The Heart of the Matter

hearts2A friend of mine recently shared a funny, sweet poem with me that was written by a young Asylum Seeker, as a way of celebrating and thanking the ordinary folk who had helped her during difficult times.  She was basically saying, all you people who aren’t rich, or powerful, or well-connected and think you’re just ‘ordinary’: you’re the ones who made a difference.

I’ve written here before about KAS, the charity that makes & distributes blankets to AIDS orphans in Africa.  I try to use up odd bits of yarn and things I’ve been given to make granny squares for them.  I had some dullish, grey squares that began life as an ill-conceived project that I abandoned – warm they may be, but not exactly the thing to brighten up a child’s day!  But with some colourful yarn scraps and this heart motif tutorial by Meladora, they turned into these:hearts1We all know there are lots of folk in the world who are not so well off.  What can you do?wafflesGet a hook (or knitting needles) and some yarn: play with colours, experiment with different techniques, try out that new stitch, fish out those abandoned projects and make a square.  Better still, make several.  Get together with your craftsy friends and make a stack.  Then post them to Africa.  Or France.  Or Great Ormond Street.  Wherever you’d most like them to go.KASparcel1‘Cos ordinary folk have BIG HEARTS, my friends 🙂

Two-for-One T-shirt Dress Makeover

maxidressHello there!  How’s your summer progressing? – Mine was going well, til I came down with a hideous cold and missed most of June!  But in between coughing fits and unspeakable snottiness, I’ve been sewing like a DEMON and I’ve got loads to share with you!  Starting with this, a rather-too-maxi T-shirt dress that I picked up in a charity shop for just £3.  As well as being tripoverly long for yours truly, the weight of that skirt made this cotton jersey pull around the least flattering parts of my middle.  So I set to work on it with Cosmic LuludressThat’s better!  All I did was chop it off at a length that still allowed me to bend down and do up my sandals decently, then turn up the hem and use one of the stretch stitches around the bottom.  I actually went for the same decorative stitch that I used on the purple ponte skater rather than the twin needle.  This stitch has a lot of stretch in it, and finishes the edge off neatly without the need for overlocking, etc.  Great for lazy sewists like me who can’t be bothered to change the needle!

And speaking of lazy… how’s this for a simple way to transform the chopped-off length into a skirt?  You will need: one elasticated waistband from a worn-out pair of PJ bottoms; lots of pins; five minutes or so of overlocking, and a puff of steam:CaptureWhoo-Hoo!  Funky little stretch mini-skirt!  Probably my ‘Most worn’ garment this last week as it seems to go with every T-shirt I own.skirt

Even for a slow-sewin’ gal like me this only took an afternoon and I’m very pleased to have two quick, cheapie wardrobe additions.  Just goes to show, sometimes the old ‘don’t throw that out, it might come in useful’ approach really does reap rewards!

Wishing you all a double-whammy kinda week  🙂

 

Catherine Wheel bags

bothbagsI do love a nice colourful crochet bag, don’t you? So much fun to make, so useful to have!  I fell in love with this design from Cozy Things blog, and following her instructions I soon figured out how to make one for myself.  And then I made another!

The base is worked as a flat circle of treble crochet (double in US terms); Cozy Things recommends the very wonderful Attic 24 bag tutorial for this, which you can find HERE.bagbottomThe main part of the bag uses Catherine Wheel stitch, worked in rounds rather than rows.  This is a new stitch to me!  I get a real kick out of learning new crochet techniques and this stitch is actually very simple, although the finished result looks quite advanced, doesn’t it?!  I found this great tutorial by The Crochet Crowd, and had it nailed in no time.  springbagI did an out-and-out copy of Cozy Things’ version on my first bag, even down to finishing the top edge with Attic 24’s Bobble Shell Edging.  The handles are 6 rows of double crochet (US single) worked into a chain of 100 stitches.  I did do my own flower design though, with a cute little button in the middle!floweCUThis was a really super-quick make, and I had so much fun doing it that I immediately began another.  I went off camping for a few days last week, and since each bag takes less than 50g of DK in each colour to make, it was a perfect little project to take with me.  One of my favourite holiday pastimes is to lounge around my campsite crocheting in the sun, so my second bag was finished by the time I got back!purplebagoutsideThe sunshine has really distorted the colours here, the middle stripes are actually deep green.  I did a slightly different top edge this time round too, but don’t ask me what stitch I used ‘cos I made it up as I went along whilst sitting in my tent!   The flower went a bit wonky on the second bag but hey ho…overexposedshotI reckon they make quite a groovy pair!

Wishing you all a wheelly (haha!) great week 🙂

Purple Ponte Skater

Front1I was SO chuffed with my last Lady Skater dress success that I thought I’d make another to help me get a handle on Cosmic Lulu‘s stretch stitch functions.  Of which there are many – some of them, I’ve discovered, better suited to particular jobs than others!  But despite a shaky start, this dress has also turned out pretty good, and very wearable.Front2This is a medium-weight synthetic ponte from those lovely folk at The Textile Centre.  It was meant to be a quick sew to fill in that ‘Hmm-Spring-Still-Feels-Like-Winter-Today’ gap in my wardrobe.  HOWEVER, it nearly didn’t happen at all, as I stupidly had only ordered one metre of fabric instead of two, and by the time I realised it was GONE from TTC’s website – ARGH!  Cue, Desperate Pleading Email!  But the wonderful Jane saved the day by finding me the very last remnant – hurray!  Thanks, Jane 🙂skirtySo off I went, and soon had the hang of the triple stretch stitch.  Brilliant!  Now, what about this standard overlock stitch for my armhole seams, I thought?  Bad, BAD idea!  They went seriously wibbly.  And y’know how people say you can’t unpick overlocking? – turns out they’re right.  I had to re-sew the seams and cut away the original stitching.  Here it is just before the hacking trimming.sleevemessI pretty much stuck to using the triple stretch after that, and it all came together fine.  This ponte is a bit clingier than the jersey I used last time, but I went with exactly the same pattern alterations as before, so it wasn’t until I saw the photos of my wonderful sway-back adjustment that I realised how many VBLs (that’s Visible Bra Lines) were on show!BackYou may have noticed that this dress is in a SOLID COLOUR!  Yep, it’s true: even I have moments when a plain(ish) dress is the order of the day.  However, I couldn’t really leave it entirely plain now, could I?!  Especially when my gorgeous new machine has SO MANY stitch functions to choose from.  How about a nice bit of bright orange decorative top-stitching around the neck, hem, and cuffs?  YES please!detailmontageAnd yay – those sleeves didn’t turn out too badly after all!SleeveyWonderIt may have been a glorious evening when these pics were taken in my garden (many thanks to brother Rob for making it all look so good!), but overall it’s been a pretty chilly May here in the Marches, so I’ve had more opportunities to wear this dress than I expected this month.  I’ll admit that I don’t love it as much as the last one, but it does what I wanted of it, and I had loads of fun doing the top-stitching.

So now I’ve done a stretch jersey dress, what next?  Weeeelllll, there’s a something a bit special in my stash I’ve been saving for a long time, until I had the machine to do it….FacePullingFrontWHAT?? – VELVET?!? – You must be JOKING!!

Wishing you all a GLORIOUS weekend 🙂

Day Trip to Fabric Heaven!

goodiebag

Last year, my friend Mary and I planned to go on an indulgent, fabric-lovers day trip to Birmingham to visit the famous Rag Market and The Fancy Silk Store…. and it didn’t happen, for various reasons.

This year – IT DID!!!  Last weekend, we boarded the train with our sewing plans and yardage requirements and off we went!

Seriously, if you’ve never visited the Fancy Silk Store and you have even the slightest inkling of a Fabric Addiction, I urge you to go.  It is literally floor-to-cieling stacked with fabrics, on every floor!

Ooh, SO hard to resist going crazy and doubling my fabric stash in an afternoon!  But, I had a budget, I had specific projects in mind, and I DID manage to be fairly restrained.  I swooned over the batiks though, and first up was this soft, lightweight beauty, destined (I hope) to become the Kate & Rose Giselle Dressgreen&yellowbatikBut I couldn’t stop there…. this one has a bit more body and I think will make a nice strappy sundress.  (Possibly with shirring, if I’m feeling ambitious?)purplebatikThen over the road in the Rag Market, while M. was off buying gorgeous curtaining for her new pad, I spotted this fabulous, 70s-wallpaper-print pin cord.  Aha!  The very thing I’ve been waiting for to make this vintage 70s overdress for the winter.  See? – it’s all part of the plan, honest…cordAll in all it was a Grand Day Out and I think we may have to make this into an annual pilgramage.  And did I stay within my budget?  Weeellll… so hard to be restrained, plus y’know the Giselle dress requires elastic, so I had to buy a metre which put me over budget by….stashtastic…25p!

Wishing you all a Fabric-tastic Friday 🙂

 

Psychedelephant Quilt, part one

quiltpatternOoh, look: here’s that elephant quilt pattern I fell in love with about FIVE years ago.  Yes, I remember – I was saving it until I had gathered all the fabric to make it…

Ooh, look: my recent Sewing Space sort-out reveals I have enough fat quarters and remnants with which to quilt the entire planet…stashsortSo it’s ABOUT TIME I got quilting, huh??getquilting2What’s that you say?  Include some SOLID colours in the mix? Hahahaha…!dimsolidsHmm, these elephants are a little tricky to assemble…ElephantAssemblyThis looks like a job for the Elephant Placement Device™!placementdeviceElephants on parade!OnParadeNow to try out Cosmic Lulu‘s satin stitch.  All right! – Dancing with Elephants or what??OnParade2Hands up who wants to see an elephant’s backside…backsideOoh, look: it’s coming together!comingtogetherHurray, just the border to do!  Now, shall I be sensible and use some easy-on-the-eye, plain fabrics to frame this crazy mad thing?  Or will I use more of the same outrageous ones that I’ve done the elephants with?  I think we know the answer…

Ready…??quiltoutside1Whoo-Hoo! I LOVE IT!!quiltoutside2In fact, I love it SO much that although it’s not yet A Quilt, I’ve already hung it up in the space it’s intended for.  I have a rather huge, rather grottily-sealed-up, draughty fireplace in my living room, which despite its shortcomings has a beautiful old lintel above it, so I wanted something that would cover the fireplace itself but still allow me to make a ‘feature’ of the lintel.  I’m going to sew a hanger-sleeve into the quilt backing so that I can put it across, but for now I’ve just tucked it under the big blanket that’s currently hanging there.  quilttopfinished

No-one could say it’s not eye-catching!!

SO… Can Cosmic Lulu deliver the goods when it comes to quilting these psychedelic beasties??  Tune in for the next installment!  But first, I feel another Lady Skater dress or two coming on…

Wishing you all a very psychedelic Sunday 🙂

 

Cosmic Lulu has landed!

cosmic luluSOooooo…. remember how I reported a while back that my trusty ancient Singer, Auntie Janis, was really beginning to feel her age?  – People, I bought myself a NEW SEWING MACHINE!!!  Say hello to the Viking Husqvarna E20, my new best friend!  She can do overlocking!  She has a range of stretch stitches!  She even has a built-in needle threader!  And yes OK I know, these things come as standard on today’s basic machines, but for me even being able to turn the stitch length adjuster and have something happen is a revelation!  And I thought ‘tension’ was just something you felt when you were top-stitching a neckline and your thread snapped for the third time…

I wanted a sewing machine that would be funky and versatile and just keep on going.  After much research, I opted for the Viking over a Singer and so far she’s been awesome, so I have named her in honour of Komet Lulu, the uber-cool bass player with Electric Moon!  I have it on good authority from a friend who’s seen them live that Lulu can throw out a mind-altering bass line with one hand whilst rolling an herbal cigarette with the other: ‘Nuff said.

I’ve been making patchwork!  And applique! And yes that is another Lady Skater dress you can see in the background!  All to soon be revealed, once BT fix my bloomin’ internet connection…

Wishing you a very cosmic week! 🙂

Whoo-Hoo! Retrotastic Skater Dress!

imainshotYay, I MADE A DRESS!!  Not only that, I made a dress that fits and that I LOVE! This, my friends, is my very first attempt at the Lady Skater dress (by KitschyCoo patterns).  I’m sure this pattern needs no introduction as folk everywhere on the blogosphere have made it, raved about it, and rated it one of the easiest sews there is.

I’ve been wanting to have a go at this pattern for ages, especially after reading so many reports of how simple it is to fit, with no FBA needed!  My original idea was to use this fabulous 70s-inspired jersey to make a ‘wearable muslin’ version, as it was such a bargain price (ordered online from The Textile Centre) that I could live with it turning out a disaster.  funkyfabricBut when it arrived it was so soft and drapey and so very funky, that I knew I had to give it my best shot!  So I cut up a pair of old pyjama bottoms and a holey T-shirt, and made a muslin of just the bodice with cap sleeves and about 3″ of skirt.  You want to see it, don’t you??skatermuslinYes, I really did walk around my house in this…

I graded the pattern from a size 6 in the upper bodice out to an 8 at the waist.  Even at this stage, I could tell that the fit was good.  And the rumours were true – no FBA!  As you can see from the muslin, what I did do was to shorten the bodice by 2″.  I also did a sway back adjustment of 1″, following the brilliant instructions provided on the KitschyCoo website.  Honestly, this is the clearest explanation of how to do this adjustment I’ve ever found, and it turns out it’s really simple.  An inch may not sound like much, but this one really makes a difference.  How nice to have an even hemline for once!isideshotThe waistline still ended up a little wonky, but this may be to do with a certain Sewing Issue I had.  The pattern calls for clear elastic here to stablise the seam: Auntie Janis, however (my ancient Singer sewing machine), refused to co-operate with this.  Already unhappy about being forced to sew a fabric she was not designed for, the elastic got ripped out twice before I gave up and sewed it in by hand instead.  It didn’t really work so well, and it feels a bit weird on the inside, but luckily looks OK on the outside.  Speaking of outside…skirtyshotSo the only major alteration I did was to re-draft the neckline.  I do find the necklines on many patterns are just too plunging for me; showing off that little bow in the middle of your bra is never my idea of a Good Look.  I suspect I ought really to take a bit out of the upper bodice above the high bust line, but then you have to start messing about with armscye adjustments and y’know, I’m just TOO LAZY…  Besides, I liked the fit on the bodice.  So I just raised the neckline front and back, taking 4½” out of both all round (and the same out of the neckband), and I’m very pleased with the way it’s turned out.cardiflashshotIn fact, I’m TOTALLY CHUFFED with the way the whole dress has turned out!  Ooh, this is a comfy, funky, incredibly wearable dress!  I particularly love the sleeves, with their little cuffs…isleeveand the swishy skirt!iskirtshotprint matching? – That’s for Proper Dressmakers!

This dress has definitely given my sewing confidence a much-needed boost after my Year of Total Sewing Fail.  I can see myself making this pattern up again and again.  In fact I’ve already ordered some purple ponte to make a second one!  (But shhh, don’t tell Auntie J….nothing to see here…)idonttellAJWishing you all a funky retrotastic week! 🙂