Cancun boxy lace top

Cancun boxy lace top

Finally, a garment that was both a joy to make and a joy to wear! It’s really the pinnacle for every maker, and an especially happy moment for me right now since I seem unable to sew anything wearable at the moment.

IMG_6566

The pattern is the Cancun Boxy Lace Top by Erin Kate Archer, it’s a freebie. I love loose lacy stitches and I see open knits a lot at the moment, but there are very few knitting patterns around for anything like this.

IMG_6505

The top is basically two rectangles knitted separately and then sewn at the shoulder and side seams.

IMG_6504

I was initially nervous about this voluminous shape. Really what suits my figure is wide pants and a fitted top, rather than skinny jeans and a loose top. But it’s exhausting maintaining anti-fashion (eg. there’s very little selection in tall, plus, curvy fit jeans), so here I am wearing a somewhat current shape. It’s actually no too bad.

IMG_6580

The fabric is really soft and drapy, which helps the volume look right. It doesn’t look nearly as much like a tent as I feared.

IMG_6586

(Photos by my 8 year old, after school, in the rain. Top quality head cut off shot here.)

This top was planned as a summer top, to be worn with a singlet top underneath, but I think it works ok with long sleeves in winter too. The yarn is Bendigo Wollen Mill 8ply cotton, in the colour parchment, which I bought years ago when I first learned to knit, but the cardigan I envisioned never happened.

IMG_6506

I really enjoyed knitting this pattern. I always enjoy knitting yarn loosely on larger needles, and I enjoyed the variety of easy lace stitches. This pattern is pretty much an easy lace sampler, and would be a good beginner project. It worked up very quickly.

I made a few modifications to the pattern, adding length by adding more segments, and rather than tinking back a mistake in the middle solid mesh stitch segment I just moved the next pattern row over so it looks like an intention line of three diagonal eyelets. The pattern has a few minor errors, details are on my Ravelry page. This pattern has only one size, and I’m wearing it with 10-11″ of positive ease.

I like this so much I’m thinking of knitting it again in a fingering weight, or maybe a rayon or more slippery yarn. There are just so few lacy top or cardigan patterns out there. Can anyone recommend something similar to this?

IMG_6527

 

 

A customfit cardigan

A customfit cardigan

IMG_0145

I have just finished my second Customfit handknit! I’m really pleased with it. It took me 5 months and one day, with a few other small projects interspersed, because knitting such a large project on one hit is a bit taxing.

IMG_0114

The yarn is Bendigo Woollen Mills Alpaca in the color Tosca. It is 100% alpaca and at AU$16/200g it is really a quality yarn at an affordable price. I bought the yarn in November 2010 at the Mill factory shop when I was there with my good friend Sarah and her Mum. Sarah lives in beautiful alpaca jumpers (sweaters) that her mother knits her, mostly all-over patterned Arans, and I wanted to knit a bit of that snuggliness for myself.

IMG_6333

You can see that this is a heathered shade, and there is the occasional fleck of really bright blue. There are a few longer guard hairs in this yarn, it is not as soft as some other super-soft 100% alpaca yarns, and can be a wee bit prickly around my neck. But is has a bit more body and hopefully more durability than a baby alpaca yarn, I guess I’ll see.

IMG_6326

It does have some bloom and fills in the yarn over holes in the lace pattern a bit. That’s ok with me.

This pattern is Foyle’s cardigan and was custom generated to my measurements. Overall I am pretty happy with the fit, at least compared to my last unwearable cardigan. My back piece ended up longer than the fronts, probably due to an inconsistent row gauge on my behalf. I’d say the front length is spot on perfect for me, I could wear this with jeans and not feel that I had an annoying gap. The sleeve length is pretty good too, I choose 19″ from underarm to cuff, and I’d now say that is a minimum length for me. It is certainly not a generous over-long sleeve, when I move around the cuffs pull up.

IMG_0132

It’s hard to tell from these photos, but there is really a lot of positive ease through the body, too much. If I was sewing this I would take in the side seams by an inch on each side. It is certainly a relaxed fit, and it looks very sloppy with anything other than jeans or a fitted skirt. That said, I really do like the way that the back body fits into my waist and is not baggy there. This is from the back waist darts. There is no waist shaping on the fronts.

IMG_6335

Check the shaping! That’s 13 decreases between hip and waist and only 2 increases between waist and bust. This is probably a fair reflection of my bottom-heavy shape.

So customfit gives you choices about the increases and decreases that you use. You can see how my choice of decreases that sloped towards the shoulder gives this line of stitches along the neckline. I wasn’t sure how this would look, but I think it worked out ok, even though the left and right sides look different.

IMG_6321

Overall I am really pleased with this cardigan. Though I do have slight concerns that it is a bit warm for indoor wear, which is a bit of a pity. Outdoors you really need a waterproof coat here in winter, so if it’s too hot for under a coat or indoors then it won’t get a lot of wear. I’ll guess I’ll see. I am very happy that I finished it in time to wear it this winter though.

After I wore this cardigan for an afternoon I realized that I had inadvertently made myself a garment that was very similar to a hand-knit cardigan that my beloved maternal grandmother used to wear. It was a green V-neck cardigan with patterned fronts and plain sleeves and back. I guess that it was knit in 8ply/dk wool. I think that my paternal grandmother may have knit it, and when cleaning out her unit after she moved into residential care it was left behind, where it came to us, and then on to my maternal Grandma. I remember her wearing it quite frequently, often with ribbed wrist cuffs to extend the sleeve length. After she died I claimed it and wore it quite a lot including taking it backpacking around Europe. The sleeves and body were too short and eventually it was purged from my wardrobe. I really did love it though – being a lover of hand knits way before I learned to knit myself. This cardigan is very similar and I don’t even realise it until I was finished.

2016 reflections

2016 reflections

I’m sitting here with coffee and sourdough toast, and it’s 6am on the first of January – I guess it’s time for reflections. After 2014’s year of massive change (having a third baby, moving across the world), I consider 2015 a year of consolidation. In 2015 Althea became much happier at school and has some lovely friends, Julian started at a new, friendly co-op preschool, and Tessa turned into a talking, walking toddler. My Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is finally under control and stable, and I guess I’ve settled into, and accepted, my role as a stay at home parent of three children at this time.

IMG_5806

We managed to get our entire family able to bike ride together – Althea on her own bike with gears and the younger two in a trailer, which is really, really heavy to pull especially since it’s so hilly here, but for someone who used to love her daily cycle commute, being able to take a family Sunday morning bike ride is a big achievement.

IMG_2837

I managed to get into a great lap swimming routine, two evening a week, then it fell apart. I joined a great choir, then it fell apart. That’s ok. I’m starting with a new choir next week, and I’m going to try to set up a home yoga routine, starting with a 30 day yoga camp.

My sewing mojo just disappeared this year, but my knitting mojo fired, probably partly because of my awesome Sunday knitting group. Such an interesting group of women – I’m so lucky to have found them. I did manage to sew a few things including a pieced duvet cover for Althea’s birthday in September. Since Santa brought me an automatic buttonhole foot for Christmas it might actually get it’s button closures some time soon.

IMG_4369

This dress/skirt for Althea is my favorite piece of sewn clothing for the year.

IMG_0027

This skirt is one of the few useful bits of clothing I made for myself this year. I made a lot of duds.

IMG_0626

I made my first Customfit sweater this year which I am very, very happy with. It’s a bit short but is still a great fit improvement on every other sweater I’ve ever knit. I have almost finished my second Customfit, it’s an alpaca Foyle’s cardigan. I am so determined to have it finished while winter is still in full swing – it’s going to be warm.

A wearable sweater – huzzah!

IMG_3788

I’m pretty proud of this Welcome to the Flock set I made for Tessa.

IMG_5309

Baa-able hat for Julian

IMG_5155

The lace required a lot of concentration but I’m so proud of this alpaca Rosewater hat.

IMG_5928

We had three lots of Australian visitors in 2015, my mother-in-law in March, my dear friend in August and my sisters in December. This was just so wonderful and I’m so grateful that they all gave up so my of their time and money to cross the vast Pacific Ocean to see us.

The beautiful rose garden in Portland, Oregon, that I visited with my friend Kate.

IMG_3939

I also survived the three month summer school vacation which was, well, pretty challenging. Our house was very hot, with no cooling and we had quite a few nights when it was too hot to sleep. Three months of being the sole source of entertainment for three children was tough, even with a few activities (holiday programs/day camps) thrown in. I also eventually calmed down when taking taking my three little drowning hazards swimming in the lake. We only took a two day/one night weekend away to Mt Rainier. Next summer we’ll definitely try for more.

IMG_3129

I’m looking forward to 2016. We are taking out first trip back to Australia since we moved here, and it’s going to be timed for sunshine and Womadelaide! It’s going to be bittersweet seeing all our dear friends again and then leaving though. Hopefully summer will be less exhausting.  Julian is starting school in September and Althea is changing schools. I’m going to try Tessa out with a few hours of preschool. Hopefully full nights of sleep will materialize. I’m not going to make crafting goals, as that is too much pressure for me. Crafting fits around the other non-negoitatable things in my life. I make things as the mood takes me, catching the sparks of joy.

A baby in January, a toddler in December 2015.

IMG_9041 IMG_5529

Wishing you all the very best in 2016. Another year, another adventure.

IMG_3872

Simple stripes quilt top

Simple stripes quilt top

So having realized how long it will take me to get a queen size quilt’s worth of hand stitched stars, I decided to branch out into quilting for real.

IMG_3014 IMG_3015A

A really long way to go…. I expect to work on this on and off over a few years.

Well, not real quilting exactly – doona/duvet/comforter covers. The reason is that I have been given several beautiful quilts already, a gorgeous green queen bed one as a wedding gift, and my aunt has made my kids many gorgeous quilts including Althea’s flower fairies one that is in her room now. However, Althea would like to use a duvet/doona/quilt instead on blankets so I thought that some nice colorful doona covers would be a good birthday gift.

IMG_3021

Being a complete beginner I decided on precut jelly rolls as an affordable way to get a gradient of colours and a manageable place to start.

The pattern I’m using as inspiration is the Line Art Quilt or Skinny Strips Quilt. The Skinny Strips quilt free pattern is a starting point, but the size is too small for a standard single/twin duvet cover and I did a few things differently.

Here’s what I’ve done so far:

Ingredients – Artisan Batiks Roll up (40 strips each 2.5″ wide and actually not all exactly 44″ long), Kona Solids Jelly Roll in grey (40 2.5″x 42″ strips), Big spool of grey cotton thread.

1. I taped out my desired duvet cover size on the floor. I was working with 86″ x 64″ as I was originally planning to sew the top onto a plain Ikea duvet cover and that is the size that they are.

IMG_3022

2. I played with arranging the strips in a pleasing sequence. Annoyingly I found that I had to include all 40 strips to get my desired length. I would have liked to exclude the plain black strips. Also, the roll contained different numbers of each color, some had 2 others 3 so I played with the arrangement until I was happy.

IMG_3032

3. I labelled all the strips in numerical order.

IMG_3034

4. I cut each solid grey strip in half down the middle, making two shorter 2.5″ wide strips.

IMG_3077

5. I carefully pinned a grey strip to both ends of a colored strip, right sides together, and sewed a 1/4″ seam, then pressed the seam towards the coloured strip.

IMG_3080

Actually I did this in batches of three which was faster.

IMG_3081

6. After all the grey-colour-grey long length strips were completed I laid them all back on the floor in numerical order and arranged the offset stack design so I was happy with it. This picture shows only half the strips completed. When all were arranged they were longer than the taped duvet size because of all the seam allowances along the length of the strips.

IMG_3036

7.  I then used my quilting ruler to draw a line along the edge of the taped duvet size on the floor using a wash away pen.

IMG_3098IMG_3100

8. Using scissors I then cut off the strips 2″ past the blue lines. (1″ seam allowance and 1″ insurance in case I decided to make the cover slighter wider. I have found sites saying that a standard twin duvet is actually 86″ by 66″).

IMG_3101

9. I then batched the strips up in groups of five, ready to sew.

IMG_3103

10. To sew the strips together, I matched the blue lines at each end of the strip and pinned them right sides together, then sewed a 1/4″ seam and pressed the seam allowances up. I sewed strip 1 to 2, then 2 to 3, 3 to 4, 4 to 5. Then I sewed the next 5, then joined groups of 10.

IMG_3119

11. Finally I joined my groups of 10 strips, making 40 joined strips.

IMG_3314

12. As you can see fro the picture above the top was not quite long enough, so I sewed some of the longer pieces of grey strips together and added them to the top and bottom of the top, framing the colored strips.

IMG_3319

13. Done! Here it is!

IMG_3329

IMG_3326

It turns out the a US twin quilt it quite a bit bigger than an Australian single size, here is an Australian single doona cover laid over the finished top.

IMG_3316

We were planning on buying her a new duvet/doona/quilt/comforter anyway (seriously most annoying Australia/UK/US word divergence ever), but sadly I won’t be able to use these covers on the quilt we already have.

I’m really happy with how this turned out and am now working on a second jelly roll pieced top to turn into a second duvet cover. I’m using two jelly rolls – a rainbow of solids and plain white.

Now I just have to turn this into a duvet cover! I have to admit that I am a bit nervous about this part. I found a few online tutorials to get ideas, but am really not sure whether to double layer the top to enclose all the raw edges. Finishing all the tiny 1/4″ seams would be a total pain – but double layering the top and sewing the two layers together before attaching a bottom layer would also be a pain and make the whole thing a bit heavy. At the moment I’m leaning towards leaving them raw and unenclosed (they’ll be on the inside of the duvet cover of course – not visible when in use) and just hoping the fraying doesn’t reduce the life of the cover. I’m also on the fence about adding piping to the edges – that would be a lot of work too, and I’ve never made or used piping before, on the other hand I’m sure it would give a lovely finish.

If you have any experience or opinions on hand made duvet covers I’d love hear it!

Rayon floral dress and simple skirts

Rayon floral dress and simple skirts

I’m not loving sewing clothes for myself right now, but as this blog is my creative journal I’m going to put this out there. Here’s McCalls 6073. I don’t like it very much.

IMG_2431 IMG_2440

The top is a very stretchy rayon knit, and the skirt is a rayon challis. There is elastic in the midriff which is really needed, as the skirt pulls it down. I made a size 20 top grading to a 22 at the waist and a 24 skirt with 2″ extra length. I might add that my measurements are close to a 24 in the bust and it’s still too big, good old Big 4 sizing….

IMG_2365IMG_2364

The thin knit is a bit of a PITA to get a nice finish on, to be frank.

IMG_2356IMG_2362

IMG_2360IMG_2354

I actually shortened this dress to knee length and then reused the fabric to make a simple no-pattern pull on skirt.

IMG_2869 IMG_2870

The waistband is a much stronger and more stable cotton-lycra knit. I don’t make it quite tight enough but I still wear this skirt all the time.

I also made a simple shirred waist light denim skirt that I also wear multiple times a week.

IMG_3110

The four year old photographer cut off my head, sorry folks.

IMG_2860 IMG_2862

IMG_2861 IMG_2864

It is also a bit loose in the waist but I couldn’t make it any narrower and still be able to walk without restriction. The shirring was time consuming but it’s very comfortable.

IMG_2867

Which just goes to show that quick and easy is sometimes better than ambitious when it comes to sewing.

Quilted hexie pouch

Quilted hexie pouch

Here’s my first quilted project! It’s a small pouch made with my 1″ english paper pieced hexagons.

IMG_2896

The pattern is from Quilting on the Go by Jessica Alexandrakis.

IMG_2898

I spray basted the hexie top to the low loft polyester batting and backing fabric. I then quilted using a straight line pattern using my walking foot on my machine.

IMG_2890

I bound the edges using prepackaged double fold bias binding, machine sewn on one side and invisibly hand sewn on the other. It has a velcro closure.

IMG_2893

Once the hexies were done putting the pouch together did not take very long. I’m pretty happy with it!

IMG_2891

I have been reading various quilting books from the library and have found most of them, well, boring and not to my taste. I’ve finally found a quilting book that is intelligent, absorbing and inspiring. It has lots of interviews and gives a history of modern quilting. It is Quilting with a Modern Slant by Rachel May. I’d highly recommend seeing if your library has it.

English Paper Piecing

English Paper Piecing

So it seems I have a new passion – English Paper Piecing – which is hand sewn patch work, a very old and traditional quilting method.  I took a two evening class at Stitches Seattle, which I would highly recommend. The instructor was lovely and knowledgable, and the class limited to five participants. It will be running again in September most likely, if you’d like to try it. I do like learning new techniques at home on my own, but it was also nice to get a jump start on the skills I needed, and now I can take it from here. This is the coaster that I made during class.

IMG_2499 IMG_2500

The hexagons on their own looked like this.

IMG_2402

The basic method (or at least what I’m doing) is this:

IMG_2743

1) Get some paper shapes, precut ones are fast and cheap but you could cut your own. Cut out some fabric, slightly bigger than the shapes, I’m using a roughly 1/2″ seam allowance but it doesn’t need to be very accurate.

IMG_2735

2) Pin the paper shape to the fabric and baste it on on the reverse side. You end up with a stack of fabric covered shapes like these.

IMG_2741

3) Whip stitch the seams by hand.

Of course that is a simplification but that is the basic idea. You would then slip out the paper shapes and treat your newly made patchwork top as you would any other quilt top – adding batting, backing, quilting stitches and binding.

IMG_2460

IMG_2733

This is the front and reverse of the 1″ hexagon fabric that I made. Once I finish it I’m planning to make it into a little quilted pouch for holding sewing supplies. The project is in this EPP book that I borrowed from the library:

IMG_2736

I have borrowed some other books but they are not to my taste at all, and seem focussed on creating small EPP blocks to be appliquéd to a larger quilt, rather than EPP as a hand sewn top in it’s own right – and, they are dated and ugly. This book makes  EPP seem cool, the other books don’t. It does seem that hand sewn quilts and English Paper Piecing is a very small, niche corner of the quilting world. I cannot find a local EPP meet up group for example.

IMG_2398

My favorite thing about EPP is that it is sociable. It can be done sitting in the living room with my husband of an evening, not by myself down in my basement sewing room. All i need can fit in this little box on the shelf, and I can take my project to knitting group if my knitting mojo is failing, as it is at the moment.

So I have embarked on making my first quilt, EPP style. It is coloured stars on a white background using 2″ 60 degree diamonds. I tried a few different sizes of diamonds but did’t want to go too small as I’m aiming for queen bed size. I suspect I will work on this project on and off over a year or two – we’ll see how the enthusiasm flows.

IMG_2511

These are the fabrics I chose, from Gossypium Quilts in Issaquah. Cool name for a quilt shop huh? Gossypium is the cotton genus. They were picked very, very quickly, a few random fat quarters and half yards while my three children explored the shop… (warning – your pram/stroller will not fit down any of the very narrow isles in this shop).

IMG_2506

Here’s my cut and pinned shapes and my first star block.

IMG_2739

And here’s where I’m up to now. I’m rather pleased with my fussy cutting I have to say. So this is where my evenings are going right now, often with an audiobook or reruns of Buffy!