Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Adventures With Elastic Thread

We sure have been on the move recently! I LOVE setting up at shows but it certainly can take it all out of a girl. The downside of being an online shop is the lack of customer contact. I love to gab and visit and show off my projects and fabulous fabric! We had so much fun in OKC last month and I just returned from the Midlothian Show this past weekend. Next stop, Ft. Worth, Texas in early August! Another small booth since I'll be by myself again but the lack of bolts doesn't stop me from bringing the coolest fabrics, patterns and kits to these shows!

After OKC, my cousins and their kids decided to come visit me! Such an awesome birthday present! Being a military family, we have to deal with the lack of family nearby. We've been stationed in TX for about 5 years now and have been blessed with an awesome extended family who don't mind us invading them on occasion! Whenever I'm doing a show in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, I always have a place to sleep! Well, this time, they came to us! We had so much fun visiting! We drove to Corpus, Greune, went to the movies and had one heck of a birthday party!

Among the partying, I had to also get ready for the Midlothian show and since I had such a beautiful model, I decided to make a pretty little sundress for a very pretty (and specific!) little girl. Ally is my cousins daughter and she is very picky about the clothing she wears. She noticed a sample of a little dress that hangs in my studio and decided she wanted one like that "without the sleeves, ruffles and frills". She wants what she wants! I let her pick out her fabric and she stood by as I sewed so she could direct my every move! (It was really cute! I can't wait for this girl to grow up. Surely, she is going to be in a position of power!)

This is an easy little dress that uses elastic thread to give a smocking effect across the bodice. First, I took a yard of pre-washed and dried fabric, pressed and serged around all the edges. If you don't have a serger, you can still do this! Before I got my serger for Mother's Day, I used my zig-zag stitch on my domestic machine. Works just fine in finishing off those edges professionally. Once you've blocked off those edges, sew your fabric into a tube by sewing the selvage edges (trimmed) right sides together. Now you have a 36" long tube. I fold down the top of the tube about 3/8" and press then top stitch to give a nice finished edge across the top. If you don't mind the serged or zig-zagged edge showing, you don't need to do this. I've seen plenty of cute little dresses with the raw edge, serged, showing at the top and bottom of the dress.

Now for the fun part! Take an elastic thread which you can find at pretty much any sewing supply shop. I've even used the elastic you find on cards in the bead section of your large chain stores. Recently, your sewing supply sections of these stores are disappearing so I've had to be resourceful! (I like to call myself the McGyver of sewing!) Take your bobbin and HAND WIND the elastic onto your bobbin with just a little bit of pull on the elastic. I DO NOT adjust the tension on either the bobbin OR the top thread. I DO however lengthen my stitch. My machine is digital so where a 2.5 is my normal stitch length, I lengthen to a 4. Replace your bobbin and put a matching thread up top. I've used all sorts of thread weights. The all-purpose thread works great!

Place your tube under your presser foot at about 1/4" from the top of your tube, right side facing up and starting at your back seam. Make sure you have a nice long tail of elastic and thread to start with. Slowly start sewing around the top of your tube. As you sew, the tension on your elastic in the bobbin will start to smock up your fabric. When you've sewn all the way around the top and you are now on the other side of your seam, pull a nice long elastic and thread tail and cut. Keep your tails out of the way and and continue sewing lines down the bodice about every 1/4" to 1/2", depending on your desired look. Your fabric will bunch due to the elastic thread so use your fingers to manipulate the fabric flat so you aren't smocking a smocked piece of fabric. Smocking on top of smocking will just make the bodice that much smaller. The closer together your lines, the more smocked your piece will look. Sew as far down as you want. I went 5" because that's what Ally wanted! At this point, you can tighten your elastic to make your smocking tighter. I don't do this. I find that my machine makes the smocking all on its own and remember, you can hit it with a steamy iron and it will bunch up as well. Once all of your lines have been sewn and your bodice looks how you want it, start at the top of your piece and tie off all of the elastic and thread. Your seam allowance will be inside that knot but after all your ties are done, serge down that seam allowance catching all of your knots in the serge stitching. I'm careful to disengage my fabric trimmer at this point. I've never used it on the elastic knot edge and am afraid that if I accidentally trim off the elastic knot, the whole thing will come undone. I think I might do a tester piece and see what happens. I'll let you know.

If you've never worked with elastic thread before, I would suggest taking a piece of scrap fabric and playing with it before you use a good piece. I always like to test before I sew to see what my machine is going to do with that elastic. Just so I'm not surprised and so I know how much manipulating I'm going to have to do to keep my fabric flat as the elastic is sewn in. Always a good idea to do a test run!

Ally was very specific about her straps. She did not want ties at the top so we measured around her shoulder from the front to the back and made little spaghetti straps and attached them on the inside of the bodice by top stitching them in place. I reinforced them by going in reverse a couple times. Those things aren't going anywhere! You can do whatever you want for straps! Use pretty ribbon, make a tie at the shoulder....your options are wide open! Unless you're sewing for Ally!

Once the straps were on, we put the dress on Ally and she showed me exactly where she wanted it hemmed to. I trimmed off about 4 inches of the dress, re-serged and folded it up a couple times and top stitched to give it a nice finished hem.

It only took us about 1.5 hours to finish this cute little sundress and I was most thrilled that Ally loved it! It's the perfect little "throw it on and go play" dress! Isn't the Jennifer Paganelli fabric gorgeous!? Ally picked it! Out of 400 bolts, that was the one she wanted!

I'll be busy today unpacking the show bins but I recently made a purchase of some Anna Maria Folksy Flannel and am busy designing a rag quilt pattern to offer kits! I'm hoping to start this project tomorrow so look for another post VERY soon! Do you have any friends that might like to subscribe to our blog? Hurry and forward a link! I'm planning a fun fabric giveaway soon! Look for details in the near future!