2015 – Some Year End Musings

Is it just me or did 2015 whizz by? They say time gets quicker as you age but at this pace a year will be more like a month by the time I’m sixty. One of the culprits seems to be having school age children, we seem to be living term to term and counting down the weeks until we can have a break from the weekday routine and stay in our pyjamas until mid-day. Contrary to this (and thankfully) Christmas seems to be going by at a nice steady pace. I finished work on the 19th which gave me a whole week to get organised. I was actually settled down with a Baileys and Tia Maria by 7pm on Christmas Eve. As the New Year approaches I thought I’d have a look back and see where my sewing had gone over the past 12 months.

My main plan at the beginning of the year was to get rid of the plan. Like many, I had built up a huge ‘to sew’ list with no chance of ever getting to the end of it. I wanted a bit of spontaneity, to just go where the fabric took me. I also wanted to slow down a bit, spend time concentrating on finish and just letting projects take however long they took. I expected to be less productive but a quick tally shows I’ve made 38 garments this year which, strangely enough, is the same amount as last year. It’s been mainly dresses, 18 of them, closely followed by tops at 16, 2 jackets and 1 coat. I’ve only made one skirt which seems a little odd but probably very telling about what I’m drawn to.

2015 was also the year when people started to comment that everything I seemed to sew was blue! I’d never noticed before and I’m amazed as it was staring me in the face every time I opened my wardrobe. I have no idea why I am drawn to it. I’ve since become quite self-conscious about my fabric choices and it has become a bit of a running joke on Instagram. I’ve been making a concerted effort to choose other colours over the past few months but one look at my favourites indicates it’s just not working.

On the knitting front I’ve produced three cardigans and two sweaters (only one of which is blue you’ll be pleased to know) My favourite by far has been my Audrey in Unst which has had a lot of wear and I’m itching to make another.

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Following in the end of year tradition I have a few favourites.

My number one has to be my Cascade Duffle Coat. I finished it at the end of November but haven’t managed to blog it yet as getting pictures in the dreary overcast light of recent weeks has been impossible. It has been worn constantly since I finished and exposed to both wind and rain. I can report that it has kept me snuggly warm and dry and is the best coat I’ve ever had!

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My second is definitely my blue Liberty Carline Edith blouse, I can’t emphasise enough how much I love this. I wore it at every opportunity and have since invested in a few more metres of the fabric to make a very special dress.

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My Liberty Summer M6696 is also up there, it took me ages to finish as it coincided with the summer holiday and a rather overwhelming bout of decorating. As I finished it at the end of the summer it didn’t get much wear but I’m really looking forward to getting it out once Spring raises its head.

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My Spotty Plantain and Kimono tees were also easy go to’s as well, unfortunately the jersey wasn’t very good quality so they are looking a bit forlorn but I’m on the lookout for more polka dots to make replacements.

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Lastly my recent Blackwatch Tartan Frankenpattern. It’s just the perfect me dress!

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There have been a few things that have been left languishing in the back of my wardrobe.

The main disaster was my silk Sutton Blouse. It gave me such a hard time sewing it that I took an instant dislike to it. I thought time would soften my view but it hasn’t and I’ve only worn it once. It was only afterwards I remembered the can of starch I’d bought to tame tricky fabrics!

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My next one was my Lemon Edith Dress. I’m a bit peeved about this as the fabric was from Louise at Notsewsimple at last years SewBrum. I should really have used it to make a skirt as the yellow next to my face makes me look a little washed out and ill.

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Finally is my Rachel Wrap Dress. I liked it as a dress but just not on me. It was a little too clingy around my stomach and I felt like a sack of potatoes tied in the middle. Afterwards I found tying it at the side improved it vastly but I still wasn’t 100% sure about it.

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Looking forward to 2016 I have a few ideas

  • I need to learn to take things easy in general and take advantage of any downtime I can get. I tend to push myself so hard that when things quieten down a bit I’m absolutely knackered and it takes me all my time to get back to some semblance of normality.
  • I’m definitely going to continue with the spontaneous sewing, it really has taken the pressure out of something which, in essence, is supposed to be enjoyable and therapeutic.
  • I want to revisit old patterns that have worked well but been pushed aside by all the shiny new ones. I love the Deer and Doe Sureau and have only made two Emery dresses. McCalls 6696 is also a winner which needs another rendition.

That’s about it really, I think the best plan is not to have one. I’m also carrying this over to New Year Resolutions, if I don’t make them I can’t break them!

Wishing you all health and happiness for 2016!

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A little bit of knitting: My Audrey In Unst Cardigan

This is the Audrey in Unst Cardigan pattern by Gudrun Johnston: ‘a vintage inspired cropped cardigan with a bib of Shetland Lace.’

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I actually cast this on on holiday in the middle of August so it’s taken me three months to knit. There have been times when I have been more enthusiastic than others so it’s been picked up and put down quite regularly.

The yarn I used was Cascade 220 sport, one of the heathers called Lake Chelan. It’s 100% Peruvian wool which has been a change to the merino of my last couple of projects. I’ve found that my most worn cardigan is my green Miette which is also a heathered Peruvian. It seems to keep its shape better than the drapiness of merino and this cardigan needs a bit of body to prevent droopy lace work.

It was straightforward to knit, there’s a lot of twisted rib to start with but once past the waistband it’s plain sailing. The back and underarms are put on hold while the front lace yoke is knitted. The lace is really easy to do, basically passing a slipped stitch over four stitches. The back is knitted and joined to the front at the shoulders with a three needle bind off resulting in the neatest shoulder seam I’ve ever done (I’ll probably use this method in future) The sleeves are picked up and knitted in wrap and turn short rows. The only time I had to rip it back was three quarters of the way through the first wristband when I realised I’d been on auto pilot and been working in plain rib rather than twisted. I hesitated as no one apart from my mother in law would have noticed but then the thought of that made me do it again!

Towards the end of the second sleeve I began playing a game of yarn roulette, It was getting low but I was hoping to get to the end. I went to the point of weighing what I had left to work out the yardage but then I chickened out and ordered another skein. As it turned out I only needed it for neckline, it looks like someone is getting a green hat for Christmas!

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As it’s wool it’s recommended a 30 degree handwash. I decided to take my usual risk and put it through the hand wash cycle in my machine. I blocked it to the measurements given and used the buttons which I’d bought from Guthrie and Ghani at SewBrum.

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I really love the finished cardigan, the colour is perfect, I was aiming for a sea green but ordering online is always a gamble as you can’t see the true colour until it arrives. I do spend a lot of time looking at yarn on ravelry and seeing how they look made up on the project pages but it’s so difficult to get a true colour on a photo.

The wool holds the lace really well and the longer length is a lot more practical for the cooler weather.   It was quite an enjoyable knit and it’s highly likely I’ll knit it again. It’s quite straightforward and the instructions are excellent so an advanced beginner should be able to tackle it easily.

I’m just relishing a few quick projects now, I’ve finished a Wiksten Snoflinga hat and next up’s a cowl. I just need a relaxing respite before I commit to something a little longer and involved!

My Blackwatch Peony/2444 Franken pattern

A little announcement first, the winner of the Girl Charlee giveaway was Alison, we’ve been in touch and she’s just received her fabric today.

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Now on to my new dress. I love Navy and green, it’s one of my favourite colour combinations. I also love a bit of tartan so it’s no surprise I have a bit of a thing for Blackwatch.

My first foray into making a Blackwatch dress was about three years ago when I made a Colette Peony. I changed the little gathers at the front to two inverted pleats. I loved the skirt, which is a very simple A-line, but the bodice was a different matter. No matter how much I tweaked it I couldn’t get it to fit. The back was weird and there was something funny about the neckline as it just didn’t sit right. I got it to a semi-wearable state but never felt comfortable in it as all it’s flaws kept nagging away at me. I’ve since found it wasn’t just me, a lot of other people have had problems with the Peony indicating it was probably down to bad drafting rather than weird body shape.

Fast forward to Last Christmas when I had my heart set on a red tartan (Stewart?) dress. I didn’t want anything fancy, no full circle skirt or anything too frou frou but something I could dress up yet wear dressed down for day to day (thus extending wearable opportunities).

The Peony skirt fitted the bill but there was no way I was going to tackle that bodice again. I decided to pair the skirt with a different bodice, one I knew fitted properly. Step forward the old faithful Simplicity 2444, a lovely pattern which gets its shaping from the double diagonal waist darts which are mirrored in the pleats of the skirt.

Anyway, long story short the bodice and skirt worked perfectly together and the Red Christmas dress was a resounding success.

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When I got my winter wardrobe out of storage last month I looked again at my wonky Peony. I didn’t want to wear it for another winter so decided to make a new one using my TNT frankenpattern.

It all went together well, I managed to match the checks somewhat successfully. I made a couple of mistakes though as I forgot some of the adjustments I made last time (should really read old blog posts before cutting into fabric!) I remembered to shorten the bodice but I failed to shorten the bust darts so they finish a little bit too close to my apex. I also failed to take a bit out of the back neckline. This only became apparent when I tried the dress on before installing the zipper, it wasn’t a major crisis as I took the extra width out then but it has distorted the check placement which is a bit of a shame.

Just to jazz it up a bit I added a navy exposed lace zip and finished the neckline with Bias Binding. I really wanted to bind the hem too but I also wanted to wear it to this year’s SewBrum, it was 9.00pm the night before and I couldn’t face the extra work so just quickly whizzed the hem up on my machine.

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I had a brilliant day at SewBrum, I was unusually restrained with my purchases only buying four pieces of fabric, two patterns and some buttons. I know this may sound a little unbelievable but I think my stash has reached saturation point! I have so many projects in the queue that I’m completely overwhelmed by the sheer scale of getting them all sewn up. This is probably just a phase though as I’ve bought a piece of Liberty from Ebay this week, no plans for it, I just want to stroke and look at it for a bit!

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Hmm the photos, I threw on the dress before it went in the wash the day after Sewbrum. Looking at the pictures I should have waited until it was washed and ironed before taking them. It’s looking rather crumpled, particularly on the shoulders from carrying bags of fabric all day!

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I’m really happy to finally have a proper fitting Blackwatch dress. I’m currently in the throes of sewing a Cascade Duffle Coat and I’m using Blackwatch as a contrast fabric on the Hood and zipper band. I don’t know if I’ll wear them together, it may be going a step too far, I always think of the Queen when it comes to matching dress and coat!

My first Colette Moneta and a @girlcharleeuk Giveaway

A few weeks back Girl Charlee UK got in touch to see if I would like to review some of their fabric.   Specialising in knit fabric, they already have a substantial market in the USA and have just opened an online shop in the UK.

As my online knit purchases have been a bit hit and miss I was interested to give them a try. The first difficulty was choosing which fabric, they have some really cute prints in their wildlife collection as well as their modern air collection. I finally decided to step out of my (floral) comfort zone and go for the navy quatrefoil which is a Moroccan inspired graphic print (I know, it’s blue again but baby steps!)

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The next quandary was what to make. After much deliberation I decided it would be a good opportunity to finally try the Colette Moneta.

The fabric is a mid-weight poly/cotton mix jersey. It’s quite stable with a minimum amount of stretch. At some point most of my handmade garments get mixed into the main wash so in the interests of science I put it through its paces with a full 40 degree wash. It was only after looking up the link for this post that I noticed the website advises a cold wash with mild detergent! Thankfully it emerged perfectly, no colour run and it didn’t even need ironing.

Going by my measurements I cut a large and made no alterations to the pattern. It was quick and easy to put together, the fabric was lovely to sew with and pressed well.

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I’m completely smitten with the finished dress, the neckline is perfect for me and the gathers are gentle enough not to add bulk around the middle and as an added bonus it has pockets!

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(Another photobombing cat)

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(Being a little teapot)

I don’t know why I didn’t make it sooner, especially considering all the love it’s had on the blogosphere since its release. I’ve now got a whole army of Monetas lined up to see me through the colder months (then possibly some short sleeved ones to take me through Spring!)

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Now for the good part –a giveaway!

Girl Charlie UK are offering one lucky winner two metres of their fabric. The giveaway is open throughout Europe (sorry to sewing peeps on distant continents)

They are also offering 10% off all purchases, just enter JUSTSEW at the checkout.

The giveaway and discount are open until midnight on Sunday 8th November.

To enter just leave a comment below, including your email if it’s not linked to your profile.

Good Luck!

 

 

I received this fabric for review but all views are my own.

Love Sewing Magazines Simple Sews Slouchy Gilet

This Slouchy Gilet was a free pattern with in last month’s love sewing magazine (issue 18).   I’m not sure if the pattern is available elsewhere as it’s not listed on the Simple Sews website but I’ll try and find out and update the post later.

Working on a Gardening Project means I spend half my week outside. Iit’s lovely through the Spring and Summer but can get awfully chilly in the colder months. I’m usually layered up with outdoorsy fleeces and waterproofs which, although very practical are not the most stylish options. The slouchy gilet seemed the ideal pattern to add a bit of ‘me’ to my working wardrobe.

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There were a number of confusing things with the pattern. The envelope said it was designed for knit fabric only, however the feature in the magazine suggested both knits and wovens. Feeling very Autumnal I was drawn to the Tartan but was initially hesitant as I thought it may be too heavy. It draped beautifully though and I really liked the idea of a Tartan waistcoat (we’re off to Scotland next year so maybe there was some subliminal thought process involved) I decided to risk it.

The second issue was working out the sizing, going by the chart my measurements fitted a size 16. However, the instructions stated that there was no ease built into the pattern so the measurements given were actually the garments final measurements. I knew that the gilet would be worn on top of quite a few layers (vest, t-shirt and jumper) so would I need to add about 3-4 inches of ease, just to be on the safe side I decided to cut a size 20.

The gilet is fully lined, I used some pink tartan to give it a bit contrast. It went together pretty easily, just a matter of sewing the panels together. I actually sewed the zipper on the wrong side but luckily had only basted it in. The fabric didn’t take kindly to unpicking though and has stretched out a bit where the zip is.

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I used my own method of construction. The instructions started out OK but then got really confusing and rather over complicated. I sewed the outer and inner shell separately including the collar (which stems from the side panel so no fiddly extra collar pieces) I used my regular machine throughout and relished the opportunity to leave my seams unfinished (it felt incredibly wicked after all the French and bound seams I have been doing recently) I then bagged the whole lot, stitching right sides together all the way around and leaving a gap in the hem to turn it through. I gave it a good press and topstitched all the way around the outside, in the process closing the gap in the hem. To finish the armholes I turned each layers seam allowance of the inside and topstitched around the outer edge.

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Overall this was quite a cathartic project, it was very quick and easy to put together so really a bit of instant sewification. I think I could have sewn a smaller size as it has come up a bit big. The final measurement came out as 48-46-48 compared to the 45-38-48 on the pattern envelope. It would be really easy to fit properly though as there are four seams available for adjustment. In the pictures I’m only wearing a t-shirt underneath, a few more layers do fill it out a bit. There is a little bit of bagging around the front edge, this is purely down to my slapdash pinning and sewing, if I had taken my time to smooth out both layers this wouldn’t have happened but I was on merrily on a roll at the time.

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(Bonus Cat Bum Bomb)

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I like the pattern and would make it again. It’s worked well using a heavier fabric, both inside and out (this is particularly important to me as warmth is my number one priority!) Although it would work better in a medium weight fabric like the jersey or linen suggested in the magazine.  I’m not too sure about how it looks zipped up but I’ll only wear it this way if there is a particularly cold wind. I like how it falls when it’s left unzipped, it has a lovely waterfall effect and both sides are perfectly symmetrical. I’ve worn it every day I’m on the project and it’s definitely a lot more stylish than my old fleece waistcoat!

Grainline Morris Blazer Number Two

Most of my blog posts end with me saying I would like to make another, but then I get distracted by some shiny new pattern that comes along. This time I have actually followed through and made another Grainline Morris Blazer.

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This is my second Morris, the first I made a couple of months ago in a Ponte knit (here). I wanted to try a stretch cotton and see how it looked in something with a bit of body.  I bought the stretch cotton sateen from Ebay a few months ago but can’t seem to find out the seller details.  I made a few changes based on my last one as there’s a little difference in the sizing of the Morris.  I’ve made the Archer, Hemlock and Scout, for each one cutting a size 12, shortening the bodice by 2 inches and the sleeves by 3 inches. When I applied these adjustments on my first Morris it came up short and a bit too small. This time I went up to a size 14, left the bodice length as drafted and just took 1 inch off the sleeves.

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I’m still in a slow sewing mood so took the time to bind all the seams with 12mm spotty bias binding before construction. The only seam I bound on the crossgrain was the shoulder seams (they were very nearly on the bias) I should really have waited until the seam was sewn as I have a little bit of rippling on the shoulder seam but I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.

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It went together easily, I know a lot of people have had a problem with the front bagging. Again I used lightweight interfacing both on the front facing and the inside of the jacket.

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I’m a lot happier with this version, I think the stability of using a stretch cotton really helps the blazer keep its structure.  The only improvement I could make would be to do a full bust adjustment but I doubt I’ll ever have the time or inclination to do so. I’m glad I went for the Navy, although a bit boring it is far more practical and versatile than the flowery prints I originally planned on using. I’m hoping it will see me through Autumn and keep the chill off until I find time to make my winter coat, I have decided on the Cascade Duffle!

McCalls 6696 – The Last Day of Summer Dress

This is the popular McCalls 6696 shirt dress which has been regularly popping up around the blogosphere since it was released a couple of years ago. It has two skirt options; pleated or straight, with short, three-quarter length sleeves or sleeveless. I opted for the pleated skirt and short sleeves, I was originally planning to go sleeveless but as the Summer got later some arm coverage seemed like a good idea.

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The fabric is a Liberty Tana Lawn called ‘Summer’, I’ve been coveting it since it was released and finally decided to treat myself at the beginning of January (a case of post-Christmas blues shopping) I think Liberty were having a joke when they named the print as it’s predominantly of leafless trees and snow-capped mountains. It’s one of those fabrics where the more you look the more details you see, there’s a little man fishing (complete with fish) and it was only when I was sewing the side seam that I spotted a little bird (I was very happy to find the bird perfectly placed on the button band and collar)

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I muslined the bodice cutting a size 16 with a D-cup (it comes in a B C and D cup so I managed to get away without doing a FBA). The size turned out to be perfect apart from needing to shorten the bodice by 2 inches. I spent quite a lot of time fiddling with the back which has gathers between the yoke and waistband. I tried it as drafted but it was far too puffy. I reduced the gathers but again, too puffy. I tried adding an inverted pleat instead but it still looked wrong. I think the problem was I had shortened the bodice so the area between the waist and bottom of the yoke was a lot shorter so whatever I did it would never look right. In the end I removed the gathers altogether and just added a couple of darts.

The dress took a full 3 metres of 135cm fabric. After cutting it took a while before I had time to sew it up (aren’t Summers supposed to be lazy? Mine seems to have been hectic) I didn’t really follow the instructions apart from noting all the hand sewing involved. I attached the yoke using Grainline Jen’s burrito method and Four Square Walls Andrea’s method for attaching a stand collar (if anyone is hesitant about sewing a shirt these two tutorials make it really easy!) I French seamed throughout and hand finished all the required innards (Sleeve hem, button bands, waist facing, collar stand and a rather long hem!)

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I used the same buttons as I did on my Blue Carline Edith blouse, they seem to be the perfect shade of blue/green and I’m slightly heartbroken that I haven’t got any more. It took a while to find the right length but in the end I took about four inches off and did a two inch hem so it falls just on my knee.

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I was determined to get it finished before the summer was out and just managed to sew the buttons on 31st August. The fit is spot on, I’m particularly pleased with the back, all my faffing about seems to have paid off. I can see why it’s been so popular as it really is the perfect shirt dress pattern. Having to take things slowly made sewing this a lot more enjoyable, I really do need to swap my frantic impatience for a more leisurely pace in future.

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I’m planning my Autumn and Winter sewing and hope to be making another. I have some grey/blue chambray that would be perfect for longer sleeves, although some contrast top stitching may be needed to break up the solid colour. I think I can safely get away with wearing this into the Autumn paired with boots and a cardigan.

I really love this dress, I’m so glad I saved the fabric for something that could do it justice, the colour, print and silhouette just feels very ‘me’. I know it will become a firm favourite and I’ll enjoy wearing it for years to come!