Sunday, 15 November 2015

Third time a [Winter] Star

I bought this rather lovely sparkly yarn at the HandmAid sale last year, and its been causing me no end of problems ever since! First off, it was label-less so I didn't know what I had. This was not such a big problem as one of my knitting friends identified it at Dublin Dye Sparkle Lace, which gave me the yardage and meant I could make an informed decision on what to make with it.

A search of Ravelry brought me to Crown Tee by Jenise Hope, I love the design and felt it would look lovely with the light sparkle of my yarn. However, it was all down hill from there. The guidance given on gauge in the pattern is a little bit vague - and I had a complete nightmare of a time getting, or rather, failing to get the gauge. It was first massive, then not quite so massive and on the third attempt still huge. After the third attempt I gave up.

My second choice was Ruby Lace Top by Suzie Sparkles, I at least got the gauge right on the first attempt with this top. But, it wasn't love at first knit, or even second or third. It took me over five months to knit what is a fairly simple top, and it felt like a duty rather than a pleasure for most of the time! I don't really know why I didn't like the top, in the picture it lovely, maybe it works better in a darker yarn than the lighter colour I used.

I finally finished the top about two weeks ago and, I've never done this before, I ripped this project back within five minutes of completing it! Yikes, I don't know what possessed me (possible it was the couple of glasses of beer I had earlier in the evening) but I'm not sorry for what I did. Although it seems a terrible waste of all the knitting hours I put into the top, I think I'd know from quite early on I was never going to wear this top and I probably should have given up on knitting it some time before, but I can be stubborn at times!

However, the third (and final) project I've made with this wool has been a success - Gudrun Johnston's Norby hat.

(I'm not sleeping, just incapable of keeping my eye open when having my picture taken)

Norby is designed for 4ply yarn, so I used mine held double. I found the sizing a little problematic on this one as well, and from Ravelry it would seem I'm not the only one. The hat is meant to be a slouchy fit, but my first attempt had more than just slouch! It wasn't an insuperable problem as the pattern is a 11 stitch repeat, so it was easy enough to take out two repeats. 

This pattern is really simple and was very quick to knit, and I love the zig-zag rows of reversed stocking stitch. Although I stated in a fairly recent post that I wasn't that keen on tassels I decided that this hat looked a little lost without them.

So, after two failed attempted I've now made a project I'm happy with and I'm all ready for the winter weather! Well, maybe not all ready but I think I'm got enough yarn left over for some matching mittens.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Pattern Review: Gertie's Knit Sweetheart Top

Last month I decided to clear out my wardrobe, I took a ruthless approach and sent four bags to the charity shop, or to H&M who are now offering textile recycling. (Not only will they take my fabric scraps away and recycle them, but you get a money off voucher for each bag brought in!) As a result I'm down to a much smaller wardrobe than normal, but on the bright side that gives me the opportunity to do lots of sewing.

I decided to start on the casual side of my wardrobe, and for my first project picked the Sweetheart knit top from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual.

I wasn't too sure of the best size to make, as I fall between two sizes, so decided to make a 'wearable muslin' in the smaller size, from some knit fabric that has been hanging around in my stash for a while. I have to admit I've been slightly put off making anything from this book as you have to trace the pattern pieces from the master sheets and while I understand why it is like this, I'm a bit lazy.

There are only three piece to this top so it wasn't too much of a chore to trace, and once the pieces were all cut out it was very quick to make up. The instructions were very clear, and I used some of the early chapters in the book to pick up some new techniques for working with knit fabrics.

I'm really please with the result. The top answered my question about sizing, its the right size, except the armholes. This was my own fault as I didn't read the instructions carefully enough and cut the armhole binding to short. I even got the pattern placement worked out, with the pattern centred and well placed on both front and back.

However, this does lead to the question of do I want a top with a pink unicorn on it? Realistically, I don't think I'd wear this out of the house, but it screams PJs at me. So, I whipped up a pair of PJ bottoms using Sewaholic's Tofino pattern. I've used this pattern before and found them very comfortable, I did simplify things by leaving out the piping and the fake fabric belt tie - they are PJs after all. 

So, what did I think of the sweetheart top pattern? I loved it, it was really quick taking a couple of hours to cut out and sew, and very wearable (if not my unicorn version). Would I make it again? Yes I will, indeed I have already have. (I'm not joking about throwing most things out from my wardrobe, I'm down to my last two t-shirts). I've made a second wearable version, and have the fabric for three more, which will take advantage of the different neck and sleeve variations which come with the pattern.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Charity Shop Fabric Haul

Just a quick post today to get me back into the swing of posting. I've had a few busy week at work, followed by a week's holiday (very nice thank you) and need to get back into the blog habit.

I've a haul of fabric from my latest charity shopping trip to show off. My usual partner in charity shopping crime is away on her hols, but my friend M stood in as a more than adequate substitute. In the second shop we visited I came across a box of fabric, by the looks of it the remnants of someones stash from several decades ago (some of the original prices still attached to the fabric remnants would make you weep). Most of the fabrics was lining material in a range of pastel shades, but there were a couple of gems.

I settled on these four; I love the two green, black and white fabrics (there is between 1.5 and 2 meters of  each of these), the 2 meters of red lining fabric was a practical buy, and I couldn't resist the little piece of pattern blue, probably only a yard. 

The pricing was egalitarian after a fashion, 2 euro a piece, although for some reason the very nice lady at the counter decided one of my pieces was 'very small' and I was only changed 6 for the lot - bargain!

When I got home I delightedly showed my new acquisitions to the boyfriend whose laconic comment was 'Excellent, more fabric, just what we need'. Me thinks he might have been being sarcastic!

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

FO: Perugino Throw

A year (or two) ago I was visiting my mum in Wales, and we went for a visit to our Local Yarn Store. I couldn't resist Colinette's Perugino throw kit. The kit contains a mix of mohair and cotton tape yarns in a bewildering array of colours. I couldn't resist the carousel colourway, all jewel bright greens, blues and pinks!  

It has been sitting in my stash ever since, casting reproachful glances at me. However, in September I finally got to work on it! I glanced over the pattern, thought that looks easy, and didn't pay much more attention - which is why I knitted my throw in stockinette stitch instead of the suggested garter stitch.

 I'm happy with the result any way. The decision to leave the tassels off was intentional, I just didn't think they would add anything to it.

Colinette are very generous in their kits - there were two 50gram skeins of all three of the mohair colours. I only just started on the second ball of each, and by leaving out a couple of repeats of the pattern they could have got away with 50grams of each.

I, however, am very glad they were so generous as I was able to use the rest of my left over pink and blue mohair to make a cushion.

The pattern is a free one from ravelry, You-Zig-I-Zag, it was a fast and very satisfying knit, and goes rather well with my new chair!

So, there we are ... two projects for the price of one ... and a substantial chunk out of my stash!

Monday, 5 October 2015

Vintage Pattern Giveaway Winner

I'm glad I re-ran my Vintage Pattern Giveaway as this time I had four comments from people who were interested in becoming the proud new owner of this little lot.

I called on the independent scrutineer who oversaw my last giveaway to make sure of fair play.

And making use of selected a winner.

Congratulations to Kristine, this bundle of patterns will soon be winging there way to you in America! I hope you will find something to suit your daughters.

In other news, I took last Friday afternoon off work to go fabric shopping (on the high street and on line), and have plans for several autumnal sewing projects.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Failing my Plans, Planning for Fall

Yikes, I can't believe it is October already ... where did the year go!?! I had such good intentions at the start of the year, but looking back now I'm not very near meeting them;

During 2015 I will sew up at least five of my vintage or reproduction sewing patterns - um that would be a big fat 0 out of 5!

During 2015 I will make at least five projects using fabric from my stash - 1 out of 5 for this one, well nearly one, so a slight improvement.

During 2015 I will make at least one coat and some lingerie - no coat, but I did make some pants, so a generous 50% on this one.

During 2015 I will knit at least 10 project using (mainly) yarn from my stash - finally a success, I've just cast on the 10th project for the year using stashed yarn, I might exceed my goal on this one.

I think its clear from this review that I've done a lot better on the knitting than on the sewing. There have been some extenuating circumstances; I was without a sewing machine for several months while work was being done on our house, and then there has been all the unpacking and redecorating once we moved back in. Plus, we got an allotment this January and it has taken a lot of digging.

However, I've been back in my lovely new sewing room for over two months now and, aside from one dress, I've produced nothing. I've been in a sewing slump and I'm determined to snap out of it, Ever since I moved back in to my sewing machine I've been staring at a basket of unfinished projects, and they have been staring back at me. We're not getting anywhere and I've decided the only solution is to put them to one side and come back to them later.

I've also decided that instead of working from from my stash and making projects because I have the fabric, I'm going to look at my wardrobe and make what I need first. (Hopefully there will be some cross over).

I spent Sunday afternoon carrying out a task I do quite enjoy, turning everything out of my wardrobe and sorting out what to keep and what to throw out. I'm quite ruthless when I get into the swing of this and I ended up filling two large bags for the charity shop or textile recycling. I've also ended up with a very sparse wardrobe, and surprisingly little of it is handmade.

As as result of this clear out there are several areas of my wardrobe which are in need of my attention, and I'm going start with some casual wear as I'm down to my last pair of jeans (which are rather thin at the seams) and I need some new t-shirts.

I like lists and I like planning, and to aid me in my new intentions I've armed myself with a new tool, to go with my existing Dressmaking Notes book which I used to write by sewing shopping lists.

Gertie's New Fashion Sketchbook contains pages of pre-drawn 'body positive' figure templates to draw your designs on. I like to sketch my design ideas, but I'm not very good at drawing people, so I'm going to give this a go.

Nifty, no? I might even share some of my drawing if they turn out well.

Now I'm off to do some planning, prior to a visit to the fabric shops tomorrow :)

Sunday, 20 September 2015

DIY chair upholstery

Firstly, thanks to everyone for the kind comments on my post about my new sewing room. It seems that the chair I upholstered caught most attention, so I thought I share some details on what I did. This is not going to be a step by step guide, but rather reflections on what I did and how, and it will hopefully encourage other to have a go.

Just to say upfront I've never taken on an upholstery project like this before. I have done some small bits and pieces, making cushions and re-covering drop in seats for chairs, but nothing on this scale. I've always wanted to try a more complex upholstery project, and I was on the look out for a suitable chair for my sewing room when I came across this one while charity shopping with my friend T. I had already spotted the bird fabric in the window of my local fabric shop, so there was no difficulty there.

Armed with the chair, the bird fabric, and plenty of enthusiasm, I still felt I needed a bit of expert guidance and for that I turned, as I often do, to my dad. He is a man of many talents and has dabbled in upholstery in the past. He lent me the book that had guided him, Vernon M Albers' The Repair and Reupholstering of Old Furniture.

As the cover indicates this is quite a 'retro' book, first published in 1969, the author was a University Physicist, who had an interest in restoring furniture and had, according to the back cover, restored a variety of items including 'three harpsichords, a grandfather's clock, a pair of Sheraton banquet tables, and a Virginia highboy'. Not entirely sure what a Virginia Highboy is but Prof Albers I salute your industry!'.

The book contains clear and practical instructions, with diagrams, on how to carry out the steps, and guidance on tools, including the important of the curved upholstery needle which turned out to be very helpful. Based on Albers advice I purchased 4.5 meters of fabric (I ended up used less than this but not much and I did have to 'waste' some fabric to get the pattern placement I wanted).

The first step was to strip back the chair, removing the legs and taking off all the fabric careful to keep the pieces in tact. I made notes as I was working of which pieces I was taking off and the order I was taking them off, so that I could then put the new covering pieces back on in the reverse order. Followings more of Albers' excellent advice I only stripped one arm of the chair so I could use the other as guidance when putting it back together

I used the pieces of fabric I had removed as templates to cut up my fabric. Making sure to get the pattern running the correct way, with the bird placed, as far as possible, in the center of the pieces. I also make several meters of covered pipping, which would be needed during construction.

The first piece to go back on was the bottom piece, which was stretched into place and tacked with upholstery nails underneath, and stitched into place at the back. I then build the arm back up piece by piece, in the reverse order to taking them off. The chair had originally been upholstered with A LOT of staples, and although I considered using a staple gun, in the end I went for upholstery nails and hand sewing - more time consuming but I think a neater and more complete job.

Sorry for the terrible quality of this picture, but you can just about see the pins holding the fabric in place at the end of the arm. I entirely hand sewed the end arm piece into place partly as I wanted to make sure I got he bird in just the right place and I'm really pleased with the result.

A rather better picture showing the half way (ish) point, with one arm in the new fabric and one in the old. 

It seems that I failed to take any work in progress pictures from this point onward, which is not very helpful for trying to illustrate what I did. But basically, having completed one side I then set to work on the other side, before covering the back. Once everything was in place I put the final piece of plastic webbed fabric back over the bottom of the chair covering all the raw edges tucked inside the chair during covering. My final task was to make the new cover for the seat cushion, a much easier task.

I'm so pleased with the final result. I made mistakes along the way, and there are faults in the final result. But, as with most self-made projects I suspect these are much more noticeable to me as the maker, than they are to most other people, so I won't be listing them now :)

The bird cushion was a very nice Cath Kidson jumper which had a slight tangle with a hot washing machine, and lost (so silly of me). As I couldn't wear it I cut a square out of the front, over-locked the edges and turned it into a cushion. A very successful up-cycle I feel.

I really enjoyed this project, it wasn't quick, it took me many evenings and weekends, but it was worth it. Despite the excellent advice of Prof Albers I made mistakes, which I hope I will learn from, I learnt lots of new skills, and I made a very nice chair. I would certainly undertake another upholstery project, indeed we have a three piece suite downstairs which I have my eye on (I'm nothing if not ambitious.) And I hope, maybe, I might encourage other to have a go at upholstery too, under suitable guidance (not mine).