Thursday, August 28, 2014

Kathy's Sewing Adventure

I have known my sewing friend, Kathy Dykstra, for a long time, Today I would like to introduce her to you. I have a few reasons why I would like to feature her incredible work .

First of all, Kathy's work is among the highest quality out there. She has had articles in Australian Smocking and Embroidery and Sew Beautiful magazine more times than I can count. She has taught at Martha Pullen's School of Art Fashion. She will be teaching at the upcoming SAGA Convention in Orlando, Florida. (Smocking Arts Guild of America). I would wait in line for one of her classes any day.

Another reason I want you to meet Kathy is that over the past few years we have lost the triumvirate of heirloom sewing magazines, the magazines that featured Kathy's work. First to fail, to the chagrin of many was Creative Needle magazine. Not long after saw the end of the magazine that in my opinion set the bar for all heirloom publications: Australian Smocking and Embroidery with their gorgeous children's photos and clear instructions and patterns.  And now, we have lost Sew Beautiful magazine as well. While you may be ho humming at this point, don't. Kathy's work can be quite contemporary and lively. She is highly skilled at the Swiss batiste, French lace embellished bits of froth that SB was noted for but you should see her designs she makes for her grandchildren, bright colors, contemporary shapes and embellishments, a refreshing wake up to the heirloom sewing world.

Kathy is VERY prolific and a typical week will see her turning out  3-4 of her lovelies. She has been working very hard on her upcoming class for SAGA and I can assure you, this is a woman totally prepared for her class. Here are just a few of her efforts. I love acknowledging my friend's amazing skill.

Her machine embroidery skills never cease to amaze me.
She uses lots of bright colors and has a real gift for combining prints, not an easy skill to come by.

But Kathy doesn't make just great children's clothing. Look at her recent trip into home dec. Can you just feel the precision?
 A fabulous silk pillow, one of a non matching pair she recently completed.

Kathy recently did a very informative post on "Hemline Solutions". There is a lot of skill and inspiration there. Here is a dress, perfect for a dedication or First Communion, that she made last year and that is featured in her Hemline post as well as published in SB.
Do you see that exquisite smocking?

 And just so you know she is capable of the more frothy style of Heirloom Sewing, look at this mint ribbon beauty above. It's loaded with entredeaux, French laces, Swiss batiste and silk ribbons.  Her little granddaughters are soooooo lucky!

Being a wise Grandma, Kathy knows that her little granddaughters need lots of "fun" type garments too. Look at these matching outfits she made for the beach for them. She's not afraid to use ric rac and always does so with a creative twist or two.

I can tell you, this is a tiny drop in Kathy's bucket of incredible garments for children. She inspires me and deserves to have her work seen and honored by sewists everywhere. Since the magazines that carried her work are no longer in print, I offer to you the link to her blog Sewing Adventures. She has recently started blogging and is doing a wonderful job of it with great photography and clear writing.   She is generous with her knowledge and inspirational with what she shows that she has made.

Most of all, I would like to thank Kathy  for being a great sewing friend   for these past years. Your friendship has pulled me through a few dark hours. It has also let us share many, many a laugh, too. Top secret what the sewing laughs were about! ......your friend forever, Bunny

Find more of Kathy's wonderful work on her blog Sewing Adventures.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Simplicity 4636

Tammy's gown was a big hit at the wedding. Whew! Now I can relax on that one. She will be sending me pics as soon as she gets them herself. Today I went to a baby shower at her country home for her first grandchild. It was a lovely event. I was determined to make something for the baby instead of buying and am so glad I did. At first I thought of a couple of boy bonnets to keep the hot Virginia sunshine out of baby's eyes. I looked at my  heirloom fabrics. Nothing excited me. Then I went digging in my baby patterns and came up with this one, Simplicity 4636.
 I made view C, the car seat cover. I have awful memories of the twins in their food encrusted car seats that drove me to this decision. Mind you, my daughter did scrub them now and then but every day was a snack on the way home from daycare, one waiting to be embedded into the seat's upholstery and increasingly gross. I looked closely at the pattern and thought "very doable in a couple hours". While that is true, as is my fashion, I turned it into a daylong project.

First I had to decide on the fabric. It had to be soft, tough, very washable, and masculine. Ok. Remember those jeans I was going to make? I'll have to order more fabric now. They were pre-washed three times which took care of the soft and the washable. They definitely could have a masculine vibe and the denim is tough. Now to make it all look good. Hmmmmm.....I will make it look like jeans and I did.

The first way I extended the project timetable was to turn the simple machine made buttonholes into faced buttonholes. I faced them with more denim and sewed one eighth inch away from the long line you see in a rectangle shape. These BHs will accommodate the car's straps. The resulting rectangles were slashed and clipped into the corners and then turned.

The facings were then turned to the wrong side. There long edges were turned under and stuck in place with Wonder Tape to prevent movement. Then all was pressed. You can see the results below. 

Now it was time to make this little item look jeans-y. I topstitched twice around the faced holes with a golden Coats & Clark thread but using the triple stitch on my machine. I am getting to like that stitch more and more for topstitching. There is no need for special thread or needles. It goes back over the stitch three times so you then get a nice thick topstitch like you see in RTW. This project was great practice for upcoming real jeans. On this go round I figured out how to count the stitches and end up exactly in the corners where I wanted to be. 
I surrounded each BH with 1/4 inch masking tape to get sharp rectangles.  You can see the results here.
This got a second row of topstitching a scant 1/4 inch away. All of the seams were topstitched with two rows as well. Are we looking jeans-y and masculine or what?

 I think you can now see why what could have been a two hour sew-up turned into a bigger production. But that is just my style of sewing at this point. Yes, all the threads were taken to the back and tied off. How many years did I sew without doing that? Way way too many. It looks so sloppy to have those little end cuts sticking out on the front of a garment. ( eye roll)

After all that topstitching business, a band was attached to the circumference of the the seat. It had a turned facing with elasctic to enable it to slip over the car seat and be removed just as easily. All seams were serged as well on this. The short edges of the facings were too small to bother so they were simply pinked. I tried to make this tough so it could take a lot of washings.

The fabric used is denim I purchased on line, forget where, but think perfect jeans weight, no lycra. The elastic was basic 3/4 inch black elastic. I've draped this over a small child's rocker to give you an idea of how it would work. I think it will be a very practical gift for a new mom who doesn't know what she's in for. Did any of us?.......Bunny

We've had a houseful of company this past week. Ern and I love Paella but have never made it ourselves. We decided to invest in a pan and spoon and give it a go. You really do need the spoon to keep the seafood submerged while cooking. We had a glorious evening of fun and Paella making with his sisters and look forward to doing it again. It's all about the pan and  it is damn delicious........... Bunny

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Sew Chic Patterns

Today I am thrilled to introduce you to Laura Nash of Sew Chic Patterns. She is an Indie designer who brings a depth of knowledge and experience to her designs that is very impressive and it shows in her patterns.
I first discovered Laura's skills when I saw a review on Pattern Review for her Fifth Avenue dress design.  Do Laura's patterns have a vintage vibe? Yes, most definitely. But they are not the nod to simplistic fifties fashions that so many indies have over saturated the market with. Laura's vision is one of femininity with a big dose of elegance, the type of garment you could wear to a wedding or evening out and turn heads. Even with the backwards influence of fashion  her looks feel fresh and original. Just look at her pattern called "Phantom". This design can be a swing coat, a top, or something as elegant as what you see below.

This bit of sheer froth can be even more appreciated in the line drawings where you will see the shape and detail built in as well as how easily it could be interpreted into much different looking garments.

With that bit of tease I would like to share with you an interview with Laura that she was so gracious to accommodate. 

When you were sewing in your younger years did you have one particular project or garment  that you were particularly proud of?  Or that was particularly difficult to complete?

As a teenager, I think my sewing was fairly inventive. I also enjoyed coming up with costumes for school plays, performances, and Halloween. Of course I didn't know how to make a pattern from scratch like I do now, but I would use a fashion pattern as a base and create something completely different from it.  I don’t recall it as a challenge, but my best project from that era would be the wedding dress I made for my mother.  She had a dress in mind when shopping the pattern books, but couldn't find anything exact. She ended up buying a Vogue pattern as a base, which was really quite extravagant for her budget. I changed quite a few things adding in a yoke with mandarin collar and full sleeves with cuffs accented with rows of tucks, ribbons, lace, and buttons, and sleeve and skirt overlay of white striped chiffon.  My sister was married in the same dress.

What fabric has given you the most difficulty?

I really dislike brocade. It’s beautiful, but I just can abide the constant unraveling!   People complain about chiffon, but I don’t mind it at all.  I find that careful preparation of the fabric with attention to the grain when time to cut makes everything else go smoothly.

Your business is quite comprehensive and must be quite time consuming as well. Any hints for getting it all done? Do you find much time to sew now?

Oh Yes! I have found out for myself that running a company is more than full time work! And at least for a perfectionist, getting it all done just doesn’t happen, but at some point there is “acceptable.”  Being organized is critical to being efficient no matter what the job.  I wear a variety of hats, of course, and I can’t be without sewing completely but I don’t get to sew as much as I’d like. However there is a bright side to the situation; I see from my helpers what their difficulties are, which makes it easier to anticipate and look for solutions in assembly and techniques for best end results for people of all skill levels.

Your garments have a vintage vibe but in an elegant way. I love the tailored extras that you are unafraid to incorporate. Who or what inspires your designs?

What a nice compliment! For me, vintage means elegant, though you won’t find that in the dictionary! It’s kindness, poise, restraint, modesty, classic, gentle, beauty.  I hope my designs speak well to that definition. I try to create styles that are wearable in the marketplace as well as the workplace for the 20 and 60 year old alike.  Simple silhouettes definitely have their place, but I hope that adding special and even unusual details, it brings them to a new level of excitement. All of my designs are directly inspired by the first half of the 20th century.  Though I have bookshelves full inspiration by way of scrapbooks, notebooks and books about designers, old sewing manuals, and anything associated, I rarely need to look at any of it. It’s in my veins now!

Everyone loves a peek into the sewing space of other sewists. Care to tell us what your space is like? Do you work better with a bit of clutter around or must you have everything in its place to be creative?

In my main work area, I do have a certain amount of clutter because I like things to be near me and stored near first use. Some things never get put “away”, but I cannot operate in chaos, so I must stay with a certain level of of organization. All works in progress, along with the project materials, are kept in Rubbermaid plastic bins with lids, of which I have two sizes.  I keep all of my everyday sewing tools lumped together in a large plastic school box case, and have a tall portable stacking bin for things that may need to move with me, but things I need less often such as sewing feet, bendable rulers, electric shears, push pins and such. My cutting table is always layered with two cardboard cutting boards (Dritz Superboard) and elbow lamps and ironing board nearby.  To tidy up, I have a computer armoire that I have converted into sewing storage. I stow my sewing machine in the compartment where the computer tower would normally go, and notions and tools are contained on the pull out drawer where the keyboard would usually sit. Project bins stack below and the upper area is tall enough for narrow bolts of fabric I am working with.  I have three other rooms that get used for printing, packaging and storing supplies, materials, and equipment to vendor, teach, and produce product.

Can you give us any hints about upcoming patterns? What is your favorite to design?

I admit a weakness for dresses.  Pants and tee shirts are a necessary part of our modern life, but I don’t find them interesting to make or to wear.  I have several projects in the works, but the one I can tell you about is a redesign of the Pendleton pattern.  As one of the first to be published, it’s been on the market for quite a while, and rather than retire it, I decided to give it a refresh. I’ve finished the first sample and it will have a view B option as well. The dress has a much younger look to it and a whole new personality that I’m really excited about. The only thing left to decide is whether I should also give it a new name too!

Thank you so much, Laura, for taking the time for this interview. It is my pleasure to introduce you and your work to my readers. With that in mind, here are a few of Laura's designs, some for day, some more for evening, and others that can be interpreted either way. 

These are just a few designs from Sew Chic Patterns. Others include hats, luscious lingerie and more. Laura is truly a gifted designer. Her experience and skills are obvious. I look forward to making one of her designs in the near future. Get to know her work through these links and I trust you may feel the same. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

So elegant!

I just had to share these three short videos. They were on the RTW Fasters group on FB thanks to Deborah Jones.

It is hard to believe such elegance existed but clearly it did. I found myself smiling serenely as I listened to the speaker's detailed descriptions. His use of  the model's names was surprising. That Delouri  had quite the hand action!

I loved that these women looked healthy and were not babes plucked from high school. I would say most were in there thirties with stunning figures.

The elegance of the audience was rather amazing as well. I loved the  grey striped dress on the woman on the  right. Everything is so exquisitely tailored. Was I born in the wrong era?

What is your favorite? I had several but loved the blue coat, black dress in video three.

The fashion show consists of three short videos.  Enjoy! I sure did.........Bunny

Friday, August 15, 2014

Tammy's Dress is done!

My friend Tammy's bridesmaid dress is complete. Since it is a simple knit cowl column it does not look good on the hanger. It also does not look good on my dress form as we are built quite differently. Tammy is petite but carries her weight in her shoulders, which by the way gives her a lovely neckline area that this dress emphasizes. But it makes her dress want to fall of of a form with almost no shoulders. So here it is in it's packing bag for you. I know, rather ridiculous. But she promises me a full pic when her full hair and makup are done.

I did get the ultimate compliment. She called me about an hour after she got home from work. Seems she tried on the dress with silver heels and bling and her husband loved it and wanted me to know. I'll take that!

When I get a better photo I will do a review on the pattern and some of the changes I did on it. The lining worked out really well and I did some fun games with French tacks to keep the movement but to not let it fly out of the slit. I had her walk around the room and twirl and that worked really well, so more to come on the finishing when the pics come in. In the meantime thanks for your patience.

Not much publishing lately but I have also been nursing what has turned out to be a bladder infection and kidney stone passing, worse pain ever ever. So now that the rotten little rock has moved on and Tammy's dress is complete, I will be starting back on the Ikat jacket. First order of business will be the flat lining. Hope you join me by following along.  I also have an interview coming up with a wonderful designer. Until then, happy stitching!.......

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The lining solved and a flutter sleeve

I made my decision regarding the lining/underlining quandary with this knit dress. The nude lining will be treated as an underlining for the neckline, shoulders and sleeves, being sewn into the seams as if it were one with the fashion fabric. Then from the armscye down the lining and dress would be sewn separately and hang freely. How's that sound? Now that it is all done I am really pleased with the results. I put wrong sides together of the FF and lining for each of the front and back and proceeded per the start of the pattern. 

Clear elastic was stay stitched into the back neckline. Then it was  turned in on the 5/8ths seamline as the pattern instructed. I then topstitched it twice. After that I put some cotton selvedge stay tape on the shoulder seam line which basted the lining to the FF there.

Just to keep it real here, this is my cowl facing snafu. Just between you and me, ok? We really sew here and I don't try to gloss over my mistakes. Most of the time I read through a pattern once or twice before even cutting it out then it is pretty much put aside. This time it was a mistake.  I lay my pattern out on the fashion fabric and as soon as I cut the armscye out on the dress front I looked and just knew it was too short. As usual I lined up the hemline of the pattern with the bottom left of my yardage. I had plenty of fabric but to move both pieces, front and back, past that cut armscye to get the additional 15 inches would not work, no matter how I tried and I tried everything.  I walked away. I went back an hour later, looked at the fabric and immediately had my solution. All of the blue you see above is the inside facing of the cowl. No one is going to see that, right? By piecing the cowl facing, I could, with fingers tightly crossed, squeeze out enough fabric to get the lengths I needed for the back and front. This is a floor length dress. It worked and I am beyond thrilled. We really sew here, to paraphrase Emeril.

Again the lining is being treated as an underlining here. But I decided to cut it off at the fold of the cowl. I thought it would look "thick" otherwise. So the blue cowl facing you see will fold at the edge of the nude lining and be caught in the sleeve construction. I basted the edge of the lining to the FF so it wouldn't fall in and droop inside the cowl. I felt that was really necessary and it worked well. Once this was done the dress was put together at the shoulders with the cowl facing wrapping around the shoulder seam and giving it a really nice finish. 

My next challenge was to draft a flutter sleeve, really quite easy. The sleeves on this dress would be faced with the nude lining. In the end it gave the sleeve a really nice drape and look. Here's how I made the flutter sleeve. I first took the short sleeve of the pattern and at the sleeve center and three more times left and right of center I drew a red line from the cap to the hem. These lines were one inch apart.  Most instructions out on the web show these lines continuing to the underarm seam. Don't do that. That contributes to excess floppy fabric in the underarm area. You really only want the flutter on the "top" of the sleeve where everyone can see it. This line was then cut from the hem to about a 1/4 inch from the sleeve cap edge. This gives you a hinge to keep your sleeve cap shape and still spread out the sleeve. 

I taped the top of the piece, at the cap, to the tracing paper. Each slit was measured and taped to the mat at 1 1/2 inches apart. When all is measured, spread and taped, draw the outline on your tracing paper.  

Mark all your dots and notches. I decided this sleeve was too long and measured back an inch and a half. In researching this sleeve project I found that a flutter sleeve that is too long can look EXTREMELY frumpy. So I cut this one back. Luckily, my friend is the same height as me so I was able to proceed without her on this length issue. 

Here is the final pattern with which I cut the two sleeves and their facings. I sewed the FF to the lining at the long curved edge and pressed toward the lining. I then understitched the lining. This gave me a really pretty, soft edge to the sleeve. This is a lot more work than one would usually do with a knit but I did not want this thin knit to look like a tee shirt. So I kept the finished edges clean of topstitching, at least everything except the back neck which needed it and looks OK. The dress has a softer more formal look this way. I would take pics but this dress is too large for my form. I will definitely get pics on my friend. 

After the sleeves I sewed the lining side seams together and then separately, the dress side seams together. It hangs and looks lovely and I am really pleased with the cowl. It came out better than I thought. That trauma of miscutting had me wondering but no more.  Next I'll put the sleeves in the dress and then bring it in for my friend to try on . I'll measure for the hem, sew that, and then it will be on it's way. I think she'll be the prettiest bridesmaid there..............Bunny

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Let's tour the M'amm cave!

All  sorts of things happening in the cave today! It's a rainy Saturday and what better excuse to hunker down in the m'amm cave and have some fun. I have, for me, lots going on. First, what you see above are little bits and pieces that I am playing with to make into jewelry. I have really focused on this a lot lately and when I get something decent I will show you. I've been dyeing, smocking, beading, etc. on these. If nothing else, they have been great play and a wonderful respite at the end of the day. I always like to have a hand project and this little tote has all sorts of things to keep me busy while I watch a bit of TV at night.

I've been working on my friends dress and have decided on a separate lining but I have changed lining fabrics. I am now using a nude color instead of white and I think that will work better with the free hanging lining in case there  is a bit of peekaboo. I tell you, these fine knits, fine as in thin, are a bugger to get smooth and cut out. That was a major to do, but I got the dress all cut and will do the lining tomorrow. I have to give some thought to how I will connect the lining. With the cowl neck the facing of the cowl is caught in the shoulder seams. I just have to give it some thought.

It's my habit to work in a clean sewing space, but I really do sew so it can get  not so perfect and that's OK. FWIW,  I have no problem with those who have very messy sewing rooms. I understand that for many creatives, this is how they comfortably work. Myself, not so. I really have to have things in order before I can think creatively. Maybe it's an OCD thing, but whatever, it works for me. Every day that  I sew, I put everything away, fold things up. sweep the floor and then shut out the light. Next day I walk into my studio and I am ready to roar. Today I thought it might be fun to give a tour of my space, or the sewing part of it anyway, while I am actually on projects.

On the counter you can see my jacket project all cut and ready to go. It needs the lining cut. In the tote is everything for my friends dress, cut and folded and ready to sew.  My tablet and tiny speaker is cranking out the tunes. Today it was Mary Wells on Pandora. Love Mary Wells, really really love her. It's a great station. The tablet and tiny speaker are sitting on my new bead loom. Can't wait to get that all wired up!

The shelf is full of my favorite inspirations. The top shelf has jars of roving, laces, fabric paints, and cords. I will go row by row till we hit the counter. Under the top shelf are a few antique laces and eyelets. I have lots more in the cabinets below but I just love to look at these. Occasionally I will change the selection. Under the laces are antique canning jars filled with specialty threads like variegated flosses, metallic threads, pearl cottons, etc. On the shelf below are hand dyed woolens and odds and ends. Under that I have two rods, one holding foil (the type that goes on fabric), rolls of wigan, my favorite piping cord and fusible knit tapes. Below them are ribbons of all sorts. Under the ribbons are more jars filled with fabric markers, oil paints, shiva paint sticks, all sorts of embellishment goodies. To the left are my various rulers although I have a couple I keep always on the cutting table, my go-tos. There are rolls of tracing paper and that cup of water is for the iron.

To the right of all that is my sewing area. I have additional machines below in the cabinets. My window has a lovely view of the garden and is often visited by the local wildlife. The egg cups hold various types of pins. You do need more than one type of pin! There are brushes, markers, little tools. My inspiration board is on the right. I bring a bottle of seltzer down with me to drink while I sew but at the end of the day a glass of wine is in order. Today's choice is Pinot.  That little pill box by the serger holds all my machine needles in a lovely order with a different needle going in a different spot on the pill organizer. On another day I'll tour drawers and cabinets for you.

This shows my cutting area. Yup, it's the good old Joanns  cutting table which I really like. I've put a couple of organizers underneath. The one on the left holds ironing and marking tools. The one on the right is full of beading goodies. The shelf above is where I put patterns that just inspire me. I may or may not make them but I love to look at them. My cutters, rulers and glass weights are all on the table. That little white bowl holds pins. I love my lamp and keep my Mag Eyes and my tapes on it. It is perfectly handy to have those tapes right there while I am cutting and laying out or fitting on the dress form.

In an opposite corner are my magazines in boxes and all sorts of incidentals in the photo boxes. They hold zippers, findings, felted pieces, etc. There are a couple of patterns on top that I want to try. Lately I have been living barefoot every chance I can  so that explains the shoes. The broom is ready for the day's final sweep. My lining for the ikat jacket is hanging on the closet door.  And last but not least, my throne:

 My dear sewing friend Jerry did the monogram and I used a white matelasse bedspread for the fabric. I love how this chair came out and it is the pride and joy of my cave. The counters are normal counter height. So I don't get ergonomic nightmares,  the wicker box on the lower left holds my foot pedal about 9 inches off the ground.  So with the foot pedal raised and the chair adjusted I can sew for hours at a normal counter height with no problems.

I am lucky to have more space than I have shown. There is a large walk through closet and a good size room beyond. That holds fabrics and more. I'll save that for another day. Today I will stick with the pretties. Hope you enjoyed the tour of the end of a real sewing day ....Bunny

The Periwinkle Linen Dress

The Dandelion Dress served as the muslin for the Periwinkle Linen Dress. I love them both and they  are really both quite different as...