Wednesday, August 12, 2009

It's been some time

It's been a while since my last post. Almost two months. I've been busy with various projects.

First there are my customers. Two in particular have ordered several outfits. One lady has request a total of 3 outfits for Robert Tonner's Kitty Collier. The first to outfits were cocktail dresses. One I had made before and it was not hard to recreate. The second outfit was a tough one. I knew the pattern would be a pain. I could just tell that the creator of the pattern had not tested it. But I was determined to finish and make it look good. When I was done I called it Pink Champagne. My customer loved both dresses and soon requested me to make her Kitty a Peignoir set. I found some beautiful cream charmuse and matching....... I had some cream lace that went well in my stash. It really turned out beautiful I think. Very feminine.

The other customer I am sewing for has asked me to do 4 different outfits. They are for the larger Kish seasons. Since they look the same age as the Kish Chrysalis it's easy just to enlarge patterns for designs that I already have done. This cuts down on some of the time it takes to make an outfit.

I am now an international seller! The last 2 ebay auctions went to people outside the US. One went to Italy and the other...Russia! How cool is that?
More on what I've been up to in my next post...

Saturday, June 20, 2009


While waiting on some fabric to come in for a couple of commissions I'm doing I managed to get 4 outfits done. 3 are going on Etsy and one on eBay. They should be up on both sites by the end of the day.
Two of the outfits feature my new flip flop design. I used self sticking foam for the soles and while it's a little tricky to get the pieces to match up before they stick to each other I am happy with the results.
I bought the foam at my local craft store. The package featured quite a few 5 x 7 pieces if a rainbow of bright colors perfect for my needs. Before I bought these I was using foam glue which looks and feels just like tacky glue. Which is why I don't like working with it as it is very messy business. There is also the problem of drying time, it seems to take forever to dry. With the self sticking foam it's stick it and it's done. The one draw back here is that once you stick the pieces together, that's it their stuck. No margin for error or the piece is ruined.

I belong to several Yahoo chat groups for dolls. On one of the more active groups we had just done a swap. The theme was summertime. I had sent my swap partner an outfit called Butterfly Hunter" which featured a denim sleeveless dress with hat. Both embroidered with a monarch like butterfly. For accessories I had made a butterfly net. I came across an oval shaped purse that strongly resembled a binocular case and sent that as well.
Yesterday I receive side of the swap. It is a really cute overall and top set. It wasn't made by the person who sent the outfit but by another seamstress whose work I've seen on the internet. Her name is Darla and her work is impeccable. It's one thing to get something from someone who's work is not as good as yours but to get something from someone who is better well, take a blow my ego! The design was very nicely executed. The pants were lined and the seems were surged on a surger

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Quilt time again

As you can see by my posts one of the things I love to do is quilt. I haven't made very many about 11 total with 3 more in the works as they say.

2 were started last week during the classes I took. It's funny, I'd never taken a class before and then all of a sudden I have 2 in one week. Go figure.

The first class I have talked about before, it was for the Road to Dixie quilt. We learned a really neat technique for making 1/2 square triangles. I had the most marvelous time. I can't wait to finish this quilt. I really love the design and fabric.

The second class was in Rochester and I went with my sister-in-law, Michelle. It was a spure of the moment thing. Michelle just called me up and asked if I wanted to take an applique class with Kim Diehl and I jumped at the chance. For those of you who don't know Kim's work she is a well know quilt author and applique quilt maker.

I've really wanted to learn machine applique for sometime. I'm participating in a block of the month and my near by quilt shop and is has several applique blocks in it. I really like this quilt and would like to start and actually finish it. I've tried to teach myself with a book I had purchased and had attempted practice blocks. Neither of them turned out very well.

Fortunately for me there is more than one way to do applique. Kim's way seemed really easy for me and I really enjoyed what I was doing. Also a little feedback from the teacher on your progress can really help. Now I feel confident with the technique to finish the project from the class which should really hone my skills.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Doll Talk

You think with all this talk about quilting and knitting that I wasn't doing any doll sewing. Oh contraire mon frere! Actually, I 've been quite busy. After rocking eBay with a couple outfits,( one sold for over $65.00), I picked up 3 commissions, 2 from the internet and one live person! The interesting part is that none of them are related to the stuff I've had on EBay lately. Instead, they represent alot of my past work.

The one I am currtenly working on is for Kitty Collier. The commission is actually for 2 outfits. The first is a copy of one I sold on ebay before. The customer knows my work and when I told her I still had fabric to make another she was delighted. The second outfit is something completely new. I purchased the pattern a while ago with hopes of making one for eBay but that never happened. When my customer saw the design of this she fell in love with that design as well.

I have finished the first outfit already, it didn't take all that long to make. The second is a whole 'nother story. The pattern I am using is horrible. I doubt is it's creator ever sewed one up as the size is way off. It's so big that it fits a 22" doll when it is supposed to fit an 18" doll. I realized this after I had cut out the bodice and start to sew it together. I had only gotten the front half done when I realized the size discrepancy. So I tried in on my American Model by Tonner and the fit was not half bad. Finishing the outfit as it is will give me a change it fine tune the design. I will then go back and resize it in the correct size for my customers doll.

Fine tuning a pattern takes a great deal of time and not one of my favorite things to do but it is a very necessary. Proper fit can either make or break an outfit. Many doll costumers will often do a mock up from either paper towels or muslin. I like to use something more in line with the actual fabric I will be using. Different fabrics will fit and hang differently from each other. I think this give a more accurate fit. When your working in small scale the little things matter a lot.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Knitting away

As I have mentioned in a previous post, I recently finished making my first pair of knitted socks. They were plan, just in stockinette using a self patterning yarn in blue and purple. They came out very well and fit beautifully. I learned a lot about sock construction and I would like to learn more. To that end I started another pair. These are being knitted on a pair of 40" circular needles and the method I am using is toe up and two at a time.

This method is very different from the top down socks I just finished. They were knit with 5 double point needles. These are knit with just 2 needles connected together by a cable. The cable is long enough that I can knit both socks at one time. The advantages to that are 2 fold. One is that the socks come out the exact same way. Which is important for these socks in particular as they are made with self striping yarn. Secondly it is some what quicker to knit them together as opposed to starting and finishing one then starting again and finishing another.

The socks are almost done, I am finishing knitting the heel. While I do like knitting 2 socks at a time and I like the way the toes look, I'm not thrilled with how the heels are made in this manner. But there are many ways to knit socks and I have just started to discover and learn them and I have 3 different pairs of socks lined up to work on next and have the yarn all ready for 2.

I ordered some yarn from Knit Picks on line. They have a nice selection of yarns at really good prices. In fact the yarns they sell are cheaper than Joann's, Michael's or AC Moore. They have a better selection of sock yarn too. I bought yarn for 4 projects all together. I got some wool fingering and cotton sport weight for socks, some lace weight for a scarf and some wool fingering yarn for a doll sweater.

The patterns I chose for the socks are very different from what I have done so far. One pattern feature a style of toe and heel called short row that I have not done before but may be easier to do than the toe and heel on the last 2 pair I knit. The second pattern features incorporates a lace patten into the body of the sock. They certainly have a feminine look to them. While both patterns call for the socks to be knit on double point needle I think I will try them on my circular needles instead.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Two Projects Done

I just finished up two projects that I had been working on for sometime. The first one and the largest of the 2 was a quilt. The fabric is by Moda and the collection is called "Chocolate". It's beautiful muted reds and blues and browns. My sister-in -law, Michelle, quilted it for me and did a wonderful job. It will find a home on one of the twin beds in a bedroom formally occupied by 2 of my sons. ( One has moved out and the other soon will be.)

Finishing a quilt is a big deal for me. I had the fabric for it for over a year while I finished other quilts and projects. Then it took a couple of weeks to cut and sew it together. Then it was over 4 months before it could be quilted. Tonight I will finsh sewing on the binding.

My next one is already in the works. It's called "Road to Dixe". Most of the fabric for it is from the Collection of the Cause collection by Moda. The main border fabric looks amazing with my couch so this one will go on the wall rack in my living room when done.

This new quilt will be a first for me. It is the first quilt made at a quilt class as I have never taken on before. I am really looking forward to it and hope to learn a lot.

The other project I finsihed were my socks! LOL I finally finshed my first pair of knitted socks. Boy are they comfortable. They fit great and look funky. They are made of wool and nylon so they are warm but too warm like my store bought slipper socks so I can wear them all day.

As usual I learned much about knitting socks with this project. They are easy to knit and they don't take very much yarn to make or much time for that matter. These were made using 5 double pointed needles and knitted from the cuff down, one at a time. I have already ordered more yarn to make 3 more pairs. The next pair I will try the toe up method on a pair of circular needles and make both at the same time. This method lets you try on the sock as you knit it so you can shape it to your foot more easily than when you knit from the toe down. Also, because you knit both socks at the same time they are exactly the same. I think it may be quicker too.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Lock Me In

Sometimes I feel that is what I need to do to myself to keep me in my sewing room, lock myself in.

As you might remember, dear reader, I am unemployed. I now find myself with so much time on my hands that sometimes I get very restless. While I hate to see good time go to waste sometimes I find that I am very proficient at doing just that. So I am throwing myself in to my little doll costuming business. I feel that sewing is a good way to occupy my time and a way to generate some pocket money. I feel that it is important for me to be productive especially at this time. However, if I'm not in my sewing room, I'm not sewing.

There are some other erstwhile projects that I do of course. Looking for a job is one but, trust me on this, there aren't many of those around these days. Then there is all sorts of housework (HA!). There is this blog to write...

There are several devices I use to keep me in my place so to speak. For one, I'm a huge audio book fan and I can't think of a better place to listen than in my sewing room. (well perhaps on the beach in Florida, but that is for another time). I listen mostly to historical fiction and history with some sci fi and fantasy thrown in for good measure. Listening to the books serves a duel purpose. There's the entertainment factor of course and then it fills the silence. Since my children have grown up my house had grown quiet. Sadly enough, music does not sooth this savage breast and I do not listen to it very often. The one exception to this is at Christmas time.

I also have a small TV in my sewing room and a small but much watched DVD collection. When the mood strikes watching, mostly listening actually, helps me stay my course as well. I do so love a good costume drama, a romance or a classic.

The weather can be a factor. It's easier to stay put when the sun is shinning than when it is gray and cloudy ( like today). You think the opposite would apply here. The room were I sew is very small but when it is filled with sunshine it appears more open. It then becomes oasis, refuge and solace. I place were I can stay and fill the hours and scratch my creative itch.

So back I go into my room. A few chores to be done on the way first. Then to work on a commission. From there.... we'll see if the sun comes out.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Nature of the Business

On Saturday I had my first Etsy sale. This was very unexpected as the item had been in my shop for about a month. On Easter Sunday I had 2 eBay auctions end. One outfit sold and since the second didn't I went ahead and put it on Etsy as well. This morning I found that it had sold as well as did a hat I had just put up on the site. One of my eBay items generated a small commission as well. All in all it was a very successful weekend.

All this came on the heels of two failed commissions. Customers requested items and then didn't go through with the sales. This is the first and only time this has happened to me in all the years I've been in business. It really depressed me at first but then I moved on emotionally and used the experience as learning opportunity. That and I will sell the 2 outfits at a later date. This has tempered my excitement over my burst of business.

I am really thrilled at the sales but I tend to think they are just of the moment and I am in no fear of being overwhelmed with new business. The outfit I have on eBay that I listed last night shows promise with 12 watches already. Which is all well and good but no one has bid on them either.

Just like any other business, mine has it's ups and downs. It's just the way things are. You should never take it too personally. You know the saying, "it's not personal , it's business.". I will keep at it and take it day by day.

Friday, April 3, 2009

New Doll, New Model

I received a new doll in the mail the other day. She is Fall, one of Helen Kish's Seasons collection that was designed for the White Balloon company of Spain. Of course I have named her Autumn, for now anyway. Autumn is 16" tall with long red hair. I won her on eBay and got her at a wonderful price.

Since each doll I sew for has unique characteristics that dictate how I will sew for it, there are always a few things to consider before I can come up with a design for that particular doll. First there is the general appearance of the doll to consider. Who does the doll represent? Is it a boy or a girl. Is it young like a child or does the doll have an adult appearance?

Size dictates scale and proportion. This is most important in fabric selection. The size of the design of the fabric has to be in proportion to the size of the doll. Too big of a pattern looks aweful on a doll in my opinion.

Something that also suggests fabric choice is the actual age of the doll. New dolls can use new fabrics while vintage and antique dolls are better dressed in vintage or natural fabrics when ever possible.

Autumn represent a modern child, and at 16" tall she will be the largest of this type of doll that I have sewn for. Most of my designs have been either for smaller modern child dolls, modern lady dolls or antique dolls. Her larger size will permit me to use some larger scale prints than I haven't been able to used before. In fact there is a piece of fabric that I have had in my stash for years that I believe would be perfect. It's a aqua cotton stripe and perfect for a summer outfit. The width of the stripes have always been to big for the modern dolls I sew for and too new for my antique dolls. On this new doll though I think it will look very well indeed.

Now all I have to do is come up with an appropriate design for the pattern....

Monday, March 23, 2009

Tool Tip...Rotary Cutters

I began using rotary cutters when I started quilting several years ago. They are wonderful when it comes to cutting anything you want really straight. A nice clean cut edge is easier to overcast with the sewing machine. I use one when ever I cut bias strips, skirt pieces, waist bands, belts, etc.

While working on a commission the other day, I got a chance to use a new rotary cutter that I had just purchased. I didn't buy this new cutter because there was something wrong with the old one, all I really needed was a new blade. The cutter was new because it was on clearance at my local sewing store and cheaper than a new blade would have been.

What a pleasure it was to use it for the first time. The difference between this new sharp blade and my dull old blade was amazing. It cut thought the fabric with such ease. Just the slightest touch to get across the fabric. No bearing down so hard that it felt like labor. Made me wonder why I had waited so long to replace the darn thing to begin with. Price probably, I think they are way too expensive for what they are.

This new cutter is very different from others that I have owned. It has an ergonomic handle which feels very good in your hand and it is more comfortable to using. The handle is also very colorful too; robin's egg blue and chocolate brown in a filigree pattern. Very different for the school bus orange one that I've had for so long.

So if you don't use a rotary cutter now, try one. It will make the task of cutting out some things noticeably easier and quicker. If you have one, change the blade often. It will remind you of why you had a cutter to begin with.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

First Post

I am new to blogging. I really don't know much about it either, just that it is a popular thing to do these days in this highly interactive world.

The web has gotten very "social" it seems. A great place to keep up with your friends and family and to let the world keep up with you. Take Facebook for example; I keep in touch with my children (yes i do that at home too, don't worry) and most of my friends (it's better than the phone sometimes as I hate to talk on the phone). I even "friended" one of my favorite authors.

Another place I visit everyday is Carepages. There I read the progress of one of my friends and her sister. The sister has cancer and my friend donated bone marrow. I get emails every time the blog is updated so I click the link and read about a very intimate battle between the sisters and their family and cancer. It's very interesting , very emotional and can easily be equated with internet voyeurism.

I'm not sure i will be very good at this or keep it up. My journal is a good example. I've had it for at least 5 years and I don't think I've written more than 15 pages. I find it too personal. But isn't that what a journal is supposed to be, personal. I mean who's going to read it anyway? It's not like anybody but me knows I have one, well, that is until now anyway. I just feels very weird to me to be writing about me to me. So why in Gods green earth would I want to write a blog? I guess because there is a chance that someone will read it. Albeit a very small chance but there is a chance. Maybe I need an audience? In English class in college I was told that when you write you should consider who your audience is and speak to them. Maybe that was the problem with my journal, I had no audience except myself. I just find that really weird. I don't need to write about me to me. I already now what's going on don't I?

So what will I be writing about here? What else, my sewing. I love to sew. I love to make things. People tell me I make very nice things too.

Currently I am sewing doll clothes and selling them on eBay and also taking commissions. My business name is Thread and Treadle Doll Costuming. I sew for modern, vintage and modern dolls. Right now I am making outfits for the Kish Chrysalis line of dolls by doll artist Helen Kish. I have made 11 outfits and sold all but 3. The outfits have earned excellent feedback and have also generated a couple commissions.

I create in other mediums too. I learned to knit, crochet and embroider as a child just as I learned to sew. Sock knitting has my attention right now and I am just about done with my first pair of socks. I am attracted to the colorful yarns that are currently available especially the self- patterning ones. They are great fun.

Since I have a lot of time on my hands right now as I am currently unemployed, I am taking the opportunity to brush up some of my skills in embroidery and learn some new ones. I am teaching myself smocking and silk ribbon embroidery. After I have developed some proficiency I will incorporate these skills in my doll designs adding a new dimension to them and hopefully increased value.

So how was my first attempt at blogging? Boring, banal, immature or fresh, interesting...ok who cares, it's not like anybody else is going to read this, or is there? Meg Ryan in the movie "You've Got Mail" wrote in an email to "newyork152", aka Tom Hanks, something about writing about an idea and throwing it out into the cosmic void (or something like that). Not to be commented upon, no, she just wanted it to be "out there" here goes.....