Category Archives: picture smocked dress

Preparing For Classes


I recently received my SAGA News with the announcement of the upcoming fall convention, which got me thinking dreaming about upcoming classes and what I could attend.  (If you’re not a current member of SAGA, you are missing out – SAGA has a lot to offer members, both in local guilds as well as with retreats and conventions.)  I’ve been both a student as well as a teacher, so have a pretty good idea about preparing to take a class and thought I’d share what I’ve learned over the years.  I hope to be a student at some of the sewing events this year.

SAGA includes a list of “basic sewing supplies” for students to take to classes, as does Sewing At The Beach and as did the Martha Pullen School of Art Fashion when they had their schools in Huntsville.  I combined the lists, since the things on the list would be helpful necessary to have at any/all sewing schools.  Of course, understand that these things are for schools that cater to heirloom sewing, which is what I love to do.  A quilting school would have a different set of required supplies.  🙂

Basic Sewing Supplies to Take to Classes:

Scissors (fabric, paper and embroidery), glass head or fine silk pins, fine line and ultra-fine line water soluble-blue marking pens, #2 pencil and sharpener, tape measure, rulers, white sewing thread, assorted hand sewing needles, seam ripper, pen/paper for taking notes, task lighting and magnification with extension cord and power strip.  If a machine is required, bring machine, power cord, foot petal, manual, extra bobbins and assorted pressure feet as well as a variety of machine needles/sizes.

Heirloom class supplies should also include a lace shaping board and corresponding scissors.  For air travel, I prefer this smaller board, but if I’m driving to a class, I definitely would include the larger lace shaping board.


Hand sewing/embroidery class supplies should include 4″, 6″ & 8″ embroidery hoops.  I have a handy carrying case with zip pockets that hold just about anything I’d need for a hand sewing class.  It keeps everything in one place and has been a great organizer for these things.

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Suggested machine needles should include #60, 65, 70, 75 & 80, twin needles 1.6/70, 2.0/80, #100 Jeans needle and wing needle.


Suggested threads are white in 60 wt. Mettler, 50 wt. Coats and Clark, 50 wt. DMC, 80 wt. Madeira Tanne cotona, 70 or 100 wt. YLI Heirloom thread.


Suggested pressure feet are 5 groove pintuck foot, open toed foot, edge stitching foot, lace joining foot, piping foot & 1/4″ foot.

Refer to specific classes for additional supplies needed.

This list is the combined list from all these schools.  I realize that it is a long list, but if for the student that is a smocker and does heirloom sewing many of these supplies will already be in the “stash”.  If the student is new to heirloom sewing and hopes to advance their skills, these will be things that will be needed for future projects, so definitely things that should be in the “stash”.

As a student, I always have all of these things (in multiples) with my traveling supplies to the school as well as everything that the teacher has on the list for the specific classes being taken.  I want to get the most out of class and so I prepare well ahead of time in order to acquire all the needed supplies.  With no heirloom shops in the area, most things have to be ordered online.  Like most students, I want my project to look as much like the teacher’s sample as possible, so using the same supplies that she used makes sense to me.

As a teacher, it is my hope that all the students will have the required supplies for the classes.  Students that come unprepared bring unnecessary challenges to the classroom/teacher.  When compiling the list of supplies required for a class, every supply listed IS required and used.  Sometimes there are supplies that are listed as “optional”.  I can assure that I would ALWAYS opt to have these supplies, however, there are “work arounds” if you opt not to bring that supply.

Once you’ve secured all the necessary supplies, it’s nice to have a plan for organizing these supplies so that they are readily visible and on hand when you need them.  I have a great little holder for my supplies.  What I particularly love about this organizer is that it swivels around for easy access to the tools.

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There’s still a few more things on my “wish” list for class supplies.  One of those things is a rolling tote for my sewing machine.  It sure would make toting a machine to class easier!

I hope that this post is helpful to anyone that plans to take classes at upcoming sewing venues, local SAGA guilds or shops where heirloom classes are being taught.  I also hope that many of the blog readers will have the opportunity to take classes this year.  While it is possible to learn many things online or from books, nothing is quite the same as being able to take a class in person.  In person, you will get little tips/technique demonstrations that aren’t necessarily in the books as well as have the opportunity to have the teacher make suggestions to fine tune your skills/techniques.  Consider one of the many sewing venues available for heirloom sewists this year – you’ll be glad that you did!

Have I missed a necessary supply???  I do bring other supplies that aren’t listed here, but I thought that might be a bit overwhelming to add more things to the list!  LOL!


Edited to add – Don’t forget the bandaides!!!  Am I the only one that needs those?  LOL!

Enjoying the Lakes!!!

The last couple weeks have been busy!!!  I made an impromptu visit up to MI to see my folks a week ago.  As you can imagine, it was C.O.L.D.!!!  However, it was so nice to be able to spend some time with my folks as well as my sister.   I enjoyed a lunch out with mom one day.  Time with my folks is precious and I am so thankful that I got to sneak in an unplanned visit.



An unexpected bonus to the visit was that I enjoyed soaking in the hot tub with my sister in the evenings. I never thought I’d like that, but was glad that she was able to prove me wrong. LOL! It’s pretty spectacular to see the stars at night from the hot tub.  Thankfully, you won’t be seeing a picture of us in the hot tub!!!  Hahaha!!!

The frigid temperatures warmed up as the week progressed and the last day there I took this picture of the lake on my early morning walk!  What a beautiful sunrise!

The first picture is from the back of their condo and the second picture on my walk.  What a wonderful view they have!  The sunrises are stunning!


Then it was back home long enough to do some cleaning, laundry and organizing around the house and I was off again – this time to teach a class in VA.

I travelled to VA on a day that bad weather was expected.  Thankfully, I just had drizzle and fog for the drive, but after all the students arrived at the beautiful lake home of the hostess, the weather took a turn for the worst.  We were able to enjoy class in the afternoon, but had to head to the basement family room due to tornado warnings!!!  Yikes!  Of course, we all grabbed our needlework (and snacks) and stitched while we waited out the storm.


The room was spacious and comfortable – we weren’t suffering a bit!  LOL!  We all got quite a bit of stitching done during our time in the “shelter”. Thankfully, the storm and tornadoes took a little jaunt around the town and we missed the worst of it.  My husband had been watching the storm on the radar and said that this jaunt in the storm could be attributed to nothing other than God protecting us!  So thankful for His protection.

The remaining days were spent either doing handwork in the upstairs living area which had a beautiful view of the lake and great lighting or at the sewing machines in the front of the house.   It’s a good thing that it was cold or I know I couldn’t have kept anyone inside!

The ladies hard at work……

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Who wouldn’t love stitching in this room?  We all enjoyed our beautiful location for the handwork!


Sunrise over the lake was as pretty here as it was in MI.


The students were delightful and I believe that it is safe to say that we all had a great time!  Our hostess was wonderful, the meals delicious and we all enjoyed stitching and laughing together.  🙂

So, that’s what I’ve been up to.  I hope you’ve enjoyed some fun stitching as well.  Easter will be here soon!!!



Beautiful Bonnets!!!

It’s a chilly morning here in NC, but warmer weather, spring & Easter will be here before long, which brought to mind bonnets and memories of Easter finery along with hats and bonnets.

Growing up in Michigan and Canada, we always had new church clothes for Easter, complete with purse, hat and white gloves.  Never mind that we were usually wearing these with our winter coats and frequently snow!  LOL!

This month our SAGA guild had a program on bonnets, so I pulled out the bonnets I had at home and brought them to the meeting.  However, I thought I’d share them here for inspiration for the broader readership.

This is one of my favorite Easter outfits made in the recent past.  This was a class taken from Debbie Glenn and the ensemble is made from handkerchief linen – beautiful in every way.  The bonnet is just delightful – down to the details inside the bonnet that frames the sweet face!

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Olivia Easter 2014

I wish I had a better picture of this bonnet – it was made to go with the Christening gown for a pretty 2-year-old girl.  I was commissioned to make this outfit and loved the way it turned out.  The smocking design is from Peanut Butter and Jelly Kids “Lauren Marie”.  KV1C8921

This is another favorite ensemble from the past.  I recently posted on the updated pattern/class for the dress.  The bonnet is just as sweet as can be and was based on a vintage pattern design, as was the dress.  I love the star-shaped smocking at the back of the bonnet.  This outfit is made of fine line piqué.



Even more adorable “on”.  Wow – have the years flown by!!!


Probably one of my most favorite bonnet patterns was the one that I made for our youngest daughter’s Christening gown and then I made the same bonnet for the granddaughter’s.  The pattern is from Susan York’s “Sarah’s Sweet Baby Things”, which is now out of print.  If you ever locate one, snatch it up – it’s the most beautiful gown and bonnet!

The bonnet is made from Swiss batiste and the bonnet brim is 2 layers of cotton organdy.  Love this!



Some of my other sweet baby bonnets are the simple rectangle made with laces and a casing in the back.  This bonnet pattern is available from Sara Norris.

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Could this be any cuter???  This is being worn with one of my dresses featured in Sew Beautiful.

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Worn by our oldest granddaughter as well.  🙂


One of the vintage styles that I love is the simple t-bonnet style.  This one was made for our youngest daughter 23 years ago – ribbons, lace and entredeux.  The granddaughter’s have worn it as well.  🙂  That makes me happy!  The instructions for these are found in many of the French machine sewing books available.

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Then there are the summer bonnets, made to protect the little one’s face from the sun.  The pattern for this romper and bonnet is from Primrose Lane – the romper back is as cute as can be with ruffles on the butt.  They are 2 different patterns, links for both included.   Not the best picture, but you get the idea.  The outfit is made of fine line piqué and trimmed in cotton gingham.



Of course, I couldn’t forget the adorable bonnets made last summer for the little girls to have at the beach.  I have the vintage Children’s Corner pattern “Emily Ann” which includes the bonnet in 2 sizes.  There are similar bonnet patterns available for this style bonnet.  These are also made of fine line piqué.

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Eva bonnet

I know I’ve made more bonnets than this, but hopefully this will inspire you to get started on your Easter sewing and bonnets!!!  It comes early this year!  Now, to find a bonnet to make……

A True Sewing Adventure – Sewing At The Beach

Last week was spent at Sewing At The Beach, in Myrtle Beach, SC.  What a wonderful sewing event that the Stranded Smockers put on!!!  I had a great, though exhausting, time!


The ocean front view (first night) from the room was a bonus!  It’s a good thing that this wasn’t the view from the classroom, or I don’t know how much would have gotten done!  LOL!  Then this was the morning view.


I taught 6 different classes and had some great students in each one of them.  Some were students that I’ve met before, but many were new faces to me.  In each class there were several first time attendees.  I’m pretty sure that most of them will be back!

The classrooms were really nice – spacious, and with all that was needed for the students to work on the projects.  Here’s some shots from a couple of the classes:

Students hard at work on their pinafores…



Different classroom with students working on linen bed pillows and learning heirloom sewing techniques….
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These 2 ladies (Margaret and Gail) are from the Stranded Smockers guild and worked tirelessly (as did all their other members that put on this event!) throughout the week.  Many times they had to leave class early to help set up the break room or help with the lunches.  I’m so appreciative of this guild and all those that put on the event.


I wish I’d taken pictures of all the different ladies that work so hard on this event – but they were always “working” and hard to keep up with!

Each day at lunch there were donated items and/or baskets to be raffled off.  There were a couple of auctioneers during the course of the week, but the most memorable one was Connie Palmer with her special hair accessories!


Then last lunch of the week, all attendees were given a raffle ticket as a chance to win a top of the line Babylock Ovation serger – donated by Babylock, of course!  What a fabulous prize!  The winner was speechless, as you can imagine!  She was a student in my last class and I think she had a hard time concentrating the last half of the day after that win!  LOL!  It couldn’t have gone to a nicer lady and she was thrilled to be able to replace her serger with this fabulous machine.  Just look at that smile!


Our week ended with a banquet and fashion show.  As with the entire week, there were table favors for all the guests and even a centerpiece that a guest at each table won.  Aren’t these handmade dolls cute!


I had the pleasure of sitting at the table with Margo Dukes (you must check out her blog of beautiful creations!) and Jan Kerton – both extremely talented teachers.  I can’t resist showing some of the wool felting done by Margo and being modeled at the fashion show.thumb_IMG_1166_1024

Pictures really don’t do justice to her work.  It’s stunning!

When it was all over and I returned to my room, there was the most beautiful sunset!  What a wonderful way to close out a fabulous week!


You’ll have to pardon the cell phone pictures, but that’s all I’ve got.  This was my first time at SATB, and I look forward to returning in coming years – if not as a teacher, as a student.  If you haven’t attended a sewing event, this is definitely one that should be on your bucket list!!!

It has taken me a couple of days of being home before I could write the post. I’m unpacked and nearly everything has been tucked away where it belongs.  I’ve spent some time revising/improving some of my class notes, which happens each time I teach a class.  Now it’s time to clean house and move on to my next project.  I’m looking forward to some stitching time!


Happy New Year!!!

Today is the start of the new year and I’ve been busy doing what I love to do the most – sewing!  It’s been a lovely day!  I’ve heard of a saying that what you do on the first day of the year is what you’ll be doing all year long.  I’d love that!

I have finished up a project that has been a long time plan – which is to redraft a pattern that I taught at the Martha Pullen School of Art Fashion in 2013.  I was seriously pressed for time when I designed the first dress and made the sample.  While I was satisfied with the dress, I knew that in time I would want to teach the class again and offer more sizes as well as tweak the pattern a bit.  I’m happy to say that I’m very pleased with the results.


The newer version has several minor changes from the first version of the dress, but I think that the subtle differences are more pleasing to the eye.  I’ve also drafted the dress in several sizes as opposed to the one size that was offered at SOAF.

This was the first version of the dress, which was worn by our first granddaughter and the rest that followed.  It was an ensemble that included a bonnet as well as coat and looked adorable on all the little girls.

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I knew that I wanted to change the collar to have a slight roll to it, even though a true Peter Pan collar is not supposed to have  roll.  I also softened the shape of the bodice curve and thought it is a slight change, I do prefer the new shape.  I also changed the shape of the sleeve somewhat.  These minor changes have made me much more happy with the overall appearance of the dress, though I doubt that many would even notice.

When I taught the class at SOAF, the bow on the dress was machine embroidered – with a sewing machine and not an embroidery machine.  I like the softness of the shadow work embroidery and have drawn out 3 different bows that students will be able to choose from – the 2 pictured on these dresses as well as one more that is a bit simper and will stitch up even quicker.

Needless to say, I’m very happy with the first day of the new year!  A sewing success is always great way to finish any day, but it’s a fabulous way to start the new year!


I hope each one of you has had a wonderful start to the new year as well and pray that the new year will bring many blessings to you and those that you love!

Keep on stitching…….


Merry Christmas!!!

Where does the time go?  I’ve sadly neglected the blog with the busy time of year and all the activities that accompany it.  Have I been sewing?  Yep.  Can I show you all of what I’ve been up to?  Nope.  LOL!  Some are gifts, some are for future publication and I don’t want to spoil the surprise.  So, what do I share?

One thing that I will share is that I love this time of year and the opportunity to reflect on the all the blessings that have been given to us.  I also love the opportunity to share some of these blessings with others.  Of course, the biggest joy of the season is in the gift from our heavenly Father   – Jesus Christ, our Savior.  In all the hustle and bustle of the season, don’t forget why it is that we celebrate Christmas – it is because of Christ.  I will not succumb to the “happy holidays” greetings that the world is embracing.  I will continue to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.

Last week I had the opportunity to go to the memorial service of a precious baby boy – Arthur.  I am blessed to know his mom and she has shared her difficult but blessed journey as she carried him, knowing his time would be short.  In honor of Arthur’s short life on earth, I have made a couple more gowns for the Caleb ministry.  They provide the most beautiful memory boxes, that include gowns, bonnets, blankets, etc. for families that experience the loss of their precious babies.  I only took pictures of one gown since most of the gowns look so similar.  However, I did some hand embroidery on the girl gown and bonnet, so I did photograph those.  I love sewing with the laces and made sure that I added plenty of lace to make the gown extra sweet.  🙂

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I’ve also taken the time to clean up the sewing room in order to start the new year with the room as clean as possible.  It’s a small room, so if it’s a mess (which it often is),  it becomes frustrating when I have to keep shifting piles around.  LOL!  I can’t wait to start my next project!!!

In the cleaning process, I re-discovered this tiny pattern.  I know that my mom sent this to me some time ago – something she found at a yard sale, and I don’t think I paid enough attention to it to even realize that it was a pattern.  The extra small envelope fooled me.

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Note the date on the back of the envelope – April 21, 1908!!!  The pattern envelope is 3″ x 5″ and the sewing instructions are on the back of the envelope.  What a treasure to find this again!  I may have to make this up, just for fun.  We’ll see if I can find time for that in the new year.

I wish all my readers a merry Christmas and pray that the new year will bring you abundant blessings!


Vintage Baby

I have been busy sewing these days – sewing for the grandkids, making samples for classes, sewing samples for the new Classic Sewing magazine, etc.  I’ll share pictures later.  This post isn’t about my sewing, rather it is about appreciating some vintage pieces that were also lovingly sewn for babies.

I recently received a bag full of vintage baby daygowns and assorted other baby items.  These were given to me by one of our new SAGA guild members that was trying to get rid of unwanted items.  She recognized that these were precious items and should be appreciated by someone, but she just didn’t have room to keep them.  Because she did not have an emotional attachment to them – they were not clothes from her family/ancestors – she had no problem giving them away.  I was delighted to be the recipient of these gowns whose history was unknown.

All the baby items had yellowed and were in need of some TLC.  I gently washed the clothing, but that didn’t really get them white.  So, they got the Biz soak next.  In less than 24 hours, most of them were a nice white once again!  After washing, rinsing and hanging them to dry, they all got pressed  so that I could take pictures to share.  Every gown is made of the finest lightweight cotton batiste.

The first item I’ll share is this sweet slip.  This slip is completely made by hand!  The side seams are stitched with the tiniest running stitches.  Except for the torn buttonhole, this slip is in excellent condition.

The hem has a pretty scalloped hem made with a buttonhole stitch finish.  Each stitch is perfectly executed.


The neckline and armholes are done with a more simple scallop.  The hand embroidery on the bodice is exquisite!



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I’m sure that at some point this slip had a matching dress.  I feel sure that the matching dress must have been even more beautiful!

This next gown is also beautifully hand stitched.  Although there is a tag inside that indicates that it was purchased, the gown is completely hand stitched – every seam.  All the seams are French seams, including the sleeve seams.

Tiny 1/8″ tucks are on the front of the gown along with delicate embroidery, pin-stitching and granitos.  The back of the dress has 1/4″ tucks.  This dress is coming apart in a few places.  I’m trying to decide if I should try to repair the seams that are coming apart or if I should leave them as they are.

The label indicates that this is a size 1, though I seriously doubt that it would fit any one year old that I know.


IMG_9674The neck edge, sleeve cuffs and down the center front are finished with a hand-made buttonhole scallop.




Close up of the beautiful embroidery.


Sadly, my photography doesn’t show up the feather stitching very well.


This next gown is machine-made, but with beautiful details as the other gowns have.  The label inside indicates it is a size 1.

The entredeux on this gown is some of the tiniest that I have seen.  Delicate lace is hand whipped to the entredeux at the neckline as well as sleeve edges.  A tab is stitched down the front and is embellished with little bullion flowers and leaves.  I have never considered adding bullions to the entredeux, but they are both at the neckline and one is embroidered on the entredeux at the sleeve edge.  I will have to remember this treatment for future sewing.




The next gown has the most delicate flowers embroidered on the collar and down the center front of the bodice.  The flowers consist of 5 pink lazy daisy stitches and a blue granito center.  5 additional granitos are stitched between the flowers.  The lace is barely 1/4″ wide.


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Sadly, this gown fabric has quite a bit of damage.  There are several pin holes, and a few that are larger.  But, it is definitely worth keeping.

I have several more gowns to share, but will leave these little vintage treasures for you to enjoy.  Hopefully with the camera adjustments that hubby made for me, I’ll be able to get some clearer pictures of the other gowns.

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing these beautifully made gowns.  They make me want to pull out a baby gown pattern and start stitching!

Keep on stitching….

More Christmas…

I know that today is Halloween, but I’m focused on getting the Christmas outfits for the kids finished.  🙂  Once I got the news that the football outfit fit well with just a bit of growing room, I quickly made up Liam’s Christmas outfit that goes with the 3 outfits for the girls.


You’ll have to pardon the cell phone picture – I had many technical challenges this week and the camera was one of them.  LOL!  But the phone camera always works!  As long as I’m sharing cell phone pics, I’ll share the football outfit.  It’s fuzzy, because this little smiley guy is never still long enough for a picture.  He’s only still if he’s eating!

Liam footballs

Who wouldn’t love this little guy!!!

I went delving through the “Closet Creations” – those closets that are packed with clothing that was made before there was anyone to wear them – and found these 2 outfits that are just his size!!!  He’s going to be too cute wearing these!  (I could only find these old pictures taken on a mannequin – oy!)


These will look much cuter on him than on the mannequin!!!

They are both his size, so this was a wonderful find!  I immediately tried last year’s bishop dress on Livvy, and it still fits – it just needed the hem let out, which I’ve done.  I love that I she can wear this dress again – I just love it!


I’ve also been working on some other sewing projects, but they will be shown later on as they aren’t yet finished.

How’s your Christmas sewing coming along???


Meet The New Girl ….

I’m still around – sewing, designing and such.  There’s always something going on in the sewing room and the drawing board.  This weekend I managed to get 3 Christmas a-line dresses made for the little girls.  I’ll work on the matching little brother outfit soon.

The dresses are all made from the Chez Ami twill fabric, bought when they were getting rid of a lot of fabrics.  It has  a bit of spandex.  Not my favorite to work with, but I loved the weight of the fabric and the colors.   I have the same large gingham in a royal blue/light blue combination for the little brother outfits.  I love when that all works out!  Before you’re too impressed, I have to let you know that the smocked inserts were purchased.  I didn’t make them!  They sure are cute though!  Of course, the dresses are the Children’s Corner “Lucy” – my go to pattern.


Do you see the new girl???   I scored big with this purchase and am so excited about it!!!  I happened to be on Craig’s List this past weekend and imagine my surprise when I saw a Wolf size 5 dress fitting mannequin listed for sale.  I’d love to own an Alvanon professional fitting form, but that definitely isn’t in my budget.  So, this was the next best option.  I was a bit skeptical about completing the purchase – you hear some pretty scary stories about purchases that are scams.  But, the form was being held at a bait and tackle shop.  She was quite out of her element there.  I’m sure that she will be much happier here!  Honestly, it looks practically new.  Sadly, the arm wasn’t with the form, but I took her anyway.

Other exciting news is the smocking design that I’ll have in the new Classic Sewing Magazine that is scheduled to come out in December.  You’ll definitely want to subscribe to this magazine!  It promised to be a beautiful magazine dedicated to quality heirloom and classic sewing with many favorite designers included.  Signing up now also will allow you to get in on the beautiful machine embroidery monogram design that they are giving to subscribers.  It’s beautiful!  Here’s a sneak peek of the dress…


You’ll have to wait for the magazine to see the rest of it!

So, that’s what I’ve been up to this last week.  Have you started your Christmas sewing yet?



Birthday Sewing and More!!!

I’ve sadly neglected my blog!  For the last couple months, I’ve been gone more than I’ve been home, so not much sewing (or blogging) has happened.  However, I’ve been home now for over a week – yippee!!! – and have been able to sew some things again.  It’s been great to get back to sewing.

The first things on order for sewing were birthday outfits for Livvy and Liam.  Both have birthdays this first week in October.  Their birthday party theme is a Circus theme, so circus outfits were in order.  My daughter sent me ideas for appliqués and I had the exact appliqués in my “collection” of embroidery designs!!!  Score!  Her color scheme is aqua and red.

IMG_9617The appliqués were a combination of a couple different designs – the tent came from Embroitique, the #1 came from Planet Appliqué and the name was the circus font from 8 Claws and a Paw.  The shortfall pattern is Children’s Corner “Johnny”, slightly modified for out chunky monkey!

Making an outfit for Liam required just a little tweaking since he is a bit wider than patterns in the appropriate size.  LOL!  We also wanted to see his chubby legs, so I raised the leg on the sides.  The result was exactly as I envisioned.  His birthday was last Friday, so he arrived dressed in the outfit.  Can I just say A.D.O.R.A.B.L.E.!!!

Liam 1st birthday

This was the best picture that we could get of the little guy – he’s always on the move!!!  However, the most fun of the day was watching him devour his birthday cupcake.  LOL!  He’s never had cake/icing before – let me tell you, he was a fan!  He dove into that cupcake with determination.  He started a bit timid, but quickly realized that he had a prize.

Liam first birthday

Laim 1st birthday 1

Next up was a matching dress for Livvy.  However, I had in mind something other than gingham.  So, after teaching a class at MaryJo’s, I did some shopping.  I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for, so only purchased 2 fabrics.  Next stop was the quilting shop, also in Gastonia.  Oh my – what a stop that was!!!  I found several fabrics and had the clerk cutting some of them, when she (cleverly) suggested some others.  Well, the “others” were even better, so I had to have those as well.  I ended up with 8 pieces of fabric from the quilt shop.  My shopping spree for the “perfect” fabrics ended up costing $150!!!   Good thing that I love all the fabrics and will use them in other things.  Hahaha!!!

Her dress turned out so cute and I wish that I’d snapped a picture of her dancing around in it.  She was so silly and excited when she got her twirly circus dress!  Maybe I’ll have some pictures after the party.

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Obviously, the appliqué information is the same.  I didn’t think about the fact that the red letters for her name would be over red polka dots and don’t show up as well.  Hindsight.  Ugh!  Should have used yellow.  Oh well.  She loves it!  I used and OOP Children’s Corner pattern called “Libby” for the bodice pieces and just added the skirt tiers and bottom ruffle.  I’m sure it would be easy to substitute a similar pattern if someone wanted to copy the style.

CC Libby

After completing the circus outfits, my SAGA News arrived in the mail.  It was the Wee Care issue and had such a cute gown that was designed by Joy Welsh of Appliqué for Kids.  I wanted to try that gown pattern – it looked very quick to make and particularly nice for boys.


I had contacted Joy and asked her if she would be able to digitize an anchor design – I wanted it for a special little baby – and she did it that very evening!!!  What a big heart she has!!!  Thank you Joy!

I made a blanket to go with the gown.  Love the way that the gown and blanket turned out.


If you haven’t tried out these shadow work embroidery designs, they are so quick and the end results are beautiful!!!  I could kick myself for not trying them out sooner.  I’ll definitely be using more of these.

IMG_9638This anchor was stitched on Imperial Batiste and was even stitched on the bias of the fabric on top – no puckers!  Typically poly/cotton fabrics always have puckers, but that’s not the case with her shadow work designs.

I followed that quick and easy design with a smocking design on another Wee Care gown.  It turned out sweet.  I love the way that the beads look in the design.


I’ve submitted the smocking design to SAGA to use in a future magazine.

This week I’ve been working on fall outfits for Liam and Livvy and wanted them done for their birthday party this coming weekend.  🙂  I’m too lazy to make the shirts for under the outfits.  These were really pretty quick to make as I used purchased (Belles et Beaux) smocked inserts that we bought last year.  I made the long pants version of the Children’s Corner “Johnny” for Liam.


The fabric for his outfit is a really great fabric – a twill from Chez Ami when they were discontinuing fabrics and clothing.  While I’m a fan of the cotton with a hint of spandex for wearing comfort, I’m not particularly a fan of sewing with it.  After pre-washing the fabric, it remained a bit off grain, so in order to get all the gingham matching at center front and back and sides, the  area just underneath the smocking is a bit off kilter.   I did try to straighten the grain and tugged for quite a while, but in the end, this was the best it got.  I don’t know if the spandex is the culprit or what.  I have several pieces of their twill with spandex.  I’ll have to see how the others do.

Livvy’s outfit is a cotton gingham – definitely liam first birthday3liam first birthday3liam first birthday3easier to sew on and get wonderful results.  For her dress I used another OOP Children’s Corner pattern for the bodices – the “Elliott”.

CC Elliott

I added a skirt to the bodice of this pattern.  It was an easy adjustment.  I thought about using the Mary De pattern, but wanted something that buttoned on the shoulder and was closed in the back.  I know she’ll love the twirly dress for this as well.  They are big football fans, so I hope these outfits will be a hit!

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So, as you can see, I’ve really enjoyed getting back into the sewing this past week and hope to do some more things in the next few weeks!

What have you been stitching???


Classes, kits and how it all comes together!

I have recently shared with some sewing friends about the challenges and work that goes into putting kits together for classes, and some encouraged me to write a post about just that.  Since I’ve been gone so much recently and haven’t had the time to sew much of anything, I thought I’d share the process here.  However, I’m going to start at the beginning of the design process.

The fun part is coming up with an idea for a project or garment.  I really enjoy that and have way more ideas than will ever make it to a class or pattern.  LOL!  I like garments that are “different” – not just the traditional yoke dress with a twist, so thinking through the drafting and sewing of the pattern is the next challenge – which I also enjoy.  After coming up with the first pattern draft, I sew it together to make sure that the process that I came up with will work.  Most of these first drafts are wearable drafts, but need some refinement.  Hahaha!!!  I wish I could say that the first one works out perfectly, but that’s not usually the case.  Often it takes another garment (or 2,3,4) before I have everything right.



I am so thankful to have a wonderful friend that is a professionally trained pattern drafter/grader.  She has been an invaluable resource when I need to try the final garment on a “real” professional fitting mannequin.  We try it on the mannequin and she can see if there’s anything else that needs tweaking.

Upon completing the garment and getting the fit/proportions just right for one size, the pattern is drafted in additional sizes.  This is a slow process for me and makes me wonder why I don’t just use a traditional yoke pattern, which would be so much easier!

With the grading completed, the writing of instructions is needed.  Oh, what a tedious process that is!  This is NOT a part that I enjoy, but is necessary.  I start with the basic instructions, then will make yet another garment, taking pictures of the process along the way, and will attempt to refine the instructions.  I slave over getting the written instructions just right, trying to describe each step of the process in a way that is easy to understand and inserting pictures where I feel they are needed.  I HATE using Microsoft Word for this as every time I change some of the instructions and go to save the changes, it re-arranges my pictures in a most unfortunate way.  E.V.E.R.Y.  T.I.M.E.!!!  This makes the dreaded task even less enjoyable and so much time is wasted putting those pictures back in place.  Oy!

Graphing the smocking design used to be another dreaded task, however, once I finally understood the software enough to work with it (thank you Claire Meldrum for you tutorials and patience with me!!!), that has become a task that takes a while, but I do enjoy the process now.  It used to make me cry!  LOL!

baby buggy

Every time I create a smocking design and get it graphed, I feel so accomplished!  Hahaha!!!  Don’t you love it when little things can make you happy!

The next part of the class process is figuring out what will be included in the kit and what the student will need to add to that in order to complete the garment.  Lists with requirements are made and you cross your fingers that you haven’t forgotten anything!  This takes some serious thinking!!!  Everything included in the kit needs to be enough for the largest size offered.  Costs for everything need to be figured out to come up with the cost of the kits.  That part is tricky for me as well.  At this point, the class can be submitted to SAGA for approval.

Then there are decisions to be made about what to do to make the class run more smoothly, eliminating the possibility for cutting errors, or just doing some of the work so that more class time will be for sewing and not cutting out.

For fabrics that will shrink, washing, drying and pressing is next.  Thank you to my hubby who bought me an iron press to make this job easier!!!  (picture from Amazon)

iron press

Supplies have to be on hand or ordered – everything from the fabrics, notions, etc. to the plastic bags for the smaller things (buttons) as well as a larger plastic bag for the entire project to go into.  Instructions and patterns need to be printed.  Once you “think” you have everything needed, the kit-making process begins…….

For the kit shown below, bias bands were cut for the neck, underarm, angel sleeve contrast, ruffle strips were torn, elastic lengths cut, rick rack – one package and an additional cut length added, smocking needle and embroidery needle inserted into a piece of felt, practice piece pleated as well as garment piece pleated.  After everything is cut and/or pleated and folded, it is brought to the “assembly room” (aka: guest room).  Everything for the kit gets a spot.

At this point, I decided that I needed to label all those cut pieces, so back to the computer to type up the sheet and print the labels – armhole bias, neckband bias, etc.  Then pin the appropriate label to the cut pieces.



Then begins the assembly line to pack up everything in the kit.  Of course, this is when you discover that you are missing a few embroidery floss colors (or some other little thing when it is a different kit!).  So, kits are put together and the ones that have everything (you hope!) are placed in one location – a dresser drawer at our house! – and the ones still in need of a couple of items in another location – a different dresser with a note as to what is still needed.



An attempt is made to fold up everything neatly and in a semi-attractive way (honestly, I cannot make this jumbled mess attractive!) and slip it into the large bag.  Add the printed instructions and you hope that you’re done!!!


I recently made 25 of these kits (pants not included) and 20 of another kit to prepare for a class.  It took about 60 hours to get everything ready because both kits had a lot of work cutting and/or sewing so that students didn’t have to spend time in class doing that work.  You can imagine how thrilled I am when the kit process is finished for a class!!!  Doing the happy dance!   I like to enjoy the moment, because when it’s time for the next class(es), it will be kit making time again!  LOL!

So, if you get to a class and are missing an item – please understand that its human error!  I try so hard to make sure that each kit is complete, but because I do actually have to stop and cook, sleep, etc., the interruptions can sometimes cause a blip in the process and something gets forgotten.  I wish I could blame it on the “help”, but I’m the “help”.  😛  For this reason I try to take a couple extra kits along for each class.  🙂

If you’ve made it this far without being totally bored, you are to be commended!  I hope that this gives you a bit of insight into the process of creating classes and preparing kits.  I know that all teachers strive to do the best for their students and classes.  We all love to teach and share our knowledge – hopefully helping students master new techniques.

I’ll continue designing/drafting and creating classes, but now you know why I only manage a couple new classes each year!  I love it and can’t wait to come up with the next one.



Bonnets and Buddies

I’ve been waiting for the right time to share this post.  I’m sure that you’d agree with me when I say that sewing buddies are the best!!!  This theory is proven to be true again.  My sewing buddies are the best!!!

Our local smocking guild has grown quite a bit this past year and I’ve made several new friends because of that.  One of our newer members, Janice, brought in a gorgeous Christening gown, slip and bonnet at the second meeting that she attended.  Her bonnet was displayed on a beautiful hand painted bonnet stand.  I admired it and found out that she had made the bonnet stand as well as the beautiful outfit.  Of course, I had to ask her if I could commission her to make a bonnet stand for me.  I was thrilled when she said that she would be happy to.  I was in no particular hurry.

Imagine my surprise when a couple months later Janice arrived the meeting with not one, but 2 beautiful stands!!!

I have the greatest respect for anyone that can not only sew, but also paint.  I can hardly pain my nails, much less something pretty!  Both stands are beautiful!  Her painting is as lovely as her sewing!  What a wonderful gift that she has given to me!!!

Aren’t these so pretty!!!  I couldn’t wait to display a bonnet on one of these.

I can’t wait to bring my bonnet and stand to the class that I’ll be teaching this week.  I cannot think of a prettier way to display a bonnet than on one of these stands.  It sure beats the candle sticks I’ve been using.  LOL!  Thank you Janice for making these beautiful stands for me – I am so blessed to count you as one of my friends!

Fancy Band Frustrations!

You know what I’m talking about – those beautiful fancy bands that grace the special heirloom dresses.  True labors of love!  I love working with lace.


It is such a delight to see these beautiful creations being worn by the special little ones in our lives!  They look so angelic and sweet.  Then that moment comes, that horrifying moment when those sweet little feet step on the band and the damage is done – the beautiful band is torn.  Well, I have 2 of those mishaps that needed repair work.  Ugh!  A truly dreaded task!!!

As I cleaned up in the sewing room last week, I came across the more recent disaster.  I’m sure that you’ll recognize this dress.  This dress was originally made for Australian Smocking and Embroidery magazine (Issue #84).

picture me

Then a few short years after publication, I was thrilled to see Ella wearing it for Easter and her little sister Eva wearing a blue dotted Swiss day gown to co-ordinate.  They were adorable.

Dotted Swiss Heirloom Dress


Isn’t that the sweetest picture ever!!!  Cousin Livvy also wore a dotted Swiss dress and was equally cute.

Livvy Easter 2013 a

This dress was featured in SB #146 and was appropriately called Olivia’s Easter dress.


However, before we could get pictures of all 3 little girls together in their dresses, the dastardly deed happened and the fancy band was torn.  🙁  Thank goodness for a pretty slip underneath!

The time had come to fix this dress while I still have enough eyesight left to pick out those stitches.  Imagine my delight when I discovered that I had already picked out the torn lace on the blue dress!!!  Oh the joy!  The job of repair just got infinitely easier.

While I was at it, I knew that I should also fix the torn fancy band that has been waiting for 19+ years for repair.  This was worn by our youngest daughter, Lauren, for Christmas when she was 4 or 5 years old.  She wore that dress several times before the band was torn.  I pulled that one out as well – might as well get both of them done.

Here’s the only picture I could find of her in the dress.  I kindly cropped out the rest of the kids in their very 90’s outfits!  LOL!  They will be happy for the cropping!

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I wish I could say that I had already picked out this torn lace, but alas, that wasn’t the case.  Not only had I not picked out the lace, but I apparently had the bright idea to cut away the torn lace close to the header.  Bad idea!!!  I also managed to make a bad mistake even worse.  Before realizing that I had not properly removed the damaged lace, I starched (aka: glued) the lace heavily in preparation for sewing.  Oy!  Now the nearly invisible stitches were glued to the fancy band!  What a horrible job that ended up being!!!  I think I spent 6+ hours un-sewing.

Finally, I was ready to begin the actual repair work.  As I mentioned – I heavily starched all the lace areas – the laces attached to the dress as well as the lace to be re-inserted.  I soaked the laces with starch and let them dry over night.  Once dry, I pressed everything and began.  (excuse the wrinkles – I wasn’t pressing the entire dress when I knew they would need pressing once finished!)

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The new lace was attached to one of the sides (doesn’t matter which side you chose to start with).  I started and stopped the lace about 1-1/2″ away from the side seam so that I could accurately sew the lace seam and have it fit properly.  I marked the lace with a blue wash out marker exactly where the side seam should be, then french seamed the lace.  At that point I was able to stitch the final section of lace on.




As you can see in the top picture, the original lace band top edges don’t meet exactly.  As I stitched the new lace to the original band, I carefully stitched over that section making sure that I caught the header threads of both laces.  It ended up smooth when I was finished.  Disguised very well.

Next in order was re-attaching the band to the dress lace section.  Before doing this, use a blue wash out marker and mark the dress/lace as well as the band/lace in sections.  Side seams and center front and center back should be marked first . Then mark half way between these marks as well(see red arrows).  This gives you guide lines as you stitch the lace band back to the dress.  Without marking, it is likely that either the upper lace or the lower lace will feed through the machine unevenly and the result will be that there will be extra lace on either the upper or lower band that will be too much to ease back in.  Marking the sections allows you to ensure that everything fits back in place.

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Once the bands were back on both dresses, they needed to be washed to clean and remove all that starch.  The white dress had really gotten dingy looking from years of storage.  Finding that I was out of Biz, my usual go to for brightening/whitening, I remembered purchasing another whitening agent – Retro Clean.  I cannot remember where I purchased this fromThis was purchased at the Peanut Butter and Jelly Kids  booth at the SAGA 2013 convention. It was quite pricey at $15.  I do remember being assured that I would be happy with the product.  Time to put it to the test.

IMG_9588 A couple of hours of soaking the white dress and it looked new again.  I’ll let the “before” and “after pictures speak for themselves.  I didn’t Photoshop the colors on either of them.

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As you can well imagine – I highly recommend this product!  It worked wonders in just a couple of hours.  I can’t wait to try this out on a couple other things that are in need of some brightening.

So, a day of work is done.  Both dresses are fixed and ready for the next wearing!  Hopefully the next wearing won’t involve torn fancy bands.  However, if they do, well, I’d rather have the dresses be worn rather than just decorating the closets.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Lauren’s Christmas dress will fit Ella this year.  That way I’m ahead of the game for Christmas dresses!

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I hope that you don’t have to repair fancy bands.  The job isn’t fun, but in the end, it was well worth it!

Keep on stitching……


Vacation 2015

I haven’t been up to any kind of sewing lately, which makes me itching to get back at it!

We had our annual family beach vacation the first week of the month.  It wasn’t quite what we had expected this year.  I’m fondly referring to it as the “Beach ‘n Barf 2015”.  We hope that this type of vacation won’t be repeated – ever!  We’ve been going to the beach with the kids for 20+ years now and have never had a bad vacation, so I won’t complain too much.  However, this year, in addition to the flu, we also had 3 days of mostly cloudy and/or thunderstorms.  Not great fun.

We did enjoy some wonderful days at the beach.  However, due to the illnesses – which was on a different day for each of victims – we didn’t get our family beach picture this year.

This was also the first year that I did absolutely NO stitching or reading at the beach.  As I said, it was a very different vacation.

The little ones sure did enjoy the beach on the days we made it there!  I’ll share some pictures for you to enjoy.

This little guy was always smiling – so much that we didn’t even know he cut a tooth while we were there!


He and his uncle Steve were buds – 2 gingers hangin’ together.


Then there were the girls – they have such fun together!  Love that!

Being silly right before we ate at the restaurant…

girls silly 2015

Silly at the beach….

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And how sweet is this…..




Upon our return from the beach, I’ve been in the sewing room a lot, but not sewing, rather making up kits for an upcoming teaching event.  The kit making took an entire week.  I’ll share that process in another post.

Lest I forget to mention it – I also had a dress to make up prior to leaving for the beach!  I hope that all the heirloom sewing friends have heard about the new magazine that will soon be available – it is called Classic Sewing and will be published by Phyllis DePiano of Hoffman Publications.  Kathy McMakin is the talented editor of this new magazine.  The first issue is scheduled to come out in December and will be an Easter issue.  There promises to be lots of beautiful eye candy in this issue.  You’ll want to subscribe to this one!  You can read about it at the Classic Sewing magazine homepage.  I’m so excited about this new magazine and am delighted to be included as one of the contributors.  🙂  Here’s a little teaser for you.


After 2 weeks of not sewing – beach and kit making – it was time to clean around here.  Sure with that houses were self-cleaning like my oven!!!  But, since that’s not the case, I had some serious work to do.  The house needed it and the sewing room looked like a bomb went off in it!

So, that’s it for now!  I hope to get to the sewing room again this week, even if it is only for a little while.  I need to get going on some Christmas outfits with 4 little ones to dress!!!

What will you be working on?  I hope you have had some special sewing time as well…..



Home from the SAGA Retreat!

I just returned from another great SAGA (Smocking Arts Guild of America) Retreat in Chicago.  As always, it was several days packed with activities.  The ladies that worked hard to put this event together did a great job and I think that everyone enjoyed the weekend.  There were quite a few new, first time attendees!  That was really exciting!

The food at the hotel was good, but the desserts – yummy!!!

As always, there were lots of table favors from shops and guilds.  It’s such fun to see the creative element with these favors!  If you’ve never attended a SAGA retreat or convention, there’s still time to sign up for the retreat in PA in Sept.  I’d encourage you to consider it.

Not only was I able to enjoy getting reacquainted with women that I’ve met previously, but I had the privilege to meet one of my internet friends, Jenny Jo.  🙂  We’ve known each other for several years online, but this was the first time we met in person.  She’s the smart one that remembered the camera (I only had my cell phone for pictures!), so I just “stole” her picture!  This is us at “market” after a busy day.

We enjoy getting to know each other a bit more over dinner one night and again at breakfast our last morning.  We discovered that we share very similar upbringing – both attending a reformed church, learning the Heidelberg catechism (both of us attended Sat. morning catechism classes as kids), etc.  I can tell you – that never happens!  She was as delightful and thoughtful in person as she is online.  She gifted me with a beautiful smocked pincushion!  I will treasure this.  Not only that, but she also made a book with lovely smocking designs and ideas that go beyond children’s clothing.

I also received a nice gift basket from the SAGA board.  Sadly I forgot to take a picture of the basket – it was pretty, and full of goodies.  Another student gave me some delicious caramel popcorn!  I devoured one of the bags while in Chicago.

I had a wonderful group of students for both classes that I taught.  However, I stayed busy enough that I only remembered to take a quick couple pictures right at break time, so many students are missing from the pictures.

The students all worked hard and I believe that all of them will be able to finish up their projects soon.  🙂   I hope that many of them took away some new tips and techniques that they will be able to use on other projects.

Upon returning home, I am busy watching 2 of the granddaughters while their folks are away (in England!).  They will be with us until Monday, so I am staying on my toes keeping up with them!!!  Yesterday we did some creative “art” work outside.  LOL!  You have to love the way that little minds work – how about that coloring position – down the steps.  Hahaha!!!

I have one thing going for me – I’m getting some great sleep at night!

I hope everyone is enjoying a wonderful summer!!!  Keep on stitching…..