Saving the planet... one garment at a time!

... and one upcycle at a time... Welcome to my blog: A place to have an "over the fence conversation" about sewing, altered couture, upcycling, and all kinds of crafts using found objects, beads, ephemera and other vintage finds!


Monday, August 17, 2015

I've Got a Notion - Hand Sewing Needles

I love estate sales, yard sales and rummage sales (if you've ever read this blog before, you know this). One of the things I buy frequently at these sales is sewing baskets. Sadly, a sewist passes on, and her family has no earthly clue what to do with her things. Often, whole sewing baskets can be found in these sales, fully stocked with all sorts of great tools and notions, left just the way the owner left it.



I've acquired neatly organized baskets, and ones that look as though the grandkids just pawed through it looking for only they know what. All have their charms and treasures within. One of the things I come across most frequently and abundantly are hand sewing needles.

I will never have to purchase another hand sewing needle at a conventional modern sewing store. I have hundreds (maybe thousands) of these gems. Some will remain in their wrappers unused, and others will be used in my work. Some will be passed on to others via Etsy.


Hand sewing needles come in greater variety than the uninitiated would think. Each needle is crafted for a particular purpose. The most common is the “sharp”, used for general hand work, with a round eye, a sharp point and a medium length. Applique and crewel needles are used in embroidery and surface design. Tapestry needles are used for needlepoint and other canvas work. Betweens are hand quilting needles. Milliners needles and beading needles are very long and are usually used for decorative work. Darning needles are long with blunt points and used in fabric repair and reweaving.
And, of course there are specialty needles for upholstery and leather work.


Each needle type comes in a variety of sizes. The size is indicated by one or more numbers on the manufacturer's packaging. The general convention for sizing of needles, as with wire gauge, is that within any given class of needle the length and thickness of a needle increases as the size number decreases. When a package contains a needle count followed by two size numbers such as "20 Sharps 5/10" the second set of numbers correspond to the range of sizes of needle within the packet, in this case typically ten sharps needles of size 5 and ten of size 10 (for a total of 20 needles).

The packaging of needles is also fascinating, from ornate needle books, to advertising premiums. Some of the packages feature great artwork, which seems so grandiose when you consider that the contents are but humble sewing needles.   


I've been doing quite a lot of hand sewing lately for the Downton Dress.  Between that and my estate sale habit, I have developed a new appreciation for the hand sewing needle!


Thursday, August 6, 2015

Sewing Project Journal - Free

For some time now I've been thinking that I should be doing a better job of record keeping when it comes to my sewing projects.  I blog about almost all of them, but what about the details that don't get shared?

I went in search of Sewing Journals online, and there are several really nice ones.  For instance, here at Escapades in Sewing, or here at Sew Mama Sew.  Like anything else, we all like to personalize or tweak, so I made my own to suit my own style.  I'm sharing, but I fully realize this may not work for you.  Maybe one of the others works better, or maybe you want to make your own, too!

Here's an example of how mine looks when completed for a project, using my last project, the Alice Tank Top.



If you'd like a blank copy for use with your projects, the PDF can be obtained here!  Happy sewing, and happy documenting!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Pattern Review: Alice Tunic from the Magic Pattern Book

The Magic Pattern Book by Amy Barickman (Workman Press, 2014, list price $22.95) is one of those great sewing books with endless possibilities for your creativity.  I've had the book for some time, but have not had the time to try any of the patterns.  The premise behind this book is that from variations on six basic patterns, one could make an entire wardrobe.


I decided to first try the Alice Tank Top or tunic.  The pattern is very cute and fits with my current Lagenlook style.  It is pictured in the book styled with leggings, cowboy boots (not my thing, but ok if you like them) and a long thin infinity loop and dangle earrings.  Cute!


Patterns are included on an accompanying CD.  The same issue exists here as with any PDF pattern which prints in tiles and must be taped together.  Care must be taken to align the papers precisely so as not to create and then propagate problems with sewing and fitting the pattern.  The pattern went together "ok".  There were a few spots where it did not match up perfectly and had to be muscled a little bit.  Not the end of the world.

After some initial fiddling with the pattern, all troubles ceased.  The pattern went together like a dream, and was not at all difficult to sew.  I opted to have the neck and armhole facings appear on the outside of the garment as a trim, and I used a solid fabric for the bodice potion of the top.  I carefully saved the pattern pieces, so I can duplicate this top again.


I really love the way the top came out, and I'm sure I'll wear it frequently.  The black linen bodice was cut from fabric I had leftover in my stash from another project.  The floral print on the bottom, and used for the facings as well, came from Fabric.com and was on sale.  Here is Betsy, wearing my new Alice Tank Top.  Oh, by the way, this is a pull on top, as people have asked about closures in the past, wondering if those were just not shown.  No closures here!


Stay tuned for more on the Downton Dress, and my Home Dec project, as well as more random sewing shenanigans when I need a break from the serious stuff!


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

That Downton Dress - III

I continue to work on the Downton Dress.  All the hems have been very time consuming, but they continue to progress, and the results are very satisfying! Now I'm beginning to think about the embellishments.  The front of the dress has a draped belt and it needs clasps.  The woman I'm making the dress for bought gorgeous 1920's clasps on Etsy.  These are the real deal, and look as thought they were made for this dress!


Evening dresses in the era were often beaded and embellished.  The print on this dress is quite ornamental itself, but I purchased some other embellishments which will match nicely with the clasps.


One thing I'd like to do is put a single rhinestone on each point of the handkerchief hem, along with three bugle beads.  The larger piece will be on the back of the dress to stabilize the v-back.


This is a fun project, and one that I hope will yield stunning results!  Thanks for checking in!






p.s.  Any thoughts on the new logo?



Tuesday, July 7, 2015

That Downton Dress-II

One challenge with a vintage pattern is a scarcity of directions - even when the pattern is a repro, Much was assumed about the skill of the seamstress.  This dress has many handkerchief leaves in its hem, with no direction as to how to finish them.  A couture dress is distinguished by the hand sewing that goes into its production, so I decided hand rolled hems would be the most appropriate for this gown.  This is a painstaking process, but very rewarding in the end.

First, the raw edge is folded over and held in place with a tiny running stitch.  Then, a running zigzag is made, taking only a few threads into each stitch.


Here's another look in case my big thumb was obscuring your view.


After you've made a half dozen or so of these stitches, gently pull on the thread and it magically rolls into a beautiful rolled hem, which looks like this from the wrong side:


And, like this from the outside of the garment:


I'm super happy with the look of this, but there are a lot of them to do! Hope your week's sewing is going well!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Tunic with Embedded Recycle

As part of my stash and UFO busting crusade, I came across a cotton T Tunic I had cut, probably years ago.  In case you were not aware, a T Tunic is a tunic cut using a shirt from your wardrobe as a pattern.


In this instance I wanted to incorporate an antique pillowcase that had a few holes in it.  I love clothing made from antique linens, and the white of the pillowcase and the dainty embroidery contrasted nicely with the blue check.


I cut off the body of the tunic, turned it sideways and stitched a center back seam.  Then I added in the area of the pillowcase I wanted to use.  I gathered the new body of the tunic and attached it to the kimono arms.  Here is the resulting tunic.


I've already worn it, and it's light and airy and comfortable for summer, but could carry into fall with a long sleeved top underneath. This was a quick project to do, allowing me to wind down from more intense painstaking work on the Downton Dress.  Thanks for looking!

Monday, June 29, 2015

That Downton Dress

The Downton, or twenties dress I am making for my friend progresses along.  I finally figured out how to cut it without having odd seams everywhere.  Here is a shot of the lovely fabric.


The drape on this is incredible.  It will be like wearing a silk scarf.  Of course to cut it, I had to rip out the fitting muslin I had made.  Here are some shots of the cutting table in progress.



The first step post cutting was to apply some wash away stabilizer at some detail points on the main front piece.  I used this for the shoulder pleats, the torso pleats and the front slash points.




I can't wait to see the finished garment on my friend.  This dress will complement her striking coloring.  BUT, this will take a bit of time.  I want it to be beautifully constructed as well.  Anyone have some tips for working with lightweight, drapey fabrics?  The stabilizer is certainly one great help.  Please feel free to share!