Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Spring Has Sprung!

Well, now, it's finally getting warm.  That's what we say around here when it's 40-50F degrees. Even though our last frost date isn't until May 15th.

For the past couple of weeks we've been seeing wooly bear caterpillars around.  We found out last fall, that they freeze solid over the winter, thaw out in the Spring, and then build their cocoons.  Daughter, the naturalist, has been caring for one of these thawed out wooly bears.  It has built its cocoon (did you know they use their own hair to do it with?) and we are all waiting to see the Isabella moth that it will become.

We've also started our indoor seeds for the garden.  This year we're growing tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, chard, leeks, and garlic chives.  I'm really looking forward to just getting out there and playing in the dirt. 

We're also going to plant a veritable forest of mammoth sunflowers in the spot where my beautiful ornamental plum used to be.  So for the first time we will have red and gold in that corner instead of red and pink.  If I can keep the snails from eating every little seedling in sight.  Like they did in previous years, the selfish wretches.  I wouldn't mind sharing, but they don't share, they eat them all.  Grrrr!

On the sewing front, the Pattern Review Fitted Blouse Contest has ended and voting begins tomorrow.   There's a lot of fine entries there, so if you're a PR member, check it out and cast your votes! 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

I Found the Pattern, Now for the Fabric

A number of you have been encouraging me to go for it with the Dragonscale Dress.  So, to get a realistic idea of how hard it might be, I started scouting around for a pattern for that criss cross bodice design.  This morning I found this dress pattern in Burda's latest download collection.

Tweaking the skirt? Easy enough.  Manipulating the sleeves? Slightly harder but I pretty sure I can figure something out.  I probably want to give the neckline that slight curve as well.  The pattern is also sized for stretch knits, but that's never bothered me before  :o)

Now if any of you know of a dress pattern that's even closer that this, do please let me know.  I haven't bought this one yet because I always try to avoid acting too impulsively.

As for fabric?  I'm thinking silk dupioni.  Blue is not really my color but maybe this gold will work.  Not sure.  I'll have to think about it for a while...

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Fitted Blouse with North American Smocking

I started working on this shirt on the opening day of the Fitted Blouse Contest on and I finished on Saturday.  That means it took me 22 days from beginning to end. Not bad.  Not bad at all.  And I am oh, so pleased with the North American Smocking effect on the midriff.

The fabric is a medium wright stretch linen from  The pattern is Jalie 2322 Women's Shirt.  Essentially, I eliminated all but the horizontal bust dart, and instead used the smocking to shape the waist.  The side seams are slightly curved for added shaping.  I added about 3 inches of length so the shirt would be too short after the smocking ate up its requisite 20%.  And I added a bit of length to the sleeves as well.  I've made this shirt before with the same fabric in reversed colors and I found that it shrank quite a bit with successive washings.  The closures are cap anorak snaps in antique bronze.

I saw this smocking technique for the first time on the Lilacs and Lace blog.  Laura Mae used it to make an evening bag, and I thought it was just amazing.  I was stunned by how beautiful, useful, and simple this technique could be.  I did a small trial sample with a scrap piece of shirting that was lying around.  I intentionally chose stripes so I could see just how the fabric was being manipulated.  Genius.  Absolute genius!  The tutorial for this can be found at Le blog de G├ędane in both English and French, but the pictures are pretty self-explanatory.

What I learned from this is that there is an approximate 20% loss in both width and height of the smocked area.  But here's the cool part:  the smocked area is elastic!  Obviously, you don't get the full width or height at maximum stretch, but you get some.  And of course if you pull too hard, you'll snap the stitches that make the whole thing work.  But it still has some mechanical stretch.

What to do with this marvelous discovery?  Obviously, it was time to make a shirt.

I started by cutting the fronts and stitching the horizontal bust darts.  Then I marked the wrong sides with the grid and lines for stitching the smocking.  I left about 1/2 inch unsmocked for the side seam (this pattern uses 1/4 inch seam allowances) and enough room at center front for the front facings.

I actually removed the front self facings.  As you will see, the smocking is going to gather along the center front.  Separate facings were necessary to handle all that gathering.

Here it is partially complete.  It takes a few rows to see the basket weave begin to form, but once it does, it is so exciting.

The front is complete.

Now on to the back.  You can see in this picture how the smocked area appears recessed in relation to the rest of the fabric.

 Inside the shirt you can see the bajillion little hand stitches I took to make this thing work.  I haven't decided what to do with the thread tails yet.  Next time I do this I'm going to secure each fold with a lockstitch.  That'll get rid of all the thread tails and work just as well as long as I leave enough thread between each stitch to allow for the mechanical stretch.  These knots are simple square knots that have then been secured with Aleen's Jewel-It embellishing glue.  It's intended for glueing rhinestones and such to fabric, but I find it just makes a good glue.  I like to use the Aleen's because it's not scratchy at all and has a lot of flexibility.

After all this it was typical shirt assembly.  Had a bit of trouble with the stretch linen in the collar and cuffs, but just the normal stuff you'd expect with a stretch woven.

I like how well the shirt goes with my cargo pants of last year.

The areas of smocking meet at the side seams for a continuous band of smocking all around the waist.

I could've hoped for a slightly better transition between the two pieces at the side seams, but hey! for an experiment I think this is pretty good.

If that bit of extra length in the sleeves doesn't shrink out, I'm going to smock a few basket weave bands on the sleeves, too.  But I'm virtually certain the dreaded shrinking will occur.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

North American Smocking -- A Quick Sneak Peek

So, here's a bit of a preview of the Fitted Blouse with North American Smocking.  The fabric is a medium weight stretch linen with woven pinstripes with the opposite color scheme of the fabric pictured -- it's the dark tan with lighter pinstripes.

 The pattern is Jalie's Women's Shirt.  This is truly a great pattern and I wear the linen shirt I made back in the fall all the time.

The significance of this project is that I eliminated all the vertical darts (but kept the horizontal bust dart) and replaced them with a band of North American Smocking, which gives the fabric a basket weave texture.  The technique is surprisingly simple once you know how, but the proper execution takes some practice.  I can tell which of the three pieces I did first, since the longer I worked at it, the better I got at making the folds turn out exactly the way I wanted them to.

Here's a peek at the shirt back smocking. Isn't this absolutely awesome?  Pics of the finished shirt to come.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Costuming in Style

I confess it.  My name is Trinity and I love costuming.  If I could get away with it, I'd wear "costumes" as my everyday clothes. 

Now I don't mean Halloween dressed up like zombie with green goo and scaring all the neighborhood children.  I mean classy costumes, like some of the Steampunk patterns currently offered by Simplicity.  I especially like Simplicity 2172 with the pleated skirt.  And of course, who doesn't love the dresses worn by Eowen and Arwen from Lord of the Rings?  Granted, these patterns take a bajillion yards of fabric, and I am well-known for hating clothes that I have to fight with the walk up and down the stairs, I still love the style of these types of outfits. 

But they're not practical.  And I am nothing if not practical.  I'd like to indulge in my love of the fantastic (and elaborate!) while at the same time satisfying my need for the practical. 

A few months ago I came across the website for Michelle Carragher, the costumer who does the outfits for the Game of Thrones HBO series.  That is some amazing work, and I'm seriously considering trying to find a way to incorporate elements of Daenerys Targaryen's Dragonscale Dress into something I could conceivably wear on the street.  Obviously something that elaborate wouldn't do for grocery shopping, but I do have a social life, you know.  Really.   

I like long jackets and sweaters and tunic-type things that I can wear with relatively close-fitting pants, often tucked into knee-high boots or with medium heeled pumps.  This is positively gorgeous and has a simplicity of lines that appeals to my need for free motion without having to do battle with my clothing.  Seeing this dress (?) made me realize that embroidery and smocking and other similar details is the ticket I've been looking for.

Remember this jacket?

Now, the design of this jacket is indeed awesome.  But it was the fabric I fell in love with.  This is two layers of fabric, silk over cotton.  The cream-colored silk shell has been slashed, the edges turned under and hand stitched to the pale olive cotton underneath.  Beautiful.  I fully intend to recreate this technique.

Michelle also does embroidery which is well beyond anything I could even hope to accomplish, but I must say I find myself taking stock of my thread, silk ribbons, and beads.

Well, all these details are going to take oodles of time to learn, practice, perfect and execute.  Guess I'd better get started.

Actually, I already have.  My entry for the PR contest involves a smocking technique similar to the Dragonscale dress for the waist shaping.  Similar, but I assure you much simpler with a much more prosaic result.  I've got the fronts finished and today I start on the back.  I'm holding off showing any pics until I'm sure that what I've done actually works.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Raven in the Window -- Finished at Last

Gorgeous!  This one turned out positively gorgeous!  I knew when I first saw the fabrics lying next to each other on the cutting table that this was going to be a nice project.  But even I was surprised that it turn out so well.  I wish I could've gotten a bigger and better picture, but it's like 2F degrees outside with a wind chill I don't even want to think about.  That's a little cold for me to be standing around taking snapshots.

Dove in the Window is one of the few quilt piecing patterns that I've done multiple times.  I'm not sure why I'm so fond of it, but there you have it.  You like what you like.

Okay, for those who are interested, here are the technical specs:
The dark fabric is part of Michael Miller's Nevermore Collection.  A sort of Victorian meets Gothic motif going on there.  The crosses on black is another Michael Miller fabric, rather descriptively named "Ornate Crosses."  The gold is from JoAnn's -- one of their extra wide backing fabrics, which I also used for the backing of this quilt.  The batting is Warm and Natural 1/4" loft cotton batting.

No, these lines aren't really visible, that's just
the camera picking up some of the
left over chalk which is practically
invisible in real life.

The quilting is pretty straightforward.  Just some straight parallel lines in the large square of the "doves" er, "ravens" ...

... and some stippling in the gold ...

...and some more stippling in the sashes.  This one was tricky, because my thread so well matched the black background that I couldn't see where I had already sewn.

I figured if I couldn't see it, nobody else could, either, so I didn't try too hard to correct any mistakes.

And even the back is pretty.   Had to get the tensions just right, or the black thread would show on the back or the white thread would show on the front.  Errors in this department I did rip out and fix as they were so painfully visible.

I also had my foot pressure set too tight for a couple of squares of parallel lines and ended up with some pretty ugly bubbles, bumps, pleats and stuff.  These I ripped out, too, and kept fussing until I figured out the problem. I'd be embarrassed, but I am a novice quilter after all.

Anyway, there she is, in all her splendid glory.  Going off to garment sewing for a while now.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Quilting Sabbatical -- Cause We Need Some Clothes!

Much as I've been enjoying my quilting journey, I've got to move on for a while and get some clothes made -- before we're all stuck in that famous condition:  I've nothing to wear, dahling!!

Raven in the Window is nearly finished -- I completed the quilting last night so all that's left is the binding.  I'll get you all some pics in the next couple of days.

This weekend, I'm going to try to get some clothes made.  Daughter needs two or three dresses and Youngest Son could use a couple of button down shirts.  I've already got the fabric -- it just needs to be washed, dried, and ironed and it's ready to go.

Daughter already got a new dress this week.  The pattern is my self drafted knit wrap dress.  The fabric a lovely drapey charcoal rayon/cotton interlock with dusty pink roses on it.  A very pretty fabric that works well with the pattern.

I'm going to try and make her another this weekend using this Kaufman jersey.

 And perhaps a second one using one (or more!) of the organic cotton wovens I've gotten in the last few months.

For Youngest Son, I have a yummy royal blue broadcloth that's going to make a handsome shirt that will go nicely with his wool suiting vest.  He likes to be well-dressed, and who can blame him?  Jalie Men's Shirt Pattern will do nicely for that.  I'll have to trace out a new size since I know he's grown alot since the last time I used it.

For me, well I can start on my Jalie Women's shirt for the PR contest as of Saturday.  I think I'm going to use a tan pin striped stretch linen.  Oddly enough, it's the negative of the fabric I used for my last PR contest.  Instead of light tan with darker tan pinstripes, it is the darker tan with light tan pinstripes.

So, wish me luck!  As always, I've got lots of plans, and sometimes I even get it all to work.