Tuesday, July 30, 2013

July Book Blog: Sew Serendipity Skirt Sew-Along - Part 4

Hello, everyone! Welcome to the finale Week 4 of our July Sew Serendipity Skirt Sew-Along. We have been making the "Tailored Skirt" from Kay Whitt's book Sew Serendipity, so if you're just joining me, catch up by first reading Part 1Part 2 and Part 3.

This week, all that was left was to finish up by adding the bottom hem on the skirt. It was super simple - a nice, relaxing time at the machine after 2 more intensive weeks of construction!

Again, I really love that I chose this golden yellow for my contrast stitching. It pops on top of the prints and really accents the seams. I am a little annoyed that my machine did some funky stitching on my very top line, but it's so minor you can't really tell - especially when worn.

Don't you love how a finished garment feels once all the details are in place? Here is my finished skirt pinned onto a mannequin - I had to draw it in quite a bit in the back to pin it, since the mannequin is skinny and I am, well, not. ;) I'll try to get a photo of myself in it soon and come back to update for you all.

I hope you had a great time sewing along with me! Be sure to share your finished skirts or adaptation ideas in the comments.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Royal Sewing for Your Little Prince or Princess

Our version of Prince William's Suit!

It's a boy! What fun it is to celebrate the birth of Prince George Alexander Louis. We watched in delight last week as Prince William and Kate Middleton introduced their royal bundle of joy to the world on the steps of St. Mary's Hospital in London. Of course, our thoughts immediately went to all the stitched finery little George will soon wear. 

As a child, Prince William was frequently photographed wearing English smocking. While watching William, Kate and George leaving St. Mary's last week, we were reminded of a photo that was taken of a young Prince William in 1984 on the same hospital steps. He had just visited the hospital to meet his new little brother Prince Harry for the first time, and he was wearing an adorable English smocked shirt with matching red shorts. 

Designer Laurie Anderson recreated William's precious suit for our new book, Sewing for a Royal Baby, and now seems like a fitting time to share the smocking graph with you! Check out the book for the complete guide to making Prince William's Suit, or smock the design on a garment of your choosing.

Royal diamond chevron smocking

Royal Diamond Chevron smocking graph
Design as shown was smocked with three strands of DMC #817 red six strand embroidery floss.

1. Pleat seven rows. Mark center pleat with a wash-away marking pen. Rows 1 and 7 are holding rows and will not be smocked. Block 102 pleats for each insert. (Refer to Royal Diamond Chevron smocking graph below.)

2. For the upper border, start at the center two pleats and cable across Row 1, beginning with an up cable. Invert your work and complete the other side of the cable row.

3. On Row 1 under the first down cable, work a three-cable combination starting with an up cable, step down to Row 1-1/2, and trellis stitch over just one pleat, down cable one. Step back up to Row 1 and over just one pleat beginning on the same pleat continue the pattern across the row. Smock carefully and remember to trellis up and down on the same pleat as the previous cable.

4. Start the bottom border at the center two pleats on Row 5 and work a mirror image of the upper border between Rows 5 and 5-1/2.

5. Between Rows 2 and 2-1/2 and Rows 3 and 3-1/2, work a half-step wave across the row, beginning with a down cable.

6. Mirror image a half-step wave between Rows 2-1/2 and 3 and 3-1/2 and 4.

Royal Diamond Chevron smocking graph

Be sure to check out Sewing for a Royal Baby for more royal sewing inspiration!

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

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Sew a Cute and Simple Tiered Doll Skirt

Tiered doll skirt from All Dolled Up by Joan Hinds

Do you know a little girl who loves dressing her favorite doll in new outfits? Make her day with this easy-to-construct tiered skirt for an 18-inch doll. Featured in Joan Hinds' fabulous doll clothes book All Dolled Up, this skirt combines coordinating cotton prints, rickrack trim and ruffles to create an adorable boutique look. And be sure to check out the book for instructions on making a matching tiered skirt for a little girl!

Before you begin, note that it's a good idea to scale down the size of fabric prints and notions when sewing doll clothes. Rickrack comes in a variety of sizes too; a smaller size should be used when making this skirt.

The skirt combines coordinating prints, rickrack trim and ruffles.

What you'll need:
• 2-1/4 × 18 inches cotton print fabric for the upper tier
• 2-1/4 × 26 inches coordinating cotton print fabric for the middle tier
• 3-1/4 × 32 inches coordinating cotton print fabric for the lower tier
• 2-1/4 yards rickrack, 1/2-inch-wide
• 10-1/2 inches elastic, 1/4-inch-wide

Constructing the skirt:
1. Press one long edge of the upper tier 1/4 inch to the wrong side. Press again 1/2 inch and stitch close to the pressed edge to make a casing (fig. 1). Set aside.

Figure 1

2. Serge or zigzag stitch one long edge of the lower tier and press 1/2 inch to the wrong side. Sew rickrack over the pressed edge (fig. 2).

Figure 2

3. Gather the top edge of the lower tier following the gathering instructions below and stitch it to one long edge of the middle tier with right sides together. Gather the other long edge of the middle tier following the gathering instructions below and stitch it to the bottom edge of the upper tier (fig. 3).

Figure 3

4. Sew rickrack over the upper/middle tier seam line and over the middle/lower tier seamline.

5. Thread the elastic through the casing and secure the ends (fig. 4).

Figure 4

6. With right sides together, sew the center back seam and press.

Gathering instructions:
• Place the fabric under the presser foot on the stitching line about a seam width away from the edge. Turn the wheel by hand to make one stitch. Pull up on the top thread and bring the bobbin thread to the top of the fabric. Pull both of the threads simultaneously to a length equal to the area to be gathered. Place the threads under the presser foot after giving them a gentle twist. 

• Now adjust your machine for a medium zigzag stitch with a length of about 3.0. Stitch over those threads just inside the seam allowance, making sure not to stitch over the twisted threads. Stop a seam width away from the edge. Pull on the twisted threads to gather the fabric. Since the threads were secured in the beginning, they will not come out. Secure the thread tails by wrapping them around a pin after the gathers are pulled to the correct size.

Ready to take on another project for an 18-inch doll? Check out the great selection of doll sewing books available in our online store! We also have even more ideas for sewing matching dresses for little girls and their 18-inch dolls in the newest issue of Sew Beautiful.

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

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

July Book Blog: Sew Serendipity Skirt Sew-Along - Part 3

Hello, everyone! Shannon again, back with Week 3 of our July Sew Serendipity Skirt Sew-Along. We are making the "Tailored Skirt" from Kay Whitt's book Sew Serendipity, so if you're just joining me, catch up by first reading Part 1 and Part 2.

When we left off last week, I had prepared my skirt panels, pockets and facings and was ready to stitch the skirt front and back together. Today, we'll complete steps 4 and 5 of the skirt construction - which seems simple enough, but this also includes referring to other parts of the book for "general construction" instructions on inserting the invisible zipper and adding the facings. Above, you can see where my front piece and two back pieces are all constructed, ready for my zipper!

To be perfectly honest, I have never inserted an invisible zipper before - but it actually went very smoothly! The zipper foot on the Viking machine I'm using made it really simple.

Here I am proudly showing off how neatly my zipper went in. ;-) I really did surprise myself - and will definitely not be shying away from invisible zippers anymore!

Once I got the zipper in, it was quick to finish up the top hem by applying the facings, understitching and then top- and edgestitching.

And that's it for this week! Are you sewing along with me? I would love to see what you're creating. Be sure to share in the comments, and join me again next week for the fourth and final installment of our sew-along. I'll be completing the skirt with a hem band and showing off the finished product!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Store Your Sewing Needles in Style!

Embellished (left) and Embroidered Needlebook

When you spend as much time in your sewing room as we do, it's important to make a space where you enjoy spending your time. As in the creation of a beautiful garment, the magic is in the details. You'll never have to hunt for your needles again with this fun little needlebook designed by Jean Etheridge and our senior editor Shannon Miller. Made using wool felt and a coordinating cotton print, the design has endless opportunities for embellishment and includes a hidden back pocket that is perfect for at-hand access to a small ruler, seam ripper or seam gauge. It also fits nicely in a tote bag or suitcase!

Preparation: 1. Cut three rectangular pieces (one of print cotton, one of thin batting and one of wool felt) all the same size for the cover. The sample was cut 6 x 11 inches and will finish at approximately 5-1/2 x 10-1/2 inches before it is folded in thirds for the final book. The needle and pin book could be bigger or smaller as desired, however. 

2. Cut two rectangles 5-1/2 x 6 inches of wool felt for the inside pages. The pages will be folded in half before they are sewn into the book; the two rectangles will make four pages (5 inches tall x 3 inches wide) the needlebook. If you change the outside dimensions, you will want to adjust the page size as well.

3. Cut one piece of cotton 6 x 6 inches to make the pocket at the back of the book. Fold this piece in half, wrong sides together and press. 

4. Before assembling the book, consult the specific instructions below to prepare the cover for the book you are making.

Fill your book with needles and notions!

Embellished Needlebook: 1. First, fold the wool felt in approximate thirds. On the third that will become the cover, hand stitch desired embellishments. Similarly, fold one of the book pages in half, and using the front half, sew another embellishment on the bottom half of the page. Pick up only a few felt fibers while applying the embellishment so that the stitching does not show from the other side.

Embroidered Needlebook: 1. The embroidered needlebook cover is made in the same general fashion, but instead of embellishments, stitch the word "needles" on the cover. You could also personalize it with a name if you prefer! NOTE: The sample "needles" embroidery pattern is provided here.

2. On the front fold of one of the book pages, stitch an embroidery design of your choice. NOTE: The "spool and needle" embroidery pattern pictured on our sample can also be found on the above link with the "needles" pattern.

3. Using embroidery floss, sew the two pages together all of the way around with a buttonhole stitch. This step will conceal the back of the embroidery, and this version of the book will only have two pages, while the embellished version has four pages.

Assembly Instructions: 1. Place the folded cotton rectangle on the right side of the larger cotton rectangle at the right end. Baste (fig. 1). (In the embroidered version, the pocket is divided into two sections with a line of stitching.) 

Figure 1

2. Place the cotton rectangle (and the basted cotton pocket) on top of the batting rectangle; then place the large cotton rectangle face down on the wool felt rectangle. The pocket should be at the opposite end from the decorated wool felt front. Sew all of the way around, leaving a 2-inch opening for turning (fig. 2).

Figure 2

3. Turn the rectangles right side out. The batting will be enclosed between the layers. The cotton side is the inside, while the decorated wool felt will become the front of the book. The pocket should be on the right third inside of the book. Once the book is turned right sides out, close the 2-inch opening with hand stitching. 

4. Measure and mark the book in thirds (about 3 inches for each third). Place the felt needle pages 3 inches from the left side of the book. Machine stitch the pages from the top of the page to the bottom, backstitching at both ends. In the same way, machine stitch top to bottom about 3 inches from the right side (fig. 3). 

Figure 3

5. Fold needlebook together so that the front page shows when the book is opened. Fill with all your needles and notions!

For more sewing inspiration, check out our selection of e-books!

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

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

July Book Blog: Sew Serendipity Skirt Sew-Along - Part 2

Hello, everyone! Shannon here, and I'm back with Week 2 of our July Sew Serendipity Skirt Sew-Along. We are making the "Tailored Skirt" from Kay Whitt's book Sew Serendipity, so if you're just joining me, catch up by first reading last week's post.

This week, now that our supplies are gathered, we're following the layout/cutting and construction instructions on page 42, down through step 4. Generally, I highly recommend tracing off your pattern pieces onto tracing paper so your tissue remains uncut for future use - but in the interest of time (and because I'm making the largest size), I skipped that this time and just used the tissue.

I've got to say, I love that Sew Serendipity is a spiral-bound hardback, so it lays flat; and how convenient is the big pocket in the back for storing your tissue?

I am also loving how few pattern pieces this skirt takes. I like to use a temporary fabric spray adhesive instead of pins (such as Sulky KK2000) when tracing and/or cutting my fabric pattern pieces. I also really like to use a rotary cutter and straight edge anywhere there are long, straight edges on pattern pieces - and on this skirt, that was most of them! So, cutting went very quickly this time around - which is great news to me, because tedious cutting is my least favorite part of sewing.

Moving onto construction! After completing the waistband facing and preparation of folded contrast strips, I had a lot of fun with the pockets. The instructions tell you to do several lines of top- and edge-stitching along the top seam where the contrast hem is, and I chose a golden yellow thread to match the flower details in my main print. I am in love with how they look!

Contrast stitching also goes down along the vertical seamlines of the skirt. This is a time where I really appreciate having different machine feet to which I can turn. I have been using the sewing room at our office, where I like to use a Viking machine, and the feet easily pop in and out of a little grip. (In my home craft room, I have a Bernina - and the feet are equally as easy to snap in and out, using a little lever.) We contemporary sewers are so lucky for little conveniences like these! In these few steps along, I've been switching out between a regular foot, a 1/4-inch foot and a center guide blade foot. Of course, you can sew with a regular foot only - but being able to rely on these different feet reassures me that my sewing is more accurate than it would be otherwise. 


So, here I am with all of my skirt panels prepared and ready to be stitched together. This has been the most work-intensive of all weeks, and is where you should be at the end of construction step 4. Next week will be much lighter, as we continue with construction of the skirt, adding the zipper and and attaching the waistband facings (steps 5 and 6).

Are you sewing along with me? Be sure to share how your project is coming along in the comments! 

Happy Sewing,

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Tips & Tricks for Sewing with Lycra Knit

 Race Car design is TRN019 from Embroidery.com

Several years ago, I (Amelia) set out in search of a swimsuit for my son. I've never cared for the look of modern swimsuits for baby boys, so I had my eyes peeled for an old-fashioned, one-piece suit. I found a few online that I liked, but they were upwards of $50. I couldn't justify paying that much for something he'd wear one summer and probably snag the seat of during the first wearing! So, I decided to fashion my own vintage swimsuit for baby Ellis. I made one suit the first summer, then three more the next summer.

The biggest challenge in making these swimsuits was machine embroidering on Lycra knit without causing puckers. The key, as in all machine embroidery, is in the stabilizing process. Below, I've shared several general tips for working with, and machine embroidering on, the stretchy material. Full vintage boy's swimsuit construction details can be found on our website.

Sand Pail appliqué is SIG37018 from Cactus Punch

Working with Lycra:
• Wash and dry yardage before cutting out pattern. Lycra fabrics will shrink. Swimwear fabrics should be hand washed or machine washed in the gentle cycle in cool temperatures and hung to dry.

• Determine the stretch of the fabric and lay the fabric with the most stretch going around the body.

• Use very sharp pins to secure pattern and cut out with sharp scissors or special scissors with a serrated blade (reduces slipping).

• Use a 75/11 or 70/10 ball point needle.

• Sewing Machine: Stitch length needs to be a 2 to 2.5, width a slight zigzag of 1 to 1.5. If your machine has stretch setting options, choose medium stretch. Finish seams with a zigzag or a three- or four-thread serger with wooly nylon in both loopers. Double needle topstitching with a stretch stitch option lends a nice look around arm, neck and leg openings, but does limit the Lycra from stretching some in those areas.

• Serger: The best finish for hems around neck, arm and leg openings is a cover stitch option on a serger with good-quality polyester serger thread or wooly nylon.

Snoopy Surfing is design #8 from Peanuts® Summertime Fun Husqvarna Viking Multi Format CD-ROM

Embroidering on Lycra:
1. Determine where you want to place embroidery. On suits shown with single embroidery motif, design center was placed approximately 5-1/2 inches from traced neckline edge. On race car suit, top race car center was positioned 4 inches from traced neckline edge, and there are approximately 3-1/4 inches between race car centers. NOTE: If you have excess fabric, it's much easier to simply stitch out the motif on a larger rectangle, then worry about positioning the pattern over the embroidery afterward.

2. Securely hoop a piece of adhesive tear-away stabilizer. Score with a pin to expose sticky surface.

3. Cut two sheets of Solvy™ (or similar water soluble stabilizer) larger than the embroidery design. Spray right side of bathing suit fabric in area to be embroidered with temporary spray adhesive and attach a sheet of Solvy, lightly spray again and attach the second sheet.

4. Adhere bathing suit fabric with Solvy to hooped stabilizer. You should have a sandwich of two layers of Solvy, a layer of fabric, and a layer of hooped stabilizer. If you've traced the neckline off before this step, it is necessary to align fabric so that the embroidery center will stitch according to the placement suggested in step 1. If you are tracing off the pattern after the embroidery process, be sure to leave enough fabric around the embroidery to be able to position the pattern properly.

5. Take hoop to machine, which has been set up for chosen embroidery. Before beginning to embroider, choose the FIX function (if available) to baste an outline around the embroidery area. This will further keep the stretchy fabric from puckering during the embroidery process.

6. Stitch out design. NOTE: The bucket design is a machine embroidered appliqué. If chosen, you will need to use temporary spray adhesive to position and stitch contrasting appliqué fabric (red Lycra) into place. Once the outline stitch has been stitched, carefully trim around the shape and proceed with embroidery.

7. Remove adhesive stabilizer from back of design, using a pin to lift up edges of stabilizer and being careful not to snag fabric or distort stitches. Cut away excess Solvy from front, and soak embroidered fabric to remove remaining stabilizer. Trace or retrace pattern front onto embroidered fabric.

For more sewing tips and techniques, check out Martha Pullen TV, where those who love heirloom sewing, embroidery, smocking, quilting and all things beautiful will find plenty to learn and be inspired by. There are more than 350 sewing workshops and classic Martha's Sewing Room episodes to choose from, with new content going up regularly! 

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

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

July Book Blog: Sew Serendipity Skirt Sew-Along!

Hello, sewing friends! Shannon here, and welcome to our July book blog on Sew Serendipity: Fresh + Pretty Designs to Make and Wear by Kay Whitt. I have been wanting to make something from this book since it first came out, but it just hasn't happened yet; so, join me in a sew-along over the next few weeks as we make a Tailored Skirt (below)!

With the ease of all of Kay's patterns, this is a great project for beginners -  not to mention a perfect summertime skirt to spruce up your wardrobe for the last few hot months ahead. So gather a copy of Sew Serendipity and all of your materials, and let's get started.

Before we start, you'll definitely want to take your measurements (Kay provides great guidelines for this in the front matter of Sew Serendipity) so that you know what size to make. I also highly recommend pre-washing your fabrics. If you want, you can make a muslin to practice the techniques and adjust the fit to your liking - but I'll be skipping this step.

I have selected a couple coordinating fabrics from Anna Griffin's gorgeous Honoka line. I've been dying to use the lacy Japanese Blossom print, and this will be the perfect project to showcase it. For now, trace off your pattern pieces and cut everything out.

Next Tuesday, on July 16, we'll dig into construction by preparing the waistline facings, creating the pockets and stitching the skirt panels together (steps 1-4). On July 23, we will finish piecing the skirt body and add the zipper. Then on July 30, we'll wrap things up by finishing off the hem band.

I can't wait to get sewing with you. Please be sure to share your progress in the comments as we go along, and join me for the next three Tuesdays to see how my own skirt is coming together!

Shannon Miller
Senior Editor, Sew Beautiful

Monday, July 1, 2013

Looking for a sensational summer sewing project?

August/September 2013 edition
Our August/September 2013 edition just hit newsstands, and it is full of summer sewing inspiration! Inside, you'll find contemporary heirloom dresses from Oliver + S, tasteful warm-weather outfits from The Children's Corner and ideas for sewing matching dresses for little girls and their 18-inch dolls. Our casual cottons section focuses on sewing for summer in light, airy fabrics and playful cotton prints. And for fans of traditional heirloom, embellishment takes center stage in our special fine sewing section. We also have a feature on a beautiful Normandy lace pillow from Martha's Attic and an excerpt from our new book, Sewing for a Royal Baby. Read below for more about this new issue:

Smocked Peasant Top and Capri Pant (left) and No-Pattern T-Shirt Dress
Perfectly Pretty Smocked Peasant Top and Capri Pant: Our free pattern in this issue, as seen on the cover, is a two-piece smocked peasant top and Capri pant ensemble from designer Kathy Dykstra. Find the pattern on our pullout centerfold of this issue, and get your exclusive materials kit from the Martha Pullen store during the month of July.

No Pattern T-Shirt Dress: This adorable dress from designer Dawn Wilson was made using a simple knit T-shirt. The comfort of the knit top combined with a coordinate print creates an easy-wear option for occasions that call for something a bit dressier than play clothes.
Liberty Prints (left) and Pattern Adaptations for Boxed Pleats
Liberty Prints: Liberty of London prints are perennial favorites for anyone who sews for little girls. Connie Palmer used the jewel tone Mauvey design from Liberty in Classic Tana Lawn and tweaked our "Natalie" pattern, adding a 1-inch ruffle to the princess seams. Kits for this dress will be available from our store during the month of August.

Pattern Adaptations for Box Pleats: Something as simple as adding contrasting pleats to a classic pattern can result in a fresh, new look. Here, Janet Gilbert demonstrates how you can play with fabric coordinates and pattern drafting by adding contrasting pleats to our Sew Beautiful Collection pattern "Dainty Designs."

Royal Christening Gown (left) and Classic Shirt Construction Details
A Glimpse at Our Take on the Royal Christening Gown: Connie Palmer and Kathy Barnard show you how to apply a wide gathered netting ruffle to any round neckline in an excerpt from our newest heirloom sewing book, Sewing for a Royal Baby. 

Classic Shirt Construction Details: In sewing for her three boys, Michié Mooney learned quickly the importance of neatly turned collars and nicely stitched neckbands. Here, she shares tips to help you give your little guy's shirt a professional finish.

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