Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Hand printed fabric swap - where do you start?

If you have already registered your interest in this challenge or are still pondering on doing so then here are some ideas to get you thinking before kick off.

Bearing in mind that we are not all experienced printers in this challenge, it may be a bit confusing and difficult to know where to start exactly.

Printing can get expensive, so if you are starting from scratch in terms of equipment then it's probably best to get creative with your tools if you don't want to invest too much in a completely new craft. As far as colour goes, you can use as much or as little as you wish, but the more you use you the more you have to buy!


Here are some of the low tech solutions I have come across online to give you some inspiration...

Everyone uses toilet roll don't they? (I hope so!) This is such an effective way of producing an all over print. You could even place them in clusters to form shapes like triangles or do different colours. What about turning some of the circles into faces? Oh god, anything is possible!!!

The corn on the cob is ingenious! I totally love this texture and think this is one I am definitely going to try! FYI, there are a tonne of other vegetable stamp ideas out there too. Check out my pinterest board, but also google for ideas and look in your veggie bowl!

The above big blobs with dimples is a stamp which is actually formed from plasticine. If you have any spare plasticine lying around then you can really go to town with making shapes.

Me thinks that the houses are probably cut from lino, but if you've got any of that slim craft foam then you could create a similar kind of block. I mean the kind of craft foam that kids use here that you could cut with scissors, stick to a block of wood or something and hey presto you have a stamp!

Pencil rubber ends? Gotta love it.

Block of wood wrapped in string is another one I'll definitely be trying. It's got a bit of an Orla Kiely cross hatch vibe to it if done in different directions overlapped.

Spots made with a cotton bud dipped in ink is another fave. I love how irregular they look as opposed to using a cork, where they will be much bigger and more regular. Not that I'm dissing the cork method. I have tried it and it works out really well. In fact the humble cork is about to make an appearance further down.

If you can spare an apple then this is wonderfully kitsch isn't it?

A whole host of carved corks! These are best carved with a craft knife to get a clean cut, but going back to the craft foam, you could always cut small shapes and stick them to corks rather than carving. Maybe several layers though to give you a deep enough stamp. It's a great excuse to crack open the wine too!

The bubble wrap print illustrates perfectly how you can utilise stuff you have around you. Look at your recycling bin and see what textures you've got lurking in there. corrogated card or bottle tops could easily get you started.

It's easy to get bogged down with too many suggestions, so I'm going to stop there I think, as I'm getting myself into a bit of a tizz. I'm not sure how much I can point you in any direction and how much it's about just trying things for yourselves. If you are not so new to print then you can probably steer yourselves quite well anyway with lino prints and small scale screen prints, These are something I have dabbled with, but am not skilled enough to go into any detail. Have a look on the internet for tutorials and think about whether you want to create an all over pattern, dye technique or illustrative print.

One product I will introduce you to is freezer paper. This stuff is great for creating stencils and you can iron it onto the fabric. Here's a link to a tutorial to give you an idea of what it is. I have used this on the below print and it was so simple. I drew my shape on the freezer paper (which is supposed to be a bird made from my hands, like shadow puppet), cut it with a craft knife and placed the stencil onto the fabric fixing it with an iron. I then stamped inside the stencil with a cross cork stamp a load of times until the shape was filled in, removed the stencil and repeated the process over the fabric. The grey dots in the background are another cork stamp which I kept on stamping fairly randomly. So low tech and it didn't take a whole load of time. I did sample to get a look that I was happy with (which is essential), but printing a metre like this was not too bad. I was stamping up and down fairly quickly, as there's no need to be really careful when you're basically colouring in a stencil with a stamp. You could even get little people to help...

I wrapped my print in a little sleeve made of parcel paper with my name stamped on before sending. You do not need to do this, but I thought it added a nice touch!

 What inks are you going to use?

I'm sure that you are going to want recommendations at some point and I have been pondering at where to start.

I use Speedball screen printing ink for the most part, but they do a block printing ink too. I've never used this, so don't know what it's like, but they are good products. Just check that the ink you are buying is suitable for fabrics and not just paper!!! See part of their range here.

Another brand I use is Versacraft fabric stamps. These are brilliant for small scale prints, but you may only get a patchy coverage with it. This is something I like, but may not be what you want. I ordered mine from Sticky Tiger as they have a large colour selection in stock.

If you are going down the stamp pad route then one brand I totally do NOT recommend is Dovecraft. The feedback is true and this stuff never dries properly and will never stop smudging. It's really bad on paper and fabric. Steer clear!!!

If any of you have some recommendations for products or techniques then do share as we're all open to suggestions!

I hope this post is useful and don't forget that if you want to join in then comment on the previous post here with details! Come on, it'll be fun!!!

Monday, 28 July 2014

Accidental capsule wardrobe!

What was I doing this weekend? Well, when I wasn't spending quality time with the family I was making up some Purl Soho city gym shorts.

The beginning of this tale starts where I ask my good friend Eleanor if she would like me to make her something and I asked her if she would like me to make her a Flora dress with wrap over bodice. This was my downfall! Several months later and this has not materialised. Almost as soon as I suggested it I knew it was a mistake, as I haven't met up with her since and wasn't planning an immediate visit to Bristol to check fitting etc... I have since read loads of comments about the Flora wrap needing major fit adjustments, so knew this wasn't the right dress to tackle without dear friend to test fit.

In hindsight  the Flora dress wasn't right as it's more of an occasional dress and if I'm going to the bother of making someone something then it may as well be something more wearable. I do however love the Flora pattern!

One of the prototypes I had made for my own pattern over the last couple of months was perfect for Eleanor anyway, so I decided I was going to send her this dress.

This is me trying it on and photographing it to get a sense of proportion. The difference that this has compared with the final pattern is that it features a narrow collar that mimicks a t-shirt neck ribbing, but in a woven fabric. I have left this off the final pattern as I was worried it was too fiddly to attach.

This weekend I tweeted the link to the city gym shorts pattern and Eleanor said she needed a pair for Zumba class (not asking me to make her some by the way) and I thought I'd give it a go. I mis-printed a landscape version of the PDF which had some parts missing, threw it in the recycling, broke the printer, fished it out of the recycling and traced the rest directly from the monitor (not advised!). Anyway, eventually I got the pattern together... A couple of pairs later, plus a co-ordinating top and I seem to have developed a mini capsule wardrobe that would be perfect for a holiday!

The top in matching fabric is another sample from my pattern (sorry for the shameless plugging), which I made as a dress as one of the many construction test samples. I simply cut it down to a top following the curved hem for the top variation. Looks way better as a top!

Zig zag top-stitching to keep that pesky elastic in place.

Overlap detail. I confess I didn't follow the instructions apart from what length to cut the waistband and the elastic, but I'm sure I must have done a similar construction anyway!

Dress collar detail with little rouleaux loop and button on the back. Fancy!

And the front...

Top pocket close up. I used a jersey for the pocket for a relaxed sporty feel.

The only picture I took of the printed shorts in full view. A bit rubbish, but it gives you an idea.

And I think that's it! I'm definitely going to make myself some of these shorts, as the cut on the leg is very flattering, even on my thunder thighs!!! Fortunately Eleanor has amazing legs, so I hope she'll get loads of wear from them. I'm glad it's worked out this way and I'm sending her a collection rather than just one dress, as it seems more special somehow and will hopefully be easier to intergrate into her actual wardobe. Only time will tell, I just hope it all fits!!!

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Hand printed fabric swap - sign up here!!!

Right, I am going ahead with this then. I am going to organise a handprinted fabric swap!

Toilet roll stamp!
For those of you who did not read the last post, I am doing a hand-printed fabric swap for fellow sewists. This is a challenge for all skill levels and I am confident that amazing results can be achieved with very low tech equipment.

Basically I will pair people up, so you can get to know each other and you can then each produce one metre of hand printed fabric to swap with your partner. This will be a great way to get to know your partner and you can swap ideas and print techniques as you go if you like! Get to know your partners likes and dislikes, but do not let this confine you too much, as you will hopefully be using this challenge to experiment with colour and texture, so don't need to follow a specific brief as such (unless you want to!)...

Is there any criteria to take part in the swap? I hear you cry!
  • Well, I think that this is open to bloggers/avid instagrammers only I'm afraid. It will be easier for pairs to get to know/stalk their partners if they have something visual to look at.
  • This is going to be open to the whole world, so non-UK residents need apply!!!
  • There is no need to have ever done any print prior to this as I have set up a pinterest board full of inspiration, which I shall be adding to further. See here!
FYI, I'm not an experienced printer, so will be learning as I go on this one, but I have set up a pinterest board that we can all add to with 'in progress' samples and final prints here. Once I have your email addresses, I shall invite you to be contributors to the board and hopefully we can all inspire each other!

I don't want to be too much of a school mistress, but feel that there needs to be a few rules in place to ensure that everyone gets a fair deal.
  • Fabric wise, I think it's best to stick to natural fibres such as cotton or linen (doesn't matter what colour or weight). This is better for print and also means that each swappee will get a reasonable quality of fabric in return.
  • Please pre-wash before printing to remove any fabric coating and allow shrinkage.
  • Also, please fix your dyes according to the manufacturers instructions and wash after printing to make sure that the dye stays in place (even if it's a hand wash). You can then instruct your partner how you washed it, so they know it's safe to do the same.
  • Can fabric be at least 140cm wide? Then at least a nice top or something can be made from the fabric.
If you would like to register your interest in taking part then please comment below. Can you please leave your name, blog URL, email address and where you are from? I'm going to partner up everyone randomly, so please be aware that you may have to send your print overseeeeeees!

Please register by Saturday the 2nd of August and I will then pair you up. Given that this may be something new to some of you, I think we should have a longish deadline, so shall we say complete and post your finished print by Tuesday the 2nd September? This should hopefully give you time to gather supplies, have a play and come up with something you are happy with.

Really excited about this challenge and looking forward to getting started already! I have never organised anything like this before, so please be kind and politely tap me on the shoulder if you think I've missed anythign out!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Baby refashioning!

My posts are sometimes like buses, I don't write anything for like a week and then two come along at once!

This is just a quick post to write about some baby refashioning I have been doing. I am finiding it difficult to justify making anything for Maria, let alone buying anything these days, as I have so much to hand down from Evan. Her gifted clothes are now running extrememly low, but the weather is scorching and she is getting bigger, so I thought I could make her a dress out of an old vest. This vest is 3-6 months and she is 7 and a half months, so it was cutting her in half a bit, but rather than get rid of it or give it away I had a go at refashioning.

I should probably have taken a better picture than this!

To achieve a dress I simply chopped off the leg holes to make a bodice. I pleated a strip of fabric so that it was about a quater wider than the flat vest and stretched the vest to the pleated fabric to allow some ease. Simples!!! Too many photos??? Oh well, she is such a babe, she deserves to be the centre of attention.

The next refashion is of my old cardigan. I have had this cardigan for about 15 years and I decided it was time to let go! I have reduced the size to make a toddler cardi for Maria in the winter. I used my Oliver and S layette jacket as a size guide when cutting.

I managed to retain the sleeve and side seams and just had to unpick some of the rib edging, join the raglan and add the unpicked edging back. This also meant that I retained the buttons and button holes. Really pleased with this, sorry if I have not explained my process more, but the little angel that is Maria is waking up so I have to go!

Hand printed fabric swap and watermelon top!!!

I am sewing, sewing, sewing at the moment, but sometimes it's nice to have a change, so whilst testing some construction techniques recently I thought it would be fun to have a go at printing. Every now and then I like to decorate my fabrics, but it got me to thinking, what about a hand printed fabric swap!!! More on that in a minute after I show you my new top...

Here it is in all its glory, but before we go any further, I need to point out that I have shamelessly copied a kids t-shirt design! I dyed this (formerly white) linen last week and realised straight away that I wouldn't wear this fabric as it's too sugary, but when I came across this t-shirt on pinterest I knew what to do!!!

I bought a stamp set for my husband from Donna Wilson a couple of years ago, which has some perfect stamps for this project. I have just checked her website and unfortunately it no longer seems available, but here is a product image of the set. I used the raindrop  and eye stamp.

I dipped a sponge into some black screen printing ink and pushed it down a bit to make a stamp pad kind of thing and just pressed the stamp into the sponge and then onto the fabric. I think it worked out quite well. It's by no means perfect and I made no effort to mark the pattern position beforehand, but does that matter?

Here are the creepy eyes on the back!

You can see that some of the wooden block edges have marked the fabric on the front where I put pressure in the wrong area of the stamp. It's kind of messy, but there's no mistaking that this is a hand printed item!!!

I made the pocket out of some cloud 9 faric from 'the village haberdashery', which is ear marked for Maria. I was going to leave it off, as this is what makes my top a blatant copy, but it looks so good...

The shorts I'm wearing are some that I made a few weeks back and have been wearing loads. I wasn't going to blog them as they didn't seem very interesting, but as they're here I may as well. They are using the same vintage pattern I used for these pedal pushers, but shorter and with a scallop hem.

Right, now onto my idea for a hand printed fabric swap!

I have taken part in something like this before, but it was set up for quilters and it was to swap in groups of four, giving each swapee a fat quarter of your print. I really like this idea, but think it would work great for dressmakers if we swapped in pairs and each gave each other one metre of printed fabric, so that there is a possibility of making something with it afterwards.

Who would be up for doing something like this?

Before you run away scared at the thought, you do not need to have any previous experience in print to produce something fabulous. Look at the following (very acheivable) samples.

This gorgeous linen has a simple ink wash line running down the border
Printed spots, acheivable with a cork and some fabric stamp inks???
Some shibori/tie dyeing
Hand painting with fabric inks
Hand painted stripes!
Amazingly simple idea using bleach, some branches and a spray bottle!
Now I'm not sure how many people will be interested in taking part in something like this and I do not have a massive amount of followers to appeal to, but it should be fun shouldn't it?

Post a comment below if you think that this sounds like a good idea and if I get more than 2 responses then lets do it!!! I'll do a follow up post where you can officially sign up and be allocated a swap partner as well as follow ups after that with print inspirations.

Here are some links to some of my past efforts...

Mimi blouse
Previous fabric swap here
Lino printing (on paper)