Sunday, 22 April 2012

Stylish Dress Book 1: View E

Stylish Dress Book 1: View E

It's the very last day of the Spring Top Sewalong today, so last night I set to work on my final submission. I know I could just sew tops anyway, but I do like a sewalong; it's a bit of incentive to see a project through and actually get something finished in a limited timescale.

View E from Stylish Dress Book 1 is the reason I bought the book in the first place. It's also the reason I bought 2.5 metres of Anna Maria Horner's Little Folks Voile from Raystitch almost two years ago. So back to the thing about needing an incentive to sew; clearly I'm not that self-motivated! I'd seen a beautiful tunic in the toast catalogue which was out of my price range, so this was going to be my take on that top. Mindful of how voluminous a lot of the patterns in the book are, the voile seemed like a good choice as it has a lovely drape.

Having made my last Spring top from the Stylish Dress book, I'd had a trial run to see how the sizing ran. I stuck with the size 11 here, which is just about a perfect fit, though I didn't add any extra length this time as I wanted it to be more of a tunic than a dress. Whilst there were no issues with following the pattern this time (see my last post for links to resources for sewing with Japanese patterns) I did refer to my trusty Complete Book Of Sewing (my go-to guide for most sewing techniques!) for some help with the neck facing, as the diagram in the Japanese book didn't go into much detail on this point. I wanted to get the finish as neat as possible without the neck facings being visible, so I ended up understitching the seams to the facing as directed by my sewing bible.

And here's the finished article, which I intend to wear with my skinny jeans or leggings and, very probably, a thick cardie if the weather continues to be so chilly:

Tunic from Stylish Dress Book 1: view E

When I had a quick (sleeveless) try on last night, and realised that it was actually going to be a wearable item of clothing, I broke out the overlocker to finish the seams properly as I was a bit nervous of the very fine voile fraying.


I really like the feel of the voile, it's super lightweight, soft, and has a lovely drape. If I was using it for a dress, I'd definitely line it though, as it's on the sheer side. The best thing is that I have a good sized piece of the voile leftover, to make a skirt for one or both of the daughters (not to be worn at the same time as my tunic!). I imagine it would make a lovely tiered twirly skirt, maybe pepped up with a brighter top for little-person chic.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Stylish dress book 1: Spring top 2

Grey foliage blouse

Grey foliage tunic - view B from Stylish Dress Book 1 for the Spring Top sewalong.

I belatedly realised after uploading Spring Top 1 to the group pool that most other people had been cropping their photos at the neck, and consequently felt like a right lemon, so here I am, safely beheaded.

A book I've had for eons, this one. Bought because I wanted to make the dress/tunic on the cover, view E, attempting to recreate a lovely tunic I saw in the Toast catalogue. I even have some Anna Maria Horner voile ready to sew it with. That's Spring Top no. 3 sorted then.

This time around, I thought I'd make a wearable muslin, using a remnant of floaty cotton I bought in Fabrics Galore for just a few pounds. It was actually a more than generous remnant, more than enough to make this pretty but simple gathered blouse with a puffed sleeve.

Grey foliage blouse

All the usual caveats apply when sewing from a Japanese pattern, remember to add the seam allowance before cutting out your painstakingly-traced pattern pieces. Also, don't overlook any additional markings - view B comes with a tiny note to extend the width of the lower sleeve pattern piece by 10cm in order to create the puffiness, which is easily overlooked. I did my research on flickr beforehand, otherwise I would definitely not have seen this. For more tips on using Japansese sewing books, try this article over at The Purlbee and this exhaustive series of posts at label-free.

I'm a UK size 10 (US size 6) and traced out a size 11, adding an extra 3cm to the hem as I'm an amazonian 5'4" (or 164cm in new money), whereas the Japanese patterns in this book only run to 160cm. First time in my life I've ever felt tall ... -ish; I have a brother who's 6'3" and a sister who's 5'10" so I didn't come off well in the height stakes.

Grey foliage blouse cuff detail

Grey foliage blouse neck binding detail

I'm very happy with how this turned out, I like the bound neckline and gathered cuffs (I followed the pattern directions and used elastic, but I might try binding them next time after seeing this version and this version).

Grey foliage blouse - musketeer incarnation

The top also comes with a handy pirate or musketeer option if you add a thick leather belt. I'm not a great wearer of belts, me. Maybe I just haven't found the right belt yet?

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Lemon meringue pie

Lemon meringue pie

I've got this stand mixer, a Kenwood chef. I've had it for nearly a year now and I can't say that I've really put it through its paces. It was a birthday gift which I received just as we were putting our house on the market last year, and so it was almost immediately packed away again. There was no time (or space in our tiny kitchen) for baking (with or without machinery) in between yelling at children to stop making dents in the just-plumped cushions and sweeping the floor eleventy-billion times a day in readiness for viewings.

One of the reasons I really really needed a mixer is for meringue. I have really fond memories of making lemon meringue pie with one of those packet mixes as a child, where you get the little lemon capsule that whizzes around the pan until it's stirred in. Magic. Meringue also happens to be one of my husband's very favourite things to eat in the world, but only homemade, soft-in-the-middle meringue. This may well be one of the reasons he bought the mixer.

I've been saying I'm going to make a lemon meringue pie every weekend now for around 3 months (I've been buying a lot of lemons), so today, having lured my parents over for dinner and with an eight-year-old assistant at my side, we finally broke out the mixer. We used a recipe by Angela Nilsen for The Ultimate Lemon Meringue pie. It really is the Ultimate Lemon Meringue Pie, just read the comments. The meringue was rated top-class by the husband, just coloured on the top but soft inside, the lemon curd was not too set-your-teeth-on-edge sharp, but perfectly balanced with the addition of the juice of an orange. The sweet pastry case too was a big success. Even though I didn't rest it at all, and just whacked it in the over minus the beans and baking paper rather than properly blind-baking, it didn't shrink at all, and had a lovely texture.

I made everyone sit round the table watching it whilst I ran off with a slice to photograph. I think my husband gets slightly concerned for my mental health when I'm not photographing random day to day things.

I definitely need to expand my stand-mixer repertoire. Anyone got any must-cook recipes to share?

Thursday, 5 April 2012

A quilt and a cardigan for a new baby boy

Baby boy quilt

The quilt and cardigan were finally finished for my new baby nephew, with the final stitches on the quilt being made the day he was born, and the button closure on the cardigan stitched into place in the car on the way up to visit (I was not driving!).

The quilt is a square made up of 64 5-inch squares of fabric, based around the colours of the Cloud 9 My Happy Nursery fabrics I couldn't resist, and including some Joel Dewberry prints and the remnant of a vintage floral print which my sister and I had dresses made from many years ago. I had a go at hand-quilting this one, using some nice thick Gutterman handquilting thread and the tiniest clover quilting needles I'd ever seen! I threaded all 15 on to the reel at once, following the advice from Last-minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts (a book I thoroughly recommend for basic quilting techniques and beautiful projects), which saved a lot of agony re-threading as each length of cotton ran out!

quilt backing

It was quilted in simple diagonal lines, backed in an Amy Butler print, and bound with the polka dot yellow Cloud 9 print. We don't have a tumble drier, but I find just line drying quilts puckers them up nicely.

Baby boy playmat/quilt

The baby cardigan ended up matching the quilt, more by accident than by design. It's the same pattern as I knitted up for my September baby nephew last Christmas, Lucky by Kim Hargreaves (see my Ravelry page for more details). It was provided as a freebie pattern with a purchase of the Rowan All Seasons Cotton yarn in John Lewis, along with instructions for lining it. I obviously have a complete lack of imagination, as this one is the same as the sample I saw knitted up in store. I had to search high and low for the Joel Dewberry Flower Fields in timber which I used to line it, but Alice at Backstitch luckily had a remnant left.

Lined baby cardigan

It's a great pattern for a newborn baby as the fact that it's lined makes it more of a knitted jacket than just a cardigan, and the moss stitch is nice and insulating too.

But never mind all the craft ramble, we were all so excited to meet my sister's new baby last weekend. He was so sweet, a perfect advert for new babies (at least by day!!) and was passed around by us all for cuddles. He had most helpfully dressed in a little baby-green babygro that day so as to perfectly match his new cardie and quilt.

baby nephew

baby nephew

Look at his cute little face!

Monday, 2 April 2012

Polka dots and buttons

Well, I've got my feather duster out and I've been Spring-cleaning the shelves of my sadly neglected little shop. That pile of Japanese polka dot linens I was working on last week has become a stack of cute pencil cases and coin purses embellished with buttons, ribbons and little elephant, matryoshka and sausage dog motifs. A much-needed injection of colour!

Still on the Japanese theme, I'm working on my second top for the Spring Top sewalong using a pattern from Stylish Dress book 1. I bought the book from M is for Make almost two years ago, so it's high time I made use of it. You can see some of the patterns that drew me to it over on flickr, so many pretty blouses and tunics. The diagrams are so good that if you've made a top before, you shouldn't have too much of a problem using one of the patterns from this book, especially as Kate includes a very handy exhaustive list of translated terms from the patterns with your order.

So far, I have a top with a raw neckline and only one sleeve, but I hope to have a finished blouse to show tomorrow.
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