Wednesday, March 31, 2010

First-Time Sewing

Check out this very sweet picture that SB reader Sallie Nold of Summerville, SC sent us, showing her 7-year old granddaughter Eleanor sewing for the first time on Sallie's Viking SE sewing machine. Sallie tells us:
She was a natural at hand sewing…she took a piece of material and started making a skirt for a doll…saying she wanted to donate it to the little girls in Haiti who had surely lost their doll clothes. So sweet! I want her to love sewing as much as I do.
Thanks for sharing, Sallie! Maybe you have a future contributor to Sew Beautiful on your hands. Share your pictures with us by emailing them to

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Alana's Christening Gown

Remember Kathy's robed Christening gown that we included as a free pattern in our November/December 2009 issue? Well, in that same vein, we're excited to share this beautiful similarly-styled Christening gown with you sent to us by SB reader Heather Lirette of Handcrafts by Heather. Heather says:
At my client's request I had drawn up a sketch of a coat-style Christening dress using silk cotton broadcloth and embroidered netting and then not a week later as I was pondering exactly how to make it, issue 127 arrived with the gorgeous coat style gowns. Imagine my surprise and delight. Now I knew it could be done--and how to do it.
Using the Baby Gowns pattern from The Old Fashioned Baby, Heather used ivory embroidered organza fabric and edging (Lily of the Valley, 19T6748) purchased from Baltazor Fabric Boutique, LLC and silk broadcloth dress fabric purchased from Wendy Schoen Design. Heather also used our own Martha Pullen Vintage Baby CD I  to machine embroider the gown sleeves (design MPC1948; design was edited to remove cutwork).

One sweet detail of this dress is seen in the bodice trim. Heather used flowers from a coordinating hat and booties set that were purchased by her client, but then added yoyos made from dress fabric and overlay organza. Who knew that yoyo's could ever find their place on such an elegant garment, but they look right at home on Heather's gown.

Thanks again for sharing, Heather! You can see more of Heather's work on her website at Don't forget to share your own creations with us by sending your pictures to

Monday, March 29, 2010

Inspiration: Sewing Projects from a Busy Mom

Patterns used for garments pictured above from left to right are: Sheri’s Cherries by Kari Mecca; Simply Summer Pinafore and Dainty Underclothes (pantaloons) by Kari Mecca; and Shelby Kate Summer Dress Collection View #4 by Bonnie Blue Designs.
When Sew Beautiful reader Kelley sent us some photos of garments she's made for her 4-year-old daughter Sofia, we knew we had to share her story on our blog. Here we have a "real" mom who sews for her daughter, who in turn actually wears her special clothes on a regular basis - and of course, looks adorable every time she does! Without lots of money or time, Kelley told us that she considers Sew Beautiful and her sewing habit to be the little luxury that she affords herself. She does most of her sewing after everyone has gone to bed, which she calls "a special time just for me and my sewing machine to create beautiful things while everyone else dreams".

All of the garments Kelley has shared with us came to life because of seeing the patterns in Sew Beautiful, including those from our book Sewing with Whimsy by Kari Mecca that was first previewed in SB issue #119. 
Patterns used for garments pictured above from left to right are: Sheri’s Cherries by Kari Mecca; Sunshine on my Shoulders by Kari Mecca; and Shelby Kate Summer Dress Collection View #4 by Bonnie Blue Designs.
Of her sewing, Kelley tells us:
I learned the basics of sewing very early in life from my mom and grandma and really wish I had paid more attention when they were around and interested in teaching me. I didn’t discover the joy of sewing until I had someone beautiful to sew for of my own 20 plus years later. My Sofia gives me inspiration as well as your magazine! 
I also find that I hate for my child to look like everyone else’s child, and that the majority of children’s clothing on the market is entirely too mature and modern. We have our entire lives to look like adults, why not look like kids while we are? I hate seeing a elementary school child dressed like a teen. [...] I am what I consider a average 31 year old mom to a 4 year old preschooler, and I love to see my daughter dressed in smocked clothing everyday with animals, flowers, pantaloons and bloomers. [...] I started sewing to make a few of the things I wanted to see my daughter in. I love that she looks special, like she stepped out of a children’s boutique, and that they were made with love. If I had more time and money I think I would make everything in [Sew Beautiful].
Patterns used for garments pictured above from left to right are: Tea Party Sundress by Oliver + S; Dainty Underclothes (pantaloons) by Kari Mecca (white dress was purchased from The Bumble Boutique and was made by Boutique Shoppe).
Kelley suggests shopping yard sales, secondhand shops, thrift stores and even grandmother's linen closet (she found an Irish linen tablecloth at her 94-year-old grandmother's house, from which she made the white pantaloons above) for new and vintage fabric, sewing supplies and clothing that can be cut up for fabric. She also suggests saving all of your scraps – you never know when they'll come in handy.

Kelley, thanks so much for sharing your projects with us; it's so rewarding to see our magazine projects come to "real" life! If you've made something from or inspired by the magazine, please share it with us by sending pictures to We love to see your projects!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Silk Ribbon Embroidery Giveaway Winner

And the winner of our silk ribbon embroidery prize package giveaway is...Betsy Pepper! Betsy said:
My first embroidery lesson came from my aunt who was appalled that at the ripe old age of 10 I had not sewn a sampler yet. NO, I am not 200 years old, this was in 1968. So I was immediately whisked off to pick out a sampler..and I was hooked! I loved it! I learned to sew and embroidered my jeans in the 70's. I have sewn over the years for myself, my sisters and my children, neices and now my own grandchildren! My favorites are heirloom sewing, smocking and I dearly love shadow work embroidery! I have issues and issues of very well used Sew Beautiful magazine that have been and still are a wealth of information for me as I thumb through them almost every day! I have not had the opportunity to go to one of Martha's schools yet, that is still a dream of mine! For now...I have Sew Beautiful, and Martha's Sewing Room to keep me going! Thank you so much!!
Thank YOU, Betsy! Congratulations - check your email for a message from us.

Thanks to everyone for playing and please check back often to read our blog and for our next giveaway. Your continued support of SB is appreciated more than you know!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Giveaway Time: A Silk Ribbon Embroidery Package!

Tomorrow, we ship Issue #130 of Sew Beautiful (May/June 2010) to the printer; from that point onward, we'll spend a few weeks in anticipation of its return as a finished publication. I think this is the most exciting part of putting together every issue of SB: getting boxes of the completed product delivered to our office and thumbing through the glossy pages for the first time! Although we spend a year or more preparing for and creating each issue, it all comes down to these final days of last-minute corrections and sending our digital files off to our publishing house for printing.

In Issue #122 (January/February 2009) we had a blast putting together our "pink issue"; conversely, Issue #130 is our first ever blue issue, and we are so excited for our readers to get their hands on it! In addition to a number of great techniques, templates and embellishment ideas, #130 comes with two free patterns on the centerfold (a two-piece toddler bathing suit and a vintage reproduction toddler dress) as well as 13 different looks for little boys – not including a unique silver-blue boy's Christening gown design. We think it is going to be a great issue and can't wait to hear what you think.

To celebrate our completion of the blue issue, we're giving away a silk ribbon embroidery package, featuring our newest publication, Beverley Sheldrick's Little Blessings: Silk Ribbon Projects for Baby! This is a soft-cover, full-color, 142-page project book with a pattern pullout section with all of the patterns and templates shown in the book. I've got to say, this is definitely one of the most beautiful books we've ever published, and I'm not just saying that because I work here. The photography and book design are stunning, and of course, fans know that Beverley Sheldrick's designs and embroidery are not to be outdone.
Our prize package also contains a sampling of silk ribbon embroidery supplies, including:
  • YLI 4mm silk ribbon in blue (#125), green (#62) and coral (#76); 5 yd quantities each
  • A white linen ready-to-embroider gift bag, filled with 3 sample strands of silk ribbon, a strand of floss and a tapestry needle for silk ribbon embroidery
To enter for a chance to win our silk ribbon embroidery giveaway package, leave a comment below – and make sure you include an email address so that we can contact you if you're the winner! In your comment, tell us about how you started sewing; have you done it your whole life? Have you recently begun teaching yourself? Attended a local class or travelled to a Martha Pullen school event? Haven't started yet, but would like to? We'd love to hear your stories!

Giveaway entries will close this Wednesday, March 24th, 2010 at 5:00 p.m. CST. We will draw the winner at random and announce the results on Thursday morning, March 24th. Good luck and thanks for playing!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Flip-Flop Ribbon Trim

Cute, cute, cute... I'm in love with Kathy B's cool flip-flop ribbon trim. It's perfect for adding a fun touch of grosgrain ribbon to a casual summer dress made with fun prints, like this halter-style from our Summer Separates pattern:
With spring and summer quickly approaching, it's time to start thinking about adding some easy, breezy summer outfits to your little ones' wardrobes. Sewing garments yourself is fun enough straight from the patterns themselves, but adding special creative details and really makes it worth your while. For even the beginning seamstress, figuring out how to use what you know about sewing to add details to your pieces is lots of fun.

Ribbons are one of our favorite notions around here (as evidenced by our themed ribbon issue, #129), and the flip-flop ribbon trim that Kathy came up with last summer is just too cute. At the time Issue #125 was published, where we announced the new Summer Separates pattern, we offered free instructions on the flip-flop ribbon trim on our website (click here to download the instructions in PDF format). But since we recently received the new DVD collection of last season's Martha's Sewing Roomwe've pulled video for you of Kathy herself teaching the technique. We hope that, combined with the printed instructions, the video helps make sense of creating this great trim on your own.

After we shared the flip-flop ribbon trim instructions on our website, SB reader Elizabeth Vickers shared a dress with us using this technique that she made for her granddaughter. I've been holding onto the photo Elizabeth sent me for six months, and finally, I have the perfect opportunity to share it with all of you:

It looks like Elizabeth has used a wider width of grosgrain ribbon in different colors to add a fun accent between her solid red fabric and multicolor polka dot fabric on the hem and sleeves.

Do you have ideas for using this technique in other ways? I wonder if it wouldn't work to use a thin-width of silk satin ribbon to make a tiny flip-flop trim; I might try it. If you do try this technique, please share it by posting a link below or sending pictures to us at As always, we love to see what you're making!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tag Binky Directions

Cut two 17" squares of fleece.

Cut 28 different pieces of trim or ribbon 4" long.

On one square, mark the center and embroider as desired. Be sure to top with a tear-away or dissolving stabilizer so threads don't sink into the pile.

Fold over each piece of 4" ribbon to form a 2" tag. On right side of fleece, pin each tag (raw edges of tag to raw edge of fleece) along edge of second square, seven tags to each side.

Using a 1/2" seam allowance, stitch around outside edge of fleece square to attach tags.

Place embroidered square and "tag" square right sides together. Sew around outside edge following previous line of stitching on "tag" side. Leave a small opening for turning binky right sides out.

Trim corners, turn binky right sides out, push out corners and hand stitch opening closed.

Tag Binky

Whenever a friend is expecting a baby, I whip up one of these tag binkies. Babies love them. They're a great way to use up small pieces of trim and ribbons; just make sure everything is washable, and avoid any trims with beads or sequins or those that could come apart, like ones with rows of motifs that are joined with just a thread or two; you know how babies like to teethe on things. Mix and match different colors and textures. Invariably the baby will latch on to one special tag, so I'm told. I usually machine embroider one side with the baby's name, if I know what it's going to be, or you can pick any fun, juvenile motif. Use solid fleece on one side and a print on the other if you like. If you don't machine embroider, just pick out a fleece print for both sides. Directions will follow in next post.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sew Beautiful presents...

Sew Beautiful is excited to announce that we are now the official sponsors of the biannual Martha Pullen School of Art Fashion! Join us for our upcoming 2010 summer School, which takes place locally here in Huntsville, Alabama, July 19th – 25th. SOAF registration information is now available on the Martha Pullen Company website, including a downloadable PDF brochure.  You can also find the entire School brochure in print on the pullout centerfold of the upcoming May/June issue of Sew Beautiful, #130.

We are also pleased to announce our first ever SB Pre-Day class, "Beyond the Basic Bodice", to be taught by our very own Kathy Barnard, editor. In our 3-hour notebook-style class, you will use a basic girl’s bodice pattern to learn a variety of easy drafting techniques for designing five completely different bodices from one single pattern. Scroll down to #41 on the Pre-Day Classes page for more information.

Registration for the School of Art Fashion begins on March 31st. Don't procrastinate -- you don't want to miss out on snagging your favorite classes before they fill up! Visit the School website for more information, and look for our special preview article about the School and our sponsorship in issue #130 of Sew Beautiful.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Amelia's Sewing Office Utopia

I just have to share my new office/sewing space, eight years in the making. I started in our extra bedroom. When I had to turn that space into a nursery, my office got split between my husband's unfinished workroom and the kitchen desk. Finally, when my high school son needed to complete a dry-wall project for a tech class in school, my real office started taking shape. My husband gave up half of his work room, and between his amazing talents (can fix or build anything) and bits of free time, (not to mention a year of living with my sewing stuff just piled in a half-finished room) I finally have a space to call my own. I feel so incredibly productive. Every woman should have their own creative utopia.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Gown Restoration and Preservation

Remember our article on Preserving your Family Heirlooms, written by our own Betsy Iler, that we published in Issue #124? (Click here to download the PDF article for free!) Reader Joan Kwasiborski came across the article on our website and sent us a great recommendation for the Imperial Gown Restoration Company, which we knew we had to share with you. Joan says:
If you are not already familiar with the Imperial Gown Restoration Company in Fairfax, VA, or if you have never featured them, you might find them of interest. I once called them, and they were kind enough to let me know that their base price (this was a couple of years ago) to clean a gown, unseen, was $450.00. Their webpage was invaluable to me, because of their description of cleaning gowns, which I wanted to know, because I had bought some store models, and some used gowns, for resale. They avoid alkaline detergents, and I do also, prefering to use Shaklee's Basic-H or Shaklee's Laundry Detergent, although I have used some spot cleaners on small areas.

These gowns sometimes weigh 10 lbs. even when dry, so I droop them over a large fabric laundry basket in my clean extra bathtub, until most of the water has drained. Then I can droop them over other light weight items, set on top of my bed, even using umbrellas for the expansive petticoats and overskirts, I have a fan over my bed, and that helps circulate the air around them.

Imperial Gown Restoration Company has some very interesting information, they have done restoration for the Smithsonian Institution, and you can read more about their process and recommendations at their site,
Thanks so much for the information, Joan! She is right -- Imperial's website is full of great information. We included the following list of preservation resources in the original article. Do you know of another great company, resource or tip regarding heirloom preservation and restoration? Please comment below to share your knowledge!
  • Heirloom preservation bags are available at
  • Heritage Garment Preservation offers supplies, storage boxes and kits. Visit their website at or call 866-268-4696.
  • J. Scheer & Co. specializes in wedding gown preservation and the cleaning of museum textiles and ceremonial costume. Visit their website for more information,
  • Martha Pullen Company carries acid-free heirloom tissue paper and padded hangers. Visit Martha’s online store at
  • Prestige Preservation Program, LLC, features cleaning, inspection and storage processes. Visit them online at or call 888-542-7709.
  • See for tissue, boxes and kits.
  • Sentinel Archiving, Inc., sells garment bags designed for long-term protection of extra-special garments at
  • The Linen Press LLC provides repair services for heirloom and antique textiles. Go to for more information.
  • The Preservation Station sells a variety of cleaning and storage product options for the care of heirloom garments and other textiles:
  • University Products offers a wide selection of preservation supplies, including stain removers, silica gel packs to absorb moisture, and non-adhesive labeling tape. See their online store at
  • Visit Whiteworks at for articles and information about heirloom garment preservation.
  • Your local department or grocery store carries BIZ, Ivory Snow and other suitable cleaning and storage supplies.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Love Vintage Periodicals

Ok, so I know this isn't nearly as exciting as our Threads debut, but while Kathy was flipping though her modern sewing magazine, I was flipping through one from 1905. I just love the vintage inspriation you can glean from them. Here's a question posed by one reader to the editorial staff all those years ago. Can't you just picture the "fancy case" in your head.

To Hold A Baby's Layette
Can you suggest something new and dainty to hold a baby's layette? Aunt Mabel

Make a fancy case fashioned like the fold-over handkerchief-cases. Take a piece of figured sateen that will measure when folded in half twenty-seven inches by eighteen; line with silk, and pad and quilt the under side after strewing the wadding with violet orris powder; use fancy silk elastic and make straps across to hold the little garments in place. When the top is lifted all the little articles are handy.

By the way, Orris root powder has a scent similar to violet and is used for scenting perfumes, potpourri and sachets.

Kathy and Amelia's Threads Magazine Debut

We are so excited to announce Kathy and Amelia's debut in Threads Magazine! Check out page 74 of the April/May 2010 issue to see their Master Class article on Mirror-Image Appliqué. As soon as our copy arrived the other day, we started looking over the issue page-by-page; here is a picture of Kathy and me, Shannon, reading over the cover (please ignore my messy desk)...
 ...but let's be honest, this picture is more like it! Can you hear the squeals of excitement?!
The article itself was a true joint effort between Kathy Barnard (SB Editor) and Amelia Johanson (SB Associate Editor). Judith Neukam, Threads Sr. Technical Editor, called Kathy last year and said she was watching Martha’s Sewing Room one night when the Mirror Image Madeira method with the wash-away thread was demonstrated. Judith wanted to know if someone from Sew Beautiful would be willing to write for their Master Class segment in Threads using this technique, but based on a non-heirloom, styled design. Amelia and Kathy love fashion sewing so much that they decided to assign themselves the project! Kathy designed the featured dress and prepared the instructional step-out photography, while Amelia stitched it up; they both wrote the instructions together.

Kathy says, "We hope we get to do another article for Threads sometime. Now I know what it is like to be excited about having an article in another magazine. It’s easy for me to publish a design or an article in SB because I am the editor, but when someone else chooses you, it becomes a real honor!"

If you don't already have a subscription to Threads, please run out and pick up a copy to see Kathy and Amelia's article! We hope you enjoy it, as well of the rest of their great April/May issue, and thanks again to Threads for the opportunity - we are honored.

Monday, March 1, 2010

March Designer of the Month: Ivey Crenshaw

Welcome to the premier post of our first blog series: Designer of the Month. On (or near) the first of each month, we will be sharing a spotlight interview with a featured designer whose work we love. We hope you enjoy the behind-the-designs insight to be gained!

Our first featured designer is Ivey Crenshaw of Hahira, Georgia. Ivey is an employee of Sew Blessed, a sewing shop also located in Hahira. You can see her work in "Spring in Full Bloom," a pictorial published in the current March/April 2010 issue of Sew Beautiful (#129; pages 16-19). We're also looking forward to publishing Ivey's work in yet another pictorial in our November/December issue (#133), this time offering a series of fun, casual Christmas looks in bright cotton prints. For now, on with the interview!

SB: Tell us a little bit about yourself!
I am a happily married housewife, who works part-time at Sew Blessed. Before I started working at the shop, I had my own business making curtains and anything to do with decorative textiles. One day, I was hanging curtains for a client and I mentioned to her that I needed a new sewing machine and a part-time job so that I could get out of the house some every week before I go stir crazy. Well, that client was Sharon, who is the owner of Sew Blessed and now my wonderful boss! Eventually I got out of the drapery making business and started sewing for fun again. Jeff and I do not have any kids but that does not stop me from sewing children's clothes. I love it! I have an Art Degree in Fashion Design and when I was in college, children's wear was my forte. Working at Sew Blessed has just given me the perfect excuse to sew cute children's clothes again! I guess you could say that I have been "sew blessed" - haha!

SB: How did you get started sewing?
My grandmother was an excellent sewist and as a young child she always fascinated me with all that she would sew. She passed away when I was eight and was never able to teach me. My mom inherited her fabric collections, 2 sewing machines, and U.F.O.'s (unfinished objects). I loved to play with all those fabrics and I would try to make things by studying her U.F.O. projects. Mom noticed that I was interested in sewing and found me a summer sewing class through 4-H when I was about 11 years old.

SB: Many of us who sew also participate in other crafts and hobbies; do you?
Yes! Although I try to limit the crafts I get involved with cause it can get expensive and time consuming. My true love is sewing. Next to sewing is decorating. Seems like my parents and I have always got a decorating project going on. Alot of the crafts that I do are because I was trying to come up with clever wall art or decorate for a party.Some of my other crafts and hobbies I dabble in are flower arranging, beading, photography, paper crafts...Give me a book on the subject and I will try to figure it out! I would love to get into gardening.

SB: How long have you been a part of the Sew Blessed shop, and what is your role there?
I have been part of Sew Blessed now for 5 years. My role at the shop I guess would be Marketing Director. I'm all about trying to make our shop look good. I make the shop samples, choose fabrics and patterns we sell in the shop, rearange store displays, take pictures for our ads... you know, whatever is going to market our shop well.

SB: From where would you say you get your inspiration for your sewing projects?
I find inspiration everywhere!!! It could be from something as simple as a novelty button or a fabric collection from a favorite fabric designer. Magazines are some of the best places to find inspiration and not just sewing ones. I don't scrapbook, but I love to buy scrapbook magazines because they are full of ideas for appliques and unusual color combinations. A movie, artwork, a road trip through the mountains in the fall, pretty packaging; these are all things that have inspired past sewing projects.

SB: Hand-in-hand with inspiration goes motivation. As creative beings, sometimes even though we have plenty of inspiration, we can't seem to motivate ourselves to actually keep creating! How do you combat this struggle?
I'm not always motivated to create, but it makes me upset when I go through the day and I have accomplished absolutely nothing.It actually makes me feel depressed. So to avoid that feeling, I will pick out a U.F.O. project and make myself work on it. Well in the process, I will actually start to enjoy what I am working on. When I finish, I usually feel good about what I have done and will be excited to work on another project.

SB: You have such a creative take on children's clothing, from your integration of designer fabrics, patterns and machine embroidery to your own take on appliques and embellishments. How would you describe the process you go through when planning and sewing a unique garment?
It depends on my source of inspiration, but I always lay out my fabric and trims so that I can get a visual image of how things are going together. Most of the time I'm not real sure it is going to work out but I will do it anyways because I like that element of surprise with the finished product. That's what makes designing so much fun!

SB: What would your advice be for a true beginner who wants to learn how to sew garments for children?
Just keep on sewing! Make yourself try new patterns. I taught myself new sewing techniques by trying out different pattern styles and designers. Don't get caught up in trying to custom fit children's clothing. It should be loose and fun! You know, something they can play in.

SB: What are some of your favorite go-to sewing tools?
My favorite sewing tool (besides my sewing machines) is my set of "Fasturn" tube turners! Whew, that's a mouthful! Helps me turn all those sashes and straps out in no time at all.

SB: What are some of your favorite resources when it come to sewing?
I love all the A-Z Series of books for sewing. The reason, they have great directions and wonderful instruction pictures. My other favorite resource for sewing are my video collection of Martha's Sewing Room. I don't always practice my heirloom techniques but I can watch those videos and I know exactly what to do!

SB: Any last words for our readers?
When I was asked to do the SB pictorial, the first thing I did was find my favorite issue, Issue #100. It was the very first issue I ever purchased. The pages are worn out and there is some water damage cause I took it to the beach with me one time, but I still go through it every now and then. This particular issue is very important to me because it was what inspired me to start sewing children's clothing again! I can only hope that my pictorial will become a sewing inspiration to someone like issue 100 did for me.

SB: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions, Ivey! To our readers, you can check out more of Ivey's work online at her blog and Flickr photostream. And of course, be sure to stop by Sew Blessed if you're ever in Hahira, GA. Stay tuned for our April Designer of the Month, Jeannie Baumeister of The Old Fashioned Baby.