Friday, January 23, 2015

Contemplative Sewing

Atlanta-based designer Marie de George recently had a studio sale. Evidently she does this to clear the studio for the coming year. It was fun to see her studio and hear about her adventures in couture. She makes commissioned pieces for her clients, traveling to NYC for appointments with fabric merchants to select fabric for a specific commission. And so she has remnants.
before pulling the thread to roll it

One remnant I bought is a silk chiffon in a tortoise shell print. It is so beautifully printed that it is nearly impossible to tell the front from the back. And I just love those colors.

My purchase included one remnant that was about 2 yards long and about 54 inches wide, plus what looks like a discarded skirt lining. Right now I am in the process of converting the large piece into a scarf.

First up was straightening the end where she had cut out her garment pieces. That proved more challenging than I expected because the pulled threads seemed to evaporate into the design.

True confession: I have never used a hand-rolled hem to finish anything. I've practiced that clever little hand-stitch in several group classes but I have never used it. It is high time I learn this skill, I think!
After tightening the thread, causing it to roll

So after squaring the unsquare end, I removed the selvages and machine stitched all the way around it, about 1/4" away from the raw edge. I now know that it is not necessary, but it's proving to be helpful to me in this very clumsy stage of learning.

Next I starched it with Mary Ellen's Best Press starch. It made the piece less slippery and now it smells like lavender.

Then I read the hand-outs I had so carefully saved. Several different hand-outs, actually. And then I read them again. huh?

Yes, it is much easier when someone is showing you how to do this. Too bad I didn't take on a serious project right after one of the sewing sessions!

I lucked out, finding a youtube video that proved to be very helpful. Though Ami Simms on the video is mostly a quilter, she knows how to demonstrate a hand-rolled hem. She's a lefty, and I'm not, but her narrative combined with her sewing made it very easy to follow.

The 1/4 inch machine stitching is making it easier for me to turn the fabric with my thumb. As shown in the video, I trim it down to about 1/8 inch for a few inches at a time. 

I've learned that I can only make a pretty stitch if it's day time, and if I'm sitting next to the window, and if I have a white table top supporting the silk. Oh, I have to have my Ott light pointed directly at the silk. Am I going blind?

I'm not happy with corners yet, so I my need to add a bead.

When I need a little break, I work on this small project involving the split back-stitch. This stitch is not nearly so challenging. I like it better than the stem stitch for outlining.

And when I get bored with both of these (or have too little light), I will go back to this vest project:

So, what are you up to?


  1. That wonderful fabric will make a gorgeous scarf, especially with a hand-rolled hem. I do as you did: machine stitch about 1/4" from the edges and trim to about 1/8" or less a few inches at a time. I also incorporate a single taut thread into the hem around which I roll the hem, and keep the edge I'm sewing on taut by holding one end under the presser foot (it acts as a third hand) as I'm working on an area 8-12 inches ahead. I understand the light and vision situation. Not long ago I picked up a counted-thread piece I had discontinued working on oh, maybe 35 years ago, intending to pick up where I left off. Yikes! I immediately ordered the strongest reading glasses yet in my collection of reading glasses and hope that, along with daylight, does the trick. Good luck on all your well-done projects.

  2. I remember my mother sewing hand rolled hems on different things. As I recall, she did beautiful work (of course, I'm sure I'm biased). I don't remember that I've ever tried. What beautiful fabric you are working with.

  3. This is inspiring. I had a friend who made me a scarf with a hand rolled edge once. I remember thinking what a precious gift that was. So much time , technique and love goes into that kind of thing.
    A rolled hem is now on my bucket list!

  4. I have to admit some fear and trepidation when it comes to hand rolled hems. So fussy! But sooner or later, I'll face up to it and do one. When I run out of excuses.
    That's wonderful fabric - your scarf will be beautiful!
    I've been doing a lot of hand stitching lately, too. Embroidery on felt pieces I made. A major refresher course that's been lots of fun! Coming soon to my blog. I promise.