Tuesday, 1 September 2015

(Mis)adventures in jersey…

… or how I realised I will always be the one following a pattern. I knew from the start that there were going to be problems. The idea of improvising fills me with dread. I am always the one who likes to follow instructions, and if I carry them out well, I’m pretty happy. That whole thing of going with the flow and things then unexpectedly turning out brilliantly just doesn’t work for me. It normally ends in a dodgy end result.

I had a couple of great pieces of knit fabric - one with mermaids on from our recent trip to Holland, and one half metre piece of stripes from my mum’s first failed attempt at buying fabric online. To be fair I should have forewarned her about the whole FQ/metre check: this is a woman who still starts all her Google searches with www.

Rigorous PJ testing chez Knitty
The girls both needed summer PJs, and as luck would have it, my MIL gave me her latest Prima pattern which included a girl’s skort. That bit was fine, the pattern is really simple, so the undershorts quickly became the bottoms for the PJs. I’m still contemplating an overlocker, and this project did make me wish for one, as the pinked seam edges do curl a little bit. 

To make the vest tops, I took one of Girl 1’s RTW tops and traced, adding seam allowance, and feeling fairly smug that this would look awesome. I added bindings to the armholes and neck, and I think that’s where it all went wrong. Guesswork is definitely not my friend and I ended up with a titchy tight top. Luckily I have a Girl 2 that it fits perfectly, so with a bit of adjustment, I managed to make a second, bigger top. And judging by the pics, they seem to both like them…

Perhaps somewhat stupidly, I then moved onto the stripy fabric with the idea of making a summer dress for Girl 1. She is almost allergic to trousers, so I figured this would be a useful addition to her wardrobe. Using the bigger template of the PJ vest I drew out a longer dress, which I thought I would cinch in with an elastic waistband. It took about three attempts to get it all even - I think there was just way too much fabric in there versus the waistband stretch. 

My first and probably last attempt at non pattern drafting
I tried a new way of attaching arm and neck hole edgings where you fold the strip and zigzag it to the edging. I liked this a lot, but the edgings do seem to stick out a bit now. I also think I made the mistake of getting Girl 1 to try on the dress before the edgings went on, because the neckline seems way out of shape and I think we stretched it as she tore it off to get on with something more exciting. So far, this one seems to be staying in the closet, so not the biggest success. Anyone have any advice on how I could improve on this disaster?

The neckline of doom

It’s pretty safe to say that I’ll be sticking to patterns from now on, maybe with some minimal alterations from my side. It’s clear that I am never going to be a designer!!!!! 

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

My first attempt at curtains

Hello again! It's been a while! So much for my good intentions for keeping this blog up to date, but to be honest, there's not been a huge amount to report on.

We've been busy doing up my office room which will not only house me and my laptop on my working from home days, but will also become a dedicated place for my sewing machine to sit. At the moment I end up dragging the machine and all of its associated gubbins downstairs once the small ones are in bed in order to get a bit of a project done. This inevitably ends up with me managing to do about 90 minutes sewing on a good night, before other jobs call me away, or Mister Knitty declares it to be Breaking Bad on Netflix time. The latter is no bad thing, because i. Breaking Bad is our new obsession (yes we are very late to the game) and ii. I get to continue with my knitting WIP, the beautiful Northmavine hoodie by Kate Davies. I'm loving the colours in this pattern and also working with the beautiful Shetland yarn again.

But whilst my lair of sewing joy is still in progress, I've been trying to finish a couple of projects at either end of the sewing spectrum in terms of size and scale. First up: curtains for the lounge.

Sewing on a grand scale

I'm sure there are a billion tutorials on curtain making - actually, I know there are a billion tutorials, as I waded through heaps of them. So I am not going to even attempt to add to that. Instead, a few things that I learnt during making mine:

1. Choosing a busy print is a great idea if you can't be bothered matching: I did take a look at whether I could match up the pattern on the fabric we chose (Ester from Scion), but there is so much going on that it makes no real difference. A lot of curtain fabrics are so expensive, the last thing you want to be doing is scrapping a whole lot just to get a match when you don't need it
Busy pattern for a lazy sewist
2. Straight lines with such huge seams is not fun. I am not particularly good at staying straight even with small projects, so I knew this would end up a little wonky. Marking with chalk along the pattern line did help a lot

3. Let the curtains hang a little before hemming. This helps to resolve any wonkiness achieved in point 2. Once they've settled, it's quite easy to pin up a fairly neat hem to make sure it matches up

This project also helped me to practice some hand hemming, which I loved doing. Normally I loathe hemming and it always looks appalling, but I am really pleased with the finish of these.

Handhemming FTW

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Brooklyn Tweed Atlas for Little Knitty 1

I absolutely adore Brooklyn Tweed's designs, and when I saw the Atlas pattern in last year's kids' collection, I knew it was one for me. Beautiful colours, fair isle-style yoke, sweater and cardigan options. All boxes ticked.

Next choice: yarn. I'd recently bought some Debbie Bliss Rialto DK in a sale somewhere, thinking that it would definitely end up as something for one of the girls. I thought it would be suitable in terms of weight, but it would lose some of the aran feel of the Brooklyn Tween yarns that are recommended. I still can't wait to knit with some of those. I matched this bright blue up with a couple of balls from my stash. The pattern suggests that the child could pick out the yarn colours, but to be honest we would have been stuck with some very random choices, so I did kind of wave them at her and then carried on regardless.

The pattern is very easy to follow and I learned some very neat little techniques for a provisional cast on, and even the method for picking up stitches without leaving gaps is something I'll use from now on. Others on Ravelry have mentioned that the short rows aren't particularly essential. I'm not too sure, but I still struggle with keeping my stitch markers at the right position, so hopefully mine aren't too wonky.

The colour chart is very clear, and I like that on each row, it's set out which yarn should be dominant. I probably shouldn't say this, but I actually thought that it didn't matter which yarn went where. I know, I should be stripped of my needles. It was a real eye opener for me to see the texture that came through when I actually followed the instructions properly. I know. Lesson learnt.

And then, of course, there's the steek. I've done one previously for my Little Birds cardigan, and I remember that I wasn't nervous at all, just excited. This one would have been simple, however for some reason my steek seemed to shift around (looks as though those short rows weren't that accurate), so I decided to machine stitch two rows to make sure that the steek was properly secure before cutting. Everything has stayed where it needed too, but the yarn is quite smooth, so it's not going to felt in as much as more aran-type yarns would do. So, I'm not too keen on the messy interior, but I made sure the button bands were nice and wide to make sure it's all hidden away.

I am really pleased with how this one turned out, but as always when knitting for small ones, it's always a worry that the garment you've just spent weeks and months slaving over is stuffed into a drawer and forgotten about. But judging by the pics, I don't think that will be the case for this one.

I think she likes it

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Simplicity Blogger Challenge: Practical Picking Up Pockets Skirt

Well, the good news is that my sewing machine is now back from the dealers, which is awesome. The bad news is that they basically told me that they can’t do anything for it (I felt like I was in some bad daytime hospital drama), and that I should basically run it until it breaks and then put the money I would have spent repairing it towards a new machine. 

Skirt and slippers: the best combination
So, it may be squeaking a little, but it’s managed to keep going long enough for me to finish my entry for the Simplicity Blogger Challenge. When I first saw the competition, I had literally just started with the whole blogging thing, so I thought it was serendipitous timing. It was lovely to get an email back from the Simplicity team and get the pattern in the post.

And then the worries kicked in. I’ll be totally honest, I was really worried about the whole customising and embellishment part. It’s the bit in the Sewing Bee that always fills me with dread, and I’m pretty certain that if ever in that position, I would panic, go totally over the top and the whole thing would look like a very bad day in a Home Ec classroom. 

But then I started to think more about how I could make my skirt practical and suited to my style and my life. First things first: I would need to seriously lengthen it! The pattern pieces looked super short, which is no bad thing, but I knew it would be more my style in a longer length. This was a simple enough process, although I managed to slice through the oilcloth on our dining room table in a ‘missing the cutting mat’ incident…yeah, try explaining that one away to the family the next morning…

Lengthening the skirt panels, with some fruity improvised weights

For another practical reason, I decided on View C with patch pockets. With two small Knitties in the house, I constantly find myself picking up random toys, pencils, dinosaurs, counters from various rooms, and stick them in my pockets to transport them back to their rightful places. I am basically a walking version of The Stairs rule. So, massive pockets were a definite yes.

The fabric is a fantastic medium-to-heavyweight cotton from a recent trip to London where I snuck in a trip to Goldhawk Road and its frankly amazing array of fabric shops. When I lived in London after university, I was literally 100m from this, but I didn’t sew, so never went in. Tsk. Anyway, I loved the pattern and thought it would have enough oomph (technical term there) to make the most of the volume in the gathers.

With a bit of measuring and a bit of luck, the pockets seem to be on fairly straight, which was one of my main concerns, as any wonkiness would be pretty obvious. I thought the little facings, where you turn out the tops to make a neat edge were a neat little finish. 

When it came to the gathers, I decided to do three lines of running stitch, as I remember reading that it can make the process much more stable, and I have to say it did make it an easy job. I was surprised how loose I needed to make the gathers to fit the waistband - I’d envisioned loads of material squiged into the waist, but it’s a much neater line.

Three lines good

I knew I wanted to make the bottom edge a bit more interesting, and I was reminded of one of my very favourite RTW skirts, which has a pleated bottom. I’ve never really attempted pleats, but I thought if I pinched up each pleat, pressed and sewed three lines of neat stitching to strengthen each pleat, it would make a smart, but not too home-eccy finish. Although sewing in a straight line is definitely not one of my strong points, I’m pretty happy with the effect. 

I am so pleased with how this has turned out and I will definitely be wearing this heaps. It’s super comfy for working from home (as well as the ongoing collecting of small people’s random treasures from about the house), but smart enough to get out for the school run. I’ve also loved seeing everyone else’s entries and there are some really fantastic ideas that I will be trying out with my next versions!

Thursday, 14 May 2015

How Me Made May is going for me

OK, so I thought I'd have a bit of a round up about how MeMadeMay is going. To be honest, I didn't think that I would be able to manage it initially, until I realised (once I'd read Zoe's post properly) that I could make my own pledge, and wearing homemade stuff three times each week is working out OK. Plus I got a teeny bit tiddly on May 1, thought 'sod it' and posted a photo on Instagram. So basically I blame gin for all of this.

Still, it's been quite fun, and actually a pretty good experience for a few reasons. First of all, it made me brave enough to wear and share the things I've made to people further than my immediate family (who basically have to say they like them or I start limiting cake and TV access). And the response has been really lovely, and thank you to all the sewing peeps who I've never met, but whom I am very pleased to hear from - see this is why I love social media sometimes.

Second of all, I've dusted down some old favourites, like my Ysolda Little Birds sweater, which I had almost forgotten about. It's definitely made me think about how I can get these back into regular circulation in my wardrobe - especially the knitted things that took weeks (and in many cases months) to finish.

Third of all, it's given me the oomph that I needed to finish a few things off. I'd had a Clothkits Rob Ryan skirt sitting in the adjusting pile for ages, because i. I didn't really know how to reduce the massive waist (anyone else find this with their kits?) and ii. there was always something far more interesting to be doing. But I was spurred on, and the end result is not bad at all.

So, so far, so good. Let's see how I get on with the second half of the month (although I am tempted just to stay in my new Buchanan gown for the entirety of May and lounge my way through. How has it been for you?

Friday, 1 May 2015

Me Made May

OK, having deliberated for a looonnng time about this, I am going to give Me Made May a go. There's no way that I can manage every day, unless I wear the ultimate in a capsule wardrobe, but I hope to wear at least three items every week.

This is my first time doing the challenge, and I am really looking forward to being part of it all....

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

The irony of a broken sewing machine giving you more time to blog...about sewing...

So, I find myself with a little more time on my hands. Why? Because, of course now that I am getting into my sewing groove, my dear machine decided to start playing up. I've been having a great time relishing the ability to produce finished (not perfect, but finished) projects in just a few days, rather than the weeks a similar garment would take through knitting. I should have known that my usual luck with engineering was about to start mocking me and generally putting a stopper on it all. It's now in with the repairs guys in Eccles, but there's a three week wait at the moment :( I suppose that is the price to pay for sewing having been neglected and then having a sudden renaissance: there isn't as many technical folk out there anymore.

Anyway, there are a few things that I have been meaning to blog about on here, so I should use my free time wisely. Or obviously continue with the Netflix/knitting winning combo. First up is a Buchanan dressing gown from the lovely Gather Kits team. I still have a Mortmain pattern that has been waiting patiently since Christmas, and I swear it is next on the list, but Mama Knitty's birthday was earlier this month and I decided to try and make her something this year. I'd been eyeing up the pattern for a while, but because their fabric choices were so delicious, I decided to go for one of their kits. And I am so pleased I did. I loved making this, and the purple edging is so nice. The fabric is super soft - I am half tempted to email and find out where it's from. I have a feeling that most of the family will soon be wearing one of these lovelies...

I try and go on a bit of a 'one for me, one for them' loop of making stuff, and so my make for me was a Sorbetto top with some scrumptious lotus flower print from the recent(ish) John Lewis sale. I have absolutely no idea if the fabric is supposed to be for quilting and not dressmaking, but I figure at the moment, every project is helping me improve, so I don't really care. It's not like I look like I've got a tablecloth on or anything. Well at least I hope not... This was my first time making and using my own bias binding. I love the finish of it, but I am not sure my cutting/ironing/stitching was particularly precise. There's a bit of a megabump at the back of the neck, but overall, I'm really pleased with this.

Fancy new specs and my first attempt at bias binding

And finally, a little summer dress for the littlest Miss Knitty, which is a Burda BD9460. I found this beautiful fabric in The Fabbadashery in Halifax where I grew up, and I couldn't resist it. This sadly was the dress that broke the Brother's back. Having gleefully made the dress in a couple of evenings, and proudly showed off my straightest seams to date, I started on the buttonholes, only to find my machine would do the first side just fine, but the second side either unthreaded the needle halfway through, or was far thinner than the first. Let's just say the unpicking nearly destroyed me. Thankfully the husband heard my cursing from the next room and volunteered to unpick them instead. That, reader, is why I married him.

Still waiting for buttonholes

So, for the foreseeable I am going to get as much stuff as I can cut out, and get to work on the next knitting project. I am also planning on entering the Simplicity Bloggers challenge (hey in for a penny, in for a pound with this whole blogging malarky), so I am just hoping I'll still have time once the sewing fairies have done their work.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Project pouffe

Almost by accident we moved into a new house last September. We had just started to think that we should keep an eye on the market, when BOOM out of nowhere, a great house appeared, right in the area we wanted, at a price we could afford. Awesome.

So we are in, and the extra space is super helpful, but it was a bit of a wrench leaving a home that we had done so much work to, to then go to back to living out of boxes. We are very fortunate - the decor in our new place might not be to our taste, but the lady who lived here previously really looked after it and it is perfectly livable in.

There are a million and one projects on the cards, but just before Christmas we decided to do the living room. Not the most urgent of jobs, but everything else requires some kind of major construction work or upheaval. This would give us a room that was finally ours, and that we could make snug and cosy.

As part of this, I got to thinking about how I could include some knitted items into the design. Mr Knitty is quite the expert when it comes to interior design. Me, I pick paint colours based on the ones I like the look of, rather than how effective they will actually be once they are slapped across four walls (I was convinced that I wanted a bright yellow bedroom, and quickly got the eye roll....) But, I did think I'd be able to sneak in a few smart knitted bits into the room.

I have always had a thing for the big knitted pouffes - the ones that look like they've been made with some kind of rope. And with a bit of research I came across this lovely, and very simple pattern. It's made with Rowan Big Wool, which is possibly THE loveliest yarn I've worked with for a long time, although I did wonder whether it was going to be durable enough to withstand being jumped on by enthusiastic small Knitties. But it is super soft and works up beautifully.

The repeat is super simple - just K3P3, shifting around every couple of rows. It was so simple, that I have to admit that I ended up ignoring the written instructions and just kept going round and round, which meant that I probably did end up with my own interpretation of where to move the row on. But I don't think you can tell any difference really.

To stuff it I used an old single duvet which has done the job nicely. It's not as sturdy as the ones you can buy - I think these are stuffed with coconut matting or have a foam filling, but when you've got something that does the job for no extra cost, it's worth a try. Plus it's good fun 'pouffing' it up again once it's gone flat.

I will definitely make another - perhaps in a bright blue that will complement Mr Knitty's gorgeous cornflower blue walls. Has anyone else got any good tips for knitting home accessories?

Friday, 20 February 2015

I made a frock

First of all - proud face - I made a whole dress. For me. Yay.

This might not seem a big thing, but for me it's huge. It's an Elisalex from ByHandLondon, a pattern that I have eyed from afar for a good long while, so I took the plunge and went for it. I know there are a gazillion already out there, but I loved looking at them all so much and knew it was worth a go.

So, second of all, there are a lot of things that are probably not totally brilliant, mostly due to my lack of experience, but hey, we all have to start somewhere and I have learned so much, so I am super pleased that I've even got this far.

My first error was probably picking a tartan fabric to make the dress. I squeezed in a visit to the Montmartre fabric district before Christmas during a work visit (sneaky but sooooo worth it) and I was totally bowled over by the coupon shops. I got a 3m length of tartan purely on colours and fabric weight - I knew I didn't want anything too thin. But I hadn't really banked on the whole fraying thing. Or the pattern matching thing. Hmmm.

But let's focus on the stuff that I am pretty chuffed with:

1. Princess seams - my first ones. I won't lie, the whole pinning thing took an age, but I followed Elisalex's super tip of pinning for the sewing line, rather than the edges and that helped sooooooo much. And sewing them was far less daunting than I had been worrying about. I'm pretty happy with these

2. Sleeves - I am a BIG 3/4 sleeves fan, and this was one of the deciding factors on this dress. Again, with pinning advice, these fitted in a treat, with no awkward bits that normally happen whenever I try and sew.

3. My super neat blind stitching on the armhole lining - I've never made anything look so neat ever! Almost sad that it's on the inside!!

4. My first bit of pattern adapting - I know I've got a long body and a broad back and so I would need to attempt a bit of adjusting, which I was a bit scared about. Lengthwise I think it went OK, as I just added on an extra inch, which brought it just to my waist. 

And what I'm not so chuffed with:

5. My second bit of pattern adapting - I found the measurements pretty snug overall on the top: I'm normally a 14 but even cutting out the 16, the back edges literally *just* met. I decided to add some extra at the back too, as I was convinced it would be too tight. In fact I ended up with about 2 cm too much when it was all sewn up, so I probably shouldn't have faffed.

6. The (lack of) pattern matching - although I know the princess seams would never have matched, the slight miscalculation with the extra back fabric and then matching up at the waist are far from perfect. But hey, it's my first one, and I love it. 

7. The invisible zip - it's in, but it's not quite even, but it's not too much of a botched job.

So, there we go. What with other stuff taking over, it's taken a while to get it finally finished, but I am v. proud that I haven't gone off to cut out my next pattern before I finished. Nearly killed me at times, and I have to admit that I did a LOT of knitting in between, but now I can start work on the next item guilt free.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

And now for some knitting

I can't believe it's the second week of Jan already. It was been a great first week back at work and I even managed to squeeze in a trip to the cinema (a sad and much missed rareity in our parenting of small people lives) and a bit of exercise too. I've been very excited about putting together some blogs, and I think it really did help me with a bit of work writer's block, as I was definitely more productive towards the end of the week. 

Whilst I am really enjoying sewing, I always find myself going back to knitting. I feel much more comfortable, and there seems to be less room for error (for me at least). If I'm being honest, it's also very nice to snuggle up in front of the TV with my needles, and with the news over the past week being so utterly full of gloom, a bit of comfort definitely goes a long way.

Having completed a rush of Christmas and birthday presents for small people, I have decided to start the year with a bit of selfish knitting, and am making a Hetty cardigan for me. This is my first Untangling Knots project, having seen many of them on show online. I am also attempting to get better at plugging the gaps in my wardrobe, rather than just buying something because it looks pretty, and a warm, but fitted cardi seemed to fit exactly (plus I can wear it over all the pretty things, see?).

I'm using my annual John Lewis yarn sale splurge - this year they were selling off a whole mountain of Debbie Bliss Blue Faced Leicestershire Aran in a delicious grey. As always I could have bought a whole heap of colours, but I thought this would go really well with a couple of skirts I have. 


So far I am almost done with the body - it's so quick to knit up, but like others, I have found myself doing a fair bit of unravelling. Lladybird's post on marking up lace repeats has definitely helped, but I'm not entirely convinced that the two stockinette 'seams' are particularly even. I am also a wee bit concerned that the fronts are looking teeny over my chest, but I live in hope that blocking will work its wonders. I shall report back.

I've also finished off the littest's Xmas Owlet jumper. I have loved this pattern from afar for years (how cool are those owls!!) and still hope that I am in time to make a matching grown up one before the girls get too cool for school and won't let me out in public with it on. Time is definitely ticking!

Anyway, the jumper was finished way before Christmas, but I tried to get it on for a photo, and found that the neck was way too weeny for a toddler's massive heid. Humph. I found some great stretchy bind off techniques, which were easy to follow. So it now fits, but I actually not that keen on the neck. To be honest, I'm not going to get too bogged down with it, as she seems to manage to tolerate it for about 30 seconds, before shouting 'OFF' 'OFF'.

Ahhh so much for selfless knitting - I'll stick to things for me!

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Let it goooooooow, let it goooooooow

So, we were a little late to the Frozen game. But, it appears it mattered not one jot, as this Christmas seems even crazier than last. To be fair, I love the film - it's high up on my list of 'films that the little ones like, but I can actually sit through' right behind Wreck It Ralph and the Jungle Book. 

Daughter 1 had been eyeing up the Elsa dresses for a while, and whilst I am a huge lover of fancy dress, I am definitely not a fan of some of the princess dresses that are commercially made. It's the combination of scratchy fabrics and the endless trail of glitter left in a toddler's wake. I also resent paying out a massive amount of cash for something that has been made so cheaply. So, as a compromise, I thought it might make a good project - it didn't have to be perfect, and if it's fancy dress, then part of that is imagining that it looks like an Elsa dress, right?

There are literally hundreds of ideas online, but I found a fantastic tutorial from Grace Hepburn Designs using Simplicity 2463 as a template and took it from there. I found a brilliant shiny-but-not-too stretchy turquoise fabric at Leon's (my favourite new place) as well as some sheer chiffon/taffeta (I am still hopeless with fabrics, sorry), that looked like it would fit the bill.

The pattern was pretty easy to follow, apart from when I managed to sew the skirt pieces together upside down. And I fudged the sleeves a bit, and added elasticated wrists, so that they would gather, but also not get in the way when playing. 

I had a slight moment of inspiration with the cape, and decided to add velcro, so the dress can be taken off easily, and if a certain small sister decides to pull it, there are no disasters.

Of course, after weeks of getting giddy about getting an Elsa dress, when the day of reckoning came, it was declared 'itchy' (thanks), but it is now, thankfully, getting a bit more wear. Plus it's great for twirling...

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Eeeeek (or the nervousness of a first post)

Wine, Guys and Dolls, Tartan. I'm all set.

OK, so it's not a New Year's Resolution, because I don't believe in them, and maybe it's because I'm struggling to get back into 'work' writing after the Christmas break, maybe it's all of the sassy, witty, clever posts I've been seeing with all the things I want to make (ALL the things - more about that later) but I've been toying with the idea of blogging.

I've been a knitter for about 10 years now. Long story short, someone suggested it as a way to help with a stressful job, I picked up my needles, hunted back in my memories of Nan teaching me how to knit Jean Greenhough dolls for school fairs, and off I went. And it helped. It gave me something to stare at that wasn't the blinking red light of doom on the BlackBerry (ah technology) and I got something nice at the end of it. 

Then along came the babies, other peoples' at first, and then mine. And a whole heap of cute little people to knit for. I think this has been my favourite part of knitting. The kids' designs that are out there now are just gorgeous and a million miles away from the comedy jumpers my mum made me and my brother wear.

Along the way, I have tried a few times to get 'properly' into sewing. The ability to make something in a matter of hours, rather than days is definitely appealing, and I have to admit to some silly fantasies of making my own beautiful capsule wardrobe that was chic, but individual. So far, results have been mixed, more to do with my lack of neatness and ability, but I am going to use this year to see if I can chart my progress. 

So here I go. Wish me luck!