Saturday, December 3, 2011

Santa's Workshop Tip on Bias Linings

I've been a bad, bad blogger. Maybe Santa will still be good to me because I've been busy in the workshop.

And I know I'm not alone. So, fellow seamsters, here's a quick sewing tip for linings.

When there is fabric on the bias it will stretch out as it hangs. And when you use two different fabrics, allthough the pieces are cut exactly the same size, they will hang-out differently. Case in point, is my  Little Red Riding Hood Cape .

When constructing this garment, I finish the shoulder seams and attach the hood and then let the garment hang on the dress form for several days. The black satin lining will stretch as much as 3/4 " in places. I pin it all around to determine the variance and remove the excess. If you do not remove this excess fabric your garment will be balloony and not ever hang properly. The tendency of fabric on the bias to stretch is a good thing to remember and I hope you find this helpful on your next drapey, bias project.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanks Sale

Just a little way of saying THANKS for a wonderful year due to the support of all my family, friends, and fans......

!!! THANKS SALE !!!  Black Friday - Cyber Monday, 11/25/2011 - 11/28/2011, Midnight to Midnight PST,  everything in Jeanine Designs
 is on SALE 20% - 30% off

Enter coupon code "THANKS20" at checkout to receive a 20% discount.

Returning Customers and those purchasing 2 or more items may instead use the coupon code "THANKSAGAIN30" at checkout to receive a 30% discount.

*Note - I'll be updating stock on hand daily but be aware that some items are one-of-a-kind. If an item you wanted has been sold, just convo me and we'll talk about making the item for you, options, and delivery times. This can't be combined with other offers, sorry.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Perfectly Peacock

I'm posting these photos in their current orientations because all my attempts to right them have failed. Some miscommunication between editing programs is beyond me to sort at this hour. And besides - this whole project came about because of a mistake, so it seems appropriate. Sometimes you must say Why The Fury?
You see, I'd run into Sew Vac with a whirl of questions (those folks are so great!) and meant to get water soluble stabilizer in two sizes. Instead one of the rolls I picked up was *sticky* soluble stabilizer. I didn't catch the mistake until after the cellophane was torn off. I thought of asking if they had a shrink wrap so I might return it, since it is pricy stuff, but it was my mistake and I thought 'I might use it one day'... And the very next day my curiousity got the best of me and I started this Peacock Scarf.
After lately doing a lot of machine programming and very literal designs, the idea of working a lace collage of sheers and yarns very organically and loosely was appealing. It has been a while since I let loose with some free-motion embroidery. And to think that I once did so much of it I had carpal tunnel ankles from having the pedal to the floor!
So I approached this like a painting. I drew a loose cartoon, influenced by peacock feathers, but tried to keep it very free. I decided to repeat certain elements in a scarf-like shape, but to not render it literately. I worked very fast, not judging, intuitively. I learned that in a workshop. Thanks Lance!

I stitched all over this initial collage layer of sheers and yarn with black silk thread in the needle and bobbin to keep the 'hand' of the piece as soft as possible. Then I added more dabs of yarn, and more stitching. And then, since I wanted the piece to be double sided, I turned it over and added more yarn and stitching. You might think the sticky side down would be a problem, but the embroidery covered so much of the surface that it slid quite well - the sticky areas serving as a convenient hand hold to help steer the fabric.

After I washed away the stabilizer and could see how the piece moved, some individual pieces were added by detached embroidery. They add movement and dangle, and provide a means of tying the piece in a variety of fashions.

I must say, the piece took on a life of itself. It is sheer and soft - yet crisp and commanding. It weighs nothing and yet can appear almost bulky, powerful. It iridizes in the changing light and can morph into many shapes. Its boldness makes me think of a Priestess who has channeled the Peacock and is fiercely, proudly parading. I think it came out Perfect - by accident.  See the finished piece here

Friday, September 9, 2011

What is This?

I know I promised a kimono skirt… to go with Victorian Razor Back Blouse aka Trash Top, and it is still coming.  But I’ve been lost in the woods lately with Little Red Riding Hood.  The studio is swathed in red and project sketches…. And there isn’t anything to post at this moment. So it is time for me to appeal to you, dear reader, to help me out and help me to solve a long-term nagging question. And then you can talk amongst yourselves.
What is this?
I feel strongly that it is a fiber tool, as it was lumped with sewing notions at a garage sale.  Sadly, this solo item bears no markings except numbers 1-36 around the triangle's perimeter notches. Be the first to identify accurately what this is and link to information about how to use it and you will win a $10 coupon to use at Jeanine Designs.

9/30/2011 Update

Thanks Everyone! Contest is over and everyone wins! See the details in comment below. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Trash Top: Making it Work

On Wednesday I typed these words into Facebook, “I need a dress form. I’m just putting it out there.” And a mere 4 hours later “Pinny” was sitting on my design table. I’d been searching for a while, but that day, after typing that sentence, I found what I’d been looking for: a great price ($25).  I just love Craigslist. True, she didn’t come with an ornamental stand, nice for photos, and has a couple stains. But I can use an ugly stand I already have for practical purposes and I expect a beautiful stand will one day materialize.

So I felt ready to rock out some clothes and gave myself a Project Runway inspired challenge: two days and two items from my studio. I picked a top which I’d taken from the trash. (Sort of.  You know how, after a yard sale, people often leave a box of unsold items at the curb? That’s my favorite time to shop.)  To coordinate with the muted pink and mustard flowers in the top, I chose a warm brown silk kimono I’d purchased years ago and never dared to cut apart.  Here is the blouse before and after. The kimono skirt and jacket will be the subject of the next post - so stay tuned.

Finished Front
Finished Back
Style Influences: Victorian & 1700s torn silk.  There wasn’t much fabric in the blouse. But I could feel that there was a layer of interfacing within the collar and that it wasn’t fused to the fabric. So I knew I could separate and use the layers. I immediately saw a high lacy Victorian collar in my mind’s eye, and this was the inspiration for the whole design. I decided to combine a few historical references with an edgy contemporary silhouette. The design features a high, fluffy upstanding collar with a drapey razor-back that is sexy without being revealing. The geometry of the angles, with clean finished edges, are a deliberate contrast the frayed scalloped edges of the collar and blouse hem: a juxtaposition of curvy and straight, prim and adventurous.
On the original top, I especially hated seeing the cheap plastic buttons. In Victorian times, buttons and other closures, that revealed how a garment came off, were concealed cleverly within folds and tucks. This was because seeing them implied ‘easy off’. I have seen some antique dresses that are hard to tell how to put them ON, like this circa 1900 top from my collection which uses 32 hooks and eyes!  (Pinny has allowed me to see and photograph this garment in 3 dimensions for the very first time.) I like the secrecy of a hidden closure, as long as it is practical. Reversing and hiding the buttons behind a new placket was a way to dress up the top while simultaneously dealing with a small tear in the existing fabric.

Many people might be surprised to learn that raw edges aren’t really a new thing. Upon scrutiny of numerous costumes from the 1700s, I’ve noticed that long bands of ruched torn silk are a common decoration. Since I wanted a ruffled appearance but didn’t want to add any weight, I decided to stretch the fabric along the scalloped neckline.

Back Neck detail – sexy and functional. Since I removed the shoulders, all the weight of the blouse-back is suspended from one central point at the back of the neck.  Having no more fabric, I used an ornament of lace and tulle scraps to fortify this area as well as to add another Victorian detail. Again, I think of the Victorian tendency to eroticize things like a woman’s neck, wrist, or ankle.

Tim Gunn Make it Work moments:

I had to remove the double stitched thin bias edging all around in order to re-sew the armscye and used one of my favorite tools: this wickedly sharp Surgical Steel Seam Ripper.
I saved this edging and used it to stabilize the new placket by ironing it flat, adhearing it with Misty-Fuse, and double stitching. My hand-covered snap was devoured by my studio monster and had to make another.
Finding buckram inside was a boon and really lended itself to embroidery. But I didn't like the first flower and had to carefully pick it out. I embroidered a “J” on the center back of the buckram ‘lace’ (in lieu of installing a label), and stitched ‘bars’ to create the illusion of lace and support the collar. However, since it barely shows, I decided to limit the embroidery and not do cutwork, as I had initially planned. I found that the less literal I was with the lace, the more I liked it.
I also thought about using more left-over bias strips as casings for recycled collar stays, to insure an upright collar, but ended up achieving the same effect with sewn pintucks along outside collar piece.

The collar closes with a medium size snap. I hid one side under the black lace and covered the other in fabric. That way it is barely visable if you choose to wear the collar open. Snaps are under-used in my estimation and covering one in fabric is easy to do and makes an inexpensive closure. If you've never made one, here's how:

Technique: How to cover a snap with fabric
Snap your fabric between your snap, with the right side facing up on top of the female side of the snap. Stitch a running stitch around it, allowing enough room for the fabric to go up and around the snap. Cinch in the running stitch to enclose the metal, but not too tightly, and unsnap the snap. Pass your needle up through the bottom hole and through the fabric. Move over a bit and pass needle back through hole. Now tighten the thread and the hole will pull down. Backstitch around the gathers of fabric on the back of the snap and secure with a tight knot. Carefully trim the excess fabric flat and as closely as possible. Douse the cut edges and stitches on the back with Fray Check, but avoid getting it on the front side, and set aside to dry. Now you can attach it by stitching around the edges, catching the fabric as you go, for a very pretty couture finish.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Makin' Bacon

Funny where ideas come from.  After I posted my Carnivore Coasters, some jovial banter ensued. I blurted out 'Bacon Beer Wraps' and instantly knew they had to be. Ok, not a long stretch from steak to bacon, but still. Sometimes it is as if the concept is the reality - and fabrication is the abstract process you have to go through to get to the place you’ve already been. In a process similar to the steak coasters, I began with photographs of actual bacon. Then I studied the image to decide how best to translate it into embroidery: what aspects are best rendered by line, color, texture and stitch direction, etc.
I have a dark sense of humor and sometimes laugh at horrible things. I think this meat series is funny because – well, I think that industrial food production is gross. Like all of my work, there is usually a connective thread to my life. That connection with this meat series is to my belief in the humane and sustainable treatment of all animals, including those that are farmed. Healthier for you, the animals, and the planet. On the back of my package is the link to Food Inc., a documentary that everyone who eats should see. At Local Harvest you can find tons of information about safe food in your area including piggies, and other animals, who had a healthy, happy life before they went to market.  Folks in my neck of the woods might enjoy shopping at Rainbow Ranch Farms.

Once the digitizing and the embroidery was done, it took me a long time to finish this item – and I suppose it is because I don’t like this kind of packaging and graphic design.  I had to study bacon packaging – really look at it – and gosh it is ugly and excessive.  Vivid bright yellow backings are the norm, and lots of primary red. Simultaneously, during a conversational thread I was following amongst some European friends, someone expressed the opinion that Americans’ vision was stunted by the constant affront of intense primary colors, leaving us unable to appreciate a subtle palate. I was certainly feeling under Primary Attack.
As with all of my products, I like to give careful thought to the packaging and try to utilize creatively that which is at hand. For the Bacon Beer Wraps, I used recycled yellow file folders and repurposed print sleeves. I drew the label image and text, scanned it, and printed it on 8.5 “x 11” stock cut from the file folders. The wraps’ Velcro tabs slide into carefully cut slits in the cardstock, holding each piece in position within the package and completing the illusion.

Here’s the Nerdy Part for Digitizers

Since the Bacon Beer Wraps were worked from photos, they weren’t vector images. I like working this way because I feel the lines have more life, but you can get some surprises. That magic wand can include things you don’t want and don’t even know are there. Maybe you have also run into this: you are using your tools, but an object isn’t behaving as you expect.   It could be one of many problems, but here’s an example of one type of glitch and how to fix it:

Zoomed in a little more than 100% and the problem is only visible to a trained eye.

Zoomed way in, now you can see a tiny D-shaped hole. This little hole can cause a host of problems. It could prevent the surrounding area from being outlined or cause the fill stitches to stitch badly.

It’s a little hard to tell, but see how the green stitching lines are interrupted with this hole? This would stitch with a little blip there.
Select all the control points at one time and delete.

Usually with these little anomalies, once you delete the control points, a black line remains. But as you can see here, if you look closely, the green stitching line now spans across the hole. This indicates that it will now stitch properly.
Zoomed back out, you can see the black line remaining around the removed hole. Now that you know what to look for, you can probably find a couple others. Can you spot them? Learning how to recognize and deal with these little buggers will save you lots of headaches. Next time something acts funny…. Zoom in. Zoom waaaay in.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Free Flower File

I want to make sure all my new readers know about this giveaway. Here is a link to my article in Bernina Through the Needle Online Magazine . I hope you'll enjoy reading about the design and stitching process behind creating free-standing lace. You can also download a free embroidery file for the flower on the cover. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Thinking About the Box or Who Knew Glue

When I needed to develop a jewelry gift box for some of the small items I make, I realized I’d need to give it some thought. Packaging can be what sets your craft product apart. Especially in the competitive world of Etsy where photos must sell and hopefully attract an editor’s eye.  A product just isn’t finished without being wrapped in a professional presentation.
But packaging generally annoys me. I think the terms “disposable” and “throw away” should be eliminated from our language and lifestyles. So the idea of purchasing and printing professional packaging felt like perpetuating a practical evil.  ;-)   Looking at the market, there are some nice things available – but anything special is also expensive. And even if I were to purchase recycled boxes and cardstocks, customized with green inks, etc., wouldn’t I just be putting out another disposable item?
So I had the idea of creating “Packaging Worth Preserving” and to give my customers a jewelry gift box they might treasure instead of toss. It had to have charm and be something special, but also be practical and sturdy for shipping. My second mission was to make these from recycled materials.
And there, in my recycling bin, were boxes and a mound of paper circulars that arrive each week, unrequested and unrelenting, and I thought….humm…..a ready supply of free material -  I wonder if I could create Packaging Worth Preserving out of this?
Some initial rectangular boxes were clean and neatly utilized the graphics on the recycled cardstock. But they’d never look like my brand:  rather like I was ripping off Coca-cola and Andy Warhol at the same time.  I investigated a variety of other shapes as well, (purse, heart, rounds) but felt the cutesy shapes were, well, too party favor.
 Then I thought of pirate chests and ancient dowry boxes and of trying to evoke that sense of preciousness in a paper box.  Online I found a chest-like shape with some clever cut-on feet and I played with that for a while, altering the top.  I took an obsessive detour and made this tiny paper chest, lined with padded velvet. It has hand-made hinges and a magnet ‘lock’ that snaps closed. It is completely impractical to the gift box purpose, but I had fun making it and it makes me laugh.
While making all these samples I discovered that, perhaps most importantly, my design needed to be easy to cut. Until I get a die cut machine and custom die, they will be cut by hand (mine). Easy to cut means straight lines and straight lines mean… ((shiver))… geometry.
Geometry. And the stern Ms. Mathers who would have been pretty if she hadn’t been so tight around the mouth. I hated that I had her, 2 years in a row, for both Geometry and Algebra. One day, a fellow student posed to her what I considered a perfectly good math question - how much alcohol to buy for an upcoming party?  Ms. Mathers curtly responded, “I don’t drink”. I decided then and there that she was a bad teacher to have missed an opportunity to educate due to her personal judgment and under-age drinking. I stopped listening and learned nothing from her, having also wrongly deduced that, as an artist, I would not be needing math in my life time.
Well, I missed the math lesson, but am reminded of the one on judgments each time I have to muddle around, muttering “I know there is a formula for this” and cursing myself for the millionth time for not paying attention to Ms. Mathers.  I finally figured out how to make a hexagonal box and drafted the design. My prototype cut and assembled relatively quickly and I felt pleased with the results. The shape has charm, is quite strong for shipping, and it tessellates with other boxes so I can pack several into one padded envelope. I like it because it looks like a nut, and is not too feminine. Now I needed the box material. The cardboard in my recycle bin was either too thick or the wrong size, so I decided to try to make a cardstock from laminated junk mail and use this to create my hex gift boxes.
This lead to an exploration of glues.  I wanted to use ecologically sound non-harmful home-made glue – but the short of it is - after many experiments with cold and cooked wheat paste, I couldn’t get it to work. Papers all de-laminated and cracked when the box folding began.  While these paper maché glues would be excellent for rigid projects, my box requires some flexibility.  I tested various ‘white’ glues and glued the inside layers with a non-toxic Weldbond “More Than Great Glue” (a construction glue I picked up at ACE Hardware) and US Art Quest PPA Matte (purchased at Art Supply Warehouse, a real art supply store) on the outside. Polymer based products allow the right amount of flexibility and adhesion. But if anyone out there knows of a way to laminate a variety of papers together using homemade natural glues and without cracking or tearing along the scored and folded edges, I’d love to know about it.
I ended up using grocery circulars laminated together; however by themselves they look dingy. So I applied ‘Jeanine’ wallpaper on the interior side for a clean finish. This was printed on my inkjet on recycled paper, but, so far, I have not been able to find soy/green inks for small printers. On the outside I recycled two nearly obsolete things: maps and yellow pages, featuring fun imagery from both.
I hope people will like and keep these one-of-a-kind gift boxes, and I feel good about recycling the paper.  Perhaps a way around the glue issue would be to grind the junk mail into paper pulp and make cardstock from that….I’d need to add some dryer lint for strength, and then decorate or dye some way because the pulp would be grayish..…well that’s an experiment for another day.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Endangered Beautiful Butterflies

A while back I started working on a series of butterflies... specifically endangered ones. The butterfly, a ubiquitous motif in decorative arts throughout the ages, symbol of life, change and rebirth, adored for its extraordinary beauty and fragility: how incongruous that we should be killing something we apparently love so much. I’ve tried to make these as true to life as I can reasonably represent in free standing lace embroidery. It takes many, many hours of programming, moving stitch by stitch, and usually numerous test stitch-outs before I get all the bugs (sorry) worked out.

Technically lace, being entirely made of thread, their naturalistic pattern and vivid coloring don’t make one think of lace, although they can be lacy.  In an attempt to make them as accurate as possible, I decided to try to replicate both sides of the butterfly. This is difficult because the two sides are usually different, and sometimes radically so.  This is easy to do with the Monarch or the Swallowtail whose patterning is similar on both sides. It is much more difficult with the Blue Morpho which is iridescent blue on the back and a tan bark-like pattern with eye-spots on the underside. I’m still working on that one.
Early tests I found were too stiff. I found the key to keeping the butterflies thin and delicate feeling, yet strong and sturdy, is in careful attention to stitch direction and density during programming followed by attention to the bobbin colors during stitching. This video depicts the soft ‘hand’ of a Monarch butterfly embroidery.
With the Swallowtail design I added stabilizing stitches that serve a second purpose and become the wired legs, antennae, and proboscis of the finished butterfly. In this way, the butterfly requires only minimal finishing after being embroidered. The file and the finished butterfly are available in my Etsy shop.
This last bit – the legs, antennae, and proboscis – are a bit of a nod to an artist I so admire: Annemieke Mein, who has set the bar very high on naturalist fiber work. I recommend her book   Mein’s work depicts the beauty in creatures, some not always thought of as “beautiful”.  Depicting the butterfly as realistically as possible reminds us that it is a living being, part of the symbiotic life cycles of the earth requiring protection, and not merely the colorful, fairy-like creatures that amuse us.
And I think they are pretty clipped in the hair.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Knots in Thread

One night my husband marveled at some meticulous thing I was toiling over and said, “Its all knots in thread to me.” I laughed. I’d never thought of it that way before. But he was right: tatting, knitting, crochet, embroidery, weaving, sewing …all of it… simply various forms of knots in thread.
I realized that was the magic of it. One stitch at a time and a humble thread, yarn or reed grows in your hands, transformed into beautiful lace, a warm sweater, a sturdy market basket...whatever you might dream.
From the earliest humans who twined grasses to make rope snares to modern day bullet-proof vests or suspension bridges supported by plied wire – fiber technology has played, and continues to play, a huge role in human life. Beyond producing utilitarian items, the history of fiber arts includes thousands of years of textile innovation, ornamentation, phenomenal works of art, and fabulous costumes and fashion. I am lost in this world a lot.
As I was thinking of a name for my blog, I recalled that phrase and how I’d felt about it. There is excitement over the challenge of building something: concept, design, planning. There is pride in the precision of execution and creative use of materials. Best of all, there is contentment and joy in the knowledge that step by step, one stitch at a time, you can create something marvelous. It is that way in life, and I hope it will be with the posts in this blog.