The Making of a Free Motion Embroidery

I've wanted to stitch this David Bowie image from the cover of the his Earthling album for some time, mainly because it combines two of my heroes - Bowie himself, and Alexander McQueen who designed the coat Bowie is wearing.

I recently had a sewing day planned with some lovely friends and thought that it would be the ideal opportunity to work on this, as I knew it would take some time.

I also decided to photograph the process as I went along, so you could see how I built the image up. 

I started by tracing the photo I was using as I wasn't sure whether I would need to use my tracing as a guide to stitch through for some parts.  As it turned out, I didn't, but this is where I started. 

Normally I cut each piece within an image separately but due to the complexity of the coat I decided to cut the whole thing out in the fabric I was using for the white portions and layer up on top of that.

I used Liberty print fabrics for everything with the exception of the hair, and for the coat I used the reverse side of the fabric for a more muted effect.

I then started the painstaking task of cutting the red and blue parts of the coat out of the corresponding fabrics.  I normally cut my fabric pieces out and then apply Bondaweb to the reverse afterwards, but as these pieces were so small and fiddly I started by applying Bondaweb to the back of a whole piece of fabric, then cut the pieces out afterwards.

I did a few pieces at a time, protected them with a piece of tissue paper and then ironed them down before doing a few more.   It took quite a bit of time but was worth taking it slowly.

The sewing was actually the easy part, in most places all I had to do was follow the edges of the fabric pieces.

I had to stitch my signature!  I thought up the inside of his leg was a good, not too obvious place for it.

The last photo is courtesy of my lovely friend Angela, who's shop Crafty Angel Sewing Studio we spent the day at.

Great British Sewing Bee Live

Hello!  Long time, no see (again!).  Let's just gloss over the fact that I'm currently averaging around one blog post a month shall we, and I'll show you the goodies I picked up yesterday.

Yesterday I took the day off work and went to the very first Great British Sewing Bee live with two of my lovely sewing friends.  After picking them up and driving down to Excel - where the car park was spookily quiet - we arrived just after it opened at 10am.  It was so quiet, which was nice in a way because it made it easy to look at the stands, but also kind of strange.  I'm used to the Knitting and Stitching show at Alexandra Palace, which is normally all kinds of crazy. 

The GBSB is a very small show compared to the K&S, I would think due to the fact that this is it's first year.  It was nicely laid out with plenty of space between the stands.  I saw a few people I knew and met a couple of others I'd previously only spoken to online, which was lovely.

The stands were mainly devoted to dressmaking - either fabric or (mainly independent) pattern companies - but there was also a bit of embroidery and quilting dotted around, which suited me down to the ground as I am primarily a dressmaker, as you know. 

I bought some very pretty buttons within minutes of arriving, from the lovely Mrs Maven at Maven Patterns

After that we made our way to the Community Clothing stand as Patrick Grant had Tweeted a couple of days earlier that they would be selling off Saville Row remnants.  They had a selection on bolts behind the counter, which you couldn't really look at without asking to see each one, but there was also a big rummage bin where each piece was £5.  And some of them were big!

I got two pieces of teal fabric which will hopefully be enough for a jacket.  I'm not really sure what it is; I think maybe some sort of wool with an almost velvet pile on the front and a bonded rubber backing. 

I also got a large piece of striped cotton shirting which is so soft.  I'm hoping I've got enough for the new asymmetric shirt pattern by Dressy Talk Patterns.  

Our next stop was for coffee and a pain au chocolat, then it was time to head for the workshop we'd booked.  There were quite a number of different workshops set in classrooms around the edges of the main hall.  Here we are waiting to start ours.  We looked decidedly less happy during the workshop!

I'm not going to tell you which one we did because it was truly dreadful.  Poorly organised with an awful choice of fabrics for the project (okay if you like pink chintzy florals - which none of the three of us did!), incorrect pattern instructions and a tutor that spent half her time trying to sell us various notions that we may or may not need/want to use.  We were all really disappointed and I didn't even bother to finish my project. 

Then it was back to shopping!  I bought 2.5m of this bee print cotton lawn from Doughty's.  I'm sure it'll be a dress of some sort, not sure what kind yet, although I'm currently on a shirt dress binge. 

After lunch we set off for round 2, revisiting some of the stands we'd seen things we'd liked on our first trip round.  We went back to see lovely Saira at Olive and Flo Handcraft who I met a few weeks ago on a handquilting workshop, and I ended up buying a pattern for a needle turn applique quilt!  I must be mad, but it's beautiful and I'm hoping it will be something lovely to do on winter evenings in front of the television and fire. 

We had a look at the display of projects made for the Sewing Bee challenges by various former participants.  It was really interesting to see them close up and I was impressed by just how gorgeous some of them were in real life.  The evening dress that Lauren Guthrie made in the final of the first series was stunning.

By now we were getting tired and it was coming up to closing time.  I managed one final purchase, 2.5m of viscose - again for a dress! - from Fabrics Galore.  It was an instant "I love it" as soon as I saw it.

Not long before the show ended I had the pleasure of bumping into gorgeous Marie of A Stitching Odyssey.  Actually I jumped out and accosted her and her friend, but they didn't seem to mind.

We actually spent so much of our day shopping and chatting that we didn't get time to visit the Super Theatre and see what was going on there.  We did manage to catch sight of Patrick as we were walking round near the end of the show, but none of us were brave enough to speak to him or ask to have our photo taken with him.  Kind of wish I had now!

Inspiration by Hand

Last week I was lucky enough to go along to a workshop organised by the Oxfordfordshire Modern Quilters Guild.  Now quilting isn't really my thing, but handsewing and embroidery are so I decided to give it a whirl.  I've been having a really horrible, stressful time at work recently and when someone tagged me in an Instagram post about the day I decided it was just what I needed.  And it was.

It was lovely; very, very relaxing and just what I needed. 

The day was entitled "Inspiration by Hand" and was tutored by the lovely Anna Maria Horner.  If you're a quilter you'll almost certainly have heard of Anna Maria as her fabric designs are very popular.

Anna Maria started by telling us a bit about herself - she's the mother of seven children, how she finds the time for anything other than that I've no idea - and showing us some of her quilts.  They appealed to me as they tend to feature large blocks of fabric with applique and hand embroidery embellishment, rather than lots and lots of smaller squares or triangles of fabric making up the design.

This was one of my favourites - the colour scheme is possibly not my ideal but I loved the design and would love to make something like this myself.

Anna Maria Horner Travelling Blooms Quilt
I love this one as well, but sadly didn't get to see it "in the flesh".

Anna Maria Horner Safe Passage Quilt
After a chat and coffee we set about learning some hand quilting.  Many of the other attendees knew this skill already, but it was completely new to me.  I didn't even have the right thread, but luckily I sat between two lovely ladies who shared theirs with me. 

I started simply, using the design of my fabric as inspiration.  It was hard to know what fabric to bring, as I didn't really know what I would be doing with it.  With hindsight I'd have chosen something different, but I quite like it and it's only a sample anyway.

I'd built the design up a bit more by the time we stopped for lunch.  Sadly I don't have any more of the same colour thread, as I was borrowing it, so I'll need to track some down if I want to do any more to this. 

After a lovely lunch it was time to switch to hand embroidery, something I already knew that I love doing.

Again Anna Maria passed round some samples for us to admire, as you can see from the few photos below they really were lovely.  I particularly like the tufty section on the flower in the last photo.  I'm definitely going to try that myself.

We were then able to choose from some of Anna Maria's embroidery designs to use for our own pieces, which came as transfers to be ironed onto our fabric.   I chose a letter S, which actually made Anna Maria's Insta-stories.

I've added more to it since I got home from the workshop and am finding it quite addictive.

I'm now thinking of ways that I could combine hand quilting, hand embroidery and free motion embroidery.  I've got a lot of other commitments at the moment, but watch this space!

Made by Me: Maven Patterns Rochester Top

Apparently the last time I showed you an item of clothing I made was some time in April!

I have been making clothing since then, but it's either been stuff I haven't been that fussed about - making things just for the sake of making things - or I haven't got round to taking photographs.  Our house is quite dark and it's hard to find decent locations around it to take modelled photographs, but I can just about find a suitable location for my tailors dummy (Rosie) to model things for me. 

I bought the pattern for this top (it also includes a dress variation as well) the day it was released. 

I saw it on Instagram I think, and instantly fell in love with it.  I needed some new tops that weren't simple jersey t-shirts and haven't been that keen on shirts or button front tops.  The Rochester top by Maven Patterns seemed to be the very thing I was looking for.  I must admit I was also slightly swayed by the gorgeous green fabric the sample was made up in - but I love my versions even though they're not in that fabric!

I say "versions" because I've made two. 

The first was from some chambray I had in my stash, which I made almost immediately I'd purchased the pattern. 

I made a size 14;it fits me well with the exception of the sleeves being a smidge tight.  It's wearable, but I find they tend to ride up my biceps and get stuck there as I move, I have to keep tugging them down.  I keep meaning to go back and take a slightly narrower seam on the sleeve to counteract this, but the seam allowance is only 1cm so I don't have huge amounts to play with. 

This was my first time using a Maven Patterns pattern and I really enjoyed the experience.  The pdf fitted together nicely and it came with two sets of instructions - a full, detailed set and another which was more of a basic outline of the steps.  I used a combination of the two - the outline steps for most of it, but I referred to the full instructions for the hem facing.

I made a couple of changes; the pattern includes a deep pleat at the back which I originally cut in my chambray but it stuck out quite a bit when I tried it on, so I went back and took it out, by sewing down the centre back below the pleat stitching at the top.  I also used two narrow pieces of elastic to gather the neck, rather than one wider piece as the pattern suggests.  I found that the wider piece didn't lay very flat.

Other than that I made my first version as per the pattern.  You get a template included for the topstitching for the hem facing, which I pinned onto the top and followed around with my machine foot.  This worked out really well and I think looks nice in a contrast thread against the chambray. 

This weekend just gone I went on a sewing day with some friends and needed a project to take along, so I cut out another Rochester top, this time from a small piece of (I think) Liberty cotton.  I had one metre to play with and just squeezed the top out.  I had to use bias strips to finish the hem rather than the hem bands, but managed to get everything out.

This time I cut the sleeves slightly wider - adding about 3/4 of an inch I think in total - and they feel a lot more comfortable.  I also decided to add an opening to the back neck, with a little button and loop.  I can get the chambray one on and off without an opening, but it's a little tight.

With this version I echoed the three lines of stitching around the neck for the elastic casing on the sleeve hems.  I think it's quite a nice touch. 

At some stage I'd like to make the dress, I'm just on the look out for the right fabric now!

Made by Me: David and Debbie

Wow, it's over 2 months since I've visited my own little corner of the internet.  Did you wonder if I was ever coming back?  I did!

I've been doing quite a bit of free motion embroidery recently as I find it really relaxing and I've started doing a few portraits. 

I have David Bowie in his Ziggy Stardust guise and Debbie Harry to share with you today.

I actually did this a few months ago and have used some of my precious Liberty print scraps for the coloured areas.  I was lucky enough to find a scrap of the perfect "hair" fabric in my stash. 

This has been framed and will hang on the wall in our newly decorated lounge, I'll be making a couple more Bowie pictures to hang alongside it.

Just over a week ago I taught a free motion embroidery class at my friend Angela's shop - Crafty Angel Sewing Studio.  We spent the morning experimenting with free motion embroidery and the afternoon turning our creations into a tote bag.  Normally I don't make a project along with the class, but this time I decided to.

I did a portrait of Debbie Harry on a denim background for my sample.

Here she is on the finished bag, which is lined with the same fabric I made her top out of.

And in case you were wondering, the two badges on the bag are also Debbie and David. 

I've got ideas for a few more portraits, including one I've just started for my friends birthday.  I can't share it yet though in case she sees it here, but I think it's going to look amazing!

Why I'm Not Scared of Sewing With Knits...

First of all, thank you so much to everyone who read and commented on my last post.  When I wrote it, it felt kind of self indulgent, so it was especially good to read that others feel / have felt the same, and know where I'm coming from.

Today I'm going to show you some old photos which might help to illustrate why I'm not scared of sewing with knit fabrics.  Or they might just give you a good laugh!

When I first started reading sewing blogs I saw post after post about how people were scared of sewing knit / stretch fabrics, and I really couldn't understand why.  I'd been sewing with knits for years and never knew you were supposed to be scared of them!

My first experiences of sewing with stretch fabrics came when my sister and I used to do artistic roller skating (think Torvill and Dean on wheels) in our teens.  We entered competitions all over the country and of course had to have fancy outfits to compete in.  I made most of them, on a standard, quite basic home sewing machine with a zigzag stitch.  I'd never even heard of an overlocker. Despite this and the fact that they were incredibly close fitting outfits that were subjected to a lot of movement and stress I never had a single popped seam or stitch.

I also sewed hundreds, and sometimes thousands of sequins on them. 


(I apologise for the poor quality of the photos, they're scans of very old pictures.  I had some even better ones with fancier costumes but the quality was just too poor).

The first three are me (don't laugh too hard!) and the last couple are my sister and her skating partner. 

On Why I Haven't Been Blogging...

I'm unsure about this post.  It feels self indulgent, but I also feel like I need to write it down.  I might take it down in a few days.

If you've come here expecting to see a new post about something new I've made, then I'm really sorry to disappoint you.  Today's blog post is more about what I haven't been sewing... and why.

I have made a couple of things recently, some Named Clothing Jamie jeans that I was quite pleased with, a Simplicity 1366 top (am I the last person in the world to make this pattern?) and a dress I hacked from a top pattern (I can't remember what it's called and can't be bothered to go and look), but nothing that really floats my boat. 

To be honest, none of my clothes - me made or ready to wear - float my boat right now and that is purely because I don't float my own boat right now.  I don't want to make (or buy) clothes that fit me now, because I don't like how my body looks and feels at the moment. 

I've got lots of plans for things I want to make;

New Look 6459 Cropped Trousers

Closet Case Patterns Kalle shirt - cropped version

Tessuti Fabrics Bella dress

It's no secret that I suffer with anxiety and depression and one of the ways I try to deal (almost always unsuccessfully) with this is to comfort eat.   I have never once eaten something to make myself feel better and then actually felt better... I don't know why I continue to feel it will work!

I also snack in the car when I'm bored, and I spend a lot of time in the car! I do a lot of driving for work and sometimes spend up to 7 hours a day behind the wheel (I was going to say driving, but often I'm sat in a queue of traffic, going nowhere).  Foods which should only be eaten occasionally as a treat become an everyday indulgence and healthy eating in the form of preparing fresh food with lots of fruit and veg goes out of the window.  I eat crap and I'm sure that ends up making me feel more crap than I did already.  Consequently, since the beginning of the year I've put on about a stone in weight. 

My clothes still fit but most don't feel good and I don't want to make/buy things that do feel more comfortable because I don't want to accept that this is me now.  I'm not massively overweight, if I lost the stone I've put on I'd be okay, and if I lost a stone and a half, then that would be wonderful.  I know I'm never going to get back the figure I had in my early twenties however much I'd love to.  At that stage of my life I was into artistic roller skating and trained 5 times a week... I could eat pretty much what I liked then. 

And I'm not of the mindset that if I was thin my life would be perfect.  I know that's not true, and I know that way lies madness of a different kind.   What I do know is that I don't particularly like myself at the moment and I think that eating more healthily and taking care of myself a bit better would benefit me physically and mentally.   

The stupid thing is I know exactly what I need to do, I've got books on healthy eating coming out of my ears, too many probably.  And I actually love cooking, I love planning weekly menus and trying new recipes .  I just need to click my brain into the right place to actually do something about it.

So starting this week I'm going to try.  I've got food in the fridge that needs using up rather than throwing away, but from Wednesday I'm going the healthy route again.  I'm not going to go mad (I could never give up chocolate completely) but I'm going to do my best to loose this unwanted extra bit of me. 

If you've read this far, thank you.  If you're now thinking I'm a complete crackpot then I don't blame you, I think that about myself on pretty much a daily basis.  And I haven't written this in the hope of people complimenting me and telling me I don't need to lose weight.  I don't particularly care what other people think, I know I need to do it for myself.  It's not the answer to all my issues, but it's one less thing to beat myself up about.

As I said, I might take this post down in a few days, but I just needed to get it off my chest.  Hopefully I'll be back with some actual sewing and less whinging before too long.  I have the perfect fabric for that Kalle shirt in my stash, and for the Bella dress come to think of it!  I guess the Bella dress might be a good place to start, it's shape means it should fit whatever happens. 

Meanwhile, if anyone has suggestions of things I can sew now that I might be happy with, I'm all ears. 

Made by Me: Embroidery and Statement Sleeves

Hello there.  Just a quick post from me today, to let you know that I have a project up on the Minerva Crafts Blogger Network.

As you probably know, I've been slightly obsessed with hand embroidery recently, so for my latest project I decided to combine some embroidery - which is currently right on trend - with another current trend, the statement sleeve.

You can find my project here.  Please pop over and take a look!

Made by Me: Heavenly Helmi

If you've been reading this blog a while you'll probably know that I've mentioned several times that I don't like shirt dresses.  On me, that is; I love them on other people.

Why then, was I compelled to make one recently?

I don't know, but I have to say I love it. 

This dress came about when I was randomly browsing the Minerva Crafts website as you do.  Some gorgeous black and white star print fabric came up in their new in section and before I knew it 2 metres had jumped into my basket.  When it arrived I wasn't sure what to do with it, I knew I wanted to make a dress - I always want to make a dress - but I wasn't sure what style.

Then all of a sudden I had the idea of a shirt dress in mind.  Not just any shirt dress though, it had to be the Named Clothing Helmi tunic dress.  I ordered the printed pattern and as soon as it arrived I started making a muslin, fully prepared to hate it. 

But I loved it!  Completely and utterly.  I've been trying to work out why, because I don't like things with collars normally, but the collar on this is small and curvy and neat.  It's not big and pointy and flappy like some collars are; I think big pointed flappy collars remind me of school uniform.  

I made a couple of changes to the pattern before I cut this out:
  • Shortened the bodice by about an inch and lengthened the skirt by the same amount.  The dress remains the same overall length, but the waist seam is now slightly higher.
  • Added darts to the back waist.  I realise that this is supposed to be a loose fitting design, but it was just that little bit too loose on me and sat weirdly at the back.  I think that's down to the fact that I have quite a pronounced swayback.

  • I omitted the concealed placket as I'd found some lovely glittery star shaped buttons and I didn't want them hidden.

  • Lengthened the sleeves by around 6 inches and made the additional length into turn back cuffs with buttoned loops to hold them in place.  Is there a proper name for the loops?  If so I can't think of it!

This dress feels so nice to wear, the fabric is lovely and soft and drapy, but not too lightweight so it hangs beautifully and I absolutely love the way the collar fits and sits.  I think I'm going to make a shirt version next to wear with jeans and possibly at least one more dress.