Saturday, July 31, 2010

Planning for Sewing

painting by Louis Aston Knight, Pennyslvania 1873-1948

By learning to press a hem before sewing, and then stitching a straight stitch, you nearly have all the skill you need for just about anything you wish to make.  Your iron will be the most important tool you have in sewing, and if you do not have one, you can get a small iron for crafts, which can be placed on a towel on the table next to your sewing machine.

  If you want to learn to stitch straight and evenly, you can always use a checked fabric, and sew along the pattern on the fabric. I use large gingham check fabric when showing beginners how to straight-stitch, and all projects are made using the checked fabric.

The above sketch shows a way to plan out the sewing projects you wish to complete. Sketching out all your ideas can help you determine how much fabric you will need.  When you do not have enough, you can always use a different fabric, as I have done with the muslin, that still matches it.  When you have sketched every thing you can think of that you would like to make, you have a clearer idea of what you are wanting to do.  Try sewing other things like baby-blocks and balls, ornaments, and picture frames, or make  covers for  plant pots,  valances for the tops of your windows to hide the rods, and a tissue box cover. Try making a hat and hand bag. Some of these may come up in future beginner sewing posts.  Use a nice pen and a deluxe box of crayons to illustrate the projects you are dreaming up. I think sewing should be inspiring and enjoyable, and not stressful.  I remember as children, how we would take pieces of burlap and make small burlap bags and pretend to carry silver coins in them, made from foil covered round cardboard pieces. With fabric, we could make anything, from a tent to a sleeping bag.

This is what has been completed so far: pillow and pillow case, yo-yo quilt piece, soft toy, little gift bag,  lamp shade cover, patchwork quilted potholder or hot pad, dish towel or tea towel, handkerchief, table runner.

I began more projects with muslin, and added ball fringe trim: yard-long pillow, lamp shade cover, handkerchief, coffee-table or end-table cloth, and fireplace mantle cover.

These mantel cloths are quite expensive to buy, so if you can make your own, you can have several without spending a lot. Look for other fabric sources also: an old sheet, a curtain, pillow cases, skirts and the skirt part of dresses.  When you can do the simple things shown on these tutorials, you can have everything you need to decorate your home or wear.

These are muslin curtains, which are very easy to make, with the added trim on the inner edges. Tie backs can be made, as shown in the drawings, and directions will be shown in other posts. Muslin can be as wide as 120 inches and makes an excellent home decorating fabric, since you can dye it any way you wish, and you can even rubber-stamp your own pattern on it, using your rubber stamps and fabric ink that is sold by rubber stamp companies.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Water of Tyne

I have a few subjects I am working on to post in the future, as well as some more sewing, but in the meantime, you might like to hear something beautiful.

Boatmen in a Wooded River Landscape

Boatmen in a Wooded River Landscape

Giclee Print


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A View of Newcastle from the River Tyne

A View of Newcastle from the River Tyne

Giclee Print


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The following song is for all those who enjoy acapella.


I cannot get tae my love if I would dee

For the waters of Tyne run between him and me

And here I maun stand wi a tear in my ee

All sighin and sobbin, my true love to see

Oh where is the boatman, my bonny hinney

Oh where is the boatman, go bring him to me

For to ferry me over the Tyne to my honey

Or speed him across the rough waters to me

Oh bring me a boatman, I`ll gi all my money

And you for your trouble rewarded shall be

If you`ll carry me over the Tyne to my honey

And I will remember the boatman and thee

I cannot get tae my love if I would dee

For the waters of Tyne run between him and me

And here I maun stand wi a tear in my ee

All sighin and sobbin, my true love to see

The Boatman

The Boatman

Art Print

Japy, L.

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You might also enjoy this folk song.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Business of Home Living

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Beginner Sewing: handkerchief and lamp cover

Unlike paper tissues, a cloth handkerchief is less likely to be dropped carelessly on the floor or ground. It will be treasured and used for many things. Handkerchiefs  have a history all their own, and were commonly seen in a man's pocket or a woman's purse. 

A handkerchief is a good beginner sewing project because it is small and works up quickly, even for the most inexperienced with a needle.

For a pattern, you can open up a square paper napkin and lay it on the fabric, cutting around it and allowing an extra half inch on each edge of the napkin, for hemming.

Where the lace ends overlap, turn one side into a corner by pressing the edge to the inside. Click on for a closer view, and click again for extra large.

 Just turn in the edge of one side of the lace to form an angle or triangle. If you are not sure how to do this, just try different ways until you have a look that you prefer.  There are other ways of doing this, but for the sake of simplicity and time, for beginners, this is the one I prefer.

As in previous beginner sewing posts, you need to have your iron heated up to cotton and linen, or very hot, with steam. Then iron the square down one-fourth inch on all sides, pressing firmly so that the creases are permanent. Then, fold that ironed down hem again, one fourth inch and press firmly. That way, it will stay in place while you stitch, and the raw edges and stray threads will be hidden inside the hem.

A boy's handkerchief can be made of any cotton print that suits a boy, or white muslin, as shown. I have used dark thread to show where you should stitch: close to that inside folded edge, catching in the main part of the handkerchief also. That will be 3 layers you are sewing through, all the way around.

If you have a little experience, you can stitch an initial in the corner. Just use your straight stitch for now, if you like.

After hemming all around, finish off in a knot. Lay the lace along side the finished handkerchief  and cut four pieces of flat lace an inch longer on each end. When ironing this finished piece, you cannot use a hot iron if the flat lace is synthetic.

Here is what it looks like when lace is attached, but even with a ladies handkerchief, the lace is not necessary.

A way to get all your old mis-matched lampshades to look alike, is to make a simple cover for them, and you can do this by hand. I've used muslin here, with ball fringe.

I need to pause for a second and tell you about Singer's large-eyed sewing needles, which makes threading easier. They come on a magnetic strip.

I use quilting thread for these hand-sewn projects, because it is thicker, and usually all cotton.

To get the right size for your lamp shade, just lay the fabric on the side of the lamp and mark the depth with a pencil, leaving an inch at the top for the casing.  Use the selvage for the bottom, so that you will not need to hem it.  Use the raw edge at the top, where you will be ironing down a large fold. To find out how much you need to go around your lamp shade, wrap the fabric around it twice. It is better to have a little more, than less.

  Sew the short edges of the piece as shown before, by ironing down one fourth inch and then one fourth inch again, and stitching with running stitch or over cast stitch.

You will need a piece of ribbon to put through the casing. To make a casing, iron down the raw top edge one fourth inch as usual. Then fold down again an inch or so, and lay your ribbon on top. Make the fold a little larger than the ribbon, so you can pull it through easily. Press that down, and sew along that inside edge, leaving the ends open to insert the ribbon. (See above photo)

Cut a piece of ribbon a few inches longer than the long piece of fabric. Attach a safety pin, and run it through the casing, by manipulating with both fingers, pulling the fabric in one direction and the safety pin and ribbon in another. It will gather as you go.

If you did not use the selvage on the lower edge, now is the time to hem it, tucking in stray threads and pressing down, then stitching.   Add your trim or fringe by stitching it on the outside edge.

This is what the finished shade looks like when done in the fabric that I have been using for this series on hand sewing. I cut a lot more ribbon so that I could tie it on to the lamp in a bow. You don't have to let the ribbon show, and it can be tucked into the opening edges.   You have just learned as simple skill that will help you make curtains, skirts, and many other things.  

I am nearing the end this fabric, so I hope to show you what you can do with all those little left-over pieces. I hope you have not thrown anything away. I forgot to tell you that when I first began the beginner sewing instructions: that the scraps can be used for something. You do not have to always save them but it is important to know what to do with them if you ever need to be resourceful.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Little Cottage

Go her to view Grace Cottage, A new painting by Susan Rios

Hill House

To My Mother 

The Path

Seaside Garden

An Ocean Garden

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Beginner Sewing: Tea Towel

Tranquil Waters by Henri Biva  1848-1928, French

Today's beginner project is a dish towel, sometimes called a tea towel. It can also be made of muslin. Since this is 100% cotton, it can be used as muslin.  

Lay a dish towel that you already have, on a piece of your fabric, with the selvage at the lower end of the towel. Cut around the dish towel, leaving ample room on all sides, for hemming, which is about a half an inch on all sides, except for the selvage edge.

. Above you see a roll of grosgrain ribbon, which you can get at the dollar store, and a strip of co-ordinating pink cotton fabric. If you do not have ribbon for trim, you can make your own, with the strip of fabric.

At the start of each sewing project, the fabric must be pressed, using a cotton or linen, very hot, setting.

On the two long sides, iron a hem one-fourth inch wide.  Then iron it down one-fourth inch at the one short end. 

Iron each long side another one fourth inch and tuck in all the stray threads. Now, stitch all three edges down, using a running stitch, an overcast stitch, or a slip-stitch. Look up illustrations of these stitches so that you can see how they are made. You may run out of thread and have to tie off and re-thread your needle several times. Putting too much thread in your needle can cause a lot of tangling, so if you are a beginner, you might be able to manage a limit of one foot  of thread at a time. 

Above, is a raw edge, 

and here is the selvage edge. I wrote about this in a previous project. It is the part of the fabric that is bound at the cotton mill, and will not unravel. It helps to use this edge to avoid extra steps in sewing. You do not have to turn it down and hem it.

After hemming all three sides if you are not adding trim, iron your towel and fold it in thirds. Note the selvage edge is the lower part of the towel. You have hemmed only three sides, and saved some time by using the selvage as one edge.  Tie a fancy shoe lace to make a loop and hang it up on a hook. This cotton towel works really well on glassware and cutlery. Unlike terry cloth, it does not leave any cotton residue on the dishes. It is great for tea cups, too.

I will post a print-out pattern for this precious pig toy.  If you do not have printed fabric, sew all the projects so far, in white muslin. 

Why does it matter whether or not you learn to hand-sew?  Firstly, you might not be in a place where you can get things ready-made. Secondly, there will be times when you will want to be frugal, and sewing certainly can be less expensive. Thirdly, hand work is good for the mind, and fourthly, it leaves something to show for the time you have spent, and fifthly, it is beautiful and calming to look at. It is important to be able to make things yourself and not be helpless. In good times, sewing can be a leisure activity, and in difficult times, sewing can fill an important need.  

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Summer Modesty

On the Beach at Trouville, 1870
by Claude Monet

Beach Scene, by John Chapman 1808-1889 (American)

This message is only to those who want to find out more about being modest, and to those who are sincerely concerned about the amount of immodesty around us.  If you basically do not believe that modesty is beautiful and that it goes hand in hand with dignity and protection, you need not read further. This article may not be what you are looking for.  It is not addressed to those who are not concerned about modesty. It is not addressed to anyone who is not a member of the blood-bought church of our dear Lord.  It is more precisely aimed at the faithful members of the Lord's church, who claim to have the truth in doctrine and in practice.
Stroll on the Beach, by Bastida,  1826-1923  (Spain)

The pictures here will show you a something about the way people dressed on the public beaches just a hundred years ago. There does not seem to be anything to blush about in these pictures, and it gives you an idea of the kind of manners that people used to have. They thought it was rude to expose nakedness or private parts of the body. Only the circus women would have been brazen enough to wear bras showing straps and tattoos.  What was considered a bizarre, crude way of dressing a hundred years ago, is now paraded as normal. I feel sorry for the children growing up today, who see people looking the way only clowns looked in the past. Clowns these days have a lot to compete with, in order to be identified as clowns.
The Beach Umbrella, by Edward Henry Potthast

The popular summer style for women seems to be: two sets of straps showing on each shoulder (one set being the bra strap), one black and one white or green or whatever they have,  tattoos in the blank spaces of the arms, back and chest, short-shorts, flip-flops, naked bellies  and exposed chests. What little fabric they have on is drab and dull,  and no one dares wear the the array of shades that nature has to offer.

This sounds like women just having fun on a vacation, but it is also blatantly displayed in church.  An elderly woman once described a church she had been attending as the "cleavage congregation," because so many of the women  always displayed  cleavage. She was asked, as an older woman, to speak to the ladies about this, but when she did, the younger women accused her of being a snob, extreme, Victorian, and legalistic. Instead of soberly considering their ways, they attacked this gracious woman and chased her away. These elderly women in the church have been commanded in scripture to teach the younger women to be modest. They are just doing their job. Today, however, immodesty reigns in a sinister militant form, threatening and accusing, arguing and seeking vengeance on anyone who dares touch this subject.
Peasant Girl
(Peasants of the 18th century wore more fabric and were better covered than women in the 21st century)

 Christian women now are dressing as bad as the world. Many people who want to leave the way of the world, seek out churches and then find the cleavage, bare skin, bra-straps, shorts, and tattoos sported at church are worse than the world. What a let-down that must be for someone seeking the message that Christians are supposed to be different from the world.

Women Walking on the Beach in Sri Lanka

This is a contemporary photograph of poorer women in Sri Lanka. I have always insisted that modest dress is not a matter of wealth. It is a matter of politeness, belief,  and personal dignity. Many women grew up much poorer than people are today, and still managed to keep their clothes on, keep their flesh covered, and be modest even in hot climates.

Painted Photograph of bathing costumes in the late 1800's.

One woman has written, "I am always hopeful that someone will be converted, so I take a friend to church once in awhile. They always make a comment about the blatant amount of immodesty in the worship assembly, from bare legs, to bare backs, bare chests, bare shoulders and bare midriffs. The astonishing amount of piercings and tattoos make me think that people are going back to primitive ways, rather than progressing on to the high mark of the high calling. One friend asked me, 'Shouldn't some of the older women teach those young women about modesty?'  You see, they have been reading the Bible, searching for truth. They come to assemble with believers and find out that the believers do not follow the great book they claim to believe."

  It is this problem I would like to address today, and I would like to remind readers once again, that it is for members of the Lord's church.  Invariably, someone will tell me that it is only what is in their heart that "counts" with God, but there are several scriptures which reveal that God cares not just about your intentions or your heart, but about your actions and your appearance. Your actions and appearance speak volumes about your heart.  Many members believe that once they are baptised, they are under grace alone, and that God over-looks the sin of immodesty.  They think it is okay to be saved, but they do not believe God really requires any changes in their lifestyle.

Picnic on the River, by Henry John Yeend King 1855-1924 British

Paintings of a previous century show women dressed modestly in outdoor activities. Not only are they covered, the clothing is beautiful.

We get our authority for modesty in God's Word, as in these passages:

First Timothy 2:9  In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;

Titus 2:4-6  That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,
  To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.   Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded.
If  women in the church want to help men overcome sin, and help them keep their minds on the worship, they can begin by dressing modestly, no matter what others are wearing, no matter what is the "in" thing or the trend, no matter what society around you is doing.  When you do what God says to do, you will find that you receive a lot of compensation for it. You will not be attracting unwanted attention and you will not be as unsure of yourself. You can also be at peace with yourself and with others, knowing that you are not offending or causing someone to sin. Just think, if you dress modestly, you become the teacher, for your actions speak louder than words, and your mode of dress speaks volumes about what you believe about modesty. No older woman will be asked to speak to you about modesty.  There are many disadvantages to immodest clothing. One is expense. You pay a lot for a lot less. The minimalist look might be the trend, but you will be getting less and less for more and more of your money.

Hartford Couple and Their Children, by Alexander Rossi 1870-1903  British

In the 1960's it was popular to be on the beaches in the hot summer in the garb of the day: small pieces of cloth barely covering private areas, called "bathers."  One day, a young woman wearing a blue and white gingham peasant style dress with a hat trimmed in a matching ribbon, was seen walking barefoot on the shore.  Although there were many perfect figures and sun-tanned young people on that beach, all eyes were upon this woman. Her beautiful dress was a perfect compliment to the ocean and the blue sky in the background.  She wore this kind of thing to the beach because she burned so easily, but she did not let it get in the way of enjoying the elements. Although people were looking at this young lady, it was not for the wrong reasons. They were not admiring her sexiness or the size of her bust.  They were admiring her romantic sweetness.  We have lost our sweetness and our innocence in America today. It is up to the Christian women, the members of the church, those who have been washed in the blood of the lamb by obeying the gospel, to show a good example to the next generation.  

"Shamefacedness" in the scripture above, is not a popular word today. It denotes a little bashfulness, a little embarrassment. If women in the church are supposed to be shamefaced, they will not be anxious for anyone to see their nakedness. They will cover up appropriately, covering their privacy. 

Feeding the Ducks, by Alfred Augustus Glendenning 1840-1910 British

Modesty and good manners used to be practiced strictly, in the home. Family members were taught not insult, whine, complain, talk back rudely, accuse, swear or disrespect the home, each other, or the parents. Dressing respectfully was practiced daily, not just on religious days. Modesty was considered a part of good character and a part of respect for others.

I address the ladies in the church because they are supposed to be a light and a guide in the world. The way they dress has a great influence on others.   The guide for women's clothing  is written in scripture for us. All we have to do is apply it. No, there will not be specific instructions about how high the collar is or how far the hem is, but there is a guiding principle to be modest. The Bible was written for the ages. It was written for every generation that has ever lived. Its standards can be applied no matter what century it is. There were immodest people in Victorian times, too, but Christian women who followed the Bible were different.  God's standards of dress are the highest you can find. Let us not dumb ourselves down to the lowest standards of the prevailing culture. 

You may also be interested in Modesty Matters