Saturday, April 18, 2015

What more can you do with a Ruler?

Back in the days when I was learning about pattern making and drafting we used a transparent flexible ruler with red lines forming a grid of eight inch increments. They have become my favourite type of ruler and are much more accurate than the thick and ridged quilting rulers.


These were most handy for many jobs and now they are available in more sizes. Whenever I am near a drafting store, an art supply store, a fabric shop or a sewing machine store I always check out their notions wall for more of these wonderful rulers. I am forever hopeful of finding yet another size or the opportunity to stock up on a couple of sizes. These rulers do become brittle and darken with age so that they are subject to snapping if bent.


The most common size is 2” x 18” but you will find 12” x 2”, 12” x 1” and 6” x 1”. I’ve even found a right angled ruler like you might find amongst a man’s work tools. One ruler I bought years ago was half metric and half imperial. The rulers with red markings seem to show up much better than the occasional rulers you might find with blue markings.

 


I love the little 6” ruler for small jobs and drafting doll patterns where the 18” or even the 12“ might seem too big.


So, you say, what can you do besides measure with them and draw straight lines?
 
First, if the ruler you purchased has pinholes down the centre, you can use it to draw circles or arcs. And since it is a ruler you can so easily calculate the radius and circumference of the circle you have drawn.
 

If you wish to measure a curved line the ruler bends allowing you to measure at a glance (depending on how long the line is and how tight the curve). You can only bend it so far but you can ‘walk’ it around a really tight curve.
 
You can easily find the centre point of a line (if it is less than 18”) by using the markings that measure from 0 down the centre of the ruler.
 
Not centred yet...
Done and centre is marked.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
It is great for marking a right angle for short distances. For longer lines use a right angle ruler.
 
 
Drawing a right angle to a line.


 
Verify with a right angle ruler if available.


 
Add ¼” SA
 
Add seam allowances to a stitching line. Match up the line for the width of the seam allowance to the stitching line and pivot along this line, drawing the cutting line as you go.
Add 1/4" or 3/8"

Smooth the line when finished, if necessary.
Here ½” is being added with the right angle, all in one step thanks to the ruler’s transparency.



 
 
The only weakness I’ve found is that if I use these rulers with my rotary cutter, they can become nicked or the blade can cut into them. Then they no longer give smooth, perfect lines. I keep old rulers for just this purpose and make sure they are marked so I know which one is which!
There are probably more ways to make use of these wonderful rulers. But this is lots for now.
Next time you are shopping in the notions department why not pick one up and start experimenting!
Be sure to keep stitching! 
 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Closing of Grace L. Knott


The company “Grace L. Knott Smocking Supplies Ltd.” is closing on April 30, 2015. This space in normally reserved for creative things but I need to put this posting out there to set a few things straight. 

There seems to be a misconception that I own GLK or that the company owns my patterns. Neither is correct. If I may give you some history perhaps this will set the record straight. 

Back in 1988 I went to work for GLK and three other Canadian companies as a sales representative. Shortly afterwards George (Grace’s grandson) asked me if he could publish a Christening Ensemble I had designed to feature the fabrics and laces from Capitol Imports. That began a 27 year long relationship during which I designed new patterns or reworked Grace’s old patterns to bring them up to date, add new views and add smocking designs to them. 

In 1998 I created the Grace Knott Doll’s Clothes Collection – miniatures of the GLK children’s patterns and a dress form pattern all to fit the very popular American Girl Doll. I owned these patterns but because I was working for GLK it seemed the natural thing to let my patterns be distributed through the company. This was my first endeavor and I continued on using my company’s name, “Amberlane & Amberpetites”. This was before company web pages took off and people were buying ‘on line’. Over the years my patterns were usually listed as being GLK patterns. Try as I might, no one was interested it seemed in correcting the situation on their web pages. 

When George decided for the second time that he was retiring in 2015 he asked if I would take over distributing his patterns and I agreed. Then he received an offer to buy his stock and the rights to his patterns in early March 2015. He took back his goods and I no longer am his distributor as of that date. Out of respect for the negotiations between George and the new owner, Maureen Marian of California, I chose not make any announcement regarding this matter. 

So yes it is true. George Webb, Grace's grandson is retiring and closing the company Grace L. Knott Smocking Supplies Ltd. April 30 – forever, sad as it is. The company has a history of over 80 years in business. This ends our 27 year working arrangement and I am sad to see the company close. 

I hope this clears up some of the confusion regarding this transaction. Maureen now owns patterns, books and rights to all his patterns. I wish Maureen, 'Katie & Claire", every success and the best of luck in her new venture. I look forward to doing business with her and you, of course.

I am still in business under the name Amberlane & Amberpetites (www.amberlane.ca).

And you can still order dots and GLK patterns from “Creative Sewing and Smocking” (www.smocking.com)

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this little post.
Judith Marquis

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Fun Ribbon Headbands for Infants


These little headbands are so easy to make and all the rage. You can have one in every colour to match or coordinate with every outfit! The more you do the faster and easier it gets……

I was doing a little housecleaning of file cabinets and drawers the other day and came across the instructions for making the braided ribbons. I had made a headband with this technique a few years ago when silk ribbon first came on the scene and tucked it away – I keep everything hence the need to deep clean!!

So for 18” of ‘braided’ ribbon you will need about 4 yards of ” ribbon - I chose a lightweight double-sided satin Offrey ribbon which I purchase on a roll at “Michael’s”.
 
Find the middle of the ribbon and hold it with the ‘tails’ hanging down. Fold it in half with the left side crossing over the right side. [I’ve used pins to hold the ribbon so I can photograph the steps. I did find it was easier to start the procedure with a pin to hold the ribbon for the first few loops then pick it up in your hands and work ‘free hand’.]
 

 
 
 

 
 
Now slip a loop of the ribbon that crossed over through the main loop – see the photo. This is the only hard part of the ‘braid’.
 
 
Next step is to fold a loop of ribbon from the left ribbon (see photo) and slip it through the previous loop. Gently pull down on the right ribbon tail to tighten it around the new loop.
 

 


 
So basically all you are doing is creating continuous loops through which you are slipping a new loop.

 
When folding the ribbon loops simply fold the ribbon back on itself – don’t let it twist.

Be gentle with the ribbon – don’t crush it when you tighten the ribbon tails.

Keep the tension even and occasionally give the chain or braid a little tug to pull it into a straight line.

When you have enough braid or have reached the end of the ribbon, pass a straight end of ribbon through the last loop. With needle and thread (to match the ribbon) take a few stitches to secure the end of the ‘braid’.

 
If you know the head size of the child double check the measurement and join the ends of the braid – if possible overlapping them. Take a few stitches to be sure they are securely joined.

The braid will have a natural stretchiness that won’t ‘die’ the way elastic will over time. This is good as you don’t want the headband to be too tight – it should sit on the child’s head so the she forgets it is there!!
 


 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Now you can add a decoration such as a circular ruffle of lace with a concertina ribbon rose in a contrasting colour stitched to the centre.

Or you could attach a pompom over the join; perhaps a pretty bow or a button.

If you quilt, make a ‘yo-yo’ to match or coordinate with the outfit.

Just don’t have anything hanging down that will tickle or draw attention to the fact that she is wearing a headband.

There are so many ways to finish the headband that each one you make can be different. Have fun with these!!
 
Afterthoughts: I found some beautiful variegated ribbon that would make an amazing headband but th piece was just a bit too short! I’ll keep a look out for more like this and other interesting ribbons.
 


That led me to wondering what would happen if I used two colours of ribbon.  This gives a sort of checkerboard pattern.
Imagine all the trims you could make with two colours!
 
Wider ribbon makes a much wider trim and there are lots of places besides headbands to use it such as necklines, hems, even napkin rings – let your imagination run wild!!
So till next time, keep stitching…..
 
 














Thursday, January 15, 2015

A different approach to "Little Breeze"

A wonderfully creative lady wrote to me a couple of months ago from Las Vegas about making up my pattern, “Little Breeze”. Most people make this little dress in cotton. What a difference to find someone making it in a challenging fabric like taffeta!!


 

She planned to use the most sophisticated aubergine shot taffeta. She wanted to extend the fold back facing (2” in the pattern) to include the full area to be smocked.  Upon hearing this I was just a little worried as in the past I had had trouble getting taffeta into and through my pleater, let alone pleating a double thickness.  Julie assured me she had lots of fabric and it was quite thin. So off she went to pleat! 

From the inside of the front panel - double thickness of taffeta with netting below.
 
Front skirt panel from the right side.

I couldn’t believe how well it pleated. Fabric availability obviously differs depending on where you live and I expect she was using a tissue taffeta – a very fine weight, not at all like what I envisioned.


To finish off the lower edge of the fold back facing she attached a fine, black netting or tulle. This was long enough to make a slip or crinoline. To this she added a ruffle at the hem to help add fullness which in turn supports the skirt.
 
Ruffle bottom on the netting

I can see this as an adult evening gown as well. Can you see it beaded with subtle black jet beads to catch the light? And accessorized with drop jet earrings. How decadent! Can you just hear the rustle of the taffeta against the netting??


All done!

 What a wonderful job, Julie! Bravo!!  

It is so rewarding to hear from people who use my patterns and don’t hesitate to be creative, to think ‘outside the box’ and to try something different.  I do encourage people to send me photos of their work. 

Cheerio for now and do keep stitching……
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

T’was the night before Christmas….

                                    
 
“Silent Mice©” is a smocking design plate by Little Memories, a wonderful company that creates the cutest smocking plates. This has been one of my favourite Christmas designs since I first saw it way back in the 80’s!
 
 
 
When I saw it first I decided that I was not going to all that work to have a child outgrow the outfit I had smocked. So I smocked the design on a Christmas ball. 

When we were blessed with a wee granddaughter this year, I wanted to create a Santa Sack just for her and of course, a smocked Christmas ball. This design was the first one I thought of for her first Christmas.

 And then I decided that I could create a motif to match on her Christmas Santa Sack.
 
 

I sketched the mouse and made a copy to use as a pattern. Then I cut him out of grey felt to appliqué on the red corduroy. I added a red Santa hat and made a twisted cord of Pearl cotton to represent Santa’s hat’s fur trim. Final touches of embroidery were added to complete his eyes and whiskers. We looked everywhere and I finally ended up buying a bag of 72 little bells to get the right size! I wanted something special for the end of the Santa hat.

 


The sack is lined in Black Watch tartan (her great grandfather was a member of this regiment!) and I used a piece of tartan to appliqué a little tag to the sack. I found twist ties that looked like evergreen branches and couched a cou0ple of these to the sack for the mouse to be sitting upon. And voila! a pretty good representation of the design plate.
 
So don't wait till the last minute as I did, get working on your special Christmas needlework projects right after Christmas while the ideas are fresh in your head.

 


I’ve always subscribed to the idea of crossing from one technique to another. This is a perfect example of doing so. I do encourage you to check out the company Little Memories and order some of their smocking design plates. You will love them!
 

So until next time,

Keep on stitching…..

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Another go at "Lullaby" pattern


It always surprises me that new ways to use a pattern keep evolving. 
 

I had a “Lullaby”, my infant sleep sacque pattern, all cut out before I went to visit little Sweet Pea last month. It was in a rather stretchy t-shirt type knit fabric and I had intended to interface the yokes for stability. It was meant as a test of a finer stretchy knit rather than a woven fabric – just to see if I liked it or ran into any problems.
 


Well of course, Sweet Pea just keeps on growing and now she is in her own bed – a huge empty space compared to her bassinet.  The knit fabric although very soft and comfy felt cool to the touch and with it being late fall, I just felt the sleep sacque should be warm and cozy.  In my stash I found a lovely soft flannel that coordinated beautifully.

 

 

So I cut a new set of yokes, a sacque and base from the flannel to make a full lining. Since flannel is woven, it works perfectly as a stabilizer for the knit. Then I chose a pretty pink satin to make a bias binding to finish the neckline/armhole edges.

I tacked the bases of the two fabrics together. (We shall see what happens when the sacque gets washed – will they cooperate or become a tangled mess.) Then I slip stitched the lining to the zipper tape.  This made the whole thing nearly reversible.
 


The double layer of fabric was not that thick but I still cut the bias strips 1.25” wide as they stretch and grow narrower and every bit is needed to encase the cut edges. 
(Did you know that 12” of fabric will yield almost 18” of true bias.)
So this time I hand basted (Yes, hand-basted – it isn’t a dirty word. It didn’t take that long and I was sure that all the little potential tucks were smoothed out before the machine touched it.) This time I stretched the bias slightly in the armhole areas and eased in a little extra fullness over the shoulder tabs. When I turned the bias it was a perfect fit! I went back and stitched an accurate quarter inch seam with the machine. The rest was a snap.

Inside - the binding is hand stitched with tiny little stitches
 


Smocked in pink with Surface Honeycomb stitch - 2 rows full space high, 3rd row half space high, all stacked.

 Just to be on the safe side, I’m going to make an extender lest in case the armholes be a bit tight. This will also give a bit of extra length as well. To do this I will cut a new double ended tab for each shoulder with a set of snaps for fastening to the original snaps.  I will have to blog about this later once I see if it works.

This Lullaby was smocked with a pink floss to match the satin binding. One last touch – a concertina ribbon rose completes the picture! 

You can find the pattern at www.amberlane.ca under Atelier/Patterns. Then go to Children's Patterns. Click on the pattern cover for more photos of Lullaby!

 

So till next time, keep stitching…..

Monday, November 10, 2014

Holiday stitching with little people….


With eminent approach of the holiday season, every minute counts! If you are looking for an easy craft to keep young hands busy over the Thanksgiving holiday (or any time between now and the holidays) here are a couple of projects that might fill the bill. Any time we can spend together with young hands teaching them the art of needle work fills our hearts with joy and furthers their interest in the art as well.

 
These ‘cookie cutter’ ornaments can be the stepping off point for many others.  I’ve given you the outline for a mitten. Other shapes you might consider are a tree, gingerbread ‘person’, a bell, a wreath and so on.  If you already have cookie cutters trace them onto paper and use them as a pattern or look in a colouring book or storybook for inspiration. These patterns can be copied and enlarged to the size suggested or to whatever size you wish.

 
 
 
My felt decorations measure about 11 cm (4” – 4.25”) in height. You can make yours any size you want but keep it simple and large enough for little hands to cope.
Each shape is reversible so you will need enough felt to cut two of each shape.
Supplies: paper to trace off the shape(s),
scissors for cutting,
thread to match the felt,
a fading marker to draw the embroidery design,
embroidery cotton for the embroidery,
hand sewing needles,
and a bit of stuffing to puff each decoration.
The designs photographed feature little seed beads for accents but you need to judge if your artist is old enough to handle beads. For beading you will need on or two colours of seed beads and a needle that will pass through the holes easily.
I added a strand of a metallic sewing thread to the embroidery thread (such as “Sulky”) to add a bit of bling.

 
For the embroidery, I used the Fern Stitch and the Reverse Chain. You could use a French knot or Colonial knot if you don’t want to deal with beads. All these stitches can be found in a good embroidery book if you cannot follow my instructions.
 
Fern Stitch
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Reverse Chain Stitch
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
Begin by making a pattern of your chosen shape. Stack two pieces of felt and cut two of each shape so they are exactly the same size. “Open” the shapes like a book, draw your embroidery lines on the felt and embroider in the colour(s) of your choice. Add beads now as indicated in the photograph or make knots in a contrasting colour.
Stack the shapes together again. Place a small amount of stuffing between the layers and then stitch around the edges about 0.6 cm (¼”) in from the cut edge.  Add a hanging loop and you are done! Set the ornaments aside to let the marker fade (24 – 48 hours)

 

 
 
Design ideas/suggestions:
Reverse colours from side to side (one side green, the other red);
Cut out the shapes with pinking shears;
Join the two pieces with a simple “Blanket Stitch”! 
Have fun and see where your creativity leads you.
Meanwhile keep stitching…..