Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The No Sew Zone

Yes, it's a No Sew Zone around here right now. I haven't sewn a stitch lately. It's partly because I haven't had a moment to spare, and partly because I'm just not motivated right now. I'm not sure yet what I'm going to do to jumpstart my creativity, but I may start something brand new.
In any case, since I don't have anything new to share, and because I don't like posting without at least one picture, I'm sharing this little dress from Savannah's Closet:

This is Savannah's first Christmas Dress, or the first dress she had made specifically for Christmas. As opposed to her First Christmas dress, which would be the dress she would have worn on her first Christmas. Okay, I'm confusing myself now. Anyway... I never really loved this dress. I wanted more color. Like a red dress. But this was the only small scale Christmas print I could find at that time, so this is what I used. I like it, it's just not one of my favorites. I'm pretty sure I used Ellen McCarn's Ultimate Yoke Dress Pattern, and the smocking plate is Gingham & Ribbons from Little Stitches. Savannah was about 18 months old when she wore this.

This is the first, and come to think of it, the last smocking design I've done featuring ribbon woven through it. I ought to try this again. It's kinda cute.

Well, I'm going to go thumb through some back issues of sewing magazines and maybe look through my smocking plates. I'm thinking that maybe a brand new project will get the juices flowing again. I know I should work on my Works in Progress, but sometimes ya just gotta do what ya gotta do to get motivated. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Back to the Blog

Oh my, it's been over a week since my last post. I've been a bad, bad, blogger.

Actually, there just hasn't been much to blog about. I've been in a sort of sewing slump. I guess it's the holidays- you know, the cleaning, decorating, shopping, and general stressing that comes with the Christmas Season.

I do have smocked sleeves for Sweet Arabella and a lightening raid on Joann's yielded two cottons which are suitable for piping, so I plan to get back to work on that project and hopefully have it finished this weekend.

I've also done a few rows of smocking on Winter Garden. I decided to go with a light blue floss, because the thought of smocking 38 rows of trellis in white was enough to make me die of boredom before I even started, and because I just felt like I needed to "blue down" this fabric.

It's hard to tell in the photo, but the red is very strong in this print, and since I plan to use red ginham as an accent, I thought using blue for the smocking would be the best way to go. I guess we'll see.

And I really did make a muslin, just like I said in my last post. I still don't have a picture of me in it, so I'm breaking down and showing it on a hanger in front of my cluttered sewing room bookshelf.

This is Simplicity 3622, view C. You'll just have to look past the mis-matched calicos, and the fact that they make the dress look like a designer hospital gown. The real fabric is much prettier, however, when I went to cut it out earlier this week I found that it had a stain on it, so off to the washer it went. I was in the groove, though, so I went ahead and cut out view A, the long sleeved, V-neck knit version, and crossed my fingers hoping that the adjustments I made to view C would carry over to view A. I don't know yet because I have just barely started sewing it. It's on my list of things to finish up by this weekend. In fact, my iron should be warmed up by now, so off I go to press the neck seam allowance under!

Friday, November 30, 2007

I Made a Muslin!

I decided I wanted to do something simple to get ready for the challenge of the plaid dress, so I pulled this pattern out and made a muslin. I don't have a picture yet, because I'm at home alone, but this weekend I'll get one of the kids to take a picture to share. I made view C, which is the black and white version on the left. My buddy, Angie, calls this dress the "Duro That Wouldn't Die". And she's right. It is kind of "Duro-esque". It's a loose-fitting, pullover dress with contrast front bands and a contrast sash to cinch it in under the bust. This dress, however, has a little bit more structure, and it's a bit more modest and appropriate for work. Yes, I'm talking about the neckline.

I'm happy to report that the dress is easy and quick to make. There are no real challenges here. I was worried about fit, but I only need to do a few minor adjustments before making the real dress. After the Great Duro Disaster of '05 (my Duro turned out big enough to fit my husband- like an ugly maternity top- even though I followed the measurement chart) I was afraid this dress would run big, after all, it's a pullover- you have to be able to get in and out of it over your head. It doesn't. I think the ease is just right... at least for me.

I can't wait to get started on the real dress this weekend. I'll share more as I go along.

Monday, November 26, 2007

While I Have Sleeves on my Mind...

... I thought I'd share this photo real quick:

This is a little dress I made for the Princess when she was about a year old. I used a pattern called Blue Bonnet from AS&E #52, but the smocking design is "Ellen" by Ellen McCarn. The dress is white batiste smocked in pale blue and yellow, one of my all time favorite color combinations for little girl dresses. But the reason I'm sharing, is because of the wonderful sleeves. The sleeves are why I made this particular pattern. They were cut extra long and the excess was folded back and then the double thickness was pleated. Then the sleeves were smocked all the way to the bottom folded edge, resulting in a "smocked cuff" effect. This dress was just stunning on the Princess- I loved it so much I made the exact same dress in seafoam green and smocked it in pink. Sometimes it's just one element of a project that makes me fall in love with it, and for this dress it was definately the sleeves. Sometime (soon) I will have to make a new dress with sleeves like this.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Let's Smock Some Sleeves!

The sleeves for Sweet Arabella are all cut, pleated, and ready to go. Smocking sleeves is easy. Easier in fact, than an insert or a bodice, because they're smaller. You just have to go about it in the right order.
First, of course, you have to cut them out. A smocked sleeve will usually be just a little bit longer than an un-smocked sleeve because you need the room for the smocking and for a little bit of "ruffle" left below the smocking.

After you cut the sleeve out, before doing anything else, you pleat it according to your pattern instructions. You just have to remember to make your pleating threads longer than your sleeve is wide, because you're going to need to be able to smooth the sleeve out flat after it's pleated.

Once you've got your sleeve pleated and flattened out nicely, it's time to finish the edge. The pattern for Sweet Arabella called for a 1/4 inch hem with twin needle top-stitching in a contrast color. I don't really like the idea of contrasting topstitching on this dress, so I decided to just do a plain narrow hem, which you can see in the photo above. At this point you could also finish the sleeve by adding lace, or rickrack, or whatever edging you like. Now is also the time, while you have the sleeve flat, to run your gathering stitches across the cap.

Now, with the sleeve edge finished and the gathering stitches in, you can pull up your pleating threads and get ready to smock.

I don't bother to block sleeves. I just pull up the threads until the pleats are nice and close and I start smocking. The smocking will act sort of like elastic when it's done, and it will stretch to fit a little arm. As you can see, I've left about an inch flat on either side of the sleeve. This is because you don't want to smock all the way from seam allowance to seam allowance. You want to leave a little bit flat under the arm so that the sleeve will be comfortable and it will lay right while it's worn. I do have the center marked, and that's where I will start so that I can center the smocking on the sleeve. I'll have to see where the repeat ends once I get going- I may need to pick up an extra pleat or two at the side (or I may need to drop a pleat or two) to get the smocking to end at a good point. I don't like half finished motifs.

So that's what I will be doing this afternoon- getting these sleeves smocked and ready for construction. The biggest challenge as far as getting this dress finished is finding a suitable fabric to make the piping. I've been scouring my stash, but no luck yet. Because this dress is all one fabric (no contrast collar, sleeve bands, etc.) the piping is a crucial detail. I need just the right shade of wine or teal, either will do, and I can't seem to find either!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

T2... Done!

T2 is done!

Here's a closeup of the poodle since the last picture I posted wasn't so hot:

You can see all the French knots and the turquoise microcheck minipiping I made just for this. I made one major change to the pattern this time. I lengthened the sleeves to full length, widened them slightly, and made an elasticized wrist. I'm pleased with how it turned out. The Princess is, too.

As much as I like this pattern, and even though I have yet another idea to make it, I'm going to give it a rest for a little while. I got the sleeves cut and pleated for Sweet Arabella last night, and I still have Winter Garden on my mind. And of course, if I can get through a project without the Sewing Gremlins showing up, I'd like to get started on the plaid dress. I'm thinking Temily might be a nice pattern for Spring....

Friday, November 23, 2007

Sewing Paralysis

Well, with the holiday, it's a four day weekend for me, and I was all ready to get started on this:

Yeah, it's the McCalls pleated dress and a plaid fabric. The fabric is really pretty- a pink and brown combo that I really like, and I was thinking of doing view B, the one with the straight skirt and the pleated neckline. But.....

My last two sewing projects have run into some major problems. First there was the Zipper Incident while working on the High Waisted Skirt, and then just the other night, I had a horrifying serger accident while working on T2 (which still is not finished.) I decided to serge the side front seams before topstitching them down, and somehow, my fabric got hung up under the knife and I ended up cutting a huge gash in the side front piece. Thank goodness it was the side piece and not the center front or I probably would have chunked the serger through the window. I was able to fix it, but it was time-consuming and disheartening.

So now I am experiencing some sewing paralysis. After two serious blunders, I'm questioning the wisdom of starting a plaid project. Am I just asking for another disaster? I'm going to spend some time working on T2 this afternoon (I've promised the Princess she can wear it to school Monday, so I better get busy) and I'm going to finally cut the sleeves for Sweet Arabella and get them pleated and smocked. Maybe if these two projects go smoothly, I'll feel motivated to get going on the dress.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving, Y'all!

Happy Thanksgiving! Don't forget to take a few minutes and give special thanks for the important things in your life. I'm thankful for Jesus Christ, my saviour, and for my family: my husband, my four boys, and the Princess.
I hope your Thanksgiving is Happy!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The High Waisted Skirt

Here it is, finally... Vogue 8425, the High Waisted Skirt:

Sorry about the crummy indoor photo, but it got COLD today.

What can I say? I LOVE this skirt. I love the way it looks, the way it feels, and I just love having a skirt sit at my real waist for a change.

This skirt was super easy (if you don't count that horrible blunder with the invisible zipper that I blogged about previously!) I made the skirt out of inexpensive gabardine from Hancock Fabrics. I cut an 18, but I figured I'd have to take it in somewhat, so I sewed the complete front and the complete back, and then sewed the side seams last. I ended up taking it in to a 16 at the waist and just a smidge more than a 16 through the hips. I probably could even go all the way down to the 16 since I'll be wearing it with pantyhose and a slip. I made view A without the belt loops. I like the wide cummerbund type waist and don't want to wear a belt with this. The shorter length is perfect for me. I think it hits me right at the best spot on my leg. I did not line the skirt since I'll be wearing a slip but I did serge all the inside seams. I used a very heavy interfacing on the waist facings, in fact, I think it may have been some type of craft interfacing that I found lying around my sewing room. It holds the waistband shape just fine and was still comfortable. This picture was taken after wearing the skirt all day at work.

Did I mention I love this skirt? You can bet I'll be making it again, maybe with the waistband from view C. I already have a small scale black and white houndstooth in mind. Come to think of it, I've been wanting a gray skirt, too.

Don't be afraid of this skirt. Yes, the waist is high, but it's not that high. If the drawings on the pattern envelope appeal to you at all, go ahead and try it. I think you'll be very pleased!

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Poodle is Finally Done!

The smocking and embroidery on the Poodle Plate is finally done. Whew! (Nothing like spending an evening making French knots and watching UFC!) Angie, you were right, the French knots really "make" the design. I'm glad I decided to do them, although I'm not planning on doing it again any time soon! I have back-smocked, added an eye and nose, and a bow, and this baby is done. Now I'm on to construction! The Princess will be wearing this when she goes back to school after Thanksgiving break!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Poodle Update

The smocking on T2 is almost complete. I need to add a nose and an eye to the poodle, but that won't take long. The pattern calls for stitching french knots all over the puffy areas on the poodle, and I haven't quite decided if I want to do that. I'm also going to need to back-smock this one. That should go quickly, too. Hopefully, with the holiday this coming week, I'll get a chance to get this project completed. And I apologize, but I still don't have pictures of the black skirt. I'll try and post those this coming week as well.

Monday, November 12, 2007


I'm all ready to begin smocking my second Temily:

I will be smocking one poodle on the center panel. I will probably use slightly different colors, perhaps a white poodle on the pink broadcloth, but I like the aqua as an accent color. I'm not sure about details like piping and ruffles right now, but I'm thinking I will lengthen the sleeves to full length and do a narrow hem and zigzag some elastic at the wrist. I would like to get started tonight while I unwind in my recliner in front of CSI reruns. It doesn't take much to please me these days.
In other news, the Vogue High Waisted Skirt is almost done. Only the hem is left to do, and it's all pressed, pinned, and ready to stitch by hand. I LOVE this skirt! I am so pleased with it. I would have it all done and have pictures to share, but I had a little problem while making it. I used an invisible zipper and it seems I stitched a little too close to the zipper teeth, because when I went to try the skirt on, I got STUCK in it! That's right. I got it on and then couldn't get it unzipped. Imagine my horror when I found that I couldn't get the darned thing off. It looked good, but not so good that I want to wear it forever. I ended up cutting off the zipper stops at the top and pulling the zipper pull completely off. I was able to pull the coils apart and get out of the skirt, but then I had to completely remove the zipper and install a new one. Have you ever tried picking out stitches to remove a black zipper from a black skirt? I don't recommend it! Anyway, I got the new zip in and it works just fine, but the whole zipper fiasco put me behind schedule and I just ran out of steam. I had to leave the hem for another day, and by that time it was too dark to take good photos anyway. I probably won't have a chance to get good pictures until Saturday, so I'll save my "review" until then.
I'm off now to smock. I might also go ahead and cut and pleat the sleeves for Sweet Arabella. Might as well smock those , too, while I'm at it!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

My Sewing Haul

I've gotten no sewing done since finishing Temily, but last night I was able to make a trip to one of my favorite places, Borders book store, and I picked up some "sewing related" items.

I got copies of the new Threads and Interweave Knits, and an interesting looking knitting book called "Domiknitrix". I've skimmed through them, but I haven't had time for a good sit down to really soak them up. I look forward to doing a little of that tonight while my husband and sons are watching football.

I snatched up the Vogue pattern, V8425: the High Waisted Skirt, today at Hancock's. I have been wanting this one for a while and I finally found it in my size range and on sale for 75% off. How could I resist? I can't wait to get started on this skirt. My plain black gabardine is in the washer right now, and I hope to at least get it cut out tonight. I'll be making view A, the plain, knee-length version, without the belt loops.

I also have a piece of pink broadcloth in the wash. I'll be cutting out Temily 2 this weekend, as well!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Australian Smocking and Embroidery #80

Juliane asked if I could post a picture of the cover of the issue of AS&E that Temily came from. Here it is, issue #80.

This is the most recent issue and it has several beautiful projects in it. I'm still trying to decide if I want to make the cover dress. This is a special 20th Anniversary issue of AS&E and all I can say is that I hope it's around for many, many more years to come.
And now I'm off to bed, where visions of future smocking projects will dance in my head....

Finally- I Finished Something!

Here is my Finally Finished Temily:

Gosh, it feels so good to have actually completed something. It feels like it's been a while, ya know? Anyway, here it is. Temily from AS&E. What did I do differently than the magazine? Well, I used a print rather than a plain white fabric and I used a geometric smocking design rather than the picture smocked flower. The design is original. I just picked some colors and started smocking and this is what I ended up with. Works for us. I also added piping at the hem and sleeve cuffs. The magazine did not call for this. I used a contrast fabric for the ruffle, too. I had to topstitch the hem and cuffs, too, to keep the seam allowances under control. Other than that, I pretty much followed the directions, except for the neck binding. I didn't mean to do it differently, I just wasn't paying attention. The pattern called for sewing the binding right side to the top's wrong side, flipping it to the front and topstitching it down. I sewed them right sides together and then realised my mistake. Oh, well. I just flipped it to the inside, pinned carefully and stitched in the ditch on the right side, catching the binding in the stitching on the wrong side. Turned out beautifully.

I really like this little top and I'm thinking I will make it again... with some changes. I made a size 4 this time, and it's alright, but I'm thinking I could go up to the 6 next time. I also thought the sleeves were going to be a little bit fuller. The pattern piece is slightly tapered toward the cuff, so I would probably widen it ever so slightly and cut it a little bit straighter. I might lengthen the sleeve just a bit, too. Although I really like the piping at the cuffs and the hem, it adds construction time and I may be tempted to leave it off. The ruffles are kind of heavy, too. Using a pretty lace or other trim would be lighter and quicker. These ruffles are folded wrong sides together along the length and then gathered and attached. I suppose you could use a single thickness with a narrow hem, but I really don't want to hem all that ruffle- the hem alone is two 45 inch strips. I saw a version of this on SewForum that has short, elasticized sleeves which were really nice. I think a long sleeve would look cute with elastic, too.

This top would be so cute with a pair of jeans embellished to match, but alas, I'm doing good just to get the top done, so I'm not going to push my luck. The Princess was pleased and has already offered some suggestions for the next version. If (when) I make it again, I'll be sure to share the results.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

A Very Little Bit of Progress

I'm ashamed to admit that there has been almost no sewing related activity going on here in the last week. I did just barely manage to get the smocking on the bodice of Sweet Arabella completed. Thank goodness there are no bullion roses or who knows when it would get finished.

Of course, now there are sleeves to pleat and smock, and as much as I'd like to just get them done right now, I know something will interfere.

And here is Temily. As you can see, the smocking is pretty much complete, except for tying off a couple of threads. I had so hoped that this would be a quick project. And it probably would be if I could just find some time to work on it.

Time, and a clear spot on the kitchen table. There are still a couple of hours until dinner time, so I think I'll go see if I can squeeze in some cutting time. If I can just get those sleeves cut out, I can smock on them here and there throughout the week. And I think I already cut out the rest of Temily so I just need to cut some bias strips for piping and I think I can get started on putting it together. Hopefully there will be more progress to report before long.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

We Interrupt This Smocking Project...

... To bring you this:

This is Temily, from the latest issue of AS&E. I'll be making it out of the flower print on the left using the cute stripe for the piping, and another as-yet-undetermined fabric for the sleeve and hem ruffles. Oh, and I won't be using the flower smocking plate, but a simple geometric design instead. Here is the center front section all blocked and ready to go:

I love the way it pleated up. I'll wait until tomorrow to choose floss colors, though, so I can do it in natural light.

I'm still actively working on Sweet Arabella. It's not working up as quickly as I'd planned simply because I haven't been as diligent about working on it as I had planned. I hope to get another row or two in tonight (fingers crossed). However, with Autumn arriving somewhat suddenly, I realized that the Princess did not have enough long sleeved tops in her wardrobe and I thought I'd better make a few things for her. Dresses are great, but a girl's gotta have some sassy play clothes, too. This will be cute with jeans, and on really chilly days a turtleneck will look nice under it. It looks quick and easy, too, but I will let you know for sure after it's done.

Alright, I'm off to smock that row or two...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Fall is Finally Here

Well, it's finally Fall here in northeast Oklahoma. It was actually kinda chilly today. It's about time, too- Halloween is only a week away. And since I'm starting to feel a little bit of Halloween Spirit, here's a peek into Savannah's closet:

This is a little Mary De that I made for Savannah about three years ago. It looks so little now. The fabric came from Hobby Lobby. I fell in love with it immediately because it was kind of unusual for a Halloween seasonal print. It's blue, for one, and even though it has all your typical Halloween monsters on it- a vampire, a mummy, Frankenstein, a ghost, a witch- they're gardening! The ghost is holding a hose, the mummy has a shovel, and I think one of them even has a wheelbarrow. It's such a hoot!

The smocking plate is "Boo to You" by Little Memories and it was my very first attempt at picture smocking. I just love the little candy corns in the border. The piping is black and white gingham. Savannah wore it with black tights and a black turtleneck underneath and it was adorable.

Sweet Arabella is coming along nicely. The top smocking band is complete and the bottom is underway. I hope to sneak a row in tonight before I go to bed. With the weather finally turning, I'm really feeling an urge to get some cold weather clothes finished. I also need to stock up on tights and long sleeve t-shirts for the Princess. Oh, and there are several pieces of flannel in my stash that really need to be made up into PJs for Savannah and Bryan. Hmmm. I wonder if I can get some of them done in time for Christmas...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

If Only There Were More Hours in the Day

Smocking has begun on Sweet Arabella.

The top band is more than half complete and I spent a nice evening smocking and watching The Return of the King (extended version). So far, I'm pleased. If I can just get a couple more evening smocking sessions in this week, I think this will go pretty quickly. Of course, then I'll have sleeves to smock.

I'm also planning a picture smocking project.

Won't this look sweet on a white insert made up into a pink corduroy jumper? The Princess says that she doesn't care to have a boy kitty on her dress, so we will be modifying it to be three girl kitties in dresses. Should be an easy change to make.

And in other news, it looks like we may have a candidate for Winter Garden.

The Princess picked out the floral print in the middle at the local quilt store. It wasn't my first choice, but I have to give her credit for picking a print that's suitable for smocking. And after all, she is the one who has to wear it. Once we got it home, I noticed that the print goes great with the periwinkle cord from a previous post. It also goes with the cord on the right, which is a lighter lavender shade. I think either would work for a coordinating jacket.

So I'm off to get to work on these projects. There are just never enough hours in the day.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Sweet Arabella

So the next smocking project is pleated and ready to go:

This is Sweet Arabella from AS&E #73. Okay, it's not quite ready to go- I still have to block it. But here is the picture of the dress, the fabric I'm using, and the floss colors I'm considering. Final color choices will be made after blocking is complete.

Why Sweet Arabella? Well, I like it. And it calls for just under three yards of fabric, and I had just enough of this print. I bought this several years ago to make a winter dress for the Princess, back when three yards was more than enough for her. Now, it's a squeeze, and I'm afraid if I don't use it now, I never will.

There are a couple of other things I really like about Sweet Arabella. It's all one fabric, except for a bit of piping. The smocking design is very simple. In fact, the middle pleating rows are left unsmocked, forming a puffing row across the bodice, and I love puffing. And there are no bullions- the impact comes from the simplicity of the design. All this means it will smock fast!

So I'm off to block. Smocking should commence this afternoon and I anticipate spending a nice quiet evening in my armchair working on this. Don't tell my family, though. If they learn of my plan for the evening, they will do their best to keep me from it!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Stash Maintenance

Okay, so it's no secret that my stash has gotten a little out of hand. I mean, when you start losing fabric in your stash, you know you have a problem. So I decided that since I have a rare four day weekend (due to taking time off for the kids' Fall Break), I would take advantage of some of the time to go through my stash and reorganize, refresh my memory as to what's in there, and hopefully cull some stuff. You'll be happy to know that I found the brown gauze safe and sound.
So I started the stash project last night. It's going to take at least another day, but I got through the oldest and most mysterious part of it last night. I did, indeed, find stuff that I'd forgotten I had. I also found some stuff that I knew I had, but just didn't have any idea where it was. And I found a lot of stuff that I don't really need to keep. Unfortunately, even though I made a whole pile of fabrics to get rid of, once I filled in the boxes with the piles of fabric I had stacked up all over the sewing room, it really didn't seem like I'd even made a dent.
As I said in a previous post, I'm on the lookout for some fabrics suitable for making the Princess some winter dresses. I found this in the stash:

This is a beautiful periwinkle blue fine wale corduroy and a really nice coordinating cotton print in dark blue with tiny flowers in shades of periwinkle, gold and mauve with green vines. I love these two fabrics together and I've wanted to use them together to make something special for a long time. This is kind of what I had in mind:

This sweet little ensemble is a project called "Winter Garden" from AS&E #59. It's a long sleeve smocked dress with a shaped yoke and two piece collar, with a coordinating jacket bound with the print dress fabric. The jacket in the magazine is made of wool blanketing which looks really soft and warm, but I think I could use the corduroy with a lining and a thin layer of batting and get a nice little jacket that way. The only problem is that I don't have enough of the blue print to make the outfit exactly like it's shown. The dress calls for a little over four yards and I only have three. I know I can cut my skirt pieces on the cross grain and have just barely enough for a smocked bodice (I'd have to make a size five, and a 45" width of fabric is just barely enough to smock from side to side, as we saw with my last project.) I could also make short sleeves. I hate to do that, though. I really feel like a winter dress needs a nice long sleeve. I actually measured the pattern pieces and drew a cutting diagram. I could squeeze the dress out of three yards, but would I have enough fabric left to bind the jacket? Let's face it, if I can't bind the jacket, what's the point?

So I kicked the idea around for day or two and I came up with an alternative idea. What if I made a simple, unsmocked yoke dress out of the print and made a smocked pinafore/jumper out of the corduroy to go over it. The print sleeves and collar would look nice against the corduroy, and I could even make the dress a little longer so the print would show at the hem, too. I could use the same floss colors: blue, gold, and mauve on the periwinkle cord and maybe even add a third fabric for contrast, just like Winter Garden, which has some gingham piping. I should be able to make it this way with the fabric I have. Then I could make Winter Garden the right way out of something else, even if I have to go buy something special for it. (Like that would be a bad thing!)

I found a couple of other pieces in the stash that will make nice winter dresses, but I can't show them right now because they're in the washing machine. Stay tuned for a preview. There will be smocking this weekend!

Monday, October 15, 2007

About the Interfacing

Cindy left a comment on the last post and asked about the interfacing used in the smocked dress. Well, there's not really much to tell. I'm rather embarrassed to admit that I can't tell you the brand or anything specific about it other than that it was a very lightweight, non-woven fusible that I had lying around the sewing room. I'm sure it was purchased at Hancock Fabrics because that's really the only place I buy interfacing. I fused a square of it to a square of my cotton fabric and then cut the yoke out of the fused piece. The interfacing is very soft, so I don't think it would be scratchy or uncomfortable against the skin, but that doesn't really matter because the yoke is fully lined with the same floral fabric. So no one but me, and anyone who reads this blog, even knows it's in there.
I've been going through stash fabrics the last couple of days looking for some pretty floral cottons and lightweight corduroys to make the Princess some more smocked dresses for colder weather. I don't have anything ready to go yet, but I hope to have a new project underway soon. Oh, and I plan to get back to work on that UFO, too!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Ta Daaaaa

The smocked dress is done. Whew! I'm so glad it's finished.

The Princess gave it her seal of approval, which is a good thing, but she was going to wear it anyway, even if she didn't like it. I still need to press it a little bit so the collar will lay down nicely and to get all the wrinkles out of the skirt from where it was wadded up while I finished up sewing the buttonholes by machine.
The smocking plate and the dress pattern are from AS&E, although from two separate issues. I added the arm bands myself. I wanted to have a wide white band to match the collar, piped on the top and the bottom. I love the way they turned out.
I made a size five because in my experience, AS&E patterns run a little bit large. The fit is great- not too big, but roomy enough to be wearable for a good while. I added two one inch growth tucks to the skirt so that as the princess gets taller, we can let them out and get a little more wear out of the dress.
Okay, one project down, now it's off to the next one!

Another UFO! Oh My!

This is another smocked UFO that I've pulled out in hopes of getting it completed before the Princess decides she's too old to wear smocked dresses. I have a beautiful cotton print stashed away for this. The smocking colors were chosen specifically to go with the print which is a medium scaled rose floral in shades of periwinkle blue and deep rose pink. I can't wait to see it finished.

As you can see, the smocking (and back smocking) are complete. All that remains is the embroidery, of course. I still need to put blue flowers on the green arches across the top, and a pink rosebud at each green point. Then there will be a cluster of four large pink bullion roses and lazy daisy leaves in the middle of each open area. The finished plate is absolutely stunning.

The smocking plate is called Reagan Emily and it's from a book called Classic Smocking, The Cheryl Lohmann Collection. This book is absolutely gorgeous. It's a collection of fourteen beautiful smocking plates. Directions are given for each plate along with a close-up photograph and a photo of each plate used in a lovely finished garment. There is even a center pull-out with patterns for two dresses. So the book is not only good for inspiration, but it's completely useable as well.

As for the other SDIP (Smocked Dress in Progress), I hope to have it finished today. The sleeves are now attached to the dress and I am ready to sew up the sashes and attach those. The side seams can then be stitched up and the Princess can try it on so I can mark the hem. She is very excited about it, too. And if I can get it all done today, she can wear it to church tomorrow. And we all know the thrill of wearing a beautiful new dress for the first time!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Progress Report... and a Sneak Preview

The smocked dress is coming right along. It's all put together except for the sleeves, sashes and side seams. The sleeves are gathered to the arm bands, they just need to be attached to the dress. Construction is going smoothly. I did try one new thing with this project. I interfaced the entire front yoke. I believe it was Gail Doane who suggested this in an issue of AS&E. She said that it would help the yoke support the weight and bulk of the smocked bodice and would help to prevent that annoying ridge that can sometimes form where the seam allowance presses against the back of the yoke piece. I have to say, it's a great idea. I will probably do this from now on. The interfacing added just enough extra body to the front yoke piece so that it went on to the bodice like a dream. I have never attached a yoke so quickly, easily, and without any fuss at all.
I hope to have the dress completed and have some pictures to share this weekend.

My next project will be for me:

This is one of the new Simplicity patterns, S3556. I think I'll be making the dress on the lower right, the purple print dress, although I'm really liking the one on the upper right, too. The one in the photo doesn't do much for me. I keep thinking "Christmas Elf" looking at that red dress with all that velvet trim. Anyway, I have a cool print fabric already picked out, it's just a matter of cutting and sewing.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

B is for Bullion

The bullion roses are done. Whew! I really hate making them, but they do add so much to an otherwise plain smocked bodice. This was also my first time to make couched bullion leaves. They were pretty easy. Just time consuming like the roses.

Now with the embroidery done, the next step was to mark the armholes on the bodice and cut them out. I use my blocking guide to trace the armholes with a fabric marker. Then I use my machine to straight stitch right inside the marking. I go back and run a narrow zig-zag stitch right over the straight stitch.

This is to stabilize the armhole edge before it's cut out. The stitching needs to be right inside the marked line because I'm going to cut the armhole out just inside the blue line. The stitching will be left and will end up being in the armhole seam allowance.

This is the armhole after it's cut out. Notice I left my top two pleating threads intact, just in case I need to use them to help me position the pleats when I sew the piping and yoke to the top of the bodice.

And here is the bodice- ready to be made into a Basic Square Yoke dress. I've got my fingers crossed that I can get enough time at the kitchen table today to cut out the rest of the dress.

Monday, October 1, 2007

A Whole Lot of Nothing Going On

There hasn't been much sewing going on around here lately. I spent pretty much the whole weekend asleep. It's amazing how tired I get during the week, and then it all comes back to haunt me on my days off. Of course, allergies and medication don't help. I had big plans to sew this weekend, but other than buying a few new McCalls and a couple of new Simplicity patterns, I really didn't do anything sewing related until late Sunday night. And even then all I did was pull out some UFOs that need to be finished up.

Let me back up for a minute to last week. Although not technically a UFO- yet- I managed to finish smocking this BSY last week and get it blocked. Here is the before picture:

And the after picture:

I tend to smock "tight." I like my pleats to look manipulated once I get the piece blocked. Also, my daughter tends to be kind of rough on her clothes and these dresses tend to make many trips through the washer and dryer. I've never had one start to sag or look "sprung out." I still need to add a few bullion roses across the lower band of smocking and then I will mark and cut the armholes. After that, construction should go rather quickly.

Like I said, I pulled out some UFOs last night, one of which was this:

That's right, it's a quilt. Or at least it will be a quilt... one day. This is for my son, Brendan, who loves sheep. It's inspired by and adapted from a quilt called "Sheep in Dreamland" from the book Wonderfully Whimsical Quilts by Carol Burniston. There are eighteen of these appliqued sheep blocks, all of which are fully fused, but waiting to be stitched down. I originally planned to just machine zigzag them, but there are lots of little curves like around the sheeps' ears and around the fleeces, and I was worried about being accurate, so I decided to go ahead and blanket stitch by hand. This one is all done and looks pretty good. Only 17 more to go... Oh, and they all need noses and mouths embroidered on, and googly eyes sewn on. Now I remember why this is a UFO. But Brendan is really excited about this and really happy that Mom is making something special for him, so it's more than worth it.

So I quess I'll go squeeze in some more blanket stitching before work. Hopefully soon I will see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Another Project Finished

The Leopard Dress is done! This is New Look 6583 in Savannah's favorite "color." Of course, it will look much better with some black tights, and a turtleneck tee underneath. But, we couldn't find those things this afternoon and we wanted to go ahead and post the picture.

Originally I planned to just do the base model of this dress which simply has the two flounces out of the main fabric. But I had this piece of black and white gingham lying by the ironing board, and I started playing around with it and wondering how it would look as a contrast fabric. So I cut two more flounces out of the gingham (Nothing like narrow hemming four flounces instead of two!) and basted it all together. I liked it, so I kept it. You can't really tell from the picture, but the gingham really breaks up the leopard and adds a "girlie" touch to the outfit. Plus, I'm thinking of doing the jacket out of black corduroy and I'll be able to use the leopard and/or the gingham for trim!

This dress is really easy. Narrow hemming the flounces was time consuming, but not hard. I considered using my serger to do a rolled hem, but decided that wasn't the look I was after. It would have been much quicker, and it's something I might try next time. There are only four pattern pieces to this dress- front, back and two flounces, so cutting is quick. It goes together in a flash, too. I used an invisible zipper because they're so quick and easy to insert. You can't see it, but I used bias strips of the gingham to bind the armholes and the neck edge. I made a size six, and there's plenty of room for a tee underneath and to grow. Thank goodness I took the time to trace this pattern before cutting because I can easily see myself making this again later.

And here is the Lizzie McGuire dress and shrug that I blogged about a while back.

This is Simplicity4248 out of Hello Kitty quilting cotton trimmed in white crocheted lace. The shrug is lime green Kona cotton. The silk flower is a pink daisy from Hobby Lobby with the stem removed and a pin back attached so that it's removable.

This dress turned out cute, but really short. Savannah won't be able to wear it very long. I made a size six, as usual, and I didn't think to check the length before cutting. It would have been very easy to add a couple of inches to the dress pieces. I won't be making this again, but I have lots of other Lizzie McGuire patterns and I know now to check the length if I decide to make any others.

So this wraps up two more works in progress. I have two smocking projects going right now, too, and I'm looking forward to a relaxing night in my armchair tonight watching TV and smocking. I might post pictures of those later. If I share them, I'll hopefully feel motivated to finish them quickly.

Back in Black

Simplicity 4483, the black gauze dress and shrug are done! I knew the project was a success when I put it on to take pictures today, and my husband thought I had bought a new dress. When I told him I made it, he was shocked. (I don't know what he thinks I've been working on all this time!)

I cut a 16 through the bodice and tapered out to an 18 at the hip and the fit is perfect. I did do a one inch FBA, and I was able to contain all the extra fabric in the under-bust gathers... No dart! My only complaint about the dress is that I wish I had added maybe one inch to the length. It feels short. The bodice is fully lined with the same gauze, but the skirt is not, so a slip is an absolute necessity with this dress, but that's okay. I also think I need a pair of sheer black hose to wear with it.

I'm quite happy with this dress, but I probably won't make it again. I really didn't enjoy narrow hemming the entire outer edge of the shrug, although now that it's done, I'm pleased with it. Besides, I think shrugs have kind of run their course. A jacket would be a little more stylish. I really like this style on me, however, and I have a similar pattern picked out for one of my next projects:

Although the bodice on this dress, Simplicity 4014, is different, the sillouette is exactly the same. And the jacket is pretty, too. I can't decide if I like the hip length or the full length jacket best. I already have some dark rose gabardine picked out for this one.

I'm off to work on the leopard dress. I worked on it most of the day yesterday, and I decided to add contrast "under flounces" to the flounces at the bottom of the dress. It looks pretty cute. I need to cut some bias strips today and bind the armholes and the neck and I think it will be done. Pictures will follow shortly!