Happy 2017 everyone!
I am still recovering from a hectic holiday season, although I had planned on it being long, slow and restful. Right after my holiday line launched in October, my shop slowed waaaaaay down so I decided to take a one-month trip to see my family. I scheduled my visit and bought myself a ticket, leaving on 12/13. This meant I had to ship all of my orders and contest prizes before I left. “No problem,” I thought…the closer it gets to Christmas, the less busier I should get, so I should have plenty of time for my personal Christmas sewing along with the very few orders that may come in, right?” SURPRISE!!! November picked up and ended up being my busiest sales month ever and December would have been even bigger if I hadn’t decided to close my shop on 12/5 so we could get everything done and shipped. Were people buying holiday items? NO!!! Who knew that Hawaiian shirts and dresses, island vacations and cruises, and trips to Disneyland do NOT have a slow season! So, I see no more holiday vacations in my near future.
So, my vacation is almost over and I will be heading back home in about a week. I will miss my San Diego family members but can’t wait to get back to my sewing machines, beautiful fabrics, and wonderful customers and models. I’m itching to sew up some pretty pink fabrics for Valentine’s Day and open my shop back up.
Devonchey Creations will start off 2017 with a bang – 3 new contests for our minis and moms will be happening in January, starting with our Valentine Dress Collaboration.. They will be working together to design their own Valentine Dress. The winner will get to have their design turned into a real live Valentine dress! I can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with! The email for this contest has already gone out, so check your emails if you plan to participate
Our second competition will be for moms only. We will be having another membership drive to attract and gather new additions to our email list and VIP group. The more people we have in our group, the more fun we can have! This time there will be an opportunity to win a store credit worth up to $75. More info about how this contest will work will be provided in our kick-off email that will go out in a few days. You can, however, begin referring people to our email sign-up link any time. Any referrals you get throughout the month up until the final day of the contest at midnight will still count, even if we haven’t yet officially kicked off our campaign.
Our third contest for the month of January will be in the form of instant sneaky giveaways - you never know where they might pop up and there may be more than one a month. I’m always on the lookout for cool stuff for our mini mermaids.
So, if you have read all the way to the end and wish you had hair like a troll, go let our VIP group know. Be the first to comment and you will win a Troll headband with your own pink Troll hair! Prize will ship out to the winner after I return from vacation! Also, give yourself a big pat on the back because this was really long!! (Pssssss....click the pic below and it will take you to the VIP group!
Lots of people make this dress…I mean, LOTS. I’ve never seen a more popular pattern and I’ve never seen so many wonderful interpretations of a pattern. Although I have made several, lots of people have made a lot more than I have and lots of people have made more unique versions of it than I have. I DO, however, think that I maybe might just have been the first to add ric rac to the flounce seams on the skirt (maybe probably - you just never know). Anyway, here are my first few Peppermint Swirls (pre ric rac).
The first time I added ric rac, I did so because I was not getting the effect I wanted from the dress. I have to admit that a lot of my best ideas come from something not turning our right. In this instance, I was making a dress for a 4th of July patriotic contest and it was supposed to be a firecracker swirl. I had the red, white, and blue down, but the whole thing just didn’t say “FIRECRACKER!!!” to me. So I took the whole dress to Hobby Lobby with me, laid it out on the counter, and started pulling rolls of trims off the shelf and playing. This is what I came up with.
Well, after that dress, I don’t think I’ve made one WITHOUT the ric rac…everyone just seems to like that addition
This is the first swirl I've sewn where the fabric didn't come from my stash. I had to order the materials for it, and since I suspect that I am probably undercharging for this dress, I decided to track my time and expenses. The bodice fabric was fussy-cut so the elf was in the middle - he almost didn't fit since the pattern is a lot larger in real life than it looked online, but I barely got him on there where I wanted him.
Next came the swirls and, GUESS WHAT!?! I didn't have enough for 7 swirls of each of the dotted and green fabrics! I cut the dots first and my normal cutting method should have left me with a square of fabric left (equal to what would be the 8th swirl if I were cutting one). The piece I had left was not wide enough to cut the 7th swirl so I had to improvise and the top piece of the last swirl is made with 2 pieces sewn together (but I really doubt anyone will ever notice that but me). When I got to the green, I cut out the first 4 my normal way then opened up the rest of the fabric and cut one piece at a time so I could fit them all in.
Then I changed my mind on the direction of the flutter sleeves and cut out a second set. Needless to say, I have no idea how much time that took me and it would have not been a normal cutting time. But then I had everything ready to go and all the flounce tops and bottoms were sewn together. Sewing the flounces together and pressing the seams took about 15 minutes.
I like to sew the skirt first (as opposed to the bodice) for several reasons. #1, I just love sewing that skirt. #2) Sometimes I change my mind about the bodice after the skirt is done, although that was not an option with this dress. #3) Once I see all of those flounces sewed together I get inspired – I can’t wait for the rest to be done and I also know the tedious part is out of the way.
It took me an hour to sew all of the flounces together. IF you are adding ric rac, do NOT sew the last seam that joins the skirt together. It’s much easier to add the ric rac before you do that.
So, next I sew the bodice…just like the directions say with the addition of adding ric rac to my flutter sleeves BEFORE basting them onto the bodice. On this pattern, you don’t see your completed bodice until you turn it all right side out.
OOPS!!! The only think I could think of when I saw this was that my poor elf had an axe taken to the top of his head…it reminded me of some cheesy horror movie! I started pulling out fabric with the intention of remaking the bodice. I knew that if I just remade it the same way, I could eliminate the notch in the head, but it would be at the cost of losing some of the legs (and substantial time I didn't have). I could remake it out of solid and make an applique of the elf but we came back to the same problem of losing more of the elf. I had to look at my options.
I basically eliminated all of the above with the possiblity of the red. The idea of the applique stuck with me, however, and this is what I finally came up with.
So my applique idea worked - I just had to cut the fabric high enough that it raised the elf's head above the v in the neckline. The extra red on the bodice also helped take away from all of the blue we didn't notice the fabric had in it when we ordered it.
So here is the completed dress. Other things I do that help me save time and make it a little easier: I don't cut my sash until I'm ready to add it - I change my mind a lot on what fabric I want to use so I wait until I'm finished. I also sew buttonholes on my bodice before attaching the skirt so I can get that bottom buttonhole as close to the skirt as possible- I can't do this on my machine if it's attached.
Once I figure out how many I have and how much they have cost me, it would only make sense to figure out if I am getting my money's worth from them, right?. How many times would you have to use a pattern for it to be worth what you paid for it? One time? Three times? Ten times? Once I get to this stage, my next step would be admitting to myself that I have NEVER sewn MOST of the patterns I own! I AM A HOARDER!
Don't get me wrong - I sew all the time and I use patterns all the time, but since I sew to sell, I tend to get in a comfort zone and to re-use a pattern that I really like and create "lines" of dresses with them. Just this past Christmas, I made Candy Castle's Princess Dress pattern 30 times, bringing my total times using that pattern up to 33. I've also made their Peppermint Swirl pattern 8 or 9 times. The only pattern I've made more often than these dresses is my own Kasie Sundress pattern and I've lost count on that one.
So what makes a person like me buy a new pattern? Since my kids are grown and I have only grandsons to sew for, why do I gravitate towards cute little girls dresses? I haven't quite figured this out yet so this morning, after purchasing yet another dress pattern, I decided to analyze my purchase and figure out what made me click over to the website to buy it.
So this is Little Lizard King's Peggy Sue pattern. I've seen this pattern a few times and have always been attracted to it for 2 reasons...the bibbed area on the front is just the perfect setting to add a touch of embroidery and I love the no-gather (translated "less time") skirt.
So why have I not purchased this pattern before? I actually have no clue...so what "grabbed" me and made me click over to buy this pattern now?
This is what happened today: This morning, as I was drinking my coffee and scrolling through the awesome creations that magically show up on my Facebook wall overnight (my every-morning routine), I came across this post in the Little Lizard King Cafe (their private Facebook sewing group page). These adorable dresses were created by Heather Donaldson of Leslie's Lavish Boutique. Heather has somehow managed to combine quite a few of my very favorite things into these awesome dresses...pink, gingham, seersucker, eyelet, embroidery, and did I already mention pink? To me, these dresses are perfect! My eyes glazed over, I started salivating, and somewhere in the world, Liz King heard the cash register go "CHA-CHING!"
So now I have this visual in my head...all over the world there are millions of people just like me, sitting in front of their computers drinking coffee and scrolling through hundreds of thousands of posts and seeing that perfect item that someone has created with just the perfect combination of their favorite things that causes them to click over to the website and drop that pattern in their cart. Sip, click, CHA-CHING!!! (And the patterns-hoarded counter clicks up one more.) Truly, I'm saving them all up for the fabric/pattern apocalypse...I WILL be prepared when the time comes!
Don't forget to click over and check out Leslie's Lavish Boutique. Heather has created lots of awesome items! You can also stop by her Facebook fan page and say "hi!" She will be posting some modeled pictures of her adorable Peggy Sue dresses in the very near future.
I am posting these 2 stitches together since they are both take-offs of the single crochet. The best way to explain them is to contrast them.
Single Crochet Double Crochet Treble Crochet
ch 1 to turn ch 2 to turn ch 3 to turn
insert hook yo, insert hook yo 2 times, insert hook
yo, pull through yo, pull through yo, pull through
yo, pull through last 2 loops yo, pull through next 2 loops yo, pull through next 2 loops
yo, pull through last 2 loops yo, pull through next 2 loops
yo, pull through last 2 loops
As you can see, the major differences are:
1) how many chains you have to make when you turn
2) The yarn over (yo) step BEFORE you insert the hook
3) The number of loops left on your hook after you do the first pull through.
PRACTICE: To practice these steps, you will also need to adjust your foundation chain.
Double crochet: Instead of chaining 51 and starting in the 2nd chain from your hook, you will need to chain 52 and start in your third chain from your hook.
Treble crochet: Chain 53 and start in your third chain from hook.
On these stitches, your chain 2 or chain 3 will count as your first stitch.
Go ahead and crochet up your squares for your double crochet and treble crochet. Don't forget I'm available to answer any questions you have over on my Facebook page.
A note about tension and project sizing:
Everyone creates tension in their work in a different way...none of them right or wrong, just different. The important thing is that you keep this in mind while you are practicing and in the future when you follow a pattern. There will be times when you see someone else's work and wonder why theirs looks different than yours...it's all about the tension, yarn type, and pattern interpretation. Here is an example of what I mean:
When you start using patterns (which some of you will probably be tempted to jump straight into after learning to chain), your tension, hook size, and yarn type will all affect the outcome of your project. Your pattern will tell you a recommended yarn type and hook size. It is then up to you to create a "gauge" or sample (per your pattern's instructions) to see if the yarn and hook you have chosen, along with your own unique tension that you have now become comfortable with, match the gauge of the pattern. For example, it may say that if you chain 12 and create 4 rows of single crochet, it should be X inches wide and X inches tall. If your sample does NOT equal that of the pattern gauge, you will need to adjust your hook, yarn, or tension to match the gauge which will enable your sizing to match that of the pattern. So, although it takes time and it's very tempting to skip making your gauge, it is VERY important to do so if you want your project sizing to be correct.
Now, let's move on and learn our first stitch. For the beginning crochet series that we are on right now, we are only going to be learning 4 basic stitches:
1. Single crochet
2. Double crochet
3. Treble crochet (sometimes called triple)
4. Half-double crochet
We will be using the US versions of these stitches but keep in mind that if you pick up a pattern that is written in the UK, you may be making the wrong stitch as their terminology is the same but may refer to different stitches. I found this little chart you can refer to if you do pick up a pattern written in the UK and need to convert it to the US version. We will also be learning some crochet terminology along the way so you can begin to learn to follow those patterns.
STEP 5 - Make a new foundation chain (ch)
Choose your hook and yarn, make your slip knot, and start by making a foundation chain. Let's chain 50. For me, using an I hook (my favorite), I will get a chain of about 12". We will be crocheting enough rows to make a square. If we do this with all of our 4 beginning stitches we can sew them together to make a couple of throw pillows when we are finished (or just rip them out and save our yarn for a different project).
We are almost ready to start our single crochet. First, since we are making a square we will want to keep our work uniform and on the right track so we will need to count our stitches as we crochet. Counting our stitches helps us make sure we haven't missed any or made 2 in the same stitch. In order to keep our 50 stitches (nice round number) and since we can't crochet in chain #50 (because it's on our hook), we are going to chain 1 more for a total of 51 chains. Now we are ready to go!
Step 6 - Single crochet (sc)
Before we begin, take a close look at your chain and the loop that is on your hook. The loop on your hook does not count as a stitch. The next loop is considered to be the first stitch from your hook. You will notice that this stitch has the loop on your hook running through the middle of it. You would not normally crochet in this stitch. Most patterns begin with crocheting in the 2nd stitch from the hook. Next, look at the stitches in the chain. You will notice that there are 3 pieces of yarn that make up each chain...one on the top and 2 on the bottom. You will be inserting your hook, front to back, under the top piece of yarn. Note: some instructions tell you to insert your hook under the top 2 pieces of yarn. This is perfectly fine and is totally your own preference. In this video, you will see her demonstrate the technique by inserting the hook under the top 2 pieces.
Okay...now it's time to do your first single crochet (sc). Insert your hook (front to back) in the second chain from your hook. Now hook the yarn and pull it back through the chain which makes a 2nd loop on your hook. Hook the yarn again and pull through both loops on your hook. CONGRATULATIONS! You just made your first SINGLE CROCHET!!!
Notes and terminology. How you hook that yarn to pull through does not matter...you can go under and pull it through or over and pull it through. It all ends up the same. I personally find it easier to insert my hook under the yarn to pull it through. No matter how you hook it, the terminology in patterns will be "yarn over" (yo).
Now, finish doing single crochets all the way down to the end of the row. You should have 50 single crochets when you are done.
NEW TECHNIQUE! Every time you finish a row, in order to make your work uniform and pretty and square for your new throw pillow, you will have to turn your work and raise it up to the level of the next row. For a single crochet (sc) you will chain 1 then turn. Now, look at your stitches again. They all now (and from now on) have 2 pieces of yarn on the top as part of the stitch. Starting again in the 2nd chain from the hook, you will insert your hook under both of these yarn pieces. Repeat the single crochet in each stitch across and you are on your way. Keep crocheting away until you have a square.
NOTE: If you were making this row in a pattern, it would look like this:
*Ch 1 to turn. Starting in 2nd ch from hook, sc across.*
Repeat from * until you have a square.
Happy hooking...see you next installment!
Happy New Year, everyone! I started 2015 with 2 fabric purchases for some upcoming projects for a friend and then did some crocheting. I have had several people mention to me that they wished they could learn to crochet which started me thinking...why not teach the basics of crochet right here on my blog? So, let's get started!
What you will need to start:
1 set of your basic crochet hooks (you will only need 1 for practicing, however)
1 yarn needle (for finishing off your projects and tucking in stray ends)
1 set of stitch markers (small safety pins will also work)
1 small pair of scissors
A bag to keep all of this stuff in (I use a zippered make-up bag to hold all of the above)
Some yarn to practice with - get some worsted weight (size 4 on the label) in some fun colors
Crocheting is very repetitive, requires a lot of patience, and can become tedious while you are practicing or creating a project. Changing colors is a good way to keep going and let's you know you are making progress, so choose a color you like or maybe 2 or 3 or 4! Whatever you choose, you can use it to practice with over and over then you can rip it all out and re-use it to make your first project.
During this tutorial, I will be providing links to some videos that will show you the techniques we are learning. I am not affiliated with any of these videos, blogs, or websites and they have only been chosen because I felt they best represented the technique I am showing you at the moment. If you have any questions about these techniques, please comment here or, for a faster response, you can post your question on my Facebook page.
STEP 1 - Pick a hook of your choice (it may be easier to work with a larger hook to practice with) and make a slip-stitch with your yarn and insert your hook through it and tighten.
I looked at several videos for slip knot demos and most were more confusing than helpful and never did I find one that makes it the same way I do. If you already know how to make a slip knot, you are good to go - there is no right or wrong way. If you have no clue, this video explains it in the simplest way and basically makes it the way I do - I just use my fingers instead of my hook.
STEP 2 - Figure out how you are going to hold your hook.
Again, there is no right or wrong way - it is your choice and is what is more comfortable for you. A lot of tutorials are confusing because the person demonstrating holds his/her hook differently than you do. How you hold it doesn't really make a difference, the stitches are basically executed the same.
Hold #1: Pencil hold - hook head is down
Hold #2: Knife hold - hook head is up
You can check out this wikihow post that shows both holds and also shows the left-handed version of both.
STEP 3 - Holding your yarn.
Tension is key to successful crocheting and holding your yarn is what creates your tension and tension is what makes your crocheting consistent. There is also no right or wrong way to hold your yarn, but you will need to find a way to hold it that is comfortable for you. If you scroll down through this post there is a short video that shows how 3 different people hold their yarn and hooks.
STEP 4 - Make a foundation chain.
You should now have a hook with a loop on it. All you have to do is hook the yarn and pull it through the look. Continue to do this about 25 times until you have a good sized chain.
PRACTICE - I suggest practicing this chain several times until your stitches are consistent and you are comfortable with holding your hook and yarn. Just rip it out and start over or you can just keep going and make a really long chain. Keep in mind, when you are finally happy with your tension and holds, we are going to move on to our first stitch and begin to create a small project or two, so you don't want your chain to be really big.
Happy hooking! I will be back shortly with STEP 5! Make sure you subscribe to my blog or follow my Facebook page to be notified when the next steps post.
Now came the fun and exciting part. I needed to figure out how to get the design I purchased and downloaded from my computer to my machine. Overall, that was pretty easy and my machine directions walked me through it. Today, I will, however, need to figure out how to save it but I'm not sure that is really necessary (will decide later).
So...my design was in my machine, my colors (8 this time) were all picked out, my fabric was hooped (the fabric I planned to use for my project), and I was ready to go. With the first color loaded and the machine doing it 's thing, I suspected there was an issue with the pattern. It was making a huge "G" that was supposed to be green, but it had told me to load "deep rose." Hmmmm, not what I expected! So I let it go on...what else could I do? I really want to use this design so I figured I would keep going to see what else happened. Second color requested was green...and it immediately started stitching the figure of a ballerina...oops...not good! That's when I started taking notes. In order to use this design, I will have to figure out which color really is supposed to go where! That will be today's project!
In conclusion, my overall experience was pretty awesome. I need new scissors for cutting the jump threads (see, I'm learning the lingo) and I will follow my more experienced friend's hooping advice because it worked a little better than the machine directions (the only difference is I used a fabric adhesive to attach my stabilizer to my fabric - because I have the 6x6 sheets, they don't quite fit all the way into my hoop and were a little loose on my first try).
Alien ballerina, anyone?
Although I did finally fix this little issue, I still had the future to think of. What if it happened again? I am a self-employed person and, although my bookkeeping business, Accounting To Go, is my main source of income and Devonchey Creations is still transitioning from a part-time hobby to boutique, if I didn't take all sources of income seriously, I wouldn't have any business at all. Calling my customer the day before Easter to let her know that her daughter wouldn't have an Easter dress because my almost-antique sewing machine didn't feel like sewing buttonholes that day was just NOT AN OPTION. I knew I needed another machine for a back-up.
So, after waiting since April to try out the embroidery part of my machine, today is the day. I will definitely be taking pictures and posting some info along the way. First of all, I need to thank Ms. Tammy Fine of Wishing Wells and Fairy Tales, who has answered a gazillion questions I have had about machine embroidery and has been very patient with me while she was extremely busy. Click on the link and check out her Etsy Shop. I will be back later...going to get set up and find me a practice image to embroider! Check back later to see what I come up with.
Can you believe we are almost done? Woohoo! All we have left to do is attach our ruffles to our base. Please check out the suggestions in the pattern. Your ruffles do NOT have to be the exact length of the line on your base. If it is, that's awesome...but if you are like me, it's going to be a little off. The pattern instructions will tell you how to deal with this issue, so check it out before you start sewing.
This is where your basting spray or fabric glue stick will come in handy. If you are an experienced sewer and are confident that your ruffles fit, you can skip pinning, basting or gluing and just go right to sewing. Pinning, however, will help you to see that your ruffles are the correct length so you will know what to expect when you get to the end of the seam (and the ruffle) so you can deal with any issues BEFORE you sew.
If you are still working on gathering or have fallen behind in any of the other steps, you will have the weekend to catch up. Don't give up and keep on sewing!
When you are all done, you can hem or serge the inside edge, if desired, but it is probably just fine the way it is (your preference).
This is Day 5 and the last official day of the sewalong. I have entirely enjoyed hosting it and want to thank Liz and Raedene of Little Lizard King for giving me this opportunity. I will still be here and available to help you all out with questions throughout today and the weekend during catch-up time. Let's get those beautiful tree skirts posted - can't wait to see everyone's creations!