Thursday, 31 December 2015

Crochet poncho

Hello everyone! I thought I'd use the last afternoon of the year to write a quick post to share my final completed project of 2015, and some particularly windswept photos of me wearing it.

The pattern for this snuggly poncho came from issue 71 of Inside Crochet, and I managed to hook it up pretty quickly alongside all the Christmas-related making over the last few weeks. I love how speedy projects using chunky yarn are to make!

Strangely for me, I actually used not only the recommended yarn (James C Brett Amazon Super Chunky), but also the exact colour used in the magazine (teal) - usually I'll like a pattern but think it would suit me better in a different colour, but this time the pattern and colour both seemed right up my street. Although it must be said that the colour in the magazine looks much more turquoise than the yarn does in real life, and I'm not sure I would describe it as teal either, maybe more sea green. It's nice though -  that's the main thing!

The pattern was easy and perfect for those times when you need something to keep you busy without requiring too much brain power. You just crochet a large rectangle, and then the asymmetric shape is produced by the way it's sewn together - it's really simple. The only change I made was to go up a hook size, which is fairly common for me because I have a tendency to take any stress out on my crochet and everything ends up really tight.

Possibly my favourite thing about this poncho is the fact that it's finally given me an opportunity to use what may be some of the best buttons ever...

I bought this set from Miss Beatrix on Etsy ages ago and have been waiting for the perfect occasion to use them, so I'm glad they've finally found their purpose in life! And it amuses me that I have tea running down my side in button form, as you can see here...

I'm mostly pretty pleased with the poncho. The only thing I don't like is that the asymmetric shape doesn't hang that well on me and I have to spend a bit of time adjusting it to make it look right when I put it on, but that's not a big thing. And actually, I originally made the poncho for wearing at my desk when I'm working from home (which might seem extreme, but it's in the coldest spot in my flat and for some reason my upper back always gets particularly cold) so it doesn't really matter if it hangs a bit weirdly when nobody apart from me and maybe the postman will see it. With the unseasonably mild weather we've had so far this winter though, there hasn't been a need for it at my desk yet. I'm not complaining about that though!

Overall, this was a fun project to make and I'm pleased with the end result - what more can you ask for? I'm now off to prepare for tonight's celebrations. I hope you have a Happy New Year and I'll see you again in 2016!

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Vintage Pledge - McCall's 5863 dress

Do you like vintage sewing patterns? I certainly love all the pretty envelope illustrations, but I try to be picky when it comes to actually buying them (they have to be in my size and a style that I can imagine myself making) - even when they are crazily cheap in charity shops! Even so, I now have a small-but-growing collection of vintage patterns, so this year I decided to join in with #vintagepledge. I pledged to make just one item because I didn't want to put any pressure on myself (sewing is meant to be fun after all!), but somehow it's still taken me to the end of the year to actually follow through on my pledge. Here's my dress...

This is made using McCall's 5863 from 1961 - a shirtwaist dress with a deep oval neckline, Peter Pan style collar and straight or full skirt options. It will probably surprise nobody who has been reading my blog for any length of time that I went with the full skirted option!

The pattern was just right for my bust size, but the waist was slightly on the small side. Thankfully enlarging it was easy - I just took 1 cm out of the two centre front pleats (they're still plenty big enough) and added 1 cm to the centre back of the skirt. Rather than having waist darts, the bodice gathers into the skirt to create a bloused effect, so to account for the extra width I'd added into the skirt, I just gathered the bodice waistline slightly less. This reduces the blousing in the bodice somewhat, but that's fine by me.

Other than that, I made my standard adjustment of adding length to the bodice (an inch in this case), and I also massively shortened the skirt. Straight out of the envelope, the skirt would have been hitting well past my mid-calf so I removed 6 inches, and also made the hem slightly deeper than called for.

I deliberated about what fabric to use for the dress, and was ultimately swayed by the envelope illustration (I told you I love them!) and decided to go with a plain blue dress with a contrast collar, but switch the white collar for pink. The navy is a poplin from Minerva Crafts, and the pink is a quilting cotton with a slightly mottled effect that I found in a local shop.

I love the way the colours look together, and I love the idea of the dress, but unfortunately I just feel a bit underwhelmed with the dress itself (as indicated by the fact it's taken me about a fortnight since taking these photos to actually write this post!). I don't hate it, but usually when I put a new dress on I feel all excited about wearing it and this time I just felt a bit 'meh'.

I think a large part of that is probably because it's quite a plain dress, and I'm used to fun and pretty prints, but I think some of it may also be the collar. I love the way contrast collars look on other people, but when I wear them myself I feel like I've got some odd kind of bib on or something!

I wouldn't go as far as saying this is a failure - I'm definitely going to try wearing the dress, and hopefully I'll grow to like it a bit more as I do - but it's not quite as great as I'd hoped it would be. That's OK though, the sewing process was still fun, and not every dress can be your favourite dress, can it?

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Knitting: vintage cardigan

Earlier this year, my Uncle passed down all my Granny's old knitting patterns to me. There are some that are definitely very dated (part of me is very tempted to knit a particularly ugly "helmet" to embarrass my nephew when he's older, but realistically I think it would be a waste of both time and wool), but there are also plenty that are very wearable still. The first one I decided to knit was actually one of the plainest, this round neck cardigan...

It's from a Patons & Baldwins raglan twin sets pattern booklet. I'm not interested in the full twin set with the jumper, but a waist-length cardigan is something that is always going to get a lot of use in my wardrobe, so I set to work.

Unsurprisingly, the yarn used in the pattern has long-since been discontinued, but I rarely use the precise recommended yarn for a pattern anyway so that didn't bother me. I chose to use West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4 ply in Blueberry Bonbon from the Sweet Shop range. It was a lovely yarn to work with and, now that I've worn the cardigan a couple of times, I'm pleased to report that it's nice and warm without being at all scratchy or irritating to my skin.

This is the cardigan knit exactly according to the pattern. I did originally intend to borrow a stitch pattern from one of my Granny's other patterns to make it slightly more interesting than a load of stocking stitch, but there's dart shaping coming up from the waist in the front and back panels and keeping the pattern correct across the darts was going to cause me a headache so I abandoned that plan. Keeping it simple made this a really good mindless knitting project for working on in front of the TV, and I think plainer cardigans are totally fine because most of the time I'm wearing them with a highly patterned dress!

You may have noticed that I haven't done the buttons the whole way up the cardigan in any of these photos. That's partly because of the collar of my dress getting in the way, but even more than that, it's because doing all the buttons up would involve strangling myself! The neck does look high on the pattern photo, but it turned out even higher and tighter than that on me. It doesn't really bother me because the cardigan works fine with only the lower buttons done up anyway.

Neck aside, I'm pretty happy with the fit of the cardigan. When I first put the cardigan on, I thought the sleeves might be a touch short, but having worn it now I think they're actually fine. It's a great length for wearing with all my full-skirted dresses, and I think the amount of ease is just right - it's nicely fitted without being too tight and putting strain on the buttonband.

Speaking of buttons, finding them was a bit of a saga! I wanted to get coordinating buttons because, as there are a lot of them, I thought contrasting buttons would dominate the cardigan a bit too much. Unfortunately, much though I love the colour of the yarn, it appears that button manufacturers don't agree with me because I couldn't find any that matched. In the end, I opted for these little clear ones that have just a hint of greeny blue in them, so work well with the yarn colour without taking over.

All in all, I really like how this cardigan turned out and I think it'll do a good job of keeping me cosy. I'd definitely be tempted to use this pattern and yarn again (I love pretty much all of the Sweet Shop shades), but now I have some Christmas-related knitting I need to get on with first. Are you making any presents this year?