Friday, December 20, 2013

Last minute ideas

Time is running so short and I went looking for the kids' Santa sacks yesterday to get them ready for Santa's visit on Christmas eve. These are filled with many memories of Christmases past.

When our son was born I made a traditional Christmas stocking but most of Santa's gifts wouldn't fit! So for the next Christmas I set about making a Santa Sack better suited to Santa's visit.
My sewing at the time had a disc that stitched out holly leaves. I stitched Santa Sack free hand onto a piece of the fabric and appliqued it with the holly stitch.
When our daughter came along, another Santa Sack had to be made.

A few years later I was writing for a craft magazine and created another version in Black Watch miniature fabric, French Val lace insertion appliqued for the letters, red buttons for holly berries and appliqued white padded holly leaves.

Lastly we became babysitters for our daughter's two cats one year while she was moving across the province. So the cats got Santa Sacks for Christmas too - for their Santa treats. I re purposed two velveteen bags and embroidered their names in red and green Pearle cotton using the Magic chain stitch.

Hope these are of some inspiration - they are so easy....
Wishing you all a very happy holiday season!!
Till next time, keep stitching!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Christmas gift idea

Look at what I made for a fairly quick gift for my grown children.

All three of them love to cook. Our daughter is the baker and her husband the 'from scratch' king in the kitchen. My son is still practising but catching on fast and eager to always try new things.

I needed something for each of them as they will be sharing a kitchen for a while. So I went hunting for plain aprons and found then in 100% cotton in the very style I was hoping to find - at the Hudson's Bay Company store. There were even three perfect colours - what luck.

I knew what I wanted to write on two and brainstormed for a week to come up with the third saying with which I was happy.

Then I wrote each out on the computer. I played with fonts and sizes until I was happy. The final results were in "Celebrity" in a very large size. But of course you can choose any font that appeals and lends itself to embroidery - what ever type of embroidery you love to do.

I chose to work the script in the common chain stitch in #5 pearl cotton.  But if you have time, you could do shadow embroidery or split stitch or any number of stitches or techniques.

If you are not a hand embroidery person you can work the font free hand on your machine or if you have an embroidery machine just program your script as you want it and do a test of course before you tackle your aprons.

I used a light table and water soluble pen for the beige and red aprons. The black fabric was a challenge and I ended up using a white chalk pencil and writing the lettering out by hand. There are loads of other ways you could do a dark fabric.

I spent three relaxing evenings stitching love into each apron. Now I just hope they use them!

So next I am considering doing up some tea towels if I can fine nice plain woven linen or cotton for their kitchens - maybe next year as time is getting short already! Here are some ideas for you if you like this idea....

Coffee or Tea
Cream or Sugar
Oil or Vinegar
Salt & Pepper
and so on....

Have fun with this and do keep on stitching!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Where in the world.....

Where have I been? Well it's a long story but I hope I am back again. I know I am hard at work.

My mother-in-law had a heart attack back in July and I was gone the month of September to assist with closing down her apartment and getting her set up in a nursing/assisted living home. Since then it has been a bit of a catch up while tending to "business" and working on a new pattern.

Meet Buckleberry, my tribute to Little Baby Prince George, the new little son of Prince William and his wife, Kate Middleton. This, my newest pattern, Buckleberry, will be available soon. But to whet your sewing appetites. Here is a quick view of the pattern cover.

This little bear, sitting about 8" tall or standing about 12", can be made in most any fabric for a child or just yourself. You can embellish him in most any needle art or leave him plain and let the fabric do the talking. I hope you will find this little fellow a charm to make and a charm to give!
I received a note from Kathy F with a photo of Summer Breeze which she finished after a class with me at SAGA. Great work Kathy!!
Kathy made Summer Breeze 'her own'.  She chose "Liberty cloth for the gown and changed the top insertion to one with butterflies! As soft as the fabric is, I decided to add the embroidery in Madeira silk thread with feather stitch and French Knots and fly stitch stems and leaves in the insertion at the bottom of the front panel." She says she is "delighted with my finished gown and can't wait to take it to Show and Share". What a treat to see someone take a pattern and 'run with it' so to speak.

And look at the photo Sr. Sarah J. sent. Her interpretation of  Little Snowdrift. Not sure if you can see it but she's added bead accents. Beautiful!

So hopefully I'm back to blogging and will continue to work on some additional zipper installations. There is so much to catch up on and Christmas is just around the corner!

TTFN, Judith

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Hand Applied Zippers

The Hand Applied Zipper

This method is sometimes call hand pricked or handpicked as the stitches look like little prick or pick in the fabric.

While working in a knitting shop a few years ago I often inserted zippers into hand knit garments for customers. This led to doing hand applied zippers in regular garments. They are so easy and amazingly strong but not suited to garments where the zipper will be under stress – like a skin-tight stretch knit.

Machine baste the seam closed and press it open. Remove the basting. With a fading marker, draw a line ¼” from the seam line into the garment, the length of the zipper.

One more thing while you have the ruler out, dot along each line every ¼” starting and ending so the dots match from side to side.
Thread up a needle with matching thread and put a good solid knot in the end of the thread.
Open the zipper and position one side (right side up) under the zipper ‘placket’ as it will sit when the zipper is inserted. The zipper teeth are right against the fold of the fabric but not showing. You may wish to place a pin or two to hold the zipper in place. When you have some experience you won’t even need the pins.


Bring the needle to the surface at the bottom of the first dot. (The dots are pretty small but they still have width.) Take the needle to the back at the top of the dot and bring it to the top again at the bottom of the next dot. You are doing a back stitch but the surface of the stitch is just a pinprick! Be sure the tension is the same for each stitch on both sides. Using the dots and lines makes this so much easier to get straight and evenly spaced stitches.
When you have one side done knot off and repeat the process for the second side.

Finish the seam allowances as suited to the fabric.

Now to give this method more punch, you can use three strands of embroidery floss to match or coordinate with your fabric. These stitches are a bit bolder.

Next try making a French knot on the surface of the fabric with each stitch you take.

If you want some bling, try using a fine needle and adding a reflective bead or seed bead on the needle with each stitch you take on the surface.                                                                         

In the next photo you can see different types of stitches or applications. On the bottom row of stitching, back stitching has been used.    

On the top side starting at the right  you can see French knots, seed beads and then bolder gold beads. The purple line from the facing marker will disappear and you will be left with a good straight line of stitching!
With a hand applied zipper, you can really add a special touch to a simple garment without overdoing the glitter!

Two more types of applications to go....  
Keep stitching! 



Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Invisible Zippers

Carrying right along then....
The Invisible Zipper Application

These zippers are wonderful and possibly the best choice if you want a zipper in a smocked garment.

There is one little trick you need to use and that is to open the zipper and press the teeth flat. They will return to their curled position once you close the zipper. Doing this allows you to stitch as close as possible to the zipper teeth, making the zipper truly invisible.

In this application you do not baste the placket closed. But you must be sure your seam allowance matches the width of the closed zipper tape. Also do not close the seam to which you are applying this zipper.

You can purchase a special adjustable zipper foot for the invisible zipper – you need to know what kind of shank your feet are (high, low, snap on etc.). Or you can use a five groove tucking foot if you have an adjustable needle position. Either way you need to check your machine with the zipper. You will also want your machine’s regular zipper foot to finish the application if you don’t have the adjustable invisible zipper foot.
Practise before you start on your good fabric. 
Stitching the first side with tucking foot

In this photo you can see that I am using a tucking foot to
apply the first side of the zipper. The zipper teeth are right up in the groove of the foot and the needle adjusted to come down very close to the teeth.

Right sides together, ready to stitch side two
In the photo above  the garment fabric is positioned with right sides together and opened so the second side of the sipper can lay, right side to right side, in preparation to be stitched. I've pinned the bottom to hold the position for stitching.

Here you see the invisible zipper foot that fits my machine. I've don't the stitching in red so you can see, well when it is visible, where the stitching is. 

Starting at the top....

Working from the top of the zipper stitch down as far as you can go. The zipper pull will prevent you from going all the way to the end.
Start the zipper halves at the same distance from the top raw edge. There should be no twists in the zipper. Repeat the stitching process for this second side stitching from top to bottom of the zipper and adjusting the foot and needle for stitching of the opposite side.


Zipper pull will stop you

Check the zipper placement by pulling it closed. The two sides should be the same. Check things on the right side. Here you see the zipper is closed and the seam is not stitched below the zipper.

From the right side
Check the zipper placement by pulling it closed. The two sides should be the same. Check things on the right side. Here you see the zipper is closed and the seam is not stitched below the zipper.

Stitch the remaining seam
Now lift the zipper up and away from the seam. Use the extreme right hand position of the invisible zipper foot or a regular zipper foot rather than the tucking foot to machine stitch the rest of the zipper length. Then change to a regular foot to stitch the remainder of the garment seam. 

Sometimes there is a small gap at the bottom of an invisible zipper which can only be closed by hand. You may wish to stitch the bottom tails of the zipper tape to the seam allowance to give the zipper more stability.

The finished seam
You can use a zigzag stitch to whip the raw edges of the fabric to the zipper tape or serge the full length of either side of the seam allowances and press open. A Hong Kong finish would work here also for a couturier look.

One seam allowance is finished with zigzag stitching

That's it for tonight. Still more to come......

Monday, June 24, 2013

Lapped Zippers

Following right along then, let's tackle a lapped zipper.
Fig. 1
This is the type of application you are most likely to see in a side skirt. The same principles can be seen in fly closures of some garments.

So once again check the width of the zipper and make any adjustments to your seam allowances. Fig. 1

Fig. 2
You will machine baste the seam closed and press the seam open.

Switch to a zipper foot and adjust it so the needle will be stitching between the foot and the teeth of the zipper.

Open the zipper.

Lay the zipper face down onto the seam allowance only and attach regular machine stitching. Machine stitch down the middle of the tape width. This first step is usually done on the back garment seam allowance. Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Now turn the zipper face-up. Make a narrow fold in the seam allowance and finger press. Adjust the zipper foot to the other side so you can stitch the length of the zipper next to this new fold.  You are still stitching through the seam allowance and zipper tape only.  Fig. 3
Fig. 4

Spread the garment out flat with the zipper face down on the front seam allowance. A small pleat will from at the bottom of the zipper placket. To be sure you are stitching straight, draw a line ¼” from the zipper teeth on the tape to keep your stitching straight and evenly spaced from the zipper teeth. Fig. 4
Fig. 5

Stitch across the bottom of the zipper and up the other side.
Check the stitching from the right side. If all is well, take the threads at the bottom of the zipper placket to the wrong side and tie off. Fig. 5
Use a press cloth and steam to press from the right side.
Fig. 6
Remove the basting thread that is holding the placket closed. Fig. 6
Finish the seam allowances, incorporating the zipper tapes.
Hope you are seeing how easy these types of zipper applications can be.
Till next time then......


Friday, June 14, 2013

How many zippers....


Do you ever shrink from a pattern because it requires the insertion of a zipper? I confess I have but really, they are not hard to do if you just take a bit of care and don’t hurry! Better to do the job right than have to pick out and do over….

So what type of zipper application does your garment require? I can think of several possibilities. There’s the centered inset, the lapped, the invisible, the hand applied – for an amazing designer look, the separating zipper and now designers have added the exposed zipper. Wow bet you didn’t realize there were so many.
Fig. 1

The Centred Zipper Application

Let’s take a look at the centred inset style. It is what you are most likely to see in the back of a dress or skirt. It isn’t really difficult but this is the kind I’ve always had trouble doing a good job.

Be sure you have the right length according to the pattern. Measure the width of the zipper from the edge of the tape to the other edge. Your seam allowance needs to open to that measure if not a bit wider. Make any adjustments to your garment.

Stitch the seam closed but use a basting stitch for the length of the zipper. Press the seam closed and then open.
Open the zipper and lay it face sown on the seam allowance only with the teeth snugged up to the seam line.
Switch to your zipper foot and adjust it so you are stitching on the left side of the foot – the needle is going into the fabric between the foot and the zipper teeth. Stitch the length of the zipper tape. Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Next, be sure that the zipper pull is turned up as if you were about to close it. Reverse the position of the zipper foot and start past the zipper pull to stitch through the tape and the other seam allowance only. Position the teeth of the second side up against the seam again. Stitch to the top of the zipper. Fig. 2 

Close the zipper.
Turn the garment over so you are working on the right side.    
Fig. 3                                                
Now you can take advantage of a fading marker and draw a line on either side of the seam ¼” away from the seam. No matter how straight you think you can stitch, this little step will make your work neater! You will also want to mark the end of the zipper so you stitch across the zipper tape not into the metal end. You can stitch through the nylon teeth if you need to but in most cases you will end the placket just a couple of stitches below that metal stopper.

If the fabric is slippery or stretchy you might want to pin the two sides so they stay the same size or do not stretch.
Fig. 4
Begin at the top of one side and stitch to the bottom. With the needle in the fabric, lift the foot, pivot and walk your foot across to the seam. Count the number of stitches it takes to get to the seam and stitch the same number on the other side. You should be on the line you drew. Leave the needle in the fabric again to pivot and then stitch to the top of the zipper.
If it is a difficult fabric, you may wish to stitch both sides from the top down or use a narrow piece of thin iron-on interfacing on the wrong side of the fabric to stabilize the seam.
Carefully remove the basting stitches that hold the seam closed. Wait for the facing marker to disappear before pressing. Your zipper should be perfect!  Fig. 4
I have not mentioned a seam finish for the seam allowances. You can serge or overcast the raw edges after inserting the zipper, incorporating the zipper tape into the finish.
Soon to follow, next installment - Lapped Zippers

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

There and back again

Last weekend the Marquis family gathered in Edmundston, New Brunswick for my other-in-law's 90th birthday party. It was a whirlwind visit to say the least!

Our son picked me up on Thursday evening and we drove through freezing rain to Ottawa arriving near midnight. We stayed at our daughter's overnight and then hitched a ride with her and her husband for the next leg of the journey. I woke around 3 a.m. on Friday to the sound of freezing rain. It had finally caught up with us.

We were back on the road again at 7 and when we stopped for gas and coffee just outside Quebec City, the rain had all but stopped. A lady stopped in the doorway of 'Tim's' in shock to ask us from where we had driven. When we turned to see what had caught her attention we saw that the front of the vehicle was so thick with ice that the licence plate was no longer visible! We cleared what we could of the ice from the headlights, the front of the car and the roof rack and with coffee in had struck out for the rest of the journey. I just wish I could have reached my camera to capture that poor car.

The next leg of the journey, to Rivière-du-Loup, was uneventful. But once we turned south towards Edmundston it began to snow again and there was construction nearly all the way. The Trans Canada is being widen and improved. We arrived at the hotel at about 4:30 p.m., 5:30 their time. What a long day!!

We had dinner 7 minutes down the highway at the neatest privately owned restaurant in St. Jacques, Le Patrimoine. They only serve wood-fired pizzas and oh may, what a selection. Most desserts featured local maple syrup as well. Everything was so delicious. And outside, it continued to snow....
And outside it snowed......
                                                                                                                                                              We stayed in a brand new Best Western which was just off the TransCanada Highway in Edmundston. It was very nice and had one of the best stocked complimentary breakfast rooms I've ever seen. There was a small pool with a big spiral water slide for the kids, a whirlpool/hot tub and an exercise room with modern machines that really worked! I was impressed. The other thing that impressed me was that there was no carpeting so if you suffered from allergies you could be sure that there were no dust bunnies lurking under the beds!
The cake and candles!
Mrs. Marquis' family and friends gathered for a dinner and then returned to the hotel afterwards for coffee and cake. She was so happy  to have us all there. And it had been years since we had all managed to get together. Birthdays are such happy events for family gatherings.

Next morning the four of us set off for home once again in the snow. It ceased once we passed Lévis, Quebec. We arrived back in the Ottawa area by dinner time where the sun was shining and there was no snow in sight. The remainder of the trip was uneventful. Paul and I were up and on the road again to Newmarket by 8 a.m. Monday morning.
Sunday morning snow......

The sun was shining and it was lovely and warm when we arrived in Newmarket just after noon. Paul had another hour and a half drive to reach his home. Bob stayed on with his mom for a few more days to ease the letdown after all the excitement.

So these wonderful photos were waiting for me  when I got back to business. My good buddy has made a jumper of printed pinwale corduroy for her little granddaughter who lives in Australia.

She always does such neat things with buttons and this jumper from my new Infant Snowdrift pattern is no exception. She also used a fine coordinating mini gingham for the armhole binding and the mini piping. You can just see them in the second photo. I surely hope she gets a photo of this sweet little gal wearing her jumper and sends it on!

You can find this adorable pattern on my web site, . Go to the Atelier and then to Children's Patterns. If you click on pattern cover you will see some photos of garments made from the pattern.

If you go to Pleater Companions you will see that we have new pricing on the ComPleater Boxes and a new product, Pleater Rods. Read all about them; I think these rods are brilliant. We think these items will make your pleating life easier.

While you are visiting the web site check out the Other Designers. I carry A Garden of Smocking Designs, Emma's Gown and Grace L. Knott patterns, books and dots.

So until next time, keep stitching!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

An antique silk gown and a photo shoot

Last week I met with Carla Canonico at A Needle Pulling Thread magazine for a photo shoot. This wonderful needlework magazine is produced right here in little old Newmarket!            

We were photographing the Christmas decorations for the Festive issue, well John, the Art Director and so much more, did the actual photography but Carla and I set up each shot. I of course never thought to bring my own camera to record any of the process...

Yes, the Festive issue and it is only March! Carla and John work so far ahead to bring you this wonderful magazine. I brought in a set of three silk ribbon embroidered decorations making use of some slightly different stitches along with the tried and true. There is a traditional ball, a Christmas tree and a Drummer Boy's drum.

Then a few weeks ago, inspiration struck again and I did up some felt 'cookie cutter' decorations that employ only two stitches for the designs. These are so easy you could even get your little people stitching if they are comfortable with a needle and thread - well maybe it is more like it to say if you are comfortable. After all needlework, particularly embroidery is a hand skill to be passed on the next generation and what better way to spend precious time with your children or grandchildren.

Please go to A Needle Pulling Thread magazine to check it out. From there
you can catch Carla's Face book page and 'like' her beautiful photos!! You might even sign up for a subscription or check out the "needlework pages" a listing of shops and services that you are bound to find helpful.

This is the cover of the newest issue that has just hit the news stands. Preview it on the web site and look for it next time you are out shopping.

Also last week a parcel arrived in the mail from my best friend in England. She always surprises me with these wonderful packages. Inside the gold tissue tied up in the prettiest ombre ribbon, was the most delicate Christening gown in champagne gossamer-fine silk embroidered in ecru silk or rayon thread. It has been made from an embroidered border which has not been trimmed to the edge of the stitching. There obviously was an embroidered insertion made to match.  

For those of us who use heirloom sewing techniques this gown is an anomaly. It is an antique gown from the Victorian or Edwardian era which has been sewn together by sewing machine - French seams of course. The hemstitching that was used to turn up the hem is absolutely perfect and exquisite.
The odd thing to me is the way the designer used the insertion pieces on the bodice and sleeves. Hope you can see this in the photo above. The 'waste fabric' has not been removed nor hidden by turning it to the back. Instead it has been used as an edging with part of it turned inside for application. In the CF, it has been made to look like these edges are pin tucks and a second pin tuck sewn beside each edge.
At the waist in the photo it looks like the 'waste fabric' has been turned to the back but on further examination, there is a huge tuck on the inside - an alteration was made but nothing was cut away so next baby could be accommodated.

All the embroidery on all the pieces is also perfect - not a sign of puckering. This is quite a feat considering how fine the fabric is and they wouldn't have had all the stabilizers the modern embroidery machines require. Look closely at how perfectly it has been stitched. I simply marvel!
The lace edging on the sleeves looks much like some of the fine lace edgings still available from Capitol Imports. Here is a close-up of the sleeve.
The designer even made an attempt to math up the pattern of the embroidery in the centre back the only seam in the skirt. But I imagine she was limited by the amount of fabric there was.
We can learn so much by studying antique garments. How did they make use of the different parts employed in the garment, what kind of seams, and their size, allowances for alterations and so on.
The design is simple enough for anyone to copy. All you need is a basic yoked pattern. Why not turn you had to creating such a gown for some wee babe!
So until next time, keep stitching.....

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A gift for you....

Sometimes when we are designing a pattern one element or another doesn’t always work.

I usually file these little nuggets away for future use in some other form or pattern but this time I thought you might enjoy this design graph. It is just too sweet to store away. I hope you will this the same.

Smocked on double layer of Imperial Batiste

Why when this is such a pretty little design? Well if you look carefully at the photo you will see how the yoke bubbles slightly. I did everything you are supposed to do, let out the pleats to match the area of the yoke  to which it was to attach, spread my pleats, smocked more loosely at the bottom than the top. But when the seam was sewn, oh no!, it wouldn’t sit right.
Out with the steam iron and spray starch but no matter of work with these two was going to solve my problem. Of course it may have been that the piping in the seam was the problem but I was not going to take a chance and publish a design that wouldn’t work.

If it was the piping, I may have stretched it ever so slightly  so that when it relaxed, it ‘bounced back’ to its original length. Nothing short of new piping (I had trimmed off the end of course) and taking everything apart  to re-stitch it all, would have solved this problem.  I am too fussy and yet at the same time too impatient to re do all that stitching. But you are the winner!

I used iridescent seed beads and the faintest variegated floss for the borders and matching pink floss for the central section. You could make bullion roses in place of the seed beads.

Send me a photo of how you have used this design and I will post it here.

So until next time, keep stitching……

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Great news! The patterns I've been working on for what seems forever are finally ready for you.

Yes, the little Infant Tuxedo Jacket which coordinates with the Infant Wardrobe I and the little Infant Snowdrift are now both posted on the web site and on the new order form.

 Here are the covers of both. I think you have seen some of the work I have been doing on the samples in past posts to the blog.

If you go to the web site, you will find a full selection of photos with each pattern in the children's section of the Atelier. It would be wonderful to have photos from you of either of these patterns made up as you interpret them to post in the on-line Gallery.

We have a new Order Form and new pricing on the "ComPleater Boxes".

If you are browsing, check put our new Pleater Rods. Bob has created four categories of rods, all hand made and hand finished in wood with the most silky finish. There is even one specifically for travelling to class or convention! You need to see them with their description to determine which would best suit your needs.

Here are a couple of the finished samples from the Infant Snowdrift pattern.

View A with heirloom touches, button back
View B smocked, button back 


The Diaper Cover Panties with monogramed tab

Please take a minute and check out all these new things at
I think you will like what you find.
So till next time, keep stitching!