Burda Skirt 6834 – perfect for hourglass, curvy girls and sway backs!

 

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Home fires will be back on our screens soon – I love the show and quietly  coveted the beautifully fitted wool suits the ladies of the WI wore – so this was the inspiration behind this skirt. I wanted to challenge myself to make a really fitted garment without using stretch fabric.

I am an hourglass – while it might be the ideal body shape, it tests fitting skills to the max! Not only is there a 6 inch difference between my waist and hip measurement, but being short the height between waist and full hip is only 4 inches! If you think about an hourglass it is a rounded shape, so it not just goes in at the sides but also the front and back – so a sway back is part of the challenge (not to mention the rise of the middle aged tummy!).

 

If, like me, you are curvy, the traditional A line skirt ends up with huge deep darts at the back but the six piece skirt, like this pattern, offers more opportunity to accomodate the bulk over six seams – so this is an ideal pattern for curvy ladies!

As you can see from the toile the waist has to be reduced by quite a lot, but each seam can divide the overall reduction – giving a lot of opportunity to refine the shape.

I had to add a few inches at the hip – it is easy to do, just draw a straight of grain line in the centre of the pattern piece and add inches. As long as you do this inside the pattern lines you won’t alter any of the pattern edges so it should all line up.

Burda 6834 toile second fitting

The waistline of the second toile needed some adjustment but you can see that this pattern makes enhances curves! As I am fairly short, I decided to go for a slimmer flute at the bottom.

Burda 6834 skirt

I had this beautiful purple wool fabric in my stash – we are not into summer yet and wool is such a great fabric to wear – it seems to maintain an ambient temperature. I wanted this project to test my fitting abilities – and wool is the ideal choice because you can shape it so easily with steam.

 

The left hand picture shows the skirt seam before it is steamed – I used my dummy to maintain my shape as I gently held my steam iron about 4 inches away. Then using a pressing cloth to gently work from the seam outwards- look how beautifully the seam lays open – but also because you can stretch and shape the wool – it hugs the body nicely.

In order to avoid the ‘librarian’ look I wanted my skirt to be a bit edgy, so this embroidery design by urban threads was ideal. The top left is the design on white, but when I tried it as a sample on the fabric the black was not enough of a contrast to do the embroidery justice, so I used lime green!

Burda 6834 lining

My first lining fabric was a nightmare I chose it because it was fushia pink and made a great contrast but  it was way to flimsy and ended up fraying so I had to completely rip it out and re-do the lining. I had this lovely weighty oyster polyester silk which complemented the skirt nicely I decided to end the lining at the straight edge rather than the frill. I hand stitched it between the skirt facing, (while watching England play Wales in the Rugby) again on the tailor dummy to maintain the shape. Hand stitching gives you so much control – I am addicted to it. Years ago I avoided it – wrestling with my machine to get the fabric under the foot. Then unpicking it because the seam was off – now it is just a case of placing a stitch exactly where I want it and no unpicking!

 

I love my fancy machine stitches and never find much use for them – so it was nice to use a patterned stitch at the edge of the lining.(top right)  I made little chain tacks using in soft cotton Perle it holds the lining in place but allows for some movement. I also embroidered a tiny loop for my top closure using buttonhole stitch – my hand embroidery skills come in useful! It is these tiny details that give me such satisfaction. I don’t want my sewing to be the same as a shop bought skirt – I want it to be better! These details have mostly disappeared as clothing is made as fast and as cheaply as possible.

I love my skirt – it was a painstaking effort in all it took me three weekends to make but it was worth it. The lining slips around beautifully and it is so warm and figure hugging – I could never buy the same fit, I am just too oddly shaped!

The fitting took a lot of time but that was the challenge of this exercise and I have my toile to make more skirts!

I would recommend this pattern – its the first time I used a Burda pattern – having learned a few couture techniques I thought wrongly that Burda patterns did not include a seam allowance, but they have changed.  I think Burda have some great styles and the instructions are straight forward, although I have to admit, I didn’t follow them!

ttfn x

 

 

 

 

 

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Liberty Prints at the London Museum of Fashion and Textiles

 

Liberty Artistic Dressing

London Fashion and Textile Museum Liberty Exhibition 2016

There are not many chaps out there who are willing to encourage a fabric obsessive like me but the lovely Mr D asked me if I wanted to visit the Museum of Fashion and Textiles  as he had noticed there was a Liberty exhibition! I leaped at the opportunity! We headed off by train early on a chilly Saturday morning, after a short pleasant journey,   I found myself stepping through the glass doors and bright interior –  a world of Textiles  -Heaven on earth!

 

The exhibition was organised chronologically: this display of kimonos dates from the early years of Liberty around 1870. The exquisite hand embroidery was simply, divine. The butterflies and iris adorn exquisite silk kimonos and you can see in the bottom left an example of wallpaper that inspired  the kimono decoration.

I was thrilled to be able to get up close to the exhibits eager to feast my eyes on construction,  finishing and techniques used. I am fascinated by design details – and spent a great deal of time noting and photographing in order to create a reference at home. Having recently taken up hand embroidery it was inspiring to see it utilised in high end fashion it tends to go in cycles. The two items above were  examples of the dress reform movement. Women wanted clothing that was more practical, the late Victorian period where the S curve was in Vogue this was revolutionary! The dress on the right had exquisite pleating that simply followed the curves beautifully – a good 60 years before the 1930’s bias cut.

I spent a great deal if time taking in the wonderful construction details of the 1930’s to 1940’s stand. I particularly enjoyed the way the red flower dress was thoughtfully made. The neckline is trimmed with appliquéd flowers, the sleeve cap is full typical of the 1940s and has a lovely velvet ribbon detail running down the centre finished with a little bow. The velvet ribbon detail is repeated at the front placket, and the overall placement of the red/pink flowers is skilfully done.

The 1970’s saw a revival in ‘folk’ costume especially the use of smocking. The whole of the seventies section brought back memories of warm summers wearing gypsy skirts! I the brown  dress,  fabric is entirely shaped using this technique it allows so much movement that you can put the clothing on without the need for zips or darts! The wedding dress reminded me of the 1980s.

Art Nouveau had a revival in the 1960s prompting the use of more romantic folk styles classical empire lines, Victorian Butcher sleeves – updated with modern prints and fabrics. The wonderful detail of the corduroy dress yoke was a delight to my eye!

There were lots of displays of the patterns used and I did not realise Kate Greenaway had designed for Liberty (centre)

 

It was a wonderful exhibition – I took a lot more pictures that I shall use for reference there were so many examples of different construction techniques and embellishment ideas that I am still buzzing days later. I can’t wait to include them in my sewing.

The Museum of Fashion is just a short walk from London Bridge Station it is a real treat for any lover of textiles or fashion.

Mindful stitchery – hand embroidery

 

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Turn of the sewing machine and settle down to a more sedate pace, the gentle art of hand embroidery is creative mindful meditation. Far more transportable than machine sewing, hand embroidery can be enjoyed while watching a good film, sitting in a waiting room or travelling by train. You only need a few skeins of thread, small embroidery hoop and a good long needle.

While embroidery techniques might seem outdated they are essential to the dressmaker, couture sewing is always hand stitched – these techniques can give your garment a high end finish!

There are two forms of embroidery that delight me, the vintage style spring pastels on cotton and the glorious vibrancy of folk art on wool.

I am planning a hand embroidery afternoon – with tea cake and stitchery, so I thought I would create a few samplers.

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One of the most challenging aspect is to create evenly spaced stitches especially on cotton this sample is only 6inches wide by 8inches long on a 100% cotton.

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This close up shows the weave of this cotton – getting the spacing right is essential especially for stitches that are woven.

As you can see the couching, weaving and cross-stitches need to look uniform so there is a great little trick I can offer you.

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Create a grid using washable marker pen, the guidelines will help you to create even stitches but they can be washed away after the project is done! (You did not see them in the earlier example!) once you have completed a few stitches with the grid, you will get a feel for the distance needed and will be able to stitch evenly without.

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Using wool felt creates a whole different effect, like folk art, this piece was created some time ago by eye!

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And it is easy to use ribbon weaving to create a nice frame for stitches, this time using tapestry wool.

If you fancy an afternoon of Tea, Cake and embroidery I am running a class on Friday 11 March 2016 – details here.

ttfn x

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again … adventures with Embroidery Software

time for fun

Hello, isn’t it wonderful sewing weather? Just right for settling down in a cosy corner, radio playing softly in the background and the little bernina singing away…bright bobbins of thread, pretty little pins and a large steaming pot of tea at the ready.

I was doing a little calculation – it has been nearly 11 years since I bought my sewing machine; one of the new wave of embroidery options and an odd sort of love affair ever since – mostly because I haven’t spent time exploring the software and playing with the machine.

A couple of prompts  put it higher on my to do list. We met an inspirational textile artist on the Art Trail this year,  using machine embroidery and I also sat at the sparkly shiny new Brother version at the Three Counties Quilting Show; but there have been a few bumps on my journey to sublime stitchery.

It was a hefty investment but I was flush with funds and wanted something significant rather than simply frittering it away.  The machine cost £1500 and there were many embroidery designs you could buy at the time, but I wanted to design my own.  The software was another £1000 – I decided to go for the cut down version at an eye watering £700.  I notice the software is still around the £1000 mark, I am guessing this might be because it is still not widely used. There is a cheaper alternative called Embird – which creates designs that you save into the relative format for your machine, currently its only about £200 with add ins. 

Vintage thread

At the time I was teaching ICT as well as being the network administrator for the school, so my confidence in my IT skills was running high but the software was really baffling – completely different from any other software I had used before. The manuals did not help – they referred to buttons and icons that only existed in full version. It was shelved, I used the machine to make things and forgot all about machine embroidering.

A few years later I bought designs – but it was still a hit and miss process, getting the design centred to the exact spot was a challenge and it was impossible to hoop a quilt despite the advertisements. I have a quit top  but it started to go wrong – months of work ruined. It was shelved again!

Two years later I dusted it off and tried again – it stopped half way through the design, each time. I took it to a sewing machine service shop  I was told the board had gone in the machine and it would cost £1,000 for a new one. In the end Bernina UK took it back and replaced the board for free, which was great of them as the warranty had long past. Luckily the machines record time spent using them and I had only used the module 72 hours in 7 years!

Bernina Embroidery Software

Yesterday I decided to have a much needed play day, so I fired up my ancient laptop, and opened up the programme. It has three useful elements, one is for embroidery, one is for creating cross stitch and one is for designing quilts and will also create pattern templates to print. I thought I would try my hand at cross-stitch. I have collected quite  a few lovely pattern books and thought I would start transferring some of them into digital format.

Cross-stitch maker

The cross-stitch software is quite exciting to use: you load in your thread colours using the drop down menus and then you have the option to decide what type of stitch, from outline, cross, double cross, upright cross, etc. At the click of a mouse you create a stitch, with a sweep of a mouse you create lots of stitches! I tried to replicate a pattern but it was making me cross-eyed! It is a laborious process – all the time I was wondering if it might be quicker to simply stitch it myself. However, once it is created you can stitch it out easily and quickly.

Design your own embroidery with Bernina Software

So.. a little while later I have my design. I  I cheated a little, it was so much easier to simply draw out my design than copy an existing chart – but it looks ok. The software has options for you to scan material and use it as a back ground which will give you a great idea of how the embroidery will look. (you can do this with the quilting programme as well).

transferring the design to the machine

Sending the design to the machine is yet another simple click of the button – I have a long lead that goes from computer to machine, but the later versions have USB connectors now.   I know when I saw the brother machine at the Quilting Festival,  you could simply place a drawing in the scanner and it would simply stitch it out from there, things have become even easier. However, I quite like watching it make its merry way down the wire!

the stitched out version

In a relatively short space of time the design is finished.. oh dear! I think I used the upright cross for this and it hasn’t stitched out as well as I would have liked. I like the darker green leaf at the bottom but the rose has not come out very well at all.

stitched out design

You can see some thicker darker thread on the green – this is some vintage thread I bought in a garden sale last summer, it is slightly thicker than the normal thread.

I learned the following:

  1. Upright crosses give a grid like effect to the pattern – which is not as pretty as I had hoped.
  2. The cross-stich size look good – the software gives you many options for sizing from 10 stitches per millimetre upwards. I wanted a ‘hand’ done look so went for a medium size.
  3. The threads are too thin – there are options for 2, 4 or 6 strands of thread per stitch so for ordinary thread it would be better to use a 6 strand. However the vintage spool of thread looked perfect so I thought I would try another design using those.

Star style cross stitch

This time I used a star-stitch with the thicker thread it made the stitches sit very proud. The stitch is built up by the machine gradually getting bigger so they form a pretty dome. Watching the machine stitch out is quite magical and mesmerising! Hours of hand work done by machine in 10 minutes.

cross stitches

This sample taught me a little more:

  1. I did have a lovely blue border round this design, as well as some outline stitch to bring this rose to life – but I decided to stop there as I was rather pleased with the stitching but not the design. The definition of the rosebud is not there, as I mistakenly used the same colour twice so the mid tones are lost. It is a good idea therefore to keep a chart or a note of the colour order.
  2. Mindful that I also had a limited supply of the vintage thread – I did not want to waste it on experimentation.
  3. I had an iron on stabiliser – which was excellent at keeping the fabric rigid to take the design. Without it the fabric begins to move and the accuracy goes down.

A more open design

I thought I would try a more open design – I love the pretty star shaped stitches so combined them with the double crosses. Then I used a outline stitch for some wording.

The stitched out design

From this sample I learned:

  1. The distance between stitches created long threads, that got caught up in the stitching of the following colour. To rectify this a little – I took the risky decision to stop the stitching and remove the frame and cut the tails off.
  2. Its probably not a good design to have just one stitch here and there.

Stitching the design out

  • The removal of the frame did not affect the alignment of the stitches and the design lined up perfectly.
  • Tails did however make this embroidery a bit of a challenge afterwards.

Stitching is fast and easy

  • Cutting the stitches did leave them a little furry, so it is better to do a small group rather than a single stitch when designing.
  • You can see how raised these stitches are – the pink eight point stars look very effective but I will experiment with stitch size next time and maybe with a thinner thread to see if the stitch becomes more defined.

Single outline stitch is very effective

I really love the outline stitch here – it has a hand made quality that thrills me, as I was hoping to have the nature and feel of hand stitched with the speed of machine stitched.

All in all an interesting way to spend time – and I am beginning to fall in love with my embroidery module – if at first you don’t succeed try again, and again, and again..

ttfn x

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Little Lingerie Bag – Appliqué

There are times when I am rushing through a project and my sewing machine is going great guns  it is all about getting the project done but hand sewing seems to be the opposite. It means that you have to take your time, enjoy the process of creation one stitch at a time. I made this project one sunny afternoon in our little caravan, the appliqué is entirely hand stitched right down to the beads and ribbon bow, but the bag itself is machine stitched.  I use it to keep all my tights handy as they seem to end up all over the place. It is unashamedly girlie but then I am a girl after all.

Fabric Portraits

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Its wet and cold outside, so there is nothing more delightful than having a little time sewing and being able to kick back and play a little. I am teaching a couple of workshops and one of those explores free motion embroidery but I thought I would also try a hand at appliqué portraits as an option.

It is a great way to use up scraps as you only need small amounts of fabric. It can be quite interesting to play around with the fabric direction to enhance the shape. I really liked the way this brown flower piece seemed to create an interesting top detail.

Free motion embroidery is addictive! its just a case of dropping the feed dogs, (the metal teeth that move the fabric past the needle), most machines have a little button, most likely your manual will tell you where to find yours. Use a embroidery needle, its not just sharp but also has a strong shank.

Self portrait

I used this picture as a template – I wear a lot of hats and so it is a recognisable feature.

You need to print your picture out roughly the size you want to stitch.

While this photo looks a good choice, the tilt of my head creates an angle for my eyes, and my mouth is slightly tilted you can see what problems crop up in the stitched portrait.

As it is just playing I decided to go with it.

Stitched portait

You can get something called dressmakers’ carbon paper, its used to transfer embroidery designs or simply use ordinary carbon.

Iron your fabric so that it is free of creases it should be larger than the picture.

Lay the carbon paper on top – make sure the transfer side is face down onto the fabric – finally place the picture on top.

Carefully trace the features, eyes, mouth, hair and nose. It helps if you use a ball point pen that shows up in the photograph so you can see what you have traced. Its important to check you have all the pieces because once you lift the picture off, you cannot re-do it.

begin stitching

I find it easier to back the fabric with some iron on interfacing, and a hoop. It prevents the fabric from shifting and wrinkling as you stitch.

Drawing with your sewing machine is easy but different to using a pencil. The needle stays in place and you move the fabric to create the lines rather than the paper staying still and the pencil moving!

Use a darning foot – you can see easier and the loop of the foot prevents the fabric from being pushed through the holes in the footplate.

You may find it easier to work backwards and forwards, moving the fabric quickly results in large stitches, or slowly creates tiny stitches.

applique shapesOnce you have created the features, you can trim it and then assemble the appliqué shapes.

Use the photograph to create the appliqué templates, such as the hat, and the dress.

Use the lines not just to highlight the features, but also to give shading to the hat.

rose applique

Finally I added a rose appliqué, another feature I often have is a flower brooch in my hair – this was a tiny flower on a scrap of fabric, but it really brightens up the whole picture.

I think it is best to simply follow a few lines, rather than go into too much detail. I could have put in the cheeks and little dimple that you can see in the photograph, but it can go drastically wrong! less is more.

As you can see, the tilt has meant my eyes are at a slight angle. I think I can get away with it, but maybe next time I shall try and get a more level photograph.

I do hope you will try this, its so much fun – frame them in an embroidery hoop and hang on the wall.

ttfn x