Thursday, March 29, 2007

What Goes Around, Comes Around

Another Vogue Couturier #191 came to eBay, and this time, I got it! Some of you may remember way back to September when I started American Beauty - this was part of the original inspiration for the gown and was to be the pattern. I lost the auction (having to bow out at $85.00 or so), and hadn't seen it on eBay since. At least until last week. I had to pay dearly for it, but it's mine now, in the right size *and* it comes with the original embroidered sew-in label that says "Vogue Couturier". The seller even posted a picture of the back of envelope which shows the back of the gown, which I've never seen. The back has a deep u-shaped neckline, almost backless, much deeper than mine, but is sort of what I expected. I also expected to possibly see a bow or something else, but since it wasn't shown on the front of the envelope, it makes sense that the back was plain.

Parting Shots: Today I got the red lizard shoes back from having the heel taps replaced. They're surprisingly comfortable, with the arch support just in the right place for me. I find the arch support in some heels lacking, but these are really nice. You can tell from the second picture that they look great with modern jeans, too.

I didn't finish the Easter dress today, so I apologize for not posting about it. I will finish it on the bus and post about it tomorrow. I did get the necklace and earrings done to match the dress.

Tonight I'm headed off to the studio to work on a muslin for my Easter dress! It's just the bodice only, as the skirt is one of those really huge full skirts. I don't think that will be a fitting problem!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Waiting For Spring - Final Post

The Faberge Egg Vest

Once I'd finished the green side, I'd realized I'd made the Faberge Egg Vest. At first, I was horrified, but then it just seemed like a big joke on me, trying to make something beaded and elegant and then going just a little to far. I can laugh about it now, but check out these Faberge eggs (these are from the ones that Czar Nicholas II had made) and then check out the vest:

Here's the pink side:

Last, but not least, the label which I inserted into the side seam. One side has the title of the garment and date, the other side has my name and contact info. It's small, yet fairly unobstrusive.
What did I learn from this project? Let's see:
  • Don't let your ideas go too wild.
  • Make sure you have plenty of time to complete the project. I have to ship this out tomorrow!
  • Don't bead all day - you'll end with a headache and really blurry vision.
  • I can percolate and execute ideas rather quickly if I have to. I really should have allowed more time to think this one through, but it was a good challenge to work against a fast approaching deadline. I had some other ideas for the trellis that didn't work out, but maybe I'll use them for another project. Normally, I percolate ideas for months - I've had one brewing now for about 4 months for a project I won't start until this summer and complete by December (if things go ok!).
Parting Shot: My son out practicing his archery skills outside on Saturday. The weather was lovely then, and I haven't had time to post the picture yet. The bow was a present from my father, who is an excellent archer and wins competitions.

Tomorrow I'm working on my daughter's Easter dress. I might even complete it except for the handwork, but I'll post some pictures and details.

One more thing, remember the leopard dress? I wore it to school today and then went to the salon to have my haircut. My stylist loved the dress and said that I look like I should be in the city and not out in rural New Hampshire. She was just at a big hair show in NYC the previous week, so I took that as a compliment!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Waiting For Spring - #9

Bus Work

Or, how I actually get a lot of hand sewing, beadwork, knitting, etc. done. On the days I work, I have a 45 minute commute each way on a school bus. As a school bus chaperone, I get to make sure the students behave and keep the noise level down to a dull roar. For the most part, the children are fairly well behaved, leaving me with some nice blocks of time where I don't have to do anything but sit. Now you know I'm crazy - beading and sewing on a school bus?!? Here's how I do it:

First, I have my own seat. This works out fine unless my son wants to sit with me, and then there's not quite enough elbow room. Second, any project is usually in a plastic bag - only the small portion I'm actually working on is out of the bag, so that the project doesn't get dirty. I've been dragging projects places with me for years (buses, cars, trains, planes), so I really don't even think about it too much anymore. I took the American Beauty coat on the bus. I did draw the line at the white American Beauty dress, though. That was too risky for even me. Here I am on the bus, pictures courtesy of my son. These were taken while the bus was moving.

You can just see the white plastic bag at the top of the picture:

Third, all supplies are placed in ziplock bags, except for beads I'm actively working with. Those have a special container. Beads I'm actively working with go in either a plastic lid with a lip or a styrofoam bowl. That depends on the bead size. The reason for the lid or bowl is that they are deep enough to contain the beads during the usual bumps and lurches on the bus. In the picture below you can see the lid I'm working from - it's a small one as it's easier to take with me. I prefer plastics to glass for obvious reasons - breakage of a glass object on a bus is a major no-no.

Other than that, I've been blessed with the ability NOT to get carsick or airsick or motionsick at all.

Now that the beading is done, it's time for the last two items: a label and piping. I'll show you the label in the final post, as I didn't get that picture taken yet. These labels can get to be large because they must contain the name of the piece, and the maker's name, address, phone number and sometimes e-mail address. Usually I place labels somewhere inside, where depends on the garment and where I feel it should go. Since this is reversible, a label at the neckline center back or really anywhere else would look ridiculous. The side seam is partially hidden by the arm of the wearer, so that's where I placed it.

I will show you the piping, though. I had originally planned to make it so that there was single piping on the green side (in gold) and double piping on the pink side (in gold and pink). As I was playing with color arrangments, two things struck me: none of the gold colors I had matched well enough for me and just the bright pink piping would work for not only for the pink side, but also for the green side.

After making 5 or 6 yards of piping, I attached it to the green side. First, I hand basted it in place, right along the gold trim and then I stitched it in place on the machine. The seam allowances were turned to the inside and catch-stitched down. (Yes, that fuchsia silk really is that blinding in real life - I can't imagine anything larger than narrow piping made out of it.)

I then turned in (and clipped if needed) all the edges of the pink side and fell stitched the whole pink side to the green side by hand. Below is an armhole I'm working on. You can actually see both sides of the vest, the green in the background and the pink in the foreground.

Parting Shot: Yesterday, we thought it was spring. This morning we woke up to the scenes below. I had to snap these pictures pretty early, because I knew once the sun hit the trees, all the snow would disappear.

Today I got to work on my daughter's Easter dress. The bodice is coming along nicely and I'm working on finishing the buttonholes on the collar. I'm not sure if I'll have time to work on it tomorrow between work and ensemble practice tomorrow night.

Waiting For Spring's final post will be tomorrow - I'll post the final pictures and thoughts about the vest.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Waiting For Spring - #8

Both borders are done (well, almost!)

Once again, I have proven that I can't count. That's not good since I teach science, but that's beside the point. I've had to renumber the posts. Somehow I skipped *both* #3 and #8. I think I got confused with #3, because I was doing catch up posts to get you up to speed. I don't know what happened with post #8. I think it was that day I beaded for a good portion of the day and actually gave myself a headache and the inability to focus. I'll never, never, never do that again!

Actually both borders will be really, really done by tomorrow night. At this point, they're done enough to show you. By the end of this evening the pink will definitely be done. The green will only need to have the pink beads completed in the gold trim down the sides and across the bottom.

Here's the green side, the back neck is truly complete. I added the darker pink beads in the wavy quilting. Since the quilting thread is the same color as the background, the wavy line tends to fade at a distance. The beads at a little definition, and it didn't take that much more time to do them.

Here's the pink side, the armholes, and one side is done. This works up very quickly as the work is easy - just attaching sequins with a single bead, and the sequins and flowers are placed randomly in the palest pink spaces (the ones without any tulle). It's sort of a relief compared to the very orderly, stylized green side.

What's left? To finish the beading on the bands, finish attaching the piping, make a label and join both sides. This should all be finished by Saturday night.

Parting Shot: What a difference a day at 60 degrees makes! This picture was taken 24 hours after yesterday's picture. Not only do we have a full tractor, but obviously some balls got left outside, too. I didn't notice those yesterday.

Well, if I get this vest done, I am going to get going on my daughter's vintage Easter dress and a few dresses for me - the vintage Easter one, and one using the fabric I got from Ann's Gorgeous Things Fabric Store. I got some of the aqua chain link before it was gone for the second time!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Waiting For Spring - #9

Those little gold sequin flowers . . . .

I didn't like how my pictures turned out for those flowers, so I decided just to redo that part of the post as today's post. Here's how to make the gold sequin flowers.

For each flower you'll need 5 sequins, 1 small bead (I'm using size 11 seed beads), matching thread (I'm using Nymo D) and appropriate needle.

Step 1: Pull the thread up through fabric where you want the center of the flower to be.

Step 2: Pick up one sequin and the bead on the needle. Pass the thread through both and then back through the sequin only and back down into the fabric.

Step 3: Bring the needle back up through the fabric 1/8" away from the center sequin. Pick up one sequin and stitch back down through the fabric, but underneath the center sequin. The new sequin will be partially hidden by the center sequin.

Step 4: Continue to place three more sequins around the center sequin, as in step 3. I placed them at opposite sides, but you could place them close together on one side and then embroider a stem coming off the other side.

I'm almost done with the green borders! By tomorrow night, they should be complete, and I can start working on the pink borders on Thursday.

Parting Shots: This is where Max likes to sit. It doesn't matter how much you have in your lap or what you're working on. He was my in-law's cat before he moved over here and my mother in-law said he did the same thing to her. He'd even sit under a large lap frame - the kind you use for embroidery and cross-stitch - while she stitched. It's not a big problem, I just need to remove all the cat hair before I send a project anywhere!

It's back to beading for me, but I'm starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I just hope it's not an oncoming train!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Waiting For Spring - #7

The Trellis

I'm still beading! I've finally got the trellis portion done, so I thought I'd show that to you:

The pink flowers are the ones I should you a post or so back, the gold ones are made of 5 sequins, and then there are the dangles. Here's a close up:

Tomorrow I will post about how I made the gold flowers. I was going to do that in this post, but the pictures really weren't all that fantastic. I'm going to be doing a lot of those flowers tomorrow, so I'll get some good pictures of them.

What's left? Quite a bit. Mostly handbeading, but if I stick with it, it will get done!

Parting Shot: My newest vintage pattern, which is on it's way. I plan to make this for myself in the pink lemonade silk dupioni for Easter if I have time!

It's back to beading for me. Maybe tomorrow I'll steal a little time and sew on my daughter's Easter dress!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Waiting For Spring - #6

The Woodburning Tool

Remember the woodburning tool I showed you last week sometime? Today is the day I'm going to explain what I use it for. This has been an experiment for me, I've never used one. I do know that people are doing some very interesting things in fiber arts with layering synthetic fabrics and then burning through some layers to reveal other layers and create texture. I might explore that another time. For this project, I'm using the tool to cut and seal polyester organza into little flower shapes.

It took a little experimenting before I figured out how to get a consistent shape. Freehand isn't as easy as it looks, and for the project I need uniformity. Like everything else in art, a template is extremely useful, as is the correct work surface. We did a small kitchen makeover this fall and installed tin ceiling plates as backsplashes between the countertops and cabinets. We also painted the kitchen red, which is fabulous in and of itself! I know I've lost you now. So what in the world does that have to do with this? I salvaged a scrap of tin to use as a cutting surface and to make a template. The heat doesn't hurt the tin and it sure saves my work surface! You can see the template in the picture above between the tin and the woodburning tool.

I simply trace around the template with a very fine point (a mini flow point) pull the organza away, and lift off the flower. Very simple as long as you don't burn yourself. I need to make 82. I've got 53 done, but they cut pretty quickly. I can get the remainder of them cut in about 30 minutes.

Here's what I've decided to do with them:

Again, this was trial and error. One layer wasn't dark enough on the green, so I had to use two layers. I was going to offset the layer, but didn't like the result. I tried cutting one layer smaller, but didn't like that either. The very small flowers didn't cut out nicely. Once I added the center bead and sequin, I decided it need more beads (what else would it need?). I then needed to decide whether the beads should be up against the sequin or in the petals. My daughter thought it looked better this way. Good enough for me.

Parting Shot: So much for Mr. Squirrel. If he has any sense, he'll be back in his warm den for another week or so. We're supposed to get another 8 to 12 inches of snow tonight.

It seems like this vest is taking quite a bit of my time recently, and will continue to until the deadline. I haven't forgot Diamonds. It is still on my dressform, so that I can percolate about it. I think I've got some new ideas. I still have plenty of time to work on the Easter dress, too.

For tonight, I think I'm in for a nice evening of beading in front of the TV.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Waiting For Spring - #5

Pink Borders - What didn't work and what does.

Initially I had thought to stamp or rub some images onto the pink borders and then do some beading or other embellishing around the images. If you look at the test piece below, you'll see that it didn't really work out for me. Very few paints in the correct color palette showed up, and I ended up with blobs instead of flowers. Time to scrap that idea. (No pun intended! Really, I didn't notice it until I after my post was first published!)

This is were percolation had to go into espresso mode. I don't have an unlimited amount of time to finish this project, so while I was working on the green side, I did some heavy duty thinking. I needed something similar in style and theme to the pink side. This is what I came up with:

There are actually three shades of pink going on there. It's made similarly to the body fabric, with tulle, little objects, the fashion fabric, batting and another layer of tulle. In this case, I used two layers of pink tulle. I then selective cut out sections of the tulle, some sections I cut out both layers, some sections only one. This gives me the three different shades of pink. In the sections that have the fashion fabric exposed, I am going to go back and add in beaded flowers by hand. Here's a picture of the actual cutting away of tulle layers:

Right now, I'm still trimming out layers of tulle. Later tonight I'm going to make some bright fuchsia piping for additional trim between the border and body. That will be overcast with gold cord after it is installed - I'll show you that trim when I get it done, most likely Saturday at this point.

Parting Shot: Guess who was in my front yard today? Mr. Squirrel and all his relatives. They were very busy digging up acorns today.

Back to the studio for the rest of the night, tomorrow I hope to get all the little flowers cut out of organza for part of the trim on the green side. I'll show you those, too. The Easter dress will have to wait until next week sometime.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Waiting For Spring - #4

Catching Up #3 - The Pink Side

I think this will be the last post to get you caught up to where I'm actually at on this project. The dangles are almost done! I've got 9 more to go and then I can start beading the gold trim again.

I showed you a quick glimpse of the pink side in a previous post, but here it is again:

The piece is actually quilted. There is a layer of tulle underneath which you'll see all the sequins, beads, rhinestones and other treasures are trapped. The quilting makes little pockets for them to move freely in, yet not get away from the surface. This is a great way to add beads and sequins to a project without having to sew them on.

I actually have made quite a few quilted garments, and have some preferences for batting/backing. Traditional quilts are made of cotton fabric, batting (wadding), and another piece of cotton. This is great for beds, but not great for clothes.

For many of my quilted garments, I keep the definition of "quilt" but use other materials. For the top layer, it could be any sort of fabric. For the "batting" or middle I've used non-woven interfacing and other really thin stuff. My current middle layer is a split layer of Hobbs Thermore batting. Hobbs Thermore batting was specifically designed for wearables. I still find it too thick and not drapey. It does however, peel nicely into two very thin layers.

I also find that using a cotton as a backing or third layer is too thick for my tastes. I use tulle almost exclusively to back quilted items. All my garments have a lining, which sometimes is quilted too, so it doesn't matter what the back looks like. Tulle is fabric, and therefore follows the definition of "quilt".

Back to the details, let me tell you how I do this particular type of quilting:

1. Start by gathering fabrics. This fabric consists of minimally 4 basic layers, from top to bottom: tulle (could be more than one layer, I'll explain in a minute), fashion fabric (silk, cotton, whatever), split layer of Hobbs Thermore, and a single layer of tulle.

About the multiple layers of tulle: tulle has the tendency to slightly change the color of the fashion fabric. More layers or even different color layers can really change a fabric. Take a look at the sample below. On the left you'll see the fashion fabric, next with one layer of tulle and on the right with two layers. See the color difference? The middle one shows this the best because I didn't layer the tulle on so well. Experiment with different colors until you find a color that suits you. You will need a minimum of one layer.

2. Cut the fabrics to the appropriate size. This will depend on if you're using a pattern or just making quilt squares. I usually will cut about 1/4" to 1/2" larger than my garment pattern piece. This type of quilting will not shrink up the fabric as much as quilting with a heavy batting, so very little fabric is lost. Trace the pattern piece onto the fashion fabric with a marking pencil/chalk. Layer the fabrics in the order listed above, smooth out (I usually iron the whole thing to compact the layers) and pin together carefully including the center of the piece. Stitch on the seam lines around 3 sides of the piece. The reason for this is that when you go to assemble you project, you don't want beads/sequins/whatevers in the seam or seam allowance. They're a pain to remove. Don't ask me how I know.

3. Assemble your "little fillers". I use all sorts of stuff: beads, rhinestones, sequins, buttons. The smoother the filler is the better the effect. I used sequin stars one time, and the points constantly got caught in the tulle. I usually buy those large bags of mixed sequin shapes and sort out what I want, if I can't find anything else. You can see the sorted piles in the background.

Here's the mix for this particular project:

4. Using the opening on the side that's not stitched, put your fillers between the top most tulle layer and the fashion fabric. Try to move them about so that they're not all clumped together in one spot.

5. Using decorative matching and contrasting thread, stitch wavy lines over the surface of the fabric. I usually use no less than three colors, sometimes up to seven. This is your chance to use all of those fancy metallic threads. I tend to favor Superior Glitters and Sulky Holoshimmers. It's the inner magpie, what can I say? My stitch length is whatever I usually use for topstitching. I always stitch a line down the center first and then one to either side, about 3" away. I continue stitching lines about 3" apart the whole width of the piece. I then change colors and place lines in between the first ones. I switched colors again and stitch more lines, intersecting and going over previous ones. I continue to add lines until I like the look. Turning the piece over is an easy way to see if you have any "holes" - the colored thread will show up better on the white batting.

While you're stitching remember to shift the little fillers around and stitch around them - it's ok to move them if they're in your stitching path. Don't stitch over them.

If you don't like wavy lines, feel free to stitch whatever suits you - straight lines or whatever. You can also couch funky fibers (that fuzzy unusual knitting yarn and ribbons) on by machine at this point, too. Stitch them down in wavy lines as the quilting.

6. Press the piece from the back with a medium iron. Pressing from the front isn't much good when you've got lumpy little fillers. The batting also helps to protect the fillers as some don't do well under too much heat. Place your pattern piece on top and retrace the lines - your piece might be a bit smaller than when you started. Cut out piece on cutting lines and your'e ready to use it.

Here is the pink body done, except for the shoulder seams. Can you see the chair at the edge of the photo? In the first picture I took you could actually see my shoes, too! I'm short, so I need to stand on a chair to get a good shot of stuff on the table and ironing board.

Parting Shot: The six year old decided to do a puzzle this afternoon. Here it is all completed. If you look closely, you'll notice we're missing the Alabama piece. My apologies to those from Alabama, we didn't mean to take you off the map. I had a similar puzzle when I was his age. I lost Ohio.