Pants!

What do you say when it’s the weekend, you look out of your window, and you see this?

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“Pants!”

Everything about this weather is just pants. It’s not really raining, it’s not really dry, it’s not really cold, it’s not really warm. You can’t see anything much. Bah. It’s Swansea rain with bells on.

So what to do with the day? Sew some underpants, of course.

After much trial and error I’ve finally come up with two patterns that produce pants that really fit. The first type are low-rise shorts based on the free ‘Eve’ Panty-pattern by Pattydoo. As usual, a detailed video tutorial accompanies this free pattern, which, if you’ve not started sewing yesterday, should be intelligible to everyone even if you don’t speak German. The only amendment I made to the pattern was lengthening the gusset a little. I also sew in elastic around the leg openings, too, not just the waist, as I find the pants fit a little bit better then.

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The second pattern I – drum roll! – created all myself, after having eyeballed the Pattydoo pattern closely, and after having sacrificed a pair of my elderly M&S high leg ‘bikini’-type knickers as a template.

I quite like the shorts-type knickers, but ultimately find the bikini-type more comfortable. But the best thing about either type is that you get to use up your fabric scraps.

And they’re so quick to make. Cutting up the fabric takes almost longer than sewing them…

I sew the front, back and gusset pieces together with my overlocker, which takes no time at all. The only slightly tricksy bit is sewing the elastic on. For a step by step guide, have a look at the Pattydoo video tutorial. For you monolingual English-speakers, check out this English-language tutorial.

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For these knickers I chose neon-pink fancy elastic for the waistband and simple, no-nonsense elastic for the leg openings. I’ve found that the sewing elastic over the gusset and then turning the fabric over to sew the second row of stitches is difficult as the different edges and sewing allowances create quite a bit of bulk. I may need to experiment further with cutting into one side of the gusset to reduce fabric bulk.

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And here we are. As the darkness of the afternoon drew in, I’d finished my knickers. The top pair uses the shorts-pattern from Pattydoo and the bottom one uses my own bikini-pattern. A pants sort of a day turned into one for making pants.

And no, the weather didn’t improve. The dogs and I got utterly soaked on our afternoon walk. Pants! 🌧

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Happy dog blanket (upcycling project)

I love dogs, which is why I like making dog blankets. It’s the ideal playground for me to try out new techniques, as dogs don’t look critically at my stitches. They just want a cuddly blanket.

I inherited a bunch of old clothes and decided that this would give me a chance to see how best to make a blanket from jersey material. I looked at a tutorial (from Sew Sew Easy here). Laura from Sew Sew Easy did a great job of making a relatively simple but effective quilt from old t-shirts. Albeit t-shirts that looked brand new to me. My T-shirts are slowly downgraded from ‘all-purpose wear’ to ‘indoor only’ to ‘dog walk only/jogging shirts’. By the time I consider them too gaga to wear while walking the dogs they’re usually about to fall apart, so a quilt may just be out of the question. Next stage washing up rag, more like.

Failing to come up with my own t-shirts, I was using the baby/children’s clothes I was given. And I wondered if I could make my quilt without stabilising the pieces – partly because it’s a lot more faff if you’ve got numerous small pieces. I also thought that the blanket would end up less comfy if the pieces all had iron-on stabiliser attached – I’ll have to make a blanket with stabilised pieces to really test that theory. But some of her ideas made it into my design.

First of all I cut lots and lots of 5″ squares. I also cut 1 1/2″ strips from a larger t-shirt that I’d hand-dyed green.

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This is what the squares and strips looked like laid out all nicely on my cutting mat. You can see that I made a bit of an effort at fussy-cutting to show willing, but mostly the squares are cut to get the most of the material…

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  Here’s what was left of the t-shirt after I’d finished with it…

Then the squares and strips got put together to make the quilt top.

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And here’s Dylan road-testing it. It felt cosy even at this stage, which was very pleasing. After piecing the back in a random square plus 5″ strips-design, I put it all together to make a quilt sandwich: the top layer, the back layer and an old fleece blanket. My cats won’t miss it. I hope.

The next step was to decide how to quilt it. Given that I hadn’t stabilised the fabric, machine quilting – particularly free motion quilting – was out of the question. I tried it previously, and the fabric just moves around too much. So I decided to try hand-quilting, using the blanket as a playground for me to try various patterns in a kind of pattern sampler. I first drew the designs on, stuffed the blanket into my quilting hoop (not a mean feat), and set to work.

I can’t say that I was 100% successful. The fleece and the jersey material became quite thick in parts, and it was all I could do to ram the needle through the layers. Forget even stitching. Added to that I’m a beginner at hand-quilting and struggle to produce nice, even stitches at the best of times. At some point I simply decided to have a ball and forgot to be self-conscious about my scruffy stitching on the back. With other materials and more practice my stitching will get better in time, no doubt.

And this is what my quilting looks like. I chose contrasting colours to make it more fun. To finish, I added blank binding that came from a set of old bedsheets I’d been given. While it’s not perfectly stitched, this blanket really is as comfy as it looks.

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And here’s Trundle the dog enjoying his blanket. He looks happy…

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Sofa Throw: the saga continues

Looking through my archive, I’m flabberghasted to discover that I posted about my Sofa Throw in June 2016. June! 2016! How time flies when you have other things to do…

It’s still just about winterish outside, although it did briefly feel like spring over the weekend. I live in hope. Meanwhile, I’m making an extra effort to finish my Sofa Throw, simultaneously cwtshing down under it, while carrying on crocheting.

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I’ve finished and sewed together four crocheted strips, all of varying width. As you can see, the stripes are pleasingly irregular. The blanket uses seed stitch (alternating double and treble crochet stitches).

But the best thing about this cosy blanket is that it is so very warm. The wool originates from the good people at New Lanark (have a look in their fantastic shop: https://www.newlanarkshop.co.uk/). The wool comes in wonderful natural colours. It is not overly treated and can feel a bit scratchy and tough, although it loosens up a bit when you’ve washed it. I’ve seen it described as ‘rustic’, which describes it well. It’s real wool. I personally can’t wear it on bare skin, but have made a jumper from it, which I love in combination with a long-sleeved cotton t-shirt. And it’s the perfect yarn for blankets and throws.

Currently, I’m engaged on the final strip. I may add a border if I feel adventurous.

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Getting it right

Sometimes you make something and it’s just not quite right. You’re sort of satisfied with it, but something about it is subtly wrong.

img_0140So it was with me and this crocheted cardigan that I made last year. Blimey – last year! How time flies… I liked the colours. I liked the yarn. I liked the design with raglan sleeves. I liked the fit. And yet – I very rarely wore it. It just didn’t go with any of my stuff.

So what to do? As I found myself idly browsing cardigan patterns, it hit me. It was the frilly-looking front. It just wasn’t me. My wardrobe is more ‘sporty’-looking than ‘feminine’, if by ‘feminine’ we mean frilly things, soft and clingy things, lacy stuff, ribbons and trims and so on. Ok, so I do sometimes wear skirts, but they are made of denim, and I do sometimes wear dresses, but they are jersey skater dresses. You see what I’m driving at.

I managed to resist the temptation to simply begin another project, and decided to do something we crafters rarely do once we’ve finished something. I (shock-horror) unpicked the frilly front.

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And then I picked up the stitches and began knitting a plain front. Yes, I mixed knitting and crochet! And this time I added enough buttonholes, so that the cardigan could be closed.

Once I got going, I realised that this was going to look soo much better. And since my new design used up less yarn, I found I had some to spare. So, I added cuffing at the waist and sleeves.

The finished article looks like this.

Occasionally, it’s good to undo one’s work to make something better. This cardigan suits my style so much better than the previous version – and not many changes were required. I’ve begun wearing it – indeed, in the current cold snap, I’ve hardly taken it off.

And the moral of the story is: if at first you don’t succeed… don’t just start a new project. Go back to your piece and see if you can make small but significant changes so it becomes what you really want. You’ve spent so much time, materials, and money on it already – you might as well turn it into a success.

 

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More news from the soxta..

Ouch. I really need to think of a new moniker. It might catch on and that would be truly embarrassing.

But the sock mania continues apace. I’ve now made 5 pairs, and can make a further two, as I’ve had some wonderful sock yarn for Christmas. Yay!

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The wonderful, madly coloured Mille Colori yarn I used for a previous pair (see post here) really isn’t that great for socks. What it lacks is that all-important ingredient: plastic. In other words that crucial few per cent of nylon or polyamide that makes your socks last. The yarn above is by the same brand, but it is sock yarn, and, boy, do you notice a difference!

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If you’re used to Regia or other sock yarns, the yarn does require some getting used to, as it consists of strands of different colours, which are loosely twisted together. But this means that the colours fade into one another, giving a beautiful effect.

Here’s my finished sock.

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I’d contemplated a more involved pattern, but I think an understated, simple pattern like this cable pattern, allows the colours to shine better.

Here I’ve finished the second sock.

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They’re wonderfully warm and comfortable, and, so far, there’s no sign of wear and tear, or (the horror) holes. I’m looking forward to producing more socks with the remaining two balls of wool. But perhaps 5 pairs of socks really are the limit for now. For this month at least.

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Was lange währt…

… wird endlich gut. In English: ‘A happy outcome is worth waiting for.’

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It’s one of those phrases that tumble effortlessly from my lips when what I really mean is: ‘Why the heck did this take me so long?’

Many, many moons ago, I bought a good deal of fabric with the idea of making six tea-towels. Nothing much to them – just binding and perhaps a little bit of appliqué. I posted about the first three teatowels here. Then some time elapsed before I got round to making teatowel number four (second post).

And then things truly got ridiculous. I thought about trying different appliqué. I looked on some websites. I even managed to print off some nice shapes. But sooo many other projects urgently needed doing, and so, like a hapless NHS patient due for an elective operation, my teatowels kept being bumped back to the bottom of the queue.

Until yesterday. Yesterday, I couldn’t stand the accusing presence of my pre-cut, ready-for-sewing fabric any longer.

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I simply put binding around the edges (not forgetting a little loop, so that my teatowels can be hung up), and was done.

And very proud of my new teatowels I am, too. This fabric is wonderful – it beats other fabrics by being truly absorbent and soft to the touch. With these teatowels, drying crockery really means drying crockery, not just spreading wetness around.

I’ve no idea what took me so long. But here we are: all’s well that ends well.

 

 

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Longing for spring

It’s only the end of January, but I’ve had enough of winter now. Can the cold please move along, there really is nothing to see. When the sun is out, it is surprisingly warm, but soon, all too soon, the clouds come back.

Which is why I spent a couple of days making t-shirts. As you do.

screen-shot-2017-01-23-at-11-07-53I’ve had this wonderful book about creating your own, simple sewing patterns for a while. A couple of months ago, I finally thought I’d try making a t-shirt pattern.

Why would I do that? Well, even though most standard sizes fit me, I wanted to create a t-shirt that really fitted me. I wanted one that was long enough, that fitted my waist exactly, and with upper-arm sleeves that don’t cut off the blood supply.

 

 

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So I got out my drawing pad (with extra fine paper) and set to work. Taking my measurements was a bit tricky: this kind of work is best done with an accomplice. However, given that I was going to work with jersey and that I wanted the cut of my t-shirts to be loose-ish but still flattering, it didn’t matter if I didn’t get the numbers 100% right.

It is fascinating work. On the one hand, you’ve got to be fairly accurate, but nowhere near as much as I thought you did. Having said that, Cal Patch’s instructions are for simple designs. Then again – I never said I wanted to make haute couture. I want to make every-day clothes that I want to wear and that look good on me. And most high-street clothes are not made to complicated patterns. Otherwise children in China or Bangladesh wouldn’t be able to make them in their Fordist clothes factories. (Ooops, where did that sarcasm come from??)

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The moment of truth: cutting out.

I made the first t-shirt from left-over fabric from other makes, which necessitated a seam down the middle of the t-shirt front. It actually looks quite good – I may do this more often. Looks like a design feature.

I’m very pleased with the outcome. To think that I started off with a pencil, an eraser (!), a ruler and some paper, and ended up with something wearable. It’s a good feeling.

So that was back in October – I just didn’t get round to posting about it. And now I’ve made some more t-shirts. I amended the pattern slightly (cut off a bit from the shoulders), but I don’t think it’s made much of a difference.

Here’s all my fabric, cut & ready to go:

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I made another scrap-busting t-shirt, one with funky chickens, and one with cool trainers. I love the children’s section of my favourite online fabric shops.

 

They all fit like a dream. And they seem to be comfy to sit on, too, says Mia cat.

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Meanwhile, I’m still sitting here in my jumper. Come on, spring! I’m ready…

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