Saturday, December 17, 2011

This isn't about Sewing...

This post isn't about sewing, so skip it if you are not interested in another rant about the stupidity of the "corporate world".

I have a teenager who is entry level in the world of working. She knows some of what her mother encountered at the hands of corporate bullies over her career spanning many years. However, I have always encouraged this young person to look at the world with fresh eyes and to be a person who can make a difference.

Yesterday she related to me a story that tells me that little has changed over the past several decades in the world of business. A "corporate lackey" speaking to new employees in condescending tones as if they were servants and not people. A CEO tells the lackey within earshot of everyone (not that it matters) to "Keep those people away from me." referring to the new hires.

Reminds me of the time, while working at a major financial institution in the 1980s, the new very important executive, came to visit our department. We were working in our cubicles as this very important, or self-important, executive says to our department head within earshot of everyone, "Introduce me to your key people." As we chuckled under our breath about "who those people might be", our leader in his gruff, "I'm important voice" started taking him cubicle by cubicle to make introductions. It was pathetic then, and it's pathetic now.

I'm happy to say neither of those very important people amounted to much in that institution. Unfortunately they were replaced by equally self-important people because that's how they are taught to survive. And even more unfortunately they don't do much for the economy or the lives of people who are wanting to make an honest living.

Now back to my sewing...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Kayla Kennington Inspired Scarf - Fabric Strips with Rolled Hem Edges

Kayla Kennington is a fabulous fibre artist with a unique sewing pattern line. One of her signature seaming techniques involves serging a rolled hem edge, and then joining the garment pieces together using a serpentine or stepped zigzag stitch. The beauty of this approach is that little fabric is wasted and there are no bulky or see-through seam allowances. It wasn't until I started sewing Kayla's patterns that I became so comfortable with serging rolled hems.

The fabric scarf pictured here is comprised of fabric strips with serged rolled hem edges joined with a stepped zigzag stitch. It is tied on the mannequin "Portland, Oregon Style", the way Kayla taught me to tie my scarf.

To make this scarf you will need a fabric that looks good on both sides, serger, serger thread, rayon embroidery thread and a zigzag sewing machine. I used two hand dyed batik rayons from The Batik Butik.

Refer to previous blogs for pictures showing cutting, serging the rolled hem and joining two strips end to end.

1.  Press your fabric with a bit of starch to give it body.

2. Cut the fabric into one-inch wide strips on the crossgrain. I used 16 strips total and two different fabrics.

3. Serge rolled hem edges on both side of the strips, joining two strips together (ends overlapping one inch) as shown in the previous blogs. I used regular serger thread in the needle and lower looper and purple 40wt rayon embroidery thread in the upper looper.

4. Measure for fringe from bottom of two strips, both sides and mark. You will end your joining stitches at this point to allow for a fringe. I used a 12" fringe.

5. Set up your sewing machine to do a serpentine or stepped zigzag stitch. I used a width of 4.0 and length of 1.0.

6. Wind your bobbin with the embroidery rayon thread and thread your machine with the same thread.

7. Take two long strips, align them side by side, and starting in the middle with rolled hem edges butted together, right sides up, join them with the serpentine or stepped zigzag stitch.

8. Being careful to keep the ends even, continue to join until you reach the mark at the top of the fringe. Stitch a bar tac and then lock off stitch.

9. Turn the strips around, right sides up, starting in the middle join the remainder of the strip together in the same manner stopping at the fringe mark with a bar tac.

10.  Continue until you have joined all the strips together to form the scarf.  I joined two at a time until I had four sets of strips and then joined four and four, and so on. Fringed end is pictured below.

11. Use fray check to secure your threads wherever you had a start and stop, and at the ends for the serger tails. Once the fray check has dried completely trim your threads and serger tails. This is an up-close view of the scarf once all strips are joined.

Tie your scarf anyway you like and enjoy your beautiful creation.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Last Pair of Tabi - Blush Rib Knit

This is the last pair of Japanese Tabi that I am going to sew for awhile. I know they are not stylish nor are they flattering. But they are warm, and comfortable and so I had to have more than one pair. I now have four pair.

Better than those silly fluffy slippers with the animal faces. I only wear these in the privacy of my own home. And yes, with my sandals.

These are sewn using Folkwear #129A - Japanese Tabi and BareKnits Rib Knit in Blush.

I think they would also make a great slipper if you left out the split for the toe, and used a non-slip fabric for the sole.

Friday, December 9, 2011

More Happy Feet Pics - Folkwear #129A

Here are some more pictures of my Tabi "socks". The front-on picture shows how structured the socks are in the Seafoam rib knit. Click here to see the Folkwear #129A sewing pattern.

This is the third pair I have sewn and I've done a much better job on easing in the upper sock around the toes for a smooth look.

I followed the pattern instructions with two minor changes. The first was that I used Velcro instead of hooks for the closure. And the second is that instead of zigzagging the inside sole, I used a double row of straight stitch. This is laziness on my part. I sew most garments on my straight stitch machine and I didn't want to thread up another machine.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Folkwear Tabi #129A - I've Got Happy Feet

 I wear thong style sandals all year long. Rockports are my favourites. I have been known to wear them outside well into the winter months. Some of my sandals are designated for inside footwear.

My furnace is set at the mid-sixties Fahrenheit to conserve energy and that can mean chilly toes--especially in my studio workroom which is a semi-basement.

Regular socks don't work unless I fiddle with the toe end and that stretches them out of shape. Those silly toe socks that come and go in fashion feel like I'm wearing pedicure toe spreaders.

My solution came in the form of a Folkwear pattern--#129A Japanese Tabi. The Tabi is a Japanese sock with a split between the big and second toe that is traditionally worn with Japanese sandals or zori.

I sewed my pair of Tabis in BareKnits Rib Knit for warmth and a bit of stretch. Instead of using hooks and eyes for the closure, I opted for Velcro. They turned out very well and I'm thinking I need another pair. Who says you can't wear socks with sandals?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Up Next -- Fabric Scarves

Not having had enough fun with the fabric necklaces, I moved on to fabric scarves. The techniques are similar but the strips are joined to make them twice as long. You will need a fabric that looks good on both sides, a serger and thread. I added a few gold beads. Here are the step-by-the instructions.

1. Press your fabric using a little starch if necessary to give it some body. I used a Princess Mirah hand-dyed rayon.

2. Fold the fabric in half, on the lengthwise grain, selvedge to selvedge.

3. With a quilter's ruler, cut 12 one-inch strips of fabric on the cross grain.

4. Set up your serger following your manual for a three thread rolled hem. Test on scraps until you are happy with the results. I used serger thread in the needle and lower looper and two strands of variegated poly embroidery thread in the upper looper.

5.  Serge a chain about four inches long and then begin to serge the first side of one strip.

6. Continue serging the edge until you are about 1-1/2 inches from the end. Take another strip and lay it on top of the first strip overlapping about one inch. Continue to serge being careful to catch both edges of these strips. This is how you join two 45" strips together to make one long strip.

7. Continue serging along the edge until you reach the end of the second strip. Chain off a tail of about eight inches and cut in the middle so that you have a four inch chain on the end of the strip and a four inch chain to start the next edge. This is how you make the fringe.

8. Turn the long strip around and holding the serger chain to the back of the presser foot, start to serge the second side of the strip. Keep the rolled hem edge of the first side of the strip against but not under the presser foot.

9. Continue to serge along the second side of the long strip, ensuring that the rolled hem edge of the first side is just to the left of the presser foot. By doing this you ensure each strip is exactly the same width.

10. When you get to the overlap ends of the two shorter strips, be sure the edges are lined up and the overlap is flat. Then continue serging.

11. When you get to the end of the second side, chain off about eight inches and cut in the middle as before.

12. Repeat this process for the remaining strips. You will have six long strips.

13. Take two long strips and knot them together in the middle (at the overlap) using an overhand knot. Tighten. Repeat with remaining strips so that you have three sets of two knotted together.

14. Lay all tied strip parallel to each other and mark off six inches to either side of the middle knots. Take two strips adjacent to each other and tie them.

15. Repeat 14 one more time. Don't worry if the knots are not evenly spaced as you can adjust them later.

16. Take the scarf to a mannequin and hang around its neck. I find it easier to continue the knotting on the mannequin rather than on a flat table. Continue knotting in this manner leaving about 16 inches of unknotted strips at each end. If you don't have a mannequin use a human or a hanger.

17. I added beads to half of the strip ends. Knot the ends, trim the chains. and admire your work.

You can wear it as a belt.

You can wear it with one end tossed over your shoulder.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Fabric Necklace and Polymer Clay Creation

I was so pleased when this picture arrived in my inbox yesterday. My friend, Barb Alexander, a polymer clay artist, created this gorgeous necklace, taking inspiration from my fabric necklace posts.

See how she incorporated a multi-coloured free-form polymer clay bead as the focal point. She used Corona Black with Gold batik rayon fabric for the strips. After finishing the edges, Barb loosely plaited the strips before attaching to the focal.

Barb Alexander also conducts tours to Bali for women who wish to experience the wonderful centuries-old textile techniques that have made this Indonesian island famous: Tjap and tjanting batik, weaving, ikat, indigo, morinda. You meet the artisans and get right in on the design process with hands-on workshops. Imagine 13 days in a textile and tropical paradise!

Visit Barb's website at to get the details.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Different Day - Different Fabric Necklace

Having been so pleased with the previous fabric necklace, I have moved on to creating another but different style of fabric necklace. This version involves fabric that looks good on both sides, rolled hem edges and two metal D-rings.

Here are the step-by-step instructions:

1. Choose two or three fabrics that are attractive on both sides. I chose gold with brown and avocado green batik rayon.

2. Cut six one-inch strips of fabric. I used three of each colour.

3. Set up your serger for a three-thread rolled hem using your manual.  I used gold serger thread in my needle and lower looper. I used forest green 40wt embroidery rayon thread in the upper looper. Test until you get an edge you are happy with.

4. Each strip will have a straight across short end and a pointed short end. To achieve this you will start to serge your strip in the middle of one short end and gradually come out to the long edge.

5. Continue to serge along the first long edge just skimming off a little of the fabric with the serger knife. I find that keeping the edge of the fabric along the edge of my serger's ledge achieves this nicely.

6. Continue serging the first edge and serge straight off the end. This short end stays straight across.

7. Turn the strip around being careful to keep the "right" side of the rolled hem edge up. Line up the previously serged edge just to the left of the presser foot and begin serging at the end that you just serged off of.

8. Continue to serge along the second edge of the fabric strip, keeping the first serged rolled hem just skimming along the left edge of your presser foot.

9. When you are close to the end of the strip you will want to start serging toward the middle to meet the beginning of the first serged edge to form a point.

10. Carefully serger off the end, forming the point. Do not cut the serger tail.

11. Continue in this manner until you have serged all six fabric strips.

12. Take three of your fabric strips and insert them through one of the metal D-rings. You can arrange the strips in any order you like.

13. Using a narrow or zipper foot stitch the fabric to attached the first D-ring.

14. Trim away some of the fabric.

15. Take the remaining three fabric strips and insert them through the second metal D-ring.

16. Place the fabric strips so that the raw ends are facing together and the D-rings are slightly off-set.

17. Stitch the fabric strips together attaching the second D-ring in the process.

18. Carefully arrange your fabric strips so they are flat and in alignment. Then take the serger tails of the pointed ends and pull them through both D-rings so the necklace ends are coming together as shown.

19. Take the same serger tails again and thread them back through the one D-ring to the left. Proceed to pull the pointed ends of the strips through and arrange to the length you prefer.

20. You can trim or leave the serger tails, knot the ends, or add jewellry findings as I have done. Be sure to use a fray check product on the tails or trimmed ends so that they do not unravel.

21. You may wish to add a brooch, chains or other embellishments to your necklace to complete the look.

22. Wear and enjoy.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Fabric Necklaces - My Next Addiction

A sewing friend who saw my earlier "Making Lanyards" post, sent me some photos of fabric necklaces that she thought I'd be interested in. And she was right. Immediately I pulled out some printed cotton fabric and started to cut strips. I was just back from a  lesson on my new Janome serger at the Oakville Sewing Centre and figured that a rolled hem would make a perfect finish to the edges. And so here are the results of my most recent creative exploit.

Choosing Fabric:  Just about any lightweight woven fabric will be suitable for this project. Choose fabrics from your stash or scraps left over from a previous project. You can make necklaces to coordinate or complement a garment you have sewn for yourself.

Tools and Supplies: A rotary cutter, clear quilter's ruler and cutting mat. A serger that sews rolled hem edges. Three cones of thread. Hand sewing needle, thread and 11mm shank button. Fabric glue.

Step One:  Use fabric pieces that are 45" wide selvedge to selvedge. Press the fabric using some starch to give it extra body. Fold the fabric carefully in half on the lengthwise grain selvedge to selvedge. In order to avoid a "bend" at the fold line, line up one of  your ruler's horizontal lines with the fold.  Cut one inch strips on the crossgrain. Eight or nine strips is usually enough for a necklace but that's up to you. You will need one extra strip for testing and finishing the ends.

Note: If you don't have a rotary cutter, clear ruler and cutting mat, don't despair. Just take a regular ruler and mark off one inch strips. Cut them with sharp fabric scissors.

Step Two: Take the one inch strips to the ironing board and press them lengthwise, wrong sides together.

Step Three:  Thread your serger with thread to coordinate or contrast with your fabric. I used regular poly black serger thread. Set up the machine for rolled hem edges using your manual and test on a scrap. Adjust until you like what you see. Serge the raw edges together. Do not cut off your serger thread tails.

Note:  If your serger cannot do rolled hem edges or if you are afraid of them, use a three-thread narrow serged edge.  If you don't have a serger, use your sewing machine. Set it to a narrow zigzag and shorten the stitch length. It will be just as pretty.

Step Four:  Line up your strips on a table or ironing board placing one of the selvedge edges of each strip together. Arrange the strips one on top of the other in the colour order you prefer. You might also want to ensure that the right side of the serging is all facing the same way, but this is personal choice.

Step Five:  Pin this end of the necklace to the ironing board and braid the serger tails together. Form the braid into a loop that will accommodate a button of your choice, and tuck the loop carefully in between the layers of fabric.

Step Six:  Take to your sewing machine and secure the ends and loops together by stitching back and forth three or four times.

Step Six:  To cover the stitching at the end and finish the end nicely cut a two inch length from an extra serged strip. Hand stitch the short end of this strip to one side of the end of the necklace. Using permanent fabric glue to secure, wrap the strip around the end of the necklace and then turn and stitch the remaining short end to the necklace.  One end of your fabric necklace is now finished.

Step Seven:  Take the loose strips at the other end of the necklace and arrange as in Step Four. Make sure the strips are in the same order as at the other end. Or not... as you wish.

Step Eight:  Stitch the ends together with the sewing machine being sure to secure all strips. Even up the ends by cutting off the excess fabric and serger tails 1/4 inch away from the stitching line.

Step Nine:  Cut another two inch length of serged strip and hand sew and glue to end of necklace as in Step Six. Do not knot off thread.

Step Ten: Find a lonely single shank button in your button stash about 11mm in diameter that goes with your necklace. Sew it to the cut end of the necklace securing with several stitches through all layers. Knot off. Trim any dangling threads and you are all done!

The same fabric necklace is shown on the mannequin doubled, making it look more like a very funky collar. I chose three coordinated fabrics from M&S Textiles. The printed design is based on aboriginal Australian artwork and is called Bush Tucker. It comes in white, black and red.

But you can get creative and make the necklace in all sorts of fabrics. Holiday theme, metallic and silk douppioni fabrics come to mind.