Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Book Review: Stitched Sewing Organizers by Aneela Hoey

Today I thought I'd share a little review of the book Stitched Sewing Organizers: Pretty Cases, Boxes, Pouches, Pincushions & More by Aneela Hoey. I bought the book a while ago, but I didn't want to write a review until I'd made at least one or two of the projects. I've now crossed three of them off my sewing list, so I think I'm qualified to give my opinions!

As the name would suggest, the book contains 15 projects which are all designed to help you organise your sewing supplies. While there are a few projects that are fairly sewing-specific (a cute needle book, covered tape measure and pincushion), many of the projects could be used for a whole range of purposes. I'm not actually using any of the three projects that I've made so far for sewing at all. I do have plans to make some more of them for crafty storage though.

Two-in-one case - three guesses what I'm using this for?!

Like many sewing books, this one starts with an introductory section with details of materials and supplies, tools and instructions, and some basic techniques used in the projects (such as installing zips, inserting magnetic snaps, attaching binding). I haven't read this section in detail, but the bits I have looked at seem clear and helpful.

Two-in-one case - inside

The main body of the book is, of course, the projects. They are split into 'Small things', 'Cases and folios', 'Pouches' and 'Boxes and totes'. If you want to get an idea of the kind of thing you can expect, both in terms of the details and the styling, take a look at the author's pattern shop. I would stress that the individual patterns aren't exactly the same as the projects in the book, but I think they have a similar feel.

The book patterns are designed to be able to be used together, meaning that smaller projects have been intentionally sized to fit nicely inside some of the bigger items.

Handy fold-up pouch (large and small)

So far, I've made the Handy fold-up pouch (both sizes), Two-in-one case, and the Triple pouch. I've found the instructions to be very thorough and clear. There are diagrams for some, but not all, of the steps - but I don't think the instructions are in any way lacking for not being fully illustrated. Some of the individual steps are fairly simple, so diagrams really aren't necessary.

Triple pouch. Again, the fabric will tell you what I'm using this for - my make-up bag

I tend to read through instructions before I start a  project to get an idea of what I'll be doing. When I did this for the Triple pouch in particular they did sound a bit confusing, but when I was actually working through the steps everything made complete sense.

Some of the projects look fairly simple (such as the needle book, drawstring pouch and big zip pouch), but there are others that are more complicated. I'd definitely have had no idea where to start trying to put together all of the pieces of the Triple pouch without the instructions!

Top/inside of the Triple pouch

Overall, if you're interested in making a few pouches and bags to organise your sewing supplies, or any other supplies for that matter, I'd really recommend this book. The instructions are thorough, the projects are useful and, compared to the prices of individual patterns, the book is pretty good value. Now I just need to find time to make a couple more of the projects!

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Sew Over It Clara Blouse

Last weekend my plans were changed at the last minute because of the snow which covered the country, so I decided to try to help spring to win the battle that currently seems to be going on between the seasons by cutting into some pretty floral fabric to make a Sew Over It Clara blouse.

The Clara blouse was Sew Over It's February PDF release. It looked a bit different from other patterns in my stash, and seemed to be a good combination of being very wearable but also with the potential to look quite smart, so I was fairly quick to buy it when it was released.

The blouse features, in Sew Over It's own words, 'a pretty pleated round neckline, keyhole opening at the centre back, a stepped hem, and long sleeves with deep cuffs and continuous bound placket cuff closures'.

The Clara blouse was an enjoyable pattern to sew. The bodice section came together fairly quickly, and then I needed a bit more time to sew the sleeves because those cuffs involve a couple of more fiddly steps. Nothing too taxing, but the kind of thing that it's worth taking your time over to make sure you do a good job.

The instructions were all very clear and easy to follow. I did spot a typo in the instructions about making the rouleaux loops for the neckline and cuff buttons, but I emailed Sew Over It to point it out and they got back to me really quickly to say that the instructions have now been corrected (if you downloaded the pattern before this week, the seam allowance when sewing the rouleau loop strip should be 1.5cm instead of 2cm).

In terms of sizing, my bust measurement is between the 12 and 14 for this pattern, and my waist/hip measurements put me right in the size 14. The Clara blouse has a relaxed fit though, and based on the finished measurements I was fairly sure that I'd be fine with a straight size 12. Thankfully, it turns out I was right! There's still plenty of ease as far as I'm concerned, and I think if I'd made the 14 it might have turned out a bit too roomy for my tastes.

I was slightly unsure about how I'd feel about the cuffs - not in terms of how they look, but in terms of whether they'd annoy me when I was wearing the blouse because they're quite large. I'm pleased to report that I've worn the blouse for a whole day now and wasn't bothered by the cuffs once.

If I make another Clara blouse, I'd possibly omit the stepped hem and just use a regular straight hem. While the stepped hem looks nice, I'm only going to wear the blouse tucked into full skirts so nobody will ever see it.

The fabric I used is a freesia print viscose that I bought last spring/summer (I think from WeaverDee, but I know a few online shops stocked it at the time) with the intention of making a dress, but I then went off the idea of the fabric/pattern combination I had in my head. I love the fabric though, so I'd been keeping an eye out for the right project to use it and when the Clara pattern was released it seemed like I'd found what I was looking for. And as bonus, as I'd bought enough for a full-skirted dress, I'm pretty sure I've got enough fabric left for a short sleeved summery top too!

Overall, I'm really happy with my Clara blouse. I enjoyed sewing it, I'm pleased with how it looks and it's good to get this fabric out of my stash. I'm going to wait and see how much I wear the blouse but, based on first impressions, I could definitely see myself making more in the future. Have you had success with any new patterns recently?

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Knitting: Fern Cable and Bobble Top

Alongside knitting all the socks, over the past couple of months I've also been gradually working away on my latest knitted garment. This is the Fern cable and bobble top, a pattern from West Yorkshire Spinners.

Fern is described as a boxy, cropped top with short sleeves in ridged stocking stitch. The main body is knit in reverse stocking stitch, with a wave and bobble cable running up the centre front. The neckline is a ribbed boat neck, and one of my favourite features of the pattern is that this means that there's no need to pick up stitches to knit a neckband (perhaps my least favourite part of knitting!).

In some ways this might seem like an odd style of garment to knit because the short sleeves don't exactly fit with the cosy aran weight yarn, but I have a similar ready-to-wear jumper that I wear quite a lot so I thought I'd give it a go.

The pattern is knit in pieces and seamed, my current favourite method of knitting garments (although I am planning to give knitting a seamless cardigan another go as part of my #2018makenine plans). The only change I made from the pattern was to knit the body 5 cm shorter than instructed to get it to hit at my waist. I was slightly surprised about having to shorten it given that I usually have to lengthen bodices/tops, and Fern is described as being cropped. Maybe West Yorkshire Spinners' understanding of "cropped" is different to mine!

Anyway, it's a fairly simple pattern, and I found it very easy to follow. I think it would probably be a relatively good pattern to pick if you've got a bit of knitting knowledge but are dipping your toes into garment knitting for the first time.

Saying that, I'm not entirely sure that my bobbles worked out quite right. They just seem a bit more flat and less, for want of a better word, bobble-like than I was expecting them to be. Looking at them from a distance, I think the overall effect is fine though. And I'll have plenty of practice knitting bobbles in the pattern that I've moved onto now.

The yarn that I used is Tivoli Celtic Aran in the catchily named shade 981. I fully intended to get a more neutrally coloured yarn to maximise the number of t-shirts that I'd be able to wear under the top, but when I went to a local yarn shop and saw this magenta colour, I couldn't leave it behind. It was nice to knit, and feels nice to wear (I finished this a couple of weeks ago, so it's already been worn a couple of times) but I'm slightly concerned that it might not wear too well long-term. We'll just have to see I suppose!

All in all, I'm fairly pleased with how my Fern top turned out. If I had to be picky, the sleeves feel slightly stiff at the moment and a bit of persuasion is needed to get them to sit nicely inside a coat sleeve. but hopefully they might soften up a bit over time. In the meantime, I'll be enjoying finding all the different outfit combinations I can match this up with!

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Home: Lace Chest of Drawers

If you don't mind, I've got something a bit different to share with you today. When I moved house towards the end of last year, I needed to get a new chest of drawers. Rather than buy a basic Ikea one, I decided to look for something more sturdy and came across this in a local secondhand shop...

While it was definitely sturdy in essence (it's a heavy beast!), it had a few problems that needed fixing and the dark wood and gold coloured fancy handles weren't entirely to my taste. Thankfully, my Dad is fairly handy when it comes to do-it-yourself projects and was happy to help me with the more technical aspects of fixing it up. Between us, we've worked on it gradually over the last couple of months and here's what it looks like now....

Quite a transformation, don't you think?

In terms of repair work, I ripped off what was left of the old trim around the top and bottom, removed the drawer handles and sanded the whole thing down. My Dad than attached a new trim, replaced the back with a new panel, repaired the stoppers for the drawers and filled in the holes left from where I removed the handles.

Then came the fun part - deciding what colour to paint it! That actually proved to be one of the trickier parts of the process as far as I was concerned because I had too many ideas about what I wanted to do.

In the end, my mind was made up when I discovered a pretty lace wall/furniture stencil from Dizzy Duck Designs on Etsy. If you're interested in doing anything similar, I'd definitely recommend these stencils. Mine arrived really quickly, the film used is flexible but sturdy and, most importantly, the stencil was easy to use. I was concerned about getting the pattern to match up properly as I moved the stencil along the drawers, but there are clear overlap points so it's easy to produce the repeating pattern.

I'll be honest and say that my stencilling is definitely not perfect. There are quite a few points on the finer lines where it looks like my 'lace' has broken slightly, but I don't think that detracts from the overall effect at all. If anything, it just goes to prove that it's done by hand instead of mass produced.

I was fairly heavily influenced by one of the example photos that was shown on the listing for the stencil, although I went against my usual tendency to make everything blue and went slightly more green when I chose the paint. Although, if I'm being honest, I had fully intended to buy cornflower blue paint but when I got to the shop it was out of stock so I had a quick reconsideration. The paint I used is Rust-Oleum Satin Finish Furniture Paint in teal (which I personally wouldn't call teal, but the colour on the pot is an accurate reflection of the paint colour, so that's fine) and cotton.

If you're thinking of doing any furniture make-overs, one practical thing that I'd recommend is that if you're doing it in winter I'd make sure that you have somewhere heated where you can work! I was originally working on this in my parents' garage, where at one point it took glue over a week to set because the temperatures were so low. When it came to doing the painting, the paint needed to be used at above 10°C. Thankfully my parents are very accommodating and didn't mind me taking over their dining room with my chest of drawers, paint and a ground sheet!

I'm so pleased with how my chest of drawers turned out, and it's lovely to have a piece of furniture that's completely unique. So much so that I now want to repaint all the things! I have a couple of smaller projects in the works already, so they may be popping up around here soon - but don't worry, normal sewing/knitting/occasional crochet service will still be happening too!

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Seamwork Skipper Dress

Today's project might be a bit outside of my usual style comfort zone, but it definitely isn't lacking in terms of comfort itself. In fact, this may be one of the comfiest, cosiest garments that I've ever sewn. Here's my Seamwork Skipper dress.

The Skipper pattern itself is a traditional, crew neck sweatshirt, but the version I've made here is using the Seamwork member exclusive version. It's the same basic sweatshirt shape extended to dress length, with added in-seam pockets and a hood. When a picture of the dress version popped up on my Instagram feed one chilly day earlier this month, it appealed to me because it looked so snuggly. As someone who works from home, for me it looked like perfect winter work wear.

I've got quite a few Seamwork credits waiting to be used (clearly I haven't been sewing enough!), so I wasted no time in downloading the pattern and having a little online hunt for some suitable sweatshirting fabric.

I considered various fun print options, but none of them were especially cheap and I wasn't 100% sure whether the dress would suit me so I didn't want to spend too much.

In the end, I opted for this plain pink sweatshirting from Fabworks. It's lovely quality, especially for the price. As the fabric is extra wide, I was also easily able to cut the dress out of 2m, instead of the 2.3m of 150cm fabric called for by the pattern. I'm not sure I would agree with the description of it being magenta, but it's a very pretty shade of pink so I'm not going to worry too much about what the colour's called.

The Skipper dress (and the original sweatshirt version I imagine) is a nice, simple pattern to sew. The instructions were all nice and clear, apart from one point about making the drawstring casing in the hood where I think the instructions are in the wrong order. They have you make the casing (which is just formed by folding the outer edge of the hood back on itself), and then sew a buttonhole to feed your drawstring through. It may just be me being weird, but I'm not sure how you'd sew a buttonhole with the casing already made without it going through both layers of the fabric, when you only want it to be going through one layer. Instead, I sewed the buttonhole first and then made the casing.

In terms of sizing, I blended between a medium at the bust and a large at the waist/hips, which are the sizes recommended for my measurements. The fit is quite forgiving on a garment like this - it's not meant to be figure-hugging after all - and I'm fairly happy with how it turned out. The pattern description does say that the shoulders are slightly dropped, but they're possibly slightly too dropped on me and I might bring them in a bit if I make another version.

Other than that, if I make a second version I might do something quite against my usual preferences and omit the pockets. While I generally love pockets, I don't think the combination of pockets in a sweatshirting fabric and my proportionately large hips is particularly good here and they slightly spoil how the dress hangs (there's a reason why I've got my hands in the pockets in most of these photos - you can see in the photo below that the pockets are a bit lumpy).

Oddly excited by the hood and drawstring!

Overall, I think we can probably all agree that this isn't really the most "flattering" dress that I've ever sewn. But that's OK - it's not meant to be! It is, however, definitely very comfy and cosy and, let's be honest, isn't that just what those of us in the northern hemisphere want at the moment?!