Category Archives: Sewing

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.

2013 in crafting

I managed to finish 41 knitting/crochet projects in 2013.

2013 FOs

I’m quite surprised by how productive I’ve been, especially given how much of the year has been spent battling the black dog. I think I must just have got faster, as I don’t think I’ve had more time to knit.

2013 was also the year I gave in to the temptation of beautiful dyed fibre and learnt to spin, first on a spindle and now on my wheel. Given that I’ve only been spinning for five months, it’s hardly surprising that I’m still at the stage of producing beautiful but incredibly bulky yarn, but I am enjoying it and look forward to more spinning next year.

Sewing has been neglected for most of the year; after a positive start (three t-shirts, a pair of pyjama trousers and my wonderful penguin skirt by the end of May) I planned to make a Ginger skirt but never got as far as cutting out the fabric, then didn’t touch my sewing machine for months, though in the last few weeks I have made a case for my phone, another one for T’s tablet, and some more pyjama trousers for T. And I just ordered two metres of this fabric, because I simply couldn’t resist it. Maybe 2014 will be the year I really crack sewing, but I’m not making any promises. Or any resolutions.

And blogging appears to have ground to a halt, too. I didn’t consciously decide to stop photographing and blogging what I was wearing, but it really hasn’t happened since the mornings got too dark for me to take photos outside this autumn, and now I seem to have lost interest in writing about my crafting too. This is probably not surprising, because 2013 has been, basically, horrendous. I’m hoping that 2014 will be better, and maybe then I’ll start blogging regularly again. Or maybe I won’t. We shall see.

The penguins have the iPhone

When I bought my phone, from a friend who had upgraded to a newer model, she sent me the case she’d bought for it as well, one of those rubber clip-on cases that protects the back of the phone but leaves the screen visible. I’ve been using it ever since, but recently it seems to have got a bit manky (probably not unexpected with four-year-old rubber) and I fancied a change. I don’t particularly want a new phone, and can’t justify the cost anyway, and it’s not easy to find cases for such an old model (it’s so old I can’t even upgrade it to iOS7, which having upgraded my iPad I’m really quite happy about) apart from the slip-on version which fit a wider range of phones. And if I was going to have a slip-on case, well, I thought I could probably just make my own.


I used this tutoral and fabric left over from my penguin skirt. It only took me an hour to make – a perfect project for someone who’s trying to ease herself back into sewing and doesn’t necessarily have that much time to devote to it. (It’s also a good reminder that it’s perfectly acceptable to only spend an hour each weekend sewing, if that’s all I’ve got – I don’t have to have marathon sewing sessions and produce an entire garment in one go. Actually, a bit every week until it’s done might be better.)


It’s a good size – the phone doesn’t fit so snugly it would be hard to get it out quickly to answer a call, not that I get a lot of calls anyway, but it feels reasonably secure, and I like having a pocket on the front for my headphones as they do keep getting tangled up with my keys in the front pocket of my satchel. And it has penguins on, which is guaranteed to make me smile every time I look at it!

The good, the bad and the unplied

I decided that the first thing I was going to spin on my wheel was a batt of Manx Loaghtan which Liz sent me a couple of months ago. I think it was a good choice – the batt was lovely and airy and drafted really easily, but I didn’t end up accidentally drafting too much as I did with the North Ronaldsay roving I’d used for my first try last weekend.


Spinning on a wheel is so much faster than spindling. I did a little bit on Tuesday evening and then an hour or so yesterday and half an hour today, and managed to spin up the whole 65g of fibre. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to divide the fibre into even amounts before I started and when it came to plying I only managed to get 45g of 2-ply before my second bobbin was empty. Still, I think it’s pretty good 2-ply. Quality over quantity!


I thought I’d try Navajo plying the leftover singles, which was less successful (that’s the left-hand bobbin in the top picture). I think I should probably have treadled more slowly as the yarn just got horribly overtwisted as I was trying to make the loops. I ended up throwing that bit away, along with the last couple of grammes of singles which appeared not to have any end that I could find and had to be cut off the bobbin.


Still, I’m pretty happy with my 45g of 2-ply. Maybe I’ll try spinning from a braid next weekend…

(I have also done some sewing this weekend, the first time I’ve touched my machine in almost six months. I had a vintage skirt with a broken zip, so I wanted to replace the zip but also decided to remove several inches from the top, so instead of being a too-tight midi-length skirt with a fishtail it’s a knee-length gored skirt that fits well round the waist. It went pretty well and I’m looking forward to wearing it again.)

Pack up your troubles in your new kit bag

One of the things depression does is to regularly convince me that everything would be fine if I just had X, where X is some consumer good that I have no real need for and that won’t actually bring me happiness because consumer goods don’t bring anyone real happiness. I only avoided spending a lot of money on a new phone recently because the shop were utterly useless and incompetent (this probably did me a favour because I have a perfectly functioning phone as it is and can now spend that money on a spinning wheel, which stands much more chance of making me happy because it will help me to create beautiful things), and then a couple of weeks ago I decided that my Kipling bag wasn’t smart enough and I wanted a leather satchel as a smart handbag for work (my obsessions often focus on handbags, I have no idea why as I am not normally at all interested in bags. At least it’s a good barometer of my emotions.)

Luckily for me, when I asked about satchels on Twitter someone suggested kits from Simple Way, so instead of another consumer good I was able to order myself a new craft project.


The kit arrived on Friday. I assembled the front pocket on Friday night and then did the rest yesterday. The pieces are pre-cut and punched with holes to sew through, and the buckles and strap fixings are already attached, so basically all you have to do is sew it together with the waxed thread and needle supplied. There are full instructions, and while it’s a bit fiddly in places and pushing the needle through the leather can be quite hard going it’s not really difficult. And the result is lovely!


It’s not a huge bag, but I don’t want a huge bag for everyday use. There’s plenty of room for my phone, keys and bus pass in the front pocket and my wallet, umbrella, shopping bag and knitting (or an A5 notebook if I’m going to meetings at work) in the main section. And making it was a good way to put a really bad week out of my mind…and at least I can face next week with a nice new satchel!