Finished It Friday- What I did in my summer holiday, part 1

I thought it was high time I start showing you guys things that I’ve actually finished, especially with 15 in 2015, and I thought I’d start as pretty much every school English class ever has started, with a little bit about what I did over my summer break. In this case because one of the things I did was start AND finish the Wild Olive Summer Stitching Club wall hanging.

My completed embroidered and quilted wall hanging

it could also be used as a table runner or a placemat, but I like it as a wall hanging better.

I used all stash quilting fabric- and I don’t know whether this is a good thing (because I used some up) or a bad thing (because, well, it didn’t even DENT the stash).

I loved doing the embroideries. Each one was reasonably quick and simple to do, and I’m really pleased with how they turned out. It also allowed me to master french knots. I mastered them once before but that was ages ago and I had totally forgotten how I was supposed to do them. But see all the little eyes on the smiley faces? French knots.

 

Of course, my inability to leave any pattern alone came into play, and that’s why it’s ended up with four rows of embroidered hexagons instead of three. The happy little pohutukawa (New Zealand Christmas Tree), bottle of sunscreen (a must over here), the raincloud (also an inevitable part of the New Zealand summer), and the carved initials in the tree (yes, those are the Best Beloveds and my initials, and yes, I am a giant sap) are my additions.

The quilt construction is English Paper Piecing, which I had never tried before, but luckily the instructions in the pattern were very clear and easy to follow. If you happen to have a printer (I didn’t, and had to trace a bunch of hexagons on scrap paper to finish this), Mollie Johansen, the designer, has even produced a downloadable PDF of paper-piecing hexagons with little happy faces! Well hey, if you’re going to be doing THAT much hand-stitching, you might as well have fun with it, right? I found it very satisfying to make so much of this by hand, also I got to be a little fussy and make teeny little stitches to join the hexagons together.

I also enjoy needlefelting. I’m weird, OK?

If I made this project again (and this is a lesson I’ll be taking into the other quilt projects this year), I would’ve got some damn embroidery transfer paper, rather than using my usual technique of stitching the printed pattern straight to the fabric and then fiddling around for half an hour pulling little TINY BITS OF PAPER out of the stitches. It’s a good technique for embroidering on fabric where the pattern won’t show up as a transfer, but wasn’t ideal for embroideries this small and detailed.

The only bit of machine stitching I did on this was to attach the binding to the front of the quilt so I could handsew it in place onto the back (another thing I find oddly satisfying). Yes, I know it turned out a little wonky, but that just shows it was made by a person, not a machine. Except for that bit of machine stitching. That was made by a machine. But I digress.

I’m really happy with it, and looking forward to hanging it up so it can remind me of nice weather when it gets cold.

ABM_1420753771

Except the raincloud. But look how HAPPY the raincloud is! Of the patterns I came up with myself, that’s the one I’m most pleased with.

I’m also kind of glad I did that one direct on the fabric and not on paper, because getting the bits of paper out from under the raindrops would have been a TOTAL PAIN.

In conclusion- I had a lot of fun making this, I love the finished result, and I recommend you give Mollie Johansen’s blog and the Wild Olive Etsy shop a look if you’re after some stitching fun.

Tues-torial: Thrifty sewing

Something which comes up frequently in my conversations with sewers-to-be or aspiring crafters is cost. Obviously, in an ideal world, I would be writing this from a velvet-upholstered chaise longue, or possibly one of these, surrounded by bolts of silk crepe and rockabilly/geek fabric from Spoonflower (and not even the basic combed cotton either).  Even without those things,  I do, however, do pretty well for fabrics. Maybe they’re not designer, but I’ve been very proud of some of the things I’ve created. Today, I’d like to start sharing some of what I’ve learned about sourcing good sewing fabric for a good price. All you need is a little willingness to think outside the box (or in the case of thrift stores, the rack).

You may already be aware that most charity/thrift/op shops have a basket somewhere in the store full of remnants of fabric. Admittedly, a lot of it is weird late-80s bright coloured geometrics (or maybe that’s just New Zealand), and I’m not saying you can’t make some fun garments from the crazy prints, but if that’s not your thing you can still strike gold.

But it’s not the only place in the store you’ll find great fabric. In fact, it’s usually right next to my other big source of sewing material- the bedlinen section.  Flat sheets are one of my favourite sources of fabric, especially as I sew a fair few costumes that require a lot of fabric- and there’s a lot of fabric in your average sheet. I’ve made everything from Victorian skirts to medieval gowns, all from bedsheets:

Victorian skirt made of bed sheet Medieval dress made from bedsheets

 

If you like prints, rather than plain (and I share that, I have a big weakness for awesome print fabric as you’ll see in some of my project posts), don’t discount duvet covers. They come in a wide array of lovely and unusual prints, and it’s possible to have a lot of fun with them. For example, this dress used to be a Superman duvet cover:

ASASuperman Dress

If you can get the shape of a garment in your head (reading the pattern and getting your head around the pattern pieces is the big key here), you can have a lot of fun getting a big design to fit the shape.

Ebay (and if you’re in New Zealand, it’s equivalent TradeMe) can also be a great source of fabric- the prices run the gamut from a dollar or two to super fancy expensive, but as with physical rummaging at a thrift store, if you’re willing to put the scrolling work in, the reward is finding some great fabric at good prices.

Of course it’s not just about the fabric- most op-shops will have a bunch of vintage notions, and this can be a great way to stock up on unusual/vintage buttons and embellishments, embroidery thread and the more basic stuff- hooks and eyes, presser-studs and zips are all things I’ve picked up this way, and had no problems using. There’s one exception when it comes to thrifting notions and that’s sewing thread- thread can age, and old thread is much more likely to break, and break quickly- not what you want when sewing. But other than that, the thrift store is your oyster when it comes to fabric.

How about you? Where would you recommend looking for thrifty sewing gold? What great finds have you hit on, and what did you do with them? Let me know in the comments!