A little sew & sew

I’ve been busy with various sewing projects in the last  week which has been very satisfying.

Having had remnants of a fabric with a bicycle design on for a while I thought that it was high time that I used it up.  Some of the fabric went to make a new top – one based on the bodice section on my favourite dress pattern (as done so with the London Underground fabric). But there was sufficient left over to trim two existing items of clothing. I cut a pair of trousers shorter and edged them in the bicycle’s contrast design (stripes). Then I added panels of the fabric to a lightweight blouse. The blouse was very transparent originally so this reduced that effect. I now have a set of three summer garments which co-ordinate. If you’re new to sewing this is one way of adapting existing garments that will give you confidence to try more!

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Last week I bought a very long pinstriped pencil skirt in a charity shop but it was only when I got it home that I realised that it had a small L-shaped tear, each side of which being about 1cm. The cost of the skirt was negligible but the tear would notice if I’d sewn over it as a repair. I thought about using the skirt for it’s fabric and re-inventing it as a new garment. But the solution that I chose was easier – and could be one for anyone who has a tear or a small stain on a garment that they love, that proves obvious to the eye! I repaired the tear using a backing of iron-on interfacing, then did a zig-zag stitch over the top. Then I carefully sewed on a length of braid (gross-grain ribbon) down the whole length the skirt, going over the top of the repair. In the braid I had created a loop in which to make a flat bow as a decorative feature.

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Thunderbirds are GO!

If you are a regular reader of my blog you’ll know that I can’t resist a bold duvet design. So you can imagine how I felt when I saw this Thunderbirds duvet in a charity shop. I loved the characters and the bright colours. Of course it was going to become a new addition to my wardrobe.

The design was done in such a way that by cutting the duvet into three I had two strips with the puppets, and one with the craft. Using the strips with the characters made creating this simple skirt the obvious choice rather than a dress. The pattern on the reverse of the fabric made the yoke – and there is more left over to transform into a top or a waistcoat. Job done – perfect for the summer!

A hem!

We’ve all seen those beautiful long column-like dresses, often with geometric or floral designs, in a slightly stretchy fabric – but often way too long! Does the retail market think that all women are over 6 foot tall? OK, maybe I’m just a short-arse, but this gave me an idea when I saw a brightly coloured dress at a bargain price.

Like everyone else I’m glad that the days are lengthening, and with the prospect of summer holidays with my lovely boyfriend, I thought the dress would make a welcome addition to my wardrobe. The original length was about floor length plus two inches trailing! I could have simply turned up a hem to make it floor length (and avoiding the trip hazard). I could have made it ankle length to still give that flowing evening appeal. But, I decided, if I took it up a ‘knicker’ height I could still rock the frock, but gain some matching undies in the process!

I love making knickers – it is so simple and there are plenty of instructions on the internet (I used this site http://verypurpleperson.com/2013/01/tutorial-sewing-panties/). If you are already adept at making your own clothes, simply de-construct a pair of knickers that you know fits, and re-make! Or you could make some as presents for others using inexpensive pairs (Primark?) as your template to work with.

I recently made a couple of pairs with a matching camisole top from a beautiful black stretch lace, another super fabric to get creative with. But I’ve made loads from various garments with a little stretch in them as long as the pattern has appealed. I’ve used ordinary elastic although you can buy ‘fancy’ edge elastic specifically for underwear it’s not vital if you have a stash of ordinary elastic available. Cutting off the length of fabric from this summer dress gave me enough fabric to make two new pairs of knickers.

I noticed on Facebook this morning a link to a pattern for a retro-style bikini, now there’s some more food for thought! Those summer days are going to be fun!

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The shocking truth behind Renoir & Co.,

When I bought a screen in a charity shop I got more than I bargained for!

As is frequently the case with charity shops, when you see something you want – regardless of whether you need it – you sometimes have to make that quick decision to buy it. If you walk away, intending to go back later, it will more likely than not have been snapped up by someone else. This was the case when I spotted a three panel screen in one of my favourite haunts.

The screen had 15 apertures, like a giant picture frame, to hold images. The screen had been renovated with each of the apertures featuring replicas of famous Impressionist paintings by the likes of Renoir, Monet and Pissarro. All very lovely as it stood, but, I thought it would be a great way of displaying some of my own artwork.

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A keen photographer I have been adapting my photographs for a while now, creating new images, several of which I have entered into my local camera club competitions. I have little enough wall space in my house as most of it is given over to my father’s paintings (click on the link above to find out more about those). So this screen I envisaged as a portable photography exhibition of my own work. I just needed to take out those French Impressionists (ideal for chocolate boxes but I’m not a fan). That was when I made the shocking discovery!

The original artwork was of a far more adult nature, and for reasons I can’t quite fathom, was still in place between Renoir and Co., and the cardboard backing. The original imagery (and beautifully printed on glossy photo paper) was of Indian carvings and illustrations of a sexual nature – the Karma Sutra I guess. I am not sure why these photos weren’t removed when the arty pictures were put in – they were hard to miss . So,  I took out the French Impressionists (which turned out to be from a wall calendar) and popped the saucy pics back in their place.

While I think the screen looks interesting with the original imagery I don’t actually plan on keeping them on show long term. Maybe I should hide them again behind my own photos in due course! But as unexpected bargains go – this one takes the biscuit…although there was that time I bought a small cupboard for £3, which turned out to have £1,000 secreted inside it – but that’s another story!!

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It was just too good a shirt to be wasted! When my lovely boyfriend handed over a shirt that was rather too snug a fit I just loved its fabric design. It had a montage of tiny photos of punk singers in mono (or rather a blue/grey colour). But how exactly to use the fabric in a new guise?

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Various options ran through my head, including some kind of clothing for myself, but I knew in my heart of hearts that I had to re-sculpt it and hand it back, in a wearable form. That meant one thing – yes, boxers!

Laying out my pattern pieces revealed that there wasn’t going to be enough of the punk fabric to cover, especially as I wanted to keep the photos ‘the right way up’. An easy solution came with using a contrasting fabric to form the waistband area. You’ll see that I used a red/white dot fabric – I did try the same in blue/white, and black/white, but the red was just fab. Simple, effective, job done!

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And I do have a few remnants that enabled me to make this simple cross body bag (step by step instructions coming soon) so I’m happy to get my own punk piece too. 

A little spooning

This idea is so simple. It is inexpensive to do, requires practically no artistic skill, and can be personalised.

It was prompted in part when I read a feature on line about the increase in DIY weddings. There is a rise in people getting more crafty when it comes to creating their own wedding decorations, cakes and outfits. I was also amused by the concept of ‘spooning’ – that delightful intimate space that couples enjoy. And this project lends itself perfectly.

I found this set of wooden spoons for £1, but an old, pre-loved set should work as well, though the handles may need a little scrubbing and sanding before decorating. You may also need to drill a hold through the handles if you intent to hang them up.

I have free-handed painted my spoon handles – and I recognise that using masking tape for a cleaner line would have produced better results. But masking tape remains on my shopping list rather than in my supplies drawer! I painted the bold colour first using acrylic paint, leaving it to dry, before painting the white band. With the spatula I added a rub-on transfer just to see what that would look like. All three utensils got a coat of varnish over the paint to complete them.

When producing something like this for a wedding you could paint on hearts – just an outline on the spoon end, or a full motif if you’re feeling confident. You could add the names and the date of the event. Produce as a quirky wedding gift for guests by way of a place marker (stand in a jug or kilner jar). Or, just produce a colourful set for your own kitchen and brighten up those baking days!

Back in the 80s

I was asked the other day if I had always been creative – and the answer is yes! I can’t remember a time when I didn’t make stuff.

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will already have seen what I have made recently. You’ll know that once I discover how to make an item I can go into overload on production – note the duvet dress (20 and counting), zip brooches, bow ties and most recently boxer shorts. But there was a time when I made toys.

While having a tidy up at home I came across a box of my photographs  (remember them – the printed out variety?) that were taken in the mid 1980s. Amongst them were a couple taken at Southover Grange in Lewes, where I had taken a stall at a craft fair being held there. At the time I was working on The South Downs Conservation Project, which was based in the town, and heard about the fair through a colleague. The SDCP was enjoyable to be part of, and  it started the long process of getting the South Downs recognised as a National Park – but that’s another story. What amazed me  looking at these photographs was the sheer variety of what I had on display at that fair. I must have been busy for months.

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If you look  you will see a lot of toys: beautiful rag dolls, clown dolls, plump teddy bears in dungarees, fury glove puppets (in the basket that I am holding), toy horses, and even a snake! The dolls all had removable clothing – and there is a bride doll there who is wearing a replica of ‘Fergie’s” (the Duchess of York’s) wedding dress. I recall working from pictures that were in the newspaper colour supplements at the time. There are a couple of babies too in their own little cots. I took the pattern for the teddy bears from a library book, that I do remember. There is some rather fine corduroy being used for them! I can also see quilted bags hanging up (I still make these useful little bags today).

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On one of the shelves is a toy village – I made the houses by using appliqué to create an exterior, then sewing this around cubes of solid foam. The streets were made by quilting, providing a soft playmate for the buildings (and pillar box) to go on. I do remember selling this item. There are a couple of patchwork quilts that I had made too, one in pinks and purples. This item didn’t sell and I remember that I used it for my own babies when they were born. The quilt became faded and soft with repeated washing. The other quilt has houses on.

Back then, as now, I can see that I made clothes for myself. I made the top and skirt that I am wearing in the photograph – and sporting a very 80s hair wrap too!