Sew Expo Insider

Are you ready for the best sewing party around?  I am looking forward to my trip to Puyallup for the Sewing & Stitchery Expo, and I hope to see you there!  This show is great with so much excitement, inspiration, energy and friendship.  I love the location at the Washington State Fairgrounds with Mt. Rainier always looking over us, even when not visible.  Expo is unique and special in so many ways.  I want you to get the most out of these four days, so here are a few tips:

Coordinate visits with friends in advance.  One of the best things about the Sewing & Stitchery Expo is sewing friends gathering from across North America.  Even if you are attending alone, no worries!  You are surrounded by sewing friends in waiting.  For many, this is the annual chance to meet up.  Have your friends’ cell numbers programmed into your fully charged phone.  When muting your phone during classes, remember to use the vibrate mode so you can receive text messages. Remember that the days can be long and you may be using your phone more than normal so you may want to bring a portable charger with you.

Check the schedules in the Showplex for classes, free stage events, drawings and more.

Enjoy the variety of foods at Sew Expo.  The food selection is just as extraordinary as the class schedule.  No show has more delicious food.  The variety and quality is A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.  I’m talking about the famous Fisher’s Scone or one of those fantastic French Crepes!!  Take advantage of the location, the food, and (hopefully) the weather.  Arrange to meet friends outside, eat at the picnic tables or take a simple break between classes.

Keep track of your possessions.  But, if you misplace a tote or phone, check the Visitors Information booths in the rear of the Showplex and Pavilion.  Each year lost and found items are turned in to these two locations.

Take advantage of the wonderful entertainment offered Friday and Saturday nights. These special events are perfect to enjoy with friends old and new. Share laughs, create memories, and learn while you’re at it! This year Joe Vecchiarelli heads up Friday Night Live full of comedic anecdotes and fashion straight from your favorite shows like Dancing with the Stars. Not to mention he’s bringing a special guest, winner of season 16 of Project Runway, Kentaro! The Stitchin’ Post’s Valori Wells will grace the stage Saturday for the annual Quilter’s Night Out with more than 60 of her favorite quilts from over the years and share with you some  stories from her vast experience in Textiles.

Attend style shows upstairs in the Pavilion and the Free Stage presentations in the Showplex.  With a little planning, these locations provide a nice opportunity to hook up with friends, sit for a bit and take a break from the action.  The bonus is — you might learn something new.

Take pictures.  Take lots of pics and post them on our Facebook page.  We know friends near and far that due to health or other commitments cannot attend, but they are watching on social media.  You don’t have to be a Kardashian to take lots of pics!  Bring your smiles and selfie sticks and take advantage of the fun Expo photo backdrop on the red carpet to the evening events!  Be sure to tag @sewexpo and use hashtags to share your photos with everyone: #sewexpo2018 #sewingandstitcheryexpo #sewandstitchpuyallup

Try something new! Expo is all about fine tuning our skills and expanding horizons! Maybe it’s time to test your garment sewing skills in a new realm such as cosplay! Or, after years of stitching quilts you want to pick up a pair of needles to being knitting…who knows? What’s for sure is that Expo is the place to test the water!

My last, and most important, tip…  WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES.   My shoes are to my happy day what my sewing machine needle is to my happy sewing.  No matter how wonderful your sewing machine is, if your needle is not right, it WILL NOT SEW properly.  Same thing with my shoes.  It doesn’t matter how much time or money I put into my Sew Expo experience — if my shoes aren’t right — my day will be uncomfortable.

This is not the time or place to wear new cute shoes.  I’ll be wearing boots and shoes …which, sadly, have seen better days.  But I can walk with a kick in my step around the fairgrounds regardless of the weather.  Rain or shine, and be prepared for snow too, I know comfortable shoes are a giant step to enjoying the best Sew Expo ever! Meet me there…

About the author: Rhonda Pierce is spokesperson for SCHMETZneedles.com.  She is giving the popular SCHMETZ classes each day at 9:30AM.  Rhonda also serves as a contributor to the Expo’s FB page during the show so you may see her around taking lots of photos to share.  She loves to see the outfits and projects you made.   Be sure to say hello, and have your pic taken by Rhonda!

Embroider a Fashionable You

Embroidery is everywhere! Jeans, blouses, bags, even shoes – embroidered embellishment is blooming on all elements of apparel and accessories. Traditionally, embroidery was limited to expensive items created expressly for special occasions.  Luckily, the introduction of home embroidery machines make it possible for home sewists to make their own beautiful creations suitable for any lifestyle. Creating fashion embroidery is a wonderful way to enjoy your embroidery machine.  Success at embroidering fashion lies in understanding design flow, contrast and color, and optimum stabilization.

True fashion embroidery is more than simply placing a design onto a garment or accessory.  Consideration should be given to the scale of the design in relation to the wearer and area to be embroidered. Ideally, the embroidery should have a natural look, as though it was grown on or woven into the garment, rather than simply placed at random.  Use printed templates or embroidery software to audition your designs and create a pleasing effect.

Color and contrast are equally important elements as design placement. Although subtle differences between thread colors are beautiful, they may not allow individual elements to show in the overall design.  Often a slightly bolder color choice with a bit more contrast will provide a more pleasing effect.  Similarly, the color of the fabric background, as well as its relative lightness or darkness, needs to be considered. Dark colors do not show well on a dark background, nor light colors on a light background. Be careful to use enough contrast to ensure your designs will show.

Finally, proper stabilization is needed to support your embroidery and keep it looking its best. Using too little stabilizer can result in puckering and other fabric distortion, as well as cause design outlines to stitch incorrectly.  Yet stabilizer should not interfere with the wearability of your garments.  Using two layers of lightweight cutaway stabilizer, for instance, gives excellent support and is softer and easier to trim attractively than one heavy layer.  Be sure to match the amount of stabilizer support with the density of the designs you are stitching.

Embroidery is not only fashionable, it is a wonderfully creative way to have sewing fun! There is an amazing wealth of designs available and an unlimited array of threads to choose from. With a little attention to preparation you can successfully stitch your own fabulous creations.  

–Katrina Walker –

katrinawalker.com

About the author: Katrina Walker is a regular contributor to Creative Machine Embroidery and hosts two online embroidery classes for BurdaStyle Academy – Fashion Embroidery with Katrina Walker, and Embroidery Essentials: Fabric Focus. Join Katrina at Expo! Register for her classes now! 

Hack the System: Seeing Possibilities Instead of Patterns with Simplicity

We’ve all heard the term “hack” applied to pretty much everything at this point: life hack, cooking hack, storage hack, every kind of hack you can imagine, but what does it mean?  “Hack” these days is usually short for “a new and more efficient way of addressing a problem, or an alternative way to use a product other than as intended.” So what does it mean when you apply the word “hack” to a garment or sewing pattern? You could take it in a literal sense: “hack” a pair of pants by turning them into shorts, “hack” a t-shirt by fringing it or cutting the neckline into a new shape, but it’s when you really look at that second definition of hack that the possibilities for patterns really start to come into focus.

Most sewing patterns are a collection of silhouettes that share a common theme. Maybe they all have the same body with different sleeves, or several different lengths, or they’re a combination of multiple fabrics, or all of the above. In fact, I bet you’ve thought more than once before, “hmm, I wonder if I could put those sleeves on the other bodice instead” or “I would really love this dress if it were in two different colors, and maybe a little shorter.” Well, if you’ve had those thoughts and followed through—congratulations! You’ve already hacked a pattern!

It can be a little tough sometimes to look at a pattern and see something other than what is right there in the picture on the envelope, but patterns can be even more rewarding if you look beyond the view letters. After all, patterns can cover a wide range of styles, but we’re all complicated individuals: sometimes you want to mix it up, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t! Simplicity wants to encourage sewists everywhere to think outside the box—or the pattern envelope, as it were. That’s why we’ve created a brand new line of patterns to get you started down the path to a more unique wardrobe. We give you a basic wardrobe item and a few suggestions for how to hack it, and provide you with the means to do the rest on your own (including a blank sheet of pattern tissue with a printed grid, so you can draft your own additions). Changing lengths, adding and subtracting sleeves, using elastic or trim to change a look—the only limits are your imagination.

Getting started with putting your own spin on things can be super easy. Here are a few simple suggestions to get you hacking!

  • Swatch it up. If you like the look of a pattern but you still think there’s a certain something missing, why not try color blocking? You’ll have to figure out your own yardage, but a little contrast can make a simple top feel like something utterly special.
  • Mix and match. If you really want those sleeves with that bodice, why not give it a shot? As long as the armscye (the opening in the bodice for your arm) is the same shape on both bodices, you can swap the sleeves out with no problems! (Hint: if views A and B share the same back but have different fronts, that’s a pretty good clue that you can pop Sleeve A on Bodice B with no worries!)
  • Take a shortcut. Feel like showing off your legs, or have arms that just need to be free? Don’t let us tell you how long your garment needs to be. We give you the length of the finished garment on the back of your pattern envelope, but that’s just a place to start!
  • Pockets? Pockets. Every pattern should have pockets, in this sewist’s opinion. But just in case yours doesn’t—or doesn’t have the type of pocket you like—why not draft one of your own, or borrow one from another pattern? Patch pockets are easy as pie and twice as cute!

Good luck, and happy hacking!

About the author: Deborah Kreiling has been part of the Simplicity team for over 35 years. She is currently the Design Development Director at Simplicity where her daily work touches every part of the sewing pattern product – working on each design from concept to final pattern with envelope. Learn to sew with Deb on her YouTube channel and at creativebug.com.

Embellishments and Weatherizing Make a Gorgeous Costume Shine

Some of the reasons for me to cosplay are the attraction to the costume and love for the character. I love styles that are technically challenging and that push me to learn new techniques that I don’t encounter every day. In my cosplay portfolio, a majority of the projects are strong females out of video games. The concept artists may or may not be trained as a fashion designer, so it is up to me to execute all the gorgeous intricate designs and make them come to life. Besides getting the silhouette correct, embellishment and weather are a HUGE part of executing a breathtaking costume.

Embellishments are a huge part of what makes a plain cosplay amazing. Please see below for a detailed look in to the steps in which I created the embellishments for a wedding gown cosplay based on a Game of throne’s character.

Video Transcript

  • To recap the materials:
  • Stiff Bukram for body + support
  • Lace trims – Flat black Mesh, braided trims, flat trims, ropes.
  • Beads – red glass beads, gold spacer beads, garnet beads, crystals for extra bling
  • French wires Misc embroidery floss.

Depending on what your choices are, your cosplay may not be as highly decorated as this, but regardless of what your cosplay looks like, this next part will apply to your costume.

Weathering is a process of adding age and battle proven damage to your costume. Fresh off the sewing machine, everything is new and shiny. However, it is not how the character looks. They had been in battles and they traveled far to come to the world they now reside. To show and capture your character’s history, we will go through a few simple step of how to add depth to their background.

For a light to mid back ground color, we will use black paint to add depth. For a dark color fabric, we will use brown, or tonal darker color to add depth. For our demo, we will weather this leather bag.

After cutting out the pattern pieces, use black acrylic paint to darken the edges. Start with acrylic paint, and lightly dilute with fabric medium. The fabric medium will make the paint more flexible.

 

 

 

 

 

After the edges are dried, sew bag together with top stitch thread, according to your pattern. If I didn’t have topstitch thread, I would use a triple stitch to emulate hand stitching effects.

After the bag is assembled, rumble the bag together. (I know, it is painful to rumble such a pristine piece, but it will be worth it!) the line where the wrinkles formed will be our guide on where to put more weathering.

 

 

 

 

 

Load a brush with more acrylic/fabric medium paint and paint along the wrinkle line. After a few seconds, lightly blot away and repeat and feather the edges until the correct amount of shadow is achieved. Lastly, lightly pat away excessive paint with paper towels.

The end result is an antiqued bag! You can use this technique for other textiles as well. Just add fabric medium to make sure the acrylic paint sticks to fabrics.

Thank you so much for reading and I look forward to seeing you at Expo! Sign up for my classes on Saturday (#2806 Easy Grading Costuming Patterns to Best Fit Your Body & #3825 Advanced Grading Costuming Patterns for Perfect Fit)!

About the Author: Anna He is a costume designer and cosplay artist based out of Seattle. She has designed patterns for McCall and has worked for brands including Norma Kamali, Eileen Fisher, and Nordstrom. Get to know more about Anna and her work at Expo in her two class offerings or at seattlecosplay.com.

Sewing With Knits – Basics For Success

 

Knits! T-shirts, leggings, or a soft knit dress are always a great choice for comfort in ready to wear. If you haven’t sewn your own though, you can! Knit fabrics have been my favorite choice for years and my sewing “toolbox” is full of awesome tips. I’ve outlined the basics for you below – for even more tips, techniques and confidence, sign up for my 2018 Sewing & Stitchery Expo class!

Needles, Thread and Other Knit Sewing Friends

For knit fabric sewing, always choose a stretch needle in the size appropriate for your fabric weight.  On your sewing machine, thread up with Coats’ new Eloflex Stretch Thread for seams, hems and topstitching that retain their stretch. Your serger will be fine with a regular cone thread. Basic sewing supplies should include ballpoint pins, serrated scissors and/or a rotary cutter.

Gorgeous Knits from Pacific Fabrics

Today’s Knit Fabric Stars

When choosing a knit fabric, be sure to check the percentage of stretch and which direction it goes. Neglecting this step could result in a wardrobe sewing disaster and you definitely want to avoid that! Pre-wash as you would any fabric designed for clothing.

Jersey, Ponte, Scuba and Double Brushed Poly are the stars of today’s knit fabric world. There are many other choices, but these are the fabrics we’re all crushing on right now.

  • Jersey: A light-weight, single knit fabric most commonly used for t-shirts and dresses.
  • Ponte: A firm, medium-weight, double knit perfect for pants, jackets, skirts and structured dresses.
  • Scuba: Also a double knit, but a bit lighter weight and finer of surface than Ponte. Beautiful for skirts and dresses.
  • Double Brushed Poly: Soft, stretchy and like wearing “secret pajamas”! Perfect for leggings, dresses and tops.

Choose Wisely – Finding the Right Pattern

The Big Five pattern companies offer wonderful patterns for knits. Independent companies such as Sew to Grow, Closet Case, Grainline Studio, Sew Caroline  and Snapdragon Studios also offer lots of choices for beautiful knit patterns. Be sure to check the back of the pattern envelope for suggested fabrics.

Knit Fabric Sewing Basics

“Do I have to have a Serger?” No! Any Sewing Machine can be used to sew knits with Coats new Eloflex Stretch Thread. A Serger is a wonderful thing for sewing knit fabric seams though, so if you own one, definitely use it. If a Cover Stitch machine is available to you, they are marvelous for hemming and top-stitching.

A ¼” seam is the perfect width for knits. You may find that seam allowance trimming is needed, depending on the pattern company you choose.  The stretch and drape of a knit fabric is best enjoyed with this “narrow” seam allowance.

Knits do not ravel, so seam finishes are not required! To reduce bulk, hem edges do not need to be turned under. There are many stunning options for neck, sleeve and hem finishes to be explored. You can even use the cut edge as your “finish”!

Join Me! Sewing With Knits – Trends & Techniques for Every Body

Are you ready to sew? I’ll have loads more info in my class for you along with a super helpful handout to take home. And, you’ll get to see what I make from the beautiful fabrics provided by my sponsor, Pacific Fabrics! Sign up right here and I’ll see you in class!

About the Author: Annette Millard recently started her own blog, The Sewful Life, which utilizes her sewing and teaching experience to provide helpful tips and tricks, tutorials, and project ideas. Visit the blog at sewfullife.com  and be sure to say “hi” at Expo in one of her three classes!

Sewing Techniques Applied to Costuming–with Anna He

Cosplay seems to be all the rage recently. And it is no surprise due to the rising popularity in main stream media, convention coverages, and easy to access information on techniques makes it easier than ever to get involved. Personally, I have been a sewist long before I started cosplaying. And the same trials and triumphs sewists experience are a common theme with cosplay.  Attempting that impossible seam for pattern match? Check!  Finding that exact color to match your taste? Check! What about using a none conventional material to achieve the body and drape we wanted? That’s practically what cosplay is about!

For those that are just starting, “cosplay” is a word combination of Costume and Play. It is a really fun and creative activity where fans dress up as their favorite character go to a special event like a convention, gatherings, or photoshoots.

 

Sewists are resourceful and have an impeccable capacity to learn and acquire new skills. These are the qualities that makes a sewist the perfect cosplayers. And believe me when I say, no matter how simple a cosplay looks to be, it is not. There will guarantee to be a hidden something that will challenge the perfectionist inside of us.  I remember when I was making the Sansa Stark (Game of Throne) cosplay, the sheer amount of drag on the dress meant I had to have a super strong support. And trying to make a supporting cage after the outter dress was already sewn up, a week before the convention, was every bit challenging as all the other sewings combined!

The process of cosplay is pretty magical. I have an endless bucket list of characters I want to cosplay. This coming year, I am focusing on Claire Fraser from Outlander TV series, White Mage from the Final Fantasy franchise, Triss Merigold from the Video game and book series The Witcher, and I am leaving enough room for one more surprise cosplay. Each project promises to be labor intensive and exciting as they will involve sewing fabrics, knitting, leatherworks, beading, cording, corsetry, embroidery and endless hours of seam ripping. It’s all worth it at the end when I don the latest projects and share the joy amongst those in my fandom. 

However, I always come back to this hobby. I personally love the fact that cosplay projects takes me out of ordinary sewing and basically re-polishes my interests in working with fancier techniques. Were it not for cosplay, I wouldn’t be working on anything remotely elaborate, such as gold lace trims, beads, embroidery, and gather brocade.

Cosplay is for everyone, it is not limited to any particular crowd. Whether you are just starting sewing and want to follow a pattern (there are plenty!) or an expert sewist who has experience in altering and creating patterns of your own – it promises to be a lot of experimentation and amusement. Whether you are making cosplay for yourself or someone else, there is nothing quite like it to put on a beautiful cosplay: the big reveal, the fantastical time that follows and just pure simple fun in wearing something you lovingly, and meticulously worked on.  I hope that fellow sewists will join me in the cosplay world. For now, I need to go back to the sewing room and tame a historically accurate petticoat–I hear it requires hand sewing!

Video transcript

About the author: Anna He is a costume designer and cosplay artist based out of Seattle. She has designed patterns for McCall and has worked for brands including Norma Kamali, Eileen Fisher, and Nordstrom. Get to know more about Anna and her work at Expo in her two class offerings:

·         #2806 Easy Grading Costuming Patterns to Best Fit Your Body – Saturday, March 3 at 10:30am

·         #3825 Advance Grading Costuming Patterns for Perfect Fit – Saturday March 3 at 2:00pm

Don’t let “costuming” scare you off from learning the basic concepts of grading a pattern! Regardless of what you are grading or altering, the method to achieve the best fitting garment is the same! If this sounds like it’s up your alley, be sure to register for the above classes.

ATTENTION COSPLAYERS! The Expo is offering a discounted admission ticket ($5) to anyone who shows their Emerald City Comic Con ticket at the gate as well as free entrance to the 2 Needle class “Simplicity Costumes: From Comic Page to Convention Floor!” held Sunday, March 4th at 10:30am. See you there!

 

 

Sew Checklist: Tickets Update

Tickets are selling but don’t worry if you haven’t had a chance to login and purchase yours yet, there are still available seats and time to shop! Like Christmas, the Expo only comes once a year so don’t miss out on these opportunities!

Our hands-on offerings are a great way to gain more experience on a machine so if you’re looking for some more hands-on practice take a peak at our three and four needle classes. Some great options include:

#4805 – Slice, Slash, Stitch, and Embellish You T-Shirt! with Barbara Crawford

#4815  -Upcycle a Unisex T-Shirt Into a More Feminine Silhouette with Michelle Paganini

#3854 – Like a Zentangle Flower Pin with Michelle Umlauf

#3852 – In the Hoop Embroidered Doll Purse with Edna Strom

#3844 – Contemporary Tech Pillow with Julie Muschamp

…Plus many more including select two needle classes! Check out all of the class options at sewexpo.com.

We have also added a new section of class #1865 Beautiful Bindings for Boutique-Quality Bags and More! with Annie Unrein. This new offering will be held Friday, March 2nd at 1:30pm in the Showplex Building, Room C. To add this class, head to sewexpo.com to login to your account and begin a new order!

For those of you who have completed your orders for the 2018 Expo, they are currently being processed and getting ready to be mailed out. Keep in mind that this process may take up to 3 weeks. When your order arrives, please OPEN it and confirm that your order is correct. If it is not, please call the ticket office as soon as possible so we can correct it.

 

Sew Checklist: Navigating the Brochure and Prepping for Ticket Purchases

In anticipation of receiving your brochure of classes in the mail, here are a few tips to prepare you for online registration or, if you prefer, to mail in your class choices. Whether this is your very first Expo (welcome!) or your 34th, we hope you find the tips helpful.

Here are the types of learning experiences you can sign up for. Pre-registration is recommended for the hands-on classes.

One Needle – 45 minutes long and presented in a lecture/demo format.

Two Needle – 1.5 hour long classes offered. This year, we are offering a selection of hands-on project classes in addition to our traditional 90 minute lecture/demo classes. Additional supplies may be needed and kit fees are paid directly to the teacher on the day of class.

Three Needle – 2.5 hour long classes, hands on experiences with or without machines. Additional supplies may be needed and kit fees are paid directly to the teacher on the day of class.

Four Needle – 4 hour long classes only offered on Wednesday, February 28. You have your choice of taking a class using machines or a class that doesn’t require any equipment. And, thanks to our generous sewing machine dealers, machines are provided to use while in the classroom. Additional supplies may be needed and kit fees are paid directly to the teacher on the day of class.

As you browse your brochure and begin planning your Expo schedule, we recommend that you:

  • Highlight the classes that you are interested in and plan out your desired schedule. We highly recommend that you have a schedule planned before getting online to purchase tickets. You may want to have back-up selections as well in case you encounter a sold out class.
  • Check with friends to see what classes they are interested in.
  • Use the registration form on the back of the brochure to keep yourself organized.
  • List the class numbers with the alphabet. For example, 1803 is a class that is offered on A=Thursday, B=Friday, C=Saturday, and D=Sunday.
  • Leave time between classes to have a snack and/or have lunch. For safety reasons, food is not allowed in the classrooms.
  • Leave time to shop and visit!

Now that you are prepared and have your time at Expo planned, here are some helpful tips for purchasing your tickets online:

  • Opening of the ticket office will be announced soon. Stay tuned.
  • Have the class number, day, and time on hand.
  • CORRECTION: You will NOT need your username and password if you are a returning customer.
  • Utilize the search bar at the top of the ticketing page to navigate to the classes you want. This year you can search by class number, teacher name, and class title to find exactly what you need!
  • Click on the class picture to open the full class details.
  • Be sure to have your credit card ready (The Expo gladly accepts Visa and MasterCard only). Orders may time out if left unattended too long.
  • You can check out related classes at the bottom of the page for other great class suggestions!

Once tickets are purchased online, you will receive an email confirmation of your order, tickets will be processed, and you will receive another email confirming shipment of your order. This process may take up to 3 weeks.

We are looking forward to a wonderful 2018 Expo and want to wish everyone a very happy holiday season!

Please Note: Our office will be closed December 23 , 2017 through January 1, 2018.

Sheep to Yarn

Looking out at a fluffy flock of sheep in full fleece easily creates images of soft, cozy sweaters and scarves. But how does that happen? It seems almost magical that wool can transfer from the sheep’s back to our own. The process is actually quite simple and has changed very little in fundamentals since ancient times.

First, of course, comes shearing. When a sheep is shorn, the shearer starts at the sheep’s underleg and belly area, and eventually works their way up to the center back on each side. This causes the sheep’s fleece to come off in one big blanket. It’s truly amazing to see a relatively dainty sheep emerge from that enormous blanket! Shearing day is the happiest day of the year for the flock. While they may not entirely enjoy being sheared (much the same way toddlers don’t enjoy haircuts), as soon as the wool is removed they act like frisky lambs, and run to the nearest fence for a really good scratch.

Because of the shearing pattern, the least desirable sections of wool (legs, belly, neck, head, tail) are located roughly around the edges of the fleece. Removing these sections from the outer edges is called skirting. For large scale commercial yarns, which will be chemically processed to remove any vegetable matter or other debris, this basic skirting is sufficient. But to produce a high quality yarn from naturally processed wools, a second skirting is performed.

For second skirting, the fleece is opened up onto a skirting table. Skirting tables are covered with a surface that allows dirt and vegetation to fall through, while supporting the fleece. Some use wood slats, or even pallets. Once the fleece is opened, it is carefully picked through by hand, removing as much visible vegetation as possible and further sorting the fleece itself. Sometimes shearing results in small, undesirable bits of wool called short cuts. These occur due to the shears passing over the same area more than once. These need to be picked out, and the fleece is inspected to ensure that the crimp and staple length are consistent. All fleeces for Spoiled Sheep Yarn go through this second skirting process.

The thoroughly skirted fleeces then need to be washed. Washing the fleece must be done with care to remove the suint (sheep sweat, dirt, and grease) and excess lanolin from the fleece, without over agitating it which could possibly cause the fleece to felt. This usually takes more than one careful wash in mild soap to ensure cleanliness.

After washing, the fleece is “picked”. Whether done by hand or machine, the picking process pulls the clumps of wool apart to make it easier to be combed or carded. This process also helps to remove more of the tiny bits of vegetation hiding in the wool.

Now, the wool is ready to be carded. Carding is basically a process of brushing the wool to separate and align the fibers so that they are easy to spin. This is done with fine metal teeth resembling slightly bent hairs that are embedded into a cloth backing. The carding cloth is attached either to hand held wooden paddles or round revolving drums on a carding machine. Either way the process is the same. The carded fiber may be removed from the carding drums (or hand cards) as sheets known as “batts” (this is where quilt batting comes from), or formed into long rope-like sections called roving. Most spinners prefer to spin from roving, as it is easier and faster than spinning directly from batts.

Once carded, the fiber is ready to spin. For machine-spun yarn such as Spoiled Sheep Yarn, the roving will next go through a pin-drafting process. Pin drafting is an additional combing process that helps to further align the fibers and make it more uniform for the spinning machines. The resulting fiber is formed into a thinner, smoother “rope” of material called a sliver.

Spinning is the simplest part of the process, but requires the most skill. Whether spun by hand or machine, spinning is the act of twisting the wool fiber. The skill required is feeding the fiber in a uniform amount and controlling the amount of twist so that it is consistent. The initial yarn created is called a “single”, as it has not been plyed with another yarn. Usually at least two yarns are twisted, or plied together. Yarns are plied in the opposite direction that the individual yarns were spun. So if the initial yarn fibers were twisted in a clockwise direction, the plies will be twisted together in a counter-clockwise direction. This locks the yarns together and helps to distribute the tension evenly so that the yarn does not twist when knitted and cause the garment to distort.

Finally, the plied yarn is washed or steamed to “set” the twist. Once dry, the yarn is ready to be wound into skeins. It is ready to be welcomed into the hands of the knitter or crocheter to be worked into something special.
Next time you see a skein of yarn you will have a deeper appreciation of the journey each skein took from the back of a wooly sheep into something you can touch and enjoy. Each skein is a work of art in its own way. Many thanks to our sheep for providing us with something wonderful.

About the Author: Katrina Walker is head shepherdess at Spoiled Sheep Yarn. Spoiled Sheep offers farm-fresh natural colored yarns that are produced individually from each sheep. You can visit her beautiful wool at the Sewing and Stitchery Expo and coming soon to www.spoiledsheep.com.

The Sewing Guide for Holiday Dressing

The Dilemma
Awww, the Holidays. ‘Tis the season for your work party, his work party, a girl’s night out or two, holiday concerts, and all the family gatherings . . . . whew! What’s a sewist to wear without making a new outfit for every occasion? Enter the classic Little Black Dress. Simple and economical to make, it can easily be the most versatile go-to in your holiday wardrobe. All it takes is a little more sewing!

The Solution
The Little Black Dress on its own can be fabulous with just the addition of jewelry that sparkles or a drop-dead-gorgeous print sewn into a quick infinity scarf. For your holiday LBD, consider one of the patterns I found on the Simplicity web site. Each one carries its own impressive style, yet is simple enough to sew up in just a few evenings.

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From the Amazing Fit collection, Simplicity 8258 is available in petite, misses and plus sizing. Fitting tips and techniques are included for this impressive, yet simple design. The fit and flare styling, center front seaming and three sleeve options make this the perfect LBD for everyone. And, there are pockets!

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Designed by Sew Chic’s Laura Nash, vintage inspired Simplicity 8534 features a gorgeous, slimming waterfall drape. Easy pleating at the bust and waistline creates a wonderful fit and marvelous style. To make this your own, options include long or short sleeves, optional self-piping and a charming bow.

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Basic, easy, yet striking, New Look 6524 includes four different sleeve looks and lengths. It’s a wonderful dress for “The Year of the Sleeve”! Sew up a holiday style Little Black Dress now, then save this pattern for a fun warm weather dress, too.

The Additions
So, now that you’ve sewn the perfect LBD, just a little more sewing will make it a great fit for all your holiday events! The layering styles I found for you can change for each occasion depending on which fabrics you choose and the unique touches you add.

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Think about silk, velvet, rayon, sparkly trims, sequins and fancy machine stitches. For embellishing, consider Dana Marie Design’s exquisite Quick Fan Applique tutorial to add personalized style.

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Connie Crawford’s Butterick 6261 is a magnificent flare jacket with beautiful seam detailing. Marvelous for combining prints, it could also stylishly feature a yoke of sparkly, sequined fabric. A wonderful way to complete your outfit for holiday concerts or a dress-to-impress work party!

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For a more formal office party or girls’ night out, you’ll love the New Dimension Jacket designed by Louise Cutting. Beautiful princess seaming and full-length dolman sleeves create a slim, flattering fit that would be superb in velvet or a mid-weight silk. Two necklines and optional pockets offer alternatives for design that may mean you’ll want to make more than one!

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Karen Nye’s fabulous and ever-popular CNT Patterns A Little Somethin’ Jacket is quick, easy and a great fit for all body styles. You’ll find two sleeve lengths available and a wide size range. Stitch this one up for the family gathering in a gorgeous rayon. For a Holiday Concert or special night out, choose a dazzling lace for spectacular results.

The Joy
Get ready to look fabulous, darling. Choose your fabrics; choose your patterns – holiday dressing offers simply marvelous reasons to indulge in the joy of sew!

About the author: Annette Millard recently started her own blog, The Sewful Life, which utilizes her sewing and teaching experience to provide helpful tips and tricks, tutorials, and project ideas. Visit the blog at sewfullife.com .