Tuesday, 24 May 2016

First scout your peacock - a pattern review

I am possibly one of the last sewing blogger in the blogger-sphere to try out Grainline Studio's Scout Tee. (For those whose heads are buried even further in the sand than mine, Scout is a loose fitting tee made from woven rather than jersey fabric), Its not so much that I wasn't aware of the Scout pattern, I'd seen lots of versions online, I'd even had the pattern for a while, but I hadn't got round to trying it.

Earlier in the year, when looking for a quick sewing fix, I thought I would give it ago. I had just enough peacock fabric left over from this dress, and I thought it might work well. I flew through the construction of the top which is very simple, and that was very satisfying. However, I made a mess of attaching the neck binding, and put the project aside in a huff. 

Last Friday evening, while tidying up my sewing room, I unearthed the incomplete top from the bottom of a pile of half finished projects and items in need of fixing. Deciding that I had gone so far with the project that I ought to finish it, I did.

I have to be honest I wasn't completely convinced with the top when I'd finished. But I wore it round to a friends on Sunday and she reassure me.  

I didn't make any changes to the pattern, and the instructions were very clear. However, if I were to make it again I would probably make the top a little bit longer. I did the narrowest hem I could manage but I still think that it could be a longer. I would also probably use a fabric with a bit more drape in it. The peacock fabric is an African waxed one, and it is on the stiffer side.

Will I make it again, with this changes? Yes, I I think I might. It is a very easy and quick pattern, so very satisfying. Plus, it uses only a small amount of fabric so a good way to use up odd pieces in my stash. Plus, as this version show, it can take a bold print and as my stash shows I do like a bold print.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Making the most of loose ends

At the start of the year I made a resolution to reduce the size of my stash. Nearly half way into the year I have been making some progress. Although as lovely people keep giving me lovely yarn, I'm not showing as much overall progress as I might.

One of the things I find very hard to do is throw out odd balls, or ends of balls, left over from bigger projects. As any knitter will know these can linger unloved in a stash, for a long time. To avoid this happening I've been trying to use up the left over yarn from larger projects straight away. 

After finishing my Rialto quince cardigan in March, I whipped through a series of baby knits. Always useful to have some of these in stock as my friends all seem to be breeding like the proverbial rabbits ;-) 

When I finished my Ravello jumper last month I was left with 2 full skeins of emerald alpaca silk, much too much, and too nice, to go for baby clothes. A quick search of my pattern books turned up Deco City a beautiful shawl pattern, needed exactly the amount of yarn I had, perfect.

The pattern of the shawl looks deceptively difficult, its really fairly simple, and knitted up in no time. Even better, when I'd finished, I had such a small amount of yarn left I didn't feel bad about throwing it out :)

I decided to gift the shawl to my mum for her birthday (which was yesterday). Mum taught me to knit, and our interest in knitting, sewing and other crafts is something I love being able to share with her. Although I regularly knit gifts for my dad and brother, I don't very often knit for my mum. I tend to give her yarn, so she can have the enjoyment of knitting it up herself. It was a real pleasure to knit this for her, Happy Birthday Mum!

Now I'm off to watch the first episode of the latest series of the Great British Sewing Bee - so excited!

Monday, 9 May 2016

Not such a Me Made May

For the second year in a row I'm not taking part in Me Made May, and I'm a bit sad about it. In case you don't know Me Made May's aim is to encourage people who sew, knit or crochet to wear and love their handmade creations. A great idea - so why am I not taking part for a second year in a row?

Last year I was out of my house for most of May as we were having building work done, so I was divided from most of my wardrobe. While I was out of the house I bought myself Marie Kondo's The life changing magic of tidying up, and last September I 'Marie Kondo-ed' my wardrobe. Following her advice I kicked out everything in my wardrobe which 'didn't inspire joy'. The result? No much left in my wardrobe.

The plan was to spend the long winter evenings sewing up lots of lovely new garments, but then I started decorating my front hall, and that took weeks and weeks and weeks... Suddenly it was April , I hadn't made anything, I felt like I've been wearing the same few outfits for months and there are embarrassingly few Me Made items in my wardrobe

No Me Made May for me this year, but I am hoping to spend at least some of the month sewing some new piece to refill my wardrobe. I've not been hugely successful so far, but as I spent the first week of the month on a last minute holiday in Sicily I can't complain too much :)

Monday, 25 April 2016

Baking Style and Substance

Those who, like me, have been watching the Great British Bake Off (GBBO) for some years will be familiar with Frances Quinn. The eventual winner of GBBO in 2013, she was constantly chastised by Paul Holywood for being 'style over substance'. Not be able to taste her bakes I couldn't tell if she had the substance, but her bakes certainly showed style.

Last Christmas I was given a copy of Frances' new book Quinntessential Baking (love the name). The book certainly has plenty of style; the ideas, pictures, presentation and production quality are all fantastic. The book is divided up into fifteen chapters of different type of cake or biscuits. Within each chapter there is an introduction was a standard recipe, and then four different interpretations of the recipe. All are fun, quirky and playful ideas, based on word plays or common associations - white rabbit carrot cakes or ginger snap cards! 

I am very much a substance baker. I like making cakes but I'm not normally to worried about how they look. They are going to be eaten after all. So, while I have loved looking through the book, I didn't really think I would make anything from it. I was showing the book to a friend last Friday, and just saying that, but over the weekend I thought, why not give one of them a go.

I decided to start on, what I thought would be, an easier recipe - marmalade cat-flapjack. A version of the basic flapjack recipe with added orange zest and marmalade. The mix is divided between a 12 muffin tray to make individual flapjacks. (This was a little fiddly but I did it). Once cooked the flapjacks are decorated with chocolate paw prints, hence the cat-flapjack! Not having a clean paintbrush to hand, I did my paw prints with the aid of a teaspoon, and all things considered they are not bad.

Despite my initial reluctance, I really enjoyed making, and more importantly decorating, these flapjack. Every time I go to eat one I smile at the little paw prints, and the chocolate makes a nice addition to the orange flavour of the flapjack - both style and substance! Having got my confidence up, I can certainly see myself making some of the other recipes from the book. I really want to make the coffee shot 'cup' cakes (in the picture above).

Thursday, 21 April 2016

A happy ending, and a new jumper

At the beginning of last winter I attended a conference for work, it was the first really cold day of the season and I took my favourite hat and scarf with me. What was my horror when next time I went to put them on that they were nowhere to be found. I was distraught!

From looking on Ravelry I can see that I made the scarf, a cladonia, back in 2012. I knew I'd had the hat for much longer but it seems I made it pre-Ravelry, which means before 2007, so I've had it for about ten years. Oh, that makes me even sadder :(

As it got colder in November I decided I had to get over my grief and make a new hat and scarf. I'd already planned to make this hat, so that was easy enough. But when I set about making a new cladonia I hit a problem. I picked some pink and white alpaca-silk yarn and I started knitting, but I just wasn't loving it. 

It's pretty, but its just not as nice as my old one. I was clearly not over my grief yet, and it languished uncompleted in my knitting basket.

Then one morning in February I came downstairs for breakfast and what was my surprise to find my missing scarf and hat on the kitchen table! The boyfriend, who had been up early, had been digging in the cupboard under the stairs for a bag. He had found them in the bottom of a bag which, I clearly, don't use very often! How did I feel? Mortified? yes, but so very, very delighted :)

To be honest, I'd already been considering ripping back my pink and white cladonia and making something else, and now I could with a clear conscience. I'd been admiring the Ravello jumper pattern for a while, after seeing several lovely versions on Ravelry, and this seemed a perfect opportunity to make it. 

A hunt through my stash turned up some beautiful emerald green silk alpaca (which I had slightly forgotten about) and I through it would be a great contrast.

Pretty good, no? I'm so happy with top, so much happier than I was when the yarn was the cladonia. The pattern was really straight forwards, and easy to knit. I didn't have to make any changes to the pattern but just knit, knit, knit.

Plus check out my wallpaper - oh yes, I've finished and it is so nice. I will be doing a separate post just on the decorating but I couldn't resist sharing a little peak!

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Spring Pattern Giveaway :)

I can't believe it is April already! The clocks have gone forwards, there have been some sunny spring days (although not today) and I'm still decorating! I am, I think, finally getting to the end of decorating my hall and either that, or the spring weather, has got me in a good mood. I've decided to share the spring joy but holding a pattern give away. 

These seven patterns are all looking for a new home, if you would like any of them just leave a comment or send me an email. There is no geographical limit on this, I'll post them anywhere as long as its a good home! No time limit either, just first come, first served :)

Monday, 21 March 2016

Stitching for a cause - Drop stitches not bombs

I was visiting my parents in my home town last weekend (I had a lovely time thanks) and ended up helping my mum sort out some of her photos. Amongst them were some of one of my sewing projects of which I am most proud. It was made well before I started this blog so I've not shared it before, but now seems a good time.

I made this banner for my brother, who was, and is, an active anti-war protester. He is also a fervent environmentalist and impossible to buy gifts for. One birthday I decided to make him a anti-war banner, and to add to the challenge I decided to make it out of recycled materials.

I was fine with the backing, which is a second hand white bed sheet, but where to get the rest of the fabric from? I was still pondering this when I passed by a very nice interior design shop round the corner from where I was then living. Outside in a skip were stacks of fabric sample books. Being a law abiding citizen I asked permission before I started taking them, and the shop very kindly provided me with bags for my loot. 

In an amusing aside, as I was happily diving into this treasure trove a man walked passed talking on his mobile phone, seeing what was in the skip he commented to whoever he was talking too; 
'That there were lots of fabric sample books in the skip outside Helen Turkington', taking another look at me he said 'um ... you might want to hurry!'
Armed with a supply of rather high class fabric, I was able to set about designing the banner. I think I worked out the designs on paper first, and then traced the pieces I needed in fabric. There is also a tiny bit of hand stitched embroidery at the bottom, you can just about see it in the picture, I couldn't resist adding the slogan 'drop stitches, not bombs'.

Hand stitched embroidery not being top of my skill set, I set myself a much harder task with the back, decided on working the dove of peace - as its normally viewed at a distance I guess my wonky stitching won't be too noticeable. 

I finished off the banner by making a frame to carry it out of some bits of wood from the cellar and a few oddments of string. So the banner is, as it boasts, 100% recycled.

My brother was, I think, delighted with the gift and it has been on many marches proudly carrying its lovingly hand stitched message of peace.