Thursday, May 28, 2009

Garden Path - Jacket - Part X

Further Rose Development

I'm still working on rose samples, but I think I'm ready to start the real work sometime this weekend.

These roses are hand appliqued silk dupioni - not all the flowers for this project are cut with the wood burning tool like the hollyhock. Some of the flower shapes do not translate well into the other medium, so I've decided to do a mixture of both techniques for this project.

As you can see from the photo below, this second rose isn't terribly well finished either. It doesn't need to be. It is only a sample and not on the real project yet. These samples are mainly a test for color and size contrast and for embellishment technique - beads, pencils or pens. Yes, I played with a lot of things here, and I think a combination of pens will give a nicely shaded rose. The thread painting is a no - too much thread in too small of a space.

I'm very happy with the second rose. I think I might go for a slightly larger size one, as I have many sizes of the original drawing. The pieces will be a little easier to work with since it takes 14 pieces to make a large rose, and 6 for a smaller but, not counting leaves or anything green. I also have a new barely opened bud drawn just for this project (remember these are cousins to the AB roses) which is mostly green with a just a sliver of pink.

As you can see from my drawing below, there must be a system to keep track of pieces and now, how much elevation each piece gets.

Here's how it works: each ring of petals has a designation, the outer row is X, the next inner row is A and the next is B. The numbers indicate what order the petals are appliqued - these overlap the next petal so this isn't as critical with this flower. The red letters indicate how much relief each piece will have or how much stuffing each gets. F is for flat, LR is for low relief, MR for medium, etc. This elevations might change a bit as I'm working with it, but I kind of have an idea of what I want to see. Like everything, this system is a little strange, but it works.

*Maybe* tonight I'll get some stems and leaves cut, but I doubt it. I have to get a craft project ready for my daughter's last day of school party tomorrow.

Last, I got a comment regarding the Prismacolor pencils from Valerie. In case you didn't see it, I'm going to post it, because it has some excellent information in it.

"Summerset, the binder in Prismacolor pencils is wax, which is why it can be "heat set" for your fabrics, or so I assume. There are also several other brands out there, primarily by Derwent. One is called "Artists" and the other is called "Studio". Both may give you what Prismacolor can't. Or not; neither is as soft as Prismacolors. I've never tried either for fabric but have a mighty collection of colored pencils. I found this info from the "Colored Pencil Soulution Book". Some other brands such as Polychromos use oil as a binder and may work too, since heat may help it sink in too."

Parting Shot: Still Knitting. I'm still working on the sweater and have started the sleeves. Maybe I'll get some time to work on this tonight, too. Yeah right.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Garden Path - Jacket - Part IX

Hollyhock Update and Rose Development

Here is what the hollyhocks look like at the moment:

Notice there is no shading in the centers. I've decided to not do that for the moment. I can not seem to heat set the pencils to my satisfaction at the moment, so I'd rather wait on that embellishment for a while. Meanwhile, the dye pens are looking more attractive due to their colorfastness, and due to the fact that I've found a better pink. It is hard to see, but it is just to the right of my thumb in the photo below. It is a more subtle shade than the darker pink, but I'm not sure that either color will make it into the final version.

Now that the hollyhocks are mostly done, it is time for the next flower in the garden, the roses. I've done a little test rosebud below. I was playing with the dye pens again, but they won't be in the final product. I've made the center fuchsia and the rest of the petals a darker pink, as you can see in contrast to the hollyhocks.

To make the roses a little more interesting, I'm using a technique called stuffed applique. This is a trapunto like technique to raise certain areas. I've cut certain sections purposely larger to allow for stuffing and then mostly stitched the piece in place. You might be able to see the relief better in the following photo:

To stuff the piece, I've used strips of batting trimmed from other project and then shredded into small bits.

The piece gets stuffed and then the stitching is finished.

I like the look of the roses, I might throw in one more pink color for the larger ones - I'll try to get a larger test one done tomorrow. I did try some sequins in the center, but didn't like the result, as it looked like I was trying to hard to embellish them.

Meanwhile, I can get started on the stems and leaves!

Parting Shot: Silk! More silk for GP - both of these are crossweaves, and you can barely see the subtle secondary colors in each photo, but to really see the beauty, you'd have to see them in real life. The orange is for the lilies, and the purple might be part of the trim.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Garden Path - Jacket - Part VIII

Applique Progress

I've made some progress! Behold some stems and buds:

It is a start at least and I find that once I get past all the agonizing design decisions, I can just really get to work.

There have been a few questions recently which I want to address in this post. I do try to group Q/A with appropriate posts, so if you asked a question a few days ago on a previous post, I have seen it, I've just been waiting for the right post to answer it.

First, from Bekki, "Did you use a solvent to "paint" with the pencils, melt them, or just plain color?" I just colored with them on the fabric. I then heat set the pencils with an iron on the hottest setting the fabric can handle with a press cloth. Nothing fancy, and easy to do.

Second, from Tanya, "I'm really intrigued but confused about this heat setting tool. What exactly is it and how does it work? Maybe you've already explained it, ill have a look around." Sorry about the confusion, the correct term for the tool is "wood burning tool". I don't use it to create art on wood, but rather I use it to cut shapes from synthetic fabrics using metal templates that I make from aluminum roof flashing. I've used this technique for sometime on many ensembles including: Waiting For Spring, Forget Me Knot, Bluebird of Happiness and now, Garden Path. More details can be found in this post from FMK.

I do hope to have the hollyhocks done this weekend and be able to start the roses on Monday. As always a sample first, and then I'm on my way. I think the roses will be a bit easier, as these ones are cousins to the roses on American Beauty.

Parting Shot: Vogue Paris Original #1897. Isn't this one great? It is by YSL and features all sorts of fine details, including a fur trimmed cape. I'll be doing an inside the envelope on this one some time next week!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Garden Path - Jacket - Part VII

Hollyhocks, Part 3

Are you about tired of the hollyhocks yet? I think I've finally arrived at a version I'm happy with. I did find all the colored pencils yesterday, in fact, Rowland's has the entire line of Prismacolor in open stock. Since I have a color chart of the entire line, I can pick out my colors in advance and go and pick up the ones I need.

After quite a bit of testing, comparing, taking photos, standing back and looking at the flowers from several distances and angles, the pencils are the right answer.

The pencil flower is on the left and the marker flower is on the right:

Figuring out how to apply them best was another story, but suffice it to say, after much testing, it is easiest to cut out the petals, then apply and heat set the pencils.

Once that is done, I stitch them to the background with the Superior Glitter in some kind of pink (you should have know it was a Glitter thread!), add the bead and sequin centers and I'm done.

Now I actually have to get the stems appliqued and make some hollyhocks to put on the project!

I realize that this project may seem a bit slow, but I'm making decisions now that will affect the rest of the project and I have the luxury of time for this project. This project has many different flowers, 7 or 8 at last count, and as many different colors and two very different fabrics. In order to keep the project unified, there needs to be some consistent components. The beads and sequins are part of that - almost every flower has them (I've got to figure out what to do with the roses, but I'm pretty sure that won't be too hard), since everything has them, they unify. The sparkly thread is part of that, too, although not every flower has that. The pencil or pen used on flowers that need it is another unifying factor - for me it makes sense to use either one or the other, not both. Why? Again, one consistent factor unifies. With the disparities in color, shape and textures, there needs to be some unifying elements.

The luxury of time means no rush deadlines, nothing else tugging at my time or resources, so I can relax and really enjoy the process. So many project it seems have a deadline or are made under stress conditions. Slowing down a bit helps not only keep to the project creative, but also enjoyable! Isn't that the point: to enjoy what you're doing! In a similar way, I also think that the 30 minutes (or so) per day helps with that goal. You're not doing so much at one time that it seems like a marathon sewing session and under a deadline you feel like you *must* get the project done. Any task is more enjoyable when you don't *have* to do it!

Once I get the hollyhocks going, the next flower I'll be working on is the roses! Stay tuned for those! I'm hoping they will be easier . . . I know what you're thinking, yeah right!

Parting Shot: Kit. One of my goals this year was to sew up some under garment items for myself. I've joined Sigrid's sew along (private blog) and once my current dress and jacket are finished, I'll start on the bra project. You can see the kit I bought below - I have a lot of the spare parts already, but it is nice to have everything in one handy plastic bag, including the fabric.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Garden Path - Jacket - Part VI

Hollyhocks, Part 2

Today I've been working on making some improvements to the hollyhocks and making stems.

Making the stems was pretty easy, they are the standard bias strips stitched right sides together and pressed with the presser bar.

I wasn't 100% happy with the hollyhocks yesterday, so I set about today to improve them. Mostly I work from pictures, so to be able to reference pictures and lots of them, I moved the laptop into the studio. As you can see, I can work with photos right in front of me to be able to translate real life into fabric, thread, beads and sequins. Of course, that's not always as easy as it looks.

Here is today's version:

After studying some photos, I've made a few changes. One is that the flowers are closer together on the stem. Two is that I've changed the flower color to a darker pink. This also relates to my color choice for the roses. I've also made a larger bud to try.

The buds still need some work - most likely some stitching or some kind of green lines to give them some dimension. I still haven't made leaves, and I'm still not happy with the dark pink portion of the flower centers. I've improved the beading, and I'm happy with that.

I think I figured what the problem is with the centers. The centers look like I took a marker to them. They don't fade nicely into the lighter pink. While the dye pen centers are fine and would probably work for many applications, they're just not right for me for this project. I'd rather have that soft fade you can get with colored pencils. So, I'm off this afternoon to the independent art supply store in downtown Concord to see if they have Prismacolor pencils open stock (not in sets) in the colors I need. I already have a small set, but I need pinks and magenta. Wish me luck - I called and know that they have them, but didn't want to bother the poor clerk with finding out if they have the specific colors I'm looking for.

Q/A: Today's question is from Bunny regarding the hollyhock petals: "The edges of the petals are beautiful. Did you use a heat tool?" Yes, the petals are heat cut, as you can see from the photo below. The edges are sealed, and since each petal is stitched down only in the center, the flower becomes dimensional.

Parting Shot: Buttons. I finally got my buttons for my sweater. Wouldn't you know that I still need one more card of buttons? Thankfully, I won't need those last buttons until I get the sleeves done and start the finishing. I will be starting the first sleeve tonight!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Garden Path - Jacket - Part V


I'm finally starting the applique process and to begin, I need to start working on the flowers in the back. The hollyhocks, because they are the tallest flowers, in my mind's eye as I see this garden are in the back, thus need to be appliqued first.

So far, I've made a few test hollyhocks. I'm very happy with the petal templates in both sizes and the pink color. The centers are the thing that concerns me the most. The stems and buds seem fine - the bud could be a bit larger and still needs details, but that is an easy fix compared to the flower centers. I still need to deal with the leaves, but again that should be easy.

I'm trying to get the right look for the darker pink centers. As you can see, I have tried thread painting and the Fabricmate dye pens. Each as advantages and disadvantages. The thread shading/painting looks nice, helps to hold the flowers on, and draws the flowers up just a little for dimension, but is very, very stiff even with using a special very thin thread in the bobbin specifically designed to be used in the bobbin. Generally, that's what happens - either with embroidery or very dense quilting - the more thread in the piece, the stiffer and denser it becomes. The pens are easy to use, I can shade exactly where I want to, but would still have to tack the flower down somehow.

Hollyhock with heavy thread shading at center, pen shading at the top in the wrong color:

Hollyhock with heavy thread shading at center, glittery thread and pen (together, a bit much):

I'm thinking the best course of action is to do a hybrid, combining a little sparkly thread to hold the petals down with the pen to add the proper amount of shading. The stitching helps to keep the petals in place, but is not dense enough to be stiff or to be difficult when stitching beads and sequins. Here's the best hollyhock thus far, not shown at the beginning of the post and with scissors for scale:

I'm not 100% with the flower yet, but this is the best one I've made. I've also modified the sequined center a bit and found Swarovski beads at my local bead shop to match the center sequins. It still needs some work before the final version, but this is a good start.

Parting Shot. No Patience. I knew it, as soon as I posted about my poor irises, they sent forth buds. I am not patient enough. At least I'll have flowers, though!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Garden Path - Jacket - Part IV

Really Bits and Pieces of Everything

If you haven't noticed, it seems like I'm not working in a linear fashion on any one piece of Garden Swing. I've been bouncing from jacket to skirt to blouse and back again. There is a reason for this, not to keep you guessing or assuming that I'm crazy (which might be true). I'm trying to get all the quilting done first, and in the meanwhile to keep things interesting, I've been working on the test blouse since I had the fabric and pattern.

Now, the skirt quilting as much as can be, will be done tomorrow. One piece is completely done and the other just needs the free motion quilting.

It occurred to me yesterday that I never showed you a picture of me actually wearing the test blouse, so here it is. Not perfect, due to some construction choices, but wearable.

As far as the jacket is concerned, I am close to being able to start on the applique. For that I need to start testing applique templates and preparing fabrics. I've started by soaking the green fabrics - some of the dark colors will bleed if they get wet, so they all need to be soaked, rinsed and dried. Take a look at the water in the washer from the first soak, the second one wasn't much better, the third one is looking better as the water is only a pale minty green. Better to be safe than sorry with dark colors on a light background. I'll be continuing this process with all the colors over the next few days.

In other applique news, I will start testing applique templates starting with the first flower to be worked on, the hollyhocks. I'm starting with those because they are the tallest (yes, I have a spreadsheet with the flowers arranged in order of height) and because they are in the back of the groupings, so they must be appliqued first.

I've also decided to order some orange dupioni to make lilies. The silk print has some orange flower among all the other brights, so to better coordinate the print with the embellishments I'll need some orange. Juicy Orange and Cranberry Zinger are really good matches:

I hope to be able to show you a sample hollyhock soon - maybe as soon as Monday!

Parting Shot: New To Me Books! I won a few books in a giveaway by Elaray and they arrived today. I received Sew Easy Embellishments by Nancy Zieman and Applique The Ann Boyce Way by Ann Boyce. I'm not sure that I'd used any idea *exactly* as presented in these books, but they are good reference and a good starting point for adapting something to my own style. Thanks Elaray!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Garden Path - Blouse - Part III

Test Blouse, Part Two

I've finished the test blouse and am very happy with it. I'm not sure it will need any changes to fit me properly. I might adjust the shoulders just a little bit, as I have sloped shoulders, but I can do that on the final blouse with no problems. I was pretty sure this blouse would fit as is, since the pattern is the right size and it is a teen pattern. These patterns tend to be a bit smaller through the shoulders and neck to waist length, which are areas I always tend to alter in regular patterns anyway.

Since this was a test blouse, I tried some things that I probably will not do for the final version, just to see if I was sure I'd like them or not. That is the point of a test garment anyway. Let's take a look.

First, I stitched the side seams separately and then stitched the darts with both fabrics together, like you would for an underlining. This works fine for the test garment, but I will be stitching the darts independently for the final version.

The original pattern calls for armhole facings. I eliminated those and did an armhole binding instead. I'm pretty sure I will do this for the final version - in a color to match the lining. I think the lining will be white, but not sure at this point. The print's background is white, so that will probably be the color of choice.

This pattern has one of those great side zippers. I used an invisible zip for this one, but again not sure if I want to use an invisible or a hand pick a zipper for the final version. Whatever I do, it will be consistent with the skirt, but right now, I'm thinking I'll use invisible zippers.

I just did a narrow hem for this blouse, but this would never work for the final version. I'll probably do a binding like the armholes at the hem, so that I can clean finish the zipper area. I'm also considering treating it like a lining and fell stitching the outer fabric and lining together. There would be less bulk that way, and possibly a cleaner zipper finish.

I made a covered button for this blouse since I did not find a button I was happy with when button shopping yesterday. I will probably do the same for the final version - because of the print, nothing put there will really show up. On a solid colored blouse a fabulous button would look great - almost like a piece of jewelry. The wild flower print speaks for itself in this case and does not need any help.

I'd like to include one little trick here that I use all the time when covered buttons. If you've ever covered buttons you know that you cut out little circles of fabric stretch around the form and then snap in the back of the button. Some of the forms have little teeth for grabbing the fabric, some don't. Either way, it can be difficult to get that little circle of fabric around that form nicely. I use a running stitch by hand all the way around the edge of the circle of fabric and then gather the circle around the button form. Once I adjust the fabric to be as smooth as possible around the form, I snap on the back and clip off the remaining thread You can see in the photo below that I haven't clipped the thread yet.

Who knew that such a simple blouse could be so complicated with so many decisions? That's how it is though - thinking each step through, considering the options and then deciding if that option will give the desired finish.

Parting Shot: Hope. I have hope that I'll have a couple of irises this year. The rest of my irises have not sent out buds yet. That doesn't mean they won't in the next few weeks, but I'm beginning to wonder. I've never had a problem with them and they always bloom beautifully with lots of blooms. Maybe the weather is not quite warm enough yet and this one is an early bloomer.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Garden Path - Jacket - Part III

Quilting Update

I've been pretty busy for the past week or so with just the quilting. While this is not as exciting as making the flowers, it is an important part of the garment, and needs to be done first. There will be plenty of flowers to show in the next few months!

You've already seen how I'm quilting this ensemble, so I thought I'd show you that I've actually accomplished something. The last time I showed you any major progress, I showed you the quilted sleeves. The jacket body is done, the shoulder seams are just pinned together. I'll trim the pieces and stitch those seams later in the construction process once the applique is finished.

I also quilted the collar and collar facing. It was just easier to quilt one piece from which to cut out both collars. I rough traced the collar on the piece just to make sure I had enough room for both pieces and so that they will be quilted exactly alike.

That's all the pieces for the jacket that I'll need to quilt. At least I think so. We'll see when I actually get to construction and see if I'm missing anything.

I've also started work on quilting the skirt; the straight lines are done, tomorrow I will do the free motion quilting. This is a front or a back, at this point it doesn't matter. I'm quilting large enough pieces so that I can cut either.

In other news, the blouse fit, with one minor change that I'll make to the pattern when I cut the real blouse. I'll show you that and more blouse details tomorrow.

Parting Shot: Cleaning Up. My daughter is cleaning out her flower bed today, getting rid of all the leaves and weeds to get it ready for the summer. It looks like all her plants are growing back, so we'll have some flowers in that bed this summer.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Garden Path - Blouse - Part II

Test Blouse, Part One

Now that I've got the pattern, I've decided to go ahead and make a test blouse to check the fit. It is not quite done yet, lacking a neckband facing, armhole binding, zipper and hem. Fortunately, I had just the right piece of fabric, in just the right size. I knew all I'd be able to make from what was left of the recent Patrones skirt was something sleeveless, and this was perfect timing. I'm thinking that it will fit, based on how it fits my dress form:

Notice that it doesn't fit my dress form. That's exactly what makes me think it will fit me. My dress form is larger than I am in the neck and shoulders, so I'm guessing the top will fit me. I'll know tomorrow morning when I try it on.

To get a better of idea of the shape, here it is on a hanger:

Here's a close-up of the neckband:

Overall, the blouse is very easy to make - darts provide the shaping through the bust, there is a size zipper, plus the band with a button for putting on the blouse. I will show you more of the construction details in another post. I'm thinking I'm going to have to line the blouse, and since this fabric needed underlining, I'm treating that as a lining and playing around with ideas as to how I'm going to finish the whole thing.

I hope to have the blouse finished in the next two or three days - I'll show you more as it progresses.

Q/A: There are a few today. First from Eileen O.: "Are you using silk batt?" Yes, I am using Hobb's Tuscany Silk batting for this project. This is my batting of choice for clothing. It drapes much better and is softer - drapes as good as something quilted can - than the Thermore batting, which was intended for clothing and projects requiring a thin batting.

Second, from Bunny: "Was this layout on the cross?" Originally the skirt was cut with the grain line parallel to the crosswise grain. Blurry, but you get the idea.

Since I'm redrafting for a more traditional skirt draft with side seams, and because I'm using silk dupioni with an obvious grain, I'll be cutting the skirt with the grainline parallel to the selvage and lined up with the lengthwise grain.

Meanwhile, I'm still quilting. I'll give you an update on that tomorrow.

Parting Shot: Front. I'm still working on the Manos Sweater. Here is one of the fronts, and I've started the other one. I'm stalled untill tomorrow evening because I need to pick up the buttons. The buttons (with shanks) are knit in rather than sewn on later; I'm still not sure how I feel about that - I think I'd like to change the buttons, but I think I want to follow the pattern properly. Why, I'm not sure. I never sew a pattern as printed!