Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life

Leave a comment

Weaving Destination Fashion Show Dress

I did wonder what I was doing with another sewing deadline looming, but as I sewed the last embroidered centre to one of the silk flowers on my Weaving Destination dress I felt I simulaneously sad that I’d come to the end of this project and at the same time breathed a sigh of relief that I managed the deadline. I have enjoyed making this dress. This may surprise for some of you, but this is only the second dress I have ever made! I rarely wear dresses and therefore prefer to make anything but dresses – skirts, trousers, tops etc…. Who else out there in the sewing world has more experience making trousers than dresses? I guess I’m just a little weird.IMG_0427

In my first post on the dress, I described using the book, Bias Cut Dressmaking to create my pattern. This book is particularly geared to lingerie patterns and as such there wasn’t a sleeve pattern at all. I’m a regular reader of the splendid Seamwork magazine by Colette and there has been a series called “Block, Paper, Scissors” in the magazine. In the July issue, there was an article on how to create flutter sleeves from a sleeve block. I used this tutorial to make my sleeve pattern.

My design was mostly cut and sewn on the bias, which creates its own difficulties, but after some reading around the subject, I  found that there were many techniques and recommendations that could help with the construction. Given all this, I’m particularly proud of the insides of my dress. It’s probably gratuitous to show lots of photos of French seams (much that I love them), but I’m very glad that I finished the armscyes on the inside of the dress with bias-binding. It really gives the whole inside a very polished finished.

Bias bound armscyes

I also used the same bias-binding for my hem. I think using bias-binding for the hem is a particularly tidy finish that looks good from the inside and the outside.


The silk ribbon flowers I’ve attached to the dress are made from recycled sari silk which I sourced from Yarnyarn website. The silk flowers were made quite simply. This excellent tutorial on youtube shows how the flowers are made with silk ribbons. Basically, you sew the ribbons into a loop and then stitch a zig-zag along the length of the ribbon. Pulling the ends of the thread tight, ruffles the ribbon loop into a ruched “flower”.


Although silk is quite light-weight I was still mindful of the possibility of it dragging on the fabric so I adding a little square of cotton as backing to my flower and then sewed it to the dress.

Back of ribbon flowers

The finishing touch was a few stitches of pale-coloured embroidery thread for the centre of the flower.


And here’s the finished dress. Sadly I didn’t get a lot of choice about the weather and it was absolutely tipping with rain when I took these photos. I do feel like I’m about to go to a wedding, very elegant and way too dressed up for posing in the park!



1 Comment

Embroidery in Bath

I went and saw an exhibition of the Bath Guild of Embroiderers work today. It was just in Bath Central Library and I really wandered in almost by accident; I was there to renew a few library books. The display was stunning and there was such a mixture of different types of embroidery on display, from patchwork and applique to goldwork and stumpwork.

Here are few photos I took whilst I browsed.

Bath Embroiderers 1

This pheasant is incredibly small. From what I remember the embroidered area was little bigger than my thumb! Such detail!

Bath Embroiderers 2

This medieval-like wall hanging was one of my favourites.

Bath Embroiderers 3

There are so may different techniques in this beautiful piece. I love how the bullion stitches are used to give the impression of fur on the dog.

Bath Embroiderers 4

And how about these stumpwork pieces? Sadly a photograph doesn’t do them justice, because you don’t get quite the same sense of three-dimensions.

Bath Embroiderers 6


Bath Embroiderers 5

I was so glad to stumble across this exhibition. I’ve dabbled a little recently in embroidery and it was inspiring to see this work, even if I am totally humbled by the Bath embroiderers’ skills.


Put a bird on it

In the last few weeks my stitching endeavours have followed a different path from my normal clothing makes. One of my ambitions for this year has been to explore embroidery and incorporate some into my clothing.

I’m really a novice in this area. I do enjoy the learning experience though and as usual I felt the irresistible pull to just dive in and create something from scratch, with my own design and choice of supplies. But I thought I’d give myself an easier ride, for a change, and use a kit for my first attempt at some serious embroidery. This way I could concentrate on my stitching techniques and not worry about design and supplies.

I found Trish Burr’s designs on Etsy and ordered this beautiful kit featuring a kingfisher. The kit comes with two needles and the kingfisher design printed on linen. A useful booklet containing instructions is also supplied.

The booklet is very instructive and guides you through the embroidery in stages. It lists a full list of the embroidery threads required, from both DMC and Anchor. The back page has a handy appendix of the stitch types needed for the project.

When the kit arrived I was flabbergasted at how small the design was. For some reason I hadn’t expected it to be so intricate. I started work on it, working the design with long and short stitch with a single strand of the embroidery floss. It does take a long time for the design to take form. Perhaps, because I have been on holiday in the middle, makes this feeling worse, but I feel like I have been stitching on a minute scale for ages!

My main problem with the project was that when I started sewing this, it was still reasonably cold and sitting at the desk with a lamp in the most chilled part of the house did make me a bit grumpy. I now totally understand all those period dramas where you see ladies sitting in window seats so they can see their embroidery. I imagine it was also too cold to sit there in winter!

Window seat sewing

By the way, how does Verity in Poldark do her embroidery by the light of the fire and a few beeswax candles? I have been wondering this for the last week. Either a.) she has fantastic eyesight. I’m sure it can’t be any better than mine as I went to the Opticians on Friday and mine, with the aid of contact lenses is perfectly good, b.) beeswax candles give off more light than my halogen-bulbed daylight lamp – unlikely! c.) her embroidery is really awful – thankfully she doesn’t have to earn her living sewing, now she’s married and no longer relying on her useless brother for welfare.

Anyway, moving on from Poldark, reluctantly in my case, have you seen the photos of Aidan Turner in the link above? My stitching has got better as the project progressed. With the long and short stitch and the satin stitch the most important thing is to make sure that the stitches are angled in exactly the same way. Trish has added plenty of additional lines to guide the direction of the stitches in the kingfisher design and this proved very useful. They are definitely something that I need to add when I come to make my own designs.

Kingfisher Sepals Outlined


Here’s the finished design:


And a close up of the kingfisher’s head:

IMG_0172- head close-up

I’m planning to use it to make a fabric-covered box in which to store my newly acquired embroidery supplies ….. once I’ve figured out how to make one.