Monday, 27 January 2014

Megan & Her Pumpkins - Art Doll Art Quilt

Trying something new can be really refreshing. A change of technique and focus to work on something a little bit different has had me dragging out my sketchbooks again along with my paints and pastels, and without me having to give up my beloved needles and thread. I don’t usually sketch out my ideas for my dolls unless I’m trying to work out a certain pattern, and have a small book in my sewing box just for that. And it’s been so long since I drew anything properly and not just doodled that at first I found it slow going. I mean, your hands are supposed to do as you tell them too, right?
And my new Appliqué Wall Hanging has turned out just as I wanted it too J
Megan and her pumpkins went from my scrappy doodles to a full blown large pencil drawing. From fabric to paint and back again to fabric my ideas have lead me a merry dance until I could work out just how I wanted her to look. And I’ve re-discovered skills and techniques I’ve not used since I was small and pinching things out of my Mothers sewing basket. (I even got to use an old reel of chocolate brown thread that was snaffled from Mam’s basket and has been in every sewing box I’ve had J)
What I wanted was a way to use those lovely small scraps of fabric your left over with once you’ve finished with larger projects. I just can’t bear to throw them away and really needed to find a good use for them before my scrap box exploded all over my house.
I’m not a huge fan of patchwork on a large scale but wanted to work in the flat rather than in 3D so that I could introduce something New to my shop. Something different and a new challenge for the new year. And appliqué is one of those scary techniques that would normally have me turning around and doing something different instead. You now the ones. The techniques that turn out to be a flipping nightmare. Fiddly and complicated and totally a pain in the bum. But I’ve worked before in paper piecing and love the look that you can get with different texture and pattern so thought I’d give it a go.
I was so glad that I did. It was so much easier than I remembered it and after a quick look around the internet I found the right way of doing it for me. Now I’m a hand sewer, and I find sewing machines really scary things. The only one I was ever able to use successfully was a battered old electric Singer that died a respectable death many many years ago. But I was given a nice simple Toyota machine by a very nice gentleman who’s wife had had to move to a care home and wanted it to go to a good home. So I’ve been determined to learn and get myself sewing in straight lines using it at least. As I got everything ready to start on my Megan I decided that I would be hand appliquéing the picture to a calico background as there was no way I was going to be able to do all the tiny fiddly details by machine, and then I’d frame and back the piece using the machine with a wadding layer in between to make my very first Art Doll Art Quilt J
Because it wasn’t something that would be worn or would need any flexibility I used an iron on interfacing to back each of the pictures pieces. Tracing them all directly onto the shiny glue side of the interfacing so that my picture didn’t flip over. I cut them out and used a dry hot iron to attach the bits to the back of the fabrics I wanted to use (which made the cut out pieces the right way around). Next I traced my design onto a sheet of tracing paper so that I had a guide to work from, and traced the design onto my calico background so I could see where the first pieces needed to be attached.
Each separate bit of the design I then attached by carefully placing the pieces and using my needle as my only tool gently tucked under the fabric allowance I left around my cut out pieces and sewed them all into place, building up the layers. Once all my pieces were attached I added embroidery in a mix of threads to decorate and define the edges, adding veins to leaves, moss and grasses around the ground and detail to the pumpkins and the little girls face.
Megan is now available for sale at my shop –
Megan’s favorite time of year is Autumn. She loves to sit among the Pumpkins and talk to them as they grow, and she’s already selected which one she’ll carve into her Halloween Lantern. Her sisters don’t understand Megan’s love of this season as they all love a different time of year. But Megan loves the crisp sound of dry fallen leaves and the warm dark earth beneath her hands. Here she is sitting in her favorite spot hidden behind the biggest pumpkin in the patch enjoying the late warm sun.

Megan is made using a mixture of fabrics (silks, cottons, and synthetics) appliquéd to a canvas background. Each shape you see has been cut from fabric and attached, along with a mixture of embroidery threads and sewing cottons in many decorative embroidery stitches sewn on top of the pieces to decorate them. The eyes are re-purposed buttons from my collection, and I’ve added paints and pastels to shade and tint some of the parts. I’ve framed this piece using vintage silk fabric and backed it in cotton with wadding in between. She’s all ready to hang on a wall or door and hopefully brighten your days.

This piece measures approx. 38cm by 34cm

Monday, 20 January 2014

Megan With Pumpkins and Katrina

It’s been a productive week when I look back at it. But at the time I thought I was getting nowhere very fast at all.
Isn’t that an odd feeling :S
I’ve spent much of this past week working on my second appliqué piece and I’m really pleased with how she’s turning out. My little Megan with her pumpkins just needs a few more touches before I can frame and add it to a padded background. And I really hope she’ll be well received when I list her.
My plan is to scan the finished Megan so that I’m able to order postcards and make it available in different formats. I also want to try printing onto fabric so that I can add embroidery details and make smaller versions at a more reasonable cost to give everyone a chance to own her if they’d like too. The original piece is quite large and I’ve spent a long time designing and then sewing her so I was thinking a more cost friendly version would be nice too. If you have any ideas of how you’d like to see my appliqué designs let me know. I’m always happy to hear what ideas other people have J
I’ve spent the last three days working on a custom order doll for the lovely Ashley at Mystic Magic Masquerade -
I’ve been working on Katrina’s underwear for a while now. Making her layers and layers of petticoats trimmed in lace so that she’ll have a full domed skirt without the stiffness of a crinoline so that she can be easily handled and carried. And I’ve had a long wait while I found, ordered and then waited for things to be delivered for her. If you’ve ever seen the film Sleepy Hollow you’ll be able to get an idea of the type of dress I’m making (and if you’ve not seen it I highly recommend it J). The wicked stepmother wears a white dress at the end of the film that has a black lace net overlay. And that’s just the look that Ashley has asked for.
I’ve changed the design so that our Katrina (Yes I know that that is the daughters name but she likes it) has sleeves more in a Marie Antoinette sort of style with floppy lace cuffs at the elbow. And her skirts are being made in two layers for a full look that can cope with the weight of beading and jewels that I’ll be adding. I’ve got her bodice and sleeves fitted and am working on her skirts now. Her gown is made from a slightly stiff cream colour silk taffeta underneath and this wonderful lace that I had to order from Hong Kong. Surprisingly the lace net doesn’t have too much stretch in it and behaved very well after I tacked it to the silk at intervals to keep it still.
To get the look that we want getting the lace attached to the skirt pieces before I sewed them up was very important and involved about 400 pins!!!
I had to lay the silk out onto a rug to give me something to stick pins into. Then lay the lace over it and use the pins to attach it to the lace at every thicker point in the lace (rows of 10 to 12 across the skirt length – narrower point – on the wider under strip).
After carefully lifting it, turning it over and pulling through every pin in the hopes that it would hold I carefully tacked the lace to the silk from the reverse side, removing the pins as I went. It was a long process but very worth it to get the lovely even finish to things. The lace has such a weight that when I moved Katrina around when I had the fabrics pinned to her for a trial and had left the lace loose the lace fell forward and bunched up. Now that it’s attached at different points it stays where it should and I’ve been able to fold the hem behind the silk and attach it to the back of the hem to make a neat finish.
I‘m really enjoying making this doll as I’ve learnt how to do things I would have avoided in the past, and have been able to solve problems I’ve not come across before. Katrina will be accompanied by a model wearing one of Ashley’s fantastic outfits on the catwalk of Norfolk Fashion week and I’m so excited J She’ll even be on the tele J!
I can’t wait to see how Ashley uses my work in his wonderfully creative fashion shoots too J I’m such a lucky girl xxx

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Applique, Taxes and Petticoats

Like most people I know I hate paperwork. Especially when it comes to doing my taxes :S

My day job thankfully means I'm used to paperwork and filing so it's more of a boring experience than anything else, but this year instead of spending days together working at it I split it into sections and have done it all over three weekends. I have to say it's been so so much easier. I've hardly noticed all the fuss and bother that comes with doing it normally. Now I just have to wait for the bill!!!

One creative thing I have managed is that I finished my first fabric collage of this little vampire :)
I  made her to try out some ideas I've been having for gentler, more story book look; a portrait or picture made of fabric and trims. She came out nicely and looks quite sweet. And I'm really quite proud of myself :)
She's off to a young lady to decorate her Vampire Diaries bedroom, and I hope she enjoys her as much as I did making her. I'm already started on sketches for another character and hope to start a girl in a pumpkin patch soon.

My work on Victoria continues slowly with layers of petticoats and lace, ruffles and pleats. She's looking quite pretty, and I'm working now on her final petticoat in a dark grey paisley fabric that will have rows and rows of ruffles at the hem to help shape and control the train on her final gown.

To help with the shaping I made this petticoat from off white fine cotton and added a panel of silk taffeta to the front, trimmed with delicate lace at the hem with the top trimmed with a tight gathered ruffle of more lace.

I wanted to make sure that the front of her dress would stay quite flat until the next layer is added as that's the one that will add the bulk to the hem.
The silk was such a pleasure to work with and I found the taffeta really forgiving, which surprised me. I'd always thought it would be a difficult fabric to work with, but I'll definitely be using it again.

Behind her waist I've added layers of pleating as I attached the petticoat to start adding the bulk I need for the bustle shape. I don't want to add a stiff hard cage bustle. Something about Victoria always makes me think she would have insisted in some comfort even when dresses for state occasions, so I'm going to build up the shape with the softer layers and maybe a ruffles tie on bustle under this layer if the dress fabric adds a lot of weight and pulls the shape out.

The back of the hem is made up of a wide band of box pleated taffeta which covers about 3/4 of the whole hem around. The fabric holds the creases wonderfully and the shape is holding very well.
I may need to add some stiffening under the tight lace ruffle to ensure the shape holds up under the weight of the next layers, but I don't want to add a wire. I want my Victoria to sit as she does in the portrait of her I'm using as my inspiration. And I'm hoping I can get all the details I'd like.

I hope the start of your year is going well and :)