Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Adding a little fullnes to the skirt...

I love it when people write with questions about patterns or how to do some technique. Recently I had two ladies ask about adding fullness to a garment without making huge changes to the pattern.

When you lengthen a garment like a bishop dress which is intended to stop at the knee area, it can become skimpy-looking. The longer a garment, the more width it requires to maintain good and pleasing proportions. 

It isn’t hard to do and just takes a small alteration to bump up the hem circumference. And doing this you shouldn’t have to do any other alterations to the bodice front or back unless you want to add a lot of fullness.
My Baby's Breath pattern as it would be without box pleats

Add a box pleat and the whole garment looks better

By adding inverted box pleats in the under arm area of a garment you can easily increase the width of a skirt. Most patterns of this type have straight side seams rather than flared as straight are easier to hem!

Begin by tracing off the armholes of your garment. Add about 2” depending on the fabric and the garment size to the width of the underarm area. Now this will also be determined by the width of the armhole curve.

Mark the point of the original side seam so you can stitch straight down for about 1” – 1.5” (again depending on the garment size – shorter for newborn, of course). Backstitch at the bottom as reinforcement. Then stitch the new side seam. (There is no seam finish in these photos.)
Press seam allowance open or towards the back of the garment in the case of a French seam.
Match up the seam stitching to the first row of stitching.
Catch the pleat thus formed in the armhole stitching.

From the outside

Note: the wider the pleat the more likely you are to have to test this with paper and shape the box pleat folds so you can be sure they catch in the underarm seam.  When opened out flat they will have a ‘wave’ appearance with a peak where the fabric folds.
If you are working with light weight fabric you might be able to form a double box pleat for even more fullness and yet still keep the pleat narrow enough to be securely caught in the underarm seam.

So here are some photos of two different garments.
First is View C, from the Grace Knott ‘Pinafore and Sundress’ pattern. I added this View when I updated the original pattern. It also features a growth tuck hem.

You can see both the inside and outside of the underarm tuck
The second is my ‘Baby’s Breath’ done in heirloom dimity with heirloom touches – pin stitched tucks, embroidery and a scalloped hem. This pattern has a set in sleeve so if you were to smock, it would be seamless in the neckline area. The box pleat at the bottom of the armhole curve controls the fullness of the armhole but allow a fuller skirt.
From the inside of the baby gown
From the outside of the gown
Baby's Breath spread out flat
So there you have it. Inside, outside and laid out flat. This can be the step-off point for you to experiment further.
Have fun and keep on stitching......

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Round up before fall

I've been putting the final touches to the new pattern now named
Lullaby, An Infant Sleep Sacque
and it is  off to the printer's this morning for a test run. If all goes well then it should be ready within a week! This is always the scary part because there is always a difference between computers and sometimes things don't come out just as one wants! When this happens it is back to the keypad and tweaking.....

And here it is!
My new little granddaughter wears one every night. I've sized this pattern like my other infant patterns - according to weight and chest measurement rather than age. It just makes so much more sense to do it this way. The pattern is very easy to adjust if you want to smock it using a pleater. But I've found it looks just a cute without smocking and takes a lot less time.
We will get it posted to the web site (www.amberlane.ca) and the order form as quickly as possible. There is always so much to do when a new pattern launches. You can sign up for the newsletter on the home page of the web site. That way you don't miss out on the release of new patterns etc.
Now, my husband donated a Dolly's Bed and Clothes Rack recently and decided to paint this one for fun.

couldn't let it go without a mattress cover and got a bit carried away and made up a little pillow. I used some light weight flannel left over from another project - perfect with the cloud theme for bedding.
Of course I didn't know who was getting this little bed or whether someone would sew for the child or the doll so I added a little pillow and a sheet/blanket to match and just serged around the edges of the sheet. All in all it only took about an hour and a bit.
Here is the clothes rack. The angle from which I took the photo is a bit off but we almost forgot to record these pieces. If I had had time, I think I would have liked to stencil a design on both pieces but I am sure a little girl will love these with or without the artwork.

Watch for the pattern, order lots and keep stitching....

Friday, August 8, 2014

Pin gathering technique

There are loads of ways to gather fabric onto flat fabric but years ago, as a students, we were taught this method, often used by tailors to set in suit sleeves with nary a pucker. It has held faithful over the years and I thought you might find it useful as well. It takes a bit longer but the end product is worth the time taken.

As I was working on the last sample for this pattern I photographed the procedure. In this sample the fabric is a light weight cotton and the fabric is gathered between two notches on the curved yoke front.
Run two rows of gathering threads, one and eighth of an inch above the stitching line and one and eighth of an inch below.   
Reduce the tension on the upper thread so you can more easily pull the bobbin thread.
Set the stitch length to 3 (if your normal is 2.5) to give finer control of the gathers.
I sometimes use up ends of coloured threads for contrast - if they won’t mark my fabric with traces of colour. When removed they are thrown away so it won’t matter.
If you are using thread matching your fabric, to avoid pulling the wrong thread and locking the stitching, clip off the tail of the top thread so the bobbin thread is the only one long enough to pull.

Here you see a horizontal view (as you would hold the fabric.)
Now pin your pieces together. Begin by pinning the ends where the gathers will begin and end, then the CF. The 3rd pin from the left is the CF (Sorry, I was in a hurry to photograph this as the camera's battery was running very low!) On the left of CF is the first division of fabric and to the right you see how it progresses.
Fold one side of the yoke and fabric in half matching up the pins to find the centre of this section.
Mark the centre of these portions with pins or finger press a fold into the fabric. (In the photo above, the first pin and second pin are marking the halfway points and pins three and four are the CF and the far end.) 
Match up the first and second pin, re-pin and then repeat to divide each of these portions. Keep dividing and pinning until you had pinned right across the seam and the area has been 'broken down. as much as possible.
Now you can pull up the gathering threads. The fabric is evenly divided and the fabric doesn't have far to go.
Here is a second view from a different angle.
Here you see the progression of steps. Pull up the gathering threads from one end to the middle and even out the gathers between the pins. Repeat for the other half. Pulling up half at a time ensures that the thread won't break or pull out the far end.
Machine stitch with regular stitch length and tension. Do not stitch over your pins - remove them just as you approach each one.

Check the other side to be sure everything is as is should be. Make any repairs now.
Notice how perfectly gathered the fabric is.
Remove the gathering threads and press. Below is the finished sample.

Note: Here is a little tool that would be so easy to recreate. A student gave me this little laying tool many years ago and it has become so handy. It is a short bamboo skewer with a painted bead glued onto the non-pointed end. Something so simple but so handy when it comes to controlling the fine details when dealing with gathers.

Hope you found this helpful and that you will give it a try. It goes faster with practise but takes loads of pins. 

So till next time, keep stitching!!


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Sunbonnet - Take II

So here goes a second run at this sunbonnet hat.

This time I decided to make the pattern crown in the original size and skip the lining.

Instead of lining the crown I made it up with French seams.  In this technique the first seam is sewn with wrong sides together and normally trimmed down, flipped so right sides are together and then the final row of stitching.

Using my quilting foot, first row of stitching at 1/8"

Since this was an item not going through the pleater the final width could be a bit wider. Thus the first row of stitching was at ” which avoided the need for trimming when I stitch the second seam at ¼”! Total seam allowance was  ”.

One section down, second one pinned to start 

Two down, half way there

From the right side of the crown

This time around I followed the pattern’s suggestion of doing 3 of the 6 crown sections and then joining the two halves.  Great idea and it worked really well (had to be very accurate to have the points work out perfectly but they did!).

Joining the two halves - ” seam allowance

Points line up but too much fabric for a good part 2 of seam!

A problem arose when I attempted the final row if stitching – part 2 of the final French seam.  There was so much thickness I had to walk the machine through the seam and even then there was a ‘gob’ at the apex. Well that would be easy to cover with a flat button.

The finished crown still looked too shallow compared to the height so once again I cut a bias headband of the seersucker and one of lightweight contrasting white cotton.

Bias bands pinned in place. Leaving and opening in band lining to insert elastic.

I could already tell that the sizing was going to be way too big as it measured 18” and baby’s head is just over 14”! I left the contracting white headband open where the ends join so I could insert some elastic which could be adjusted when the time comes. Well if it doesn’t fit this year we will have it for next summer.  And on I plowed….
Once again I cut the brim of beautiful white English cotton broadcloth cut so it would be double fullness.

A tip here for gathering up ruffles like this:
Reduce the tension on the upper thread and don’t use a long stitch length. You get better control of the gathers if you only use a 3.0, 4.5 or 4.0 stitch length – depending on the thickness of your fabric. Divide that flat fabric in half then quarters, eighths and so on. Repeat for the fabric being gathered. Match them up and keep pinning and dividing the fullness in half until you have worked the fabric down to just a small amount between pins to pull up. When you do pull up the gathering threads, you will be surprised at how little room there is for the gathers to go astray. Remove the pins as you stitch. Tailors use this method to set in sleeves in wool suits and steam out what fullness remains for perfectly set-in sleeves in suits! 

Right sides out and band lining pinned in place, ready to be stitched in place.
To finish off the hat all that was left was to hand stitch the band lining in place and top it off with a button. There will be an elastic chin strap but it can’t go in place until we fit it on the babe.

Done! Just a touch up with the iron to smooth out the headband.

Well now that I have used up all the seersucker, I will try this one more time in another fabric but with 5 crown sections rather than 6 – I think the proportions will work better. I will let you know if it turns out. But that is another day.

So till next time, keep stitching…….

Monday, July 14, 2014

Sun bonnet trial

When we first met little “Sweet Pea” (our nickname for our new little granddaughter) it was quite clear that she was going to need a sunbonnet for the summer. She had a knitted hat from when she came home from the hospital but it was huge and was going to be too hot for summer so I knew what I needed to do……

When I got home I searched for a pattern for a hat crown that I could adjust to a size small enough to fit her wee head. I found one (but it also was huge) so proceeded to reduce it by percentages with Photoshop. Well of course it reduced in all areas so it became not just narrower but also shorter! The seam allowances were also reduced. It was mainly the shape I was looking for. I had a multi-coloured seersucker fabric in mind with a white ruffled brim for this bonnet.

Crown pieces cut - pink lining the new length!
So on I tread. Once I had cut the seersucker crown and pinned it together to get a feel for the size, I knew at once it was not long enough. I had lots of fabric so cut a ‘head band’ on the bias thinking that I could always insert some elastic to make it fit. A bias band would create visual interest so that was good. I cut the lining in a light weight batiste long enough to match the new outer layer.

Stitching the seams for the crown was the first step. (Be sure to stitch three ‘wedges’ together and press the seams open as you go.) My pressing mit was perfect for this job. If you don’t have one for pressing curved seams, roll up a washcloth or small towel into a ball and use that. When you have two sets of three ‘wedges’ sewn and pressed, match up the centre points and stitch the last seam. 
Crown and press mitt
Right sides out before the bias band

I added the bias band and matched up the ends of the bias – couldn’t believe they worked out perfectly! All seam allowances were only ¼” so it meant no trimming required. Repeat the process for the lining but this time stitch around the base of the lining at ¼”. This will give you a ‘hard’ edge on which to turn your seam allowance accurately and also keep the seams from coming open if you forget to back stitch.
Next I cut the ruffle. Looking at the crown I chose to make the ruffle 1 ¾” wide (finished width). I cut the fabric 4” wide by twice the length of the crown circumference but since my piece of fabric was not quite wide enough I had to cut two!

Offset the raw edges and 'roll and whip'

Here is the seam I used to join the two pieces, a rolled seam. You can use this here as there is never any pressure on the seam and it is almost invisible when the project is finished! To make such a seam join, you lay the fabrics one on the other with right sides together and edges offset by a mere sixteenth to one eighth apart.
Set your machine to a medium zigzag width and stitch length of ‘1.0’. Stitch down the length of the fabric. The bottom layer should roll over the top and give you a very neat narrow seam much like a ‘rolled and whipped’ edge in heirloom sewing.

Ready to stitch!
I made a ¼” seam at each end of the brim and turned it right sides out before running two rows of gathering (at ” and ”). Matching up the CF of the hat to the CF of the brim, CBs and so on around the crown, I pulled up the gathering threads and distributed the fullness evenly. Once that was done I stitched the ¼” seam and pressed it towards the crown.

Done and right sides out
 With wrong sides together I matched up the centres of the crowns and then the seams of the lining to corresponding points on the band. Using a slip stitch I joined the two. Done for now. All that is left is a chance to try it on little Sweet Pea.
From the inside
Well it seems I measured her head wrong! I was out by 1”! (She was quite squirmy and brand new the day I measured.) The bonnet only just fits! And that won't be for long.....  
Stretch - "This photography stuff is such a bore!"
Well off to the drawing board again - thank goodness I have lots of fabric. Dear Daddy couldn’t understand how the bonnet didn’t fit. It was all a bit too complicated to explain and I finally just gave up.
When she was napping (the best time to try measuring a newborn) I measured again and this time got three measurements – head circumference, front to back over the crown and from earlobe to earlobe over the crown. Well the next one will be larger for sure and will include a little elastic to draw in the fit! It is all a learning curve.
Like me, just keep stitching……


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Manual Buttonholes - not that tough!

Recently I was up at our cottage with my little Elna Lotus sewing machine doing some stitching for the new baby's arrival. This little machine has only straight & zigzag, multiple zigzag and a zigzag blind hem stitch. It was one of the first Lotus machine they made so it didn't have a built it buttonhole.

Not a problem as when I used to sell these machines back in the 'olden days' in Eaton's, part of our sales demo was to do manual buttonholes and free motion embroidery for monograming or darning (yes, they promoted darning back then!) It only took a moment for it all to come back.

I thought perhaps some people might find it helpful or at least interesting to see how to make manual buttonholes in this day of auto and computerized everything.

At home I have a Bernina 1530 (also an older but like my Elna machines, a true workhorse). My Bernina has many buttonholes to choose from, also a special butthole foot and a bobbin case with a 'stitch finger that allows you to tighten the bobbin tension slightly when making buttonholes.

Bobbin case with 'stitch finger'

So here is a buttonhole on lightweight batiste.  You can see how it puckers at either end and I haven't even cut it open yet! 

Many patterns for smocking and heirloom sewing do not require any interfacing and thus there is no support for the machine stitching as you can see in the photo above.

The first thing you need is medium to heavy weight tearaway stabilizer.
You should be able to purchase this at your favourite sewing store. It also comes in black for dark colours. You might want to pick up a tenth of a metre or an eight of a yard of both to have it on hand - this much should go a long way of you are using it only for buttonholes!

To make a manual buttonhole you need to set your needle to extreme left hand position. Your width should be set for 2 and the stitch length to near satin stitching. (If you have a machine that only lets you set at specific intervals such as 0.5, 1.0, 1.5 etc. you will not have as much flexibility as one that has a dial for the settings.) On some machines satin stitching is very tight so you may need to back off the stitch length a bit. On my Lotus I had to play a bit to find the right density and then recorded it.

Reduce your upper thread tension so the thread tension is uneven and the upper thread is pulled slightly to the wrong side. This results in a more satin appearance of your stitching.

Normal tension - reduce to 4 for a more satin appearance of the stitching

Lay a piece of  tearaway behind the fabric before starting and you can use a pencil to mark the buttonhole position on your fabric - you are going to stitch right over top of it and cut on it so no one will see it!

Begin at the top, needle position L and needle swinging into the mark on the right.

Stitch down the length of the pencil line. End with the needle on the right on, the pencil line. Lift the machine foot and pivot the fabric so there is space on the left side to run a second row of stitching. You are ready to stitch the bar.
Ready to make the buttonhole bar.

Now you need to drop the feed dogs while you make the buttonhole bar. If you are not sure how to do this refer to your machine manual.
Change the stitch width to 4 (double that of the buttonhole sides).
Stitch about four stitches for your buttonhole bar, ending with your needle on the left side.

Bar done!
Now it is imperative that you return the feed dogs back to normal or stitch position!!
If you forget you will end up stitching a big blob.
Next you must return the stitch width to 2 so you can stitch down the second side.
Go slow and stop when you are one stitch from even with the first side.
When you have reached this point, drop the feed dogs again and stitch the second bar using the same number of stitches as you used for the first end.
Buttonhole finished all but ending off. You can stitch up the side of the buttonhole with the shortest stitching and then snip off the threads.
See how perfect and satiny the stitching is!
Or you can leave long thread ends at this point. Take the threads to the back and thread them up with a needle to bury them along the side of the buttonhole. This leaves no bulky knots or thread tails. You will pull the threads a bit taut before snipping them off at the fabric surface.  You are nearly finished....
Now you need to turn the buttonhole over and remove the tear away stabilizer. The stitching will have perforated it along the buttonhole sides. With your scissors, cut it free at the ends.
Your next step is where Fraycheck, a liquid seam sealant, comes in. 
Apply a bead of this liquid to the stitching. Be careful to keep it as much as possible to the stitching. There may be some 'bleeding' into the fabric and this should not be a problem.
I prefer to do this on the back of the buttonhole as that is where all the action is - the bobbin thread as well as the top thread that has been unbalanced.
On the back with Fraycheck
When the Fraycheck is totally dried you can cut the buttonhole open. Everyone has their favourite tool for this job. I find that if I pierce a hole between the sides of the buttonhole with my seam ripper and position a pin across the end, I can use my fine scissors to cut it open safely.

Ready to cut
No Fraycheck - buttonhole fraying
Finished buttonhole treated with Fraycheck

You can see the difference in the finishing when the buttonhole is treated with the liquid seam sealant. It prevents the threads along the inside edges from fraying and seals the stitching and the stabilizer together for longer service and a stronger buttonhole.
Even if you continue with automatic (computer) buttonholes, you will find these little tricks with the tearaway and the seam sealant improve your end product.
The key with the manual buttonholes as with any is to first practise with all the same products as in your garment (including the same number of layers of fabric) and then record your settings. With a bit of practise you will find this type of buttonhole is not at all intimidating!!
 Good luck and keep on stitching.....