Friday 28 March 2014

Making a Dress Pattern from an Old Dress

This little dress cost £2.50 from a charity shop, bought specially so I could cut it up.

It was in good enough condition to be used as a play dress because it wasn't actually falling apart. It had nice flat felled seams at the front of the shoulders,

and a bound neckline with a bit of staining - probably pasta sauce, a great favourite with toddlers.

About three weeks ago I got busy with the scissors and cut it up to make a pattern.

Here is the video showing the whole process.

And here is the finished dress made with the home-made pattern...

... complete with pretty trim around the sleeves...

... and neckline (note no pasta sauce yet)...

... and finally, the most exciting part of all, the first buttonholes I have made with the buttonholer

This has been a really enjoyable project from start to finish.  I used the 1949 Singer 15K hand machine for all the machine stitching, except for the buttonholes, where I used the Singer 201K treadle.

Now I can't wait to make the next little dress.

Linking up with Sarah's blog Confessions of a Fabric Addict for Whoop Whoop Friday
and Leanne's blog Devoted Quilter for TGIFF

and Barbara's blog Cat Patches for the March NewFO - meanwhile the February NewFO free motion landscape is proceeding at a far more leisurely pace...

Thursday 27 March 2014

Filling in the Free Motion Sky

This is the stage I have reached with the free motion landscape.  The sky and clouds are now filled in, and I am tempted to consider it finished.. If I just added a little more infill at the bottom, then I could trim it and bind it and call it a day.

This is definitely my favourite section of the picture.  Perhaps if I tried a foreground I might just draw the eye away from this part.

Leah Day stresses the importance of starting free motion quilting at the centre of a piece and working outwards, to keep control of the fullness which develops in the unquilted areas.By the time I got to the top edge it was fairly frilly.  If I do decide to carry on quilting at the bottom edge of the picture and it starts to get too frilly, then I will definitely stop there.

Decision decisions.  I'm not rushing.

Linking up today to Kelly's blog My Quilt Infatuation for Needle and Thread Thursday
and Leah Day's blog for Free Motion Friday. 

Tuesday 25 March 2014

Testing the Ruffler

Yesterday I spent a fair portion of the day playing around with rufflers.  It is about four years since I last used a ruffler and I needed to refresh my memory.

I have four of these gadgets, and I tried out three of them.  One is jammed and needs a good cleaning and oiling.  Another is out of shape and it needs some gentle persuasion with a pair of pliers.  Another is a much older model and I didn't try it.  Those three will all have to wait until another day.

However, this one did what it was supposed to do.  Here it is attached to the Singer 201K treadle, and the camera was just sitting on the bed of the machine.  Now I am looking for ways to use it in my next project, which will probably be another little dress.

Quilts are taking a back seat at the moment.  All I want to do is dressmaking - hardly surprising, being hooked on the Great British Sewing Bee at the moment.  Tonight's instalment promises to be interesting...  I think we shall be seeing some vintage machines in action.  Can't wait.

Linking up today with Connie's blog Freemotion by the River for Linky Tuesday.  Lots of interesting projects to see there.

Sunday 23 March 2014

A Pretty Picture for Sunday - Meadow Bindweed

Beautiful little flowers, beastly long roots.  I have been digging them up and burning them.

Friday 21 March 2014

Free Motion Clouds

Clouds are gathering in Freemotionland.

I didn't realise how much the weather could affect the imagination until last week.  We had thick fog for two days solid and I dashed out to buy quilting threads in several shades of grey.  Then we had beautiful clear weather and I started quilting clouds in the sky.

And in the past few days I have realised how often I see church towers in the distance. 

As for the trees reflected in water, after seeing flooding on the news for weeks on end this winter, I did wonder if I was doing a picture of flooded fields rather than an actual lake. 

Once I have finished the sky I shall have to think about the foreground.  I'm not sure that I will manage to keep the sense of perspective, but if it doesn't work I'm not too worried.  I can just slice off the bottom and keep the landscape starting in the middle distance.

It is really enjoyable seeing how all the different coloured threads work together.  I have never been tempted to make postcard size pieces of work until now.

Linking up today with Sarah's blog Confessions of a Fabric Addict for Whoop Whoop Friday
And Leah Day's blog for Free Motion Friday.

Leah frequently warns about getting your position and posture right so you don't strain your arms and shoulders when free motion quilting.  Guess who has got an aching left arm.  This project is being completed a bit at a time for more than one reason...

Wednesday 19 March 2014

A Tip from an Old Pattern

This is one of the old dress patterns that I have stored away in my cupboard.  I made a dress from it a few years ago, and learnt a very handy tip from it.  The bodice has a seam allowance of over an inch - I can't remember how wide exactly - and the instructions say that when sewing the skirt to the bodice, the edge of the skirt should be well below the edge of the bodice.

This explains why on my last post about the little red dress that I am making, the skirt and bodice are not tacked edge to edge.

Once the seam has been machine stitched, all you need to do is fold over the bodice seam allowance and enclose the raw edges.  It is much less fuss and less bulky than using bias binding.

All I have left to do on the dress now are the buttonholes, buttons and hem...

Linking up today with Connie's blog Freemotion by the River for Linky Tuesday
and Kelly's blog My Quilt Infatuation for Needle and Thread Thursday

Tuesday 18 March 2014

... And the Bride Wore Hartnell

Another glimpse inside a 1960 British Nylon Spinners magazine, the publication that included the article about parachute silk

Such beautiful classic lines on the bride's dress, greatly enhanced by her swan-like neck - but what would you expect from a designer like Norman Hartnell?  A shame really that the bridesmaids' dresses are nowhere near as elegant.

Here is the bride again with the bridesmaids, flower girl and page.  The page is the lucky one, he is the only one not decked out in 100% nylon.  Who needs hairspray when you can generate your own static?

These pictures to me sum up the 60s.  Elegance is not yet dead, but it is slowly being swallowed up by trashiness.  I can't understand why so many people think 1960s fashions were glamorous and exciting, and refer to it as vintage fashion.  I am very much the same generation as the little flower girl on this picture.  I can remember all this stuff, and I didn't like it at the time. 

For me, the only redeeming feature in these photos is the fact that the wedding dress was by Norman Hartnell, who had already been going for years...

... as seen in this truly fabulous video.   Classic vintage fashion.  Just shut your eyes to the Bo Peep disaster.

Welcome to Cheryl, the latest follower - thank you for joining!

Sunday 16 March 2014

A Pretty Picture for Sunday - Abraham and Isaac

This carved wooden panel is in a church I visited last year with a friend.  The craftsmanship and artistry is quite astonishing - all the drama depicted in a small panel of oak.

Friday 14 March 2014

Scribbling with the Treadle

This afternoon I did a bit more quilting on the free motion landscape.  I decided that a church and a cluster of houses on the skyline was what it needed.  Since taking this photo I have almost finished filling in the gap on the left between the trees and the horizon.

I was relieved that I managed to make the church tower vertical. 

Quite what I am going to put in the foreground remains to be seen.  Taking this project slowly is turning out to be really enjoyable.  No real plan, no pressure.  Just what I need at the moment, because the weather has dried up and I have a vegetable plot to dig.

Linking up today with Leah Day's blog for Free Motion Friday
and Sarah's blog Confessions of a Fabric Addict for Whoop Whoop Friday

Thursday 13 March 2014

Making a Dress and Consulting Books

At the moment I am making a little dress in this rather glaring shade of red.  As usual, I had forgotten that tiny dresses take up just as much time as big dresses because you have to do all the same things but on a minute scale.  After setting in the sleeves and binding the seams I decided to consult my books to see if there were any wonderful time saving tips on how to neaten the edges of armhole seams.  My newest book is the Singer Sewing Book 1975 edition, then the McCall's Sewing in Colour from the 1960s.  Then I have a handful of books from the 1950s and 1940s.  None of them had any helpful hints at all - in fact, unless I have missed something, they all dodged the issue altogether.

This is the only book that had anything to say on the subject,

a 1914 edition of a fascinating and frightening work by Agnes Walker (Late Lecturer at the United Free Church Training College, Aberdeen) revised and augmented by Jane A. Strachan (Aberdeen Provincial Committee for the Training of Teachers).  The book is written for teachers of needlework, who at that time were teaching large classes of infants how to sew.

This book recommends binding armhole seams, so I felt a whole lot better.

Then I decided to see if there was anything I should bear in mind when gathering the skirt of the dress, and ended up on these pages.

The concept of stroking gathers was entirely new to me.  The first illustration looked all too familiar, but the next page showed how each fold should be individually straightened with the needle.  

The text is enough to bring on waves of anxiety.  If I start having nightmares featuring scary Scottish schoolmistresses I will know why.

Not surprisingly, I am just bashing on and doing the gathered skirt the way I have always done it. Just don't tell Agnes and Jane.

Linking up today with Kelly's blog My Quilt Infatuation for Needle and Thread Thursday.

Tuesday 11 March 2014

Parachute Silk

Last September I posted a picture of a 1940s lingerie pattern which included instructions for laying the pattern pieces on panels of parachute silk.  Since then I have come across a gem of a second hand book - all the 1960 editions of the company magazine of British Nylon Spinners. There is a fascinating article about parachutes, which includes the wartime reminiscences of six BNS men who had been paratroopers.

These photographs were taken during a visit by members of BNS to GQ Parachute Company at Woking.

I'm not taken in by the coy nudge nudge caption (oh how very 1960).  Tom Squire only has eyes for the sewing machine.

It was interesting finding out that from some time in 1941 parachutes were no longer made from silk but from nylon.  Perhaps from now on I should refer to nylon as parachute silk.  It sounds far more exotic.

Sunday 9 March 2014

A Pretty Picture for Sunday - A Butterfly in the Clearing

This was last taken summer, in a clearing in the woods in Poland.  This isn't a butterfly that I have seen here at home, so I have scoured my books.  I think it is a scarce copper.  Great name.  You can never find one when you need one.

Friday 7 March 2014

Free Motion Landscape - Upside Down

Last week I did a bit of experimenting to see if I could start a free motion landscape.  Once I had put in a couple of lines of quilting to represent a hedgerow, I realised I had done it upside down.  The creamy yellow was supposed to be the background of the sky, and I had managed to end up with it at the bottom.   I have to confess I was rather cheesed off about it.

So I turned the whole thing upside down and turned the first lines of stitching into reflections. What started out as a hedgerow has turned into the far shore of a lake.  I haven't a clue what I am going to do next, but at least this week I have enjoyed myself.  It feels like scribbling with a treadle, rather than quilting.

Linking up with Sarah's blog Confessions of a Fabric Addict for Whoop Whoop Friday
and Leah Day's blog for Free Motion Friday

Wednesday 5 March 2014

Sewing Appliqué Daffodil Leaves

Here are the stems and leaves of the daffodil before I added the flower and bud.  The leaves are worked in exactly the same way as the stems.

For the stems, I cut a bias strip half an inch from the fold and kept the width consistent all the way to the top.  The tops of the stems can be left with raw edges because they are later covered by the flower or bud. 

The leaves are slightly wider.  They are three quarters of an inch at the base and taper gently to about half an inch at the top.  The fun and games come when rounding the top of the leaves.

To do this I put in tiny gathering stitches with tacking thread at the top to set in a curve.  

A teaspoon handle was just the right size for the next job, pulling the tacking thread to make the end of the leaf fold under in a gathered curved edge.  

Once the raw edges were aimed in the right direction, I put a tiny drop of water at the end of the leaf and pulled the gathering thread again to tuck the edges underneath.

All it needed then was a good pressing with a hot iron from the back, and the folded edge of the leaf was ready to be hand sewn into place.  The  gathering threads don't need to be pulled out - they can be tucked out of sight underneath the leaf when it is stitched down.

Linking up today with Lee's blog Freshly Pieced for WIP Wednesday,
and Kelly's blog My Quilt Infatuation for Needle and Thread Thursday. 

Tuesday 4 March 2014

Making a Hand Stitched Button Loop

Tonight I shall be watching the third instalment of The Great British Sewing Bee.  Amongst other things, the contestants will be tackling the horrors of stretchy fabrics and making a pair of leggings. Not my cup of tea at all.

More to my taste is making a button loop, which was one of the tasks set in the first programme a fortnight ago.  This endearingly tatty little item is the sample button and loop I sewed in about 1969 or 70 for needlework at school.  It has been lurking in the button tin ever since.

On close inspection, the loop looks rather like a miniature bag handle.

To make sure I could still do it - I can't remember making another one in between times - I made another last week and have posted a video on Youtube.  This time, instead of using about six strands of ordinary machine cotton, I decided to use stranded embroidery thread.  I wanted to see the finished effect when using a variegated thread.  It would look nice with a pretty cotton print so the colours would match.  It doesn't look too bad with the ghastly shade of brown of the sample in the video.  I have to use up that dreadful brown somehow.  The dye runs, so samples are all it is fit for.

Sunday 2 March 2014

A Picture for Sunday - Wet Fields

This photo was taken in October 2012, after a ridiculously wet summer.  The ground was totally saturated, the ditches were full and fields had large pools of standing water.  This is one of my favourite walks.  Then, as now, a walk was a squelchy trek in wellies through mud.  The scene now is much the same, but the trees are still bare, and the oak in the distance has had a battering from the strong winds this winter.  We have only had a couple of night frosts here all winter, just wind and rain instead.  And rain.  And yet more rain.  For me, this picture isn't pretty.  

Saturday 1 March 2014

Happy St. David's Day!

Finished (well, almost) in time for St. David's Day, the Welsh daffodil appliqué, a reworking of the daffodil panel on the Queen's Diamond Jubilee quilt.  The leaf on the right is simpler, as planned, and the bud is a touch thinner and drooping a bit more than the original, which wasn't planned.  The flower doesn't look totally right yet because the petals need to be outlined to show them radiating from the centre, but I will add that in as part of the quilting.

Also, the butterfly is missing.  For the time being it will have to make do with a paper cutout.  I am still debating exactly where to place it.

I had forgotten how little time these appliqués take.  St. Patrick's Day is on the horizon.  At this rate I should have the shamrock panel reworked by then... but I have totally run out of the right shade of green.

Hello to Josie, the latest follower - thank you for joining!


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