A Tailored Vest, and a sincere thank-you

This Post is re-posted from the Cutter and Tailor Forum, in order to share it here as well.

I want to share the vest that I worked on during 2015-2016. I am a beginner in the area of tailoring, and I have been working under the direction of Mansie Wauch, from the Cutter and Tailor Forum, and locally Virginia Smith at Ginny’s Fine Fabric.

I had in my possession a few yards of a red check wool cloth that I’m told was woven by the Amana Colonies, purchased by my late mother-in-law. I decided it would be a suitable (if not perfect) opportunity to try making a vest that is hand drafted and fitted to myself. I purchased B. Black & Sons’ hair canvas and Bemberg lining through Ginny’s Fine Fabric in Rochester, Minnesota.

The past few years, I have been on a mission to work through pattern drafting for the purpose of gaining a better understanding of pattern making and fitting. I recognize that hand pattern drafting is an expensive endeavor in time and effort, and there are CAD systems for this purpose, as well as a plethora of available patterns, but I wanted to try my hand at it and learn for myself. I kept the overall design simple, as I wanted to focus on fit, and matching the check (plaid).

I followed Sator’s encouragement that a first attempt would take at least 6 months, and the clothing article might be only worthy of the trash bin at the end. However, I’ll admit I had a secondary goal of making something I’d still use. This project did, in fact, require hours of reading any resource I could find through the tailor’s forum. The key resources I found helpful were the Art of Garment Making, by A. A. Whife, and Coat and Skirt Making, by Samuel Heath.

The lapel is interlined with hair canvas and hand pad stitched, and so are the fronts and the back. It is stayed with linen tape. I experienced the difficulty and care involved in this traditional tailoring method.

There are three hand-made button holes worked here, though I will not yet share a close up picture of my work there… It is a work in progress, but they are functioning well so far. I greatly appreciate Callum at Bay Tailor Supply in California. He provides a nice service of matching the buttonhole twist to the cloth, as well as the gimp. I found the buttons at Ginny’s Fine Fabric.

I struggled with several things during this project; too many to put into this thank-you note.  There are many things I could have done better. But, overall I am pleased with my vest. It is as I envisioned it. It has an equestrian theme (having to do with my rural upbringing), and likely a rural or country flare. I wore it several times this fall with tall boots and jeans, fitting the relaxed mood in the Rochester, Minnesota, area. It is the most comfortable vest I own, and it will be a long-term piece of clothing in my wardrobe.

I share this project because I believe tailoring is a beautiful art, and I want to encourage others to pursue it. I also want to say thank you publicly to Mansie Wauch, who is generous with his knowledge of cutting and tailoring. I also feel a thank-you is due to all who have worked to bring this forum about. I have appreciated reading the various posts over the past few years.



Merry Christmas

Seasons greetings from the Perrys.  Merry Christmas, and best wishes for a great 2017.


Stumpwork Class with Susan OÇonnor

It was a lovely time attending the Stumpwork class with Susan OÇonnor in Richfield, Minnesota, on September 17, along with the ladies of the Lakes & Prairies Chapter of the Smocking Arts Guild of America.  We had the opportunity to learn needle art techniques necessary to create the “raspberry and bluebell” design below.


We were provided with a project kit which included a piece of duchess silk satin and squares of an appropriate-weave muslin to work the ‘slips’, 28 gauge gold wire, and DMC thread.   The project instructions were in the familiar format we all enjoyed when Susan served as the editor in chief of Australian Smocking & Embroidery.  It was a wonderful opportunity to learn under Susan.  She is a great teacher and a delightful person.

Meeting at the Pines, we enjoyed lunch with Susan.  Again, I greatly enjoyed meeting Susan, having been an enthusiastic fan for so many years of Australian Smocking & Embroidery magazine.


Of course, we had very little time to visit with one another, and then it was back to stitching!  The class extended into Sunday afternoon, and I was not able to attend the second session, due to family obligations and a college-aged daughter being home for her birthday; however, I was so glad to attend on Saturday with my dear friends.  I’m looking forward to working through this project as the cool weather rolls into Fall in Minnesota.

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Our many thanks to Susan OÇonnor…


Nutcracker Attire

My friend, Karen Uthe, created not one, not two, but three elegant hand- smocked dresses for her three granddaughters to attend the Nutcracker ballet with her in the Twin Cities last fall.


Emma’s ‘Sheer Delight’

“I was so inspired when my 2005 issue #70 of the Australian Smocking and Embroidery came, and I saw the ‘Sheer Delight’ outfit by Janet Anderson in it,” said Cyndy Pond of Hastings, Minnesota.  “Unfortunately, I had no one to make it for at the time as my granddaughter, Emma Rose, wasn’t born until 2008. After she was born, I knew I had to wait a few years until she was old (big) enough to wear it, but it was always at the back of my mind that I would one day make it for her.”


“Then last year, SAGA announced the competition categories for its national convention. I was planning on attending the Chicago convention, and when “White” was chosen as the theme, I decided the time had come to make ‘Sheer Delight’.


“I went about gathering the materials needed. The original pattern called for white cotton netting, but I really couldn’t justify spending $35- $40 per yard for a child’s garment (the top alone required about three yards). I ended up using an organic cotton batiste that I ordered from an online source. It was wonderful to work with, and I was very pleased with the results.


“There were a lot of embroidered flowers on it, and this was my first time making cast-on flowers. I had always balked at making them, because I thought they looked complicated. But after making my first flower, I wondered why I had waited so long to try them. They were a lot easier than bullions, and they are so delicate and pretty.


“Even though I didn’t win, I was very pleased with the end result…and so was Emma Rose!”

Thank you, Cyndy, for allowing me to share Emma’s outfit.  It is very beautiful.  It will be a treasured memory for Emma Rose.



In Honor of a Precious Little One

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In the quiet after the holidays, I finished a bereavement gown in honor of a little one who died too early.  She was named Pearl by her parents.  I am looking forward to mailing it to my brother and his wife in Michigan, but I thought I would share it first.  It is heart wrenching to lose a child.  I am hoping this little garment will carry with it much sympathy.  I’ve had a few opportunities lately to share English Smocking with interested friends, and I hope to share this gown before sending it through the mail to Michigan.  Hopefully, my brother doesn’t read my blog. 🙂

For the gown, I used Acorn Fabric’s English voile.   It is a 2-ply, 100 percent cotton, made in England.  I am very pleased with it.  It is difficult to show via a picture.  The voile is lovely.  It is fitting for an angel.

I wrote some time ago about how well the voile pleats, and how nicely the fabric cooperates.  It was a pleasure to work with.  Along with the English voile, I paired an ecru French lace.  For the English Smocking, I used Madeira silk floss, made in Germany.

For those not familiar with the Wee Care ministry, the Smocking Arts Guild tells the story on their Website.








A Ring Bearer’s Pillow

I had the opportunity to see a beautiful ring bearer’s pillow last week at the meeting of the Lakes and Prairies Chapter of the Smocking Arts Guild of America. Patty McDowell created this work of needle art for her daughter’s wedding held in October this past fall in Minnesota. It is one thing to see it via a picture; it is quite another to view and appreciate it in real life.


The base fabric is 32-count Belfast linen, and the embroidery work is considered Hardanger (Hardangersøm) or whitework embroidery, which is embroidery stitches worked with white thread on an even-weave cloth, using counted thread or drawn thread work techniques, see Wikipedia.

The photographer, Joelle Julian,  a dear friend of the family, captured exquisite photos on the wedding day.

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Notice the edging work above. Take note, the edging is not an added lace edging, as I first thought during my first glance at Patty’s initial photo above. It is drawn thread work on linen. Here is how Patty explained it:  “That’s all just the Belfast linen. All that open work is stitches, and then you cut away threads in between and wrap the remaining threads – and stitch in Dove’s Eyes or Greek Crosses, or other pretty fill stitches. The edge is a button hole-type stitch. And then all the remaining linen is finally cut away!”

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The pattern is Heirloom Wedding Treasures, by Thea Dueck.  Patty said there were a number of stitches involved she had not worked before, such as the “Scotch stitch.”  Other embroidery stitches included lazy daisy, scalloped stitch, cross stitch, back stitch, Japanese ribbon stitch, bullion roses on top of Kloster blocks. The lattice work in the center is couched, and there are glass and mother of pearl beads included as well.  Patty explained there were times she wasn’t sure she would succeed in creating this family treasure. Initially, she had selected a different pattern; however, it was written in several different languages and she found it too complicated to follow.  She then discovered the pattern by Ms. Dueck, which seemed doable.  She said the greatest challenge was in following the pattern and placing the design corrrectly, especially once the center design was established. “You can’t cheat in Hardanger embroidery,” Patty said.  “If you are off one thread, the design will not proceed well.”

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Patty found all of the necessary supplies through Stitchville  in Minnetonka, Minnesota.  32-count Belfast linen, tiny silk ribbon, and mother-of-pearl beads in heart and oblong shapes were special ordered by Stitchville as well.

“Once the pillow was nearing completion, and my whole family (especially my husband) realized how much work it was, we started saying it deserved carrying the REAL wedding rings (it was assumed the pillow would carry fake rings for the safety of the real rings).   My Hardanger pal (who attends the same church) was shocked to think we wouldn’t put the real rings on it.   Little five-year-old grandson, Eric (the bride’s nephew), took his job very seriously – a very mature little guy.  The Maid of Honor had been carefully guarding the pillow/rings before ceremony, and handed it to him just before he headed down the aisle.  He carefully and so sweetly walked down the aisle at a perfect pace, went right up to the Best Man and waited while he untied the wedding rings from the pillow to slip in his pocket until called for by our pastor during the ceremony.  We were impressed with his careful behavior, for a little guy, and our pastor, as well as the wedding party, family and close friends knew about this special pillow, and that the real rings were tied to it!   So lots of people were on guard!   Just couldn’t have been more perfect and meaningful!”


During the reception, the pillow was displayed next to pictures of the bride and groom’s grandparent’s wedding photos and near the wedding cake.

“Every minute of the stress, frustration, cost (time and dollars), was totally worth it!   The joy I got from figuring out the difficult instructions, selecting the materials, learning so many new stitches, focusing on that tiny thread count under a lighted magnifying glass for hours and days on end, along with the hopeful feeling that it really might happen for my daughter’s wedding, was something I’ll never forget.   I purchased the pattern and materials in April, and it was done the evening of the Fourth of July while I could hear fireworks popping all around our neighborhood!   Seriously! It was like a grand finale! I think fear made me so focused on finishing it that I couldn’t believe I was done early.  I’d warned it may go down the aisle with a needle in it! Once I was half way toward finishing, and it seemed possible, I couldn’t put it down.   I would get home from work and couldn’t wait to stitch.
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 “My loving hubby, Bill, encouraged me every step of the way as he witnessed my hours of stitching. When I had to back track and undo HOURS of work to get it right, learning from my mistakes, he’d just encourage me or sympathize.  He showed such an interest and seemed excited to see how the next stitch came to life on the linen.”

Thank you so much, Patty, for allowing me to share your family’s heirloom.