Thursday, August 30, 2012

Embroidery Machines: What's Your Take?

Machine embroidery is one of those things I never thought I would be interested in--it seems so fussy and complicated. So many threads! Hoops! Stabilizers! Computer programming! Machines that just sew on their own for hours on end! (Which is kind of creepy, in my opinion.)

But I'll admit that my interest has recently become piqued. I love the look of embroidered fabric, especially with a vintage vibe. I mean, just take this 50s gown embroidered with--wait for it . . . STRAWBERRIES.

Of course, if you wanted to recreate this look, finding a berry-embroidered tulle fabric would be next to impossible. Which is why I find myself suddenly interested in embroidery machines. With the right software and equipment, you could just make your own fabric!

I then found out, through the internet search rabbit hole, that there are machines like the Brother NV5000 (pictured above) that have tons of pre-programmed florals, and yes! STRAWBERRIES. Not that it's in the budget right now, but you know--maybe someday.

The problem is that I really know nothing about the whole machine embroidery world. So, as usual, I turn to you, dear readers. Are any of you into this stuff? Do you embroider your own fabric? Do you have a machine you love? Please tell!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

My New Pattern Line with Butterick!

Holy cow, readers. What a day. My book is making its way into your homes, and now another big arrival: the first two designs in my new pattern line with Butterick! I haven't uttered a peep about this, and it's been quite difficult.

I became friends with the folks at Butterick/Mccalls/Vogue earlier this year after they featured my blog in Vogue Patterns Magazine. Ever since doing the patterns for my book, I wanted to do more designs and Butterick was totally game, signing me up for two designs a season. And now the first two are out!

The first is B5814, and I'm so excited that it made the cover of the pattern catalog! I presented this design as a "draped wiggle dress." It has tiny raglan sleeves, a surplice boned bodice, and a double drape on the sarong-style skirt.

 Didn't they do an amazing job on the styling and photography?

The second design, B5824, is a New Look inspired coat.

It has a dramatic shawl collar, slim kimono sleeves, and a gored circle skirt.

The cool part was that I got to draft the patterns and make the samples myself. (Well, actually I had a LOT of help from my friend Fleur.) And my friend and illustrator of my book, Sun Young Park, made me a little logo. Then everything went to Butterick, where it was made into a beautiful product by the pros there. Thank you to all the many, many people who made this happen!

The great news is that both patterns are on sale for $2.88 until tomorrow. I hope you love them! I'm hard at work on the next season now; more to come on that.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Comforter Drive for Pets Alive

Whew, what a week! Apparently my book is shipping early, and people are already getting their copies. I also have some super exciting news that I think I'll get to share with you tomorrow. (Trust me; it's good.) To take the edge off, it's been good to immerse myself in the drive for Pets Alive, our favorite no-kill animal sanctuary. Last post, we talked about making kerchiefs for the adoptable doggies, and now we'll focus on another big need the shelter has: winter bedding. Pets Alive specifically asked for comforters, cut down to twin size or smaller (to fit into their washer/dryers). So today I'll show you how to take one large comforter and break it down into three smaller blankets perfect for a dog and a couple kitties. Here's how to do it.

You'll need:
  • a comforter
  • scissors
  • yard stitck
  • chalk or other marking tool
  • satin blanket binding (dividing a large comforter into three blankets required 1-1/2 packages of binding)

Start by marking out the lines for the new blankets with your chalk and yardstick. I decided on one long blanket, and two smaller ones. Cut the comforter up along your lines.

Warning: if you have pets at home, now is the time they get super involved. 

Now get out your blanket binding to finish off those raw edges. As you'll see, it's really wide and opens up on a fold. 

Turn in the ends of the binding and pin to the raw edge of your comforter so it's encasing the edge.

Pin all along one side. If you only have one side to finish, you'll cut the binding at the end and turn in the binding edges like you did at the beginning. If you have more than one side to finish, you'll need to do a mitered corner. I'm going to show you a quick and easy fake mitered corner. 

At your machine, begin stitching along the edge of the binding. It helps to use a walking foot so all the layers feed easily, but it isn't necessary. 

Stitch all along the side. When you get to the corner, stitch all the way to the edge and stop. Remove from the machine and clip your threads. 

Next, fold the binding around the corner, producing a mitered effect. 

Pin it in place.

Pin the binding to the rest of the edge as well. 

When you get to the end of the last edge you need to bind, cut the binding, leaving about an inch. 

Turn in the raw ends of the binding and pin, as you did at the very beginning. 

Go back to the mitered corner. Start stitching again on side 1 again, overlapping with your previous line of stitching for 1/2" or so. 

When you get to the corner, drop your needle all the way down, lift up your presser foot, and pivot so that you're now stitching down side 2 of the comforter. 

When you get to the very end, backstitch. Make sure to trim threads very close, as some critters are known to chomp on threads. 

That's it! Of course, you can bind all around the comforter, but this way leaves you more seam binding (to do another comforter perhaps! I plan to check out our local discount stores for more), and I don't think the pups and cats will mind at all. 

Last night, my mom sent me a picture of some adorable dog-themed fabric she found (and then proceed to cut out 22 kerchiefs!), and it inspired me to create a Flickr group for the Pets Alive Drive.

Please join the group, and show off your efforts to help! I'd love to see your fabric choices, your kerchiefs and comforters, and of course, your furry friends!

Please send all donations to:

Pets Alive
363 Derby Road
Middletown, NY 10940 

If you'd prefer to donate another way, you can send money via PayPalor check out their list of other needed items

Thanks for your enthusiasm for this project! I will continue to give updates until the end of September. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Tutorial: Make a Kerchief for a Shelter Dog in Need

Hi readers! As promised, today is the first tutorial on how to help animals in need at Pets Alive, where we adopted our dear Rosie. In honor of the publication of my first book, we're having a drive to help the animals at Pets Alive with sewn items.

Jeff and I have adopted 3 shelter animals, and we've never been so impressed by a facility. Pets Alive is committed to providing a no-kill sanctuary for animals in need, from all over the country--for as long as they need it, i.e. life. (Rosie came from Puerto Rico. She had 3 babies on a highway roadside and then Pets Alive turned her life around--and ours!)

One of major sewn needs of Pets Alive is kerchiefs for the doggies. This may seem a little silly, I grant you. But the kerchiefs are used for two important purposes: first, as "adopt me" kerchiefs for pets to wear at adoption events. Secondly, as festive "I'm adopted!" kerchiefs to wear when taken home. When we finalized the paperwork to adopt Rosie, she was dressed up in a fancy kerchief (in a sparkly cupcake print), the adoption bell was rung, and we had a family portrait taken. That cupcake kerchief is now a prized possession. (I get a little weepy when I think about it, to be honest.)

So let's talk about how we can sew kerchiefs for our doggie friends! I've tried a few methods, and my favorite way is to make a two-layer kerchief. Making a narrow hem on a single-layer kerchief is an option, but it gets fiddly around those sharp angles. A two-layer kerchief creates a nice clean finish, while eliminating hemming. Hooray!

Supplies needed for an "adopt me" kerchief:

  • 1/2 yard of light-colored cotton 
  • a ink jet printer
  • ink jet transfer paper for light colored fabrics (This can be purchased everywhere from Joann to Target to Office Max to online. For more online shopping options, Google "inkjet transfer paper light".)
  • This PDF
  • a ruler and chalk
  • thread, pins, and other usual sewing notions
Supplies needed for a festive "I'm adopted!" kerchief:
  • 1/2 yard of brightly printed cotton (i.e., quilting cotton)
  • a ruler and chalk
  • thread, pins, and other usual sewing notions

Here is your size chart, carefully devised by the human and canine experts at Chez Gertie. As you can see, there's measurement A and measurement B for each size. For reference, Rosie weighs 17 pounds and wears a size Small. An Extra Small will fit a puppy or tiny adult, while an Extra Large should fit the biggest breeds. Your average adult lab or shepherd will likely wear a Large.

You're going to start by laying out a double fold of fabric, folding selvage-to-selvage. Next, draw a line equaling Measurement A along the fabric's straight grain.

Next, mark the center of this line. Then, use a ruler to measure up the amount of Measurement B and make another mark.

Next, connect that mark to the two ends of line A, making a triangle. (Apologies for the wrinkly fabric.)

Now, cut out along your lines. This will give you two triangles.

Pin the triangles together, right sides together.

Sew, using a 1/4" seam allowance, all around the triangle--BUT, leaving a 4 inch opening on the long edge.

Now, cut down the three corners to eliminate bulk. 

Turn the triangle right side out, poking out the corners. (It helps to use a pin to pick out the corners from the right side.) Press the whole thing, turning in the 1/4" seam allowance on the 4 inch opening. 

Pin the opening closed. 

Edgestitch all the way around the triangle. I like to use my Bernina #10 foot to get a perfect 1/8" edgestitch. 

If you're making a festive quilting-cotton kerchief, you're done! If you're making an "adopt me" kerchief, you'll want to add the text. Download this file, which has text in three different sizes. Print the file "as is" on your ink jet transfer paper. Follow the package directions to ensure that you're printing correctly. You will notice that the text in the file is backwards; this is intentional.

Cut out around your desired size, leaving minimal paper outside the text. (I used the smallest text for a size Small kerchief.)

Now, place the text face-down on the right side of your kerchief. 

Press with a hot iron until it's fully adhered. Let cool for a minute, and then peel off the backing. 

Voila! A finished kerchief. 

That's it! Not bad, huh? Please make as many as you're able (and of course make a fun printed one for the doggies in your life to wear!) and send them to:

Pets Alive
363 Derby Road
Middletown, NY 10940 

If you'd prefer to donate another way, you can send money via PayPal or check out their list of other needed items

Thank you, readers! 

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