Category Archives: sewing

Slow Sewing and Dyeing

The start of leaf printing – I hope! Those are sage leaves taken from a plant outside the door and laid out on the tunic. It looks white here but it is a pretty, pale yellow. I have read that garden dyes are hard to photograph unless there is plenty of sun: unfortunately, it’s been dismal here this week so I’ll have to make do.

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The tunic parcelled up ready for steaming.

The tunic is very damp and sitting in the cupboard with the hot water tank. It’s not really drying so I’m thinking about opening it out and using the iron to dry it. I’m in unknown territory here so I can’t quite make up my mind. Interestingly, the copper pipes in the cupboard are leaving their mark on the fabric. I don’t know whether it’s permanent or not. I’m recording everything in detail so I can post about it afterwards.

And this is the result of painting with egg:

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The white strip (actually pale grey) shows the before colour of the linen contrasted with the dyed colour.

After two weeks sitting in a pot with dandelion heads the painted lines have absorbed most of the dye. I am thinking of adding another colour to the skirt – one that’s too pale to colour the painted lines further but will add a little something to the background. Maybe dock leaves?

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This is the dress I’ve made from the same roll of Irish linen as this top and the painted skirt. It’s the Curlew dress pattern from Merchant & Mills: a lovely bias cut pattern. I’ve made it mostly by hand but used the Singer hand crank for staystitching and also (oddly – no idea why) for the the bias binding round the neck. I’m planning a milk mordant this weekend and then it’ll probably go into the solar dye pot with bramble tips (expecting a pinkish colour but we’ll see).

It has been lovely to slow down the sewing in this way.  I’ve thought about every step so carefully and it’s limited the unpicking. Am I the only sewist to race away with my machine only to unpick later? It seemed very simple to ease the sleeve into the armhole by hand whereas it’s a stressful process for me by machine.

Well, I think that’s all to report. Please feel free to ask questions as I haven’t put lots of detail into this.

Thanks for dropping by,

Norma x

 

 

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Filed under Clothes, dresses, dressmaking, dyeing, fashion, sewing, Singer sewing machines, slow dyeing, slow fashion, solar dyeing

Scrap Happy May

An unusual challenge for me.

This is my only remaining childhood doll: Susan. I don’t think I played much with dolls and they were gradually given away.

I had to dress her for a competition (result 18/20 but not enough for a place).

I’ve never made doll clothes and had no idea how hard they were – three attempts at pants before she could sit down and I had to drape a top to get the fit.

Tiny pockets were less trouble than the shoes – ribbon tied under the sole and round the ankles because they just wouldn’t stay on. Thanks to Em for that advice.

I would say that if you think you’re a good sewer / pattern drafter give doll clothes a try – you’ll definitely hone your skills.

Anyhow, the shoes are made from out of date leather upholstery samples, the top, trousers and bag from dressmaking leftovers.

Why not take a look at the other scrap challenges – always full of inspiration.

Thanks for dropping by.

Norma x

P.S.  This was my skirt before the dye pot – painted with egg.

I’ve just taken it out of the pot and I’m very excited. I’ll post about that in detail in a day or two.

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More Garden Dyeing

The same tunic  – before and after. Made from an old sheet and solar dyed in daffodil heads.

The colour is actually more yellow than green – rather like these primroses:

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For those of you who would like the technical details, here goes:

10th April left in sour milk overnight and dried in the shade without rinsing.

11th April Left overnight in water and washing soda. Dried without rinsing.

12th April As 10th April.

13th April Rinsed, soaked in cider vinegar previously used to pickle eggs – not sure why but it seemed like a good idea. Added the daffodil heads and the warm water they had been heated in. I covered the pot with a sack and left it in the greenhouse. I stirred it daily until:

27th April Removed from the pot, rinsed it in warm water and hung it undercover to drip dry. The result is a very pretty pale yellow that’s hard to convey in photos.

It’s now in a drawer to mature until I’m ready for the next stage – probably leaf prints.

This is a probably the dullest skirt in the world as it is but I’m hoping it’ll soon be much more exciting. I made it from the Irish linen I had to buy so much of last year when I was making the OneYearOneOutfit top. This piece was mordanted in milk when I made the top and has been sitting in a dark place ever since. I’ve also soaked it in warm water & washing soda.

I used the brown thread for some decorative hand stitching – oddly the thread was still in good condition when I found it in an old box full of sewing stuff. It’s important to me to use these old things and I’m thinking of using some (probably 1960s / 1970s) press studs to fasten it.

Incidentally, I used my 1930s Singer to sew most of the seams. It’s hand cranked and I keep wondering whether I could find a treadle to put it in. I think it might be easier to use that way.

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The skirt is currently cooling in another pot of daffodil dye. I think next time I will solar dye as the smell of the daffodils cooking is awful and can’t possibly be doing me any good.

I will update you when I see the result.

If you would like to see more frequent but brief postings, please follow me on Instagram – find me by clicking on the photos at the side of my blog.

Thanks for dropping by,

Norma x

P.S. I have since looked up daffodil flowers and find that they are poisonous if eaten.  I wore gloves to process and covered the pot because of the smell. For future reference I think solar dyeing is the way to go for me.

 

 

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Filed under Clothes, dyeing, fashion, sewing, Singer sewing machines, slow dyeing, solar dyeing, textiles

Enjoying the Slowness

My Tumbling Blocks quilt is growing: albeit very slowly. I’m really not far from finishing the top.

The bright white tunic – previously a sheet – is sitting in a pot of daffodil heads. They were flowers that needed deadheading so I popped them in the dye pot before going to the compost heap. I’m relying on solar power to dye the top. I heated it up when the solar panels were working and the pot is now sitting in the greenhouse. It will probably be there for 10-14 days. It’s not bright white anymore and I’m hoping for a pale yellow as a base colour. We’ll see!

The silk skirt is progressing well. I took it out of the dark and dyed it with onion skins today. I’ll rinse it once it’s dried – in some dyeing traditions this is done to help the colour to take better. I can see it from the window and it’s looking a lovely dark orange now. If I like the colour when it’s rinsed I’ll put it away in the dark for a couple of weeks before wearing it.

And then there’s my dress. Remember this top?

It’s Merchant & Mills Curlew pattern and I’m going to make the dress version using some of the big roll of undyed Irish linen I bought for OneYearOneOutfit. I’ve traced the pattern and I’ve been debating how to make it – machine or hand? I bought some undyed looking cotton to use the machine but now I’m not so sure. I enjoyed last year’s slow progress and wear the top a lot. The hand stitching is holding up fine. And if I do it at speed I’ll probably then make another dress – but I don’t need one.

What do you think?

I will be dyeing it once it’s made – usual slow methods.

Well, that’s the update. Hope there was something there to interest you.

Have a good week.

Norma x

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Filed under Clothes, dyeing, patchwork, quilts, sewing, slow dyeing, solar dyeing, textiles, traditional quilts

More about Dyeing

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Wool yarn immersed in Marigold Heads July 2016 

The Spring Equinox is now behind us, days are slightly longer than nights and so garden dyeing can begin again. Perfect time, as we’ve just been having some lovely sunny weather.

The wool yarn has been in that jar since last July until a week ago. I expected orange but got pale green. I wonder if that is because I didn’t rinse the jar beforehand? The vinegar from the pickles may have made a big difference to the outcome. It’s a happy accident anyway.

This is the orange silk skirt after being simmered in (used) tea bags. I keep them in the freezer to stop them going mouldy before I have enough to work with.

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After tea dyeing on the left, original colour right

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Herringboned hem – made to show on the outside

The colour is much better now but it’s in the dark awaiting a brown dye. I picked up pine cones from the garden this morning with the idea that they might provide the dye I need.  More to follow on that.

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Curing in the sun

Looks like a medic’s uniform? A tunic made from part of an old cotton sheet with the express intention of dyeing it with various materials over the summer. I think the fact that the sheet has been washed many times will help it receive colour better but I’m taking no chances. The thread is cotton straight from the reel and it hasn’t been washed before – it would be horrible to have bright white thread on a hand dyed garment. It’s had an alkali dip (washing soda) this afternoon, to be followed by a protein dip tonight (slightly sour milk saved specially in the freezer). I’ll do it all over again a few times before I dye it with the first layer – probably daffodil flowers that have died off.

In my dyeing adventures I’m using India Flint’s book “Eco Colour” as a guide. I love her work and I’m enjoying using some of her methods adapted as best I can for the vegetation and less sunny climes of Mid Wales.

Have a fun week.

Thanks for dropping by,

Norma x

 

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Filed under Clothes, dyeing, India Flint, recycling, sewing, slow dyeing, solar dyeing

Pattern Design Books

Two very interesting pattern design books just received from Em of Retro Glam.

The draping book needs a lot of study – I’m a bit frightened of draping, it’s so different to anything I’ve ever tried. Em is making a 1930s dress and used draping to get her lovely pattern. I recommend taking a look at her blog for a real learning experience.

The one hour dress though is just my thing. I love making clothes without patterns. I can already see one of these beautiful 1920s dresses as the “thing” for a summer wedding I’ve been invited to. In lawn or a supple silk perhaps. I think I’ll make a very small scale version first to be sure I’ve got the hang of it.

Anyhow, lots of excitement for me thanks to Em.

Thanks for sharing the excitement with me.

Norma x

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1940s Pattern Giveaway 

Some of you may remember that I made this dress once and it soooo didn’t suit me.  It’s a lovely pattern but whilst I love 1940s styles they really don’t love me.

I traced off the pattern so it’s all still complete. 

If you’d like this Sense & Sensibility pattern please leave a comment below and I’ll choose someone from the hat next Thursday 23rd February. 

It’s not heavy so I’ll post anywhere in the world. 

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Leather Pouches

I’m trying to work with leather.

I was given scraps of supersoft coloured suede and had the idea I’d like little pouches (the bottoms are about 2 inch diameter), the sort of thing I’d imagine a Medieval woman putting her money in or a travelling herbalist keeping her most special herbs in. I’ve used them as purses and for giving little gifts, but I’d like to have one with tiny special items inside – maybe pretty stones.

The brown leather was fairly damaged when I got it but I just wanted something to try so it didn’t matter too much. The bag is made with three identical shapes as you can see from its bottom. It’s based on a 16th century pattern – not commercially available so far as I know and it was drawn on a bit of brown paper for me.

I added the strap: I think the original might have been attached to a belt. I machine sewed using a leather needle and extra strong thread.

I tried to add metal eyelets to the brown leather but I just couldn’t get them to attach properly. I’ve never used metal eyelets before so I have no idea why they didn’t work. I will try again using denim to see if it’s my technique or the leather.

I used an awl to make the holes for the draawstring. I think a leather punch might be better so I’ll look for one of those.

I would like to learn lots more about leatherwork. Making shoes would be lovely. Some of you might remember these shoes I made in a beginners’ workshop at Green Shoes.

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Shoes made with lots of help

The shoes are still in use five years later, although I have had them resoled so they’re not quite so me made as they were.

I have used the little pouches and although the brown pouch is not as elegant as I’d like because my skills are pretty basic, I think I’ll want to use that too.

I have been watching Carolyn’s shoemaking for her Year of Handmade and thinking I should have another go. Maybe I will.

Meantime, I was given these so that I can keep practicing.

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Leather upholstery samples

So I’ll definitely keep trying.

Thanks for dropping by,

Norma x

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Wearing the Landscape

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OneYearOneOutfit – the final outfit reveal.

Top: Lots more detail here.

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Before dyeing

Made of Irish linen, garment dyed by me with docks, onion skins and a pattern made by hammering English Marigolds into the fabric. I kept the top in the dark after each dyeing session to help set the dye.

Bias cut, sewn by hand. Pattern: Merchant & Mills Curlew.

Skirt: Lots more detail here.

Welsh wool, spun in Wales and woven at the National Wool Museum. No dyes, these are natural sheep colours.

Pattern: 1934 from Home Journal magazine. Extra pleat inserted by me.

Scarf: All welsh wool. The cream and the grey are natural sheep colours. The golds are onion dyed by me.

The scarf replaces the waistcoat I knitted which I hate: it makes me look much bigger than I like. It will make a gorgeous cushion cover and I’ll work on that over the next few months.

Boots: Made by Celtic & Co in Cornwall from British sheepskins which are mainly a waste product these days. They were a Christmas present from my husband.

Is it wearable? Yes! I have worn the skirt and top together and felt happy with it. I put these boots with it to make it a British Isles outfit and prefer my black leather boots to make an outfit.

The top is a great match with my black trousers so will get worn that way too. I love the skirt and it goes well with a couple of other tops (and the black leather boots rather than these). The scarf is lovely and warm so is sure to get lots of wear over the winter.

What did I learn about British Isles textile products? There are no natural fibre threads spun in the British Isles so far as I can tell. All my threads had to be pulled from the fabrics so handsewing was the only option.

Plenty of handmade wooden buttons are available and they are so beautiful.

 

There is lots of Welsh knitting wool available – hand and machine spun. I’ve loved using it and will definitely use it again. It looks and feels beautiful. My knitting skills do not do it justice (and that’s not false modesty).

How will I take it forward?

Making clothes from completely local products is time consuming and can be quite expensive.

A lot of work goes into bringing up sheep, spinning yarn, weaving yarn, dyeing , knitting and handsewing. If all my clothes had to be made this way, I would have very few. It makes me understand why Elizabethans left each decent garment to a favoured person in their will. They were valuable and valued.

My life won’t allow me to have every item made this way but I plan to use elements in the future.

Lots of garden and other natural dyeing planned. I loved doing it. I’m growing woad to try to get local blue dye. The plant was eaten by caterpillars so I’ll have to try again.

I will visit WonderWool Wales again and buy more Welsh wool fabric. For a jacket, perhaps.

I am a terrible knitter but definitely improving because of all the practice I got doing this project. I’d like to use some of the cream or grey wool to make a sweater for next winter.  Or the one after!

I bought a 10 metre roll of undyed linen so I think another Curlew top or dress but dyed a different colour. Made by machine next time with purchased threads.

I really like Merchant & Mills patterns so I’ll probably make more of theirs in 2017. (I made an “unblogged” summer top from one of their patterns too).

Why wearing the landscape? That’s how I felt about #oneyearoneoutfit when I was working on my clothes. I wanted to take it further and see what else I could do with natural colours and fibres. It occurred to me that maybe wearing nature’s current products rather than those that have been buried under the earth for centuries might be a more sympathetic look for me.

I’d love to hear your comments on that.

Happy Stitching!

Norma x

 

 

 

 

 

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Victorian Style Petticoat for a 1930s Skirt

It proved impossible to find a secondhand silk dress to line this oneyearoneoutfit 1930s skirt. It’s made of Welsh wool tweed and needs something underneath to complete it. If I could’ve sourced some very lightweight undyed Irish linen it would have made a great lining. It was not to be.

Instead, I decided I’d have to make a petticoat to work with it. I was inspired by the lovely cotton lace I was given and some white cotton lawn from my stash made it possible.

The top of the petticoat uses one width of the 115cm wide fabric and the bottom frill is 150cm wide. It was the only way to get a long swishy petticoat out of 1.5m of fabric.

Unlike the Victorian petticoat it resembles, it has elastic at the waist. It has French seams, a rolled hem and I’ve satin stitched the lace to the petticoat. All techniques used in the 1930s but I did them all by machine.

I couldn’t resist some handsewing so there’s white cross stitching in cotton perle on the gathered seam.

I’ve used cotton threads throughout so that I can dye the petticoat in the future if I want to. Interestingly, the very fine cotton thread I used for all the sewing behaved well even when stitching the elastic in. It needed to be upright on the sewing machine spindle because it was straight wound onto the bobbin.

It doesn’t count towards oneyearoneoutfit because it isn’t local fabric or thread and I’ve no idea where the elastic comes from, but it does make the skirt wearable. A wool skirt with no lining teamed with a too short petticoat would never get worn, but this combination made me feel fabulous when I wore it. And that’s what we’re all looking for from our clothes, isn’t it?

Thanks for dropping by

Norma x

 

 

 

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Filed under #1year1outfit, 1930s, Clothes, dressmaking, fashion, history, sewing, stashbusting, textiles