Monday, 27 February 2012

Lovely, Petal.

On Friday afternoon, I texted this photo to my mother and sister with the caption: it was only when the blouse was almost finished that she realised the effect was more 'human flower' than 'total fox'. Seconds later my mother replied with the words: Lovely, Petal. Quite. Sometimes, it's only at the final hurdle that you are able to spot what's blisteringly wrong with a pattern that you're experimenting with. I drafted this collar as three pieces - two small scallops at the front, overlapping one large curve. It was only on the final fitting that I noticed that because of where my shoulders visually intersect the larger curve, what it actually appears to be is a collar made of evenly spaced flower petals with my head appearing from amongst them like a grinning human capitulum*. Damn.

But actually, the visual effect of it was so amusing that it was almost worth it and I am smiling like a loon in this photo as I was taking it especially to text over to my family. But now I'm sharing it with you here...although I wasn't aware I would at the time...if I was I may have removed my daughter's pink dressing gown (which makes this photo appear as though it's been deliberately taken in sympathetic colours to my blog header) and wiped the bathroom mirror of the splatters of toothpaste that my little boy likes to spread liberally about.

Happily, mistakes are less painful when you had the good foresight to buy up the entire bolt of fabric due to it being on sale at £3.49 a metre - it has such a good drape and is so plain that I thought it would be perfect for using as toile fabric as I draft different patterns...which hopefully may result in a few wearable muslins. The photo above is actually in full colour, but for some reason the fabric looks grey instead of blue. However, in trying to boost the colour in Picasa back to it's original blue this morning I noticed that there are two brand new tabs in the settings: they are gimmicky tabs, rather than genuinely useful additions, but I momentarily forgot all about trying to make my fabric blue again as I was having too much fun transforming myself first by pressing the 'cinemascope' button, then topping up with some '1960s' and finally adding a sepia wash. There are also some old favourite lens that I've come to love through using Hipstamatic on my iPhone, such as Holga. You'll notice that in the photo below, I don't look nearly quite so loopy due to some of my petals having been decapitated by the black cinema strips...if only it were fixed so easily in real life.

I know that many people have been devastated by the impending disappearance of Picnik, but I've always loved Picasa for editing photos - it has all the basic functions, such as cropping and the ability to play around with highlights, shadow and tone. And it's completely amazes me what's free on the internet. You can find Picasa here, where you can download it straight onto your computer to use off or online. Have fun (and yes, I do think that the first thing you should do is transform yourself into a 1960s starlet...perhaps we could start up a Flickr gallery for sharing the results). My fabric never was properly I discovered the 'cross-processing' button and decided I liked it better like that way.

I am now off to redraft a more suitable collar. I am hoping this one will be serene, elegant and make me feel as though I own a fragment of the wardrobes of Olivia Palermo or Alexa Chung . I know, that's a lot to ask of a collar. I could be some time.

Florence x

* I learnt while writing this post that the yellow centre to a daisy is called a capitulum.

Monday, 20 February 2012

The Joyful Elephant Cushion Pattern PDF

I began working on an elephant project several few months ago and it ran away with itself and I ended up designing a whole quilt full of elephants for my lovely nephew. This pattern covers how to make a cushion featuring my favourite, and the most joyful-looking one of those elephants.

While an experienced sewer will whizz through this pattern, it's been written with the intention that it's easy to follow for someone relatively new to sewing. It's a good project for furthering sewing skills because within a small, manageable project you are able to experience:

Simple piecing
Light quilting
Basic straight-stitch appliqué
Inserting a concealed zip

...and you'll also obviously know how to make a cushion by the time you finish it too.

The concealed zip is neatly hidden in one of the side seams, which is my favourite method for constructing a cushion cover; it's a good technique to know for future projects because, as the zipper is completely hidden, you can actually make cushions which can be viewed from either side if you wish (something which is particularly useful if you want to make throw cushions for a sofa using beautiful upholstery or home dec fabrics)

Instructions are given for all aspects of making the cushion including appliquéing the elephant with a basic straight stitch. However, if you wish to venture further into appliqué and try out trickier stitches (such as a satin stitch) then I recently wrote a reasonably priced eBook which covers all aspects of machine appliqué.

I love the simplicity of an elephant wearing different shades of grey, however, there's no reason not to consider using much more colour and pattern:

If you like the look of the elephant then you've very welcome to scale him up or down and use my template elsewhere in other sewn projects (although obviously not in tutorials or patterns), just please remember to credit me for him. I'm also very happy for you to sell any cushions or elephant-adorned items that you make using this pattern and/or template if you're a small independent business.
If you wish to purchase a copy of the pattern, it's available for instant download as a PDF for you to view on your computer and print out at home.

Payment is completely secure through PayPal. As ever, you don't need a PayPal account to pay for this book - PayPal accepts credit and debit cards. Once you've paid, PayPal will take you to a page where you can download the pattern instantly, by clicking on the link provided. You will also receive an email containing the same link. Because of the non-returnable nature of an instant download, this pattern is non-refundable.

The PDF pattern costs £3.50 (that's around $5.50 USD/4 EUR/$5 AUD)

If you make something using this pattern I'd love it if you wanted to email me a photo of your sewing or you can drop it into the Flickr pool here.

Florence x

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Blue bird bowl

Today my small ones and I went to a ceramics studio with my mama. It's a few years since I've painted any pottery and I'd forgotten quite how much I love it.

You might remember that not so long ago Laurence King sent me the Bowie Style Print & Pattern 2 book for review (full review here). It's full of fantastic designs which I suddenly realised today would translate really well onto pot. Painting isn't my natural comfort zone (due to there not being a needle and fabric involved) and I knew I'd enjoy the limited time more if I didn't have to rely on my own brain to dream up something lovely in such a situation (last time I went I worked from part of a design found in a Heather Bailey fabric) - the only dilemma was narrowing down which design to work from - there is so much inspiration in this book and the women who ran the studio quickly pounced on it and felt the same way too (and so will be ordering their own copy). The design I eventually settled on features some scandi style birds created by Kelly Hyatt whose designs typically adorn greeting cards under the Lagom banner. You can find more of his impressive work here. The walls of the studio were full of previously painted plates - one of which was the most amazing hand-painted ceramic version of a Klimt painting complete with golden glaze - breathtaking.

I love that the painting process is full of suspense. The colours here look chalky and pale, but once they're glazed they'll become vibrant and rich and the shadows of felt tip which I used to trace out the design will disappear in the heat of the oven.

My little boy has more confidence when it comes to such things and painted a design of his own creation (you can see from the sample dots how some of his colours will look once glazed), while my daughter started off also taking inspiration from Kelly, but eventually dispensed with that and painted over it afresh to create this lovely dish design:

My mama painted a beautiful bowl of soft blue sky dotted with fluffy white clouds. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a close up of it as I was too busy photographing her in the act of actual painting...I'm unsure whether she'd like those pictures to appear on my blog though (indeed there have been requests for photographs of my father following the last post - there was a brief debate as to whether he looks like the Major from Fawlty Towers which I am keen to put a stop to - as I remember, the Major was a rather doddery old creature who would have taken at least twice the amount of time to thread a chain of paper clips as my own nimble-fingered father).

I am very excited about getting my bowl back. In the last few months I've started eating breakfast - something that's never really been a part of my life - and am enjoying a substantial helping of fat-free natural yoghurt with a sprinkling of finely milled oat bran on top (which my husband tells me is horrifically sour and oddly textured, but which I love). However, the perfectly-sized bowl for eating such a concoction hasn't been a part of my kitchen...but this little blue bird bowl will be just right.

Florence x

Monday, 13 February 2012

In the Boasting Corner

Were I forced into a boasting corner and asked to list what my child's five most impressive skills were, thumb-printing would be the surprise, and slightly obscure, entry on the list for my little boy. My daughter and I are loopy about the strange and characterful people that form around his thumb prints. Baby Man (the portly fellow wearing a nappy on the right of the above photo) was a particular favourite, but so too was their own grandfather who appeared from the whirls of his thumb complete with moustache:

It's uncanny how similar to my father this thumb-man actually appears to be, but then their grandfather is known for his propensity to infiltrate people's drawing paper. In a blog post in 2007, I wrote about how he had surprised us when he appeared on the front of a carton of Innocent Smoothie. Following that post, the illustrator, Ed Grace, creator of the Innocent image, stumbled upon my blog and denied all knowledge of my father being the inspiration for his design, but I like to think that he snuck in without Ed even being aware of it. My father leads a thrilling double life: one moment he is busily threading paperclips in the City, the next casting his own image onto works of art - the ego of the man!

Anyway, back to thumb printing: my little boy made these bookmarks to give as Christmas gifts in December, but I thought I'd mention them now as they're a perfect activity for anyone also enjoying a half-term break. It's as simple as having a thumb, an ink pad and a black fine-nibbed pen and amusement can be yours for hours on end. We have gathered together quite a library of thumb-printing books, amongst which are this one by Klutz which comes with its own inks and this one by the infamous Ed Emberley. Both are wonderful and many of the above are direct reproductions of the characters found within those books.

I'd love to hear what your own obscure specialist talent is: please consider yourself trapped in a boasting corner and don't be shy. Mine is that I'm highly skilled at folding myself in half - there's a photo of that somewhere on this blog, but I can't actually locate it...which isn't such a bad thing as I think that the thing about a specialist talent is that it mostly delights the talent-holder with their own freaky fabulousness, rather than the onlooker, who may just be left feeling slightly confused or even appalled. But I encourage you to share anyway. While writing this I sent my husband to the boasting corner. Once there, under duress, he conceded that his talent is that he's able to eat six Jaffa cakes in a minute. He said that I must make it clear that each Jaffa should be swallowed completely before beginning to eat the next is permitted, lest you brush the achievement away thinking it easier than it really is.

Florence x

Ps. Please do let me know if my father turns up in your artwork - we love to keep track of his movements.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012


I'm so excited to introduce my newest sponsor to you,, because it's a completely unique and inspiring business, run by Cheri and her husband. Cheri writes beautiful footwear patterns for slippers, shoes and boots and sells them through her website, But what makes her shop really special is that she also sells the waterproof soling to go with them, enabling her customers to make shoes that are entirely wearable inside and out.

In the past, I've made a few pairs of tiny baby slippers myself (I've just noticed that was in 2007. Where has the time gone?) and have to say that I found the process of making something so very three-dimensional really thrilling - the techniques involved are fun to learn and easier to master than one might imagine, while the finished result is impressive enough to make you double-take your own work once it's complete in disbelief that you really did actually make them yourself: indeed you are that shoemaker and his elves all rolled into one seemingly very normal person! So, if that's the kind of excitement which making indoor baby slippers can ignite in a person, can you imagine what making real, waterproof soled, fully wearable, skipping-over-grass-verges-without-a-care shoes must feel like?

After falling in love with a tiny pair of Moccasins in a boutique in Canada, many years before she had children of her own, Cheri was left with a longing that stayed with her to make some herself. Finally, with babies in tow to test her wares she set about learning the art of shoe-making by taking ready-made shoes apart and studying the pattern pieces. She and her husband finally launched their first baby and children's shoe patterns in 2009 and later branched out into women's footwear.

Don't be put off if you initially find the sizing confusing: scroll down a little and you'll find that sizing conversions have been laid out in the description for each pattern (I was delighted to find that things start at an English two and a half). I will leave you with the cuteness of these owl and chick slippers. Wouldn't the chicks make a wonderful Easter gift for a child too young to eat chocolate?

Finally, I wanted to say thank you so much for your response to my last post regarding the release of my appliqué eBook - I have been absolutely amazed by the amount of lovely feedback, emails, mentions on Twitter and general support and enthusiasm I've received, as well as, of course, how many of you have chosen to buy a copy. I really appreciate it. Thank you so much.

Florence x

Sunday, 5 February 2012

An eBook: A Practical Guide to Machine Appliqué

For several months I've been writing a collection of patterns involving machine appliqué (they'll hopefully be released very soon), however, when it came to writing the appliqué aspect of the pattern I found that I became so intent on wanting to convey all the proper techniques for successful appliqué that it would have completely ruined the flow of the pattern for anyone already experienced with it.

That's when it became apparent to me that a dedicated, stand-alone mini-book about machine appliqué was something which I felt passionate about writing. The result of this is a 26-page instantly downloadable PDF eBook which is intended for hand-holding a complete beginner through every aspect of the process. At all stages there are practical samples which I've created especially for this book to illustrate my words and demonstrate the different techniques. The book doesn't simply tell you how; it always explains why you should do things in a particular way because, to me, that feels like a deeper way of learning that gives a better springboard with which to spiral away with your own creativity. The scope of the book should enable one to quickly move from successfully appliquéing one-piece simple images, to creating more complex works.

I've always found appliqué a hugely enjoyable way to add interest to whatever sewing project I might be working on and have used it to embellish quilt tops, t-shirts, pencil cases, pincushions and have even created a clock face using the technique. I'm hoping that for someone new to appliqué (or anyone who struggles to get the results they've been hoping for) my enthusiasm for the technique will be infectious and that with thorough guidance anyone attempting it will be able to get straight on with the fun of it, with much of the trial and error already smoothed away.

The eBook covers:
  • How to appliqué using different stitches: starting with a basic straight stitch; followed by a zigzag stitch; and finally a dense satin stitch (demonstrating different width stitches for the latter two)
  • Suggested machine settings (including tension) for each of the above stitches
  • Troubleshooting photos to help you achieve a good finish for the slightly trickier satin stitch which can be hard to execute perfectly on non-digital machines
  • Two ways of stabilising your fabric to give a perfectly smooth finish to your appliqué
  • How to use fusible web to keep your appliqué pieces exactly where you want them as you sew
  • Appliquéing using a template
  • Appliquéing using a flower or shape cut directly from a piece of fabric
  • How to deal with mirror images if you choose to appliqué letters or numbers
  • Specialist machine feet for the appliqué enthusiast
  • How to guide the fabric as you sew
  • How to secure your stitches without them being visible
  • Techniques for neatly negotiating convex and concave curves when using a zigzag or satin stitch
  • How to create order when creating an appliqué made of many small pieces
  • Two basic shape templates are included which you may print out to practise on if you wish
  • Every aspect is fully illustrated with diagrams and photographs
  • It assumes you are using a basic sewing machine, so no fancy electronics are required for any of the stitches (although lucky you if you have them!)

So here's all the information you might need if you'd like to purchase the eBook:
  • The eBook costs just £4 (which is just under $5.50 US dollars/around €5.20 Euros/about 7.60 AU Dollars)  
  • You can download the eBook immediately and either view it on your computer or print it out on your home printer.
  • This eBook comes in PDF form.
  • Payment is completely secure through PayPal. As ever, you don't need a PayPal account to pay for this book - PayPal accepts credit and debit cards. Once you've paid, PayPal will take you to a page where you can download the book instantly, by clicking on the link provided. You will also receive an email containing the same link. The book must be downloaded within 48 hours of payment - after this time the link expires. Because of the non-returnable nature of an instant download, this eBook is non-refundable.

If you make anything as a result of using my guide, then I'd love it if you wanted to email me a photo of your sewing or you can drop it into the Flickr pool here.
Florence x
A few of the books/products that I link to on Amazon from my blog contain affiliate links and very occasionally, I'll mention a product that I've been given free of charge. I choose the things that I recommend carefully and my priority is to only share things that I love.