How I Spent My Day

Yesterday, I spent the greater part of the day teaching a class about heirloom sewing; passing on what I’ve learned about creating delicate Victorian detailed embroidery techniques using my sewing/embroidery machine by helping others create a sampler which they can now use as part of a garment (likely a nightgown) or some other decorated textile project.

Heirloom Sample #1

It’s that time of year – I had a class of one. While my student was working, I had a bit of time to work on a sampler of my own – not particularly precise since I was distracted showing her techniques to help her with the precision that makes this work so lovely. I’ve put my sampler aside as an example of what you’re trying to avoid – my rows aren’t straight, the spacing isn’t exact and the panel is too narrow for the garment I want to make.

However, I still intend to make a light weight, flowing summer top embellished with heirloom work. So after aquafit this morning I started another stitched piece to serve as the yoke for this garment.

Finished Heirloom Panel – 24″ x 12″

Today, I decided to use a crisp paper as stabilizer, pulling it away from the stitching as I finished each row. I also took the time to draw lines with a heat-erasable pen to follow as I stitched. Unlike yesterday, my rows are evenly spaced and straight.

I began with 4 rows of tucks in the centre, since the neck opening of the top I plan on making has a slit I want to replicate, I decided not to put a lace piece down the centre. Now that I’ve drafted a pattern for the front yoke from my existing top I have a feeling I may not have left enough space at the centre to make the slit and face it properly (Oh, well). Next some hemstitching, followed by a row of decorative stitching, a grouping of pin tucks, another row of decorative stitching, an entredeux insert, ending with more decorative stitching and an outside line of hemstitching. The panel is symmetrical and the lines do match up on both sides.

Over the next few days, I’ll cut out the garment and begin assembling it. The top on which I’m basing this creation has an embellished front without a seam joining top and bottom. I’ll have to add a strip of entredeux to join top front to top bottom. I’m still thinking about style here and may in the end just use the same pattern I used for the nightgown and simply sew a hip-length top from it. I’ll make that decision tomorrow.

Heirloom Sewing

I’m doing an Heirloom Sewing class on Tuesday. The plan is to create a sampler using a range of heirloom techniques on a piece of lightweight cotton fabric (voile, batiste, lawn) large enough to become a yoke on a pull-on shirt, or a nightgown, a piece that can be used to make some kind of garment.

I needed to make something to show a finished product. A number of years ago I created several heirloom samplers intending to use them to make nightgowns. My supply of these lovely cotton nightgowns has continued to be serviceable for more than 10 years – I haven’t needed to replace any. However, I needed a new garment to show the class so yesterday I chose one of the samplers, pulled some batiste from my fabric stash, and cut out the nightgown. Today, I sewed it together.

First I had to put a bias binding to finish the front neckline. Second, I had to embellish the ends of the sleeves. I have a supply of beautiful lace edgings I bought quite a while ago and decided I should use one. I put it on the sleeve edge, did a row of hem stitching using a wing needle, then three rows of pin tucks using a 1.6mm twin needle and a pin tuck foot, finally a single row of decorative stitching. Together it makes for a pleasing sleeve edge.

I constructed the gown with French seams by sewing wrong sides together first, pressing the seam, folding it along the seam edge and stitching the seam again 1/4″ from the edge encasing the raw edges within the second seam. It’s a strong seam finish and there can be no fraying.

Once I had the gown made up, I double folded the hem and edge stitched it, then I added three rows of tucks along the bottom edge. I might still add a bit of decorative stitching but for now I’ve stopped.

Along with the original panels, I now have a completed nightgown to take to class!

New Silk Kantha

New Silk Kantha

I ordered another silk kantha bedspread ten days ago – it arrived day before yesterday. It’s a dark, rainy afternoon and the overhead light floods the quilt with yellow light. It’s actually more off-white/light beige with red and purple accents. It has red and white quilt stitching. It’s going to be perfect for a colourful summer jacket – this time with more flow and more contrasting colour to bring out the red in the silk blocks.

I bought a 90″ x 108″ quilt – that’s a ton of fabric – more than enough for two jackets! I’ll do one for myself first, then who knows what I’ll do with what’s left. A friend sent me a Pinterest photo of a summer shirt yesterday – this might work nicely done with some of the kantha.

Summer Shirt Idea From Pinterest

She’s right about that – it wouldn’t take much kantha fabric to do half a front, half a back and one sleeve! I’d use red linen for the other half of the shirt. Simple to make – a facing on the front neckline, a small binding on the back. It’s hard to tell from the photo whether the bottom of the shirt is actually scooped or just tucked into the bottom. I’d make mine straight with side slits.

Clearly an idea on my “to do” list.

From Sample Stitches to Drawstring Bag

Drawstring Bag

I did another stitch sampler – this time horizontal rows of embroidery stitches (of which this machine has MANY – particularly when you consider you can modify both length and width of each of the 500+ stitches). No ribbon or lace – just the stitches themselves in rayon embroidery thread.

Then I turned the panel into a drawstring bag large enough to carry a pair of shoes, or my knitting, or whatever I need a bag for. Finished size: 10″ x 13″.

What’s different about this drawstring bag is the way the channels are formed. Many years ago I was given a Japanese drawstring bag made with such channels. It’s a more refined way of finishing a drawstring bag. So I’ve been making mine this way for a long time.

Here’s a link to instructions for this Japanese Drawstring Bag.

Black Cord Pants

Black Cords

I’ve used the same pattern (Jalie 3243 – Pull-on Pants) I’ve used for several other pairs of pants. My weight and shape have been relatively constant for the past year so once I worked out the details I had a pattern for pants that fit so I just keep making them.

The best part of the project is I can cut out the pants, sew them up, and wear them without any fussing. I know the length of elastic for the waist, the inseam measurement. Gain or lose weight and the measurements will change. However, right now I have a cut/sew pattern that works.

You can’t see the details – two jean-shaped pockets sewn to the front, two back pockets, an elasticized waist. That’s all there is to these pants.

I cut them out on Thursday. Got most of the construction done yesterday morning. Finished them this morning and I’m wearing them this afternoon.

A Stormy Day

It’s been blizzarding here all day – for much of the morning it was a white-out!

White-Out!

Didn’t matter – I was sewing. Last weekend I agreed to make sofa cushions for a friend – her designer had specified “piping” on several of the pillows. Creating the piping is no big deal, but applying it – that’s another matter. I trimmed the piping so I could align the outer edge with the outside of the pillow fabric but corners are tricky – I discovered it was a good idea to snip the corner and then 1/2″ on either side of that snip in order to bring the piping around the 90°. The second challenge involved joining the piping – I cheated on that on the two large square pillows, I just overlapped the piping and stitched it in place. Next came putting the zipper in against the piping edge on one side. Because the cushion will be sitting on that edge I did the best I could and have left it at that (I could hand stitch that opening closed but I’m guessing nobody but me will ever notice the zipper isn’t put in perfectly evenly).

Sofa Cushions

I’m happy with how the four pillows have turned out (the spotted pillow on the right belongs on my sofa!). They’ll look good on Heather’s new sofa.

She also has a hall bench that wanted a cushion – piped she decided, which makes construction quite a bit more difficult. It’s not just a matter of cutting out a top and bottom piece to fit the cushion form, but piping the top and bottom edges, along with inserting a zipper along the back side.

My bench is several inches shorter and wider but this cushion will fit Heather’s bench nicely and when it’s been sat on for a week, nobody will notice the imperfections that I can see. This time I took the time to butt the piping join – I did such a good job you can’t see where I joined the fabric/cord.

One pillow still to go. I don’t have the pillow form although I do have the fabric. This cushion needs to be done with a flange. There are several ways that can be done. I need to google for some instructions to make the job easier. I’ll make up the cushion cover – Heather will buy a queen size bed pillow and we’ll take it apart to make it fit the cover.

That last job I’m leaving for tomorrow.

New Face Masks For Christmas

I know, we’re supposed to give up fabric masks in favour of single use surgical or N95 masks but I hate the waste associated with those and besides my masks are made using a high grade quilting cotton with non-woven interfacing stitched into the middle; mine are three-layer masks.

More important those awful disposable blue surgical masks don’t fit me very well (I have to flip the elastic to fit over my ears to suppress my glasses fogging which makes the sides stand open), whereas my homemade masks do! And fit is more important than the materials used in construction, according to the experts I’ve read.

New Face Masks


With Omicron being rapidly transmitted throughout the community I decided everybody could use a new well-fitting face mask as a gift. I started making a batch ten days ago. I made a dozen which I gave away yesterday to the knitting ladies. I have another dozen cut out and ready to assemble – have to work on those today and get them made and washed so I can distribute them, too.

The pattern I’m using this time is the one from SeeKateSew. She provides a template for cutting out the masks. This mask is close fitting but because of the origami folds top and bottom it provides breathing space and I find it comfortable.

I don’t do the folded side in the instructions to enclose the elastic. Instead I insert the elastic into the seam as I construct the facemark which makes the sides a bit longer. I use 6″ – 7″ lengths of elastic depending on the face size of the person I’m making the mask for. When I use a longer elastic I add a silicon slide near the bottom of the mask so people can shorten the elastic if the mask fit is too loose.

Now back to sewing….

Bathrobe

I’ve been wearing a velour bathrobe I made at least 20 years ago. I started thinking about a new robe and kept an eye open for velour or terrycloth or fleece of some kind but didn’t come across anything I wanted to work with.

Then the purple corduroy (polyester) I’d ordered online arrived – I’d intended to use it for a pair of pants but I hadn’t realized I was ordering polyester instead of cotton, the colour wasn’t intense enough, the fabric too soft, and it was cut off grain so I was going to lose quite a bit of length at both ends. No pants.

Also, a few weeks back I placed an order with Spoonflower – they print any fabric design you choose from their collection of designer images, or that you create yourself, on a range of fabric types and you can order as much as you need for your project. They print not only fabric, but wall paper, and home decor items like pillowcases or duvet covers! I chose two designer images and ordered a single yard of each – one on lawn, the second on fleece.

I thought the prints were lovely when they arrived but can’t do a whole lot with a single yard so I decided to pair the fleece with the corduroy to make myself a new bathrobe.

I had enough length of the purple corduroy for the body (front and back) as well as the three yoke pieces. I cut the sleeves and yoke facings from the fleece.

The pattern is a very old one for a Hawaiian muu muu I bought in Honolulu a gazillion years ago and have used to make nightgowns and bathrobes for years.

I improvised with a size M (after I cut out the corduroy I suspected the garment was going to be too small – I carried on anyway to see how it might turn out). I split the front and inserted a medium length of zipper so I could step into the robe. I faced the front and back yoke pieces with fleece. Inserted the sleeves, serged the sleeve and side seams, finished off with a coverstitch on the sleeve edges and the bottom hem.

It’s not my best sewing – from the start I was sure this effort would be tossed out so I wasn’t as precise as I usually try to be when constructing a new garment. My neck edge isn’t perfectly matched. The top edge of the zipper should have been tucked under the facing, I tacked it down by hand instead. Small technical decisions I didn’t bother with because I was, after all, just sewing to see how the project would turn out before discarding it.

I was pleasantly surprised when I tried the bathrobe on over my nightgown – it actually fit – is the right length (just to my ankles) and rests comfortably on my shoulders. I thought about pockets but I don’t use the pockets in my old bathrobe so I left them out. If I decide I could use pockets I have a few scraps of corduroy leftover I could use to add patch pockets to the front.

The old velour housecoat is now in my trash bin.

Pink Boiled Wool Jacket

It’s been ten days since I posted anything but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been working away at stuff.

Here’s the pink boiled wool jacket.

Ruby expressed interest in having a boiled wool jacket when she saw mine. So we went shopping and I talked her into this pink poly/wool blend boiled wool fabric – heavier than the 100% wool I’d used but likely warmer.

The challenge was Ruby has a high waist measurement of 52″! How was I going to expand the pattern to cover her in the middle and still make it a flattering garment for her. The solution was to start with the XXL size in the pattern then pivot the centre fronts about 15° from the neckline. I left the back just about as it was so that it would hang flat.

I traced the adjusted pattern onto Swedish tracing paper (a sew-able light weight non-woven “fabric” for tracing patterns). I pin fit the pattern on her – initially it looked like I should drop the neckline both front and back; instead I raised the shoulder which enlarged the neckline. I made a few other adjustments then basted the parts together and tried the half-jacket on again. Much closer this time.

To control the bulk in the seams I sewed each 3/8″ seam, pressed using steam and a wood clapper, then top stitched 1/4″ from the seam using a stitch-in-the-ditch foot to ensure a 1/4″ seam; I pressed again on the right side using a press cloth. That gave me nice flat seams.

I finished the front and neck edges, sleeve hems and bottom hem with batik facings (I interfaced the front edge with a mid-weight woven fusible interfacing for a bit more body), edge stitching each facing so the turning would be flat.

I added patch pockets (raw edge on three sides, top edge interfaced and faced with the same batik) to the front. I left the collar with a raw edge, as well.

The jacket is a good length on her. I like how it drapes in the front and hangs straight in the back. The “boat-neck” sits solidly on her shoulders although it’s too open to wear without a scarf. I scoured my scarf collection and decided a navy print mobius scarf I made several years ago would fill in the neck nicely.

Ruby was happy with her new jacket. Me, too.

A Birthday Gift

I had enough bedspread fabric leftover from my kantha jacket to make one more – this one a birthday gift for a very long time friend.

A number of years ago I made her a quilted pieced jacket which still fits her and I discovered I still had the pattern. So I cut out a new jacket from the remaining bedspread pieces and quickly sewed it up.

Her birthday isn’t until the 27th but I took the jacket to her yesterday. I hope it gets to be worn and enjoyed. I know I’ve been getting lots of complements on mine.

I created double welt pockets and button loops from the very last leather scraps I had – that’s it for that kid skin I bought in New York many years ago. I used a dark batik to bind and face the seams and edges. I found some nice metal buttons to finish it off. I particularly like the fabrics that landed on the back! Wonderfully colourful.

I still have a few bedspread scraps left – they’ll likely become zippered bags when I get around to making another batch.

I continue to be inspired by the amazing kantha garments made by Meiko Mintz – her new website is worth a look even if you can’t afford (or aren’t willing to spend that much on) her gorgeous creations. I keep thinking about making large flowing jackets like hers but I know I’d not feel comfortable wearing them – which is why I stick to my more tailored jacket style.