Finishing the Hat *

And I was doing so well with posting regularly!  Then six weeks of nothing…

So here are two and a half hats….the poor Scotsman’s trilby is still waiting for petersham and wire to correct its floppy brim, but I did finally finish the first blocked full size felt hat ie the red cloche with embroidered petal decoration, and the sinamay ‘mermaids hat’.

Three hatsI have now started the final term at college – this term it is pattern cutting and fabric hats.  We start by making a toile for a skullcap and a butcher boy cap in calico, and then on to making a fabric trilby.  I am hoping that I will be allowed to use some thin leather from an old battered leather coat, but I fear that Karen will say it is too much for the sewing machine to cope with.  Ah yes!  The dreaded sewing machine.  I’m not at all sure about this….

* I tip my hat to Stephen Sondheim for the title….


Buttons Toggles and Frogs


Embroidered buttons


Embroidered felt


Acorn toggles

Over the past couple of Saturdays I’ve been doing a short course at Morley College with the delightful name of ‘Buttons, Toggles and Frogs’.

In fact the course would have passed me by totally if I hadn’t noticed the lovely display case of samples in the foyer of the building I do my millinery course in.

It was taught by Debby Brown, with whom I did a year long Experimental Textile evening course about four years ago, so I knew it was likely to be good. Debby is a very experienced and inspiring teacher always providing loads of samples, materials and ideas to stimulate the imagination. My favourite sort of class – where I get lots of ideas and the chance to play, with some expert help on hand if I need it.

DSCF8413If I had tried to take in all the ideas that were on offer I could easily have gone into overload and so I went mostly with embroidered and painted/printed buttons – just one toggle to get the idea of it and no frogs at all! I also skipped on the buttonholes – which judging by the frustrated noises coming from the two students on my table was probably a wise move. (They were trying to use something called ‘gimp’ to strengthen a handmade button hole as in the picture above and I think it kept slipping.)

I started out with Tudor stuffed buttons which were made by gathering a small circle of fabric around a brass curtain ring, and stuffing it, then backstitching around the inside of the ring.  After that we were free to embroider what we liked – there are a couple of examples in the final photo of a sunflower and a strawberry (why I chose that horrible pink fabric as a base heaven only knows!!).  The final step was to make a loop on the back by reinforcing a loop of two or three strands of strong thread with buttonhole stitch.

DSCF8415On the second Saturday we used the heat press to print on fabric for covered buttons.  I’ve used this before and it always throws me that the lovely subtle colours in my paintings come out much more psychedelic when they are printed. Still an interesting idea though.

My final effort was a strawberry made around a template of pelmet vilene, once again stuffed with wadding.  I used a form of needlelace to make the leaves and was really pleased with the result.  I can see that if I ever get my act together to do another craft stall or put items on my Etsy site buttons will be making an appearance in some form.


A Tiny Tri-corn and mixing beer with sewing…

My Tri-corn is finally done, complete with embroidered felt feather (forgive the picture.  I took it in a hurry first thing this morning.)DSCF8296

I finished sewing on the crown and added the hatband and feather at the October meeting of KnitSewManyThings. They are a knitting and sewing group that meet monthly in a Stoke Newington pub, and was founded by members of the Tower Theatre (which is how I found them.)

I have been a member of the Tower for a number of years although my involvement these days is mostly as an audience member, and when the Scotsman directs a show, a provider of:

  1. moral support,
  2. reading in and a listening ear at auditions
  3. sumptuous ‘get in’ lunches for cast and crew

In July there was an article in the Tower e newsletter and I went to the August Meet only to discover that they meet on a Wednesday – the same evening as the Millinery Class I had just signed up for… However I made it to the October meet as they had it late and so it coincided with my half term.

I miss the ‘sitting around a table working and chatting’ element of my embroidery class. (We don’t know each other well enough yet in Millinery to be idle chatters – plus we are constantly learning stuff.) I’m not convinced that a pub is the best of venues for craft – the lighting leaves a lot to be desired! It’s not too bad if you are knitting or crocheting, but threading a needle is a bit of a challenge!!

Very good beer though which is a nice extra…

A Barn Covered in Fleece

While we were on holiday last week we noticed yellow signs around for the C Art Open Studios happening in September so we paid a visit to an installation near Ashness Bridge to look at the work of a couple of young artists – one who had covered a stone barn in fleece and one who had filled it with animal skulls and feathers… well what’s not to like about that!!

Barn Covered in Sheep Fleece

Barn Covered in Sheep Fleece with wool balls – Annabel Lewis

We hummed and aahed about buying one of Natalie Williamson’s skull sculptures but in the end I settled for a pendant made from old copper jewellery and mouse skulls!

There were also a number of woolly balls scattered around the area and we clambered around the hills looking at them…This is me sitting on Ashness Bridge with one of them…DSCF8168

No wonder I look so happy with such a beautiful view to look at…and in the sunshine too!


The Open Studios are on until 28th September 2014.

Peacocks and a leap out of my comfort zone

In an attempt to master the dreaded sewing machine I am making my latest project in my embroidery class at least partially machined….so I am constructing my own ‘fabric’ using disolveable material and machine threads.  It is to be a peacock like this (although with different colouring – not sure where this came from in my drawing..)

Peacock Design full

So there I was last night teeth gritted, trying to remember to breathe, and hoping that I could get through what I needed to do quickly and without tangling myself up too many times. 

‘You’re going too fast!’ said Isobel, which apparently explained the strange loopy quality on the back on the stitching.  Although it doesn’t really matter for what I want.  The embroidery will be constructed in several layers – as below:

Peacock layers

Peacock layers

I started on the yellow piece yesterday – the amount of machine stitching I will end up with is debatable and may depend whether I stop wanting to throw the machine out of the window!!  Roll on hand sewing…. !

I keep telling myself it is a useful tool if I can master it so for the moment I persevere….