Saturday 26 December 2015

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

Hi everyone! I hope you're all having a wonderful Christmas time with family and friends and a bit of crafting thrown in for good measure!

I just wanted to bring you the news that I've decided to take a break from the blog for a while.

The last few months have been incredibly busy and uncomfortably stressful, and it now feels like the right time to take stock and thin out some of the areas where I'm making myself busier than I need to be. Unfortunately, the blog is one of those - I find it takes up more time and effort than I would like it to in writing, taking photos and editing. I'm not going to shut everything down completely though, I want to keep it as an option to come back to when I'm feeling more balanced in my work and home life and have more energy to dedicate to things for myself.

But I'm not going to disappear completely, I'll still be sharing my knitting and sewing projects over on Instagram which I find is a much quicker and easier medium to use right now - so please come over and follow me here if you'd like to keep up with what I'm making, doing, and rather a lot of sky photos (I do love a good sky).

Thank you for reading my posts in 2015 and I hope 2016 will be a year filled with expanding our crafting horizons!

Saturday 28 November 2015

Patchwork Hanging Star

This post also appears on the Craft Cotton Company blog as a guest post here. They also sent me the fabrics to use for this tutorial but all views are my own.

This tutorial is based on a project in the book Sew Quick, Sew Cute

You will need:

-       Fabric – scraps will be fine, 2,3 or 6 different colours/designs
-       Diamond shape template
-       Scissors, or rotary cutter and mat
-       Pins
-       Thread
-       Sewing machine
-       Toy stuffing/cotton wool or similar
-       Notions for decorating the stars – ribbon, buttons etc.

For each star you will need to cut out 12 diamonds – 6 for each side – so you can decide how many of each fabric to use. I’ve made this star with three different fabrics so needed four of each. You can make the diamonds whatever size you like depending on how big you want your final star to be. I wouldn’t recommend going too small though otherwise it will get a bit fiddly! The template given in the book for this project is 3 7/8 inch tall by 2 ¼ inch wide.

I used one of these plastic patchwork templates, or you could cut out a shape from cardboard. Draw round your template onto the fabric and cut out. I found the plastic template a bit flexible so if I’d cut straight round it with a rotary cutter it probably would have distorted the shape. Depending on your fabric you might want to ‘fussy cut’ to choose the best bits of a design. I used a rotary cutter and mat to cut out as it meant I could cut several layers at once and make sure they all ended up the same size.

Arrange your diamonds into a star to decide what arrangement you like best.

Start by sewing two diamonds together along one side – use a 5mm seam allowance. Then attach a third diamond to these – press the seams towards the darker fabric (or whichever way is easier if your fabrics are the same tone).

Continue sewing the diamonds together into sets of three – you should end up with four pieces. Take two of the sections and sew together across the longest edge to complete the star shape. Press this seam open.

Make the second star in the same way, but leave a section unstitched so that you will have a turning gap for later.

Now take your two stars and put them right sides together, pin to hold in place. Sew around the outside of the whole shape, again with a 5mm seam allowance. Pivot carefully at all the ‘in’ and ‘out’ points.

Trim off the points of the same allowance and clip into the corners, then turn the star through the turning gap you left earlier. Carefully ease all the points out.

If you want to be able to hang your star, now is a good time to attach a loop. Use embroidery thread, string, or thin ribbon, tie a knot in one end, then sew this from the inside of one point and back in again making sure to leave a loop of thread on the outside. Tie off again on the inside.

Stuff the star with small amounts of toy filling, making sure to push it right into the points and keep the shape even.

Sew up with the turning gap with a careful ladder stitch that will be invisible once the thread is pulled up.

Now you can decorate your star however you like. I decided to sew a button on each side through the middle of the star to ‘puff’ out the shape a bit. Or, you could sew ribbons, mini tassels or little bells onto the points – just make sure they’re not too heavy otherwise your star will droop!

Hang your stars with pride all over your house and tree this Christmas!

Saturday 14 November 2015

Extreme Knitting Blanket

I’m so excited to show you this project – I’ve seen all sorts of similar knits online and it was brilliant fun to have a go myself!

One of my purchases from the Knitting & Stitching Show were these giant knitting needles – 25mm x 70cm long – and six balls of James C. Brett Marble Chunky. I’d seen a lady at the Penshurst Craft Fair in September with similar projects, so it was fab to find someone selling the needles at Ally Pally.

All I’ve done is a very basic pattern with a four stitch garter edging and the main body in stocking stitch. But I think the combination of the different coloured and variegated yarns all held together and knitted on the huge needles gives amazing results.

The colours and shades end up mixing together in slightly different combinations and you knit and different tones get highlighted. To be honest, I was a little wary of the combination of yarns I bought there wasn’t a great deal of choice so I was a bit limited and wouldn’t necessarily have picked these ones as a first choice, but actually, blended all together they show up really well, and I think are really appropriate for an autumn blanket – lots of green, brown, orange, yellow and other bits and pieces.

I’m very happy with this – it’s just the right size for one person to snuggle under while watching TV on a cold evening! I’ve already ordered some more of the yarn (in shades of pink, grey and purple) to have another go – it may end up as a Christmas present for someone as it’s a nice quick make, only a week for this one.

Have you tried any extreme knitting before? Either on a giant or miniature scale? I’d love to see what you made. 

Saturday 7 November 2015

Christmas Pipit Cardigan

Yes! I’ve finished one handmade Christmas present! To be honest, I don’t think I’m going to have time for many anyway, but it feels good to have one thing sorted – and it’s only the beginning of November.

This little cardigan is a present for my cousin’s daughter who is 18 months old, and an absolute sweetheart. The pattern is called Pipit, by Sarah Hatton, and was published in issue 65 of The Knitter magazine. The yarn is Patons Baby Smiles Fairytale Merino Mix that I got from the Knitting & Stitching Show, and used nearly all of the four 50g balls I bought – it really had to be this wonderful red for a Christmas present didn’t it?

It was a pretty quick knit, just a couple of weeks of evenings and weekends, and mainly stocking stitch, although the textured rib on the body makes it more interesting. The button bands and collar are picked up and knitted on, with the collar in the same textured rib so that it continues up from the body.

I found the round red buttons in Mum’s collection to finish it off with and am really happy with how it came out – the yarn is wonderfully soft (especially after a wash) and has a decent amount  of stretch, so hopefully it won’t be grown out of too quickly.

I’m in the process of working on my Joan dress and hope to be able to show you progress soon – I made a toile to check the fit and only had to make a couple of small adjustments, so I should be able to get on with cutting out and sewing this week. I’m also working on my giant blanket knitted with giant needles which is great fun and turning out fantastically, I’ll definitely show you when I’m done.

Have you been making any Christmas gifts? Or just working on winter treats for yourself?

Saturday 24 October 2015

Woven Stitch Jacket

Hi! How’s your week been? I’ve got a newly completed knitting project to show you today – this pretty textured cardi-jacket.

The pattern was in an issue of Knitting magazine last autumn (sorry I can’t remember which issue – I tear the pages out to just keep the patterns!) and it’s been on my To Do list for months. The yarn I’ve used has also been in the stash for over a year waiting for me to get round to this project!

It turned out to be a fairly straightforward knit – the texture pattern is used all over so once you’ve got the hang of that you just keep going – although I had to concentrate on the counting when it came to increase and decrease rows!

The yarn is Sirdar Softspun Chunky and is incredibly light but warm to wear – I got this whole cardi out of seven and a half 50g balls. The colour is gorgeous, the purple base set off with a flash of silver metallic all the way through. I used the gold colourway of this yarn for another jumper a couple of years ago.

This one knitted up nice and quickly in the chunky weight yarn – and it uses three needle sizes (51/2mm, 6mm and 61/2mm) to create subtle shaping through the waist. Button holes are made within the right front, and the collar is knitted up from saved stitches on both front pieces then sewn down along the front edges.
I’m really happy with this one, the fit is great, and it will go with lots of the things I wear regularly, as well as keeping me lovely and snuggly warm!

To finish off I added big silver metal buttons - although they're quite heavy so I'll have to be careful they don't stretch that side of the cardi!

I’ve got my Knitting & Stitching Show purchases lined up ready in the order I’m going to work through them – I’m already part-way through knitting the little red cardi for my cousin for Christmas, then will be my super-chunky blanket. Sewing-wise, I’m working on a few little patchwork Christmas decorations, and am hoping to fit in some time this weekend to trace the pattern for the Sew Over It Joan dress and maybe start on a toile – definitely want to get the fit right with this one!

Have you started your Christmas crafting yet? Are you going completely handmade for presents and decorations? I’d love to but just don’t have the time to fit everything in around the day job – maybe one day! Have a great weekend everyone, happy crafting.

Saturday 17 October 2015

The Knitting & Stitching Show

This also appears as a guest post on the Craft Cotton Co. blog here

Last week was the Knitting & Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace in London. It’s one of the biggest craft fairs in the country with over 400 exhibitors, and a whole host of demonstrations, lectures, workshops and fashion shows to keep you entertained. This year is the second time I’ve been to Ally Pally – there is also a Spring show at Olympia – and I went with my Mum for a day out to get some inspiration for projects to keep me going through the winter.

The stands are spread out in three main halls, and you definitely need a whole day to go round everything properly, we got there just after it opened at 10am and didn’t leave until about 4.30pm – if you wanted to do some workshops too you could easily spread it over two days. Also, there are plenty of places to refuel with coffee, cakes, or a cooked lunch.

It’s incredibly easy to spend an absolute fortune very quickly as there is so much inspiration and so many amazing crafters to talk you through how to do something. My top tips would be to go with a shopping list and a bag on wheels – you will end up carrying tonnes of stuff and it will help save your arms!

Mum and I didn’t do any workshops this time, but we did watch the Make it Coats/Rowan fashion show which showcased some of the yarns and patterns from Patons and Rowan, and some of Coats dressmaking fabrics by designers like Zandra Rhodes. The absolute highlight was the collaboration Rowan have recently released with Swarovski – a collection of beads and crystals to work into your knitting with a capsule collection of stunning patterns, the star of which is the dress which apparently uses over 2000 crystals! They’re not cheap but for a special item would be worth the cost and effort.

All the big companies were there including sewing machine brands Janome, Singer and Brother, as well as dozens of designer-makers showing off their crafts and selling kits so you can recreate their style at home.

With my own shopping list in mind, one of my top picks of the show was the Black Sheep Wools stand. They bring hundreds of packs of yarn and just pile them up on the floor for you to wade through and find what you want! I was looking for some Rowan Revive for a jumper on my ‘To Do’ list, and eventually I managed to unearth some. These are all packs of 10 balls of yarn, and most have at least 50% off the full retail price – definitely the best way to buy premium brands like Rowan, or get an absolute bargain with Sirdar or Patons – I also picked up a pack of Sirdar Summer Stripes that will go in my stash until I find something to make with it, I just love the colours!

Next up is Fabrics Galore who stock a massive range of dressmaking, quilting, homeware and ‘fun’ fabrics at great prices. There’s always a queue round this stall but the staff move really quickly and everyone stays happy! I find this is a great place to get Liberty Tana Lawns at half price, mostly last season or ongoing designs. This is the one I picked out this time – I’d seen it in Liberty’s last year but couldn’t justify spending the full price at the time, so I pounced as soon as I saw it. I got a couple of metres and have a few possibilities for what I might make. Liberty cottons are just beautiful to work with and they wash and press well too. Also from Fabrics Galore I got this remnant of fantastic zebra print which will probably end up as a cushion cover, and this pretty floral fat quarter that jumped out at me.

Moving on, the girls at the Sew Over It stand helped me pick out this gorgeous purple crepe to make their new Joan dress (I bought the pattern from them too). This will be my most advanced dressmaking project yet as it’s fully lined, and I’m determined to iron out some fitting issues I’ve had previously. I also stopped at the Sew Me Something stall where I grabbed the new Imogen top pattern, and some wool blend fabric to make a second pair of their Portia wide leg trousers having had success with the pattern last year. Jules who owns the business was wearing the Imogen top in this fab yellow crepe which looked really sunny and cheerful, I might have to look out for something similar.

A few other purchases I made were some chunky yarn from Abakhan and some giant knitting needles from Rachael John Extreme Knitting to make a big snugly blanket, four balls of Patons baby wool from Lady Sew and SewKnits to knit a cardi for my baby cousin for Christmas, some beautiful floral ribbon trim from Aarti J (no idea what I’m going to do with this!), a big pink cutting mat from Sew 2 Go (yes, pink!) and a patchwork ruler to go with it. It was a bit interesting getting home on the tube and the train carrying everything!

Another great thing about the Knitting & Stitching Show is the textile artist galleries, of which this year’s star for me was Kate Jenkins’ The Stitchmongers – a whole shop full of knitted, crocheted and sequinned fish! It looks absolutely amazing, and incredibly life-like if you take a step back.

Mum and I both had a brilliant day out, and I’m looking forward to getting stuck in to all my new projects. The show also goes to Dublin and Harrogate and I’d definitely recommend going along if you can, I’m already booking out the days for the Spring show next year!

Monday 12 October 2015

New Look K6107 Blouse

Hi! So I'm trying to hang on to summer just a little bit longer, even though it's nearly the middle of October - I made another sleeveless cotton blouse!

This one is from New Look pattern pack K6107 which came as a free gift with Sew magazine a few months ago.

The fabric I've used is some Liberty cotton lawn bought in the sale at the beginning of the summer - it was a pre-cut 'remnant' of 1 metre so just enough to get this blouse from. Actually it turned out I probably could have got the short sleeves out of it too but never mind. I just loved all the little specks of colours - I think I'm going to call it my 'hundreds and thousands' blouse!

I chose my size based on the finished garment measurements - there is a LOT of ease in this pattern and it would have swamped me if I'd gone with the body measurements. I went with the size 14 which is just about right in terms of ease of movement when I'm wearing it.

There are body darts in the front and back, and gentle gathers at the front yoke. Adding the rouleau button loops and underlap to the front was probably the fiddliest bit, but not too tricky.

I decided to use shop-bought bias binding for the neck and armhole facings rather than making it from the main fabric (pure laziness) but I don't think it matters, it's all on the inside anyway so no-one's going to see it.

I love the little buttons I got for this one in the shape of white flowers with coloured centres, they pick up the pink in the fabric nicely - although I did debate over purple or yellow ones in the shop!

Please please excuse the creases in the photos - I couldn't wait to wear it so after sewing the buttons on Thursday evening I wore it on Friday to the Knitting & Stitching Show - and had a couple of really lovely compliments too!

I seriously need to work on the fitting issues for my next dressmaking project - as always on me the neck line comes quite low (which is why I've got a camisole on underneath) because I'm obviously short from shoulder to bust - if anyone's got any useful tips for adjusting this one on patterns please let me know! I also had to take a little dart into the underarm to stop some gaping so probably need to have a go at a full bust adjustment too.

Otherwise I'm really happy with this blouse, it makes me happy, even though if I want to wear it now I'll have to layer it up for the colder weather. It's definitely one I'd have another go at - the body darts give a bit more shaping which suits me rather than being too loose and baggy, and if I can sort out the low neckline it'll be a useful one for wearing to work.

I'm just in the last stages of finishing the cardi I've been knitting so I'll show you that soon, and tell you more about my day at the Knitting & Stitching Show - my poor bank account took a bit of a battering!