Hand printed fabric swap – the other side

I posted about the fabric I sent to Louise, a couple of days ago. I’m very happy to post now the fabric I received from her.



Louise took her inspiration from some genuine fifties fabric, and only flipping HAND-DREW all those flowers! They’re beautifully even and I swear you’d never think they were done by hand if you didn’t know they were.

Thank you again, Louise, for a beautiful piece of fabric, and for the additional extra treats!

The truly hand printed daisy lawn fabric

The story so far… You may recall a little while back I took part in Marilla Walker’s Hand Printed Fabric Swap. I was paired with Louise of Elsie May and Bertha. I had decided to go with my idea of a daisy lawn print.

Now read on…

I started by making the stamps. I drew my ideas onto craft foam (man, that stuff stinks!) and cut out the shapes. I used tiny embroidery scissors, because I wanted to be able to get a good curve and sharp angles, to differentiate the petals. I stuck the stamps onto blocks of wood offcuts, generously provided by the Gentleman Friend. We did end up having something of a “creative dialogue” as to whether my daisies are technically daisies or not, given that in real life daisy petals are long and pointed, whereas mine are wide and rounded. I won this argument by virtue of the fact that I’m not doing *actual* daisies, they’re more stylised/conceptual daisies, and in any case, it’s my project and I can call them daisies if I want to, so nyer!

Lots of different floral stamps

Lots of different floral stamps

Once I had the stamps made, I had to do some test runs. I used about 25cm of my fabric length to try various print blocks and colours, and see how much paint I’d need, and so on. Well, you saw the try-outs, I’d picked a green that was too dark. My bad, I hadn’t really thought that through when I’d clicked the “buy” button, live and learn. But I didn’t want to waste more money and time (I was working to a deadline!)  trying to buy more fabric, so I figured I just *had* to make it work.

One of the try-outs, which I tried after taking the disaster photo, was a smaller flower shape, in the white. The smaller shape printed reasonably well in the white, so I tried adding a little yellow centre to it, to see if the white behind it would make it pop. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting it to “pop”, I would have been happy with a slightly damp “pfft”, but it turned out OK, and I decided that would be the one. I abandoned my lovely ladybird idea and decided it was just the lawn.

In view of the fact that I have very little working space in my flat and the fact that I had two colours to work with, I had to do my printing over several sessions, spanning the whole of the August bank holiday weekend. The first thing was to print the white flowers. I decided I wanted the flowers to be approximately 10cm apart, and eyeballed it. The lawn is therefore not entirely geometrically even! I had worked out that it was easiest to apply the paint to the stamp rather than trying to dip the stamp in paint- the paint is too thick and the stamp is not thick enough for that to be useful. I started using a paintbrush to cover the stamp, but it soon became clear it was easier to use my finger, I could get a much more even coverage. I did one set of white flower stamps which was about 70cms of my metre, in one sitting on Friday evening, left it out to dry and did the second set on the Saturday. I did a smidge more than the requisite one metre, because I was on a roll.

The white petals

The white petals a-drying

On the Monday, I did the yellow centres. I just finger-painted them on (this project has been very much like being in primary school!). So this fabric really is “hand-printed”. Again, I had to do it in two goes, and I gave it plenty of drying time between them, because the yellow paint wasn’t “soaking” into the fabric like the white one, it was resting on top of the layer of white paint.

The petals with the yellow centres

The petals with the yellow centres

Gratuitous close-up of the daisies

Gratuitous close-up of the daisies

Once the yellow paint was dry, I ironed the heck out of it, to set the paint.

Then I washed it again, to check that it was all ok. Because if it wasn’t, I had a load more printing to do, and not much time to do it. That was a real heart-in-mouth moment! But hooray, all was well- it survived the washing machine and the hot tumble dryer, without ill effect, so I could safely send it out in time for the 2nd September deadline. Though, as it turned out, Louise and I agreed a time extension, so it’s only now that it’s ok to post about this fabric. Gosh, it does seem like a long time since I did it!

Given that this was my first ever attempt, my hand printed fabric turned out way better than I expected. Although, that isn’t saying much – I had very low expectations! It wasn’t perfect, far from it. But I like what I created and I hope Louise can find some creative use for it.

It’s been an interesting project, because it was all so new to me. Now I’ve got more of an idea of what I’m doing, I’d like to do more fabric-printing. I’ve got lots of designs (“designs”, she says! They’re just ideas and doodles) I want to print, and more importantly, use. The ladybird will happen one way or another. And the Gentleman Friend has put the idea of cherries into my head. Then there’s a load of seashore prints I’d like to try (maybe in a nautical navy). So it’s a big thank you to Marilla, for making this happen!


P.S. If this has inspired you to think about hand printing fabric yourself, word on the street is that Marilla may be hosting another swap in the not too distant future.

P.P.S. There will shortly be a What I Received post, but this one has been sitting in my Drafts folder for quite some time- and at last I can post it!

One Week, One Pattern 2014 Round Up

Here’s my One Week, One Pattern in collage form.

OWOP collage

One Week, One Pattern? No, make that TWO patterns!

I was actually aiming for (and I consider I succeeded with) Double OWOP, in that my main pledged pattern was the Belcarra Blouse, but I stuck with my McCalls straight skirt pattern for the bottom half, in accordance with my original plan. The two patterns complement each other well. It may not be in keeping with the “style things different ways” element of OWOP, but it is nevertheless all about the “wearing your favourite patterns” element. There was a fair amount of mix’n’match, and I don’t care that I repeated the Dress Of Many Colours, because I love it and there won’t be many more opportunities to wear it this side of Christmas.

Day 1: Cadfael & Cats Belcarra + Counterintuitive Black Birds Skirt
Day 2: The Dress Of Many Colours
Day 3: Watermelon Belcarra + Black Denim Skirt
Day 4: Imperfect Polka Dots Belcarra + Counterintuitive Black Birds Skirt ÷ Total Selfie Fail
Day 5: Cadfael & Cats Belcarra + Black Denim Skirt
Day 6: The What Could Possibly Go Wrong?! Belcarra + You Mean I’m Wearing Orange Skirt
Day 7: The Dress Of Many Colours + Mahoosive Yellow Lily Hairclip

It’s been an interesting week which, much like Me Made May, has very much focussed my attention on how much I do wear my hand-made clothing. I wear me-made quite a lot, but until the Belcarra splurge I didn’t have any tops to go with my skirts. I do feel like I’ve gone some way towards redressing that balance. All four of these blouses will work with various of my skirts, (not just the straight ones!) so I’m happy that the push to make those tops has resulted in a stronger and more unified me-made wardrobe.

The Belcarra pattern has been really useful and it’s definitely become a TNT pattern for me. Although I’m slightly Belcarra’d out right now, I can still see myself making more of these, in the future. It’s a very versatile top, it works with different types of fabric, and as I’ve mentioned before, it can be a good stashbuster, which reduces my fabric storage problems, and it’s good for mixing fabrics and colours, which makes for easy wearing.

What I did notice from this week’s mixing & matching is my need for simple plains & neutrals. The Watermelon top had to go with simple skirts because it’s so gaudily patterned (I’m saying that like it’s a *good* thing, your mileage may vary). The You Mean I’m Wearing Orange?! skirt needs a very plain top, because it’s brightly decorated. Normally my plains & neutrals are provided by my shop-bought clothing, but now I’ve twigged this, I’m going to try to acquire & use more plain and neutral fabrics. I will still try to embellish those makes in some way, but more carefully, and with a consciousness of keeping the wearing options open. That limitation could be a creative spur! Self-coloured embroidery… Appliqué-ing with the same fabric as the garment… Subtlety… No, I don’t believe I can manage that last one, any more than you do!

A million thanks go out to HandmadeJane, who was hosting this challenge, and to Tilly and the Buttons, for creating it in the first place. I’m starting to sound a bit like Nicholas Parsons in Just a Minute now, so I’ll stop digging this particular hole, and just say that it’s been fun!

The What Could Possibly Go Wrong?! Belcarra

Day six of One Week, One Pattern, and onto my next Belcarra blouse.

These are turning out to be good stashbusters. This one is using up a metre of some unknown black material that was originally bought to make a skirt with, until I realised how ludicrously many black skirts I’ve got. It was a bit drapey, so I thought I could use it for another Belcarra. I had to shorten the body by about 3cms, and I didn’t have quite enough fabric to do the sleeves as well as the body, but this pattern seems to be *made* for colour-blocking, so back to the stash I went.

This was my pinspiration:

Bodycon dress with mesh sleeves- sorry I can’t get pinterest to link to the original properly, because of a redirect loop, so I can’t credit it as I would like to.

It’s nothing like what I was actually sewing of course, but the Inspiration Fairy is a wily little so-and-so. She gets ideas sparking off other ideas. I thought mesh sleeves would be an interesting feature, and ever so slightly edgy. I had some white mesh that I had originally bought for the Elsa cloak, before I knew I could get pale blue mesh from White Tree Fabrics. So that sorted out my not having enough fabric for sleeves problem.

What could possibly go wrong?!

Well, pretty much everything. First off, this black fabric frays like a *#$!@~!!! Second, it’s bouncy- it doesn’t take ironing at all well, it’s a man-made fibre of some sort, so I had to keep the iron temperature down, and it’s just not as malleable as I’d have liked. Third, the mesh is stretchy. So all in all, a pretty stupid idea. But I was convinced it was going to end up looking good. Anything black & white is automatically cool, right?

I started this one on Friday night, and decided to give myself a break when I’d knocked my box of pins over for the third time. I had reached the tricky Adding the Bias Binding stage, and I felt it was best to approach that with a full night’s sleep behind me, and daylight, so that I could actually see what I was sewing.

I gave it another go on Saturday, and I was still not feeling the love. I can only imagine that this fabric just doesn’t like being sewn. So I was treating the whole process as an exercise in Zen Sewing, Being In The Moment and You’ve Got All Night, There’s No Need To Hurry. It was horrendously fiddly, and I’m just glad that I’ve used this fabric right up, so I don’t ever have to sew with it again. It turned out a bit tight in the body, because this is thicker fabric than any other I’ve used for the Belcarra, but also because I’d shaved rather too much off the hip flare. But I thought it would be ok, and I could go ahead and wear it.

On Tuesday, I was all set to wear this top to work, tried it on and decided it wasn’t right after all. I really wasn’t comfortable with it being that snug in the body, and it was really a smidge too short. So I changed to the Imperfect Polka Dots version, which I’d just finished, and spent the work day asking myself “What could I do to turn this into a wearable piece?” Add a bit more mesh to the bottom, that’s what.  It gave me the extra length I needed, and allowed me to split the side seams a little, so that it wasn’t so tight around the abdomen. It’s one of those Design Features that is born of necessity, but actually works pretty well!

Don't ask me why I've got that face on - I've no idea, but at least this photo shows the top properly

Don’t ask me why I’ve got that face on – I’ve no idea, but at least this photo shows the top properly

So altogether, I made a couple of very minor changes to the pattern – I didn’t add the cuffs, and used bias binding made from the black fabric instead, using the same for the neckline, to give the top structure as the mesh would be too floppy there. I wanted the colour contrast too. I did reduce the hip flare, but having mucked it up, I probably would go much more gently with that another time. I used French seams to make sure there would be no raw edges available to fray in future (which did make it that teensy bit harder to do the split on the sides). And of course, I added about 12cm of mesh to the bottom, to claw back some length, so it’s longer than the original pattern.

This was not a pleasure to sew. Not at all. But now that it is finished, I can be less grumpy about it, because it has indeed turned out pretty cool. I’m enjoying wearing it today, and I think it’s going to be a useful addition to my wardrobe. Looking on the bright side, I’m fairly sure it’s never going to need ironing, because it’s so resistant, and not having to iron a thing is always good in my book.

The Imperfect Polka Dots Belcarra

This weekend was mostly spent making Belcarra tops, as you can tell. This one was cut out on Friday and sewn on Sunday (mostly- I finished the hem this morning before work). I wasn’t going to wear it till tomorrow, or later in the week, but I tried on the black & white top I’d finished on Sunday, and decided it needed fettling, because it wasn’t right as it is. So that’s my job for tonight, though I’m off for dinner with a friend, so it’s my job for this late part of the afternoon, and when I get home later.

So, a little earlier than expected, tada! Day 4 of OWOP and a new Belcarra blouse! Soz for the lack of make up and the far from glamorous photoshoot location!  This is not *my* filing.

The Imperfect Polka Dot Belcarra

The Imperfect Polka Dot Belcarra

I used my imperfect polka dot fabric. Well it was a shame to let it languish in the stash.

I’d printed a very simple red spot border, and I wanted that border to be at the hem of the blouse. I was hoping I could find another way of getting the polka dots onto the blouse somehow, but I didn’t have that much left over after cutting the main body pieces, and I’d used up the best bits (the ones where I had managed *not* to splatter red paint over the white fabric like a particularly gory murder), and the obvious accent points, collar & cuffs, are cut on the bias, so the print wouldn’t work for those. Hey ho, never mind. Keeping it simple is good too.

This one was supposed to be easy. And it was, but I made stupid mistakes, like sewing pieces the wrong way round, like sewing the bindings on the wrong side (actually, that one only got as far as pinning, so it wasn’t too bad). But aside from that it was a doddle.

I made it about 10cms longer than usual, to get it more to tunic length, and I gave it little side splits, which you can’t really see from the photo.

And then I went to lunch with the girls from my other job, at Wagamama. I deliberately ordered something that didn’t look too liquid-y from the menu description, because you really can’t take me anywhere- spillages and droppages *will* happen, and we all know that white tops are a tomato sauce magnet. Even so my rice dish came dangerously smothered in some sort of soupy liquid, and before I knew it, there was sauce down the front. Cue emergency dash to the ladies, to get the spot out before it stains and much crouching under the hand dryer to dry off my top, so that I didn’t look too much like I’d entered a Miss Wet T-Shirt contest. The prompt washing seems to have done the trick thankfully, and there’s no sign of any mark. Lucky escape there!

I’m liking this top. I think it’s cool that I’m wearing a fabric I printed myself, even it’s scarcely more sophisticated than a primary school potato print. I like that it’s going to be an easy top to wear, either loose or tucked in, and that tucking in will mean the red disappears, making this an even more useful neutral. The cotton is medium weight, so it will be useful as a transitional piece for the autumn (hmmm, so long as I have a couple of nice cardigans to wear with it). So although I’m not head-over-heels in love with it, I think it’s a useful make.

OWOP14 – Bring it on

I’m ready. Well, ready-ish. Here is what I had available, as at first thing this morning.

Three and a half Belcarras

Three and a half Belcarras

You’ll have seen the Watermelon blouse and the Dress Of Many Colours. The third is the one I’m wearing today- the Cadfael & Cats blouse. Number four, the black & white on top there, is mid-make, and I’m hoping to get it finished today.

It's actually much greener than this picture is showing!

It’s actually much greener than this picture is showing!

I have gone uncharacteristically plain with the make. This blouse is unpatterned & unadorned. That isn’t to say it doesn’t have an element of frivolity- it is chartreuse green, for heaven’s sake, verging on fluoro lime. So this is not a garment that will be conducive to hiding my light under a bushel. This is very much a garment that screams “Notice meeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!”. But I figured it’s going to be hard enough teaming this with bottom halves, without bringing pattern into the equation, so it’s staying plain.

I got this cotton from Ebay (ohsewcraftycouk, in case you’re interested), it’s a medium-weight cotton that’s quite slubby and has a linen look. It’s beautifully crisp and although I originally bought it purely for the colour, I could happily get more of it in other colours. It was very easy sewing with it.

I’m feeling very confident with the Belcarra pattern now! This was my third go with it, and I didn’t even bother to look at my own notes on construction, never mind the formal pattern instructions. I didn’t make any new alterations, other than to make the sleeve cuffs about one centimetre longer. I’ve found the cuffs a tiny bit snug on the Watermelon blouse, and I figured that if I’d cut them too big this time round, I could cut them down again. But it did the trick, so I think I’ll add that extra length onto my traced pattern piece.

I’m going to shave the hip flare down a bit on future versions. I don’t have very wide hips, so I don’t need it. I’ve worn the Watermelon blouse tucked in mostly, so it’s not a major issue,  really,  but since I’ve got plans for way more of these so I can afford the time/effort to refine it. As you can see, I’m working on a black & white version, and there’s another one cut out & ready to go. I’m on a roll!

But back to this one. This got cut out last weekend and then sewn up on Thursday night. As ever, I did a fair bit of hand sewing, to catch the neck binding & cuffs and hem the blouse. Since I did all of that while watching Cadfael, and 8 Out of 10 Cats, this has become the Cadfael & Cats top. I styled it with my Counterintuitive Black Birds skirt, and wore it to one of our annual tutor meetings. (Working on a Saturday? I’m so dedicated!)

I have no idea where that expression came from.

I have no idea where that expression came from.

I was slightly stymied this afternoon, in trying to photograph this outfit. The little light post, where I usually rest my camera for taking selfies, has had its nice flat just-the-right-height-for-the-camera top knocked off. So those photos were taken with my camera resting precariously in the middle of a bush. You’re lucky you’re not seeing the one with the leaves showing as a rather fetching lower border! But as I was in the middle of my photography, my lovely neighbour was passing and offered to take a couple for me. So this one is courtesy of Dan.

He was getting all pro-photographer, telling me which way to turn and everything!

He was getting all pro-photographer, telling me which way to turn and everything!

And because nobody wants to see me posting every single day, I think I’ll bunch all the OWOP selfies into one single post at the end, and only post separately if I’m wearing a new make. Now, on to the next Belcarra on the production line.

Good luck to all the OWOPpers!

OWOP Rethink required

Woe! I am reaping the harvest of my untidiness and sewing clutter. I’ve gone & lost my TNT McCalls straight skirt pattern.

My OWOP plan had been to use that skirt pattern- I’ve got three skirts I’ve made with it, all of which are work-appropriate so no problem there. However, I wanted to have a fourth (and possibly even fifth) skirt to add to the pile, so that I didn’t have to wear repeats at work, That’s my personal vanity speaking, I know. Other people are going to do it with three items, I’m sure, but that’s not how I roll- I needed that extra skirt or two. Which I’d been planning on sewing tonight & tomorrow. And now that’s not possible! Disaster!

So I’m revising my plans. I’m going for the Sewaholic, Belcarra pattern as backup. I’ve got the Watermelon version (hah! that links to a post where I say I’m not going to use the Belcarra for OWOP- how’s that for irony!). I’ve also got the Dress of Many Colours, which is based on the Belcarra pattern. I already had a second blouse cut out & ready to sew, so tonight I’ve cut out a third, and I’m sewing #2, which I think I can finish tonight. Number three blouse can get sewn up tomorrow night, and I’m hoping I can even manage a further blouse or dress hack, somewhere along the way. Because otherwise I’m not a great deal further forward than if I use the skirts.

Wish me luck!