Knitting and nattering

It has been some time since I’ve been to our local knit and natter group – without really counting I’ve been once in the past 4 years! Blame pregnancy, babies/small children who don’t like sleeping and more recently running.

A sprained ankle has knocked running on the head for a little while so a timely window of opportunity presented itself.

Evening chores completed, I grabbed my bag of projects (yes – note projects (plural)) and headed out the door.

DB-silk-bolero

Finishing the Debbie Bliss silk bolero. The picture doesn’t really do the yarn (so soft & silky) or the colour (purple) justice.

I can honestly say, it was a lovely way to spend a couple of hours and I even got some knitting done (with limited unpicking! – am I the only one to get so distracted that I forget my pattern altogether??).

Myrna-in-progress

My Andi Satterlund Myrna in progress. I am knitting the 24 rows version using Drops Paris (and I struggle to not think of dishcloths whilst knitting!) omitting the keyhole back.

Everyone else was crocheting but I’m yet to be a serious convert. “Let’s ‘stitch and bitch’ instead!” came the cry. But let me tell you, it wasn’t a popular alternative. We’re clearly a bunch of natterer’s.

Topics were varied & plentiful from impending teenage proms, weaving ends in on granny squares (“what!!!” cried the finishing phobic), capital gains & inheritance tax, housebuilding, to why Jo (Three Stories High) buried her cross stitch in the garden! It’s both a hilarious and yet poignant story of what one does with those projects that have gone south but with which we cannot break the bond of the work and investment that has gone into them. I’m hoping Jo will share the story with her readers one day, as it really is a story worth telling.

So shall I become a regular again? My schedules need a bit of juggling – as a girl’s got to run, especially with half-marathons on the horizon – but I certainly hope to make it more frequently than once every 4 years!!

From maxi-skirt to cape – sewing to order

As I was reading my friend Jo’s blog (Three Stories High) the other day, I realised that a lot of the clothes, accessories etc that I make are very much to order. When I’m sewing for the girls, it just makes sense to sew what they want and get them involved in pattern and fabric choices. As Honey is 8, she’s pretty clear about what she’d like although often has difficulty visualising what things will look like (I’m sure this isn’t only with 8 year olds!!).

Today Honey has taken part in her class assembly where they put on a performance of Julia Donaldson’s ‘The Highway Rat’. It was a fabulous take on a children’s classic and she really looked the part as a ‘highway rat/robber’.

Last week, I was told they needed a ‘costume’ (my heart always sinks a little at this point, as I know I’ll no doubt have to cram some swift refashioning into an already busy schedule). I’m sure there are some amongst you who think ‘why not head to the shops?’ but (a) that’s not very practical for me as it means dragging a 4 year old on the bus and around quite a few shops with no guarantee of success; and (b) why buy new, when really, you can probably ‘make do’?

The brief was a white shirt (preferably frilly), dark trousers & cape. Now I decided that I really didn’t have the energy to go adding frills to a school shirt but we did need to find something that would work as a cape. A root through the lower confines of my wardrobe unearthed a navy sarong which showed promise but after a bit of fiddling I realised that Honey was going to spend all her time making sure that it didn’t slide off her shoulders. I didn’t think her teacher would thank me for that.

Then I discovered a discarded maxi-skirt. I plonked it over Honey’s head…. and hey presto… the beginnings of a cape were born.

It was a very straightforward transformation.

All I did was to cut it up the middle and finish both sides with my overlocker (in fact I didn’t even cut it first, I just went straight in with the overlocker). If you don’t have an overlocker, you could use pinking shears as a no sew option, finish the edges with a zig-zag stitch or for a fully finished approach sew a narrow hem along the edges.

The skirt had some belt loops, so I removed these and used one as a button loop. Other options would be a piece of elastic or piece of bias binding folded and stitched.

To add the button loop, I folder the waistband in half to the inside (so its inside out) and tucked the button loop ends into the seam allowance on the inside (so when you fold it the right side out, it’s on the outside). I then simply overlocked the seam. I created the same seam on the other end of the waist band and turned it the right way out.

I realised that the ribbing of the waistband was going to curl a lot and not stay put. So to put that right, I simply folded it in half, pressed and used a narrow zigzag stitch along the loose edge to keep in place as a double waistband.

Finally, I dug deep into the button tin and found a perfect match!

Et VOILA – from maxi-skirt to highway robber’s cape in less than 40 minutes!!

Now that’s what I call success.

Next on order, I’m afraid it’s a round of school uniform.

How about you? Do you sew to order?

Flowers (or is that weeds?) in the garden – Oliver & S Roller Skate Dress

I am a huge fan of the Oliver & S patterns. They are classic shapes and styles that you can make time after time regardless of how old your child gets; the instructions are beautifully clear and well I’ve yet to have even the slightest hint of a head scratching moment and their pdf patterns tape together perfectly with no hassle whatsoever – which in my mind if a huge bonus!!

As with all my makes, there comes a bit of a story. Each year I make Honey a summer dress for school. The past 3 years, I have been revising and redrafting a self-drafted pattern. This year I felt like doing something different (read, I really didn’t have the energy to re-draft again, oh and fix last years mistakes!).

Last years self-drafted red gingham dress on a perfectly happy & year old!

Last years self-drafted red gingham dress on a perfectly happy & 7 year old!

I had thought that the Roller Skate dress would be a really easy pull-on style dress that would take some of the hassle out of getting changed for PE and maybe speed up the getting ready in the morning process (I can but dream?!). But Honey wasn’t convinced and suggested that maybe I could make her a dress in this fabric that she’d seen in my cupboard and had had her eye on for some time?

Yes – well every mother is a sucker for that routine aren’t they? So here it is, the ‘flowers in the garden’ version of the Roller Skate dress.

It is a seriously quick and rapid make and is fully lined! I took a few measurements first and decided to cut size age 5 for the width and size age 8 for the length and I couldn’t have asked for a better fit.

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And the acid test, does my daughter like it? She loves it. Every time it reappears in her wardrobe fresh from the never-ending laundry cycle, it’s back on her again.

I’m sure you’ll all now want to see the school version that I’ve made, won’t you? …. well, ahem … I haven’t quite got that far and last years dress still fits!!!!

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and yes, Mummy, there are LOTS of dandelions in the garden!

 

 

Bigger Booty shorts ?? My Dualthon’s & the Spring Race Challenge

At the start of April, I was due to run my first half marathon. I’d sorted out an injury, put in the training and whilst feeling rather apprehensive was ready to go. Enter taper week (for races, you tend to have a period of ‘rest’ that lets your body recover and feel refreshed and injury free ready for the big day). I came down with some bug that just left me wiped. I was exhausted and had a horrible rash. A trip to the GP had me leaving with a prescription and some pretty strong words that running was not advisable.

It was a tough decision to make (and I have to say a few tears were shed). I tried a short run the day before the race but it was clear that I was really going to struggle with the distance even at a conservative plod. Suffice to say, I went out and supported my fellow group members who did make it.

Once I recovered, I needed something new to look forwards to. The weather was hotting up and and I thought ‘I need shorts!!’.

I’ve always loved the idea of Melissa from Fehr Trade’s booty shorts.

Look at that concentration?! Market Drayton 10k

Look at that concentration?! I’m no. 426 – Market Drayton 10k

This time, I knew what alterations to make before I started. I used the smallest size and added a smidge to the waist and took an inch or so out of the hips. I didn’t take anything out of the length as I really didn’t think this would be necessary.

They were super speedy to cut out and sew. Even with my inadvertent basting of the pockets the wrong way up (apparently they’re good for tennis ball storage!!), I had them done in very little time.

The fit was great from the first try on (although with hindsight they could probably have done with being slightly snugger through the legs) and I was really pleased with them.

Next step – the test run. I was a bit worried as I often have problems on my crotch seams, with them coming unravelled, so I had sewn my shorts in both directions for extra security. But last thing I wanted was for any incidents on route, so I found the biggest pair of pants I could and off I went!!

I’m pleased to say there were no incidents. I tried them again, in company, later the same week. My friend very kindly pointed out they they were riding up a bit when I was running and revealing , well,  a little cheek!

After a bit of analysis, I decided that they needed to be a bit longer and some griper elastic might not be a bad idea. I used the narrow version from Kleins (think holds up or strapless bras and you’ll picture the silicone beading along the elastic). I sewed it to the right side of each leg (having measured it around my leg first – I think it needs to be a little shorter than your actual leg circumference, I just used the overlap to sew it together). I then stretched and sewed on both the top and bottom edges with a very short, narrow zigzag and then hemmed again (this time much narrower). When I’m not wearing them, I do now have wavy legs from the elastic, but once they’re on, they’re just fine and I don’t notice it’s there.

Do they work, I hear you ask? Yes and no. I think my shorts need to be longer still because they only just provide sufficient coverage. Despite narrow hips I clearly have a big bum!! The elastic works reasonably well, but I think the wider elastic would work better for me.

But you know what, despite their imperfections, I still wear them – they are really comfy to run in and as for the pockets…. they are FABULOUS. So many of the runners in my group are jealous of them.

I do plan to make more pairs of these (another bonus is that I’m sure I can get at least 3 pairs from one metre of fabric – now that’s what I call value!!) but I’m going to make them a little longer and and narrower on the leg and try without the gripper elastic.

Well on my way to fixing those 'funky arms'! - 10k Chase Challenge

Well on my way to fixing those ‘funky arms’! – 10k Chase Challenge

My shorts have now served me well in not one, but two races. My inhaler sits perfectly in the pockets and I don’t even notice it’s there. Although given the length of my t-shirt you can hardly see my shorts!

So here it is: my first entry to Fehr Trade’s Spring Race Challenge! Want to enter? You still have the whole of June to get sewing and sweating.

 

 

 

Spring Race Challenge anyone?

I’m taking part in…

Spring Race Challenge

Well it would be hard not to wouldn’t it? And there is still almost a month left to get sewing and racing!

No races you can think of entering? Why not try Parkrun? These are free 5km events that are held every week around the country and most probably in your local park. If you have kids you can take them with you. Some have shorter runs for children, but otherwise, so long as they’re over 4 years old they can run with you, they get their own time and after 10 runs will get a t-shirt! Check out their website for details as to how to register and “Don’t forget your barcode!”

My first entry will be coming soon. And I may manage to fit another one in before the deadline on 7th July!!

We sweat and we sew!!

Betty Draper goes on vacation – Mad Men Challenge 3 …. ish

I’m new to Mad Men.

After seeing all the posts for last years Mad Men Challenge and following Amy from the Little Tailoress’s beautiful creations, I knew I had to witness the show for myself. Many months later the first disc eventually turned up from a well-known DVD & instant viewing subscription service.

I love it!! The same can’t be said for my husband. OK, so the story is quite pedestrian. Despite my husband making me sit through some seriously dull films, he doesn’t seem to have the staying power for the world of ad men and 1950′s America. He claims that he doesn’t see the point!!

When I saw Julia announce this years Mad Men challenge I started scouting around for inspiration. (At this point, I need to mention that I have somewhat loosely interpreted the challenge – largely due to my own inability to read the small print – in that it was to make a dress!! I …. ahem haven’t)

MMBettyDraper2

The 1950′s housewife that is Betty Draper seems to spend a fair amount of time in flouncy tea dresses. Whilst this may have worked in a bygone age, I don’t find it a particularly practical style for my way of life, gorgeous though they are.

Instead I took my ideas from Betty’s ‘vacation’ outfit, of a fitted, bateau neck top and Bermuda shorts. This is from Season 1, Episode 10 where Betty’s father Gene and his new lady friend Gloria arrive so the whole family (except Don) can go vacation on the Jersey Shore. I love the simplicity of the outfit and thought that it would really work in my wardrobe.

Mad+Men+Mad+Style+Betty+Draper+Season+1+Episode10

Season 1, Episode 10 – Image credit TomandLorenzo.com

It took me a while to find the right patterns. I scoured the vintage pattern stores by couldn’t find quite the right thing and then stumbled across Colette Patterns and the Sencha top. It had the key elements I was looking for: a woven top, back button fastening and fitted at the waist.

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I decided that Bermuda shorts weren’t going to quite work in my wardrobe (or with my legs!) so instead I looked for some cropped trousers. As luck, I already had a Burda magazine with a 1950′s inspired vintage section which had some pleat fronted cropped trousers.

Next was where the fun really started!

I made muslins for both. I took 2 1/2 inches out of the Sencha top without really thinking much about it and realised once I had it sewn together that clearly my flat pattern alteration method had needed a little more thought.

Ooppps!

If you only want to take inches out at the bust and leave the waist and hips the same, then clearly taking a whopping inch out of both centre and front and back isn’t going to work as you’ve just taken the same amount off your waist AND hips!

Note to self: think it through first.

I managed to get a workable muslin and altered my flat pattern, flaring out to the waist and hips. I also altered the neckline to give it more of a bateau shape.

After a fair amount of deliberation, I decided to use a purple crossweave cotton that I had in my stash.

You’ll notice that Betty’s top has some kind of design across the front. Despite enlarging and a good deal of squinting I was very undecided as to whether they were seahorses or dragons!! Any guesses anyone?

Ultimately I went for a Spring oriental theme and chose a cherry blossom design from Aimee Ray’s Doodle Stitching opting for a ‘corsage’ approach rather than a repeating pattern across the front – it was a tough call though!! From previous experience, I knew that with this kind of hand embellishment you only get one change at placement so I pinned the sized design onto the top to decide exactly where I wanted it. I then used dressmakers carbon paper to transfer the design before stitching.

 

sakuraMM

Aimee Ray’s Doodle Stitching Cherry Blossom design – hand embroidery

 

The alterations still need a few tweeks. The neck refuses to sit flat and I feel that the back needs a touch more room. Overall though I’m more than happy with it!

I altered the trousers too. Again I made a muslin with the pleat front – hated them so switched them to darts and thought I had taken out the extra fullness and had the front and backs pretty much sorted. I knew I should have done another muslin!!

My changes were way out. I ended up with a very baggy crotch. Fetching, I know!! I owe a huge thank you to Melissa from Fehr Trade for her picture from her fitting book and I managed to eek out enough in the seam allowance to get a passable front. In the end, I did what I should have done to start with; took a whole range of measurements, added in a small amount of ease and then adjusted my finished trousers to match. Again, next time around, I think I’ll have a pretty rocking pair of pants!!

MMBettyDraper

I have learnt a vast amount about fitting from these two garments and it is abundently clear that a good book would  help a lot. I have Vogue Sewing but something more specialised would help to fill the gaps. What are your favourite fitting resources?

Right – Betty Draper, vacation time it is!!!

MMBettyDraper3

 

 

 

PB Jam capris – a complete runners outfit (Part 1)

My grey supplex leggings are super comfy and go with EVERYTHING but I really fancied something a little more exciting and well when you’re running more than a couple of times a week through mud (blame the weather and my obsession with trail running!) then having more than two pairs of running tights is quite frankly a bonus.

PB-Jam-Leggings

If you’re into sewing ‘activewear’ then I’m sure you’ll already have seen Melissa from Fehrtrade‘s new line of activewear patterns. When they first came out, I was really taken by them but hesitated as the smallest size was a few inches outside own measurements but then Melissa really listened to what her readers were saying and added a new XXS size. It was close enough for me to put my hand in my pocket and buy the digital PB Jam leggings pattern.

I have to say that it’s a great pattern. Like many Indie designers there is a lot of attention to detail and the instructions are clear and well thought out. Melissa does label this as an intermediate pattern and I’d agree. I’m not vastly experienced at sewing with knit fabrics (2 tees and 3 pairs of leggings is my total experience!) and me and my overlocker have a bit of a love/hate relationship going on but nevertheless, I got there in the end.

Now first off I made a few flat pattern alterations. I’m short (5′ 1′ to be precise) so as there is a back knee ‘patch’ I needed to try and get it hitting in the right place. Helpfully Melissa’s pattern marks the hip and knee line. Essentially, I taped all the leg and swoosh pieces together, overlapping the seam allowances, then took out my tape measure and decided how long the legs needed to be. I then divided the amount to be taken out into two and took a portion out above the knee (to get it into the right place) and a portion out below the knee. Melissa had already told me that there was no shaping in the swooshes, which was handy as I had to slightly re-draw the front swoosh as my slash line went partially through it.

In the end, I decided that I wouldn’t use the back knee patch and fortunately because of my short legs still managed to cut my pieces out of one piece of main fabric.

NOTE: if you need the full leg length and decide go without the back knee patch you will need more fabric.

I was a little unsure of the fit as the hip measurement was slightly larger than my own and the waist measurement a little smaller. But I decided to sew up and fit as I went along. Knits are pretty forgiving in the fit department.

Now, here’s where we come to the bit where my overlocker and I don’t get along! Sewing in a straight line is fine but curves are another matter and I have no seam allowance gauge so it’s all a bit of guesswork!! Thanks to Winnie at Scruffy Badger Time and her timely blog post I found a much more efficient way to rip out overlocked seams that didn’t require the entire lounge to be vacuumed each time. It was also super quick. I confess it took me a few attempts until I was happy with my swooshes.

I then used the basting stitch on my sewing machine to sew the in and out leg seams before trying on to check the fit.

I took a bit out of the side seams and the centre seams – probably about an inch overall – and I slightly altered the crotch curve. I also found for some reason that I needed to take a chunk out at the centre back, my bum is clearly not that large!!

Once I was happy with my basted fit, I marked the seam line with a trusty felt tip pen (washable of course :) ), unpicked my stitching and sewed my seams with the overlocker. Before sewing however, I had to realign my front and back swooshes. I could get them spot on with pins but as soon as they went through the sewing machine or overlocker they moved.

I doubt this was helped by the navy and red fabrics being different thicknesses. The red was much lighter and stretchier and moved around a lot. Despite basting my swooshes together, I struggled to get the overlocked seams to match up perfectly and they were stretching about under the presser foot (maybe I should have adjusted the pressure of the foot?). I unpicked a number of times and well one of them is pretty much spot on, the other side less so – oh well!

I was really impressed with the fit once I had them all together.

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The waistband went on fine and then I just had to hem them. It was such a gloriously sunny day when I was making them that I couldn’t help but turn them into capris. I actually think given my height it helps to balance out the swooshes for my shape. I just marked how long I wanted them, added on 3cm hem allowance and stitched them using a twin needle on my sewing machine.

I always overlock the edges first and make sure that I remember to stretch as I go – otherwise you tend to find that you go to put your foot through and it’s a bit of squeeze and you end up with broken stitches.

Since sewing the hem and waistband with a twin needle on my sewing machine, I’ve since found some alternative settings on my sewing machine that work better and give me more even stitching and no skipped stitches. The only other change I would make, would be to give myself a little more room in the waist ;)

My capris had a long test run out the other Sunday and have since been through the wash and in the dryer. They’re brilliant and I’m amazed each time I put them on that *I* made them.

Of course I had to make a top to go with them – this is Maria Denmark’s Birgitte Basic T. I’ll save the details for next time.

For this time of year, I find this outfit a great compromise. I don’t find it quite warm enough for a short sleeved tee and yet I get a bit warm in leggings and  long sleeves.

If you fancy sewing capris without pattern alterations then you won’t have to wait long! Melissa will be launching her third pattern next week – the Dualthon!

I think I’m ready for the ‘Booty Shorts’. How about you? I think they’re going to be just perfect for racing in and for taking on the Spring Race Challenge. Now just to find a race?!