Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cutting out the Lace

Okay, the time has come to cut the lace. I need to take a deep breath, relax and make the first cut. Hmmmmm, maybe a glass of wine would help. No, No, can't do that - probably make it worse! The lace I'm using is Alencon lace from France. I have no idea how it's made although I was told the loom for this can only make 5 yards at a time. It does run quite wide - 72" wide so you're getting 2 yards for the price of one, but it is $275. a yard (or 2 yards) so guess I have cause to be nervous. This is one beautiful piece of fabric.
There are borders that run along both sides of the lace. First step is to remove the borders and put aside for later use - that's the easy part. The little threads along the bottom are called "whiskers". Some people want to remove them but it is a signature of Alencon lace and cutting them off weakens the lace. I really like them.

Oops - a furry intruder, Molly is our youngest cat and still very kitten-like. She wants to be in the middle of everything. I'm always feeling that cats think everything we do is for their benefit, or happiness, or pleasure. I'm sure she thought I set this up as a hideout for her - she loves the crinkle sound of the pattern.
I've used a lot of "post-it-notes"; they make this part so much easier. Every piece is marked with a note, several notes, actually. Once the pattern is removed and the piece marked with thread, it's hard to know which is the side seam and other areas I need to identify - can't have too many markings.
As I cut out the pieces, I allow a lot on the side seams for an "over-underlapping" technique to avoid the appearance of seams in the lace. The first time I saw this on the gown my daughter tried on, I lost sleep over it, I couldn't imagine how this was done. After reading and talking to my friend who makes wedding gowns, it makes sense - will explain later on.
Stay tuned for the next step - marking the seams and the overlapping. Thanks for joining me on this journey - it's fun to share and also to vent.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Retreat Quilt Revisited

I started a quilt at my PTA retreat a couple of weeks ago - a piecer I am not, but I'm actually having a lot of fun with this piece. I've been working hard on my daughter's wedding gown but every now and then I need a break from "white". I love the fabrics in the wedding gown, they are luscious, but I miss working with color more than I would've imagined. So now and then, I return to this piece. The fun is working with the color - moving from dark to light to dark. I also always seem to turn to the muted or grayed colors. I'm loving the pinky browns
to the very lights on top.
Bottom left corner - it was a struggle getting points to match.

I make use of all kinds of fabric when making a quilt. I'm influenced by color and texture, not necessarily fiber content. This next piece of fabric was a damask tablecloth in a former life. I love to hunt for these at flea markets; they dye beautifully and have the most interesting texture with the "tone on tone". I dyed it black but didn't use the "double recipe" the book calls for. I like it lighter to show some of the pretty texture configurations. Can you see the wonderful texture from the "tone on tone"?
This is some marbled silk from my stash which works well color wise
and some very finely woven wool gabardine
and silk charmeuse.
Some fabrics are hard to control such as the silks, so I iron a piece a fusible knitted interfacing on the back to give it extra body and make it more manageable.
I'm not really a purist when it comes to fabrics and quilts; my art quilts are never washed so I don't hesitate to use whatever works.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Selvages, Seams and Pretty Things

I worked on my daughter's gown today. Sewing the seams on the charmeuse shell went smoothly. In those areas where the skirt flared, the seam was total bias and could stretch out over time. I thought to use the cut off selvage edges to sew into the seams as a stabilizer. The selvage is the tightest part of the fabric with no flexibility; it makes the perfect "stay" for anywhere you need stability.
I used a large stitch, not quite basting but larger than a normal stitch length.
I now have a whole mess of selvage strips in organza, China and charmeuse. All the leftovers will go to my friend Nancy who dyes everything in sight that is white. I'm anxious to see what she does with these (no pressure, Nancy)!
I took a break yesterday from "the gown" to go to the first meeting and (planning session) of the year for Fiber Junkies - a small and very talented group of fiber artists. It's going to be an exciting year with lots to look forward to. While there,  Patsy Thompson gave each of us these wonderful pincushions she made with bamboo and rayon felt on one side, synthetic and cotton (second layer) on other side with lots of beautiful machine quilting and for texture - some burned out areas.
I love mine; I have it next to my sewing machine where it can be used and admired. All my favorite things find a place in my studio, the room I spend the most time in. Thanks Patsy.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Fabric Hanging System

It was raining all day today, we even had tornado warnings for a while. But it was nice to cozy up in my studio with some hot tea, a movie and the gown! I finished basting the different pieces of the gown fabric and organza together and was trying to figure out how to hang them. They needed to be protected and free from wrinkling. A while back I came up with this system for hanging and storing the scarves I make for the Southern Highland Craft Guild Fair.It's a nice system as it keeps the fabric from getting a crease at the point where it flips over the hanger wire.I recycle a heavy cardboard tube - ones from wrapping paper are too light weight. This tube is from a roll of fabric. Often a chain fabric store will part with one; they're plentiful in the drapery fabric department.
The tube itself is very thick and sturdy. I use a razor blade - DO THIS WITH THE UTMOST OF CAUTION, or use a carton cutter if you have one. It has a little more protection when holding it. After cutting the length I need (which is the length of the hanger bottom minus 1"), I slice through the length of the cardboard so I can "open" up the tube and slip it onto the hanger bottom. I then cover the tube with batting and secure it in place with a piece of tape at the ends and middle.
The great thing about this hanging system is that the fabric sticks to it, like it would to a flannel board. And because it's tubular, there's no crease in the fabric where it would normally bend over the wire.
Pretty cool - I have about 5 of these hangers; they work beautifully with scarves and now for the wedding gown panels.

Friday, January 22, 2010

My Grandmothers Thimble

I am making headway - slowly, on the wedding gown. I've had some great resources including books a friend lent me. I've read, and read, and read some more. One thing they recommend is to underline the dress with silk organza:i  it gives it more body. Luckily I always have silk in the house and ALWAYS silk organza - it's so great for printing, so there was plenty to be had. They also recommend hand basting the organza to each piece. It's an important step to do by hand as silk slips easily.  How long is this going to take!  Okay, so pin first - each piece has been pinned. with lots of pins!

And now for the basting; I've always liked hand sewing so this is kind of a fun "no brainer". I've also always made small basting stitches so it's slow going.
I've always used a thimble, from my very early years of sewing; it's never been never awkward for me. I have lots of thimbles but there's only one I reach for - My grandmothers (she was always "nana"). My nana has been out of my life for a long time but I remember when she lived next door and was a big part of my life. She was a feisty woman; she believed a woman could do anything. She never called a repair man or handy man. I remember seeing her on a ladder painting the outside of the house, fixing small appliances, doing all sorts of things considered "untouchable" by women back then. But best of all, she could sew - Wow, could she ever! She had a certain thimble she used; it was so beautiful, sterling silver with engraved designs covering parts of it. I used to visit her sewing box to look at it and try it on. At some point, when she was quite old, she pulled out the box and gave it to me. Of all the things she had - this I cherished the most.
I love it, don't know if it's because it connects me to my grandmother or just because it's a great thimble. Either way, I use it all the time, it just feels right. I don't often reflect on where it came from, but using it now brought back the memories.A thimble given to me 30+ years ago,  I'm now using to make Jill's gown. And did I mention that my daughter is getting married on my Nana's (her great-grandmothers) birthday. How special is that - it's a coincidence, a big one, and a good one - one that gives me the "goosebumps"! I know some things go full circle;  who woulda thought - a thimble!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wedding Gown Getting Started pt.1

I mentioned a while back that my daughter Jill is getting married this coming May and I'm making her Wedding gown - a huge and exciting undertaking. I made my own gown many years ago so I've done it before but am a bit out of practice. Many of the features on this gown are new techniques for me; it will be quite a learning experience. The main fabrics will be charmeuse in "natural" and Alencon lace. I'm using a 30mm weight charmeuse which has a lot of body and a beautiful drape for the underneath - that's already here and ready to go. The lace I still have to buy and am trying to figure out how much I'll need. The gown is all lace and it's very expensive so I don't want to buy more than I need but, it also runs 72" wide with borders on each side going the lengthwise of the lace. So here's how I figured it - a bit makeshift but it worked. I pushed everything back in my studio and using blue painters tape, made lines on the floor with strips being 0", 36" and the last one 72". From the strip on the left to the one on the right is 72" - the width of the lace.
I also marked off yardage on the strips as you can see below.
I then laid the pattern pieces down, allowing for a flip of each one as all called for "cut 2" of each piece.
It really helped to see it laid out like this. According to my calculations (nervous, nail biting time) I think I figured righ and I'm off to buy it tomorrow at House of Fabrics. There is a professional seamstress on board who makes wedding gowns. I look forward to her input.
I also made a muslin some time back, tweaked it and tweaked it again and then made adjustments on the pattern.
It's nice to be able to mark it up with a Sharpie marker.
So here is the layout of the charmeuse and the organza.
I was talking to my friend Nancy today and was saying "I can't imagine that I can't do this" and she jumped in and said Judy, don't say that.  You've got to say "I know I can, I know I can". So.... Thanks to all of you for joining me on this journey - I know it will be a good one (and I also know I can)!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Lake Logan Retreat Projects

At our recent retreat and in between all the talking, laughing, aerobics, eating and sharing, we actually managed to get some work done. We all brought design walls so it was great fun to see a room full of creativity, color and beautiful "starts". Georgia started this wonderful floating blocks quilt. It's almost ready to be quilted!
Some really great prints

Mary was working on this quilt for her son and daughter-in-law - lucky couple! I love touches of red here and there.
Barbara did several projects, one was a baby quilt top made with simple printed blocks and pastel fabrics. It was simple and so sweet.

Janice and Leigh Ann both were working on this intricate pieced design. Depending on how you place the equilateral triangle will give you different effects. It was fun to see all the possibilities.
Barbara, again was also working on this wonderful red and white pieced quilt. Barbara is a master'll agree when you see the last picture in this post!
This is Leigh Anns equilateral triangle quilt. Different fabrics give it such a different look.
And mine - the "non-piecer" decided to try one. I really had a lot of fun and it's now hanging on my design wall - will see where it goes.
Okay, so here is more of Barbara's mastery. She had made this a while back. It was hanging on one of the design walls and for hours, really hours, I walked by it and thought - that's some neat brick fabric. Someone chimed in and said "isn't that amazing, it's all pieced" No Way, I thought - so I had to examine it up close and personal. And yes, it was pieced - the Amazing Barbara!

So there you have it, I can't believe it's come and gone. Only 358 more days until our next retreat - but who's counting!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Lake Logan PTA Retreat

I just returned from a very magical 3 days with my PTA fiber group - our second annual retreat...and we thought we couldn't top last years, but we did! Our retreat is held at Lake Logan in Waynesville, NC. We have a large community room for sewing, and many other things such as
A table with books and magazines we bring to shareincluding the "Diary" which Mary B has made and keeps for us - just us - all our adventures, parties, trips, quilts - How special is that!Sometimes there's an unexpected present like this wonderful vintage apron which Connie is modeling. She collects them and wears them - June Cleaver anyone? It's embellished with old linens on the top and pocket, what a treasure.And what a surprise - everyone received an antique hankie and card from Mary B. My card said "Lets share outrageous stories and eat impossibly delicious cake, invite someone dangerous to tea" you know anyone dangerous? I don't think I do, although it might be exciting.Sometimes we take a break to dance or do aerobics, lead by our amazing instructor - Miss Georgia!We rent a big house equipped with a fireplace.Our Happy Hour includes lots of wine for sipping.
And our own Mary S who opens and tests each bottle for us - can't be too careful.
The house is a great place to relax, just sit and put your feet up.
And back at the community room, the sharing of quilts is inspiring.
This one by Gen Grundy has such beautiful quilting.

And Georgia's - part of a barn series she's doing.
The detail shows the photos of barns incorporated into the quilt - a nice way to use photos.
And I love this one, another in the barn series - love the perspective.
Stay tuned for more quilts and quilt projects.