Friday, 30 December 2016

Introducing Dorothy

As a wise woman said not blogging shouldn't be because you never manage to take pictures of you wearing the clothes - use your dressform.

So here is 33-year old Dorothy you will be seeing a lot of her on this blog.  Over the years she has acquired a bit of a lean but otherwise is good as new.  She certainly is a big help in the sewing room.

I managed to get her to nearly body double status with the help of a bra stuffed with kapok and a bit of quilt batting to replicate the fluffy bits.  All covered by a cheap t-shirt to help the padding stay in place.

Here is Dorothy modelling the pattern piece for an Issey Miyake blouse Vogue 2056 copyrighted 1988. I am trying to work out how to make the hips wider and shoulders a bit less 80's looking and then it may become an actual garment.

Dorothy is named after my mum who was also a sewer but more importantly she always wished she had my boobs.  So she got her wish as my dressmakers dummy.

Mum had her own body double which was plastic coated wire mesh that you squished to the body then took off and put on the stand. My dad and I spent many a happy hour fitting me into the wire mesh but we could never get it off and have it still resemble me.  It also bent out of shape when you accidentally banged into it.  So armed with my accumulated monthly clothing allowance off I went to the local Singer shop to purchase my Venus "turn and lock" dressmakers dummy.  Luckily Dad learnt quickly that a monthly clothing allowance was the easiest way to keep his teenage daughter clothed and I learnt that I could get more of the clothes I wanted if I made them myself.

Dorothy has had other modelling assignments over the years but luckily seems to like it best sitting quietly in the sewing room. Although she did look very smart in her nurses uniform. Amazing what happens when people realise you sew.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

It's Christmas

For some this evokes thoughts of turkey, cold weather and playing in the snow but here in the southern hemisphere it is sunshine and Christmas stocking production time.  For a northern hemisphere girl, who re-located way down south, December 25th will never have that Christmas feeling - the essential ingredients of grey and freezing cold are missing.

So I turn to Christmas stocking production something I started in 2007 so that I could send a little something to friends and family at this sharing time of year.  Production has gradually increased over the years and now 130 sweetie holders are produced, travelling far and wide to the UK, USA and around New Zealand.

For 2016 it was a snowman, with the pretty Van H chocolate insert expertly packed by the staff in Ballantynes pantry department.
For some the 2015 snowman
And for everyone the 2016 snowman
The staff in Ballantynes expect me now and are not phased by the strange request for four chocolates carefully packed in cellophane to fit into the sweetie holder. They even offer creative advice and suggestions for next years sweetie holder. This is very helpful because after nine years the ideas are starting to run thin.  Well not the ideas exactly just ideas which can be produced en masse in a reasonable amount of time (about 4 weeks of weekends and during the week too if panic sets in).

The 2016 snowman was produced in a number of places around New Zealand...
At home on the Bernina 830
At the hotel in Wellington on the Bernina 210
Away for the weekend with Dorrie the Singer Featherweight
The view whilst sewing on Dorrie
The names were embroidered on the large at home machine.  Even this takes more time than you plan for. Although it does have the advantage of continuing by itself whilst you are doing other things (apart from when the thread breaks).

And sweetie holders from years past...
Elf stocking 2008
Santa boot 2012
Christmas present 2013
Santa sock 2014
The 2007 Christmas stocking was slightly different: (i) it was produced on my embroidery machine using the sock outline and technique from The Patchwork Stocking by Jim Suzio; (ii) some were personalised with embroidered initials; (iii) I only made 42 for those in NZ; (iv) I made two for us.
Our 2007 stockings - reused every year
If you wondered what you could do with 9-years of Christmas sweetie holders here is a festive display created by one of the recipients.

Now what shall I do for the 2017 design - answers on a postcard please.

International Quilt Festival Houston November 2016

As this is our fifth trip Cath and I feel pretty confident getting out and about, especially with Google's assistance.  We have a routine - know how many classes we can do before the brain shuts down; how much time is needed for the quilt exhibition and the shopping; plus allow plenty of gossiping time. We strayed further afield on the public transport system as we try to do something different each visit.

The alternative adventure this time was a Sunday afternoon trip on the tram to visit the museum district spending time at the Centre for Contemporary Craft and the Museum of Fine Arts. Then the bus on Thursday to The Galleria shopping mall followed by a side trip to Michaels and Joanns (to fulfill an errand).

Being in Houston at Halloween provides an opportunity to see creativity in different media...
Spectres in the trees at Discovery Green
My favourite creation from the Hilton Americas-Houston Hotel pumpkin competition (apparently it is based on Pokemon)
We did four classes - two days with Philippa Naylor to master applique; an evening with Glennis Dolce creating a shibori bead embroidered brooch; fitted to be fabulous with Katrina Walker and also created a stained glass pojagi butterfly with Katrina.

Philippa has greater mastery over applique than I do - a clear example of practice makes perfect. This was a fast paced class with an exuberant tutor where we made samples of various techniques, based on her book Applique Mastery.
Philippa in front of the Applique Mastery quilt
Mastery class sample 2
Mastery class sample 1
My applique apprenticeship samples

Glennis Dolce sample

Glennis had some truly exquisite examples of jewellery created with her silk shibori ribbon.  It was difficult to choose a ribbon colour and I am surprised how pink mine looks in the picture when I thought it had more a a green tinge. My piece definitely has promise and will be finished in 2017. (Lets see if stating a goal on my blog creates any accountability for my things to do list.)

My shibori bead embroidered brooch in progress
There are no pictures from Fit to be Fabulous with Katrina although they certainly would have been amusing. We created a body graph with a partner to get an idea of our proportions and shape.  I just hope I don't resemble my body graph - some of the shapes were decidedly out of this world and not in a good way. It did however confirm that I need a full bust adjustment (FBA) and a forward shoulder adjustment. One learning moment was that in Katrina's opinion (and she is a Palmer Pletsch certified instructor) I fit the size 10 Palmer Pletsch fitting shell.  I would normally start with a size 12 in the Big 4 and make adjustments from there, so something to consider when I next use a BMV pattern.

Katrina's class sample
The stained glass butterfly was a wonderful class with Katrina.  I very nearly finished my piece in class and this will be something else to finish in 2017.  The foundation piecing technique with silk organza was slightly different to traditional foundation piecing in that you work from the back so you don't have to worry about mirror imaging the pattern.  Love the transparency of the finished piece - I wonder if I could incorporate it into a garment. Something to ponder.

My nearly finished version of the stained glass butterfly
In-between classes we attended two lectures.  These lectures are generally very good - amusing, informative and creatively invigorating. But in the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Into each life some rain must fall and for us that was listening to the self-aggrandisement of a little man (figuratively not literally). If only we had been closer to the door!!

Love seeing all of the creativity that abounds at Quilt Festival.  The quilt show is huge and needs to be nibbled in small pieces so the mind can absorb the detail. My favourite of the International Quilt Association award winning quilts was Unknown Man by Marina Landi and Maria Lucia Azara of Sao Paulo Brazil which won the Gammill Master Award for Contemporary Artistry. This quilt was an original interpretation, used with permission, of a painting by Francoise Nielly. My head can appreciate the effort and technique mastery of the Best of Show winner Reflections of Cape Town by Cynthia England but my heart appreciates the Unknown Man.
Unknown Man by Marina Landi and Maria Lucia Azara
Reflections of Cape Town by Cynthia England
A small sample of other quilts that struck my fancy at Festival...
My Butterfly Garden by Dawn Monk, UK
Suburban Nest by Sara Sharp, Texas 
Teal Circle by Sherri Lipman McCauley, Texas
Open Spaces by Sandra Poteet, California
Not to leave out the New Zealand quilts...
The Big Dry by Camilla Watson, Wellington NZ
Wheat Field by Melissa Burdon, Blenheim NZ
And the shopping - well that was minimal (in quantity if not in dollar value) as I had been rather self-indulgent in San Francisco and Ashland which left only a small amount of luggage allowance for Houston.  I did succumb at the last moment to two pieces of scrumptious black wool fabric (a wool mohair and a wool cashmere) from The Wool House in Toronto.  I have seen a picture of a mohair moto jacket and this may be how I use my fabric or maybe not who knows what it will become once the aging process is complete.

Although Quilt Festival attracts around 60,000 visitors it never feels particularly crowded which for someone who has adapted a bit too well to the low population density of New Zealand is a bonus.
Quilt Market show floor
Roll on 2018 for our next trip to Houston.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Design Outside the Lines in Ashland October 2016

This was my second DOL retreat once again conveniently timed to be the week before the International Quilt Festival in Houston. Now I get to fly to America for two weeks of creativity not just one which is such a luxury and privilege not to be wasted.

Whilst every retreat is different I had more of an idea what to expect this time, feeling more relaxed when planning the trip and suitcase contents.  I didn't take a lot on the basis that I could get everything I needed with a bit of shopping at Britex in San Francisco or in Ashland itself.  This decision helped with the luggage allowance on the way to America but did necessitate the use of my second bag from Ashland to Houston (and back to New Zealand).

Spending four days with Diane Ericson and guest tutor Marla Kazell ( was wonderful such a learning experience. Even being around the other DOLies provides an opportunity for growth as we all come from such different places joined by the common thread of sewing creatively. Once again Gwen Spencer provided invaluable assistance, generously sharing her vast experience and knowledge of techniques.

Diane's refashioned pink jacket
Koos collage jacket by Marla
Diane is a real force of nature and able to create something different for everyone. When I grow up I want to be like Diane able to think outside the box, combining fabrics and techniques into fabulous garments. Even Diane's teaching format of having guest teachers successfully combines different styles of creativity into a learning environment for growth. Just loved Diane's idea of the parts of possibility - bits that are created with no future in mind but have possibility.

Lots more inspiration can be found on Diane's website

Each day contained some tutoring time with Diane and Marla showing us amazing techniques - adding possibility pieces to your garments; painting on fabric; manipulating fabric; shaped welt pockets; bound buttonholes with a difference; fabric collage in the Koos style. We had the time to try the techniques for ourselves or continue with something else. Both Diane and Marla were always available to provide coaching and support.

A creative consult with Diane (on the left)
You get out of these retreats whatever you want. For me it was an opportunity to relax and absorb ideas with like minded women.  It was important that I didn't put pressure on myself to complete something and that I allowed myself the time to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the surrounding environment. I had an all round awesome experience that fed my creativity and energy levels.  With the added bonus of meeting new people and making friends.

I am still a neat freak and find it difficult to let go.  This time I tried combining different fabrics into a new fabric without too much thought of where they would appear in a finished garment.  Whilst I happily chopped fabrics and put them on a backing I don't think the exercise was entirely a success as I can't imagine actually finishing the piece and making something from it.

My new fabric showing the crease marks from its time rolled up
I do however have a Cacicedo coat (one of Diane's patterns) fermenting in my head using a combination of fabrics and techniques from this retreat. I was also very taken with one of Diane's Ventana jackets which may result in an interpretation by me one day or maybe a River tunic.

Diane's Ventana jacket
Ashland is a potentially expensive town to visit with its seductive shopping environment - The Websters the wonderful yarn shop; Sew Creative the local quilt shop; button and bead sellers, second hand shops, shoe shops etc. This is a town that caters to the creative.

Lots of places to eat (and drink). Even if you go to DOL on your own you are never alone, there is always someone to have dinner with and chat to. This trip I even got to experience a play at the famous Ashland Shakespeare Festival.

And then there is the free colour study opportunity with a wander through the amazing Lithia Park.

Having seen the class list for 2017 I would love to be able to go back to Ashland next Autumn but may have to wait for 2018.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

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Wednesday, 2 November 2016

London border print tunic

Earlier this year I was influenced by a MacCulloch and Wallis email purchasing almost instantaneously their London Border print cotton poplin.

Creates Sew Slow:  London border print tunic

The pattern is Butterick B6172 view B. I made my usual changes for a full bust and forward shoulder.

The background colour in the border print is not a flattering shade for me so I needed something else near my face. After much deliberation I used two fabrics a red scuba knit and a navy and red striped ponti.

Next question was how to incorporate these three fabrics into the tunic? Create a yoke with the seamline incorporating the bust dart. The front yoke and left sleeve use the striped ponti whilst the red scuba is the right sleeve and back yoke. The border print is the bottom half of the tunic back and front.

Given I was using a knit fabric for the sleeves I changed the armhole to my knit armhole and used my favourite knit long sleeve.

The only picture of the final product is a selfie in the sewing room mirror as I auditioned my travel wardrobe for the trip back to the UK. This outfit did make the trip.

Designer Labels

Have just received my very own designer garment labels from the the Dutch Label Shop.

The gestation period for these was long and like many things I now wonder why.

These labels are the perfect design for me.  It incorporates my initials plus I do create in both senses of the word. 

Now to the sewing machine to create that designer garment worthy of a posh label.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Eli the Heffalump

Eli was created from a Melly and Me pattern on the spur of the moment for Leo in 2014.

Complete with bullion rose on his waistcoat.

Jeans with lapped and topped stitched seams.

Selvedge used for the pocket detail .

Shame about the lifeless floppy ears.

Monday, 31 October 2016

The start

So nearly four years after starting this blog I am writing my first post. I have just attended my second Design Outside the Lines retreat in Ashland, Oregon, USA with Diane Ericson and guest teacher Marla Kazell.  This has provided sufficient impetus for me to finish setting up my blog and write something.  Is this the start of something or a one hit wonder? Only time will tell.