August 18, 2017

As Ye Sew, Sew Shall Ye Rip

Keep your sewing machine close, and your seam ripper closer!

(Image source: Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores, Pinterest)

When I saw that today's CoBloWriMo (Costume Blog Writing Month) Fave Friday challenge was a favorite tool, the first, must-have item that came to mind was my blue-handled seam ripper.  Though I won't admit to enjoying having to take out that seam once again, I certainly appreciate this little sewing tool.  Oh seam ripper, where would I be without you, especially at midnight? 

Prompt 18 - Fave Friday: Favorite Tool

If you're like me and find yourself often sewing past bedtime, or want garments with sleeves, or just make a lot of mistakes, you may find yourself having to rip out that lovely seam you just stitched.  Rather than struggling with a bulky pair of scissors, reach for the seam ripper!

Over and over and over again...
(Image source: Pinterest)

What exactly is a seam ripper, you might ask?  It's a wonderful, handy-dandy little tool that helps remove stitches in half the time and effort of any pair of embroidery scissors, craft knives or other thread snippers.  Its curved blade slices through thread (and skin so be careful!) like a hot knife through butter, and looks something like this: 

(Image source: Make Something, Dritz)

How do you use a seam ripper?  Simply slip the blade under the thread you wish to remove, ripping out every few stitches as needed along the seam.  You can remove a seam stitch by stitch, or run the blade along a row to remove a seam quickly.  Make sure to rip only the unwanted seam and not the fabric too!

Sometimes I wonder when I'm ripping out that seam for the dozenth time...
(Image source: U-Create)

Where can you find one of your own?  Any sewing supply or craft store!  For as little as a dollar or two, especially at Jo-Anns with a coupon, you too can re-live your seams from the past.  The blue handled "Dritz Deluxe Seam Ripper" that I usually use is on sale right now for $2.39, regularly priced at $3.99.  Buy one or several today!  

So, in conclusion, just remember as you reach for that seam ripper, again...sighs:

(Image Source: Quilt Quotes The Sequel)

August 16, 2017

Something Old, Something New - and Something Green!

May your troubles be less, your blessings be more,
And nothing but happiness come through your door!

Champagne satin, sage green silk & ivory pearls.

Last October, one of my dearest, best friend and beautiful bride, Ariana, married her life-long friend and loving husband, Caleb.  It was a great honor and privilege to share in their happy occasion as a bridesmaid and wish them and their family all the best.

With her permission, today I am finally blogging about one of my favorite memories from the year for the CoBloWriMo (Costume Blog Writing Month).  Combining challenge number 7 - made for someone else with number 16 - a small project, these prompts provide the perfect opportunity to share the hand-beaded bridal veil and rosettes for the bridal party, respectively, that I made as the wedding gift.

Prompt 7 - Made for Someone Else

In this case, the "someone else" was my friend and colleague, Ariana, fondly nicknamed the "museum twin."  When news of the engagement first came out, I could not have been more excited for the couple.  It's a running joke among costumers that unemployed designers go into bridal couture, but never did I actually image I'd be making my first foray into bridal attire, and doing so for such a near and dear friend could not have been a greater privilege.

A hand beaded bridal veil of ivory tulle and glass pearls.

When we first discussed the project, Ariana asked for a fingertip length veil with a beaded edge.  After finding the perfect shade of ivory tulle and dozens of matching 4mm glass pearls, I set out on what would be a 40 hour project, thinking of Ariana and Caleb with each stitch.  

Construction:  This project had a bit of learning curve.  I didn't have much experience with tulle, beyond a few past theatrical projects, at the time, but enjoyed the challenge of rolling a hem so small.  After taking her measurements, I drafted and cut a shape that resembled a rounded semicircle.  To create the "pencil edge," I rolled the tulle with a vintage, size 20, single-strand floss from France, and added a glass pearl every inch or so. 

I was amazed at how tiny I could get the edge to be as I wanted it to appear as though the pearls were floating. 

Once the beading was done, I gathered the veil at the top and stitched it to the comb.  Then, using 1/8" satin ribbon, I bound the top and a ribbon loop for hanging.  It took me all three seasons of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries on Netflix to complete the veil.  

The result ended up being more of a waltz or ballet length veil as I added a little too much length in the pattern drafting and cutting.  She, however, was very gracious about it and was an absolutely gorgeous fall bride in her "champagne colored satin underdress with an ivory net overlay embroidered with antique silver floral vines."  The dress was edgy, elegant, and very much Ariana.  In fact, it reminded me of an Edwardian evening gown with its stunning cut and swooping train.  

Completed Project Shots: 

And one on the bride, again with her permission, courtesy of Facebook

Exchanging their vows.

Bonus:  Since the prompt is "made for someone else," I'd also like to include a few pictures from the Edwardian inspired bridal shower we (Sarah, twin sister of bride and matron of honor, and bridesmaids Allison, Rebecca, sister of the bridegroom, and I) threw for Ariana.

Set for high tea with homemade rhubarb and peach maids of honor
and Earl Grey shortbread cookies with lemon glaze.

One of my favorite details was the ice cubes with edible flowers!
We used both ice cube trays and a mini cupcake pan to freeze these.

Antiques, candles and soft lights set the ambiance.

For that autumn touch, mini apple crisps made the perfect party favors!

Prompt 16 - Small Project

For the second part of this post, I have a mini-tutorial for the bridesmaids' rosettes, which were also made as part of my wedding gift for the couple.  In addition to matching shoes, Ariana was looking for a way to unify the wedding party and tie in her sage green color scheme.  The result ended up being four, hand stitched rosettes made to match the groomsmen's ties, as well as a special, surprise one for the bride with the swatch from her dress and veil tulle.  The centers were finished with the same ivory pearls as her veil.

From Tie to Rosette Tutorial

Step One:  Starting with a standard tie, carefully unstitch and press the fabric flat.

Step Two:  From the tie's fabric, cut a 1.75" by 26.5" rectangle for the outer piece, and a 2.25" by 5.5" piece for the inner piece.  Each tie should yield two finished rosettes.  Also cut a circle with a 1.5" diameter for the backing.  I recommend choosing a sturdy fabric like craft felt.

Step Three:  Gather the longer, outer rectangle by machine or hand, and gather as tightly as possible.  Knot the threads to secure the gathers.

Step Four:  This is the fussy part.  Arrange the gathers in a pleasing way, pining them in place with the raw edges folded under.  Hand tack the gathers in place with a row of small running stitches.

Step Five:  Stitch the outer piece from step four to the felt backing.

Step Six:  To prepare the smaller, inner piece, run a row of running stitches down the center.  Gather the fabric as tightly as possible, wrapping the threads around several times to secure this piece in the shape of a bow.

Step Seven:  Stitch the inner piece from step six to the center of the felt backing.

Step Eight:  Hand tack both layers of fabric to achieve the desired look.  Ever the perfectionist, this is probably where I spent most of my time!

Step Nine:  Embellish.  I chose to bead the centers of the rosettes with some of the left over pearls from the veil.

Step Ten:  Add a pin to the back of the felt square to create a brooch if desired.  The rosette would also look nice attached to a belt or headpiece.  Now it's ready to wear!

These steps, of course, can be modified in any number of ways to achieve your desired design.  For instance, my bridal rosette featured three layers - one from the sage silk tie, another from the champagne satin dress, and then the ivory tulle veil.  Each rosette took me two hours to construct.

Completed Project Shots:

A bouquet of silk rosettes.

August 13, 2017

Live Love Lawn

Time to play catch up on the CoBloWriMo (Costume Blog Writing Month) challenges with a three-in-one entry!  Dedicated to my favorite fabric from day 11, which is all things cotton lawn, this post also covers a garment from day 12, and day 13 with a pro tip for working with such fine fabric.  

Live & love cotton LAWN!

Prompt 11 - Fave Friday: Favorite Fabric

In case you haven't already guessed from the the title or introduction above, my favorite fabric is cotton lawn!  (Silk, oh yummy silk, is definitely up there too!)

Ruffles, ruffles and more ruffles!

What is cotton lawn?  According to the online Textile Glossary, lawn is a "light, fine cloth made using carded or combed linen or cotton yarns in a plain weave...It is light weight, sheer, soft, and washable.  It is crispier than voile but not as crisp as organdy."  Cotton lawn is breathable, easy to whip-roll-gather and hem, and makes the best ruffles out there - what's not to love about lawn?!

Where do you find cotton lawn?  Lawn comes in a variety of colors and prints, but I prefer just plain, white cotton lawn for my historical projects.  My go-to source is usually Dharma Trading Co., which offers both a high quality white cotton lawn and a beautiful combed cotton lawn.  I have also ordered lawn from Fashion Fabric Club in several colors.

Five yards of combed cotton lawn from Dharma Trading Co.

When do you use cotton lawn?  From undergarments to accessories, shirtwaists to dresses, lawn can be used for a variety of historical and modern sewing projects.  I have made many a caps and chemisettes from the fine fabric, but can also see all sorts of embroidered kerchiefs, collars and cuffs.

Cap & chemisette of cotton lawn.

Double ruffle cap of cotton lawn, and ties of silk.

Double ruffle chemisette also constructed from cotton lawn.

Other recommended uses include for light undergarments like chemises, corset covers and ruffles on petticoats, Regency to Bustle and Edwardian dresses, and even as breathable linings under summer garments.  As for more modern uses, lawn is the perfect fabric for christening gowns, summery blouses and flowing dresses.

Cotton lawn dress & single ruffle chemisette. 

Prompt 12 - Garment

Now that you know all about cotton lawn, where to find it and how to use it, here's an extant garment constructed of cotton lawn that I documented from the Point Park University Costume Collection.

19th Century Cap of Cotton Lawn
Point Park University Costume Collection

Based on the cut and style, I thought that this beautiful cap may have been from the 1820s-1840s (experts, please feel free chime in here!).  Constructed in three major pieces - the band with four rows of white work, caul, and narrow flounce - the 1/16" piping detail, separating the band and caul, adds stability to the seam and visual interest.  

The spotlight shines, however, on the four rows of white work carefully applied between rows of pulled thread work on the main body of the cap.  A half inch wide flounce of vandyke trim applied around the outer edges completes the look and is attached with a 1/16" rolled seam.  

 A close up shot of some of the beautiful details,
including white work embroidery and pulled thread work.

The 3/8" hem on the back of the caul and bottom edges of the band form a casing for a drawstring.  The width of the caul is gathered down to 4.5" where the tag from the original collection the cap was from reads "14323-92."  Like many of the pieces in the Point Park Collection, this cap was a deaccessioned collection piece donated to the university.  

The original tag and identification number.
Like many other garments in the Point Park Collection,
this cap was a deaccessioned piece donated to the university.   

Inside views reveal that hand gathers, rather than whipped rolled hems, concentrate the fullness of the caul at the back and attach it to the band.


Length of outer edge - 18.5"
Length of bottom edge - 5.25"
Width, including trim - 4.5"
Width, not including trim - 4"

Length at center back from top to bottom - 11"
Width at bottom is gathered to 4.5"

The cap measures 8" across when flat.

Prompt 13 - Pro Tip

The third and final portion of the post covers how to work with cotton lawn.  Like any other type of cotton, before cutting and stitching, make sure to pre-wash the length in warm or cold water, followed by machine or air drying.  Expect some shrinkage.  Press while slightly damp with a hot iron and steam to release wrinkles and creases. 

When it comes to cutting, since it is cotton, lawn can be ripped on the grain.  However, be careful of snagged threads because of its fine nature.  For the same reason, make sure to use small pins and needles, and, consider hand stitching for best, pucker-free results.  

Find that it is a little too soft and slippery to work with, or having trouble with the lighter weight?  Here's where the pro tip comes in!  (A.K.A. my secret to narrow rolled hems and whipped rolled gathers for all of those ruffly caps.)

Apply a light misting of spray starch to the lawn before cutting.  This stiffens the fabric just enough to make it easy to work with, without compromising the wonderful qualities and reasons you chose lawn in the first place.

Pro Tip: Conquer those slippery and unruly sheers with spray starch!

A little starch goes a long way to stabilize a light weight fabric when cutting. 

I like to cover my ironing board with a layer of muslin (or in this case, a pillow case) to protect the cover from the starch.  After misting, give the starch a minute or two to soak in, then iron to activate the starch.

Make sure to protect your ironing board cover.

Which would you rather work with?
Starched fabric on the left, without starch on the right.

Now you're ready to rock and roll those hems and whipped rolled gathers!