Friday, June 28, 2013

Take a Peek Inside Perfect Party Dresses!

Perfect Party Dresses, Edited by Susan O'Connor
From birthday parties to weddings, a young lady's life is marked with many special occasions that call for the perfect dress. In the newly released book Perfect Party Dresses, renowned designers from around the world (including frequent Sew Beautiful contributor Gail Doane) have shared a glorious collection of smocked dress designs fit for life's biggest occasions. We recently had the chance to look through this book and had such fun oohing and aahing over the designs. Here are photos of a few of our favorite dresses from the book, along with design details for each:

Spun Sugar (left) and Ava
Spun Sugar: A garden of dainty, pastel daisies and tiny buds forms a pretty border on this shimmering blush pink and white silk gown designed by Annette Drysdale. Smocked from shoulder to waist with gently rippling waves, the elegant simplicity of this sweet little dress makes it ideal for any special occasion. White silk bias trims the piped sleeves and neckline, and the back closes with shell flower buttons and is finished with a sumptuous white sash.

Ava: A wide band of delicate lace encircles the lower skirt of this divine snow white hailspot voile dress designed by Gail Doane. Powder blue silk ribbon is threaded through the wide beading on the yoke and around the skirt, echoing the soft pastel shades used in the smocking and embroidery. Dainty angel sleeves are edged with scalloped lace and the dress closes at the back with blue flower buttons and a sash.

Flora: Unified by a vivid hot pink and red spot contrast fabric, cheerful, vibrant florals form a stunning background for the simple smocking design on these fresh, sleeveless dresses from Susan O'Connor. The front yokes, bound necklines and armholes are trimmed with spot piping, coordinating with the cute bow trim and generous sashes. The backs close with striped pink buttons and a growth tuck is stitched around the lower section of the skirts. The lacy petticoat ruffles peep out from under the skirts.

Special Occasion (left) and Rasberry Twirl
Special Occasion: Cool and sophisticated, the clean lines and refined details of this beautiful white silk dress designed by Gail Doane make it perfect for any special occasion. The elegant full circle skirt and gently puffed sleeves are lined with silk organza and finished with a pleated trim of lime check silk, echoing the shaped smocked belt. Bright gathered ribbon flowers decorate the belt and the neckline is trimmed with tiny beaded picots. The dress closes at the back with a hand-inserted zipper and a sash.

Rasberry Twirl: Sublime colors and innovative styling make this captivating dress from Connie Quarré Moses gorgeous to look at and fun to wear. The bodice is backsmocked with triple honeycomb stitch, creating a rich texture that contrasts beautifully with the smooth, full circle skirt. Bands at the upper bodice, waist and hem, are decorated with a mass of cast-on stitch roses. The dress buttons at the back and is finished with an embroidered sash.

Read more about Perfect Party Dresses here!

Sew On, Sew Well, Sew Beautiful,
Cyndi and Amelia

Monday, June 17, 2013

Quick and Colorful Bias Strip Embellishments

Black and White Swirls (left) and Green and Turquoise Waves

Bias strips are typically used for trims or binding, but they can also be used to make colorful and oh-so-easy embellishments. Raw bias strips were sewn directly to the fabric before constructing the two children's outfits shown here. The garments, which first appeared in our May/June 2006 issue, were designed by our former editor Kathy Barnard and constructed by Carolyn Sheron. The basic embellishment technique used here could be applied to a variety of different projects, however, so be creative!

Additionally, any machine embroidery motif can be embroidered directly over the bias strip - a trail of ladybugs could be stitched on the black and white swirl design, or embroidered flowers could be finished off with wavy bias strip stems and leaves. Boys would love an airplane with a trail of loops across a T-shirt or a pair of shorts.

The raw edges of the bias strip do not fray and look great left flat, or brushed for more fluff as shown. Only one layer of fabric is used in this technique, unlike traditional chenille shaping, which requires several layers. No template is necessary; simply draw waves and swirls on your paper pattern and transfer them to the fabric with a washout marker. Apply the bias strips directly on top of the right side of the fabric after the pattern pieces are cut out. Then, construct the garment as directed in the pattern. If using machine embroidery, you may need to leave enough fabric for hooping before you actually cut out the pattern. Details for each outfit are included below:

Figure 1

Black and White Swirls
Pattern, made from black and white cotton corded piqué, is the "Sleeveless Flared Top" and the "Short Skirt" from the book Contemporary Heirlooms for the Older Girl by Martha Pullen. Carolyn shortened the size 10 top by 2 inches to meet the waistband of the skirt. The front skirt pattern was adapted for a flap front. To make a flap front, simply cut out two front skirt pieces; draw a straight line from top to bottom on one piece approximately 1-1/2 inches from the left top edge then cut on the line (fig. 1). Embellish the front with bias strip swirls. Hem the cut edge with a double fold 1/2-inch hem, and place on top of whole front skirt. Treat as one layer to complete construction.

Figure 2

Green and Turquoise Waves
Pattern, in lime green and turquoise cotton corded piqué, is a modification of "Abbey" from Children's Corner. One inch was removed from the outer shoulder edge on the size 4 and tapered into the arm curves to bring the shoulder edge closer to the neck. The top was shortened 4 inches (fig. 2). The pants were made according to the pattern (note: pants run long in the crotch; we removed 2-1/2 inches from the top of each pant piece to make waistband meet child's waist). Carolyn made a fabric flower pin for the top (template and instructions are included on the pullout centerfold of the magazine).

For more great projects, check out our newly released Sew Beautiful 2006 Collection CD. 

Sew On, Sew Well, Sew Beautiful,
Cyndi and Amelia

Friday, June 14, 2013

Tips & Tricks for Sewing with Lace

Lace tatting trim adds a gorgeous finish to this baby daygown.

It's no secret that we love lace. This delicate fabric is at the heart of heirloom sewing, and - truth be told - it's hard to imagine what many of our sewing projects would look like without it. From christening gowns to wedding dresses, seamstresses have used this classic, intricate material on our most treasured garments for centuries. 

Lace is no stranger to modern wear either, as it is often used as a feminine accent or trim on today's garments. This week, we'd like to share answers to several questions we're frequently asked about sewing with lace. From understanding the difference between insertion, edging, beading and entredeux, to figuring out once and for all whether or not lace has a right and a wrong side, we hope you learn something useful!

Debbie Glenn transformed French lace into an heirloom garden on this project from our May/June 2013 issue.

What's the difference between insertion, edging, beading and entredeux?
• Insertion is lace with two straight sides
• Edging is lace with one straight side and one scalloped side
• Beading is lace with openings for weaving ribbon
• Entredeux is embroidered trim that resembles a tiny train track with seam allowances

Does lace have a right and wrong side?
Actually, many laces do not have a right or wrong side. They look exactly the same. Many say the raised side of the lace is the right side, while others say they like the smooth side best - so choose the side that is "right" for you. To avoid confusing the sides while sewing, we recommend placing a colored sticky dot on your "right" side. Before cutting the lace into desired lengths, stick on additional dots so that all of your lace pieces have dots on the right side. 

How do I dye lace ivory?
To dye lace, you'll need:
• 2 cups strong coffee or tea
• 1/4 cup vinegar

To dye white lace to ivory, mix 2 cups strong coffee or tea and 1/4 cup vinegar. Thoroughly wet lace in water, then soak in coffee mixture about five minutes. Rinse completely in clear water. Repeat if not dark enough. Dry on a flat surface. Do not press lace before it is dry or it will streak.

How do I sew lace to fabric?
Place right sides together. Fabric extends 1/8 inch from lace. Zigzag (L = 1.0; W = 4.5) so that one needle swing stitches over the lace heading, and the other needle swing goes just off the fabric edge. After a few stitches, the fabric raw edge should start rolling in toward and covering the lace heading. If it doesn't, try increasing needle tension slightly.

Be sure to visit our online store to save big on hundreds of items during our Summer Sidewalk Sale. We have laces and trims, fabrics, notions and accessories, books and DVDs, patterns, kits and more marked at 75 percent off now though June 26!

Sew On, Sew Well, Sew Beautiful,
Cyndi and Amelia

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Selecting the Right Stabilizer for Machine Embroidery

We love adding embellishments like embroidery designs, appliqués and trims to our projects. These little accents are the "artist's touch" on our handiwork - that extra something that can turn a project into a masterpiece. This week, we'd like to talk about machine embroidery, one of the most common embellishment methods. We're often asked for tips related to machine embroidery, particularly regarding stabilizers.

Stabilizers are used for stabilizing the design during machine embroidery. This is necessary since the addition of a lot of thread on top of fabric can "shrink" or "pull" the fabric thus contorting your embroidery design.

Machine embroidery from Mary's Graduation Dress Designs
adds a beautiful finish to this dress.

How many layers of stabilizer do I need?  The number of stabilizer layers needed is usually determined by the density of the design and the type of fabric you are embroidering on. You must consider both of these when considering how many layers of stabilizer to use. Generally, the more dense the design, the more layers you should use, and the lighter the fabric, the more layers you should use.

What type of stabilizer should I use?  The type of stabilizer to use is usually determined by the type of fabric you are embroidering on. Below is a chart to use as a guide:

Cut-away:  Used for knits and other types of "stretchy" fabrics. Usually comes in different weights (heavy, regular and light) to correspond with the weight of your fabric. When your embroidery design is finished, the stabilizer is then cut away from the embroidery design.

Tear-away:  Used for stable, woven fabrics such as cottons and denim. This also comes in different weights to correspond with the weight of your fabric. When your embroidery design is finished, gently tear away the stabilizer from your design. This type of stabilizer is also available as an "iron on" and "sticky back".

Water-Soluble:  Generally, this type of stabilizer is used as a backing for only stable, woven fabrics. It can also be used as a "topping" on any type of fabric that has a nap or loop to it, such as corduroy and terry cloth. It is also great for making "free standing" embroidery such as lace. No matter what type of fabric or application you are using this type of stabilizer for, when your embroidery design is finished, simply wash away the stabilizer with water (your fabric must be able to tolerate water).

This ready-to-embroider linen gift bag features machine
embroidery from My Lil' Friends. The casing pull was
made using spaghetti bias.

Will you share some specific stabilizer recommendations?  Below, we've provided a list of fabric types matched with recommended stabilizers.

Woven Cotton, Batiste, Denim, Linen, Broadcloth - Stitch N Wash

Silk, Silk Dupioni, Satin, Taffeta - Dream Weave

Towel, Terry Cloth - Base: Wet N Stick or Perfect Stick, Topping: Water Soluble Topping or Heat N Gone

Velvet, Velour, Suede - Perfect Stick, Heat N Gone Topping

Polar Fleece, Meinke - Any "stick to" stabilizer

Knit, Piqué - No-Show Nylon Mesh Fusible

Sweater Knit - No-Show Nylon Mesh Fusible, Heat N Gone, Water-Soluble Topping

Cotton Organdy, English Netting, Sheer Fabric that can be ironed - Wet N Gone Fusible

Nylon Organdy/Organza, Netting, Sheer that cannot be ironed - Wet N Gone Tacky

Hard to Hoop - Perfect Stick, Wet N Stick, Wet N Gone Tacky

For more machine embroidery tips, check out our new DVD, Machine Embroidery 101 (also available as an SD or HD download). Pam Mahshie, Education Director for Baby Lock, makes machine embroidery come alive for beginners who know little or nothing about it as she covers hoops, notions, articles to embroider, formats, downloads, marking for perfect placement, design opening basics, stabilizers for different fabrics and more.

Sew On, Sew Well, Sew Beautiful,
Cyndi and Amelia