Black and White and Red All Over Quilt – finished!

Thanks for the lovely comments about my #SewRedOctober post. Here (just a few hours before October ends) is more detail about my Black and White and Red All Over quilt.

It feels like ages ago I started this quilt (definitely before Easter holidays) and it was finally completed this month!

red october 3

I followed the free Craftsy 2012 Block of the Month class to make the blocks (summarised here) and then watched Leah Day’s Free Motion Quilting class. The course started for absolute beginners, and there was an episode where you see a real beginner get feedback on her errors from Leah. Leah’s style was very much “that’s good enough, who will notice, don’t waste time redoing things” which I really liked, and do you know what? She was right! Looking at my snuggly quilt here I can’t see the many mistakes I made, and if I can, I don’t care!

I couldn’t decide between quilting the whole quilt (as I had especially bought some super wide quilt-backing fabric) and quilting block-by-block before joining them together (to make the blocks easier to handle). In the end I did a bit of both; I free-motion quilted the blocks onto squares of batting, and when they were all done I joined the blocks and did some basic quilting to attach it to the backing.

red october 4



I loved doing the stippling and wandering stitches, and the geometric echo quilting seen above; Some of the stitch designs needed lots of thought and careful travel stitching. I have to say my favourite finished block is the Circle of Geese block (top right in image below) even though it was SO time-consuming to quilt. I love the bold swirls (escargots actually) combined with the october 5

Once all the blocks were quilted, I cut them to size (the white borders cleverly disguise the fact that the original blocks were all slightly different sizes!), joined with some black Pearl-Bracelet strips, and then laid the new quilt top on top of the backing fabric. I had to lie at the top of my stairwell to do this as it was the only place big enough to lay the quilt flat. The back isn’t perfectly smooth, but since I was only doing simple outline quilting I don’t think it matters too much.

Finally, I bound the quilt with more of the Pearl-Bracelet fabric, finishing it all by machine because some of the quilting was already visible. Ta-da! One finished quilt, prefect for snuggling up under as the weather gets colder.

Other posts in the series:

Part 1 – Slashed Blocks
Part 2 – Half-Square Triangles
Part 3 – Nine-Patch Blocks
Part 4 – Star Blocks
Part 5 – Dresden Block
Part 6 – Hexagons
Part 7 – Log Cabins
Part 8 – Foundation Piecing
Part 9 – Foundation Paper Piecing
Part 10 – Curved Piecing
Review of the Blocks

Sew Red October

The twitter sewcialists came up with a plan to sew something red during October, and this fitted perfectly with my sewing plans. I knew I wanted a long-sleeved Tiramisu dress for autumn/winter and (in the summer) I picked up some heavy ponte (style) red jersey. I extended the sleeves (by holding my arm on the pattern/fabric and seeing where it should end up) and cut a narrower midriff october 1

I should have made more adjustments, as mid-way through sewing it I remembered that this is a very stable knit. With little stretch. Ooops. So this dress fits but is a bit snug and cosy, especially around the bust (hence the need for a vest top underneath!). I can wear it, but it doesn’t have the comfort I was wanting from a jersey dress (it feels like wearing a woven). Not a disaster but not perfect (and at £9 I can live with that) but I think I’ll have to get some more heavy jersey to make another with a little more october 2

I also rustled up a pair of pyjama bottoms (using a pair that I had made from an old M&S pair, since my pattern has disappeared). Pyjama bottoms are so quick and easy to make, and they are great for using crazy cotton prints… such as this red and white circle print I had left over. [Warning: dodgy camera-phone pictures taken in bad light*]


And what is behind those pjs? It is my Black and White and Red All Over quilt!

pj quilt

This was completed in October so it sort of fits into the #SewRedOctober theme. I am loving snuggling under this on the sofa as it is huge! More details of my new quilt to follow soon.
red october 3

* Apologies for the bad camera-phone pictures of pjs. I had misplaced my camera remote a few weeks ago (it was found in a pile of fabric, of course). Then I found it and set up my tripod to take pictures. I got 3 shots taken before the camera battery ran out. Found battery charger as storm arrives with grey skies.

Meanwhile, while trying on the red Tiramisu dress, my dinner splashed it. Quick! Dress thrown into wash and air dried. Dry dress tried on again a few days later to actually wear it. Making a craft project and I drop a pen on my lap. Quick! Soak stain and hand wash it. Dress dries but now I am feeling cursed and decide those pictures will have to do (with a bit of editing to distract from my unflattering face pose!) if I want to get the post written in October.

Wool Week 2013

Last week was Wool Week and there were some free workshops happening in John Lewis. I got an email asking if I wanted to go to one, I said please could I go to either Christmas Jumpers or Plaid workshops, and I was told I could go to both!

wool week 3

The first was a Christmas Jumper class with Sue Stratford, owner of the Knitting Hut and pattern designer (just as I was leaving did I realise I own her Meerkat book!). We didn’t learn to knit a jumper in the hour-long session, but instead started a pair of fingerless mittens. Sue checked our knitting as we went along to ensure we had the right tension for fairisle knitting (making sure the yarn at the back is loose enough). We were able to take the wool and lovely lovely needles home to complete our projects, so I will show pictures of the finished mittens soon (Camera phone was on very low battery that day).

On Saturday evening (after a lovely day of fabric shopping, food and drink with the Spoolettes, Roisin, Rehanon, Amy, Claire, Sally and Janene) I went back for a Plaid Collar knitting workshop. “How on earth do you knit plaid?” I wondered…

wool week 1Well, we were doing Erika Knight‘s quick and easy version of plaid. We were going to knit a chunky snood/collar and then embellish it to get a plaid effect. There were some experienced knitters in the group (hello again Allison from the yarn crawl/zoo!) and some total beginners, but Erika did a great job of giving everyone something to learn; I finally learnt how to do thumb cast on!

wool week 6The plaid effect was done by either Swiss Darning (white collar) or doing running stitches (mustard and black collars). I didn’t get time to do that on mine (I was knitting very slowly so as not to injure myself) but have some oddments of wool to finish at home.

wool week 5Erika had some great little anecdotes and tips along the way, and was so passionate about being able to create from simple materials.

wool week 7Erika’s website talks about her trend-forecasting skills, and during the workshop she was keen to tell us that pom-poms will be big, both figuratively and literally; she showed us how to make easy giant pom-poms using a book to wrap the yarn around.

wool week 4Before I left (as the store was closing) I had a quick knit on her GIANT needles. This would be so quick to knit a blanket, if you didn’t have to knit the yarn first!

wool week 2

How to… Make a Personalised Croquis

sewing plans

I sketched my autumn sewing plans on a croquis I made from a photograph, and lots of people wanted to know how I did it, so here is the long-awaited tutorial.

For obvious reasons I didn’t want to publish a photo of myself in my underwear, so for these tutorials I am using this image found via googling swimsuits. You will need to take a full length photo of yourself in tight undergarments, standing naturally in your normal posture. It might be a bit alarming, but once you have made your croquis you can delete the original photo! I’m going to show you how I made my croquis on CorelDRAW; if you have different software you may have to explore to find the same settings.


Import your photo into CorelDRAW and convert it to a bitmap (still colour at this stage).

2Select Contours -> Find Edges
Play around with the level to get just enough detail for sketching, but not too many heavy lines. The level may depend on how dark your photo is.

34Now convert to a black and white bitmap, like in step 1.

5To make the image paler, change the transparency. On CorelDraw transparency is the wineglass type icon. Make sure the transparency is set to uniform, and adjust the intensity (approx 80% should produce a grey that is barely there – you need to be able to see the lines, but they should be very feint so they don’t ruin your sketches)

cut and pasteNow you can crop any remaining background out of your image, and cut-and-paste as many figures as you want on a page; 3 or 6 to a page gives a good amount of space around the figures for notes and doodles.

Print your croquis and start sketching!

sketchAs you can see above, the printed croquis is very feint and just visable when sketching, but starts to disappear once it is coloured in. I have totally changed the hairstyle on the central figure, but the original lines fade into the background, so you can be as creative or realistic as you want!

If you make any croquis or sketches, please link below as I’d love to see them!



Making a Customised Dress Form

Last May I was on my way home from the supermarket, passing a vintage charity shop, when I spotted some dress forms on the pavement. They were on sale for £10 each. Wow! Bargain!



I put my shopping bags and investigated. The shop had rearranged their displays and so had some extra mannequins they no longer needed, so wanted to get rid of them. I picked the lightest adjustable form, it was wrapped in a bin bag to protect it from the rain, and I took it home.

Once home I measured it and it was rather different from my measurements. By 7 or so inches at the full bust. Luckily Threads magazine (issue 161) had a great tutorial from Kenneth D. King about making covers for dress forms – in some theatres they make covers to match the actors’ measurements, which can be added to just a couple of dress forms, allowing for precise fitting and saving storage.


I draped a muslin cover for the form (on its largest setting) and added a zipper at the back, in case I wanted to remove it for any reason. Then I started padding it out. I wrapped it up in thick batting until it approximately matched my waist measurements. I put an old bra on it and kept padding it out. The original plan was to baste all the layers of batting together and to the muslin inner layer, but it soon became apparent that this would be a lot of effort; am I really going to remove my cover that often.


I used a fitting-shell pattern I had worked on a few years ago to create a skin-tight bodice and upper-skirt (and amazingly the shell pattern was still a perfect fit), adding armhole and neck covers. I tried the cover and needed more wadding to fill it out, so had a break until I could get a second third fourth bagful of batting. Fully fitting the form was a challenge, especially on my wrists due to the pressure needed to get a firmly stuffed body, so this was done over a long period of time. I stuffed and stuffed, then checked my measurements, then stuffed some more, until the form was close enough to me (I think it is an inch too small around the full bust, but I never wear skin-tight over-fitted garments so it shouldn’t be a problem).

Finally I fused some ribbon to the form to mark the centre front, bust and waist lines. If they look a bit wonky, it must be the shape of my body as they are level in real life! Maybe there is a way to quilt all the layers together, but for the moment it is fine the way it is.


The form didn’t have a stand, so I made a few trips to my local hardware store. I bought a 1m chrome tube and a handful of rubber washers. I attached the tube, using the washers, to the inside of the form, where there was already a larger tube (lots of measuring was involved). At first I put the tube inside an old tripod base (the top had broken as it was fairly cheap) but this wobbled and was very unsteady. I went back to the hardware store and got some heavy weights (for window cords?) and made little pouches to tie these to the tripod legs. This didn’t work either 😦 Then I remembered I had a fan under my bed from a heatwave a few years ago; we had bought a big fan during the heatwave, but it was so strong and noisy we could hardly use it. It has been gathering dust, so I took the base and put the dress form on top. This was so much more stable and sturdy, due to the heavy, heavy, round base.

£10 for dress form
£5 for hardware
£12 for fabric
£ lost count for batting
=£40-50 for a personalised dress form to help fit and drape custom-fit garments. Quite a bargain in my books.


Wool Week!

Tomorrow is the start of Wool Week (October 14th-20th)!

Wool Week is a campaign to raise awareness among consumers about the unique, natural and sustainable benefits offered by wool, and has led to increased demand for wool which led to an increase in the price farmers receive for their wool.

To celebrate Wool Week 2013, 14th – 20th October, John Lewis Oxford Street and Edinburgh will be running a week of FREE fashion focused knitting classes and drop-ins, focusing on how to use bright colours, and new techniques to create high fashion patterns. Despite not being allowed to knit this week, I’m popping in to watch a few workshops; I want to learn Fairisle knitting as it was colourwork that caused me wrist pain so I’d love to know the best technique.

TIMETABLE-FINWhat are you doing to celebrate Wool Week?


The Great London Yarn Crawl

Some of you may remember that at the end of the summer holidays I went on a woolly day out at the zoo and gave you a teaser of something exciting I learnt. I’m sure you were all on the edges of your seats wondering what I had learnt…

pom pom parade zoo 223

spinning spindle

Well, it was spinning my own yarn!

pom pom parade zoo 224

I sat down for a quick lesson and got hooked! One of the organisers of the Pom Pom Parade, Allison mentioned the Great London Yarn Crawl (and actually co-created it). Despite being out of knitting action, I still decided to go along for a little tour and natter (and a goody bag!).

yarn crawl 003

Since it was a spinning lesson that introduced me to the yarn crawl, I chose a route that included spinning goodies. I was on the Red Route, led by the lovely Renee and Zoe (who it turned out I’d already met in real life), and we visited Nest, The Handweaver’s Studio, Prick Your Finger and Loop; it was an epic journey around North/East London on buses with lots of lovely chattering. At the Handweaver’s Studio I picked up a drop spindle and some wool to spin (Grey Shetland and some bundles of pink and purple merino) and I got a refresher lesson in spinning on the bus.

yarn crawl 004

Of course I got a couple of little bits in the other shops (purely to support the independent businesses!): Vintage sparkly buttons; odd ends of yarn and felt for a top secret project; and a chunky crochet hook with a soft handle (for when I am ready to slowly start crocheting again).yarn crawl 005

After a busy day of shopping we headed to a lovely pub where we met all the other groups. There were lots of generous sponsors who donated prizes, and I won a lovely skein of pink-purple yarn and matching stitch-markers from Inked Yarn. Hooray for prizes!
yarn crawl 001

It was such a lovely day meeting so many lovely knitters, spinners and crocheters. After the success of the inaugural yarn crawl, there are plans for another one next year. Hopefully I’ll be back knitting by then… (physio on Saturday to possibly get injections :-S)