Blinding binding & mighty mitres

I’m on the home stretch with the Things that Matter quilt. On Friday and Saturday I made the “blinding” as B calls it, and machine stitched one side of it to the quilt. The present job, in between spells in the sun, is folding it over and hand-stitching the other side. I plan to have it finished, labelled, washed and dried in time for Friday, which is when I think B will get her Mathletics Gold award. If not, I’ll have an extra few days to do a few more random bits of quilting. Anyway, full washup post to follow!

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Sew Grateful Giveaway winners

Sew Grateful Giveaway winners

And the winners are… Tara Gries, EmSewCrazy, Laurie and Meri, who should all have emails in their inboxes or spam boxes! Congratulations to you all. Thank you to everyone who took the time to comment, enter and read my blog – I can’t help feeling that I’ve won too with such lovely new blogs to add to my feed. So sorry you couldn’t all win! All entries were transferred to paper, then 4 draws were made by my 6 year old from her Red Riding Hood basket. She’s still marvelling at the number of people with the surnames “Esme” and “Cape” 🙂

Sewing the seeds of love.

Today is Reflections Day at Sew Grateful. The most recent influences on my sewing have without doubt been the joyous, determined and skilled inhabitants of my Blogloving feed. English Eccentric, Continental Chic, US Coolness, Australian ease and effortless goddam style oozes from every blogging corner of the planet. Reading my blog feed is my daily awe and inspiration, and that’s without paying credit to the remarkable knitters, crocheters and artists in the same feed. You all rock, and I’m grateful to each and every one of you.
Yet, the post that I felt I should really post here has already been written, a year ago. It doesn’t mention any of the brilliant sewing bloggers as I was yet to find many of them, but does consider those who started me in sewing and who kept the embers glowing when I didn’t have a machine. I hope you enjoy it.

Good purl gone bad

In the eye of the getting-ready hurricane this morning I grabbed Small Girl’s mittens on a string to find that the button attaching one of them was falling off. Seconds later I had thread, needle and scissors and was sewing it back on while my tea brewed. If only the rest of my life could be this organised.

I grew up with sewing as one of the basic home skills. It wasn’t something that needed to be done well or with massive aspirations to improve, just something that was learned and done like walking to school or eating breakfast. One of my earliest memories is sitting in a sunny lawned back garden rather grumpily attempting to mend a ripped dolly after my mother told me that she was busy but would thread a needle so that I could fix it myself. Babysitters would turn up with cut out pieces of…

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The Things that matter quilt – 1 getting started

I’m making a quilt for Small Girl. I haven’t made a patchwork quilt before and haven’t done any patchwork in about 30 years, so this will be a learning curve for me. Ever generous, I shall share the learning experience here. The design that I’m going to use is the Wonky Log Cabin Block – I figured I’m already ahead with a design that actively encourages a lack of precision. I’m following Quilt Dad‘s excellent instructions – his Fabric Suggestions post is here, preparation post here and sewing instructions here. I was going to do the simple strip pattern in the back of this month’s Burdastyle magazine, but I prefer the way you get more colours together in the wonky block.

Quilt Dad reckons on about 16-20 fat quarters to make a quilt that is 5 blocks x 5 blocks square (each block is 12 inches square). I might tweak the size a bit, so have a few extra FQs (ok, it’s the start of a new stash). The fabric is mainly from two local shops with a handful from the internet. I haven’t pre-washed but have steam-ironed. The internet fabrics are thinner than the others, and may need something on the back to minimise neighbouring pieces showing through. We shall see.

Kit-wise, I already had a large transparent ruler for dressmaking so have added a 12inch square ruler for sizing the blocks, a cutting mat, a patchwork foot for my sewing machine and a rotary cutter. The cutter was not straightforward, I bought a (relatively) inexpensive one, and it didn’t work at all well. A trip back to the shop and a new blade helped for a short while, then we were back to the cutter clunking and not cutting, not even through a single layer of fabric. I switched to the universally recommended 45mm Olfa, and presto, perfect cutting through multiple layers of fabric. Much better. Further along the line I shall need batting, backing, bias tape and some kind of quilting foot. Luckily that stage is at least two pay packets away.

Cutting the strips was not at all difficult, thanks to the clear instructions. You true the fabric layers on the mat, trim the selvedge, then cut the strips using the grid lines and ruler as a guide for the cutter. After some initial playing around I’m cutting most of the strips on the lengthwise grain as there’s less stretch in them that way. Some of the directional prints will need to be cut into both lengthwise and cross-wise strips to make the most of the pattern. I also had a great tip to start the cutter on the mat rather than the fabric, to ensure an edge-to-edge cut. Finally, I’m sorting the strips by width into labelled freezer bags as there’s never any guarantee of things staying undisturbed on a table here.

So that’s where I’m at. I have a few more FQs to cut whilst I wait for the patchwork foot to arrive. I’ll update again when the foot’s here and the first block is underway.

Welcome to the Hotel Transylvania – Simplicity 1785

Small Girl wanted “long johns” (leggings) like Mavis’ in Hotel Transylvania. I found some magenta/black striped jersey, which was deemed a suitable substitute for the red/black stripe in the film and a pattern that didn’t look too taxing for my first stretch project. I traced the pattern (Simplicity 1785, more on that later) and cut an age 4 waist on an age 5 leg length. Then I looked at the result and lengthened the leg by a good couple of inches. I cut out the fabric, set up my overlocker and couldn’t get the result I wanted with the 4 thread safety overlock stitch. Everything then sat and waited while Christmas, New Year and a leaking ceiling in my den all happened. Once two out of three of those events were in the past, it was time to try again.

This time I set up the sewing machine instead of the overlocker, grabbed the manual and some fabric scraps and tested out a couple of the Juki’s stretch stitches. They were much more successful at holding the seam together. Ambitiously, I then tried the overlock stitch, which was not successful and resulted in a delay while I changed the needle, cleaned out the bobbin case and rethreaded the machine. I sewed all the seams and hems with a reinforced stretch stitch and finished seams with a 3-stitch zig-zag. Elastic went into the casing fine and I did a small machined hem on each leg. Small Girl was into them and dancing a hornpipe within seconds of my knotting the thread ends.

I’m very happy with the results for a first stretch sew. The fabric is from Stone Fabrics and is great – washed well (really well, came out of the machine as pristine as when it went in), has a lovely feel to it and is good to sew. I bought a metre and am fairly sure there’s enough left over to make another pair the same. I think it would work up well into the Jamie Christina maxi dress for an adult too, though clearly rather more than a metre would be needed.

I’m pleased with the pattern too, if a little surprised by the lack of leg length. There was just a tiny handful of notches to match, one pair of tailor’s tacks to make and only TWO pattern pieces. Well hello J
Simplicity 1785 is proving to be a very useful pattern for Small Girl – I’ve already used the pattern for the tutu dress trim to make a standalone tutu, and I’m pretty sure that I’ll be making the t-shirt dress (possibly in black a la Mavis) and perhaps a top or two. As well as more leggings if the Mavis ones stand up to the beating that she’ll give them. It’s multi size to age 8 so we have plenty of wear from it yet, even if I have to lengthen a few more pieces. I might even make her the headband, but minus the flower.

My overlocker was a disappointment on this project, though I’m pretty sure that the problem could have been resolved with a bit more effort. The seam wasn’t snug enough, even though the edge finishing was perfect. I should probably have tried a slimmer needle. I put the slimmer needle into the sewing machine instead as I couldn’t face getting the screwdriver out yet again to change two needles on the overlocker if I could get away with one on the Juki. I was very happy with how the sewing machine handled the stretch fabric, and would be more than content to use that on future stretch sewing, with the overlocker kept for finishing edges on larger projects or for school carnival costumes. I could do with figuring out the overlock stitch on the Juki too and the safety stitch on the overlocker. I probably spent 90% of the total project time under the bonnet of either the wee beastie or the sewing machine – the leggings actually worked up very fast indeed.

It still feels very weird to have something finished quite so quickly! I am happy to have finished some stretch sewing, it wasn’t as bad as I expected.

Coming soon… Kermit the Frock

The pattern is Anna from By Hand London, I’m doing the short version with a v neck. Fabric is a summer weight cotton that is part seersucker and part irregular polka dots. Colour is part Kermit, part mushy peas. This is the dress that will see summer out then welcome autumn in with a jacket, boots and much leaf-kicking. As long as I find a matching zip in time. Yes, blogged from my phone, hence the sideways jpg.

A finished Esme top

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This week’s been full of the sweet triumph of finishing stuff, largely thanks to my ancient endowment policies finally maturing with a little bit surplus to my modest expectations. Thus I came back from a visit to my family with a shiny new machine that doesn’t clonk or snarl up, and a renewed will to Finish All the Things.

Three circle skirts with elastic waists and fishing line hems for a carnival favour? Check, with the wee beastie overlocker coming in very handy for the hems. Vintage slip converted into Wendy dress for Small Girl’s friend’s Peter Pan themed birthday party? Check. SewLiberated Esme frock that seems to have been unfinished forever? Oh yes, checkitty check check.

Let’s talk about Esme. She’s a very pretty top despite some frustrations during the making process. There were some errors/omissions from the pattern instructions and printed pattern. Some of these were picked up in the errata, some weren’t, so there was a little bit of cussing on my part followed by a very prompt and helpful reply to my (non-cussing) email asking for help. I am always impressed when pattern authors answer email as it’s a level of service that you rarely see from mainstream providers. I should say that more experienced needle-people would probably sail straight through this pattern and that the instructions (and very detailed video) were on the whole clear and helpful. I’m very confident that most of the issues I had will be fixed on subsequent print runs. The other issues I think were specifically due to my fabric and my machine. I chose a very lightweight silk/cotton fabric, somewhere between chiffon and lawn in weight terms. My clunky machine was too heavy handed to edge-finish the delicate fabric before sewing, as the pattern specified, and I didn’t have the overlocker at the time. So I neatened them as I went, but this eluded my abilities on a tricky facing section and there are a couple of short inches of unfinished seam L I modified the cuffs slightly, I wanted more of a tailored finish than the pattern instructions provided. It’s questionable whether I achieved it or not as the cuffs are where my machine started misbehaving again, and I put everything aside until the new machine came home and I could finally get sewing again. I think I may have missed a pressing on the first cuff, but hopefully no-one will be looking closely enough to see my wonky edge. At that point I was ready to abandon any and all aspirations to fine tailoring, so the buttons are sewn on without buttonholes. It’s fine.*

*Except it doesn’t suit me at all. Why didn’t I remember that I can’t do most light and floaty cuts? All this prettiness just floats over all my best assets. I need tailored and fitted darn it. Full credit to me for pressing on despite the universe clearly trying to tell me that it was not a good idea. It might just work over a pair of skinny jeans. Perhaps.