Friday, June 5, 2015

Frenemies

Ah T-shirts, the frenemy of the home sewer who has learned to sew with woven fabrics. T-shirts pretend to be so easy, friendly, and achievable with their simple front and back and a couple of hems, but before you know it there's a wonky neckline or a band sitting out instead of flat, and your simple, smiley, fun T-shirt sits back on its haunches, laughs, and shrieks, "you FOOL!".

Perhaps I could describe that better without anthropomorphising: T-shirts look so easy, but they are proving to be quite hard because I'm just not used to sewing with stretch fabrics. There, that's a little less emotional. However, I am not here to report my failures, which are many, but instead two small steps along the road to being a competent sewer of knits.

I made two T-shirts out of remnants picked up for $5 at a sale. That was tremendously satisfying in itself. Both were made using Kwik Sew pattern, which I have momentarily mislaid. For the first T-shirt, I substituted a neckband in the same fabric for the simple hem on the neckline shown in the pattern. Yes I know, it doesn't quite sit flat, but it's not too bad.
I also added a band at the bottom, which I really like when I'm wearing it. 
For the second T-shirt I used a pre-made stretch binding. I still need a bit of practice putting this kind of binding on, but I'm quite happy with this as a first attempt. It sits allllllllmost flat.
 I twin-needled the bottom hem. Twin-needled it. With twin needles. See?
Now we are all friends, me and the two T-shirts. And we lived happily ever after.

Friday, April 17, 2015

All about the blues (and greens)

Hello Friends,
You know, the internet provides the impetus to progress all sorts of projects. I don't just mean tutorials about how to do this or that, which are very useful I'll grant you, but also just the odd throw-away comment that suddenly resolves a problem and moves a project along.
The case I am thinking of was a huge bag of quilting fabric squares and off-cuts, which has sat in my stash for the last 2 years. The truth is, I was a little bit afraid of it. The fabrics were all beautiful, and were in every colour and shade. I didn't quite know where to start and feared that when I did make something, I would ruin it and it would be hideous.
Anyway, I was reading one of my favourite crafty blogs, Cozy things, and she mentioned that the first 20 or so quilts that she made she never paid attention to the backing. Well, that's an innocent enough statement, but what stood out to me was the "the first 20 or so quilts..." That was enough to remind me that like everything else, quilting and patchwork are ongoing learning experiences, and the only way to get better is to keep at it and make stuff, making mistakes and sometimes even making hideous things. 
I started by sorting out the fabrics in my favourite colours, which are blues and greens at the moment. My neighbour suggested to add some yellow and red, to stop it being a big insipid mess of bluey-green. That was good advice. Then I put it together in a random disappearing 9-patch. There are zillions of tutes if you're interested in how to make these blocks, so I won't bother with one here. Needless to say they are quick and very easy to make. I cut and pieced a king-sized quilt top in less than a week.
Here it is having a wee turn on the big bed to see how I like it every time I walk past the room. I like it a lot, as it happens. I'm now wondering about the sashing (maybe yellow?) and binding (perhaps black or red stripes?).
The backing will be simpler, and more modern. Possibly simple stripes of blue, grey, and yellow? Feel free to share your opinion.
 
Here are some other blues and greens; the sea and the forests of the Abel Tasman National Park. We went tramping (hiking/bushwalking) in the school holidays, it's so do-able for a family to walk this track. The terrain is "unchallenging", as seasoned trampers call it, but that's perfect for me. Three or four hours' walk every day, a comfortable hut to stay in at night, and beaches all along the route. Just lovely.
 
And finally, here is a cat in a washing basket. Just because. It is not my cat, but it is my washing basket.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Shirty

Hello Friends,

Goodness, summer just went on and on in this part of the world, and it's only just dawned on me that it's on the way out. Nonetheless, it must be autumn, because I started to feel like a lamb roast for dinner, a bucket of feijoas arrived on my back doorstep, and I felt like updating my blog.

First up, I've made a shirt. New Look 6598 if you are someone that is interested in such details. It was easy, and so satisfying as I made it from a piece of seersucker in my vast stash of fabrics. I am always slightly amused whenever I sew seersucker into clothing because it is reminiscent of a tablecloth, and what mother hasn't felt like a kitchen accessory at one time or another?
Now that I am older and more patient I pay attention to small design details, instead of just mowing over them with a youthful devil-may-care attitude. Case in point, this small notch on the arm, which you make using a facing. Very easy and quite styley in my opinion.
The standless collar shows off the seersucker pattern rather well. Also, paying the extra money for good-quality woven interfacing has made the whole sewing experience just sooooo much better. I was given that piece of advice years ago but only recently acted on it. You were right Mary Anna.
This shirt is on an occasional rotation in my wardrobe because it needs ironing, and I am a "reluctant" ironer. Still, it's perfect for these late summer, oh lets face it, autumn, days, so perhaps I could get around to ironing a little more often.

Since we were talking of feijoas, I will leave you with the recipe for the feijoa cordial that I made last night. It's a good way of using up the runty ones.

FEIJOA CORDIAL

1.5 c white sugar
1 C water
2 t citric acid
Juice and rind of three lemons
1 C feijoa (or any type of guava) flesh, mashed with a fork

Simmer all of the ingredients together for 5 min. Cool a little, then strain through a sieve and bottle. Keep in the fridge. To make it up, dilute with 4-5 parts water, hot or cold, or soda water. You could even use it to make a parochial NZ champagne cocktail.

Other fabulous feijoa recipes here!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Nine little words

I've got nine words for you, and they are "Fa la la la la la la la la". Christmas is fast approaching and I feel strangely relaxed. Normally there is that free-floating anxiety, the one that forms into "Have I remembered everything?", "Is there anyone I've forgotten to get a present for?", "Do I have to bring a plate to the end-of-year do for [enter function name here]?". But not this year. Both the kids have tallied up what they know we'd spend on them and requested just one thing that they really want, so the shopping's all done and dusted. We don't do stockings so I'm not racing around trying to find cheap stuff to fill them with. This feeling of relaxation is just ace, I tell ya. I think this is definitely one of the perks of having older children, there is less pressure to make them an amazing Christmas because they're pretty good at making it amazing by themselves.

In the weekend the kids set up the nativity set, which I found one year at the junk shop.
I just love nativity sets. And junk shops.
They also got out the tree and then decorated it by themselves. They brought out all the decorations we've made over the years and I heard them reminiscing about when we made them. That was pretty cool, I thought. Here is the Christmas seagull that Harry made from dukit, last year I think it was.
Here is a Christmas robot made a few years ago, and in the background, a crochet pavlova I bought at a craft market and one of the decorations the kids made at preschool.
A cross-stitched deer, which I made a set of the year-before-last:
And this is the one that cracks me up the most. Personally, I think it's hideous, but the kids think it's the fanciest and most special decoration of all. I am NOT responsible for making this, I hasten to add.
I also like making new decorations, if I get around to it. This year, I made some decorations "inspired by" some in Scandanavian Needlecraft. This is what the ones in the book look like, very good taste and all that.
Here are my ones, a little more rumpty, but I like them that way:
So that's our Christmas tree, what does yours look like?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Glad I spotted ya!

Hello Friends,

Summer is upon us here in the Southern Hemisphere, and I found myself reaching into the depths of the fabric stash and patterns to make myself a bright and happy summer dress. I found some ridiculously cheerful blue fabric with bright white polka dots, a veritable symbol of summer good times.

However, one must be careful sewing with bright fabric and bold patterns. In particular, there are good reasons to NOT sew with bright blue and white polka-dotted fabric, and here they are:
 
Yes, that is Bozo the clown.

And yes, that is Minnie Mouse.
 
When sewing with polka dots, one really wants to be making something that a gorgeous person, and not a clown, would wear. Perhaps like this:
So I made my dress up using New Look 6799, which had some nice details like a roundy neck and a waist bit (these are probably real sewing terms) that I could put some piping either side of. What do you think?
 
Sorry about the slightly snotty expression - I need to work on my photo face, or perhaps my real-life face. I blame it on general malcontent related to the state of my hair. I'm growing out a fringe at the moment, and my hair's just all over the shop. I'm sure you all empathize with this kind of hair suffering. We've all been there.
 
I digress, back to the dress. There is some red piping either side of that bit in the middle, and I like that detail rather a lot. I lined the whole thing to make it easier to wear, and I'm glad I did, because it's so comfy, it's like trackies. Now, I know real sewists would show the zip and how the piping matches up at the seams etc, but I'm not going to because it's all very imperfect.
 
BUT, I love it.  A woman who I don't even know said to me in the street "I have to tell you that I LOVE your dress". She even said it in capital letters, just like that. Now that's a sewing victory, people.

Friday, August 15, 2014

To line, or not to line

There I was, sewing a summer dress, back in the summer this was, and I said to my sister, "I can't decide whether to line it or not."
"Line it." She said, "because then it's a three season garment, rather than a one season garment."
Well it turns out that she was right, because I lined that dress and I wore it in summer, autumn, and now, with tights and boots and a cardy over top, in winter as well. Three seasons, just like that. I might even wear it in spring, which is just around the corner now, making it a four-season jackpot.
This dress is, hmmm, now what pattern was it now, oh yes, New Look 6080. I've also made the top from this pattern, which was very nice. I particularly like the wee line of pintucks down the front.
After I'd finished making the dress it was a little unshapely, an issue that I addressed thusly:
First, I put this wee elasticated gather across the back by stretching elastic across then using a very wide zigzag to hold it in place.
Then I made a belt, which just ties in a simple knot. That pulls it in a little more, and also covers the gathering at the back. There, that's much better.
And here is some proof that spring is just around the corner now, just in case you need it. Daffodils....a little droopy as I couldn't find my camera a few days ago, but they have been cheering me up all week.
And so has this modest arrangement of junk-shop finds on my china cabinet. So often my bits and bobs end up in messy piles on my office desk. I really must take more care to arrange them aesthetically, because it is nice to take the time to appreciate them.
The world and everything in it. Not too much to ask, is it?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Here comes the rain (-y print top).

Hello friends,
The air is thick with autumn-ness here, the sun is sitting lower in the sky and its light is yellow and faded, the leaves are turning from yellow to red to brown, and the smell of quinces is all through the house. I made some quince jelly this year, rather than quince paste, because I thought there was a better chance of getting around to using it. It looks beautiful...
 
But oh my stars! Somehow I missed the setting point and it is rather hard and rubbery. I'm glad you can't tell that from a photo. I will pretend it's supposed to be like that, cutting it into hard little pieces as required and calling it "quince jelly jubes". I really do fancy myself as a good jam maker and this is somewhat of a humbling experience. Oh well, I'll pick myself up by the bootstraps and make some more when I get some more quinces.

In sewing news, I am pleased to report that I have now successfully used a facing, rather than bias strips, to complete a neckline. It works surprisingly well when you follow all of the instructions (I often skip interfacing, but this time I didn't). I did all the layering and understitching malarkey and well I never, it really does sit flat. I also handstitched the facings onto back of the shoulder seams and that helps a lot with making it sit flat too. I found this rainy fabric with its autumn colours just irresistible, especially at $6 per metre.

Here's one of my favourite parts, the label that I unpicked from an old tie years ago and have kept all this time, stitched on the back so that my top looks like a bought one. Entirely for my own amusement as no one else will see it, but if one can't amuse oneself then that is a very sad existence indeed.
(I just had one of those "I'm becoming my father" moments. He used to save EVERYTHING and once in a blue moon when he used a hinge or a rusty nail or whatever he'd say "I'm so glad I kept that"). I really do miss him sometimes.