Thursday, 31 January 2013

After this I shall only be sewing for myself

Corduroy dress for L - McCalls M6154

With a ladybird label and wonky topstitching.

Then, a blanket for a baby boy
Made with fleece, flannel, piping and a retro old sheet

Because cowboys and indians are always cool, aren't they?

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I have something flu-like this week. Just about not bad enough to stay home from work, but plenty bad enough to feel awful while I'm there and totally kill all crafting plans afterwards.

But tomorrow is February, and February promises sewing fun. A briar sewalong, which I had been hoping would happen and am planning to enthusiastically jump into, and a Polka Dot Frock Fest which unfathomably grabbed me when I saw Scruffy Badger tweeting about it. I have polkadots just sitting in my stash after reconsidering the dress I bought them for, and New Look 6000 had been tempting me for a while, so altogether I couldn't resist. I also have a lovely red Jasmine blouse cut out and ready to go, and a whole host of lovely ideas to sew for my own wardrobe as spring approaches.

No, I shall not think about sewing things for anyone else again for quite a long time.


Wednesday, 23 January 2013

DIY snow warrior!

Or, as this post could be but definitely isn't subtitled: how you too can look like a jihadist in fleece.

Truly and honestly, the slightly unfortunate nature of this pose did not occur to me until I was on the other side of the camera, downloading - I was just trying to show off all my cold weather defences at once. And then the first thing that sprung to mind was the rather beautiful traditional dress of the Tuareg - the "blue men" of the Sahara.

The hot-weather version - click for source

But then - war in Mali, hostages in Algeria. I don't know what to say (or actually even think) about these things, and I could just not mention it, I suppose. But although this is and will remain my little sewing bubble, it would seem a bit wrong not to acknowledge where that whole thought process went - ignoring such things does us all a disservice. However, for the moment I shall not be stepping, well-intentioned and ill-informed, into current affairs. I suspect I may be of more use to humanity in sharing my tips on how to sew yourself some maximum wind-chill protection. Would you like details?

Oh, I'm so glad you would! :-)

The mittens were what started it. Two Saturdays ago I went out with T and got very cold hands, and came home and looked up a tutorial for fleece-lined mittens and had them sewed up in less than an hour, and then went out again, this time with much less cold hands (to begin my search for a serger - but that's another story!) By the time I got home again, I had already designated the first mittens a trial version, and these little beauties are my second, victoriously successful pair:

And once I had the fleece out anyway, it was but a small step towards a matching hat and cowl.

Further adventures out of the house demonstrated that the cowl was too draughty to be sub-zero effective, and thus there followed something that I believe gets called a neck gaitor, but what I shall glamorously call a fleece neck tube, to go underneath (because a gaitor is for your legs, and sounds silly besides).

With the fleece neck tube worn up over your nose, this get-up is warm. Warm like, I took off one glove for 30 seconds on Sunday and my hand hurt with the cold for 10 minutes afterwards - while the other one was too hot. I start sweating on the short walks in the snow, without exerting myself in the slightest.

Having pulled together this lot over a week of 15-minute sewing here and there, I figured I would quickly round up the tutorials and techniques I used, because if you're organised and have a free couple of hours I don't think it would take much longer than that. Which could be helpful for those in colder climes (sorry, Antipodeans! Hope you're enjoying your summer!)

  • Lining and neck gaitor: fleece! For all of these items make sure to cut your pieces with the stretch going from side to side, not lengthways.
  • Outers: for the hat and mittens (blue fabric) I used an old sweater, not felted because it wasn't wool and wouldn't shrink :-)
  • The yellow mittens outer piece is a shrunk piece of boucle wool.
  • The blue side of the cowl is cotton jersey. Feels nice and cool, in contrast to the fleece, but adds an extra layer of warmth.
  • And finally, ribbing for the mitten cuffs.
Depending on the size of your stash, you may or may not already have this at your disposal. I did (the shame! I shocked myself with the contents of my 'leftovers' box!)

  • I first used this tutorial and free pattern: a very quick sew because there's no cuff. I found this to be a disadvantage, so...
  • My über-successful mittens are based on the purl bee's free pattern. The shaping of these is lovely.
  • I cut a slightly increased seam allowance of 1 cm (3/8") around the outside, i.e. a 1/8" increase, and added a full 1.5cm (5/8") seam allowance at the wrist.
  • Sew the outer and lining according to the instructions in the first tutorial (purl bee's mittens aren't lined so the tutorial doesn't include instructions for that).
  • The cuff: sew a tube of ribbing twice the length you want your finished cuff, plus a bit for the seam where you'll attach it to the glove (I stretched the ribbing around my wrist to decide the width of it). 
  • Sew the ribbing to the outer piece, right sides together, and then stuff the glove part inside the tube of ribbing. Sew the other end of the cuff piece to the fleece lining, leaving a 2.5 cm (1") hole.
  • Turn the glove right side out by pulling the entire thing through the hole between cuff and lining.
  • Sew up the hole by hand.

Look how cosy! And no-one will ever see just how rubbish my hand stitching is!

  • I used this pattern, cutting the same shape for the outer and inner fleece hats.
  • But, I sewed the sides together instead of knotting them, using a slightly smaller seam allowance for the outer hat.
  • Just like for the mittens, wrap the ribbing around your head to decide how tight you want the band to be, then cut a piece double the finished length you want.
  • Sew the short ends of the ribbing right sides together to make a loop.
  • Sew this loop to the outer hat, right sides together, then to the fleece lining, also right sides together and leaving a 1" gap.
  • Pull the hat right side out through the gap, and hand-stitch it shut.

  • Cut two identical lengths of fleece and jersey (or other desired outer fabric - but it'll work best with a bit of stretch in it). Mine were one fabric width (150 cm) by about 30 cm.
  • Sew it into a looped cowl like this (and don't again end up sewing it inside out. Yes really, again).

Fleece neck loop thing (otherwise known as a neck gaitor)
  • Cut a piece of fleece about 30 cm long. The width should be about the circumference of your head (over your ears) plus a bit. Fleece does stretch but mine's a bit tight and it's a little fiddly to get on. However, too loose and it'll be draughty and thus not fit for purpose.
  • Sew it into a loop along the 30 cm sides, right sides together.
  • Hem the raw edges if you like - I didn't!

Done! Now get out there and attack that snow!

Cold weather don't bother me, oh no. I sewed myself some warm.


Thursday, 17 January 2013

Dreamer, planner or do-er?

Well over the last couple of weeks I've been enjoying reading people's sewing plans, ambitions and resolutions for 2013. Loads of great, inspiring ideas out there, as always!

But I've read them all with a weird sense of disquiet. And the growing realisation that that's absolutely not how my process works - indeed, it's the very thought of it that makes me uneasy (and I wonder why that is? Each to his or her own, after all). So instead of my plans and resolutions for this year - because I have none - you're getting a once-in-a-lifetime tour around my sewing thought process. Hold on to your seats!

Here we start, in my sewing space with a lot of Works in Progress:

Yes, I have charged into the new year rather manically with a lot of sewing! Some of the things you see have been in or on my mind for a long time, and I've just grabbed the moment to start them. Some were ideas that came from nowhere, or came from other ideas that changed many times until suddenly permutating into whatever it was that got spewed out of my sewing machine one evening (it's almost always in the evening). Still others are on a mental list that I would like to complete before spring/summer is upon us - but I've learned from experience how likely that is to happen, so it stays filed under 'dream sewing' until there comes a moment when chance and inclination collide to make them reality. And that, friends, is the entirety of my process.

This photo might lead you to think otherwise, but I generally like to finish one thing before moving on to the next. For once I recently got hit with an urge to cut several things at once so I could sew them all in a row afterwards. No more new things, though, till these are done! Here's the lowdown:

  • 2 patterns: one is for me - Colette's Jasmine. Confession: I have never made a blouse before. Hence thinking this would be a good start - no closures and not too difficult. The other one is a dress for L, because she insists on growing ALL THE TIME and I literally cannot keep her in clothes from one week to the next. Soon she will be too big for the sizes of this pattern so this is its last hurrah.
  • 1 pile of notions - is that little lot of bias and ribbon in the top right, and maybe some buttons from my boxes on the left, for L's dress. Because she's still small enough to do cute.
  • 3 toiles: yes, three! Because the Jasmine might be easy but the reason I don't make or wear blouses is because I have never found one that fit well. And this one bloody well will, if it kills me! I admit though, the photo actually shows 2 toiles (out of old sheets) and then my red fashion fabric. But there will be a third AND I VERY MUCH HOPE FINAL one, to check I've got it right.
  • Colour of year - why yes! This is a scarf with a plan that I hatched in about October, and I was rather pleased to see that Pantone subsequently approved my colour choice. Hopefully you will see this in another incarnation relatively soon!

And then in the dreams section of my 2013-non-planning plan...

... and a Sewaholic Alma?? These are all patterns I have queued up, excitedly waiting to be tried (OK I admit, I'm the excited one, not the patterns). The washing basket is full of the old sheets and cheap jersey that I am planning to use either for toile versions or easy, hopefully wearable muslim, trial versions. Yes I have a lot of old sheets, and I recently hauled more from a lovely charity shop in the UK while staying with the folks. More on that soon (can you stand the suspense??)

In other news, what the above pictures don't show is a recent space invasion.

We got a desktop computer. As was always the plan for this room. But still, I am totally having my crafting mojo disturbed by G sitting there. Especially because he keeps saying things like, oh so THAT's where all the washing baskets have gone. I thought you were actually doing washing with them. And actually, I don't have any clean shirts. [...] Insert here what I believe is called a pregnant pause [...]

The dreaming/planning/doing of all the above has also been recently interrupted by this:

Winter has finally hit, and lovely it is too. The view from my craft room window (yes, it's still officially My Craft Room!!) is now this:

And this is what's on the table:

Mitten attack! (And my current favourite mug).

:: :: ::
So which are you - a dreamer, a planner or a just plain do-er? Do you get stressed without a list, or perhaps more stressed by having one? Or stressed by the fact that everyone else has one (hand up!)

If you're a planner or a list-maker, do you let yourself deviate and sew inspirational interruptions? Or does that just not happen? I've got to say - it was the total inability to stick to a list that did for my attempts to plan any more. And I'm so much happier for having given it up!

And finally, what I really want to know today is - what are you sewing right now?

Please tell!


Friday, 11 January 2013

Recipe: oatmeal & lavender bath soak

In the end, what with having an apron, two bathrobes and a tablecloth on my to-do list, I didn't get any other Christmas sewing done. That was already enough, and so much for the fabulous ideas I came up with in November. My #1 rule of sewing: know your limits, and by that I mean, know that your time is not limitless :-)

Anyway, I couldn't bring myself to actually go and buy presents for my friends, because that would have felt a bit heartless after all that hypothetical handcrafting. In the end, they all got a jar of peppermint bark, and a jar of this:

It doesn't fizz, or explode in bubbles, or do a spectularly soothing song and dance. But: the nights I bathe in this are the nights I sleep like the proverbial baby (not like a real baby, obviously).

It's easily made, and in quantities that let you give a little bit of homemade love to even your very widest circle of friends (but really, much much love, any reading recipients!). Or to yourself of course.

  • 1 kg porridge oats
  • 500g Epsom salts
  • Lavender essential oil - a few drops
  • Dried lavender flowers, 150-200g

Put the oats in a blender or magimix and mix them for a good long time until they're as floury as possible. There'll still be some bigger bits of bran and such but that's ok.

Pour the oats into a bowl and use a metal spoon to stir in the Epsom salts and dried lavender. Once they're well mixed, shake in a few drops of the essential oil and stir again; begin cautiously with just a few drops, and repeat until it smells as strong as you would like.

Pour into sterilised jars, screw the lid on tight, and that's it.

To use, sprinkle a couple of spoonfuls in the bath and then soak yourself in it. You'll need to rinse some bran and lavender out of the bath afterwards, but as long as you do it straight away it's very easy (I suspect the oatmeal would stick hellishly if you left it to dry).

May you be as soothed by it as I am...


Sunday, 6 January 2013

Wine-stained apron

Doesn't sound like much of a present for a best friend, does it?

But H and I love wine and we love to cook, and when I spotted this fabric from Our Patterned Hand I knew I had to make her something with it and an apron seemed perfect. I traced my favourite one which covers everything and ties round at the front like on Masterchef, and got all fancy with a D-ring so the neck band would be adjustable. It's lined and sturdy so it should take everything she can throw at it.

If we ever decide it should have been a tablecloth instead we can always go DIY with some white linen and a bottle of red (it'll be a pleasure!).

Obviously I couldn't get H to model it before giving it to her, so you get me instead :-)

Incidentally, ordering from Our Patterned Hand was a joy. I phoned them for a postage quote, being on the other side of the sea from them, and they were so very helpful and friendly, and got it sent off super quick. Recommended!


Tuesday, 1 January 2013

review : resolution

Happy New Year 2013! 

Are you raring to go too? Yes - New Year, new ideas! And I'm so happy that a few days off can be so reinvigorating; I'm just itching to get home to my sewing machine!

But first, a look back - because I started blogging this year not only to connect, but also to remember the things I spend so much time and effort making. And goodness, seeing it all put together has actually been rather astonishing ...

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I can hardly believe that these are just the makes I've blogged about since getting going in August! Some of them date from earlier in the summer, but there's a good four months of making in early 2012 that I didn't document and can hardly remember now. In that sense this space is successfully doing it's job as my sewing journal - something I'm very glad about.

In another way, though, I feel that I haven't quite found my blogging groove. I'll be honest: I can be a little shy when it comes to making online friends. I get jittery when I think about the commitment it takes to build relationships across the big wide web - even when that's a good chunk of the reason I so wanted to join this lovely sewing blogosphere. I get awkward. And so it is that as the new year opens, I feel the need to apologise to not one, not two, but three bloggers. Two of whom - Kirsty and Adrienne, and go and read their blogs if you don't already! - have so very kindly nominated me for a One Lovely Blog Award.

I'm afraid that, amid the pre-Christmas and general daily rush, I got a bit rabbit-in-the-headlights about the 'rules': sharing seven facts about yourself, and passing the award along. I kind of forgot that it's ok too to just gracefully say thank you - and have been feeling ever so ungraceful that I didn't do it. Kirsty and Adrienne - Thank You!

My other, bigger apology goes to Ladybug & Co. After swapping comments on the fabulous sou'wester she made for her daughter, she very kindly sent me a copy of the pattern for it so I could make my own (which I fully intend to do, ever so soon) and I, in my embarrassment at such generosity and total failure to think of an appropriate thank you present, not to mention a sudden drying-up of the relevant Dutch vocab, have not yet replied in any way at all... Annemarie: Dank je wel, en mijn diepste, meest oprechte excuses. A little token of appreciation will find it's way to your door very, very soon...

For anyone thinking - why bother airing this? Well, I thought it over and I thought it necessary, because niceness, kindness, friendliness - these are the things I value in sewing blogland, and really I can't think of myself as a nice, kind, friendly person if I don't act like one. I've felt privileged to be able to "join in" and to be welcomed by people who read and comment, as I find my feet in making my online home here.

So as I close the door on 2012, I'm making a blog resolution for 2013: to be myself, to be open and to be kind on this blog of mine. My sewing space up there at home has become a real refuge, and I don't want to feel like I'm not at ease in my online space too. We all understand that each other's lives get busy sometimes, and that's ok, but it's not an excuse for bad manners :-)

So, with all that said - my best wishes to you all for your sewing, blogging and all other endeavours in 2013!

I'll be back soon with some handmade Christmas presents to show and tell - and then let the new projects commence!