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Made by Hand Handmade Textiles Knit and Stitch

Made by hand has been the byword for my work throughout my creative career. Although I sometimes use a sewing machine and at one time I owned a knitting machine, I prefer to work with my hands. Sometimes things made by machine are labelled made by hand and I think it’s important to distinguish the real thing because it takes a lot longer to make.

Handknitting

made by hand
made by hand my own knitting designs

I have been a handknitter for over 50 years. Gone are the days when it was knit one, drop one on my first knitting project at school, the dishcloth. Gone also are waking up at 5am to knit as I did eagerly in my teens. So too the eight hours a day knitting that I was so fond of right into my thirties. Now I am a more sedate knitter of an hour or two a day, dragged there by my hair screaming, for I honestly wish I could still knit eight hours a day. I find it peaceful and my mother always said I had a Mona Lisa smile when knitting. Yet the hands, wrists, elbows and even shoulders will not allow me to do that any more, so I have to be content to pick it up and put it down in short spells. That’s the beauty of knitting.

Since the last blog on Monday, I finished a colourwork cardigan that had sat around for thirty years! That’s the very last of knitting someone else’s pattern. I have been a knitwear designer for over thirty years myself. I designed and knitted up a lovely little shoulder wrap this week. It’s perfect for the cooler evenings.

I managed six rows of the my new design – a fairisle sweater in true Shetland yarn from Jamiesons of Lerwick. I enjoyed choosing the colours and today the first pattern section was reached. So looking forward to this.

You can find my knitting patterns on Ravelry

and my knitting pattern booklet on the website, 10 fabulous patterns for 15.00 gbp

Karen Platt knitting patterns
Karen Platt knitting patterns

Stitching

When I can knit no longer, I sew. Sometimes because of my hands, that has to be on the sewing machine, but I still fit in a fair bit of hand stitching too. The pile of to do for sewing is quite extensive. I remembered I had stalled on the fabulous indigo jacket. This is a sewing machine project, but I am making it reversible therefore all the seams are machine stitched and then stitched in place by hand. I set in the sleeves this week.

indigo jacket
machine sewn indigo jacket with handsewn seams

I also returned to the new coat project, which is all hand stitched after a break of a week. It stitches up quickly, even though it is by hand.

made by hand
made by hand embroidered coat

That’s all for this week. I shall be continuing these handmade projects and maybe more. See you next week.

Words, work and images copyright Karen Platt 2021

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How To Use Sketchbooks For Art and Craft Ideas

How to use sketchbooks – we all know they are for sketching or drawing but do you really make the best use of your sketchbooks? This week in my feed, a fellow artist was pondering whether to throw away her sketchbooks that she felt disillusioned with. I am going to attempt to answer that question.

How to use sketchbooks
Sketchbook page for my ancient history textiles inspirations ebooks

The Purpose of Sketchbooks

First of all – what is a sketchbook for? First and foremost it should be for working out ideas, jotting down ideas, working through a problem such as shape, layers, colour. Many people are too precious about their sketchbooks because they see them as finished work. So if we look at this problem of throwing away from the angle of an ideas book, it makes it all the easier.

As a student I was taught never to erase nor to tear pages out of my sketchbook. As a textiles teacher, I am with that up to a point.

Having just moved my workroom around for better use of space, I went through my sketchbooks this morning. I have 4 A3 sketchbooks. This was the preferred size at the college I went to. It’s a good size, but no good for en plein air work. Two of the sketchbooks are spiral bound, the other two are not. On the whole I prefer spiral bound, but if you are a painter or felter, or even a textile artist like myself, you might prefer it perfect bound so that you can work across the page with ease. Spiral bound is also the best for people who love to make additions and stick fabric samples in etc. I have half a dozen A4 sketchbooks and zillions of smaller sizes. In the past year I seem to prefer to work with A5 or smaller, often with handmade paper in a zig-zag format.

sketchbooks for textiles
My student sketchbook

I like to theme my sketchbooks and return to them to fill them at intervals.

River Don sketchbooks
My River Don sketchbook

So I would further break down the query:

  1. Is your sketchbook separate sheets of paper that you can tear one out without missing it?
  2. How old is the work? We always say ‘keep it’ because you will be able to see how far you have progressed. This is apt up to a certain amount of years or number of sketchbooks. When you have several years of them, you will have progressed so far that your early work might be rendered useless.
  3. Can you re-use it? In collage or working over it? Is anything worth salvaging?
  4. Do you have the physical space to keep them all?
how to use sketchbooks
One of my first ever sketchbook pages that I would happily work over and cover
how to use sketchbooks
Another early one I still like

It’s Personal

It is entirely your decision. You might be that person who needs a clearout to breathe fresh air and feel the creativity filling their lungs. On the other hand, you might be that person that finds infinite ideas within the pages of their numerous sketchbooks.

Partly it depends how brilliant you are from the very first sketchbook. I am not a natural at drawing, so there are some pages in my first sketchbook that I shall cover over. There are others I would never get rid of. There is no rule, it is your work, you do with it as you wish. Best not to make the mistake of throwing it out and wishing you had kept it though.

I would always keep photographic references if they are still applicable to my themes and ideas of work.

photographic page
Photographic references can always be a springboard for new work

I would also keep work that I still like even if I cannot think of a way to use it in my current work

working out colours
Work I like

I would also always keep colour references and ideas

colour page

Photograph it

If you are unsure but want to get rid, photograph it. You can always print it out or use it digitally. I kept this page, but also used it digitally in my work.

how to use sketchbooks
page from my ancient history series of Inspirations textile ebooks

There are lots of ways for how to use sketchbooks and to re-purpose sketchbook pages. So think before you throw away, but don’t be afraid to discard work if you have outgrown it. See more of my work on the website I am currently writing an ecourse on sketchbooks and digital sketchbooks. My favourite sketchbooks are those of Maggie Grey, some of her work can be seen here

Words, work and images copyright Karen Platt 2021

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Forthcoming TEXTILE Work and Changes

Forthcoming textile work and changes almost sounds foreboding. In every life there comes a time when change is necessary. Ever since my son handed my website over to me to manage the technical side, I have found it very challenging indeed. He has stepped in when things were beyond my experience. Yet I now find the Paypal buttons are not functioning and that this happens with increasing frequency. So I am exploring other avenues to sell my work. I got tired of Etsy, it does not work for me. The downside is that with the website goes the email and blog, so I would have to rearrange things very carefully and it will take a while yet.

ECOURSES

My textile, quilting and Photoshop ecourses have been available on Craft Courses for about two years. This is the side of the business I wish to expand with more unique textile and inspiration ecourses. So I was lucky this week when I had a forced rest and then the heat got to me, that I had an idea for 12 new ecourses. So look out for those in the very near future. They would include my inspiration ebooks in a totally new format and learning experience, so that would take care of those. How to create some of the work shown below will be a part of the new ecourses.

TEXTILE WORK

So that leaves my textile artwork and the few craft supply materials that I sell. I think I shall offer these in the next few weeks at a reduced rate, hopefully to clear all stock. Some are on this page. If you click to buy and there is no Paypal button, please contact me through the website contact or through facebook. I can send a Paypal invoice.

WORK FOR SALE

All prices gbp excluding p&p. Here are some of the pieces. Open to sensible offers. Please check the website for original prices and description. I am grateful for your support.

Ancient Queen embroidery 20.00

textile work
Ancient Queen

Blue Felt Hand Embroidered Cuff 14.00

textile work
Blue Felt Cuff

Deep Blue Sea Original Hand Painted and Embroidered 30.00

Forthcoming textile work
Sea Hand Embroidered textile

Hand Embroidered Lion 50.00

forthcoming textile work
Hand Embroidered Lion

Blue Hand Embroidered Queen 35.00

forthcoming textile work
Hand Embroidered Queen

Green Felt and Lace Cuff 14.00

Forthcoming textile work
Green Cuff

Whilst my little grey cells were working overtime, I had a terrific idea for a new textile piece to celebrate the place where I have lived now for seven years. I am looking to move, but what better way to remember this place that has been home than in a textile wall hanging?

That’s all for this week. It’s been a trying week, so very hot for two days and more to come. Tune in next Monday for more forthcoming textile work and see how far I have got with my new ideas. Check back every day for the offers of the day.

Words, work and images copyright Karen Platt 2021

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Dressmaking and Quilting Dresses and Quilted Coats

Dressmaking and Quilting is how I spent last week. I have been making dresses and quilting coats. This is my work in progress.

Quilted Coats

Mainly this has been a hand stitching project this week. I am near completion on the back of this new quilted coat but far from finished. This particular coat will feature in the forthcoming ‘Quilted Coats ecourse’. It is a piece of fabric that lends itself well to embellishments such as hand stitch, beading and yoyos. The latter are my new found joy.

dressmaking and quilting
Hand stitched and embellished quilted coat. A Karen Platt design.

The pattern will be available in the new ecourse and this is the third quilted coat to be included. I have not decided if it is the last.

The second quilted coat is still in construction. I finally bought the thread for it and I have also cut the linings for the front. I just have to be brave enough to start quilting now. It takes courage!

dressmaking and quilting
Second Quilted Coat

Dressmaking

It almost seems strange to do dressmaking without quilting, but I have sewn a dress and almost finished a second one. I am very proud of my topstitching around the neck. I did not really have the confidence, but then thought ‘go for it’ and it was a success. This is William Morris Moda fabric.

dressmaking and quilting
My William Morris dress

The front of the second one was stitched together quite some time ago. When I had finished the other one, made with a pattern, albeit altered to fit; I realised how to finish the second one. The back was finished today. So there is just the neckline, armholes and hemline to do. A doddle.

dressmaking and quilting
Second dress almost complete

I am not a natural dressmaker, so this is quite an achievement. The dresses join the one I made last year, which I am wearing today. Each design is different. This week I discovered a wonderful quilted dress on Instagram, so maybe I might make a quilted dress.

Next Plans

Usually people want to know what Karen did next (Ha ha! What Katy did next was a favourite childhood book). Should I reveal all? It might be nothing more than finishing projects – after all there is the blue dress and quilted coats to finish. There is also the blue velvet coat that goes with that blue dress that I seem to have been making forever.

Will I have time to start something new? Tune in next week to see if I have a new project in my dressmaking and quilting life. I might just have.

Words, work and images copyright Karen Platt 2021

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Quilted Coat Completed Project Making Clothes

Quilted Coat completed project is actually two projects in one. This is not only the quilted coat itself, the first one I have made and completed. In addition it is part of an ecourse on making quilted coats. If you love quilting and enjoy making clothes, or even if you have never made anything before, take a look at my existing Making Quilted Jackets and shortly you’ll be able to buy Making Quilted Coats.

THE FINISHED PROJECT

Now I can reveal the quilted coat completed project. Maybe I could claim it is three projects in one because this coat is not only quilted, it is fully reversible. That was a first for me, making a reversible garment. With my easy to follow pictorial instructions, this is a breeze to make. I am so happy with the finished coat.

quilted coat completed project
One side of the reversible quilted coat
quilted coat completed project
the other side of the reversible quilted coat

WHERE TO FROM HERE?

I seem to have more projects than hands. A team of little mice is needed to come in and do the sewing whilst I am asleep. The other quilted coat I have already stitched the quilt top for is awaiting some new thread. So that is in the pipeline. Two dresses are almost completed – they are both simply dressmaking and sewing, not quilting.

A few days ago I got a piece of my Cathedral Windows Quilting out, when I showed it on Instagram, everyone fell in love with it. It would make a panel for a quilted coat. It needs some thought as I would not be cutting into it.

Today, I cut the front and back of another coat. It was originally a curtain in my last home and has lived in a drawer, unused for seven years. It was therefore use it or lose it time. I plan to hand stitch this one and make some handmade embellishments.

quilted coat

Tune in next Monday and see how far I have progressed.

Words, work and copyright Karen Platt 2021

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Quilting fabrics. What is best for quilting?

Quilting fabrics seem to confuse many, especially newcomers to the craft. Here I explain the difference in cottons and why it is generally best to stick to quilting cottons for quilting.

Quilting fabrics
Freedom fabrics quilting cottons

COTTON

Cotton is a fibre that is processed into different types of fabrics. Some are more suitable to quilting than others and are known as quilting cotton fabric. This is generally to do with weave and weight. Quilting cotton is a medium weight fabric that tends to hold its shape without undue stretch. This makes it perfect for quilting, usually without the use of starch. It is stable and less likely to fray.

Even within the category of quilting cottons you will find slight differences in weight. Generally speaking quilting fabrics have a thread count of at least 60 – 65 per inch. I love Moda fabrics and many of their fabrics are of a slightly lighter weight, but very easy to use as quilting fabrics, for which they are intended.

Quilting fabrics
Moda quilting cottons Voysey collection

Cotton Lawn is another lightweight fabric that is also useful for quilting. Think Liberty Tana Lawn.

Just remember that not all cottons are equal and not all cottons are suitable for quilting. Cotton fabrics vary greatly in quality and price.

Poplin is more suited to dressmaking. In general you need to avoid high thread count such as Egyptian cotton and most cotton sheeting. Tight weaves make quilting more difficult, especially hand quilting. Quilting cottons generally shrink less than some other cottons. Fabrics are also less likely to bleed, so it is worth seeking out quilter’s cottons and paying a little bit extra for them.

Avoid sateen finish. Sadly most of the digital printers now enabling home designers to print their own fabric seem not to supply quilting cottons. I would also avoid polycottons. Quilting takes a lot of time, buy the best fabric you can afford.

On the home printer you can buy cotton sheets to print from your computer. I have a number of designs that I print in this way and feature in my quilts.

quilting fabrics
Moda William Morris metallic fabric

ALTERNATIVE FABRICS

There are a number of other fabrics which are suitable as quilting fabrics. You might wish to try a linen and cotton blend or a silk and cotton blend. My favourite alternative fabric is to buy quilting calico and hand dye it.

Pure wool is another alternative that is mostly used in folk type quilts and applique.

If you can afford it, silk is a wonderful quilting fabric.

BACKING

It is worth making a special mention for backing fabrics. Not least because there is a common misconception amongst quilters that the back of the quilt does not matter. However, this is the part of the quilt often against your skin, so just because it is not seen, does not mean that it does not matter. I pay equal attention to front and back. I am very fond of double sided quilts.

Generally speaking if your quilt top is pure cotton, then your backing should also be pure cotton and preferably of the same make and manufacture to ensure the same behaviour with regards to washing and shrinkage. Some manufacturers make extra width so that backing can be cut as a whole piece if desired. You can join pieces when needed.

quilting fabrics
quilt back using the same cotton fabrics as the front with a different design

MIXING FABRICS

If you mix fabrics, make sure they behave the same and shrink at the same rate. This also applies to any embellishments such as ribbons that are on the quilt. Mixing fabrics is often better when applied to art quilts as opposed to bed quilts.

You can see the quilt patterns, kits and designs on the website

Words, work and images copyright Karen Platt 2021

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Types of Quilt Wadding Batty About Batting

Types of quilt wadding – so many these days but they all have different purposes. Even the Americans and English cannot agree on a name – it’s batting in America and wadding in England. It’s the filling in your quilt sandwich – quilt top (patchwork), wadding, quilt backing.

types of quilt wadding
silk wadding

I really am going batty over batting. All because I decided that my new wearables, my quilted jackets and coats must have natural wadding that was breathable. That narrows the choice down somewhat as you will see.

You might choose your wadding based on many different factors such as price, fibre, environmental considerations, loft (how thick or thin, it does not necessarily equate to more or less warmth) etc. You get what you pay for. Since I am a girl that not only likes a little luxury, but deserves it; I’ll start with

SILK

The height of luxury. It tends to come in two types – if you are lucky enough to get pure silk, grab it with both hands, no matter the cost. It is breathable therefore will keep you cool in summer and relatively warm in winter. It does however seem to be very rare. I bought from The Silk Route some years ago and have now used it all. I am devastated that she no longer stocks it as people do not want to pay. It was very reasonable just 26 pounds and made three jackets. Very thin, easy to quilt. Great for clothing and quilts alike. Drapes well.

types of quilt wadding
top pure silk wadding, bottom pure wool wadding

So this time around I had to settle for Hobbs Premium Silk Blend. It has 10% polyester. Not keen on the look, very smooth and unsilk-like. It is about the same quarter inch thickness (loft) as the pure silk I had. Hope it is as good as they say. Next on my list of must haves is

WOOL

Still quite luxurious but much cheaper than silk, wool wadding again is natural and breathable thereby meeting my two tests for ‘will I like this wadding?’ It will keep you cool in summer and warm in winter, without bulk. Some people say it beards, I have never had that problem. Watch the loft, it can be 1cm thick, which is great for some purposes only. Good for hand quilting and also hand tied quilts. Absorbs moisture without feeling wet.

COTTON

This used to be my go-to when I first started quilting. However it is not environmentally sound, especially when the amount of water used is taken into account. It is not breathable either, so I am not sure why so many of us use it in quilting other than it being reasonably cheap and very available. It is usually thin. It also comes in blends with polyester, but I prefer it on its own. It absorbs moisture and stays wet, it does not wick away moisture like wool.

TIPS

If you want more stability, look for needle-punched.

Look carefully at the wadding and get it the right side round so that you do not push the wadding through your quilt as you go.

BAMBOO

Also often found as blends. Although it is touted as more environmentally friendly than cotton, that is very debatable. As a natural fibre it is breathable, drapes well and absorbs moisture. It is usually low loft. Like wool, it is said to wick away moisture.

POLYESTER

Manmade fibre from plastic that is not breathable and the only quilting that should happen with this abomination is a wall or art quilt if you must not bed or wearables. Available in different loft but it does not drape well. It does not shrink. It can beard. It is best avoided as it is usually not from renewable sources and is the most environmentally unfriendly.

SHRINKAGE

Buy pre-washed if you do not want to wash it. Most non pre-washed will shrink 3-5% on the first wash and some people hate that crinkled look, whilst others love it.

So when you look at different types of quilt wadding, you now know what to look for.

PACKS OR METRES

Wadding is sold either in set sizes in packs such as crib, single, double, king or by the metre. I always prefer to buy by the metre. It’s more economical and you can get really wide widths. It really is worth while shopping around as prices vary hugely.

Make sure when you buy you get the right types of quilt wadding for all your quilt projects. Here are my quilted jackets with silk wadding.

types of quilt wadding
Types of quilt wadding

Tune in next week to see which wadding I used in my quilted coats.

Words, work and images copyright Karen Platt 2021

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Quilting Reversible Coats Two Coats In One

Quilting reversible coats is a bit more challenging but you get two coats in one. Using a non traditional lining, you can create coats that give you two different looks.

Every time I made the quilted jackets, a little voice inside my head said ‘make it reversible’. Yet the outer and inner fabric plus quilt wadding does not make this an easy task. Still, I am always up for a challenge.

THE JELLY ROLL QUILTED REVERSIBLE COAT

The jelly roll quilt is now complete as far as patchwork goes. The sleeves are now done with two linings and two outers. This quilted coat is the one that started life as a jelly roll that was made into 4 art quilts. I unpicked those to make a coat. I dislike nylon linings found in commercial coats, so I chose another quilting fabric that was pure cotton. The Morris metallic fabrics are a little heavier than the usual quilting fabrics, but I thought they were too good to hide. So this will definitely be the first time I am quilting reversible coats along with the second on my quilting table

quilting reversible coats
sleeves for the jelly roll quilt

THE HEXAGON QUILTED REVERSIBLE COAT

Unlike the jelly roll quilted coat, this one is all hand stitched. Yet I have finished all the hexagons around the same time. over 100 made in around one month. Good going. Now to sew them all together.

Also unlike the first one, this quilted coat has a plain lining in pure cotton. One of the fabrics from the front of the coat.

I have loved making this, although my hands have sometimes complained.

quilting reversible coats
Just two of the wonderful hexagons

QUILT WADDING

Or batting if you prefer is a matter of choice. Some go for cheap, some for content, others for the environment. There are lots of arguments about it all. My preference is for natural quilt wadding. If you are taking the time to make it, both you and the product deserve the best. All the quilted jackets were made with silk wadding. That seems hard to come by at the moment and it is the most expensive wadding of all. For these two coats I opted for wool, but when it came the wadding has such high loft (1cm) that I thought I would look like Bibendum. More wool and silk are on order. I purchased the Hobbs silk wadding as I could not get the one I used for the quilted jackets.

Tune in next week to see which I choose and how I quilt my two coats.

The ecourse will be available shortly, meanwhile take a look at all the quilting and textiles ecourses I offer here

Words, work and images copyright Karen Platt 2021

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Quilted Coats Progress Making Clothes

Quilted coats progress seems slow. I am currently making two quilted coats at once – one machine stitched and one hand stitched. Obviously, the machine stitched version is coming along more quickly and nearing quilting stage.

Hand Stitched Quilted Coat

I imagined this as mid-calf length however, I seem to have hit a stumbling block. Would I wear this as a coat? I love the individual hexagons but I keep asking myself does it look better as a lap quilt or even a wall quilt? I asked Instagram followers and those that commented were in favour of the quilted coat. Still I dither. The background fabric you can see is the lining, the only one I could still buy enough of and not the one I wanted.

quilted coats progress
Quilted coat

The image above is not the final layout as I won’t know where everything fits until I have made the last hexagon. My eye is not seeing this as a coat. If it does end up being a coat, I am now thinking knee length.

quilted coats progress
Fabulous hexagons

Machine Stitched Quilted Coat

Quilted coats progress seems much easier with this jelly roll quilt. Not only has it been a doddle to stitch, I love it. For the lining I chose some William Morris metallic fabric. I am going to make this coat reversible so that I can wear it either way. It makes me think of day and night.

The whole of the outer is complete. The back and front linings are done. All I need do now is the sleeves. I need to shape the sleeves and neckline in order to quilt. I am going for a quilting design that will keep the coat supple and not stiff.

quilted coats progress
Coat outer back
quilted coats progress
Coat lining back

Hand Dyeing

I have been looking through the ecourse I started writing some years ago. I have now been hand dyeing fabrics for many many years and this ecourse is now reaching fruition. Keep tuned with the blog for the launch. See more ecourses here

Words, work and images copyright Karen Platt 2021

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Design Decisions For Making and Creating

Design decisions is about the decisions we make along the way when we are making and creating. For me this is a process that follows a particular pattern – research, ideas (at least three), more research, possibilities, elimination, following the one idea to a conclusion. The final make.

With every project there are design decisions and processes to follow. That’s why given a theme, every artist or creator can come up with something different. That’s what makes it so interesting.

Let’s take a look at what I am working on at the moment – two separate quilted things. I call them things at the moment because they might not end up as what I think they are.

Design One

If you have been reading the blog, you are familiar with the fact that I have been making quilted jackets, and now I am moving onto quilted coats. With this first design, the hexagons show off the fabric design, Moda Voysey, to perfection. I am now looking at arrangement.

design decisions for making
Design decision for making – layout

I could lay these hexagons out in lights to darks, or in an alternate arrangement. Or in like fabrics.

design decisions for making
layout

At some point in the design process, an element of doubt often creeps in. Did I make the right choices? Should that have gone there? The overnight test is a wonderful invention! My doubt with this is, as much as I love the fabrics, do I want to wear them in a coat?

Design Two

If you need longer than an overnight test, some perspective can be achieved by waiting for things to fall into place. So I started another design, not only for the reason that Design One is handstitched and therefore slow, but to consider how I felt about those fabrics as a coat.

design decisions for making
coat design two

I am already much further on with this design. Pin onto a design wall if you can. If you have ever wondered why, look at the two photos here. Pinned to the wall gives you a much better impression of where you are really at with design and colour.

design decisions for making
design wall

eCourses

Want to learn more about design? You can join one of my ecourses here. They are written for you to develop your own creative way, not by copying, but by understanding the processes involved. They are all unique and written by me as a fully qualified teacher and practising artist, textile artist and quilter. You can start anytime and receive tutor input. Take a look now.

Words, work and images copyright Karen Platt 2021