Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sewing for Baby............

     I know I love to see pictures of mothers sewing for their babies and children.  I also like pictures of children sewing with their mothers!  museums can be a treasure trove!  When I visit a museum, I am always looking for 'stitching' pictures.  Whether they are painted, sketched, or photographs, it really reminds me of what is important:  spending time with our children and our parents, putting our heart into creating things for our family, and most importantly, putting love into the daily chores that we do for our loved ones. 
     A friend of mine knows that I like handwork, so she sent me some pictures that I am sharing with you.  They all depict Mary at different times in her life, but all have to do with sewing or weaving.  I will include the artist information that was sent along with the pictures.

The Young Virgin, ca. 1632-33, Francisco de Zurbarán

This is Saint Anne and the young Virgin Mary sewing,
fresco by the Master of the Bambino Vispo, Museo dell'Opera di Santa Croce

"I have represented the future Mother of Our Lord as occupied in embroidering a lily,-always under the direction of St. Anne; the flower she is copying being held by two little angels." Dante Gabriel Rosetti, mid 1800's

                                   Mary In the House Of Elizabeth   (1917)
                 Robert Anning Bell (sewing baby clothes for John the Baptist)

The Virgin at the Spinning Wheel
Hungarian (unknown artist)

Mary Spinning with  Joseph before the Birth of Jesus, 
Strasbourg, Musee de Notre-Dame I'Oeuvre, inv 1482

     After seeing these pictures, it reiminded me of one of my favorite pictures that I took when I was in Madeira several years ago.  We were invited by the agent to visit and she had invited her embroideresses to her home to stitch with us. 
One of the ladies brought her young daughter (about 5 or 6) and she sat (literally) at her mother's knee and stitched.

One of the ladies brought her young daughter (about 5 or 6) and she sat (literally) at her mother's knee and stitched.You can see here that it is not just her mother that she is sewing with.

I will try to dig up some more Madeira pictures to share with you.  I have been twice and have wonderful memories!

Happy Stitching!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Bitty Bites......................a Sweet Seventeen!

     Yum Yum!  Emma (number 4 and the only one left at home) had a birthday in January, but no time to celebrate.  She had finals and then flew to Boston to visit Annie at BU (big excitement there - they scored tickets to the big Bostoun U v Boston College hockey game and Emma was hit in the top of her head by a hockery puck and had 3 staples, which were removed this week!).  She planned her birthday party for today - cupcakes!  She baked about 250 mini cupcakes and invited her friends over to decorate. 

 We went through 10 pounds of powdered sugar, 6 pounds of butter, a pound of cream cheese and almost a quart of whipping cream. 

 M&Ms, crushed oreos and peanut butter cups, a rainbow of colored sugar, and sprinkles galore were all ready to decorate.  I think we made 20 decorating bags of frosting - Wilton would be proud! 

 Each girl got a take-out box to take her creations home in.  They were very creative.  It was nice to listen to them sit and chat as they worked.  No boy drama, no mean girl activities, just a nice, relaxing afternoon to spend with their friends.  I am thankful for times like these!

After the carnage!

Wish you all could have been here! 
Happy Stitching,

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Classic Yoke Design

     Here is the plate that I am using for the Yoke tutorial, and yes, I know it is too tiny to see here!  I have run into a glitch posting it on my website, so if you are going to follow along, just send me an email ( and I will attach and send it to you.  I am making a Size 3 Yoke dress frm my new pattern, Classic Yoke from Classic Couture for Children.  If you want to follow along with me, you can use your own pattern or my yoke pattern (I will explain how to do things and then give the measurements I have, using the size 3).  I am hoping that the patterns will be ready next week - once I have them, I will begin!

Ingredients (as used in the sample):
Classic Yoke pattern (includes size 2-6)
1 1/2 to 1 3/4 yd fabric, depending on how long you want to make it
1/2 yd White 100% cotton pique'
piping cord
German interfacing for collar and sleeve cuffs
One skein each of coton a broder #798 (blue) and B5200
Thread - to match the fabric (I used white DMC 50)
Schmetz Size 60 Microtex needle
Needles for smocking

Kits are available, and include everything listed above.  The kit fee is $70 - email me to let me know if you would like me to send you one.  The kit includes 1 3/4 yd fabric.  If you are making a larger size, and require more yardage let me know.

     This design has 8 rows:  Row 1 and Row 8 are the border rows and Rows 2-4 and 5-7 are the center of the design, baby waves.  I designed this plate specifically with this tutproal in mind.  While this sample is stitched in a size 3 dress, you can add or subtract rows, depending on the size garment you are making.  Remember, you always want to think about and keep your garment in PROPORTION!
     For instance, If you are making a 12 month size, 8 rows may be too many.  Too alter the design, you still could keep the border rows, but only stitch one series of bay waves, leaving you with 5 rows instead of 8.  If you are making a larger size, you could alter it in several ways:
1.  You could add an extra row of cables at the top or the bottom (adding 2 rows)
2.  You could stich an extra series of baby waves  (adding 3 rows/wave series)
3.  You could add extra rows of baby waves in each series (adding 2 or 4 or 6 rows)

I can't stress enough - proportion is the name of the game!

If you are going to pleat your fabric now, I pleat 3 holding rows: 2 at the top and 1 at the bottom, so I pleated 11 rows for this design.

Happy Stitching,


Monday, January 17, 2011

Snow vs. Sunshine!

     Annie went back to Boston to this!  Awesome was how she described it, and I must say I am a little jealous!  I grew up with 4 seasons, and I miss them!  In southern California, we have almost summer, summer, and just past summer (and 1 week of cold).  It is 91 degrees here today, which is WAY TOO HOT for January!
     I am working on the graph for the smocking design for the basic yoke dress that will be my tutorial that starts in February.  I will have my new pattern in the next couple of weeks - Classic Yoke from Classic Couture for Children.  I will be making the size 3, so the measurements I will be using will come from that. We will be starting with blocking the skirt front (th pleating tutorial is already posted).
     I will post the fabric and notion requirements this week, along with information if you want to purchase the kit.  My dress is smocked and I am diligently taking pictures of the condtructio every step of the way.  I would much rather be sewing than doing the taxes!  College kids abound at our house and they are all emaling me to remind me that they have to get their FAFSFA filled out.  The one good thing about that is that I can just laugh on April 15th (and you will not catch me dead at the post office that day)!
Happy Stitching,

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Mood Fabric, Here We Come!

     A group of us decided to foray into Los Angeles for a field trip to Mood, a fabric store in L.A.  You may be familiar with it - the New York store is the fabric playground for the contestants on the show "Project Runway".
     Mood had a wonderful selection of quality fabrics.  While you probably won't find Swiss batiste or voile, they have many cottons, silks, and wools, as well as leathers and other specialty fabrics.  They had a wonderful collection of Ralph Lauren wools the day that we were there.

     They also have some beautiful silks that are wove for ties.  They are not quite as wide - 27" and 36", but some gorgeous prints and stripes.  You can see here they also have some different trims that can add a bit of pizzazz to your garment.
     Here are some of the silks.  The store has silks on the left, wools in the center and cottons on the right, and then the fancy embroidered fabrics are towards the front.

     More and more fabric!  Make sure you do not come for 'just a minute'!  As all of you fabricholics know, you have to touch and feel, and there is plenty to feed your stach here.

     Button, button, who had the button?  Plenty to choose from here!

     Happy shoppers!  Lisa Shepherd, Elaine Daly, Roseann Saldinger and Elisa Centera (I have the camera).  Youcan also see the nice display of ribbon in the background, along with the feather boas.  A wonderful place to have a play date!

      This was one stop on our trip - I will save our other stop for another day.  Needless to say, I have added more fabric to my stash and have lots of ideas spinning in my brain.  If you are going to be in the LA area, let me know and I will give you address and directions.
Happy stitching,

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Trellis Stitch

     Now it is time to learn the next stitch, the trellis stitch.  While the cable travels in a straight line, the trellis travels between rows.  A cable stitch is used as the pivot stitch, when the trellis changes direction.  Each trellis is defined by 2 things:
1.  The space it takes up (can be a half a space wide, a whole space, etc.)
2.  The number of stitches or 'steps' it takes to go from one side to another.
If you look at this picture, the long trellis is a 2 space (travels over 2 rows), 6 step (it takes 6 stitches to travel the 2 rows).
The next picture is of a baby wave.  This trellis is a half space, 1 step trellis

The distance each trellis travels is a half of a space and it only takes one step to get there.
     There are few things to remember when stitching a trellis.  The thread has to go in the opposite direction that it wants to go.  If you are stitching to the right, the thread has to stay to the left.  If you are stitching to the left, the thread has to stay to the right.  An easy way to remember this is Trellis is Trouble! 
     If you look back at the cable tutorial, Cable is Correct!  The thread goes in the direction it wants to go.  For Trellis is Trouble, the thread has to go in the opposite direction that it wants to go. 
     Another thing that has to be taken into consideration is the needle placement in the pleat.  If you place the needle right over the pleat, when the stitch is finished, instead of butting against the pleat, it will be over the pleating thread, whch will throw the spacing off.  Place the needle in the pleat a thread's width away from where you want the stitch to finish.
Basic smocking ettiquette remains the same:
*The needle is alway parallel to the pleating thread
*The stitch should be about 1/3 down the pleat
*The threads should lie straight and untwisted
*The needle should always point towards you
*Each stitch covers 2 pleats- an old pleat and a new pleat

     To start, we are going to stitch a one space, one stitch trellis (often called a wave).  Hold the fabric over your finger, and stitch a left cable. 
     Run the threads over your thumb as you pull the stitch and make sure the threads are straight.
     After the cable is stitched, move one space to the right.  The thread will want to go the the right also, but you need to hold it off to the left (see picture).  Remember to put the needle into the pleat a thread's width away so that when you complete the stitch, it will butt against the pleating thread.

     Stitch the right cable (remember this is the pivot stitch where you change directions).

     Now we are trellising to the left again.  Remember to hold the thread to the right as we are moving to the left.

     Stitch a left cable and continue trellising.  Remeber to wrap the thread over your thumb and straighten the threads!

     Here is a picture of several waves that I have stitched.

     Starting a baby wave.  That is a 1/2 space, 1 step trellis.  Look at how I am placing my needle just short of 1/2 way - when I pull the stitch, it will end up being right in the middle.

     Here is a picture of a completed baby wave.  Now it is your turn!  Remember - practice!  If you have any questions, remember to post them to the comments and I will be sure to answer them.
Happy Stitching,

Friday, December 24, 2010

Start Smocking - Cables!

      I am going to take you step by step through the process of starting your thread and beginning your smocking stitches!  The process I use may be a bit different from what you are used to seeing, but using this technique allows me to see exactly where my needle enters the fabric and where it exits the fabric, which allows me to see where my stitch is going to be. 

If you have questions, please post a comment and I will answer you.  Chances are, if you have a questions, someone else might too, and that way everyone can see the question and answer.

A smocking stitch always takes to pleats -
   an old pleat (the needle and thread are coming out of)
   a new pleat (the needle is going into)
The needle is always parallel to the pleating thread
The needle should always be pointing towards you
The stitch should be plaed about 1/3 of the way down the pleat
Threads should be untwisted and lie side by side, next to each other

Once you have your fabric pleated, you are ready to start!  To begin with, you need to choose a thread and needle.  Some thread choices are cotton stranded embroidery floss 3 strands), floche (2 strands), and coton a broder #25 (2 strands).  For your needle, I usually use an 8 embroidery needle or a 7 sharp needle. 
     When you start your thread on the fabric, you want your first stitch to look like it is 'the next' stitch.  You don't want it to be obvious that you are starting.  To get this effect, do the following:
1.  Bring the needle up from the wrong side (back) of the fabric to the right side (top) of the fabric between the 2 pleats that you are going to use for your first stitch. (See picture above). 

     At this point you want to turn the fabric so that the pleating threads are running north to south.  This is the way I hold my fabric when I am smocking.  It helps me see better!  The needle is always pointing towards me as I stitch. To hold you fabric so that it moves over your fingers:

Hold out your left forefinger (pointer) and put the finger under the pleated fabric

Put your second finger (tall man) over the fabric behind your first finger

Put your 3rd and 4th finger (ring man and pinkie) in front of the fabric, to the front of your first finger.  When you hold your fabric like this, you can see into the side of each pleat so that ou know where your needle is entering and exiting each pleat and you can also check andmake sure that your needle is horizontal to the pleat.
This may be awkward, especially if you learned to smock from left to right!
All I can say is - give it a chance!

     Right now, you have bright your thread from the wrong side to the right side through the valley between the two pleats of your first stitch, and then you turned your fabric.  Next, you are going to bring your needle through the first pleat (the one on the bottom).  Remember, the needle always points towards you, and the needle is always parallel to the pleating threads.
     For this first stitch ( a cable) I am starting it just a needle's width away from the pleating thread.  This will give me enough space for the thread in the stitch to lay butting against the pleating thread as I stithc along the row.
Something to remember about cables:
C is for Correct - in the cable stitch, the thread always wants to go the way it is supposed to go!  If the cable lays to the right, then you are going to be doing a right cable, etc.

Now my thread is coming out of the first (old) pleat and then my needle is going to the next (new) pleat and the thread is to the right, so I am going to be stitching a right cable.
I am placing my needle:
parallel to the pleating thread
needle pointing towards me
stitch about 1/3 of the way down the pleat

     As I pull the thread through the fabric, I catch the loop with my thumb, and my thumb kind of serves as a mini-press, to help keep the threads straight.

     You can see my thumb is caught in the loop and I run my needle through the threads to sstraighten them out.  If you look closely, you can see 3 threads lying next to each other.  If the threads are twisted, you will see one big thread instead of 3 separate threads.

          When you pull the thread to make the first cable stitch, the stitch will butt against the pleating thread and the embroidery thread will now be going to the left.  Your next stitch will be a left cable stitch.

    Next stitch - a left cable!  Thread to the left, your needle is coming out of the old pleat and into a new pleat, with the needle pointing toward you and parallel to the pleating thread.  The needle goes into the new pleat a threads width away from the pleating thread.

     Again, catch the loop with your thumb and use the needle to make sure the threads are straight. 

     Once everything is as it should be, complete the stitch.  This stich will NOT butt against the pleating thread - it will be a bit to the left of the original stitch.  The next stitch (a right cable) and every right cable will butt  against the pleating thread.

     Now ready for the next cable!  The thread is off to the right, so we will be stitching a right cable.  Same process:
Needle points toward you
Needle is parallel to the pleating thread
Needle is put placed about 1/3 of the way down the pleat

Repeat the steps for the left cable and the right cable until you have stitched the required amount. 

     A perfect row of cables! 

Remeber - if you have questions, please post them so all can see!  I will be posting lessons on Fridays, so hopefully youwill have a bit of free time on the weekend to spend a bit of time on them.  Anything that is posted I will try to have posted before the next lesson.

Happy Stiching!