Weekend Away

There’s nothing like a deadline. And a challenge.  

Yesterday I was musing aloud in my favourite coffee shop whether I should try and make a tunic to wear away this weekend.  And was told not to bother.

So I did.  I’m awkward like that.

I’m on the train now, so this is not a proper post, but I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself right now so here’s a picture…

Not so glamourous selfie on the train.

Not so glamourous selfie on the train.

I even tidied up the pile before I left.

Getting smaller (bulk wise anyway)

Getting smaller (bulk wise anyway)

I am a bad disorganised sewer.

I have not finished my to do pile.

I keep starting more things.

And then putting them on one side and starting yet more. (I feel like an out of control mathematical expression, all open parenthesis and not an end in sight.)

My fabric is in random heaps in the spare room.

I have not sorted out my hardware issues and have written draft blog posts which I can’t upload the pictures for and started yet more blog posts using rubbish pictures but haven’t finished them.

I was going to get organised (sewing wise at least) and make myself some trousers back in October.

It’s now nearly the end of November and I’m thinking about blouses.

I blame Erin from Seamstresserin as she keeps writing about bow neck blouses of every kind imaginable for her sewalong. Not that I’m tempted to try a bow neck blouse at all as they’re really not my thing.

However I have been tempted by all the lovely Wiksten Tova blouses out there in blog land, there are too many to know where to start linking to. So tempted that despite my reservations about whether I’m the right shape to fit in suit one I went ahead and bought the pattern to celebrate finishing my curtains (by far the bulk of the remaining pile) although I had to use my mum’s printer to print it out. In the end I was swayed by the fact that I think the pattern is a bit like my favourite blouse, so has potential. Wanna see?

My fave blouse (bought from Seasalt)

My fave blouse (bought from Seasalt)

It’s all floaty in a gauzey soft cotton fabric witha subtle little print on it and it’s floaty without being tent like and Holy Moly that keyhole neckline thing has a bow. A shoestring bow maybe but it’s a bow. Where did that come from?! How did I never notice that?

Anyway, I like the collar on the Tova and I have a large piece of plain blue knit fabric from the scrapstore that I’ve used a corner from to make a toile/muslin in which has the added bonus that I won’t need to bother about finishing the seams.

So I just need to match these pattern pieces up from my printout and …. hold on, I can match the little number triangle OR the edge of the pattern pieces OR the edges of the rectangles, but not 2 of them, let alone all 3. Oh well, I’ll bodge it together and soldier on.

Right now to cut out in my blue fabric. Hang on, this fabric, err, there’s not very much of it and I seem to have used over half of what there was. There is nowhere near enough to make a blouse.

Ok, I’ll rummage upstairs. Except I don’t make clothes for me so there is nothing suitable in my fabric pile. Except maybe this that I picked up from the scrapstore for £1, which horror of horrors is pink. Ok, I can do pink, it’s just a toile after all.

Next, cutting out, ok. Put on plackets, fine. Attatch to front piece. Hmm, I’ve attached it inside out, which is even more obvious as I couldn’t be bothered to wind a pink bobbin so there’s the white reverse of my topstitching showing. And a hole on one corner where I failed to attatch the inset correctly. This needs needs redoing. 3 times . Hmm, this fabric is loose weave, it frays easily and pins leave holes.

Ok, so the front is bodged together just about assembled. Maybe I’ll just sew it to the back to try it on. Pink is not my colour, this is definitely a toile. I’ll try and take in the back, which appears to be a couple of sizes bigger than the front and add the sleeves. Hmm, I’ve added one sleeve inside out. Never mind, I can still guage the fit this way. Hmm, I wonder if I could, yes I might….

This is the only time I will wear this

This is the only time I will wear this

Behold (but not too closely) the prototype bow neck Tova. I bet this has been done before, to solve the gaping placket issue, but I can’t find an example of it. I have found a collarless Tova (done properly with bias binding not just turned over and hemmed like this one). Actually I kind of like it and I think the unfinished wider sleeves balance it nicely. Shame it’s so badly made, not great fitting and pink.

Seriously, I’m not convinced about the way the inset sits on my bust. Although hubby thinks it’s fine. Also, the upper back and the top of the sleeves feel a bit tight so I definitely don’t want to try the full bust adjustment if that results in a tighter sleeve cap. Which is a shame as I saw some great fabric for making a Tova dress (with a collar) that I had imagined I could rustle up for my weekend away on Friday. I think I need to let my subconcious mull over next steps for a while, but I hope there will be a well made properly fitted version sometime and maybe a bow necked version one day too. And if I do try again then I need to start before 9pm, takemy time, concentrate and do itproperly! If not, my mum might have the pattern as she was eyeing it up!

quick update

I have been making stuff. Lots of stuff.

I would be nearly through the pile if I didn’t keep starting more things.

I have been drafting blog posts about the stuff and having hardware issues and not posting the blogs. Yet.

Oh and I have a new machine. I’m over the initial excitement and I’m starting to learn what it can do, or rather what I can do with it.

Yesterday it was curtains, done the proper way. We’re quite pleased. They are even “glow in the light”.

I'm in love...

I’m in love…

Today was a little something extra. But it’s secret. For now. I will tell you it mainly involves rectangles.

Knit Knat Knoo

Well, knitting myself some fingerless gloves prompted two different reactions from my kids. First my daughter found me knitting. She demanded to know what I was doing and upon finding I was knitting something for myself looked cross and indignant, then lost interest and wandered off. Her older brother had a different approach. He didn’t object to my knitting but politely insisted that I had to knit something for him next. He decided it needed to be a replacement Scarfy.

At this point I better explain what a scarfy is. It all started when I was trying to knit myself a circular scarf thingy, inspired by my buff. I bought some hand dyed indigo sock yarn and tried to knit it in the round. I never got far, partly due to impatience at knitting with such fine yarn. And partly due to a small boy (age 4 at the time), demanding I knit him a tubular scarf, with yellow and red stripes going up and down it and a green stripe around the top and bottom. He was very insistant and scarfy was duly knitted. It turned out kind of like a wide headband that could be worn around the neck but he mainly wore it over his ears (someone told him that he looked like a cool ski dude like this. He had no idea what it meant but was pleased.) He wore it a lot his first year at school, often in the classroom. Little sister had a purply version made with sequins. Hers is still around somewhere, his has gone astray at some point.

Well, I agreed to make a new scarfy after I’d finished my mitts and together went through my inherited yarn stash, mainly acrillic double knit, and to my surprise he chose a rather tasteful green, red and gold variagaited yarn that is very autumnal. On reflection I think he didn’t want to miss out on variagated yarn, as my mitts were also in a variagated yarn. I insisted on chosing a matching dark slightly bluey green to border it, to capatilise on the tastefulness.

Knitting the Scarfy was straightforward, the main piece is just garter stitch and there’s not many stitches to a row, so it’s plain sailing. Initially I cast on 20 stitches, but after a few rows I decided that would be too wide with a border as well, so I ripped it and started again with 16. My main problem was that I couldn’t find any straight needles vaguely the right size so I ended up using circular ones (but knitting back and forth with them rather than in the round) and the loop kept getting in the way. Anyway, you just knit to the desired length, remembering that it needs to be stretched when on (I forgot this and his ended up a bit baggy, I had complaints and had to shorten it).

When the main band was finished, I picked up stitches along each edge in turn, one stitch for every 2 rows (easy with garter stitch) and did 3 rows of 1 in 1 rib before casting off with Jenny’s surprisingly stretchy bind off. Then there’s one short seam to sew up and voila, a new Scarfy to keep out the autumn chills (and make sure you’re not missing out).

Today, after a couple of weeks of wearing and a week missing in action it finally turned up and I got some photo’s to show you before it’s lost again.



A slightly calmer shot

A slightly calmer shot

Side view

Side view

Of course, this then prompted a fit of jealousy from little sister. So for reasons to complicated to go into I said I’d make her a headband with flowers on. I chose some blue from the stash (a thin ply that I knit double) that reminded me of a t shirt that really suits her which is also covered in felt flowers. This time the rows were even shorter (12 stitches) and quicker to knit up, plus I didn’t border it, so no picking up stitches and I soon had a headband.

I searched the wonderful web for flower patterns and found this free Gerbera pattern from ODD Knit (this site is fantastic and has lots of small quick projects to use odds and ends of yarn up). A gerbera seemed a good choice as the flower needs to be flat to fit on a headband, and the simple daisy style shape will be accepted as suitably flowerey by a 5 year old.

For the pattern, you knit the petals one at a time, but the last stitch of each one is used to make the first stitch of the cast on for the next petal, so they end up linked together in a chain. The petals are knit sideways, you cast on, knit 4 short rows (to shape the petal), then cast off and start again. I found the cast on the longest part. As the cast on and cast of edges curl inwards and are clearly visible, a method of casting on using a crochet hook called the Bind Off Cast On is used, so that both sides of the petal look the same. I hadn’t come accross this before but found this description, also by ODD Knit, easy to follow. I also came accross a U tube link, but I juch prefer written instructions with clear illustrations that I can take at my own pace to video’s. The only thing I’m not sure about is that the instructions seem to say that you need to take your crochet hook out of the yarn loop and reinsert it the other way each time. After a while I got bored and stopped doing this. I didn’t notice a change in appearance and it sped up the cast on.

A chain of petals

A chain of petals

I only knit 10 petals rather than 32 as in the pattern, as I wanted them to lie flat and not be in two layers like the gerbera in the pattern, plus I was impatient. Ten just felt about right. I knit two flowers, one in a yellow yarn and one in the variagated yarn to match her brothers scarfy (they appreciate that kind of detail). The flowers are quite big in relation to the headband so two was plenty. On reflection I should maybe have played around a bit and adapted the petals to be shorter and fatter. I didn’t knit the inner part of the flowers or the stalks, just the petals. Instead I used buttons for the centres. She had great fun rearranging my button collection (i.e. spreading it all over the table, taking sets ouf packets and mixing them up etc.) and chose two buttons. They weren’t my first choice, but she hadn’t had any say in the yarn colours so this was the compromise.

First flower sewn on, centreless

First flower sewn on, centreless

I sewed the base of each petal onto the headband to secure each flower and added a button centre.

The finished headband

The finished headband

I think the petals would be improved by being shorter and fatter, but I’m happy enough with it and she seems pleased too. Well, she does when I’m not trying to take her photo.
I'm doing this under duress

I’m doing this under duress

But I can't stay cross for long, I'm going to a birthday party tomorrow

But I can’t stay cross for long, I’m going to a birthday party tomorrow

I can be scary too!

I can be scary too!

Sewing Machine Blues

A couple of weeks ago my sewing machine broke. I was in the middle of making half a dozen sashes for some dancer friends and had a deadline. I was sewing away and heard a loud clunk, so I stopped. On closer investigation the timing has got out of sink and the needle wont go down it seems because the bobbin casing is in the way.

Luckily immediate crisis was averted as one of the dancers leant me his machine and I got enough sashes made in time (although there’s still a couple left to finish on the never ending pile that I’m supposedly working through rather than adding to). I thought about getting my machine fixed. It’s been fixed before and there’s a repair shop about a mile from my house. It’s a Singer Tempo 60 that I’ve had for nearly 20 years. My mum bought it for me as a birthday present, to stop me using hers I think. I’m pretty sure it was second hand. The more I thought about it I realised I wanted a new machine. Unsure of how to suggest buying a new one I started discussing a new one with my husband and he suggested buying one.

So I set off for my local sewing machine shop, with my mum in tow as she fancied a nose and a second opinion is always welcome. The shop had lots of machines and probably half a dozen in my £100-£200 price bracket and many more besides. The man in the shop was busy showing expensive quilting machines to someone, fair enough. I waited politely and peered at the machines and got confused by the ones not labelled with a price and the floating promo flyer that seemed to be for a machine they didn’t have. There wasn’t much space and mainly we loitered awkwardly. It’s hard to choose a machine by looking at it, they all look fairly similar.

Eventually the assistant paused in trying to persuade his other customer the complicated virtues of a machine (she didn’t sound convinced that she needed them all) to ask what I wanted. That’sveasy, namely a machine, costing £100 – £200, that does straight stitch, zig zag and buttonholes, as that’s at least 95% of what I use my machine for. He briefly showed me a £250 machine, without even acknowledging that it was out of my price range and seemed completely uninterested in mentioning any of the others I’d been peering at, stated it was “simple” and that I should definitely get this one. Then he went back to his sale.

I peered at the machine a bit more and another assistant materialised. I told her my criteria and she also firmly stated without hesitation that I should get this one, a £250 Brother (I forget the model number), which she also called simple. I pointed at the other machines in my price range on another wall and said that I’d read good reviews of Janome machines online and she pointed to a more expensive and complicated looking Janome and said it was equivalent to this, but this one was better. The others she didn’t mention. I said I didn’t like the look of the lcd screen on the Brother, I’ve never felt the need of an lcd screen to select stitches and surely this is just one more thing to go wrong. I was told that they never go wrong and that dials are more likely to break as they’re moving parts.

At this point I was feeling a bit cheesed off. Why did they stock half a dozen machines that were apparently so bad as to not be worth mentioning even when directly asked? What was so brilliant about this one that they both considered it the only choice worth mentioning? Could it be it had a greater mark up or comission or that they had too many in stock? Would an lcd screen really last 20 years? And why all this fixation with telling me how simple it is? I have never struggled to use a sewing machine, they’re all pretty simple. I didn’t struggle to use the computerised one that they had at my school. I think maybe on this point I was being touchy and by simple they meant basic, but they don’t say basic because it makes the machine sound bad and cheap. Trouble was by emphasising simple they made me think that they thought I was an idiot who would struggle to use a sewing machine.

Anyway I agreed to try the machine. Which was an odd experience. As well as a pedal it can also work with a button to start and stop it and there was a speed control too. So she didn’t plug the pedal in. Which meant I was trying it without a pedal and with her sat by my side. Neither of which I liked, especially not the button start/stop. (It’s not exactly time consuming to plug a pedal in). Anyway it sewed well and had a special buttonhole foot that you put your button in and it makes the hole just the right size, which I have to admit is pretty cool. She told me it had a strong motor and demonstrated sewing through several (6?) layers of fairly thick fabric on it easily, which I also liked. Then she gave me a glossy flyer for the model to take away. It didn’t mention the motor she’d gone on about anywhere.

I left the shop unhappy. I’d wanted to buy a new machine but I didn’t feel I trusted them. Also I’d wanted to part exchange my old machine (this shop being the repair shop too), because I don’t want to throw it away, but they don’t sell 2nd hand machines so that wasn’t an option. Oh, and the assistant told me that if I get a machine from them I get a half price class on how to use it and the class is 6 hours long! She neglected to say how much it would cost. Six hours on how to use a sewing machine? There may well be some things I would learn in that time but I doubt I’d be learning for the whole or even most of the 6 hours. I hope I’m not being arrogant but I (admittedly some time ago) took a GCSE in textiles and that involved competently using a sewing machine. Plus with small children 6 hours is a big time commitment to make. Even midweek it would overlap at least one of drop off and pickup times. She mentioned they’d tell me which threads etc I need to buy so I’m sceptical they’d just try and sell me more stuff.

So, I went to my local independent sewing shop to buy a machine and came out annoyed and not wanting to buy one. And worried that I was being churlish and it really was hands down the best machine.

Then I got distracted by Portia over at Miss P telling us about bargin overlockers at Lidl. I was tempted. Very tempted. But I didn’t get time to pop in straight away and that gave me time to realise that an overlocker without a sewing machine is not much use. So I reluctantly gave up on the idea. I hope they do them again next year (Lidl often do) and I realise and get chance to get one.

Any way, I did no more and did some more sewing on my friends machine.

Borrowed Janome

Borrowed Janome

And then I had to give it back. So now I’m machinless again and thinking of more sewing projects all the time. I don’t know if I should get my old machine fixed, either as an interim measure or to sell for the price I fixed it. Get a treadle machine, but I don’t think they do zig zag and where would I get it serviced. Oh and where to keep it.

Then today I went in our John Lewis and discovered that it has a small, unstaffed, haberdashery department and sells sewing machines. I had a question about whether the automatic buttonhole on one worked like the one I’d seen demonstrated and I found an assistant who didn’t know so rang a store with a larger haberdashery department to find out that it did. They also told her that any of their £99+ machines have motors strong enough to deal with upholstery fabric.

And now I find that I instinctively trust the opinion of someone who works for a chain store and that I have never met over the opinions of two employees of my local independent shop. This is wrong!

So, tonight I paid £1 for a months trail membership of Which and read their sewing machine report. And their best buy was a Janome. That they sell in John Lewis. For £220. I think I saw it in stock today. And the John Lewis website has great customer reviews for it.

I think I may be popping back in tomorrow…

Waste Not Want Not / Buy 1 Get 1 Free

So, after completely messing up  a slight miscalculation when scaling up a childs skirt to adult proportions, I had to chop off just over half my fabric to make a wearable skirt.  Which meant I had over half my gathered, tiered, beribboned fabric left.  Which needed something doing with it.  

Obviously I could have made a second, marginally larger, skirt. But it wouldn’t have fit me and I couldn’t think of anyone else I knew wanting one (apart from the recipient of the first one and I didn’t think she’d really want two). Besides the whole point was that it was a one off special skirt.

I could’ve unpicked the fabric and reused it, but that felt a little soul destroying, after I spent so long gathering yards of fabric. 

I could’ve sneaked it upstairs to my unfinished projects box.  But I was on a high having just completed several projects.  Plus it was on that pile, which I promised myself I’d vanquish in order to justify a selfish sew.

Actually I did know someone who’d like another skirt like that, the recipient of the original skirt, but it would be a little long for her.  But maybe a dress? Maybe a dress made with shirring, like they made on the Sewing Bee, that didn’t look so hard. But how to go about it and did I have the right amount of fabric?

Well, a quick internet search yielded a clear and concise shirring dress tutorial from Leila of Where the Orchards Grow. Which revealed the magic proportion of 1 and a 1/2 times pre shirred fabric width to chest size. I measured the fabric. I measured a small girls chest. Taking seam allowance into account the former was almost exactly 50% bigger than the latter. It was meant to be.

The top purple floral panel of my fabric had a generous strip at the top that had been allowed for making waistband casing. I lopped it off and made two wide, flat, rectangular straps and topstitched them. I french seamed the sides of the dress, including a self drafted pocket (for a small girls hand and including ease) made from skull and crossbone fabric (just like the skirt, I like to think my daughter is quite tough under all the flowers) in each side. Then the top was hemmed (the bottom was aleady). I hand wound my bobbin with specially purchased shirring elastic and set to work (after a test on some scrap fabric).

After the first couple of rows I wasn’t sure. But a few more and the magic started to happen. It started to look like a proper dress. I kept going for the whole purple section until just above the ric rac (not sure shirred ric rac would be a good look). Then after a quick fitting to pin the straps on, I sewed them into place and voila one super quick dress (if you forget the hours needlessley preparing the extra fabric when making the skirt).

Wanna see?

'Scuse the post wearing crumpled look

‘Scuse the post wearing crumpled look

(I do have a decent camera, I just can’t get it to talk to an internet enabled device right now, hence more dodgy shots from a fixed lens flashless devices, sorry, I really must sort that out.)

I love it, she loves it and amazingly her brother isn’t sulking about it. It has taken some persuading to get her to wear t shirts and leggings with it as it’s not summer dress weather at the moment, but I think it’s got enough growing room to last through next summer. Here’s a bad photo of her wearing it.


Somehow the silouette (with the extra flare of the tiers under the shirring rather than using a tube) makes me think of Alice in Wonderland. I’m really pleased to have made the most of my mistake. And don’t tell, but I think I may prefer this to the skirt version.

Knitting Update

ImageRemember the gorgeous but impossible to work with yarn that I bought? Well, I forgot to say that I knit it up.  Here are my two rectangles before I sewed them up into fingerless mitten / wristwarmer thingies.  The left shows the front of the twisted rib, the right the back where it comes out as plain rib. (Apologise for the fuzzy photo, I’m having hardware issues). I didn’t want to do anything complicated texturewise that would fight with the variagated yarn, but I wanted something a bit more interesting than plain rib.  I like the effect I got, but it’s messy.  My excuse is the number of times I had to tie the  yarn back in because it broke as I was knittng.  I knitted the ends in as I went because I couldn’t face the thought of weaving them all in.

 Well, they’re cosy and stay on and I still love the colours. Need to make the thumb holes a bit smaller though.

Dodgy selfie

Dodgy selfie