Jade Green Jumper

DSC_0105About 18 months ago I started on the first knitting project I’d attempted since my school days, when I started knitting myself a scarf that quickly turned into a scarf for my dolls as I got bored with its slow progress.  In December 2014, after adding some knitting blogs to my Feedly app, I decided that I like the idea of having a project that I could do in the evenings while listening to the radio and podcasts with my boyfriend, rather than being hidden away in my sewing cave.  One of my favourite fabric stalls at Leeds Market (B&M Fabrics) had recently opened up a shop on the outside of the Kirkgate Market building, and expanded to sell knitting supplies.  I picked what I thought would be a good beginners’ pattern (James C Brett – JB218) and some lovely soft jade green chunky wool (with Merino) and set about relearning how to knit.

I couldn’t remember anything from my youthful attempts at knitting, so I had to start from the beginning, teaching myself how to hold the needles, cast on, knit, purl and what the abbreviations in the pattern meant. Using some basic instructions that my mum had collected in the 1980s as a weekly subscription, and searching the internet whenever I got stuck, I managed to get myself started with the front body piece.  It was slow going and I had to restart several times before I had successfully cast on and worked even a few rows.  Just as I thought I was getting the hang of it I lost concentration and then something odd happened to my stitches.

I had no idea what I’d done, but I didn’t think it looked right, although I really didn’t know how it should look.  I quickly realised that trying to listen to a podcast at the same time wasn’t helping.  Then I dropped a stich – well I thought I’d dropped a stitch, but I couldn’t be sure. I increased my stitches by one in the next row just in case.  It wasn’t looking very even so decided to make this my back piece – I was happy with it being a bit rough as it was my first attempt at a jumper.

Eventually, my first piece was complete, except for the curved bottom and the neck trim, which are both added at a later stage.  Despite my hiccups along the way I was satisfied with my progress and looking forward to the front.  Everything went very smoothly with this next piece and I soon had the front complete.  Then I compared the two pieces.  My front was so much neater and more regular than the back, and it had been completed so much more quickly.  I had plenty of wool and so I decided to make a second back.  This came along nice and quickly, and I thought I’d easily have the jumper completed within a month.

Next came the sleeves and tackling two by two rib.  I had to cast this on at least eight times, as my first few attempts looked a complete mess, then I kept getting distracted and losing my place in the pattern. At some point in the first cuff I lost interest and the project was put to one side for several months.

Eventually, I came back to it and persevered until I had a nice looking ribbed cuff.  I popped this off onto a spare needle, and then completed the other cuff the same day while I could still remember what I was doing.  The rest of both sleeves came together nicely and I was really starting to enjoy the meditative effect of knitting.  Then came the trim.  I thought I’d picked a nice easy pattern, but this was where I became aware that it wasn’t.  At the bottom of the jumper you had to pick up stiches so you could knit a two by two rib curved bottom onto the jumper.  I started haphazardly picking up stitches, and before I was halfway along the curve I had more than the number of stitches advised, so I let it unravel and tried again.  After several attempts I wasn’t getting anywhere.  The bottom of the jumper was all stretched out of shape and any trim I’d managed to get on the bottom looked terrible.  I was losing my patience, and so again I put it away – this time for over a year.

DSC_0033It was now July 2016 – over 18 months since I first started this jumper, and it hadn’t turned out how I had hoped.  My previous work contract had finished on 30 June and I had been using my summer break to catch up on other projects and complete some UFOs (Unfinished Objects).  This seemed like the perfect time to deal with this jumper once and for all. I decided I was going to complete it, and in the worst case it would be a ‘house jumper’ – the wool is lovely and soft, so it would be great to wear, even if it looked a mess.  I had a quick practice on the first back piece to try to get the trim even – this time marking out lengths of six stitches so I could space them more evenly, then I leapt into the real back piece.  I managed to get most of the stitches that I needed picked up, but I lost track of the two by two rib somewhere along the rows and ended up with a strange shifted pattern.  I completed the trim  and then moved onto the front.

This came more easily and I managed to keep track of the rib to get the right effect.  I joined one of the shoulders and created the same two by two rib around the neck, then hand-stitched all the bits together.  The stitching was simple enough, and before I realised it I had my completed jumper.  It was better than I could have hoped.  I had some small holes at the neckline, but they would be fixed with a quick stitch or two, and the back trim was odd, but not too noticeable.  The pattern is ‘super chunky’, but the wool is just ‘chunky’, which may explain the problems I had picking up stitches for the trim and the holes at the neck line, and the whole jumper is quite loosely knit.  But that’s ok – I’ll use it as a winter layering jumper.  I’ll happily wear it out in public, and will proudly tell people it’s my first handmade jumper.  It’s just a shame we’re in the middle of a heatwave here in England.

DSC_0047Do you ever make clothes that are not fit for your current season, or do you try to make sure that they can be worn immediately?

Oh, and I made Tiffin. Mmmmmm!


Appleton Dress (#sewingdares)

I’d had the Appleton Dress in mind for a while.  I don’t generally wear dresses and skirts, but the promise of secret pyjamas had been calling to me.  When I joined in with the sewing dares (#sewingdares) on the ‘Crafting a Rainbow’ blog, and Gillian suggested a Cashmerette pattern it felt like a sign.

DSC_0124I’d had plans for a sewing date with my friend Catherine, who has just started sewing, and so we decided to both make an Appleton Dress.  Due to lack of space, and general chatter and tea drinking time, we only got as far as cutting out our pieces, so no actual sewing was done on this sewing date.  It was still great fun and to be repeated when we can synchronise diaries again.

The pieces sat for a while until the end of my last contract on 30th June, but then I attacked it with vigour.  I decided to use a zigzag stitch on my sewing machine rather than the overlocker, in case I needed to take it out as I thought I was pushing the sizing over the hips a bit. As it turns out the caution wasn’t needed.  I’m really happy with how it turned out and have plans to make more, once I’ve tackled some of the things from my Me-Made-Made review list.

I think this may be the very dress I need to get my legs out this summer, and with a modesty vest it may even be wearable for work when I get my next contract – which I’m hoping to put off until September to allow for plenty of sewing time.

Have you done a Sewing Dare? How did it work out for you?


Pirate PJs for Jez

DSC_0039.JPGWhen I came across this fabric on the Minerva Crafts website I couldn’t resist it for some PJ bottoms for Jez – he loves pirates.  I set out make him a set of PJs using the ‘Margot Pyjamas’ pattern from the ‘Love at First Stitch’ book for the bottoms and the Simplicity 2116 T-shirt I’d used for his stripy t-shirts.  In the end, I just bought a plain black t-shirt, as I didn’t have much time and he was keen to start wearing them.

As this is the fourth time I’ve made the PJ bottoms, there isn’t much to say about them, other than it works perfectly for men too.  I am generally a selfish sewer (sewist?), but Jez’s joyful reaction when I make things for him means I love sewing for him as much as for myself, maybe even more.

How often do you sew for your significant other?


Me-Made-May ’16 Review

My Me-Made-May ‘16 didn’t go very well at all – at least the pledge portion didn’t.  I wore an average of two items each week (rather than my pledge four), and these were my ginger jeans, my red spotty blouse, my mint green wallpaper blouse or PJs.  This did suggest that the items I’m making are not ones that get much chance to be worn.

When I wasn’t wearing me-made, I was wearing black trouser suits and tops (that are not blouses) for work, or leggings, t-shirts / vest tops and cardigans when not at work.  So I think I need to concentrate on these items instead.

I have plans to make PJs for Jez next, but after that I’ll be working through the following:

  • Summer jacket (to test a pattern for a suit jacket);
  • Ginger jeans and jackets from the same suiting material, to replace my black suits that are wearing out;
  • More Ginger jeans, including a black pair with red top-stitching;
  • Various t-shirts and vest tops (to show off my new tattoo!);
  • Comfy, stretchy tops for work; and
  • Casual cardigans.

This may make Me-Made-May ’17 (tongue twister!) more successful and see me getting everyday wear out of my me-made clothes.

What have you learned from Me-Made-May ’16?


Mint Green Wallpaper Blouse

DSC_0027Since realising that I didn’t have much me-made clothing I could wear on a regular basis, I had been feeling inspired to complete a UFO (unfinished object) that’s been hanging around for a while.  This would also give me another blouse to wear during May at work.

There isn’t too much to say about this project, as it’s the fourth time I’ve made this pattern.  I’m really pleased with the fabric choice on this one though.  It’s not a colour I’d usually choose, and although I thought the fabric pattern looked a little like flock wallpaper, I think it looks really striking made up as blouse.

I feel like I’m getting better at imagining fabric and patterns together, and my awareness of clothes around me is growing.  In the same way that playing music has improved my ear for listening to music, I think sewing is developing an interest in fashion that I haven’t had before.  I love flicking through blogs to see what other people are making, and browsing the web for inspiration for my future makes.

Once I figure it out, I’ll add a favourite blogs page to my site, so you can enjoy them too.


Ginger Jeans

DSC_0031My last post gave you an insight into my next project.  I’ve been really keen to have a go at Ginger Jeans, since I’ve seen them popping up in many of the blogs I read regularly.  My curvy figure struggles with most RTW (ready to wear) trousers – too tight on the hips and thighs, and gapping at the back waist – so I’ve been hoping this is the answer to uncomfortable jeans.

I started by making a toile from my ‘cream cord with olive green flowers / leaves and bright yellow squiggles’ fabric.  The intention was for these to be a wearable toile, but I shouldn’t have needed hindsight to tell me that they are not my usual style.  Anyway, as cheap as the fabric was (special offer from Minerva Fabrics), wearable or not wasn’t really an issue.

DSC_0030I fDSC_0029ound the whole process of making the Ginger Jeans, from download of the pattern,
through the crazy toile, to the final making in blue denim with gold top-stitching as real pleasure.  As the instructions note, I am now a Sewing Ninja – I made jeans!  They fit really nicely, Jez even says they look like the best fitting jeans he’s seen me in.  I’m especially proud of my top stitching.pic 1.jpg

I did wear the cord version out once to test how they fit in action (on a Boxing Day trip to Whitby), and due to the pattern and the comfort I felt like I was wearing pyjamas.  The only problem with the fabric was that the ridged fabric rubbing between the thighs made the walking harder work.  My proper denim pair are usually being worn or in the wash, and I think the pattern will make the
perfect secret jeans for work, if I use some stretch suiting fabric.  If I can find a jacket pattern that will work, I’ll use the same fabric and make myself a suit(!), then I would truly be a seasoned Sewing Ninja.

Have you made Ginger Jeans?


Replacement PJ Bottoms

I find that my pyjama tops last longer than my bottoms and, in the past, I’ve thrown out perfectly good tops, just because my bottoms are no longer wearable.  In October, I had two pairs of PJ bottoms wear out.  I realised that I could use the ‘Margot Pyjamas’ pattern from the ‘Love at First Stitch’ book, by Tilly Walnes of Tilly and the Buttons, to quickly replace them.

The first, and only, pair of Margot PJs I’d sewn were made with woven fabric, and although they are very comfy, I find stretch PJs much more comfortable.  I bought some pink & white stripe and some black & white check jersey fabric, and very quickly had them made up using my overlocker and twin needles on my sewing machine.  These were a quick, practical make and I’m really pleased with the results.DSC_0008

(As this is a post-dated blog entry, these PJs have since worn out with constant wear and I don’t have any photos, so here is a photo of the fabrics.  That’ll teach me to put off my blogging for nine(!) months.)

Have you extended the life of a matching set by replacing the worn out parts?


Pink Paisley-ish Gypsy Top/Dress

Last month I took advantage of being between contracts to catch up on all of my sewing blog posts.  If you’re a subscriber, apologies for the number of emails you received.  Now that I’m up to date, and I’ve started a new contract, I’ll be posting much less frequently.

I also used last month’s free time to clear out my wardrobe and make a plan for what I really need.  I’ve been sewing haphazardly until now, which led to the Walkaway Dress I’m not sure I’ll ever get a chance to wear.  With this plan, I’m hoping that I’ll meet my goal of wearing 100% me-mades during May 2016 (excluding underwear), as well as reducing my fabric stash.

IMG_7013aMy first planned item was Burda Young 6950 (view A), using a pink paisley-ish fabric from my stash.  I need more tops that I can wear when I go out, but that feel comfortable.  I found the gypsy tops that I made recently were flattering, so this seemed like a good option.  I made the longer version for more coverage, and this length will probably work well for me as a dress too.

I decided to take things more slowly than usual, to try to improve the quality of my end garment and avoid silly mistakes.  I still managed to sew the top portion to the bottom inside out (I’m getting pretty good at unpicking), but other than that, it came together nicely and I’m really pleased with the results.

I’d be happy to wear this top/dress with jeans or leggings, and perhaps even as a dress with tights, as I kept it nice and long. I should get plenty of wear out of it.  I think I’ll be considering this as another TNT pattern, although this is the only one I’ve made and I probably won’t make another for a while.  I think I have enough gypsy-style tops for now.

One thing that I’ve started doing while sewing, is listening to podcasts.  I find that it helps me to keep my sewing speed down; if I go to fast I can’t hear the podcast.  This is especially helpful when I’m getting near the end of the project and I get the urge to rush to finish it.  At the moment, I’m working my way through ‘Happier with Gretchen Rubin’ on iTunes, which I would definitely recommend.

My next two projects will probably be PJ bottoms, to replace some that have worn out, even though the tops are still in good condition.  I’m not sure when I’ll get time for this though, now I’m back at work.  I’ll just keep trying to fit it in where I can.


Black and Red Stripy T-Shirts

I have spent a couple of months searching the internet for red and black striped knit fabric – one to one and half inch horizontal stripes – with no success.  I wouldn’t have thought it would be such an impossible fabric to find.  My last resort was to have it specially printed, although this seemed like a lot of work to go to for such a simple pattern.

T-Shirt 1I started with ‘Spoonflower’ which appears to be the front runner for printing your own fabrics.  It was simple enough to create the design and upload it, but I had to buy 2 yards, as I needed just over 1 metre for the t-shirt and you have to buy to the nearest full yard.  Then there was international postage costs to the UK, and I was hit with a tax charge when I picked it up at the sorting office.  They were unable to deliver it directly due to this additional charge. This is definitely the most expensive fabric I had ever bought.  All included it came to approx. £60.  The fabric was a thin jersey, but it was okay for the t-shirt.  The red came out a little brighter than I expected, but that’s hard to account for without ordering colour samples first.

T-shirt 2After receiving this fabric and needing to pay the extra tax charge, I thought I’d look into UK based alternatives.  I tried out ‘Bags of Love’ and I was very impressed. It took me a little time to figure out how to upload and order the fabric I wanted, but you can order an exact size of fabric required (length and width), which helps to keep the costs down.  I ordered the medium weight jersey and it was a lovely fabric. From my experience with the colours of the Spoonflower fabric I darkened the red stripe, and it came out exactly as I wanted.  The cost of fabric and delivery came to approx. £45, so it was quite a lot cheaper than Spoonflower. Since I’d ordered the exact size of fabric I wanted, there were no fabric remnants left, which was great.  I’d only end up hoarding them, and what can you do with small amounts of jersey fabric?

Here are photos of the two t-shirts made using Simplicity 2116 again, like the Black and Beige T-Shirt.  The construction was very similar to the first one, except this time I made sure I put the neck band in the right way around first time.   Jez and I are very happy with both t-shirts and I’ll definitely use ‘Bags of Love’ should I need/want fabric printing again.


Pink Scottie Dog Walkaway Dress

I am a member of the Minerva Crafts ‘Craft Club’ and each month they send through a discount voucher for a particular item in their online shop.  One of these was for the ‘Walkaway Dress’ (aka Butterick 4790) as made famous on the last Great British Sewing Bee.  I love 1950s fashion and so I thought I’d give it a go.

Walk Away DressA ridiculous amount of fabric and black biased binding later I had a 1950s walkaway dress ready for trying on.  Due to the amount of fabric needed it just wasn’t feasible to made a toile, but with hindsight I should have made the bodice at least.

When I tried on the dress I found that the armholes gaped indecently and the bodice was too long.  The press studs on the front wouldn’t hold closed and the front part of the skirt had a tendency to ride up in just the few minutes I was wearing it.  I hated it.  I put it to one side and got on with other projects, not sure if I would come back to it.

A few weeks later, I was feeling ready to look at the walkaway dress again.  I added in another dart to each side of the bodice and exchanged the fake buttons and press studs for real buttons and button holes.  I then hemmed the bottom of the dress to finish it off.  I’m still not feeling too happy with it, although it is now wearable, but I think that’s partly to do with the ordeal of making it and that I don’t wear dresses or skirts very often.  Perhaps I just need to get used to it.  I do think the shape is flattering though, showing that I have a waist, so I may see if there are other similar patterns I can try.

I’ll see if time makes me feel any warmer towards it, but I can’t imagine making another one.  I have learnt a lesson about toiles for bodices though.  I think I was simply very lucky with the fit of the first blouse pattern I made.