Tag Archives: sewing

Weekend crafting

I don’t like New Year’s Resolutions (there’s way too much potential for recrimination and self-loathing in setting ambitious goals for myself at a low time of year), but I do know that if I actually ever want to be good at sewing and spinning what I need is regular practice; the reason I am a good knitter these days is not because I’m a natural knitting genius (I wish!) but because I have been knitting pretty much every day for over seven years now, building up muscle memory, learning tricks and techniques and finding better ways of doing things. So, seduced by the completely artificial significance of the calendar change, I have decided to set myself a goal of spending an hour every weekend (unless I’m away from home) spinning and an hour sewing. I’m hoping this will help to make both of them become more of a habit, and that the regular practice will help me to make gradual but steady improvement, though it’s also about giving myself permission to stop after an hour, knowing that I can always pick it up again next weekend, rather than pushing on to complete a project when I’m getting tired and fed up and ending up not enjoying it and convincing myself that I’ll never be any good and not even trying again for ages.

Anyway, I got off to a good start by managing to find time to spin and sew today. Unfortunately, the sewing is a Sekrit Project so I can’t show you any pictures of that, but an hour with my wheel got the second half of a braid of New Zealand Polwarth I bought from Easyknits in the summer spun up.


I was trying to concentrate on drafting a finer yarn than I’ve managed before, which was successful in parts although bits of it are thicker than I’d like, and also on drafting more slowly to get more twist in the yarn, which I definitely managed. It may be overtwisted, but I’ll see how it turns out when I’ve plied it. It’s pretty, anyway, and if it turns out bulky again I have a kind of a Plan involving 10 balls of chunky purple Jaeger yarn I bought years ago without considering that 10 balls of chunky isn’t quite enough for a jumper for me, and a nice simple pattern like Vivido which might look quite nice with a bit of toning/contrasting handspun thrown in…

Christmas crafting

Merry Christmas to all of you who celebrate it! I hope you are all having a wonderful day and that Father Christmas brought you lots of nice things.

Now that the presents are unwrapped, I can blog the things I’ve been making over the last few weeks. First, another Booklore kindle cover, this time for my mother.

Kindle cover 2

This one is considerably better than the first one, because having read up on yarn dominance I held the pattern yarn in my left hand and the background yarn in my right and the pattern is lovely and clear. T got me Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair Isle Knitting for Christmas, and I can definitely see more colourwork in my future.

I decided to make my sister-in-law a cowl, though I’m not sure it’s enough like the ones in the shops which are a lot slouchier this year.


The pattern is A Very Braidy Cowl and the yarn is Fyberspates Scrumptious Aran. I have to say, I did find the 16-stitch cables a challenge (and definitely not to be attempted without a cable needle, which is what I usually do!), but it was a nice quick knit and I think it’s quite pretty.

I then took advantage of T being out on Thursday and Friday to make him some presents. First, some new winter pyjamas.


The pattern is Kwik Sew 3793 again, and the fabric is a cheery brushed cotton from Croft Mill. At one point I thought I was going to have to wrap the fabric up with a promise to turn it into pyjamas before New Year, but in the end I managed to wash it on Thursday evening while T was out, dry it overnight on the airer in my craft room with a ‘Keep Out’ sign on the door, and then make the pyjamas on Friday when he was out again.

As well as the pyjamas, I finally worked out how I could make him some Joy Division oven gloves.

Joy Division ovengloves

In the end, all it took was a plain black double oven glove from John Lewis and some iron-on transfer paper. I did end up slightly melting the inside of one of the flaps with the iron, so popped a square of calico inside the second one, but I think they look the part, and T seems happy with them which is, of course, the main thing :-)

Throwing off the shackles of modesty

This is a more considered response to the Feminist Fashion Bloggers‘ monthly topic of fashion and sexuality than Wednesday’s rather brief post managed to be. Thanks to the commenters on that post for helping me to clarify my thinking, both those who pointed out that if one is well-endowed it’s almost impossible to avoid showing at least some cleavage unless one only wears high-necked tops (which are quite hard to find, certainly in non-casual styles) and the person who said that she thought any amount of cleavage was totally inappropriate for the office because it would be distracting to male colleagues, which did give me pause for thought (although if that commenter is reading I would like to make it clear that it didn’t take me a couple of days to approve your comment because I disagreed with you, it ended up in spam by mistake).

I have a lot of problems with the term ‘modesty’ when applied to dress; it comes with a lot of religious and cultural baggage about how women should ensure they don’t lead men into temptation by dressing provocatively which I fundamentally disagree with. Men are adults, and they should be responsible for controlling their own impulses just as much as women are responsible for controlling theirs. (Franca has a couple of interesting posts on the subject, if anyone wants to read more.) And if asked, I would have vehemently denied that my preference for tops with sleeves, moderately high necklines, and never going bare-legged when wearing skirts above the knee had nothing to do with that kind of residual Victorian-values attitude. I’d have said it was just personal preference, and maybe partly to do with not wanting to be chilly (there is a certain amount of truth to that, although in fact I am someone who feels the heat more than the cold; but for the last few years I did work in an incredibly cold building).

The trouble with the ‘personal preference’ argument is that none of us exist in a vacuum. Yes, of course in a perfect world we could all make completely free choices, but as it it we’re influenced by a whole lot of cultural baggage we may not even be aware of. And actually, deep down, I know that while I’m happy with my figure, I still haven’t completely made my peace with the actual physical nature of my body; the blotches and visible veins and stubble on my legs, the pudginess of my upper arms, and, particularly, the rather generous proportions of my bust. I’ve never been comfortable with my breasts. I developed very early, and was wearing a B-cup bra in my last year of junior school; a succession of hormonal contraceptives seems to have caused them to keep growing until I’m now wearing a GG and determined never to change pill brands again. And big breasts are problematic in our society, because breasts are so sexualised (I live in the land of the Page 3 girl, and if I was the kind of person to seek explanations for my current issues in my childhood I might wonder just what effect the old copies of the Sun we had to protect the desks in my junior school when we were painting had on my developing psyche), and it’s not easy for me to accept them as just an ordinary part of me. Instead,they seem to symbolise an overt sexuality which really, really isn’t me; I’m quite a private person and would prefer to keep the sexual aspects of myself between me and my other half.

When working through the tangle of my own mind it often helps to try to think of how it would seem to me if I was another person. Do I think that other large-breasted women at work are dressing too sexily and look unprofessional when they show a small amount of cleavage? No, of course I don’t. So would they think that of me if I did? Almost certainly not. Should I allow a culture which views women as primarily sex objects affect my relationship with my own body to the extent that I feel I have to make extreme efforts to cover myself up if I don’t want to be viewed as a sex object rather than an accountant, a manager, a friend, a colleague, a knitter, and above all a person? No I bloody well shouldn’t.

Obviously, I’m not going to stop wearing shawls, because I love my shawls. But it it’s too warm to have a shawl on I’m not going to fret. And I’m damn well going to make a Sorbetto and hopefully wear it to work if the weather is hot, even if it is – shock horror! – sleeveless.

My first sewing project

I think I probably need to make sure I use my sewing machine regularly until I really know my way around it and stop feeling intimidated by it. If I don’t I suspect I will become so terrified I’ll just never use it at all, and that would be a real shame.

I’m not feeling up to anything terribly complicated as yet, but this tutorial seemed pretty easy to follow, and I did think that a little case for my phone, iPod and MiFi would be a useful thing to have.

Organiser 2

I used a remnant of printed fabric given to me by a fellow knitter last summer, and some plain bright pink fabric and interfacing I bought ages ago intending to use them to make a waistband for a dress I thought I might turn into a skirt (I have since given up on that idea and taken the dress to a clothes swap, so the fabric and interfacing were going spare).

Organiser 1

Mine is smaller than the one in the tutorial, because I didn’t want it to fit as many things in as the one shown there. Mine just has three pockets.

Organiser - open

And I sewed a ribbon to the outside to tie it closed.

Organiser - back view

It’s not perfect. You can see from the last photo that I didn’t quite manage to cut the fabric squarely and the lining pokes out on that side, and the seams aren’t quite as neat as they could be. Still, I don’t think it’s too bad for a first attempt.

Now, what to make next?

Good things come in pretty packages

Look what I’ve got!


One day (hopefully one day fairly soon!) this will become a lovely summer skirt. I’m very excited, although also a bit nervous. I might start by making something a bit more straightforward; I was thinking this morning that it would be nice to have something to keep my phone and iPod and MiFi together if I want to use a bag which doesn’t have internal pockets, and that it would be relatively easy to sew something along those lines (something like this, in fact). I might try that this weekend.

(No outfit photo today, because I was wearing exactly the same as in this post.)

My new toy

I have a new toy!

Sewing machine!

It’s a Janome DM1018; it’s pretty much exactly what I was looking for. It seems like a nice basic machine, has 13 stitch options, 4-step buttonholes and comes with buttonhole, zip and blind hem feet, and it only cost me £99.

I bought it from The Husqvarna Studio in Bath. My husband had arranged to spend the afternoon watching the rugby in a pub with friends, and I thought I’d go along for the afternoon and wander round the shops. When I came across the Husqvarna Studio I thought I’d pop in and ask about machines; I wasn’t actually expecting to buy one there but the machine was such a good price and so exactly what I wanted that I couldn’t resist. I was incredibly impressed by the level of service; the man who showed me the machine (who I think was the shop’s owner) was very helpful and showed me how to do straight and zig-zag stitches, buttonholes and fancy stitching, which will be very useful when I come to use it myself. And then once I’d bought the machine, when I said that I was parked on the other side of town and didn’t really want to bring my car across (not knowing Bath well I was worried that I might get lost in the one-way system and never find my way to the shop, or indeed back from there to the parking space near T’s friend’s house) he asked a lad who worked for him to carry the machine most of the way for me. It was only a ten-minute walk, but in its box the machine was rather awkward to carry, so I was very grateful for that help. I’d definitely recommend the shop to anyone within easy reach of Bath who’s looking for a machine.

Now I just have to decide what to use it for! What I really want to do is to make clothes; I think I may buy a Clothkits skirt kit to get myself started. But which one?

Brown and teal

For some reason, lots of people seem to have been wearing brown and teal today. Perhaps there’s something in the air.


Cardigan – Hey Teach!
Necklace – fairtrade shop
Top – clothes swap
Skirt – Boden via clothes swap
Tights – M&S
Boots – Dune

In other craft- and clothing-related news, I have a bit more money than I was expecting to this month and am very seriously considering buying a sewing machine and a Clothkits skirt kit to go with it. Yes, I know that when I borrowed Triskellian‘s sewing machine last summer I ended up making one project bag and sewing braid round the neckline of a t-shirt and nothing else, but I do love the idea of being able to make pretty skirts (and maybe even one day managing to make a pair of trousers that actually fit both my hips and my waist). I’ve had some fantastic advice from people on Twitter after mentioning the idea this morning, in particular from Sarah from The Bothered Owl but also from others, and I think I may have to pop into my local sewing machine shop (despite living in a village/suburb with not much in the way of a shopping centre I have a local sewing machine shop, although all I have ever bought there in the five and a half years we’ve lived here is two wheels of pins when I ran out while blocking my Scroll Lace) at the weekend and ask their advice.

Does anyone else have any handy tips about sewing machines?


I decided it was about time I had another play with Triskellian‘s sewing machine this afternoon, so I got it out and practiced making straight seams for a bit. That got boring very quickly, though, and I cast around for something useful to do. I considered hemming a pair of green trousers I got in a clothes swap ages ago and which have always been far too long, but I don’t have any green thread and hemming seemed a bit daunting. Then I remembered some purple and green braid that my mother had put in the sewing kit she gave me for my birthday, and a brand-new lilac v-neck t-shirt from M&S that was sitting in my drawer upstairs. I went and fetched the t-shirt, tacked some braid round the neckline and then sewed it on properly using the machine:

One Boden-style embellished t-shirt at a fraction of the price.

I was so pleased with this that I did a similar thing to a bright pink t-shirt, this time by sewing a couple of flower-shaped buttons to the front:

After all, one of the main reasons I was thinking of getting a sewing machine was because I wanted to try embellishing plain clothes.


Also, I never got round to blogging the 198 Yards of Heaven shawl (Rav link) that I knitted for my grandmother’s birthday.

The yarn is Fyberspates Scrumptious DK in magenta. The shawl was a really quick knit, and is very pretty, although I think if I was making another one I would do an extra repeat of the main pattern because it came out very small, about headscarf-sized.

Sew sew

I’ve been thinking about getting a sewing machine for a while now; I love the idea of being able to make my own skirts and transform plain t-shirts into Bodenesque embellished tops, to say nothing of taking up hems and altering things to get a better fit. I’ve always been a bit wary of actually taking the plunge and buying one, though; I didn’t want to spend over £100 on a machine only to find out that I hated sewing and never never used it. So, when Triskellian offered to lend me her machine for a couple of months I jumped at the chance, figuring that would give me the opportunity to tackle a couple of projects and see how I got on.

I picked up the machine yesterday afternoon and decided that I wanted to at least try it out this weekend. I was rather nervous, as the last time I used a sewing machine was probably in the second year of secondary school, twenty-odd years ago, but with the aid of the manual I managed to get everything threaded up. I tried a few practice stitches on a scrap of fabric left from making a lining for a bag years ago, then decided to try making a little project bag from some lilac cotton I bought years ago to line a bag which I ended up frogging instead.

I used my little Della Q project bag as a template and cut out a long rectangle of fabric (note to self: having some big sharp scissors would have helped here; I only had little sharp scissors so my cutting was a bit uneven. Using a yardstick to rule off a straight line to cut along would probably also have been good. Never mind…). I sewed all around the edges using a zig-zag stitch (which wasn’t quite what I wanted, but I couldn’t work out how to select the overlock stitches which looked like they would be better for edges), then sewed the side seams to about three-quarters of the way up. I sewed a narrow hem at the top of the bag and then sewed the side seams down from the top, leaving about a centimetre’s gap. I pressed the side seams flat and then folded the top of the bag in so that the folded fabric reached below the gap in the side seams, sewed the fold down and then sewed another seam around the folded fabric above the gap to create a tube. I threaded some yarn through the tube and out of the holes to create a drawstring, and voila!:

It’s a long way from perfection. The outside looks fairly neat, but the width of the seam allowances varies wildly. Some of the seams aren’t exactly straight and the final seam, creating the top of the tube for the drawstring, is particularly ragged-looking as the top thread broke while I was sewing it. Also, I’m not sure that yarn is the best choice for the drawstrings; I might do better to find some ribbon instead.

Still, I don’t think it’s a bad effort for someone who hasn’t used a sewing machine since the late 1980s!

I’m not sure what to try next. I’m kind of in love with the Clothkits skirt kits, and it would certainly help to have a complete kit rather than having to worry about buying all the bits to make something. And if I wanted something easier than a skirt I could try this bag kit? Although there are also some really simple patterns for tote bags online, so I might not even need a kit. I also have some clothes I’d like to alter and/or embellish, although I’m not sure I’m ready for that just yet…


I’ve actually been knitting a lot, even though there isn’t much to blog about. Mostly I’ve been working on a second pair of Earl Grey socks for my husband, which are now all-but-finished (just the toe of the second sock to go). I decided that the Zauberball was too woolly for the In the Land of Oz pattern, so I frogged that and have cast on for Multnomah instead, but I haven’t got very far with it yet, and I’m planning on casting on for a February Lady Sweater soon, I just haven’t got round to winding the yarn yet. Once I’ve finished these socks…

Weekend crafting

This weekend I took a break from sock-knitting to make this:

I’m growing my hair, which means I’m currently spending quite a lot of time looking rather like an Old English Sheepdog; it’s too short to tie back and clips just seem to get lost, so hairbands seemed like a good solution. I’ve been tying silk scarves around it, but it struck me that knitting hairbands would be a good way to try out stitch patterns and use up odds and ends of yarn, so yesterday I fished out the tail end of a skein of Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock and set to work.

My first attempt was the Oriel lace pattern from Sensational Knitted Socks, but although I think it would make a very nice hairband in a solid yarn it looked like a complete mess with the variegation of the yarn I was using, so I frogged that and tried again using what I thought was linen stitch but which in fact turns out just to be a slipped-stitch pattern:

R1: k1, *k1, sl1 wyif* until 1 stitch remains, k1
R2: k1, *p1* until 1 stitch remains, k1
R3: k1, *sl1 wyif, k1* until 1 stitch remains, k1
R4: As R2

I think it looks quite pretty, anyway, and the hairband seems to do the job:

(Excuse scruffy hair.)

Perhaps the next one I make actually will be linen stitch.

I have also been sewing. I don’t sew, but I bought two tops at the Monsoon sale shop yesterday which fitted perfectly but had buttons down the front which gaped a bit, so instead of going for a size up (which didn’t gape at the bust but was far too big everywhere else) I decided to sew the button bands between the first and third buttons closed. Which worked perfectly, and I amazed myself by actually managing to make neat, small, regular stitches (apologies for somewhat blurred picture – I can’t seem to make the macro setting on my camera work so I had to use my mobile):