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 🙂

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 🙂

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 🙂

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 🙂