Poppy Embroideries

My spring coat is finally finished! While it’s too late for spring, I hope that by wearing it in fall the feeling of summer will be extended a bit. This was a big project!     2016-07-03-11.53.22-8I decided to copy an old favorite unlined coat. I always pull it out between seasons because the single ply of wool is the perfect weight, but it’s grey and looks a little blah in spring. However, the oversized fit gives enough room for anything from dolman sleeves to another layer beneath. To celebrate spring, I wanted embroidered poppies around the hem of the coat. I looked all over for the set of embroideries I evisioned in my mind, but to no avail. Just as I was giving up, my neighbor’s poppies began to bloom! I have software. I can draw. YES, I can do this!

The first step was to take some snapshots of her poppies. I wanted red poppies and some were golden, but as long as the values are there you can change the color later.PoppyBThe second step was to simplify the photograph into a line drawn cartoon. This needed to be done since the number of embroidery threads used should be kept down to a reasonable number. I have a single thread embroidery machine, so I need to rethread for each color and the final embroideries have about 14 colors.   drawing-webThe third step is to scan the freehand cartoon and open it up as a layer in a drawing program like Adobe Illustrator, then complete a vector drawing. The embroidery software I purchased from Husqvarna Viking has a drawing module that is fairly simple to use, but I’m used to the feature rich Illustrator. This part takes awhile, at least for me. I spent time fussing around with the composition by moving the flowers, changing their sizes and even moving flowers from one photo to another to balance. There are three separate embroideries on the coat plus some small designs for the buttons and the collar.      poppies1_042316 I make all of this sound very straightforward but the truth is I’d never attempted such a complex project, and most steps had to be done more than once. The good thing is that I continued to find faster ways to accomplish my goals. Next time should be much more efficient!

After the drawing is done the embroidery software takes over. The basics of the software are incredibly easy. Just point your mouse to an area and the software will fill that area with the embroidery pattern of your choice! Of course, that wasn’t good enough for me…I wanted shading, and the stitches to change direction on the petals, and satin stitch on the stems, and different weights of black outline. You get the picture, I basically nerded out for hours, and here are the final stitch outs before I put them on my coat.

I didn’t want the back of the embroidery to show inside the coat, and I was running out of fabric! I found a length that was uneven along the top and almost the width of the bottom hem. I then let this found shape lead me to the placement of the embroideries and the curve of the pocket. I like letting the fabric make decisions for me, and I think the pockets came out better than the straight ones that I’d planned. If you look closely you can see the bottom hem is actually two layers.2016-07-03-11.55.24-19


I also designed matching embroidered buttons!2016-07-03-11.50.53-2

For the asymmetrical collar, I copied a few of the previously designed poppies and had them land in the corners. Now all I have to do is wait for some cooler weather!


Cool Summer Shirt

I love this new pattern by Marcy Tilton! Vogue 9089, a tunic length shirt, is a fairly quick sew and feels fantastic on. My BSF and I got together and both made a version. Her shirt is out of heavier weight cotton, and she is wearing it often and getting tons of compliments! I made mine out of a cotton lawn so it’s a little early in the season. I did wear it yesterday when our temps hit the high seventies. I took these photos for the blog, and it was so comfortable that I just kept it on for the afternoon.

The only fitting change made was the addition of a FBA. A dart just helps the fit on my body type. In addition I made two minor design changes. I made the sleeve ¾ length, and then I made a crazy change! I like my obvious asymmetrical elements, so I re-drafted the top of the center back panel to land a couple of inches further off-center where it meets the collar. Marcy-V9089-Shirt_3Marcy-V9089-Shirt_2Since I’m new to pattern drafting this probably took me over an hour to figure out and get right. Was it worth it? I like the result, but it was a little picky, and I’m not sure anyone but Marcy Tilton herself would notice. In order to show off my little change the seam is hand stitched.Marcy-V9089-detail

Am I making this again? Definitely!

What’s going on?

I have a few things in progress, however I’m making lots of plans for the next couple of months. This week will be an overview of things to come including WIPs (works-in-progress), new fabrics for spring and a couple of light fixtures I’m making for the house. I’m not sure which project is the most exciting!



First I have two projects I’m working on. I want a little more color in my living room. At the same time my yarn stash of leftover skeins is getting out of control. Yep, an afghan of many Wendy colors! I picked a basket of colors that coordinate with my living room and the lime green patio furniture outside the windows. I rib knit a couple of inches and from there on I’m knitting in garter stitch with a very occasional few rows in stockinette. When I get tired of a color I just switch to something different. I’m not even giving much thought to the weight of the yarns other than doubling some of them at times. One end will have fringe from all of the loose ends and I will need to do some finish on the other end. I might bind that edge with suede, wool, or crochet an edge. Sometimes it’s just relaxing to just knit without having to worry about shaping or fit!


The second work in progress is some embroidery with no plans on where I will use it. I love a little handwork now and then, but when I’m almost finished with a project I can’t get myself to wait for a small labor-intensive detail. I’m making some elements to have on hand to enhance a project when I desire. I may even design something just to use these decorative pieces. Shown here is the beginning of three button-hole tabs for a future jacket or blouse.

Fabrics for Spring

My spring wardrobe sewing plans are coming together. I just drafted a classic straight pant that I hope will work well with some of my knits. Then I can modify the pattern to work with the linen pants that I love to wear in summer. Here are a few fabric combinations that I have grouped together to make outfits.

Projects-022115_4Green knit pants with coordinating floral and solid top options.

Projects-022115_7Thin stripe linen pants with a soft rayon challis for a blouse.

Projects-022115_6Lime green linen pants with a cotton lawn shirt.

Projects-022115_5Black linen pants with a red and black cotton and linen blouse and a stripe and plaid seersucker blouse.

I have more rayon challis coming in with some wild prints for a change. I’m normally a fall color person who struggles with spring/summer colors, but I think the upcoming season is looking up on the wardrobe front!

Light Fixtures

Projects-022115_3Then I’m making light fixtures. For several years I have admired the work of lighting designer Lindsey Adelman, but couldn’t afford the fixtures.Adelman-ceiling-light


Her fixtures run from around $7,500 to 15,000, but she is now offering directions and supply lists for a cool branch series. The kit for the chandelier is $145!!!! I have parts for the You Make it Chandelier, and two of the You Make it Desk Lamps. So Cool!!!!

Painted Shoes

Painted-Shoes_2I have been working on multiple projects this week, including these painted shoes. My BSF and another friend, artist Karen Ramsey, came over to my studio to paint fabric, aprons, and shoes. We had a fantastic time with lots of creative energy! The fabric is still a work in progress, but Karen is a wonderful artist and sketched with paint on an apron for me and a piece of fabric for Debra. I also have a piece of fabric in progress, that will show up at a later date.

Last fall I bought a pair of these relatively inexpensive Aerosoles from DSW. They were so comfortable, especially for a shoe with a bit of a wedge heel that I ordered two more pair to paint. That was at least 3 months ago, but with two friends to encourage me, I finally tackled the project.

We pulled out all I have of Jacquard Neopaque and Lumiere and started painting. I’m proud to say we were fearless! Painted-Shoes_4I wanted one pair to work with my favorite browns and oranges without completely eliminating the black (since I often wear black pants). Painted-Shoes_6The other pair I plan to wear with jeans and maybe a red sweater. I often buy red shoes, but they are usually with black without the denim blue accents. I think I will wear the earth tones constantly especially in March when we get to the transitional weather.

Ichi-on-PonchoNext week I’ll show you my $1300 Poncho (of course I didn’t spend that!) as soon as I can get my cat off of it.

Shirt of My Own Design! (almost)

Black-muslin_Front One of my goals for this year is to alter or make my patterns to suit what I really want. Last year I made a cotton shirt from McCalls 6436 that was fairly successful in appearance, but had some fit problems that were mildly annoying when moving or sitting. The body simply didn’t have the flow and ease I desired for a wearable shirt. I’ll be honest, I could just wear knits every day, but there are so many incredible woven textiles in the market that I wanted to solve this problem.

I recently saw a photo of back of the Zelida blouse by Lafayette148 ($398 for a white blouse?!) and fell in love with the flow of the back pleats and yoke. The McCalls blouse didn’t have a yoke, but that seemed easy enough and off I went into alteration mode. This blouse took several weeks to make since in the end I made significant changes to every single pattern piece! I can honestly (and legally) call this my own design.

I added the yoke and pleats to the back and changed the hem profile. It’s now longer in the front and curved in the back. The front and back pieces also required shape modifications resulting from the added pleats and hem.Black-muslin_Back

I changed the collar to a one piece with a different shape so it could sit up at the neck.Black muslin_Neck embroidery

I changed all of the darts to better fit my body and reduced the shoulder width for fit.

I removed the traditional front placket and designed an interfacing instead so I could inset a trim detail. The red boxes are the stitches to hold the snaps.Black muslin_Detail

I removed the cuff and redesigned the sleeve hem.Black-muslin_5

I added besom pockets to the front to hold my phone and glasses.Black-muslin_Pocket

It should have just been a muslin with all of these changes. However the lovely stretch cotton fabric was very forgivable and the shirt began to shape up. Since it was wearable I decided to experiment with some added details like the grosgrain ribbon trim and a small appliqué embroidery element on the collar.

Black muslin_Neck embroideryI can think of several changes that would be fun additions, but for now I think I have a new TNT!

Eco-Dyeing with Ayn Hanna

Eco-Dyeing_11This last October I took an eco-dyeing class with local Fort Collins artist Ayn Hanna. It was just a whim to try something new, and this process is very different from anything I’d tried before. Ayn is very organized and had class notes and worksheets all ready for us. She also had various leaves, natural dye baths and a couple of steamers heated up. The plant knowledge needed for this type of dying is more than I can describe in this blog, but there are several good books on the subject. I highly recommend taking a class from Ayn or someone in your area.


Preferably starting with wool or silk, start by soaking your natural fabric in water. Then wring the piece out, lay it flat and place an assortment of leaves on top. Using a dowel or copper pipe roll the fabric strip tight and bind with cord before placing the bundle in a steamer or dye bath. You can see the cord binding on the bottom edge of the dyed cloth where the dye bath is also the strongest. After soaking for several hours minimum, the bundles sat in my garage for about 3 weeks until I unwrapped them to see the magic.Eco-Dyeing_10

Why are some of the leaves black and some orange? Well that is where the knowledge and experience come in. Strangely enough, eucalyptus leaves dye the fabric orange, but I didn’t get consistent results on this first try.Eco-Dyeing_4

The piece above had some raspberry juice added, and I love the colors!

Eco-Dyeing_2This one is on rayon and silk velvet. It ended up a gorgeous texture and sheen.

One of the challenges for me with this type of dying is the washability of the textile. Setting the dyes is not as sure as when using fiber reactive dyes. I made about 20 pieces of varying success that weekend and plan on experimenting with setting the dye on some of the rejects first. Will I use this dye process in the future? Well I might take the class every year! The set up was extensive with 5 dye baths and two steamers for about 8 of us to share. If I did this at home I think I would need to choose just one or two dye baths…maybe onion peel and walnut. Steaming worked well, but more pastel and I like a deeper color palette.


Eco-Dyeing_9I’m sure that you will see some of these appear on future blogs, even if I only make purses out of them they would be beautiful! Thanks Ayn!

Ventana Vest by Diane Ericson

Diane-Ericson-Vest_2I promise this will be my last vest for at least the month of November, because you never know when the vest urge will hit!

This is an exciting vest that I have been waiting to blog about. When I went to the Design Outside the Lines retreat in September, Diane Ericson let us all test her upcoming Ventana Vest. It’s now out and available for purchase so I can show you both of our examples!

My BSF and I started right in cutting and sewing. This vest is very clever. The tucks give it shape and there is a clever folded in pocket. Typical of Diane’s patterns you can follow it exactly or make changes to make it your own. This is a photo of the vest made by my BSF Debra.


I left mine all funky and floppy. To add a little splash of color and pattern, I appliquéd a cotton woven with a stencil by Miles Frode combined with one of my own stencils.

Diane-Ericson-Vest_4Debra tailored her vest by closing the seam next to the pocket and taking in the sides. She also played around with the tucks in the back by elongating some of them. Ventana-Vest-Debra_1Her mother bought a new scarf that matches perfectly. I think Debra talked Honey into giving the scarf to her.


Here is photo of my back. You’ll notice that Debra also cut her collar a bit shorter to stand up at the neck. I love her changes and will incorporate some of then to my next version. You can see why I can’t promise no more vests!


Mind the Gap Sweatshirt Tunic

I love the feeling of a sweatshirt, but the boxy shape is so unflattering on me.  Anything that hangs straight down from the “top shelf” ends up too big at my waist. This orange Gap sweatshirt caught my eye at the local thrift store because of the color. The contrasting color is purchased fabric.Gap-Sweatshirt2-FMwSince I don’t know how to draft a pattern from scratch, I used 3 different patterns to come up with the basic lines of the tunic including the princess seam on the front. Basically there is just a touch from each pattern and then I went to work fitting on my dress form.Gap-Sweatshirt-OMw

I cut the back of the original sweatshirt a few inches down from the neck leaving a back yoke. This piece is then added to the front to give the tunic a long line of orange. I also cut off all of the banding from the sleeves and hem to reuse as the band for the final silhouette.


The back seemed too large around the waist so I made some little pleats.


Since black skinny knit pants have become my go to bottom, I stenciled the front kangaroo pocket with a few numbers in black.

It’s so comfy, but just a little bit dressier than your average sweatshirt!