Sequin Appliques

(Bitch alert: On the ID voy boards, someone used the word “sequence” when they meant “sequins”…makes me want to take my red pen and mark up my computer screen!)

I could have sworn I did a post about sequin appliques years ago, but maybe not.  And sequins are back…I cannot tell you how happy I am not to be making dresses anymore.  I know, there are worse things than sequins (tissue lame, acetate, lycra, silk velvet, brussel sprouts…), but satin stitching over the edges of sequin appliques was always an activity that left me twitching because it was NEVER as smooth as satin stitching over flat fabric…no matter what I did, and I did it all.  It was a lesson in artistic humility…do your best and then stop looking at it!

Susan taught me to use the same solvy topper that we use when embroidering on velvet.

This works in 2 ways: first, it keeps loose sequins from flying off wildly and blinding you or getting into your machine works or ending up in your dinner casserole (ask me about that sometime); and second it can help smooth out the edges of the applique where you have cut the sequins…notice I used the word “help.”  Cut sequins have a mind of their own and never lay flat so your satin stitching looks like it has been done by a toddler even if you have digitized it all perfectly!!

So,  is it possible to have great looking sequin appliques?  Yes, with a little extra work.

I use two separate running stitch lines for the applique tackdown which helps keep the perforated sequins flat. Then, when cutting the applique after tackdown, I take the time to remove loose or especially sharp sequins around the edge. In my more OCD moments, I have totally removed all sequins from the edges, but this is time consuming and really not cost effective.

If satin stitching by hand, go over the edge twice.  I suppose you could digitize the design to go over the edge twice, but I have found that most home machines can get stuck with the extra bulk and/or put holes in the fabric because the stitching is more dense. My commercial machine can handle the bulk, but I do not care for height of the resulting satin stitch.

If the design is digitized and the computerized machine is doing all the work, I have found the edges look best when I use a tearaway on TOP of the applique after trimming.  Since the tearaway is stiffer, it is harder for the sequins to move and poke up, especially if there are two running stitch lines for the tackdown. This does of course run the risk of leaving you with some fuzz when you rip off the tearaway, but that is easily removed and wears away rather quickly.

I used the tearaway on top of this cute little patch:

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(I always think these ID dresses and patches are so delicate, but I actually found this test patch a few months later after it had accidentally gone through the washer and dryer, and it looked perfect!  It was a quiet, proud moment for me and my patch…)

I did use the solvy on the sequins on this sleeve, but this is one that I sat and removed every last loose sequin…it served to calm my mind at the time since all the fabric on this dress was so delicate and expensive.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I used tearaway on these appliques.  I also had extra help keeping the edges smooth because there is another copper fabric covering the edges…you can see it in between the copper satin stitching.

 

There was a long post about satin stitching in general here: SATIN STITCHING AND APPLIQUES

Happy sewing!

Cranky Velvet

…and it was making ME even crankier!! 

A client sent me fabric to embroider.  Velvet.  I have not met a velvet I cannot embroider…until now.  I have worked with a huge array of different stretch velvets, microfiber velvets, cotton velvets, very plush velvets, silk velvets (my least favorite for embroidering, let alone sewing no matter how beautiful it is), and the longest haired velvet I have EVER encountered!  But this was the most difficult, so there was much snarfing here the past few days as I tried to figure this out.

They interfaced, stabilized, and marked the fabric perfectly!  Perfectly.  Sent me a perfectly finished piece for the testing I always do before I set upon the actual dress pieces.

The first test sucked.  Look at this puckering!  Erg!!

erg by you.

The second test was still bad even though I steamed the hell out of it at the risk of leaving marks and even tried to pull it apart which did not happen without some effort:

DSCN0784 by you.

So frustrating,  I try to keep costs down, but this was looking like I was going to have to purchase a variety of stuff to try to solve this problem.

I went back and forth about asking my fellow dressmakers for help because I was sure I was just going to have to bite the bullet and re-do the whole thing, but I posted my dilemma to my Taoknitter forum just in case.  Well, Katherine reminded me I might need to change the needle (which I did) and suggested I might want to try an adhesive spray even though I avoid the stuff like the plague because it sets off exploding migraines.  I was ready to buy the stuff.  Then maid2feis chimed in (she never posts her real name, so I won’t post it here either) to suggest that I use a fusible webbing to get the interfacing to stick…………………there is a reason I love those women on the forum!!!  It worked!!!!

DSCN0785 by you.

Thank goodness!  And thank you maid2feis!!!!!!!!!!

Now, I am still not sure why this velvet was so difficult.  It did not look or feel any differently than any other stretch velvet I have encountered.  The fusible cotton interfacing looked the same.  But none of it adhered the way I am used to.  After really fusing, steaming the test piece, all of the glue was gone from the interfacing, but it did not stay stuck to the velvet.  The velvet really did not seem to be any different than any I have used, but it was like teflon in terms of the adherence of the interfacing…it must be the velvet, yes?  Are they including teflon in the mix these days as a stain resistor?  Is there a new polyester out there that resists fusing?

Well, Mistyfuse came to the rescue.  Interestingly, I could still pull the velvet off the now Mistyfused interfacing, but it was much more difficult, and it stood up to the embroidery.  Weird

Isn’t it time for velvet to bow out of Irish dance dresses?  I’m ready.

Waxed Paper!!!!

So there I was, working on some shawl patches for a client.  Beautiful silk velvet…I would be happy in silk velvet sheets.  I was using the sticky back stabilizer in my hoop because these are patches, so everything was prepped the way I always do, the topper was doubled, all was basted into place…and 20 stitches in, the thread breaks.  I re-thread the machine, rub the needle with some silicon to help things along, and re-start.

15 seconds later, the thread breaks again.  I fix it, re-start…10 seconds later it breaks again.  My ears are starting to steam mainly because every time a thread breaks, my machine BEEPS & BEEPS & BEEPS in a high pitched tone that drives me insane.  Just so this blog does not become x-rated, suffice it to say that my frustration hit dangerous levels and I almost knocked that machine through the wall.

Why was this happening?  Well, because I was embroidering on SILK velvet on top of sticky back.  The silk shed more fibers than anything I have ever used and it also picked up huge amounts of the gummy stuff so that every few seconds, I had a ball of stuff at the top of a thoroughly coated needle and the machine would have a fit.  I cleaned it out top to bottom to no avail.

I resigned myself to standing there, in front of my machine, taking deep, cleansing breaths, swearing up a blue streak as these little patches that should have taken 30 minutes tops, including fabric trimming, took me 2 1/2 hours.

That same day, I get an email from Colleen Murphy.  I had just sent her some designs for her daughter’s dress, and because she was having to re-hoop for a big bodice design, she was using sticky back…and her thread was not only breaking, it was shredding!  The dressmaking gods were in a really bad mood.

I called Susan.  I am thinking there has to be a way around this, that there has to be a way to coat the needle with something that will repel the gummy silk lint and help Colleen.  Susan and I start tossing it around, and suddenly, Susan says, “Waxed paper.”  Ooo.  Was this another genius moment?

She and I talk a bit about whether or not to use it on top or the under the sticky back, but I do not remember now if we came to a conclusion.

I write Colleen back with several suggestions, including the waxed paper idea.

She writes back to say it worked beautifully.  Her thread stopped breaking and shredding.  I was psyched because I was prepping a big skirt job using what looked, felt and behaved like more silk velvet.  Colleen used it on top of her solvy topper, so I asked her if it left any tiny pieces.  She said no, that she was happy with the way it looked.

First thing I have to do is make two long appliques for a belt for this dress which meant I had to trim this velvet which was going to leave all sorts of silk fibers everywhere which was really going to test this waxed paper theory.  I took a breath, put the waxed paper over the solvy topper, and began.

The first applique, after trimming, stitched out without a single break.  15 inches of dense stitching with metallic thread…45 minutes of non-stop embroidering.  I was stunned.  There is always a break or two, sometimes more with metallic threads.

The next applique only stopped once.

Here they are:

11 by you.

And Colleen was right, the paper just came right off, no bits.

So, I do a test for the skirt design using a different velvet, but I use the waxed paper anyway, just to see what happens with this design.  Here are pics of the process:

Waxed paper over the solvy, basted in place – 6 by you.

Stitching out beautifully…not a single break – 7 by you.

Finished design, paper beautifully perforated – 8 by you.

Tearing it off first – 9 by you.

But this time, there are little bits that I cannot overlook – 10 by you.

See the “rough” edges?  I start to pick all of those off, but I know that if I have to do this on 13 separate pieces of embroidery on this skirt, I might lose my mind.  This will make me very cranky.

I contemplate putting the waxed paper under the sticky back, but something tells me that might be a moot point.  So, what if I put it on top of the sticky back?  But then why use sticky back at all since it won’t be serving its purpose of anchoring the fabric in place so I can hoop it according to the placement lines on the skirt?

So I try it this way:

(See the end of this post for simpler instructions if the thought of being this ANAL makes you twitch!)  Around the design area, I added extra placement lines that were then stitched out onto the sticky back –   5 by you.

Using half the design template, I cut pieces of waxed paper – 7 by you.

I laid a piece on one side of the central placement line – 8 by you.

…and the second half on the other side – 9 by you.

I left an open area of sticky between the 2 pieces – 10 by you.

Why?  Because I did not want my center line to slip around as I was placing the fabric on the sticky back.  I also had the sticky exposed around the design area to hold the fabric as well.

So, I stitched out the design…with no breaks, no huge lint and gum build up – 3 by you.

And I am doing a little jig around my embroidery room –4 by you.

I ripped off the solvy fast to get this pic, so there are a couple of pieces, but it looks great!  Much better!

Is it more work?  Yep, but sitting there pulling all the ittybittyteenytiny pieces of waxed paper off would take me WAAAYYYY longer.

Yeah, genius moment, Susan.

UPDATE:  I could not continue to be this anal, so now I just hoop a length of waxed paper under the sticky back, and off I go.  In fact, because I have now found the best sticky back ever (strong and thicker) I do not always use a tearaway as long as the fabric is fused with a good woven cotton.  Works beautifully!

Re-hooping for Large Bodice Designs

(This was first posted several years ago, obviously before the drop-waisted dresses we make now, but the info still applies.)

I routinely field questions from dressmakers with home embroidery machines about whether or not they can do large bodice designs that require one or more re-hoopings.  The answer is always, “Of course you can!!”

I have yet to find a design I can’t re-hoop, but I am honest with dressmakers about the complexity of re-hooping some designs.   In most cases, the dressmakers are game, so along with the split files I send detailed instructions written for their files complete with pictures.  Sometimes, when the design is big enough to need 4 re-hoopings or the design requires extreme precision to line up contiguous lines, then the dressmaker may send the fabric to me so I can do it in a big hoop on my commercial machine, but there have been brave, adventurous souls who still want to do it themselves…my kind of dressmakers!!

Do you need big hoops?  I have always assumed so since I have always had the mega-hoop for my Bernina and learned to use the Hoop-it-alls to expand my range, but I have had dressmakers use only their 4 x 4 inch hoops…that blew my mind, but they were determined!  And I do understand that determination…never occurred to me NOT do something because it did not fit into my hoop.  These were all done using my Bernina 200E:

Yes, each entire panel, edges and all, were done in the hoop with 1 re-hooping.

And my favorite of all time, my first, the one that was made all the more blissful by my ignorance!!!

molly by you.molly cape by you.

I re-hooped all  of these parts in the most convoluted, complicated way possible!  In fact, I had started on this (I learn by jumping in with both feet…or headfirst) before I went to take some lessons for my Bernina machine and software.  I was having trouble with the logic of the sleeve design, so I brought the file (as well as the front skirt panel) with me so the teacher could look at it.  She took one look at the size of the file and told me it could not be done…every time I tried to get her to focus on my question, she simply said what I wanted to do could NOT be done on my machine.  I finally whipped out the finished front panel (5 re-hoopings) to show her I could do it, I just had a question!!!  She had no answer.  Instead she asked me how I managed that front panel, but at that point my process was so twisted that I really could not articulate clearly.  It was a big sigh day.

My friend Kris is working on this dress:

Dressmaker & Embroiderer: Kristine Baker
Designer & Digitizer: Me (AD 6)

IMG_1693 by krispy_b2000.

 The beginning of the directions that I send begin with a little pictorial about using sticky back stabilizer…

(The following information is for the home sewer using a home machine.)

There are online tutorials that show how to use the water-soluble stuff called Badgemaster. I love the stuff for patches that can be washed.  Patches for Irish dance dress very often are made with fabrics that cannot be washed, so this is another approach.  The result is the same.

I use a LOT of this stuff –
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If you look online for tutorials involving this sticky stabilizer, you are told to cut your length of the stabilizer and then put it, paper back and all, into the outside hoop as below.
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Then you are told to score an area…
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…and pull off the paper.
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I dislike this because ultimately the hoop loses tension on the stabilizer (that paper is slippery!), and the fabric being embroidered can, and usually does, start to pucker and shift, especially when doing the complicated overs and unders of a celtic knot. I hate puckering and will do all I can to avoid it. I have yet to have a perfect embroidery sample, but I am working on it.

I pull the paper backing off the entire piece of sticky back stabilizer…
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…and attach it to my inner hoop.
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This next pic shows the sticky back attached tightly…when I thwack it with my finger it sounds like a drum. (Please excuse my “dirty” hoop…that is fabric dust, thread, sequins, etc, embedded in spray adhesive from my attempts to use the stuff years ago. It never goes away, but it is not bothering me or my fabrics!)
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Then I cut a piece of tear away stabilizer…
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…and then hoop the whole shebang.
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(There is more info here: Pursuing the Perfect Embroidery Stitch-out! )

(Note: There is one thing that I do for myself when stitching out designs using the sticky back stabilizer – I add a basting box around the design. In the pic below, you can see the faint line of the basting box.

finished 005 by you.

Once the placement stitches are sewn onto the hooped stabilizers and the fabric is then lined up on the sticky stabilizer, the next thing to get stitched out is a long basting stitch around the design area.  This ensures that the fabric will not move or pull or come away from the sticky stabilizer.  I have also found that it helps eliminate any puckering. Some machines will add a basting outline with a push of a button. For others, this can be added to the embroidery files.

However, some velvet will very often be permanently marked by these stitches. Test a scrap by sewing and removing some basting stitches onto a scrap.I have found that crushed velvet can take it, but the shorter pile of regular velvet cannot always.

If your velvet cannot take a basting stitch, it is best to find ways to keep the fabric from shifting as it still can once the stitching starts even on the sticky back. I have a little stash of pins that I bent into curves to secure my fabric to the sticky back when I can’t use the basting stitches.)

I highly recommend you do a test stitch-out first.

Now, let’s understand your digitized files.

Bodice: This bodice design has been split into 4 sections. The black lines are the basting stitch reference lines in the stitch files.

kris curl bodice

Here are the 4 separate files:

bodice 1kris bodice 1 center bottom kris bodice bottom

right shoulderkris bodice right side left shoulder kris bodice left side

You will start with “bodice 1.” Below are the pics of the file and the placement lines in the file.

kris bodice 1  kris bodice 1 placement lines (This is not a separate file.)

Now, if this were me, I would have my fabric prepped and marked (not cut out to size yet) as I explain here: Pursuing the Perfect Embroidery Stitch-out!  

I would have the center line of the bodice marked as well as the line I wanted the top of the middle of the desing to begin at.  The lines on the bodice would look like this:

judy curl bodice 1 placement lines center lineThis will correspond to the same lines in the file.

Now, once the hoop is ready, the placement lines in the first color (black in the file, but this could just be the first embroidery color you will be using) get stitched out onto the sticky stabilizer NOT on the fabric. You can stitch them onto your fabric if the fabric will not retain the needle marks, but as long as the interfacing is not removed, the lines will stay on the back for placing for the next file (the center line itself will be mostly covered by the stitching anyway). (For your test run, I would stitch all placement lines on the fabric.)

So, once the placement lines are stitched, place your fabric in the hoop, lining up your drawn line with the placement line as shown in Pursuing the Perfect Embroidery Stitch-out!
Stitch out “bodice 1.”

Remove from the hoop and remove excess stabilizer. Be careful not to remove or pull on the first set of placement lines.

Re-hoop the sticky back and the tear away for the next part.

You will continue with “bodice left side.” Below is the pic of the file.

kris bodice left side   judy curl bodice 2 left shoulder placement lines(This is not a separate file.)

Stitch out the black placement lines.

Line up the placement lines from Part #1 on the fabric piece with the new black lines. Use the points where the lines cross as your center points for each placement. Finish stitching part 2.

Remove from the hoop and remove excess stabilizer. Be careful not to remove or pull on the first set of placement lines. Re-hoop the sticky back and the tear away for the next part.

Part #3: You will continue with “bodice right side.” Below is the pic of the file.

kris bodice right side  judy curl bodice 3 right shoulder placement lines(This is not a separate file.)

Stitch out the black placement lines.

Line up the placement lines from Part #2 on the fabric piece with the new black lines. Use the points where the lines cross as your center points for each placement.

Finish stitching part 3.

Part #3 is finished. Remove from the hoop and remove excess stabilizer. Be careful not to remove or pull on the first set of placement lines.

Part #4: You will continue with “bodice bottom.” Below is the pic of the file.
kris bodice bottom  bottom bodice 1 placement lines

Stitch out the black placement lines.

Line up the placement lines from Part #3 on the fabric piece with the new black lines. Use the points where the lines cross as your center points for each placement.

Finish stitching part 4.

Part #4 is finished.

Remove from the hoop and remove excess stabilizer. Remove placement line threads.

Et, voila!
IMG_1693 by krispy_b2000.

As I stated above, I highly recommend doing a test stitch out.  Perhaps there are superwomen dressmakers who can do this right the first time, but weirdness happens!

Many thanks to the dressmakers who send me pics of their re-hooped confections!

Dressmaker & Embroiderer: Molly Lafayette
Designer & Digitizer: Me (AD 12 )

Molly Lafayette 1, AD 12 by you.

Dressmaker & Embroiderer: Judy Poole
Designer, Digitizer: Me  ( AD 11)

Judy Poole AD 11 by you.

Dressmaker & Embroiderer: Judy Poole
Designer, Digitizer: Me  ( AD 4)

Judy Poole front by you.

Dressmaker & Embroiderer: Lisa Horn
Designer, Digitizer: Me  (Revised AD 6: Curls)

DSCF4530 by you.

Dressmaker & Embroiderer: Mary Reilly
Designer, Digitizer: Me  (Scrollwork Neckline 5)

Mary Reilly finished bodice 1 by you.

You can see these dresses and more in the Taoknitter Arts Customer Creations gallery.

Newest Endeavor

A while back, dressmaker Colleen Murphy contacted me about collaborating on a very cool project: an ID dress reproduction of a full sized, hand embroidered velvet dress…for an American Girl doll!  I was intrigued so, of course, said yes.

The original dress is unbelievable!  Black velvet, orange crocheted collar, and some of the most interesting & beautiful Celtic/Irish hand embroidery I have ever seen.  I will admit to being intimidated on SOOO many levels, but the challenge could not be ignored.

Colleen is game for me to write about this, and I will include pics of my work, but I will not post pics of the original dress until I am sure it is ok with the owners.

Photos arrive…and I sit there and stare…and stare…and stare some more.  So many things are going through my head about  colors, stitches, faithful reproduction, artistic license… have I bit off more than I can chew?  I dreamed about this dress and how the gryphons and lions chased me while I was trying to thread a needle! 

My biggest obstacle was dealing with my “feelings,” my philosophy on faithful reproduction.  Besides the fact that neither my embroidery software nor machine can manage a chain stitch, there is the integrity of someone else’s artwork to consider.  As you may know, I am a retired dance professor/dancer/choreographer/artistic director…the issues of artistic integrity are part and parcel of who I am on so many levels.  My master’s degree encompassed directing and Labanotation/movement analysis, and it is this training in Labanotation in particular that honed my focus on/obsession with faithful reproduction. 

Labanotation is dance notation, a logical though complex system of symbols and rules used to first record dance and then to reconstruct it again on new people, sometimes decades later.  If you are interested, you can learn more here: Labanotation.

Not long after I got to grad school at Ohio State, I changed my concentration to include Labanotation.  I was fascinated by and drawn to this extremely logical approach to dance.  Now, I am sure my professors would tell you they shook their heads many, many times at my emo approach to dance in general, but I will never forget the day I let the logic take over…Vera Maletic gave me a very rare smile and nodded her head before turning away to bark at me to do it again!  Not only did my symbols need to precisely record illogical movement, but when I read notated scores and performed them, it better look the way Doris Humphrey demanded decades before!  It was a very intense LOVE/HATE relationship.

So, here I was 24 years later, looking at someone else’s beautiful art with the intention of reproducing it.  I swear I felt Vera thwack the back of my skull.

The animals were glaring at me, so I chose a knotwork braid to start with.  That I could handle easily.

vertical braids by you.

Now, I have not ever done anything as small as was going to be required here, but I knew that I could not do this the way I would if it were going to remain full size.  So, even though I did the original digitizing in a decent size, instead of outlining all of this with a satin stitch, I chose a backstitch to approximate both the look of the chain stitch outlines and to accommodate what I knew would end up being very narrow lines.  But, after doing this design, I knew I was going to have to do a test dress to get a real feel for the size and to get a sense of stitch density for something as small as the designs on an AG dress.

Colleen sent me pics of her pattern pieces & dimensions so I could digitize the outlines to use as templates.  I then used one of my designs.  Even though I have not done mini-designs, I have enough experience by now to know that if I used the same stitch density that I use for the ID designs, I was going to be tunneling to China!!  Too many stitches in such a small area was only going to pull in, and perhaps make holes in the fabric no matter the pull compensation, so I lightened the density a lot.  Here’s the result:

dolltestdress 011 by colmurph2000.

And here is it finished…I am so tempted to buy an AG doll for the youngest Diva!

AG test dress by you.

(I feel the need to say here that I so admire that Colleen likes doing these little dresses, and she does them so well!  I have this psychotic aversion to sewing things with small pieces which is why I am not a quilter…these dresses qualify as beautiful small things that make me twitch!  I know I do applique with small pieces, but like every other psycho, it is the context…it goes on a BIG dress.)

So, I learned I was right about stitch density.  The test turned out well…and everyone in my family got a big kick out of this tiny little dress.  Even the macho hubby talked to it like it was a gerbil…

The next design I tackled was what I call the Nessies:

nessies by you.

This design took me days.  Why?  Because I kept finding myself mired in choices…colors (decided Colleen can match colors since she has the dress, but still wanted to match as closely as possible so the client could have a visual); stitches (leave plain or play with texture?); overs and unders (fix them so that they make sense or keep them as they were originally stitched?); symmetry (make things perfectly symmetrical as I imagine they were intended and as I can with the computer or stay true to the actual pics keeping in mind that over the years the fabric changes and hangs differently now?); handmade look versus computerized perfection…haven’t there been more than a few artists driven insane by the demands of their art?!?  Ya know Van Gogh and that ear…???

I cannot count the number of times I would find myself just sitting in front of the computer contemplating the photos…I imagined how much of it was done in the company of other women doing exactly the same thing.  I wondered how many mistakes occurred and were then simply incorporated because the embroiderer got caught up in a conversation with her fellow stitchers.  I wondered how often the zen of the repetitive needlework sent the embroiderer on a quiet journey of her own…and then I would start.

I decided that if this were me doing the hand stitching, I would work for symmetry.  I would work for the logical progression of the overs and unders, but I would get over myself when the logic failed.  I decided I would follow the handmade lines but clean things up when unique moments took on the aura of a mistake.  I decided I would try to keep the look of its handmade beauty while using my technology to enhance it where applicable.  I decided less was more…and that was hard!!

And this is what I have so far:

vertical braids by you.birds by you.

nessies by you.

winged lion by you.

serpent braid by you.

eagle by you.

braid by you.

waist braid by you.

griffins by you.

And here are the dress pieces:

reproduction front skirt by you.

reproduction skirt back by you.

reproduction bodice by you.

This weekend, I will do another test.  I will post pics of it, succeed or fail.

Thank goodness… a DRESSMAKING question!

Sorry I haven’t been writing much…please, PLEASE feel free to send things you have written so I can post your wonderful cogitations at dry times like these….this is truly more boring and trying for me as I really want to write about SOMETHING …anyTHING…so, please, save us all.

Actually, there is much to write about with the Teelin dresses, but I do not want to post things until they have been approved…getting there!

But, there is cause for excitement because Amy asked a question!  Thank you, Amy!  (Beware…the rest of this is photo intensive.  If, like Susan, you want to throttle me when I do posts like this, proceed at your own peril or check out now!  I like the pics because I myself learn more when I can see it…in tutorials of all types, if there are pics, I rarely read the explanations or I go back to the words after I have perused the pics.  Do what you will…just don’t swear at me!)

Amy asked:  Did you make individual appliques and sew them onto the petals (of the tunic dress)?  If so, would love to see a tutorial on applique making.  Is that what you normally do or do you embroider directly onto the fabric?

I personally like to sew directly onto the fabric as much as I can because applique patches require extra work to get them onto the fabric…and, because I want them to look as if they are NOT patches, that entails even more fussing.  Up until the tunic dresses, I only made patches for the shawl pins, like these on Liz’s dress –Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket 

…and occasionally when the embroidery had become so dense on a piece that there was no way to get the fabric into the hoop effectively like the sides of the design on the CFP of the fire dress:

That being said, except for the pink panels, cuffs and bodice on Dana’s tunic, all the rest of of the applique and embroidery designs on the tunic dresses are patches.
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Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

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In fact, the leaves around the neckline on Katelyn’s dress above are also done as two separate long patches that met in the middle.  Could have embroidered it directly onto the fabric, but quite frankly, considering the cost of the fabric and the fact there was not extra in case I messed up, it was safer and easier on my nerves to do it as a patch.

The main reason that I do the the panel embellishment as patches is because it is ultimately easier and even faster.  I do embroider directly onto the fabric for my panel dresses, but I do this BEFORE I cut the fabric to the right shape.  Each panel is made separately and then sewn to the dress.  With the tunic dresses, the panels are integrated into the whole dress…I suppose I could take the time to do the applique and embroidery onto each panel, but there is no room for mistakes.  If I screw up the placements or angles, I have to cut a whole new tunic!  No thanks!!!

So, how do I do this?  Like this:

I use a LOT of this stuff –

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If you look online for tutorials involving this sticky stabilizer, you are told to cut your length of the stabilizer and then put it, paper back and all, into the outside hoop as below.

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Then you are told to score an area…

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…and pull off the paper.

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I hate this because ultimately the hoop loses tension on the stabilizer and the fabric being embroidered can, and usually does, start to pucker.  I hate puckering and will do all I can to avoid it.  I have yet to have a perfect embroidery sample, but I am working on it.

I pull the paper backing off the entire piece of sticky back stabilizer…

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…and attach it to my inner hoop.

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This next pic shows the sticky back attached tightly…when I thwack it with my finger it sounds like a drum.  (Please excuse my “dirty” hoop…that is fabric dust, thread, sequins, etc, embedded in spray adhesive from my attempts to use the stuff years ago.  It never goes away!)

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Then I cut a piece of tearaway stabilizer…

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…and then hoop the whole shebang.

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Now, I deal with the getting the stiffness I need in a patch a few different ways:  I super-stabilize the applique fabric by using 2 or 3 layers of Decorbond; I fuse the embroidered fabric to Firmflex (like Timtex); or I embroider onto Peltex which is thinner than the Firmflex and Timtex.  For this project, I decided to use Peltex.

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I normally cut the correct shape from the Peltex using a template, but it is also thin enough to do the following…

…press the Peltex onto the sticky back.

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Stitch out the patch outline.

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Trim closely using applique scissors.

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Here both shapes are trimmed.

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I will do the circular shape first as it is applique.  Here is the first fabric, a foil lycra.  (I knew there would be a purpose for all of these scraps someday!)

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This has been stabilized with a woven fusible and Decorbond.  I stabilize EVERYTHING!  I do this because I want these fancy fabrics to stand up to the dense embroidery stitching and to last.

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Second fabric is a textured lame…

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…this time stabilized with a tricot fusible and Decorbond.

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The sticky back makes it easy for me to make sure the applique fabric lays down smoothly as it holds it securely for the tack down stitching.

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I use the red as the base fabric.  I then stitch out the placement lines for the second fabric.  I do this in case I decide to use a template so I can cut exact shapes or if I am conserving fabric by using smaller pieces cut previously…this allows me to either then (obviously) place the cut piece correctly or to make sure the smaller piece will cover the area.

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Then I place and tack down the second fabric.

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Now trim.

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I have gotten into the habit of running a line of Fray-check along the tack down stitches.  No matter the fabric, this helps keep holes from being made or fabric from fraying when the stitching is dense.

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I use a piece of white satin stabilized with Decorbond on the second patch.  Here’s the tack down.  I used black so it would show in the pics…normally I would use a color to match the fabric or the satin stitching to come.

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This next pic shows the second patch trimmed and the first 2 colors stitched out.  (Like my logo?  Designed it myself.)

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Patch stitching done.

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Now I punch them out.

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As you can see, there is a fine fuzz surrounding the patches.  This is from both the sticky and tearaway stabilizers.  This needs to be trimmed away.  I either use my applique scissors or my fine, curved embroidery scissors…which I cannot find at the moment.

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Here they are trimmed.  I can get closer with the smaller scissors…obviously the trick here is to trim closely without cutting threads.  Since the edge embroidery thread is white, this is where I stop.  When it is colored, I use either a permanent Sharpie or a fabric dye pen in the right color, and I color in the outside edge so all the white is gone.  This also further softens the stabilizer that is left which makes it lay flatter…you really cannot see it after that.

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Here are the backsides of the patches.  The Taoknitter symbol is covered with bobbin thread, so other than a bit of trimming, this one is done.  I could leave the circular patch as is, but I usually remove the tearaway and the sticky back…not really sure why I do it!

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I have made a few patches in the past by appliqueing onto fabric, like this flower below.

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This makes trimming very difficult because unlike the tearaway stabilizers that will wear away off of the edges, any fabric fuzzies and/or threads will not.  I have found that muslin is easier to get rid of because it is a looser weave, unlike the satin above.  But, there really is no need to make patches like this.  I do like having a single layer of fabric to anchor the whole patch, but I deal with it as I have shown in the 2 patches above.

When I want there to be fabric on the back of the patch as below (this was an old experiment which would have again required tedious trimming)…

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…then I follow these steps:

  1. Follow all the patch steps above until right before the final outside satin-stitching.
  2. In my digitized design, I have added another patch outline running stitch. 
  3. I remove the hoop from the machine and turn it over.
  4. I use either a spray adhesive or a bit of Fabri-tac to attach fabric, right side out, over the back of the patch.  Make sure there is no fabric hanging down to get caught in your machine.
  5. Put the hoop back on and run the patch outline,
  6. Remove the hoop again, trim the fabric under the hoop to the tack down line.  Fray-check the line.
  7. Replace the hoop on the machine and run the final satin stitch outline.
  8. Punch out the hoop and finish as above.

Splitting a digitized design

As a few more more dressmakers have learned in our IDD group, learning to digitize can be quite a frustrating experience.  I know that the one “lesson” in using the software that I had at my local Bernina dealer was a joke…the woman went so fast that there was no way for anyone to truly understand what she was doing.  The woman next to me cried…if I hadn’t already figured out most of what she was zipping through, I would have cried, too.  I went expecting to learn the magic “word” and that did not happen.

One thing that was very clear to me when I first got my Bernina was that I was going to have to learn to split designs because even the largest hoop is still not big enough to accommodate the large designs used on the 3 panel Irish dance dresses.  Nowadays, many of the dresses are 4-10 (or 21!) panels which means more full panel designs can fit into my big hoop, but I still have to split the bodices and usually the sleeves.

I was ecstatic when the Bernina Designer Plus Version 5 came out because it had a design splitting feature.  I bought the expensive upgrade and was thoroughly disappointed as it is a ridiculously designed feature.  Now, if I had not figured out for myself beforehand how to split a design efficiently, I would probably have looked at ALLLLLL of the steps that the split design feature gives you and thought it was brilliant…because it takes so many steps…and looks so complicated…which means it must be brilliant…right?  Wrong.

I have gathered some info here that I have written before about splitting designs I have digitized.

First thing I do is digitize the entire design and make sure it is to the correct scale.  Then I decide which hoop I am going to use because I have different considerations.  I do not know about other machines, but my largest Bernina hoop is the mega-hoop which is 5.9 x 15.75 inches  (150 x 400 mm).  I can do many bodices in this hoop with only 1 rehooping.  The following is such a bodice.

This is a pic of the Flower Solo Dress bodice in the software after I finished digitizing.

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(I am not always diligent about using the correct colors of thread when I am digitizing…the blue here should be green…but I know what I want. If I were doing this for someone else, I would use all the correct colors. )I digitize in a center line (faint white above).  The single stitch curved lines down the center are placement lines for the green ribbons. Then, I digitized the blue at the top because its ends must lie under the appliqued flowers. The appliqued flowers are digitized as follows: placement stitches for the applique fabric, tack-down stitch that runs after I have secured the cut applique pieces within the placement lines, then satin-stitches with underlay.As you can also see in the pic above, there is a black, single stitch black cross which is placed after I have decided which hoop to use and how many hoopings I need.  In this case, I will only need 2 hoopings and the black cross will appear in both split sections.

 

 

Below is the first section I did.

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In the center of the design, is the single stitch cross of black… I actually stitch it out in white in a 7mm stitch and then remove it when I am done embroidering the whole bodice.  I add this basting stitch to help me line up the designs when I re-hoop.Below is the second section. The top of the cross matches the cross above.

 

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So, how do I re-hoop? I use sticky stabilizer. I attach the sticky stabilizer to my inner hoop. I put another layer of stabilizer, usually a tear-away, behind this and put it in the outer hoop. Then to hoop for the second section, with no thread in the needle, I “sew” the line of placement basting stitches, the cross in the 2nd pic above. I remove the hoop from the machine and then carefully line up the cross of basting stitches on the fabric from the first embroidered pass with the holes I have punched in the sticky stabilizer. Once it is lined up, I make sure the fabric is secured to the sticky stabilizer by rubbing it down. Before I begin stitching out the second design, a series of basting stitches secure the fabric into place so there is no shifting.  I explain that here: Embroidery placement. This also helps to make sure the fabric does not pull up which will happen when I am embroidering larges pieces of fabric like this:

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This is how I did the Rose of Tralee sash .

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Here is the digitized front sash. In the center, running left to right, there is a black line. This is a line of long stitches I added to mark the long center of the design, a center that would not change when I split the design. There are also 3 red crosses: 1 after the flower, 1 on the bottom of the “g”, and 1 above the “r” in “Tralee.” These reference stitches were digitized to stitch out first.

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Above and below you can see the crosses more clearly and a bit of the stitches for the applique process.
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Below is a pic of the entire front sash as I begin splitting .  I set the hoop placement to manual so I can determine how to split the design and how many placement stitch crosses I will need.
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The HIA Super Giant-long hoop has a vertical sewing field of about 21 inches… this front sash was a bit over that, so first I stitched out the flower in the oval hoop and then began using the HIA.  In order to split this design into separate files, I copy what I need out of the original full front sash file and create new files, 4 in all for this front sash.

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Here’s the flower with 1 red reference cross and a shortened black center reference line. This black line works in 2 ways: 1) all the split parts of the design are centered on the same line so that I can line up the parts in the oval hoop manually in the software on the center line of the grid; and 2) before I lay my fabric down on the HIA sticky stabilizer when I begin the rest of the sash, I run this line without thread so it punches holes in the sticky stabilizer for a reference line that I can align my marked fabric with. This line is not stitched out onto the fabric.

After the flower was finished, I attached the sticky stabilizer to the HIA, opened the next design (the beginning of the words), tightened the hoop into the correct placement on my machine, and punched the black and red reference lines in the stabilizer by, again, running the machine with no thread. Then, I lined up the center of the fabric (that already has the flower) and the first red cross that was stitched out (in white thread onto the flower portion) with the lines punched into the stabilizer. You can see the red cross in the pic above and then vaguely in the pic below centered on the broken blue center line at the top of the hoop above the “R.” I then centered the rest of the fabric onto the center line of the stabilizer (which matched the center lines of the design files), threaded the machine and off I went.
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The stitch out above includes another red reference cross which sits in the crook of the bottom of the “g.” (Cannot really see it here.) This was stitched out in white onto the fabric in the design above so that when I was moving the hoop to the new position for the next design, I could line up my designs by using the cross as reference points for my needle. I do this by advancing the stitches on the Bernina computer screen to find the appropriate stitch, and then move the HIA until the needle pierces a corresponding needle-point. Then I tighten the HIA into place, and the next portion begins. Sometimes I did use the knob on the machine that shifts the design in the hoop by tiny increments to get it lined up horizontally.
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I repeated the process for the back of the sash, though it was more involved because of the overlaps. I still used the reference lines, but this one involved more movement up and down of the hoop.   Continue at your own risk here!

The parts of this design were numbered from left to right as follows: 4,1,5,2,6,3,7. We did decide finally that the back sash would only include the first 5 parts so I numbered these as 3,1,4,2,5. This all fit in the hoop. But there was another challenge…this design stitched out by moving the hoop down then up then down two then up 1…damn. So, here is what I did- I attached the fabric onto the sticky stabilizer and then stitched out the reference line & crosses (in white) as follows: 1) the short, straight black line at the far left which marked the top of the design and the first red cross; 2) then I opened each design in the finished order you see below so I could line up the first cross to then stitch out the second cross. When I was done, I had the reference crosses stitched out in the appropriate places on the fabric. Then I started over and began stitching out the actual designs, beginning with designs 1 and 2 which were the green vines and then 3, 4, & 5 which were the flowers. And it was so easy because everything was already lined up!
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And here is the finished sash:

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 I hope this was clear. If not, please ask questions. It is good for me to have to articulate this.

 

 

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