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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Gift Bags

When I was working full time, I periodically took a leave day for 'bag therapy' - a day of making drawstring bags from left-over fabric, or from sari scraps or kimono fabric to use in place of gift wrapping. I find it really relaxing, and love having a supply of bags in which to put gifts. In semi-retirement, I no longer need bag therapy days, however, when recently in Melbourne I bought a bag of vintage kimono fabric from the Made in Japan Shop in Australia on Collins.

As I am trying not to keep adding to my stash, and Christmas is coming, I have spent quite a few days playing with the fabric and turning it into bags.

Apart from the fabric itself, I get pleasure from finding the hand-stitching of the original kimono-maker, and evidence of painstaking techniques like reinforced seams, folded linings and mitred corners.
 Wherever possible, I try to keep original shapes and linings. This sleeve piece, for example, could be make into a bag as is, leaving the curve on one corner.

I divided the fabric into three piles based on colour - light, dark and red. This enabled me to use a basic thread for each pile, rather than matching thread to each bag.

Cords are mostly ribbon, but in  a couple of cases I recycled elastic cord with a stopper

 or in one case, the cord I had removed from a blouse I bought.

The photos don't give a sense of size, but the bags vary from roughly 15 inches to a couple of inches.


I'm not sure it is sane to spend days unpicking kimono fabric and remaking it into bags

- it certainly isn't an economic proposition by any conventional standard, but so satisfying.

The bags in this post are the light ones. I will post photos of some of the black and red batches later.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Don't look now, but I think I am making a quilt

I got on to a bit of a roll with my hexagons. The pre-cut cards, the ease of cutting 2" fabric squares, the opportunity to use up so many of the scraps of previous projects (all saved, it seems, just for this occasion) has proved too much of a good thing. My swimming bag idea is rejected and my queen size bed quilt is now underway!

Am I a glutton for punishment? Probably.

Once I had eight "flowers" joined, I tried the piece on the bed, did some calculations, talked to Leanne at Hetty's Patch, bought a couple more metres of black fabric and got cutting.

I now have about 1300 2" squares of coloured fabric from my scrap basket, and a couple of hundred 2" black squares. I am recycling 300 paper hexagons.

I calculate I need about 1550 coloured 3/4 inch hexies and probably about 1800 black ones - depending on what I do around the edge.

Already, my family are recognising bits of their clothes in the section finished.

So far, I'm finding it soothing and easy to manage in the evenings or on the go. My only fear is that it will limit the other projects that I do - my urge to finish things is as high as ever - and I have quite a few things I want to make for Christmas.

I hasten to add I do not anticipate becoming a quilter. Even if I finish up quilting this (my intention at the moment), it is  the only quilt I am ever likely to make, and one quilt does not a quilter make!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Twelfth Skyros Man and Chair Finish

The twelfth man is finished, along with his two flower motifs. I stitched the smaller sections in darning stitch and the two large bits - his pants and top - in Bokhara. 
Here is the final panel washed, ironed
and pinned in place on the chair cover, ready for stitching in place.
It is awkward stitching it on my sewing machine. A long-arm or  industrial machine would be easier, especially around the front of the arms.  
However, I managed. I'm glad I decided to buy a cover for the chair and stitch to that, rather than hand-stitching the linen to the chair itself by hand. While that may have given a tighter fit, being able to take this off to launder or repair gives a level of comfort.

It isn't an easy object to photograph, but here are a couple of shots of the finished chair in situ.
I still have quite a bit of thread left, somewhat to my surprise. Bokhara stitch should use more thread than running stitch and I thought I might need to buy more, but I have plenty left for a small back cushion, or other projects.

I'm so pleased with this project. I was enchanted when I saw it as a director's chair in Inspirations 78, and I have finished the adaptation to an armchair before Inspirations 80 has arrived.

Thanks to all my family and friends for encouragement along the way.
Now to sit and stitch in my chair!

Earlier posts on this chair can be found at


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Skyros Chair Cushion

I needed a design for the cushion seat of my Skyros Chair. I could have repeated some of the men, but wanted to retain the effect of the line of men dancing around the back of the chair, so I spent quite a bit of time looking through my books to find other designs that were appropriate to Skyros embroidery.

In Embroidery of the Greek Islands and Epirus Region by Sumru Belger Krody, I found a number of examples of Skyros work, that include a range of exaggerated and mythical animals. I settled on a bed-hanging that used a series of embellished roosters.

I enlarged and adapted one of these roosters, and traced it on to the cover of the cushion that came with the chair. The fabric on this original chair cover was a strong, woven cream linen-like fabric, soft and loosely enough woven to stitch.

I tried it in my sitting frame, hoping to be able to move it around the house more easily than the large frame in which I am still working the Skyros Men, and thus work both projects at once.

I soon found, however, that the project worked much better out of the frame altogether.

The stitches used in the bed hanging, according to Krody, were outline stitch, chain stitch, satin stitch and a form of counted-thread running stitch. As I could not count the threads in the chair fabric, I restricted myself to the other three stitches - mostly outline and chain to take the wear it is likely to get. These stitches were much easier to manage out of the frame.

I took the general colour palette from the original and used mainly threads I had - including a couple of hanks of Gloriana silk, oneblues/mauves/greeny-gold and another pinky-reds. I had several shades of Madiera silk in golds and greens, and bought a few more when these ran out. I used  DMC perle 8 for the heavy outline.

I am pretty pleased with the result. My rooster takes himself a lot more seriously than the Skyros Men take themselves, which provides a nice contrast.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Skyros Chair: the eleventh man

I have taken the last panel of my Skyros Men out of my floor stand and oval hoop for the last two men and four remaining small motifs.

I worked the two remaining bird motifs with the panel in my hand rather than in the hoop.

I then mounted the panel in a sitting frame This gives me a bit more flexibility in when and where I stitch it.

I had to leave the attached calico side panels on to fit the end man in the hoop- so I worked him first. Thus the eleventh man stitched is the twelfth man in the panel.

Now that he is finished, I can remove the calico side panels and fit the one remaining figure, with his two associated flower motifs, securely into the 12 inch hoop to complete the panel.

The end is now well in sight and reach.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Patchwork Hexagons At Last!

It all began when visiting a couple of craft shops in Melbourne recently: away from home, looking with fresh eyes, triggering memories. In L'Uccello, a vintage haberdashery store I had read about in a craft magazine, I noticed packs of Moda squares - the tiny ones, just over 2 inches.

Now these are not that hard to come by. In fact, I now notice my local shop, Hetty's Patch, has them. The difference is, I had time, and I SAW them. I remembered that I had wanted to try English paper piecing with the 3/4 inch hexies that Monica wrote about ages ago, and that these could be made using 2" squares of fabric. I have plenty of fabric scraps saved over years, with a view to patchwork, but I don't make the time to cut it and get started. So I bought this packet, thinking it would give me the easy kick-start I needed to try out the method.

I was right.

When I got home, I  reread Monica's post and watched the two embedded videos. I then ordered some three-quarter inch paper hexagons - and got going.

The method of using 2" squares of fabric and the pre-cut paper hexagons is brilliant. Compared to my previous attempt at paper piecing using tissue paper shapes I cut myself, it is a dream. The pre-cut hexies are firm card. As Monica pointed out, they give a great sharp edge, and are reusable.

The tip, from the videos, of a simple tacking stitch in each corner of the fabric square folded over the paper hexagon, was also brilliant. The stitching can stay in place, the card can be removed and, even when the corner  (as in the top right hand corner of this one) has not been pulled accurately to the corner of the card, an inaccuracy can be corrected when joining the hexagons.

I pretty soon decided I wanted to create hexagon "flowers", surround them with black and probably make them into a large quilted bag for my swimming gear. Before I knew it, I was cutting up 2" squares from my stash of scraps from clothes I have made over the last 30 years - and from a larger piece of black cotton.

This is what is emerging. I'm so glad I have inspiring blogging friends and that I am able to remember an idea from more than a year ago!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Skyros Man 10

I haven't entirely neglected my Skyros Men. Circumstances over the last weeks have meant I've found less  time to sit at the large frame in which my last panel is mounted. I've been away a bit and needing projects I can carry with me, or work in other parts of the house.

I have, however, managed to sit and complete bits of the tenth man on and off over the last few weeks.

This weekend I made a concerted effort to work on the large areas - choosing once again to use my favourite Bokhara stitch. It gives good coverage and I enjoy it. As I have said before, it is a stitch used in the Mediterranean around the time of these figures and has the same sloping effect as the running stitch off-set by one thread in each row.

Admittedly, Bokhara is more a Turkish influence - but there was Turkish influence on Skyros. I am playing the role of an embroiderer from other parts of the Ottoman Empire engaged to work on Skyros and intent on saving time and remaining motivated!

The Tenth Man is now finished. Two to go - plus a few stray birds and flowers!