Treasure Trove

A random comment I noticed on a Facebook group last night sent me off on a treasure hunt this morning. It mentioned a fabric shop I’d never heard of, just a short drive from where I live. I’ve been on the lookout for some cheap knit fabric so I can practise the Renfrew top pattern I bought at the Knitting and Stitching Show, before I let myself loose on the spensive fabric I bought with it.

The fabric shop itself was much smaller than I’d hoped and didn’t carry a vast amount of stock. Most of it was printed cottons suitable for quilting, but I did find an end-of-roll offcut of a pink floral-printed jersey. I didn’t measure it, but it was only three quid, so I bought it anyway and hope it might be enough for a first crack at a Renfrew.

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The treasure was to be found in the adjacent barn. It hosts a selection of small businesses, almost like a small indoor market – vintage clothes, art and papercraft supplies, a small haberdashery, a petfood stall, fruit and veg, even a yarn shop, but the crown was the most amazing Aladdins Cave of a cake decorating supplier. They stocked just about everything you could possibly want for cake decorating – tools, toppers, food colourings, fondant icing, edible glitter, boxes, cake boards, stands, and a huge selection of cake tins for hire. I know where I’ll be heading next time I need some serious cake supplies, and it’s much nearer than the place I used to go to!

I think I’ll have to keep looking for a good local fabric shop. I discovered a great one a few weeks ago when I visited a friend and her yarn shop in Essex, but sadly that can hardly be considered local! Still, if you’re in the vicinity of Braintree in Essex, Blake House Craft Centre is definitely worth a mooch. They have a whole range of shops there though I’ve only been in two of them myself. And Sew On stocks a wide variety of fabrics and haberdashery supplies. I could have lost hours in there and left with a considerably lighter purse had I been in the mood for indulging. Just next door is my friend’s shop Sconch, which is just yarn heaven. It carries probably the biggest range of yarn types I’ve ever found in a single yarn shop. They have a great space for running Craft and Cake sessions several days a week. The staff were friendly and helpful. They also run an online shop which I’ve ordered from in the past and they have excellent customer service. I’d definitely recommend stopping by if you can.

I’m resisting buying any yarn at the moment as I have several projects lined up already, but I couldn’t come away completely empty handed, so I bought these cute stitch markers.

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What’s your local yarn or fabric shop like? Have you ever come across a crafty treasure trove?

Dagenham Dress

This was going to be a series of work in progress posts, but since it all progressed rather quickly and to a deadline, and injuring my wrist at rehearsal a couple of weeks ago made typing difficult, it’s ended up as a fait-accompli post instead!

I’ve been rehearsing over the last few months for a production of Made in Dagenham. It’s set in the 1960’s and is based on the true story of the women workers of the Ford factory in Dagenham who went on strike for equal pay. It’s a fun show with great music and of course it requires lots of great costumes in keeping with the 60s era. My character in particular needs several different outfits and since the wardrobe mistress has her hands full costuming everyone else, I offered to have a crack at making a dress for myself.

I’ve never really sewn a garment on my own from scratch before. I did a bit of dressmaking as a teenager, though only simple skirts, and always under the tutelage of my mum. My mum and I also worked together to make my wedding dress several years ago. I’ve wanted to have a go at something a bit more ambitious ever since I got a sewing machine for Christmas a couple of years ago, but until now had only ever done simple mending jobs, or basic projects like my crochet hook roll and Pumpkin’s pencil case.

So, after a little bit of procrastinatory research, I decided the only this to do was to bite the bullet and throw myself into it. A trip to the local fabric store and I was equipped with pattern, fabric, lining material and a zip.

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I was a good girl and put the fabric straight into the washing machine when I got home. Then read the pattern properly and realised I would need a few other things. Cue another hasty trip to a different haberdashery shop for interfacing, carbon paper, tracing wheel and a rotary cutter.

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Since I was between sizes, I had a go at grading the pattern out at the waist and further at the hips. I made a toile out of the lining fabric to begin with to check the fit and ended up adjusting the grading a fair bit. The red line above shows my first attempt.

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Tin cans make excellent pattern weights!

 

I spent a long time laying the pattern out and tracing it using the carbon paper and wheel. I still took a big deep breath before I started cutting it. (Rotary cutting wheels are awesome by the way!) There were quite a lot of moments throughout the project where I found myself starting to question each new step and whether I was doing it right or was going to risk messing up what I’d already done. I just told myself to suck it up and get on with it. I’m not always very good at doing that. Often projects sit and linger when I can’t quite bring myself to do the next step for fear of messing up.

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Once I was happy with the toile I moved onto the main fabric. I thought it could be a big challenge having to do all the pattern matching, but in fact having the lines to keep me on track really helped.

Sewing the shoulder seams would have been easier if I’d fully unpicked the lining after using it as a toile. I did have to unpick it all eventually, otherwise the construction wouldn’t have worked. Pulling the whole thing right side out through the shoulder straps required some mental gymnastics, but was easy enough. I would need to think through the seams allowances better if I was doing it again, in terms of which way they lie and trimming them better before flipping it through, as they ended up being a little bulky, but that’s just how you learn, right!?

Inserting the zip was a similar story. I’ve only done a zip once before – on Pumpkins pencil case – and never an invisible zip. The first side went in fine. The second side took me a couple of attempts and then when I flipped it round I discovered it was twisted anyway, so I had to unpick that side again and reposition it before stitching again. Fortunately it went in right first time after that and I was very pleased with the pattern matching.

This was the point at which I fell over at rehearsal and sprained my wrist, so the dress rested for a week before I could get back to it. But with the show looming I had to push on. I basted the sides together and my wardrobe mistress kindly helped to check the fit and mark the hemline and it was fairly straightforward after that, just a little slow.

The hem was the bit that I procrastinate over the most I think. With everything having gone together so well up to that point, I really didn’t want to mess it up at the final hurdle. I pinned and repinned and basted and pressed and eventually took a deep breath before chopping off the excess length. I hand sewed the outer fashion fabric for a neater finish on the outside and machine stitched the lining.

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I’m incredibly proud of the finished garment especially given it’s the first time I’ve made something like this, and to wear it onstage and pretend it’s a designer outfit is a fantastic feeling. I’m absolutely loving doing the show too. I got my nails done last week to help me get into character as well. So unlike me, but they complement the dress perfectly! Here’s to more successful sewing!

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Knitting and Stitching show

We had a great day at the Knitting and Stitching Show, once we’d successfully navigated past the queue of people that definitely didn’t fit the crafting demographic! They were there for Walker Stalker which I believe is a convention for fans of the Walking Dead.

Here’s a few snapshots of our day.

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Lauren Guthrie BBC Sewing Bee finalist 2013

 

 

 

We watched Lauren Guthrie give a very good demo of working with knit fabrics. We perused the many many stands and finally made our considered purchases.

I’m hoping to have a go at making a top out of knit fabric, so I bought a set from Guthrie and Ghani which includes ball point needles and twin needles and some helpful info for working with knits. Lauren recommended the Sewaholic Renfrew top pattern as a starting point and helped me choose some fabric. I went for the Art Gallery Tomahawke striped cotton jersey.

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I also bought thread to match the jersey and some more black thread for my current project along with some new dressmaking scissors. My old pair has been used for a lot of different purposes over the years and are less than sharp these days so a new pair was definitely called for.

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Tilly also featured in the 2013 BBC Sewing Bee

My friend bought the Tilly and the Buttons book as well as her Cleo dress pattern and some other bits and bobs.

It was a great day out!

 

 

Spring Knitting and Stitching Show

I had something else in the pipeline to post about, but I fell off my shoes at a rehearsal the other day and injured my wrist, which has put both crafting and typing about it slightly out of the picture for a few days. It’s nearly better now, so I’m just popping in to say I’m off to the Spring Knitting and Stitching Show at London Olympia this weekend, and having just perused the website, I’m now rather excited about it. I hope I’ll remember to take a few photos while I’m there this time. Is anyone else going? Do say hi.

In the meantime I’ll just drop this little teaser of what I’ve been up to recently. The stripes have been temporarily abandoned!

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ALL the crafts.

Why is it that when there is stuff you really *should* be doing, like, y’know, packing and cleaning your entire house, sorting, sifting and culling vast amounts of junk and generally getting ready to move house, THAT’s when you most want to just do ALL the crafting?

I’m slowly working on my Stripes Gone Crazy. I’m almost down to the first colour change, which is exciting stuff. I’m not 100% convinced my sizing is quite right – it seems like it might come out a little narrow at the shoulders, but I’m not quite sure, so of course I’m just ploughing on regardless. I haven’t quite figured out the problem of not having quite enough yarn yet either, but I think I can contact the seller I bought it from at some point when I’m more sure what I need.

I had a great conversation over lunch with a friend the other day, who is just getting started on crochet. I think she’s already a perfectly competent knitter, but she wanted a bit of advice on a new project which I was only too happy to help her with. I ended up coming home and immediately casting on (would you say casting on for crochet? Looping on?) a hat for her little man. She actually wanted booties for him, but they can be part of a set, right!?

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I’m also hankering after a sewing project or two now. I cracked my sewing machine out briefly in the summer to do a couple of mending jobs. Firstly I searched high and low to find a new backpack for a trip I was taking and couldn’t find anything that was quite what I was looking for, so I fixed up the tear in the top of my old one. Good as new!  Then I repaired a couple of worn patches in some jeans. I used iron on patches for one area, but got a little more creative on a hole in the pocket.

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I placed a small patch behind the fabric and did some long stitches in zigzags to hold it together. It’s not the neatest thing ever, but I quite like the look of it.

I’m not sure how much longer this pair of jeans will hold up for though, and honestly, trying to find some new trousers or jeans that I like and actually fit me well is proving to be a tough and tedious job. I’m pretty sure I’ve tried on around 20 pairs of trousers in various shops in the last week. Which has got me keen on the idea of attempting to sew myself a pair.

I’ve ordered some fabric online (I’m never quite sure how wise it is ordering something like that online when you can’t accurately judge either colour or texture) and am scouting out patterns. I think the Sewaholic Thurlow Trousers pattern is top of the picks at the moment. I’ve never sewn a garment before, so it’ll be a whole new voyage of discovery for me, but I’m up for the challenge. Well, I will be, once I’ve moved house and unpacked and done all the things that need doing to get the new place shipshape…

And then there’s cake. Pumpkins birthday approaches, so he’ll no doubt request some crazy cake creation once again. I’m definitely not doing Toothless again!

 

Clanger progress

Well, that was faster than I expected!

I already have all of the knitted components of Pumpkin’s Clanger all made up and laid out. Look!

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One head/body/legs, two arms, two sets of fingers, two ears and 2 ear-edgings. It’s the first time I’ve knitted something with so much shaping, including short rows, and the first time I’ve done i-cord, but each piece is so small, they just dropped off my needles in no time!

I ventured into town this afternoon to buy all of the felt and other components I need to finish making up Tiny Clanger, and in doing so, discovered that sadly my local yarn/fabric/haberdashery shop is closing at the end of this month. *sadface* Fortunately, a new fabric shop has recently opened in town (though perhaps that contributed to the old one closing…), and since the old shop didn’t have what I needed anyway, I spent my pennies in the new one.  I think I will have to return for some bargains before the end of the month though.

Lots of the Clanger projects I’ve seen on Ravelry say that the sewing up is what takes a long time, but hopefully I’ll have a finished Clanger before too much longer. Then maybe I’ll make a second one for Pickle too.

Mr Incredible

I thought I’d show you another quick make I did for Christmas.

Pumpkin has never really been interested in the idea of dressing up. A pirate costume cobbled together out of clothes he already had in his wardrobe was about his limit. But when he watched ‘The Incredibles’ a month or two ago, he swiftly started talking about being Mr Incredible and telling me he wanted a Mr Incredible costume.

For those of you who need a reminder, or simply have no idea, this is Mr Incredible.

Incredibles picture taken from imdb.com

There are plenty of tutorials around on other blogs for making an Incredibles costume, but I thought the quickest and easiest way to do it would be to gather a few items of clothes and chop them around a bit.

Good ol’ Primark came up trumps for pretty much everything I needed.

A red T shirt

A pair of red leggings

A pair of black leggings

A pair of black gloves

I also bought black, orange, yellow and white felt from a craft shop to make the logo.

It’s a very simple make, really. First, I chopped the black leggings just below the crotch to make the top part into the ‘pants’ that are worn super-hero style on the outside. The legs of the leggings became long sleeves which I hand-stitched into the existing sleeves of the T-shirt.

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I used a template for the logo which I found on this blog, and cut the pieces out of the coloured felt. Annoyingly (given that I ended up doing the majority of the work on Christmas Eve, having been wiped out by a sickness bug in the run up to Christmas) I found it really tricky to machine sew the logo – I think because the felt was very soft and the angles were too much to manouver round – so I had to handstitch the whole thing onto the T shirt.

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I ran out of time to do a mask and a belt, though I hope to get round to doing both at some point soon. But the look on Pumkin’s face when he opened the present on Christmas Day was just priceless. He was absolutely over the moon, and pretty much insisted on wearing the costume for about 3 days straight! Definitely worth the effort!

Recovering a chair

Several years ago, I acquired a small swivel chair through Freecycle, which I use for sitting at my computer. In recent months it was definitely beginning to get a little worse for wear until the cushion on the backrest parted company from the rest of the chair in a pretty terminal way. Not wanting to discard what was otherwise still a perfectly serviceable chair, and because I clearly don’t have enough other projects to be working on, I decided to see what I could do to remedy the situation.

It took a little work to get the plastic cover off the back of the chair, but with a pair of pliers and some brute force I managed it without breaking anything.

I used the original fabric cover as a template which I pinned to some upholstery fabric and then cut round it giving myself a couple of centimetres of extra fabric all the way round.

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I thought it might be sensible to do a zigzag stitch around the outside edge as I wasn’t sure how much the fabric might fray, and I didn’t want it all unravelling inside the chair after it was all put back together again. I probably should have done it a bit closer to the edge, but since this is only the second time I’ve actually used my sewing machine, I thought that was forgiveable.

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I then folded the edge over and pinned it to form a narrow channel all around the outside. I stitched this (twice for extra security!) leaving a small gap at the bottom, and then fed a piece of string all the way round.

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Then it was just a case of putting the foam in place and the cover over the top, and pulling the drawstring as tight as possible.

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I fired a couple of staples in for good measure (it was stapled originally too) and popped the plastic cover back into place, and voila! tis a smart and comfortable (though somewhat mismatched) chair once more!

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Maybe I’ll do the seat to match the backrest too, one day!