Monthly Archives: January 2015

Fabric – quality or bargain? Let’s compare…

It’s no secret that I love fabric and as I’ve gained experience over the (many, many, many) years of sewing, I have come to know, appreciate and love quality fabrics.  I love sewing on a beautiful imported Swiss batiste, cotton lawn, etc.  But, life is not all about frilly, frothy garments made for special occasions.  Sometimes you just need some regular play clothes for kids.  By regular, well, I’ll admit – my regular may not be everyone’s regular.  I still like cute play clothes.  I know that there are others in the same camp with me!

Lately there has been so much buzz in the sewing community, particularly in the PDF pattern community of seamstresses, about the wonderful new prints carried at some of the Walmart stores.  I’ve seen these and they are very colorful and fun prints.  It is so tempting to grab up an armful at these bargain prices.  However, Walmart has not been known for carrying particularly high quality goods, and their fabric is no exception.  Before becoming completely dreamy-eyed over the cute prints, I wanted to offer a perspective on Walmart (and other bargain) fabrics and to show the difference between the way quality fabric behaves vs. bargain fabric – over the test of washing and wearing necessary for kids clothing.

A few years ago when I was designing for a publication, I was sent a cute piece of fabric – I recognized it right away as being fabric from Fabric Finders – they sell some wonderful fabrics that are much used in the smocking and heirloom realm.  I have always been pleased with their fabrics – they wash and wear beautifully!

I was asked to design something using this fabric.  Because of the fun nature of the print, I chose play clothes – smocked, of course!  Throughout the design and sewing process, the editor gave approval for the design, smocking, etc.  I loved the Matryoshka dolls, however, in retrospect, I would have preferred them on a solid fabric.

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As it neared completion, as was often the case, they requested that I send the garment, instructions, pattern, smocking design, etc. ASAP.  I always did my best to meet deadlines, and this was no exception.  However, I needed a contrast fabric and with no heirloom shops in the area and not enough time to wait for an online order to arrive (not to mention the difficulty in matching colors), I made the decision to try to find a complimentary fabric locally.  My first stop was the local Walmart.  Score!  Found a perfect match.  I was thrilled that I didn’t have to drive an hour away to get something that looked perfect for my garment.

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With the perfect match in hand, I finished the garment.  I thought it was adorable!  Sadly, it never made it into the publication.  It was not a loss, the smocking design was featured on a different fabric in the Sew Beautiful magazine and the pattern was used with a sweet white/ecru linen combination and my granddaughters got to wear the cute, original outfit.

(sorry for the less than stellar pictures – they were taken, not intended for a blog post, but they are all I have of “before washing” pictures)

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I especially loved the back of this outfit!

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This outfit has been worn for 2 summers by 2 granddaughters.  However, it will not be worn again.  While the green print – quality fabric – has held up beautifully, the red fabric looks like a rag.

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My lack of photography skills actually makes the red in the top (in the picture above) look better than it is.  I found a piece of the print fabric as well as of the red fabric still in my stash.  You can see that the print shows very little change in color.  Pictured below is how the fabric really looks. The red fabric is washed out and shows horrible wear on the edges – they are nearly white!

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This is the fabric facing (inside lining) of the garment – the white stripe, which was non-existent when I constructed the garment, was cut on the fold.  This is what it looks like after numerous washings!  Shocking, right?!?!  So glad that wasn’t on the right side of the top.

 

 

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So, the cute outfit is now my sample for explaining the difference between quality fabric and bargain fabrics.  though it is pressed nicely, it does not look good.  The cheap red fabric that was a perfect match has not held up to wash and wear as the quality fabric has.  It is such a shame.  If the red fabric had been quality fabric, this garment could have been worn by a couple more kids.

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I know that there are those that will still flock to the Walmart fabric department to swoop up those cute fabric bargains.  That is fine.  There’s a place for all types and price points of fabrics.  I understand that.  But, be aware that these lovely prints, though they have the same manufacturer name as is sold in other stores and at a higher price tag, are not the same quality as the fabrics by that manufacturer sold elsewhere. Consumers need to know this so that they can make informed decisions.

Just as another example of quality fabrics holding up well, I made the same top with a twirl skirt and used quality quilting fabrics (Kona cotton and Michael Miller fabrics) – this outfit was also washed and worn numerous times.  It also used bright red, but with better results and no fading as happened in the Walmart fabric.  This has already been worn for one summer and is coming out again this summer to be worn again by her little sister – it still looks just as good.

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You can make your own decision about what fabrics you will purchase.  I know what my choice will be.  I am not willing to spend my time and effort working with fabrics and/or trims that will not stand up to wash and wear required for children’s clothing.

Whatever you choose, enjoy your sewing and keep on stitching!

Kathy

Another UFO finished!

This past week I tackled yet another UFO and got it finished.  🙂  So happy to have another one checked off my list.  The results are different from the intended pattern, but I’m OK with that – nobody will ever know that when it is being worn.

This project was from a Wendy Schoen workshop that I took last year.  She is such a talented designer and does the most beautiful embroidery!  Her patterns always have a vintage feel to them, which I love.  This dress is made of cotton pique with tiny pin dots – a fabric that is perfect for summer – always crisp and fresh looking.  The piping and bias bands are done in the reverse print.  The details on the pattern are ones that only someone who does a lot of hand embroidery would think of – tiny running stitches surround the neckline and peephole in the sleeve.

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I am calling my dress “inspired” by Wendy’s since it bears resemblance, but isn’t the same.    Picture is from Wendy’s blog.

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Because of some problems encountered during construction and my unwillingness to spend lots of time “un-sewing” my dress, I did not end up with the crisp, sewn down pleats but rather soft pleats at the waistline.  I do love the real pleats and will do those if I make the dress again now that I know what needs to be done differently to make that happen.

Wendy’s kit had the most delicious assortment of wool felt flower pieces included in it, and she showed us how to make the pretty pink flower, but we didn’t get to that part of the dress during the workshop and it is beyond my limited ability to recreate her pretty splash of flowers on the belt and jacket of the coat, so I chose not to add that element – I will save those for a wool coat (that is currently in my dreams!) after I practice some with felt flowers.  So, my dress needed some other detail for interest on the front and I chose to do a few embroidered flowers to mimic what was done on the sleeves – which happen to be my favorite part of the dress!

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Aren’t these the cutest sleeves!!!

 

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Photographing these peek-a-boo sleeves was quite the challenge!  This was the most pleasing picture that showed the details without some weird mannequin or seam allowance or such showing through the peep hole.  LOL!  Notice my running stitches!!!  We used Coton a Broder thread for the embroidery and running stitches.  It was the first time I’d embroidered with this thread and I really enjoyed it.  It is much like floche, but not quite as soft as floche is.  I am adding that to my “embroidery favorites” threads list and hope to purchase more of this!  I wish I’d had some green – I would have added that to the bodice embroidery as I feel it could use a touch of green.  Oh well – it’s finished and I’m ready to move on.

Wendy manages to think of every detail of design, down to the buttons, and included polka dot buttons in the kits.  Just perfect!  Even with my flash shine, you can still see the cute buttons.

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The dress has an adorable jacket that goes with it, and mine is well under construction, but I had the same challenges with the jacket as I did with the dress and to fix those issues would require hours of “un-sewing” and then resewing.  I’m not willing to invest that kind of time.  Un-sewing is my least favorite way to spend my time.  So, that project is being removed from the UFO stash and the sewn fabric into my fabric stash – I hope I can repurpose the fabric in another project – perhaps even a smaller jacket.  I will make her jacket up one day, but probably not soon enough to be worn with this dress.  I’m fine with that.  Her jacket is definitely on my future to do list.  it is adorable, just as her dress is.  Perhaps by then I will know how to make the pretty corsage of felt flowers!

Picture from Wendy’s blog.

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So, my dress is finished and I can’t wait to try it on Ella.  Keeping my fingers crossed that it will fit and she can wear it this spring.

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My next project will involve smocking.  After completing a few UFO’s that all have hand embroidery, I need to smock something!  If too much time passes without me smocking something, I begin to miss it.

Until next time, keep on stitching…..

Kathy

Finishing up a UFO

This week we kept the grandkids for a few days while their folks had a little “get-away”, so I knew that no serious sewing was going to get done.  However, during nap times and in the evenings I took the opportunity to finish up the end embroidery on an unfinished project.  Once the embroidery was finished and buttons covered, I could hem the dress and do buttonholes and sew the buttons on the dress and jacket.  I was able to do that after they were gone.  It didn’t take long at all.  I’m so glad to have this finished and will try it on our oldest granddaughter this week.  Hopefully it will be a good fit.

The dress and jacket are a Gail Doane project from a summer sewing retreat. So, it hasn’t been sitting unfinished for too long (unlike some other projects)!

The dress is a nice weight cotton print with accents in featherwale corduroy – a great combination for fall/winter weather.

The dress bodice has a cute pleated treatment, but even in the close up picture, it doesn’t show up well.  I like the pleated treatment, but don’t think that I’d bother doing it again on a dress where it doesn’t show up at all.  If I put the effort into details, I do like them to be seen!  LOL!  I can think of many other ways to use this same treatment to add interest to other projects, so was glad to have tried it.  The scalloped waistband adds such nice contrast to the dress and I really like the soft pleats in the skirt – just a little different from the usual gathers.

What you don’t see well is a pleated strip of fabric on both sides that are covered with a strip of narrow fabric.  Cute idea, right?

I’m including a picture of the dress back only because I wanted to show how a well drafted collar should look.  I continue to see so many new (mostly PDF) designers that have oddly drafted collars that rarely meet up in the back.  A well drafted collar should sit well on the dress – not flat like a dinner plate, and should meet in both the center front as well as the center back.

What excited me most about this project was the jacket.  I had seen a similar jacket on Pinterest and fell in love with it.  Leave it to Gail to draft such a cute jacket with scallops down the front and then add her signature embroidered buttons as well as lots of contrast piping to put it over the top.  Featherwale corduroy is perfect for our mild winters in the south, so I expect this will get a lot of wear.

The back is equally as cute as the front!

With this project finished, I’ve pulled out yet another UFO dress and jacket for spring.  It has more work than this one did to finish it up, so we’ll see how quickly that will get done!

If you haven’t had the opportunity to take a class from Gail, you should put that on your wish list.  She teaches regularly around the country.  Her patterns are so well done and she is an excellent teacher.  I think anyone would enjoy a class with her!

I hope you will enjoy some sweet stitching time this week as well.

Kathy

Sewing Marathon

I feel as though I’ve been on a sewing marathon this month – a good one!  Another goal for the new year was to do more pattern drafting.  I took a year of pattern drafting in college, but then moved away and didn’t go any further with it.  So, I felt a refresher course was called for.  This was serious business – proper drafting, not a casual “wing it” sort of drafting that I was pursuing.

Craftsy had just what I was looking for with instructor Suzy Furrer.  I cannot say enough good things about her classes – they are outstanding!!!  Our youngest daughter was my willing victim model and stood for me to take the numerous measurements.  A sloper was made, muslin of the sloper sewn and tried on – it was a nearly perfect fit!!!  One little tweak to smooth out a seam allowance and I was ready to draft!

I drafted 2 skirts for her.  I chose the skirt style (definitely wanted control of what I was going to draft) and she chose the fabrics.  Both skirts are completely lined and have an invisible zipper in the back.  They both fit perfectly and we’re both thrilled with the outcome!

She was unaware that the skirts would require a modeling session, so due to the lack of appropriate clothing and accessories, only the skirt is being shown and not the beautiful model.  LOL.  Perfect fit!  I can’t wait to start on another one!

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Notice that dropped yoke – no side seam bulk, just a smooth line all around!  You don’t get that in off the rack clothing.

 

 

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I’ve also been busy doing some mini-workshops for our SAGA guild.  This month the workshop was on bishop bias band application as well as tackling and perfecting the pintucks.  We had such fun at the class and I think everyone learned something.  Of course, samples were needed, so I whipped up a dress with pintucks.  We have been working on the Wee Care gowns for our workshops and techniques – they are a perfect sized canvas to learn a new technique on because they are so small.

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Corded pintucks add such a nice soft bit of color to the little gowns.  A few little machine-made granitos at the peak of the scallop and I called this one complete.

A day trip to the mountains offered the opportunity to smock a couple more gowns.  The next workshop will probably be working with lace and lace shaping, so I finished up a little gown with a lace shaped heart.

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For a simpler hem treatment, stitching ribbon down with a ladder stitch seemed to be perfect for a little boy gown – not frilly or fancy but tailored and sweet.

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Yesterday was my marathon finish day – I cut out and stitched pintucks in 4 gowns and bonnets Monday night, so yesterday was the day to sew.  I finished up the 4 gowns and bonnets and added machine embroidery to the gowns and a few blankets.  They all turned out so sweet!

The cross on this gown came from the Wendy Schoen embroidery designs from Martha Pullen.

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This embroidery design was my favorite of the day.  It is a freebie offered by From the Needle of Anne.  She has some beautiful designs!!!

 

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Sadly, I have no idea where these other designs came from – I didn’t take note of the designer folder when I loaded them to my embroidery machine.  The small cross was just the right size for the smaller gowns.

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Whew!!!  I am so blessedl that I can spend time sewing, smocking & embroidering – all the things that I love to do.

What’s up next???  I’ll be spending the next few days with our grandchildren.  That’s even more fun than sewing and will definitely keep my busy.  I can’t wait!

What have you been stitching this month?

 

Starting the New Year with Sewing!

What did I do the first day of the New Year????  I sewed, of course!  It was a quiet day and I decided it was the perfect day to sew something.  This new year I hope to sew more of the patterns that I own and not just stitch up the same a-line jumpers that I love on the little girls.

My first dress was made for Eva so that she and her big sister can have matching, but not identical dresses.  To stick with my sewing plan of using different patterns, I chose the Children’s Corner “Carol” pattern.  I may have sewn this pattern up before – the pattern pieces for one size were cut, but I have no recollection of ever making this dress before, so I’m counting it as a different pattern.

I used the same wide wale cotton pique that Ella’s dress was made from as well as the same rick rack.  I had the little ball buttons in my stash, and they seemed perfect for this little dress.  I love the classic style with the box pleat in the front.  This was a quick dress to sew up.

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Because this is heavier fabric and will probably only be worn in colder weather, I wanted something longer than the short sleeve that comes in the pattern, so I went through my Children’s Corner patterns and found a sleeve on the Madelyn pattern that was 3/4 length with a cuff.  Perfect!  While they look like they stick out kind of funky on the mannequin, I’m hopeful that they will look sweet on Eva.

I would have posted this sooner, but the Christmas decorations all boxed up and ready to return to their attic space had taken over my photo studio!  Today I couldn’t stand it any more, so they are back in the attic and I have my photo space back.

Next up is some skirts that I’m drafting for our youngest daughter.  Sewing and creating pretty things is so enjoyable!  I hope you’re getting in some sewing time as well.

Keep on stitching….

Kathy