Sunday 17 November 2019

Twelve Days of Christmas Swap

The Twelve Days of Christmas goodies

These cuties were for an international swap organised by the lovely Tracy from Madaboutbags back in August 2018. The items were to be posted in November 2018. Yeah! That's how long I had been working on these pieces. I couldn't believe it when it came to an end; August to November seems like an eternity, but the time soon flies around.

The Swap Guidelines

Sign-ups started in August, and we were allocated our partners not long after this. We were then given three months to make 12 gifts (we could also purchase some goodies too). During this time, we had roughly two to three check-ins a month; one for fabric choice, one for progression and then another at the end of the month to show off our finished pieces.  So, I had pretty much been working on these pieces since the beginning of September.

About the Pieces

Most of the makes were specific to my partner and her mosaic photo choices. I modified some of the designs or used creative license with the finishing of the gifts.

The hoops are a mixture of materials and fibres ranging from cotton to felt, the scarf is a fine needlecord.

I really racked my brains for the month of September as I didn't know where to start. My Christmas fabric stash will we say was a bit lacking, in that I had none. This has now been rectified and since taking part in this swap I have now purchased quite a few pieces thanks to the power of the internet.

Sunday 18 November 2018

Floral Dress

The Fabric
The fabric is a lightweight satin with a polyester composition; it is a non-stretch woven fabric which comes in four different colours; blue, grey, purple and pink.
As soon as I received the two metres of fabric, I popped it into the machine. It can withstand a 40-degree wash, but I placed it on a quick 30-degree wash.   It dried in a matter of minutes on the washing line. The fabric then sat for a couple of days, so I could admire it, touch it and drape it and think about what it would become. I knew that I wanted to make a dress, but I just wasn’t sure of the style.  Another factor I had to contend with; the fabric is quite sheer when you hold it up to the light, this isn’t a criticism on my part, it just meant that any pattern I did choose it would need lining for it to be wearable. 
The Pattern
It took me a further couple of days to find the perfect pattern; New Look 6263, I opted for Version A. This is a style I have used before, but as a top (in heavy cotton), not a dress, so I knew this would work with my body shape.  When I saw the suggested fabric list on the back of the packaging; silky types,  I knew my fabric of choice was going to be perfect. 
The Construction
The Tricky Part
 I have only worked with one other slippy fabric (a georgette) during my time sewing, so armed with some tricks from the previous venture I knew I was on a good footing.  I started by spraying a fine mist of starch on my cutting board so the fabric would stick and not move around. I used silk pins for fixing the pattern pieces to the fabric, these are extremely sharp, and they protect the fabric from becoming snagged.  When cutting,  I find I tend to lift the fabric when using scissors, but this wasn’t going to work with this slippy fabric, so I opted for my rotary cutter instead.  During cutting, I decided to alter the front and back piece length by over three inches; this is just a preference on my part, I like dresses either sitting on the knee or just below. 
The lining: I was going to go for a silky fabric, but in the end, I went with a lightweight 100% cotton in black, that I had in my stash.  Armed with all the bits and bobs I needed I started constructing some of the lining features and then jumped to place the same features on the floral fabric; bust darts, stabilising the neckline front and back with a row of stitching and overlocking all the seams.  I then pinned the lining and front piece of the dress together to put in the cut out ‘v’ in the neckline, but then I changed the pins to tailor's tack as the fabric kept slipping at this crucial stage.  From this point onwards the dress came along really quickly. I did change the needle size to a finer size 60, and I also placed a piece of tissue between the feed dogs of my machine and the fabric.  On too many occasions I have wound up with the fine fabric being sucked into the machine and becoming tangled with the bobbin. This technique stops that from happening,  and once you tear the tissue away, you are left with an undamaged piece of fabric.  
The Finishing Touches
The dress is sleeveless and asks for a bias binding finish, a half inch wide single fold cotton tape to be precise.  At the onset, I thought this would be too small for the finish, but it actually looks very elegant.  This finish also dictated the collar for the dress; I opted for the black cotton instead of the floral fabric, and I’m so glad I did because it makes the floral fabric stand out more.   At this point, I have a confession to make I forgot to cut out one of the pieces of the pattern, the piece for the button loops because I was too excited to finish the dress.  I used folded over bias tape to make them.  I know, but honest, it does look good.
The lining and the dress hems are both hand sewn using the blindstitch method, to make the stitches on the right side of the garment inconspicuous.  Both hems were then pressed for a smooth finish, the floral on a cool silk setting and the cotton, on the maximum iron setting.
Overall,  I was pleasantly surprised by the drape and the feel of the fabric.  Yes, it was slippery to work with, but boy, the finish of this dress is beautiful.  It’s smooth to the touch, silky and luxurious and I can see myself making a version two in the purple colourway very soon.

Sunday 11 November 2018

Lest We Forget

This is my contribution to the Untangled Threads Sawdust Hearts Project. My piece forms part of the Sawdust and Calico Heart Exhibition at Woodend Scarborough from the 3rd to the 30th of November 2018. This is a commemorative  exhibition and public event to be held on the centenary of Armistice Day 2018.

 My heart is one of 1568 handcrafted hearts commemorating 100 years since the armistice. It represents day 218 of the 1568 days of the war; the date the 2nd of March 1915. On this day the British Battleship HMS Canopus joined in the assault missions on the Dardanelles.

Each one represents a day of the First World War. 
Mine is one of fourteen hearts made in Scotland (Clackmannanshire) and now being displayed at Woodend, Scarborough as part of the Sawdust Heart Exhibition for Armistice Day. 

 This is my contribution to the exhibition:   #0218 "Hope Soars on the Wings of a Lark." 

This is to honour all those who fought to keep us safe.  
We will remember! 

In memory of my Great Grandfather William Rae who served as a Merchant Seaman during the war. ❤

Saturday 10 November 2018

Drapey Blouse Make

This is my third time sewing with silky type fabric, and the second time (I only realised while making this blouse) constructing a keyhole neckline.  I’m going to talk you through my journey of making this pattern.
The fabric is lightweight with a polyester composition;, andis a non-stretch woven fabric.
This colourful floral fabric has a smooth finish and has the mbeautifulrful drape. I washed the fabric as soon as it arrived at a 30 degrees wash (this fabric can handle 40 degrees).  There is a lot of colour going on in this design, and I’m pleased to say that no colour poured or drained after its wash.
I knew straight away that I wanted to make a top with this material and I had the ideal pattern in mind.  I had recently participated in a swap held on Instagram called the Great Big Pattern Swap and had received this pattern from my swap partner. The pattern in question is the Simplicity K1280.  This pattern asks for a silky type fabric, which made my material choice perfect for the job. There are four different styles of top contained in this pattern, and I had a hard time choosing between two of the styles; B and C to be precise.  I wasn’t sure if I wanted a fitted elasticated cuff or a wide floaty sleeve. It wasn’t really until the top was nearing its finished state that I made the final decision.  
The pattern instructions are great, but there are some construction tips that I want to offer after making this version. I’m not afraid to admit that this pattern and this silky fabric threw up some challenges for me.  I had nearly completed the blouse; I still had the sleeves to add when I decided the whole piece needed to be de-constructed back to its pattern cut-out state.
Why? I hear you ask. The construction of the front crossover piece is interesting.  The instructions tell you to topstitch the two front panels together before you attach the front bodice to the back bodice. If like me you use a lightweight fabric, you don’t really know if the drape is going to look good until the top is sewn together. In my case, I topstitched the two front pieces together with Gutermann Thread colour 107 only to find when the top was fully put together that there were some gathers and puckers that had to be corrected.  Personally, I hate unpicking stitches on delicate fabric, so, next time I’m going to pass on the topstitch step until I’ve tried the top on and checked the fit and drape.
On a more positive note, once you have the crossover pieces topstitched together, they don’t move or gape as you wear the top
The shape of this blouse is incredibly flattering, and I will definitely be sewing this pattern again. As I mentioned earlier on in my post, I was torn between style B and C of the pattern.  So, I took a look at my current wardrobe and decided I wanted to create a new piece, one which I would have the opportunity to wear often. In the end, I made view C with long floaty sleeves and skipped the elastic at the cuff.  I feel this gives the top a bit more of a boho look. This sleeve type shows off the fine-looking drape of the fabric, and it is a sleeve which is also on trend for this season. The floral pattern I feel makes this blouse both compatible with jeans or formal dress trousers.

Saturday 28 July 2018

WW1 Sawdust Hearts Project- The Embroidery

It's finally finished. This is the secret piece that has kept me busy for the whole of July. A piece I feel very emotional about, and one that truly captured my heart.

This is my contribution to the Untangled Threads Sawdust Hearts Project. My piece will form part of the Sawdust and Calico Heart Exhibition at Woodend Scarborough from the 3rd to the 30th of November 2018. This is a commemorative exhibition and public event to be held on the centenary of Armistice Day 2018. My heart is one of 1568 handcrafted hearts commemorating 100 years since the armistice. It represents day 218 of the 1568 days of the war; the date the 2nd of March 1915. On this day the British Battleship HMS Canopus joined in the assault missions on the Dardanelles.

The Embroidery

The stitching on the piece (bird and trees) features a single strand of Gutermann black silk thread.  The stitch techniques used are satin stitch for the trees and a variation of long and short stitch for the lark.  Both techniques were sewn using the Crafter's Collection Beading Needles by John James.
These needles are short, sharp and leave no holes in the fabric as you work. They are a size 10 and can accommodate fine glass beads (as depicted in the image above) with ease.


My piece features the pinning technique; dressmakers pins are used to adorn my piece.  This technique is often used for lettering or constructional detail.  My piece features pinning for the lettering and also as part of the scenery under the trees. I used black nail varnish to colour the headpins for the landscape but left the pins naked for the lettering.

Some information about my piece:

Title: Hope Soars on the Wings of a Lark.

Medium: Acrylic Paint on Canvas with black embroidery silk. The piece is adorned with beads and pins.

Inspiration: The vivid red colour used in my piece forms the memory of how I imagined the poet's world looked on hearing the words to Wilfred Owen's poem Dulce et Decorum Est, at the age of 14. A piece I studied in English and one that I can still recite to this day.

The bird depicted in my piece comes from the poem by the English poet George Meredith, and the piece composed by the English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams; The Lark Ascending, this piece is often interpreted as a piece about the war.

This piece is dedicated to my Great Grandfather William Rae (1888-1951). He served as a fireman for the Merchant Navy aboard the SS Lady Salisbury during WW1. A Merchant Seaman all his life my Great Grandfather died of a Cardiac Arrest on the 4th of July 1951 aboard the SS Tourmaline and was buried at sea, off the coast of Spain.

P.S. the idea and artwork for this piece can be found on my other blog Squirrels Knitting Conquests.

Wednesday 11 July 2018

The Birdie Bomber Jacket

This is the beautiful Birdie Bomber Jacket pattern by Annie at Sew this Pattern. Made in a soft, comfortable medium weight polyester fabric called Field of Flowers by Adam Ross Fabrics.

This pattern has been on my wishlist of makes since I found Annie's website back in 2017.  When I first noticed this pattern online, I instantly knew I wanted to make it, but because I haven't worn a bomber jacket in years (since I was 18,  I'm now 47 but feel like I'm 5), I wasn't even sure if it would suit me. But, I downloaded the pattern and pieced it together and then browsed for some fabric. In the back of my mind, I thought if I make it and don't like it I can always gift it to a friend1

Anyway,  the Field of Flowers fabric was bought on a whim, as you do, and it wasn't destined for any pattern. I primarily bought it because I loved the print. We've all been there, right?

Whenever I unwrap fabric, I tend to put it in the wash straight away (a quick 15-minute cycle at 30-degrees, usually does the job), so it's ready to use when inspiration hits. If I think the fabric is going to fray badly, then I will usually overlock all the edges to stabilise them.

Once washed, I will leave the fabric sitting in a strategic area where I will be able to touch, drape and look at it.  I usually do this for about a week, and if a pattern or design doesn't come to me after that time, then the material is placed in my stash for a later date.  There's no point in cluttering up my craft area unless I need to.  I can cause enough destruction just by standing in the room, never mind crafting in it...snigger!


The material was easy to cut, bit slippy when it came to piecing together, but I used the tissue paper technique, to help put the fabric through my sewing machine. With these issues out of the way, I sailed through piecing the front panels and back panels together, so far, so good. But, I then found when trying the piece on that the body and sleeves were too long.  At this stage I'm issuing a warning- DO NOT CUT OFF THE EXCESS, as everything turns out just fine when you place the bands on, you need the excess to hold the bands in place2.


At this point I also noticed the fabric was a bit too flimsy to be a bomber jacket, so, I stopped sewing to order samples for a lining.  I was originally going to go for a black lining, but when I received the three different colour samples, I decided to go for two meters of the Charmeuse in Aubergine.  I liked the way this Charmeuse made the darker colours of the floral fabric pop.


Cutting the lining out was a bit tricky; very slippery. To rectify this I sprayed my cutting board with spray starch (stops fabric from sliding). I made the lining a bit bigger than the outer piece and then looked online to see how to attach it.  I was going to bag my jacket to place the lining in, but there was a flaw in this idea-the jacket needed to be near finished for this to work, and having never used this technique before I didn't want to muck up the piece at this late stage. So, I made the lining piece up just like the main jacket, slipped the lining sleeves into the main piece, matched the front and the back and tacked everything in place. To my surprise this actually worked a treat. There was no tweaking, taking seams in or cutting, it went together like a dream.

There was a lot of ohhing and aghhing over the cuffs and bands for this piece. I bought some ribbing samples before I purchased a meter.  I initially had three sample choices and managed to whittle it down to two.  I was very fussy, in my head I knew what type of fabric I wanted for the cuffs.  I wanted the bands to have a bit of a sheen to them, not dull and heavy knitted, and nothing too cheap and nasty looking either.  I looked on four different websites before finding the perfect edging at My Fabrics. 


Having never used ribbing before I expected it to come in one straight length.  It doesn't or this one didn't. My ribbing came in a tube form! Which had me scratching my head, as the waistband and neck asked for the pattern pieces to be laid out on the selvedge.  There was no selvedge, just a tube! Hoping someone on social media could help me; I asked the novice question of how to find the edge on this material and someone came up trumps.  By laying the fabric out flat, I would see two natural folds. When I cut along one of the folds, the selvedge would appear. Hey, presto! It did. How cool is that?

I fitted the cuffs, waistband and neck in, using my overlocker with the blade engaged.  This helped me to cut away the excess.  I had measured previously to this point and I was able to figure out how long my sleeves and jacket body should go. I just love the finsh this machine gives, and I'm always in awe of what it can do.  Although I should be learning more about what it can do.  I might look for courses to do with that.


And then, last but not least the zip.  This part gave me nightmares.  How was I going to attach an opened end zip.  I had fitted invisible zips, jean zips but never an open zip! In my head I kept thinking if I sew one side on and then I sew the otherside on, are they going to match and are the teeth going to line up properely.  Silly I know, but that's what I was thinking.  The zip was fine in the end.

My thoughts; this design was relatively easy to construct and I was amazed at my ability to piece it all together. To say I'm super proud of this make is an understatement.


1This is now not going to happen because I'm selfish and in love with it.

2 Only when you have attached them may you cut to your heart's content. My sleeves were pinned up, pinned down, they moved between my hand, wrist, knuckles you name it until I was happy with the result. 

Friday 15 June 2018

Gertie's Rita Blouse-Version Two

This is my second Rita Blouse and this version is made in a silky viscose. I'm so in love with this pattern! Why? I never thought for a minute that I had the skill set to construct it, and I can't believe it actually fits on the bust, waist and hips. I've put on a bit of weight since recovering from PTSD and it's only now I'm well enough to do something about it; practising yoga.

Anyway, this material came in the very first subscription box I purchased from Sew Hayley Jane. A fabulous box I'm still subscribing to one year on.

This top is a lot lighter and wispier than the cotton version, the fabric is soft to the touch and has a lot more drape than the first version. It was also harder to manipulate when sewing, due to its silky texture; I had to fight to stop it from slipping out from under the presser foot. However, this isn't a grumble, more of a learning curve for next time; slow and steady wins the day.  With this being my second attempt at constructing this blouse I found it easier to place the pieces together. The bust came together quickly and the zip was simpler to fit. And now that I've printed and cut out the pattern, there is really no stopping me. I will be making more of these in the future.

So, what am I going to wear this one with? I did try it on with denim, but it just didn't go.  It looked a bit too dressy. Then I tried it on with trousers and it looked pretty amazing.  So, I think it has to be tailored trousers rather than jeans. Which is a shame because it probably means I'm going to wear it less. Being an Early Years Educator and doing the power dressing thing, doesn't really work. Especially when you end up with little paintie hands on your legs, arms and sometimes your butt. Yes, many a time I've walked round my local supermarket with a little handprint on the seat of my trousers and I've not noticed until I've made it home. Lol!

What do you think denim or dress trousers?