Saturday, 23 April 2016

Never Not Knitting

I'm a fidgety, impatient person. I can't just sit in front of the television and not do something, whether it's sewing, blogging, looking at social media, and so on. It can mean I sometimes find it hard to truly focus - I've been known to sew, surf the web, flip through a magazine, and watch T.V. all at once. And I believe I'm probably succumbing to that modern malaise of being over stimulated, with too many distractions and ideas buzzing around my head to the point where relaxing, even sleeping, can be difficult. 

So knitting helps with this. When I'm tired of sewing, and especially when I want to focus on a film, show, or podcast, knitting is the ideal pastime. It's repetitive enough that it's relaxing, but it fulfills the fidgety part of my personality. I always have 1 (or more!) knitting projects on the go, and since around January I've finished several. But unlike sewing which can be (but not always!) fast, and I almost always document, knitting is slow for me. So this blog post is a catch up on knitting pieces I've completed over the last 6 months or so.

First up is this little red cardigan which I've been knitting for a looooong time - I can't remember how long, but at least a year. I used Drops Baby Merino in red from Love Knitting, which is a 4 ply; being fine, it took a long time to actually get anywhere, but I think it's been worth it in the end because the result is a lovely, lightweight but warm knit. 








The whole cardigan is knitted in stocking stitch, which is pretty boring to execute. I added the little heart motifs around the waist and sleeves myself, just to make it a little less tedious to knit. The inspiration, and actual pattern for it came from here

The other change I made was to knit the front band and neck band all in one with the body of the sweater. I hate sewing knitting up, so the less sewing up the better. The only draw back was that I did the 2 sides differently; you'll notice the line along the right side where I worked a row of ribbing to show the start and finish of the button band, but forgot to do that on the other side. But I'd got too far at that stage, and couldn't bothered to rip it back, so I'm stuck with it.

Next, some unselfish knitting for Mr Needles. He always complains of being cold, but hates the itchiness of wool. I managed to find this Drops Alpaca from Wool Warehouse, which is super soft, ideal for this hat Tin Can knits:




And a sleeveless vest from this pattern:


He wasn't in a mood to model it - this is the best you're going to get.

That kept him warm over the Christmas period!

Back to me - I finished these socks in January, which at first appear fairly plain, but have this interesting afterthought heel. (I realize this is only interesting to knitters, and means nothing to anyone else!) The pattern was from the Knitter, the wool was again Drops, this time Fabel which is a sock weight 4 ply.






There was a little bit of the wool left over from the cardigan above. I hate waste, so I found this interesting scarf pattern from Kidsknits which was quick and easy:




Then, back in June, I started this lovely pattern which I found on the Chawed Rosin blog, which I found through the Vintage Pattern Files. (By the way, shout out to Wendy who runs this blog - it's an excellent resource for patterns, almost always free)


Bernard Ullman Pattern, circa 1965
The detail on the front looks complicated, but was really easy once you get the hang of it. This was one of my fastest knits ever, due to the fact it was knitted in Drops Nepal (again from Love Knitting), which is an Aran weight and so a bit chunkier than all the previous wools. You cover ground fast with this one! Here it is in orange:



Waiting for buttons...


And currently I'm working on these 2:

First, I'm slowly finishing off this jumper, which is a free pattern from Rowan (You have to set up an account to download it). 




This has taken FOREVER for me to get anywhere, not because I don't like it, it's just that I've realised I don't like knitting in cotton. For this one, I'm using Wendy Supreme Luxury Cotton, from Love Knitting. I did also decide halfway through to rip it back and start again because I decided I was knitting the wrong size - you live and learn... Here's what I've done so far:


A front, a back, and one and a half sleeves - not long to go...
And finally - thanks for sticking with me this far! - I've just started this purple cardigan, knitted from a 1950's pattern, again found through the Vintage Pattern Files here




I only started this one about a week ago, and have already made great progress. This is mostly because it's a clever pattern where the sleeves are knitted as one with the body, so the whole pattern is made up of only 3 main pieces instead of 5. Here's a shot of the nearly complete back piece:





Whew! And that's it for knitting for now. See you soon!

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

'Pass the Peas' Dress - A Vintage Pledge Mash-Up

Hello! I've just come back from adventures in Los Angeles and Hollywood, where besides visiting Disneyland, eating a lot of Japanese food, and drinking a lot of cocktails, I also managed to do some fabric shopping. For some reason, it didn't occur to me to visit Mood's Los Angeles outpost; instead, I was excited about seeing Islands Fabrics, which is a whole store devoted to Hawaiian and Tropical fabric!



Just a smidgen of what they have on offer!


I was very restrained and only bought one piece, which is the barkcloth-weight leaves in the picture below, bottom right: 




The rest was picked up in the surrounding shops, and there were so many more than expected:



Most of them are earmarked for shirts for Mr Needles, would you believe, but I managed to sneak in one more for myself, the little garden peas print cotton. It was sitting unloved on a pavement at the bargain price of only $2 per yard (had to go back to Imperial for this visit; metric never really did take off in the US), so I felt sorry for it and bought a couple of yards.

At first I saw it as a blouse - it seemed like too much pattern for a dress - but this beauty had been playing on my mind:



This was part of my prize from Vintage Pattern Pledge for 2015, run by Kerry at Kestrel Makes and Marie at a Stitching Odyssey. It seems apt to use the pattern won from 2015's pledge as part of 2016's pledge, so I went for it!

Just one hitch - buying without a specific project in mind had backfired, and 2 yards wasn't going to be enough to accommodate the flared skirt. Solution - use a straight skirt from another favourite pattern, Butterick 8571:



I've used this pattern twice before, once as illustrated here, and once just as the skirt here and it worked out fine both times.

I had planned to take some pretty photos in my garden, doing some gentle weeding or something, but the recent gales we experienced here in the UK have turned my neglected garden into a bit of a mess. But I carried on regardless - here's the new dress in action:







I don't think the change in skirt makes too much difference - it still looks 40'ish. besides the skirt, I also had to adapt the sleeves to a shorter length in order to fit them in. But I gave them a little scalloped detail just as a reference to the original ruched shape:





Inside of sleeve with facing
Speaking of sleeves, I decided to insert the sleeve before the side seams were attached, on the flat, as it were. This was much easier and less fiddly than the usual technique of closing the side and underarm seam first, and the sleeve head came out pretty smooth:




The neckline is the main feature on this dress, being made up of 2 draped and pleated panels which then attach at the centre front and are covered with a little tab:



Before attachment to the bodice...

...and after

I wasn't quite sure how to finish this seam so that it was neat and attractive, and the instructions give you no guidance. I finally decided to bind it with bias cut from the same fabric as the lining:




The hem was also finished with matching bias strips:





I rarely line a dress fully - I get too hot! - and this was no exception. I used a gold poly to line the skirt, which you can see at the kick pleat at the back:



And finally it all gets closed up with a zip at the centre back, which is again a necessary departure from the pattern which saved fabric. But I did stay old-school and put the zip in by hand, with a little hook and eye at the top:



And that's pretty much it. I'm off to learn how to drive this thing!



See you soon!

Monday, 21 March 2016

Learning to Love My Overlocker

A while ago, I bought a Singer over locker from Lidl, at the bargain price of £129. Up to that point I had only a few forays into sewing knits, such as here, but I thought it was about time I explored this arena. And I was looking forward to using it as a quick and easy way to finish seams, rather than the time consuming (but pretty!) French seams I tend to go for.

Source - Kestrel Makes
I seem to be getting more impatient in my older age, and this piece of equipment tested it no end. She is a total DIVA! I know it's bad, but my other machines are full of fluff and chug along with blunt needles, sewing all manner of materials and thicknesses. But this princess needs constant attention, playing up when just the smallest bit of fluff accumulates, and only cooperating after brushing and total rethreading. 

I had a good read up about overlockers (Kestrel Makes blog post helped), and it seems this is just how they are. But it's also been about learning a new set of sewing skills - a new type of threading, a whole new area of fabrics to understand, how to use them in making garments, tensions and stitch types to become familiar with, and so on. The instruction manual didn't help, with it's terrible pictures and unclear diagrams, but with repetition I think I've finally got there.

Among other things, the the repetition has taken the form of making these 3 slash neck tops:



I love t-shirts, but in a bid to cut down on buying any clothes I wanted to start making my own. I saw this pattern hack from Heather B on Pattern Review using Grainline Studio's Lark Tee, but I think you could use any t-shirt pattern for the body. I myself used the Tilly and the Buttons Agnes Top as it fits closer to the body at the waist. Go have a look at the tutorial - it's an ingenious way of doing facings, and super easy!

Anyway,as a way of becoming more confident with the overlocker and stretch fabrics, these tops were ideal learning experiences. Here's what I've come to realise:

  • Tension is key. Use all of your scraps to test the tension before every new project, and with the change of every fabric. This particular machine seems to get 'upset' with every change of fabric, and behaves very differently between stretch and woven fabric.
My first project - that's some BAD tension!

That's more like it - good tension.


  • Like anything, all stretch fabrics are different. The pink leopard fabric I would describe as 'hard' - it doesn't stretch in the way the other 2 do in that it doesn't seem to snap back. Maybe the Lycra content is low, or it doesn't have any? The overlocker certainly didn't like it as much as the red or pink fabric, especially where bulk was involved, where it just would snarl up - see below:
Shoulder seam snarl up!
- but the other 2 fabrics were lovely to sew with and went through the machine like a dream. I would describe the red as 'springy', as you can see in the twin needle hem I used below.


  • I can't believe how much quicker everything is with an overlocker! I'm all for slow sewing, I have no problem with hand sewing, or generally 'taking the long way round' if it means a better result in a garment. But it's also nice being able to make a top in a couple of hours.
  • Don't give up - if you get annoyed with it (you will!) either walk away and have a cup of tea, or put the machine away for a few hours, then approach it refreshed. 
  • Read the manual, but don't take everything it says as gospel. Other then the threading, I've found that not everything the manual recommends is exactly true - tensions differ fabric to fabric, and you can be creative with stitch uses and don't have to do exactly as they say. 
  • If all else fails, un-thread it, give it a brush/hoover/dust, and re-thread it. Who knew fluff was such a nuisance!
These are just my personal thoughts on working with the overlocker - there are lots of other resources out there if you need something more technical, but hopefully this will encourage those of you who are a bit nervous of approaching overlockers, or who have given up on an existing one. Keep going!

See you soon!

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Vintage Pledge 2016 - a Bit of Leopard

Hello! Once I read about the Vintage Pledge for 2016 on Marie's blog here, I knew I couldn't not get involved. After all, I have more than I know what to do with:


Just a few then...
I decided to start with McCall's 9722, which is a TNT for me. I love the simplicity of the design - it's just one piece and a waistband - and the draping at the waist is flattering and comfortable.




My old leopard skirt was looking the worse for wear, and since I consider leopard a wardrobe basic it was important it was replaced. I spotted this lovely stretch fabric at Fabworks Online:

The skirt fabric is the top right; I went a bit leopard crazy and got the pink jersey for a t-shirt
And here it is:





Picture taking coincided with wash day and my hair being up in a beehive, so Mr Needles decided it would be apt to go full-kitchen sink drama and take some photos while I pegged out the laundry.





The skirt is very easy to make, as it's just a center back seam with a zip and a waistband. I strayed from the vintage path and put in an invisible zip, where normally I would hand pick the zip on a piece like this. But they're still such a novelty to me I want any excuse to use them!


I shortened the length to just past the knee, rather than the vintage mid-calf. The pattern calls for the back vent to be sewn closed, making it in essence a pleat, but I turned it into a lapped split instead. 




And the whole lot was lined with some deep purple poly from my stash:



And that's really it! This is sure to be just the first of many vintage patterns I make up this year. 

See you soon!