Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The art of hand smocking


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 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 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!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Monograms for all occasions

Monograms; everyone knows what they are, but not everyone knows exactly how to properly create one. A monogram is a motif made by a single letter or a combination of letters overlapping as a single unit. Monograms are often made by combining the initials of an individual or a company, used as a recognizable symbol or logo. 

A monogram tells a story. It suggests who we are or want to be, puts forth our views on marriage, tradition, and individual identity not to mention the wonderful things it does for linens, garments, stationery and and a host of other things. 
A monogram consists of a person's initials — usually a variation on the first, middle, and last name—and much has been written about proper monogram etiquette. Often times it's a matter of preference, and there are many different ways in which to create a monogram. 
A monogram can have just one main letter of the first name or last name of the person you are creating the monogram for. 

Vintage Dots Monogram Set

Monograms can also have just two letters; first and last name of the person. Typically tho, monograms are created in 3 letters. There are variations for the 3 letters, most often done in one of 3 ways:

  • Single Person: first name initial on left, last name initial in the middle, and middle name initial on the right.
  • Married Person: first name initial on left, last name initial in the middle and maiden name initial on the right.
  • Wedding Monogram (or married couple): her first name initial on the left, married last name initial in the middle and his first name initial on the right.

Monograms can be Informal or Formal. Below are some examples using monogram fonts available at Southern Stitches.

Informal Monograms

BRD Typewriter Applique - Satin with Bean Stitch

SSBRD Stars 'n Bars Circle Font

Fancy Scallops Block Monogram
BRD Shadow Work Circle Monogram +eBook Instructional
Monograms can also be created where all 3 letters are the same size, as shown below: In this case you would put first name, middle name, then last name.
SNB Add-on Set of Star Letters

Formal Monograms

Monograms can also be elegant and fancy!
BRD Elegance Monogram Set

My most recent released monogram set is my Belle Anne Monogram Set. It combines the beauty of shadow work and the elegance of satin stitching.
Belle Anne Monogram

No matter if it's informal, whimsical or elegant, everyone loves to have something monogrammed. Monograms can be used for all sorts of occasions!
I am constantly creating new and unique monograms that can't be found anywhere else! My monograms are different from the rest because I spend a great deal of time creating them from the ground up. The difference from a Southern Stitches monogram and the rest is that I never auto-digitize my fonts. Cheaper priced fonts that you find out there are always auto-digitized, meaning the digitizer has found a font online, then typed in a letter into their software and the software does all the digitizing automatically. That is why they can sell the font for so cheap. My fonts are hand-punched, which takes an enormous amount of time and precision. I make sure my fonts (and other designs) all have proper unlay stitching, as well as the finished stitching on top. Many of my fonts are created from Vintage monograms made for hand-stitching. I am currently working on 2-3 more Vintage-inspired fonts that are just gorgeous! Please follow me on Facebook to see photos as I work on new designs!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Easter Bonnet

Easter memories of my childhood included coloring Easter eggs, baskets full of candy, hatching chicks and chocolate bunnies. The weeks leading up to Easter tho included shopping for all the Easter finery to wear to church on Easter Sunday! More important than the dress, tho, was getting a new bonnet for Easter and being so excited about wearing it. 
Yep! That's me in my smocked dress and a Easter bonnet!
This fond memory makes me wonder where and when did Easter bonnets originate?
An Easter bonnet represents the tail-end of a tradition of wearing new clothes at Easter in harmony with the renewal of the year and the promise of spiritual renewal and redemption. The Easter bonnet goes way back in time, even before Easter itself. The very first bonnets were usually made by a circle of leaves and flowers. It symbolized the cycle of the seasons and the coming of Spring. The Christian holiday of Easter celebrates new life and rebirth, which is why people would get new clothing.
At the end of the Civil War, came the "Sunday of Joy". This day allowed mothers and daughters to come out of mourning by wearing pastel colors and incorporating pretty spring flowers. The 1870's marked the beginning of the Easter Parade in New York, which allowed women to proudly show off their new Spring clothing and Easter bonnets.
Easter fashion traditions are still alive today, celebrated among the young and old alike. Easter bonnet often mark the beginning of many people's love for hats and still symbolize the new life in the coming of Spring, warm weather and religious celebrations.
Times have changed tho, and I don't see the traditional Easter bonnet worn like the old days anymore, however the tradition is still very popular for babies and young children. Spring tends to be the start of finding the perfect bonnet for little ones and is most worn from Spring thru the Summer months.
I recently drafted a new ePattern just in time for Easter sewing! My new Brer Rabbit's Button Bonnet is the perfect bonnet for infant and toddler boys and girls.
Perfect for anytime of year, my vintage-inspired Button Bonnets will be adorable for your little ones! Each bonnet is quick and easy to make with lots of options, such as 2 styles of brim for both bonnets. Girls style includes a scalloped or plain brim. 

The boys style includes a short or long visor. 
Detailed instructions & machine embroidery for shadow work bow and color work bunny included! Sized newborn to 3T!
You can order it HERE!
Another popular style bonnet is a Smocked Bonnet for both boys and girls! Click on photos to order ePattern.

If you don't know how to smock, you can learn by taking my Smocked Bonnet eClass - just click the photo above!

This Easter I hope your little one will celebrate the coming of a new season with a beautiful handmade Easter bonnet!


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