Thursday, June 21, 2012


I thought I'd go ahead and post some of the costumes that I've made already, with some brief explanation. Unfortunately when I was making these, I was not running my blog, and so I didn't take any progress shots.

This was my version of Maria's dress from The Sound of Music - the one in 'Do Re Mi'. The blouse is from a thrift store find of a sleeveless dress. I cannibalized the skirt of the dress to make the cuffed sleeves. The skirt was very simple, just panels gathered into a wide waistband. I *think* the panels were slightly trapezoidal, rather than rectangles, to reduce the bulk at the waist.

Here's the costume with the bodice on - I made it without a strict pattern. I looked at pictures from the movie, trying to pinpoint the seam lines and the shapes of the fabric pieces. From that I made a paper mock-up, and a 'muslin' from an old sheet. The bodice opens at the front, and is held together by a line of small hooks and eyes.

This costume was inspired by Degas' Little Dancer sculpture. 

These two are costumes for the Renaissance Festival. I wish I could remember where I found the instructions for the chemises, but it was a fairly simple rectangle pattern with gathered neckline and wrists. The skirts were made from rectangular panels gathered into a waistband, to create the full-over-the-hips silhouette.

This is a Cleopatra costume. There's a white muslin shift, mostly unshaped, with a sheer white overdress that starts under the bust, with long straps in a v-shape. The shoulder cape opens at the back, and fastens with a button. The pleats were ironed in, and then sewn into the neck piece. The decoration is a zig-zag stitch on the sewing machine, with metallic embroidery floss woven in to add color and sparkle.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Line embroidery

Recently I've been missing my time in Ireland a lot. As a way of dealing with that, I decided to go through some of my photos and sketches from that time, and transform them into line drawings that I can embroider. I've been drawing them straight on the fabric with pencil, and then using different colors of embroidery floss to pick out the design lines. I really like the way they end up - somewhat simplistic in form, but really lovely.

The first one is of a ruined church on Innismore, and the second one is actually from England, and the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey.

Friday, June 15, 2012

How to make applique easy

A while back I was talking with someone (I wish I could remember who) and discussing issues of applique embroidery. Knit fabrics can be finicky and don't want to stay in place, but they can be secured with a looser stitch and won't fray at the edges. Woven fabrics stay in place much better while you're working, but you have to be much more meticulous about stitching down the edges, and that can take a *really* long time. So, whoever this brilliant person was suggested that I use fusible interfacing to secure the edges of woven fabrics. Brilliant!

It was actually quite easy, and seemed to work with several different weights and types of fabric. Just take a small piece of fabric (bigger than your design) and a piece of fusible interfacing, iron them together as per product instructions, and then draw on either side and cut out your shapes. 

A note of warning: make sure your piece of interfacing is at least a little *smaller* than your fabric when you're ironing them together, or you'll fuse the overlapping sections of interfacing to your ironing board.... oops!

This thistle design on a plaid flannel is the only one I've sewn on to anything so far, but I really like how it turned out. I used a sort of connected running stitch to secure down the edges, and I really like how it gives a solid line, and doesn't take away too much from the plaid. Often I like to use a blanket stitch on the edge of knit appliques, but that would have been too busy here. The very edges of the flannel did start to fray a bit, but only after I'd sewn them down - the interfacing held everything together. Also, I feel like between the interfacing and the stitching, it's very secure. The bonus is that it took much less time than a satin stitch around all the edges to hold the loose threads in!

Here's just a bit of a sneak preview of what I'm making here - it's a smallish purse. I sewed the bottom edges together without turning them inside, in the hopes that I'd get a bit of a frayed edge to echo the appliques. It will still be getting a shoulder strap, hemmed top, and probably a tab and button closure, in the same flannel plaid.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Watercolor stamps and a sunset

I've been very busy lately, as M's lovely family was in town. We spent a lot of time showing them around, and taking walks by the river. I was still working on things in the evenings, but I wasn't able to properly photograph and post them. I'll be putting up several different posts over the next day or so.

First, however, there was the most amazing sunset tonight. We've been having rain and thunderstorms all day, so the clouds were very impressive.

In craft news, I ordered a Speedball stamp making kit a while ago, and finally had a chance to play around with it. I've got to say, it's the neatest thing I've done in a while. It was just really so fascinating to take a simple sketch and transform it into a personalized stamp.

These are fairly small, on the order of an inch to an inch and a half. I think that's about the smallest I can accurately carve something at this level of detail. 

I think my favorite is the sheep :)

The material is surprisingly easy to carve. I was expecting it to feel like carving an eraser (probably due to the pink color), but it's a lot smoother, and doesn't crumble at all. I see myself making a lot more stamps in the future.

The reason why I originally wanted the stamps was because I'd had an idea for greeting cards that wasn't quite working out. I made some watercolor backgrounds, and wanted to draw images on them. However, the black India ink wasn't working - it was too harsh against the softness of the watercolors. Luckily, the stamps worked much better.

For all of this, I inked the stamps with some colored brush markers. It worked well, but also gives me a somewhat limited range of colors - not to mention that when I try to mix them, it seems to contaminate the marker tips. My next plan is to use a higher concentrated watercolor for the inking, and if that works, it will give me a much wider range of possibly colors. 

I haven't mentioned this before, but some of the things I talk about on this blog are/will be for sale on my Etsy shop, Piping Hot Tea. Often they'll show up here on the blog before they're on Etsy, because I'll show progress shots here, and the Etsy listings have to wait for final glamour shots.