Monday, 30 March 2015

A Gingham Washi Dress

It's been a year since my dressmaking odyssey began, and it all started with some red spotty poplin and a Colette Sorbetto. Since then I've made a few skirts, some cardis and even some dresses. I still haven't made anything with a zip in it. I'm definitely going to get myself an invisible zipper foot for my sewing machine and give it a whirl. I have the fabric, zips and thread for three projects, I just need to grow some balls and get on with it.

But I've been having plenty of fun making dresses WITHOUT zips. This is by far, my greatest dressmaking achievement. I've been wanting to make Made By Rae's 'Washi' Dress since I started sewing, and now I've finally made one. 

I spent many happy hours this week in my sewing space, taking my time to perfect each technique. I learned facings, a rather tricky set-in sleeve technique and shirring! I love that this pattern uses the bust dart and binding skills I learnt during my very first 'sew'. 

Here are my happy pics of me wearing my washi the other day...

Can I just say? I LOVED making this dress! And I LOVE the dress. It's perfect. Pockets? Check. Roomy to disguise great big tummy? Check. Flattering neckline? Check. I will DEFINITELY make another of these...perhaps even two or three? I'm thinking a chambray version with sleeves and a sleeveless mustard version with green bias bound armholes and neckline!

Things to note:-

  • The fabric is cheap as hell and as a result it frays like hell. Meaning this will probably fall apart. But it cost £3.99 a metre. I think it might be a poly cotton as it doesn't crease very much and I felt a bit scared pressing it in case it melted. I got it from one of those fabric shops where everything is piled up in a precarious fashion. But it's GINGHAM. Consider this a very wearable toile.
  • Yes, my pattern matching is shocking. But who cares? Not me.
  • I decided to gather the fabric at the front instead of pleating. I prefer the gathered look and also it cut about 4 days off the time spent making it... 
  • I liked shirring, and I think I will do two extra rows on my next version and it's slightly loose around my underbust. 
  • The sleeves were quite tricky, due to the curved edges. I also did not enjoy binding the raw edges and seam allowances. I really hated that. 
  • The facings flap about a bit. I did understitch them to the seam allowance but they still flap. I've also stitched them down to the shoulder seam allowance. But hey ho. 
  • The seam allowances for this dress are really quite tiny so go slowly and take your time. 

I wore my smashing new dress with my teal tights and my handmade crochet cardi. I'm pretty chuffed and proud with how far my handmade wardrobe has come in the last year. I can't wait to see what the next year brings!

Thank you ALL for your lovely comments on my sewing room. It's a lovely sacred space and I've cherished every moment I've spent in there so far. Yippeeeeee!


Friday, 27 March 2015

A cardi for Bea

I've been enjoying making small things for small people- it's easy to make something quickly and really concentrate on colours and techniques. My good friend Hannah's daughter Beatrice turned two earlier this month, and again I turned to the same Nicki Trench Flower Power cardigan pattern from Cute and Easy Crocheted Baby Clothes. I have to say, I really must watch my tension as I find Nicki Trench patterns come up very small. However, Lily-Beatrice is small so it worked out fine. Again I omitted the flowers and opted for a striped yoke-I rather love this. I also shorted the sleeves, making it perfect for Spring.

The yarn is Stylecraft Special DK in Forest, gold, old rose, walnut and parchment and the buttons were from my LYS. LOVE IT! Can I make one for me? We shall see!

Happy Hooking!

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Southwold...again. And always.

On Sunday we drove to Southwold. We'd had a rough couple of weeks with my husband having a fall and nasty head injury, a school boy with a chest infection and sickness, and me dealing with too many deadlines. All of which overlapped on Mother's Day. So this was a belated treat for me- for all of us to be together in a place we know and love. 

We had a mini holiday- lunch in The Red Lion, a walk along the beach, a bimble around the shops (I always buy a book in Southwold) and a stroll along the pier. Perfect. 

Monday, 23 March 2015

A Room of One's Own

Something really special happened this past weekend. I finally made a distant dream a reality. Like many of you crafters, designers, makers and creators, I've been yearning for a special space all of my own. Somewhere I can gather all my crud materials together in one place and leave it there...away from the grabby hands of small boys, in a place that will provide instant satisfaction when the crafty mood strikes. It needed to be a workspace, where I could bring my laptop when I need to write, interview and work on features. It also needed to be light, airy and warm. Above all, I needed a corner where I could home a large desk for my work area and to accommodate Miss Betsy the behemoth sewing machine.

So here it half of a study/office/lounge space for grown ups. 

This lovely bright room became available in our house a few weeks ago when we moved little George out of the nursery into his brother's room. The two boys were sleeping badly, both wanting company and coming into our bedroom all night long so they didn't have to be alone. So we re-arranged Albie's big, bright room and moved in George's cotbed. This has also meant we've now had a clear out of almost all the baby 'bits' in our home. Of course it's bitter sweet saying goodbye to those accoutrements that make up early memories and babyhood, but boy it feels good not to have all that unused stuff lying about. I made up some memory boxes for each of the children with first outfits, shoes and blankets, as well as their hospital wrist bands and cards and hats. So now they are sleeping brilliantly, keeping each other company and enjoying story time together. 

Which left the coast clear for me and my man to move in! For weeks it has been a rather dirty, unloved dumping room. So I cleaned it, bunged some stuff in the loft and to the charity shops and made space for this lovely little table- an absolute bargain at just £9.99 on eBay. Of course we had to drive to Romford to collect it, which wasn't really the adventure I had hoped, but it was totally worth it! I've been shopping around for nice desks- something sturdy and retro. I love the shape of the legs on my table, and the plain, formica top. It's sturdy as an old Ox and needs to be for Miss Betsy. (seen tucked underneath there)
 The turquoise chair is from IKEA. It was £20- a tad more expensive than the moulded plastic wheely chair I had considered, but damn sight more comfortable. The walls and curtains are unchanged from the nursery, I made the curtains from Cath Kidston fabric when we first moved in. The walls are a colour we rather foolishly mixed ourselves when the colour I bought turned out to be BEIGE. I hate beige. So I mixed some white into the stone colour and had just enough to cover all the walls. Hence why I haven't been able to paint over that bare patch to the right there. Ideally I'd strip the wood chip and re-paper the whole lot but I'd pay someone to do that and budgets don't stretch to those kinds of luxuries at the moment. 
 The table is the perfect beige! enough space for all my jars of 'things' (made mostly from jars I've covered, and my beloved smashed-and-glued-back-together-again Emma Bridgewater mug) and my DAB radio. I can't wait to listen to the Archers and sew. 
 The magazine boxes are housing sewing patterns and circular knitting needles at the moment; I may well move them later this week when my new turquoise desk lamp arrives from John Lewis. 
 I made this bunting for the nursery, to match the Little Teawagon patchwork blanket I bought for George when he was just a teeny embryo. I was hoping for a girl, clearly!
I'm considering adding a peg board just below the bunting.  
 On the wall at the moment are some Wes Anderson-themed prints- the one on left there is by Ladybird Likes, and the larger poster was a present from my friend Portia. Moonrise Kingdom is my favourite. 
Here next to the window is a little IKEA tub chair that I bought for the nursery. It was used mainly for feeding and cuddling little baby George, and now it's a lovely bright spot for some quiet hooky time. And a huge bare wall! Ideal for a little shelving unit I think for the jars of things- buttons, lace, ribbon etc. 

 This is the view of the room from the armchair...another armchair! And my original Hoopla yarn rug- pattern in Simply Crochet issue 26!

The other armchair is in not nearly as good a nick as the window chair. Hence the big blanket! This will be hubby's side of the room. We already moved his ukulele, CDs and DVDs in here as there is literally nowhere else in the house they can live. So I'm hoping to get him a fabby unit for his records and record player, and a table for the lamp! Of course this room will still be used for laundry and ironing and I have absolutely no doubt that more crud stuff will get dumped here. I haven't made room for the all the yarn and fabric that's in the ottoman at the foot of our bed! So there it will stay- easily accessed. This little room is off our bedroom, so feels very private and child-free! Hurrah!

I cannot wait to go and faff about up there later, and get Miss Betsy out for a play. I have a washi dress to sew!

Happy hooky everyone...

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Somewhat famous

As usual, my blog is neglected. My posts about crochet have been few and far between. The truth is, I've been so busy crocheting things that I haven't had time to blog about it! The past year or so has been a blur of making, but as you can tell, very little of it for me and mine. No, I haven't been writing a book, but with the volume of patterns I've been working on can attest, I may as well be! I would like to write another book, something that's very 'me', and teaches the finer points and 'cheats' if you like of crochet. But at the moment I'm elbow deep in hooky. Last year I became a regular contributor to Simply Crochet, and I've enjoyed the challenges of working with different yarns and ideas that aren't mine. Making something that has wide appeal, with an easy-to-follow pattern has taught me a lot, and I'm really thrilled that I'm getting to try out so many of my ideas.

I hope you don't mind, but I'm going to use my blog as a kind of virtual portfolio. I'm not organised enough to have PDFs of all my writing work, and that would appeal to you in NO way. But I think you'd like to see some of my crochet projects. One day I'll get some PDF patterns together for a shop. One day, one day...

Here are some of my designs in Simply Crochet:

 Issue 28- my version of a spring wreath! Simple and effective. I used Phildar Phil Coton 4. 

 Issue 26- I love this neon doily rug! It killed my hands. My the neon Boodles yarn looks great!

 Issue 24- I really enjoyed putting together this Christmas advent garland. Especially the tapestry crochet pouch, the design is inspired by a traditional Nordic knitting pattern. 

 Ahhhh yes! This Christmas wreath in issue 24 was a big hit. I love love LOVE it and the inspiration was instant. Kitsch! 

 This one was featured before. I love seeing other people's versions of it, too. The wonderful Sally has blogged about her cushion here, and you can see the pattern on Ravelry here

Some of my patterns from 500 Crochet Blocks have also featured! In 2013 it was featured in Inside Crochet and Mollie Makes, and when browsing the mags in Sainsbury's late last year I found this in Love Crochet!

About a year ago I was approached by a publisher for a super secret Crochet was finally revealed to be these gorgeous bookazines! I made four beautiful projects, and absolutely love the styling.

 J'adore this cowl. I have some much yarn left over I could easily make another. Rowan yarn is just the best, in my opinion. This creative worsted is soft and thick. 

 This rather bonkers tea cosy was the love child of a brief that said 'the madder the better' and my love of neon pink pom poms. 

 I much prefer the colours of these bright coasters- an ideal beginner's project. 

 This rug is made of six motifs, stitched together. Unfortunately it was styled upside down! The right side facing looked much neater, but I used some of my favourite wool- Rowan Big Wool for the project. I think the jersey stuff makes better rugs, but this is so cosy and soft underfoot. 

And finally- some knitting! No, I did not design these projects, but I did knit these delightful photography samples! I can't wait until you see the striped beach hut I made in the next issue...
The Art of Knitting is on sale now, I've been collecting them in this rather natty ring binder, as the styling is so gorgeous. 

And of course there is SO much more to come! I'm currently working on three magazine commissions from Simply Crochet and Inside Crochet. All the time my skills are improving and perhaps by the end of the year I'll be able to design garments. I have so many ideas for simple garments in my head. If you have any tips for helping grade sizes etc please do post links below.

And THANK YOU for all your support buying magazines. I've been a magazine journalist for NINE years now, and seen so many of my former employers disappear into an online ether. Print media has seen a huge decline, so I'm delighted that craft mags are so popular, and that I have the opportunity to work for them. Isn't it bonkers? Five years ago I could only crochet a granny square. Now I'm teaching advanced techniques and making the craft I love accessible and desirable.

Now, best get back to work, I have swatching and scribbling to be getting on with...