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Archive for the ‘Garments’ Category

The next generation SEWS brilliantly…on a Janome of course!

Tuesday, July 28th, 2020

My daughter-in-law Ashley is my “daughter by another mother.” She is crafty and smart and nice and boy did I get lucky! (Well, my son Joshua was smart too….) Anyway, she was interested in sewing, so for a few years we worked on small projects together. She liked it so much we decided to SPLURGE two years ago and give her a combined Birthday and Graduation from College with Honors with a Teaching degree (yup, popping proud): her very first sewing machine, the Janome M7200. What with moving, starting her teaching career, lack of space in the first apartment in Portland, she just finished her first solo garment, the Sorbetto top, and I am SO impressed! She has every reason to be proud!

Here she is on a HOT summer’s day in Portland (Maine) showing her beautiful work, all done on her Janome M7200 (pic below, keep reading!). The pattern is free online at Collette patterns, https://www.seamwork.com/catalog/sorbetto.
LOOK at that PERFECT edge stitching!!!!! I couldn’t have done better myself. There are many specialty feet, but I go old-school as I get best results that way: use a zipper foot, carefully position the needle in the “U” shape, and then keep the edge of the foot exactly on the edge of the fold. She ROCKED IT!
And the hem….. without so much as a prompt or suggestion from me, she realized that it’s delightful to align the stripes on the inside and she did it! I’m “one of those people” sometimes, I think the backs and insides need to be just as lovely as the fronts/outsides!

Our sewing garments journey began before graduation, when Ashley said she’d like to make her own dress for graduation. She picked a pattern with (!!!!) fitted bodice, set-in sleeves and an invisible zipper! We sewed in my studio on the Janome 9450 I was using at that time (I’m a Janome Artisan and have been on the loan program for 16 years now!). I’d do the first half of something to show her, then she’d do the second half, including a complete set-in sleeve perfectly done on her own! From the start, she showed an inclination to make my heart go thumpity-thump: do it WELL with care and attention to detail. Here’s Ashley modeling the dress in our yard just before and then at graduation:

Too cute for words!
Graduation day 2018
Back in May 2018….
The SPLURGE once-in-a-decade gift for combined birthday and college graduation: a Janome M7200. Thanks a bazillion to Dave LaValley at Bittersweet Fabrics in Boscawen, NH, for recommending this machine. I told him my budget, and that I wanted a machine that will do well by Ashley for a decade for garments, home dec, crafts and maybe someday even quilting. He steered me to this one, which I had thought was more than I could afford, because it is such a well made, sturdy and durable machine, AND made it fit our budget! Dave, we’ve got a budding lifelong sewist in the family! If any of you ever get to Vermont Quilt Festival, you MUST go to the awards ceremony. In honor of his mom, who opened the shop 50 or so years ago, he GIVES a small Janome to EVERY first-time-youth entrant in the show!!!!!! The kids get up on stage… I remember one 4-year old–the machine came up above her knees! Everyone goes armed with hankies! THANK YOU DAVE!

Thank you Joshua from bringing Ashley into our family. Thank you Ashley for being you! Thank you Sue for being my co-mother-in-law and raising such awesome girls! And thank you Ashley for letting me share and brag on you!

Screen Printed Garments!

Monday, July 20th, 2020
My new Queen Anne’s Lace top. I screen printed my custom designs onto Cotton Couture solids (courtesy of Michael Miller Fabrics), this color is “Luna.”
In the summer of 2020 I saw Print Pattern Sew by Jen Hewitt somewhere online and ordered it immediately. It’s FAB! is available many places including Amazon . DO check out Jen’s site, here. Of course it took until April to start playing and until now to post. For the workshop and this post I wanted to use a pattern currently available that is similar to two vintage (circa mid 1980s) patterns that I still make over and over because I love them so much.
There are LOTS of great photos and step outs in the book.
Table of Contents
Since my favorite patterns are decades out of print, I selected this one for this project in case anyone wants to buy the book for further instruction. It comes with the pattern included.

I’ve been developing some new classes using paint on cloth and I thought as part of being a Michael Miller Brand Ambassador and a Janome Artisan what better thing to do than combine all these things I love in one! Some of you may remember this post from when I did a DIY improvement to my hall sconces; one of the lampshades was Queen Anne’s Lace screen printed on linen. I used the thermofax screens I made for that again for this top.

Step one is testing various mixes of color to get just what I wanted. You can see a colorful little plastic “flat not-a-spoon”–that is a make-up paddle, available in packages on Amazon for about $5 for 100 (more than a lifetime supply). They are great for getting into small paint jars. I used to use some Gelato spoons a shop gave me, but the flat paddles are better for scraping off (and not wasting) excess paint).
The paints I used are ProFAB Transparent paints from ProChemical and Dye, but most textile paints will work. These have a particularly soft hand to them. Starter kits are a great and cost-effective way to try them out (I have a pair of kits available here; also available in just one or the other types of paint).
LABEL what you use, what base paints are in the mix. I can promise you, with three yellows and three blues in 15 minutes I will forget which one is which! I keep these test-scraps for future reference.
I used freezer paper to make stencils for the stems. I could have made a thermofax screen, but the mesh is expensive and Freezer Paper is cheap.
I used a thermofax screen of grasses I had used for my lampshade for the bottom of the garment. I cut oversized pike for the front, back, and what I thought would be a trim for the sleeves. I later decided to leave the cuff/bottom of the sleeves plain.
I used the grass screen to decorate the “facing” piece. Instead of putting the facing on the inside of the garment, I turned it to the outside as a decorative element.
Ooops! Sometimes goobers happen. Any unwanted random little smudges of paint are quickly wet and scraped away. Or you just live with them.
The printing was done in four steps: 1. Print stems over freezer paper stencil and let dry. I ended up adding another flower later on, so had to add another stem as seen here. 2. Print grass with thermofax screen. Let dry. 3. The thermofax screen for the Queen Anne’s Lace was made from my pen and ink drawing. My lampshades were all green on white linen. For this blouse, I wanted the flowers to be white, so I **carefully** screen printed the stems through the screen (seen above left) and let them dry. 4. Then I went back in with a creamy white (mixed from white with a dab of yellow) to do the flowers. This is the point where you pray you don’t mess up!
When mixing light colors, start with a larger amount of the lightest color and put in just the TINY-est touch of color…it takes surprisingly little yellow to turn that glob of white into a softer white or barely-green. After purchasing the multicolored make up paddles, I discovered these square cornered white ones. They are great for applying small amounts of paint carefully through a thermofax screen and for getting into the bottom edges of the ProChem jars.
Once I had the front and back printed, I pinned them together and tried them on. The grasses on the bottom looked sparse, wimpy. And I wanted the shirt a bit shorter. So I went back in with the same screen, offsetting it so the same shapes weren’t repeated too closely, and did a second layer higher up. I didn’t care if the printing didn’t follow all the way up what would become the hem on the inside. And that way I could just use the same screen instead of making another one.
For the “facing” on the outside, I cut the outer edge of the interfacing very carefully so I could iron the seam allowance over it and create a lovely, smooth outside curve.
If you are new to garment making, be SURE to clip your curves well so that the facing turns and lies nice and flat.
My favorite way to get a perfect edge stitch is old school: using the zipper foot!
Place the edge of the zipper foot against the edge where you want to stitch. In this case I need to use the left side of the foot. Move the needle so that it drops a few threads away from the folded edge. I use a fingernail or thumbnail as an edge guide and don’t sew too quickly. There are indeed “edge feet” for this purpose, but I find that the blades can bend or not be as precise as I want them to be (not to mention visibility isn’t as good as doing it this way). I’d already completed the top when I took this shot, so you can see how perfectly my Janome M7 stitched!
For the hem, I decided I would use a blind hem stitch instead of hand-sewing it. The blind hem stitch I selected is for woven cloth, with straight stitches in between the zigs (#18…on the yellow part of the screen you can see that stitch 19 is a blind hem stitch for knits). Over on the white, it shows the settings and to use the G foot which I am holding up It has an “ice skating blade” (i.e. guide) in the middle.
You can see the metal guide in the center of the foot. As above, I set up this photo after the garment is complete, which is why you see stitching at th bottom of the image. To prepare for blind hem stitching, you fold the hem up with the raw edge pressed to it will be inside the hem. You then fold back the outside of the garment so that the soon-to-be-hidden part of the hem is barely visible, about 1/8″. The body of the garment folds away to the left. The straight stitching on the hem is done with the needle in the curvy part of the “blade” where it stitches on the inside of the hem. The flat part of the blade snugs up against the folded back fabric, and the “Zig” part of the stitch takes a little nibble of the outside of the garment.
My thread matched the Luna Cotton Couture perfectly. It is challenging to see those tiny hem stitches on the right side of the garment.
Back view
Side view–I love how the design goes all the way around. I hope you’ve enjoyed this mini tutorial! Thanks again to Janome for their 16+ years of sponsorship and to Michael Miller for having me as a Brand Ambassador this year!

Dress Form: Unvarnished Truth and a Game Changer

Wednesday, May 20th, 2020

Two years ago I made my DIL Ashley a linen jacket for job interviews. It was a revelation! Working on another body (not mine) was SO EASY–I could see what needed fitting, figure out how to make changes, assess fit and lines. So I vowed to get a dress form. KaCHING! What I wanted was over $400! Nope. So I cast about for something less expensive. A local quilty friend had a friend with one to sell…done for $75. And it still mostly adjusted and wasn’t musty!

For your listening pleasure (you’ll need to read to the end to understand why), open this in a separate browser window.

First change: using an old bra to get the boobs into the right shape for me.

However, I discovered that the dress form and I were built on different molds. I honestly didn’t look as good as the dress form even though the measurements were correct. For starters, most dress forms start with a B-cup. The only time I was that large, I was nursing my sons! So I had to shrink in the torso to get a proper full bust measurement and shape, then pad out everything else to correct ribs, high bust, etc

But even that didn’t do it. Luckily I had long planned to get proper measurements done. Fiddlehead Artisan Supply (if you ever get to Belfast Maine, you MUST MUST MUST go there; quilt fabric, garment fabric, paint, art supplies of all sorts, crafting supplies….in other words, heaven!) has a classroom. Students can pay a VERY modest fee per hour for the teacher to come and help you. When I went, there was one student sewing and me getting measured. I figured I could try and explain to hubby what to do (but do I really want him to know my actual size? NO!) OR I could get someone who sews and would do it properly. Easy choice. The following is a chart I made to use at that session.

Here’s a link for you to download this chart.

To prepare, I looked at patterns, sewing books and knitting books to figure out every conceivable measurement I might need, ever. And I put them into a chart. I have created this a PDF for you to use!

I tried using batting and whatnot, but decided to purchase this smaller set of Fabulous Fit Dress Form pads to make life easy AND give myself a surface that was more pinnable than the actual dress form which is a very dense molded paperboard covered in cloth. I didn’t understand why the slightly more expensive version of this set had TWO dress covers….I’ll explain below. Here they are on Amazon US.

I learned SO MUCH about the shape of my body in this process (and I’m fine with lumps…life is better with ice cream, although 10 pounds fewer lumps would be nice too….the 20 I need to lose ain’t gonna happen). And I learned about the pattern industry, the “blocks” (body shape bases they use) and fitting ease. I can now use my stand-by—measure a garment I have that fits the way I want and compare with what I measure on the pattern–along with the dress form and get a fit that I want!

In the coming weeks I’ll have several garment making posts. I have made a top, a skirt, a tunic, leggings, have another pair of leggings on the cutting table, and a pinafore/jumper on the design wall. Ailith (traditional Scottish name meaning seasoned warrior–my paternal grandmother was Irish but born in Glasgow, I am named after her, so I liked Ailith) has been a great help already. Can’t wait to share. Oh…and why red dress?

Put on your red dress, girl, and have FUN! BIG thanks to Marty Ornish, who makes amazing art with old quilts and dress forms….check out her website, Marty-O, here. I asked her what she uses, and for some purposes she uses mannequins with stretchy fabric pulled over. She gave me a length, so now Ailith can put on her party shoes!

Irons: from tiny to dragon!

Saturday, April 18th, 2020

For a while now I’ve wanted to blog about irons, and why I love the ones I have. Yes, plural…..I have SIX! Three are “small” size, two are regular, and one is Sirius the Black Dragon. Yes, my Janome M7 sewing machine is named Albus (the second, he had a predecessor named Albus). There’s even a video at the end of this post about all these irons!

From left to right: the CHI, my beloved Panasonic Titanium Nonstick, the little mushroom style, the (SOB no longer made SOB) Clover, and Sirius, a LauraStar steam generator. I have a sixth sorta small iron, but it is too heavy/awkward for my hands and was upstairs for use steaming in the closet–not that I’ve actually ever used it for that. Sigh.

The Panasonic is my go-to iron for fusing. At 1200 watts, it gets hot and has acceptable steam, although I almost always use it as a dry iron. I love this iron so much I wore the finish off my last one! I always have one that is my working iron, and a brand new spare in the closet in case the cats or I knock it off the ironing board one time too many (studio is in the basement, cement floor…not good for falling objects). I can LITERALLY place this on Mistyfuse or other fusible web, melt it all over the bottom of the iron and WIPE IT CLEAN. No more hot iron cleaner fumes (which cannot be good to inhale–they set off smoke detectors)! For the price of four tubes of iron cleaner, you’re golden. This link takes you to the one I am currently using–I like that it has auto off because I am easily distracted. As of April 2020, it is a whopping US $27. Even if you only use it for fusing, it’s worth it!

I fuse on top of my ironing surface, but also on the design wall. Holding the iron (which is relatively light) had gotten uncomfortable because I have arthritis in my thumbs and wrists. So I tried the little mushroom iron, the ones you see in classrooms and at retreats–many folks can plug them in and not blow the fuses. It is quite comfortable to hold when used on a flat surface, but on the design wall it requires you to bend your wrist, and that hurts for me.

Here I am holding the iron on the design wall, and I have to bend at the wrist which causes discomfort. That’s why I really prefer the…SOB….not longer available Clover iron. Yeah, I’m sorry, I know that doesn’t help you very much. I haven’t included a link for the little mushroom style irons…there are a bazillion available on Amazon, at quilt shops and so on. From what I can tell they are fairly similar.
The Clover iron is ideal for the design wall. The “mug” handle rests on my fingers, and I can see my hand and forearm in a single line–as if I were wearing a brace. That means I can tap it onto the design wall as I work with no pain at all. I don’t know if there are any models similar to this style out there….If ANYONE KNOWS OF SOMETHING SIMILAR, please TELL ME! I’d love to test one out and see if I can recommend it to my students. And if anyone knows someone at Clover that we can all write and beg them to make this again, tell me that, too!
The 1200 watt Panasonic Titanium non-stick iron is on the left, the CHI 1700 watt is on the right, and that glorious fabric is Meadow color of HashDot by Michael Miller Fabrics.

For years I have recommended the Panasonic Titanium nonstick iron to students–Panasonic should give me free irons for life I’ve sold so many for them LOL! But I had (note the past tense) suggested that the gold-ish colored titanium appears to be the key. Not so much. First, my “in the closet” iron-in-waiting is a Panasonic Titanium ordered earlier this year, but is now a silvery color instead of gold-ish, but still works the same. Second, not all Titanium non stick is the same. I decided to give the CHI Titanium Ceramic, below, a try. It costs more, about $59, and has 1700 watts so lots of heat and power and good steam. It’s great for steam ironing, but not so great at the non-stick–it really doesn’t wipe clean the way the Panasonic does. Here’s what happened:

I needed to (yuk) get out the hot iron cleaner. This surface just doesn’t wipe clean well. I use Faultless Iron Off hot iron cleaner on a soft white terry towel. And look what happened: I rubbed off the finish on the gunky edge!!!!!! It’s still a good iron, and I use it, but not for fusing. It has quite a large capacity water reservoir which is good in principle, but again that pesky arthritis poses a problem: it’s heavy. That’s where Sirius the Dragon comes in. Keep reading. ANYway, if you don’t use fusibles (or even if you do) this is a good, hot iron with good steam.
The LauraStar steam generator is a grand indulgence! Please be sure you are sitting down when you see the price on this black beauty…they are expensive. But OH MY! I had been lusting after a steam generator for a long time, but (to repeat myself in a short space) they are expensive. And this is on the expensive end of expensive. But I’m sure glad I indulged–nothing beats a great tool.

The model I purchased is the same as this one (minus the soleplate cleaner, which I wish I had). The steam is IMPRESSIVE…literally, it sends out a jet about six feet….watch the video below! It comes with a cord stand (which I don’t point out in the video. There is the power cord and, wrapped in cloth, the line that powers the iron and brings the steam to it. Unlike a regular steam iron that produces steam constantly (if you set it to do so), you need to push the button, but that is easy to do given the location on the handle.

The steam cord is a bit stiff, which is why having the clamp-on cord guide is so helpful. You also get a silicone mat so you don’t have to tip the iron on end, just set it on top of the mat. That is comfortable for my arthritis. So is the light weight of the actual iron. AND you can steam things that hang, like curtains and garments!

When I have a lot of ironing (like yards of dyed fabric, or just washed fabric), the steam generator is a DREAM. Also excellent when doing a final fusing of the finished art quilt top and when blocking a quilt. Many steam generators if the tank runs dry, you have to turn it off, wait for it to cool, then add water. Not so this one–just open the lid to the easily accessed tank and add water (shown in video). BINGO! WINNER! Just be sure not to send a blast of steam in the direction of your other hand. Guess you don’t need to ask why I advise you of that. Ahem. Only did it once! If you are also a garment maker, you’ll love this. I will grant you, it is *expensive.* But in my case, worth it.

Bottom line: I use the Panasonic for all fusing. For smaller ironing jobs, I use the CHI. For working on the design wall, I use the Clover. And when I need STEAM or have a lot of ironing to do, the LauraStar. So there you have it…why I ned at least FOUR irons! What are your favorites, and why?

Rockin’ Retro Apron, Part 3

Sunday, February 23rd, 2020

Today we’ll wrap up the last steps in this fun apron. Get ready to make a Kitschy Cocktail wearing the cutest apron ever to cover a frock. Enjoy a nice sip, preferably with a little paper umbrella! Make mine a pina colada, please!
For the blogpost for Part 1 of this pattern, click here.
For the blogpost for Part 2 of this pattern, click here.
To download a Free-in-2020 PDF pattern with ALL the instructions and images, click here.

The Rockin’ Retro Apron in Kitschy Couture by #MichaelMiller Fabrics. The fabric was provided as part of the Michael Miller Brand Ambassador 2020 program, and my brilliant Janome M7 Continental is provided to me as a Janome Artisan. Thank you!

Sew the waistband and finish neckband

  • Administer chocolate or wine as needed—you’re near the end!
  • Sew 1” strips of black to each side of the starched plaid waistband piece.  Press seam as stitched, then press seams away from plaid.  On top edge, wrap fabric around to the back and press.  See photos below.  

FITTING NOTE:  this is where you get to alter the size to fit you.  I wanted my apron to come around my hips to the back.  This is your apron, so make yours the way you like best!  It can come just to your sides, be almost all on the front, or wrap well around you.  I’m messy, so far around was my choice!

  • Sandwich the lower edge of the bib between the back and front of the waistbands.  Optional:  baste the bib to the center of the solid black waistband (back side).  Photo below.
  • Pin the plaid waistband front and sew.  In the third photo below, I aligned the right side of the presser foot with the edge of the seam and positioned my needle just below the seam edges.
After making the center waistband (plaid edged on both long sides with black) sew the waistband front and waistband back together, sandwiching the bib in the center.
Close up of waistband/bib.
Use your presser foot and move the needle to get perfect placement for the seam. The Janome M7 Continental and many of their other fine machines give you a wide range of needle-drop positions which makes perfect alignment easy peasy!
  • Press seam as stitched, then press all fabrics away from the bib portion. Photo below.
Press seams as stitched, then press the front and back waistbands down.
Next, you pin the black back waistband to the skirt and sew with a 3/8″ seam.
  • Pin apron skirt to black portion of waistband, wrong side of apron to the right side of the black leaving ½” extra on each end (see step 43).  Distribute gathers as desired/evenly.  You can use the tip of a pin to scrape the gathers into place, photo below right.  Sew.
Use the tip of a strong pin to help adjust the positioning of the gathers. For me a pin works better than fingers or stiletto.
  • Sew apron skirt to black waistband back with a 3/8” seam.  Use the pin to prevent tucks from forming as you stitch.  You may wish to decrease the presser foot pressure so the bulk travels more smoothly under the presser foot.  Remember to change it back when done.  
I cannot tell you HOW MUCH I LOVE THIS MACHINE. All the Janome machines I’ve sewn on have been really good, and I keep thinking they can’t get better but they do. But this M7 is just a whole ‘nother world. Color me in love! Here, I’m using a simple zigzag to seal the seam edge together. Even though it will be fully encased within the waistband, stitching like this controls the bulk and makes it look better once all is said and stitched.
  • Check to make sure you like the way it looks, then zigzag the edges, see right photo above.  This will make the next two steps easier. 
Fold under the extra 1/2″ on either end of the waistband.
Tuck the tie inside the waistband, then line up the black edging as close to perfectly as you can.
  • Fold in the ½” extension on the waistband upper photo above. Tuck the square end of the waist band ties into either end of the waistband, lower photo above.  Fold the waistband front over the seam you just stitched, being sure to cover the seam line. As best you can, get the skinny bits of black on the waistband and ties to line up.
  • Stitch on the edge of the black waistband front to secure the waistband to the top of the apron.
  • Stitch in the ditch or on the edge of the black of the waistband as well as along the ends where you tucked in the ties.
  • Tie the apron to your waist.  With the unfinished end of the strap behind the bib, adjust the length of the neck strap to suit you.  If it is long enough to pull over your head easily, trim with about an inch of extra length.  Tuck the ends in and stitch closed.  Pin the strap to the bib at the desired spot and machine stitch in the ditch next to the black trim near the top ruffle.  If it’s awkward to pull on and off, use Velcro or snaps instead
  • HALLELUJAH you’re DONE!   Put it on, wear it with gusto!  Grab some bubbly or mix yourself a Kitschy Cocktail and celebrate a party apron made with the finest of details and finishing—not a raw edge to be seen anywhere.  (And if need be, give it a wash or wipe to remove any visible glue stick—it’ll come out in the wash.)

THANK YOU for following along this intricate project.  Yes, you could have overcast edges and make it faster, but this way you’ve learned some fine finishing techniques to apply to garment and home dec sewing AND made yourself a Rockin’ Retro Apron!  

And of course, Thank you to Michael Miller Fabrics for selecting me as a 2020 Brand Ambassador and to Janome America for having me as a Janome Artisan since 2003. I am honored, humbled and grateful for your support.  

And just in case, here is the link to download the pdf on more time for the Rockin’ Retro Apron in Kitschy Cocktails!