Monday, 23 June 2014

Two new babies

By the time you read this post, it will be very old.  I'm writing it before I've given the gifts away, but I'll not post it until the little recipients are here.  (Currently they're probably 9 weeks away.)  I've been knitting.

For little girl, we have:

The pattern is "in threes" by Kelly Herdrich.  The yarn is Fleece Cottage Yarns Merino DK in colour "slowly eating custard pudding", as mentioned here.  I had a whole skein untouched with which I made this cardigan.  I must still have almost a skein left over!

For the little boy, we have:

The pattern is a mix of "poseidon" by Amber Bertram, and "owl baby vest" by Jodi Haraldson.  I used the size and construction of poseidon, and just switched the cabling for the owl cable from the second pattern.  I just preferred the shape and neckline of the poseidon sweater, so that's why I went for that.

By complete accident, the dark sections of the yarn ended up just above and below the owls, making them stand out (which was lucky). I did put a bit more thought into how the colour would change when I picked up the armholes and neckline, but I didn’t bother unwinding yarn to reach the right part of the colour-change: that would loose half the ball as the colour changes are so slow!

This was my first time to try steam blocking acrylic by pinning it out dry, then blasting it from 2cm above with my iron. It worked, actually! The photos don’t do justice to the delicious forest green-ness of this yarn, which looks much better in real life.  It's soft and slippery, but has a slight haze at the same time.  I made TButton a jumper from this when he was a baby, which he wore and wore.

So there we have it.  Two jumpers completed for two babies ahead of due date, and using up left over yarn skeins.  I'm feeling very organised and smug now, but I'm sure it won't last: I'll probably forget a birthday next week and spend too much on more yarn.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Cascading ruffles: a happy how-to

Ruffles remind me of bad 80s wedding dresses.  Especially the kind of ruffles that are gathered where they attach to the seam: eugh.  They stick out all stiff and bulky.  I do not like this kind of ruffle.

I do like the sort of ruffle that attaches to the seam smoothly, but then flares out along the loose edge.  That feels a bit less granny and a bit more modern.  These ruffles cascade beautifully, instead of sticking out nastily.  See the neckline of this pretty dress by Kathleen at Grosgrain Fabulous:

How to make such elegant ruffles?  We can deploy the magic of maths*!

For the ruffles to fall as they do, the outer (free) edge must be longer than the inner edge (attached to the garment).  Cutting a strip of fabric on a curve gives you an outer edge longer than the inner edge, so Bob is your uncle (or in my case, my mother's aunt). 

For extreme ruffles like the above dress, it turns out that the outer edge of the ruffle must be about 5 times longer than the inner edge (go on, measure it on your screen with string!).  The curve to do this will be so extreme that each end of the strip will meet, i.e. you'll cut out a circle with a hole in it.  Actually, whatever length of ruffle you need, it's easier to calculate as a section of a circle.  I like to calculate what I need to make, rather than trial-and-error cutting.  Fabric is expensive but a little time spent in thought before you cut is free.

First, decide on the width of your ruffle, we'll call it "W".  I want my ruffles to lie on my shoulders like the dress pictured above, so I'm going for a width of W = 8cm.

Next, decide on how much longer you want the outer edge to be compared to the inner edge, call this "X".  For extreme ruffles, I like X = 5, which means your outer edge is 5 times longer than your inner edge.  Lower values of X will give smaller ruffles, while bigger values will ramp up the ruffle mania.

Now imagine drawing two concentric circles (a.k.a. a picture of a doughnut).  The inner circle will become the edge you attach your ruffle on, while the outer circle defines the edge that waves free in the breeze.  Okay, you need to slice through your doughnut at the end to get your curvy strip, but that's fine.

Your generic ruffle pattern.  You're welcome.
The inner circle has a circumference of C = 2 x pi x r, where r is the radius of the doughnut hole.  We'll work out what C and r are going to be in a minute.  The outer circle has a circumference X times larger, because that's the type of ruffle we've chosen.  So, it'll be "X x C".  The radius needs to be r+W, so that when we cut our doughnut open, we have a curvy strip of width W.  So, the equation for this is (X x C) = 2 x pi x (r+W).

Like me, you were probably forced** to take a GCSE (or equivalent) in mathematics, so you can solve your two simultaneous equations for r:

C = 2 x pi x r
X x C = 2 x pi x (r + W)

Full marks if you got the solution r = W / (X-1).

For my happy case of X = 5 and W = 8cm, you get r = 2cm.  So, you draw a doughnut with the hole having radius r = 2cm and the outer edge having radius r + W = 10 cm.  Easy!  (Don't forget to add seam allowances, and finally cut though that circle to get your strip in the manner suggested on the diagram.)

How much ruffle does one circle buy you?  For this you'll be wanting the circumference of the inner circle, which is the edge you'll use to attach your ruffle.  That'll be 2 x pi x r, which is about 6 x r.  For me, that worked out at just over 12cm.  To get a longer bit of ruffle, you'll have to cut out many circles and join the strips together along the straight-cut edges in a tedious manner.

At the end of your ruffle, cut the edge into a pretty curve (see dashed line).

Hemming your ruffles is a pest because of the curve.  You can use a rolled hem on an overlocker in matching (or contrast) thread for minimum hassle, but you have to be okay with that look.  Otherwise, enjoy your painful rolled-hemming!

* I am prepared for more ridicule by posting this.  It's not as bad as the peg bag tutorial though.
** mandatory but it was a pleasure!  ;-)

My ruffle hell

It's been slow progress on my exciting knock-off ruffle dress.  It's been compounded by not being able to use my noisy machine during TButton's nap times, but being either out of the house or doing paid work at all other times.  I'm only snatching 5 minutes here and there.

I've managed to cut the dress out.  I've been worried about visible-entire-panties (never mind VPL), but I've managed to make the dress 4 layers thick.  I got 3 copies of every pattern piece out of the under-6m of light grey stuff, plus a single layer of the stripes.  Of the 4m of stripes I bought, I probably have over 1m left.

The fabric turns out to be 50p/m of pure hell to sew.  The light grey stuff I'm using as lining turns out to be quite stretchy and probably a knit, while the stripy stuff stretches like crazy on the bias.  Both fabrics are super drapey and slide all over the place.  Their only saving grace (apart from the price) is that neither fabric frays too much.

I've sewn all the bodice darts and the centre back and shoulder seams.  I then used the magic of inkscape to trace around the edge of the ruffles in a photo of the dress I'm copying, and compared the length of the ruffle-y edge to the length of the neckline.  It turns out the ruffles are probably 1:5 or 1:6 (wowzers), so I've gone for the 1:5 option.  I should probably do a tutorial on how to make these ruffles.

After much ruffle assembly, I've attached them to the neckline and sewn in the lining around the neckline.  My next plan is to top-stitch the lining down around the neck, but hiding the top-stitching under the ruffle.  I hope this will stop the neck gaping open, but who knows if it will work as the ruffles are so heavy.  I added a fusible interfacing strip around the neck too, but I'm not sure if it's enough to stop this dratted fabric stretching out of shape here too.


Next I'm planning to install the cap sleeves and attach the armhole lining as per this timely tutorial posted on Elegance & Elephants yesterday, just as I was considering how to do it!  Then it's french-seam time on 4 layers of skirts *yawn* and the hell of an invisible zipper into 2 layers of this &^"£* fabric.  At least the edge finishes are quick with the overlocker rolled hem feature.

ARGHHHH I don't even know if this dress is going to be wearable and it's taking forever!  Give me some nice non-stretchy cotton any day...

Friday, 13 June 2014

For my next trick, I'm going to (attempt to) make this dress...

I'm going to regret posting this when you see the effort I manage to serve up next week (ha ha).

For my next trick, I'm going to attempt to make a knock-off of this knock-off.  I can't find a picture of the original dress, but Kathleen at Grosgrain Fabulous made her own copy of a maternity dress which looked like this (her version):

I really love the combination of cascading ruffles around a v-neck with the blue pinstripe fabric, and I used to have a top from H&M that had a similar look.  (Yes, I wore it with a mustard cardigan.)

I'm not actually expecting a baby (before you ask) - so I'll be making a non-maternity version of this dress.  Nevertheless, I'm keeping the front box pleat to hide my saggy post-baby tummy...!

I'm pretty sure my dress is not going to turn out nearly so nicely, but here goes.


I'm making my own from scratch, using a copy of "Dress Pattern Designing" by Natalie Bray.  I've never drafted a pattern for myself before (only for the toddler), so it's an adventure.  I've made two muslins so far: one of my basic sloper, and one of the dress bodice (minus ruffle explosion).  I've no idea how Kathleen has done her skirt (other than her comment that it is bias cut), so I've opted for a half-circle skirt with a 6cm box pleat, divided into 4 panels to align with the four waist darts.  Unlike the dress I'm copying, I'll be adding cap sleeves and a side zipper.

I draft my patterns on the computer in Inkscape, because it has several features that take the tedium out of drafting by hand on paper:
  • Ability to make lots of copies quickly to test changes and keep old versions
  • Easy to measure curve lengths (a few mouse clicks) rather than faffing with a tape-measure held on it's edge
  • Super quick to add seam allowances before printing
The disadvantage is that like most CAD systems, you get a really skewed idea of the size of the object from working on the screen.  It's hard to have an intuitive feel of the feature sizes.

My bodice pattern... uh oh!


I picked up some navy and white stripy chiffon-y stuff for 50p/m in Walthamstow, and some pale grey chiffon-y lining.  Who knows if I'll have enough, but at least it was cheap!  I've never made an entire garment from such light fabric either, to I'm setting myself both a pattern drafting and a sewing challenge.  You can see why I'm not confident in the results.  ARGH!

I'm planning a overlocker-based rolled hem on the raw edges of the fabric, and I'll probably have to french-seam it up in most places.  I'll go for a single layer of chiffon for the sleeves, but I think I'll need three layers of fabric in most other places to stop the dress being transparent.  (Nice!)

I wanted to do some shearing in the back bodice to allow more freedom for heaving the toddler around, but I think that's a challenge too far at this stage: both for the pattern drafting and the chiffon-sewing.

Now I've posted this, I'll clearly be forced into actually cutting the thing out now.  This may be a record for impulse-fabric-purchase-into-dress time, but I'll hold onto that thought for now just in case it's a "straight-to-bin" project.  It'll certainly be a challenge.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

How now brown babydoll dress

I thwarted my machine to conquer twin needle stitching, and I have thwarted the fit of the "Sew-U home stretch" babydoll pattern.  See here for unfortunate fit issues and sad faces on my cheap toile (which I am actually still wearing as a dress even though it sucks apples*).

* I don't have that many clothes.

I made the following adjustments:
  • Remove 3/4" from shoulder seams (yawn) as I always do
  • Make front neckline less deep
  • Make 1 1/4" full bust adjustment and rotate out the resulting dart (see here)
  • Take in a tapered amount on the side seams from 1 3/8" at the waist up to nothing at the underarm on both front and back pattern pieces
  • Add 1/4" elastic at the waist seam before gathering and attaching the skirt (it's a lot of weight and bulk for that seam to carry without stretching).
  • Remove 2 1/2" from the height of the sleeve cap to (a) match my smaller armhole from lopping off height at the shoulder seams and (b) I hated the gathers on the sleeve cap, so they're gone
  • Cut the sleeves down to cute cap sleeves for the summer
I had thought that £3/m was cheap for the first toile, and I splurged at £3.60/m for this brown interlock knit from  I now know this to be expensive compared to the £1-£2/m I could have scored in Walthamstow.  Oh well.  I need another trip there to buy more jersey so that I can spend £12 to get another 6-12 dresses.

I have wet hair, not super greasy as this photo suggests: eugh!

I quite like brown, and I wanted to try sewing with interlock.  It's quite nice to handle: very drapey but quite stable and not particularly stretchy.  This fabric is a bit to shiny for my liking, but it was on sale and cheap.

Jersey dresses and cameras with self-timers balanced on clothes airers allow you room to swing your toddler around in his home-made shorts.

Despite the anger that the twin needle involved and the fixing of the machine and walking foot, it was totally worth it for the professional ready-to-wear look it gives!  Cheers for my birthday present, bro!  :-)

Sunday, 8 June 2014

I have actually spent some money on fixing my sewing machine.

I am about 3 hems away from finishing a short-sleeve babydoll dress for meeeeeee in brown interlock knit.  I have now spent several hours fixing my sewing machine and feet before I can finish it and it's driving me bananas.  I still haven't finished my dress.  On the plus side, I'm winning.

Read more of the gripping tale below:

Thursday, 5 June 2014

New crochet pattern: Fenland Vegetables

The crochet patterns for Fenland Vegetables are now available!  For just £1 you get the patterns for turnip, butternut squash, beetroot, leek, cauliflower, two widths of carrot and parsnip.  In addition, you get both UK and US terms on appropriately sized paper (A4 or US letter).  Is that a deal or is that a deal?

The pattern has been fully tested by some lovely people on Ravelry to whom I owe a debt of gratitude.

Buy it now in my Ravelry Store for just £1!  The pattern is digital and will zoom to you with all the efficiency of the internet.  Woop!

Sorbetto II: the yoke edition

I finished another Sorbetto!  It's so quick to run these up now I've finished all the pattern adjustments.  I so rarely make the same thing for myself twice that it's a real pleasure to keep sewing without stopping to have fittings/stick pins in myself.

More self-timer shots in my kitchen.  Lucky you.

Sorbetto II is a yoke design without the central front pleat.  More of which after the jump:....