Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Piece de resistance

Once again I made a present which I was very proud off and was more than a little reluctant to give away........
I was so pleased with it I decided to give it a post all of its own.

Well, dear reader, let me take you back to a WIPFriday last February (it only seems like yesterday) when I was last seen doing something with velvet samples. The rather splendid devore ones. Also, I can take you a little further back to January of 2007 when I went and looked at Holbein potraits in the Tate. I couldn't get a few of those portraits out of my head and I found myself in March of 2008 rather taken by the idea of velvet sleeves. So, combined with a new love of screenprinting, devore, velvet sleeves and the need to produce my metre piece for my City and Guilds course pretty darn sharpish, I came up with the following piece during a weekend in Wales over the Easter Bank Holiday. Here it is from my summer exhibition:


Whilst this was very grand with its devore details, beaded fringing, machine embroidered organza cuffs, embroidered buttons and rouleaux loops. I couldn't help feeling that it could have been improved on in a kind of less-is-more kind of way. Like, if I, um, didn't do any embroidery or surface embellishment or other pootling about. My mother, when visiting my exhibition, pretty much read my mind when she surreptiously tried the wrap on and hinted such a garment without the lacey finishings would be quite the thing for the various social occasions she attends (she has become quite the butterfly).

So one bit of velvet and satin stitching later and she found this left under the Christmas tree for her:
Velvet Wrap for my mother

Almost no phaffing about this time. However, I did forget what a slippery old customer velvet is, despite the use of a walking foot and cough, cough, double sided sticky tape in the seam allowances. I also thought I would save time (HAH!) by forgoing the rouleaux loops and covered buttons and do something with some of the funky new asian knot templates I had recently acquired. After 10+ metres of cord, hand sewing and 30 knots (to make 10 pairs of ball buttons and frogging combos) my fingers and eyes would have disagreed with my earlier assessment.

Detail of asian knot fastenings

But you would have to admit, the result was really worth it. And my Mum was pretty chuffed too ;-)

Now, how would this look in a nice crisp dupion.......and some good ol' fashioned one step buttonholes?

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Christmas Summary

Xmas 2008 ball

Whilst Christmas has now been and gone, with presents dispensed and unwrapped it is finally safe to show a few of the presents that I gave. These were the little projects I need to keep under wraps as I didn't wish to spoil the surprises. First up is the little baby jacket I made for my youngest nephew E who joined us in August:
Baby jacket
The pattern for this was taken from a new magazine which I received in October/November and is from the same people behind Quilting Arts. It is right up my street and if it becomes a regular publication I may be switching loyalties from its mixed media/quilting cousins. There are plenty of other projects in there which I am itching to try as well. The instructions for drawing up the pattern and making the jacket were reasonably straightforward but did require a bit of intuition and initiative to think "hmmm, I think they mean this" or "I think it would be better done this way". The result, however, was successful as well as warmly received by the recipient's mummy. Oh yes, did I say..... it was done on the overlocker! (I couldn't resist)

Open Crochet rollCrochet hook roll

Another project (this time overlocker free) was a present for my friend G who had joined the crafting community by taking up crochet this year. I am especially pleased as it means that she has been proven corruptible, it ticks off her other half and I am hopeless at crochet - so she can teach me! I based this neat little roll on the instructions over at this blog. I liked the extra pockets for some scissors (to which I added a little yoyo scissor charm) and dinkier pockets for the darning needles and bodkins which crocheters require for weaving in ends.

To keep Mr.T sweet I decided to make him something he had been hankering after for a little while (here modelled by M):
Front view of Gate Monkey CapeBack view of Gate Monkey Cape
An Imperial Gate Monkey Cape. Thats why its purple. Don't ask. If you want to know more you would have get up early(ish) of a Sunday morning and go for a cross country cycle ride (none of that namby pampy road riding stuff). It would be fun. You would get gates opened for you.....

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Wet Wednesday

On our final morning after our breakfast (for the first time in our hotel rather than "Le Twickenham" - it may have been pricey but at least the croissants weren't burnt) we headed out into a damp and drizzling Paris. The rain was probably in order to set the theme for our morning's exploits as I was to finally achieve one of my long cherish goals - to see Monet's Water Lily murals in L'Orangerie at the end of the Tuileries Gardens. The last two times we visited Paris the galleries were closed for renovation. This time they were finally open, except on Tuesdays, that is.

So we had a very atmospheric stroll along the left bank:

Walking along the left bank

The Musée de l'Orangerie was a calm and quiet place (one of the advantages of Paris in December, I guess) and I was able to relax in the 2 oval rooms with the 8 paintings of Monet's water lilies which he gifted to the French state. The rooms had diffused daylight - which is how Monet wanted them displayed. I particularly liked the evening time paintings of the water lilies. The collection of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings in the basement were also worth looking at as well - although if I wanted to look at the more stunning impressionist pieces I would have needed to cross the river and go to the Musee D'Orsay.

After leaving the gallery we headed back down the gardens, with the intention of having lunch in La Samaritaine from their roof top cafe. I had forgotten, however, that it has been closed since 2005 for security and renovation. There was some outdoor photo display surrounding it but the doors were firmly shut. So going on the speed at which the l'Orangerie was renovated it will probably reopen in 2013.

La Samaritaine

It was a shame this beautiful Art Nouveau building wasn't open as the view of Paris from the rooftop cafe was lovely when we went there in 2004, when we were on our honeymoon. I would have also liked to have seen the lovely internal art noveau murals that are displayed on the top floors. The snap below was grabbed back then - just before my ancient digital camera decided to give up the ghost:

Art Nouveau Mural in La Samaritaine

After lunch in a cafe at the Forum des Halles we wandered back to our hotel, picked up our bags and made our way home on the Eurostar. The bubbly was diet coke this time but the reading material made up for it..... I had found a much sought after copy of the Marie Claire Idees Christmas issue:

Monday, December 08, 2008

Birthday mooching

Musee D'Orsay

We wandered along the left bank towards the Musee D'Orsay and decided we didn't want to queue for a gallery we had been to before, so decided to walk on and check opening times for L'Orangerie. A mild annoyance was invoked when we found our Rough Guide (supposedly recently updated) was completely wrong regarding opening times, so it was closed on a Tuesday - we were going to have to leave it for our last morning.

Champs Elysees from Place de la Concorde
By this time though, the sun was out and we walked on to the Place de la Concorde and decided to get a coffee in the Petit Palais (also the Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris‎) as it was free and we could have little browse. The coffee was ok and served in an overdesigned "disposable" cup.
Over designed disposable beverage cup
The receptacle holding the beverage was suspended from a plastic spike which was integral part of the rectangular saucer. Daft. What is the matter with a nice bit of china or pottery? After a bit of sneering at photographic portraits of beautiful people (famous and therefore the only people who count and a few token "tribes" people) by some famous photographer we tottered back across the Place de la concorde. As the sun had come out we found a little bit of lunch which was eaten outside in the Tuileries Gardens, which I was pleased about as we like to have a bit of a picnic there when we visit Paris but weren't holding out for it as it was winter. Though it was slightly nippy it was still pleasant. We then decided to have a look at a small exhibition being held at the Ensba (Ecole National Superieure Des Beaux-Arts) which would be interesting for both of us, as it incorporated drawing (for me) and anatomy (for him): "Figures du corps - Une leçon d’anatomie aux Beaux-arts". It was very interesting even though it was a little grisly in places (I forgot that the early artist and early surgeons would have had similar interests).

A little bit of birthday cake was found and consumed:
Birthday Cake

We had a little rest before venturing out to make a little evening trip up the Eiffel tower.

Eiffel Tower goes all EU

Whilst we were there it went all sparkly:

Eiffel Tower glittering

then we continued to admire the city of lights:

Paris at night from the Eiffel Tower

As well as having a play with the self timer:

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Exploring, wandering and fabric

Pompidou Centre

Set off and wandered over to the right bank from our hotel in the Latin Quartier. Via the Ile de la Cite, past the Notre Dame, town hall and then left towards the Pompidou Centre. Then onwards into the Forum des Halles and then to Montmatre Street, to find my first quarry:

Outside Mokuba, Paris

Mokuba had a gorgeous display of gold and silver braid and lace - I could only imagine the prices! We wandered in and the array of ribbons was amazing. The prices were pretty amazing too but I treated myself to the following. Which (considering the price) I am a little terrified of using but should use - if only to justify the expense.
Expensive ribbon

Another shop in the area was, unfortunately, closed until 2pm but as it was the middle of morning we didn't want to hang around so decided to stroll northwards through a few departments (2, 9 & 18th) to get to Sacre Coeur. It was tempting to stop for a bite to eat on the way but the whole of working Paris had emptied into most of the lunch stops, so we got a panini in one of the more tourist centric cafes in a very quiet Montmatre.
Sacre Coeur

Then we wandered up the steps to have a look at the view. One part of the view was very interesting:

Fabric Heaven, Place St Pierre

The Place St Pierre is Paris' fabric shopping area. With 3 very large stores (Moline, Tissus Reine and Dreyfus) which each had 5 floors (at least) of fabric as well as haberdashery (mercerie) as well as smaller shops. Heaven for me, hell for my companion. I could have gone mad but just treated myself to some Clover Asian Knot templates which I hadn't seen in the UK and some extremely good value (despite the exchange rate) African cotton batik fabric.

African fabricsAsian Knot templates

My deepest appreciation goes to M who did not complain, huff or sigh once!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Paris Sights

The journey started well with a sparkling picnic on the Eurostar.

Eurostar in style
Unfortunately I then had the mild visual disturbance of an approaching migraine. We arrived at the Gare du Nord and we navigated our way onto a very crowded RER train to get to our hotel. The headache was ignored when we got to our stop and emerged from underground to be greeted with our first sight of Paris:
Notre Dame, Paris
It was then a short walk to our hotel in the Latin Quartier, where we checked in and I "rested" my eyes for an hour or two. We then decided to go for a stroll through Paris. It didn't matter that it was dark - I wanted to see Paris at night with all the Christmas lights. A lot of my photos are a shade on the blurry side but I like this one of the Tuileries Garden in the direction of the Place de la Concorde:
Tuileries Garden at night
Closer to the big wheel, which was a lovely large snowflake.
Big Wheel at the end of the Tuileries Garden
We then carried across the Place de la Concorde and continued up the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe by which time we had walked a fair number of miles and went back to our hotel to prepare for a nice meal out. Here:
la fourmi ailee

Thursday, December 04, 2008

There and back again

As a birthday treat we went away to Paris for a few days. I couldn't resist a little sewing beforehand, I had been sewing already, and made myself this handy travel wallet. I noticed G using something similar on our trip to Vienna and liked the idea of keeping things and passport together in one nifty case. I found a few ideas on the melting pot is the web and liked the look of the cheque book clutch (becoming more irrelevant in our cheque-less world) that I saw in my copy of Amy Butler's In Stitches. I then made a list of what I wanted: pockets for passport, tickets, foreign currency (with zip), a pen loop and a few more pockets. I also wanted it with a zip - not just a tie or snap closure. I also fancied a bit of coordinating piping round the whole enterprise (my mother's influence - piping does finish things nicely doesn't it?). I measured my passport and made sure that a width of A4 paper could fit in the wallet (it is now the day of the print at home e-ticket) and then marked out my pockets and covers. After a little stitching, a little skirt sabotaging (a story for another day), a purchase of a new overlocker foot (early birthday pressie from Mum - thanks!) this little beauty was produced:

Travel wallet
The fabric was a favourite acquired from my one of my favourite K&S show stalls. I got all my pockets in there too: all 5 of them:
Travel wallet open
It was very useful addition to my luggage - mainly because I didn't panic every 3 minutes that I had mislaid my passport (despite the lairy pink cover that has).

Saturday, October 25, 2008


I have spent the last 2 Saturdays doing sewing related trips or workshops without too much complaint from him indoors. So decided to sew this fabric box for him as a thank you - handily sized for the many CDs and microphone he carts to and from work (singing karaoke every Monday afternoon does count as work). I also rustled up a little home baking. I tried out this Pflaumenkuchen from my mixer cook book, I think I will try something lighter instead next time. (although M would be happier if it didn't contain fruit at all)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Skirt of Excess

Inspired by Klimt's Beethoven Frieze which I saw at the Secession Hall in Vienna.

Some lunchtime leaves, which I snapped whilst taking a lunchtime walk. I have a few other photos which I will fiddle with a view to doodling in my journal.

P.S. to the 2 ladies I overtook whilst cycling up O. Hill this evening. I may be older, heavier and not so obviously as fit as you, but its called using a lower gear and higher cadence. Also your lights are pathetic. Hugs.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A look at Scheile

Egon Sheile's is best known for his figurative work - I preferred some of the few picutres I saw of his I saw that depictged his surroundings. So today I looked at them. I didn't spend a lot of time - just got pens, crayons and brusho out and just played with some shapes and colour. I noted there are some other avenues to look at, which I can follow by doing a little exploring of my surroundings (during daylight of course) with my camera. As far as trees are concerned the colours and shapes are at their best at this time of year.

The next one would be fun to develop of my road and surrounding roads: keeping it simple identifying the shapes and choosing an autumnal palette.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A sketch a day....

...might not keep the doctor away but should give me something to look at on Friday. I have ideas in my head - they flit in and out but are better down on paper.

Pastel on brusho watercolour, taken from Attersee by Klimt in the Leopold Museum Vienna.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Even more overlocker samples

I spent a day at a workshop learning all about the different feet available for my overlocker. As some of those babies cost about 20 quid a pop it was worth playing around with somebodyelse's before coming up with my wish list. I had a good day picking up tips, learning news tricks with overlocker and getting to play with some feet. Unfortunately I wasn't able to really play with ones suitable for the coverstitch capability that my overlocker had. Also, I had to get a new cutting blade (I think my overlocker's previous owner had had a run in with a pin or two) so my budget for a new foot was spent. Still, my birthday is coming up and Christmas is only round the corner!

Friday, October 17, 2008

How to ruin a sketchbook in one easy lesson

Whilst at the show I admitted to Sue, one of my new teachers that I hadn't done an awful lot of preparatory work for the first of the workshops which I will be attending next week. Despite my trip to Vienna, I had done very little art work unless you allowed for the Opie-isation of myself and my beloved. She gave me a few pointers to get me started on my sketchbook:

  • don't start at the beginning.
  • make a place for my sketchbook and just do a little at a time with whatever drawing implement (pencil, pen, charcoal etc.) each time I passed.
  • get some background already painted on those pristine white pages.
Whilst those words of wisdom were still fresh in my mind, I stole myself away into my cavern and spent no more than hour (or it possibly was only half) and rustled up the following:

12 paint brushes / foam brushes
Lots of Paint Brushes
12 pots of mixed up Brusho

Pots of Brusho

One unsullied, untouched, pristine sketchbook

I then set about sploshing (yes that it is a technical term) on the pages:
washing, scrubbing, hatching etc. turning each page as it was covered. I then closed it up and let it dry (as I had been generous it has taken a while), unworried about colours merging or my sketchbook being perfect or beautiful:
One "ruined" sketchbook

Now that it has "cured" I now have a "ruined" sketchbook I no longer feel precious about. Have now got some lovely backgrounds to add to:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Reporting back - Knitting and Stitching Show 2008

I wasn't going to go to this years Knitting and Stitching Show, as I had been with the college for the last 4 years. Also, this year was the first year I didn't need supplies, research for course or anything else. I did however, want to see my new tutors work which they were showing entitled 'Bodies of Evidence' in this they were working together to see how an embroiderer and a quilter would inspire each other. Their inspiration point was the human form and took a look at dancing and sporting activities. They produced a very vibrant show - plenty of colour, texture and movement. They were just across from Ruth Issett's display 'Connected with Colour'. This was a rare treat as most years she has been getting her hands dirty demonstrating at the Art Van Go stall. It was lovely to see her vibrant work translated from her colourful paper and paint samples into a forest of colour. Very rarely for displays at past and present Knitting and Stitching shows we were positively encouraged to take photos, so here is one I snapped with my phone camera of Ruth walking amongst her work:

A visit to the K&S show wouldn't be without a little bit of shopping. My budget got blown on the usual yummy fabric from Euro Links Japan (and this year I will use it) and a bag kit. This bag sewing, however, was put on hold when my next purchase turned up earlier than expected on Tuesday.

***Warning : this is either going to get my sisters nostalgic or running out the door screaming ***

Wandering around I found a very busy stall which hadn't been there in previous years: Clothkits are back. The one and the same company of 80s and early 90s fame resurrected for the new century. Their range is not vast but has some very cute childrens kits, some adult sized skirts and the classic doll t-towel. I had known of their renewed existence for a while (thanks to C) and had stopped short of making a purchase but could no longer hold back. Unfortunately they had sold out of the "Big Birdie - I Want One Too! Skirt" but were happy to take an order and send one on. I was expecting the kit to turn up some time around Friday, but it turned up first class post Tuesday, which M fetched from the Post Office for me. He was rewarded with me disappearing off to the studio for 5 hours to sew it up. It would have been just over 4, but I had to fiddle about with my overlocker to produce some cover stitched hems on the skirt and the lining. I completed the overcasting of the edges in record time with the overlocker, sewing the seams with my regular sewing machine seemed rather slow in comparison.

This is a rather fuzzy picture of the skirt showing the gorgeous Liberty print lining. Needless to say the skirt was finished by evening's end (despite one or two stupid numpty errors) and was proudly worn to work the next day. If I had to give some feedback I would say that some of the instructions could be a little clearer for a newbie sewer. Luckily I am not but it still didn't stop me from nearly ruining the lining by using the whole of the facing as a guide for adjusting the lining. Also it is a BAD idea to sew in a zipper which has been pinned into a skirt. Pin yes, but then baste it in and remove the pins so that it is a flat as possible. (lesson learnt from my first year at secondary school where I had to sew my zip at least 3 times, and most of my hapless classmates got a few machine needles stuck into their fingers).

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