Book review: The Artful Ribbon

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A while back I was looking for books on ribbon folding specifically to make cockades.  One of the books I saw recommended online was The Artful Ribbon by Candace Kling.  If I remember correctly, she teaches some workshops on cockade making, and has a great Etsy shop of the same. (If I’m mixing her up with another author, please forgive me… it’s late, and I’m not feeling especially research-y…)

Since I had started looking for books on ribbon work with the idea of making cockades for millinery, I was at first disapointed with this book, as there is next to nothing resembling cockades, and the majority of the flowers in the book seem most suited to attach to fabrics (like garments or home decorating) rather than standing on their own as a decoration that might be removable on a hat or bag.

However, upon further review of the book, I began to see how truly valuable it is.  It is incredibly well illustrated and photographed to start out – and although time (or rather, a lack of time) keeps me from being able to charge right in and start making bouquets of silk ribbon flowers – I imagine that following the instructions would be very easy.  There is also an abundance of information and research about materials, flowers, storage, care, and other information.  This really does seem like a valuable resource for the home crafter.

Sections in the book inlcude:

  • Simple flowers
  • Roses
  • Petals
  • Pansies & Fuchsias
  • Berry buds, stamens and centers
  • Greenery
  • as well as some information on texturing, materials, composition, tools, techniques, etc.

My only complaint – and it’s the same as I have for most crafting books; the successful replication of any of the projects hinges heavily on the ability to source the right fabrics and materials.  I understand that there’s no way to really replicate something, but at the same time, a lot of the projects are SO much more successful when done in certain materials rather than others.  For instance, do you have a source for gold to yellow ombre lace-edge, wired ribbon?  No? Then your daffodil won’t look the same…  How about green pinstriped wired ribbon with stripes in dark green on a pale green surface? No? Then your leaves likely won’t look the same…  I have found that ombre ribbon (let alone wired ombre ribbon) is very difficult to find locally, and the idea of shipping in ribbon seems just a little silly right now frankly.  I’ll certainly keep my eyes open, and when I do find some – this definitly will be a book I’ll return to!

What are your thoughts?  Do you find that a lot of sewing/crafting books rely too heavily on the “right” materials, or would you be perfectly happy with a polka-dot daffodil, if that’s the only kind of ribbon you could find?

Book review: Fun-to-wear Fabric Flowers

I realize that I haven’t posted in a while, and I feel kind of bad about it – but work and the rest of my life has just been so busy lately! In fact, I picked up a few books on ribbon/fabric flowers a while ago, and other than flipping through them, haven’t really had much time at all to read – or for that matter, review – them!

So, am I back on track now? Not really.  I don’t anticipate having a lot more spare time in the near future, but in the meantime, at least I can prepare a FEW little posts!

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First up, Fun-to-Wear Fabric Flowers by Elizabeth Helene Searle.

The cover art is deceptive – in the sense that it really doesn’t do the rest of the book and the rest of the photos justice.  It seems a bit dated to me, while the book is only from 2006, and other interior photos don’t have that same vaguely 1980’s vibe… Take a look at the back cover instead to get a better sense of it!

Like most crafty/sewing books, the book starts out with a substantial section with the basic how-tos.  Good for those who might be picking up a needle for the first time in a while, but I’m getting to the point where I just skip this section entirely.  From there there are several individual projects, but many of them very, very similar, with variations only in fabric and size.  The types of flowers the book covers includes:

  • Free-motion flowers (not unlike my silk poppy)
  • Gathered flowers
  • Yo-yo flowers
  • Five-petal flowers (if you have more sewing in mind)
  • Roses
  • Ruched flowers
  • Individual petal flowers (again, more hand-work, very much like my “more felt flowers“)
  • Pansies
  • Folded-petal flowers
  • Loopy flowers (not something I’m attracted to personally)
  • Bias strip flowers (again, not really my interest)
  • Poppies
  • and finally, felt flowers.

I found the first half of the book a bit too simple, and a bit too “this doesn’t really look at all like a flower” – or, so highly dependent on having the perfect fabric, as to not really be do-able for what I have these flowers in mind for (millinery of course!).  However, I really liked the look of the poppies (using six strips of fabric for the petals, a black yo-yo for the center and purchased stamens) and there is a good section on folded roses which might be useable.

(From the book, in my own words)

Folded fabric rose

  1. Take a long strip of fabric (the book recommends 4×45″) and fold the long edges together so they meet in the middle.
  2. Fold the strip in continuous 45 degree angles – like twisting it flat.
  3. Stitch one short side and one long side using a gathering stitch
  4. Gather and roll, then stitch to foundation and add folded-fabric leaves.

So… I would love to have some photos to show off in this post of flowers I’ve made from this book. But, alas, I haven’t had hardly any time to sew at all (one alteration and one quick robe that was already cut out pre-renovation…) so there’s nothing to share! 😦

Purple silk ‘shoe’ hat

As I was making this hat, I really couldn’t help but see it having a vague ‘shoe’ shape.  It doesn’t LOOK like a shoe, but it has the curve almost of a high heel.. so I keep thinking of it as the ‘shoe hat’.

This hat was made very similar to the Purple Velvet faux-vintage hat I made at the same time – in fact the reason I made one was because of the other.  I originally wanted to make this hat, but didn’t know if my buckram could handle the shape, and cut out two layers of buckram with the band shape.

When I went to stitch the two together, I realized that they were going to shift a lot, and that once I wired the buckram, it would be a lot more firm than just the fabric by itself, so I found myself with two bands instead of just one!

The fabric

Again with this hat I had the shape more in mind than the fabric when I was designing the pattern.  Once I had the buckram form, I needed to figure out what to cover it with.  The basic shape sort of suggested 1940s/50s air hostess or vaguely military, but since I wasn’t interested in exagerating that (or making a costume hat) I wanted to stay away from camo green or navy blue…   Instead I initially picked a teal shot with black taffeta, but when going through my stash of small silks, I picked out some fabric left over from a dress I made.

The main fabric is a subtle purple and grey thread stripe, and the lining is a brighter solid pink-purple fine silk.  I used the solid fabric to line the dress and add contrast piping and binding.  I bought both from Dressew in Vancouver a few years back.

Completing the pattern

Traced the pattern onto buckram

Because this hat would have a tip, I designed the pattern for it by measuring and analyzing the paper shape that I developed the pattern from.  I drafted the pattern for the tip, and played with it along with the paper mock up to ensure it would fit the way I intended.  When I had wired the buckram in the construction stage, I also traced off the shape, and found that they were very, very similar.  (Which is good – it means the wire didn’t skew the shape much!)

Constructing the frame

Like the purple velvet hat, this one started by:

  1. Cutting out the buckram using the pattern and adding an overlap for the centre back seam.
  2. Stitching the centre back seam overlapping the buckram.
  3. Attached the wire to the lower edge of the band.  Since I had learned my lesson on the purple velvet hat, I shaped my wire as I stitched.
Then for the tip of the hat, I had the pattern, so I:
  1. Cut the pattern out of buckram, tracing the edge and adding a seam allowance.
  2. Shaped the wire along the traced edge before stitching it on.

    Stitching the wire onto the buckram, following the pencil line. I've clipped the buckram where it will fold down

  3. Overcast stitched the wire along the traced edge.

    The reverse of the tip, showing the stitches holding down the wire.

  4. Clipped the seam allowance to the wire, and folded the edges of the buckram so they would go over the band of the hat
  5. Stitched the tabs of the tip down to the band, with the wired edge of the tip inside the hat.
  6. Covered the corner where the tip met the band with wide bias trim to soften the edges.

Adding fabric to the hat

To cover the hat and add the lining I:
  1. Cut the tip and band out of fusible interfacing (mostly to support the fine silk) fused it to the silk, and cut it out with seam allowances.
  2. Stitched the tip fabric down over the tip of the frame, in the same method I did on the Red Silk Pillbox.

    covering the tip with the silk fabric

  3. Cut out the lining using the pattern pieces, and hand-stitched them together.  With a few little stitches I secured the lining into the hat just because of the strange shape.
  4. Covered the band with white felt, using the pattern I had used for the buckram (no seam allowance).  I did this largely to keep the silk very ‘flat’, rather than showing all the bumps of the stitching, wire, bias tape, etc, since the fabric is very fine.
  5. Made bias strips of the lining fabric and inserted cord to make piping.  Basted the piping flange to the felt at the top of the hat. With the piping, the hat will match the dress really well I think!

    shot of the piping between the tip and the band

  6. Pressed the top edge down on the band fabric, then stitched the centre back seam and re-pressed at the seam.  (I find with such a small piece it’s easier to press the majority when it’s flat rather than when it’s already sewn together.) I stitched the back centre seam by hand, and once I was finished with the hat, I really think I should have done it by machine instead, because the stitches are a bit too visible for my liking.
  7. Pulled the band fabric over the felt and slip stitched the band to the tip fabric through the piping with tiny invisible stitches.
  8. Basted the lining and outside fabric to the hat edge at the bottom of the band, pulling the fashion fabric inside the hat.
  9. Made bias strips of the fashion fabric to trim the bottom edge of the brim.  Stitched on the outside first right sides together, then turned it and slip-stitched it on the inside.

Finishing and trimming the hat

The sweatband was going to be incredibly challenging.  The instructor told me that I could pin it in place, pin little darts into the grosgrain ribbon, and then sew the darts and replace the ribbon back into the hat.  That sounded a bit bulky to me, and I figured that I could at least try steam shaping the rayon grosgrain ribbon with the iron to start.
The key apparently is using rayon grosgrain, rather than polyester, which won’t shape as well.

I loosely measured, and then did a series of S-curves with the iron – some of them very tight to get the shape of the ribbon to fit in the hat.  Ultimately it’s not perfect, but the result is really good and I’m happy with it.  I think I’m much more happy with it than if I had done all of the tiny darts.

The shaped grosgrain ribbon as the sweatband inside the hat. (Interior shot)

Trimming the hat

Front view of the hat

Once the hat was done, I really was at a loss of how to trim it.  I was concentrating so much on the shape of the hat itself, that I didn’t really think about the embellishment at all.  I don’t like the notion that somehow you make the hat for the sole purpose of showing off the embellishment – that the hat is only the canvas for the beauty of the embellishment… and yet, when the hat was made, it needed…. something.

Side view showing the shape

In class, the instructor had suggested a large (tall) feather on the centre back.  There was a green feather pad in her collection that worked for me, but for the colour.  At home I made my own feather pad with a similar shape (using some scrap buckram, covered in black felt on both sides, then selecting feathers and gluing them on.  I would have used regular white glue, but I have no idea where my glue is right now with the renovations, so I used a low-temp hot glue gun instead.)I held the feather pad up against the hat and I knew that I’d need to cover the end of the feather.  I started off with a filigree motif grouping from Michael’s Bezels Frames and Filigree collection – a silver grouping that suggested a flower.  I didn’t really like the feather at all.  It just was… wrong.

Back view of the completed hat

So… off went the feather, and instead I gathered up some black French/Russian veil material, and fussed with it for a while, finally attaching it to the centre back of the hat with the silver filigree over it where it was gathered.  Both were sewn on, not glued.

Faux vintage purple velvet hat

So, as I mentioned in my previous post about making the faux vintage hat, I wanted to break up the work-in-progress into a separate post, so that the post about the hat wouldn’t be too image-heavy.  Well, once I designed the pattern for the hat, it was time to get started on the construction!

Constructing the hat

I constructed this hat much like I did for the band on the Red Silk Pillbox Hat.

  1. Cut out in buckram with an overlap for centre back
  2. Stitch back centre overlapped seam
  3. Wire  bottom edge.  Because of the shape, this was extremely difficult.  On the lower edge I didn’t do anything with the wire before hand, just stitched it on.  This was a huge mistake, and I ended up having to re-shape the wire once it was all attached, which was a bit frustrating.  As a result, the wire is NOT right on the edge of the buckram in all places, and there is a slight ridge that I can see through the velvet.  This is something that the instructor pointed out when I brought the hat to class as a work-in-progress.  I do wish she had mentioned how to avoid this in the previous class before I had wired the hat.
  4. Wire the top edge.  After such frustration with the bottom edge, I shaped the wire for the top edge as I was stitching it on. This was much more successful.  It would have been very difficult to shape this edge once it was attached.
  5. Cover both edges with bias tape

Since this was going to be a hat without a tip, I constructed the fabric covering differently from the Red Silk Pillbox Hat.

  1. Using the paper pattern for the buckram, I cut out the fashion fabric (velvet) and the lining (satin) leaving a regular seam allowance at the top and centre backs, with a generous seam allowance at the bottom edge.
  2. On the machine, I sewed the centre back seam for each fabrics
  3. On the machine, I sewed the lining to the fashion fabric right sides together along the top edge.
  4. Turned the fabrics to wrong sides together and slipped them over the buckram hat form.
  5. Hand-stitched the fabrics along the top edge to the buckram form, hiding the stitches inside the “ditch” and within the velvet pile.
  6. Basted the lining to the lower edge and trimmed off the excess
  7. Turned the velvet inside the hat and basted it inside, hiding the stitches on the outside of the hat inside the pile.
  8. Trimmed the velvet inside the hat.

    The black grosgrain ribbon stitched in as the sweatband

  9. Hand-stitched the sweatband into the hat.  I had to do some serious shaping of the rayon grosgrain to get the curves to fit properly.  The hand stitching was very challenging because of the size and shape of the hat, so most of it was done through from the inside of the hat to the outside, hiding the stitches in the pile of the velvet, since sliding the needle behind the fabric was almost impossible.
  10. Hand-stitched a small comb into the centre back of the hat, to add a bit of extra security when the hat is worn.

Decorating the hat

The shape of the hat really suggested netting or flowers or something ‘spilling’ out of the hat, but I wasn’t sure what I really wanted to do with this.  I took the hat to my millinery class and asked my instructor for her feedback.  She came up with the same idea, which was nice to reinforce my idea.  I had a copper-toned filigree ‘flower’ from Michael’s Craft store (from the fairly new Bead Landing™ Bezels, Frames and Filigree collection in the jewelry section.) which I thought would work really well with the colour scheme and the “vintage” feeling. I also really wanted to use some of the (meters and meters) of black French/Russian veil fabric, so started out just playing with the veil material for a while, and finally did a birdcage-style gather, and tucked it inside the hat on the side, and put the ‘flower’ on the outside sort of pinning down the veil.

The finished and embellished hat

Finished hat on my Styrofoam head (keep in mind the head is smaller than my own..)

Finished hat on my Styrofoam head (keep in mind the head is smaller than my own..)

Making the Faux vintage purple velvet hat

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m not a purple person.

With that being said, when I came up with the shape for a new hat, I wasn’t really sure what fabric I wanted to use. Since the shape vaguely reminded me of 1940s asymmetrical hats, I was in the mood for something vaguely vintage feeling. But what?

A year or so ago, I inherited bags full of vintage and retro clothes from a woman I’ve known since I was 5 or 6… She loved collecting beautiful clothes (as much as I love collecting fabrics I’m guessing, and to the same lack-of-room results), and I was thrilled to get my hands on leathers, suedes, velvets, brocades…. of course all far too small for me to wear, but all very reusable for crafting, accessories and to other ends.

So, for this hat, I selected out a super-plain cotton velvet dress, in a deep, rich purple to source the fabric from.  I wanted the lining to be high contrast, so not just a different colour, but also a different texture entirely.  I wavered back and forth between a silver satin and a brassy gold satin (both remnants from the days when I worked at the fabric store…) and thought that although I don’t usually wear gold-tone, that the gold would bring out more of the ‘vintage’ feel when teamed with the purple.

So, the creation of this hat….

Designing the shape

I started with a soft wire, looped it into a circle, and then just sort of played with it on my head.  I had a general idea of how I wanted the hat to sit, but needed to fuss around a little bit with width.  From there I  made a tube of paper from the recycling bin, and taped it onto the wire, and then trimmed off the paper below the wire (where it would rest on my head) and checked the fit to ensure that taping didn’t warp the shape at all.   Then I trimmed off the top of the paper in a way that would kind of echo the wired edge.

The shaped wire taped to scrap newsprint

Drafting the pattern

Once I had the paper mock up, I marked centre front and back, removed the wire and opened up the paper.  From here I cut the pattern in half, so I had two pieces.  These I traced on on top of the other on a piece of copy paper, and then trued the shape since my eye had been good, but not great.  With this I had half a pattern piece which I traced off full-size onto another sheet of paper to full-size.

Tracing off the pattern

I measured the area where the tip would go, and examined the shape, and from there estimated the pattern piece, cut it out, and taped it to the other pattern piece to test the fit – success!

Testing out the paper pattern

To avoid this being a really image-heavy post, I’m going to break this post up… so stay tuned for part two!