Friday, 7 September 2018

Edwardian House Maid Headdress Upcycle Project


Edwardian House Maid Headdress Upcycle Project by Karen Vallerius


Influenced by a frilled 19-teens headdress as worn by Anna in Downton Abbey, I had a small scrap of broderie anglaise which I thought might work. 

Edwardian House Maid Headdress Upcycle Project by Karen Vallerius


Measuring approx. 38cm wide, I cut the piece to a depth of approx. 15cm and scalloped the cut edge.  I then finished all raw edges on my overlocker.  Lastly I stitched a folded channel down the middle of the reverse of the fabric to form a casing into which I could insert a hairband.  The hairband was one of a pack of 5 bought at Primark for £1.

Edwardian House Maid Headdress Upcycle Project by Karen Vallerius


I then threaded the hairband through the channel and ruched the fabric up to give a frilled effect.  So a neat little maid's frilled headdress for a cost of 20p!  (Have discounted the fabric as it was such a small scrap from another sewing project, which in itself was upcycled from a skirt purchased at a jumble sale).

Edwardian House Maid Headdress Upcycle Project by Karen Vallerius


I am going to try this idea with some velvet scraps which I will then decorate with flowers and beads to create Victorian headdresses for an upcoming Victorian Christmas community project.




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Saturday, 23 June 2018

A Tale of Two Tabards - Child's Heraldic Tunic DIY

child heraldic tabard diy tutorial by karen vallerius

Looking to enlarge my costumery portfolio and try a historical era about which I knew absolutely zero, I was interested to be asked if I could help with children's costumes for a local historical venue.

The design brief was simple - the in-house stock of tabards, whilst historically accurate and made from lovely fabric - was a bit boring from a child's point of view, how could these be enlivened, maybe by adding motifs such as Crusader crosses, fleur de lys and heraldic roses?

Of course my first thought was to use applique motifs.  But these would not be interchangeable, might get a bit ragged on the edges and it would mean stitching the motifs onto completed garments which can be a bit of a faff (always so much easier to stitch motifs onto garment pieces before making up).  Not to mention would the motifs stand up to laundering (these are children's garments, after all).


child heraldic tabard diy tutorial by karen valleriuschild heraldic tabard diy tutorial by karen vallerius

Anyway, I started off by researching some heraldic motifs.  Of course there are gazillions of motifs on Pinterest etc, but there are always copyright considerations there.  So I turned to this brilliant 19th century book, "A Handbook of Ornament" by Meyer.  It is a sort of graphic design guide for the Victorian era!  Sure enough, there is a chapter on heraldic design. 

As I started working on the motif - I had chosen a particularly fierce looking large dog with a metal spiked collar - I found the solution to my stitching conundrum.  I realised that if I stitched the motif onto a shield shape this could then be attached to the tabard.  By using velcro tabs (positioned using a template to ensure accuracy of placement) the shields would be interchangeable and could be removed before laundering the garment or for repairs.  It would also mean that the children could choose their own beast!

Read on for step by step instructions of how to make the shield motif.  These are general instructions for using the fusible interfacing, so be sure to check manufacturers' own websites for full details for the product you are using.

child heraldic tabard diy tutorial by karen vallerius

1. Draw or photocopy your design.  Also draw or photocopy a shield shape.  You will see here that my design combined both of these.  You can also see that I upcycled an old scarf for the shield shape.

child heraldic tabard diy tutorial by karen vallerius

2. Trace the main heraldic motif onto double sided fusible interfacing.  Make sure the "paper" side is on the top.  I edited the design at this stage to eliminate some of the more fussy detailing.

child heraldic tabard diy tutorial by karen vallerius

3. Place your fusible interfacing glue side down onto the "body" felt and iron it on.  Then cut the shape out.  You will see that I had to cut the animal in separate body and head pieces to fit but this doesn't matter as it will all be bonded onto the backing fabric.

child heraldic tabard diy tutorial by karen vallerius

4.  Repeat these steps for details in other colours - in this case I used black felt for the eye, red felt for the tongue and yellow felt for the collar.

child heraldic tabard diy tutorial by karen vallerius

The ferocious beast against my Cath Kidston ironing board cover!

child heraldic tabard diy tutorial by karen vallerius

5. Carefully peel away the interfacing paper which will leave a layer of glue which will attach the motif to your backing fabric.  This can be a bit tricky to start, so try to work apart an area on a longish smooth edge (rather than a detailed corner) as once it starts to come apart it gets easier.

child heraldic tabard diy tutorial by karen vallerius

6. Iron your felt pieces onto a shield shape cut from your backing fabric.  Cut a slightly smaller shield shape from woven interfacing to use as a middle layer for the shield.  Stitch Velcro tabs onto a second piece which forms the backing of the shield. 

child heraldic tabard diy tutorial by karen vallerius

7. I stitched the motif in place for extra security and to add some detail.

8. Sandwich top and backing shields with right sides of the fabric together and the interfacing underneath, stitch round the shield sides then turn right sides out so that the interfacing is between the shield layers.  Finish off the top edge and topstitch all edges if desired.

child heraldic tabard diy tutorial by karen vallerius

9. Be sure to stitch your velcro tabs in place using the template so that they will match up with the shield.

child heraldic tabard diy tutorial by karen vallerius

8. The shield shown on a velvet tabard (made from a curtain).

child heraldic tabard diy tutorial by karen vallerius

The other design I worked on was for a heraldic lion.  This tabard is made from an unused pillowcase. 

child heraldic tabard diy tutorial by karen vallerius

child heraldic tabard diy tutorial by karen vallerius


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Tuesday, 12 June 2018

The Linen Lovelies - Upcycled Vintage Embroidered Tops


I love stitching little summer tops from vintage hand embroidered linens in my stash and I have been wearing this one a lot this summer.

vintage embroidered linen top by karen vallerius

I used a camisole sewing pattern as the basis for this and needed to improve the fit under the arms so I added a couple of rows of shirring here.

vintage embroidered linen top by karen vallerius


Some of my previous embroidered linen sewing projects below.

vintage embroidered linen top by karen vallerius

These two tops use vintage tray cloths to make the collars.

vintage embroidered linen top by karen vallerius

vintage embroidered linen top by karen vallerius

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Thursday, 31 May 2018

Medieval Me - Upcycled 1500 Working Woman Costume Project

Introduction - Costume for the Castle


I have only ever made Victoriana inspired, vaguely Steampunk costumes before so it was interesting to attempt a medieval-ish outfit, circa 1500, for a Knights at the Castle event at Oakham Castle.

I gave myself a £5 budget and a 5 hour time budget for my ensemble.  Was this possible?  I had been collecting linen garments, bought at charity shops and jumble sales, for a couple of years.  These were going to form the basis of my outfit.

I searched through my wardrobe for something to wear as my shift, the garment which was worn under all costumes from this era.  Think of it as a cross between a vest and a petticoat, a loose nightshirt type garment usually made of linen.

I found a cream top to use (I've allowed this as a "freebie" in my costings as it is something from my wardrobe).  It had a floral embroidered overlay and I considered cutting this away to leave the garment more "plain".  Then I realised I could save some cutting and stitching by simply turning it inside out so the plain lining was on the outside.

Modern Me


Anyway, here is the top before:

Medieval Me - Upcycled 1500 Working Woman Costume Project by Karen Vallerius

The Linen Elements


I had the following items in the to-be-upcycled linen stash: a large size pair of taupe linen drawstring trousers (cost £2 at Cancer Research); a John Lewis pale lime green summer top (20p at a jumble sale); and finally an ivory linen tablecloth (50p at a jumble sale).  Here are the linen items before I started work, they cost a grand total of £2.70:

Medieval Me - Upcycled 1500 Working Woman Costume Project by Karen Vallerius

Medieval Me - Upcycled 1500 Working Woman Costume Project by Karen Vallerius

Medieval Me - Upcycled 1500 Working Woman Costume Project by Karen Vallerius

Linen trousers upcycled into medieval maxi skirt


The linen trousers had an elasticated waist and I thought I would simply cut out the inside leg seams and make into a skirt.  However as the trousers were tapered towards the ankles I cut away the waist to become the new hemline so that the skirt now tapered out from the hips to the hem.  The hems became the waistline.  I stitched a new casing, re-used the original elastic, and created a simply lapped side opening which I fastened with a button and a hair elastic.  I find hair elastics are brilliant for creating button loops, cheap and a great choice of colours.

Medieval Me - Upcycled 1500 Working Woman Costume Project by Karen Vallerius

Medieval Me - Upcycled 1500 Working Woman Costume Project by Karen Vallerius

Time to make skirt - approx. 1 hour.

Old linen tablecloth into medieval apron


The apron had some embroidered motifs which were far too fancy for a 1500 working woman's apron, so I cut a section from the centre of the apron so that only one of the motifs was visible (I plan to unpick this in due course).  I cut strips from the edge of the apron which I used for the waist ties.  I had seen that aprons from this era used a different method of joining the skirt section to the waist tie section.

Medieval Me - Upcycled 1500 Working Woman Costume Project by Karen Vallerius


Time to make apron - approx. 45 minutes.

Green linen blouse into 1500 jacket


This was the most fun to make!  Firstly I chopped off the sleeves to above the elbow - these sections would be used for godets at the waistline.  Then I hacked the neckline to make it lower and squarer.  I finished the neckline by speedily overlocking and then turning the edges under.  I worked a duplicate set of buttonholes opposite the original buttonholes so that I could lace up the front of the jacket with a piece of cord I found in the craft cupboard.  I inserted the godets and hemmed them.

Medieval Me - Upcycled 1500 Working Woman Costume Project by Karen Vallerius


Time to make jacket - approx. 2 hours.

Muslin offcut into coif effect headwrap


I had planned to make a coif (cap) but realised I didn't have time to draft a pattern (something for next time).  I had seen some medieval head wrap, turban type ideas.  I experimented firstly with a silk scarf but it was way too slippy and kept falling off!  I had a couple of scraps of muslin in my tablecloth stash so I made a large triangle out of them and experimented until I could tie it in what I thought was a reasonably effective way.

Medieval Me - Upcycled 1500 Working Woman Costume Project by Karen Vallerius

Time to stitch muslin headwrap - approx. 30 minutes.

More costume details


I tied the original drawstring from the linen trousers round my waist so that I could hide my watch under the apron.

I had a little vintage Welsh love spoon pendant which I thought was a suitable necklace.

I wore simple pearl earrings (not authentic I know but ... ) and I removed my wedding ring.

My shoes were not really in keeping but a pair of black flat Mary Janes, the best I could do.

Medieval Me


Medieval Me - Upcycled 1500 Working Woman Costume Project by Karen Vallerius

Whilst parading about in garments in various stages of completion I made my husband jump!  I also scared the dog in the full 1500 get up.  Anyway, the outfit was within my time and cost budgets and an interesting upcycling project.

Medieval Me - Upcycled 1500 Working Woman Costume Project by Karen Vallerius







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Saturday, 28 April 2018

Upcycled 70s Rag Doll Poses in Peacock Chair


upcycled 70s rag doll by karen vallerius

Currently undergoing a massive sort out of various sewing projects from the past few years, I realised I had never posted photos of this 70s inspired doll stitched way back in 2015.  All her components are upcycled - her body and head are cut from a tablecloth; her shirred smock style blouse is made from a scarf; denim scraps for jeans (obviously!) and felt scraps for her waistcoat and shoes.

upcycled 70s rag doll by karen vallerius

Her face is styled in a similar way to the faces of 1930s dolls with a sideways gaze.  She even has a little beaded choker necklace, essential back in the day.  Of course she is resting nonchalantly in a peacock chair (which I bought years ago in readiness for doll making, that's when you know you have a clutter problem, when you start buying stuff for DOLLS!!)

Sad to say, her feet were a little bit too heavy and I also adapted the head and body proportions for later dolls (one of whom to my shame remains sitting in her underwear as I still haven't stitched her clothing).  My earlier post about designing dolls is here.

70s style rag doll in peacock chair by karen vallerius


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Monday, 9 April 2018

Rag Quilt Pillow Cushion - Stashbusting and Upcycling in One Project

Rag Quilt Pillow Cushion by Karen Vallerius

Stashbusting and Upcycling Pillow Project


I needed to make a cushion to go on top of an old metal trunk so that my little dog had a new place to rest.  I gathered together some fabric scraps (above, the only "new" textile is the tape measure fat quarter), some old T shirts, 2 old flannel pillow cases and a check shirt of my hubby.

Recycled Check Shirt


Rag Quilt Pillow Cushion by Karen Vallerius

The shirt was perfect for the backing so I simply pieced sections together to create the right size, keeping the original button front so that I did not need to recreate an opening for the pillow.

Rag Quilt Layers for Strippy Quilt


Rag Quilt Pillow Cushion by Karen Vallerius

Now I am not the most precise crafter as you will see from the strips cut above.  I figured as this was to be a rag quilt (the type of quilt with fluffy ragged edges), it would be OK if the fabric strips were more or less the same size.

I layered 3 textile pieces for each strip - a piece of flannel pillowcase on the bottom, then a strip cut from a cotton T shirt, then a cotton on the top.  I joined the strips wrong sides together so that the raw cut edges formed ruffles on the top of the cushion piece.

Rag Quilt Pillow Cushion by Karen Vallerius

 I then stitched the cushion top and checked backing together and turned right side out.

Let's get snipping ....


Rag Quilt Pillow Cushion by Karen Vallerius

Somewhere in the stash of textile crafting supplies I had bought a Rag Quilt Snip by Fiskars.  These were amazing!  Definitely recommend if you are making a rag quilt.  It made snipping the edges really easy. 

Rag Quilt Pillow Cushion by Karen Vallerius

Washing and hoping


Rag Quilt Pillow Cushion by Karen Vallerius

I washed the cushion cover but did not tumble it dry, I just gave it a good shake out once it was out of the washer.  I was really pleased how the edges became fluffy and textured.

Rag Quilt Pillow Cushion by Karen Vallerius

Rag Quilt Pillow Cushion by Karen Vallerius

Seal of approval


Rag Quilt Pillow Cushion by Karen Vallerius

Finally, my little dog has given his seal of approval to his new bed (he has one if nearly every room of course ....) x
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Sunday, 4 March 2018

Cut Woolly Toys - Pom Pom Dog First Attempt


Being a bit snow bored today, and having sorted through a box of yarns in my craft store yesterday, I decided it was time to attempt to make a miniature yarn dog head.  So this is my first attempt!

I was inspired by a vintage Dryad craft book - Cut Woolly Toys - and was intrigued by the way that entire animals were made using variations on the pom pom technique.  Now I see that you can buy nice little plastic shapes to make pom poms, but I used the old fashioned 2 circles of card technique here.


Some of the yarn dated back to my Mum knitting in the 70s; other was more recent doll hair supplies.  Of course I had some felt scraps for the eyes, nose and ears - bizarrely, the beige felt matched the yarn exactly.


I also had a needle felting needle (as you do), bought after my attempt at needlefelting at a craft afternoon organised by Oakham town council in late 2016.  This is when I made a little needle felt hare head and attached it to a body to make a special Christmas decoration for a very dear friend - he is a Leaping Lord from the Twelve Days of Christmas in case you were wondering!!


OK, so this attempt turned out to be not exactly miniature, it is quite large and not far off the size of my little dog's head!


Oh well, more practice and maybe I will invest in the little plastic pom pom makers so I can control the size of the finished animal heads.  And just a couple more pics from the Dryad book for inspiration.



So goodbye for now from the craft room. x




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