Tip top!

I made a top!

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Finding that pile of patterns inspired me to just get on with it. The pattern is New Look K6230. I dug out the pink flowered jersey which I bought as an offcut earlier in the year for practise sewing. I thought an entire top in pink would be a bit much so I investigated a local fabric shop and found the black jersey for the sleeves, which cost me as much for just one metre as all of the pink flowers and the blue flowers fabrics together! I did manage to cut two sets of sleeves and neckbands though, so they’re ready for making another top at some point.

Having not sewn with jersey before, I warmed up by reading a couple of blogs on the subject and referring to a helpful leaflet from Guthrie and Ghani that came with the sewing machine jersey and stretch twin needles I bought at The Knitting and Stitching show.

The pink was quite difficult to sew as it is such a floppy fabric. It was hard to keep it in a straight line without stretching it out. Fortunately the black is much more stable and most of the seams included both fabrics. The top stitching around the neckline was a bit wobbly so I unpicked the front section and had a second go. The most difficult bit was the hem. I had to try various settings on my machine to get the right stitch length and even then had to unpick a section or two that were very untidy.

The end result though, is something that fits and feels pretty comfy to wear and looks half decent! I’ll call that a win!

What new skills are you keen to learn but apprehensive about?

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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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Unravel and Sharing the Love

Last week my friend asked me to teach her to crochet. Completely out of the blue. She’s known I crochet and knit for a long time, but I never really thought she was interested in trying it herself. But how lovely to be asked!

So off we went on Friday evening and found a cosy corner in a pub, and got to work. I love being able to teach things that I love doing, to people who are genuinely interested. We started with chains and a bit of single crochet and double crochet, and then moved on to Granny Squares. It just seemed right, since that was what my Granny first taught me when I learnt to crochet around 20 years ago!

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Taking a break from teaching crochet with a spot of knitting while the drinks were replenished.

My friend seems to have taken to it like a duck to water, and by the end of the evening she had a granny square with three very neat rounds. She’s since added several more rounds to that original square and has started work on squares for a blanket. I’ll have to start planning another lesson!

unravel, a festival of knitting, at Farnham Maltings Click for website

Image from: unravel, a festival of knitting, at Farnham Maltings
Click for website

After our lesson, my friend found out about Unravel, a festival of knitting, held in Farnham, which is not far from where we live. I’d heard of it before, but have never been and didn’t realise it was coming up so soon, but we’re hoping to go along together at the end of February.

Are you heading to Unravel? What would you pick as a first project to teach a beginner?

Knitting

I am a far less proficient knitter than I am a crocheter. In fact, I’m pretty much a beginner. I learnt a little knitting when I was at school, in fact I’m sure I got my picture in the paper holding the blanket my class had made and donated to an old people’s home or something, but I never knew how to cast on or off. Actually, just a simple knit stitch was probably about the extent of my ability, and was swiftly forgotten.

When I picked up my crochet again as a more regular hobby a year or so ago, I discovered the wonders of Ravelry. Searching for more challenging projects, but something that would be useful and useable, I found myself looking at clothing patterns; jumpers, cardigans etc but didn’t like the effect of the defined rows you tend to get with crochet and found myself drawn to knitting patterns instead.

The Facebook group for crocheters that I am a member of started a knitalong bunny project for those who fancied branching out into other yarn-crafts, so I joined in. I found that I picked up the basics quite quickly and enjoyed the fabric I could create. I struggled a little with how to hold the needles most comfortably and effectively, but a bit of guidance from my grandmother helped there.

My son was delighted with the small bunny that I made for him, so I decided to find a more challenging project to work on. I already own plenty of hats, gloves and scarves, so I chose a reasonably simple-looking pattern for a cardigan that I thought I would probably wear. I paid a visit to my local (to my parents’ house) yarn shop and invested in the yarn and needles I required, plus other bits and bobs to set me up for knitting and some rather pretty buttons. I love that moment of getting home with a bag of new purchases and squishing the yarn as you take it out and admire it.

Test swatch

I immediately set-to and cast on my first real knitting project. The ribbing band at the bottom was quickly worked up and then I switched onto bigger needles to continue working up the back panel. The pattern is straightforward in many ways, but calls for you to work increases and decreases at certain measurements, rather than specifying row counts, which I find a little hard to keep track of if I’m honest. I got as far as the shaping around the armholes and stuttered to a halt. I still need to refer to YouTube every now and again when I come to a new type of stitch, and haven’t quite managed to coordinate sitting at the computer and having my knitting out at the same time. I also admit to being rather daunted by the enormity of the project – particularly with regard to making the two front panels correctly match up with the back panel when, as I say, the measurements seem less than precise. It was perhaps not the most appropriate undertaking for a complete novice, but I do intend to continue with it, not least because I can’t bring myself to frog everything I’ve done up to this point, and also because, having recently perused Ravelry again, I’ve not seen any other pattern that has the right combination of being something I would choose to wear, and something I think is an achievable project to knit.

So, I will endeavour to find the time and inclination to resurrect the cardigan and see how I get on.