Saturday, December 31, 2011

Gift in action

Fun to see on DGD3.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


For some time now, I've wanted to try out some of the more off-beat feet that go with my 1956 Singer Featherweight. Since reading some of David Coffin's shirt-making book, I have aspired to use the narrow hemmer. This one is supposed to produce a 1/8 inch double-folded hem.

Well, let me just say, BLEEHHHHH!

But I digress. The best advice I've found online is this:

  1. Press the beginning of the hem into place and start by simply top-stitching, bypassing the hemmer mechanism completely.
  2. Then after an inch or so, stop with the needle down and begin to fiddle with the fabric about to feed under the needle, twisting it until it falls into the little groove of the spiral or corkscrew.
  3. Then begin to sew, holding the fabric slightly aloft, aligning the left raw edge with the left mark on the foot, and the fold matched up with the right mark on the foot.
This creates a nice fold and a lovely straight stitch but the stitch is to the left of the fold, not on the fold.

So sorry for this truly boring post. But I wondered. Do any of you have advice?

Never mind. That particular little foot does not go with that particular little machine. Mama's 1950 Singer uses it though, and it makes satisfactory narrow hem.

On to the Nikko jacket!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Lone Star

Lone Star Quilt for DH.
I think he likes it. I hope so. He's standing on his tiptoes - it really is long enough for his 6 foot frame.
A reminder of our Texas roots.
Our 27th year married begins today. A nice thought.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Midwinter shibori

Fresh cranberries. Still drying.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Right for Now

Just a few more gifts I will enjoy making, still in my head, about to transfer to my hands. Here are two that are right for today. The bag based on a free pattern here.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


When I was in high school, I took a job over the Christmas holidays at Titche's Department Store in Dallas Texas, as a gift-wrapper. I absolutely loved it. All those special little do-dads to add to the top of a package, double-sided tape so the construction was hidden, and fun stuff to wrap.

I still like it, in small doses. Now I recycle old Christmas cards, use pattern tissue from patterns that were never meant to be, and cut out shapes with construction paper.

December brings with it memories, in this case a fond memory.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Not Right Yet

It seemed like a good idea. It is not. This picture has convinced me. The white pique underskirt just looks weird. Like a hospital gown under a dress. Not adorable and sweet like its intended owner. Thoughts...

  • Remove the underskirt completely. Then it's just a tunic with leggings.
  • Cut the underskirt shorter than the overskirt and then it's a petticoat.
  • Cut it off, add lace and let the lace show a little? Too much?
  • What else?
Note to self: enjoy the design process too ;) Often it's good to set it aside and wait on the finishing work.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sewing Small - One Ensemble Completed

Finished ensemble for DGD1. Finished the jumper yesterday and today, the acid green (yes!) leggings and t-shirt. Oh to be young enough to wear acid green leggings and look cute. And she will.

And I miss her.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Puttin' on the Ritz

This is a close as we get. DH and I went to the Fox Theater which gave me an opportunity to test out my new dress-up outfit last week.

  • High Five Jacket from Shapes - interesting sheer fabric of unknown content
  • Hearts A Flutter Shell from Cutting Line Designs - black silk crepe
  • Plaza Pants from the Sewing Workshop - black silk crepe

I have always loved playing dress-up.

Sewing in the Small

'Tis the season for me to become overly ambitious about making gifts for my loved ones.

This little jumper is for DGD1. Corduroy from the big box store, but I really, really like the print. And she likes peace signs. My little hippie GD. Quilt cotton piping and nice blouse fabric to line the bodice. Still needs some hand-sewing to attach the lining properly.

Now this little ensemble needs acid green t-shirt and leggings underneath. Non?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

More Sashiko

The older I get, the more I need to have needle and thread in my hands. Sashiko is a technique that allows me to do just that. I should add more to garments I make.

gift card bag - how silly!

party purse inside

Sashiko with wrapped thread technique (Spirit Cloth)
In the meantime, it is that gift-giving time of year, that time of year when I vicariously design and construct oh so many hand-made gifts. A few actually come into being. Here are two.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Fussy Fabric; Simple Styles

My most recent projects have been quite fussy in terms of fabric choice: black textured sheer that does not like the iron, and black, black four-ply silk that my eyes don't like. But of course I love both pieces. They will be lovely to wear.

Just noticed I took the pictures before removing my basting thread from the armscye of the shell. Oops!
Two of my TNT patterns were used - Hearts A Flutter from Cutting Line designs for the shell, and the Plaza pants pattern from The Sewing Workshop. I'm really glad I was able to use these relatively simple patterns to accommodate these trying fabrics. Both of these were made from the four-ply silk purchased at Mood in NYC by sewing friend Patsy.

The jacket, described in a previous blog, was made from mystery fabric that almost certainly has mostly synthetic fabric. It is a novelty piece and perfect for the incredibly simple jacket designed by Louise Cutting and Linda Lee. It is the High Five from their joint pattern line, Shapes. I used remnants of the above four-ply silk to make a Chinese knot to use as a simple button closure.

Now I am totally ready to make something from fabric that is neither black nor fragile!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

High Five for the Holidays

My High Five Jacket is almost complete. All that is needed is the right closure. I'll probably go to Gail K to see what is there. Or I might create Chinese ball button out of a solid black silk remnant. It doesn't need much. The fabric is the focus with this garment, I think.

This sheer and textured fabric was purchased on a trip to Toronto to visit DSIL several years ago. She too loves to sew garments. She took me to a small designer workshop where the bolt ends are sold in a small room just off their cutting room. There was a glass window into the cutting room that was fascinating. And we were able to walk through their show room where they have sample garments.

It will be fun to wear during the holiday season.

Happy Thanksgiving to all. May our fiber creations still fit after Thursday.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pressing matters, but don't burn the fingers!

As any sewist will attest, pressing does matter. In fact sometimes we press more than we sew. This is definitely true with the Shapes High Five Jacket designed by Louise Cutting and Linda Lee.

The jacket is basically a kimono with a jewel neckline and exaggerated drop-shoulder sleeve seams. It is composed of 5 pieces, approximately rectangular. The edges of the jacket are finished by folding under 0.25 inches, then a full inch, and then they are top-stitched close to the first folded edge. Corners are mitered. Pressing is the key to making all of this finish nicely. I love stuff like this!

A long time ago I learned a keen little trick for pressing a tiny fold without burning fingers. I use an ivory silk organza pressing cloth - it is easy to manipulate, loves the iron and is fairly transparent.

  • Place the pressing cloth on the ironing board first. 
  • Put the fabric to be pressed under, on top of the pressing cloth. The fabric should be wrong side up and there should be several inches of pressing cloth showing beneath the raw edge. 
  • Place a tag board template or straight edge 1/4 inch from the raw edge of the fabric.
  • Wrap the pressing cloth tightly around the fabric enclosing the template so that 1/4 inch of raw edge folds over the template.
  • Use the excess pressing cloth to hold the fold tautly while pressing.

I love little tricks like this.

This fabric has quite a bit of synthetic content and so requires that the pressing be done quickly. Otherwise it may melt. Despite the synthetic content, it seems to be pressing adequately to enable the needed top-stitching.

template in place for 1 inch press

template in place for 1/4 inch press
After pressing
Happy Thanksgiving to those of us in the states. And happy holidays to all.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sashiko Stockings

A new member of our clan arrived in June - Noah. Here is his recently completed stocking alongside his older siblings' stockings. It's satisfying to welcome this new cheerful little boy with a small tradition.

Following Nancy Shriber's technique for sashiko, I used silk dupioni with cotton flannel backing. The stitching is done from the back following a traced pattern. This time I used a red cotton thread similar to DMC pearl cotton.  It is lined with an interfaced quilt cotton, and trimmed with piping from another piece of silk dupioni.

It was another zen moment with sashiko. I hope to spend much of this season with needle and thread in hand. Maybe some silk sashiko amulets as gifts?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

ACA Jacket

My version of the Cutting Line Design "A Cute Angle" Jacket is more-or-less complete now.

The fashion fabric is a silk matka, probably from A generous sewing friend was cleaning out her sewing room and offered this for free. It was a little challenging to sew but I do like the color scheme and I think it is a good fit with this pattern. The lining is an inexpensive China silk from Vogue fabrics.

Sewing challenges included...

  • Lining - The pattern is unlined but silk matka really needs lining, I think. Louise Cutting suggested creating lining pieces to attach to the facing, and then attaching jacket to lining at the neckline after completing each. I had to try some other things before I realized, yes, there is a reason she is the pattern designer and I am the customer. In the end I pretty much sewed as she suggested. I did have to play around a bit with the top-stitching that holds the back pleat in place. Without lining, this is done after the facing is put in place. The top-stitching does not show much on this matka, so it was possible to start and stop top-stitching as the assembly required.
  • Fabric - smells when pressed with a steam-iron. Not always easy to penetrate, even with new needle and nice glass-head pins. Strange fabric. I should probably burn it. This was sort-of a trial piece, but I do hope to wear it some.
  • Shoulder pads - I have square shoulders, less pronounced than when I was slim, but still quite square. I'm never confident in my selection of shoulder pads. I may replace these with smaller petal pads. The current shoulder pads are intended more for a high set-in sleeve, I think.
  • On-going - the fabric is slightly saggy in front. May decide to let out the facing a tad. Also I like these fish buttons, but the fish slip around and look sickly. And it may be a bit big around the middle. That can be tweaked with a new placement for the button. Not sure yet. Ideas welcome!
But I do love this pattern -
  • Asymmetric front and back.
  • Great opportunities for top stitching.
  • Fabulous pattern drafting
  • Classic, yet a little different

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Finding Godets

Well, these are probably gussets, but I like the word godet better.

Thanks to a suggestion from Terri K and help from my sewing sista's at ASG retreat this past weekend, my Stella top is finally finished and even wearable. I started this a while back, very soon after TWS issued this new pattern. My first attempt led to some frustration as the hips were entirely too tight. I probably should have made a muslin, but maybe I would not have added the gussets. And I like the gussets.
gusset over hip

In order to insert gussets, I opened up the side seams (which had been serged). Then I tried on the top to see how far they wanted to gape at the hip. This gave me a fair idea how big the gussets needed to be. Then I cut two rectangles of fabric on the bias and slipped them under the openings in the side. Next I just top-stitched them in place.

June at retreat was able to see that one gusset looked pretty good and the other was wonky. Wonky in a bad way. So I removed the wonky piece, placed that rectangle over the good gusset, and traced the correct placement with chalk. Then I just slipped the wonky gusset back under the opening at the hip, aligning the chalk marks with the seams and top-stitched it back on. This process took lots of careful pressing along the way, but that's the gist of it.

Friends at the retreat pointed out that the gussets actually mimic the neckline on this top and so the gussets are a nice design detail. Of course, I worried that the gussets would simply scream "My hips are too big so I had to add some fabric here." But I don't think that happened in the end.

TSW gallery piece

It is still a bit funky. You can see that in the gallery pieces at TSW web site. The grain line on the front of the shirt is just slightly on the bias, but I'm sure it is intentional. This gives the shirt a little kick at the front and (with my bias gussets) at the side. I think I like it.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Sewing with Knits - Christine Jonson Travel Trio I

This past weekend Pam Howard once again gave an excellent class on knits for ASG Atlanta. I started a pair of the Christine Jonson Travel Trio I pants - a pattern I've used four times now. I sewed some and left totally inspired by her garments, techniques and enthusiasm. Thanks, Pam!

This week, I finished the pants and a matching top from the same pattern out of a ponte knit I purchased at Mary Jo's in Gastonia, NC. It is very soft and easy to work with. And I loved using Pam's technique for finishing seam edges, though of course no finish is really needed with these knits. It does produce some nice top-stitching on the outside. I think that one of reasons Pam's garments are so nice is the fabulous top-stitching she does. That's not the only reason, but it is one.

After the pants and top from ponte, I decided to take advantage of the new ballpoint needle to make a couple more knit garments. Knits are quick and mostly satisfying. The next project was another top, this time in slinky or ITY. I don't know the difference between them. I should google that...

That particular top looks cute, I think, but I really don't like working with the fabric. I always get lured into buying it because the colors are so great. Then it slips and slides and I don't end up wearing the garments much. I guess I really do love wearing all-natural fibers more. I must remember that the next time a slinky or other poly knit hooks a finger in my direction.

The final project in my knits binge was the Travel Trio I wrap jacket. I read Robin Denning's PR review and noted that she had to remove some of the bulk in the front. I too found that to be the case and may cut some off both sides. This will eliminate the asymmetric aspect but I think I'll like it better with less bulk around my middle.

What do you think?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Tale of Two Blouses

Love two new patterns that have just been issued:

Though I seem to be in a bit of a slump, I am forging on with some successes, some UFO's. CLD A Cute Angle blouse is now finished. I learned a lot and will love wearing this. Focus on lessons learned...

Stella is (evidently) a UFO. Thought I had finished it, but it's too tight in the hips. Of course, I should have made a muslin, but sometimes I am very, very stubborn. OK, now what? Vents, maybe.


Is this when you just make a quilt?

Monday, October 24, 2011

New Baby

Today my sweet friend sold me her Singer featherweight 222K, vintage 1955. I am so excited and cannot wait to sew on her. It is amazing how light she is given her age. She is almost as old as I am. And I am not light.

Baby has no bobbins but I found a source online. She seems to purr as she sew little invisible seams. Evidently the bed extension can be removed, leaving a tiny free arm for sewing small areas. And she has the ability to drop the feed dogs. This feature was for darning, back in the day. Today it is for free-motion stitching. Amazing.

Dear friend also gave me the original manuals and retro carrying case.

Yes, I am a sewing machine nerd.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Magic Feathers

Sashiko is one of my favorite forms of zen sewing. Another I have just learned about is the Magic Feather project, created by Jude of Spirit Cloth. Her videos are succinct, yet clear and inspiring. The feathers she has posted have all been lovely, yet each different. I have just made two magic feathers. This is my first.

Then I continued making little sashiko gifts cases from Nancy Shriber:

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Most Expensive Fabric

This piece contains the most expensive fabric I have ever sewn. Even though the sewing involves few details and mostly straight sewing, I have found myself procrastinating and even doing housework instead of finishing this.

I've bought and sewn expensive fabric before, but it was always my fabric, my project, my set of mistakes to turn into design opportunities. No so, here. It is part of a group project to create new vestments for my church.

face fabric, lining sandwich on denim
Also I have discovered that my particular part of the team project, the alter fall, is more like a home dec project than it is like garment sewing. It is large and heavy. The tapestry (the expensive stuff - maybe $200 per yard?) ravels like crazy. It is built on a base of heavy denim and get more and more unwieldy as I progress.

It has reminded me how much I enjoy making garments. Even little tiny garments for grandchildren. And I don't like sewing to spec either. I like total freedom.

It's a good thing I never had to support myself and family with sewing. We would have all starved to death.

I am on my way to church for a *fitting.*

I will finish this within the next 24 hours. I swear promise.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Shirt for DGS4

Finished Shirt
Nearly a year ago, I found this shirt-weight cotton football fabric at a quilt shop (Sew 'N' Sew, I think) in Summerville SC. DGS4's parents are Clemson fans.  DGS4 is playing football this fall. He's about to have a birthday. And I just had a lesson on collars and collar stands at City-wide Couture. The stars aligned and I made this shirt.

Thought I had found a good pattern in my stack of Ottobre magazines. I wanted to practice Lorraine's techniques. I was only a little disappointed when I realized the collar and collar stand were a single shaped piece. This was a good-news-bad-news situation. On the one hand, I really wanted to try the cool techniques; on the other hand, maybe my first-run would be better on a larger garment. A larger garment for me.

Clean finish on yoke
Hot-dog method for yoke
Ottobre instructions are terse but, in this case, they had a fairly good description of how to make sure the yoke has a clean finish on the inside and outside. It's just like the method described for making pillow cases for ConKerr Cancer, I think. I just love little details like this.
Neckline before attaching buttons

Gotta clip the neck before attaching collar
The rest of the instructions were more typical of Ottobre. Fine, if you know what you are doing.

DGS4 lives in a warm climate so I made the sleeves short. That took a bit of guess work, trying to figure correct proportions from DH's shirt. In fact, it was fun to keep DH's shirt in the sewing room with me to try to duplicate as many of the details as possible.

I'm pleased with the resulting shirt. Hope DGS4 is too, but I'm going to a big box store to buy a Lego set just in case ;)

So now I'm dreaming of the Hibiscus shirt from Sewing Workshop for me. Maybe it has a real collar with separate collar stand. And a real placket, and...