Wednesday, January 24, 2018

A New Country to Collect In

I find myself in Wellington New Zealand for 6 weeks. To date I noticed that with the exception of China, I seem to be able to find fun vintage finds to use in my creations no matter where in the world I travel. New Zealand is no exception. 

Here Opportunity Stores, Op-Stores for short or better known as thrift stores in some parts of the world are plentiful and can be really fun. I found two in Wellington and learned that the Salvation Army Thrift store is called Sallies. The Vincent St Paul are called Vinnies. I started frequenting them, you know, just to see what I could find. So far it has been inexpensive and lots of fun.

So here is what I have found to date:

Starting off with very proper ladies finger towels and handkerchiefs:
Beautiful Madeira applique, embroideries in linen or fine cotton. Just gorgeous. 

As is always my luck, when I pick something up it does not have a price and I have to ask about it, So it was with the set above. The person behind the cash register was a young man. I had another item I wanted to purchase besides this package and it was labeled $1 NZ each. When I inquired about the price, the young man looked at the other packet and guessed $2 NZ. 

As luck would have it, within days of arriving here I found a sewing group that meets on Wednesdays and I was on my way to this meeting when I found the package of finger towels and handkerchiefs. I showed them to the members of my group and was asked how much I paid, they laughed and told me that only a man would price them at that inexpensively. I got a good deal. They are pretty and several of them will be good additions to a pastel crazy quilt I am making.

The sewing group told me about other Op-shops in town. Because of them I know where at least 6 of them are now. Of course I have found fun things to use in sewing and a sort of collectible thing...

First up I found 7 net hand made large doilies and some pearls. I always look for pearls and beads no matter where I go. Vintage pearls seem to be better made so I collect broken necklaces so that I can use the pearls on some of my projects. These are not broken, but they are fun so I bought them. I have a really nice necklace I bought in a thrift shop in Berlin that I really like so these might be a fun addition to my necklace collection.
Oh you noticed the queen? She was on display in one of the shops. I could not just walk by. Made by Portland Ware in England by The Metal Box Company. Not worth much but truly a collectible.

More finds, some smaller doilies, a really pretty battenberg lace collar and a kiwi pin. I have seen these pin in tourist shops and they are not nearly as nice as this one. Not sure what I will do with it, but I will find a use for it.
I couldn't leave him there once I took the queen could I?

I think they will make a good addition on the wall in my sewing room.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Pillow made of Vintage Bits

I am a collector of lace bits, its part of my 6 step program. 
1. Move to France.
2. Realize there are lots of vintage linen lace things to be had.
3. Find the best places to buy said linen and lace items.
4. Collect lace bits
5. Pet lace bits
6. Betray lace bits by cutting them up into littler pieces and using them.
You get the idea. The 4 months back in France continued to feed my addiction to collecting lovely lace bits.

You can't just collect them, well, OK you can, BUT whats the fun of that? Yes, you can pull things out, pet them and then panic over the idea of cutting them. Oh not me. And, yes it is hard to cut things sometimes. 

Whole linens like these are off limits:

But Lace bits and broken linens are fair game:
As I have been collecting lace, I have been collecting inspiration in a folder called Pillows on Pinterest. I actually need a couple pillows for the house. 

Here is my first one:
You can see the leftovers from the sachets down the center. The bottom left and right were corners on a pillowcase that was badly stained by some sort of hair treatment. Talking to older women they tell me that it was usually the man's pillow not the woman's that had the staining. Some sort of product men applied to slick the hair back in the 1930-1960s. I have noticed lately that it is being used again. You can see the discoloration on the top right hand side of the photo below:
The yellowing got much worse in the center of the pillow. I have learned over time which stains will come out and which will not. This one I know from experience will never come out. Too bad as it had a mate which was in perfect condition. Stained mean permission to cut up.

Also on the pillow I was able to include a couple of initial embroideries I found this year. It is common to find these as people tended to save them after everything else wears out. Its like they might use them, re-purpose if you will, someday. But they never do.  One of them which was part of a damaged pillowcase had the initials HC. I decided to use it for this pillow even though it was darned. See bottom left of photo:
I have to learn how to darn like that someday. I think it would be a fun addition to some of my sewing, even if it really does not need to be there. A good quality light weight stabilizer was ironed to the wrong side of this piece to strengthen it as it is a fine cotton. Most of the rest of the pillow is bed weight linen.

Continuing the tour of the  pillow is the really pretty bird motif:
The lace on either side of the top corners were hand sewn down using some of the small lace pieces I found this year in France.

For the back I got lazy. The back of the stain damaged pillowcase was in perfect condition so why not use it too? It had to be resized smaller.

I may replace the the buttons with something less worn later, but for now they get to stay.

I am thinking of adding a motif to the top left:
I have not done that yet due to lack of time. Of course the pillow and I would need to be on the same continent, which we are not right now.  I think it needs it.

So here it is stuffed. 
I made a tiny mistake and that is I made it 20 inches square and it really needs to be 18 inches to match the pillow sham I had at the house. Oh well. Sometime later this year I hope to have the time to make another "matching" one out of my stash. I will also have to invest in a couple of larger pillow forms as well.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Christmas Ornament 2017

If you have been reading my blog for any period of time you know that every year I join a Christmas ornament Exchange with like minded sewers in one of my yahoo newsgroup. This year I am doing something a little different. A group of us from this yahoo group text back and forth privately and it was proposed that we get together and and have our own exchange. There are 10 of us in the group and I was not sure I would be able to do the yahoo group one as well as that would have meant doing  15 ornaments. As it was I could handle ten, quite accidentally having bought enough supplies.

The rules for this exchange simple. We can use anything we want to make ornaments but they must be made by hand. In other words, I don’t have to sew to make them, I just needed to have hunted and gathered up parts and then assembled everything myself.

Every year I try to push myself to try something new and ever since moving to France I try to incorporate vintage into whatever I make. Normally that means lace, but not this year.

In August I was in Aachen Germany and while walking through town found a craft store. I found some bobbins made out of wood. I bought 10 of them. I had no idea what I would do with them but thought them worthy of my buying.

In September I was in Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines France (Alsace) for the yearly quilt show and in the vendor area there was a Dutch woman selling charms by weight. The light bulb went off as to an idea for this year’s ornament exchange. Another vendor had a few vintage religious medallions for sale.

I was at a second hand store in late September near where I live and they had costume jewelry for sale. This is the best way to find chains for crafting. The price is always right. Add in a broken rosary or two to add interest. 

Here are the parts of the rosary I did not use, I am saving these pieces for another project.

So here are my starting point, a pile of wooden bobbins, old necklaces, a broken rosary and lots of charms.

On purpose I do not have enough of any one of the charms to put them on all ornaments so every one of them are different.

The bobbin has 5 usable holes at the bottom so that limits the charms. 

Here is the final result:
I am happy with the final result this year with a little jewelry for the tree. Hopefully those that receive them enjoy them as much as I did enjoyed making them.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

sachet for my draw

I was at one of my favorite thrift store here in France last month and I ran a cross this:
A well used, badly damaged, vintage linen sheet. You can see some of the damage on the lower right hand side. It is damaged enough not to use as a bed sheet, but it is in good enough shape to cut apart and make something new. The price was right so I bought it.

I want to use the initials for something later, but the embroidery below it was mostly in good shape so I thought I would make some sachets filled with lavender. Right after I bought the sheet, as luck would have it, at the Saturday market here in my little french town, was a man selling lavender by the kilo or by the bag. He had a special on buying 5 of the little bags so that is what I did. 
I had been thinking about that sheet and what I would like to do with it.

I have a Pinterest board called "sachet" where I collect ideas. I collected pictures of many sachet bags and since I found the lavender, I thought I would give it a go.

Due to the size of the embroidery design from the sheet, a 6 inch or 15 cm square seemed to be just right. Unlike many of the Pinterest designs, I was dealing with something with embroidered holes so it would need to be lined. I cut the lining from the un-embroidered portion of the sheet.
I cut the lining the same size but when I sewed them together I used a 1/2 inch seam allowance. I used a 1/4 inch seam allowance for the outside, embroidered portion of the sachet. I stuffed the lining into the embroidered piece once it was sewn and filled the lining with one of the bags of lavender. 

The last thing to do was to hand stitch shut the lining and then the embroidered section. The sheet top edge gave me 6 undamaged 6-inch embroidered squares. 

I got 3 sachets out of the sheet as I decided to make both sides have embroidery
I have lavender left so I expect there will be more to come.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Oh look, I’m Published!

But first...

I just got back from a class in Orlando with Terry Fox and Louise Cuttings. Ya I know, I am living in France and I travel to the USA for a sewing class? Hard to explain, but I am not sure where home is and therefore, within reason, I will go where ever the classes are. As you can imagine, frequent flier miles help a whole lot.

My mom lives near Orlando so this was an easy choice for me. I sent some time visiting her and 4 days in a class.

This class was one of the best ones I have ever taken. Right down my alley. We started with 2 of Louise Cutting patterns; Light and Shadow and My Hearts a Flutter. We were asked to make a muslin to our closest size and then we made adjustments once there. 

We made the top on Light and Shadow and the tank from My Hearts a Flutter.

Once we had the fitting muslin, that is when the fun began. Here is an example of the Light and Shadow top after it had been haute coutured:
We had example after example with what we could do with the two designs. I focused on the other pattern, My Hearts a Flutter and first made the tank. My muslin needed to have the shoulder moved forward by 5/8", the side widened from an extra small to a small and the neck line redone so that there was extra on the shoulders. I am broad shouldered so I have a hard time fitting into tank tops ready to wear.
Quality of picture not too good, but it is linen/cotton I bought here in France at a store that sells fabric for curtains. Heavy weight and soft and just enough for a tank. Fits beautifully but I had to leave it in Florida for later. It is getting a little too cold in France for this this year.

I then turned my attention to another of her modifications to the same pattern and made this:


It needs facings and I will do that as I did bring it back with me to finish.

I drew off several other pattern ideas that I just have not had time to make yet. It will happen though. Right now though I am busy embroidering:

She will be done shortly for addition to a project I am making. She has been a wonderful train/plane/car project.

Ok, now to being published. Classic Sewing Magazine was kind enough to publish something I made. A friend sent me this as I will not see the magazine until December. 

That's me, page 115:
This is what it looks like:

How exciting

Thursday, September 7, 2017

New sewing room, again

Yup, this is it:
A retro child’s desk probably from a one room school house somewhere in France. The piece is too big for me to move to another room, no place for it anyway. It will not fit through the doorways and it is super heavy, so I decided to see if I could use it.

As it is built it is too low to the ground and my knees barely make it under the shelf originally built to store books below the table top. Down in the parking garage that belongs to the apartment were a couple of pieces of wood. They were perfect to put under the desk lifting it high enough to make it comfortable for an adult to sit and sew. The distance from the desk top is perfect and I can’t move the seat back so it keeps me where I am supposed to be to sew. I can move the machine so that I get it just where it needs to be.

Now that I have picked up my machine from a friend here in town, and with my few sewing supplies, as the shipment has not arrived yet that has the bulk of my sewing supplies:
 I can sew!

Last weekend, in Paris, at a flea market, I found a vintage sheet. The sheet size is approximately the size for a single bed and has the initials GB:
Now I am not an expert at embroidery but I do know quality. The maker of this sheet was of average skill. It is not as beautiful as some that I own or have seen. The faggotting fancy edge is twisted and not straight. This sheet was a perfect candidate to make some American style pillow cases.  The middle initials will be nice to use on a couch pillow project I would like to do in the future.

A standard American pillow measures 20 x 26 inches. So a standard pillow case should be around 23 x 31 inches. Because of the design  I needed to get it off the main head used area to eliminate the possibility of leaving a face imprint in the morning, I increased the length by a few inches. Using my trusty Ikea paper ruler I cut it out. My good rulers are in the shipment box. For old linens like this it is not possible to pull a thread to get a straight of grain line as the threads fused together long ago. It barely frays when cut as well.

I took care to match the hem width and then sewed it with my favorite foot:
I love the hemming foot. For a Bernina it is the #10 foot. You become a professional without even trying.

Because I wanted to keep the center initials and due to the small size of the sheet, the pillow case was cut long and narrow. That left the center embroidery intact with lots of fabric around it for what ever it becomes later. It also meant that I had to sew the two side seams. For that I had added an extra inch to my side seam allowance so that I could make a French seam on both sides. The tricky bit was where to cut through the faggotting to make for a nice side seam. For a French seam I like my pintuck foot. After the first seam is sewn on the right side and trimmed, it is turned inside out and pressed so that there is a crisp crease at the sewing line. The Pintuck foot is then used to guide your sewing so again you look like a professional without even trying:
Turning it right side out and giving it a quick press and voilĂ , J'ai fini! 
What is really fun is that due to taking the design from the two sides of the sheet, the  pillowcases are mirror images of each other. For the picture I folded them in half so that the design was the only part showing. Where the design is is now perfect for showing them off on a bed. Now all I need are the American feather pillows that are in the shipment, that is not here yet.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Ever wanted someone to sew for you?

I recently spent nine weeks in China, it was the second nine weeks in China actually. Last year was the first time. In both years, the first three weeks were spent in Tianjin , a city located near Beijing,  the middle three weeks were spent in Shenzhen, a city across the river from Hong Kong, and the last 3 weeks were spent in Shanghai.
Where Beijing is known for its pearl market, Shanghai is known for its fabric markets. Pearls are not of much interest to me, but fabric is.

The day after arriving into Shanghai, off to the fabric market I went with some friends.  My goal was to get a Chanel style jacket made for myself.

I have taken the Classic French Jacket class from Susan Khalje, and truth be told, the jacket remains unfinished. Not due to lack of interest, but in the move from France some of the critical parts have gone missing. I am so close to being complete it is maddening! The missing parts are in the house. I found them last year and put them where I could match them up with the incomplete jacket. Now I can't find either. I am in the process of cleaning the basement and my sewing area so it really is just the small matter of finding them. If I could be at the house long enough I know I would find everything, it just has not happened yet. Why hasn’t it happened yet? Well China comes to mind. So back to China…

There are many fabric markets in Shanghai. Some large and some small. The one I went to was chosen specifically because last year people I know had suits made there. Although I did not need a suit, I had had time to walk around and buy some items while helping others who were buying suits. I sew and can tell if something is not hanging correctly.

Last year, I bought some beautiful silk and wool scarves from a vendor in this particular market. If you go to the touristy street markets or the market where many people go to buy fake shoes and handbags you can find lots of “wool” and “silk” items. They look identical to what this vendor had. The problem is that those at the tourist markets are polyester based. I wanted wool or I wanted it to be mostly wool. I wanted something of higher quality. Quality is hard to find in the street markets.

The Shanghai ShiLiu Pu Cloth Market at 168 DongMen Road was my destination.  It is a shabby three storied building. It looks like it was once a small department store that had been gutted. Inside now are aisles, like in a grocery store. On either side are booths. Each one is a different vendor selling fabric and/or making garments. 

Garments are shown on manikins or are displayed up on the walls of the stall. Most of what is displayed are Chinese style dresses, evening dresses or wedding gowns. With all of the fabric, the floors are clean and the vendors eager for business. Later it was pointed out to me the ceilings were filthy, but who looks up?
 In the basement, accessed by an old creaky escalator, was mostly just fabric sold by the meter displayed on long cylindrical bolts stacked everywhere. Choose your vendor and you can choose between silk, linen, cotton and synthetics.

My first failure.  In the basement I had found a really fun green poly/rayon sheer. The models the vendor had looked good and she had a small sewing room in the back with 4 people busy sewing, what could go wrong?  I had the vendor make a duster for me. The vendor drew a picture of what I wanted. Helpful were images I had on my phone of what I wanted. Like this one:

I was measured and told it would be done in a week. Cost fabric and having the garment made, 300 Yuan ($45) You pay 50% down and the rest when you come and get it and are satisfied with the workmanship.

What went wrong? On pick up a week later, something was not right with the left side of the garment. It hung funny.  Looking into the mirror, I quickly figured out that the shoulder seam was not right causing the strange look. Also I had wanted slits on the side and I the garment did not have that. It was hard to gauge the fit with the shoulder being off, but it appeared to be good. I was told it would be a couple days to fix it.

When I returned I could tell the garment had been completely remade. The shoulder seam was good and the slit was where it should be but now it was way too big.  Smiling, I paid for it even though I was not satisfied. You see this was an experiment to see if they could sew better than I could. For this vendor, the answer was no. They were very busy in the back sewing so they must have satisfied customers, I am just not one of them.
Displayed on an accurate sewing mannequin to me:

Oh the wrinkled hemlines, the bad puckers near the neck and talk about frumpy! I doubt I will do anything to it. Not worth the effort. It is large enough that I could actually remake it smaller. Too bad. I love the fabric and in the correct fit would have been a nice addition to my wardrobe.   I even have the lace I could have sewn on to the lower edge and sleeves.

How about a success! Around the corner from my duster failure, there was a woman who specialized in linen.
I found a couple I liked and then looked through her remnants. Remnants cost 10 Yuan a meter ($1.50). To show that it was pure linen or a blend she did a burn test. So let's see, I am in the basement of a building with tens of 1000s of meters of all sorts of fabric and she is burning something....hmmmm. Setting fire worries aside, the linens were real and very pretty.  I bought a very nice pokka dot light weight linen ($5 a meter) , a green linen blend ($1.50 per meter) and a white linen rayon blend ($1.50 per meter). This one is a cotton/linen blend that I brought with me to France to make something with.
She did not make garments, but you could buy fabric from her and then get the garment made somewhere else. In this case I will be the one sewing. I could use a couple linen shirts.

After I made my purchases, my attention was drawn to a fabric across the aisle.
SILK!  Right across from the linen woman was a man selling silk. Again he did not make garments, he just sold the fabric. The one that had caught my eye, I would not look good in was a beautiful orange/red not blood red classic Chinese brocade style silk, but seeing my interest he told me it was 90 Yuan a meter.($13). This was the most expensive type of fabric in his booth. This fabric was a beautiful 4 ply silk. He did a burn test to prove it. Everyone has permission to run screaming from the building now! One of our group pulled out another of the silks and there next to it was something that cried to come home with me.

The women selling linen had nothing better to do than join the conversation that was going on in English and Chinese with the silk vendor. We were comparing two fabrics, one of them dull or muted in its color of summer while the other, though muted had fall tones to it. The fall tone one was the one that caught my eye. The linen vendor told me I needed to buy 2.5 meters for a nice dress or long jacket. The seller thought I could get away with 2 meters. A passionate conversation in Chinese started and in the end it was decided, with no input from me, that I needed to buy 2.5 meters. Decision made, so that is what I did.

I am to soak it in cold water. The silk vendor was quite insistent about it. Do not dry clean he told me, but do soak it to cause any shrinkage to happen before I sew with it.
As a side note, I wash all of my silks. I can't stand the feel of dry cleaned silk. Also since I travel so much it is nice to have the ability to wash as I need to whatever clothing I travel with. I am not sure what it will be yet, I have to soak it first and comb though my patterns. Of course I need to be home long enough to do that as well.

On the street level floor is where I found the vendor for making my jacket. 
Initially I was sucked in by one of the fabrics. 

The cost of having a Chanel style jacket made was 500  Yuan ( $75) this includes the fabric and the workmanship.  I was measured and what I wanted was drawn up. For me the length was important since my body type does not look good in a jacket that is too short which is why I cannot normally buy off the rack jackets. The woman making the measurements agreed when she started measuring me that I needed a couple extra inches on the jacket length. There was a model there that I could try on:
It was too small and too short for me, but it let me know the color was good for me.  On a card display there was a selection of buttons that, if I did not like what came with the jacket, I could substitute. For an extra 36 Yuan ( $5.15) I could choose something else off the card. Or I could go up stairs and pay half that and find what I wanted. On the card, one of the buttons looked really nice with the jacket so I opted for the upgrade. While there a second sample jacket caught my eye. It was a black and white woven and looked like it would be elegant in a long jacket. A longer jacket would cost 600 Yuan ($86). It would have no buttons meet in the front held shut with frog clasps. Again, I was told a week and to come back then.

Let's talk Chanel jackets for a moment. There were a few of differences in what the vendor was making so let's note the differences.
A true Chanel has a three piece sleeve where as these have the more common two. A Chanel jacket has a nice and heavy seamless chain across the back of the jacket to hold the jacket down in the back. These do not. Fabric; the real thing uses a high end boucle where as these used a thinner boucle of lesser quality. A true couture jacket has quilting holding the silk lining to the jacket. Only the side and shoulder seams as well as the sleeves of the boucle are the only part of the jacket that are machine stitched. The Shoulder seams are hand sewn and everywhere not quilted, the lining is hand sewn.  If they are ready wear, they are almost completely machine sewn. In this case, both have a quality silk lining. The lining needs to be a heavier silk so that it does not tear. The buttons, although I upgraded are nothing like the Chanel ones. The ones in China were OK, but not a real high quality. Also, there is no tag in the back where they fake Chanel. This is strictly a style of jacket that they are making.

My first visit back was a partial success. The short jacket fit perfectly and I am very satisfied with the workmanship.
Here is what it looks like open: (Ya that is something I am working on which was pinned to the manikin when the pictures were taken)

The second jacket however was not good. Instead of having a straight hem, it v’ed in the front. On a short jacket this would be nice. On a long jacket it was not attractive. I asked for it to be straightened and was told it would be completed in a couple days.

When I went to pick up the black and white jacket, the V in the front still remained, but 8 inches had been cut off of the length of the jacket. I was so disappointed. This is not what I had asked to be done. Something got lost in translation, even though I had brought a friend who spoke Chinese with me for the first fitting. They made good on the jacket, making it again the following week for me. The match is good on the jacket, but if I nitpick I would point out that at the shoulders the plaid does not match up. This is something I would have made sure of and on the first jacket it was lined up.
Here it is on the manikin:

On the second floor was the vendor I wanted to return to as last year I had bought a cashmere scarf for my mom and I wanted to buy a couple more. I washed moms right before leaving for China and it washed beautifully. It stayed soft and held its shape like her more expensive ones do. A couple more would be nice.

While there a silk scarf caught my eye. The pattern depicted an Italian or European village. Unlike others I own it is square. The colors are bright and vibrant. The edges were expertly hand sewn. That one was the easy purchase.
So overall how do I rate my buying experience in China? I give myself a B. One failure, one great shorter Chanel style jacket and one OK longer Chanel jacket. Giving myself some wonderful finds in silk and cashmere scarves, puts me in solid B range. Should I ever return Shanghai, I would not hesitate in having something else made.