Friday, August 24, 2012

My Neighbourhood, Part 1

This morning after getting into work early, I grabbed the camera and headed out to take some photos of my neighbourhood. I live and work in my favourite part of Wellington - the neighbourhood immediately around Cuba St. I have always loved this part of town, and although it has changed a lot in the last 30 years, it still has the same heart and soul.
This is Marion St, home to Made on Marion, my shop. It is only one block long, but it is very famous - for being a place to 'procure' at night! These days however it is a design hub, with architects, interior designers, kitchen shops etc...
 There we are close up! The sun is in the wrong place to get a nice exterior shot, but there we are. Next to the Theosophical Society in the little temple type building next door. We're not open yet so the bunting isn't out. It's very pretty and I get lots of inquiries wanting to buy it. I should do a class...
 And this red building, visible at the end of the street shot, is the Victoria University of Wellington School of Design. This, and Massey University's Design school a few blocks over, comprise a big part of our customer base. We love our students so much; their ideas, passion, commitment and talent blows us away.
This is 1 Marion St, at the other end to the first photo. All of that exterior detail is trompe de l'oeil paintwork! Home to Eleanor Steel Design, which is a gorgeous shop run by a gorgeous woman, it is also a famous Wellington landmark. The commemorative 'lady of the night' is one of the most famous pieces of public art in the city.
Anyway, Marion St runs parallel to the mighty Cuba St, and so I head across the road and down Swanns Lane, which joins the two together. 
Looking back towards the shop, you can see our big orange sign! This was, of course, totally intentional!
 Swanns Lane is home to some of my favourite neighbours. 
 Duke Carvell's Swanns Lane Emporium is asleep at this time of day - it comes alive later, with its own indoor/outdoor area, sidewalk tables, candles and music.
 The Met Shop's Terry and Moa! Terry and Sue turned a shop dedicated to selling MAPS into a quirky, irresistible gift shop. It is the home of all things slightly sciency, too. And they are lovely neighbours. Terry didn't even protest at having his photo taken!
This?!?!?!? This is the junk store. The guy who owns the building is a collector of stuff, and this little shop is chock full of ...well, rubbish really. It's not a working shop. Such a pity, as we would love another live neighbour. But, it is a fascinating place to peer into and try to identify all of its contents!
 On the corner of Swanns Lane and Cuba St, is Floriditas. My favourite cafe, where I frequently buy my morning flat white. This shop was the previous location of Made on Marion's predecessor, Golding Handcrafts. 12 years ago, Goldings moved to Marion St, and Florries moved in.
This is the counter top in Florries, over which I order coffee WITHOUT CAKE. Yes, this is as difficult as you imagine. I do sell the same cupcake papers, btw! (OK, sometimes, just sometimes, I choose the 'with cake' option. They make this pear, almond & caramel tart...)

And that is a tiny bit of my urban paradise. More to come!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Emma & Michael Quilt revealed!

This is the finished quilt. Sue quilted it for me with musical notes, so preetty!
MrC is holding it up - it's about 150cm square (5 ft x 5 ft).

 And THIS is the back. I got this hilarious Wizard of Oz panel fabric recently, because it was on special. It is so bad, it's good!!
I used up all of the extra bits to make the back big enough.
 The binding fabric was the one that didn't end up in the quilt itself - it is covered in punctuation marks.
I do so love it! And so do they. Even though they only got it for one night before having to give it back to me so I can display it for a while in the shop! heehee!
Quilters are notorious for this - because our work is sometimes needed for talks, exhibitions and classes. We always give them back however...eventually!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Day off!

Tuesday is my day off. I love it and make the most of the whole day. Starting with my blog catch up and breakfast, then getting ready to head out. Out can include coffee with a friend (my favourite thing!), shopping, walking on the beach - anything that is fun, relaxing and active.
Today's day off involved enjoying a slice of the boiled fruit cake I made last night.
And yes, it is as delicious as it looks :)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Emma and Michael Quilt

One of the best ways I know to tell friends I love them is to make them a quilt. On a less altruistic level, giving quilts to others means I don't have a house taken over by them!
When I make a quilt for a friend, I often think about it for weeks or even months - what colours and prints to use mostly. The actual arrangement of the patches is not as important to me as the fabrics and colour. I just worked that out, cool!!
Ever since Lonely Heart, I have wanted to make Emma and Michael a quilt.
Emma and Michael at the piano during Lonely Heart rehearsals.
I love these guys so much and I know they would appreciate a bold colour scheme and a bit of tongue in cheek fabric choice.
The fabrics all have meaning specific to Emma and Michael. This is a couple who are a musical director with a passion for movies, and an actor with a love of clothes who also writes scripts. Both love their family and friends and each other dearly. I wanted to capture all of these ideas.
Block 1 from top left clockwise - Dorothy's Ruby slippers. Gorgeous dresses, Family and Friends text print, theatre masks and keyboards.
Block 2 - Gone with the Wind, musical notes, chandelier print from Phantom of the Opera range, love hearts and birds, film strip print.
These two 20" blocks are alternated and rotated.
Here they are arranged but not yet sewn up. That is tomorrow's job.
I love how the red, black and white with a hint of gold works so well together. Auditioning* a quilt online** is quite tricky as the colours and scales of print are so hard to judge. However, I find that colour schemes like red and black are safest to do, as they are fairly fail safe.
I also love this really simple pattern with its big 9x9 and 9x12 and 3x20 pieces as they really show off the fabrics, and these fabrics all need to have a few lines and a walk in part, or there would be a lot of sulking!
Next time, putting it together. :)

*Auditioning a quilt is the process of selecting which fabrics to include and which not. Much like a play audition! I may have to blog about this concept some other time...
**I only buy fabrics offshore that I cannot source here in the local shops. If we don't support them, we will lose them!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

How to make a Felt Rose

OK peops, here it is. I made one last night and my sister Jo obligingly took photos and VIDEO of the process. Oh yes, we are overcoming all manner of technophobia to bring this tutorial to you :)
You need:
100% wool felt, the best kind being the soft thick type. Ours is Nepalese. In Rose colour and leaf colour. 30cm (12") square of felt makes two roses easily, with felt to spare for another project!
Matching threads and a needle
A brooch back or an alligator clip, depending on whether you want to pin it to your hat or lapel, or wear it in your hair like I do :)
And that's it!
Cut out the three rose pieces and the leaf pattern from the felt. (Email me for a pdf of the pattern - I cannot find a way to link it as yet!)
(the bud shape changed a little during the process and so the pattern is different from the photo)
Curl the rounded side of the bud around the flatter side, like in the photo. Put a couple of stitches through the bottom with a doubled thread (I tie off the thread end and after the first stitch, pass through the knotted end so it doesn't pull through). Wind the thread around the base a couple of times, knot off and cut.
Now you need to start stretching the two big petal pieces, starting with the smaller one, along the "convex" side. Stretch firmly between your fingers a small section... a time. Stretch, move along, stretch again...
...keep'll definitely notice that the edge will start to petal outwards under your fingers...
The sculpted piece. It is curving so much now it looks like a circle! This gives the rose that natural shape.
Now, with a nice long doubled thread, knotted and looped through at the beginning, put a running stitch through the unstretched edge. Stitches should be around a quarter inch, but don't have to be perfect or even at all.. Pull up the stitching as shown in the photo above, to about one third of the original size. Actually with such thick felt, it's hard to pull it up much more anyway, so let the felt guide you.
This is how it looks gathered up. Now we're going to use the same thread to start sewing it to the bud and form the rose.
OK, now I am trying a video for the first time. Eep! I think the process of curling the petal piece around the bud and sewing it down as you go is best seen in motion.
'Scuse all the noise in the background, it's not related to the video. It's the other ladies in my stitching group chatting. :)
Once that petal is all sewn on, knot it off. Rethread, and do the same thing with the larger petal. Start it on the opposite side of the rose to the end point of the smaller one.
Now the leaves. Cut them out,and stretch the sides a little. I also did a running stitch up the centre and then back down on each leaf, and pull it up just a little, to give the leaves a bit of a curl as shown above.
Put the leaves on the bottom side of the rose (which I just realised I didn't photograph!! ARGH! It is flattish if you've done it right!) and stitch into place with a few stitches.
Tie the thread off and snip, and here you are! A twin for my first rose. All you now need to do is to sew a brooch pin or alligator pin onto the back.
The great thing about these roses is that if you don't like how it is sitting, you can quickly pull the stitching out and redo it.
Variations: I am going to make a purple one to go with may many purple clothes, and I am going to try needle felting a little darker purple wool onto the edges of the petals as if it is a variegated rose. You could blanket stitch the top edge, or do the three pieces in slightly different shades of one colour (although the felt colour range isn't all that subtle).
I hope that all helps, do ask questions so I can back fill any gaps in the instructions :)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Analysis Paralysis - through sewing.

Gosh I love sewing. I cannot imagine life without it. It infiltrates everything I am and do. It has derailed my corporate career, even! (No great loss to either side, that)
I get a huge kick out of meeting people interested in learning to sew, whether they are still trying to work out how to operate the sewing machine, or are up to drafting and adjusting patterns. If I can pass on some skills, or pick some up, I'm a happy person!
There is one aspect of the sewing/blogging community however that concerns me. It's the assumption that learning technical skills as if by rote, is the way to go. It's been on my mind for a while, and then a recent post or two on Gertie's Blog really brought it home to me. Gertie has made a perfectly sensible call on adjusting the muslin for her latest make, and is sharing the process. But reading the comments, the confusion seems to be rife. Much of it seems to be based upon adhering to 'rules' out of books about drafting patterns.
Patterns, schmatterns. They are 2 dimensional bits of paper or whatever, and their primary purpose is to make cutting out the fabric simpler- they provide a secondary role only in fitting. IMHO.
Making all of one's adjustments to the pattern, as is often taught in books and courses, is so counter intuitive to the learning process. I feel strongly that the natural way to learn is to try things on, tweak and play and see what works. If you're going to make a muslin anyway, why not make it do most of the work?
Here are my tips on how to take a bunch of the analysis paralysis out of fitting, and free up some of that intelligent solution finding we sewists have in abundance! I'm using as an example a fitted bodice with sleeves, but the principles apply to any garment.
1. Check the pattern (if it's a bought one) for ease. Measure the bust and hips (most patterns have a spot on the centre front panel) Actually, I'm not going to explain it here because Gertie did an excellent post explaining it here!
2. Cut out a muslin (toile/mock up, call it what you will) and draw all the darts, dots etc onto it with an easy to see pen. Forget about facings, you don't face a muslin using this method. You can even. trim off the seam allowances on the neckline, to see how it will lie in the finished piece, if you like
3. Baste it together by hand - this I cannot stress enough. Baste in any darts. Join bodices at side seams and princess seams (if appropriate), but just pin the centre back and shoulder seams. DO NOT ADD SLEEVES. (I'm using caps because these points are ones that are often not noticed!)
4. Put any ease or gathers into the sleeve head, and sew one only sleeve up on the machine with a long stitch. DO NOT ADD TO BODICE. Am I making sense? You are building the separate components of  your bodice, using easy to remove stitching, and leaving off finishing details like facings and bindings.
5. Now, try it on INSIDE OUT. This means that you can easily get at the seams to repin them, rip the stitching out and slide them sideways a bit, that kind of thing. This freedom is essential for getting the most out of a muslin. The pinned shoulder thing is because one of the most common adjustments I have found is the shoulder seam, and this makes it super easy to do anything you have to do.(I can't tell you in a blogpost how to know what to do here, but this is where the learning about fitting happens!)
6. If your dress has sleeves,  pull the single muslin sleeve on and pin it into the armscye in just a couple of places. All you want to know is, is it wide enough, deep enough etc. and whether to adjust the armscye.
7. Now, use your pen to write on, mark etc all the adjustments. Then you can quickly press the whole thing, flatten it out and transfer the adjustments to the pattern.

Look I know this is a bit "It's all very well!," but if you are a careful musliner and struggling to get the adjustments you need into the flat pattern, do try this. It frees up your mind to use the knowledge that you have, and put it into a practical context!
Lastly, a good tip for saving time is to baste the muslin sleeve into the bodice of the actual dress and check for fit. Then you can adjust the sleeve pattern if needed. Saves making another muslin when extensive adjustments needed to be made to the first muslin.
Well, there you go. Next time I get my hands on a muslin, I'll get some pics. I just didn't want to wait until then to get this info out there!

Roses are red...

At work, we've all gone a bit felting mad! It all started because I found a source of the most exquisite, 100% Nepalese wool felt. Coloured sliver, felting needles and foams and the whole regalia soon followed.
Anyway, last night at our weekly Wednesday craft group after my sewing machine decided not to play nicely with the project I intended to work on, I decided to have a play, and made a red rose for my hair out of the wool felt instead.
It is cut and shaped by hand, and came together quite quickly. No felting required in the end, but the soft, thick felt moulds beautifully into shape.

I love it! :) And I still have enough red felt left over to make another one, and this time take some photos of the process, and even make a pattern!
(Note: seeing my grey hair in a photo is quite the challenge! I am torn between colouring it out and sticking to my "grow old gracefully" stance.What to do?! Is anyone else in this bind?)