studio & shop

Thanks to all who came to the open studio! I am so looking forward to seeing you again at classes starting up. Here’s a peek round the Decemberish shop.

milk painted shop hutch

So nice to fill up the milk-painted shopkeeper’s cabinet with useful things and my traditional skills studies & kits.

kits and pottery

The pottery from my autumn return to the wheel has arrived. I’ll show you more closely soon.

long and elegant kit, with creamer

antique singer

The handcrank, star of the old school quilting tutorial movies, has pride of place.

hand-thrown candlesticks

You can still get the patterns (sorry, the kits are all sold out!) as a gift to someone who’d love to learn a traditional skill. The movies in the sidebar to the left guide every kit and pattern.

studiocorner

More detail of some of the things I’ve been making, here. I’m so pleased with the new white glaze.

fingerpuppets

For a crowd of children crafting at a birthday, I wanted to create a project that was pretty quick, left room for invention, and drew on some good, useful, simple skills. With smaller groups we’ve held handpuppet-making birthdays and bookbinding birthdays. For this very busy birthday, my small child had the bright idea of making fingerpuppets. Perfect! Would you like to see a little of what they made?

fingerpuppet-making

I made a basic card template for the children to trace. They cut the pieces out of felt and pinned them, threaded needles, knotted them to the fabric and carefully sewed round the edge. Some added long rabbit ears or short monkey ears, before they stitched the seam. We had brand new tailors and old pros doing this. Then, exciting! We put out fulling needles and showed the children how to needle-felt, with a block of foam to work on top of, and the puppet pinned to it so that little fingers stayed out of the way of the needle. Felting needles have burrs that rip the wool fibres and reattach it, in effect knotting it to itself and through the fabric. Large, sculptural pieces and precise details alike are possible with this technique. Eyes, mouths, beards, even wonderful long hair were constructed and attached using the wool roving and yarn.

fingerpuppets

Embroidery, sewing on scraps of fabric and buttons for clothing, and the children developed wonderful characters! Very pleasing. It is the sort of project that is perfect for children to make with adults, or for adults to make for children. Just a bit of extra help and care with the needles, and everyone from age four through *cough* made amazing things. I’ll be putting together fingerpuppet and handpuppet kits for the appleturnovershop soon, for those who’d like to learn some simple fabric-arts skills with a short, sweet project. I’ll be teaching this lesson in fibre arts in the old school classes at my studio this week, too.

Look out for images from, fingers crossed, a shoot that my sweetheart and I are planning this weekend…more old school movie tutorials to support projects to learn traditional creative skills, in the shop. Sound good?

vintage suitcase

While redesigning my studio space with my very organised sister this weekend, I set eyes on our mother’s suitcase, bought in the 1960’s, which I’d restored this summer. It was a little worse for wear when I found it.

1960's suitcase

Amazing what a magic eraser, sodium bicarbonate, and a handful of dried lavender can do for a moldy suitcase. Isn’t it handsome? This case is one of my favourite shapes and is particularly difficult to find at a good price, as everyone else loves them too.

traveling sewing lessons

Traveling sewing lessons! I’ve folded all of my best small scraps in and hung ribbons from the pockets, which have useful bits and bobs tucked away in them too. Mostly the case moves round the studio when I’m running the ‘old school’ lessons. Lately these are for a group of small tailors and seamstresses, but soon for all ages. There are lots of parents who tell me they’d like to learn old skills along with their children! You? I’ll be teaching further afield in the coming months, so let me know if you’re interested. If you’re far away, there are more movies and projects coming very soon. My sweetheart is here with me now, and we’ll be shooting soon! Hurrah. Someday it would be great fun to take this case on another long trip round Europe and Canada, as it did in its younger days.

drawstring frock

Following a pattern for dressmaking is an education in itself. I’m very much a new seamstress, and have only recently started working from patterns instead of improvising. I scoured pages of vintage patterns, searching for a dress that might be casual, elegant, and very simple to construct.

1960's drawstring frock

The 1960’s drawstring frock looked perfect to me. I decided to make the sleeveless variation for a cocktail dress, though I’d love to make another version for everyday wear in the autumn.

drawstring frock

The pattern arrived in the post. I do love Etsy.

drawstring dress

Best to wash the fabric first, to prevent shrinking later. For the smocked dress, a glossy, warm smoky grey cotton. For the drawstring, a very light, pale linen, leaning hazily toward the cooler spectrum. Ecru.

1960's drawstring frock

1960's drawstring frock

Careful measuring and altering, pinning, marking, notching and cutting of the pattern. Half a century on, the sizes are all different, of course, so it is worth measuring and adjusting the pattern as needed! My mother, an experienced seamstress, showed me how. Easy!

drawstring frock

A pattern that was considered easy when many people sewed their clothes, now seems quite complex. When things begin to come together it is pure joy! Such a delight to see how clothes were assembled fifty years ago. I loved learning how to construct the facing around the arms and the neckline.

1960's drawstring frock

I did make one change (I can never resist) and that was to substitute a cord for the flat tie, and a round, eyelet buttonhole to match it. I tell you, handstitching the buttonholes took more time than the entire dress! Next time I will be faster.

1960's drawstring frock

I like to wear the linen drawstring frock with my red wedges. It requires a half slip, which is a vintage turn in and of itself. I think I might be ready to try something more difficult next. A jacket?

1960's drawstring frock

honeycomb dress

Pardon my absence these last, long weeks of summer. I’ve been finding my way along an unexpected path, and I very much needed to settle in. The story of how I’ve returned to live in Canada is a bit curious; full of serendipitous accidents, sudden changes, strange realisations. Despite falling in love with beautiful England, we were pushed along by chance and circumstance, and find ourselves beginning life in Canada again. It feels right to be settling on the Pacific Coast, though we are keenly missing my sweetheart, who is traveling the world yet and living with us whenever he can. Such a strange life! Best laid plans and such. We are very blessed to be with family, and can catch our breath and watch what dreams are unfolding. Now I’ve unpacked the boatful of belongings that led the way back, and nestled us into our space for now. I hope to study traditional skills that my adventuring life never left time for – I will share them with you. Though I’ve been reeling from the changes, I have made a few things. The first piece I’ve been wanting to show you is a frock that I designed and constructed on my grandmother’s 1950’s singer, to wear to my dear cousin’s summer wedding.

gathering-dress

Like the honeycomb smocked pillow I once made, I gathered the fabric into pleats;

smocking-dress

Then handstitched in a pattern to smock the gathers.

shirring-dress

After some gymnastics in sorting out the tension, I sewed the shirring elastic in rows along the remaining width of the fabric. Have a look at the shirred linen cushion I made as a study for this kind of piece.

honeycomb dress © elisa rathje 2012

Done! I threaded elastic into a gusset along the top edge to help it lie flat. Then I simply stitched the seam and hemmed the piece.

honeycomb dress © elisa rathje 2012

At the wedding, near an island vineyard. I’m so pleased with the sculptural qualities of the glossy cotton. The honeycomb dress is a lovely, simple thing to wear on a beautiful summer evening. What do you think?