Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Designing isn't always easy.....




It's been ages since I posted anything that I thought was "worthy" of anyone's attention.   Lately I seem to find myself running away from anything creative and I'm not at all sure why.  EXCEPT that my sewing space is still under construction as everything seems to take priority over the drudgery of manual labor!  I am ever so hopeful that I will be back in my space soon!  That being said, I do have a project that I must get done!

Once again, the gremlins are hard at work and what I thought to be a pretty easy design has become the most frustrating of tasks.  First, knowing that I was spending a few weeks in Tennessee to help my daughter get through the last few weeks of classes and her finals, I packed my supplies....any I didn't have, I could buy in Tennessee....right?     Well, I packed a pleater than I'd never used before....my.Mother-in-Law's Pullen pleater.   Have you ever NEEDED A PLEATED INSERT RIGHT NOW-only to have the unfortunate luck to either have dull needles or something the gremlins are having a laugh fest  about!  After breaking 6 needles trying to pleat an insert, the GREMLINS WON......almost.  I did manage to pleat enough of a panel to work on a design if I can only get my mind off tracking down and doing away with those gremlins!!!!    

The new design is getting done....at a much slower pace. My graph paper actually came in handy for this design.   I normally just put needle and thread  to fabric to begin a design idea.  Right now, I'm pretty sure what the design will center around and am trying to get some cute inspiration for borders because I  always have trouble with that ever so important design element that frames the design.   I am, however, one that thinks if the central design is so busy and "important", I will  not take the emphasis away by creating a complicated border.   Back to work for me...... please wish  me luck!! 



Thursday, March 10, 2011

Cinderella....inspiration as old as the Fairy Tale


When I think of what inspires me to create a smocking design, I have to say the ideas come from everywhere.   

Before I started designing smocking designs, I actually had time to make special birthday cakes for my daugher Aimee.  While looking through a special recipe box recently, I came across a photo of Aimee's fourth birthday cake.....Cinderella!



The "carriage" is made using a sugar mold intended to make those wonderful Easter panorama sugar eggs.  It is nestled in a bed of pastel roses.  The "wheels" of the carriage are actually the top rims of  small Dixie Cups.  

I only wish I had saved the Cinderella topper.  Aimee wanted to play with it and we all know how that turns out.  It was a beautiful plastic figurine made by Wilton but was a copy of a porcelain Cinderella figurine by Lladro. 

Sadly, I have to say, I don't think we will see this quality in a simple little cake topper. 
  


Wilton still has the sugar molds. 


So....would you consider this to be "Vintage" as it was thirty years ago?  Like so many wonderful stories....it is vintage, but in the most special way!


This little cake was such a special memory and
that's what it was meant to be.


 Happy Smocking!
Gwen

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Christmas Tassel


I know that there are times when I see something
special and I need to buy two or more of whatever it is. Why?

Because.....I may not be able to find it again.


I only bought one of these Nativity ornaments at Hobby LobbyIt was half-price....$2.50
As expected.....there were no more! 
Never buy just one!!!



I had seen and actually purchased what I call a
"Froo-Froo Fussy Tassel." 
Of course thinking that I would eventually  attempt  to make one

Now for the story behind my making
Christmas Tassels......

My sister Sue is the Master of Christmas CreationsShe creates some of the most beautiful wreaths and such that I never wanted to bring anything to her Open House Sale that might compete. So this year... at the last minute....of course...I thought that I could make some Christmas tassels. .

It seemed possible since they were made from ribbon. 
Of course....I have ribbon! 

Ribbon!

An absolutely beautiful, soft, flowing piece of tactile therapy! 

It is a collection...not necessarily to be handed down...but a collection never the less.   I have ribbon that it would break my heart to cut.  Seriously...... 
If you are a sewista, sewer, seamstess or just a crafter, you probably buy ribbon....well, because it's

  Ribbon......




Ribbon Tassel Instructions

You will need:
 -An Ornament with firmly attached hanging hook/loop-
-Four or five different ribbons in graduated widths-
-Eyelash yarn-

So with my stash of ribbon, I began this experiment.  Keep in mind that for the most part, I don't like "exact" measurements when crafting and more often than not use the "TLAR" method.......
"That Looks About Right"

You will start layering ribbon starting with your longest ribbon loops first, working "up" the tassel.  Cut 6 to 8 lengths of each ribbon for the layered loops.  A "ringer" is added in the center using a bead or jingle bell as a weight.  I found small ribbon garland at Big Lots that worked for this...just removed extra beads from a 10 to 12 inch lengh of ribbon garland.  This nativity tassel was the smallest one that I made with the longest ribbon being cut 12 to 14 inches.  The second ribbon was cut 10 to 12 inches and the third 6 to 8 inches.  The last row of ribbon which is a focal point of the tassel, cut to a length that works in relation to the ornament that will finish the tassel.  The finishing touch to the tassel will be the eyelash yarn glues around the base of the ornament.  Use 3 to 4 strands of eyelash (also sometimes called "fun fur")yarn together, crochet a chain stitch approximately 6 to 8 inches, depending on the size of the ornament base.  Fluff the yarn to release all the lashes/furry strands.

Each different "layer" of ribbon were gathered using a zig-zag stitch over DMC pearl cotton thread.  Zig-zag the raw/cut edges in groups by length.  I did not used a wooden core, such as empty wooden spool of thread ....which would have worked better to be honest.   I gathered each row of ribbon and using hot glue, glued them together...working up the tassel.  To help hold the tassel while working, I used a gallon starch jug covered with aluminum foil to prevent the hot glue from sticking.  The weight of the starch in the jug helped it from tipping over.  Make sure the last layer of ribbon is level and flat so when the ornament is attached, the tassel will hand straight and level. 

This was a quick guide....if you need more information, please let me know.

Merry Christmas and may your home be blessed with love and happiness in the coming year.

Happy Smocking....and other stuff!

Gwen





 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas is for Sharing.....Santa Design and Graphs



This is a design that I did years ago. Years ago when I was publishing designs....when time seemed to be more plentiful.... when just getting that sudden creative energy was enough to make me want to spend hours stitching.


The original design was done for The Smocking Arts Magazine in 1986. I did a variation of this design for Austin when he was three years old. At times I feel that I'm in a time machine.....where have the years gone?



Austin's romper is smocked on Spechler-Vogel Imperial broadcloth insert, Children's Corner "Jeffrey" romper and Spechler-Vogel featherwale corduroy plaid. Santa also has blue pants.
This Santa is one that is much easier to smock that you might expect.
The body is symmetrical which requires less counting and positioning of stitches.
Basic Instructions
The design is worked over 12 rows. Pleat 14 rows. Begin border with a 2-step, half-space trellis beginning on row 2, working between rows 1 and 2; and row 11, working between rows 11 and 12. Use 3 or 4 strands of embroidery floss. Use the number of strands that will create a stacked figure with 5 rows of smocked cables beginning on one gathering row and ending on the next gathering row. See graphs. Arrows indicate stitching direction of smocked rows. Turn work as arrows change direction. Numbers on cable rows indicate consecutive stitches in the same floss color. Read graph colors from left to right. Red arrow-lines indicate where to end stitch (tie-off) sequence. Restart/continue smocking as indicated on graph. Note on graphs where satin stitch bars are worked over 1 or 2 pleats. Red dashed lines indicate backsmocking across back of work when moving over three or more pleats. When picture smocking, you must backsmock every row for support of characters except for front border design rows. These instructions are abbreviated, without cable-by-cable written text, in the hopes that this design with larger, more detailed color graphs will be sufficient to create this design.
Eyes for all figures are French knots wrapped 5 times in black/brown. Santa's mouth is a French knot wrapped 5 times in pink floss. Santa's belt buckle is a lazy daisy stitch in gold/yellow floss. Rabbit ears are lazy daisy stitches with pink straight stitch fill. "Snow" is randomly placed satin stitches over 2 pleats.
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Santa is worked across 38 pleats.
Click graphs to enlarge.



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This reindeer is smocked across 25 pleats. In the variation that I did for Austin's romper, I smocked this reindeer in reverse on the right side of the smocked insert.






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The third character is a little rabbit that is smocked across 18 pleats.

Time seems to slip away and my productivity seems to be lacking at times....which is so frustrating. However, I always have a design just waiting for it's turn at my work table. I KNOW that Rapunzil will get done...right after the "new" Cinderella.
I would very much appreciate any feedback....please....regarding how much you like or dislike these new graphs. Also, I would be interested to know how many smockers prefer the cable-by-cable text. In trying to create new designs, with the limitations of a single page, I wonder if larger more detailed graphs would be favored or text.
Merry Christmas
Gwen


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Emma wears Ashley Ann Design




Ashley Ann, is a smocking design plate that I designed many years ago.
However, as with all heirloom smocking, it really is Timeless. This little dress is such a sweet one that I think is fairly easy to create. I would rank the design between beginner and intermediate skill level.




The design is a good one for anyone that has never tried picture smocking. The tiny little flowers and leaves are settled in the waves of the design using the stacking technique used for creating picture smocking. The only recommendation that I would make is that you begin at the back of the bishop as your flowers will improve with practice.




The Swiss embroidered insertion dictated the colors used for the smocking. The embroidered vine with blue buds made choosing colors easy. The Delft blue and soft greens were a perfect jumping off point for creating this bishop style dress. The lace beading, Swiss embroidered insertion and lace edging were attached using heirloom machine techniques. Pick your embroidered insertion and match your floss colors for a quick start to beginning a special little dress.


Miss Emma posed sweetly.....well, at least for a very short time.


While this dress is done in Martha Pullen's white Swiss Nelona Batiste, the published design was worked using Spechler-Vogel Watercolor Blue Imperial Broadcloth. The colors of white, blue, pink and green were chosen to create a design that was....

"All Girl"
....just as Ashley Ann was.
The design was also used on a dress stitched in an almost monochromatic colorway on Spechler-Vogel Peach Imperial Broadcloth.


As with so many smocking projects, I think choosing colors is probably the most difficult. The first "draft" of this design was done in multi-colors. After finishing the design on pink broadcloth, it reminded me more of colors you might find in an Easter Basket. Cute, but not what I had intended. I wanted a design that was soft and sweet....so I changed the colorway to white, blue, pink and green.


Ashley Ann is a real little girl that grew up. A few years ago she graduated from the University of Florida with a Master's Degree in International Business. How fast the years pass!!! How to name a design is always a challenge because there are so many designs and yet you always want a name that everyone can remember. In an effort to have designs that were memorable, I began naming them after children of my friends. It guarantees that I think of them often.

Happy Smocking,
Gwen
OOps!
Almost forgot to mention that ...
Ashley Ann Design Plate...
is available through retail shops.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Picture Smocking Graph Paper....to share





This summer has been packed with fun with my Grands! The house is quite....too quite....and I need to get busy working through designs that are long overdue.



In doing this, I'm amazed that I was able to get things done twenty years ago in record time that take me FOREVER today! That being said, I've had a productive few days working out the "kinks" in the revision of my Cinderella design. Who would have thought that putting Cinderella "in the coach" would be so tricky. I'm not complaining!! Twenty five years ago, all the graphs that I put into my designs were hand drawn. Thankfully, my light table sits alone in the corner of my basement collecting dust.


Bonus is that in the process of "taking a break" from the tediousness of creating the Cinderella graphs with horses and a carriage full of stitches, I made
Picture Smocking Graph Paper
I've used it in the past for small designs....usually the things I do are much too large for a single piece of paper...and decided this was definitely something that I can share. This little sheet of paper also took some time as with my graphs, the "scale" of my individual "cable" stitch was made to create a graph that closely resembles what the actual smocked figure will look like. If you're a smocker and have stitched a variety of different designer's work, you know that no two are alike. I have no explanation for this fact. In fact, I am changing my graphs to combine the color graph and the "numbered graph". Hopefully this will make picture smocking easier.


I, not being too blogging savvy, haven't been able to figure out how to link my pdf.doc of the graph paper to this particular post. Anyone with tips or tricks to share....I would be so thankful for your help. Until then, anyone wanting the pdf download .... just leave your email address and I will send it. The pdf.doc prints quite nice as you can see if you click the photo. I have so much to learn!
Happy Smocking
Gwen

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Finding Prince Charming



Sometimes meeting the right guy
can make dinner just ever so nice.


Emma loves her Princess dresses.....so (sigh) I've resigned myself to not killing
myself to create a one-of-a-kind Disney smocked dress for our annual trip to Disney.



I've tried many different character arrangements and still haven't decided on one. There are so many choices and so little space.

However, she has requested the newest Cinderella on a pink sundress....
"So Nana, I can play in it!"

I have been working on a new Cinderella for some time and

keep reivising to the point of being silly.

Since the original Cinderella smocking design layout of the

Coach, White Horse and Cinderella

is what Emma prefers, then I will probably be sticking with that.


It also seems to be one most "borrowed" (illegally) by an "un-named" Boutique Smocking Company also. Truthfully, that has been my hesitation in creating another design.....only to have it stolen....manufactured in El Salvador and sold for $35. onEbay after everyone hits their warehouse sale.

Oh well........must keep stitching regardless of unscrupulous people!!!!


Hugs and Happy Smocking,

Gwen

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Celebrating Ten Years

Our first grandchild, Austin, turned ten years old last week.


Daughter, Aimee, Austin and me.

Austin wearing "Sailor Ducks"....at Disney of course!

Where do those precious years go? I feel the years are falling away too quickly.
I work everyday to keep those memories close to my heart and wish time
would just slow a tiny bit. Long enough to catch my breath.
Austin is such a sweet child with a tender heart. As most kids today, he's growing out of those
childhood years much earlier than necessary....a sign of the times.
And yes, I will worry that his heart will be broken.


The center bottom photo of the collage was the day his parents
took him to live for four years in Hanau, Germany.
We were so fortunate to be able to visit him so many
times while they were living there. Everything has a silver lining....right.
That was when Delta had to furlough pilots after 9/11 and
we had more time than money. Luckily we traveled on
Delta's dime for all those trips.
What was more funny was that Austin at age 2 thought
Nana and Papa lived at the Frankfurt airport!

Happy Smocking,
Gwen


Friday, May 21, 2010

Macaroons......for me!!!

Love to find something special...... Love that I found Confections of a (Closet) Master Confectioner

and her fabulous recipes and online shop for confections!

http://www.confectionsofamasterbaker.blogspot.com/


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Tiny Smocking

Smocked Christening Gown on Miniature Baby Doll, circa 1982


Two strands of floss were used to smock the top.

Smocking was done freehand..no pleating...just picking up fabric.
Buttonholes were worked for "sleeve" opening.
Boullion roses and lazy daisy leaves with two strands
of floss were added to finish this little ditty.


Recently we unpack our daughter's dollhouse so Miss Emma could play with it. Well, she evidently has taken on the characteristics of her older brother where demolition is the most fun. In the process of trying to put things back together, I ran across this little baby doll scattered to the winds. I had forgotten that I had made it for Aimee and quite frankly, I'm amazed that it has survived. It was a dollhouse accessory that was played with for many years.
The tiny doll in the blue gingham dress....Goldilocks....is made from the plastic cake decorating dolls. She is painted with acrylic paint and finished with "Delft" lacquer. Her hair is made of DMC floss. Curls are wrapped around wire and "set" with glue. Her lace "petticoat" is French cotton.

My question to everyone is:
"What is the smallest thing you've smocked?"
Happy Smocking,
Gwen

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Little Storybook Smocking

I just had to share this today. Last summer started this event with a little smocked outfit for Disney. However, the Cinderella and Belle ballgowns were Emma's choice to wear. Eventually, I did get photos of Miss Emma wearing this design. And so with this, a normal, not so special day can turn into something special!

Today started out pretty much the same....nothing special. Spent the morning weeding the wild strawberry plants out of my iris bed. A bit disappointed that my irises were not the tall bearded variety but still quite pretty...antique yellow and cream. I love that the wild bunnies love the strawberry plants but I do not love what those darling little creatures do to my plants! Just so you know, I don't have any March Hares or White Rabbits carrying pocket watches in my garden. But then who does? And then my not-so-special, normal day changed....


I did a little watering in the hopes that it might make my azaleas finally open up and decided to quickly gather the mail before I came in. There was a big manila envelope that was full of what I suspected were magazines. Hoffman Media was my big hint! Hummmm...



Surprise, Surprise!!!.....there in the blue issue is my design.

Kathy and everyone at Sew Beautiful did a wonderful job and I am so pleased.



I have to say at times, my "senior moments" can border on ridiculous. Oh, my! Is this the issue of Sew Beautiful that my design is in? Yes it was! For me this was so exciting as this design was one that was taken from a design I did many years ago. With some encouragement from a smocking friend, Janet Gilbert, I had submitted it and was so pleased when it was accepted. It's always nice when someone likes what you love to do. "Thanks again Janet!"

I love the article but love how Miss Emma looks in this little outfit! She has become my little motivator.

Happy Smocking,
Gwen

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Pink is her favorite color.....

Smocking for this little girl is something I enjoy

but I much prefer just to play with Emma and her brother.

Emma asked for white bunnies but only if they were on a pink dress.

So we have "Emma's Bunny Garden" design.

This is Emma. She has to be bribed to get pictures.....


There was much foot stomping in this process.


Funny how once your taking pictures, that the

little diva comes out!



So, I was pleased that of almost 75 photos....

love that digital camera...

that I was happy with about a dozen.

........so I guess the new Pink Princess Bike with silver streamers was worth it!