Saturday, 13 June 2015

Making Connections: Colour and Cloth meets William Morris

This weekend I am exhibiting and selling my soft furnishing line at The Modern Home Show, Malone House, Belfast.  It is stunningly located beside the both tranquil and busy Lagan towpath.  I love doing the shows as it is great to meet customers face to face and share a passion for textiles, interiors and talent.

This blog tells the story of when I conversed with a customer at 'The Alternative Stitch Fest' back in September 2014, discovered we were way out related and landed myself an event at talking about my textile work. It really is a small world and this blog has many links and connections.

The group was the W.E.A.V.E.R group based in Larne, and the location was Drumalis House, Larne. It is a Decorative Arts and Crafts dream and hosts original wallpaper by my favourite textile artist, William Morris.  I was lucky enough to get a guided tour with one of the Sisters back in January.

Drumalis House Larne, combining the old with the new architecture.
I distinctly remember my big sister having a William Morris print on a beanbag in the 1990's.  It was only a few years ago that I really began to appreciate the genius, originality and integrity of his work. He is regarded as the greatest designer of the Arts and Crafts movement.  He revived many of the traditional arts and favoured natural dyes to synthetics.

Mr William Morris himself.  He famously said 'Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful'.

Back in the early 80's, I wrote my textile project on natural dyeing.  The folder and experiments I made back then continues to serve me today and I love its rawness of being hand written in ink pen with water marks made during a colour experiment! Back then I hadn't discovered William Morris and his ethos, one which today, I very much subscribe to and appreciate.

Cover page with slightly askew handwriting
My textile folder from 1990. I had the best textile teacher, Mrs Mc Cann.

Me with Kylemore Abbey, Cliften, Connemara Ireland blending in with nature.
This is a pure wool jumper I knit on my Brother 950i knitting machine.  Every colour is dyed using a natural dye.  The back is also completely different. Over 20 years later, this jumper and its colours still looks like this, although I have changed.  Natures yarns and its colour palette never dates.

This booklet was produced over 20 years ago and shows where my colour inspiration comes from for my textile work.

I spoke with enthusiasm about my work to date, my influence from my creative parents and sisters. The talk was very well received by the group of women, each of whom had a creative passion. The sharing of stories is the what I enjoy most about these events. The following images are from my house tour. Each room, corridor, nook and cranny has been designed and no detail not considered.  The images do not do the house justice. Thankfully Drumalis is open for visiting, but check their website for full details.


 This stained glass window was designed by my foundation art tutor in Belfast Art College Mr Neil Shawcross.

Close up of the cushions made by William Morris printed fabrics and Sanderson printed fabrics.

Although many of the designs are over 100 years old, they are as modern classics and have never dated.

Plenty of cushions to choose from.

Design detailing on the cushions ready for market.

The lady I met at the Stitch Fest is mother in law to my second cousin who now lives in Washington.  My housemate Deirdre from Chicago, who I lived with in Belfast in 2012 would go to Drumalis and work with the Sisters.  Her dad is originally from Larne and he played in the house gardens as a young boy.  These are all links that have come to the fore in the last year.  That is how textiles, crafts and landscapes can be woven together into the lives of individuals, all with a story to tell.  That drives my passion for creating with both colour and cloth.

I hope you have enjoyed this blog which in itself has so many stories to tell.  The creative journey never ends, that's why I love every moment of it.

Happy Creating
Till next time when I shall be writing from the Southern Hemisphere,


Sunday, 3 May 2015

Crafted Couture : Remaking a silk blouse into a silk skirt

I have been having a little time off from madcap Costume work, giving me the chance to do a much needed wardrobe workout.  Looking through what I have and what I need.  What I need would be getting made from scratch.  What I had, was getting altered, adjusted, reinvented.

I had resigned this Donna Karan silk blouse to the 'Remaking Rail'.  I had worn it before but the frills fell at the wrong spot and I always felt bigger than the size I already am.

Looking very crinkled from being in the Remade rail.
I popped it on the mannequin, this time with the neckline as a waistband.  I would have much more opportunity to wear this as a silk skirt with frilled hem so I set about taking it apart.

Laying the top out on the table to work out the best way to make the skirt.

The neck ties needed removed completely at this stage.  Only to be sewed back on later.  Nothing of the original style was wasted.

Hand stitching the old neckline into a new waistband.
 I wanted the quality of the finished skirt to be beautiful, so I took time to hand stitch the waistband back on.  Fine good quality pins are essential when working with silk.  Do not press over them!
Inside view showing a pocket detail which original set at the centre front of the blouse.  I saw no need to remove it.

Pinning and sewing the armholes closed.  This curved side seam acted like a dart.

Rouleau loop making
I had kept the hem from a bias cut silk slip I had shortened a week before.  This bias strip was perfect for creating my rouleau loop which I could loop the tie belts into.
The ends were folded in neatly when I completed stitching them on.

Threading the tie belt through the loops. 
One side of the armhole was kept open to allow me to get it on over the hips.  Once the ribbon has been tied the opening is not visible.

The finished skirt and just the correct length for me.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Just DIY it : Hot Wheels


It's an exciting day as I am currently being aired on Australian television on the Great Interior Design Challenge, Series 2, Episode 6.  If you have watched the show here are 3 further links to previous blogs I posted when the show was first aired in the U.K last November. Hope you enjoy the show!

All a bit a bit bonkers on the Great Interior Design Challenge

My Wee House

On Air: The Great Interior Design Challenge  * spoiler alert *

So to celebrate 'Doing it Yourself', this weeks post is a upcycled project. 

Skill Level: Easy
Equipment required:
Old suitcase or trunk.
4 casters, one with a stopper
Enough screws for each castor.  My castors needed 3 screws each therefore 12 total.
A drill, drill bits and drill screwdriver attachment.  All suitable for the size of screw needed.

Most of the time I can't sit still and I'm thinking up a new project.  This one came to me while sitting on the sofa reading.  I had made a cuppa, set it on the old travel trunk and my arms couldn't quite reach across from prone position to lift it.  Life is tough, and so a solution had to be found.

This old travelling trunk was given to me by my Uncle Kenneth.  Its great for storage as well as a coffee table.

I had driven past the CastormartLTD store located in Belfast's University Quarter many times, but had never called in. 

 I love how castors are so practical and colourful!  There was no point just buying cheap ones, they had to work with the trunk colours. 

After a visit to the best hardware store in Belfast, Dawson Wright Hardware on the Creagh Road to get the perfect size of screws I was ready to fire up the drill.

A very pretty paper pattern on the inside.

Even the drill matches the castors.
I would have preferred brass and blue to match with the trunk, but these were not available.

Screwing on the castors was complete in less than 10 minutes.

Plenty of room underneath to store my slippers, and much easier to bring the trunk table to the sofa.

Have wheels, will travel.

Thanks for reading and I hope I have inspired you to get your wheels on!
Next week I will be back blogging on sewing, and how to transform a silk blouse into a skirt.
Till again,
Have a great time creating, reinventing and Doing it Yourself


Just DIY it : Champagne styles for lemonade incomes

This week I am feeling very inspired to write.  Usually I like to talk a lot, so this  allows me time to think, reassess and focus on  future plans.

I love Spring time! The conception of new ideas and creativity. Today I have been up with the sunrise springing into action.  I tend to procrastinate, a lot!  I'm enjoying a cup of detox tea in my favourite mug which my brother in law bought me many years ago. 

Last year I turned 40 and 2 big things of which literally turned my world upside down, and in 3 months I am flying to the Southern Hemisphere to Australia.  The second big thing is that I was on the BBC Great Interior Design Challenge Series 2 viewed in the U.K in November 2014.  My episode will be shown on April 21st and 22nd on Foxtel in Australia.  I am going global!  

The Studio Lambert television crew were fantastic.  Sophie, Daniel and Tom were inspiring to be around and we all had so much fun.  In this image, Rich, me and Luke await our fate.  All will be revealed next Tuesday 21st April on LifeStyle TV Australia.

 I have always loved interiors and since buying my home 10 years ago, I have drilled, painted, upholstered, assembled and varnished nearly every surface.  I bought my home by myself so everything was done on a budget.  My mum has always sewed and my dad is a D.I.Y whizz kid, so I have learned my skills from my parents.

I came across this article called 'Brilliantly Flawed' and the page of how to get the look for yourself. 

Big sheepskin rug and a real fire.  What more would you need?
I had bought a wooden milking stool like this for £5 at a car boot sale a few years previous,  The legs were much longer.  I was stunned by the price of this stool, so got to work on my £5 one.
I own a drill and a well stocked tool box, but dad has a range of electrical saws so this job required a trip home to dad's tool shed.

Steady handed dad chopping off a few inches. This is a great saw and I use it to cut wood for my fire.
I'm sure I can think of some use for these legs!

The hand sander was used to smooth off the bottom.

It makes a perfect little meditation stool or for resting the singing bowl on.

At home in front of the fire. I have a real love for circles, textures and natural materials in the home.

This is what I did with the legs.  I attached a double ended screw and they are being used to hang my bags in the living room.  The end needs waxing to match the colour, that's on the list!
If the swing tag in the Interior Magazines is out of your league there are always other ways to recreate the look for less.  It usually requires a little elbow grease, but the satisfaction comes from knowing you have done it yourself and saved a lot of money!
Enjoy the GIDC in Australia on Foxtel.
I will be back blogging next week


Monday, 13 April 2015

Crafting colourful Game of Thrones car seats out of left over fabrics


Before I start writing this, I must say hello and welcome to all my new followers in Russia! I am delighted that I have readers in Russia and you are now my no. 1 readership country, overtaking the USA and UK.

I have been so busy creating, altering, reworking, reinventing and DIY-ing that I now is the time to share what I have been up to.

In February, my favourite car my 1995 Honda Civic said farewell to the roads and she had to be replaced.  A gold Nissan was bought.  She takes me from A-B, but is pretty drab inside.  I have lots of fabric scraps and I thought I would brighten up the upholstery.

A very grey and boring interior.  It was making me gloomy!
Season 5 Game of Thrones has just been aired and did you know its made in Belfast?! I am lucky enough to have been involved in Seasons 1-4 making costumes.  I took a break for Season 4 as it was my 40th birthday and wanted to try other adventures. I have gathered up a scraps of costume cuttings which we are allowed to get after each season is completed and I decided to use these to make my car more plush and colourful.
Lots of rich velvets and brocades.  Can you spot any of your favourite characters costume fabrics?
About 80 of the fabrics are GOT and the other 20 % are plush fabrics I have in my fabric stash.  The bright pink fabric is 100% Irish linen and dates back to the 1970's.

It took hours to sew!!

I backed it in 100% wool bedcover and the blue side panels are silk.  No skipping corners here with the quality of fabrics! I like my natural cloths and natural means long lasting and quality.

Quilting through the layers of cloth and backing fabric.  A rich patchwork of textures and patterns.

My drivers seat has now been renamed my throne!
I made the covers loose so they are not permanent and if I choose to change their purpose it is easy to do so.  Perhaps this might end up as I bed patchwork quilt in the future.
But for now, it brightens up otherwise very grey car upholstery.  Come on car designers, give us more colourful options!

 The quilting makes for a more comfortable seat, colour and comfort!
Till next time, enjoy the new Season of Game of Thrones and all the hard work that is put into to making it such a visual feast.  I'm taking my car on a road trip of the Mourne Mountains in County Down to visit many of the locations where the series is shot.  For all my blog readers who haven't yet visited Ireland, our own island is a patchwork of wonderful textures, patterns and shades of green, browns and golds.  Come visit!

Till next time,