Tuesday 29 January 2013

My first foray into quilting

At the beginning of the year, my soon-to-be eleven year old son Louis put in a request for a birthday present - he wanted a quilt. His birthday is at the end of January so I was just a tiny bit panic stricken. Despite the panic, I was absolutely over the moon that he'd asked me to make him something. There's not much scope to make things for a boy of his age and let's face it, in a couple of years, he'll be too embarrassed to even walk down the street with me. Even though the thought of that makes my heart hurt, I do know what teenage boys are like, so I leapt at the chance of making him something before he gets too old.   

I'll be totally honest, quilting has never appealing to me. My natural laziness and impatience are probably not great starting points for quilt making, but I decided to jump in and do the best job I could for Louis. Lack of time (I had about four weeks to make it), and lack of skills, meant I had to keep to the following criteria: 

- A simple design - squares rather than triangles or hexagons
- No more than six different fabrics used
- Minimal hand stitching

Louis and I chose the fabrics together, using the red and black colour scheme that he wanted. I bought a pre-cut FQ bundle of black fabrics (polka dots, hexagons and chevrons) from M is for Make, along with half a metre of red chevrons and half a metre of a red solid. For the backing, I used dottie red quilt backing, also from M is for Make. 

The design is a direct steal from Miss P's lovely baby quilt that she made about 18 months ago.  I remember thinking at the time that if I ever made a quilt, I'd want to use the same design. 

Once I had my fabric, I asked Kate at M is for Make for help! She was brilliant and pointed me in the direction of I'm a Ginger Monkey - a quilting blog with some great advice and tutorials for all things quilt related. I used her Super Simple Patchwork Square Quilt tutorial and made just a few amendments. My squares were 5 inches and my finished quilt was also slightly smaller: eight squares wide by 12 squares long, resulting in a smallish quilt of roughly 40 x 60 inches. What I didn't realise was that making the patchwork quilt top was the fun, relatively easy bit... 

Cutting out the squares took an afternoon, then sewing the squares into rows and sewing the rows together took another afternoon. It was preparing the batting, quilt top and quilt backing sandwich that took ages. I seem to have spent hours on my hands and knees, smoothing all the layers down and safety pinning them together. God, talk about tedious. 

I'm glad I took Portia's advice and persisted with basting the layers together with safety pins - I'd have been gutted if the quilting had gone cock-eyed after all that hard work.

For the actual quilting, I was going to use Portia's genius masking tape method, which came via the Martha Stewart blog. But I discovered I'm totally cack-handed when armed with a roll of masking tape, I could barely unroll it in a straight line. I ended up ruling diagonal chalk lines instead, which seemed to work fine. Quilting took a full morning, perhaps three or four hours, and I even remembered to use white thread for the top and red for the underside!

The black polka dot bias binding was from my stash and the quilting gods were obviously keeping an eye on me that day as I had just enough to bind the quilt with about two or three inches to spare. Talk about lucky. I know the traditional method is to machine one side of the binding, then hand stitch the other side. But you know my feelings on hand sewing - that last side was firmly machined into place.

I invested in two machine feet for this project, which you may think is a massive extravagance, but believe me, they were both good investments and their usefulness will last way beyond making this quilt. There's no way that quilt top would have been fit for human eyes without my new quarter inch foot, it made all the rows and columns line up seamlessly. My other, far more expensive investment was a walking foot. This was also worth its weight in gold when it came to quilting the three layers together, not a pucker in sight (well, not many...). I've been meaning to take the plunge and buy one for a while and I don't regret it for a minute. Imagine all those stripes and gingham pieces I'll be able to line up perfectly now?! 

New machine feet aside, the patchwork fabric, batting and quilt backing came to around £60. Yes, I could have used fabric from my stash for the quilt top, or maybe used a sheet for backing, but buying it all from a reliable supplier of quilt materials meant the fabrics would all be of a similar weight as well as being excellent quality and fit for purpose. I'm hoping this quilt will last for many years to come!  It's not a cheap option by any means, but it's probably about the same price as two Wii games which makes me feel it's money well spent! I can see why quilts are so expensive to buy commercially though - apart from the cost of the materials, the time, effort and love that go into making them is immeasurable. 

So has making this quilt converted me? In all honesty, I'd say no it hasn't. I'm absolutely delighted with the finished quilt and, more importantly, so is Louis, but as a process it just doesn't do it for me in the same way that making a dress does. BUT… Louis looks so cosy with his quilt tucked round him in front of the TV, that I may just be tempted to make another one for myself this year. Especially as it didn't actually take all that long to make. Let's just say it's tempting but I'm in no rush... x 

Wednesday 23 January 2013

Simplicity 3688 revisited

Two years ago, the flags were raised, trumpets were blown and joy was spread across the land. Why? Because I'd made my first pair of trousers of course! As trousers go, I don't think you can get much more straight forward than Simplicity 3688 (unless you're making PJ bottoms, in which case, Simplicity 9871 wins the prize.) 

I thought my success the first time round was mostly down to beginners luck, but it's actually the pattern that makes life easy for you. The pattern is based on a 1940's design, with a high, darted waist and wide legs. The only slight niggle I have with the pattern is that the high waist is quite unforgiving on the stomach area. So unless you've got a washboard stomach, be sure to wear industrial strength undergarments if you don't want your stomach to look bigger than it actually is. 

I got to use my Margaret Howell 'trousering' at long last, but only just managed to squeeze the pattern pieces out of the 1.5 metres I had. The fabric is lovely and drapey and perfect for this style. Alas though, I think it's actually a linen/cotton blend, which makes it great for summer wear, but totally useless for snowy England. 

Snowy weather + not much natural light = gloomy looking photographs. Sorry about that. The trousers do look a bit grey and drab in these photos, but I've got high hopes for them in the summer teamed with my beloved red wedges and a crisp, white shirt.

...and one from the back

There's not much more to say about these trousers except that they're easy to make and give a great, retro shape. So if you're teetering on the edge of trouser making, go forth and sew them up. There's more trouser action from me planned for this year, but first I need a bit of feedback from you, which I'll go into in more detail in a later post. If anybody else has trouser plans for 2013, I'm all ears! x

Sunday 20 January 2013

Name that dummy - the big reveal

Thank you so much to everybody who entered the giveaway to guess the name of my dummy. It was fascinating reading your guesses. For a start, I had no idea there were so many names that began with an A! Secondly, most readers tend to associate a dummy with an old-fashioned name - Annabel was by far the most popular, followed by Agatha, Audrey and Alice. Unfortunately, the dummy's name isn't of the old-fashioned variety. Scruffy Badger was thinking along the right lines when she tried to get into my 1970's/1980's cultural mindset. Sadly, even though the names she came up with were awesome, the dummy's name wasn't amongst them.

Get to the point Jane, what's the bloody name??!! Well, the truth is NOBODY guessed the actual name of my dummy! If I was Rumpelstiltskin, I'd be a doing a little dance of glee in my striped tights at this point, because the name of the dummy is…… ANGIE. Don't ask me why because I have absolutely no idea. Angie is a fine name though and she's in good company….
Angie Dickinson
Remember Police Woman from the 1970's? No? Maybe I was the only one who watched it.

Angie Bowie
David Bowie's first wife had her own very distinctive style.

Angie Watts

And finally the wonderful Angie Watts. The Queen Vic's original and best landlady. 

If somebody asked me what Angie was short for I'd say Angela. So although nobody actually guessed Angie, one reader guessed Angela, so hoorah for Sarah Shewring who gets the turquoise knit fabric. There were a further handful of entries that included Angelina, Angeline, Angel and Angelique so I think it's only fair that one from that group receives the second prize. The randomly chosen winner is Jacq C who went for Angelina and receives a jiving 1950's style half apron. If you could email me your addresses ladies, I'll get your prizes out to you. 

Thank you again to everybody who entered and took the trouble to comment. I love conversations about names so I had a lot of fun reading your comments. I'm definitely going to do something similar for my next giveaway. 

It's currently snowing outside and everybody is wisely staying indoors. It's a perfect day to make marmalade which is what I'm going to do today. Happy Sunday. x

Wednesday 16 January 2013

Cold weather giveaway

Brrrr. IT'S FREEZING!! Because the weather's so cold, I thought I'd hold a winter warmer giveaway to warm at least one of you up. I'm giving away the rest of the turquoise sweater knit fabric that I used for my raglan sleeved dress.  

There's about 1.8 metres in total, but one end does have a chunk cut out of it so I'd say there's about 1.5 metres of usable fabric. That's still a decent amount to play with as it's wide (60 inches). You could make a cosy knit dress, or a Renfrew or a nice woolly skirt, and most importantly you'd be warm!

This is not a simple 'leave a comment' giveaway though. Oh no. This time, just for fun, I'm going to turn into Ealing's answer to Rumpelstiltskin and ask if you can guess the name of my dummy.  

Who else loved Ladybird books when they were little?

I deliberately didn't give my dummy a name when I bought it as it didn't really look like anything in particular, it was just a dummy (it's a standard Lady Valet by the way). Over the years however, one particular name kept popping into my head whenever I used her/it and wouldn't really go away. There's absolutely no story behind the name, it just appeared one day and seemed to suit her. But the big question is, what name is it?  To narrow it down a bit (otherwise we could be here for years) I'll give you one clue: the name begins with the letter A. There, aren't I lovely?!

In fact I'm so lovely, I've decided to throw in a second prize, which is a delightful 50's-style half apron made by my own fair hands. It has an awesome dancing print on the front and contrast blue polka dots on the reverse. Perfect to wear when you're cooking all that warming winter soup. Mmmmm soup.

Before you ask, no, that's not a pigs trotter holding the fabric. It is in fact my porky little hand!

Don't worry if the name you had in mind has already been suggested by somebody else. If there are more than two correct answers then I'll randomly choose the winners. If nobody manages to guess the name, then I'll still put all the comments into a hat as usual. There will still be two winners whether the name is guessed correctly or not. The giveaway is open worldwide and closes at midnight GMT on Saturday 19th January 2013. Please make sure you leave your email address if it's not linked to your blogger profile so I can contact you if you're the winner. Good luck everybody - I'm intrigued to see if anybody manages to guess correctly!  x

Wednesday 9 January 2013

Raglan Sleeved Knit Dress

Top of my sewing plans for 2013 was to sew more knit dresses to wear during the colder months here in the UK. The reason was partly to keep my Peony-esque dress company and partly to prevent it from falling apart from overuse. I have two Maria Denmark knit dress patterns that were perfect candidates, and as I'd never used her patterns before, I went with the more simple of the two - the 2007 Kjole raglan sleeved dress.  

Onion is the name of the company but I'm not sure what a Snitmonster is, any ideas? 

I made the basic, long-armed version, without the bias panel at the bottom and it was pretty simple to put together: front piece, back piece, sleeves, neck binding. It was my first time sewing raglan sleeves but they were easy once I'd figured out how they fitted to the front and back pieces.The actual dress could hardly have taken more than half an hour to sew up. Add another half hour for adding the neckline binding and hemming and you have a dress in an hour. Hoorah, exactly what I was after.

You can see the raglan sleeves and bust darts in this photo

I used a £3.50 a metre turquoise sweater knit fabric from the Goldhawk Road that actually looks like it's knitted. I got carried away and bought 3m but barely used half of it to make this dress. I'm quite tempted to make a knit top with the rest and pretend I knitted it… The fabric is almost certainly a polyester blend (I've heard some suspicious crackling going on) so I'm not expecting it to keep its shape and look good for years, but if it lasts this year I'll be happy as I intend to get some serious wear out of it.   

I made a size 40, which is a size larger than I'd choose in a woven fabric, but I was worried about unsightly bulges showing through as the dress is a straight up and down style. It was a bit too big though, and not very flattering. After mulling the problem over for a whole minute, I simply sliced off about 1cm from each side and arm seam. The difference was dramatic, the dress was now fitted and about a trillion times more flattering. The moral of the story: sew the size that corresponds with your measurements instead of trying to be clever.

If you're looking for a simple pattern that's specifically drafted for knit fabrics, then this may well be it. The pattern that arrived in the post is in Danish, but an English translation of the instructions was emailed to me as soon as I'd purchased the pattern.  And the finished dress is SSSOOO cosy, it makes me want to make a cushion nest on the sofa and eat crumpets. Which is exactly what I'm going to do. Happy Wednesday everybody. x

Thursday 3 January 2013

What Katie Did

It's no secret that I have a weak spot for glamorous frillies, particular those with a vintage look to them. Way back in the day, I wrote this post, in which I shared my discovery of faux vintage underwear specialist What Katie Did. Well, since then I've paid several more visits to the shop, in fact I pay a visit every time I go to the Portobello Road. I try not to, as it's an absolute certainty that once I enter the shop I'm not going to come out empty handed, but still I'm drawn like a moth to a flame.

So what is it that draws me to What Kate Did products? Well, the styling is out and out retro - beautiful fabrics, pretty colours and vintage style stitching - but the cut and shaping of a lot of their products is modern, which I like. The only style from their range that isn't really me is the Bullet Bra. The shape is just too pointy for my liking, but I know other What Katie Did fans that swear by them for the great retro silhouette they give. Here are some of my current favourites anyway: 

The Jubilee bra - it has the modern underwired fit I like, with lovely vintage stitch detailing. And it's red…

For those of you who like a bit of animal print, then have a gander at the super glam Josephine bra, name after Josephine Baker

Gorgeous French knickers...

The Hollywood Camiknicker - an adorable playsuit combining 40's style French knickers with a cami top

And finally, the perfect, perfect swimsuit

Their January sale has just started, so go and take a look. You never know, you may be tempted to treat yourself to some New Year frillies! Enjoy! x


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