Monday, 8 December 2014

My new sewing room

As mentioned in my last post, and after much more work than I expected, here is my new sewing room which is in the attic.


I have to give you a bit of background on this.  When we moved into our house, the attic had a window and was floored, but had pull-down ladders instead of proper stairs (and still does - I was not going down the road of building a new staircase!).  It's your average three bedroom semi, and a lady who lives across the street told me that there used to be a family with seven children in my house, so I'm guessing some of them used the attic as a bedroom.  

We've always just used the attic to store the usual attic rubbish, which I've tried to be quite strict about keeping under control, but in May I hurt my foot.  What's that got to do with the price of fish I hear you ask?  Well, I'll tell you.  One of the things in the attic is my exercise bike (which I do use), and when I hurt my foot, I was under doctor's orders not to do any weight-bearing exercise, because there was chat that I might have a stress fracture.  Turns out I didn't, and I still don't know how I hurt my foot, but I'm blaming it on some new trainers which I have since given to the charity shop.  

Anyway, I'm getting very off the point!  While I was cycling away on my exercise bike during the summer, it hit me that the attic would make a great sewing room, because I was getting pretty tired of having to move about five things to get to my sewing machine in it's little corner in the back bedroom.  There wasn't a square inch of room under the bed in the back bedroom, because that's where all my sewing stuff was stored, and one end of the dining room table has recently become a permanent place for pattern drafting stuff.

So I thought it wouldn't take me too long to sort the attic out.  Turns out I was wrong, and it wasn't because there was too much rubbish - one dump run/charity shop run sorted that out.  It was the wooden panels on the slopey parts of the roof.  The attic is insulated in the walls and floor, so gets cold in the winter, and hot in the summer.  I'm not worried about any of my sewing things though, because in the twelve years that I've lived here, nothing that has been stored in the attic has been damaged by heat or cold.

The heat had made the varnish on the wood peel off, as you can see in this photo below.  Great flakes of varnish were lying all over the floor.  So I thought that it would take no time at all to remove the varnish from the wood.  Well, Lynne in December laughs manically at poor, naive Lynne in September!  I took two days off work, and expected to get the wood stripped and painted, but all I managed to do was about two square metres!  I tried paint thinner, but it was useless, and the sander we had was rubbish.  So eventually a new sander was purchased, and it took me a whole weekend to get all that blinking varnish off!  Then it was another whole weekend to undercoat and paint it and the walls.  Oh, and working above your head is not fun!

There was some very groovy 1970s wallpaper on the wall between my house and next door.  I would have loved to have kept it because of my weakness for a big mad 70s print, but it was too dark.  Here's a photo of it, which is a bit blurry because I took it on my phone.  It was vinyl wallpaper, so I peeled off the front, and painted the backing paper.

Andrew built some storage cupboards in the eaves, which also took about two weekends.  Oh, and then I had a bit of a disaster when painting them.  They're made from MDF, and I painted them with undercoat, then satin wood paint - and they were a streaky mess.  Andrew ended up having to sand them down, and I then re-painted them with ordinary wall emulsion.

I brought up my table that my sewing machine lives on, and got some new things in Ikea.  There is this little table for my overlocker, which cost less than £11!  And the chair at my overlocker was left in my house when we moved in.  The blue wheely trolley, which seems to be popular in sewing rooms according to Pinterest,

and this kitchen island to use as a cutting/work table (another popular thing on Pinterest).  Andrew put wheels on the bottom of it so it's really easy to move about.

You can see where I skillfully managed to walk some paint onto the carpet below the mirror!  Doh!
There was a bit of a disaster with this table too!  My sister and I had gone to Ikea to get everything, and I'm so glad she was with me.  I don't know how I thought I could manage it by myself.  We'd put everything in the garage until the painting was finished, which was about two weeks.  Then when I opened the box with the table top in it, the top had bowed by 1cm because of the cold.  There was an instruction leaflet inside the box saying to store it at least 20 degrees.  Might have been handy if Ikea had printed that on the front of the box!  

So we brought the top into the house, thinking that the heat would help.  I was giving off about it in work, and my boss suggested putting the top on the floor, and putting the dining table upside-down on top of it.  We did this, and it was a great idea, because the dining table is really heavy.  But the downside was that we couldn't use the table.  After two days, it was down to a 5mm bow, and Andrew got two containers from the garage that we keep logs in, put them on the top and filled them with water - and it did the trick! 


I was very pleased to get rid of the manky old net curtain (including various dead insects), and it had been replaced with a snazzy blind. 

Here are some before and after photos.  Please bear in mind that the before photos were taken after I had started to clear out the attic, I'm not that untidy!  That hideous brown and yellow chair (which was in the attic when we moved in) will pop up in another photo by the way.

I took off the shelves because I didn't want them, and then strategically placed the mirror and pictures to cover up the worst of the screw holes from the shelve brackets!  For the Potterheads amongst us, the two pictures on the left are from a website called Society 6, and I think it only took about a week for delivery.   Twilfitt and Tatting's is mentioned in chapter 6 in The Half-Blood Prince.  I happen to know this because I finished re-reading it on Friday, and I thought that picture was appropriate for a sewing room.

The Joey Dunlop poster and little photos on the brown beam are Andrew's.  They are staying because Joey Dunlop.  Maybe you have to be from Northern Ireland or be into motorbikes to even have heard of him, but he was a total legend.  This is my storage area for patterns, fabric, a box of yarn, and PDF patterns.  And there's that horrible yellow and brown chair again.  The stupid thing wouldn't fit down the ladders!  I've no idea how it got there in the first place.

So that's it.  It was definately worth all the work, I can't tell you how great it is to have everything in the one room, and not all over the house!  So far, I have been using my sewing room to finish my apron, make another Coco top and a christmas stocking for Friend's baby, and at the minute I am up to my eyes in sleeve drafting - as the mess on the table proves! 

Have a great week,


Monday, 1 December 2014

Suzie's Apron


I'd been meaning to make an apron for a while now, because the apron I have is truly a sight to behold - for all the wrong reasons!  But I hadn't found a pattern I liked until local sewist Suzie posted this tutorial a couple of weeks ago, and it was exactly what I was looking for.

I had planned to make an apron with the fabric I used for my Margot pyjama bottoms, but as I had already used it, I hit the scraps bag and came up with some red and white polka dot fabric left over from my maxi Anna, and also some red flowery fabric from my circle skirt Anna


Suzie's tutorial is really easy to follow.  The only changes I made were to shorten the bodice and neck strap, and to add a pocket.  The pocket on my old apron was the reason I liked it so much. I don't use an apron when cooking (because I am a rubbish cook), but to protect my clothes when doing the washing up, and taking out the rubbish.  Oh, and sometimes when eating, because I am extremely good at spilling things down my front.  The pocket is very handy for the garage key, and items for the recycling boxes.  I just measured the pocket on my old apron, added a seam allowance, and cut one for the new apron.  

An oven you say?  What's that for?
Here's my old apron in all it's glory.  This photo doesn't do justice to it's general tattiness.  My mum gave it to me, and it was from the pound shop.  It's fine for this time of year, but I do feel like a bit of a lemon when I go outside to put something in the bin in the middle of the summer!

In other news, after a lot more work than I ever anticipated, my sewing room finally got finished yesterday.  And I love it!  I will bore everybody stupid about it in another post, but I want to wait to next weekend to take some photos in the daylight.  Zippy loves it though.



Tuesday, 25 November 2014

The world's fastest sock

I cast on this sock on Friday night, and finished it last night!  I have never knit a sock so quickly, nor did I think it was possible.  According to Ravelry I last knit socks this time last year, which was far too long ago.  The photos are rubbish by the way, such is life in the winter, and I couldn't wait to the weekend.

I used my usual toe-up sock pattern, and the cuff pattern is from a pattern in Let's Knit magazine from July 2010.  It was from a cuff-down sock pattern called Skylar, and I really liked the look of the stitch pattern.  Sadly I can't find the pattern on Ravelry, so can't post a link.  My yarn is Regia Design Line, which I haven't used before and think it's lovely.


Most of this got done while I was watching the F1 qualifing and race on Saturday and Sunday, and also when I was watching Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire on Saturday night.  The new F1 season doesn't start until next March, so it will be interesting to see when the second sock is finished!

Friday, 14 November 2014

Self-drafted flounce skirt

Exactly a year ago I made my Flounce-a-lot skirt.  I love this skirt, and it gets worn at lot, so I thought I'd make another one.  But this time I decided to draft the pattern myself.  I used the Craftsy Pattern Making Basics - The Skirt Sloper class.  I can recommend this class if you want an introduction to pattern making.  It's very easy to take your measurements by yourself, and the actual drafting of the sloper is quick - I did mine, including making a toile, in one morning.
Already I'm seeing fitting issues!  It was a bit roomy at the hips, so I took it in a bit at the lower hip, but I think I could take it in right from the bottom of the waistband because it looks a bit lumpy in these photos, and also still feels a bit lose in the hips.

The class also includes how to draft lots of different styles of skirts, including one with a straight flounce all around the hem of the skirt.  It was that skirt that gave me the idea to give this a go.

My first skirt has a waistband that sits above the natural waist.  I had used the By Hand London Charlotte skirt pattern for it; and whilst it fits at the waist, I find the band then gapes above the waist.  I have the same problem with my Colette Patterns Ginger skirt.  Ultimately, I think this style of waistband doesn't work for me because I am so short in the body.

On the other hand, I find that skirts with waistbands that finish at my natural waist are a better fit.  My Simplicity 2117 and Simplicity 2541's (here and here) prove this.  The Craftsy class shows you how to draft this style of waistband, so that's what I did.


My fabric is some black linen that I got ages ago from Minerva Crafts.  This is what was left over from my black Anna dress.  I underlined it with some black lining fabric, and used some fabric left over from my Russian Dolly dress for the inside of the waistband.  I did a lapped zip because I thought the linen and underlining might be a bit too thick for an invisible zip, and I used some black polka dot ribbon on the hem.


I also added some ric rac between the bottom of the waistband and the top of the skirt.  Whilst I like the look of it, good grief it was a nightmare to sew!  I think I unpicked various bits about four or five times to get it to look ok.  Won't be doing that again!


This was easy enough to draft, and I quite enjoyed it, so I thought I'd do a how-to on drafting the flounce.  Before that though, I have to mention the Belfast Crafters Meet-up that happened two Saturdays ago.  We had a lovely day, and it was great to finally meet some local crafters, and also to be able to have an in-depth conversation about sewing without everybody else being bored!  You can read all about it here on Ruth's blog, and there was chat of trying to arrange something else in January.

I'll do my usual disclaimer of I'm no expert on this, just winging it from things off the internet!

First of all, you'll need a skirt pattern (obviously!).  For my first flounce skirt, I used the By Hand London Charlotte skirt pattern, which is a pencil skirt, but any pencil skirt pattern would do.  If the hem is narrower than the hips, then extend the hem out at the side seam so it is the same width as the hips.

Take the back skirt pattern piece, and trace it.  I appreciate that this is a pain in the bum, but it will be hacked to pieces, so is worth it.

Draw in the seam allowances, and mark a curve as in the photo below.  This will be the seam line between the back of the skirt and the flounce. The highest point on my curve (at the centre back seam) is 8 1/2" up from the bottom (this includes the 1/2" hem allowance), and the lowest point is 4" up from the bottom (also including hem allowance).  I drew the curve in using a french curve.

Now cut along the curved line, and also cut away the centre back seam allowance.  The flounce is cut on a fold, so the seam allowance isn't needed any more. Re-trace the upper part of the skirt back, remembering to add a seam allowance at the bottom of the curve. 

On the lower back skirt piece, mark vertical lines up from the bottom to the top.  I did mine 1" apart, starting at the centre back.  The last bit beside the side seam allowance is smaller than an inch, but that's ok.  Cut off the side seam allowance - this makes the next step a bit easier.

Cut along the ruled lines.  Initially I left a little "hinge" at the top, but ended up cutting through them completely, because they kept ripping.  

I'll apologise now for the next three photos, they were taken on my phone.

The most important part of the next bit is that the longest and shortest pieces are at a 45 degree angle.  This is where a grided mat comes in handy.  Arrange all the pieces so the top edges are touching each other, as in the photo below.  This took a bit of faffing about, and I had to stick each piece down with masking tape because my paper was off a roll, and the pieces kept curling up.  You can see how the two rulers are at a right angle, and the longest and shortest pieces butt up to them.

Trace over the outside edges, and fill in the gaps at the bottom to make a curve.


Add a seam allowance to the top of the piece (the shorter curve), and also to the side seam (the shorter straight line).  Mark the longer straight line as "Centre Back Fold", and cut this piece out on the fold, the same as the skirt front.  When cutting, notch the top of the centre back fold, this helps to line it up to the centre back seam below the zip.  When everything is cut out, stay stitch the curve on the top of the flounce, and also the curves on the bottom of the two skirt back pieces.

Here's how I put the skirt back together.  The white thread is my basting thread which is holding the underlining on.

I used a lapped zip, so on the two skirt back pieces, I sewed the centre back seam up to the bottom of where the zip finished, and then inserted the zip.  For an invisible zip, put the zip in first, then sew the rest of the centre back seam.

With the wrong sides together, line up the shorter curve of the flounce with the curve at the bottom of the skirt back.

Line up the notch on the flounce at the centre back with the centre back seam on the skirt back, and pin along the curves to the edges.

Sew this together, it pays to take your time with this bit, and it should look like this:

Something that was mentioned in the Craftsy class is that a flounce is more flouncey if it is cut on the bias.  I didn't have enough fabric to do that, but it would be interesting to see if there was much difference.

After this, I attached the skirt front at the side seams, and then attached the waistband.  I thought the waistband would be a bit trickier because the skirt wasn't layed out flat, but it was easy enough to attach.  If you've any questions, or something doesn't make sense (which is quite possible!), please leave a comment, and I'll get back to you.

Have a great weekend,


Thursday, 30 October 2014

The "just sew something" Margot pyjama bottoms

I've been quite frustrated with my lack of sewing over the last few weeks, so on Sunday I decided to just sew something, and that something was another pair of Margot pyjama bottoms from Tilly And The Buttons Love At First Stitch book.

But I need to back up the truck and explain the lack of sewing.  There are two reasons; one good, one bad.  Let's start with the bad:

After my success with my self-drafted princess seam bodice, I decided that I was obviously a pattern drafting expert, and it would absolutely no problem at all to re-draft the Colette Patterns Rooibos dress pattern that my sister bought me two christmases ago.  Turns out I was wrong.

Three weeks, two skirt toiles and three bodice toiles later, I gave it up as a bad job.  But I am oh so close!  It's very frustrating.  The problem is with the seam that sits under the bust.  I can't get it sit properly without the back pulling, and I tried a lot of different solutions.  I know I'm really close to getting it right, but I am throughly sick of the sight of it.  After I had put it aside, I thought that I might be able to sort it out by using the pattern for the bodice of my Russian Dolly dress, as it fits beautifully.  But then I caught myself on, because it was all looking a bit too much like the end of The Italian Job.  I will come back to it at some stage, like maybe after I've drafted a few more simple bodices! 

The second (good) reason is that I've been doing some decorating in my house.  You're probably thinking that always a bit of a nightmare (and it is, because it's been sucking my will to live the last two weekends), but this going to be my new sewing room!  I am stupidly excited about this, and of course I will do a post about it with loads of photos.

Spot the pocket!
So, back to the jammy bottoms.  I spend most of last weekend painting, and finished on Sunday afternoon.  So then I started a pile of ironing.  While I was doing the ironing, I was watching the celebrity Great British Sewing Bee, and one of the things they made was pyjama bottoms. 

I remembered this fabric I had bought in the christmas sales from The Village Haberdashery.   It's Anna Maria Horner fabric, and the print is called Hand Drawn Garden - Waltz In Coral.  When I got it, it was more yellow than I thought it would be, and I had half planned to make an apron with it, but on Sunday I decided it would be perfect for pyjamas.

There's nothing more to say about the construction of these, as I have made them before.  The only thing I did differently was to use french seams throughout, and I loved every second of making them. 

I'm pretty please with my french seams!
This pattern was the perfect solution for my "I just want to put some fabric to my sewing machine" mood, so I think I'll have to stock up on some cotton poplin from The Paragon in Belfast for when the mood strikes again.

Does anybody else have a favourite pattern for times like that?

Have a great weekend,


PS - This Saturday (1st Nov) is the first Belfast sewing meet up, which has been organised by Ruth of Core Couture.  We going to see the Bolshoi Theatre costume exhibition at the Crumlin Road Gaol in Belfast.  If you fancy coming along, we'll be meeting outside the gaol at 11am.  

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Cute-ness overload!

Remember the quilt I made for Friend who is pregnant?  Well, I made these wee cardigans too.
I can't get over just how cute they are!  The pattern for the green one is called Baby Kina (Ravelry link), and it can be made with short or long sleeves.  The sizes are for 3, 6, 12 and 18 months; I think I made the 3 months size.  The green colour is very washed out in these photos, and is much brighter in real life.


I love the neckline on this, it's made by increasing into the front and back of one stitch to create the ripple effect across the row.  I think it gives a look a bit like pleats, which reminds me a bit of my Manu cardigan.

The pattern for the lilac cardigan is called Puerperium Cardigan (Ravelry link), which is a free pattern, and again can be made with short or long sleeves.  The size on it is for newborns, but there is another version with larger sizes.

I made both cardigans with Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino.  The green cardigan used three skeins, and the lilac cardgian used two.

I'm also going to attempt to knit a blanket using the double knitting technique.  I first came across this technique on Kate Davies' blog on the Funchal Moebius cowl.  You can see in the photo below how the colours are reversed on one side of the cowl.  It's all cleverly knitted in one piece on two needles.  I think it's very interesting, and would love to give it a go.

Friend and I had a great idea for a blanket with a Harry Potter theme, as we are both total Potterheads - in fact she was the one who put me onto the Harry Potter books.  I found this chart of the Hogwarts crest on Ravelry, and thought it would look really well in Gryffindor colours (red and yellow).  Friend would like Slytherin colours (green and silver) but I think that's bad karma!  I just need to learn how to do double knitting first, so if anybody knows of any good websites/youtube videos etc, I'd be very grateful.

And finally, I've been plugging away at the little hats for The Big Knit.  I try and make one hat a week, but have got terribly behind, and there has been some last minute panic knitting recently.  Thankfully this year's date to have the hats in for is 12th December, so I should be able to make 52 hats by then.  Here's what I've made so far:

Have a great week, and please let me know if you have great tips or advice on double knitting.  Thank you!


Friday, 3 October 2014

A Tilly Trio

As I mentioned in my pattern drafting post, drafting is pretty time consuming, and also brain power zapping, so in the middle of it all I took some breaks to make some easy projects.  All of them happen to be patterns from Tilly And The Buttons, and I thought it would be a good idea to put them all into one post. 
First of all is the Picnic Blanket Skirt.  This is my third version (I have previously made one for me, and one for my sister).  I made this at the end of July when the weather was really hot.  The temperature was in the high 20s C, which I appreciate is lovely for most folks, but I struggle a bit in that heat, and it was lovely to have such a loose, cool skirt to wear. 

I used some lovely light denim chambray from Calico Laine.  This fabric is gorgeous, and I will definately be buying some more for next summer.  I used some leftover fabric from my Belladolly dress for the waist band facing and pockets.  The eagle-eyed amongst you may notice that I put the buttonholes on the right hand side of the placket instead of the left - I didn't notice for ages! 

I love the brown wooden buttons that I got on ebay, and also my very neat triple-stitch topstitching, which I also did around the waistband.  That cavalier use of thread lead to a problem with the last two buttonholes, as I was running out of thread fast!  Naturally I wanted to finish my skirt right then, and didn't want to have to go and buy more thread, so I used cream thread in the bobbin, and it doesn't show through on the top at all.  Result!

Next is the Margot pyjama bottoms from Love At First Stitch.  I didn't buy this book when it came out because I have so many crafting books that I thought I didn't need another one.  Turns out I was wrong!  This book is brilliant, and I wish it had been around when I first started sewing.  Also, all the patterns are lovely, and I want to make every one of them.

The pattern says to use a woven fabric, but I went all renegade and used a knit; it's some ponte roma that I bought on ebay.  I had planned to make another Coco top with it (another Tilly pattern - I'm spotting a theme!), but I stupidly didn't read the listing properly, and thought the fabric was black and white.  There was a very disappointed face when I opened the parcel and saw that the fabric was black and pink, because I'm not fond of pink.  I said to Andrew, "this looks like jammies!", and he said, "well, made jammies with it then"...

I also added a pocket on the back, because why not!  My Mum and Dad called at my house when I was taking these photos, and I happened to be wearing these jammie bottoms at the time.  Mummy said they were lovely, and Daddy asked me when I was getting out of prison!  Dad jokes: sigh!

Finally, I made the Clemence Skirt.  There's isn't a pattern for this in the book, instead it tells you how to make the pattern from your measurements.  It's really easy, one big rectangle for the front, two smaller ones for the back, and two waistbands.  I didn't even bother making a paper pattern, I just marked it out on the fabric.

I used 2 metres of African wax cotton from ebay.  This cotton is quite stiff, so makes the skirt sit well, I think it's going to crease easily though.  All the instructions in the book are simple to follow, and I loved the tip on making the gathers.  Instead of sewing the gathering stitches at the normal thread tension, you turn the tension down low.  Now, maybe everybody else already knew this; but I didn't, and I tell you what, it was a revelation!  See the pink thread loops in the photo below (sorry for the blurred photo), they are from the bobbin thread.  This made forming the gathers the work of a moment;

and here's what the gathers looked like.  Again, sorry for the blurred photo; I'll get the hang of using my camera one of these days!  Once the waistband was attached it was really easy to pull the gathering stitches out.  I love a gathered waistband, but have never loved unpicking the gathering stitches.

I also added some pockets in the side seams.  I used this tutorial on making french seams with side seam pockets, and this tutorial on french seams below an invisible zip.  Both worked perfectly.  

In other news, Ruth from Core Couture contacted me to see if I would be interested in a Belfast crafting meet-up.  Naturally I said yes - no dates have been arranged yet, but Ruth and I are both asking on our blogs if anybody would be interested in meeting.  You don't have to be a blogger or a sewist, any kind of crafting is in.  If you are interested, please email me - click on the About/Contact Me tab at the top for my email, or click on the email symbol at the top right.  You can also contact Ruth through her blog here.

Have a great weekend,