Wednesday, June 20, 2012


I'm excited to announce we sent our first collection of items to a boutique in Elba, AL yesterday. Here's the link to it on Facebook. I can't tell you how exhilarating it was to walk away from the counter at the post office knowing that these items I've been working so hard on will finally be displayed and available for purchase. 

Our work is available on our facebook page as well, but there is nothing like being able to see the items in person and touch the fabric with your own hands. Our first line of clothing is called "Cheer"looms, a play on Cheirlooms which is short for Chandler Heirlooms. We thought "Cheer" was appropriate since the line focuses on children's game day wear for the University of Alabama and Auburn University. We will eventually branch out to other school colors but our focus this year will be for these two schools.

Here is a picture of an experiment with fabrics.  I was very uninspired by these fabrics when I received them and struggled to create anything.  I ordered this fabric online and was disappointed to find the elephants were larger than expected and the hounds tooth print was smaller. Since I had blown our budget and could not order more fabric for our first collection, I began to play around with them and came up with this little jumper that has already sold, hence the monogram.

From there, I created the little play set below.

 I now like these fabrics and plan to make a ladies skirt to coordinate with the children's clothing.

  I love how the black row of smocking on this top looks like hounds tooth.

Even though we are HUGE Alabama fans, I quite enjoyed creating this little Auburn outfit.

I especially like the bottoms and the embroidery on the behind.

Since the original creation of the " 5 Little Dresses" (see blog post with that name),  I have been designing with a variety of fabrics I have on hand. I look forward to being able to purchase some of the beautiful fabrics that are on the market now, but until then I'm using my imagination and the fabrics I now have. The chic term for this is "Up-cycling". Yeah, that's it....I'm up-cycling. I'm a GREEN company!!!

Here's a close-up of the machine embroidery that I digitized a couple of months ago. You can also see the real color of the dress better.

I created this little smocked watermelon dress a month or so before the one above. This is an original smocking plate I came up with to pull the colors of this dress together. Again, I'm using fabrics I have on hand and would probably be choosing other fabrics if I were able to pick from what is on the market today.

It was so fun to put the items together and we now have our own label.

The "Hang Tags" were another challenge and we came up with this for now.

Once we become a million dollar company I will share more of our humble beginnings. Right now it's just not as fun.

After I left the post office yesterday, I stopped by a boutique here in Lumberton and just savored the time I spent in there. I looked and lingered as long as I wanted. It was such fun, especially since I have been secluded in my sewing room for months now.

I was also getting more inspiration for future creations.  I realize there are a lot of huge companies out there doing the same thing I am. I tried not to be discouraged by the things I saw but to be inspired. Who do I think I am trying to start a company from NOTHING?  I can't help it.  It is my passion and I am happier than I have ever been.  I truly am in "MY HAPPY PLACE"!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

We're "Bonafide"!!!

We have reached a milestone!!

 I'm so excited to unveil our official business logo.
It's been a while coming, but I'm so happy with how it looks and how it came to be. I don't have time to tell the story now but I'm excited about the progress of this new venture. One of my favorite movies is "Oh Brother Where Art Thou". If you've seen this movie then you'll recognize the reference in the title of this post about being "BONAFIDE!"

 I'll now be able to put my own label in my designs and have business cards/price cards printed for my items I'm creating for an Alabama boutique. (Another exciting thing I'll need to post about later)

I'd also like to share that I finally got 3 of the 5 Little Dresses shipped. These are two of my nieces on Mother's Day, right before they were to sing at church; hence, the nervous looks on their faces.

Here they are after their singing debut and enjoying lunch.

I've got so much I want to write about. I actually have a couple of drafts "waiting in the wings" that I've been working on for weeks. There is one that includes some beautiful day gowns I've been designing. Keep checking back for that.  For now I must go work on my collegiate "game day" wear I've been designing. Here is a sample I just completed yesterday.

Our key chain seems to be pretty popular with the AL fans. An Auburn one is in the works along with the "game day" clothing.

Please let me know you stopped by. Any comments are encouraged. I hope somehow I am able to motivate someone to follow their dreams and not be afraid of at least trying. You'll never know what you could have done if you don't start somewhere.

 Remember ... "You can do everything WRONG with the right ATTITUDE and SUCCEED. You can do everything RIGHT with the WRONG ATTITUDE and NOT!!"

Saturday, April 21, 2012

5 Little Dresses

Remember when I told you about finding an amazing place for fabric right here in Lumberton, NC? Here is some of what I found at They are the top seller of industrial sewing machines and have an overwhelming amount of fabrics and notions, most of which are from apparel businesses that have closed due to this horrible phase our nation is experiencing. Fear not, we will rise again!! In the meantime,"goody for me"!  I am starting a "cottage" business and have found excellent fabric at an affordable price.

This fabric is wonderful for the type of work I do, i.e. heirloom sewing and smocking. I have already made a couple of sweet baby daygowns. (FYI-This will be the subject of my next post.) With the upcoming trip to Alabama, I wanted to make something special for my little girls there. Hopefully, I'll have pictures of them wearing the creations in a few weeks. I decided  to make something they would know I made especially for them that they would hopefully keep as an heirloom, so I monogrammed each dress with their own initials. Two of the girls are sisters with the same initials so they will be able to swap dresses if they want since I made one in pink and one in blue.

Once I got all five monograms, including two of the same monogram, I cut out the top parts of the dress.  I played around with the "pillowcase" dress style again. Of course, I had to add my twist to it. Since this fabric is rather thin I thought it needed a slip. Who wears a slip with a sundress? So, I built the slip into the dress.

The only thing I used that resembled a pattern was this guide for cutting out the curve of the arms. I still changed it a bit since I was experimenting by adding the layer for the slip.

I struggled with how I would add the eyelet lace to the bottom of the dresses. I would love to have connected the eyelet to the fabric with entredeaux but I didn't have the amount I needed on hand and that is one thing they DID NOT have at the liquidators along with fine french lace, Swiss insertion and other things I would have loved for them to have. Hey, I guess that is a good sign that those kinds of places are doing well and not going out of business. (My "happy thought")

This was a definite NO!!!

At last I just decided to sew it without any fancy details. I used the KISS method. Keep It Simple Sweetie. This is something I have to tell myself often because I tend to go overboard sometime. As you can see in the pictures below, I just stitched the two fabrics together and top stitched.

I spent all day monogramming and cutting the dresses out and calculating how to put them together the simplest way with the built in slip. After sleeping on it, the next morning I woke up and had the answer of how I thought it should be done. (lol! another "sewing by ear" moment) Once I got to my sewing room and started working on what I saw in my vision, it looked different. I was afraid I didn't actually have the answer to it, but I thought "Just go with it, at the most you'll just have to rip it out".  So I did and voila'!!

 I'm not ready to share all the details yet. That will be in my first book or Cheirlooms Children pattern line.

This isn't the greatest picture and I'd love to have an actual child to model the finished product. This happens to be the mannequin I used to make my daughters wedding gown. It is too big for this child's dress, I know, but I needed to see how the dress  would work on some shoulders not a hanger. And speaking of hangers...I have to share another idea I've been saving paper towel rolls for. I've been needing some nice hangers to use when I take pics for my Facebook store and Etsy shop.


I can't recall where I got this idea, but I think it was when I visited my daughter in November and we went to the Nutcracker Market in Houston, TX. Sometimes I look at how things are displayed more than what is being displayed.

I have been saving these rolls anticipating to make these hangers for quite some time now. Since I had these dresses done I decided ...."If not now, WHEN?" Remember that?  I made a tube using white satin (left over from Magan's wedding dress) several inches longer than the paper towel roll. I then slid the paper towel roll down in fabric tube gathered the fabric evenly on the roll. I left about an inch of fabric on each end to tuck inside the roll and hot glued it. (I will use low temp next time. OW!) 

 I just cut a random sized square and grabbed a little polyfil to finish out the ends.

Make sure to put the stuffing in the center of the square, then pull up the sides and corners to make a little "ghost" and tie off  around the neck, clip off any extra strings because you don't want them getting caught in the glue. Ask me how I know.

I just glued around the rim of the fabric covered paper towel tube and popped the "ghost" down into the hole "feet" first leaving the "head" out. (I didn't intend to describe it this way, but it looks like a little "ghost" to me in these pics.) Once you have a ball on each end, add some ribbon for the hanger.  I tied the ribbon a few inches away from the end on each side. Just adjust it so the garment hangs evenly.

Please don't laugh if this seems unusual. It's just what I came up with out of desperation. I wanted something I could use to take pics of my "5 Little Dresses" that looked as special as the little girls I made them for.


These are for the older girls

Then I added the two little dresses

There we have it.....5 Little Dresses!!!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Our First Model

I have to share some pictures and a story of an outfit I made for the new son of a friend from Alabama.  As much as I love to sew, anyone who knows me should know I only make things for people I love or are related to unless it's commissioned for business. Needless to say, this friend holds a special place in my heart. That's all I'll say about that.

Since I wanted this to be a surprise for my friend, I didn't confirm the baby's initials with her. I just stalked facebook. In one of her posts I found a name for her future baby. I took it from there for the monogram. The whole time I worked on the outfit I had a gnawing feeling that she may have changed her mind about his name, but I would just suppress it. Below is the picture of the fabric in the hoop during the embroidery process. After I monogrammed the fabric, I cut out the "bubble". This monogram is one of my favorites that I've done so far. I just kept hoping it was the right one.

Just a side note. Every time I look at this picture, I remember that I was watching the funeral of Whitney Houston while I was digitizing and embroidering this. Of course, the Dolly Parton's song that Whitney sang also goes through my head..".I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU".

The baby was born in January and was a few weeks old before I even got to start work on his gift. I was concerned I would put all this love and time into an outfit that would be too small when they received it. Still, while working on the project I developed a couple of new techniques for trim. I'll have to share the steps for that in a later post.

I have always felt there is plenty of time for dressing little boys in suits and ties and jeans and t shirts and while they are little they should look as sweet and soft as possible. I realize there are those who don't share this opinion. Since this outfit was for the son of a man from Alabama who's favorite color I'm certain is camo, I didn't want to push my luck and add "lace" for the trim. Therefore, I added a scalloped piping that I created in white fabric to contrast with the baby blue.

It was so exhilarating for me to make this outfit for my friend and I looked forward to seeing her son in it. I still had concerns that he would barely fit in the Newborn sized suit because I had not made it and gotten it to her as soon as I would have liked. I'm a perpetual procrastinator and I vowed as I made this that I would do better and not wait until the last minute ever again. (Something I have to confess I have done over and over again in my life. Don't judge, you know you have done the same. lol)  Below you will see the final result. It's the precious baby boy wearing the outfit that was lovingly created just for him. I was happyto find out his mother did indeed name him the very thing I'd hoped and the initials on the monogram were correct. I was then able to breathe a sigh of relief.

It was also a relief to see I had not procrastinated too long in making this newborn outfit. From what I understand this little fellow weighs 12 lbs now. It's nice to see how a NB size fits a not so new born. He even has some growing room in this bubble suit. It does my heart good to see my handiwork being worn on such a sweet young man. There will be plenty of time for camo when he's older and hopefully University of Alabama jerseys. (wink, wink)

I think our first model has done a great job and I hope we will get a chance to see this young man model other Chandler Heirlooms and Designs as long as his dad will allow it.

 A special thanks to his mom for sharing these wonderful photos.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sewing By Ear

I have always admired those that play the piano and have even begun taking piano lessons recently myself. Both my daughters play the piano and my youngest began playing at the age of 4. She would just hear a song and go to the piano and begin pecking it out. This fascinated me and the whole family actually. I just thought I'd throw in this picture of my two girls just for fun, since I mentioned them.

 As a child, I heard the term "playing the piano by ear", but I never really knew what was meant by that. When I saw this remarkable feat being done by my own child, I knew then what they were referring to. They don't have to read the notes, they just play by instinct. I also believe this is a gift from the Lord. Since this is a sewing blog I'm sure you're wondering where I'm going with this. In my previous post I mentioned a term I coined, "sewing by ear". Well, here is how I came up with that term.

When my oldest daughter got married she wore a dress she and I designed together. I adapted patterns from the 1800's. (Literally from the 1800's) It was a great challenge to say the least. Don't get me wrong, I was greatly honored that my daughter had asked me to make this most sacred of dresses, especially after insisting as a young girl that she would NEVER want me to make her wedding dress because I had made almost every dress she had ever worn and she wanted something from a bridal shop. I had actually come to terms with the fact that this opportunity would never be afforded me and we would one day go shopping for a wedding dress. I just knew this would be one dress I would NOT be making for her.

After getting over the shock and awe of her request that I make her wedding dress, I began the 4 month process.  As I looked over the authentic patterns from various time periods in the 1800's, I considered the special request for redesigns made by the bride to be. Of course she wanted something different! I decided to make two dresses, one out of inexpensive muslin fabric in order to develop the design and make any major mistakes that I might encounter and the "real" wedding dress I made of white satin. Since I had a full time job, I had to sew at night and on weekends. My daughter recalls this process and laughs, saying that her dress magically appeared. She says she would go to bed at night and it just "appeared" the next morning for her to try on for her fittings.

As mentioned in previous blog posts and my profile, I have sewn since I was a child. I got my first sewing machine when I was 12, made most of my clothes in high school and all I wanted when I graduated was a new sewing machine. I made my children smocked and heirloom clothes, have taught various sewing and smocking classes, have sewn professionally and considered myself somewhat of an expert. I reiterate this because I was extremely shocked when I became challenged by the terminology and directions of the patterns made over 100 years ago. Nothing in Simplicity, McCalls or even the heirloom patterns I had previously used ever looked anything like this. I relied heavily on all the skills I had developed in over 30 years of sewing, but still struggled. I never felt like giving up, however, nor did I feel I had "bitten off more that I could chew" as one might think to be the normal reaction. I had longed for this opportunity, even when my daughter was a baby, to one day make her wedding gown. The process was a lot of work but, I had a passion for it. I knew that I had the ability to do it even though I had never done this before.

On more than one occasion, as I constructed the dress, I felt divinely inspired as to what to do. I would go to bed perplexed with a problem in the construction process, only to wake up the next morning with the idea of how to handle whatever it was that had stumped me. I'd immediately jump out of bed and go to my machine which was at the foot of my bed in those days. I would solve the problem and sew onward.

I told my husband that I was "sewing by ear". I truly felt like that's what I was doing. There is no way I could have had the outcome I did on Magan's wedding dress had I not had the Lord's blessing and inspiration.

Hopefully, this gives you an idea of the final result. What a beautiful day it was and what a beautiful bride! You know, she and her husband James will celebrate their 6th wedding anniversary in August? Wow, the time has gone by quickly. I just had a thought concerning her musing that the dress "magically appeared" as if elves were making it. Was I sewing by "elf" ears? Ha!

This is a picture in front of the temple in Orlando, FL. If you're thinking the dress was a little hot for August, you are RIGHT! She originally designed this dress to be worn in December, but was so "in love" they couldn't wait so they got married in August.

They really do make a cute couple.

And they are living "Happily Ever After" in Sugarland, TX (at the time of this posting).

 I await the request for a baby blessing gown. I should actually go ahead and get started on it anyway. As a matter of fact, she has already told me I will not be able to work when she has a child because she will have me "pumping" out baby clothes. That's okay, I've done that before and in triplicate!!

As you probably well know, I've been creating custom children's clothes for customers through my stores, Chandler Heirlooms & Design on Facebook and Cheirlooms on Etsy. I am working feverishly to get my Cheirlooms Children patterns designed and printed. These efforts are in the infant stages. The process is a lot of work, but I have a passion for it. I am sure that I have the ability to do this even though I have never done this before. Hmm, I think I've heard that somewhere before. Once again I have to say, I'm....."sewing by ear."

My precious children are all grown up, plus this picture is six years old!!!