Changing seasons

We went on holiday to the North Pennines a month ago, but it doesn’t feel so long ago; so much crafting has been going on since then! Before we left, I finished this autumn jumper, in Rowan British sheep breeds boucle:

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It’s perhaps a size too big (the last two having been a size smaller than I would have liked it seems this time I over-compensated), but I like it.

I took projects with me on holiday that I can’t do on the train so don’t get much attention unless I’m on leave… an ‘extreme knitting’ rug, the quilt back and leaf shapes to do applique, and my cross stitch cushion cover. Also the pieces for the next autumn block, the wool to knit snowmen Christmas tree decorations, and even some pieces to make cathedral window Christmas tree ornaments. Good to have a choice! In the end, I focussed on the cross stitch, though mostly when on the long car journey, and the rug. Neither are finished, but are close, if I could have continued to focus on them when I got back.

Had some nice days when away…

And some less nice…

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… but it was great to be away.

When we got back, I did finish the autumn block:

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This reused the dark orange fabric in the centre that came from a block I’d dismantled, and used most of what’s left of a fabric I bought on ebay at the beginning of the project and which is best used for ‘fussy cutting’ because the motifs aren’t close together. It is an old fabric, thin and frays easily, so I’m a bit worried about how long it will last in the quilt. It’s quite hard to sew fabrics of different thicknesses together and I know this has ‘issues’! The tan coloured fabric is Moda and is very useful for autumn projects.

A last burst of colour in a London park a couple of weeks ago  (complete with dustbin, sorry!):

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Since then, I’ve been working on a Christmas present which I really need to have finished by this coming Friday, when I’m getting the train to stay with my family for a bit as sadly I won’t see them at Christmas, so if I have it finished in time I can take it with me rather than trusting it to the post. It uses the sewing machine so really I can only do it at weekends – evenings in an emergency but I’m tired when I get home from work and make mistakes – but these last few weekends have been busy, with my husband’s family visiting and other things, so it’s not gone as smoothly as I’d have liked. I should finish it by working on it these next few evenings, it’s just something I’ve never done before so I’m doing a lot of reading and re-reading of instructions!

Then these little fellows have kept me occupied… They had to be delivered to church yesterday, to be put with other items to be sold at the church Christmas Tree Festival next weekend. So early! I feel like Christmas is over with before Christmas Day is even in sight, it’s so confusing and the day itself a bit of an anti-climax, I guess that’s getting older but with no children of my own – sorry, that’s a bit depressing. I’ll have to get used to it, because that’s the way it’s going to be now, best make the most of it. My in-laws will come to us on Christmas Day so at least it’s not just the two of us. I’ll try not to stress out about the cooking, when people are older they have fixed likes and dislikes which take precedence and that makes me anxious, but I should calm down and try to get a sense of perspective, because it’s okay really. At least on home turf I can have a glass of wine with Christmas dinner, which they don’t do. Anyway, here are the finished snowmen, which took me an insane amount of time to finish, the earliest I went to bed each night last week was 11, past midnight some nights, and I get up for work at 5.50. Crazy little snowmen!

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Stripey jumper, two new autumn blocks, and a trip to Wiltshire

I finished the jumper made from a self-striping Noro yarn (a silk mix) that I’ve been working on quite fast because I wanted to wear it when the weather cools down, but to be honest am disappointed. The colours are still lovely but I wish I’d made it a size bigger, and all is not well with the neck. I’ve included a photo from the pattern book to show what it should look like, but in reality it’s far too high and I don’t know what I did wrong; I followed the instructions!

Patchwork-wise, I’ve finished another two autumn blocks, and am pleased with the colour combinations on both. I thought the mouse one might be too ‘avocado and aubergine’, but actually it’s fine. On the other one, I wanted to showcase the rosehip fabric, following on from previous blocks when a more heavily patterned fabric stood out against plainer ones, giving a better effect. In the end some of the other fabrics are reasonably heavily patterned, but it’s still okay. The orange fabric is new and the best I could get to be close to the orange in earlier blocks that was more rusty than bright, despite being covered in gold sparkles!

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When I finished it I laid out all the blocks I’ll definitely use, and as a whole the quilt is looking much better, though sadly weeding out the unsatisfactory ones leaves only 30 blocks! Sorry the photo’s dark (though it’s really bright sunshine outside) and of course as I’m standing on a chair with the camera stretched out up and in front of me, at a bad angle.

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Of the eleven discarded blocks left, I can see how two can be taken apart and some colours changed to make them usable, two won’t be used at all, and of the remaining seven I’ll take some apart and hopefully use some component parts in new blocks, and may keep one or two as they are. It’s a pain, particularly as the awful truth is there are some fabrics I should just never have  bought or used, which is a waste of money as well as time and energy, but there’s no point crying over spilt milk – I can be  more sanguine now I’m happier with the overall project!

We went to Wiltshire on Sunday and stayed for 5 nights, one night in a B&B near Malmesbury and 4 in a self-catering cottage near Salisbury. It’s a county I’d never visited, and am so pleased I went. I wanted to visit some of the sites associated with people I studied in Medieval History, so was really pleased to see Malmesbury Abbey, which was built on the site of an ancient holy place, and Old Sarum, the site of a now-ruined cathedral and castle, as well as Salisbury Cathedral, which was built in the 13th century when the cathedral at Old Sarum was abandoned. But there was so much ancient history, too. You felt it all around you because although Stonehenge is the famous stone circle and we decided not to visit because it is such a tourist hub and so cordoned-off that there might not be much pleasure to be had, there are actually lots of other, ‘smaller’ stone circles too, as well as the white horses etched out of the hillsides which you can see just driving along. We visited the stone circle that runs through the village of Avebury, and although there are only 30-odd of the original c. 150 stones standing, the scale of them is amazing. They reckon the stones were put there in 2600 B.C.! My photos don’t do it justice, but you can see the scale from the ones next to houses and people.

 

Photos of parts of Malmesbury Abbey:

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Stunning gardens at Stourhead, designed in the 18th century (having first diverted a river and dammed some medieval fish ponds, of course!), complete with grottoes and follies. Now owned by the National Trust. Must look fantastic in the autumn!

 

Lastly, Salisbury Cathedral – great place to see stunning embroidery! I somehow managed to omit taking a photo of the central aisle down the length of the nave, which was very long. There is an incredible font in the centre, commissioned in 2008, with constantly flowing water. The Chapter house dates to 1260 and has an amazing frieze running round it, above the benches were Chapter members sit, carved in stone and showing biblical scenes.

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Autumn block and first attempt at neck binding (unrelated!)

Something of a lowering sky when I went for a quick walk earlier this afternoon, but I saw some magnificent red kites, one swooping quite low over my head; my photos don’t do it justice.

I worked hard to finish a new autumn block this week, inspired by having a plan to use the same colours as last week’s, and by wanting to feel I’d achieved something by the end of the week if sewing the neck binding on my top didn’t work out! I’m pleased with the result:

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The more boldly patterned fabric is much thinner than the higher-quality Moda fabrics that make up the rest of the block, and I can feel how much better (for which read, easier) it would be to have fabrics all of the same quality. Unfortunately I haven’t had time this weekend to choose fabrics to put together for the next block, so will be deprived of sewing to do on the train. Might actually start reading a book, I used to read so much before I took up sewing! I’ve just finished Life of Pi and it took something like 4 months, oh dear. I listen to audiobooks all the time while sewing on the train, but don’t know if that counts the same way.

On Thursday night I tried to use the overlocking stitch for the first time. Not a resounding success, alas.

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I put the edge of the fabric up against the guide on the overlocking foot, but obviously sometimes it got too close and the edges have turned in. At least no one will see it. It went wrong near the bottom of the seam so I’m going to do that by hand.

I have spent so much of the last two weekends looking at YouTube videos! So much good advice, but people do things differently and I don’t always understand all instructions, so it’s still a lot of puzzling out what best to do. I confess that in my ignorance before I looked at these videos I thought the binding went on the outside! I now know that’s only if it’s to be a decorative feature, which in this case it most certainly is not. It took me in the end I think two and a half goes to do the binding round the neck of my top.

First time I used all these pins…

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It still didn’t work out, and I did misjudge it a few times and had to lift the needle to get a pin out then carefully put it back in the right place. The curve of the shoulder seam has  been the main problem. This was a wildly off-kilter part after my first go:

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Oops. I thought of just unpicking that section, then thought of the mess I make when I tie off an end of stitching mid-length and reneged. I thought I’d try to just add the correct stitching without unpicking this one… yes, I know, it didn’t work! So I unpicked the whole thing and tried again, this time, and I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner, with basting. It still wasn’t neat like the woman in the video’s is neat, and I sewed over a few basting stitches and had fun picking them apart. But on the whole it was better.

Then as per instructions I trimmed it so the fabric was flush with the binding, and cut in little notches to help with the curve (thanks to having tried a little bit of needle-turn applique this idea wasn’t a novelty, so that was good), then turned  it inside the garment.

I saw on some blogs that some people do something called understitching, but I didn’t follow what exactly I was meant to do, and some people didn’t do it, so I decided as it seemed okay without it and my fabric’s not very stretchy (deliberately chosen for that reason) I would give it a skip. Then I basted the binding in place, by hand, then sewed it down with the machine. Again the problem with the shoulder, this time meaning I missed the binding for about 2 inches, but this time I did unpick from the  armhole edge to the offending part, and got the sewing machine needle in at the right spot and redid it. I stitched the thread ends in by hand, but don’t think it’s noticeable from the right side unless you’re looking really closely at the stitching, not if you’re just talking to me when I’m wearing it.

Having pressed in place, I think the binding’s  okay, a bit may gape in time but it’s fine for now (and for a first attempt) and for just me wearing it. A pity the two parts of the back are slightly misaligned, I really hadn’t realised until after the binding was done and I was going to take this photo. This whole thing has shown me – well, reinforced what I knew – that accuracy is so important, but also so difficult! I don’t think dressmaking is going to be my ‘thing’, I’ll make tops with the fabrics I’ve bought and I haven’t given up on making  pair of tartan pyjama bottoms in a nice thick or brushed cotton one day, but overall, I’ll stick with patchwork and knitting!

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Making a cotton top – the beginning

I’ve spent this weekend trying to make a top, or the start of one at any rate.

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Choosing the size wasn’t easy and at first I cut out the pieces for a size bigger than the one I’ve since settled on. I forgot to cut out notches first time round so taking it down a size meant I could cut out notches this time (except for one that was too close to the edge). I spent a lot of time looking at online tutorials on umpteen different blogs, starting with those on sewessential.

Laying out the pieces – the front of the garment is one piece so is on the centre fold, the back is in two pieces but I cut it out on the double layer of fabric. I used the layout as shown on the pattern and was pleased I did when I read later that is so the pattern on the fabric joins up the right way (so in my case the swallows won’t be upside down).

I followed online instructions for stay-stitching round the neck (the pattern said to do stay-stitching but I’d never heard of it!), and did directional stitching like it said. At this point I realised I’d never sewn a curved line with the sewing machine before! I said as much to my husband, and I swear he sniggered. You can go off some people.

I also basted it, but faffed about for a while trying to get it the right distance from the edge, in the end using dots of yellow chalk, as it’s on the back it shouldn’t show up. Don’t know what the best way of measuring the seam allowance is – my mother-in-law seemed to do it by eye!

pattern instructions

The pattern has an opening at the back, which I didn’t expect from the photo on the front of the pattern, so this was a bit of a challenge. Not as much of a challenge as the binding is going to be next weekend!

There’s no measurement for where the ‘black dot’ on the pattern is, but it looks like it’s a bit to one side of half-way between notch and top, so I just guessed. The pattern also says to buy a button, but nothing about a button loop or where exactly to put it, so I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

This is the seam joining the two halves of the back, pressed open, and the seam above the notional black dot folded under again.

These have to be stitched, and square-stitched underneath. I basted it and tried to do it without taking my needle out of the fabric, but sadly this didn’t work at the corners (below). Not sure what I did wrong there, lack of experience with the sewing machine. While unpicking it I realised it actually looked fine on the inside! Typical.

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This is it when the three lines were sewn separately (I hadn’t unpicked the one on the left, so only had to redo the ones on the right and across the base). Looks okay from the front, I hope, though I know the one on the right is wider than its counterpart and wider at the base than the top, but not loads and I hope you wouldn’t notice when I’m wearing it unless someone’s staring at the back of my neck, and if they’re doing that I don’t want to talk to them!

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From the inside, not good because of the difficulty of fastening in the ends of all those lines of stitching, particularly as machine-sewing leaves you with two lots of thread for each line. I did extra stitches inside the seam with knots pulled through so they’re hidden, but I hope they aren’t going to be uncomfortable and it doesn’t look tidy:

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Where I did back stitches at the beginning of each row it’s gone loopy, somehow I need to unpick those and resew by hand, sigh:

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That’s as far as I could get this weekend, despite spending a total of about 7 hours on it!I hope I may be awake enough on weekday evenings to sort out those nasty loopy bits and read up on overstitching and try to do that on the seam I’ve done. I only saw from a blog heading today that it’s something that has to be done, it isn’t something I’d thought of before. I also tried looking up some info. about hems, something that could prove a challenge later on. If I can do that through the week, then next weekend it is joining the shoulder seam and tackling the binding on the neck. Ooph! I’m feeling mentally exhausted now!

I stopped at 3.30 and went out for a walk, which I like to do at the weekend if I can before being in the city all week. Corn must be nearly ready to harvest. I was delighted at the end of the week and this weekend to have some heavy rain, after all the horrible heat (though it was still muggy when I was out today), but on this particular walk it leaves a stretch of pathway almost impassible. This bee was happy though!

 

 

Frosty photos

(Nothing to do with crafting!)

Frosty morning today, as well as misty, so I got out about 9.30 and took some pictures. It was melting by the time I got back; sometimes standing still in the woods I was surrounded by crackling noises and dripping as it thawed. I was glad I got out when I did, yesterday I didn’t get out til 2.30 and the best was gone by then. It’s nicer outside than in, though, now I’m sitting in two tops and a jumper and still have cold hands I’ve cracked and put on the heating!