Julie Bowersett

juliebowersett {at} verizon.net
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Saturday
Feb282015

A Crown for the Birthday Queen

Sometime shortly before Christmas I was having coffee with some of the moms from our school and one of them mentioned that they have started the tradition of giving only hand made gifts for the holiday. I was so impressed with this idea, and it made me realize that with all of the making that I do, my kids and husband aren't often the beneficiaries. I'm going to work on that. 

The youngest girl in this hand-making family is one of my youngest son's favorite classmates and, when her birthday rolled around this month, I did not want to miss the opportunity to make something wonderfully girly as a gift.  After all, I suspected that this was one kid who would appreciate something handmade.

Earlier this fall I purchased the pattern Queen of the Party by The Quilted Fish which includes patterns for party hats and crowns.  I am always on the look out for patterns and embroidery designs that can be used for imaginary play long after the party is over (these masks that I made for friends fit that bill, too).  The embellishment possibilities for these hats are limitless.  The instructions give some ideas but this is a spot to really unleash your creativity.

The pattern calls for a gathered cotton ruffle along the upper edge of the crown but I pulled out a piece of ribbon trim and used that.  The ruffle strip topped with buttons was created with two stacked strips with pinked edges.  Silk flower petals and more buttons finished off the bling. This was quick to make and I had so much fun with all of the decorations.  One tip: plastic buttons will stay glued in place much more securely if you use the glue Jewel-It made by Aleene's.  I find that shiny and hard objects like the buttons will often pop off when glued on with hot glue.  Jewel-It takes quite a long time to dry so plan accordingly.

The birthday girl's mom tells me that this was proclaimed, "the best gift ever" and, given that I've seen it being worn at school on two separate occasions, I guess it was, indeed, a hit.  I know there is someone in your life who would love one, too.

Friday
Feb202015

Fingerless Gloves in Sculpted Fleece

I recently wrote about some fingerless gloves that I made for a friend for Christmas using the techniques of Alabama Chanin.  I really liked how they turned out, and they started me thinking about making a pair for myself to slip on when I am stitching (or typing blog posts).  One thing I love about being a maker is taking inspiration from one source and using other, different techniques to create an entirely new product.  I did just that with my houndstooth/paisley skirt, combining an Alabama Chanin stencil with wool felt applique instead of the more expected cotton jersey.

For my own gloves I again started with a Chanin stencil but I used an entirely different technique for the applique, sculpted fleece.  I love Lyla Messinger's technique for making polar fleece appear carved or sculpted.  I have made a number of items using this technique and blogged about those pieces here. 

The pattern for the gloves comes from Alabama Stuido Sewing + Design with a slight modification.  Instead of cutting two pieces for each glove, I eliminated one seam and cut the glove as a single piece.  This made the applique process much easier and reduced some bulk but I did lose some shaping from that seam.

For this technique, it's important to use a fleece that has two distinctly different faces.  The black fleece I used had one side with a micro-grid design and the other with a berber-like finish.  Once the gloves were cut out I began by applying the stenciled design.

I used temporary spray adhesive to hold the stencil in place.  I transfered the design to the smooth (right) side of the fabric using Quilter's Stencil Marking Spray, a chalk-like spray that washes out with water. 

This marked the placement for the applique pieces.  I also transfered the stencil to another piece of fleece; these pieces were the shapes that were appliqued onto the gloves.  Here's what the various pieces looked like after the stenciling was finished.

Working one section at a time, I cut out the pieces for the applique and pinned them in place over the corresponding design on the gloves.  The nubby back-side was placed face up on top of the smoother side of the fleece.  I used black sewing thread on top and in the bobbin (you can also use invisible thread) and zigzagged around the edge of each shape.

That's really all there is to it.  It is a very simple and forgiving technique that leaves people wondering how you accomplished it.

To finish off my gloves I took some lycra fabric strips and applied them like binding to the thumb and finger openings as well as the bottom edge.  Knits are notorious for stretching out along cut edges, fleece being no exception.  I felt this would give those edges some stability.

Once the binding was applied I stitched the seams, right sides together, and my gloves were complete.

I hope you will try this technique on a project of your own or use my ideas as a jumping off point to combine two (or more) ideas into a new and unique project all your own.

Friday
Feb132015

Tabula Rasa Jacket, Take One

I have been wanting to make this Tabula Rasa jacket pattern for such a long time.  So many of my friends have turned out version after version of this wonderfully-drafted, casual fit jacket (with a fabulous square armhole!).  Plus, I really love the gals who designed this jacket and who have come up with so many variations that it never looks like the same jacket twice.  Rae Cumbie and Carrie Emerson are the gals behind Fit for Art Patterns, the independent pattern company that produced the Tabula Rasa Jacket and variations, plus several other patterns.  Not only have they designed a stylish jacket with exceptionally good instructions, they also provide fitting services through their booth at the sewing expos they frequent.  When I purchased my pattern at one of these shows I was able to try on a muslin version of the jacket to determine the correct size.  Then Rae offered other suggestions for me to try (move the shoulder line forward 1/2-inch, shorten the hem lenght 1", etc.).  This gave me enough confidence to cut out my first jacket from some good (though not precious) fabric.

I chose a brown silk noil which has been in my stash for years.  I knew that the fabric would need some help to keep the jacket from looking flat and boring.  I decided that the band and optional cuffs would be the perfect place to add a little embellishment.  I love hand stitching and decided to pull out my sashiko stencils and return to a technique I learned years ago from Nancy Shriber.  I traced the design onto a layer of flannel that I then used to underline the various pieces. 

The thread I chose is a beautiful, hand-dyed perle cotton with a wide range of colors from cream through camel to dark brown, with some pink specks and even occasionally some aqua.  As many of you know, I like a very tone-on-tone look and this project is no exception.  In fact, this stitching is extremely subtle, even for me. 

I also decided to stitch the same design on the side panels, and used the same thread to saddle stitch the hems and around the bands and cuffs.

I am very pleased with how this jacket turned out and have another planned using a lovely kimono panel I bought at a sewing expo last fall.  I think this versatile pattern will see a lot of use from me.

Tuesday
Jan132015

Alabama Chanin Stitchin'

Over the summer, when my sewing studio was nothing but a mountain of boxes, I spent most of my sewing time doing hand stitching.  For a while now it has been obvious to me that what I need in my wardrobe is more basic pieces that I can mix and match.  Not only would this increase the items in my closet, it would decrease the items in my stash, namely the large collection of recycled t-shirts I am storing.  I have been very fortunate over the years to find many matching shirts at thrift stores, and these shirts are perfect for creating basic tops and skirts, as well as smaller accessories, Alabama Chanin style.

It is pretty amazing to me how quickly you can hand stitch a garment, though the binding of the neckline and armholes takes a fair amount of time.  This single-layer corset top was created from a couple of recycled t-shirts.  The hem was left unfinished, as is typical of AC garments, but I am considering binding it with leftover binding to keep it from rolling so much.  Double-layer garments seem to lie better at the hem.

I used the herringbone stitch for the binding and employed my homemade Tiger Tape to keep my stitches evenly spaced.  I am hoping to make several more garments along this line before summer arrives.

I also finished up a project that I started last year, and that I alluded to in this post.  The fingerless gloves were made from two t-shirts; the underlayer is black, the outer layer chocolate brown.  The pattern is available in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.  I stenciled them with the Bloomers pattern from Alabama Stitch Book in black paint and stitched them in reverse applique.  These gloves only require two t-shirts, one of each color, and are a great project to get you started in upcycling.

I'm in the preparation phase for my annual sewing retreat which is happening in a couple of weeks.  I have quite an ambitious list of projects for this year.  I am very much looking forward to seeing my sewing friends and to having some "quiet" time away to get some sewing finished.  Wish me luck getting everything cut out and packed.

Thursday
Dec252014

Christmas and Winter

Hello sweet friends, who I haven't seen in so long.  This past year has been so full -- too full, really, and certainly too full to keep up with my blog.  Which makes me sad because I miss it so, both as a form of record-keeping and a way to connect with friends near and far.

As some of you may know, I moved my family this summer and we have still not recovered from the process.  And here it is Christmas already!  We've now landed in Charlottesville, Virginia, in a sweet little house on two acres of (mostly) woods.

It is a lovely quiet spot and we are enjoying being out in the country.  Here's the little treehouse that we are having built for our boys in the back yard.

We are still getting settled here, a task made more difficult because much of our furniture is residing at our old house which is still on the market.  I previously wrote about the construction of my sewing studio, and that area, too, is still being sorted out.  Here's what it looks like at present:

The furniture I ordered to help tame this mess has been repeatedly back-ordered but finally arrived last week.  I'm hoping to get it assembled after the new year begins and get this place under control.  I have been doing some sewing despite the chaos, but some of my furniture hasn't made the move quite yet, so I've been making do.

I was busy this Christmas with lots of projects, most from my kitchen but some from my studio.  I made my husband a fleece vest and matching neck gaiter.  I also made my boys gaiters.  No pictures of those yet.  I also completed a project that has been on my wish list for at least 8 years -- a new star for the top of our Christmas tree. 

I created this from wool blend felt and used this pattern for the design.  The embroidery was done with perle cotton, silk ribbon and silver chop beads.  The pearl beads were left over from the beadwork on my wedding dress and the button in the middle was an extra from that same project.

I stitched an extra layer of felt to the inside of the star, leaving the bottom open to be slipped over the top of the tree.  I used a blanket stitch and more perle cotton to construct the star.

I did quite a bit of baking/cooking this year.  Our church had a Christmas bazaar and I made a number of items for the bake sale table as well as many bags of goodies for gifts to friends and family.

Eggnog Bread

Cookies for Santa

Rosemary Pecans with Cranberries

Salted Caramel Chex Mix

My neighbor gave me a jar of delicious Olive Tapenade along with the recipe so I had to make my own jars.  I'll share this recipe with you at a later time.

I've also been doing quite a bit of hand sewing in the evenings.  My studio is over our detached garage so it is a little harder to access.  I've been keeping a little bag of hand stitching in the house to work on.  I can't share one of the projects because it is still waiting to go out to a friend as a gift and I don't want to spoil the surprise in case she reads this post.  But I'll share once the gift has been given.

I have always found the quiet and spare days of winter to be my most productive time in my studio.  I love the quality of the light which is so different than other times of the year, and there are fewer distractions.  I am already looking forward to turning the calendar to January 2015 and really settling in to get some sewing done.  I hope that my life will now allow me to create more and post more.  I've really missed those things.