Sunday, 23 March 2014

Learning to let go and other adventures

I have been brave!

I've been thinking about it for ages, but never quite plucked up the courage...

But finally, after a bit of research in a self-help manual, I managed to relax and let go...

I dropped those feed dogs and had a go at free-motion machine embroidery!

The self-help manual was this one...

...which, needless to say can be found on, amongst other places

I need to read it properly - I tend to look at the pretty, inspirational pictures and read a few key points before succumbing to the temptation to get stuck into a bit of stitch-y action.  It really would be sooo much better to be more attentive to the text, but hey!

I had had these frames sitting around for years, waiting for something to be created to replace the rather lacklustre prints.  I liked the washed-out, rough wooden frame and thought they would be perfect for what I wanted to do.

Some Liberty scraps were Bonda-webbed, cut and ironed on before the machine was set a-whirring.  Needless to say I was much too impatient to take step-by-step pictures of how I built this up, but at the end of session one, I had two pieces similar to this.  

I had discovered Sulky threads (I know I'm a bit late to the party there!) and bought a few to play around with - here see the varied shades in the sea and  sky and the grassy tufts. 

On the Sulky website there are some great looking tutorials which I may well have to dive into to improve my machine embroidery skills. Having stuck to up and down and wavy lines, I'm tempted to try this one out...

Oh for a row of life-size Liberty covered beach huts!

Bunting, either stitched or from impossibly small scraps of lawn, were added later, and a few hand-embroidered flowers...

I don't think I will be stopping at three of those threads and two pictures!

On Saturday I held another workshop.  Ginger biscuits and Cappuccino Cake were made and I waited for my five students.  This time I remembered my camera - I even took photos of my lovely participants,but forgot to ask if they would be okay to feature on my blog!  So instead, here is their fabulous work.  

Lastly, I took part in Very Berry Handmade's third ATC swap.  The theme was either Books or Spring .  My secret partner (now out of the bag as she has received her card) was Sue of Deerey Me! (pop over and have a look at her lovely blog, especially the 'Secret Garden' card she made for her partner).  Sue lives near Bath and as one of my favourite books is 'Pride and Prejudice'...

{Small pause for Mr Darcy dreaming

Er, sorry, no.

That's more like it!}

...I thought I'd try something related to that.  I found a very small scrap of very old fabric that I thought was a near a bit Regency-looking and then cut silhouettes from felt.  I printed off a P & P quote 'Her heart did whisper that he had done it for her' and combined them on the tiny piece of backing (buckram is what I used).  Normally I'd do more stitching, but somehow I didn't feel this would benefit from any more.


Wednesday, 12 March 2014

It's not JUST about sewing...

I have had a bit of a one track mind, blog-wise, of late.  But I do occasionally stray from the sewing room, and have a few other things to record from time to time.  

First off though - thank you for all the kind comments about the Family Reunion dress and the sympathetic and supportive ones about THAT blouse.  A suitably disappointed email has been fired off in the direction of Butterick and Co and I will let you know if I get back a suitable response!

And thank you for the suggestions re: The Sewing Bee, but - NOT Flippin' Likely!

(I'd have a heart attack trying to do even the simplest task under time pressure, and as for the middle challenge, my ideas would not be near imaginative enough!)

Meanwhile,  these cheery chappies greet me each morning when I open the kitchen blind.  

This is the same clump, snapped last year.  Nice to see how they've multiplied!

The wall is getting more colourful by the day.

Elsewhere in the garden, the hellebores are blooming away.  It's just a shame they don't hold their heads up for us to admire them more!

Miss U-t-B and I  headed off to the cinema somewhat apprehensively last Thursday, to see 'The Book Thief'.   It's always a risk going to see the film of a book you've loved, and it's also a risk going to see a film you know will make you blub!  I was worried the pair of us might cause localized flooding, just when the rain finally seems to have abated!

Fortunately, we both loved the film.  Tears were shed and there were a few not-quite-stifled sobs from beside me (I had read the book so was able to steel myself for the hardest bits) but we did enjoy it.  I thought the two young actors (Sophie Nelisse and Nico Liersch) were perfect for the roles, as were both Emily Watson and Geoffrey Rush.  I know it hasn't had fabulous reviews, but I have seen far worse.

Remember I mentioned there was some good music on Graham Norton's show on Saturday?  Here's one I think we'll be hearing lots over the next weeks...

Take a look at this fab book I bought myself last week...

It's oozing with cute and quirky idea - I want to make soooo many of them...

How wonderful would that be as a wedding present?

In the same package came this, which I'm liking so far...

Hope life is full of good things for you too!

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Sunday Sewing AKA 'I Want to Drown in a Bucket of Gin'

(Quote from Heather on last week's 'Great British Sewing Bee'.)

So on Saturday, it was all going swimmingly.

Pretty pattern, sweet fabric, uninterrupted time to stitch away,  great instructions, resulting in a lovely dress.

On Sunday, just one of the ingredients changed and it all went pear shaped!

Pretty pattern - check

Sweet fabric - check

Uninterrupted time to stitch away - check
(Miss U-t-B, still being geographical, did not require transport to and from work.)

Great instructions?  
You'd think so, from a long-established pattern maker like Butterick.

But no - this pattern somehow must have slipped through the testing and proofreading net because it fell far short of my expectations.  

Some of the pattern pieces had too few markings on them to really be sure you were sewing the right bits together.  In the case of the yoke at the top of the sleeve there was no way of telling which edge had to be attached to the front, and which to the back, so I decided I would have to use the diagram as a guide.

Sorry for the fuzziness of the photo - I was near incandescent with rage when I took it. (Well, as close to that as I ever get, which is actually not very...)  So the diagram showed  the straighter edge attached to the front of the sleeve and the more slopey one attached to the back.  So I did that, trimmed and finished the seams and then proceeded to attached the fronts and back of the blouse. Only to find that the sections  did not fit correctly, one seam having to be stretched slightly and the other having a fairly large overlap.  

Once I matched up the pattern piece to the mismatched garment, I realised the yoke pieces should have gone in the other way round!  

So I tried the blouse on to see whether it was worth the hassle of unpicking pretty much every seam I'd put into it, only to find that the neckline  was a wavy, ill-fitting mess, that stood proud of my decolletage in a most unruly way!

I could go on about other problems with the pattern (the instructions for the front facings, the fact that the markings for the pintucks meant the pintucks sit overlapping one another, rather than individually) but I won't bore you any further.  I'm pretty fed up about it (and will be writing a letter of complaint pointing out the fact that I'd waited till pay day to buy this nice fabric and now it's RUINED!) but let's face it, no-one died.  

The only good thing that came out of it was that I learnt to do shirring on my machine - a technique I had seen on the Sewing Bee last year but which I'd not been brave enough to try.  

I will let you know what response my letter of complaint gets!

Saturday, 8 March 2014

The Oliver + S 'Family Reunion Dress' ready for action

Oooh it is nice having an uninterrupted block of time to spend on sewing!  

Don't get me wrong, I do get to spend plenty of time sewing, but it's often punctuated with little bits of real life creeping in, like ironing to be done, meals to be prepared, dust to be chased round the house... 

Well today I just concentrated on the one thing, and look - it is done!

I got started yesterday afternoon by being a good girl and tracing the pattern off the original, carefully. 

 I normally plough right on in to the pattern, cutting the size I wish to make, but with the pattern costing £13, I thought I'd make sure I can easily make every size, as and when gifts are required.  It always seems a faff, but to be honest, the hardest thing about it was finding a felt pen that worked!

Next came some sneaky placing of the pattern to make sure I used as little as possible.  With a child's dress, the whole width isn't required so folding a new straight grain line the length of the fabric means that what isn't used is one wider length rather than two narrower pieces.

Will you look at that sunshine!

Next came pinning...

...and cutting...

...and then a break for a nice bit of real life, dinner at a local hostelry with Mr U-t-B (we are daughter-less this weekend as Miss U-t-B is on a geography field trip).

Today as Graham Norton got started on the radio, I fired up the sewing machine and knuckled down.  

First came some pintucks - I do love a pintuck or two!

I found the instructions on the pattern really excellent.  Certain techniques were suggested which I had not come across before, such a sewing a gathering thread close to the edge of the facing in order to achieve a good finish.  I think that with instructions as detailed as they are, these would be good patterns for someone who is relatively inexperienced with dressmaking.  In fact, and I'm not being paid to say this, I think that the quality of the instructions actually makes the price bearable.

The hem has a facing, a technique which I have used before and which I think is excellent on children's clothes as it makes the hem less likely to get caught and fall down. 

 The instructions suggested extra lines of top-stitching near the hem-line, and I was happy to do this!  I find that the key to neat top-stitching is to use the presser foot as your best friend - keep your eye on the presser foot edge going down the line, never on the needle.

I chose flower buttons to both embellish the centre front tab, and for the back closure...

If you follow the instructions, you get a neat finish outside and in...

By the time Graham had solved workplace and pet-related problems, chatted with Angus Deayton and Rupert Penry-Jones, and played some rather excellent music (notably Jack Savoretti, Gabby Young & Other Animals, George Wilding and London Grammar) and Tony Blackburn had played the best of 1974 and 1985 (did that REALLY include The Wombles?  Seriously...) I was done!

Good thing I bought that extra length of cloth, eh?

Thanks again to The Village Haberdashery, for the excellent service which allowed me to while away my time so pleasurably!