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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Sew Grateful Pattern giveaway!

Let’s do this! If you fancy a pattern let me know in the comments field, please ensure you provide an email address or a blog address I can contact you at. I’m more than happy to post internationally. I’m in the UK, if the size doesn’t make sense go by the bust size as I’m sure inches are the same everywhere. Apologies for the formatting, I am really wrestling to blog without my cherished LiveWriter. Please leave your comments by midnight on Friday 28th February (GMT) and I’ll draw winners at the weekend. Thank you and good luck!

Style 2609, size 16, bust 38″. I bought this preloved from ebay but have not used it as I have a Simplicity pattern that I prefer. Pattern has been cut and used and is complete.

Katherine Tilton for Butterick B5881, multi-sizes 8 -16 (bust 31.5″ to 38″). As new and uncut. I fancied making this in two layers of coloured linen… but I need more structure than this provides. The back does cinch in with a bit of elastic.

New Look 6073, hooded and unhooded capes. Multi-size xs-xl (bust 30.5″-46″). As new and uncut, I went with a vintage pattern in the end.

Sew Liberated Esme Top. Cut to a size 12, this worked up very large on my 38″ bust and I gave it away to a friend who loves it (it fits her far better than me too). I think this is a US 12 rather than a UK 12. The website gives 37.5″ bust for a size 12, but mine worked up larger in a 12. I did have some issues with the pattern – you need to check the errata before sewing. Probably not best for a brand new dress-maker.

Sew Grateful – what a difference a year makes!

This time last year I was a few weeks into a dressmaking evening class, with a short trail of garments of varying success behind me, and my O level Fashion & Fabrics a very long way behind me. I was being teased, tantalised and tempted by a variety of fantastic completed projects on the internet, as well as touched by the generosity of time and skill-sharing by the writers of so many of these blogs. The lovely Amazing Adventures of Tara Cat was my gateway to the seamy side (hopefully she won’t mind that choice of words), and I remember being frankly stunned by the Sew Grateful project in which she shared. I would list more blogs but the sensible thing to do is to update my link list once I’ve posted this.

12 months on, I’ve done two terms of evening classes, bought a new machine and an overlocker, and have worked with jersey and tailoring, carnival costumes and quilts. The Great British Sewing Bee is shortly returning for Season 2, and my list of planned sewing projects is so long as to be almost intimidating. It’s time to give something back.

Join me from Mon 24nd February for pattern giveaways, link sharing and more embarrassingly gushy thank yous….

Edit… anyone with a diary will have spotted the error in the original graphic.. Sew Grateful actually runs from Monday 24th February to Sunday 2nd March. Corrected graphic to follow.

Mental blocks – making the Things that Matter quilt

Actually, it’s not very complicated at all. There’s no stitching other than basic straight machine stitching, no tacking (basting), no buttonholes, no darts, no zips, no facings. There is a lot of walking around my den in between the desk with my sewing machine, the ironing board and the piece of floor with the cutting mat and all the ziplocks holding the fabric on it. There is a significant amount of ironing/pressing, but it’s only one short seam at a time. There’s no knotting of ends, and I finally get to use the magic button on the machine that snips them for me. I don’t use it when dressmaking because it tends to create a tiny thread tangle on the back when starting again. This doesn’t matter on a quilt top though since everything will be enclosed.

There’s no way that I’m going to get the whole quilt out of 16 fat quarters. Well, I don’t think so. I should qualify that assertion with the small caveat that I haven’t yet decided how big to make the quilt. It’s nice that it all seems to work though, any smaller ends left from longer strips can be used at the start of the next square. Pieces that were cut crooked can be used too, just trimmed down slightly narrower. It’s incredibly liberating not having to care about any metrics beyond the seam allowance and checking that the finished block is slightly bigger than the 12.5inch square ruler. Since the whole point is that the blocks are wonky, there’s no angst about lining everything up properly. Returning briefly to seam allowances, the 1/4inch patchwork foot is fantastic. So easy to get the seam allowance right on every piece!

I’ve done two squares this weekend and started on the third. It’s all coming together in a very satisfying manner. Small Girl is enthusiastically letting me off Bat Man game-playing duties on the understanding that I crack on with her quilt. I’ve also ordered some more of the black/magenta striped jersey so that I can run up the Jamie Christina Mission maxi dress should either inspiration or thread run out.

Here are some photos.

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.

Patchwork, Hell freezing over & Things That Matter

I’ve never had any great plans to do patchwork or applique beyond the cushion covers I made in my teens, and the applique quilt that I hand stitched from a kit bought in Tahiti while my sister lived there. I’m truly blessed with with a great friend who makes quilts that are as beautiful and wonderful as she is. She has marked pretty much every much life-changing event in my adult life with a stunning quilt, for which I shall always be off-the-scale grateful. I knit and crochet blankets, and really that should be enough bed coverings in one house, although my blankets always end up in the front room being snuggled under or turned into dens and dolly slides. Anyway I was pretty sure that it would be a cold day in Hell before I started cutting perfectly good fabric into small pieces then sewing them back together again.

Today, I’d finished the big grocery trek around town and was enjoying a coffee, a brownie and the new BurdaStyle magazine. I’d made my mental list of what I fancied making and was skimming through the back pages when I was stopped short by a patchwork quilt. It looked straightforward enough for a novice to sew. I thought of how much I miss seeing a handmade quilt on Small Girl’s bed. I thought of all the lovely fat quarters of quilting fabric that I’d used to make Barbie cloaks, party bags and her Pirate Zoe doll. I thought of all the things that matter to her, and of how nice it would be to capture these loves in a quilt to keep her warm and inspired. I remembered that my new sewing machine is capable of quilting. I paid the bill and set off into the rain, bound for the little fabric shop with the random opening hours. If they were open, it would be a sign, right?

quiltThey were open. I came out with a cutting mat, a rotary cutter and an array of fat quarters encompassing space, shoes, hearts, music, pirates, mermaids, frocks, sewing, pink, faeries, Christmas, flowers, fish, beach houses, bikes, campervans… I have a few pieces left over from other projects, and there are plenty of other quilting retailers. It would be nice to find fabric with Barbie or Hello Kitty, cakes or cookies, princesses and girl musketeers. I’m sure they must be out there.

Wish me luck, I’m going in.