January Slowjo Sewing

January has been a slow rather mojo-less sewing month this year.  I had all these grand plans, and have felt zero compulsion to sew anything.  So I’ve been fixing, mending and twiddling on a few things.

First, I tweaked the bodice of DD2’s Christmas dress (Burda 12/2012 #110).  Originally it looked like this, with ponte and lace all eased into a higher-than-designed neckline.  It didn’t work, and there was an absurd amount of ease to sew into the neckline. And, because it still wasn’t decent enough, I added a triangular lace insert at the CF.  I was not happy with it – it looked so less-than-custom-made, but it had to do for Christmas.


Now, after lowering the CF on the ponte under layer (the bodice is unlined) as far as it would go – and as designed, I might add – and removing the CF lace insert, it looks like this.


Not a big difference, but the fit along the neckline is much better.  I’m still getting my head wrapped around fitting DD2 and what looks good on her.  Most of my sewing queue over then next couple of months will be for her, so hopefully I will learn a lot!

Then I agreed (with dread in my heart) to redo window valances.  I always hate being asked to do things out of my comfort zone, because I hate feeling like I don’t know what I’m doing.  I have no pictures of the project, but let me just say that it was an interesting ride.  In early December, I met with the client and the interior designer, and confessed that home dec sewing is not in my field of expertise.  So the designer measured all the windows, wrote them down for me, and off I went with the valances, her measurements and extra fabric from the client’s storage room.  After pulling one of the valances apart, I understood the method of construction, and started in on the project.  Everything was neat and tidy and I was pleased with my amateur work.  Up went the valances, and the client called me after Christmas to tell me that they were too short for two of her windows.  My bad.  I didn’t check the math of my measurements with a calculator.  And, to top it all off, the designer’s depth measurements were off by 2.5cm, so everything had to be taken apart and re-done so the corner box pleats actually hung at the corners.

And I’ve been BUGGED – BUGGED, I tell you – by the little details of the project.  The valances had a centre box pleat, which should have hung in the visual centre of the windows i.e. in the centre of the centre sliding frames.  But visual centre did not equal mathematical centre, so the centre pleats hang about 4cm off visual centre.  Do you follow me here?  And, of course, the designer wanted the centre pleat to hang in the visual centre, not the actual centre. Ugh.

And that bugs me.  BUGS ME!!  Part of me wants to go back and re-do those damn valances a third time, just so they can all be truly custom-made for those damn windows.

BUT…. and this is a big ‘but’…. I stopped to study a valance in my bedroom which was made a couple of years ago by one of the best drapery guys in the city.  He had worked solely off the window measurements the designer had given him, and after carefully looking at all the proportions, I realized that the mathematical centre of that valance was definitely not the visual centre in relation to my bedroom window.

And he is a paid drapery expert.  So I’m not kicking myself anymore.  C’est la vie, and all that.  But I did learn a lesson for the next time someone wants valances made by little ol’ moi.  Experience, experience!  Best teacher ever.

The next project was to give myself a new ironing board cover.

new board cover

I have no pictures of the old one, but I will tell you that the foam padding had melded to the cotton cover through overuse.  I made mine from washed muslin and the leftover cotton batting (from my first attempt to make interlined Roman blinds).  It looks clean and the thick new padding is wonderful.  I should have done this months ago.

Then I put the waistband ties onto a pair of hip-hop trousers for DD1.  I made these last spring, I think, and she grabbed them before I could finish them, and has been wearing them ever since.  Yesterday she was walking around the house in them like she’d had some sort of horrible injury in the pelvic region, and I asked her why she was walking so oddly.  She said she had to walk like a weirdo so the pants wouldn’t fall down.  *headshake* The ties have been hanging on a project board since the trousers were made, so today they finally ended up on my sewing table to be properly finished.

And now I’m working through three projects that were cut late summer:

a safari skirt (Burda 04/2010 #140)140_skirt_large

a silk scarf panel top (Burda 07/2012 #118), albeit with different fabrichttps://i0.wp.com/sewingprincess.com/sewingprincess/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/top.jpgand multiple-gored skirt for DD1 (Burda 06/2013 #132).132_0613_b_largeAnd I had hoped to get myself moving on Jungle January and Chris’s #JeansinJanuary, but I lacked both the conviction and motivation to start in on anything.  So I’ve missed both, but I am determined to finish all my UFOs before I begin something new.


Sheer Linen Drapes

linen sheers

I’m still struggling with the colours for my silk drapes, but I need something over those windows for now.  So I made up some sheers.  This is a gorgeous Belgian linen with woven stripes, and it was 118″ wide!  It is railroaded, which, in drapery speak, means the design runs sideways down the length of goods.  It also means I needed about half the yardage to make up these sheers as I had originally calculated.


I chose box pleats for these because it’s clean and simple, and the silk drapes will have box pleats.  Good idea to keep them similar, I’m thinking.

sheers 2

The only hand sewing in these was the tacking down of the pleats and slipstitching the linen into place over the buckram heading.  Everything else is machine stitched, so it was a rather quick project.  I always find calculating the pleats in such a way that is even and pleasing the most complicated part of making drapery.

Silk Drapes II

So, this is my second attempt at mixing colours and stenciling the silk, and I am not happy.  I just cannot get the colours to work.  They are too opaque, and therefore too garish a contrast with the silk.  I tried mixing basic textile paint alone (right panel), with opalescent white (bottom centre), tried several other combinations and am not happy with any of it.silk stencil 2

I do like the newest stencil (Anna Damask), on the right, better than the original (Verde Damask).  I have one more stencil to try, and I’m going to try it with my wall paint, which is Farrow & Ball Brassica.  I want to see if the muddier colour looks better on the silk, and I’ll try it in the last stencil (Anastasia).  I’m also wondering if the chalk-based F&B paint will work on the textile.  If the Brassica colour works best but the F&B compound doesn’t, then I’ll mix acrylic paints, use a fabric medium, and try again.

Silk Drapes I

I am trying to replicate a drapery fabric that is long out of production.  I have lucked out in finding silk duppioni in a lavender-thyme colour way, and am now trying to stencil this damask design from Nobilis, a fabric mill in France.  Here’s my inspiration:LR drapery fabricI found these magnificent stencils on Cutting Edge Stencils, which ship to Canada very reasonably.  No one in Canada, BTW, carries these because they are so reasonably priced directly from the US website.drapery trialThen I sourced fabric paint from Dharma Trading.  My local art supply store carries these, too.fabric paintHere’s my first go. drape sampleI’m not 100% happy with either the stencil or the purples, so I have ordered another set of stencils to see if I like a different design better, and I will be mixing paint colours to come up with one that I really like.trial 1There’s a lot of metallic in the Lumiere paints, and I’m not so sure that I like it.  I’ll be trying this again with flat paints, and perhaps adding a bit more red/magenta to the violet.  I like the idea of the stencils being imperfect, with gradations of gold-violet-purple everywhere.

BTW, you would not believe how much doing this myself is saving my pocket book.  When this project is done, I’ll crunch the numbers.

bespoke drapes: finished project

bespoke bedroom drapesWell, what do you think?  I was so dreading this project because of the sheer size of it and the amount of fabric and the stripes!  I have no idea how to make drapes!  But they turned out reasonably well, if I may say so myself.  I’m pleased with how they look, and I must confess that I really enjoyed putting these together.  All the hand sewing that went into this project was calming, and I looked forward to the times where I could just sit on the floor with the panels spread out over my lap and sew each step.  I so loved the hand sewing.  And why did I choose to sew these by hand instead of by machine?

Well, because I trust my pinning and hand sewing results more than I do fighting with 13 yards of heavy upholstery-weight fabric through a machine that wasn’t really made for industrial type sewing.  I can pin and hand stitch a long hem with the confidence that it will be perfectly straight.  I wasn’t convinced it would be successful with my Babylock Crafter’s Choice machine.  And I didn’t want to rip out and re-sew mistakes.

And I could sew invisibly along the hemline and heading without fighting with an automated blind stitch.  This project was a good reminder of what I like about sewing, and why I like it:  hand sewing is precise, clean, calming and, for me, a great stress relief.  I guess that’s why I used to spend so many hours smocking when my girls were little.  That quiet time sitting down with needle, thread and fabric was a haven at the end of such busy days.

I confess my main reason for making these myself was the savings on the labour costs, similar to why I made my own interlined roman blinds a while ago.  After these projects, I’ll not complain when I get crazy quotes, as I have a first-hand understanding of what exactly goes into making custom window coverings.

Well, for now, I guess it’s back to garment sewing for a while.  There’s no other home dec projects in my future.  Well, actually, there is one that’s percolating on the back burner in my mind.  Initially, the living room drapes were to be of this gorgeous linen/silk/cotton fabric (called “Epoque”) from French decor company Nobilis.  Unfortunately, the only importer in Canada doesn’t carry it anymore.  And therein lies the problem.  I can’t get it anymore if I don’t order 120 yards because it’s out of production.  Um.  Well, as gorgeous as it is, I will never need 120 yards of this fabric.  I wish I did, but I don’t.NOBILIS Fabric,EPOQUE,8989-94I have tried to source something similar, but cannot find anything in this particular sage green-orchid combination.  I’m thinking of trying to replicate it via hand printing on a similar plain background.

bespoke drapes: dressing the drapes

haute decorWell, here is one full panel of my pinch pleat bespoke drapes.  Now they need to be hung and “dressed”, which translates into this:dressingThe panels get hung and shaped into the pleats in which they will hang, tied loosely together, and then they cure, much like we cure bias before sewing it up. I’ve read varying pieces of advice. Some books say 72 hours, others say 48. I’ll be curing mine during the day, since I really want to move out of my living room and back into the bedroom. dressing drapesThat’s the valance hanging on the closet door.  I had originally hoped there would be enough fabric to make the drapes ceiling to floor length, but, as you can see, there wasn’t.  So the valance and curtain rod will be hung about 4 inches lower tomorrow.

bespoke drapes: pleat details

hand sewn pinch pleatsOnce the pleats were marked and stitched by machine into place, I pinched them into two pleats and tacked them at the bottom of the heading.pinch pleats insideThis is the inside of the heading.  Once the lining was stitched to the bottoms and sides of the panels, the heading is folded over and catch stitched or herringboned into place.  I didn’t use any buckram or other stiffening in the heading because this fabric has a coating of some sort that makes it extraordinarily stiff.

I enjoyed all this hand stitching.  It was so relaxing sitting in my room, listening to music, hand sewing yards and yards of fabric.  Some of you love to knit.  I like to stitch.

bespoke drapes: French pinch pleats

draperyThis was the hardest part so far of this project.  Of course I made it REALLY hard by choosing striped fabric.  And stripes/patterns are not always my friends.  I’ve wadded more projects over mismatched patterns or poor pattern placement than for any other reason.

Now, if I were a professional drapemaker and knew what I was doing, I would have measured, marked, stitched and these would have been done by now.  But I’m not a professional.  So I measured, calculated, clipped them into place, tried it out over the width of the window, took it out and repeated the process until I was ready to kill someone.  Eventually it all came together in a way that I thought was pleasing.  (Maybe I just got sick of it and gave up.  We’ll see what the final product looks like before I hand in my verdict on that).  There is a repeat to the stripes – a 4 inch repeat – but I just couldn’t make it work.  So I threw it out the window and did as best I could by eyeballing it and approximation to within a couple of millimetres.

Once I was happy with the pleat placement, I folded the fabric and stitched the pleats by machine through all thicknesses, the full depth of the heading (3 inches).  Here’s what it looks like from the inside.headingThe pleats are then flattened down the centres and pinched into smaller pleats, hence the term “pinch pleats”.  Usually there’s three little pleats per pleat, but this fabric is thick, and I didn’t order enough fabric for a 2 1/2 times the width fullness.  So mine only have two little pleats.  But I like them.  They look pretty custom, no?  How many sets of drapes have you seen with little pinch pleats like this?

pinch pleatsTomorrow, the last of the hand sewing.  Well, tacking, actually.

bespoke drapes: attaching the lining

joinsThe lining was measured, cut and joined to match the drapery fabric.  Now I’m using long basting stitches to attach the lining to drape itself.

The next leg of the project is attaching the lining to the drapery along the hemline, return (sides) and overlap (centre front) of each drape.hemlineThe lining has been cut to match the hemmed drape, and the bottom turned up twice and machine stitched.  Now the lining will be slip stitched along each side and the bottom hem.

bespoke drapes: hemming

drapery hemThis is all I’ve done today, what with summer activities and the time involved for this project. I’m using a catch stitch – or, in drapery language, a herringbone stitch – for the hems. And I’m very thankful for my leather thimble, without which my finger would be shredded.