Saturday, 25 March 2017

Marvellous Mabel

Last June I attended a fabric swap arranged by Kristy from Scientific Sewing where I swapped three bags of fabric and patterns for only three pieces of fabric in an attempt to destash.

This is what I selected. A 2.5 metre piece of mustard knit fabric for practise / wearable toiles, 3/4 metre of a navy speckled sweatshirt jersey and 2 metres of red spotty cotton. I have since given away the red cotton, the mustard jersey is currently a work in progress with a 1960's / 1970's pattern just leaving the small piece of navy jersey.

I initially had in mind a Linden sweatshirt using the navy for the sleeves due to the limited amount. I had a stroke of inspiration after reading Zoe from So Zo's blog about quick re-fashions. I decided to make a pencil skirt using Colette's simple Mabel pattern.

Cue the pattern Jenga below to get the pieces to fit!

The Colette Mabel pattern instructions are very well written with clear set-by-step guides throughout. I used the overlocker at work to finish the seams and it came together really quickly.

Not bad for a quick make with a small piece of fabric from the stash!

I can see myself making another Mabel skirt as it was so comfy to wear. I have some Girl Charlee UK black sweatshirt fabric left over from SewBrum 2015 raffle winnings so it looks like it could be a great wardrobe staple.

This post is linked to #handmademonday organised by Julia of Sum of their Stories.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Improvisation Quilt

I attended a workshop lead by Jenny Haynes quilter-extraordinaire at the Village Haberdashery in West Hampstead. They recently moved to a beautiful new building just opposite West Hampstead Underground Station which is flooded with light and lots of beautiful fabrics and craft supplies.

We were instructed to bring 0.25cm of four to five different coloured quilting weight cottons to create a improvisation quilt using contrasting fabrics. I already knew when I booked the course that the quilt I created in the workshop would be a baby quilt for my friend who is six months pregnant. I got prepared with some stealth research and found out what her and her partners favourite colours were; red, yellow, green and blue.

I was going to buy a selection of fabric for this course but a very surprizing and beautiful gift arrived from New York. My friend Kathy who I had met on the Janet Bolton workshop in January had sent me the full range of beautiful fat quarters of their current quilting cottons.

So I was set for the workshop. Jenny (in the photo above) showed us her beautiful chambray blues and yellow improvisation quilt and showed us a variety of quilting images to get inspired by. Jenny was a very encouraging tutor with lots of great ideas and little tips to help you along the way. Each workshop attendee (Sue, Sirini and myself) were all making different things and Jenny was great at helping each of us out with our projects.

The design of my quilt was inspired by a quilt that was made up of contrasting colours in small blocks. I spent about fifteen minutes exploring pairs of colours using the beautiful Andover fabrics that Kathy had gifted me.

I cut 10cm strips off the ends of the fat quarters and sewed the contrasting pairs together which were then cut into four sections.

The next step was to sew these collections of fabrics together into strips of eight. I then started to block out the order of the quilt by pinning it onto the very useful pin-wall by the side of the workshop tables. You can see the journey of the quilt below.

After sewing each section I ironed the seams, always ironing the lighter coloured fabric towards the darker coloured fabric. I then sewed long strips together across the quilt and finally sewed each strip to each other and the outcome was this:

When I got home I pinned the top-quilt and sandwiched the wadding between the backing fabric. I then hand-basted the quilt sewing from the centre outwards across the whole quilt to secure all three layers together. Sewing the hand-basting from the centre outwards keeps the layers even and avoids any ripples and shifts in the fabric sandwich!

You can see the dark threads of the hand-basting here
Next the slow and steady job of hand-quilting the fabric begins. The due date of my friends baby is in June so I have a decent amount of time to get this completed in good time. I will blog about the finished quilt in a month or so!

This post is linked to #handmademonday organised by Julia of Sum of their Stories.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Merchant & Mills Camber Set Spotty Dress

After making two successful Merchant and Mills Camber Set tops (here and here) I decided to try out the dress version. I knew the dress would need a decent drape so I dug out this lovely pink and dark brown / black spotty viscose that has been lurking in my stash since I bought it at Guthrie and Ghani in 2015. I had two metres which was plenty big enough for the dress and leaves me enough for a little top.

Despite having made two previous versions of the top I still had to double check the construction details for the back yoke. I haven't quite got it right as every version has come out slightly different. I also added pockets which is a must with a simple shift dress like this. I love pockets!

Everything was going well until I sewed the final sleeve into place. I must have caught a pin with the sewing machine needle because the fabric started to pucker and rip as you can see in the photos below!

Oh dear. It looks like a mess but its not too noticeable from a distance. I immediately replaced the needle and finished the final seam under a little black cloud of disappointment. Luckily, I am not too precious about things to let it bother me too much as the dress is for work and I routinely get covered in paint / glue / spray / ink as an art and technology teacher anyway!

I lengthened the dress by about 6cm so it sits just below the knee. I wore it today with a belt and I think it looked OK. What do you think?


Saturday, 25 February 2017

Art Hack: Inks versus Food Colouring

As an art student way back in the 1990's I used lots of alternative versions of more expensive art materials due to limited funds. After a recent trip to Cass Art I treated myself to some Dr.Ph.Martins concentrated watercolours, luckily they were on sale at £39.99 instead of the RRP of £79.99.
It reminded me that I used food colouring as a student instead of expensive inks.

I decided to do an experiment with the two media so I bought some food colouring in red, yellow, blue and green from the supermarket at a reasonable £1.00 each.

 Food colouring v inks

I started experimenting with the food colouring using some watercolour paper postcards (see my previous blogpost about the postcards here).

The first thing I noticed was the rather 'natural' smell of the food colouring and gelatinous texture compared to 1990's food colouring that was more fluid. The next more obvious observation was the muted colours - which in terms of food colouring is probably soooooo much better for you to consume but for art hacks the colours didn't really pop like the 1990's food colouring version.

I then opened the Dr.Ph.Martins concentrated watercolour inks and for comparisons sake tried to re-create similar effects using the same colours. I guess the experiment was pretty doomed from here on in as the Dr.Ph. Martins were just so bright and intense I didn't really want to continue using the food colouring...

I experimented further by using some watered down household bleach to work into the wet inks / food colouring. This bleaches out the colours and creates interesting effects. It was certainly lots of fun.
Quick health and safety warning about using bleach. Use gloves if you have sensitive skin and in some cases use protective goggles because the fumes and liquid can irritate skin and could damage your sight if you get neat bleach in your eyes.

Here are the final experiments. I worked back into ALL the postcards as the food colouring ones were a little dull in colour so added more concentrated watercolours into the wet paper.

Experiment conclusion

Food Colouring: Present day food colouring is not a good substitute for inks unlike it's 1990's counterpart that was probably just neat E numbers and artificial dye colour!

Concentrated Watercolours: The Dr.Ph.Martin's watercolours are clear, bright and awesome. They are certainly worth it if you regularly paint and do craft projects.

This post is linked to #handmademonday organised by Julia of Sum of their Stories.

Eight Exhibitions in Eight Days

I have managed to get out to see lots of amazing exhibitions during half term and after work in the past eight days. Buckle up for a brief review of some of these London art experiences.

You Say You Want a Revolution? Rebels and Records 1966-1970 - V&A until Sunday 26th February

If you get a chance to go today or tomorrow it is a visual feast for the eyes with a brilliant soundtrack of music to accompany the show. I really enjoyed the show and evoked some lovely memories of my parents in the early 1970's. No photography allowed so I grabbed these images of the Acid Test poster and Souper Dress from the V&A website.

This was a small exhibition in the fashion and costume section of the V&A which showcases a history of underwear from boned corsets to the modern trends of lingerie for outerwear. There was a good range of items from different time periods, fashions and trends.

America: After the Fall. Painting in the 1930's - Royal Academy until Sunday 4th June 2017

Three rooms of the Royal Academy full of American big hitters like Georgia O'Keeffe, Edward Hopper and including Grant Wood's American Gothic (the image used for the promotion of the exhibition).
The collection focuses on the 1930's a period of rapid economic and political change in American history and the wide ranging responses of artist during this time.
It was quite busy when I visited as it was the RA Members Preview event so I will go back at a quieter time to be able to get a closer look at some of the striking paintings.

Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932 - Royal Academy until Monday 7th April 2017

A historic exhibition showcasing a 15-year period of artistic responses to the Russian Revolution 100-years after the dramatic event that ended centuries of Tsarist rule.
It includes work from Kandinsky, Chagall and Malevich and a whole host of other artists that explored the new found freedoms of the end of Tsarist rule. Creativity flourished as artists experimented with ways of expressing themselves which came to an abrupt end when Stalin's suppressive rule clamped down of creative freedom in 1932. An interesting and quite surprising exhibition which I would definitely recommend.

PACE - teamlab London: Transcending Boundaries until 11th March 2017

A friend booked free tickets to this amazing interactive light installation exhibition. Get your tickets quick as it will finish soon on the 11th March. I don't want to say too much which may effect your experience. A great experience for everyone of all ages.

Patrick George: Memorial Exhibition - Browse and Darby until 2nd March 2017

Browse and Darby is a small independent gallery behind the Royal Academy whose current exhibition showcases the beautiful, delicate landscape paintings of English artist Patrick George. He taught for over 40 years at the Slade School of Art and was inspired by traditional painters like Constable and Gainsborough.

Molly Goddard: What I like - NOW Gallery closed 22nd February 2107

I read about this exhibition three days before it closed and had to hot-foot it to North Greenwich after work to manage to see it. Molly Goddard is a fashion designer who created striking tulle dresses for this interactive exhibition. She invited members of the public to embroider and stitch onto the dresses which will be auctioned for charity after the exhibition has finished.
I spent half an hour stitching into a neon yellow dress. I free-styled a geometric maze type pattern using a simple running stitch. Other people had clearly spent a few hours producing intricate and accomplished embroideries. The overall impact of the exhibition was brilliant!

Do Ho Suh: Passage/s - Victoria Miro Gallery, London until Saturday 18th March 2017

This exhibition blew my mind! Until you see this work in person it is difficult to really appreciate that delicacy and precision involved in the artworks. They are to scale fabric sculptures of the places he has lived throughout his life. Truly inspiring.
Watch this video to understand how he creates his art. It is so amazing!

Another link to a great video about his work.

The majority of these exhibitions were free except the Royal Academy where an annual membership of £97 gives you unlimited access to all exhibitions for you and a friend for a year.
Get out there and see some free art people!