Monday 11 September 2017

Canning Jars

One of many pairs of Phentex slippers made by my mother in varying shades of ugly, with love - and just a few curses - in every stitch. Flannel PJ bottoms: Christmas gift from my ex; hand-me-down, cozy socks from a neighbour; flannel shirt: outgrown, not worn by my son
Thank you, dear Mother, for the jars. 

I get a particular thrill thinking this one may have been filled with blue, sweet pickles, made with love and driven all the way from Saskatchewan, through the Rockies, to our cupboard in the laundry room. Linda and me running to the kitchen window all day long to see if they were here, yet. 

Maybe this one held concord jelly, from our garden in Kamloops - vines planted by the lady who lived there before us; and the map she left behind to show what was where: grape, rhubarb, sour cherry, lilac: must have been hard for her to leave.

Who made that blackberry jelly in 2003? 

What apron was worn, what house dress, what polyester slacks? What kitchen filled with steam, what view out the window, and who was there: laughter and sharing, or loneliness, bitterness and fear?

I like the connection to the past - not because I can't let go, but because it reminds me of who I am. I am like my mother/I am like my grandma: resourceful, capable, kind, brave, steadfast and fun.

The tomatoes are ripe; the jars almost ready. But they will just have to wait. Tonight I have something more important - a date with my son: wraps (his favourite), Chilliwack corn, the last three raspberries from the garden... after dinner a lesson on the computer. He has found his passion and he wants to share. 

Going now: he's waiting upstairs.

Sunday 20 August 2017

Freehand Machine Embroidery Tutorial

Fun Embellishment Technique

Here's a fun way to spend some time: find the hand-foot-eye coordination sweet-spot, let your mind go, and embroider like a zen monk in a fast car. A uniquely relaxing and satisfying thrill.
Freehand Embroidery is great for making labels, like this one for a shirt made out of guess what?
I use this machine embroidery technique to make my labels, or apply "serger dregs" embellishment to garments. It was also used to embroider words of love onto the Humatrope collar, make the boxer dog pocket of the Perfect Twirling Nightie and for a set of name tags for the Master Recycling class*, **.
Master Recycler Class labels

Textile Preparation:

You will  need a package of Solvy. Solvy is a water-soluble stabilizer that helps the presser foot glide more easily over the work and holds it all nicely while you are sewing for more consistent stitches and tension. Don't skip this step. Without Solvy, the results are always unsatisfactory. I have tried skipping the Solvy many times and always regretted it, unless the fabric is super-sturdy and tightly woven. And even then... not so good.
Write with Sharpie on Solvy to make a template
Freehand machine embroidery is excellent for using up odds and ends of less-useful thread
For accurate size and placement of lettering, you can draw your design directly onto the Solvy, and simply trace over it when you are stitching. Or you can go with the flow, skip the "template", and doodle freehand directly on top of the Solvy, depending on the look you are trying to achieve and your comfort level.

To make a template to follow, plan your design on a piece of paper, then trace onto a sheet of Solvy stabilizer with a Sharpie. Diagonal baste, pin or tape the Solvy onto the fabric, and stitch on top of the lettering. The ink will disappear when the Solvy is removed by running the work under water.

Machine Preparation:

Machine Set-Up: darning foot attached, feed dogs down, presser foot half-lowered
    Get your machine ready: remove the regular presser foot and attach the special darning foot, standard issue with most machines.

    A sturdier needle generally works best. (A lighter one is prone to breaking, and the thread may shred in the smaller eye.) I like to use a 90 or 100, with cotton thread. Avoid polyester: it heats up and stretches as it moves quickly through the tension disks, causing the work to pucker slightly when it cools. Poor quality or brittle, old cotton thread, is unsuitable, as it will shred at high speed.

    Lower the feed dogs so the machine can't grab the fabric. You get to drive the car anywhere you feel like - forward, backward, sideways - at any speed you like. You can even do donuts in the parking lot! Get ready for some fun!
    Solvy can be basted (ideal for larger areas) or taped into place


    Place the fabric under the darning foot, and lower the presser foot only half way down. You may have to do a little detective work with your manual to find out how to get your machine into "light grip" mode.

    Hold the fabric taut with two hands, and move it in an even motion, while using a consistent pressure on the foot pedal. Both a faster machine and slower hands produce shorter, more densely-spaced stitches. You're the only car on the road, so take that baby out and see what it can do! It will take intense focus at first to get used to the feeling - foot! eyes! hands! - but you will be cruising along in zen driving mode before long. Remember to breathe, and keep your shoulders away from your ears.

    Just like driving a car, the stitches will go where you are looking. You don't look at the tires of your car, so don't look at the needle! Keep your eyes in front of the needle, where you are trying to go.

    Embroidery done without a template - Humatrope collar detail


    • For cursive writing that really looks like your own handwriting, slant the machine in front of you like you would the paper when writing a love letter.
    • For larger areas, the fabric may need to be rolled up "scroll-like" to fit under the machine, for better control.
    Freehand embroidery over serger dregs - c. 1960 knit tricot

    Fun variation:

    Sandwich a textile strip between the main fabric and the Solvy. I use thin strips of fabric scrap cut off by the serger, but you could also embroider onto bias strips, rick rack, narrow ribbon, etc. This is easy-peasy lemon squeezy with the use of a glue stick:
        Serger dregs held on by light application of glue stick
      Write your message on your fabric using a glue stick with a fairly light hand. Arrange serger dregs on top.
      Solvy, diagonal basting - ready to embroider
      Cover the area to be embroidered with a sheet of lightweight water-soluble Solvy. For best results, diagonal-baste the Solvy onto the fabric. It won't move around or bunch up if it's basted, and the machining is generally a breeze.  I actually think I save time by hand-basting, instead of pinning.

      If I can't convince you to baste, at the very least, pin the corners and every 2 inches, or so, or use scotch tape. Avoid sewing over the pins, which will likely damage the needle and possibly wreck the darning foot. 

      (Sewing Rant: Always immediately chuck any needle that ever hits a pin - ever - even if the needle seems unharmed. Not doing so will come back to bite you in the butt in wasted time and poor stitch formation due to a dulled, burred or bent needle.)
      The stitch length is dependent upon the speed of the machine and how quickly your hands move your work: long stitches - puttering along. Short stitches - hang on to your hat!
      Proceed as above for freehand machine embroidery, following the curve of the textile "template" to affix it to the fabric. Go over the line 3 or 4 times to make sure it is firmly attached. Play around with speed, stitch density, thread colour.
        Remove excess Solvy like ripping off a Bandaid: bravely!
      Remove excess Solvy by ripping it off quickly. Throw the work into the washer on a gentle cycle, or soak and squeeze by hand. The Solvy and the glue will disappear like magic.
      Note: those tiny bits of Solvy can be saved to dissolve in water and used as a "brush on" stabilizer".

      Cheetah print fleece, boxer dog pocket - two thread colours, with template

      Freehand machine embroidery: not just for fast-driving monks any more! Versatile, easy, fun, satisfying, and well worth the effort to change the presser foot; I hope you might give it a try. Enjoy!

      *Master Recyclers is a program, in its first year here in Vancouver, that turns students into teachers, or at least advocates, for the promoting and outreach of waste reduction, recycling and composting, and is organized by the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation and its waste committee.
      Labels of 100% hand-me-down materials: custom-made fabric by manufacturer of disposable diapers for BCIT's medical invention lab for prototype infant anti-strangulation vest for hospital use (!). The rest from estate donations to Our Social Fabric: unwanted Solvy, half-full, lonely bobbins and nearly-empty spools of thread.

      Tuesday 13 June 2017

      Zero Waste Sewing Lessons - Registration Open

      Learn to sew Useful Things from abandoned or reclaimed fabric and notions!
      Shopping bag from t-shirt; gift bag; reusable, freehand-embroidered name tag; tea towels, napkins
      Work on your own project at your own speed
      Unlearn bad habits
      Unravel the mystery of grain

      Especially suited to beginners, the daunted and the overwhelmed

      Make environmentally friendly items, including:

      Reusable sandwich wrappers
      Food bowl covers (no more plastic wrap!)
      Bulk food bags
      Gift bags in various sizes
      Make-up remover pads
      Zippered mesh laundry bags
      Baby items: nursing pads, burp cloths, diapers, crib sheets, etc.
      Patchwork pillows, pillowcases, duvet covers
      T-shirts (copy your favourite!)
      Toiles for fitting patterns

      Or whatever you would like to sew!

      Taught by Leah Price, Master Recycler, Bachelor of Education (UBC), Certificate in Fashion Arts (VCC), Board Member Our Social Fabric, former student of couturier, Blossom Jenab

      • Correct basic machine and hand sewing skills
      • Serging, basting, French seams, elastic application, zipper application, piping, turning corners, darning holes, sewing on buttons, hemming, etc.
      • How to make friends with your machine!

      2-4 students: $45/hour
      Private lessons: $60/hr
      No extra material costs
      2 hours minimum
      39th and Trafalgar
      Contact for

      Photo Gallery:
      Patchwork pillow case zips off for cleaning

      Copy your favourite t-shirt, and embellish
      Design and sew a bag from denim pocket samples and old jeans

      Freehand machine embroidery; repurposed denim; felting; couture sewing methods; embroidery, beading

      Design and sew doll clothes with a pattern or by draping

      Learn to copy garments and make a pattern
      French seams, French darts, embellishment, bias cuts
      Garments from repurposed fabrics: poncho from mohair scarves, vest from seat cushion
      jacket from vintage polyester double-knit , freehand machine embroidered embellished top
      Also from repurposed or waste fabrics: dog pocket nightie, candy wrapper collar, patchwork pop-overorigami top

      Embroidered collar from medical waste

      Appliqué wall hanging from discarded textiles

      "Leah is meticulous in her work, she is thorough and detail oriented. She is innovative and her work is first class. In all my 60 years of teaching, I have to yet meet another person who is as capable as Leah." (Blossom Jenab, Couturier)

      "When I found out she was willing to give sewing lessons to complete beginners I made sure I was in. ... She keeps the lessons positive and fun. ... She has such a huge fund of great ideas that she shares willingly." (CZarina Lobo)

      "Leah is open and supportive as a teacher. We can ALL sew almost anything is her attitude. She is never judgemental. She ... indirectly gave us lessons on reducing our impact on the environment by reusing fabric being "thrown away" and making fabric re-useable bags for sandwiches and presents, etc. She inspired her students... to continue sewing beyond the class..." (K. Shah)

      "...Leah calmly and confidently explained how the best way to hem the pants would be. She proceeded to iron, baste and sew (them) with such clarity that it was easy to follow, and easy to remember. I was touched by the full attention and time she gave so willingly." (Martha Reilander)

      "Leah is a passionate advocate of recycling and her vision is reflected in every aspect of her life. This influences the entire community around her. Her students make projects with materials that have been diverted from the landfill. In July 2016, Leah’s students, their parents and the Vancouver public benefitted from a solo art exhibition of her creations made entirely from normal household waste. Objects discarded are turned into objects of desire and value in the hands of Leah Price." (Erika MacVicar)

      "Leah was excellent with the children, engaging them in a warm, professional, efficient manner.   Her passion for sewing and crafting was evident and this joy spilled over to the kids and parents and was very contagious.  Leah runs her classes with enthusiasm.  At the same time, she is efficient, productive and very safe, as the kids are working with various machines that could inflict pain!  Leah is a natural and calm leader.  The kids look up to her, feel safe with her and are inspired to learn and do their best.  They are asked to think creatively and to work hard.   They bloom in this environment and are very motivated." (Christiane Collin)

      "...We customized the class to make it zero waste by using only discarded material, and the items made were aimed to make a zero waste lifestyle easier. ... Leah challenged me to come up with my own goals and targets by having me choose what items to make and in what time frame. She listened to my hopes and provided constructive criticism when necessary. She really helped keep my mind set realistic. ... I was an absolute beginner ... and Leah was very patient, explaining in detail how to apply which technique and why... repeating the instructions or helping us fixing our mistakes. Before each class she made the item herself, sometimes with different patterns, so we could choose which one we prefer and see what the finished project will look like at the end. This practice helped to motivate us and encouraged me to keep going, even when struggling. It was a pleasure taking my first steps into sewing with Leah. I would not hesitate to take on another session with her and would definitely recommend her to others." (Celine Lopez)


      Vancouver Arts Colloquium: Upcycling Series 2: Leah's Story

      Rowland, Curtis: "Recycling Life's Cast-Offs as Wearable Art", the Tyee, September 1, 2016

      Kurucz, John: "From waste to redemption through socks, underwear and lint", The Vancouver
      Courier, Cover Story July 27, 2016

      Lau, Lucy: "Local upcycler showcases excess of household waste in quirky exhibit", The
      Georgia Straight, July 26, 2016

      Seamwork Radio: the Opposite of Creative Block, with Leah PriceDecember 3, 2015

      "An Interview with Leah Price: Changing Communities One Backyard at a Time", The Colloquium, May 6, 2017