Sunday, May 24, 2009

The weather made me do it.


I haven't been spending much time with my sewing machine lately, mainly because the evenings have been so cold and it's depressing sitting in the cold dining room (where my sewing machine is) when the rest of the family is in front of the fire in the lounge. I can never go all that long without crafting something, though, so I've picked up the needles again, and have rediscovered my knitting groove. I also went to Devonport last week and visited the amazing Wild & Woolly yarns and might just have bought myself a few little this beautiful moss-green Sublime.
I actually started knitting this in the hope that it would fit Mr 2 - the pattern is a modified version of Elizabeth Zimmerman's "Baby sweater on two needles" from Knitter's Almanac, and calls for 4 ply. I used 8 ply, 4 mm needles, stocking stitch instead of the gull lace pattern, and a very unscientific guess that it would turn out "big enough"....ahem. Unfortunately, this is not going to be the case, but nevermind. I think it's coming out about 6-9 month size, so I'll just have to put it away into the new baby present box just in case anyone I know has a new little person to put in it.

If I had the money, I'd knit everything in this yarn. It's so soft and springy and has the most beautiful sheen. It's also really interesting how the stitch pattern ends up looking like one straight (vertical) line and one angling one in stocking stitch - I think I remember reading something about this on once and it was something to do with the way the yarn was plied, from memory.

Anyway, I've got a few sewing projects in the wings but for the moment I'm loving knitting this mindless stocking stitch with my feet in front of the fire. I can't think of much better to do on a cold Friday night, though I hate to think what my 21 year old self would have to say about my party-animal 32 year old self. Hmm....

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Balls for little people


In a perfect world, my kids' rooms would be filled with beautiful, handcrafted toys made out of natural materials. I love, in theory, the idea that the simpler the toy, the more creatively little people play with it. Unfortunately, the exasperating reality is that our house is well and truly overrun with plastic crap. It breeds. It is my nemesis.

Last week I went to a Playcentre workshop on felting, and learned how to do basic wet felting, and a little bit of needle felting - and, because I clearly need a new hobby (sarcasm intended) I've become hooked. It's so very, very satisfying, squishing a soft ball of wool into a felted ball. It's messy, it's squelchy, it's fibre and colour and warm water all rolled into one.
So, in the spirit of handmade-natural-gifty-goodness, I made these balls for a little friend who has just turned one. I needle-felted the spots and spiral onto them before wet-felting them; the darker one is wrapped with Tekapo summertime yarn (which is sort of felted into the ball.)

We've done this on session at Playcentre with some of the older kids, and it worked really well as an activity...I tried it at home too and it wasn't so successful. Just in case you were feeling similarly inclined I just thought I'd let you know that it's quite possible for balls made by kids to end up looking a little scraggly...maybe just a little like something the cat spewed up. Just sayin'.

I got my felting wool from here, and similar instructions to those I received at the workshop can be found here.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Like wrestling eels.




It's like wrestling eels, trying to get a four year old to stand still and be biddable for a photo. Note the surly "this is booooring Mum" expression. These were the best I could get, but at's done.
I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that I'm almost as relieved this project is over as I was when I finished my thesis.

I'm actually really pleased with how this turned out. It was heaps more work than I had initially signed up for, but I learned a lot doing it - how to set in a sleeve; how interfacing makes the fabric far easier to control in a coat (next time I'll fuse the whole lot rather than just the edges); how sewing on leather strapping and toggles is not something I ever want to do again. Hey, I also learned that my machine came with an edgestitching foot - I've had it 10 years and never noticed. I've even been wondering about buying one. Guess it pays to read the manual, huh?

I'm slightly disappointed with the way the toggles and loops hang - I used the exact measurements Burda recommended for the cord, but I think they need to be shorter to close the jacket fully and not droop. I used leather strapping for the loops, which is perhaps a bit stiff, but I wanted to funk up the jacket a bit - while the fabric is beautiful, in combination with the red satin lining it was all starting to look a bit serious and mature for a four year old boy who still can't quite put his own socks on. I covered the ends of the loops with leather tabs - the pattern recommends using the fabric, but since the recommended fabric is a fleece-backed stuff that is probably non-fraying, I decided that leather would be better.
Because of the loop/toggle issue, I ended up handsewing a little metal snap at the neck edge to counteract the gaping at the front.

The sleeve hems are huge, in the hope that I'll be able to let them down in a few years to get a bit more wear out of the jacket.

Anyway, he likes it, and it's been worn...which, given the great fickleness of children, is a grand achievement in our house.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A little ignorance goes a long way.


When I was at high school, one of the teachers had a sticker on her office door that said "a little ignorance goes a long way". For some reason the saying has always appealed to me.

I think it relates pretty well to sewing, too. I've been sewing clothes for myself since I was about 11, but in the absence of any close family members who sew, I pretty much taught myself through making a whole lot of mistakes. Lots and lots of mistakes, including old chestnuts like sewing the crotch of a pair of pants together "what? Surely it's quicker if I just fold the fronts and backs of both legs together and sew it in one pass!" Yeah. I learned that one the hard way. Along the years there have been many more, of course: corduroy trousers cut out not according to the nap layout; little satin miniskirts with unfinished edges fraying into oblivion; straps that are wider on one side than the other. And notches? Who needs 'em? Most of the time I got myself into trouble by thinking that I was cleverer than the pattern instructions, and then found out that there was a logical reason for doing things the right way.

Anyway, finally I've come to a situation where the instructions are not in fact the best way to do things. Yussss. After battling with the set-in sleeves of Mr 4's duffel coat lining, I went to visit Mary Anna for a little tutorial on how to set in sleeves the right way - and Oh. My. Goodness. Why, oh why, don't the pattern instructions tell you to do it this way? It makes so much sense, and took about half the time that all the faffing around with gathers did, and - this is the most important part - They look really good!
Mary Anna showed me how to do one sleeve, while my children ran amok in her living room, then I went home and did the other sleeve that night. I'm a total convert, and am looking forward to setting in sleeves with confidence from now on. At least that little bit of ignorance in my sewing vocabulary has now been banished....although I'm sure there are plenty more.

So. The coat. We're nearly there. I've been trying to figure out how to bag the lining, but I think (and correct me if I'm wrong) the fact that the pattern doesn't have a separate facing, means that I can't do it the traditional way. I've spent ages trying to figure out the instructions over at Threads but my sleep-deprived brain can't quite comprehend them. I've sewn the lining to the front edges, right around the hood, so just need to finish the sleeve and body hems and attach the toggles and I'll have it done, and not a minute too soon. I'm looking forward to sewing for myself again, that's for sure.

So...tell me...When has ignorance got the better of you? What have been your worst sewing stuff-ups?