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!