Holiday Sewing

Lots of sewing time and lots of projects!

For this top I used the Georgia top pattern by Elizabeth Suzann Studio. The fabric is linen and the flowers were stencilled with thickened dye for the blue and screenprinting ink for the grey. As a general rule, I use dye only when I must for the vibrant colour and the soft hand of the fabric, because it is a pain to work with. When I can get away with it I prefer the ink.

I used an Ikea curtain for these culottes, a heavier weight cotton with a nice herringbone weave. It was a creamy white originally, now dyed blue. The pattern is a variation of Vogue 8712 and the details are on PetternReview. The top is an older one, hand painted with dye.

Very happy with this grey linen top, love the geckos. Although I am always careful when using animal motifs, trying not to make them too cutesy, I don’t want to look as if I am working in a childrens ward at a hospital. (No offence intended to nurses, we are all very grateful for what they do.) BTW, this is straight off the clothes line, no ironing!

For the next couple of projects I am using a set of linen sheets, bought at a steep discount which worked out at $8/m. Great price and allows for a relaxed approach with my experiments. I do like the colour, a sort of muted pinky greyish mauve, but king size sheets yield a lot of garments and I can’t see myself with a whole wardrobe of this colour. It is also not that easy to combine with another colour either, grey is all that comes to mind, both for outfits and for painting. I tried to think outside the square with using pink, but wasn’t impressed with the result.

Not that great. I am really fussy, if I don’t love it I won’t wear it. I then tried to save this by dyeing the background purple, but let’s say that it was only a very modest improvement. The photo is actually kinder than the reality.

The purple turned out far darker than intended, and again, this is likely to languish at the back of my wardrobe. While it doesn’t look too bad, what do you combine this with? Pink pants? Purple pants? I tried black and didn’t like it much. I think I will continue to experiment with this top, removing the dye with a discharge agent. There is nothing to lose at this point and I might as well get some experience with discharging.

But I did learn something valuable from this disappointment: it seems that this linen, and possibly linen in general, takes the dye much more intensively than cotton. I have not done much immersion dyeing with linen, usually I paint on thickened dye with a brush. But with this immersion dyeing I used 3 teaspoons of dye powder, a third less than recommended in the recipe I have been using for cotton, and it turned out way darker than anticipated.

So I dialled the dye back a lot with my next project and that was sooo much better.

This time I used a plastic baby spoon to measure my dye (repurposing what’s left from when the grandchildren were little rather than throwing more plastic into landfill). The baby spoon is much smaller than a teaspoon and I used only 1 spoonful. That small quantity over-dyed the original colour really quite spectacularly. Dye is transparent, so when you dye you expect the original colour to show through and influence the result. This is why you can’t dye a darker colour lighter. But the fuchsia is really quite clear and untainted from the rather murky original.

I am too traumatised for now to try purple again, but I have already tried light blue and that was successful too, a nice mid blue denim colour.

Good to know as I work my way through many metres of this linen, although for a change I left the original colour intact with my next project.

But surprise, I used a new pattern! Doesn’t happen very often, but the Assembly Line, a Swedish independent pattern maker had a sale and i bought their cuff top. Normally they are too expensive for me and i would have just altered one of my patterns to reproduce the style, but their discount tempted me and I thought that I really need a new style for my tops. The Athina is great as a canvas for painting but we all need a change now and then.

There will be more of these tops and I might even make a skirt to go with this one, the top seems to be asking for it. Maybe a box pleat number? Or an A-line? This is what the pattern maker suggests, looks like a quarter circle with a gathered waist.

The sewing details for the Cuff Top are on PatternReview .


Christmas Dress 2022

2022 hasn’t exactly been the most fabulous year on record and I will be glad to wave it goodbye. Lets just hope the Christmas holidays will be better than the rest of the year.

After all the printing and painting I have been doing I feel I need a little break using a commercial print. This one is particularly nice and it has suffered from the ‘I love this but am too scared to cut into it in case I stuff it up’ syndrome. I finally plucked up the courage, and with an unknown pattern, no less. Unheard of for me! But sheer fabrics can be tricky to design with and this is definitely sheer, a 50:50 silk/cotton voile. I also only had 2m, which made it doubly hard. And I am sick of fluttery tunic stuff for the moment.

So along came the StyleArc Hope dress, at a 50% discount and I actually bought a new pattern!

It is a long time since I last had to make a toile, but because the fabric is precious I bit the bullet and found a couple of old pillow slips, which were just enough for the bodice and sleeves. It really doesn’t take much time to do a toile, as you only need to sew the main pattern pieces together to get an idea of the silhouette and the fit. The finishing is what takes the time and none of that is necessary.

The dress turned out fine, a little shorter than I would have liked but there is only so much even I can eke out of 2m. Otherwise it is perfect for Christmas Day, roomy enough for lunch and with a half sleeve, not too hot and not too cool. The weather has been unbelievable here so far this summer, we have had day after day of winds blasting us with cold air from the Antarctic and I have even had to turn on the heating earlier this week so I wouldn’t freeze completely. I guess a disappointing summer is just like the rest of 2022. Lets hope at least the weather will go back to normal in 2023.

The sewing details are as usual on PatternReview and the photos are huge this time as I can’t figure out how to make them smaller. 🙂

Merry Christmas everybody!

This is linked to MMM where the fabulous German sewists are strutting their stuff. Fröhliche Weihnachten!

Da Capo Pelicans

I always wanted to have another go at a top with pelicans. Last time I thought the motifs were too small and the whole thing a bit too pedestrian.

This time a went too the other extreme, large and bold!

The pelicans were stencilled with freezer paper on light grey linen using screen printing inks. I use the freezer paper to get nice clean lines, which would otherwise be slow and painstaking on fabric. With the iron-on paper you get a nice sharp edge with little effort. Plus you can change your drawing on the paper easily until it is right, while a brush stroke with paint on fabric is permanent.

The pattern is the Tessuti Athina, longer length, with side slits.

The composition wasn’t exactly improved when the top went from a flat 2-dimensional canvas to a 3-dimensional garment worn on a round body, but it’s too late to do anything about that now. I will need to get the hang of allowing for that when I paint a garment in the flat and there is always the next project.

This is linked to MMM.

Inspired by Women’s Business

Mavis Marks of Ikuntji Artists has created this brilliant design called Womens Business.

I know I have a lot of readers from the US and Europe who might not have had much exposure to our fabulous indigenous artists and the ikuntji group should be of particular interest to sewists. They don’t only sell paintings and artefacts such as boomerangs, but also fabric by the meter. All the members of the group are women artists, so ‘Womens Business’ is aptly named. Have a look at some of their eye candy fabric for a possible sewing project.

I recently saw an RTW dress using a variation of this design and it inspired the design for my own dress. I hope Mavis sees it as imitation being the sincerest form of flattery. (The dress is purely for my own personal use, I do not monetise either my sewing nor this blog.)

I drew up my design in Photoshop and tried to do a stencil for the whole dress in one go, but that proved to be impractical. So I divided it up into roughly A3-A4 size chunks to transfer to the Cricut software and cut the stencils by machine from freezer paper. You could cut this by hand with a craft knife too.

I usually paint or stencil once I have cut out my garments and before sewing, so I have a nice flat surface without seams getting in the way. I moved the stencils around on the cut out fabric pieces until I was happy with the look, then ironed them down and painted with screen printing ink.

I could have used thickened black dye which leaves the hand of the fabric unchanged, unlike screen printing ink which has a stiffer feel. But the ink is so much easier to work with and on a darkish fabric you only need one coat, which isn’t too bad. If several coats of ink are needed or you have large areas to do, it is worth going through the trouble of using the dye to keep the fabric nice and soft. Dye also mingles with other dye, so if you need a painterly effect with colours blending into each other, screen,printing ink is unsuitable.

The pattern was the Georgia dress from Elizabeth Suzann Studio and the sewing details are on PatternReview.

The fabric is a linen repurposed from the Ikea Dytag curtains I bought on sale a while ago. Beautiful to wear and still plenty left, but I think I will put that colour away now until autumn.

Linked to MMM.

Grey on Aqua

Inspiration is a funny thing, there is no telling what will spark an idea and often the result is quite a long way from the original trigger.

I saw this tea towel on Pinterest and loved the aqua linen with the darker print. It reminded me of a tunic in that same shade of blue I made years ago when my ‘pattern for everything’ was the Tessuti Fave Top. I had stopped wearing it because the style is dated now. I notice Tessuti have taken it off their pattern range.

But the linen was still beautiful and fortunately oversized styles lend themselves quite easily to a remake. So I took it apart and recut it, based as much as possible on my current pattern for everything, the Tessuti Athina. I had to shorten the sleeves due to fabric constraints and I also put some slits in the side seams, as I find this more flattering with tunic length tops.

Of course these days very little escapes my studio without a lick of paint, but unfortunately the original top had a CF and CB seam, which makes it difficult to print. Fortunately I had just made a fold and not cut the front and back in two pieces, so all I had to do to was undo the seam. It still shows a little bit despite my attempts to iron it out, but after a few washes I am sure the CF and CB lines will be well and truly gone.

So once I had a clean slate I thought this stylised coral motif was just the thing to go with the aqua fabric.

I cut a stencil on my Cricut machine out of freezer paper and instead of the khaki green of my inspo I stencilled with a medium grey, which I mixed using black and white screen printing ink.

Screen printing ink is much easier to handle than dye and while it has its limitations, it was perfect for this project. Dye is more luminous and leaves the hand of the fabric soft, but in this case the medium weight linen was quite substantial anyway and with dark ink on a light background you only need a light layer of ink, so it doesn’t end up feeling plasticky. And I challenge anyone to make grey look luminous, whatever dye or ink you use!

Linked to MMM.

Rusted On

Rust might not be everyone’s favourite colour, but I’m sure I will be making lots of lovely rust-coloured garments this summer. All Ikea’s fault, because they specialled off their rust coloured linen curtains for a ridiculous price. Was there a palace revolt of bean counters against the designers or was it just some sort of embarrassing mistake? Whatever the reason, I couldn’t help but go berserk and buy several packets. Each pair of curtains is 5m of linen, which makes …. uhm … let’s not do the maths, too embarrassing! Suffice it to say that I love the colour (which is just as well), and the price of around $8/m allows me so much more freedom to experiment than if I had to shell out the usual $25-40 in the fabric shops. So it’s a win-win, Ikea gets to get rid of stock they clearly don’t want and I get to get rid off my fear of ruining expensive fabric when trying out new ideas.

I started making inroads into my stash of many meters of red-brown linen with a tunic painted with a super simple abstract in black. I really like the colour combo even if it is not particularly spring-like. But with the long sleeves it will be just the right weight for the change of season and in any case, autumn is sure to come again. 🙂

The pattern is the Tessuti Athina, what else, this time in the longer length, meant to be worn over loose pants. The motif was painted on with a brush with screen printing ink and the signature had to be stencilled as such fine lines are hard with a brush on the rough texture of linen. Too easy to spoil the whole thing at the last moment with some gluggy blobs. I used screen printing ink because I was too impatient to wait the 8 hours or overnight you need with dye before being able to sew this up. In all my impatient enthusiasm I forgot to peel away the newspaper under the fabric while the ink was still wet, so now I have bits of newspaper permanently stuck on the inside. Serves me right, but I could always claim that it adds to that ‘artisan look’. 🙂

I modified the Athina slightly by installing slits at sides, to about high hip level. Makes more sense with something this long and allows easy access to my pant pockets.

Next in my line up of rust coloured linen garments is a calf-length tunic with short sleeves, again split at the sides to the waist.

This could be worn over pants or possibly even a skirt. I have tried this look before with a knit and long sleeves in winter, but when you need a jacket over the top to keep warm the super long tunic can look awkward. So short sleeved for summer, when jackets are not necessary, is probably a better idea.

The pattern here, surprise surprise, is not the Athina but the Georgia dress by Elizabeth Suzann Studio. More about the sewing details and modifications are on PatternReview.

The stencilled motif is an old favourite, one of the Matisse cut-outs, stencilled with freezer paper and this time I took my time with thickened dye, to preserve the soft hand of the fabric.

I had a brief flirtation with using these giraffes, but I am a bit wary of animals on my clothes.

Too cutesy? Maybe not if it is sufficiently stylised and the safari theme suits the colour. I might still try it if I find I like wearing this new silhouette of a long tunic with split sides over pants. Apparently we are in for another cool summer on the Australian east coast, so I won’t be wearing sleeveless dresses all that much.

This is linked to MMM.

Stencilled Stuff

This must be a very boring blog for anyone wanting to see different patterns as I am using always the same ones right now, and mostly a modified version of the Tessuti Mandy. My attention is focussed completely on the painting of the fabric, with no real thought other than producing sweatshirts and long sleeve tees. Not all that silly as it is winter in the Southern Hemisphere, so sweatshirts and long sleeve tees with a cowl, or skivvies as they are known here, are just right with my pants to keep me warm.

Here is the latest crop. They are all stencilled with freezer paper stencils, using various techniques to produce these.

The stencil for this one was cut on the Cricut at work, because I thought the rectangles needed to be exact for the pattern to work. The middle and sides are on separate stencils, as the whole front or back would not have fitted the maximum cutting width of the machine. The two parts needed to line up exactly. Hard to do manually.

It turned out quite well, but because of the large amount of painted areas the skivvy feels a bit plasticky. Unfortunately on dark colours it is not possible to use lighter dye, and with screen printing ink several coats are needed or alternatively supercover inks, and both options have the same heavy slick feel. At least the jersey is a double weight viscose and there is enough unpainted fabric to let it breathe.

Next is another viscose jersey skivvy, with much thinner fabric this time. At least the screen printing ink stabilised the flimsy stuff a little. The design is good, but I am not really happy with the fabric.

It looks a bit short but goes well with my high waisted Arthur pants.

With randomly scattered motifs like these black tulips I draw a few versions of the motif first on paper or thin cardboard, then cut these out and use them as a template on the freezer paper. This way I can rub off my pencil outlines if I need to rearrange a motif to produce a nice even look of scattered flowers. After I am satisfied with my arrangement I cut out the motifs with a craft knife. Fortunately I like large prints rather than small ones, so this is not too labour intensive. If I ever wanted a Mille Fleur fabric (which I won’t), I would certainly use the cutting machine.

Another skivvy to use up that annoying fabric. With only one motif and using dye instead of screen printing ink, the fabric looks and feels even worse. Not the best purchase I ever made, this is what happens when you buy fabric in a hurry. DH, dear man that he is, can’t understand why three hours are not enough time for me at a fabric market, but we know better, don’t we?

As already mentioned, I also produced some sweatshirts using the same Mandy pattern, which can be worn as a second layer over the skivvies. Nobody takes heating seriously in our part of the country because it doesn’t get that cold, so something warm when I am sitting for hours in my studio either painting or sewing is certainly appreciated.

The rhino shirt is based on a sculpture by Jovan Blat I found and liked on Pinterest. Just the sort of stylised minimalist shape that appeals to me. I used the outline and initially the big rhino was supposed to be white, but the blue just looks better, so blue rhino it is. (Did I mention that I really love blue?) The ink used is screen printing ink and the blue parts are quite thick, but as there is not much of the blue the plastic texture doesn’t bother me as much as with the striped skivvy.

The stencil was freezer paper again as with all the tops shown in this post. I have already gone through a whole roll of the stuff, but even shipping it from the US it is still much cheaper than acetate and getting crisp edges is so much easier with something that actually sticks to the fabric.

More blue here, the shapes are hand drawn on the freezer paper, then cut out with a craft knife, ironed to the fabric and painted with heavily thickened blue dye. The dye leaves the surface of the sweatshirt beautifully soft, much better than if I had used screen-printing ink. Alas, dye is only possible on light coloured fabric.

And last but not least a merino sports knit, an older jumper I refashioned and printed to make it new again. I love the fabric, a sort of French terry with high quality man-made on the outside and merino on the inside. Great for printing and very warm and comfy to wear.

The lighter grey tree silhouette was done with a stencil and once dry I overpainted this with black accents using a small brush. Because the outer surface of the fabric is man-made, dye is not an option despite the relatively light colour. But as I did not need a thick layer of paint to cover a dark background the different hand of the screen printing ink is not very noticeable.

I refashioned the hemline to make it more current but the cowl is still the huge version I liked when I did Lagenlook. These days I am a bit tired of that and have gone to smaller cowls, more a sort of funnel style.

Linked to MMM.

Carbon No More

I am not usually into messages on my tops, but I wanted to try stencilling some writing and this popped into my head. I wanted to try writing as I now have access to a stencil cutter at work (yay!), which has made things possible I could not have done cutting a freezer paper stencil manually with a craft knife.

Not bad for a first try, and I learnt a few lessons. Freezer paper with such intricate cut-outs is not easily reusable, it tends to tear unless you have an extra pair of hands to help when you pull it off the first print. I reused it anyway, with the predictable result of small blobs where bits of paper stencil were missing. Fortunately it’s not all that noticeable when you see the top as a whole.

Also any running writing has floating bits, such as the inside of the a and e etc. These teensy weensy bits are not attached to the freezer paper stencil and would have to be prised lose from the stencil mats sticky grip with tweezers and placed individually on the fabric where they belong. Cripes, what a job! I solved the problem by leaving them off, which looks ok, but needs to be at least considered when designing something with writing.

A successful project tends to fire me with zeal, and as I have one foot in a moon boot right now I can’t do too much running around. Time in the sewing room fends off boredom and stops me from get5ing morose. Making stencilled skivvies is fun and useful in the cold weather we are having right now.

I came across this poster with a stylised face on Pinterest and thought it would work well for a top.

I hope W Art Design in Milano doesn’t mind me using it and here is the finished garment.

I think I should have put the motifs on the left and right closer towards the middle, but it’s too late now. They look ok in the flat, but once they are on a round body they look too far to the sides on a wide boxy top.

For the next skivvy I drew the outline in pencil on freezer paper, then cut out with a craft knife, as it was too wide for the cutting machine. I could have divided it up, but there wasn’t that much cutting to do and it wasn’t intricate enough to bother with the machine.

You may wonder why I drew on a stencil when I could just as well paint freehand straight onto the top. First of all you can alter pencil lines on paper but once you have dye on fabric it is too late for second thoughts. Also a freezer paper stencil makes it so much easier and quicker to achieve clean outlines on my motifs. Because of the roughness of fabric the edges of a brush stroke tend to be uneven, but a stencil fixes that and also prevents dye from continuing to seep into the capillaries of the fabric.

I quite like the colour combo, maybe more than the shapes.

And last as well as least is a top I don’t like all that much. I was pretty disappointed when I first did it, because it didn’t at all look like the idea i had in my head. But it is growing on me and in any case it is quite useful to wear when I am doing messy stuff, because I don’t have to worry about ruining it.

All patterns are the Tessuti Mandy again, with a cowl/funnel/turtle neck as it is the middle of winter here and I like having something to come up a little higher on my neck.

Hello Spring!

Yes, obviously it is winter in the Southern Hemisphere, but these tops were made for my European trip, where it was emphatically spring with fantastic sunny and warm weather. Travelling between the hemispheres really brings home to me how much we are influenced by the seasons in our colour choices without realising it. After a few times feeling drab and out of sync during my visits, this time I wanted to have at least a couple of garments in my suitcase that would blend in with the happy spring atmosphere at my destination.

This was my inspiration, you can’t get any more light, airy and suitable for spring than those beautiful light blue flowers on white.

But I didn’t really want a tunic, my voluminous Arthur pants demand something much shorter. Like a cropped Mandy with cuffs instead of sleeves.

It was difficult to judge how dark to make my blue dye because it always looks quite a bit lighter after it has been washed out. So I used too much dye powder and my flowers ended up much darker than intended. Never mind, there is always the next project to improve on the mistakes of the last one.

I have always found it difficult up until now to do a pattern of randomly scattered motifs. It doesn’t really work to use a stencil for a single motif over and over, the way you can do when you arrange your motifs in an orderly grid pattern.

I solved the problem with a stencil that covers the whole pattern piece of my garment. To start with I drew four slightly different flowers on scrap paper, cut them out and used them as a template for my freezer paper stencil. It was then easy to space the flowers out randomly in a pleasing manner, without awkward holes or crowding. Once I had traced around the flowers with pencil I could cut them out with a craft knife and ironed the finished stencil to my fabric. I coloured in the flowers with dye thickened very heavily with sodium alginate gel. This stops the dye from running under the edges of the stencil.

My fabric was again a repurposed cotton/viscose Ikea sheet, pre- prepared with soda ash solution and dried. The soda ash treatment is necessary because it takes a while to stencil the flowers, and if I add the soda ash solution to the dye it will weaken before I am finished, risking an uneven result. I didn’t want the flowers on the front of the top to end up paler than on the back.

Being a bit lazy I did not make white centres on my flowers, as this would have meant cutting out little circles from the freezer paper to keep the dye off. As it happens this is fortunate as with the darker blue I think a black or dark blue centre will look better.

So here is the altered version, with the freshly added dark blue centres, still on newspaper on my cutting table.

I am not sure if it really is an improvement, somehow the plain version has a charm of its own.

As a minimalist I think I have two fears, cutting off too much fabric and putting on too much paint. Not sure if I haven’t done the latter with this top.

No such doubts with the second top, which was painted freehand. I used a thick stencil brush and heavily thickened dye to prevent the dye from running. This time I added soda ash powder to my dye mix because I thought I would need less time to get my painting done. I first did the lighter blue circles and let this cure overnight, then added the darker blue accents the next day. This way the dyes don’t mix. Dye painting is not for the impatient and I hate that side of it, but the results keep me coming back for more. The colours are so much more vibrant than screen printing ink and the hand of the fabric does not change at all.

The pattern for both tops is once again the Tessuti Mandy, with the boat neck changed to a round neck and cuffs instead of the long sleeves.

Stencilling notes

  • Cotton viscose fabric briefly soaked in soda ash solution and dried
  • Freezer paper stencil, joined to yield required size. This is easily done by overlapping and joining with hot iron. Sticks well.
  • Cut stencil with craft knife and ironed to cut-out garment pieces
  • Painted flowers with stubby brush and heavily thickened dye, approx 2.5 teaspoons of sodium alginate per 250ml of water
  • Cured overnight, washed out and sewed up
  • Added dark blue centres later with straight dye and soda ash, no thickening

Painting notes:

  • Cotton viscose fabric
  • painted circles with stubby brush, on cut-out garment pieces
  • Dye heavily thickened with sodium alginate, approx 2.5 teaspoons per 250ml and soda ash added
  • Painted light blue circles first and let cure/dry overnight
  • Painted darker accents the next day, let cure/dry
  • Washed and sewed up

Soft-Shell Jacket

I wanted a light and weather resistant jacket for my travels in Europe and discovered quite a nice range of soft-shell fabric hidden away at my local Spotlight. The attendant told me they don’t sell much of it, and indeed I haven’t seen much worn where I live, which is surprising as soft-shell jackets and coats are ubiquitous in Europe.

So it wasn’t surprising that I didn’t find any patterns at my two favourite pattern companies, StyleArc and Tessuti, which are both Australian. In the end I cobbled something together adding a hood to a Vogue Katherine Brenne pattern, V9135, which I have used before, making a couple of jackets I like to wear all the time.

The main feature of soft-shell fabric is that it is double faced, with a nice fleecy wrong side which is warm and looks good without a lining. To make this work I decided to flat fell the seams and change the inseam pockets to patch pockets on the outside. This worked really well and the inside of the jacket looks as good as the outside.

I didn’t think that different coloured zips rather than matching would be a good idea until it was too late. Neon orange green or purple come to mind. The navy zips are boring, lesson learnt.

Still, I pick this up and wear it all the time, even after getting home from my trip. I might well make another one with a bit more colour.

For those interested, the sewing details are on PatternReview