Monday, February 8, 2016

{think} Spring!

I don't know about you, but I am so over winter! By February every year, I've had enough of it and I'm just so ready for Spring to arrive! How about you?
One thing that helps me get over winter is to do a little Spring sewing. 
Here comes Peter Cottontail

I don't do custom sewing for customers too often because it takes away time I can spend doing more designing. However, I was contacted by a potential customer, who requested a special smocked bishop for her daughter's birthday. She knew exactly what she wanted, as she had seen a particular dress on a blog and had inquired about having one made from the blogger. The dress was found at Southern Matriarch and Martha created a darling ensemble for her grands. You can read all about it and follow a link to her blog by clicking on Martha's photo below! ~by the way, she has an amazing blog!
The Peter Rabbit Smocked Bishop is the dress my customer had her heart set on. I asked Martha if she minded that I make an exact copy of her dress. Lucky for my customer, she said yes! I always think that it's not only kind, but considerate to ask the original designer for permission before copying one's work. I was delighted that Martha not only referred the customer to me, but was also so very kind to allow me to copy her work.
The smocking plate for this dress was created by another sewing friend of mine, Gwen Milner. She also has an amazing blog, Smocking with Gwen and you will want to check it out! She designs some of the most darling smocking plates you'll ever see! This one was a remake of an old smocking plate she created years ago and it was re-printed in Sew Beautiful Magazine in Feb/March of 2014 (Issue 152), entitled "Peter Cottontail"
Sorry about the color - took this pic
under lamp light!
I was very happy that my customer was not in a huge hurry for this dress. I had plenty of time to work on it, which made it so much more relaxing to just work on it when I felt like it! These bunnies are just too cute and I had more fun smocking this little dress!
I had 7 Peter Cottontails to smock and that took nearly eternity some time to do, but I really enjoyed each one of them! One of my tips when working with multiple colors is to thread a different needle for each color you are smocking with. It makes it much more easy to move thru the design during stacking without having to remove the thread from the needle and rethread. Often times that just causes a tangling mess. I just pin each needle into the pleated fabric, with the threads out of the way and work with each color along the way. It makes it so easy to just pick up the color needed and have the thread in the needle and ready to go!
I referred to Martha's photos on her blog often, as she had made a few changes to the smocking design so that it would work on a bishop dress. I think Martha did a fabulous job in modifying the design and it saved me time of having to figure it out!
Putting the Bullion Carrots between the rabbits
was Martha's great idea!

My finishing touches were to add in my label - this is a must if you want repeat customers or for those who look inside a dress to see where it came from! (yes, I'm guilty of doing that!)
This dress turned out so cute and someday if I ever get blessed with a grand-daughter, I will make one for her! It's just too cute not to! 
Dress Front
Dress Back
Bullion Carrots on each sleeve
Front
Back

February is National Smocking Month and if you want to learn how to smock, I will be offering some tips and tutes right here on my blog during the month of February!

{think} Spring!!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 year in review...2016 goals

I don't know about you, but 2015 has been quite a year for me! Part of this year I felt like I was lost in nowhere land, trying to find my pathway in this crazy business world of Sewing! There were many times I had to stop, take a step back, assess the situation and do what I could to improve. I made a lot of mistakes along the way, but those were refining times to re-focus my purpose and passion in sewing. The single most passionate thing I always go back to is smocking...
Smocking tends to top my list of where my passion in sewing lies. I sort of felt like I didn't get much smocking done in 2015, but when I look back at pictures, I see that I really did do my share of smocking this year!
The highlight of 2015 for me, was being published in the new Classic Sewing Magazine! It sparked a renewed interest in me to keep hand smocking alive and to continue to promote it. I want to help spark interest in those who want to learn the art and be there to guide them in proper technique along the way!
My first article in the new magazine featured two of my favorite things; sewing for babies and smocking! My 2nd article will also feature some vintage-inspired smocking, which turned out to be one of my most favorite projects I've worked on! Look for it in the March 2016 issue! For now, I will leave you with a teaser!
In 2016, my goal is to narrow my focus to what makes my business different from the rest...what makes me unique and extraordinary! 
Happy New Year, my friends! I hope you will follow me in my journey as I strive to create an epic year at Southern Stitches!



Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The art of hand smocking

History

Smocking is an embroidery technique used to gather fabric so that it can stretch. Before elastic, smocking was commonly used in cuffs, bodices and necklines in garments where buttons were undesirable. Smocking developed in England and has been practiced since the Middle Ages and is unusual among embroidery methods in that it was often worn by laborers. Other major embroidery styles are purely decorative and represented status symbols. Smocking was practical for garments to be both form fitting and flexible, hence its name derives from smock — a farmer's work shirt. Smocking was used most extensively in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This technique later evolved into a decorative detail for dresses and gowns.
English smocking became popular in the 1920s and then became even more popular in the 1940’s, when the smocking pleater was invented. In the 1960's and 70's there was yet another revival of smocking. I always remember wearing smocked dresses as I was growing up! Most the portraits I have when I was a little girl, I was wearing smocked dresses! Most were "Polly Flinders" dresses, however, my mother hand smocked some of my dresses!
Yes! This is ME!
In the 1980's, smocking again became popular, and when I had my first baby, a girl, in 1982, I decided to pick up a needle and learn this amazing needle art! Since then I have been totally addicted to smocking and there has never been a time when I have "taken a vacation" from this amazing needle art!
In the coming weeks I am going to post some new tutorials on smocking. This will be helpful to both beginners and seasoned smockers, as I will not only focus on beginning stitches, but perfecting the technique. There are so many tutorials out there - seems everyone want to learn how to smock, however, not everyone is teaching correct technique, which really makes me cringe. I don't claim to "know it all", but I do strive for proper technique and I think that is important to pass on to this new generation of smockers. My goal is to not only teach you, but teach you properly, so grab a needle and some floss and let's get ready for some fun! 
To get started, please read this post which covers the needles and floss that I will be using in this tutorial. You can hand pleat or machine pleat a piece of fabric. For hand pleating , you will need to purchase the iron on dots, or use a ruler and water soluble pen and mark the dots. (a google search for this should give you some helpful results). Here is my tutorial on machine pleating - Pleating 101
I'm excited, are you?



Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Needle Tatting

  1. I was recently working on a little tatting project, that I never finished and posted this photo to my Southern Stitches Facebook page. I was completely amazed and surprised at how many liked and commented on my photo! I never expected that there would be so many women wanting to learn the art! I love it when there is a needle art that so many take interest in learning - it helps keeps the art alive!
    What is Tatting and what's it used for?
    Tatting can be used to make lace edging as well as doilies, collars, and other decorative pieces. The tatted lace is formed by a pattern of rings and chains formed from a series of "cow hitch" or half-hitch knots, called double stitches, over a core thread.
    I have always been intrigued by tatting and one day several years ago, I decided that I would try to learn more about it and how easy or hard it might be to do. I researched both needle and shuttle tatting. I decided that I could probably grasp needle tatting much quicker than shuttle tatting, so that's where I narrowed my focus to. I found a fabulous book at Hobby Lobby that included 4 different sized needles and I was ready to try this gorgeous needle art out! I was actually quite surprised to find how quickly I caught on to it and it soon became one of my favorite needle arts! The book is mentioned in the video and highly recommended as it gives excellent step-by-step instructions with details photographs.
    Since I enjoyed all the likes and comments to my photo, I decided to make a little tutorial to demonstrate the basic technique of tatting. As mentioned in the video, I am no expect in the art, by any means! What I do hope to accomplish with the video is to inspire you to learn the skill. Please excuse the "ums" and "ahhs" at the beginning - it's difficult when you fly by the seat of your pants and create a video without any prior planning! That's just how I roll - I jump in with both feet and go for it! I hope this will inspire you to seek more information on learning the art of needle tatting! 


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

time flies...but memories last forever

Seems like the older I get the faster time flies...as if there are fewer hours in the day than when I was a child - haha! I guess it's due to more responsibilities as you grow older and everyday busyness that makes it seem like time is passing too quickly. One thing is for sure, once it's gone, you can't get it back. I have to constantly remind myself that time is precious, so make good use of it. That in itself, is something I struggle with on a daily basis, especially when it pertains to sewing.  A little glitch in the sewing room, or not, can gobble up my precious time, and my sewing time is very precious to me! 
I've often looked at others and wondered how in the world they seem to have more time than me when everyone has the same 24 hours in a day. Some women can pump out more sewing projects from their sewing room than I can in a lifetime! ...or "sew" it "seams"! My first thought is, what am I doing wrong? Do I have a problem with time management? Then on the flip-side, I have people look at my creations and say, "oh, I wish I had time to sew" or had time to learn to sew. I've even been asked how I find time to get so much sewing done. Who? Me? What? I think that is what made me really dig a little deeper and look at the big picture. It took me awhile to figure it out, but I finally realized some key principles to successful sewing, at least for me!
  • Key #1: I don't find the time to sew..I have to make time to sew! Oh, it's not easy...in fact, at times it's a struggle, but when you are passionate about something, you figure out how to make time!  
  • Key #2: I keep multiple projects going at the same time. One day I might feel like heirloom sewing and another day I might not. Having that choice and what sewing mood I am in that day, goes a long way in sewing success. I almost always have something pleated up, just waiting to be smocked. I also have hand embroidery set aside that I am working on. If I can't be at my sewing machine, then at least I can be smocking something or working the hand embroidery on a project. That kind of work is also great to pop into a zip-lock bag and take with you when you have places you have to go where you sit and otherwise waste time - like a doctors office waiting room! This is how to make good use of otherwise wasted time!
  • Key #3: Stop comparing myself to others. This is a hard one, especially when my Facebook newsfeed is loaded with one project after another that my sewing friends have completed. I have to keep focused that my life is different - they might have more time to sew than I do - they manage their time differently than I do - they have different responsibilities and life circumstances than I have. It's not a race and I need to work at my own pace with my own timeline and find joy in the journey however much or little time I have. For me, the goal is not quantity, but quality. My goal is not to be in a hurry to complete a certain amount of items, but to do my best on whatever I am creating. I always enjoy time spent sewing and strive for doing my best and using good sewing techniques. 
  • Key #4: The time I have to sew has the potential to make memories that will last forever! That sweet bonnet that took a couple hours to make or an heirloom gown that takes 30 hours and months to create could last for many generations to come and become a legacy! I want to make sure what I create is worthy of making memories that last forever!
Time flies ~ make time to sew ~ the memories will last forever!



Saturday, July 4, 2015

America's 1st Lady of Sewing - Betsy Ross

Betsy Ross is one of America's most honored seamstresses, however most of what you may have learned in school about her and the creation of the American flag is most likely myth. 
Legend states that George Washington visited Betsy Ross in Philadelphia with a sketch of a flag that he wanted made. Betsy was a standout with the scissors and she demonstrated to George how to cut a five-pointed star in a single snip. Legend goes on to say that he was impressed and then asked her to sew the 1st American Flag. 
The truth of the story is that there is no solid evidence of who made the very first flag, but history credits Betsy Ross with making the first stars and stripes flag. She was a successful upholsterer and produced flags for the government for over 50 years. She was a skilled artisan, who represented the many women who supported their families during the Revolution and early Republic.
One of my most favorite photos of the 'birth' of the American flag is shown below. It depicts so much of what I love about sewing: the act of creating, community and fellowship with others who share that same passion that I have. May God bless sewing and may God Bless America!
Have a blessed 4th of July!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

{thread weaving in smocking}

Hey there, I'm still alive...and still smocking - sometimes I just get so busy that I forget neglect my Sewing Journal.
I have been working on a little smocked bishop for the past several weeks...or is it months? I am in no hurry to get it done since it's not for any particular person or event - it's just for the love of smocking! Rainy~dreary days are perfect days to sit and smock when I can't get outside and enjoy the sunshine. 
I am using Southern Stitches Pink Petunias PDF Smocking plate for this project. I already have a smocked bonnet prepped to smock when I get the bishop done. In this design, one of the unique aspects is thread weaving within the smocking. This might be new to some people, so I thought I would share how easy it is to accomplish.

This "stitch" really adds a pop, as you can see in the photo above!

I started my project by choosing floss colors, which ironically coordinated with the pants I was wearing that day! 

One of the most asked questions I get is what kind of floss I use in my smocking. I am using DMC Coton Perle #8. What I like about this floss is that 1 strand of it is equal to about 3 strands of regular embroidery floss. This is a time-saver for me. I don't have to strip the floss and I can get right into my smocking. The other perk with this floss is that it has a beautiful sheen to it! I use a #7 or #9 darning or crewel needle.
PDF Smocking plates are also a handy item! I can load the smocking plate up on my iPad and have a perfectly lighted smocking plate that is so easy to take along with me without the fear of losing it or it getting damaged.
When starting the first row of waves, I always start from the center and work out so that I can be assured that my design will be perfectly centered once all smocking is complete.
 This is a good closeup of how beautiful this thread is!
After working two rows of waves, it's time to start the thread weaving.
Just slide your needle up and down under the center cable stitches of the two rows of wave stitches, creating the weave! Sometimes it's easier to even use the eye end of the needle so that the point doesn't get caught up in the floss. You could also use a small lacing needle for this stitch. Don't pull too taut, you want a nice loopy look - almost like a pique. 
I have had some ask if the weave stays when the garment is washed - yes, I have never had a problem of it coming out or getting misshapen. 
Hope you like this sweet embellishment and can add it to your next smocking project!
Stay tuned - I will share this ensemble when it is all completed!


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