Friday, December 14, 2007

Free (or practically free) lace!

Going along with my last post on free (or practically free) buttons, I'd like to suggest visiting thrift stores with lace and other trimmings in mind. Lace--especially "real looking" lace-- is often extremely expensive. Lace off of thrift store garments can be an affordable alternative.

The picture shows my latest free lace find--over two yards of wide, double-edged vintage lace from the neckline of an orange polyester evening gown that someone chopped off at the knees. (When I told some of my friends about the dress, describing it as an "awful orange"--meaning a color that would never flatter me--an orange-lover well-I-never'ed, so I have omitted any excess adjectives, positive or negative!)

Here is another Thrift Store Directory to help you find stores in your area.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Have you ever picked up your knitting or crocheting project, only to spend the first few minutes figuring out which row of the pattern you're on? These bracelets, which work like an abacus, are a handy--and pretty--way to keep track of your rows. (I'm currently on row 126 of 154 on my pink shawl.)
You'll need:
  • 9 large beads (to count 10s)

  • 9 medium beads (to count 1s)

  • assorted small beads to space out the counting beads and make the marking loops (I used green beads for the loops, and two sizes of pearl beads for the spacers)

  • clasp

  • clear beading thread

  • stretchy beading cord
Using some of your smaller beads and the stretchy beading cord, make two marking loops; one for the 10s and one for the 1s. Make sure the loop is large enough the beads can pass through easily, but not so large that they'll slip through accidentally and throw your counting off. Tie the loops with very secure knots.
Attach the clear beading thread to one half of the clasp using a half hitch. Make sure the two ends of the beading thread are of even lengths.
Begin stringing the counting beads, separated by the small beads, onto the two threads. You will need more spacing beads between the 1 beads than between the 10 beads. Try to space them so that the two strands are of even lengths. Don't forget to slip a marking loop onto each strand!
If you have used all of the counting beads but the bracelet is too short for your wrist, string more beads onto both threads at once until it's the right length.
Tie the threads securely to the other half of the clasp. Pass the threads back through several beads before you cut the ends off.
There you have it--never loose your place in a pattern again!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Pink Alpaca Knitted Lace Shawl

I try to make sure that I always have some kind of bring-along project started: knitting, embroidering, crocheting, tatting...

This fall, just before a long car trip, I found myself without a project. Mom's stash came to the rescue!
She had on hand three skeins of Alpaca Cloud yarn (in "peppermint heather") and the Rona Lace Shawl pattern. I like the pattern--it's not too simple, and yet not frustratingly hard. I've been working on the shawl on and off for the last two months, and soon it will be finished--I'm looking forward to seeing what it will look like once I take it off the circular needles and block it.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Free (or practically free) buttons!

The price of sewing notions can easily make up half of the cost of a dress. Buttons are especially pricey. What to do when you're a seamstress on a budget?

If you have thrift stores in your area, you might want to consider going to them with buttons in mind. I have gotten a dozen shell buttons (which would cost $6-$8 new) off of a dress that cost under $5--that's not counting the nice rayon fabric to re-make into a new skirt or dress! Thrift stores with "free" sections are the best--even hopelessly stained outfits can contribute their buttons before joining the rag bag (as the buttons on the sweater, above).

Check out the Thrift Store Directory to see if there are any stores near your home!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Creating a Wedding Dress

When my brother got engaged last spring, his fiancee asked me to make the wedding dress. She gave me a picture she and her sisters had drawn of what it should look like. With the drawing, a very basic princess seam dress pattern and an old blue sheet, we started work one afternoon.

After some reckless cutting of fabric and basting of seams, I had Audra put the mock-up on inside out while I re-pinned the seams, taking in and letting out, basting and re-basting. That first afternoon we got the whole mock-up fitted and decided on the width and positioning of the four triangular skirt insets. Since all of the fitting and figuring was done, the dress went together very quickly once we got the fabric.

Dotted: usual cutting & grain line

Solid: modified cutting & grain line

Cheri asked me about the sleeves on the dress. I cut them out freehand, matching the length of the top of the sleeve to the size of the dress armhole. (And yes, I made a trial sleeve--or two--before I cut into the real fabric!) Audra wanted a flared, yet not butterfly, sleeve. To achieve the desired flutter without extra fullness at the top and middle of the sleeve, I curved the sides of the pattern out, and then cut the piece out on the bias so that it wouldn't bind and would have a nice drape. Very narrow hems, slightly stretched as I sewed, finished the sleeves off with a gentle ripple.

The main fabric was an ivory colored polyester damask, while the sleeves were a slightly textured semi-sheer polyester. The whole dress was lined with unbleached cotton that was finished with French seams on the inside.