Friday, December 28, 2012

2013 Mini Calendar

I adore the illustrations that Annie Jones does for me. Most pattern illustrators try to be so "realistic" - and though we both work together to make sure that the fashion you see is as accurate as it's purported to be,  she somehow adds a dose of whimsy that I love. All year I've been planning to do a calendar for you using my collection of her illustrations, but once the end of the year got here, I had to race to complete it on time. It's a much bigger job than I had anticipated! 

 In this calendar you'll have all of the published illustrations that Annie has done for me- AND just one illustration that is mine. Can you guess which one it is?

This mini calendar is sized to fit a standard 8.5" x 11" sheet of paper, and is free to download, print and share only in it's entirety as originally designed. I recommend a paper that is thicker than standard print/copy paper, but not as heavy as card stock, which will be too heavy. Open the file using Adobe Reader, and print as you would any two sided or duplex print job (check your printer manual if necessary). After you arrange the pages in the proper order of month, fold in half, and staple (or sew!) down the middle. You may want to put a hole in the top and bottom of the pages for hanging.

Please accept this calendar with my thanks and gratitude for your enthusiasm and continued support:

AND big hugs and thanks go to Annie for being willing to work with and for me, making my pattern packaging as cute and adorable as she is!

Annie Jones

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Here I come, Sew Expo Puyallup!

Did you get your Sewing and Stitchery Expo- THE sew expo of all expos in Puyallup, WA- brochure in the mail this week? If not, then you can download it online here
but let me warn you that it's 42 pages big and packed full of almost every kind of sewing class you can think of taught by all your favorite famous and some not so famous seamsters, from Nancy Zieman! This show is not an easy one to get in to, especially to teach. The show producers carefully screen all participants, both teachers and vendors to ensure you get quality teachers and products that will be new, interesting, and well rounded.
I will be teaching a 1 needle class on Friday and Sunday at 1:30 called "Contemporary Vintage." We will be discussing vintage patterns, and through the years how they differ from modern patterns in terms of fit, instruction, and the techniques they use and expect you will already know. I submitted and resubmitted several class proposals, then edit and re-edit the final selection. Writing this little blurb is harder than you think!
 On the free stage I'll be doing a short presentation on eveningwear. I have a model coming to show you some of the best designs that have been in juried competitions, and I'll talk about the specialty of constructing eveningwear, and answer any questions you may have. Very conveniently, on Saturday I'll also be participating in the American Sewing Guild fashion show. Being a member has it's perks!
On the website is a link to speaker biographies. 52 pages are listed by name in alphabetical order, putting me right below the very talented Mary Mulari. I remember her teaching very clever crafts on Nancy Zieman's TV sewing show when I was first starting out in my professional career in the late 1980's. I could never schedule my day so that I could watch it, but it's quite an honor to be on the same page with her now!

If you've ordered anything from me for the last 6 months you would have received a "save the date" bookmark. I'm now holding all new designs until the show, so I hope you too are making plans to be there with me February 28-March 30, 2013. You can expect to see many of the same sewing experts, and others that are new. Together we can make this into one of the best venues for the new generation of sewists.  Do you go every year? Will you be there this year? What other changes do you see, or would you like to see?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Can you Spot a Quality Fabric?

Fabric selection at Sew and Sews Place

The rumor still lives.... the one that says you shouldn't use quilting cotton for making garments. This week I was asked about this because (somewhere) it is written not to do this.  Did this tale get started because quilters are stingy and don't want to share their cute prints? Are there quilt store owners that just don't want apparel sewing customers? Is it from snobby couture tailors? Well, where ever it came from, it's just plain not true. You have my permission (if you need it!) to use ANY type of materials that will lay down and be cut and fold up to be sewn - canvas, duck cloth, cheesecloth, buckrum, aida, upholstery, vinyl...AND quilting cotton- for wearable attire. A good outcome is really dependent on your fabric being of quality construction - and of course appropriate for the style in drape or "hand" (this is just as important as the quality) and it helps to have an attractive color and print type.

Understanding quality of fabric thoroughly would take up a whole text book, but let's just boil it down to the most critical points to know.  Some of the fabric information you need to know is listed on the fabric bolt, you know, that flattened piece of cardboard  the fabric is wrapped around:

1. Fiber
Is it natural or man-made?  Natural fibers are usually more expensive (wool, silk, cotton, linen- being made from wood pulp, I also put Rayon in this category), will shrink when washed, and are a joy to wear (breathable) and sew with (- yes, even silk!), but man-made, or synthetic fibers (polyester, olefin, nylon, acrylic) can take hard use, and are often stain resistant, and do not shrink with washing. The expense of natural fibers are made more affordable by mixing with a man-made fiber. One of the problems with this comes in the form of pilling, especially when mixing polyester with cotton. Cotton is made of short strands twisted together. The short strands continually sluff off, but the long and strong poly fibers hang on to it, creating the pill.
2. Yarn
The yarns of man made fibers can either be extruded into one long strand or they can be made to imitate natural fibers, creating a copycat fabric that is very hard to distinguish from the real thing. However, the yarns of a natural fiber not only determine the look of the fabric, but also the quality. Long fibers are usually more expensive (think silk satin), but short fibers woven together can create beautiful textures, as in Silk Shantung or Dupioni. The thickness and twist of the yarn makes a difference too. Without a microscope who would know what the twist is?  We consumers aren't concerned with this feature very often, but there is at least one type of fabric that you know where a high twist yarn makes a loveliest texture, and that is with Crepe. High quality crepe is so hard to find. If you get the chance, FEEL the a crepe dress from the 30's or 40's. Our modern Crepe fabrics do not even compare.
3. Weave
The weave in a fabric refers to the interlacing of the threads. Terms such as jacquard, satin, twill, crepe, etc, describe this interlacing. In a plain weave where the lengthwise and crosswise threads are woven over and then under each other, a tight weave is a sign of high quality. How many yarns per square inch did they use? If you hold the fabric up to the light can you see holes though the weave? Don't be fooled by a loose weave that feels stiff. Manufactures treat these fabrics with a starch finish that will become limp and soggy with the first washing.
3. Finishes
Dyes, printing process, starching, other treatments for wrinkling, etc.These treatments can happen at the time the fiber is made, or after the fabric has been woven. For example, a pattern that has been woven into the fabric is going to be higher quality than a pattern that was stamped on and may not be parallel to the grain. Cheap dyes can rub off on your hand and color your undergarments.

If you want to read more about spotting quality fabrics, here is a good blog post that I can refer you to:

The bottom line is that both good and poor quality fabric can be found on the clearance rack, in the quilting store, at the second hand shop. It's not what it's called, but how it's made that matters!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Re-purposed: From Shirt to Purse for Sinter Klaas

This fall my son bought a hooded shirt from RetroFit similar to the one pictured here. I was not in favor of the purchase, but our exchange daughter, Mirjam was with us, and it's exactly the kind of style that she adores. All it took was one washing to render it one size too small, so Denver decided to repurpose the shirt and make a purse for Mirjam out of it as a gift for Sinter Klaas Day. Of course she loved it!

Here are all the parts we cut from the shirt to make the bag:
The front and back will become the body, the sleeves will be the handle, the hood is to become an inside pocket, and the ties are to be loops to hold the handle.
We even kept the tag!

Because the weave is so loose, we cut a cotton lining for the inside. Here is Denver sewing the lining.

We added the hood to the inside of the lining, stitching it down, creating some "pockets" to the inside. I thought a hooded purse was a great idea- when your arm wears out, you can carry it from your head- but Denver didn't like the idea.

We made the ties into loops at the side. It will hold our strap. We sewed our straps with a button on both sides to add a cute little detail.
 Here is our bag finished.

Here is what the inside looks like. Like the way we reused the tag?

Here is the finished bag:
Here is the poetry that went with the gift:

Mirjam Bauer, she sat in her tower, wondering when she could come,
To America the great, for this she must wait, and say her adieus to her mum,
So she got on a plane, with pilots named Jane, and flew off to the great New York City,
But the flight course was off, and the passengers scoffed, while the pilots all laughed at so witty,
A joke they had played, to those who had stayed, aboard the flight “joke is on you”
So they headed due west, as no one had guessed, to drop off the cargo with glee,
While some had jumped ship, with chutes on the hip, they charged a substantial fee,
So Miri was stuck, to trust in her luck, and be dumped off wherever they chose.
So when she arrived, she said with a sigh, this place will do I suppose,
When she placed down her head, on the thing we call bed, she found something odd in her pillow!
Numbers were hidden, to a code that’s forbidden, unlocking the present awaiting…

Mirjam finally opens her Sinter Klaas gift:

Thank you, Mirjam! It was a wonderful 3 months!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sewing Tailor Tacks that Stay

This week was fairly uneventful- if you don't count the notification that I will be going to the Sewing and Stitchery Expo (Puyallup WA) to teach- and actually that was (two??) weeks ago, so I'm really behind. I WILL blog about that once I can wrap my brain around it, but for now I want to tell you about Tailor Tacks. I think this is a very misunderstood technique and I've had illustrations to teach this concept on top of my scanner for a while now.

So what IS a tailor tack? It's the classic way of marking fabric. Some might call it old fashioned because it requires only a plain needle and thread, but the real benefit to this low tech method is it's the best way to mark BOTH sides of the fabric. The downside to this technique is that most people sew them or cut them wrong and the threads fall out, leaving you with no mark at all. When done correctly, there is a way to make them nearly permanent!
 Start with a long double or single thread on a needle with no knot, and take a small stitch through all layers, pattern included, at the place you need to mark. Leave a tail 2-3 inches long.
Take a second stitch through all layers beside the first stitch.

 Leave a long loop at least 3 inches tall.

For the sake of simplicity, let's assume that this is the only mark you need to make, so cut an ending tail the same as the first. This is the point where you would gently REMOVE the paper pattern by clipping only the paper between stitches. Again, for simplicity, I don't show this step to eliminate all steps that might keep you from understanding the basic technique. Lift the top layer of fabric.
You should now see the thread between. Keep lifting the top layer until the top of the loop is flat against the fabric, but not so much that the ends begin to slip too far away, undoing your stitch.

In 3-D, you are trying to separate the fabrics so the bulk of the thread length is in the middle with a flat stitch on top and bottom.

What it will really look like is this. Clip the threads in the middle. If this project will get lots of handling, or it will be a while before you get to it, I recommend you tie the inside threads of each side with a square knot. This makes them stable and permanent until you can use the mark. Clip the stitch and pull the threads out when you don't need them anymore.

You can also mark your fabric with a continuous line of stitch and loop. At the end of your line, simply cut the threads that run between the loops.

Use tailor tacks to mark a seam line, darts, and symbols - especially symbols that need to be visible on the right side of the fabric. It is handy to use a different color of thread to mark your different types of marks. This helps to distinguish them from each other.  Now you have a very couture method of marking!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Grand Zipper Exposé...and rhinestone zipper tutorial

During a recent trip to Salt Lake City (see this post: while visiting Tissue Fabrics, Mirjam, my exchange daughter caught site of a black zipper with rhinestones on it. Not having a project in mind at the moment, we didn't buy the zipper, but thoughts of that zipper didn't leave entirely. In fact, she mentioned how perfect a rhinestone zipper would look down the back of the crepe dress we were making for her homecoming dance. The zipper we saw was only 7" long, and we needed at least 14", so a quick search revealed a seller on Etsy, LollyGagsLLC, that had rhinestone zippers for a very reasonable price. There would be some hurdles: the zipper was separating, and a little longer than we needed (15"), and we had very little time for shipping. The seller was completely accommodating, and I decided that for the price, we could overcome any other obstacles, so we placed our order, and it came right on time.

The larger rhinestones were fabulous. No missing THIS detail! Intended for jackets, separating zippers are usually bigger, but the pull on this one was enormous, nearly the size of a quarter! Okay, so add one more hurdle to the list. I suggested that we could cover it with a bow. Mirjam agreed, so life was good again.

There are plenty of tutorials on exposed zippers, but this one is a little different. First, it needed to be fitted, and I didn't want to expose any of the tape, only the rhinestones. Here is a quick over view of how I did it:

First, add fusible interfacing to the fabric edge. This stabilizes the fabric and makes it easier to fold, press, and sew with a top stitch. Make sure you've measured your opening so that the opening will end at bottom of a rhinestone. You can see that the center back seam is also sewn at this point.

Next, do a fitting to mark the center back of your dress. This makes sure that your dress will fit perfectly once the zipper is installed.

Subtract half of the width of the zipper teeth from center back marking a fold line.

Square off the bottom of the zipper opening with a stay stitch.

Clip into the seam allowance to the stay stitching. Press the sides along the foldline and press the bottom down.

Pin the zipper to the pressed opening and top stitch the zipper to the dress, first one side then the other.
Since our zipper was too long, and being made of heavy plastic, we could not sew across the bottom of this zipper. We had to hand tack it.
While I was sewing in the zipper, Mirjam was inventing a bow to go across the back. We used heavy interfacing in the bow so that it would not be limp. Mirjam was very careful to make sure the dimples were perfect. Cute bow!
The next step was to pin the bow in the right location. We tacked it to the dress on one side and placed snaps on the other.

The bow really adds something to the zipper that it wouldn't have had otherwise. Together they turned out beautiful and make quite a statement!
I do want to mention that we had other problems with this pattern, besides the one I mention here:  . I found that the skirt hung badly.  The bodice waistline on the bodice dips to the back quite a bit more than the skirt pattern accounts for.  I had to reposition the skirt completely to keep the hem parallel to the floor.  I also took out the skirt front darts. It was so high on the body that the darts were unnecessary. I also lengthened the skirt by about 2 inches.

The other thing that might be helpful to your rhinestone zipper project is that these zippers are difficult to zip up and down. With patience, you will succeed! 

You can find LollyGags store here:

Sunday, November 18, 2012

When a dart will do.

Not long ago, high school girls everywhere were thinking about what to wear to the homecoming dance. My exchange daughter, Mirjam, chose Butterick 5601, a classic sheath with a key hole back. We left the store with black crepe and just a little trim for the waist. Then I get a phone call from my aunt who was making a dress for her granddaughter. She had some questions about how to sew with lace, and as the conversation rolled along, I realized that she was making the same pattern! We laughed and compared notes about the style and fit. She warned me that the skirt was very short, and I mentioned to her that the back yoke was missing some darts. 
What? Missing darts? She noticed the sag, but didn't know what to do for it except tuck it into the seam below. Not the best solution. Anywhere our body has curves, we need a dart to shape that curve, and our shoulder (blade) is one such curve.
Notice how that saggy look goes away once I put in the dart that has been omitted? SO much better. Next I need to correct the pattern, adding in the dart. This helps make sure the two darts are marked the same and if anyone ever makes this pattern again they will know to put in a dart here.
Here's what the pattern looks like now.

Mirjam and I worked on this dress every day after she came home from school for a week. She would press and I would sew. We were quite the sewing team! In the end, we also made some styling changes, adding a unique rhinestone zipper to the back of the dress that could have been a disaster but turned out to be quite dazzling. Stay tuned! Next week I'll show you what we did and how we did it...and the finished dress.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A better way to sew zippers in fleece

Meet Sadie

My daughter often comes home to visit me with a project in tow, and this time she wanted a new cover for her well worn dog bed. A minor error in planning gave me an opportunity to rethink my sewing strategy, ending up with a technique that came out great. Many sewing "mistakes" are opportunities to be inventive, and sometimes the solution is better than the standard method.

We had planned a square bed made of fleece, about a 36" finished top and bottom with sides of about 3". We planned to put a zipper in the center of one panel so the stuffing could be removed for easy washing. In my hurry, I forgot to cut any of the side panels with a seam in the middle. I was already sewing the side panels together when this was discovered. We had enough fabric to re-cut, but I just didn't want to do it. Then the idea came to me- fleece doesn't fray, so shouldn't I be able to just sew the zipper down the middle and cut an opening? It's quick and fast, keeps bulk to a minimum. It turned out to be the perfect solution.

Since fleece stretches, I wanted to stabilize the panel ends. I cut two pieces of square muslin. I didn't worry about being too exact just yet.

 Then I sewed the zipper down the middle on both sides of the teeth. I laid the muslin with the seam allowance even with the zipper tape and sewed right across the end encasing the ends of the zipper. I turned the muslin to the edge, trimmed it to fit. I could have basted it down, but didn't.
 Here is a close up of what this looks like. You can see the muslin seam in between. This panel is now stabilized at the ends with the cotton and by the zipper in the middle so the fleece won't stretch out of shape.
 This is the right side.
 Then I took my tiny sharp scissors and cut down the center between the zipper top stitching.
 It's a perfect match- no bulky seams and you can't see the zipper pull unless I open the cut for you.
 Here is what the zipper looks like on the finished dog bed.
What do you think? Did it work out well? Never mind that we didn't mind the directional print. Perfection is not necessary. It's a dog bed!
 Sadie seems to like it well enough!

I don't sew with fleece much, but if I ever do, I will definitely use this method again!