Tag Archive: Design

Grey Flower Dress

Hello again!  I must say that I really needed this past vacation!  My dad came out to visit us and we hung out, went to NYC and watched Chicago while we were out there.  The babies really do love their grandpaw.  (grad-paw cuz they are puppies! Well I think it is cute.) I also tried…

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Grey Flower Dress

Hello again!  I must say that I really needed this past vacation!  My dad came out to visit us and we hung out, went to NYC and watched Chicago while we were out there.  The babies really do love their grandpaw.  (grad-paw cuz they are puppies! Well I think it is cute.) I also tried…

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On my Sewing Table – 1920s Evening Dress

Oh my word, how fast is this year spinning by?  I still have a pile of fabrics to use up and patterns to find, not to mention still ploughing through daughter no2’s summer wishlist.  I have done pretty well using up stashed fabric this year, I haven’t calculated any totals yet, not measured anything, but … Continue reading “On my Sewing Table – 1920s Evening Dress”

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On my Sewing Table – 1920s Evening Dress

Oh my word, how fast is this year spinning by?  I still have a pile of fabrics to use up and patterns to find, not to mention still ploughing through daughter no2’s summer wishlist.  I have done pretty well using up stashed fabric this year, I haven’t calculated any totals yet, not measured anything, but … Continue reading “On my Sewing Table – 1920s Evening Dress”

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Lace Table Cloths

Hello again!  This past week(s) I’ve been on vacation and finally have had some time to finish up a lot of projects I started and never really got around to finishing.  These lace table cloths and runners I am making are for a clients wedding.  They bought all the lace in various lengths because that…

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Lace Table Cloths

Hello again!  This past week(s) I’ve been on vacation and finally have had some time to finish up a lot of projects I started and never really got around to finishing.  These lace table cloths and runners I am making are for a clients wedding.  They bought all the lace in various lengths because that…

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Fabulous Creative Retreat – Part One

This past weekend six brave souls arrived at the farm bright and early Saturday morning. The subject of the day was Fabric Printing in the morning. The concept for the afternoon was to embellish the printed fabric with Crewel Embroidery. I taught this …

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Balance in Needlepoint

Beautiful Needlepoint sits firmly between two extremes: boring and chaotic. If things are too much the same the needlepoint is dull. If there are too many different elements the result us chaotic. I talked about dull needlepoint in yesterday’s article. The dullness problem does not apply to every canvas done in Tent Stitch, nor should […]

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I Just Want to Make….

I was in the bowels of our ancient farmhouse today trying to sort out a bit of a water crisis with my terrific plumber over text message. I came upstairs to find these beautiful flowers on the kitchen island. Don’t know what they are or who brought them but I will enjoy them. 


Over a decade ago now, a young friend of ours named Jen came to visit. She was just getting out of college after studying merchandising. She was finding it hard to find a job and I was telling her about the career I had and giving her ideas for job hunting. I asked Jen what it was that she really wanted to do with her life. She looked at me and thought for a moment. Her response was

“I just want to make the world a beautiful place.”

When The Farmer came home from baling hay, I told him about Jen’s visit. She was the daughter of good friends of ours and he had known Jen since she was an infant. I told him what she said her career goal was and we both talked about how sweet the idea was. 

Ever since that conversation with Jen, I have thought about her comment. How do you make the world a beautiful place? And what is a beautiful place? What is beautiful for me may not be beautiful for you. Do you create beauty with things that you buy and decorate with? Do you create beauty with good deeds? Do you create beauty by working for world peace? Do you create beauty by planting seeds to grow into beautiful blue lupines like in the children’s book Miss Rumphius? Do you plant a beautiful garden to feed your neighbors? Do you create beauty by teaching people new things? Do you create beauty by seeing the beautiful in every little thing? Do you create beauty by sharing ideas and turning someone on to a new craft or technique that may change the course of their life? 

When Jen first spoke those words to me, I thought about how they could be mis-construed – to be thought of as superficial. I can remember my mom talking about beauty only being skin-deep. We were to know that it was what was inside the person which was the most important – not what is on the outside. That physical beauty was not important and should not be thought of as the end all of end all. 

The other day, we were talking about what makes people tick at dinner. We were talking about each of us and what was important to us in our individual lives – in fact it could be thought of as what we find beautiful. As I watch Julia grow into a young woman, I wonder what her path will be. Where will she find her inner passion and what she will find “beautiful”. For her Dad, his idea of beauty is the natural world, his remarkable sheep, their life cycle and how we are feeding our community, and the love of the world and landscape around us that he farms and looks after everyday. 

I’ve been thinking about what my “beauty” is. When am I the most fulfilled and happy? As I have been throwing pots the last couple weeks, I think about this as the wheel spins round and round, as I pull the clay up and form it into a cylinder, as I stretch the clay into a handle and attach it to the vessel. I think my definition of beauty is when I am deep into a project and have lost myself in it. When I am thinking about what I am making, planning on what it will look like, and then working it out. The thing could be a pot, a garden, a book, a painting, an embroidery, or a good meal. Often when the “thing” is done, the magic subsides and goes away. I still like the thing and find it pretty or useful but the real beauty for me is in the act of creation – the spark of my imagination and mind of what the thing will look like and then the intimate creation. I find it truly amazing that I can dream something up in my head and then make it happen with my hands. It doesn’t always come out the way I originally thought it up and that is the fun of it – to see where I am led by the materials and the process. 

I’ve been teaching classes here at our farm since 2009. Every year, I think about not doing them. Mostly I think about that because I don’t want to go through the agony of cleaning my house.  A couple years ago, I tried to let that go – the cleaning thing. It’s hard because I always think of my mom cleaning before her mom came to visit – stressing out that everything has to be just right. I realized that the women that come here to learn from me really could care less if there is some dust and clutter. They aren’t here to inspect my housekeeping skills (thank goodness). They are here to be inspired and to take away a little of the magic and beauty that I have made here at our farmhouse.  

So those are my thoughts for today. If you are wondering what happened to our friend Jen, she found a good job in merchandising with Anthropologie and she literally did make the world a more physically beautiful place. And now she has a couple beautiful kids too. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on beauty. Leave them in the comments. 

Here are some beautiful links for you to peruse today — at least I find them beautiful.

•My friend Lisa is teaching at The Rufus Porter Museum in Bridgton Maine this summer. Check out the classes here. Lots of beauty to make. 

• Good article on Barbara Cooney, the author of Miss R here.

• I’m still crazy over Josef Frank‘s textiles. I just found a page I tore from Arts and Antiques over twenty years ago – that must have been where I discovered him before the www. Good article from NYT here

p.s. There are still a few spots left in the July 15/16 Fabric Printing + Lampshade Painting Class. You can come for one or two days. Would love to see some of you here at the farm. Two days $360. One day $199. More info here

Here are the lampshades that the students painted last year.



Here is a photo of some of the lampshades I have made. 


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Blue rose print Gertie dress

When the latest Cath Kidston catalogue landed on my doormat recently, I was immediately inspired by their colour palette of blue and white floral prints, and got straight on the hunt for some blue roses from Minerva to make my own dress.  They had exactly what I was looking for – a bold and beautiful rose […]

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Maine Getaway

After Julia graduated, she and I had a chance to visit our friend Sally at her home on an island in Maine. Unfortunately, The Farmer can’t leave the farm and the animals but I take opportunities for trips whenever I can. It is a long ride Northeast, th…

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Suit Pants to Vest

I am back! I hope you all have been a little more successful in your sewing and crafting endeavors than I have been lately.  Above is the vest in regular light after a second run of pressing. The bride really wanted a vest for the groom, but the consultant that they were working with completely ignored…

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Pride and Prejudice Preparation

Every year, I get together with one of my best friends and we spend a weekend together watching Pride and Prejudice (BBC, 1995), stuffing our faces with cheese, and drinking lots of wine.  We started this in 2004 I think, and since then we’ve both moved around quite a lot, changed careers, got married, and […]

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What Kind of Stitches Do You Like?

Recently Orna Willis had a post about picking stitches for a canvas. She diveds stitches into four types. No choice is wrong; each reflects different ideas about the canvas and what you want it to look like. She tags herself as an artistic stitcher. I am, usually, a technique stitcher, but when I stitch fir […]

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Ideas to Customize your Stitching

Although written for cross stitchers, this post by Nicholas Pell has lots of fantastic ideas to customize your needlepoint. Some, like adding a quote give you an easy way to make a painted canvas individual. Any easy change for most canvases is the addition of a border. Others, such as isolating a motif, might work […]

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The Parker Collection Dress – and bonus fluted cuff pattern piece!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mixed Print Parker Collection Dress from Tribe Patterns at The Foldline designed by Fiona Parker

I am so excited to be writing this post today! Some of you may have already spotted the latest release from Tribe Patterns (the pattern line from the ladies at The Foldline); The Parker Collection. The line is designed by members of the sewing community and as the name gives away, this on has been designed by me! It is the second Tribe Pattern (the first being the Billie Collection designed by Rachel from House of Pinheiro). Rachel and Kate got in touch with me back in the autumn last year to see if I would be interested in working with them and of course I jumped at the chance! Designing my own pattern line has never been an ambition of mine and this remains a total one off but when the opportunity presented itself to work with two incredibly talented ladies offering to bring my design idea to life I’d have been silly to say no. It has been an amazing experience and is such a thrill to see the finished pattern. Rachel and Kate have done a fantastically thorough job and I can’t wait to see what you guys make with it!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mixed Print Parker Collection Dress from Tribe Patterns at The Foldline designed by Fiona Parker

There is so much to say about the design I don’t really know where to start. I was keen to come up with a garment that I would be excited to sew and wear and provided a canvas for creativity so everyone could have some fun with making it their own. The bohemian, seventies style has always appealed to me and I’m delighted that it’s so on trend at the moment. I was inspired by both contemporary designs and the lines of some of the late 1960s/early 1970s patterns in my vintage collection. I gathered up all of my favourite elements and had some fun drawing out different combinations. After pinging some ideas back and forth with the Foldline ladies we settled on a combination of dress and top which I adore. The panelled design provides opportunity for mixing prints, colours and textures and the pattern comes with the option for a plain sleeve or additional lantern cuff. Sleeves are huge this season (in some cases literally!) and one of my favourite elements of seventies style is the dramatic swoosh of a wide cuff so Rachel has drafted a bonus fluted cuff pattern piece which you can download for free here!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mixed Print Parker Collection Dress from Tribe Patterns at The Foldline designed by Fiona Parker

I wanted the design to provide a little bit of a challenge in the sewing as the projects I can get my teeth stuck into are the ones I enjoy the most. None of the steps should prove too tricky for anyone with a bit of sewing under their belt but the variety of techniques should keep more experienced sewers entertained. It’s not a quick sew as there are quite a few pattern pieces involved but if you can sew a princess seam, an invisible zip and set in a sleeve you can keep it quite straightforward. You can also opt to make the design more complex by adding embroidery to the centre front and back panels or including the lace insertion and trim. The instructions include step by step guidance on how to add lace into the seam between the lantern cuff and sleeve pieces on your machine and I think this may be my favourite thing about the pattern. It’s a feature that came up again and again in my inspiration pictures and I’m so delighted that we were able to include it. I’d love to play around with inserting lace into the seams between skirt and bodice panels and even maybe the waist seam.

Parker Collection Top from Tribe Patterns at The Foldline designed by Fiona Parker

You can recreate Rachel’s amazing embroidered version of the top with the embroidery template which is free to download from the Foldline pattern page or get creative and freestyle your own. The centre front and back panels are faced which not only provides a lovely clean finish to the dress but also makes them ideal to embroider as the back of your stitching is completely enclosed and protected. There are also ‘colour me in’ line drawings of both variations available to download which I’m definitely going to be playing with to plan future print mixed and colour blocked versions.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mixed Print Parker Collection Dress from Tribe Patterns at The Foldline designed by Fiona Parker

I wanted the design to be versatile and am really happy that I can see it being worn in every season. As I first came up with the idea in the autumn I was imagining it in rich, dark florals but now all I can think about is mixed pastel prints for spring. I’d love one in a fresh white breezy cheesecloth for summer and in winter I’d wear it in a bold solid colour layered with warm tights. Made up in different fabrics the lines of the design I hope will remain somewhat timeless and the dress in particular is something I can see myself making various iterations of for years to come as it is the kind of dress that has remained a staple in my wardrobe since my teens.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mixed Print Parker Collection Dress from Tribe Patterns at The Foldline designed by Fiona Parker

The dress I’m wearing here is actually my very first test of the dress (so please excuse the horrible pattern matching around the waist and slightly mismatched seams!). When collecting inspiration for the design at the very start of the process something I was continually drawn to was the mixing of two or more prints in one garment. It can be tricky to do but I started safe with both of these small prints on a black base and love how it has turned out. Both fabrics I bought ages ago from Maggie’s fabric stall in Lewisham who stocks end of roll high street dressmaking fabrics at the bargain price of £1-3/m. Perfect for testing. It’s almost a shame I’ve fallen so in love with the mixture of prints on this dress as they are the particularly nasty type of lightweight poly georgettes that I tend to run away from! The floral is slightly softer with a texture to it but the other is not so nice. I turned a blind eye to the quality and poly content at the time as I thought they would be ideal to test how the print mixing worked but now wish I’d held out for a viscose! However, worn with a cotton slip they’re not unpleasant to wear and as I knew from previous experience that these fabrics would pretty much melt when touched with a hot iron I kept it cool and actually had surprisingly little trouble handling either of them.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mixed Print Parker Collection Dress from Tribe Patterns at The Foldline designed by Fiona Parker

I recommend reasonably lightweight fabrics with a nice drape for this design. You want some nice movement in the panels of the skirt and top as well as the sleeves and the cut of the bodice is quite relaxed so doesn’t require a fabric that will provide structure. Viscose challis, crepes, soft linens, cotton lawns and voiles are all great choices as would be light to mid-weight silks if you want a more luxurious feel. As long as you keep in mind the movement of the dress the world is your oyster really! If you are going to do some embroidery you’ll want something fairly tightly woven and not super lightweight for those panels to make your life a bit easier and also support the weight of the floss.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mixed Print Parker Collection Dress from Tribe Patterns at The Foldline designed by Fiona Parker

I used some black cotton lace I bought in John Lewis to insert in my cuff seams and also trim the hem. My lace had one straight edge and one scalloped which I made use of on the hem but whether yours has straight of scalloped edges is entirely your preference. The pattern recommends 40mm wide lace as this is the most straightforward way to keep your inserted pieces at an even width following the technique in the instructions (leaving you with about 1cm of visible lace) but if you’re happy to get a little creative you can use whatever width lace you like. Mine was just 2cm as I only wanted a hint of it around the hem and I simply used a very small seam allowance when attaching it to the cuffs. As this dress was a test of the pattern the method I used is actually different to the final instructions and you will end up with just one line of stitching visible just above and below the lace rather the two lines you can see in my photos.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mixed Print Parker Collection Dress from Tribe Patterns at The Foldline designed by Fiona Parker

I cut a size 8 which is pretty much spot on my measurements and am really delighted with the fit. I usually like quite a close fit around the waist and this has 4″ of ease but having that room in the bodice provides that that relaxed, bohemian, seventies feel whilst the princess seams still flatter the curves of the body. I like the shape through the back and bust and the shoulders fit neatly. It’s very comfortable and I absolutely have that seventies vibe of feeling free in a glamorous way while wearing it! I did shorten the skirt by about 3″. I’m 5ft3″ so usually end up taking a little off but I wanted more of a mini vibe with these prints. I also shortened the sleeve slightly, which is again a normal alteration for me but I know the instructions for the lace insertion have changed since then so the amount might well be different next time.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mixed Print Parker Collection Dress from Tribe Patterns at The Foldline designed by Fiona Parker

I love the height and shape of the neckline; I think it’s really flattering exposing the collar bone. The slit of the dress is slightly longer than the top and you have the option to add in a tie to hold this together or just for added decoration. I’ve used just two narrow pieces of ribbon on this version but will definitely be trying out some tassels on the next. You can either make your own from embroidery floss or if you live in London I’ve spotted a great variety of colours in just the right size in both Fan New Trimmings and Kleins. I had initially envisioned it with short tassels but the long ones on this dress are ace!

Being more creative with my sewing and trying out adding trims, unique details and mixing fabrics was one of my goals for 2017 and creating this design has inspired me to do just that. There are a whole host of ideas I want to play around with; I’ve had to start a Pinterest board to keep track of them all! First up is an embroidered cheesecloth version of the top but I’m interested in trying a version with sheer sleeves and also think it would be delicious in a rich silk/viscose velvet…perhaps lengthened to a maxi for some serious seventies glamour. If I can muster up the patience I might try a hand-sewn fagoted seam rather than the lace insertion technique. I can foresee a summer wardrobe with enough Parkers to wear every day of the week.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mixed Print Parker Collection Dress from Tribe Patterns at The Foldline designed by Fiona Parker

I hope the design inspires you to get sewing as much as it does me and that you enjoy making your own Parkers! Thanks so much to Rachel and Kate for the hard work they put into getting the pattern just right and for giving me the opportunity to work with them. It’s a dream I didn’t even know I had come true and I couldn’t be happier with how it’s turned out! 

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Life + New Pots + Vanessa Bell Exhibit + Book

March and the beginning of April have been very difficult weatherwise for the sheep and the humans. We seem to be over it hopefully — yesterday it was 80 degrees. Farm chores continue everyday. The lambs are growing and soon the grass will be too. The…

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Illustrated Screen Printing Tutorial

Although often we think of canvases created by using silk screens as not as good as hand-painted canvases. there’s no reason why this method wouldn’t work great for creating your own canvases. It’s particularly great when the design is simple or for an element, such as a monogram that you will use often. MAKE has […]

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Changing Needlepoint

In our house we have a saying “Change Is Bad.” This is because of our cats. Perpetual 2-year-olds, cats (and dogs too) like things to be The Same. Feed them at the same time, let them sleep in the same chair, and don’t go away on the wrong day, and they are happy. So when […]

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Quick Help for Making Sayings

I have had an idea for a saying canvas floating around in my head for awhile now. I just need to get it down onto canvas. Maybe you have one yourself. That’s where Mary Agnes’ quick checklist for how to do it comes in handy. As she points out, it isn’t necessarily fast but the […]

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NEW MIMI G. SIMPLICITY SPRING PATTERNS 1 OF 3

HI DARLINGS! It’s that time again, we have just started shipping my new SIMPLICITY SPRING PATTERNS to stores. They will also be available online soon. This #8341 pattern is one of 3 since I did another juniors pattern too! I will post my other ones tomorrow. The sew-along videos are already on the SIMPLICITY YOUTUBE so […]

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Teal Box-Pleat Skirt

These box pleat skirts are seriously my favorites.  I will be making a tutorial soon.  I just need to find another fabric perfect for one. The fabric is a brocade that I used a while ago when I made a pencil-dress.  The best part about this skirt is that, like Sam’s, IT HAS POCKETS!  You…

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Concert Dress Refashion

This was my high school concert band dress.  I loved this thing, but ever since high school I have only worn it once and that was in college when I was stuck in the basic concert band for a semester instead of my Major which was jazz.  This dress has soo many amazing memories and…

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Sam’s Coral Skirt!

Everyone meet Sam!  She is my first friend that I made when we moved out to New Jersey last year.  We worked together and she really loved some of my clothes, so for Christmas I decided to make her a custom-one-of-a-kind skirt! The fabric is from mood, it is a coral quilted cotton. I made…

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Grey Puppy Kennel Covers

My puppy sitter is the best ever! She takes care of our pups and they love her, so do we.  I made her kennel covers a couple months ago, and she needed some more!  If you live in the south Jersey area near Mt. Laurel you can check out her info HERE and HERE. Above…

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A New Pattern In the Making

A few years ago I sold all my pattern samples. At that time my workspace was a table in the corner of our bedroom and with the piles of fabric, the ironing board, and the stuffing bin, it felt too crowded to have so many softies and dolls everywhere. When Craftland in Providence asked if… 

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Blue Window Dress

This year has started out with a full on sprint.  Trey and I are moving to a 2-bedroom apartment in March where I will take over the second bedroom and make it a sewing room.  (It will also be a Study with a couch and our 4 bookshelves… but I GET MY OWN LITTLE STUDIO!!!)…

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Islamic Art as a Source of Needlepoint Design

Islamic art, because it relies heavily on geometric patterns, is a rich source of designs ideas and patterns for needlepoint. It’s one you have probably overlooked largely because the curvy lines of Arabic don’t look like they would adapt well to our grid-based art. But if you look beyond calligraphy and consider mosaics and architecture, […]

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Keeping Color from Looking Dated

I’ve written in the past about ways to change color so that your vintage needlepoint canvas doesn’t look dated. While it is relatively easy to know how to make a given color scheme look more modern, it’s much harder to figure out what schemes will look dated and how to avoid them. When we buy […]

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My 40th Birthday Dinner Party

HI DARLINGS! It’s still November so I am still celebrating my birthday, LOL. I was in Kauai during my actual birthday so I told my closest friends when I got back I would host a dinner party to celebrate my big 40… Thanks to Stella Artois who so generously outfitted the party with all the […]

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