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Nerine - a painting

Watercolour on A3 paper  (Painted after watching a video by Linda and Laura Kemshall )

I decided to splurge on a small set of artist quality watercolours. I chose Sennelier as they seemed best value at the moment.

Having the right paints has made a difference of course, and these ones are quite soft and full of colour which makes painting with them much easier than acrylic.

I started with a sketch I did a while back in one of my sketchbooks - it's a nerine.

I have nerines growing in the garden at the moment, and they bring a lovely shot of colour at this time of the year.

I transferred the drawing to my paper, and then began to apply colour quite carefully.

I built the colour slowly, darkening by dropping in colour where I thought it was needed. I did pick one nerine from the garden as inspiration, but I've got to be honest, they are just basically pink!!

I haven't done a background on this as I wasn't sure where to go with it, so for now I'll just leave this as finished.  It's quite a quick process and very satisfying.

A3 sketchbook collage, Baddesley Clinton

I really like the speed of these collages as its a painless and easy way to keep a visual diary. This afternoons entry in my sketchbook was Baddesley Clinton.

Putting in the base collage, and adding ink.

 Knocking back with more gesso. Adding more papers and collage.

Finished drawing - water soluble pen, posca pens, pencil.

Fabric shops - a couple of useful links

New fabric and patterns.

I've bought some sweatshirting for the pdf cardigan pattern I downloaded. As you can see I got a bit carried away but couldn't resist the lovely orange and gold of the other fabrics. I also bought 2 new patterns to have a go at.

A local shopkeeper gave me the names of 2 dressmaking shops that have a wide selection of fabrics. Neither are particularly cheap (I'd really recommend a visit to the rag market in Birmingham for value for money) but they did have some good quality brands and modern colourways.

I'm sharing them with you because out of curiosity you might like a look, and they both do online sales (no affiliations, just for fun)  Here's a link to the Guthrie and Ghani blog which has tips and ideas. This shop is in Moseley - a lovely part of Brum

The second recommendation given to me was The Fabric Godmother  I've had a look at the shop and the blog and will be visiting online fairly soon - after I've used up a little bit of my existing stash! They seem to have a very wide range to choose from.

Non watercolour, watercolour flowers

From an idea by Design Matters TV  (If you go to the home page you can find out about all sorts of stuff - there are some free videos too)

I've not tried watercolours lately (I had a brief experimental spell about 20 years ago, but it didn't work out!) and felt rather inspired after Linda's workshop and itched to have a go.

Well, you know me, I didn't have the right paints, and no watercolour paper, but that didn't stop me. It was pouring with rain but I donned my new mac (100% absolutely waterproof) and toddled to WHSmiths shop to buy some paper - they didn't have any watercolour paints and anyway, it's a bit near the end of the month to be indulging in a lot at this stage.

So I thought I'd try hi-flow acrylics.  These paints have a very high pigment content and are water soluble. They stain the paper immediately, so the trick is to wet the paper with clear water or dilute paint first, and then drop the paint in with the tip of your brush using undiluted colour. The results are very vibrant!!

Photos aren't always accurate, and the area on the right is very shiny as it's gold leaf.  Call this one an experiment; the brain is brewing a thought or two about this idea. As a beautiful watery, sploshy, deliciously coloured watercolour painting, I know this leaves a lot to be desired, but it's a start and I'll try again soon.

Update - 2nd go, still not the effect I'm after. 


My last post about the Stylearc tunic top explains how I got on with the pattern, but I did add an extra step - understitching - here and there. Here's a step by step about how to do that so you can improve how facings/pockets etc sit a bit better.

Understitching is a line of sewing that doesn't show on the front of the garment but holds facings flat.

1) Attach your facing in the normal way (below: a neck facing stitched to the neck of a tunic top) Press the seams towards the facing. It's easier to do this from the right sides.  The neck facing and seams will then be together and away from the rest of the tunic etc.

Pin the facing to the seam behind it to keep it all from moving when you sew.

From the front, sew along the facing and through the seams. Keep as close to the edge as you can.  I have used an 1/8 inch seam but it can be bigger if it's easier. I use that little red dot on the machine foot as a guide.

You will end up with this. Your new second row of stitching will be below your seamline.

Fold over and press. Your new sewing will be on the inside and won't show on the front.

Excuse the odd colour of this photo!! Here you can see the neckline after pressing with the understitching tucked to the inside. This means the facings will be kept in place and the finish is much neater.

Sloooow sewing, Stylearc - Daisy Designer Tunic

There are 2 ways of sewing clothes IMHO. One is at a great rate of knots to whip up something wearable in no time at all - quick, cheap, lovely and serviceable. The other involves a slower process taking your time and enjoying the making for it's sheer pleasure and taking delight in doing something in the best way you can, or as I call it, Sloooooooow Sewing.

I came across Stylearc patterns on Amazon. The drawings on the front of the patterns looked stylish and I thought they'd suit my shape. I risked buying one as they were reasonably priced and I'm trying as many patterns brands as I can. (no affiliations)

Below is the finished tunic.

Now, how did I get on? Details of the problems and joys are expanded on in the post about making, below but here's a quick view.

Ease of use  6/10 If you have some experience, it's fine. I would hesitate to recommend this pattern to a complete beginner as instructions are minimal and caused some anguish at times. The pattern pieces aren't numbered, and the printing is poor quality - if you run the iron over the print by accident it smudges badly.

Did the finished article look like the drawing?  8/10 Yes I guess it did but wasn't quite as full at the front as the drawing made out, but was fine. It fitted well in the size I made and I could possibly have got away with a size smaller. I was between 2 sizes according to the measurements on the packet so went for the larger....Captain Sensible.

Would I make again?  6/10 Possibly in a light summery drapey material. I would do away with the pockets which aren't necessary and don't help the hang on the front. Would I buy this brand again? I'd choose a pattern then google it to look at the images of other peoples makes. If I liked it in real life I'd tackle another!


I call this make slow sewing because I bought the fabric on the Birmingham Rag Market - linen at £2 per metre. I then dyed the fabric using Soda Ash, Salt, and a good tablespoon and a half of Procion Indigo Navy dye mix MX-2G. You can read more about my dyeing process here.

Here's my finished cloth

I started with 3 metres but was down to 2.5 by the time this had shrunk in the dye vat, and the ensuing hot soapy washes in the washing machine to rid it of excess dye.

The instructions are printed on the pattern sheets and you have to cut them out. As you can see they are minimal with no step by step illustrations which frankly would have been useful for the pockets. There were minimal images for layering the hem bands, and it wasn't clear. There were no layouts for cutting out.

There was a little note on the pocket bit which said See In Seam Tutorial, but no note as to where. I'm guessing on their blog. The layering tutorial I came across by googling. In essence you have to do some folding and pressing so you can sew through all layers together, which means the stitching shows on the front. Meh.

I was also left with a flapping hem band facing, and ended up stitching it to the hem band. It didn't show and is absolutely fine, but I couldn't find an explanation how you were supposed to deal with this.

Keep the iron off the printing or you'll end up with no pattern!

The finished top.

I download a pdf pattern

I was looking for a cardigan pattern to make in a stretch knit fabric - it's turned a bit chilly here and I do like a snuggly cardi to wear around the house. I came across a nice one but it was a downloadable pdf pattern and I have always avoided them before as I wasn't sure how they'd work. The process was ok and I thought I'd share it with you in case you weren't sure about pdf patterns either.

After choosing, I followed the instructions on the website and clicked the "basket" and "pay now" buttons. It was an American site, so I paid in $ through paypal who are very useful for these kinds of things. The company sent me an email confirmation and a button to click to download the pattern.

After *downloading to my computer, I opened the file and printed the whole thing off. The instructions and the pattern were in different files on the download, and in total there were about 40 pages of A4 to print. Paper and ink may be worth factoring in when you think of the price of a download. Although the patterns are usually a bit cheaper, it's not by much. It could be that you end up paying more for the dubious pleasure of printing and sticking it all together!! NB a tip, there should be a little test print square on your pattern files at the beginning, so that you can make sure your printer is doing it's job properly and not printing everything smaller or larger than it should....which would be disastrous and possibly a bit hilarious too.

So, there I am with a huge pile of papers that all need sticking together to make sense of the pattern. Mine was a multi sized pattern and all the sizes came through on the same pattern pieces - just as a normal pattern looks.

They were all numbered and had little triangles on the sides of the A4 sheets which helped you match everything together so there was no distortion.  I had to do a bit of trimming and some folding before sticking to ensure everything matched.

When it's all stuck together, I then cut the shapes out roughly so I could use them.

An extra step: I didn't think the stuck together paper sheets would stand the test of time and numerous foldings, and I also thought it might be nice to keep the pattern whole so I could make other sizes more easily for friends and family....and post Christmas bulges etc. so I traced the relevant pieces onto pattern paper. (It's like really thick tracing paper)

Be sure to transfer all the markings and say what size your pattern is and who it is for. The date is quite interesting to add as well. You probably will remember these things over time, but I certainly wouldn't.

*(If you're not sure about downloads, you click the link on the download button in your letter, and your computer will store the files automatically for you - usually you can access them straight away by clicking the downward facing blue arrow in the top right hand corner of your screen. If it's at a later date, look under your apps for the Download File Opener and click on it. All your downloads will be listed and you click on the one you want. If you don't have this app your downloads will be listed and I'd start with This PC and follow the route through to your files)

Dressmaking - Merchant and Mills Trapeze dress

I had a couple of metres of this double gauze fabric in my cupboard. I'd bought it without any clear idea of what I'd use it for; it was lovely and drapey but the gauze itself was a little tricky to sew as the weave was very loose!

I also bought the M&M Trapeze dress pattern a few months ago, and it struck me that this material would be just the job to hang nicely with the wide swingy nature of the dress. It took between 3 and 4 hours to make and was really easy. The body is in 3 pieces - 1 front and 2 back - the sleeves have an inset at the cuff which gives them a lovely line. The facings on the neck are in 2 pieces and fitted the neck exactly.

I made the pattern shorter at the cutting out stage, but still decided it was too long on me so ended up taking about 8 inches off altogether. Perhaps a short dress or tunic is what I've ended up with, but the full size swamped me.

I'm wearing it today and it feels great!

Dressmaking - Maven, the French Dart Shift Pattern/03

Oh, and extra big tip here: don't mark your new bust dart point on your toile with a sharpie. I have 2 permanent black dots on my new bra.

A lovely dress/tunic top pattern. The things I like about it are the neckline, shape of sleeves and the fit around the body.

The pattern is by Maven  (no affiliations) and is called the French Dart Shift Pattern.

The downsides are to do with the making, and are probably because I'm not that experienced in putting things together yet. Explanation below.

Size wise- the body measurements given on the pattern are accurate. Patterns usually have a lot of ease and I can get away with making a 12. I'm a dress size 12 to 14 (Marks and Spencers!) but had to make this as a 14/16. I didn't find much ease given in the pattern and had to go up that extra bit.

The pattern comes in a thin card packet/envelope, with thick paper sheets with the printed pattern on. There is a separate little instruction pamphlet which goes through things step by step. I have a slight problem with patterns over the bust (apparently they generally draft patterns with a 36C in mind) so made a toile as suggested. My material was far too expensive to chance.

The toile was made in white cotton with the seams on the outside so that I could alter more easily. It was obvious to me on the first toile, that the bust dart came up too high (it's my age - what can I say?!). It was also ever so slightly too tight over the bust but nowhere else.

To remedy this I cut the front as a size 16 with size 14 shoulders and armholes, and length, but size 14 back.  I also redrafted the front darts so that they came 1" lower down. To do this simply put in a new front dart point (the little black blob) and redraw the dart lines to match this new point, but make sure the new lines goes to the old dart points at the side of the garment.

If that all sounds complicated and the darts are in the right place for you but it's still a little tight, go to the Maven website where there is a step by step alteration you can make to give you more room.

The second toile was a fag but worth doing as it confirmed that the new darts suited me better.

I found one or two things a bit tricky;  the pocket bags, some instructions, and the cuffs. I've come across better ways of doing both and will do differently next time I make this tunic. A tighter cuff either with elastic or wider with a button fastening would be better. The most successful way of putting a pocket in that I've come across is on the Assembly Line dress I made a few weeks ago.
I found the instructions for both bits a little complicated and was puzzled at points - the very first instruction was to do a taped neckline - where did that sneak in! What tape! I worked it out obviously but worried what was in store with the rest of the instructions!

I had fun making this dress, and I do like the fit and style - but will be brave enough to do things a bit differently next time I give it a go.

An overworked Mary Arden's house.

A good record of my visit, but for me this is overworked. I've only just started with the mixed media/collage look, but would prefer more gestural lines and the minimal colour blocks I've seen others use. Must lighten my touch if I can!