Working with “Leather” Tips

I am finally in the construction phase of the “leather” coat for my youngest son and it has been a time of learning and relearning. It has also taken me much longer to get here than I thought it would, but as I work, I am remembering a lot of the cool things I had learned decades ago that are helping me now, so I am speeding up.  I have now worked with this faux leather enough to know I really like it.  It has just the right weight, a good hand, and responds well to construction steps.  It is a vast improvement over faux leathers of the past.

Sew here are a few hints if you want to try your hand at working with such “leather”.

  1. I found that my Bohin chalk marker I use for quilting works well for marking.

    Bohin chalk marker

  2. After you get your flat pattern adjusted and a muslin piece fitted (essential) and ready to use, you have to mark each piece one side at a time on the back of the “leather”.  First, cut out the pattern carefully, then weight it down flat on the back of the “leather” and chalk around the pattern.  Cut carefully with scissors or rotary cutter (small rotary cutter will cut around the curves better).  Accuracy of the cutting will make a difference in the finished product.  This process takes about three times or more of pinning a pattern on woven fabric folded in half and then cutting out both sides of each piece together.

    Here’s my pattern on the “leather’ with my “fancy” pattern weights…LOL  Note some of the pieces chalked in ready to cut.

  3. You cannot readily pin the “leather” because the hole stays permanently.  Exception:  I pinned a few places where I really needed help keeping it together for stitching, but making certain the pin holes will be in the seam or hidden some other way.
  4. Clips work really well as a substitute for pinning when working along the edges for most of your stitching needs, and blue painter’s tape works great when you need some help where you can’t put a pin or a clip.

    The collars for this project are constructed with a separate under collar, interestingly shaped collar stands that are added before joining the collar pieces. Here you see the collar stand seam has been top stitched open and the collar pieces are clipped together ready to sew.

  5. You really need a teflon foot for most stitching (see my last post for the feet I am using), but I also have added my clear plastic foot number 34D Bernina that allows me to see the exact placement of the needle when making a bound welt pocket.

    Reverse pattern foot 34D, clear with marks and works with dual feed.

    In the case of the plastic foot, I was using my dual feed and stitching very slowly.  It worked well for this purpose, but for regular stitching at normal it really is best with a teflon foot.

  6. Marking carefully is vital when making welt pockets and don’t try to push yourself when you get tired.  I actually ruined one of the coat fronts late in my sewing day after the sun had gone down, and had to recut that piece and the binding pieces and start over by doing that.  So I suggest you buy an extra length of the longest piece in your pattern to be able to recut if need be.  You can use the leftovers for bags, hats, eye glass covers, and other interesting small projects.  I will be using that ruined piece as part of a bag I plan to make, so it isn’t really lost.  The next day, I got the pockets in really nicely and now I am so confident in making such pockets I will probably start using them on a regular basis again.

  7. I am using a seam roller gadget to “press” the seams open, but that is just temporary and the seams need to be either top stitched down or glued.
  8. I found you can iron on fusible interfacing on the wrong side at a lower iron setting than you normally use, no steam, and with a quilting cotton pressing cloth.  Be careful, press, don’t iron, and test your own “leather” first.  I am using a pellon tailoring interfacing.  Do NOT iron on the right side of the “leather” and I suggest you not try to iron the seams and completed turned pieces either.

Sew I will publish at least one more post on this project showing you the end result.  I am writing this information up into a how-to book including this and other projects.  There is a lot more to tell you about this.

Sew happy everyone.  I encourage you to take a look at the current day vegan leathers and try working with it.  There are a lot of interesting “leathers” out there and they come in different textures and weights.

 

Wardrobe Analysis, Slopers, Muslin Test Garments, and a Fashion Fabric Stash

It’s November!  I have a plan for November.  Now I know my topic is usually related to the art of quilting, but I decided I seriously need to do some garment sewing for a bit, delaying some of my quilting plans while I do.  I have a really beautiful collection of fall, winter, and early spring fabrics stashed in three under bed storage units and in my blanket box I had built to match my bed some years back.  I also recently added a full 8 yard bolt of faux leather, and three pieces of fabric suitable for dress slacks for me. It’s literally been a decade or more since I replaced or added significant clothes to my wardrobe, and my son needs a new coat.

Over the past few years I have lost a couple of dress sizes although I am still quite a large woman with long arms, a smallish waist, and big hips.  So purchased clothes seldom look good on me, though a few simple styles can serve.  I also have worn out most of my old collection of nice shirts and slacks I used to wear to work even if the style and fit is still ok. Then there is the fact that I am now a fabric artist, retired from government work, so even if it was still serviceable, my wardrobe doesn’t fit my lifestyle anymore.

Analysis of my current wardrobe tells me that the addition of several nice pairs of slacks, a few simple jackets, and some tops would make the rest of it work (I no longer wear dresses and I have black jeans, blue jeans, some nice sweaters and just a couple of shirts).

Now I know from having once had my own fashion design/tailoring business long years ago that once one gets a perfectly fit pattern for slacks, I can make a pair in less than a day.  At my top speed at that time, I could make a beautifully finished pair of well fitting slacks in an afternoon, including the cutting.  The big problem with that is getting the pattern perfectly fitted. So the first step is to get a sloper (or basic slacks pattern) flat fitted from measurements and then make up a pair of muslin test slacks.  After that I will make any changes to the test slacks and adjust the flat pattern.  That is step one.  Then I can zip through the three pairs of slacks.  I might make my poly/wool pants I have stashed away and add a simple cute jacket to get a nice dressy suit for winter…but maybe in December.

For my son David’s “leather” coat, I already have a sloper pattern and need to make a muslin fitter test for that before I add the style touches and make the coat.  That will probably take me a week or week and a half to make his coat.

Faux Leather..looks good. Has a nice weight. When I finish sewing it, one may not readily be able to tell it isn’t real leather. Real leather was out of my budget.

I recently flat fitted the cutest McCall’s jacket pattern to make a denim jacket out of some of the on hand denim.  It has places for adding some interesting embroidery.  I’m not going to make a test muslin for that, mostly because it has a lot of style ease in the pattern and also because I have a whole lot of denim, and since I have had it for a long time, I figure it is about equal to the cost of the muslin.  I buy my jeans from Lee Jeans, which has a style that fits me well surprisingly.  I may take a pair and add some corresponding embroidery at the bottom of the blue jeans, thereby giving me an attractive  blue denim suit to wear when teaching or even go to church or some such.  This will probably take me less than a week.

This is the denim jacket pattern. I will do the embroidery too.

Then I will make myself a faux leather jacket, for which I have a pattern that I already know fits me, though I still think I will make a muslin fitter before I cut the leather, since it cannot be unstitched even the slightest because of the holes from the stitching.  Leather…faux or real…has to stay like you sew it!  This is a more complex jacket and will probably take me a week to make.  This will be fun.  My new machine came with some feet designed to sew on leather/faux leather.

I have a stack of blouse/top fabrics that will make nice year round tops and also a piece of  black faux suede to make an elaborately embroidered, but otherwise simply styled jacket to wear for Holidays or some such (I’ll make this for Christmas, but not until December).  I just ordered a couple of new tops patterns that look fairly simple to make.  I’ll make those across the next year with one every once in a while.  So I am not counting them on my initial wardrobe redo timing.

Sew my initial wardrobe update seems to me to be doable by the beginning of December, especially since I am still quilting my Mom’s memory quilt, which is coming along nicely.  Don’t forget, I made myself a beautiful overcoat last year that has a faux fur collar and I love it.  It also told me I still love making clothes, but doing them right and carefully fitting them.  This wardrobe update will be using on hand fabrics and thread.  I probably have all the interfacing and other additional notions I may need.  So the entire cost of this year’s update will be really low and I will end up with a wonderful wardrobe.  I will construct most of the items so I can take them up as I lose more weight. I am, of course, planning on embellishing,  embroidering, and adding some interesting style touches for most of the new clothes I make (not the slacks). That’s what makes constructing my own clothes so much fun. I’m excited.

Meanwhile, I have made a very nice start to the quilting of my Mom’s memory quilt.  I will work these things together.  This makes it really fun for me in my studio.  I also have gotten mostly ready for my next workshop I am teaching at G Street Fabrics on 15 November…Embellish This! in which we embellish a fabric panel I designed that makes a 15 inch by 15 inch square suitable for a pillow top or wall hanging (Christmas present?).   That class is going to be a lot of fun and not a lot of stress, plus you end up with a very nice selection of decorative threads you can use for Holiday embellishment (purchased kit $45, worth at least twice that much).  So I encourage my local friends to sign up.  I think there is still room in this class.  Call G Street and ask.

So I have a plan in addition to continuous periodic work on my Mom’s memory quilt:

  • November sewing
    • David’s “leather” coat
    • My three slacks
    • My denim jacket
    • My “leather” jacket
  • December sewing
    • My “suede” embroidered jacket for Christmas
    • My wool suit????
    • A new bag from leftover “leather” and “suede” together
    • A simple top or two

Will I finish all of this?  I’m thinking I actually might with careful planning with no additional costs.  That way I will save a lot of money and have a good wardrobe for my current lifestyle.  Then I can get back to focusing on quilting full time.

Happy sewing everyone!  Make yourself some lovely garment or garments to make you happy, but I encourage you to make a muslin fitting test piece before you cut your expensive fashion fabric if you do not already know the pattern fits.  Then you can make the same pattern with different style touches with several fabrics…stack them up, cut them out, embellish them, make them all at once!  Then let me know how it went.

 

 

 

Sew Happy with My New Machine

I have been blessed with a really fine new Bernina 880 Plus, aka Odette.  I have been doing a lot of work with the machine since I got it all settled down and I learned its little ins and outs.

I have been working on a quilt in  memory of my Mom.  Mom was a great beauty, a fabulous sewist. a woodworker, had been a nurse, and a home decorator.  She was a wonderful mother and wife during her life.  She taught me to sew and knit. This quilt is a hug and a bow to her sparkling memory.  I’m really enjoying working on it as I remember all the wonderful things she taught me and shared with me.

Mom (Zephana Bivens) in her woodshop at 78.

So my design for Mom’s memory quilt has a considerable amount of in-the-hoop embroidery in it.  Some of the embroidery designs came with my new machine, were some I had purchased or collected  in the past, and two of them I purchased just for this quilt.  In spite of when I got them, all the designs are from OESD and are amazingly well digitized and have stitched out wonderfully on my new machine.  I am so impressed with how beautiful the stitches are, how they don’t overly pull, and how wonderful they look when done.  I have three more to go, each requiring about two hours to complete.  Then I will sandwich, quilt, paint, wash and block, bind, and add crystals and pearls.

Mom, Dad, and my brother Pat before I was even on the way.

I also have done some additional sewing just to see how the machine works, testing all the attachments.  I got some special feet designed to work with leather and vinyl.  Just this week I bought enough beautiful faux leather to make my youngest son, the writer who shares this house with me, a coat and myself a jacket.  I’m excited about this project.

One of the things that came with my new machine is Bernina’s Big Book of Feet. I have been reading through it while babysitting the embroidery module doing its work.  I find I have most of the feet, since I had a Bernina 830 prior to this one and had collected them across the eight years and I got some new ones that came with the deal.  It’s so exciting when I can do and I will be sewing a lot of clothes and home decorating items over the next year as well as the planned show quilts on my list to explore some of these interesting techniques.  I’m thinking I might make some of the clothes as wearable art and enter them into shows also.  Maybe I will make a few bags and hats too.

Mom and me in May 1967. I am showing off the dress I made.

How exciting!  Will I get it all done?  Probably not, but it will be fun trying.  After nearly three months of working to get a good new machine following the breakdown of my 830, and another couple of weeks learning Odette’s ins and outs, I have concluded I have the best machine I have ever had.  It sews evenly, beautifully, and smoothly.  I foresee many years of exciting new projects ahead. Knock on wood!  LOL

I’m currently writing a book about embellishment that will include several sampler projects, just to fill in my spare time…hahahaha.  (Also, I am going to teach a class at G Street sometime in November on embellishment).

Embellish This! workshop sampler for November 2019 class.

Sew happy everyone!  Take time to learn what your machine can do.  Even some of the more basic machines will help you do some remarkable work if you take the time to explore it, but especially if you have a more advanced machine….take that time to read the manual, and try some new techniques to enhance your sewing.  It will give you lots of happiness in the process and with the items you make.

Fall Is In the Air

Color Swirl by Kevin Tatum (my grandson) using Corel Painter.

Ever since I was in High School, which was a long long time ago, I have gotten excited when I started thinking about fall and winter sewing and quilting.  This year is no exception.  In fact, having just reorganized my fabric, thread, paint, and notions stashes, and purchased a new Bernina 880 Plus, I am more excited than usual about the projects I have before me this year.

One of the things I always like about going through my studio to sort things out is finding pieces of fabric I had forgotten about or had at least pushed to the back of my to do list.  This is for both clothes and quilts.

When I cleared up my studio this year, I also went through my clothing patterns, pruning out about 75 percent of my old patterns and keeping only those that seem right for me now.  The remaining patterns and fabrics for clothes on hand are inspiring me  to think about making some new clothes. My wardrobe really needs an update too.

When I bought my new machine, I got it at a time when they were providing a gift that includes new feet, some machine luggage, additional embroidery motifs for use in the hoop and a variety of other neat things.  I was able to exchange some of the feet that duplicated those I already had for some new ones.  So now I have a lot of feet that are inspiring ideas for using interesting techniques.

Remember when I talk about all  the things I have found in my studio, I have been sewing since I was five years old and I am 72. I retired in 2012 to be a full time fabric artist.  So some of the things have been hiding for a while from me in some of the closets, in boxes under my bed, and even in plain sight…LOL.  I feel very blessed.  Because of all the things I recently rediscovered stashed away I don’t have to buy anything new for most of the projects I want to make.  I did restock some threads and paints that I anticipate needing.  So I have resolved to myself that for the next year I will attempt to do m work without new stuff.  Now I want to make:

  • a new bag, in leather (I now have feet for use with leather and vinyl and some leather).
  • a new suit, in black denim (I have a stash that includes a fair amount of denim) with embroidery
  • a blue denim jacket
  • a new dress suit in wool with a silk top to go with it
  • a new jacket in raw silk, maybe 2 since I have 2 nice pieces
  • several new tops and use some heirloom techniques  (I have a nice collection of feet to use for this now) and embroider some of them.
  • I also want to make several new show and utility quilts.

It is fairly certain that  I won’t get all of this done this year, but it’s nice to have them on the list to pick from as I do have time.

Clearly I have an exciting and busy time ahead that will last well beyond fall and winter, and I have already started.  I will have to plan my days in order to fit other important things into my life.  I’m excited!  I’m sure the nicely rearrangement of my studio, and my wonderful fleet of machines will help me accomplish a great deal of these projects though.  So I won’t have to buy any new clothes for fall through spring either. I don’t have much in the way of summer fabrics, unless I use my quilting cottons.  LOL

Oh, and last year I made a new dressy overcoat with a “fur” collar using some of the fabrics on hand.  It’s warm and cosy.  So I really do complete a lot of these dream projects.

Messy work table with coat pieces


Progress Report on My Mom’s Memory Quilt

I have made a good start on my Mom’s memory quilt, which is going to also be a show quilt, but I have a long ways to go on it.  It has a large pentagon in the middle of it on which I am appliqueing her needle work.  The pentagon fabric is a lovely medium blue dupioni that sets off the beauty of her crocheted lace.  It’s a pentagon because I thought I only had five of the ten inch squares I found in her work basket, but during the reorganization I found a sixth square.  It’s a slightly different shade of crochet thread, though, so I will find something neat to do with that one.  The color difference is probably why it was in a separate  place.  There are  some more crocheted items, but they don’t work with this quilt.

I had no idea how difficult it would be to make a perfect pentagon that has 21 inch sides.  It was a challenge.  A good friend of mine sent me a Corel Draw pattern for one to print in tiled sheets and taped together.  I thought that it would then be easy to get it right, but putting the tiles together that way gave many opportunities for slight variations in the shape.  I had to try it several times until I got it right, but finally succeeded when I started using a lot of rulers to help.

So yesterday I cut out the freezer paper pentagon, cut out the fabric, and then glue basted the edges down.  I checked the edges for straightness and measurements.  It’s very good.  the sixteenth of an inch off I had on the paper pattern disappeared as I worked the fabric from it.  I love how it looks.  I placed the crocheted pieces around  it in a way that forms a star in the middle, just laying them down to see how it looked for now.  (No pictures until its debut show, whatever that will be).

It is in many ways a gift to my Mom. It would be so much fun if she were still here to show it to her, but I am having a lovely time making it while thinking about all the great things she taught me and the lovely things she made herself. She did not quilt, but she was a real expert seamstress.  She has been gone now  twenty years, but sometimes I think she is nearby.

Sew happy everyone!  What are your planned projects for this fall and winter?

 

 

 

Projects Completed, Looking toward 2019

Sew I finished my overcoat and it looks fabulous, fits well, and is even flattering.  It also is much warmer than I thought it was going to be, so I am all ready for what is expected to be a colder-than-usual winter. I haven’t got pictures yet, but I will and post them.

I finished! Ready for the next project.

The past few days my son David and I have been preparing the house for Christmas decorating.  In other words, we have been cleaning and David put together a nice small drop leaf table we are going to use to put our kind of short Christmas tree on and then, after Christmas, he will be using it for his chair side table.  It’s really quite pretty hardwood and seems perfect for the use we are planning for it.  I totally love Christmas.  It always warms my heart and it has a lot of sparkle.

Announcing the beginning of Advent! From Canterbury Knight.

I also have finished writing the manuscript for my book “Ten Skill Building Projects for Bernina V7 Embroidery Software”.  My dear friend and Bernina dealer Mei-Ling Huang convinced me to go ahead and complete the book since I almost had it finished because lots of people are still using v7.  So I have.  I am now working on putting it into book format using Corel Draw and will publish it through Amazon.  That project will take me a while, but sometime early in 2019 I will publish this book with the help of my son David, who has his own small press.  It may be published under Fennec Fox Press (David’s publishing company), but we are still deciding if this is the best way to do this.

So I bought Bernina v8 and plan to write a similar book for that version.  It may be mostly the same, just updated, though I might find something really fun in the new version that I want to use.  I think I can put that book out in 2019 also, not too much later than v7 book.

I will tell you that I feel greatly relieved to get these two big projects finished, and I will be really happy to get the house decorated, probably tomorrow.  I will be delighted to return to more quilting and less other things.  First of all, I am going to do a small project using couching and needle punch for practice and a sample  I am also working on a couple of ruler quilting practice samples. And yes, I already have several quilts in mind to use these particular techniques, and so this is part of preparing to launch into those.

One of the nice little bits of news is that Night on the Bayou has been accepted into Road to California 2019 in January 24-27.  I’m considering going.  My brother lives in San Diego and offered to put me up for a visit and drive up for a day trip to see the show if I can scrape together the round trip ticket funds. We’ll see what happens.

Limbs and spanish moss closeup.

Competition at this show is really keen.  It’s probably as high as for both Houston IQF and AQS Paducah.  So it would be a surprise if it ribbons.  Nevertheless. Joel Christopher Payne, the artist whose beautiful piece “Delights of the Bayou” inspired this quilt lives just 45 minutes away and said he will go to the show to see it.  I hope he really does, though I know he is a very busy person.  I think he would be amazed with the art of the quilts at the show.

Sew happy everyone!  Have a marvelous Christmas/Holiday season.  I celebrate from the first day of Advent through the twelve days of Christmas ending on January 6.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving and Other Things

Hi everyone.  I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. I am very thankful for my wonderful family, friends, and my readers.  I was thinking about it the other day as I was pressing a section of the (seemingly never-ending project) overcoat.  I dug out my special pressing things I have had for years for use in making clothing…my ham, my sleeve pressing board, my shaped wood pressing piece.  I haven’t used them for a couple of years and I am grateful I did not get rid of them because of that.  I am grateful for my machines and my wonderful inspiring studio, no matter that it is a bit of a mess.

My thoughts today are also with those who have lost so much in recent disasters both hurricanes and fires.  I  just want to hug you all and wish you all a speedy  and full recovery.  I am trying to figure out the best approach for helping.  I don’t have a lot of cash to contribute and I know rushing to send stuff is sometimes more of a problem than a help in the end.  For now, I’m doing some praying and watching for what, if anything, I can do.

Sew how is my overcoat coming?  Well, I have completed the outer shell and am almost finished with the lining that includes the fur collar.  To me, the biggest challenge is getting that fur collar installed in the coat.  Sewing with this thick fur is not the easiest thing and requires some special techniques even it if is “faux” fur.  I think that will happen tomorrow afternoon or Monday.  Then I will be practically done except for hems and buttonholes, so it is looking like I will make my Thanksgiving deadline.  After that…back to quilt making and book writing, and I am looking forward to it.  The coat has been more of a project than I anticipated largely because of the challenging fabrics.  The fabulous wool is, nevertheless, loosely woven in a way that closely resembles hand woven fabric.  the fur collar is fabulous faux fur, but sewing with it is also challenging.  Nevertheless, I will be happy to have this beautiful coat.  It is going to be a little snug, but since I am in the process of losing weight I think that is the way it should be fitted at this time.  It will serve me well for several years even as I go down in size (I can move the buttons and I made the sleeve/side seems such I can take them up fairly easily).  My next fashion sewing project will be with well-behaving fabrics!!!

Sew happy everyone!  Have a wonderful time this week!

 

 

 

Bring on Fall!

I have some fun and interesting plans for the fall and winter quilting season and have been spending nearly all my working time preparing for them for the past couple of weeks.

First of all, I am preparing for my fall workshops at G Street Fabrics in Rockville, beginning with the first one on Saturday, September 22nd at 11 am!  See more about this on my blog from a few weeks ago here.

So I have all my handouts made and the kits for the first workshop. I almost have all the kits for the second workshop and have made progress on the third workshop.  So when you come, you will have a lot of fun and be able to dive right in to our projects.  You just need to call G Street sewing machine department and sign up!  You can sign up for one or all three.  So much fun to come starting in just a few weeks!  I should finish preparations for these this week and be able to get back to sewing and quilting.

Sew my plans for the fall and winter sewing and quilting season are exciting for me.  As you may know by now, I like to run two or three projects at once to keep me from getting frustrated…hopefully all at different stages along the way.

  • My current quilt project is for my bed, making an applique pattern by Sue Nickels that is really pretty and will add a lot of beauty to my bedroom.  I am about half way through that.  It is not for a show quilt and is just for fun and adding something to my home for me.
  • I am currently working out what my next show quilts will be.  My plans are exciting and two of them involve other people.
    1. My dear friend, student, and what we jokingly call my apprentice Anita has drawn a beautiful scene with a steam locomotive train and gifted it to me for use as a quilt design.  It is full of wonderful things and will be quite fantastic if I can pull it off…trees, rocks, trestles, the locomotive with steam, pulling cars…one with a load of wood. So cool!  Send good thoughts, because this one is a challenge but I plan on starting it soon.
    2. My oldest son, who designed Pendragon, is designing an accompanying piece Excalibur.   Oh I can hardly wait to see his design.  He started earlier but work got so busy for him that he had to lay it aside for awhile.  Things have gotten a little more sane for him now and he thinks he can finish it soon.
    3. Okay, so I am working on my own design(s) also.  I have an array of things I want to do, and am engaged in trying to draw up some of them to choose from for this season.  I am thinking of making one based on polyester satins that I embellish multiple ways to show what can be done with a limited quilt budget (under $100 is my goal).  That design work is not done yet, and I keep oming up with new ideas  with new subjects…I’m currently leaning toward a dark forest with spots of beauty and fun woodland characters, but it could end up entirely something else…spending a little time every day on this.  So it will be a little while before I just get the design sealed down and ready to make.
    4. And then I also want to do another line drawing quilt based on architecture.  I have a couple of possibilities, but I’m still looking.
  • I haven’t forgotten my book.  I have actually made considerable progress on it this summer, and hope to finish it sometime in October.
  • Plus I am wondering just how I can approach the passing on of my many surface design and embellishment techniques.  I have won several ribbons on this aspect of my quilts, and feel I have much to tell you about.  I already have a book outlined and started, but I am thinking of videos.  My son Ken has gotten me all set up to do videos, and I am thinking of making several…some on quilting and some on surface design and embellishment techniques.

I did mention clothes, didn’t I.  I am planning on making a new winter coat this fall.  I found a great pattern that I think I can make with fabrics (and faux fur) I already have..a free and hopefully gorgeous winter coat.  It’s free because I’ve had this fabric for years and properly stored, so it is in great shape.  If you haven’t made an overcoat, it is not really as difficult as making a shirt with a stand collar, really it isn’t.  And using thick winter fabrics is very forgiving, hiding most little mistakes.  I encourage you to try one.  There are some great patterns just out this year.  I also am planning on squeezing in a winter dress suit, yes a pants suit beause my legs just look best that way.  This will challenge me to resurrect my professional tailoring skills, but I have recently lost a couple of dress sizes (though I freely admit that I am still “fat”), and I will make it in a way I can take it up one more size.  I have fabric for that too.

As you see, this year is going to emphasize to myself trying to get all my sewing and quilting done by shopping my stash or keeping costs down while still producing some remarkable pieces.

Sew happy everyone!  I hope you are planning to do a lot of sewing and quilting this fall and winter or are encouraging your friends and family who do sew to let their lights shine (and help them make time to sew).  Happy September!

 

Stash Busting: Making a Bag

One side of the bag

While I began finally to recover from a bear of a cold–and yes, I am back from the coughing, sneezing, nose-dripping, energy sapping two week long cold finally–I decided to do something kind of fun and gentle that someone else did most of the thinking for me.  So I finally got around to making bag 1 of Rami Kim’s IQUILT online class.  It is entirely made from scraps in my stash.  Even the zipper was something I must have bought nearly a decade ago just for this bag, but I didn’t know it then.  LOL.  The picture at the top is one side.  I really love it.  I added a couple of pockets in the lining that she didn’t have.  I like it so much I think I will use it for my primary bag for a while.

It was a lot of fun, even though I made a lot of mistakes that had to be corrected.  I made the top piece, which is cut in two pieces for both sides.  First you quilt a 14 x 22 inch piece and then you cut out the corners and cut it into half for the zipper.  I cut one corner too big!  😒  So I had to make another top piece.  I had originally used a darker gray, but since I used it up in the first piece, I hunted around and found a similar piece with the same kind of print but it was a lighter gray.  Then I cut the bottom piece of lining in two, like you were supposed to do for the top, but not for the bottom, so I rejoined it with the leftover piece of folded strip like the one that you use down one side of the folded Chotsky ribbons.  But in the end, I think it came out really nice.  Here’s the other side.

In the past, when I made a bag (and I’ve made quite a few over the years), I was never really happy with the handles.  Rami suggests leather handles for the bags, and they solve a multitude of problems.  I went on a hunt for them, and finally found that Amazon sells them in multiple styles and colors and they aren’t expensive.  So I ordered two pair…this gray one and a nice green one for a future bag totally from my stash.  I have a couple of long multi-zippers in a roll from Nancy’s Notions that I can use for that one.  This is so much fun it could get to be a habit.  In the future, though, I hope I am faster and make fewer mistakes.

Sew happy everyone!  Make yourself a bag.  Hint:  Be sure to build it right…interface the fabrics, put the right kind of stiff batting, and use the zipper a little longer than required to make it easier.  Adding internal pockets is really easy…just make a lined square piece the right size (figure it out from your pattern, remembering where it will bend or be stitched) and stitch it on while the lining is still flat.  Be sure to measure and center the pockets.  You can even make a zipper pocket fairly easily.  Maybe I’ll show you how in one of my future blogs if you want.  I just made patch pockets for this bag and added a couple of lines of stitching to make a place for a pen and a notebook on one side and just left it with no divisions on the other side.

 

My Thoughts About My Fabric Art for 2017

I have made some adjustments in my thinking about my fabric art direction over the last few months that will lead to my putting less focus on competition art quilting and more on the adventure of making art as fabulous as I can.  You may not see much difference, because I probably will continue to enter some of my work into shows, but the emphasis in my studio and in my mind is more on the art work and less on the show work.

I am very excited about this because I have so many things I want to try to make and I want to share with you, gentle readers, what I learn along the way.

This new direction came about because two quilts of mine that I know are quite show worthy and people would emjoy seeing them, were both rejected from Road to California 2017.  That puzzled me (I have several theories about this, but I won’t share them here).  They are wonderful quilts and deserved to be in the show. Here they are:

Drawing Nigh, completed 4/17/2016, 39.5 x 44.5 inches. Original design by BJ

 

Spiral Galaxy No. 3 (Best Interpretation of Theme in PNQE earlier this year)

Yes, I know all the things that are said about this by friends trying to comfort me (I am not upset, by the way.  It is a good thing that helped me think I needed to move in new directions)…”make what you love”, “even if they are rejected it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with your quilt”, “they probably had too many in that category”, and so on.   I appreciate it.  But think about this: It costs money to enter a show, and my desire when I enter is chiefly to share my quilts with people.

If I win something it is icing on the cake, so not to get into a show is really harder for me to take than not placing.  I used to clearly understand it if my quilt was rejected, since I was such a junior quilt maker and I could see the problems in the quilts myself.  But my recent quilts are flat, square, quilted well, full of impact, individual, good designs, and worthy of sharing.

So I have decided to loosen my focus on shows a bit and look for new ways to share my quilts, sell my quilts, and share what I have learned (books, classes within driving distance, this blog, and so forth).  I am having an exhibit of my quilts next spring at G Street Fabrics in Rockville. I still will try to get some quilts in if I think they fit well in a particular show, because that is the best way to share them with more people.  But that will not be my focus for making a new quilt.  I have so many quilts I want to make…fabric and thread experiments I want to try…digital to fabric experiments…and embellishment and applique adventures I want to go on.  Without having to worry about the judges, I will have more freedom (though they will all still be made to show quality). It is so exciting.

I am currently working on my wonderful oldest son Ken’s design he gave me for my birthday in March.  This quilt has taken me longer in actual hours than any other quilt so far.  I have at last completed the central pictorial theme this week, made all the special border pieces and the text box.  I only have to cover a tiny cord for inclusion in the quilt and I will be putting together all the pieces of the top very soon.  I already have figured out how I am going to quilt it once I get it to that stage, and with my wonderful new Bernina Q20 (Fritz), I expect that to go well and faster than past quilts.  I am hoping to get that into Houston next fall, since it’s always been intended as a show quilt, and if I do, I will hope to attend the show myself.

In addition to the creation of fabric art, I am planning on blogging several series of how-tos like my recent five-parter here, including one with a few months of a step-of-the-month project.  I will be teaching some classes at G Street Fabrics in Rockville next year, and will be looking for other nearby possibilities for workshops (I don’t like to fly).  I will finally finish writing the three books I already have been working on (Applique for fabric artists, Embellishment and surface design, and Quilting for art quilts) to be published by Fennec Fox Press (my youngest son’s small publishing company).

Sew happy everyone! Join me in this exciting new adventure in 2017!

 

 

 

Burnishing the Rust Off Clothing Construction Techniques

I am making shirt number one in my wardrobe makeover project that I plan on stretching across the next year in between quilting.  Now it has been about two years since I made a blouse or shirt, and that was the first one after several years, so I have a lot of rust to sand off my shirt/blouse making skills.  I am remembering almost everything that I learned or developed during my many years of clothing construction though, and it is very helpful,  so I thought I’d share some of it.

First of all, I only rarely read the directions, but I don’t recommend this if you are new to clothing construction. The reason I don’t is that I change a lot of the techniques to speed up the process and make the end results more satisfactory and sometimes the directions coincide with my techniques and sometimes they don’t.

Secondly, I use the specialty feet and stitches to help me get things done well, like the edge stitch foot for topstitching, and using the blanket stitch with my applique foot for stitching down the inside of the collar stand to the neck.

Here you see the inside of the collar stand with the blanket stitch along the bottom where it attaches to the neckline. It looks nice on this side and on the other side.

Here you see the inside of the collar stand with the blanket stitch along the bottom where it attaches to the neckline. It looks nice on this side and on the other side.  No hand-stitching needed.

Here’s my basic approach, which I figure cuts the time by about 25 percent over the usual pattern making instructions after a little practice.  This is not for specialty fabrics, or when you want details like french or flat felled seams, but a simple shirt:

  1. I look over the pattern to see if I need to add or change a piece like adding an additional facing or changing the type of sleeve placket to match what I’m trying to do.
  2. After flat fitting my pattern, generally using Nancy Zieman’s methods (see last week’s blog) and cutting out the shirt, I interface all the facings and other pieces.  For facings I sew fusible interfacing non glue side to the right side of the facing with a small quarter inch or less seam on the edge you would be turning down, turn, and fuse the facing.  This gives you that nice turned edge with little trouble.
  3. I finish all the seam edges with a serger, or I sometimes use the vari-overlock foot (2a on my Berninas) and the vari-overlock stitch (#3 on my Bernina 830), except the arm scythe (armhole).
  4. I make all the small, challenging pieces first…like the collar on the collar stand, tabs, and the cuffs of the shirt.  I top stitch using my edge stitch foot (#10D on my B 830).
  5. Then I sew it together in this order:
    • Front seams and edges or front placket, depending on style.
    • Pocket(s).
    • Shoulder seams, or yokes.
    • collar or facing onto the neckline, depending on style, adding any decorative stitching as I go.
    • sleeves into armhole (arm scythe) before seaming side seams and sleeve seams, unless sleeve is a multi-piece sleeve where the underarm seam doesn’t match.
      1. I finish the armhole seam with a second stitching about an eighth inch into the seam, trim close to that and then I finish with a vari-overlock stitch or zigzag using #2a foot.  I have found down through the years that this is one of the strongest, most reliable seams you can stitch. I learned this from making very heavily used opera costumes.  It’s really embarrassing if the performer rips a seam during the performance.
      2. If you are making a particularly nice blouse, you may wish to cover the seam with a light bias tape designed for seam finishes or cut a 1/2″ bias strip from a very light piece of fabric and fold it over the seam after stitching the two rows and then zigzag it down.
      3. I then edge topstitch the armhole on the front and back, with the seam turned toward the front and back.
    • If needed, sew any additional pieces, like tabs on.
    • Sew the sleeve placket, if needed.
    • I then sew the side seams and sleeve seams in one operation.  This is particularly good if you are losing weight, because you can take in the shirt and sleeve for about two sizes from the finished size with very little effort by stitching in however much you need, starting at just above the cuff in the original stitch line and gradually stitching toward the amount you need to take in the shirt and continuing to the hem.  You only then have to remove the stitching from the original seam and the hemline and restitch the hemline.  I am currently losing weight, so I have chosen patterns that have single piece sleeves where the undarm/side seams meet–a much better option than not making any new clothes until you lose more weight.
    • Put on the cuff or hem the sleeve, as needed.
    • Hem the shirt/blouse and sew the buttonholes, if needed.
    • Sew on the buttons and you are done.

If you do a lot of shirts like this, you eventually make a shirt after cutting it out in a morning or afternoon.  I’m not back to this quickly yet.  It took me about eight hours to make my first shirt in my wardrobe makeover.  I am sure my next shirt will be quite a bit quicker now that I have worked through and sanded off the rust.

group of feet

Some of the feet I used to make the shirt…1D, 20D, 10D, 37D, and I also used 2A, and 8D.

A word about feet:  I have found that if I am not using a zigzag or decorative stitch, sometimes it is better to use a straight stitch foot, like 37D or 8D on my Bernina 830, which lets me see all the way to the needle, and the straight stitch throat plate, than it is to use the one most recommended for such sewing like 1D, because I can see where I’m sewing better.  If I’m sewing simple flat seams without much curving or the like, then the 1D is probably better, because it holds down the fabric very well.  I also usually engage the dual feed mechanism for most of the sewing, but this is not a necessity if you don’t have this on your machine.  If you don’t you may wish to pin a little more and have something like an awl to help move the top fabric through evenly with the bottom.  With my dual feed engaged, I can eliminate pinning altogether for a lot of the sewing.

Sew happy everybody!  Make yourself a shirt.