Dressy

I may not have been writing much, but I have been sewing. The plan to update my wardrobe is going well, and I have chosen to work as far as possible in natural fibres. I’ve made two dresses using a pattern from Anna Allen (the Demeter Dress), the first in a cotton and linen mix and the second in a wonderful bright pink linen. Both dresses are lovely to wear, especially in hot weather, and were simple to make, with brilliant instructions to follow.

After these, I decided to use a fabric remnant that I acquired last year. I modified the pattern that I made up in MayThe Avid Seamstress’ Raglan Dress – making the neckline a little lower and the skirt part a little more flared. This also gave me the opportunity to test out my new “invisible zipper” foot for my sewing machine, which turned out to be a dream to use and did indeed make the zip nearly invisible. This time I made the dress with short rather than 3/4 sleeves, because that was all the fabric I had available.

Now I’m on a roll with my dress-making, I plan to make several more, including some for winter and I have a few new patterns to try out. I have two more pieces of linen, some wool/viscose jersey and a number of pure wool fabrics (more on these in a forthcoming post), as well as some silk, so I have plenty to keep me busy for a while yet.

A Dorset adventure

Actually, despite travel restrictions being eased, I am staying firmly at home, with any visits restricted to friends in the area. So, what have I been doing in Dorset? Well, nothing, actually, but I have made some of their buttons…

Dorset buttons are something that I’ve wanted to have a go at making for ages, so when I saw kits for sale I thought that would provide me with an ideal introduction. Making these buttons dates back to the early 1600s, and at its height their production constituted a cottage industry in Dorset, employing over 4000 people. When the technology was developed to make buttons by machine, the Dorset button industry was destroyed and the skill all but disappeared. However, it was not entirely lost.

Dorset buttons are made by weaving/stitching yarn onto ring. You begin by blanket-stitching around a metal ring, then make “spokes” across it before weaving your yarn in a spiral around these spokes. By back-stitching and stretching the yarn across more than one spoke, it’s possible to create all sorts of different patterns, like these :

These are my first attempts, and I’m rather pleased with how they came out. Never again will I be disappointed because I can’t find buttons to match an item I’ve knitted or crocheted.

The company I got my kit from is called Beaker Button. They make lovely kits including hand-dyed yarn, all packaged in reusable bags and with no plastic. IMGP8317

ScrapHappy July 2020

I’ve been waiting a while to be able post this month’s ScrapHappy creation. This particular scrappy chappy was made about two months ago, but he was a present and needed posting. When he was completed we were only going out once a week and trying to avoid unnecessary activities, so he didn’t get mailed straight away. Then, once dispatched, he took several weeks to arrive at his destination because Australia is a long way for someone with such short legs. However, I have received news that he has arrived, so I can share him with a wider audience. So, I echid-you-not, this month’s ScrapHappy is an echidna:

The pale wool was left over from a cardigan, the dark wool from some hedgehogs and the stuffing was some brown wool tops remaining from and ancient, abandoned piece of work.

-oOo-

I’ve been inspired to write this (and future) ScrapHappy posts by Kate,  Tall Tales from Chiconia. On the fifteenth of every month lots of folks often publish a ScrapHappy post, do check them out:

Kate (me!)Gun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancyAlysKerryClaireJean,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawnGwen, Connie, Bekki, PaulineSue L,
Sunny and Kjerstin

If you fancy joining, contact Kate and she’ll add you to the list. It would be lovely to see more non-sewing posts, but any use of scraps is welcome.

Biased

One of my plans for this year even before all the lockdown stuff happened was to do some more dress-making. I’m not a big buyer of clothes and in recent years many of my old favourites have got to the point where they are no longer wearable. Eventually fabric gets too thin to be repaired and has to be consigned to the rags.

Unfortunately, rather than being caught up in a whirl of creativity, I have found the lockdown stressful and draining, so haven’t done as much making as I would otherwise have achieved. However, I’ve now completed a second dress (first one here). I’m quite pleased with the end product, but it turned into something of a labour of love. I’ve done lots of dressmaking over the years, so am not too intimidated by a more challenging pattern, but it’s nice sometimes to go for a quick and easy make, which is what I thought I would do in this case. I selected a slightly unusual pattern that was cut in a single piece on the bias, so that it only had a single long seam up the back and two short seams at the shoulders. I had assumed that the neck and arm holes would be faced, but when the pattern said a single piece of fabric, that’s exactly what it meant. The suggestion was that all the edges were left raw, with just a row of stitches to stop them fraying – no hems, no facings, no binding. Since I had bought a piece of linen with which to make this dress, and since it does fray rather a lot, I was not prepared to make a garment that I feared would simply unravel. There was a bit of a throw-away line in the pattern suggesting that you could hem or bind if you wanted to, but that was it.

Anyway, not deterred, I made a toile, prototyped some pockets (like the ones on my Beatrice aprons) and ordered some bias binding. What I had completely forgotten to do was buy some thread that matched the fabric, and with no local sewing shops open and long delays on orders from my preferred online shops, I had to bite the bullet and do some top-stitching in the same colour as the binding (which I did have thread for). Once I looked at the pattern in detail, it turned out that some piecing together was required if the dress was to be possible in my size and in the width required:

Well, I would rather have known to buy wider fabric than to have to do this. Fortunately, my toile had revealed that I wanted the dress shorter than the pattern, so I was able to avoid the joining.

I cut the fabric, stabilised the edges (single row of stitches on the curves and round the bottom and overlocking the straight back and shoulder edges) and attached the pockets before joining any of the seams. I bound the top of the pockets, carefully stitched them on with my contrasting thread, noticed that I’d attached one the wrong way out (the one in the picture), removed it and restitched it, then bound the neck. Then I took hours and hours to bind the arm holes, including several attempts that had to be taken out, because the acute angle at the bottom was so challenging. In the end I had to tack the binding in place to get it anything close to neat, and even now it’s a long way from perfect. The neck was easy to bind and the closure is simply a button and loop. The bottom I hemmed using the contrasting thread.

I’m happy enough with the final version and it’s comfortable to wear, but I feel that the pattern description was incredibly misleading. Still, I love the fabric, the shape of the dress and the drape resulting from the bias cut. If I make it again, I’ll simply add seam allowances and line the bodice part, then top-stitch, which would be a very quick make. Oh well, you live and learn.

What’s in the stash?

Over recent weeks I’ve been enjoying rummaging through my yarn stash and reminding myself of what I have squirreled away. There is some lovely wool, but there are also quite a lot of balls and oddments of stuff that I really have no desire to ever use… quite a bit of which has been passed on to me over the years, rather than stuff I actually bought. So, I’m putting together a box to go off to a charity craft shop (once they are in a position to accept it) and I’m working my way through some of the bits and pieces in a variety of projects like the dinosaurs. The last few days, however, have been all about cotton.

A while back I bought a couple of packs of discontinued organic cotton yarn. The colours were not ones that I would want for a garment, but since the point was to make wash cloths, that really didn’t matter. I also discovered a ball of actual dishcloth cotton, made from recycled fibres. So, in the spirit of play, I’ve been choosing various granny square patterns and crochet stitches and working up squares. On the basis that you can never have too many cleaning cloths in the bathroom and kitchen, I’m just keeping going. So far, no two are the same:

If you crochet and have a favourite pattern for making cloths, do let me know what it is… I’ve got lots of yarn and am always keen to try something different.

ScrapHappy June 2020

It has been rather warm for much of the past month, so I was glad that that I was no longer labouring under last month’s ScrapHappy creation. In fact, after the success of the crochet T-rex (who has, incidentally, been named “Cupcake”) I moved on to another ancient creature. Young Maisie, the recipient of the T-rex, is a big fan of Mary Anning (fossil hunter and palaeontologist born in 1799, who discovered the remains of huge aquatic creatures in the cliffs of the Dorset coast). I thought, therefore, that a pleisiosaur would be greatly appreciated… which it was.

Made using wool oddments, this pattern, like the last dinosaur, is by Kerry Lord:

-oOo-

I’ve been inspired to write this (and future) ScrapHappy posts by Kate,  Tall Tales from Chiconia. On the fifteenth of every month lots of folks often publish a ScrapHappy post, do check them out:

Kate (me!)Gun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancyAlysKerryClaireJean,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawnGwen, Connie, Bekki, PaulineSue L,
Sunny and Kjerstin

If you fancy joining, contact Kate and she’ll add you to the list. It would be lovely to see more non-sewing posts, but any use of scraps is welcome.

Oh, sheet!

Over the years you will have gathered that I find it almost impossible to throw things away that “might be useful”. This means that our house is full of stuff, and that can be challenge sometimes. However, there are occasions when a particular item turns out to be exactly what I need… which is just what happened recently.

A while back, when one of our large fitted cotton sheets wore through, I laundered it and put it in my fabric stash thinking that the more robust parts would be useful for lining bags, or something. This meant that when I bought a dress pattern that I was unsure about, I had plenty of old sheet to make a toile (an early attempt at a pattern in cheap fabric) and play about with length and pocket placement before cutting into the linen I had bought for the final version.

This gave me the confidence to cut my bought fabric, knowing that the final dress would actually fit. It’s not finished yet, but I’m making progress.

Because of the size of the sheet, even once the dress was cut out, there was still lots of fabric left, which turned out to be a good job. Recently Mr Snail’s hayfever has been extremely bad, and he has been using handkerchiefs very rapidly, so I shouldn’t have been surprised this morning when he announced that there were no more clean ones in the drawer. Remembering Kate’s recent post and comments on an earlier post of mine about making handkerchiefs out of old sheets/pillowcases, I set to work. I didn’t worry too much about exact sizes, although I aimed for about 35-38 cm square. If it hadn’t been an emergency, I would have hemmed them, but for speed, I overlocked the edges. This means they are a bit scratchy, but better than nothing. And the result, in less than an hour, was 11 large hankies.

Ignoring the fact that they could do with ironing, I’m rather pleased with myself.

Grrrrr!

It’s been rather warm here recently and so I’ve been reluctant to work on large woolly things – like the jumper that I want to complete, that is worked in a single piece, so provides far too much cover on a hot day. I decided, therefore, to use up some left-over balls of yarn for some little projects.

We have a young friend who loves dinosaurs… so I made her a T-rex.

The pattern is by Kerry Lord of Toft.

I don’t think it’s going to be the last dinosaur that I make – they seem to be popular with children and adults alike. I see some ScrapHappy dinos in the future!

Play time

Scrabble and chocolate mousse

Since we can’t go out to play at the moment, I have been finding some indoor things to play with. As well as regular evening games of Scrabble and Jenga in the limery, I’ve been playing in the sewing room. I have taken the opportunity to make something that I’ve wanted to try for a while and to sew with a new material.

Both my projects resulted from not being able to go to Wonderwool this year as it was cancelled. I had a trip planned with friends and had even bought the tickets. Instead, there was an online event and the organisers invited the exhibitors to contribute links to their shops . I don’t really need any more yarn (still working my way through my stash), but I wanted to support some of the small businesses who are currently unable to trade. I found a lovely little fabric shop – Black Mountain Fabrics – that does not normally trade online and, after several messages backwards and forwards, selected two kits that interested me.

First, a Japanese knot bag. I keep seeing pictures of these and thinking that the construction is interesting. So, what better way to have a go than with a kit? I told the lovely lady who owns the shop what sort of colours I’d like and she sent me photos of fabrics to choose from. I was smitten by some with peacock feathers and we combined it with a teal lining. It was a quick and simple make and I think I’m likely to make more of these – they would be ideal for little gifts and only require the fabric – no interfacing, clasps, zips or drawstrings.

Second, a little kit that included cork fabric. I have been fascinated by the idea of cork for bag-making for a while, but wanted something simple to experiment with. This bag has a simple construction and the most wonderful octopus lining. The handle was easy to fit and it was another quick make. I was interested to discover how flexible the cork is and how beautifully it sewed (at least on my sewing machine). I would certainly consider using it for other bag-making projects.

I know that several friends have found their creativity lacking during this period of enforced confinement, whilst some people are flourishing. Have you been playing with new materials or media recently? Or have you simply wanted to crawl under the duvet and not come out?

All dressed up and nowhere to go

No mending this Monday, so I thought I’d share a make instead.

Last autumn, when we could travel and see friends in the same room, rather than only electronically, I went to London. The main purpose was lunch with an old friend, but I slotted in a bit of fabric shopping and bought a lovely piece of Japanese cotton. I chose it to go with a specific dress pattern and intended to make it almost straight away. However, the need for a cotton dress in the winter is limited and so other projects took precedence. Now, however, it’s spring and the time was right for this piece of sewing.

It’s a simple garment, with raglan sleeves and a zip at the back. The idea was to choose a fabric that would take centre stage. It turned out to be a fairly simple make, although I did have to adjust the shoulder darts a little and may revisit them, as I think the shaping could be better.

So, I give you the Raglan dress (a pattern from the Avid Seamstress):

Now, I just need to be allowed out in order to show it off.

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