Thursday, May 24, 2012


Oh no ... UFOs.  They are everywhere.

Nope, not unidentified flying objects.  To the person who lives in threads, that acronym stands for Un-Finished Objects.  And they truly are everywhere!

UFO #1 ... featured in an earlier post, this is a cross stitch project that has been going on for more years than I care to figure out.  But if you compare this to the previous picture, you will see progress!

That is because I have a goal.  Yes, a goal.  They are good things to have, especially with our crafts.  My goal is to have this project completed by mid-June.  At that point, I hope to learn how to stretch and frame the linen canvas on my own.  A friend of mine has promised that it is not too hard a task to DIY.  I'll let y'all know how it goes.

UFO #2 ... my daughter's skirt.  Thankfully, almost 100% of her growth is behind her, but still, it needs to be finished.  This has been languishing for probably close to 18 months.

I love this fabric, and so does she.  The skirt is a series of 2.5 inch strips of two contrasting fabrics serged together.  Following the pattern author's advice (I need to find the pattern to give her the proper credit!), I used a serger so each of the 54 strips could be joined together with just one pass at the machine each.  That is the real beauty of sergers!  Seam and finish the seam in just one pass.

The skirt is currently pinned for the pressing of the boxed pleats.  I need to topstitch the top of the pleats; then finish with facing and shirring with elastic to shape the waist.

The completion goal is end of July.

UFO #3 ... Arts and Crafts inspired quilt for the bedroom.  Renowned quilt expert and fabric designer, Barbara Brackman, has developed a line of William Morris reproduction fabric that is stunning.  I'm totally besotted with anything Arts and Crafts.  I'm doing what I can to turn my 1979 random ranch-style Dallas area suburban house into something that resembles a bungalow.  At least, on the inside.

The completion goal ... yeah right.  It's a quilt.  It will be completed when it's completed.  I'm embarrassed to admit how many quilts I've yet to complete.  The tops are done, just the quilting is left to do.  *hides under paper bag*

Friday, May 18, 2012

Bobbin Lace Take One

No, that is not a piece of bacon on my 100% silk duvet!  This is my first attempt at bobbin lace making.  After several false starts, and a couple of mistakes that still ended up in the finished product, I was pleased to finally unpin my first sampler...even though the author of the book suggested leaving the finished piece pinned on its pillow for 24 hours.  But she understands how a beginner thinks and gave permission not to wait.

I know, I know, it's not much to look at but all the same, I am quite pleased with it.  After all, it is my very first piece and I'm sure the makers of those gorgeous pieces that have managed to survive for several hundred years worked tirelessly for years before their masterpieces were made.

Did I enjoy the process?  Oh, yeah!  Tedious as it seems, and it is, there's something about watching a thing take shape before ones eyes, shaped by ones hands, that gives a very satisfying experience.  I've already learned a lot by simply working with WS (whole stitch, sometimes called "cloth stitch") and some twists.  For one thing, a suitable table is needed.  Working at the dining room table was not back-friendly.  I think the dining table is too high.  But the ottoman was too low.  I'm wondering if rigging the pillow to one of those floor embroidery stands might do the trick?

Here's a close up of the first variation of practice ... the vertical twist.  You can see I missed a twist on my yellow thread path!

Working the Sampler, I understood why the author suggested the beginner to use a different color of thread for each bobbin pair.  It's much easier to keep track of threads and they can get mixed up when pushing them out of the way of the next pair to work.  The bobbins included in the starter kit are not "spangled" and have no holes for spangling.  Spangles are  beaded rings at the bottom of bobbins and each pair has identical spangles, but no two pairs have the same spangling.  When making lace using the same color thread for all paths, you need something to know which threads are paired.  I'm thinking of different ways to "spangle" my bobbins without drilling holes at the bottom.  I wonder if the ink of Sharpies is permanent on wood?

Here's what a horizontal twist looks like.  The Sampler called for incremental increase, then decrease, in the number of twists.  All twists were to be worked right over left and it can get a bit confusing, especially when the working pair was in my left hand.  Needless to say, I had to unwind and unweave on more than one occasion.

Keeping the right amount of tension is important, just like any fiber art, and it's definitely something that is going to take a lot more practice to master.  At least my years of crochet and macrame have driven home the concept, I just need to find my groove for tension when making lace.

Bobbin Lace Sampler #2 ... here I come!  That is, if I'm keep myself from being distracted by the pretty yarns I've just purchased and are screaming my name.

Have a lovely weekend, folks!  I'll be on the back of a horse tomorrow afternoon for my first official "lesson" in horseback riding.  It'll be far from my first time on a horse, but I decided that, at my age, I really should get some proper lessons in how to handle those amazing creatures.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

New Threads!

I was quite busy over the weekend; a nice upbuilding sort of busy. But whilst away for the greater part of both days, look at what arrived at my front door!

I love getting packages and this one has been greatly anticipated. I figured it would come when I had no time to open and explore, but patience comes with age and I do have some age on me now.

So, second thing Monday morning ... first thing is coffee and the wake-up rituals which include watching the morning news, catching up on Facebook, and various other things ... I got ready to dive into a whole new way of looking at threads.

After running to get a trusty knife from the kitchen, I quickly sliced through the packing tape and pulled back the flaps.  The heart skipped a couple of beats.  Goodies!  Colorful goodies!!

Pretty threads, pretty wooden bobbins, pretty book,  even the pins looked pretty.  Can't say as much for the more utilitarian items such as contact and construction paper, but the real jewel is that book you see under the bobbins.  I almost broke open the package over the weekend just to take a good look at the book, but I kept my cool and patience.  Besides, I knew if I started to look into the book, I would want to start into  the actual doing of what the book is all about and I simply had no time over the weekend.  Monday would come soon enough.  It always does!

Here are all the goodies.  I ordered a starter kit from Van Sciver Bobbin Lace and opted to get a few extra colors of Lizbeth Cordonnet 80 cotton thread to have a total of 9 colors.  In the beginning samplers, the author of the book uses 9 colors so the absolute beginner can keep track of her thread paths.

Winding the 18 bobbins (two for each color) took the better part of my Monday.  I was surprised at the time it took.  I had no idea how much thread I would need, so I probably winded way too much, and maybe even winded them wrong (!) but that is part of the learning curve.  And the author of the book said it was better to have too much than not enough.  So far I have avoided going over to the section on adding thread in the middle of a project ... can't overload this aging brain.  And I think I will invest in a bobbin winder before too long.

I got to spend some time working on the first sampler, and I'll share that fun in the next post. My 17-year old daughter walked by at one point and said: "That looks tedious."  I was torn between rolling on the floor laughing and knocking her upside her head but I settled on concluding out loud "Yeah, it probably looks tedious, but I'm having fun!"

I'm almost jumping out of my skin wanting to start making yards and yards of gorgeous lace to use in heirloom sewing, but I know I need to crawl before I walk, and walk before I run.  So I shall stop right here and go back to crawling.  Y'all have a fabulous day!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Threaded Tree

I love the internet!  I love social media!  Talk about broadening one's horizons.  A thread trail from something someone I'm connected with posted on Facebook led me to a Facebook page which led me to a website, Street Art Utopia that is a whole lot of fun.

I cannot imagine what led someone to the idea of crocheting a sweater for a tree, but someone did and I love the result.  I would even be tempted to try this myself, if not for the fact that I'm not a spring chick anymore, and a fall from a tree may ruin my day, if not a week, a month, or even the rest of my life!  But I can climb in my dreams.

I am curious as to how long a tree sweater lasts.  There's the weather to contend with, and sunlight, especially if  the tree loses its leaves during the fall.  And even if the yarn held up against weather and sun, what happens as the tree grows and expands?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Another Threaded Memory

Thirty-three years ago, using my Mom's Singer, I made my wedding dress.  The pattern was a Vogue, Oscar de la Renta, and I thought I was pretty hot stuff making it.  It had a fitted bodice, spaghetti straps, and three tiers of gathered white pin-point satin with the bottom layer using about 3 yards; the gathering alone took hours.  The over-blouse was made with white chiffon and was the first time I used french seams.

Both the dress and pattern are long since gone, but I wanted to blog about it anyway. I pulled the wedding photos that a friend had taken (we were on a shoe-string budget!) that have long since mellowed and rosellowed (my new word for the rosy-yellow tinge that old photos take on over the decades). Thank goodness for Photoshop Elements 10 and scanners.

I decided to google the pattern, believing the search would be futile.  Much to my surprise, I found it somewhat quickly when searching through the "images" of the search engine result pages, on a blog post on MalePatternBoldness.  Thank you, Peter, for permission to use your photo!  I made sure that is a 'do follow" link.  May your page rank rise.

Anyhow, there it is.  I made the second option since I did not want to mess with yards and yards of chiffon for the over-skirt.  The extra ruffle was just too much ruffle.  I likes some ruffles, but not tons of the stuff.  And besides, I did not want to obscure the pretty little points of the pin-point satin.

And here is the result.  I made a ton of mistakes, but who can tell?  I loved that dress!  It felt like a fairy tale dress.  I suppose I could say the wedding was a fairy tale.  We were very young, and had all sorts of things stacked against us.  We were (still are) a bi-racial couple, which alone stacked against us, and we were moving to California where the divorce rate, at the time (!!), was around 60%.  Or so I was informed.

But we didn't care...much.  We may have been nervous as all get-out, but we had high hopes with feet somewhat planted in reality.  We made it.  This June will be our 33rd.  Over three decades of hard work and with a lot of help from on high, we have three children of whom we are very proud, and two wonderful grandsons that light up our lives every time we see them.

Of course, I would be forever grateful for a granddaughter!  I would love a little girl in my life to dress up in linens and lace.  Alas, I'm not holding my breath...breathing is NOT over-rated.  

So I figure "what of it?"  I can still make things of linen and lace.  Somebody out there will love to dress their little girls in linen and lace.

Speaking of lace ... my lace making order has been processed!!  

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Floss card dilemma

One of my favorite pastimes is cross stitch embroidery.  As complex as it may look, and the sample on the left is not a pattern for a beginner, I find it relaxing and distressing.  It is rather amazing how a 14-page pattern that is actually a map can be deciphered by needle and thread into a work of art.

This is being worked on 32 count even weave linen. I learned on 14-count aida cloth like just about everybody else, but I found this pattern, “Delphiniums”  by The Silver Lining, at my local needlework store in the sale bin and just had to have it. 

There are 48 threads of various blues and greens and a few neutrals used in this pattern.  I had been collecting DMC embroidery floss – what cross stitch thread is called although I have no idea why – so I had almost everything I needed already.  I had some of my floss wound on card bobbins, and some on plastic.  I used the big rings to collect whatever threads I need for a project.  Because of the large number of thread changes required in this project, my card rings got a lot of use which resulted in the card bobbins eventually tearing their bottoms holes.  I assumed the plastic bobbins would be OK, but assuming is not always a good thing!  Plastic gets brittle.  Brittle plastic breaks.  Both types bobbins get beat up and end up looking like the specimens in the picture.  Boo.  Hence the dilemma.

The bobbin shape is rather important for keeping the floss under control, so I have reached the conclusion that, for me, paper card beats plastic.  Since card bobbins can wear out at their holes, keeping the project threads consolidated on a ring is out of the question, so I started to keep my threads in the organizer pictured below.

This works best for me!  The only problem is closing the thing – it squishes the top of the bobbins, which is not good for the plastic bobbins.  The cardboard bobbins are much more tolerant and flexible to that particular abuse.  This storage method also works wonders when you want to pick up and go with the project.

I hope to have this project completed before the summer sets in!  I have found another company that digitizes some amazing pieces of artwork and I'm really anxious to start a new project.  This one is taking me longer than I want to admit!  It doesn't help that I'll put it down for weeks (and sometimes, alas, for months) on end.  So I decided to start coming up with project goals, something I have never done before.  But the older I get, the more I realize I need goals to keep my focused.  Especially since as I get older, I am finding more and more things I want to learn and do.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Beginning Serger Class Handout

I will be teaching the first "Get to Know Your Serger" class at Hancock Fabrics in Garland tomorrow.  I love using my serger and have taught similar classes when working at BERNINA Sewing Center of Garland before it closed its "doors."  Since all my teacher materials were all based on Bernina, I have to scramble to come up with my own.

Following is the handout I worked up for tomorrow's class and I thought it would be a good idea to post it here.  Sorry there are no pretty pictures to include, but I will have lots of pretty pictures down the road.  Promise!

Basically, the same rules apply for both sewing machines and sergers.  The majority of sergers use the same needles, but always double check the user manual provided with your machine.  If you do not have a user manual, most can be found on-line by using your favorite search engine.

Universal sewing machine needles are used for most woven fabrics, light to medium heavy in weight, and for stable knits.  Use a ball point needle for jersey knits.  “Stretch” ball point needles may be needed when sewing with spandex.  When working with these types of knits, always run some test seams!

One important rule to remember:  NEVER use a needle larger than a 90/14 in your serger.  The larger needles may interfere with the loopers in forming the overlock.   If you will be doing a lot of serging on heavyweight fabrics requiring a larger needle, invest in a good industrial serger.

Change your needles after 5 to 6 sewing hours.  If you notice your serger “skipping” stitches, most likely one or both of your needles are either worn out or damaged.  One super nice thing about sergers is that needle damage is less likely to occur since pins are never run under the needle.

For most garment applications, serger threads are the best thread choice.  No matter what fiber they are made from, threads spun for sergers are lighter than standard sewing thread, and are typically found on large cones which last a good long time.   The loopers take up a LOT of thread!

You can use regular sewing thread in the left and/or right needle if you cannot find in a cone with that “perfect” color to match your fabric.  Avoid using regular sewing thread in the loopers for garment seams as the thicker thread will cause unwanted bulkiness in the finished seam.

There will be times, however, that you will use a wide variety of threads in the loopers for decorative seaming.  “Rolled hems” and “flatlock” are two serger applications that can use all sorts of threads in the loopers.  The loopers can handle much thicker threads than the needles.

The “Knobs”
Most current sergers will have a couple of knobs on the side.  One usual knob is the stitch length and the concept is identical to a sewing machine.

The other knob you will usually find on your serger is the “differential” feed knob.  That is the one that will have an “N” along with some numbers on either side of the “N.”  This is because most sergers have TWO sets of feed dogs, one in front, one behind.  When the differential knob is set to “N” (meaning “neutral”) both dogs work at the same speed.  When changing the differential, one dog begins to work at a different speed relative to the other.  This speed differential is why sergers are great to use!

As a general rule of thumb, when sewing with knits, you will turn the knob “up” and when working with really lightweight fabric you will turn your knob “down.”  Always, always, always sew a test seam before starting your project to see if any adjustments need to be made.  If your seam is “waving” play with the differential knob until the seam lays flat.

Of course, there may be times you will want the “wave” to happen, for decorative purposes.

All sergers have tension settings for each thread pathway and the trick is to get all four threads balanced.  Different threads AND different applications will require different tension settings.  Get into the habit of making notes of which tension settings gave you the perfectly balanced stitch formation for each application.

Keep a notebook of fabric samples complete with notes on thread used and tension settings. 

Cutting width
Many sergers give you the options to adjust the cutting width.  This determines the amount of fabric that will be caught up in the overlock.  When seaming thick, plush fabric, you may need to decrease the cutting width so that the seam is not overly bulky.  When seaming superfine woven fabric, you may need to increase the cutting width to provide a stronger seam.   Quilters who enjoy piecing with their sergers will use a cutting width that gives them their required scant ¼ inch seam.

Rolled hem lever
Most sergers have a lever that lies parallel to the feed dogs right to the right of the needle area.  When the standard overlock stitch is desired, the lever is pushed (away from you) so that it lies at the needle area.  When a rolled hem is desired, the lever is pulled (towards you) back so that there is very little width in the stitch formation.

Final words
ALWAYS thread your machine in the order specified by the manufacturer
(usually upper looper before lower)!

ALWAYS sew a test swatch!!

ALWAYS have fun!!!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


I grew up making things.  I grew up sewing.   I grew up sewing on a Singer 401:

Mom got her machine back in 1960 and she still has it!  She sews on her Bernina now, when she sews (as do I), but she still has this beauty all tucked safely away in its cabinet.

At the time she got this sewing machine, she and Dad were living in Boise, Idaho and I was just a toddler.  Mom was sewing on a portable Singer which simply went forward and backward in a straight stitch and was quite adequate for her whilst my older brother was her only child.  But I came along and she was wishing for a fancier tool to make fancier things.  Mom and Dad were walking around town one day and came across a Pfaff dealer demonstrating their latest and greatest.  Dad wanted to buy her a better machine so she suggested they see what Singer had to offer since, to her, Singer was synonymous with sewing. 

Dad was one of those who bought the best if he was going to buy anything.  The Singer 401 was the best Singer had to offer at that time and she remembers it was around $400.  That was a whopping sum of money back in those days … they actually had to finance the thing!  But Mom tells me the machine paid for itself and then some.  Even now, she could get around $150 for it.  

Do the “adjusted for inflation” math and one realizes my Dad made a solidly good purchase.  
I just did the math, (well, to be honest, I used a free on-line calculator) and choked! :o)

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