Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Shawl collar cardigan

This cardigan has been an on-and-off (mostly off!) knitting project for well over two years now. I've knitted other things in between, but after I finished my polo neck tank top in the autumn, I told myself that I wasn't allowed to start any other big knitting projects until this was finished. I'm adding more and more cute patterns to my to-knit list all the time and I wanted to get this finished so I could move on to something more exciting, so I'm very pleased that it's now done!

The main reason why this stayed a WIP for so long is because, truth be told, I was never completely in love with the pattern. I bought the pattern and yarn together in a kit from The Knitting Shop because the kit was reduced and a really good price and because this looked like something that my limited knitting skills could handle. Don't get me wrong, I don't hate it by any means - it's a nice cosy cardi, I like the colour, and I know I'll wear it, it's just it's a bit boring and I'd probably prefer something that's a little bit more fitted than this pattern is designed to be. 

But on the plus side, I've got a new cardigan to keep me warm and I was right about it being something that my knitting skills could handle. This is all just stocking stitch with a bit of ribbing round the edges so nothing complicated at all. I think it was good for me to knit something like this that I could definitely cope with, but now I'm ready for more challenging things! And I've also learnt the lesson not to start knitting something unless I really like the pattern!

The pattern is Wendy Skye pattern 5495, and I used Wendy Skye DK yarn in Fir, which is a poly/acrylic/mohair blend. It was nice to work with, and I like the blend of colours and the effect that the yarn produces when knitted up. 

When I actually picked it up and got round to working on it, it was mostly quite quick to knit. In 2 years, I'd only managed to knit about half of the back, then I knit the rest of the back, the 2 front pieces and the arms relatively quickly over Christmas and at the start of the year. Then I hit a bit of a wall again when it came to picking up 357 stitches around the button band and collar! It was a bit of a tedious process, but the collar turned out nicely so it was all worth it in the end.

Speaking of the collar, here's a photo to prove that it does sit nicely and it's not always in the weird half-turned-up position that it's in for some of these photos. Not sure what happened there, but it started raining (again!) before I could take some more with the collar in the right position, but at least it looks nice in the close-up.

I decided that neutral buttons would work best with all the colours going on in this cardigan, and I love these cute little wooden flower buttons. I found them in Millie Moon on a recent trip to Frome. I could spend a fortune in that shop - it's very dangerous!

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I'm glad this is finally finished, I like it but don't love it, and I'm now looking forward to knitting something else. I got Little Red in the City for Christmas, and I love all of the patterns in there, so my only dilemma is which to knit first - not a bad problem to have!

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Gather Mortmain Dress

Just after Christmas, I picked up some pretty rose print cotton at a bargain price in the John Lewis sale. I had a plan of the dress I was going to make and it was all going to be great, then as I was working on other projects I fell out of love with the original idea for the dress. For some unknown reason I started to get oddly stressed about what to make with the material, but then I saw the Mortmain dress, which has recently been released by Gather, and my problems were solved! It's a shape that I knew I'd love, and the name is taken from the book I Capture the Castle, which was definitely a good sign as far as I was concerned. A couple of weeks later and the result is just what I hoped for...

Sorry for the random shadows, but hey, shadows mean that the sun is out which is definitely a good thing compared with how the weather has been lately!

Anyway, back to the dress...the first thing to say is that the packaging is really pretty (it also arrived the day after I'd ordered it which is nice when you want to get sewing!), the pattern is printed on slightly thicker paper than lots of patterns and the instruction booklet that comes with it has lots of really clear instructions and plenty of diagrams to help you along the way. The pattern is classified as being for ambitious beginners, which I'd say is just right - there are more details than in an average beginner pattern but the instruction book will hold your hand and guide you through them all so there's nothing to be scared of. 

The dress has a fitted bodice, separate waistband and box pleated skirt, and can either be sleeveless or the option which I made with 3/4 sleeves with cuffs. The main instructions for the cuff have you make an elastic loop to fasten onto a button, but there's also a tip in the instruction book which suggests using ribbon ties instead which sounded fun to me, so that's what I did...

This option probably wouldn't be to everyone's tastes, and it does make the dress very girly, but I love it! Oh, and excuse the stray bit of thread that I clearly didn't manage to remove before taking the photos. On the plus side, this photo does show the waistband nice and clearly for you - it gets a bit lost in this print but I think it gives the dress a good shape.

The Mortmain fastens with an exposed zip up the back - this was the only bit of the dress that I wasn't 100% sold on at the outset because I'm often not sure about how exposed zips look in general but I decided to give it a go and I'm glad that I did because it means I've done something a bit different for this dress. I think it helped as well that I found an olive green zip to use which goes with the leaves on the material. 

As for sizing and fit - I cut a straight size 14 and added an inch to the bodice (which is a standard adjustment for me as I'm on the taller side of average) but that was the only change I needed to make. 

Everything came together really nicely, apart from the moment when I almost managed to ruin things by somehow ripping the neckline part way through sewing up the bodice. Aaaargh! Don't ask me how I managed that because I really couldn't tell you what happened. Much to my relief, the rip was tiny so I just sewed the neck facing with a very slightly bigger seam allowance and disaster was averted - phew!

Overall, as you can probably tell, I'm really happy with my Mortmain dress. The general shape is similar to some of the other dresses I have made, but there are extra details to keep things interesting - the fastened cuffs are cute and I think the waistband is flattering. The pattern was great to work with so I'm looking forward to seeing what Gather come up with in the future and for now there are other Mortmain dresses emerging in my head - I think it would work well with some colour blocking and I've already spotted a fun print which would make a great sleeveless version for summer. Now let's just hope that this break from the rain will continue so I can wear my dress again soon!

Monday, 10 February 2014

Cosy pyjama trousers

While a nice new pair of pyjamas is usually a good Christmas present, this year just gone I decided it would be more fun to be able to make them for myself so I added the book And Sew to Bed by Caro London to my wish list, and being as this wish list was not so subtly emailed to my family, I was a lucky girl and the book was there waiting for me on Christmas morning!

And here's my first completed project from the book - a cosy new pair of pyjama trousers. They're the trousers from the classic pyjama set in the book, and they've already been getting a lot of use!

They were fairly simple to sew, and as I pretty much stick to wearing skirts and dresses in everyday life, this is probably about as technical as I'm ever going to get when it comes to sewing trousers for myself. 

The insides are all finished with French seams, and the waistband is part elasticated and fastens with fabric ties, so they're nice and comfy.

I was amazed that the buttonhole feature on my sewing machine decided to cooperate when it came to making the holes for the waist ties. The last couple of times I tried to use it (for cushion covers in my life before dressmaking) my machine refused to do anything at all, but this time they both worked completely fine first time - yay!

The material is a cosy and colourful brushed cotton that I got from Calico Laine but they don't seem to have any of it on their website anymore. 

That's about all I have to say about this project at the moment, but I'll probably write a more detailed review of the book once I've had a chance to make one or two more of the projects - there are lots of lovely options so I'm spoilt for choice!

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Crochet Giant Granny Scarf

After I posted about the headband that I knitted my sister for Christmas, Sheila, who I bought the pattern from, very kindly got in touch with me and asked if I'd like to try one of her other patterns. Sheila has lots of lovely knitting and crochet patterns in her Etsy shop, so I jumped at the chance and, after a bit of deliberation, chose the Giant Fall Granny Scarf  crochet pattern. Here's my version...

You may have noticed from this that I've also already knit myself the same headband that I made for my sister (albeit in a different colour) and I'm just as pleased with it second time around, possibly even more so because this time I get to keep it! 

Anyway, back to the scarf! As the name suggests it is a bit of a giant, but in a very good way. Chunky, oversized scarves are lovely and cosy, and working with thick yarn and a large hook (or needles when knitting) obviously means that projects grow satisfyingly quickly. 

The cosy factor is definitely the most important thing for me at the moment though. I may have managed to find one of the rare moments of sun that we've had in the UK recently to take these photos, but (as you can probably tell from the state of my hair - thank goodness the headband is keeping it at least vaguely under control!) it was crazily windy and freezing cold so a huge snuggly scarf was definitely a very welcome companion on this walk.

The pattern was simple and easy to follow and I'm really pleased with the results. The scarf is intended to be worked in stripes of 6 different colours, which looks great, but for once I decided to be a tiny bit sensible when it came to picking what yarn to use and stuck to one lovely colour which should hopefully go with any of the coats/jackets I might want to wear it with.

I'm also pleased that I've started 2014 off with a crochet project under my belt because one of my aims this year is to keep building on my very limited crochet skills, so this is a good start to getting that going.

And another fun thing about this scarf? If you can bear to unwrap it from around your neck in the cold, it looks nice and dramatic blowing in the wind...

What more could you want?!