Making beautiful colours without toxic chemicals

Sometimes progress is not a good thing. For example, “improving” the way we obtain  indigo colour by using a synthetic substitute introduced all sorts of substances we now know are harmful to the process.

This post on making beautiful colours without toxic chemicals shows how genetically engineering bacteria to mirror the way the Japanese indigo plant makes colour may help.

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Shetland lace blouses

This is following on with the theme of knitting from the Northern Isles.

When you see knitted lace, it is usually an edging for something, or a scarf or shawl.

But as these pictures show, that was not always the case. This post about lace blouses shows the potential for this technique.

Although given my history of wrecking shetland lace scarves by getting them caught in things, I don’t think I’ll be going in that direction.

And by the way, if you are ever in Shetland, you really must go to the Shetland Museum.

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Fair Isle: The remote island where jumpers are always in fashion

This post has some fabulous archive pictures of Fair Isle jumpers, which are worth a look.

And I’m using it as an excuse to pst a picture of my Burra Bear: a souvenir of a Shetland holiday. His name is Huggins.

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Spinning wheels

I’ve found a new game.

The National Trust have put photos of their collection online, and you can search it in all sorts of different ways. How about that for an excellent way of looking a interesting stuff? This link will take you to the collection of spinning wheels. When I did his search there were pictures of 70 of them. The variety is amazing. There is even a glass one.

The picture on this page is mine. and yes, it does get used. I turn the wheel most days, but haven’t been brave enough to spin with it yet!

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Identifying sewing machine feet

Do you ever look at your collection of sewing machine feet and wonder which one you need for the current job?

This post will help.

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I love every part of this post about making beautiful tassels.

Apart from the tassels themselves, just look at those racks of thread. And there is the machinery, and…

Even if I could afford to go mad in a tassel shop like this I don’t think I would be able to make my mind up. There are limits to where you can put tassels.

Still, it is interesting, and much more exotic than mine!

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Making felt flowers

Felt is cheap and cheerful, and easy to work with. If you need to cheer something up, and it doesn’t need to be washable, felt is worth considering.

Here is a useful post about 10 ways to make felt flowers.

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How to make a narrow hem on curves

I tend to avoid narrow hems if I can get away with it. I’m always a bit suspiscious about curved hems as well.

So when I saw a post about easy narrow curved hems, I was curious. And I think for those of us who have overlockers, this could be a way forward.

So the next time, instead of thinking of another way round the issue, I will probably give this method of make a narrow curved hem a go.

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Pin cushions

Pin cushions are an essential part of a sewing kit. Yes, you can manage without them, making do with the box they came in. Or even a card. But it is more difficult to pick them up and put them down, which slow2020s everything up.

You will notice I said pincushions, because it is useful to have one in every room where you will sew.

There are various factors influencing the success of a pin cushion:

  • It needs to be thick enough so that the pins don’t go straight through, leaving points exposed to scratch you or the furniture.
  • The thickness will vary with the length of the pin, and the number of pins you will need. Most sewing tasks might need several dozen pins, if only to ward off the chance of running out. Hat pins, on the other hand, need a thicker base, sometimes mounted in a vase, but the surface can be smaller, as not so many are needed.
  • The stuffing needs to be firm enough to hold the pins (and sometimes the shape of the pin cushion).
  • In some climates, you have to guard against he possibility of insects eating your stuffing, or humid atmospheres reacting with any metal.

Various types of stuffing can be used:

  • Probably the easiest and most readily available is polyester wadding. It is cheap, doesn’t cause allergy problems, and is easy to manage.
  • Where a bit of weight is needed, rice or lentils can be used. It is said that over time, the pins will break this stuffing down, causing the volume of the stuffing to decrease. I used a combination of rice and lentils to stuff my circus tent I made about three years ago, from an idea in a magazine. I must say I haven’t noticed a problem yet. It is a very heavy cushion, and it took far more than I expected to get the right effect.
  • Emery powder is a traditional filling. Emery is made from powdered rock, and is what is stuck on to sand paper. It polishes the pin every time it goes in or out of the cushion, keeping it sharp. I used to have one of these, but the covering fabric wore out, and it began to leak.
  • The same theory applies to sawdust. This is easier to get hold of, particularly if you have a friend who is keen on woodwork.
  • The final traditional stuffing is crushed walnut shells. These have a polishing effect, but as the pieces are larger, they are easier to manage. The hardness means they are less likely than some of the alternatives to break down.

For my patchwork pin cushions, I decided to give the walnut shell option a go. So far they seem to be working well, but as so many people have allergies these days, I also make them with a polyester stuffing. And the nut stuffed ones have nice clear labels, and are kept in a separate box.

Of course, pin holders don’t have to be the traditional cushion. You could make a more complicated sewing organiser, like the wine bottle doll shown here. You can buy the pattern from my shop.

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Fabric Marking Tools

I’m sure we’ve all heard horror stories about various methods of marking fabric.

The ones where the mark should have come off and didn’t, and the ones where the mark came off too soon. My worst experience was when I was little. I was working on a picture of Westminster Abbey, in brown stem stitch on cream cotton. Mum was doing one of Worcester cathederal at the time, where by brother was a chorister. He still has that picture. Mine never got finished, because the printed lines wore off the fabric. I tried to improvise, but it didn’t work.

I try to avoid marking the fabric, except for things like this picture, when you know it won’t show, and the easiest thing is to mark the seam line in pencil and cut the shapes out afterwards.

I’m a big fan of drawing on paper, sewing with the machine through the paper and fabric, and then tearing the paper off.

But sometimes, you can’t get away without using a textile marker, so this post is useful for explaining the differences between some fabric marking tools.

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