Pyjama Party!

After a long week (fancy taking 26 4 year olds on London buses anyone?) and the seriously gloomy weather, today was a day for sewing. And what better comfort-sewing than some new jim-jams?

Karen at Did You Make That? has been hosting a pyjama sewalong which has been popping up in my Google Reader account, and today was the day of the big party so I thought I’d join in with the fun.

I had a rummage through my stash but there was nothing suitable in the correct amount, so I took a bus ride down to Fabrics Galore in Battersea – when I lived in SW London this is where I bought the fabric for my first dress-making adventure – and may have got a little bit distracted by all the pretty fabrics.

French seams and sewn-in elastic waist band

What book is on your bedside table?
Last week I was listening to a discussion about sweets in books on Radio 4, so I picked up Rosie Hopkins’ Sweet Shop of Dreams in the library this week (a brand new, unread library book!)

What was your favourite (childhood) bed time cuddly toy?
Percival the penguin has already had his fifteen minutes of fame on here, so I shall introduce you to Flopsy the rabbit. I got Flopsy for my birthday when I was ten or eleven, which makes her a grown-up sixteen years old now. Over the years she has moulted a lot and been so well hugged that she is now molded into the perfect huggable shape – as much as I love Percival, Flopsy is still the perfect shape to cuddle to sleep.

What is your favourite sewing pattern?
I bought some raspberry jersey to make a matching pj top, but the colour is so scrummy that I think I might have to jazz it up and wear it during the day. My favourite go-to pattern for jersey is my tatty and much-modified Sadie vest pattern from BurdaStyle – it fits, it is quick to sew, and there are lots of ways I can change it – but today I decided to use a one-piece kimono tee (also from BurdaStyle).

Purple – check!
Polka dots – check!
Pyjamas on a cold wet evening – check!
I just need to wait for my Jammie Dodgers to be ready (well the oven was on for dinner, so I’m saving the planet…)



Review – The Granny Square Book

With so much sewing for my Peacock Dress, I must confess that I have fallen behind with my Crafty Crochet Resolution šŸ˜¦ So during the school holidays I dusted off my hooks, unwound my yarn and started to catch up on my crochet. To help me along I may have done just a little bit of craft shopping, and since one of my parcels arrived I have been carrying a particular crochet book around everywhere I go.

The Granny Square Book: Timeless Techniques and Fresh Ideas for Crocheting Square by Square by Margaret Hubert, Creative Publishing International, US; Spiral bound edition (1 Nov 2011) ISBN: 978-1589236387 (find it on amazon here)

The Granny Square Book is divided into three sections – Crochet Basics, Granny Square Patterns, and Designing with Granny Squares.

The first section is a great introduction to crochet that would be perfect for a beginner. It starts by introducing the equipment a crocheter will need and how to start with chains and single crochet. All these instructions are really clearly illustrated with detailed photos. As someone who has been crocheting for a few years, the pictures were very useful and taught me how to do more complex stitches such as front post double crochet, popcorn and bullion stitches.

This section gives instructions for starting and finishing granny squares, and a range of techniques for joining the finished squares. The most useful part of this section for me was the list of abbreviations and conversions between US and UK terms (I never know exactly what I am doing) and a key of diagram symbols. Since reading this book I have actually been able to follow the diagrams – who knew that the dashes on the pattern correspond to how many times to wrap the yarn round the hook?!

Once you have mastered the basic stitches, section two has 75 different patterns (plus a couple of half-square patterns thrown in for luck). Unlike some books I have seen, all the patterns are different (not just different colour combinations of the same square) and there is a good variety between the solid and lacy designs. All the patterns are rated – easy, beginner, intermediate or experienced – and there appears to be a good mix of difficulties so there should be enough to challenge beginners and more experienced crocheters.

One of the best features about this book is that each design is neatly laid out on one page, with photos, text and diagrams all together, so there is no need to keep turning the page to check you are following the instructions correctly. On the rare occasion that the instructions go onto two pages, they are sensible placed on double-paged spreads. The book is spirally bound so it stays open on your lap for easy reference.

The final section of the book gives lots of ideas and instructions for what you can do with your finished granny squares, including bags, cardigans, accessories and a few traditional throws. Not all of these designs are to my taste (too obviously made from multicoloured granny squares for me to wear) but there are some lovely one-colour lace scarves and shawls that look easier and less stressful than knitting lace.

The book has diagrams and instructions to help you design your own blankets and garments, and this is where those half-square designs look really useful. There is a lovely shawl with arm holes so it can be worn as a scarf or a wrap/waterfall-waistcoat, made up in a lovely shade of raspberry. I would never have thought of making a scarf from lots of granny squares, but it would make the process more portable and less stressful – there is nothing as bad as doing a long piece of knitting and dropping some stitches!

One of the projects Margaret mentions in her introduction is a blanket that grew as she did – starting off as a small blanket, she added more rows and more squares until it eventually fitted her king-sized bed. This would be a great project to make for a little baby, as I can imagine adding more rows as the child grows up, until you finish it when they turn 21 perhaps.

Overall I really liked this book and have already recommended it to lots of people – it would be a great introduction for a beginner, but there are enough challenges to keep a more expert crocheter busy (I can’t wait to make the swirling spiral pictured above), and the layout and instructions are really clear. The one thing that I don’t like about this book is the weight – It is hardback and weighs 752g according to my kitchen scales. I like to have a project in my bag for a bit of lunch hour de-stressing or in the event of tube delays, but after carrying this around for a few days I had sorer shoulders than usual. I wish I could take a couple of pages out to carry around with me – I would love to have each of these patterns on a separate card, so if anyone knows of something similar, please let do me know.

p.s. Thank you so much to all the people who have commented and subscribed to my posts. I hope you are enjoying them as much as I enjoy getting the emails from wordpress telling me somebody “likes” something! šŸ™‚


Miscellaneous musings

I had a couple of posts planned to write this weekend, but I still haven’t learned the lesson of leaving all my school work until the last day of the holidays. So instead of taking photos of my new self-drafted jeans, I spent most of the day sorting out my plans for next term. However there are a few little random musings I have time to share..

Baking – its as easy as 1, 2, 3

It was my cousin’s 30th surprise party on Saturday and I had promised to bring some “manly” biscuits. I always make gingerbread and wanted a change so I googled “biscuit recipe that keeps its shape” (hoorah for the internet!). There were lots of variations of a shortbread-type recipe using 1 part sugar, 2 parts butter and 3 parts flour – I added vanilla to one batch and replaced some flour with cocoa powder in batch two, but the possibilities seem endless. Mix all the ingredients, chill in the fridge, roll and cut out shapes, then cook for about 15 minutes until golden. Easy peasy!
They all got eaten, so no photos, but there will definitely be another batch of dino-fossil biscuits soon.

It’s a small world.

At my cousin’s party I was showing off my new jeans and talking about sewing, when someone on the other side of the kitchen overheard the crafty conversation. I was introduced to Vixie who blogs at Matin Lapin and had been selling super glittery creations at a craft fair earlier that day. We spent hours discussing how to store button collections (in real life and in a fantasy world), strangers talking to us about knitting in public, the blogs we both read, and other cool house-party topics. I started looking at her blog but had to stop because there were so many great links – I had to have a mini internet break so I could get on with work – but it is definitely on the top of my Google Reader reading list.

Inspiring the public.

One of the things Vixie and I were chatting about, was crafting in public and starting up conversations on public transport. So it was a bit eerie when I sat down on the bus this morning (on my way home from an early morning outdoor swim *polishes halo*), got out my crochet and immediately caught the attention of two small girls (approx 4 and 6)

4 year old: I can do knitting (mimes knitting) I’m knitting a dress for my dog
6 year old: Yeah, well I’m gonna knit a jumper.
4 year old: Well I’m gonna knit a rainbow.

A rainbow? Of course I had to do a bit of browsing for inspiration on ravelry…

Pattern by Helen Free

Rainbow Scarf With Clouds by Pam Gabriel

Sunshine and Rainbows by Melissa Mall

I’ve got a few posts lined up, when I have some sunshine to take pictures, so keep your eyes peeled for an update on my crafty crochet revolution, sewing my jeans, and a review of my new favourite book.

Spring cupcakes

Yesterday was a friend’s birthday drinks so I made some cupcakes to give her. Despite the sudden chilly weather, I was feeling inspired by spring and decided to make raspberry and lemon cakes.

Start with a classic sponge recipe – half the mixture had vanilla extract and the other half had lemon rind and juice.

Cut the top off each cake, fill with raspberry jam or lemon curd, and trim the lid so it fits back on the cake.

Cover with buttercreamĀ  icing, sprinkles and decorations. If flavouring the icing with lemon juice, rind and then swirling with lemon curd (very highly recommended) remember to add extra icing sugar so it doesn’t get too gooey.

Cut or bite in half to reveal the hidden surprise in the centre.

And eat!

As you can see, the two boxes were appreciated during the evening (did anyone have real food for dinner?!)

Piped polka dot posing

I have developed a new sewing obsession – piping!

I wanted to make a classic but stylish skirt and decided piping would help add the “wow” factor along the joins of my V8560. I have made this before using ribbons to cover where the panels join (my birdie skirt)

I have also discovered the best place in my flat for taking photos – the kitchen. With the window open wide I can get lots of natural light, and the (internal) window sill is the perfect height for photos.

My next sewing project is the Lisette Traveller dress, using some super-sweet navy fabric covered in tiny strawberries. I’m going to continue my piping addiction and add some red piping around the collar and sleeves. But before I do any more sewing, it is time to bake!