Sunny, summery socks

The sun is out. I’m almost holding my breath as I write this, so as not to jinx it. But, unquestionably, the sun is out and suddenly spring is in the air. I have a rather Pavlovian reaction to sunny weather: I immediately cast about for things to wash as nothing’s better than fresh-smelling clothes from the clothesline. The other thing I do is bathe my face in sunlight and think about summer.

Which is where summer socks come in. Over the winter months, I spent some weeks in a sock-making whirl (see post 1, post 2 and post 3), and I’m glad to report that most of the socks I made bore up reasonably well (except the ones made in Lang’s Mille Colori Baby yarn – that’s not sock wool and thus not recommended) and kept my feet warm. Now that I’m eager for spring, I want, nay need, socks in a cotton-blend yarn.

Enter this wonderful yarn:

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The strands of cotton of this yarn encase a polyester thread and so this yarn should hold up to wear and tear. It’s also slightly stretchy, and it has beautiful colours. What’s not to like?

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I thought I’d try a simple cable pattern – one with three ‘strands’ rather than two, which give a braided effect.

And here’s the finished article. The colours are bright and summery. The pattern is unostentatious, which means it works well with the self-striping effect of the yarn.

Added to that, the socks are lovely to wear: soft, springy, and cool to the touch. But they are also warm enough to keep my feet temperate once the sun goes down.

After having finished my first pair, I found that there is probably enough yarn left to make another sock. And as I don’t yet possess a third leg, I made my way back into our lovely local yarn shop and bought some more yarn. I foresee another sock-making spree…

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Cuteness overload

What are your favourite lies to yourself? Mine are ‘I’m just looking’ when entering a bookshop followed closely by ‘Just browsing’ when I can’t resist looking at my favourite online fabric shop. Oh yes, and then there is – ‘Look how cute it is, and it is in the sale!’ Which is why I ended up with some fantastically cute purple racoon fabric.

Yes, I may be heading towards that time of life when the magic number 50 is around the corner but age is just a number, isn’t it? And if you add my numbers up you get 9, which seems just right for this fantastic fabric.

To let the pattern shine, I decided to go for a simple longarm t-shirt pattern. A few years ago I discovered the Pattydoo pattern online shop. They have a plethora of cool and trendy patterns for women, men and children nowadays, but back then their range was a little more limited. Out of all the patterns, I liked the hoody ‘Riley’ and the long-arm t-shirt ‘Liv’ best. I’ve made a few Rileys over the years, but only one Liv. Time to revisit the pattern.

All cut up and ready to go!

Liv is one of the patterns that is available in German and in English. And, as is usual with this designer, you can view a video tutorial (in German and with English-language voice over) and follow the step-by-step guide. This is very useful if you’re just starting out or want to learn new things. The shirt actually comes in several varieties: with cuff at the waist or not, with round neckline, v-neck neckline and with gathered neckline. You decide which version you want, and the pattern is delivered to you by email.

Sewing the ‘Liv’-t-shirt is fairly straightforward. You simply sew the shoulder seams together and add neckline strip. By means of the notches that you’ll have transferred from the pattern to the fabric when you were cutting out, this process is pretty painless.

Then you insert the sleeves. At first this process looks complicated as the armholes are shaped inversely to the sleeve, but, with the help of those little notches and because jersey fabric is stretchy, this can be done quite easily.

And then you simply sew the sides together, starting at the bottom of the sleeve and finishing up at the waist.

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Then come the cuffs. Cut out square pieces of cuffing fabric or of the same fabric that you made the main body of the shirt from, sew them together into a circle (take care to sew them the right way around – along the grain, not against it, otherwise the cuffs won’t be stretchy). Then attach to the sleeve. In order so that the sleeves actually fit my (apparently overlong) arms, I tend to add a couple of centimetres to the pattern, and I may also (as in this case) lengthen the cuffs slightly.

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All done! Hey, no, wait… we need to attach a cuff to the hem of the shirt. Only in this case I didn’t. I put the shirt on, checked myself out in the mirror and thought – heck, that’ll do! So, instead of adding a cuff, I simply finished the piece off by  folding over the fabric (2cm seam allowance) and, using a triple zigzag stitch, created a simple hem. The shirt flares out a bit more than it would otherwise have done (because there should really be a cuff), but I really like the look of it.

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I can’t get enough of those little racoony faces. Luckily I have some fabric left over & am now mulling over what to do with that… A beanie? An infinity scarf? Incorporate it in another t-shirt? Hmmm….

 

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UFO no more!

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I’ve done it! I’ve finished my crocheted blanket. I can’t even remember when I started it. I do relish projects that you can really get your teeth into. Projects that are long and demanding in a non-demanding way. Meaning you’ve got to commit, but they’re not that difficult to do and thus hugely enjoyable. A bit like a Victorian novel. But it is also very satisfying, indeed, when you’re finally crocheted your last stitch.

This blanket ended up having an evolving design. I wanted strips of equal length, but varying width with different but similar colour combinations. One colour would dominate in each strip. And the unifying principle was that I was using seed stitch all the way through. The reason why I chose to do strips that had to be sewn together was that they’re much easier and quicker to do than the virtually never-ending rows on a largeish blanket. It is good to make some visible progress of an evening, even if the project will only be finished in the dim and distant future.

The yarn comes from the good people at New Lanark Woollen Mill. It’s a double knitting yarn, which comes in a range of natural colours. I love their wool. It’s very woolly wool, if you take my meaning. It still seems to smell of sheep (although it doesn’t). It can be slightly scratchy when worn against bare skin, but it is perfect for a blanket.

IMG_5462As you can see, the dogs like it just as much as I do.

IMG_5460This picture shows what is so wonderful about this wool: it is the magnificently rich and complex nature of the colours. And adding a simple border unified the whole design, I thought.

IMG_5475And here it is, in situ. If spring holds a few more cold nights in store for us, I’ll snuggle up under it…

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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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