I’ve been knitting furiously this week! I’m a bit more than halfway through the diamond scarf from the pattern book I got in Iceland, Simple Knits with Gústa . I’m making it in Mosa Mjúkull, the wool made by the same designer. Every pattern in this book uses three balls of it, which I appreciated as I could just buy the three balls and choose a pattern out of the book later.
Here’s how it’s coming along – most of the way through the second of three stripes:
The diamonds are drastically more obvious in this photo than in real life! Must be the contrast. This Mosa Mjúkull wool is reasonably fuzzy so you don’t get a lot of stitch definition. I found that a little disappointing at first, but I’m sure it will look better after blocking – hopefully more like the picture!
There are no instructions for this scarf, only the chart. I’ve never worked from a knitting chart before, so there was some intense concentration during the first few rows. I had to keep reminding myself that every even row switches up completely: you read it back to front, and the purls and knits swap over. Total mind-bender! But I’m totally converted to charts now. The visual prompt is very intuitive.
I’m not sure if I’ll make another pattern from this book. I had a go at the shawl pattern before I started this, but I found the instructions confusing. The most exciting things in the book are the mittens with the lovely Icelandic colour work, but I’m not a mittens kind of person. Who knows – perhaps I’ll whip some up as a gift one day!
It’s been a little while, and a few things have changed. Mainly: I no longer live in Singapore! I’ve moved back to my homeland, the UK – I now live in Yorkshire, the land of gorgeous landscapes and Yorkshire puddings – and Rowan wool!
Now that time is on my side, I’m really excited about getting on with making things again, sharing what I create, and being part of the online makers community.
I’ll be starting with a knitting project as I just went to Iceland and bought a pattern booklet and some Icelandic wool:
It’s actually a blend with Peruvian alpaca, which is nice because I totally forgot to buy any alpaca wool when I went to Peru last year. It has good squish content.
The patterns in this book are really adorable, and it’s hard to choose what to make. But I reckon I’ll make a scarf, as I have become a scarf fiend recently and am rarely seen without one.
I shall report back!
And for some unrelated fun, here are a couple of holiday snaps from Iceland. This place is stunning beyond my ability to describe.
This wool is for the Outfit-Along which I’ve impulsively decided to take part in. If you’ve not heard of it, this event runs for the months of June and July, and to take part you have to knit one garment and sew one garment to make up a whole outfit. I’m going to be making the official OAL patterns – the Zinone knitted lace top and the Hollyburn skirt – but you don’t have to go with those as long as you make a whole outfit.
I haven’t knitted anything proper in about a year – the last serious knitting project I made was a baby blanket for my niece last June. I’ve been musing about picking up my knitting needles again as I don’t want to lose the skill, so when the OAL popped up on my blog feed the other day, the timing was perfect. Plus, I already mentioned that I have another Hollyburn skirt on my sewing plans. There was no way I couldn’t sign up!
I’ve already made my gauge swatch, and it was bang on first time, which was nice. If you’re not a knitter, you might not know what a gauge swatch is. Basically, if two knitters knit the same square using the same wool and the same needles, the finished square may not come out the same size. This is because different knitters have different tension, meaning they may hold their wool more loosely or tightly as they sew – it’s really down to personal preference as to what feels good when you knit.
Therefore, before starting a new knitting project, you always have to make a gauge swatch – a test square – to calibrate your particular tension against what the knitting pattern expects. Otherwise you might end up with a top that’s 50% bigger than it’s supposed to be! If your sizing is a bit off then you change the size of your needles and try again. Lucky for me, my gauge swatch was just right. I’m going to chuck it in the washing machine and see if it can cope, because let’s face it, I’m too lazy for hand-washing.
Anyway – that’s enough about knitting – what about my sewing projects? Well –
This week I finished a Bettine dress in this gorgeous teal filigree fabric from Chinatown. I absolutely adore it – except for the small fact that the hem of the skirt is far too narrow and I can barely put it on! Why didn’t I learn from my previous Bettine? Totally gutted. I’m not giving up on it though – I’m going to buy some more of the fabric to replace the skirt with a slightly differently shaped one. I’m also thinking of putting a side zip and waist band onto the old skirt so I can wear it on its own.
And this is what’s on my sewing table now:
Hawthorn cutting chaos. I still haven’t found a way of cutting out fabric that I like. I used to pin the pattern pieces to the fabric and then cut around them, but I always ended up shaving a bit of the pattern piece off. So now I draw around the pieces and cut them after, but it’s extremely tedious and it’s hard to draw accurate lines with tailor’s chalk. What’s your favourite way to cut fabric?
It’s the bear-bear Renfrew! My cosy new t-shirt with bears on!
This was so much fun to make! Especially after making my fern print Mimi which took forever and involved fabric that didn’t behave. This t-shirt was planned as my first foray into working with knits, but completely by accident (because I wasn’t pay attention), the fern Mimi took that crown. This t-shirt was an absolute breeze compared to that. The fabric is a fairly thick jersey – almost maybe sweatshirt material – and it did exactly what I told it to. Heavenly! And it took hardly any time at all to make, which I really appreciated as I had to go to work on the weekend I made it so I didn’t have many spare hours.
Apology up front: the pictures in this post have come out a bit desaturated, oops! It was a really bright day when I took these photos so the colour got a bit washed out and I’ve struggled to put it back in. The pic at the top is the truest to the colour – it’s a nice vivid blue with a hint of grey. We can pretend that the rest of the pictures are using a cool Instagram filter.
The pattern is the Sewaholic Renfrew. I bought the paper pattern. I’ve decided I’m never going to buy a PDF pattern again (unless it’s the only option) because 1) it’s so nice to have the real, physical product and 2) I’d honestly rather wait a few weeks for a pattern to reach me than lose a precious evening to sellotape. Time is money, friend! (Goblin salesmen from WoW yeah? Anyone? Just me?)
There were a few steps in the construction that I was worried about – the neck, arm and waist bands which are a bit shorter than the opening you sew them to, and the sleeves which are sewn flat – but it all went surprisingly smoothly. The trick to the bands is to put a pin in every quarter of the way around, matching seams – then with the band on top, gently stretch it to the right size as it goes through the machine. On my very first go I went pin-mad but it just got really fiddly. It was much easier with fewer pins.
There are little bears mountain climbing all over me!
I picked the size 4 and it fits nicely with absolutely no adjustments. Is that how knits work? Is it always this magical?! I bet I just got lucky this time.
The fit is just right across the bust and has enough ease around the waist for a proper big dinner. For future Renfrews I may go for a size 2 at the waist for a snugger fit, but for this particular tee I think the looseness adds a casual vibe that goes well with the casual fabric.
So comfy and cosy. I want to make twenty more like it!
I know, know – I said a couple of posts ago that my Tilly spree was over as I had ordered some new patterns. But I’d forgotten for how long it takes for post to get to me here in Singapore. And while I was waiting I wasn’t very well going to sew nothing, was I?
After my first Mimi blouse came out stiffer than I’d hoped, I wanted to try it out in a fabric with good drape. So I picked up this cute rayon with a monochrome fern print. I love wearing rayon – it performs well in a humid climate like Singapore because it is breathable, and yet doesn’t crease with wear like other breathable fabrics such as linen or cotton. From a wardrobe perspective, rayon’s a real winner.
Well. This particular rayon was a real challenge! I’d heard people complaining before about how their fabric “shifts” and “moves” when they work with it, but I had no idea what that meant. And now I do. Holy moly this fabric has a life of its own! It’s slinky, it’s lightweight, and oh, it also turns out to be a knit rather than a woven. Just stand in the same room as it and that will be enough for it to stretch, forming waves that distort the grain, taunting you. But I bravely (recklessly) decided to plough on. Why did I do this to myself?
Cutting it was a serious task. Even folding the fabric to pin the selvedges together before cutting it was a serious task. I decided to use my new rotary cutter as I’d read that scissors distort slinky fabrics like this as you cut them. Well, turns out rotary cutters do too. This was the least precise cutting I have done by a long way. Eventually I gave up on all hopes of the fabric laying straight as I cut it and just resorted to hope and crossed fingers. (Figuratively crossed fingers, of course. Crossing them while holding a rotary cutter would be a trip to A&E waiting to happen.)
Sewing took ages. This fabric enjoys being near the sewing needle, so totally unrelated bits of blouse kept getting caught up in my seams. I am a real pro with the seam ripper now.
But somehow, against all odds, it worked out really well in the end. It’s so comfy to wear! For all that the slinky rayon kept slinking right off the table while I was working with it, it’s delightful against the skin, and has exactly the drape that this pattern deserves. And I think it looks great!
I used Tilly’s pussy bow Mimi hack to transform the collar. There’s a bit where she asks you to sew and trim seam allowances up until the notch. Then the remaining seam allowances get sewn to the neckline of the blouse. I didn’t manage this quite right as there’s a couple of millimetres of the unfinished seam allowance exposed right at the corner which I’ll probably blanket stitch. If you try this hack, make sure to pay close attention to that corner.
I used these cute little hexagonal buttons. Because I had trouble with the top closure not lying flat in my last Mimi and ended up adding a hidden hook and eye, I put two buttons up there this time – but that didn’t do the trick either. I just can’t get that top corner to lie flat. Luckily, this time the top corner is completely hidden by the bow so it doesn’t really matter.
Here’s a view from the back – I think the gathers work really well in this fabric.
You can see from the side that even though it’s got quite a bit of ease, it drapes in a lovely way. Ha, I just noticed while writing this that you can also see how completely off grain my cutting is too, given how the print is angled completely differently on the front and back pieces. Oh well!
I did not expect I’d be saying this, but the finished piece is certainly worth all the frustration I had working with the fabric. Once I’ve worked through the fabrics I bought in my last haul (yes, I’m still that naive that I think I’m going to empty my fabric stash) I’ll try to make another pattern in a slinky rayon like this. The comfort and breeziness of this blouse are through the roof, and I want to wear it every day, so it’ll be great to nail the slinky fabric skill and fill my wardrobe with me-made rayon tops.
I went fabric shopping today, and bought a silly amount of fabric.
It was brilliant.
This is my first serious fabric “haul” – and I sure hope there are many more to come, because this was exhilirating! It was also exhausting. Fabric is so heavy. Who knew fabric was so heavy?
I think I’ve mentioned the fabric market at People’s Park Food Centre before. It’s a shopping centre down in Chinatown. The ground floor is a hawker centre (an open-air food court) which is ideal for a quick lunch to get your energy up before you start on your circuit of the fabric shops on the first floor. And you’d better make sure you’ve got energy, because there are many, many fabric shops. And there’s so much variety! And it’s so affordable! When we one day move away from Singapore, I think this will be one of the places I miss the most. I’ll have to take some pictures next time I’m down there – I’ll have to be sneaky though, as a lot of them don’t allow photography.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to walk you through what I bought…
The first thing I picked up was four metres of this blue and cream gingham-ish cotton for S$6 per metre at Maggie Textile. I say gingham-ish because it is a little bit thicker than gingham, and the base colour being a cream rather than vibrant white means it doesn’t evoke that summer-school-dress feeling.
I’m thinking of making a Colette Hawthorn dress in this one, so I bought buttons to match. I probably should have taken the buttons out of the packet to show off their shape and colour. You’ll just have to wait for the finished Hawthorn!
An aside for any word geeks out there: I recently found out that the word gingham actually originates in this area! It comes from an old Malay word ginggang which meant “striped”. The spice trade brought the word to the Dutch, and from there it found its way into English.
I bought five metres of this $S3/m plain white cotton fabric, for the Hawthorn muslin. I really like the white seersucker Hawthorn on the Colette website so there is a part of me that is hopeful that my muslin comes out wearable, but being realistic, I’m probably going to end up slicing-and-dicing that thing to get it to fit!
This one really excites me! I love how bright and wacky it is, like colourful doodles in a notebook. I got it at Brighton Accessories House, which I think might be my current favourite shop in the fabric market, as it has a lot of Japanese printed cotton like this for S$6.60 a metre, as well as a big selection of buttons and zips. I’m going to make some more envelope pillowcases out of this fabric.
This teal cotton came from Brighton Accessories too. It has an interesting grid texture and it’s pretty soft. I’m considering using this for another instant gratification Tilly and the Buttons Bettine dress. The print is quite large though, so it might look a bit weird around the gathered waistband. I picked up three metres so I can keep my options open.
I really have no idea what the fabric content of this one is. I think it’s a cotton mix. It’s some kind of suiting trouser material in stable knit – bit stiff but also a bit stretchy. Plain black is pretty boring, but I’m very intent on making things that I will actually wear – and a wearable wardrobe has to include some neutral basics. I’m going to make a Sewaholic Hollyburn skirt out of this, to replace a ponte skater skirt from Uniqlo that I’ve nearly worn to death.
This Sevenberry fabric comes from Golden Dragon at the People’s Park Centre (not the People’s Park Food Centre where the fabric market is). The print is very me! I really enjoyed the Sevenberry fabric I used for my palm print Megan dress, so I might make another Megan with this.
And finally, I swung by trustworthy Spotlight at Plaza Singapura to buy some matching thread and interfacing. They obviously sell thread at the fabric market, but I’ve gone a bit weird and want all my thread to be Guttermann because I like the uniformity on my thread rack. At Spotlight, I walked past this and just couldn’t not buy it…
It’s an adorable bear print cotton jersey! Spotlight is considerably more expensive than the fabric market as this cost $S15 per metre – and that’s including my member discount. But look how cute it is!
I am always strongly drawn to clothes with prints of animals. It’s a constant test of my self restraint. They’re so delightful, but typically pretty juvenile – which is not the look I want to go for. This fabric is quite subtle and not too cartoonish. Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself. I’ll be making a Sewaholic Renfrew shirt out of this, as my first real foray into sewing with knits.
Phew! Now to bung it all in the washing machine so it’s ready to sew!
Yet another Tilly and the Buttons piece… I made this Bettine dress! With chilli print fabric! Because spicy food is my favourite food!
Making this dress felt a lot like cheating. It has extremely simple construction as it is targeted at absolute beginners. I think I’m in the “advanced beginner” camp by now, so this was a doddle to put together! I made the version without pockets (not a fan of how they look) and omitted the cuff tab, which meant I was left with very few pattern pieces and very few seams. And no darts! It was a very quick make, to the point that it seems like I barely did anything to the fabric for it to turn into a dress.
I did a 1.5″ full bust adjustment on the front bodice piece because I am a C/D cup and Tilly’s patterns are drafted for a B cup. When you execute an FBA, you increase the length of the bodice piece. Typically, there is a horizontal dart on the bodice which then gets redrawn to consume that extra length of fabric, but this dress has no darts! Tilly recommends ease-stitching the extra length in which I found very straight forward.
The fabric came from Malin Textile at Chinatown and I paid S$11 (£5.50) per metre for it, down from S$13 (£6.50). It frayed like crazy while I worked with it, which was irritating. But it came out so cute! It’s a fun dress. I like the kimono sleeves. They’re different.
It’s not at all easy to pull over my head though. I have to do a very awkward wiggle dance to put it on. It’s probably because I cut a size 1 for the hips whereas I’m a size 2 plus FBA in the bust, and the skirt is a tulip shape so it narrows towards the hem. As there are no closures, the narrow hem needs to go over my head and past the bust when I put it on, and it takes a fair bit of encouragement to coax it to where it’s supposed to be.
I’m not sure what I could do to fix that next time, though. My first thought was to try it with an A-line skirt, but I think the skirt does need to hug the hips in order to balance out the bagginess on top. Maybe I will just try it in a jersey, once I’ve learned how to sew with knits. And I’ve already ordered a couple of knit patterns so that won’t be too far away!