Making a silk purse from a sow’s ear

Photo of the silk purse

A while back I attended a class (at a traveling sewing show) on making a silk purse.  The class wasn’t really what I had hoped it would be, but it was still interesting all the same.
We started with a piece of hand-dyed silk velvet.  I choose one in shades of blue and grey (gorgeous!) and a coordinating piece of silver silk dupioni for the lining.  The strap would be made of silk cord (or rather, a silk strap filled with cotton cording), and the purse would be embellished with beads, ribbons, yarns, and then when I got home, hot-fix crystals.

To start off, we had a piece of fusible interfacing, and ruched up the silk velvet, and pressed it to the interfacing to bond the two together. Normally I wouldn’t use an iron on velvet, but this is how we got the rumpled and manipulated effect, without laborious hand-sewing.  Since the velvet was just the basis for the rest of the embellishment, a few areas of flattened velvet pile wasn’t such a big deal.

Close up of the beaded corner

Then we determined the pocket of the bag and the flap, and started sewing on gorgeous yarns, beads, and ribbons to embellish the purse in a random, almost chaotic fashion. Then once home, we sewed the lining to the purse fabric right sides together (leaving an area to turn) sewed up the sides (and embellished them to cover the stitching) and added the strap.

I added the hot-fix crystals as well, but haven’t added a closure yet – the weight of the beads on the flap do a fine job of keeping the purse closed.

Photo of the whole purse

The final result is pretty cool, though if I were to make something similar again, I’d make just a little bit larger, and spend more time on adding pockets with zippers into the lining for security.  I don’t like ‘open’ purses generally, and some way of closing them is pretty important to me.  Still, as a quick class, it was great fodder for letting myself go embellishment-wild!


Do you think the finished product is too busy, or could you see yourself using something this embellished?  Let me know in the comments below!

Corset class – All laced up

Corset lacing

I have a brief discussion about what to use for corset lacing that I’d like to share as well.

For the most part you want strong laces, that can withstand the tug and pull of cinching your corset up firmly.  I prefer round laces simply because with flat laces, I think they need to be smoothed out and flat to look their best – and unless you have someone helping you get into your corset and then flattening all of your laces, that’s just not going to happen!

A ribbon laced corset of mine. You can see even though I tried really hard to smooth out all the ribbons, it's still not perfect.

Some corset makers use double-faced satin ribbons in their corsets, but generally for regular wear I don’t recommend it.  Again there is the issue of twisting, curling and flattening the laces, but also the holes the laces pass through are round, which means that when faced with strain, the ribbons will naturally start to curl within the grommet hole.  Additionally, I’ve see satin ribbons pass through less-than-perfect grommet holes, and get snagged – which might not mean much, but satin ribbon has a high percentage of floating threads (which gives it that great sheen) which means the chances of snagging your ribbon increases.

The only time that I’d suggest ribbon (and then again, double-faced ribbon) would be for a wedding corset – where the time can be taken to slowly get into the corset and flatten the ribbons, and where the corset will not be worn extremely tightly.  The look of white or cream ribbon (or black, or red, or whatever colour you like) on a wedding corset really does have an appeal, but for normal wear I just don’t feel that the effort is worth it.  YMMV (Your mileage may vary) on this one!

Some individuals recommend parachute cord, which apparently is readily available (though I’ve never found it), shoelaces (I’ve never found them long enough) or other alternatives.  I prefer a simple nylon round cord that I can purchase by the meter or by the spool.  (I have two spools actually, one white, one black, and that suits me just fine!)

A corset of mine with the round nylon cord for back lacing. (Shown on a dressform, so it doesn't fit properly...)

I would recommend avoiding anything:

  • Too expensive (you’ll need a lot of cord to lace your corset!)
  • Bulky (it will just get in the way)
  • Too narrow (it needs to be able to support your tugging without cutting into your hands)
  • Too fragile (again, it needs to be able to support all of your tugging)
  • Slippery (it needs to be able to tie a firm knot) (Satin rat-tail cord is pretty, but save it for a different project.)
  • Too short (having three knots all the way down your corset lacing doesn’t look great in my opinion)
  • Too long (you don’t want those laces dangling too far down)


Take a look at any of the corsets you already own – what do they use for lacing?  Do you like it, or do you think you’d like to use something different for one you’ll make yourself?  Leave me a comment below!

Colossal Squid at the Royal Alberta Museum

In late June I visited the Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton, Alberta.  They had an exhibit called “Creatures of the Abyss”.  (Which runs until September 11, 2011 if you are interested in attending it.) Overall, I actually found the exhibit to be a bit disappointing – it was geared a bit too much to children, so I found the information a bit shallower than I would have liked. All the same, there were some cool displays.

Colossal Squid

The one display that I really liked, and it made me think of a blog I find fascinating (the Cephalopod Tea Party), was the model of the Colossal Squid.  It was enormous and it’s eyes kind of followed us around the room.  Add to that there were a number of displays about how cephalopods use their ink to get away, how different kinds use their legs and jets to transport themselves, etc.  I thought the illustrations of the Vampire Squid were really adorable too.  Also – the Colosall Squid model was scaring some of the children in the room – it was funny to watch and listen to the parents try to convince their terrified children to stand next to it for a picture…

Colossal Squid

From the Cephalopod Tea Party: “a class of active predatory mollusks comprising octopuses, squids, and cuttlefish. They have a distinct head with a ring of tentacles around a beak mouth and are able to release a cloud of inky fluid to confuse predators.”

Satin Moon

Inside Satin Moon

Not long ago during my trip to Victoria, I popped into a quilt shop called Satin Moon. I’ve gotten into the trend of visiting fabric and quilting stores when I travel, and like the idea of bringing back fabric (or something!) that can come to represent the trip.  Visiting Satin Moon made for a charming experience, in a well-lit, well-organized small quilt shop.  They had the regular assortment of patterns, fabrics, notions, and books.  I most enjoy seeing patterns representing local designs (such as Haida First Nation-style artwork, whales, forests, and mountains), and they also had  a small selection of Asian-inspired cotton prints.

Inside Satin Moon

They have a LOT of inspirational finished pieces throughout the store, and a section in the back with finished quilts for sale.  They also have a section of children’s clothing (patterns and otherwise) for those who love to make kids clothes from the often brightly-patterned fabrics made for quilting.  I also especially was pleased to find 100% wool felt, which is difficult to find.  However they only had it in small prices, but I still picked up a few colours for needle felting.

The staff at Satin Moon were great too – very helpful and friendly… yet experienced enough to know to just let sewers shop!  There’s also a small sale area in the corner with cool fabrics and tools – though nothing I needed (or could convince myself I needed…)

I'd love to try this pattern if I could find the right fabric...

I found the store really inspiring – I love this “window” – I’ve seen it done up in other fabrics too, and think it would look great with a scenic fabric print.

So, other than the aforementioned felt, what about fabric? Patterns?  I unfortunately didn’t see any patterns that I wanted (other than ones I already have, or ones like the above windows that I don’t have the fabric for yet anyways…) but I did find a fantastic Asian-inspired fish print from Kona Bay(12 Art Treasures).  It totally reminds me of a friend, and I love the bold print.  I think that I’ll make a lightweight kimono/robe out of it – or perhaps if I feel brave, a stunt dress.

My one regret – isn’t even mine really – but my mum was LOVING a pattern she saw there – called “Waves”, and I tried to convince her to get it… BUT she was being stubborn, and didn’t.  Of course, on the ride back home to Calgary again, she was STILL talking about it and regretting not picking it up.  In the end, she ended up ordering it from them online – and it came super-quick!

You can find Satin Moon Quilt Shop at:

1689 Government Street
Victoria, BC V8W 0A1
(250) 383-4023

Have you been to Satin Moon?  Karin wrote for Quilters Haven about the shop, as did Dawnie in Itching for Stitching.  If you have been there, let me know what you thought (and what you bought!) in the comments below!  If you need more bloggy goodness, check out the Satin Moon blog – which is a series of images for inspiration!

Inside Button Button

More great gothic buttons from Button Button

Not too long ago I was talking about Button Button, a cool button shop in Vancouver where I picked up some great steampunk buttons and some cool gothic buttons as well.  I thought that I would share with you some additional photos I took from inside the shop – in particular trays of the goth and steampunk buttons they have – including those I purchased… and others I left behind.

I have to admit, I was really tempted by those white and grey skull shaped buttons, but thought they might be a bit to kitchy for anything I’d sew.  I also LOVE the black widow spider buttons – but yellow is a bit too bright for my taste.  If those babies had been on grey I would have been sold!  There were also some adorable plastic skulls with little bows in bright colours, and plain plastic skulls too – so cute!

some of the steampunk buttons from Button Button

Here are just some of the steampunk gear buttons, they also have some awesome wooden gears that I was really tempted by (hmm I should have gotten them!) and I also was really tempted by the little female ‘busts’ to at the top left hand corner – but again, I couldn’t really think of what I would use them for.  In this area Button Button also has some totally cute anime-inspired buttons, and the cartoony buttons at the bottom left of this photo. The lone button in the middle right of this photo actually is a two-part rotating cog… how cool is that?

Wwhat you would have done with some of the buttons I didn’t get?  Would you have found a home for those spiders on yellow?  Let me know in the comments below!