Sheer Sample Swatches

Sheer Swatches Patchwork Ensemble

Ms. SpoolTeacher spent most of her employed career working in Clients homes, helping them design their interior spaces. At least 50% of those efforts were focused on window covering ideas. This endeavor was almost always the foot-in-the-door to other work. People would first visit the store she was working for wanting to know  what to do for their windows. Privacy is always a first concern in new building. Often that would evolve into whole house planning; floors, walls, windows, furnishings and accessories.

She loved her work, she just didn’t much like working for someone else. Most owners of stores only want top dollars fast. They usually didn’t care much for quality of design as long as something expensive/high profit got sold. Ms. SpoolTeacher, on the other hand, was still learning and wanted to hone her skills to produce quality work with integrity to establish a good reputation.

One of her employers even told her once in a review session to, “Just give them anything. Whatever you give them will be better than whatever they could come up with for themselves.”

Well, so, sometime down the road when she’d had about as much of that as she could stand, she opened her own little storefront and purchased tons of sample books so that she would have lots of wonderful choices for her customers. She even purchased1-1/2 yard segments of particular fabrics she favored so her clients would be able to handle large pieces and see the real value of choosing quality over price.

Now that she is semi-retired, she is trying to find a way to utilize all of those wonderful sample books and pieces. She sees lots of great ideas on Etsy that she is sure people have been using the same kind of resources to make their products.

Etsy Swatch Sample PurseThis is an adorable little purse from WhimsyEyeDesigns on Etsy:

  • Handmade item
  • Materials: repurposed upholstery fabric, cotton, new materials
  • Ships worldwide from New Berlin, Wisconsin (USA)

Wonderful things there and totally inspiring to Ms. SpoolTeacher. She could spend all day looking to see what others have made, but she must get going on ideas of her own.

Cardboard boxOne day her muse pushed her to grab a sample book of sheers to see what she could do with it. She had an idea in her head and went with it. She would cut squares out, all the same size, as big as the sample book pieces would allow. The first template she made was 5″X5″ but wasn’t to her liking, (it didn’t “feel” right) so she increased it to 6″X6″. Much better and took more of the sample.

6X6 inche template from chipboardShe had already torn apart the book and washed the sample pieces. Now to iron them.

She does this to get the chemicals off, and hopes that whatever she makes will be washable so tests it before making it.

Off to a good start. Most all of the samples performed well under the stress of the washing machine and iron. Now to cut them, assemble in a pleasing manner and put them together.

using the chipboard template to mark the swatches using the chipboard template to mark the swatches. Outline with marker first, then cut inside the line using the chipboard template to mark the swatches. Outline with marker first, then cut inside the line All of the sheer sample swatches cut out ready to assemble Using intuition to place the textures and colors

The template is placed on the sample swatch and outlined. Ms. SpoolTeacher used a black magic marker as she didn’t know where her washable marker was. She then cut inside the lines.

It is somewhat important to determine the right and wrong sides of the fabrics where possible. Sometimes the choice is to use the wrong side if it happens to appeal to your senses more. It’s art. It’s your choice.

Using her wonderful Fiskars scissors she cut each piece out inside the black line. Sheer is hard to handle and a rotary blade doesn’t give her the control she likes. Besides, the blades are just too expensive and “No hurry, no worry” is her constant refrain/mantra.

All of the sheer sample swatches cut out and ready to assemble. Next, how to “order” them.

Ms. SpoolTeacher just depends on her intuition and places them as it pleases her senses. She tried to alternate like colors at equal intervals.

Now, the way she would seam them would be to use a full 5/8″ seem allowance but first she would stitch wrong sides together using 2/8″ (1/4″) of the 5/8″ allowance then press a nice crisp edge, place right sides together and stitch the next 3/8″ to enclose the raw edges of the first seam. Here’s a nice “how-to” for making a French seam.

Pictures speak much louder than words to a right brain (myth) artist type. Well they do to Ms. SpoolTeacher anyway.

Ready, set, spool

Her sewing machine is set up in her living room currently. This is where she meets and greets clients and there is a little room off the end with a drapery door for dressing for fittings and this room stays the coolest as it is on the north side of the house. She gets to look outside the window at the garden too and catch birds doing what they don’t do when she’s out there with them…

The Garden view from the sewing machine station in the living room

It’s messy looking but she makes the most of what she has.

This is her First Do No Harm Front Yard Farmacy. If you click the link, it will take you to her Facebook page for it.

After the samples were all pinned wrong sides together, she made the 1/4″ seam.

Spooling the 1/4This seam will be encased after she turns it right sides together, presses a nice crisp edge and takes the other 3/8″ seam. That is a French seam.


1/4″ seam allowance with wrong sides together. You can see how delicate and how easily the fabric frays. This kind of fabric is very hard to do a zig-zag edge on and for how it will be used, this kind of seam can almost be a design feature.

Front and back sides of finished French seam

Here is the front and back sides of the finished French seam.

Front and back sides of finished French seam

The finished seam could be further stitched down if desired.

Now what to do with it?

As it turned out, she realized she has several pieces she overlooked that she will do the same thing with and add to this segment.

She thinks she will add this to the bottom edge of a dress she has long imagined to make using the patten that she features in the header of this blog..

This is Ms. SpoolTeacher’s favorite (“Tent”) dress from High School days and she has long wanted to remake it adjusting the pattern for a lower neckline and the sleeve holes tapered in more.

Ms. SpoolTeacher's favorite dress from High School days

Or, she may order this pattern and make the sheer over dress part using the patchwork as a feature on the bottom edge.

sheer over dress

It could make a scarf with additional fabric added to the width. It could be used somewhere (middle) on a drapery panel for a peek-a-boo feature.

There are no end of ideas.

Where Women Create Studio transformation progress

Now what to do with the other gazillion sample swatches…

Any ideas?

Today is Sunday and it’s raining. She was about to water the garden when there it came. Wonderful rain.

Rainy days and Sundays….

“Rainy days and Mondays…run and find the one who loves me”


Flower Power

1960's tent dress pattern, McCall's 8755, Etsy

For sale on Etsy

This pattern is ©1967, (the Summer of Love).

It was one of the first dresses Ms. SpoolTeacher made for herself during her high school years and it was an immensely popular style at the time.

They all called it a tent dress.

Anybody who was in the know made one or if they had to purchase it, had some similar version.

Ms. SpoolTeacher was in the nerd category; so it wasn’t that she was in the know, but she kept track of the ones who were. It is still one of her favorites to this day and drums up that era in her life as much as Patchouli does.

She hasn’t made this pattern again since then, but it’s simplicity speaks to her every time she runs across it. She has the pattern somewhere and had it out recently to think about making again, with adjustments, since her copy is probably even smaller than this one (available on Etsy here) and she is a little bit bigger than that. Ha! A wee.

The great thing about this style is that it is especially useful to Hippie girls. Both kinds of hippies girls and she is both. She’s a pear, not a peach or an apple, (shape/body type), and is a flower power girl at heart.

flower power, flower fabric image

You know, antidisestablishmentarianism? She has little idea of the true meaning of that word, just that it was thrown around a lot at the time, as was supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Ms. SpoolTeacher came of age just after the radical hippie movement was coming to a close. She always felt that she missed out on something wonderful, but she didn’t because she was there. She was just a little behind the main thrust and a wee bit too conservative to engage wholeheartedly, (at least at the time).

What she liked about “Hippies” was that they seemed to evoke freedom from established negativity. They seemed to want to be happy, live in peace, honor the environment. They seemed to espouse (mal-)adapting to the ills of society not by accepting them but rather by way of opening all paths toward the expression of the creativity needed to become that which a person is at their core. Mary Poppins seemed to affirm that kind of thinking, at least the “spoon-full-of-sugar” theory of making medicine go down a little easier.

Hippies seemed to come off on the side of happy, happy, joy, joy rather than bitterness, i.e., “catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”. Finding ways to cooperate was better than going to war over discord. Money was not the object, though they soon found that the world was already a little too far gone down that path to turn it around suddenly. She believes that most true Hippies of the time never gave up the power of flowers, at least in their personal adaptations to life and liberty as they had come to believe in during the time that The Haight existed. flower power bug, volkswagon

For her, being a Hippie simply means living simply, and that pretty much sums it up.

That said though, it can be very difficult to live simply. It can be very hard work. That is okay. It is being miserable that is intolerable. Doing work that doesn’t fit your talents or is being done simply for security and not because of a passion can go so far as to ruin ones health. It almost did her.

It is not necessarily easy to fit ones passion to ones work. It is a great blessing when one is able.

The “tent dress” pattern image at the beginning of this post is like the one Ms. SpoolTeacher went looking for earlier this afternoon. She couldn’t put her fingers on it today as it has been put the way of all things she is intending to do someday, soon; you know, in some “safe” place that she will won’t remember when it comes time to want to use it.

She was looking through her vast collection of patterns searching for something that might work for beginning sewers to consider making for a project in a class she has been invited to instruct.

Doing what you love doesn’t feel like work. It is joy and a great reason for getting up in the morning. Lucky are those who are able to do this. She’s considering herself lucky today. Blessed. She’ll let you know how it goes. What could be better than having a chance to ignite a passion in someone else that has existed a whole lifetime for her?

Of course the dress pattern might not work so well for boys if there will be any in the class. She’s got lots of options, but as with all things, give them three choices at the most. Keep it simple. Too many decisions only makes it frustrating. She will have to be the one responsible for narrowing it down to the three. That won’t be easy but it will be a joy.

Don’t give up your Flower Power, at least not without a fight. Is that an oxymoron?