Friday, 31 July 2015

Handmade Wardrobe Project 5 - Sailor Top v2

I wasn't joking when I said I wanted a whole row of sailor tops in different fabrics and lengths, so this week I made another, with a few variations on the original pattern

This incarnation was made from two different fabrics. There was a 1m remnant of floral fabric  in my drawer (intended for doll's clothes) which I loved, but don't suit pale fabrics right next to my skin. To address this, I paired it with dark brown scraps (my mum was throwing those away so this project didn't even cost anything). I love how it turned out. Please excuse the wonky-hanger shot, I had to take it off to get a picture! 
Based on my first attempt, which needed additional panels to comfortably accommodate my tummy, I added 2.5 cm to each of the side seams. I left the armhole the same size, as the yoke and sleeve are a perfect fit already.  It was also lengthened by adding 5cm to the front and back (there is a marker on the pattern pieces to do this).

One of the aims of the Handmade Wardrobe Project is to fill the gaps in my wardrobe. I already have an orange cardigan (not handmade) and a peach and brown crochet Transposition shawl-ette (read more about it here) which I can wear with it when the weather changes. All in all I absolutely love it. D has named it my 'Tiger Who Came to Tea' top because of the 'retro' vibes. 
- I ran out of brown thread part way through the project. It wasn't a total disaster, but it was a good lesson.
- The hem needs to be redone as I'd threaded the bobbin the wrong way when I changed to white thread (it needed my Mum to figure out why the machine stopped working properly as I just don't know enough about sewing yet), but as I couldn't wait to wear it, it'll do for the moment. 
- There is a gather at the centre-front yoke which is very flattering as it breaks up my 'boob shelf'. I'd like to take credit for this, but it was luck not judgement. Next time I'll do it on purpose. 
After seeing how well this worked in mixed fabrics, there are probably enough scraps in my 'stash' (ie a box of leftovers Mum gave me to practice sewing) to make at least a couple more. This style is just so comfy and flattering I'm going to do just that... although two new dress patterns just arrived and I'm not sure which to prioritise. If you want to follow my progress throughout the week, I'm using the Instagram hashtag #cftchandmadewardrobe.
Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Tutorial: How to knit 'Jogless' stripes in the round

Inspired by one of my stitch markers, I had the urge to cast on something stripy using Scheepjes Stonewashed yarn leftover from a design project. As it is being knit in the round, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to share my favourite method of changing the yarn for stripes on circular projects. This technique gives a neat finish and is very easy to do.
A stitch marker and three simple steps are all it takes.  
Step 1: Knit the first round of the new colour, then when you get back to the first stitch use the right needle to lift the stitch from the previous round onto the left needle. In the illustration, you'll see this was a green stitch. 

Step 2: Knit the two stitches (on the left needle) together, so that you have one stitch in the new colour. 
Step 3: You now have an elongated stitch. To prevent an obvious line of elongated stitches, simply replace the marker after the stitch you just worked. At the same time carry the yarn up the back of the join. 

Repeat these three steps on every round. After a few rounds you will see there is no obvious join - the start of the row has shifted to the left by one stitch on each round and by the time it has been washed and worn it may only be visible to the expert eye (i.e. another knitter). In the final image, the marker was originally at the point shown by the arrow and if you know where to look you'll see the joins, but you probably wouldn't notice it otherwise. 

As this project will be a gift, I won't be able to show you the rest for a little while, but I can tell you that it feels scrumptiously cuddly and I am putting lots of love in every stitch. 
Monday, 27 July 2015

Tissue Case - The quickest scrap fabric project ever?

I hate waste and try to use up every possible scrap of yarn or fabric after finishing a project, so when I spotted the instructions for this little tissue case I decided to whip one up immediately. Now that my sewing machine is in permanent residence on my desk, it meant that the whole thing took less than five minutes. 

Materials: Aside from a sewing machine you need only 22 x 15 cm of fabric, matching thread and a pocket pack of tissues. 

How to: Hem the two shortest edges of the fabric. Then, with the right sides together, fold those hemmed edges towards one another to make a 1cm overlap. Then sew along the folded edge at the top and bottom. Trim down the sewn seams and any bulky corners, before turning right-side out. Put your tissues inside and ta-dah! You have a finished object. 
I have to say I've ever used one of these before now, but it would be a nice thing to have if going to a wedding (matching a handmade outfit, perhaps) or to add to a gift package. Little Miss is going to make her own, as it's a perfect sewing project for a child  - she can use a sewing machine, but it would also work as a hand-sewn project for a younger child. If you'd like to make one of your own, you can find a step by step photo tutorial here. Details of the fabric used can be found on my previous post.

Online Sewing Class
Friday, 24 July 2015

Handmade Wardrobe Project 4 - Sailor Top

When I first learned to knit and successfully finished new projects, I'd get a huge rush of excitement. These days I'm much less excited and far more critical of any knitting projects and only get that excitement upon turning a rough sketch into a design I like. With so little time to work on designs at the moment* it seems that learning to sew might be the answer - I feel really excited about this week's Handmade Wardrobe garment, and it was quick too. 

The Project: Armed with some new supplies including 1.5m of gorgeous Tula fabric, I cut out the pattern for the Fancy Tiger Crafts Sailor Top on Wednesday afternoon and couldn't wait to sew it up. Thursday morning I wore my new top to the park! This was my second (ever) sewn garment but the first from a pattern. If you missed the other garment you can see it here.  

The Lessons: It was surprisingly easy to make the top, but not everything went to plan:
1. I ordered 1.5 m of fabric and didn't take into account that I'd be making the largest size (XXL) so it wasn't really enough - I only just managed to cut everything out of the fabric. I'd have liked to add a few inches, but this just wasn't possible. 
2. I'd forgotten to order tracing or carbon paper and had to draw around the printed pattern with chalk. The chalk didn't show up very well and so not all the lines and notches were perfectly cut. Then I failed to transfer a few of the markers which made the yoke attachment a little more fiddly than it needed to be. Not a big deal, as I compensated with lots of pins, but it would have been easier with the right tools and markings. 
3. After taking hip measurements, I knew the biggest size would be roomy on the hips... but didn't consider my (wobbly) tummy. When I tried it on for the first time, it did fit but there was no way I'd have worn it! I hatched a plan to insert panels at the sides, but with very little fabric left over it was difficult. Although it looks fine on the outside (see image left), this 'bodge' spoiled the neat inside seams. 
4. I really need to practice sewing on a curve. Enough said. 
5. I discovered that ironing while sewing is a pleasure.
While far from perfect, I absolutely love the finished top. I am really pleased with the fabric (and the way it hides a multitude of sins) which looks great with jeans. Someone who didn't know I'd just made it even complimented my top which felt fantastic! 
I plan to make more of these in different lengths and fabrics as it's really comfortable without looking scruffy. The official picture for the class makes me want a whole row of them in different colours for myself!
Sew a Sailor Top with Fancy Tiger Crafts on Creativebug
The class: Working along with the instructors made this project very straightforward and relaxing, even as a sewing novice. It taught me new skills such as how to work a 'gathering stitch' and how to 'stitch in the ditch' to get a nice finish on the yoke. Most of all it gave me the confidence to follow a pattern and sew something wearable.

You may have noticed that most of my handmade wardrobe items to date have been from Creativebug classes. I am really enjoying my membership and making the most of it which is why I'm 100% happy to recommend it, and to be an affiliate. You can get the online video classes for all these projects and many more as part of a free trial or with a $4.99 unlimited monthly subscription after the trial ends. This includes all tutorials and pattern downloads. Stream the classes or download them to your device, plus you get to keep one class per month even if you stop the subscription.

My next two sewing and knitting projects are planned already - I just need a time machine... or an au pair!
*After numerous requests, I've decided to improve the design and construction of the improvised Weekend Tunic I made a few weeks ago, and to release it as a pattern. I'm finishing the first sample at the moment and the pattern will be heading out to test knitters next week. If you were one of the people who asked for the pattern, stay tuned! 
Wednesday, 22 July 2015

WIP Wednesday: Gathering and cutting

A new knitting or crochet project may involve acquiring new yarn - sometimes even that isn't necessary - but I usually have everything else needed. Lots of knitting needles, crochet hooks, notions, you name it. Not so with sewing. I have a sewing machine, pins and thread in a few colours and that's about it. Living in a village with only a few haberdashery supplies in the post office, there's not much opportunity for spontaneous crafting if you don't have a 'stash'. I need to order online or make a special trip somewhere. (Did I ever mention how I hate driving/parking/shopping?) So after sewing my first dress and realising that I really didn't have many tools, I've been 'gathering' for my next few projects. 
With things starting to come together, I'm planning to spend my last afternoon of the school term (in other words, the last time I'll be alone for the foreseeable future) cutting out the fabric for my next garment. It's this simple Sailor Top from Fancy Tiger Crafts on Creativebug which should work well in this light 100% cotton fabric.
It's a cute pattern and beginner-friendly - I've already watched the video tutorial and printed the pattern so I'm ready to go. Wish me luck - I'm still a bit anxious about the irreversible nature of cutting fabric and must get over it!
Monday, 20 July 2015

Increase Decrease - 99 step-by-step methods (Book Review)

There are many different ways to increase and decrease in knitting, and as both a knitter and designer this is something I've spent rather a lot of time pondering (remember S3YP3?).

For this reason I was delighted to recieve a review copy of 'Increase Decrease' the new book by Judith Durant (editor of the One-skein Wonders series) in return for my honest review. The fact that it arrived on Saturday and I'm writing about it today should tell you a lot about my genuine enthusiasm for this book which will undoubtedly become a key resource for future projects.

The book is split into three sections - Increase, Decrease and Combination/Special circumstances which includes things like designing the top of a hat, or shaping for colourwork sleeves. While it is essentially a technical manual on shaping, it is written in such a way that it is accessible to all levels.

New knitters unsure how to work a "kfb" will find the answer. Designers needing help to add shaping to a lace design will find illustrations to help. There are step-by-step photos and written instructions for the different methods of increases and decreases, as well as swatches showing both the RS and WS which is incredibly useful (and not all that common). For anyone who doesn't knit Continental-style, note that you should work the stitches exactly the same way as pictured, the working yarn will just come from the right and not the left.
On a practical level, the book is a great size (smaller than A5) and has a lay-flat spiral binding so it's both portable and easy to work from. The font is easy on the eye and the pictures very clear. I would highly recommend 'Increase Decrease' to anyone who wants to know more about shaping and the different effects that can be achieved. The book is available now from and in both paperback and ebook.  It is the perfect companion to Cast-On Bind-Off from the same publisher, which is another of my favourites. 
Saturday, 18 July 2015

Something different: Ukuleles, everywhere!

A few weeks ago my sister told me she was having a ukulele lesson. I don't recall her ever showing any interest in playing an instrument, so it was unexpected... but I forgot all about it until last weekend when she got her uke out and started playing songs that I recognised. Modern songs. The type we hear on the radio. This piqued the kids' interest too. 
A week later and we seem to have acquired three ukes of our own and I have learned how to play-along with several of my favourite songs - not very well but I've only had a ukulele for 48 hours, so I'm satisfied with that. We spent this afternoon in the garden enjoying the sunshine while subjecting the non-uke-obsessed family members (and neighbours) to 'Prayer in C' by Lilly Wood, Sam Smith's 'Stay With Me' and various Coldplay and Maroon 5 hits.
Like my bewildered husband, you may be wondering what has happened to us, and why we have become obsessed. And we are not the only ones, as ukuleles have been gaining in popularity over the last five years. Here's why I think they are the instrument du jour:

- Small and highly portable, the uke is a very convenient instrument for adults and children.
- With only 4 strings, it's an easy instrument to handle.
- The 'beginner' chords are simple to play and remember. You don't need to read music or to have any previous musical experience to play them, although it probably helps. 
- The majority of popular songs use only a few chords and once you know them, it's fun to play along. Check out the Axis of Awesome "4 chords" video which is both funny and interesting if, like me, you don't know much about music, or these magic chords that make up so much of our pop culture.
- YouTube is packed with really great ukulele tutorials. The majority are song based and many have different versions for different levels, so a beginner can play the chords with a simple strumming pattern, while a more experienced player can try the fancy stuff. With new songs being posted all the time there's something for everyone.
- Social media is a huge enabler. Take a look at the #ukulele tag on Instagram and you'll see hundreds of new photos and videos added each day. 
- Ukulele groups are popping up all over the place, so there's also a 'real life' social aspect if you'd like to play along with others. I discovered that there is even a uke group in our sleepy village!
- It's possible to pick up reasonable beginner instruments for a small investment (£25 - £35 or less if you don't mind the colour).

The school term ends on Wednesday and our holiday plans include daily ukulele practice. It's something the children and I can do together and it's fun to be learning something at the same time. I'm also thinking about some uke-related craft projects... If you play too, leave a comment and tell me about it.

PS. If you were visiting to see the next instalment of my Handmade Wardrobe Project, it'll be posted mid-week (all being well with my sewing plans!) as we are having a weekend of celebration for my boy's birthday. 
Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Decisions... and distractions

Why is it that the most simple knitting can be the most problematic? Over the weekend I cast on the latest project in my Handmade Wardrobe series, using a very "easy" stitch pattern which I had already swatched and loved with my chosen yarn
Scheepjes Bloom (lightweight cotton yarn) is gorgeous to knit, gliding beautifully over my favourite knitting needles, but unfortunately I had numerous problems with this project so far. For every five or six rows I knit, I end up ripping out at least one. Far from the speedy knitting on the last two projects, I've only managed to work through one 50g ball!! After posting my dilemma on the CftC Facebook page and thinking about the replies, it's probably a combination of two things. To start with, I am feeling exhausted. Secondly, thinking of this as a simple stitch pattern (which it is) I am probably paying less attention than I would with something "difficult". 

Oh and there's also the matter of a certain Cornish distraction - yes, I finally got around to watching Poldark (which is available to download via Amazon Instant Video if, like me, you missed it).
Image Source: BBC
Well, all of this seems to be conspiring against me and far from having finished the back - which is the point I'd hoped to be at tonight - I haven't even picked it up today. A little 'time out' is needed*. I'm deciding whether to cast on another stitch pattern with another ball. If they compare favourably, and I make less mistakes that could be the way forward. What do you think?

Either way, with a school trip (I'm a parent helper), a hospital appointment, and a ninth birthday (and party) to fit in this week, it's incredibly unlikely that there'll be another finished garment before the weekend. However more fabric is on the way and  there are plans for some sewing next week - that should be much much quicker! 

*While I'm taking time out, there's a nagging thought in the back of my mind that the yarn may be trying to tell me something. Does your yarn talk to you too? 
Saturday, 11 July 2015

Handmade Wardrobe Project 3 - Seamless Sweater

Despite the enormous size of this week's garment, it was finished very quickly. Perhaps because it was the first project from a pattern - Quadrant via Creativebug - and I didn't have to think about it at all, or perhaps due to the Aran weight yarn on 6mm needles. 

The pattern is from Norah Gaughan's 'Knit a Seamless Sweater' class. I will admit to making the sweater from the PDF printout without watching it, but went back to it so I could tell you more. While the pattern was very easy to follow (to anyone with a little knitting experience), the class is in work-along format and beginners should find it very easy to follow. Norah shows all the techniques needed, from casting on, to binding off and sewing in the ends. 

The design is very nice - both front and back are knit identically from the centre out (if you've made my Seafoam (shawlette-to-shrug) pattern the shape will be familiar) and when they have the right number of stitches, they are joined together so the arm shaping and sleeves can be worked in the round.  It is a fun way to knit a sweater and I really like the resulting detail along the sleeve decreases, which you can see in the picture below.

Unfortunately, being short and wide, there are some drawbacks to this construction for me. The extra stitches needed to give the requisite ease around the body (and there is a lot of ease), mean the top sections are also enormous, and the v-neck comes below my bust. It's ok at the front but the back is equally as low. If I were taller this wouldn't be a problem, but on my 5'3" frame, I don't love the way it sits, or rather, the way it slips. I feel it would be better suited to a short petite person, or a taller person with a bigger frame. Or someone who is happy to hitch it up at the shoulders regularly. 
The yarn - Drops Love You V, recycled cotton - looks fine knit up, but I didn't enjoy working with it. I knit this mostly while multi-tasking, but this splits so easily it was necessary to drop various stitches (on purpose) in order to remedy messy half-stitches on previous rows which I'd made when knitting quickly without looking. As the yarn was only 80p a ball (on sale) and the entire sweater cost less than £11 (including postage) and took a few days to knit, I am not too upset that I don't love it, and I will still wear it - in fact I have it on now - but I have certainly learned from it.

The Lessons:
  • However much I like the look of a design, I need to consider my own body and work to that if I'm to end up with a wardrobe full of handmade items that I love.
  • I will definitely look for other Norah Gaughan patterns as I enjoyed the construction and love her aesthetic. Next time I need to consider the fit on MY body. 
  • For a design which should be suitable for mild weather, it's quite weighty due to the yarn I've used (it knit to the same gauge as the ribbon yarn in the pattern but I'm guessing it's much more dense). For my next project I've chosen a cotton yarn which is much lighter and can be knit on even bigger needles for plenty of breathability.  
While this project can't be considered a total success it hasn't dulled my enthusiasm for making another garment straight away, and while I gather the tools for my next sewing experiment, this evening I'll be casting on another handknit. I'll post an update here next week, but you can also follow along on Instagram. Hope to see you there!  
Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Off the needles, on the needles

Another project flew off the needles last night and I've been swatching for my next Handmade Wardrobe Project (HWP) garment.  The first few items were finished really quickly and to maintain the momentum, and high level of motivation, I'm planning another speedy project.

This time I'm going to use Scheepjes Bloom (which I used for the finger-knit necklace tute). Due to the icord-like construction it's a lovely light weight yarn which can be knit on 8mm needles to produce a light airy fabric which works up very quickly. I've chosen a very simple lace stitch pattern.
You can see that I managed to split the yarn in one place on my swatch - it didn't feel splitty when I was knitting it, so I'll have to be more careful on the real thing.

An important factor in the HWP is that the pieces work as a mix-and-match colour palette, so as much as I love the purple, I've ordered a garment's worth of Peony (shade 405) which will be better with other items I already have. I'll cast on as soon as it arrives but in the meantime I'm sketching out some other design ideas - I can't wait to turn them into real things. This project is really inspiring me - the thought of having handmade clothes to take on holiday (in the British summer) is a massive boost to productivity. If you want to see more, remember that you can follow the project on Instagram between blog updates.
Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Show & Tell: DIY Loom & A Weaving Work-along Online Class

Weaving For Beginners
All images used with permission, affiliate links are included in this post
You may recall that I recently signed up to a weaving club - it's something I've wanted to try for a while and didn't really know where to start. (I've finished my first weaving and need to get some pictures.) As a Creativebug subscriber and affiliate, I was really excited to see the addition of a beginner's weaving class from Annabel Wrigley of Little Pincushion Studio

I haven't finished watching it all yet, but love what I've seen so far which includes the work-along for making a small portable loom from a few basic supplies, adding a fringe, and how to form basic geometric shapes and stripes in your weaving. The projects are a lot of fun and look very straightforward as Annabel explains every step.
If you already use Creativebug, the work-along is live and ready to watch or download right now. If you're not already a subscriber, you can access the class as part of a free two week trial

I've almost finished my third Handmade Wardrobe garment which I'll show you at the weekend. It's another (knitting) project from Creativebug (great value for $4.99 a month) so if you do have a trial or subscription, you'll also be able to access the class and pattern for that. 
Sunday, 5 July 2015

Handmade Wardrobe Project 2 - Weekend Tunic

Last weekend I took some yarn which had been in the cupboard for a couple of years, and cast on. I didn't have a pattern, but I did have a need and an idea. As my Handmade Wardrobe Project is all about filling clothing 'gaps' this was all it took to start a new garment. 
The Need: There are lots of vest tops in my wardrobe. In the cooler months I use them for layering. But in the warmer weather - when they would be very useful - I don't really wear them. The reality of a post-Caesarian tummy pouch (no matter what my size - only surgery would remove it and I'm not that vain) is something I am not vexed about, but neither do I want to flaunt it. So there was a gap for a light-weight loose-fitting top which could be thrown on over my vests. 

The Inspiration:  I love the cowl on my sewn improv dress, and since trying out the "booty-licious" heel on my Whiz Bang socks, have been thinking about trying a similar way of increasing for a neckline ("booby-licious"?).
Handmade wardrobe inspiration - Crafts from the Cwtch
The Project: Using King Cole Opium (in Glacier) and 6mm needles I got a nice fabric/ gauge in my swatch and cast on. I preferred the 'wrong' side so decided it would be a 'reverse stocking stitch' garment. As the yarn doesn't knit up the same each time, I started both the front and back on separate needles to see how each would turn out. It was easy to decide which piece should be the front before adding the shaping.
Experimenting. Handmade wardrobe project - Crafts from the Cwtch
With the shaping complete, I attempted to graft the shoulders closed to work the neck in the round. This turned out to be a huge mistake. The yarn was a nightmare to graft due to the thick and thin sections and I ended up painstakingly removing the grafting and having to perform sweater surgery. It was just too hard to work out which stitches were which... but I got there in the end.

Called the "Weekend Tunic" it took just one weekend to make, and is great for throwing on with jeans at the weekend. These are not the greatest photos (I'm not up to modelling at the moment) but I think it's worked out ok. It's certainly wearable and fills that gap. 
Weekend Tunic, project 2 from The Handmade Wardrobe Project - Crafts from the Cwtch
As you can see above, I had some random fabric in the same colour. There isn't much, but maybe enough for a matchy-something. In the meantime, those vests (and a few strappy dresses) are back in use and I like that it can be worn on or off the shoulder (or back to front). I didn't love working with the yarn but it is very soft and easy care, and there's enough left to make something else too.

The Lessons: There are a few things I'd change if I were to make it again. I'd probably...
- reverse the stitches on the neck section,
- use invisible joins so it could be worn inside or out  (in a different yarn I'd knit in the round up to the arm holes and then graft the shoulders but those are not good options for this yarn),
- try it with short sleeves (this is still an option as there is a lot of yarn left)
- It has been a while since I did any 'improv' knitting and I'd forgotten just how enjoyable it is. I have kept lots of notes incase this ever gets written up, but that wasn't my intention when the knitting began, and it felt very liberating.

Traditionally I don't make many garments, but two in as many weeks has put me on a bit of a roll and the third is already well on it's way to being finished before next weekend. I'll keep you posted and you can also follow my progress by clicking here for other posts, or searching #cftchandmadewardrobe on Instagram
Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Seeking solace in knitting

My thanks to all who commented on yesterday's post. It was a hard one to write and I was touched that so many readers took the time to reach out here, on Facebook, or via private messages. I don't really feel like writing very much but routine is good, so as it's Wednesday I'll show you what's on my needles... 
Seeking solace in knitting - Crafts from the Cwtch
Carmen of and her seamless pullover
When I posted a link to the "Seamless Pullover" class with Norah Gaughan on Creativebug, Carmen (aka Crafty Queens) started knitting it. She was working on hers when we met up in Holland a few weeks ago and as soon as I saw it I knew I'd have to cast on.

I'll tell you about the (very cheap and splitty) yarn I'm using, and more details about the class and the design when it's finished, but it's a nice simple pattern. More importantly it's keeping me busy without having to concentrate too much - true "comfort knitting". Provided it knits up ok, this will be counted towards my Handmade Wardrobe Project, for which I've also made another knitted garment in the last few days (this is the most knitting I've done in months!), but more on that another time.
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DISCLAIMER: Crafts from the Cwtch is part of the Deramores, Craftsy, Etsy, Creativebug and Amazon Affiliate programmes and works with a few carefully selected sponsors. Where posts or projects are sponsored, the opinions will always be entirely my own. You can find out more about affiliate links and blog sponsorship here.

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