Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Meet my friend...


My sewing machine. Sew Mama Sew has been celebrating sewing machine month throughout June. I of course have been uber busy with a christening gown and didn't get a chance to do this earlier in the month. But here is my sewing machine meme.

What brand and model do you have? Bernina 1130

How long have you had it? I have had this machine for 19 years. And she is still going strong.

How much does that machine cost (approximately)? I paid $2000 for both my machine and basic entry level serger. Serger has since died.

What types of things do you sew (i.e. quilting, clothing, handbags, home dec projects, etc.)? I do mainly heirloom sewing and smocking for children and babies.

How much do you sew? How much wear and tear does the machine get? I, like many, go in spurts, where I will sew and sew and sew and then for a few weeks won't touch it. I almost always have at least one thing in the works. How much wear and tear does it get? Well you can see there to the left of the throat plate I have worn the paint down to the bare metal. For a couple of years I did piece work and hundreds of flags. My last machine cabinet the machine sat down in the cabinet, all that stitching vibrated the machine against the wall of the cabinet and wore the paint right off! And see that purple stripe tight above the needle? That is from hundreds of hours of thread passing along the machine front, it dyed the paint.

Do you like/love/hate your machine? Are you ambivalent? Passionate? Does she have a name? I LOVE my machine. Even if I get a new one, I will never give up my 1130.

What features does your machine have that work well for you? I love the balanced straight stitch and the fact that I know it so well I can usually troubleshoot most problems.

Is there anything that drives you nuts about your machine? It won't cut out or clean up after itself.

Do you have a great story to share about your machine (i.e., Found it under the Christmas tree? Dropped it on the kitchen floor? Sewed your fingernail to your zipper?, Got it from your Great Grandma?, etc.!)? We want to hear it! When I bought my machine I had to finance it. When I called the bank, back when banks knew your name, the loan officer asked the price of the machine. When I told him, he gasped and said, "Martha, that must be some nice machine!" Little did he know what the price of sewing machines would be today.

Would you recommend the machine to others? Why? YES! Wholeheartedly. It is a workhorse of a machine, has Bernina's legendary metal shuttlehook and can go and go and go.

What factors do you think are important to consider when looking for a new machine? That it has the features that YOU would use. If it does a great pin stitch but that is something you would never use, of what use is that to you? What kind of sewing do you do? Match the machine to that, and then go a little beyond that so you can grow into what the machine can offer.

Do you have a dream machine? I will admit to lusting after that newest Bernina 830. But sadly there isn't $10K in the budget for that right now.

So there you have the story of my machine. What about yours?


Sunday, June 28, 2009

This precious babe

is a "he" not a she. :) Out of all the gowns I have made, only 2 have been intended for girls. But that is the beauty of a family gown, doesn't matter if it is a he or she. They are always precious.

The gown might be pretty



but that smile is the star of the show. The baptism for the latest christening gown was this afternoon. The gown was beautiful but the sweet baby smiles were what melted your heart. That baby could have been wearing rags and it wouldn't have mattered.

Parting shot, is there anything sweeter than baby toes?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Linen daygown part 1 of 100



I pulled out the daygown from Wendy's school. I have three more diamonds to mark, then I will start pulling threads. The above picture is the first diamond I did in class. A huge learning curve with that. I am hoping that the others go more quickly.



This is the lower back of the gown. Sorry for all the wrinkles, this is how linen looks in progress. The stitched diamond is in the center back. The entire gown is cut in one block. The only other pattern piece is the sleeve. That center diamond is a bit higher than the others along the hem. Those "stitching" lines you see are the markings of the center of the diamonds. Hopefully next time I will have a diamond pulled so you can see.

To answer a couple of questions, Bunny asked which thread I used for the shell stitched hem. I use DMC 50 weight normally. You could use Madeira 80 wt but that is really too fine for construction.

Julia asked when the school on Avery Island is held. It is USUALLY the first week of June. Watch Wendy's website for more details after the first of the year.

Till next time, stay cool and pick up a needle. It does the soul good.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

La Broderie Bayou '09



I hit the road running so fast and hard when I got home that I didn't get a chance to tell you about my trip to Avery Island. Above is another shot of the live oak tree out of my window in the morning. Have I mentioned I love live oaks dripping with Spanish moss? Yea, I've lost count too. But I do love it. La Broderie Bayou is held at the old Marsh House, one of the original homes of the McIlhenny family. The breeze is often still, the air heavy and fragrant. In less genteel language that means, hotter the hell, humid as a sauna and you can smell the marshes and bayous close by. I love it, those generations of Cajun genes just rise straight to the top.



I spent each night with this old girl. I wonder if I would look as good when I get to be 150. I'm thinking not.

The school is hosted by Wendy Schoen Design. I don't remember how many years she has held the school here but this was my second time to go. Like SAGA convention, you spend several days with other stitcher's laughing, learning, stitching and eating. Can life get any better?


Suzette teaching on her knees.

The first night was a pre day class taught by Suzette Wink on crocheted edgings. It was fun and Suzette did a great job. It is nice for a quick, easy and inexpensive baby gift.



I finished my bib. There is also a matching burp cloth in the kit.

The first two days for my group were spent at the Great Louisiana Thread Pull otherwise known as class with the awesome Mirella Arroyo. If you ever have a chance to take classes with Mirella, I urge you to do so. Her work is exquisite and she has the patience of Job. I didn't get a picture of the whole gown, I was trying so hard to get a picture of the details. It is of course a linen daygown with diamond netting with dove's eyes. Truly beautiful. I can't wait to get back to it.



It is double breasted but off center opening. Very classy for a young man.



A close up up the left front, just above the hem. It took two days of 12 hour days to get one diamond done. Now I am sure it would have been much quicker if I had not screwed up and had to fix my screw up. The diamond shape is much more challenging than pulling the threads for the square shape as in the project from last year. I will not let it defeat me! Of course we know I love linen anyway. I have said so many times.

The second 2 days were spent on vacation it felt like. Wendy taught the second class which is a precious organdy pinafore with Madeira appliques with linen.



The bodice with the hand stitched scallops. I am thinking they are going to get what Jane Briscoe calls, "machine assisted" scallops. Where you stitch the scallop shape by machine and then come back and do the hand buttonhole stitch.



Here is the skirt with the madeira applique hem band. I plan to smock my skirt as well so I can put it in the fair.




And here is the back. Don't you love that bow? I can just see a pair of ruffle bottom panties under it.

While working on this piece I did discover a new "must have." I love my wooden hoops that attach to the sit on seat. But Sarah, my table partner,


Sarah the only two seconds she wasn't laughing. She is always laughing.

discovered at the on site shop (Aren't they clever? Captured audience and all.) a floor stand for the nice wooden hoops.



Here is my work in progress using it. I LOVE it!!!!!! So guess what was delivered to my house today?



My own floor stand. I do most of my hand stitching in my chair in the living room. With the sit on stand, I could never get it positioned just right. In a straight chair or a class room chair that isn't an issue. But in my comfy chair it is. So this is going to be great. And as you can see in the picture I can attach my magnifier to the hoop as well.



Just a couple of pics of some of my other stitching friends. I am bad, once I get to stitching I forget to take pictures. There were lots more people there than this. On the left is Vicki K, Vicki is in my SAGA chapter but we drive twelve hours to see each other. In the picture on the right is Brenda F, owner of Its Sew Heavenly in Youngsville LA, talking with Mirella.

One of the other thing we get to do is paw through and drool over so many of Mirella's and Wendy's samples.




This is a linen sundress of Mirella's. Love the shaped hem and of course the drawn thread work and embroidery are gorgeous.



I can't remember the Spanish name of this set, it begins with an "F" but whatever it is called it is exquisite. It is two pieces, though you can't see the top very well in the pic on the right. Mirella called the top a camisole. Which is a totally different thing than what I would call a camisole. But the purpose of the set just appeals to my "presentation is everything" sensibility. The skirt is a one size fits all, that you put on baby over the pram or stroller straps. It lays on top and looks gorgeous. In the winter time you use a knit skirt with the same camisole when it is a bit cooler so you don't need to cover baby with a blanket. I don't know how cool it gets in the winter in Cuba or Puerto Rica. The picture on the left shows the beautiful drawn thread work on the skirt panels. Can't you just see a beautiful baby sitting up in a pram dressed in this gorgeous linen with silk satin ribbons?





These pics are of a gorgeous linen christening gown. I haven't done a cg out of linen yet, maybe that will be next. It will have to be one of my OWN grandchildren to be out of Ulster 1400 linen though. That yummy stuff runs at about $75 a yard.

Wendy had so many samples they were too many to go through. It is wonderful though being able to see all of the embroidery club pieces and garments featured in the magazines.
I was struck by these two. Of course one is a christening gown.



I like the bodice detail on this gown. I wouldn't do the roses in pink, I would do them either in pale ecru or white, but I love the tailored look of the lace shaping.




And I loved the shadow work on this sundress. Just looks so summery to me.

One of the benefits or drawbacks of staying in the same building as the classes in such a relaxed atmosphere is that you can stitch as late as you like. I did. Though I didn't stitch as late into the night as I sometimes have a tendency to do. I think I was asleep every night by 10:30. For me that is EARLY. Of course I didn't have a computer with me, or a TV. For me that was good. Not everyone stays on the island. Some opted to stay at nearby hotels in New Iberia, LA or at home for those that lived close enough.

And I didn't even mention the fact that meals are prepared for you by a chef and someone else does the dishes! Of course the on site shop has supplies as well as all of Wendy's kits and several books on drawn thread work, white work, monograms and general embroidery. There were also behind the scenes factory tours at the Tabasco Co, tours of Jungle Gardens, island tours of Avery Island (visitors are not normally allowed past the entrance to the Jungle Gardens to the area of private residences, the salt mine and the original pepper fields), as well as a presentation by Shane Bernard, historian for the McIlhenny Company and Avery Island.

So if you want 5 days of good times and good classes stitching with new and old friends alike; be on the lookout for La Broderie Bayou '10 at Wendy Schoen Design.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Shell Hem Edge - Threads



Look what I stumbled upon in my sewing room. I was spending some quality time in there trying to forge a path. (I am going to be there for quite a bit of quality time yet.) I came across the current issue of Threads magazine and voila on the cover is a picture of a blouse with the sleeves hemmed with a shell stitch.



They used a catch stitch instead of a running stitch. Below is the link to their tutorial. I might try it with a catch stitch and see how I do. As always there is more than one way to skin a cat.

Shell Hem Edge - Threads

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Shell stitch hem and other randomness



Looks pretty bad, huh? This was the mess outside my front door. I had been too busy stitching and traveling this spring to get to it. Not one flower was planted this year. :::sigh:::


This blurry picture is the temperature at



Yes, you read that right! I had been awake for almost an hour, what I can't show is the *&^%$#@ racket made by a nest of baby birds in the stove vent. Yes, the stove vent!!!!!!!!!! My dear darling husband better hope they fly the coop by the time he gets back tomorrow or he is evicting the family. And just let those PETA people come here. The same ones who criticized the President for swatting a fly. They haven't met this chick at 5:05AM awakened by some hungry birds.

Sooooo, since I had the aforementioned mess at the front door and the temps were mild at DAWN, I decided to tackle it before it got to the projected 98 degrees today. Glad I did and the recycle people have taken the entire bag of weeds that I evicted. I was practicing for birds.

Onto the task at hand, shell stitch hem. As always you can click the picture to enlarge it. And there are LOTS of pictures.



Shell stitch is a way of doing a hand hem that gives a sweet decorative edge. Usually seen around the neck or armholes of a garment. Often using a 1/4" hem. I don't like to take to time to measure so I run a "cheater" stitching line on the machine. Another benefit of this is, it acts like stay stitching since you will most likely be hemming curves. I used contrasting thread so you can see.


I used a stitch length of 2.6 on my machine.


My completed line of cheater stitch.



Your finished hem will be 1/8" in depth so you have to fold your hem allowance over twice. This shows the first fold.


The second fold.


gives you a finished hem of 1/8" at the 1/4" mark. I just finger pressed this since it is 100% cotton.


Again using a contrasting thread with a #10 sharp, I bury my thread knot in the fold.


You are stitching from the left to the right on the wrong side of the fabric. Take two running stitching just above the fold.

Since I can see my machine stitches so well, I used them as a guide. I have decided I may continue to do this. It makes for even shells. I like that. And I don't have to try and keep it even. I have a guide right there. See I learned something new while trying to share a stitch with you. Cool huh?

My guide was 2 machine stitches for each shell.


After the 2 running stitches I throw my thread OVER the fold and take a stitch, piercing my fabric from the front to the back,


tightening down your thread,


then firmly pinch your thread as you give the thread a good tug. (No comments about the manicure. Remember I was pulling weeds at 6 o'clock this morning!)



This will make the "dimple" that will form your shells. Take a second overcast stitch at the same place. All shells are made up of two running stitches followed by two overcast stitches.



Your second shell. Again 2 running stitches followed by 2 overcast stitches.


I fold over as I go. Don't try and finger press the entire length that you are going to shell stitch. You will just drive yourself crazy trying to keep it folded. Finger press a bit, stitch, finger press a bit, stitch.


As you tug your shells, your cheater line will gravitate towards the back. Ignore it. This is a row of shell stitches. You can see I was getting in a rhythm as I went along. the last four on the left are all the same size and depth. So what is the moral of that? Start your shells under the arm, not dead on center front. By the time you get to the neckline center front you will be in the zone and they will look like nice even little shells.


Shell hem from the front.


After the shell stitch hemming is complete, remove your cheater thread. Removing that thread removes the evidence that you don't have "ruler- vision" and it also makes the edge much softer.


Voila! Your completed shell stitched hem. Since you won't have people with magnifiers up around your or your baby's armpits no one will never even notice the stitches used to make the hem. Enjoy and I hope it was helpful.

Next up, hand made buttonholes.