Design Feed

Just checking

That is what I did yesterday.  Dropped into the discount fabric shop to just check what was there.  I'm afraid it was much of the same old, same old, but I found some fabric that was reduced in price and although I'm not sure what I will use it for now, I know it will be just perfect to use in teaching projects next year.

I try to keep the prices of my kits reasonable and sometimes you have to use less than ideal fabrics to do this.  But not this lot!  It is so bright and colourful that it makes me smile. 

This will be perfect for a Children's Class.

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These will make great bags for using zippers.

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and I have no idea what I will use this for but I like it.

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Amazing that a bit of fabric can make me feel so good.



The joys of technology

I had to buy a new printer when I got home from overseas.  The other one just gave up and it was only about 18 months old.  This time I bought a Canon .  It isn't nearly as bulky and doesn't take up too much room on the desk but the inks cost a bomb.  I have just finished printing all the instructions for the next Children's Class and need to get more ink already.  First quotes cost more than the printer.

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My other problem is linking it to my old PC.  Why do I still have a PC you ask when I have the latest Apple desk top?  Well it runs my embroidery design program.  You can still buy the program but it works on an old operating system.

Screen Shot 2017-12-10 at 6.57.56 am Screen Shot 2017-12-10 at 6.57.01 amThe latest printers work on Windows 10 and everyone is supposed to be up to speed.  It took me half a day trying to get a connection before I worked this out.  My husband has an old printer down in his office so now I am running up and down 2 flights of stairs to get a print out.
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I am working on a new design for a Kogin class for 2018 and would really like it finished this week if possible.  I did have one win though.  I found that the new fabric box I made as a prototype holds my Kogin threads perfectly.



Weaving and embroidery

My visit to Guatemala was a bit like stepping out of the Tardis into another time zone. 

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The skills of people there is  from a time long past in our Western Culture.   I wondered why it was the women who mainly carried on these skills and kept their traditions?   Our guide explained that the country had gone through a 36 year civil war, fueled by a number of different powers.  The CIA from the USA, Castro from Cuba and local people who saw it as an opportunity to increase their power.  The result of this was that a lot of the Mayan men were killed.  You could be killed for wearing Mayan native dress, so the men stopped wearing it.  That their culture has survived at all is remarkable considering the ethnic cleansing and killing that went on during that time.

But it does continue on and says a lot about the people, especially the women.  Some of the blouses, or hupils, they wear look embroidered but they are actually a hand woven brocade.  This piece that I purchased from a second hand market is an example of a brocade. The joins at the centre is embroidered, the rest of the design is woven.  And, they memorise these patterns.  The counting involved must drive them crazy.  This is how brocade was made before machines.  No wonder it was so expensive and prized and the weavers praised for their skills. 

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These skills were highly prized in Western Culture, starting about Byzantine times (it's use in Mayan culture predates this by thousands of years), and because the textiles were so expensive their distribution and access to the skill was controlled by those in power right up to the 1700,s.  In 1804 Joseph Jacquard invented a machine that could be attached to a power loom and since then hand woven brocade has virtually disappeared from our culture.  I saw one of these machines on display in Lyon, France years ago.

This hupil that I also purchased second hand, is embroidered.  That is, the fabric is woven and then the design added with needle and thread.


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It must have been stitched some time after 1950 because there is quite a bit of lurex thread being used.   Mayan women 'love' glitter.

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Outside one of the churches in Chichicastinango

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I found a woman drawing the designs, free hand, onto fabric for embroiderers to add their threads.

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 6.54.56 amI also found some pre-printed designs in a shop in the market.

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This video from You Tube details the making of a hupil over 90 days.  It has been filmed in the very places I  have just visited and shows in detail the whole process.  The shop where Manuela buys her threads is the same shop where I bought mine and the Textile Museum is the same one where I watched this young woman warp up her loom.

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If you want to see a more in-depth explanation of weaving and embroidery in Mayan culture there is an excellent documentary called "Century of Color: Maya Weaving & Textiles (English)"  It is nearly an hour in length and is very comprehensive in it's coverage of the topic.                                                                                                                                                                                                         Now it is time to step back into my imaginary time machine.  I need to return to today's world and pick up the threads of my life again.  I wonder if Dr Who and his time travellers felt like I do now?  A bit of regret at leaving, excitement at my return, nostalga about what was.  But now the future calls.




















Spinning and weaving

After viewing an exhibition in Canberra a couple of years ago I was alerted to the range of wonderful weaving from South America.  So, I embarked on this last trip a bit more prepared for what I would be looking at.  What I hadn't prepared for was how all pervasive it is in the lives of some women in the Mayan culture.

By the time a girl from a family who weaves is in her teens she is an accomplished spinner with the hand spindle.  This young girl uses a clay dish to spin the base of the spindle.   The thread she is spinning is fine and even and the process is automatic.  She has done it so often she isn't even thinking about it. 

Traditionally, a baby girl, at about 3 weeks of ago, is taken by the midwife to be bathed in a kind of sweat lodge.  The mother will give the midwife her baby daughter's weaving instruments, all minature in size.  This will include strands of thread,  a tiny loom, scissors, basket and needle.  The mid wife then performs a ceremony in which she opens the infants hands and passes each instrument over them.  She prays that the child will become a very good weaver and maintain the ancient weaving arts that have been passed down her maternal line for thousands of years.  But this work is difficult and time consuming.  It takes 3 months to weave a intricate blouse and many young people do not continue the tradition.  Cheap western clothing from Goodwill shops have flooded the markets and are readily available.

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Two kinds of cotton are grown.  I have never seen this brown variety before.

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However both varieties require a lot of preparation to get them ready for spinning.  All the seeds have to be manually picked out and there are a lot of seeds.  Then the fibre is teased out and spread on the small women mats.  The mats are a bit larger than an A4 piece of paper but not as big as an A 3.  Those mats are beautifully woven. Then the fibre is beaten for about 2 hours to remove any other foreign materials and soften it for spinning.  (I got lost about the removing the seeds stage.  It is so difficult!)

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The next stage is the dying of the yarn.  We spent some time with a women's co-operative and they explained how they dyed their yarn.  They only use natural dyes and the magic ingredient is the chopped up banana leaves which they add to the dye pot to set the dye.   First they boil the leaves for 2 - 3 hours then soak the thread in the liquid to prepare them for dyeing.  The dye doesn't run and even using indigo dyes there is no staining on the hands.  I have my eyes set on my friends banana trees after the next crop is harvested just to see what I can do.

Some of the dyes they obtain are:

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They also used crushed insects to get their purple colour.

Walking around the cop-op I found a whole collection of cushions that had been repurposed from discarded hupils, (blouses.)  Some lovely embroidery ideas here.

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They  call this "Rococco work".   Looks like lots of bullion knots to me!

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And it was every where and there was a hug spread of embroidery skills on display. Screen Shot 2017-11-28 at 11.05.46 am
They work their embroidery on a frame.

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There were so many different embroideries and weaving designs that I could never post them all here but I hope to use them as inspiration for some other designs.








I have to admit, this ipad just isn’t as good as my computer but it is a lot lighter.  I suppose that a lot of my discomfort with it is caused by unfamiliarity.   We will see how our relationship develops as time goes by.

 My stomach and I are still not agreeing but not enough to stop me getting out and about.  Today we had breakfast in a small cafe, which served the best coffee, and then headed out on a walking tour of the historic sites of the city.   This is an old city  that was founded, and abandoned, then rebuilt.  The big problem is the earthquakes.  Guatemala sits on the junction of 3 tectonic plates so it is shaking all the time.  They spent a lot of time building only to have it fall down.  But some of those fallen down ruins are quite spectacular as you can see from the above photos.

The following photos are a mixture of what I want to use as backgrounds for some of my work,I think the will be great starting points for collages, and some of the flowers.


Again, lots of familiar flowers but brighter in colour.

There was one great shot of chicken cooking outside a small shop.   They had used  and old tyre rim and made a BBQ stand.  Very inventive.



5 days to go

It has been some time since I was on a countdown for overseas travel.  I think the last one was a trip to NZ and that didn't go well back in 2011.  (Tasmania doesn't count.)  I had a fall and broke some ribs and ruptured a hernia!!  It has taken 6 years to be off again after lots of medical problems and this time I am going to be very careful with myself.  I have a whole lot of travelling I want to do after this trip.

I have got to the point where I have given up worrying about all the things that aren't right.  Like the fact that  my Houston paper work hasn't arrived as yet. ( I sent them an Email and they said they would print it out again when I got there. )  Or that they sent all my paper work to Boston for my trip to South America.   Just "go with the flow" and take it as it comes.  Who knows, it might mean I do something even better?

I said to myself "think peaceful thoughts", which sent me running to the computer to do some drawings for October's 'Peace Embroidery".  The connection?  Well, when I was in Toowoomba I also visited the 'Japanese Gardens'.  At the entrance they had a board that gave a layout of the garden and some history regarding it's design.


The park is called Ju Raku En,  "Enjoying Peace and Longevity in a Public Place".  I thought about just embroidering "Enjoying Peace"  but decided to use the Japanese words because they said so much about this place and how peace can be enjoyed.

On the day I was there it was very hot, around 38 degrees C and it was busy with lots of people looking at the gardens.  There has been little rain over the last few months and everything was dry.  The ground was rather dusty and the water in the lake brown but it was still beautiful.  There was a 'peace pole' just inside the entrance but as the saying was similar to one of the past embroideries I am still thinking how I could use this one.


As at all the parks, people had brought picnics to sit and enjoy the day.

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I walked the circuit to look for inspiration and to just enjoy the park.  I love the use of the colour red, at the gates and on the bridge.



You can view the bridges from a number of vantage points and everyone gives a lovely picture.


There were blossom trees in bloom,



and that same red was mirrored in the flowers and foliage.



The water in the lake was rather murky,


but the ducks and ibis didn't seem to mind.



You could just see the tortoises


And lot's of children were feeding the cat fish who had made the water even worse as they fought with the ducks for the spoils.


But the little streams that feed the lake were clearer


and this is where the birds were drinking.


It really is a peaceful park and I liked the secluded parts away from the central lake.

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I have put all this aside in the last few weeks and have decided that I like the name of the park and would embroider something simple to enhance it that reflected the simplicity of the garden design.  So this is what I have decided to embroider.

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Hope I get it finished before I go.








Time to panic

I had a lovely few days away.  The weather was cool and the company good. The mornings were foggy,

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and the clouds as they rose over the escarpment, memorable.

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In the evenings the skys were the most amazing colours as the sun set over the western downs.

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 I was introduced to another woman who is travelling to Houston for the festival and she said,

"Oh yes, I leave in under two weeks".

  I thought,

"She must be going early." 

Now I have looked at the calendar, it is less than 2 weeks before I leave.   It is all shaping up to be a disaster.  My paper work and tickets have been sent to Boston for Guatamala, (I live in Australia.)   No paper work has arrived for my classes at the festival.  I have an email confirmation which says I have to have the paper work for the classes, the email is not good enough.  But they have deducted the payment for the classes from my account so I am hopeful that this might still work out.  I think I need to make some international phone calls and I am not good on the telephone because I have a hearing problem.  I must transfer money into another account just in case the other credit cards don't work.  (My husband has given me another 3 credit cards on top of the 3 I already have.) Stress, Stress, Stress.

 I need to get the samples finished for next years classes and they are not going well.  The drawing are great, the stitching isn't bad but I have chosen the wrong colours for one piece and will have to start again.  That is the one that needs to be finished in the next couple of weeks.

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 The furniture is still being delivered for the city town house and I need to buy a dining room set and my daughter keeps suggesting very expensive ones.  The washing machine has just broken down and as I have had it for some time I think we will have to get a new one.  No one delivers to the island so that means carriers and stress.

 On the upside I do have a new suitcase and I have got all my clothes organised.  I have cleaned out my wardrobe and the back of my car is loaded with donations for the charity bin.  My new ipad is packed ready and my camera is working well.  (Got to find that passport.)

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I finish a dummy run on the crocheted bunny, very cute.

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Look at that fat tummy, and I love the tail.

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(I still need to make clothes for the girls bunnies.)  I used left over yarn from the shawl.  Lots of adjustments to make and the next ones will be white rabbits.  Of course the only crochet hook I don't have is a size 3, the one I need for this wool.

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I think it is time to make lists and start to find some control in all this mess.


A new tech toy

I have been wanting to buy a new Ipad for some time but keep putting it off because of the cost.  But after much research and deep thinking I took the plunge and bought a new Ipad Pro, the biggest size with the most memory.

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Along with a smart keyboard and

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an Apple pencil.

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It is such an expensive toy that I need it to do a special job.  That is to take the place of my lap top which is getting very old and weighs a ton.  That really is what tipped the balance for me.  I also need to upgrade my skills for vector drawing.  I use Easy Draw on my computer, which is a great technical program.  It is really used for doing mechanical and architectural drawing and when I used to teach those skills in the class room it was great.

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But I am not using it to it's full potential any more.  The other program I run is called Easy Grapher Professional, but it was written in 2004 and hasn't been updated since then.  It is a specialty needlework program and I run it on an old PC.

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I think the time is approaching, at a rapid rate, where I am going to have to learn Adobe Illustrator.  That seems to be the standard these days, I am just turned off by the price.  If I take a class at the local Technical College I might be able to purchase a student copy.  But courses range in price between $300 and $3,000.  I wonder if my son has a copy of this program?  I know he uses this package and he used it for his degree.  I know what he will say.  "Look it up on Google Mum".

Some singlet dresses

I had to replace the foot pedal for my over-locker and whilst in the Bernina Shop I saw some children's singlet dresses on the wall that they had been teaching as a project.  I immediately thought of my grand daughters and quickly bought a couple of ecco cotton tops to make them one each.   Now there are lots of  instructions for these dresses on the internet and they are quick and easy to make but I made a couple of changes to get a better look.

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I like this tutorial for a toddler but I wasn't happy with the look of how the bodice and skirt joined.

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The things I considered first were:

  • The choice of fabric,  I used some Liberty cotton because it gathers, drapes and washes well. (The fibre used has a long staple - expensive- which means it doesn't crease like cheaper cottons that have a short staple - cheap.)

        But there are lots of fabric to choose from.  Most Mum's these days do not iron and hand washing is a thing of the past.  So if you don't want to spend a lot of money on fabric choose one that has a small amount of polyester in it.  Pure cotton is going to crease.  It will look good to start with but after the first wash it will be creased if not ironed.  After a couple of minutes in the dryer that fabric with some polyester in it will look great.  (The heat slightly melts the polyester in the fabric taking out the creases as it is thermoplastic.)

  • The amount of fabric.  Most instructions tell you to use the width of the fabric but this varies between fabrics and the weight of the fabric will effect just how it gathers.   I think pleating would be better for a heavier weight fabric and extra width is needed if you are using a light weight fabric.
  • The distance between the underarm and where you cut the t shirt.

This changes with the age of the child.  For a toddler I would cut the T shirt at about 9cm (3.5").  A toddler has a bit of a tummy and this will hang better over it.  For my girls, who are 5 & 6 years of age I made the cut longer 12cm (nearly 5") .


Then there was the construction.

After I cut the T shirt I ironed a 4cm (1.5") strip of light paper iron on interfacing above the cut to stabilise the knit fabric.  This also allows you to use a straight stitch when you attach the skirt.  After sewing you can easily peel the stabiliser back to the sewing line and trim it off.

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The gathering.

Most instructions will tell you to lengthen your machine stitch.  I only slightly lengthen the stitch but I also loosen the tension.  This makes that bobbin thread easy to pull up.  (I sew on the right side and gather on the wrong side of the fabric.)

I also sew 2 lines of gathering.  At the end of the first line I sew down 3 stitches and come back the other way.  (This is about the width of your presser foot. 

This allows you to pull up an even gathering and you can then sew the bodice and skirt together in between the 2 gathering lines.  To pull out the gathering threads you just have to snip the thread on the bobbin stitched side back at that 3 stitch turn. The loose bobbin thread pulls out with no fuss and the top thread just falls away.  This also means you do not disturb that line of stitching where you joined the bodice and skirt.

Make sure you mark the quarter and half ways points on the top of the skirt before you pull up that gathering thread.  This will then make it easy to line them up with the seams and centre front and back of the T shirt.  I then neaten this edge by over-locking it.

I thought about top stitching the join but decided it wasn't necessary.

The hem

If you want to allow for growth, and all kids grow ,  set a wider hem you can let down.  You could machine it but I like the hang of a hand stitched hem.

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The girls put the dresses on and refused to take them off.  They love the feel of that Liberty fabric.  They couldn't stop touching it.  Now there will be nothing to compare to this fabric.  I bet they are hooked for life, just like me.

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Robyn's House

Robyn asked me not to put her photo up on my blog so you won't find her here.  (TIP:  Look on Facebook)

But I have put together some images that I took when visiting her home.  It was just the most generous gesture to open her door to the public.  Some of the highlights for me were the embroidered books that were scattered around.  A beautiful way to keep memories.

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The little kick-nacks.

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Her order of Australia displayed on a beautiful old embroidered cloth.

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The antique baby bonnets crocheted using silk thread and bullion stitch.

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The dresser with Xylonite pieces.

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The original Gumnut Baby quilt and that collection of post cards that went right around the room.

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Those jelly beans that were in dishes throughout the house.

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Glancing out the window there was a small fish pond complete with gold fish.

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Old quilts and new quilts.  All her quilts are hand pieces and hand quilted.  (The ones on the dinning room table were piled high.) And her huge collection of Xylonite pieces.

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The garden was full of quilts.

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I should have noticed these things as I came in but I did see them as I left.  The big clam shell full of floating camillias.  So old Queensland. (She has over 100 camillia trees in her garden.)

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The bush seed pod wreath on the wall.

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Her Mother's flowers.

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And that bird bath.

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Thank you Robyn.