Take Two Patterns

I’ve been spurred into clothes making action. Although the shops have opened in England, it seems that trying on clothes is not possible or is discouraged, so I decided it would be easier to make a few additions to my working from home wardrobe.

First on the list were some cropped trousers in navy, stone, and grey stretch bengaline using the legging pattern from Simplicity 8097. I shortened the pattern to mid-calf and raised the centre back by 1” but no other alterations were needed. These are quick to make and I’ve enough fabric left to make full length versions in navy and grey for winter.

Next on the list was a wearable toile from McCall’s 7800 which I hope to make in Liberty jersey once I’ve tweaked the pattern. I started with view D (the main picture), but unlike with the trousers, a few alterations were required for this pattern. I shortened it to tunic length and used only the upper part of the sleeve pattern, but lengthened it to just past the elbow (all with some feline “help”).

I made the neckline as on the pattern, but after wearing the tunic for a day, I decided that a V neck would be more suitable and so took the “corners” off the neck and closed the split with a few buttons as it was a little too low cut for Zoom calls with work colleagues.

Seeing as the toile is wearable and mask wearing is likely to be required for the foreseeable future, I’ve decided masks might as well be part of my wardrobe too and made a matching one to go with the tunic.

May’s multitude of masks

Like so many other people, this month I’ve been sewing masks for myself, friends and family. There’s lots of different advice as to what type of mask and what type of fabric should be used, but the main thing seems to me is to have something comfortable so that you are not continually touching your face and the mask to adjust it.

I’ve gone for a simple two-layer mask without a filter pocket but with a casing for a removable nose wire. I started using the Craft Passion pattern, but modified it to remove the centre seam and this worked fairly well. I then tried the Dhurata Davies pattern which has a chin tuck for an improved fit, but I found this was too high under my eyes. Currently I am using a combination of the two – the top of the modified Craft Passion pattern and the bottom of the Dhuarta Davies pattern. My favourite fabric combination is two layers of tana lawn as it has a close weave but is very light and is cool to wear and I have plenty in my stash from the days of the factory shop in Lancaster, though the combination of silk pocket square remnants from Adamley sales lined with lawn comes a close second.

As I am not including a pocket for a filter, I’ve been able to simplify the construction method and reduce the trips to the iron to just one. l start by sewing the nose and chin darts; I don’t press the chin seam open, but I stitch it to one side when making the chin tuck. I then pin the outer and lining together, making sure the darts at the nose and chin seams are “nesting” (as with patchwork seams) to reduce bulk, and add in a folded strip of fabric to make the nose wire casing (~1”x10” in size, cut from the selvedge and the short edges are joined to make a double layer). The raw edges of the casing are aligned with the top of the mask so they are enclosed in the seam allowance and I put the joining seam off-centre so as to reduce bulk.

Once everything is pinned, I stitch around the edge, leaving a ~2” gap in the lower edge for turning (shown by the stars in the photo below).

After turning through the mask, I press the edges and fold in the sides to make the casing for elastic or ties. I then topstitch around the edge which closes the turning gap and forms the casings in one go and finally stitch the lower edge of the nose casing After trying some different types of elastic, I found that cutting “rings” from the legs of a pair of tights to be much more comfortable and easier to get hold of than elastic! I found a very large needle in my sewing tin and this is ideal for threading the “elastic” through the casings. For the nose wire, I am using heavy duty garden wire cut to ~4” and with the ends folded in.

I’m sure the research as to the most effective combination of fabrics will be ongoing and advice may change, but I hope that you might find something useful from what I have found works for me when making the masks.

The Queasy Quilt

Well, another month spent in this weird time of not going out, working from home, and only being able to get the sewing machine out at weekends. However, I think having limited sewing time does help me plan how best to use it. I’ve been wanting to make a smaller version of the “Scrap Vomit” quilt for a while and so it made an ideal project for this month.

The first weekend was spent going though my stash and cutting enough squares from enough fabrics to get a fairly scrappy effect (with some “help” from Now-our-Cat). I decided I couldn’t do the fully scrappy effect and so mine is one colour scrappy.

The second weekend was spend sewing and I managed to get the quilt top finished and was delighted to find a piece of fleece in my stash that was the ideal colour and size for the backing.

The third weekend was very productive. I basted the quilt on the Friday evening so it was ready to quilt during our virtual Leeds MQG meeting. For basting quilts, I have a large piece of MDF that I put on the top of the kitchen table and this time I used furniture risers to increase the height of the table which meant no aching back.

I finished the quilting during Saturday’s meeting and the binding was added on Sunday. Quilting was a diagonal cross hatch with some straight-line quilting in the contrast diamonds. I used one of the scrappy fabrics for the binding which resulted in an unintentional perfect piece of pattern matching!

The fourth weekend was bright and sunny and was ideal for taking the quilt into the garden and artistically draping it over the bench for some photos.

The quilt finishes at 54” square and will be destined for Project Linus when collections resumed. If you’re wondering about the name of the quilt – this was suggested during the guild meeting seeing as it is a smaller/lesser version of the Scrap Vomit quilt.

I’m not sure what May’s sewing will be – it might be a log cabin quilt or it might be making face masks.

March Madness

What an odd month we’ve had and it looks like we are in for another few of the same. The coronavirus restrictions mean that my sewing stuff has had to be packed away from the kitchen table so my husband can use it to work from home (how much tech does one person need?) while I work from home in the other room on a Victorian style writing bureau where I feel I should be wearing a bonnet and crinoline and using pen and ink rather than a laptop. We are trying to put everything away on a Friday afternoon so that weekends are vaguely normal and the sewing machine can replace the screens and keyboards.

Back before coronavirus, I made a small zip up tote bag upcycling an old pair of jeans and using a very small amount of my Liberty stash. This was supposed to be a sew-a-long with Leeds MQG but that wasn’t to be.

Instead of using webbing for the handles, I used more of the jeans and added a Liberty trim. The lining was more Liberty – a misprint from the factory shop which I got a good few years ago.

The other bit of sewing that I managed to do was to finish a Mystery Quilt kit. This was the first mystery quilt run by Lisa from Modern Quilt Club and started in March last year with the last section being sent towards the end of last year. Right until the last month I had no idea how all the pieces were going to fit together and now it is completed it is probably something that is definitely outside my normal choices for quilts.

I found some fleece that was an ideal colour match for one of the accent colours so that was the backing sorted and I quilted it using a diagonal cross hatch.

The binding that was sent as part of the kit was patterned and I felt there was lot going on in the quilt already and so I had to hunt in my stash for something plainer (this was the first weekend of lockdown and I didn’t think fabric would count as essential shopping). I found a navy border print that was just the right shade and there was just enough once the border had been cut off.

Now this quilt is finished, it will be heading off to Project Linus when coronavirus allows. At least all the shopping restrictions means that the next few months might see me use up some of my stash for new projects.

Feline comings and machine goings

February has not seen much sewing but there have been some comings and goings.

You may have spotted a visiting tabby cat “helping” me with my sewing on previous posts. “Not-our-cat” has been visiting regularly for nearly two years and we assumed he had a home, but choose to visit us (and the neighbours) for a change of scene. However, he disappeared for a week between Christmas and the New Year and turned up at the neighbours in a very sorry state with an injured eye and mouth. It turns out that he was not chipped and not neutered and long story short, seeing as the neighbours already have two cats, a name change followed so he is “Now-our-cat”. Unfortunately for my sewing, he quite likes sitting on my knee, so all I have managed to sew this month is a soft collar for him to wear when he had his eye removed.

He’s had a tough couple of months with many trips to vets, each of which seemed to involve him losing a part (or two!) of his anatomy but hopefully he is now out of the woods. He just needs to have one more tooth out so he can close his mouth properly and stop sticking out his tongue.

On the goings side of things, one of my machines has now found a new home. I got my current machine about 9 years ago and the 1990’s Husqvarna Orchidea that I got “third hand” about 12 years ago has not be used since. Since inheriting my Mum’s Bernina and getting it repaired last year, I’d been thinking that a machine should go to make room for it. When a colleague at work was considering getting a Singer from Lidl, I mentioned I had spare machines if she was interested in one instead. She has used a machine previously (her Granny’s Bernina) and so I warned her that she might be disappointed by a basic model Singer.

Despite not being used for years, the Orchidea powered up without any problem and I was able to find all the accessories. I cleaned and checked the machine and reminded myself how it worked before dropping off the machine and spending a couple of hours going through the different functions with her. I explained that it was an old computerised machine and the electronic parts are not available any more, but hopefully it will last a while. A few days later I got an update that it had already been put to good use – sewing a Batman patch over a hole in her son’s jeans!

It is much better for it to be used rather than it being sat in the spare room. Now I just need to find homes for some of my other machines.

A completed crocheted creation

I didn’t include this blanket in my summary of sewing finishes for last year as it didn’t seem right putting a yarn-based project amongst all the sewing projects, so here it is with a post all of its own.

I bought the yarn back in 2012 and it was originally to be a knitted skirt. However, I don’t seem to get on with knitting and even though the skirt pattern only had a four row repeat, I still managed to lose track of where I was and get the increases in the wrong place. I decided to unravel what little progress had been made and switch from knitting to crochet instead.

The pattern is the Ripple Blanket from Attic 24 and once the first couple of rows is down, it is just a matter of repeating a single row, so it was easy to put down and pick up again without losing my place in the pattern. Once I realised that this was going to be a more successful project, I got some more of the same yarn, but the original colour was no longer available as the yarn had been discontinued by then. Fortunately the new and old colourways went well together and with the stripy nature of the yarn the colour changes are not too obvious. As the blanket grew, it became clear that my foundation chain had been too tight and leaving it as it was would annoy me. As is often the case these days, the internet came to the rescue and I was able to redo the chain at a better tension, though it did need a leap of faith to take scissors to the stitches!

I had decided to use all the original yarn for the main body of the blanket and then find a contrasting yarn for the border. I was lucky to find a suitable yarn in a toning colour that had multi-coloured flecks in similar colours to the original yarn which was ideal. I used the instructions in the original pattern to fill in the wavy edges and then used the last two rows of the Attic 24 Cosy Blanket edging to create a textured rather than smooth edge.

I had no idea what size this would be as I just kept going until I had run out of yarn, but it has finished about double bed sized.

Crochet makes a change from EPP as something to do while watching television in the evening, though it does seem an “inexact science” when compare to sewing. There seem to be too many variables when it comes to finished size, amount of yarn required and which yarns can be used instead of the one specified in the pattern. This could all just be my inexperience showing and certainly hasn’t put me off starting a new crochet project.

2019 – my sewing summary

I’m writing this post in January, but hopefully with some technological wizardry it will travel back in time and appear in the archives for December – a much more suitable place for a look back on my year of sewing.

2019 turned out to be quite a product year. I took part in the Finish-a-Long which gave me deadlines to get things done and I even managed to finish some things not on the list. In total, and in no apparent order, I managed to finish:

  • 2 large quilts
  • 3 small quilts
  • 1 mini quilt
  • 1 mug rug
  • 2 coasters
  • 1 tote bag
  • 2 reusable non-plastic bags
  • 24 drawstring bags for the Leeds MQG charity sewing day
  • 1 ironing mat
  • 2 tops
  • 5 skirts (including 4 from the Style Arc Faye pattern)
  • 2 key fob holders
  • 5 mini Christmas stocking

There were also quite a few alterations (shortening 5 pairs of trousers for my husband, shortening 3 tops for me which needed the coverstitch machine being brought back into action, adding an inside pocket to a jacket) as well as various repairs that were quick to do, but had been put off for ages.

Some progress has been made on an EPP hexie patchwork quilt that is a very long term work in progress. My activity on this quilt seems to go in three year cycles – I started it way back in 2013, decided to change the design back in 2016, and I have changed the design again in 2019. I’ve kept the mirror idea, but switched the mirror effect from one side to the other.

The change in design required a bit of unpicking and then I realised that I won’t have enough of one of the pink fabrics, so I’ve started using an alternative and will replace some of the other pieces to give me enough to finish the quilt. Even though there will be a bit more unpicking to do yet, I think I have passed the halfway stage now with this and can see progress from the 2016 photo to the 2019 photo.

For 2020, I’ve already got a short list of quilts I’d like to make and I bought some fabric in Abakhan’s sale to make yet another Style Arc Faye skirt. The Finish-a-Long has moved to Instagram for 2020 so I’ll give it a go again and see how I get on with the new format – I can be found on Instagram as @sewlittletosay if you want to see what I have planned.

Finish-a-long 2019 – Q4, finish 2

This is my final finish from my FAL Q4 list and has only taken me a year and two days to finish! I’ve had this quilt top on my list since Q1 and finally it is a completed quilt.

The blocks were from a block of the month club and I think they were designed more to learn new techniques than to be used together for a quilt. I framed each block in dark grey and added sashing to make a decent sized quilt. Quilting was simple straight lines in the sashing and either echo or stitch in the ditch for each block as most appropriate.

The backing is fleece (which meant the quilting could be light) and the binding is the same dark grey as the block frames.

Hopefully Project Linus can now find a suitable home for this quilt.

Finish-a-long 2019 – Q4, finish 1

My first (and hopefully not last) finish from my FAL Q4 list is the shaker style box I got at last year’s Knitting and Stitching show in Harrogate and which first appeared in my Q2 list.  It had an insert to go in the lid and I needed something to decorate it.

I had bought a needlepoint kit at Festival of Quilts in the summer with the view to adapting the square pattern to fit the oval shape of the lid. However, while I was still thinking about this, I received a lovely hand embroidered card from a very talented friend and I realisaed that this was a much better starting shape.

(This was taken after I had poked around the edges to see if it would come apart.)

By adding a bow and making the stems a little bit longer, the embroidery was just the right shape and size for the lid. I add a couple of layers of quilt wadding to pad the lid and laced the fabric across the back to secure it to the insert. The insert was then fixed to the lid with some double sided sticky tape

Even though my stitchy contribution to this project was very small, I’m so pleased to have repurposed this embroidery in to something that I will used. I’m planning on keeping sewing essentials (a pair of scissors, a few needles, some pins, and bobbins of threads in useful colours) in it so they are at hand for mending jobs etc so I don’t have to root around in my main sewing box.

Finish-a-long 2019 – a nice surprise

Back in the summer, I had a surprise email from the organisers of the 2019 Finish-A-Long to say that I won one of the prizes for Q2. Being in the UK, there is always the possibility that with vouchers for American suppliers, you might end up spending more in shipping and custom charges than the voucher itself. Luckily this was a very generous prize and so right from the start I factored in the likely custom charge when deciding what to get. 

My voucher was from Sew Sweetness and I spent a while looking at the website to see what I needed and what would be the best value items taking into consideration shipping/customs. Sara from Sew Sweetness was very helpful with questions I had about the different shipping options and once I had finally decided what to get and placed my order, the items arrived in the UK very quickly.

I chose a mix of items that I needed (a hot ruler for pressing hems etc which will be an improvement on the cardboard templates I usually use), items that were better value than in the UK (long double-headed zips for bag making), and some items that I wanted to try and where ideally priced to use the full value of the voucher (Tulip applique needles, a magnetic needle/pin/scissor keepers, and some Clover wonder clips). With some careful planning, less than a fifth of the voucher value went on shipping and the cost of all these items to me was a customs charge of ~£18.

I’d like to thank the sponsors and organisers of the 2019 Finish-A-Long and I better get sewing to have some finishes to show for Q4.