Posts Tagged ‘fabrics’

Taking shape

I must confess that I don’t always bother to press pattern pieces using an iron, since it is often possible to flatten them out to an acceptable standard by hand.  However, there are two situations in which I always do: if the pattern is particularly creased, or if the pieces are very small.  The pieces for Avon and Vila, naturally, are pretty small.  When I’d finished pressing them, they looked like this:

Pattern pieces for the Avon and Vila dolls

You can just see the fabric on the right, and it is a good representation of the colour (at least, it is on my monitor).  Remember that, if you wouldn’t mind, because I couldn’t get the colour to look right in the next photo.  The boys are really not going to be spectacularly pink.

I’ve just been away for a week, and I took the pieces and the fabric with me.  While I was away, I cut everything out and did as much making up as I could.  This wasn’t a great deal because the arms and legs have to be stuffed before I attach them to the bodies, and I didn’t bring the stuffing with me, but it still took me a couple of days.  The results, as they stand at the moment, look something like this:

Fabric pieces for Avon and Vila dolls

I hate tailor tacks, but I can’t really see a way round them here, except on the arm pieces.  The arms are supposed to have a couple of tailor tacks at the top.  I’ve only put them on one arm, because it’s obvious from the construction where they go; I just need the one arm marking as a reminder which way round they are (the green thread marks the larger circles, the purple thread the smaller ones, and there’s one of each).  I’ve also thread-traced the stitching lines, and will probably replace the thread with chalk just before I actually stitch them.

Now, just look at that first photo again if you don’t mind, the one with the pattern pieces.  The text on the back piece (bottom right) is a tad out of focus, but all the outlines are very clear, and the photo is taken from directly above the ironing board so there is no perspective distortion.  That was deliberate.  I now have a scalable pattern.  You may hear a bit more about this later.

Not the next post, though.  That’s going to be all about the waistcoat. 🙂

Two bad boys

As I mentioned in the last post, I’m in the process of setting up my new business.  One thing I really needed for this was a good logo, and if you’ve been following this blog for any length of time you’ll know that my artistic skills are entirely a matter of squared paper and grinding patience.  This, however, doesn’t work if what you’re trying to produce is a simple logo with nice bold lines.

So a friend in NZ came to the rescue, and she drew me a really lovely logo which you can see on my business website.  I asked her what she would like in return, and after a little thought she said she would like a plush Vila.  This name may not mean anything to you if you’re below a certain age, so I will explain.  Vila was one of the characters in a SF series of the late 70s and early 80s called Blake’s 7.  Both of us were (and still are) huge fans of this series, so I got quite excited about the idea, and said I was very tempted to make a plush Avon to go with him.  Avon was Vila’s friend.  Sort of.  Insofar as he was ever friends with anyone.  He wasn’t exactly a nice chap.  Even so, when it comes to classic SF double acts, Avon and Vila were right up there alongside the likes of Spock and McCoy.  In fact, whisper it softly, but I think Avon and Vila had the edge.  They got better lines. 🙂

Avon (left) and Vila (right) in "Gambit"

Here they are – the boys themselves, in a very typical screencap.  Vila’s the one on the right, clutching the drink and looking worried.  Avon is doing his usual steely-eyed thing with just a hint of smugness.  After all, you’d be smug too if you knew you could look good in a tinfoil tunic.  This still is from the episode Gambit, which possibly counts as my favourite episode ever.  My friend particularly wanted Vila in that costume (and I like that one a lot too).

The matter didn’t take much deciding.  My friend really wanted an Avon too, so she said if I made one, she’d pay me for him.  “Done!” I replied happily.  Of course, I’m no good at faces (see artistic skills above), but that’s all right.  She’ll do those herself.  She thinks the sewing is the clever bit.  I don’t understand that.  Sewing is easy.  It’s the faces that are the clever bit!

I decided to put Avon in his Gambit outfit as well, since it’s easy to make and it’s very classic Avon.  Avon wore a lot of silver.  (Heck, if you can, go for it.)  The first thing to do was to find a doll pattern.  There are lots of free ones online, but none of them turned out to be quite right, so in the end I bought this one:

Doll pattern (Vogue 7418)

Yes, I realise the dolls shown are all female.  Sssh, don’t tell Avon and Vila. 😉  The dolls actually look female because of their clothes and hair; their bodies are pretty much unisex.  They won’t need any adaptation to make them a more masculine shape.

This morning I went shopping for fabric.  The lady with the fabric stall on the market is truly awesome, because, as you will see if you compare this photo with the one of Avon and Vila above, she had just about everything I needed:

Fabrics, threads, trim &c to make the dolls

And, yes, that brown fabric in the middle is actually suedette.  It really could not have gone any better.  There’s also a large bag of stuffing which is not in the photo.

All I need now is some yarn for their hair, one or two pieces of PVC for their footwear (Avon goes in for big boots, but Vila usually wears a more modest pair of shoes), something I can use for Vila’s belt, a couple of small buckles, and some black sequins or similar for Avon’s belt.

I’m going to have fun with this project. 🙂

Two lengths of blue linen

Apologies in advance for the fact that there are no photos this time.  I’ve taken a couple, but I’m rapidly running out of evening, so I will put them in a future post.

I have some exciting news, though… well, I’m excited, at least. 😀  After all this time spent designing and preparing, yesterday I actually cut the main fabric – a surprisingly tough job.  You would think that a fairly coarsely-woven linen would be easy work with a rotary cutter.  Not so much.

Usually I line up the grain on a piece of fabric by eye, moving one selvedge back and forth along the other until the fold hangs straight.  For this one, however, it had to be exactly right, and besides the ends of the fabric were cut rather more than usually skew, which is the sort of thing that can make things difficult.  So this time, what I did was actually to tack across the fabric between two of the weft threads to give me a visible line.  I then folded it lengthwise, matching up the two halves of this line and holding them in place with pins.  Then I pinned the selvedges together.  Once I’d done that, it was a simple matter to flatten out the fabric and pin the other end in place, enabling me to move it around freely without fear of the grain going wonky.

The pieces which have to be cut in the main fabric are the fronts and the front facings.  I cut out the facings first so that I would have as much fabric as possible left to use for the front pieces, then I squared off the edges of the fabric and cut it into two large rectangles, each of which would comfortably accommodate one of the fronts.  I’m making the frames by fastening two of my artists’ canvases (remember those?) together into a larger rectangle; I’ve glued them, and a friend who can do DIY has promised to add a more substantial join.  (I would do this myself, but I have a problem with my wrists and can’t use power tools.)  The fabric rectangles will be stitched to the canvas, since it’s already stretched, and then I’ll remove as much of the canvas as possible from underneath.  This should be a great deal easier than trying to stretch a piece of fairly heavy linen over the frame with my limited physical strength.

Expect more on this at the weekend, with photos. 🙂

The building blocks

Today my pattern arrived, and so did the free fabric samples.  Here they are, alongside the current state of progress with the embroidery pattern:

Pattern, fabric samples and current progress on embroidery chart

The samples of the fabrics that I’m going to be using are at the top right of the picture, and the other two are the ones I decided against.  Here’s a closer look at the fabrics I’ll be using, showing the colours more accurately:

Fabric samples

The rather natty gold stripe is polyester, and will be the lining.  The centre sample is a heavy linen which will form the front pieces.  Oddly, on the website the other linen – the one that looks bright blue in the first photo – looked a very similar colour, but as you can see they are very different in real life.  Finally, the third fabric is a good quality silk which will make up the back of the waistcoat.  It’s a very similar shade to the polka dot lining that I eventually rejected, but it eventually got chosen because it is just that little bit more blue rather than green, so it matches the linen better.  To be honest I prefer the polka dot fabric, but I had to go for the better match, and this one is about as good as it could possibly get.

While waiting for these to arrive, I have been slowly progressing with the embroidery pattern, working madly to get the current piece of cord off the lucet so I can start making a sample with the purple wool I mentioned in an earlier post,  and having a lot of thoughts about the project.  For a start, I think I need to build a couple of custom frames, which won’t be expensive but may need some help from a friend who does DIY.  I have a wrist problem which means I can’t saw up bits of wood, even if they are fairly light.  Normally, in fact, I don’t use a frame or hoop for embroidery at all, since I’m well practised at keeping a good tension, but I think this project is going to need it.  I do own an embroidery frame, the sort where you can rotate the work on rollers at the ends, but with all the couching (and eventually beadwork) I don’t think that is going to cut the mustard.  I think I need a flat fixed frame, and, since it’s going to be so cheap to make one, I may as well make two so that I can work on both front pieces at the same time, rather than having to finish one before I can make a start on the other.

I will also need to make a mock-up to ensure that it fits… so I won’t be able to surprise my friend completely, but I can at least keep it quiet till the project is well under way!  To this end I have recruited another singing friend as my co-conspirator, and he has agreed to try to find out the height and chest measurement of our unsuspecting waistcoat-wearer in a discreet fashion.  At the moment, I have a good guess at these measurements as a back-up.  There’s a chap at work who is about the same height as my friend, but slightly thinner, so I explained what I was trying to do, asked him for his chest measurement, and added two inches.  The height I’m fairly sure about.  Let’s just say my friend is a classic haute-contre.  He’s not tall.  This means I have to scale down the vertical measurements of the pattern by a factor equal to my friend’s height divided by 5’10”, which is the height for which the pattern was designed.

This weekend I’ll probably get some unbleached calico and cheap lining material for the mock-up, though I can’t really do much about it until I get the measurements I need.  I should also be able to make a lucet sample and get more work done on the embroidery chart, and I have just the music to relieve the tedium of that particular job.  On Tuesday night I went to hear the Orlando Consort (linked on the right), who were singing some beautiful 15th-century music.  I bought another of their recordings during the interval… well, it would have been rude not to, don’t you think? 🙂  So you know what I’ll be listening to while I’m filling in all those little squares.