An autumn of sewing

Hello, it’s been a while. I hadn’t realised quite how long until I came back on to start this blog. After finishing by 12 in 2020 challenge I lost some of my blogging mojo. I think partly staring at a computer screen all day for work means I don’t have any motivation to do the same thing in the evening too. I’ve also become a trustee of an awesome charity this autumn and that has taken up quite a few of my evenings too.

Anyway, on to sewing. I’ve completed four projects this autumn. The only connection between (three of) them in that I’m continuing my mission to use up my fabric stash, although I probably shouldn’t mention how much I have added to it recently too!

A Christmas present bag

The first project I made was a bag for a Christmas present for a family friend. It was from the Cath Kidston Sewing Book https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cath-Kidston-Sewing-Book/dp/1849493820. I have used this pattern before for A new bag. I find this a fun pattern to make, all the pieces are rectangles, it comes together easily and looks interesting when it is done. This time I added in an internal wallet and a button flower on the outside. The whole thing was made from fabric in my stash. The spotty outer is the table runners from my wedding, the lining the lining from the The ‘thank you for carrying my sewing machine across York’ skirt and the button flower fabric from one of the Christmas shopping bags.

The end result is useful too. I originally used mine as a baby stuff bag, and do still take it out and about. It’s also useful as a sewing bag, with lots of pockets so you can keep things separate. My current project is sat in there at the moment, just staring at me, asking me to stop watching Christmas TV and finish it up!

More Crochet socks

I’ve already blogged about these socks twice before. My daughter has a pair and so do I. the monkey was asking for a second pair of bed socks so I raided my draw of leftover yarn and made these. Somehow though they managed to end up fairly different sizes whilst I could have sworn I did the same thing both times. Ah well, tension I guess, and she hasn’t complained!

The original blogs are Socks for a Monkey and Cosy Socks.

A Woodworking Apron

The larger monkey in my life (also known as my husband) is big into woodworking and various other heavy duty crafts. Our garage is one massive workshop with a washing machine stuck in the corner. He spends a lot of time working out there and has been saying for a while he could do with a heavy duty apron to protect his clothes. Whilst hunting through my stash I found this great red stripe fabric. It isn’t actually that old as I bought it to make our nephew a cooking apron last Christmas (another make I never actually blogged about), and it is surprisingly tough so was ideal for a woodworking apron too. I’d clearly massively over bought for an apron for a 7 year old as there was enough to pretty much made a whole second apron. I added a strip of some very old fabric at the bottom. It is at least twelve years old as I made bags with it when I first got back into sewing. This apron probably would have been fine without it as I ended up chopping most of it off when we agreed on the length, but I actually quite like the interest at the bottom. I self drafted this apron based on his measurements and a bit of trial an error as we went along. The only real issue was working out how wide the top could be without it bagging.

An Angel Gabriel nativity top

The monkey started school this year and her foundation year do a nativity play. She loved the whole thing and was very excited that she had some lines. She was part of ‘angel group one’ which is basically Angel Gabriel (there was a reassuring lack of lobsters and other random nativity animals in this production!) and the instructions that came home from school were that they weren’t doing full costumes, they were just asking the children to come in a particular coloured t-shirt for their role. Angels were yellow or gold. Now the monkey didn’t have a yellow top, but I do have a massive length of yellow fabric, which was too good an opportunity to miss – make a top for nothing or hunt online during lockdown 2 – it was a no brainer really.

This fabric was a new purchase – I’d done a pot luck bolt ends order from https://www.dalstonmillfabrics.co.uk/. I got 20 meters of fabric for £30, it was a bit of a gamble but it ended up being really worth it as I got some fabric which is ideal to make my current project (which was proving a challenge to find) and about 5 others too. The monkey went wild with it all, after she’d turned it into a den she then went through it all demanding dresses in most of the fabric. She hasn’t got any of those yet, but has got a top for an angel! I drafted this myself too using the pattern I’d made for my 2020 take 12 challenge – #4 – copy of a top. I got the neck wrong as I’d overestimated the size of her head but otherwise it worked well.

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2020 take 12 challenge – #12 the fidget blanket

September has been World Alzheimer’s Month. An opportunity to raise awareness about the most common cause of dementia. I work for a charity that cares for and supports a high number of people with dementia. Mostly in residential homes, but also through our community groups when individuals are still able to live in their own homes. In order to support those living with dementia there are a variety of products. One of my favourites are those produced by Active Minds (https://www.active-minds.org/uk) who produce activities specially designed for those with dementia. Thanks to a recent fundraising campaign we ran we were able to provide a pack of their resources for each of our homes with dementia wings and it has been lovely to see the photos of our residents enjoying the products and hear the stories from both them and their carers. Another favourite are the robotic pets which are very soothing, although I do admit the robotic seal freaks me out a bit!

Not all items which provide comfort for people living with dementia need to be bought. It has been found that the anxiety often brought on by the loss of memory associated with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia more broadly can be relieved to some extent it those suffering have something to do with their hands. Fiddle blankets can help with this. They are blankets with different textures and different items on which someone can have on their lap or their bed and fiddle with. As part of our awareness raising around World Alzheimer’s Month our dementia team have been encouraging everyone to make fiddle blankets to donate to support our residents. I was really keen to be part of this project, and having sorted by pretty large fabric stash over the summer it was an ideal opportunity to use some more of it for a worthwhile reason.

This first blanket has been made using a variety of fabric offcuts from all sorts of projects. There is the corduroy from the The ‘thank you for carrying my sewing machine across York’ skirt, some leftover pieces from making face masks and the scuba from my 2020 take 12 challenge – #1 – Brice knit jumpsuit and dress, not to mention a number of projects I made before I started my blog. I deliberately made the pieces quite big, partly for speed of sewing, but also so all the different textures were obvious and so that I had space to add the items to fiddle with. I went for a zip, some buttons, a section of bunting and some lace. There are lots of different ideas you can add onto it too, which I may well give a go if I do another one.

This is the end of the 12 in 2020 challenge I set myself. I’ve finished it in 9 months so I’m going to probably have a little bit of a pause now and create a new list. I’d still like to continue to make good use of my offcut stash and I have a few fabrics that I don’t yet have a plan for. But with the weather turning I’m loosing my interest in summer makes so they may all have to go on hold until the spring. With the year we’ve had I think it may be time to start planning Christmas decorations!

2020 take 12 challenge – #11 the Daisy Bralette

This year I’ve been looking to expand the variety of things I sew and improve my sewing skills. Making my 2020 take 12 challenge – #10 the Kelly Anorak was a definite stretch in my experience and enjoyed the process. For my next make I went in the opposite direction from big chunky autumn coat to underwear. I’ve been browsing bra patterns for a while but I found the requirements list a bit daunting. I had no idea if I would be buying the right things to actually make the bra up. The construction of them also looks complicated and I wasn’t up for taking the plunge with with both of those factors in the balance.

Luckily one of my favourite fabric shops https://www.sewwardrobe.co.uk/ has a a bralette pattern they have drafted themselves and sell kits with everything you need to make them. This definitely appealed to me. The bralette was simpler than a full bra so in theory would be a good introduction to bra making and the pack meant I didn’t have to worry about buying the right things.

There were some issues with what came – the pack didn’t include any thread which surprised me. I probably should have read the small print beforehand but missed that point. Luckily I had some thread which sort of matched, which I decided was close enough for my first attempt (my mother-in-law had given me a set of lovely thread a few years ago and I’ve never found a good use for them until recently). Now I’ve finished both the bralette and knickers you can see the thread, but it looks fine. The other issue was because it was a self produced pattern in some places there were errors in the formatting of the instructions. The pictures blocked out some of the words. Generally I managed to figure out what was intended but that could be a challenge for less experienced sewers.

So, the making of the pattern itself. Next time I use lace I’m definitely going to cut out with my rotary blade. It’s not the slipperiest fabric I’ve ever used, and the pieces ended up fine, but it would have made my life easier. In terms of construction the instructions get you to start with the bralette and make the knickers after. This didn’t make sense to me as the knicker construction is much simpler and only uses one layer of lace rather than the gauze as well which the bralette requires. I chose to make the knickers first to get used to handling the lace and the elastic and I’m pleased I did. The instructions themselves assume quite a high level of pattern reading experience. If you are used to patterns such as https://www.tillyandthebuttons.com/ where everything is explained in detail you might find it a bit of a challenge to get your head around. It’s all there, but it does expect you to work a fair bit of it out.

The make itself was relatively straightforward. The instructions for the full bust adjustment were on the light side (see comment above) but I figured it out by examining the picture and a bit of trial and error. Once I got onto the construction I had to google what a three point zig-zag was but now I know and have discovered an extra feature on my sewing machine! Making the bralette basically consists of sewing seams with a narrow zig-zag and then going over the seam allowance with a wide three point zig-zag. Once you’ve figured that out once it is just a case of pin and repeat.

And the end result? I’m pretty chuffed with myself for making this set. It looks good and fits well, so what’s not to like? Sew wardrobe now sell bra making kits for full bra patterns so I’ve bought myself a pattern and one of those kits I’ll see how that one goes!

2020 take 12 challenge – #10 the Kelly Anorak

Way back in April I bought the kit to make this anorak from the Guthrie & Ghani sewing society. https://guthrie-ghani.co.uk/blog/announcing-the-g-g-sewing-society Their monthly kits include everything needed to make the item including thread and new needles for your machine. I’d been thinking about making a coat for a while, but wasn’t sure where to start and this kit seemed the ideal opportunity. It wasn’t cheap, but to be honest to buy everything you need to make this pattern would have quickly added up however you did it.

Kelly anorak: https://guthrie-ghani.co.uk/shop/pattern/closet-core-kelly-anorak-sewing-pattern

The pattern has lots and lots of pieces and takes forever to cut out the pattern pieces and in the actual fabric. I found this part a bit of a drag as I had to do it in the evenings and I often found I lacked the motivation to get everything out just to cut out three or four pieces and put it all away again. Once I’d got through that bit it was a case of sitting down and making a start, although that got hampered by hot weather – I discovered that I don’t have any motivation to sew a complicated autumn coat when it’s baking hot. I completed at least two other projects whilst this one sat in the bag waiting for me to come back to it. Once the weather started cooling down I came back to it and really enjoyed the whole process.

I quickly realised you have to be methodical with this pattern. I marked the letter of the pattern pieces on the wrong side of the fabric and kept them together with the pattern until I had used them. The pattern did seem a bit daunting, but was actually pretty okay to follow as long as I made sure I read each instruction really carefully and didn’t try to rush. The fabric is quite thick so I used the strongest needle in the kit, but it sewed fine, even through multiple layers and interfacing.

The sewing society kit comes with videos talking you through making the pattern. To start off with I didn’t use these, but when I found I wanted clarification on a few things I started watching them and found them useful. As i guess is always going to be the way they talked through some things I’d found straightforward in some detail and skimmed over the odd thing I found tricky but overall was a useful guide for the techniques I haven’t done before including accordion folds and adding the stud closings. They also added some slight twists to the pattern including flat lining the hood which i agree improves the hood and was also something I hadn’t done before.

Now it is finished I’d really proud of my new coat. It looks great, feels solid, has interesting details and is comfortable to wear. It isn’t waterproof but will be very useful in that mid-season weather. I’d definitely by a Closet Case pattern or a sewing society kit again. It felt like a sturdy well designed and put together pattern and the kit and instructions had everything I needed. I even ran out of thread before I had attached the arms and they sent me another one less than 48 hours after I emailed them about it.

2020 take 12 challenge – #9 masks, masks and more masks

I’ve got a bit distracted over the last couple of weeks making face masks. Going through my fabric stash I realised I had enough leftovers from 12 years of sewing to fill a large laundry basket, and was determined to do something with it all, rather than it just keeping getting larger.

I started off trying to sell the fabric for donations for MHA and did sell a bit, but the new rules about wearing face masks in shops gave me a new opportunity and I became a one woman mask making factory every evening for about a week.

I have to admit I was a bit slow off the mark in getting started, didn’t have a pattern and had to ask my mum how to make them. Once I got into it I enjoyed going through my offcuts working out which ones were big enough, and got quite a production line going.

I used a pattern free method where you hem a rectangle of fabric, iron in half and add in a nose bar. You then put three folds into each side of the fabric, and sew those in place at the same time as adding in the elastic.

I’m really chuffed that I’ve made over £93 for MHA. ( and I’ve five got a few left if anyone wants one).

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Right, now back to my big coat. I will finish it one day!

2020 take 12 challenge -#8 New Look K6217

Can you tell I’m off work this week? That and the Monkey binge watching PJ Masks after it magically re-appeared on Netflix means I’ve had a lot of time to sew over the last few days.

With lockdown my work wear has changed. I discovered after the first few weeks that having work wear of some sort helps me get in the zone for work, but I still don’t need to be as smart as I would be in the office.  The copy of my favourite People Tree top I made a couple of months ago has been great and got a lot of wear and so I wanted other, similar, tops for the summer.

A while (about 6 years) ago when I was getting into dressmaking I bought a lot of sewing magazines.  I’ve kept hold of most of the patterns I got free with those, and one of those was New Look K6217. It didn’t really speak to me at the time, but looked like some decent basic patterns so it stayed.

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Once my awesome camera fabric arrived from Gather N Sew I decided view B of this pattern was my best bet as the fabric is very soft and slippy and it didn’t look like it had enough structure for the other top patterns I have to hand.

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This is a pretty straightforward pattern with only three pattern pieces but it became a lesson in sewing lightweight fabric and bias binding.  The fabric was a bit of a challenge to cut out, it moves so easily and if the pattern wasn’t pinned right to the edge everything moved as you cut.  As I moved on with the project I started using my rotary wheel and cutting board with random items from the dining table as pattern weights. That was so much easier as long as the pattern piece was small enough to fit on my mat.

For the construction I decided to use french seams. The fabric was so fine and looked like it would fray I decided this would make the whole thing look neater. I’m now pretty confident with french seams after all my Fifi sets so didn’t make my typical error of sewing it the wrong way round at the start.

The pattern says to use bought bias binding but a) I didn’t have any and b) I thought it would look better with the same fabric, so I made my own.  This is another thing I’m confident with from the Fifi tops, and used the pattern pieces from that to make it. Attaching the binding is where I made a couple of errors. When I sewed the back of the binding on I did it with the right side of the top facing me, as I thought that would make the stitching neater. Unfortunately what it actually meant was that I missed a load of the binding and had to go back and stitch over it again. I also forgot to fold over the end of the binding at the start and finish so ended up doing a bit of a bodge job to get it finished.

Given how lightweight the fabric is I decided that the top would benefit from a bit more weight so used bias binding on the arms and the hem.  I’m pleased with how that turned out as it goes make the top a bit less floaty.

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The final part of the pattern was adding in a button and a button loop, the hardest bit of that was deciding which button to use!

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I’ve recently put all my fabric offcutts together and realised that I’m got a large laundry basket worth of leftover fabric.  I’ve been trying to give some of it away for donations for MHA and definitely don’t want to add much more too it. I love this fabric so decided to try and get another Fifi top out of it.  I don’t have enough for the whole set, but did manage to get the top cut out. After cutting it out I had a crisis of confidence and thought  I was 90 degrees out on the grainline, but looking at the photo again I think I was okay. I’m not going to blog about that one as I think three blogs on one pattern would be too much even for me to be interested in.

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40 before 40 #8 – go to the theatre

I actually completed this last October but have just realised that I never posted about it. Before I wrote my 40 before 40 list the last time I went to the theatre was to see The Book of Mormon in about 2011 and before that with work colleagues to see something at The Old Vic in 2006. So as you can see, I’m not a big theatre goer.

This time we went to see The Gruffalo at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham. It was a great show and the Monkey’s first trip to the theatre. It was fascinating watching her start to understand what was going on.  To start off with I think she was expecting someone to come and sit on the stage and read the story to her.  Once it did begin she started asking when the next character was going to come onto the stage, but then she got into it and really enjoyed the whole thing.

It’s 9 months since we went and last week she brought it up out of the blue again, and telling me all about the snake, the owl and the mouse again.

IMG_20191011_124343IMG_20191011_132212IMG_20191011_132334IMG_20191011_132540 The tram there was also a hit too!

2020 take 12 challenge -#7 a glow in the dark dinosaur dress!

Yep, how cool is that, a glow in the dark dinosaur dress! Not for me, unfortunately, but for the Monkey.

This ended up being a two dresses for one project as I made a practice one which the Monkey loved and ended up wearing to nursery the morning I finished it. I found the fabric online at Gather ‘N’ Sew in Bourne. I went there when picking up some baby things which had been handed on to us just before the Monkey was born and had really liked it.  That time I bought the fabric for my Cat bag which I love and still use a lot. I’ve been looking for some fabric for a few new summer tops and hadn’t been finding any in the usual places I look, so decided to check them out.  I got two gorgeous fabrics for my tops and found this dinosaur fabric – win win!

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As soon as she saw it the Monkey demanded a dress and a jumper from the fabric.  I couldn’t find a dress or jumper pattern in her size, but I do still have the pattern I had made to make a dress for niece #2 a few years ago. When I made it for her she had just turned 3, but the dress had been quite big on her so I thought it was worth a try. To make the practice dress I used the fabric I had left over from my Tilly and the Buttons Coco tunic and cut the pattern a scissor blade width wider than the pattern. Amazingly the fit was spot on.

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The dresses themselves were quick to make. I completed everything except the neck of the first one in one evening and the whole of the second one the following night. There are only four pattern pieces for the whole and because the sleeves are raglan sleeves they went in very easily.  I also hadn’t included a neck band which sped things up. I think the dresses would have looked better with a neckband, but the Monkey is very pleased with them both. Apparently she was explaining to one of her friends at nursery that I had made her this dress out of fabric.

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2020 take 12 challenge – #6 another Fifi set

I don’t usually make a repeat of a pattern so soon after my first attempt, but the Fifi set is so comfortable I couldn’t resist. I had bought this fabric without a proper plan for it, I was possibly thinking about making a blouse, but when I felt it again it just screamed Fifi  at me and I felt motivated.

Because I knew what I was doing it was a quicker make this time round, and apart from one mistake – starting my first seam the wrong way round to make a french seam – I think it was better made too.

I solved that first mistake by doing a triple seam which seems to have worked and not been too bulky.  The two main challenges I had the first time I made this pattern were getting the cup to fit into the bodice and the elastic on the bottoms. Both of these challenges went much better this time. For the top it was a case of just paying a bit more attention to matching the two curves together. I found the waistband more interesting. I didn’t have the right sized elastic. For my first version I went for elastic which as a bit smaller than required and for this one I used some that was a bit bigger.  The bigger option was definitely the way to go. It was firmer and came together better into a more substantial waste-band.

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2020 take 12 challenge – # 5 – baskets

Last year year one of my friends had a baby. I’d intended to make her a welcome to the world present, but I didn’t find any inspiration for what to make. I actually finished these pre-lockdown, but it took me a while to post them and write this up.

The new baby (not so new now, she’s just had her first birthday!) has an older sister, so I figured at some point in her life she’d appreciate having something that was definitely hers, that her big sister couldn’t claim and run off with. And that became my criteria, something with her name on that she wouldn’t grow out of. Finally I found what I was looking for.  The best crochet book I have is A little course in crochet which explains techniques well and well sound projects that actually work and don’t contain mistakes.

In that book is a project to make a project basket, which I decided to base this present on.  The pattern itself is pretty simple, one main colour with a few contrast bands on the foldover edge.  My plan was to be a bit more adventurous and attempt to add her name into the actual basket.  Luckily this book also includes instructions on how to create colour patterns within crochet, using either the jacquard or intarsia methods.  For this project I generally used the jacquard method where you hide the thread you are not using inside the stitch you are making, and then swap them over when you change colour.

Once I’d got my head around it it worked very nicely and had the added benefit of making the sides of the basket sturdier as there was an extra row of thread for much of it.

This was also a very portable project as none of the baskets are that big.  It ended up being my go distraction on a Sunday morning when I look my daughter pre-school trampolining lessons, I enjoyed the combination!  I wonder when we’ll be able to do that again, although it has been fun randomly coming across her class mates on our walks around the village recently.

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