applique, crafting, Tutorials

Fabric Portraits


Its wet and cold outside, so there is nothing more delightful than having a little time sewing and being able to kick back and play a little. I am teaching a couple of workshops and one of those explores free motion embroidery but I thought I would also try a hand at appliqué portraits as an option.

It is a great way to use up scraps as you only need small amounts of fabric. It can be quite interesting to play around with the fabric direction to enhance the shape. I really liked the way this brown flower piece seemed to create an interesting top detail.

Free motion embroidery is addictive! its just a case of dropping the feed dogs, (the metal teeth that move the fabric past the needle), most machines have a little button, most likely your manual will tell you where to find yours. Use a embroidery needle, its not just sharp but also has a strong shank.

Self portrait

I used this picture as a template – I wear a lot of hats and so it is a recognisable feature.

You need to print your picture out roughly the size you want to stitch.

While this photo looks a good choice, the tilt of my head creates an angle for my eyes, and my mouth is slightly tilted you can see what problems crop up in the stitched portrait.

As it is just playing I decided to go with it.

Stitched portait

You can get something called dressmakers’ carbon paper, its used to transfer embroidery designs or simply use ordinary carbon.

Iron your fabric so that it is free of creases it should be larger than the picture.

Lay the carbon paper on top – make sure the transfer side is face down onto the fabric – finally place the picture on top.

Carefully trace the features, eyes, mouth, hair and nose. It helps if you use a ball point pen that shows up in the photograph so you can see what you have traced. Its important to check you have all the pieces because once you lift the picture off, you cannot re-do it.

begin stitching

I find it easier to back the fabric with some iron on interfacing, and a hoop. It prevents the fabric from shifting and wrinkling as you stitch.

Drawing with your sewing machine is easy but different to using a pencil. The needle stays in place and you move the fabric to create the lines rather than the paper staying still and the pencil moving!

Use a darning foot – you can see easier and the loop of the foot prevents the fabric from being pushed through the holes in the footplate.

You may find it easier to work backwards and forwards, moving the fabric quickly results in large stitches, or slowly creates tiny stitches.

applique shapesOnce you have created the features, you can trim it and then assemble the appliqué shapes.

Use the photograph to create the appliqué templates, such as the hat, and the dress.

Use the lines not just to highlight the features, but also to give shading to the hat.

rose applique

Finally I added a rose appliqué, another feature I often have is a flower brooch in my hair – this was a tiny flower on a scrap of fabric, but it really brightens up the whole picture.

I think it is best to simply follow a few lines, rather than go into too much detail. I could have put in the cheeks and little dimple that you can see in the photograph, but it can go drastically wrong! less is more.

As you can see, the tilt has meant my eyes are at a slight angle. I think I can get away with it, but maybe next time I shall try and get a more level photograph.

I do hope you will try this, its so much fun – frame them in an embroidery hoop and hang on the wall.

ttfn x

autumn, heart and home

Weekend doodles, felting and domestic Superwoman!

Getting ready for workshops
Getting ready for workshops

I am doing some needle felting workshops this coming weekend, so I spent some time making sure that the templates and patterns were ready. I am doing a Movember moustache pin workshop at Eternal Maker and it has been great fun making lots of different types of moustaches!

Full moon needle felted picture
Full moon needle felted picture

Needle felting is one of the most relaxing ways to create textile art, there is no sewing you simply push one fibre onto another with a barbed needle. I decided that I wanted to show just how flexible this medium is, so simply played with the fibres until I made this picture. Its like painting with fibre, and so joyous!

I have been doing a little ‘life laundry’ this weekend, it must be in preparation for winter. I spent a happy day clearing out the larder, fridge and freezer. Making lists of what I have and making it easier to find things! It is surprisingly satisfying – giving rise to a domestic superwoman!

Use a plant spray bottle they are far more effective
Use a plant spray bottle they are far more effective

I felt in need of some pretty flowers to compensate for the darkening nights, I bought some lovely cyclamen and house plants, a very pretty african violet and some poor little things being given away because they needed some loving!

While I was there I bought myself a couple of plant sprayers. (you know my love of vinegar) a plant spray bottle is far more effective way to use vinegar effectively. However they were a little boring so I spent a rather blissful half hour creating my own little label using sharpies! I do love the idea that it is a little bottle of magic! Once started though I had to stop myself from brightening up everything I can get my hands on!

heart and home

And the winner is….

it deserves love
it deserves love

My experience with bicarbonate of soda/vinegar has been so successful that I wondered if there are other areas that could benefit from old fashioned methods rather than expensive branded ones.

The washing powder market is huge, the variation enormous, liquid, powder, tablets, sachets that dissolve in the drum, together with washing machine maintenance and anti bacterials that have created fears that never existed a few years ago.

I am growing sceptic by the day, we are bombarded with so much information that seemingly offers solutions and opportunities, but in reality what they are after is our hard earned cash. This market is very competitive because it reaps huge rewards, there is a huge mark up.

So with that in mind I thought I would give laundry consumables some experimentation. I was advised by the website, DIY Natural, (great source of information!) …. to grate an ordinary bar of soap, mix it with some soda and use it as a washing soda.

While I am on the subject of washing soda, this is an excellent cleaner for your machine, you can purchase a big box for around a pound but Calgon, (which I strongly suspect is simply a branded variety) costs lots more than that.
The other beauty of washing soda, is that it reduces the amount of detergent required to wash your clothes, a double saving! Especially if you live in a chalky area as I do in Sussex. Imagine money to buy more crafting books!

Love Vinegar

Back to the experiment…

The soap powder did its job, although my towel was a bit stained it did not really come out in the wash so I deemed my usual powder worth the cost. I use powder because it is the cheapest way to buy it, and it only takes a few moments in a cup of water to dissolve it before putting it into the washing machine dispenser.

As for the conditioner… the replacement fabric conditioner was vinegar with a little essential oils. oh my, how soft everything was! My towel was very soft, disappointingly the essential oils had virtually disappeared, but I am converted. The vinegar not just softens clothes but also cuts the excess soap from the machine another double bonus! As that extends the life of your washing machine.

Now as to the problem of the build up of bacteria, how inventive these manufacturers are! They have been telling us to turn down the temperature on our washing machines, and I agree it is better for the environment if we use less energy, but it does mean that bacteria can actually thrive in the nice warm, wet environment. It means that your machine will begin to smell, and worse your clean clothes will too! even after washing!

So they come up with a solution to a problem that they created – add more expensive chemicals! NO!

Temperature is Key!
Temperature is Key!

It’s simply a case of following in the wise footsteps of generations of women before us, use high temperatures to kill bacteria. Bacteria thrive in temperatures from 5 – 65 degrees, if you are washing all your clothes at around 40 degrees, then you are creating a wonderful environment for them to thrive.

Isn’t a boil wash environmentally unfriendly? Not really, you don’t have to boil wash everything, but it’s a good idea to use high temperatures for babies, older people and especially when you have been ill. I usually boil wash my bedding once a week, including the mattress protector. That is enough to kill off the residing bacteria in my machine without resorting to harmful chemicals that remain in the clothing and is absorbed through the skin when I wear them. Using more chemicals to kill off bacteria is not environmentally friendly at all. Be aware that products sold for home use is not as restricted as commercial products and can be quite harmful.

Did I also mention that vinegar has natural antibacterial qualities? Also, a litre costs just over a pound, more money for fabric!

So lets have a drum roll for old fashioned wisdom and the humble vinegar.

It deserves a lot more love
It deserves a lot more love