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.

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?

quilted mats

Do you remember some patchwork quilted placemats I was making? I used the projects to experiment with patchwork and stitching various quilted patterns. Four of them were just right to fit round our table.

patchwork quilted placemat © elisa rathje 2012

I’m quite pleased with how they turned out. I quilted a diamond shape, a simple angle, overlapping circles, and squares. The patchwork on these quilted mats is quite vivid, often I prefer to turn them linen-side up. I made my own linen bias tape to finish them, amazing how that brings it all together.

patchwork quilted placemat © elisa rathje 2012

Oh, I do miss that bright little room in the old English cottage.