Thursday, February 25, 2010

Apparel Resource

For printing onto garments American Apparel is the answer. Plenty of 100% cotton basics in lovely shapes; t-shirts, tank tops and even skirts, to satisfy all your garment printing wants! I just picked up a few t-shirts and tank tops for a new batch of screen printing:) Using stencils (see 'LiveLaughLove tea towel' post) and stamps (the creation of which I promise to cover in a future post) with fabric paint, you can just as easily create your own bespoke prints for garments. Remember to resist the lovely ribbed garments though- you need flat fabrics for printing.

American apparel garments are produced in LA, so no 'made very far away and unfairly labels' in sight. The higher the percentage of cotton, the longer the happy life ahead of the garment, so aim for 100% cotton, unless the garment is completely irresistible!
Depending where in the world you are buying, online can be cheaper. I wouldn't shy away from checking out garments in a shop and then purchasing it online if the difference is considerable. Definitely the way to go if you are buying quite a few items, as the shipping charge will be less.

But be warned! Their modeling shots can be rather cheeky, and much too much so on some pages. You could be looking at dresses and suddenly it turns very risque. Just so you know! The garments are great but the site can be scary! The t shirts and tank tops are fairly safe.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Creative Cake Stand for that rainy day

This is a lovely easy project, all you need is a day at home as each layer of the cake stand needs a couple hours to set. I've wanted to make a cake stand with a mixture of plates for some time. And it was an adventure for me as it didn't involve stitching or printing!
The push to finally make a cake stand was thanks to the lovely publication 'ReMake it Home' by Henrietta Thompson , where they suggest using tea cups as the stands between plates. Genius! I tweaked it a bit and used 3 egg cups for the base as I want it to be nice and sturdy. Prepared to be weighed down with lovely edibles!

Have your surface covered very safely with plenty of newspaper. I recommend the sports section! Have everything you need to hand- crockery, ceramic glue (or some kind of heavy duty, waterproof glue that drys transparent), sandpaper, nail varnish remover, cloth/paper towels.
I decided to feature one of my plates, 'Inquistive Birds', so I kept the other plates plain so as to draw attention to it as the main feature.

Sandpaper the surfaces you're going to glue- the base of the biggest plate and the tops of the egg cups. I bought a fine sandpaper and a medium one, but I was just fine with the medium grain.

In my excitement I sandpapered (and glued!) the bottom of the egg cups, so they are actually upside down. Never forget that even a simple project can so easily go astray! Often when you get very excited. But its never the end of the world. I think the upside down egg cups are a feature!

First make sure your egg cups are spaced out in the right positions for being glued to the plate. Roughly an equal distance between them. Wipe away any dust from the sandpapering before you apply a nice, neat, thin line of glue. Place your plate carefully on top, making sure the egg cups don't move. It's absolutely fine only applying the glue to one side and not to the plate also.

Magical nail varnish remover- it very neatly cleans away any stray glue that has snuck over the edges. Hold the plate steady while you do this. Now leave to set for 2 to 3 hours. It will be worth the wait!

My upside down egg cups! It was only at this point that I noticed!!

Now the middle layer. Sandpaper the top (not much to sandpaper there) and bottom of the teacup and the base of the middle sized plate.

You could use a measuring tape at this point to make sure you will place the teacup in the middle of the plate. Line first the top of the teacup with glue, place upside down, then the top and place the middle plate on top.

Now that there are a couple layers I placed a coffee table book neatly on top to help it all set very securely. Leave for 2 to 3 hours.

Time for the final layer. Repeat the same steps again, sandpaper both ends of the teacup and the bottom of the top plate.. I changed my mind and decided to use a saucer as my top plate, to give it a more staggered effect. My pretty spotted plate will just have to wait until my next cake stand.

There is a third plate under there!

Now it just needs to be filled! You can use your sturdy stand for all sorts of things as well as edibles- jewelery, sewing supplies or even by the door for keys and post. And it makes a lovely gift! Start hoarding those plates. My next one is going to be floral themed:)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Childhood Favourites

We tend to look around us for inspiration, but a great starting point can be our past. What designs do we remember from childhood? A favorite curtain pattern or tablecloth, favorite artists and illustrators?

Back in the summer I had a deadline to create a piece and was feeling rather uninspired. Like writer's block for designers? I had sorted through some of my childhood books a few weeks previously and had come across 'Thorn Rose' (The original name for the tale of Sleeping Beauty) by The Brothers Grimm illustrated by Errol Le Cain. How much I remembered this book! It was one of my favorites.

I love that it is a crab that informs the queen that she will have a daughter. Not forgetting the charming rabbits.

All the fairies are invited to the ball to celebrate the birth of the new princess. But one certain fairy was forgotten!

I love the prints on their garments. Not one decorative opportunity missed!

Le Cain was a British animator and children's book illustrator. He grew up in India, before settling in the UK after World War 2. Drawn to film he made his first animation with an 8 mm camera when he was 11! That must have been delightful fun. He was awarded the Kate Greenway Medal 3 times (for outstanding works of illustration in children's literature) for Thorn Rose and other publications.

Le Cain's illustrations jogged my memory in many different ways. I love the flat perspective he uses in his foregrounds. How he invites you into the illustration, this rich world with so many detailed happenings in every part of the page. And the vital element that it all relates to a story...

So don't forget about your childhood favorites, you never know where they made lead you. It might just be somewhere lovely:)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine Stitches

It's Valentines morning! Just enough time to whip up a quick card for a loved one;)
This embroidered card honestly won't take long at all and there is something immensely satisfying about stitching through card, it feels so purposeful!

I chose a nice bright red and decided on a square shape because it suited my design. Practice some ideas on paper first, try a good few as then you can choose your favorite!
You can look to so many sources for inspiration- design sites or blogs you like, images or cards you've kept. Patterns start popping up everywhere once you look for them. You can make the simplest of designs very effective. The design
for this card is so simple- it's the stitches that make it.
Draw your design with pencil lightly onto your card- this will be your guide. I've drawn mine so lightly that it's h
ard to spot!

I used four embroidery stitches- your everyday running stitch, buttonhole stitch, feather stitch and seeding stitch. If this seems very daunting you could solely use running stitch and it will still be very effective. Or even set yourself the challenge of just learning 1 new stitch?
Go slowly as you're stitching through card, you don't want to make lots of unnecessary holes. As it's sometimes hard to tell if your needle is going to come out where you are hoping it will, before you pass it through the card lookout for the pressure point. So if its in the wrong place don't push the needle through!

After using running stitch around the edge of my design I used buttonhole stitch for the next square. Buttonhole stitch is one of my favorites as it's so adaptable for different designs and projects. You'll be seeing it popping up again soon in future posts! Because this stitch is trickier than running stitch remember to take your time.
Then fly stitch next around the inner square. Similarly to the buttonhole stitch take your time. I used an embroidery thread that was dip dyed- so it changes color from one end to the other. But you can easily achieve this by using a mixture of threads!
Remember to keep the back of your card neat and secure, this way you won't have to cover it- which can look bumpy. The back of whatever project you are stitching can often be very interesting and give you future ideas!

Keep all the threads and yarns you've chosen to use to hand. Try using a mixture of embroidery threads, sewing threads and thin yarns (wool or similar). The embroidery threads you can split it half, like so, so they won't be so thick.

Seeding stitch for texture for the middle of the heart. Seeding stitch is phenomenally relaxing- yes it's very easy! Short stitches of the same length in different directions. Make sure you work within your shape so when you rub out the pencil it will be easily recognizable.

Keep the seeding stitches side by side so there so no long loose pieces of thread at the back- maintaining it's neatness:)

Your lovely handmade card is finished! Your embroidered cards can be used for any occasions. So these skills will stand to you! Have a most lovely Valentines. X

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Fashion World is the Less

I had a 'make' post all prepared for today. But what is overwhelmingly on my mind is the sad passing of Lee McQueen. I did an internship in the menswear department of his fashion house last year. Among my time there I worked for his nephew in printed textiles. He was an incredibly nice and down to earth man, a trait that must run in their family. So many people are holding Lee McQueen's family in their hearts today. My small self among them.

A few of my inspiring favorites..

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Inspirational Day

I think that when you are drawn repeatedly to certain designs, it's lovely to learn some background about them. And now and then it might just happen to be very informative and rather historic! For me there are the textile prints of Lucienne Day-

As one of an iconic designer couple of postwar Britain, there is quite a lot indeed about this talented lady all over blogs. However I think there deserves to be! Just imagine, these were produced in the 50s after World War 2 was over! How daring! It must have been the case that you either adored her prints or didn't know what to think. I like to think that I would have been totally on board:) She loved modern art, her favorites being Joan MirĂ³ and Paul Klee, and her prints have strong echoes of these inspirations. They must have brightened up homes no end. Her prints were featured on tea towels, table linens, wallpaper and ceramics...

Her husband Robin Day was an iconic furniture designer. Think minimal (but not that painful minimal), functional and hard wearing. He designed the reassuring angular wooden benches you still see at some London tube stops. They belonged to the belief system that good design must be pleasing to the eye but also functional, durable and affordable for the masses such as ourselves:) Hear hear.

Both attended the RCA and meet at a dance there. (cue girly sigh) But apparently they were very good at criticizing each others work. Glad to hear it! Here's to talented couples, no matter what their passions are, support (and criticism!) is essential.

'Calyx' would be her most iconic print, featured here as a book cover.
The Day's furniture and textiles in a display at a Milan trade show.

Monday, February 8, 2010

LiveLaughLove Tea Towel

I've been preparing cards for Textile Workshop Dublin's Valentine's Craft Night the last few days and I'm become very excited about Valentines! Heart shaped cookies, pink cards..all that lovely carry on.
So I'm going to make something that is fun and functional (and pretty of course) that could be given as a gift, but be used after the event! Valentine's isn't only for couples, this would be a lovely gift for a Mum, sister or lovely friend!
I love bold graphics and I've seen this lovely phrase popping up, so since it's stayed with me I've decided to use it.

Measure out your tea towel (cotton, linen or both) first so you know what measurements you are working with. Decide what height you would like your letters, and what height you would like in the space between each word. Draw the lines out neatly with a ruler so you have a guide before you draw in your letters.
I drew my letters out by hand as I want the design to have a homely feel. You could always print out letters, cut them out and trace around them if you prefer.

Remember not to make your letters too narrow, as this will be more fiddly to cut out and less nice printed color! The area you cut out is going to be the area you print.
Take a piece of acetate that generously fits over your text and tape down first your paper, and then your acetate on top. So it's nice and stable. Using a permanent market trace over your letters.
Take your time and outline your letters neatly. Unlike my wobbly O!

Then using a blade (trusty craft knives are good) cut out the letters.
Do this slowly and carefully, making sure everything is stable and never cut towards your other hand.
I've used a cutting mat, but some cardboard or a chopping board will serve you well also.

Why not keep your cut out letters for future design projects. You'll be so pleased if they come in handy! I taped mine onto my notice board to keep them from getting lost in a drawer.

Now have your workspace all prepared- newspaper laid out, fabric paint mixed,sponge at the ready.(I cut up some sponge that I got from packing boxes).Have a cloth to hand for emergency spills. It's a good idea to always wear an apron when doing any printing and you can have that emergency cloth tucked neatly in the front pocket.
So this is a test run on paper first, if there are any mistakes in the stencil you can correct them before printing on your tea towel.
Now spray spraymount (a wonderful invention) onto the back of your stencil and fix it to your paper. I've used masking tape a swell, but this is a bit OTT of me. Don't forget to stick the middle of the A and O down.
Once you've done your test run wash your stencil carefully but thoroughly, before you print on your fabric. Better to be safe than sorry!

Have your tea towel ironed and laid down on clean newspaper. Don't forget about your A and O!
Now tab your first layer of paint over the stencil. You don't want it applying too thick, as it can leak under the stencil. So keep the amount of paint on the sponge light and tab from above. I would do one layer like this first and then the second layer usually finishes it.

Peel off your stencil carefully and Voila! How satisfying:)
Once it's dried naturally you just need to steam iron it on high for a good five minutes on the front and back to set the print. Now you can wash it in the machine in the future-though I'd wash it on 30 degrees so it can have a nice long life.

Choose a ribbon that compliments or nicely contrasts the color(s) in your tea towel.
Make a loop with ribbon, so that it's easy to hang up, in the centre of the top of the tea towel. Tacking the ends of the ribbon onto the back.

Last step!
Serve up some lovely tea using your charming tea towel and thoroughly enjoy the process:)