Sunday, 29 December 2013

Horseshoe cable headband

Here's the first of the secret projects that I was working on before Christmas - a cable headband that I knitted for my sister, which she very obligingly modelled for me to show you here...

I used the horseshoe cable headband pattern from sheilalikestoknit on Etsy. I've never knitted cables before but I felt like a challenge so I decided to give it a go, and I'm glad I did - although the pattern was so easy to follow that it didn't really feel like a challenge in the end!

As with most headbands, it was pretty quick to knit and therefore satisfying to see it grow and watch the horseshoes appearing after each cable row. The border alongside the horseshoes is worked in seed stitch - so again nice and simple, but I think the texture it gives the headband is really effective.

I used Stylecraft Special Aran in Aster, which was lovely to knit with and is a great colour. The pattern uses two strands of yarn held together which means that the finished result is nice and thick so hopefully will keep my sister nice and warm!

The only problem with making this as a present? I now want one myself because I like this better than the headbands I made for myself in the autumn so it's gone straight back on my to-knit list - it's a good thing this is a quick project!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Merry Christmas!

The presents are all finished and wrapped, the Stollen is made and my bag is packed, so all that's left to do is to send you this kind of virtual Christmas card...

Peg People Nativity  Ruth @ Nightingale & Dolittle
This is the photo that I used for my Christmas cards this year - I made the little peg people, had a very lucky find coming across the starry fabric that I used for the background, and probably ended up with more straw on my living room floor than I did in the picture! I had the photos printed onto cards by moo and the quality was fantastic - I'd definitely recommend them.

I'll be back after Christmas to share some of the presents I've been making in the last couple of weeks, and to get started on the other projects I've been planning while working on the secret things. Have a lovely Christmas full of fun, family and fantastic food!

P.S. Check out my Emery dress with all the other beautiful versions in the Emery dress parade over on Christine's blog!

Monday, 16 December 2013

Emery Dress

In between all the secret Christmas-related making that I've got going on at the moment, I managed to find time to finish some selfish sewing - the Emery dress by Christine Haynes.

I loved this pattern as soon as I saw it - with a fitted bodice, full skirt, pockets and the option of a collar or a bow, what's not to like?! It's pretty much my favourite kind of dress so I snapped it up straight away. I then got slightly scared that I might have bitten off more than I could chew because this dress featured a couple of techniques I hadn't used before, but you've got to try new things at some point or you'll never learn, right?

Of course, I needn't have worried! The instructions that come with the pattern are great and I followed the excellent sewalong that Christine just ran, and that was a useful helping hand for the steps I was slightly less sure of, so in the end I think that I've ended up with my best finished garment to date and I'm no longer scared of invisible zips!

I made the dress in a size 12, and the only change I needed to make was adding an inch to the bodice - which seems to be a fairly standard adjustment that I have to make on most patterns. I chose to make view B with the longer sleeves and collar, but followed the steps in the sewalong to change the collar from the pointed one in the pattern to a Peter Pan collar. The original pointed collar is cute, but I love a Peter Pan collar and I'm really happy with how it turned out. 

I almost added the bow from view A too but I've restrained myself at the moment! Although I'm very tempted to use the bow from the dress pattern and turn it into a bow belt in a solid colour to bring out one of the many gorgeous colours in the fabric.

Speaking of the fabric...I spent quite a long time pondering what material to use for this dress. I had found a couple of lovely brushed cottons that I thought might be nice to use for this time of year, but then I found this beautiful Liberty cotton lawn at a bargain price on ebay. There was just enough to make the dress so I thought it was a sign and went with it!

Yes, cotton lawn might not be a standard choice for this time of year, but I love it and as the bodice is lined, and if I wear it with a slip, I've found it perfectly warm enough. And those brushed cottons that I almost used are still in the back of my mind so there may well be a slightly more conventionally seasonal version in the pipeline soon. 

Overall, I only have good things to say about this pattern - if you're thinking about sewing it yourself then I'd definitely go for it!

Monday, 2 December 2013

Woodland Stroll Cape

I made a cape! I've always had a slight obsession with capes, ponchos and the like, but was slightly disappointed with the ones I tried on in the shops or couldn't quite manage to convince my Mum/sister that they were a good idea. When I found the Woodland Stroll Cape pattern from Liesl + Co., and it got the thumbs up from my style advisers, I thought I had to give it a go - here's how it turned out...

It's a pretty simple pattern and I didn't need to make any fitting alterations - this isn't a particularly fitted kind of garment after all and, in this colder weather at least, there needs to be space underneath for a jumper or cardigan to make sure your arms are warm enough.

That's not to say the cape itself won't keep you warm - it will! I've been perfectly cosy as I've been wearing it around this weekend. It's definitely helped by the fact that I used this lovely Melton fabric from Calico Laine, which was great to work with and perfect for a cape or coat. It's lined with a purple polyester lining, also from Calico Laine. I toyed with the idea of using a pretty printed lining fabric, but I wasn't sure quite how much the lining would be visible when wearing the cape so in the end I went with a plain colour.

While there are lots of lovely buttons out there that I could have used to fasten the cape, I really liked the look of the buckles used on the orange cape in the pattern pictures so decided I wanted to find something similar myself. A quick search led me to these lovely leather buckles from

It was a little bit fiddly making sure they all lined up right, but it was definitely worth it. I think they make the whole thing look really professional, and they may be at least partially covered by a scarf for a lot of the time that I'm wearing the cape, but I'll know they're there and that's the main thing!

Other than having to take time to match up buckles, the only other thing that caused me any problems was getting slightly confused about the facing on the inside of the neck, but I soon realised that I was being stupid and it was a probably a sign that it was too late to be sewing and that I should be going to bed instead! Stupid late-night sillyness aside, it all came together really easily and I love the end result. It's nicer and worked out much cheaper than anything similar I've seen in the shops, and has been given the Mum/sister seal of approval - yay!

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Monday, 25 November 2013

Easy autumnal headbands

After last week's knitted headband tutorial, this week I thought I'd write a quick post to share a couple of other ideas for easy headbands that I've made recently. Personally, I think that headbands are great for this time of year when your ears can end up feeling a bit chilly but it's not quite cold enough for it to be proper hat weather yet. Plus, they're usually quick and easy projects which can be good for a bit of a break when you're in the middle of working on bigger things!

I made the first of the headbands using the 1950s pin up head scarf pattern which is available as a free download from Bluegingerdoll. It's super simple and a great way of using up material left over from other projects.

I used a vintage Laura Ashley brushed cotton, which makes it nice and warm! You can wear the head scarf knotted on top of your head, but I prefer it knotted at the back, like this...

My second headband is a crochet turban headband from the book Geek Chic Crochet (which has quite a few nice patterns if anyone is looking for some new crochet projects by the way!).

This is another really simple pattern - I only learnt to crochet earlier this year and I would still definitely classify myself as a beginner but I managed it no trouble. 

They've both been getting quite a lot of wear in the last couple of weeks as the temperatures have dropped.

I've got a couple of bigger WIPs which I'm close to finishing so I'll be back to share those soon!

Sunday, 17 November 2013

How to make a knitted headband

Today I thought I'd share a tutorial of how to make a knitted headband - I improvised the "pattern" myself so, given my limited knitting abilities, it must be simple and it was really quick (this is the project I mentioned in my post about my polo neck top the other week) so it would make a great addition to your winter accessories or with (dare I say it?) Christmas rapidly approaching, it would also be a lovely handmade gift. I added a bow to mine, just because I quite like bows, but you could easily make a plain version too - which would make it even easier and quicker. Here's a photo of the finished headband...

Want to know how I made it? Here we go...

First up, supplies! I used Stylecraft Swift Knit in Viola (I needed less than one skein) and 10 mm needles. You'll also need a darning needle later on.

Cast on 10 stitches, then knit in stocking (stockinette) stitch until the band fits around your head, I knit mine to be 65 cm, but as I've said before, I do have a massive head so don't necessarily use that as a guide!

Cast off, leaving a long end. 

If you want to add the bow, you'll need to knit 2 other pieces...

For the first, cast on 8 stitches and work in stocking stitch until the piece measures about 10 cm - this will be the main part of the bow. For the second, cast on 4 stitches and again work in stocking stitch until the piece measures about 10 cm - this will be the middle piece of the bow. Once you've cast off, weave in the loose ends on these two pieces.

Now to make up the headband! 

Take the main piece of the headband and, using a darning needle, thread the loose end through all of the cast off stitches. Pull the wool through so that the end of the headband gathers up.

Repeat on the other end of the headband, then join the two gathered ends together.

Find the middle of the bow piece and, thread the wool (still attached to the main headband) through to gather up, then match the gathered middle to the gathered join on the headband and secure the two together.

Take the short piece, wrap it round the bow piece and the headband, and secure together at the back. Weave in the loose end.

And you're done!

Depending on how you want your headband to look, you may also want to stitch down the ends of the bow so they don't stick out too much. 

Here's one last picture of me modelling it for you...

I'd love to see any versions that you may make for yourself - happy knitting!

Monday, 11 November 2013

Sleeveless Colette Laurel Dress

In my life outside of sewing, knitting and general creating, I work as a freelance translator. Most of the time that keeps me nice and busy, but sometimes it means I end up with a random day when I have no work. When I first went freelance this tended to result in the onset of panic that I would never get any more work again and would end up penniless and running home to my parents, but now I'm more confident that won't happen so when I'm being sensible I see it as a chance to catch up on boring admin, but more often than not it turns into bonus creative time! The Friday just gone was one of those days, and I used it to sew up a new dress which cost me almost nothing, yay! It's a sleeveless version of the Colette Laurel dress...

I made version 2, with the cute little front pockets, but missed off the sleeves. This was partly because I realised I had just enough of the pretty needlecord fabric left from the Hollyburn skirt which I made earlier this year to squeeze out a sleeveless version of the dress, and partly because I quite like layering sleeveless pinafore-type dresses with long-sleeved tops/jumpers in the autumn and winter anyway, so I knew it would definitely be worn a lot.

To finish the armholes and the neckline, I followed the suggestion for the sleeveless dress from the Laurel extras booklet and used bias tape to create a facing, which I machine stitched to the outside and then flipped over and hand stitched to the inside. It's not especially invisible hand stitching from the inside but you can't see a thing on the outside so it's all good in my book!

I used the same size 12 as I used for both of my Laurel tops (here and here), and then graded out to a 14 for my lovely pear-shaped hips, but as it turned out I didn't need to do that and I ended up taking some width back out of the side seams and using a slightly larger seam allowance down the centre back. If I make another dress (which is quite likely at some point in the future) I think a straight size 12 would work fine. I added a couple of inches to the length so that I could wear it with tights as well as leggings - the hemline still falls well above my knee but for some reason it looks longer in the photos!

I used a regular zipper instead of an invisible one, purely because my local shop didn't have an invisible zipper in the right length and colour combination and I wanted to buy something there and then so I could get it finished all in one day. Me, impatient?! Never! I think it works fine with this dress and material combination.

Overall, for a dress that cost me a grand total of £1.70 for new supplies (the binding and the zip), I think this is a pretty good day's work - it's a great casual dress, and nice and cosy when layered with a long-sleeved top, and really comfortable so perfect for wandering around enjoying all the beautiful colours of the autumn leaves!

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Thursday, 7 November 2013

Shopper Bag from Sew!

Today is my sister's birthday so, given that she'll have opened her presents by now, I thought I'd show you one of the things I made for her - a cute little shoulder bag...

I used the Shopper Bag pattern from Sew! by Cath Kidston, which was actually the book that was responsible for getting me into sewing (I always enjoyed making things and had been talking about possibly buying a sewing machine for ages, so my Mum bought me the book for Christmas a couple of years ago to encourage me to stop talking about it and actually do it!). I hadn't made anything from the book for a while, but I remembered the bag patterns and thought that this one would be just right for what I had in mind.

The material was from the remnants bin in John Lewis a few months ago (my sister was with me at the time and said it would make a nice bag, so I decided there and then to keep this for her birthday present) and I had just enough to make the bag and the strap. The lining is a light blue chambray, which was also in the remnants bin at the same time - some good finds that day!

The book says to use webbing for the strap, which I probably would have preferred, but I couldn't find any locally (having been so convinced that I would find some that I left it too late to order online) so I improvised and interfaced the material and it worked out fine. 

The pattern is quite simple but effective and the bag is a good size for all the essentials, so a good choice to make for a present I think.

I'm now off to carry on with some more selfish sewing - see you soon!

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Sunday, 3 November 2013

Chunky knitted polo tank top

Once autumn arrived, and I'd finished my Granny square cushion, I felt the need for more wool-based crafting to curl up on the sofa with. Don't get me wrong, there's still definitely sewing happening too (I'm working on a muslin of a dress and waiting for some lovely fabric for the final version to arrive in the post at the moment), but sometimes when it's chilly snuggling up with some wool seems more appealing than sitting at the sewing machine. I already had a project waiting for me in the form of a chunky polo neck tank top I started knitting towards the end of last winter, and thankfully for me the lovely thick yarn knits up really quickly so I've finished it already.

I used a pattern from Sirdar Big Softie Knits for Beginners and the yarn was Sirdar Big Softie in meringue. I'm not a complete beginner when it comes to knitting, and I have knitted a couple of scarves and hats before, but this was the first time I'd made any clothing (or at least the first time I'd finished any clothing - more on that below) so I think it was good to use a simple pattern to get my confidence up, and this did just the job! There are simpler patterns and smaller projects (hats, scarves, fingerless gloves etc.) in the pattern book and it contains a pull-out section with instructions on how to knit so I think this would definitely be a good introduction to knitting for a complete beginner, or a nice collection of quick and simple patterns for the more experienced knitter.

The only problem that I had was that, as the name suggests, the yarn is very soft so when I was using it to stitch up the seams it had a tendency to stretch and pull apart leaving me with lots of wispy pieces (but I have since thought of a use for them which may be either ingenious or ridiculous, so it's all good!). Apart from that the pattern was really straightforward, clear and easy to follow, and the pull-out section was useful for the only part that I was slightly unsure about (picking up stitches to attach the polo neck and sleeves).

I'm modelling it here with my second version of the Sewaholic Hollyburn skirt, which is now being worn as it was originally intended to be with tights and boots and is proving to be a very useful and pretty skirt! 

I'm happy with the top but I think I need to wait until autumn turns into winter to wear it properly - the chunky wool means it's a little too cosy still at the moment.

I've now moved on to finishing off a cardigan that I started waaaay back at the start of winter in 2011 which uses double knitting wool and 4 mm needles, which seem very small in comparison with chunky wool and 10 mm needles! And the knitting takes so much longer to grow! The cardigan is looking lovely so far, but part of me is missing the speed at which my tank top grew, so here are a couple of close-up photos of the lovely chunkiness...

To alleviate my craving for quick knitting, I'm currently planning a small chunky wool project to add to my autumn/winter accessories collection. More on that soon!

Sunday, 27 October 2013

"I want to ride my bicycle" cushion

I've got some slightly different sewing to show you today. Recently I was asked by a group of friends to create a bicycle-themed cushion for another friend's birthday. After a bit of consideration of different designs, this is what I came up with...

I had a look around online to make sure that a bike was actually the shape that I thought it was, then I used a combination of appliqué and embroidery to create the bike on the background material (purchased from a local shop).

The basic frame of the bike is made from some pretty floral bias binding folded in half widthways, which I then pinned and machine stiched into the frame shape.

I then embroidered the rest of the bike around the frame. For the saddle, I used satin stitch then a double line of chain stitch for the handle bars, a single line of chain stitch for the wheels and a simple running stitch for the wheel spokes.

When I'm doing embroidery, I tend to draw out my designs on paper then when I'm happy, I go over the final design with a black felt tip. Unless your material is really thick or dark, if you put the felt tip drawing under the material you can usually see it and trace it onto the material. I use Frixion pens to trace the design onto the material as you can see here...

The lines are really clear, and once you've done all the embroidery, they'll disappear when you iron the material. This does mean that you have to be careful if you're ironing as you go along (so I don't usually iron till the end - the excuse for the massive outline of the embroidery hoop in this picture!), but I don't find that a problem.

I completed the cushion by embroidering "I want to ride my bicycle" under the bike in simple back stitch, and I think the whole thing is quite effective. Thankfully the birthday girl like it and fellow present-givers approved, so it can't be bad!

I'm now off to hide away under a blanket on the sofa until the imminent storm passes. See you next time!

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