Thursday, 21 March 2019

A little knitting round-up

After realising in the middle of writing my post about my coat last week that I hadn't yet blogged my Land of Sweets cowl, it quickly occurred to me that there were a few other knitting projects that I hadn't shared here too, so I thought I'd do a little round-up of them for you. Let's start with my cowl being as it's what inspired this post in the first place.

The Land of Sweets cowl is a pattern by Helen Stewart that's designed to use the mini skeins from a yarn advent calendar. Instead of doing that, I used 10 mini skeins from a variety of UK indie dyers (they're listed on my Ravelry project page) that I collected together gradually over the course of a year or so. As I had 10 colours, I used each one twice and omitted four of the sections in the pattern so I have 20 stripes instead of the intended 24.

It was a really fun pattern to knit, and became slightly addictive as I was always wanting to get to the next colour change. If you're thinking about knitting this pattern and wondering about how much yarn you'll need, it's worth mentioning that having used each of my mini skeins twice I still had about half of each one left so my Mum is currently in the middle of knitting another cowl for herself using my leftovers.

Going back in time a bit further, last autumn I knitted a Sockhead Slouch Hat for my sister for her birthday. The Sockhead hat is a free pattern by Kelly McClure. It's super simple so was nice and relaxing to knit. The yarn that I used for this one was from Lamington Lass. It's on her Soft Sock base in the Swirling Flock Splash colourway, and I loved it so much that I was "forced" to buy another skein so I'd have some to knit for myself (more on that later!).

I really liked the feel of the hat and decided I'd like one for myself. I don't wear hats that are too slouchy though, so I made mine significantly shorter - I knitted 3 inches of rib, then 5 inches of stocking stitch before starting the decreases. It worked out really nicely and it's a very useful hat - warm enough to keep me cosy, but small enough to be easy to shove in my bag when it's not needed.

The yarn that I used is from What Mustard Made - it's her Bert the Yarn colourway. It's super fun with all the colourful speckles, and the good news for me is that this hat used less than half of the skein so I think I've got enough left for some socks if I combine it with a contrast colour for the heels/toes/cuffs.

Speaking of socks, last year I decided that it would be a good idea to knit socks as Christmas presents for my Dad, siblings and siblings-in-law. I'm not a quick knitter, so thankfully I had the foresight to get started early! I cast on the first pair in August so I effectively had to knit a pair of socks per month to meet my deadline - definitely do-able! In the end I actually managed to finish them well ahead of schedule, which is rare for me as I'm often making Christmas presents right up until the last minute.

I used different patterns for all of them (because knitting the same pattern five times in a row would have been a bit tedious!). Working clockwise from the top left, the patterns for the four above are Vanilla Latte, Atlantic Current, Riverbend and Rockpool. The final ones, which are in the foreground of the first sock photo, were Staggered Path socks.

Once I'd finished knitting all of those socks, I was definitely ready to make something for myself again! As I mentioned earlier, I'd ordered myself a skein of the yarn from Lamington Lass that I used to knit my sister's hat and I decided to combine that with a semi-solid skein from Woolly Mama Yarns to make the Right Around The Corner shawl by Lisa Hannes.

This pattern is beautifully simple but effective, and it was the perfect pattern for me to have to knit on whilst still being sociable when I was with family over the Christmas period. The two yarns that I used also work perfectly together, which is a happy coincidence being as they came from different dyers!

I think that's about all I have to share for today! I really enjoyed knitting all of these projects. In fact I've been really enjoying knitting in general recently. I've got a cardigan almost complete and another shawl and two pairs of socks on the needles, so hopefully I'll have some more finished projects to share with you soon. Have you been knitting anything recently?

Thursday, 14 March 2019

McCalls 7848 Coat Sewing Pattern Review

The project I have to share with you today has been finished for a few weeks already but, thanks to unseasonably warm temperatures in the middle of February meaning that I didn't need to wear a wool coat, it took a while to get photos of it. This is my version of McCalls 7848 - another project to cross of my Make Nine list!

McCalls 7848 is a pattern for a fitted lined coat with front zipper closure, side seam pockets and neckline, sleeve and length variations. I basically made view D (which is a collarless, maxi-length coat) but using the skirt length from view C (which is just fractionally below knee-length on me).

A collarless coat winter coat might seem like an odd choice in some ways, but I'm currently in the middle of a bit of an obsession with knitting shawls, and I thought that a collarless coat would be a good way to show them off. I'm wearing it in most of these photos with my Land of Sweets cowl, which I've just realised I've never blogged - I should probably do something about that!

As coats go, the construction of this one is fairly simple and the pattern doesn't call for any kind of tailoring. In terms of the sewing itself, if you're happy making a lined dress then there's nothing that should be particularly challenging as long as you're comfortable working with whatever fabrics you've chosen to use.

As with most commercial patterns, the instructions are fairly succinct but they are clear and there wasn't anything that I found confusing.

My outer fabric is a micro dot reversible wool and acrylic blend from Textile Express. It's a gorgeous colour and a lovely fabric, especially for the price, but I wonder whether this particular pattern might have benefitted from a fabric with slightly less body and more drape than this has. In particular, setting in the sleeves (something which I'm usually fine with) definitely wasn't easy and, despite my best efforts, the sleeve cap still isn't as smooth as I'd like it to be.

My lining is a navy teal viscose lining from Fabworks. You definitely couldn't accuse this fabric of not having enough drape! I don't think I could have picked two more different fabrics really - the wool blend stays where it's put and when I was sewing two layers together they stuck to each other almost like felt (which made it very easy to get all of the seams to match up nicely!), whereas the lining wanted to slip and slide all over the place. I managed to tame it enough to do a decent job of sewing it though!

In terms of sizing, I had the problem that my bust measurement is a 16 for this pattern, while my waist and hips are an 18 which is in the larger sized pattern. I went with my bust measurement and got the smaller size range, knowing that commercial patterns are often more generous in their sizing. I made a toile of the 16 and it fitted fairly well, but I thought it was a bit snug around the waist for a coat that I'd want to wear over cosy winter clothes. I simply reduced the seam allowance around the waist a touch and that gave me enough extra room for winter layers. I also made my standard adjustment of lengthening the bodice, although I had to lengthen it more than usual (4cm instead of 2.5cm). In case it helps to know for reference, my measurements are B 38", W 32" H 42", and I'm about 5'9".

I wasn't completely convinced about the coat when I'd first finished it. I think a large part of that was because the lining had dropped a fair bit when I left it to hang, and evening it up and hemming it was a little stressful so that had tarnished my feelings about it a bit!

Having worn it a few times though, my McCalls 7848 is definitely growing on me! That "bulky" feeling that I mentioned above is slowly fading and I was pleasantly surprised when I looked at the photos for this blog post - the coat looks better on camera than it does in my head! I love the colour, it's nice and cosy and is doing a good job of keeping out the gale force winds that we've been battered with recently. So overall, I think we can call it a success, don't you?

Thursday, 21 February 2019

To stash or not to stash?

I've got a bit of a different kind of post for you today - no finished project to show off, just some thoughts to share. Specifically, thoughts about fabric stashes! I hope that's OK?

When I started sewing, I never intended do develop a fabric stash. I would buy the fabric that I needed for each project as I was getting ready to make it and that worked well for me. I'd see pictures and hear stories of the fabric stashes that more seasoned seamstresses had accumulated and wonder how they'd managed it - now I know very well quite how easily fabric will multiply!

Between the temptations of picking up bargains in sales, being over-ambitious about how many projects I'll get through in one season then not want to sew up super summery fabric in winter, and online purchases not being quite what I expected them to be therefore not being suitable for my original intended project, this little collection has gradually been growing in the crafting corner of my flat.

The stack of fabric that you can see in these photos is the vast majority of the lengths of fabric that I have that are big enough for a Ruth-sized garment of some kind (there are a couple of other pieces but they're packed neatly in a bag and I didn't want to disturb them!). Compared to some fabric stashes, this is fairly small but it's bigger than I want it to be.

Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with having a voluminous fabric stash if that makes you happy and helps fuel your creativity. For most of us, sewing is a hobby and when it comes to hobbies I'm firmly of the belief that you should do what works for you. Personally though, I've realised that having a mound of fabric waiting to be used doesn't act as a source of inspiration for me, and instead it feels like a never-ending to-do list. And not in a good way!

So I'm now going to make a concerted effort to try to sew some of these pretties. That really won't be too much of a hardship because I do like each and every one of these pieces, but in some cases I do need to work out exactly what project they want to be used for.

I'd also like to try to make a bit of a dent in my leftover bits of fabric - some of which you can see above. These are all too small for garments, but hopefully will make some pretty bags, pouches and other small projects.

I'm being realistic - I'm not going to say that I'm not going to buy any fabric. For a start, my stash is mostly woven cottons, so if I want to sew a pattern that calls for stretch fabric or something fabulously drapey then I'm probably going to need to go shopping.

Also, sometimes you just see something that's so beautiful that it needs to come home with you (case in point: the Rifle Paper Co rayon on the top of the pile that I picked up recently at the launch party for Like Sew Amazing's bricks and mortar shop in Bristol).

And finally, if I say that I'm not going to buy any fabric at all, it's only going to make all the pretty things that flood my email inbox and Instagram feed on a daily basis seem even more tempting than they already are.

However, I am going to try to go back to how I purchased when I started sewing - fabrics for specific projects. I'll order swatches to avoid online purchasing mishaps. And I'll only buy things in sales if I would have wanted them at full price, not just be sucked in by bargains.

I'm not setting myself any deadlines for using my stash, but hopefully over the coming months you'll start to see some of these fabrics appearing here transformed into finished projects, and I'll start to feel like I'm ticking off some items on the fabric to-do list!

How about you? Do you have a bounteous and beautiful stash, or do you prefer to buy the perfect pieces for your projects as and when you're ready to use them?

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Tilly & The Buttons Freya Top & Bibi Skirt

I'm a bit late to the party when it comes to Stretch! - the second book by Tilly Walnes of Tilly and the Buttons fame. When the book was first released, I thought the patterns looked nice but I had other things I wanted to be sewing so I didn't immediately buy it. As I saw more and more people sewing up the projects from the book, I decided that I'd like to make some myself so I got it as a Christmas present to myself.

The project that was top of my list to sew was definitely the Freya top. I knew that the mock neckline would be lovely and cosy at this time of year, and that it would work well with all of the my much-loved pinafores (I'm wearing it here with my Freja dress, and a pretty brooch from Layla Amber).

The Freya top is a nice simple sewing project and, as you'd expect, Tilly's instructions are very detailed. Truth be told, I actually just skimmed through the instructions and was mainly guided by the photos because I've sewn a few jersey tops now so know what to expect. From what I saw though, I think you'd be fine with Freya even if you haven't used knits much before.

The fabric that I used for this one is a lovely mint glitter stripe jersey from Sew Me Sunshine (just to be entirely transparent, I bought this fabric using the voucher that I got for winning the #sewingsunshine competition in November). It's a lovely jersey - nice and opaque and with just the right amount of sparkle in the glitter. And the glitter isn't at all scratchy on the skin as some glitter fabrics can be.

I was so happy with how my first Freya turned out that I went straight on to make a second version - this time using the cowl neck variation. I love cowl necks but don't have many so this is a welcome addition to my wardrobe.

The fabric for this one is from Sew Crafty and is an arrow print cotton jersey. Again, it's lovely and comfy to wear. I like the fact that it's black and white so will go with lots of colours, but the arrow print keeps it from being boring.

The pattern sizing puts me in a size 5 at the bust and waist and between a 5 and 6 for the hips (for reference, my measurements are bust 38", waist 32", hips 42"), but I wasn't sure whether I wanted quite as much negative ease (2 inches) as is built into the pattern so I compared the pattern pieces with my traced pieces from Tilly's Agnes top (which I know I like the fit on), and based on that I cut a straight size 6. I like the fit that has given me - close-fitting enough to be flattering, without being too tight.

After I'd finished my Freya tops, I was tidying up my leftover bits of stretch fabrics and found a sizeable chunk of ponte roma from my Gable dress. I realised that it was probably just enough for a Bibi skirt, so I thought I'd give that a try too.

I'll be honest and say that Bibi was probably the pattern that appealed to me least from the book because I don't generally wear straight skirts but, being as I already had the pattern and fabric, I didn't have much to lose!

The Bibi skirt is the first project in the book, and the most simple, so I had this whipped up from start to finish in just a couple of hours. I made a size 5 at the waist, blending out to a 6 at the hips as recommended for my measurements and I'm pleasantly surprised by how much I like it! It is, unsurprisingly, fabulously comfortable to wear, yet could look quite smart if you wanted it to.

My only slightly criticism is that my waistband was starting to feel a little loose by the end of a day wearing the skirt, so if I make another (a definite possibility as I might have some more leftover fabric I could use) I'd probably add some elastic inside the waistband - not to gather the waistband at all, just to add some extra stretchy reinforcement.

All in all, I may be late to the Stretch! party, but I think I'm making up for lost time with three projects completed already. I can see myself making all of the projects at some point, so I'm glad I finally got on the bandwagon for this book. Have you made any of the patterns? Which one's your favourite?

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Simplicity 8014 Pattern Review

How's January been treating you so far? It's not been too bad for me! I've made a successful start on a couple of my Make Nine projects, and today I have the first one completed and ready to show you. Here's my Simplicity 8014 shirt dress...

Simplicity 8014 is a vintage shirt dress pattern featuring a full length dress with collar and long sleeves, knee length dress with slim or flared skirt, and mini dress with collar and shirt tail hem, and a tie belt for all options. If you're a fan of shirt dresses, with all those different options to mix and match this is a pretty good value pattern (particularly if you get it on sale as I did!).

I basically made view C, but with the long sleeves and collar from view A. I also omitted the patch pockets on the chest, because this dress already has in-seam pockets and I much prefer them.

In terms of sizing, I used a size 16 at the bust, blending out to an 18 at the waist and hips. Those are the sizes recommended for my measurements, and they worked out quite nicely. There is a bit of ease built into the pattern, and this straighter version does look a little boxy on me if I don't have the belt on, but I think you need some ease in this style of dress - without it personally I'd constantly be worrying about pulling on the buttons.

The only adjustments I made were to add length to the pattern pieces - an inch above the waist and two inches at the hemline. These are fairly standard adjustments for me because I'm slightly taller (around 5' 8") than most patterns are drafted for. Because I'd lengthened the pattern, I also altered the button placement and I think I've possibly used an extra button or two compared to what's called for in the pattern.

The fabric I used is some lovely needlecord from Seasalt - sadly it's no longer available because this is one of their prints from autumn/winter 2017/8 that I was lucky enough to pick up for a bargain price in a sale last summer. (Side note: does anyone else now walk round Seasalt shops looking for clothes made in the fabrics they have for sale so you can see/feel what they're like, or is that just me?!).

The instructions were clear and easy to follow. With all the options in this pattern, for the version that I was making the instructions do frequently refer back to the instructions for other versions rather than write them all out repeatedly, but that's not too much hassle. As this is a commercial pattern, it doesn't hold your hand quite as much as some indie patterns would, but the instructions are still perfectly thorough.

I really enjoy making shirt dresses. I find that the precision needed when sewing collars and sleeve plackets makes me slow down a bit and enjoy the sewing process. And I actually like sewing buttonholes (assuming that my machine is cooperating - which luckily for me, it usually is!) and buttons.

I'm pleased with the finish that I got on this dress - it feels neat. I'm particularly happy with the collar and the sleeve plackets. The pattern uses continuous lap/bound plackets instead of traditional shirt plackets, and I like that - I've sewn a couple of both types of placket now, and I think I've got better finishes with the continuous lap.

All in all, I'm pleased with how this dress turned out. While I said in my Make Nine post that my handmade wardrobe is fairly well stocked, if there's one area that's not quite as replete as others then it's wintery dresses so this is a welcome addition to my collection. And it's great to tick a project off the Make Nine list already!