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.