Thank you to everyone who left kind words about my last post. Half-term arrived bringing lots of time to rest and get back in touch with my sewing machine, so I am feeling much more human now.
This is another post in the “things that were made AGES ago and have been used straight away without photos” series and also in a new category of “photos I took months ago but haven’t had the brain energy to edit/write about.” When I say this was made ages ago I mean the process started a year ago. I bought the fabric (Stof Uno) about this time last year as I liked the idea of a teal and navy/grey quilt after the bold red and black I was working on (obviously I had to get a tiny bit of hot pink as well).
I had the fabric packed away until January when I felt like doing some patchwork. I had brought the fabric without a plan, thinking that because they were all the same range then they’d go together. When I started playing with designs I realised the big prints would get lost in a fussy layout and so my googling led me to Bento Box designs. The Bento Box is simpler than it looks to make – make lots of square log-cabins and then chop them into quarters and mix and match the pieces. The initial piecing of the squares was quick and done randomly, but when it was time to create the new squares I had to do some unpicking to get the pink distributed evenly.
I wasn’t too keen on the quilt top once it was finished as it felt too washed out with so much cream and low-volume patterns. I spent ages finding the right shade on navy blue and Annie from the Village Haberdashery ended up ordering a shade that we saw on the Kona colour charts (nautical I think). I added 2 borders of blue with another border made of the leftover strips from the log cabins. This makes it feels like a stronger design, and the deep blue gives it some much needed depth.
Since I had made this without a plan I had lots of fabric left over. I decided to piece the back in a giant Bento Box design. I spent a whole evening at Knitting Night with graph paper planning the dimensions of the back in relation to the pieces I had to use up. In the end I had to buy the last remaining piece of blue flowers and add some joins in one of the aqua flower sections but I just got it to fit.
This was February and I had pin basted the layers together (I took it to school in half-term and laid it all out on the hall floor) but the physio said I needed to rest my wrists again, so it got packed away in a bag until the summer. In the summer I quilted it with navy straight lines around the borders, and variegated turquoise wavy lines in the centre panel. I did the outer straight-line quilting first and bound the edge with more pieced scraps. I wasn’t sure how densely to quilt the waves and may or may not have snoozed under it before it was fully finished. In the end the waves (random, not echoing each other) are about an inch apart at the closest points and maybe 4 inches at the furthest points.As I was finishing the quilt we were getting a hot spell in the summer, so the quilt went straight to my bed to use instead of my summer-weight duvet. It is light and not too warm, but perfect for having a bit of weight over your legs (I need to feel bedding on me and sheets are just too light and easily kicked away). The quilt was on my bed all summer, until I took it to the park one morning at the end of the holidays. Now it is back on my bed on top of my light-duvet to provide an extra layer before I get my super thick winter duvet out (definitely not needed this weekend!).
Do you remember Karen started the sewlution jar in January? Well I threw my name into the jar with this main goal: I am going to make less but what I make will be better. Lets see how I did…
I learnt some more couture techniques from reading and online tutorials, which I used to make my turquoise couture jacket; The majority of this was finished by hand, which took lots of time, but was to a finish I’m really proud of. I took my time making dresses this year, using higher quality fabrics, and spending much more time on the muslin process and using better pressing techniques to get a better finished garment. I’m not sure if I have really made less, but most of what I have made will be worn for years to come. I’ve made more classic quality pieces and less impulsive fast fashion garments, so I think I can say my Sewlution was achieved, oh Mistress of the Jar!
Other goals I set were:
I will not need to be so sentimental and protective of my creations. Did you see the giant bag of clothes I took to the charity shops at the end of Me-Made-May? It included many me-made garments that just weren’t getting worn. A couple of garments were kept for recycling, but these are still in the to-sew pile.
I will finish what I have started (or get rid of it/recycle it). Errr… not as much success for this. When I moved house I did get rid of loads of scraps and pieces, but I also had to buy more storage for my stash :-S oops.
I will do some of the Craftsy courses I have signed up for! I have used the Block of the Month and Free Motion Quilting courses to make my Black and White and Red All Over quilt, and I’ve been watching knitting classes to learn how to get a better fit in knitting garments (finished cardigan is still drying, must turn heating up!).
I really want to make bunting! I made some bunting for the Crafty magazine fox competition, but sadly I didn’t win (I think my tutorial was much too long for a magazine). But that means that I can now share my super cute tutorial with you all instead!
I am going to learn to take better pictures. I have a tripod and a remote control, and have been taking hundreds of pictures to get 5 decent ones for the blog. I set up a proper background to take photos of my girly cupcakes.
I am going to be a better blog-reader. I am better at commenting using twitter, but there is still the issue of getting past comment validation systems on a phone. Still a point to work on as I have loved all the great comments I’ve recieved this week.
I am going to explore new recipes. I only made 5 recipes as part of my retro recipe plan, but they were all great dishes that I know I will return to. I will carry on trying the classic recipes, but found it tricky this year with my wrists bandaged up.
I think I had a pretty good go at those plans, but the main change has been my attitude to my crafting; more planning and precision has led to more successes. If you want to read my plans for 2014 you can see them here.
Thank you so much to everyone who has been reading and commenting this year 🙂 Hope you have a fantastic new year and I’ll see you in 2014!
It is time for my Top 5 of 2013 (as organised by the lovely Gillian. I can’t believe this time last year I didn’t know her!). I have to review my Sewlutions tomorrow for the Mistress of the Jar, so I’m going to pack a lot in this post…
Lets start with the misses…
I learned so much making my Couture Jacket and am really pleased with the construction and techniques I used. But I’ve only worn it a couple of times. I’m hoping it is because the typical British spring went from freezing to boiling in a week, so fingers-crossed I enjoy wearing it this spring.
My Dotty Dolly Cambie dress remains unblogged 😦 I was so excited making it – polka dots, a Cambie dress, ric-rac…. all the ingredients for a perfect dress. But wearing it didn’t feel perfect. I think I prefer the gathered skirt to the a-line version I did here, and the fabric for my floral Cambie flows better. Again. I will try it again in spring as it was finished just as the heatwave started, and all the lining was a bit too sticky.
Inspired by meetings with Charity Shop Chic I got some items to refashion. Have you seen them yet? Nope. Because there was a lot of brain power involved in fitting my pattern pieces onto refashioned parts of garments. I will definitely put these to the top of my to-sew pile as one is fuscia silk and the other is red wool.
My red Basic Bella cardigan has been worn frequently these past few months and is a great chunky cardigan for a chilly day. But it is chunky. The cotton blend yarn stretches (not enough research done) and I made it fit my measurements, not incorporating negative/zero ease for a close fit (beginner knitter’s mistake) so overall it is rather baggy and can look a bit sloppy. It is still great to wear, but it has to go in the miss category since it was one of the causes of my bad wrists 😦
Finally my first Anna dress. Its not a total disaster, and most of the lovely comments suggested chopping the sleeves off (a job that can wait until it gets a bit warmer!), but I felt disappointed with it after all the Anna love around the blogosphere.
I had a lot of trouble choosing my hits as I’ve made so many nice things this year; I feel my sewing has improved and I have a better sense of what suits me now, so there were less disasters.
I love my stripy Tiramisu dress and it was a great introduction to Cake Patterns. Steph’s drafting and custom fit instructions are great, and so it was easy to get a fit and finish I was happy with. I wore this loads over the summer – perfect for pulling on with sandals – even though it is still un-hemmed! oops! I made a long sleeve version which was also great, so this pattern will be staying in my collection.
My Polka-dot Portrait Blouse was a simple cotton tee but it was perfect over the summer. Loose enough to stay cool, but with enough subtle shaping. I lived in this with my cropped jeans, which was quite a revelation for a stretch t-shirt girl.
I made a quilt!! What more do I need to say?! I learned so much, caught the patchwork and quilting bug, and now can stay cozy while lounging on the sofa.
My floral Cambie was another great dress that worked for all occasions; school, weddings and lazy weekends. I feel so good in it as there is the right balance between style and comfort, the fabric is soft and scrummy, and I did some good pattern alterations to get the perfect fit (and at a meet-up someone was wearing a Cambie they had altered using my tutorial!)
Finally, since it is the only garment in season at the moment, is my Liberty Hawthorn. I wasn’t convinced about the pattern until I saw all the versions popping up on people’s blogs. This is the fourth fabric version of this, after lots of muslin-ing to get the bodice darts to fit once I’d done a big FBA, so I’m proud of all the work that went into making it. Again, I feel really good in it – not showy, but just quietly confident, like a stylish grown-up in it.
Do you notice anything about all my hit garments? A Cake pattern, a Gertie pattern, a Sewaholic pattern and a Colette pattern. I didn’t realise until writing this, but all my hits have been from independent pattern designers (my By Hand London blazer was almost in the top 5). This isn’t deliberate but I think it reflects my sewing process. Since blogging and reading other bloggers I have discovered new companies I’d never heard of. And since these companies all blog, I get to see inside the patterns and get more inspiration than is on the pattern envelope. To be honest, I’m not sure what the last Big 4 pattern I used was…
Three out of four hit garments are dresses! I feel good when I’m wearing a well fitted dress, and it is less hassle getting dressed in the morning. Yet I feel like dresses are impractical and don’t sew that many. This must change!
I like learning and I want to expand my skills. This year I learned some couture skills, I learned to patchwork blocks and how to free-motion quilt, I learnt how to add darts to knitting (yes, bust darts on my knitted cardigan coming soon once it is dried. Blocking takes so long in winter!) and I learnt more about photography and taking better pictures. As we say in school, I have a growth mind-set towards my sewing learning.
Sewing is more fun when you can share with people who understand you. I love, love, LOVE my new Sewcialist and Spoolette friends here on the blog, on twitter and instagram and now in real life thanks to lots of meet-ups 🙂 It is so great having people who understand your passion for creating and who can offer advice from experience, but most of the time we meet we don’t talk about sewing; there is almost an unspoken attitude towards life that we all share, despite being totally different and having different other interests, which means we can get on so well.
I’m pretty awesome. This isn’t said in an arrogant way, but in a “I have previously had such low self-confidence but I’m actually starting to believe I’m good” sort of way.
I need to craft; it is not just a hobby anymore, it is part of my life. When my wrists were bad and I had to rest, I had no idea what to do with myself. I felt twitchy and on edge for weeks as I hadn’t made anything for ages, and this in turn made me feel really low (in combination with the pain and frustration).
All my sewing and crafting inspiration comes from the sewcialists and spoolettes and all the great blogs I read. If I had to pick my main inspirations, they would be:
– Jo (Sew Little Time) because I think we sew quite a lot of similar things and are similar height so I can trust her makes will also look good on me.
– Struggle Sews A Straight Seam because her blog makes me smile so much, and she has a great approach to sewing wearable garments.
– Gillian (Crafting A Rainbow) because we are like the same person on different continents; both teach little kiddies, both love bright colours and sewing wearable jersey. And Gillian is always behind a twitter plan!
– Amy (Almond Rock) as she makes such cute tops with great fabric. And she turned her blog into self-hosted (I may need her help soon since I’ve nearly reached my storage limit on wordpress, eek!)
– Roisin (Dolly Clackett) for all her amazing and FUN dresses (and she is such a lovely friend).
Make more dresses. I feel great in dresses, so I should make more.
Wear an entirely me-made outfit at least once. The only RTW items I have to buy at the moment are bras and socks. I have some sock-weight yarn and I’ve signed up to a bra-making course at Morley College (its not for a style I really wear, since that sold out last term, but should teach me the fundamental aspects I hope)
Keep improving and learning new techniques, and keep challenging myself in my crafting. (Was that in school speak too much?!)
Make more effort to join in online; open-ended sew-alongs, challenges, commenting on blogs and sharing reviews and projects online.
Most importantly, I will enjoy my crafting and take my time to savour all the details. I rushed my knitting and learnt the hard way that I need to enjoy crafting in (slight) moderation, otherwise I may not be able to craft at all.
As a thank you for reading all that reflection, here are some pictures of some of my projects that didn’t make the top 5 hits… To see them in more detail, click on the newly organised pages at the top of the blog 🙂
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!
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.
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 triangles.
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.
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 band.
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 ease.
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!
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.
* 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.
It has been a long time since I worked on my Craftsy quilt. I started some free-motion quilting in the summer holidays, then got into garment sewing but I have been inspired to hurry up and finish after seeing the fabric I had my eye on (Stof Uno in grey and aqua) for my next quilt on sale!
Trying to decide on a design for my next quilt (yes, I know I haven’t finished this one yet!) I was thinking about which blocks and techniques I enjoyed and liked the best during the Craftsy Block of the Month (BOM). Here are my thoughts (or I think you can download it here for a clearer image).
I have scored various aspects of the making process and given each method a score for the look and enjoyment; The winners for me are the slashed blocks (super easy and lots of impact), foundation pieced blocks (random strings of fabric made it fun and relaxing to sew), and foundation paper piecing (looks trickier than it is, but paper guidelines make it easy to sew accurately). These are my personal preferences; I like bold designs, not too busy and fiddly, and definitely prefer an easier sewing project if I’m going to make a full-sized quilt.
Before I get into patchwork I want to say a big hello to all my new readers (and of course hello to my long-term readers!). Hello! It is so nice when my inbox pings to tell me that more people want to read my thoughts, and it was especially nice to re-meet Tania on Saturday who was wearing a dress made after reading my Cambie FBA tutorial 🙂 I am almost at 100 WordPress subscribers so there may be a celebratory give-away coming up soon….
Drum-roll please… here are the final two blocks for my Craftsy Block of the Month sampler quilt!
Left until the very end, because they looked tricky to cut and tricky to sew, are the curved piece blocks. Amy recommends buying these templates but I really wasn’t sure how much I’d enjoy these blocks and be desperate to make more of them, so I just printed off her templates and stuck them onto an old thick box. This worked pretty well with no injuries to myself or the pieces, but was still a hassle to cut them out (especially cutting all the waste from the L-shaped black pieces). Joining the curves wasn’t easy, but was not as tricky as anticipated – I actually pinned thoroughly on these blocks – and if you are a dress-maker who can sew princess seams then they should be pretty straightforward (it is just the tiny size that makes them tricky).
Well the first block was The Chain and is a variation on the classic Drunkard’s Path patchwork. Once all the individual units were sewn there was a bit of thought needed to position all the squares. Again there were lots of seams so I chose black for the background (also looking at the balance of all the blocks, I did not need any more white). The finally design is fun but still pretty calm at the same time, and it was great to only have to worry about nesting the corners of the blocks.
The Chain BlockCleopatra’s Puzzle Block
The final block I made was Cleopatra’s puzzle and it was definitely a puzzle to cut and sew. Maybe if I had done the corners in black as well the cutting would have been easier, but I was thinking about the overall balance of the whole quilt and didn’t want a “plain” two-print block. I really like the look of this block and the impact of the colours I chose; I was not so keen on the construction of it, especially trying to match two curved seams.
So that makes twenty different patchwork sampler blocks! I am still trying to be good and rest my wrists, but luckily I have plenty of un-blogged makes and recipes to keep you entertained for a few more weeks until I can get back to crafting again *fingers-crossed*
The penultimate pair of blocks I made were Foundation Paper Pieced blocks. These involved sewing fabric onto perforated paper, folding the paper to trim away the excess, and repeating in sequence until the paper was covered. The first block was stitched in a simple order, but the direction of the lines and triangles changed to make the fun final design of the block.
Friendship Circle BlockCircle of Geese
The Circle of Geese is a really fun and bold design, but required a bit more thought following the instructions. Luckily with foundation paper piecing all the pieces are labelled and you just have to follow the numbers in sequence. I really like the finished block, although there are a lot of seams (which is why I chose to use black as the background for this)
Next in the Craftsy Block of the Month I made some Foundation Piecing blocks. These were really fun and relaxing to do; all you need to do is attach strips on top of each other randomly. It was really nice to get into the rhythm of sew-press-trim sew-press-trim without having to worry about the precise order or placing of fabric.
First, the String Block. It started as four squares with diagonal lines marked for the initial pieces. After each strip was added, it was pressed flat and a new strip sewn to it and the foundation square. Instead of going for totally random strips I divided my squares into red and black to create a focal square. This block would be pretty straightforward to make into a full quilt, maybe alternating the colours to create lots of different coloured diamonds.
Broken Spider Web Block
The Broken Spider Web involved a little more prep (ie. measuring 3 points on each triangle), but involved the same design-as-you-go process. This time the foundation triangle was only sewn to the initial strips and then cut away at the end; the resulting block is less bulky, and all the fabric used is seen, which is great for thrifty quilting.
This is one of my favourite techniques so far; it looks more complex than it is, and was very relaxing to create. There are two more sets of blocks to show you, meanwhile I am watching Leah Day’s Craftsy course showing how to free motion quilt the quilt, while I try my hardest to rest my knitting-injured wrist.
You may remember I explained that I wasn’t following the exact order of the Craftsy course, as I wan’t to cut all the precise pieces out before doing the scrappy quilts. Well here are the first random/scrappy quilts.
The log cabin in a quilt design that even a novice-quilter like me had heard all about. The first version was a modern log cabin that had no set measurements, and I really enjoyed this impulsive way of working. I added some forward-thinking, by deciding to alternate the prints with plain black; I love the impact of this block (despite seeing some wobbles and wonky grainlines :-S oops). This is definitely a block I’d love to make more of for a whole quilt.
Modern Log Cabin Block
Wonky 5-Sided Log Cabin Block
The second log cabin was even more fun! Pick any strip of fabric, sew, press and trim, with no need for careful 90° angles. I even used a scrap half-square-triangle for the initial centre square to add to the chaos. To make a whole quilt out of this design I think you’d have to really think carefully about fabric choices, as it is a bit too dizzying even for me!