Monday, 2 March 2015

Paws for thought

I can't believe it is March already. I feel like time is running away from me, I have such good intentions but I never seem to get round to finishing them. It's not a lack of motivation, I just seem to have a lot on - its been busy at work, we got an allotment at the beginning of February (although the weather hasn't been great so we've not spent much time up there) and after a year and a bit in our new house, the builder started work on our new kitchen and rewiring the house today! Which is great in the long term, but in the short term it mean disruption, dust and my sewing table being purloined. So, the next few weeks may not be the most productive for me crafting wise, but luckily the last few weeks have and I have a few projects to show.

One thing I have finished, and on time, is my father's birthday socks. Long time readers will know that for the last few years I have knitted my father a pair of socks for his birthday, which is the first of March. Unlike last year when his socks were several months late, this year he had a present to unwrap on the day.

For various (all charming) reasons my dad is know affectionately as Tigger or the fat cat, so I felt this year's socks needed a feline theme. I used a combination of patterns for these socks, the base pattern is Father's New Socks, I made the socks for him two years ago and he said they were a good fit.

The cat head is from a pattern I found on ravelry, I had to make a couple of alterations to the pattern to make it fit across the number of stitches I had on my socks. I added in an extra four stitches, two on each ear and one into each of the squares in the boarder. I love the way the cats face outwards on each sock. The paw print comes from this pattern, and I just couldn't resist it.

Reports from my father are that he is delighted with the new socks, and that they fit perfectly! Happy Birthday Dad :)

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Vintage week on the Sewing Bee

I think I'm enjoying this year's Sewing Bee even more than in previous years; the contestants are better, the challenges are harder and the judges and presenters are a good as ever.

Last week's episode was vintage week, and the contestants were all equipped with a vintage sewing machine. But not just any vintage sewing machine, a Singer Featherweight - just like the one my dad gave me for Christmas!

In the first challenge they had to make the Butterick Walk Away dress (B4790), a dress that was so popular when it was first printed in the 1950s that Butterick apparently stopped printing all other patterns to fill the orders for this one. It's main selling point was that you could 'start it after breakfast ... walk-away in by lunchtime'.

All of which make it an ideal pattern for the Sewing Bee and their time challenges. The amount of bias binding in the pattern also makes it an idea pattern for using the bias binding foot which comes with this sewing machine.  This dress has been on my wish list for a while, and I think inspired by the Sewing Bee, I will make it and I will be using my Singer Featherweight, and its bias binding foot.

In related vintage sewing news, I was recently sent the following extract from a 1940s Singer sewing machine manual, for what looks like a machine just like mine!

As I don't have a husband, I can't comment on the need to keep myself looking neat and tidy for him, but I do  agree with the need for mental preparation before sewing. I know I can only sew when I'm in the right frame of mine, and I certainly think it goes better if I'm working on a project I'm happy with. Today, I did my ironing before starting the sewing, but did this make for a better sew? Well my sewing went well today, but I don't know if the two are necessarily connected.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

How much is that doggie bag in the window?

This post has been a long time coming: ostensibly it's about this bag and matching purse, which I made as a Christmas gift. However, every time I sat down to write the post I realised it needed a bit more back story.

I made this as a gift for K, but who is she and why the gift? K was my mum's flatmate at university and is one of her best friends. As a result she has been a fairly permanent fixture throughout my life, whether sharing Christmas with my family or on holiday at her house in the Ardeche (and yes that is me hammering nails with my teddy bear). When I was growing up K was like an extra (and very cool) aunt.

Like me K is from a family of crafters (her mum was a sewing instructor for the WI), and in recent years I have been able to share my love of knitting and sewing with her. It is one of the things I love about crafting that it something which can be shared (in person or on line), and some of my closest friends now are ones I've made through knitting (hello ladies!). In the past few years K have very generously give me some beautiful fabric and buttons from her stash, from which I've made this dress and this jacket.

I wanted a special way to say thank you to K for her generosity, and I thought what better way than making her something from some of the fabric. Thus, the doggie bag was born.

The pattern is from Emma Brennan's Making Vintage Bags, and the fabric ...  well it was formally in K's stash! I know K loves dogs and I couldn't resist the little applique dog. I really wanted to line the bag with dog fabric, but I found it very difficult to find. I dragged my poor boyfriend round every fabric shop in Cork and on our holiday before Christmas and failed. When I got home for Christmas I thought I would just try my local fabric shop at home, and there they were - these adorable little Scottie dogs.

I really enjoyed making this project, not only because it was a fun little project but also because of who I was making it for. It is also one of the best made things I've done in a while, you can see from this picture I even quilted the lining fabric! Well K's mother was a sewing instructor for the WI, and I knew she would be checking my workmanship. And I was right, the very first thing she did was look at the seams!

Having scrutinised my handiwork, and it having (I hope) passed the test, K seemed delighted with her new bag, and I hope it will be getting plenty of use!

And while K was unwrapping her present, I was unwrapping one from her and what was it in? Yep, that's right ... more loveliness making its way from K's stash to mine!

This picture really doesn't do the gift justice - the fabric is a lovely navy blue wool (I'm thinking coat - especially as it is one of my goals for the year to make outerwear) and the buttons and buckles - well what can I say, they are just fabulous and I can't wait to make something from them. And, I already have a project in mind for the green ones!

Friday, 6 February 2015

Full of good intentions

I started January with a good intentions and set out my resolutions for my knitting and sewing year. Sadly, all my good intentions lead to very little for the rest of the month.

Having started my stash busting Lauriel early in the month, I then cast on two new project for which I had to buy new yarn. Both are gifts (a belated Xmas one and a forthcoming birthday) so I have an excuse but still, 10 projects this year using yarn (mainly) from my stash is looking like a tall order! However, by way of inspiration and to answer ardechewalks request, here is the pattern pic of Lauriel.

To get back to my lack of progress, having made lots of very clear (read ambitions) resolutions for my sewing I completely froze! I didn't know how or where to start ... I was seriously lacking sewing mojo.

I finally broke out of this rut with a quick and easy project - pants/knickers/smalls, what ever you want to call them - I've made some.

I've made pants before, using Gertie's pattern, which uses jersey which stretches both ways. However, the pattern I used this time, from the Secrets of Sewing Lingerie, uses fabric with stretch in only one direction. Luckily, I have some little bits and pieces of left overs just right for this project.

The pants on the left are made from some left overs of fabric I picked up in Barcelona some years ago, the pants on the right are made from some fake liberty fabric - or 'flibity fabric' as my friend T christened it - love it!

Making the pants reinvigorated my sewing, and I spent a long evening tidying my sewing room and clearing out a load of half finished projects which have been lingering around for months. I'm not saying I will never go back to them, but for now they are out of sight and out of mind, and I'm not feeling guilty every time I look at them. It has been both a cathartic and useful experience, and I have now embarked with new energy on my sewing. I've nearly finished a pair of trousers for work (using only material and notions from my stash) and have lots of ideas for what to make next.

I've also decided to take part in Coletterie's Wardrobe Architect series. This was originally run last year and I had intended to take part, but never quite did. However, its being re-run this year and I am going to do it this time. All my cogitating in January has made me realise that I tend to make individual items because I've found some nice fabric, without thinking about how I'm going to wear them with the clothes I already have. So, I'm hoping taking part is going to help me reflect on what I make and construct a more wearable wardrobe. Although, I retain the right to still make some completely impractical and unnecessary items!

Sunday, 25 January 2015

A blocking bonanza

The first weekend of the New Year saw me undertaking a blocking bonanza for me as I had three shawls in need of some attention.

The first was a gift for the baby of a friend. The pattern is a 1940s baby shawl/blanket called bubbles, and has been knitted for generations of babies by my mother and grandmother. This was the first time I had ever made the shawl by myself, and I was a bit nervous. 

There were some hiccups with this project. I picked a lovely oatmeal Drops Lace to make the shawl, but when I started I found it was too light weight and that the stitch definition and pattern was lost. Humm....Eventually I decided I had to rip back and try with the yarn held double. The fabric it was producing was much better, BUT I wasn't going to have enough yarn. Grrr...

The solution? Well I had some green Drops Lace in my stash, so I decided to go two tone.

I'm really please with how this turned out. As the observant reader will notice I didn't knit as many rows of feather and fan as in the original pattern, due to the amount of yarn I had, but it is still pretty big and I really like how to two colours work together.
The second shawl to be blocked was the first of the two whippoorwill shawl, I ended up making two because the wool I ordered to make it didn't arrive before my holiday

The wool I used in this shawl is drops delight, with some place purple for the eyelet rows and lace edging. Although its not the rainbow shawl I had in mind, I do like the ways the stripes have worked out. However, I decided I didn't need two of these shawls so I gave this one to the friend whose baby is getting the bubbles shawl.

The final shawl to be blocked was my Whippoorwool, made with the beautiful rainbow yarn I order specially so I could make one just like Linda's on the Sewing Bee.

I am so glad that I decided to order this wool, it is just beautiful - the colours are so vivid and it works so well with this pattern.

I made the first of these shawls to the medium size, but on the second one I decided to go for broke and make the bigger size. While I'm glad that I did this, I realised part way thought that I wasn't going to have enough to complete the pattern.

My solution was to keep knitting rows of garter stitch after the first eyelet row, including the eyelets and the increase and decreases. I kept going until I had run out of wool, and ended up with about 20cm left.

Although not the same as the original pattern, I think this worked out really well, and the few rows of garter stitch keep the edge nice and flat. I love this shawl, its big, bright and cozy, and will be cheering up many a winter days.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

What is in the box?

 Well, its my Christmas present from my dad. But what is it?

Can you guess yet?

Yep, it's a sewing machine. To be more accurate it is a Singer Featherweight 221K, a light and portable sewing machine.

Amongst  my dad's many and varied talents, he volunteers as an electrical tester for charity shops. He tests and certifies electrical donations are safe, so the charity shops can sell them. This was a donation which came across his electrical testing table, and he thought it might be something I might like. He was quite right!

I've been doing some digging on the Internet to find out a bit more about this machine. These models were made from the 1930s to the 1960s, and based on the lack of a model number this machine was made before 1953. It seems the earlier models also have this rather attractive 'Egyptian scrollwork' pattern on the face plate.

Having been taught to sew on my mum's old Singer I can certainly say that this machine is substantially lighter than the full sized Singer, and I can see why it was popular with occasional sewers who wanted to be able to pack it away easily.

Part of the marketing for this machine was that although it was smaller and lighter, it had the same functionality and quality as the big machine. To prove that it could do just as much as the main machine, all Featherweight sewing machines were supplied with a comprehensive range of attachments for specialist sewing techniques.

These are just some of the many attachments which came with mine, they do everything from making and attaching bias binding, darning and ruffles. All of these feet, plus the instruction book, needles, oil and a spare bulb pack neatly into a tray which sits into the top of the case above the machine.

The only think missing are the bobbins, you can see the five holders for the bobbin all sad and empty. My fabulous father hunted some up for me on the Internet and I am now all set and ready to go.

The only questions is where will I be going with my portable featherweight Singer? Well I have promised to teach a couple of friends to sew, so I think this little machine is going to get a lot of use!

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Cogitating and resolving

I've spent some, probably too much, time since my last post cogitating on my New Year's crafting resolutions - should I make any? What should they be? Will I be able to keep them?

I've been reading Stuart Sutherland's Irrationality, and one of his thesis is that you are more likely to keep resolutions if you publicly make them - I need to make some public resolutions, hence this post.

In the past I've tended to make quite general resolutions like I want to decrease my stash or make better quality garments, and while these are good aspirations I think I need some more quantifiable resolutions -  I need some targets on a list which I can tick off.

I was drawing a blank on what my list of targets should be when I stumbled across The Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge, and that got me started thinking. I have bought a lot of vintage sewing patterns recently and not made many of them, which seems a shame. So, my first new year's resolution is also going to be my Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge.

  • During 2015 I will sew up at least five of my vintage or reproduction sewing patterns.

Having started with one resolution, a few other ideas came to mind. As well as using some of my vintage patterns I also want to use up some of my stash, so my next resolution is that

  • During 2015 I will make at least five projects using fabric from my stash

There are also two specific garment types that I want to get to grips with this year, so

  • During 2015 I will make at least one coat and some lingerie

Especially as my lovely knitting friend Lindsay gave me this for my Christmas present

Thanks L you are a star!

Those three resolutions should keep me busy enough with my sewing, but what about my knitting? Well I think with knitting one resolution is going to keep me busy, and as I really need to get my knitting stash down my resolution is that
  • During 2015 I will knit at least 10 project using (mainly) yarn from my stash
I've started well on this last resolution, I've already cast on a cardigan using some beautiful Mirasol K'acha yarn with has been in my stash for well over a year.

It's a start, but looking at my list resolutions, there is plenty more to go.