Fabric Fear

I've bought three gorgeous pieces of fabric over the last couple of weeks. 

First up was this deep green Cloud 9 fabrics rayon that I got from Crafty Angel when I was there teaching a class.  I always seem to spend pretty much half my earnings when I teach at Angela's shop!

Cloud 9 Fabrics - Business Class Senator - Rayon
It wasn't cheap - more than I'd normally pay for fabric certainly - but I fell in love with it the instant I saw it.

Then last Friday I went to the Knitting and Stitching show with a few friends.  I already knew that Stoff & Stil would be there, and I already knew I love their fabrics.  Their stand was easily the nicest, I probably could have bought one of everything they'd brought with them, and they'd brought a lot of stuff!  All the stall assistants were wearing garments made from their fabrics and they all looked so stylish.

I settled for 2 pieces of fabric (and 3 patterns - but they were only £2 each!).  They were selling their fabrics in precut pieces, both the pieces I bought were £20.00 for 2.5m.

I decided on this one first, but it was hard to pin myself down to just one piece.  This is described as being black, but it looks like a very, very dark grey to me.  I don't mind either way.   

Stoff & Stil woven viscose black with white birds

One of the assistants was wearing a top made from this (it's more 'mustard' in real life) and at the very last moment I added a piece to my basket. 

Stoff & Stil woven crepe viscose curry with flowers

As I said, I paid £20.00 for 2.5m. I've just looked on their website to find a photo and link, and it's listed at £13.50 metre, so I got myself a bargain.  I'm wondering if the assistant told me the wrong price, most of the fabrics were priced, but this one's ticket was missing.

Now, the title of this post is "Fabric Fear" because I love all these fabrics so much that I'm scared to cut into them.  I can't even decide what I want to make with them.  I have 2.5 metres of each, so 3 dresses seem the sensible idea, but which three?  What if I cut the fabric, make the dress and it's not the 'right' dress?

Please tell me I'm not the only one who suffers from fear of cutting into lovely fabric.  And please hit me with your suggestions of what I should make with these gorgeous pieces.

Friday Faves

I haven't done one of these posts for ages, but there have been lots of things that have caught my eye this week, so I thought I'd share them with you.

First of all a couple of new patterns caught my eye. 

Deer and Doe have released a couple of new patterns, the one above being the Magnolia dress.  There are 2 versions available, I really fancy the maxi one, but with the slightly less revealing bodice of the knee length version.  I saw someone at a party last weekend in a long sleeved floral maxi dress and it looked amazing. 

Afternoon Patterns are a new pattern company to me, but I love the look of these Heron Culottes they released this week.  I've been looking for a culotte pattern that really takes my fancy - I know there are loads about, but none of them really seemed to be exactly what I wanted - and I think I'm going to give these a go. 

This incredible free motion embroidered top popped up in my Instagram feed earlier this week and it was instant love.  The maker, Amanda McCavour, is more well known for her seriously beautiful large scale free motion embroidery installations, but this top has me itching to try something similar myself.

I've recently started following Vinegar and Brown Paper on Instagram and I had a little browse through their website yesterday.  Their etched glass pieces are all gorgeous, but this lapel pin really caught my eye.  It's a shame I've spent all my birthday money...


Finally a blog post from Sewrendipity that I read this morning.  Alex has written what she says will be the first in a series on how to style me-made items in different ways.  She's kicked off with a fabulous pair of bright pink culottes, which has got me thinking about how I can style my Heron culottes when I make them.  I'm just not sure I'll be brave enough to go for bright pink.

I hope you like my favourites this week.  I'd love to know if there's anything fabulous that's caught your eye recently.

Cupcakes and Lightning Bolts

Hello there, hope you're having a good weekend.  I've had a bit of a break from creating recently as I went on holiday earlier this month and had a very relaxing time in Portugal, which mainly consisted of eating too much and drinking lots of gin!

Now I'm back and have been playing about with lots of faux leather, holographic vinyl and glitter fabric.  I thought you might like to see what I've made.

Glittery cupcake keyrings / bag charms

Glittery cupcake keyring / bag charm and purse sets

Holographic Ziggy Stardust inspired keyring / bag charms and purse.
I bought all the fabrics - if you can call them that - from an eBay seller  called Funtastic Crafts who has an amazing range of glitters, faux leathers and suedes and other cool stuff.  It comes in A4 sheets, but as you can imagine you can get quite a lot out of an A4 sheet!

This post isn't an advert, but I will just add that all these items are listed for sale in my Etsy shop if you should be interested!  No hard sell, that's it for self promotion today!

Since I've been back from Portugal - we came home the day the weather cooled down here - I've been thinking about sewing for Autumn/Winter, so hopefully I'll have some new items of clothing to share with you soon.

Made by Me: Deer and Doe Nenuphar Jacket

This is actually my second Deer and Doe Nenuphar jacket; the first is unblogged (like many things recently!) and although I like it I'm disappointed that the fabric I used started piling after one wear.

This one however is gorgeous. 

I bought 1.5m of this fabric - a gold spotted double gauze - from my lovely friend Angela at Crafty Angel with the intention of making a top but when I prewashed it it wasn't as soft as I'd thought and I couldn't decide what kind of top I wanted anyway.  Then I hit on the idea of this jacket, and after omitting the pockets I had just enough fabric for it. 

The fabric isn't on her website, but at time of writing I know she still has some in stock.


This was the first time I've used a Deer and Doe pattern as I think a lot of them are too young for me style-wise and I was really pleased with it.  The instructions were thorough without being too "hand-holdy" and everything fit together well when I was sewing, all the notches matched perfectly etc.

Construction-wise I French seamed everything except the gathered peplum at the back - I was going to attempt a French seam here too but decided it would make things too bulky and might make the back hang weirdly. If I was using a rayon or viscose I might chance it there too, because I love how pretty and neat French seams make the insides of a garment look.

The shape of the jacket is so pretty.  You can see from the side photo above how it hangs with the front slightly shorter on my mannequin, and it does this when worn too.  I'm not sure if that's actually intended, although the modelled photos on the Deer and Doe website do show it hanging in a similar manner.

The notches in the collar are a lovely feature and if you include the pockets the top of those have a similar notch.  I almost made the collar straight without the notches but I'm glad I included them in the end.

The only other change I made was to remove the flare from the sleeve.  They are designed to be wider at the hem but that was just too much fabric for me, so I cut them straight which took 2 - 3 inches out of the hem circumference.

I've worn this a few times since making it, although it's actually too warm to even need a jacket this light at the moment.  It was perfect in an air conditioned office the other day though.

I can see me making this again.  I think if you sized down it would work well in jersey and I also think it could look quite cute lengthened anywhere from mid thigh to knee length depending on the fabric.  I've got a panel of lovely black embroidered cotton which would be gorgeous for the upper back if I can ever find some plain black that matches it for the rest of the jacket.

Two Summer Dresses

With the weather turning as hot as it has been recently I discovered a distinct lack of work - appropriate dresses in my wardrobe.

I knew I wanted to make a couple but couldn't decide on a pattern.  I've had a love of loose shirt dresses develop over the last few months, but they tend to be a bit shapeless and not necessarily the most figure flattering.  I wanted something loose-ish but not so loose it was sacklike.

I couldn't decide which pattern to use, but then I remembered a black linen dress I made a couple of summers ago (I think) based on the Lily Sage and Co Branson top.

I quickly reprinted the pattern and taped it together, then dug out my fabric.  For my first dress I used some lovely drapey viscose challis I bought recently from Minerva Crafts.  It's a really nice weight and the colours are gorgeous; I'm tempted by one of the other colourways as well.

In terms of the pattern, I cut the bodice back as per the original pattern, albeit taking an inch out of the height to account for my lack of height.  For the back skirt I lengthened the back peplum by 18 inches.

The front is all one piece - as in not separate pieces for bodice and skirt - and this I lengthened by the same 18 inches after smoothing out the dipped hem at the centre front.

Construction-wise I followed the pattern directions, but from my last one I found I could get it on and off without undoing the buttons, so this one has no buttonholes.  The buttons are sewn through both front bands, which is incredibly lazy I know!  I was pleased to find I had exactly the right bright orange buttons in my button jar. 

The second one I made has turned out a little fancier than I planned.  I probably wouldn't wear this one to work, but I'd wear it outside work for anything from a casual walk to the local pub to a fancy birthday party.  In fact I'm planning on wearing it to a 70th birthday party this coming weekend.

The fabric is another viscose, this time from Barry's in Birmingham, purchased quite recently.   It's thinner and not quite as nice as the previous fabric, but at £4.00 a metre I can't complain!

I decided to maxi-fy this one; I'm not quite sure how much length I added on I'm afraid, enough to make it ankle length on me. 

I also decided to do a little something different with the sleeves.  I had the Burdastyle Alexander blouse pattern in my stash, so I decide to use the sleeve from that for this dress.  The sleeve is actually cut as part of the bodice and gathered into a kind of dart, so I overlaid my two patterns and traced a new shoulder/sleeve.  Luckily the sleeve blended really easily into the underarm/side seam junction on the Branson bodice.

Again I cheated and didn't make buttonholes.  I don't hate making buttonholes quite as much as I used to, but I'd definitely avoid making them if at all possible.

I'm trying to stop myself making another dress using this pattern as a basis and move on to something else. 

I'm off to Portugal in September and could do with some holiday clothes.  I don't do shorts, but I'd love some flippy culottes I could make at around knee length, and I've got a desire for a loose strappy jumpsuit.  Any pattern recommendations would be greatly appreciated!

Embroidered Denim Jacket

I love having something creative to do while I'm sitting watching television in the evening - or any time of day! - and recently I've been working on embroidering the back of a denim jacket.

I did one last year, but sadly it's a bit too small for me, so I've been looking around for another design to stitch onto the back of a jacket I bought a while ago.  I hadn't found anything I really fancied until I saw this design pop up in my Instagram feed.

I loved not only the overall design, but the "Choose Kindness" sentiment of the banner.  The design was created by Lolli and Grace, who's Etsy shop can be found here and Instagram here.

There are various ways you can transfer your embroidery design onto your fabric.  I decided to use Aquasol water soluble fabric, available from Barn Yarns.  I've used this before and got on really well with it.  You can also get sticky versions that actually stick to your fabric, but I don't like the feel of my needle and thread going through the adhesive as I sew.

I printed off the design template and traced it onto the Aquasol with a black fine liner pen.  I pinned it into place on the back of the jacket before putting it into the embroidery hoop to ensure that it stayed exactly where I wanted it. 

The Lolli and Grace pattern was really lovely to follow, the instructions were so detailed, with lots of colour photographs and illustrations to help you create a fabulous piece of work.  I'll definitely be back for more patterns from them.

I did the embroidery over the space of two or three weeks, spending a little time most evenings working on it.  I have to say it stitched up quicker than I thought it might when you think about how detailed the design is.  Below is a collage of some of my "in progress" shots.

Once finished I removed the hoop and cut away the excess fabric from around the edges of the embroidery with a small pair of scissors.  You can see this in the bottom right photo above.  You need to be careful that you don't cut through any of your carefully worked stitches, but the fabric cuts very easily so as long as you're careful you should be fine.

Once you've cut away the excess fabric from around the edge you need to soak the piece to removed the rest of the soluble fabric.  This just needs to be done in cool water and it doesn't take long for the fabric to dissolve and disappear.  If the Aquasol isn't rinsed away completely it can make your base fabric feel a little stiff once it's dry, so it's worth taking your time on this step.

Finally here's a photo of the finished piece being modelled by me.

I love how the bright colours pop against the slightly faded denim, and I loved the whole process of doing this piece.  I find embroidery so relaxing to do after a stressful day at work.

Have you ever tried embroidery?  Are you tempted?  Or do you prefer another craft to help you relax?

Book Review: Layered and Stitched Pictures by Katie Essam

My love affair with free motion embroidery was started by a workshop I took with textile artist Katie Essam six or seven years ago so I was very excited to discover recently that she was in the process of writing a book on the subject.


The book - Layered and Stitched Pictures - has now been published and my pre-ordered copy popped through my letter box last week. 

I taught a couple of free motion embroidery workshops yesterday and mentioned the book to the workshop participants, so I thought it would be good to give it a little review.

Part of "The Textile Artist" series by Search Press, it's a gorgeous book, full of lovely photographs and inspiration.  If you like free motion embroidery and Katie's style in particular it's lovely just to look through even if you never made any of the projects from it.  But I'm sure you'd be inspired to sit down at your machine and have a go at one or two as well!

The introduction section firstly tells you a little about Katie herself, then goes on to talk about the materials you will need.  It covers everything from threads to backing and applique fabrics and various types of interfacing and fusible webbing you might need.  This section also lists other tools and materials you might find helpful, including paints and found items for collaging, and has a few tips and advice for before you start and what to do if things don't feel quite right.

This tip below is one of my favourites:

I always tell participants of my workshops that they shouldn't pressurise themselves to create something "perfect" first time; and what is "perfect" anyway.  Having fun and playing with the techniques is good for you!

There are a number of projects within the book, starting with a stitched beach scene, all with detailed photographic step by step instructions.

Each project focusses on a slightly different technique or uses different materials and then goes on to suggest how you could take what you've just learned further.

There's also a lovely section on finding ideas and inspiration and planning your work. In this section Katie talks about composition - do you remember the "rule of thirds" from your school art classes? - and colour.  This page shows how different the same piece can look when mounted on different backgrounds.

One of my favourite projects in the book is the applique hare.  Again, there are step by step photos showing how to layer the applique and add detail.

There are also projects featuring chickens, a pretty painted blue tit sitting on a blossom branch and a section on collaging pictures.

Towards the end of the book is a section on choosing your own design, with advice on how to choose a technique and making templates for your design, with plenty of gorgeous inspiration included.

It really is a great book.  I was expecting something good, but it's better even than I hoped for.  I love that Katie gives you not only step by step projects to complete but gives you encouragement and inspiration to use your own ideas.

If you're interested in free motion embroidery, then I'd highly recommend you treat yourself to a copy of this book.


My Favourite Free Motion Embroidery Tools


A while ago I posted a tutorial showing how I stitch detail in free motion embroidery pieces, either to add fiddly, precise features or when I don't want to have an applique fabric 'edge' to follow.  This technique involves stitching through a layer of tissue paper with the design drawn on and then carefully removing the tissue once the stitching is complete.

Today I thought I'd tell you a bit more about some of the tools I've found helpful in getting a neat finish.
The first is a common or garden stitch unpicker / seam ripper / whatever you like to call it.
As I showed in the tutorial, it's really handy for gently poking the tip under the tissue paper you need to peel off and easing it away from the stitching. It's much easier than trying to find an edge you can lift up with your fingers!

Once you've removed most of the tissue in this way, you'll probably find you're left with tiny bits in between lines of stitching, or stuck underneath individual stitches. A pair of needle nosed craft tweezers is brilliant for getting rid of these tiny bits.

I got these in the card making section of my local craft shop, as you can see from the photo below the points are really fine.  You can use them to gently scrape out the tiny bits of tissue you can't get with the unpicker or your fingers, and then lift them away.

The final tool I'm going to recommend is not just useful for this technique, it would be handy anywhere you need to cut threads really close to your work. 

These are curved blade micro snips.  I bought this pair on Amazon for about £6.00, the photo below shows the curve on the blade, enabling you to cut threads very close to your work without fear of snipping the work itself.

I've found they make a lot of difference to the neatness of my work and they're very light and easy to handle.

I'm currently trying to justify a pair of these Tula Pink Hardware ones, at about 4 times the price of the pair I bought.  No difference in how they work, but they're much prettier!

I hope you've found this useful.  As always, if you have any questions, please ask them in the comments below and I'll respond as quickly as I can.

The Best Thing I've Made for Ages

Hello, I hope you're enjoying your Saturday.  I've been working this morning, but have decided enough is enough and I'm going to relax for the rest of the day.

I'm here today to show you a dress I made last weekend.  The last few things I've made myself haven't been blogged because they either haven't been finished (because I don't like them) or they turned out not as nice as I thought.  I know in the interests of honesty I should blog the failures as well as the successes, but I can't be bothered.  Sorry!

Anyway, this dress is one of those projects that turned out even better than I hoped it would, and I had pretty high hopes for it.


The pattern is the Closet Case Patterns Kalle dress, which I'm sure needs no introduction.  I made a couple last summer, both in the half buttoned style.  The first time I used the longest length option on the pattern but it was to short for me, so on the second outing I lengthened it by a couple of inches.  I'm not tall, but I don't like to show my knees, and the first one fully exposed them. 

Ever since then I've been wondering about making an even longer version and when I saw this fabric I knew I had to give it a try.

The fabric is supposedly a viscose crepe from Barry's Fabrics in Birmingham.  I was in Birmingham a couple of weekends ago for a gig* and decided it would be rude to drive home on the Monday without visiting a couple of fabric shops.  I went to Barry's and the Fancy Silk Store, walking across town from my hotel near the Jewellery quarter.

Anyway, as soon as I saw the fabric I thought "maxi dress" - it was only on the way home that I thought "long Kalle shirt dress" instead. 

The alteration was easy.  I basically took my already slightly lengthened pattern pieces and added another ten inches onto them, the rest is made exactly as the pattern.  The fun part was trying to do the burrito yoke with the lengthened body pieces, it was a bit of a squeeze I can tell you, but it worked!

As you can see I've got it belted here, I wore it to a managers meeting during the week with a cropped black jacket.  I forgot to photograph it without the belt, although I'll probably wear it like that when the weather warms up, and I think it could also be worn open over a pair of cropped trousers and a top. 

I have to say, I love it.  It's slightly shorter than I anticipated a dress from this fabric being, but I think it's the perfect length for the style, belted or loose.  I've actually got some lovely fabric I bought at the Sewing Bee Live last year that I'm tempted to make into another exactly the same. 

* The gig was Nick Hodgson (ex-drummer of Kaiser Chiefs) who has recently released his first solo album.  It was an amazing evening, here is a video my friend took during the gig. 

The Craft Pot Subscription Box

I'm back with something a little different today, a review of the new craft subscription box, The Craft Pot.

The Craft Pot's About Us page begins:

The Craft Pot was set up to give everyone an excuse to actually use their little breaks during the day as breaks, and not time to check emails, wipe down the counter tops, or any other little task "that'll just take 5 minutes"

Katie Betty contacted me a few months ago, introducing the idea to me and asking if I'd be interested in reviewing a box.  She told me that The Craft Pot's main aim was to get people to 'Take Time and Make Time' for themselves, in this case in the form of crochet.  Her email emphasised the benefits of crafting on mental health, and as that's something I've written about before and feel strongly about and know has helped me personally, I was only too happy to say I'd review a box.

My box arrived last week and I was excited to see the contents. Each box contains everything you need to create a crochet project, along with a few tea bags to enjoy while you're creating.

This months project is "Not your nan's Granny stitch hat and mitts".  When I opened the box I was greeted by two cheery balls of yarn.

Underneath the yarn you'll find the pattern for the project, then the tools you'll need and some individually packaged tea bags. 


I haven't started crocheting mine yet, but the pattern looks detailed enough for a confident beginner crocheter to follow, with suggestions of places you can look online if you need additional information or assistance.

From the information and photos included it looks like the hat is a nice slouchy one and the mitts are little handwarmers.  Very cute!

The box costs £12.99 a month including UK delivery.  I think it's a great idea and as an advocate of crafting of any sort to aid good mental health I wish Katie Betty and The Craft Pot huge success. 

If you like a bit of crochet - or would like to learn - and a sit down with a cuppa, or feel you need to create yourself a little bit of me time, I'd suggest you take a look at what The Craft Pot have to offer.

You can follow The Craft Pot on Instagram here, Twitter here and Facebook here.   

* Katie Betty kindly provided me with this box free of charge in exchange for a review, but all views expressed are my own.

Free Motion Embroidery - Stitching Detail

I'm back after another extremely long break with a free motion embroidery tutorial for you.   It's actually something I've been meaning to photograph and write for some time, but a question from a participant of a recent workshop I taught prompted me to get on and do it.

Kim emailed me after the class and asked:

In the pieces you showed as illustrations there were several where there was no applique and I was wondering how you approach this - it’s more a true freestyle?  For example on your illustration with the woman in the red dress with the large window behind, how did you embroider the window - is this completely freestyle or do you draw on the fabric & sew over it?  How do you get the perfect layout?  Any pointers on this aspect would be greatly appreciated!

 The picture she was talking about is this one, that I created some time ago.

Sadly I didn't have time to recreate something similar, so I've done a tutorial using a slightly simpler design.  

I started by cutting the main pieces of the image out of the fabric I wanted to use, and adhering it to my backing fabric with Bondaweb.

I used a copy of my original image to trace the details I wanted to add with thread onto a piece of dressmakers tissue paper.

I then pinned this in place over my backing fabric and main applique pieces and used the outline to place additional smaller pieces (in this case, the headlights and hubcaps).

I then start stitching as normal, with my embroidery foot on my machine and the feed dogs lowered. 

At this stage I only stitch the areas where I need the traced outline as a guide - I don't stitch "edges" or areas that can be sewn without the tissue paper in place.  The reason for this is that the more stitching you have over the tissue paper the more fiddly it becomes to remove it.

Once I've stitched everything I need to I carefully tear the tissue paper away.  Normally it comes away quite easily, the stitches have already perforated it, which means it comes fairly cleanly away from the sewn lines.

However a stitch unpicker is useful for getting under pieces of paper that are fully enclosed by stitching, and a pair of needle nosed craft tweezers can help pull away tiny pieces of paper that get stuck under individual stitches.

Once all the tissue is removed, I continue stitching the remaining areas as normal. 

I noticed on this piece that I'd forgotten to sew the offside front wheel when the tissue was in place (because I'd actually forgotten to trace it!) so I carefully drew it in with a pencil.  You could use an air or water erasable pen - but if you decide to use one of these please test them on a scrap piece of fabric first to make sure they really do disappear!

And finally, the completed piece.

You can use this technique to stitch large areas without fabric underneath or a completely fabric free piece.  It's also useful for just adding very small amounts of detail on a fabric-heavy piece, and it's great if you want to add text or lettering that needs to be particularly neat.

I hope you've found this tutorial useful.  If you would like more information on basic free motion embroidery techniques, I have a tutorial here.