Hello Again!

Wouldn’t it be nice to have an extra set of arms & hands? So many times I find myself wishing for that. I could accomplish twice as much as I do now. That would be wonderful!

It’s been a long time since I’ve written~ too long! I feel bad about it. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to write, I’ve just been so busy with my work. Unfortunately I’m not one of those people who are good multi-taskers. There are so many things I’d love to make, but they all require a lot of time. In the interest of trying to get more items made, I decided to concentrate my efforts for a while~  and that’s why I haven’t been here. There is still  so much that I want to make,  so I can’t commit to a regular writing schedule , as I hope to be able to do someday,  but I intend to pop in more frequently and let you see some of the things I’ve been working on.

I recently finished a custom order Christmas dress for a customer that was probably the most difficult order I’ve ever worked on. It was a real challenge,  but I was determined to do it. I worked on this dress for a month, twice even staying up all night working because I had to see what it looked like~ and if I’d captured the scene pictured in my head.  In spite of the difficulty I have to say that I really enjoyed the challenge this dress presented. Creating it helped me learn a lot about perspective & how to fit a lot into a small space~

The order was for a Christmas dress in green fabric, smocked & with an embroidered scene that included a Christmas tree with colored lights, a little girl, a basset hound & a chocolate lab. Once the sides are smocked there is only about a 3 1/2″ x 3″ space left in the center to compose a scene. That’s really not much room at all. Most of my scenes usually have 1 or 2 major figures in them. That is usually what fits the most comfortably. This request was for twice as many figures as I usually have, so the major problem it presented was how to fit everything in and still have it look nice- and the figures be identifiable. When I thought about the scene, what appeared was an outdoor picture. When it came to actually embroidering the scene I pictured, I realized quickly that I was also going to have difficulty with the snow- and how to show that some of the figures were in front while others were further back. These were the two major problems that kept me up all night~ and taught me a lot. I have never been so totally engrossed in a dress as I was with this one,  and I’m happy to say that I was pleased with the results~ (the scene pictured in the upper left corner.)  If you look closely you will see that the string of tree lights begins in the little girl’s hands & extends down to the basset hound at her side. The basset hound holds a section in his mouth while the chocolate lab, having wound the lights around the branches a few times,  is standing behind the tree with his end of the lights held in his mouth~ and so the title, “Three to Light the Tree.”

Just before beginning work on the order for the Christmas dress I made a dress for my shop that is my personal favorite. When shopping for fabrics,  I like to buy cuts of whatever I see that I think would make a nice dress- without having any particular dress in mind. I bring them home, wash them & put them away until I’m ready to begin a new dress. That way I build an adequate supply of fabrics so that when I’m ready to start a dress, I can look at them & choose whatever I’m in the mood to work on. The fabric for this dress is fabric that I’ve had longer than any of my other fabrics. Every time I went to choose fabric for a new dress I’d pass this one over~ it just never seemed to “grab” me~ until recently. I think I even surprised myself when I opened the cupboard where I keep my fabrics,  spotted this and said, “Yes!” I never would have guessed that it would turn out to be my very favorite dress,  but that’s exactly what happened. Once I saw the fabric I knew exactly how I wanted the dress to look. It’s always a bit scary to me to combine fabrics as I’ve done here, with the collar & sleeves in white and the body of the dress in a small print, giving the dress a “jumper & blouse” look. It’s difficult to visualize which fabrics will look good in that style & which won’t. It’s definitely not fit for every print. This is only the second time that I’ve tried embroidering on the “puff” part of each sleeve, but I really like the way it ties the print of the fabric  together with the white sleeves, although it’s not an easy thing to do. In fact it’s very difficult to embroider from inside the small area that is available in the sleeve of a baby dress,  but I think it’s worth the effort and contributes to creating a dress that’s both unique and very special.

These are just a few of the things that have kept me busy in recent months. I’ve also been knitting, as I’m trying to build a supply of knit items for my shops as well, but more on that in my next post. I’m working on a new dress right now and I’m close to being finished embroidering the scene. I’m looking forward to getting to the part where the dress gets sewn together. I’m sorry to say that my sewing machine which has served me so well over the past 25 yrs. has finally said,  “enough!”  It’s replacement is sitting, still in it’s box, waiting for me to reach the stage where it will be needed. I’m anxious to see how it will work. Hopefully I’ll love it as much as I’ve loved my old machine and,  (whisper-)  maybe even a bit more!  I’ll let you know how I like it, next time I write~ must return to work now!

I hope you enjoy the beautiful fall weather that’s either just arrived- or will be arriving soon!  Fall is my favorite season, so I’m looking forward to cool, beautiful days!

About “Winter”

WINTER

I’ve just finished this dress that I call “Winter”; my third in a series of four long- sleeved dresses that I wanted to add to my store.  My goal is to have at least one long-sleeved dress in each size available. I just finished cutting out my fourth one,  a size 4, so hopefully before much longer, there will be one, OOAK,  long-sleeved dress in each size in my shop!

I thought I’d speak a bit about “Winter, ” and it’s creation,  because its appearance was a surprise even to me. I know that seems strange. It’s not the first time that I’ve been surprised by one of my dresses. The whole process of creating something  has always been a bit of a mystery to me, and making this dress,  is a perfect example ~

Not always, but often, before I begin working on a dress,  I have a pretty good idea of what I want to do with the dress. I usually have a picture in mind. It’s not always a completed picture, but it’s at least a basic idea. What puzzles me,  like what occurred while making this dress, is what happens between the time I begin working on a dress with a particular image in mind, and the time I finish the dress—–and have created something entirely different from the idea envisioned when I began -

Finishing the dress before “Winter,” I began thinking about what I wanted to do with the size 1 that I planned to create next out of a piece of printed white cotton fabric.  I suddenly got an image of a white dress with green, or possibly white, smocking. The dress I envisioned had a very simple, pretty design  of smocked zig zags, interspersed with embroidered red, green, and white candy canes~  Yes!! That was it! I ran & got a piece of paper & a pencil so I could sketch a simple picture of what was in my head. I don’t usually write my ideas down, but this looked so cute the way I pictured it, that I wanted  to be sure it wouldn’t be forgotten.

I began the dress with my original idea, working  white smocking into a zig zag pattern on the white fabric,—– and somehow worked my way into the scene you see pictured in the photo above. It seems to have just “happened.” I don’t remember consciously making a decision to abandon my original idea, nor do I remember ever having visualized the scene that emerged on the dress. It’s as if my fingers just took over; as if they had planned the scene from the very beginning-  and I was there simply because I was attached!

Now that the dress is finished, I look at it and feel very fortunate. Though it was not at all what I had in mind when I began, I’m pleased with the way it turned out-  Fingers did a good job! Once again I’m left baffled by the creative process, but that’s o.k.  Sometimes it’s nice to just be surprised!!

IMG_0906 5937160980

How Hot Are Your Squirrels?

IMG_9998

So how hot do you think it was today?

When I went down the hill to get the mail at 5:00 P.M. it was 103`!

Walking back up to the house I heard a little rustle in the tree and out of the corner of my eye thought I saw something move. I stopped for a second to look and this is what I saw. This little guy had slung himself over the tree limb and just lay there in the hot shade. He didn’t quickly run away like he usually does,  instead,  he lay there watching me & Pascal- who was either  too hot to bark, normally he totally “loses it,”  or he was pretending not to see the squirrel so  he wouldn’t have to bark~  It’s a rare occasion that Pascal forgoes an opportunity to bark-  That’s how hot it was!

I quickly put Pascal inside and grabbed my camera, feeling pretty certain the squirrel would be exactly where he was when I left him~ and he was!  Normally he and I are enemies, as he gets even more delight in digging up my garden and unplanting my flower pots, than he does lying on a shaded tree limb on a hot day, but today, with the heat on high, we seem to have called a truce. I actually felt sorry for the little guy. I could say he posed for me, but I can’t give him that much credit.  He did lay there and silently stare-  or was it glare-   at me while  the camera clicked back at him. Mission accomplished!

Too hot for me, I left him, hangin’ out on the tree, (probably mapping a new game plan for my garden,  once it cools off-)  and went back in to join Pascal in front of the fan. Having finally finished my baby dress, I needed to figure out what I want to make next!

Simply Irresistible

This is the dress  I just finished~  the one that I started too long ago-  I wanted to make a plain white baby dress for summer. Some people gasp at the thought of a white dress for a baby, but if you stop to think about it, what difference does it make if it’s white or any other color; if it’s going to get dirty, it’s going to get dirty. Whatever shows up on white will also show up on light pink, blue, green or yellow; all of the classic baby colors.   Actually white has an advantage over the other colors when it gets dirty because with white, you can usually bleach out a stain, whereas with a color, you don’t have that option.

So~ I wanted it to be white and I wanted it to be intricate and soft, but appear simple and elegant. Most of all I wanted it to say, “baby!”   I’m happy with the results and I hope you like it too. The smocking on the side panels is a double wave design that’s easy for the eye to follow, yet at the same time,  notice the gathers the smocking has created. They add the degree of intricacy that I wanted the dress to have. The central panal,  smocked in a white diamond design, gives a nice background for the brown hand embroidered bunny to stand-out against,  and the blue bow tied around her neck,  ties-in the blue smocking from the side panels. The white, diamond design of the smoking holds the background flat.  To add dimension, I hand embroidered several  flower stalks in both baby-blue and white that give the scene a 3-dimensional effect.

To me this` dress says,  “Baby”~  it is baby-fresh;  soft & delicate, feminine & sweet, and most of all, like every baby~  totally unique!!

After the Rain

No rain today~                             DropsofCyclamen copy

As I walked with Pascal this morning, I heard this rhythm in my head, and when I stopped to listen, this is  what it  said,

After the rain, Pascal and I
went walking.  My mind
it went a’ talking,
After the rain

After the rain
everything was fresh again,
The air I breathed, so cool
and clean-
After the rain.

Or so it seemed~

When I returned from our walk this morning, I sat down to begin work on the dress I cut-out yesterday. To my surprise, with everything that washed away in the rain, yesterday’s dress idea was gone too! Yesterday, the fabric that I chose for this dress,  (a soft- white background with small,  light-pink polka dots,) seemed like it would be perfect for me to try embroidering an elephant-  I have never done an elephant,  and am eager to try one.

What happened??  After choosing a pretty, matching shade of pink embroidery floss, I picked up the dress front to start smocking. Delicate little “things”  started hopping through my mind-  and they were not elephants. Not even close! Today this fabric said, soft, delicate, pretty, feminine, dainty, lacy-  nothing even remotely “elephant.”

What happened?   You’ve got me~  All I know for certain is that the elephant’s going to have to wait to make her appearance,  for another dress! I only got a small bit of smocking done today, so I’m curious to see if today’s design decision is actually the final one,  or what tomorrow may bring- ?

Work In Progress; A Peaceful Ending

#419forpost copy

Good Morning!

As you can see from this photo, I finished the dress I’ve been working on! On January 25, and 27, I posted photos so that you could see how such a scene develops.

The scenes on my dresses are always a combination of smocking and embroidery. Smocking is wonderful for covering large flat areas, such as in the pasture, the hills, and the sky and for creating interesting  design patterns by varying smocking stitches.

Everything else in the scene is embroidered. I like to use embroidery because it allows me to add texture. Figures such as the lamb are almost three- dimensional. Tiny details like facial characteristics, become much more defined and realistic when they are embroidered. Embroidery allows me to work with thread almost as if it were paint.

As you can see in the first photo, (from the post of Jan.25,)  Peace sort of blends into the background, as does the little bird in the tree above her. When I encounter that problem, a little “landscaping” usually solves it.

By the time of the second photo, two days later, I had embroidered lots of flowers and grasses surrounding Peace and she becomes more visible. At this point, the scene looked kind of pale and blah. It definitely needed color to perk it up and bring it out, so I added some bright, orange-red, flowers, and a bright- green line at the edge of the pasture defining the pasture as well as adding color. The Magnolia tree with the bird in it, seemed to be lost in the background as well, so I filled the entire area behind it with blue sky.

Once the scene was completed, I returned to the smocking across the bottom and top of the scene, to see how it might better be  “framed.” I added four additional rows of smocking to the bottom, using the pale yellow of the main smocked pattern, a row of white, and then finishing with a row of the same bright yellow that I used in Peace’s flower garland. The last row of smocking in bright- yellow,  finished the scene off nicely with an additional touch of color.

Later, once I put sleeves on the dress, I was able to use that same bright yellow to trim the sleeves and button placket and tie it all together!

Introducing Lily

It gives me great pleasure to introduce Lily, Rabbit Whiskers newest model. Lily is the grand-daughter of my best friend; (our friendship dates back to the note-passing days of seventh-grade!) so it was with much excitement that I created a dress especially for her. Lily in Her Dress

If, when I was in seventh- grade I had been told that when I grew-up I would be designing and sewing baby dresses, and would even one day, make a dress for my friend’s grand-daughter, I would have laughed at the absurdity of such an idea. I despised sewing- no, never! – I’d never do anything like that! Continue reading

The Smocked Dress: What it’s Really About

Finally! My own baby grand-daughter, Grace, fits into one of my dresses!

A year ago, when Grace was born, I made this dress especially for her, it being the first time I’d ever made a giraffe (the particular dress that Grace is modeling is not for sale but if your preference is a giraffe, there is one for sale). When I gave her the dress, (size 1,) it looked huge. Throughout the year I’ve made quick checks; sizing the dress and sizing Grace. Each time, the dress looked so big, and Gracie so little. It seemed like it was never going to fit, but suddenly, it seemed she turned 1, and into the dress at the same time. Grace and the Giraffe

As I mentioned in my first post, it was with the birth of my daughter that my interest in smocking began, so the first time I saw Grace in the dress I got goose bumps. It was like seeing my own daughter as a baby again. I’m so excited to have Grace model for me- (I’m sure that I’m much more excited about it than she is- she would prefer to be playing than sitting still, anytime-) I hope some day she will know how much I appreciate and value these precious minutes of her life.

This brings me to the reason for writing this post, and that is to introduce Grace. You will be seeing a lot more of her. My hope is to photograph her in the dresses that fit her and are for sale. I think seeing a child in them makes it much easier to visualize what your own child will look like wearing one of my dresses.

I also think that having Grace model a smocked and embroidered dress, I can illustrate my “philosophy” of what a child’s dress should be. Children are naturally beautiful, their beauty far exceeding whatever garment they may be wearing. Grace and the Giraffe I think it is very important to enhance that beauty, as opposed to competing, and thus detracting from it. A well- designed dress will make one first notice the child, and later, notice the dress. This is one of the reasons that I love smocking. It is elaborate, and intricately detailed, while at the same time it is soft and under-stated. It never detracts, only enhances the child, as is visible in these photographs of Grace. First you notice the beautiful child, then you notice her pretty dress.

So now you will recognize Grace and then, I hope you will look at my dresses and visualize your own special child in one of them~

At first glance the dress is quite simple, but on close inspection, it is complex and intricate. When I embroider an entire scene on a dress it is extremely detailed, but unless the dress is closely examined, the detail goes unnoticed, which is how I think it should be. That means it is the child that gets noticed most. Later, the detail comes as a sort of surprise and I hope, for the child, fun to look at and give her own interpretation. When I create those scenes I am putting my interpretation into them and that is a large part of the joy in creating them. I hope the child can experience a similar form of joy interpreting the scene however she wishes- Grace and the Giraffe

Dress Decor, Who Would Have Thought!

Over the years, I have received some excellent ideas from customers, for example the hand-embroidered socks that I make to go with each dress. Back of a Dress with Matching Embroidered Socks (Sampling the flowers) It had never occurred to me to embroider socks until a customer asked me if I would embroider a pair to match the dress she was buying for her grand-daughter. I agreed to do it and when they were finished I found they added a nice unique touch to the dress. They “completed” it, so I decided to have a pair of socks to match each dress I make. That was many years ago, and the socks have been a permanent companion to the dress ever since.

Then there have been several people who loved the dresses, but had no little girl to buy them for-  A few of those people bought a dress, framed it and hung it on their wall. Other people bought them for decor as well, hanging them in a special corner of a room, or on a wall, or in a child’s room to add a special “country” touch, or to suggest an antique look to a room.

Dress on a Wall Dress on Display Girl's Bedroom with a Dress

One woman ordered one to hang in her family room. She gave me the exact colors that she had in the room; navy, green, red, and white- and she asked me to do something with a lamb on it. I used navy and white gingham fabric, smocked it in navy and put a large white lamb with a red ribbon around its neck, mounted on a green- wheeled, base with a long navy string attached to it- (a child’s pull toy, lamb) in the center of the smocking. She loved it and said that it looked wonderful hanging on the wall in her family room! Who would have thought?

And one more idea! Because these dresses are made to last, they can be handed down from one sibling to the next, but they also make great heirlooms. I know of a woman with three daughters, who bought a dress for each daughter when they were born. She insisted that the dresses not be passed down when they no longer fit. She wanted each daughter to have her own dress that was to be kept as an heirloom.