Sunday, December 20, 2009

Ta Da!!!

This is my first project on my new toy. What do you think?
An 8-thread design, that my husband designed and digitized is, admittedly, ambitious for a first project; but this is embroidered on a shirt to be given to our grandson for Christmas (yikes! in 5 days!), so I had to learn fast!
The first thing I learned is that stretchy fabrics are a tad challenging -- fabric should be pulled taut in the hoop, but when the fabric keeps stretching when you pull and never gets taut, when do you stop pulling? -- and then I learned the catastrophe that ensues when the bobbin gets knotted near the end of using thread 7 on an 8-thread design, and rips a hole in the fabric!!
The picture is, in fact, the second attempt.
My next embroidery project will be a one color design on linen. I am searching patterns for ideas now. I think I shall embellish the front placket, or collar of a blouse.
When I know, you'll know.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Linguistic Fun

My new embroidery machine (Did I mention that I recently got a new machine??? Well, I did.) offers the option of taking directions in 11 different languages. (!)

I think I shall create in German for a while, then I'll try French. Japanese will come much later.

Monday, December 14, 2009


I have just spent the past hour playing with my new embroidery machine.
I can now wind the bobbin, and thread the machine.

I am so proud!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Merry Christmas to me!!!

My husband thought of a wonderful and creative gift for us to give our grandson. This gift would involve my custom-designing and embroidering a sweatshirt for HRH Logan. Sadly, I do not own an embroidery machine. UNTIL NOW!!!!!!

My sweet husband cannot always wait for December 25th to enjoy Christmas. A firm believer that it is more blessed to give than to receive, he just a few minutes ago, handed me a huge box and said, "Here: open this." I protested (briefly and insincerely), then tore open the wrappings to discover an Elna Experience 8200!!!!!

This fabulous embroidery machine has PC capabilities. Whatever image I can download from a website, or create with the enclosed software, it will reproduce.

I am so excited!!!!!

Pardon me while I go watch the owner's manual/DVD.

Stay tuned for much excitement in the coming year.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

How I learned about straight grain

My sisters will possibly recognize these shirts as ones our mother made for our father many years ago. they are made of wool flannel, with an acetate yoke lining, and one of them (the green one) has leather patches on the sleeves. I suspect the green one is the older of the two in part because I remember Daddy wearing the red one frequently, but the green one shows more wear. I remember Momma sewing the red one. On this shirt, I learned to establish straight grain.
I must have been around six years old. (I'm not admitting to how long ago this was, but there were only 3 networks on our black-and-white TV.)
I remember helping Momma straighten the fabric by pulling opposite ends (I realize now that I couldn't have been much help with this part), and watching as she played with and placed, and re-placed pattern pieces until every plaid matched perfectly side-to-side, and top-to-bottom. She did this on the dining table while interrupting herself to go tend to dinner. When she was satisfied with the placement of each pattern piece, she pointed out the grain line arrows on the pattern, and the "lines" of the yarn-dyed plaid, and instructed me to make sure that each piece was "on grain".
In retrospect, having raised 4 children, I now know that her primary function on that day was to finish dinner without my being underfoot. I have done this, myself!
Nonetheless, I learned about grainlines; and about matching plaids, taking time to do the job right, respect for quality fabric, tenacity, multi-tasking, and helping children learn new skills. All have served me well.
If you look closely ( I hope that the pictures are of sufficient quality for yu to do so), you can see that, on the inside there is not a raw edge in sight. Every seam is flat-felled, even the sleeve insertion is flat-felled. There doesn't appear to be any interfacing in the front plackets, and yet, the machine-made buttonholes are perfectly straight, tight, and flat. Amazing. These shirts are truly a work of art as well as examples of exacting technique, and I am grateful to have them.
Momma passed away 4 years ago, her sharp wit silenced forever by Esophegeal Cancer. She lives on in the sewing skills she taught my sisters and me (which I have, in turn, taught my 2 daughters); and in the love of reading she instilled in us. Momma always said, "If you have a book, you have a friend." Thanks to great public libraries, I have many friends.
Rest in peace, Momma. We miss you.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Aunt Neno's vest is done.
And while, it is, of course, crass to brag, I must say: I'm pretty pleased with myself.
The closures gave me some concern, but my daughter Katie (of, figured out the perfect solution -- hidden hooks and eyes. Brilliant! I had all ready decided to flat-apply the lining, and bind the edges (instead of the traditional bagging of the lining), so it was a simple thing to machine-sew hooks and eyes to the binding between edge-stitching it, and whip-stitching it to the lining. I used the 'flat button' feature on my Pfaff to sew the hooks and eyes.
Note the perfectly mitered corners on the binding -- kind of my trademark.
Now, may I just say: can I match a pattern on a CF, or what????
Thank you - thank you very much.

Now: on to the gabardine trousers I cut out in September!

Monday, November 23, 2009

I figured it out!!!

One aspect of sewing that I love is the challenge design or construction goals sometimes present. (If it were easy - it wouldn't be as much fun.) A vest I am making for David's Aunt Neno has presented some challenges.
You may remember the beginnings of this vest in my post about slopers. (vor langer zeit!). I got a little side-tracked for a while, but I am back.
This past weekend, I set about cutting out the vest in earnest. I had all ready ascertained that I didn't have enough fabric to construct the vest in toto of the tapestry Aunt Neno wanted, but we had worked that out. She selected a camel-coloured suede for the back. That should have worked, but, alas, the fabric was only 20 in long, whereas the sloper pieces were 26 inches long. I considered piecing the fronts near the shoulder, but the fabric is so thick, I knew a seam would be bulky, and that is a bad place for bulk.
So, I attempted to turn it sideways. The pattern is obviously intended to go along with the straight grain, and I really didn't care for the way it looked sideways. To me, it looked obviously askew. Of course, I had been looking at it straight-wise, so mayhaps my eyes were biased.
I played with the sloper pieces, considered many creative design ideas, and eventually decided that, since the pattern is quite large (it is actually upholstery fabric), it might look okay sideways if I carefully matched the pattern across the chest.
Remember my mentioning that I didn't have enough fabric in the first place? * * s i g h * *
It took some carful consideration, and not a little colourful language, but I eventually realized that the pattern was left/right (actually: top/bottom) symmetrical. Viola!! All I had to do is turn one sloper piece in the opposite direction from the other, and I had enough fabric to match the pattern across the front. Yippee! [See the picture on the left.]
Sewing the shoulder and sides seams shows the proof. [Pic at top]. You can't tell from the pictures, but the lining is constructed, and attached, WS together. All that remains is to attach the front plackets for buttons -- I don't care to do buttonholes in so heavy a fabric, so I am leaving openings in the seam that attaches the placket to serve that purpose -- and bind the edges all around, sew in my label, and I am done. I say that as if it will appear momentarily, but in fact, with a holiday trip to spend Thanksgiving with family in the next few days, don't hold your breath!!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

of helmets, protecting personal freedoms, and such

Still not sewing much, but the ironing pile is diminishing significantly. I have stopped doing laundry, so as to catch up.
Last week my son, James, was involved in a motorcycle accident. (When you drive a motorcycle daily in Houston traffic, it's only a matter of time.) His wrist is broken, and now plated; his ankle is now broken, and pinned. He has all ready endured surgery, and now anticipates a lengthy recovery period. However, his head and face (such a pretty face!) survived unscathed, while his helmet did not fare so well. James wears a top-quality, full-face shield - always! My boys do not always adhere to everything their mother teaches them -- but this is one instance in which I am profoundly grateful that he did. Even my rudimentary knowledge of Physics is sufficient to tell me that hitting the ground at as little as 20mph would be sufficient impact to cause serious damage to skull and brain tissue. Because James was wearing his helmet, he escaped likely death. [actually, as my doctor/daughter reminds me: "There are worse things than death." Too true.]
Both my boys, my husband and I ride. My sons ride motorcycles exclusively, while my husband rides his mostly to work, and recreationally. Of course, when I say recreationally, I mean: David frequently loads his custom-built trailer with Dutch ovens, camping equipment, food, and pulls it with Big Red (his Yamaha Roadliner 1900) all over Texas and ArkLaTex teaching Dutch Oven cooking. I ocaissionally ride to work, if the weather's nice, and I'm not hauling much stuff. I work 4 miles from home. We ALL wear helmets.
Over on Facebook, a mini-discussion has started regarding the legal requirements for wearing helmets. Here in Texas, there is no such legal compulsion. Motorcycles operators are free to choose to protect themselves or not. Texans love their personal freedoms, and resent Big Government telling them how to conduct their lives.
While I would not so much as put the key in the ignition of my bike, and back it out of the garage without wearing a helmet, I support Texas' lack of helmet laws. Why?
Because anyone who is not smart enoug to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle, doesn't have enough brains to be worth protecting. Let's get them out of the gene pool.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

. . . and sometimes, cooks

When I first started this blog, I promised that topics would not be limited to sewing; and, yet, thus far, they have. Today, that changes.
The truth is: I haven't done much sewing lately. As the result of the snowball effect of wedding preparations on my sewing room; now that the wedding is over (it was lovely, by the way), I cannot get any sewing done, until I diminish the HUGE pile of ironing that is all over the ironing board, sewing table, sewing chair, etc.
But not today.
Today, although Saturday -- a typical day to catch up on all neglected things domestic -- I am felled by a hideous virus. [I dare not name it "flu" lest it knows the power it has over me.] Symptoms include, but are not limited to: fever, irritability (I know it's not really the sickness making me bitchy -- I just like having an excuse), body aches and congestion! It is for the latter that I offer the following recipe for a real, honest-to-goodness, down home Texas Chili, loaded with vegetables (for the anti-oxidants), and aromatics (for the congestion). I give you:

Sarahbelle's Snot-Bustin' Chili

Please note: all amounts given are approximate -- I don't actually measure much, here -- and should be considered a jumping-off point for your own tastes.

1 medium onion
1 poblano pepper, roasted
3-6 cloves garlic
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb. coarsely ground buffalo
1 lb. fresh venison sausage
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp cumin powder
1 heaping tsp Lawry's salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 10oz can Ro-Tel tomatoes, drained
1 15oz can stewed tomatoes, drained
1 8oz can tomato sauce
1 15 oz can Jalapinto beans, drained
1 15oz can pinto beans, drained
1 15oz can dark red kidney beans, UNdrained

If you have an electric coil stovetop, the poblano can easily be roasted by turning an element on 'high' and placing the pepper straight on. Turn as soon as one side starts to smoke. If you have any other kind of stovetop: a cast iron skillet should be placed on the element, and the pepper roasted in it.
Place the peeled onion, peeled garlic, and roasted pepper in the bowl of your food processor with chopping blade. Pulse a few times until desired size.
In a large, deep cast iron skillet heat oil until it begins to smoke. Saute chopped veggies in hot oil until onion is translucent, and pepper is limp. Add meat, cook until browned. Drain meat. Season meat mixture with salt, pepper, chili powder and cumin. Transfer to slow cooker. (Note: In the absence of a slow cooker, cook it all in a 14in blackpot. [cast iron Dutch oven] In fact, the chili is excellant cooked outdoors in a Dutch oven, over coals.)
To meat mixture, add beans, tomatoes and tomato sauce.
Cook on 'high' for 20 minutes.
Stir. Taste. Add more seasonings, as desired. Reduce heat to simmer. Simmer as long as you like, it's basically done now, but time will only improve the flavor.
Serve with grated sharp cheddar, chopped scallions, or sour cream.
Wonderful with cornbread, and iced Dr. Pepper.
If you see someone eating this with crackers, and red wine -- know that that person is a Yankee. Serve him/her an extra bowl of chili with your pretty smile. One deserves credit for trying.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Moving on

The Wedding Gown is finally done, and in the mail. I shall post pictures next week, after the wedding. Now: I need to (hurriedly) sew my outfit!
I decided to wear a skirt that I made 3 years ago that I don't get to wear all that often. I am making a new blouse to wear with it. The skirt is my own design, made of a teal silk/wool gabardine. The design/construction of this skirt was precipitated by an article in a prestigious sewing magazine about replacing back slits with pleated insertions. The article warned readers to only attempt square or rectangle pleated insertions, as triangular pleat inserions couldn't be done. Oh, really? To be fair, I started off with a rectangle, pleated it, marked the triangle I wanted, basted the markings and serged off the excess. Still, I got a pleated triangle.
The blouse is to be made of an eggplant-coloured silk charmeuse. I plan to use La Fred's new design: Athena II. I have made the original Athena twice, and love the simple lines, and interesting details. Here's one: the sleeve is a classic Chanel-style eased into the armsceye at the top, but is squared off in right angles at the bottom of the armsceye. Warning: do not attempt the afore-mentioned French seam construction with this sleeve. Trying to get perfect right angles on the second stitching is nearly impossible - if it's not a sharp angle, it ruins the effect.
Now that I have thrown down the gauntlet, and said it couldn't be done: someone, please, prove me wrong and do it. I should love to see how it is done.
A word on the fabric(s): a few years ago my husband was working in Iraq, and I joined him in Dubai for some R & R. We saw some great historical sites, rode camels, ate wonderful food, and went shopping. The best bargains were to be had in the Souks. The ancient market place, where dickering rules, but not with women. The very traditional male shopkeepers would lose face if they bargained with a woman. I set my feminist sensibilities aside, and let my husband do the dickering. Later that night, when David calculated the prices for my Customs Declaration forms, I realized that I had paid the US equivelent of $3-4 /yd for the same quality silk I was paying $28-35/yd for in Houston. We went back to the Souks and bought more fabric.
This piece is the last intact piece of fabric from that shopping trip, and I think you all agree, that this can only mean one thing: it's time to dust off the Passport, and search Expedia for good prices on flights to Dubai. Right, Honey? Honey? I'm sure he agrees.
Who want to watch my cat?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

French Seams -- American Style

For the uninitiated: French seams are a beautiful seam treatment used for very fine and sheer fabrics that might ravel, weaken with use and/or show through sheer fabrics. It is a double-stitched seam that encases the seam allowance in itself.
The traditional way to construct one is to sew the pieces wrong sides together, then trim the seam allowance very close to the stitching, turn to right sides together, and stitch again. It does produce a beautiful finish, that is quite strong, while appearing very delicate. The process takes 3-4 times as long as a traditional 301 butterfly seam, and is a bit tedious.
Not anymore!!!!!
Thanks to a serger method for making French seams that I learned from Serger Secrets (ISBN # 1-57954-464-9) I now whiz through French seams!
Here's all you do:

Using your serger, serge the wrong sides together with a narrow rolled hem, leaving a 6in tail, fore and aft. Then, on your sewing machine, equipped with a zipper foot, stitch right sides together, holding the serger tails taut. Viola! A very narrow, strong French seam with NO trimming. [I can't tell you how many pieces of thin silk I have had to re-stitch because I trimmed a tad too close!] Beautiful, non???

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Bodice -- done!

It's done. It's finally done. I think it turned out lovely, although, of course, Kali has final say. We meet for a fitting next weekend, so there may yet be some 'tweaking' to be done, but, for the non, I am moving on!

The last bit required attaching the lining (sans sleeve lining) to the bodice at neck and bottom, and attaching each sleeve lining to sleeve at hem, then pulling all three pieces through, pressing, and then my least favourite part of any construction project: hand work!!! I whip-stitched the lining to bodice at the 2 CB's (loops on the outside), and then whip-stitched the each sleeve lining to the bodice lining at each armsceye.
It will ultimately need more pressing, but I think it turned out lovely.
Now: on to the other lining, or: the inner bodice attached to the skirt. There's a little work involved in this.
Report to follow.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

My Purse -- revealed

Over on my younger daughter's (Varina) blog, she posted a note about purses being the true window to a woman's soul.

She's a great writer, with some interesting insights into the world and its inhabitants. Ergo: I have decided to follow suit, and bare my soul, as it were.
No pictures, however. I can't find the camera, and, while I am willing to let you know what is in my purse; I am unwilling to have you see the effort it takes for me to actually locate anything usable.

The current purse is a warm pink Sigrid Olsen hobo, lined in bright green silk. It is, however, a little too 'spring-like' for the cool weather we have finally gotten, so I shall be changing to a Fendi teal baguette, or an olive croc envelope soon.
The contents:
In 3 small inside pockets:
1) cell phone
2) business cards in gold case
3) foundation stick (Laura Mercier ) and small bottle of essential oils (Rosemary, Lavender, Geranium) that I sometimes put in diffuse in my car.
Zippered pocket in lining:
1)Passport (U.S.)
2) Keys to my office
3)defunct credit dard that needs to be shredded
Makeup bag (yellow leather with pink piping -- a La Mer GWP):
1) Compact (Benefit)
2) 2 lipsticks (Mark - Dew & Peachy)
3) 2 Lip Glosses (Stila - bronze & rose)
4) Lip Balm (Clarins)
5) Hand Cream (Cream de La Mer)
6) tweezers
7) 3 emery boards [you'd think form that, that I actually take care of my nails]
Tin of Altoids - Cinnamon
Bottle of Tums for Kids (they're cherry-flavoured)
Bottle of naproxen Sodium
Day Planner
Receipts form various grocery stores and restaurants
Towelettes (4) from Buffalo Wild Wings
Keys to the Armory (oops! that should have gone back to the Commissioner's secretary last week)
3 ball-point pens (2 blue, 1 back)
Black leather tri-fold wallet:
1) Cash: $15.73
2) Loyalty cards:
Sam's Club
Hancock Fabrics
Jo-Ann Fabrics
High Fashion Fabrics
Membership cards:
Blue Cross
Medco (Rx)
Central Market Foodie
American Sewing Guild
Dillard's Hosiery Club
Houston Museum of Natural Sciences
Sammy Brown library
Credit Cards:
USAA Debit Master Card
First State Bank Debit Card
Capital One Master Card
Neiman Marcus
TX Driver's License
US Military ID card
Texas AgriLife Extension Employess card
University of Texas Student ID card
Voter's Registration card

That's it.
So: what does my purse say about my soul??

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Bodice, unlined

I promised pictures. Here they are.
The carriers on the back look backwards because they are. They will flip perfectly when the lining is attached at the CB.
Stay tuned, as the lining, floating lining and, eventually: THE DRESS all take shape.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Wedding Gown Bodice: Kapitel Einz

The shell of the bodice is done.
No pictures, yet, because I am quite tired, and I'm not sure I like the neckline. It looks too narrow, but I dasn't cut it down, without seeing it on the intended. So: tomorrow, I shall cut out and assemble the bodice lining, then Thursday eve, I shall cut out and assemble the floating lining.
Sometime soon, Katie, Kali and I shall get together for a fitting, and THEN those linings, et al will get attached to each other, the skirt, etc & etc.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Slopers, part deux

On the left, you see the sloper for the bodice of Kali's Wedding Gown. I shall, of course, be sharing with you all the details of the construction of said gown, so the sloper eventually, will bear little resemblance to the finished product. If it looks strangely unfinished, and way too colourful -- it is. It is constructed with basting stitches that are not intended to be permanent -- so I used up little bits of bobbin threads. Kali's sloper is ready for the mail, and I have 3 clean bobbins!
On the right is a sloper for a vest I am making for David's Aunt Neno. If you look closely, you can see each piece labelled with the name of the panel, and the name of the wearer, and date of construction. This is the way courtiers and tailors label slopers.
I didn't bother to do that with Kali's sloper, as we assume this is the only Wedding Dress she will ever need, or want!

Monday, August 31, 2009


For those of you who are learning the ways of the sewers, let me explain: a sloper is a muslin mock-up of a planned garment. It will be fitted, tweaked, re-fitted, re-tweaked ad infinitum until it is the desired shape, size, etc. of the intended garment. Then it will be ripped up and serve as the pattern pieces.
Couturiers and bespoke shirtmakers use slopers to custom-fit garments for their most discerning clients. Slopers are also used to produce a perfectly fitting garment when the client is not available for fittings. Once a sloper is made, an infinite number of garments can be made from it, wihtout the client having to come in for the many fittings a couture garment usually requires. For this reason I am undertaking the making of a sloper.
My son, Daniel, just announced his engagement to a lovely girl whom I had the pleasure of meeting this past weekend. [I know. Daniel got himself engaged to girl I hadn't even met. He used to be my favourite.] Kali had her heart set on a stunning, elegant gown that can only be special ordered -- in 4 months. The wedding is set for October.
Katie (of katiekadiddlehopper) and I scrutinized the pictures of the gown on-line and decided that we could make it in 6 weeks. (!)
It has a close-fitting, princess-seamed bodice that laces up the back, and a multi-layered full tulle skirt, whose overskirt separates into ruffles at CB. Really beautiful.
Then inspiration struck. When Kate was in college (St. Mary's University, 1999) I made her an evening gown that had a basque-waisted, princess-seamed bustier that laced up the back. Just like Kali's dress. Kate still had the bustier. Kali tried it on, and only minor adjustments were needed for fit, plus the addition of long sleeves, and the raising of the neckline, front and back. Easy!!
I took copious measurements, made many marks, and took lots of notes.
All that remains, is to transfer all that information onto muslin.
Stay tuned.
This is going to get interesting!

Monday, August 24, 2009

My favourite 4-letter word!!!

SALE!!!! more importatnly: VOGUE patterns on SALE!!!!!
I now sew with , and enjoy patterns from many designers/creators: La Fred, The Sewing Workshop, Christin Johnson. Folkwear, to name a very few. But I first learned good sewing techniques, and an appreciation for doing things well from Vogue Patterns. As much for the designs, and engineering, as for the construction techniques, Vogue remains one of my favourites.
I am happy to report that Vogue Patterns are on sale at their website:

Hurry! Sale ends Wednesday, the 26th!

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

My favorite skirt pattern

Over on the author (my daughter) asked for our favorite skirt patterns. Here is mine. It's not really a pattern, per se, but rather, a fabric manipulation method. [doesn't that sound really nerdy and a little hard??]
The skirt pictured (sorry the pictures are so dark -- that fabric is really dark) is my adaptation of an 18th Century Scottish Women's Dress Kilt. (As opposed to the casual kilts that the scullery lasses wore around the castle.) Here's how I made it -- no Passport required. Although you will need a dressmaker's dummy set to your exact waist and hip measurements, or a friend you can trust not to stick you with the pins.

This fabric was 54 in wide, and a difficult-to-find Thai Ikat, so I was reluctant to cut up something I could not easily replace. So, I didn't. Cut it up, that is. I turned it cross-wise, and pinned it to my dressmaker's dummy, giving myself 3 in of ease in the hips, and having the left cut end of fabric where I wanted the underlay to end up. {Traditional kilts are wrap skirts.} Next, I pinched out darts in front and back (roughly mid-way between CB or CF and sides). On the Front, one dart was in the underflap, and the other was in the overlay (pleats at Front Left will take up fullness over that dart). Next, comes pinching up the pleats. Knife pleats are de rigeur, with a slight overlap. Have the last pleat end about 2 - 3 in from fabric's terminus. Step back and evaluate. Are you really happy with the amount of pleats? their depth? their distance/overlap one to another? Make adjustments now. carefully remove the skirt form the dummy (not you) and try it on. Are you still happy with it? If not, make more adjustments. Repeat evaluation steps as many times as necessary.
When you are satisfied with your pinching and pinning, heat up your iron as hot as the fiber you have selected will allow (synthetics are NOT recommended for this skirt), get plenty of steam going, and set in those pleats!!! Stitch darts. Stitch pleats across the top, and down as far as you like, if at all. I stitch down to the hips. After 4 children, mountains of fried chicken, barrels of Dr.Pepper, and no real exercise to speak of, I have enough bulk at my belly buck naked, I don't need fat folds of loose fabric helping.
Now it is a simple matter reinforcing the waist with the right interfacing, hemming, lining, adding a bound edge/facing over the lining at waist and front edges, adding closures.
Ta da!!

Note: the fabric used to make this skirt is a Thai Ikat that I bought at Sewing & Stitchery Expo in Puyallup, WA 3 years ago. This frabic is distinguished by its method of fabrication. Always made of silk, the yarns for both warp and weft are spot dyed before and/or during weaving. It requires a highly skilled weaver to execute a design of 4-5 colors. This one has 9 different colors. I really did not want to cut this fabric. I must tell those of you who don't know: my actual degree (although my transcripts use the more generic : Human Ecology) is in Textile Artifact Conservation. {yeah. I know. A "do-you-want-fries-with-that?" degree} I mention this so that you will know that the irony of my having used a fabric which dates to 14th Century Siam to make an 18th Century Scottish Kilt is not lost on me. Neither was it lost on one of my favorite professors, the late Dr. Ardis Rewerts, who teased me mecilessly about it. May the great lady rest in peace.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sleeve Detail

A good friend came in to my office today wearing a blouse with this great sleeve detail.
I should tell you that, she has, over the past year lost over 100 pounds through the time-honored method of portion control and moderate exercise. (Successful as she is, even she doesn't have the magic pill.) As her new shape emerges she is starting to wear some of the cutest clothes in the best colours! This blouse was no exception.
As you can see, it really is a simple adaptation of a classic gathered sleeve. Instead of gathering the bottom, the fullness has been taken in with box pleats, and topped with a button-embellished tab. Cute!!!
Lynette advises that when I do this, I should also make the back full enough to gather at the waist with the same pleat treatment.
"When I do this"?????
I'll just put that on the list.

[yeah, I'm going to do this,]

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Rolls, and Boards and Hams. Oh, my!

I promised I'd talk about pressing tools.
I didn't promise it wouldn't be corny.

Tools can make all the difference in the ease with which a job is done, as well as the results. It took me a few years of doing things the slow, hard way before I realized the extent to which this is true of pressing tools. I don't know why I thought $15.00 was so much to spend on something I didn't have -- maybe I needed to be shown the full value. After over 20 years of sewing for myself and family, I was finally shown the value of pressing tools when I had to master them to pass a course required for my degree. (University of Texas - Austin, BA - Human Ecology/Textiles - 2002). Nothing like a little academic pressure to open one's mind.

Let's start with the two I have, then, I'll tell you about the one I still don't have - and why.
A Sleeve Roll is a foot long tube with rounded ends constructed, usually, of muslin on one side, and wool flannel on the other. In America, the Dress Stewart Tartan seems to be the flannel of choice. I don't know why. I am guessing it's because there is really only one company manufacturing rolls and hams (Dritz), and that is the tartan they like. Tradition, you know. [To say nothing of lowered production costs] The roll is packed firm, but has some pliability. It is essential for pressing the sleeve in a woman's blouse without the masculine crease. Lay the sleeve flat, seam towards you, and press the seam, and to within 2-3 in of the top side. reposition the sleeve so that the seamside is down. Insert the roll and press the sleeve over the roll. Your flat iron will now roll over the sleeve, smoothing out any wrinkles without putting in a crease. [Does this work on faces?] A Sleeve Roll is also great for pressing short darts and pleats on a cuved area.
A Pressing Ham is of the the same construction as a Sleeve Roll (down to the same Tartan), but is, well, ham-shaped. It's about the size of a 3-lb ham. it is used for pressing flat seams, darts, tucks and pleats that are positioned on a curve. For instance: opening the Butterfly seam on a side seam from hip to waist.
The Sleeve Board, is a bi-level padded board that has 2 sleeve-shaped boards, one wider that the other, that are held with a metal bracket/stand about 4-6 inches apart. It is basically a mini-ironing board in the shape of a long sleeve. This is the one I don't own. More expensive than the other two, I find that it serves the same purpose as a sleeve roll, with only slightly more convenience. For the price, (around $30 - $55), I can't feel the need to add it to my voluminous collection of tools. If you feel otherwise, let me know -- maybe I am not yet enlightended on this.

If any are interested in purchasing these tools: I found great prices on hams and rolls at : and good prices on sleeve boards at:

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Cassandra Skirt

A new outfit Part Un:

Here is a picture of my newly constructed Cassandra Skirt. This pattern is designed by Fred Bloebaum and is available from her website:

This is the second Cassandra I have made in less than a year, so, clearly, this design is a winner!!!
It is constructed of only 4 pattern pieces, 2 of which are facings. The front and the back are attached at the waist, and only about 4 inches on each side, at that. Sounds flimsy? It really isn't. The front piece wraps around past where a side seam would be, and the back wraps around to meet the front at CF. It goes together in a trice, and Fred includes great professional construction tips helping you to learn as you sew. This skirt gives the sewer a great opportunity to learn, and practice mastering mitered corners. it's a very comfortable skirt, and the designs offers this rare bonus: if you are currently on a wieght-loss regimen, this skirt is super-simple to alter!
I had the pleasure of meeting Ms Bloebaum in person at Sewing & Stitchery Expo in Puyallup, WA 3 years ago --- she is as lovely in person as she seems on her website. She offered great advice in helping me choose designs that suited my physique (hint: I am NOT model-thin), and I am a dedicated customer.
This skirt was rendered in 100% cotton from the Spring 2009 mailing at

Do you like it as much as I do????
Up next: the co-ordinating top: a Sandra Betzina for Vogue pattern, rendered in crinkled silk, also from

Happy stitching!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Pressing Matters

I had hoped that my first 'real' post would be a tutorial regarding a great no-sew invisible hemming technique that I recently learned from a Threads DVD. Alas. My camera is not co-operating with me, and the tutorial sans pictures, sucks. So: let's talk about pressing vs, ironing.
I recently conducted a week-long summer sewing camp for raw beginners through the Extension Office, and one question that came up was, "What is the difference between pressing and ironing?"
I explained and demonstrated, and was surprised to learn that, while my adolescent students merely took the info in, my adults were shocked. They didn't know there was a difference between pressing and ironing. I guess this is something else that is no longer taught in High School Home Ec. I'll just add that to the list.
The difference between the two is the location of the iron with regard to fabric when the iron is in motion. In other words: if the iron is touching the fabric while it is being moved across the fabric, then you are ironing. If the iron is placed on the fabric, then lifted, moved, then set down again -- you are pressing.
Does it matter which you do??? Maybe. If your goal is to reduce wrinkles, then either method will work, but do know that ironing will get that job done much faster, and with slightly less tedium than pressing. To lay darts, tucks and pleats down flat, pressing is preferred. Even if the pleat runs the length of a skirt, press! Ironing runs the considerable risk of distorting the grain you have so carefully folded your pleat along, and your pleat may not so much crease, as ruffle. I have done this. If the fiber being pressed lends itself well to creasing (silk, wool, cotton, linen), then the only remedy is to thoroughly wet the fabric, and start over. So: yes, it matters. When pattern instructions say to press a dart, or pleat -- they mean it.
When next I post (no promises on a date) I shall discourse on pressing tools: hams, rolls, and boards. Stay tuned!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Virgin Post

Welcome to SarahbelleSews!

I am very new to blogging, not at all new to sewing.
In the coming weeks I shall introduce myself, my family, my passions (which are not limited to sewing -- expect the ocaissional recipe, rant, picture of my grandkids and/or cat).

We'll have fun sewing, cooking, talking about sewing and learning from each other!