In May the Magamsewalong theme on Instagram was “May Mashup”, and I had to think long and hard about what I might do. I happened to be looking in a cupboard and noticed a whole box of silk samples and had a lightbulb moment. Could I somehow felt the silk into my own fabric?
I pulled out a bunch of silk pieces that sort of went together and had a play.
I got out my Janome FM725 felting machine, which was a gift from Mark, and got going. I chose not to use any sort of backing as I didn’t want the fabric to be too stiff, but I think this may have been a mistake as the fabric didn’t have a great deal of integral strength.
It did create a lovely effect though, so I kept going.
All I did was have a reasonable overlap between the pieces and the machine has five dry felting needles and all I have to do is guide the fabric as the machine does its thing. There is no thread and the fabric can be moved in any direction. As the needles pierce the fabric they ruche it , which gives a rather lovely effect. This photo shows the difference between the felted and non felted fabric.
As I looked at it I thought I might drape the top, and tried shaping as I went, but I found that it was surprisingly difficult.
I made two sides and used the Pattern Union Maisie diy drawstring dress as the basic top pattern. Once I had roughly shaped it, I started looking at how I could finish the raw edges. I french seamed the shoulders and side seams, and cut the bottom band on the bias from three pieces of silk joined together as I didn’t have a big enough piece to go round my hips. Cutting on the bias increases the length of the fabric and also aids in having it sit flat. I wish I had cut the sleeve cuffs on the bias too, but didn’t (sigh!) so they have an opening underneath the arms as the pieces weren’t long enough either.
When I got to the neck I found that it was slightly asymmetrical, but the beauty of the felting system is that I could just add and take away until I was happy with the shape. Then I added a bias collar so that it would stand up and away from my neck. Once everything was assembled I lightly felted the bands to blend them in.
I noticed that any sort of serious pressure fractured the area where the silk pieces joined in some places, so I decided to add some embroidery. I took this away on holiday with me and idly did it in the evenings. I took embroidery silks, a thimble and some pre-prepared pieces of silk to add on top or behind, depending on my whim.
I didn’t try to match the thread to the colours of the silk, and mostly used blanket stitch to give some strength.
I’ve only managed to wear the top once for an extended period of time, but I put it on to take some photos just in case and a few joins opened up, so a bit more embroidery happened.
The back is quite different from the front as I used bigger sample pieces and it didn’t need as many repairs. The colours are also a bit different, which I rather like, but the front is still my favourite as it has many more layers.
I layered the top with an orange merino top to make it weather appropriate and wore it all day. I didn’t have any wardrobe malfunctions so have deemed it a success. This photo was taken in beautiful Ledbury, blogged about here.
The top was surprisingly warm, so even when the sky clouded over I didn’t feel too chilled, as I wandered about the outdoor market blending in with the fruit and veg.
Of course I had to have a photo taken in the local tea shop, this one was really charming with lots of vintage china everywhere.
I got very excited when I saw the sign to Drapers Lane in Leominster, but even though there wasn’t a draper in sight I needed to pose in my top, which I’m beginning to think of as my scrumbled silk top.
I have previously felted denim and lots of wool, but this is the first time I’ve tried silk. The top was simple to execute, but a bit time consuming to make. I made the mistake of not using a backing material behind the silk which has a predisposition to tearing away from itself. I am going to make a jacket from some more big pieces that I have and I shall find a piece of fabric to use as the backing. Testing will need to take place as I’ve noticed that not all fabrics take to the felting process. I will also create one large piece of fabric and cut out the pieces. It was difficult to try and cobble together pattern pieces, and even though this top was pretty much zero waste, I’m not sure it’s completely symmetrical due to the way I put it together. I learned a lot through making this top for the May Mashup theme of Magamsewalong, run by my friends Hélène and Suzy (and me!) and hopefully we can repeat this theme in another guise at some time in the future!