Friday, 30 December 2016

Christmas presents

Hello hello! I hope you're all having a happy festive season. Before this nice little in-between period that we're now in turns into 2017, I thought I'd share the Christmas presents that I made this year.

First up is this bag that I made for my Mum. The pattern is the Maker's Tote by Noodlehead which, as the name suggests, is designed to be a project tote bag for makers and creatives. There's plenty of space in the main compartment of the bag, and lots of pockets for keeping bits and pieces safe. Because of all those pockets, this was easily this year's most time-consuming present, but I think it was definitely worth the effort.

The instructions are very detailed and easy to follow so it wasn't a difficult project (I found that the only tricky part was applying the binding around the bottom edges, and even that wasn't as problematic as I'd suspected it might be), it just took a bit of time to sew all the various sections.

The outer fabric is Painterly Wash Art Gallery denim, and the inside pocket fabric is Tulip in Turquoise from the Cloud 9 Vignette collection. The rest of the fabric is a combination of various remnants from my stash.

Over the years I've learned that it's better to keep things simple when making presents, so all of my other projects were much quicker. First up is a dress for my niece who was born a couple of months ago. It's a baby pinafore pattern from Puperita - a sweet, simple dress that I sewed up in a couple of hours. The outer fabric is a soft denim repurposed from a skirt, and the inside is left over from my latest Susie blouse. I did make it slightly more complicated by deciding to embroider the yoke with little daisies, but that was a nice relaxing project to work on in front of the TV so it was fine.

Her Christmas present was actually the second version of the pattern I've made for her - I made the red version above for her when she was born. I really like the fact that the dress is reversible, so I could make this red version with Christmas fabric on one side and plain babycord on the reverse so that she'll be able to wear it outside of the Christmas season too.

Next up was an apron/smock for my nephew, which I think will definitely come in useful because he likes 'helping' my sister with cooking and baking but has a tendency to end up covered in half of the ingredients. This is a very simple pattern from the book Sew a Metre. The main fabric is the same denim as my niece's dress, with added red binding and a scrap of fabric from my stash for the 'J'.

Last, but by no means least, I made a five pairs of pyjama trousers for my Dad, siblings and siblings-in-law. I intended to take a photo of them all modelling them, but that got a bit overlooked in the excitement of present opening, so all I have is this picture of the stack of them waiting to be wrapped - sorry about that!

I can show you this photo of my brother sporting another pair of pyjama trousers that I made him earlier this year, using the same pattern (in this spectacular beetle print jersey). There are many basic pyjama patterns, but this particular one is Simplicity 2116. Unsurprisingly, given that pyjama trousers are one of the simplest things to sew, this was a nice easy project. By the end of the fifth pair I was definitely ready to sew something else, but I'd happily use this pattern for pyjamas again the future.

So there we go, that's what's kept me busy for the past few weeks! Did you make any presents? I really enjoyed it, but it's also great to be back sewing for me again now!

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Handmade Style - review & projects

My sewing machine is as busy as usual at the moment, but it's in full-on Christmas present production so that all needs to be kept secret for another couple of weeks. I'm sure I'm not the only one in that situation, am I? As I can't share my latest creations, I thought I'd talk about a couple of projects that haven't made it to my blog before. They all happen to come from the same book, so I'm going to combine them with a bit of a review.

The book in question is Handmade Style by Anna Graham of Noodlehead. It was released early last year so I'm not exactly quick off the mark with this post, but with a sewing book I prefer to wait until I've used it to make a couple of things so that I know whether or not the projects work before writing a review.

The book includes 23 projects divided into three sections - "To wear", "To carry" and "To use". It includes paper patterns where necessary, but most of the pieces in the projects I've used have been rectangles/squares and in those cases the dimensions are simply provided for cutting.

The first project I made from the book was the carry-all pincushion. Now, a pincushion might not seem like a particularly exciting project, but this is no ordinary pincushion! It's got a range of different pockets all round the sides for all your small sewing essentials, and a strap on the top to hold scissors. I made mine over a year ago, and I haven't lost my seam ripper since!

Next up, I made the double zip wallet. As the name suggests, it has two zippered openings and additional pockets and card holders on the inside. There's plenty of space for holding just about anything you could want to keep in your wallet.

My third project was the gingham tote, so called because in the sample in the book the main outer pocket (which I used the blue floral for in my version) is made in gingham. As you can probably tell, this was a more involved project than the other two but, although there were more steps to go through, the individual processes themselves weren't complicated.

I deviated slightly from the bag in the book by using a purchased leather strap instead of making the fabric strap included in the pattern. This was mainly because I made the bag as a birthday present for my Mum as a replacement for a Cath Kidston one that she'd used  lot, and one of the things I knew she really liked about that bag was the fact that it had a leather strap. My version has the added benefit of the strap being removable for washing, whereas the CK one has a fixed strap, therefore meaning that I can pretend that I make better bags than Cath Kidston!

All three of these projects were really nice to sew. They're a good way to use up remnants/scraps, and a bit of a change from all the dressmaking that usually goes on around these parts.

I think that the instructions and diagrams are the kind that have a tendency to seem a bit confusing if you read them all through before starting, but then make complete sense and are easy to follow once you're actually sewing. Everything fitted together nicely, and I had no problems at all making any of the three projects.

Overall, I really like the general style of the whole book. The samples are made in a lovely range of modern fabrics, and they're beautifully photographed.

I would say that if you're only interested in sewing clothes then I don't think this would be the book for you. Although one of the sections is "To wear", it's definitely the smallest of the three, and the two garments (a simple chambray dress and a tunic) are both perfectly nice, but not anything revolutionary. I was aware of that before I bought the book though, so I'm not at all disappointed; in fact, I think there's a really nice selection of projects. A lot of them would be great to make as gifts as well - always handy at this time of year!

There are plenty more things that I'd like to make from Handmade Style. Top of the list has to be the patchwork bench, but I need to work out where I'd put it in my flat first! Have you made anything from this book?

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Winslow & Susie - the autumn edit

Back in August, I wrote a post all about my first pair of Helen's Closet Winslow culottes and wore them with a scoop neck hack of the Sew Over It Susie blouse. Now a few months have gone past, and I'm back again with a more autumnal version of the same outfit.

I really enjoyed wearing my viscose Winslow culottes this summer, so I was keen to try making another version for the cooler weather. While the viscose was lovely when it was hot, I thought some made with a thicker fabric would be nice, and being as I would be wearing them with tights now I also fancied a pair that were a bit shorter than my original version.

Happily for me, I had a piece of navy needlecord sitting in my stash that I found in a charity shop a while back. I always see people online who've found great fabric in charity shops but, even though I'm a frequent charity shop rummager, this was the first time I'd found any actual fabric (as opposed to duvet covers/sheets etc., which I often buy to use for toiles). I had no idea what I would use it for at the time but, at £4 for over 2 metres, I wasn't going to leave it behind.

When the idea of making another pair of Winslow culottes came into my mind, the needlecord seemed to be the perfect candidate. While I was keen to give culottes and tights a try, I wasn't 100% convinced that I would like the look on me so using the charity shop corduroy meant that I wasn't putting expensive fabric at risk. And navy goes with everything (in my wardrobe anyway!), so I shouldn't be short of tops to wear with them.

I made up view B (above the knee) in a size 14 with no alterations, and I'm really happy with how they turned out in the end, although I did have a bit of a hiccup along the way.

I originally used an invisible zip as recommended in the pattern and unfortunately it didn't really cooperate with the needlecord and the thickness it created at the waistband. Zipping them up was a bit tricky but just about OK when I wasn't wearing the culottes, but when I had them on I just couldn't get the zip over the waistband. I think if I'd had someone else around, they'd have been able to do them up for me, but being as I live on my own that wouldn't be a practical long-term solution! So I took the zip out and replaced it with a regular centred zip instead. That wasn't the most fun process being as I'd already trimmed my seam allowances, but I got there in the end.

As I said before, the top is another scoop neck hack of the Sew Over It Susie blouse - which is fast becoming a favourite top pattern for me (my first of these hacks is here).

This time I used the three-quarter sleeves to make it slightly more seasonal. Only slightly though - it definitely wasn't warm enough to be wearing it outside without a cardigan and/or coat when I was taking these photos, and I did get some very odd looks from passers-by.

The fabric is a lovely Liberty lawn which I picked up for a bargain price in the Fabric Rehab closing down sale. It's sad that they're closing - I haven't bought huge amounts of fabric from them, but I've always been really happy with any purchases that I have made. I think there's still time to pick up a bargain in their sale if you're interested...

I wore this outfit (with added cardigan and coat!) last weekend, and I really liked it. The culottes are really comfy, and it turns out I quite like how they look with tights. So much so that I think I might need to make another pair in the not too distant future!

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Jennifer Lauren Gable Top

A few months ago, I was lucky enough to win a giveaway in Simply Sewing magazine and part of my prize was a length of lovely Art Gallery jersey. I already had plenty of summer sewing projects on my agenda when it arrived, so I put it back to wait for future plans. A little while later, Jennifer Lauren released the Gable top and I matched the two of them up in my head as one of the first projects on my autumn sewing list.

The Gable is a knit top with a slash neckline, a long-line body and three different sleeve options - clearly here I used the long sleeves.

Sewing the Gable top was quick and really straightforward. The instructions and diagrams are really clear. It's rated as being for confident beginners upwards and I'd say that's right. It would probably be a good beginner knit project because I think that the way the neckline is finished (turning under and top stitching all the way from one shoulder to the other) is easier than using bands.

I did use the option suggested in the instructions of finishing the neckline as soon as you've sewn the shoulder seams rather than later in the sewing process, when you can try the top on and adjust the neckline according to your preference. I've had slash neck tops in the past so I was confident that I would like it, and finishing the neckline earlier seemed like it would be easier to me.

I made a straight size 14 and I'm pleased with how the fit turned out. It's slightly looser fitting than some of my t-shirts, but it's perfectly fitted enough for my liking. If I were to change anything, I might possibly think about slimming the arms down slightly for a future version, but they're not too baggy so I might not even do that.

It is described as being longline, and it definitely is an inch or two longer than most of my other t-shirts. That's quite a nice feature for this time of year because it comes down right to my hips, which helps keep my middle warmer!

The Art Gallery jersey was brilliant to work with. I've often admired their knits from afar, but so far haven't actually got round to buying any. It's not the cheapest of fabrics, but I'm a firm believer that it's worth paying for quality so it was nice to win this fabric so I could test the fabric out and see what it's like. As I said, it was great to sew and it feels lovely to wear as well. I'll definitely be investing in more Art Gallery jersey in the future!

I made the top with the intention of wearing it, as I am above, with my denim Lilou pinafore dress. It's a great for pairing with pinafores because the simple slash neckline will work nicely with different pinafore necklines. Hardly surprising really given than it was designed to complement Jen's Ivy pinafore.

Speaking of which, has anyone tried sewing an Ivy pinafore yet? I'm tempted by the tent dress version because it looks so comfy and cosy, but it's a pretty different silhouette for me so I'd love to hear if anyone's got any thoughts about it!

I'm calling this Gable top a definite success - it was great to sew, it's just what I wanted for wearing with pinafores, it's obviously super comfy to wear and, as an added bonus, I didn't even have to pay for the fabric! You can't beat that really, can you?!

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Seamwork Elmira Cardigan

When the Elmira cardigan was released as one of the patterns with the August issue of Seamwork, I knew right away that I'd be making one at some point. I really love the look of wrap cardigans, and the large bow closure is just the kind of thing that appeals to me. It was one of the first things on my autumn sewing list, and here's my version....

The Elmira is a cropped, fitted wrap cardigan that fastens with buttons and thread chain loops on the right on the inside, and a large ties at the left hand side.

As with all of the Seamwork patterns, it's a fairly speedy sew. I cut mine out one evening and sewed up everything apart from the loops and buttons the next evening. By the evening after that, I'd decided that I didn't want to use the loops and buttons, and instead I sewed in some poppers/press studs/snap fasteners/whatever-you-want-to-call-them that I had in my stash.

The fabric I used came from Girl Charlee, but I bought it several months ago and it doesn't seem to be in stock now. I originally ordered it intending to make a dress, but when it arrived it seemed a little lightweight for that so then it sat around waiting for me to decide what it would become.

When fabrics have been in my stash for a while, I tend to regard them as "free" (even though they're clearly not because I had to pay for them at some point) and will happily use them for anything, even if I'm not sure how they'll turn out (am I the only one that does that?!), and that's how this piece of jersey ended up being an Elmira.

It's a lightweight jersey; I can't remember the exact fibre content, but I'm pretty sure it's some sort of viscose blend because it's really drapey. It's also slightly sheer when stretched, which is what put me off using it for a dress. I knew wouldn't be a problem with the Elmira though, because I'll always be wearing at least a little vest top underneath it.

I don't think I would have wanted to use any knits that were much heavier than this. I noticed that one of the recommended fabrics in the Elmira description is French terry which sounds really cosy and tempting but, from my experience of French terry at least, I think that the knot/bow could end up being really bulky.

The fabric was nice to work with, and the instructions were clear and easy to follow. I'm not 100% sold on the finish that the pattern produces. The front pieces are self-lined, and the outer and lining pieces are joined together and the back neckline is finished (by turning under and stitching) before sewing the shoulder seams. I found that my shoulder seam allowances wanted to peep out at the neckline (because they're not enclosed in a band or anything) so I ended up top-stitching them down to keep them in place inside the cardigan. I'm not sure if that's a "thing" or not, but it worked, so that's what matters.

Based on my mesurements, I graded between a medium at the shoulders and bust, and a large at the waist. As it turns out, I really didn't need to grade up at the waist because I ended up taking the side seams in (probably taking them back to where they would have been for the medium), and I positioned the poppers so they're not right at the end of the inside front piece meaning that the overlap is bigger than it should be. I also added 1.5 inches to the length - fairly standard for me. With those adjustments, I'm fairly pleased with how the fit turned out.

The front crossover sits quite nicely when I'm wearing it. I've worn it once so far and, while I did have to adjust it a couple of times throughout the day, it wasn't constantly moving out of place as I feared it might. I would say though that this is definitely a wrap cardigan rather than a wrap top - you'll want to wear something under it unless you want the world to see your bra!

Overall, I'm pretty happy with how this turned out, and I love how it looks with a nice full skirt (I'm wearing it here with my denim Veronika skirt). I won't be rushing to make another Elmira instantly because I want to see how much I wear this one first. It's also reminded me that I have the Papercut Coppelia cardigan in my stash so part of me wants to make that one and compare the two. I could have my own little quest to find the perfect wrap cardigan! Have you made either of them? Or are there any other wrap cardigans out there that I should try?

Thursday, 27 October 2016

The comfort of the familiar

When the seasons turn, particularly from summer into autumn, my sewing tends to slow down for a while. For some reason, even though I carry on wearing a lot of my cotton dresses all year round and just add extra layers accordingly, it always seems to take my brain a little while to adjust to the fall in temperatures.

It's probably in no small part due to the fact that I'm always over ambitious in my sewing plans and when September arrived, and then quickly rolled into October, there were still a fair few patterns and fabrics on my summer sewing list that I slowly admitted to myself would really be best put on hold until spring.

Realising that and switching to thinking about cosier clothes always takes me a little while though. I don't know why really, because I'm not someone who mourns the end of summer. I do love it while it's here, but I also like the fact that we have different seasons. I'd always rather have sun than a dismal day, but I'm not too bothered about the fact that the sun comes with cooler temperatures at this time of year. After all, as long as you've got the right clothes on then you can cope with the cold. And it's not like it ever gets that cold in southern England anyway.

Over the past couple of years that I've been sewing, my main response to get me through the seasonal shift is to reach for my tried and tested favourite, and it will come to no surprise to anyone who's been reading my blog for more than about 5 minutes that the pattern in question is the Emery dress.

As far a I'm concerned, it's a pattern that's always going to produce winning results. It's also a pattern that, in the right print at least, definitely gets year-round wear in my wardrobe so is a nice transition - not so summery that it won't see the light of day for the next 6 months, but not so autumnal that it's a shock to my (evidently fragile!) system.

Usually just one version of the dress will be enough to help me bridge the gap, but this year I made two.

The first is in a Japanese import cotton that I got from Frumble a few months ago. It's a teal/blue background with a fun small-scale print featuring a whole load of different kitchen items. They only seem to have a remnant of this colourway available now, but they also have it on a natural background if you're interested. The thing I love about prints like this is that they just look like a random pattern from a distance, and it's only when you look up close that you realise my dress is actually covered with scales, mixing bowls, oven gloves and all manner of other paraphernalia.

The second is using the fruit gum blue print from the Cotton and Steel Fruit Dots collection. I picked it up in the sale from The Village Haberdashery, but they don't seem to have it in stock any more. It's one of those excellent prints that feature lots of colours so can be combined with a range of different cardigans and things. I mean, it practically makes it sensible for me to be walking round covered in chewing gum wrappers!

There's not much to say about the making of these dresses that I haven't already said in my posts about my previous Emery dresses (most recently here). The only thing that I've started doing differently is to lengthen the skirt by an inch. The length of the skirt as drafted is absolutely fine on me when I first make dresses, but I've noticed with some of my older dresses that have now been washed infinite times that they gradually shrink just a little bit and start to feel a touch on the short side. Either that or I'm growing, which I doubt because I've been the same height since I was about 12!

So there we go, my mental conversion to sewing for autumn is now complete and I've drawn up a little list of things I'd like to make over the coming months. How do you feel about sewing for different seasons?

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Puperita Hearts Hoodie

Where do you stand on sewing for other people? I'm quite a fan of it, but I am selective and only sew for people who I know will appreciate the effort that's gone into it. Or in this case, a person who is still a bit young to grasp the concept of sewing but whose parents will appreciate the effort. This is a little jacket that I made for my nephew's birthday present a couple of weeks ago.

The pattern is the Hearts hoodie from Puperita - a hooded jacket, with a fairly relaxed fit (relaxed enough that one can easily play football in it, as demonstrated below - he's just kicked a ball, it's not the start of a weird new dance craze!), designed to finish just above the knee. The description claims that it's the easiest coat or jacket pattern you'll find, and I have to say I'd probably agree with that.

I've actually made the jacket for him already (unblogged) when he was much younger and I remember being surprised at how quickly it came together, so I was more than happy to make another now that he's grown. I cut the jacket out one evening and easily did all the sewing, minus the buttonholes and buttons, the next evening so you can see that it isn't a complicated pattern.

The instructions are thorough and well illustrated with photographs. There was one point where I remember that I found the written instructions a bit confusing the first time around, but the photos cleared up what I was meant to be doing.

There are nine sizes ranging from newborn to five years, and as my nephew's still only 2 I can see that I might be making another one or two of these over the coming years. I'll definitely be getting my money's worth out of the pattern.

I considered a whole range of different fabric combinations, but in the end decided to use some royal blue polar fleece from Tia Knight for the outer fabric, and a fun tractor print cotton (my nephew's a big fan of tractors!) from Fabrics Galore for the lining. The buttons came from a local wool shop and are a really good match for the red of the tractors.

As the background of the lining is white, the blue of the fleece would have showed through slightly and dulled the colour, so I decided to underline it. As a happy coincidence, my Dad was getting rid of some shirts around the time that I was planning this project, and one of them was a really nice quality white one which was a bit worn on the collar but fine elsewhere, so that was cut up to use as underlining.

I'm really happy with how the jacket turned out. While my nephew may not necessarily understand the sewing, he definitely liked the tractors and wanted to try the jacket on straightaway. And my sister has already been stopped in town by someone who wanted to know where she bought the jacket, so I'm counting that as a success! I suppose that (scarily!) it won't be long until I need to start thinking about sewing Christmas presents - will you be making any gifts this year?

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Knitting - Patons 3769 Classic Knits cardigan

Today it's time for a quick break from all the sewing to share my latest finished knitting project - a cardigan knit using Patons leaflet 3769.

The pattern leaflet has quite a few different options that you can combine to make just the style that you want - a cardigan or waistcoat, different body and sleeve lengths, a range of stitch patterns and lace trim options. In spite of all of those possibilities, I still went a bit off piste and although the cardigan I knitted is very close to the pattern, it's not exactly the same as any of the versions in the leaflet.

The main change I made was to knit a cardigan that is mid-way between the regular length and cropped length specified in the pattern. This has given me a cardi that's the perfect length for wearing with my customary fit and flare style dresses. 

I originally intended to use the purl stitch rib stitch pattern, but when I started knitting there didn't seem to be great stitch definition with the yarn that I was using and it all just looked a bit of a mess. So I ripped it all back, and switched to one of the lace patterns included in the leaflet.

At this point I should probably mention, in case you're thinking of using the pattern, that the lace stitch patterns are labelled the wrong way round in the photos. Thankfully, while I'm no expert by any stretch of the imagination, I've knit enough lace in the past that I worked that out before I started. 

I chose the clover lace for my second attempt, but when I started knitting it felt like the repeats of the lace pattern were too close together and that I'd end up with a cardigan that was more holes than yarn. I decided to rip back again and restart the same pattern, but adding two extra rows of stocking stitch between each sequence of lace. Thankfully it was third time lucky and I was happy with that stitch pattern. 

Another change I made was to knit the sleeves in plain stocking stitch instead of using the lace pattern. That's just a personal preference because I sometimes feel like when I'm wearing a cardi with lace sleeves, the holes in the lace somehow seem to funnel the air onto my arms and make my arms feel colder than they would without a cardi on, which sort of defeats the point really! Am I weird or does anyone else have that problem?!

The yarn I used is Bergere de France Sonora, the same yarn that I used for my last cardigan, but this time in the colour Vapeur. It's a cotton and acrylic mix, which I really like - I think the acrylic content makes it feel more hardwearing than the pure cotton yarns I've used in the past. It's nice to knit with and comfy to wear and, just to make it even better, I got a complete bargain when I bought this (I think because the colour might have been discontinued). 

In terms of sizing, the finished measurements that I wanted are right between the small and the medium from the pattern. When I knit my tension swatch, the width was fractionally larger than it should have been. I did some calculations and worked out that if I knit the small with my slightly different tension then it should turn out to be pretty much the exact size I wanted. Possibly a bit of a gamble, but my maths must have been accurate that day because the fit turned out just right. 

Thankfully, after making all of those changes along the way, I'm really happy with how this cardigan turned out. Its just the right length for wearing with my dresses, and is a colour that will get a lot of use in my wardrobe. It is a kind of summery cardigan, but it's also warm enough that it's still going to be worn a lot this autumn. Now it's time to cast on a more wintery cardi! Are you knitting anything at the moment?