Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Wye Valley Jumper

It was a long and winding road (valley?) for this jumper. 

It started with a subscription to The Knitter at the end of 2015. Issue 95 was my favourite, and I immediately queued lots of the patterns. I made the Stride Socks first, but this jumper, Wye Valley, was always my favourite.

I even went ahead and bought the right yarn for the pattern - a first for me - Rowan Kid Classic. It is a lovely yarn. Kidsilk Haze sized up to an Aran weight. Since I love kitting with Aran yarn, and don't enjoy lace weight much, this is perfect for me. It is soft and slightly fuzzy and works up beautifully. Rowan do beautiful yarns, I'd have to say they are probably my favourite major yarn brand.

I chose this teal colour and ordered 10 balls, since the pattern called for 9-10. I used 5.5 for this project.

The reason I didn't come close to needing all that yarn is because this project came out way too small...

...I planned this for me! #fail 

Luckily, in my household, my girls are getting to the age that, if something doesn't come out quite the right size, there are plenty of other takers for it. In this case, Big Sis was happy to oblige. Luckily, teal is one of her favourite colours too. The model in these photos is Little Sis. (Big Sis was too busy.)

For sure, the sizing was my fault. Firstly, I went down a needle size. I did this knowing that in every single thing I knit, I have to go up a needle size. Had I done this, it would likely fit me. I went down a size because I liked the tighter, more saturated fabric that the size 4mm needle gave me. But my Ravelry notes tell me that I even knitted a gauge swatch and got perfect gauge with 5mm.

I made the back first. I wanted to make sure I was happy to knit the lace pattern before making the rest of the pieces. The bobbles didn't give me too much trouble, but there were no instructions for making them in the pattern. Just "MB": make bobble. Thank goodness for the internets and You Tube. As I got into the top half of the back, I sized down the bobbles by one stitch.

The rest of the jumper didn't cause me any dramas. But I didn't spend a lot of time on it. I hardly knit a stitch during the summer, and I didn't spend many nights on the sofa in the Autumn and Winter. 

But I did little bits here and there and eventually it was mostly done.

Since I made the sleeve length to fit me, but the rest of the jumper has come up child size, I was left with long monkey arms. They were comically long. I could have just rolled up the cuffs, but that is a waste of lovely yarn, so I looked up how to shorten the sleeves properly. Tech Knitting came up trumps. What a great website. 

I only had to pick up the sleeve side of the cut stitches. There is no cuff on this pattern. I used the Super Stretchy Bind-off to finish the cuff edge.

The hem and the neckline do roll. I know this is part of the pattern, but I don't think it is great feature at the front. The back is supported by the columns of lace stitching, so they only roll slightly. The front is a different story. I suspected this from the pattern photographs. The model is working hard to push the front hem down. I did a row of double crochet around the neckline and it worked to stop the rolling and bring it in towards the neck. I haven't done the front hem.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Wool Jersey Karen Dress


I am so pleased with this dress! Squeeze!
However, this is a cautionary tale about how it almost didn't get made. I queued this project in November 2015. 2015! More than a year ago. 


I bought the fabric as an impulse purchase, when I was actually shopping for boiled wool for a cape - still not made. The colours caught my eye first. The navy, taupe and magenta are very "me" and the bold geometric pattern was interesting. I wasn't quite prepared for how large the scale of the pattern is. The chevrons are massive, as you can see. The risks of shopping on the internets. 
But the benefits of shopping on the internets is that anything can be returned for any reason (at least in the EU, of which we are a member for another two years). The boiled wool order got returned but I kept this: 1.5m of wool jersey.
I have never seen a wool jersey in a fabric piece before. It was so mysterious to me. And quite daunting. It is, without doubt, the bounciest fabric I have ever encountered. Bouncy. There is no better description for it. The fabric composition is 78% viscose, 14% wool and 8% spandex. I don't know if that is a high spandex content or not. Despite the majority viscose, the feel is unmistakably wool, so that is what I am calling it. It is lovely and soft too, and the bounciness is not apparent once it is made up into a garment. The weight of the fabric and the high stretch combined made it seem so bouncy.
I admit, the pattern is loud, and the horizontal stripes are a challenge to wear. But I was determined that this was going to be a dress.


Due to the sheer drape (bounciness) of this fabric, the pattern was always going to have to be something with a drape element to the design. I also wanted sleeves, because having a wool dress without full length sleeves seems a little silly. I deliberated over the pattern for some time. I considered using my Burda Cowl Neck pattern, and adding sleeves, maybe with Tilly's Coco sleeve as a template. But the fabric was too precious to hack about with. Sew Over It's Cowl Neck Dress was a serious contender, but I worried it wasn't forgiving enough over the tummy. This fabric shows every single lump and bump, even with a lining.
But once I made the Karen Drape Dress from Maria Denmark, I knew that I would be able to get my winter wool jersey dress.
And yet still I dithered.
The project moved down my queue. From Autumn... through Winter... finally into Spring. My thanks go to Heather Lou of Closet Case. Her words ring in my head: "Just cut it! No fabric is too precious to cut!" She is so right! I could hang on to My Precious and never make a dress that, yes, might have gone straight in the bin; but might also go out and about with me and make me happy. Easy! Being wool particularly, I probably only have a year or two before the moths get to it. Imagine coming to find the piece and it's fallen to bits? Better to cut.
So I did.
I just went and cut it out. 

Pattern Placement

I think the bounciness helped to keep the fabric on grain when I cut out. I roughly used the horizontal stripes for grain matching. Only roughly, and they are irregular, but broadly horizontal.

I did concern myself with pattern placement. To a point. I had only 1.5m so I didn't have much scope for rearranging. I also had a really hard time figuring out how the pattern might look cut, draped and on. So I just cut. Just like that!
I knew I wanted the stripes around the hem of the skirt, and not like a sash across the body. The drape of the pattern means that the skirt is on grain (horizontal stripes), but the front bodice fans up through 45 degrees. By keeping the diamond pattern through the centre front of the bodice, I kept the patterns looking quite similar. I don't love the stripes through the lower edge of the draped section, but I didn't have a lot of alternatives. I love the pattern placement on the back. And I did stripe match through the skirt. Perfectly on the one side, and the irregular pattern means a complete stripe jog on the other side.
I also kept the sleeve stripes at the height of a cap sleeve and a wrist band. Plus nice downward pointing chevrons in the centre front. And... check out that brilliant stripe matching through the shoulder seams and upper back!!!
This is my happy face. Note the stripe matching? Good.

Making up

I was so, so careful to not handle the fabric more than I had to. I used tailors tacks to pin the pleats in place, and hand basted the seam through the pleats.  I worked as though I was sewing rose petals together. That said, I found that I got a better seam from my overlocker if I pulled slightly to create stretch on the way through, and relaxed it on the way out. My overlocker tension isn't right. I need to adjust the presser foot pressure. 

I made up the complete dress before trying to attach a lining. If it was going to be a wadder, I wanted to find out before I put any more time or resources into it.


I knew that this fabric was going to need lining. Every lump and bump is on show, plus the fabric has a slight sheerness and the winter style of dress = lining required.

I bought one meter of beige cotton jersey from Girl Charlee for the lining. I could have chosen a whiter colour but prefer that beige brings down the tone of the cream stripes while ivory or white would have made them pop more. I think it makes the dress just a little bit more neutral. Because, obviously, I am trying to blend in with this dress...

1m was enough fabric for the lining, because I used the back pattern piece for cutting both front and back of the lining, with no draping or sleeves included. I attached the lining by overlocking at the neckline and under stitched with the sewing machine. I secured the sleeves to the lining by hand with fagoting stitches.


I have found it to be impossible to stop the back neckline from flaring outward slightly. The pattern calls for clear elastic around the neckline and I successfully used ordinary elastic in my Black Karen. I tried attaching some along the inside of the back neckline, between the outer fabric and the lining, but the waviness just got worse. I pulled it out and trimmed lower (chilly!), but still no luck. I adjusted the shoulder seams in, but it really needs some back neck darts. If I hunch forward it's fine.  I have had to leave a slight amount of lining on show at the back. It's not terribly noticeable. I didn't get a picture of it in the end.


Rather than be dissapointed with the sleeve edges, I made cuffs for them and attached with my overlocker. They are not as polished as I would like, but better than lettuce fluting, and I got a bit of length that I was lacking.

The skirt hem is hand stitched, again with fagoting stitch. The lining hem is machine zig zagged. The hem length is the same as the pattern. My Black one is slightly longer, but this one didn't work out nicely with the pattern placement, so the hem on the banded stripes worked best.

I've decided that the Karen not really suited to horizontal stripes, nor such a draped fabric. I don't really like the poochy look around the tummy that the draped stripes create. They draw attention to an area that the design does a good job of hiding. The fabric choice for my black version are a better match, both in style and fabric weight.

That said, I still do love the dress. It is so comfortable, warm and fun to wear. The second I finished, it went out for lunch, a meeting, a gallery and drinks. Fun times!

  Fabric: 1.5m, £12.15
  Lining: 1m, £5.95
  Pattern: £0.00 (used previously)
  Thread: £0.00 (used previously)
  Other: none
Total: £18.10

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Sew Over It, Molly Top


As soon as Sew Over It released them, I loved the patterns in the e-book My Capsule Wardrobe: City Break. Five great patterns that I can absolutely imagine myself in any of them.

Funnily enough, the Molly top / dress did not grab my imagination. I would have put it bottom of the list. I didn't like the dolman sleeve and the extra bit at the end. But I watched Lisa's You Tube videos and decided it looked much better on. I particularly liked her floral version where you can't even see the sleeve seam (about 5 minutes in).

Molly is actually a great little pattern. The negative ease at the bust and the flowy waist and hem are very flattering. It also goes together SO FAST! I sewed the whole thing together in one evening. Add another evening for cutting out and one for finishing and this was a record for me.

I used my overlocker for all the sewing so there was no going back on the fit. I made a straight size 10 and the sizing was perfect, aside from my extremely short waist. I had taken 1 inch off the waist, and done a sway back adjustment of 1/2 inch, but it is still pooling at the back. I have gone back and altered the paper pattern again, to make the short waist 2 inches. Yikes!

I didn't mark any of the notches. Nor did I follow the pattern instructions. I had just made the Coco and this is even simpler with the straight sleeve head. I would say it is a perfect pattern for an introduction to sewing with knits. Or possibly even sewing at all.

The sleeve cuffs are very close fitting. They go some way towards balancing out the silhouette, but come up a little too tight for my preference. I would add in 1/2cm to each side when cutting. The sides of the sleeves are straight, so it would be easy to cut out with a ruler.

The neckband isn't lying flat properly. I am not quite sure why this is. While I didn't cut the notches, just pinned the neckband into place, and stretched it out when sewing, it is stretched almost at its full capacity. I think it might have something to do with the nature of the fabric.

The base jersey is very soft but it has been dyed with the black over the top. It almost feels (and smells) like paint and there is a lot of black on this white. The scale of the pattern is much larger than I thought it was when I viewed it online. I wanted smallish white flowers on the white background. This is a bit too tropical looking. But it was on sale and super cheap and I couldn't be bothered sending it back. I like the fabric better when it is made up into a garment, so I am calling this a wearable toile of the Molly top.

I used my sewing machine to zig zag the hems of the top and the cuffs, but it still doesn't like to play nice with jersey. Thank goodness I have an overlocker now, it makes such a difference to my ability to sew knits. It doesn't feel as precise, but it powers through those knits with no problems!

 Fabric: 2m (Minerva Crafts) £9.98
 Pattern: 1/3 of Sew Over It ebook (on sale) £4.67
 Notions: £0.00
Total: £14.65

Monday, 13 February 2017

Navy Sweatshirt Coco Dress

It takes me a very long time to get out of my post-Christmas sewing rut. Almost two months since my Hibiscus Dress, and I had not sewn anything. I eased myself back into sewing with Coco from Tilly and the Buttons, in a navy fleece fabric. Something that had been in my sewing queue since last winter, when I made my Coco Sweatshirt.

This is becoming the pattern that I turn to for getting my sew-jo back after the new year. Two years in a row now. It is nice and simple, and a great middle-of-winter comfort wear too. This year I was faster to get back on the horse. Last year looks like it took me until February to get sewing, and I didn't post the completed item until 1 March. I snuck the start of this into January 2017 by checking Instagram and reading the pattern instructions. I was all like, "Wow, that is so simple! I could totally do that!" Duh.

So I got on with cutting out and putting it together with my overlocker. I made a size 4, grading to 3 from the waist to the hem. All previous alterations the same, and I had already adjusted the paper pattern, which saved me loads of time. If I made this in a ponte, rather than a fleece, I think I should probably make a size 3. There is plenty of ease.

I finished the cuffs and neckline by overlocking the edges, turning under and sewing two rows of topstitching. The finished edge feels quite stable, so I didn't add stay tape to the neckline. If it pulls, I'll have to put in elastic, or add ribbing to the neckline. 

I deliberately stayed away from ribbing because I wanted it to be dressier and less sweatshirt-y. I have to laugh at myself because I hated sweatshirts as a child! My school tracksuit was green. Urgh! What a horrible colour! This fabric is absolutely school sweatshirt fabric. They even listed it as such on eBay, where I bought it. Here I am, reliving my school years in a sweatshirt dress. But hopefully passers by are not going to be reminded of their school tracksuits, or will forgive me in my quest for warm, cosy dressing.

Anywhoo, back to the construction. I find this neckline too wide for my preference. It gives a nice balanced look to the dress and it is fine for the funnel neck, but I find it too open, and not really suitable for such a depths-of-Winter garment. If I make this version again, I would reduce the neckline opening by 1cm.

Due to the bulkiness of the fabric, I made the hem on the shorter side. I'll always be wearing tights with it. Again, I ran two rows of straight stitching for the hem. The style means I don't need a stretchy hem and I don't have much luck with twin needles. Before I hemmed, I angled the side seams in so that I didn't have to ease in the bulk.

Then it was on to the... pockets!

I really did agonise over the pockets for quite some time. They are a very bold style statement and I must confess that they are not entirely me. But they are fun and actually add a slimming element to the finished dress.

I always knew they should be mustard colour, and I would use my scraps of Interlock from a cardigan and a t-shirtBut I also knew that poor workmanship would be very obvious, and this is a tricky fabric to work with. I was so desperate to do everything I could to not pull them out of shape in the making and the attaching.

I cut really carefully, and the interlock is much more stable than a jersey, so this wasn't too much of a challenge. Then I used the small pocket pattern as a template for pressing around. The pressing wasn't doing enough of a good job on the corners, so I went for a new solution.

First, I sewed a line of stitching just outside the fold line, then I hand basted the mitres in place and pressed again. This was much better. I could get the corners properly square and not saggy. They are not perfectly square, but they are the best patch pockets I have managed to date. I attached them using my walking foot. Unusually, the pattern doesn't include markings for the pocket placement, so I just decided for myself. Which is fine too. 

The pockets probably took me as long to sew as the whole of the rest of the dress. 

Then... I took some photos and decided that the dress was all wrong.

Not just the styling, with the sheer tights - which I obviously wouldn't wear in winter, but the pockets were just too clownish.

I had a play with alternative pocket styles. Like so:

I decided that Option 3 would work best. Navy patch pockets with a mustard accent at the top. So I unpicked the pockets and cut the tops off to attach to new navy pockets. Cue the same stitching and basting the corners. The sweatshirt fabric doesn't press as closely. But this pocket style is much better for me. Breaking the visual expanse of navy skirt, but being a bit more understated in the execution. 

I also styled it better with proper winter tights, and boots. 

I am happy with this as a cosy, casual winter dress, and a great sewing re-entry. Big Sis likes it so much that she has asked me to make her one with the rest of my fleece. Square patch pockets included!

 Fabric: 2m (eBay) £13.20 - only used about 1.25m
 Contrast Fabric: scraps, £0.00
 Pattern: Coco (Tilly and the Buttons) £0.00 - used previously
 Thread: Started 4 new spools of black overlocker thread, £15.80 - thought I had bought navy, but apparently not
Total: £19.00

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Polar Bear Cake

This came out of National Geographic Kids, and was dutifully reproduced for her birthday.

It was so easy peasy, probably the easiest birthday cake I have ever made!

Following the instructions, I took a Victoria Sponge and a lemon muffin. Cut the top off the muffin and cut the top in half. The two halves are the ears and the base is turned upside down to be the snout.

I made the cream cheese icing, beaten to soft peaks, and then smeared it on. Raided the kids Christmas chocolate stash for the eyes and nose (can you spot the €1 coin?) and done. Yum!

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

2016 Review

25 finished objects

10 clothes for me

10 things for the children

7 gifts for others

1 sewing lesson

Never repeat socks

First ever quilt

Mastered overlocker

Top 5 of 2016

I know my style, I know what I like to wear and what I like to sew. I am always deeply in love with fun florals and I know what to look for in a fabric and how to pair it with a pattern.

While my sewing queue has grown ever longer, I didn’t do that much sewing this year. I went for long stretches without sewing anything.

Getting an overlocker for my birthday was a fun thing. I have re-threaded it and used it for my projects ever since. I wouldn’t say it has taken my sewing to another level, but I do nicer seam finishes now, and the world of knits has opened up to me. I could not have made the Karen dress to my satisfaction if I hadn’t had it. I’m looking forward to sewing up some more knits that I have in my stash.

I did tackle two complex projects this year: a coat and a quilt. They were both deeply satisfying and turned out really well.

It's interesting (to me) to see how my year broke down into different rhythms of sewing at different times. It looks something like this:
   Jan: Quilt
   Feb: Winter sewing, Delphine and Coco
   March: Table linen
   April: knitting only, parents visiting
   May: Started The Coat
   June: Bunting for school fete
   July: holiday
   August: Finished The Coat
   September: used overlocker and new fabric from holiday, Karen and Cardigan
   October: Solar System
   November: Hibiscus dress
   December: away

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Hibiscus Mock Wrap Dress

Proof (as if I needed it) that good fabrics give good results. I got this stretch cotton sateen at Fabricana in Vancouver this summer and knew that it would become a mock wrap dress. I aim to only buy stretch fabrics for apparel in future. But I still have a lot of wovens in my stash. It is quite lightweight, but doesn't drape. I love the hibiscus print and the navy on white is an unusual pairing for a summer print. The pattern only needs 1.5m, of which I have substantial scraps left, making it a very economical dress.
New Look 6123 Line Drawings.pngThe pattern is New Look 6123, in which I managed to look past the comically woeful styling on the pattern cover and spot some amazing style lines inside. Pattern review also has some great versions, and I can see it becoming a great shift dress, if I can get past my beloved New Look 6968. I went for the bodice from version A/B and the skirt from B/D, without the sleeves and the flounce. There are some great sleeve options that come with this dress, but this was for summer, and I can't imagine that I'll ever wear a flounce. But never say never. I made quite a few pattern alterations for fit, most of them quite familiar to me now:
Short Waist: 1 inch
Sway Back: 1.5 cm
Reduce shoulder seams: 1.5cm
Side seams, seam allowance, 1cm @ waist area
Bias binding neckline, 5mm seam allowance.
Lowered length by 1 inch. Haven't moved vent down.
Waist seam 1cm @ front
Back Seam, 1cm at waist
Peg side seams by 1 inch

I also used bias binding instead of the facing. I left the full seam allowance in place, so it gives an extra 1cm around the neckline (5mm for bias binding, instead of 15mm for facing). In truth, it is a bit high, but I prefer to keep everything inside. For the bias biding on the armholes, I did trim 10mm off to keep them to 15mm seam allowance.

Construction was very simple, and pretty quick. I was surprised by how much pleating and gathering there was through the wrap sections. The pattern has you pleat and then gather over the top of the pleats. In a stretch cotton it was fine, but a heavier woven might end up with a lot of bulk.

I sized down to a 10 and would make a 12 in a woven. It is pretty snug through the hips and my waist is always much larger than the rest of me, but I am really pleased with the look and the fit.
 Fabric: Fabricana, 14.39
 Lining/binding: reclaimed sheet, 0.00
 Interfacing: not used
 Pattern: Minerva Crafts, 3.99
 Zip: Mood, 0.60
 Thread: existing, 0.00
Total: 18.98



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