Category Archives: Sewing

Spinning and sewing

Given that the fabulous photos posted during last year’s Tour de Fleece were one of the things that convinced me to start spinning, I was looking forward to joining in this year’s myself. I haven’t managed to spin every day, due to being away last weekend and sometimes too tired or late home on a worknight to fit any spinning in, but I have definitely spun more than I normally would and have spun half of a braid of rainbow gradient BFL from The Yarn Yard:

TDF mosaic

I started the second half today:

TDF day 15

I’m not going to finish by next Sunday, but that’s OK. And I think it will be lovely when it’s done and plied up.

I’ve also been doing some Tour related sewing; I’m spinning along with the Archers Listeners group on Ravelry and there are prizes awarded each week to people who’ve posted their progress pictures (I won a big bag of raw alpaca fleece last week – I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do with it, but I think I’ll have fun finding out!). I offered a handmade project bag as a prize, and actually got round to making it today so it can go off to its new home tomorrow.


I used this tutorial, which I’ve used before, though I made the outside all one fabric and cut a paper template 30cm tall by 27cm wide for all the pieces. I thought the bicycle print fabric was appropriate!


It’s lined in pale blue, though you can’t really see that in the pictures, and rather than sewing fabric ties I used blue and white spotted grosgrain ribbon. I’m quite pleased with how it turned out and I hope its new owner likes it!

Afternoon Blouse

I made a top!


OK, the fit isn’t brilliant, but it’s no worse than the fit of tops I buy in the shops, and I’m pretty sure the crease running down from the left armpit is actually a wearing crease and not a fitting crease, and it’s light years ahead of my previous attempts.

The pattern is the Afternoon Blouse, as seen on sewing blogs everywhere recently. I graded from a size 14 at the shoulders to a 16 at the underarms and an 18 at the waist and hips and added a 1″ full bust adjustment for good measure (which meant adding a dart), though I don’t know if that was absolutely necessary. The fabric is from a king-size polycotton sheet I picked up in a charity shop a couple of months ago thinking “that will be good to sew with”, as indeed it was.

It’s a pdf pattern but I found it fairly straightforward to assemble and trace off my size, and there’s a detailed booklet of instructions. The basic construction is very straightforward, though I did find attaching the facing a bit fiddly and ended up taking almost as long attempting to sew the button on and stitch the overlapping fronts together to stop them flapping around as I did to do everything else, because the first time I did it I ended up with the neckline sitting really oddly. I think the interfacing I used was probably too heavy as the facing feels a bit stiff but I managed to get it looking right in the end.


I’m planning to make more of these; I bought some plain cotton lawn from Croft Mill because what I really want is plain tops to wear with patterned skirts (which are ridiculously hard to find in the shops), and I’ve also got some lovely Liberty cotton salvaged from a dreadfully frumpy charity shop skirt which I think I can just squeak one out of. Though I suppose I really ought to try to tweak the fit a bit first – it needs a sway back adjustment, and I think it might be better just to go straight to an 18 at the underbust as it does feel a little tight there.


As I mentioned yesterday, I finally got round to making the Ginger skirt I’ve been planning to make for a couple of years and for which I traced all the pattern pieces last summer and then never got any further.


The fabric is a quilting-weight cotton I bought three years ago, when I was first learning to sew, with the intention of making a dress, but later decided that I’d prefer it as a skirt. I lined it with a purple polyester anti-static lining, which is great except that I kept sliding down the seat of my chair at work. I definitely think it’s worth taking the time to line skirts, though, they hang so much better and look smarter.

Because I traced and cut the pattern pieces so long ago I can’t actually remember what I did with the sizing, though I suspect I graded from a 16 at the waist to an 18 at the hips, and I know I lengthened the pattern by several inches because I prefer my summer skirts to hit well below the knee.

I think I made a pretty good job of my first invisible zip, and if the back hem dips slightly I’m jolly well calling it a feature.

Ginger back view

I really like the vintagey look of the skirt paired with this blouse, though I suspect it didn’t quite fit in in my office, which tends towards being rather more corporate in culture than I prefer, but it felt like the perfect outfit to wear to see The Two Faces of January at the cinema this evening. I might well make more skirts from the pattern, as it was very straightforward to follow and I like the fuller A-line shape compared to the McCall’s skirt pattern I’ve made before. My next sewing project is going to be an attempt at the Afternoon Blouse, though; I’ve printed and traced the pattern so it might even be this coming weekend!


So, I aten’t dead, I just haven’t had much to blog about; I’m working on several knitting projects (a shawl, two cardigans, and of course some socks) but as I cast all of them on at the same time, and the shawl is in cobweb yarn and one of the cardigans is in laceweight, there’s not been a lot to blog about. And I don’t seem to be in the mood for posting about clothes right now. But, after failing miserably at my plan for doing an hour’s sewing every weekend and not touching my machine for weeks, today I actually got round to making myself some pyjamas trousers (definitely needed as it has got too warm for winter pyjamas and I only had one summer pair as all my old M&S ones had worn through).

New pyjamas!

I actually found it surprisingly easy and enjoyable. Next, I must try to find the time to make the Ginger skirt I was going to make last summer but never got round to…

I love you from the bottom of my pencil case

I’ve always liked writing with fountain pens, and since being parted from my beloved fifteenth-birthday-present Waterman for a few weeks in 2012 while Mim‘s father very kindly fixed the clip I have developed a great fondness for Lamy’s Safari range. It started with a black pen and some blue cartridges which I bought in WH Smith as an interim replacement, but then I bought a purple Al-Star (the aluminium version) and purple cartridges and even though I have my Waterman back I’ve been using that at work; the nib is slightly finer and the Waterman is precious enough I don’t really want to have it in the office. And then this week I decided to add to my collection with a pink Safari and some turquoise cartridges, and I thought that maybe I should make a pencil case to keep my collection safe.


I used this tutorial, though I didn’t bother printing out the pdf pattern but just drew a rectangle of about the right size on some paper and used that as a template to cut out the main fabric, lining and some wadding. It went together pretty easily and was good practice at inserting a zip (I did have to unpick and resew the first side after I’d done the second and realised that I’d managed to stitch it much closer to the zip teeth). And it’s the perfect size to keep my pens safe.


I also finished spinning up the Falkland from last week, which drafted just fine this time so it was clearly just that I was too tired before.


I’m pretty consistently managing to get around 36m of 2-ply yarn from 25g of fibre at the moment, which is a considerable improvement on where I was a month or so ago although ideally I’d like to be managing around 50-60m to get enough to usefully knit with.

I also started spinning up the merino/Shetland batt that came in the drop spindle kit I bought from Hilltop Cloud. Given that it was a carded batt and not tops I wanted to try using more of a woollen spinning technique and I found it surprisingly easy to go back and redraft the partly-spun yarn so that it ended up thinner and more even. I think this counts as progress!


I’ve also been knitting (obviously) – I’ve finished the fourth clue on the Ysolda mystery shawl and am halfway down the leg of my second walking sock. In the end, after looking at where my socks seem to wear, I did an Eye of Partridge heel flap and continued the slipped stitches on the bottom of the heel turn, but did the sole in plain stocking stitch. If that turns out not to be strong enough, I’ll rethink for the next pair. They’re knitting up so quickly it’s not as though having to make more will be that much of a hardship!

Weekend crafting, 1-2 February

This week I made a bag.


It’s not just any old bag, though. This is a special bottle-carrying bag.


Our local council don’t do kerbside collection of glass bottles for recycling, so T takes any bottles and jars to the bottle bank in the village. He’d been using a bottle bag that he got at the Co-op some years ago, with dividers to keep the bottles from knocking against each other, but the bag eventually ripped and the Co-op don’t do them any more, only the cardboard carriers which don’t stand up to repeated use, especially in the wettest Janaury in 250 years. So I offered to make him one, using the old Co-op bag as a template and three-quarters of a metre of heavy cotton that I bought in the local fabric shop. (It was a wide fabric and I didn’t actually need all the length, but that’s good as I have lots left if the bag needs patching.) The bag itself is fairly basic with a single piece for the front, back and base (meaning there’s no base seam to come undone), while the bottle insert consists of two short pieces and one longer one, sewn together to make a grid and then stitched to the sides of the bag (which was less fiddly than I thought it was going to be). It’s not exactly a work of art – the seams are a bit wonky and I ran out of black thread halfway through so several of the seams were stitched with black thread in the bobbin and white thread in the needle – but hopefully it’ll do the job and it will be mendable if it breaks.

In knitting, I finished the third clue of the Ysolda knitalong and also finished the socks I cast on for T at New Year.


The yarn is Schoppel-Wolle Admiral Cat Print, and while I have used Admiral yarns in the past with no problem I wouldn’t recommend this one – it’s lovely and soft but was so horrendously splitty it really wasn’t any fun to knit with, and then when I came to photograph the socks today I found a hole in the sole of one of them where it looked as though the yarn had just come apart (I really don’t think I accidentally snipped it with my scissors, I’m sure I would have noticed!) and although I’ve duplicated stitches to close up the hole I don’t have high hopes for the longevity of this pair.

My next pair of socks are going to be vanilla socks for me, in Regia 6-ply, because I go through commercial walking socks in approximately two weeks and they don’t keep my feet warm in cold weather anyway. I’m hoping that the Regia will be tough enough to last a while. Anyone have any recommendations for particularly heavy-duty heels and toes? I’m wondering about carrying on the slip-stitch pattern from the heel flap onto the bottom of the heel and under the ball of the foot.

With all that sewing and knitting, it’s probably not much of a surprise that I didn’t really manage any spinning. I did start spinning a sample of white Falkland, but ended up struggling to draft it properly. I don’t know if Falkland is harder to draft than the BFL and Jacob I spun last week and the week before or if I’d just used up all my energy for the weekend (the start of February is pretty much my lowest time of year) but in any case I decided that when things are going badly it’s usually best to put them to one side until another day. I did a lot more sewing than I normally would this weekend, so maybe next weekend I’ll make a point of doing more spinning.

Weekend crafting, 25-26 January

I finished the Birgitte tee from last weekend, including chopping off and reattaching the neckband to get rid of the pleat (there are still some small gathers in the seam but they’re not obvious when it’s on).


I’m pleased with how it’s come out; T said that if he didn’t know I’d made it he wouldn’t have been able to tell, and the pattern is pretty.


I was going to make a start on sewing a bag for T to use to carry empty bottles for recycling in, as the bottle bag he had from the Co-op has given up the ghost and they no longer make them, but I didn’t really have the energy to do more sewing today, so that will have to wait for next week.

I did spin up another sample, grey Jacob this time.


I’ve managed to spin a similar weight to last week, about 35m from my 35g of fibre. My spinning is definitely improving and getting finer and more even. The Jacob fibre felt lovely but it’s definitely not as soft as last week’s BFL was and I may have put too much twist in as the yarn feels quite string-like. It’s all practice, though!

I’ve also finished the second clue of the Ysolda mystery shawl and am all ready for clue number three to be released tomorrow, and I’ve turned the heel on the second of the Kate Davies fair isle socks I started over Christmas, though they seem to be very slow going right now and I’m not sure I’ll ever actually wear them when they’re done. Good technical practice, though!

Weekend crafting, 18-19 January

Rather than start a new big spinning project, this weekend I decided to spin up one of the samples I got from the Handweavers Studio when I went on the London yarn crawl in the autumn. I went for 25g of BFL humbug fibre, which spun up like a dream. I split the fibre lengthways into two so I could make a two-ply yarn, and I split each section again into three because I find it much easier to draft thinner sections of fibre. I ended up spinning far and away the finest yarn I’ve ever made.


I think I’ve got about 37m to 25g, and it’s 10 wraps per inch so somewhere between a DK and a worsted weight. Not quite as thin as I’d really like, given that I normally knit with 4-ply and laceweight yarns, but definitely going in the right direction. I think I’ll spin up some more of the samples and then possibly use them to knit something with an ombre effect from the different shades.

After spending some time wondering what to sew next, I decided to make another Birgitte basic tee using some flowered viscose jersey I bought from Croft Mill last year when I first decided to try making t-shirts, as a way to remind myself that I can make clothes.


I haven’t hemmed it yet, because I ran out of steam at that point, but it came together very nicely (except that I have managed to get a pleat of fabric at the back neck when I sewed on the neckband, which is annoying and pretty much unfixable, because unpicking stretch stitch from jersey is basically impossible). I’m not actually sure if I like the print very much or if I will wear it, but it’s good practice.

I have also cast on for Ysolda’s mystery shawl knitalong and been working my way through the first clue. I should be finished with that today, ready for the next clue to be released tomorrow, though I’m really not sure I needed a new knitting project given that I’m still plugging away on my Pi Shawl and the A-Z seems to have been stalled at M for several months now. So much crafting, so little time.


The Sekrit Sewing Project is no longer Sekrit (it was a birthday present for my friend B, hence the secrecy), so I can show you what it was.


It’s a Japanese knot bag, made from two fat quarters of quilting cottong using this tutorial. It took me about three and a half hours to make – two hours the weekend before last to do steps one to five and an hour and a half last weekend to try to work out what the hell I was actually meant to do for step six, try various different approaches and eventually realise that I probably shouldn’t have sewn the seams on the sides of the handles right to the top, unpick the tops of the seams, sew the linings together, press everything to within an inch of its life and slip-stitch the tops of the handles in the outer fabrics together while ensuring that all frayed ends were poked carefull away inside. Possibly not a tutorial that was actually aimed at beginners…


I’m pleased with the finished object, though, and more importantly B seems pleased with it too! It’s big enough to fit a small knitting project – socks, hat or so on – and I do like the way you can hang the strap from your wrist while keeping the contents secure (very important for knitting on the bus). I might even make myself one, though I might just be thinking of doing that to put off starting to think seriously about dressmaking again.

Weekend crafting, 11-12 January

I’m happy to say that I managed to do my hour each of sewing and spinning this weekend with no problems at all. Unfortunately, the sewing was finishing off last week’s Sekrit Project, so no pictures, but the spinning involved plying the Polwarth I’d been working on and it’s come out beautifully.


I think I got about 90m from my 100g of fibre, pre-washing, so that’s definitely going in the right direction! I love how the colours have come out.

In lieu of any actual pictures of the sewing, here’s some gratuituous yarn porn instead – all the different rainbow yarns and fibre that have arrived in my house in the last week.


(From the back, that’s KnitPicks Felici from Great British Yarns, fibre and mini skeins from the Yarn Yard, Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock from Modern Knitting and merino sock yarn from Old Maiden Aunt in a rainbow colourway dyed up specially for the run-up to the Sochi Olympics.)

Next week I will start to think about dressmaking again. I am planning a party to celebrate my 40th birthday in May and it would be lovely to make a dress to wear to that. I have a copy of Simplicity 2444 and I think that would make a lovely party dress, if only I can manage to make it fit me.