Sunday, 27 April 2008

Juliet

Juliet is finished, pressed, ends woven in and ready to wear! Well, almost ... I haven't yet decided whether or not to do the button fastenings, or just to pin it as I have here.

The pattern was lovely to knit - really clear and straightforward, and nothing more complicated than yarn overs and simple decreases. It's only a 6 row pattern repeat, so it's very easy to memorise once you've knitted the first repeat. What's more, it's knitted in once piece, so no boring sewing up afterwards. The pattern calls for big needles and chunky yarn, so it grows really quickly too. The ideal project for an impatient knitter! I used Sirdar Click for this as I was worried about how it would turn out, and I didn't want to invest in anything too expensive just in case. I bought it from GetKnitted at £2 a ball - bargain! (And really fast delivery and great customer service).


The details of the project are over on Ravlery, if anyone's interested. Not sure what's going to be next on the knitting needles, but I've got quite a queue of projects from browsing the patterns there!

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Making baby gifts


My friend had a baby boy on Tuesday - I'm off to visit tonight, so here's a quick shot of the gift I put together for her this week.

As usual, I've been totally last-minute with this, despite approximately 6 months warning! In my defence, I was waiting to see if the baby was a boy or a girl so I'd know whether to use pink or blue.

I had such fun making this - especially the little baby shoes. I'd never made cloth shoes before, and hadn't realised quite how straightforward they are. And so cute! Cue maternal guilt that I never made any for my 2 children, who, at 2 and 4 are a little too old for these. I need to find more babies to sew for ... fast! The pattern is the one from the Stardust shoes blog, and is very easy to follow as long as you're happy stitching things on a small scale. I did modify it slightly to line the inside of the shoes so that I wouldn't have any raw edges on show.

The package also includes a little quilted baby blanket made with a panel of Beatrix Potter fabric, a couple of lavender bags so it all smells pretty, a spotty bib, and a soft cardigan.

And look - my favourite bit - cute little duck buttons! Making things for babies is SO much fun!

Monday, 21 April 2008

The holiday is over ...

Well those 2 weeks holiday from school seemed to fly by. This morning, my husband and daughter went back to school, leaving me and my little boy in a strangely quiet house!

We've had a great couple of weeks, visits from the in-laws, family outings to the farm and Legoland. A good time was had by all, with picnic lunches out and about, in spite of the often awful weather! I even managed to sneak out for a little bit of child-free time on Saturday and meet my mum and sister in London for a day wandering the shops aimlessly. Really, aimlessness is such a lovely change for me from being the 'mum' person who's in charge of everything! I bought a couple of metres of fabric in John Lewis on Oxford Street. One, a gorgeous turquoise jacquard fabric for bag making,


and the other a cotton floral print to make a top for my daughter.


I did miss my children a lot, in spite of that heady feeling of freedom from going out alone! And apparently they missed me a bit too, as I came back to a gorgeous bunch of tulips, a video tribute dance routine by my 4 year old daughter to the Scissor Sisters' 'I don't feel like dancing' (had me in stitches) and a sweet little note she'd written stuck on the fridge door:

Apparently she'd wanted to do 31 kisses as I'm 31 years old, but she got a little carried away and added a few more! My little boy had apparently thought I'd gone to Legoland for the day again on my own! They really are such a funny pair.

I've a few works in progress and finished things to share from my holiday crafting in this mosaic from my flickr photoset.


Juliet is finished but not blocked (nor are the ends woven in as yet), my little girl's cardie has a back, a left and right front, but no sleeves as yet, I've started another cardie for a baby due tomorrow, and finished another Beatrix Potter baby blanket to accompany it. Then a few new bags - a wooden handled bag posing with my 'we miss you' tulips, 3 clutch bags and a shoulder bag. Also, a little stack of tissue holders and pencil cases. Phew! I'm very lucky that my husband is a teacher, and hence available for holiday childcare, or there's no way I would have got any of this done! Still quite a bit in the works in progress box though ...

Friday, 18 April 2008

Four things meme

I've been tagged by the lovely Florence to do this 4 things meme. So here goes ...

4 movies I'd watch again:

Pretty in Pink - I don't know how many times I've watched this film, but it's a lot! The 80s soundtrack, which I have in my CD collection, is really fantastic.

Romeo and Juliet - I loved this film along with Moulin Rouge and Strictly Ballroom, also directed by Baz Luhrman. I also own the soundtrack to this one!

Labyrinth - We watched this as a family 101 times when I was growing up. My own children are not quite old enough to see it yet, but I'm really looking forward to watching it with them one of these days.

Un Air de famille - I first saw this film when I lived in France and bought the video a couple of years later. Such a fantastic film with an all-star cast - I would watch this right now, except we no longer have a video player!

I've found it really hard to narrow these films down to just 4 - there are loads of others that I will watch again, but I've just put down here the ones that I have already watched obsessively 20 times over!


4 places I've lived:

Slough, England - It doesn't have the best name, it must be said. I don't think Betjeman helped when he wrote
Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough
It isn't fit for humans now
There isn't grass to graze a cow.
Swarm over, Death!

Oxford - I spent 3 really happy years living here as a student.



South Wales - I grew up in the South Wales valleys, living there till the age of 18.

Brittany in Northern France – I lived here for a year as part of my first degree course. A fantastic year - lots of walks on the beaches of the pink granite coast, moules frites and pain aux raisins! I lived in Brelevenez, Lannion, right behind the church in this picture. I climbed those 142 steps each day to go to work.




4 tv shows I watch:
Dr Who - I've always loved this programme! I'm really enjoying the new pairing of David Tennant as the Doctor and Catherine Tate as his assistant.

Strictly Come Dancing - brilliant family viewing! My daughter gets a reprieve on her usual 7 o'clock bedtime during each series as she's such a big fan.

The Box of Delights - this one is a bit of a cheat as it's about 20 years old, but I remember watching this as a child. I bought my husband the DVD a few years ago, and we love to watch this in the run up to Christmas. The theme tune music is so evocative!

Ugly Betty - can't wait till the next series begins!

4 places I've been (okay, so I haven’t actually travelled beyond
Europe, but these are some of the favourite places I’ve been to):
Pompeii - I'd wanted to visit Pompeii for years as I studied Latin using the Cambridge Latin Course textbooks at school, which focused on a family from Pompeii (by coincidence, the latest Dr Who episode featured this family - Caecilius, Metella and Quintus). It was amazing to see how well-preserved the town is. Here's a snap of the little theatre, which we came upon deserted at the end of the afternoon.

Barcelona - I spent a few days here with my mother before either of my children were born (which seems like a whole different era now!). I would love to go here again one day to look again at all the architecture by Gaudi and to eat tapas!

Paris - I've been here quite a few times, but not for about 5 years now! I'd love to go on a shopping trip for fabric sometime in the near future. And also to sit in cafes, naturally!
Prague - What a beautiful city! My trip here will always be especially memorable as I was 16 weeks pregnant with my little girl when we went, and I felt her move for the first time during our visit.


4 things to eat:

Tartiflette - I discovered this dish while living in France. Made with reblochon cheese, cream, potatoes and lardons (bacon), baked in the oven, it's real winter comfort food.

Roast beef dinner - my favourite. I cooked this when my in-laws visited yesterday. Roast beef, roast potatoes and parsnips, yorkshire puddings and at least 3 veg with gravy. Yum!

Steak and chips - but my husband also makes a mean steak sandwich (from Nigel Slater's Real Food)

Galettes - another obsession after living in France. They're savoury pancakes made with buckwheat flour. My favourite is the complete - with ham, egg and cheese filling.



4 places I'd rather be :

the Maldives - I could never see the point of those relaxed, lying-in-a-hammock kind of holidays until I had children. Now, this is my ultimate dream after a long day mopping up spilled drinks and worse!

For the same reasons as above, I quite fancy going to this spa in Bath - my sister went recently and loved it. Bath is such a beautiful city anyway, visited many a time on school Latin trips!

That's it, really. I don't really long to be anywhere else at the moment.


4 things to look forward to:

The Summer holidays - we're off to Tenby for a week by the seaside.

A day out in London tomorrow with my mum and sister

My birthday at the end of the month

doing up our bathroom sometime in the next 3 years!



4 people to tag:

Charlotte at Displacement Activity, TwoHippos, debsmuddle and driftwood.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Snapshots from my sewing table


Okay, so the sewing table doesn't really exist, it's really the dining table, which is in the main living area. Did I say 'main living area'? Actually our living/dining room is the only downstairs space in our home other than our kitchen. Consequently, my sewing has a huge impact on everyone else's living/playing space. I've just cleared the table of the pile of works in progress so that the children can have their tea. The sewing machine is still there though - at the moment I get away with it, but I'm sure one day the children will begin to notice that no-one else's mummy has a sewing machine as a permanent feature on the table! I would so love to have a dedicated sewing space (I suspect my husband would like it if I could shut my clutter away too!), but in the meantime I'm trying to be a bit more organised.

The pile of cut out panels and stitched pieces you see above will hopefully become 3 wristlets and a two bags very soon. A couple of days ago, it was tissue holders and pencil cases:


This is my attempt to build a bit of stock for the WeMake craft fair in London in June. There's going to be a lot more mess around here until then!

Sometimes, though, it's nice to put everything away and get that sewing machine off the dining table. That's where the knitting comes in handy (I am, it seems, completely unable to just sit down and relax of an evening!). This is what I'm currently working on, a short sleeved cardie called Juliet for myself.


I've never actually knitted an adult-sized garment before (unless I count my 'stress-busting jumper' which I knitted while waiting for my A-level results!) so I'm a bit worried it's going to be awful, but I've been searching the patterns on Ravelry and every version of Juliet I've seen looks really nice, so hopefully I'm on to a winner!

Monday, 7 April 2008

Minkee and me

I've just discovered minkee fabric. I think it might be one of those love/hate things! The fabric is so gorgeously soft and strokeable. It's just crying out to be turned into sweet little baby blankets, which is what I've been making with it. It's got a velvety feel and a really soft drape, and the little raised dot detail is perfect for little fingers to explore. I really, really love it ... the only problem is that it's a bit of a nightmare to sew! As you cut into it, it's like a snow flurry with tiny pieces of fluff flying everywhere. And despite the fact I thought I'd cut the square of minkee to exactly the same size as the cotton square, they didn't seem to want to match up while I was sewing!



So, bring on the safety pins and the walking foot! I put the pieces right sides together and safety pinned all over, then I also pinned all the way round the cut edges as the minkee has a tendency to roll inwards. I'm really happy with the end result - I could just sit down and stroke these little baby blankets. I only wish I'd made the discovery when my two were babies as they're the height of small baby luxury!


In case anyone's interested, I found a few links with helpful tips on working with minkee:

Sew News
Flickr thread in the Sew Mama Sew group
Pattern Review
A Common thread
America Quilts Creatively


The general consensus seems to be to pin, pin again, then pin some more! Also use a walking foot and a universal size 80 needle, with the minkee against the feed dogs.


There are going to be more of these in the works, just as soon as I get hold of some more baby blue and ice cream pink fabrics - they just look so pretty against the white minkee.

Easter holidays

The schools broke up here on Friday for the 2 week Easter holidays, which strangely, don't actually coincide with Easter this year. That means a husband and both children at home and a fortnight to pack with crafting, trips out, jobs around the house - the usual suspects!

Friday, and it seemed like Springtime was finally with us - our roast chicken dinner was eaten outside, bare feet, short sleeves and squinting into the sun, and all at around 6pm in the evening!

Sunday morning we woke up to this:


So after the speediest breakfast in the history of time, it was coats and hats on and out to build small snowpeople and throw snowballs:


A good time was had by all!

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Napkin set tutorial, part 2


This is the second part of the tutorial from my previous post, describing how to make a matching linen pouch for the napkin set.



PART 2: matching pouch


STEP 1: Cut out the following pieces:

from the natural linen fabric:
*2 rectangles of the natural linen fabric, each 11 inches by 8 inches for the pouch exterior

from the fabric used for the reverse of the napkins:
*2 rectangles, each measuring 11 inches by 8 inches for the lining
*1 rectangle of the fabric measuring 3.5 inches by 8 inches
*2 strips of fabric for the ties , each measuring 1.5 inches by 11 inches





STEP 2:

Turn and iron a narrow hem (approx 1/3 inch) on the band for the middle of the pouch (rectangle measuring 3.5 by 8 inches).


Pin the band of cotton fabric horizontally along the centre of one of the linen rectangles, matching the edges and stitch in place using matching thread as close to the edge as possible, as shown.





STEP 3: make the ties for the pouch
Take one of the long strips of fabric for the pouch ties, fold in half horizontally and press with a steam iron. Then open it out and fold the two long edges in to meet the crease along the centre of the fabric, before folding it inwards again and ironing in place, as shown. Repeat for the other tie.


Take one of the ties and open it out again, turning in one of the short ends by approx 1/2 inch before folding it back together again so that you won't be left with raw ends at the top of your tie (the other end will not be on show, so don't worry about turning in the other end).


Take the tie and sew a line of stitching as close as possible to the edge, joining the two folded edges together. As you can see from the picture, this will catch in the short edge you folded in. Take a few back stitches at the end of the line of sewing to secure the ends.



Follow the same steps to make the second tie.



STEP 4: make the pouch exterior
Put the two rectangles of linen fabric right sides together, pin, and sew a 3/8 inch seam all the way round from the top right corner to the top left corner using co-ordinating thread, leaving the whole of the top section open. Take a few back stitches at each end to secure the line of stitching.



The wobbly white line marks the stitching line - if you click on the picture to enlarge it, you'll be able to see this more clearly.



STEP 5: making the lining for the pouch
Place the lining pieces right sides together and stitch a 3/8 inch seam, leaving the top open and a turning gap of approx 3 inches at the bottom as shown. Take a few back stitches at the beginning and end of each line of stitching to stop it from unravelling.



Again, follow the two wobbly white lines for the stitching lines.



STEP 6: sew together the pouch exterior and lining, catching in the ties at the top
Turn the exterior linen pouch pieces right side out, but leave the lining fabric wrong side out. Slip the lining fabric over the linen fabric so that the side seams and the top (open) edges are aligned. The turning gap you left in the lining pieces will be at the bottom.

Pin the exterior pouch and lining together all the way around the top opening, ensuring that the side seams match. Tuck in the two ties along the top edge, one in the middle of each side - the raw edges of the ties should be in line with the raw edges of the top of the pouch and the finished ties will lie inside the pouch. You can see this more clearly if you click on the image below to enlarge it.


Using the free arm on your machine, if you have one, stitch a 3/8 inch seam all the way around the top opening of the pouch pieces, sewing the lining and exterior pouch together and catching in the two ties.



Tip: as you can see from the picture above, I keep my right hand thumb on top of the fabric stretching it downwards slightly, while my index finger pushes the fabric up from underneath. This helps to ease the two layers of fabric (linen exterior and lining) together so that the layers don't shift and pucker as you sew.




STEP 7: finishing the pouch
Turn the pouch right side out through the turning gap you left in the bottom of the lining pieces, then tuck the lining inside the linen pouch. Iron the pouch, taking particular care with the top opening edges to give a nice crisp edge.



Again, using the free arm on your machine, stitch all the way around the top opening as close as possible to the edge of the fabric. (I've used the thread that matches the linen fabric here, but you could use a contrasting thread).





STEP 8: stitch the gap in the lining fabric closed
Pull the lining out of the pouch and pin the opening together, then topstitch the gap closed, as close to the edge as possible.



Tuck the lining back inside the pouch.



FINISHED! Just place your napkins, folded into quarters, inside the pouch and tie the ties in a pretty bow.


------------------------------------------------------------------------

I hope you find this useful. It's been a real challenge to write this up as a tutorial - I had no idea how hard it was until I started! Please do let me know if anything is unclear, or if you find any mistakes! I'd love to know if anyone makes a napkin set with this tutorial too, so please do drop me a line (angharad44 [at] yahoo [dot] co [dot] uk) if you have any photos to share!

Napkin set tutorial


Drumroll please! I proudly (actually a little nervously) present my napkin set tutorial! I hope someone finds it useful. I had it in mind to write this when making the original set, and I’ve been spurred on by the very timely Sew Mama Sew tutorial contest.


Okay, a quick disclaimer here: I am not a seasoned tutorial writer – this is my very first attempt at a tutorial, so please do point out if you see any glaring mistakes or omissions.

Right then - best make a start!

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

This tutorial is for a set of 6 napkins with a matching linen pouch to store them in. They would make a lovely wedding, engagement, housewarming or hostess gift. The napkins are double-sided and rectangular in shape and they fit neatly into the soft linen pouch when folded into quarters.

Materials
* 1.5 yards of cotton fabric for the right side of the napkins
* 1.5 yards of co-ordinating cotton fabric for the reverse
* a spool of thread to match the napkin fabrics
* a small remnant of natural linen fabric for the pouch, 22 inches x 8 inches
* a spool of thread to match the linen for the pouch

note - you will have some of the cotton fabrics left over for other small projects
I used 100% cotton quilting fabric (from the Blossom line by Moda) for the napkins and made them double-sided, as this gives them a nice weight and a feeling of quality.


Equipment (none of these are essential, though they will help if you have them to hand)
*rotary cutter and cutting mat
*pinking shears



METHOD

PART 1 - napkins

STEP 1: Cut out the following pieces
6 panels measuring 16 inches by 13 inches from the fabric for the right side of the napkins
6 panels measuring 16 inches by 13 inches from the fabric for the reverse of the napkins


tip: using a rotary cutter and mat is ideal for this project and has increased my cutting accuracy 100%. However, a note of caution - do check and recheck your measurements before making that final cut - these napkins were originally meant to be 14 inches by 16 inches, but I cut the final panel 1 inch too small. Cue shaving 1 inch off each of the 11 panels I'd already cut!



*The following steps should be repeated for each of the 6 napkins*



STEP 2
Take one piece of the right side fabric and one piece of the reverse side fabric and place together, right sides facing and pin.




STEP 3
Using a matching spool of thread, sew a 5/8 inch seam around the edge of the napkin leaving a gap of approximately 4 inches open. Be sure to sew to sew a few stitches backwards at each end so that the seam doesn't unravel.


tip: if you click on the picture above to enlarge it, you'll see two sets of double pins on the bottom edge of the napkins - this is to mark the opening through which you'll turn the napkins right side out after stitching them. I find that often if I don't mark this gap I will often lose concentration and sew all the way round, then have to go back and unpick.



STEP 4:
Remove the pins and trim the seam using pinking shears, if you have them (as the napkins are likely to be washed frequently, this will prevent the fabric from fraying so quickly over time), and clip the corners.




STEP 5
Turn the napkin right side out and press, taking particular care with those few inches where you left the turning gap to press the edges in line with the seam.




STEP 6
Using the matching thread, topstitch the napkin approximately 1/4 inch from the edge (I use the edge of my presser foot as a guide). This will close the turning gap you left open in step 3.


tip: as you stop your machine to turn the first corner, snip away the ends of the thread at the beginning of the line of stitching so that they don't become tangled in your machine when you meet the first stitches after sewing all the way round your napkin.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------



Ta da! You have a set of 6 napkins, so now on to the pouch ... (this follows in my next post)



Thursday, 3 April 2008

Links!


Thanks for the lovely comments on my last post! I just thought I'd give a quick update with some more information on the fabric shops I've used for twohippos, and my walking foot for clothcat.

I've uploaded pictures of my walking foot with a quick explanation here and here (there are notes on the photos if you hover over them). Sorry for the bad lighting! I think you can see what's what though, but I can take some more in daylight if they're not clear enough.

Here's a list of the main places I use to shop for fabric and general supplies online

in the UK:
U-handbag
Sewessential

in the USA:
Equilter
Sew Mama, Sew
Fabric Shack

I also look on etsy and ebay, both of which are great for fabrics, trims and general supplies.

Hope that's of use! Happy browsing!

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Summer in the City


Okay, so it's hardly Summer yet (today's weather was distinctly wintry!) and I don't live in a city, but I have finished that quilt I've been working on. The fabrics are all from the Summer in the City line by Urban Chiks; I purchased a yard of a couple of the fabrics last Summer and I've been eking them out in various projects as they are too pretty to use willy-nilly.


I really enjoyed this project from start to finish. Quilt-making seems to be very compatible with my fragmented crafting time – 30 minutes here, an hour there, stop for a week, start again – as it’s easily divided into lots of quick stages. I got to use my walking foot again, which has made a world of difference to my quilting. Instead of cowboying the project as I did with my first quilt, made for my daughter, I took the time to read up a bit on how to do it properly. My daughter's quilt was a made-up-as-I-went-along amalgam of English piecing, applique and freestyle (and not in a good way) quilting. This time, though, I turned to the experts and a mix of books and tutorials for tips here and there.

Here's my quilting reading list:
Heather Bailey's blog tutorial on binding a quilt
The Complete Book of Patchwork, Quilting and Applique by Linda Seward
Denyse Schmidt Quilts: 30 Colourful Quilt and Patchwork Projects


The fabrics are just sooo pretty! And best of all, I still have a few offcuts left over to make into another quilt.

I'll be back soon with that napkin set tutorial, which is currently a work in progress ...
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