Autumnal Beanies

It’s November. I moved back to Wiesbaden in June, but I’ve still not unpacked my stuff as I’m still not in my own flat. This situation has decided drawbacks, one of them a surprising one: I can’t for the life find my autumn/winter hats in the pile of stuff in the cellar. What a wonderful excuse to make new beanies for autumn.

The Beanie pattern is available free at Pattydoo. The pattern itself is bilingual (English/German), but the instructions are in German only. It is a very easy pattern though, and even non-German-speaking folks will be able to follow the video tutorial.

To make my beanie, I dived into my box of scraps and came up with enough fabric for two beanies. I always have two: if one is wet/in the wash/currently lost somewhere, I always have another.

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I discovered these weird teardrop shapes in my mum’s crockery cupboard. I vaguely recall that you were supposed to balance wine glasses on them, but they serve a much more useful function as pattern weights. 🙂

And here are the finished beanies. They really are ever so easy and quick to make.

I’m not really sure whether Penny really feels like wearing one. She has that haunted look she puts on when she wants to say: “I do love you, but what *are* you doing to me?” Bless.

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Sockmania 2017 has begun

Making socks has become an annual ritual since I realised just how wonderful real, home-made socks are. They come with an inbuilt temperature gauge, for one. They keep my feet nice and toasty when it’s cold but they don’t make my feet sweat when it’s more temperate. Genius! And they are quick projects, which keep the instant grat monster at bay. Yes, I do like endless-seeming projects, like my hand-sewn EPP quilt, but sometimes it’s just nice to finish a project speedily.

So, my sock-making frenzy began with… making gloves. As you do. My last neon-coloured pair of gloves had been eaten by the knitting needle crunch moster (aka Dylan the dog, who also has a bit of a wool fetish). Turns out the craft supplies shop in town, where I got the original yarn from, had a few balls of similarly bright yarn left. I’m not sure why this yarn appeals to me so much – but it is kinda cool to have virtually glow-in-the-dark hands when you’re out and about in November. I made the fingers slightly longer than I normally do, which keeps my fingers nice & warm.

This time I found it especially hard to tell left glove apart from right glove, There is a difference in the positioning of the thumb, so the difference matters. So I decided to place a little marker in the form of a pair of Kamsnaps.

This turned out to be a genius idea because I can stick the gloves together & will never be frantically searching for a single glove again. And I can tell the left apart from the right quite easily.

After the gloves, I *of course* ended up in a situation, where I had too little yarn for one pair of socks. Which *of course* meant going back to the shop to buy an additional ball of wool, and then making two pairs of socks. If you don’t think that’s a logical decision, you’re probably safe from knitting/sock-making addiction.

I also had a bit of fun with adding patterns. I don’t much like openwork patterns and much prefer playing around with knit/purl stitches.

There was a craft fair in Frankfurt recently. For some reason, I was a bit bored by the selection of fabric available (or just not in the right frame of mind to buy), but ended up buying a few balls of sock yarn. Watch this space…

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Pippi Longstocking skirt

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I freely admit that my sense of fashion, such as it is, has been crucially influenced by one childhood heroine of mine: Pippi LĂ„ngstrump, or Pippi Longstocking. I’ve hitherto resisted re-creating that pinafore, although I’ve been tempted… But the last garment I made clearly owes a huge debt to Pippi’s unique sense of style.

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The skirt is a simple A-line skirt made from babycord, with a hidden zipper and a yoke. Three different colours, of course. Hence the Pippi Longstocking-effect. I’m quite proud of it as I did not follow any pattern but made my own.

A while ago, I bought Cal Patch‘s great book on making your own simple patterns. Unfortunately, the book is still somewhere in the pile of boxes that I haven’t  yet been able to unpack since moving house. But I thought I could remember the steps and boldly set out with measuring tape, A3 paper, pencil and ruler to make this pattern.

In order to make the paper pattern, I took the following measurements: waist (taken from where you want the skirt to sit. I like low-waisted clothes, so my measurements will be different to someone, who likes high-waisted stuff), hip, distance from waist to hip and distance from wait to where I wanted the skirt to end, i.e. above the knee. I remembered that if you want a flat shape to encompass a round body you need to lift the edges a bit (have a look at the picture, and you’ll see what I mean). I also made up the yoke to fit the pattern and the pocket (all for cutting the fabric on fold).

Wisely I made up a muslin from an old pillowcase to see whether the pattern fitted. It’s quite magical when you’ve worked something out on paper, transferred it to fabric and ended up with something that actually fits.

In order to be able to start sewing, a little bit of prep is needed. I cut the front piece on fold, two back pieces, the pocket and the yoke (two pieces for the back and one piece for the front). To make up the skirt, I followed Pattydoo‘s step by step video tutorial for the skirt ‘Romy’, which is different in shape, but shares the yoke and the zipper. First, I secured the the raw edges. Next, I ironed on some interfacing on the yoke. I also added some binding to the pocket.

I then pretty much followed the steps in the tutorial. I sewed together the back pieces, and added the zipper. Then I sewed on the pocket to the front piece. Then I sewed the sides of the skirt together, sewed the yoke together (back plus front plus back pieces), and finally sewed on the yoke to the finished skirt, ironed it down and topstitched a line round the waist hem. Finally I hand sewed the yoke to the seam allowances on the inside to stop it from flapping around.

It mostly worked, although there are two things which I need to iron out before making another skirt like this. The waist needs to be slightly shallower at the edges and I need to work out the difference between back piece (needs to accommodate my posterior) and front piece, especially when it comes to seam allowances when I cut one piece on fold, but not the other. I may wait until I’ve rediscovered the book in my pile of stuff once I do finally get to unpack.

But mostly I’m dead chuffed. The skirt fits and complements my wardrobe. I may need to add Longstocking to my name.

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Giving something back-scarf

Sometimes things come to an end. And then new things can begin.

A little while ago, the mother of a friend died. As with quite a few mother-child-relationships, this one would have had the tagline ‘It’s complicated’ on Facebook. I could sympathise. The relationship I had with my own mother was less than straightforward. So, clearing out her flat must have brought forth mixed emotions.

Turns out that the mum in question had been a crafter with bits and bobs of a lifetime of sewing, knitting, and embroidery tucked away. And my friend went: “Hey, you know what, take the lot – I’d only throw the stuff away. I’d rather it got used.”

I’ve still not gone through everything – it’s quite a collection. There are countless knitting needles. The row counter already comes in useful. There’s old yarn. And slowly an idea grew….

… and became a scarf. Mostly made up of new, grey, wonderfully soft Merino wool, but incorporating some of that old yarn that had probably been in a bag for a fair few years.

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I love combining grey with a bright colour. It somehow really works. And to stop it resembling some sort of snake or sausage or sausage snake, I did something I’ve rarely done before, but will definitely do again. I steamed my piece. And then blocked it for good measure.

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Ooh, look at the two bits of stray yarn I forgot to weave in…

It was so worth it. The scarf still isn’t perfectly flat and won’t be, not with stockinette stitch. But the tension has relaxed and it is more likely to keep flat. Ish.

And here’s my friend, when I gave him his scarf:

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I think it’s safe to say that he liked it! With the turquoise yarn from his mum’s stash, the scarf is a teensy bit symbolical. But it’s also warm, and soft, and a bit stylish. And I’ll now dive in & see what his mum’s treasure trove holds for my new projects.

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Going away homecoming quilt

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There is such pleasure in making something for someone else.

One day many months ago, a lovely friend from my schooldays spoke to me on Messenger and soliloquised about how strange it was that her eldest daughter was about to move out and go to university. I couldn’t quite believe my eyes (not ears, we were typing, after all). It didn’t seem all that long ago when I met her daughter for the first time – me on a brief visit up north and her a not-yet-walking toddler.

But before I could say ‘doesn’t time fly’, a thought had winged its way into my brain. It’s exhilarating being a fresher in a strange town, meeting new people, facing new challenges. It can also be a lonely time on occasion. Wouldn’t it be nice if this young woman had something to remember her family by? I was just making two memory quilts for another friend at the time, and so the thought of a quilt seemed obvious. My friend was keen.

And so, after stuffing my life in boxes, moving country, not unpacking (I’m still waiting to move into my own flat), and buying a new sewing machine (yay!), I broached the subject again. My friend was still keen. So we decided on a modern, fresh design with a memory quilt element. The background was to be light grey, and the main design be made up of brightly coloured, scrappy squares.

First I cut lots of uneven strips of fabric and sewed them together. Blimey, was I being active. Sew, jump up to the ironing board, press seam allowances, attach new strip, sit down at sewing machine, jump up to the ironing board etc. etc. Aerobic piecing should be an Olympic discipline! After all that exertion I had to have a cuppa and a sit down, and then cut out the basic squares (20 by 20 cm).

I then added black frames to make the colours zing…

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… and then built up the quilt top strip by strip until I had my desired width (1.50m) and length (2.50m).

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After some grovelling on the ground in praise of the god of quilts, I had pinned down my quilt sandwich. To complement the basic, squareish design, I quilted straight lines with the help of my trusty walking foot. And after swearing a bit because cutting the edges off a quilt this size ain’t easy, I attached black binding and was done.

Note the photobombing dog.

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I had a spare square and some cut-offs left. As the quilt was going to go to the young student-to-be, I thought it might be nice to make a small keepsake for the rest of the family. Voila – it was just enough for a cushion cover.

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A final element of the quilt are what I’ve called memory squares.

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They are squares made from the same material as the backing, which had designs by each of the members of the family done in water-soluble pen. I traced the design with my sewing machine, thus creating a little ‘cartoon’ if you will. As a final step before adding the binding, I attached those squares to the back of the quilt. As these designs are personal, I’m not going to show them here in full but will give you a glimpse of how I did the ‘drawing’…

It was tremendous fun to make this quilt. I’ve had a picture of it in situ in the student accommodation at the university. I like the idea that it helps make going away to a new place into a homecoming.

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The things that are under things #2

After a lengthy wait for the local telecommunications company to connect my landline and wifi I am now online again. And not a moment too soon, as I’ve used the enforced break to make things. Lots of things. Lots of underthings.

It started with a mishap. As I’m camping out in my mother’s flat until my own flat is ready, most of the stuff I brought over from the UK with me to Germany are still in boxes. I thought I’d packed carefully, so that I’d have easy access to the things I’d need once I arrived. Like my sewing patterns. Not so. I’ve sought them here, I’ve sought them there… The only thing I can say with confidence is that they’re in a removals box downstairs.

But I wanted to make some new underpants and simple bras. So, I gritted my teeth and started over.

First, I copied the shape of one of my favourite simple bras. I keep calling them ‘simple’: what I mean is that they don’t have underwiring, padding, lace or other types of garnish – they are truly simple. I value comfort and simplicity in most of my garments, and, luckily, given my tiny cup size, I can get away with it.

I don’t like fasteners at the back, preferring to slip into my bra as if into a camisole. The construction, therefore, couldn’t be simpler. The bit on the right is the cup, which has a central seam, a dart and a side seam. The bit on the left is the back, which is cut on the fold (centre of back) and attached to the side seam of the cup. Easy peasy.

Here’s how it works in practice. Cut out cups. Sew darts, and add fold-over elastic to the top.

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Then close the central seam and sew the back piece to one side.  Now the genius bit: Take a generous measure of fold-over elastic (at least 40cm) and sew together. Then attach to the cup, and sew all the way around to the other end. Do the same with the other side. You now have two straps. You can also now add the elastic on the bottom.

The next step is to sew shut the remaining side seam and to add loops at the back. To make loops, take about 10 cm of the fold-over elastic, sew it shut, form a loop, string a small plastic or metal circle through it and attach to the back.

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The final step is to attach the straps to the loops. You’ll need to use plastic or metal sliders that allow you to adjust the strap when necessary.

And you’re done. These simple bras are ever so easy to make. After I made the first, I found that I had to adjust the pattern a bit. The more skin-tight a garment is, the more I find I need to adjust the patter to get it absolutely right.

I’m pleased with my glut of bras. They’re comfortable as anything. And because I was so motivated, I added a similar glut of pants to go with them. Well, I say ‘go with them’…

While making them, I discovered a beautiful trick. Normally, I’d sew in some elastic, fold it over and sew over it again. But given that I was dealing with two layers of fabric (folded over = 4 layers of fabric + elastic), it had always been difficult to sew an even seam. Until I began using fold-over elastic for my pants, too!

Just like regular binding, fold-over elastic encloses fabric and just requires one seam. Job done! It looks much neater than my other pants, quite apart from being a lot quicker to sew. Win win win.

My underwear drawer is now pretty much stuffed full, but I can see myself sewing a couple more. Just to use up those jersey fabric scraps…

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Happy to be home

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About six weeks ago I turned my life upside down & set it down again. But in a different country. Reader: I moved house and country – from Brexit-Britain back to Germany, which I’ve learnt to call home again. Indeed, I moved back into the house I grew up in, so it was a home-coming in many senses.

So, how to mark this auspicious event? I didn’t have to think very hard: I wanted to make a shirt to mark the occasion. But, unfortunately, I’d packed my patterns very securely. So securely that I couldn’t find them. For various reasons I can’t unpack the majority of my removals boxes yet, and so my patterns are destined to remain lost for the time being.

But luckily the ever-wonderful Pattydoo brought out a nice, comfy, slightly sporty-looking t-shirt pattern called ‘Ava’ just when I needed it. It was clearly fate (click here to get to the [German-language] pattern). The other thing I wanted to do was play around with appliquĂ© – both the usual and negative appliquĂ©. And maybe a spot of sew-drawing.

I found a lovely green slub jersey fabric and set to work.

First of all, I drew some letters on a couple of pieces of paper and cut them out. I’m showing off my paper scissors here…  The letters spell out ‘Hurra, Wieder da’ (Hurrah, back again), which just about sums it up. I decided to highlight the letters ‘Wi’ by trying out negative application, because they are short for ‘Wiesbaden’, the town that I now call my home town again.

I then traced the letters on some iron-on interfacing (back-to-front obvs.), ironed them on to some bright and cheery fabric scraps, and cut them out.

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Then I fixed all the ingredients on the shirt to see what it would look like.

And after removing my ever-helpful kitty Mia from the sewing table, I could finally begin appliquéing the bits and pieces.

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This is the finished front bodice. It’s not my best effort. In a way it looks too busy to be effective. But it was fun to make, and the shirt will lose its novelty factor anyway in a couple of weeks.

I enjoyed making it, nevertheless, and I learnt a few things about appliquĂ©. It’s definitely a good idea to use interfacing or tear-away interfacing before attempting it. I also enjoyed the drawn element (the blue ‘eder’ in ‘Wieder’, where I drew the letters by sewing them rather than cut them out).

 

Now I’ve been back for 6 weeks, I’m still sorting things out, while simultaneously having the feeling of having arrived. Lots of things are still familiar, and I’m (re-)discovering other things. It’s great coming home after a long absence – in my case 17 years abroad. Yes, I’m still celebrating.

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