Thursday, February 27, 2014

Celebrating Fifty Years of Wedded Bliss

I first picked up an embroidery needle in fifth grade. I stitched a pencil-drawn hibiscus on a pillowcase using a reverse back-stitch. Even with the simplicity of the drawing and the stitch I was drawn to the art of embroidery. I do not know what has come of that pillowcase, but it did introduce me to a new past-time that still brings me joy.

Since fifth grade, I have  acquired thousands of embroidery patterns from friends, estate sales and resale stores. Some of them are from the 1950's, others were originally offered via mail order in the 1980's, as well as retro and modern books. Lately, I have modified or made my own patterns to communicate a specific message.

In my ETSY store, in addition to my custom dress form instructions, I offer a few custom embroidery items. I was recently commissioned to create a piece for a customer whose parents are celebrating a Golden anniversary. The piece is a wedding car with a rear banner that can be customized with a message and a license plate with the year of marriage. The customer chose to have the banner message say "50 years and Counting" to commemorate the occasion.

I used multiple stitch types including, reverse back-stitch, french knots, split stitch, laced running stitch, and satin stitch. I also used many colors of DCM embroidery floss including metallic floss for the wording (metallic floss requires great time and care to prevent kinks from forming). Here is the completed 8x10 piece prepared for framing in a 11x14 matte.
50 years and counting

The brake lights are red french knots!

Although I am looking forward to it, I cannot imagine being married for 50 years. I send my sincere congratulations to the couple.  I feel so privileged to be a part of such a momentous event in this small way. I hope it brings the customer much joy when they see it.

If you would like me to stitch something up for you  please let me contact me here.

Happy Sewing,

Monday, February 24, 2014

I would like to take a moment to brag.

Sewing is in my blood and in my family. I grew up watching my mother and great aunt sew. I knew how to sew, but I would only mend buttons or fix an occasional hem. The birth of my daughter over 5 years ago rekindled my love of sewing. I was delighted to make little outfits and have her wear them with pride. When out, we were constantly stopped my strangers who commented on her clothing. This blog was named, in part, for a phrase I was constantly saying as she modeled the clothes: "Thanks, I made them." The rest of the name came from considering the follow-up question, "Can you teach me?".

I began teaching friends in my home, and I thoroughly enjoyed teaching. I was soon encouraged to expand my classes to include more students in a larger space. Last Spring, that is what I did. I had students with some sewing knowledge and others who arrived asking, "What is a bobbin?," and "How do I thread this thing?".  It is always such a thrill to see the looks on their faces when they complete a pair of lounge pants in the first class!

Once the month of classes end, the students go on their way, and I may not know if they continue to use their new skill. Guess what? Some do! Have a look at what my former student, Pop Culture Mom, made for her darling daughters for Go Texan Day:


These beautiful girls are adorable in their fringe trimmed Go Texan Day outfits! I am so proud of their mom! She arrived at the lessons with her boxed Hello Kitty sewing machine and a fierce determination to have it not get the best of her! It clearly has not, and I am sure there are many more outfits to which she will say, "Thanks, I made them!"

My next round of lessons will begin in April. The details can be found here. I cannot wait to watch as apprehension fades to pride on my students' faces.

Happy Sewing!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Look at theses goodies I won!

The Sew News Amy Butler Beautiful Belle Sew-Along had a giveaway for participating. The winner was chosen by random and I was the fortunate one to win the bounty. Here is what received in the post this week!
A lovely sewing box filled with notions!

Embroidery Patterns and Floss

To replace the rubber band I currently use :)
Two retractable scissor buddies to replace my current solution.

This has worked as a holding place, but it requires that I put it back when I am done... The scissor buddy always keeps the scissors with a clip!
I don't knit, but my cousin wants to learn, so this will be gifted to her.

This looks great as another option for making DIY labels.

Just wow! The quilts in this book are awe inspiring!

There are some fun projects to make in this one! Stay tuned!

The one I am most excited about!
Stencils, stencils, stencils! There are fourteen wonderful designs in this book that can be used alone or combined. The stencils are large scale and made of a durable plastic/paper material. It seems they will hold up to multiple uses.  

This will look lovely on a dress. I do have a stockpile of cotton jersey...
I like this one on pillows or bordering curtains perhaps.
 I am so happy with the bags I completed in this Sew-Along. Winning the giveaway was just the best icing on the cake!

Happy Sewing!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Beautiful Belle Bag Sew-Along

I have been chomping at the bit to finish the bags I started in the Sew News Beautiful Belle Sew-Along. I wrote about the process here in this post and this one. Over the course of the month, participants are tasked with constructing the bag in small manageable steps. I was right on track with the schedule, but then I got antsy. I added some embroidery stitches to one bag in an attempt to slow down. 

I was going to work on some other projects this week when I checked in on the FLICKR group. Other group members could not wait either and completed their bags ahead of schedule! Following their lead, I finished both of my bags today!

I prepared to sew my leather handles on my heavy duty sewing machine. 

I used a 4mm stitch and a heavy thread in my sewing stash. I was sewing at a moderated pace with success until I got to a seam in the leather. My needle broke!

I was only on the first handle of four and and I only had three needles! At this rate, I was going to be in trouble. One bit of sewing advice I got from a friend is, "when in doubt, change everything and begin again." I changed the needle, changed the thread to regular dual duty, and stitched at a higher speed. This combination proved to work for me and I got the handles done. The pattern called for stitching a fold in the center of the handles. I decided not to do this. I made my straps about 3 inches longer to wear as a shoulder bag. I wanted the strap to rest flat when worn. I also did not want to push my luck with sewing  four layers of leather.

I have found in my previous Amy Butler bags that the pockets are generally too large for me. I like my pockets to fit specific items and not have much room to move around. I tailored the pockets to fit my electronic tablet, wallet, and size of my cell phone. I also wanted at least one of the bags to have a magnetic closure, so I added that to the lining. I also customized the other bag to have a zipper in the lining.

Cell phone pocket

Tablet pocket

Magnetic Snap Closure

I completed the remainder of the construction per the pattern instructions and love the end product. 


Added my DIY label

Beautiful Belle With Leather Handles in Chevron
And the other with the embroidered fabric


Added Zippered Pocket

Beautiful Belle With Leather Handles in Amy Butler Bliss Bouquet   
The size of this bag is perfect for the Mommy essentials; it is large without being cumbersome. The applied interfacing helps it maintains its' shape when it is not full. This is a one of the easier Amy Butler bags I have made. I highly recommend making it and trying it with leather handles.

Happy Sewing!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Doodling on my Beautiful Belle Bag

We are in week three of the Beautiful Belle Handbag Sew-Along. This is the week of construction and customizing our bags. It has been so hard not sewing ahead and finishing my bag in a day. To slow myself down, I have been reading Hoopla: The Unexpected Art of Embroidery . It is a great book showcasing artists who use embroidery in innovative ways.

This book got me thinking about doodling on my  Amy Butler, Bliss Bouquet fabric. I knew I was not going to do anything extreme on this improvised piece, but I wanted to try something. While the kids took advantage of a 70 degree day, I took to the hoop.

Don't you just love french knots?

Split Stitches
Reverse Back-stitch
Some filling stitches

The stitches will be on one side of the bag and gives a little dimension and texture. I did not plan the stitches on this, it was a stitch as I went project. I am happy with this and am really excited to see the completed bag!

Happy Sewing,

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Auditioning Dresses to Wear to a Spring Wedding

Our family has a couple of weddings to attend this year. We are very excited to be able to watch our friends take a wonderful next step in their lives. I have plans to make a dress for "Little Miss" and a vest set for "Mr. Man". As the weddings approach, I will make their outfits when I can be sure there will be no radical growth spurts. I had been working on this dress, but as I no longer support the company I am auditioning new dress options for myself. 

First up is Butterick 5850. I was immediately drawn to the cut of the shoulders and the skirt options. It does not hurt that the black model has a fierce natural hairdo and great styling. I want those shoes and earrings!                                     

I like the styling of view B, but I wanted the full skirt of view A. I read the reviews for this pattern on Pattern Review. After what I read there, I knew I wanted to make a muslin to work out any kinks I may have. I shopped my stash and found Pottery Barn sheet that would do the trick.

Sheets are great sources for muslin fabric.
When I laid out my fabric I did not have enough fabric to make the ties the required length or four skirt panels. GoodbyeValentio suggested that the length of the ties could be folded in half so only the right side shows; this saved me some fabric. The skirt panels were very wide and while trying to “make it do”  I found three panels more than sufficient to achieve the look I wanted. I stitched the three together and gathered them on Bira. As you can see, three panels gives enough fullness around the waist of my dress form. I was concerned about where the seam lines would lay without the fourth panel. There were no symmetry issues when it is gathered, the seams are not visible.

Parenthetically, I no longer gather on my machine for projects like this. I hate fiddling with the double strands of machine thread. Instead, I  hand gather using an embroidery needle and a single strand of button and craft thread. I can sew a large running stitch with a continuous strand and it does not break. It is very strong and smooth so gathering is a breeze! I keep a needle threaded with the leftover excess for my next gathering project.

The instructions on this pattern made me feel quite stupid at times. The instruction on the facing fold-line to “sew invisibly” was new to me. I Googled it and eventually found a message thread on Pattern Review that explained what I was meant to do (sew the facing to the bodice fabric with tiny stitches only catching a few threads). I did not do this. This dress is muslin and the fabric stayed in place when pressed and pinned.

I found the instructions on the pleat confusing too. The illustration on the cover and those in the steps were not clear to me. I think the images were cropped too close for me to understand the orientation of the fabric quickly.  I figured it out, but between that and the invisible sewing, I was a bit frustrated with this pattern. The pattern called for a regular zipper, but I installed an invisible one like I did here. Here is the completed dress:
Front Butterick 5850

 Is this a pleat?

Tie end at half 3/4 width and 8 inches shorter.

When I bought the pattern I liked the neckline and fullness of the skirt. Now that I have made it, I think the shoulders are not as exposed as I expected. I thought they would be cut in further. In reality they fall in the same place an any other sleeveless dress.

Like I mentioned, I only used three panels for the skirt. I do not think I would like this any fuller. I can feel the bulk of the gathers where the bodice and skirt meet. The tie helps them lay flat so it is not a problem.  This dress could benefit from a right seam pocket though. With all the density of the skirt, I would need somewhere to put my hand. The perceived bulk of the skirt may not be an issue with lighter weight fabrics.

Now that it is all made up, I will wear this one, but I will not sew it again. The amount of fabric required and confusion on the bodice makes it not worth it to me. I have many other dress patterns to try. I also think this silhouette is too young for me. I am not wearing it in the pictures because it looks so sweet on me, like Easter Bunnies, Peeps and caramel eggs cute! With my baby face and all these polka dots this is will be my only version of this dress. If you were looking to make this one, I suggest you read the instructions to be sure they are clear to you before purchasing. If they are, go for it. 


I wore this dress for the first time today, Easter Sunday. I was a greeter at church and got stopped a million times by people telling me how much they loved it! They used words like, fun, classy, cute, adorable, bubbly, and springy. I had jaws drop when I told them I made it.

No one thought the dress was too young like I thought. This is a reminder to me to give my decisions some distance. The dress felt good when worn. I still feel the three panels of the skirt feel like just enough, I would not add the fourth.

I may give this one another chance. 

Happy Sewing,

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Amy Butler Beautiful Belle Handbag Sew-Along Week 2

It is week two of the  Amy Butler Beautiful Belle Handbag Sew-Along. When I begun this sew-along, I thought I would have a hard time pacing myself and would have made my bags by now. (I have been busy with some custom orders: a lace jacket and a custom embroidery order.) It took me a few days to narrow down my exterior fabric choices, but when I did, I was able to move to this weeks' task of adding marking and interfacing to pattern pieces. 

My bag fabrics
Amy Butler bags are usually advanced lessons in interfacing and stabilizers. This pattern however, requires only medium-weight interfacing and a little bit of Shape flex to give it its' structure.

Interfaced interior fabrics

Interfacing and stabilizer area along the bottom.
I have decided to use leather for my handles on both bags. There is an awesome thrift store in town that has progressively declining prices on all of their items. On Wednesdays, everything in the store is $.25! This store is the definition of chaos on a Wednesday and when I go, I must go with a plan. No kids, knowledge of what I want, comfortable shoes and a willingness to "throw elbows" if needed ;p. I went in one day with a plan to source leather and boy did luck out! 

Half of my haul! There is some animal print in there!

The other half: with some blue suede and silver leather in there!
I thought this bag was a good candidate for leather handles and I shopped my stash for a good match. For the chevron print fabric, I decided on tan suede from a skirt (sorry no before pic) .
Suede handles
 For the floral print bag, I choose this pink suede jacket.
Pink Suede Jacket

Sleeve removed
I cut the handles on this one longer.
Ready to sew!
I have a heavy duty sewing machine and leather needles. I am confident (hopeful and prayerful) that my machine will be able to take on this task. I have been publicly coveting an industrial sewing machine like the one Hillary at Entropy Always Wins  just bought. Since I am no longer saving for a Chanin Studio week (I longer support this company), an industrial machine is closer on the horizon than I thought!  

I will share how my Singer does on the handles when I begin bag construction.

Happy Sewing,