Friday, 23 February 2018

Velvet Cleo Dress: A-line Edition

I made my first Tilly and The Buttons Cleo dress towards the end of last year. It's a wildly successful pattern, there a pattern reviews all over the internet, and it is easy to adapt if you want to add length, pocket modifications or change the skirt silhouette. The original pattern has straight sides; the split provides movement in the longer length. I tend to prefer an A-line shape so I gave that a whirl with a velvet Cleo:

This time, I sized down to the size 2 at the waist and hips.  This fits my chest measurement better but it also means the dress needs to go over my head rather than be pulled up over my hips.  Cutting size 2 made for a better fit at my waist and at the back.  The A-line was created by adding an extra 1.5" at the hemline for the front and back pieces and then using a ruler to blend this from the hem to the hips (around the top of the pockets).   I used a cotton velvet(woven and non-stretch) from Eternal Maker, the original colour has sold out but there is this sapphire blue.  I just loved the bright colour and I originally stitched this up in December for my Christmas Day attire.

Here are some of my construction notes:
  • I cut the velvet on a carpeted floor - it stopped it sliding.  It's also easier to cut in a single layer rather than on the fold.  I used a rotary cutter and cutting mat wherever I could; the pattern pieces slide like crazy so chalking around them helps too.
  • I made a simple lining from a shiny poly fabric in my stash.  Cut the same shape as the main dress pieces and cut shorter at the hem.  It does make the dress hang well and stops the velvet sticking to tops and tights. 
  • The front was cut as a single piece to avoid the central seam.
  • I finished the dress opening seam edge with Liberty bias binding
  • For the hem, the A-line adds a little extra fullness at the sides and you can see where I eased that in in the picture above and basted before hemming on the machine.
  • I used a walking foot as velvet tends to creep out of place.
  • Conventional pressing with the iron just flattens the velvet so instead, I hovered the iron using a little steam over the top of areas that needed pressing and then used a wooden tailor's clapper.
  • Patch pockets cut as my previous Cleo.


Saturday, 17 February 2018

Spelling Bee Saturday: Dog Block

Hi and welcome to my second Spelling Bee Saturday. The Fat Quarter Shop and Lori Holt sew-along is now 20 weeks in and I am this Saturday's guest blogger.  I was lucky enough to make the Dog block which does bear a little resemblance to my own little dog Lottie!

All the blocks in Spelling Bee are rotary cut and I chose to make the block at 6" finished - all the picture blocks have instructions for both 6" and 12" blocks. There are lots of little pieces so it helps to tick the cutting list as each is cut as well as use some post-it notes for identification.   In the head and the bandana sections below,  I took a bit of extra time pinning to get a good alignment where the seams meet.

For the embroidered features, I used a snippet of Sulky Solvy.  It took me a while to love this product - sewing with it in warm weather can be a sticky experience!  The more I've used it the more I've enjoyed it, especially the stabilising effect it creates (especially good for a single layer of quilting cotton) as well as it being easy to trace on with a pencil. 

The features are embroidered in Aurfil 12wt thread.

This one is joining some of the other picture blocks I've made for a small quilt combining some of Lori's blocks with some picture blocks I have from other projects.  

Fabrics used:
  • Dog body: Free Spirit, Eastham by Denyse Schmidt, Fine Plaid in Bitter
  • Ears/Tail: Kokka, Lighthearted by Ayumi Takahashi, Dots and Flowers in Brown
  • Bandana: Vintage scrap
  • Background: Robert Kaufman Essex linen in Natural

The Instagram hashtags for those following along are #SpellingBeeSaturday and #fqsquiltalong
  • Links to all the Spelling Bee sew along blocks so far are here
  • My review of the Spelling Bee book is here where you'll also find links on where to buy the book.

Friday, 9 February 2018

Sewing on Screen: A Stitch in Time

I envy sports fans, especially football.  Hours of radio and TV broadcasting devoted to watching and discussing their passion.  Great British Sewing Bee has not shown any signs of continuing, even the show that was planned for later this year has been postponed. So when some nuggets of sewing TV appear, sewists are quick to tune in and Amber Buchart's Stitch in Time series for BBC4 is a joy to watch.

You may recognise Amber from Tilly and the Buttons' Orla Shift top pattern. She's also an author on fashion related topics. I bought my daughter Amber's Nautical Chic book and it is an excellent combination of beautiful imagery combined with historical background on a perennially popular fashion theme. Stitch in Time takes a garment from a moment in history- usually through a painting or art object and then looks at the story behind the garment and its wearer as well as the construction and recreation by a team of specialist historical tailors.  Each episode goes off on a series of tangents appropriate to the garment.  I've watched all the episodes and there's a mass of sewing and textile detail in each.  Sometimes I was surprised which ones I enjoyed the most.  The Arnolfini dress recreation gives new insight into an iconic painting and what the dress symbolised. I wasn't expecting to be as drawn to the Black Prince's story and yet that was possibly the most interesting.  Amber wears the completed garment at the end of each programme- male or female clothing is covered and even learns how to move in some of them (The Black Prince). Amber carries historical clothing very well. She has a dapper costume style to her everyday dress and wears a dazzling array of turbans through the various episodes, even when working with indigo.

 The tailoring team are lead by Ninya Mikhalia working with Harriet Waterhouse and Hannah Marples.  Skills are explored in the sort of detail that sewists love, lots of close-ups on stitches and techniques...

 discussions on the most period-appropriate way to quilt layers of fabric and fibres for quilting...toiles and trials...old urine, dyes and colour matching...

it's all wonderful stuff!  There are also rare glimpses of treasures like Marie Antoinette's wardrobe book with its delicate fabric swatches and embroidery samples so she can choose the fabric she desires. 

For a short time, the recreated costumes featured are on display at Ham House.  I'm hoping they make it to some of the national sewing fairs and shows in the future too.  They showcase amazing textile talent- the tailors, embroiderers, dyers, fabric producers, who contribute to the different outifits. A Stitch in Time is currently on BBC iPlayer for UK viewers, tune in before it disappears as the first episode is no longer available!  I don't know if it's accessible to viewers outside the UK, I can only hope it is sold to other networks to show, it really is a pleasure to watch.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Framing Small Embroideries to Sew in a Hoop

I'm really enjoying sitting and stitching by hand at the moment.  I have a wonderful audiobook, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by  Gail Honeyman, that I've been listening to on Audible and I can hardly bear for it to end. It's a debut novel and the best book I've 'read' in ages.  The narrators in audiobooks can make or break a good story and Catherine McCarron is outstanding, she slips into the various voices so easily.  I've wanted to concentrate on every word so embroidery has been the perfect past time.  The screen printed design is from my Jessie Chorley Friendship Quilt kit. There are six different designs each measuring around 4" square.  I find holding these without a hoop make my hands sore, so I created a temporary fabric frame so they will fit in a small hoop- this one is 6" diameter.

It's easy to do. I used scrap cotton fabric from a dress toile and cut it large enough to fit my hoop.  I then pinned the embroidery square into the centre and stitched it 1/8" from the square's edge.  I also zig-zagged all my embroidery square raw edges before sewing them on as they fray very easily.

Next, pull the back and front apart so there is a gap between the scrap fabric and the embroidery, pinch the centre of the back and flip over so the wrong side of the back is facing you.  Keeping the fabric lifted, make a small snip into the centre of the back, making sure you are only cutting through one layer.

Use the snip as an entry point for the scissors and carefully trim the backing fabric until it is around 1/4" from the stitching and you can see all the design peeping through.

The little embroidery square is ready for a hoop!

I've felt pretty flat since the start of the year, but today I felt a small shift, the days are a feeling a little longer, I saw a rush of orangey yellow crocuses popping up around two large trees and Lottie (our dog) has shown a little energy too. She's an older dog these days and loves to sleep, sleep and more sleep, but in the last couple of days, she's had a few moments of skittish giddiness when the sun has shone. Bring on Spring! 

Monday, 22 January 2018

January at Village Haberdashery, Plush Addict and Eternal Maker

The new year brings new fabric lines, patterns and more at Eternal Maker, Plush Addict and Village Haberdashery,  Here's my three of the best from each of my sponsors:

Eternal Maker: Jersey, quilting and garment making...

  1. Sarah Jane for Michael Miller, Unicorn Forest, Magic Knit.  Popular print in 100% cotton jersey fabric, ideal for young children/baby clothes or grown up unicorn lovers.  The Two Stitchers patterns are a great starting point.
  2. Carolyn Friedlander, Gleaned, Robert Kaufman fabrics: a stunning selection from Carolyn's new nature-inspired collection.  I love the two snake prints in Ash and Cantaloupe.  Also available as a roll-up jelly roll.
  3. Chambray with quotes motif from Robert Kaufman.  I love making garments in chambray and this lends itself to many different styles. 

Plush Addict: Bright fat quarter quilting bundles...

  1. Fat Quarter Bundle: Makower Kity, 10 fabrics.  Happy colours and cats galore!
  2. Fat Quarter Bundle: Makower Katie Jane 20 fabrics. An amazing 1930s repro/vintage bundle with lots of florals and feedsack style prints- unsurprisingly, this would be my dream bundle.  I especially like the pink and navy prints. 
  3. Fat Quarter Bundle: Fruity Friends, 13 Fabrics.  Kawaii style designs and an eclectic mix of fruit, flamingos, florals and cacti. Prints can also be bought individually so you can make your own bundle.
Village Haberdashery: Dressmaking, jersey and quilting

  1. Printed cotton denim: Cherries.  Wide width at 60" and lightweight so perfect for dresses and skirts. 
  2. Art Gallery Jersey: from top to bottom: Arizona, Spices Fusion, Lambkin, Esoterra, Boho Fusion, Nightfall.  My favourite is the Lambkin moon and starts print, it is practically begging me to become jersey pyjamas.
  3. Dear Stella, Jetsetter, Mermaid Jetsetter in Pine.  There are four prints in stock from the Jetsetter range, all are very cute and lend themselves very well to EPP fussy cutting. Shirting rather than quilting cotton so suitable for clothing too.


Monday, 15 January 2018

January Plans...

January is always a tough month, but previous years make me extra aware to take some measures to keep my mood from dipping too low.  A funeral and the fall out from my granny's death are taking a toll too so I'm working extra hard to look for the positive. I found this photo at her house last week and I already had her heart locket. It's fragile with age, dented 'rolled gold' but inside is a tiny photo of her and I remember her wearing it all through my life. I wonder if it was an eighteenth or twenty-first birthday present and that's also why she had her photo taken.
I've a new daily ritual based on Year of Wonder by Clemency Burton-Hill.  The book follows a calendar year and each day is a fresh musical suggestion and a page of background to the composer, style, genre, piece. I heard her being interviewed in November and it sounded like such a great way to expand my musical knowledge, plus her writing style is easy to read and her choices are lively and original.  So far I've enjoyed each new piece, even if just to fit the music with day's writing. I listen as I eat my toast and tea first thing in the morning, before my usual email checking, and it is a delight, I cannot recommend it more highly for anyone who loves music.

I've planned a couple of sewing projects that need a small regular commitment. Firstly, I joined Sarah Fielke's Simple Folk BOM so I could concentrate on some hand appliqué alongside machine piecing and this kicks off with the first pattern PDFs at the end of January.  So far, I've loosely planned a basic colour scheme for the frame and surrounding pieces and the nine-patches and motifs will be bright and scrappy. 

The other project I've chosen came from a chat with Helen at the first South West Modern Quilt Guild meeting of the year. We were talking about Jessie Chorley and she mentioned the Friendship Quilt Kit and it really appealed to me. It's a small coverlet featuring embroidered panels and is personalised as desired by the maker. I wanted hand sewing based project to take to The Threadhouse retreat to stitch in the evening and I feel like celebrating the things I love in stitchy form so I am happily anticipating its arrival. I have clothing plans too but I'll save those for another post. Meanwhile, I'm self-medicating via large quantities of tea and coffee and toast and biscuits.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Spelling Bee Saturday: Upper Case K

Hi and welcome to Spelling Bee Saturday, I am this Saturday's guest blogger for the mega Fat Quarter Shop and Lori Holt sew-along and today I'm showing Uppercase K and Kristyne of Pretty by Hand has the lower case K

All the blocks come from Lori Holt's Spelling Bee Book which contains all the instructions you need to make 100 blocks- upper and lower case letters, numbers, punctuation/symbols and picture designs. All the blocks come in two sizes (6" and 12") for projects of all sizes and there are setting suggestions for making your own quilts.  The blocks are rotary cut and pieced, no foundation paper-piecing required and this block was a super fast make- mere minutes to cut and sew!

I am planning to make a small quilt with the picture blocks using the picture day quilt setting, so I used the K block to make a quick Quilty Zip Pouch using Lori's free tutorial to store the blocks I've made so far.  The fabrics are from my stash:

  • Cloud9 Fabrics, Mad Mend, Roger in Olive by Michelle Engel Bencsko
  • Cloud9 Fabrics, Foxglove, Evening Primrose in Orange by Aneela Hoey
  • Windham, Tiger Lily, small roses in cream by Heather Ross
  • Free Spirit, Aviary, Woodgrain by Joel Dewberry
  • Moda, Mama Said Sew, text print by Sweetwater

I'm mixing some Sew-Ichigo designs (lamp and radio) in with a selection of Lori's picture blocks like the apple block below- I have two more Spelling Bee picture blocks that will be revealed during my future stops during the sew along.

If you are following along and want to check other people's blocks, these are the Instagram hashtags:  #SpellingBeeSaturday and #fqsquiltalong
  • Links to all the Spelling Bee sew along blocks so far are here
  • My review of the Spelling Bee book is here where you'll also find links on where to buy the book.