Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Learning Ribbon Embroidery

As I mentioned in my previous post, one of the big focus directions for my business at the start of 2017 was to undertake some new learning. The first that I have tackled is ribbon embroidery. I've done a bit of ribbon work, which is making flowers, leaves and other shapes out of ribbon, sewing them together with regular thread and attaching to a project when complete. Ribbon embroidery, sewing with ribbon directly onto fabric, was something I was interested in but had never tried.


Sometime last year I got myself a Craftsy class on the subject, "Embroidering with Ribbon" by tutor Mary Jo Hiney. As with many of my online classes, I had watched the introduction but hadn't gone any further or bought materials.


One of the things holding me back was not feeling confident in buying materials. I found Australian suppliers, but you really need a range of colours for each project, and I wasn't sure I would pick appropriate ones or get the right amounts. In the end, thanks to some birthday money, I splurged on the class kits from the tutor herself, and despite the cost, I'm happy that I did. It meant I had exactly what I needed, and a familiarity with the materials that sets me up well to make further local purchases. I got the kits for the first three projects, which are the ones I like the best anyway.


I'm about halfway through the class, and for the remaining projects I'll be changing them up or just learning the techniques and applying them to a different design.


I also picked up some ribbon embroidery design books at a local op shop, for about 50 cents each, so I have more designs to experiment with as well.


So far, I'm really enjoying ribbon embroidery. It's a restful, calming sort of craft to do, especially in the evenings after Teacup has gone to bed, or over a morning cup of tea before she wakes. It has taken me a while to accept the looseness and freedom that the stitches require, being more used to functional sewing where security of stitches is important. Having embraced that, however, it is fun and it is a lot more artistic and open to interpretation than the sewing I'm used to. I like that individual stitches can turn out badly but the overall effect can still work.


As for the class, I highly recommend it. I don't warm to all teachers and tutors, and can be a bit critical, to be honest, but I like Mary Jo. She answers all the questions asked on the platform, and in a warm, friendly and encouraging way. The same manner is present in the videos. She's a bit goofy and funny too. One thing that is a little odd is that the stitch types are gone through in detail on the videos, but the projects themselves are not, you work through those based on the printed materials that are part of the class. That worked out fine for me, but it did seem a unusual and maybe wouldn't suit everyone's learning style. Occasionally some regular embroidery term was used and it seemed like the assumption was that you are already familiar with embroidery, but it wasn't enough to be a problem.

I have ideas but no specific plans for how I will apply my new skill. I think a nice fabric cloche hat covered in flowers would be lovely, and, on a more personal project, a little on the collar of a small girl's blouse would be cute.

Have you ever tried ribbon work or ribbon embroidery? If so, what kind of projects have you tried?

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

On finally finishing and fixing the "not quite there" hats

I started the new year with 3 big directions to focus on in my business, while keeping in mind that this focus would be pretty much gone after the first few months.

One of these directions is preparing to add hat sewing patterns to my business. I've only briefly mentioned this before, but it's been a big part of my thinking for the last year or more. Most of that work will go on in the background until much later in the year, when you'll hear all about it, rest assured.

The second direction is learning. It's been 3 years since my last formal training in any area of millinery, and I was feeling a bit stale. I've started a few online courses to add new skills and techniques to my arsenal, and you'll start hearing about that very soon. I feel rejuvenated already and I'm so happy that I've taken steps to move my skills forward again.

The third is clearing out my work space and finishing up the loose ends it is filled with. Listing hats on Etsy. Photographing finished hats so I can share them (and list them). Finishing nearly finished hats. Fixing ones that didn't quite go to plan. Picking up the false starts and getting on with them, or scrapping them!

It's been a rewarding journey so far, but one of those ones that makes you wonder why you didn't do it earlier. As I finish, I've been describing these projects as having taking 2 years and 20 minutes.


For example, this vintage reproduction hat. It has a sad story actually. This was a custom order that didn't quite work out the way the client wanted. I wasn't 100% happy with it either, as it wasn't quite like the original, but I did the best I could at the time. I never even liked it, and it's been sitting in my work room ever since.


So finally I tackled it again and made it look more like the original, which took about 20 minutes, and made a world of difference. And I really started to like it.

Once I started taking these photos on a shoot with my friend Ruanne, I was absolutely in love with it.


That was a worthwhile 20 minutes.


This blue boater was more than 20 minutes, but perhaps only 40, and again, the difference was worth it. On my first attempt, the brim outline was a very wonky oval, but I couldn't bring myself to unpick it the edge and start again! Sometimes I just need time and emotional distance, because it was actually easy and very satisfying to do. And now it looks much better.


The rest of these photos are vintage hats, which I didn't think I could be bothered to sell on Etsy, because of the effort of writing listings and taking good photos.


I should have had this photoshoot long ago! But it's done now.


I can't pretend that these represent the end of the unfinished pieces I have here, and you are bound to see more as I work my way through them. Are you the same, with hidden abandoned works-in-progress all over the place, or do you see things through to the end without these long pauses?