Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Stylish Party Dresses by Yoshiko Tsukiori: Review

As you can see, I'm a fan of Yoshika Tsukiori's Dress books.  I bought the hugely popular Stylish Dress Books one and two a few years back.  I've made a couple of things from them which get regular wear and I enjoy the pleasure of looking through them for dressmaking inspiration, the clothes and the styling are always a treat for the eyes.   Tuttle publishing produce the English translations of the original  Japanese editions and offered me a copy of her latest book, Stylish Party Dresses for review, and of course I jumped at the chance!

These books are always given new titles for the English language versions and as with She Wears the Pants, something of the original title is lost in translation.  This book started as 'Formal and Little Black Dress' and that in many ways sums up the book.  Inside it you will find 26 garments for formal occasions- think weddings, special occasions, even funerals.  They are not all dresses.  Instead there a mix of tops, skirts jackets,  two-piece sets and a jump suit as well as dresses.   Formality is key.  This is reflected in both the designs and the fabrics used.  The two dresses below are a perfect example.  The dress on the left has a shantung silk bodice and a skirt made from multiple layers of soft tulle.  The dress on the right has an outer of lace and an inner lining layer of crepe de chine.

There's a large range of shapes including jackets/bolero patterns.   I liked 'G' Lace bolero.  Formal events are often in places with variable temperatures- weddings particularly rely on one outfit to get you through multiple locations so a jacket is essential!

 I also liked the jersey wrap-look dress below which like a few of the styles in the book, is shown in two versions, black and in a print.  Black garments are always hard to photograph so it helps to see  how a different fabric can totally change the mood of an outfit.  The photographs are clearer than some other Japanese clothing books I have- e.g. She Wears the Pants has some rather elusive photographs in keeping with it's edgy fashion feel but can make it hard to see design details!  The paper is has a soft sheen and I liked the luxurious wallpaper backdrops.

Each pattern includes practical details relating to the fabric used.  This includes laying out pattern pieces on lace to achieve a good pattern balance at the front and matching seams at the sides .  The photo below shows this for 'I' Lace A-line dress:

It also includes construction details for particular fabrics.  This diagram shows  how to sew pattern pieces with two layers- the crepe de chine lining and the russell lace outer.

This is the unique feature of this book compared to other Japanese dress books that I have.  The fabrics used tend to be more luxurious than the usual cottons that make up the vast majority of my wardrobe so instead there is lace, satin, tulle chiffon and georgette, along with some Liberty Tana lawn.

This style appealed to me, probably because it is less formal and I love pin tucks! There are pin tucks all over the front bodice and it is shown in Liberty lawn and also in polyester crepe de chine although I imagine it more as a top than a dress.  There are some subtle details in this style,  the cuff has hidden snap fasteners.

The Liberty Print jumpsuit is a fun inclusion and the fabric details include  quantities for directional and non directional prints which shows a little extra attention to detail.

I'm not sold on every style.  This one looks a little like skirt tucked into knickers although when I look at the line drawings I like the top and the skirt without the front pleats is a perfectly useable A line skirt with a yoke waist.

The mini dress with raglan sleeves has already proved popular on Instagram.  I've seen a few versions made up.  Its a great style to maximise a graphic or large print and would easily crop to make a top.  I like the sleeve length on this dress.

I also like the frilled black bolero in the outfit below (shown over a long chiffon dress).  It's sewn up in a polyester georgette so the frill drapes softly.

There's a mix of shapes from loose flowing tunics to shift dresses, to mini skirts,  to two-piece skirt/top outfits and more traditional fit and flare dresses.  There are also some very interesting details- neckline back bows,  unusual sleeve pleats and detachable collars and dramatic back views; the blouse in the outfit below has a deep v at the back  plus a neck tie and a dipped longer hem and is shown in silk jacquard.

You can see more pictures and an interesting review, as always from Yifarn at Japanese Sewing Books.  The layout of this book follows other's Yoshiko Tsukori has written with photographs at the front, followed by written instructions and detailed diagrams.  There is a double sided pattern sheet to trace off in a pocket at the back and seam allowances are added with information on the recommended widths in the cutting layouts.  This book was kindly provided for free by Tuttle publishing for reviewing purposes. 
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Monday, 5 October 2015

Farmer's Wife 1930s QAL Blocks 7 & 8: Augusta and Aunt

Time for week three in the year long Farmer's Wife 1930s Quilt Along.   Block 7 is Augusta (p.166, letter p.48).

Fabric credits:

Fabric Cutting for Foundation Paper Piecing
I rotary cut the squares making my square a little bigger than the CD rotary cutting instructions. I used freezer paper templates and this technique for the triangles.  I precut all the fabric pieces before I piece each section.   

Rotary Cutting
I rotary cut the squares making my square a little bigger than the CD rotary cutting instructions.

Squares : cut (5) 2" squares (very slightly bigger than required)
Large right angle triangles: cut (2) 4 ½" squares, sub-cut twice diagonally to make 4 quarter square triangles.
Small right angle triangles: cut (1) 2 ½" squares, sub-cut once diagonally to make 2 half square triangles.

For the remaining triangles I use freezer paper template.  I trace from the foundation paper piecing pattern onto freezer paper and I don't include seam allowance.  Instead I add ½" all round as I cut it out.  As many of the same pieces are repeated, I use the first piece of fabric I cut as the template for the subsequent pieces.  The rest of my tips for this block are listed below.

Top tips for this block
  • Use templates for the triangles without right angles
  • Use a water based glue stick- I use Sewline- to stick the first piece of each section
  • Chain piece where sections are repeated
  • Mark the seam allowance where needed (on the wrong side) to find precise seam point intersections.
  • Use the stab pin method (see pic) to hold points like in this tick mark tutorial or baste like Charise. Doing this on the outer corners will help to keep your block square and to size.

Reading the letter for Augusta, I marvel at the line;
"Not many dresses could be afforded as it took about fifteen yards of the 24-inch calico to make a housedress."
Fifteen yards!  And such narrow fabric too.  It must've called for some very creative dressmaking.

Block eight is Aunt (p.167, letter p.97), so I'll hand over to Justine who is guest posting on this block at Sew Justine Sew.  It's a great block for larger prints and fussy cutting and I can't wait to see her fabric choices, she's likes a bold print and strong colour contrast.  Here's my version.

Fabric credits:
Windham Tiger Lily, Cats on Grids by Heather Ross
Kona Mango
  • Use the hashtags  Don't forget to use #fw1930sqal on Instagram and the Flickr group if you like to share there.  
  • For individual blocks, you can use #anneblock and #aprilblock on Instagram.  Fat Quarter Shop and Angie are using these hash tags, #fw7augusta,  #fw8aunt, I'm using both hashtag systems!
  • You can also copy and paste links to any blog posts you do on these blocks in the comments and I'd love to visit and take a look. 
  • I'll be introducing this post on with a short broadcast  around 2.15-2.30pm GMT today and it'll be available for 24 hours to replay before it disappears! Link will be in my twitter feed @verykb and I'll post on Instagram and twitter about 15 minutes before it does out.  I'll be talking about templates and accuracy.
Please note:  I have linked to my sponsors on items bought through them and elsewhere for anything that has come from other shops.

You can join the quilt-along at any time, all the posts are here for you to catch up with.  Back next Monday with Wynn and blocks 9 and 10.  

sib blog

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

My Small World Quilt Along: Conclusion

 As the My Small World quilt along posts come to an end, I've basted my version and started quilting.

I'm not a planner when it comes to quilting.  I had thought that I would just grid quilt it to make it robust for family use- it will go on our sofa.  I am grid quilting the sky but have other plans for the other sections.

As you can see in this pic, I am added hand quilting.  I don't know how much, but I did know that I didn't want to machine quilt the curves so I started with a few hand stitches and kept going. 

Hand quilting does not come easy to me.  I find it a strain on the hands so I'll be doing little and often rather than long stretches.  I am using Coats Cotton 20wt hand quilting thread bought from Amazon which is similar to Gutterman hand quilted thread- Chase recommended this and I greatly enjoy using it.  It has a coating like the Gutterman but is a little thicker.  Lovely to sew with.  Wynn sent me the Fujix Quilt Farm which is very similar and although it's polyester it feels just like cotton.   I have a pretty basic rocking technique and I don't use a hoop as I find they annoy me!  I do use leather thimbles, one to push the needle through and the other to meet the needle on the reverse side.  Here's hoping that more practice will improve my skill.

For those still looking for the My Small World quilt pattern, Jen Kingwell is releasing it as a pattern soon, I believe it is currently at the printers. Thank you Jen for a design that has inspired so many quilters to make their own small world.  It is definitely a quilt for learning!  I know I've certainly improved my small piecing skills and accuracy along with appliqué and hand piecing.  I'd like to say a big thank you to my co-hosts and their tips and tricks, John, Megan,  Lisa, Danielle and Cindy.    Cindy has finished quilt to show you which is stunning!  And another big thank you to all of you who have taken part and shared your work, it has been a pleasure to see so many! All the quilt-along posts will stay up if you are still working on earlier sections.  I'd love to see and finished tops and quilts, you can tag my on any pics on Instagram, I am @verykerryberry.  It has been a wonderful experience quilting along with so many people.

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Tuesday, 29 September 2015

September at Plush Addict

The end of September is proving to be glorious weather in the UK, especially down here in the UK.  I'm making most of the daytime sunshine, wearing my summer dresses before they finally get put away for six months.  Time to visit Plush Addict and see what's in store this month...

Plush Addict has a variety of special offers each month- you can see them in one place here.  The 20% discount on Little Darlings cotton/spandex jersey caught my eye with these nautical prints:
Although the print range  which also includes cats and rainbows is obviously great for children's clothes, I think the anchor print would make great women's wear jersey tops too. These are 150cm wide and I generally buy 1.5m of jersey in this width to make long sleeve tops and its usually ample.

Another couple of jersey fabrics caught my eye- I wear a lot of jersey tops over autumn and winter!  This bamboo jersey in green melange is a deep forrest colour, very wide at 164cm and a mix of 90% bamboo and 10% polyester.   Bamboo usually has a lovely feel so I'm tempted to order some of this to try it out.  It's also available in black

I'm also tempted by this navy/white pin dot viscose jersey which looks very wearable with all the blue in my wardrobe!

In the quilting fabrics, you know I have a bit of a weakness for kitchen prints so Makower's new Lila's Kitchen has a lot to like!  The Accessories print is my favourite from the collection:

I think a lot of people will like the Clocks pattern too, it would make a great bag outer or lining.

Moda have a gorgeous Kawaii inspired fabric collection by Abi Hall, an English designer, which is gloriously illustrated.  This is Happy Town- hints of Richard Scarry in there too!  I have a feeling this range will fly out of the shop!

Happy Friends in Aqua (also in white) features all the animal characters.

There's a treehouse panel that would make a lovely and simple wall hanging.

There are prints which are not so obviously animals and kawaii fun like the Patchwork Garden multi print.   It makes me think of kitchen chair pads, table cloths and quilt backs.

Finally, I always ask Kellie if she has anything special in that I may have missed and she mentioned this amazing high quality oriental images chambray jacquard.   There are amazing floral and animal images woven into the fabrics!

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Monday, 28 September 2015

Farmer's Wife 1930s QAL Blocks 5 and 6: Anne and April

Welcome to the third weekly post in the year long project of the Farmer's Wife 1930s Quilt Along.   Block five is is 'Anne' (p.164, letter p.46) Jo is posting about this block over at A Life in Lists.  A little note for foundation piecers, because of the way the pattern is designed your block will spin the opposite way to the block in the book. Technically, the pattern pieces needed to be reversed to match the book photo. Jo goes into this on more detail on her post.

Fabric Credits

Block six is 'April' p.165, letter p.134: 

Fabric Credits
Robert Kaufman Fabrics, Penny and Friends, Square Dance Camelia
Bella Solids in Peacock
Kona Corn Yellow
Robert Kaufman Fabrics, Penny and Friends, Square Dance Camelia

I found the construction of this block relatively straightforward,  but there are an awful lot of pieces which are easy to muddle up, the block pattern is seen more clearly on point rather than square on and choosing the right level of contrast was hard!   I went through three combinations before I got the contrast right!  Less is more: reducing the number of patterned prints in a block works better for me than two or three patterns, and if in doubt, use a solid.  There's a reason that these blocks work well with 1930s reproduction prints.  The small, often multi directional designs lend themselves to tiny pieces.  These are my various combinations and I am not totally sold on the colours I finally went with but some blocks are going to end up at the end of rows cut in half and this may be one!

Foundation Paper Piecing Fabric Cutting
These shapes are all rectangles, squares or right angled triangles so this is a very straightforward block to cut out.  I used the rotary cutting instructions for all the shapes with the addition of ½" so for example a 2" square would become a 2 ½" square which adds some extra fabric for foundation piecing.  For shapes A1, B1, C1, D1, I cut out 2 ½" squares.  As these are the first pieces in theses sections, they will get trimmed to shape as you add the triangles (A2 and A3 etc).   You can download a free guide to foundation paper piecing here.

The tricky part of this block is not the piecing, it's the arranging the colours and fabrics and getting them in the right order to piece.  The block is symmetrical when on point but not when square on (the symmetry line is diagonal). I used a dash of coloured pencil to keep myself sane and I looked a lot at the photograph on page 165 as I was piecing.

These things made my piecing easier!
  • check your fabrics for contrast
  • colour code pieces on foundation patterns
  • remove paper just before stitching sections together
  • check your block with the book images square on and on point 
When it comes to joining the sections.  I trimmed them down, removed the paper just before I was ready to join so I knew I had the right piece and the right orientation and then pressed the seams to the side so they would nest together with their corresponding section.  This makes joining a lot easier!  There is an instruction to 'Sew these three large sections together as in block diagram'.  It's slightly confusing because the block diagram has rows joined horizontally and the foundation method has columns joined vertically.

Any questions, please comment and I'll answer below.
  • Use #fw1930sqal on Instagram and there's also a Flickr group if you like to share there.  
  • You can also copy and paste links to any of your blog posts for these blocks into the comments - I'd love to visit and take a look. 
  • For individual blocks, you can use #anneblock and #aprilblock on Instagram
  • I'll be introducing this post on Periscope with a short broadcast talking about contrast with fabrics around 2.15pm GMT today and it'll be available for 24 hours to replay before it disappears! Link will be in my twitter feed @verykb
Please note:  I have linked to my sponsors on items bought through them and elsewhere for anything that has come from other shops.
Don't forget to visit Jo's post on Anne.  Back next Monday with Justine and blocks 7 and 8.

sib blog

Saturday, 26 September 2015

The Art of Papercutting by Jessica Palmer: Book review

I like other crafts apart from sewing.  I'm a fan of papercutting, it's more appreciation and enjoyment of others' artistry rather than producing papercut artwork of my own.  My husband makes me papercut cards.  He's not a particularly artsy person, but we both love papercut art, especially those with a dark, fairy tale aesthetic.  Search Press sent me a list of their latest art and craft titles up for review and rather than the usual quilting books, the cover of Jessica Palmer's The Art of Papercutting caught my eye,

You may recognise her name and style from the hugely popular Tangle Wood, a deluxe colouring book printed on beautiful quality paper.  Her papercutting aesthetic is slightly different; I can see lots of European art traditions  influencing her work and I especially like her use of colour in amongst all the back and white.  The bird image below is a Polish Style wycinaki piece.

I handed this book first to my husband as he has done a lot more papercutting than me and we ended up going through it together.  We both agreed it is a practical book, packed full of amazing inspiration and papercutting eye candy but with easily accessible text and instructions.  Jessica encourages you to get started, find inspiration and sketch your idea. 

She lists easy-to-find equipment, no frills.  After a little digging around, I found I had all the materials I needed in the house and I use sewing carbon paper to transfer my design.

Around a third of the book is history, techniques and papercutting genres, the rest is about art in paper and shows examples  of different papercutting art from book covers to life drawing and includes additional techniques and information with it.  The 'Cutting with a Knife' section in the first part of the book has concise text and large photographs so you can see each step of the process in detail.  There are practical tips sprinkled throughout the how-to sections and I picked up some useful ideas like wrapping the end of the knife in masking tape so the blade doesn't dig into your fingers!  The iris design on these pages is one of the templates included at the end of the book.

Jessica's artwork is jaw-droppingly good.  She's bold and exploits the contrast of colour that can be easily created with solid paper as well as the fragility of the form.  I love the variety of artwork that she's included in her selection, it's a pleasure to browse through.

The templates at the end can be seen in their finished art work form elsewhere in the book.   I'm not sure they were totally necessary, they seem like a bit of an extra addition but if you want a starting point they can be traced or scanned for you won use.  The text says they are of 'increasing complexity' although that is not reflected in the order they appear- that seems very mixed up!  The Iris design below is relatively straightforward but the Fern papercut next to it is a real challenge!

I originally chose to review this book with an eye to my husband being encouraged to do more  papercutting but I was so taken with the imagery that I gave it a whirl.  Paper crafts are not my strong point.  I find paper rather ephemeral and although I love drawing, cutting and fragility make me a little tense!  I chose a vintage image from a Singer Sewing book as a starting point.

I simplified the design along the way; I omitted the flower, kept the bobbin and added the needle and thread.  I used some  brown wrapping paper for the underlay behind bobbin and some marbled paper from distant primary teacher days (that paper must be 18 years old!).  The design was simple enough to cope with my lack of experience and I liked the result!

These are a couple of cards my husband has made for me over the years.  Much treasured!

We both rated The Art of Papercutting very highly .  It's got a great mix of practicality and artistic inspiration.  Jessica Palmer's artwork is so enjoyable to look at and there's a huge breadth in her work. 

*This book was sent for free for review purposes. I only review books that I have a genuine interest in. All opinions are my own*

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