Sunday, March 24, 2019

Weekend Review: Rebecca Ringquist's Embroidery Workshops

Rebecca Ringquist's Embroidery Workshops: a bend-the-rules primer / Rebecca Ringquist
New York: STC Crafts, c2015
160 p.

And now for a modern book of embroidery all about the art and craft of contemporary embroidery, made accessible for beginners! This is a really neat primer to all kinds of freestyle embroidery. Rebecca Ringquist is known for her Dropcloth Samplers, an etsy store that makes pre-printed sampler kits. She's written this book as a slightly more involved instructional aid, and it even comes with its own little dropcloth sampler tucked into the back cover in a little envelope. So cute! And such a good way to be able to start something if you're new to stitching and don't already have suitable fabrics and/or transfer pens etc -- just open, press the folds out, hoop it and start! (assuming of course that you've also bought yourself some threads and needles already!)

She's very encouraging for new stitchers, showing the messy back of her hoop early in the book to reassure readers that the neat, knot free, nearly reversible back of lore isn't necessary with this style of embroidery. Even that back is quite beautiful in a modern way. And she shows a wide range of stitching knowledge, from the basics of how to make a stitch or transfer a design, to using more non-traditional kinds of threads or surfaces in interesting ways.

Something I have not seen in other current embroidery books is a chapter on machine embroidery. But here she goes over a very basic look at how machine stitches can add to your embroidery projects. She shows how machines can be used for thread sketching (free motion embroidery) and how machine stitches can meld with your hand stitches in a project.

And there are 20 neat, unusual projects including but also going beyond wall art -- like these brooches made out of vintage belt buckles -- such a fun, colourful idea.

This is not a book of patterns to stitch and hang in a hoop. It's a much more free-form, artsy, and as the subtitle notes, Bend-the-Rules kind of guidebook. It's bright, colourful, not twee in any way -- full of unique and creative projects, lots of encouragement for those starting to stitch and unique approaches for those who have been stitching for a while. I love this one; I've had it for a while and really enjoy flipping through it now and again for an encouraging refresher. 

Friday, March 22, 2019

World Water Day!

Did you know that March 22 is World Water Day? It's a UN led initiative, and they have a great page of resources for you to explore on the theme of protecting the universal human right to clean water.

There are stories to read, posters to share, activities to explore, and more. Water is such an important right!

Beyond fair access to water, I'm also concerned about the health of our waterways. Our library co-hosted a talk on plastic pollution recently, and I discovered that the freshwater Great Lakes are just as contaminated as our oceans, though ocean pollution is much more widely discussed. This was depressing! But they also talked about things to do to reduce your plastic waste as individuals, alongside requesting governmental and corporate change, of course, which was much less depressing.

One of the art projects I'm currently working on is based on a water theme. Looking at the vast amount of plastic pollution in our oceans, I discovered that all species are affected, from marine vegetation all the way up to whales and dolphins. So I chose a handful of particularly at risk species and started a project.

I've started embroidering from the bottom up, starting with red coral. Plastics do a lot of damage: they can smother coral reefs and encourage the growth of damaging algae, limiting the growth of new coral and killing the old.

This is the first panel, to be followed by a Loggerhead turtle, and then a couple of more species, and will be hung as one long piece. It's slow work -- I take the blue filmy plastic bags that newspapers come in, iron them into fused sheets (6-8 layers between large sheets of blank newsprint or parchment paper, ironed evenly at about a rayon setting until they are the amount of fused that you like. Wait til it has cooled down to try to peel the paper off). Then I stitch through the plastic. It's actually quite easy but does take a bit of time, so I have no anticipated end date for this project!

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Cover Designs! #11

I haven't done a Cover Designs post in ages! Cover Designs is a feature in which I try to match up the outfit on a book cover with a dress pattern and sometimes even potential fabric matches as well.

Today's featured book is a forthcoming title, one that's sure to be a hit as a summer read! Written by Hazel Gaynor (a well established historical novelist) and Heather Webb, Meet Me In Monaco is set in the 1950s against the backdrop of Grace Kelly’s whirlwind romance and wedding to Prince Rainier of Monaco. Grace Kelly is a character only so much as she draws together the two main characters who also have to decide what they will do for love: Sophie Duval, a perfumier, and James Henderson, a British press photographer, are brought together by chance when Sophie helps out Grace Kelly. Summer sun, the Cannes film festival, the Cote d'Azur and Grace Kelly herself are sure to up the glam factor of this book. And the cover is lovely.

Look at that beautiful sea green
Now, to match this dress with a modern pattern, not a vintage one, I took a few little liberties. The dress I'm suggesting would need a little bit of oomph added to the skirt via a full slip/crinoline to be more exact, and the belt would have to be altered from a sash to a self belt. And you might need a corset to get a waist as small as that illustration!

But I think this one is close. And if you made it from a lovely flowy green fabric, you'd fit right in at Cannes (if you were wearing high heels, of course...)

I'm suggesting Vogue 1554, an Isaac Mizrahi design.

It has the right shape: a fitted yoke, with gathers below, all the way around the bodice and skirt. There is no waistband, just the belt, so it's a little more current than the book cover, but gives the same effect. It would be a wonderful summer dress is a light colour/weight, like the lightweight crepe or challis suggested in the pattern. 

Or to give it a little more body, try this Kona cotton in Candy Green from Club Tissus:

Then grab a drink and relax with your summer read, in your matching dress! 

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Weekend Review: Mr X Stitch Guide to Cross Stitch

The Mr. X Stitch Guide to Cross Stitch / Jamie Chalmers
Tunbridge Wells, Kent: Search Press, c2017
144 p.

And now for a different kind of stitching... I could not resist buying this book when it first came out. Partly because I don't know how to cross stitch -- I never learned, because the old fashioned pastel geese from my childhood never appealed to me. Plus I felt like it was a paint-by-numbers approach that was too rigid for my preferences.

But I found Mr X Stitch online a while back, and appreciate the efforts he's making to revitalize cross stitch as a contemporary art form, and one that can be very political and provocative. If you're interested in that side of things, check out his website and all of the info he has there.

As to this book, I was glad I bought it, as I have zero knowledge of cross stitch, and will likely never need to know more than the basics. I'm still not convinced that cross stitch for me. But I did learn quite a bit here: I didn't even know that there was more than the basic x and a backstitch used in cross stitch -- now I know that there is a half cross stitch to soften edges somewhat, and other tricks that stitchers can use. Perhaps there isn't enough in-depth info in here if you've already tried cross stitching or are more familiar with it than I was, but I was pleasantly surprised by how engaging I found it. And it's full of fun projects.

The projects are modern, bright, quirky, and fun. There are a couple of typography inspired projects, the colourful ones you can see on the cover, a couple inspired by art (like the Mona Lisa you can glimpse), and my favourites, some glow in the dark thread designs that reveal different images in light and dark settings. Then there's the coasters covered in a string of cartoon profanities (ie: &%$*@$)-- a project I want to try!

He also features ideas for stitching on alternative grounds -- metal, pegboards, fences etc -- and features "outliers", the kinds of public art and/or political stitchers featured on his blog, after each chapter.

Altogether it's a fun book and stands out from other cross stitch books for sure. I'm not much for the snarky/profane cross stitch trend, but I think I could see myself trying a project or two here. Will this be the book to push me over the edge into finally trying cross stitch? Only time will tell......

Friday, March 15, 2019

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: the Great British Sewing Bee Week 5

Great British Sewing Bee Week Five!
Reduce, Reuse & Recycle... this was my week on the Great British Sewing Bee! I would have cleaned up. I make a lot of things from scraps, by reusing/refashioning other garments, and by using home decor fabrics to make clothes.

I really enjoyed this week, and seeing the ways in which people used their own offcuts to make something new and wearable. It was quite shocking how many scraps they'd created over the first five weeks of the show: as Patrick said, home sewers waste about 30% of the fabric that they buy. Yikes!

I try to reduce the level of my scraps in many ways -- I use a lot of cotton in my garment sewing, which then goes into my quilting scrap buckets. And the dress weight fabrics go into my art quilt scrap pile! I like to use up bigger scraps in new projects for pocket bags, trims, bias, to cover buttons, as accents and so on. You can also use the right kind of scraps to make brooches, badges, and so forth. Fortunately my city now has a textile recycling program, so the tiny bits and thread ends and so forth go into a big bag under my sewing table -- when it's full, off it goes to the recycling bins. Of course, you can also use those tiny bits as filler for a scrapbuster like the Pouf from Closet Case Patterns! 

Another way I try to reduce my fabric waste is through upcycling fabrics -- a lot of my stash has come from thrift stores (including lots of sheets, duvets, pillowcases etc.. or gifts from older sewers clearing their stashes.

Here are just a few of my garments made from old sheets, a pillowcase, and a purple duvet cover. I still have enough of that to make a matching dress if I want to ;)

There was also a dress made from a tablecloth with matching cape from a variety of dresses cut up and reassembled, which I made for a local Refashioning fashion show last year, and which was modelled by a friend. It was a lot of fun. (You can see  full info plus this outfit in motion in my original post.)

I have lots of ideas to use up more of my scraps by making some pillow covers, and maybe a journal cover or two. Then of course I'll have to make a matching pencil case for the journals. If you want to use your dress weight fabrics for these kind of craft projects you can fuse them to some lightweight interfacing first, so that they act more like a cotton when you are piecing them all together. There are so many ways to reduce your waste. What are some of your favourite scrap busting/waste reduction projects?

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Velvet Mash Up Dress

This is a love-hate kind of dress. Love because I adore the fit and the mix of two patterns which turned out just as I'd imagined, and I absolutely love the print & colours of this fabric. Hate because it's a polyester and because of the print I broke my rule about not buying plastic poly, and this fabric sheds fibre like the dickens. It's so bad. I feel environmentally shamed by it.

It's so bad I had to wear a dust mask while sewing it. And when I washed and dried it, I had SO MUCH lint to clear out, more than once.

Other than that confession, I do like the final product.

I used the bodice of the Colette Moneta dress, which I've made twice before. This time the fabric doesn't have quite as much stretch, so it is a little snugger than my others (but I like it). I didn't want any gathering on the skirt with this print, so I matched the bodice up with the skirt of Butterick See & Sew 5870, which I've made in bright magenta ponte and really liked.

They went together beautifully. I only had to square up about an inch all around in size differential. And the shape of this skirt really skims the body -- it's perfect for pear figures, I think. I did add pockets (of course) as I always do. This time I just used a cotton broadcloth scrap for my pocket bags, so they won't stretch out. There isn't a lot of vertical stretch in this fabric either, so it all works together.

After figuring out how to fit these two patterns together and cutting, this went together easily. It was a quick sew, with a turn-under-and-stitch hem at sleeve and skirt, and a neckband sewn on. The neckband actually worked fairly well on my first go this time! I used the formula that another blogger shared -- the size of the neckline opening minus 15% equals the band length. It is good enough that I didn't have to redo this one. Success!

The most difficult part of this project was (and is) the fabric. After all that, it is still shedding! I recall why I don't buy cheap poly velour often, and won't be doing it again. But I can still enjoy the beautiful colours of this, and the fit, nonetheless.

It's so pretty!!

Have you ever made something that you love and hate equally?

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Weekend Review: The Readers Digest Complete Book of Embroidery

Reader's Digest Complete Book of Embroidery / Melinda Coss
Pleasantville, NY: Reader's Digest, c1996.
192 p.

And on the topic of embroidery 'encyclopedias', here's another collection of stitches for your library. I love this book despite its being a little older because it really goes into a lot of stitches (100+), and has clear and thorough illustrations, and lots of projects and motifs (75!) to trace off and make. You can get a look at the contents in this amazon preview, just click the 'look inside' button.

My favourite thing about it, though, is the stitch samplers it gives patterns for, to practice your families of stitches. Each family (Straight Stitch, Satin Stitch, Cross Stitch, Knotted Stitch, Looped Stitch and Laced Stitch) has a little garden parterre designed to let you practice and sample each stitch. They are all so pretty, and practical, and they haven't dated at all, being very classical. I really want to make them all as my stitch sampler.

There are over 100 stitches shown clearly, with projects for each, followed by some specialty techniques like goldwork & ribbon embroidery, though these last one are relatively small sections. There are a couple of projects there as well. And throughout the book there are traceable motifs for you to make your own projects and designs if you wish.

It also has a section at the end that I haven't seen in many other of these 'complete guide' books -- a set of monograms, both patterns and suggested technique for success. I can see the usefulness of these for many projects! It ends up with some tips for finishing your work, and a large thread conversion chart between DMC & Anchor cotton & wool threads.

It's very clearly laid out and explained well by the author, who designed her own needlecrafts and wrote many books on this topic. I feel like anyone could learn by starting with this book. The focus is on the stitches available to any surface embroiderer -- with applications for other styles of needlework, but of great use to the person who is most interested (like I am) in surface and/or freestyle embroidery.

I've used this book quite often, and would recommend it to anyone interested in needle and thread. While it's not attached to a trendy style or name, it's a classic for a reason. Really practical and complete.