Christmas presents

I stayed with my parents last week, as I can’t stay with them at Christmas this year, and just managed to finish the Christmas presents I was making for Dad and brother before I left. Contrary to my giddy expectations of a previous post, Dad’s cardigan was not ‘the one’ – the first one I’d have completely finished ready to take with me or even, the pinnacle of endeavour, to have posted before I left in order to reduce the amount to carry on the train. It is a very heavy cardigan!

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When I got home I’d almost finished sewing it up (partly on the train!) but had still to make the buttonband and collar and of course to sew on the buttons. Due to having other things to do when I was there, a large hitch with the buttonband, and my usual inability to judge how long things will take to do, I ended up having a couple of nights of very little sleep while I worked on it and only finished sewing on the last button 2 hours before I was due to leave. Do I never learn?

I don’t recall ever having done a buttonband with a circular needle before, and found that my usual modus operandi when it comes to picking-up-and-knitting (which I hate) didn’t work here. I usually use a thinner needle to go along in the opposite direction, then knit on the way back, because I find it really hard to pick up the right amount of stitches. But pushing a circular needle all the way round, which was in any case difficult because I used the actual size you’re meant to use rather than a thinner one, and it kept getting stuck, left me with the unforeseen circumstance of then actually not being able to knit. Idiot! Thus we live and learn. I think it took me a whole ‘evening’ (after I’d gone to bed because I didn’t want Dad to see the garment, so for ‘evening’ read 10.30 p.m. – 1 a.m.) to push the needle through and a large chunk of the next ‘evening’ to pull it out again.

I also ran out of yarn for the collar, because I did a yarn substitution due to the yarn for which the pattern was intended not being available, and guessed incorrectly how much yarn would be needed. In the end, though, I think it’s better like this because I don’t know how much he’d love having a big lumpy collar. That did mean I never got to try short row shaping (wrap and turn), which I’ve never done before, but it was leaving it rather late to try a new technique so is no doubt for the best.

The pattern is for Berocco Vintage Chunky and called ‘Fitzgerald’. The actual yarn I used is Paintbox Wool Chunky, sold only online by LoveCrafts in the U.K., so far as I can tell. When I ran out I looked online and they’d sold out of that colour and the product couldn’t be bought anywhere else so may be made exclusively for them. It’s 50% wool, 50% acrylic. I thought I preferred 100% wool but that’s expensive and I actually think this is okay, though not eco-friendly.

It’s a very heavy garment though, especially with the moss (seed) stitch and cabling, so I hope he’ll wear it. It looks as thought it should be an okay fit.

 

The other present I finished was a pair of pyjama bottoms for my brother, with pockets, made from glow-in-the-dark fabric. Just what every self-respecting 29-year-old wants! Ah, what it is to have an embarrassing older sister. Fortunately, no-one except you need know!

Because I’ve made this pattern before I didn’t struggle with it, praise be, and when I set off to visit my family had only to sew the ends of the waistband elastic together, slip-stitch the casement edges together over hole for the elastic, and put the waist tie through. I’ve long since given up on that difficult bit for finishing seams (can’t remember what it’s called: overstitching?) and just use pinking shears instead. I used to think I was a perfectionist, then I discovered what it really takes to be a seamstress and settled for third-best.

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Knitting, sewing, gardening

I’ve been working on and off on sewing a top using fabric I bought in a sale a few years back without a plan other than I’d use it to try and teach myself how to sew. I bought three lots of fabric in that sale and have made simple tops with two of them, neither of which turned out brilliantly but I’m learning. They don’t have sleeves so this is my first attempt at sleeves. I haven’t got as far as the sleeves yet… first I had to do a ‘facing’ for the first time. There could be a long-term problem with this top because you were supposed to cut the facing piece against the grain and I didn’t have enough fabric, nor could I find it on sale anywhere. I tried buying a contrasting piece but when the fabric came it was the wrong shade of red so I’ve given up and am just making it, thinking I can use it as a prototype or practise piece, because it’s unlikely to work out according to plan anyway.

Here it is so far. I’m working on it slowly because finding time is a problem, I’m working on the allotment during daylight hours at weekends and the sewing machine and tv are in the same room so evenings if husband’s watching TV I don’t like to start noisy sewing (though he doesn’t vocalise an objection I still feel bad). Anyway, there you go.

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I find seeing where the stitching’s going difficult when sewing close to the edge so had a couple of pull-out moments and the sewing’s in two parts.

Knitting’s going okay. I finished one side of the neck in the annoying lace-knight cable jumper. Second side of the neck you’re supposed to rejoin yarn with right side facing, but the end where the yarn is it would have to be joined wrong side facing, so again I need to concentrate on it. The acrylic mix self-striping one’s racing along although I don’t love the mustard yellow:

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I had great fun at the weekend trying to list my ‘stash’ on Ravelry (it’s still not all there!) and breathed a huge sigh of relief at finding the pattern I decided a long time ago I wanted to use for the Rowan Calmer yarn I bought at a Knitting and Stitching Show. That was one colour and the pattern I found has two more colours and I remember spending ages searching the internet to find some contrasting yarn – and of course having to pay full price and so counteracting the effect of buying yarn cheaply at the Show – so it would have been a pain to have lost the pattern.

The allotment’s doing well though we’ve had problems bringing on squash from seed this year for some reason, don’t know why. Also, May’s had some cold snaps which delayed when I could plant them out. We’ve made a new flower bed this year (a long and narrow one with rose bushes in it, the one with the lovely magenta alliums here we made last year). In the new bed we’ve planted a combination of plants grown from seed indoors and some sown where they are to flower – I’m looking forward to seeing how they come on, we’re just getting to the stage where it’s possible to tell which are weeds and which are wannabe flowers!

Not for the first time – what was I thinking?!

I wanted to make some pyjama bottoms for my brother, buoyed by the relative success of my Christmas pjs and the realisation that without pulling on the elastic at the waist so much they’d fit him better than me (it’s a unisex pattern and he’s 6 foot, so a medium is about right). He likes moose and I wanted a warm brushed cotton fabric (this was January, when I started planning, and I thought I’d finish them a lot sooner). I couldn’t find fabric I liked, moose is I suppose not such a popular motif in the UK, so in the end I went to Etsy and found one I thought was better than the others. Alas, my judgement was off (and the postage cost a fortune, expensive mistake!). The fabric was much thicker than what I think of as brushed cotton or flannel, more like draylon as used on sofas c 197. The pattern also looked huge. I should have known, because it’s a different texture version of one I used for a patchwork block, and still I didn’t see how bad it would look as a garment until I had the fabric in front of me.

So I either ditched it, or made the damn things anyway. Reader, I made them. Oh dear.

For some reason I couldn’t get the elastic to go through the waistband so that took 6 lots of restitching and some manoeuvring with a knitting needle attached to a piece of parcel tape. Still, at least unlike last time I didn’t sew the legs together, so I sort of learned a lesson.

Anyhow, here they are. Taken at work before I parcelled them up and sent them for his birthday in early April, when it would be too warm to wear them anyway. I thought I was going to have them finished in February! (I did buy him other, actual birthday presents, as opposed to a weird dressing-up item). My husband thought they’d do as camouflage. I reckoned if he wore them to see wildlife they’d work a treat because all the animals would fall over laughing, then he’d get a good look at them.

Christmas pyjamas!

 

It’s Christmas Eve! We’re in a self-catering cottage in the English Lake District, where the views and the wildlife are amazing.

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I finished the hems on my Christmas pyjamas in brushed cotton.

Though I think I made them a size too big I’m still pleased with them and think they’re the best of the three garments I’ve made. I won’t wear them to bed but they’re nice to sit around in – loose and comfortable! The pattern’s a New Look multi-option and unisex pattern. I don’t know the manufacturer of the lovely fabric, but bought it online from Croft Mill, at a reasonable £5.50 per metre.

The pattern has pockets, which I thought would be hard to do but it was ok.

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I’ve also today posted to Mum and Dad a patchwork quilted mat I made for them, to put underneath a nice red glass bowl they’ve got standing on a polished wood sideboard.

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The fabrics are by Moda and came in a pack of 6 inch squares I bought on eBay then cut into quarters. I love the rich autumn / winter reds and greens. I used it as an opportunity to try some freestyle machine quilting (no idea if that’s the right terminology, I was going to write freemotion, but is that only when you use a long arm machine?), by drawing a leaf vine design on with chalk. Unfortunately I kept not being able to see the lines, partly because sewing at night when even electric light on good enough. Some leaves turned out quite well, others not so much, with spaces where they join the ‘stem’, or zig-zaggy loops. The light’s not the only reason for that, though!

Anyway, I enjoyed doing it and the project’s a nice size to practise on. I’d like to be able to make the same pattern on the double bed autumn quilt I’ve been working on for years, but don’t think it’s possible!

Anyway, I’m looking forward to walking to Grasmere tomorrow to go to church, where Wordsworth’s buried so I assume also worshipped. Then a roast dinner using the small oven in the cottage, but no pressure to have it ready by a certain time as there’s just the two of us. Ooo, Carols from King’s has started – Happy Christmas everyone!

Christmas projects

I finished the jumper I was knitting my Dad for Christmas, which had to be done early as I was staying with parents last week so wanted to leave it with them to be opened on Christmas Day. It’s too big! Which is to say, I am gifting my father a large cable knit tent, with the expectation he wear it. The irony is that I started knitting the next size down and after about 50 rows decided it was going to be too small so pulled it out and started again. I’d bang my head on the desk but a) it wouldn’t solve anything, b) it would hurt, and c) what brains I have have been scrambled enough already.

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This is the second jumper I’ve knitted in this yarn, Rowan Hemp Tweed, and thought I knew how it behaved, and even shortened the sleeves slightly because I know I knit sleeves too long in chunky yarns, but in the end I just misjudged the relative sizes of father and jumper.

The pattern is from Martin Storey’s Easy Aran Knits. There were some errors in the pattern, fortunately easily noticeable, e.g. the rib at cuffs and hem was described as being row 1: K3, [P2, K2] to end; row 2: P3, [K2, P2] to end, whereas row 2 should have been [P2, K2] to last 3 stitches, P3. Actually, that was it apart from one regarding the number of stitches on the holder when making the neckband, but I’d have to double-check before defaming the pattern writer! I once met him for 10 seconds at a Knitting & Stitching Show and he was very pleasant.The cable design’s lovely.

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This is the first garment I’ve made with a shoulder saddle and sleeve extensions, to be sewn up at the back. Never having done that before I found it difficult and I think the end result’s a bit bulky, maybe I used the wrong stitch when sewing. The neck also looks small, but it feels okay on (I tried it on to see how big it was on me, seeing as we’re I think the same height now). The sleeves dangled beyond the ends of my fingers.

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In other Christmas projects, I’ve been making myself a pair of pyjama bottoms in a Christmas fabric. The third ‘dressmaking’ project I’ve attempted, neither of the first two having been spot on, and I wanted to avoid tailoring or fasteners, so pj bottoms seemed the way to go! Found a fantastic brushed cotton fabric at a reasonable price at Croft Mills online fabric shop (U.K.). Some brushed cottons are £10 a metre, which I didn’t want to pay, this was £5-something.

It’s a 5-option multi-pattern thing so the pattern took a lot of reading. Mistakes made include: misreading pattern so that I thought two small circles next to each other symbolised button holes (for the tie to feed through). Fortunately the symbols mean a gap had to be left there in the seam, so all was not lost. This is the first time I’d made button holes on a sewing machine and it was great! Thanks to the buttonhole making facility on my Singer sewing machine. Took me three attempts to get it to work because I didn’t realise you have to pull down a lever, and I put the metal plate on the buttonhole foot at the wrong side of the fabric, but fortunately it didn’t seem to matter. Here they both are on one leg, taken on the wrong side where the interfacing is to make it easier to see: the buttonhole where it’s meant to be, and where it isn’t! buttonhole

The pattern includes pockets, and it took me hours one Saturday afternoon to fathom out the construction on one leg, but once done the second leg was really quick. These are the legs under construction, showing fabric on right and wrong sides:

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And a pocket:

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I managed sewing the centre seam joining the legs (done twice for strength as per instructions), but sewing the outer seam, not so much. Ahem. Managed to sew the legs together on one side. Thought they looked strangely like a skirt, which could not be right. Bit like the time I sewed a jumper sleeeve to its body…

At least I realised when I’d only sewed one seam and not two! I’ve nearly finished now and have only the hems to finish. The pyjamas are also too big but I’ve tightened the elastic and it’s passable. I’d like to make them again in the smaller size. I’ll post a picture when they’re finished. It’s a unisex pattern and I’d like to make a pair for my brother (in a different fabric of course) because I think the size I made would fit him nicely, but he didn’t look overly enthusiastic when I showed him these. Can’t think why. I might make some anyway, but the only fabric I liked is in the US so P&P would cost a lot. It’s his birthday in April, I’ll try for then. And try not to sew the legs together. Lucky him, tee hee.

Autumn quilt: funky owl 2. And a new project!

I think this is autumn block 44. Not my favourite, but as mentioned in my last post I’m at the stage where I know there are blocks I want to make so that there’s a balance of blocks in the quilt as a whole, and I have one other block that uses this fabric so felt I needed another so it isn’t all alone. It was retrospectively an unwise choice of fabric being so different from the others (though I do have a small repeating cartoonish hedgehog in a few), but a couple in amongst the others is okay and maybe gives it a bit of added ‘interest’! I’ve tried to tone it down by using quite quiet fabrics for the rest of the block, with only the four small inner squares having anything other than a blender-style pattern, so I think it works okay.Owl 2

I had a hunt through my photo library (boy does that need a clear-out!) and found the photo of its friend. Both had been in blocks I did earlier in the project but had to take apart and do again to make them work better in the quilt as a whole, both having been way too ‘busy’. The first one still was, a bit, but I think there was a limit to what I could do with the pieces.

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In other news, I’ve started making the sleeveless summer top I bought the fabric and pattern for last year. It’s taken me til now to get over the mental angst involved in making the first top I’ve ever sewn, which was year ago! So this is the second one. Apart from darts, which didn’t feature in the first top, this is going to be easier (famous last words…). I cut the pieces last weekend and did the darts and the top and side seams this. The darts aren’t brilliant, I had to unpick one and redo it because when I changed the stitch length as I neared the end (following YouTube advice) I must have somehow knocked the fabric skew and got a dogleg in the sewing, which means there are little holes you can see (though if anyone was that close to my bust I’d punch them). Then I forgot I’d changed the stitch length down and did the whole dart at length 1.0 instead of 2.5! I debated doing the same for the other one for consistency, but in the end decided not to and I don’t think you can see the difference. Stripey fabric with darts so of course the stripes then don’t line up – not a good idea, or doesn’t it matter?

Dart

From top no. 1 I learned that, for me personally, it’s not worth the difficulty of trying to do the overlocking stitch (have I got the right word?) to finish the edges of the seams, but just to use the pinking scissors. Last time trying to do the overlocking stitch I got it all snarled up and had to unpick bits and redo it by hand and the end result was messy, whereas pinking scissors do the same job but without the hassle, so long as you don’t mind the serrated effect, which I don’t. I had to alter the length of the top to fit to where I like it best, allowing for a bit of uptake on the hem, and have sewn the side seams nearer 7/8 inch than the 5/8 on the pattern, by the time I basted exactly on the line then sewed to one side of it, but the pattern size was slightly too big so that’s worked fine when I’ve tried it on. Happily the positioning of the darts in the pattern seems to look okay on me, because I’m really not up for trying to alter bust sizes on these things, that’s far too advanced! I now need to put bias binding at neck and armholes, which will be taxing and is for next weekend unless I have a burst of energy midweek (doubt it, in this heat and with an allotment to water), and then of course the hem to do. Be nice if this time I finish it in time to wear this year! The fabric’s a lovely Kaffe Fassett one, perhaps more subdued than some of his others! Cotton, but woven (I think), nice and light, and drapes better than standard cotton. And I love the colours!

Top before binding

First machine-sewn garment finished…

At last! There’s a lot that’s ‘wrong’ with it, but it’s still wearable and I’ve learned so much in the process.

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I had difficulty finishing the seams and tried to use the overlocking foot but the edges of the fabric in parts got turned in, and the beginning and end of each row got tangled so I ended up doing those bits by hand using blanket stitch. I gave up on other seams and used pinking shears instead, so the inside of the garment is a real mishmash! The two halves of the back don’t line up by a couple of millimetres, it’s not much but it is noticeable if you’re looking – hopefully no one will be! I’ve done my first hem that’s ‘invisible’ from the front, which is just as well as it wobbles all over the place, and my first button loop, which again isn’t the most tidy but you can’t see that when the button’s fastened. So lots of fudging, but lots learned, particularly bias binding. Unfortunately it’s now too cold to wear it this year!

I’ll wait until next year when the memory of all the difficulties has passed before trying to make anything with the other fabric I bought on the same day. At this time of year I’m keen to be getting on with my knitting and the autumn patchwork anyway, as well as some Christmas gifts.

 

Speaking of the autumn quilt, here is the latest block, using parts of one that I took apart because the colours / patterns didn’t look right; I’d thought when I made it it would be fine, but now I’ve got a decent number of blocks I can see it doesn’t work.

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The one on the right below is the one I took apart, it had too many big patterns in it and the small triangles on the flying geese round the centre square were the wrong colour, they just disappear into the other parts. The new one’s not exactly exciting, but I think it looks better because there’s more definition. I’m getting to be very reliant on that brown fabric, don’t know where I’d have been without it.

 

A few weeks ago I made some elderberry syrup for the first time, needless to say having to negotiate nettle patches to get to them, as elders and nettles seem to grow together. It turns out to be quite tasty, more subtle than you’d think; I’d definitely make it again next year.