Life is indeed a stitch!
Berryhill Heirlooms and Susie Gay present techniques, heirloom sewing, hand embroidery and other musings. Come and join in the fun with Susie, a Home Economist, and savor a little rest from your hectic day...and yes, it's a Degree she uses every day!

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Break Sewing

I have a break in my sewing schedule for Classic Sewing Magazine. So I can sew or stitch whatever I want and what have I chosen? A Tote Bag. It's not sexy sewing but functional. I have a tote I made years ago and it's finally showing some wear. But because it's held up so well over the years I'm using the same pattern for the new one: Vogue 7463, View E (bottom right in photo below). 

My challenge was using as much as I can from my stash. Considering gas prices I really didn't want to rush off to a sewing store that's 21 miles from my house one way, equal to $10 at today's horrible prices. I have a large stack of decorator fabric samples that I was given years ago. Some of the samples are quite large....and were very pricy in their time. I found one large enough for the outside of the bag. It's a heavy velvet-like striped upholstery fabric which will require some of the same techniques I wrote about earlier for velveteen...and definitely a lint roller!!

Next was finding enough large scraps for lining and trim: black synthetic fabric suede for the bag bottom, edging and handles.  A quilting fabric for the lining matches the cream of the outer fabric and has grey, too. A good enough pairing along with a black zipper for the inside pocket and enough scraps of buckram needed for stabilizing the tote top were other stash acquisitions. The only things missing were "craft weight" sew-in interfacing (Pellon Stabilizer 926) and a swivel hook from the hardware store. 

Buckram?? Yes, I use it as a base for ribbon flowers I make that''ll be sewn onto a hat or purse. It's also used for millinery structures, book binding, drapery and other uses. My piece is the open weave, heavily starched type that is found in hat forms.

Sewing this was a challenge because of the thickness of everything. At one point I was sewing through 8 layers. The entire tote took 3 machine needles, size 90/14, with the polyester thread.

The swivel hook is for car keys: you don't have to search the bottom of the tote to find them. The swivel hook on ribbon is my idea. Two different ribbons from the stash and a little bit of machine embroidery stitching to sew them together made a nice "lanyard". I threaded the hook onto the ribbon, folded the ribbon in half and used Super Weight Stitch Witchery to fuze them together. Perfect!

Heavy pins and some clamps worked to hold the lining and outer bag together for basting. Then the strip of the faux black suede for finishing the top was stitched on. 

The tote is complete with metal feet on the bottom (also from my stash) to better protect from wear and tear (unlike the first one I made). The tote bag is heavy, stands up by itself and can carry books, laptops and plenty of other goodies. It will give me years of use and I'm very pleased with it!
Happy Stitching and Sewing!

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Velveteen, Velveteen

 Velveteen is a tricky fabric to work with but -oh! - so gorgeous. I love it for all sorts of projects: Christmas stockings, crazy patch quilts (above), clothing, purses....the list goes  on.'s...tricky....and...finicky. So there are a few rules to working with this wonderful, elegant fabric.

#1 Nap.  Yup, that fuzzy stuff that can make or break a layout. One direction the velvet looks cool and brooding, the other direction it's rich, dark and mysterious. So you gotta decide which way you want your garment to lay on the fabric. I found out the hard way in high school...a corduroy jumper  (another napped fabric). Yep, I had it rich, dark and mysterious on the front, and cool and brooding on the back. Maybe I was channeling those difficult teenage years? So decide which direction to lay out your pattern pieces. I also found it was very helpful if I lightly marked the wrong side of the fabric with a chalk marker with an arrow pointing to the layout direction. Big arrows.....

#2 Layout:  Besides laying the pieces out in the direction you've chosen, pinning the pattern pieces doesn't work really well because of the thickness of the nap and "nap creep". Nap creep is the two different layers moving against each other almost involuntarily because of all those fibers sticking to the plush surface. The pattern wrinkles and moves as you pin. The solution?: pattern weights. Lots of them. It really does help. If you want to make some check my post here.

#3 Sewing: Yes, you guessed it again....that little devil nap causes problems with creeping seams. My solution is to pin FREQUENTLY at a 90 degree angle to the seamline. This keeps the creep from happening as you stitch the seam. Use very fine pins and keep them in the seam allowance to avoid marking the garment side of the fabric. Always do a sample first on the machine to check stitch length (about 2.5mm is good) and tension. Use an even-feed or roller foot, and slightly loosen tension.

#4 Pressing: Pressing matters....nap can get crushed so steam pressing, not ironing (there is a difference) is best done on a needle board or over a thick bath towel with the nap facing into the board/towel. A needle board can be actual needles , a wire needle board.

Extra Large Velvet Pressing Needle Board, Made in Japan

Other velvet needle boards are more like the soft side of velcro (not the hook side). I found mine at a thrift store still in it's original packaging.

#5 Details. I like to use a Universal 80/12 needle and DMC 50wt Machine Embroidery Cotton Thread (which is more like a 60 weight thread) for sewing the garment together. A simple zigzag works for finishing the seams (I do not have a serger). Light weight linings work well with cotton velveteen. Seam binding works really well for the hem, avoiding extra thickness of a turned under edge that is hand hemmed. I still hand hem but the light weight seam binding allows me to carefully and lightly hand hem. Pins can cause marks, so I am extra careful to use very fine pins on the hem, or anywhere on the dress when constructing.

#6 Facings and interfacings. Always, always make a sample first to test any fusible interfacings, which are normally applied to the racings and not the garment. If need be, insert a sew-in facing if the fusible does not give the desired result.

#7.  Lint Roller...yes, you read that right, a common lint roller. The velveteen pesky "fluffs" float everywhere from the cut edges and all over the sewing table and floor. I run that roller over the surfaces and the rug, even the finished sewn item to keep the fluffs under control. 

In a nutshell, velveteen requires some special techniques but the results are definitely worth the extra time and effort. What am I making with it, you ask? Can't share that just yet.......
Happy Stitching!!

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Lace Fabric

Work has begun on another submission for Classic Sewing magazine...possibly the Holiday/Winter 2022 issue. Yup, I have to think "Christmas and Thanksgiving" holiday ideas. Ir's kind of hard in May and 90 degree weather, particularly when the air-conditioning is out in the upstairs of the house (my office/sewing room) while we wait for the new unit to come chain issues.

I can't tell you what the project is.....then it wouldn't be a surprise! But I can show you some of the techniques and trims I'm using for this special holiday "thing". Here's one photo with some trims and lace sewn together already.

It's fun making "lace fabric" although intricate using tiny zigzag stitches that go in and out of the entredeux holes, or sewing two trims together over their headings. I prefer to use 80 weight cotton thread and a small machine needle.

This is similar to Normandy lace pieces of old made from the gorgeous lace cap circles and other bits and pieces that were hand sewn together.  It's a lace quilt, if you will, where ladies sewed their saved bits and pieces of laces and trims into useable doilies, mats and other accessories. I'm fortunate to have some old examples of it.

The center of this oval lace mat has some gorgeous needle lace in the center of each large flower.

This rectangular mat stays safe on top of a small chest where I can see it.

There is a small amount of needle lace on this piece. The "mount" around the circular center is unusual and interesting.
The fun for me is choosing the beautiful cotton laces and Swiss embroidered trims for the project, and then sewing them together into a meaningful, beautiful project. Happy stitching!!