Friday, 30 December 2016

Cosy Cable socks

Hey everyone, popping back after a long absence!  Hopefully I will find more time to post in the New Year!

Unfortunately I have not had much time for sewing, but I have been knitting.

I finally finished the socks that I posted about here. I started these back in April and I've only just finished the second one!

The socks are knitted using  a simple cable pattern that came free with Simply Knitting. The socks are designed by Jane Burns, and are knitted on four needles.

The cuff features a twisted rib and then the main sock is knitted with a cable at the front and the back. The heel is reinforced with slip stitch.

Unfortunately the pattern had some errors so thank god for Ravelry. Luckily another knitter had made these, and had made notes on how to work these correctly as the pattern had me scratching my head.

I did not use the yarn specified in the pattern, Instead I used a funky variegated 4ply from my stash..

The pattern also specified 3mm needles, however if I was to knit these again I think I would size down to 2.5mm as socks should be knit a bit firmer in my opinion. The needles I used were 15 cm Knitpro Zing double-pointed needles which come in a range of funky colours.

All in all I'm pretty pleased with these socks. It's a pity it took me so long to knit the second one. I'm seriously considering investigating how to knit two at a time socks on circular needles to see if this will help with second sock syndrome!

If you knit socks I'd love to know if you are a two at a time knitter or how you combat second sock syndrome!

Catherine x

Monday, 18 July 2016

The Sylvie Dress...a perfect summer dress

Let me introduce you to my latest make - the Sylvie Dress by Christine Haynes. It was a lovely day on Saturday so I persuaded my daughter to take some pictures.  As you can see I am squinting terribly, and Oscar was keen to get in on the action as usual!

There are two different versions of this pattern that you can make. Both versions of the dress feature an unlined sleeveless bodice with three small darts under the bust and a wide lined waistband. I will point out that the waistband looks much thinner on the pattern illustration that it actually is. The waistband is lined and interfaced which gives this section some structure.

The back bodice has darts and the neckline and armholes are finished with bias binding. View A has a gathered dirndl skirt which is basically a rectangle of fabric. The dirndl skirt also has large patch pockets.  View B has piping and a fitted pencil skirt. The illustration makes this look more like an an A-line skirt than the photos on Christine Haynes's website. I chose to make View A as this is more my personal style.

For my dress, I chose to use a polycotton that I picked up for £3 a metre in Hobbycraft. I decided not to make a muslin as the dress didn't seem like it was going to be too fitted but I didn't want to take a chance with expensive fabric. I bought two metres which was enough to cut the dress and the binding although I did have to join my bias strips together rather than using continuous pieces as per the pattern. The pattern calls for 2.75 m of 150m wide fabric or 3.3m of 115m wide fabric so you can certainly save on fabric requirements if you used ready-made bias binding. I think this fabric requirement also takes into account the amount required if your fabric has a one-directional print.

I made a size 8 based on my measurements (36 inch bust) and I made no adjustments at all.  I have to say the fit is pretty good.  It's fitted but not too tight, so makes a nice dress to wear on a hot summer's day.

The dress was easy to sew together and the instructions were very clear and detailed.  The most time consuming part of making this dress was the bias bound neckline and armholes.  I found this quite fiddly and time consuming. The pattern uses double fold bias binding rather than single fold binding, which is basically single fold pressed in half again.  The pattern instructs you how to make you own double fold bias binding. The instructions on how to attach the bias binding are super detailed, however this part can be a little confusing. There are loads of brilliant tutorials on how to use bias binding including this one on Christine Haynes' website.  I posted a comment to ask her whether I could use single fold bias binding and this is her reply:

 "Hi Catherine! Yes, it is 100% personal preference. So if you prefer single fold bias tape, you can absolutely use that in place of the double fold. From teaching I've found that my students prefer the double fold, so that's how I got in the habit of using it. But by all means use the one that you prefer. Glad you like the Sylvie Dress! Thank you!"

It was lovely to get such a detailed personal response.

I think when I make this dress again (and I am planning my next), I will draft an all-in-one facing and see if I prefer that finish.  That said my bias binding is pretty neat but I do feel like the neckline stretched out slightly despite stay-stitching. The only other change I made was to leave the pockets off as I couldn't quite get my pockets the same size.  I think I will make a card template next time and use this to press my pockets into shape. 

My invisible zip is really neat and I am getting really good at inserting them.  The only thing I still find really tricky is closing the gap at the bottom of the zipper tape.  Any tips on how to do this?  I inserted it a little low so also need to add a hook and eye. 

So to sum it up, the Sylvie Dress is a great pattern. It was fairly easy to make and I think an ambitious beginner could certainly tackle view A, although view B might be a bit more tricky.  I am surprised how few Sylvie dresses there seem to be out there in the blogosphere, given what a great pattern designer Christine Hayne's is and how popular the Emery Dress is.  The Sylvie Dress is a perfect dress for a summer's day and is super wearable.

I hope I've inspired you to give this pattern a shot.  I'd love to hear from you if you do make it or if you have any other perfect summer dresses to recommend.


Saturday, 14 May 2016

New Look 6483.... in less than a week

My last post was a round up of my favourite simple sewing patterns in my stash. I've finished my first make, New Look 6483! And it look me less than a week! I spent a bit of time adjusting the pattern last weekend, and then it probably took two evenings of sewing plus a little bit of of  extra time hand sewing. Not bad for me!

The pattern came free with Sew Magazine this month. It comes with 5 different options. I chose view E with the wider neckline as I felt this was the most flattering.  The suggested fabrics are ginghams, laundered cottons (which is just cotton that has been washed to remove the stiffness caused by the sizing), silks, silk types, rayons etc. So fabric with a bit of drape is required.

The top does not have a zip and is fasten with a simple thread loop and button.  There is an all in one facing for the neck and armholes. The pattern is rated "easy" and claims to take one hour to sew! (not including cutting out time etc).

However, my major rookie mistake on this pattern was not reading the instructions through fully before starting!  I was merrily sewing along following the instructions for view A, and when I came to attach the facing I realized that View B-E are constructed in a different way.  Out came the seam ripper! Note to self always read the instructions fully before starting.

While this is a fairly simple make in the fact that there is no zip, I'd actually say the finishing of the facing is quite tricky and a beginner might struggle with this. This was a new technique to me although I have done an all in one facing before on my Simplicity 1609 dress, this version was constructed differently. The facing is attached the neck edge and armholes then turned to the inside. The shoulder seams are then sewn being careful not to catch the pressed edge of the facing in the stitching. The shoulder seams are then slipped under the facing, and the edges of the facing are slipped stitched together, like I said, quite tricky!

The top has slits at the sides and these are finished with mitred corners.  This is quite tricky too and this was also a new technique to me.  I do love it though when you learn new things along the way!

I also couldn't remember for the life of me how to do the thread loop either so this video on youtube came in handy! I also made a self covered button to match the top.

My material came from the market stall in St Albans where I often pick up fabric.  It cost £3 for a metre and is 100% cotton.  I also noticed he had the same fabric in white, so may go back to get some more if he still has it.

Button, thread, interfacing all came from my stash and the pattern was free with Sew magazine so this beauty of a top cost me £3 to make!

With regards to sizing, I decided to take a new approach.  I got Fit for Real People for my birthday and I used this to help.  Fit for Real People is a brilliant book, it looks really dated but there is so much useful information in there, I thoroughly recommend buying it if you are looking for fitting advice.

I made a similar top when I started blogging, New Look 6356 in a size 14, based on my bust size, and that came out huge before I adjusted the back. So this time, I took my high bust measurement and cut out a size 10 based on this measurement.  I then tried on the tissue which is tricky on your own, believe me, and measured to the centre front.  I needed to make a 5/8 inch bust adjustment which I did to the paper pattern. I then decided to just go ahead and make my top as the material was inexpensive and I had done most of the fitting with the tissue pattern.

Anyway the result is pretty good I think! It was a lovely day today and I was able to get some photos in the garden for a change.  Oscar was keen to join in with the fun too. It was very bright today so apologies for the squinting.

I'm really pleased with the fit of this top. The top fits nicely round the bust and the back is not too wide.  There is maybe a slight gaping at the back neckline but nothing like I have had before.  I think I need now to adjust for a slight round neck which involves adding an extra wedge of the material to the back neckline to raise it slightly so that it doesn't gape away from the curve of the back.

I thoroughly recommend New Look 6483 as it is a great little wardrobe builder. It's exactly the sort of top I can wear to work or dress down with jeans.  I can definitely see me making some more of these, especially as it can be squeezed out of a metre of fabric!

Anyone else made this pattern, I would love to hear from you?  And if you made it in an hour, I'm mightily impressed!

Catherine x

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Six simple sewing patterns

If you read my last blog post, you'll know that I discussed making simple everyday items rather than making more complicated, time-consuming patterns.

Whilst I love sewing, I work full time and I'm also a mum.  I have found it really difficult recently to find the time to sew and then that it is taking me several weeks to finish something that I've started sewing, which can be a bit frustrating at times.

Also although I love making and wearing dresses, I  want to have more me-made items that I can wear on a daily basis.  It would be nice to be able to sew something fairly quickly and not get bogged down by it. 

I thought it  would be a good idea to check my pattern stash to see what simple patterns I already own. I've chosen patterns I've not sewn with before.

Here are my top six picks from my pattern stash....

This is a "Design Your Look" pattern from New Look, with knee or maxi length versions, 2 different bodice options and sleeve variations.  This is one of the first sewing patterns that I bought, so I have no idea why I didn't get round to making it. There are no zips or button holes and has an elasticated raised waistline. It looks like it needs to be made from a material with a good drape and think this would make a lovely summer dress. There are some great versions about, check out this maxi dress version by Aventures of a Clueless Seamstress.

Simplicity 2414

My next choice is Simplicity 2414. This claims to be a one hour sewing pattern and features a range of drawstring trousers and tiered skirts in two lengths.  This is not the most sophisticated of patterns but I can imagine wearing view C on my summer holidays or either of the skirts. These would look good in a lightweight linen type material.  I couldn't find many versions of this pattern online, so maybe it's not very popular?

Simplicity Lisette 2059

This pattern is no longer in print and I think I picked this up on ebay. The pattern features an easy pull-on blouse, an A-line bias cut skirt and an easy fitting belted dress. The shaping on the dress and blouse is achieved by gathers, so no darts to worry about!  However, if I make this I won't be copying the model's choice of socks!

New Look 6068

This pattern is also described as "easy" and for a change it actually does look easy! This is a pull-over dress with bust darts and no zips to worry about.  It has a choice of sleeves and can be made with a collar. I know this is a versatile dress, if you read Rosa's blog at Fancy Frugality, you can see that she has made it loads of times. By the way, Rosa now has a vlog that you should check out too!

New Look 6216

This one is another New Look pattern, again described as "easy". By the way, the reason I have so many New Look patterns is they keep having the half price sales!  The t-shirt features kimono sleeves, and a scoop neck and can be made with short sleeves or three quarter length sleeves.  The trousers are not meant for knit materials and they also feature a drawstring waist. Not sure if they would look like PJ pants once made up? In fact the whole pattern could totally be adapted for PJs I think!

New Look 6217

I got this pattern free with Sew Magazine. I've seen this popping up recently on a lot of blogs, including Handmade Jane and Kestrel Makes. It features a kimono sleeve top for wovens, a kimono jacket and a skirt and trousers. The top looks as easy as it can get, two pattern pieces, no darts and a button closure.  It obviously is meant to be a loose fitting top and needs to be made with something with drape like a rayon or viscose.

New Look 6483

My final pattern choice also came free with Sew Magazine.  This is a shell top with five different options, and again it states that it is a one hour sewing pattern.  I can tell you that it definitely will take you longer than one hour, as I have already started making this!  There are no zips and the neck and armholes are finished with an all in-one facing.  Hopefully I will have something to share with you soon!

What do you think of my pattern choices?

Have you made any of these or can you recommend any quick to sew simple patterns. I'd love to hear what you think.

Catherine x

Sunday, 8 May 2016

An Emery Dress... at last

At last I have got some photos to share with you of my latest make my Emery dress.  It's been a long time coming, it seemed to take forever to make this dress and then of course I had to get some half decent photos. Always an impossible task!

A review of the Emery dress pattern by Christine Haynes

Overall I'm pretty pleased with my new dress although the bodice is a bit on the snug side. Despite making a muslin, I seem to have got this wrong. 

I made a size 8 based on my measurements (bust 36, waist 28, hips 38), but I think I need to size up next time by doing a full bust adjustment. Also the bust darts are a little too long and need shortening. 

I made the neck darts wider to deal with the gaping back neckline. The only other change I made to the pattern was that I shortened the waist slightly and I think I got this right. 

A review of the Emery dress pattern by Christine Haynes

I'm really impressed with this pattern, the instructions were very good and if you got stuck, the sew-along on Christine Haynes' website is really thorough. I think an ambitious beginner could tackle this pattern with no problems. 

A review of the Emery dress pattern by Christine Haynes

I chose to make the plain version, I did cut out a bow for the waist, but I decided that I liked it best without the bow.  I would like to make a long-sleeved version for winter I think. 

A review of the Emery dress pattern by Christine Haynes

Things I love about this dress

The pockets
The full gathered skirt
The vintage style
The material - I bought this in John Lewis, and it was a little pricey but I think it was a good buy

I'm also pretty pleased with my invisible zip.

Invisible zip - A review of the Emery dress pattern by Christine Haynes

Invisible zip - A review of the Emery dress pattern by Christine Haynes

The bodice is lined with a cotton voile as I though lining with the main dress fabric would be too heavy. I bought the voile from Favourite Fabrics on ebay and they seem a good seller, so I will be checking what else they have on offer!  I'm pretty pleased with the lining and also my set in sleeves.

Bodice - A review of the Emery dress pattern by Christine Haynes

All in all the Emery dress is a great pattern and I can see why it is so popular.  I will definitely be making it again, but I think I will start again with the bodice as this one is just a bit too snug for comfortable every day wear! Luckily I traced the pattern so I still have the original pattern intact.

Bodice - A review of the Emery dress pattern by Christine Haynes

While making this dress I also realized that although I love dresses and I wear them a lot, I don't have a lot of hand-made everyday items so I am going to concentrate on stitching some up for my summer wardrobe.  Also much as I love dresses they can be very time-consuming...

Which do you prefer to sew, simple everyday items that sew up quickly or more time-consuming projects? 

Catherine x

Monday, 18 April 2016

Setting in sleeves. How do you do it?

To be honest I have always had difficulty setting in sleeves. Often I catch the garment in the seam, and I always seem to have some little puckers in the sleeve head no matter how hard I try. The result is much frustration and lots of unpicking!

The method I've always used, involves sewing two rows of long ease stitching and pulling up to fit, then trying to smooth out the gathers to fit, and then pinning and machining sleeve side up.

Having failed to set the sleeve in successfully on my latest make, the Emery dress despite the following the excellent instructions on Christine Haynes' sewalong, I thought I'd see if there were any other methods that might work better for me.

Anyway after a quick Internet search. I found this post on Craftsy for a method that involves pinning only! I won't go into too much detail as the blog post on Craftsy is really thorough, but I thought it was worth sharing. 

The key thing to learn from this is that strategic pinning can replace using ease stitches.  The pins should be placed so that they straddle the stitching channel. It also helps to hand baste the sleeve first.  While this may seem extra work, if you are going to have to spend time unpicking your sleeve when it goes wrong, it seems like time well spent to me. Stitching the other way up, with the garment facing upwards, rather than the sleeve as normally advised, allows the feed dogs to help ease the sleeve into place.

One extra thing that I have decided to do from now in is mark the stitching line in with chalk pencil as I don't think previously that my stitching line was very accurate.

The basics steps are as follows

1.Stitching line marked with chalk pencil

Setting in sleeves - mark stitching line

2. Key points pinned first - notches, underarm seam, ease points and shoulder point

Setting in sleeves -  Key points pinned first - notches, underarm seam, ease points and shoulder point

3. Then use lots of pins to ease the sleeve head in

Setting in sleeves - use lots of pins to ease the sleeve head in

4. The seam can then hand-basted and pins can be removed

Setting in sleeves - seam hand-basted and pins can be removed

5. Finally the seam is machine sewn with the garment facing, using the feed dogs to help ease the sleeve in. 
Setting in sleeves - seam is machine sewn with the garment facing, using the feed dogs to help ease the sleeve in.

If you look closely you can see that I had to unpick the sleeve twice before trying this method!

6. The result is a sleeve that are set in properly with no little puckers or gathers. 

Setting in sleeves -sleeves set in properly with no little puckers or gathers.

The good news my Emery dress is nearly complete and I will have a finished make to share with you soon.

Have you tried this method? I am converted. 

Catherine x

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

The Daisy New Look 6262

So I made New Look 6262 again! I finished this a few weeks ago and if you read my blog you will know that I am now stitching the Emery Dress but I thought I should blog this as I had some photos!

New Look 6262 - dress with gathered sleeve, boat neck and short sleeves

I have made New Look 6262 four times now and I am pretty pleased overall with the fit of this dress. It's a simple dress with bust and waist darts and a gathered skirt, so very wardrobe friendly. I have made changes to the fit of the bodice previously, if you want to read my post here.

It can be made with or without sleeves.This is the second time I have made it with the full sleeves and to be honest there is something not quite right about them.  They don't seem to sit quite right and they pull the bodice slightly I think.  I am sure that I read somewhere  that bodices for sleeve dresses and for sleeved dresses are shaped differently so maybe that is what is wrong as this pattern uses the same pattern piece both both styles of dresses.  Anyone know more about this?

 Anyway it works better as a sleeveless dress I think, although I am still pleased with this dress, and have been wearing it lots.  I think if I was to make it again, I would leave the sleeves off or stick to the little cap sleeves.

New Look 6262 - dress with gathered sleeve, boat neck and short sleeves

The material was lovely to sew with and is a fine cotton from John Lewis. It sticks terribly to tights though so I am wearing a full slip under the dress which may account for some of the odd looking rumples on the bodice.  The other thing is I have lost weight since I fitted this pattern originally so I probably need to go back to the original pattern and start again :(

New Look 6262 - dress with gathered sleeve, boat neck and short sleeves

I wore this dress out on a recent trip to London with my family.  A nice lady stopped me on the tube, and said "I like your dress", It was so nice to be able to say, "Thank you, I made it myself!"

New Look 6262 - dress with gathered sleeve, boat neck and short sleeves

Can you see Oscar photo-bombing?

Catherine x

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Have you heard of The Foldline?

Have you heard of The Foldline?

The Fold Line is a fairly new site that was launched for sewers. I was recommended to me by Poppy in stitches after reading my post about organising my knitting stash on Ravelry, I'd asked if there was something similiar out there for sewers.

I use Pattern Review occasionally but it seems a bit dated and clunky to use sometimes.  Anyway so recently I signed up for The Fold Line and these are my initial thoughts.

It's much more modern looking. You can search through their database of patterns, and like Ravelry, you can add patterns to your own library.  The forum seems good and it's a good place for arranging meet ups with like-minded local stitchers. You can browse and follow members, designers and bloggers, and add friends to  your network.  There is a blog too if you want to follow that. There are also sewing resources that look quite useful, for example links to all your favourite Indie pattern designers sew-alongs. There is even some fun stuff like free sewing themed wallpaper for your computer and sewing themed playlists! I also liked the sewing city guides. I feel some fabric shopping trips coming on!

My initial thoughts about the Fold Line are I like it!  A lot of time and thought has gone in to developing this site.  Not sure how much time I will spend on there yet, but it's good to see a dedicated site like this for us stitchers.

Do you use The Fold Line? What do you think of it? Feel free to add me as a friend. You can find me there under Stylish Stitcher.

Catherine x


My Sewing Machines

Today I thought I'd share my sewing machines with you! My original machine is a John Lewis JL125 that I got for my birthday from my...