“Whether or not God has kissed your brow, you still have to work. Without learning and preparation, you won’t know how to harness the power of that kiss.”

Twyla Tharp

Monday, August 17, 2009

Simply Delectable

Saturday dawned sunny and hot and we had absolutely no plans or obligations. So, with the top down, we set out to drive west on 101 through Peterboro, Keene, and into Brattleboro, Vermont. Whenever we're setting off, one of the first things I do is check out what possibilities there might be for fabric stores in the area. Delectable Mountain Cloth showed up on the internet as a definite possibility for exploring.

What an absolute treat. My words can't do it justice, but their website really does give you some flavor. They are a tiny store right on the main street in Brattleboro. They only carry natural fibers, along with some jewels, buttons, lace panels and scarves. They fit an amazing amount of fabric in a small place. There are no notions, or other mundane distractions -- only lovely things to feast your eyes on -- silks, fine Italian cottons, linens, bridals, velvets, and a large selection of 'whites.' Because their fabrics are only natural fiber, they are so wonderful to the touch.

Their glass counters are topped with pretty dishes holding wonderful buttons of all descriptions -- especially glass. There are no cardboard cards holding buttons -- all are arranged so you can pick each one up and examine its uniqueness.

I was so sorry that I was not organized enough to know exactly what I wanted and how much fabric it would take, but I am so glad that I found this very special place. It's a 2 hour drive for me, but on a lovely day, I would gladly make the drive for a special purchase. If you're a fabric lover and are anywhere in the area, you should check it out. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Stripe Help

I finished my second Liberty Shirt today and, while I like it well enough, it did have its challenges. It was the first time I had worked with stripes and I really wanted to match it well. The stripe is an uneven one and I knew that I had to, or wanted to, have the dominant stripe at center front and have my buttonholes/buttons there. Knowing that, I cut a duplicate front and laid out both pieces with the desired stripe on center front. Although the back was supposed to be cut on the fold, I also made a duplicate back and laid it out with the fabric open and tried to line up the front and back shoulders to match. Again, I wanted that dominant stripe at center back.

No matter what I did, I could not get the shoulders to match and finally decided that, with an uneven stripe, perhaps one needed to sacrifice something in order to get the center fronts to match and that something would have to be the shoulder seams. But, interestingly, one shoulder ended up matching perfectly, while the second was off by about a 1/2 inch or more. When I saw it I almost wished neither matched since it now looks as if I didn't quite try hard enough. If anyone out there has advice, feel free! I'd be happy for the opportunity to figure out if I could have done something differently. The collar I cut horizontally just to make it a bit different and I did like the way the stripes angle at the collar front.

The fabric was a remnant and I've long since lost the information on it. It's shiny, almost like taffeta and all of the stripes are slightly raised, which made construction a bit challenging. I may try a burn test to see what it is. I suspect it's a synthetic of some sort. It wasn't wonderful to work on. For some reason I had trouble with the mitered corners on this as well, even though they were a breeze on my previous Liberty Shirt. I wonder if my eye was trying to follow the stripe rather than the construction of the miter. Bad day?! Oh well, it's finished and I do like it on.

My next project is for my daughter, Sarah. I first saw this fabric when someone reviewed a shirt on Pattern Review. The reviewer was kind enough to give details on where she purchased the cloth since everyone was intrigued and thought perhaps she had made it. It's from Sew It Up under novelty cottons.. If you click on the pictures, you'll get a much better feel for the the fabric which is strips of different cloth serged together, some with ruffles, others with embroidery. I knew Sarah would love it so I ordered it on Monday and had it on Wednesday with a handwritten thank you for purchasing it! Great service! I would definitely order from them again.

The shirt is slightly fitted and since the fabric is so unique and a bit pricey, a muslin is definitely in order. I really hope this one goes well. It should be a really fun, funky shirt if it does.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Industry Insider Techniques Review

I bought a wonderful DVD last week, Threads Industry Insider Techniques. Threads editors, along with Louise Cutting, demonstrate some industry insider techniques that make some ready to wear clothing look so good. I like Louise Cutting a lot. She the creator of Cutting Lines Designs patterns which are beautifully put together and have great lines. One of them is on my cutting table now and several of them are on my 'wish list' to purchase in the weeks ahead.

There are actually 2 DVDs and I can't wait to get Part 2. The first DVD covers a no-stitch interfaced hem, balanced darts, the perfect collar, mitered corners and clean french seams. Additionally, and I think my favorite, was a demonstration of how to get some of the bulk out of facings by eliminating some of the seams on your pattern tissue before you cut. This DVD was so easy to watch and the demonstrations were so clear that you really can incorporate these tips into your every day sewing. It's nicely arranged so you can choose which tutorial you want to watch -- great to pop into your laptop and watch the techniques as you actually execute them on your cutting table and sewing machine.

I thought it was definitely worth the money!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Pillow Talk

So I've finished three coordinating pillows for my nephew. I knew exactly what I wanted to do with these three -- I will most likely make two more that are different, but I'm not firm yet with what I want to do with those. I did see a wonderful very large shell button in oyster with two black animals on it that I think I may want to incorporate, but I'm not quite there yet.



I purchased the two remnants in Montreal that were a wonderful match even though they were purchased at two different stores. I then combined them with various braiding and fringe that I have collected over the past few weeks with the black and cream theme in mind.

Two of the pillows are very straightforward -- 18" squares in a single fabric with cording all around and a zipper in back for easy removal. The zipper construction is courtesy of Erin's tutorial. Because I am working with heavier upholstery fabric and cording, I generally allow an extra inch and cut my squares at 19" to leave a 1/2" seam allowance. These fabrics often fray, so I ran all edges through the serger which made a nice clean piece to work with. I then attach my cording to the front piece, 1/2" from the edge. You must get the stitching on your cording very tight -- right up against the cord -- in order for the pillow to look truly professional! When turning the corners with your cording, you may need to clip the seam allowance of the cording to get enough ease to turn the corner nicely. You can't always do this, depending on the cording, but if you can, it is helpful. If you have a cording foot, you should use it here. My machine has a nice feature where you can stop with needle down and the pressure foot raises ever so slightly so you can pivot easily. For purchased cording, where you begin and end your cording, I like to pull it off the seamline to the edge and sew over it so there are no rough ends showing. For self-made cording, there is a slightly different way to join where your ends meet.


I then work on the back piece, inserting the zipper into the back piece. Lastly, the back and front are seamed, right on the same stitching line, or slightly inside, that you used for your cording. Turn right side out and your pillow is done
!

On the third pillow I wanted to combine both fabrics. When doing this, you want to keep proportion in mind. I used a 16 x 20" pillow insert and cut my center fabric at 6" wide, leaving 7" each for the two side pieces.

I then attached my cording to either side of my center piece, again snug your stitches right up against the cord. Once that is done, attach either side to the center.

At this point I wanted some fringe for some real punch and I had some very good black silky fringe. This got attached to the edge of either side piece, beginning and ending 1/2" in from the top. Once that is done, insert your zipper into your back piece, attach front to back and again, you're finished!


If you can't find the size form you want, they are so easy to make -- simply use a muslin or even an old pillow case, sew up the sides to form the size you want, stuff it with fiberfill or whatever filling you want (I like to use a really good quality here so pillows are not too spongy feeling) and then handstitch closed.

I've made lots of pillows over the years -- some in very heavy fabric -- often resulting in a broken needle or two or some skipped stitches. These pillows were sewn on my new Viking SE and I felt like I was in sewing machine heaven! No matter how many layers or fabric or cording I was sewing through, the machine adjusted itself and just slid over them as if it was seaming two simple woven pieces. Nice! And, for that I have to give a hats off to my favorite sewing maching advisors at Merri Stitches in Windham. You got me into a great machine!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Pillow Zippers!

We had our living furniture re-upholstered this winter. We searched and searched for new furniture and I finally realized that I loved everything about our current living room except that the fabric had worn out! So, we re-upholstered. I ordered extra yardage and finally got around to making beautiful toss pillows with elaborate trims out of the extra yardage - great! Not long after, my nephew finished redecorating his house and I told him I would do the pillows to match his black leather furniture -- nice aunt?!

Flash forward. We're driving home from Montreal and my husband asked me if I was going to make Peter's pillow covers removable, as ours are, so they can be dry cleaned. I said, of course. He then said very innocently that, while it was great that they can be cleaned, when people have been sitting on the couch and the pillows have been bounced around, they gap a bit in the back where the fabric overlaps!!! After fifteen minutes of stony silence, he asked 'did I hurt your feelings?'

Flash forward again -- time to tackle what I've put off far too long -- professional looking zippers in pillows. I came across the most awesome tutorial -- thank you Erin! Your description and your pictures are superb. And, I love your blog! And, Steve, I do both forgive you and thank you for prompting me to learn this technique. I know that was not your intention, but I am so glad I did. My pictures below -- zipper exposed -- zipper not exposed. Voila!


Eventually, for very formal pillows, I may need to break down and learn to insert invisible zippers right up against the cording. But, for these more casual ones, I really like the look of the zipper hidden in the 'pocket.' It's very tailored looking.

The finished pillows with more detail will actually follow in my next posts, but this was too good not to share. Try it -- you'll like it!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Liberty Shirt, Part 2



I finished the Liberty Shirt today and really loved both the process and the finished product. This Sewing Workshop pattern is constructed with such precision and such attention to detail that the inside looks as good as the outside. The instructions made me think more than once -- in fact when doing the mitered corner I did it completely wrong the first time and had to start over paying more attention to the drawing. I think the pattern challenged me to slow down and enjoy the process, taking the time to make every detail count. It's such a simple design but I think it's charm comes in really nailing the details of the corners, top stitching, angles, etc.

I interfaced the collar, which was optional, but did not interface the front and back facings. I wondered at the end if I should have since the weave is a bit light and my buttonholes may have been sturdier had they been interfaced. I did stabilize them with tear-away stabilizer and I think I'll be fine. Since I'm not very tall, I did shorten the sleeve by one inch after tracing off the pattern. I really like my shirts/jackets more bracelet length, so when I make it again I may take off even another quarter inch.

The finished product is the kind of casual, but funky design that you'd expect to see at a high end boutique. And, the pattern lends itself to other things such as a light wool or corduroy for Fall or a shirting for every day wear. If I were doing it in shirting for every day, I would eliminate the vent in the sleeve sew to the end so the sleeve can be rolled up easily.

Can't wait to start another, but need to work on my nephews throw pillows before I indulge.