Lots of new makes for Kington Arts & Crafts Market!

Hello everyone!  Wow, have I been BUSY these last few weeks….  mainly making faerie houses and felt flower headdresses, ready for my first stall at Kington Arts & Crafts Market tomorrow!  This is a new joint-venture effort between me and my super-talented friend Delia (see Her Facebook page Bits A Tat for more info) and if all goes well, we shall be making it a regular monthly thing.  Fingers crossed!

It should be a lovely lively day tomorrow, with lots of fabulous hand-made and vintage treasures on sale plus street music provided by Nat Brewer.  9.30am til 3pm at the Market Hall, Kington HR5 3DP.  So do come along for a browse if you’re in the area, we’d love to see you!

But enough of that!!  You want to see the latest crazy funky headdresses, don’t  you?!  Ladies, gents & all between, I give you my July collection (modelled by my new glamorous assistant)…

The Purple Princess… Frida Flowers…The Deluxe Mermaid…and finally, The Little Mermaid clip (for those who don’t want to go ‘the full mermaid’)!Thank you, as always, for sharing my Creative Adventures with me!  Hope you enjoyed the pics.  Wishing you a lovely weekend one and all 🙂

Adventures in Appliqué: Sue Spargo online class

booksI’ve become more than a little obsessed with Folk Art quilts this year!  Wendy Williams, Kim McLean and Sue Spargo are among my favourite quilt artists (see my Pinterest board for more) – I love their quirky, colourful designs and the way they combine different techniques, using combinations of patchwork, appliqué, embroidery, embellishment and quilting.  A few months back I treated myself to books by Sue and Wendy, with the intention of Having a Go.  However, as mentioned in previous Adventures, my first foray into the world of hand-sewn appliqué was less than brilliant!

Whilst browsing the recent Craftsy course sale however, I discovered there’s one with Sue Spargo herself!  It’s all about hand stitching, using embroidery techniques to embellish and add texture to appliqué work.  I’ve never done one of these online courses before, but this one is very well put together and presented in well-shot, quality videos (no they’re not paying me, I really did think it was good!).  I’ll admit to having to pause and repeat LOTS of times for certain things, and I certainly needed plenty of practice, but the instructions were very clear and you could see exactly what was what.  https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/18/50/35/1850356b455a62a01bd51d3f85a38737.jpg

Unlike some of the other Craftsy courses this one focuses on just one main project, a ‘sampler’ appliqué panel using Sue’s butterfly design.  Having gathered myself some lovely threads and fabrics (I even had a go at making some of my own felt – see bottom left of the pic below), I launched straight into a smaller version of the butterflies!materialsFirst mistake: I didn’t zig-zag around the edge of my wool base fabric and it soon began to fray horribly!  As you can see from this bit of butterfly detail, there wasn’t much edge left by the time I got it under control… you’d have thought I’d learned my lesson last time, huh??wholeyellowbeforemiddleSue’s layering technique begins with a wool fabric background to which toning fabrics are added for texture; she then hand stitches wool felt appliqué shapes in contrasting colours on top.  Further layers of fabrics, wool, embroidery, beads, etc are added onto the appliqué to give further dimension and texture.  So this butterfly wing, for example, has a layer of (non-wool) felt in purple, a hand-turned greeny-yellow cotton on top of that, then circle of purple velvet on top of that; then I’ve used embroidery silks, perle cotton, and a sparkly purple heavy acrylic thread to do the various bits of embroidery.  It was so brilliant, watching these little butterflies build up from plain shapes, taking on more and more character as I added the different elements!  Here’s  more of Mr PurplepurplelowerwingdetailwholepurplefinishedThis pink & orange beauty was my first butterfly, and as you can see my stitches got neater as I went around the outside edge from right to left,wholepinkfinishedand also as I worked my way up through the layers!  By the time I came to do the last little details on the inner circle of this wing (a Palestrina knot edging and some Drizzle stitches) I felt like I was starting getting the hang of things!pinkwingdetailAnd here’s the rest of Miss YellowI’m particularly chuffed with the emboridery on the centre body of this one!wholeyellowfinishedIt was a such a gorgeous project to work on, and I loved playing around with all the different fabrics, beads, and threads.  I’ll admit that some of the stitches on the course I really couldn’t get the hang of, and a couple didn’t interest me that much so I didn’t bother with them.  I also made myself a little ‘stitch reference’ guide to keep on my laptop – I did find it a bit of a pain having to go back to the video every time I needed to remind myself of any tiny thing.  A couple of other people had commented about this too, so maybe Craftsy will include a stitch guide in future. stitchindex I made mine into a mini-sampler, and it was a handy piece to use as practice for quilting through the wool fabric. flowercardquilted To be honest, I didn’t think it added much to it and the fabric didn’t hold up that well.  In fact I was umming and aahing about whether to quilt the finished butterfiles at all….

You see, by this time I had spent many, many MANY hours on this little sampler, and it had turned out so much lovelier than I had ever expected …finishedunquilted…that I wished I had used a better quality fabric for the background, plus I was a bit scared that it would fall apart completely if I machine quilted it!  But as it stood I thought the background looked a bit tatty.  So after much pondering, I decided I would HAND QUILT it.  Yes, my Hand Stitching Confidence really has improved thanks to this course!  I also found this video tutorial by Sarah Fielke very helpful.  quiltingdetail1wholepiecequilted Much better!  I really think the quilting has ‘lifted’ the whole thing.  So all that was left now, was to add a binding.  And before you say anything, yes, I could do with a whole other course on that!  But here it is, anyway, the result of several weeks’ worth of stitching…finito2WHOO-HOO!!  I LOVE it!  It’s so colourful and sparkly and tactile!  And apart from the Emergency Unravelling Prevention zig-zag round the edges, EVERY bit was sewn by hand!  So I have definitely achieved my aim, of improving my hand-sewing skills.  Yay!  Plus I have a VERY groovy thing to hang in my living room!

So there we are, that concludes my recent Adventures in Appliqué – thanks for coming along!  Now the nights have gotten all long and dark and cold, it’s back in front of the DVDs with some crochet in the evenings for me…

Wishing you all a funky folk-art kinda week 🙂

 

Shirred Duvet Sundress

skirtyBehold, the final dress from my recent Makeathon!  If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll already be familiar with my propensity for wearing bedlinen (evidenced here and here) long before the recent Sewing Bee challenge!  I’ve had this single duvet cover – £2 from a charity shop – in my stash for a while, originally thinking I’d use it for a quilt backing.  It’s a reversible job, and I only liked the brown side and didn’t think there would be enough of it to make anything to wear.duvetWhen I saw this fab shirred sundress by Leila of Where The Orchids Grow though, I fancied having a go.  I thought this might be the very thing for the purple batik bought on my recent Birmingham trip, but I wanted to make a practice version first.  When I’d done my measurements, I realised I could cut the brown side of the duvet in half and match up the flowery band from the top and bottom to make a ‘border’ print.sideshot2I didn’t do too badly matching up the pattern on this side, but sadly there wasn’t enough to do the same on the other!

I’ve never done shirring before but it was easy-peasey on Cosmic Lulu.  I soon had the bodice shirred down to the recommended length, a couple of inches above the waistline.  HOWEVER… my duvet cover was made of a cotton/terylene mix, and therefore quite crisp.  When I tried the dress on, the gathered fabric stuck straight out in front of my already-quite-substantial middle, making it look like it was time to Call the Midwife!sideshotAfter much re-thinking, I decided the answer was to keep shirring the bodice until I had the gathers in a more flattering place.  I ended up with 30 lines of shirring all the way around, plus a further 4 along the front only that I tapered in at the side seams to adjust for my sway back.

I also had to make one strap 1/4″ shorter than the other on account of my sloping left shoulder, and then I still needed velcro on the insides to stop them from slipping off!  Although I am much happier with the final dress than the first version, I must admit it’s still not the most flattering shape for me and I don’t think I’ll make another.  That said, it IS a very cool, comfortable, easy dress to wear.  So I’ll definitely be taking it on my hols, just in case the sun should decide to shine.  Plus, I won’t need to take a duvet cover, haha!frontshotWishing you all a sunny weekend 🙂

Whoo-Hoo! Velvet Party fRock!

frontshot1The Mission: to make a gorgeous yet comfy-for-dancing-in dress in time to wear to my friend Jas’s spectacular Summer Solstice bash

The Goal: to use the oldest piece of fabric in my stash, a beautiful stretch velvet in stunning midnight blue, given to me by my mum some time around the last Ice Age

The Challenge:  I have never sewn velvet before, apart from a pair of cushion backs and they didn’t go well…

I had a very clear vision in my head of this dress.  I wanted a long flouncey skirt, but no gathers or elastic; and I wanted it to be a really good fit, but with plenty of room to move around in.  And, I wanted BIG sleeve flounces!  I’m talkin’ Lord of The Rings Elf- Princess sleeves.  Oh yeah.  This was going to be a Party fRock!!Since I had no pattern that met these requirements, I figured I’d start with a basic Lady Skater and add the bits I wanted.  Although I’d got the fit nearly right with the Purple Ponte version, I still had that fold-above-the-bust issue, plus I’d had to raise the neckline and it wasn’t perfect.  So I went back to Amanda’s excellent Fitting & Adjustments guide, and Lo! – there was the very problem I have with just about EVERY PATTERN, described exactly!  I needed to shorten the shoulder & upper bust height!  Result!  I can hardly beleive that my shoulders are THREE sizes down from the rest of me, and may in fact need to come down even more.  I kept the neckline as per the pattern this time but made all my other previous adjustments.  And folks, I have to say the fit is probably the best of anything I’ve made.  Except I then went and cut the bodice a bit short – argh!  Never mind.  I still love it!paisleysleevesMy original plan was to make contrasting sleeve and bottom flounces to add a bit of VaVaVoom to the plain blue.  This royal blue, paisley-etched velvet from The Textile Centre seemed the very thing.   I used the lower section of the Lady Skater skirt to draft a very full bottom flounce (with a little help from Gertie!).flouncedraft I had actually cut out the sleeve flounces and tacked one on to check the length before realising that they didn’t work at all.  The dark blue velvet was perfectly gorgeous on its own… luckily I still had plenty left to do my fabulous sleeves with… sleeveywonder…but not enough for the bottom flounce. I ended up just adding a slightly flared ‘band’ at the bottom edge instead.  And I can tell you, that sewing two curved seams together in stretch velvet is a bloomin’ NIGHTMARE!!  It just moves all over the place!  I literally had every pin I own in this seam, and it STILL wouldn’t stay put.  PAH! – if only I’d known, I could have just cut the skirt longer in the first place!!skirtshotIt’s still pretty flouncey though, and there was enough to get the length that I wanted, so all’s well that ends well.

As the dress began to come together, there was a bit of a ‘Medieval’ thing happening, so I thought I’d amp this up by using my fave decorative top stitch along the sleeve edges and neckline.  It worked beautifully on the sleeves  (below left), but as you can see when it came to the neckband (top right), it started stretching out the fabric and making it go all lumpy.  I tried it twice but it just wasn’t working, so I changed to a regular straight stitch instead and that worked fine.topstitchingWith just a few days to go til the big weekend, all was going well.  And then I came down with THE worst cold I’ve had in years.  The dress was on its hanger, waiting to be hemmed.  I was in bed, dosed up with everything the local chemist had to offer, and it was looking like I wasn’t going to make it to the party at all…backshotOn the day of the Do though, my brother helped me get myself up & out, and I DID go, though only for a few hours and mainly to sit by the bonfire.  It was a lovely evening though, despite my feeling so lousy, and as I am completely without shame I wore the dress anyway – unhemmed and uneven!

It took a couple of weeks to recover from that lurgie, and to finish the dress off properly.  It WAS a challenging make, the velvet was tricky to work and I certainly made some mistakes with my pattern mash-up.  But y’know what? – I absolutely ADORE this dress!  It fulfills all my wishes, to have something really special that’s still incredibly comfortable to wear, and that makes me feel like an Elf Princess, despite my More-Dwarf-than-Elf figure.  And oh yeah – those sleeves totally fRock!!sleevelaughWishing you all a fRocking great week 🙂

 

Purple Ponte Skater

Front1I was SO chuffed with my last Lady Skater dress success that I thought I’d make another to help me get a handle on Cosmic Lulu‘s stretch stitch functions.  Of which there are many – some of them, I’ve discovered, better suited to particular jobs than others!  But despite a shaky start, this dress has also turned out pretty good, and very wearable.Front2This is a medium-weight synthetic ponte from those lovely folk at The Textile Centre.  It was meant to be a quick sew to fill in that ‘Hmm-Spring-Still-Feels-Like-Winter-Today’ gap in my wardrobe.  HOWEVER, it nearly didn’t happen at all, as I stupidly had only ordered one metre of fabric instead of two, and by the time I realised it was GONE from TTC’s website – ARGH!  Cue, Desperate Pleading Email!  But the wonderful Jane saved the day by finding me the very last remnant – hurray!  Thanks, Jane 🙂skirtySo off I went, and soon had the hang of the triple stretch stitch.  Brilliant!  Now, what about this standard overlock stitch for my armhole seams, I thought?  Bad, BAD idea!  They went seriously wibbly.  And y’know how people say you can’t unpick overlocking? – turns out they’re right.  I had to re-sew the seams and cut away the original stitching.  Here it is just before the hacking trimming.sleevemessI pretty much stuck to using the triple stretch after that, and it all came together fine.  This ponte is a bit clingier than the jersey I used last time, but I went with exactly the same pattern alterations as before, so it wasn’t until I saw the photos of my wonderful sway-back adjustment that I realised how many VBLs (that’s Visible Bra Lines) were on show!BackYou may have noticed that this dress is in a SOLID COLOUR!  Yep, it’s true: even I have moments when a plain(ish) dress is the order of the day.  However, I couldn’t really leave it entirely plain now, could I?!  Especially when my gorgeous new machine has SO MANY stitch functions to choose from.  How about a nice bit of bright orange decorative top-stitching around the neck, hem, and cuffs?  YES please!detailmontageAnd yay – those sleeves didn’t turn out too badly after all!SleeveyWonderIt may have been a glorious evening when these pics were taken in my garden (many thanks to brother Rob for making it all look so good!), but overall it’s been a pretty chilly May here in the Marches, so I’ve had more opportunities to wear this dress than I expected this month.  I’ll admit that I don’t love it as much as the last one, but it does what I wanted of it, and I had loads of fun doing the top-stitching.

So now I’ve done a stretch jersey dress, what next?  Weeeelllll, there’s a something a bit special in my stash I’ve been saving for a long time, until I had the machine to do it….FacePullingFrontWHAT?? – VELVET?!? – You must be JOKING!!

Wishing you all a GLORIOUS weekend 🙂

Psychedelephant Quilt, part one

quiltpatternOoh, look: here’s that elephant quilt pattern I fell in love with about FIVE years ago.  Yes, I remember – I was saving it until I had gathered all the fabric to make it…

Ooh, look: my recent Sewing Space sort-out reveals I have enough fat quarters and remnants with which to quilt the entire planet…stashsortSo it’s ABOUT TIME I got quilting, huh??getquilting2What’s that you say?  Include some SOLID colours in the mix? Hahahaha…!dimsolidsHmm, these elephants are a little tricky to assemble…ElephantAssemblyThis looks like a job for the Elephant Placement Device™!placementdeviceElephants on parade!OnParadeNow to try out Cosmic Lulu‘s satin stitch.  All right! – Dancing with Elephants or what??OnParade2Hands up who wants to see an elephant’s backside…backsideOoh, look: it’s coming together!comingtogetherHurray, just the border to do!  Now, shall I be sensible and use some easy-on-the-eye, plain fabrics to frame this crazy mad thing?  Or will I use more of the same outrageous ones that I’ve done the elephants with?  I think we know the answer…

Ready…??quiltoutside1Whoo-Hoo! I LOVE IT!!quiltoutside2In fact, I love it SO much that although it’s not yet A Quilt, I’ve already hung it up in the space it’s intended for.  I have a rather huge, rather grottily-sealed-up, draughty fireplace in my living room, which despite its shortcomings has a beautiful old lintel above it, so I wanted something that would cover the fireplace itself but still allow me to make a ‘feature’ of the lintel.  I’m going to sew a hanger-sleeve into the quilt backing so that I can put it across, but for now I’ve just tucked it under the big blanket that’s currently hanging there.  quilttopfinished

No-one could say it’s not eye-catching!!

SO… Can Cosmic Lulu deliver the goods when it comes to quilting these psychedelic beasties??  Tune in for the next installment!  But first, I feel another Lady Skater dress or two coming on…

Wishing you all a very psychedelic Sunday 🙂

 

Cosmic Lulu has landed!

cosmic luluSOooooo…. remember how I reported a while back that my trusty ancient Singer, Auntie Janis, was really beginning to feel her age?  – People, I bought myself a NEW SEWING MACHINE!!!  Say hello to the Viking Husqvarna E20, my new best friend!  She can do overlocking!  She has a range of stretch stitches!  She even has a built-in needle threader!  And yes OK I know, these things come as standard on today’s basic machines, but for me even being able to turn the stitch length adjuster and have something happen is a revelation!  And I thought ‘tension’ was just something you felt when you were top-stitching a neckline and your thread snapped for the third time…

I wanted a sewing machine that would be funky and versatile and just keep on going.  After much research, I opted for the Viking over a Singer and so far she’s been awesome, so I have named her in honour of Komet Lulu, the uber-cool bass player with Electric Moon!  I have it on good authority from a friend who’s seen them live that Lulu can throw out a mind-altering bass line with one hand whilst rolling an herbal cigarette with the other: ‘Nuff said.

I’ve been making patchwork!  And applique! And yes that is another Lady Skater dress you can see in the background!  All to soon be revealed, once BT fix my bloomin’ internet connection…

Wishing you a very cosmic week! 🙂

Whoo-Hoo! Retrotastic Skater Dress!

imainshotYay, I MADE A DRESS!!  Not only that, I made a dress that fits and that I LOVE! This, my friends, is my very first attempt at the Lady Skater dress (by KitschyCoo patterns).  I’m sure this pattern needs no introduction as folk everywhere on the blogosphere have made it, raved about it, and rated it one of the easiest sews there is.

I’ve been wanting to have a go at this pattern for ages, especially after reading so many reports of how simple it is to fit, with no FBA needed!  My original idea was to use this fabulous 70s-inspired jersey to make a ‘wearable muslin’ version, as it was such a bargain price (ordered online from The Textile Centre) that I could live with it turning out a disaster.  funkyfabricBut when it arrived it was so soft and drapey and so very funky, that I knew I had to give it my best shot!  So I cut up a pair of old pyjama bottoms and a holey T-shirt, and made a muslin of just the bodice with cap sleeves and about 3″ of skirt.  You want to see it, don’t you??skatermuslinYes, I really did walk around my house in this…

I graded the pattern from a size 6 in the upper bodice out to an 8 at the waist.  Even at this stage, I could tell that the fit was good.  And the rumours were true – no FBA!  As you can see from the muslin, what I did do was to shorten the bodice by 2″.  I also did a sway back adjustment of 1″, following the brilliant instructions provided on the KitschyCoo website.  Honestly, this is the clearest explanation of how to do this adjustment I’ve ever found, and it turns out it’s really simple.  An inch may not sound like much, but this one really makes a difference.  How nice to have an even hemline for once!isideshotThe waistline still ended up a little wonky, but this may be to do with a certain Sewing Issue I had.  The pattern calls for clear elastic here to stablise the seam: Auntie Janis, however (my ancient Singer sewing machine), refused to co-operate with this.  Already unhappy about being forced to sew a fabric she was not designed for, the elastic got ripped out twice before I gave up and sewed it in by hand instead.  It didn’t really work so well, and it feels a bit weird on the inside, but luckily looks OK on the outside.  Speaking of outside…skirtyshotSo the only major alteration I did was to re-draft the neckline.  I do find the necklines on many patterns are just too plunging for me; showing off that little bow in the middle of your bra is never my idea of a Good Look.  I suspect I ought really to take a bit out of the upper bodice above the high bust line, but then you have to start messing about with armscye adjustments and y’know, I’m just TOO LAZY…  Besides, I liked the fit on the bodice.  So I just raised the neckline front and back, taking 4½” out of both all round (and the same out of the neckband), and I’m very pleased with the way it’s turned out.cardiflashshotIn fact, I’m TOTALLY CHUFFED with the way the whole dress has turned out!  Ooh, this is a comfy, funky, incredibly wearable dress!  I particularly love the sleeves, with their little cuffs…isleeveand the swishy skirt!iskirtshotprint matching? – That’s for Proper Dressmakers!

This dress has definitely given my sewing confidence a much-needed boost after my Year of Total Sewing Fail.  I can see myself making this pattern up again and again.  In fact I’ve already ordered some purple ponte to make a second one!  (But shhh, don’t tell Auntie J….nothing to see here…)idonttellAJWishing you all a funky retrotastic week! 🙂