Tag Archives: Courses

Dressmaking plans are afoot

I’ve been busy planning great things for Mari.  I enrolled on a 10 week Dressmaking course at the Venn School of Sewing ages ago, and, finally, it starts next week.  I have attended a couple of Angela’s courses previously, a 10 week Skills and Techniques course which I absolutely loved, I learnt loads of new skills and techniques (as the course name suggests) but also saw what I had been doing wrong which was wonderful, and a 1 day course on adjusting commercial patterns to fit which, to be honest, made my brain melt a bit.  I think I have the information and tools to have a go now, but I won’t really know until I get down to it and make something using my new pattern-adjusting skills.

I love to sew, so I sew as time allows, mainly clothes for the girls, soft toys or household-y sewing stuff that fit isn’t too crucial for.  The times I’ve tried to sew for myself have, with the exception of an elasticated waisted skirt (which I only wore once before discovering it went see-through in the sun) resulted in appalling fit – too tight around the belly, bust, shoulders, back … just too small, but also too long, because I am a shortie.  But stout.  Robustly built.

I now know that the dress sizes given by pattern manufacturers do not match with off-the-peg dress sizes.  Sewing pattern sizes are tiny.  And they have very set proportions, so if you’re an apple shape, like I am, you’re doomed.  Or if you have a generous bust.  Or curvy hips.  Basically, any humanly proportioned person is unlikely to fit an unaltered dress pattern.

I know this now. And I’ve been shown how to make it right, at least in theory.  Now I’m going to put that theory into practice by making a pair of trousers that fit and a top that is flattering.

I’ll let you know how I get on.

Sewing patterns May 2014

These are the patterns I intend to use for my top and trousers, Simplicity Pattern 1696 for the trousers and this pattern for a doesn’t cling-to-anything top from Burdastyle magazine (issue 4/2014).

Lisa Porch workshop at The Model House, Llantrisant

I’ve just spent the day at Resist Gallery in Model House Craft Centre at a free machine embroidery workshop led by Lisa Porch and I have had a wonderful time.

By the end of her introduction I was almost beside myself with impatience to  get onto my sewing machine to start creating the wonderful samples that she had described.  She promised machine embroidery with the feed dogs both up and down, and that we would create lace by machine embroidering on netting and on dissolvable fabric.

My first piece from the day was made by building layers of different fabric and stitching them to each other with the simple straight and zigzag stitch on the sewing machine, with the feed dogs up and normal sewing foot in place.


The fabric pieces I chose were in shades of blue which, as I lay them against each other, wanted to be the sea, so I went with it.  It was extremely freeing to just stitch forward and back, forward and back with my foot firmly down on the pedal.  I experimented with changing the stitch width as I sewed, and felt like I could go on all afternoon.  The fabric was initially  light and fluid, but due to the dense stitching, pulled in on itself and warped and became a satisfying, robust, tactile canvas.

The cord which frames it in the photo above was made by twisting a length of fabric and zig-zagging over it. So quick and easy, beautiful and useful!

Lunch was very civilised.  We enjoyed a sunny picnic of sandwiches from the Butcher’s Arms on the green next to the castle.


A picnic lunch in the shade – it was far too hot today to venture into the open!


Lisa smiling obediently for the camera! You can just about make out in the back, one of the goats in the castle compound enjoying our scraps.

After lunch we played with free embroidery.  Using images of antique textiles as the initial inspiration, and layering fabric, vintage lace and other embellishments to create our canvas, we went wild with the feed dogs down and quilting feet (or embroidery hoops) on!


I had taken a suitcase of fabrics, trims and assorted bits that I had recently inherited from my Anti Elizabeth.  Some of the items in this suitcase are just fascinating, such as the ancient yellowing lace, fabrics intended for different projects and incomplete WIPs.

I used some of Anti Elizabeth’s lace and trims in this exercise, and a chunk of a beautiful old tea tray mat provided by Lisa, which I was reluctant to be the first to cut, so let somebody else have first dibs on!

As it came together I felt this was a very homely, cosy piece of stitching that I wanted to keep for inspiration in my workroom.  I suspect that having some of my aunt’s old scraps in it has made it feel more special to me, so I was moved to incorporate a little secret message under the fringe:  ”Melys”, meaning ‘sweet’,  from “Cartref Melys Cartref” (Home sweet home).

20130713_192119Our final example of the day was to create lace on a piece of doubled-up netting using free machine embroidery.  This was great fun, very quick and very satisfying.  I had to leave mine unfinished as the day had come to an end, but I suspect I might pop it back under the sewing machine for a self indulgent half an hour or so the next time I’m in my workroom.


We didn’t have time to look at making lace using dissolvable fabric, much to our disappointment, but we have been promised of another session devoted to free machine embroidery on dissolvable fabric, including its 3D applications.  Sometime from September, it was suggested … I can’t wait!

Embroidering on Photographs

On Saturday I attended a free workshop on embroidering photographs at the Cardiff Diffusion Festival.  The workshop was held at Chapter Arts Centre to coincide with a Maurizio Anzeri exhibition held there as part of the month-long photographic festival.

The workshop was great fun.  We were shown how to pierce a photograph using a drawn paper pattern to position the stitch holes, then lace the fabric to mimic Maurizio Anzeri’s style:


Maurizio Anzeri

Now, here I must admit that I don’t like his work.  Shocking, I know.  The patterns he stitches over found photos mask the faces while suggesting a reveal of the subject’s inner (often dark) psyche.  This is discomfiting when applied to adult images, and more so when applied to children and infants. 

His latest work, exhibited at Chapter this month, is darker still.  His new work uses black thread only, has introduced machine stitching which adds an element of chaos and which breaks up and distorts the paper beneath which, held together by thread, can come out towards the viewer creating a three dimensional form.  In ‘Baby‘ (2013), below, the unstitched eye comes forward of the original photograph adding a macabre deformity to the mask.

Maurizio Anzeri, Baby, 2013

Maurizio Anzeri, Baby, 2013

By all accounts Maurizio Anzeri is actually a very lovely, jolly man who just has a more Mediterranean relationship with death than me.

Stitching on paper doesn’t have to be so challenging or macabre.  Before attending the workshop I had a mooch around the internet to see what I could find.  I’ve put them all in my Pinterest account, feel free to go and have a nosey, but here are my two favourites:

Another wonderful headdress / costume piece of embroidery on a found photograph, this time by Stacey Page

A wonderful headdress / costume piece of embroidery on a found photograph, by Stacey Page

Embroidery on photograph

Who could possibly resist this amazing stitched and applique head dress by Laura McKellar?

There are many wonderful examples of embroidering photographs which don’t involve obliterating or disfiguring the subjects.  (I believe Laura McKellar transfers the photographs to fabric before stitching, which is how she’s able to create such intricate and detailed work – but please don’t quote me on that, I might be wrong and I can’t remember where I read that.)

So, back to me.  How did I process this quick research into embroidering photographs at the workshop?  Well, I quickly turned my back on the idea of stitching over the subjects and didn’t want to plain ‘lacing’ on a photograph, I wanted to see whether more variety in stitches was possible than the running stitch, cross stitch or seed stitch you see in most examples.  I found a copyright free vintage photo online that I could easily work with (not against), printed it out and took it along with me.

Once I understood the process we were going to follow at the workshop, I drew a very simple design on tracing paper then punctured stitch holes where I needed them with a brad or a needle, and after the initial ‘lacing’ style stitches I experimented a bit with French knots and bullion knots.  I was surprised that they worked so well!

TOP TIP:  If you tear your paper while stitching you can repair the paper with masking tape or sellotape and stitch again.  In the same way you can stitch layers by taping over the back at the end of layer to give you a new backing surface to stitch.  And you can secure your ends of thread with tape, too.  HOWEVER.  If you’re planning on using bullion knots, don’t expect to be able to draw the thread through sticky tape and make clean, swearing-free bullion knots.  I’m afraid it won’t happen.

So, here it is – the result of the workshop, my embroidered eyes.  This was 2 hours very well spent, I enjoyed the opportunity to explore photographic stitching and I’m pretty certain I’ll make use of what I learnt in future work.  And it was free! Bonus!

I fancied leaving that yellow thread dangling loose - it seemed incomplete without it. Not bad for a 2 hour workshop.

I fancied leaving that yellow thread dangling loose – it seemed incomplete without it.
Not bad for a 2 hour workshop.

Bleaching and tea staining cotton calico

I’ve been thinking about what to ‘put’ my embroideries on.  Calico is lovely in its simplicity but I want to move some pieces on, which means having some sort of depth, texture and colour behind the main character or object.

So I’ve been playing…  heh heh heh *sinister laugh*



This is a large-ish piece of calico that’s been tea-stained then bleached, it’s out on the line to dry from the bleach right now.  (How lovely is it to be able to dry things on the line again.)

I tried being clever with the bleach by soaking a cotton doiley in thin bleach and laying it on the fabric to transfer the pretty doiley shape.  It didn’t really work like that, either there was too much bleach and it spleurged everywhere, or not enough and the pattern didn’t transfer.  But some bits of it look quite interesting.   It isn’t satisfactory or complete yet, but I’m having a lovely time experimenting with it.

I’m also thinking of enrolling on Karen Ruane‘s online course on embroidering lace (as in embroidering on lace and embroidering pieces of lace to create a background fabric, not making lace out of embroidery, IYSWIM).  I only have a couple of days to enrol if I’m going to do it, and no lace in the craftroom to get me started!

In other news – I have a place in another local gallery for three small embroideries with shibori balloons and one large, so I’m busily finishing them so I can deliver them next week.  Yay.

Workshop with Alison Moger in Craft in the Bay, Cardiff

I went on a machine embroidery workshop run by the wonderful Alison Moger today in Craft in the Bay, Cardiff.  I learn a lot from seeing how she works, how freely she approaches her work and how fluidly she stitches.  Her love of the vintage textiles she uses, her connection to her South Wales heritage and to the strong women who have featured in her past were inspiring, and her respect for traditional hand crafts and for the women who have left their mark on fabrics by embroidering and embellishing them made a deep impression on me.

I love finding myself in a sociable stitching environment, so the social aspect of the day, meeting the other ladies, nattering with them, sharing our frustration over misbehaving sewing machines (mine seemed to be worst – I’ll arrange to take it to be serviced tomorrow) and triumph over new skills learnt and pieces completed, was as important for me as the taught element.

And the lunch was lovely, too.

Here’s what I produced from the day – it was taken from a sketch I had in my sketchbook inspired by the wind turbines near my home.  The intention is that the balloon will be three dimensional in future pieces, but this was the first time this little girl was allowed to escape from paper onto fabric.

Girl with balloon and wind turbine

Machine embroidery, applique, vintage fabric