all my own work by ann

Sewing and textiles with Ann

Elephants don’t travel well



In my opinion, they don’t, except that this year they seem to be travelling OK……

I have thought for some years that certain ‘bo-ho’ garments purchased abroad, just don’t look right when you get them back home – especially ones that feature elephants. I bought a top in Sri Lanka in 2005 which featured elephants, and it went to the charity shop ages ago. This year it would have been quite trendy.

So I have spent some of my sewing time in recent years trying to create Birmingham Bull Ring clothes out of Kathmandu market fabric (well, actually quite smart shops on what I will call ‘Fabric Street’, Kathmandu – think Goldhawk Road),

but this year I am trying to create Kathmandu market clothes from Birmingham Bull Ring fabric! What a turn of events. All three of the above garments are from Kathmandu fabric.

Actually, the garment above is the next in the series using a range of techniques to create unique fabric design, inspired partly by the forthcoming trip to Indonesia and partly by a growing plan for some sort of bed cover, which has been developing slowly since my trip to Rajasthan two years ago.

It uses Christine Haynes new Lottie shirt pattern, which i thought to be a suitably simple shape that would show off the artwork. I have two problems with the pattern, neither of them directly to do with the sewing. Firstly, i bought it the day after Brexit, when the £ was in a bad state, so it probably cost more than it would have done had it bought it pre-Brexit. Secondly, it takes loads of paper to print out the PDF and masses amounts of space are needed to stick and trace. It thoroughly outgrew my table and I felt was creeping out of the room as well – and I couldn’t see an easy way to limit the size of each of the main pieces very easily. But the ‘simple’ task of sticking each piece to the next took my mind off Brexit for an hour or two, or three maybe….. Which was probably longer than it took me to sew the top. I did most of the sewing whilst watching the ‘warm up’ talk for the Wimbledon ladies singles final – the Sue Barker part, when she interviews players of my generation, all wearing lovely dresses.

As with my previous fabric artwork, I started from scratch with plain white cotton – poplin this time, expecting a better drape. This time I dyed it in a shade of yellow. It came out quite pale, but I think that is because the ‘raw’ yardage is greater than the recommended weight of fabric for the quantity of dye.

Then I cut out the top and finished the edges, before applying the blocks to print.

I bought to fabric printing blocks in Udaipur, Rajasthan. Using my fabric paint, I had tested them on a simple pillow case previously, and then gave up! So first I tested on some scrap fabric and then I ‘did’ the pockets. They could always be re-cut if necessary….

The picture actually shows the elephant block in place. I wasn’t  sure whether or not I was going to use it, but by the time I took the picture, it was too late! You can see that the blocks are quite small, and were thus easy to bring home. I think they cost about 30 – 60p each. Occasionaly I see some in the UK, usually imported by specialist shop owners, and costing maybe 10 times as much.

By the time I had tested, printed the pockets, above, and then had another session printing the front and back, I had painted and tried to clean the blocks 3 times, using white spirit and / or wash up liquid. This is how they look now

IMG_0515and I am not sure whether they will be usable again. You can see that the elephant and the large flower are still covered in paint, so I do not know what will happen if I use them again with a different colour.

Also, the paint has not adhered to the fabric as well as it did when applied directly with a brush, in my tie dyed garment. I left it to dry the requisite 24 hours, then put it into the tumble drier for about 15 minutes, and then washed it. By the time it was back on the ironing board, some of the paint was peeling off in small bits. I’ll see how it goes – I could top it up ‘freehand’ if it becomes a problem.

The Lottie is very easy to sew. Total sewing time was probably no more than 45 minutes, including tacking the neck facing. Therefore it is a great pattern for beginners, for an ornate or fussy fabric, or for experimentation, as I have just done.


Will I make the Lottie again? Maybe, although I have a wardrobe full of summer dresses, many of which haven’t been worn this summer. If I wore them more, then maybe I would add a Lottie dress. If I acquire some fabric that needs to be shown off with a simple design, then maybe this would be my pattern of choice. In fact, it could make a good winter dress, maybe with slightly longer sleeves, just thinking how much I have worn my Coco.

Will I print elephants again (or any other of my blocks)? Possibly not, partly because they are a bit painted now, and partly because of my disappointment about the fabric adherence. This is a bit of a pity, but one tries these things, and this will make the Lottie top all the more unique.

But now I have another idea…… which I might try on some plain pillow cases.



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