Hand printed fabric rethink

Hmm… I’ve just been trying things out on the green fabric. It’s very dark, and the red and yellow paint just aren’t showing up. The white paint is OK, actually, but I’m having to accept that this cotton and this paint just isn’t going to work for what I wanted to do.

Trial runs - the flash makes everything look clearer

Trial runs – the flash makes everything look clearer than it actually is.

I’ll wait & see how the paint dries, to see if that makes a difference, but I’m thinking it probably won’t.

So that means EITHER I do what I wanted to do but with different fabric, or I do something different from my original plan.

Brighton Sewcialists Meet-Up! Who’s going?

Have you heard about Beebee’s Brighton Sewcialists Meet-up? It’s happening on 13th September. And although Brighton isn’t exactly on my doorstep, it’s nearer than Birmingham.

I’ve already signed up for it, having had such a nice time at the London meet-up. And this one’s got the added advantage of a swap element, which is great, because it means I get to add to the stash guilt-free, and to pass on my “regret” fabrics to someone who will love them more than I do.

Only last night, I was contemplating a fabric buying moratorium, but this changes everything. The stash diet can wait…

Summer Sundress Sewalong Success!

Awww, isn’t it sweet- baby’s first pattern hack!

In my usual car-park place

In my usual car-park place, yesterday. The Dress Of Many Colours. The photo is rather “enhanced” to combat overexposure. But yes it *is* that brightly coloured.

The Summer Sundress Sewalong, hosted by Heather, came to an end on Saturday. I’d signed up for it back in June, and kept thinking “Oh I’ve got bags of time…”, until I realised that the deadline was only a week away, and Summer is disappearing fast, and I had various evening commitments this week. I had to get a wiggle on.

I opted to hack the Belcarra blouse pattern, because I’d thought all along it would be a doddle to add a skirt to it, because I’ve already done the adjustments to it and I didn’t have time to do anything that would need faffing about with (I was on a deadline here), and because I really like the pattern- it’s got enough coverage that I can wear this to work, if I want, and it’s got enough looseness to make it comfortable in hot weather.

Rather more photogenically, at Waverley Abbey

Rather more photogenically, at Waverley Abbey, today, at a picnic with my dance students

I made the Belcarra as per the pattern, except that I left the cuffs off and bound the armholes instead. I wanted to make the sleeves that tiny bit shorter- it is a sundress, after all. Although, when I was cutting the pattern, I totally forgot that was what I’d planned and cut the cuffs out anyway! I also cut the neckline binding while the fabric was folded so I had two pieces of that, when I only needed one. As it turns out, my spare neckline binding piece was *exactly* the right size for two armhole binding pieces. That’s a useful piece of knowledge for future Belcarras.

The big alteration though, was to add the skirt. I lopped off about 8cm from the bottom of the blouse (I didn’t realise how long it is when it’s just a blouse!). I wanted the dress to be drop-waisted, because I’m old-fashioned enough to like drop waists, and I think they are more wearable in hot weather. I wanted to go with pleats rather than gathers, because it felt like that would suit the style of the top half. I wanted fullness, so I used three widths of fabric, as I had a plentiful supply (Thanks Anne!). I may possibly have gone slightly overboard with the fullness, but that’s ok for a sundress, right? That allowed me to do generous inverted box pleats, and I kept them soft and big. I have to say, sorting out the pleats and making sure they would fit the waist of the blouse was definitely the most mentally challenging part of this make! They’re far from perfect, but I’m happy with how they’ve worked out.

The skirt is quite big!

The skirt is quite big!

I french seamed this dress throughout, because that seemed like the right thing to do- this fabric likes to fray, so everything is now safely enclosed.

While all the machine sewing was done in white cotton thread, I opted for invisible thread to hand sew the bias binding down on the neckline & armholes, despite knowing it’s a complete pain to work with, because I didn’t want any stitching to show amongst all that riot of colour. And despite telling myself to do the hemming by machine, I couldn’t bring myself to let that happen, and I’ve done it by hand- there is flippin’ miles of this hem! All with the invisible thread.

I got the hemming finished yesterday, in time to get a photo done in time for the Sewalong deadline while there was still some light, and I wore the dress today to a picnic I was hosting for my dance students, at Waverley Abbey. It wasn’t as summery as we’d have liked, in fact it started off very rainy and grey, but thankfully the weather cleared and all was nice. I was able to make the Gentleman Friend take a few more photogenic photos of the dress. And after the picnic, we went to watch the cricket on Tilford Green.

What I love about this dress? It is perfectly summery – loose and comfortable, pretty and girly. Somehow it’s got a retro vibe- not just the drop waist being rather 1920s-ish, I think I may have been subconsciously channelling the fashions of the 70s with this one! I feel like one of the Flake girls.

I will admit to having had some initial trepidation about the colours. This is a whole lot more yellow/peach/orange than I’m used to wearing, and it’s right up there next to my face!  But this fabric was a gift- I wanted to use it and do it justice. I won’t be wearing this in the wintertime, when I’m all pasty-faced and sallow skinned, but I think it works ok for me in the summer when I’ve got a bit of a tan. And if Anne thinks I can get away with these colours, then who am I to argue? And there are more than enough of my “regular” palette colours in this dress for me to accessorise/co-ordinate with.

I’d like to use this hack again. Is it possible to have a TNT hack? I’ve already got ideas for alternative skirt variation, and I’m wondering what stash fabric I’ve got that would work with it.

Queen of the Last Minute

I have two days before the deadline hits! But I have at least *started* the sundress tonight. I’m using the massively floral fabric that the lovely Anne of Pretty Grievances sent me in the Spring Sewing Swap:

Flowers for the Summer!

Flowers for the Summer!

I’ve put the top together, and sewn the skirt panels together. I’m going for a pleated skirt, and my last job tonight will be to get the pleats sorted out. That will leave me with the final work on Saturday (I’m taking this to the wire!), namely, to get the neckline & sleeves bound, the skirt attached to the top and the whole thing hemmed (this will *not* be by hand!). The idea is to get the dress finished on Saturday and to wear it on Sunday, because I’m hosting a picnic for my dance students.

A bit of spontaneous late night printing

Oh my goodness, this hand printing lark is going to be harder than I thought!

I’ve just been inspired to try a quick bit of stamping, nice & easy- a dot border print, using a cork. I thought that was a bit clever of me- if the border doesn’t work, at least there’s still plenty of fabric left to play with!

Imperfect polka dots

Imperfect polka dots

The stamping bit is fine, but the practicalities around it all are currently challenging. Like, not having a nice big firm surface to work on. Like needing to have something underneath because the paint soaks through the fabric. Like trying to avoid oops elements where the paint goes where I don’t really want it to go. I’ve cunningly photographed a section that was relatively clean, but there’s some bits of spattering on the parts you aren’t seeing, from where I’ve manhandled the fabric without due care & attention.

I’m also thinking that the white & red is rather stark. I’d still use it though!

I’m leaving it to dry overnight. I couldn’t do any more because I didn’t have enough workspace. I don’t think I’ve done enough to make anything wearable out of it yet, so I will probably finish that border properly tomorrow, and see how I can adapt my working to get more done at a time, especially when I’m working on the actual swap fabric.

I need a lot more practice!

Thursday afternoon update – I’ve finished the dots off and they’re waiting to dry. Hopefully, when I get back from this afternoon’s work, it’ll be dry enough that I can give it all a good hot iron to set it.

Some Making is going on, there’s just not much to show for it!

I’ve got my act together enough to get going on the Sundress for the Summer Sundress Sewalong. The deadline is on Saturday- how the heck did it get to the middle of August already? I thought I had bags of time. Nevertheless, I think I can do this. I’ve cut it out, and I should be able to get the sewing part of it done in the next day or two. I’m going slightly off-piste but I think it’ll work.

However I do have a finished object to show. You remember those lemon and lime napkin rings I bought in Penzance from a charity shop? They cost me a grand total of £1- such a bargain!  I dug out some clear elastic and a big enough needle, and actually made the bracelets that I’d had in mind from the moment I saw them.

My 5-a-day bracelets!

My 5-a-day bracelets!


I’m also gradually prepping myself for the fabric printing. I’ve got the materials and I’m just waiting to see the Gentleman Friend who has said he’s got some suitable offcuts of wood to use as a stamp block. In the meantime, I’ve cut the stamps out from craft foam, all ready to be mounted on the bits of wood.

Nearly ready to go...

Nearly ready to go…

Hand Printed Fabric – a bit more info

You know how sometimes you get an idea and you know, you just *know*, with an overwhelming truth, that it’s the right thing. Well, I got that about the hand printed fabric.

I had been feeling rather overwhelmed with possible ideas for the Hand Printed Fabric Swap, especially as Marilla has done such a great job of providing inspiration. They’re all such good ideas, but none of them was particularly standing out as being what I wanted, so as usual I had to take the ideas out of my head and put them down on paper (or at least, electrons), where I could pin them down and control them. I started trawling the net for images for an inspiration board.

To cut a long story short, this image from Devra (Puu’s Door of Time) was the starting point for the thought that turned into The Idea.

Image ganked shamelessly (well slightly shamefully, I don’t want Devra to think I’m too blasé about these things) from Puu’s Door of Time

It may not seem like so much of a big starting point, but there was something about it that was drawing me. Possibly it was the blocky shape of the print (and I was thinking “I can make a block print”), possibly it was the floralness of the print (and I’d been thinking all along about making that print a floral, because, duh, Floral!) But in the end it was the little bees that are flitting between the blocks of floral that did it for me. All at once it came to me with that Oh! Oh!!! Ohhh!!!!!!! feel. One of my dance friends, Candi, had a green costume that she called her Daisy Lawn costume. It had started life as a plainish green glittery costume, but she blinged it up with a ton of silk daisies and a few ladybird beads. It was the thought of ladybirds that clinched it.  I suddenly knew was going to be my printed fabric.

The daisy lawn costume

The daisy lawn costume – I’m really sorry to Candi, I wish I could have found a more glam performance photo, but this Trying On pic was the only one I could find of the Daisy Lawn. I’ve blurred her face, to try and preserve her Diva status.

So that’s the thing that has become my prime inspiration for this project. It’s not going to look anything like that, but this is the Starting Off Point. I just hope now that it will become something that swap partner Louise can enjoy and use.

And now onto some of the details…


The spec is that it has to be a natural fibre and it has to be at least 1 metre long by 140cm wide in order to make it a useful piece of material. Right from the start, I was thinking I might make more than the specified amount, so I could keep some for myself, so I want to make sure I use fabric that I would like myself:

  • Linen? I’m seeing a lot of Irish linen available online, and it’s making me think of teatowels! But linen is in the running.
  • Cotton lawn, poplin or drill. Will possibly be my favoured option
  • Wool? Just no. I’m not sure that it would take printing well.
  • Silk? I’m not sure my budget is up to it. I’ll have a hunt around on Ebay, see if there’s any possibility. Working with silk would be a whole different thing from working with cotton or linen, and I’m not sure I’m willing to spend that sort of money on a massive experiment.
  • While I first thought of using some white cotton jersey from the Stash, I decided a knit might not be the most stable thing for printing on, and might not be so useful to my swap partner as a woven fabric. But I might use it as a playing & practice fabric.
  • I had already been eyeing a load of white linen & cottons, up but when the Big Idea popped into my head, I realised that actually a colour would be a good base for what I’ve got in mind, so that’s widened my field (oh no! More choice!).

Challenges & How I can get around them

  • I’m limited in that I don’t have a table to work on, and my floor is carpeted, so not exactly the best working surface. I think I’m going to be acquiring a largeish cutting board, so that I have a decent working surface at least. It will be useful for other things too.
  • I’ve got NO supplies whatsoever. Luckily we’ve got a *really* good art & craft shop nearby, George Weil, and I think I shall be paying them a visit at the weekend to get some fabric paint/ink in.
  • I’d quite like to have a play, before I try the real thing, so I need to have a think about making another print other than the Big Idea!


  • This is going to require block printing
  • I’d like to keep it simple – something really easy, like potato printing.
  • I could make a pattern out of craft foam or something like that, but I don’t have little blocks of wood lying around to mount them on. However, it’s perfectly possible that the Gentleman Friend will have.
  • There may be a small amount of fabric pen work for detail.