Um…

Oh, hello.

It has been approximately 11 billion years since my last blog post. Sorry about that. I wish I had a really good, dramatic excuse for my absence. What actually happened was that 2014 turned into a long, ugly shit of a year (a few notable highlights aside), and I set myself back into survival mode for the duration.

Anyway, 2015 is here now (yay!) and I’m a big believer that new years bring new things. So I’m back.

Don’t think that cause I wasn’t blogging that I wasn’t making, though. I actually made rather a lot. As a summary, let me present to you a short series I like to call ‘Poor iPhone Pictures of Things I Made in 2014, but Didn’t Blog About or Take Decent Photos of Because I’m Slack and Was Feeling Emotionally Delicate at the Time’. Catchy, no?

Leather Baby Shoes

Leather baby shoes for one of the girls from work – from my own pattern.

Pattern Drafting
First draft pattern - yay!
First draft pattern

The beginning of my obsession with ‘proper’ pattern drafting. This was a really simple woven top with a tiny patch pocket – loosely based on one of my favourite RTW tops. I ended up making loads more from this pattern, after I simplified it (when I realised those facings are straight up ridiculous). Many more self-drafted patterns to come this year!

Bra!

I made a bra. A BRA. Let’s leave that there for now.

Jeans

I also made more jeans. Not my most triumphant project – they look good, but I was too lazy to make a muslin first, so they have a terrible case of baggycrotch. Not what you want, frankly. I will be fighting with more jeans this year, I think.

My winter coat

I also made a winter coat which I love and I wear every day. More on that another day.

Teepee!

I had been trying to make this teepee for almost the whole of 2014. It was a present for a friend’s daughter which she asked for in January. I finally managed it in November. I know, right? That’s the kind of year I had.

It’s based on the teepee pattern in Growing Up Sew Liberated, but with a few alterations to make it 100 times harder to sew. I aged about 20 years trying to figure out the binding on that square window.

An abominable snowbeast puppet

What do you do if you need a hand puppet as a present and you only have 4 hours til the party? Yeah, you know where this is going, right? It’s supposed to be an abominable snowbeast. I used what I had and winged a pattern. It made an 8-year-old happy, though, so job = DONE!

Dress Five

Dress Five! YEAH!! It happened. It actually happened when my son got horrible chicken pox just as he was about to turn two, and slept for almost 4 hours on his birthday. I did considerably better out of this deal, cause I got a new dress for my work Christmas party, and he had the worst birthday ever. Poor lamb.

More on this later, too.

Flamingos

A flamingo Datura for my lovely work friend who got a new job. Because flamingos. Always flamingos.

I also made the peter pan collar version of Datura for myself, but I didn’t take a photo cause I’m slack. I like the pattern well enough, but I feel like it needs modifying for me.

And, last but not least, my first project of 2015 – finished on NEW YEAR’S DAY! Boom, overachieving!

Crazy Cat Lady

My daughter is obsessed with cats in a way that is still kind of cute at her age, but is going to become creepy in the not too distant future. She apparently now also loves yellow, so I made her this. It seemed appropriate.

The pattern is my own (needs work!), print idea pinched from a random Etsy seller, but redesigned. The design is a freezer paper stencil, which is a really easy way to make fake screen printed shirts, and if you don’t know about it look it up RIGHT NOW, cause it might be the best thing ever.

I’ll leave this there for now, and I’ll try really hard to make my next post worth reading. Stick with me.

Oh, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Would the real Dress One please stand up..?

Remember when I was wittering about Dress One, and I said that it was actually Dress Two, but I was sacking off real Dress One for crimes against perfectionism? I said that I’d probably show you the real Dress One one day. Well, today is that day.

The Real Dress One

There she blows.

The sensible thing to do when you are sewing clothes that you actually want to fit you is to test out the pattern first, using cheapo fabric that you can sew and unpick and re-sew a million times and not care about wrecking. Unless you don’t mind clothes that don’t fit brilliantly, or you are extremely lucky, you are going to need to make alterations to a commercial pattern to make it fit you properly.

The technical term for such a test garment in this part of the world is a toile. But I learned the vast majority of the things I know about sewing from US websites and tutorials, so I call it a muslin. Po-tay-to/po-tah-to. I will accept either. Not that anyone in the history of the UK English-speaking world has ever said po-tah-to, mind. We’re not idiots.

The Real Dress One - pleats

Real Dress One was my Simplicity 2444 muslin. The cotton lawn I used was £3 a metre from the local market, so I wasn’t about to cry myself to sleep if I destroyed it, but I also quite liked the print, so would happily wear it if it turned out ok.

As it turned out, I didn’t really need so many alterations. There’s a centre front seam in the skirt that I don’t fully understand – it’s a straight seam and doesn’t seem to add anything to the design. So I made a note to take that out on future versions.

The Real Dress One - Neckline

The more you sew for yourself, the more you learn the quirks of your own body. I generally have to make the same alterations to all patterns, accounting for my narrow shoulders, high waist and short body. Nothing new here. I took a good couple of inches out of the front neckline, which brought the shoulder pieces back onto my shoulders instead of half-way down my arms. This manifested as pleats on my muslin, but I amended it properly on my pattern pieces.

The Real Dress One - back

The back neckline also needed a bit of tweaking to eliminate the gape, so I took out an inch or so. For the muslin I just put in a couple of darts, which isn’t ideal, but works fine on this lightweight fabric.

That was it! Dress fitted. Muslin wearable. Job done.

Not my finest sewing by any stretch of the imagination, but with a print this busy, who actually cares? It fits, it’s pretty flattering, and it has pockets. I like it, and I wear it all the time, which smells an awful lot like success from where I’m sitting.

It’s still not worthy of anything more than an honorary place in my twelve dresses though. Standards, innit?

Dress Four

Also known as – the first dress of 2014. Finally! Ignore all the puckering and pulling, by the way. My dress form is a little manly through the trunk. It fits much better on me!

Dress Four - back

So that gap at the top of the zip? Not a mistake. Well, not the way you’re thinking. I came upon a handful of dirt cheap invisible zips, only they’re really a couple of inches too short to be used as dress zips, so I scooted it down a little bit and now it is just long enough to get over my hips, with a fair amount of wriggling. Job done.

I think I might add a button to the top here – you know, to make it look like I meant it to be like that. Which I actually did, but through cheapness rather than design.

Dress Four - pleats

Some of my better pleats here. Although you can’t imagine how much it annoys me that the middle pleat is slightly closer to the centre on one side than it is on the other. Bummer.

Dress Four - neckline

Because this is made from a cosy brushed cotton, I didn’t want to line it cause it feels so nice on, but I also didn’t want to sweat to death as a result of two layers of the stuff, so I finished the back of the neckline with bias binding. Hand-stitched as well. Get me.

Yeah, I know you can kind of see the stitching. But at least it’s pretty even.

Dress Four

So there we are – Dress Four!

It’s (go on, take a guess)… a Simplicity 2444, with my general fit mods and a good few inches taken off the length. The fabric is a lovely brushed cotton/flannel check.

I love the sleeves, but the fabric is a little restrictive, and while they look great, I can’t lift my arms past my ribcage while wearing the dress. Which I think may be a problem. So chances are the sleeves are going to be given their marching orders. But I wanted to show you the finished dress with them on, because, you know, style over function and all that.

So Dress Five, hopefully in before the end of March to stay on top of my deadline. I have a grand idea for
this next one, and my grand ideas generally result either in great success, or in soul-crushing failure. Which will it be this time?

Stuff What I Have Made…

I have spent the last week becoming increasingly aware that I haven’t posted anything here for a while. There’s one simple reason for that – I haven’t finished anything for a while. Colour me useless.

So in the absence of anything new to present to you, how about a trip through a few of my favourite old projects? Hopefully that will inspire me to finish some of my in-progress pile!

Grace Beret

Grace lace beret. Kind of miss my hair that colour, too! Have I mentioned that I change my hair colour more often than is healthy or reasonable?

Talea Coat
Talea Coat - back

Winter coat from Burdastyle’s (free) Talea coat pattern. This was SO warm – I made it in a heavy wool with polar fleece lining – the construction of which also made me want to stick my pins in my own eyes.

Boy Blanket

Baby boy crocheted ripple blanket.

Cloth Nappies

Upcycled cloth nappies. This made my inner cheapskate so happy, I can’t even describe.

Anita Jeans
Anita Jeans - back

From Burdastyle’s Anita jeans pattern. The completion of these led to a two-week period where most of my conversations with people went a bit like this:

Me: I made jeans.
Other person: Yeah, you said.
Me: But I made JEANS.

Linen Bear
Monster

Bear and monster – from my own patterns.

Butterfly Shoes
Robot Shoes

Soft soled leather baby shoes – from my own pattern.

Sweetpod
Sweetpod - inside

Sweetpod baby carrier. This was a gift for one of my friends, and was followed by several weeks of conversations that followed a very similar pattern to the jeans one. Probably the most impressed I have ever been with myself, not least because I only had two or three minor hissy fits during the construction stage. And I only stabbed myself with, like, three pins. Unprecedented.

I got my first sewing machine when I was a teenager, and I’m always a bit surprised, when I look back, at how much stuff I have actually made. I see myself as someone who is reasonably unproductive, but here you have it – this is not the case. This post shows maybe 1% of everything I’ve ever made. So I might give myself a bit of a break.

But only a tiny bit of a break. Then I’m going to bully myself into finishing Dress Four. Because I’m SO CLOSE!

Check the Manual

For our first Christmas together, Mr Stitch bought me my first digital SLR camera. In fact, my first SLR of any description, a Pentax K100D. It’s described as ‘entry level’, which I think really means that it’s the very cheapest you can buy. But I’m totally ok with that, cause I actually kind of love the pictures that it takes.

I have got some great photos from this little big camera, but up until now I think it’s fair to say that all my best photos have been 30% vision, and 70% complete accident. Plus, while I had taken tentative steps out of auto mode, I was still sticking very firmly with the semi-auto modes, mainly shutter priority, with the occasional delve into aperture priority. I had a morbid fear of manual mode. I tried it once, and ended up with either almost entirely black photos, or almost entirely white ones. Not my finest hour.

So when Groupon suggested that I might want to do a course that would teach me the basics of using said SLR, I recruited Heather and booked that sucker.

Kirkstall Abbey

The course was run by Tom Poultney Photography, and held in the grounds of Kirstall Abbey, which I spent a fair amount of school trips visiting. There it is, look! While I had little regard for it as a kid, I kind of see why they dragged us there all the time. It is pretty photogenic.

I learnt loads, and would totally recommend it. Probably the best testament to the good this course did me is just for me to tell you that all of the following photos were taken in manual. And that none of them are entirely black. Or entirely white. Smells like progress to me.

Crocuses 3
Crocuses 2
Crocuses 1

Crocuses three ways.

Holly

Holly.

Mossy Wall

A mossy part of the ruins (that we probably shouldn’t have been climbing on).

Moody Cloudscape

Moody cloudscape (who doesn’t love a moody cloudscape?).

Dew on Grass

Dewdrops and what have you.

Yeah, I spent the day with a camera in the ruins of a 900-year-old monastery, and the overwhelming majority of my photos are of grass, crocuses, and bits of twig. That’s how I roll.

Fabric Friday?

That’s what I would have called this if I had posted on Friday. Cause I love a bit of alliteration. But it is absolutely, unavoidably Sunday. So… Stash Sunday?

New Fabric 03/2014

Following a trip into Leeds this week, which deliberately accidentally resulted in me perusing the cottons at my favourite stall in the indoor market, I brought these babies home with me.

Foxes and Eiffel towers. Destined to be dress five and dress seven!

Oh yeah, you might have noticed that I am a wee bit lagging with the twelve dresses. Truth is, partial muslins aside, I haven’t finished a single dress THIS YEAR. I didn’t even feel bad about that until I realised it was March. Oops.

So there will be two dresses in March, and two in April. Brace yourselves!

Um…Merry Christmas?

Words that have never been used to describe me: organised, punctual, efficient.

Don’t get me wrong, I can come up with the goods, but MY GOD do I fanny around in the meantime. And so it was that I came to eventually make my good friend Heather‘s lovely little boy his Christmas present. In mid February. Yeah, yeah. At least it happened!

roll1

I know he loves colouring, and has big love for his panda, so I rustled up some fabrics, and got to cutting out one of my favourite patterns for little kid gifts – a crayon roll! Personalised, too, although I know she’s careful not to name him online, so you’re not seeing that bit!

roll2

Use a quilting bar, if you have one, for spacing the stitching lines. GAME CHANGER.

roll3

I’ll digitise and publish my pattern on here at some point. It’s super easy to make. And who doesn’t love a rainbow of crayons? I’ll definitely make one or two rolls for my little guy when he stops compulsively eating art supplies.

roll4

All done! Merry Christmas TTB x

Tutorial: Dyeing yarn with Kool Aid!

The last couple of weeks have been a bit of a write-off, creatively. It happens. It seems to happen a lot more when you have needy children prioritising their illnesses and/or eruptions of teeth over your crafting time. Rude, I know.

So in the absence of me having done any making of note, here’s a tutorial I actually put together a couple of years ago after becoming briefly but intensely obsessed with dyeing yarn. I’ll be back again soon to tell you a precautionary tale I like to call ‘1 reason you should make sure you have sufficiently heat set self-printed fabric before washing it’. Anyway, on to the goods:

It happens sometimes that you find yourself in one of two situations. Firstly, that you have seen some ugly-coloured but beautifully soft wool in a bargain bin somewhere and totally fail to have the necessary amount of self control to not buy it, even though it is the colour of baby vomit. Or secondly, that you have had a ball (or five) of average but actually really boringly-coloured wool in your stash that you don’t mind so much, but know you will never use in its current state. If you are nodding in recognition here, stick with me. I can help you.

I’m not sure how it happened, but I reached a reasonably advanced age without knowing you could dye wool. Well, obviously I knew that it was POSSIBLE to dye wool, I haven’t reached said age without acquiring any knowledge at all, but what I didn’t realise was that you can do it easily, cheaply and even relatively quickly, in your own kitchen, using things that you’ve probably already got. Sounds good, right?

Things you will need:

– Yarn. MUST be protein-based (i.e. animal fibre). I used a ball of Rowan Pure Wool in some kind of natural colourway. Superwash wool is ideal for this, as you can’t accidentally felt it, but you could use any kind of wool, alpaca, angora, etc! Blends will work to some extent, but might be a bit less vibrant.

Kool Aid Dyeing - 1

– Colouring agent! I used Kool Aid for this, because I happened upon it, but if you are in the UK, it can be tricky to get hold of, unless you pay over the odds or have an American friend (thanks Wayne!). Your common or garden food colouring will also work. The more vibrant the colour, the brighter your yarn will come out. Experiment – see what happens!
– A chair or similar sized implement for skein winding. Highly technical, obv.
– Pans and implements for fishing and stirring. Stainless steel is your best bet, unless you fancy brightly coloured wooden spoons!
– White vinegar (optional).
– Salt (optional).

Got all that? Right, you’re ready to rock!

Firstly, decide whether you want your wool to be a solid colour, or self-striping. I went for self-striping cause it’s just a little bit more interesting. It you’re going self-striping too, decide how long you want your stripes.

Kool Aid Dyeing - 3

You need to wind your yarn into a loose skein. If you’re doing a solid colour, you can just wind it round the back of the chair. For self-striping, set two chairs as far apart as the length you want your stripes, and wind, wind, wind! When you’re done, loosely tie your skein to keep it all together. Don’t tie too tight, or you’ll leave tie-dye style stripes on your yarn! It’s helpful to use a contrasting wool to tie it, so you can find them easily when you’re re-winding.

Kool Aid Dyeing - 2

Soak your yarn in a bath of warm water, a little squirt of washing-up liquid and a couple of tablespoons of white vinegar if you’re using it. I left mine in half an hour or so, but the longer the better, really. It needs to be thoroughly saturated.

Fill a large pan (or two, for self-striping), with warm water and about 25g of salt for each 100g of yarn. The salt isn’t necessary, but it slows the absorption of dye slightly, so you’ll get a more even result. Remember if you are using two pans to use 25g overall, so 12.5g in each! Then add your colour. More packets of Kool Aid will give a stronger colour. I used 4 packets for 100g (2 of each colour). If you are using food colouring, just add a bit and see what happens! Test the colour by dipping a bit of kitchen roll in.

Kool Aid Dyeing - 4

Set up your pans on the hob. If you’re using two, put them as close to each other as you can. Then turn on the heat! Take your soaked yarn out of the pre-wash, carefully squeeze out the water, and put it in the dye bath. For two colours, put one end of the skein in each pan. Stir gently, but be careful, especially if you’re using non-superwash wool! The saturated yarn should draw up the colour on both sides, put you can help it along by drizzling a little of the dye water on the undyed bit of yarn between the pans.

Kool Aid Dyeing - 5

Bring the water to the boil and simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. You’ll know it’s done when all the colour is in the yarn and none of it is in the water! Yes, it actually is that easy.

Once it’s done, turn off the heat and let everything cool down. If you’re using superwash, you can pick it out as soon as the water is cool enough to not burn yourself, but for non-superwash, let it cool COMPLETELY so you don’t risk felting it!

Kool Aid Dyeing - 6

Rinse in cool water until the water coming off is clear. Be very careful not to agitate too much if your wool is not super wash.

Kool Aid Dyeing - 7

Gently squeeze the wool to get excess water out. Roll it in a towel till it’s just damp, and then hang to dry!

Kool Aid Dyeing - 8

Once it’s totally dry, wind into a lovely-coloured and very fruity-smelling ball! The resulting colour is permanent and the item can be washed and dried as normal.

Ta-da! All* of your boring yarn problems solved in one several reasonably easy steps!

*Some

Parisian Plantain

eiffel1

First things first – I got more pins. Because PINS. If you sew, you’ll know. Cheeky rhyme for you there.

eiffel2

I’m a little bit in love with Paris. We visited on our first anniversary, and again two years later with our then one-year-old daughter. I generally have big love for most of the European cities I’ve visited, but there’s just something about Paris that does it for me. So when I read about the Plantain challenge, I had a very definite idea of what I wanted to do.

Eiffel tower print fabric. OBVIOUSLY. Bit niche, though, and not something I could easily find. In fact, not something I could find at all.

But I had a vision, and I am not a person who can let a vision lie. So I rocked out my lino cutters, drew my own damn Eiffel Tower, carved my own damn stamp, and stamped my own damn fabric. Boom.

(Oh yeah, except the part where I nearly amputated one of my fingers with the lino cutter. That wasn’t part of my vision. Those mothers are SHARP!)

eiffel4

The peter pan collar on my last Plantain incarnation properly did it for me, so that was also in. This time I used a contrasting black knit to match the print, and left off the placket, although ended up putting buttons on because it just didn’t look finished without. Stash buttons again, of course. I’m actually going to cry the first time I have to go out and BUY buttons.

Other mods included tapering the fit down a couple of sizes towards the waist, going with the half-length sleeves again, and tapering the sleeves towards the bottom – I think the half-length sleeve needs a slightly snugger fit.

eiffel3

My finished top is ridiculously creased for an item that has been ironed at least three times. Seriously. Once after pre-washing and before printing, once after (and for several minutes) to make the ink permanent, plus pressing as I was sewing. I am not generally a person who irons and I still don’t normally look this wrinkly. Tut.

Despite that, I’m pretty chuffed with my effort here. Despite very slightly overestimating the stretch of this fabric, it fits pretty well and I can see it getting a lot of wear.

This is fast becoming my go-to pattern for knit tops. It goes together beautifully and is very easy to adapt. Prepare yourselves for a lot of Plantain lovechild projects. Let’s face it, it’s going to happen.

eiffel5

P.S. Twin needle, I seriously love you. Let’s make babies x

A Good Night In

Wednesdays nights are my happy place. Between my family, my job and my epic lack of organisation skills in the home, I don’t get a lot of me-time. On Wednesday nights, once the kids are in bed, Mr Stitch goes out to game with his friends. This leaves me with somewhere in the region of four beautiful hours of alone time to spend just exactly how I want (obviously subject to child wakings and Mother-in-Law ringings).

plantain5

Last Wednesday (or quite possibly the Wednesday before, I have a terrible habit of losing weeks), I spent the evening with Hotel Chocolat, which isn’t French but sounds it, and Deer and Doe, which doesn’t sound French, but is. Got that? D’accord!

I polished off the last of our fancy Christmas chocolates, and had a bit of a bash at Eléonore’s fantastic new free pattern, Plantain. Yes, you read that right – it’s free.

plantain2

I am a relative newcomer to Deer and Doe patterns, being more of a wing-it kind of seamstress and generally a pretty major cheapskate. But I never fully mind supporting a fellow crafter, and when I saw the various incarnations of Datura around the blogosphere, I caved and bought it.

The next day, Plantain was released, and while I waited for Datura to turn up, I thought I’d give it a whirl.

plantain4

The black top, made from mystery stash burnout jersey, is a straight size 36 with no mods at all. It fits, I imagine, exactly as it should, and as the black jersey only has moderate stretch, it’s a lovely relaxed fit. If I make it as is again, I think the only mod I would make is to add a couple of inches to the length, and maybe take a smidge out of the width. This is a very minor set of alterations, for me. Thumbs up.

plantain1

Obviously I then had to make another. This is pretty severely altered. This fabric (mystery plum stash jersey) had a lot of stretch, so I took in a good half inch on each side, and a touch more on the sleeves. the tapered bottom is less tapered, and I drafted a quick collar and placket detail. Cause, hey, who doesn’t love a peter pan collar?

plantain3

I found the buttons in a huge jar I have that’s full to the top of old, inherited buttons. I’ll show you my vintage supplies one day.

They match perfectly, though, and there were only these three, which just happens to work perfectly. Fate, I’d say, should I believe in such a thing.

I would definitely recommend Plantain, either to follow to the letter, or use as a starting point for any and all crazy ideas. Oh, and I’m not sure if I mentioned it, but it’s free. Amazing.