Burdastyle bias-cut skirt (08/2015 #111)

I love a magazine – pretty much any magazine really, I’ve been known to peruse a golf or car magazine if there’s nothing else at the doctor’s surgery.  My favourite magazines, though, are sewing magazines, along with The Knitter, and my first sewing magazine love was Burda. I have a healthy collection going back several years on my shelves, and I have a lovely spreadsheet indexing all the patterns I’ve earmarked as ones to make.  I like the fact that there’s usually something a bit different or quirky, and I find an hour or so with a cup of tea and the latest issue really inspiring – even if it’s just fabric combinations or styling ideas, there’s always something that fires me up.  I even enjoy tracing off from a jumble of lines, and interpreting the minimalistic instructions.

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This skirt was from the August 2015 issue and is described as an ‘Asymmetric midi skirt‘.  It’s cut on the bias which gives it a lovely drape and swing, I’ve always loved bias-cut garments.  It also has an interesting detail at the waistline – the front of the skirt is finished with a facing, giving a nice clean look, whilst the back has a waistband which I always prefer with a zip.  What with the minimalist instructions it took me a little while to work out why the front seemed to be longer than the back…..but I got there in the end!

The fabric is a gorgeous, springy, wool crepe which I bought on honeymoon in Italy 18 months ago.  This teal shade is one of my favourite colours, and at €20 for 2 metres from a market stall it was really good value as well.  I did pre-wash the fabric, using the wool setting on my machine, and there was a little bit of shrinkage which affected how long I was able to make the skirt.  I took some length out anyway as Burda patterns always run really long on me – the ‘midi’ length would have been more of a maxi for me – by drawing a line across the skirt at 45° to the grainline.  The bias cut is pretty fabric-hungry, so I had to take out a little bit more length than I’d planned, but I think much longer on me and this would start to look a bit frumpy.

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Here’s the asymmetry – a high/low look from front to back.  It’s something a bit different for me, which is what attracted me to the pattern.  You can see the lovely drape here as well.  I cut the size 42 as per my measurements, and as usual it’s turned out slightly too big.  I think it’s that squishy-belly-syndrome again, and I would always rather have something too big than too small.  With the dipped hemline, I couldn’t take anything in at the side seams, but I did take in a couple of cm at the centre front seam.  It’s still a little roomy to be honest, but at least it means I’ve got a nice smart-ish skirt that I can eat a massive dinner in….always useful….!  I quite like it with the belt as well which helps.  This belt was another Italian honeymoon purchase – it’s a gloriously soft, buttery leather which smells fabulous.

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The zip insertion isn’t my finest work, but it’s liveable with.  I did interface the zip edges which helped prevent too much stretching out.  I’ve only noticed the slight puffiness in these photos, it wasn’t obvious in real life so it can’t be too bad.  Excuse the wrinkles at the bottom which come from me having worn this all morning sitting at my desk – this was another lunchtime photo shoot where my trusty photographer (thanks Nic!) and I snuck into the empty office suite next to ours.

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Here’s a closer view of the front, including some lovely wearing-wrinkles – you can just about see where the facing ends, this is slightly more pronounced from being pressed by the belt than if I wear it without.  The facing is handstitched down on the inside, and the hem is handstitched too.  It’s a pleasure handstitching this sort of fabric, it’s very forgiving.

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And here you can see the waistband at the back, along with more close-up views of sitting-wrinkles.  I really like this waist treatment, it’s not something I’ve come across before and adds a certain je ne sais quois I think.  I like the dipped hemline as well – although with the skirt being slightly too big, it’s quite disconcerting walking in it and feeling the hem swish around lower than I’m expecting, I keep thinking it’s falling down…..

I’d like to make this pattern again – one of the examples in the magazine is made up in a striped fabric, which creates a lovely V-effect at the seams thanks to the bias cut.  I’ve got some pretty blue striped linen which would make a lovely summer skirt.  There are several dozen more Burdastyle patterns that are on my list as well though – if only I could stay at home all day and sew, I might get through them all then!  Have you tried any patterns from the magazine?

Not-entirely-successful Boyfriend Jeans

I almost decided not to share this particular project.  Whilst not an absolute disaster, this pair of jeans is decidedly less than perfect….but I realised that everyone likes to read about other people’s misfortunes and thought I would brighten your day with mine!

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There are some definite fit issues, some user error and a slightly iffy fabric choice, but despite all that they are wearable.  The pattern is the Hot Patterns Boyfriend Jeans.  I love men’s jeans, my favourite pair of jeans for most of my 20s were a pair of men’s Levi’s – can’t remember the number – which eventually fell apart.  So these really appealed to me – they have a straight side seam and suggest using a selvedge denim to give that menswear look.

Let’s start with the fabric choice, shall we?  This is a pretty lightweight, stretch denim with an interesting, slubby texture.  It came from Les Coupons de Saint-Pierre, as a three metre ‘coupon’ or pre-cut length.  Being short, I knew I would be able to get two pairs of jeans out of this stuff, especially as it’s 150cm wide – I’m saving the remainder for another pair of high-waisted skinny Gingers.  It’s a really nice fabric and seems to have pretty good recovery, and should be perfect for that pattern.  I thought it would be ok to use for a wearable muslin of sorts for this pattern – I do have some rather lovely, dark, dark indigo selvedge denim for a ‘good’ pair of these.  This is slightly too lightweight, though, and I think a heavier denim would hang better and reduce the weird twisting effect slightly.

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The side view isn’t too bad – although you can see that they are slightly too short, which is where user error comes in.  The pattern gives about 3 million different measurements for each size, one of which is the height it’s drafted for – based on this I shortened the leg pattern pieces by 5 cm before cutting out, but I think I should have left them as they were.  I drew a line perpendicular to the grainline / side seam, but given that these have an almost dead straight leg I would have been better just taking out any extra length at the hem once they were put together, there’s no shaping to speak of that needed to be preserved.  Not sure how my legs have suddenly grown though, I am definitely a good 5cm shorter than the height given…….!  Other than shortening them I made up a straight size 14 (I think) and basted them together to test the fit, but only after I’d sewn the centre back seam and installed the fly front – another bit of user error, I just completely forgot to do it earlier.

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There were two main fit issues, one of which I fixed, if slightly over-zealously, and the other which is better than it was but definitely not quite right.  As with the Ginger jeans I found I needed to take a chunk out of the waist.  Unfortunately with the centre back seam already sewn and topstitched I had to take in a wedge at the top of each side seam – I’m way too lazy to unpick all that topstitching.  I’m not sure but I think this probably also has something to do with the twisting.  I also took in a little bit too much, and the waist is now quite snug.  Next time I’ll do what I’ve done with my Gingers and take a wedge out of the centre back instead.

The other fit issue is the crotch, as you can see.  When I basted for fit there was an enormous amount of extra fabric in the crotch area, right through from front to back.  Following some……careful…..pinning of the relevant parts I took in the centre front and back seams and the in-seam which has helped, without entirely solving the problem.

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The back view is better, although I’m thinking the pockets might be a little bit too big for me.  Most of the creasing here is down to the fact that we took these pictures in a sneaky 5 minute break at work to catch the light (thanks Nic!) and I’d been wearing them all day at my desk.  They are dead comfy which is nice, and as usual my colleagues were completely oblivious to all the not-so-great-bits that I can see….it does help that my top is long enough to cover most of the crotch issues – as are most of my tops actually.

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Here’s the back view with my top tucked in – you can see in this picture that the waist is what they call here in Scotland ‘neat’, ie not exactly way too tight but definitely on the snug side.  I’d never heard that use for the word before I moved to Edinburgh, so I’m assuming it’s a Scottish thing anyway.  There are all sorts of words like that which besumed me slightly in my first few months living here.  My favourite is using ‘juice’ for pretty much any soft drink……it’s very disconcerting to go to a party and be offered juice to drink, expecting orange or apple juice, maybe even something fancier like a pineapple or cranberry, only to discover that the options are actually Irn Bru or Coke!  There are some distinguishing adjectives that get used – we drink a lot of diluting juice (squash), and even ‘cooncil juice’ (water…!).  Oh, and if you want actual orange juice in a bar you ask for ‘fresh orange’.  Even if it’s from a Schweppes bottle and is quite some processing distance away from an actual fresh orange.  As I say, endlessly bemusing to an English girl in Edinburgh.

Back to the jeans…..I realised just as we were about to start with the photos that I was accidentally incredibly co-ordinated……the fabric I used for the pockets, waistband and fly shield was the scraps from the top I’m wearing.  It shows how awake I was when I got dressed that I hadn’t realised…..!

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The innards – unlike the Ginger jeans, this pattern ends up with the right side of your pocket fabric being inside the pocket, rather than being visible on the inside of the jeans.  It also has you construct the fly shield from interfaced lining fabric – I actually really like this touch, I think it’s fun to have a secret flash of colour behind the fly front.  Here’s what it looks like from the outside:

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Every time I do the zip up it makes me smile….definitely something I’ll repeat in my next pair.  Sewing the fly front from the instructions provided proved a bit baffling.  They have you baste the zip to the fly shield to start, and I could not work out which way round it was supposed to go – my first attempt resulted in the fly shield ending up on the outside, and after unpicking and basting about three more attempts I gave up and turned to the Ginger jeans fly instructions.

I decided to go for the classic gold topstitching, and I like how it’s turned out.  This pattern also has you topstitch the full length of the side seams, with no topstitching on the inside leg seams – I think I might actually prefer this way round.  I was particularly pleased with the pocket topstitching, again I tried to take my time a bit more than usual.

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This picture also shows the texture of the weave in this fabric – I really like the slubby lines of paler thread.  I also topstitched around the waistband, the instructions don’t mention it but I felt it needed the structure this provides in this lighter weight fabric.

I have been wearing these, despite their imperfections, although I do find myself reaching for my grey skinnies first in the mornings.  I’m not quite sure though what my next steps are in terms of cutting into my lovely selvedge denim.  I think I might have to dig out my copy of Pants for Real People and see if I can work out what’s causing the crotch issues.  I’ll probably try using a heavy weight striped linen which has been marinating in the stash for ages to make another muslin – it’s a more similar weight to the good denim and will hopefully be more helpful in terms of fit.  I think I might be about to join Heather of The Pug & Needle in her quest for the perfect jeans…..

Frost flowers & leaves – a monster shawl

Before I embarked on the epic knitting project that was the Knitivity, I’d just finished another project which was very different, but equally as epic in its own way. I’ve had the book A Gathering of Lace for years, knitting one of the smaller shawls back when I bought it.  I’ve always had my eye on one of the larger shawl patterns – frost flowers & leaves (Ravelry link) – and decided to buy some gorgeous merino laceweight at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival in March last year specifically to knit it.  The yarn came from John Arbon Textiles, a company I hadn’t come across before, and I can definitely recommend it.  It’s soft but strong enough to withstand a firm blocking – sometimes I find the softer laceweight yarns to feel slightly fragile, but not this one.

The main reason I’m waffling on without showing you any pictures is because this thing is a) enormous and b) impossible to photograph effectively.  I encountered a small problem when I came to block this – I don’t actually have a large enough expanse of floor in my flat.  I eventually waited until my parents were on holiday, and blocked it on their much larger living room floor.  Its size is one of the problems when it comes to photography, but there are also issues with being able to capture its drape and movement, and the repeating pattern is one of those that makes your eyes go fuzzy when it’s seen through a lens.

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This is a square shawl, it wouldn’t all fit on the table.  You can see really clearly here the double leaf motif which separates the four sections – as well as the repeating pattern which fills the main body of the shawl.  It looks complex, but as with most lace knitting you end up being able to ‘read’ your work and knit without needing to refer to the chart every 5 minutes.

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Here’s one of the corners, showing the edging as well.  The edging is my favourite sort, knitted side on, attaching one stitch of the main shawl every two rows – never-ending but strangely satisfying to gradually see something shawl-shaped emerge from a blob of green yarn.

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This was the best shot I could get close up of the main body section without having that fuzzy thing happen – like newsreaders wearing stripes on tv…..  I love the way the open sections of the repeating pattern eventually take over, and are then echoed in the edging.

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This is probably the most accurate photo colour-wise.  It’s a beautiful saturated olive-green colour, which seems to go with nearly everything.  I have been wearing this on an everyday basis – mainly as a very warm scarf wound round my neck –

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It’s very light to wear despite its size, and has come in handy at work over the last few weeks where our heating has been underperforming…..you know it’s cold when I’m at my desk with not only a jumper on but a shawl as well.

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None of these photos really captures the sheer size of this thing.  We attempted it in the two pictures below, but didn’t really succeed.  The second does give a sense of how fine and sheer it is as a single layer.

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I’m really quite proud of this make.  It’s funny, that’s quite a difficult thing for me to say, I generally like to play down what I produce.  My work friends and colleagues are always lovely, whatever I make they’re always impressed, and I’ve learnt not to say ‘oh but the hem’s uneven’ (or whatever flaw I know is there but no-one else will notice).  People always say ‘I could never do anything like that’ or ‘I don’t know how you do it’ – but I do genuinely believe that anyone can learn to do these things, I’m not special in any way.  That is apart from this shawl – it is a pretty special thing……and I found that really difficult somehow.  It’s one thing someone saying ‘that’s amazing’ when I know it’s not, but when I do believe I’ve done something pretty cool I don’t quite know what to say.  I think it’s something I need to work on…..

 

More Ginger Jeans, of the skinny variety

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I’ve been meaning to make another pair of skinny jeans for ages, I’ve had the silvery, lilac-y grey fabric for months.  Somehow there’s always been a shiny new project to distract me though, so I decided to include them in my cutting spree back when my sewing machine was in for her service.  They still sat in my ‘to-sew’ box (I can’t have piles, the cats are too interested) for several weeks but I finally got round to them and I’m really glad I did!

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Excuse the crease in my top – it got crushed under the layers of coat and cardi on my way to work.

I’ve only made one version of view B of the Ginger jeans, my very first version.  They weren’t a massive success, mainly because of poor fabric choice along with making up what was probably too big a size.  This grey fabric wanted to be skinny jeans though, it’s super soft and very stretchy, and it seemed a good opportunity to go back to the high-waisted, skinny version of this pattern.

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Top tucked in so you can see where the waist hits.  I only made a couple of fitting changes to the pattern with these, one of which was to shorten the legs by 5cm at the lengthen / shorten line provided.  I still had to cut a couple of cms off when I hemmed them.  The only other change I’d make, having worn them a few times, would be to slim the legs down a bit more around the ankle.  I have ludicrously skinny ankles which always makes buying skinny jeans and boots interesting.  Anyway, as you can see in these pictures, these aren’t quite tight enough to my ankles to make them easy to tuck in to ankle boots.

P1010728 I cut a straight size 10 and basted them first to check fit – in particular the waist.  In previous pairs I’ve had to take a wedge out of the back waist and these were no exception – I think it was about 8 cm in total.  I think it’s probably time to make this a permanent adjustment.  I’m really happy with the fit of these – the waist fits well, so there’s no need for a belt, I don’t like wearing belts – and as always I think they do wonders for my rear view…..

I used a darker grey for the topstitching and made a bit more of an effort than usual to take my time – that paid off, especially for the fly topstitching.  I’m not sure I’m going to become someone who’s methodical and accurate overnight, but I think for certain things it might be worth it!  I’ve only got a poorly lit phone photo….

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Looks good though, no?

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I’ve never been entirely convinced about the high-waist thing until now, but this pair of jeans is starting to convince me.  They’re great with those tops that are just that tiny bit short – like this silk Athena top – the ones where I’m forever hoicking my jeans up, or pulling my top down to feel comfortable.  I’ve never been one for tucking in tops either, but again it’s definitely an option with these.

I went with an un-interfaced waistband, and I think it was the right option.  The waistband does crease a bit with wear, but it’s very comfortable, I think much stiffer would be annoying after a while.

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Another rear view, just because…..

You’ll notice there’s a new background to these photos – my lovely friend and colleague Nicola took them in one of the abandoned suites in our office building.  It’s an enormous, grey, concrete 60s monstrosity right in the middle of Edinburgh – it’s a listed building, as a prime example of Brutalist architecture, which prevented a campaign to have it demolished – which was empty for years.  It used to be the Jobcentre, but they’re now letting it as hundreds of individual units – we’re the only occupants on our floor so we snuck into one of the others for some daylight photos.  This unit has a fabulous view of Edinburgh Castle – we’re in the cheap seats unfortunately so we have a view of the Sainsburys Local and a busy junction.

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All in all a very successful make – if you’re thinking about making jeans this is a great pattern, flattering and comfy at the same time, with excellent instructions and a really helpful sewalong.

A Christmas party dress

One of the pieces of fabric I bought in Harrogate in November was some ridiculously sparkly stuff – my sister got some first, and I couldn’t resist getting some too.  It was cheap – £4 a metre I think – and I knew I wanted to make a dress for the work Christmas party.  Over the last few years I seem to have gradually got rid of anything remotely party-ish out of my wardrobe, and if you can’t wear sparkles at Christmas, when can you?!

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Apparently photographing sparkly fabric is tricky!  It’s a metallic, warm, pale gold colour in real life.  The pattern is the Papercut Patterns Flutter dress, my second version of this pattern.  This time I cut a size S, with a larger FBA – 4 cm I think but I’d have to check the pattern piece.  The fabric has a little bit of stretch, so I thought the smaller starting size would work better around the shoulders – my previous version does have a slight tendency to suffer from shoulder slippage.  I think it was a good move, fit-wise – it does feel much more secure around the shoulders.

The only other change I made this time round was to scoop out the neck a bit, and I definitely prefer it on me.

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You can see the fabric a bit better here.  I don’t really do sparkly usually, so I was slightly concerned that about being ALL GOLD…..until I had the bright idea to use the wrong side of the fabric as the right side for the neck binding.  It’s just a pale beige-y pink with a lovely crepe texture and it works really well.  Once I’d got the main body assembled I tacked on the sleeves with the right side of the fabric showing and it was just a bit too much – even for a Christmas frock!  So I used the wrong side for the sleeves as well and I think it looks great.  I think if I’d just done sleeves in the plain side it might have looked a bit weird, but the neck binding being the same definitely ties it together.

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As we know I love the back of this dress pattern – I’m pretty proud of the matching at the V on this version, I knew it would need to be pretty accurate with the contrast binding and I managed it perfectly!

I’m hoping that with the contrast sleeves, this is a dress I can wear to many occasions – I think if I’d gone with the ALL GOLD look (trust me, it shouted) it would definitely have been a Christmas-only dress and that seems a shame.

Short and sweet today, next up blog-wise I have an enormous monster of a lace shawl to tell you about.  I just need to work out how to take pictures of it – there isn’t a floor space in my flat to lay it out, I had to block it on my parents’ living room floor while they were on holiday.  I always find it tricky photographing lace as well, you need the right background and good light I think – and the latter is in pretty short supply in Edinburgh at the moment.  It feels like we’ve not seen proper daylight for months, really hoping that the forecast cold snap includes some lovely crisp, sunny, winter days.

Some new year musings, and some sewing plans

I’m always slightly ambivalent about a new year.  It feels tempting to believe that everything can change, just because our own particular calendar moves on a notch, but I’m always aware that actually life carries on much as before – with all the uncertainties and insecurities that existed 4 days ago in the old year.  That said, it is human nature to want to mark milestones, and a new calendar year seems as good as any other.

I don’t tend to make a big thing about resolutions, but a couple of years ago I made one which has not only been kept right up to now, but which has actually made a big difference in my life.  It was quite simple, and – importantly I think – was not about giving anything up, or punishing myself for doing ‘bad’ things, but was a positive change.  I resolved to do something creative every day.  Now some days, ‘something creative’ is one row of my knitting, or even just mentally matching a pattern to some stash fabric, but it all counts.  I don’t beat myself up about how long I spend, that would defeat the object slightly.   I think the main thing that makes the difference is that I can switch off from the day at work, and remember that being an accountant isn’t all there is to my life.  I do enjoy my job, but my secret dream is to give it up and make a living out of something creative.  It’s not a very realistic dream at the moment, not unless we win the lottery or inherit a fortune from a long lost millionaire relative, but things are changing on the financial front around here and it’s definitely something I always have in mind.  Anyway, I would hate to get to the point where being an accountant defines me and taking even only 10 minutes everyday to remind myself of who I really am has made a big difference.

I was ruminating on the success of this one resolution, and wondering whether it was time for a new mental challenge, when I read Heather-Lou’s blog post here, about boosting sewing confidence.  I’m actually not too bad at tackling sewing challenges but I do suffer a bit of a confidence crisis when it comes to involving myself in the sewing community.  I am a serial blog-and instagram-lurker – the truth is that I always feel a bit like I’m interrupting someone’s private conversation when I comment.  Logically I do know I’m being ridiculous, but somehow I always imagine the author / poster saying to themselves ‘who’s this comment from?  What gives her the right to comment on my post?’.  Anyway, in an attempt to emulate the success of the last resolution I made I am going to make an effort to comment on, not just ‘like’, at least one blog post and one instagram post every day.  Wish me luck!

In terms of sewing I do have some plans for this year.  I had a bit of a tracing and cutting session over the holidays, and in the immediate future I’ll be making these patterns:

Sophia Coat
Burdastyle skirt

Burdastyle top

I also have cut out and ready to sew some pale lilac-grey Ginger Jeans – the high waist, skinny version.  Other plans include some Hot Patterns Boyfriend Jeans – once I’ve checked the fit I have some fabulous Japanese selvedge denim for these.

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I also want to try and sew as much as I can from stash – this shouldn’t be too hard, given the size of my stash.  I need to sew up as much as possible so that I have room for more purchases when the Knitting & Stitching show comes to Edinburgh for the first time in the spring – I’m very excited!  In particular I want to replace my many jersey tops which have holes in the elbows – I have a few patterns in mind and 5 or 6 suitable bits of fabric.  My other main ambition for this year is to master the art of bra-making.  I have a kit and a pattern, and it’s next on the list after the projects above.

Hopefully having written down all these aims and plans for this year it’ll make it easier to resist those impulse fabric and pattern purchases.  I’m sure there will be some queue-jumpers though, and that’s ok.  Everyone needs a bit of spontaneity in their lives!

 

Knitivity!

So, in 2011 I knitted a wedding.  You might remember that we had a royal wedding that year….it was in one or two newspapers I believe…  Anyway, long story short, the happy couple set up a charitable fund and asked for donations rather than wedding gifts.  The charity I work for was one of the beneficiaries of the fund, and the day after that was announced, my mum and sister and I went to the Knitting & Stitching Show in London – where a new book was being launched called, you guessed it, ‘Knit Your Own Royal Wedding’.  Well it was fate, wasn’t it?

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It was a lot of fun creating little woolly people (and some corgis) – we raffled the whole set for the charity so each figure that I finished was taken to the office.  We had some entertaining afternoons creating tableaux with corgis wearing the Archbishop’s mitre and other unlikely scenarios.

After I finished, Amazon very kindly let me know that the author of the royal wedding book had brought out a new book to knit a Nativity scene.  What else could it be called than ‘Knitivity’?  I (obviously) snapped it up straight away and then forgot about it as newer, shinier projects took my attention.  I did knit a few of the dolls at the beginning of 2015, with the aim of gradually doing the whole set in time for this Christmas.  All of which waffle really only leads up to the fact that the nativity set at my parents’ church, being quite old and slightly mildewy, had to be retired this year, and my mum asked me exactly how far I had got…..cue some frantic deadline knitting!  With mum’s help knitting various body pieces and clothes in the final stretch, we managed to finish the whole lot this weekend, in time for the grand installation on Christmas eve.

Here’s the whole crowd – it’s not the most in-focus picture ever, but it’s the only one I’ve managed of them all together….

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The cardboard manger comes with the book, you cut it out and glue it together.

This is going to be a pretty picture-heavy post from now on, you have to see all the dolls individually to appreciate them I think…..

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Mary first, in traditional colours.  I didn’t think this was the time to go abstract and modern…..  I love her crochet curly hair and her little cape.  You can just about see the sandals embroidered onto her feet.

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Joseph, complete with awesome crochet beard, moustache and sideburns…..the facial hair is my favourite part of a lot of these little characters.  It’s also amazing how two french knots and 4 red stitches turn a blob into a face…..I’m easily pleased, and I had a satisfied little chuckle every time I finished one, even though the faces are all identical….

The baby Jesus – first in his swaddling cloth and then in just his pants.  I love his tiny little arms and legs.

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Here’s the angel, with her fab pink wings (thanks mum!) and halo.  I’ve managed to give her a slightly asymmetrical hairstyle, but I think she pulls it off…

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Now we come to the animals – this is an ox, in case you were wondering….!  He was the trickiest to put together, and he did look like a strange alien blob until he got his horns, eyes and nostrils.

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His face did turn out quite well in the end.

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This little guy is one of my favourites – I love his jaunty ears and mane (which you can see better in the pictures below).  I’m quite tempted to knit myself a donkey just to have around…

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I’ve also managed to sew him together so that his head is slightly turned and tilted to one side….entirely accidental but I think it adds to the charm…

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A shepherd and shepherd’s boy – these were probably the two most time consuming figures, with headdresses and belts and scarves and crooks etc…lots of sewing up / finishing time as well as just the knitting.  They’re very effective though.  The crooks are strips of knitting sewn around some heavy-weight wire which is then bent into shape.   I’ve sewn the crooks to the figures, and for all of them I’ve sewed down any headdresses and hats.  I was forever losing bits in the bag of finished figures, and with the likelihood of little fingers in church, we felt it was better that everything was securely fixed…..

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Some sheep!  These are among my favourites as well, especially the wee guy with his tiny legs.  Very cute.  I’m quite tempted to knit another couple of these, I’ve got to do something with the fluffy white yarn anyway.

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Shepherds watching their flocks by night…

P1010690After the animals, these guys are my favourites.  I love the little beards and the gold crochet yarn that gives them that ‘je ne sais quoi…’.  Even the presents are cute – these were pretty fiddly to knit but they’re great, especially once I’d put a couple of beads on.  My absolute favourite though is the one on the right…

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Just look at that turban!

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I am glad this slightly epic project is done now, and I can get back to the cardigan I was knitting.  I don’t think it’s the last project of this kind I’ll be doing though, I have the same author’s Noah’s Ark book and am looking forward to knitting tortoises and crocodiles……maybe not for a few months yet though!

 

Jasper Dress

This will be a short post, I’m on a Christmas-related deadline…..more on that further down…..

In the knitting world you’ll often hear people talk about being ‘process’ or ‘product’ knitters.  The former being someone who chooses projects based on the process – whether it’s wanting to knit a certain cable pattern or try a new shaping or construction method – without really caring whether it’s something they’ll wear or use.  As opposed to the latter who will identify a gap in their wardrobe, or a specific gift for someone, and find a pattern to get the product they want.  When it comes to knitting I’m definitely the former, and I’m beginning to suspect the same tendency in my dressmaking.

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This dress is a case in point.  It’s the Jasper dress by Paprika Patterns which is designed for sweatshirt fabrics.  I fell in love with the look of the pattern – the princess seams, welt kangaroo pocket and that big collar with the tab.  Unfortunately I forgot ignored the fact that I get too warm.  All the time.  As a result, I have a really nice dress that I can only wear at home (we only have heating on in one room), or outside.

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I wore it to the supermarket one Sunday and just about died of heat exhaustion.  The fatal flaw is, of course, that whilst you can wear a layer under a sweatshirt, and remove said sweatshirt if you go into a building that’s overheated (ie anywhere over about 17°C / 63°F), you can’t really do that with a dress.  Not without scaring small children, anyway.

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The fabric was from Fabricland (great shop, terrible website….although at least it’s not flourescent yellow anymore) in Bournemouth, I bought it specifically for this pattern last time we were down south.  It’s a loop-back sweatshirt fabric (it’s called tracksuiting on the website…they have a lot more colours online now than when I was in the shop) and is really nice and soft.  It’s a nice weight too, with a bit of drape which I like but enough body to hold the collar and skirt shapes.  The purple tab, welts and pocket lining are cut from scraps left from my Lola dress – a bamboo/cotton french terry.

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You can just about see the princess seam shaping on the back here.  This version is a little bit too big, I think, but it’s super comfy and seeing as I can’t really wear it out and about that’s not the end of the world.  I went with the larger size range, designed for a C cup rather than a B, but I was right in between the two different ranges and I think I could afford to size down if I make this again.

I actually love this dress, even though it’s effectively pyjamas / ‘loungewear’ – there must be a better word than ‘loungewear’ but I can’t think of one right now!  Of course I couldn’t actually wear it as nightwear, guess what, I’d be too hot.  I bought some fabulous grey / navy double-faced wool jersey at the Knitting & Stitching show in Harrogate a couple of weeks ago and would love to use it for another version of this – I’m trying to resist though because this is a fabric that deserves to shine, not only for wearing at home.

I’d better get back to the sweatshop now, I’m knitting a nativity (or Knitivity) for my parents church.  I’ve got to finish a shepherd boy, an angel’s dress and then knit and finish three wise men.  All before Christmas Eve.  I’ll blog once all the figures are done, but here’s a sneak peek at Mary.

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Mon Petit Bazar Dress

My sewing machine Lily went in for a service / repair a few weeks ago, and I only got her back last weekend – it’s surprising how much I missed having her around.  It did mean that her absence was a good reason to do a lot of tracing and cutting.  That’s usually my least favourite part of any project, but I actually enjoyed it for once – I think because it was as close to sewing as I was going to get, and also because I could look forward to having 4 or 5 projects ready to go as soon as she came home.

I was in the middle of a piece of unselfish sewing when she went away, some trousers for my husband, but one of the newly cut projects couldn’t wait and insisted it jump the queue…..and how could I ignore talking fabric?!

The result was this dress from an Aime Comme Marie pattern called ‘Mon Petit Bazar’.

P1010550I haven’t seen this pattern company around t’interweb much – I can’t even remember where I saw this pattern first, but the design jumped out at me.  I love a drop waist, especially one with some fullness being cinched in by a band, and the lovely deep scoop neckline and curved raglan sleeves are right up my street.

I haven’t bought a paper pattern for a while, and the packaging of this was lovely.  It comes in a rustic-looking card folder, with the pattern pieces themselves printed on one large sheet of nice heavy paper.  I trace everything anyway, but there were only two pieces which you’d have to trace because they overlap slightly.  The instructions come as a little booklet – the main section of instructions is in French, with helpful but not excessive diagrams, with an English translation at the back.  I quite enjoyed the challenge of following the French instructions but there’s no need if you don’t want to – each step is numbered and it would be simple to match the English translation to the relevant step’s diagram.  It’s all hand-drawn and rather charming.

Pockets!

Pockets!

I was feeling wild and reckless, so decided not to bother with a muslin for this dress.  It did make things a bit nerve-wracking because I love this fabric, but a bit of living on the edge is good for the soul, right?  I cut a size L at the neck and bustline, grading to the LL (the next size up) at the waist and hips.  I’m really pleased with the fit, I think it could possibly be improved by using the next size down at the bust, with a potential FBA – there is a little bit too much room around the underarm area – but I’d rather have the room than feel constricted here.  I think that’s why I like a raglan sleeve so much, they’re never too fitted around the upper arm / shoulder.

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You can see the extra room in this shot, as well as the dart shaping at the shoulder – I really like this little touch.  The small pleats above and below the waistband are a nice little detail as well.  There is actually meant to be another design feature – believe it or not there is a small bit of gathering on the raglan seam line:

P1010555See it?  No, me neither.  I promise it’s there though!  I think this fabric was just a bit too drapey and fluid, so the gathering has ended up just easing the seam together.  It is a gorgeous feeling fabric – it’s a viscose twill from the Cloth Spot – it’s really soft, and thick enough to skim over lumps and bumps rather than clinging.  It’s the perfect weight and warmth for an autumn / winter dress, and it’s a perfect autumn colour as well.  It washes really well too (as usual I pre-washed) and doesn’t need any special treatment. The one drawback to this fabric is that it snags really easily, and not only do I live with 3 cats who love to paw at me with half-extended claws, but I’m also incredibly clumsy and have never managed to wear a pair of tights more than twice without getting ladders.  Somehow I’ll always catch things with my handbag hardware, or I’ll walk into a wall because I’m thinking about something else (usually what’s for tea), or something else equally doofus-ish.

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These are my ‘mullet’ boots – business in the front, party in the back…..

I love the back of this design as well – the buttons I used are a bronzey metal set which match perfectly.  I was a bit worried they might be a bit too heavy but they’re fine.  The pattern / instructions don’t include any interfacing for the button bands, but with such a drapey fabric I thought it would be a good idea.  The interfacing made a big difference – I did about twenty test buttonholes on scrap fabric, and the ones without any interfacing just didn’t work at all.

I finished all the seams with my overlocker – the fabric was a bit fray-ey so I even overlocked the sleeve and skirt hems before just turning the width of the overlock stitch twice, pressing and topstitching.  If I make this again I think I would cut a waistband facing – this version just has the bodice / waistband and skirt / waistband seams pressed towards the waistband as you can see in this photo:

P1010556I think a facing would just feel a bit neater, and would give it more body to prevent creasing with wear.  You can also see here the generous size of the pockets, and the bias binding finish of the neckband – I also finished the neck edge with the overlocker before binding.  The bias was self-made from some very fine and soft cotton / silk blend voile.  I used the same stuff for my Nano Iro Flutter dress – it’s so light it doesn’t interfere with the drape of fabrics like this, I often find that bought bias binding is too stiff to work well, and I get puckering (like on this Adelaide dress).

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Love that button band

I’d definitely recommend this pattern – if you’re a beginner you might need a bit of Youtube assistance, for example the neckline treatment is just included in the instructions as ‘finish neckline with bias binding’, but the diagrams were helpful and the English translation seemed very clear.  In fact there are a number of Aime Comme Marie patterns which I’d like to try – they’ve just brought out two jacket patterns, Madawan and Montmartre, which I’m very tempted by, and some of the tops look lovely too.  It’s funny how some patterns / companies seem to spread like wildfire around blogland, while others are never seen.  Maybe I should read more French sewing blogs?  Any recommendations would be fab…..

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Some hopefully-not-boring basics

I’m always meaning to try and sew more ‘frosting’ – incidentally does anyone else find the whole cake / frosting thing confusing?  I always think that the cake is the fancy stuff, until I remember the alternative is frosting rather than, say, bread.  Possibly because I love cake, and my main thought when I see the word is ‘mmmmm cake……sorry what were you saying?’. Anyway, my wardrobe is basically full of cake, with very little in the way of frosting, so what I have got to show you today?  That’s right, a couple of knit tops which I’ve been wearing in heavy rotation since they were finished, no frosting in sight.

P1010509This lovely green number was made from a free Simple Sew pattern included with a recent issue of Love Sewing magazine.  It’s exactly my sort of thing – raglan sleeves, wide neckline, not too fitted – so it was an obvious choice for the first one of these patterns I’ve tried.

P1010521It was a very straightforward sew, I have to say I didn’t really look at the instructions at all so I can’t comment on them.  There’s not a lot you could possibly include in instructions for this sort of top – 4 raglan seams, 2 side seams and then neck, arm and bottom bands – all sewn on my overlocker in an afternoon.

P1010518I really like the back neckline as well – it’s very close to being completely identical back and front which gives that lovely wide shape across the back and shoulders.  Actually it’s only the neckband seam that means I can put this on the right way round now that mornings are gettIng dark, and I’m not entirely convinced that wearing it the wrong way round would actually be noticeable…..

The curved raglan seams are a nice detail too, and make this a pretty flattering shape on me, I think.

P1010515I do seem to have sewn a bit of a tuck into the neckband here – I suppose I could take the band off and reattach, but I can’t see it so I’m pretty sure I won’t bother…….

The fabric is a gorgeous vibrant green viscose jersey from Edinburgh Fabrics – green is probably my favourite colour to wear, and this shade makes me smile every time I look down at my top – something that has been very welcome over the last few months.  Definitely a successful project, and it’s one of those that I tend to wear immediately they come out of the wash – always a good sign.

My second knit top was actually one that I rescued from a semi-disaster, but it’s ended up being an incredibly useful layering top.

P1010508The first, failed top was a rub-off of a favourite RTW long-line t-shirt which came down to about mid-thigh, with wide bands on the bottom and sleeves and which has been worn to death.  I seem to have sharp elbows. judging by the number of my favourite longer-sleeved t-shirts which end up holey, and once this particular top got holes in the elbow patches I’d added to cover the original holes, I thought it was time to try and make a replica.

P1010505I used some soft and buttery bamboo jersey, also from Edinburgh Fabrics, in this lovely smokey blue-grey colour.  Unfortunately, it’s much heavier and more stretchy than the fabric of the original RTW top, and looked ridiculous at the longer length – it nearly came to my knees.  The sleeve bands were much bulkier than the sleeves as well, and looked rubbish, frankly.  It was very disappointing, I really miss the original top in my wardrobe, it was a great layering piece, and this fabric is so lovely it seemed a shame to have wasted it.  Obviously as a mature adult I scrunched it up and wedged it in a box with various other unfinished projects.  For some reason I decided to pull it out of the box six months later, and about half an hour before we left on holiday in September.  I just chopped off the bottom and sleeve bands, leaving the edges raw, and bunged it in the suitcase.  The intention was to go back and hem, but that hasn’t happened yet and I’m not sure I’ll ever bother, it works well just as it is.

P1010503This has ended up being quite snug, and all the lumps and bumps, back pockets and bra straps are pretty obvious, so at the moment I’m not tending to wear it on its own, but as an under-layer for cropped or sheer tops and jumpers it’s fab.  I will try again with the longer length and bands, once I find a suitable fabric that matches the original better.  I think a less drapey, cotton jersey might do the trick.

That’s the end of my unblogged finished projects, and I’ve hit a bit of a snag in that my sewing machine is in for repair at the moment.  I did, however, have enough energy over the last couple of weekends to cut out 3 or 4 projects, so I’ll be all ready once my machine is back.  None of those projects are what you’d call frosting either, but I do have plans involving some silk velvet and a frock for Christmas, I just need to get up the courage to cut into such a precious fabric….