Friday, 29 December 2017

Trying a new craft

A couple of years ago (!) I wrote a post about receiving some things from overseas. I had a quick try at one of them around a year ago then put it aside again. Then earlier this year I saw an article in the local paper that caught my eye.

It was about a lace-making course that was coming up in September! It was the first I'd seen advertised and it was local as it was to be held at the Karori Arts and Crafts Centre so I had a good read of the article. It was a two day workshop so I had a chat with 't other 'arf, aka Boar, and he was quite happy for me to go along. He usually is but one needs to consult!  😜

I've been interested in lace-making for years. In fact I think I first became aware of making lace when I read about it in a series of books I read growing up which begins with The School At The Chalet and in which it is called pillow lace. Re-reading the books is like meeting up with old friends. Yes, I collect the books  😁  My interest was re-kindled when I saw a display in Te Papa along with an explanation of the lace.

The course was fun, challenging and I managed to produce a couple of pieces. There are only a couple of stitches but the combinations of them are many and varied. It took a lot of concentration too as I find learning any new activity does! The other ladies were lovely and it was great to see that there was one young (in years!) lady there. The rest of us were young at heart . . . well, I feel that way even if my body belies it!

One thing I did was to make my own lace pillow. I used some polystyrene I had lying around. I got the dimensions from

I also got the instructions on how to cover the pillow from the book.

When I was ready to pin the fabric to the pillow I wanted some sturdy pins and remembered popping some that I found in my Mum's things in a desk drawer. Who knows how old they are, they could even have belonged to one of my grandmothers! They are quite a bit thicker in the shaft than pins are now.

This is my first piece which I finished half-way through the first day. I was pretty happy with it even if it does have a mistake in it! The tutor was kind and had started the bookmark off for us and also had us omit the beads that usually go in the eyes up the top.

This is my second piece which I started the first day and which took me most of the rest of the second day! It was quite a bit more complicated, for me anyway, and at one point I made the same mistake about three times in a row requiring me to undo the strands and re-work it! I found this pretty frustrating as my perfectionist tendencies were rearing their heads . . . i.e. I should be able to do it right the very first time! So I shoved them back in their rightful place and persevered  😎  The piece of paper under the working is a pattern with dots on and every dot has a pin to hold the knot made in the lace. Lots of pins! When you take the pins out the lace holds together - hopefully!

Here it is completed. There are a few mistakes in this one as well, and the tension is a bit all over the place in some spots but I can live with it. I was really happy I attended the course to have a go at it. The tutor showed us some of her work which is beautiful. Some of it is done with silk strands and is very fine work.

I started another bookmark on my own at home intending to practice and give some as Christmas gifts. Then life got rather busy and that didn't happen, so maybe I'll get some done by next Christmas!

There is a weekly craft & quilters meet-up at the Karori centre, plus a lace-making group that meet monthly which I'm going to try and get along to next year.

How about you, dear reader, are you trying any new technique or craft?

Update:- I posted this a few days ago. This morning I had a look at what is the first piece of lace I have tried on my own. Oops . . . It has been moved hither and yon by various family members . . . and . . . those bobbins are not meant to be up there! They should be sitting neatly under the white tape. I shall sort it out and finish it off.

Oh, and I actually managed to do this update on my phone! Shhhh all you young ones who have it sussed  . . . older minds sometimes take a bit longer to suss these things out. Mine does anyway!

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Miss V's Ball Gown

A friend asked me to make her daughter's ball gown for her end of year ball in September. They had looked around but nothing was what Miss V wanted. Miss V had some definite ideas as to design and so M decided to check with me.

Miss V made me a rough sketch, with a description, plus gave me some pictures that showed design aspects she liked. Miss V had chosen a lovely silk chiffon for the outer layer and wanted lace sleeves so went off shopping again with mum to find some, which they did at The Fabric Warehouse. So the design and fabric choices are Miss V's  😊  I did my best to interpret her design ideas.

From there it was measurements, draughting a block and making a toile.

So here is the final one of the draughts I did, possibly the first! At that stage I was thinking myself pretty clever having mostly got the hang of this draughting business! Well!! That thought quickly evaporated at the first fitting  😕  I did another tweak of the draught, fitted that, still some issues . . . another draught. Check the measurements . . . hmmmm that armscye doesn't really match up with the numbers in the book . . . . oops, re-measure armscye which solved most of the problems strangely enough!

These photos are from the second fitting, I think. I had to make a few more tweaks . . .

. . . and did another fitting to make sure the bodice fitted. I did suggest the bodice be quite a bit more close fitting than it is but Miss V was very determined to keep the style she wanted and she is the client so that is what happened.

For the skirt  I looked through my pattern stash to see what I had. I found this pattern that was given to me a while ago. It's a vintage one, by the price and the fact that it has no markings. Someone had previously written on the pattern pieces which was a help!

I've never used a pattern as old as this but I have read about them. They have circles punched out for the markings. And thankfully a guide to tell you what they are although I was able to work most of them out!

I didn't get photos of most of the making but I did take one of the pleating on the front. Miss V wanted a soft look. I showed her examples of pleating and gathers and she went with the pleats. A bit of maths was involved figuring out the width of the pleats and how much fabric needed. Then there was folding, pinning and basting the pleats in place before I stitched the skirt to bodice. To reduce bulk at the waistline the lining waist seam was the same measurement as the bodice waist measurement.

Lots of pins! These are Clover glass head silk pins. I love them and they are great for fine fabrics such as this silk chiffon. I think I am in danger of becoming a pin snob! After using these pins a year or so ago I found the regular thicker ones, which aren't that thick really, seemed so much thicker that I reach for these pins all the time now. They are great and the glass heads are heat resistant so when you are using the iron the heads don't melt. I've done that a lot - melted the sides of pins that is.

Image source

As well as the dress Miss V requested a cape to wear for added warmth. I used this pattern I had in my stash and used view A, E with a centre opening. The cape was lined as well.

I was very happy to receive some photos of Miss V in her ball gown from the night of the ball. I think Miss V looks gorgeous. It was a special day and night for her as she had her hair and make-up done especially for the ball.

A couple more photos which show off the stretch lace sleeves. Being a stretch fabric meant I was able to make the sleeves really fitted. I draughted a new pattern for the sleeves as the measurements for non-stretch and stretch are different.

Miss V was happy with her ball gown, her mum was happy as well. I learned quite a few things from this make - especially to make sure to double check what you see on the tape measure! Oh, and that it really helps to have your glasses on when you look at the tape measure. These days the numbers are a bit blurry without glasses! 😜

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

A few Madelines

Back in July I was asked to make some costumes for a troupe for competitions. They were dancing to a piece of music from Madeline. There were going to be 12 dancers in this troupe.

The time frame ended up being quite short. There was a slight muddle up about when the competition was. The fabric was delivered on the Tuesday and the comp was on the Friday!

I draughted a pattern as I thought it would be difficult to find something suitable in the time frame. I most likely needed to make them in a size 6, 8 & 10. I made a mock-up which I was able to try on my grand daughter who is 5 years old but the size of an average 6 year old. The size 6 fitted her really well so I then graded the pattern up to the size 8 and 10.

 Miss O modeling the toile for me.

And again with the cape.

 In the end I only needed to make 6 dresses for the first competition. They were mostly size 8 and one size 10.

I managed to take a few pictures while I was making the dresses, and capes, but it was pretty much just sew, sew, sew!

Cutting out the size 10 sleeve. This is the first time I've graded a pattern up 2 sizes so it was a bit of a challenge until I got my head around it!

There was enough fabric but not a whole lot to spare so some careful placing was in order 😀  I think I ended up with less than a metre of fabric left over after all 12 dresses were cut out.

Many know this trick but in case you don't here is how to fold the fabric for a circular skirt, or in this case cape, so there are no seams. Take your piece of fabric and fold it in half, two edges together, you'll have the fold facing you as in the photo.

Then fold that piece in half . . . so you end up with quarters.

Place your pattern piece, which will be a quarter circle, with the straight sides on the folds. You'll see that with this pattern one straight side is on the fold, the other side is at the top corner then angles away slightly. I didn't want this to be a complete circle but for the front edges to be slightly apart.

Once I'd cut out the main part of the cape I folded the top layer back out of the way and cut the tapered edge, this will be the front opening and the folded edges are the sides and back of the cape. This was a very simple cape, not fitted at the shoulder as they often are.

I was up working at silly o'clock on the dresses and when Boar got up early at 5:30am he came and asked if there was anything he could do to help. Being a chippie carpenter I figured he could cope with cutting these so showed him and he cut the rest for me. I think I cut the linings but memory is a bit hazy . . .

There were collars too of course, so a dozen, cos 6 pairs, of them needed interfacing, stitching, trimming, clipping, turning, ironing, and then attaching!  They're stacked like that as they are in pairs and I'm trying to keep some kind of order . . . tiredness does things to my brain and the front and back curves of the collar are slightly different, hence not wanting to get them muddled.

That's all the photos I got of the making. I got the 6 done and delivered the afternoon of the comp. The remaining 6 were done by the next comp.

Below is a photo of some of the troupe from Wellington Dance and Performing Arts Academy. I suspect the tallest lass is in a size 8, or has grown since the size 10 was made! The hats were decorated by their teacher, Miss Denton, who was the director of the studio my children began dancing at . . . 17 years ago!

Source - WDPAA

This was quite a fun make, the second set more so as there wasn't quite the same time pressure. 

Saturday, 25 November 2017

"Can you knit me a tea cosy?"

This was the question my younger brother asked me earlier this year! He'd been on a bit of a hunt in shops such as Farmers and surprise, surprise, had not found any tea cosies! He was pretty suprised at that. I wasn't though . . . more the type of thing some craft shops would sell. He even tried a few knitting shops but no luck.

I figured it was within my ability level so I went on a hunt in Ravelry to see if they had tea cosy patterns. Yes, they sure did, heaps of them! Many fancy ones but I was looking for a fairly plain blokey kind of one for him. I decided on a few that I thought he might like and sent him the images. He chose my first pick so then it was on to the wool buying. I also needed to know the size of his teapot as they come in a variety of sizes.

It was a fairly basic pattern knitted mostly in moss stitch. It only took a few nights to knit up so it was a quick project. The two halves are down below.

Here it is all stitched together.

He even brought his teapot when he came to visit so I was able to take a photo of the pot wearing it's cosy! It looks a bit more interesting actually on the pot than lying flat on a table.

I really enjoyed this knitting project, it was easy, quick and I just had to follow the pattern.

There is a little bit about the history of the tea cosy here. When I was growing up they were an integral part of most homes along with tea leaves and a tea strainer if you didn't like leaves floating in your tea!

Every Sunday we had a roast lunch in winter, cold meat and salad in summer, and so for our evening meal we had "tea" as in date loaf, or scones, cake, and yes, tea in the fancy china cups and saucers, with matching sandwich plates. At the time I didn't realise it was a bit uncommon, it was just what Mum did! Now it is one of the memories I treasure from my years growing up. 

Monday, 6 November 2017

A few wrap skirts

At the end of last year I was approached by a small business to see if I was interested in making some dancewear for them. I was, and earlier this year was asked to make some wrap skirts, and a short time later some small circle skirts for younger dancers. The business is Dancers Dance.

There were several fabrics for the skirts. Here I'm cutting out the lovely floral ones. My pattern was made years ago from some hydrographic maps a friend gave me. They have lasted well!  

Lately I've been finding the rotary cutter great for cutting out chiffony type fabrics. I find there is less fabric movement than when I use scissors.

Then it was on to the sewing machines. In the photo below I'm using the overlocker to stitch a rolled edge hem on the lovely red lace.

Pinning on a label before I attach the bias ribbon.

With these skirts I was able to find bias ribbon for the red and floral ones.. However for the other colour the only good match was too narrow. So I had a hunt for a matching fabric and found a satin that I could make my own bias ribbon from. I did a post on how I do this here.

In the photo below I'm stitching the two pieces together so I can cut the strips in one continuous piece. I hadn't done this before and it worked well.

All cut and put through the bias binding machine ready to go.

The only problem was that it was a bit too soft and I could see it was going to be a pain to sew! Soft, floppy and not holding the creases well. What to do?

After a bit of a think I went and bought a can of spray starch to see if that would help.


It was pretty interesting smelling . . . ventilation needed! I did spray the fabric on some baking paper but it still made a bit of a mess on the ironing board while I was ironing it. The ironing board cover can be washed though so that's o.k. I had to re-do the folding and ironing by hand but it is a calming kind of thing to do with the radio playing in the background. I used a bias folder to help and the trick with the pins is one I read about years ago.

Below it's all ironed, folded and ironed again . . . and holding it's shape and creases!

Just a closer view below.

I was able to apply the bias ribbon easily once it held it's shape. It will soften over time however that won't matter once it is stitched on.

Below is the first set of skirts. Each colour is in several different sizes.

Soon after making these skirts I was asked to make some more. These were in a lovely purple lace.

The other ones were of a pretty floral lace and these were circular skirts for younger dancers.

If you scroll down the Dancers Dance page in the link above you might spot a few of the skirts.  😍 

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Romantic tutu for AHA

Earlier this year I was approached by a dancer's mum about making a costume for her daughter for the Alana Haines Awards. I was excited, and also a bit nervous, as this would be my first tutu for this biennial competition which is highly regarded "down under", the competition that is! I made a costume 2 years ago for the last competition which I posted about here.

After a bit of research and thought I decided to go with a bodice pattern from Tutus That Dance partly because time was a little short. I chose the one that best fit Miss K's measurements and then lengthened it to suit.

I had some invaluable help from Margaret who I did a workshop with about 5 years ago. There were a couple of techniques I wasn't sure of and Margaret generously shared her knowledge with me. You can find Margaret here and here. Thanks so much, Margaret 😂

Miss K's dance was from Flower Festival in Genzano. It required a peasant girl style romantic tutu. Once all the materials were to hand I made a start on a toile/mock-up to ensure the best fit.

Pattern pieces traced off and lengthened. Once the toile was right I got onto the actual bodice.

Laying out the pattern pieces. Note to self:- 0.75mtr or 1mtr of fabric for older girls especially if a basque is needed . . . 0.5mtr was just enough! It's a gorgeous colour, which changes shade with the light. It is silk and was lovely to work with.

Tracing round the pattern pieces before I cut them out - the weights are fishing weights :)

This is what was left over! Enough for piping so all good.

 Circular skirt all cut out. There will be only one seam down the back of the skirt.

I decided to sew a French seam for the skirt as it encloses the raw edge and for the sheer chiffon looks neater than overlocking I think. Not that it will be seen from the stage but I'll know!

French seam completed and edges of opening turned under.

Here is the front of the bodice and I'm playing around with the inset which needs to look like a peasant blouse.

The back bodice.

Keeping the bodice covered! There is a small grandson in the house, he was under four when I was making this so I kept the bodice covered, pushed to the back of my table going with the out-of-sight-out-of-mind principle. Also his mum told me she has told him Grandma will be very angry if he touches her sewing things! Dragon-granny! He does leave things alone but likes to help grandma sew or "zo" as he says :)

Piping for the base of the bodice. Trimming the edge to an even length. It's the first time I've made piping and attached it for something like this so I was pretty pleased with how it turned out.

Piping attached. I took my time doing this, basting it before sewing it. There was no more silk so I had to get it in one go!

Lace attached to the top edge. The lace provided was a straight piece so I pleated it to add a bit of detail and depth to it. Stitch, fold, stitch repeat . . . until done.

Gathering the net for the underskirt.

Hooks and thread eyes for the bodice. Also a bit of the trim that went around the top and "vee" of the bodice.

Small plastic snap to keep the skirt opening closed.

The finished bodice.

Not the best photo with the lighting, but this is one I got before I handed the tutu over.

Photo credit :- P Pang

This photo shows the the lovely Miss K, as well as the back of the bodice.

Here are two photos of Miss K performing her dance during the AHA awards.

Amber Griffin Photography

Amber Griffin Photography

I really enjoyed making this tutu for Miss K. As usual I learned a lot. Miss K was happy with it as were her mum and the dance teacher.

I was able to see photos of other dancers costumes in the photos and thought Miss K's measured up pretty well against the others  😃