Knitting all the things

Knitting all the things

Since I haven’t felt like blogging much lately but have felt like knitting, I have a lot of things to post about. I feel like blogging is something that I can only do when my energy and enthusiasm is high. Sewing clothes for myself requires a lot of mental and emotional energy too. But knitting, knitting is comforting and easy most of the time, so I do that when my energy is low.

First up, here is a lovely big triangular scarf/shawl. This yarn was a gift from my lovely friend Kate who dyed the yarn herself! I love the subtle color gradations that she achieved. The yarn is 100% Australian merino in a 8ply/dk weight. The pattern is Herald by Janina Kallio. I do love her designs, they are lacy but modern and asymmetric which really appeals to me. This pattern is designed for 4ply/fingering yarn on 4.0mm needles so I upsized to 5.5mm which gave me the right texture and drape with the heavier yarn.

It makes a very snuggly, large scarf and I just love it.

Next up is a scarf that took 5.5 years to finish. I cast this on on Boxing Day 2010 when I was away at the beach with my extended family and I was a beginner knitter looking for a project to learn how to do yarn overs.

The pattern is a free one, Flame Chevron Scarf. It was really much more complicated than I needed at the time but it did the job of giving me good yarn over practice.The yarn is Bella Baby Layette a Spotlight yarn which is 80% bamboo and 20% wool. It’s not anything I’d choose these days much to does have a nice silky feel around my neck that is good for warmer weather.

Here’s a little pattern free hat that I made to knit up the one skein of handspun art yarn that I purchased at KnitFit last year.

I did a rolled brim, stockinette and decreased the crown evenly, nothing fancy. I swatched and then reused the swatch yarn, then basically knit the whole thing twice after my first attempt was wider than it needed to be but not deep enough. Such is life when you make up the pattern on the fly. I had only just enough yarn to get this hat out, with only a few inches left at the end.

I feel that is hat is a bit of a statement. A statement that says ‘I’m a fiber artist, and I don’t give a fig about fashion’. God knows that weird little purple sheep locks sticking out of your hat is not fashionable, but I absolutely adore this hat anyway, and will definitely wear it come winter.

And to finish off, here’s a little dress that I knocked together for Althea. The printed cotton fabric was a gift from my mother in law. Althea was going to a Girl Scout day camp where they have camp names, and she waned to be called Koala. So we made this dress up – a koala dress for Koala.

 

I traced the bodice pattern off a Hanna Andersson dress that she owns and the skirt is simply the whole width of the fabric on the front and back, and cut in half lengthwise. I would have liked to do some straightening and matching of the koala print but I didn’t have the fabric to spare – it is only just long enough using all the fabric. The sewing quality if this is not terrific, but Althea helped and sewed a few of the seams and it was ready in time, which was important to her.

So that’s what I’ve been up to lately!

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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.

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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….

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

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

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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.

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

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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.

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

Rayon challis and shirring

Rayon challis and shirring

So I’m a bit obsessed with both rayon challis and shirring at the moment. Rayon challis is just the most lovely, draped summer fabric, and I’m beginning to think that shirring might be the answer to my woven bodice and stiff waistband issues. I started with experimenting with shirring and ended up making Tessa a pattern-free shirred dress!

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I modelled the size of a RTW dress that fit her and added some straps – super easy and I think it turned out pretty cute.

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She’s really running, climbing and exploring so dresses are a bit more practical now she’s off her knees nearly all of the time. I preached the fabric but the dress has shrunk up lengthwise since I made it – rayon challis does have a habit of doing this.

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I’ve got more challis in the works – I think all the girls will be wearing lots of it this summer.

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Owl dress for Althea

I’m so happy to have snatched the time to post this – Tessa is actually asleep in the bassinet!!! not on me!! Actually this dress for Althea was sewed entirely in Tessa’s second week of life. Then on day 12 she woke up and, well, I’ve had almost no time to sew since then.

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The pattern is Farbemix Muriel in size 134/140. It is a smidge big as Althea is about 134cm, but I am happy with that as it should last her a while.

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I have made this dress for her many times before, it is one of my favourite patterns, and seems to work well from toddlers to older girls. I used bias tape to finish the neckline and arm holes, and did a centred back zip. The fabric was denim from the stash, left over from a skirt I made myself I think. Althea’s getting so tall that it’s hard to get dresses out of remnants for her any more.

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The owl appliqué is an iron-on transfer from Spotlight, and we chose coordinating ricrac and ribbon. I am quite pleased with the effect, and am super glad that my big six year old is not past such decorative styles yet!

 

Kaffe Fassett summer dress

My daughter Althea was given a gorgeous dress for her sixth birth last September. She absolutely loved it. It was however a very small size 9 (I had worded up the gift givers on size) and proceeded to shrink several more sizes in the wash. She squeezed herself into it for quite a while but I eventually convinced her to gift it to her petite five year old friend, whose Mum and I agreed that the dress was about a size 6. In compensation for having lost her favourite dress I decided to make her a new summer dress.

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I was after a very simple pattern (I’m pretty tired and I wanted to give it to her soon) and this Ottobre dress 3/2013-16 Flower Hexagon (sizes 92-146) fit the bill. I made size 134 – Althea is currently 133cm tall and you can see it is a loose and roomy style. I lengthened the skirt by 1cm as I thought the modelled picture looked a bit short and omitted the pockets.

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The back ribbon tie is a nice detail and the binding for the back slit was the only slightly time consuming detail. I like that this dress has short sleeves. There are not many older girls dress styles that are not strappy and it’s so annoying to have to ask Althea to wear a Tshirt under her dress on a hot day  for sunsmart compliance (bare shoulders is sunburn waiting to happen).

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The fabric was from the box of fabric that I ordered from fabric.com to celebrate finishing my PhD thesis and to be frank I was always disappointed with it. It is a rayon even-weave woven with a Kaffe Fassett design. The colours are more fluorescent that I expected and it has a real 80s vibe that I hate. I was never able to use this fabric for myself but Althea doesn’t seem to mind it. (If you happen to like it fabric.com has that design printed on cotton in stock – it’s called Millefiore Blue).

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In fact, this whole dress is not my favourite make really. The drop waisted and style and the bright print look really 80s, and not in a good way (well IMHO there is no good way). Anyway, the dress is cool for the current horrifically hot weather and fits well. The fabric is even not too bad at a distance 😉  Althea likes it so I guess that’s a win!

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My first lined jacket, speedy girl dress and conquering the blind hem foot

Well I can’t say I expected my first lined jacket to be in size 56cm (about a 000 I guess) but it turns out that it is!

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The pattern is Pikku Lapanen, from Ottobre 4/2012 – number 6. It’s a lovely little pattern designed for sweatshirt knit with a jersey lining – I used velour for the outer and cotton-lycra jersey from the inside. The velour is cotton rich and I hand dyed it teal many years ago and used it to make myself a Farbenmix Beala hoodie (Flicker set here!)

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The instructions for joining the lining and the body sleeves required a bit of thinking over, but the technique worked and produced a lovely finish with no exposed seams.

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The hood seams sewn last and then the edges are bound together using a ribbing strip. I was actually very disappointed with the ribbing trim finish – the first time that Ottobre instructions and techniques have not yielded good results! I wish I had used fold over elastic instead.

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The inside of the ribbing looks awful. The 3.5cm width of the strip was just not enough for a 1cm seam, and even though I trimmed the edges down I had to do a second row of topstitching to catch all the missed bits. I would advise using a 4.5cm wide strip of ribbing if anyone wants to make this jacket, or a completely different finish altogether. The velour knit was also a pain to work with as it’s a napped fabric and creeps and shifts, but the end result feels lovely and soft.

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Here’s the complete size 56 baby outfit!

I started on the next baby outfit in a size 62 (maybe 00) as I’m having fear that my newborn could outgrow the previous outfit in a few weeks – my friend just had a 55cm long newborn. I started with a sweater-knit dress.

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The pattern is Ottobre 3/2103 – 1. Speedy girl (sizes 56-92cm). It is designed for jersey knits but I think it works ok in the heavier fleecy knit I used here. This fabric is a remnant from the dress I made Althea for her fifth birthday (post all about that), and is Hilco Elisabet. I had very little left and had to introduce “design lines” to the back panel to fit the shape of the fabric I had. It is not terribly noticeable in my opinion.

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The neck and armhole edges are gathered with clear elastic that is then encased in the ribbing binding (I used 4.5cm wide strips rather than the 3.5cm advised). This makes for a very bulky bound finish. It is also applied in the flat not the round and you can see how thick the seam is – I had to hand sew the seam allowance down by hand as I couldn’t get that many layers under the presser foot of my machine!

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I used a twin needle for the hem. I am very pleased with this little dress and it just goes to show how a beautiful fabric and a simple pattern can give a great result.

My other great achievement this week has been that I have finally conquered the blind hem foot on my machine! School has just gone back for the year and I was faced with the very tedious task of letting down the hem on Althea’s school dresses.

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It is really not that complicated but I had attempted it a few times before and given up.

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I added a wide bias binding strip to the dresses to create a false hem, then used the blind stitch foot with a multi-step zig-zig stitch. Two zig-zags miss the front fabric and the third catches it – that’s why you need the guide on the foot as it must be accurate. You then turn and flatten the hem which pulls the end of the third zig-zag into a long vertical stitch. It needs to be ironed out.

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The end result is certainly good enough for a school dress, and very strong. I’m not sure that it would be very invisible on a plain fabric, as the vertical stitches are much bigger than those I’d take hand sewing the hem. However it certainly got a boring chore done much faster than hand sewing and now I feel much more willing to try this hem out on different fabrics.

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Only eight weeks (approximately of course) to go! I wonder what else I can add to the stack of baby clothes in that time?

Drop-waisted girls dresses

I’m feeling very uninspired to sew lately. Probably because of the two nasty time-consuming failures hanging around my sewing space (looking at you Colette Hawthorn and Cake Hummingbird), so I decided that a big tidy up was in order. In sorting through and filing all my traced out pattern pieces I found a few things that I had cut out but not sewn up – including this lovely Ottobre dress for my daughter.

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I bought the printed corduroy fabric quite a few winters ago from Rathdowne Fabrics and the cut out the pattern – Ottobre 03/2011-18 Tropical blend  dress – last winter. Thank goodness that I cut a generous size 128, she is now about 130cm tall and apart from being a bit short, the fit is perfect. In fact I’d say that the length (almost mid-thigh, the pictures don’t show it well) is very similar to the pattern pictures.

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I added thick bias binding to create a false hem to get all possible length out of the cut pieces I had. I used a brown cotton twill for the facings and birch decorative snaps at the shoulders. The pattern has flat piping trim but I left that off as it wouldn’t add much in this print.

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Althea was very pleased with the dress and given how variable the spring weather has been lately I imagine that she will get some wear out of it before summer.

I then needed a quick birthday present for a 6th birthday party, and so whipped up a summer version of this dress.

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Althea’s friend is thankfully a similar height and build to Althea so I made the 128 again. I added 2cm length to the skirt, and it ended up just above knee length on her friend. The friend seemed very pleased with it and put it on and ran around in it at the end of the party – which thankfully was a lovely warm, sunny day.

This was a great pattern and some very satisfying sewing. Althea now wants a summer version for herself but I’m not making any promises!