Monday, January 31, 2011

Au Bonheur des Petites Mains - Tunic with Front Tucks (TQH08002)

There has been much activity surrounding Au Bonheur patterns over on Stitcher's Guild, largely spurred on by PStarbuck (aka Peggy), and her wonderful creations. It made me want to knock out another of these fun French patterns.

I bought this tunic pattern a year or so ago. It is reminiscent of recent tunic patterns from the Big 4 that fit through the bust then flare out at the waist and feature an uneven hem. However, this one has two large tucks on the front at hip level. The front is cut much wider and longer than the back, and when the tucks are sewn in to the front, the fabric under the tucks falls in such a way as to suggest a "skirting." I have sewn tops similar to this style from the Big 4, and this one is drafted quite differently.

Which is why I like this pattern line. :)

The pattern comes in size 36-46, which is too small for me and my trusty ruler told me I'd need to add at least 10 inches at the bustline. Though there are only 3 pattern pieces, it took me longer to alter the pattern than it did to cut and sew it.


  • I widened the sleeve 2" at the bicep tapered to 3/8" at the wrist.
  • I widened the back 2" (a total of 4").
  • I applied an FBA, ending at the hip. I added a Y-dart that was 4" wide (adding 8" total). I did not sew the dart, however. I eased the fullness into the side seam.

When I visited Stone Mountain and Daughter on New Year's Day, I picked up a sweater knit from the upstairs sale room. It contained wool, mohair, and synthetic - I can't remember the exact blend, though the bolt recommended dry cleaning. I threw a small piece of it into the washer and dryer, and I liked how it softened the slightly scratchy mohair, so I threw the entire piece into a normal load. It did shrink, though I didn't measure the amount.

This fabric was a pain to sew. It is a very loose knit and it ravels. It is a fun print, but is highly unstable and stretches out like crazy. So, with the running and the instability, it required a gentle hand.

Construction Notes:

  • Before sewing the front tucks, I placed Steam a Seam Lite on the stitching line of each tuck.
  • I stabilized the shoulder seams, also with SAS Lite.
  • After my alterations, the back shoulder seam was wider than the front. I eased in some of that fullness, but I chopped the remainder off of the armscye.
  • Despite my best efforts, the neckline stretched out of shape, almost as soon as it was cut. I sewed the neckline using a strip of a black leotard-style lycra knit, turned to the inside, and then topstitched at 1/4". I then inserted a 2mm round elastic into the casing formed by the topstitching and eased the neckline back to its desired location. Note that this pattern has a fairly open neckline and I cut it a bit higher than designed.
  • I spent time fitting the top through the bust. The knit is so stretchy, that I did remove several inches from the side seam from the bust to the waist.
  • I hand sewed the hems, both the bottom hem and the sleeves.
  • I finished the seams with the serger.

I love my new Fluevog boots! I bought these during the sale in early January. :)

What the Heck, UPS?

Here are the facts:

On Sunday, January 16th, I ordered a Janome Felting machine from

On Wednesday, January 19th, I received a shipping confirmation, with a tracking number for UPS.

I hoped it would arrive in 5 days or so. It was coming from Ohio to San Francisco, and this seemed reasonable.

Time dragged on and it didn't arrive. I chalked it up to the nasty weather that has been pummeling much of the country.

Finally, on Tuesday, January 25th, I dug up the tracking information and looked it up. It said that the package had arrived in San Pablo, California, the previous day, on Monday the 24th. That is a mere 30 minutes from my home, so I assumed it would arrive any minute and I started stalking my front door.

When I checked tracking the next day (or maybe it was later the same day) the only change to the status was that it had said I would receive the package on February 2nd.


How come it would take NINE days to travel 30 minutes to my house? There was no clue on the status page.

On Saturday, I checked the status page again, and saw that my package had left Hodgkins, Illinois on Friday.

Come again?

There was no departure scan from San Pablo, which suggested to me that it was scanned on arrival and then stuck on the wrong truck, or not unloaded from the truck, or something similar. But at least I now understand why they put an arrival date of February 2nd.

What the heck, UPS?

Perhaps they are not aware that I have a half finished jacket that is languishing until I have the machine in my hot little hands.

Meanwhile, I've made a top this weekend. I can't take photos until tomorrow, but I'll go write the post up now. :)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Vogue 8712 - Marcy Tilton Pants - in Black!

Well, I couldn't help myself. I really wanted to perfect the fit on these pants before I put the pattern tissue away. I folded the excess fullness out of the side back and back pieces and then cut the pattern out of my beloved black ponte. I whipped up this pair in a couple of hours last night, making no other changes. In effect I was cutting a smaller size in back than in front. Many women, as they mature, carry more "fluff" in front and I know sewists who routinely use a smaller size in back. It is a fairly common alteration for many of us.

I love these pants! I like the width, the length, and the overall fit. I like the subtle lantern shaping near the hem. I am sure I will get lots of wear out of this pair, as well as the pair I made on Saturday. I would still like to make view A/B, but not today. :)

This photo has been lightened so you can see the detail a bit better.

I have a slightly weird stance here, but you can see that the back fits much better than my last pair.

Several of you found my blog through the Vogue Patterns Facebook page. Welcome!

I am still waiting for my needle felting machine. I wonder if it's stuck in bad weather. The temps here have been in the 70s, but I am thinking of those of you freezing your patooties off back east. Stay warm and safe!!! Maybe you can get lots of sewing done in the bad weather... :)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Vogue 8712 - Marcy Tilton Pants

I ordered Marcy Tilton's new patterns in the recent BMV sale. They arrived yesterday (Friday). I opened the mailing envelope at 11pm and was cutting fabric at midnight. I was a little obsessed about making these immediately - I needed quick project!

What Size?

There was one teeny problem. I wasn't sure which size to order as Marcy's pants sometimes have more design ease and sometimes less. This pattern comes in two multi-size groupings: 8-14 and 16-22. According to Vogue, a size 16 has a 40" hip. I have a 40" hip, so I ordered the larger pattern. But when I opened the pattern tissue for View C, I saw that the finished hip on the size 16 is 46". This is larger than I like to wear, particularly in a knit, even a stable knit like a ponte.

I really wish Vogue would tell us the finished measurements in this situation, so we know which multi-size grouping to buy. I would have purchased the smaller size if I'd known this little tidbit.

I proceeded to alter the pattern. In my case, I transferred the crotch from my TNT pants pattern, so I know that the crotch will fit me without tweaking. I planned to pin fit the pants in the fashion fabric to remove excess at the hips.

I finished cutting out the pants and went to bed.

When I woke up at 6am this morning, I was eager to finish these pants. I told myself I couldn't leave the house to hit some enticing sales until I'd finished, so motivation was high. Besides transferring my crotch curve, I had eliminated the fly front and zipper. Did I mention that I really needed a quick project? I started sewing around 6:30am or so and quickly fell into the groove of stitching and top-stitching - I enjoy me some good top-stitching.

Unfortunately, in my eagerness to finish, I forgot to pin fit the pants. Oops.

After they were constructed and before I attached the waistband, I realized my mistake and added two additional darts in the back, taking out 1 1/4" (doubled) from the waist, tapering to nothing about 15" down, removing 5" of fullness in total from the waist/hip. I even topstitched the darts to make them look intentional. While this helped, the pants are still too large through the hips and need to be reduced another 4" or so.

I wanted to make these in something other than black. I have so many black pants and I'm feeling the need to branch out a bit, so I used a ponte I bought from Marcy Tilton in a color she calls Chestnut. It's a really nice fabric and very easy to sew. I *think* I prewashed it, but if not, I hope it behaves well. :)

I managed to finish the pants before 10am and to get a couple quick photos before running out the door. I do like the design very much, especially how the fullness nips in at the ankle.

Oh, I should mention that I didn't alter the length in any way. They are ankle length on me (at 5'5") but the pattern photo clearly shows them to be cropped, so be aware that they may run long. I love the long length, but shorter would have worked too, which is why I didn't worry about it in the alteration phase.

Before I make these again, I plan to grade the pattern down. Once I've tweaked it a bit, this will become a favorite pattern. I want to make View A/B as well.

I was so happy to complete a quick project - it's a nice change from the labor intensive projects I've been working on recently. And I will wear these a lot - they fit better than RTW pants I've bought in the past, but I've gotten more picky about fit since sewing my own clothing. :)

You can see in the back that there is too much fullness.

On the jacket front, I have two in process. I am waiting for my needle felting machine so I can finish the second one. I have more I can work on this weekend, though, since I need to fit the lining and sleeves. But beyond that, I am stuck until the machine arrives. I just may have to start jacket #4. :D

Monday, January 17, 2011

Hurry! Vogue $5 Clearance Sale

Vogue Patterns is having a 2-day sale of their Clearance patterns for $5 ($4.50 if you are a BMV member) that ends today. Generally, clearance patterns are full price and are immune from their other (more common) sales.

They have put one of my very favorite Marcy Tilton pants patterns (and therefore favorite pants pattern in the whole world) on clearance. They currently have both sizes. They have loads of other patterns, too. Hurry hurry!

Vogue 8397. This pattern runs large, so if you are on the "cusp" between the two sizes, you might want to buy the smaller size. I fit it according the hips and altered the waist.

I have been spending all morning fitting a jacket. I didn't make a muslin, so it's taking much longer to fit in the final fabric. It's worth taking the time, though! Next, I have some zipper pockets to make. :)

And, while I've been sewing today, I have been thinking of Martin Luther King. I have been remembering when there was no "Day" for Martin Luther King and how controversial that was back in the 80s. Many people would stay home that day, out of protest. It was an important step when this day was made a national holiday.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Review: "Full Busted?" DVD

I first became aware of this DVD not long after returning to sewing – about a year and a half ago. It is produced by the Palmer and Pletsch folks who do know a lot about fitting, but I had trouble finding real information about this DVD. I was worried it would contain information that I pretty much already knew and I held off purchasing it.

But I decided in December, what the heck, maybe I will learn something new, so I ordered it.

What took me so long???? It may be the best $20 I've spent for any sewing information. I am surprised that more women with bodacious boobage aren't hailing this as the best DVD ever, except maybe they don't know about it.

I want to get the word out. :D

I finally sat down and watched the two hour video yesterday, just before I was planning on altering Yet Another Princess Seam jacket pattern. As fashions have become closer and closer to the body in the last few years, you DO need this DVD if you are larger than a B cup. It is essential if you are a D or larger, as it contains information I have not seen anywhere else - not even in their fitting book (which I do love).

The presenter is Marta Alto, who has worked with the brand for a long time, I gather. The video begins with the tools/supplies that Marta uses. I am forever making muslins because I had never figured out how to achieve a reliable fit trying to get the pattern tissue over all my curves without ripping it to shreds, but they've created a technique that is most impressive. For the first time, I am making a jacket without a muslin - I can report on how effective this approach worked after the weekend - if I can get enough done today and tomorrow.

The FBA process begins with your standard dart - either creating one, or lowering/enlarging an existing one. How to rotate a dart, convert it to released tucks/pleats are shown. It covers the latter information fairly briefly, but as it's old information to me, I wouldn't have wanted a lot more detail anyway.

Next (and here is where it starts to get really good) Marta shows you how to alter non-standard patterns, such as a pattern with a cut-on sleeve. Because she is doing it in front of you, you can see little details, such as how and where to correctly true the seam - details that you often don't get from a book.

Marta then shows how to do an FBA on one of those twist, knot front tops. She uses a popular McCalls pattern and, I'm telling you, I could have NEVER figured out how to do this one. I could barely follow it, but at least you can watch the DVD over and over until you get it.

By this point we are about halfway through the 2-hour video and nary a princess seam to be found! She now brings out "real people." (I hate fake people.) Her first model is a young woman with perky breasts. She alters three patterns for her body - one with a crossover empire seam, one that is cut to fit just over the bust, and a princess-seamed strapless top. All are tops I could actually see a young woman wanting to wear.

The final two models have mature figures, thank goodness. :) Model #2 is fitted for a McCalls Palmer/Pletsch lined jacket with a bust dart and a fisheye dart from bust to waist. She also needs two back adjustments, which Marta acknowledges but does not go into detail on how to achieve. (They have another Fit video that most likely covers this.)

Model #2 needs an FBA, but she does not need her dart to be lowered. In this example, Marta mentions backing off of a dart (which I always have to do), especially if you wear a contour bra. Model #2 also needed a bit additional width through the hip area, another common alteration. Model #2 (as all the models) looks fabulous in her completed jacket. (She shows all garments in process and then completed. I really appreciate this.)

During the fit of Model #2's jacket, Marta stops for a brief comparison between a standard FBA and a Y-dart FBA. I learned of the Y-dart fairly recently from their book, Fit For Real People and I like this technique very much. It's strongly recommended for folks who are adding 2" or more to a dart and I have only seen this particular dart in their publications.

I started wondering if all Marta's models had perky breasts, when she brought out Model #3, who did need lowering of her bust fullness. (Lowering the bust fullness can be very tricky in some designs and I typically have to lower about 4" which can really affect a design.) Model #3 was being fitted for a lined, shoulder princess seamed jacket. Finally! She needed the bust to be lowered on the princess pieces and she needed BOTH front pieces to be altered.

BOTH! I had never seen this before and this was also worth the cost of the DVD, and then some. I will now look at altering princess seamed garments with a totally new eye. Marta also explains the difference between a princess seam and a side panel design. She walks through the alteration using an sleeve princess design.

A quick note about the floral blue top Marta is wearing during Model #3's segment. I had this fabric over 20 years ago. I made (way back then) a long, gathered skirt from it. It's a rayon jersey and very swishy. I may still have the skirt somewhere, though I would have to redo the waist to wear it anymore. Anyway, I found it distracting to study her top and try to remember where I knew that fabric from! It's akin to seeing a face you recognize, but cannot place. :D

The last 15 minutes of the video quickly cover two much more involved patterns. This part is wonderful and could have been expanded even more, to my mind. She first shows a gorgeous jacket with complicated seaming - I would love to know the pattern number for this jacket, though I can't imagine how you would add a dart AND lower it. (She only showed adding the dart.) I am sure this pattern is OOP, but it might be worth tracking down.

She then shows a Belville Sassoon gown that needed loads of altering, though she just tells you what needs to be done, and doesn't walk through the steps. (For this dress you have to alter the (asymmetric) left and right fronts, the corset, the corset lining, and the front skirt. It was exhausting to think about!)

And that's it! The only FBA I would have liked to see that wasn't shown, is an "offset" princess seamed design with a dart on the front panel. I have dealt with this recently, and it's a PITA.

You know, I wonder if new sewists tend to ignore the Palmer Pletsch folks because their aesthetic is not very young, hip, or edgy. But, I'm telling you, these people understand fit. I have an engineering mindset, which is why I am so comfortable altering flat patterns, but Marta is an engineering genius and I bow to her greatness. I've already ordered a couple more DVDs and have even thought about attending one of their workshops in Portland. I think it would be fun and immensely educational.

By the way, you can order their books/DVDs through their website or through Amazon. And, as usual, I get nothin' for my review. ;)

Friday, January 14, 2011

New Spring Vogues

I guess I am a bit of a hypocrite. I get excited when I know a new batch of Vogues are coming. I am anxious to receive my magazine (this time mine came more than a week after other folks on Stitcher's Guild reported receiving theirs!), and I am even more eager to see them posted on Vogue's website. Usually the website is updated long before I see a magazine, but this time the website was very poky indeed, but they are finally up.

I mean, I have my hands more than full with projects, so I really don't need more patterns, but then the new patterns come out and, inevitably, there are some that I am excited to make up, making my project queue even longer. It can be overwhelming.

It's a pickle, I tell you.

So, here we go. First up, a pattern I.MUST.MAKE. This dress is stunning.

Vogue 8705

Now, of course, I could not wear this dress. No way. But I happen to have lovely daughters who could. Luckily, my eldest would be happy to have this.

OK, now on to clothes I could, and would, wear.

My favorite thing is when Marcy comes out with new pants patterns. Here's her latest offering.

Vogue 8712

Cute, huh? And notice that both views of these pants have pockets?!?!? Thanks, Marcy, and Vogue! I especially love the round pockets on View A.

This top from Katherine Tilton is gorgeous!

Vogue 8710

This top is right up my alley. I especially love the stylized princess seams on View B!

Marcy also has a very interesting new blouse. These tops with volume at the hips aren't always the most flattering on me, but they can work if they are more fitted through the bust and not too long.

Vogue 8709

It has very interesting collar and pocket detailing and it's hard to make out exactly what might be going on. I look forward to seeing this made up!

Look at this cute, easy to wear vest. I could imagine this in many different, interesting fabrications. It has an "Eileen Fisher" vibe to me.

Vogue 8713

This next jacket has some very nice details, such as the ruched sleeves, neckline shape, and the peplum. Do I need it? Probably not. Will I make it? Probably not. But if I have an excuse to make it, such as a wedding, I just might. :)

Vogue 8718

I like the little evening jackets shown in Views B and D. I would only make one of these if I or my daughters had a relevant event, but it's a nice little pattern to have when you need it.

Vogue 8721

Finally, I like this little top with the peplum. I'd have to alter it substantially to fit me, but it might be worth the effort.

Vogue 8714

That's all I would highlight from this offering. The spring Vogues also include many cute, fitted dresses and one nice draped, pencil skirt. These patterns are listed on other blogs, but they don't really fit my body or lifestyle.

But I really do want to make 8705 for my daughter - with her dancer's body, she would really look great in that. :)

Fashion Feud 2011

me, Rose, and Georgene

It's rare that you find Shams in a night club gripping a cocktail that is both too delicious for words and too complicated to remember its name, but that is exactly where I was a few nights ago. One of my sewing friends, Georgene of the Sewing Divas, had learned about an event in San Francisco (and also Seattle and Portland), called Fashion Feud 2011. This is the third year of Fashion Feud, but the first time I'd heard of it.

This event, hosted in a local club, is held over four evenings from January to March. The first three evenings pit two designers head to head. Each designer is given identical fabric from Mood, New York and 60 minutes to create a garment on a live model. Meanwhile, a small team of hair and makeup folks prepare the models (clad in black slips) while onstage.

Models being prepped.

This is a very "young" event, with most attendees and the designers in their twenties, I would guess. (When they were carding folks at the entrance, I just balefully looked at the young man.) So there were Georgene, Masouma Rose, and myself, decidedly not twenty-somethings, with our cocktails, in the prime location at the end of the short runway, observing the interesting process.

The two designers were given very little fabric, and it was an unfortunate fuchsia-colored cotton (cotton/poly broadcloth, I think, or maybe cotton sateen) with a coordinating print. Not something that would inspire my mojo, but the designers attacked it with enthusiasm and each had such a different approach.

Designer #1 ironed her fabric and started creating what looked to be a pillowcase. It was a shapeless, sleeveless Grecian-style garment and, for most of the hour, it promised to be a disappointment. She had an enthusiastic cheering section who had great faith in her, however.

Designer #2 (with a much less vocal cheering section) brought a dressform and immediately started draping a very complex piece on it, using plenty of steam from her iron to set the horizontal pleating on top of the sleeve and to form other details.

Designer #2 definitely gave a better show. She draped, she cut interesting shapes on the dressform - it was fun to watch her process. When I would look at Designer #1, I pretty much saw a pillowcase on her table. Since she did not use a dressform, it was much harder to see exactly what she was up to.

At thirty minutes in they "stopped the clock" to briefly interview the designers and #1 said she was making a "draped back dress." Ten minutes to go and #1 finally picked up her coordinating print and started cutting into it. She quickly whipped up a gathered bandeau top that tied in the back. When they announced the one-minute mark, she still hadn't put anything on her model, though #2's model was almost completely ready and #2 was mostly tweaking and cutting threads.

Designer #2. You can see a bit of her interesting design, towards the beginning of the process, on her dressform.

Finally, #1 got the bandeau top on her model and tied in the back. She popped on the pillowcase and did some magic - I think there were some ties in the back underneath the drape to pull the garment in to the body. I then noticed that there was a big triangular cutout in front and, yes, a deep drape in the back, exposing the gathered bandeau top both front and back. The hem dipped to a point at CB.

It was SO DARNED CUTE. And something I had not seen before. My allegiance immediately switched from #2, who was perhaps a little overly ambitious, to #1.

I wonder if #1 always works this way. :)

Time was called, and both designers stepped away from their models for a short modeling/photo op session. The two judges were introduced and attendees were encouraged to vote on their mobile device using the Fashism app available online. I do not own a smart phone, so I did not vote, but the attendees votes were accumulated to a single vote, and the winner was the designer with two or more votes.

Designer #1 won. I was very happy for her. There are two more evenings, similar to this one, and then the winner from the first three events will go head-to-head-to-head at the final event in March.

And that's why I was in a club on a Tuesday night drinking a very delicious $8 drink that I can't remember the name of, (but it was basically a Mimosa with some fancy and tasty addition), and very much enjoying Georgene's and Rose's company. :)

I did not bring a camera and waited to post this, hoping some pics would be posted online, perhaps on the Fashion Feud website, but I have not been able to find any. This surprises me since there were many people there taking pictures, one or two even balanced a camera on my head - I kid you not. Masouma Rose took a few with her mobile device and has kindly allowed me to share them. It was a dark room, and moving models, so forgive the quality of the images.

Designer #1 and her model, wearing the winning design.

The back, with the drape exposing the tied bandeau top. You can see a bit of the back of Designer #2's garment to the right.

Pattern Review Winter Wear Contest

The votes are in and my needle felted coat took 2nd place. Thanks to those of you who voted! You can see the gallery here.

Black Cowl

I have recently realized that I needed a black, warm scarf-like thing to go with three of the coats I've made in the last year. I have a "fashion" (meaning 'not warm') scarf I've been wearing, but it's been too cold! I have a healthy queue of projects I'd like to make over on Ravelry, so I decided to pick one and make it up in some warm black yarn.

I ended up choosing a long cowl that you can wear as a giant loop or doubled, bunched up around your neck. This free pattern is a knock-off of a scarf that Gap was selling last fall. I made mine narrower than designed; since I do not have a long neck, my narrower version was plenty big when worn doubled. I knitted it mostly in one night, using a nice chunky Malabrigo yarn and size 13 needles, though it took me three attempts to cast off, since I kept underestimating how much yarn to leave for my loose cast-off.

This cowl is knitted in a seed stitch. I really love the texture of seed stitch, but would never want an entire garment from it, since it adds a lot of bulk and bulk, I don't need.

Though I hadn't woven in the ends, I wore it to Fashion Feud and just tucked in the loose pieces. I was so warm! Mission accomplished. And I've already ordered yarn to make this again in two other colors. :)

If you want look the pattern up on Ravelry, it is called the Gap-tastic Cowl. I will eventually post my review there, but I've been busy with work and kids this week.

There's been very little sewing here, which makes Shams sad. I do have a jacket mostly finished that I started over holiday break, but am having problems with the binding and may have to put it into timeout for awhile. I am child free next week and it's a 3-day weekend, so I hope to get something done soon, as I have so many plans!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Italian Pattern Drafting Book - Free Download

Do you want a free download of a (bilingual) Italian pattern drafting book with gorgeous designs and published in 2004? Of course you do.

Kathleen Fasanella blogged about one last night and I've already downloaded it. It looks amazing at first glance.

If you think you might want to create/sell a line of professional clothing or patterns, you really should buy Kathleen's book and read her blog, Fashion Incubator. I have no desire to do so, but I still enjoy her blog. So much interesting info from an industry insider.

By the way, they offer a Kindle version and I downloaded it but have no idea how to get it onto a Kindle. If you know, please leave a comment!

And now, on to another pressing topic. ;)

Freedom for Patterns!

I mentioned in an earlier post that I put my Christmas tree up on the 24th and I put it on a "table." It was actually a cedar chest and clearly I wasn't thinking because all of my independent patterns are housed inside this chest. Almost immediately, I was starting to feel some separation anxiety. (I thought it would be ok!

The offending Christmas tree, draped in a skirt (I made when I was 22 and living on my own in my first apartment) that is mostly covering the cedar chest of pattern goodness.

To complicate matters, my daughters had really gotten into the holiday spirit and done a beautiful job decorating said tree and weren't in any rush to dispose of it.

Well, I finally got rid of my tree a couple nights ago and was sooooo happy to be reunited with my patterns. Within a minute of hurling the tree over the front porch, I was in the chest, stroking my patterns, and searching for one in particular. I haven't sewn all week, but at least one of these patterns will be coming up soon.

A couple of old ornaments. The one on the left is part of a whole series I made at the age of 11 or 12, using instructions from a grocery-store craft magazine, probably McCalls Crafts. I remember saving the yogurt lids from my mother's daily yogurt for this project. I cut into my treasured photos (I was always a photography buff), glued them in, and crocheted the cover using Red Heart yarn. This one features my childhood cat, Willie. My kids like these tacky ornaments much more than I do. I like the one on the right very much. :)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Poll is Open!

I entered my recent coat with needle felted polka dots into Pattern Reviews Winter Wear contest. I am not asking you to vote for me, but I am asking you to vote. The competition will be stiff, I think.

Vote Here

On other news: Marcy Tilton's free shipping sale began at midnight. All you have to do is to order your fabric online, and then, at the end, select Purchase Order (don't select Paypal). Then call them with your credit card info. It's done this way because paypal will add shipping automatically and, rather than disable that system, you just call and they can handle it manually. And you might get to talk to Marcy personally, when you call, which is always a treat. When I called at midnight, I got the answering machine, but you can leave your cc info there. The sale lasts 3 days and she doesn't do this very often.

I ordered some good stuff, but I left plenty for the rest of you. :)

Today is my last day of my sewcation. (I've been off work since the 23d.) I'm gonna sew like a madwoman, 'cause I'm working on jacket #2. I won't be able to finish it, but I hope to make major progress, though the muslin is not quite finished yet. I can see my alterations will work, though the final tweaking will be in the final garment.

I hate altering patterns that already have a dart. The pattern company always puts a too-small dart in the wrong place (both latitude and longitude) and it can be very tricky to enlarge it and to move it, especially if it's shaped or angled. I'm one of those rare busty gals that would prefer to do my own dart.


And THANKS for voting! :)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

More Info on Needle Felting

First, Happy New Year to all!! (And Happy Birthday to my former Father-in-law, one of the greatest guys ever born.)

I've toyed with the idea of a "2010 recap" sort of post, but, so far, haven't been motivated. If you want to see one, let me know. If you are grateful I didn't do one, let me know. I'm curious. :)

Thanks so much for all your kind compliments on my most recent project, my jacket with the needle felted polka dots. I really appreciate the comments more than you know! At one point during this project I was hating it and thinking it was ugly chicken pox. :)

This is a very word heavy post, so here's a table of contents, to aid your navigation, though, of course, you will want to read every single word as if it's descended from heaven. ;)

The needle felting technique I used on this piece has garnered a some interest on Stitcher's Guild, so I thought I'd talk a bit more about the process. Note that at the end of this post, I've included some videos to introduce you to various techniques.

First, there was some confusion that what I did involved getting my hands wet. Nope. There are two forms of felting: wet felting and dry felting. And let me stop right here and say something that most true felters will appreciate. Felting is when you take wool in fiber form and "felt" it together. When you take wool yardage, or a wool sweater (or something knitted/crocheted) and toss it into the washer, or even in the sink, that is not felting. That is called fulling the fabric. Felters become a little annoyed when we call that process felting because, I think, it demeans their art form. I often call it felting too, but I try to be more sensitive, especially when true felters are in the vicinity, and I do know a couple. I'm just sayin'. :)

A word about vendors. I purchase my supplies from Living Felts, but there are many excellent suppliers – these days felting supplies are widely available. I found this particular vendor through Ravelry. There is a needle felting forum on Ravelry, so I went there to see where people like to buy their supplies and this vendor was prominently featured. I'm a true believer in short cuts when it comes to this sort of research. :) I am not affiliated with Living Felts in any way, other than I got excellent service when I called and asked questions and my order came nice and fast and their wool batts are *gorgeous* colors and I was very happy with their needles.

Wet Felting

First I will talk a bit about wet felting, which I have dabbled with. But if you aren't interested, go to the Dry Felting section.

Wet felting, as the name suggests, involves hot water. Added with a little soap and agitation, you can make the wool fibers stick together. Within the wet felting world, there are several techniques, such as Nuno felting (where you felt wool fibers onto a silk base), but there are other sorts of wet felting, such as felting over another object, or felting with other sorts of resist (such as bubble wrap, and using sushi mats) to create purses, hats, slippers, all manners of wonderfulness.

I used to do wet felting when my kids were little and attended a Waldorf school (where felting is very popular and routinely taught to the children). I would use a bowl of hot water, with a few drops of soap, and wool roving to create pieces, such as Easter eggs. These were formed over plastic eggs. Later, when the "eggs" were dry, I would cut them open in a zigzag shape to remove the egg. I would then tuck in a little chick sewn from fulled sweater knit, so that it was peeping out of the egg. Sadly, I have no pictures of my work, but this is a very popular Waldorf item for little kids. I even taught a one-off class on this at San Francisco State, where I was taking classes for a Master's Degree in Fashion. A program I was not able to complete, sadly, and has now been discontinued. But I digress. :)

After playing with wet felting for awhile, I gave it up for a couple reasons. One, I was not that good at it. I am not artistic in that way. This sort of felting is great for those folks who can sculpt things out of clay, for example, but that is not me. The second, more compelling reason is that it caused a flare up of my tendinitis. I developed severe tendinitis after the birth of my first child and my hand has never been as strong since then. Wet felting caused too much stress on my wrist and the tendinitis came back. So that was that.

Meanwhile, my friend Renee taught herself to Nuno felt, where you use a base of silk and add wool fibers to that. That is a very wet process and I've never tried it, but I have two of her beautiful scarves that she has gifted me. I can imagine that this makes a giant mess on one's kitchen table, so I appreciate the scarves even more for the love and care (and mess) that went into them.

You can see that this process requires an artistic eye and the more trained/developed that eye, the nicer the result. I don't have that kind of eye. :) I'm not complaining, mind you, there are different types of creativity, and I have some, but it's a different kind. I used to think I could develop my creativity, and I took painting classes, but the classes made me want to throw things, and not in a good way, and I decided I didn't need that kind of frustration. :)

But enough about wet felting. There are youtube videos which show more about various wet felting techniques and I've linked to a couple in the videos section.

Dry Felting

In dry felting, you don't have water to encourage the wool fibers to stick together, so you use a barbed needle. The barbs on a felting needle are very tiny and point down. When you press the needle into the wool, the hooks catch the fiber and cause it to felt together, but when you pull the needle back out, it comes out smoothly because the barbs aren't engaged. You can gently stroke a felting needles in both directions and you will find it's smooth going down, and a bit like sandpaper going up.

The end of a felting needle is very sharp, so water your fingers. I'm just sayin'. :)

There are three ways (that I am aware of) that you can deploy your needles. First, you can use a single needle, which is what I used on my coat project. This is the slowest approach, but gives you great control. Or, you can get a handled tool that will hold several needles. This tool makes your work go faster but gives you less ability for fine detail work.

I considered getting a handled tool for my project but I spoke to the folks at Living Felt and I explained my project and they pointed out that the handled tools have a diameter of at least 1/2", maybe more, depending. That would be difficult to maneuver in a 1" cookie cutter. I stuck with the single needle, but it occurred to me, as I needle felted 37 circles in one day, that I could have used the single needle inside the cookie cutter, but I could have switched to the handled tool once it was removed. This would have saved me a lot of time. Of course the fine folks at Living Felt didn't know I was planning to make so many circles, so I don't fault them for their advice. :)

If you get into needle felting, or need to do large areas of needle felting, you might want to consider buying a machine. These machines look like a sewing machine, but just hold several needles (from 5 to 12 needles, depending on the brand/model of machine). Where the bobbin would be is a hold that collects lint. These machines are cool and I admit I covet one, but I don't think I will really felt enough to warrant one and I have no place to put one anyway. But I spent some time watching them on youtube and they are impressive. You can also use them to texturize fabric. Drool... I have some youtube videos below for your elucidation.

Many people free form their needle felting, and that is perfect for folks who can do sculptural sort of work. Again, not me. For this sort of felting, you are holding the wool in one hand and stabbing at it with the other hand. (Though a foam pad is still used at some points.) I imagine these folks have poked their fingers many times. :) This is the technique that yields gorgeous, intricate animals, elves, mushrooms, and the like. Again, real pieces of art. Or maybe a few pumpkins. I have never tried this technique, but could probably manage a pumpkin or two. :)

Needle Felting onto Fabric

If you want to needle felt onto fabric, you need something to felt against. Something that won't felt with the wool, so that it can be removed. Most people use thick foam for this. If you've recently bought a large appliance, maybe it came with some foam. You can buy foam specifically for this purpose. Some people also use a stiff nylon brush, with the brush fibers sticking up. I haven't tried this.

You can needle felt onto all sorts of fabric. Wool is a natural choice, but denim or other heavy cotton works well too. Just do a sample first.


All that is left is a demo. Unfortunately, my technical skills don't extend to making/editing videos, so I can't make my own youtube video for you. I have found some on youtube, and while not perfect, they will give you a general idea of the technique. So, without further ado, here are a few links to get you started. There are lots more to be found!

Needle felting onto fabric:

Dry needle felting to make a pumpkin:

Wet felting over a bar of soap (I used to do this!):

An example of Nuno (wet) felting:

A machine felting video - this shows a Janome:

Here is Nancy, of Nancy Notions, demonstrating a machine:

Oooh, I'm wanting a machine again. Time to get off the computer. :) I hope you found this useful. I'm off to Stone Mountain to buy supplies for my next jacket. I'm stoked they are open on New Years Day! :D