Friday, December 21, 2012

At Our House

* we are sweet-ing

* we are (still) gift-making

* we are painting & glittering

* we are playing

* we are stamping (homemade giftwrap)

* we are warming

* we are anticipating

* we are remembering


* we are wishing you a joyous Nativity & that all you love & cherish will be near to you.

Thank you for the simple gift of being here with me now and then-
so much love, Anna Maria & family xoxoxoxox

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Oh Tassel Tree

It's a Christmas miracle!  Okay not really, but a happy spot anyway- we received the first shipment of my Tapestry Wool Palettes way ahead of schedule!  I of course immediately tore into them and made some festive tassels because, like you, I have absolutely nothing better to do.  And since your just sitting there doing nothing, I'll show you how to make them.  You can do this with any scrap yarn, but these skeins make it particularly easy.
Each package of wool comes with 2 skeins each of 8 different colors for a total of sixteen skeins.  And each skein will yield two tassels which you pretty much make at the same time.  I hate to get all math-y on you (no I don't) but that's 32 tassels per pack.  Here we go.
*First slide off the paper band and open up the skein to a full loop and identify the two loose ends
*With the loose end that is at the outer side of the loop, unwrap about a yard of yarn and snip it off
*Cut that length of yarn into four equal lengths (9" each)
*Tie two of the lengths into loops by knotting their ends together, leave the other two lengths as is
*With the knotted loop, slide it under one side of the open skein and pass the knotted end through the loop end and pull through to cinch the skein until it's taut
*Repeat with the remaining knotted loop at the opposite side of the open skein
*Now you can use the remaining 9" lengths to simply tie around the "head" of the tassel just below where it is cinched together and make a knot
*Repeat this at both ends of the skein
*Then just cut the center of skein in half to make two tassels, trim neatly if necessary
Cute!  I can see some halos and angel wings made of gold and silver pipe cleaners in these tassels' future!
I am wrapping up lots of work in the studio to hopefully make for a few weeks of taking it easy.  There is so much in the hopper right now with work, that while there is loads to look forward to, there is just as much to rest up from finishing.  Its been a busy, busy, full year, that I would now like to put on pause.

I hope you are enjoying the season and slowing down a bit.... (as if).
xoxo, Anna

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wondered what I was missing


Then I started to draw. That was it. Then still something not there. Then I turned down the music to hear the pencil slide- rough but velvety -across the paper. That was it. Winter coming feels just right. xoAM

Monday, December 10, 2012

Rayon Challis: Adventuring


So by see you tomorrow, as I closed my last Rayon Challis post, I of course meant today.  You knew that.  The weather was so gray on Friday that I hesitated to take any photos.  Today is even more gray.  So be it.  Here is the rayon infinity scarf that Anna Michelle was modeling here.  This material is lovely for these scarf shapes because it is sooo drapey, almost shawl like really.  So you could definitely take it that direction too, cut large, squares, triangles, etc.


Perhaps more than any other fabric that I have designed myself, this Rayon has inspired me to be very adventurous with material combinations and silhouettes.  I was particularly interested in working some wool yarns with this scarf to give it that extra nudge towards wintery.  Let me mention too, that the scarf is 3 different sections of Rayon, that are individually doubled over and finished on all edges (essentially like a pillow cover). I then joined them to each other by way of various forms of stiching and crochet.  The crochet elements are anchored to the material by first making a blanket stitch in the Rayon rectangle edges.  The concept is similar to the class I teach on Creative Bug here.  So in the above detail you can see that I took a few rows of double crochet with a few different colors of wool.


In joining this pair of fabrics, I simply used a baseball stitch to join them, no crochet at all.


And this joining sprouted a few crochet scallops.  All of this was done with a ribbon embroidery needle, which I used simply because the eye is large enough to thread the wools and the tip is sharp enough to pierce the Rayon.  There was a bit of tugging to get the wool through every now and then, however no snagging because the needle was nice and sharp.  These wools are actually some of my upcoming collection of Tapestry Wool palettes (just like what you would use for needlepoint) and they have so many uses beyond just tapestry.  Yay.  Can't wait!

More adventuring.  I've been hanging on to a gorgeous piece of vintage cotton lace for a while and finally decided to use it in the front yoke portion of the Painted Portrait Blouse.  The use of that lace inspired collaging in a few others, because it was just one smallish rectangle with finished/frayed edges.  I didn't want its singular use with the fabric to appear like a simple doily attached to a ready-made piece of clothing, so I felt mixing it up with other laces was in order.


You can see here where the old lace meets the new at that rough overlapped edge. (I just zig-zgged it onto the new lace fabric at the edge, then cut the pattern piece from the joined pieces.)


And by new lace I mean this:  I actually had a really hard time finding a compatible cream shade of lace by the yard.  However there were tons of inexpensive lace trim options.  So it occurred to me to just buy plenty of trim and turn it into fabric.  The stripes created in the design of the back yoke actually appear because they are separate strips of lace trim.


Again, I zig-zagged the scalloped edge of the lace over the top of the straight edge of the lace to make continuous material before cutting the pattern pieces from it.  I set the pieces at a slight angle, so that the seam in the center back of the yoke would create a deep V which is really pretty and flattering.  There were really no tricks involved with sewing the lace and Rayon together, it worked out beautifully.  In fact I didn't line the yoke as the pattern calls for, so that took a few steps out as well.  I did topstitch and otherwise finished edges of the lace to prevent fraying.


There was a specific question from Darby that I wanted to answer that came up last week, here it is:

I really love Rayon and it would be my first choice to wear constantly. However I really struggle with finishing sleeveless tops /dresses or necklines. I have tried binding - terrible! And in the end sewed it (carefully) and folded a small hem over. I had to be careful of stretching, but more so of puckering as the neck and armhole are more on the bias. Would love to know your thoughts on finishing these . I don't like flippy facings, have thought a partial bodice lining or a rolled hem??? Can't wait to get my hands on some of your new Rayon Challis-beautiful! When will it be released?

Dearest Darby, my favorite method for finishing necklines, sleeves and even hems has worked out really well for the Rayons as well.  You might have meant that when you mentioned "binding" but I'll describe my method and see if it helps.  I cut a bias strip of the same material in a width that is about 3 times wider that the seam allowance of the hemming will be.  So if you were to finish the edge with a 3/8" seam allowance your bias should be about 1 1/8" wide.  If you are sewing a neckline, leave one of the shoulders open then sew the binding right sides together along the entire edge of the neckline keeping their raw edges in line, using a 3/8" seam allowance.  Press seam allowance towards bias.  Sew remaining shoulder seam shut including the bias in the seam, and press open.  Trim any excess bias that extends beyond the shoulder seam allowances.  Turn the wrong side of the bias towards the neckline seam and over the neck seam allowance, then turn all down once more so that you've completely encased the raw edges and they are laying against the wrong side of the neckline and not visible from the right side at all.  Topstitch using a scant 3/8" seam allowance (or right at the edge of the folded bias) and press.


You can see the result of that very process on the lace blouse turned inside out above.  I wanted a clean finish on the lace edge so I just used a solid cotton to make a bias edging.  The only variable in this process is how snug you tug the bias as you sew.... with a bit of practice you'll know just the tension you should place on the bias to get a smooth, unpuckered result from the fabric at the neckline.  Most all of my patterns recommend this type of edging at sleeves and unlined necklines.  It gives just enough body for the edges to stay crisp, and without the pucker of a simple rolled hem.  For hems along the bottom that are mostly cut on grain, a rolled hem is fine, but the above method works great too.  There was another question about making a more tailored hem, and I would suggest trying the blind hem stitch on your machine if it offers it.  Here's a link to how that works from my friends at Janome.

We will be shipping Rayon later this week from our online shop and of course check with your favorite local retailer!

I hope this helps!  I have really enjoyed getting down and dirty with Rayon Challis.  If you have any other questions, or if I've missed one already asked (sorry!), please just put them in the comments, and you can look for my reply there.

Happy Sewing!  xo, Anna Maria

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Rayon Challis: Cut & Sew

I vow to not use the term High-Wet-Modulus anywhere in today's lesson.  And that is because when it comes to the cutting and sewing of Rayon Challis, we have reached the easy part. Hooray! Let's get to it.

the cutting::
Like any project it's a good idea to start with clean, sharp cutting tools whether that be a rotary cutter or dress shears.  I might put Rayon slightly higher on the scale of likely to snag than cotton, which is almost impossible to snag, actually.  So, sharp is good.  That also goes for your straight pins.  Save some nice, fine, sharp straight pins for your Rayon projects and do not use your giant, dull, quilting pins that have poked through batting and spray basting goo for the last 5 years.  Don't deny it.  You will likely want to pin a garment pattern to Rayon, even when maybe otherwise you would use weights alone or your lucky stars to start cutting.  The same qualities that make it drapey and fluid also make it want to slide off the table.  I actually find the Rayon to have more of a "tooth" to it than Voile though, so it lays against itself in place better than I think Voile does.  So when you are folding it over itself to cut a pattern on fold, you'll have an easier time keeping in place.

needle & thread::
Like most any lighter-weight materials, you'll want to use a universal machine needle, size 11, that is fresh and sharp.  In fact you might want to keep it changed out a little sooner than you might with your cotton materials.  I will offer that I think Rayon is a little slower to recover from dull needle holes than a cotton would be, but a good pressing can remedy that.

I also recommend Coats Dual Duty XP General Purpose which is a smooth, polyester corespun thread.  A material that is semi-synthetic should err on the side of fully synthetic thread.  I think you'll notice how beautifully the fabrics allow the right needle and thread to sink right into the thickness of the material.  It feels as though these fabrics want to be sewn more than they are being told to be sewn, if that makes any sense.  Sorry, that was weird, but for real.


the sewing::
Anytime you bring in a fabric that is a little different than what you or machine settings are used to, there might be some adjustment to tension, stitch length, and even presser foot tension if your machine offers that (I apologize for the spoiled brat that Janome has made me).  For me to presume I can figure out your particular machine from here would be, well, presumptuous.  However, if you had to make adjustments when you went from quilting cotton to Voile, you might guess Rayon to be somewhere between those two settings.  Just a hunch.

The slight grabbi-ness that Rayon tends to have to itself, as mentioned with the cutting notes, helps you out at the machine, keeping pieces in place as you sew.  Like many fabrics as you guide it through the machine, it will tend to give more on the width than on the length, so keep that in mind and don't over-stretch through the presser foot as you work horizontally across the fabric, for instance at a hem or a neck line. 

What I think you will really enjoy is how multiple layers of this material act more like thicker fabric than they act like bulk.  For instance in the cuff edge of the sleeve above, the shirred edge of the sleeved is encased in four more layers of a bound cuff edge, yet it only provides stability and the top stitching that is holding it all together sinks right in beautifully and marries itself to the weave of the fabric.  For that reason it acts as a really great self facing.  In fact if you had the choice between using an interfacing or a second layer of Rayon I would go with the Rayon.  An interfacing would rarely behave like the rayon would in it's fluidity and give itself away by being more visibly rigid on your body.  If there were specific reason you needed a fusible interfacing, use a woven one.

I do not find these fabrics to fray to much at all, they are similar to the Voile in that sense, so if you normally serge or finish your edges or if you don't, just carry on.

I really hope I'm not forgetting anything in regards to sewing with these, and nothing compares to your first-hand experience.  I'll be back tomorrow with a closer look at a few projects to inspire just that.  I'll also take a look back through some of your questions to make sure I've addressed everything.

g'nite, Anna

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Rayon Challis: Wash, Press & Plan

Well hullo there.  Your friendly neighborhood Rayon Challis field agent is back with some wash and wear news to report :-)

the wash::
I started but cutting 3 different 1/2 yard lengths of fabric from the same bolt.  And btw this fabric is about 56" wide.  I left piece 1 alone.  I washed pieces 2 and 3 together on a "delicate" cycle which on my machine is about 40 min long, with cold wash, cold rinse, and low spin speed.  I also just used a standard detergent, nothing special.

the dry::
Once the wash cycle was complete, I put piece 2 in the dryer on a "delicate" dry which is simply a lower heat dry.  I let damp piece 3 just hang out over the clothing rack for a while to dry for about 20 minutes. 

the press::
I then dry pressed the remaining dampness out of the hang-drying piece 3 until it was warm and dry which didn't really take any longer than regular pressing.  The iron was set on the wool setting, and I was willing to try a little higher if necessary but never had too.  The wrinkles fell out beautifully for both the damp piece and the one that wasn't washed at all on the same wool setting.  Also the pressing did not seem to change the surface of the material in the least either in color, sheen, or texture.  When piece 3 was pulled out of the dryer it was in need of a pressing so with the same setting I glided those wrinkles right out too.

the shrinkage::
The difference between the 3 pieces was barely distinguishable even after the various forms of care in terms of shrinkage.  There was of course some fraying on the cut edges of the washed pieces, but not bad at all, maybe 1/8"-1/4" at the most in some places.  Also the washed pieces did draw up at the selvages on each end like most all fabrics do.  So before cutting out a pattern from the material you would want to snip into the selvage edges to avoid any distortion as your pattern pieces get close to those edges.  If there was any slight shrinkage it was only on the piece 2 that was also placed in the dryer, but it was so minimal it's barely worth mentioning.

We are expecting to begin shipping these fabrics from our shop next week sometime, and they will be arriving to other shops about the same time or sooner.  (If you're a shop owner carrying the Rayons and would like to leave your link here, please do so in the comments.)  I am still looking into exact price but I think it is somewhere in the 14-15$ per yard range, so similar in price to the voile.  These will be the only Rayons for the Field Study collection, and we do still have a bit of velveteen to look forward to as well.

I want to chat a bit more about project planning and expectations for this fabric.  As already shown, the material is gorgeous for many, many items of clothing.  I can't really think of any of my garment sewing patterns that they wouldn't work well for.  The above is a version of my free Museum Tunic tutorial with the added bonus of adding some ribbon to the shoulders for some interest across the back.  Nice and dramatic, no? The ribbon is positioned on the shoulders just to the back side of the shoulder seams, and the extension of the ribbon across the back is faced with the same ribbon from the inner side.  All of the ribbon was simply applied with topstitching at the end of the dress sewing.  For any garment that you would want to wear over tights, I would expect the material to be slightly grab-y to your tights especially if they are the thicker cotton-y sort.  But you might be fine with no lining or slip, or if your tights are the slicker variety.

This is really the first fabric I have designed for that is very strictly intended for clothing, but that shouldn't stop you from experimenting.  I don't really see it working for bags, because although it isn't really thin, it is more fluid that I think you would want which could translate to a little flimsy when you want some body.  Quilts?  I'm on the fence.  I'm not sure that rayon is really the feel that I want for a quilt.  As long as the other materials you used in the quilt are similar in how they wash up, if you're into it, go for it.  Embroidery?  Certainly, but here are two considerations. You always want the threads and the fabric to be compatible in terms of their care when you embroider.  In other words you need them to react the same to any cleaning process, so that the shape of the work is not changed or distorted.  I definitely think that cotton floss or pearle and Rayon is worth experimenting with, but try to use the finest needle you can.  The other consideration with embroidery is that Rayon is not especially elastic, I don't mean in the stretchy sense but in the shape retention sense.  Even woven cotton has a good shape retention that it will bounce back to after it's been stretched.  Rayon, not quite as much, unless of course you wash it.  So any stretching into a hoop, would likely need to be remedied with a water washing process.

Okay.  I have duly talked your heads off here.  I love fabric.  Really love fabric.
Tomorrow, we will get all cut-stitch-sew-y with it!
holluh. xoAM

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Rayon Challis: Look & Feel


Here we go!  I want to explain a little about the actual fiber make up of this beautiful fabric and its history before I go on to gush about its lovely features, look and feel.  While today's post will answer only some of the really good questions that are in yesterday's comments, as the series continues this week I promise that all your questions will get answered.  I'm just trying to keep the posts on topic and organized for easy reference later!  Check.


As one smart commenter already responded yesterday, Rayon is both natural and man-made, in other words it is what is considered to be semi-synthetic.  It's made from a naturally occurring regenerated cellulose fiber often taken from wood pulp or lignin. As with any creation that mankind tinkers with, the methods by which it has been produced have changed very much since the very first attempt in the mid 1800's when the original intent was to imitate silk.  One of those methods resulted in the material be called Viscose Rayon because of its process.  While Viscose is considered Rayon, it's characteristics and content require a dry-clean only care whereas the particular Rayon that we are printing on (which is a HWM Rayon (high-wet-modulus, meaning it performs better while wet)) can actually be washed and dried.  (I'll discuss care more specifically tomorrow.)  This high-tenacity method has only been used since the 1940's and has lessened environmental impacts and also lent the fiber to being capable of mercerization (think jersey knit) where it is more often called "Modal".

Rayon overall has the ability to imitate so many materials such as cotton, linen, silk and wool.  We use the term Challis with Rayon because it refers to the soft characteristic of the material, and it's barely brushed surface texture.  Rayon by nature has a sheen to it, but this particular weave, is not highly glossy, but has an incredibly soft, touchable, non-slick surface.


Let's talk about the weight and therefore drape of these luscious fabrics.  Ever since my clothing line days I have always thought of Rayon Challis as the go-to material for making dresses, skirts and blouses.  If we were to compare the fluidity of Rayon to my Voiles, since most of us have become familiar with those, Rayon out-wiggles the Voile by far.  Rayon moves like water where Voile moves like air.  Rayon is swishier where Voile is floatier.  Most of that has to do with the fact that the Rayon is a heavier fabric, so the weight forces a drop and drape to happen.  For this reason, Rayon is what I consider a perfect "bottom-weight" material- such as perfect for dresses, skirts, wide legged trousers, etc.  Voile on the other hand only really suits a few categories of skirt and dress shapes, but of course several blouse shapes, etc.

Notice the Evening Empire Dress that I made above.  Those of you that are familiar with that pattern know that there is a lot of fabric gathered into the empire waistline, however you can see what a drop there is straight to the ground on the model.  The material doesn't even think about standing out at all (as the voile does a bit on the pattern's cover).  Same goes for ruching, pleating, elastic channels, etc. that you might be able to see in the 2nd photo from the top.


You can also see how naturally the material drapes the body as evidenced by the infinity scarf relaxing across Anna Michelle's back.  I made this infinity scarf with three different sections of material all joined by some crochet details in between.  I'll show you a closer look of that scarf soon!  But that reminds me to mention that I really consider this material to be very multi-seasonal. It is not so lightweight that it wouldn't be suitable as a blouse or dress year round and it really does not retain much heat so that is is very comfortable in warmer seasons.  It is not sheer like the Voile is, you really have to hold it up directly to the light to see anything through it.  If you were to line it, I would really just go with that standard garment lining material, that is sorta slick and swishy and usually synthetic and machine washable.

Get the flash player here:

I can't wait for you to try these!  I think you'll love them.  The above is a slideshow of all ten fabrics in the collection.  The only scale change that happened in the prints is that the Specimen (raah01) print got smaller by 50% compared to the quilting cotton print.

I hope you enjoyed today's lesson!  If this brings up any more questions, just ask away.  Tomorrow I will share my washing and drying and pressing experiments with you and we'll start talking about working them into your sewing!

xo, Anna

Monday, December 03, 2012

Adventures in Fabric: Rayon Week!


I decree, it is Rayon Challis week. I am so excited to be on the brink of introducing my first collection of Rayon Challis fabrics very soon. But I know that you might wanna know some stuff about the fabric itself before you take the fluid-y, fashion-y, and possibly mysterious plunge into this gorgeous base cloth.

So this week I will be sharing all that I know about working, washing, designing, and sewing with this lovely material and sharing some rockin projects that we've made here in the fabric lab (ha) so far. To help me do that, if you have any questions, concerns, thoughts (fears?) about the material please leave me some of that in the comments section and I might be able to help you more specifically.

See you back here tomorrow,
hope you had a great weekend! xo, Anna