Monday, 31 December 2018

2018 - nearly done!

I swear the years begin to go by more quickly the older I get! I'm sure it took longer for a year to pass when I was younger.

This year has gone by fairly quickly and has been a full year for me. Back at the beginning of the year I decided to do some studying. I've always been interested in drawing and painting and a friend Arty Vicky told me about a course she has been studying for the last few years. It is through The Learning Connexion and has several different levels you can study. Having done hardly any drawing or painting I have been working my way through the New Zealand Certificate in Creativity Level 4 as a distance delivery student. Or an older term would be correspondence student. That is, I complete the work at home and it is reviewed by a tutor/mentor.

I also chose to do the course part-time over a year rather than for 6 months full-time. This works really well for me as although I can get to the campus doing the study from home fits in with my life better. It's an average of 3.5 hours five days a week. Of course you can work the hours out however you like so long as each hand-in you've completed seventy hours.

It sounds as though it should be easy, 17.5 hours per week, but honestly there were times when I found it difficult to fit it in with all the other claims on my time! I'm nearly there though. All the theory is completed and when I've done another seventy-odd hours I'll have reached the target for the number of hours required. I finish at the end of February so there's a bit of time left over summer to get those hours done.

I have done some sewing this year but not as much as I usually would. Part of the reason I am doing the course is to up-skill, to be able to draw designs more easily, if needed, for clients. So that has meant my focus has been on creativity in general rather than sewing.

I'm going to share some images of what I've been doing. Disclaimer:- I'm at the beginning of learning how to draw and paint so these are the results of some of my explorations in creativity.

One of the tasks is to create with soap using tools. I chose a woodcarving set of tools and carved the soap.

Then I made some prints with the soap. One thing I forgot about was the fact that the word needed to be in reverse/mirror image so it would read the right way round! All part of the learning 😀

I sketched this elephant at a series of classes I attended at Karori Arts and Crafts Centre earlier this year, where the tutor for the class I took was Helen Casey. There is much room for improvement but I was pretty happy with my effort.

Another of the tasks for the certificate course is to draw with your feet so this was a 5 minute drawing with my foot with charcoal dust.

The next few photos are of a mock-up skirt for a local dance studio. Last year our girls wore a similar skirt with the short side at one side of their hip. The skirts this year needed to be short at the front and long at the back. Front view . . .

View from the side . . .

And from the back.

Something else I've done this year is to mentor a young student with a couple of her projects for school. It is quite fun but also teaches me a lot as I learn how to more effectively communicate ideas and pass on knowledge.

I've made Mrs C a couple more dresses. One to the usual pattern . . .

The next had a slight change. No ties at the back, and a single layer more flared sleeve.

Here's a close up of the sleeve.

There were also a couple of skirts, one from a floral fabric . . .

And one from a mainly paisley print. The floral skirt is opened to it's full width and the paisley is folded in half.

Another course I took this year was Couture Beading and Embellishment run by Charlotte Appleby. It was something I had been wanting to do for a few years and when the chance came up it was too good to miss!

These are the different techniques we learned over the weekend. It was a challenge but great fun as well.

Lastly a toadstool I made from a cold porcelain soapy clay which I left to dry and then painted.

Just over the last few weeks I've been doing a bit more mentor work with a student helping him with a project he is working on. We started with hand stitching and will try sewing with a machine soon.

As well as the dresses above there is the costume I made for a performer and wrote a post about here.

I hope you've enjoyed looking at a little of what I've done this year. If you'd like to see more there are some other images on my personal blog here.

It is so close to the end of the year that I'll wish you a very happy New Year and all the best for 2019. I plan on getting more sewing done next year so will try to post more regularly. Fare thee well  😄

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

A cape and more

In March I was contacted by a performer, Awa, to see if I would be able to make a costume for a solo performance she was self-choreographing. The performance was to be at a gallery where there were works from a group of artists. I was pretty keen to take on the commission for a number of reasons. It sounded intriguing, it would challenge me and also Awa had contacted me because she had seen my card at The Fabric Warehouse. I asked if I could put one up there some time ago and am pretty pleased it was noticed!

We had an initial meeting to sort out a few details and I was able to get an idea of what was needed and the time frame. Awa is French and there was the occasional word I used that needed more explanation so it was a good lesson for me in making sure a client and I fully understand each other and are working towards the same end product! We arranged a time to meet up and look at fabrics and patterns. Awa had a clear concept of what she wanted for the costume which was great. The item needed was a cape.

The next time we met we looked at several different patterns. Unfortunately the one Awa chose wasn't at Spotlight but when I put the pattern number into google it showed it was at a place called Pattern Postie which I'd never heard of. They had it in stock and as soon as I got home I ordered the pattern. Delivery was really quick, great service! We also chose some fabric at the Fabric Warehouse that day.

Next up was a meeting to take Awa's measurements. At that meeting Awa asked if I could also make a pair of harem style pants and a unitard. I could!

One part of the brief for the cape was that it covered Awa's face for some of the performance. This got me thinking as to how best to achieve that look, and eventually I figured out I could just extend the low collar piece on the pattern. I draughted a pattern piece basing it on the measurements from the pattern.

Then I was able to go ahead with making a toile for the cape. In the photo below the pattern piece has been shortened and the white bit of paper is the front neck piece. Both back and front neck were printed on the same piece and since this was only the toile I didn't want to hack the neck out before I cut out the main fabric.

Harem pants not being something I generally wear I went looking on the internet and found quite a few helpful videos and this one is the one I liked the best. Once I'd watched it I found an old sheet and set to making a toile pair. I chose the old sheet as it was soft and I thought it would mimic the drape of lycra better than calico. In the photo below the curve is cut for the waist.

Measuring across for the leg openings.

The belt was going to be doubled over so was quite wide. I extended a belt from a dance pant pattern.

The cuff of the pants needed to be long as requested so I draughted a pattern for that. Here it is placed on the fabric that I have double folded so as to cut two at once. This is for the toile as well and I planned to re-use the cuffs for the actual pants.

The first fitting - the pants; as you can see there is only one cuff but that was enough to get the general idea that I was on the right track with Awa's ideas. They are very baggy. When I made the pants out of the grey fabric I had to reduce the length from the crotch to the bottom of the droop as they were a bit too baggy and restricted the movements Awa wanted to perform.

The toile of the cape. This is the concept Awa  described. The high collar was great and what she was wanting. I tried the cape on before the fitting and thought there was one area that may need adjusting and I was right. So I drew a curve at the back neck before I left as I thought if it was lower at the back neck it would allow more neck and head movement. Without the back neck being lowered the collar was quite close to the front of the face . . .

Here I've cut out the back neck and as I thought it allowed more head movement.

The next photo shows the adjustment to the pattern piece.

That done it was on to the actual making of the cape. I'd taken some of the depth off the hood as the original pattern had a more peaked back of the hood and Awa wanted a curved shape. After seeing the toile on I reduced the curve a bit more. The hood is still quite deep.

The neck piece all ready to attach to the main cape.

The hood all completed and ready to be attached. All the parts of the cape are lined with self-fabric. They needed to be dark so as not to be seen through. When I was deciding between lining and self-fabric I held both up to the light and self-fabric blocked more light so I went with that.

The pattern instructions were helpful in that they confirmed the order I thought I needed to construct the cape in. Quite a few of the things I make are one-off items and so I tend to wing it a fair bit and work it out as I go along. So much so that I sometimes forget when I do have pattern instructions to refer to! Here the collar and hood are attached to the cape and the collar facing is stitched down. I did this by hand as the less stitch lines showing the better I thought.

Once the cape was done it was on to the unitard. I did make a toile for that to check the fit. It was to be nude coloured and I found a good match for Awa's skin tone at Pete's Emporium. I showed her several other samples as well. I backed it with a good quality lining from Dance Fabrics Direct as the main lycra fabric is a looser one than I would usually use for dance wear.

I had just enough white bra-type elastic that I could dye to get a fairly good match. I put it in a solution of about 6 teabags - well, once the teabags were removed - and below is the result. It's a bit dark and orange since someone distracted me I forgot to set the timer and left it soaking longer than I meant to! A good rinsing took some of the dye out and then I soaked it in coffee dye which darkened it a bit and it was closer to Awa's skin tone 😃

Here are the pants before I added the waistband and leg cuffs. A very simple shape but quite a bit of fabric and the only space big enough to lay them out was outside . . . there were a few grandchildren around which = toys in the lounge! Once I'd taken the photo I noticed it looks as though multi-coloured gas is erupting from the pants . . . . It's a rainbow really 😉 😛 Note to self - pay attention to the background of the photo!

The leg openings were pretty wide and the cuffs were close fitting so I decided to pleat the fabric into the cuffs as they weren't going to stretch onto that width. It worked out well as Awa wanted the bagginess with the close-fitting long cuff.

Once we'd done the final fitting we realised some fabric needed to be taken out. Option one: Un-pick the over-locked on cuffs, reduce fabric on crotch area and stitch cuffs back on. Option two: Do a cheat by leaving the cuffs on and angling the cut from closer to the crotch to the cuffs. I went with option two as you can see. It was not noticeable and just looked like a seam if anyone looked that closely!

Here the unitard lining is laid out ready to cut. This pattern is a bit of a frankenpattern based on a barefoot costume I made for Locket. Her costume had an overdress, this one doesn't and it would have been better to put a gusset in the crotch as I usually do. The pattern worked ok and Awa was happy with it but the perfectionist in me didn't like how the seam was noticeable at the front. Always learning!

I attended Awa's last performance as I hadn't been able to go to the earlier ones due to other committments. Here is a screenshot of the Facebook event page

And here are some photos I was sent by Awa from the performances. I have a first name for some of them, and will add a last name when I receive it. Also the name for the other photographer if it is given to me.

Photo by Michael

The cape and pants from the front

Photo by Michael
From the back

Photographer not known

A view from the side with the high neckband

Photo by Michael

The pants once the cape was removed.

Photo by Michael

The unitard

I really enjoyed the performance and it was great to see the costume in action as well as to have played a small part in helping Awa's ideas come to fruition. I also enjoyed looking at the other artists' work that was in the exhibition space.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Swimming bags for the wee ones

At the end of last year I got busy making some Christmas presents for the grandchildren. If truth be told I did start them for Xmas 2016 but ran out of time so they got other things instead!

I started with a bag I made probably 20 years ago, a survivor from my children's growing up years. The one below was one of the girls' ones.

I took the basic measurements and then drew up a pattern. Very simple, a rectangle and a circle!

The pattern is above and is folded up at one end because I had just cut the nylon lining which is a bit shorter than the outer layer of fabric.

The base is a simple circle. So the bag is essentially a cylinder with a base.

The part I did get done in 2016 was the detail that I feel made the bags special. I asked what each child's favourite animal or character was and found some free colouring in images online. I bought some fabric markers and used them to make a patch for each bag. The pens worked well.

One thing I would like to make is a light box. It would make tracing images a lot easier. I used the good old-fashioned method of taping the fabric over the drawing on a window and going over the lines in pencil. I then carefully went over them with the marker pens.

I think they turned out pretty well! To add strength I placed a layer of white calico behind the natural coloured calico the pictures are on. I also thought this would block any of the patterns on the outer fabric of the bags showing through the calico.

I used some left over self-made bias binding to create a channel for the cord to go through. The boys ones were all different but the girls binding was the same as there was more of it left over. In the photo above I'm placing the picture mid-front on the bag. I did this on the outer layer only. I hoped this would retain some of the waterproof qualities of the nylon inner.

I basted the two layers of the bases together so they would be easier to manage when pinned and stitched to the main cylinder of the bag.

Stitching Sunshine's picture to her bag.

The loop for the cord to go through. I stitched it to the bag before I joined the base on.

Stitching the base to the bag. Lots of pins. I love these glass head pins. I know I've said it before and no doubt I'll say it again!

The inside of the bag. A bit wrinkled as I didn't think to take a photo at the time and this bag has been used by Mr Magoo as it is his. Here you can see how I made the lining slightly smaller than the outer layer.

Front of Mr Magoo's bag.

Back and cords of the bag

Mr Magoo modelling his bag. The bags are quite big on the wee ones just now but I made them to last a few years. Old habits die hard!

Mr Magoo turned 5 recently and had a pool party with his cousins and friends so I took the opportunity to take a photo of the girls bags, partly as I had none and also to show that they hold quite a bit.

Moneypenny told me she has washed the girls' bags quite a few times. I was very pleased to see the pictures do not look as though they have faded at all.

The grandbabies were all happy with their swim bags and they have come in handy for their school swimming lessons or trips to the pool.