Monthly Archives: August 2014

Beautiful Vintage Treasures

Today I thought I’d share some beautiful vintage treasures that are now residing at our house.  You know that you have the sweetest friend when you receive an unexpected parcel from overseas (UK) and inside are some beautiful vintage pieces.  Well, that has happened to me not once, but twice, from my wonderful friend, Genine!  Her generosity left me speechless!  I cannot keep these treasures to myself, so although I’m not an expert on vintage clothing, I thought I’d share pictures and what little bit I do know about them.

My first parcel arrived here a bit ago, and inside was a ladies nightgown – simple, but beautiful just the same.  I have no idea what the date of this gown would be, but I suspect early 1900’s just because the gown is completely constructed by hand.  The stitches are tiny and the thread extremely fine.  The gown is knee length and all the beautiful lace and detail work is on the bodice, so I’ll focus on showing the bodice.


I can only imagine the time it took to piece together all of these different laces.  On each side of the laces are the teeny, tiny pintucks, perfectly executed.


I am choosing to believe that this beautiful gown was for someone’s trousseau.  It is in remarkably good condition.  I did find a “repair” that was done to the gown and it just made me laugh.  What on earth was someone thinking by using red thread on a white gown???


Not only does the red thread repair stick out like a sore thumb, but the thread looks like rope compared to the fine thread used in the rest of the gown.  Note to self – things not to do when repairing.  LOL!

Then last week, much to my surprise and absolute delight, I received yet another parcel from the UK and inside were 2 of the most beautiful baby gowns.  They are both very different, but both equally spectacular.

The first gown is made by machine.  Sewing machines were not commonplace in homes until the late 1800’s, though they had been around and available earlier than that.  But, that does at least give a clue that the dress is probably dated not earlier than the 1890’s or after.  The style of gown is one that is difficult (for me) to date since it is a style that has been around forever.

Correction – while I thought that this gown was machine made, I was wrong – it is also completely hand made.  The stitches are so tiny and so perfect that my “mature” eyes believed them to be machine made.  Under magnification I could see that they were expertly stitched by a master!


The gown is 22″ long and has the most exquisite hand embroidery down the front of the dress and also on the fabric between the laces.  The fabric is the weight of a Swiss batiste or lightweight lawn.  Beautiful stitches executed with the skill of an accomplished embroiderer.  The design is so delicate and sweet!  I cannot imagine the hours that this embroidery took to complete!

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The pintucks at the yoke are also completed by machine by hand, which I find pretty amazing, as they are only 1/16″ tucks and perfectly spaced.  The back of the gown also has pintucks, but they are 1/8″ tucks.


The neck and sleeves are finished with entredeux and gathered lace, and the sleeves are also set in with entredeux.  It is the tiniest entredeux that I’ve ever seen – even smaller than what we consider to be “baby” entredeux.



The other detail on this gown that I think is beautiful and have used on dresses that I’ve made is that the underarm has pleats at the seam.  The underarm seam has come out a bit, so I will repair that, but I wanted to show this sweet detail as well.  As you would expect, the seams are 1/8″ French seams.


This gown is in great condition, whatever the age of it is.  Such a beautiful treasure !  And if you think that this gown is stunning, the next one will blow you away!!!


This gown I believe to be older than the previous one.  It is completely made by hand.  It measures 36″ from shoulder to hem.  It is also constructed with tiny, 1/8″ French seams.  I believe it to be somewhere in the mid 1800’s based on the style of it with the wider, open neck and drawstring at the neckline and waist as well as the longer length, which was more popular in the 1800’s.  The drawstrings allowed for babies of different sizes to wear this gown for their baptisms or Christenings.  It also has some beautiful details.


The round yoke overlay/collar is constructed with laces and insertion.  I do believe that the insertion is hand embroidered.  The embroidery is not consistent enough to be machine made and the thread used for the embroidery is heavier than what I would expect – definitely not the delicate, fine thread that was used on the previous gown.  That said, it is still beautiful.  Where the lace pieces are attached to the embroidered insertion, the raw seam edges inside are caught down by the beautiful featherstitching.  On each side of the hand embroidery is what appears to me to be a drawn thread  treatment.   I am going to have to ask some of my friends that are experts in drawn thread to examine this and advise.  The outside of the lace overlay has a tiny bias band, again with featherstitching.  On the back side of the featherstitching, again, the edges are raw.

This same lace combination is seen as a sleeve cuff.  I don’t know what you call a cuff overlay that goes upwards.  🙂  I hope someone will enlighten me about that!


The details are well though out throughout this gown.  I love the waistband area of the gown and the ties have the tiniest pleats where they attach to the gown, and although they are coming out (and I will repair), the pleats extend about 5″ from where they are attached and then release for the bow which would be tied in the back.  Unfortunately, my picture is a bit fuzzy.  It sure was difficult to photograph this white and capture the beautiful details.


The waist of the dress is attached with a technique that I’ve seen called many different things – cartridge pleats, gaging and French gathers.  This technique creates tiny, perfectly placed pleats that are sewn on the skirt portion and then the skirt is sewn to the dress.  Jeanie Baumeister has a wonderful post on that technique on her blog and also teaches this and other, similar techniques.

The same insertion embroidery and featherstitching is at the waist.

The sleeves have these same little pleats underneath the lace collar overlay.



I cannot thank my sweet friend Genine enough for sharing her wonderful vintage finds with me!  She has certainly blessed me with her generosity and these treasures have a special place in my home and will be a delight to share with students.  Of course, it does make me a bit sad to think that someone stitched for hours in anticipation of a new baby wearing these beautiful gowns that were made with much love, and now the gowns have been sold and are no longer in the family.  Knowing that,  I just can’t keep them to myself.  I have to share their beauty with others that will appreciate it.


As I guess you can tell, I am quite taken by these vintage treasures.  I plan to bring them with me to the SAGA convention and hope to glean more information about them from some of the expert teachers that will be teaching and sharing their knowledge.  I am looking forward to meeting many new sewing friends while I’m there.  If you have a love of sewing and embroidery of any kind, consider attending – it will be a wonderful learning event for all manners of sewing and embroidery with some of the best teachers.

SAGA convention 2014


If any of my readers have some insight about these gowns, either the techniques or an ability to date them, please comment.  I would love to find out more about them.

I hope to see you at the SAGA Sewcation in Florida!





Fall/Back to School Sewing

Vacation is over and this week some of our schools start up again.  Hard to imagine when the temperatures are in the 80º’s and expected to hit the 90º’s this week.  So, with the new season and anticipating cooler weather – eventually – I thought it was time to start on some fall clothes for the little girls.  Like all children, they seem to grow like weeds!

My first sewing projects of the week were for our oldest granddaughter, Ella.  She is 4 and will start back at preschool right after Labor day.  An executive decision was made to use the tried and true Children’s Corner “Lucy” dress/jumper pattern.  This dress provides an excellent canvas for embroidery or other creative accents and goes together very quickly.

All of these dresses will be able to be worn alone while the weather is still hot, but then can be worn with short sleeve blouses or t-shirts when it begins to get cool and with long sleeves or sweaters later on when it is really fall outside.

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The first dress is a bright floral twill with only a monogram and ruffle in a coordinating fabric.  The monogram is the from Hang To Dry and is such a cute and girly font to use.  This dress went together very quickly.  I had the light turquoise polo shirt in the stash – it matches better than the photo seems to show.

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The second dress was so fun to plan.  The fabric was purchase online several years ago from a seller in Holland.  The smocked insert (Beaux et Belles) was purchased on Ebay well before the fabric.  How serendipitous to find that they were such a compliment to each other.  It allowed for a quick smocked dress to be made.  I bought several different inserts, so have plans for more quick smocked outfits.

This dress was piped and lined in black micro check and accented with rick rack above the ruffle.


This dress turned out to be my biggest challenge!  I don’t normally use black for children – it seems to be a harsh color for them.  However, when I saw this sweater with the crocheted edging – which I LOVED – I had to buy it!  I knew that I would pair it with something colorful to minimize the black color.  It took quite a bit of “stash diving” to find just the right piece of fabric.  This floral print is a soft corduroy, but with 3% lycra.

My first attempt at adding embroidery to the fabric was a fail!  I forgot to interface behind the embroidery, though I did stabilize.  As the design stitched out (a different design than what I ended up with!) the fabric stretched, coverage was poor and the fabric bubbled around the embroidery.  Ugh!  Thankfully, after walking away and returning to the dress the following morning, I realized my mistake (thanks to the advice of my sewing friends!) and cut a new dress front and tried again.  The first stitch out made me realize that I wasn’t thrilled with the design I had chosen, so I picked a different one and proceeded.

The embroidery design is the Shabby Rose Font from Planet Applique.  With proper stabilization and interfacing, this stitched out beautifully and compliments the fabric nicely.  The dress hem is trimmed with 2 different sizes of rick rack.


I just had to show a close up of this pretty sweater!  It is a handmade (Peru) sweater and the crochet edging and border really make this sweater stand out from the crowd!  The pretty flowers have a 3-d effect.  Love it!



With 3 dresses completed for the oldest granddaughter, I moved on to the next “victim”.  LOL!  This dress was just completed and again uses a pre-smocked insert, so was just a matter of sewing the dress.  I had the purchased blouse which had lime green piping detail.  I knew I could find a lime green gingham that would match as I have several different pieces of lime green gingham.  LOL!  I used another Children’s Corner pattern – the Mary De.  It has been a long time favorite of mine.  It wraps in the back and closes with 2 buttons for quick sewing and easy dressing.

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I made an interesting discovery about these beautiful inserts – while we normally picture smock with 4 strands of floss, presumably to get good coverage, these are smocked with 2 strands of floss!!!  I may have to attempt that and see what kind of coverage I can get.  I do know that it is easier to have more detail with fewer strands of floss, but I don’t know of anyone that has tried picture smocking with 2 strands.  Sounds like a challenge to me!

I am still busy working on getting my kits ready for the SAGA convention in September.  However, sometimes you just need to stop and create something pretty.  Remember that as you go forward this coming week.  Take a little time to do something creative that you enjoy!


A Contemporary Bishop Dress

We returned from our family vacation at the beach yesterday.  It is always such fun to have all the kids and grandkids together!  The 3 little girls have such fun together.  As you can imagine, it is impossible to get pictures of the 3 of them smiling and looking at the camera at the same time – it was no different this year.  This picture was taken after the photos of the entire family – they were done with pictures.  As Livvy says – “go, go, go!!!”.   Of course, I still think that they look adorable in their matching dresses.



While on vacation, I always take along some handwork – usually smocking.  Sometime in this last year I saw the cutest bishop dress with a shorter, cap style sleeve and I thought that this would be appropriate in a fall-ish dress.  Our falls in the south are still pretty warm, so the cap sleeve will be perfect.  If the morning starts out cooler, a sweater can be worn with it.

The day before leaving for the beach, I redrafted the sleeve to the bishop dress pattern that I normally use and put the dress together so that I could smock it while on vacation.  I always make my bishop dresses as ready-to-smock.  I love having a completed dress when the smocking is finished.  I was very happy with the end results!


Smocking on prints is always challenging for me, and this was no exception.  I took along several different colors of floss as well as several different smocking plates.  In the end, I decided to use Creative Keepsake’s “Mackenzie” design.  It is similar to the Children’s Corner “Firelight”, which I’ve always loved on prints and plaid fabrics.  I think that the use of the 2 colors is very subtle and compliments the print nicely.



The micro check gingham for the bias at the neck and sleeves adds a little brightness to the fall-ish print.  The micro check was also used for covered buttons in the back.

Now, for a few details on how  the sleeves were redrafted.  You’ll notice that they are not smocked.  I wanted less full sleeves, so smocking them wasn’t practical as that would require more fullness than I wanted.  To reduce the fullness in the sleeves, I creased the sleeve in several places and put some 1/4″ tucks at the creases and pinned them down as  seen on the furthest tuck on the right.  After I felt that enough fullness was removed, the new sleeve was redrawn with the top edge drawn as a smooth line from one side to the other.



The next thing to do was to reduce the depth under the arm.  The finished sleeve depth under the arm is about 1/2″.  Then, the final step was to raise the lower edge of the sleeve by drawing a curve (an upside down “U” shape) from one side seam to the other.  I didn’t have a particular formula for this, just an educated guess.  This is the new sleeve.



After the new sleeve was created, the dress front, sleeves and back were sewn and the bishop dress pleated as normal.  However, when the bias band was attached to the dress, the pleats in the front and back were kept tightly together while the sleeve pleats were spread out. At this point, the pleating threads could be removed from the sleeves and the dress front and back tied off as needed.  The short sleeves were gathered at the bottom and bias band was attached.  The bias band for the sleeves was adjusted and made longer (measure your child for accurate measurement) since the different shaped opening requires a little more room than the normal smocked sleeve.   The remainder of the dress was constructed.

This was a fun dress to make and turned out so cute.  While I did try the dress on my little model, I didn’t get a picture, after all, we were at the beach and modeling a dress was the furthest thing on a little girl’s mind.  I will try to get one soon so that you can see just how cute these new sleeves look.

Now, on to the next project, which I’m still dreaming up.  🙂


Pillows and more pillows!

Pillows are not my usual sewing project, though I do love making beautiful pillows from time to time. Embroidering a monogram or letter on them makes them even more special. Silk pillows are just exquisite! Here are some of my favorite pillows that I’ve made.

These were made for my daughter’s living room couch.  Beautiful silk and I was able to find the perfect ribbon fringe to match.


I saw a pillow similar to this on Pinterest and had to make one for myself.  I used 2 different colored gold silks and pleated the silk that had the metallic threads in it.  Again, I love the way this one turned out.


And then there is the beautiful linen heirloom pillow that I will be teaching at the SAGA (Smocking Arts Guild of America) Convention in September.  This was a fun pillow to make.  It looks beautiful on our guest bed.


Now that we’ve established that I love pillows, let’s talk sleeping pillows because this has been my sewing adventure this week. I like sleeping on down pillows.   However, I haven’t found a down pillow that lasts very long. It doesn’t seem to matter if you purchase it at a discount store for $40 or at a retail store for well over $100 – after a few months, those fluffy down pillows have gone flat and are no longer suitable for sleeping on. I’ve replaced countless pillows and always have the same results. So, after recently changing bed sizes to a king size bed, I decided that perhaps a down alternative (gasp!) may be a better choice and so I bought a couple of those. It’s been a couple months, and those are flat as well. Grrrr!!!!

I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands. I had a closet full of discarded, flat, down pillows. When they get resigned to the closet, they are first washed and dried (takes multiple cycles in the dryer) and tucked away. My thought had been to use the down in them to make new couch pillows or such. However, drastic measures were needed to resolve the sleeping pillow situation. So, I perused the fabric stash and chose some white fabric, made a casing for the down and then proceeded with caution. Carefully cutting open one end of the down pillow, I gingerly stuffed that end into the open end of the casing and shook like crazy to transfer the down from one pillow to the other. It worked pretty well, with minimal feather loss decorating the sewing room. I emptied 2 standard size pillows of down into the king sized casing, then pinned it shut and sewed it up. Whew! Pretty easy, right? Wrong!

The first 3 of the 4 pillows emptied without much difficulty, but the 4th pillow was much more of a challenge. Those feathers were stuck like glue to the original pillow and shaking alone didn’t release them. There was some sort of stitching inside, so I think they were somehow contained. After much work, and many feathers flying around the room, pillow #4 was emptied as well, though the sewing room looked like I’d had a pillow fight in it (which I had!). We have slept on the newly created super fluffy pillows for a couple of nights now. They are delightful! Now, if these last for more than a few months, I will consider it a huge success!!!

I did consider taking a picture of this pillow, but it is pretty boring and not much to show other than a super fluffy pillow.

I’m not really one for re-purposing fabrics and such. I actually am not a fan of that sort of thing at all. I prefer to support the economy and buy new! LOL! This was an unusual situation, so it required me doing something out of the ordinary. I was unable to find anywhere to purchase down, so this seemed like a reasonable solution.   I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this will be a better experience.

So, while this is not my preferred or normal type of sewing, it is necessity sewing and only took about 1 hour of my time and 2 yards of fabric and a lot of chasing down stray feathers with the vacuum cleaner. Just goes to show that sewing skills come in handy for more than beautiful clothing!

Now, to move on to some pretty sewing again……keep watching – I hope to have an updated bishop style to show in the next week.