home again

Home again yesterday after three weeks of voluntary maid service to Big Sis following her extremely successful hip replacement operation, and this morning it was strange not to have Jasper greet me with much tail wagging. This was him before he had his coat clipped a few days after I arrived and he seems to be saying “Haircut? What haircut? No-one mentioned a haircut. Is it open to negotiation?”. It wasn’t and he was duly coiffed into a slightly neater version of what he looks like here, but his coat seems to grow so quickly there’s already talk of another trim this weekend.

Sadly, my camera repair is going to cost half as much again as the repair shop assistant suggested it was worth spending on the repair and as I’ve had it six years and camera technology has advanced a little more, I’m looking for a replacement instead. I’ll have to make do with my phone camera for the time being. I just wish I could retain all the phone techy camera stuff I learn from time to time and not have to refer to the internet for refresher lessons each time!

Painting the Roses Red didn’t get stitched at all while I was away except on the journey north, and I haven’t taken any update photos yet. I had also taken some aida fabric and crochet cottons to try blackwork which was a new technique for me. I only had a few colour options but I quite enjoyed the process and found it easier than cross-stitch but doubt that I’ll do much more blackwork in the future. I can’t see myself ever needing a bell-pull or a tray cloth or yet another needle case which were the suggestions in one book.

rooster

The Chinese New Year brings in the year of the rooster on the 28th of January and I’ve made this one to sit in my son’s shop window. The rooster stands approximately 18 inches crest to claw and about 14 inches chest to tail tip. The body is papier maché formed over a balloon then cut and shaped when dry. The inner neck is a shaped cardboard tube. All the feathers are individually cut from a variety of cardboard, determined by the boxes I had waiting to be recycled. The claws are wire covered with floral tape. A hot glue gun was used to put it all together after which I painted it with gesso then acrylic paints. I saw something similar on the internet made from egg cartons but I didn’t have the time to save enough of those. If I ever made another bird this way I’d probably paint the cardboard first – it would make it much quicker to complete.

rooster

a little meadow and some legs

I’ve been working on this little 7″ x 5″ meadow for several weeks just doing a few stitches at a time as it’s impossible to do much more when you need to read sub-titles on the television but I think it’s done now. Calico for the ground fabric as usual. I mixed acrylic paints with medium to turn them into fabric paints but I’m not sure what benefit if any was gained by doing so. I think the calico would have taken the colour just as easily without the addition of the medium.

meadow

I used this excellent free pattern to make a couple of chicks as a start for lots more to use in a future window display and then had a session of just making legs using various wire gauges and construction methods as practice for a much larger bird I had in mind to make. The big bird is not made from fabric and there’s no stitching involved but it’s not quite finished so all you get today is chicks studying the results of the leg making practice.

legs

 

fabric bird 2

Another wren. The most difficult thing I’ve found with these birds is stitching the underbody gusset to the main body pieces without leaving a gap or creating a fold at the ends. I’m hoping that the more birds I made, the easier the process will be.

wren-2

fabric bird

I recently bought a secondhand copy of The Artful Bird by Abigail Patner Glassenberg who blogs at whileshenaps.com. The book has 20+ pages on techniques and several on materials and tools and I read through all those pages twice before starting on the wren, which according to the book is the one to master, after which the other birds will come “relatively easily”. I found some parts of the construction slightly challenging, particularly free-motion machine embroidering the wing parts once they’d been made up so I’d do that differently in future.

The book does not state if a particular level of expertise is necessary for making the birds but having made the wren I would say that it’s not a book for a complete novice. Abby recommends that even those with sewing experience read the instructions carefully and I concur! The wren was fun to make and I like the idea of a small flock of fabric fun birds perched around my work room so I’m looking forward to making some of the others.

wren

dress form a la Mrs G

I can rarely buy trousers off the peg within my budget that fit me and since I actually took an evening class course on how to construct patterns, I thought it was time that I made my own again. I’m an avid fan of the Great British Sewing Bee, even if I don’t always agree with the judges, and I’m sure that watching the latest series played no small part in my decision to put pattern to fabric once more, that and the fact that if I make my own clothes I have no-one to blame if they don’t fit.

This week my pattern drafting books were brought back into the workroom from the garage where they’ve been for ten years and I began again to construct base paper patterns. In one book I had entered my measurements as they were then, twenty years ago – the last time I actually did any proper dressmaking, and I was slimmer then by almost two sizes. I consoled myself at that point by reminding myself that I am now a mature woman and it’s alright to have a mature figure to match but I don’t much like me this way so the calorie counting starts again Monday.

I knew that making the patterns would not be too big a problem but without a fellow dressmaker to hand, checking the fit of the resultant muslin would be. I had bought what is really a shop display dummy (as opposed to a proper dressmaking form) from a charity shop a decade ago but the size was too small for anything but checking hems or hanging scarves from, until this week when it struck me that I could simply pad it out to my size. In a trawl of local charity shops yesterday, I bought a padded cot bumper and an extra-large simple sleeveless cotton knit dress. The bumper wadding  was used to roughly pad the form where necessary and then stitched to the original stretchy cover and the dress was made into a new cover. I think I now have a workable dress form and although it’s not an exact copy of my shape, the essential dimensions match me sufficiently to be of use and the wadding can be removed or, heaven forbid, added to easily. The wadding also makes it a little squidgy in places, just like me.

dress form 1

dress form 2

diy custom-fit sewing area

Part the first:

Until last week, the surface that my sewing machine sat on was 31″ high and as I’m just over 5′ 4″ tall I had to adjust my chair height to its highest setting and put the foot pedal on a box whenever I wanted to sew. Additionally, this setup didn’t give me much room to easily sew anything larger than half a metre square so for more than a year I’ve scoured the internet for ways I could improve things with a very small budget and no specialist tools. After several trials, I realised that making a simple table at a height to suit me would be my easiest option. I already had mdf so all I needed to buy was some timber for the legs and on the way to purchase this, I stopped at a charity shop to donate a load of books and spotted a 22.5″ high side table for only £15 which has turned out to be ideal. Two lengths of 2″ x 1″ timber sandwiched between the table top and a length of mdf created the perfect working height for me. Nothing has been permanently attached so far but it’s lovely to be able to just pull my chair up to the machine and sew without having to adjust anything beforehand. It’s very stable and an additional bonus is the paper rack underneath to store packs of fusible interfacing etc.

sewing setup

Part the second:

A fair-sized transparent extension table came with my sewing machine but it’s designed to be used with the accessories box in place and both of these have to be removed to access the slider switch that lowers or raises the feed dogs. A custom-made extension table that’s shaped to fit around the free arm is beyond my budget so I thought I’d have a go at making one from a large piece of old plexiglass I sometimes use as a lightbox surface. I found a YouTube video where someone attached a craft knife blade to a soldering iron which sounded like an easy win but didn’t work with my soldering iron so I attached a short length of thick copper wire instead which I knew would work although it took me more than an hour to cut five of the seven cuts required and the cuts were not clean. I then had a sudden flash of inspiration and made a cheese-cutter type arrangement as shown in the image below. Pushing against the plexiglass as well as employing a gentle sawing motion close to the soldering iron where the wire was hottest made the cutting quicker and easier although the wire snapped a couple of times and had to be re-attached. Areas where melting plexiglass had built up along the cutting line were easy enough to remove with wire nippers and a large diamond nail file subsequently smoothed all the edges. For all its roughness, my diy version fits quite well around the free arm of my machine and simply sits on the original extension table which I lowered slightly so that the diy version is level with the needle plate and the feed dog switch at the back of the free arm is easily and quickly reached by sliding my hand under the table.

 

diy plexiglass cutter

diy extension table 2

diy extension table