Crafty weekend plans

Ooh it’s been ages since I’ve got into my sewing room. The reason? There’s a great big cot in the way:

I’ve instructed the husband to find a new home for it as we won’t be needing it for months yet, and then I can get on with some projects I’ve been itching to finish (and start for that matter)…

The nightie.

Remember I bought a couple of metres of adorable swiss dot at Walthamstow market a month or so back? I’m trying my hand at making a one-size-fits-all-or-at-least-most nightie with contrasting yoke neck for myself. If it works out and looks good I might think about running a few up to sell on Etsy or something (hey this kid’s gonna have to eat and my maternity pay is shite). But I’ve got to get it finished first. So that’s first up come Saturday morning.

The blanket.

We are now on 145 squares and the blanket’s measurements so far are 40 by 45 inches. I’m loving this project and I’ll be completely bereft when it’s over. To be honest I’m not even sure when it will be over. Will I just be forever addicted to churning out pink, white and grey granny squares until I cover everything south of the Watford Gap?

The baby cardigan.

In an effort to prise me away from the granny squares I’ve started on a crocheted baby cardigan, using a free pattern from Bella Bambina Knits. Below is what the finished cardigan is supposed to look like. It’s. so. damn. cute. it. kills. me.

This is the first thing I’ve attempted to crochet other than granny squares so we’ll see how it turns out but it’s such a lovely little project to undertake and I just love the wool and the colour – it’s Debbie Bliss Cashmerino in teal. Oh yeh – I forgot to mention this baby will be dressed entirely in teal whether it’s a boy, girl or monkey-cat hybrid. Awesome colour.

In other news I will be bidding a sad farewell to a good chum of mine, Tanya of Strikk Handknits. She’s heading off to a fab new job and life in Zurich for a while, at least until we can tempt her back. There will be tears! In the meantime why not browse her beautiful handknitted items and give her some extra work to do? ;-)

What are your weekend plans – crafty or otherwise?

Completed project: Maximus awesomus

Maximum Awesomus - New Look 6230

London has been a hotpot of scary looking rain clouds, biblical rainfall and the odd intermittent break of glorious sunshine (witness the pics!) over the past few weeks. There’s only one thing for it – a maxi dress of awesome-ness that keeps you cool, modest and removes the need for depilation. Hooray! The sun finally made an appearance in the back garden this morning so I hurried out to make the most of it.

I’ve never been a fan of maxi dresses as I find all too often they swamp my 5 ft 2 inch frame. But I’ve been toying with the idea of making one to suit my height and body shape after Mela made a really stunning version using New Look 6230.

Maximum Awesomus - New Look 6230

After I fell in love with the bodice on New Look 6864 I knew it would be perfect as a maxi dress. And finally, I could use my beautiful hand-blocked Indian cotton which Our Patterned Hand so kindly donated to me ages ago! Isn’t it perfect for the dress? Kind of Moroccan-y, terracotta pot-y, something-y… you know what I mean…

Maximum Awesomus - New Look 6230

Let’s get into the deets.

Pattern review: New Look 6864 View A+B+I+K.

Difficulty rating for StitchandWitter: 2 out of 5 – fairly straightforward.

Fabric and notions used: 3 metres of hand-blocked Indian cotton, one 20 inch zipper.

Total cost of dress (not including pattern): About £2.50 with gratis fabric.

Fitting issues: None actually – I cut out a straight size 10 in the bodice and a 12 for the skirt and it fit pretty much perfectly. There are only two darts under the bust; everything else is gathered so as long as you make sure the empire panel under the bust fits and the neck panel looks good you’re pretty much good to go.

Making issues: Um.. in my excitement to get this dress sewn up as quickly as possible I neglected to notice that the bodice actually calls for a lining. I only realised my mistake after I had attached the neck panel and thought to myself, “Hmm – those arm holes are unfinished… I wonder when the instructions will tell me to fix that… oh.. hang on… oh s*i*b*lls!” But all was not lost. I did a quick rescue job by turning the edges back a quarter inch and stitching, then another quarter inch and stitching. It’s not perfect, but it’s really not noticeable. The zip could also do with a better finish on the inside for the same reason (forgetting the lining)  but I can definitely live with it.

Skills learned: Continuing with my love of the French seam, pretty much all seams are nicely finished on this project. Makes such a difference knowing your seams are in order – it’s a bit like getting knocked over but knowing it’s alright because you’ve got fresh undies on, y’know? I also had my second ever attempt at a lapped zipper and I think for the most part it worked out ok. I still get a bit confused about how a 5/8  and a 1/2 inch seam allowance join together into a standard 5/8 seam allowance without some trickery going on but sometimes the magic doesn’t reveal itself to us because we are not ready to understand it.

How long did it take? Not long – I think probably about 6-8 hours in total.

Will I make again? This dress is a perfect maternity option as you can add extra width under the bodice and then just gather to add more room for the bump. I plan to make a shorter version using some petrol blue polka dot cotton (previously earmarked for another Simplicity 2444 – reluctantly shelved for now) and a magenta lining.

Maximum Awesomus - New Look 6230

Completed project: Arrgghh kimono

Hooray – a day where I finally had time to actually put this little beauty on and photograph it!  This is my Arrgghh Kimono – that’s an impression of a pirate by the way, me hearties.

Arrgh kimono

I gave a sneaky peek of this last week but I hadn’t quite finished hemming it. Which proved to be quite difficult actually given the slipperiness of both the outer and inner fabrics – crepe de chine from Marc Jacobs and a slippery plum charmeuse. With multiple ironings and a bit of luck I managed to get it looking even without it slipping on me. I ended up hand sewing the hem as it gave me much more control than using the machine.

So this is my first attempt at a Salme pattern. I’m pretty pleased with it overall. It was very simple to put together which made lining it much nicer. Note you must add your own seam allowances though!

I decided to underline the kimono but I was worried about the seam finishes on the inside… so instead of just attaching the lining wrong side to wrong side, I sewed it to the fashion fabric right side to right side with a quarter inch seam allowance, then turned it  the right way out and pressed, thus enclosing the seams within! This meant a much neater finish although again given the slipperiness of the fabric was bladdy tricky. I then used a half inch seam allowance instead of a 5/8 seam allowance to put the dress together. (Boffins will note that my quarter inch plus half inch adds up to more than the usual 5/8 but what’s an eighth of an inch between friends eh?)

I raised the waistline by seven centimetres because I wanted the gathers under the bust rather than at the waist. On reflection I wish I’d taken some of the width out of the pattern or cut a smaller size as the gathers feel a bit bunchy, but a belt disguises the join anyway so I’m not too bothered about this.

Here’s a peek at the lovely plum lining!

I LOVE how the plum is repeated in the parrot beaks! This lining makes a huge difference to the body of the crepe de chine and makes it feel uber silky when I’m wearing it. This is my second lined dress – hooray!

I like that this is a little different from the vintage styles I’ve been doing recently. It feels quite modern and practical. Less frosting – more cake, albeit a glamorous cake. Not sure what Gracie makes of the parrots though. Should I make her walk the plank?

Works in progress

It’s been all go here at S&W towers. I’ve been busy this week crocheting up a storm, whilst the weather continues to NOT play ball. Bad weather, naughty weather. It’s June. Why have I got the heating on again?

I had crocheted about 120 little granny squares and had started to despair that I’d be crocheting into my pension years before I had enough to make a blanket… until I had the (durr) brainwave of adding an extra outer rim of ivory wool to make them bigger – hence less squares required! Genius? No. Genius for me? Yes.

Woollen loveliness

In fact I much prefer them with this lovely soft ivory outline – it should lighten the whole look of the blanket. I’ve started stitching a few together using a basic blanket stitch. I reckon 12 by 12 squares ought to do it. The wool is gorgeous soft merino by Millamia of Sweden but by god it’s expensive stuff. Just one ball sets you back about £5.50 and there’s already at least 14 balls in here. Cripes! And to think I bought a massive crocheted throw off Etsy for about £20 recently.

I’ve almost finished another sewing project – I downloaded this simple kimono pattern from Salme Patterns:

Kimono Salme Patterns

I figured I could easily shorten it to make tops as well as the dress, but first up – the dress! Here’s a sneaky peek.

Kimono

I’ve used some gorgeous Marc Jacobs crepe de chine I’ve had in my stash for a couple of months. I just love these colourful parrots. I seem to be developing a taste for birdy fabric!

It’s also fully lined with this sumptuous silky plum lining which really bolsters the dress’ volume and makes you feel all slinky when you slip it on. I just have to hem it now. More pics to come later this week hopefully!

Kimono lining

Hope you’re all having wonderful weekends wherever you are. xxx

Completed project: Grainline scout tee

So I’ve basically ripped off True Bias and her lovely polka dot T-shirt for this project. Once I saw her slouchy tee I knew it would be perfect for filling that essential casual top gap I’m seeing in my me-made wardrobe. And because I’m a big ol’ plagiarist, I opted to go for spots too! I used this polyester mix from my stash. I had been keeping it for my Hazel dress but since I don’t know when I’m going to be able to start it, I thought why not use this wonderful fabric instead of letting it sit unadored in the sewing room. It’s got a lovely drape to it and I love the slightly outsized dots and this particular shade of grey.

Scout tee shirt

The pattern is available here – think it cost me less than £3 overall as you just download and print it out. Although I HATE sticking multiple A4 sheets together because this is what happens…

Stealth cat

I can haz help? Naw? Is stoopid enewayz…

Anyway – back to the pattern. It’s very easy to put together – just a front, a back, a sleeve and bias binding for the neckline, which is even helpfully added to the pattern and sized for you. It takes a couple of hours for me to knock one up but the more experienced amongst you will be knocking one of these babies out in an hour tops.

Scout tee shirt

For my next version I think I’ll reduce the width of the sleeves a touch and not take so much off the length. This could also make the perfect pattern for a slouchy sun dress if you extend it, or a great nightie. Plus you could do all sorts of experimentation with the sleeves etc.

Scout tee shirtWarning – this is not fitted in any way. There are no darts at all so if you do prefer something a bit more fitted, this pattern might not be for you. But if you’re after an easy to knock up, casual slouchy tee for lazy summer days – this is it.

Mad Men dress challenge – a wee tiny peek

I know I’ve been very quiet this last week but it’s not for want of sewing to talk about! I’ve been uber-busy on my Mad Men dress (part of Julia Bobbin’s Mad Men challenge). I made massive leaps and strides over the weekend and the first part of the week. I danced on the heads of pins, leapt gazelle-like into the gaping maws of the zipper and skipped my way to the hem-finishing-line… then I got a tummy bug.

So it slowed down a bit. But wanna see a sneaky peek? I just have to hem it now and all is done! Apologies for crappy mobile phone pic but it is a peek after all :)

I mustn’t reveal the finished item until Julia says it’s OK. Then I shall pirouette across the interwebs in it. Can’t wait to see all the other Mad Men dresses busily under construction out there – can you?

Fabric markings: Your tips and tricks

Keef just can't make up his mind!

When I posted about how I made my fabric markings and queried whether I was using the best or most efficient methods of transferring pattern markings, I was completely unprepared for the wealth of knowledge and expertise that came my way. Y’all are machines of efficiency!

To summarise, I explained my slow-coach method of marking everything with tailors tacks, separating the fabric, snipping the threads and then slooooowly going over the tacks with chalk cos I was SCARED of losing said threads… YAWN. My life force was literally ebbing away with every rethread…

The general reaction in the comments was, to paraphrase, “*!%$ that *!$£& Joanne, get with the programme and put a pin in it”. Well, not just that. You guys also shared some fantastic tips on what tools work best for you, how you mark and sew darts, how you notch (or don’t notch). I learned more in a single post than I think I would in a dressmaking course and I hope some of you also learned some great new time-saving techniques.

I’ve done a bit of a round up of all the comments here, feel free to add even more!

Choosing your weapon

Having dissed my tracing wheel and carbon paper as fully unsatisfactory, I found a few of you do actually use this method, and it works for you. Shivani uses hers to mark up muslins; RedSilvia uses hers on everything except sheer fabric; Clare recommends using one with a cutting mat so the colour takes better and TJ says you’re better off with a bumpy (rather than a spoked) wheel to stop any bunching. TJ also gave a top tip on choosing carbon paper: wax-based for soft or coloured fabric and carbon-based for firmer or lighter fabrics.

Tailor’s chalk was one of the more popular marking tools, but it came in a myriad of forms. Standard chalk ‘triangles’ are deemed too inaccurate for some marking (although VeraVenus keeps hers sharp with a craft knife); chalk wheels are by and large approved although some have found it ‘drags’ delicate materials, The winner by far is the chalk pencil – easy to sharpen and maintain accuracy. Shivani and Mikhaela recommended getting a refillable one that comes with lots of colours for different fabrics. Here’s a link to it in case you fancy treating yourself. It’s just under £8. And for anyone who’s interested in trying something completely different, Linda recommends drying slivers of soap on radiators and shaving to a sharp edges for a washable marker!

Many of you are fairly agnostic when it comes to tools – with some naughty beggars using anything that comes to hand! Over to Elisalex! “Don’t tell anyone, but I usually just fold back the pattern paper and grab whatever I have to hand – a chalk pencil, pins, my son’s crayons, God-forbid sometimes even a Sharpie…” Sorry Elisalex – you’ve been outed! You may join my sewing slattern club if you wish.

But hooray! There are still some tailors tacks aficionados out there. Sorbetsurprise, Chris and Alison all use this method, although sparingly. Methinks I can probably rest up on using them for absolutely everything.

The wonder of pins

So why have I been using tacks all this time when pins do just as good a job, albeit a more temporary one. Sandy shared a great video showing how you can mark and fold darts with just a few pins. Lauren, Chris, Clare, Sandy, Symondezyn and Sorbetsurprise (and that tool-floozy Elisalex) all push pins through the pattern pieces and fabric, then separate the fabric to mark where the pin went through. Like durrr, why didn’t I think of that?

Picking your battles

So how do you guys decide what to transfer onto your fabric? Well… that depends on what’s important to you when it comes to fitting. Shivani does mark the waistline, hip and bust points on her muslins, Lauren only marks what is strictly necessary to get the job done. I guess it’s whatever works for you.

Dart attack!

I gleaned some very useful tips on sewing darts too. Sandy shared a fantastic time-saving tip: snip the dart legs in the seam allowance and mark the dart point, then simply fold the dart at the point until the legs match up. When you come to sew, do a few stitches leaving a long tail, then pull that tail towards the snips – giving you a handy guide for your dart line. Another tip from Karen was to shorten the stitch length as you reach the pointy bit of the dart to give a neater finish (and I imagine a stronger stitch too). Who knew!

Thank you

Thank you all so much for sharing your tips and tricks. It’s been unbelievably helpful. The most reassuring thing I discovered from all the comments was that there’s no actual right way to do it. Well, some people might insist there’s a right way but we’re not listening to them, are we? So it’s OK to take short cuts if they’re tried and trusted methods. It’s OK to just push back that pattern paper and draw a line instead of labouring over loops of thread. We are not going to sewing hell! Hooray!

Gracie is entirely bored by fabric marking

Colette Violet – the sequel

So I have a bit of a confession to make. I had intended to do something different with this version, maybe some piping or something round the collar. But I was so excited to be whipping up a blouse in a day I just kind got on with it instead. So it’s pretty much a carbon copy of the previous Violet – but in a different fabric. Hey – if it ain’t broke etc.

Colette Violet: The sequel

Again I used fabric from Walthamstow market at £2 a metre. Bargainous. The buttons are vintage and are from a stash my mother-in-law gave me a few years back. I love their larger size – they make me feel like a kid again for some reason!

Colette Violet: The sequel

I absolutely know I will make this again. I just can’t resist how easy or how cute it is. I’m in danger of slipping into Violet-dependency though…

Colette Violet: The sequel

In other news, I’m woefully behind on the Minoru sewalong. I’ve only just cut out the fabric. Plus, I know I won’t get any sewing time over the next couple of weeks so I’ll miss the deadline completely.  Thank god for blogs where you can go back in your own time and start again!

I’ve really been enjoying Sewaholic’s Renfrew pattern-testers cropping up all over the place. Karen and Jane‘s are particular highlights - fantastic versions and a great advertisement for the pattern. One for the list.

And finally, I’ve mastered* crochet! I’ve been whipping up granny squares when I get a moment for the last couple of days, ever since my friend Bridie came round for another tutoring session last week. I shouted and cried all the way through (sorry Bridie) but I got there in the end. I’m not up to the crochaliser standard yet, more’s the pity.

Yay for crochet

*When I say mastered I mean I can do one version of a granny square and my tension is probably all wrong but I’m happy as Larry just knowing that I’ve got the basics.

What about you? Any new crafty skills you’re learning? Does it feel weird being an absolute beginner again?

Fabric markings: I’ll show you mine if you show me yours

I’ve just been putting together my second Colette Violet. The pattern calls (as most of them do unless it’s a pattern for a sack) for a number of markings to be transferred to the fabric, including darts, notches, dots and buttonholes. It led me to ponder (as I made my own markings) whether I was really using the best and most efficient methods. Is there a better way I thought, as I threaded up yet another needle after 10 minutes of groping for it blindly on my busy floral tablecloth. Note to self: NEED wrist pincushion.

Here’s how I do  it.

Darts: Marking the points (also used for transferring dots)

I use tailor’s tacks to mark dart points first. I do this by running a threaded (doubled thread) needle through the pattern and both fabric pieces once, leaving a two inch tail, then a second time, leaving a large loop about four inches. I then snip my thread (leaving another two inch tail) then snip the loop leaving what I like to call the cat’s whiskers. I then pull (gently!) the pattern off the fabric and separate the two pieces of fabric (again – gently!) and snip the joining threads in between the two pieces of fabric. This leaves me with a set of cat’s whiskers on each fabric piece.

Making tailors tacks

Darts: Marking the ‘legs’

Again I use tailor’s tacks for this, using a simple running stitch but leaving large loops on the top (this one I call the Loch Ness Monster) which I then snip. Then, as before I pull the pattern of the fabric and gently separate the two pieces until I have enough room to snip the threads in between the fabric pieces. Once I’ve done that I’m always afraid the thread will fall out so I go back with a ruler and chalk and trace along the markings, then remove the tacks.

Marking dart legs

I do all of this on the wrong side of the fabric and I use a brightly coloured thread so it shows up – usually fluorescent yellow. Unless I make a Big Bird costume at any point in the future I am highly unlikely to use this shade.

It probably takes about four to five minutes for each dart. Now, is there a quicker way? Could I omit one of these steps?

Buttonholes

This is a little trickier so I’d love to know how you guys do it yourselves. I use tailor’s tacks to mark the centre of the button (where I’ll sew it to the fabric) according to the pattern. I go through both layers of fabric again so I have the markings on both pieces. Then on the piece that will feature the button holes I mark out a couple of centimetres (or however wide the button is) in chalk from this marking towards the sleeve side.

Marking buttonholes

I do this on the right side of the fabric. Now this obviously works, otherwise I wouldn’t be telling you about it, but is it strictly the best or the most accurate way to do it? Or do you have a clever tip?

Notches

Lauren asked her readers how they notch their fabric recently and there was a lot of interesting feedback – quite a few people actually do cut little triangles outside their seam allowance rather than snip notches into it. I have always snipped into my seam allowance, but a few recent projects where the fabric frayed easily or where I wanted to finish the seams nicely (sans overlocker/serger) highlighted that occasionally it’s not the best solution (those little notches really do interfere with Tasia’s lovely instructions on turning and stitching, especially on a short seam like a shoulder seam!). A good tip I found in Lauren’s comments was to mark the notches in with a pen instead so I might try that.

I have even more questions for you!

  • Do you interface your pieces before or after you transfer your markings? I always end up doing it after because I already have my pattern piece pinned to the fashion fabric and it makes sense. But I live in fear that somehow I will lose my markings by adding the interfacing and I HATE living in fear.
  • Do you bother transferring markings such as waist lines? Anything else you always make a point of marking that I haven’t mentioned?
  • What do you use to mark your fabric? I’ve been through chalk (easily broken and not exact enough), pencils (terrible to sharpen and often don’t show up enough on fabric) and carbon paper with a tracing wheel which in theory should transfer pin pricks of colour to your fabric but which in reality never does. At the moment I’m using a chalk wheel which seems to be working ok.

Right – no more questions from me – I have a Violet to finish. You can choose to answer all, some or none of these questions accordingly or you can roundly abuse me for asking silly questions  - no offence will be taken. Onwards!

Completed project: A vintage-style Colette Violet

I’ve wanted to do the Colette Violet for a while. I’ve been thinking it’s more practical for me to have more separates in my wardrobe since (as lovely as dresses are) I’m more likely to reach for them on a bleary-eyed Monday morning in the dark. Plus I wanted a nice blouse or two to take with me on my holibobs that would be light and fresh in the heat but would cover and protect my pale Irish upper arms.

Colette Violet

I was inspired by the vintage feel of Lauren’s and Nette’s versions so I chose a very lightweight floral cotton and adapted the pattern so it was a much tighter fit (more details below). The buttons are vintage – doncha love the pink pop of colour?

Colette Violet

Lordy that’s a bit of a Prozac gaze isn’t it?!

Colette Violet

A closer look at the peter pan collar.

Colette Violet

Noof noof fluffy Gracie.

Pattern review: Colette Violet (short-sleeved version)

Difficulty rating for StitchandWitter: 2/5

Fabric used: Just under 2m of a lovely vintage-style floral cotton from Walthamstow market

Total cost of dress (not including pattern): Approx £8.50 (think fabric was about £2 a metre, buttons were £4.50 for six)

Fitting issues: Now I knew the Colette Violet is supposed to be a loose-fitting blouse, so I decided to cut out a size 8 from the pattern. But once put together I realised I still wanted a more slender fit. So I hacked off a good bit on either side (see pics below). I also knew that Colette patterns often need a width reduction across the shoulders on me, so I did it right this time and took about an inch off either side at the top of the armhole.

Altering pattern

Making issues: I’d previously made a blouse with a peter pan collar and got incredibly confused with the placket and the facing so it ended up being hideous inside (although it was one of my first sewing projects last year). This time, it went like a dream, with Colette patterns’ lovely relaxing yet instructive voice guiding me though each step. I now feel like I can go back to that vintage pattern and try it again! My buttonholes still aren’t perfect. I get this issue on my machine where I can see occasionally it’s not leaving the stitch in the fabric. Not quite sure what’s going on there – may have to consult the manual.

Skills learned: Adding a placket.

Anything to add? I tried to finish the edges of the facing with self bias binding like Lauren’s fabulous version. I followed Portia’s excellent tutorial for making bias binding – what a breeze! But then tragedy struck – my masking tape is evidently the stickiest EVER and my fabric is soft and thin – the two became inextricably linked and wouldn’t be separated. They are now locked together in their hellish fabric/paper union in the sewing room bin. Ah well. I just turned the edges under a quarter inch instead.

Will I make again? Yes – without a doubt, especially now I have my alterations in place on my tracing. I plan to do multiple versions  in all these fabrics, maybe adding piping to the collar and front edges too:

Fabrics for Colette Violet

Have you made anything multiple times? How do you keep the process fresh so you don’t get bored?