Saturday, 25 January 2014

Vest/bodysuit extenders

Vest extenders in the shop seem to be selling well enough that I'm excited to have ordered stuff for three new sets in excitingly different prints!  For now, there are still just whales and birdhouses in the shop, but soon they'll have new animal friends.

You get three extenders in a pack, all made of cozy pretty flannel with 9mm poppers/snaps that fit most bodysuits/vests from UK highstreet stores.  Useful for doing up vests over cloth nappies, or if you've got a long baby.  No more vests that are too big at the shoulders in order to do up underneath: problem solved.

Grab them in the shop.  If you come upon this post later and the shop seems to be lacking, send me an e-mail and tell me to get on with it!  ;-)

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Slowly eating custard pudding.

I'm so excited!

I'm just casting on for a new top for Baby Button (hereafter, "Toddler Button").  It's the Poseidon tank top by Amber Bertram.  Toddler B already has one that my friend made and it's so useful and excellent that I used the excuse to make another one.  What is exciting is my new yarn:

Isn't that just the scrummiest?  Yellow is Toddler's favourite colour (he only colours with yellow crayon, builds yellow blocks and only sorts yellow shapes etc.), and it's so sunny and happy.  Also, it goes with blue jeans, and all boys clothes from the shops are blue, grey or brown.  Boooo-ring.

The yarn is a custom order from my friend Mrs Fleece Cottage Yarns.  It's a 100% merino superwash DK yarn in colourway "Slowing eating custard pudding".  (see here).  It's delightfully squishy and looks like it should make my stitches appear super neat.  We'll see how that goes...

Did I mention I was excited to cast on?

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Hello Chameleon, hello pattern shopping!

Steady on there!  Hold on to your seats!  You can now get the pattern for "hello chameleon" from my Ravelry store!  Clicky here: buy now

Massive thanks to my patient and committed testers.  This one's not an easy crochet by any means, but I hope it's rewarding.  The tail contains no wire: short rows of crochet are used to create the right curvature for it to naturally form a spiral.  To run the chameleon gauntlet, you'll need to turn the TV off and drink many cups of tea.  Go go go!

The pattern includes both US terms and UK terms, and a 13-page photo tutorial for the first 11 rows, so you're definitely getting your money's worth.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

hello space bunny!

Exciting times!  You can now purchase the pattern for "hello space bunny" from my Ravelry store!  Something to spend your Christmas pennies on...

Buy space bunny pattern now.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Babydoll dress: a super-cheap toile.

I've never sewn with knits before.   As I blathered on about here, I've become all excited about filling my near-empty wardrobe with jersey dresses that are easy to wear while crawling after my son on the floor.  My stretch jersey arrived on Wednesday morning, and by Friday night I had a dress!  Thank you, CBeebies, for a Friday afternoon to sew (bad mother confession).

The fabric quality is fine, but its not the colour and print I'd have chosen.  It's also slinkier than I wanted.  Nevertheless, it was about £6 including postage.  This dress has not been finished to my usual standard; in fact, I can't believe how slap-dash I've been!  I couldn't be bothered to buy matching thread or a walking foot or a twin ballpoint needle for my first test.  So the hem is a bit wobbly, the neckline stretched a bit (letting some of the stabilising elastic pull out), and the threads used are light blue and dark grey.  Whoops.  But, time is precious, the fabric was only £6 and I really didn't believe it was going to fit.  It really is a toile.  As further evidence of my shoddy work:  I didn't even remove the left (un-threaded) needle from my overlocker when doing the seams, so there is a line of punched holes next to every seam.  Lazy or what?

I can't believe how weird it is to sew with Jersey after 14 years of sewing with wovens.  This Jersey had no body or structure and just pooled in a heap by my machine.  The edges curl up as you cut it out, and it's just so floppy!  I found it really hard to be neat when pinning.  However,  it probably hides all those little piecing inaccuracies pretty well with the stretch (just not errors like "wrong thread colour").

I've worn my £6 dress for a day while I decide which pattern modifications to make.  Sewing it up was pleasingly easy and quick, although "Sew U Home Stretch" was not brimming with correct directions:
1)  The exact cutting layout given was impossible on fabric of 60" or less, and I've not seen too many bolts over 60" wide.  Nevertheless, 2m is still ample for the babydoll from 60" wide fabric.
2)  The directions were missing for how to finish the neck when turned under (I went for zig-zag).
3)  The pattern instructs you to "gather sleeve caps", but the image shows gathering of the whole sleeve head.  Since the bottoms of sleeves are normally set in smoothly with minimal easing, I suspect you are actually just supposed to gather between the upper three dots on the sleeve head.

I'm sorry that these photos are taken in the kitchen while cooking dinner (I get childcare for this task).  My husband can't take a non-shaky photo for toffee, so I'm using the self-timer.  Note the slightly-stressed post-IKEA face.

Having worn my dress for 5 hours now, I'm already totally cross about the fit.  The waist is much too wide, meaning it hangs sadly underneath my bust.  I suspect I need a full-bust adjustment, as the dress is only tight in this area and it pulls the whole dress front up.

The waistline has also been pulled down at the back, I suspect by the weight of the skirt and because the bodice is not tight enough.  I think the whole back is a bit loose; it certainly is loose around the back neckline, which is also an inch too low for my liking.

The sleeve tops are too baggy for my taste.  I'm sad (see photo).  I already added 1/2" to the shoulder length toward the neck and removed 1" from the scoop neck at the front.  Here's a list of my likely further pattern adjustments:
  • Reduce waist size by at least 2" from current size; potentially by a combination of side-seams and sloping centre-front, leaving the same bust size.  I need to check my textbook to decide the best route.
  • Take 1/2 - 1" off the top of the shoulders, making the armholes slightly smaller and bringing the neckline higher.  (This is an adjustment I make for my figure in almost every pattern, normally by 2" or more.  It's why I can't buy any ready-to-wear dresses in woven fabric.)
  • Re-draft the sleeve cap to reduce the height and also remove some fullness, making it tighter at the arm top (because I prefer it) and to match the reduced armhole.
  • Potentially make a full-bust adjustment, but start with a smaller bodice pattern to do this on.
  • Make the back neckline 1" higher and make whole back piece narrower at centre back.
  • Lop another inch off the adjusted bodice and move it to the skirt, so the seam sits more underneath my bust.  I like the current front waist position, but I suspect that's not where the pattern would normally have it on a smaller bust.
Hopefully this will fix the pulling down on the back waist, but if it's still sad in that department then I'll have to think of something to fix that.  Are you a super-pattern-drafter and do you disagree with my pattern fix list above?  Let me know!  I'll probably change my mind in an hour anyway, after a bit more time looking at full busts (har har) with Mr Google.

Next time I make it up I'll add 1/4" elastic into the waist seam too (as for the neckline), because I think it needs stabilising here: it's all loose and stretchy from the weight of the skirt and all the gathers.  For the full works, I'd probably underline the whole bodice in a light knit.

I think that's it for now.  I'll zip down the side-seams on this dress to fudge the worst fitting problem and make it a little more liveable with.  I've got enough jersey to make the bodice again without sleeves to test my pattern adjustments, and then I'll probably order more jersey to do another toile.  I might splash out at £5/metre this time: whoa!  I hope my adjustments will still be good if the new jersey has less stretch: fingers crossed.  Until this pattern is fixed to my shape, I'll just have to continue longingly looking at the £10/m star-print jersey on my computer screen.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Crochet tutorial: counting stitches

I've had a lot of questions lately about how to count which crochet stitch you're on.  When I'm working in continuous rounds (like a spiral), I like to keep track of the start of the round by putting a safety pin through the first stitch in that round.  It's really that simple.  Obviously in order to work the next round, it's easiest to take the safety-pin out momentarily while you work the stitch it's in, and then you can put it back: through the first stitch in the next round.

If that's enough for you, you can stop reading now.  For the rest, I'm going to risk over-complicating this with a plethora of extra words and pictures, so here goes...

Friday, 3 January 2014

Sewing for me again!

After what seems like an age (and it is: 1 1/2 years), I'm finally back to making my own clothes again.  The last thing I made was this dress, destined never to fit me again, boo hoo. 

I was so slow to finish it that my baby bump was far too large to fit in it, and I've only just got to the stage where I'm comfortable dieting.  Meanwhile, I've lived for the last year in two ragged maternity dresses, two pairs of jeans, one pair of shorts, and about 4 tops.  I am not exaggerating; if you were wondering why I turned up to your special event in jeans, this is why and I'm sorry.

The good news is that I'm back on the sewing bandwagon, and I have a special resolution to sew more clothes!  Hoorah!

I got Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing for Christmas and I'm really enjoying the read so far.  I love Gertie's style and I also love that the book isn't pitched too low and it's without the "it's so easy" vibe that I find so grating.  It looks like she's about to tell me how to do it properly, and I can't wait!  I hope I'll get around to making some of her fabulous patterns; she gives patterns for a complete wardrobe.

In addition, I bought some stretch-knit dresses to wear.  That's right, real-life friends and family!  I'm going to turn up in NOT JEANS!  I have discovered that jersey dresses are my new best friends, and so I've decided to set about making a whole bunch more in fun styles and colours.  That's the start of my resolution.

With that in mind, I dug out my copy of Sew U Home Stretch.  I've copied out the pattern for the babydoll dress ("hides a multitude of figure flaws!") and I've bought some cheap stretch-jersey online to practice it.  I can't wait for the fabric to arrive!  If it all goes swimmingly, look what I found: JERSEY!  There are almost 800 types here!  What is the catch?!  I CLEARLY NEED 800 DRESSES!

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Stitch comparisons or, "why I prefer traditional English crochet terms"

This sounds like a dry topic, and perhaps it is.  Nevertheless, I hope this post will clear up a bit of confusion surrounding UK and US crochet terms.

The abbreviations you are about to see are spoken as follows:
slst = slip stitch
sc = single crochet
dc = double crochet
hdc = half-double crochet
htr = half-treble crochet
tr = treble crochet
dtr = double-treble crochet
trtr = treble-treble crochet

Confusingly, there are two different sets of terminology for crochet stitches and although the stitches themselves are similar, and the stitch names are similar, the mapping of name-to-stitch is different on opposite sides of the pond.  Nice.

Never fear, I am hear to save you with my handy comparison table, which also shows how to make each stitch:
Clicky on the image to enlarge it!

That's not all!  My handy table also aims to persuade you why I'll be sticking to ye traditional UK terms.  More of this in a moment.

Firstly, there is such a thing as a single crochet stitch in UK terms.  The terms "sc" and "slst" are both used in the UK to mean the same thing.  The use of "sc" is more traditional, whereas "slst" is a more modern usage. If you look up some conversion resourses, you’ll find both are given, see:
yarn forward
fresh stitches
amy’s odyssey
I’ve certainly seen UK patterns written with both versions. I prefer to use conversions from the “Happy Hooker Stitch’n’Bitch” book, which states US slst -> UK sc; US sc -> UK dc.

The reason I prefer the UK terms (and the traditional ones at that) is this:

The UK “single”, “double”, “treble” prefixes indicate how many times you wrap-and-pull your yarn through the loops on your hook; this makes it easy to remember.  If you don't believe me, see the bottom section of my table!  It's not quite true for the taller stitches, but they're not often used anyway.

In addition, it feels odd to me to skip straight to “double” with no “single” crochet in the list. So I stick the the traditional English version when I write my patterns, and then convert to US afterwards, through the magic of LaTeX command definitions.

The entire month of October

Check out the sidebar on my blog and you'll notice the month of October last year has a record number of posts, and not in a good way!  I posted a big-old ONCE.  Maybe you enjoyed the break from my sewing/knitting prattling on.  After Christmas, I can finally show you the present I spent all my waking hours on in October.

It's the Morticia MKAL (mystery-knit-along, dudes) for Hallowe'en by Boo Knits.  For those not into Ravelry (I'm looking at YOU, Mr S Knowles, ha ha), the designer releases one clue a week.  You try to keep up with the other people knitting around the world, and gradually the pattern reveals itself in time for 31st October.  Exciting times for a knitter!

After you finish knitting what looks like a holey dishcloth, you soak it for three hours and then stretch and pin it out to dry in your son's playpen.  Because that's what playpens are for: keeping your baby away from your knitting.

Check it out: there are beads to be placed with a tiny crochet hook!

There are dingly-dangly bits and a picot bind off!  This shawl has it all, but it didn't get my house cleaned for me while I was knitting it.

I used 100% mulberry silk undyed yarn, and size 6 beads that are supposed to look like pearls.  A shout out to the lovely Fleece Cottage Yarns, who sourced the lot for me, corrected my horrific yarn-overs and knitted along too (see here).  You should totally go there and buy her lovely lovely yarn.  I'm going to pay a visit with my Christmas pennies... ;-)