What Day is this?

I found myself asking this question often…

I will say, after two nights uninterrupted sleep, I am actually starting to feel human.  And today, for the first time in quite a few days, I felt like my brain was working on all four cylinders.  I felt organized in my thoughts, and felt like I sort of made sense while I was lecturing.  Everyone seemed enthusiastic, and wanted to try out all of the techniques I showed them.  Today’s topic was basic sewing skills and all sorts of Seam and Edge Finishes.

I love the sound of purring sewing machines, and had all sorts of bias strips, nylon tricot, press bars, lopi yarn, and other oddities for the students to play with.  My favorite seam finish of course, is the Hong Kong, and I provided some lovely pink acetate from a bolt I will never finish, to create bias strips for making the Hong Kong finish.  I don’t have all my production photos in this computer, so I can’t actually show you the finish, but I think you can find it in one of my previous blogs.  I also taught them to make piping, and I love to stuff the piping with soft Lopi yarn, every fiber enthusiast has a skein of that floating around in their stash.  It makes great stuffing for piping and I had a ball for them to play with.

One of my other favorite seam finishes was a product called Seams Great.  Sadly this product is no longer available.  In essence, Seams Great was a nylon tricot bias cut strip, about 1 1/4″ wide, which encased a seam allowance beautifully, with no weight and lots of flex.  So I found a source for 15 denier nylon tricot, and offer it to my students, to cut their own bias, and showed them how to use it to encase handwoven seam allowances, and to make curved shirttail hems a breeze.

I also showed them how to make bias tubes with press bars, I use a 3/8″ wide duct fastener, which looks like a cable tie on steroids.  We did all kinds of interesting things with them.

bettie_frontbettie_backWhen the class was winding down today, Bettie Bahen from Ann Arbor, MI, who had taken a jacket making class when I visited Ann Arbor last year, came in to show me her blouse.  It was really pretty, and it looked great on her, and she proudly told me that she had used my jacket pattern to draft the blouse pattern!  I was soooo impressed.  She said it was the best fitting pattern she ever used, and that made me feel great!  And I loved the print!

One more day of class, then I get to judge the fashion show!  Tomorrow, Closures…

Sandstone Layers Jacket Continued…

I spent the day knee deep in paperwork, it felt good to plow through the pile.  I took care of lots of small things, crossed off things on my to-do list.  That always cheers me.  The weather improved steadily throughout the day, leaving behind all the grey cold dreary rain.  The gardens are spectacular!  I am going to wage war this weekend on a particular ground hog who has figured out how to wedge his fat little body under my vegetable garden fence, once again eating all the lettuces.  I feel like Mr. McGregor!

I did get to make a bit of progress on the jacket however.  So I took lots of pictures!  I’m rather enjoying such detailed documentation of the process I’m going through for each of the garments I’ve done since I started blogging.  I would like to pull together all the written ‘threads’ for each garment and put them into a single document, but that’s going to take some time.

One of the difficulties I’m having is the slippery poly sari I’m using for the bias strips, torques when I apply it.  It is an occasional phenomenon that happens, I’m not exactly sure why, sometimes my students have their binding biastorque, but what I do know is that it seems to happen more with finer more slippery fabrics.  I’m taken off a few strips, and reapplied them.  I found that it is helping to take out some of the stretch of the bias strips first, with an iron, actually, that seems to help a lot.  So I carefully press each of the strips, pulling out some of the extra bias stretch.binding1

I found the the quarter inch edge foot, that came with my Janome 6600 machine, is a great tool for putting on accurate binding strips.  I set the binding back about an 1/8th” from the cut edge, to reduce bulk.

Two blogs ago, I showed a Hong Kong tutorial, so refer to that for all the steps, I just wanted to show here how I am adapting the materials and tools I have to work with for this project.

binding2binding3Once I wrap the binding around the edge of the garment, press and pin, I use the same foot to allow me to effortlessly and accurately stitch in the ditch.  I love this foot!

Once I attached the binding on the edges that will be sewn together for a seam, I put them right sides together, and using seama small piece of black electrical tape as a seam guide (mom taught me that trick back in the 60’s, I still use it!) I stitched the seam.  I am using my built in dual feed/even feed/walking foot, which is one of the greatest tools ever invented for a handweaver.  It evenly feeds both layers of fabric, so they don’t shift while sewing.  Although mine is built into the machine, you can purchase a separate walking foot attachment for most sewing machines, check with your dealer or try Nancy’s Notions.

back1I constructed the undercollar, a big sweeping kind of thing, with a small collar stand attached to the back neck.  I learned this old tailoring trick, also back in the 60’s, and used it here to help the stand of the collar literally stand up straight.  I stitched parallel lines of stitching in rainbow fashion, following the curve of the collar stand, it is hard to see in the photograph, but there are small parallel lines of horizontal stitching all along the stand, about 3/16″ undercollarapart.  This gives so much better support to the stand of the collar, so it won’t collapse into the neck.

I’m loving the texture of this jacket, there is a lot of detail still to come.  I’m a little worried that the jacket will be so busy, with all the surface texture, and details, but only time will tell.

stitch_collarI stitched the upper collar/facing pieces together, finishing off the inside edge with another Hong Kong finish, and attached that to the garment front/under collar.  Another trick I learned in tailoring 101, was shifting the upper collar away from the under collar about 3/16″ to 1/4″ while stitching them together if both  were cut from the same pattern piece.  If the under collar isn’t slightly smaller than the upper collar, then it will roll out from the upper collar when worn and never lay smooth.  Some tailored jacket patterns actually provide a slightly smaller undercollar pattern jacketpiece, but in this case, they were cut from the same pattern.  So I shifted them when I sewed, and the upper collar fits much better.

I still have an enormous amount of work to do, lots of couching, and handwork, the pockets, belt tabs, sleeves, buttonholes, etc.  I’m planning to do handworked buttonholes, so stay tuned for that.  I’m enjoying this whole process of course, I’m always calm and centered when I’m in front of a sewing machine.

And the good news is the loom is fixed, and Bri can finish the last placemat, which is a good thing since they are due next Wednesday night.  And I am about 10 slides into the Website Success presentation.  I’m doing so much research and learning so much.  This is like writing a term paper for school!  And of course, the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know…

The sewing machine is so much safer….

Wednesday Already?

Where did the last few days go?  A blur of holiday gatherings, family fun, outdoor gardening, and playing catch-up!

First, the crab fest.  This is for all of you out there who have never experienced a good old fashioned Maryland Crab Fest.  My mother’s entire family is from Maryland, and we grew up, attending family weddings and funerals, always followed by the crab fest.  It was an event!  I have fond memories of my Aunt Joy and my mom chasing crabs all over the kitchen trying to stuff them in a pot with Old Bay Seasoning  to get them steamed.  My sister, who now provides the crabs, buys them by the bushel, from a local merchant who steams them while you wait.



So here we are getting started!  Dump the crabs on a table covered with newspapers and dig in!


And here I am working hard!  Note:  I did NOT drink all that beer, and OK, it was a bad hair day, but I was “down” the shore, salt air and breezes, and hair isn’t important in a crab fest, you definitely don’t want it hanging in your face!

I managed to clean up my out of control studio, and catch up on many many emails, and follow up on some much needed correspondence.  The inbox on my desk is overflowing (my inbox for my email is out of control, but that’s another story), but that’s normal for the end of the month, as Friday is my bill paying day, all the paperwork for the month gets sorted and filed, and dealt with!  I hate bill paying days, but must admit, it is nice to see my inbox with nothing in it for about 24 hours.

I’m making slow progress on the jacket, sidetracked by some fun creative adventures, yesterday morning I judged the Middle School Invention Contest, along with some old friends of mine, retired teachers, and had a blast interviewing these 5th-8th grade would be inventors.  There are some pretty talented, outside of the box thinkers coming up in the world!

My neighbor’s daughter, who is graduating from HS, and going on to college for the arts, is interested in learning about garment construction, and engineering garments for the body.  I’m thrilled, since quite often I hear, “I love to design clothing, but don’t have a clue how to sew…”  As a matter of fact, that’s one of the biggest issues on the new Bravo TV replacement show for Project Runway, The Fashion Show.  Most of these designers can’t seem to sew.  One actually was quoted as saying, “I have people for that”.  Anyway, this lovely 18 year old neighbor, has attempted garments from non traditional materials for her AP Sculpture class, and does actually recognize the wisdom of having a bit of a background in garment construction and engineering.  It isn’t enough to know how to use a sewing machine.  Garment Construction is a bit like architecture, except the covering for the body has to move and perform and fit the structure (body) underneath in a way that a wall of windows and steel doesn’t.  Same idea, different application.  So my 18 year old neighbor spent some time in my studio yesterday afternoon learning some of the basics.

hong-konginside_backI’m playing around with the ways the Sandstone Layers Jacket needs to be finished, I’m happy with the Hong Kong seam finish for seams that are pressed out flat and open, like the center back seam.

The side back seams are handled like a welt seam, where one layer of seam allowance is trimmed back, and the remainder of the two seam allowances are pressed to one side, finished off, and topstitched.  Except in this case, I used a partial Hong Kong finish to keep the look consistent, pressed to one side (so I actually had to do the Kong Kong finish upside down on the side back seams), and couched from the front.  Topstitching gets lost in a handwoven fabric, any tweedy fabric for that matter.  So I make more of a statement by using my cording or couching foot to feed a thicker yarn, preferably one of the weaving yarns used in the original fabric, and stitch a shallow zig-zag from the front to keep it in place.   I couched embroidery floss on the Arctic Sky Jacket if you remember.

couching_footThe couching foot shown here is on my Janome 6600 Professional.  I love this machine!

couching1And here is the finished seam from the  front!

It is cold and rainy here in the north east, so that leaves me with less garden guilt and more studio guilt!

The Hong Kong Seam Finish

By popular request, I am posting a tutorial on how to do the Hong Kong seam finish.  If you have my monograph on Seam and Edge Finishes, you already have these directions along with all kinds of other ideas for seam finishes and ways to finish the edges of vests and jackets.  (OK, that was a shameless commercial plug for my monograph…)  If you buy the monograph and also purchase the companion monograph on Closures, you will save $5. and even more on postage since the computer thinks it is one item…

If you have ever taken a jacket class with me, you know what a Hong Kong seam finish is, your jacket is full of them on the inside, and you have the directions in your handout!

Before I get to the tutorial, thanks everyone, for all the birthday wishes, emailed cards, and kind words.  It does my heart good to hear when a weaver gets back to the loom or even better, takes the proverbial leap into yardage!  And for the sewers out there, who haven’t discovered the joy of weaving your own fabric to sew…  Well, you don’t know what you’re missing! 🙂b-1

OK, here is the Hong Kong seam finish!  I love it on an unlined jacket, so professional!

b-3First you’ll need bias strips, you can purchase them, or cut your own.  There is a tutorial for cutting your own bias strips quickly, in my seams monograph. I used a 2″ strip here.  If you don’t know what “bias” means, post a comment! I’ll go into more detail!

With right sides together, place the bias strip on the garment section, with the cut edges even.  Stitch 1/4″ to 3/8″ from the cut edge.  I use the presser foot as a guide. Just be consistent!


Press the bias strip away from the fabric.


Press the bias strip towards the wrong side of the fabric, making sure it wraps tightly around the cut edge of the garment section.  This is really important, it must wrap tightly around the cut edge!b-6

Pin securely to keep bias from shifting.


From the right side of the garment section, stitch in the ditch close to the binding.  Use a color thread to match the garment fabric. (I used black for the tutorial)


The completed seam “finish”. Note, this is done on the edge of the garment section, before sewing the seam.  You would repeat this step for the other half of the garment, and then sew the seams together.  See first photo!


You might want to trim the excess binding from the back so it doesn’t get caught when you sew the seam.

Happy Sewing!  And have a great Memorial Day Weekend, we are heading to the shore for a day this weekend, to celebrate the anniversary of scattering my dad’s ashes (he was a Korean War Veteran), and to have what would have been his most favorite meal, an old fashioned Maryland Crab Fest!  (My dad’s birthday would have been on Monday, just three days after mine!) My Maryland sister, the architect, is bringing a bushel of Crabs, my other sister is bringing the beer, and I am bringing fruit to cut up, though I think that was just to give me something to bring, in an old fashioned Maryland Crab Fest, you don’t need anything but crabs and beer, and people around you that you love!  And a lots of rolls of paper towels!