Sewing lightweight fabric

Sewing lightweight fabric can be a pain. It slips about, the machine doesn’t grip as it normally does, and any glitches tend to show up. So these 18 tips for sewing lightweight fabric will be useful.

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How to hem lace

Now here is a useful post. I must say, faced with the job myself, I don’t think I would have thought of all these options.

So I though I would share it here, in case it is useful. How to hem lace.

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In search of forgotten colours

This is a fascinating video posted by the V&A about a family business in Japan that has used only natural dyes since 1988. It is beautiful and informative, and is a very pleasant way to spend 18 minutes.

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Knowing your sewing machine needle

I have to admit I’m a bit slack here.

I know the importance of using a needle that is sharp and straight.

And I always make sure I’ve got a ball needle when I’m sewing jersey.

Apart from that, I don’t tend to pay a lot of attention.

I think I might be changing my ways after reading this post about using the correct needle.

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An indigo vat

Scarves drying

After my woad experiment in the summer, I intended to have another go with a different recipe. But the woad crop wasn’t good enough.

So now I’m trying with powdered indigo from Tamil Nadu. I’m using the 123 method, because not only is it more environmentally friendly, but also it doesn’t involve the cooker, which means there is a lower chance of smelling the house out.

The method is simple. 1 part indigo to 2 parts  calcium hydroxide (lime, an alkali), and  3 parts fructose sugar, all mixed in warm water and combined. I’m amazed to read that sugar is one of the most acidic foodstuffs! Some people use a big bucket, but I used a big glass jar. Not only can you see what is going on, but also the narrower neck lessens the chance that extra oxygen will get in.

If you are thinking of giving it a try, it is important to hydrate the dye powder by shaking it in a lidded jar, with water and some pebbles first. If you don’t do this, you 90% of the colour is lost. It is also important to add powder to warm water at each stage, not the other way round.

The glass jar turned out to be a good move. The vat is supposed to separate out, so the sludge is at the bottom, with some reddish dye liquid above it, with a “bloom” of coppery blueish froth on the top. when I checked the following day, it looked just the same as when I mixed it, except the surface looked slightly bronze. I checked the instructions, and found that although it said leave it at room temperature, a bit later it said to keep it above 16°C. I had mixed it in the studio and left it in there overnight. On a frosty night in February, in a large room with a big window and one radiator.

So I moved it into the kitchen, where there is under floor heating. But of course, by now the liquid was cold, so it took time to get going again. But I got there. I tried 4 different tie dye techniques on scrap cotton, and two silk scarves. To act as a resist, I used a mixture of rubber bands, bulldog clips, and gathered stitching.

Here are the results!


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Hanging paintings without damaging walls

Now I haven’t tried this, but it does look promising. I find it hard to believe that you can get it off the wall easily afterwards (note the comment about the importance of pulling downwards in the post).

But on the other hand, if you want precise gaps between your pictures, this could definitely be the way forward. It isn’t always easy to assess the distance between the hanger and the top of the picture. Sometimes the string stretches slightly more than you expect. On more than one occasion I’ve re-jigged the arrangement rather than bother moving the nails.

So I might give hanging paintings with velcro idea a go at some point.

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Some basic embroidery stitches

I’ve come upon this quick guide to basic embroidery stitches, which I thought would be worth sharing. As the author says, it is amazing how much you can achieve with a few basic stitches.

Although I am surprised they have missed out herringbone stitch, which is one of my favourites. And how do people manage without feather stitch and all its variations?

But I am getting carried away. We are talking basic stitches here.

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Weaving a willow deer

At the back of my mill, there is a meadow. For a while, there was a scheme to have a summer house down at the end of the meadow. I was thinking about making some sculptures out of chicken wire, so there could be fairies at the bottom of the garden.

Realistically, the prospect of sitting on the terrace, near the house and looking at the meadow is a great deal more enticing than getting organised to carry everything down to the other end. I don’t like to be too far away from the next cup of tea.

So I need another idea.

Over Christmas, I was looking on Instagram and found some fabulous willow sculpture. I thought that might be a good plan, so I did some research, and ended up in a workshop in Sherburn in Elmet with Leilah Vyner of Dragon Willow. We made the four at the top of this post. Horace is on the right.

We began by making a series of rings. Then we each had a wooden jig, with holes about an inch in diameter, which we stuffed with willow. After making a framework by linking single bits of willow with an overhand knot, we fixed rings on at strategic points to make the basic shape. All of which seemed a bit flimsy and unpromising. Some of the strands of willow from the back of the animal were curved round to refine the shape, then all the spare bits were woven in randomly. More willow was added to shape the front. That took all morning.

After lunch, we stitched the smaller rings together into a head shape with willow, and wove into this base. Leilah made it look easy, and our basic shapes looked nothing like as good as her’s. She told us to keep weaving in some more willow, keeping an eye on the shape as we worked, and she was right. Suddenly we all had something that actually looked like a deer’s head.  A bit of flat weaving to make ears and tails, a few knots, and a bit more random weaving to fill in any gaps, and we were done.

All of which makes it sound much more straight forward than it was, but that is the bare bones of the process. You can see my work in progress below, culminating in Horace looking out of the window at home. He isn’t allowed out yet, as he hasn’t had his injections. He needs a coat of boiled linseed oil and turpentine, and before he has that, he has to dry out properly. Which reminds me, the willow only bends properly when it is wet, so the different colours you see in the pictures are from the willow drying out.

And here is the gallery of everyone else’s work:

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Twenty uses for a bulldog clip

I must say that I think the title of this post is rather pushing it.

Some of these “ideas” are only what I thought a bulldog clip was for.

But on the other hand, there has got to be some mileage in the brush holder idea.

And I rather fancy the jam jar lid palette.

I shan’t be trying the idea for hanging the end of a bottle from a nail. With my luck, I would put in just a bit too much weight, and the whole thing would ping off the wall.

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Pattern weights

Sometimes, pins just won’t do.


You might be using something where the pins would leave holes. Like leather, pvc, or paper.

You might not want the distortion you get when you lift everything up to get the pin through.

You might not want the bother of putting the pins into the pattern just to take them all out again a few minutes later.

Then the answer is to use pattern weights. Chunky pebbles do the trick, if you can find ones flat enough. Tins hold the pattern down, but sometimes cutting round them is difficult. The height gets in the way. A set of weights from kitchen scales can be useful, but of course their sizes vary, so you might find that you have used the crucial one already.

So the answer is a set of proper pattern weights, with flat bottoms, in a sensible size for the job. For a while, I have been getting round to making myself some fabric weights. I have seen lots of pictures on line. Equilateral triangles, cut from pretty scraps, stuffed with rice will do the job. A 2″ base triangle seemed like a sensible size.

Eventually I got round to making a trial one. The size seems about right, and the tetrahedron shape means it is easy to pick up. But it seems a bit on the light side.

But now I’ve found some really pretty ones on Etsy. The only difficulty is deciding which diameter to get. I suspect this would still be a difficult decision if you were standing in a real shop and could see and feel them. This is the sort of knowledge that comes with experience. I went for the middle sized ones, partly because the middle size is often the most flexible. But also because a set of 6 gives you a decent number, with no duplicated pictures.


My collection at the moment

And how to do they compare weight wise? The bought ones weigh 47g. The home made one weighs 24g. Well that will be why mine feels light then. My guess is that I need to use 2.5″ triangles to get a comparable weight. Having tried these weights out, I’m not bothering to make any more. Cutting out my new dress was much quicker than using pins, and the weights stayed put nicely.

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