Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Harriet's Dovo 3 1/2" Hardanger Embroidery Scissors, from Sassy2Stitch
Lately I've been obsessed with scissors.  Not the little plastic kind the kids use, not the ones from Office Depot that I use to open packages -- I've been searching for embroidery scissors.

What are embroidery scissors, you may ask?  Well, they are about 4" long, and they have long, thin, razor-sharp points that enable you to clip fabric very precisely, with single-thread accuracy.  This is very important for clipping concave curves and inside points of applique shapes, because if your clip goes too deep your applique shape will fray, but if it doesn't go deep enough, you won't be able to get a sharp inside point. 

Dovo 6" Stork Embroidery scissors available here from Sassy2Stitch
I began by hunting for Dovo Solingen embroidery scissors, a German brand that I've heard lots of Serious Quilters raving about, (including Harriet Hargrave, whose machine applique class I was fortunate to take last month).   However, if I'm going to pay $50 or more for a 4" pair of scissors, it's not enough that they are meticulously crafted and perform flawlessly.  They must also be beautiful!  Dovo has some fancier embroidery scissors, like the Stork scissors at left.  Hmmm...  There are too many knock-off versions of the stork scissors for my taste.  I want something special, that I don't see everywhere.  I kind of like the Scalloped embroidery scissors (below), but the scissor blades look a little squattier to me, not as thin as the others:

Dovo 3 1/2" Scalloped Embroidery Scissors, available here from Sassy2Stitch
Soon, however, I stumbled upon Sajou, a line of French scissors that are entirely handmade in small ateliers near Versailles.  My favorites are their historical reissue designs:

Sajou Langres 4" Embroidery Scissors

Ooh la la!  Look at the cute little embroidered twill label!  Look at the darling little BOX!  Are you swooning?  If not, you would be if I told you how expensive they are.  It will suffice to say that Sajou scissors make the Dovos look like an economical option.  But I'm remembering all of the breathtaking vintage and antique embroidered textiles I saw at the Marche aux Puces in Paris -- can't you just imagine that the embroiderers who created such beauty might have been using beautifully made tools like these?

Embroidered Detail of Early 18th Century MAN'S Jacket

Vintage Embroidered Collar Spied at the Paris Flea Market in 2011

I am convinced that I could easily execute exquisite embroideries like those, if only I had a pair of lovely, decadent Sajou scissors in my sewing basket.  Sajou even has an Eiffel Tower embroidery scissors, a reissue from the late 19th century: 

Sajou Eiffel Tower Embroidery Scissors
No, I didn't buy the Sajou scissors... yet.  As gorgeous as they are, and as seductive as their fancy French pedigree may be, I don't know anyone who uses them and I have never seen them in person.  Next time I get to Paris, I will definitely seek them out.  After all, when you're on vacation and you're shopping with Euros, it's kind of like Monopoly money and it doesn't really count.  Or so I tell myself.

So, what did I end up ordering?  I went with the Dovos, just not the plain ones:

Dovo 3 1/2" Embroidery Scissors, Coming Soon to a Mailbox Near Me, available here from Sassy2Stitch

I also ordered a second pair of rounded tip Dovo embroidery scissors for trimming away the backing fabric behind my applique shapes.  I already have one of those unwieldy Gingher "duckbilled" applique scissors, but that big old duck bill gets in my way and makes me feel like I'm trimming with a lawn mower or a hatchet.

Dovo Rounded Tip Embroidery Scissors, Also Headed My Way and available here from Sassy2Stitch

I also ordered this pretty beaded scissor chatelaine, basically a fancy-yet-functional necklace for keeping track of my scissors and needle threader when I'm wandering around town with my little hand sewing projects, which I seem to be doing more and more often lately:

Scissor Chatelaine, Because I'm Fancy, available here from Sassy2Stitch

Incidentally, Jenny the Quilt Skipper must have a spy cam in my office.  Her Scissor Lust post appeared today, just as I'm impatiently awaiting my own package of scissorlicious lovelies. 

Do you have a favorite pair of scissors?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Jingle BOM Progress Report: Applique Block 3 Complete

Jingle BOM Applique Block 3
I finished stitching on the last berries of Applique Block 3 today.  This quilt is an ongoing block of-the-month pattern designed by Erin Russek, and you can find her patterns here.

I think I'm getting the hang of this hand applique.  I used much smaller seam allowances, or I think they're called "turning allowances" in applique -- and that made it much easier to get the backs of my berries to stay flat and more or less round.  It also seemed to help with the bulk problems on the cardinal's little face.  This bird came out much better than the first ones!  The scalloped basked edges?  Hmmm...  I discovered that the stiff metallic fabric did not want to play nice on the curves, but I still think it's a pretty good first attempt.

Time to go pick up the kiddo from camp...  Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Better Late Than Never: February 2012 FMQ Challenge Completed, Feathers With Diane Gaudynski

Embroidery Disaster Saved by Free-Motion Quilting!
Remember the 2012 Free-Motion Quilting Challenge hosted by SewCalGal?  Each month last year, a different free-motion quilting expert provided an online tutorial with a practice exercise.  We were supposed to complete all twelve by the end of the year, but I didn't even find out about the challenge until June I only managed to complete seven by year's end.  Although I was brand-new to free-motion quilting at the beginning of this challenge, I found that setting aside a couple of hours once a month to practice quilting motifs has made a HUGE difference -- like the difference between drawing with a pen in my hand versus trying to draw with a pen clasped between my toes.  Well, SewCalGal recently announced a "second chance" for those of us who did not meet the goal in 2012, and I now have until October 31st to finish the remaining challenges. 

So, back in April I spent something crazy like 6 hours embroidering this enormous Jacobean bird design, only to have it shrink up and pucker when I attempted to press the finished piece from the back side?  (I have a theory about that, by the way -- I had layered a piece of unwashed muslin beneath the silk shantung prior to embroidering for extra stability, then trimmed away the excess when the embroidery was complete.  I think the muslin backing shrank when I ironed it).  

Ruined Embroidery Project, Ripe for FMQ Practice
I decided to use this ruined embroidery project for FMQ practice, to see whether I could quilt out those ugly puckers and ripples between the embroidered areas.  I spent several hours yesterday and today working on Diane Gaudynski's February 2012 feather tutorial, and I could not be more thrilled with the results.  I have admired Diane's machine quilting, and the machine quilting of her students, for years, and I own both of her wonderful books.  Still, I've not felt up to the challenge of trying to quilt feathers until now.  This is the first time for me just sitting down at the machine and quilting feathers over and over again.  They're far from perfect up close, but much better than I ever thought I would be able to do.  And, thanks to the FMQ challenge, I now know that my quilting skills WILL get better and better, the more I practice.  If I can do this, ANYONE can learn!
So yes, I was able to quilt out all of the puckers in this embroidery design, and what's more, I managed to quilt some passable feathers and lumpy-but-acceptable pebble background quilting.  I have long struggled with both of those designs and have been practice-doodling feathers on my iPad for months.  Wahoo!
Can you believe this is the exact same project as the ugly wrinkled mess in the previous photo?  I almost threw this away!  Now I like it so much that I have to come up with something to do with it.  The finished piece is 16" x 20."  Any ideas?  I suppose I could just square the edges, bind it, and call it a "mini wall quilt." 
I'm Quilting Feathers! 
I attempted several different feather styles, but even though the traditional, backtracked feathers are supposed to be the most difficult to quilt, those were the easiest for me -- probably because that's the way I've been doodling them.  However, I was NOT doodling the stem correctly, so all of my stems are a bit wonky.
My fabric is a glitter-flecked silk shantung layered with Hobbs Tuscany Silk batting and muslin backing.  I used #100 silk thread in the needle and 60/2 Mettler cotton embroidery thread in the bobbin, with a size 60 Microtex needle, tension reduced to 1.50, and BSR stitch length set to 1.5.
It even looks cool from the back, see?
Back View
So now that's one more down, and only four more to go.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Versace Must Be a Quilter, Or The Coolest Handbags That I Did NOT Buy

At Versace, Stilettos + Free-Motion Quilting + Naked = Sexy!
Hello, Dahlings!  Have you missed me?  Here I was counting down the days until school ended, thinking summer would bring some relaxation our way, but so far the first week of the kids' summer vacation has been pretty hectic.  The boys have had Vacation Bible School every morning this week, plus we had a new member orientation dinner at church last night, a couple of discouraging estimates for improving our wreck of a back yard, and a fender-bender for Bernie yesterday morning (not his fault).  I've also been busy working on a project for a design client, and we're about to drive Lars to an audition for a summer teen production of Godspell.  But I won't bore you with the details of any of that right now.  Today, we're going to talk about Shopping, Fashion, Couture Handbags, and Free-Motion Quilting. 
Sneaky Peaky from Versace -- Keep Reading!
A few weeks ago I spent several hours going through the entire South Park Mall, looking at every single handbag in just about every store, and (to the despair of many a defeated salesperson) I could not find a single bag that fit what I wanted for the summer.  I didn't want the hassle of having to switch handbags depending on my outfit and my plans for the day; that doesn't work for me.  I typically don't even know what I'm wearing until 5 minutes before I leave the house, and I'm lucky to make it out the door with shoes on my feet!  So I wanted a handbag that was neutral or at least versatile, but not boring; something that straddled the fence between casual and dressier days, something that didn't have anyone's logo plastered all over it, and something fun and unique that I would not see tons of other women carrying around this summer.  I wanted it to be big enough for my wallet, checkbook, keys, and clunky sunglasses case, but not so big that I could overload it to the point of throwing my back out.  Now, is this too much to ask of a handbag? 

Floral Python Bag from Jimmy Choo, $4,695
Apparently, yes it is.  After coming up empty handed at the mall, I spent a couple more hours searching online, and EUREKA!  I found several fabulous -- but not-so-affordable-- options, and I did not buy any of them.  Instead, I'm going to share them with you so we can enjoy them together.  Everything is connected to everything else where art, design, and fashion converge, so please indulge me even if you're not a handbag person.

This bag is my absolute favorite.  It's the Biker Multi Floral Python from Jimmy Choo, yours for just $4,695...  The floral print superimposed on natural python has a fun, fresh, contemporary feel -- I'm getting a very Parisian vibe here.  I wear a lot of solid clothing rather than prints, so this would actually work with more of my wardrobe than you'd expect.  Here's a closeup:

Fun Luxe from Jimmy Choo

As you've probably noticed, python is a Big Deal Trend right now, and every line seems to be using some of it.  Not just in fashion, either -- interior designer Mary McDonald has a gorgeous python print linen fabric in her collection for F. Schumacher & Co.:

F. Schumacher Park Avenue Python in Greige, 100% Linen, $196 per yard
It's a heavier-weight linen fabric, suitable for draperies, light upholstery, or wall applications...  And it would also be the perfect weight for a casual summer handbag.

After the Jimmy Choo, my second-favorite python bags are these lovelies from Gucci:

Gucci Multi Python Tote, $3,500

Multi Python Tote on Model -- Why Are These Bags So BIG?!

Gucci Jackie Malachite Green Python, $3,800 -- Pantone's Color of the Year

Gucci Jackie Warm Sand Python, $5,990 -- Love the Tassels
That last one is the most practical, from a "neutral color" perspective, anyway, and I love those big tassels.  They remind me of drapery tassels.

Just in case you're thinking that these are outrageously expensive handbags, let's look at a REALLY expensive handbag next:

Gucci Soft Stirrup Bag in Crocodile, $29,900
Crocodile Bag with Model -- These Bags Are All TOO BIG!
Umm, that bag costs more than my first car...  Granted, this is a rather large bag, and it's a gorgeous neutral that would work with just about anything, but I do like being married, so I think I'll pass.

What's with this supersized handbag thing, anyway?  Is it a purse, or a giant diaper bag? 

If you're looking for something smaller than a bowling bag, check out this lovely from Fendi:

Fendi Embroidered Leather Baguette, $2,450
Don't you just love the embroidery on the Fendi Embroidered Leather Baguette?  The size is much more sensible, and you know I love ANY color, as long as it's red...  This bag really got me thinking.  If Fendi can embroider on leather, why can't I?  Just google "how to embroider leather" and a whole slew of tutorials and videos will pop up.  The possibilities are endless!
Meanwhile, last but certainly not least, the folks at Versace have obviously been snooping around at the quilt shows:
Versace Vanitas Soft Quilted Tote, $2,295
It looks like someone has been practicing free-motion quilting designs on the Vanitas Soft Quilted Tote, doesn't it?  Chanel has been doing quilted leather forever (along with scores of imitators), but I've never seen THIS kind of quilting on a handbag before!  Hmmm...  I don't think I know anyone who does free-motion quilting on leather.  It would have to be really lightweight, smooth glove leather, NOT the upholstery stuff, and I'd need to work out the right needle and stitch length to get good definition for the quilting designs without perforating the leather...  I've never felt the urge to sew a handbag before, but this would be a really fun idea to play with.

Versace's Inspiration: Free-Motion Quilt Doodling by Rebecca
Oryany Whitney Bag, $325
So, what did I end up with after all that?  Sadly, I had to settle.  I bought this Oryany (I've never heard of them before, either) Whitney Colorblock handbag online from Nieman Marcus.  I don't love it, but I haven't seen anyone else with it, it works with just about any color, and it was inexpensive enough that I didn't HAVE to love it.  It's way too big, for one thing, a little less structured than I would prefer, and I'm annoyed by and had hoped to avoid the ubiquitous brass-plated hardware fad.  The best thing about this bag is the fun lining fabric:

It's not as exciting as the Versace or the Jimmy Choo, but the much lower price point doesn't cut into my fabric shopping budget!