Wednesday, November 5, 2014

lost and found...

“We all get lost once in a while, sometimes by choice, sometimes due to forces beyond our control. When we learn what it is our soul needs to learn, the path presents itself. Sometimes we see the way out but wander further and deeper despite ourselves; the fear, the anger or the sadness preventing us returning. Sometimes we prefer to be lost and wandering, sometimes it's easier. Sometimes we find our own way out. But regardless, always, we are found.” - Cecilia Ahern

In case you haven't noticed, I've been on a brief hiatus from sewing and designing lately. I'm not sure if it's been by choice or circumstance, but one thing is for certain, I've been wandering with no clear destination in sight. I think for a time, I lost my focus. With the end of Sew Beautiful Magazine, I've kinda been in search of the next path I should follow. I really enjoyed having projects I worked on for months on end. I enjoyed finishing those projects, attending photo shoots and then the thrill of seeing my creation published in a National Sewing Magazine. I looked forward to starting the cycle all over again as a new box of "goodies" arrived full of fabric, lace, buttons and sketches and having the freedom to put my own unique spin on it. It not only was a thrill working on those projects, but in a special way it gave me purpose. After that was gone I began to wander...
One day it's embroidery, then the next it's smocking, online teaching, heirloom sewing...then it's designing and digitizing. Sometimes it's all of the above in the same day, hour or even blocks of minutes! I get completely distracted with endless ideas that pour into my head and I think I want to do this or that. I will stop right in the middle of a project, only to start another one that I get distracted with and begin yet another. I feel like I never finish anything anymore or it takes me much longer than originally planned. 
I thought I wanted to make multiples of pretty little garments and sell them, then I thought I wanted to do heirloom sewing for clients {big mistake}. Then I have the whole photography thing going on that takes me down yet another path partially separated from my sewing, but also very much connected. After all, everyone knows that good photography is what helps to sell beautiful creations. I really enjoy doing all those things, however there comes a time when one needs to seek clear direction when all these things pertain to a business. It's time for the process of refining!
This brief hiatus has given me time to sit back and really take a look at my sewing business and how it fits into this whole wide world of sewing before me that continues to grow by leaps and bounds each and every day. My head spins with ideas and refining is a process I need to must take before I continue in this business. There are so many paths I could take in my sewing business, however in the midst of being "lost" in this huge sewing world, I have "found" that I don't want to do what everyone else is doing. I don't want to "do it all" and I certainly don't want to be chained to my sewing machine by sewing for clients either - it totally takes the enjoyment out of sewing. I don't want to be just another sweat shop making the same things over and over. I've wandered down that boring path many's a tough road to follow and stay competitive. It almost becomes a race...and I don't want to be in that Rat Race! In the process of getting a little lost, I am finding my way by seeking the path that made me who I am...or perhaps, who I was.
I've spent the past several weeks looking what I do and where my business fits in with the others out there. Am I lost in this big world of sewing? If so, how can I be found? What can I do to make my business stand out from the others? Is there anything that makes me different from the common ordinary? If so, how can I refine it? I think the key answer to that can be found in the word "unique", and that is the clear focus I am taking as I move my business forward in 2015 and beyond.
I hope you will follow this unique path with me and stay connected thru facebook, pinterest, instagram, my news journal and here at my blog as I start to reveal new and unique things coming to Southern Stitches!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Smocking eClass - a new concept in teaching!

Once again, smocking is making a come-back. There seems to be great interest again in those wanting to learn the art of hand smocking. There is so much versatility in smocking. It's not just for children. It can be for adults or children, in clothing or home dec and classic or trendy. 
For the past several years I have had many ask me to teach smocking, whether it be at a Sewing Convention, in a shop or in an individual or group setting. It's something I've wanted to do for quite awhile, however my current situation in life just doesn't make it feasible to travel. When you have too many obstacles to jump, you start thinking of other ways to accomplish what you want to do. I watched as friends traveled around the world teaching and others were teaching in their local shops and it burned a desire in me to teach. That's when I set out to figure out a way that I could satisfy that teaching desire, but still be home, where I am needed most at this time in my life. 
In the past, I've created many YouTube videos of instruction and it thrills me to hear from so many that have watched my videos and learned so much from them! I get many emails from those who have watched my videos begging and encouraging me to create more videos. I love to do it, but it's very-very time-consuming and is a lot of work to put together.
SAHM's (Stay-at-home-moms) and grand-moms are on the rise and so many of them make good use of my free videos, learning at their own pace in their own time frame. They can't commit to a class at a local shop, or perhaps they can't afford to take a class on top of committing to a set time and day for classes, however they are eager to learn more. 
As I thought about all that, in addition to my current life, I came up with an idea. My ideas is to create an affordable online class where my students can attend class on their own time and still have the ability to go back and re-visit any lesson they desire and ask the teacher questions forever. Having that ability is unheard of in a traditional class - if you miss a lesson, well, you've just missed it. You've not only missed the class, but you've missed all the discussion, which is a vital part of any class. One of my goals is that I want my students to have the ability to ask questions, post photos and communicate with others that are all part of that class. That's where I will be creating a totally optional Facebook group for my students only! That is in addition to the private, password-protected eClassroom where students access their PDF and Video files for the eClass. Isn't that awesome? 
My very first eClass is not only teaching smocking, but you will make a Smocked Bonnet from start to finish using my Smocked Tapered Bonnet ePattern, which is included in the eClass. The following will be covered in the eClass:
PDF Pattern Prep
Fabric Prep
Pleating with or without a pleater
   1. How to thread a pleater
   2. How to use dots and pick up pleats
Roll, Whip & Apply Lace in one step
Heirloom Sewing Techniques
   1. Pin Stitch
   2. Lace Insertion + Pin Stitch
Basic Smocking Stitches
   1. The Cable Stitch
   2. The Wave Stitch
   3. Flowettes - Single & Double
   4. Lazy Daisy Stitch
Bonus Smocking Stitches
   1. Bullion Flower
Finishing the Bonnet 
   1. Ribbon Rosettes
That's a lot to cover and it's way more than what is covered usually in a traditional basic learn to smock class. I want my students to do it all right from the start - that is why I am covering fabric prep and pleating, which is so important. I also cover types of threads used and needles for smocking. I teach with an attention to detail and technique. There are many who teach smocking, but not all smocking classes are created equal - learning how to smock correctly from the start will go a long ways in having your smocking turn out with great results that you can be proud of. Proper technique is soooo important and I will teach that, along with my tips!
In addition, I have BONUS videos covering Heirloom Sewing Techniques and Bullions! You can omit the heirloom techniques if you want - they are just an option I have included...a very nice option. Over 2 hours in video instruction are included in this eClass. I have broken it down into five separate videos, so that it's easier for you to navigate. Each video is approx. 15-33 mins in length, making it much easier to spend whatever time you have to work on the project.

The eClass is very affordable and available now at Southern Stitches!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Sew darn tired!

I feel like I have been on a sewing marathon all week..wait, I HAVE been on a sewing marathon all week, and I'm "sew" darn tired!! 
I love to sew, really I do, and normally sewing is a stress-reliever for me. When I feel rushed or have to meet a deadline, then sewing is no longer just makes me tense! Every evening I kinda looked like the tired seamstress in that portrait up there - LOL!
I think I've spent more hours sewing each day this week than doing anything else, but there is reward for all the hard work and long hours! Seeing a project transform from an idea, to a sketch on a piece of paper to finished garments is a very rewarding experience. 
The garments I have created this week are original designs, in which I had to draft patterns for. I got some inspiration for the lace insertion & embroidery design from Old Fashioned Baby "Baby Rose" , but I changed it up a bit to make it my own. There is literally a TON of feather-stitching on my garments, which has taken more hours to complete than I want to add up!
I will be sharing more pictures soon, but here's a little peek at what has totally consumed me all week:

Friday, August 8, 2014

Sweet Smocking for BOYS!

I get many requests to create items for boys. The market seems to be saturated with all kinds of sweet things for girls, but for boys it's just a little more limited. When I pleated up 9 day gowns to take along on vacation to smock, I decided to focus on infant boys for 3 of them and add a smocked cap, designed especially for boys!

I have 3 boy's day gown & cap sets available for purchase in sizes preemie (4-6lb), newborn and infant. Each set is smocked just a tad differently. The photos shown are the preemie size set. If you would like to purchase one of the sets, please email me!
The bonnet turned out so sweet, that I decided to write up the instructions and create an ePattern!
The smocking is quick and easy - just 2.5 rows of smocking!
I have included 3 smocking graphs in the ePattern too!
The ePattern is an instant download and you can order it at Southern Stitches Brer Rabbit Designs
I have had many customers and Facebook fans email me about smocking. I have a great Smocking Handbook available for beginner smockers and those who want to perfect their smocking stitches! 
Also coming soon to Southern Stitches is online eClasses in smocking! Please subscribe to my news journal list to be the first to hear about when it begins!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Cluck-Cluck Rick Rack Jumper

Little did I know when I was commissioned by Sew Beautiful Magazine to create a garment using Rick Rack for the Back to School Issue, that it would be my very last article and the end of an era for the magazine. 
It was a bittersweet day when my preview issues arrived...and difficult opening the box to take a peek at the last issue...ever. Altho it is sad to see the end of Sew Beautiful Magazine, I am confident that Heirloom Sewing and Smocking will be kept alive by those of us who thrive on it. I am also optimistic that there will be future publications along with current sewing blogs, that will keep us inspired to sew!  
The idea for the Rick Rack came from Pinterest and to my knowledge has never been published, altho there is a small blog post in a foreign language showing the one photo. That small photo clip of the embellishment really caught my eye. I couldn't tell what the original creator had put the embellishment on...perhaps it was a kitchen towel or maybe a table cloth. I immediately saved the idea on my Pinterest board as I thought it would be darling on the hem of a dress. When I was commissioned by Sew Beautiful Magazine to create something using Rick Rack, I knew that the readers of the magazine would go crazy over this unique use of Rick Rack.

The article in the magazine has all the instructions on how to create this darling embellished rick rack hem. I also used Rick Rack on the sweet pocket!
I used Children's Corner Pattern "Lucy" for the jumper.
On the yellow blouse, I used some sweet picot edging with the piping on the collar and sleeve edge.
Fabric for the jumper is denim and the blouse is yellow broadcloth. All fabric and supplies were purchased from Farmhouse Fabrics. I lined the jumper in a tartan plaid and if I would have had more time, I would have made the jumper reversible - perhaps it will be something I will do at a later date. I left the seam open inside so that I could easily add an embellishment to make this jumper reversible! 
I hope that Cluck-Cluck has inspired you with this unique Rick Rack embellishment!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sew Inspired!

What inspires you to sew? 

Let's first take a look at the definition of "inspire" from Merriam-Webster Dictionary.


verb \in-ˈspī(-ə)r\
: to make (someone) want to do something : to give (someone) an idea about what to do or create
: to cause (something) to happen or be created
: to cause someone to have (a feeling or emotion)

In order to sew (or create), often times we must be inspired by someone or something. There are many who might not even be sewing if it wasn't for being inspired by someone or something. 
Where do you find inspiration?
For me, it might be fashion magazines, sewing books, vintage garments, old photographs, sewing blogs, Pinterest, websites, sewing shops, antique shops and the list goes on. The pages of Sew Beautiful Magazine were chocked full of sewing inspiration. Garments were created and articles were written for the sole purpose of inspiration. The magazine motivated me to sew. It's where I got the inspiration to learn to smock and learn heirloom sewing techniques. The ideas were all made available to inspire us to "borrow" the idea and create something that could be your own.
The whole sewing community is based upon borrowing ideas and applying those ideas to our own creations. That's where you find the beauty in sewing and often times it can challenge you to learn a sewing technique and improve your skills. 
Many of the top designers I know from my sewing community borrow ideas from Pinterest and Vintage Garments. There is nothing wrong with doing that. Taking an idea and putting your own spin on it is what makes it your own creation and others find inspiration in both originals and re-creations. Often times that's what draws us follow certain designers. Their inspiring ideas is what motivates us to sew and create.
Many of the articles in Sew Beautiful were Vintage Re-creations. Those re-creations often times inspired and motivated me not only to sew, but to design. Here is a sampling of my own articles that were published thru the years in Sew Beautiful Magazine. Each were inspired either by a Vintage Garment or technique found on the internet.
"Lucy's Lace Legacy" 
Inspired by my own grandmother's vintage lace gown
"Gone Fish'in"
Inspired by a Vintage Baby Blanket purchased 
in an online Antique Store
"Tucked Lace Gown"
Inspired by a Family Heirloom Gown
from my own collection
"DARling Clair"
Inspired from a Vintage Garment
Kathy Barnard commissioned me
to re-create this vintage garment
for Sew Beautiful Magazine.
"The Cherry Dress"
Inspired by the St. Louis Women's Exchange
I created the buttons down the front in a 
new and unique way with machine embroidery
stem and buttonhole and the buttons create
the cherries.
"Grant's Vintage Romper"
Inspired by a Vintage Garment
I was commissioned to draft
a pattern from the original garment.
"Cluck Cluck"
Inspired by an image I found
on Pinterest. The original rick rack
had not been applied to any garment,
just a small photograph of the technique.
It was totally my idea to use it on the hem
of the A-line Children's Corner "Lucy"
This is me
and this photo inspired me
to create this:
as I worked off a diagram
from this:
So go out there, use the internet, old and new magazines, books, Pinterest, blogs, websites, vintage garments and media of all sorts and be inspired to sew! Let whatever that catches your eye inspire you to use it some way in your own unique way! It's perfectly ok, to borrow an idea and put your own spin on it. Putting a new spin on an old idea is how new designs and ideas are created. That's what inspires others to create and be motivated to sew!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Pleating with Precision

One of the most important factors to successful smocking is pleating your fabric correctly. Beginner smockers and maybe even intermediate smockers might not be aware of this important factor. I recently created a quick video to instruct and educate how to pleat with precision. 
Fabric preparation is extremely important if you want your smocking to stand out and be noticed. This is particularly important when using fabric with a nap or one-way design, such as the polka dots shown above. Nothing is more distracting than to see a smocked insert where the fabric is off-grain or off-nap. The smocking is straight across the rows, but the fabric might be so off-grain or off-nap that it distracts your eye from the beauty of all the hand smocking.
The video I created is just a quick overview of 3 types of fabrics; batiste, gingham and polka dot, but the techniques taught will pertain to most any fabric you choose.
Another previous tutorial I have shows more in depth photos and instruction on pleating gingham with success and you can find that here.
After properly preparing your fabric for pleating, you will then be ready to pleat. In my video I mentioned my Pleating 101 tutorial, which you can find HERE.
I hope that you find my tutorials beneficial as you learn to smock or perfect your smocking technique. As always, I welcome your comments and if you have any questions, please send me an email.
I am working on creating a smocking class for beginner smockers or for those who want to improve upon their skills. This will be a class that teaches the process from start to finish - types of fabric, fabric prep, pleating, smocking stitches, proper technique and finishing the project. Kits will be available for this class. More information will be coming about that - please sign up for my newsletter so that you can be the first to know when it's available!
I also wanted to direct those who are new to my blog and smocking that I have a smocking handbook available.
This eBook Handbook teaches all the basic stitches and some advanced stitches for smocking. It's a handy guide that you can load up on your iPad or computer and reference to as you learn the smocking stitches.


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