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Friday, December 31, 2010

The Collared Shirt, Part II: Felled Seams

Here's the next part in my collared shirt class: (Flat) Felled Seams

1.     Lay one front and back right or wrong sides together*(depending on finished seam desired), offsetting by approx. 1/8”
* If you want the finished seam to have one row of stitching visible, place RIGHT sides together.
If you want the finished seam to have two rows of stitching visible, place WRONG sides together.

2.     Press the under layer over the top layer 1/8” for approx 2”

3.     With needle in CENTER position, using lapped seam foot, place fabric under presser foot and stitch approx 1”.

4.     With needle DOWN, raise presser foot. Carefully place under layer over tongue of presser foot and lower presser foot.

5.     Complete sewing seam. (it is okay if the folded layer is not completely caught in the stitching)

6.     Press seam flat.

7.     Open seam and press flat from wrong side with raw edge underneath.

8.     Place the fabric under the presser foot and take a few stitches.

9.     With needle DOWN, lift presser foot, place fold over tongue of presser foot, lower presser foot.

10. Stitch seam, aligning first row of stitching with inside edge of right toe of presser foot.

11. Press seam flat.
12. Repeat for other side seam, shoulder seams and sleeve/underarm seams.

That's it! You now have a beautifully finished seam. I used the narrow Lap Seam foot for this shirt. The wider one is great for heavier fabrics and a more casual look.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Collared Shirt, Part I: Center Front Placket

This is the first installment in my posts covering the collared shirt class I just taught here in Austin, TX.

I used Kwik Sew 2849 which is a princess seamed shirt with separate collar and stand.

Step 1: Mark the "fold to" lines

I've found it much easier to mark the line I need to fold to rather than the one I need to fold on. So, if my fold line is 1-1/2" from the cut edge, I mark 3" from the edge, then fold over and line up the cut edge with the marking.

Step 2: Fold to form the CF placket
Depending the view you selected (expose buttons or covered placket), this may be as many as 3 folds on the right front)

Step 3: Press well

Step 4: Put the edge stitch foot on your machine
(that's 10/10C to Bernina drivers).

Edge stitching with the 10C foot
Step 5: Move the needle position one to the right

Step 6: Place the fabric wrong side up under the presser foot
Make sure the folded placket is to the right of the needle

Step 7: Line up the center blade of the foot with the folded edge

Step 8: Sew along the placket edge

Step 9: Press well

Step 10: Repeat all steps for the other side front piece

The Best Buttonhole Cutter-Evah!

A new sewing buddy who I met in class earlier this month introduced me to this awesome buttonhole cutter. (Thanks Leslie in Austin!)
This is a scalpel, so easy to hurt yourself, but it is so sharp you only need a little pressure to cut through fabric--even layers of denim! I got this one at my Bernina dealer, Sew Much More. I think it was $3.99. So much better than my old chisel and hammer. (Though I will NEVER give up my "sewing" hammer. You'll see why soon--I'll start posting the steps for my shirt class here, and a hammer is invaluable.)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

ASDP Annual Conference -- The Challenge continues...

This was the second year I'd entered the Threads for ASDP challenge, and the first time I was named a finalist. The bar is incredibly high in these challenges, since it is only open to association members, all professionals. I'm very proud of the work I did, and approached it as a personal challenge, not a contest. This year's challenge was "Suit Your Style", and required us to start with Vogue pattern 2898 and using pattern alterations, make something new. Our final patterns were submitted as part of the judging. I did not win, but got excellent feedback from Judith Neukam from Threads Magazine and Julianne Bramson, who was also judge in this challenge. I also got rave reviews from my fellow members, which is always an honor considering the talent and skill in this group.

The only criticism I from the judges was on the curve on the jacket at the waist. It had given me pause, but I couldn't figure out how to change it to be more flattering.

As you can see, the outward curve of the purple sort of "short circuits" the slimming effect of the black side panel, giving the illusion of a wider waist rather than a slimmer one.

Sooo, being oh so slightly obsessive, and seeing this as another step in the overall Challenge, I plan to redraft the pattern and recut the jacket. (Still undecided about reproducing the embroidery, though I LOVE it.)

Here's what I'm considering--through the magic of Pixelmator, I've "adjusted" the curve on the right, making it deeper towards the center front and pushing it up towards the armscye.  Now that I look at it, it almost look like a boob lift. :)

For those interested, here are some specifics on my materials:
Jacket and skirt: Wool gabardine from Fabric. com
Jacket lining: hand-dyed (by me) silk charmeuse from C&J Textiles
Skirt Lining: Black silk charmeuse from The Common Thread, Austin, TX
Embroidery: 2 designs from altered by me, using Embird Software

All sewing and embroidery was done using Madeline, my brilliant Bernine 730E.

I will keep you posted as I make progress on the "new and improved" jacket.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

ASDP Annual Conference -- Deerbrook Fabrics

Our next stop was Deerbrook Fabrics in Fairview, NJ. Some of us thought we were going fabric shopping, but Deerbrook Fabrics is a large-scale machine embroidery operation.
By large scale, I mean their newest machine embroiders 30 yards of fabric at one time. Deerbrook Fabrics operates 3 machines, all Swiss made, all "Schiffli" machines. In Swiss German, schiffli means "little boat", referring to the boat shape of the bobbin cases used by the machines. The 2 older machines (1950's--pictured at right) are double-decker (two lengths of fabric are embroidered with the same pattern at the same time) and the design is read from a loop of punch tape, not very different from the punch cards once used to load code onto computers. The older machines do one color at a time and must be completely re-threaded and reset for color changes.
The newer machine (pictured at left) is single-deck and completely computerized. When a thread breaks the machine stops, a red light turns on where the broken thread is, the computer screen displays the # of the broken thread, and a bell rings. The older, slower machines are usually re-thread while they are running. This machine holds 1000 needles, and depending on the size of the design can be loaded with 20 colors which are changed automatically as the design is worked.

The range of work they do here is amazing--from embroidered stars for high-end American flags to delicate floral embroidery for lingerie, dense all-over designs to eyelet. (Small square knives under the needles work the threads apart to form the holes before the edges are embroidered.)

Run by father and son, Ed and Steve Parseghian, it is encouraging to see some things are still made in the US, though this industry, like so many similar ones is shrinking. Mr. Parseghian noted that at the turn of the last century there were hundreds of businesses like theirs, and now they are some of the last survivors of globalization. As he put it, it is up to all consumers to make buying decisions that support local industries whenever possible.

Many thanks to Mr. Parseghian and his son--they we gracious hosts!

..Next up--my first hand experience as a finalist in the Threads Magazine Challenge.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

ASDP Annual Conference -- Wolf Form Company

I returned a week ago from the Annual Conference for the Association of Sewing and Design Professionals. The conference was held in Secuacus, NJ this year--not the most glamorous place, but close enough to NYC to allow for some great adventures.

I arrived on Thursday, October 14th, and the fun began right away. I've made many dear friends and always look forward to catching up with them at conference, though we keep in touch via email and Facebook. You may not think that a bunch of seamstresses/sewing teachers could be a fun group, but we are.

This year was especially exciting for me, as I was a finalist in the Threads Magazine Challenge "Suit Your Style" and taught my first formal class ever. (more on both these topics later).

We had 3 options for Friday, and I chose the tour of the Wolf Form Company and Deerbrook Fabrics, both in New Jersey.

Stephen Wisner of New Jersey was our tour guide. He is very knowledgeable and has a fondness for diners, so we ended our day with a late lunch at the TickTock Diner in Clifton.

Our first stop was the Wolf Form Company, makers of high quality standard and custom dressforms.
I was really impressed that everything is still done by hand, from laying the paper-mache like material in the cast to form the foundation of the form, to sewing and shrinking the Irish linen cover to fit.

The owner, Mr. Ferri, walked us through the entire factory and explained every step of the process. This may sound boring to some, but to a sewing geek like me (and my sewing peeps), a dressform is an essential (though often luxury) tool. To see how something so important to our craft is made was a treat.

Next up: Deerbrook Fabrics--even cooler stuff for the nerds among us! 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Collared Shirt Class coming up in Austin

For anyone interested in stepping up their shirt-making skills, I'll be teaching a class at Sew Much More in Austin. This is a 2-day class, November 27 and December 4. We'll cover tools and techniques to sew a better collar, attach the collar/stand, add decorative stitching and  make better seams.
Please visit Sew Much More or call them at 512-452-3166 for more details and to register.

2010 ASDP Conference is just around the corner...

Less than two weeks away, in fact. I'll be headed to New Jersey this year on Oct 14. I always have a wonderful time at conference, but this time I am teaching a class (Take the Mystery Out of SEO) and I am a finalist in this year's Threads Challenge, "Suit Your Style". I'd love to give specifics, but it is a blind judging, so mum's the word for now. I will share details as soon as I can. I can say that I really enjoyed working on this project and took the "challenge" concept very much to heart. I have a long list of things I could have done better/different, but I am still very proud and please with what I made.
For more information and the Association of Sewing and Design Professionals (ASDP), visit the website:

I'll post updates from conference and when I return.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

All My Feet....

So, here's a photo of my current Bernina foot collection. Not shown are the walking foot and BSR.
I am a foot whore, I'll admit it, but the amazing foot selection is one of the reasons I made the switch to Bernina. My latest favorites: 70/71 Flat fell (AKA lap seam) I use the narrow one for shirt seams. I've only tested out the wide one, but it be perfect for pants and jeans.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

My BFF is back!

My dear Madeline(my new Bernina) has been in the shop for a cleaning for almost 3 weeks now, but she's home now. I've missed her so!
I was in California a couple of weeks ago for a family wedding and hit my favorite fabric store, Stone Mountain & Daughter, in Berkeley. For the fabric junkies, you'll understand my pain--arriving home with a fresh, delicious stack of fabric while my machine is in the shop. SOOO, I pulled my Elna from the dark corner where she's been pouting. I've had a guilty thought in the back of mind ever since I brought the new Bernina home. Maybe my Elna isn't such a bad machine. I never did have time to take the dealer's classes, so maybe I've just never learned how to make the most out of her.
Well, I was wrong. It's not that the Elna is a bad machine, but the Bernina is just so far superior. I know I sound like an ad, but it's the truth. And to be completely fair, the different in price is thousands of dollars. I'm sure for lots of sewing folks out there, it isn't worth the investment, but it is for me. Even my husband has noticed how much better my work is.
Off to my shop for now--I'll post photos of my fabric finds and latest projects in my next post.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Fancy Feet

Yes, my foot obsession continues. I broke my rule of not buying any new feet until I had become intimately familiar with the ones I already had, but for good reason.
I recently received a copy of Shirtmaking by David Page Coffin and was considering buying a flat felled foot and a roll hem foot. This past Friday, I found out the deadline for a sample for the shirtmaking class I plan to teach at my Bernina dealer was needed by Aug 1st. So I bought the feet, picked out fabric and made the shirt this weekend. I was unable to get a good hem with the rolled hem foot (too many sharp curves), but the felled seam foot looked like a charm. I also used a completely different technique to attach the collar and stand which makes it much easier to get the stand lined up with the front placket.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Oh, Baby!

I attending a baby shower this weekend. Much to my delight, my friends are expecting a girl. Baby girl dresses are the most fun to make. They're small quick and you can do sweet, cute details you can't do on anything else. I made a dress and 3 coordinating bibs.
The applique designs are from Urban Threads (
The stitching on the dress bodice is stitch-stacking--a technique using multiple decorative stitches to create a lace effect.

Monday, June 21, 2010

My on-going foot fetish...

I've already accumulated quite a few presser feet for my lovely new machine, and am proud to say I used quite a few of them this weekend:

1C Reverse pattern (of course--this is the all-purpose that you can do most basic stitches
3C automatic buttonhole with slider--for a little dress I made for a friend's baby due in August
7 Tailor tack--for (drumroll, please) tailor tacks on a suit I'm making for ASDP/Threads challenge
10C Edge stitch--a few people have named this as their favorite foot, and it is def one of my faves
16 Wide Gathering--also for the baby dress. Loving this foot after getting the hang of it.
18 button sew on--have one for my Elna, but never used it since it seems easier to sew buttons by hand. No more--this foot works great, as does the button sewing program
35 Invisible zipper--SOOOO much better than the foot for my Elna which required me to sew twice to get it just right. The Bernina foot is perfect the first time, so it now takes me half the time to put in an invisible zipper

I still covet a few feet I don't have yet: Binding foot, Ruffler, piping. I am trying to get myself to master all the feet I've already bought before buying more. Will post again when I've tackles a few more...

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

You can't have enough (presser) feet

Last Saturday I had my first lesson at the dealer. I thought I had already learned quite a bit about the machine, but there is so much more to it. As I suspected (feared) I was offered a 15% discount on anything I bought that day. I picked up the roller foot (for leather), a cording foot, and an edge-stitching foot. I was happy I had purchased the roller foot, since my husband had asked me to repair a vintage guitar strap. Thanks to a friend in California, I have piles of leather samples of all sorts of colors and had just the right color/thickness to reinforce the tab.
I also used the edge stitch foot for a new purse I made for myself. I copied the purse from one I bought in Montreal last year, and the embroidery is a free design from Urban Threads.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Most Awesome Machine Ever

This is the most amazing machine I have ever touched. Everything about it makes things easier, faster and more accurate. I've sewn dozens of invisible zippers with my Elna, but the Bernina foot is so much better that it took me half the time to set a zipper.
I also tried a corded pintuck last night--it was magic! As per the manual, I ran the "cord" (in this case embroidery floss) through the bobbin case and into the small round hold in the sole plate. The floss was lined up perfectly and a beautiful pintuck emerged from behind the presser foot.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

My New BFF

I have sewn since I was 4, making clothes for my Barbie and Mrs. Sunshine by hand. By 12, I had a hand-me-down machine all my own, in my room. I've mostly made clothes, but have ventured into other areas: bags, laptop cases, sofa cushions.
I bought my first brand-new machine in 2000--an Elna 6005 Heirloom Edition--a good machine with lots of bells and whistles. But I've lusted after Berninas for years, and after attending a workshop at conference for a trade group (ASDP--Association of Sewing and Design Professionals), I knew my life would not be complete until I possessed one of these works of Swiss perfection. (Much like I still to this day know my childhood would only have been perfect if I had owned a Barbie van. Alas, my childhood was RV free and thus incomplete.)
About a week ago I purchased my first Bernina and first embroidery machine. It was love at first stitch.
This is where I prove my true sewing nerdiness in listing my favorite features:
9mm stitch width--YES!!
stainless steel arm (other than being more durable, I just like it because it looks cool)
computer! (wish it ran Mac instead of windows, but still cool)
automatic thread cutter and knee presser foot lift
insane number of pre-programmed stitches including 3 different styles of keyhole buttonholes Nirvana!
Yes, I am obsessed with this machine. I find myself giggling like a schoolgirl (though don't recall giggling all that much when I was a school girl) and singing "Secret Love" while my dearest new companion happily chugs away at an embroidery design.

I'll include some of my recent projects on the next post and bore you with my insane ranting over the perfect jeans and awesomely snarky embroidery designs.

The very first post!

I've decided to finally start a blog, because like most people, I have the completely unsubstantiated belief that I have something to say(write) that others may actually want to hear(read). I've always been a talker (just ask my family). Less than an hour after having my tonsils removed at 27, I was talking. Even my brother was stunned by my will to speak. Since blogs seem to be the talkaholic's modern medium, here I am.
I'll warn you right off the bat that I can be downright schizophrenic in my interests. Sewing is my primary passion, but I'm also a major Francophile, love to cook and bake, own two Pugs, a Lab, and 4 donkeys, and am a pretty major geek. Anything is fair game for posts, so visitor beware...