Sunday, February 27, 2011

Birthday brief.

I have visitors this weekend, and it's also my lovely house-mate's birthday, so I'm afraid this will be brief.

I must've got slightly better at sewing in the last while. I decided to make a skirt using the lovely polka dot fabric featured last week. I took my measurements, sketched out a pattern and cut some pattern pieces. When cutting fabric you include an additional few fractions of an inch to account for the space required by the stitches - this is called seam allowance. I gave myself a generous seam allowance, as historically my sewing has been a bit wonky and all over the place. However, when finished I found the majority of my seams were roughly the same distance from each edge, much neater than in my previous sewing lifetimes. While happy about my improvement, this did mean the skirt was then too big. It was late on Sunday evening and I really didn't want to start messing around with darts. I added some elastic which brought it in a tiny bit. I may yet add darts. Here it is modeled by a lovely lady. She's so mysterious, she has no face.
I've fallen in love with bias binding as an alternative to sewing hems. Slightly less effort, neater looking (than my hems anywa a design feature), as well as being
My shopping bag is ticking along nicely, though I haven't worked on it in a few days. The bottom left corner is trying to make a bid for freedom, I'm not certain why. I don't think it'll matter too much when it's all sewn up. Whatever shape, it'll certainly function as some sort of hold-all. Why a black and white photo? Because they're cool.
Enjoy the rest of your Sunday evening everyone.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

What I've bagged this week

I like to give people useful gifts. From moving house several times, I know how easy it is to accumulate, well, maybe not junk, but miscellaneous items, without even realizing it. I always feel guilty when I put something which was a gift in a bag for the charity shop, but the fact of the matter is I only have so much space. So when possible I like to give people things they'll really love or use, if not both. It was my friend NIkki's birthday during the week. The patterns and color schemes of the majority of her clothes are quite similar to a lot of my own gear, which happily meant that I had some fabric in my stash that I thought she'd like. I made a couple of shopping bags as Christmas gifts, and as I couldn't make up my mind which fabric she'd prefer, I made this one reversible, with one handle of each fabric.

Having given it to the birthday girl earlier this week, I'm happy to say she was very pleased. As well as this I cast on one of the pattern from the new Stitch 'n Bitch book which I mentioned last week. I bought some Patons DK Cotton online last week. I had bought it with a baby blanket I'm making in mind, but didn't realize it was mercerised. Material like cotton is sometimes subject to mercerisation either in order to give the fibre a more lustrous appearance or to make it stronger (both will be achieved). In my experience, it's generally much less soft than untreated cotton, so it wasn't really suitable for my baby blanket. It is perfect, however, for the No plastic please mesh tote pattern by Elisa Contolini. This pattern is great for getting to grips with the basic stitches involved in lace knitting, namely, yarn over, slip slip knit and knit two together. However, I have found myself mysteriously losing or gaining stitches here and there, so I've had to throw in the odd random increase or decrease. When you're knitting into stitches which don't appear to be connected to anything else, as in this open mesh pattern, it's much less obvious when you've made a mistake unless you're paying the closest of attentions. Fortunately, this also makes the pattern extremely forgiving to these random alterations I've had to make - I really doubt anyone will ever really spot them.
Have a lovely week everyone.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Smashing stuff

This week I got to do one of my favorite things - teach someone some craft. Last weekend we had some visitors from Dublin in our house, one of which was the most beautiful Christina. She was admiring my spinning wheel so I suggested we give it a go. When I was shown how to use a wheel I was advised to concentrate on what my hands were doing while my teacher, Seema, made sure the wheel kept turning. For the most part, I turned the wheel with my hand, because it does take some time - more than we had - to get the hand of drafting and treadling at the same time with a nice rhythm. Indeed, I still don't have the hang of it! Christine did really well, her yarn was much more even and thin than my first few attempts were - I learned a few things about what I might have been doing wrong by watching her hands. Thanks Christina! And remember - you promised you'll have embarked on another knitting project by the time you come down again.

The other week I was reading an interview Craftster did with Debbie Stoller, who some of you may know as the author of the hugely popular Stitch'n Bitch range of books. In this interview they discussed a new Stitch'n Bitch book: Superstar Knitting. Naturally, I had ordered it within minutes. It arrived a few days later and is exactly what I wanted it to be. This book is designed for the knitter who is ready to take things a few steps further, but would appreciate some guidance along the way. Color changing (all types), lace, cables and bobbles are all detailed here with clear descriptions and diagrams, as well as a whole section devoted to teaching you how to design your own sweater (I'll admit I haven't read much of that one yet). To motivate you, there are 41 beautiful patterns from a range of designers, each with their own mini bio. A couple of projects really caught my eye, but I'm being strict with myself - no buying yarn until I get rid of some I already have. Not that anything I have is ridiculously expensive, but I'm trying my best to avoid accumulating too much more stuff. Maintaining the same level of stuff is just about acceptable though. So if I want to get new, I have to get out with the old. That's where granny squares come in.
This not a color combination I would perhaps have put together myself given a choice, but one of the things I always kind of liked about granny square blankets was their randomness. Either way, it's tearing through my years-old supply of acrylic nicely. I'm going to London for a weekend next month, so by then my stash will be positively aching for replenishment. Huzzah!
As well as this, some simple patch on second hand blazer action. Yes!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Sewing weather

This has been a week of epic wind, my least favorite weather for cycling. Somehow on the way home last night my bike got a puncture, incredibly irritating considering it got one last week too. This morning was wet and blustery, so I decided to forgo walking to my knitting group, on the condition that I finally resize a giant t-shirt I was given some time ago. For anyone who doesn't know, The Offspring are my favorite band, as documented by the tattoo on my back. My best friend got me this old school shirt in Glastonbury - a men's XL.
I like resizing t-shirts because, as long as you get your sewing machine to behave (sometimes the knit fabrics can make the tension go strange), the stretchy fabric means the sizing is incredibly forgiving. If you get it roughly to your shape it will stretch or cling to accommodate you. My normal method is to put a t-shirt that fits me well over the shirt I'm resizing and trace it. I couldn't find my tailors chalk today so I used pins.

Then you just sew along the lines the pins/chalk made, cut off the excess, et vĂ³ila! A resized shirt. For the sleeves in this case, I pinned and sewed along to where the sleeves of the red t-shirt started. I then added a few more reinforcing stitches perpendicular to this line of stitches to stop them unraveling when I cut the neckline. I then just cut from where one line of the stitches finished to where the ones on the other side began, to achieve the boat-neck/off the shoulder look I wanted.

This came out exactly like I wanted it to. Huzzah! Another thing I like about resizing t-shirts is that not all the scraps have to be thrown away. Cut a long strip, sew it together at the ends, and you've got a new stretchy headband. You don't even have to sew it if you don't want to.

Cut some shorter, fatter strips, sew together at the ends, add some buttons, and now you have some cute sweatband type bracelets. 

Woo, less waste.
It seems anytime I take out my sewing machine lately, I have to indulge my heart obsession. This time I wanted to make a patch using some of my tartan scraps. I drew out the heart on the reverse side of the red tartan with pen, though I foolishly didn't foresee that this would mean that the heart I ended up with on the right side of the fabric would be backwards. Not that I mind much.
With all that tartan going on, it's hard to tell what the shape is meant to be at all, so I added some emphasis to the outline using fabric paint. I also drew some inspiration from the tattoo on my foot. Please note I know the lines on my tattoo are a bit rough, it still has to be finished. It's been like this for a couple of years, but getting my foot tattooed was so incredibly painful (and I have some idea of what to expect, I have several other indelible marks) that I'm in absolutely no rush. Also I have other things to be spending my money on these days, like the new Stitch'n Bitch book, which I'd ordered within ten minutes of finding out it existed.

Have a lovely weekend everyone. I recommend you follow my example and stay in, with good coffee and good company. It's working well for me.