Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Embroidered Halloween Monsters

Halloween greetings! October 31 approaches, and that means it's time for some creepy crafting. To add to my festive decorations this year, I stitched up six little monsters from the Sublime Stitching Zombies and Monsters pack. They're lined up all nice and tidy overlooking my breakfast room, although I think the Zombie is a little disappointed I don't dine on brains.

The Dracula

The Werewolf

The Frankenstein

The Mummy

The Zombie

The Witch

Aren't they fun?! I've got a Halloween-themed blouse planned this year, too, but I just discovered I'm short on fabric. So while I wait for that to come and cross my fingers it gets here in time, you can check out some of my previous haunts. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Blue Plaid Vogue 8811

It's October!! My most favorite month of the year, and the perfect time to use this lovely plaid linen I've been saving. I purchased it from a now out-of-business fabric shop in Austin (sadly), but it has the most wonderful hand. I stitched it up using Vogue 8811, a great little pattern with french darts and kimono sleeves.
I've made this pattern once before, two years ago in a spiderweb fabric for Halloween. We took those pumpkin patch photos the day my sister-in-law went into labor with my nephew! We snapped these at the Round Top Antique Fair - not nearly as exciting as the day my nephew was born, but a very nice day nevertheless. 

The waist was way too long for me on that version, so I shortened it a bit and did a swayback adjustment to account for some pooling I was getting at the back. I also lengthened the skirt slightly. I liked the length of my last version on me, but I felt like it ruined the vintage look to have it a little shorter. I love that dress, though, and am so happy to have a version that I can wear for more of the year. 
As with almost every garment I sew, my favorite part are the little details. The pocket on the bodice, the tie at the waist, and the back neck slit with thread loop are all excellent on this dress. 
The neckline has a facing, and the armholes actually call for a facing, too. I found that to be cumbersome on my last version, though. Despite tacking down, those facings would misbehave and flip out on me and just added a lot of extra bulk. So I just hemmed it this time, and I like it much better. 
Now, my only quibble with this version is that my dominant plaid stripe isn't running down CF. I remember thinking about it when I went to cut it out, but I was watching the Emmy's at the time and must have gotten distracted by all the fancy fashion and attractive men in tuxedos. I still ended up with a superb dress and another opportunity to perfect the craft on a future garment!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

How to Make a Floating Ric Rac Accent

Hi friends of Rosie! Amy here! I’m the fabric buyer from Harts Fabric! I’m going to show you guys a fun, quick and easy way to add a little pizazz to your garment sewing, or even just a fun trick that you can add to other crafty sewing projects. This would be a fun way to add length to a dress, or just add a cute accent to a hemline.

For tutorial sake I’m just showing you guys how to use this technique on scraps, but they are cute scraps! I used the Lotta Jansdotter Lucky Hemendu Cotton in Green Olive.

I also used just a package of Ric Rac.

To get started you need to set up your machine. I’m using the Janome 3160, and I’m using the blind hem stitch. If you have a machine that does not have the bling hem stitch you can just use a straight stitch. You won’t get as much of the Ric Rac shape but you can still achieve the same effect.
Now we are going to select the length of our stitch. This can get a little tricky. I decided to go to with a length of 0.2 which will actually hit the top of my trim every other stich, which worked just fine for the finished product. Ideally your stitch length would match up with your trim, but you can make it work if you are in my boat like this where the trim is a funny length. You also want to use your “Blind Hem Foot” which is foot “G” on the 3160.
So, you want to start with your needle in the down position and have your Ric Rac placed on the right side of the fabric with how much you want the hem to be from the edge. I would suggest pinning your trim into place to keep your line straight.
Now, stitch slowly to make sure your stitch is catching the top of your Ric Rac. When you’re finished you should have something that looks like this:
Now, this looks a little funky, but if you fold it over and press… it’s like magic! Looks so much better! You could make the choice to stop here and have this be your hemline, but we will continue on and add another piece of fabric for the “Floating Ric Rac” look.

So now you are going to take your other piece of fabric with the right side up and place your pressed finished first piece with right side down on top, leaving the amount you want for the hem allowance.
Now with your needle in down position again you are going to make the same stitch along the top of your Ric Rac. Remember: going slow is the key here! When you are finished press it and you should have a backside that looks like this:
The front will look like this:
I hope you enjoyed this fun little technique! It’s fun and it really makes your projects have a fun little detail! There are so many ways that you can add decoration to your finished edges and Janome offers a lot of stitches on this machine. Here’s a little sampler we made of all of the different stitches you could use:
I personally think the scalloped edge would look so cute on the neckline, sleeve and hem of a Mid-Century style dress. So have fun and get creative with those decorative stitches Guys and Gals!

I hope you enjoyed our tutorial and be sure to visit us over at

-Amy from Harts Fabric

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Liberty Moneta

I took a jaunt up to the Pacific Northwest for a family vacation last week and decided it was the perfect opportunity to sew myself another Colette Moneta. This is my third (one and two), although the first in a three-quarter sleeve length. I so like the plain, no frills version of this pattern because it's easy to wear a thousand different ways.
The fabric is a jersey from Liberty of London, and the first Liberty I've sewn with! I can't believe I started on a knit. I've got to finally use some of the cotton Liberty I've been saving in my stash!

It sewed very well, although I do notice I've got a bit of rippling and excess fabric at the CF neckline. For my second version, I did take out a small dart there, but I either needed to take out more, or I managed to stretch it a bit while I was sewing the neckline. I might try ripping that out and turning it into a lower scoop or a V-neck to fix it. 
The construction is pretty straightforward, and the same as the previous Monetas I've made. I serged the seams, coverstitched the hems, and added elastic at the waist and shoulders for extra support (and to create the gathers at the waist). I've still never fallen in love with sewing or wearing knits, but I do like to have a few of these in my wardrobe. I find they get good use, especially on trips. 

Since this is a pretty simple project, I had these grand ambitions of showing you gorgeous photos at the Multnomah Falls or rose gardens in Portland, but alas, the weather was not on my side! It was unseasonably cold during our visit. In fact, the locals said it felt more like late October/early November. Well that's pretty much dead of winter for us Texans, so I stuck to wearing pants. 

At any rate, I did manage to wear it one evening in Seattle for dinner when it warmed up a bit. Leo was waiting for me when we checked in, and he liked my new Moneta very much! Tehehehe.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

My Couture Cocktail Dress: Simplicity 4697

This is, unquestionably, my favorite dress that I have ever made or worn. This sensational 1950s cocktail dress is the pattern I worked on at Susan Khalje's Couture Sewing School this August. I'm too excited to say anymore, so let's just get to those photos! 
Oh my goodness. Isn't it spectacular?! The pattern is Simplicity 4697, a wedding dress pattern from 1954. It features kimono sleeves, a peter pan collar, and a very full gathered skirt. My outer fabric is a cotton organdy from B&J in New York with embroidered roses. The under-dress fabric is a silk cotton sateen. 

I was actually just over a yard shy of the requirements for this pattern with my organdy fabric, but I brought it to class anyway and crossed my fingers we could sort something out. I was betting on the fact that I am short, about 5'3", and I knew that the cocktail length was beyond floor length for me just from putting the pattern up against me. Thankfully, in between my short stature and the magical wizardry of Susan Khalje, we made it all fit with barely a scrap to spare. I can't imagine this dress in any other fabric! 
I wish I could tell you all the fit modifications we made, but one of the things I learned about couture is you are constantly fitting. We started by shortening the waist, lowering the bust dart, and removing the "v" dip at the front waist (a style choice I made because I thought it would be more comfortable). Over the course of the week, we made dozens of tiny tweaks, fitting it once or twice a day as I constructed. The end result is a party dress that fits me so well it feels like a day dress!
There are so many wonderful little details on this dress. Here are just a few: 
  • French seams at the skirt.
  • Bias-tape enclosed seams, fell-stitched down, from my fashion fabric at the side seam to accommodate the curve of the sleeve. 
  • Bias tape finish at the collar. 
  • Hand-sewn thread bar for the hook-and-eye. 
But my favorite of all of those details is the one we did at the back zipper. Since my fashion fabric is sheer, we didn't want the zipper tape to show. So I tea-dyed a strip of organanza and folded it over to enclose the seam, and hide my zipper tape. Genius! It was a clever little trick that Susan and I worked out ad-hoc, which apparently is oh-so couture. Ohh la la! 
There was one strange thing about the pattern - it didn't include pattern pieces for the camisole under the dress, and it wasn't just that they were missing. The back pattern envelope doesn't specify that they're included at all. So I brought a muslin of my sloper to class, and we made one up on the spot. 
That last photo looks so odd to me, like a deflated muppet without its pupeteer. It's such a full and lively dress it seems so strange to see it flat on the floor! 

We can't end on that, so here's a few more of those details. The hem is a narrow hem, where you use three rows of stitches to anchor it down. Threads has an excellent tutorial if you're looking to do something similar. 
This dress has already seen a thrilling night of dancing at a wedding I attended recently, and I am sure it will have many more unforgettable parties in its future. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

7 Everyday Sewing Tips from Couture Sewing School

I just returned from a blissful week of sewing at Susan Khalje's Couture Sewing School. After 6 1/2 days of sewing all day, every day, I had the hardest time going back to work. I thought I worked in a couture house! What a dream.

I can't recommend the class highly enough. If you have an interest in couture, or just like hand sewing, it's a wonderful investment in your sewing education, and a lovely week of sewing and learning. Susan is an exceptional teacher - she is so relaxed and positive that you'll find you can conquer anything with a needle and thread!

Here's Susan and I when we were doing my first pin fitting. Eeee! This is the best dress ever. Seriously. I can't wait to show you!

So lots of details and photos of the finished project coming soon, but in the meantime, I thought I would share some tips that I learned in the class that apply to any type of sewing.

1. You want your gathers to stand up like little soldiers. 

Getting consistent gathers is tough, and the pattern I was working with had a very full skirt (Are you surprised? It's from the 1950s!). First, you should sew three rows of basting stitches, instead of the typical two. That extra row really helps to firmly hold them in place.

Then distribute them, placing pins at even intervals. Then press the gathers in place. When you press, the gathers should be standing up straight, like little soldiers, rather than all wonky. This last step is a crucial one I had never heard before, and it worked like a dream!

2. Sew from the wide to the narrow. 

I've read bits and pieces about directional sewing before, which is this idea that you should sew like seams the same way every time. I've never been entirely sure about it, but sewing from the wide to the narrow makes perfect sense to me. Susan showed me how much more stretch you'll get on a skirt seam, which can cause rippling, if you start at the narrow and work your way down. 

3. Don't baste in space. 

This was Susan's way of saying that you should put your basting on the table while you're working. It's hard to get the accuracy and control you need when it's sitting in your lap. Things definitely went faster when I moved it to the table! Here I've marked all the seam lines and darts with a basting stitch. As Susan says, "Now you have all the information you need on here to sew." 

4. Two tricks for untwisting thread. 

Have you ever been hand stitching, and your thread starts to get all tangled? This is likely because it got twisted, and you've got two options to fix it. 
  • The next time you insert your needle into the fabric, give it a little twist
  • Let your needle and thread hang off the edge of the table, and it will spin itself back into place. 

5. Thread has a nap. 

This is another reason your thread can get twisted and angry. I had no idea thread had a nap! You should put the end you take off the spool into the needle first to keep it as smooth as possible.

6. Use Beeswax on your thread for stitching that needs extra reinforcement. 

In areas like the hook and eye, snaps, buttons, and the zipper, if you're handstitching them, you'll need a little extra reinforcement. Beeswax helps to do that (mine is from Susan's shop). Just run your thread against the beeswax, and then iron it. Ironing it seals the beeswax to the thread so that it doesn't all come out the minute you put in your first stitch. 

7. Different types of thread should be put on your machine differently. 

I actually learned this one from a woman in the class who works in a Bernina shop. She said that thread that is criss-crossed on the spool, like Gutterman, should be placed on it's side. Thread that runs evenly across the spool, like Coats and Clark, should be placed up and down. Apparently they're designed that way to come off the spool more easily. 

Pretty neat, huh? I always thought couture would be extremely complex, but in reality, it's just the opposite. It's finding the most elegant and practical solution to whatever it is your working on. It's time intensive, to be sure, but the techniques are very simple. I just loved it! 

If you're interested in seeing all my snaps from the week, hop on over to my Instagram account. I tried to document every day in the couture house! 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Hand-Embroidered Anna Dress

Oh gollies. This one is good. I've been embroidering away, bit by bit, over the last several months, and the moment I put in the last satin stitch, I boogied my booty to the sewing machine. I  am so glad that I was able to snap photos quickly to show you this one hot off the presses! This is the By Hand London Anna Dress, with the addition of a circle skirt and oodles of hand-embroidered leaves.
Now, let me back up and tell you the story of how this dress came to be. Upon concluding Me-Made-May this year, I realized I was itching to do another embroidery project on a dress like my cross stitch one. About that time, I happened upon this beautiful dress from Dethrose Vintage. I had also just started working on my first Anna dress, and zing!  I realized I could do a version of this lovely dress, but in my size, with the Anna v-neck. 
Falling Fern Dress on Dethrose Vintage
The original appears to be painted, but my medium of choice is always needle and thread, so I stocked up on black embroidery floss and put on some Netflix. I cut out my dress pattern pieces then free-hand drew the branches. Then I created a leaf pattern piece to trace around for the leaves. I backed each section in interfacing, and then used three strands of floss with the satin stitch for the actual embroidery. 
Once I finished the embroidery, I checked each piece against my pattern to see if it stretched out and I needed to adjust. Of course it had, and I was able to sort out most of it except for a wee bit of gaping on the neckline I couldn't control without throwing things wonky. Next time, I'll definitely do the embroidery on the fabric raw before cutting. 

I constructed the dress, per the instructions, and added a full lining in cotton voile to hide the big blocks of interfacing on the inside. My outer fabric is cotton linen chambray (so many good words all strung together!) by Robert Kaufman. Even with the addition of the lining, the linen and voile are so light and airy that this dress feels nice and cool. 
It turned out smashingly! My next big adventure is the Susan Khalje Couture Sewing School, a week-long workshop where you bring your own special project. I've got some beautiful cotton organdy and a Grace Kelly-inspired cocktail dress that I've been saving up for the occasion. I can't wait, but boy oh boy, that's going to be an undertaking!