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!

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?


Mary from the ID Dressmaking group asked how I made my pleats on the last 2 dresses. As usual I figured this out by myself, meaning, “If I had just looked up some pictorial instructions on the internet I would have wasted MUCH LESS time!” Sounds like a man, huh?

I had no idea what a pleater looked like. Susan said she had one I could borrow and truthfully, I was expecting something metal and machine-like because when I looked them up on the internet, I found smocking pleaters which look like medievel torture devices.

But Susan’s pleater was this one from Clotilde. (Could not seem to locate it on the Clotilde website, so here it is on Amazon.)
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This is the pretty back…
…and this is the functional front. Quite ingenious, really.
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Close up.
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Close up of the open pleats.
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So, now what?

The first pleats I had to make were for the flower dress. Yards & yards of pleats. But by the end, I had a groove going!

For the flower dress, I did not interface the fabric. As you can see, there were 2 rows of pleats and I felt that stiffening them at all would just add bulk.
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I also decided that I did not want a hem on the pleats because, quite simply, it would not have looked nice on the lining side of the skirt! I decided how long the pleats needed to be, added a seam allowance, then doubled the measurement so I could press the long width of fabric in half.
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Another reason not to interface the pleat was that the dancer wanted the sleeve pleat insert to have a bit of movement.
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The iridescent pleats on Aislinn’s Teal solo were a different challenge because the fabric was quite different than the cotton seersucker used on the flower dress. The iridescent overlay was fused to a shiny white fabric using Misty Fuse. I had fused it to satin first, but the result was heavy and very, very stiff. I ended up finding a shiny but very fine white lining fabric (that I did NOT interface) which cut way down on the bulk of the finished fused fabric. But because of the type of fabric that the iridescent fabric is, there was an over all stiffness to the fusion that made doubling this for pleats unwieldy, so I did put a hem on this before I began pleating.
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The rest of the process was the same for both fabrics. I decided to skip every other groove on the pleater.
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You start at the bottom of the pleater with the edge of your fabric. Remember that unless you want all of your pleats folding the same way, you have to do a new length of fabric with the hem on the other side of the pleater. The pleats below overlap to the left.

Open up a groove and press the fabric into it. You want to press from the middle out to each side of the fabric as this helps you line up the hem. I have seen a “tool” for doing this that looks like a ruler that helps press a whole length into the groove…I might try that next time. But I had a built in tool…my fingernails! Long enough to press the fabric all the way in and then run it all into the groove! Think I can write off my manicures on my taxes now since my fingernails are sewing tools!?!
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When it is all folded into the pleater, you press it. I used a pressing cloth over this so I wouldn’t melt the fabric and so the steam would go through. I tried it with parchment paper, but the steam could not get through and it is the steam that gets through all the layers of fabric and pleater to set the creases.
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After I press and steam thoroughly, I let it cool. Takes a bit (pleating is not a fast process…get a stool, a glass of wine, and watch a good movie while you do this as you are waiting more than you are pleating!). I remove the pleats by curling the pleater and gently pulling the fabric out. Then, I begin again by inserting the last pleat made into the pleater and continue up the fabric.

When I was done with the full length of fabric, I then laid the whole thing on my ironing board, arranged all the pleats correctly, laid a pressing cloth over the whole thing, and pressed it all again. I left the pressing cloth on it this time to let it cool as the cloth held it all flat. With the stiffer fabric, I also laid one of my really long, wide rulers on the hem to make sure it laid as flat as possible. When it was cooled, I then ran a straight stitch along the top so that sewing it to my other fabric would be easy.

Here is the finished sleeve.
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Here is the center front panel. The pleats are not attached to the panel except at the sides and top. Even though there is not a lot of swing in this fabric, it is still loose.
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Today I did find these instructions here.

Happy pleating!

Misty Fuse

One of the ever-nagging problems we Irish Dance dressmakers face is how to attach overlay to our base fabrics so that they do not shift or wrinkle during embroidery and sewing seams. I have used temporary basting sprays which I hate because of the smell and the resulting headache, even when I spray outside. I used regular Wonder-under on the bodice of my current dress…it works beautifully under the organza but it does make the fabric stiffer, not something everyone wants.

Somewhere, on some dressmaking board, someone put up a link to Misty Fuse. I decided to try it and found it on sale here.

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So what do I think? Fantastic stuff! Anytime you “fuse” 2 fabrics there will be a change in the fabric drape, but the stiffness of this stuff is minimal. Here you can see how sheer it is.
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Here is a sample with the chiffon overlay. The effect on the sheen of the satin underneath is almost non-existent…look near the bottom of the pic and you can see the sheen.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Then, for the hell of it, I tried it to attach some tulle to the satin. Only drawback to this stuff is that it does not come on it’s own paper backing. That would make life a bit easier since you have to work your way through layers of this soft filmy stuff to find a single layer and then you must use parchment paper if there is room for it to bleed through as there obviously is on tulle. I found that I needed a higher heat here because even though the tulle was firmly attached, I could clearly see the Misty Fuse mesh. Pressed it several times with the parchment with no change. Just to see if I could melt it, I put it directly under the press with no parchment…obviously made a mess on the heated part that I had to clean up, but it did melt it! Could be a problem…the higher heat, I mean. Can’t always use a high heat on all of our fabrics. But, you cannot see it through the chiffons at all. Notice the satin sheen through the tulle?
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I think I have found a keeper.