Sewing Vloggers

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

I Can't Stand It!

The internet is a great big arena.  Pinterest is loaded with all sorts of crafty, artistic people of all levels. But anyone can touch a keyboard and claim to be an expert on anything.  But let's not propagate crap, OK?

First, I am the first to say I am not the expert on sewing. I have never claimed that. If I were I wouldn't be learning something new nearly every time I sit at the machine. But being at it for over fifty years can give you a vantage point, you know what I mean? And from this perspective I am seeing some awful information out there.

I have seen people do major treatises on sewing, all the Basic, 101 style tutes. I love that and most are excellent.  At least as long as the tute is done by someone who didn't start sewing last week and who knows from lots of experience what they are talking about. Our young new sewists, and there are more by the day, are learning how to "sew shoddy" because info is being put forth in a digitally artistic fashion on colorful blogs and sites. Talk about salesmanship! If it looks cool, it must be right, right? Uh, not always.

And the poor followers, oy,,,,How long do you think it will take for them to realize that their outfit doesn't look that good and why?  It's what I call Walmart sewing. Is that what today's newer sewists are aspiring to?  Is this a different attitude, a generational thing, an all around sloppiness, any or all of the aforementioned? I know this is the age of instant gratification but does that mean we teach and make instant junk? Yeah, I know I'm old school, but please feel free to enlighten me if I am not getting something here.

And how did someone(s) feel that they had enough knowledge to teach potentially the world through the internet  when clearly they can't master the most basic of skills? Again, I have seen mucho misinformation on very very popular sites and blogs with over a thousand followers in some cases. Is it all about having a blog or is it about  passing along quality information? I do think it's the former, not the latter.It's one thing to say, "this is my way of doing it which works for me but may not for you". If the results are great, more power to you. But to just put out misinformation and clearly shoddy instruction is another.

FWIW, I love some of the blogs I have seen of eager beginning sewists. You follow their journey and see their hard work and effort. You watch them stumble and then learn to do it the right way that's needed. Some of their efforts are just amazing and they are to be commended. I really like reading those blogs.

In sewing there are many ways of doing things and many are correct for the same task. I don't argue with any of that. But please, please, don't pass yourself off as someone who can teach skills to others when you don't have them yourself. Learn to press seams open. Acknowledge that your garments could look better If the seams are lined up. Go shop and try on and look inside and take pics with your phone of quality garments at higher end stores. Don't think because it is for a child it needn't be properly made or look that good. Please do this before you decide you can teach. Stop me now. My BP is rising. I have just seen some unbelievable baloney  being put forth as tutorials from more than one who claims to sew.

This vent is put forth with the best of intentions. I want people to love to sew. I want sewists to be proud to wear their garments anywhere. I want newbies to access quality information, like on sites like Pattern Review or any number of fabulous blogs published by those who generously share quality experienced knowledge. I want newer sewists to take classes from pros, the likes of which are available at reasonable prices on Craftsty or PR. I want sewists to just plain SUCCEED, step by step by step, skill by skill. Many the fabulous sewist who is totally self taught but it takes study, and practice, practice, practice.  I want newbies to love to sew and be proud to wear and have others wear their efforts. I detest that  self proclaimed experts are taking them for a ride.Please tell me I am not alone in what I see here.Well, already some of you have and thanks for confirming I am not delusional. Off the soapbox and bless all the many, many sewists who work hard at their passion and seek great knowledge. Seek out quality sources and be open to learning from those who know what they are talking about, no matter how the information is presented. You will be glad you did and will develop a lifelong love of the art........Bunny

Monday, May 28, 2012

Another of Sham's Tablecloth Skirts!

Finished another of Sham's fabulous Tablecloth Skirts, my Summer rendition. Do I mention that I should have smoothed out the skirt a bit before clicking the camera now or when I am done? Guess you get it now.

 The design and pattern are courtesy of the generous and oh, so inspirational Shams over at Communing With Fabric.   She brilliantly figured out how to copy a designer original and inspired many of us to make one too. She even has a gallery of tablecloth skirts.  I really would like to make this out of a sheer next. You'd think I had enough but I love the design and it can be whipped out in a few hours.


This is a cotton with a bit of spandex included picked up in Joann's clearance  a few months back. If you ever had kids who wore Oshkosh overalls back in the eighties, this is the fabric, just a little stretch added. That stretch did make it miserable to iron. I also decided to use a green blend to run a flat piping to accentuate the odd lantern shape. I think the skirt would have been rather drab without it.


That flat piping did pose a bit of a challenge at the corners but it all worked out well enough. By the fourth corner I think I knew what I was doing.  I did do something different, for me anyway that I would like to share.
I had limited time to make this and found I was out of regular white thread. I did have a huge industrial type spool of lightweight embroidery thread that I use in the bobbin for heirloom work. I gave it a yank. It didn't break so I forged forward. But this stuff was wimpy. How would I make a decent topstitched hem with such wimpy thread? I have seen others do this but this was a first for me. I used my "triple stitch" to topstitch the skirt hem.  This is the stitch that goes over itself three times so it gives a much thicker looking finish. I LOVE IT! Here are a couple of examples for you. Makes a great topstitch, doesn't it? And this was with lightweight thread! I will definitely using this technique again.

Another  construction tip: I recently received an order from Nancy's Notions. Enclosed was a free Klasse needle to try, a bit of lagniappe. Wow, do I love this needle!  My machine just hums with it, like a happy kitten. I will definitely be buying some of these. NAYY, just happy.
Also, I cut different dimensions this time. I am only five feet tall after all, but looking at all the iterations of this skirt in the gallery I decided I wanted to try one with the "points" a bit higher. My inner rectangle is 32 square. the outer rectangles are 17 by 32. I am amazed at how even the hemline is which I thought was unusual. I also staystitched the waist then clipped about every inch before attaching the waistband. This helped it have no ripples unlike my last attempt which seemed to require a lot of fiddling to get the waistband on properly.

 This is one of the narrower window boxes that I filled with the wool doublecloth. Plants are all doing wonderfully and the moisture level is just right.

You know I am passionate about sewing. You may have figured out I feel pretty much the same about gardening. But here's the big dif: Gardening is my husband's passion too! It is something we are thrilled to share. We put our heads together,talk design,plant our brains out, shop together for plants, break our back moving stones,etc....It truly is a passion we share equally and it is such a delight to be working with someone you love on something you both love to do. You are both exhausted, proud, and shopped out by day end equally.  I know couples who never find a shared passion. We are blessed. You can see why this time of year, my priority becomes sharing this pastime with my hubby and putting my sewing on the back burner. I hope you are blessed with something you are able to passionately share with  your partner. It really makes life great......Bunny

Sunday, May 20, 2012

It's That Time of Year

Yes, it's the time of year when my heart gets tugged to the earth. I love to garden and we had to really put some effort in this year. You may remember that our septic tank was dug up and all sorts of ruination happened to my beds and the walkway. I have spent every moment this weekend getting it all back in order and I think it looks pretty good. The bed was expanded a bit and new perennials were put in. The hydrangea survived and a few perrenials came up in the piles of dirt that were shoveled aside so I was able to move them back into their spots. right below the "Sewista" you can see a brown square which was the corner of the tank and it will need to be reseeded. DH is talking about a new system although things seem OK for now. So this may all get moved around again. Everything is small and it is still early here in the Adirondacks but there are lots of astilbes, herbs, heucheras, ligularias and even roses in this bed. Next is to clean up the bed you see on the right and my way to the front door will be lovely.

This had to be done but I have been sewing and using fabric as well. My window boxes are the black iron with the cocoa mats and I find they just drain too easily. I found a way to help this while perusing the mags in the supermarket line the other night. They suggested lining the cocoa mats with felt. Now don't have a heart attack here. I have this grey and green piece of wool double cloth that I have looked at so many times and just can never get excited about. Olive green is NOT  my color. I happen to have over three yards of this at sixty wide so didn't hesitate to cut into it. I am glad it is finally seeing some use. My window box cocoa mats are lined with wool double cloth and I am happy about it. Pick yourself up off the floor now.  FWIW, they drain much more slowly and I'm happy about that too.

I have been sewing, really, but it is pickup sewing. That's what I call what is in a ziploc along with scissors and thread in the bottom of my bag. I take it out any time I have a few minutes and am getting a lot done. I making all sorts of little smocked gems to utilize in any number of ways. More to come on that later.
I do have some "light" sewing planned for myself. I am going to make this cotton stripe into one of Sham's famous tablecloth skirts. I want to outline the square that surrounds the waist with a teen bit of flat piping to jazz it up a bit. Not sure which of these fabrics I will use yet. I will give them each an audition and go from there.

We get lots of company at our home in the summer so the pressure is on to fix things up around the house and that has become the priority right now, gardening, cleaning, painting, home dec sewing. As long as I have that ziploc with its needle, thread, and scissors in my bag though, I feel like I am sewing productively. How is your summer going?  I hope your weather is as glorious as ours has been. I have been both places and Adirondack summers beat out New England weatherwise any day....Bunny

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Roman Shades Begin!

 photo courtesy Robert Allen Design  Dialogue

This is what I am shooting for the Great Room windows but as a stationary valance that is a tad less formal. You have seen my fabric which I love. We now have the lumber to mount them on and DH will cut that soon. The big challenge here is the ribbon. I have ten windows, two one yard strips of ribbon on each window so I need 20 yards of ribbon. Ya think a bit costly? I sure do. So here is what I did today.
Rolls of Offray grosgrain ribbon I can afford, particularly with the right coupon from the right source. The ribbon matches the beige embroidery on the fabric. I got the idea of possibly stenciling the ribbon and spent a good part of the afternoon making samples. The room is a soft green, white trim, and assorted pieces of furniture in greens, black and grays and a bit of off white. I did stencils in those same colors and here are the results. Keep in mind this motif is not what I would use. I was just testing color here. I was also trying to figure out if I wanted a softer more stenciled looking effect or a more crisp edge to the paint.

After this I decided to see what Mr. Pfaff could do. I picked out a stitch motif on the machine. You all know I am not a machine embroiderer, just never caught the bug. Then I picked out the threads. I put stabilizer under the ribbons and after a few tries, adjusted the stitch to what you see here.  Here are the results.

On this one I used a gray rayon thread. 

Above you can see the same in a regular dual duty thread in the same green as the fabric. 

And here is my final choice, a taupe plum-y color rayon thread. I like this one as it shows but is not too garish, just enough contrast. Whatcha think? I find grays can just die and have no life so this taupe shade has a bit more life than the gray and the green washes out IMO. I want the ribbon to contrast as it does in the original and add a bit of zip.

I hope they enough ribbon at the Joanns for me...and lots of thread too! I will be at this for a while!


Hope you are all enjoying a wonderful Mother's Day today. Mine was as good as it can be when one is so far from their children but all checked in, we skyped, and I received some lovely gifts . DH gifted me with something I think is pretty special.

A bucket of mealy worms for our bluebirds! These are dehydrated so have no fear. We are both avid birders and the bluebirds love these. Ours have returned and need a bit of their favorite treats. If you are into birding I just read a wonderful book, recently published, called "The Bluebird Effect". It is not what you think. This is the story of a woman passionate about birds who despite obstacles made them her life's work. Her knowledge of birds is like no other I have seen when it comes to understanding their behavior. The book is full of her many drawings,  many drawn right at the nest as she watched. She is an artist too! Her story and her love for birds is a joy to read about. Her name is Julie Zickefoose.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Back to Fun

I got most of my client work done, one more thing this morning and then it is home free time! I did manage to get a lot of silk and linen strips pleated and dyed and here are some drying out on the line. There were lots more than you can see here. It looks like those close pins are squeezing the life out of my pieces but in reality  they only touch the part with no pleats Dyeing is just such fun. You never know what is going to come out, at least the crazy way I do it. These all started out as strips of white linen or pale solid silks.  I have some wool I hope to get dyed soon, too.

You can see Spring is just starting  here. Yesterday we had the hummingbirds arrive so the feeders went right up. Hopefully they will establish here. Each years seems to bring a couple more, maybe offspring?

In case you haven't looked since the first time, I added some more types of smocking to the last post. You may want to check it out. 

I need to shop for my slipcover fabric. Wait till you see this horrendous chair, one that is solid and well built but, UGLY. I just never know what DH will bring home when bartering....Bunny

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Name Game

What's in a name? A rose by any other name.... Hanging out on Pinterest does let you see lots of what's going on out in the sewing world, some of it incredible, some pretty inexcusable. That's OK. It's a free press where anyone can post pretty much anything that's decent and that's a good thing. Just remember that because something is on Pinterest does not mean it will work, be correct, be properly attributed, or even be real. Heard of Photo Shop?

So this hanging out I've been doing has led me to do a post on smocking in its many forms. There are all kinds, you know! And there are things called smocking that aren't even close but the name does make the sewist feel good, it seems. So without further ado:

First some definitions, definitely meant to confuse the issue:

From Collins English Dictionary: 
(Clothing, Personal Arts & Crafts / Knitting & Sewing) ornamental needlework used to gather and stitch material in a honeycomb pattern so that the part below the gathers hangs in even folds
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003

---Well, not really. I have never done anything with the honeycomb stitch, as lovely as it is, but I have done some serious smocking. 

From wikipedia: 
 Decoration on a garment created by gathering a section of the material into tight pleats and holding them together with parallel stitches in an ornamental pattern

This one is pretty close. I like it. 

From Webster's: 
a decorative embroidery or shirring made by gathering cloth in regularly spaced round tucks 

Tucks? Well, I guess you could call them that. Sometimes they are round. Sometimes they are sharp and flat. There's also that "shirring" word. More on that later. 

embroidery stitches used to hold gathered cloth in even folds. I think I like this simple explanation the best.
So not all clear. What most of the smockers I know call smocking is the gathering of fabric into pleats Which are then secured with embroidery  on top. If you feel differently let me know. There are many types  of smocking and here are examples found.  

English Smocking:
Tiny pleats are gathered with a pleating machine or by hand with dots. The pleated surface is then decoratively embroidered. ( By the way, please feel free to disagree and correct me in any of this. I am always open to learning.) This is a garment I did a couple of years back using variegated threads.

North American Smocking:
 Photo courtesy of Chip and Jack

This is also known as Canadian Smocking or American Smocking. The pleats are formed by picking up stitches in a pattern of dots on the back side of the fabric. Wish I could wear that on my hips!

Italian Smocking:
 Photo from the Smocking Index, original work by Patricia Timmons, published in Sew Beautiful #95

Italian smocking also has the pleats formed by picking up dots on the back of the fabric. The pleats are very close and quite sharp. Often there is beading as well. Designs are usually all over.  Wish I could get you a better pic.

ETA: See Dawn's comments below for a more knowledgeable explanation of Italian Smocking. Thanks, Dawn. 

Now we get to the fun stuff:

Yo Yo Smocking: 

Leave it to Nancy Zieman. I think this is quite clever and if smocking is picking up stitches of fabric on the back side to make pleats I guess this will loosely fit the definition. Either way, it's pretty dang clever.
I think I might try it. As always, Nancy makes it all very clear. 

Machine Smocking: 
   Photo courtesy of R.E.A.L.  @
The smocked area is gathered, either by a pleater or by machine or hand running stitch. A machine embroidery disc provides the design which is then done on top of the pleats or gathering. I  have seen these be quite wonderful, at least the ones done over pleater pleated fabric. But if you are going to the labor of pleating by hand, why not smock it by hand as well? Doesn't take that much more time IMO. That machine embroidery is quite nice, isn't it?

And here's the one that sticks in my craw for some reason. When I was fifteen, this was called Shirring. Today it's still called shirring. But over and over I hear it called smocking. Really?

Shirring is made by stitching with elastic thread, usually in the bobbin or zigzagging over elastic thread to create gathered rows of stitching. The gathers are irregular. No hand stitching is involved.   It's pretty but not the precision of a pleated, smocked piece. 

If anyone cares to share more info or correct me, please assert your civil rights. It's always good to share and learn. 

 ETA:  Forgot a couple of other important smocking types. There's also ...........

Picture Smocking: 
photo and garment by Bunny  Pepin 
 This is done over the pleats but the embroidery utilizes stacked cables which line up to make pictures. Here you can see the Easter baskets I made for this dress. I think the plate might have been in a Creative Needle mag. You can learn this one of two ways. Many, without any books or lessons, just go to it and do great. They are the "never overthink it" school. Then there are those of us who have to read the directions, do the research, and pretty much overthink. We have a much harder time learning to do this type of smocking. I admire anyone who can do this well. It IS NOT easy. There are many idiosyncrasies to getting those cables to stack nicely. 

Counterchange Smocking: 

The first smocked garments I did were done with counterchange. Once again, this type of smocking is done by picking up stitches in a graph pattern created by either a gingham check or some other evenly spaced motif. This delightfully vintage design works up to make hearts in a row. Many counterchange patterns manipulate the fabric to make sailboats, fruit, and all sorts of motifs. Props go to Pat Garretson Designs for this sweet retro dress. She has many types of smocking patterns and gives great service. Nayy. 

ETA again!  Origami (?) or Japanese Smocking

I found one more very new form of "smocking" which I have seen referred to as "Japanese" smocking. It has a distinct origami look and technique and I think is quite special. Kudos to the artist, Hiroko, who designed the pattern for HM Textiles. I think it is quite brilliant. The pattern is new to market and should be in quilt shops soon. For more please check out this link:
 photo courtesy of Di Mill, Fabric Rep (wouldn't you love her job?)


Totally forgot Template Smocking which is what I did on the Tablecloth Dress which you can see more of on this post. On the post is a more thorough explanation of the technique. Templates are made. The fabric is pleated. The shapes are outlined with a removeable line right over the pleating. They are then stitched around with outline or stem stitches and then filled with stacked cables. It is a great way to get a realistic subject converted to the geometry of pleats and cables. If you are a good tracer you can do this one. 

(Who knows what I will remember next for other types of smocking? If I have neglected anything here, please shoot me an email and let me know. I think I will post this up on the sidebar as a reference. Sound good? )

So when all is said and done, smocking pretty much breaks down to two types. There is that which is worked over pleats and that which is made by picking up threads of fabric with small stitches to form a design. Either way, it is a comforting enjoyable art form,conducive for sure to children's clothing but now being utilized on the couture runways as well.  I love the challenge of using it in more adult garments or accessories.  Sorry for all the crazy font sizes. Blogger is not cooperating with me today.

 I have been wearing my smocked jewelry lately and the response has been quite surprising and encouraging. I think I may be on to something. Here you see silk and linen strips ready to pleat and dye. I am doing a lot so I will have a new handwork project going. I am also in the throws of sewing for a couple of clients but as soon as that is done it will be on  to the window treatments. I have also been eying some white denim for a chair slipcover for the newly painted living room. One thing at a time, though!....Bunny

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

McCalls 5721, Cart Cover finis!

Cart Cover is done and I love it. Yup, this is a lousy shot. This is what happens when it is pouring out, you've just finished working all day, and your hanging out in the local supermarket parking lot and want to go home. But I think you get my drift. On the left you can see the giant pocket which really is a bag that the whole magilla folds up into. The white belting is the strap which becomes the handle to the bag if you do a perfect job of folding it all up. It's hard to see but there are two pockets on the inside that the child has access to, great for little toys, bottles or sticky gooey snacks. It is all totally washable and with a little effort and some body mass inside I think it will be pretty cute. No baby in my family is going to chew on those germ encrusted handlebars!

Pattern: McCalls 5721,the Three in One Cart Cover.

Fabric:  Joann's calico wall's finest! 100 percent cotton. This was a border print with a different border on each side of the yardage which I didn't pick up on till home. You can see here that the border difference was a non issue. The filler is a wool/poly blanket. The easy way to pull this off would be to use purchased double sided quilted fabric . It would whip right out in that case but the price would increase bigtime.

Construction: Not much unusual here. Most was discussed in the last post. Basically:

* Make your casing one inch wide.

* Use a French binding for the legs and pockets.

 ETA Update: Here's a pic of it all folded up in the bag. Thanks for this suggestion:

Everything else was just as the pattern spec'd.

This gets packed up tomorrow for our new Mom who is eagerly awaiting her arrival. She will not know the sex until birth. Maybe there will be more smocking in my future....Bunny

Who owned this pattern?

Recently I've had the opportunity to charge ahead on a long anticipated project, searching down some great thrift shops. This has not be...