Saturday, December 6, 2014

Christmas Stocking Traditions and Inspiration


The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

I don't know about you, but each year I love getting out my Christmas stockings. It brings back memories of when I was growing up. All the stockings at my house where handmade felt stockings with hand-stitched felt appliqué Christmas designs on them and the initials of our first name at the top. My great Aunt Helen made each one of them. 

When I was asking my Mom about our stockings, she told me how when she was a little girl and would go visit Aunt Helen, all the girls had long white stockings that they wore and that is what they used at Christmas to fill - she never had a decorated stocking. The photo I used at the top of this blog post seemed to perfectly depict the story my Mom told me about Christmas Stockings when she was a little girl. She said their stockings were typically filled with lots of fruit and candy, of course.

I have 3 older brothers and I am the only girl, so my stocking was different than the boys and I loved that! The boys had red stockings with green & white trim and mine was green with red and white trim. The only photo I could find is this one and my stocking is not pictured in this photo. Typically my stocking would be put at the other side of the fireplace. I know there are many more photos at my Mom's of our stockings and next time I am there, I am going to spend some time digging thru old photos...and I think I might even confiscate my old stocking!
I remember our stockings also had fruit in them; usually an orange and an apple in the toe, along with lots of candy and a few toys.

The history of the Christmas stocking is an interesting read and I am sure many families carry on their own tradition with stockings.
While there are no written records of the origin of the Christmas Stocking, there are popular legends that attempt to tell the history of this Christmas tradition. In some Christmas stories, the contents of the Christmas stocking are the only toys the child receives at Christmas from Santa Claus; in other stories (and in tradition), some presents are also wrapped up in wrapping paper and placed under the Christmas tree. Tradition in Western culture threatens that a child who behaves badly during the year will receive only a pile of coal. However, coal is rarely if ever left in a stocking, as it is considered cruel. Some people even put their Christmas stocking by their bedposts so Santa Claus can fill it by the bed while they sleep. 

I think handmade stockings are just so special and so here is just a small sampling of Christmas Stockings I have made in the past. Several of them I have had the honor of being featured in Sew Beautiful Magazine! 






The machine shadow work stocking is available at Southern Stitches and the design set includes a PDF for making the stocking!
I hope I have inspired you to start or carry on a Christmas Tradition of handmade Christmas stockings!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing you and yours a very Blessed Thanksgiving!
Give thanks for unknown blessing already on their way. 
~ Native American Saying

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

There is a BIG-BIG Black Friday SALE at Southern Stitches
Click HERE to read all about it!


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

lost and found...

“We all get lost once in a while, sometimes by choice, sometimes due to forces beyond our control. When we learn what it is our soul needs to learn, the path presents itself. Sometimes we see the way out but wander further and deeper despite ourselves; the fear, the anger or the sadness preventing us returning. Sometimes we prefer to be lost and wandering, sometimes it's easier. Sometimes we find our own way out. But regardless, always, we are found.” - Cecilia Ahern

In case you haven't noticed, I've been on a brief hiatus from sewing and designing lately. I'm not sure if it's been by choice or circumstance, but one thing is for certain, I've been wandering with no clear destination in sight. I think for a time, I lost my focus. With the end of Sew Beautiful Magazine, I've kinda been in search of the next path I should follow. I really enjoyed having projects I worked on for months on end. I enjoyed finishing those projects, attending photo shoots and then the thrill of seeing my creation published in a National Sewing Magazine. I looked forward to starting the cycle all over again as a new box of "goodies" arrived full of fabric, lace, buttons and sketches and having the freedom to put my own unique spin on it. It not only was a thrill working on those projects, but in a special way it gave me purpose. After that was gone I began to wander...
One day it's embroidery, then the next it's smocking, online teaching, heirloom sewing...then it's designing and digitizing. Sometimes it's all of the above in the same day, hour or even blocks of minutes! I get completely distracted with endless ideas that pour into my head and I think I want to do this or that. I will stop right in the middle of a project, only to start another one that I get distracted with and begin yet another. I feel like I never finish anything anymore or it takes me much longer than originally planned. 
I thought I wanted to make multiples of pretty little garments and sell them, then I thought I wanted to do heirloom sewing for clients {big mistake}. Then I have the whole photography thing going on that takes me down yet another path partially separated from my sewing, but also very much connected. After all, everyone knows that good photography is what helps to sell beautiful creations. I really enjoy doing all those things, however there comes a time when one needs to seek clear direction when all these things pertain to a business. It's time for the process of refining!
This brief hiatus has given me time to sit back and really take a look at my sewing business and how it fits into this whole wide world of sewing before me that continues to grow by leaps and bounds each and every day. My head spins with ideas and refining is a process I need to must take before I continue in this business. There are so many paths I could take in my sewing business, however in the midst of being "lost" in this huge sewing world, I have "found" that I don't want to do what everyone else is doing. I don't want to "do it all" and I certainly don't want to be chained to my sewing machine by sewing for clients either - it totally takes the enjoyment out of sewing. I don't want to be just another sweat shop making the same things over and over. I've wandered down that boring path many times...it's a tough road to follow and stay competitive. It almost becomes a race...and I don't want to be in that Rat Race! In the process of getting a little lost, I am finding my way by seeking the path that made me who I am...or perhaps, who I was.
I've spent the past several weeks looking what I do and where my business fits in with the others out there. Am I lost in this big world of sewing? If so, how can I be found? What can I do to make my business stand out from the others? Is there anything that makes me different from the common ordinary? If so, how can I refine it? I think the key answer to that can be found in the word "unique", and that is the clear focus I am taking as I move my business forward in 2015 and beyond.
I hope you will follow this unique path with me and stay connected thru facebook, pinterest, instagram, my news journal and here at my blog as I start to reveal new and unique things coming to Southern Stitches!


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Smocking eClass - a new concept in teaching!

Once again, smocking is making a come-back. There seems to be great interest again in those wanting to learn the art of hand smocking. There is so much versatility in smocking. It's not just for children. It can be for adults or children, in clothing or home dec and classic or trendy. 
For the past several years I have had many ask me to teach smocking, whether it be at a Sewing Convention, in a shop or in an individual or group setting. It's something I've wanted to do for quite awhile, however my current situation in life just doesn't make it feasible to travel. When you have too many obstacles to jump, you start thinking of other ways to accomplish what you want to do. I watched as friends traveled around the world teaching and others were teaching in their local shops and it burned a desire in me to teach. That's when I set out to figure out a way that I could satisfy that teaching desire, but still be home, where I am needed most at this time in my life. 
In the past, I've created many YouTube videos of instruction and it thrills me to hear from so many that have watched my videos and learned so much from them! I get many emails from those who have watched my videos begging and encouraging me to create more videos. I love to do it, but it's very-very time-consuming and is a lot of work to put together.
SAHM's (Stay-at-home-moms) and grand-moms are on the rise and so many of them make good use of my free videos, learning at their own pace in their own time frame. They can't commit to a class at a local shop, or perhaps they can't afford to take a class on top of committing to a set time and day for classes, however they are eager to learn more. 
As I thought about all that, in addition to my current life, I came up with an idea. My ideas is to create an affordable online class where my students can attend class on their own time and still have the ability to go back and re-visit any lesson they desire and ask the teacher questions forever. Having that ability is unheard of in a traditional class - if you miss a lesson, well, you've just missed it. You've not only missed the class, but you've missed all the discussion, which is a vital part of any class. One of my goals is that I want my students to have the ability to ask questions, post photos and communicate with others that are all part of that class. That's where I will be creating a totally optional Facebook group for my students only! That is in addition to the private, password-protected eClassroom where students access their PDF and Video files for the eClass. Isn't that awesome? 
My very first eClass is not only teaching smocking, but you will make a Smocked Bonnet from start to finish using my Smocked Tapered Bonnet ePattern, which is included in the eClass. The following will be covered in the eClass:
PDF Pattern Prep
Fabric Prep
Pleating with or without a pleater
   1. How to thread a pleater
   2. How to use dots and pick up pleats
Roll, Whip & Apply Lace in one step
Heirloom Sewing Techniques
   1. Pin Stitch
   2. Lace Insertion + Pin Stitch
Basic Smocking Stitches
   1. The Cable Stitch
   2. The Wave Stitch
   3. Flowettes - Single & Double
   4. Lazy Daisy Stitch
Bonus Smocking Stitches
   1. Bullion Flower
Finishing the Bonnet 
   1. Ribbon Rosettes
That's a lot to cover and it's way more than what is covered usually in a traditional basic learn to smock class. I want my students to do it all right from the start - that is why I am covering fabric prep and pleating, which is so important. I also cover types of threads used and needles for smocking. I teach with an attention to detail and technique. There are many who teach smocking, but not all smocking classes are created equal - learning how to smock correctly from the start will go a long ways in having your smocking turn out with great results that you can be proud of. Proper technique is soooo important and I will teach that, along with my tips!
In addition, I have BONUS videos covering Heirloom Sewing Techniques and Bullions! You can omit the heirloom techniques if you want - they are just an option I have included...a very nice option. Over 2 hours in video instruction are included in this eClass. I have broken it down into five separate videos, so that it's easier for you to navigate. Each video is approx. 15-33 mins in length, making it much easier to spend whatever time you have to work on the project.

The eClass is very affordable and available now at Southern Stitches!




Thursday, September 11, 2014

Sew darn tired!

I feel like I have been on a sewing marathon all week..wait, I HAVE been on a sewing marathon all week, and I'm "sew" darn tired!! 
I love to sew, really I do, and normally sewing is a stress-reliever for me. When I feel rushed or have to meet a deadline, then sewing is no longer fun..it just makes me tense! Every evening I kinda looked like the tired seamstress in that portrait up there - LOL!
I think I've spent more hours sewing each day this week than doing anything else, but there is reward for all the hard work and long hours! Seeing a project transform from an idea, to a sketch on a piece of paper to finished garments is a very rewarding experience. 
The garments I have created this week are original designs, in which I had to draft patterns for. I got some inspiration for the lace insertion & embroidery design from Old Fashioned Baby "Baby Rose" , but I changed it up a bit to make it my own. There is literally a TON of feather-stitching on my garments, which has taken more hours to complete than I want to add up!
I will be sharing more pictures soon, but here's a little peek at what has totally consumed me all week:

Friday, August 8, 2014

Sweet Smocking for BOYS!

I get many requests to create items for boys. The market seems to be saturated with all kinds of sweet things for girls, but for boys it's just a little more limited. When I pleated up 9 day gowns to take along on vacation to smock, I decided to focus on infant boys for 3 of them and add a smocked cap, designed especially for boys!

I have 3 boy's day gown & cap sets available for purchase in sizes preemie (4-6lb), newborn and infant. Each set is smocked just a tad differently. The photos shown are the preemie size set. If you would like to purchase one of the sets, please email me!
The bonnet turned out so sweet, that I decided to write up the instructions and create an ePattern!
The smocking is quick and easy - just 2.5 rows of smocking!
I have included 3 smocking graphs in the ePattern too!
The ePattern is an instant download and you can order it at Southern Stitches Brer Rabbit Designs
I have had many customers and Facebook fans email me about smocking. I have a great Smocking Handbook available for beginner smockers and those who want to perfect their smocking stitches! 
Also coming soon to Southern Stitches is online eClasses in smocking! Please subscribe to my news journal list to be the first to hear about when it begins!


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Cluck-Cluck Rick Rack Jumper

Little did I know when I was commissioned by Sew Beautiful Magazine to create a garment using Rick Rack for the Back to School Issue, that it would be my very last article and the end of an era for the magazine. 
It was a bittersweet day when my preview issues arrived...and difficult opening the box to take a peek at the last issue...ever. Altho it is sad to see the end of Sew Beautiful Magazine, I am confident that Heirloom Sewing and Smocking will be kept alive by those of us who thrive on it. I am also optimistic that there will be future publications along with current sewing blogs, that will keep us inspired to sew!  
The idea for the Rick Rack came from Pinterest and to my knowledge has never been published, altho there is a small blog post in a foreign language showing the one photo. That small photo clip of the embellishment really caught my eye. I couldn't tell what the original creator had put the embellishment on...perhaps it was a kitchen towel or maybe a table cloth. I immediately saved the idea on my Pinterest board as I thought it would be darling on the hem of a dress. When I was commissioned by Sew Beautiful Magazine to create something using Rick Rack, I knew that the readers of the magazine would go crazy over this unique use of Rick Rack.

The article in the magazine has all the instructions on how to create this darling embellished rick rack hem. I also used Rick Rack on the sweet pocket!
I used Children's Corner Pattern "Lucy" for the jumper.
On the yellow blouse, I used some sweet picot edging with the piping on the collar and sleeve edge.
Fabric for the jumper is denim and the blouse is yellow broadcloth. All fabric and supplies were purchased from Farmhouse Fabrics. I lined the jumper in a tartan plaid and if I would have had more time, I would have made the jumper reversible - perhaps it will be something I will do at a later date. I left the seam open inside so that I could easily add an embellishment to make this jumper reversible! 
I hope that Cluck-Cluck has inspired you with this unique Rick Rack embellishment!

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