Archive | Sewing

Can you use an old Singer sewing machine?

Okay, this is a different sort of post than usual, but still textile related!!  My husband is involved with a local charity called Health Help International which sends various supplies/support to Zambia and India.  One of their projects is a sewing studio in Zambia and they regularly send out old manual sewing machines – manual because the electricity supply there is unreliable.

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These machines have been given to me because they don’t work (or in some cases might be because they have one of the older type transverse bobbins which are difficult to get hold of, I’m not sure).  But I’m tripping over them in my workroom and wondered if anyone locally (South Wales) would like one for a small donation to HHI (since they were donated originally I don’t think I should just give them away outright)?

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These are photos of the ones I have and I thought that if you sold at vintage fairs etc you might be able to use one as a display.   I’ve seen people using them for hanging necklaces and pendants on or as decoration in shop windows.  These old machines are very ornamental, aren’t they?

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UPDATE:  I’ve now taken all these (and some more) to Tools for Self Reliance Cymru who repair them and send them to Tanzania.

 

 

 

Great British Sewing Bee and some upcycling fun!

I hinted in earlier posts that I’d been doing more dressmaking and upcycling than quilting and dyeing recently, so I thought I’d tell you what I have been up to.

I bought a secondhand Harris Tweed men’s jacket on Ebay very cheaply and altered it. 

harris tweed jacket 

I can’t find any ‘before’ photos but this is it when I had just started and was auditioning that orange silk fabric with it.   First of all I unpicked the lining from the main jacket from about halfway up the front and along most of the bottom edge apart from the back vents where it was too firmly stitched on!   Then I took out the shoulder pads and restitched the top of the shoulders to make them a bit narrower, more rounded and less military-looking.   I then stitched more darts to shape the waistline. 

altered harris tweed jacket  

Here it is just pinned.  I had to be a bit careful not to pull the pocket flap out of shape.  I also made the bottom of the armhole a bit smaller and stitched more tucks in the upper back to take out some nasty puckers that had developed.  Once I was happy with the fit, I restitched the lining and then added a few embellishments.

detail of pocket trim   

This is some of my printed fabric which I stitched on to the top pocket.  I also stitched some narrow burgundy ribbon along the piped top of the bottom pockets and replaced all the buttons with dusky pink ones to make it clear that this was now a woman’s jacket!  I thought I took a photo at this stage but the only one I can find is the one below.  The buttons on the sleeve are pink too.

upcycled polo neck 

The Great British Sewing Bee started last week and inspired me to do a bit of my own!   This pinky mauve top started life as a Landsend polo neck top and after a while I decided I didn’t like to wear polo necks anymore but I still liked the top and didn’t just want to chuck it.  So I took the neckline off and stitched that burgundy satin bias binding around the raw edges.  I also wanted it longer so I thought I’d put a flounce on the bottom.  I wasn’t sure about mixing stretchy knitted fabric and woven cotton, but I thought my hand printed fabric which I made with the wisteria screen shown at the bottom of this page of my blog matched the colour well so decided to give it a go.  I found a webpage on How to make a pixie skirt and it was incredibly easy – this piece is just a square piece of fabric with a circular hole cut in the middle.   A couple of lines of topstitching with a triple straight stitch finished it off and I’m wearing it as I type!

top with jacket 

Here it is with the finished jacket.

  another view of top

Not sure whether to sew this flower on or not…

January activities

snowy garden

This is what the garden looked like last week.  The white stuff stayed there for a whole week (quite unusual for this area), but last weekend a warm front came in and we had torrential rain, thunder, lightning and hailstones and now it’s all gone. The hens were a bit nonplussed by it all, and refused to leave their run even when I opened the door – normally they are falling over each other to get out! And even when they did emerge, they congregated at the back door as if pleading with me to give them their warm mash and shut them back in again…

snowing

This was one night last week when the snow was coming down for the last time.

upcycled skirts made into top

From last October two of my sons have gone off to university, leaving only one at home and it is very strange and is taking some getting used to.  As a result I have been a bit at sea here and feeling rather disorientated.  I have been getting a bit fed up of making wall art/generally stuck and have been exploring alternative ways to use my printed fabric.  Though maybe I’ll just keep it as art cloth… dilemmas, dilemmas….  I have also been getting into upcycling and refashioning clothes.  I made this top using one of Marcy Tilton’s Vogue patterns.  Every now and again I buy a sale ‘goody bag’ from People Tree, who sell fairtrade fashion, but sometimes the clothes they send just aren’t me at all.  I made this one from a couple of ra-ra style skirts in tshirt material plus an old tie dyed tshirt that the boys had outgrown.  The colours are not quite true but you get the general idea!  I still have to finish the arms and face the neckline but I quite like the result.

 

harris tweed jacket

I also bought this gorgeous Harris Tweed men’s jacket on Ebay and am busy restyling it, putting more darts in to convert it into a woman’s jacket. I plan to put new buttons on and add a few more decorative features, not sure yet exactly what.  The dressmaker’s dummy, by the way, was another recent Ebay acquisition which is becoming very useful!

 

rails of hand printed and hand dyed fabric

These are the clothes racks full of printed and dyed fabric that I have accumulated.  I think I may reopen my Etsy shop and put some of it for sale there – what do you think?   I’m not sure whether to experiment with turning it into clothes or sell it as art cloth.

cut out tartan dress pieces

Another thing I did at the beginning of December was to sign up for a Craftsy class called The Couture Dress with Susan Khalje.  So far I’ve made a muslin, attempted to fit it on myself (!), cut out the silk organza interlining and the actual fabric which is tartan Viyella fabric that I bought years ago before the UK textile industry mostly got outsourced to China.  This is the result so far!  I’ve made it very difficult for myself by cutting lots of pieces on the bias so I am unsure how it is going to turn out, but I’m learning lots of useful stuff on the way, such as how to trace patterns.  I doubt if I will ever make another couture dress as it is too slow and fiddly for me (and accuracy doesn’t seem to be within my capabilities which is why I don’t do traditional patchwork and quilting!!).  But it is a useful learning experience…

handmade books

And finally, here are a few handmade books I made recently using the instructions from Sue Bleiweiss’ online class that I took a few years ago…. Hard to believe that those covers started out as brown paper, isn’t it?  It was an opportunity to use up some of the gorgeous raku buttons I have bought from various Etsy people….

My Christmas present!

This was my Christmas present to myself – an extension table for my Janome sewing machine.  I wish I’d got one years ago – it is wonderful!  I’ve already sewn some curtains together which was made much easier (as well as stitching a superman logo on to a tshirt for DS3’s fancy dress party, but that’s another story!).

extension table for sewing machine

Another present is something I have to defer until the spring – a few hens!  Hence one of the books I requested for the book reviews was a book about hen keeping!  So that review will probably be the next blog post.   I’ve wanted to keep hens for several years now, ever since I met someone who kept them in their back garden; I always thought it was strictly for farming folk.  But since then I learnt that my grandmother kept them during the war, so I will look forward to following a family tradition…

More dyed fabric … and a jacket!

I have been slowly washing out more of the fabric.  In between buying some gorgeous teal coloured boiled wool/viscose fabric and making it into a jacket!  More later on that…

I printed this piece of silk with corrugated cardboard (the yellowy bits) and then overprinted with a gocco screen made with the same stamp that I used for the maroon coloured fabric in the last post.  I think this one changed the least when I washed it out. 

screenprinted fabric before washing

Here is the washed version:

screenprinted fabric after washing

And a detail:

detail of above

For the next piece, I used these ochres from Clearwell Caves in the Forest of Dean, and soy milk as a binder, made from soy beans. 

ochres from Clearwell Caves

This is what it looked like when I painted it.

ochre painted fabric before washing

And here it is washed … I like the way you get more definition in the washed version.

ochre printed fabric after washing

Here it is on my design wall, next to a piece which had been previously rusted dyed and which I overpainted with the ochres, giving some subtle textures.

fabric on design wall 

This one looked the most unpromising when I printed it.  I’ve got a feeling I used it as a wiping-up cloth and then screened over the top with the gocco screen made from the image of a letter.

more fabric

It definitely looks more promising now!

all washed out

Last week I had a break from washing out fabric and did some dressmaking for a change! I went shopping in Cardiff the previous weekend and bought this gorgeous teal coloured boiled wool fabric from the newly opened John Lewis.  This jacket only took a morning to make! I did make a practise version with some green cotton/viscose fabric I had lying around and actually this one was easier to make because the curved seams were a doddle with this stretchy fabric.  Also, I didn’t have to hem anything as it is boiled wool and doesn’t fray!  It’s super warm and cozy and I’ve already worn it a lot.  Which is more than can be said for a lot of my previous dressmaking attempts!   I bought the pattern a few years ago meaning to use it with some of my dyed fabrics and I have even more incentive to use it now I’ve made it twice.  It’s the swing fever jacket from CNT Pattern Co (no affiliation).

wool swing fever jacket boiled wool swing fever jacket

Happy New Year – and Bloggers Meet!

Happy New Year to you all!  I don’t know where the last week went, I seem to have been sleeping a lot; we went up to Stoke to see my parents and on Monday,  I had a lovely day because two people who I have known online for several years now came to visit me. 

Sara Lechner from Austria, who blogs at The Fabric of Meditation, was visiting her daughter in North Wales, and she had a three hour train journey to see me!  Wales may be a small place, but it takes a long time to travel from north to south… And Sue Krekorian of The Magic Armchair Traveller came to join us.  We had a lovely time chatting, visiting a local cafe for lunch and wandering round Newport’s shops, chatting again… and having the obligatory photo in my studio!   DS2 kindly obliged and took this photo of the three of us:

bloggers meet up!

While I was trying to upload that photo, Live Writer decided it wanted to upload another one and it’s such a nice one that I decided to let it stay…. This is one of the leaves of my avocado plant.  I thought the veins with the browning edges makes for a very interesting photo:

brown edged avocado leaf

While we were in Stoke we saw this ferris wheel which is in the grounds of Trentham Gardens factory shopping village (I think it’s called something else but since it was Trentham Gardens when I grew up, that is what it will forever be in my mind).  I had my first summer job there, working as a cashier in the open air swimming pool.  Sadly, the said swimming pool was demolished some time ago…

ferris wheel in Trentham Gardens

I thought the centre of it would make a good Gocco screen…. (without Stoke City football club’s sponsorship medallion … or maybe even with it)

centre of ferris wheel in Stoke

I wonder what 2009 will bring?  DH is going to India again later this month so I’m planning to do some gelatine plate monoprinting and some more screenprinting while he’s away.  So look out for lots of fabric photos.    I meant to do a blog post about 2008 and what had happened in it but time somehow flew away from me.    I think I will remember it for the Gocco and for getting involved in Etsy.  And for my two magazine articles in CTDG.    And for those of you who subscribe to Fibre and Stitch, look out for the January issue because I’ve got an article in there too!  Here’s a bit of a teaser…

teaser

Stitching a Labyrinth

This is some stitching I did a few weeks ago.  For a while now, I’ve been thinking of making something in a labyrinth design, and I pulled some hand dyed fabrics out of my shelves which seemed to work well together.  They are loosely pinks and greens.  I enjoy layering fabrics, stitching a pattern into them and cutting back random layers to make the design emerge serendipitously.  I did this with quite a few of my favourite pieces of work – Dreaming Spirals, the namesake for this blog, is one of them.  My Landscape Series is another.

My design is loosely based on that of the labyrinth in Chartres Cathedral in France.  I drew the design and altered it so that it would work when cut back, and, using my light box, transferred the design on to tissue paper.  I then layered the fabrics, pinned the design on top and stitched along the lines using free motion stitching.

fabrics layered with tissue paper labyrinth design stitched on top

The next job was to remove all the tissue paper.  Here it is half done:

removing tissue paper from labyrinth stitching

Next I started cutting away to reveal the labyrinth design.  I chose to keep the green as the labyrinth and have the other fabrics poking through in the spaces between but I could have done it the other way round.

This was laborious, but meditative at the same time.  I listened to Brenda Dayne’s knitting podcast, Cast On to while away the minutes.

labyrinth design half cut away

Here it is three-quarters done.  Some of this got cut away a bit more to reveal an extra layer beneath, until I was happy with the finished piece.

labryrinth

And this is how it stands at the moment.  Not sure if I’ll cut away any more or if I’m happy with it as it is now.  Nor what I’m going to do with it next.  I think it reminds me a bit of the formal gardens with box hedges and roses planted between.  We shall see.

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