Tribute August: Handmade by Alison Skirt

This month I have been co-hosting Tribute Month on the Sewcialists blog (with Inge) so last week I knew I had to get my tribute posted in time. And then technology didn’t like me editing photos and then didn’t like me uploading them. So this post has been a very long time coming, especially because the inspiration is from January this year!

My inspiration for this make was Handmade By Carolyn. If you read her blog (go and have a look now…) you might be a bit surprised by the connection; we don’t wear the same silhouettes and we definitely don’t wear the same colours, but I still find Carolyn super inspiring. She makes everything she wears (including shoes!!), she spent a year drawing sketches of every handmade outfit she wore, and she sews investment pieces that are well made and well thought out.

The pieces that really caught my eye were her Alabama Chanin skirt and top. 

The overall look is really far away from something I would wear, but I loved the process of creating the fabric; One layer of fabric is stencilled in a pretty design and appliquéd to another under-layer, before the paint is cut-away to reveal the final intricate fabric. SO clever and so, so time-consuming.

I really liked the idea of creating my own fabric, and I especially loved the thought of playing with tone-on-tone designs, but I thought it would be best to stick with what I knew – regular embroidery- to begin with. When I saw the Sewaholic Gabriola skirt I knew that the panels would be great for playing with some subtle designs.

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Well maybe not so subtle! I was tempted by this amazing pink linen on Goldhawk Road and convinced to buy it by Fiona. If Carolyn has her trusted colour palette she revisits, bright pink is definitely part of my regular summer wardrobe! I measured the panels on my finished blue skirt and then played around with lots of swirls, coils, butterflies, birds and paisley patterns (all from Doodle Stitching CD) to come up with a pattern, which I then traced onto the pre-cut fabric with carbon paper. The embroidery was done with chain stitch, back stitch and some French knots; the first panel was really fun to do, but it was trickier making sure the second panel was symmetrical enough.

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Once the embroidery was all done, sewing up the skirt was really quick (despite the long seams) since I had previously cut and interfaced all the pieces. I was worried how the linen would survive washing so I pinked and top-stitched down the seams and used my new-to-me overlocker around the hem before turning it up. In hindsight I could have taken the hem up a teeny bit more, as there have been some slight mishaps caused by tripping over my feet while wearing this.

a I couldn’t find a zipper to match the fabric at all so got a clear invisible zipper but it broke just after I inserted it (I’ve had another invisible zipper break recently, where the teeth ripped away from the tape, so maybe it is time I learned to do regular ones nicely). I was desperate to finish the skirt, following an emergency trip to get extra thread while hemming it, so decided to go for a deliberately contrasting lace zipper.

bThis definitely was a quicker option than the Alabama Chanin process Carolyn has used, but it was probably the best way to ease myself into the idea of creating my own bespoke embellished fabric. I should confess that I had originally planned to embroider the back panels but abandoned that idea while midway through the first front piece, so maybe it was best I didn’t start with embellishing an entire garment!

I timed this make for the end of the heatwave and sadly the weather in the UK is VERY autumnal at the moment so this skirt probably needs to go away* until the spring, but it was so much fun and so swishy to wear for a couple of weeks over summer.

*I only wear maxi dresses and skirts in the summer, but I have seen them advertised for autumn/winter. I would love it if someone could explain how one wears a maxi skirt in drizzly, cold weather without it getting super messy, and without the need for wearing heels!

 

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#100happydays (part 4)

I finished my #100happydays challenge a couple of weeks ago and here are the final 25 pictures.

#100 happy days 76-100 I definitely got in the habit of thinking about the day’s photo and it was a little bit weird when I didn’t have to do it (I know I never HAD to to do it, but I was determined to do all 100 days). So here in full glory is one hundred things that have made me happy (or grateful, pleased, content, or not-so-sad)

100 happy days

Picture 100 was taken the day I got discharged from the physio and she said I could try to knit again (as long as I take regular breaks every half-an-hour and keep up with strengthening exercises) so I’m hoping for a summer of knitting.

 

Review: Hoop-la! 100 things to do with embroidery hoops.

hoopla

Last year I rediscovered the joys of the local library, and was pleasantly surprised to find how many crafty books were on offer. One of the books I borrowed and loved was “Hoop-la! 100 things to do with embroidery hoops” by Kirsty Neale, and it made it onto my “must buy once I’ve returned it” list.

hoopla 02

As the title suggests, this book is all about things to do with embroidery hoops; some projects involve embroidery and some don’t. It is unbelievable how many different projects there are, from using the hoop as a screen for printing, adding hinges to make books, and all sorts of lovely decorations.

hoopla 05hoopla 04

Some of the projects are a little zany and for things you might never have use for, but there are so many techniques for various abilities that are clearly written and illustrated. Lots of these skills could be adapted to other embroidery projects, or general crafting, so don’t be put off if you don’t want a wall covered in hoops! There is a fresh and modern style to the book (lots of the designs remind me of a new-ish style of kids illustrations I’ve seen in modern picture books, and the sausage dog above is just like Sizzles from Charlie and Lola) but it isn’t overly cutesy and I’m sure it could be adapted to any taste in fabric.

hoopla 11

One of my favourite projects is this French Shading. I’ve never seen it before but I love the technique and am desperate to find a suitable project to try it on. It is a shape filled with French knots, but the colour totally matches the backing fabric. I just want to touch it so badly!

hoopla 12

hoopla 08

What I liked about this book was the range of skills and techniques covered. I find that at the moment I am in a weird no-mans land where I am no longer a beginner wanting easy projects to do in an afternoon, but I’m not expert enough (or awake enough) to want month long sagas to work on. Does anyone else find that books and magazines are either pitched too much towards a beginner or too specialised to accommodate the intermediate sewist who doesn’t have as much time to spare as they’d like? Well this book has something for everyone, from quick sewing of buttons to computer generated applique (wouldn’t an applique portrait make a perfect present for a special occasion?!). There are clear instructions and templates to follow throughout, plus little clouds full of tips, tricks and variations.

hoopla 07

I really enjoyed this book and found it very inspiring; there were simple projects to start immediately and lots of new ideas to imagine and daydream about. I think it would be a great fun gift for a new-ish or keen crafter, and would be a great addition to a sewist’s bookshelf.

~~~Disclaimer~~~
All opinions are my own and not connected with the author. I did not get any rewards, but if the publishers want to send me a free copy I will gladly accept as I loved the book!

The Napkin Project

house

I read about The Napkin Project a couple of months ago on Melissa’s blog and thought it sounded like a great project; a nice little embroidery project that can hopefully have a positive impact on the life of someone with dementia. Dementia is a subject I have learnt more and more about over the past few years, as it has affected both my grandmothers. I quickly signed up to take part.

“When is a napkin not a napkin? When it’s something to keep your hands busy. Or a bag. Or a hat. Or an aide-memoire.
While she was involved with a project to create artwork for a new dementia care home, artist Deirdre Nelson noticed that residents in Brunelcare’s existing Saffron care home were often fascinated by the textured edges of items, playing with, handling and exploring objects such as the napkins they used at mealtimes. A member of staff told her that one resident would join napkins together to carry her possessions around with her or that another used hers as a vase to hold flowers; a napkin became more than just a napkin.
The Napkin Project evolved out of this observation and the other artwork that was created for Saffron Gardens. It has now grown a life of its own.”

embroidery 4

The Napkin Project asked people to embroider napkins to be given to residents with dementia at a care home; the napkins are intended to provide tactile stimulation and engagement and act as a prompt for social interaction. We were asked to embroider with a design that originated from the idea of home.

What does home mean to you?
“What does ‘home’ mean to you if you are a person living with dementia? Maybe it’s where you were born or grew up – a suburb of Bristol, a village in the Punjab or a small town in Jamaica? Chances are it is where you have been happiest among family and friends. Could it be the residential care home where you now live?”

embroidery 3

Both my grandmothers have experienced dementia, with different effects and symptoms. When thinking about the design for my napkin, I thought how my grandma’s memory has gone and how she now spends most of her time in her childhood memories; I didn’t want to create something too specific to me or too modern that could confuse residents further, so I decided to recreate a simple child-like house that would hopefully feel familiar and reassuring (the simple design also meant I’d have more chance of completing it with my poorly wrists).

embroidery 2

Another reason I was so keen to finish this project was that between hearing about it and completing my embroidery, I lost two of my grandparents whose live have both been affected by dementia; My grandad, who did not have dementia himself but had to visit his wife who often did not recognise him, and my grandma, whose dementia left her unable to have a conversation. Watching close family deal with dementia is horrible, especially when they themselves are aware that their thoughts are not quite right and that something is wrong, which is why I was so keen to do a little something to make things easier for someone.

embroidery 8

My wishlist

A little bird may have told you that it is someone’s birthday at the end of the month, and by pure coincidence here is a selection of things I have had my eye on lately.

wishlist

  1. Cake Hummingbird Pattern (skirt as seen in real life on SewLittleTime)
  2. Sewaholic Robson Trench Coat Pattern
  3. Colette Hawthorn Shirt-dress Pattern
  4. Cute Birdhouse Sewing Box
  5. Wooden Cantilever Sewing Box
  6. Birdie Embroidery Kit
  7. By Hand London Victoria Blazer Pattern (as sewn by everyone! I tried on SewDixieLou’s version and the style was great, not sure I’ll make mine tropical)
  8. Free & Easy Stitch Style (or similar free machine embroidery book)
  9. Storyland Cross Stitch
  10. Claire Schaeffer’s Couture Sewing Techniques

What exciting crafty goodies have you got your eye on at the moment?

A quick catch-up

I thought I should write a quick post before I go back to work tomorrow and get busy with real work again, so here is a quick round up of some of the things I’ve been up to this weekend.

  • I met up with some friends and we played board games and decorated cupcakes. L had got some amazing tools and cutters for her birthday, including some adorable teeny, teeny, teeny, tiny ones. I said I couldn’t eat mine until I took a picture when I got home, but they was a slight jumble in the tin as we power-walked for the train so there was only one photo-ready cake…
    cupcake
  • The train journey there and back, plus a movie night meant I’m making good progress on my red cardigan. I think I showed a swatch in the summer (August to be precise) and never revealed what it was for, so I will make sure I take some pics to show you what I’m knitting.
  • I whipped up a quick top using the purple floral remnant I showed you at the beginning of the week. Not much to say about it. It is my go-to jersey top pattern (a mish-mash of BurdaStyle Sadie and Lydia patterns). Since I was using a remnant I had to have some designer seams on the sleeves (there is a seam below the elbow and a wide cuff band) but the pattern is so busy you really can’t tell. The other change from my normal making is that I applied iron-on seam tape to the shoulders and neckline to minimise stretching (my black and white striped top is on its last legs now and much more revealing than it originally was!)t-shirt
  • I saw this picture online this week:
    It reminded me that I have to show you my dinosaur embroidery. A T-Rex trying to knit except his arms are too short! I love his puzzled face. I can’t decide if it is finished or not. Should I keep it as it is, or risk filling in the outline with colour (satin stitch is not my strength!). What do you think?finished

What do you think should happen to T-Rex? Have you been crafting this weekend?

#imapiece

Last week I read about the  #imapiece Craftivist Jigsaw Project. Tilly featured a guest blog from Sarah who is organising it, and who I have been emailing about how to give my piece to my MP. The project is asking crafters to use their craft skills as a way of getting politicians to take notice. The UK is hosting the G8 summit this year and so Save the Children want David Cameron to address the issue of world hunger. Every hour of everyday 260 children die as a result of malnutrition; it causes a third of all child deaths. A third. That is a scary amount.

#I'mapiece

Save the Children want world leaders invest in life-saving interventions to prevent malnutrition. Things like adding vitamins and minerals to staple foods,  promoting healthy behaviours to reduce spread of disease and educating communities about the benefits of breastfeeding (1.3 million children’s lives would be saved if all babies are breastfed for the first six months). Reading statistics like that and the simple solutions made me want to get involved so here are my pieces of the puzzle.

#I'mapiece three

So the message I chose to embroider was by Mary Anne Radmacher and says:

“Courage doesn’t always roar.

Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”

(Well, just the first four words, for ease of embroidery).

#I'mapiece black and white

I chose it because, as a quiet person myself, it reminds me that you do not have to be loud or shouting to be courageous; everyone can have courage and sometimes it is the quietest people who can be most courageous.

#I'mapiece green

I think it fits with the message of the project. Campaigning for worthy causes doesn’t have to be about shouting in the streets (something I would never feel confident to do) but hopefully enough little voices can  have the same impact.

#I'mapiece orange

 

Half-term plans

Yay! Half-term is finally here after what has felt like the longest week ever. I have woken up everyday thinking it was one or two days later in the week. So what am I going to get up to, now I have time at home to be awake and crafty?half-term plansClockwise from top left:

  1. I have two silks I got in the John Lewis sale to make some nice tops/blouses from. I resisted them twice, but decided £14 for a silk top was probably a good buy. Underneath them is a jersey remnant, about 80cm long, so I’m going to see what I can squeeze out of it (sleeves or no-sleeves, that is the question).
  2. I need to quickly finish my pieces for #imapiece and get them posted. First Hannah mentionned it on Monday and then Tilly had a guest post by the Craftivist Collective so I had to whip out my embroidery threads (well pick my case up off the floor) and get involved. Two out of three are finished but number three needs some sparkle of some sort…
  3. Pressing some sad looking flowers. Since I read Attic 24’s review of the year in flowers I’ve started buying the occasional bunch of flowers to brighten up my little flat and this morning afternoon I managed to grab some flowers before they looked too sad and have pressed them in my flower press.
  4. My current crafty reading list. A cute jacket I can’t stop thinking about in one issue of Burda and a spring tunic in another (I need to get some muslin fabric asap). Gertie’s portrait blouse is a contender for using my sale silks. 100 flowers to knit and crochet is filling the post-blanket crochet hole.

Review of 2012

Everyone else is doing it, so I’m going to follow the cool crowd and do my own review of the year. I love seeing reviews of the blogs I follow and remembering all the inspiring images and projects I have read and followed through the year, so I hope you enjoy mine as much.

I tried to pick just 5 or 10 top makes over the year, but as I looked through all my pictures* I saw so many makes I forgot about (because they have seamlessly merged into my wardrobe, not because I never looked at them again!) so here, sorted into categories, is my round up of the year…

In the category of Most worn garment of 2012 the nominees are:

most worn 2012

In the category of Best Fancy Dress of 2012 the nominees are:

  • Self-drafted boiler suit (worn to Secret Cinema showing of Promethius)
  • HRH The Queen cloak and sash (worn to a birthday party)
  • And the winner is… HRH The Queen! I loved this night out, the cloak was great for waving while dancing, and it can probably be reused for future parties with different themes.

fancy dress 2012

In the category of Most time-consuming make of 2012 the nominees are:

  • Miette cardigan (it has been a decade since I last knitted an adult-sized garment)
  • Peacock dress (hand-beaded, couture finish in expensive silk)
  • Colette Sorbetto (lots of pattern adjustments to get the perfect fit)
  • Jeanius Jeans (making a pattern from scratch and lots of muslins)
  • Minoru jacket (again, lots of muslins and adjustments)
  • And the winner is… The Peacock Dress! When people admired this dress and asked me to make them a dress, I added up costs of materials and my time (at least 15 hours of beading, 6 hours of fitting and tweaking, and many, many hours of construction including 4 hours hand-sewing the hem!) to give a quote of just a little under 4 digits. Surprisingly nobody made further requests…

most time consuming 2012

In the category of Most unusual craft location of 2012 the nominees are:

  • in a cable car over the Thames (going between Olympic venues)
  • on a beach in the middle of Camden at 7am (after the start of the last leg of the Olympic Torch relay)
  • outside Buckingham Palace while waiting for Olympic cyclists to arrive.
  • And the winner is… The Beach in Camden at 7am. A beach in Camden is pretty unusual. Being there before breakfast is even more unusual. Sitting in baking sunshine by 8.30am in England is definitely the most unusual happening!

most unusual location 2012

The final category is for projects that I would never have believed were possible a couple of years ago (well possible for other people, but not me!). In the category of Most life-changing make of 2012 the nominees are:

  • the Peacock dress (sewing with silk, couture techniques, hand beading)
  • Jeanius jeans (making a pair of jeans without a proper pattern)
  • spotty Burda blouse (I’ve never even managed to buy well-fitted woven tops before)
  • Miette cardigan (not just a knitted garment, but one that fits without gaping!)
  • Minoru raincoat (It is a coat. I can wear it when it rains. I don’t get wet!)
  • And the winner is… the spotty woven Burda blouse. The other nominees may be fancy or more technical, but as a curvy girl I have never worn or owned nice woven tops (without them looking unflattering) so this blouse makes anything seem possible. Plus, when I tried on the finished blouse I wanted to wear it immediately, which is always a good sign.

most groundbreaking 2012

Looking through all my pictures there were so many that didn’t make the nominations, so here is the best of the rest.best of the rest 2012

Top row, left- right: Sorbetto top, giraffe crochet hat, Birthday Butterfly dress
Middle row, left-right:
Summertime skirt, Embroidered Embroidery case, iPad case
Bottom row, left-right:
Blogging meet up and shopping, Denim Traveller dress, United Stashes of Awesome skirt

A lot of great crafting and great memories this year, I hope you have enjoyed reading all about them on my little blog. Thank you to all my followers and for all the lovely comments. Happy New Year!

* I am aware that some pictures haven’t been blogged, or some makes haven’t been photographed. Sorry. Will try and do better this year!