Making a pleated skirt – what could be simpler?

PI mentioned I would make a garment a month using my William Gee goodies. Just to get me back into the swing of things I elected to make a “simple” pleated skirt. The “pattern” was just a set of measurements from one of the Sew magazines and I pledged to follow the instructions.

I love a pleated skirt. I like how it doesn’t involve cutting and wasting fabric. I like how the pattern of your fabric is unaffected. I love how you need just one measurement – the waist as the hips are accommodated via the pleating. A pleated skirt can be mini, knee length or even floor length. If you have full hips and a small waist this is a great look as the eye keeps being pulled to the waist which looks tiny compared to the voluminous skirt.

Heat transfer printing maxi skirt
Hand printed box pleated maxi skirt (and printed T)

All pleats are nice, but I especially like the box pleat. I remember making my first box pleated skirt with my Mum when I was about 14. I seem to remember it was a light blue wool. She showed me how to just pleat up a width of fabric to my waist measurements (about 22″ at the time), with one side seam and a zip, and a waist band. Therefore I have known how to make a pleated skirt for over 40 years. And I knew it didn’t need a pattern. Second only to the gathered skirt, and the elasticated waist skirt, this skirt is absolutely great for beginners and people who don’t have an enormous pattern collection.

So I thought I would follow a pattern just for the fun of it. Pattern, interfacing, zip and bias binding kindly supplied by William Gee.

WmGee Project #1 The pleated skirt
WmGee Project #1 The pleated skirt

So I read the instructions and did the measurements, and then realised that we would be cutting a front that was 85 cms wide, and two backs at 44 cms each.

The fabric is 140cms across, and I had just over 1m.

I was a bit irritated at this point.

I always do my best to use the fabric as economically as possible, using either one full width, or two widths, rather than chopping it all up to fit the “pattern that wasn’t a pattern”. Generally the length I make is partly dependent on the material I have. Unlike my usual pleated skirt that has one seam and basically wraps around the body, this skirt had two side seams, a CB seam, pockets and no waist band. I thought I could combine the pattern’s approach with my own desire to use up all the fabric. But, and this is where I did something rather stupid – I decided to use two full widths of cloth. So now instead of 85 cms I had (allowing for seam allowances) about 135cms to pleat. And that was the problem.

I put in the CF pleat, the pockets, the side pleats and the pleats either side of the zip, as the pattern required. I then did my best to take up as much fabric as I could with box pleats at regular intervals. But even so the waist was too big so I had to pleat the box pleats with little tucks (small knife pleats). Of course I could have taken it all out and started again. I probably should have but I kept thinking – I would prefer a fuller skirt anyway, and I have never had a problem doing this without instructions. So why, when provided with instructions, do I become a complete nincompoop and incompetent?

The reason was that under pressure (I was trying to get it finished before Charlotte and Lee arrived for lunch) I couldn’t do the maths. Basically the problem is if you divide 135 by 3 (to take up the pleats) it gives 44 cms whereas my half waist is only 34cms. I think I really should give this Sew magazine skirt pattern a second chance and actually make it up as instructed.

Despite the hassle it is a pretty skirt. I love the pockets. The folded over waist band is comfortable but I prefer the belted-in feel, so I have added a belt. The textile is lovely and the colours are soft and pretty – a light muted palette that looks fairly zingy with a white shirt, but I think it would look good with a darker top too. Maybe for Me Made May 2017?

This is the first time I have been on the blog with a dog. The dog is Ruby Tuesday and she belongs to my step daughter Charlotte.  Ruby was very good to sit still for the photograph.

My version of the chunky sleeveless jumper

For those that are following the saga, you may remember that I have been tempted by a promise by avid blogger Karen Templer that she would offer a free pattern for a sleeveless sweater on 1 May. My impatience led me to measure up a chunky wooly I had at home and work out, roughly, how to knit something like it. To a woman you told me to have a go and “just do it”. This post covers my experiment.

Here I am in my new Cotswold work room, wearing the jumper and taking a selfie with Nick in his dungarees (he has now completed one cupboard and has started the second).

Kate’s sloper

Now the sweater is not perfect; nothing I ever make is, ha ha ha! This jumper is not yet washed or blocked; the shoulders are not sewn well, but I managed to work out how to do mattress stitch on the side seams. Hooray. (It is like ladder stitch, done from the right side, ensuring the seam looks nearly invisible). I am pretty happy with it. There is a thread at the back that needs trimming off, and my chunky knitting is not the best in the world, but overall I really like this jumper. I made a few adjustments as I went along.

The pattern

So the pattern. I couldn’t wait for Karen. So I measured an existing jumper and then I used the gauge to work out how many stitches I would need. I produced a scruffy piece of paper with the numbers on and launched into it. I wasn’t sure about how to shape the armholes or neck (before I knitted the collar), but I winged it. I didn’t stick exactly to my original plan, but I did more or less. I made the back just a little different from the front.

Here is my original pattern, compared to the pattern I actually knitted. I hadn’t thought about the back and front being different, but the back has one less stitch decreased for the armhole and I made it longer by the length of the ribbing (2″).

For the neck line I put 13 stitches on a stitch holder for the front and 15 for the back, having a shoulder width of 13 stitches which worked well. I only knitted two rows for the neck opening, casting off on the third row. You can see how it looks like a big square. I picked up eight stitches along both sides of the neck edges, giving 44 stitches in all. I then knitted these in ribbing. I was keen on a lower neck than Karen has on hers as I don’t like too much height on my roll necks. I was hoping for something more like a 1960s stand away, sort of Nehru height collar. I don’t think high polo/turtle necks suit me. On my original pattern I was thinking just seven rows. But on its own the yarn was too floppy. I carried on knitting until I had 18 rows and tried it on. I found that by turning it inside I had about the look I wanted and considered stitching it down so it was double thickness and fairly firm. But in the end I left it with a turn down to the outside. I think it looks OK, and summery rather than a kind of armless ski-wear look.

The yarn

I bought small pieces of left over cashmere yarn (a yarn set) in harmonious colours that I love, and I made two balls of wool. One with the darker greys, and a second one with a light grey, a very light grey and a soft, light muted turquoise. Close up the colours are rather lovely and shimmery, although from a distance the jumper just looks grey, with a darker shadow across the bottom. I hadn’t realised that you could mix up three DK yarns to create a thick “super chunky” yarn, but what a great idea for using up similar but slightly different colours.

Mixing three light grey yarns

It’s minimalist, very simple, soft, and I think very wearable. I think the structural look is enhanced by the toning grey yarns. I may have a second go at this once Karen produces her #SloperKAL and pattern. Or maybe, just for fun, I could try to turn this into a knitting in the round experiment.

The outcome

Kate’s sloper, side view

Some suggestions for people with deep colouring


Last week I did a colour consultation for Giorgia, who has deep brown eyes and lovely dark brown hair. As soon as I had draped her in deeper shades something wonderful happened – we both knew that these colours were absolutely right for her. The deepest green, strong purple, reds with lots of body, midnight blue and dark brown all looked terrific and just united themselves with her eyes, hair and skin and slightly purple-pink lips. These saturated colours just made her eyes sparkle, her hair shine and the darkish circles under her eyes more or less disappeared. We knew immediately that we had found the colour set that worked best for her.

Giorgia’s secondary colour direction is cool so she will have lots of fun putting more deep, cooler colours into her wardrobe. Giorgia (who I met at Morley and did some cling film wrapping with)  told me that she avoided black as she found it boring (it can be), and that she loves colour, which is always very exciting. If you can wear black but like colour I think very dark brown and midnight blue are great substitutes for your best neutrals (eg shoes, little black dresses, coats etc).  I suggested she always should wear a deeper colour, and not just black shoes, even if she selects lighter or medium toned outfits. It was the depth of colour near her face that was so elegant and harmonious.

A few days later a friend came to see me at work. She walked in wearing black and navy, with silver accessories. I know that when I suggested navy and brown one or two people thought it was a strange combination. But for years I thought navy and black was a bit dodgy myself. Susmita wore the two colours together beautifully.

The thing is the colours that have the same qualities always work together well. All muted shades, all warm colours, all the lighter shades etc – they just like being together.

I showed Giorgia this by putting all the deeper greens together on her and then adding the strong yellow. The deep purples looked great with the strong rust colours, the saturated magenta and the deepest reds. The feeling of strength that these shades elicit harmonise so well with the deep shades in Giorgia’s and Susmita’s natural colouring. Of course if deeps suit you then you can also wear white and pastels to good effect, but they will always look best contrasted with deeper colours. Say a white dress with dark brown shoes and belt rather than pale pink, for example. These women with blacks and dark browns in their hair and eyes can wear stronger contrasts than people with muted or lighter colouring. Here is Giorgia in a black and white (strong contrast) dress with black tights and boots and bright red lipstick – a great look.

Giorgia in her “Snow Leopard” dress

Would you wear black with navy?


More thinking on the super chunky Sloper jumper

posted in: knitting | 26

I can’t wait. I get excited. If I really want to make something I just get started. Promising to produce a pattern in a month – Karen Templer – is just too much of a tease for me. I know I can wait, but I don’t want to. So I have had a go at doing it myself.

Firstly I persevered with the tension square. According to Karen the gauge  is 10 sts and 15 rows over 4″ Although she suggests 8mm needles, my 7mm gave a too small square, so I went for 10mm. This worked pretty well to give the required gauge. Aren’t the peachy, shiny needles nice?

Tension square, chunky
Tension square made with 10mm needles

Next I had a closer look at a jumper I already own that looks fairly chunky.

I measured the jumper, laid flat and found it was 13″ across the upper chest, 18″ across the bust, and 20″ long (of which 2″ are the waist line ribbing), underarm to hem is 15″, with a neck point to shoulder point of 3″ The collar is 2.5″ depth, sleeves are 5″ long.

So, question, can I make the pattern myself?

On Karen’s blog there are some photographs of the jumper being knitted.

Karen Templer Fringe Association Sloper V 1
Karen Templer Fringe Association Sloper V 1

I have no idea if I am doing this right but I made a pattern by just using the measurements given. Does this look right to you? The measurements are in inches and the proposed number of stitches [created by multiplying the inches by number of stitches (red) or rows (green)] are in brackets. Does one need to include any seam allowances with knitting? What about shaping for the neck? It looks like Karen has got the neckline taking up about a third of the width and it dips down maybe three or four rows?

Sloper pattern
Sloper pattern?

I guess I could wait until 1 May for the pattern, but maybe I should just knit up my provisional pattern. Knitting it up will be quick (but not as quick as unravelling it, if it doesn’t work out).

I notice Karen has only four stitches at the underarm, whereas I have six; and ten across the shoulder where I have five. And my armhole depth is one-quarter of the depth, whereas Karen’s is closer to half. However my pattern is a bit different, especially with regards to the collar. I am also thinking I might add a little length to the back, possibly another inch or two.

So I  am thinking knit it up – I can still do her pattern when it comes out, using my version as an experiment.  By the way I am sure the internet is full of advice on how to create knitting patterns but this pattern has been created by logic alone! I always prefer to work things out for myself first before looking up the answer. If this doesn’t work I shall search for the correct way.

How to choose a wedding dress

posted in: Designing, Style advice | 15

One of my all time favourite blogs is Fit for a Queen, where the intrepid Mrs Mole takes a range of off the peg, designer, heirloom and unusual wedding dresses and alters them to fit her variously shaped clients. She always succeeds, in my opinion, in making the brides look pretty good, despite the sometimes less than promising raw material.

This is quite a skill, especially given the attitude of some who are approaching the big day. Frayed nerves, overstretched budgets, miserable diets, family pressures and there being just too much to do can make it hard to make sensible decisions. My two sons and daughter in law are in Australia at the moment celebrating the marriage of Elizabeth and Clive.

Gus, Bianca and George (alterations by me!)

Earlier this year we attended the lovely wedding of Maria and Adam (below) and we are looking forward to Kate and George’s wedding later this summer. I therefore want to offer a little advice on wedding dresses if you, or a loved one, is getting hitched this year.

Maria and Adam
Maria and Adam


The wedding market is worth $72bn in the US alone. A survey by Brides magazine shows UK couples spend around £30,000 on their wedding. I believe if you say you want something for a wedding – from venue to menu – the price goes up. Myself,  I would not spend more than about £200 on a dress. For my first wedding I made a suit in a good quality crepe wool; for my second I got a nice dress from a high street shop for £55.  It is an important day, everyone will be looking at you and you want to look your best. But unless you are a celebrity you do not need to spend £1000s a dress you will wear once.  Keep some perspective – you have so many other more important things to spend your money on. If you making your own dress you can buy beautiful fabrics within this budget.

If you are buying a dress rather than making it (and just ask Anne who made sensational  bridal outfits for her three daughters how much time, work and stress is involved), there are some very nice dresses available on the high street. Have a look at Top Shop, Whistles, ASOS, and H&M.


Once you have a budget you will want to think about the type of look you want. The modern preference is moving away from Disney princess approach to a sleeker, paired down look that is also more wearable for less formal settings such as barns, beaches and country house hotels. But while fashion and preference is important working with your body shape is important too. My main piece of advice is choose a style of dress that is similar to the dress shapes you already like and wear, in terms of silhouette. The three types of figure – the hourglass, the straight  shape and the slightly shaped figures all have an ideal type of full length dress.

A wedding dress will generally make the bride look feminine and desirable – the length and close fit of the dress will make her look taller and slimmer. The light colour will reflect light onto the face and make her look younger and fresher (of course most brides are already young and fresh!). However some people do get it wrong. Princess Diana wore a style of dress that would have suited a curved figure (and it was two sizes too big for her). The second image of Diana in a column dress shows a much more flattering choice.

All images from Davids Bridal. 

Shaped, curvy figure

Look for a dress with a fitted bodice, a defined waistline and a relatively full skirt. If you are full in the bust avoid high neck styles –  – a lower cut is more flattering.  The classic ball gown is probably your best look. You can wear softer, drapey fabrics, and curved hems.


A fit and flare dress will work well, as will princess seams. Emphasis on the waistline is good but make it smooth and uncluttered. A fitted bodice with a high waist can create a nice, balanced look.

Straight figure

If you are slim make the most of your shape with a column style dress. Look at dresses that are slim through the hips and thighs, perhaps “cupping” the butt. A halter neck, deep V or mandarin collar, will probably look good. If you have a straight figure but carry more weight try the dropped waist look, with fullness coming out from your relatively slim hip line can be very pretty.  Stiffer silks and other fabrics will look better than the softer, draped fabrics.



White is the colour that will make you look larger than usual – wider and taller – especially if you dress in a full length style. This is the whole point of wearing white – you will stand out and appear to fill the space, larger than life. A very full skirt, or a long train, will again make you bigger than the congregation and cement your position as the centre of attention. The dark suit of the groom will tend to enhance the contrast and again help you to stand out. If you want to look taller and slimmer high heels and a creative headdress will add length.

The exact shade of white you choose is related to your colouring. People with cool, bright or deep colouring will look best in the brightest whites – often easier to find in synthetics rather than natural silks. People with warmer complexions will look lovely in the natural, warmer, creamy whites. And if you have muted colouring the very slightly greyed off white will look best – also very light greys, pinks and blues may appeal.

Shiny white fabrics will make you look even larger, as will lace and other textures. Consider avoiding them if you want to look slimmer.



Winning a prize from William Gee

I frequently fill in forms that promise an opportunity to win a holiday, or something to do with sewing. But I do so knowingly – the company’s main aim is to promote their product and collect email addresses. I was on the mailing list of William Gee because I had bought some pocketing material. It was good quality and a fair price and it came quickly in the mail. But I find it hard to get enthused about white cotton fabric that never sees the light of day. It is stable. It is closely woven and thick enough to withstand wear and tear. It is not so thick that it shows. So William Gee is a firm I would go to for a dependable but not awfully exciting product. That is fine. When I saw that they were offering a chance to win a parcel of various haberdashery items I thought “why not?” and answered a couple of simple questions. So did 700 other people. Which is quite interesting if you ever want to run a quiz, prize draw or give away.

And, on this occasion, much to my surprise,  I won!

Marketeers will tell you that giving a free sample to try – be it a skin cream or a soya yogurt – is the best way to get people to buy. We rarely purchase something we have never tried before, without a trial or personal recommendation. But haberdashery? Is there any difference between suppliers? Bias binding, a zip and sewing threads are pretty standard, and you do get what you pay for.

So what was my prize?

I will show you what I won in a moment. Everything was packed in a one of three boxes and this gave me a real sense of going through someone else’s selection of trimmings. Like getting your grandma’s bits and bobs and finding some real gems in there. The selection was nicely put together and the quantities were generous, but some of the items were neither “all the rage” as Beatie put it, nor truly vintage.

However all sewing enthusiasts love and need interfacing, bias binding, ribbon, rick rack, separating zips, jeans zips, buttons, braid, little bows, elastic, lining, interfacing – what an exciting gift. And one I was thrilled to get.

There were some great items in the boxes and I opened and examined the contents with a great deal of interest, excitement and gratitude. So here is what I plan to do. Once a month I will make something entirely from the box (except for the fabric – which I have more than enough of already!)  As I seem to have gone off the boil a bit with my sewing I am hoping this haberdashery haul will stimulate my sewing creativity once more (alongside Ruth’s charming gift perhaps?)

My first project is to create a pleated skirt using a pattern in Sew magazine. The red and white sample is made up in a John Kaldor linen (£16 p/m). I decided to use my piece of John Kaldor linen (£8 p/m from Simply Fabrics), adding the interfacing, white bias binding and zip from William Gee. The pattern calls for a 9″ invisible zip but I will do a hand-picked one on this occasion (and will shorten the zip too). It looks like a simple job so maybe something I can accomplish over the Easter weekend. I might even have time to work on my coat.

WmGee Project #1 The pleated skirt
WmGee Project #1 The pleated skirt


Me Made May 2017 (and summer plans)

I will be doing Me Made May 2017. Will you?

This is a longstanding initiative by Zoe, or So Zo, to try to encourage sewists to wear the items we make, and to show (on Instagram or blogs) how the hand made items are combined in our wardrobe. I did it last year for the first time and found it quite illuminating. Of course there are lots of people who have entirely “me made” wardrobes, and newer sewists who only have a few summer dresses, but everyone can join in with their own criteria.

This year, as I have knitted a few jumpers since May 2016, I want to try wearing a hand knitted item everyday, usually combined with a me-made item from my sewn wardrobe. It may be a bit warm (as we often have a few nice days in May – in fact we have already had a few blooming amazing days during April. It was 24.5C yesterday) so this is only an aspiration. But as I often leave the house before the sun is up I can include a jumper instead of a jacket I think.

I have knitted seven items now – two for Gus – but five for me. And I will have done two more by 30 April. The mauve and brown Holsten (being constructed above) and I hope the Sloper top, previously mentioned, although the pattern is not out until 1 May. I feel sure it will be a quick project. My existing hand-knitted tops are mainly warm, except for the red and white striped T shirt which, so far, has been very little worn. Probably because of our cool climate. The other four have been worn a great deal – most days in fact.

Five hand knitted tops

What about the Fara Raglan you might ask? This is a retro looking, Fair Isle type jersey, with lots of different colours in it. The problem is the end is in sight – I am doing the ribbing at the hem (it is a top down top), and after that only have the short sleeves to complete. But it looks too small as the yarn has pulled the fabric tight, and I was nearly finished before I figured out how to manage the tension and swap colours using both hands to knit with. So I am thinking of just throwing it out (or maybe unravelling it, but the yarn was not expensive and doing colour work means it is chopped into small pieces). However I am very keen to do some colour work. A dear friend has noticed that I have “modern minimalist tastes” in knitting patterns, which I guess is true – there is a remarkable amount of stocking stitch there (and for Gus too). I must admit that I really like the top down, yoked, raglan sleeved approach Ankestrick uses (and the Fara), as I not yet competent at seaming.

My three remaining sewing projects might be finished by May, but one of them is a coat! I may make up the nice Burda dress, but my fancy has been captured by a dress I saw in a designer shop. I wouldn’t want to copy this exactly, but I love the prints together. And I love pink, yellow and blue together. I may produce some silk samples for a patchwork or multi-print dress. I have been wanting to create something like this for ages. Maybe this summer, especially if I get an invitation to a special event of some sort.

ATTICO silk tea dress
ATTICO silk tea dress

(I know – it looks like she is wearing an electronic tag).

I am not sure how wearing hand made clothes and knits will work out – but it is an interesting Me Made May 2017 challenge for me.

Making a stone set ring – and plans for next term

Sadly our jewellery making class is over. It was such fun and so enlightening. And each of us made three items – two rings and a pendant. My final piece is a little cabochon set ring, made with silver wire. The cabochon is a semi spherical gem stone, and the setting is the way the stone is held to the ring. I used a ruby and Nick chose malachite. Jo, one of the other students had an amethyst. These are not high quality gems, but they are pretty and unusual.

Ruby Malachite and Amethyst
Ruby Malachite and Amethyst (front to back)

As usual there was lots of sawing and soldering, bashing and polishing.

And the end result was really marvellous. I love my new ruby ring and I wear it with my wedding ring. And Nick has a lovely set for Charlotte’s birthday. I am so pleased how our work came out, and I would really recommend this course at Morley to anyone who wants to make some really nice items and also learn basic jewellery making skills.

So what shall we do next term? You may remember I laid out the options in a previous post. And I was interested in your reactions. The vast majority went for shoe making. I am not suprised. Making shoes is such an interesting idea and creates something that can be worn to complete an outfit. I used a really nice illustration photograph and I expect that choice betrayed my own long standing interest in shoe making. While I think I have mentioned my father’s involvement in the textile industry I don’t think I have mentioned my mother’s background. Her father and brothers ran a company called Ashworths Slippers from Albion Mill in Bury Lancashire. It was established in 1938 as Ashworth’s Ltd., Albion Mills, Elton, Bury; Shoes and Slippers. Long since closed it was a place I spent many a happy day as a child. I have a deep seated love of factory life as a result of these many expeditions to see how things were made. I searched for a photograph of the mill, which I cannot find at the moment, but will look again. However I found a little piece of my family history at the Victoria & Albert Museum! Fancy!

I remember the Gymbo brand, also Raymar (made from my Uncle Raymond and my mother’s name Margaret), Chiccles (a kind of desert boot). So you wanted us to learn to make shoes and so did I.

But remember I only put things on the list that I would be happy to attend, and I sent the list to Nick.


    • Basketmaking
    • Printed textiles
    • Creative writing
    • Ballet (not a chance, but I keep putting it on the list)
    • Patchwork and Quilting
    • Jewellery Intermediate
    • Drawing and Painting
    • Millinery
    • Shoe making
    • Knitting and crochet
    • Furniture restoration
    • Saori Weaving

So what do you think he chose?

The Harlequin patchwork jacket was the inspiration for my final piece when I was doing my City and Guilds in 1987.

Final project City and Guilds

So, yes, you guessed it. Nick chose Patchwork and Quilting. I’ll let you know how we get on.


The “Sloper” turtle neck, sleeveless jumper knitalong

I recently posted my knitting plans, and I have made good progress.

I said I would make

  • a petrol blue Heavenly sweater
  • a dark green cashmere sweater
  • a brown and green Holsten (just started, but it’s brown and mauve now)
    Holsten By Ankestrick in brown and mauve
    Holsten by Ankestrick
  • finish the Fara Raglan colourwork (which is somewhat beyond my ability and I may not finish)

(For the record, on the sewing front, I have cut out the red coat and done the pockets, but it’s at Rainshore and I am not going for a fortnight due to spending time with my Mum).

But while I had started to move on to the sewing, feeling I had more or less finished my knitting projects, a new knitting project has forced itself on me.

I follow a nice blog called Fringe Association. As I have been learning to knit it has been a great help. And last week Karen introduced the Sloper jumper she had designed. She named the jersey Sloper (or bodice block for us Brits) as it is very simple and basic, and can be altered to fit. She is going to release the pattern on 1 May and provide some information on how to change the elements of the design. This is what she calls a mini-knitalong. I like the basic pattern and wear this style, although I might prefer a longer, slimmer look. Maybe with 1×1 ribbing, and possibly with the back a little bit longer than the front.

I shared my plan with Esme. She says that it is too chunky and warm to be sleeveless. However you could wear it over a thin dress on a summer evening, or  with jeans in spring or autumn, because your arms don’t feel the cold much. Also I imagined a short sleeve could be added. Or the big turtle neck could be omitted. Anyway I buy into the sloper idea.
Karen Templer Fringe Association Sloper design

The biggest revelation for me however was what this is knit from. Karen is using three strands of DK wool to create a really chunky look. I never thought of that! Combining thinner yarns to make a thicker one. This had never occurred to me, so I was very excited to try it.

Karen provided the following information

The gauge for the pattern is 2.5 sts and 3.75 rows per inch (aka 10 sts and 15 rows over 4″). You can use any yarn and needle combo that will give you that gauge, measured after blocking..The sample size is 38″.

I hastily knitted up a swatch on the biggest needles I had (7mm) but the square was too small.


I thought I might just knit the pattern for the 38″ bust with the smaller needles and it might come out closer to 34″ bust which would be better for me. But then I realised creating a swatch to the actual measurement might be a good thing to learn. And also to learn the basics of writing and adapting a knitting pattern. I can’t tell you how excited I am.

I have lots of odd DK yarns that would combine nicely for this project. The thickness of the yarn and the needles makes it very quick indeed. I think it would be a nice project for a beginner, and if I crack it I may make one for Esme too. The colours I have are very intriguing, allowing me to create a tweedy look, or maybe stripes.

DK yarns in blues, greys, browns
Mixed bag of DK yarns

Anyone else feel like having a go at this one?

Finally I wanted to just mention that Brenda, my internet friend, is having her surgery today at 1.30pm. Please send some happy, positive thoughts in her direction. Also her hair is growing back. That painted silk dress gets one step closer!

Sourcing materials for silk painting

I have had a number of enquiries about painting on silk, especially in terms of materials and supplies. If you are interested in making colourful silk for a special blouse or dress this is a most satisfying and relatively easy technique. I posted how to do it here.

Finished piece

So, in order to encourage those who are thinking about having a try, and to satisfy those who already do it but want to do it on a larger scale, I will share the benefit of my experience.


I have bought quite alot of silk from Cheap Fabrics. The Habotai silk costs about £10 p/m. The satin, the crepe and dupion is £14-£16p/m. In my experience this is very good quality silk at the best possible price. You can find cheaper silk fabric but it is much lighter weight and not, to my mind, worth it. They also stock an expensive Duchesse satin fabric – £40 p/m. I might buy this for an evening or wedding dress. For stretch silk satin I purchased it from McCulloch and Wallis, but they don’t seem to have it any more.

Basically you need to buy natural silk if you want your colours to work well. But of course you can experiment with coloured silk which can be interesting if you paint with darker colours. Also you can use discharge paste to take the colour out. The negative of natural silk is that it can be creamy/yellowy. Strong colours will cover this up, but if you want really white you may find the satin is brighter white.

I imagine if you are in other countries you will find a good supplier of similar products.

Silk Paints

I use iron fixed colours. There are other types – steam fixed – that you fix in the oven/microwave. I haven’t tried this product but there are excellent colours available. Do let me know if you have experience and recommendations with this.

The brands I have used and rate are Marabu, Pebeo Setasilk, Javana.

silk paints
Seta silk

You can get small 45 gms bottles of silk paint in craft shops. So long as you buy a clear red, yellow and blue you can make most colours, especially if you get black as well. You can get lighter colours by watering them down. But I buy 250 grm bottles in a fair range of colours as I love making painted silk. A good supplier of large bottles of silk paint in every colour is the Silkcraft website. Silkcraft also sells silk for painting on, which I haven’t tried. If you choose the Habotai go for at least 8 or a higher number. The lighter weights are really not very nice for dress making.

Paint brushes

I think I bought two sable Marabu brushes when I started. I am completely  happy with these. One is thick and quick and one is fine and used for more detailed work. There are also Pebeo brushes available. I have also seen this product recommended – EFCO round synthetic brush size 8. I also have a 1″ brush that I got from Homebase that I have used for both silk painting and for wax. Ideally you should not mix the brushes you use use for wax, and the brushes you use for the silk. You can clean the wax with boiled water but it is not that effective.

Wax (optional)

You can use a resist (in this case hot wax) to protect the fabric and prevent the silk paint dying it. You can use the wax to create a pattern on the white fabric before you start, or to protect sections of work as you build up the colour. Very nice subtle effects can be achieved with wax and other types of resist. But it is not essential and I would not both with the batik techniques at first unless you have already used them for tie-dye and shibori work.

I have a wax pot, which I love. It costs about £45 so only worth buying if you love working with wax. You can warm wax in other kinds of vessels, but it is probably highly dangerous. You don’t need to use hot wax batik methods, but it is an extra layer of fun if you do. You also need to get quality wax granules although at a push you might be able to use candles. The idea with the wax is that it has the right balance between flexibility (including bees wax) and crackability (paraffin wax). The mix is about 30% bees wax and 70% paraffin wax, but you can mix it differently if you wish.

wax pot
Wax Pot

Gutta (optional)

Wax needs a wax pot, wax, brushes or tjanting tools. Gutta also works as a resist. I requires no heat and is relatively clean and tidy (but it is not the same as wax which I love using).

Pebeo Gutta

Pebeo is a nice brand you can use straight out of the tube. It is a bit like putting icing on a cake. The gutta seeps into the silk and creates a barrier that you can paint within, and it stays in permanently. You can use it to create effects or to write on your work – just a signature or message, or even a kind of graphic effect. Then there is the washable gutta that creates a barrier while you are working but washes out (don’t forget to fix the colour with your hot iron first. As I did when I copied the Dali lobster – argggh!).

Frame (optional)

It is normal to use a frame. The basic idea is to stretch the silk across a frame, and hold it in place with pins that will not ruin the fabric. The tightness makes it easier to paint carefully and for no runs or mess to occur. But you can mock one up by using an old picture frame and specialist silk pins.  I find the whole process time consuming and annoying, especially if you want to do a big piece of cloth, so I don’t bother with this stage at all. If you paint on a flat surface (in the picture above I have a large piece of fibreboard), protected with newspaper, you will get some bleeding and seepage but this can be managed by letting the colours dry before you apply the next colour. I also like the bleeding effect rather than creating outlines with gutta and then carefully colouring in, like making a picture.

silk painting
Silk Painting frame





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