Saturday 13 June 2015

daisy, daisy....

Daisy snood
Although 2015 is mostly the year of the handmade clothes, I snuck this one in over the winter and spring. This is a Thimble version of Whistlebare Yarns Daisy Scarf or Snood and I HIGHLY recommend it. The yarn choices are so delicious that it is very hard to choose just one colour. In fact I couldn't - I chose this one which is Yeavering Bell 4 ply and another one in silver.

I just noticed the descriptionOur very best selling pattern.  So so pretty.  This pattern is knitted in the round and is not for beginners.' Too true! There are 2 pattern variations.

My head must have been in beginners lace (scrim net) mode when I started it because on my first go there wasn't a single daisy in sight, just big holes. I soon realised the best thing to do was actually follow the pattern so I unravelled it and started again. eventually I figured it all out. It was this bit that initially foxed me: * K1, slip next 5 sts purl- wise dropping extra loops, insert LHN through the back of the 5 sts, then (p1, k1, p1, k1, p1 wrapping yarn twice for each stitch) into all 5 loops together* rep from * to * Basically there was a lot of knitting into a single stitch.

Once the penny dropped it was all systems go. I still don't know if I actually mastered the pattern but am happy with the end result. I wear it as a snood, but it could be worn as a shawl or scarf.
Hedley in Yeavering Bell 4 ply 

Daisy detail

Sunday 7 June 2015

spotty spring dress

New Look 6723 spotty dress
It's official. 2015 is the year of the home-made wardrobe.

At the cutting stage I have developed a habit of cutting a pattern out in 2 different fabrics. The idea is that as well as being more efficient, practice makes perfect.

I actually cut the pieces for this dress in December 2012 as it is the same pattern as the party frock I made in that frustrating easy-fraying Satin back Dupion. So ok, cutting a fabric 2 and a half years before making up the dress is not all that efficient.

New Look 6723 party version Dec 2012
I did a much better job the second time and am mostly very happy with the final piece.

Back detail (needs an iron)
 Things that make me happy about this dress:

  • The colour
  • The spots
  • The shape and fit of the back 
  • The front...when wearing a cardigan 
  • The very neat zip
  • The vintage buckle:

Things that I would like to improve on:

  • Like the party frock version, this thin belt irritates me even though I love the buckle. The belt is supposed to cover the seam dividing the bodice and skirt but it rides higher, on the top of my hips. Now that might be because I lengthened the bodice....but I think a WIDE belt might be better and I might just rectify that.
  • I am not at all happy about the neck, which gapes. It was worse than this before I reshaped the neckline (lowered it). The New Look pattern envelope shows a very neat Hepburnesque lady in black but she has quite a different figure and I am not sure my dress will ever hang the same. I think I will mostly be wearing a cardigan over this, which is a shame as it covers my nice neat zip.
It is after all only my 4th ever home made dress (dress 1 went so badly wrong it ended up in the bin before I finished it; dress 2 was a beautiful fabric and I did finish it...but that was before I realised I have a long body so it was a bad fit, plus I was in such a rush I didn't finish any of the it ended up in the bin; dress 3 was the party frock - it hangs abandoned in my wardrobe waiting for another chance....)

I am sure when I get more proficient at this I will understand what to do to avoid gaping but right now I am puzzled. It fit so well on Hedley. 

Monday 1 June 2015

Sog-gy (Sister of Groom) jacket and matching bag

Linen jacket: Simplicity K2938
The last of the wedding posts and hopefully the first in a series of homemade clothes, this being the hobby I am getting most carried away with in 2015.

This jacket came to life because I had a lovely pink People Tree dress for my brother's wedding, was in shock at the cost and poor quality of the flimsiest of organza shrugs in the shops (sewing has given me an appreciation for how much time and skill things take to make), had a stash of grey linen (bought for a trouser project that would never have worked), and had a week to go.

People Tree dress

Luckily I also had a stash of free patterns and chose Simplicity K2938 because..well it looked simple.

This was really a very easy pattern with raglan sleeves. In fact it was so straightforward I made it a bit trickier. Firstly I decided to add contrasting pink piping to the jacket edge. As luck would have it, my favourite sewing shop Just Sew had the perfect linen effect pink fabric in stock (same place I had bought the grey linen last year).

My favourite touch was to put the same contrasting pink inside the arm pleat. This was very pleasing. I used Hong Kong seams on the inside and this was even more pleasing for two reasons- to have a neat inside finish and to be able to name the seam finishing technique.

Pink contrasting fabric for sleeve pleat
Inner pleat with contrasting fabric, finished with Hong Kong seams

I used the same pink fabric to make the buttonhole loop and made a covered button with the grey.

Finally, I lined it in pink (fabric also from Just Sew - they have loads of colours in stock).

inside lining
Once the jacket was finished it became really obvious that I needed a bag. With loads of fabric leftover I used one of my favourite Manocia bags as a template. I lined it with the same pink lining and used the contrasting pink from the jacket for the inner handles, button and flap. 
On reflection, I think the machine embroidery on the flap was a bit of overkill! It was meant to match the hand-embroidered waistband of the dress but I didn't quite manage to pull it off. Plus, it is wonky and that draws my eye, which is a shame. 
I drew the line at home-made shoes.

Bag details
This is an action shot. After far too many Prosecco's I am afraid my face was as pink as the dress.

Sunday 19 April 2015

wedding bloomers

Hers and His wedding bloomers
Still on the wedding theme, what to get for the couple who want no presents? Something practical and a touch sentimental with a finite lifespan.

Whilst working on the Cameo project I came across Spoonflower cameo fabrics and suddenly very much wanted to make my own version. Being a bit nervous about non-uk sites, I was delighted to discover Woven Monkey. I would recommend it. For really big pieces it could get quite pricey but great for small projects.

 I could have spent more time on the colour scheme but was going a bit cross eyed by that point. The final print was a bit bigger than I realised but looking at the site I should have figured that out if I had been concentrating.

The cameos are of the bride and groom and their 2 dogs. They actually do look like them, which cracks me up.

After the fabric arrived I spent some time considering what to do with it. I thought about a bag, oven gloves, tea towel, pyjama the end I settled on his and hers underpants.

Thursday 9 April 2015

bridesmaid activist doll

Bridesmaid girl
Inspired by Tree Change Dolls:

After discovering Sonia Singh's beautiful work a couple of months ago, I got a bit carried away in a frenzy of charity shop doll buying. Sonia saves poor rejected Bratz dollies and gives them their faces back, and some warm clothes and sturdy shoes or feet where they have stumps. 

The new dolls are so delightful it is little wonder they have become something of a global phenomenon. What is even more amazing is that the artist has seemingly rejected all sorts of offers to get rich quick from this. She is very generous in sharing her craft secrets and just seems to be a really good person. She is very much into recycling and reducing waste so I feel a little bit guilty about my first attempt because, well, I cheated a bit. 

I really wanted to make a little dolly for my niece as bridesmaid and I couldn't find a second-hand one with the same hair colour. Time was pressing so I..cough...bought a new 89p doll. Which I know probably encourages the factory to make more astoundingly cheap dollies, and thus the planet is a step closer to meltdown. So I apologise. The second thing about my dolly was her original face was quite nice. OK she had crazy eyelashes, but I think when you see the Tree Change before and afters you get the point - the more the contrast the greater the satisfaction.
My dolly before the makeover
Sonia Singh Tree Change makeover
The first thing I did was remove her face with acetone (nail varnish remover). Sonia uses eucalyptus oil as well but I haven't come across that in the UK. Maybe tea tree would do the trick.

Then I gave her a bit of a haircut and painted the scalp brown with acrylic paints (89p dolls have quite marked alopecia). I mixed my own brown (with tubes of red, yellow and blue, black and white I figured I had a good base for all colours). Then I painted on the eyes with a tiny brush. DO NOT BE FOOLED into thinking this is easy just because Sonia Singh's creations are so perfect. It is a fine line between creating an amused glint and a psychotic glare. And don't get me started on teeth. At one point she looked like she had tooth decay. In the end I was reasonably happy. The natural eyebrows make a big difference. I sealed it with a coat of Matt varnish as suggested by Sonia.  
face detail
For the shoes there is a really good video below. I had a go making my own 'Oo-goo' with cornflour and bath silicone caulk sealant. My hands got quite sticky and as there were no measurements it was tricky to get the balance between too sticky and too dry.


Some of the shoes looked a bit cracked so I DecoPatched them. This makes them a bit stronger and prettier.
bridesmaid shoes
Finally I made a dress to look as close as the bridesmaid dress as possible. It seemed to go down a treat.
Worth every stitch. Mum made the real girl's dress - so lovely
after a good play and a ride in the confetti flower petal basket 
And finally if it is all looking a bit too girly, her alter ego 'the NHS Activist' to remember all the marching she has done this year with her mum Bad Hair Day Lady and her aunties and uncles
Born in the NHS
Hand embroidery. T shirt made from old pants!
Scottish outfit
Thanks Sonia this was so much fun. Next doll will be a recycled one!

Friday 3 April 2015


Wedding cameo album cover
Although for myself I don't really get the marriage thing, the forthcoming wedding of my not-so-little-anymore brother has been unexpectedly exciting. His lovely wife to be is no other than Sunshine of the kaleidoscope quilts. It is a good thing to have fellow crafters in the family and I think one day we will have to make a group quilt in the old tradition.

The wedding has generated a number of unexpected and fun craft projects - this is one of my favourites. The idea came from seeing a pet dog cameo cushion (something like this). Along the way my cushion morphed into a photo album cover. I forgot to take a photo of the finished piece, no matter.

Step 1: Get profile shots of the couple - to save time rooting through albums for suitable photos (who takes profile shots?) the direct approach of asking for profile shots is best.

Step 2: On Picasa or similar photo software increase the contrast a lot, cut the cameos our, colour with black pen, rescan and increase contrast again until happy with the final cameos. I did both left and right profiles and picked the best.

Step 3: Design a frame - to do this start with an oval and then draw half the frame. I incorporated a number of symbols in the frame for special significance - a Scottish thistle because it is a mixed marriage ;-) Pisces and Aquarius, bicycles, 2 dogs which look a bit like wolves, initials, roosters for their Chinese birth year, and a stylised coat of arms which is a mix of the 2 surname coat-of arms with the eye of faith.

Step 4: Use Picasa to flip the image so you have 2 identical halves. Then on the computer, fit them together with the cameo in the middle. That bit was very fiddly.

Step 5: Print the finished Cameo onto Wash away stabiliser - I used Madeira Avalon Film. In the past I have done this using ordinary paper (for the Dear Aunty quilt and Doodle quilt)  but it takes a lot to pick out the bits of paper from the crevices after machine embroidery. For small projects I definitely recommend this, but it would be too pricey for a big project. I  printed the frame separately from the cameo as I did this in 2 steps

Step 5: Cut out fabric silhouettes of the cameos, glue them to a cream oval the size of the centre of the frame in the correct position. Machine embroider around the cameos. Soak away the stabiliser. Dry.

Step 6: Stick the cream oval with cameos onto a patterned fabric. Peel the stabiliser off the backing and stick over cameo. Free motion machine embroidery over the frame design. Repeat soaking and drying steps.

soaking away the stabiliser - very easy!
Detail of the frame 

Step 7: This wasn't planned, but I haven't mastered getting the tension right when machine embroidering - so as you can see the centre of the frame is all bunched up - I have inadvertently created a trapunto effect. So there was nothing for it but stick some sponge in the middle to smooth out the wrinkles and make it all look very deliberate. To keep that in place I sewed an oval from the front, around the frame.

Step 8: Use this to cover a small photo album and make it pretty with bits of lace. Job done.

Sunday 15 March 2015

Patch Happy

home-made patchwork sofa
Patches. Make me happy.

A few years ago I re-covered a very drab Ikea sofa in a grey leaf design:

It did look tasteful but after 5 years I thought the room needed an injection of colour. I have been saving up bits of upholstery fabric for a couple of years. A local fabric shop sells oddments for 50p each in beautiful reds, golds and blues. I had a few bits from charity shops and leftover robin-egg blue from the curtains I made which you can just about see.

I also had material from the Maureen stash (a stack of haberdashery I inherited from Great Aunty Maureen) including this lovely oriental style fabric that I had already used to make the bird cushions and a pale green one with pink roses that had been a pair of her curtains at some point but she was planning to recycle. Some of her fabric dated back to the early 1970s, which makes it quite vintage now, just like me. It is so very satisfying to finally use up fabric that had been saved for over 30 years - a tribute to a fellow hoarder.
Detail of Maureen fabrics 
It took about a week to complete and I finished it off with a matching cushion. The teal up-cycled cushions harmonise well.

Patchwork. It is like an infection. Now I can see all sorts of patching possibilities. Soon we will be living in a patchwork house.