Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Exploring Ideas

The weather was less than best this weekend and therefore perfect studio weather although I can come up with justification for just about any weather being perfect studio weather when I want to stay in and play and that's exactly what I wanted to do.

I explored several ideas for setting textile "stones" onto a metal back plate to create the focal element of a necklace. The first idea was a wire wrapped edge which didn't get very far before I realized that the working process for the metal wasn't compatible with the design process since the textile element could not be tumbled or immersed in patina. From there...

... to try two other ideas, I cut out a backing shape with tabs using a jeweler's saw and soldered a bezel closed and to a back plate with MANY tries and moderate success. Both of these techniques were not ones I had tried before and they have potential.

These tabs hold the fabric element in place nicely only I think they are slightly too long and thick and I would want a crisper fold at the edge. This is something to practice. With this method, the back plate is only slightly, or not at all, visible from the front but still gives a solid presence to the piece and helps it hang nicely.

Working with rivets was quite fussy getting them through the fabric and the metal backing and finding the correct angle to hammer them at. With this piece, I used one rivet at the point and one each at the top corners. That wouldn't be nearly enough to hold it securely as there are edges to get under or catch. I'd need to either use far more rivets or both rivets and adhesive.

The bezel also has potential. I'll need more practice to get it secured all the way around and not only in some places and will need to learn more about sanding and polishing to get rid of the solder stains. I have a few more ideas to explore.

The larger piece was made from a remnant of metal brought home from my workshop earlier this year. It was in my instructor's garbage bin. The cut off pieces above are the scrap left over from cutting out my shape. Technically, it's garbage yet I remain amazed at the potential of what I would have once thrown away. I want to take these scraps forward into another piece.

I am abandoning the Burda 6632 top. The neck band, hem, and buttons remained only when I finished the armhole, sewed the side seams, and tried it on, it was too tight and I'm not in love enough to carry on. Those pleats just don't work for me. It's funny because I know they'd look amazing on someone else but on me, they feel way too prissy and foreign. AND... not only would I need to correct the armhole and finish what's left to do, I'd also need to sew a camisole to go underneath and.... not happening... HOWEVER, I will use the fabric for something else.

I took these pictures for a friend who wanted to see what Burda 6501 looked like on me since bias garments can sometimes be less than flattering. That's the reason for the arms wide open image. No make-up. Curled hair. Such a funny time.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - trying new things.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Pendant In Progress

How does it happen that we know we've been busy but when we go to talk about it, it seems like nothing happened. Of course, it's not true. It's just that the things I did took time, including several long phone conversations and two live on-line workshops.

One morning, in the morning hour, I traced and altered Burda 6632 and cut out the pieces and the next morning, I started sewing the top together. This is another blouse pattern that I'm trying to see how I like it and if I'll wear it. I've never been a fan of gathers but I do like pleats - in particular very small ones or pintucks. These are larger however the fabric is a lightweight cotton so they pressed nicely in place.

Just outside the studio, I have both sides shaped ready to build the retaining walls. The big chunks of cement were broken up from the slab that was cut out of the the wall last fall when the patio doors were installed. It took me two hours to get them in place but I did it - YES YES! They will be hidden by the retaining wall when I build it in front.

Every year, the heron have been here on the pond... and lots of ducks... and Osprey... but this is the first time for a pair of Canada geese. They were taking a tour of the yard one morning while I...

... was having my morning coffee and watching the pond wake up. It's a ritual I really enjoy - a quiet, slow, start to the day. I used to hit the ground running and now I move much slower, get as much done, and enjoy life more. This is good.

I joined an online Art Challenge & Master Class with Matt Tommey for Christian artists. Day six was to pick a verse and make a piece based on it and day seven was to make a list of things you are grateful for and make a piece based on them. It was already day seven when I joined so I answered the assignments for days one to five with pieces already made and now, I'm making a necklace based on a combination of my verse and words...

... which are ones I've written about often. I am grateful to be warm, dry, safe, fed, loved, and clothed, to have studio and stash, faith, passion and a purpose. The disks represent stepping stones for the verse from Proverbs - in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make straight your path. The copper shape is to support the disks only there needs to be more contrast with colour and texture. Right now, it's a pendant in progress and coming along slowly. I worked on it yesterday and learned a lot about what not to do. Hopefully, today goes smoother and I have a finished piece to show you next week.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - connections

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Foreign Objects

On Sunday, I finished sewing the Burda 6501 bias cut top. Because it was going to - hopefully - be a wearable muslin, I chose a fabric that would be least likely to show any fitting issues.

In this side view, you can see a funny bump below the armhole that resulted from extending the dart point and merging it into the existing dart. It's less noticeable when I'm wearing the top. I have since fine-tuned the pattern pieces by drafting the extended dart, adding an additional 1/2" to the front and back hipline, smoothing the line of the side seam, and lowering the neckline. I'm ready to sew it again.


For the hem, I serged the edge and then turned under once and top stitched. This is not what the instructions called for but, as previously mentioned, it's okay to ignore the instructions when you have a technique you prefer.

Lowering the hemline was partly about removing the seam allowance since I wrap the edge as oppose to stitch a seam and it was partly about creating a lower shape that I find more comfortable and flattering. In the last post, I illustrated how to stabilize the edge with non-stretch strips of fusible interfacing. When I stitch on the bias binding, the interfacing is caught into the stitches. The seam allowance is pressed toward the bias strip and then wrapped around to the back. It's not absolutely necessary if you don't have a serger but if you do, I like the way serging creates an even and thicker edge to press against. On the front, I top-stitch twice, once in the ditch and once along the edge.

Because I stabilized the neck edge so it wouldn't stretch, there was no need to use a double needle to create stretchy stitches. I don't want this area to stretch. And, because I used bias tape to wrap the edge, I can trim close to the stitches without worry of fraying or the need for a seam finish. I've used this method several times with woven garments that are frequently washed and hung to dry and so far have not had any issues with the edge finish coming unraveled. I used the same technique for the armholes.

This is my latest wire wrapping, practice piece. I wanted to learn how to incorporate smaller beads with the focal bead. It still needs patina added to create more depth and visual texture and then I'm not sure what to do with it. I recently joined two Facebook wire wrapping groups so I'm going to ask what the other members have done with their practice pieces... whether they sell them... or melt them down... or cut them apart... or what do they do?

At left is the four bundles of garbage wrapped up from the bits and pieces left on my jewelry desk after the last two projects and at right are the three copper lumps they became after two of them rolled and melted together. The one is still glowing hot. For my next project, I'm going to play with ideas for using all these flattened discs in one piece. It's a fun starting point.

How does your hair look?Mine grows really fast and it is certainly getting longer. Before I had children, I was a hairstylist. Thirty years later, I had a chance to go back to styling only to realize that even though I'd always thought of returning to it, doing hair was no longer something I wanted to do. The profession had changed considerably. SO...

... I say that to say that I could manage to trim my hair myself if I wanted to but instead I am seeing how long I can let it grow and may possibly change styles whenever I can get to my hairstylist. To do that, I've pulled out this foreign object - a professional curling iron - and am working my way back through some old styles. Right now, it's a version of Lady Di by curling, vigorously brushing, and scrunching with hairspray. How very strange. I haven't curled my hair in at least twenty-five years.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - tools and techniques

Friday, April 17, 2020

Ignore The Instructions

One thing to learn as we "mature" as sewists is when to ignore the instructions and sew the garment using a method we've learned in another situation and know would work better.


Take this Burda 6501 pattern for instance. The pattern pieces have a cut-on-fold-line and a bias grainline. The directions want you to fold the fabric on the bias and then place the piece on fold. Frankly, that's way too fiddly and why would anyone want to frustrate their customers. Instead...

... after I'd traced the pattern and made my necessary adjustments, I copied it and taped the two together to create a single piece that I could pin on the bias, no folding necessary. I did the same thing for the front, back, front flounce, and back flounce which made pinning, cutting out, and maximizing the layout MUCH easier.

The seam between the bodice and the front flounce was ever so slightly curved. I have hips. Straight lines are not my friend. A more defined curve will be far more flattering so I measured up 1" at center front and angled the bottom edge. This will be a bias edge sewn to a bias edge and the difference in length, if any, will be minimal so I didn't worry about adjusting the flounce pattern.

According to the instructions, the neckline is not stabilized and it is finished with a bias strip. This is the perfect recipe for a stretched out neckline. Just as with a t-shirt, I used the pattern piece to accurately lay the fabric wrong side up on my pressing surface and then used STRAIGHT cut strips of fusible knit interfacing to stabilize the edge. Later, when I sew on the binding, the interfacing will be caught within the seam allowance and will prevent the neckline from stretching.

When I'm sewing t-shirts, I use straight strips to stabilize the front and back necklines and the back shoulder seam and I use bias strips to finish the hemlines since they need to have stretch still. I have two jars with pre-cut strips labelled straight and bias. Adding these where needed is an easy step that creates more professional results.

When I was much younger... and slimmer... with narrower hips... I used to wear quite a few blouses however, when my sewing turned to quilting and my figure shifted, I couldn't buy blouses that fit both my shoulders and my hips and ended up wearing t-shirts most of the time. Because of that, when I returned to fashion sewing I mostly sewed knits. I've sewn a few blouses in the past ten years - like Butterick 6325 - but not very many and it's something I'd like to do more of if I can retrain myself to wear them. I pull out the t-shirts quicker.

In the newspaper last week, they asked us to decorate with white hearts to support the healthcare workers in our neighbourhood... and I meant to... even wanted to... but I knew that a bunch of white hearts in my window would be visual clutter that drove me crazy. I need to support myself too. SO, instead, I made my neighbour a white heart necklace starting with a thrift store find. Because I didn't have any white paint, I used a coat of spray primer to get the white background and created the piece from there.

One of the ways I am teaching myself wire wrapping is to watch on-line tutorials and then try a piece inspired by the tutorial - not a copy but something along the same lines. Yvonne Williams has several on-line tutorials where she shares both the thinking and the wrapping process of designing a custom piece. This step-by-step, one and only, way is how I work so I enjoy seeing her process. This video was the inspiration for the bail on the necklace. Yvonne wrapped her version over a knitting needle and layered the different strands until she got the look she wanted. Mine is quite "beginner" compared to her work with plenty more to learn and, even so, I like how it turned out.

The chain is done by spool knitting wire and the clasp is forged from a larger gauge of wire. In the end, the heart is more of a distressed cream than white but that's okay. I forgot to take a picture of the back where I wrote her some big hugs, stay safe, thank you messages. It was fun to make and fun to make for someone specific.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - health care workers

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Walk The Seams, Walk The Seams, And Walk Them Again

Shortly before all the stores closed, I found a pair of Oska pants at a local consignment shop. They are a linen/wool blend and a check print... not that any of that matters because I was most interested in copying the pattern. The design is composed of the front and back, a side panel, a cuff, and the waistband with a fly front. As usual, I planned to eliminated the fly front and use a sew on waistband with 1" elastic. To begin...

... tracing the pattern, I start by folding along one seam line and then pinning along the rest of the seam lines working through the garment piece by piece. Above, this is the back piece. I folded along the inseam and pinned along the crotch seam as well as the seam connecting the back to the side panel.

Because, I have a pin-able surface, I can pin through the seam line and the tracing paper into the surface and then make a mark at each pin. When the pin is the intersection of two seams, I draw a line on each side.

Some pieces can't be laid flat such as the cuff. Above left, I laid one side flat so that I could see the side seam, the top seam, and the hem. I pinned the fold so that when I flipped it over to trace the other side, I could match the fold up correctly again. Below, the dotted line ...

... marks that fold. The cuff seam matches up to a dart and a seam. Both of those are marked with notches along the cuff pattern. The dart is 1/2" wide folded at the seam line which means that when I draft it, it will need to be 1" wide and tapered to the point. The line of the dart was traced in exactly the same manner and I drew at dot at the end.

Here is how that same section looks in the finished garment. You can see the same curve where the dotted line was and to the left the dart and to the right the seam.

This pin indicates the point where the dart intersected with the cuff. As I mark underneath, I draw a line into the cuff indicating this needs to be a "notch" on my pattern.

After all the sections have been marked out, I connect the dots to get the rough shape of each garment piece and then starting with the longest one - in this case the side panel - I begin to draw the shape using a ruler and a French curve to get the smooth lines needed. Most of the marks line up but some will be way off depending on how the sections were pulled and pinned. I know what the shape of a pant pattern looks like so I can use that information to correct wobbly lines. I also know that the two seams need to mirror each other in order to be pinned right sides together.

Next, I use my templates (which I'll talk about in another post some time) to trace the lines that work for my shape and were developed in previous patterns. Above is the shape of the back inseam. And then...

... I walk all the seams, one at a time, and note any differences. The front inseam was 3/8" longer than the back inseam. For each issue, I figure out the correction and adjust the pattern. When all the adjustments have been made, I walk the seams again. Walking the seams in the same order that the garment will be sewn together and making sure that they all line up correctly saves a tremendous amount of stress down the line. If it doesn't work with paper, it's not going to work with fabric.

Next, I begin adding the seam allowance and marking the cutting line with a black felt pen - again using a ruler and a French curve. I start with the lines that will not change such as the bias hem and then...

... draw out the distance of the seam allowance to get the cutting edge of the pattern piece. From there, I determine where the grain line will be. Above, the cuff is meant to hang parallel to the floor so I folded the hem edges together, creased the fold, and drew the grain line there. Again, I use what I know about patterns and fashion from previous experience.

When I walked the seam between the back piece and the side panel, I found that I had not added a seam allowance at the bottom of the side panel and it was 5/8" too short. Instead, I had accidentally marked it as the bias hem. This was the third time I had walked that seam and if I had assumed that I was correct, there would have been an issue. SO... what I'm trying to say is... walk the seams, walk the seams, and walk them again. I used the same bias hem talked about in a previous post.

And here is the finished front. I would have put them on my mannequin but she doesn't have the right shimmy to get the smaller waist over her wider hips and I wasn't willing to fight with her to get them on. It's like trying to dress a slippery toddler fresh out of the bath.

This style of pan,t with multiple seams and a belled shape, is one of my favourites. It helps to hid the disfigurement of my right hip and balances out my bottom heavy shape. I like the architectural look of the seam lines and highlighting them with topstitching.

For topstitching, I typically use a low to medium contrast thread colour because I like the punch in my outfit to come from a statement necklace and because I have a minimal wardrobe. I don't want to make a garment less useful by using a high contrast colour or one that only goes with some garments but not many - say hot pink. In this case, I used grey on denim blue and that works for me.

For the past four summers, I have spent long days - 10-14 hours - working in my yard trying to get it into shape from the neglect of the previous owners. By the end of the summer, I've been exhausted and out of balance. This is not the year for exhaustion and a lack of balance - not that any year is really but - so I had decided to only work in the yard on weekends but yesterday, I realized it would be more beneficial physically to spend a couple hours every morning instead of tiring myself out on the weekend.

On Friday, I cleaned up all the construction garbage from last fall. On Saturday, I stacked all the wood "remnants" and created my own lumber yard so I know what I have. On Sunday and Monday, I spent two hours each morning moving dirt and made quite a bit or progress. I'll post some before and after pictures when I reach the next stage.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - understanding how to draft a pattern

Friday, April 10, 2020

That's When It Turned The Ugly Corner

One of the things I am missing right now is snoop shopping. I love to meander through thrift and consignment stores looking for potential because - as you know by the title of this blog - I am addicted to potential. While Pinterest is inspirational, it's not the same. You can't find something, pick it up, turn it over, and imagine what it could become however...

... and luckily for me... I can do that with the garbage on my counter. These scraps were cut out of two projects going nowhere and I evolved them into...

... these three pieces shown at left. The smaller one has been put aside for now. I think it may become a ring. The larger two were combined into the piece at right that I then...

... started adding more wires to attempting to create a drop pendant. This is where the piece hit the ugly point and stayed for quite a while as I made every effort to avoid the drastic surgery that was needed. Eventually, I cut out that lump at center top that just wasn't co-operating and that's when it turned the ugly corner and headed back to better. I folded the wires around and below before adding more elements to create...

... this focal. It is set into a thicker gauge of wire that forms the tear drop pendant. The bead is only sitting in place being auditioned in this image at right. I stitched it in later after the patina was added and the piece was tumbled to work harden.

Originally, I left a couple wires to stitch in additional beads but once the patina was added, I didn't think they were necessary and instead secured and trimmed them out. The two curves will hang at throat level with the pendant sitting higher on the chest. This is the stage it is at right now.

Fire Mountain Gems was having a significant bead sale the last time I visited so along with the findings I needed, I stocked up on a variety of beads. Beads are not like paint; they are like thread. I cannot mix the colour I want and need to buy it. I'm trying to acquire a variety of sizes, shapes, materials, and colours but it will take a long time to create a diverse stash. Luckily, these excellent prices helped me take a big step forward.

Here is the finished piece that I'd shown started in an earlier post... except I want to redo the wire connection on the dangle. The gauge of headpin I had combined with my beginner skills made for a very lopsided look. I've put it aside for a "mending" day. Do you see that little bit of copper showing between the black and the green beads? That's one of the pieces of scrap that I melted down, hammered flat, and put a hole in to create a copper disc. Again... using the garbage on my counter.

One of the pictures I found on my on-line inspirational tour was of this fabulous piece by Cat's Wire. In her story, she talks about allowing her imagination to guide her and about how she can't imagine making the same piece over and over. YES YES - I can relate. Me too! Making pieces with the garbage on my counter is a much longer journey than simply following a pattern or making a repeat item but is also far more fun and that works for me. Creating in a way that is fun is one thing I can control in my life.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - useful garbage