Thursday 16 August 2018

Stash Busting Stained Glass Challenge.

I am really lucky to have some very supportive friends who say very kind things about my creations and are general cheerleaders in my life. One of whom is rather eager for me to remember to sew for myself. She is also not afraid to show off things I have sent her to anybody who will look. I had a hat commission as a result of this a few years ago. She also knows Clare of Fabled Stained Glass who makes beautiful bespoke stained glass windows. I have been in awe of her lovely designs for a while and was rather excited when she announced she had got some fabric printed with the designs. I then received a parcel containing a fat quarter and a note saying my friend had shown her my oystercatcher and puffin and said I would do something interesting while passing on my address. I am not sure I can live up to an “interesting” reputation but I was eager to see what I could do to showcase such lovely fabric. Despite not being religious I adore stained glass and am in awe of the skill and artistry that it takes to make them. My favourite local stained glass windows are in the library in Lerwick. I love the detail in the musicians and the oak leaf.
The fabric is a really good quality cotton and not too thin. Normally with a print that has characters or animals on there is the inevitable "cutting off of features" when sewing with it as I have spoken about before. You also get a lot of waste with fancy cutting. The beauty of the grid format is that it allows the rectangles containing the picture to be cut out without “accidental decapitation”. I decided to challenge myself to use all of the complete rectangles on the fat quarter to make a series of projects where the fabric can star as the focal point. Unlike a lot of fat quarter challenges I was content using as much other fabric as I wanted as long as I had it in my stash. I resisted the temptation to just create 40 different projects each using a single rectangle. In the end I settled on 7 projects using them to explore different aspects of the design and fabric combinations.

I contemplated making a tea wallet but worried when folded I would lose too much fabric on display – I thought about a flap on a messenger bag but that was almost too obvious then I remembered a pattern that was on my wish list of things to make (best not to discuss the length of that list!). It is a very basic origami/bento bag which uses 3 squares of fabric to make up the outside of the bag. The pattern was not actually lined but I chose to line it with a strip of blue fabric. The finished bag is surprisingly spacious – I decided not to tie the two corners to make the handle and added a button instead. It was really fun and easy to make and showcases and nice big square of fabric. 

My second project was a small zipped bag, I have lost track of how many little bags like this I have made – I made the first one in 2011 and they have been a staple of my gift giving ever since. They are versatile and can be made in different sizes and with collections all nestled inside one other; I once made a set of 6 with Russian doll fabric just for the irony. I never specify what they are for as they can be used for make up or as a pencil case or just for embroidery projects. I decided to use two rectangles each side to make that the dominant fabric with a little bit of blue added to make it a little brighter and highlighs the lovely blue strip in the design. The only challenging bits of this pattern is the zip which even now takes a bit of concentration and a deep breath. I chose not to add box corners as I would loose too much of the fabric. I think this one will probably be a pencil case but who knows.

I have been meaning to try some of these lovely little bowls for a while. I use a lot of small bowls when sewing sequins and beads or making things from the pipsqueaks book. I loved the idea of getting to the end of a task by uncovering the design below. A bit like "peek a boo" for grown ups…. I could have made this project a lot faster by sacrificing the herons around it but I was on a mission not to do that. I used a one heron rectangle for the small bowl – I cut two pieces of co-ordinating fabric (3.5cm bigger than the rectangle all the way round). I then attached the heron rectangle to the centre of the inner bowl fabric. I did this using a machine blanket stitch. I like the fact this make the base a little heavier and thus a little sturdier. I used two heron rectangles for the bigger bowl and this time machine stitched right at the edge and covered up the raw edge using a decorative hand embroidered chain stitch with 3 strands of black embroidery thread. I am not sure which I prefer. It will be interesting to see which holds better in the long run. I then stitched the top and bottom pieces right sides together turned through a small turning gap and ladder stitched the gap before sewing the corners together to make the bowl. The fabrics all co-ordinate with other projects. I love how effective these are.

I have a bad habit of breaking headphones, the left one tends to stop working a lot and they get bashed and jumbled in my bag. I went through a phase of keeping them looped on a wooden clothes peg but even that didn't help..... I therefore decided to make a little case using two rectangles of the fabric. It was lined with black cotton fabric cut a little longer than the rectangles and turned through the lining at the end. I added poppers and little buttons on the outside to co-ordinate with other projects. The photo shows the front and the back. I love how cute and practical it is and it is already proving to being easier to find them in my bag. Less tangled too...

Another of my "go-to" makes is a notebook cover – there is something satisfying and tactile about having covered notebooks. I made myself a Christmas planning notebook cover years ago using a fabric wrap from lush that was bought for me (by the same person that recommended me for this fabric so it felt right to go full circle). There was of course a temptation to make the whole notebook cover in the fabric – it would showcase it nicely. This would have meant that I did not have enough for the bag though, and it also would have felt a little ”safe”. It is fair to say I could have gone through 3m of this fabric with none left but the joy of having a relatively small amount to work with is it make you think really carefully about how you use it and what you really want – it also forces you to be a little creative. I thought about putting a rectangle on the blue I used for the bag – it’s nice to co-ordinate. What I really wanted to do was explore some of the elements of the design. The bird is striking but actually the detail and intricacies are interesting in their own right. So with the notebook I chose to explore the colours used. I sorted through my scraps and found 4 strips just long enough that matched the 4 areas in the fabric including the most perfect batik green. I don’t tend to think about fate but I decided it was a sign that the universe was on my side – my husband felt it was a reflection of the size of my fabric collection that I can match anything..... I lined the four strips up and it felt too uniform so then experimented with using some on a slope to reflect the actual design. This was better but not right – it needed the black "lead" to break it up and mirror the design. I thought about piecing in thin strips of black but it would be tricky and hard to keep a steady width on such thin fabric – I also contemplated machine stitching the black lines but that would be a challenge to get just the right thickness of thread and would make it more likely to pucker (I really like the word pucker!). I then decided to use some bias binding. Thankfully I had just enough black in my stash so I added the bias binding along the strips. I then had to add on my rectangle – I didn’t want to use one of the bowl methods so I chose to use bias binding so that it was in keeping with the rest of the notebook. Mitered corners on something (6cm x 8.5cm) was tricky but thankfully I had buttons to cover the offending corners and coordinate with the bag!  As I said I had just enough fabric lengths for the cover. If I had been making it for a gift I would have wanted to be longer so instead of sewing the front and back right sides together and turning I opted to sew the front directly onto the back and edge with (you guessed) more bias binding. I ladder stitched the end sections to make the flaps to wrap around an A5 notebook. I was really pleased with the outcome - it isn't technically perfect and it did evolve a bit but I feel it highlights the use of colour in the way I wanted to.

The bookmark was a really basic project that took minutes to
put together and a lot longer to embroider! I had come across it numerous times as a way to use fabric scraps – again having a fabric with straight edges lends itself to this and looks really effective. I had thought about adding elastic to the back but the tassel won in the end as it allowed me to play with pretty coloured embroidery thread! I wanted this piece to highlight the texture and amazing detail in the design. I used a single strand of black embroidery thread and tiny backstitch to outline the leaves. I used two strands to embroider the rushes using French knots and backstitch. It was fun to lift out the details. Although it did lead to me photographing leaves in the town flower garden.  

I have explored the colour and textures – I have even used thick black borders as a nod to the lead. I used a large section to just speak for itself and highlighted the fabric in my pencil case but the one thing I have not done is pay rightful attention to the heron who is after all the subject of this beautiful window! I gathered up the remaining scraps from the book and the bowls to discover I had just enough for coasters. To make the coasters I used one rectangle and added on co-ordinating fabric at the sides. I then layered some wadding and a co-ordinating backing fabric that was 1.5cm bigger all the way round than my top design. Using black thread and my friend's sewing machine (I actually have the best friends!) I quilted around the Heron. This gave a subtle lift to the heron on the front and made a fantastic heron on the back. I made 4 of these and it is best not to compare them as my quilting is not that consistent.

I had a lot of fun with this fabric. It was lovely to get to work with such a special design and explore the features of it. It is a strange feeling having been in contact with the designer as it made me want to try and do it justice and show it off to its best. I also gave me the perfect excuse to make lots of things for me and not wait too long to do it. As I said at the start this was kindly posted to me - I would like to make clear that there was no requirement to blog or review the fabric and this is just because I was excited by it.

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