Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Sewing and Knitting Plans 2014

(Megan Nielson Briar top made for my sis-in-law, just trying it on)

It is hard to believe that we are nearly in 2014, where did that year go to?

Anyway after my 2013 summaries in the previous posts, I have come up with some resolutions:

Sewing Plans/Aims 2014

1.  Refrain from buying any more fabric for a while, try and make a dent in what I already have, although I see the release of Hapi by Amy Butler is eminent and she has some lovely voiles and linens.
(remind myself of the weather here)

2.  Generally make less items than in 2013, aiming for that ten-item wardrobe I read about in Lessons from Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott. (more about that later)

3.  What I do make, try and be a little more ambitious in terms of achieving a good fit, making more fitted items in woven fabric and not always doing the quick-fix make.  This year I did make more stretchy jersey items which are quick to make, but there was a gap in my wardrobe for such items, so I think I can sort of justify it.

4.  Embrace buttonholing & not be 'afraid' of botching a garment over the head of buttonholes.  Part of this is to do with the fact that I can't find the manual for my 16 year old sewing machine, but I think I have 'got' buttonholes now, just need more practice.

5.  Be more selective in choosing which patterns to purchase.  Sounds obvious, make what suits me, both my shape, my style and lifestyle, oh and age.  Don't jump on the sewing bandwagon.  I have made from the Japanese dress books, Wiksten Tovas and other tunic type dresses and whilst they are great patterns in themselves, they don't really do a lot for me.

6.  Make a fully functioning pair of trousers, that is, a pair in which the zip works.

7.  Tackle the Colette Clover denim trousers that were abandoned in February because the invisible zip wouldn't go past the waistband seem (too much fabric, I'm thinking)

So those were the general resolutions, now for the specifics.

Things I want to sew in 1st half of 2014

So I have chosen colours for spring/summer 2014, you can just about see them above, pale grey, bright red, deep blue, baby blue and purple.

1.  Perfect A-line Skirt with hip pockets.

2.  Trousers preferably wide leg or palazzo (maybe Colette Juniper)

3.  Culottes (Megan Nielson Tania culottes in longer length)

4.  A spring jacket/coat.

I think definitely the Papercut pattern for the bomber jacket.

5.  2 dresses

6.  2-3 button down blouses

7.  1-2 sweatshirt/pullover

8.  1 cardigan (in New Zealand merino or ponte knit)

Probably this is a little bit ambitious because these items are more involved but no harm in having goals.


1 cardigan
1 sweater
Knitted gifts for others (need to start that now for next christmas!)

I have so many beautiful patterns faved on ravelry and actual paper patterns & books, but not enough hours in the day available for knitting.  So will have to decide.

So there you go, that's my plans, whether they will come into fruition is yet to be seen, I can but try.

Next time I will be sharing my experiences in 'allowing' myself to go gray... yikes.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, 28 December 2013

2013 Stitching.

Christmas 2013

I received some lovely 'sewing' christmas pressies this year, the main one being an overlocker from my husband, a little sewing note book and vouchers to my local fabric shop Craftswoman in Carrickfergus. I am a very lucky girl.

So carrying on from my previous post a quick summary:

In 2013 I made:

For others - 6 items (mostly tops)

For myself -  2 skirts
                     1 trouser
                     2 leggings
                     13 jersey tops
                     4 tops (woven fabric)
                     3 jersey dresses
                     2 dresses (woven fabric)
                     1 cape
                     1 zip up fleece

Knitted Items: 1 cardigan  here
                       1 sleeveless cardigan here


- I sewed 35 garments. 21 in stretchy knit fabric, 14 in woven fabric
- I knit 2 garments for myself.  (Much less knitting this year than normal, probably because of more sewing, but I also too the time to learn some new techniques.)
- I tried to use fabrics that had predominately natural fibres, although not completely (some polyester crept in... eeek!)
- I bought far more sewing patterns than I will ever use. (apparently this is normal for sewists)
- I also bought more fabric & yarn than one person can use in a year and also live a normal life (but at least it will keep)
- I think I am progressing in sewing & knitting.. woo, hoo.

The above box is about a quarter of my sewing patterns (excluding pdf's)

- Even though I have loads of the 'big 4' paper patterns I haven't actually used very many at all, tend to use Indie patterns and mostly pdf's.  Not sure if this is a temporary phase or not.

- Also purchased more knitting patterns than I will ever have time to knit.

- I stuck to my colour spectrum as per Colour me Beautiful for fabric choices, apparently I am a Cool Winter.

- I am moving away from the quilting type fabrics that I started sewing with.  Even though there are some beautiful designs (some of my favourite are Amy Butler, Parson Gray, Anna Maria Horner & Kaffe Fassett) in fabulous colours I find them not quite as drapey.  Although good to see that some designers are producing more dressmaking-type fabrics now too.  Hope this continues.

- I have definitely made more 'knit' clothes this year.  This is partly because I thought there was some big mystique in sewing with knit fabric and felt it was something I should learn to do. (Turns out it's not that tricky) It was also because living in County Antrim there really aren't too many weeks in the year when you can wear those lovely light weight chambray, linens & cottons.... sad, but true.  Also, my lifestyle dictates what I wear, in that mostly I work from home in my job, I also do a lot of gardening & outdoor exercise so these kind of clothes are more practical.

- I bought very few clothes, last January bought a couple of items in the Meandem sale, beautiful merino cardigan and some trousers.  Also some shoes.

So what have I worn most:

Sewaholic renfrew tops (every sleeve length & every neckline, all fab)
Tessuti Anita ponti pants
Maria Denmark Day to night top (also in dress) ... very versatile & suits my shape.
Liesl & Co Cape (Great for the christmas run-up)
Deer and Doe Chardon.  I made this in a mad summery print (pre-blog) & wore it a lot in the summer.

The only thing that was a bit iffy was that dress from the Japanese Stylish Dress Book here although I did wear it in the autumn.


1.  For me taking part in MeMadeMay was amazing.  It was a great focus and motivation and the positive comments from others was really encouraging.  It also exposes you to all those other fabulous things that people sew and knit and other peoples'  blogs.

2.  Starting this blog - a big step, but so far really enjoying.  If nothing else it is a record for me.

3.  New patterns (some in paper form) from Merchant and Mills only acquired towards the end of the year.  These are the patterns I started sewing with so lovely to be back to them again.  Also some lovely patterns by Liesl & Co (some of my successes were with the Lisette patterns)

4.  I also discovered 'vintage' patterns on Etsy and found myself strangely drawn to the '70's.  What's that about?  Maybe because that was my mum's era, not sure.  Even though some are lovely I haven't yet attempted any.

Overall a pretty good year, I think, so next up my Sewing/Knitting/Gardening plans for 2014.

Bring it on!

Friday, 27 December 2013

A crafty look back on 2013.

As 2013 was my first full year of sewing my own clothes, I thought I would have a look back and see exactly what I did make.  This is mostly for my own sake so that I can see what worked, what didn't, was I excessive and, of course, to plan for next year, so may be a tad boring for anyone else reading.
So here we go.

For others (looks good to start off with)

Eldest son : Avocado hoodie (Disparatedisciplines) here.

Husband: Navy fleece top (Kwik Sew 3817) here
                pyjama boxers
                cotton shirt
                merino top

Sis-in-law : Megan Nielson Briar top.

Now for myself


Deer and Doe Chardon skirt
Grainline Moss Skirt

Jersey tops

Tessuti Mandy Boat Tee
Tessuti Alexa T x 2
Tessuti Fave Top
Grainline Scout tee
Sewaholic Renfrew 1 V-neck, short sleeved, 2 cowl long sleeved
Megan Nielson Briar 1 red, 1 black long sleeved, 1 short sleeved
Maria Denmark Day-to-night top
Birgitte Basic Tee

Above is Tessuti Alexa Tee

This is the Tessuti Mandy Boat Tee.

There is not one of these jersey tops that I don't like.  I wear them all regularly, I guess if I had to pick one fabulous all rounder, it would be the Sewaholic renfrew because of the multiple neckline options.

Woven Tops

Colette Laurel top
Deer and Doe Airelle blouse here
Grainline Archer
Merchant and Mills Camber top here

I was sure I had made more woven tops, love all of the above, I was particularly proud of my Archer because it was first time for attaching collar, doing buttonholes and proper cuffs.  Wear it a lot and will definitely make more.

Jersey Dresses

Maria Denmark Day to night dress here
Grainline Hemlock made in dress length blogged in this post.
Maria Denmark 2036 60's dress, Made this with a hi-lo hem for a formal, haven't worn since.  May alter it.
Maria Denmark red ponte 2007 here

Woven Dresses

April Rhodes Staple Dress
Dress 'T' from Stylish Dress Book here

Again I can't believe I only made two, especially as we spent a month in an extremely hot France.  I think it was the time factor.  As regards these particular patterns, yes I like the Staple Dress, it is what it says.  The one from the Stylish dress book, never felt my skirt/waist modification quite worked.


Colette Clover. (Started in Feb, looked great except the invisible zip wouldn't go up past the waistband seam and they have been hiding ever since)
Tessuti linen Laura pants.  (Wore a lot over the summer, great for travelling)
Anita Ponti Pants x 2 (Will make these again & again, love them)

'Outer' garments

Jamie Christina Sol Hoodie blogged here
Liesl & Co Woodland Stroll cape. here

Summary, conclusions and plans for 2014 sewing next.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

A dark Camber on the Winter solstice.

Not one normally for dark clothes (had enough of that when I worked in Finance) it did seem appropriate to have finished my navy Camber top on the shortest day of the year.  Have to say I struggled to even see it... navy thread on dark navy fabric, probably not a good idea.

Having enjoyed previous Merchant and Mills patterns when they first came out (namely the Dress Shirt and the Panel dress) I really wanted to give their new ones a try.  This was kind of a muslin to see firstly the process and also check the fit. I decided to make the Tee shirt in the Camber Set first, with a view to making the dress. It looks such a simple classic design I thought I would have it made in an afternoon, but like all classically tailored garments there is more to it than meets the eye.

The fabric I used for the main is Brannock and Patek flannel in navy check from Raystitch. These fabrics are lovely and cosy, although not heavy, I used one before to make a Banksia blouse (by Megan Nielson) and wore it a lot last year. The fabric used for the yoke was from Parson Gray range Curious Nature called Universe.  I had previously used this to make a tie for the husband.

 The two fabrics worked well together, I think.

Anyway... the pattern itself. The beauty of it is definitely in the details.

1.  Quite long bust darts which give it a great shape.
2.  A lovely narrow fine neck binding.
3.  A lined yoke on the back which is stitched along with the back neck binding.

The last point, to be honest, I found surprisingly tricky and got it on the 3rd attempt.  I would say it is worth taking your time to really accurately cut your pattern pieces and fabric and also to measure your seam allowances so that they are spot on.  I think I was rushing a bit, which meant it actually took longer in the end.

Having made this once I will definitely be doing more.  There are so many possibilities, for winter it would be lovely in a Liberty Lantana or other fine wool fabric, or even cord. In summer linen or chambray probably in a plain fabric would be great.  It would be very business-like with a suit for anyone who works in that sort of office environment, but equally nice with casual trousers.

This was a multi-size pattern which is, as you would expect from Merchant and Mills, a lovely quality made from a very durable paper. I made the size 14 with no modifications at all and it is a perfect fit on me. I wasn't really sure if it would suit me, but I love it and will definitely be making the dress....  I have a tartan fabric lined up for that, maybe in time for Hogmanay!! It seems to have a bit more curve going on, so should be nice,  look forward to making it.

I have been pondering as to why it is named the Camber.  I presume it is to do with the slope of the shoulders and neckline with the yoke, but I could be totally wrong, anyway.... I like it.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Plush, slinky, shiney .... maybe it's christmas!

'Tis the season for being jolly, having some christmas cheer and generally socialising, maybe a little bit more than normal.  Not having any formal occasions, as such, I felt there was still room for a little bit of wardrobe 'perking up', but kind of in a casual way.

I have had the Grainline scout woven tee since the summer, but hadn't got around to trying it.  Having seen a lot of tartan around the shops I though a nice tartan velour would do the job nicely.

I chose this cerise velvet spandex fabric from +Tissu fabrics which is a four way stretch fabric.  As Jen at Grainline had also done this tutorial for a knit version of the Scout Tee it seemed ideal as the velvet fabric had a great drape to it.

The pattern itself is a simple design, front, back, 2 short sleeves and a t-shirt binding around the neckline.  As I don't have an overlocker (as yet... Santa?) I used an overlock stitch on my sewing machine. The hem and sleeves were hemmed using a twin needle.  I like the design of the Scout, it has more of a loose, drapey shape, not fitted at all.  I will definitely be trying the woven version as well for the spring.

I also got navy stretch velvet as well to make some leggings.  I used the Tessuti Anita ponti pants pattern for them.  I had made them before in a lovely ponte jersey from Tessuti and loved the shape of them.  (They are not quite as narrow as leggings) I wasn't sure if the four way stretch would do as well for the pattern (saggy bottom ... not a good look) but I am pleased to say that it worked great, they are extremely comfortable and after a night out they kept their shape completely. I went down a size to a 12 this time and reduced the distance from waist to crotch by 1 inch and they are a much better fit on me. I just intended them as a christmasy pair of leggings, not really to go with the Scout tee, but I wore them together to a casual 'do' and it worked ok, I think.  The tee might be ever so slightly short with the leggings but I think I just about got away with it.

So overall a very inexpensive christmas outfit.  In the past I have spent quite a bit on 'christmas' type outfits and you don't get the wear out of them as maybe you feel you can only wear them a certain number of times, especially if you are with the same people.  When you don't pay as much, it doesn't matter too much.

I wouldn't normally be so 'showy' with the behind, just to show the shape of the Anita pants.

So there you go, think I will get good wear out of these two.  I also quite like the look of the velvet, the only slight drawbacks are that it is a bit slippery to stitch at times and it also does not keep the cold out that well, but great for nights out!

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Day to night drape dress.

Isn't it great to discover sewing patterns that are very multi-use.  Such a pattern for me is the Day-to-night drape top by Maria Denmark.  It is such a quick and easy make and has been a very good style for me.  It is basically a cowl neck top which I first made as a long sleeve top in a light weight cream jersey.

The sleeve pattern piece from the Birgitte pattern fits the day-to-night top perfectly, which is great.

My recent addition has been to use the day-to-night top as a dress, simply by lengthening the pattern pieces.  The pattern calls for fold-over elastic which I got from Kleins.  They have 10 colours and it is so useful and easy to work with. I used the beige for the top which almost had a gold sheen to it and the fuchsia for the dress which is a great deep pink.

Here's a closer look at the elastic stitched at the armhole.  As you can see, I just used a zig-zag stitch on my machine, which worked fine.  The elastic is stitched around the armholes and around the back neckline.

So for the dress version I used this stretch jersey from +Minerva crafts which is a lovely mix of navy, black, jade green and pink.  It is perhaps a little bit light weight, but luckily the weather is exceptionally mild at the minute, so I can get away with it.

So I just thought I would show you how versatile this dress is.  Here it is with a fine long-sleeved top underneath, worn with my flat boots.

Then worn just as it is, feeling christmasy, all ready for christmas parties with higher heels.

So there it is, overall a very versatile pattern, one that I will definitely be returning to again and again, like a lot of Maria Denmark patterns.  Think I would use a slightly heavier jersey or even a knit fabric the next time.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Beginnings of Albion!

The above picture is less than half of the pdf pattern for the Albion duffle coat.  It is part of the men's Walden collection by Colette patterns.  If ever there was a case for just buying an already printed pattern this is probably it.  The pattern pieces alone produces 88 A4 pages, then the instructions after that.  That's a lot of table/floor space, paper and sellotape.  I have lately preferred pdf patterns firstly because of the immediacy ie. you don't have to wait for it to arrive in the post.  Also you can print off different sizes whereas with a bought paper pattern once it's cut in a particular size that's it.

Definitely something to consider for a big project like a coat, I think.  Anyway, this is something for my husband.  He rarely asks for anything, but he spied me looking at this when it first was released and after plying with some red wine, I found myself offering to make it for him.  I haven't even made myself a coat yet! What have I taken on?

So the pattern pieces are cut out and the main fabric has arrived. It is a camel wool blend coating from Guthrie & Ghani (the shop opened by Lauren who was on the Sewing Bee, always nice to support new young ventures) The flannel lining I had planned to use from my stash is just too small, so I will have to choose another one.  There is to be a sew-along in the New Year so I think I will get all prepared and make a bit of a start, then try to follow along.  Don't want to rush it and make a mess of it.  Anyway still some more Christmas sewing to do!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Winthrop Cardi finished!

Well, I have finally finished my Winthrop cardigan.  This cardigan was started last January but was abandoned for most of the spring, summer & even autumn months for a number of reasons, no fault of it's own.

I have been a knitter since my mum taught me as a teenager, but I was shown the flat knitting style and always knit with yarns that the local wool shop stocked.  Not that there was anything really wrong with that, but it was only when I started following blogs (mainly for sewing tips) that I realised there is a whole spectrum of scrumptious yarns out there that don't involve a high percentage of acrylic and my interest in knitting started again.

I also realised there were other styles like 'knitting on the round', knitting with double pointed needles and also a magnificent haven of knitterly wonderment called ravelry!  So last year I started with a lovely wee hat, knit on the round, the Snoflinga hat, by Wiksten.  It was a lovely hat to start using circular needles with (yarn is Brooklyn Tweed Shelter) and was closely followed by the eternity scarf.

Anyway, I wanted to try a garment knit on the round and thought the best bet was to keep it 'simple', that is, no cables or fancy stitches and no colour work.  So I chose the Winthrop cardigan.  So what about it then?  Well the basic stitches were simple enough, but there were two techniques I hadn't bargained for, these were the 'wrap and turn' which is basically shaping a garment and the other is attaching an i-cord.

For the 'wrap and turn' which frankly I hadn't a clue about I used this fantastic tutorial by Amanda Berry.  I did a trial run separately to get an idea of what was going on and this really helped.  Once I had done the tutorial I was able to work it on the cardigan with no problem.  Sometimes it's worth taking that bit of extra time to get it right.

The other hurdle (in my head) was the icord, which again I did not have a clue about.  For this I used the wonderful i-cord tutorial by purlbee.  Again I took it slowly and did a wee trial run.  Again it was worth taking the time to do this and it worked out fine on the actual cardigan.

The above photo is attaching the i-cord, sorry it is really hard to photograph.

The yarn I used is the beautiful Soft Donegal from thisisknit.ie.  It is called 'navy' but to me it is more like royal blue with flecks of red and turquoise.  It is 100% merino, lovely and warm, but not heavy,  which is a 2-ply which can be used as a heavy dk or a light aran.  I will definitely be using this yarn again.

The other thing I was determined to do with this project was 'blocking'.  I got some help from the hubbie and his staple gun and we made the blocking board. (see last post) and diligently pinned it out.

Again, I had never done this process before.... ever, but, of course, it really made a difference.  After I had it pinned out to the dimensions according to the size on the pattern, I used my iron and went over the cardigan holding the iron about an inch above it, sometimes using the jet steam. I then left the whole thing for 2 days until it all seemed dry.  It made the i-cord sit better and with more shape and just finished the garment better.

So there it is... finished.  A 'simple' edge to edge cardigan.  I love it's shaping, the lovely edging, the yarn. I mostly love the fact that it was a real learning experience for me and I think I am hooked with this style of knitting and will be trying more.  Not really wanting to say anything negative, but there is one thing that I'm not too sure about.... the sleeves are really wide.  It is the style of them, but not sure.
Overall though I really like it and it was lovely wearing it today almost as a jacket.  

Now, what next for the needles?!

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Grainline Moss Skirt in 'knitted wool'

I downloaded the Grainline Moss mini skirt pattern ages ago, but had never got around to trying it out. Truth be told I wasn't sure if it would suit me plus there was also a fly front zip which I have never tried before.

I needn't have worried because Jen at Grainline studios patterns have great instructions and there was also a detailed photo tutorial of how to insert a fly front zipper which you can find here.  It's more or less the same as what's in the pattern but it helps to see photos. There is a back yoke and lovely top stitching detail, which in retrospect would have been nice in a contrasting coloured thread.  Oh well, that will be for the next one.

The fabric I used was this lovely Japanese double gauze fabric - it is called 'With Reality' and is a very soft, cosy flannel which has the appearance of a cable knit.  (It would be lovely for children's clothing too.) I used a stretch denim that I had left over from another project for the waistband and the hem band and used a Liberty poplin for the lining on the hem and the pocket linings.  I cut a size 14 which has turned out a little big, think I would cut a 12 the next time.  There will definitely be a next time as I really love this skirt. It suits my lifestyle, mostly working from home, but could easily be worn with heels too if called for.  I would say a denim in blue or red will follow in the New Year or spring.  I think I could maybe even leave the hem band off.  I am 5'6" and I think the length would be fine on me especially in the spring or summer.

So overall this is a great skirt, I see it getting quite a bit of wear, very comfortable and with nice little pockets, the back yoke, fly front and lined hem band ... all lovely details.

I got the husband involved in 'craft/diy' yesterday, as I decided I had to have a blocking board.  It consists of a large piece of plywood, with thick wadding and 'upholstered' on a lovely fabric.  Yes the 'man' cupboard does prove useful sometimes... any excuse to try out the electric staple gun.  He knew he had it for a reason!

There is no doubt it is a thing of beauty and.....

he even put a back on it.

I never even heard of 'blocking' knitted garments until I started reading blogs and I have been knitting for years, must have missed that lesson in the training.  I think a damp cloth might have been used at a push, so we will have to see the difference.  I have my finished garment pinned out, so here's hoping. Looks like the snowy weather is coming this week so I hope it dries out soon, haha.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

The Woodland Stroll Cape.... for Loch Erne

I have had a weekend away booked for ages, but of course left the wardrobe planning to the last minute. It was to be a hotel break for myself and 6 female friends, the main aims to obviously have a lot of laughs, relax in the hot tub, eat and generally be merry. We all dressed up on the Friday evening  - for this I made the +Maria Denmark Day to night top into a dress. I love this pattern as it is quick and easy to make and has a lovely flattering cowl-type neckline.  Incredibly I have no decent photos of it so I will put it on the blog later.

I was tired of my winter 'dressy' coats, so I thought I would make a cape.  The Liesl & Co Woodland Stroll Cape seemed perfect and turned out to be perfect for my weekend.  I used a black cashmere coating fabric which I had purchased last January from Dragonflyfabrics in their sale.  I had thought of making a dress with it, but then thought it was too thick, so it seemed right for this project.

The lining is a multi-coloured polyester blend spotty fabric, which is lovely and bright and I do like it, but in retrospect I wish I had used a flannel fabric for extra warmth, as the coating is surprisingly light.

So, the pattern itself? Well it really couldn't be better.  I cut it out last Saturday and it was sitting ready on Monday afternoon waiting for the closures to arrive in the post.

So, the pattern consists of 1 back piece, 2 front pieces and a simple facing and the same for the lining.  I didn't use any interfacing mainly because I didn't have any and I was in a rush.  Tut, tut. But I thought my fabric was sturdy enough without it.

Probably the only potentially tricky bit might be keeping your lining nice and smooth when you are attaching to main fabric.  It is worth taking your time over this as there is nothing worse than a hanging down lining.   Other than that it is a simple make and I am delighted with the result.

  As I haven't done that many buttonholes yet, I decided to get these closures from Minerva Crafts.  They have a great range of metal, wooden and plastic closures and toggles, which I think work quite well on this cape.  Where the buttons were meant to be on the underarm I used the Prym sport and camping  stud fasteners which work fine too.

Another good think about this cape is that it only uses 1.5 yards of the main fabric so even if you use a wool fabric, it's not going to break the bank.  Black probably wouldn't have been my first choice, it would look great in tweed, tartan or a lovely bright coloured boiled wool. You could even use a water repellent cotton. It looks great with trousers, jeans, dresses and a straight pencil skirt and, of course, very 'in' right now.  Can you tell I like it?  I think there will definitely be more!  Perfect for the weekend away.

Sorry, the photos don't really do it justice between dark days and dark fabric and I look like I've seen a ghost in some of them.

I'll leave you with a wee photo of the marina at the +Manor House Hotel and view from my room.  The colours of the trees were lovely.