Monday, 16 December 2013

Christmas Crafting

Last week I went to a lovely workshop to make a Christmas wreath. It was held at Just Cook, a local cookery school run by a friend of mine, and the workshop was run by a lovely lady called Claire from Waterbabyflowers. Claire has a very interesting history having started working in IT, going on a Jane Packer floristry course, then ended up doing flowers for events at The Dorchester Hotel and the Arts Hotel, Barcelona.

I normally make my own wreath by buying a plain wreath with the greenery already attached and then add baubles, berries etc until it looks done. This time I though it would be nice to learn how to do it properly, catch up with some friends and have a glass of wine.

Claire taught us how to attach the moss to our bases, add the pine base layer and then  how to weave in the additional foliage and decorations.  We had pine, thistle, viburnum berries, holly pine cones, cinnamon sticks, rosemary, dried fruit,not to mention gypsophilia that had been sprayed silver and then sprinkled with glitter - nothing like a bit of bling!

This is how mine came home:

The next day I decided that it was too sombre and needed cheering up so I added some crab apples from the garden:

and finally - in position:

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Shirt sewing help....

Two posts in a day, goodness. I need some help - I am making a shirt pattern for the third time so you'd think it would be easier. However when putting the sleeves in I discovered that the sleeves are considerably bigger than the sleeve hole. I have checked all the pattern pieces and they are all the correct size. I have tried easing as much as I can . I have basted the side seam from sleeve to hem and will get Husband to try it on (with eyes closed - it's a pressie) to check the fit. If it is ok, I'll leave it otherwise I'm not sure what to do. Any ideas welcome. Above is a picture to try to illustrate, but I took it after I had basted the sides...

FO: Thread Theory Strathcona Henley in stripes

Image of Strathcona Henley and T-Shirt
Image taken from Thread Theory website
I was very interested to come across the Thread Theory website and blog recently. They are a small husband and wife team in Canada, who started earlier this year producing modern patterns for menswear. Most of the patterns for men in the big 4 pattern companies seem to be pj's, hospital scrubs or the odd shirt. Whilst I have made a couple of shirts and pj's are useful, hospital staff scrubs are not something that Husband has much need for. 

 I have seen some lovely versions of the Strathcona Henley around the Internet and really enjoy sewing for Husband so I downloaded this fairly quickly. It is described as a slim fitting style tee/long sleeved Henley, which concerned me briefly but Husband's measurements fitted into the largest size of the pattern.
Last time we were in London, we went to Goldhawk Road and picked up some heavy-ish jersey/sweatshirt type fabric in a grey and navy stripe, for a wearable muslin. We ended up with the last metre and a half on the roll which seemed fine according to the fabric requirements. 

Unfortunately after washing the fabric it shrank quite considerably, which gave me somewhat of a headache when it came to the cutting layout. I managed to squeeze the main pieces on but had to divide the sleeves in two (along the lengthen/shorten lines) and then cut the neckband, cuffs, placket and hem band out of a navy jersey that I got from Rachel's epic meet up in April. It was quite a quick make and would have been even quicker had I not needed to cut new cuffs and hem band. The pattern directs you to cut these pieces with the stretch going down the piece rather than width ways, which was quite frustrating when trying to stretch something to fit when it really doesn't want to stretch! 

I used both my sewing machine and over locker and managed to use my twin needle successfully again.
Twin needle and placket
I am very pleased with the result, however it is a fraction too small and whilst Husband is currently on a mission to get fitter and slimmer, he feels a little self conscious in something so tight. I think it needs a centimetre or so on the side seams and maybe a little more on the bicep.
tight across upper arms and chest
Bicep and stripe matching on seams

Husband also noted that the cuffs are very deep, so he would like them at probably 2/3rds depth.

When I was pondering my cutting layout I expressed my frustration to Husband, who immediately searched online for some sweatshirt fabric and purchased some more and made sure we had enough to allow for shrinkage! 

I will be making this again, but the once I have washed the fabric, it is going in the queue behind a number of other items, some of which are for Christmas!

Some other great versions of this Henley are:
Blogless Anna
Four square walls - there is great info here on the construction  and cutting the neck & cuffs with width ways stretch, which I wish I had remembered before I cut mine out!
Huff makes stuff here and here - very inspiring posts on sewing menswear for her husband

I think this is the quickest anything has ever made it from the sewing machine to the blog!

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

FO: Lady Skater dress

Image of The Lady Skater sewing pattern (for teens and women)

I have seen this dress by Kitschy Coo popping up around the blogosphere for a while now. The dress started as a pattern for children, but Amanda the designer had so many requests for an adult version, she spent a considerable time drafting a version for us grown-ups! I particularly liked a few that were on the Lady Skater dress tour, this one from Cirque du Bebe, this from Emmyloubeedoo and of course all three dresses from Lladybird. Lastly and most recently I saw this dress by Handmade Jane, which is my current favourite, you'll see why in a bit.

I finally got around to buying the download a few weeks ago and spent a happy evening piecing it all together. I actually quite like doing this - downloadable patterns were how I got back into sewing whilst the family and I were living in New Zealand a while ago.

I was looking for an easy dress that would be easy to wear in winter.  I am a bit bored and cold wearing jeans and tops all the time, so I thought a warm winter dress and wooly tights might be just right. I choose a dark teal/petrol colour of a fabric I have used before here and here - I think it is ponte.  It wears well, sews well and comes in a range of lovely colours.  My only slight problem with it is that it bobbles/pills quite quickly. I have one of those nifty bobble removers, but need put new batteries in it...

Anyway, back to the dress.
photos have been lightened - the perils of winter indoor photography
I cut a size 4 going on my high bust measurement which seems to fit perfectly.  I followed most of the instructions, including the use of clear elastic in the shoulder and waistband seams. I wasn't sure where I would find clear elastic, but to my surprise, John Lewis had it in packs of 3 metres.
Clear elastic at waist

I had bit of a brain freeze working out the neckband instructions -  there didn't seem to be enough of the band to go round the whole neck - and I tried several times. I ended up pinning one end of the neckband to the open shoulder seam and just pulling it tight as I sewed round the neck.  This left me with a small excess of neckband, which I just trimmed off - after checking that it looked ok from the right side. On previous knits I have secured the neckband seam allowance with a zigzag, but this time I tried using a straight stitch, but longer than normal, which has worked fine and looks better on the right side
terrible colour representation
I also followed the instructions to check fit as I went along as this has been an issue in the (very distant) past. I basted it together and found that the waist probably needed moving.  As it was, the waist was neither on my true waist nor my high hip. I decided to raise the waist a couple of inches/5cms to my true waist level, but having worn it a couple of times I rather think I should have lowered it to my high hip. I am sooo unused to having things at my true waist, it just doesn't feel quite right.
trying to show how much I took out of the waist
Having taken quite a wedge out of the bodice, the skirt is a bit shorter than I would normally go for, but as I will be wearing it with tights or leggings (if I ever get round to making some that actually fit) I don't think that will be too much of a problem.

I while ago I bought myself a twin needle to try and improve the finish on my knits.  I tried it on my previous knit make without out success - the machine kept eating the fabric and when I tried my usual trick of putting tissue paper underneath the fabric, the finish was terrible.

I very carefully tested it on a scrap of the same fabric before trying it on my dress. It worked! I was very excited - probably a little more than than was strictly needed, and ran downstairs to show Husband, who made all the right appreciative type noises.
twin needled hem
Also when sewing my hem I used the aptly named 'wonder tape'. This is double sided narrow sticky tape that... dissolves in the wash!  I used it to 'pin' the hem up before I twin needled it and it was so much easier than dealing with pins all the way round.

Over all, I think this is a success. If I make it again I will have to think carefully about where I want the waist to hit, but other than that I am very pleased.  When I wore it the other day my friend didn't realise that I had made it - which is always nice!

And to finish off, some twirling...

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

FO: Stripey 70's vibe top - Burda Raglan Shirt 02/2013 #127

I made my first version of this top earlier this year, in a rather slinky sludge coloured jersey.  I really liked the style and was sure I would make it again. I found a suitable fabric during Rachel's epic meet-up in London in April:
the stripey ribbed fabric at the bottom
I thought that it would be perfect for an Autumn version.  The top was a long time in the making. I had all the bits to make this but couldn't quite find the oomph.  Over the summer we spent a few days with my sister-in law in Norfolk. Whilst the kids were enjoying various water based activities, which I don't enjoy, I finally cut out this top.  My S-i-L has a lovely long dining table and I had the foresight to bring nearly everything I needed, plus tracing paper and the Burda mag so that I could trace off some other patterns.

When laying out the fabric and pattern pieces I realized that I hadn't had the foresight to buy the right quantity of fabric. However..... I did manage to squeak all the pieces out by cutting the sleeves with the stripe running down the sleeve instead of across.

I think the stripe makes me look thicker than I am around the middle...
As you can see it is an interesting look.  I am not entirely convinced, but my girls said it looked good. You can't see in these pictures, but I haven't hemmed the sleeves. The only way I could fit them on was to use the selvedge as the edge of the sleeve - it has a slightly fringed look.
and bustier than I am around the. .. um... bust
I shortened the body again, but not as much as last time, although I think I am wearing different jeans with slightly different pocket placement, so it's hard to tell.
As this fabric was ribbed, it seemed to stretch during sewing.  It seems pretty big all round. 
 It is hard to tell, but the silvery grey stripe is actually sparkly silver.  The colours are very 1970's to me, having been brought up in a house that was decorated in shades of brown, yellow and mustard, with big dark brown corduroy Habitat sofas that were impossible to get out of! It also makes me think of Cagney and Lacey for some reason.

I don't know what the fibre content is, but it feels very man-made. I have worn it several times and I feel simultaneously a bit hot and a bit cool and clammy - which also reminds me of the 1970's. I made it for Autumn, but we seemed to have skipped through that quite quickly, so I will continue to wear it, albeit hidden under another layer of clothing.

Refashion: a black flowery dress

This refashion made it onto the blog in May, but I have had this dress for years.  It is a bias cut dress in what would be called 'maxi length' these days, but was just 'long' when I bought it.

It was from Jigsaw and it is made from a wool crepe I think. I wore it a lot for a while and even managed to wear it to a friends party when I was 8 months pregnant, the bias cut was very accommodating to my large bump. Even though it got a lot of wear, the one thing I didn't like was the neck line - I really don't like high necks. I don't think they are flattering to me and I hate feeling that I am choking. I always thought I could do something about it, but it spent a very long time on my list of things to do.

Earlier this year, I needed a dress for the funeral of Husband's Grandmother. We were told not to be too sombre, so I thought a black dress with flowers might be suitable, and realized this was the perfect time to attempt my refashion..

I cut a good length off the skirt which brought it to my knee. I drew a better neckline on the dress with chalk, basted the dress and lining together along the line that I had drawn then cut into the dress being sure to leave enough for a seam allowance. I had visions of creating a large floppy cowl type collar with the portion of skirt that I had cut off. This didn't quite work - I spent ages pinning and draping, and ended recreating a similar neckline to the Colette Jasmine top, including the little loop to feed 'ties' through.

I only got one photo that day, which can be seen here, but have since worn it to our local Cricket Club Dinner Dance - where Husband received the cup for the highest batting average of the season for the 2nd XI.

Friday, 8 November 2013

What's on my sewing table...

I have been sewing quite a lot recently, but not blogging. There are a few finished items to catch up with, but for starters here is snap of what I am working on right now:

 I have spent far too long looking up attaching neckbands, so I have decided to just get on with it.
This is also the first post I have done on my tablet (with a photo taken with said tablet) so I hope it looks OK!

Friday, 13 September 2013

FO's: I bring tidings of Magpies

More catching up, but this time I am covering three makes in one post:

This all started at the epic meet-up that Rachel of House of Pinheiro organized back in April. I had bought my fabric (still mostly uncut by the way), lunch had been eaten and then the swap began.  I felt a bit bad that I hadn't anything to bring to the swap, but was assured that this didn't matter at all. The swap was divided into three sections, fabric, notions and patterns. In trying to move out of the way (it was pretty busy) I came across Marie from A Stitching Odessey clutching various fabrics on her way to the swap table. One of the fabrics was this amazing magpie jersey:

I managed to snaffle that, with an idea of what to make with it, then on the pattern table I found just the top to action my idea:


I washed all the fabric almost as soon as I got home, so was able to start this top fairly swiftly.The magpie fabric was lovely and soft, I think there was probably between 2 and 3 metres of it. I wanted to make a batwing style top and chose to make view A.  I think I must have been subconsciously inspired by Zoe of So Zo who made her own version a while ago.

I made a size 12 and the only slight change I made was to reduce the width of bottom band by half. The top is pretty long - it would have almost been a dress had I not done this. Here is a very dodgy phone picture:

showing the length of top and bat wing sleeves
and here it is being worn 'normally':

The painting in the background is by Husband's super talented cousin, Bartholomew Beal, who was featured in the Guardian guide exhibition section last week.

Make number two is another top for me, this time a short sleeved top made using the free Kirsten Kimono Tee pattern from MariaDenmark. I made a small, but think I could go down to the extra small as the top is described as having negative ease at the bust and mine is a bit billowy .This was a pretty simple make, apart from the neckband. I had real problems attaching the band and after unpicking it twice, I thought that the fabric probably wouldn't take much more so I just turned the edge over and topstitched using a zigzag stitch. I have worn this top loads over the summer - it was perfect for keeping cool on our hot summer days:

trying to explain the next bit of the walk to distinctly unimpressed kids!
And, last but not least, the last top was made for Eldest as a birthday present.  In the run up to her birthday I had a week 'sewcation' at home with Husband, minus the girls. Husband read books, I sewed - more on that later.  I made another Kirsten Kimono Tee, this time in the extra small using the scraps left from my previous tops and some black jersey. There was not enough to make a whole top so I used what I had to make the back out of the magpie fabric and the front from the black. I had to make a seam down the back to get it to work:

I even went as far as to make a little contrasting pocket in the magpie fabric, but I didn't sew it on. I wanted to give her the choice and I also didn't want to sew it on in the wrong place. I had a play around before I wrapped it up though:

and here it is on the birthday girl, she chose not to have the pocket:

I love all of these tops, thanks to Marie for giving up her fabric and here's to three free tops.

A 'tiding' is one of the many names for a group of magpies, others being gulp, murder, or charm. I wasn't quite sure how incorporate 'gulp' or 'murder' into a post title!

Friday, 6 September 2013

FO: In the Navy - Fleece Renfrew

This is the first of several catch-up posts. This top first saw the light of day in MMM13.


I had seen earlier in the year that Winnie of ScruffyBadger had made a fleece cowl neck Renfrew and I mentally filed that away as 'something to think about'. May was pretty chilly I seem to remember, and our local market has a fabric stall at the Tuesday market selling fleece at £3.99 a metre. This seemed pretty reasonable and I think I bought a metre and a half. I squeezed a three quarter sleeve top out of it with minimal scraps.  I have a RTW jumper that is navy with three quarter sleeves which I was trying to copy sorry, use as inspiration.

It is not the most successful top I have made. I didn't take into account that the fleece has hardly any stretch. I made the same size as my Autumnal Renfrew, but after getting trapped in my top the first time I tried it on and having to get Middlest to peel it off me, I unpicked the side seams and sewed again with minimal seam allowances. Unpicking navy stitching in a navy fabric that the stitches just seem to disappear in... not recommended.  I also made the rooky error of not checking the length of the three quarter sleeves. Guess what? they are too short. The cuff seam lands right at the crook of my elbow which is really uncomfortable - mid forearm would have been ideal. 

cuff seam at elbow

 And lastly, the stitching round the neck band - which is really necessary in this fleece to hold the seam allowance down - is too tight:

Strange wrinkles from neck to armhole

It pulls the fabric in somehow and makes it look a bit odd. I really must unpick it and either try a different stitch tension or try hand sewing it down, but given the comment above, I am not super keen to do that!

Close up of strange wrinkles

 It is wearable, but in a 'pottering about the house' kind of way rather than 'out in public' kind of way. Oh well, not everything is as successful as I'd like and at least I know what not to do next time!

Monday, 2 September 2013

Summer time

Before the summer holidays I didn't have much time to sew or blog for various reasons. During the summer holidays we've been busy having fun.  Here's an idea of what we've been up to:

Hampton Court Castle & Gardens, Herefordshire

Ellesmere Lake, Shropshire

Hawkstone Park, Shropshire
Trebarwith Sands, Cornwall

Golitha Falls, Cornwall

Cheesewring, Cornwall


Build a boat, Burnham Overy Staithe

Godricks Hollow, Harry Potter Studio Tour

Picking sweetcorn in the garden
Back to school tomorrow...

I still have a lot of makes to put up here and I have managed to do quite a bit of sewing over the holiday, which doesn't normally happen. They will appear here in due course.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

FO:Sludge coloured top - Burda Raglan Shirt 02/2013 #127

This top first appeared in MMM13 and is a top that I started during a quiet patch in the Wedding sewing.  I had a short period of time where I couldn't do much on my sister's dress until she had tried it on.  She very kindly, at my request, bought the February issue of the Burdastyle magazine for me as my local WH Smiths doesn't stock it. I had had a flick through on previous trip, and dithered about it, but I kept thinking back to this top and a couple of variations in the magazine.

I used a slinky, olivey sludgy grey viscose jersey which I bought in Goldhawk Road towards the end of  2011. I think I had a little over a metre but it was very wide and managed to squeeze the top out of it. During this quiet patch, I cut out the top and gathered the appropriate section of the sleeves.

Wedding sewing picking up again, so this was put to one side for sometime. It was a reasonabley quick sew taking a couple of evenings . I started sewing it on my overlocker - I sewed one sleeve piece onto the back, and then reverted to sewing the rest on my sewing machine and just finishing the seams on the overlocker. I was a bit nervous about making an mistake with the blade down and the jersey was so slinky I felt I couldn't control it through the machine properly.  I ended up sewing most of the seams with tissue under the fabric to stop the sewing machine eating it up.

I sort of followed the Burda instructions, known for being on the incomprehensible side. By which I mean that I did what I thought I should do, read the instructions, thought 'oh good, done that bit then', and moved on. The neck was a bit more tricky. I read and reread the instructions and then used Melissa from Fehr Trade's instructions for putting on a neck band as described in her post about the top she made from this pattern


I never know at this point, whether to do the top stitching of the neck band with a zigzag or straight stitch.  The neck is wide enough that it doesn't need to stretch over my head, so maybe next time I'll try a straight stitch.

Youngest took this picture which explains the dodgy angle

I had noted from Melissa's post and a couple of other people's that it was very long in the body and sleeves.  I really like long sleeves, so thought I would wait and see on the length of the body.  Having done everything except the hem I tried it on and was initially very disappointed.  It made me look a bit frumpy and matronly (Ohhh, Matron!!). I then showed it to Husband, who took one look at it and said 'there's something wrong with the length'. As soon as I tucked the hem up and had it at hip length rather than top of thigh length, it made all the difference.  That difference was roughly 10cms, possibly more. If you look at the picture below, the original length would have been to the bottom of the back pockets.

not sure what I am doing in this picture!

I have worn it a lot, although it was mostly covered up during May due to the miserable and pretty cold weather that we had. I recently packed away my winter wear for a couple of months, but I will be keeping this one out to tide me over on cooler summer days.

When I joined Rachel and all the other sewists for the epic London meet-up, I found another bolt of the same stuff (or possibly even the same one) and nearly bought some more. Instead I found some brown and sparkly striped jersey knit especially to repeat this top for the autumn. Look out for the next one (with my record it could be some time!)