Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter 2014

Happy Easter! My mailbox is once again exploding asking where I am. Sewing like a madwoman. You can't sit in this chair and sew as well. With three grands, it was a slide into home finish for this Mimi. Have to pace myself better next time.  And I THOUGHT I was! I have several posts planned and will try to be better. There is so much going on in the sewing room these days.

Peanut on his first Easter.

Princess and Wildman after Mass this morning.

Spring has come to this part of the country and it is glorious. Couldn't have asked for better weather. I hope your spring is recharging you as well. It has been hard fought for many this year. I can't wait to start some planting.

Happy Easter, faithful reader.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Be Back Soon

This has been me for the past ten days. I hope to be back soon. I have some things to show you. Surely Spring is almost here.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Smocking Exhibition at Lacis

If you are a lover of smocking, the needle arts, fashion, fabric manipulation or fashion history, don’t miss this once in a lifetime opportunity to see the exhibit Smocking, Fabric Manipulation and Beyond, at the Lacis Museum in Berkeley, California. Gathered in one place, you will find amazing pieces that span the decades and demonstrate the versatility of smocking. From the homely shepherd’s frock to the dress worn by Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables, the breathtaking dress recently featured in Threads magazine to the work of modern artisans, it is all gathered at the Lacis Museum in Berkeley California from March 8th  through October 4th, 2014. The opening reception is March 13th and special classes and lectures are planned for the 13th through the 15th.

The impetus for the exhibit began with Sarah Douglas’ donation to the Lacis Museum of all her smocking tools, research and plates. Sarah was instrumental in the revival of smocking in the 1980s and was involved with the Smocking Arts Guild of America (SAGA), a not for profit guild formed at that time to help preserve and foster the art of smocking and related needlearts. As word of the donation spread, Nelli Durand and Mimi Ahern, also part of smocking’s revival in the 1980s, also donated their collections. The Lacis Museum joined with SAGA, and the Cable Car Cablers, the local chapter of SAGA, to collect and display pieces of this art form from around the country. 

The art of smocking arose from the necessity to fit the fabric to the body. Without the skills of tailoring, the alternative was manipulate the fabric itself by simply gathering the fabric where it was too loose and securing the gathers by stitching across them creating a stretchable, comfortable fitting garment. The shaping would soon go beyond simple fitting to providing form to the garment as well as decoration through the use of elaborate embroidery on the pleats. Eventually the technique would become an independent art form free from any necessary function.

SAGA is sponsoring the opening of the exhibit March 13th-15th with a lecture on the history of smocking, classes in smocking on the 14th and 15th, and a reception on the 13th that includes a behind the scenes tour. Space is limited. For more information and to reserve your spot go to

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Stars Align

A couple of days ago while on the phone with a friend I had the occasion to look into my stash closet where most of the Mimi-mades are kept. On a hanger hung this sweet fella. It was a UFO. A UFO sooooo close to being finished. This project was started as a baby gift that never came to fruition. Do you have any of those? I have way too many to count. Anyhoo, I spotted this little gem, realized Peanut is coming for a visit this weekend and motivation struck!

Old Fashioned Baby "Baby's Summer Clothes"

On numerous occasions I have professed my love for patterns by The Old Fashioned Baby. They go together as they should, if it says 16 pounds, it fits 16 pounds. Every time. That being said, this hands down has to be my F.A.V.O.R.I.T.E. pattern Jeannie B has published. Favorite! This is not the first one I have made.

It is featured here made from a lawn and poly/cotton pique.

Again here from a seersucker and poly/cotton pique. I have a serious crush for this pattern. There is something about the diaper shirt over the romper with those offset buttons that make my heart sing.

Here is the long version of the diaper shirt for Wildman's coming home gown. There is also Peanut's coming home gown in the newest issue of Sew Beautiful where I used this pattern to adapt another daygown. Be on the lookout for the new issue. Serious crush on this pattern.

Finished! The romper is made from Imperial batiste and the diaper shirt is of course, Spechler-Vogel poly/cotton pique. Antique buttons finish the shirt. I did use snaps on the crotch of the romper. I normally wouldn't, but Peanut goes to daycare. Trying to make diaper changes easier for them.

When I found it hanging in the closet, all that was left to finish on this little cutie was sew the buttons and snaps on the shirt and romper then about 30 minutes of embroidery. Like I said, so close. Why hadn't I finished it before? $64,000 question.

Isn't he cute? I am cutting it close as to whether this will fit Peanut or not. I sure hope so. If not, it will be waiting on the next arrival. And no we don't have one on the way; but if we did, I am ahead of the game! If you haven't tried this pattern I encourage you to do so. If it doesn't fit, I can make another one that is lengthened in the crotch. It takes no time to make.

Keep stitching, faithful reader.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Taming the Rayon Beast

What takes eight hours, a few drinks and several swear words? Three and a half cast on flowers. Three and a half flowers were all I had to show for myself. I am not certain I am 100% happy with them but I am moving on. I did find a few tips that helped when working with the rayon thread.

Rayon thread has a wonderful luster or shine to it. When used for smocking and embroidery, the stitches really reflect the light. That sparkle and shine comes with a price though. Having to handle and deal with the rayon thread. After a few fits and starts, it soon became the principle of the matter. I was not going to be defeated. Some people call me patient, it really is just a stubborn streak a mile wide. Here are the things I found that worked. Hopefully, they will help you too.

When you strip the rayon floss (separating the strands), you get a clue as to why it is a bit troublesome. See all those kinks and curliness? The fiber has quite a spring to its step. After a few missteps and some funky looking stitches I knew I had to try something different.

I tried pressing the thread with an iron which helped but it kept me tied to the ironing board. I can't sit and watch Downton Abbey in my comfy chair from there. After some thought, I remembered this little fella we got as a table favor at  SAGA convention one year. It is a piece of sponge in a hard plastic, snap close box. The use for this is most often for stripping and dampening floss for picture smocking, to make the threads lay ribbon-like when trying to stack cable stitches in picture smocking. I sprayed enough starch on the sponge to dampen it, ran my rayon thread across it and

Voila! Much smoother thread. Much less chance of knotting and tangling, thus much easier to work with. The difference between using the starch versus beeswax or Thread heaven is I knew it would be water soluble and rinse right away with next to no effort. If you don't have one of these handy things just purchase an old fashioned sponge, cut it into small pieces and store it in a left over plastic container. Let it dry out before you close the container up to store. Otherwise you might be surprised with a smelly, moldy sponge when you go to open it the next time.

Another thing I did while working the flowers was leaving the tails quite long while I was handling it. I trimmed them to a more normal 1/4"-3/8" long tails when I was ready to construct my collar but wanted to wait until I was done working it in my hands before doing that. The threads unravels like it is its job! In addition to that I used, (shhhhhhh don't tell) a teeny spot of fray-check on the thread ends after I trimmed them. I only used a teeny teeny amount. And just on the thread ends, not  on my garment piece. Just enough to knock down the chance of the end of the threads unravelling. No matter how many times I instruct Princess' momma to hand wash, this garment is going to find itself in a washing machine, I just know it.  I need that thread to not come undone. Be VERY careful when getting fray-check anywhere near your project. It is NOT removable if you drip it on your garment.

Another tip was making a few practice flowers after the first one I tried on my collar was a jacked up mess, as you can see on my traced collar piece. It helped to work out how the feel and performance of the thread was going to work. I know, most people hate practice stitches. So do I, but after I took the same flower out twice because I couldn't get it to work, I knew I needed to step back and re-think this.

Ta-da, my first finished cast-on pansy flower. Eight hours later. The instructions "instructed" making all of the petals pink for this colorway. I felt a rebellious streak hit me and decided I didn't want to do them in all pink. This is for the collar of the jacket to accompany Princess' Easter dress. "Primrose" by Gail Doane. It is featured on the cover of Beautiful Bishops by Country Bumpkin. More to come on the Easter dress.

Until next time, faithful reader.

Thursday, February 6, 2014


This post is a case for fabric stashing. Not that I am advocating that. I too need to sew down that stash. Badly. That being said, this fabric is delightful and no longer available.

It is a Sea Island cotton knit print. Sea Island knit is still available from Spechler-Vogel, just not in prints. I bought this when BessieMary had their closing sale. The print is teddy bear princesses. What three and half year old doesn't love princesses? Excuse the bow, it is jut pinned on at this point. I have since stitched it down.

Children's Corner 

This is the same pattern I used for her Christmas nightie. Children's Corner Jane. That was such a success I thought why not try it in a knit.

My intention had been to do a rolled hem on the serger with pink wooly nylon thread. Didn't work out the way I intended so I turned the hem up again and stitched it with a double needle instead. The ripple is intentional. Good thing since it was going to ripple to some extent no matter what I did. It looks and feels comfy, I hope Princess agrees. This pattern is such a winner I have several other ideas in mind.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The View is Best from the Top of the Bus

Fabric Finders Inc.

Wildman, like any other little boy, LOVES vehicles of any kind. He REALLY loves buses, double decker buses to be exact. I was quite excited when I spotted this on Fabric Finder's site. The challenge then was to find a retailer who had it. As luck would have it, Chadwick Heirlooms had some. I ordered it lickety-split. Fabric Finder's featherwale corduroy is yummy to work with. So soft with a great drape and comes out of the dryer with hardly a wrinkle.

I couldn't make something for Wildman without a matching something for Princess. My days are numbered in the matching Brother/Sister department so I am taking full advantage while I can.

The patterns used are all Children's Corner. Louise, which I had never made even though I have had the pattern for 20 years. I used the included blouse pattern but substituted the sleeve from Hattie. A little less 90's looking. I do love the length of the blouse though. And Parker's Pants for Wildman. You can see from the tag, his shirt is purchased. I will admit that blouse and jumper made me sad. It is way too old looking for my baby girl. She can not be that big. She just can't. And I am not a fan of that big boy look for Wildman either. They grow up too fast.

I used a scrap of a cotton windowpane check for the blouse. It too may be Fabric Finders, but I am not sure.  I found a hunk with small scraps in the closet. I made a size 4.

I even refrained from piping the jumper. Truth be told, I didn't have enough fabric of the windowpane to even squeeze out pieced piping. Look at that collar! I finally worked up enough courage to try and draft my own collar.

If you ever get a chance to take this class from Gail Doane, run, don't walk! I have taken it twice and would take it again. I learn something new every time. As I said, I finally had the courage to try drafting my own.  There are still some "issues" with my collar but I am not pointing them out. I will let you see if you can figure it out. I am on a quest to perfect my collars. Nothing ruins a garment than a wonky collar. I digress. As usual.

A cautionary tale. I love this corduroy as I said, but be careful when laying out your pattern. Sometimes the embroidered motifs can be off a tad. I paid attention when I laid out the side of the fabric I could see, but didn't realize that the back was off a smidge. Subsequently, the buses end up in the seam line on the back. I was able to keep the buses out of my tucks on the skirt. Not a tragedy but something to be aware of. It won't keep her from wearing it when they visit the UK. The back bodices do lay flat when it is off the mannequin. My mannequin is a teeny bit broader in the chest than my size 4 jumper.

Yet another pair of Parker's Pants. I think this pattern is going to become as much a staple as Lucy, It takes longer to cut the pattern out than it does to sew them up and for my skinny little man, they fit great. These are a size 2. If I were a loving Mimi, (we already know I am not) I would have put belt loops on the pants. Didn't happen. He will love his buses but his Mimi is going back to a button on or jon-jon for Easter. Not ready for him to be a big boy yet.

I have my eggs, milk and bread for the next onslaught of winter tomorrow. I hope winter is being kinder to you faithful reader. I am so over it. Surely these will bloom again. This was taken at the Biltmore Estate several years ago.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Tis the Season---Mardi Gras Season

Yes it is time to think Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras season officially starts after Twelfth Night. Most municipalities start their BIG parades a few weeks before Ash Wednesday. This years Mardi Gras season is a longgg one, Easter is late and hence so is Ash Wednesday. March 5th to be exact. The Times-Picayune is featuring 58 Days of King Cake. Now that is a celebration I could get behind. I bought babies last year to make a King Cake and never got around to it. Maybe this year, just need to re-find them. On to sewing for a little man's first Mardi Gras.

Quick and simple. All from stash except for the embroidery design. Children's Corner Johnny is the pattern. A green stripe cotton is the fabric. Lined with Imperial broadcloth and piped with black gingham. Like I said, all from stash.

The embroidery design is from Lynnie Pinnie. Mardi Gras Truck Applique. I did a 4x4 size. I might could have gone with the 5x7. Oh well.

He seems pretty happy with his new duds. Momma says he is a movin' and a groovin'. Full on crawling and trying to pull up. Look out! Hard to believe he is 7 months old already.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Time for a Few Questions

  1. Anonymous asked here how much my Bernina 1130 originally cost. I think I paid around $1500 for the machine, the "free" serger and the cabinet at the time. I have gotten wayyyy more than $1500 out of that machine. At the time it was the next machine down from the top of the line. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. A top of the line Bernina goes for around $10K right now. 
  2. Karen A asked if I got those pajamas done for Christmas this year. Yes I did, see the post on Jan 15.
  3. Marian A asked here about my machine appearing to be on a slant. It is. In this photo you can just make out the two rubber door stops under the machine. This helps visualize the bed of the machine while sitting at the desk.
  4. Jane B. facetiously asked if I had already started Easter, Mardi Gras etc sewing. Yes! I started Easter back in October with a Gail Doane class. That is being worked on this week. And one quick Mardi Gras longall coming up.
  5. Here Wanda M asked about the romper pattern used for Dunkin Duckies. The romper itself was a ready to smock that I had purchased while attending Martha Pullen's School of Art Fashion last February. So I have no idea what pattern was used but Bonnie Blue "Becky and Benjamin" would work.
That is all for now. Don't hesitate to ask away if you have any questions.

As couple more parting shots from Christmas. 

Do you know how difficult it is to get three kids to look in the same direction at the same time?

But on occasion you get a shot of some killer dimples!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Wintertime Blues

After the chaos of Christmas, I needed to hole up in my sewing room and make something "just because." This is what I came up with. All from stash.

Princess's favorite dress is her "beautiful flower dress" made from Old Fashioned Baby's Toddler Dress and Apron. A friend made it for her last winter and it will fit all the way through this winter. The pattern is out of print but sometimes comes up on ebay or etsy. Perhaps if enough people request it from Jeannie she will reprint it. It is a great pattern. Fits great, goes together in a breeze. Mommy has to hide the dress at the bottom of the drawer sometimes or she would wear it everyday. I had intended to use one of the other newer Children's Corner patterns for a top but Mom spied this pattern and requested this dress be made into a top. So that is what I did.

I used a brush twill for the top and featherwale cord for the pants. As much as Princess loves dresses, sometimes that long walk to school is cold!

Since it was all from stash the buttons are purple instead of turquoise. That is okay. Purple is her favorite color. I piped it with SCRAPS of the corduroy. It is pieced with about a dozen strips to get enough.

The piped belt and front tab makes this little dress/top a piping hog, so piecing the bias strips it was. I did reduce the fullness of the skirt front and back by about 3" each. For a top I didn't want quite as much fullness.

Again, I used Children's Corner Parker's Pants for the pants. If you don't have this pattern, you need it. Goes together in a snap and has a great ready to wear fit to them. Sometimes pants can have enough crotch room for three people and the legs are so wide they look like clown pants. Neither is the case with this pattern. It is what I used for the pj pants. I will use it many more times I think. I have some corduroy in mind for Wildman.

I don't have a photo of it being modeled. She wore it on the airplane and Mimi wasn't much into snapping photos at 3 a.m.

I hope you have found something to work on "just because."