Beaded Silk Belly Dance costume

It has been a busy old month!  A horrible dental surgery experiance; snow; a wonderful Majma Dance festival experience; a week’s holiday, then home and MORE snow!  In between all this I have been working on creating a dance costume to wear for our troupe performances this season.  The brief was ‘harem pants, any top, in flame colours’.

My first attempt at making a costume last year turned out… hmmm, wearable…  This year I wanted something much more professional looking and far more glamorous!  Having mended the silk harem pants I knew how great they look and feel to dance in, so it had to be silk!  Now as regular readers are aware, my average budget for any creative project seldom hits double figures (although this time it did!) and I do love to re-purpose fabric, so where better place to start than eBay and a pre-loved saree?  All the way from India wrapped in muslin for £7.99 including postage!  Fab.  The saree was stiff as a board and needed two soakings in cold water to get the starch out, but at least I didn’t have to resort to the Vinegar Treatment, which leaves everything smelling like a chip shop. Th pants began with Simplicity costume pattern 5359, given to me by a friend.  I’ve made three cholis using this pattern and not one of them has fitted me properly.  Luckily there’s not much to go wrong with harem pants!  Ignoring the pattern instructions I cut the legs so that the saree border made a ‘cuff’ around the ankle, then cut the other border off to make an elaticated waistband.  (Elastic from Rose Tinted Rags for £1).

No cholis this time.  I wanted a proper belly dance bra!  There are so many excellent blogs and tutorials out there on how to make your own out of a regular bra, but I found Sparkly Belly’s How-To series  and Naima’s Bellydance blog  the most helpful.  I dived in and cut up a cheapie bra that I never wear to make a ‘prototype’ with some left-over stretch velvet (from this dress; no, I never throw anything away!).  This turned out so well that I’m actually going to use it as part of another costume!Now, everyone says that you should a) buy a padded bra so that it will be sturdy enough to take the weight of all the embellishments, and b) go up an extra cup size because they will shrink once you’ve sewn all that bling on.  People, I have NEVER had a padded bra in my life!  Much less one that’s too big for me!  Blimey…. Back to eBay again and I managed to find a red one that ticked all the boxes for £5.75.

Covering it with the silk was actually fairly easy, and my new non-stretchy straps were made using layers of quilting cotton and interfacing, with some grossgrain ribbon sewn in to re-enforce them (all from my stash).  Also taking a tip from various costume tutorials, I bought some extra-durable trouser hooks & eyes for my back closure and the halter strap (£1.50).

I kept trying it on and making adjustments, but it wasn’t until I saw a friend’s self-made costume last week, with wide halter-straps, that I figured that part out and finally got it fitting properly.  Then came the fun part.  Beads!  Sequins!  Crystals!  Beads AND sequins together!  I have been in my absolute element embellishing this costume and I only stopped where I did ‘cos I needed to wear it for ‘dress rehearsal’ last night!  This is where I spent the most money, and OK I do have a lot left over of course but I reckon I’ve used £7 – £8’s worth of materials here.

But hey, enough words, right? –  Here it is!Oh I am SO very pleased with this!  And best of all, I have now done a full 90 mins dancing in it with no ‘Barbara Windsor’ moments!  It does feel quite large but I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do all that beading on a non-padded number.  I’m not sure about ‘cup shrinkage’ though; this didn’t appear to be an issue, perhaps because I mainly stitched into the padding rather than right through the bra – as you can see from this ‘insides’ pic there’s very little stitching showing (yes I will need to line it at some point!).  I ended up having to put some tucks in the cups to get the fit right, luckily with this fabric it doesn’t notice to much.  I think next time I’ll stick to my usual size.All in all I’m rather thrilled to have such a fine looking costume that fits and feels good to dance in.  A professional costume costs £100s after all, so at under £25 this one’s a winner, plus I’ve got enough silk left over to make myself a headband and some accessories.  Result!

Me on the left with the Monday night gang.  Don’t we look FAB?!Wishing you all a shimmying sparkling week 🙂

Three little shisha elephants

I posted a while back about starting a small project that turned into a much bigger one & would need its own post; well, here it is!  It all began because I wanted to learn how to do shisha mirrors and indian-style embroidery.  Then I found a beautiful book called Indian Inspirations by Gisella Thwaites, which truly is inspiring!  Full of lovely embroidery and patchwork techniques (including shisha) and some funky patterns and projects too.  One of which is these little embellished elephants.  What better way to practice my shishas than to make an elephant?!  So!  Elephant No 1:This was my first go at crazy patchwork and I stupidly forgot to add seam allowances around the outside edges, so he’s a bit tatty around the seams!  Also my first every shisha mirrors: my foundations & stitches are too loose – you can see the top mirror is hanging out and the second one fell out and had to be replaced with a large sequin stitched into place instead.  Time for another go!  Elephant No 2:I remembered to add seam allowances this time, but the trunk still came out a bit wonky!  I’m pleased with my newly-learned stem stitch and feather stitch and my shishas are much more stable, but I’m not happy with how uneven they look.  A bit of online research led me to the wonderful resources on Sarah Homfray’s site, which includes an excellent video tutorial on shisha embroidery.  Elephhant No 3 (pre-stuffing):and with 1 &2 for comparison:Elephant evloution!  I’m very pleased with this one!  I had such fun playing with different stitches and adding beads, sequins, etc.  I seemed to get more ambitious with each one I did!  But three was enough; the original project in the book was to make a single hanging elephant with beads and bells, but MORE IS MORE, right?!Aaah, sooo cute!  They’re hanging in my bedroom window now.

So now my shisha-confidence has increased I’ve been busy playing with them in all sorts of ways, like this little felt brooch:But that’s not actually my reason for wanting to learn how to do them.  Nor, as long-term readers will know, is this my first Outing with Elephants!  Remember this?The Psychedelephant Quilt!  It never did get quilted, and I realised that what I really longed to do was add some lovely embroidery and embellishment to it.  So this is going to be a long-term project, something to sit and do whenever I have the time to enjoy a bit of fancy sewing.  Like the little elephants, each square is small enough that I can really play around with it and try out different ideas, and that will keep me entertained for ages!Me & the elephants, wishing you a bright and shiny weekend 🙂

This week’s folky felt pincushions

I really do LOVE making these little wool-felt pincushions!  This week (so far!) I bring you The Sunshine Shed & Vic’s Van – TaDah! (In case you’re wondering, the friend that I made the Sunshine Shed for has a ginger & white cat.  Although said cat is not that daft-looking in real life, honest!)Vic’s van has extra bunting!Plus I think I’ve finally managed to make my potted flowers a little less triffid-like, yay!

That’s it for today!  Wishing you a bright, bunting-filled evening 🙂

Makes & mends

Aloha!  It’s been a busy couple of weeks in my craft room, with several small projects going on as well as the long-haul Mending Challenge.  One of these ‘small projects’ has turned out bigger than expected so I think I’ll give it a post all to itself at some point!  But here are some of my recent activities…A belly dance coin headdress for my dancing pal L. who wanted something in red and gold.  I’ll be honest, when this coin trim arrived from eBay I was not overly impressed.  It looked VERY cheap and plastic-y and wouldn’t really hang the way I wanted it to.  However with a bit of fraffing around I got it looking OK.  Happily once on the wearer the overall effect is pretty good and L. was pleased, so all’s well that ends well.  (But I shan’t be buying any more!)I made myself a pin cushion!  I loved the last one so much that I decided I deserved one of my very ownI’ve found the felt-ball chimney is handy for keeping my needles from disappearing whilst I’m sewingThe flowers still look a bit triffid-like mind you, but check out the funky wheel arches!  I confess that the Mending Pile hasn’t had much attention these last couple of weeks, except for doing a make-over on a charity shop shirt I found a while back.  Someone somewhere had added this rather hideous lace cuff to it; part of a costume for an AmDram production of The Crucible, perhaps??Meanwhile the manufacturers hadn’t helped by attaching a panel of dirty-looking lace along the button band (on the left in the pic).  Offending lace removed (as shown on the right), it’s actually a rather fine, Channel-your-Inner-Stevie-Nicks-type shirt and I look forward to wearing it when things warm up a little.  Job’s a good ‘un!And speaking of charity shops, if you live in the Hereford area or are visiting, I can recommend a trip to the fabulous Rose Tinted Rags, run by local charity Echo and packed full of fabrics, trims, threads, patterns, you name it – it’s a sewist’s dream!  A friend and I went recently and I bagged 3.5m of Liberty lawn for £5 & various other bits including some beautiful space-dyed perle cotton embroidery threads for just 75p each.  (Don’t tell everyone though…!)Wishing you all a very colourful & creative weekend 🙂

More Mending: silk harem pants

If my first week of Project Mending was all about Quick Hits, then last week was definitely the complete opposite!This is one of two big, frayed, worn-through-fabric rips in THE most gorgeous pair of vintage silk harem pants, given to me by my lovely friend J. with the words ‘you might be able to do something with them or use the fabric’.  I think you can probably guess which rather vital four-way seam we are looking at here… yes: Oh Dear.  But folks, this garment is TOO fabulous to be cut up.  I had to at least have a go at repairing it!

First job was to trim away all those frayed edges on the main rip to see what’s going on.  The silk is fairly worn in places and it’s quite fine anyway, so there’s nothing much to get your needle into. Next I tested some scraps of iron-on interfacing in different weights on the inside of the pockets to find one that wouldn’t affect the drape too much.  I found a very lightweight vilene did the job, and even small pieces stayed fused to the fabric. There were also a few holes here and there in the fabric as well as the tears.  Some little squares of interfacing ironed on underneath the small holes stopped them from getting any worse and allowed me to sew them up without making huge puckers in the fabric

The finished result isn’t perfect when you look close up, but on a pair of baggy silk pants it really doesn’t notice too much!For the bigger tears,  I cut strips of interfacing about 1/2″ wide and ironed them one piece at a time along each of the ripped edges, with some scrap fabric underneath to protect my ironing board cover.  This was rather painstaking I have to say, and if I didn’t LoVE these pants so much I’m not sure I’d have had the patience!I did consider using the sewing machine to do the seam, but it was one of those tears that kind of travels out into the fabric and I decided it would look much neater if I did the whole thing by hand.  First I did some tiny backstitches on the inside to re-attach the fabric to the original seam allowanceThen for the seam itself and its ‘travel-out’ tear I worked from the right side and used a little catch-stitch to close up the torn edges.  Working into the interfacing gave me something stable to sew into, and also prevented the fabric from fraying any further.A bit of a press and some steam, and Ta-Dah!I’m not claiming this to be a ‘couture’ repair, nor that my method is the best; there are some bits of white interfacing visible if you look close, and the mend has puckered the fabric a little.  But y’know what? – I’m OK with that.  You can’t really see any of it once the pants are on.  I had to alter the bottom cuffs as well, and I’m toying with the idea of dropping the waistband as my [ahem] Repaired Seam Area is still rather low.  So it’s been quite a bit of work, but overall I  have to say it’s been worth it. ‘cos getting to wear these instead of consigning them to the scrap bag makes me REALLY HAPPY!!Wishing you all a vibrantly silky kinda week 🙂

Mending my ways

There’s something lurking in the corner of my sewing room… something big and scary, that just keeps on growing… readers of a nervous disposition, look away now!That, dear friends, is my Mending & Alterations pile.  I know. But hey, I’m not alone in this, right?  I mean, who wants to replace zips and take up hems when you could be making felt caravans, or crocheting a funky cardie, or, or… doing the dishes…. anything else, really!

However: last week I put on my Brave Head and actually sorted through this humungous pile.  Some of my very favourite old clothes emerged, as well as some lovely things that have been passed on by friends, most just needing a bit of attention and then WhooHoo, I could be wearing them!  So in order to kick-start my Sew-Jo this year I’ve decided to get down to it and CLEAR THE PILE, one thing at a time.  I shall post my progress here to celebrate, and if you too are scared to look at your M&A Pile then I hope it will encourage you to take heart, join with me, and get stuck in!

So this first week I have tackled the ‘quick-hits’.  I figured it would be encouraging to start with simple jobs where it was obvious what needed doing and not too time-consuming to do it, then I could enjoy the reward of seeing things come off the pile and into my wardrobe…

This beautiful soft viscose skirt was passed on by a friend and just needed a few inches chopping off the bottom to make it me-sized.  It had a raw-edge finish rather than a hem originally, so a double round of zig-zag stitching was all it took and ta-dah – New skirt!

One of my very fave winter skirts, this black corduroy number suffered during my ‘Illness Expansion’ when I ripped the fabric around the zip trying to get into it.  A couple of strips of fusible interfacing and a bit of hand-sewing (and yes, a certain amount of weight loss since then!) and I’m so happy to be wearing it again.I picked up this T-shirt in a chazza because I loved the colour & the neckline, but it was too long on me.  I did a chop and thought I’d use Cosmic Lulu’s trusty decorative stretch stitch to turn up the hem (as seen here and here).  Alas, not all jerseys are created equal and it stretched out of shape horribly.  I switched to an overlock stitch but the damage was done and no amount of steam could save her…  Ah well: it cost £2 and it’s still wearable!Now for this week’s brain-teaser.  I love wearing this summer tunic/dress (bought years ago from Machynlleth’s premier chazza, affectionately known locally as ‘the Dog Shop’); however, due to the obscenely low neckline, it can only be worn with something underneath it.  Which means I seldom wear it, because who needs a vest when it’s actually warm, and who wants a summer top when it’s cold enought to need a vest??  You see my dilemma?  Also it has these weird unflattering ties that sit right under the bust.Solution: Cut the ties off, chop off the widest parts of them at each end & sew these together to make a fairly stable ‘modesty panel’, then catch-stitch this by hand to the base of the neckline.  It’s still low-cut but you can no longer see what make of bra I wear.  Result!What a great start – four things off the pile in an afternoon, and I’ve already worn two of them!  Not so scary after all, huh?

Wishing you all a ‘To Boldy Sew’ kinda weekend 🙂

2017: Unblogged!

It’s a fact: 2017 was not a year full of blogging for me.  But that happened for the Best Kind of Reasons!  Because as my health began to improve last year, I suddenly had Choices.

Back when I began this blog, staying home and crocheting on the sofa or maybe doing a short stint of sewing were very often my only choices.  Reading my favourite bloggers and creating a blog of my own was a way for me to still feel connected to the world and part of a community at a time when I was unable to work or socialise, or even go out much at all.  Gradually, as I learned to pace myself and manage my condition it became possible to factor in a few more activities, but I still had many, many days when ‘from the sofa’ was all I could do.

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But lots of things happened last year that helped me move from Illness to Recovery, and I began to find I had the energy to go out and Do Stuff again, without having to spend quite so much time on the sofa in between.  So, YAY – I have been DOING, and Enjoying, but this has often been an ‘either/or’ choice – either I spend my energy crocheting and sewing and blogging, or I spend it going out & doing stuff then resting and not doing anything whilst I recover.  It has been an amazing 12 months for me and I’ve done things that I’d begun to think would never be possible again –  not just the Big Stuff like moving house, but ordinary, day-to-day things like going on a shopping trip or to an evening class.

But I’ve missed sharing my Adventures here with you all and feeling part of this lovely blogging community that we have.  So now that I feel well enough to Do Stuff and write about it, I’d like to start the year by celebrating some of the Wonders I experienced in 2017 that didn’t make it on to the blog!  Beginning with…

BELLY DANCE!  Folks, I have ALWAYS wanted to be a belly dancer, ever since I was a little girl.  I started going to a local class toward the end of 2016, even though at that time I needed someone to drive me there & back and often had to sit out for a lot of the class, then spend 2 or even 3 days In Recovery afterwards.  But I absolutely LOVE it, I have made so many wonderful friends, had SO much fun, and discovered my Inner Dancing Diva!  Not only that but it gives me an excuse to make costumes and dress up: I mean, what’s not to love??  I’ve surprised myself by getting up in public and performing with our troupe and finding that I actually really enjoy it!

Rocking my me-made costume (Top row, far left) at my first ever performance :

In action, performing at an outdoor show last summer

Posing (far right) at our Monday night dance class (pics by Harry Mason, Alanya BellyDance)From Belly Dance to Barefoot dance.  I still need a chauffeur to help me here but I’ve been going to this magical Five Rhythms-inspired dance event most months, and what an amazing crowd of people I’ve met!  (Oh yeah, and I get to dress up some more)Our local weekly Meet & Make Craft group is just the warmest, most fun gang to be in and I couldn’t wish for a more supportive and creative group of friends, I feel SO lucky that this happens right here in our tiny town.YARNDALE!! Yes, I finally got to go, and I met my Crochet SHero Lucy from Attic 24 and visited the famous studio!  Again this was totally thanks to my lovely friends A. and H. (Stars of the Quilt Festival 2016) who looked after me all weekend and made it SO.MUCH.FUN.  Love you gals <3Headdresses!  I have been learning so much about felting, appliqué, and embroidery this last year and making headdresses has given me a platform with which to play with all these different techniques and incorporate all sorts of materials.  I have blogged a few of my finished ‘for sale’ makes, but not really shared the experimental ones I have had so much fun making (and wearing!) for myself along the way.I had a proper, whole week’s holiday in my beloved Glastonbury.  I got to go walking, met up with a friend for the day, visited the Tor and the Chalice Well Gardens, went dancing and even went out to an evening event (I never usually have any energy left by the evening!).  Absolute Magic. Kington Art & Craft Market stall with my lovely pal Delia!  It’s a LONG day and very tiring, but the camaraderie of our fellow stall-holders and the locals who visit us keeps us going, and I am so proud of the fact that we did this.  Another thing that felt impossible just 18 months ago.Crochet clothes!  This has been a Revelation to me – I’ve always envied folk who can knit because I love the idea of me-made jumpers and cardies.  From my first purple alpaca jumper, I was hooked!  I’m still learning as I go along and some things have turned out better than others, but I’ve already completed my first commissioned cardie and my winter wardrobe is looking much funkier this year.L-R: emerald merino jumper, lacy wool/sparkle mix shrug, lacy emerald top with hand-swen beaded fringe Yep, it’s been a wonderful year for me, and I’m feeling hopeful that my health has stabilised enough now that I will be able to continue to take on new projects and be even more creative in 2018.  And write about it all!  Thank you, as always for sharing my Adventures…

Wishing you all a very joyful, amazing year ahead – can’t wait to see what it brings 🙂

Cottage & Caravan pincushions!

Well, here we are in 2018!  I’ve already tidied my craft room, sorted through all my sewing patterns, and set myself some Makery Challenges for the coming year, how about you?

But before we sail forth into the NEW, I thought I’d share with you a couple of little felt fancies I made over the hols.  Both these funky little pincushions were presents for friends (obviously, my own pins live on a shabby, falling-apart thingy I bought YEARS ago) and I totally loved designing all the little details with each person in mind!  They are both made from wool felt/fabric and stuffed with 50% wool as well, which apparently is the best thing for keeping your pins sharp (yes I really MuST make one for myself!  And buy new pins!).First up is a Sue Spargo design, taken from her book Contemporary Folk (& post on Sue HERE).  I made this pretty much as per the pattern, but added a few of my own little extra touches.  The applique/embroidery is done on the individual pieces before you stitch the house together, so I wasn’t entirely sure how it would look until it was finishedAlso I was a bit pressed for time on this one, but if I make another I will definitely add some more embellishments!  That said, I’m rather pleased with the way the bead and sequin flowers turned outSo as well as doing all the applique by hand (no hot glue here!) I also stitched all my seams by hand as I wanted the whole thing to have that quirky, slightly off-kilter look.And finally I couldn’t resist adding a little needle-felted critter to the roof!So this was for a friend who’s just moved house.  But what about my friend who’s just moved into her new Dream Caravan?  I got my sketchpad out and came up with this!Yep, it’s the must-have accessory for retro-caravan-loving crafters everywhere!  I made it a bit dinkier than Pincushion Cottage and really went to town on the details.  I’m particularly pleased with the window curtains, made from some scraps of quilting fabric with iron-on interfacing on the back to stop the tiny little pieces from fraying as I sewed.The sequin flowers didn’t work so well on this one though, they look a bit triffid-like!Again, I did most of the embellishment before stitching the pieces together, except for the bunting which went on after the whole thing had been stitched and stuffed.  This is just tiny felt triangles sewed directly onto the body of the caravan.Oh I had SO MUCH FUN making this!  I even gave it a personalised number plate!I do need refine my caravan design a bit as it doesn’t quite sit flat, and I think I’d like to make the cottage a bit more like my faerie houses, but I will DEFINITELY be making more of these for my craft stall this summer!Wishing you all a Folky Felted weekend 🙂