Completed: Granny square baby blanket

Granny square baby blanket - finished!

Granny square baby blanket – finished!

I simply can’t believe I’ve managed to finish this before the baby arrives. This blanket has been a year and a half in the making you guys! It didn’t even start life as a baby blanket, just as a bunch of granny squares in pretty colours that allowed me to practice my new-found crochet skills, taught to me by my chum Bridie on a summer crafternoon.

Square and edging detail

Square and edging detail

It’s the simplest of granny square patterns ( I’ve included it at the end for anyone who’s just starting out too) but it uses the softest most gorgeous extra fine merino wool by MillaMia Sweden. At around £5 to £5.50 a ball, this blanket was not cheap to make! I’d estimate around 30 balls were used, making the materials alone an astonishing £150 or thereabouts (thankfully spread out over the course of a year)! Altogether 192 granny squares make up the finished blanket. I used approximately three more balls (plus a bit more grey) for the edging.

More edging detail

More edging detail

The edging was created by doing one round of double crochet in that lovely dusty pink to even off the sides and then one round of treble crochet in the same colour; then a round of treble crochet in ‘snow’, then the same in grey with a further final round of treble crochet clusters (seven into one stitch, miss two stitches, slipstitch, miss two stitches, repeat) to give that lovely scalloped edge.

See how big it is?

See how big it is?

This blanket has travelled the world with me too. It’s been to Ireland, to Paris, to Santorini, to Thailand and even to Laos!

On holiday in Laos and on the Eurostar to Paris

On holiday in Laos and on the Eurostar to Paris

I’d guess maybe upwards of 150 hours have been spent on it. It’s been a conversation starter, an anxiety reliever, a chilly afternoon warmer-upper and, when I discovered I was pregnant, it became a potential heirloom. A best friend and comforter for our son or daughter that will hopefully travel through their life with them.

It’s big enough to be doubled over as a sturdy cot or pram blanket but it also covers a single bed and is large enough to wrap up a overdue pregnant woman! Witness!

Overdue pregnant woman wrapped

Overdue pregnant woman – wrapped

I love this blanket so much. I’m almost heart broken to have finally finished it.

But I can’t wait to start a new one! I’m thinking a 400 square granny blanket to keep me and the husband warm in our dotage. It’ll probably take that long…

Here’s the granny square pattern. These are the same instructions I used to teach Mela how to crochet a granny square and she’s making great progress so hopefully they’ll work for you.

Romper stomper: Simplicity 2459

Hey everyone, I’m so sorry I’ve been so quiet over the last few weeks. It’s not like I’ve been mega busy, or super tired – I’ve just taken myself out of the zone I think! Thank goodness for Handmade Style. Without this regular feature there’d be tumbleweeds round these parts. Thanks for your suggestions on new questions – I’ll be factoring them into some exciting new interviews with your favourite bloggers, coming soon.

In the meantime, let’s all have a collective awwwwwwh for Simplicity 2459…

Simplicity 2459How gorgeous is this?? It’s made of leftover teal cord from my Beignet and Ginger skirts, and lined with leftover rabbit fabric from my self-drafted smock top. Dontcha love a ‘free’ make?

For the most part this was really easy to knock up, except that the instructions seemed to omit the adding of the shoulder straps for View G which was what I was doing, which was a tad confusing but easily remedied by seam ripping the top of the bodice back and tucking the straps in, then securing with some top stitching. I also added a snap on each side under the arm. BOY I hate doing snaps after a long hiatus. I always forget how to do them, then lose/break/throw-them-at-the-wall-in-frustration. We got there in the end though. But I was down to my last two snaps – I shit you not.

This little romper goes with everything it seems. Must be a baby thing…

I used ready-made popper tape for the bottom – I’m sure I could have done a neater job here but truth be told I have no idea how these things work. I reckon a day or two of changing nappies will shed some light on what’s really practical.

Less than two weeks to go! The baby is a teeny tiny bit engaged which means he/she is taking his/her own sweet time to get into position. That’s cool. We’re ready. The romper will be waiting.

Earning my Renfrew stripes

Yoo hoo! It’s another Renfrew!

Sooooo I actually made this not long after my stars Renfrew but have just got round to writing it up. Yay – another successful Renfrew. This pattern is awesome – seriously. I cannot recommend it ENOUGH.

But what to say that’s new? Well – I kinda fecked up the stripe matching even though I really did try, I promise! But the mismatch doesn’t bother me at all if I’m honest.

I really like that the neckline has that thin white band all the way round. Don’t ask me why. Simple things please me these days.

This top is so comfortable it’s unreal. You just pop it on and forget you’re wearing clothes – it’s soooo cosy. Even after my bump deflates I’m going to wear these as jammy tops in the winter. I could put a hot water bottle in the flabby bit left behind.

In other news I’ve been enjoying my first few days of total and utter freedom. I’ve officially left work and am JOBLESS. It feels really weird to a) not be working and b) not be actively looking for work. I’ve been batch cooking for post baby dinners so lots of spicy carrot soup and Irish stew is getting whipped up. Plus I’ve got some uber-cute crochet projects to show you too. But that’s for another day. Have a fabulous weekend!

A Renfrew to see me through

Why have I been avoiding this pattern? It’s a dream! Must be something to do with a fear of knits and a growing bump. But then I came across Zoe’s fantastic tutorial on adapting a jersey pattern for maternity.. and a new wardrobe essential was born!

Maternity Renfrew

Maternity Renfrew

The tutorial couldn’t have been easier. Zoe walks you right through it (and all you’re doing is adapting the front pattern piece in any case). Couldn’t be easier. Pregnant bloggers – take up the challenge!

But mustn’t forget the genius that is Tasia’s Renfrew pattern. I sewed up View B with View C’s three-quarter-length sleeves. The trickiest bit was attaching the V neck to the body of the top – that was a little hard and I think I botched it slightly although it’s impossible to notice. However Tasia has plans to do a step-by-step on this later in the year. The rest was pretty much plain sailing. I really really wanted to do some topstitching with a recently purchased twin needle but lo and behold it’s gone on walkabouts somewhere in my sewing room, along with my tomato pincushion. (Where do these things go… the fourth dimension?) All seams were sewn with a basic zigzag stitch.

I feel a bit guilty as I’ve only taken one photograph but that’s really all there is to the top and showing you all my different angles isn’t as appealing as it once was! The fabric (looks like polkadot but is actually a star print) is from Walthamstow market (a bargain £2 a metre).

Verdict? This is an ace pattern, pregnant or otherwise. You can do it in an afternoon and you don’t need an overlocker either. Once you’ve done one I’ll bet you’ll go back for more. I’m going to try a stripey black and white next!

Has your fear of knits been conquered by the Renfrew? Or are you still quaking at the thought?

Planning ahead? I can’t see my own feet…

I was filled with good intentions not so long ago of making a stylish and comfortable maternity wardrobe. Bolstered by some fabulous donated patterns and a haul from Walthamstow market I dreamed big, BIG I tell you. But then my abdomen swelled and my ankles swelled and my waist disappeared and heartburn and back ache began and I thought ‘sod it – I can’t be arsed’.

Massive respect to those bloggers who post glama mama pics throughout each trimester, but that’s not for me. If I can lace my own Converse up in the morning without emitting 100 decibel OOOFs I’m high-fiving everyone on the way to the train station.

But I’m not stressed or frustrated by my slight lack of sewjo. It’s just a gentle winding down in my opinion. It’s my body reminding me that bending over a cutting table or sitting at a sewing machine for a couple of hours in a hard-backed chair just isn’t the way forward. It gently leads me to the sofa where I settle with a cup of tea and a slice of something sticky and do a bit of crochet instead. Which is so much easier to do when your mind has zoned out. (I zone out regularly now into some kind of catatonic state, unable to recall what I was thinking about just a moment ago. I think it’s a coping mechanism for impending childbirth. At least I hope so.)

I would like to make a few more things though – the Renfrew with Zoe’s maternity adjustments is calling out to me as a third trimester must-have, as is an easy maxi skirt with elasticated waist for going over the bump – a la Megan Nielsen.

DIY Maternity maxi

DIY Maternity maxi

I think the winter coat project will see me through the next six to ten weeks at a leisurely pace. I plan to do a fairly robust muslin beforehand and I’ve ordered the teal wool and had it dry-cleaned in advance. I just have to … peel myself… off the sofa…

In the meantime, I thought I’d share a little pic of these booties I’ve crocheted to match the apple-button cardy I completed a couple of weeks ago, using the leftover yarn. I want a pair in my size!

Crocheted baby booties

I’m just loving this book, Cute and Easy Crocheted Baby Clothes. It has a selection of gorgeous projects like the booties above, plus blankets, cardigans, hats and toys rated at three different ability levels: beginners, improvers and enthusiasts. I’ve just started on another cardigan (this time at improver level) in a muted blue-grey cashmerino wool which features the most adorable shell patterning and it seems to be working out just fine – fingers crossed.

I can definitely recommend crochet if you want to try something new. Here are my top tips for getting started (and why you should):

  • The easiest way to learn is to watch someone else doing it and copy them, whether it’s a willing friend or a youtube tutorial.
  • Granny squares are probably the easiest and most rewarding project to begin with. You get to try out lots of stitches and styles, have loads of fun with colours and put them all together for a unique and cosy blanket.
  • The thicker the wool, the bigger the hook, the chunkier the project. Most yarn will have a recommended hook size printed on the side of the yarn wrapper but if in doubt ask a sales assistant.
  • Crochet is portable! You can take it anywhere – the tube, the plane (yes – hooks are allowed), the park…
  • It’s a conversation starter almost everywhere you go, people just can’t resist leaning over and asking you about it.

Finally, I mentioned in an earlier post about some news I received a while back which took some getting used to. Now that it’s all sorted I can reveal what it was; I was made redundant a few weeks ago! I know, it all seems rather bad timing given that I’m almost seven months preggers. But actually, I think I’m fairly happy and relaxed about it all (or maybe I’m just zoning out again?!) and I got a fairly good package that should keep me and the baby in fetching fabrics for a while yet.  My only concern will be coming out the other side of maternity but to be honest with you that’s so far away it’s not worth worrying about right now. I quite fancy a change of direction in any case, so the time off will come in useful for deciding where I want to go/what I want to do next. Hey everyone, let’s move to New York! Just kidding… what about Portland instead? ;-)

P.S. Must just give a shout out to my fellow pregnant sisters in sewing – there’s something in the water! Huge congratulations to Pincushion Treats, Casey, Julia Bobbin and True Bias! Watch out for some serious maternity style.

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

Not one… but two packages. What fun!

Amazing! Not only did I pop along to the post office to find my sewing swap package from Leah had arrived, I also received an unexpectedly early package in the post this morning. I am now the proud owner of no less than ten new patterns and a bunch of other wonderful bits and bobs!

First up – Leah’s package. Don’t you just love packages? Especially international ones. They make me feel so excited and childlike. I love sending them, but I especially love receiving them.

Leah's package

I was so not disappointed. Leah had gifted me with not one but three stunning vintage patterns. A glamorous slip from Butterick, a sophisticated skirt from McCalls and the most darling dress from Simplicity. Plus she included over two metres of some fabulous fabric, a vintage zip (from her grandmother’s attic no less) and 100 yards of seam binding! 100 yards! Seam binding! I’m so chuffed. Thank you so much Leah and I hope you enjoy your package as much as I did mine.

Leah's package

The goodies inside

After my announcement and plea for patterns that wouldn’t make me feel like a ten tonne Tessie, Dibs of Dibs and the Machine got in touch and said she had a couple of maternity patterns to send over and would I send her my address. Um, do I need to be asked twice?

Dibs is obviously the most efficient person ever; I only gave her my address a few days ago and today a bumper parcel arrived in the post with SEVEN amazing maternity patterns. Check them out!

Haul from Dibs

Seven stunning maternity patterns

I am speechless. These are all fantastic and I can’t wait to get stuck in. I’m torn between the Kwik Sew dress and the Burda tunic on the left. Thank you so much Dibs. You are a queen.

Once again, and I know this is said a lot in this community but I for one feel it can’t be said enough, I am blown away by the kindness and largesse of you seamsters out there. What a brilliant Saturday morning it’s been, and it’s only 12.20!

I hear the sun is coming out tomorrow in London (we’ve all forgotten what it looks like here) so I’m hoping I’ll finally get a chance to model the maxi dress I’ve been promising you for so long.

From here to maternity…

Thank you all for your amazing comments on my recent announcement. It really brings a  warm glow to my heart when I think of all the well-wishers out there in blog land smiling at my news and taking a moment to wish me and the bump the best! Sigh and sniff indeed.

You also totally came through when I pleaded for pattern suggestions that wouldn’t make me look like a tent. They came thick and fast – beautiful maternity styles, the cutest empire line dresses, bloggers who’ve tackled maternity patterns and tons of tips on sewing with jersey. It’s really made me consider getting an overlocker, something I have always promised myself when I got good enough and had lots of projects under my belt. Now seems like an opportune time. I’ve already picked out my model – the Brother 1034 as recommended by Karen as well as countless other bloggers. I have yet to buy though… I’m still thinking about it!

So here’s a round up of some of your fabulous suggestions. Note – they’re not just for preggers peeps!

Non-maternity patterns

Lindsay suggested New Look 6803. A great little pattern with plenty of room for growth and the option for just a tunic or a dress.

New Look 6803

Clare pointed out that New Look 6802 could be adapted for breastfeeding as well as providing a flattering fit around the bust. I’d really have to up my jersey sewing skillz for this one, but I LOVE the twisty feature at the front – so cute.

New Look 6802

Marianna suggested Burda 7378 and I have to say I’m a bit smitten with this one, though I have yet to tackle a Burda pattern! Can you believe it? I’m a Burda virgin! A Burgin, if you will. Isn’t the maxi version so glam?

Burda 7378

Ginger popped up with New Look 6022 – another great little casual shift dress that could be shortened into a top. Not sure about that drawstring pouch though!

New Look 6022

Abby suggested altering New Look 6557 slightly to accommodate a growing bump. I love the halter top but not sure if my sewing skills are up to the adaptations to the rest of the dress if I’m honest. Maybe one for post baby body inspiration?  Doesn’t the top remind you on Jane’s gorgeous Cherry Fabulous dress?

New Look 6557

Kat H recommended the Danielle dress from Burda with its empire bust and loose skirt. Cute shape isn’t it?

Burda - Danielle

Maternity patterns

In terms of actual maternity patterns, Megan Nielsen is a firm favourite. Loads of you suggested checking out her lines of separates, especially the Wrapped Maternity top, as recommended by Tilly.

Megan Nielsen Maternity top

Actually I’ve already been checking out her designs and they are so, so cute. I already have the Rie dress (which can also be shortened into a top) which I think I simply have to try next, but this top is inching up the waiting line already. Here’s the Rie dress if you’re not familiar with it.

Rie by Megan Nielsen

Maternity bloggers

Huzzah! Brave women have been there and done that already, some of them multiple times! I got loads of suggestions from you on sewing bloggers to get inspired by so I’ll be adding them to my reader immediately.

Once again – thanks so much for being such a lovely bunch of big-hearted women. Most appreciated xxx