Tag Archives: heirloom sewing

A Few More January 2024 “Makes”

As I attempt to do a better job at sharing my sewing journey with everyone, I realized that I haven’t shown all of my January “makes”. In our frigid weather, I managed to get one outfit completed each week!!! I’m sure that pace won’t hold up for all of 2024. LOL!

The second make of the year was another dress that I was working on to go along with our SAGA Dogwood “Slow-Along”. It was another one that didn’t get saved for demo purposes – I just couldn’t save it that long. I ended up finishing it and loved how it turned out!

For this dress, I used my Betsy pattern. It is a vintage reproduction and a style that I love. I had some mother of pearl blue buttons that I used on the front of the dress – so sweet!!! I love this style with the pleats in the front and smocking in the front & back. I made up an original smocking design for this dress.

My 3rd make of the year was the dress version of my newest pattern – Vintage T-Romper and Dress. This turned out as sweet as I thought it would!

I think that this would be the sweetest dress for beach pictures!!! Of course, it is just as sweet when it is made from casual fabrics. I’ve made the romper version of the pattern in both heirloom styles as well as casual. Of course, I love the heirloom versions!!!

I love that the romper is a unisex one and equally cute either way!

My 4th make of the year was a dress that I’ll be sending off to the Appalachian kids ministry (Putting Prayers To Action). I love being able to sew and support this ministry!!! After completing the dress, I add undies, socks, PJ’s and a blouse to go with the dress. This ministry supports the most vulnerable families with clothing, toiletries, food and more. If you don’t sew but would like to participate, go to the webpage – they have a link with all of the current needs as well as a way to donate funds.

In addition to getting these dresses sewn, I also finished up a handbook for sewing a smocked yoke dress. This handbook is to be used in conjunction with any yoke dress, shirt or romper. It covers every aspect of constructing the garment – planning, pleating, smocking as well as avoiding all the pitfalls of collar construction, modifying vintage pattern styles, showing lots of sleeve & hem options.

If you’ve struggled with constructing a yoke dress, this may be a great option for you!

Needless to say, January was a very productive month! I do hope to enjoy creating many more patterns in the coming months. Sometimes this process goes quickly, but most of the time it takes LOTS of time. I hope you’ve enjoyed some stitching time already this year!!!

Happy New Year!

Today marks the beginning of another new year – new adventures to take, new skills to learn, new friends to make, etc. I hope and pray that the new year will bring health, contentment & joy to each of you!

I am not one to make new year resolutions. That said, I will keep my thoughts for the new year to be sewing related. I like to look back at the previous year to see what I accomplished and then look forward to this new year and see what I want to accomplish. My goals for that tend to be very similar from year to year. I want to keep learning new techniques, new stitches and try new patterns. I also plan to continue to put new patterns in my Etsy shop as I can get them finished. I enjoy designing the patterns and I continue to learn and improve my illustration skills so that the patterns as well as the illustrations are the best that I can do.

Our SAGA guild is doing a “Yoke Dress Slow-Along”. In February I will be doing a segment on collars, so I’ve been working on a few samples that I can use as demonstration examples. Wouldn’t you know that I ended up with a problem!!! I made a mistake. Rather than fretting about the mistake, I considered it a design opportunity.

Yesterday I worked on embroidering collars for this project. In spite of the fact that I had clearly marked the center front, I somehow ended up marking the placement dots for the flowers on the collar backs. Ugh! It wasn’t until I had the 4th of 6 flowers completed that I discovered my mistake. My first thought was that I would complete the group of 3 flowers on the back and then do them on the collar fronts (where they should have been in the first place!) and that the dress would look pretty both coming and going. However, I still felt that this might look like a corrected mistake – which it was. Then I had the brilliant idea to add a group of 3 flowers to the center of the collar and voila – now it is a design element and not a mistake! Excuse the unpressed collar – it is still drying from when I soaked out the blue wash-out marker.

I’m going to count this as my first new year success – I didn’t have to un-stitch anything and I like the new design even more than just having 3 flowers at the collar front! I often find that a mistake can result in some creative thinking and then end up being something that I wouldn’t have considered but end up liking a lot! I am going to have to hold myself back from finishing up this dress – I need to save it for February!

Easter comes early this year, so if you will be making pretty Easter dresses, it’s time to start on those!!! I hope you might consider some of my favorite patterns from my Etsy shop. Here’s a few of them that are favorites:

First up is an all time favorite of mine – Ella’s Easter dress. I designed and made this for our first granddaughter and this is her wearing it 13 years ago. I still love it!

Next up is Juliette – a lovely dress with lace bodice & sleeves – so perfect for Easter, portraits, weddings, etc. I made this version with ecru val laces for Livvy (above) and with pink embroidered Swiss trims for Eva (below).

Suzette is another favorite of mine that I made for all 3 girls one easter – this is one of my favorite Easter pictures!

The last inspiration I’ll leave you with today is Gwenyth. I loved making this dress. Ella wore this for her baptism, which makes it extra special to me!

I hope that this new year will be a time for you to learn some new things – sewing, embroidering, smocking, etc. As always, keep on stitching!!!

Kathy

Fancy Band Frustrations!

This post from 2015 definitely needs to be shared again as we get ready for those holiday dresses!

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.

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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).

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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.

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

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

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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 not so 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 side of the lace (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.

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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. UPDATE – you can also use a water soluble stabilizer underneath everything to help stabilize while you are stitching.

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Once the bands were back on both dresses, they needed to first have the blue marks rinsed out. Do this with cold water ONLY – no detergent!!! Then the dresses needed to be washed.  

The white dress had really gotten dingy looking from years of storage.  I went for the Retro Clean to brighten up the dress. This stuff works wonders!!!

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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.  In case you need more convincing, here’s a picture of another dress that was whitened more recently. I discovered that the ingredient in Retro Clean is sodium peborate, which can be purchased without being repackaged as Retro Clean or Restoration. These are all the same, so any one of them can be used for whitening. the picture below shows the whitened dress on a yellow background vs. the yellowed dress on a white background – such a difference!!!

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……

Kathy

Changing A Bishop Sleeve

This is re-post of a past blog post, with a few additional comments.

Because styles vary from year to year, I wanted to change up the sleeve of the bishop dress so that it was a bit more contemporary. I redrafted the sleeve to the bishop dress pattern from the bishop 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. Instructions on how to do that are available in my Etsy shop (kathysheirloomshop). I love having a completed dress when the smocking is finished.  I was very happy with the end results!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 of the dress 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 slightly 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 and was a big hit!!!

If this is something that you want to try, don’t be afraid to experiment!

Happy stitching!

Kathy

More Hemline Solutions

This is another re-posting of a previously “lost” blog post with a few updates.

Often times a special occasion dress is made which involves much time as well as expense and is worn only a few times.  Little girls tend to outgrow the length of the dress before the width.  With a little planning the dress can be lengthened and another year or so of wear can be had.

When a hem is taken out, most often the crease line remains visible – not appealing on a beautiful heirloom dress.  Since most of the time only a couple inches of length need to be added, a great solution is to cut the dress off at the crease, add a row of beading or insertion, and then you can add the cut off section of hem below the insertion and finish the lower edge with a lace trim or you can add a width of eyelet that compliments the insertion/beading and the remainder of the dress.  The goal is to make it look like a plan.  You may need to cut a bit more of the skirt length off, depending on what you add to the bottom of the dress.  Of course, if you plan ahead when you first make the dress, you can set aside extra trims that you’ve already used in the dress for lengthening later on.

While these pictures are dresses that were not specifically lengthened, they are good examples of how you could lengthen a too short dress.

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If you’ve used a floral print for the heirloom dress, the floral fabrics between the added on lace is a pretty choice as well.

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Of course, a beautiful lace fancy band is always a wonderful choice!

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Just a few more ideas.

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Ribbon and lace offer a slightly more cost effective solution.

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You can even add embroidered laces that use the colors in the smocking to add a beautiful hem and lengthen the dress.

For a more casual dress, adding a contrast band with some rick rack works well. By adding a second layer of rick rack, it looks more like a design option than an add-on.

Of course, a contrast band can be added with lace as well.

A scalloped band is a lovely and more unusual treatment for length.

Adding several color blocks is yet another option. This dress had an impossible stain on the lower skirt. Because of the various colors in the smocked flowers, a couple color block sections offered a great option!

I did a chain stitch over the seam for additional interest.

These are just a few examples of how to creatively and beautifully add length to a dress. As you can see, the possibilities are endless!! Hopefully it will jump start your creative juices and allow you to come up with even more ideas if you need to lengthen a pretty heirloom dress!

Happy stitching!

Kathy

Lots of Stitching

I don’t know where the time has gone!!! I continue to stay busy sewing as well as creating new patterns. I’ve also been busy making lots of new Wee Care gown samples that I will use as samples in an upcoming workshop.

Since my last post, I’ve added 2 new patterns to my Etsy shop. The first one I just adore for summertime! It makes a gorgeous outfit for beach pictures, weddings, etc. It is perfect for the little ones, boy or girl, as well as older girls.

For little ones, bloomers can be used instead of a skirt, however, I loved the idea of creating both the bloomers as well as the skirt for a little girl!

What a great way to have options!!! The pattern is called Button-on Bib, Bloomers & Sundress.

The most recent pattern is my City Frock Dress/Tunic pattern. This is another fabulous pattern for summer sewing! Of course, it’s also suitable for cooler weather with a blouse or t-shirt underneath.

All the girls were a big fan of the large pockets! I had fun making these dresses & tunics!

Of course, I continue to make my Wee Care sets for Caleb Ministry. I have completed quite a few that I’ll be using as samples for an upcoming workshop. I did a variety of different hem treatments for the gowns.

The beautiful crocheted edging on this blanket and the next one was done by another friend, Maribeth, and sent to me. It almost makes me want to learn to crochet again!

Traveling up to Michigan to visit with my parents gave me plenty of time to get the gowns smocked! It’s a really long drive! I made sure that I had several gowns ready to smock before the trip!

For the boy gowns, I added a pleated sleeve version that I’m particularly fond of. Several years ago, another smocking friend of mine, Beth, made a gown with a pleated sleeve. She generously shared the instructions with our local guild. As the years progressed, I worked with the new Wee Care chair for the guild and we tweaked the instructions a bit more to end up with a sleeve that I do like for all the various sizes from the under 1 lb. size to a NB size. I have had requests for these instructions, so I’m adding them here for you to download. All the sizes are included in the PDF file.

I hope that these will be helpful to others that make these special gowns. I wish they weren’t needed, but if they can provide one less thing for bereaved parents to worry about, I’ll continue to make them.

I hope you’re having a fabulous spring, stitching beautiful things and getting ready for the summer months!!! Keep on stitching!!!

Kathy

February – New Month, New Pattern

I have been busy the last month working on a new pattern. I have finally finished the pattern and got it listed in my Etsy shop. The pattern is a vintage style apron dress.

Isn’t this the sweetest dress!!! I created this from combining the ideas from 2 different vintage apron dress patterns that I’ve saved pictures of and am very happy with the end results.

I always get so much enjoyment from creating these patterns! The embroidery on this yellow dress actually is from a vintage pattern of mine and is included with the pattern. Obviously, any embroidery would be beautiful. On the white dress pictured first, I did a variation of this, using bullion roses instead of the lazy daisy flowers.

In the pattern, I offer 3 different neckline variations – square neckline, round neckline and a sweetheart neckline. My personal favorite is the square, but I do like the others as well.

On most of the samples that I made, I used French Val laces and pin stitched the lace to the dresses. However, when I got to the size 4, I wanted to try something different. For that dress, I used a very lightweight poly/cotton piqué fabric that I purchased in Prague a few years ago. I combined it with Swiss trims and loved how it turned out. It’s a little more casual than the other heirloom versions that I had done.

Don’t you love it with the Swiss trims!!! So very summery!!! I even added 2 pockets to this dress, which I then included in the pattern.

I can see this dress in so many different variations – fabrics, trims, etc. I used larger tucks for this dress, though I’m not sure that they show up well in the picture.

The flat front version is also so pretty! I can see this with all kinds of embellishment – wouldn’t a monogram be perfect!!! A shadow work monogram would be gorgeous! I did a simple lace shaping on the front of the one that I made. I’m still considering adding some embroidery. This dress features the sweetheart neckline!

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Maybe you have someone that would look so sweet in this dress!!! I have begun a sew-along of the dress on my YouTube channel. Please consider joining the fun! I am looking forward to seeing many beautiful versions of this sweet dress!!!

I hope the new year has included some enjoyable stitching for you!!!

Kathy

Heirloom Sewing 101 – Gathering Lace and Application

There are a couple different ways to gather lace for attaching to flat lace. Both render slightly different results. The top of a lace edging will have “header” threads. These are threads that can be pulled to gather up the lace. The majority of heirloom sewists will pull the top thread, which is generally the strongest thread, to gather the lace. This works, but can be a challenge when zigzagging to the flat lace or entredeux since there will be places where the lace wants to fold over and likely will be stitched in with that fold.

The other method is something that I learned when taking a class from Debbie Glenn, and that is to pull ALL the header laces. This results in gathered lace with the entire header thread being smooth and flat, much like a ribbon, and makes both the gathered lace look prettier (no folds or puckers) and is easier to stitch to the flat lace or entredeux.

The picture above shows the different results. The lace on top has only the top header thread pulled while the lace on thee bottom has all the header threads pulled. You can see how flat the header area is on the lower lace, making it so much easier to stitch the gathered lace to another lace. The top thread has gathers, but also has areas where the lace creates a fold/pucker that is difficult to work around and NOT get caught when stitching it to another lace.

To pull all the threads, begin by pulling the top thread, then locate another heavier thread and pull it, etc. There will likely be some very fine header threads, I tend to pull those in pairs (see video).

To join the gathered lace to another lace, use either 60 wt. Mettler thread or 80 wt. Aurifil or Madeira Cotona thread. The machine needle can be a 60 or 65 Schmetz Microtex needle if using the 80 wt. thread, or a 65 or 70 Schmetz Microtex needle if using thee 60 wt. thread. A universal needle can also be used.

For better viewing, it is advisable to use extra magnification. I like to use the Mag Eyes for this. The lens come in different strengths and it is easy to use especially if you already wear glasses. You can purchase extra lens in different strengths to use for different projects. I prefer to use the largest magnification to get the best results.

Set the machine to a zigzag stitch with a length of 1.0 and a width that is wide enough to encompass the header threads of both laces. You will likely need to hand crank the sewing machine to get the correct setting before starting to sew.

Be sure and give this a try – you will be glad that you did!

Kathy

Disclosure: The recommended products contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of those links I may receive a small commission, so thank you for supporting me when you shop! These are my opinions and are not representative of the companies that create these products. These are the products I use and have gotten great results with. I would never recommend poor quality products.