Saturday, March 28, 2009


Ok, I realize this has nothing to do with sewing, but my sister asked if I still remembered how I made my tuteur. I DO still have the drawings and my chicken-scratched notes, but they are smeared and nearly unreadable. So I'm rewriting them for her, and decided, what the heck, I'll share with anyone who wants to make a tuteur for their garden!

I'm not teaching woodworking, though...if you can't figure it out from this, you are on your own!


SUPPLIES (All wood is pressure-treated)
  • Purchased Finial
  • Square TOP piece, cut 5½” by 5½” by 5/4” thick, edges routed
  • 8- 2”x2”x8’
  • 2- 1”x2”x8’
  • 2½” deck screws
  • Hide glue

For vertical supports--
Cut each 8’ 1x2 in half, so that you have 4- 4' pieces, then knock off each corner to make ends arrow-shaped…like this: ’^’.

For legs--
4, each 7’ long
Set saw for:
7 degree bevel, 7 degree miter
Cut end---slide, cut other end…DO NOT ROLL.

For cross members--
4, each 10”
4, each 15”
4, each 20”
4, each 25”

Set saw for:
7 degree bevel, 45 degree miter
Cut right end…roll piece 180 degrees…slide to right…cut left end.
Length of these pieces is measured along the top side…the shorter side. Due to the bevel, the bottom side will be slightly longer.

Assemble the cross-pieces into 4 frames, using Hide glue and a nail gun. Drill and screw to hold.

Mark outside edges of each leg as follows:

  1. From bottom- 16”
  2. 16” from 1.
  3. 17½” from 2.
  4. 17½ from 3.

These marks indicate the vertical placement of the cross-piece frames…the top of the frames will be placed at these marks.

On the 3 largest cross-piece frames, mark the center of each side, then mark ¾” on each side of that center mark. This will provide two marks, 1½” apart, between which you will (later) center the vertical supports (1x2’s).

Mark halfway down the length (front and back) of each 1x2 vertical support.

To locate the placement for the top ends of the legs--
On the bottom surface of the 5½” square TOP piece, divide the square into 4 quadrants by drawing two perpendicular lines, creating a + cross. Draw 2 additional lines, 1.5” on either side of each vertical line and each horizontal line, so that you end up with 3 lines going each way.

Drill a pilot hole toward the OUTER corner of each of the center 4 squares. Attach the upper end of each leg with a screw and glue. In this image, the little circles represent the pilot holes.

Oh! Drill a pilot hole in the very center, too, for the finial, which will be put on last!

Then stand and assemble-

  • Slide the largest cross piece over the legs. Align the top of the frame with the correct marks, drill and screw.
  • Repeat with subsequent cross-piece frames, leaving the smallest until last.
  • Align the vertical supports between their marks, centering vertically on the 20” cross-piece frame. Screw into place.

You MIGHT be able to get by with only 7 2x2s instead of 8 if you are really careful about which lengths you cut from which stick, but it is easiest to have that 8th one handy, just in case!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Empire waist Blouse/dress

I'm still working on the Empire waist top I mentioned at the end of my last
post. I created the pattern using PMB, and have run into a few problems
that need to be corrected...specifically, the way the bust dart is 'trued'
when placed in the waist seam. The dart's fold line needs adequate length
so that when the dart is sewn and pressed to one side, the cut edge of the
fold line will reach the waist seam. This is not happening. No matter
whether I press the dart toward the side or toward the center, the fold line
area comes up short of reaching the seam.

I'll show you what I mean.

This is my PMB pattern as drafted. You can see there is not a large 'triangle' of fabric created below the dart at the waist seam.

The green line is the center fold line of the
dart. The dart legs are pink and blue.

If I rotate the side part of the pattern to superimpose the pink and blue if sewing the can see that the green line does NOT
extend long enough to reach the lower, cut edge of the waist seam.

The green fold line is short by about an inch!
The numbers on this pattern represent the length of the dart's fold line (green) before I extended it to the cut edge and after extending.

But also, look at the SHAPE the waist seam takes after the dart is sewn.
It is like an inverted V...a ^ shape.
This is not right and is certainly not
desireable! That waist seam should be curved as a smooth line, more like the bold pink line I have added.

I pulled out one of my drafting books, Patternmaking for Fashion Design,
by Helen Joseph Armstrong. On page 429 of the Third Edition, she
shows how to 'true' the draft to prevent this problem.

I followed her directions for modifying the PMB draft.

Below is a 'before and after' view of this pattern...on the left-- as drafted,
and on the right-- after my corrections. Even if I planned to gather the
dart, instead of actually sewing it, the pattern would STILL need the extra
length at the dart legs to prevent the -^- shape, even though the fold-line
shortage becomes less of an issue.

Anyway, these changes should take care of the FRONT pattern.

But notice the changes HJA makes to the back pattern.

The upper back waist dart on my PMB Empire dress pattern (on the left here>>>) is always much shorter and narrower than the corresponding dart on my Torso/Blouse draft, and I have always wondered 'why'.

Also, the lower back the 'skirt' portion...on my PMB Empire dress is also much smaller than it would be on the Torso/Blouse draft. I sewed a muslin as drafted, but the back was loose and not very well fitted to my shape.

However, if I just pasted the darts from my Torso block onto this dress, there was a bit too much contouring back there, and it seemed....well, 'uneven'.

But once I saw this example in the Patternmaking book, I knew what the answer was!

I DID need to paste the larger TORSO dart onto the lower (skirt) portion of the PMB dress, but I did NOT want the larger Torso dart in the upper back part! No, I needed to keep the dart that drafts on the PMB back bodice, and then trim the side at waist (shown in PINK) to make the bodice seam match the width of the skirt portion! PMB doesn't do this (original side seam on bodice shown as bold green line) just makes the dart of the lower/skirt section as narrow as the dart in the back upper/bodice, so the seam lines will match in length.

I tested this on my septic-paper muslin and it seems to work nicely, so I am cutting 'real' fabric for a test Empire blouse!

Oh, you might be confused because I keep going back and forth between calling this an Empire blouse and an Empire DRESS. In PMB, if it has a waist seam, it is a DRESS, even if it is only blouse-length, so technically this is a 'dress' pattern. But I am making a blouse!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Blue Blouse-part 2, completed

As promised, here is the finished blue blouse that I talked about before :

It turned out to be wearable after all, although there are MANY things I wish I had done differently! Everyone at my sewing guild told me NOT to mention them...that no one (but me) would see these 'mistakes'.

But I see them.

And, of course, I will mention them! :)

Let's start with the button front. I want my front button extension to be slightly smaller than it drafts in PMB with smaller button sizes, especially if I am sewing the buttonholes vertically instead of horizontally, which I often do. Generally, I want the button extension to be about the same as the button width. Well, in PMB, if I draft with a 0.5" button, I get a .75" extension (I don't know *why*...drafting for a 1" button gives a 1" extension! anyway...). I usually try to remember to trim off some of the extension, but this time I forgot. So I have a flappy front.

Also, I used the button placement that drafted with the program...again, a mistake. I usually draft an extra button or two, so the last button is not so close to the hem of the garment, but I forgot to check that and just mindlessly marked the placement of buttons according to the placement and number on the printed pattern! duh. My fault.

Also, after washing this blouse, the front facing shrank just enough to cause the front hem to want to turn under/pull up...I hate it when that happens! Perhaps if I don't point it out, no one will notice...?

The modified Italian collar did work out better than on previous attempts, but next time I will even add a little more length to that outer edge when I slash the collar pattern between the shoulder and CF.

The waist is no longer too tight on this blouse...not because of the new diet, but more because I raised it upward a bit by shifting/changing the relationships of my pattern pieces!

The Back Shoulder Slope is still too long, but I will have to live with it on this blouse and change it for the next one. That results in a baggy back armhole area...and excess fullness in the back of the sleeve (it kinda collapses!).

The Front armholes are not the right shape on this blouse. Remember, I sewed those princess seams deeper (to increase dart size) and cut the armholes lower, and generally made several changes to the armholes.... I obviously didn't get the lower curve shaped just right! Also, I generally need to 'scoop' the front armholes that PMB gives me anyway, and I didn't do this on this blouse. You can see this fault results in folds of excess fabric in front of the lower time!

For this blouse, I lowered the sleeve cap height by 0.5" (setting -.5) and if I had lowered it even more, tis blouse would have been more comfortable to wear. Since finishing this blue blouse, I have reworked a few measurements and sewn several test blouses (of septic pics!), and the test with the sleeve cap lowered 1" gives even better arm mobility! I will try a cap height of -1.5" for the next low can ya go?

Before, I thought I might have reduced my shoulder widths too much on this test blouse, but I have decided that is not the case after all. This shoulder placement is is the lowered cap height of the sleeve that is key here...not the shoulder widths! Ok, that is ten years of insight in a nutshell!

I generally sew on my buttons by machine, using transparent tape to hold the buttons in place.

The End.
Now off to sew another test!
I am working on an Empire-waisted blouse...more later!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Mirrored sideseams

On the Patternmasterusers chat list on Yahoo, we've been discussing these undesireable wrinkles that frequently occur just behind and below the back armhole of PMB garments, especially on Princess styles. I mentioned that, on my patterns, the Princess style creates a 'gap' between the front and side front patterns at bust level and that this loss of bust width is compensated for by increasing the width of the back pattern at underarm. But this changes the shape of the back sideseam...I've talked about sideseams before.

But hours later, I'm still thinking about those wrinkles of fabric at the side/back armhole area. So I opened PMB and drafted and compared a few patterns...not even Princess ones, but just the basic Torso. I used my own measurement chart with ZERO ease at bust, waist and hip. I set the SS position to ZERO at bust, waist and hip. Below, you can see what I would get.

If I aligned the back to the front at the underarm points, you can see that the back pattern extends lower at the hem than the front pattern. But think of it (and look at it) this way: When I align the front and back at the hems, you can see that the back armhole level is HIGHER than the front armhole level. And this is because the sideseams are NOT mirror images.

Now, I can imagine that because this back armhole is higher than the front armhole, once the sideseams are sewn and the sleeve is sewn in, it is likely that this higher back armhole will be 'forced' downward on the body, creating folds. The balance of the patterns is off.

With the sideseam positions set at ZERO as above, the HEIGHT of the back armhole is 8.471".
The HEIGHT of the front armhole is 7.743" (as measured straight up).

But look at what happens if the SS tools are used to 'force' the front and back sideseams to become mirror images: When the Front and Back patterns are aligned at the hem, there is only a tiny difference in the heights of the front and back armholes...and it is the FRONT that is higher, not the back!

To force the sideseams to become mirror images, I used a Side/Arm Position of (-1) and a Side/Hip Position of (+.5). As you can tell by the size of those waist darts, the S/W position is still in the ZERO position, but that setting only affects the size of the waist darts, not the placement of the waist at side seam.

With the sideseam in this position and the front and back sideseams having mirrored shapes, the HEIGHT of the back armhole is now 8.954" and the front armhole is now 7.326" tall.

This means that moving the sideseam as I have had changed the balance of my patterns...I have gained 0.483" in back armhole height, and lost 0.417" of front armhole height!

I am thinking that the taller back armholes combined with the shorter front one is less likely to result in the folds of excess fabric that are fequently seen on PMB garments in back. Not a scientific study or anything...purely conjecture!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tastes like Chicken

It was about this time last year that my I first visited with the fiber arts group that I am now a part of. My friend, Marilyn, had mentioned this group several times, and finally I decided to go see what they were all about. It was basically a group of ladies who showed up whenever, and worked on whatever...each doing her own thing, and yet each being creative! I went home so inspired!

That very day, I went to my stash and started pulling out UFOs. I had a bunch of orphaned 4-square blocks that didn't match anything or each other, so I sewed them all together. Then I grabbed a couple of boxes of Rit dye from the laundry room and started mixing and cooking!

I put this assembled quilt top into a brown dye bath. Meanwhile, I also mixed up a green bath...and threw in several fabrics from my stash. I wanted to make a frog, and I had no frog-appropriate I tried to create something. I was planning this quilt for my son, Kevin, who used the knickname "Toad" during his paintball career throughout high school!

Once the quilt top was dried, I pulled out some fabric paint and stencilled on the willow tree, moon, fleur de lis and the squirls (behind the dragonflies). I stencilled a bit of lattice design behind the frog (in brown) but determined that particular paint was too runny and thin for was I stopped.

I created a frog 'stamp' by stacking and glueing several frog-shaped foam cutouts onto a scrap of wooden flooring...I used this to stamp gold frogs in a checkerboard design across the bottom. And I put a tiny orange 'T' in one square...University of Tennessee is where Kevin is attending Pharmacy school, and orange is their color!

That was all the painting I did at that time. Then I worked on adding the frog.

The frog was drawn with pencil on the fabric that I dyed, then cut out and appliqued to the quilt. There is a couple of layers of flannel behind him, plus I ran a bit of yarn down his stripe (trapunto) to give it a bit of definition. The back toes ( and front 'thumb') were bias strips, added individually.

I'll show a close up of the frog's was a plastic alphabet 'bubble' sticker...the letter 'O'...and I colored a pupil on the backside of it with a black sharpie marker before using it. I made tiny bias strips of my fabric and sewed them on (by hand) to form the eyelids.

After the frog was applied, I layered this up (batting and backing) and loaded it up on my Handiquilter, to be quilted. I used various threads for the quilting...variegated brights in the center, variegated blues for the sky and water area, black for rocks, greens for leaves, gold around the fleur de lis and moon.

Then I made the dragonflies. Their bodies were little tubes of shiny polyester fabric, stuffed and wrapped and shaped and stitched...with beads as eyes. Their wings took weeks to make, and there were MANY *rejects* before settling on these! In the end, though, the wings I used were made from Angelina fibers that were fused into a 'sheet', then layered between black tulle, along with some gold threads, and stitched, then cut out. They were sewn to the bodies then the whole dragonflies were attached to the quilt...the wings were shaped to give a 3-D effect.

Next, I added a few colored seed beads...randomly...on the quilting lines in the dragonfly area. These are to imply tiny gnats or other bugs buzzing around in the night air!
I applied hot-fix crystals to the upper area to be the stars.

Lastly, I again painted...this time, inside some of the already quilted areas. I used acrylic Folk-Art and set off these areas, as the Dynaflow fabric paint was too intense and difficult to control, as I wanted a subtle coloring. The last part I did was the water, and I did use some Dynaflow, and it turned out more intense than I wanted, but HEY, whatcha gonna do? It wouldn't wash out.

So it was finished.

I sewed on the label on the back...

"Tastes Like Chicken"

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Needlepoint Pillow

A few weeks ago I found a needlepoint pillow in a bag at the top of a closet. This was made by my grandmother and given to my daughter for her graduation...I can't remember if it was from high school or college, but either way, many years have passed since then.

While the pillow is as cute as can be, it is NOT my daughter's style. She is not the ruffle type. I am not sure DD even remembers this pillow. I decided it was silly to leave it there, in the closet, unused and unseen. I would remake it as a mixed-media piece, to become something DD would use, and give it to her for her birthday.

This is sideways...Blogger loves to rotate pictures for me, without giving me the tools to undo what it has done.

But anyway... this is the 'before'. As I said, it's cute but not her style.

I ripped the pillow apart, pulling out the stuffing, then removing the ruffle and the matching moire taffeta backing. As you can see, the corners of the canvas were cut off when this was initially made into a pillow, so I'd have to work with those.

Using 3 strands of embroidery floss, I worked a grid of X's in the darker field area. This alone gave it a more contemporary look!
I cut some triangles of my dark fabric and sewed them onto the knocked off corners, giving me a base that was square.

I placed the needlepoint on some batting which had been placed on a piece of chintz. Then I began adding fabric strips, log cabin-style, around the needlepoint. I varied the width of the strips so the needlepoint would NOT end up in the center.

Several of the fabrics used in this piece were also used on a quilt I made Aidan (my grandson, DD's son) in 2007. The already-pieced strip was a remnant from the sketchbook cover I made Andrew for Christmas. I liked the tie-ins...Kelly has told me repeatedly since Christmas that it is HER TURN to get something handmade from me. Recognizing the fabrics in this piece will remind her of the projects given to the other members of her family!

Once I got the top all put together, I was NOT thrilled with the way the piece felt. I could feel (and see) a 'ridge' created by the thick canvas under the first strip. Note to self: next time, use decorator fabrics, which are heavier, instead of quilting cottons!

Here you can see the ridge a little better...I was NOT happy!
So I decided to slash into the backing and try to reposition the batting, so it would be ABOVE the canvas edges and perhaps soften the transition.

Using my duckbilled scissors, I carefully slashed and cut the backing behind the first strips, being careful not to cross any stitching lines. The fact that the canvas corners were cut diagonally was a help in this case!

I pulled the canvas out the slashes, sort of tucking the batting and backing under the canvas edges.
But I didn't want to leave it this way. Stuffing the pillow could dislodge these edges, or they might shift during use later.

So I decide to add more batting!
I cut out the area behind the needlepoint, so it had less batting than the quilted areas, hoping to better 'level' the overall front.
I also tucked the edges of this layer of batting under the canvas edges, again, to soften the transition and eliminate that ridge.

To keep this extra batting in place, I added a layer of septic paper. This is like a non-woven interfacing, only a bit slicker. I basted this around the edges, knowing future stitching would hold it in place.

With the ridge eliminated, I could now do the decorative stitching on the front of the pillow, using both free-motion and the pre-programmed stitches on my machine.

To flatten the needlepoint area and give it some character, I stippled in the light background area around the bird and branch. This created the look of trapunto without the added stuffing!

I had planned to do a chainstitch around the circle where the dark and light blues meet, but for some (dumb) reason, I didn't do it before, when I did the grid of X's. Well, now it is much harder to get a needle through all those layers! and trying to pierce only the needlepoint, without including the batting/backing, was not fun! I also tried to smooth out the lopsided circle. Not perfect, but then, nothing I do ever is! Charm...I say.

With the front completed, I started on the back. I decided to make it 'special', too, in case DD doesn't love the front...she can flip it over! Plus, if she ever really wants to use this pillow, I wanted it to be face friendly. So I cut strips and did a stitch-n-flip application, followed by decorative stitching along the seams, using the pre-programsed stitches on my machine.

Then I trimmed the back to match the front and sewed them together around the edges, leaving an opening on the bottom edge.

I trimmed the corners and turned this right sides out, giving a good press to flatten the outside edges.

Then I stitched in the ditch around the pillow to create a flange.

Again, I stopped the stitching at the opening at the bottom.

Then I stuffed the pillow through the opening. (I probably overstuffed it...I KNOW I did!...but I am not ripping it out to redo!) Then, I pushed the stuffing away from the open edge and pinned the front to the back well inside the area to be closed. This way, I could use the sewing machine to complet the row of stitching that creates the flange...the inside row. I did have to really flatten the pillow with my hand to allow it to pass under the machine.

Yep, that's my blood you see on the flange...these pins are sharp! A little hydrogen peroxide took that right out.

Now the pillow is stuffed and enclosed, but there is still an opening in the edge of the flange.

I used needle and thead to handsew the opening closed.

The back, finished.

The front, finished.
As I said, I overstuff this...but already it has flattened some, and it will flatten more over time.
My family loves this shape of pillow...rectangles with a flange...they call these 'gripping pillows' because they are good to hug!
Ok, we're weird.
But wonderful.

Happy Birthday, Kelly!
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