Long story, short message


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A book arrived in the mail this week, I had quite forgotten ordering it. Actually it was one of two, the first I remembered, but I had forgotten that since shipping would be as much for two books as one, I had sneaked the second into my order!

More about both books later, but the one which starts today’s adventure in the sewing blog world is called Artful Machine Embroidery by Bobbi Bullard. I don’t have an embroidery machine as such, so it might seem a curious choice, but having looked at some of the book on Google books I thought it had a good deal of content about general design, placement, colour etc., which would be useful for all sorts of garment creation, not just embroidery. Those things are the part of the creative process that I sometimes struggle with.

This is a really long and complicated story, but we are getting there, I promise!

I looked up Bobbi Bullard on Google, since I hadn’t seen her work before, and came across some pictures from another blog, Thunderpaws Threads. There were several pictures of garments made with Bobbi’s designs, and I spent some time reading, until I came upon the subject of this post. (See, I said we would get there eventually!). It’s the pattern at the end of the link above, from Hot Patterns, another indie pattern company I’ve not heard of before. It’s called a Blouse Back T, which is like a tee shirt in front, but with a panel set in just under the shoulders at the back, cut wider than expected, which can be made out of woven fabric, hence the ‘blouse back’.

This quite appeals to me. I’m not normally a wearer of tee shirts, not in their simplest incarnation anyway. I like a little more structure to my clothes, and also a vee neck rather than a round neck, which most tee shirts seem to have by default. I have often wondered about that, whether it is simply because a round neck is easier to put trim around, with a vee you always have the problem of how to get a really nice neat join at centre front.

It’s already added to my list of ‘someday projects’, which sadly keeps getting longer and longer. Or is that sad, I wonder? Would it be worse to have nothing that one wanted to do? It’s also a cassic example of how a little ‘blog wandering’ can lead to all sorts of possibilities. There is always something I haven’t seen before, something which sparks an idea.


Transfer Dying Workshop – the sequel


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As if to prove that prior preparation and planning cannot always be relied upon, the result of the workshop was a little mixed. There were, as always, variables which I had not foreseen.
The first of these was that the colours are very hard, not to say impossible, to predict. We first did a test strip, using the neat dyes, about 8 different colours. We painted a small circle of each color on a strip of paper, and hurried off to test it on our fabric. Not too hurriedly, the dye must be dry on the paper before transferring it to the fabric. My results:

test strip of dyes and colours

Test strip

As you can probably see, the colour of the dye on the paper is quite different to the colour on the fabric. And I think that on a different fabric it would be different again, so there is no substitute for trying the colours you want on the fabric you are going to use. We then did some more tests, this time mixing two colours together:

test strip of mixed dye colours

Mixed colours

Again, the result on fabric is not very much like the dye on the paper!

We then went on to experiment with different ways of creating designs, and it seems I didn’t take any more pictures. However, I did get some dye put onto fabric, which possibly might end up as a garment at some point. I also came home with some sheets of paper with dye already applied, which I should be able to use somehow.

There are lots of ways of getting colour onto fabric using these dyes, some of which I would not have thought of. You can be straightforward, and paint a picture or design onto the paper, and transfer it onto the fabric. Naturally if you do this the image is reversed, so care is needed if  you are using text.

Alternatively, you can cover the paper with dye, then cut shapes out of it to create a design on the fabric. You could create sheets of flat colour, or mix dyes to a greater or lesser degree to add texture and depth. You can cut out a single shape, like a stencil, or build an image using multiple shapes like a collage. The shapes can be a single colour, patterns or textures. Then you can always print over the top of an existing print with another. A second print made from the same paper will be less bright, but can still be attractive. When you have exhausted the possibilities of transfer dying you can move on to painting with regular fabric paints, or stitching. Really, there is endless scope. The only thing not endless is the amount of time available for all this creativity! However, always optimistic, I am getting together with some other members to buy some dyes, we are going to share them among us so that none of us is too overburdened by yet more stuff!

The dyes come from KraftKolour.

I’m sure I shall find a use for the dyes at some time in the future, apparently they keep for ages, so I have plenty of time. And I am never going to be bored!

Prior Preparation & Planning Prevents Poor Performance?


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I’m excited to be going to a workshop on heat transfer dying with Angela Ferolla this weekend. Angela teaches at the Fremantle Arts Centre, among other places, and I’ve done other workshops with her before. This one is being run by my neighbourhood group of the Australian Sewing Guild.
In preparation I’ve been trying to come up with some designs to put onto fabric, with the idea of being able to use the fabric for something afterwards. I find often that going to workshops results in a bunch of samples of different techniques, but I tend to bring them home and put them in a drawer, and never end up doing anything with them. I’d really like to be able to come home with a piece of fabric that would be useful, to go into a garment, although to be fair that’s not what the workshop is designed for, it’s supposed to be an opportunity to learn new techniques. However, I think that if I put some thought into it beforehand, I ought to be able to use the new techniques to create a coherent piece which I can then transform into a garment. I’ve sorted out two or three potential bits of fabric from my stash, all a metre or two long, although the requirement list says ‘A3 or bigger’. This in itself was a bit of a challenge, since the dyes only work on synthetic fabrics, and my stash tends strongly towards natural fibres. I had one piece in mind which I was unsure about, but when I did a burn test I’m pretty sure it’s natural, probably rayon, which is no good. I’ve always found the burn test difficult to carry out successfully, I’m not sure why, but there was a definite smell of burning paper, which doesn’t seem like the fabric is synthetic.
I also spent some time playing with some images, although I chose to focus just on shapes rather than colour, because I didn’t have any of the dyes to practice with, and I’m not sure how their colours will relate to watercolours or acrylics, which I do have. I looked out some photos I’d taken at my daughter’s property, and found this shot of old fence wire, which I think has potential.
coils of old fence wire
There was also this, a just-opening agapanthus flower head.
partly opened agapanthus flower head
It remains to be seen whether I actually use either of those images, and whether I manage to come home with a usable piece of fabric!
Another shot from the country
sheep and puppy

Slow Clothing


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I don’t ‘do’ Facebook, but I do occasionally look at others’ pages, and something on the Australian Sewing Guild’s page caught my eye recently. It was called ‘Slow Clothing – 40 garments in 40 days’. Wow, I thought, if I made 40 garments in 40 days I wouldn’t call that slow! At my recent rate of progress 40 garments in 4 years would be more likely.

Of course, all was not what it seemed. The Slow Clothing Project is an initiative by a Queensland sewer (or maker, to use her term) designed to get people to think about where there clothes come from, who made them, and whether they really need yet another pair of jeans. It’s the antithesis of fast fashion, the current cult of buying the latest look, having a whole new wardrobe every season, a new dress for every party, and then just discarding stuff when it’s only been worn once or twice, or maybe even not ever.

The 40 garments will be made by 40 different people, a diverse batch of makers scattered around Australia. Using either cast off clothing, or fabric from their own stashes, they will refashion, recycle, upcycle, reclaim or rework the fabric into new garments. The intention is to demonstrate that even though something isn’t brand new, it can be a useful and stylish garment which can have a new life.

Apparently Australia exports 70 million kilograms of cast off clothing to the third world each year, and presumably other countries are on a par with that. Only 20% of the clothing in op shops actually finds a new home, so even if you give your unwanted clothes to the op shop you aren’t really helping the situation much. Not buying so many new clothes would be far better, and save you money!

I started shopping in op shops some time ago when money was short, and now I still do it, because I can find plenty of things to wear without contributing to the wasteful industry that is high street fashion. Some things I buy to wear just as they are, others get re-fashioned. I’ve recently been shopping for some garments to use for the Castaway to Couture competition, but even that gives me pause. I wanted about 5 garments to use to make my one entry, and I do feel uncomfortable about destroying 5 perfectly good pieces of clothing which somebody else could have bought and worn as they were, whereas I will only end up with one garment. With that in mind I limited myself to shopping for the items which were half price, since I am pretty sure that these are the ones which are destined to go to landfill next week, or shortly anyway. I’m quite happy with what I’ve got, now to start creating!

When a Workshop Doesn’t Seem Like Work


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I’ve never really understood what an artist’s sketchbook was, other than the obvious concept of a book in which somebody made a rough sketch of a church, landscape etc., took it back to the studio and transformed it into a finished artwork. Apparently it can also be a place for an artist to develop ideas, create designs, play with possibilities. And you don’t have to be an artist in the sense of somebody who paints or draws pictures. Artist is a broad term, someone who creates in whatever medium.
Now though, I have a better understanding. I took an online workshop entitled Developing Sketchbooks, by Dionne Swift. And I have a sketchbook!
OK, so it’s not that great yet. But I did gain a lot of tools for developing ideas, even for coming up with ideas in the first place. My difficulty when I want to create designs for embroidery, embellishment etc., is coming up with an idea. I can’t draw well enough to use realistic images, flowers etc. But I struggle to find abstract ideas. Dionne gives you lots of ways to come up with those ideas, and develop them into usable designs.
Here are one or two of my sketchbook pages, some I am happy with and some need more work. But I have made a start!

sketchbook pages

Sketchbook pages

single sketchbook page

Single page

bowl of Christmas baubles and single line drawings

continuous line drawings

One of the exercises was to do continuous line drawings of a subject, both whilst looking at the subject as well as the drawing, but also without looking at the drawing. This leads to some really weird looking objects! But it can also be a starting point for some interesting shapes to develop further. Dionne’s comment that a drawing doesn’t necessarily have to look like the subject was very liberating!
Our neighbourhood ASG group is doing a workshop next month on heat transfer dying, and I’m going to spend some of the time between now and then working on my own design to use. Watch this space!

Castaway to Couture 2016


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I was really excited to hear that the Australian Sewing Guild is running Castaway to Couture again this year. Last year was the first year of the contest, the idea being that you take a garment or garments from an op shop, and refashion it or them into something else. This is my entry from last year:

Jacket made from an Issey Miyake pattern out of cast off men's shirts

My entry in the Castaway to Couture competition

Last year the contest was run in conjunction with Red Cross op shops, and the almost hardest part for me was cruising round all the Red Cross shops in Perth looking for raw materials. None of them were very close to where I live! This year you can buy the original garments from any op shop, or indeed use something out of your own stash or wardrobe, which makes it easier. There are also two categories, the judges choice and the peoples choice, and twice the number of prizes. Seriously exciting! I already have some ideas buzzing around in my head, just need to find time to go shopping for the ingredients!

Using up the left overs


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A New Year. Classic time for plans, resolutions, reviewing the last year and considering what to change about the coming one. I’m not good at resolutions, not at keeping them anyway, but I can reflect and review with the best of them. Last year I did get quite a bit done, made some changes to the house, taught a sewing workshop (really keen to do more of that), did some sewing, but not enough. What am I going to change about 2016?

Definitely resolved to be more organised. And if possible to waste less time. Although it’s hard sometimes to define what is wasted time. Sitting in the garden with a good book and a cool drink is not necessarily a waste of time. Such moments are all part of a balanced life, and essential to one’s well being.

On the other hand, spending half an hour looking for some black elastic, and only being able to find white, even though I’ve looked in at least a dozen different spots where black elastic might be, is definitely wasted time. What am I going to do about it? Put down black elastic on my shopping list for one thing, and have a dedicated spot to keep it for another. Time wasting problem solved!

Part of my plan to be more organised, is using up some of the stuff I already have, instead of acquiring more. I have boxes and boxes of fabric, much of it scraps left over from past projects. I’ve always kept those scraps with the idea that ‘they’ll come in for something one day’. Well, the next 366 (2016 is a leap year) are the days that at least some of them are going to fulfill that destiny. I’m looking out for small projects that I can use them up in.

One resource I found is a charity called Angels for the Forgotten, one of a few listed on the Australian Sewing Guild’s website. There are a number of things they ask for, most of which can be sewn with only small pieces of fabric, so I will definitely make some of those. I have started with a journal cover, using three of my ‘come in handy’ bits. The girl in the 1950s dress on the front is cut from a slightly larger piece, I’m going to use the rest of it to make a pouch for feminine hygiene items. That should put paid to all of that fabric, and the plain red and some aqua coloured cotton I used for the lining are also left overs.

IMG_3929 IMG_3927

I got inspiration for the cover from two of the blogs mentioned on the charity’s website, but didn’t follow either of them exactly.

Ellison Lane

Bloom & Blossom

Projects Big and Small


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Four whole months virtually, and no blogging. That’s just being really, really slack, and I have no excuse. So I’m not going to make excuses, but just carry on gracefully as if nothing had happened.

Recently I went to an 80th birthday party of a friend, and wanting to take a gift I made some more of the patchwork brooches or pins that I have made before. I’m not sure these were quite so successful, here they are. They are actually red and purple, but purple is really difficult to get right in photos.

Patchwork brooches or pins, red & purple

Patchwork brooches










I don’t know why, but they just don’t seem quite right. The triangle one is a little too small I think, and I just didn’t take enough care over the selection of the fabrics, and the placement of the pieces. However, they served their purpose.

I have several other projects in the pipeline, but definitely not in the blogging-about phase yet. However, I was very happy with my entry in the Australian Sewing Guild’s Castaway to Couture competition. The idea was to buy a garment or garments from a Red Cross opportunity or thrift shop, and recycle or upcycle it or them into a new garment.  This is my entry, and the others can still be seen on the Guild’s Facebook page here.

Jacket made from an Issey Miyae pattern out of cast off men's shirts

My entry in the Castaway to Couture competition






Until next time!

More Likes Than Views, How Does That Work?

I was a little encouraged when my last post garnered 10 likes and follows. Wow, I thought, at least ten people read that post!. However, when I logged into WordPress and looked at the stite stats, only three views. How can that be, I wondered?

As always, I turned to Google, and found, (how naive I was) that it is possible to like a blog post, or even follow the blog, without even reading it. What is the point in that? I did wonder at the outset what some of these other bloggers had in common with me, since it was often not in the least apparent, and now I realise that the answer is probably absolutely nothing. They were just liking random posts.

I had already figured out that a large proportion of the people liking my posts were doing so in order to get me to go look at their own blogs, where they were likely either selling something, or trying to build their own following. But I did think that they would have to read my post, or at least click on the page, before they could like it. Apparently not!

I have also found out some of the tags to use if you just want to get likes etc. If I post about sewing, and use appropriate tags, there is very little response. Add tags like ‘writing’, blogging, and photography, and the reaction rate goes up significantly. I am going to add no tags to this post, and see what happens

Still, this revelation actually has a positive. I had been feeling that I really owed it to these people who were liking my posts to at least visit their blogs, and preferably leave comments too. Now I realise that in most cases there is no need, since they haven’t actually read what I wrote. In future I shall only respond to those who have posted appropriate comments, so I can be sure that they are real people who have actually read what I have written. Sound harsh? Maybe, but my reading time is limited, and I’d prefer to use it reading posts by those who respond in kind.

Random Thoughts and Other Stuff


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I know I’ve been really slack at posting when I come back to the WordPress site and none of it is familiar! OK, that’s not entirely true, some of it looks the same, but other bits seem totally different. When did that happen? Obviously I haven’t been paying enough attention.

More attention than the person who sent me one email recently though. To be fair, the email wasn’t directed just at me, it was a bulk mailing from a list I subscribe to. Touting a webinar on ‘better blogging’ or something like that. They lost me in the first sentence though, which read “Weather you blog for family and friends, or to promote your business…”. Their spelling mistake, not mine! Seriously, if you are going to promote yourself as advising people on how to write, please spell check more effectively than that!

OK, rant over. What else has been happening? I sent my entries off to the Sydney Royal, and I know that this year they arrived in time, because I tracked them on Australia Post. The show starts in two days, so I guess the judging is happening about now, but I’m not sure when the results come out. I’m not expecting anything great, just pleased with myself that this year I got the entries there in time. I hope at least to get to know the judges’ comments, that was one of the most instructive bits about entering some things in the Perth Royal Show a couple of years ago.

I’ve been busy working on a couple of other things, and also decorating my bedroom, as well as trying to keep the garden tidy. We had rain (the first for many weeks) about 10 days ago, and the weather is getting cooler and more pleasant, so that I can raise some enthusiasm about gardening again. I ordered some spring bulbs, so I shall have those to plant in a week or two. I have promised myself I’m going to try to look after them this year, so that hopefully they will flower for more than one year, instead of just vanishing after the first season. I ordered Dutch irises, anemones, ranunculus (ranunculi?), hyacinths, freesias, bluebells, and a few other things I’d never heard of before, but which looked good in the photo! Optimism springs eternally – I guess that’s pretty much the point about optimism, it’s always there.

Also spent a weekend in Fremantle recently, and took this photo, which I quite like. Although, it’s probably hard to take an ugly photo of boats, they’re generally attractive things.

Boats in Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour

Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour

There was also an exhibition of sculptures on Bather’s Beach, I think I liked this one the best.

Sculpture on Bather's Beach Fremantle, Portable Self Support Machine by Claire Bailey

Portable Self Support Machine by Claire Bailey

I’ve often thought it would be nice to have something like that in the garden – what do you think?