Don’t beat yourself up over UFO’s

Vintage thread

Speak to anyone creative about their stash and they will admit to having a pile of UFO’s or unfinished objects. It’s like a guilty secret – I also suffered from the same – it wasn’t until I moved out of a home of 10 years that I was faced with a mountain of half completed projects – I felt incredible sadness for all the waste and money that I had quite simply thrown away. 

I have changed the way I think about these recently, because guilt stifles creativity and experimentation. There are times when we need to develop a technique or experiment with a new hobby – and it really is an opportunity to grow and stretch ourselves. 

experimentation

Permission to play

Giving yourself permission to play is key to finding new ways to develop your skills and improve your techniques. Release yourself from the obligation to have something to show at the end of the session and see the time and materials as an investment of your skills rather than judging things by outcome. 

Don’t cheat on materials too, use the same material you intend to use on your project if you can – like a recipe – each element of your project will affect its overall effectiveness, using a lovely drapery fabric like georgette will not be the same if your toile is made from calico. 

Vintage thread

Recognise what to keep and what to bin

Sometimes things go wrong, sometimes we hit on a block and what we hoped to do just did not work out. Recently I was making cushions and for some reason the bias binding was getting in a right tangle around my piping – yes, I could have spent hours unpicking, but in the end, I simply cut it off and threw it away.  I did not keep the binding as a reminder of my failure, I just found another way to do it. 

Sometimes letting go of what doesn’t work – is the best way to release yourself from the guilt. Keeping the project in a plastic carrier bag in an ever growing pile will stifle your experimentation because it is a reminder of ‘failure’. Don’t let your sewing space get cluttered up with negativity. Just let it go. 

Give yourself some time

Sometimes you hit a block on a piece of work, you just don’t know how to move forward with something. These are the projects you need to keep, but don’t hide them away in plastic bags. Leave them out, on a noticeboard, have a fabric box or use a sewing basket to keep these objects in and now and then take them out. 

This piece of needle felting (above) did not feel finished to me – although my creative friends suggested I frame it. I kept on looking at it, but could not see a way forward. 

Then – I came across it again this week, (you can see from the state above that was over four years ago!) Suddenly, looking at it, I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and I began the process of completing it. It only took an hour or so, but it was delightful progress. 

needle felting

I just needed time – and that is what you also need to be creative, patience with yourself. Be kind to yourself about your Unfinished projects, see them as work in progress and allow the creativity to come without guilt or reprimand. Most importantly, have fun! 

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Ribbon Weave – Wheat Comforter

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I love paper mania packs, they are so gorgeous! Beautifully co-ordinated buttons and ribbons, just wish they did more fabrics.
When I saw this pack I thought it would be ideal for ribbon weaving because you need not just even sized ribbons but a nice collection of tones and colours. I love the tiny buttons that are part of the set, usually used in scrapbooking, but perfect scale for smaller projects like this.
 You simply lay the ribbons out on a cork tile, or a cork noticeboard is ok, I first lay the lengthwise ribbons, in this case a plain white velvet, then the cross ribbons go between, alternating between front and back until you have a weave.
To make the fabric and the ribbons sit well, I back them with a little bondaweb, just to keep them in shape.
You can then treat the ribbon weave as one piece of fabric.
These lovely what bags are so comforting, you can make all different shapes long sausage shapes to go round an aching neck, I have even made a eye mask for a lady who had fallen and bruised her eyes. You can also put these in the freezer to keep you cool for bruising or headaches.
I made this one square to fit the ribbon weave, it is called revers appliqué because you cut the fabric to create a hole where the under fabric is exposed. In this instance I cut two pieces of wool – the top layer was a larger heart, followed by a middle layer that was just a little smaller, finally the ribbon weave. The buttons make a pretty edge round the heart. I backed it with the remaining teal velvet I was given at a WI meeting two or three years ago.
I use these little paper mania packs in many other projects including my Christmas Tree Cushion published in sewing world.

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