Making presents

Hello, Happy New Year! As you might have guessed I am a big fan of knitting and sewing in general so it follows that I would also be a big fan of knitting and sewing my own Christmas presents. Here are a few that I made this year:

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These are some lavender pillows for keeping drawers smelling nice. I saw something similar at a craft fair before Christmas and I thought they looked pretty easy to replicate. I used bits of left over fabric that I had and got a big bag of lavender from the awesome vegetarian shop down the road for just a pound! I’m very pleased with the way these have turned out and I really enjoyed making them. I was quite tempted to make a set for myself actually!

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This is a pair of oven gloves I made for my mum. Sorry for the rubbish photo. They were a bit too long to fit in. You’ll just have to trust me that they look good! I used a pattern from a Cath Kidston book and some fabric I already had. These were my first experiment with wadding but it was much simpler than I feared. Getting the bias binding to look neat was surprisingly tricky but I could solve that another time by not taking the wadding all the way up to the edge. My walking foot came in very handy for these. I’m not quite sure how you’d manage otherwise!

I also made a little pair of hand warmers for my sister.

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These are a pair of Sherwood Mitts by Pam Allen. I made them in Garnstudio DROPS Nepal. I’ve made these hand warmers before, also as a Christmas present, and I really enjoyed knitting them both times. The pattern is pretty easy to remember and as the wool is nice and chunky they come together quickly. I need to get around to making a pair for myself at some point!

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Coco also got into the spirit of Christmas and let me decorate her cage. She loves Christmas because she is a massive fan of brussel sprouts and also cardboard boxes. She doesn’t like it so much when we try and dress her up in a Christmas hat though….

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Anna dress V.1

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I am very cold in this picture…..it’s not warm enough for this dress yet….

I was so enthused by the success of my darling ranges dress  that I started my Anna straight away. I popped down to Dalston Mill to pick up some cheap fabric to make a practise version first. Unfortunately I accidentally came across some really special cottony fabric which was quite expensive (well as much as Dalston Mill is ever expensive) and I had to buy it! I’d been warned that the Anna dress can have a few fitting issues so I didn’t want to risk cutting into my pretty fabric straight away. I dug about in my fabric box and I found some cheap fabric I got over at Walthamstow market ages ago. It’s entirely inappropriate for Anna as it’s got a very busy pattern and I am far too lazy to bother with pattern matching…..plus its a light fabric but in wintery colours.  It was the only fabric that I had enough of so I decided that it would do.

I was very good with this pattern and I took the time to trace  off the pattern rather than just cutting it straight out. The pattern was super easy to follow and I didn’t run into any problems with it at all. As I got sewing I started to like the fabric more and more realised that it wasn’t quite such a hideous pattern after all!

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I have no idea why I’m pulling that face but I’m quite enjoying the picture!

For some reason I was feeling very well behaved and I actually hand sewed the sleeves. They look very pretty awesome even if I do say so myself!

I haven’t had the greatest success with invisible zips in the past. To improve my chances I decided to take the plunge and invest in an invisible zip foot. I found a cheap generic one online and it fits my machine perfectly.  I am very pleased with my purchase- it pretty much did all of the hard work for me. I still struggled a little bit with my pinning and tacking and it took me three goes to get it right but I got there in the end!

I’m really pleased with my dress, I think it’s even good enough to wear in public! As the fabric is cheap it’s not the most flattering to wear. It’s a little bit unforgiving and tends to cling a little more than would be ideal…..The fabric I’ve got for my final dress is thicker so fingers crossed  I won’t have that issue again.

I need to make a few alterations for the final version. I think I need to allow myself a bit more room at the waist. It’s nice to have the bodice properly fitted but it emphasises the size of my bum far more than I’d like at the moment! I’ll also make it a bit shorter – I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me when I was cutting out the pattern pieces that I should  check the length.

I am very excited about the final version of the dress!

*Drum roll* I’ve finally finished my darling ranges dress!

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I don’t know why I’m tugging at the pockets in this photo. I was having a particularly non-photogenic day and this picture was the best of a bad bunch!

If you’re a regular reader of the blog you might remember me starting work on the Megan Nielsen Darling Ranges dress. At first I was super excited and raring to get going. I picked some lovely leafy fabric I’d got from Walthamstow market for a few quid a metre and was happily working my way through the instructions and then disaster struck! The kind of idiotic error that saps all of the joy out of a project. I mistook my skirt pattern pieces for scrap fabric and cut into them for pockets! AHHHHHHHH. Then I proceeded to have a tantrum and call my Mum (I won’t pretend it was one of my most mature moments). Thankfully Mum came to rescue and got me going again but the joy went right out of the project for me. The project sat, looking rather unloved in the basket for some months. Every now and again I’d pick it up and do a tiny bit of work, a sleeve here and a bit of bodice there, but without any real momentum.

One of the reasons I carried on withe the dress rather than just starting again (like a sensible person) was the lovely fabric. It might be cheap (and probably very flammable!) but I love it! The pattern is so pretty and it hangs beautifully! It’s got a really autumnal feel to it and it’s unusual without being too insane. Plus the tiny pattern meant I didn’t need to bother with lots of pattern matching.

Sometimes a girl needs to be strict with herself and I decided that I was going to make myself finish the dress before I started on anything else. I have the pattern and some super pretty fabric for an Anna dress which I am desperate to get started on but first of all this one needed to get finished.

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The binding on the neckline looks lovely and neat – it’s a pretty touch!

Once I got started again I really enjoyed the sewing. I’d last stopped at the plackets because they looked super confusing and I’d never done that sort of thing before. It took me a while to figure out what I was doing with the folds and even longer to work out that the bias tape would be on the inside not the outside! In the end I figured it out from the tutorial – I don’t know why I didn’t just google it in the first place!

Once I’d got the neckline sorted out everything else went quite quickly. I was a little bit worried about the button holes as my fabric pen wasn’t showing up and I didn’t want to ruin the whole thing right at the end. After a bit of fiddling about I used tape to mark my placements in the end. I just sewed right through the tape and then peeled off the bits that were showing.  It’s not textbook technique (and probably isn’t very good for my needle or machine) but it actually worked pretty well!  The fabric is a bit prone to fraying so I think it might be reinforcing the button holes a little bit!

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The last step was to add the pockets. Pockets were essential to cover up the marks on the fabric where I accidentally cut through it. I didn’t have much choice about placement so I just measured the size I would need and went for it. I found this tutorial very helpful. Given that these were my first attempt at patch pockets I think they’ve come out pretty well!

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As I’d left the dress laying around for such a long time I had a few problems with epic fraying. I had to reinforce a few of the edges before sewing them because it looked like it was going to fray right through. Even with the extra care in sewing I think I’ll need to be very careful with this dress or it might just fall apart!

I am super duper pleased with my efforts. I really like the style of the dress, it’s very flattering, and the fabric falls very nicely indeed! I’ve already worn it out and about a few times  and had some compliments! It’s a slightly sheer fabric and the neckline is a little low so I had to buy a slip to go with it. I’ve never actually got around to buying a slip before but I am an instant convert. I can’t tell you how refreshing it was not to spend the whole day pulling down my skirt due to weird skirt/tight static making it ride up.

I love this dress and I think I’ll be making it again!

Christmas pinny for my Mum

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It’s always a bit of a challenge to think of something to make for a more seasoned crafter than yourself. My Mum is a case in point; while she’s always super grateful for anything I make her she would almost certainly be able to make herself a better version if she wanted….However to keep with my plan of making a little something for everyone I needed to think of something. In the past I’ve knitted various shawls which seemed to be well received      (although you can never tell if people just get things out of the cupboard to artfully display when you come round…) but this year I hadn’t left myself enough time….. I started thinking about things I knew that she would use and I came up with a pinny. My Mum can often be spotted in a pinny about the house (which would probably explain why she doesn’t ever suffer with the mystery bleach stains which appear on my clothing at random) so it’s something that I know will get used.

I thought it would be pretty easy to find an apron pattern as its a fairly bog standard item to make. I was very wrong indeed! It took quite a lot of hunting to find something appropriate…… for some reason the internet is crammed full of patterns for frilly, floral aprons in a variety of shades of pastel most of which only cover about 10 inches of a person’s bottom half (for people who mysteriously only spill stuff down their thighs?). I was a little bit confused……I didn’t realise that aprons came in frilly pink for ladies or blue for mens (which are all ‘butchers aprons’ because apparently men don’t cook or clean???)….I thought they were just one size in neutral colours? Even if we put aside my aesthetic preferences my Mother is  about as far from a wearer of frilly pinnies as you can get! In the end I found this one. I was super pleased. A normal unisex  apron my Mum could actually wear!

I got myself down to Dalston Mill for some suitable fabric. They helped me to find a nice cotton twill with a lovely green and cream stripe plus some cream tape. I’m very taken with the fabric; its nice and thick and feels a bit like canvas. For some reason I decided to buy two metres when I could easily have done with one. It was a ridiculously easy fabric to work with; not even a hint of slipping about! Plus it was nice to be working with a fabric that will take a really good steam after the jersey I’ve been using lately. It’s so much easier if you can press a nice flat hem before you sew.

The pattern was super easy to follow. Some measurements, a couple of lines to draw and I had everything cut out. It was really quick to sew up. A challenge is good sometimes but I do enjoy giving my brain a rest and sewing straight lines! As the hems got a bit thick (especially with the cotton tape in there) I used my walking foot. It made a huge difference and made it super easy.

I couldn’t be more pleased with the way that the pinny turned out. I really wanted to keep it for myself. I hope my Mum likes it!

Hemlock top

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Please ignore the messy bedroom! This was the only angle that I could manage to prop my camera up so that I could take a picture of my whole body with the timer. 

I very much like things that are free so I was very excited to have a go at the Hemlock Tee pattern from Grainline Studio. I am a big fan of  boxy shapes and knitted fabrics so it was a perfect project for me.

As with most free patterns you need to download the pattern, cut out the squares, stick them together and then cut out the pattern pieces.  It’s a bit tedious but then if you haven’t paid for it you can’t complain!

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Coco ‘helping’ me to cut out my pattern…..

I used the left over fabric from Vogue V8792. The patten asks for a tissue knit but I reckon jersey is pretty similar….I didn’t quite have enough to do it properly so I had to bodge it a bit by ignoring the grain line and cutting the back in half and adding a centre back seam. The two colours were more of a necessity given the amount of fabric I had rather than a design choice but I think it’s worked out rather well!

 

Before I started doing the actual sewing I did a bit of research to try and improve my jersey sewing skills.  I discovered that I could help improve the appearance of my stitches with a walking foot and then by some sort of miracle when I dug about in my sewing box I found that I actually had one! Yay! I got lots of embroidery stuff with my  machine and because I haven’t done any embroidery I didn’t think to check it.

The walking foot turned out to be really useful and it really did improve the look of my stitches. I was really pleased! Everything looked much neater and less stretched.

I got a bit confused about the neck and I had to consult my sewing guru, Kathryn. She pointed me in the direction of this tutorial which was super helpful. My first attempt wasn’t very successful. It was both a  bit puckery and far too high…..

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A huge neck band! Sorry for the dark picture it seems to have been raining for the past few weeks….

Luckily I’d just tacked it on to see how it would look so it wasn’t too much of struggle to unpick it. I cut it down to a more sensible size and then tried again. This time, on Kathryn’s advice, I didn’t tack but just pinned and got right on with sewing. It was much easier than I thought it would be and I’m really pleased with the way it came out.

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The neckline looks a bit puckered here but it looks fine on.

I’m really pleased with my efforts and I’ve  been wearing it constantly for the past couple of days! I think I’ll make another one in one colour with longer sleeves and longer body.

My first experiment with jersey: Vogue – V8792

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I probably should have given this a quick press before I took the photos

I wear A LOT of jersey. It makes up the bulk of my tops. However I’ve always been too frightened to have a go at sewing with it. I’ve been convinced that it would be super hard and end up looking rubbish. I had my mind changed when  I was staying with my lovely friend Dani who was telling me how easy it was and showing me some of the awesome things she’d made. She was so keen for me to give it a go she gave me her pattern!

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I made option B

When I got back to London I dashed over to trusty old Dalston Mill for some fabric. I found the most amazing bright yellowy green. I’m normally quite boring with my colour selection (grey, brown, cream….) but for some reason I was really drawn to this one. I think it might be because I’d been looking at the Grainline Hemlock Tee just before I left the house. To go with the yellow I went for grey, I really love grey…

As I was just borrowing the pattern it would have been rude to amend it for myself so I traced it off instead. This turned out to be easier said than done. I’ve always used good old fashioned greaseproof paper for tracing patterns in the past. However, since baking has got all popular all the products have got fancier…..and the fancy new greaseproof paper will not stick to sellotape no matter how hard you try! I spent rather a lot of time trying to stick bits back together and work out where everything was supposed to go….

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The fancy new greaseproof paper is also a totally different colour.

If I’m totally honest my cutting out for this pattern was a little slap dash.  We don’t have a table big enough to cut things out on (well we sort of do but it’s covered in stuff) so I had to cut the pattern out on the floor. My crappy arthritic knees don’t like it when I’m crawling about on the wooden floor so I ended up hurrying a bit to get it over with. Maybe I need some sort of a kneeler (or to actually clear the table)!

The fabric was lovely to work with and super soft. It was pretty easy to sew with (once I found the stretch stitch on my machine). I had to keep a pretty close eye on the stitches because somewhere between the machine and the fabric there was a tendency to get all knotted up and leave a huge hole.

I really like the effect of the two colours. Although I got super confused about what should go where when I was sewing together. I spent quite a long time pinning various bits to other bits to try and work out what to do. Vogue could really do with some clearer pictures in their patterns!

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Here’s the back

Because I am lazy I decided to see what would happen if I used bias binding for the neck rather than doing it out of jersey. I do love bias binding and I thought the colour looked good with the grey and the yellow. As you can see from the pictures it didn’t quite work out….. It’s one of those things that it totally obvious really; a stretchy fabric + a non stretchy binding = one stretched out neckline…. I decided that this is going to be a design feature and I’ll just wear it off my shoulders. I’m going to pretend I did it on purpose!

I really like this top. It’s a bit long (I couldn’t work out how the bits would fit together so I couldn’t shorten it) but that makes it a very good top for yoga and the brightness makes it even better for cycling to yoga. I think I’ll make another one probably shorter and wider but first I’m going to make a Grainline Hemlock Tee out of my leftover jersey (fingers crossed I have enough). I love a free pattern!

Epic sewing fail…..can you fix a massive cut in your pattern pieces?

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I’ve been pottering along making a Megan Nielsen Darling ranges dress for quite a while now. I haven’t had as much time for sewing as I’d like lately so it’s taking me quite a while. I was super excited a few weeks ago when I finally had time to get sewing. I was making decent progress and was pinning on the pockets when I realised I had cut two rather than four. “Never mind,” I though, “I can just use this handy bit of spare fabric over here”. I pinned on the pattern and took a massive snip and then “ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” the handy bit of fabric was actually the skirt front! Both pieces of skirt front! A calmer sewer would have thought pragmatically about how they could fix it. Instead my poor boyfriend was subjected to some rather choice swear words and some (probably quite comically sulky) chucking about of fabric (he didn’t laugh at me though as he is awesome).

Once I’d calmed down (and stopped acting like a crazy lady) I issued a crafting SOS to my Mum (who is awesome at sewing) to see if there was any solution that a sewer of my limited experience could pull off. Luckily she had a plan. Fix the slit with Interfacing! I was rather nervous about taking it on myself so I waited until she came to visit a week or so later and happily  passed over the interfacing ironing duties. Through many years practice patching up various things (including numerous pairs of jeans when I was a teenager- I don’t know what I did to them) she managed to line the slit in the fabric up so that it was almost invisible. She warned me that it wouldn’t hold on its own so I hand stitched around the outside to keep it in place.  I’m very lucky that the fabric wasn’t prone to fraying or it would have been a massive mess.

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This is the wrong side but it’s looking very right sidey in this photo for some reason

 

It’s an amazing fix but the mistake isn’t totally invisible from the other side so I’ll need to cover it up somehow (for some reason I forgot to take a picture from the right side). At the moment I’m thinking patch pockets will be the way forward. Luckily for me I cut the fabric in a fairly patch pockety place. So the plan is to wait until the end and then double up some fabric for nice square pockets. My only worry is that is will be in a fairly unflattering place (adding bulk to my hips)  however it should still look like that’s what I meant to do!

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I’m getting closer to finishing. I’ve sewn the skirt front and back and attached the bodice to the skirt. Hopefully I’ll have some sewing time very soon and I can get it finished and see how it looks! It’s got buttons all the way down the front which is always exciting as I love using my automatic button hole!