Saturday, 30 August 2014

The owl and the house cushion

I should probably have made a pussycat to go with the owl, but it only just occured to me in writing the post title!

Something I was working on this week was a couple of cushions. I have no craft time at the moment, what with teething baby and excitable toddler, so this was a small project that could easily be done in little bites. Having said that, I can assure you that I did not set out to make these. I just had a spare 20 minutes, so printed an owl. It kind of spiralled from there really

So, what do you normally do when you have time for a cup of tea? Apparently I like to draw animals. I did the rough sketch below marking a kind of owly shape and filled it in with stamp shapes from my collection. They are roughly drawn to the dimensionish of the stamps, so it's a good enough representation of the proportions.

 I then traced the outline onto my white fabric with a water soluble pen and stamped the eyes, nose and head. You can kind of see in the above photo that I cut my owl out. I then used the paper that surrounded that shape as a template or a mask and stamped the body feathers within that template. Having the paper mask meant that I could stamp over the line of the body and half the stamp would be on the fabric and half would be on the paper, so I didn't have to worry about printing within my drawn lines.

Above are the stamps I used and all are bought ones rather than hand made. Below is old owl chops and you can see what I mean about the mask cutting off the stamps at the bottom of the body. I also used the same technique for the wings, so that I could stamp the lines willy nilly and they still form the wing shape. I have no idea if this is accurate for an owls wings, as I didn't check! I do wish I had taken more photos of the printing, but just wanted to get it done!

What do you do with a printed owl? I thought about making a plush toy for one of the children, but to be honest they don't need it, so I decided on cushions. I used to make cushions for a living, so to measure up I just cut my front and backs to the size of the pad. By the time you have sewn your seam allowances the cushion cover ends up slightly smaller than the pad, which makes for a plumper looking cushion. So for a 16" pad I cut 16" squares and it ends up being approximately a 14.5"-15" cover.

I chose to underline my front panel, as the white fabric was slightly see through, so I lay my cut piece on top of the underlining, pinned it down and cut around. I did the same for the back piece.

 With the printed panel and white underlining pinned together I overlocked all round the edges, I used a wool for the backing, so didn't need to overlock it at all.

 I then pinned the zip to the bottom front edge...

 and stitched it down. I prefer to use a standard foot for cushion zips as it's quicker than changing them over. I just start with the zip bit a bit further down, sew some of the zip, pull the zip bit back up and then carry on stitching. The standard foot normally sits well just on top of the teeth and I follow a line in the weave of the zip for my stitch line.

 Next I pinned the seam allowance up on the bottom edge of the back panel (think I used 1.5cm) and pin to the front piece. Sorry, I chop and change between inches and centimetres all the time!

With the front panel layed flat and the zip pulled out flat, I lay the bottom folded edge of the back against the bottom folded/stitched edge of the front and pin to the zip.

I then flip over to the wrong side and sew along the edge of the zip. I always make sure that the zip follows the edge of the seam allowance so that the stitch line looks straight on the front.

Zip done!

Next, on the wrong side fold the back piece up with right sides facing and line up the 3 unstitched sides. The zip should lay flat on the back and make sure that the folded zip flap on the back panel is also sandwiched flat in these layers. Excuse my inappropriately long zip!

Now pin and sew up the side seams. If you find that the back piece is longer than the front when you pin then just square off the top to make it level with the cushion front.

When you get to the zip opening it may look like this...

look at my sophisticated seam allowance markers!
Just push the ends of the zip together as much as possible and stitch closed

Tidy up any ends and turn the right way out and you've got a plain zipped cushion! Now, because I used a wool backing I didn't ovelock it at all, but if I were using a woven back aswell, I would have overlocked both the zip edges at the start, done all the sewing and then overlocked the 3 remaining edges at the end, so a slightly different, but mostly the same process.

Here's the house, which was stamped in a similar fashion as the owl, but with far less planning.

Neat zips!

This is how neat it looks on a less bulky fabric (and with piping). Hardly visible!

So, I managed to write about something I made this week. Hooray, I feel triumphant!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Winter sewing

I am not finding much selfish sewing time this month, but this also means that I've not got much to write about and really want to write a blog post, so I thought I would create a compilation of the things I would like to make for AW '14.

All I want at the moment is to feel comfortable, so I have a plan for loose shapes. I also cannot quite steer myself away from blue, but that's ok because blue is great! Below is what I really, really want to make!!!

  1. A camel boyfriend coat - I have just bought THE perfect cashmere/wool blend fabric for this
  2. Denim low slung wrap skirt - think this will be a self draft and is the least likely to come to fruition of all of the above
  3. Lots and lots of loose button front blouses
  4. Plain tops. As luck would have it my soon to be complete pattern will fulfil this and the loose blouse plan ;-)
  5. Loose jumpsuit - I have actually just bought this one, but can't help feeling I look like I'm going to work in a garage. I need to get used to it before embarking on my own make I think, as I am new to the world of the jumpsuit
  6. These amazing Named Wyome jeans - I already have the pattern and some drapey chambray fabric, just need the time!
  7. Stripe coat - I'm working on it!
Seeing all this together makes me feel excited for the changing seasons and I much prefer winter clothes (doesn't everyone?). I think it's because there are more clothes to think about, whereas I spend the summer months (when hot) just throwing on whatever is cool enough.

Hopefully I will get round to making some of this soon, but I really, really need to make my husbands coat, before he completely gives up hope!

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Blog hop

I was nominated for a blog hop mini questionnaire by Kathryn of 'Yes I like that' this week (one of my favourite sewing blogs). I really enjoyed reading her responses, so felt enthused to answer them myself. It's kind of nice having a blog post to write that is not related to a particular project for a change too.

As this is a non-sewing post, here's a non-sewing photo of me and the kiddie winkles in our (currently) very brown living room

What have you been doing / making / scribbling at your desk this week?

Urm, this week in the evenings I have been trying to print my fabric for the hand print fabric swap. I did what I thought was my absolute final print only to realise I had disobeyed my own swap rule and printed on fabric that is not at least 140cm wide! Can't believe it, so I'm going to have another go this afternoon when the kids are carted off to the grandparents.

Other than that I am obsessing about making a winter coat and am thinking about what styles I love most. It feels like a really big decision due to time and effort that will be spent on it and I'm also thinking that this could become a published pattern if I really like it!

I started cutting a black waxed canvas Albion coat for my husband, as I've had the fabric to do it since Easter, but it keeps falling to the back of the queue for some reason!!!!

Where are you currently finding your inspiration? (Influences, heroes, sources of inspiration, paths exploring)?

Inspiration? I don't really know where this comes from at the moment. Obviously the internet is a great source these days. I really bounce off of other peoples makes and seeing so many great handmade garments really spurs me on to want to do better. I only started reading sewing blogs regularly at the beginning of this year (largely due to night time feeding) and I am astounded by the content and the makers. The online sewing community is brimming with so many good ideas that it's a little overwhelming!

I am influenced by everything really, but I always come back to my family and my roots for my primary inspiration. My parents really nurtured mine and my brothers creativity when we were growing up and for that I am forever grateful. My mum has always been into clothes and is a courageous dresser, but this was always a bit embarassing when I was little and wanted to fade into the background. She has influenced the way I dress myself so much though and I love her boldness when it comes to clothes. She always told me not to be a sheep, so I try not to be. Baa!

At the moment I am exploring the world of pattern making and looking to sell some of my own. This is nerve racking, terrifying and exciting all at the same time, but this is a great time for me to give it a go and is something I have always seen myself doing (designing that is, not the pattern making bit). I come from a fashion and textiles background, so it would be amazing if I could finally turn it into a viable business of my own...even a wee little one!

How important is being creative to you, and how do you blend this with your work / life / family balance?

Having a creative outlet is everything to me. It's difficult to explain, but it's as important as eating and breathing!!! (Although, not as important as my children)

I have to have something on the go at all times, whether that be sewing, drawing, knitting, whatever! I do not rest once the kids have gone to bed, I craft! I don't craft for myself when they are awake, as time with the kids is special and they are too little to be left to their own devices, but once they are alseep I am off! Most exhausted parents would take the time to sit in front of the TV and put their feet up, but I've tried this and I get irritated by the lost craft time.

When packing for a holiday or time away from the house, more important than clothes is my holiday craft project. I literally cannot contemplate down time without some crafting.

Crafting is as important to me as playing games on the computer is to my husband, so we live in perfect harmony doing our own thing and even manage to do these things in the same room! We are even contemplating sharing a desk! Not sure if this is utter madness yet!

Have I said the word 'craft' enough times yet?

So, that was fun and I wrote it all during nap time, so I hereby nominate Jenna from 'Just sew Jenna' and Claire from 'Hoops Park studios' to take on this challenge should you wish...

Monday, 18 August 2014

Print development!

Fellow print swappees will probably have a fair idea of where they are going with their print by now, but I thought I would share my thought process and main idea so far.

Before even imagining doing a hand printed fabric swap, I went to London with my good sewing pal Jenna to see the current Matisse exhibition. It was a really great collection of his later artwork and was very revealing into his creative process. I really enjoyed the bold shapes, colours and freedom in his artworks and it felt as though they were created in flashes of inspiration, although they were probably much more considered then they appear.

I have been trying to engage with the works I saw in the exhibiton by creating paper shapes of my own.

I began by simply looking out of my window into the garden (excuse the mess) and cutting shapes out of parcel paper. I did this without marking with a pencil, as I didn't want to start fussing over details...

and this is what I made...

So that's a shed, a dandelion, some grass and a tree. I did make a key and a holly leaf too, but they were rubbish! The little squares are just offcuts, but they look nice like confetti

I like this, but am going to use this for something else.

The motifs are exactly what I want to use, but having seen this plate, I have decided to make them a bit lighter.

Below are some stamps that I cut from some lino. I used a super soft double sided lino and this lino cutting tool. I drew the shapes on with a pencil and gouged out the surrounding lino making sure to not dig in with the tool. If you dig at too much of an angle the blade gets caught, so just take your time and scoop small amounts. I stuck the lino shapes to small blocks of wood with a glue gun. The wood were just bits we had lying around in the garage, so nothing special!

To create a 2 colour tree stamp, I made the branches seperate from the main trunk. It gives me the option for 2 colours and also means that each tree will be slightly irregular as they will be lined up by eye. I could even use the shapes seperately to create pattern for another print maybe.

Below is a quick test print on paper using ink pads, but I have not decided on a repeat or colourway yet, so there are still some surprises left!!!!

So that is a peek into how my ideas are forming. I hope this is helpful and shows you how a simple exercise like looking out the window with a pair of scissors and some paper can take you in a brand new direction!

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Wash with care!!!!

Disaster! Sometimes it takes me a while to learn valuable lessons, like this fabric does not wash well in the washing machine after printing!!!!

This is the second time I have done this people! The first was after screen printing the men here. Because it was screen printed, the ink penetrated well into the fabric, so although it faded in the wash, it was not a complete loss and the prints survives.

This layered print I posted yesterday did not fare quite as well. Maybe it's because it was sitting on the surface, having been stamped, and just washed away. I did fix with an iron, as instructed, but maybe not long enough. I'm not sure, but I am sure that this is now unsalvagable. I have had success with these inks (speedball screen printing) in the past, but on a tighter weave and not quite as soft and fuzzy, so maybe this is just not a good match. Oh well, you live and learn! I shall print test swatches in future to bung in the machine and also handwash, so I know what the outcome will be.

Don't worry, I'm not crying into my coffee, as this is aaaallll part of the learning process, but maybe you guys don't have to go through the same experience and can learn from my mistakes!!!

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Printing with tools from around the house (or the supermarket!)

Another print experiment for you. This time the tools I have used are completely made up of stuff you can easily get hold of. I'm not too sure if I like the result yet or not, but I definitely enjoyed making it. The methods I used to make the below layered print are vegetable printing, hand painting, cork stamping and dabbing with a cotton bud.

I had a length of light blue linen that I dyed last week, which measures just over 1 metre and decided this was my canvas. Using my living room floor as a work space I lay out my fleece as a back cloth and the linen on top. Mess is not a concern in this room, as the horrible brown carpet will be gone within the next year, so if you are at all concerned about your floor then don't do this without sufficient protection.

 The first stage of printing was to create a textured background. I did this by using the corn on the cob vegetable printing method. I stabbed a cocktail fork in either end to use as a handle, wiped some ink onto it's entire surface with a sponge and rolled onto the fabric.

This old container seemed like the perfect resting place!

I rolled one rotation of the cob before topping up the ink and did do different directions every now and then.

It's got a bit of a funny snakeskin effect to it, but I am not very happy with the colour I chose, as I can't help feeling like it looks like a flattened corn on the cob!

To break up this first layer of print I decided to paint some ink on with a brush. I started off just painting lines, but thought they needed to go off somewhere, so have ended up with all directions. I also added some wispy lines down the edge of the original stripes to add to the hand painterly effect.

Why stop there when you've got a cork? I cut a cross shape into a cork and stamped a random pattern within the white lines to add further interest.

To be honest, I should have stopped here I think and this is where sampling is crucial, because I would have realised that the next step was a step too far. If only I had sampled! Sometimes pushing an idea can really work for the best, so I decided to go for it!

Using a cotton bud, I dipped directly into the ink and dabbed randomly amongst the crosses in green. Of course, deciding that I could do more still, I added some more dabs in flouro orange.

I really don't know how I feel about this print. I kind of like it, but at the same time I really don't like the yellow cob print. It's a bit too busy, but I have not tried layering prints before and really think that this idea has huge potential. Something to play with and some new techniques under my belt!

I'm going to try making it into something and then I'll know if it's a grower.

This is how many cotton bud I used. Not bad!