Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sewing Bias Strips

This week a dear sewing friend, who is also an accomplished sewista, asked me to remind her how to sew bias strips together. Seems she was just drawing a blank. I can tell you she has made MANY bias necklines in her time, too. It was just one of those days. I was thrilled she asked me for the help as it is usually the other way around.

This is one of those tasks that needs to be done often or you forget. There are also different versions of doing this, particularly from the quilting world. So I thought a simple tute on the subject might be helpful.

1. Take one bias strip and place it horizontally on your workspace right side up. Take the second bias strip and place it vertically face down, with the two pieces meeting in the corner. It should look like an upside down letter L.









2. Move the top strip up one quarter inch and over to the left one quarter inch. Now you will stitch diagonally from inside corner to inside corner. Why do we stitch bias strips on the diagonal? For one, you are stitching with the grain, so stronger seam. Stitching with the grain also prevents and distortion that can happen when sewing on the bias. Think bias skirt with ripples down the side seams.





3. Press as sewn. Trim little points off. Trim the seam to a quarter inch. Press the seam open. You have eliminated much bulk, madam!











4. C'est finis c'est tout! Great job!














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I got all my flannelette interlining cut out. My research tells me I can either baste it to the garment fabric or the lining fabric. I chose the garment fabric. The cashmere is really soft and this will re inforce it some more. Now S. Betzina says doing this for warmth will add more bulk, which you can see in the picture at left. The height of the pile doubled! So I am expecting to tweak the fit a fair amount more.





Quite a few years back I took a seminar with Dianne Hoik, probably the best dressmaker in the state of New Hampshire. She has quite the clientele! Anyway she taught us how to use Sobo glue to do any underlining. I have done it ever since with no negative repercussions. Its fast and easy. I just would not do it on really fine fabric like a chiffon or batiste, but it is great for bottom and coat weights. I go around the back side of the cut fabric piece with dots of glue about every inch and a half. Then the under/inter lining is laid on top, edges matching. A soft press of the fingers and thats it! Who needs pins? Now this will easily peel open when I go to cut back the seam allowance of the flannel after seaming.

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Here was the view from my sewing room window this afternoon as I worked on constuction of the christening gown. They are my Light Brahmas, such ladies I tell ya'!.........Bunny




Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fabric looking for a pattern



Every now and then I get into a surface embellishment mode, which often expresses itself in dyeing, or in this case, discharge dyeing. For a while there I wanted to dye play with every piece of velvet I could find. Now this was not cotton or silk velvet but the 100%rayon velvet that comes in lots of colors. This particular piece, about 3 yards, was the classic dark Christmas green velvet. I twisted it, clamped it, and discharged the bejeepers out of it. What you see is the result and I love this fabric. I pull it out and stare at it when I need inspiration or just want to touch something lush. Playing with all the velvets taught me that I really really like washed velvets and I now machine wash any and all rayon velvets that make it into my lair. It gives them a lush hand that is similar to a silk velvet.

You never know quite what you will get when you discharge dye and this piece was no exception. The brilliant yellows really blew me away.

I have often wondered what to make with this piece. Nothing has clicked so far. Maybe I just don't want to give it up just yet. But I truly haven't found the right design. I have thought of one of those loose jackets with a long contrast neckline opening, but other than that, which doesn't excite me, I can't think of anything else. Any and all suggestions would be graciously entertained. I am petite so nothing too overwhelming. It would be great to have something out of this for the holidays. Oh, please don't say a skirt. I was one of the original hippies so that type of garment just is not something I want to do again. What would you make with 3 yards of hand dyed velvet? Or is this piece just for staring at?

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The cashmere jacket is fitted and all cut out now. I ordered my acro and other supplies from Vogue and am waiting for that to come in. The jacket will be interlined with flannel so I need to get that before I proceed. I am giving serious thought to mounting my interfacings on the flannel and then underlining. I think this will give a smoother look to the shell with no ridge show thru from the interfacing. We'll see. I have usually done my coats with traditional tailoring methods but thought I might try this technique which I have read about in more than one place. Till the mailman arrives........Bunny

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Pattern Folding 101

I bet you have a few of these laying around. I also know you would rather spend your time fondling fabric than stuffing cut patterns neatly into envelopes.

The other day when I was faced with the same fold up chore something clicked and I figured out how to get them nice and neat and back in the envelope. Hope this inspires a few of you out there to newly enjoy your folding.

1. Take your largest piece of pattern paper and lay it out flat on your table. Fold in the sides so you have no more than 24 inches of width. Take a 6x24 inch acrylic ruler and run it down the length of this piece, pressing and flattening as you go along to the end. This will smooth it and make it really flat and thin. Now lay all the smaller pattern pieces on top, spread here and there, no edges peeking out of the side.








2. Place your ruler on the paper to the far right but back about 4 inches from the edge. Fold the pattern tissue over the ruler.












3. Now keep flipping over the ruler wrapped with the paper until you get to the other end. Keep the ruler nice and snug into the fold.












4. When you reach the end, just slide out the ruler. Place it on top of the tissue and press hard to flatten it out tightly. Now just fold the two ends toward the middle and then fold in half. You should have no raw edges exposed.










5. Now doesn't that feel good and look nice? Now, be damned if I am going to dig into my pattern stash and refold them all. But going forward they will all get this treatment.


Bunny

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Cashmere Jacket, Just Starting


Nancy Zieman lit my fire. For the past two weeks she has been teaching the Pivot and Slide method of fitting on her program. Watch mine on Public TV. I discovered this method of fit years ago from her earlier programs. I am so glad that she is presenting it again. I feel it is a method that is easy and provides success for most fitting issues. When I started using her method way back when, I finally was able to make sewn clothing that fit.

I started by taking my measurements. It's been a while (blush). Do we really want to know our measurements? After the trauma of increased post menopausal waistline, no growth in the hips, yippee, and some sagging boobiolas, we were ready to go with a size 6, per Ms. Nancy. I made my chart and it let me know how many inches, actually less than inches, to add to each of the twelve vertical seams. Aren't those princess seams special?

First I cut out and ironed every piece needed for the size 6 jacket. Then I traced around it with a blue pen onto what I thought was PatternEase. Turns out it was Decor Bond. That's OK because it was all DH's fault for not putting a new lightbulb in my back storage room. I think he thinks I won't put any more fabric back there if he keeps it in the dark! After I traced around every pattern piece I got out my pins and my pinnable mat and laid the actual pattern pieces over the tracings. I pinned. I pivoted. I slid. I used my second pen, a red one, just like Nancy said, to trace the new cutting line. I had so many adjustments to do that I wondered if this would really work. I think it did.

Next step, at least the way I do it, is to take what should have been Pattern Ease and stitch it together with a 4.5 stitch just like I was making the jacket. Then came the try on, the look in the mirror, and the thankful smile that Nancy was right, or at least it seems so far.

The cashmere coat has now turned into a jacket, which is fine. I also changed patterns to Simplicity 2812. There really is no view as this pattern gives you the options of various bodices and pocket treatments. I am doing the brown quilted one in the center. I like the vertical lines of the pocket welts, the princess seams, raised waistline, and the stand up collar. It is also a classic design, so worthy of the cashmere. Once the coat is done I will decide if I want a fur collar or just a fur hat. I am leaning toward a fabric collar and the fox fur hat. At the rate I am going on this project, Ole Man Winter will have me wanting a fur collar and hat!.......

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We had some dreary rainy weather yesterday. Around noon I got in the car to hit our tiny post office, catch up on gossip, and pick up the mail. I usually back track right back to the house but decided to drive the loop around our little village of three hundred fifty people. This road reaches a point where it turns to dirt for a few miles and there is not a home around. I thought the view of this misty, orange crowned road was just gorgeous. Time to share.(enlarge to appreciate)..................Bunny

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Two Felted Bags!


The Autumn Bag: the bag has a base of a pale orange cashmere that I felted after purchase. Needle felted into it are various fibers, including some Cotswold curls and angelina. Sweeps of machine stitching, layers of roving, and hand embroidery stitches all blow across the bag, just like an autumn leaf! French knots became little highlighters and chain and herringbone stitches floated across with the leaves as well.

This all started with some inspiration from the Fiberella website which challenged me to try and make leaves.
Once the leaves were made I had to decide to do something with them., so the Autumn Bag.


My first step was to apply the rovings and needle felt them to the cashmere base with the machine felter. This was my first attempt at needle felting, so getting the rhythm of this took a bit. I found I needed to do this in very light layers to get the best effect. Lay down some wisps, pound away, then lay down another layer.
Using angelina fibers required that they be covered with an almost invisible layer of other fiber. They just would not embed by themselves.

Next I did some free motion stitching across the bag. I used teensy zigzags and a straight stitch. Assorted embroidery stitches were used to also add more texture and color, as if there weren't enough! The sides of the bag were stitched on the diagonal with a tiny zigzag.

Construction thoughts: The cashmere was felted in the washer and dryer last year and was waiting for some attention. It took easily to the needle felting process.

The actual construction of this bag was quite simple. Front and back, then the bottom, then the side seams and done! Because of the felted nature of the wool, I could stitch the seams on the outside of the bag, and add a little more interest. They were stitched a quarter of an inch in.

On the inside guts of the bag, all of the pieces were fused to Decor Bond. I cut them back a hair over the 1/4 inch edge so that when I did the exterior seam nothing would show. The inside bottom of the bag has a piece of cutting board plastic, one of my favorite things, that is covered by a "pillowcase" of the lining fabric. Its a neatly upholstered little thing and lays nicely in the bottom of the bag. It went a far way toward keeping the bag from collapsing, something I have found can easily happen with felted wool bags. Think sweaters!

The handles are faux tortoise shell from Joanns and go perfectly. Loops were made out of the lining fabric and slipped in beyond the edge of the bag so you really don't see them. You just see the handles kind of floating out. Sorry, they don't show very well in the picture. The lining is a simple quilting cotton in a monotone golden sunflower print. It was turned under and simply back stitched to the outer bag. The tiny backstitches made additional texture on the outside upper edge.

This is my very first attempt at really needle felting anything. I know there is much room for improvement. I will continue and have lots of ideas swimming around the ole noggin already. Oh, yes, there was a second needle felted bag!

Sophie's Felted Bag: This past weekend we were blessed with a long weekend visit from DD#2 and her brood. Having Jack and Sophie around was just heaven and we just couldn't have enough fun. My DB was also visiting and he knew I was enjoying them and decided to help with all the feeding and cleaning so I could spend more time with them. They both asked right away if they could go with me down to the sewing room. Both of my grandsons have a real fascination for my machines. Anyone else run into that?

We decided to make Sophie a felted bag and of course Jack wanted to help. I used cheap acrylic felt as a base, a cotton print, roving, and some ribbon. Sophie got to pick everything out by herself. I can so remember my own grandmother encouraging me to do the same. She taught me how to obtain and appreciate a stash at a very tender age. Never too young to start, ya know!
Because we were so involved in our play, we were unable to duplicate our efforts on the other side in the time that we had so that side was relegated to some machine stitches and raw edge applique appliqué. Sophie sat on a bar stool at the machine with me. Jack sat in another chair on the right. After she picked out her fibers or stitches she would yell Ready, Set, Go! That was the signal for Jack to hit the foot pedal at full bore. She got to pick out some stitches on the machine and we stitched those in too with Jack being the "peddler". We did this thru the whole process and laughed and laughed. It was wonderful!

Sophie decided she wanted a ribbon for the handle and picked out a wired taffeta piece. We fitted her to get the bag to be the right length. She loves her bag and never puts it down. She puts leaves in, rocks in it, and other goodies kids like to keepsake. I really liked how her brother was in on the fun of making it too. He is my little Opie.

Now if you only knew what I went thru to get this on the blog! My computer is finally coming together. I am still having problems with the business applications but everything else is finally back to normal. I am glad to be posting again. ....bunny







Sunday, October 12, 2008

Dang that HP!

I haven't posted much because of some computer problems the past two weeks. I will spare you the boring geek stuff, but if you have an HP(hate it!) you need to know that on certain models a total crash happens when the Service Pak 3 update is installed. This does not apply to all models. So, after a visit to the Geek Squad and their great retrieval of my files, I now need to re-install every bit of software into this newly naked hard drive. While this is a priority, particularly for our business, this has been one damn tight week. We have had a glorious weekend with company visiting and other "stuff" happening. As soon as I get my camera software all reloaded I will have pics up. The Autumn Bag is done and I am pleased. For my first felting attempt I think it is pretty good but definitely room for improvement. So bear with me gang, I will be back in the saddle soon. Blogs without pictures are just so blah. I do not want a blah blog!

I did take some fabulous pictures of the autumn colors and hope to get those up soon as well. Lata'............Bunny

Friday, October 3, 2008

Thank you, Hermana Esperanza

I have more than a few times gotten emails and questions my my being taught heirloom sewing by the Spanish nuns. It is quite a story, so humor me, please, and listen to my tale.

I was born in New Orleans, Louisiana and was raised in a devout Catholic family, very typical for the area I grew up in. I attended an all girl school in Lafayette,Louisiana run by Carmelite nuns. It was disciplined, fun, and I loved it. Now a little about my dear departed Dad- he was brilliant. He was the first geek, a real renaissance man. He was an engineer and had a career building and setting up radio and television stations, . With TV being relatively new, he was on the cusp of an industry destined to be huge. In the fifties, this was similar to the dotcom surge we experienced not long ago. Did I say he was brilliant? Many of his associates told me just this over the years.

One day our Dad decided he wanted his brood of 8 children to have some sort of international experience. He could name where he wanted to work so he started sending out resumes and getting responses. He made this a true family project. As the responses arrived he would spread them out on the dining room table and call his brood over. We would sit down, he at the head of the table, a globe at his side. He would show us on the globe where the job offer was from, tell us about the country, and ask for our opinions. It finally came down to an offer in Australia, one in South Africa, and one in Puerto Rico. He decided on Puerto Rico because of the total difference in culture, the opportunity to learn another language, and its proximity to the US. So we moved from Lafayette to our new island paradise.

Now a little political history. This was the time of Fidel Castro's revolution in Cuba. His plan at that time was to domino the Caribbean. Or, so we were told. His "Fidelistas" would weekly, on Fridays bomb an American owned business in the greater San Juan area where we lived. There was much violence, talk of revolution, and fear on the island at that time. I was spat on by people as was my mother, only because we were Americans. We learned the language quickly and started to dress and act like the locals to protect ourselves. Our dark features and my quick command of the language helped me pass as a local in no time. It's amazing how fast a child can learn a new language.

This violent anti-American atmosphere changed one's priorities. My parents felt the need to put me in a convent school up in the mountains to keep me safe. Their friends recommended it.  My brothers entered a similar boarding school for just boys. My school was run by the Carmelitas de la Caridad, a cloistered order from Spain. They taught and "forced" me lovingly to learn Castillian Spanish. They were the kindest most loving women imaginable. They were cloistered and that meant they only time they could speak was when they were in the classroom with us. I think it was a very special experience for both  the sisters and the students.

One of the things we did every day was to have our sewing time at the end of the day. First order was to get only the finest linen to work on. Hermana Esperanza would examine it and it it were not quality enough the student was sent home to get better. We learned to pull threads, do hemstitching, fagotting, the teeniest cross stitching and more. I wish I could remember it all. Every day we were allowed only to take a few stitches. They had to be perfect. Then one by one we would take turns and walk up to Hermana Esperanza's desk for the critique. At that point she would discuss your work and send you back to your desk to either rip it out or proceed. I remember so well her kind words and praise. I carried around a linen envelope embroidered with the teeniest cross stitches for years. It was made under her guidance and I treasured it.

This order of nuns is all about kindness. It is at the core of all they do. Over the years I have heard so many harsh stories from adults who attended Catholic schools as children, including my own husband's horror stories. My experience was nothing but wonderful, truly wonderful. The school was my haven of discipline and calm in a family of 6 rambunctious brothers. I wouldn't have had it any other way.

So tonight, as I pass along the story of my sewing with the nuns, I would like to take a moment to thank Hermana Esperanza for her love and kindness and for fostering in me a love and respect for fine handwork. I know she is critiquing me from above and smiling down........Bunny