Thursday, 19 December 2013

All cabled up

They're done and I am really pleased with them.  It was obvious from the word go that these would not result in plain stocking stitch.  I can never resist a bit of pattern.

I found the cable pattern somewhere online, the name has something with 'segments' in it. A ribbed cable that you keep twisting outwards.

I can even show off my new sock blockers: blue acryclic shapes to put socks on - for taking photographs and also for drying on.

I like the smoothness of the Sweet Tomato heel by Cat Bordhi that I used here: three gently sloping wedges.

The only thing I am rather worried about is whether these socks will fit over my Dad's heel when he tries to slip them on.  They should fit just fine once they're on - but I'm not totally sure that he can get to that point.

You can stretch them quite a bit but the lowest cable twist round is still pretty tight.

It's a learning experience, next time I'll pay attention to that.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Grey socks

While I'm at it: I also started socks - for my dad, as a Christmas present.

I guess I'm blogging about it so that I can't back out of making these for him for Christmas.

This is a bit of a promisary note.

You gotta use every trick in the book to motivate yourself!

On the other hand the red jumper (and no, it's not a Christmas jumper, it's just not) will be finished soon and then I want another project I can quickly pull out and get knitting, round and round and round, while I watch television or something on the Internet.

The plan is to make this plain vanilla socks: just stocking stitch and no pattern.  My dad will prefer it, I'm pretty sure of that.  He will also appreciate that he'll be able to throw these in the washing machine - I somehow can't see him doing any hand washing.  Not even of hand knitted socks.  I just don't.

But that means that they're wonderfully quick to make.

And I'm enjoying knitting these!

Invigoratingly red

I haven't worked much with yarn or fabric in red.  My favourite colours are pink, royal blue, aqua or turquoise, petrol, purple, black, grey, silver and white.  And true red - but it's very difficult to find.

But I suddenly had the urge to get a red yarn to start a jumper with.

This is the result, well I should say the work in progress:


Isn't this just wonderfully colourful?  I find it very good for the soul to knit in a colour that works as a pick-me-up, so stimulating, so invigorating.  I really feel like this colour provides an energy that is making me feel better in the grey, the darkness and the cold temperatures of November.

I am very glad that I started this project.

Pink progress

It's coming along nicely.  Look at that sheen.

The pattern is great: I like the darts shaping the shoulders as well as the lower part at the waistline that form this kind of "envelope" shape as it is referred to.

I am not so enamoured of the satin.  I pulled a thread near the bottom somewhere because a bit of rough finger nail got stuck on my precious toile.

I am just glad that this was always meant to be the toile.  It would be nice if I had the choice between them at the end (I need to get these two done by 13th December) but I will happily settle for one.

For this version I would still need to cover some buttons with this fabric and also do button holes, four of them.  This causes a great amount of anxiety in me: I am pretty terrified that I would completely mess up the whole thing if I tried to do that many button holes. Yikes.

Thinking about it: I'd rather start the bluey-green silk version and see how that goes.

Overall I have to say that it is interesting to work with this fabric and find how it works for me. Or doesn't.

I can see why designers will use satin for designs where a lot of pleats, creases and folds are shaping the design, much more so than seams and darts.  A seamline that's out by a tiny fragment of a millimeter can really affect the way the garment looks.

I don't know if I'll ever get good enough to be able to successfully work with satin.

The colour is gorgeous but it's darn difficult to cope with.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Slippery pink stuff, blurgh

This is a rhetorical question: why did I ever think that working with slippery pink satin for my toile for the V8721 shrug was a good idea?

Oh yeah, I remember: I want this to be a wearable toile in case it works out. I'm absolutely sure that I'm not going to wear a toile made from faded, floppy sheeting but I can see myself wear something made out of this lovely pink fabric.

But oh boy, is it horrid to work with!

I had to re-cut one of the two big pieces because the lower layer of fabric slipped under the top layer.  The lesson from this is: use pins and not fabric weights on really slippery fabric - I had no idea how much a fabric like this can slide around while you're busy cutting it out.

And in case of any doubt: use at least twice the amount of pins you think you'll need!  If not more...

Horrid stuff.

But such a lovely colour!  And the sheen!

I might sing a different tune once I get this done, but for now I'm just not looking forward to the sewing part.  I can't help myself: I feel a headache coming on!


I bought this great book on garment construction.  The Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey are selling an interesting collection of fashion design and pattern books.  I already own a few they sell so I didn't think I would be spending money when I went on Saturday.  Then I leafed through this one.  Must investigate further but it looks really good.  And useful!

We saw this exhibition at the FTM:

It was wonderful.  Very inspiring.
The first room, the Royal Room, was reserved for clothes made for and worn by royalty, in particular Princess Diana.  I was surprised to the see the apricot coloured Going Away dress she wore after her wedding.  I didn't like it very much, the chiffony bits were a bit much.
But right next to it was an aubergine evening gown that's utterly gorgeous! It had a very interesting folded and wound 'thing' going on at the bodice/neckline area.  I would have loved to see this better but the light was kept dimmed to protect the clothes.  Quite rightly.  This gown was my favourite in the room.
It was nice to see the sketches and then the dresses IRL.  Intriguing.
We were able to take pictures of the rest of the exhibit.  There were quite a few dresses in a very romantic vein - not really my cup of tea.  Some of the construction or embellishment techniques were interesting.  My favourites were the satin dresses that had pleating and folding: such wonderful shapes!
I was very intrigued by some of the seam lines on other dresses.  I must do a separate post on all those.
Loved it.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

What Iffing

I love this blog post!  And I love her phrase 'what iffing' even more.  It is delightful and quite wonderful.  Exactly my cup of tea because that's how I think too.

The blogger is writing about the Vogue shrug pattern V8721 that I am interested in.  I love the way she discards the instructions when it doesn't make any sense to not sew the lower piece to the lining and then attach both to the rest (oh yes, so much easier) - and even better to eliminate a seam when you don't need that one either.

I am thinking of making this shrug myself:

I like how this apes the shape of a knitted shrug at the back and that the slot for the arm is horizontal.

I am thinking of changing the front centre though.  I want a shrug that exposes the lovely seed bead embroidery on my Christmas party dress, wearing this shrug with it just as it is would just show an expanse of plain velvet, nothing more.  That's not what I'm after.

I could keep either the top one or two buttons and then cut a sweep towards the hem or even towards the bottom of the side seam.  Well, where the side seam would be if it had a conventional side seam I should say.

Which means that I'm not just the person to discard nonsensical instructions, but the one who insists on messing up the design lines as well.


I guess the only way to find out whether this could work is to give it a try!

I can pop both the dress and a made-up muslin onto my dressmaking dummy and see how I need to draw this new edge to achieve the effect I want.  How hard can it be? (I'm already sure that that's got to be 'famous last words')

'What iffing'. I like that.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Pink summer skirt

I ordered this pink patterned cotton fabric online, for quilting.  But the colour is so very bright it doesn't go with anything else I've got.

What to do.  Make something else!

Like... maybe a skirt?

Good idea.  Here we go:

I'm really pleased how this came out. It's a length I like on me.  I tried to make this pattern before (my grey inverted pleat skirt) but messed up the pattern piece for the second version.  This is basically version number 3.

This is also my first lapped zip.  I had always tried to do invisible zips before, or whatever the technique was that I was going for.  I'm not really too sure about that point to be honest.

The idea was to do this type of zip in a workshop given by a friend of mine.  I ended up taking another fabric along to this. 

But my sewing machine manual gives detailed instructions on this kind of zip.  With plenty of graphics.  I like a good graphic or two (dozen), they're right up my street.

It went beautifully!


I am exceedingly happy with the evenness of the two halves of the back: to the left and to the right of the zip.  It is so easily done to have one side be higher than the other.  My solution to getting around this problem: I put the zip in first, and only then attached the two facings that fold inside.

The first facing is easy: plonk it in any which way you like.  The tricky one is obviously the second one.  I had pinned this and checked very carefully when I put the sewing machine needle down.  I'm sure I corrected the needle placement at least once before I ever started sewing.  You can also swivel things round if you feel like it when you have the needle in the fabric - so you can check a different angle, if you feel this helps.  Make sure you're happy with where this second seam is going to be, and you're good to go!

* * *

I have to say though that I cut the lining too small for the front and found that I couldn't attach it to the facings very well at all.  I ended up pushing this piece under the facing and sewing on the right side. Which would have been okay, except I attached it correctly at the bank.  There is some very unsightly bunching going on at the change from front to back.  I learnt something else: if you do a thing one way, don't suddenly go and do it a different way in another part of the garment when those two areas need to be attached to each other.
A-hum, okay.

* * *

I am already blogging about this though I still have to fix one issue. I twisted the bottom of the lining a bit and want to un-do that half. It shouldn't take long to do and it also looks done. So there.

Nice little summer skirt for next year.

Very happy.

Monday, 28 October 2013

I made a bag

This is tote-ally unexpected (sorry) but I just made a bag!

I had no intention of getting busy on this, it was a sudden impulse and there we are. A great use of a few hours this afternoon.

I want it to carry crafts stuff around with me, so ideally it should have lots of compartments and side pockets (this one hasn't) but I have so much fabric to use up, making this very plain and simple tote is such progress.

I don't know how I am going to use up all of the fabric and wool that I've accummulated. Not in the next ten years plus, or so, I should think.

So I've got plenty more bag projects in me, next time I can add a little side pocket, or compartments or something.  Perhaps reinforce the handles (I forgot. Oh well) and I could use slightly more sturdy fabric. It's just a big floppy.  Everything contributes a bit to learning something.  So worth it.

But all in all I am really pleased with this one.

The fabric lends itself so well to a bag that firmly says: "I'm all about crafts, please carry me!" - so I reckon it was a given.  I still have some of the fabric left to use for patchwork and quilting as intended. And appliqué: some of those little shapes and motifs would be very cute.

I will highly likely hand-sew a running stitch along the outer shell, just a good quarter inch away from the seam with the lining that shows up at the top.

I made this bag up with a pattern off the top of my head. Having had to wait for a hospital appointment earlier in the year I had the chance to look at the tote bag of a really lovely lady who was sitting next to me, and who I got chatting to (I also really liked her style in clothes: individual and cheerful. She was great!).  She didn't mind me picking up her bag and having a good look at it.  I don't think I've ever had a nicer time waiting for an appointment.

I hadn't seen this construction technique before where you insert the handles lower down than the top edge and basically use the lining fabric (or a third fabric) for the top strip.

I was able to assemble the whole thing (with handles sandwiched in between) as one big roll.  The last seam I closed was the bottom seam of the lining and even there I used my machine for the most part: just pulling the edges together until it squashed up the rest of the bag - then I stopped. That left about three inches or so that I sewed shut by hand once I turned the bag inside out through that remaining hole.

Really enjoyed making this.  I like the result and hope to use it lots.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

...and in with the new

the front

This is only a muslin.  I didn't intend to make this wearable so I used a brown zip that I won't use for anything else and an old fabric in a very odd shade of pink that looks a bit like a messy mix of salmon and tomato in real life.

This is the result of my pattern-drafting, see my earlier blog post Drawn.

I drew up a front and back body using my own measurements, and a clever book on how to do this: René Bergh's 'Make Your Own Patterns'.

In my previous post I did say something about the curved hemline I am getting for the back waist.  The pieces for this are drawn a bit longer than the waist (disregarding that the waistline curves up, I just went with the longer measurement), but now I find that the top is not long enough.  The hemline hits my figure at a really odd point so I won't be making this in this length again.

The top was mainly a chance to see how my own measurements work out.  Oddly enough I have to take in the top 5-6 cm of the sideseams, just under the arms, by about a centimetre off front and back, tapering down.  I don't really understand why I keep having to do this, on both my own patterns and bought dressmaking patterns too.  It's as if my upper body is less wide under the bust than the average figure. Unless something else goes into this that I don't know about.

But I really thought this wouldn't happen when I use my very own measurements.  Perhaps the ease given is something I don't need?  Odd.  I might figure this out one day.  Just not yet.

the back

I learned that I like two darts much better than just the one.  And I found marking the darts not quite as horrible to do as I remembered.  I used a Frixion pen to mark them - you erase the lines by applying heat through ironing.  You just have to watch out not to press any area where you still need to see the markings.

I drew the bust dart in to slant up.  Now I wonder what it looks like with a dart from the armhole.  That will be my next project.

I am again really pleased that I was able to finish this.  I will take it along to my next sewing meetup to see if my more experienced friends can give me some tips about the fit.  It seems okay but I think it could be better.

My aim is a pattern that I can use over and over again - I was hoping to get a template out of my template top alterations, but that didn't work out well enough.  This approach is much better - I like the fit of this top lots better.

I just need to add a good 5-10 cms to the length if I want to make another little sleeveless top like this.  This is too short.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Out with the old...

I just finished this top.  Very happy to tick off another old project that had been hanging around way too long.

Sometimes you just can't be bothered to continue with something - particularly when it doesn't appeal all that much any more.

I started with quite a bit of enthusiasm but unfortunately found that I didn't like the fabric all that much.  It feels funny on my skin because it's just a bit too synthetic.  Not sure how much wear I'll get out of this.

I had started this as one of the five projects over five years that I just couldn't finish.  Every single project seemed to have something going wrong and it annihiliated any sewing mojo I had.  That whole period of trying to sew but not getting anywhere was just too frustrating for words.

Initially I thought that perhaps I was trying to do garments that were too difficult for my sewing ability: I picked more and more simple patterns - this one was the second most basic pattern (after the tunic I did in four versions: my grey damask top, the black and white linen tunic, a pink pieced summer top and a black tunic that I haven't blogged about yet because it's not finished) - but there was always a different problem and I let that put me off sewing.

It was very frustrating.  And upsetting.  I am so glad I've got my groove back.  Finishing this off doesn't just tick a WIP off the list (so good to know you don't have to do a thing further on something. You can just put it out of your mind. Yesh) but it also puts an end to this disheartening phase of five WIPs over the five years thing.  The Roses skirt was another one from that time, the last one.  Strangely enough the first one I completed. Yikes, what a relief.

Now for the good points about this top: I did my favourite trick of leaving the sideseams open, closing the shoulder seams - THEN attaching the sleeves flat to the body (so much easier!) and then closing both side seams: the body and the sleeve side seams all in one go.  Strengthening the underarm area with a bit of back and forth stitching is a good idea. 

If you can't get those seams to lie flat because too many seam allowances come together in one spot: just stop sewing (after a bit of back stitching), pull a bit of thread loose, lift your presser foot over the bulky seam allowances and re-starting the seam as close to the spot where you stopped as possible.  It might be a good idea to take the fabric out from under the presser foot and move the seam allowances out of the way and slot it all back in again.

I haven't tried the top on again and I also still need to get a friend to take photos - but I think the pattern is worthy of doing again.  Maybe in a brightly coloured and patterned fabric?  A silk would be really lovely, perhaps a fun cotton would also be possible.  Or something a little softer.  Any fabric that drapes well would probably be better than a cotton.

I think that I will make this again.  It's just got to be a fibre that I don't mind wearing.  And a fabric I love.

Saturday, 19 October 2013


I just drew up a back and front pattern piece according to my own measurements. This time I reduced the front dart (the one going down towards the hemline) by half and drew a second dart into the side seamline. I want to know what it looks like when you use two darts.  My template top relied on just the one dart into the side seam and I had no luck improving the fit of this top so far.  Frustrating.
I made up a muslin from my measurements before but I didn't draw the pieces further down than the waist measurement.  Because I get such a funny curve at the back (Yep, I have a swayback. Darn.) I can't quite imagine what it will look like when I just extend the length a bit and disregard the curved waistline.
I will presumably have to do a swayback adjustment.

For now I'll just cut this out in an old fabric (why did I ever think that a shade that's an unhappy mix of tomato and salmon would look good on me? What was wrong with me?) - and put it through its paces to give it a go: there's nothing better than doing for learning.
I just wish I felt a bit less aggrieved about having to mark darts - it's a job I thoroughly dislike.  That's the reason why I didn't get further on this and why I'm blogging about it rather than sewing...
Big sigh.
I think that the front piece looks so much longer than the back piece in that first photo because I didn't cut the paper off at the bottom.  On the other hand I'm not really, completely, absolutely sure about that.
I did hold the side seams against each other, they're both the same length.  That's got to count for something?


Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Roses skirt

I completed another sewing project!  This is what happiness is.

It only took me two years and one month from starting this in September 2011 with the lofty idea of quickly running up a simple skirt... Yeah. Ha-ha.

I posted the completed Roses Skirt project to See link.

Here it is in all its glory:


The notes on the MySewingCircle site explain my sewing process lots more (if you're a glutton for punishment and want to know all of the itty-bitty details) but suffice to say that this was supposed to be a six panel skirt, but turned into a five panel skirt when I realised that they already fit me (I must have calculated wrong).

I picked a yoke in plain black to calm the print down a bit, plus I didn't have enough fabric for all six panels to begin with. I cut two panels wrong and went back to get more of this fabric.  Thankfully I had started this project soon after my initial fabric purchase and the shop still had quite a bit left. That was lucky.

On the other hand I now have lots of this fabric left in my stash. Oh dear.

I started by sewing the zip to the black yoke because I find that the most difficult part of the process.  I was then told by someone that I was doing this all wrong because you're meant to attach a zip to the lining first, and by yet another person that I was doing this all wrong because I was meant to cut a narrow tube of lining fabric and not the same panels as the outer fabric.  Do you know what?  I think it turned out rather well.  And no, I don't think that my way of sewing this was wrong, I just did this a bit different to what other people would have done.  I am very happy with my result.

What I love most about this skirt is how full the hem feels.  I sewed it up by hand, doing an invisible hem by catching a few threads of the outer fabric every half inch or so.  This gives the bottom edge of the hem such a nice feel of luxurious fullness that you don't get when you machine stitch all the way around.

There is only one thing that is a bit of an obstacle in my getting lots of wear out of this. I've lost weight since I started so this skirt sits quite a bit looser on me than it could do.

I might have to attach belt loops and then wear it with a nice plain black belt.  That could work.

I got really scared of the lining fabric peeking out from under the hem so attaching it to the inner yoke fabric (a self-facing of the same black fabric) was the step that took the longest. I finally got up the courage to start by attached the lining to the yoke and found that it wasn't all that difficult to cut to size off those lining bits that were too long.

There was a bit more work involved in turning up the lining hem, but I got on with that really well so that the whole thing is now finished.  Such a nice feeling to know that I won't have to do any further little bit on this skirt, it is done.  And done means done.  Phew!

Saturday, 12 October 2013

FBA! Oh yeah, baby: FBA!

Teehee, forgive the exuberant title, but still.

I just did my first FBA!

Another technique for my sewing and dressmaking toolkit.  Utterly delighted that it worked.  Well, actually, I don't know for certain that it worked but I did hold the edges of all the relevant pieces against each other and I think I made the adjustments where needed.


So, FBA.  What is it?

FBA is short for Full Bust Adjustment.  Commercial patterns are made for women up to B cup size but they don't work great for anyone with a bit more up top.

So a full bust adjustment allows for both more width across the body as well as more length in the other dimension.

Here's a photo of one of my cut up and reassembled pattern piece, the upper front:

The technique involves finding the bust apex (the blue cross a little below the original bust point that looks like a cross hair symbol), cutting to it from the hem parallel to the grain line. Continuing the cut towards the arm hole, I picked the sewing mark to cut towards - but stopping short at the seam allowance.

This last bit then acts as a hinge that keeps the pieces together. [**] Then cut from the side seam towards the bust point but leave a hinge at that point (the apex).

You then pull the lower piece (the one nearer the side seam) away from the other main piece keeping the vertical edges parallel (those running from the apex down to the hem): move them right and left apart from each other by the measure that the pattern piece was too short by.

Put a strip of tissue paper underneath and tape down. (I did this in two steps: I taped one edge onto the tissue strip, then I marked the width where the other edge needs to be, drew a line down and then taped the other edge down up to that drawn line.  It can get quite fiddly)

Now you can then move the dart back to where it was.  The dart is just a bit wider than before to create a more rounded shape and larger cup size over the bust.

I checked the side seam against the front side seam and found that the above dart I drew in the thick blue line was a bit too deep, so I decreased this by a good centimeter in total.

You also need to adjust your piece that's closer to the front centre. Here that wasn't a problem because this piece ended in a point so I didn't strictly need to move the central piece down to come to the same hemline.

I also checked the lower front piece and the contrast fabric piece against all the new seamlines and extended them.

I had a bit of a hairy moment when the lower front did not seem to be wide enough at all.  It turned out that I forgot that both upper front pieces need to be sewn together first and the combined width would therefore lose the two seam allowances of the separate pieces. Makes sense once you think of it. Uh.

All's well that ends well.

Now I just have to cut out some fabric to see if the adjustment really worked. I might go the muslin route before I cut into my expensive wool fabric!

**Correction: I listed two steps in the wrong order before. Apologies, I now corrected this.

Jacket Sew Along - part I


I am taking part in a jacket sew along.  I was going to carry on with my white jacket but it doesn't seem fair to pick a project that is pretty far along when others are only just starting theirs.

On the other hand I am still not that fit to do anything because of an operation I had in the last two weeks and then there's the added problem that I'm stuck in trying to decide what kind of contrast fabric to use on the lapels of said white jacket.  I bought all sorts of materials (both fabrics and also ribbons) but nothing jumped out at me shouting: 'Pick me! I'll look just great!'  I might be expecting too much.

Still, both those reasons made me reconsider.  So I picked Vogue V1264 instead, which I also want to do in black (see the photo right at the top of this post. As if you hadn't guessed).

I had the contrast fabric for a while (Halleluja! Good start) and bought a really nice 100% wool fabric that was priced at the higher end of what I usually spend.  So I'm hoping not to mess up.  Bit nervous about that.

The contrast fabric is a kind of rubbery material that might be best described as faux leather. It is very synthetic but I reckon it would look good for this design.  I may have to use a leather sewing machine needle on it, I still have to try that out.  I just hope that I will be able to sew this material well. I have plenty of fabric to experiment with and I am planning on quite a few sample scraps to have a go with.

I will need to check that the size 18 I cut out is suitable.  I lost some weight recently and as per the measurements given, this is the correct size.  But I I am nowhere near cup size B that I believe most commercial patterns are designed for.  This jacket is supposed to have a loose, relaxed fit but it might not relax as much as fitting me across the bust.  Which would rather obviously be a really awkward problem.  So the next step is to pin the main paper pattern pieces together and try it on.  The plan is to do this today, it is Saturday after all.

Right now, I am about two weeks into the sew along which was set for two months in total. That means that I still have plenty of time, thankfully.

Fingers crossed!

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Master Coriolis socks

Love the colour of the yarn, loved the pattern in the book.  I was really excited to make these.

The pattern is the Coriolis pathway in the book: 'New Pathways for Sock Knitters: Book One' by Cat Bordhi.

These are toe-up and I hadn't done these “Whirlpool toes” before: you increase every so and so many stitches (in something like six places?) in one row, and then not again for a few rows. The result is a gently rising spiral.  It even turns slightly.  I would have liked to make them symetrical but I increased both the same way.  Something to think about if I use this toe again.

I was fascinated by the spiral that winds its way up the leg.  I just thought that this line would go around the leg for the second time much lower down than it does. I thought I had done something wrong but looking at other examples on Ravelry now I think my spiral just didn't start early enough in the foot section.

I did the cuffs in a K2, P1 ribbing - I love this because it is a little flatter than a K2, P2 ribbing, lies smoother and doesn't look as odd when it gets stretched.

But the problem was that I bound these off a little too tight.  I knew that I didn't want to do them too loosely because then the socks wouldn't stay up, but I didn't realise that the socks would start to feel very uncomfortable when I wear them for any length of time.

I think I will need to re-do the bind-off which will probably make them sit too loosely so they'll slip down.  To prevent that I will then have to weave elastic thread through the inside cuff.

It just feels like it's so much work that I haven't made a start on this yet.  Result: they sit unworn in my sock drawer.  Shame that.

I also made a second knee-high pair of socks that suffer from the same fate. I haven't dared make a third pair yet, so my reaction of this failure has been a bit of a sour grapes attitude: Oh well, I didn't like them that much in the first place.  As if!

I had high hopes with both pairs.  When I make another pair I will have to keep the elastic thread ready for the cuffs.  I'm not going to commit the same error a third time.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Assemblyline piecing

I am very happy to report that I managed to put together the remaining 16 blocks of my Hash Tag quilt on Sunday.

It was quite a bit of work and seemed to take a very long time, but they are assembled!

It really helped that I finally calculated the length of the strips I would need and went from there. You know, instead of cutting a bit, sewing a bit, and then needing to cut some more and some more and...  Rather tough going.

I didn't sew all the blocks to the very same stage, I did some quicker than others so it didn't feel like too much of a dreary and routine job.

The blocks are quite easy in that I put together a very long strip of grey, blue, wider grey, blue and grey again - then I sliced those into one wider and two standard cuts and inserted my 'across' lines of blue fabric by placing all units along a long blue strip that I then cut after pressing seams open.  That seemed to be the most efficient way.  I'm sure I could have cut the blue strips to the right length first - I have to weigh up which method is quicker next time.

What is left to do for the quilt top is to connect the blocks with grey sashing.  I uploaded a photo of my sample four block unit a couple of posts ago if you want to have a look.

I am hoping that I can post another update soon and that time I'll make sure to include a photo!

I love it when something comes together.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Time for a new blog template

Follow me on Twitter: @GiselleKnits

I've been staring at the pinkish twirly design a bit too long: it is time for a new background. And while I'm at it: an overhaul of the overall blog design is not a bad idea.

So far this isn't the exact thing I had in mind, so I will be tweaking this a bit more.

Still the same crafts obsessed blog as it was before though!  All about my projects in knitting, sewing, quilting and anything else crafts related that takes my fancy.

I must say that I like a white background: it looks all shiny and new.  Sparkling.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

My new sewing machine

I am so happy: I have a new sewing machine.

Getting it set up is a story and a half.  I blithely assumed that I would be able to strap the box onto my little trolley (I use it to take my other sewing machines to be repaired, so the assumption was a natural one) - but didn't expect this one to be too big so trolleying it around on the tube was a no-no.

Chastised I patiently wait for one and off in a cab I went. I was in luck: there was no rush hour stop-and-go traffic and we got through very nicely. Thanks so much driver!  Great job.  (Although to be truthful the guy did a few things I wasn't expecting someone to do, only while at a stand-still but still: he put in eye drops a couple of times, and then he was reading something? Most odd. But all was well that ends well.)

Then it turned into quite an adventure. I felt a bit like St George and the dragon.  I had to wrestle this monster of a machine out of its box while the accessories kept dropping on my feet (they weren't taped down in their molded compartments in the polystyrene). I couldn't pull the machine up and out of the box, too heavy, and I couldn't pull the box off the machine either: too unwieldy.

I had the clever idea to put it onto its side, exerted a vice-like death grip on the machine handle and tried shoving the box out of the way. Didn't work too well: it kept banging into the wall while the machine threatened to slide off the table. You would have heard some cursing if you had happened to be passing.

I finally got the two separated by pulling the box towards me and making sure the machine stayed on the table. It nearly didn't, but it all had a fortuitous end after all. Phew.

Then in the days following, I developed a cold where reading the instructions just didn't make any sense and absolutely nothing sunk in. After that I went on holidays (honestly, I never had a holiday that was so inconveniently timed!) and then, all of last week, I was just knackered from my time away (don't ask, there was lots going on).

So it was really only yesterday, Saturday, that I had a chance to set it up.

So obviously the thing that I did do, was this:

Right?  That's not quilting?  What happened there? (I didn't knit all of this, just some, during the morning. Not too long)

Honestly, what am I like. I must be scared of success. All the potential of my new toy must be having a terrifying effect on me. That's ridiculous.

At least I managed to finally set the machine up, with some virtual help from friends (thank you Shevvy and Pennie! Just the sort of push that I needed). Completely knackered afterwards of course. So I left the actual sewing to the following day.

Which is today!

I woke up feeling like a kid at Christmas: I get to use my new machine today, yay, yay, yay, happy dance!

And this is what I did:

A hash tag quilt! Heh-heh. Well, you know, the start of one.

I wanted to make this kind of criss-crossed motif in blue and grey for ages. Very simple: just the two colours.  Very simple motif: two lines each crossing.  It did dawn on me that this would look like hash tags but I happen to even like that about this quilt.  There might just be a certain amount of geek in me.

The plan is to make four motifs across and goodness only knows how many for the length. It's supposed to go onto my bed, so we'll see when I get a bit further.

What I am quite excited about: the machine does indeed sew relatively quietly (unless you put your foot down at the highest speed, then it produces quite a whine), at least when you use the slowest speed. But I think I'll get away with slightly more noise and that means: I could, if I really, really wanted to and happened to wake up very early... I could even sew a bit in the morning!

Not that I actually think I will, but the thing is: I could. That's quite something.

I'm thinking a black binding for this quilt. What do you think?

Sunday, 1 September 2013

The state of crafts

This post is really about the state of my works in progress, the state of my place and a bit about my frustration at not proceeding in quite the way I would like to.

So I like to start a great many projects. There are advantages: starting a piece of knitting shows up very clearly whether the yarn and pattern go together. You don't find that out until you start. If it's not a successful combination you can use a different pattern, or go with a different yarn.

Things are slightly different with a sewing project: I made a muslin for an A-line skirt which turned out pretty well, except way too big so I had to go with an inverted pleat at the front. Lesson: measure your cut out pieces against the pattern, or yourself, before you start. I cut out the actual fabric from the altered pieces when I should have just cut them properly. Whoops.

Then I cut out some commercial dressmaking patterns, a task I dislike: it seems to take ages, you have to be precise and it's not actually sewing yet. In fact it just takes too damn long until you can get to the sewing part. Is it just me or do other people lose interest as they go along?

Quilting is slightly different: in order to put the patchwork for the quilt top together you don't have to prepare much. In fact I just love the feeling of organic growth about starting somewhere and seeing where it takes me. No traditional quilts with exact measurements of fabrics and exact advance planning for me. It feels too regimented and kills the joy of creating.

You get to make up bits and pieces of the quilt top in pieces. It's not supposed to be one continuous slog until you're done. You are allowed to put your work in progress aside and pick it back up another time.

Which brings me to the thought that launched me into this blog post: I finally got some pretty large clear bags with resealable tops (this white line that you can press together. Just like the freezer bags) - and now I am busy bagging up one WIP after another: some of my quilt projects already inhabit shoe boxes (too much fabric), but others as well as some of my sewing projects have found their way into a bag each.

I also added some of the cut-out commercial patterns and even thought to include a post-it note with all the pattern numbers on it. Nice to be able to see what's inside each bag.

Which is all working pretty well: I'll be able to go straight to whichever project I want to work on, pull it out and have the whole kaboodle right there without having to hunt for the bits and pieces that go with it.

Just one problem: you can't stack plastic bags, they keep sliding off one another. I can't even line them up like books, too much slippage there too.

So I'm thinking that I'll need to hang all those bags. Question is how. I'll come up with something.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Trial quilt block

So much fabric, so little time.  I need to make inroads into my stash.

I keep pulling out fabrics to try and decide which other fabric they go with.  I decided I might as well indulge in my usual process: just get started and see where it leads me.  So much more organic, isn't it!

Oh okay, I admit it: I suffer from startitis and an inability to finish (most) things.  But if I try something out then I know if I'll like it, and if I want to carry on with it? Don't I.  But if I don't give something a trial run, then I won't know.

So I pulled out these three fabrics, all from the same range (darned if I remember which one, or where I got it from) - so at least I can be assured that they do indeed go with each other.  Great.

I've been obsessive in looking at quilt block patterns recently.  I couldn't stop!

I found one that I very much like, so I gave that a go.  Here it is:

One block made up of four of these units, with some sashing in the same black fabric.  I find the layout very pleasing and love the way it looks.

But do you know?  I didn't actually enjoy making this particular block pattern.  I'm not sure quite sure why that is.  I just couldn't get the points to come out at a quarter inch from the edges. 

The outside edges of this will unfortunately have to be sewn very skinny.  It ran into that problem from the very start.  I did okay with the first side-by-side triangle units, the navy and black fabric.  But they came out smaller than I wanted (I keep doing that), so I cut the light blue fabric rhomboids very generously to make sure that I wouldn't run into problems there as well.

I had to trim them down a lot, but the navy/black triangles were a right pain to sew onto the second side of the rhomboids: they ended up in the wrong place horizontally.  I had to rip and re-do so many times that I lost all patience. 

I am definitely not going to sew this one again.  This block will remain a one-off!  So there.

If I ever make a big quilt with this block, it will have to be a sampler type quilt with all sorts of different blocks.  I think that I might combine these three colours with grey and also a couple of suitable pinks.

But I am still pretty annoyed with how difficult this was to put together.  It was probably not a good idea to do pretty skinny seams because they must have made the problem worse with each new seam.

Next time I need to make a template to measure the completed units against.  Or do this paper pieced and not the traditional assembly way.  That might save me a whole lot of cursing.

x - x - x

There was one good thing about sewing this block: I figured out how to cut the squares the easiest way.

Initially I cut the assembly-line pieced squares through the centre of the two seams, like you would do for half square triangles (HSTs) before cutting the other way.  Doing that unfortunately makes it necessary to lay the triangle just so, so you can cut into two equal pieces: you can't aim for the other corner because that side is obviously already been cut away.  Duh.

Lots of faffing around.  Too annoying for words.

Instead I first cut the diagonal without the seams.  I hope the two seams (horizontal orientation) aren't too difficult to see:

It is then much easier to just slice through the centre of the parallel seams - no faffing around needed.  I will remember that next time!

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Grey striped skirt muslin

I would like to make a skirt in a fabric with a bold pattern - a sort of statement fabric. Something big, bright, oomphy.

I am using Simplicity/New Look 6053, view E: the shorter A-line version.  I reckon it should be quick and easy, and contribute an item to my wardrobe that is desperately missing: I don't have a skirt that you could call bold, beautiful and out there. A definite gap.  In fact, I'm beginning to think that my clothes might be a little on the boring side.  Dressmaking to the rescue!

I'm using an old fabric to make a muslin, also called a toile.  That's a first draft version of a pattern, in fabric.  If you use calico or a fabric you wouldn't dream of wearing then you can drawn on the fabric to note any changes you plan to make, take it apart, and sew it up again.  If you make a muslin that you want to wear, it's a wearable muslin.  That's what this is, thankfully.

I'm glad I'm trying the fabric out as well, I had those five meters for yonks and only find out now that it isn't great to sew with at all. It is made of thickish white and black threads and if you pierce one the wrong way near the edge you might pop that end out of the fabric.  I no longer plan of doing 'proper' sewing with it - maybe I can use the rest to make the muslin of a coat, or something. I guess I now know why it was so cheap.

I want to transfer the pattern pieces onto lining paper so I can keep this to hand as a template. In aid of that I plonked a sheet of tissue paper on top of the commercial pattern and redrew the pieces.  Good idea right?  It might have been if I had kept my lines in the right place.

Having found that their measurement was narrower than my waist, I added an inch to the front piece. I knew that this would add two inches because you cut the front on the fold.  I really did know that and remembered it in my calculation. I really did.

So imagine my surprise when I tried the raw skirt on after I sewed the side seam. Yep, waaaayyy too big.
And I mean way.  Not just by two inches, but five?  What the hell happened there?

I think I must have cut that new tissue paper way too big, followed the wrong line.  Or something.

I had already overlocked all the edges and seeing as that uses up so much thread I really didn't fancy cutting the pieces narrower and starting over.  Instead I pinched off the excess material at the centre front and made it into an inverted pleat.  I reckon it looks quite good.

Isn't that what they mean by serendipity?  

I did cut the front facing to the actual width - more bulk is definitely not required near my tummy, no thanks. 

I sewed the centre back seam shut with a long stitch and attached the zip by sewing through all layers.  Then I ripped the seam back open.  It worked really well due to the thickness of this fabric. I tried this before on a much thinner fabric and ended up with wavy edges.

My pattern drawing and cutting skills were really not up to scratch: I also ended up with very uneven and skewy bottom edges.  I measured the same distance of 58cm from the top edge all the way round and overlocked this again.  Such a supremely useful thing that an overlocker cuts at the same time.

Then I used that trusty trick of sewing an edge stitch about 1.5cm from the edge in a slightly longer stitch length. Folded and pressed at that stitch line and literally only sewed along the edge again through both layers, this time at just over a centimeter.  That worked really well too: I am really pleased that I kept this stitch line at a very even distance from the bottom hem - I had not been able to be this exact before and the result is beautiful: really neat.  No mark of home-sewn, at least on the outside.

I had the most trouble attaching the side edges of the inner back facing to the zip.  There was too much bulk from the top seam and the overlocked edges.  I ended up cutting a corner off to reduce bulk.  Then I finger pressed the facing side edges, pinned and sewed them down to the zip sides by hand.


It took me about three weeks because I didn't muster a huge amount of enthusiasm.  When you're not all that keen on a fabric then you are not going to feel too inspired about getting it to the wearable stage. But I was so buoyed up by my previous project, the pink top, that I carried on with this and got it done in the same weekend. Happiness is when something works out.

I wore it to work today.  And would you believe it: it is still too loose!  It tends to slip slowly but surely and the front edge ends up below my tummy.  Not a great look.  When it comes to making this in a better fabric I will take it in by another inch or just under.  Good thing I am discovering this from wearing the muslin - if I hadn't I would only figure this out once I wear the finished article.  Then I'd have to redo something to rectify the problem with expensive fabric, and I would find that really depressing and discouraging.  I'm not sure if I'd feel as enthusiastic about sewing more clothes in future.

I reckon that going to the effort of making a muslin might just give you that extra motivation to keep going in a quest to learn and develop technical sewing skills.  It might feel like too much work to make a fabric draft version but when you get a second skirt out of it, it ain't too bad!

Now what sort of fabric shall I use for the 'real' skirt? Hmm...

Sunday, 14 July 2013

A small dent in my stash

This really was a great project to do - not just in terms of how quickly I was able to put it together but also with regards to how much of the fabric I could use up.

Just look at how very little there is left over!

I might be able to get a very small unit (block) of a scrappy quilt out of this.  I like the fabric so much that I will keep these bits for that purpose.  What can I say, I am a terrible hoarder.  Hopefully only of things that are still beautiful and useful.  Thankfully I am able to chuck stuff away that has seen its best or was never that great to begin with. You need to know when to cut your losses: there is nothing worse than keeping something around with the vague hope of a future use - only to find that when you eventually try to use it (as the only item out of goodness only knows how many) - that finally shows up that it is no longer fit for purpose.  Some of the time I just kept stuff because I own in, for no other reason.  Fed up with that.

My main reason for posting this photo is actually not so much the blog post itself.  I want to post this photo on the website My Sewing Circle but it won't allow posts in comments by uploading directly from your computer, you need a URL.  Well, I can give it a URL, no problem.

I like My Sewing Circle: it is an online sewing community.  Like Ravelry (the online community for people who knit or crochet) but obviously for people who sew instead.

They just added new functionality to allow users to put up or download free digital patterns on the pattern pages. Cool.

So here goes: a successful project in how much fabric I could use, how quickly I made it and that I was able to complete it in the first place!

Where the completion of sewing projects is concerned, I wonder if I'm over the mental block... (let's not jinx it)