Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Details, details

I try to mix things up for my daughter...

 Especially when I'm making the same pattern over and over and over.  So for this run I took a bit of the leftover fabric from my blue and green blouse and made a collar and pocket for her.

Navy is *so* her color... wish I could get her to stand up straight and not do odd things when I'm taking pix.  10's that sort of age though, and she'll be ten very soon.

Having started to play with my pretty stitches, this time I finished the armhole and hem with the curvy stitch and then cut away the excess fabric.  (I'm sure it will wash away too).  

Originally I nearly kept this piece of fabric for myself - the botanical print is quite up my alley.  But I knew it belonged to her... and it does.  Yes, it's far more sophisticated than hot pink skelanimals, but so is very nearly anything.  ;)  She looks pretty and the style, collar and pocket keep the whole thing youthful.

One more dress for my little girl, and on to ... something else!   Probably shirts for DH.

Friday, April 25, 2014


Something I love that I'm not very good at:  Embroidery.  I keep trying, and ... uh... possibly I shouldn't shoot for the moon on my first exit from the harbor.  Anyway.

But I was daydreaming, pinning, and talking to my girls online when I realized... my sewing machine is marketed as an "heirloom machine" ... and it has any number of stitches that can look pretty awesome when done correctly, on the right fabric, and with embroidery thread.  (It's an Elna 6005).

So... I cut one of my peasant blouses (I had remnant of the same off-white fabric that I made the first blouse from) sewed it up right quick, and started to play.  This is a good blank canvas for this sort of play - lots of room, and the character is completely changed by what you choose to do.

Here's the first cuff I did.  First I found this nifty ruffled hemstitch.  I haven't used it before now - somehow in my head it was a decorative stitch that I wasn't much interested in.  Then I used the eyelet stitch... which can be snippy.  I used my awl from corsetmaking to pop out the holes.  On the cuffs themselves, they're gathered with three rows of elastic thread.  This is what I've done before*, but I wasn't excited by the look (even solidly covered with embroidery stitches.  The grey is a pencil mark.  It'll wash out).

So I'm trying something completely different on the neckline.  First I ran that ruffly stitch all the way 'round (the neckline minus the gathers is enormous) and then about twice that number of eyelets.  The plan is to run a ribbon through the eyelets to gather it up - I'll let you know if it works or not.  If not, I'll go back to elastic thread embroidered over for strength.

Anyway.  the cuff has (and I wish I took better pix, whitework isn't conducive to this) a row of embroidery below the tight bit, then three rows on the elastic.  The two outside are thick leaf/vines and the inner is shamrocks.

So - after I get this done, I'm going to break out the iron on patterns and start putting some hand embroidery ... and then I'll go back to sewing dresses for 9yo.  I like to have one over-the-top project, and it's nice to have something to do in the evenings when I'm too tired to tackle a new project or don't want to go sit in the patio for some reason.

I'm really excited about the hemstitch without bulk, and you're probably going to see too much of that.  :)

* Elastic thread:  You hand-wind (this is important) the elastic thread onto your bobbin, then use like regular bobbin thread.  I find it works best when used on a long stitch length and gathered.  It is NOT strong, even in multiples.  You can use it for a cuff as shown above, and you've seen me use it for a neckline.  I tried to use it on a waistline or two... and it snaps.  Even with tissue-weight fabric, that's more than it can handle.  Frankly, I always embroider over it for extra strength.  The waists I couldn't do that with, I needed the stretch to get them on/off... and yeah.

It's a good technique, but I hope to move to ribbons through eyelets or small buttonholes for finework.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Fuzziest Picture Ever

I am a little bummed because I "fixed" the armhole weirdness by making the armhole bigger, which was a bad plan.  Oh well, she can wear it over tshirts.  And I have plenty of scrap to cut new bodices for the other dresses.

In the meantime, I give you the fuzziest picture of a hot-pink dress ever!

It has a white w/neon flowers ribbon on the hem.  Because... why not?

And pockets, which she has her hands stuffed in.  :p

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Slowly Garnering Skill

All us Christian gals aspire to be like the Proverbs 31 wife.  But it takes time to become the successful businesswoman and head-of-household that she was.  So, I wanted to talk a little bit about my journey in sewing.

Now, where I am at this point in my sewing career is a place where, when I am careful, I can put together things that look as good as or better than RTW.  I'm not a meticulous person, but I've learned.  And because I am an individual, I can spend time picking good textiles instead of the cheapest-possible, I can fit things (well, I'm still learning) properly, and I can sew things together solidly so that they'll last.  Also, my work really *suits* the person that it goes to.

That said, if I were going to sell what I make, I'd want to be about twice as fast as I am now.  I'm just not there!  And I'd want to make far fewer mistakes and be better at finishing techniques.  

Sure, my quilting-cotton dresses for my daughter aren't the height of couture sewing.  Well.  No.  They're not.  But that hot pink dress is going to get worn all summer, likely slept in (she sleeps in the dresses that she's really fond of), have popsicles dripped on it, be thrown over wet bathing suits... there's just no point.  And machine sewing (even alligators) is stronger that hand-sewing.  Function, you know?  It took two blind-stitched hems that she ripped out to teach me that what was wanted was a regular RTW straight stitch.  Tacky 50 years ago ... but expected today.

I'm about 10 years younger than the Proverbs 31 woman.  In this stage of my life, I see my job as getting skills and practicing them, keeping my eyes out for what works, what doesn't, what pays and what doesn't.  I'm learning discernment and wisdom.  And raising my kids.

My kids are almost-10 and 13.  In five years, my son will be packing for college while my daughter is in her sophomore year of HS.  At that point, I'll have all the time in the world to market my sewing, if that's what needs to happen.  Or go back to school and get a counseling degree, which someone tells me I ought to do at least once a year.  Or ... whatever.  In five years I'll be 46.  Women in my family are long-lived... that gives me another 30 years before Social Security hits (assuming you are think we'll still have it, we'll all be 75 before we can get it).  That's 30 years to contribute to the family coffers.  Or even just 20... that ain't nothin, thank you.

My life is only over if you think of "life" as "fertile years" or "courtship years".  But in useful years?  Well.  That's another story.  And as for being the Proverbs 31 woman?  Come back in ten years... or 15... and we'll talk.  :)

I might not be there yet, but I aim to get there someday.  In the meantime, practice practice!


The roses are blooming!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

On the Sewing Table

Just a quick preview... because it's cool.  ;)

Making up some dresses for 9yo.  Picked this fabric up out of the remnants pile because I knew my daughter would squeal.  She did.

And then... I'm sitting there contemplating the eternal conundrum:  How do I finish these facings/make sure they don't flip up?

I could go couture and hand sew them.  No.  Not on a child's dress made of quilting cotton and covered with skelanimals.

I could do (insert assorted methods that don't work very well)

I could just sew them down like RTW.  Okay, but that's boring.  I could use a pretty stitch.  Hm... I wonder what ...


She squealed.  :)

Friday, April 18, 2014

Tidied up

It was a busy day setting up in the sewing room.

First I cut three dresses for my daughter - same pattern, different trim.  I've even cut a small peter-pan collar for one of them, we'll see how it plays out.  If it works, it will be *adorable*.  If not, we can just go with dress-as-is.

Then I got sick of my scraps attacking me and shoving things in my various stash keepers and having it attack.  While yes, I have a lot of fabric - especially after I got crazy at the fabric store and with that linen - some of it isn't stuff I'm sewing up right this second.  (I have quite a lot of wool that my mom has picked up when she's driven through the NW... aka where the Pendleton wool outlet store is.  Hoarding?  Yes.  Need a lot of wool in SoCal?  No, not really).  And while I *do* want to sew up a quilt some day - the scraps for same don't need premium real estate.

And anyway, things just sprawl out as you work in a space.  Or, well - in my workspaces they do.  So.

I've mentioned that I sew in an enclosed patio?  Okies.  So - left to right, top to bottom:
 Flannel scrap (baby toys, rice wraps, etc), quilt scraps, my suit pattern for the red suit (Gertie), and a pretty box my husband got me.
Next row - sheets to cut up for muslins/trial garments.  This is what happens when you start telling people, "I'll take your old sheets."  My embroidery bag.  A box of older patterns.
Next row:  Phone, starch, a tailor's ham and a box of odd notions.  My sewing notebooks, and a book on corsetry.  Box of patterns.  Box of lace & ribbon.  Box of patterns.
Bottom:  Betsy.  My sewing box.  Bags of current projects (I put all 9yo's dresses in individual bags, with the trims I thought would like nice with them.  I have a sundress in there too).  And then I have the white linen from the priests' garments.  I really must sew up those hats so I can give the bolt of fabric to the *church* to store.  They have more room than I do!  And a spinner of all the colors of thread that my BFF got me for Christmas.  It's come in quite handy... :)

Ironing board, sewing machine, proper stable table to sew on.  The chest mostly has fabric in it, as does a hope-chest you can't see in this picture.  And a couple of dresses that want ironing.

It's not super fabu, but I enjoy my space and spend a ton of time in it.  Hope you enjoyed seeing it!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Top Secret Post!

Okay.  Not like anyone who reads this blog knows my dad... but if you DO... don't tell!

When I went on my linen buying rampage, I found some great cold-beige/warm taupe linen.  I've been wanting to make my dad something, and he needs to wear long-sleeved shirts to keep out of the sun.  He used to wear styles similar to this in the Peace Corps (back in the daaaaay) and he wore them until they turned into rags... so I figure he'll like the pattern (the folkwear pattern I used for the priests' robes for church, only at shirt length).

SO pleased with how my very simple embroidery came out.  Really, other than some bits where the fold-overs are trying to unfold, I'm totally pleased with this shirt.

No one tell my dad!  :D  It's going to be an early birthday present.

Detail of the details

And the big (albeit rumpled) picture.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Random Rant: Quilts

I try very very hard to keep things super positive here... but sometimes a girl needs a break to complain about things that are totally unimportant.  Case in point:  The modern quilting hobby.

I *said* it was silly.

Quilting is a uniquely American craft.  It was born of having lots of little scraps of leftover fabric - and it took those bits of fabric, some time, some skill, and made beauty.  That's the *point* of quilting.  You take something you can't use in its current form and you transform it into something useful for generations.  IMO, that skill and craft contributes substantially to the beauty of the finished product.

Every step away from the original function takes something away from the craft itself.

I don't mind the new quilts.  Okay.  Sometimes I do.  But ... I mind that half of them aren't big enough to cover a child's bed - and aren't meant to be washed and cried on and hugged.  They're just for doing, just for pretty.  Maybe hang on a wall (but aren't our homes well-enough insulated?) or over a couch-back.  They can be pretty.  Some of them can be stunning.  But - if you bought a kit, and stitched it up right quick, and didn't even quilt it down yourself... is that even the same craft?

See, crafts are taking something raw and making it better through the skill in your hands.  That skill takes time to develop.  Time is something that no matter the craft, I see people uninterested in developing.  And *that* is destroying all the crafts.  There are legions of people who can do things to the "quick and simple" level, or a few steps up.  There are so few who are willing to cry and swear and sweat over the "doing it from scratch" moments.

This has been bugging me since my days (more than twenty years ago) when I worked in a craft store.  I'd watch people pick up disposable bits and pieces and walk out the door.  All they wanted was something to entertain them for an afternoon or three.  Waste of time.  Waste of material.  All because it was easier.  -shakes head-

There are so many true crafts, at all levels of skill, and they all make for beauty you can keep for generations.  Am I the only one here with embroidered tea-towels, special linens for holidays, latch-hooked rugs, quilts... I even have a christening gown (and we don't do christenings)!  (It's stunning white embroidery on white batiste - drool).

There is substantial beauty in taking simple things and making them lovely.

Rant over.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Shirts: A lot of the same thing that aren't the same

I finished the last bits of the navy blouse today.  First, here's the blouse:

 This isn't true to color, it's a very sheer cotton eyelet (yes, that's the hanger you can see through the shirt).  Better picture of the color lower down.  I used a green crocheted lace as the trim and wooden buttons.  I thought this brought out "feminine and natural" well.

For the topstitching, I used green thread that matches the lace.  I thought it was a nice touch.  Subtle, but the eye does pick these things up.  :)

And this is how I'll wear it tonight, for date night.  Blue blouse, rose skirt, leather-rose accessories.  I'm going to feel a little like a fairy-tale... but that's sort of the idea.  :)

You can see how this stuff comes together... I'm really excited about the wardrobe that God has me building.  I love all the pieces separately and together they're expressing exactly what I want them to express...

(That's Nadia, our eldest cat, in the top left-hand corner.   She likes to sleep on our bed in the daytime).

Now that I've made FOUR of these shirts, I'm done with the pattern for a good long while.  (Vogue 1260 from Sandra Betzina if you want one of your own).

Pattern notes:  The only really odd thing is that the button placket is cut on the bias, which led to some very strange stretching and wrinkling in the lighter cottons.  The heavier cotton lace and the linen didn't worgle up like that.  I just went with it, particularly with the navy blouse, it looks like a design feature.

If I make this again in a light fabric, I think I will cut the placket on the straight-of-grain.  

And this is how you make four blouses that don't look at all alike... even though they're cut exactly the same.  I chose very different fabrics and very different trims for each blouse.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Cycles, Linen and Life

So, I was powering through sewing like a madwoman, and DH brought home a copy of a beta game, and asked me if I'd like to play with him... so I've been playing computer games.  Along about that time, my normal cycle of energy went from full-throttle to dead stall (which is normal).   I get really annoyed at this lack of energy, there is SO MUCH I want to do!  But this week God gave me some insight... because when I was sewing like a madwoman, I wasn't writing, I wasn't getting introspective.  So, my times of quiet body are times of busy brains, and maybe that's okay.  Anyway that shirt I was going to finish "tomorrow" is finished except I want to re-insert the collar and I need to make buttonholes/put in buttons/figure out what I'm doing with the shoulders if anything.  I could finish it in two hours... not sure when that two hours will be.

In the meantime, my favorite online fabric place had a linen sale.  Linen is a very practical fabric here in SoCal - I bought a ton.  :) All but the coral has been washed up and is ready to use (I wash fabric as soon as I get it and store it clean and ready-to-go).  (But even though I"m pretty confident in this company and things being dye-fast, I give an initial washing in similar colors.  Red & blue aren't similar colors, so coral is still in the laundry.

Here's the fabric straight out of the box.  Getting these colors photographed true is a miserable job... and some of that has bitten me in the tail.  The coral is the only one I've not re-photographed.  It's for me, I'm going to make a button-down with it.

This is a french-blue linen (allegedly) hanging in the sun - this is as true to color as I can snap a pic.  This was SUPPOSED to be a shirt for my hubs, but in the picture online, it was much darker and appeared much finer grain.  It's nice fabric, but it's not shirting.  A casual dress?  A casual *short* dress?  Not for *me*, I look horrible in this color...

Yarn-dyed white and aqua linen.  This comes out as an ice aqua.  Ice colors, as opposed to pastel colors, are very hard to find.  My mom is a Winter, and I snagged this for her.  (Don't tell, it'll be a present).  (No, she doesn't read my blogs).

 Not sure why this looks purple.  In the photo online it was darker... anyway, it's periwinkle.  MUCH colder IRL than it was online, and it'll thus be a shirt for DH rather than a shirt for me.

Baby Blue.  Also destined to be a button-down for DH.

Taupe/beige:  A long-sleeved shirt for my dad (don't tell!).

Linen acquisition and cyclic exhaustion have rearranged my sewing priorities.  On top of the table (after I finish that shirt) are a slip for my daughter (so she can wear her white dress), the shirt for my dad (his bday si coming up) and my Easter dress.  After that?  I don't know!  I do know I have gardening to do, and my yard is rioting.

Lots of creativity here *always*, because that's how I roll.  :)