, pull the button tight to the bag, and tie the tiger tail into a square not, really tight. Snip the tiger tail to about a half inch length and move to the next marked spot for a foot. The tiger tail is as strong as you can imagine, like a fine cable. It ties into very tight knots, so you can see why it is used for beading.
I hope this gives you an alternative to the high cost of bag feet as well as an option for when the design requires an application out of the ordinary. I will post some other ways to do bag feet later on. ....Bunny

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Smocked Roses

I fell in love with this rose printed quilting cotton the minute I saw it. I immediately thought of my little strawberry blond Carly and how her beautiful coloring would be enhanced by it. I bought this on a hot day and thought of doing the same type of outfit that I did in turquoise here. It will be a smocked top with bias bound armholes and neckline and bias ties on the shoulders. The pants will be full length but I am making this for next summer at this point so they may turn into capris by then.

The reddish brown print is for the capris and am thinking a small pleated ruffle of the roses on the bottom edge. The bias binding and ties on the top will also be the reddish brown. I have some red rat tail that made a cute bow and may employ that in the embellishments or I may do some bullion roses instead, in keeping with the theme. We'll see how it all develops. My other current project is requiring lots of bullions so I guess I am just in the mood.
One of the most challenging aspects of smocking is picking out the thread colors. I was given great advice on this my a smocking cyber friend, Lexie, from Australia. If you match the colors in the print or fabric the stitching, which has been so laborious, won't show to advantage. She suggests going with the lightest OR the darkest color of the print. This has worked really well for me in the past. On this print I picked a deep red. It just disappeared into the fabric once I started stitching. I looked at the print again VERY closely and there really is a dark reddish brown in there. Once I started stitching with that shade it made all the difference. I also picked the lightest shade of the "red", and almost salmony pink. So with the shades picked out I started to smock. I love geometric smocking. It's relatively quick to do. The design I started with was from an AS&E but by the second row I started doing my own thing and that is how it developed. The back is all smocked. I am on to the front. But first I need to finish all the smocking on my bag entry. That is so close to done and then it is stitch up the bag and in the mail. Keep those fingers crossed!.....Bunny
As usual, a click on the pic will enlarge.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Jury Duty


I was recently called to jury duty and had to go serve this past week. I was so impressed with the way our judicial system works and it gave me a renewed respect for our constitution and the rights it protects. I hope you all get called to serve one day as it is quite fascinating.

Yesterday also made for the last business trip down to Mass and NH. It feels good to have that behind us as well. We did the five hours there and 5 hours back all yesterday so we are very happy that page in our history is finis.

Throw into the mix a visit all week from the in laws and you can imagine how hectic it has been. We finally told them we had to leave on business or we would still have company!

I hope to get posting back soon and am planning to show my new projects . I got a great deal of smocking done this past week. I smocked at the courthouse. I smocked in the car on the trip. And I smocked during the TV marathons our company would have . I have to tell you, I am not a TV person. I like a little bit, but it is never a source of using my energy very often. There is too much else to accomplish in life and I also hate sitting for extended periods. That car ride yesterday drove me nuts!
I love to take closeups of flowers in the garden and investigate the textures and colors. Its a great pikmeup in the dead of winter up here! I think the one above is called Speedwell. Please correct me if I am wrong. I am not to sure of the nomenclature.
Back to my sewing.............Bunny

Friday, July 4, 2008

Remaking a Hat



Last summer my SIL and I were standing in the checkout line at Price Choppers, our local grocery. It was a very hot day. Hanging next to the registers, along with all the other beckoning treats was a rack holding straw hats. We looked at each other and both decided we needed one of these 2.99 beauties. We each bought one. The rest of last summer and this summer I have made big use of my cheap hat. I garden a lot, often out in our fields, and it does what it is supposed to do for my freckled skin. A few years ago I was in a garden center gift shop in NH and saw a garden hat that I fell in love with. It was simple straw, had a black band, and a black tie under the neck. It was VERY pricey and I walked away. I have regretted it every since. Man, did I covet that garden hat. Of course I never saw one like it again.

So a couple of nights ago, while cleaning my sewing room, creativity hit! I could remake my cheapo supermarket hat into the black beribboned straw beauty that I never bought. Here is how I did it.

First you will need Steam a Seam, the heavier version. I have the sheets, so I cut them with the rotary cutter into 1/4 inch strips. The next supply needed was single fold WIDE Wright's bias tape. Sure, you could make your own, but this made it so easy. Last supply needed is a roll of inch and a quarter grosgrain ribbon.

Cut the leading edge of the bias tape on the diagonal. Place the Steam A Seam, further referred to as SAS, on the edge of the brim, doing about 5 inches at a time. Place the edge of the bias tape on top. Press. Go around the hat, placing the SAS and then pressing down the bias tape. When the entire brim is done finish by cutting the bias on the diagonal again. Overlap the end over the beginning. All should be pressed down and secure. Now turn the hat over, wrong side of brim up. Place the SAS again along the edge. Wrap the bias around the edge of the hat, very snug, and press. This should make it very secure. Edge of brim done!

Next take another long piece of the bias tape and put it thru the eyelets in the hat. Part of the tape will be on the outer brim on the BACK of the hat, and then dropping thru the eyelets. The tape on the topside of the hat will be full width. The tape on the underside of the brim, which will become the ties, is now folded and doubled. Press this underside tape. I used a "knit picker" to pull the folded bias tape thru the bead. A needle, threaded, could do the same. I pulled the tape thru the bead, knotted the ends of the tape and now had a functioning tie. On to the band!

This was the simple part. I simply wrapped the grosgrain around the brim, tieing a bow in the back. I made sure to cover what was left of the previous cheapo trim. I was unable to get it all off. Once I had a nice bow and the length ribbon I wanted hanging down my back, I got out the glue gun. The only thing I glued was under the bow. That seemed to be enough to secure the band and hide all the previous trim.

The bias edge technique could be used for any hat. I thought it was a great idea. I love hats. I wear them whenever I can and not look like the local nutso. That is usually weddings and the garden! If you are so inclined, I hope you give this a try. After Fourth of July these straw hats can be found everywhere. Do your own conversion!.....Bunny

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

One Ugly Bag!


Recently my good neighbor and friend from Canada came over to dish and she had this bag. At first sight it is just way way past it's prime. Well, yeah, it is. But a closer inspection made me fall in love. We proceeded to dissect all that is great about this bag and the next thing I knew she gave it to me. My plan is to take it apart and make my own. I'm telling you, it was bag love. I felt like I took in a stray puppy.

First off, yes, the bag is filthy. I was definitely doing her a favor. My friend is pretty well off, but her Scottish thrift would never allow her to just chuck a bag, dirty or not. But to give it another life as a pattern for an even better bag, well that was OK. Between you and me, I think she is coveting a new bag from me as part of this process but that is OK too. I really owe her a nice bag.
Check out the strap. It is a stuffed, twisted tube. I love the way the large beads cover up the knot made after the tubes are passed thru the eyelets. The eyelets go thru a pleat in each corner of the bag. I thought this was a sturdy treatment that gave the bag some nice girth.
I also really like the zipper treatment. It is installed in a placket which then is stitched to the bottom edge of the interior facing. That makes it sit way down in the bag but gives the bag some width that isn't evident when the bag is closed.
Then there's the gusset, nice shape and made of metallic leather. I am thinking of using the same leather gusset and dyeing it. We'll see on that one. The sides of the bag have deep pleats that fit into the gusset.
And let's not forget the glitz! While the bling factor on this one is way over my levels of taste, I do like how one can emphasize a print with a little beading, little being the key word here, at least for my interpretation.
So all, in all, I love this filthy bag. I hope to get going on once my contest bags are done. It will be labor intense with cutting it apart, etc. but I think it will be worth it. Keep ya' posted.......Bunny

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Piped Hem Tutorial

I love this hem treatment and use it a lot. I originally found this in an old Threads, Issue # 73, and have been using it ever since. It is good on sheers but I really like it on crisp fabrics.

#1 - Fold the fabric up to the RIGHT side 1/4 inch and press.You can see I have a template I have made out of oaktag and it is two inches wide and marked at the 1/4 inch and 1/2 inch widths. Its great to press up these small hems. I then remove the oaktag and press flat again.


#2 - Fold the fabric up again to the RIGHT side 1/4 inch. Press again.

#3 - Stitch directly down the center of the fold. In the photo I have a sheer poly organza, a handkerchief linen, and two quilters cottons, from right to left. On the organza, I would suggest using a size 10 needle and a fine embroidery thread. It would hide the stitches much better. I have used a blue thread here so you can see what's happening.

#4 - Flip the fold to the wrong side. Press. This is when it turns into a piped edge.



In this picture you can see the completed hems. On the hanky linen, it is perfect. On the turquoise dot, you can see that the wrong side makes the piping and this must be taken into consideration. A homespun fabric or any print that is the same on either side, will give you the piping the same as the right side of the fashion fabric. In the dark teal print, once again the wrong side makes the piped edge. But in this case it is a dark matching teal that really makes a nice accent. I think that is because it is a solid, not a wrong side print. So what works poorly in the light colored print can actually be and advantage in a different print. In the organza you can see everything! So careful stitching and thread matching become very important.

I have found this to work just as well with fabric cut on the bias as it is the turning and pressing that makes this edge. It just takes a little more care, as bias always does.

I would love to hear if any of you try this and how it turns out........Bunny