Welcome Message

Welcome to my sewing (and other stuff) blog!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

One of My Favorite On-Line Fabric Stores

Emma One Sock is a wonderful website where you can find gorgeous fabrics! The owner, Linda Podietz travels to New York frequently to hunt down fabrics from some of the top designers. Over the years, her site has grown...due in some measure to my own purchases, and those of my friends and students. I have always found the quality of her fabrics to be superb, and she sends out free swatches.
  Linda communicates very well with her customers, and ships orders quickly. I check out her site almost daily to see what treasures she has found.
 Recently, I ordered a French rayon voile in a luscious blend of blue, green, plum, and red. I made a special occasion dress and a piped and stitched belt.

            If you want to have some fun shopping for beautiful fabrics while sitting on your couch go to:


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

We Rip What We Sew

Why do we need these?
 Many of my sewing students are appalled when they see my numerous seam rippers. One of the concepts that I explain in the first few classes is that if they want to sew, they have to rip!
I have noticed in life that most lessons are learned only after a bit of pain. Sewing is no different. The time ripping out improper stitching gives us an opportunity to think of ways to do better the next time. Over the years I have actually come to enjoy my time with a seam ripper. No matter how much skill we acquire there will always be a need for ripping that which we have sewn!

Mother-of-Pearl Buckles

1940's Mother-of-Pearl Buckles
These beautiful and unique buckles adorned many frocks!
Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 26, 2012

In Praise of Piping

There are few embellishments that are as versatile as piping. In all honesty I am sort of addicted to piping! I am not talking about the generic piping that is sold in fabric stores. Prepackaged piping is overly bulky for most applications, comes in a small range of colors, and is covered in broadcloth of marginal quality.

This post is going to teach a technique for creating your own custom piping. It is easy, and can help define the interesting fashion details of a  garment as it is easily inserted into almost any seam. Here is a photo of the seam between the yolk and the body of a jacket. I inserted piping that is covered in a striped fabric that I cut on the bias.
                                    How to make Custom Piping                                                       
 I use inexpensive crochet cotton as the cording for most of the piping I use in garment construction. It is labeled 4/4 100% cotton and is on a cone holding 690 yards. It is very inexpensive.

 I am using a silk shantung for this tutorial. It has a lovely natural luster and because this piece is a check it will look very nice cut on the bias. Fabric for piping is best cut on the bias because the fabric wraps around the cording more easily, and the finished piping can be sewn into curved seams very smoothly.
 To find the bias grain of the fabric take a square of fabric and fold it like this.

Cutting along this fold gives a bias edge.

Cut 1 1/2 strips.You can sew strips together to create enough piping for your project.

Pin narrow cut edges like this.

Sew seam at 1/4"

Using a zipper foot fold the bias strips of fabric around the cording. Sew, keeping the edge of the foot right up against the ridge of the cording.

This is finished piping!

 How to sew piping into a seam:

Using the zipper foot, lay the piping on the seam line (usually 5/8").
Sew with the foot snug against the cording.

Pin the other piece of fabric to the piped piece, and sew right on top of the first row of stitching that held the piping in place.

Flip the fabric over, and press the seam. You now have perfectly inserted custom piping. You can use this technique is limitless ways to give a real look of quality to your sewing projects!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Make your own Companion Fabric

Here is an idea for adding interest to your sewing project. This is Vogue 8714 that I made in a grey rayon woven that is lovely, but it needed some pizazz. I had some  vintage square mother-of-pearl buttons, so I decided to embellish the front panel with straight stitching to mimic the shape of the buttons.

 It was quite easy to do this. I used the front panel pattern piece and cut a piece of fabric that was about two inches bigger on all sides than the pattern. It is important to do this rough cut prior to embellishing the fabric because many embellishment techniques can cause shrinkage during sewing. I wanted the stitching patten on the diagonal. I thought that would be more interesting than if it were either vertical, or horizontal on the garment.
 The first step I took was to press a light crease at a  45 degree angle across the approximate center of the panel. Next, with the right side of the fabric facing up I sewed along this crease from one edge of the fabric to the other. Using the edge of the presser foot as a guide, I continued stitching row after row of equally spaced stitching until  half of the fabric was filled with straight rows of stitching. I then did the same on the other half of the fabric. After the entire piece was fill with evenly spaced rows of stitching, I pressed in another 45 degree angle and used it to repeat the whole process. As the photo shows I ended up with perfectly shaped squares but on the diagonal grain of the fabric.
 This process took some time, but I have always enjoyed this kind of sewing. I sort of get "in the zone" and just keep checking that the edge of the presser foot is right on the line of the previous row of stitching.  Next, I used the pattern piece and cut the front panel exactly to the pattern shape.
 The white stitches looked so nice on the fabric that I decided to continue with that thread for the top stitching at all of the garment edges.

There were two buttons remaining so I used the scraps from the embellished fabric to make two tabs that I sewed into the side seams right above the waist.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Hum....what should I sew?

 The potpourri of choices that can be made when marrying  fabric and a sewing pattern can be really overwhelming, and exciting at the same time! In the next few posts I plan to explore these decisions so that perhaps you will find a comfortable starting point.
 One of the best places to start thinking about a sewing project is far away from a fabric store. You can spend a bit of time in your own closet looking at what you like to wear. Most of us have certain types of garments that we wear a lot. I call these workhorses. These are clothes that make you "feel like you" when you wear them.
 An observation of the clothing that  you already own gives you a number of clues. Do you choose clothing that fits close to the body? Do you choose certain styles that camouflage a figure flaw? Do you feel best in garments with sleeves. Do you choose v-necks, or square necks? Most of us gravitate to certain clothing designs again, and again.
 Trendy ready-to-wear is followed closely by the pattern and fabric companies. If we want to mimic current "fast fashion" we certainly can, and some of us may want to do that, but if todays styles leave you distressed you can choose to make something that could be your next workhorse! You can sew fashion forward patterns that  have  the silhouette, and design details that you know you will like.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Antique Pin Cushion

                                                    Antique Pin Cushion

Mastering Miters

Mitered corners are a beautiful way to finish a hem! Miters may seem like a difficult technique to master, but hopefully these photos, and my description of the steps involved will demystify miters. They really are easy! I am using a one inch hem in my tutorial, but this technique works equally well if you choose to make a wider hem. I am starting with a square of green fabric that I want to make into a tablecloth.

Step 1.
  Press a crease evenly on all sides of the fabric. I have pressed a crease at 1/2".

Step 2. Fold and press fabric again on all edges of fabric. I have evenly pressed up a 1" hem.

Step 3: Using two pins carefully mark the point at which each hem intersects the other hem.

Step 4. Open the two hems, and with right sides together match the two pins together keeping the 1/2" crease folded in. Draw a diagonal line from the pin to the point where the corners of the 1" hem meet.

Step 5. Sew along this line locking your stitches at the beginning and end of your little seam.

Step 6. Trim the extra fabric close to the seam to remove the bulk from the corner.

Step 7. Turn the seam to the inside. Press the little seam to make a square corner. Stitch, pivoting your stitches at the corner.

  Now, make yourself a nice cup of coffee, and bask in the joy of mastering the miter!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Let the Fabric Dictate the Style

 A number of years ago I found this fantastic silk print. Oriental designs have always called to me, so I purchased a number of yards of this special fabric. This was expensive silk, so I wanted to make a garment that would not be too trendy so that I would enjoy wearing it for years. My primary goal though was to let the print really shine.

 I made a simple kimono jacket. This style choice spoke to the theme of the fabric, and the print is interrupted only at the side seams. I used a lightweight black silk crepe to add a band at the front, and at the hem of the sleeves. This contrast makes the print "pop". I added vents at the lower side seams for a bit more  style.
 This little jacket looks great over skinny black pants, and a black tank. It is an example of how a fabric can dictate style.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sew and Sew.....and sew, and sew, and sew......

Welcome to my  sewing blog! I am new to blogging, but my 35 year career as a custom dressmaker, alterations specialist, art-to-wear designer, sewing instructor, and sewn product developer makes me think that I might be able to share some neat stuff in a blog.
 It will be fun to create posts that pass along my knowledge of fantastic sewing techniques. I work, and teach in a wonderful studio that is heated in the winter by a cozy fireplace.

I am frequently joined by Sophie. She is a sweet girl whose curly fur sports threads that match my current project!

 Caffeine is  essential to prolific creativity, so there are pots of tea until 3:00 when espresso is served.

So hours fly by in this sewing studio.....
My motto has always been "Life is wonderful when you do for a living what you would do for nothing if you could afford it".
 I feel blessed that I have been able to make my passion a business. I want to share what I have learned with you.