Sunday, July 14, 2024

Weekend Review: Daydream Journals


Daydream Journals / Tilly Rose
Tunbridge Wells: Search Press, c2022.
128 p.

This was an unusual read for me, a book of embroidered projects which I found via the library. The title and cover make it clear that this is a book about making cloth books! But there are a few other 'wrap' style projects as well. 

The first half of the book is made up of instruction - tools, techniques, and lots of inspiration. The second half then shares projects for readers to make themselves. There is also a small stitch guide section included at the end. 

There are 8 projects in total:  a journal wrap (cover), sewing case, project bag, jar cozy, and 4 kinds of books/booklets. There is nice variety and some intriguing artistic concepts here. The projects are heavily photographed and simple enough to people to follow along. Some of the steps require hand sewing along with the embroidery to finish up a project, but it's all easily done by someone with fairly basic stitching skills. 

But the book is in the 'messy' English style of textile work, and so includes more than the stitches as part of these projects. The design and decoration of many of these textiles includes painting fabric with watercolours to give a gentle wash effect, solar dyeing and even using squished berries as ink sources. I wonder a bit about the lasting power of these techniques but they do give an interesting effect! 

If you like this kind of shabby chic English aesthetic, you might find some appealing ideas for techniques to try in this book. I'm not sure I'd make any of the actual projects in full, but some of the parts of the projects could be adaptable to other things. It's not 100% my style of making but still interesting enough to look at and see how someone else approaches this kind of project and technique.

The "Stitch Wrap" - probably my favourite idea in the book!

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

And Lacey Makes Three

To recover from my missing sewjo in June I decided to make a pattern I've made twice before, the Lacey Dress by Style Arc. This is a great pattern to use with stripes, and it's also a nice loose summer dress to wear on hot days.

I had some rayon that I bought at a PatternReview weekend in Chicago in 2016 so it was time to use it! I really like the print but I do find the colours a bit duller than I'd remembered; the pale blue with red gives a mauve-y feel to the dress as a whole. Not sure I completely love it - but it is comfy! 

Because I've made it twice before I just cut without worrying about any pattern alterations. I cut the central bodice pieces with the stripe horizontal, and the outer sleeve and skirt with vertical lines. But I was challenging myself to see if I could sew it all together in 3 hours like a Great British Sewing Bee challenge -- I just made it -- but just like with the timed challenges on the Bee, there are therefore mistakes. I think I will take the skirt off and resew it more neatly and evenly. You can't really see it in the photos (or probably in real life much) but the waist seam is uneven, it's higher in the front, and it's driving me nuts! The problem with rayon that likes to shift and stretch... 

I wore it to work this week on a very warm day and it was cool and airy to wear. I stopped to take photos in the rose garden in the churchyard that I cut through on my way to work; it matches with the dress nicely! It certainly was quick and stress free making a pattern that I was already familiar with, but I have to remember the maxim, Haste Makes Waste, and not try to compete with Sewing Bee timing ;) 

Sunday, July 7, 2024

Weekend Review: Mindful Embroidery


Mindful Embroidery / Charles Henry & Elin Petronella
Salem, MA: Page Street, c2020.
157 p.

I have followed Charles & Elin on IG for a long time, and was pleased to find their book recently. This is a book focusing on sketching with thread, essentially -- it is a series of projects in their most well-known style, street scenes from across Europe. 

It begins with a short intro and a guide to fabric, transferring patterns, and stitches. They are proponents of simple stitches to create work with impact -- all the projects can be completed if you know five basic sttiches: straight, backstitch, split, satin, and french knots. Instructions for all five stitches are shown, with photos, at the beginning of the book. It really is accessible to beginners, although to get the polished results of their final projects, some practice will likely be necessary. 

I enjoyed this book - it's different from many of the embroidery books I have looked through recently, as it's focused on images that are black and white and sketched, mostly, although colour is included in some of the projects with a bit of satin stitch or french knot detail (often florals, but also a cool tile detail). They talk about combining stitches for different effects, ie: multiple rows of straight stitch give a different look that just one row, and also show how the number of strands you choose can affect the visual result. (they use DMC stranded floss as their main thread), It's a different way of approaching stitching, rather than simply covering ground with full strands of floss. I'm really impressed by the artistic impression of this style of stitching. 

Each of the projects has a pattern you can trace off, plus a colour and stitch guide. There are easy ones, are more advanced ones, with the levels marked - and I found them all appealing. I like this style of stitching, and have always enjoyed following the authors' embroidery journey. This book has solid, unique content that makes it worth owning, even if you already have a bunch of stitching books! 

Friday, July 5, 2024

Framing Up an Embroidery Project at Long Last!

This week I finally had a chance to frame up the embroidery project I finished in October of 2022 -- it was a stitchalong, and a fundraiser for Ukraine, designed by Embroidery Art by Nat. 

I've been looking for the right frame for this for a long time. I wanted the right size but also a shadow box style, so that there is space between the stitching and the glass. I finally found this frame at Goodwill, with a commercial image still in it. It has three spacers inside, and I removed the middle one so that this piece could still right in the centre, with plenty of space before the glass. It's perfect! 

I started by steaming and pressing my embroidery carefully to get all the crinkly bits out. It's been sitting a while! Then I cut a square of foam core just the size of the frame spacers. I centred the embroidery on it and was planning on lacing the back but I didn't have quite enough fabric to do that well. 

So I used painter's tape to tack it down so I could try lacing, but realized that painter's tape was holding really well. So I just stretched the whole thing with tape. I carefully did it on all four sides to make sure it was being stretched evenly and the embroidery stayed centred. This is not heirloom framing -- the foamcore probably isn't acid free and the tape is not going to stay forever. But it doesn't bother me. I'm just happy to have it done and ready to hang!

 I had to redo a bit of it a couple of times but finally got it nice and even without any big ripples in the fabric. I think it looks pretty great, and am now just trying to decide where the best place to hang it up is. It's not that heavy so I have lots of options. It looks nice on my sewing table in this picture...but I need that space! I will hang it somewhere where I can see it often and think of Ukraine. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2024

July Sewing Plans!


Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash

It's July already! In June I spent most of my sewing time doing some mending and looking through patterns and fabric. I didn't make a thing! 

I had thought about making some button up blouses in June and pulled a lot of potential matches to do that, but I just wasn't feeling it. My sewjo was gone. So in July I'm just going to sew what I feel like sewing, which is (no surprise) some dresses! 

I really enjoy sewing summer dresses so why try to do something else that feels like a chore. I have some lovely fabrics to use and tons of dress patterns I want to try. My ideas so far are: 

The Xanthe by Style Arc: I like the pintuck features and would make the short sleeved version. I have a yellow fabric with a faint white print that might work, and still let the pintucks stay visible. 

Burda 115-05-2023: this is on my Make Nine List for this year, and I have a bright green linen set aside for it. Another loose summer dress with pintucks, this also has fun side panel pockets. 

Lacey Dress by Style Arc: I've already made this twice and wear both versions a lot! I have a fun stripey print rayon in my stash, turquoise with a red print, and think it would be a great fit for another Lacey. 

I'm thinking that Vogue 8811 might be a nice dress to try out, I've had the pattern forever. I like the simple lines of this one. I have a few cotton prints that might fit well with this design.

There are also a couple of vintage late 70s & mid 80s patterns in my stash that I've thrifted over the last while, both short sleeve, full skirt, elastic waistline styles that I think would be easy wearing. If I feel vintagey I might try one of those. 

Deciding to just make what I love has broken my sewing block and now I feel ready to get back to the table and sew up some more dresses for my collection! What do you love sewing?

Sunday, June 30, 2024

Weekend Review: Stitches


Stitches / Glen Huser
TO: Groundwood Books, c2003.
200 p.

I picked up this short YA novel from my library recently -- I mean, just look at the cover! How could I not want to read this one? And I liked it, but do have a few caveats to that opinion.

The story follows Travis and his best friend Chantelle, as they move from fifth grade to junior high. Travis is different; he loves making puppets and wants to grow up to be a professional puppeteer. Chantelle has many physical disabilities and between them they are the outsider kids in their school. Travis has high hopes for changes in junior high, but while they do have supportive home ec and English teachers, who both encourage Travis' interest in drama and puppets, there is also more homophobic bullying from a group of boys he's known for a long time. But their teachers set them a challenge to present A Midsummer Night's Dream as a puppet show as their final project, and this keeps them going. 

The action in the story is mainly centred around the homophobic violence, which is never clearly resolved in the end. Travis' home life is rough, with a mother who's rarely around - he lives with his aunt and uncle (and the uncle is a mean loud mouth). He doesn't have anyone to confide in or to stand with him at home. Chantelle has older brothers who are rough types but at least support her and by extension, Travis as well, and they come in strongly at the end. 

There is lots of description of Travis and Chantelle sourcing fabric for their puppets at the thrift store, and making things like bags, puppet stages, and more. But I thought from the cover and description that there might be a bit more focus on that part of the story. 

The narrative tone is also a bit confusing. It doesn't feel so much like a young adult living the story, but an adult looking back at the events and telling them in retrospect. And the timing is a bit off; sometimes from one paragraph to the next, you are in the next school year without realizing it at first. I think some spacing/breaks in the typesetting could have helped with the transitions. 

I did like this one. It's set in rural Alberta and has some authenticity there. But I did feel a bit overwhelmed by everything being so dismal for Travis, from home to school, with so many aggressive characters and anger everywhere. I was relieved by the ending, with new hopes coming for Travis as he moves to the city to an arts-based high school. But I also felt that this novel, with important themes, could have been better.  

Friday, June 28, 2024

A Blue Mood for Mend Day

I have a strange resistance to fixing something after it's done & in the closet. While I am making it, no problem to rip a seam & do something over or shorten something a little more. But if I have "finished" something I don't want to go back to do those same little fixes!

But I do want to be comfortable wearing what I make so this week I did go back & do a few minor repairs to pieces which all happened to be blue!

First I had this blue linen Rush Hour Dress by Lisette. I love this one. The issue was the back walking slit. The lining was stitched to the edges of the slit but it was pulling it, making it uneven & a bit puckered. This fix took about 10 minutes - I unpicked the lining around the slit, repinned it while the dress was hanging to avoid fabric gathering & restitched it. Done & now perfect.

Next was not a mend but it was a kind of fix. Ever since I made the Style 1065 top last year I have wanted to put shoulder pads in. I made this top with fabric from an upcycled dress & knew I had kept the original small shoulder pads somewhere! I finally found them & added them to the top & I think it improves the fit a lot, at least I like it more.

And last is a  top I made recently, Burda 109 from the August 2021 issue. The problem here was length. I had added an inch when I made it but it was just too long. I wanted it to sit on my hip, so I tested a few lengths then made the chop & picked one! I like it much better even with just one inch of difference.

 And now I can wear all of these more comfortably knowing they are just right.