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).

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

My New Sewing Room - The Big Reveal

Last week Lucky Lucille suggested the blog might actually be a portmanteau term for back log, and I have to say at the moment it certainly could be in my case. (Plus, I love the word portmanteau). One of the many things in my blogging backlog is my new sewing room. I can't believe its taken me so long to blog about it, because I love it!

As longer term readers will know, we had a kitchen extension done earlier in the year and as part of the works the whole house was rewired. As a result when we moved back into the house in May, every single room was in need of redecoration. We decided to try and do some of this work ourselves, and I suggested starting with my sewing room. Not because it was my sewing room, but because it is the smallest room ... so would be the easiest. (OK, it was partly because it was my sewing room.)

My sewing room is the box room of the house, over the front door and entrance hall. It is quite a small room and it turns out is very hard to photograph. As with the rest of the house when we moved in the decor was seventies-tastic, and one of the first things I did was to pull down the wall paper as I preferred the bare plaster walls - as rough and ready as they were!

Before the builders' finished on the kitchen extension I asked if they could build me a storage and work unit around the window. In the past I had a very small desk and a very large 1950s drinks cabinet - not the most practical furniture, and as the room is small I needed to make the best use of the limited space.

I couldn't have been happier with the result - the units have been made extra deep to store all my sewing and knitting equipment, and the desk makes the most of the light from the window. The work top is made from a lovely piece of wood the builder had left over from another kitchen extension job.

Once the units was completed, my first job was to strip the old paint from the woodwork and prepare these and the walls. This took quite a lot of time, especiallt as the walls were so rough we decided it would be better to line them first. Not something I had done before, but easier than I expected. There was also a huge amount of woodwork to be painted white, including all the new unit.

The colour for the walls was a bit of a challenge, because I had the most amazing wall paper for the 'feature wall' and finding something that worked with it wasn't easy, but I got there in the end, Ready?

I found the purple and gold wallpaper in the bargain bin of Homebase last year, and have been waiting to get in on the walls. In the end I went for a light purple-grey on the walls, which works with the wallpaper. I found making a decision on the floor finish much more difficult, the boards were mostly in tact but there was some damaged ones and the edges have previously be stained black. In the end I decided to paint the floor, and opted for a light grey.

I'm really pleased with the results, the room is bright but calming, and just walking in to it makes me smile! This little corner behind the door is my new favourite place to sit and knit, or, as I'm doing now blog.

I made, or up-cycled, a lot of pieces in the room and will give more details of how in future posts. These include the notice board, lamp, cushion and the chair which I upholstered (I'm enormously smug about that).

To my surprise I was able to fit all my knitting and sewing books and stash into the new unit, and the boxes on the top shelf. I even managed to fit all my wool into these two custom made sheep fabric storage boxes.

I've used kitchen fittings from Ikea to make storage for my scissors and other sewing tools, so they are always within easy reach when I'm at the machine, as is my dog pin cushion.

And my giant pocket watch is on hand to keep my up to time...

To finish off the room I have a couple of pictures and photos, all given to me at various times by lovely friends, most of which have some reference to the use of the room.

I hope you have enjoyed this tour of my sewing room, and  I'm hoping that my lovely new room with usher in an era of productive crafting for me.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Vintage Pattern Giveaway (Again)

Last month I posted a vintage pattern giveaway. I had received the parcel from Kestrel Makes in May and was, finally, sending it on its way with new additions. Or so I thought ...  no one took me up on the pattern giveaway or, more correctly, those who did comment didn't want the patterns.

As a result I'm re-running the Vintage Pattern Giveaway, and this time I hoping that someone out there would like to win these patterns

And these

Then leave a comment on this post (with your email address) by Wednesday 30th September. Best of luck

Monday, 7 September 2015

Literary Knitter: Mrs Taff in Middlemarch

This month's literary knitter is a minor character, but one who has a rather nice description. Mrs Taff appears in a scene where the people of Middlemarch are discussing the newly arrived doctor, Mr Tertius Lydgate.

 Many people believed that Lydgate's coming to the town at all was really due to Bulstrode; and Mrs. Taft, who was always counting stitches and gathered her information in misleading fragments caught between the rows of her knitting, had got it into her head that Mr. Lydgate was a natural son of Bulstrode's, a fact which seemed to justify her suspicions of evangelical laymen.
She one day communicated this piece of knowledge to Mrs. Farebrother, who did not fail to tell her son of it, observing—
"I should not be surprised at anything in Bulstrode, but I should be sorry to think it of Mr. Lydgate."
"Why, mother," said Mr. Farebrother, after an explosive laugh, "you know very well that Lydgate is of a good family in the North. He never heard of Bulstrode before he came here."
"That is satisfactory so far as Mr. Lydgate is concerned, Camden," said the old lady, with an air of precision.—"But as to Bulstrode—the report may be true of some other son."
I love the idea of Mrs Taff tangling up her gossip and her knitting, and her logic that just because Mr Lydgate isn't Mr Bulstrode's illegitimate son, it doesn't mean he doesn't have one.

Dr and Mrs Lydgate from the BBC series

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Dr Bambo's New Clothes

Earlier this week my friend's little boy had to go into hospital to have his tonsils taken out. As part of the preparations for this he got new PJs, but what about Bambo his faithful friend? Bambo came with one suit of clothes, but after a while they were not looking a smart as they once had.  I volunteered (or is that was volunteered) to make Bambo's new PJs.

I used Bambo's old clothes as a template; the top is a like-for-like copy in jersey fabric. Bambo originally came wearing shorts made of jersey fabric, but I decided he could do with some long trousers (didn't want Bambo getting cold knees in hospital). I used the originally as a pattern, but extended the length, and as the originals were fairly loose fitting I thought it would be OK to change to cotton instead of stretch fabric. 

Bambo's PJs were a big hit, and I was soon asked to make another pair. Bambo had seen some rather lovely robot fabric he fancied for his next outfit. As it was only a fat quarter I didn't have enough for full length trousers, so this time Bambo got some shorts.

I'd rather got into the swing of making Bambo clothes, and I decided that I would turn out one more outfit. As the whole reason for starting on Bambo's clothes had been a visit to hospital, I decided that what Bambo really needed was a doctor's outfit - made from genuine hospital scrubs.

Dr Bambo was quite the hit when he went into hospital on Wednesday and, thankfully, in no small part due to Dr Bambo I'm sure, the operation went through without a hitch and the patient is well on the way to recovery.