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.

New ID School Dresses: Design, Digitizing, & Finding Fabric

Susan and I have been working with an existing ID school to create new dresses.  I have really been enjoying those process.  Good folks.

We sent them first to read these two posts: ID School Dress Design  Chapter 1 & Chapter 2.  I don’t think I have ever finished organizing the info, but the process is there.

So far, the focus has been on getting a new design.  Lots of talking, critiquing, tweaking, and then the design is ready for me to digitize it.

I am not going to use the actual design here (don’t want to steal the school’s thunder for the unveiling day), but I can still talk about my approach using Dana’s design from her tunic dress.  Dana’s design was digitized with the same stitch ideas in mind that we are using for this school.

Here is Dana’s finished bodice.  We used a satin-look step stitch for the black and then a narrow satin-stitch for the silver.

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In a nutshell, I get the design from Susan in either a jpg format or as vector graphics.  We have experimented with the vector graphics format to see if the auto-digitizing function would work to make things go faster, but I have NEVER been happy with that function.  The logic of it on complicated designs like this one is NOT logical, and I spend so much time cleaning it up that I might as well have done it by hand in the first place.  Vector graphics can be a cleaner pic to follow, but these days I have gotten good enough at this that clear lines are no longer mandatory in the pics.

Susan has always sized the designs correctly, but sometimes in the translation from her computer, thru email to mine and then opening them in my software the dimensions have changed.  I re-check dimensions and re-size the graphics accordingly.

In the past, I have whined until Susan has put in tremendous time to show all of the overs and unders.  Again, because I have gotten pretty good at this, this time I told her I really did not care if it was drawn correctly, just indicate!  So she indicated!

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Then, I choose a starting point and get busy.  Here is the finished design.  (The lavender stitches making the box outline are basting stitches to hold the fabric in place since I use sticky stabilizer more than I actually hoop the fabric.  More about that here: Embroidery placement.)

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Not really interested in going through my whole approach to digitizing something like this, but I will say that making the overs and unders true overs and unders is important to me.  When the auto digitizer is used, this does not happen…lines just butt up against one another with weird gaps and even stitches filling angles in odd ways.  What I do takes time, but the end result is worth it to me.  This pic shows a close-up of the end result.
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My process for the new school dresses will be the same.  A big part of this process is doing test stitch-outs to see if it looks the way I want, to check thread tension, coverage, and any consequent pulling, puckering, tunnelling, or drilling.  I am expecting a full round of stitch tests on this new design because the fabric is completely different than Dana’s even though the stitch combination is the same.

Once the initial middle-range size is digitized, then I create files for each size dress.  Time-consuming, but once it is done we are set!!!

During all this time, I have also been researching fabric sources to find not only the kind of fabric we want (durable and washable), but also the quantity.  Since this is a new dress for an established school, we have many, many dresses to make.  And, another consideration for a source is that they will have this same fabric far into the future.  Heading off to JoAnn’s or Hancocks is not the solution this time.  Even my favorite online stores cannot be counted on for this kind of reliability.  But, Susan suggested Raymond’s Textiles, and I think I am set!

Susan is also creating a custom set of patterns for this school because the skirt is a bit different than the regular three panel.

So now I am doing a few wash tests to see how the fabrics react.  If all goes well, then the prototype dress made for the school director is the next step.