Sunday, 13 April 2014

GBSB and what Mr Doughty said


The Great British Sewing Bee ended this week (sniff) and Heather won (yay!). I had a feeling she might hold her nerve and sneak past the other two to a victory. She was certainly a worthy winner on the night as her last dress was absolutely fantastic. If you missed any of GBSB all the episodes are up on BBC's iPlayer until Tuesday.

I love GBSB but I sew so I guess that's not really surprising. However, I do sometimes wonder if the show appeals to people who don't sew? Also, I get inspired by the show to try new techniques and different project, so does the programme inspire people to take up sewing?

I started my not entirely representative survey with L at work. L watches GBSB and doesn't sew, so is she just watching for Patrick Grant? I asked her last week if the programme inspired her to take up sewing, and her reply was she would but she doesn't have any talent for that sort of thing. Well, that was like a red rag to a bull to me; I told her not only did she have the talent but I would personally teach her to sew. She is creative and has a great sense of personal style - so I think I have a good chance to create a new sewing enthusiast. (Hopefully this is not famous last words!).

When I was home a few weeks ago I went to visit my favourite local fabric shops, Doughty's Fabrics in Hereford. Doughty's have been providing dressmaking fabrics to three generations of my family, and while my mum and I were there we met the third generation Mr Doughty. I asked Mr Doughty if he had noticed any results from GBSB. He said yes, sewing classes had been filling up and lots of people had taken their sewing machine outs for the first time in year. 

He also told us that one of his suppliers also supplied GBSB, and as a result he has some of the same fabric. Including the pink and yellow elephant fabric used by Julie in week 2 in her box pleat skirt. Since that episode Doughty's had sold hundreds of meters of the fabric!

This really surprised me as I had never thought that people would want to make exactly the same project as they saw on the show. I take inspiration from the show, and might use the same pattern or fabric, but I don't think it would have occurred to me to use exactly the same fabric and pattern. Of course, for all I know they weren't buying the fabric to make box pleated skirts.

Having said I wouldn't recreate something exactly the same as it was made on the programme, there is one item I spied which I would; Lynda's scarf from episode 4.


Lynda's daughter wanted to see if she could create chatter in the on-line knitting community by slipping a beautiful piece of knitwear into the show, and she certainly succeeded. I am by no means the only person who was struck by the shawl, and in this instance I would consider using both the same pattern and materials, as the colour variation works so well in this example.

So what can I conclude? Not only is GBSB fun to watch, but it also inspires old and new sewers to dust of their sewing machines, support their local fabric shop and enjoy some creative fun by sewing and knitting - brilliant!

Monday, 7 April 2014

Where does the time go?

Really, where does it go?

The clocks went forward a couple of weeks ago producing that Irish favourite 'a grand stretch in the evening'. I was feeling positive this would encourage me to get more done on weekday evenings, but alas, no.

It seems I'm not alone in the problem having too many things I want to get done and not enough time (Lucky Lucille blogged about the same issue last week). 

I have my sewing, knitting and baking, all of which I love, and then I need time to blog about them all. Plus, moving into our new house has created a whole new range of tasks/hobbies - gardening, decorating ... basically making our house a home.

It's not all bad, I have got some things done. The front garden is looking better but there is still lots to do, and we have hardly started on the house.

Knitting wise, my blanket is progressing not as fast as I would like, but it is moving forwards faster than it has for a couple of years. But as a result I haven't had time for any other knitting projects, and I only have one of my dad's birthday socks finished and his birthday was over a month ago.

I've not even started on my Sew for Victory 2.0 project (which is partly because I am prevaricating) but also because I decide to start with a test run project from Gertie's books to get me familiar with the sizing, instructions, etc. It's not quite finished yet (I never seem to find time!) but it's looking good so far; here is a sneaky peak - admire the bound button holes!

Were is all this reflection leading? To the obvious conclusion I need to pull my finger out and get going. So I'm off to dive into my knitting basket and get my blanket square done for the day.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Sew for Victory 2.0

Last week Lucky Lucille announced Sew for Victory 2.0 - oh, so exciting! I loved last years Sew for Victory - the community, sharing ideas and the dress I made.

I really challenged myself, I scaled up a vintage pattern and learnt loads of new techniques, working with vintage patterns, bound button holes and side lapped zips. It was a steep but enjoyable learning curve.

So, how to top it this year? Well, I been turning over a couple of ideas, but there has been a project at the back of my mind for a while which I've lacked the courage to tackle. Then what happens? I sit down to the GBSB yesterday and the theme is vintage sewing and I loved it.

Firstly, the sewing machines. The contestants were all given a 1930s electric Singer sewing machine. Lynda and Heather (the most mature of the remaining contestants) both were delighted as they learnt to sew on this type of machine. Well ladies, you are in good company, because so did I.

This beauty is my mother's sewing machine; the machine that I learnt to sew on and the machine that started my love of sewing. Reliable, beautiful and up to any challenge. I do love my Bernina, but I'll always have a soft spot for the classic Singer.

Anyway, while I liked all the challenges the one which really caught my eye was the final challenge, making a vintage inspired tailored coat. I've been planning to make outerwear for some time, and I've had a couple of ideas in mind for a while. One of them is 1940's style, so would fit in with the Sew for Victory theme, and is going to be a challenge ... so I'm saying it in public, my Sew for Victory 2.0 challenge is 

The suit jacket from Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing, in a beauty wool herringbone(?) tweed, which was given to me some years ago by a family friend. 

Yikes ... this is some project, a fully tailored suit jacket by the end of April? Gulp ... I like a challenge, but I just hope I'm not setting my sights to high. Wish me luck!

Monday, 24 March 2014

Pattern Review: New Look 6078

At the beginning of December I completed my 1950s black cord dress, and expressed the intention of making a silk shirt to go with it. Although I had a pattern in my stash, and bought the silk to make the shirt straight away, I prevaricated about starting. I'd never worked with silk before, and I think that made me a bit nervous. However, a couple of weeks ago I finally plucked up the courage to get sewing.

I'm really pleased with the result, and this is probably one of the best sewn items of clothing I've made. I used French seams throughout, and spent ages getting the collar attached . I didn't quite get it on straight and there is a bit of overlap on the collar and button hole band, but for a first attempt I'm pretty pleased. The pattern instructions were very clear and this really helped. I found the little triangular buttons in Hickeys, I really like them and think they work very well with the look of the shirt.

I'm certainly planning to use this pattern again, I think a spotted version would be really cute, or a perhaps a more casual patterned one. But, in the meantime I have a very posh silk shirt to go with my black dress and have made myself a two items which can be worn together, not something I'm always great at doing.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Literary Knitter of the Month - Mrs Utah Watkins

I was home in Wales last weekend, and on Saturday evening we headed to the New Theatre in Cardiff to see Clwyd Theatr Cymru's fantastic production of Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood


For those who don't know in Under Milk Wood an omniscient narrator invites the audience to listen to the dream, lives and thoughts of the inhabitants of a fictional Welsh fishing village over the course of a day. The village is called Llareggub, which is bugger all backwards. Embarrassingly for a Welsh lass, I've never been to see Under Milk Wood, and I'm delighted I have now. The play is very clever and funny, and the cast and set were amazing. It was a really enjoyable evening, and the production is touring so if it is coming anywhere near you I would certainly recommend going to see it.

Much to my delight it also provided me with not one, but two literary knitters - just when I needed them! So taking them in the order they come in the text we have Mrs Utah Watson.

And high above, in Salt Lake Farm, Mr Utah Watkins counts, all night, the wife-faced sheep as they leap the fences on the hill, smiling and knitting and bleating just like Mrs Utah Watkins.

UTAH WATKINS (yawning)
Thirty-four, thirty-five, thirty-six, forty-eight, eighty-nine ...

Knit one slip one
Knit two together
Pass the slip stitch over.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Vintage knitting needles

When my mum came to visit me last October, she gave me a couple of packets of vintage sock knitting needles. I've been meaning to blog about them since then, but have only now finally remember to do so. I have four packets in different sizes, but only have photos of one set.

Lightweight, rustless and 'with specially tapered points which will not injure the fingers' - what more does a knitter need? The tapered points seem to be a feature they are especially pleased with, as they are highlighted again inside the packet.

I can confirm that the points are not sharp, but it did cause me to wounder if there had previously been problems with knitter impaling themselves on the points of their knitting needles?

I do like that, in a time before circular knitting needles, aero knitting pins can be obtained 'in all the usual "jumper" sizes'. But, under the flap is the slightly perplexing note 'these "aero" sock needles have been produced to meet an insistent demand for a rustless lightweight, metal needle. If stronger needles are required, the 'flora macdonald' hardened and tempered steel pins are recommended'. While I am delighted that the company has responded to the insistent demands of their customers and produced what they want, I am slightly perplexed as to why I would need stronger needles. What for? The needles I have seem pretty strong, I can't imagine what I would need stronger ones for? Knitting chain-mail perhaps? The mind boggles!

So why the sudden impulse to blog about these needles? Well, I'm home in Wales for a few days and needed a project for the ferry and train journey on Wednesday, so decided to cast on a pair of socks.

Fancy no? They are for my father's birthday present (his birthday was a couple of weeks ago, but he is very forgiving, at least I hope so). The pattern is called Symmetry and is from Op-Art Socks, a fantastic pattern book I got for Christmas packed full of the most amazing sock patterns. 

Monday, 3 March 2014

1970s dress restyle and the Great British Sewing Bee

On Saturday I promised a completed sewing project, and here one is. A couple of weeks ago I picked up this dress in the Vintage Oxfam shop in town.

I'm a bit perplexed about where this dress came from. Given some of the sewing techniques and quality I would suspect this might be a handmade dress, but then it seems to have the remains of a label sewn in by the zip. Whether handmade or not, I think this is a really cute dress, although I have a couple of issues with it. The zip is very badly inserted and so visible on the back (you'll have to trust me on this as I forgot to take a photo) and I find the neckline too high. 

I've blogged before about my mixed feeling on altering dresses made by someone else, but I recently bit the bullet and made the alterations to the first dress in this post.When I first wore it to work after the alteration I received lots of compliments, so I decided to dive in and make some alterations to this dress.

The main change I wanted to make was to the neckline, and I wasn't sure what to do until I remembered I had recently picked up some vintage dress patterns.

I decided this pattern had the best neckline, so used the pattern pieces to cut a new neckline on the dress. I then cut the facing piece from some white fabric in my stash, and attached the two. The result is, I think, not to shabby.

I also replaced the zip with a new lapped zipper; a technique I learnt last year and have fallen in love with.

As I'm sure most of you are aware, the Great British Sewing Bee is back on TV. Described by the Daily Mail as 'More gripping than The Wire. More innovative than Breaking Bad', The Guardian took a different tack offering 'an apathetic shrug'. Personally, and perhaps unsurprisingly, I am a fan and I suspect that a fair review of the programme is somewhere between the two given above. As to the contestants I'm not sure who my favourite is this year. I have a soft spot for my country woman Lynda, although Heather and her 'bucket of gin' could be fun too. Anyway, my point in introducing GBSB is that the two main techniques I used in this dress remake were things May and Patrick were looking for in the first two pattern challenges this series; facings and lapped zippers. So, how did I do? Well, my facing does not sit completely neatly at the front, so May wouldn't like that, but I think my hand sewing on the lapped zipper might just pass muster?