Shaylah’s Dress

Since all are at the Oireachtas is Atlanta now, I can start posting pics of the dresses we have been working on.  Busy, busy, but thankfully not as stressed as last year…even though I put in many, many hours on each project because I am so picky, I do now have a sense for how long it will take me for the most part…sort of…maybe…well, maybe NOT!!!!

Anyway, Gina said I can post some pics of Shaylah’s dress…I will post pics of the dancers in full regalia when I get them.

So, to recap, here are the pieces of Shaylah’s dress with the design that I digitized and embroidered:

This is one side of the back skirt…it will have a reversed pleat. There will be panels on the front of the dress, each one with one of these embroideries on it.
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Here are the 2 crowns.
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And the rest…

The bodice.
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The sleeves.
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And here is Gina’s diva Shaylah putting on the crystals:
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You can see a bit more of the skirt here…I believe :
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And, ta-da!
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Beautiful dress for a beautiful girl!

Basting Boxes

 Rebecca left a question for me on IDD:

 Ann,
I was looking at your blog, and studying your work. I have a question. Why do you sew rectangles around the embroidery? It looks like it’s machine sewn. What does it accomplish?
 
Rebecca

Those are basting stitches. 
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Because Gina sent me pieces to be embroidered, I did not hoop the fabric pieces.  Instead I attach sticky stabilizer directly onto the inner hoop, put a good tear-away behind that and then put both into the hoop ring that tightens.  Then, part of my design is a set of placement stitches that get sewn onto the hooped stabilizers…I remove the hoop from the machine and then, using lines that I have drawn on the back of the stabilized fabric pieces that correspond to the digitized placement lines, I line up the fabric piece.  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.

Here is a pic of the digitizing…you can see the dark blue placement lines in the middle…this only gets sewn onto the stabilizer in the hoop or even just punched in with no thread.  I have marked the same lines on the back of the fabric.
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I very rarely actually hoop fabric anymore.  I am so freaking picky about puckering that I use this method for just about everything.

For a rather intense look at doing this so I can use my hoop-it-all for a long project, click here: Embroidering in the Hoop-it-all

…and Embroidery

Here you go, Gina! Shipped off this morning.

This is one side of the back skirt…it will have a reversed pleat. There will be panels on the front of the dress, each one with one of these embroideries on it.
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Here are the 2 crowns.
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And the rest…

The bodice.
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The sleeves.
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Now, back to the dungeon…

Commercial Embroidery Machine

I have gotten some very nice compliments on the embroidery for Shaylah…and a couple of questions, observations, and a bit of advice that I am going to explore.  I have tried to answer some of the questions in the comments.

Marlene wrote:

Hi, Anne.  I always enjoy looking at your work and creativity.  Your new design is gorgeous – as usual.  *-)

And am I hearing the kching of “how can I afford my own commercial machine” bouncing through your head?  ROFL 

With regard to your statement under the last picture about underlay issues (and a decision to back off the underlay), have you tried using both edge run together with double zigzag?  The edge run would reduce the push/pull factor of the satin stitches, keeping the columns uniform, and the double zigzag would help lift the satin stitches off the fabric.  If you’ve not tried that combination before, it might be worth looking into.  A closer density of the double zigzag stitching may allow you to lessen the density of the
satin stitches and still achieve great coverage.  Keep up the good work!

She’s got me!  How I would love to have this machine!!!  My hermithood would be complete!  Hermit Extraordinaire!!

And I am going to explore the the idea of the double zig-zag…I included this here for other digitizers exploring their craft.  Thank you very much, Marlene.

My friend’s commercial machine is a Toyota…info for this next comment.

What size hoop did you use? Have you seen the Toyota machine with the 1.2m x 0.45m hoop? I’m fascinated by that possibility (just not by the pricetag….), after sitting for many hours over the Bernina megahoop shifting it up and down the notches, not to mention rehooping! I’ve heard the Toyota actually stitches slower than the Bernina, just doen’t need all the thread changes, rehooping etc. How did you think they compared? Though it sounds like you need the Toyota like me!!!

All the best

Mary

The hoop I used was the 14×19.5 inches… this is the biggest sewing field that this machine has.  A wide center front panel might still require one re-hooping, but this would be cake on this machine!  This Toyota machine stitches MUCH faster than the Bernina…I have the 200E…I love it dearly and the test stitch out for Shaylah’s design looked just as good as the Toyota.  BUT, my Bernina can in no way compete with the speed…if I get anywhere near this speed on the Bernina, the threads break constantly, the machine bounces, and the motor gets way too hot. 

I actually dreamed last night that I had one of these machines in my dungeon…in my own space…shower not needed for operation.  Aahh.

Yeah, well…

Embroidery Topping

Folks have been asking about the embroidery topping that I used on Shaylah’s velvet bodice in the post below.  Gina said she got it from her old sewing machine guy 3 or 4 years ago…I am sure whatever it was called it has probably changed by now.

 However, I did a search and found this permanent topping.  There are many that are water-soluble, but I am thinking that what Gina gave me is a permanent one…it does not dissolve in water, though I have not tried heat.  I like the idea of a permanent one which means the stitches will always stay up. 

This could also be a really great thing for satin-stitching on sequins.  This stuff is thick enough that it should really help the satin stitch look smooth and even, and because it is permanent, the look will not change with water and/or heat. 

Found a new keeper.  Thanks, Gina…did you want this roll back?

Embroidery Heaven

See this beautiful thing?
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Maggie’s eyes say it all…

This is Gina’s embroidery…that I did…on a friend’s commercial machine.
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I am in heaven…the clarity of the stitches… the speed, the ginormous hoop…the amount of work I got done in one day…the speed….the speed…oohhhh, I am in heaven!
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 I am in love with that machine.  We have done a couple of school dresses, and our new school account is designed with this machine in mind.  And while I do have to interrupt my hermithood to go use this machine, it is SO worth it.
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The bodice embroidery is on this incredible, plush purple velvet (I have not run the lint roller over it in the pic so it looks…well…linty). Interesting stitching issue to solve…I knew that the stitches were going to sink into the velvet so I tried a couple of things. First, I knew that I would have to use a topper to help keep the stitches up. Gina sent along a relatively thick plastic topper (what brand is it, Gina?)…not a solvy, but it ripped fairly easily. I had also digitized in a pretty dense underlay thinking that it would help the top stitches stand up and out, but the test stitch-out ended up dipping, diving, and waving like a bad trip!!! So, I made the underlay very sparse, stabilized the back of the velvet with 2 layers of decorbond, and used 2 layers of the topper. Mission accomplished…clean-up still in progress.

The embroidery on the lavender fabric is for the sleeves. No topper needed. What you see has not been ironed yet…and there is no puckering! Another reason to love this machine!!!!

So, I will finish the front panels, back skirt, and crowns and ship it all back to Gina for assembly for her daughter.  I am liking being the embroidery lady…have 2 more to stitch-out for my 2 in current production…

This was all digitized using my Bernina Designer Plus V5 software. Converts easily into the format needed for the commercial machine.

Digitizing & Insomnia

It is late…dammit. Earlier today on into the evening I was so tired I could barely function. But I did not allow myself to take a nap so that I would sleep well. Made no difference as I am obviously not sleeping. I fully understand how folks become psychotic maniacs when sleep eludes them.

But, instead of going postal, I have been amusing myself by digitizing. I have a friend for whom I am going to embroider the fabric for her wedding dress. We have been looking at embroidery collections, but I have not seen anything that is as fine and wonderful as it should be for her. So, I digitized something for her to give her an idea of what we can do.

Here is just an idea of how we can cover the fabric.
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Here is the basic digitized piece in a wreath of three.
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Just for the hell of it, I tried the auto digitize function in my software function again…not really sure why as it never works well, and sure enough it did not. I keep waiting for the day that my EXPENSIVE software will do all the work for me…not holding my breath, tho’. It’s ok. I love doing the digitizing myself.

After I sent off the pics to my friend, sleep was still nowhere to be found, so I did a couple more.

This was fun.
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This was complicated, and if decide to use it somehow, I must go back in and clean up a few things.
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Maybe the next time I can’t sleep I will go embroider these in the sewing dungeon.

9 Panel Dress

Whoo-boy… another work intensive dress. Love it, love it…but why do my dresses seem to take longer and longer? Could it be that Susan keeps getting more creative, setting more and more intense challenges for me in terms of design, digitizing, creative hooping, and fabrics? 3 separate overlays that needed to be fused! SUSAN!!??!!

Before I get to it, first a pic of the snaggletoothed youngest diva in her princess gown. If you look carefully at the right side of her smile, you can see that there seems to be a whiter spot. That is a baby tooth that she has been working at so hard over the past few days that she bruised her gum!!! Did not matter what I said to her, she was determined to get that tooth out. She’s relentless. It did finally come out about an hour after this pic.

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And here is the dress that has been holding me hostage in the basement. It is a 2 piece, 9 panel. Fitting tomorrow to fine-tune the fit. The cotton underbodice is just serged right now…I will bind the armscyes and the neck after tomorrow.
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The sequins still have the plastic covering that I put over them to embroider. I will remove that when I am done wrestling with this dress. The dress has a full separating zipper.

Here is the bodice front.
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Like my toes?

Tomorrow I fit the bodice jacket as well. Thinking about a different hemline for it. We will see what all concerned think.

Time for bed.

I hate setting sleeves…

(I have not been posting as regularly… an internet friend wrote to ask if everything is ok. Yes, yes… it’s just that when the divas go back to school, I literally seem to collapse. When I HAD to take another nap yesterday as I have every day since they went back to school, I realized that I have done this every year since they started school. As I told Susan, it is as if I need to recover from summer…it is really weird. Anyway…)

Yes, I have been sewing. Seems there are many irons in the fire…solo dresses to organize, school dresses to do, the new school design still in the works (it is going to be so wonderful!), the current solo in construction…it is another slow one. Who woulda thunk that this panel would take me so long to make…
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…but it does. And there are 10 of them. New design from Susan. Absolutely love this dress.

And my machine is giving me fits. I keep breaking needles on the sequins (they are covered with solvy in the pic), and today I bent another and cannot get the needle out. My arthritis lately has kept me from getting the screw tight enough on the needle so I used a tool to tighten it the last time. Must have stripped something…so off to the Old Sewing Machine Guy (OSMG) tomorrow…he will quietly yell at me (his brief little under-the-brow glare literally does me in!), and this time I bet he has to keep it. Something tells me I screwed up. Damn.

Oh…and yeah…there was a point to this post…I hate setting sleeves. So much so that I have devised a way to make them easier for myself. There was a discussion on Celtic Flame about setting sleeves the other day…folks talked about sewing one long seam from waist to wrist. Have to say that I do not like that as it does restrict movement. There were ideas about clipping, etc. Still do not feel that is the best way.

The best way is to set the sleeve in when both the bodice side and long sleeve seams are already sewn…but I hate dealing with the littleittybitty sleeves that I seem to have so many of… so here is what I do.

Here is a sleeve on a Dudney dress ready to be set. Notice that the bodice side seam and the long sleeve seam have not been sewn yet. All is still flat.
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I pin the entire sleeve cap into place…but I am going to begin and end sewing about 2 inches from each edge. (I still pin those edges to make sure all is aligned.)
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Here is one open edge.
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Another view of the underarm edge that is not sewn.
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Now I sew the bodice side seam and the long sleeve seam.
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Because the sleeve cap seam was not totally closed, once the long sleeves are sewn, there is a gap under the arm.
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I press the long bodice and sleeve seams open.
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Another view of the underarm gap after the long seams were pressed open.
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Now I pull the sleeve right side out as it would have been if I had pinned the sleeve into the armscye the traditional way.
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I now pin the very small open area under the arm…
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…sew it closed and I am done!!! No wrestling with a curved sleeve seam!
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Was this clear?

Dress Observations

(Disclaimer: I love making Irish dance dresses, I love making Irish dance dresses, I love making Irish dance dresses,I love making Irish dance dresses…)

In order to meet & fit a new client, I went to the Nation’s Capital Feis yesterday. I had made the mock-bodice from measurements Susan had taken a few weeks ago…the client lives in southern Virginia and was here, obviously, for the feis. Very nice people. Good bodice, if I do say so myself…only have to make it smaller in the bust.

The young lady has quite a beautiful dress now. Dancer said it was a second hand Siopa Rince. Nicely made except for that zipper…shows on the inside of the skirt, not covered at all. What is that?!!! Dress costs a fortune and no one can take the extra five minutes to tuck the zipper into the lining and whip-stitch it into place? Irritates the bejesus out of me. Had a nice visit with the new clients. Had some musical accompaniment as a dancer prepared to play her fiddle for the music competition. Just love that. Finished with the dress business, Meave and I began our slow trek back to the car.

It felt very odd walking through a feis after all this time. Molly’s last feis was the Oireachtas in December, and Maggie’s and Meave’s was earlier in the fall…it may be almost a year by the time we go to our first one this fall. Anyway, I was hit by a very odd feeling as Meave and I maneuvered our way through the crush of bodies…I felt my shoulders rising to my ears. I felt a twitch starting at the side of my mouth… No doubt that “competing” charges the air in a very specific way. It was a disconcerting feeling.

Of course I was compelled to study every dress I walked by…quickly because I was NOT compelled to stop (had to escape some of this mania. Note to self: remember what it is like before we go to our first feis this fall). There were so many made almost entirely of sequins! And not just any sequins…FISHSCALE sequins! For those unfamiliar with them or who might call them something different, this pic illustrates what I call fishscale sequins:

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Rather pretty, aren’t they? And they make a whole Irish dance dress something to behold. Very striking…and very expensive!!!

I saw every type of dress imaginable…even a bubble skirt bobbing down the hall in the distance. Little girl moved too fast for me to see much before she disappeared. So many ideas…just proves what many on the boards have said…there is no absolute style to these things, no standard to measure yourself against. If you like it, do it because anything goes!!!

I did manage to end up next to some dresses sporting the “newest” trend (translation: it will change in five minutes) of using mainly embroidery and very little applique. The satin-stitched lines are thick so the design can be seen, which is great. I for one am happy to see some knotwork making a comeback. But what I have noticed in pics as well as in person yesterday is that they all seem to look the same. Why? All of the knotwork designs from days gone by did not look the same, but these are all using the same sharp-pointed diamonds, curly Victorian scrolls, and flowers. Can we not be creative on our own?

And it does look as if computerized machine embroidery is close to the norm now. I do not have a problem with that since that is my expertise. It also means that folks have seen the value of what we digitizing artists can do…perhaps there will be no more of those moronic statements on the boards about how this kind of embroidery takes no skill.

Interestingly, there was recently a lamentation on the Celtic Flame dressmakers board that all the new embroidery was being done by machine and that perhaps the hand-guiding embroiderers were now behind the eight ball, that only those with computerized machines can pull this stuff off. I do not believe that to be so. I know that there are ID dressmakers who are capable of doing hand-guided embroidery of all kinds. My Feisdress partner, Susan Gowin, still does the embroidery by hand for the dresses she designed for Dudney and Maple. I am amazed by the clarity and neatness of the stitching. Don’t give this up, too, ladies!!!!

Here are pics of Susan’s gorgeous handiwork:

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Beautiful. You can see more in her Feisdress gallery.

Meave and I both said, “Whoa!” when we passed the for sale area. The rack set up for the sale of used dresses was packed, stuffed, and scarily overwhelming. Meave and I did stop briefly as I glanced over them, but there were so many, so precariously smashed together, that I did not want to really examine any too closely because I might have to pick them all up from the floor! But a couple of things struck me.

1) They all looked new…and beautiful. I could see “used” on many of the info signs attached to them, but the signs of wear were not immediately evident.

2) There were so many of them.

3) The use of fabrics of all kinds was fantastic! Visual feast!

4) The dresses that I could see were ALL 3 panels.

5) There were so many of them.

6) The prices for these “used” dresses were out of this world! From $1200 to $2500 for a used dress!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Susan and I are about to put a used dress up for sale…it has been worn 5 times and we are thinking of asking $950, half the actual construction price…$1200 is a new dress!!!!

7) There were so many of them!!!!

Conclusions that one might draw…one must not keep a dress too long because you must keep up with the trends, so sell it when it is still technically new. Charge an arm and a leg so you can make up what you spent in the first place so you can buy another new dress that you will only wear 4 times so you can then repeat the process. 3 panels are old fashioned…so why would anyone want to buy it? At that PRICE?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I feel a twitchybitchy fit roiling…

There have been several “conversations” on the boards about the glut of dresses in the used dress market. It is a very interesting phenomenon, this mentality that a dancer must only wear a dress a few times, that staying “current” is SOOOO important. I am pretty sure that every solo client that I have had still owns the dress I made. They do not feel compelled to keep buying new dresses. Not sure I understand this aquisitive state of mind. I am interested to see what happens in the next year as folks are unable to sell their used dresses. Perhaps a change in attitude is a-comin’!!!

While I was at the feis for the fitting, Molly and Maggie were in Irish dance class. Meave and I went back to wait. Meave spent that time practicing her steps. Near the end of class, I went to watch for a little. Jordan was really putting Molly thru her paces. Loved it. Such interesting, wonderful choreography. After my short trip into La-la Land at the feis, it was nice to see just dancing. I will admit here that going to feiseanna can make me crazy. Competition was nowhere to be found in my classical dance training. I competed as a cheerleader…and that is what competing in the upper levels at a feis reminds me of. Made me crazy as a teenager… makes me very tense as an adult.

Good to have this reminder now. I am resolved to be as cool as a cucumber at our first feis back this fall. I will encourage the divas to be friendly, to talk to their fellow competitors. I resolve to keep all of this light and fun and social. I resolve to meet at least 2 new folks. Maybe I will go introduce myself to ZandB and get myself a MoonPie!

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