April 2020

2nd April – a quick teeshirt in 100% cotton fabric from one of those sites that print to order. Fabric is from a watercolour design – it turned out to be 40″ wide once you’d taken off the white bits around the edges which was awkward but I had just enough. Click here for pattern review – Grainline Studios, Scout Tee.

1st April – still in lockdown because of coronovirus, and working in the Birmingham sketchbook. One side is nearly full and I’ll take a break to work on something else when I get to the end.

The Mailbox – loose sketch and collage in concertina sketchbook.


March 2020

All images ©Annabel Rainbow

28th March – sketchy collages of Brum continue.

21st March – I’ll be working on the concertina sketchbook of Birmingham over the coming days. Yesterday’s effort was the Chinese Quarter.

20th March – A couple of pages added to the Karen Stamper-type sketchbook of Birmingham.  I think working in a more abstract way helps with these sketchbooks, because if your collage is too detailed it becomes a pointless exercise and you may as well go back to simple pen and ink drawings.  if you’re depicting a building for example, either the edges/floors/windows need some accuracy or a quick blur. Between the two isn’t working for me, but I’ll persevere for a bit – a positive side of social isolation.

18th March pm – Update: A3 sketchbook, gesso and acrylics on fabriano paper. I found the brushing of the surface with acrylic on a dry brush works much better than the oils. Colours used, hansa yellow, pthalo blue, prussian blue, sap green and alizarin crimson for the brown, and titanium white.


18th March – another one I don’t like much!! I was watching YouTube and found a painter who was doing a generic woodland scene, using gesso and oil paint washes. I thought I’d give it a go as it was an interesting technique and I liked his results. Mine weren’t so good, but it was worth a go – at least I know what I like about it and what I don’t. I’ll also use acrylics next time as the oils were messy and didn’t add to things. Gesso, oils and liquin on canvas.

15th March – Collage but too overworked – I was better off a few stages earlier. I could gesso over it all to knock it back, but I’d sooner move on.

10th March – printing deli papers with acrylic ink for future collage work.

9th March – I Am Libellule jacket in cashmere/wool fabric from the Rag Market in Birmingham. Makes a great jacket – more useful than the shirt made last month.


3rd March – hit finger with sledgehammer when gardening so production has slowed!

Pancake Day (Shrove Tuesday) was on 25th February and I bought some lemons to have with them. They were such a beautiful colour that I decided to do a quick painting in my A3 sketchbook. Acrylic paint on Fabriano paper (which I’ll remember to gesso next time). There’s still some fiddling to do but I’m leaving it for now.


Stylearc – Daisy Designer Tunic

There are 2 ways of sewing clothes IMHO. One is at a great rate of knots to whip up something wearable in no time at all – quick, cheap, lovely and serviceable. The other involves a slower process taking your time and enjoying the making for it’s sheer pleasure and taking delight in doing something in the best way you can, or as I call it, Sloooooooow Sewing.

I came across Stylearc patterns on Amazon. The drawings on the front of the patterns looked stylish and I thought they’d suit my shape. I risked buying one as they were reasonably priced and I’m trying as many patterns brands as I can. (no affiliations)

Below is the finished tunic.

Now, how did I get on? Details of the problems and joys are expanded on in the post about making, below but here’s a quick view.

Ease of use  6/10 If you have some experience, it’s fine. I would hesitate to recommend this pattern to a complete beginner as instructions are minimal and caused some anguish at times. The pattern pieces aren’t numbered, and the printing is poor quality – if you run the iron over the print by accident it smudges badly.

Did the finished article look like the drawing?  8/10 Yes I guess it did but wasn’t quite as full at the front as the drawing made out, but was fine. It fitted well in the size I made and I could possibly have got away with a size smaller. I was between 2 sizes according to the measurements on the packet so went for the larger….Captain Sensible.

Would I make again?  6/10 Possibly in a light summery drapey material. I would do away with the pockets which aren’t necessary and don’t help the hang on the front. Would I buy this brand again? I’d choose a pattern then google it to look at the images of other peoples makes. If I liked it in real life I’d tackle another!


I call this make slow sewing because I bought the fabric on the Birmingham Rag Market – linen at £2 per metre. I then dyed the fabric using Soda Ash, Salt, and a good tablespoon and a half of Procion Indigo Navy dye mix MX-2G. You can read more about my dyeing process here.

Here’s my finished cloth

I started with 3 metres but was down to 2.5 by the time this had shrunk in the dye vat, and the ensuing hot soapy washes in the washing machine to rid it of excess dye.


The instructions are printed on the pattern sheets and you have to cut them out. As you can see they are minimal with no step by step illustrations which frankly would have been useful for the pockets. There were minimal images for layering the hem bands, and it wasn’t clear. There were no layouts for cutting out.

There was a little note on the pocket bit which said See In Seam Tutorial, but no note as to where. I’m guessing on their blog. The layering tutorial I came across by googling. In essence you have to do some folding and pressing so you can sew through all layers together, which means the stitching shows on the front. Meh.

I was also left with a flapping hem band facing, and ended up stitching it to the hem band. It didn’t show and is absolutely fine, but I couldn’t find an explanation how you were supposed to deal with this.

Keep the iron off the printing or you’ll end up with no pattern!

The finished top.


The Blackwood Cardigan – Helen’s Closet

This was my first go at downloading  a pdf pattern. I used the pattern to make the Blackwood Cardigan. I thought you may be interested in how I got on with the pattern, and if it worked.

First of all, I love it!! Although a faff to stick all those pages together, in all other respects it was the same as any other pattern. The instructions that also needed to be printed off were comprehensive, well illustrated, and easy to follow and I’d give a 10/10 for that! There are plenty of little speech bubbles in the instructions filled with extra little beginners tips. I’d be very happy to use another pattern from Helen’s Closet if and when I come across them.

The front page says this is for an advanced beginner, but I think anyone could have a go at this – the only slight caveat to that, is the front bands as they go over the back neckline, need a little easing to get in the fullness at the back*.

The pictures of people wearing the cardigan, in the instructions and those online show it to be edge to edge but not terribly full, so at best, the edges only meet as shown in my photo above. I didn’t twig this until after it was made. This isn’t a problem and is quite lovely, but if you’re expecting something a bit fuller or if you want to wear a jumper under it, you might like to make a bigger size.

The pockets were stitched onto the front of the cardigan using a piece of tissue paper between the fabric and the machine. This, and lots of pins, were recommended so that the pocket stayed flat when you sewed and didn’t buckle. I tried this and it worked very well. I think it also helps to have the right needle in the machine – my fabric is sweatshirting, and I needed one for stretch stitching. As the pockets are on show, it’s worth taking time over this. You could leave them off of course, but where would you put your tissues, pieces of string, conkers etc.

Sewing through the fabric layers and tissue paper.

Removing the tissue paper after sewing.





* I find the best way to ease in fullness is to either slightly gather, or if it’s not much, then just fold all the layers over your fingers as you pin, making sure the extra bit of fullness is on the outside so it takes up more fabric.


I did like the sleeve construction; the sleeve top was sewn in along the armhole before sewing the sides, (above). This is easier than fitting it in after the sides have been sewn – it doesn’t take much juggling this way because the armstic and sleeve head are the same size.

The sleeves are then finished by making a continuous line of sewing along the side seams and into sleeve seam (a little pivot at the turn). There’s not much else to add – just a question of following through the instructions.

Deer and Doe, Hoya Blouse

I liked the style of this pattern but when I bought it I had no specific material in mind. It was to add to the pile to make as and when I had time and felt like a new blouse!

It cost £15 from Guthrie and Ghani (no affiliations). The pattern is printed on thick paper so you could use over and over without a problem. There were layouts – not always an option on modern patterns. The instruction leaflet was comprehensive and gave good step by step instructions with plenty of illustrations.

Some patterns make you feel as if you have made something of quality that will last and last, but this one didn’t. I wasn’t in love with the neck facing or facing for the bottom of the blouse. They worked of course, but I’m sure there’s a better way of putting the blouse together. My fabric choice was tricky to sew so maybe this didn’t help.

I wasn’t sure how this would fit as according to the body measurements on the packet I needed a size 18 which I found upsetting! (I’m normally between a 12 and 14) So I traced the size 18 onto paper and then made a toile.

The toile wasn’t too bad but I altered the shoulder length. I also altered the
front lapels and made them cross higher up as my bra was on show. I then added 2 darts into the back so that the blouse didn’t balloon out on me and followed my back snugly. I used my Maven French Dart Shift pattern for this, and simply added the back darts to my pattern paper. (Lay the new pattern over the old one matching the arm hole and front where possible. This will ensure the proper placement)

The finished blouse.


I Am Libellule – pattern review

Update – also made in wool/cashmere as a jacket, and was very successful and stylish! As I’d traced around the pattern pieces anyway, it was quicker and easier to do than the first time.




I chose the pattern online and it cost £14. It’s for a blouse or a jacket (long or short) with a stand up collar and hidden button placket. The fabric is quilting cotton from my stash. I used Gutermann thread and have a Pfaff QE 4.2

I expected to get the normal type of pattern with the pieces on paper which you cut out and use. However the pattern pieces were printed onto one small sheet and were overlapping one another, which meant you had no option but to trace them all from that sheet onto pattern paper or tracing paper. This annoyed me no end!  For £14 I’d expect to have a usable pattern immediately without the bother of copying it all out. I also didn’t like that if you wanted the longer version the pattern simply said to add 10 5/8″ to the pattern pieces – not good enough as to lengthen involved non straight edges and a curved hem. Again, for £14 that extra length and shaping should have been printed onto the pattern.

Also one of the pieces – the collar – appeared to have two length options when you only needed one, and there was no explanation about it. I think some of the instructions also suffered in translation from French as the meaning was occasionally hard to follow.

However, all that aside, it was easy enough to make if you have a little experience, and is a good fit. I chose to cut out a size 40 and think I could have fitted the 38. (I’m between a 12 and 14 M&S dress size, but always go with the manufacturers measurements).  I liked the style and will make again both as a jacket and in a lighter material, a blouse. The hidden button stand was easy to do and effective.




February 2020

All images ©Annabel Rainbow

23rd Feb – preparing printed papers for collage work using gelli plate and pan pastels. I used matt medium for transfer rather than my usual titanium white and it worked well. A set of graphic marks was made using acrylic paint applied with brush and paint filled fineliner bottle.


22nd Feb – Ready To Leap,  experimental life mixed media in sketchbook. From an old photo (Life Story quilts) and using a background of Paynes Grey and Titanium White. Reproduction newspapers about the suffragettes copied and stuck at strategic points. Black and white posca pens with water.

A bit of process.

Half term to 21st Feb

5th Feb – not complete. I watched Life Drawing Live on BBC4 which was an attempt to replicate a life drawing class with about 6 students, but also you could follow on line with a freeze-framed pose and join in with the exercises. I didn’t do that because I wanted to watch the programme, but I took a photo of the TV screen, and had a timed go the next day. Here’s how far I got. I “cheated” by using a grid to get the proportions!


All of Feb – Working this year on the Leam in Bloom magazine to help out. I like doing the layouts. This is just a page about ponds as an example; there’s lots more work to do

4th Feb – Front buttoning blouse by I Am Libellule. Pattern review here.

1st Feb. I thought I’d experiment by using an acrylic pour in some way. The canvas with the pour on becomes thick but is also flexible enough so you can sew through it. A book cover came to mind and so I used freehand painted fish. I had previously done a sketchbook page in a similar manner and used this for inspiration.

Sketchbook page

Acrylic painted book cover











The Random Ideas of Thinking Out Loud – experimental textile piece

The Quilt as a Canvas, #4 – The Random Ideas of Thinking Out Loud

I have for several months been making collages/mixed media images in my sketchbook. Here’s a few examples.

I wanted to see if these paper techniques could transfer to fabric. The answer is no, not directly!  It’s a different language and you are limited by what can be achieved on a normal domestic machine. The layers you make with a paper collage using gesso and gels for example can be almost impossible to stitch through.

Here’s some images of my process. It is experimental (a first go) but was enjoyable to do. Meaning can be worked in at any stage to make a piece unique and it will be something I shall be working towards.

The title? I used my intuition and just put down whatever I wanted wherever I wanted with no reference to a plan. If an idea came to me and I liked it, I found space for it.



January 2020

All images ©Annabel Rainbow

Acrylic pour over 3 canvases.  A mixture of acrylic paints by different manufactuers, pouring medium and alcohol.


Also here, 2 items of clothing. Not art, but creative in their own way!


Mid January – A textile piece in The Quilt as a Canvas series. It’s number 4 and is called The Random Ideas of Thinking Out Loud. You can read more here.

72cms x 56cms, cotton fabrics throughout.  Applique, stitch, drawing ink, pen, acrylic ink, acrylic paint. Pfaff Quilt Expression 4.2 sewing machine and Gutermann threads.

This year I have also decided to try watercolour.

Strelitzia – 140lb hot press mould made paper by Daler Rowney with Schmincke watercolours. Windsor and Newton Series 7 watercolour brushes.

And the same again, but this time using pen and wash.

First go at a portrait. I didn’t spend a lot of time on this as I realized the scale of the piece -A3 – was perhaps a little large for the brushes I had, and I lost quite a bit of the fluidity you’d expect of a watercolour. For me, portraits are best in acrylics or oils.