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.