• Dresses

    Cheap as chips

    almond rock polyester anna ka bazaar simplicity 2444

    I don’t like the word cheap.

    It’s too hard to distinguish between using it to indicate loss cost and implying low quality these days. People say you get what you pay for but I have often found amazing quality fabric at lower prices. And worse, the same fabric for frustratingly different prices.

    almond rock polyester anna ka bazaar simplicity 2444

    For instance my elephant print cotton lawn was £4.99 a metre but I’ve seen it listed for £14 a metre on other sites.

    Part of me wonders if the cheaper fabric is a knock off of the more expensive. If I had only ever seen the lawn listed at £10 + I would have accepted that was its value. But maybe the seller I bought from was massively undercutting the market to secure sales?

    I often project a perceived value on fabric if it feels nice or worse if the print sends my heart racing. I’ll put it up on a pedestal and have to will myself into cutting into it. But thats not to say I wouldn’t turn down fabric if the price seemed unfair. I’m still a fickle consumer, driven in some part by a sense of value: Even if the quality and longevity of my clothes is higher by making them myself I still need to justify my hobby from a price perspective.

    Who knows.
    It’s been playing on my mind though.

    almond rock polyester anna ka bazaar simplicity 2444

    So what am I sharing today. A polyester dress in an amazing triangle print called constellation.

    I love the colours in the print. It’s like my dream design – geometric, repeating, with coral and teal.

    almond rock polyester anna ka bazaar simplicity 2444

    Here’s the kicker… The fabric was £15 a metre. With a discount code I got it for £11. Maybe you think this polyester looks worth that price? Or maybe you think polyester in any format screams cheap and nasty.

    Granted, the fabric is prone to turning static and needed a fine sharp needle during construction. It’s actually slightly thinner than regular polyester, more like a peachskin weight that lifts with a slight breeze. But I still love it.

    I bought it from Anna Ka Bazaar the Paris-based fabric shop last year –  sadly for me, I had to buy over the Internet instead of making a trip in person. One day though.

    almond rock polyester anna ka bazaar simplicity 2444

    The pattern is my one true love; a Simplicity 2444 bodice and gathered skirt. I altered the neckline and armholes to use bias binding and left the whole dress unlined. Made it super quick to sew! My overlocker kept everything tidy inside.

    So there you have it! Would you ever pay £15 for polyester? Ever seen a fabric priced significantly higher or lower than you bought it for?

  • Selfless sewing,  Tops, blouses and shirts

    Bits and Bobbins

    Gosh it’s been ages since I last posted.
    I get this horrible feeling when I don’t post during a week. Let’s remedy that!

    I’ve been sewing like a maniac lately and have a big queue of things to show you in the next few weeks. I’ll start by sharing a few things today.

    First up are a couple of work tops that are modest and smart but still a bit fun and go with jeans. It’s the “I’m so cute, don’t you want to let me standardise your product and put it in a media neutral content management system” look. Snappy eh?

    almond rock new look 6148 squirrel rabbit crepe

    So here we have a yoke-less new look 6148 in ex-Dorothy Perkins crepe with awesome squirrel and rabbit print. I picked this up from Goldhawk Road a couple of summers ago and as soon as I was on the train home regretted only buy 1m.

    And my firm favourite, new look 6808 in red and cream polyester. I’m not falling into the trap of calling it tribal, ohhhhhh no. This fabric was one of my bargain Birmingham Rag Market purchases that I recently shared on Instagram.

    almond rock new look 6808 tribal polyester

    I thought I try the 6808 sleeves on the 6148 as well and wahey they fit all right! Maybe even a bit better than they fit the pattern they came with!?

    Moving along… a few weeks ago my friends had the fright of their lives. Their baby who hadn’t quite finished cooking, arrived 8 weeks early weighing in at a teeny 2 lbs. After some love and attention she’s been beefed up enough to be at home with her family.

    As a baby gift I made the Dylan Onsie pattern (babygrow to all us Brits) from Spit Up and Stilettos – it was free for some time but appears to now be priced. I also snaffled the Drew leggings pattern while they were free and they also seem pretty cool too for an easy baby gift.

    almond rock dylan onesie babygrow spit up and stilettos metallic gold hot pink jersey

    The pattern includes “preemie” size for teeny babies just like Baby Amber. I used some garish but fun hot pink and metallic gold jersey from Birmingham rag market with some jersey bias tape and a bit of velcro from Samuel Taylors, and whipped it up on my overlocker. It’s definitely opinion dividing but I knew if anyone would get a kick out of this, it would be Tom and Helen, and I love that Amber is disco-ready.

    Finally I made a little tool and pencil case ready for my pattern drafting class! What a geek, I know. This is the “Develop” Pattern Drafting and Garment Design evening course that I’m doing through Leeds Art College just like my Textile printing course.

    The notes advise bringing basic sewing supplies, plus basic pencil kit so I had to make the pouch quite big. It’s about A5 sized.

    almond rock vintage sewing pattern tshirt transfer paper zipper pouch

    I printed a black and white image from a vintage sewing pattern onto tshirt transfer paper. I used some cotton canvas for the pouch and an invisible zipper. Here’s a good tutorial for pouches with regular zips. Easy for anyone to do, whether they’re a newbie or an old pro.

    Isn’t she working that dress? She’s giving me Liz Taylor vibes.

    Now that I’ve broken the silence, look forward to a few more posts from me soon!

  • Events and day trips

    Textile Printing at Leeds Art College

    Hello everyone!
    I thought it was about time for a full round up of my Textile Printing course. This is going to be picture heavy I’m afraid and I’ve not even included all the pictures!

    almond rock textile printing leeds art college

    Weeks 1 and 2 we worked with disperse printing using heat set dyes on man made fabrics. Using paper soaked in dye and a giant heatpress, I played with geometric shapes on coloured polyester and crepe.

    almond rock textile printing leeds art college

    almond rock textile printing leeds art collegealmond rock textile printing leeds art college

    Week 3 we made paper stencils using scalpels and when taped to mesh screens we could pull binder ink through onto any fabric we liked. Mine was an utter disaster due to poor squeegee technique and rubbish stencil.

    Week 4 was about free form painting direct onto a screen using Procion reactive dyes. I printed a splatter print onto cotton lawn and silk.

    almond rock textile printing leeds art college

    Weeks 5 and 6 we prepped for future sessions by coating screens in light sensitive emulsion and thanks to a huge light box we exposed imagery onto the mesh. We drew the images in thick black pen to act as positives and when the screen was exposed the black areas washed away creating a negative that would allow ink to pass through in just those areas. I chose pineapples!!

    almond rock textile printing leeds art college

    While our screens set we also dyed silk, satin, velvet and cotton in big pans using tiny amounts of dye and lots of hot water. Excitingly I also got to use the digital printers while our fabrics soaked! I printed 1.5m of paper crane print cotton drill and 1.5m of painterly triangle print silk.

    almond rock textile printing leeds art college

    almond rock textile printing leeds art college

    Week 7 was the start of my pineapples adventures! We pulled binder ink through our screens onto any fabrics we wanted. I chose to print fluorescent pink ink on white cotton and crepe de chine and black ink on brown polyester.

    almond rock textile printing leeds art college

    almond rock textile printing leeds art college

    Week 8 we tried discharge screenprinting where a smelly seaweed-based paste bleaches the colour from dyed fabric. As well as devore printing which removes cellulose fibres leaving the man made fabric base behind – e.g removing the nap from velvet to create a relief. I used my pineapple screen again to discharge print on my dyed cotton and silk. And freestyled a brush painted devore print on my dyed satin and velvet.

    almond rock textile printing leeds art college
    almond rock textile printing leeds art college

    Weeks 9 and 10 I decided to expose a new screen with hummingbirds and printed onto some colourful viscose. I printed teal ink on pink and pink ink on purple. Plus I had time for a sneaky little bit more disperse printing.

    almond rock textile printing leeds art college

    It was such a wonderful course, I’m actually a little sad I can’t repeat it next term but I’ve already signed up to a pattern drafting course.

    Here are the details for Textile Printing: The course I did was a short evening course run by Leeds Art College, over 10 weeks for 2.5hrs. The tutor is Kirstie Williams who also runs independent print courses.

    The course costs £185 with all materials provided but you bring extra if you want to print something specific.

    I ended up with enough fabric for 3 dresses, 4 tops, and plenty of A2 pieces for tote bags or small garments – silk pineapple knickers perhaps?!

    The new term starts in a couple of weeks so I suggest you sign yourself up asap if you’re interested!

    almond rock textile printing leeds art college

  • Tops, blouses and shirts

    What noise do swans make?

    Happy Sunday everyone!

    almond rock sew over it pussy bow blouse swans

    Here’s a post about two things.

    First up – This Sew Over It Pussy Bow Blouse!

    I used a fab swan print polyester from Regency Rags.

    almond rock sew over it pussy bow blouse swansYou can probably see I’ve made a few adjustments.

    I got rid of the centre front seam. That made it a little hard to attach the necktie so I added a little keyhole. Plus I tried adding some bust darts because my muslin turned out a little too floaty but they’re a touch high because I didn’t test them out before cracking into the swans.

    almond rock sew over it pussy bow blouse swans

    But seriously I love it! It’s cute (albeit sheer) and it makes me feel a bit like Rose Byrne in Damages (which I’ve been binge watching). Plus it sort of reminds me of my Godson who has been learning animal noises and is obsessed with ducks. You say “All the ducks go…” and he screams “QUACK”. Mega cutes.

    almond rock sew over it pussy bow blouse swans

    I’ve just finished another version in disco gold chiffon for going out in. I’ll see if I can get a photo without the metallics sunbeaming everywhere.

    Second up! I’ve got something fun to share.

    I’ve started an evening course in textile printing at Leeds Art College. I’m like totally an art student heehee!!

    almond rock discharge printing leeds art college

    It’s a 10 week course covering:

    • Heat transfer printing (disperse printing)
    • Discharge printing (with basic dyeing)
    • Screen printing with paper stencils
    • Screen printing with photo emulsion stencils
    • Devore
    • Hand painted prints
    • PLUS I GET TO USE THE DIGITAL PRINTERS WOOOOOO!!!

    Ahem… So weeks one and two were about heat set discharge printing where we used dyes and a 200 degree heat press to print on synthetic fabrics. We also got to play with resists, putting objects in the way between the dyes and fabric.

    It works really well with geometric shapes. And I’ve got enough printed fabric to make two tops.

    almond rock discharge printing leeds art college almond rock discharge printing leeds art college almond rock discharge printing safety pins leeds art college

    Next week we’re using paper stencils and screenprinting onto A2 pieces of cotton.

    So I’ll update you again with my progress soon!

  • Fabric

    Fabric Shopping Adventures!

    Hello lovely Readers! I hope you’ve had a great week.

    I’ve had two fantastic weekends in a row that I wanted to share. And both involved fabric shopping!

    Last weekend I mentioned I was in London. The trip was centred around a lovely friend’s 30th birthday. I also got to see some of my family and go to the ballet. All excellent activities!

    cafe

    On the Monday before I left for home I snuck in a little bit more fun in the shape of a Goldhawk Road trip with some famous sewing faces. I put a call out on twitter for London-based sewists who’d be free for shopping on a Monday and who replies? Only flipping Lizzie who was going to be visiting the UK and free to meet up!

    Even better, Rachel, Fiona, Inna and Alana were also free for a shopping jaunt. It had been ages since we last caught up with each other.

    We combed the shops for bargains and then had a lovely gossip over lunch in a funny little cafe (Rachel’s photo above). Monday was the day that Fiona’s first Mood post went live and also the day the Project Sewn results were announced! Talented ladies.

    P1060066 P1060058 P1060055

    Excellent London buys – Deer print Georgette, Geometric Cotton Sateen and Fabulous Swimming Ladies Polycotton.

    This weekend was just as good. I got to catch up with Sabs, Kat, Marie, Helen, Roisin and Claire in Birmingham.

    We enjoyed the Rag Market, the brilliant Barry’s and the Fancy Silk Store. Our lunch may have been more gossiping than eating but that’s just how I like it.

    The fabric bargains, lovely company and good weather(!) all made it worth riding the megabus. I know I’m a broken record but it’s amazing considering we met randomly off the Internet, how I seriously value these ladies being in my life. They inspire me and they make me laugh so much.

    P1060039 P1060044

    Brilliant Brum Purchases – Rose print Polyester, Hydrangea print Viscose. Not pictured are my bargain zip and bias binding purchases or my extremely dull lining choices.

    I feel like I’ve been searching for the perfect floral since I started sewing. These two are pretty gorgeous but not perfect. They will do for now though!

    Finally I still have one (ludicrously expensive) fabric purchase to show you but I’m saving that for another time…

    2014-03-01 11.28.28