Author: Lisa

My Week in Crafts: An Upcycled Cushion, and Three Knitted Jumpers

I tend to prefer sewing clothes, but every now and then I’ll make something for the house. This week I made a cushion cover, and also made the cushion itself out of upcycled materials.

I have some old cushions from Habitat that are well over 10 years old and completely flattened and stained. They came round the world and back when we did our stint in Singapore. The last time I unzipped them to wash the covers, I discovered that the fabric of the cushions had completely disintegrated – and I mean completely. There was just dust left. Which is… kind of freaky?

Anyway I had this lump of cushion filling.

So I took a couple of old toiles, unpicked the darts, and sewed them up into a 45x45cm cushion casing.

If you look closely, you might notice that fancy felled seam. These piece of old toiles weren’t wide enough, so I had to piece them together. I took the opportunity to practice using the new felling foot I bought for my machine after reading David Page Coffin’s Shirtmaking, in which he heavily encouraged the use of the felling foot – and I must say, it is rather good.

Then I fluffed all the stuffing up to bring it back to life. This made a LOT of mess as all that disintegrated fabric was mixed up in there. I ended up putting on a facemask to avoid breathing it in 😷

Next up, I squashed it all in and stitched the gap shut on the machine. I did a crap job of making that neat because the huge stuffed cushion was a bit awkward to manipulate! I usually hand stitch cushions closed, but what’s the point? No one’s going to see it.

Cushion done.

Finally I made a cover made out of a fat quarter of quilting cotton that has been in my stash for years. I made the cover in the same dimensions as the casing so it’s not saggy (had to mess with the seam allowances a bit to make it work as my fat quarter was a bit skinny).

There you have it. Trash & stash into something useful.

A lot of knitting updates this week, too. I went to Scotland for a week and didn’t fancy taking my big project with me, so I started a new one (I know, I know!!):

As you can see it’s going insanely quickly. Not only is it stockinette on nice worsted wool and lovely big needles (relative to my other projects), but it’s also my first time knitting a bottom-up sweater. I’ve been afraid of them for the longest time, but I now have no idea why. It’s so satisfying! I’ve already knitted the whole body up to the under arms, and am now on the first sleeve. Usually when knitting top-down, the fun bit is in the yoke, and the body and sleeves are tedious because you just want to be finished. But doing it bottom-up means I do the “boring” bits while I have all that new-project energy, and I get to look forward to ending on the yoke.

This one has a fun yoke, too. You’ll see.

Here’s the birthday sweater I’ve been working on since the dawn of time (or last Christmas) – far slower progress.

My plan is to finish the sleeves on the blue jumper and join them onto the body first, before I return to finish this project. It’s not long til it’s done, but second sleeve syndrome right?

And my third concurrent knitting project, the one I’m making with my knitting club, is going nicely too:

We’re a good way into the cables now. This is the most intricate of my three projects, and it takes the most work for sure. I find it quite hard on the hands to knit, although that has improved since I switched to the correct size cable!

As ever, cat pics from the week.

My Week in Sewing: Bodice Block

My Week in Sewing: Bodice Block

This week I’ve been working on a bodice block.

A bodice block has been on my list for such a long time, and my recent experience trying to fit the Etta dress bodice to my asymmetrical body made me so disillusioned with the idea of fitting a pattern that I finally decided it was time to start on a block. If I can get a block right, then I can compare it to patterns I make in the future and get a clear idea of what adjustments I need to make. Plus, I’m very excited about the idea of drafting my own patterns using the block as a starting point.

I’m actually using the Etta bodice pattern as a base for my block, as I already have the pattern, and it’s shift dress with a bodice that’s reasonably close to what a block pattern would look like:

I chose the high back neck version rather than the V-neckline version that drove me crazy before. To convert it into a basic block I’ve raised the neckline on the front and back, and removed the back neck dart – I already know from my fitting journey that I have a flat upper back so it won’t be missed. I also moved the closure from the back to the front by drawing in a seam allowance at the front centre and adding in the centre line at the back. This makes it way easier to fit (just with pins) and I don’t need to bother with zips. (I wasted loads of time on zips with my Etta).

So far I have done three rounds of fitting on one toile. I failed to photograph it on my actual body, so you’re going to have to use your mind’s eye for the next few paragraphs. Sorry friends 🤷🏻

First I did a toile with my standard shoulder slope modification. To do this, I cut out the armscye, lower it parallel to the grain by 1/2″, and then redraw the shoulder seam line. I do this on the front and back. It’s a dead easy adjustment that took me ages to discover – but now I do it on every pattern.

I sewed up this first version and found that the bust dart was a good size (Tilly and the Buttons draft with a B cup, which is a 2″ difference between high bust and full, which matches my measurements). But the apex was too high, causing the bodice to ride up a bit as the toile naturally wanted to sit with the apex in the right place. This led to wrinkling above the bust. So I pulled the bodice down to smooth out the wrinkles, drew on the correct apex, then unpicked the dart and sewed it with the new angle, pointing at the next apex. This worked perfectly! I’m pretty happy with the fit of the front at this point.

First toile, showing the lowered bust darts. It looks better on me, I promise! I think my dress form is an dressmaker’s A cup

Next I turned to the back, which is where I had all the issues on my Etta toile. The upper bodice was super baggy, which I expected after my Etta trials – but this time it was WAY less complicated to diagnose and fix because there was no V-neck or back dart! I just took a horizontal 3/8″ slice straight across the back. I also took a dart out of the centre back.

The fit looked reasonable at this point, although it is definitely more slack on my right shoulder than my left. So at this stage I decided to transfer all my adjustments to paper for my second toile. I moved the bust dart down properly rather than just pivoting it, and I converted that centre back dart by slicing the whole thing vertically and rotating out that excess all the way down to the waist. I also moved the shoulder seam forwards by an inch (really what is up with my shoulders? answer: scoliosis)

Pattern pieces after round 1. Not pictured is the adjustment I made to the sleeve head to match the 3/8″ removed from the upper back.

Feeling pretty good about round 1. I suspect I’ll still need to make an upper back adjustment of some form, and I’ll also look at the neck, length, and sleeve in the next toile.

As ever, here are some cat pics from the week! All taken from the same vantage point this time.

Thanks for reading, see you next week!

My Week in Sewing, 20th May 2022

My Week in Sewing, 20th May 2022

It’s been a couple of weeks since I last wrote – and my news is that I’m back on the sewing train!

I have an event to attend this weekend and I fancied making a nice dress for it, as my wardrobe is lacking in the “nice day dress” department. I have a couple of workhorse dresses that I always turn to, but I want more choices.

I’ve got a bit of post-viral fatigue going on, so I chose a familiar project to keep the effort level relatively low. I’ve made the Lyra dress by Tilly and the Buttons a couple of times before, and I had plenty of appropriate fabric in my stash. (Full disclosure – I was actually a pattern tester so I got my copy of the pattern for free.)

Proper photos coming soon. I just finished sewing the buttons on this afternoon and my hair is categorically not camera friendly today.

What didn’t click for me until I’d started cutting out the fabric was that I’m actually using the same fabric as is used in Tilly and the Buttons’ marketing for the pattern! Whoops. I usually try to steer clear of copying other people’s makes, but I don’t really mind with this one. I mean, the fabric really really does work for this dress. (Plus, I made the midi-length, so mine’s different anyway!)

While I was assembling the bodice, I tried it on and I got really excited about the idea of a sleeveless cropped shirt in this fabric – doesn’t it look great with these pink shorts?

I have a little leftover fabric, so I’m going to see if I have enough to make this happen. I’m thinking of using the Helen’s Closet Gilbert shirt pattern.

One thing I’m not super happy about is the collar stand. I find collar stands really fiddly to sew evenly, so I unpick and re-press and re-stitch until it works. This, obviously, takes ages. In the name of “perfect is the enemy of done”, I’ve allowed myself to have some sloppy stitching on this dress (where it’s not visible), but I’ve vowed to invest some effort into learning a good technique. So I’ve picked my copy of Shirtmaking off the shelf.

I first read this years ago, before I’d ever tried to make a proper shirt. But I think the information will be more meaningful to me now that I have a few stand collars under my belt (as it were). Looking forward to learning some more precise techniques.

On the knitting front, I now have two projects on the go. Here’s the Birthday Sweater (by Ankestrick) – so very close to done!

Annoyingly I ran out of the dark pink just before the end of the first sleeve – but I think the light pink cuff situation is effective.

I’ve cast on my Marzipan Pullover (by Sari Nordlund) for knit club, too – in Drops Nepal:

The cables have only just started – but I’m already enjoying them! It’s been literally 9 years since I last knitted a complex cable pattern – I made a whopping great big Umaro blanket as a gift for family:

Cables are super satisfying. A bit slow, but they look like magic.

Last but very much not least, a selection of cat photos from the last week. Today I am featuring cats asleep on the sofa in ridiculous positions.

Thanks for reading. See you next week!

My Week in Sewing, 6th May 2022

My Week in Sewing, 6th May 2022

I mentioned last week that I was planning to take a couple weeks off sewing, because life is super busy right now. Well. I didn’t expect to get ill and be forced to do absolutely nothing all week! At least I’ve watched Heartstopper 3 times through and read through half of Alice Oseman’s body of work. (I may have gone on one of my obsessive deep dives on the Heartstopper/Solitaire universe. It may also not be over.)

Although sewing’s been on pause, I have started to pick up the pace on my knitting over the last couple of days. But I’m definitely not going to finish this Ankestrick Birthday jumper before my knit club starts a new project at the weekend:

I don’t think I’ve ever managed to post about this jumper without also mentioning how slow it is to knit! It’s taking forever due to it being 4-ply (skinny yarn) and half-brioche stitch (2 rows required for every 1 row visible). My upcoming project, the Marzipan Pullover by Sari Nordlund, is going to be a very different experience since it’s on a thicker yarn (worsted weight). And although it does have cables to slow things down, they’re only on the yoke. The rest of the body and sleeves are on blessed rib stitch. I am excited for the feeling of knitting on turbo mode.

Ready for Marzipan madness. This will be my first time knitting with Drops yarn. I’ve heard such good things about it, and it’s so cheap I had to do a double take.

For cat photo time today, I am blessing you with a Rocket montage:

You’re welcome.

And of course, some Moon and Philip content:

Thanks for reading – see you next week!

My Week in Sewing, 29th April 2022

My Week in Sewing, 29th April 2022

This week I finished sewing the Amelia skirt by the Pattern Stash! (NB. This pattern & the kit were sent to me in exchange for a post on Instagram.)

I was daunted by the corduroy as I’ve never worked with it before, but I found it surprisingly easy to sew with. Of course, now I’m daydreaming of sewing corduroy jackets and trousers. But I suspect I should probably focus on warm weather clothes, on the off chance we get a sunny spell here in the next few months. This is a short skirt though, so it should be versatile enough for the warmer season.

I actually found the lining quite hard to work with. It was probably because I focused so much on getting the corduroy right that I was blasé about the slippery viscose-acetate lining. I found it shifted and moved around a lot, and generally took on a different form every time I looked at it. I clearly need to invest a bit more time and care when working with such delicate fabrics in future. Still, it came out nicely enough:

Sewing to a deadline is never my favourite, as I’m very slow and methodical when it comes to sewing. The instructions for this skirt said it would take around 5 hours, but I must have spent at least 10, and that’s not even counting the toiles!

I’m taking a week or two off sewing now as life and work are super busy, but don’t be fooled – I’m still daydreaming and planning. I think I want to do an instant gratification tee out of fabric in my stash next, as I’m not very happy with my summer wardrobe. I like wearing tees but I generally have boring ones, so I’m ready to add a little more spice. (Read: block colours in my classic palette of pink and teal.)

In knitting news…

I had to frog the sleeve and start over! 😦 I misread the instructions and decreased way too early and too often. I don’t feel like I’ve lost much though, as this realisation coincided with my double-pointed needles arriving in the post – and I can knit a lot faster with those. So I’m not really that disheartened.

Last but not least! Cat pics!

Thanks for reading! See you next week.

My Week in Sewing, 22nd April 2022

My Week in Sewing, 22nd April 2022

I’m back after a week off! I skipped last Friday’s weekly sewing review as I was busy swanning around Vienna. We went to 5 art galleries plus another art exhibition in London and my brain was absolutely saturated by the time I got home. I probably could have done with more of a zone-out type of holiday, but I had a great time all the same – I just want another holiday immediately, please and thank you.

I got to wear my newly made Agatha dress to the opera and a fancy restaurant, all of which was fantastic. I love wearing me-mades in formal settings. It feels devious somehow.

I came across a huge fabric shop – but it was outside of opening hours, much to the relief of my wallet. I enjoyed this window display though. Are those enormous hams? What is that gigantic cheese shaped thing?

Since I’ve been back at home, I’ve been working on my Pattern Stash Amelia skirt (NB. project materials given to me in exchange for a social media post, but this is not that post). I was previously making a wearable toile, but as soon as I got the information I needed out of the toile, I parked it in favour of the real thing as I’m approaching the agreed deadline. I’ll return to the toile afterwards as it’s so close to done, and I really like the contrasting colours.

Wearable toile. Waistband not finished – but parked for now.

So I’m on the final project now. I’m going entirely out of my comfort zone with this fabric choice. Corduroy! Fiery orangey red! I had never worked with corduroy and this colour is not like anything in my traditional colour palette so this was brave/reckless. It may or may not have something to do with the fact that I made my fabric choice the morning after a big boozy work party. I may or may not have been thinking straight.

But. It’s working out well. I’m glad I didn’t play it safe, as I’ve already learned loads.

This colour is hard to photograph. Especially when you’re a bit lax with your lighting.

Honestly, I was daunted by the corduroy. I’ve read so many “how to sew with corduroy” blog posts over the years that I had the impression that it was a difficult fabric to work with. Well, spoiler: it’s not. I’ll write a bit more about that in a future post.

The pattern has come together quite straight forwardly. It has a few slipstitching steps that I’m going to do on the machine instead because sod slipstitching. I haven’t quite got my head round how the lining attaches to the vents yet, but it’s nearly done!

Top tip: Distract your cats before you attempt to take photos of your sewing project

My knitting project continues to take several millennia to complete. I’m on the first sleeve now, and I really thought the sleeves would fly by – but this damn half brioche stitch is so slow! I’ve ordered some double pointed needles as the magic loop method is getting on my nerves, and any possible speed improvement will be valuable at this point.

I’m keen to get it done because knit club are starting on a new project soon and I don’t want to have two knitting projects on the go at the same time.

I shall leave you with some pics of cats – despite already having shared one. I’m absolutely spoiling you.

Thanks for reading. See you next week!

My Week in Sewing, 8th April 2022

I’ve been working on a skirt this week – the Amelia Skirt from The Pattern Stash. For full disclosure, I was sent this pattern (and a kit including fabric) for free in exchange for an Instagram post about the skirt. This post is not part of that exchange – I just wanted to share a little about the making process.

This is my second toile of the skirt. On my first toile I did a straight size 10 – I should have known that was a silly idea! My hips are less curved than most patterns are designed for, so I always have to do some heavy modifications to make the hip curve straighter. I took in the side seams and increased the intake of the back darts, but I quickly realised that my changes were distorting the lines of the pattern – the panels weren’t nicely distributed anymore. So I decided to trace off the size 8 at the hip, and grade to a 10 at the waist. I also picked some leftover linen to make this a wearable toile. You may recognise this fabric from my April dress!

The fit is far better now. I’m also very pleased with my invisible zip insertion. It used to take me a minimum of 30 minutes to get a zip in nicely, with multiple rounds of unpicking – but I’ve got the technique now, and I typically get it right on the first try. I freehand the first side and then pin the second side very lightly. My problem before was over-pinning – so my big tip is to let the zip lay where it wants to lay!

There is an invisible zip in this side seam. Truly invisible! Patting myself on the back.

I’m looking forward to completing this toile and getting started on the real deal. I’ve picked a bright fiery red corduroy, which is a bit outside my comfort zone in terms of both fabric and colour. But it’s good to push ourselves. I do have bits of bright fiery red corduroy all over my house now though.

Before I close, here are some cat pics from the week:

Thanks for reading. See you next week! 🙂

Fibre Mood Agatha Dress – Pattern Review

Fibre Mood Agatha Dress – Pattern Review

This is probably the prettiest thing I’ve ever made.

Behold, my Fibre Mood Agatha. I can’t get over how beautiful it is.

There’s a lot I love about the design of the dress. The curved waistband which rises to meet the V of the plunge neckline. The fact that the waistband is doubled, such that it provides a nice bit of structure around the waist to support the weight of the skirt. The floaty, breezy quality of the sleeves due to their being semicircles – and the way the hem of the sleeve lines up with the waistband. And that plunging neckline! I worried it might be too revealing for me, but I think it’s perfectly tasteful and just a bit flirty.

The fabric is some sort of synthetic jersey – I thought it was rayon at first, but it has a springy sponginess to it that reminds me of a scuba or swimsuiting, so perhaps it’s poly. It’s very soft and slinky, and has a good weight to it that gives it a superb drape. I bought it from Gillies in York with the intention of making some pyjamas out of it. Can you imagine if I’d wasted this gorgeous fabric on pyjamas!

It does have a directional print, and this pattern technically shouldn’t be made with a directional print, because some of the skirt is on the bias and the back of the sleeves are upside down. But I don’t really care – I think the print is abstract enough that you would need to look closely to recognise that they are palm trees. I’m OK with it.

I found the fabric a little bit tricky to work with, as it was both slippery and weighty so it had a tendency to slide around. But I feel like my skills at grappling with fabrics like this have come a long way, so I although I had to put a bit more effort in (i.e. more pins), I never got frustrated with it or felt out of control. Just takes practice, like everything else.

I must say I’m not crazy about Fibre Mood’s pattern instructions. They leave you to fend for yourself a bit, so I wouldn’t call them beginner-friendly. For instance, the edge of the front bodice needs to be interfaced, but there is no pattern piece for that interfacing, nor is there an explicit instruction to apply it. There’s just a note next to one of the diagrams stating factually that the highlighted yellow section is interfaced.

I also got a little confused when attaching the sleeves, as mine didn’t match up to the bodice in the same way the diagram suggested – it wanted a 1cm seam allowance left on either side of the sleeve, but my sleeve consumed the full space, i.e. it was 1cm too long on each side. After a while, I realised that this was because the instructions gave two options for finishing the sleeve hem – either a rolled hem, or a 1cm standard hem – and my choice of rolled hem meant that only 0.2cm of the 1cm hem allowance was actually used. I wonder if they intended for that 1cm hem allowance to be trimmed when doing the rolled hem – but if so, it was not made clear at all. Never mind. I just sort of fudged it a bit under the arm, but I did it the same on both sides so who cares.

One final gripe about the pattern is that the skirt piece is printed in full. Yet it’s symmetrical! What a huge waste of paper and printing/taping time. I actually folded the pattern piece in half and cut my skirts on the fold anyway.

For what it’s worth, I managed to cut size 36 out of 2.5m of fabric, despite the pattern saying it needed 3m.

But. Please put all that aside. It’s all worth it. My complaints about the pattern are insignificant in comparison to how much I adore the final dress. I did enjoy sewing it, and even with the sleeve confusion it didn’t take all that long to put it together. It’s quite a straightforward sew – and creates a garment with a really stunning effect.

I feel ~fancy~!

The Hotel Sewing Kit

The Hotel Sewing Kit

In lieu of this week’s “My Week In Sewing”, since I’ve been poorly and haven’t done very much of anything at all, I’m sharing some creative writing on the topic of sewing. I wrote this a couple of months ago in a 5-minute writing challenge on the topic of “an object related to my hobby”. PS. I’m just dabbling in creative writing, be kind 🙂

I often collect miniature mending kits from hotels and stash them in my handbags, because the time you need a mending kit is not when you are in a hotel room with your luggage – and therefore hopefully also with a spare change of clothes – but rather when you’re out and about, at a nice dinner, or in the office, with only the clothes on your back, and a significantly higher need to look presentable.

Once, I repaired a seam at the centre back of a grey pencil skirt while sitting, by necessity in my knickers, on a (closed) toilet in a cubicle in the loos on the fifth floor of an office block in central Leeds. Turns out you want a little more kit than just these tools to fix a broken zip, but you can do a temporary salvage, in a pinch. 

The zip had come away from the fabric just three quarters of an inch, and I suppose I might have been able to get along without repairing it, but I’m not really that sort of person. So I found myself perched in my pants on the cold toilet lid, making the burst seam worse before I could make it better, and not entirely convinced I could make it better in the ten minutes before my next meeting anyway. What would happen if I only made it worse, without making it better? Well, there was that flimsy gold safety pin – though I didn’t have a huge amount of faith in its ability to support the strain on the seam that holds my bum in. So I had to get it right.

I discovered it’s hard to thread a needle while sat in your knickers in a cramped space under fluorescent lighting and time pressure. 

And that my insistence to favour the sewing machine over any hand-sewing at all had robbed me of an opportunity to develop a useful life skill.

It also turns out there’s far less thread in these kits than you think.

What do you do when once you have miraculously managed to slip-stitch that seam back into place? Rip the thread with your bare hands like an animal? Yes, yes that’s exactly what you do. And then you sit there staring at it for a full minute, cursing the amateur nature of your handiwork and lamenting the fact that this toilet stall does not feature a steam iron so you could at the very least press out the crumples impressed into the skirt by your frantic hands. But now you’ve only got ninety seconds left before your meeting, and you’re still in your pants, so you hoick the skirt on – and thank god that the zip doesn’t immediately burst open – do a quick sanity check in the mirror, not that you have any time to correct any mistakes now. Then you step back out into the office, and say not a single damn word about any of it. 

My Week in Sewing, 25th March 2022

My Week in Sewing, 25th March 2022

Each Friday I write about what I’ve done in sewing land over the past week – plus any knitting or other crafts I’ve managed to slot in. Plus cats. There will always be cats.

I made my Agatha dress this week! Here’s a teaser pic ahead of the full post I’m writing about the making of this dress.

My latest make

In short, I adore it. It’s not my typical style as I tend to lean more cutesy, but I’m looking to add more elegant pieces to my wardrobe and this dress nails that brief. Can’t wait to share more about it soon.

The next thing I want to share is not actually a make from this week, but a new pattern release: the Tilly and the Buttons Erin dungarees. You might have seen this pattern all over Instagram this week. I was a tester for this pattern a few months ago, and I’d never worn dungarees as an adult before so I had no idea what to expect!

There have been some changes to the pattern since the test version, so I’m not going to write a proper review until I’ve made a pair in the final version of the pattern. But I am showing off my tester version now that I can.

I made a couple of mistakes on these that mean I’m probably not going to wear them outdoors, but they’re good for around the house. I could have done with sizing down around the hip – I hadn’t checked the hip measurement so it’s a bit baggy around the bum. I also picked a denim that I think is actually too structured for the pattern, so I’m not crazy about the way it hangs. At least I know exactly what changes I want to make next time.

My final bit of sewing news is that I got a bit carried away with my Thea wearable toile last week. I put the sleeves and the collar on and did the fancy topstitching and everything. Then, when I was trying it on to figure out where to put the buttons, I realised I’d forgotten to use it as an actual toile – and it still doesn’t fit! Argh. So, it’s just a fancy unwearable wearable toile. Here’s a photo of it for posterity.

I am going to size up for my proper Thea, as I think I read the numbers wrong on the measurements. Back to the drawing board. Or at least, the tracing table.

What’s next in sewing land for me? Not sure just now – might do an instant gratification project before I approach the Thea again. Perhaps those Erin dungarees. I also have some exciting project plans that I can’t reveal just yet!

Here’s my customary weekly knitting progress shot. I feel like I’ve been close to the end of this ball of yarn for weeks. Surely it’s going to run out soon? I’m going to decide on a whim which colour I switch to next. It will probably be dark pink.

And the cats, as promised.

Thanks for reading, see you next week!