Saturday 31 May 2014

Skipping Skirt

For my birthday a friend bought me Simple Sewing with Lola Nova by Alexandra Smith. It is great book full of lovely ideas and different techniques. It give comprehensive guides on how to go about things and the skills needed. This allows the project pages to focus on the instructions without getting too bogged down by the technique. the book mostly contains projects for around the house and children's clothes. The book itself is pretty and contains an inspiring array of fabrics. I was instantly drawn to the skipping skirt, I think this was partly as I was looking for something to make for an 8 year olds birthday and because at that age I would have loved one.

The skirt itself was really easy to make, I cut the pattern according to instructions and the set about finding the fabric. It is an amazing "stash busting" project as it uses quite a small amount of fabric for each panel. Choosing the fabric was a lot of fun and I took quite a bit of time to play with different combinations. I was eager to include different fabric types as well to give it more texture. I started with a very pretty woodland critters panel and a complimentary leaf pattern, this  fabric was used for an apron. I then added in the buildings as the colours matched and I liked the urban/rural contrast. The small square fabric picked out key colours without being overpowering. I decided to pick out one of the colours and use that to tie all the fabrics together. I had some fantastic orange shot with different shades so it matched the fox. My last two fabrics were a dark dusky pink cord and a chino fabric. I love using cord as it gives a texture and the colours change as the light catches it, although I was careful to not put the heavy fabric together so it sat right. It was very forgiving to sew as the most exposed seam is in the waist band, which is not very exposed at all.

The one thing that is does show up, however, is fabric cutting. I took quite a bit of time on this as any pattern with a vertical line would be obvious if cut incorrectly. I also tried hard to minimise the number of animals that I cut in half! This is always a struggle with character fabric. On the plus side I managed to avoid any blatant decapitation.

Pretty Skipping Skirt from a Lola Nova design.

I finished it off with some pretty pink bias binding. I think the bias binding gives a neater finish and again it ties all of the panels together. It is a great gift as all you need is a waist measurement which is easy to get.

I was pleased with the end result and it seemed to go down well, she looked lovely in it and it flared out when she twirled. I am planning another two - I just need to decide on exact fabric combinations.

UPDATE - Skirt number two in turquoise and purple. Again I felt it was important to mix colour, pattern and texture. This one was made even quicker after the experience of the first.

Skipping Skirt made using pattern from Lola Nova Designs.

I will be making other things from the book and keeping a close eye on her blog.

Adjustable apron

I have always liked the idea of making aprons as gifts. If somebody bakes I think it is a fun and practical thing to give them and you can go crazy with the fabric and it doesn't matter. The downside is getting the fit right. This may seem rather silly, as it is just an apron, but it is frustrating if the top hags down or it wont go over your head. I thought about straps to tie behind your neck but it seemed clumsy and awkward. Then I found a magical pattern in Sew Quick Sew Cute by Fiona Goble. This is a lovely book made up of projects that can be made in no more than a weekend with lots of projects that could easily be made in an evening. It uses a really simple way of adding a little bit of facing and having the neck loop determined by the waist strap. The pattern is very simple as it is a piece that you cut out of folded fabric. I was making this for my niece so I scaled it down a little and it worked fine.

Apron made out of Woodland Critter fabric using a pattern in "Sew Quick Sew Cute" 

I used amazing woodland critter fabric and complementary leaf pattern fabric for the pocket. I think an apron should always have a pocket. The last one I made had a dish-towel loop as well. I would have added one in this case but I was worried that if I did my sister would make my niece wash up the dishes more...

I had never put facing in before and I was slightly anxious about it though I am now unsure why. It went really well. It just takes time and pinning to match it correctly and it gave a lovely result. The only problem with this method is that you do not line the apron so the hem is exposed. I put in a simple roll hem and used a contrasting thread to set it off.

Thursday 29 May 2014

A Taggy Owl for a Little Lady

Finally a friend had a baby girl!

I have been loving making taggy owls and dinosaurs for little boys but I was delighted to hear that a friend had an adorable little girl. This gave me the perfect excuse to dig about in my stash of pink and purple fabrics.

Now - I know some people are groaning at me reaching for the pink! I have lots of female friends who dislike pink and wont wear it. I agree it is a stereotype to assume that a girl would like pink. My little girl is now 2 and loves her sparkly shoes and Thomas the Tank Engine in equal measure so I don't stick to gender specific toys. She is now expressing lots of opinions on what she likes and what she does not and we encourage that. As a baby however she liked colour and lots of it. I also found that if I dressed her in neutral colours or lots of blue it led to that awkward conversations where you realise the person you are talking to can't tell or remember if you had a boy or a girl. So with great excitement I drew up a pattern and made a pink and purple owl - if only so my friend doesn't have to smile politely and say "She" a lot.

I made it in the same way as my first two. I had cut up the previous patterns so drew another. This means the shape is a little different but I love that there are no two the same. I used cord and velvet and selected lots of fun ribbon again. The main difference is this owl has her eyes open. It occurred to me that this would give a good area of light and dark contrast which babies love and I was pleased with the result.

Girly Taggy Owl
Pretty Cord Fabric On The Back

Saturday 3 May 2014

Trying out a Tee shirt - Top Transformation!

After a few years of making bags, soft toys, book covers and even a quilt I am starting to get to the stage where I should try making clothes. Most people already seem to think I can and it would be a welcome challenge. I think this is also the feeling of those around me as I received two books with clothes patterns in for my birthday. My main concern about making clothes is that they need to fit. If I make a bag and it turns out bigger or smaller than I planned then I can just pretend this is what I wanted to do. Clothes are harder and I worry if they go wrong I waste a lot of fabric.

I am, however, planning to make myself a few things as then I can check the fit throughout and I am not working to deadlines. I decided to start with a major alteration as opposed to a patterned piece. This was because
 a) I found a fun looking pattern and method
 b) It used a tee-shirt that only cost me £3.50 
 c) It felt a bit like the Great British Sewing Bee 

I found the pattern on a fun blog. It has really clear instructions and photos of each stage. There are also extra blog posts that show different variations. I would really like to play with the idea of using lace as a trim. although I feel I would need a pastel tee shirt as the red is too bold to take lace without looking over the top, or giving too much contrast between delicate lace and a block colour. 

Me in my XXL tee shirt 

The method is simple and the fact that you can keep putting it back on and measuring it all again is great.I used an XXL tee shirt for mine to give me length to work with and plenty of space. Tee shirt fabric is nice to work with in that it does not fray, however it is stretchy which is a challenge especially if you want to add hems. In a lot of the ideas on pinterest the fabric is just cut and there is no hem, but I decided to do a small hem around the neck as I preferred the finish it gave. Sewing in the elastic is also difficult as you want to aim for quite an even gather. I am pleased with the end result and I might be tempted in the future to experiment with different sleeve styles. I could have made the elastic under the bust tighter and I would be tempted in the future to look for tee shirts with thinner fabric.

My transformed top.
It is quite obvious that I hate having my photo taken but the coat hanger really does not show the shape in the top.

Entering an Art Competition - Shetland Open

I decided to enter the Shetland Arts Open Competition. In some ways this is odd as I have never classified myself as an artist, but they do have a craft and design section. It is a local competition for those with a connection to Shetland so as a resident I could enter. I was expecting the competition to be fierce as there are a lot of incredibly talented crafters on the Isles and it is open to all abilities. It is also only ran every two years. With all this to consider I wondered a couple of times why I was putting myself through this and the answer was simple - I wanted the challenge. Not of winning or even competing but of making something that I am pleased to put my name to and happy to have hanging on the wall of a gallery I love.

The entries are displayed at Bonhoga which is one of our frequent haunts. It is a converted Mill on the West mainland of Shetland. It has a lovely modern gallery with a wide variety of exhibitions, a charming gift shop and a fantastic cafe with a conservatory that looks out over the burn. The cafe has the best cheese scones and onion chutney as well as being very child friendly. This years competition is celebrating the conversion of Bonhoga 20 years ago and as Bonhoga means 'spiritual home', the theme is 'home'.

I approached the theme in my usual way which was to jot all ideas down for 3 days until something stuck. To stick it has to be true to the theme, I had to be able to visualise it, it had to be a little arty and different and I had to be happy to put my name to it. I find it hard to get the motivation and drive to make something for the sake of making it or to appeal to a lot of people. So I had to design something that I knew at least one person would love and that was a little personal to me. One of the conditions for entering is that the piece has to be offered for sale, but if it does not sell then I know where I am sending it, although if it does sell I may have to use some of the techniques and do another piece!

My ideas ranged from obvious sayings like "home is where the heart is" to movie references - I wanted to stitch red sparkly shoes. I thought about playing on the theme of bringing home the bacon or home sweet home. I spent time thinking about spiritual homes and places that matter. I almost used the stained glass windows in our library as a starting point as I think libraries are where I have always felt at home and the one in Lerwick used to be a Church.

Mirror Mirror on the Card.

I love making cards but I sometimes struggle with how to make them different and original. I like the idea of making something that has a use after the card comes down. I decided to make small handbag mirror pouches with pretty designs that could go on a card and look good but could then also be taken off. The first card was for my niece. I embroidered a small teal turtle onto some calico fabric. The pattern came from Little stitches by Aneela Hoey which is a lovely book. It comes with big sheets of patterns to transfer by ironing and I love the ease and simplicity of iron on transfers. I lined it with a piece of teal striped fabric then  made the outer and inner components and put them right-sides together, one inside the other. I left a small turning gap and top stitched it after it had been pulled through. This is how I normally put bags together, however the only issue was that because I was working on a small scale it was really difficult to top stitch and it was hard to get a crisp finish. I added a press stud so that the mirror doesn't fall out in the handbag.

Turtle Mirror Holder

The second Mirror card was made for my Auntie to go with her pamper pack. This time I chose to embroider a pink rose from the sublime stitches book and I co-ordinated the fabric with the pamper pack. This time I left the turning gap inside at the bottom which I feel gave a better finish. It means you have to leave a generous amount of fabric but in terms of pattern I measured the mirror and added seam allowance and popper allowance to it. The fabric used on the inside of the pouch was chosen to match the pamper pack.

Rose Mirror card

I attached the mirror to the card by sticking on a mini wooden peg. I felt this was a nice touch and kept things simple.


I came to the Superman franchise later than most people, being first introduced to Smallville I then went back and watched the 4 original films. I liked the cheesy take on superman but felt it had been explored as much as it needed to be. I was therefore looking forward to Man Of Steel. I wanted something edgy and different. I had some reservations about yet another 'origin story' but I put that behind me and got ready to watch the film. I enjoyed the start of the film, the mood was darker and bleaker and I loved the idea of Clark Kent going from place to place to try and find himself. There was a dark crisis of confidence and a muddled adolescence that came out really well. The depiction of Krypton was well done, although I felt there were similarities with the machines in The Matrix trilogy.

The decision to crowbar Lois Lane into the story as knowing Superman's identity from the start was an interesting one. I think it saves some of the questions over how anybody can be so naive that have always popped up in other versions. What it also did was to make the story unnecessarily convoluted in a different way. Her presence at each point in the plot, especially in the Arctic, made little sense, and for me the chemistry was not there and Amy Adams gave a weak performance throughout. She was not as feisty as I felt she should have been but that is just a personal opinion and I can see how the relationship could develop in future films.

My biggest problem with the film was the switch just over half way from being an interesting take on the story to being one big fight scene. The length was an issue for me, the repetitive nature was dull and more than that it was one big Matrix rip-off. I have seen people fighting through skyscrapers before, I have seen it in slow motion. There is nothing new offered here. The first fight was visually interesting but after that it was just too much. This is not the only film guilty of this, I would put Transformers and indeed the end of Star Trek: Into Darkness into the same category. The most unforgivable aspect of the film to me is the fact that Superman kills. He should not kill, he should not wipe out a city. He should have fought in space or even flown to a desert. After such a long and protracted fight scene that has wiped out Metropolis he kills Zod. If that really was the only solution then he should have killed Zod  if the first place and spared the civilian life.

There are many small pointers that bugged me in the end to due with continuity and plot but if I am honest then they only annoyed me because I was so angry with how rubbish the film turned out to be. I will not nitpick at those as if the second half of the film had been like the first then I would not have minded at all. Despite me not being over-awed by Amy Adams I felt that the rest of the cast did a good job. It was let down not by performance but by script and production and an inherent need to crash through skyscrapers. This film was made by people who watched The Matrix trilogy and are big fans of Alduos Huxley's A Brave New World but who forgot to research Superman.

I am intrigued by the next film. Like most people I want to see the Superman/Batman interaction and I have some hope for Lex as the villain. I do have a concern that they will mess it up again, although I think it will be one to watch on amazon prime and not worth a cinema ticket.