Monday, August 31, 2009

The Amazing Ima


I can count 5 amazingly talented sewing mentors that have blessed my life. My dear friend Ima is one of them.

Ima was my next door neighbor for 21 years. Like typical New England neighbors, we stayed out of each other's business for many years, but always checked on each other in ice storms, power outages, and the milestones of life. Once my children left for college and life simmered down a bit, I started gardening. Ima would walk by and we would gab away about our last planting endeavors. She taught me most of what I know of gardening. One day she called me over to come get some of the plants she had that needed division. When I got a close up view of her back yard woodland garden, which was never visible from my home, it took everything I had not call up Better Homes and Gardens. She truly had a gift and an eye for texture, color, balance, all of it. Her granddaughter became my daughters best friend. One day I mentioned to her that I was working on my daughter's prom dress. "Oh, you sew? You have to come see my sewing room." Up until that point I never even knew she sewed. Did she sew? OMG, did she sew! Ima had a degree in textiles and clothing design from a University in Texas whose name eludes me. Once graduated she joined the WACS and trained pilots for the war effort. She met her dashing pilot husband while in the service. When the war ended they moved to NY. She went to FIT in the fifties and studied design. She has her custom made Wolf dress form to prove it! She has a lifelong TRUE passion for sewing. Do you believe I was lucky enough to live next door to Ima? I only regret the years we wasted just being busy and not sharing our love for sewing

Ima lost her dear husband a few years back. She is 88 years old, way sharper than I am, lucid, strong (still stacks her cordwood and only heats with wood) and a delight to be around. Ima always has young people around her and they all love being around her.

I moved away four years ago knowing I would never be blessed with a neighbor and friend so special again. We keep in touch. My daughter sees her granddaughter often. Two weeks ago Ima called me and said the decision had been made to sell her home of 40 years, a fabulous home I might add. She said she didn't know anyone who would appreciate her sewing things and would I want them. Would I? Oh, my......we spent this past weekend with Ima and while she has sold all of her antiques at this point, she held on to all of her sewing goodies till I got there. We had an absolute girly blast, full of laughter and giggles. I let her lead the way but the bottom line is she gave it all away, boxes and boxes of fabrics, silks from her trips to the Orient, wools from Pendleton, heirloom fabrics in HUGE amounts. Buttons, metal buttons that can only be described as fine art; tons of bindings, laces, and on and on and on. Oh did I mention the books?

The first time I saw Ima's sewing room I was blown away.I wish I could show you what it was like before the antique merchant ransacked it. First, it was huge. She had SEVEN antique map cabinets. Inside were all her buttons sorted so beautifully. Another map cabinet just held cards and cards of her heirloom french laces. I could go on and on. In the center of the room was a HUGE cutting table made of maple by her husband. Trust me, she designed the perfect cutting table. There is agenerous walk in closet thru a door. In that closet were file cabinets filled with patterns, vintage Vogue designers, vintage childrens clothing, etc. On the right was a ceiling to floor 5 foot wide antique druggist's apothecary cabinet with tons of tiny drawers where snaps, hooks, needles, and all sorts of notions were stored. This closet was lit like daylight and easy to walk around. Shelves went to the ceiling with layers of color coordinated fabrics.

Back in the sewing room were many shelves with all sorts of books to the ceiling. Ima painted. She embroidered. She burned wood. She had books for almost every creative endeavor you could think of and the patterns as well. Ima smocked like I dreamed of smocking. She has given me all her smocking patterns and books and was there to coach me when I first began smocking.

It took us two days to empty out the room and my husband packed and pushed fabric and stuff into every nook and cranny of our car. It literally will take me months to go thru all of this and get it organized. But as I told my 88 year old dear friend, who will be going to live in Oregon with her daughter, I will think of her as I work thru her gifts. I'll remember her warmth, her creativity, her sense of adventure, her God given talent, with every button I sort. every binding I wrap, every lace I Biz, and every fabric I fold for a long long time. I love you, Ima.....Bunny

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

An Easily "Petiteable" Blouse

Maybe I should call this the "un" blouse. No set in sleeves, no collar, no cuffs, no time to make. I wasn't sure I liked it but it is definitely growing on me. This is
Butterick 5327 and about as simple as it gets.

I found this 1.00 a yard mystery fabric in Joann's clearance. I think it is a cotton-rayon blend, mostly cotton. It drapes nicely, hardly wrinkles and is very comfortable to wear.

I call this an easily petiteable blouse because it has two 1/2 inch tucks across the front and back. By stitching them 5/8 inch wide instead I decreased my upper chest length by a half inch. This is the normal amount I subtract from all of my patterns from the armscye to the CF. It doesn't get much simpler. I like the way the tucks add the fullness to the sleeves. The sleeves are simply hemmed with a casing and elastic. I mean this blouse is SIMPLE. I might make another one under one circumstance. I think this would be gorgeous in some white linen with pin stitching across the top of the tucks. The other idea I had was to stitch the top of the tucks in some sort of zigzag and then run some ribbon thru and let it dangle over the sleeves.

This patttern is for knits only. Did I listen? Noooo. This is a woven. I had planned on a shoulder button opening but once I did a mock head pullover with some scraps I knew it would easily fit over my head. I did not like the idea of just turning and hemming the neckline as the pattern advised so did a French binding instead. The seam allowance was cut off of the neckline and then a folded strip of bias was sewn to the wrong side. Then I wrapped it to the right side and topstitched, easy peasy. The binding is fairly wide, the better to mimic the tucks.

All in all I am pleased, pleased with the quickness, with the opportunity for some creativity if you desire, and pleased with the feminine look. I highly recommend Butterick 5327. Oh, the tucks aren't crooked. It's just the way I am standing. .......Bunny

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

THANK YOU!

Thank you to all who commented on the GWS. Your kind words and encouragement mean more to me than you know and you are all so appreciated.

I must say a beautiful piece of linen can be so inspirational. It can be so easily crafted into something out of the ordinary and at the same time can make the simplest of garments elegant. If you haven't sewn with real linen yet, do yourself a favor and start. While it's a pisser to iron it is just wonderful to stitch. Linen can give you such timeless garments and therefore really worth your sewing efforts.

Kristine, I took your advice and entered the blouse in the Linen Contest on the Threads site. There is some very stiff competition there so I am not quite holding my breath here. It sure would be nice to have a new serger, though!

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So now it is time for a light, simple quickie project.
I am going with View C on Butterick 5327. I picked up some rather neat 1.00 a yard fabric yesterday at JA's. It looks like Oxford cloth but drapes much more softly. The bolt end said cotton/rayon and I would say the ration was probably 90/10. It seemed like a really good bargain.

This pattern is made for knits. I am using a woven. I plan on having a neckline opening of some sort to make sure I can get it over my head. It is cut very wide and according to reviews on PR runs very large. I cut the extra small. So all two pieces were cut out tonight and I think it will take me very short focus to get this done. There is only a front and a back. I don't really look good in tunics but I will give this a try and know I will have to seriously adjust the length. But, we will cross that bridge when we get to it.

I will leave you tonight with some of my best "inspirations". This is the bulletin board in my sewing room. I made it when we did the room and quickly filled it up. It's a great place to quickly stick my hand needle of choice for some fast hand stitching while at the machine.....Bunny

Sunday, August 16, 2009

My Great White Shirt





Finally done! The details are what make this one. For those who have not been following this is a combination of BWOF 05-09-110 for the bodice, a morph of the sleeve pattern on Simp 3789, and my own ruminations on embroidery and smocking.

Some of you know that I have had a long time goal of implementing smocking into adult garments and may have a seen a few of my efforts, a bag, a silk blouse. I liked the shape of this bodice and know that this style 1) is one of my more flattering styles, and 2) would take nicely to an insert. I started by redrafting the skirt front to accommodate the insert and still maintain it's pretty shape. Then it was time to start the smocking. I wanted to use a simple geometric design in an ecru so that I would have some contrast to highlight the design as well as the embroidery. On the waist insert are bullion chrysanthemums. Their centers are tiny Swarofski crystals and each mum is surrounded by a diamond of off white little pearls. On either side of the insert is piping.
On the collar I did a tiny bit of the same using piping, beads, and another bullion mum.

Please forgive this back shot. The lovely pink silk that made my neckline did not become apparent in the back until way after the blouse wrinkled itself in this 93º heat and was off the form. I am just not up to re ironing it at the moment in this heat.....On the back you can see the pleat. I stitched either side of the pleat with machine pinstitching using a wing needle and regular thread.Then I ran three large bullion daisies down the pleat, each filled with an bead in the center. At the end of the pinstitching lines sits another tiny bullion, just like a period at the end of a sentence.
In the sleeves I tried to echo a few elements. First off, I love these sleeves. I am a pushover for 3/4 length sleeves of any kind but the pleated "cuff" gives these so much room and comfort. I again stitched down each pleat with the pinstitching and also again ended with one bullion stitch at the end.
Again, I also used the piping on the sleeve.



Now for the unseen: At the very end, contra to my original plans, I decided to stitch two stitching lines an 1/8th of an inch apart and then three thread serge them for a seam finish. I did this on all the seams. My original plan was of course French seams but I had some bulky cross seams and at this point the fabric was getting quite ravelly and overhandled despite my efforts otherwise. So to the serger I went.
Also, you saw how I earlier backed the insert with dotted netting to conceal the knots of the smocking. I also dug out some small lace motifs from the stash and used them to cover the backs of the bullion daisies on the interior of the shirt. It really looks pretty from the inside. The hems were all topstitched.
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I have made a decision as to how I will wear this shirt. From a fashion stand point I think it would look great with some black jeans and black heels, nice for a dinner out with hubby. From a practical standpoint, well I have learned a thing or two. Once completed and Bizzed, I ironed and starched the shirt. It was gorgeous. My easing on the sleeve caps was smooth. The piping sat beautifully. There wasn't a wrinkle in site. And any nun I have known would have been proud at this starch/pressing job on the linen. It was all quite liturgical. BUT, when I was actually constructing the shirt, it had the lovely, bubbly (for lack of a better description) texture that a washed unironed piece of linen can acquire. That is what I loved. My pictures look wonky because every time I moved the dress form or touched the shirt a "crack" appeared that could not be finessed without a total re ironing. But that lovely washed linen look,,,,that is how I will wear this. I will iron in my pleats and collar and call it a day. Washed linen just gets the most marvelous uncompromising texture when you leave it alone. To starch and iron it like a liturgical garment invites hard cracks, wrinkles, and wonks, as are obvious in my pictures. Does anyone know what I mean by washed bubbly linen? Hope you do.

I think I will make this BWOF pattern again. For anyone with a waist and hips I think it is a great design. I am thinking of making one totally plain in a poly cotton blend, the antithesis of this number. In the meantime, I'm off to seduce DH into a steak dinner in Lake Placid.lata'.....Bunny

It's done!

What looks like a ghost coming back to haunt an aging pik-up is the Great White Shirt. It's been Bizzed, rinsed, and hung to dry in the sun. It was very difficult for me to find something to hang it on that wouldn't contribute to soiling so I grabbed a plant hook and covered it with a towel. I will let it dry till barely damp and give it a good press. The beading REALLY shows up out here in the sun so my final pics may be outside shots. We'll see. I hope to get the rest of the pics up tonight.

In the meantime, here is a mini tute on how I did my collar band. Collar bands are something many tend to avoid, myself included on occasion. But I taught myself to do the Nancy Zieman "Sewing Express" method and am pleased with the results. Two things: first, the collar band on this pattern is too wide in my opinion. I always scale down details due to "petite-ness" but have never felt the need, before or after sewing a garment, to scale down the collar band. This collar band is 1 1/4 inch wide finished width. It really should not be over one inch wide, for anyone, in my opinion. But on me, even more so. So what I have learned from this latest sewing adventure is to not make a collar band more than an inch wide, ever. Second, I think Zieman's technique for collar bands is the same as Margaret Islander's "burrito" deal. Someone correct me here if I am wrong. So without further ado:

* First, IF YOU HAVE 5/8 INCH SAs the neckline and neck edge of the collar band, need to be cut back 3/8 of an inch, which will leave you with a 1/4 inch SA. Have to say on this fine weight linen I had to take care not to overhandle and ravel out the small SA. After that I meticulously lay out the pieces against the original pattern and double check the match. It is amazing how on a fine fabric the stretch can set in. I also double checked the curves on the edges. There was definitely a need to re match and recut. So, I highly suggest you make this a habit before proceeding.

* Once rematched, make a sandwich. Pin one collar band WS down. Then place the neck edge on top, face up. Then another collar band wrong side up. Pin away only on the neck edge. Sew directly across, neck edge only.
*Remember you cut back so only sew with a 1/4 inch SA. I used my quilting foot for this as you can see at left. Grade seams back to an 1/8th of an inch. I did not go quite that far back due to the ravelly nature of the fabric.

* Next, roll the blouse back on itselfso it is way clear of the curved edge which you will sew next. I pin it out of the way once rolled. You can see I drew in my curve with a light mechanical pencil and a Gutterman spool so they would perfectly match. While some of you may be gasping, my mechanical pencil has yet to fail me but the Mark B Gone has. If the fabric is starched the pencil does not sink in and comes out no problem. I do the marking VERY VERY lightly. OK, so once the blouse is rolled and pinned out of the way I flip up the SA and stitch with a small stitch around the curve to the point where the collar will be set in. The neck band will be clipped back to that spot. Once again. Grade seams. I dotted on some Fray Bloc here for obvious reasons and was glad I did.
* Here you now see the turned and pressed collar band. From this point on it is quite easy. The collar is now pinned and stitched to under collar band SA. After that, the collar SA is graded back. The remaining unstitched collar/neck band SA is folded under, pressed, trimmed back, and then topstitched, closing the whole connection up.
*( This one is pinned in place and ready to go. I think you can see how wide this collar band looks. Certainly not my preference but I always try to learn something with each garment and with this one it was check the width of the collar band. For some of you really tall sewists this may be fine, but remember to check.

Out to the pickup to see if my "ghost" is almost dry and then clean my sewing room as per usual. Pics tonight or tomorrow on the finished project. ...Bunny

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The GWS Continues....

I am thinking a different name may be more appropriate. "Billions of Bullions" or "Blouse of Many Bullions" or just "When will it be over?" At this point all embroidery is done. A few beads remain to be put on but that is it for all the handwork. So now we are on to the final leg of construction. The waistline insert has corded piping on the top and bottom edges. I also did a small insert on the collar that is piped on each side as well. Because these inserts are my own idea and not on the BWOF pattern that I am using I had to figure out how to draft the pattern to accomadate them. I decided there must be an easier way not involving math and rulers. Here is what I did. I will use the collar insert as my example.

I interfaced just the top collar at this point. My insert is an inch wide and has a 5/8 SA on each side of the piping. I decided my edge of the insert would be about an inch and half from the edge of my finished collar. I cut my top interfaced collar this amount plus 5/8 of an inch from the short edge. In other words, I cut the upper collar in two pieces, a short one whose edge is at CF and a large one that will have fabric cut off to fit the collar pattern. I folded under the small collar piece the 5/8 SA width and slip stitched it to the insert butting up to the piping. I then flipped it open flat, turning it over so the seamline of where the piping was sewn to the insert was visible. I then stitched directly on the line of stitching that was used to stitch on the piping. The SA was stitched again an eighth inch away and trimmed back to the second stitching line

Next I lay down the undercollar on the cutting board, being careful to position it exactly as the pattern. That sounds like a no brainer but collars are so much bias that you can't be too careful. So with the undercollar as my template I lay the little short piece on it and pinned it to fit the undercollar as you see in the photo above. I then took the large piece of the top collar and pinned it to fit the undercollar stopping about a couple of inches short of the insert.With everything pinned to the undercollar template I folded under the extra fabric, butting it up to the piping. It was then slipstitched to the insert. This slip stitching technique is similar tothe method used to match plaids. Once the slip stitching is done the upper collar is unpinned from the undercollar/template and the insert is sewn to the large upper collar piece the same way done for the short piece.
Now my upper collar was the exact shape needed and my tiny insert was installed right where it needed to go. Next came a proper press, interfacing the undercollar, and constructing the collar as needed for the pattern.




The waist inserts were handled in the same way. Smocking pleats and the necessary knots make for a messy inside. On most garments this is lined and not an issue. But this garment is delicate and floaty with no lining. I pulled out of my toolbox a technique I often use with my smocking, backing the smocked area with lace or netting. In this case I had some white dotted netting that was airy and light but totally camouflaged the knots and nastiness. After the inserts were installed in the blouse front I zigzagged the netting to the edge of the inserts and trimmed back to the stitching. This worked fine as you will see in all the pics when I am done. Why not just stitch it in along with the insert"? I started to do that but when I got finished basting the first insert I realized the netting covered the stitching line of the piping application. That is what I use to follow when I stitch the insert to the garment as it gives me the exact line of the piping seam. You can check out my piping tute for a little clearer explanation.

As of tonight, all handwork is done. The collar is done. The blouse fronts and back are complete. The CF band is complete. All that is left to do is install the sleeves, attach the collar band and collar and do the buttonholes. Yikes, those are scaring me! I also have to rip the buttons off of another blouse I have. I really can't find any better buttons than the ones I put on a blouse a few years ago. Nothing comes close. This will definitely be done before the week is out. Did I mention that I have UNEXPECTED company for the next entire week as well as week of full time work? Talk about timing. I really neede to get this done by next weekend.....Bunny

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Hints for Bullions

Back to the insert - This bullion daisy/chrysanthemum is complete. I am far from the best on making bullions and being good at them comes with years of practice. But I do have some hints to help you get a handle on them. There are patterns, Chado Ralph Rucci specifically from Vogue, that have you use bullions, lots of them. So this stitch is travelling from the heirloom world to the couture world! Actually, not really. This is an ancient stitch that has been all over the map and you really should consider adding to your repertoire. In that vein, I thought I would pass on a few hints that help me.

Bullions can be really hard to grasp, no pun, at first. It really helps to see someone else make one, but many of us are lonely bloggers and don't have that peer interaction available. I took some pictures here. I ask you to click on them and enlarge them to see just what I mean. they get much clearer once enlarged. It was not easy taking these pics. DH was outside covered with stain from staining the deck so I wasn't going to have him anywhere near my work. For a couple of pics I leaned back in my chair and nestled the camera on my boobs. The center of my bra held it in while I used the remote to click and then hurriedly grabbed the thread/needle. These are the best of many pics taken.

* First, once your needle is inserted and before you start wrapping your thread on the needle, grasp you lower part of the needle with your right hand and push it back and forth thru the fabric three or four times. This creates a channel for the thread to go thru. Bullion flowers can get quite thick on the back and hard to stitch thru and this action helps that.














* Turn your fabric so the needle is facing at 12:00 o'clock. Then start wrapping. I wrap clockwise, SLOWLY. This is not a race. Did you hear me? No? I will say it again "SLOWLY".

* The picture above shows a sloppy wrap, probably from not going slowly. You really can't go further with your stitch until this is fixed.






* Next wrapping rule - DON'T WRAP TOO TIGHT. Your needle won't go thru. I can't tell you how long it took me to figure this out. Save yourself the frustration I had and lightly but closely and evenly wrap your thread around the needle. Try and keep the thread at a 90º angle to the needle when you are done wrapping.

* The needle must be a straw or milliner's needle or you will go crazy. Why? Because these two types of needles do not have eyes that bulge out. If you run your fingers up a threadless needle you will feel the bulge as you get to the eye. With a straw/milliners needle your fingers slide evenly up the needle. Took a while for this one to sink in too! A needle bulge will prevent the needle from smoothly going thru the wraps.
* Before you pull your needle thru the wraps, with your right hand grab the threads coming out of the bottom of the needle. Pull them so they are straight in line with the needle. This way when you pull the thread thru the wraps you won't be dead ended by the thread going into the eye which can sometimes loop up, go wonky, or even knot, and it won't let you pull thru. So line those threads up before pulling.

* In the fourth photo down you can see how the needle points north, the wraps are even, and they are not tight. Now you are ready to pinch your stitch. Hold your stitch tightly. Pull your thread thru. Towards the end of the stitch use your fingernail to hold the wraps down and pull the thread thru. Pull until the bullion kind of loops or the fabric underneath makes a teensy pleat. In other words pull like you are overcompensating, not trying to get the exact length of the stitch, but a little tighter. Once you let go, the stitch will automatically spring to where it is supposed to be.

* After that little spring you can now coax you wrap into cooperation with your needle. Your stitch is done but don't hesitate to use the needle to smooth out the wraps and move them where they need to go. You can also use one thread in your needle to do a tiny couching stitch on your wrap and force it into compliance. Don't let these little buggers intimidate you.

* Before you commit to stitching bullions on your garment, stitch lots of them on the same fabric as your garment, flat or pleated as it will be on the garment. Expect to feel frustrated at first. But, like riding a bike, all of a sudden you will get it. That is when it is time to move to your garment.

* Do your first bullions in the least obvious places and move toward the most obvious. Did I do that here? No, and good reason why. I needed to get one flower done to space out the rest of my flowers. So the most obvious flower was done first and now all the rest are marked and will follow with the least obvious being next.

This wasn't meant to be a complete treatise on bullions as I don't feel I am the one to do that tute, but I did want you all to have a few tools in your sewing box to pull out when you want to try them, tools that acquired the hard way.....Bunny

Oh, those are three tiny Swarofski crystals in the center of what I have now decided are mums. They are just too voluptuous to be daisies.......Bunny

One more ETA: if my piping looks wonky it is not. This piece is curved so the piping does not follow the smocking stitches. ..B.