Blog

Welcome to the DravonWorks sewing blog! Here you’ll find lots of sewing information. I’m one of the “technical” people, who likes to know the why’s of things. In my mind, once a Why is understood then the information can be applied in a myriad of different ways! You won’t find a whole lot of “make this item” tutorials, but you will find answers to questions like “why should I thread my machine like that versus like this?” or “do I REALLY have to do it this way?” Most of these posts are coming from questions asked by students in my classes, but if YOU have a question you’d like answered then please feel free to comment.

I know that understanding the technical stuff behind what is going on doesn’t work for everyone, but that’s why there are so many great sewing blogs out there! Find the teacher  that speaks to you, and I’d love to be one of them. If you do like what you read here, be sure to share, subscribe and visit back often! Tell your friends about this sewing blog! Ask questions, share your projects or stories. Sewing is most fun when it’s a community of people sharing what inspires them. I really want to hear from you!

 

Fitting Artwork To Sized Pieces

Posted by on Oct 2, 2016 in Education & Instruction, Project Review | Comments Off on Fitting Artwork To Sized Pieces

Fitting Artwork To Sized Pieces

In the Corvo Embroidered post, I mentioned 2 posts at least which were coming at you. This is one of them! Finally. Here I will detail how I went about making sure the finished embroidered piece was exactly sized and placed so that the pattern could then be assembled. Fortunately, this particular challenge was made significantly easier because I had a blank canvas to work on. Essentially, I had an entire cow hide that I could embroider on and then draw the cut lines to ensure everything was positioned perfectly. The next challenge, which you’ll eventually see, is doing the exact same process on a finished dress! But regardless of whether I’m dealing with a raw pattern piece or a finished garment, the first step is always to obtain accurate measurements. And I do mean ACCURATE!! Preferably with lots of pictures. I asked the pattern maker to send me a picture of her pattern pieces with a ruler next to the pieces. I also specified these shots MUST be straight on – no angles at all. If she had to stand on her table or put the pattern on the floor in order to get a straight on, no perspective-skewed full shot of the piece, then this is what had to be done. Fortunately, she very handily got me what I asked for and sent me this picture: From here, I had to scale the artwork to fit the known measurement in the picture – in this case, the ruler. I know that ruler is 18″ tall by 2″ wide. I have the CorelDraw graphic arts software, but Illustrator works fine too. I’m sure there are others out there, but which one particularly that you use doesn’t really matter. What is important is that you use something which allows you to scale the image until one section of it fits the target dimensions. What I did was draw a rectangle on the program’s drawing board sized to 18×2. Then I positioned that box overtop of the ruler and then literally just scaled the image until the image of the ruler was sized to exactly the target box. To confirm the sizing, there are 2 options and I did both because of the whole “measure twice, cut once” adage my engineer father taught me. First, I measured all the edges of the pattern piece as it appeared on my screen and compared those with the measurements that I asked the pattern maker to supply. Perfect! Then I printed out a tiled version of the artwork across multiple pages (this involved printing to PDF, then tile-printing that), taped the tiled pieces together and then re-measured everything. Again, perfect. Now it was time to fit the artwork to the piece. Essentially, this was easy. I dropped the artwork into the program’s window and scaled it to fit, positioning it exactly where the pattern maker had outlined. It required a little bit finesse, but I got it to fit like a glove. In the above, you can see a couple of purple outlines — these are the planned hoopings so I know how to digitize the artwork for multi-hoop piecing, and exactly where to place my join points. You can also see the planned embroidered goldwork edge that will frame the finished vest piece. Including this also allowed...

read more

Corvo Embroidered

Posted by on Jul 25, 2016 in Conventions, Project Review | Comments Off on Corvo Embroidered

Corvo Embroidered

Been a while since I’ve posted anything here, but that does not mean I’ve been lolly gagging about. Far from it. I’m working very hard to build up the embroidery side of my business, and while the majority of that is aimed at business clients, there are still plenty of truly fun and creative things I get asked to do. This one has far and away been the most fun!! I’ll be cross posting this particular post not only here but also on my DW Embroidery blog since it will be total brag. The rest of the posts in this Corvo series will be essentially post-mortem, covering all the mistakes I made and the lessons I learned. So if you want to learn from my mistakes on how to create multi-hooped goldwork embroidery directly onto leather so that that the finished piece is exactly sized for the pattern it needs to go on, then stick around here. Those posts will be right here since they are sewing/embroidery education posts and not necessarily marketing posts. What am I talking about? Some friends of mine (Brayton and Amy over at Legendary Costume Works) were working with Rebecca Dominguez (pattern maker extraordinaire for the movie and tv industry) on an assignment which needed some embroidery. I was recommended since I’m familiar with working with leather and I’ve also worked with metallic thread. The assignment they were working on was to make the promotional outfit for the upcoming game “Dishonored 2” with the main character of Corvo. It was his outfit that they were making. I am thrilled and proud of the final product for which I played my part. The finished outfit was officially unveiled at E3 in Los Angeles when it opened on June 14, 2016. Now I did not got to the event, but I have friends who did and they were kind enough to snag some photos for me. Above is the entire outfit, with the black leather vest which I embroidered peaking out from the under the brown hooded over vest. I used one of Dishonored 2’s promotional pictures as the featured image for this post, so you can see how pretty much exact to the vision of the character the final project came out to be. Here is it from another angle. I just love Rebecca’s ability to work asymmetrical designs! I’m so going to have her create initial patterns for me from now on. I’ve learned the hard way that while I can make patterns, it’s just not fun for me. She loves making them. Problem solved! But I digress. I asked Rebecca for a picture of the black leather under-vest so the embroidery could be seen better in its entirety. She sent me this picture. To reiterate, the only part of this project that I did was the embroidery onto the leather pieces. The actual assembly was done by the parties cited.   The filigree work is embroidered directly onto the leather. The edging work was embroidered onto black material which was then stitched/glued into place. I’m not exactly sure how Rebecca ended up fitting the gold metal edgework into position, but it is exactly form fitting to the contours of the pattern – no bias cheating here! Overall, it looked AWESOME!! And boy did I learn a...

read more

Creative Confidence

Posted by on Mar 21, 2016 in Random Stuff | Comments Off on Creative Confidence

Creative Confidence

It’s been a while since I’ve done a post. I’ll be honest here, like many creatives, I look at what I create and am not happy with what I see. My Inner Critic comes calling even during the planning process, and it just gets louder until all the praise in the world can’t drown out the Inner Critic. I spent a year and a half teaching classes almost daily and the number one thing I heard over and over again was “I’m afraid of (insert rest of sentence here).” It saddened me greatly that so many wonderfully creative, talented people would be so intimidated by their own imagination and the process of making that vision into a reality. It’s a huge reason why I started this blog, as a way of backing up what I was trying to impart to my students. It’s why I posted mistakes and talked about what I learned during the creation process. It’s why I try to include why a specific technique works as it does or a what a foot does mechanically or any other of the many “whys” or “hows” that I included. My entire goal, my reason for all of this, has been to encourage people to try. To have faith in themselves. To boldly embrace that creativity and let the chips fall where they may. To just have fun with it. Every time a student spoke about wanting something to be perfect, I stopped them. Perfection should never be the goal – that’s boring. Every mistake became a learning opportunity or a creative challenge while every crooked stitch just added character to the final piece. Skill comes with practice, and nothing else. And practice means that sometimes it’s what exactly as you imagined it, but that’s ok too. Despite this mindset, the further I went with this blog the more my doubts began to surface. I’d think “who wants to see that?” or “someone else will just explain it better” or “everyone does this, what narcissism makes me think that anyone would care about my version of it?” The Inner Critic shut me down, succeeded in convincing me to stuff my creative light under a basket. I was about to remove this blog and walk away, but I started thinking about the reasons why I started it in the first place. Reasons that got lost as I began to compare myself to others, as my confidence faltered. Then I heard someone casually mention the term creative confidence. Creative confidence. Those words reached out to smack me upside the head. I don’t teach to be someone important, or get accolades, or be recognized, or have a giant fan base. I teach to give people a set of tools they can use to express their own uniqueness in a tangible way. I had forgotten that, and the Inner Critic replaced that soul objective with fears. Here is the definition of Confidence that I like best: a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities. Where in this sentence is there any reference to anyone other than the self? There isn’t. Confidence is internal, and because it’s internal until it can truly blossom it is easily crushed. So I’ll keep adding to this body of work, and if...

read more

Easy Matching of Embroidered Pieces

Posted by on Nov 19, 2015 in Education & Instruction, Pipeline Update | Comments Off on Easy Matching of Embroidered Pieces

Easy Matching of Embroidered Pieces

There are a variety of different Block-Of-The-Month quilts available which are composed of individually embroidered squares. The example I’m using for this tutorial is the one from HoopSisters for their 2014 offering called Jacobean Journey. I’ve talked a bit about this here, but it’s mainly a color test. The first few months of blocks form the inner core and it’s pictured here while the second set is pictured here. I’ve now finished embroidering all the core blocks and I’m about to start embroidering/piecing all the border sets – starting with the inner. Before I proceed with more embroidering, I decided to assemble the core in its entirety. Above I’ve laid out the part that was already assembled and now I’m fitting the new squares into place following the diagram. Of course, Wedge my trusty Sewing Room Helper just has to be present to make sure I get everything right. I’ve already assembled about 20 some blocks before this point, and I’ve learned through trial and error how to line these things up for the best end result with minimal effort. As I’ve said before, I’m a lazy sewist but I’m also very demanding – so I want it as perfect as I can get it with the least amount of effort. Everything I do is therefore an experiment in figuring out the best way to do just this. I came up with a system that works really well for me, but it never really crossed my mind to share it. A friend was helping me assemble these, and in the time that I put together a series of 8 she was still struggling to put together the first pair. Rather let her continue the exercise in frustration, I showed her my process. She followed it and on the first try, near perfection! Suddenly it dawned on me that this might be something that would be worthwhile to share. So here it is, my method for joining embroidered quilt blocks. Step One. Identify the blocks that have to be joined and visually confirm that if these were aligned perfectly the design would look continuous. If your blocks have a basting stitch around them, and this one definitely does, I’d recommend removing it before starting. If you choose not to, that’s fine but make sure that you IGNORE the basting stitch when it comes to trimming and aligning the blocks. Again, IGNORE the basting stitch. It is not the edge of the block – the embroidered pattern is what defines the edges of the block. Step Two. With the blocks laying right sides together and oriented correctly, put a pin through the corner stitches on one block, then align the pin with the corner stitch on the next block. You’ll push the pin STRAIGHT through. This is an alignment pin, not a basting pin. Again, do NOT try to use this pin to secure the corner. Push the pin straight through. Step Two Continued. Repeat the process of pushing a pin straight through both blocks aligning the design together by matching the ends of the stitched design. You’ll do this along the entire length of the side to be sewn. Once you do this a few times you’ll find this is actually a very fast process. Again, push the pin straight through. Step Two Finished....

read more

Embroidery Machine Overheating

Posted by on Sep 10, 2015 in Education & Instruction | Comments Off on Embroidery Machine Overheating

Embroidery Machine Overheating

I know I’m not the only creative person out there who likes to push the limits. Having worked in a sewing machine retail store, I was initially quite shocked to learn that many of my customers owned several embroidery machines – often the same model. When I first started, I thought this was a little odd. Now? Not so much. Why might someone want multiple embroidery machines? (1) While one is embroidering something, I can still sew. Yes, I *could* get away with having my second machine as a small non-embroidery machine, but … I *could* drive a Yugo and still get where I want to go. Ew. No. I have two different consumer level embroidery machines, and I personally chose 2 different machines. I have my Viking Diamond and my Pfaff Creative Performance. The Creative Performance can do things that my Diamond cannot – like custom created stitches. Yes, I’ve actually created a machine sewn stitch based off of a picture in a Renaissance clothing book. So depending on what I want to do, one machine or the other is available at all times. (2) If I need to, both machines can be embroidering something. Large quilt projects, like the HoopSister’s 2014 Block of the Month Quilt entitled Jacobean Journey (pictured below) leap to mind as the perfect candidate for multiple machine work. I’m doing the queen size version, and I *could* spend weeks collectively as I sit at one machine waiting for it to finish to I can put another block on. OR I could bust out both machines and have them both go to town. Yes, that sounds much more reasonable to me. (3) Now this last one is the entire reason for this post, and I’ve never heard anyone mention it in the years that I worked at the store but I’m sure I can’t be the only one. Consumer embroidery machines get what I like to call “tired”. Once a machine gets “tired”, literally the only option which I’ve discovered works is to shut it all down and walk away. Let the machine “rest.” What signifies when a machine is tired? Well, one of a variety of things. The nicest one is that it literally just stops working. The lights are on, but nobody is home. The machine is completely unresponsive. This is definitely “tired” and so it needs to “rest” overnight. Other signifiers include suddenly near constant thread snarls and/or breakage. I’ve even had tired machines skip entire sections of a color, like a marathon runner taking a cheat shortcut and then dashing across the finish line like everything is fine. How long does it take for my machines to get tired? I’ve learned that largely depends on the heat in the room. The hotter it is, the faster they get tired. Usually, I can have anywhere from 4 to 6 hours of constant stitch time before they get too tired to continue. Yup, I said 4 to 6 HOURS of CONSTANT stitching. Perhaps that’s why nobody ever mentioned this problem. But I like to push limits, and I hit this one almost immediately with my first machine. I made a tunic with heavy embroidery around the edges of the large bell sleeves and along the lower edge. This was one of the...

read more

Pipeline Update: “Nottingham Saddle Cover” pattern in development

Posted by on Aug 18, 2015 in Pipeline Update | Comments Off on Pipeline Update: “Nottingham Saddle Cover” pattern in development

Pipeline Update: “Nottingham Saddle Cover” pattern in development

Been a while! Life has been quite busy, including moving in some new directions which means much less type for blogging. While I’ve been blogging since 2004, I was still a bit taken off guard by just how much time it demanded. Apparently when I was doing all those post mortems (project reviews) along with pictures, I didn’t have much else to do and so it didn’t quite register just how time consuming it was. Ugh. Trying to grow two businesses at the same time is darn hard, plus all the other stuff I’ve got going on. My educational blogging took a serious back seat, but I’m alive and I wanted to send some updates on just what I’ve been up to. It took a while after the move to a different part of the state, but I’ve found a new horse back riding instructor who’s helping me go in new directions and isn’t in the least afraid to say “You’re going too slow!!” I’ve also got a sewing assistant who comes over once a week to help ensure that I’m getting stuff done. Best investment EVAHHHH! Because of her, one of the many projects off the “to do done when I can” pile and now in the active pipeline is this one: Create a “Medieval” Saddle Cover Pattern A friend of mine brought the above pictured item over to me and asked if I could re-create it for her. Being ever so speedy (not), I got right on that. I did make a muslin replica of it and then returned the original to her. The one pictured here is a stage prop from what I was told was Erol Flynn’s 1938 “Adventures of Robin Hood” but I couldn’t see it in the movie. Doesn’t mean it’s not there, just that I didn’t see it when I watched the movie. I have dubbed it “The Nottingham Saddle Cover“. It’s a saddle cover for a standard western saddle, allowing the rider to “transform” their modern saddle into a “medieval” saddle. In a perfect world, everyone can afford the real thing, but in a not so perfect world I think a saddle cover is a nice compromise. It’s also perfect for those like me who don’t have their own horse and therefore have no personal tack, but still want their livery or equestrian garb to work with their heraldry or whatever. Just to be clear, this piece is not intended as a historically accurate anything – it is a theatrical item. The gold velvet original one has no straps or anything to hold it on, other than the rider’s weight. My prototype also had no straps. The original saddle base was lined with heavy denim only, while I chose a combination of leather and a very heavy stabilizer with a cheap lightweight denim that I had in my stash. I was concerned about a number of things including: fitting over a standard western saddle seat sliding around under the rider ability to use the stirrups safely/without impediment experimenting with false pommel/cantle materials Once the prototype was assembled, it was time to give a test. I did not have a western saddle at home to make sure it even came close to fitting, so considering that, I was beyond happy with it for a prototype. Overall, it...

read more

Sample Board Teaching – Best Stitch For Sewing In Elastic

Posted by on Mar 27, 2015 in Education & Instruction | Comments Off on Sample Board Teaching – Best Stitch For Sewing In Elastic

Sample Board Teaching – Best Stitch For Sewing In Elastic

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Sample Board Teaching post. After reading a fellow sewing blogger, I was inspired to pick on this particular sample. What stitch is used to sew elastic directly onto a material? Why? While I can use a straight stitch (because I’m sewing over already stretched elastic, the straight stitch won’t break during use), I don’t recommend it because there is no width to a straight stitch. I’d have to sew multiple rows in order to adequately tack down the elastic so it doesn’t roll or pull out. For those who know me or have this blog, you know that I consider myself a Lazy Sewist — I want the best result for the least effort. Sewing multiple lines of stitches when other options are available and look better too boot? Definitely too much work! heh. I could use a zig zag-stitch. That has width. That aughta work, right? Yes, it gets the job done, but look below. It’s not a particularly pretty end result. Why? Because a zig-zag stitch only penetrates the fabric at the opposite sides of the stitch width. See in the illustration below, I’ve circled where the needle goes through the material. This means that the thread between these points of penetration is literally just floating around over the fabric. In this instance, when the stretched elastic is relaxed then those floating stitches also relax, providing zero guidance for the fabric. The end result is a rather ugly bunched up line of material that is attached to the elastic. I’ve done far too many otherwise gorgeous projects which end up being “meh” because the details like this go awry. So now I’ve put in lots of hours and I’m not happy with the result. Is anything better than this? You betcha! The 3-step zig-zag. This has become one of the my favorite stitches! Unlike the true zig-zag, this stitch gives tons of support to the fabrics being joined and it has the benefit of usually not pulling as badly. If you’ve ever sewn a zig-zag and get the fabric tunneling up underneath the stitch, this is what I mean by “pulling badly”. The 3-step is so useful because it’s actually composed of 3 small diagonal stitches, enabling it to have the width of a zig-zig but still provide stability of a straight stitch. Because there are no large sections of unsewn material, there is none of that sloppiness illustrate above to be found in this stitch. This means that when the elastic is relaxed and the fabric is allowed to bunch up, the end result is a controlled distribution of that resulting gather. Notice the difference in the look of this gathered elasticized waistband. Wow! It’s gorgeous — smooth, controlled, evenly distributed. Even the folds in the fabric look relaxed and flowing, rather than scrunched and tortured. For attaching elastic directly to your material, nothing beats this stitch! It’s easy, fast and looks great. The Trifecta! *woot* It’s one of the fundamental stitches that you’ll find on even the most basic of machines which can do a zig-zag. If your machine has a visual selection of stitches, the 3-step zig-zag looks like the true zig-zag except it has 3 tiny stitches visible. Like this: Give it a test! On some machines this stitch width can also be...

read more

Gift Art Quilt Post-Project Review

Posted by on Feb 18, 2015 in Pipeline Update, Project Review | Comments Off on Gift Art Quilt Post-Project Review

Gift Art Quilt Post-Project Review

It’s finally time to complete the Project Review for the gift art quilt that I created last year. You can see some of the Pipeline Progress reports on it here and here which talk about the design and early stages of the layout challenges as well as early embroidery techniques. The quilt featured a number of experiments in it, both in terms of quilting techniques as well as embroidery applications. I’m thrilled with the outcome of pretty much all of them!   Layers of Mountains. While I had a good selection of greens for the various layers of mountains in the background, when I was laying it out I realized pretty quickly that I wanted more .. but I really didn’t want to go get more. As I was pondering this, I glanced over at the stack of fabrics and saw the wrong side of one of my favorites. *ping* Of course! I’m not limited to using just the right side! So I used the wrong side of some to give more dimension and visual variety without using too many different patterns. Forests. In the background of the quilt, I digitized individual trees or small copses of trees. These were done with circular loops layered over top of each other and stitched onto netting. Once they were completely finished, they were then attached to the quilt layers. I already covered the particulars of this precess in another post. But the forsests in the mid-ground were huge clusters of trees, with not too many individual trees standing out sharply. I decided to expand on the successful approach used for the above individual trees which are in the way background. To give these closer-up trees a bit of visual variety and texture, I chose to literally chop up the fabric into tiny bits, contain those under a layer of netting, and then embroider on top. I picked different background fabrics for each of these clumps of trees, depending on the mood of the forest in the photos that I was trying to recreate. In the picture above, it was a darker forest so I went with one of the darker background fabrics. You can see the bits of fabric that were scattered over the top of the background fabric in the photo above. Over top of this is layered the fine net which held the bit in place. As they were embroidered over, with the vibrations of the needle repeatedly puncturing the material and the hoop moving, the bits were bouncing all over the place underneath their netting. The result was an unpredictable forest, random fabric poking through like wild leaves, and lots of character and shading. I loved the results!! I used this same approach for the bigger, individual trees in front of the mid-ground. Overall, I liked the effect. I think I did too much embroidering over the bit of fabric bits though, they didn’t quite have the full impact that I wanted on these individuals. It’s definitely an effect to keep in mind and try again for something else. Standing Stones. The school yard actually included Neolithic Standing Stones. For real. They were about thigh and waist high and made of a distinctive black stone.  I decided for these guys I wanted to have something a bit dramatic since they were the foreground of the quilt. Not only were...

read more

Easy Emulated Pleats

Posted by on Feb 12, 2015 in Education & Instruction | Comments Off on Easy Emulated Pleats

Easy Emulated Pleats

For those who like making Renaissance clothing, specifically 16th century clothing, there is a distinctive “look” on shirts that characterizes much of the earlier half of century. That look is the pleated shirt or smock. The pattern for this shirt is available here if you’re interested. During the years I was making lots of these shirts, I developed what I eventually dubbed my 5-Step Method for Easy Emulated Pleats. It’s quick, easy, simple and effective. I now use it quite extensively for all of my historical stuff, and I can even document the end result. Since this blog doesn’t Feature products, I decided to do a post which points you to the FREE PDF downloaded tutorial which takes you through the process and even has several pages of educational materials for those interested. It’s got lots of pictures not only of the process but also of my reference portraits, pointing out what I see when I examine primary sources like period art. I’ve been a pleat kick recently. The last PDF pattern added here was a pleated purse which includes all the different types of pleats and how to make them. This reminded me that I had done this tutorial on the emulated pleats but it didn’t get reposted after I transitioned my website to this blog format. So here it is. Enjoy! Until next time, Happy Sewing! –...

read more

Embroidery Color Blending Oopsie

Posted by on Jan 19, 2015 in Education & Instruction | Comments Off on Embroidery Color Blending Oopsie

Embroidery Color Blending Oopsie

It’s always fun to take classes, especially from teachers who explain things clearly!! This past weekend I took a workshop taught by the owner of Balboa Threadworks on blending colors within embroidery digitizing. In that class, I had an A-HA! moment. Last month I was working with a coral fabric, trying to put a red name on it hoping for the name to pop. Alas, no popping. In fact, the name practically vanished! I was puzzled as to why. I could see that it DID, but didn’t know WHY. I found out why in this class. Red blend with red. As soon as the teacher said this, the problem project immediately popped into my mind and I knew (finally) what the problem was. It didn’t matter how fat or big or pure red I tried to make the letters, red will always blend with reds. In this case, the red thread just blended with all the red that made up the coral base fabric — making the name sort of fade into the background rather than standing out. According to the color theory the teacher used in class, I’d want a color on the opposite side of the color wheel if I wanted the name to just screamingly pop out. That would be *consults wheel* a color in the turquoise range or family. Well, it certainly does stand out more. Not sure it’s prettier, but it is more visible. Lesson learned! When I’m embroidering, I’ll have to actively take the colors within base fabric into consideration when I’m choosing the colors of the thread – and also be aware of the mix of colors within the thread. I’m currently working on digitizing artwork with lots of shading, so beyond finally figuring what last month’s nagging oopsie was, everything that I learned in this workshop will be directly applied to the upcoming project. The class couldn’t have been better timed! I’ll share the progress as I go and maybe my mistakes will help you understand something better. If so, I’d love to hear it! Experience may be the best teacher, but she sure is a witch. Be sure to like the post and share it on your Facebook or Twitter! Until we meet again, Happy Sewing! – Dravon    ...

read more

Check out Dravonworks on Yelp

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This