Sparkly leafy new autumn block

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I’m pleased to have made this autumn block, as it uses my favourite fabric to best effect – albeit second (at least!) time lucky. I had 4 rectangles of it I’d never used and 4 that had been part of another block I’d taken apart, so I wanted to use them in the position in the photo along with less patterned fabrics so you can really see them. The only thing that really worked was to have a square of it in the centre, so I’m afraid I cannibalised another block to get to it. I wasn’t sorry to lose the one I took apart because making  it was a mistake really, too many very patterned fabrics and quite a bright green and a bright orange in the same block made it over-the-top. This is one of my favourites now, but re-sewing pieces that were already trimmed from having been in another block is difficult and I certainly wouldn’t choose to do it; better to have got it right the first time! To my surprise the sparkly orange fabric is going well in some blocks, perhaps because it’s a darker burnt orange, rather than some of the brighter ones I’ve bought in the past: it often isn’t easy to tell from photos online shops what things are going to look like in real life, and when I went to a fabric warehouse sale last weekend I couldn’t find a single one that would have gone well in this quilt, such a shame.

I went for a wander earlier and the trees are beginning to change colour:

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Lots of berries on this piece of hawthorn:

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I don’t know what this shrub in the area between fields is, but not only are the leaves very colourful, the flowers are extraordinarily bright… maybe if ever I have a garden I can find out what it is and plant one.

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First machine-sewn garment finished…

At last! There’s a lot that’s ‘wrong’ with it, but it’s still wearable and I’ve learned so much in the process.

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I had difficulty finishing the seams and tried to use the overlocking foot but the edges of the fabric in parts got turned in, and the beginning and end of each row got tangled so I ended up doing those bits by hand using blanket stitch. I gave up on other seams and used pinking shears instead, so the inside of the garment is a real mishmash! The two halves of the back don’t line up by a couple of millimetres, it’s not much but it is noticeable if you’re looking – hopefully no one will be! I’ve done my first hem that’s ‘invisible’ from the front, which is just as well as it wobbles all over the place, and my first button loop, which again isn’t the most tidy but you can’t see that when the button’s fastened. So lots of fudging, but lots learned, particularly bias binding. Unfortunately it’s now too cold to wear it this year!

I’ll wait until next year when the memory of all the difficulties has passed before trying to make anything with the other fabric I bought on the same day. At this time of year I’m keen to be getting on with my knitting and the autumn patchwork anyway, as well as some Christmas gifts.

 

Speaking of the autumn quilt, here is the latest block, using parts of one that I took apart because the colours / patterns didn’t look right; I’d thought when I made it it would be fine, but now I’ve got a decent number of blocks I can see it doesn’t work.

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The one on the right below is the one I took apart, it had too many big patterns in it and the small triangles on the flying geese round the centre square were the wrong colour, they just disappear into the other parts. The new one’s not exactly exciting, but I think it looks better because there’s more definition. I’m getting to be very reliant on that brown fabric, don’t know where I’d have been without it.

 

A few weeks ago I made some elderberry syrup for the first time, needless to say having to negotiate nettle patches to get to them, as elders and nettles seem to grow together. It turns out to be quite tasty, more subtle than you’d think; I’d definitely make it again next year.

Stripey jumper, two new autumn blocks, and a trip to Wiltshire

I finished the jumper made from a self-striping Noro yarn (a silk mix) that I’ve been working on quite fast because I wanted to wear it when the weather cools down, but to be honest am disappointed. The colours are still lovely but I wish I’d made it a size bigger, and all is not well with the neck. I’ve included a photo from the pattern book to show what it should look like, but in reality it’s far too high and I don’t know what I did wrong; I followed the instructions!

Patchwork-wise, I’ve finished another two autumn blocks, and am pleased with the colour combinations on both. I thought the mouse one might be too ‘avocado and aubergine’, but actually it’s fine. On the other one, I wanted to showcase the rosehip fabric, following on from previous blocks when a more heavily patterned fabric stood out against plainer ones, giving a better effect. In the end some of the other fabrics are reasonably heavily patterned, but it’s still okay. The orange fabric is new and the best I could get to be close to the orange in earlier blocks that was more rusty than bright, despite being covered in gold sparkles!

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When I finished it I laid out all the blocks I’ll definitely use, and as a whole the quilt is looking much better, though sadly weeding out the unsatisfactory ones leaves only 30 blocks! Sorry the photo’s dark (though it’s really bright sunshine outside) and of course as I’m standing on a chair with the camera stretched out up and in front of me, at a bad angle.

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Of the eleven discarded blocks left, I can see how two can be taken apart and some colours changed to make them usable, two won’t be used at all, and of the remaining seven I’ll take some apart and hopefully use some component parts in new blocks, and may keep one or two as they are. It’s a pain, particularly as the awful truth is there are some fabrics I should just never have  bought or used, which is a waste of money as well as time and energy, but there’s no point crying over spilt milk – I can be  more sanguine now I’m happier with the overall project!

We went to Wiltshire on Sunday and stayed for 5 nights, one night in a B&B near Malmesbury and 4 in a self-catering cottage near Salisbury. It’s a county I’d never visited, and am so pleased I went. I wanted to visit some of the sites associated with people I studied in Medieval History, so was really pleased to see Malmesbury Abbey, which was built on the site of an ancient holy place, and Old Sarum, the site of a now-ruined cathedral and castle, as well as Salisbury Cathedral, which was built in the 13th century when the cathedral at Old Sarum was abandoned. But there was so much ancient history, too. You felt it all around you because although Stonehenge is the famous stone circle and we decided not to visit because it is such a tourist hub and so cordoned-off that there might not be much pleasure to be had, there are actually lots of other, ‘smaller’ stone circles too, as well as the white horses etched out of the hillsides which you can see just driving along. We visited the stone circle that runs through the village of Avebury, and although there are only 30-odd of the original c. 150 stones standing, the scale of them is amazing. They reckon the stones were put there in 2600 B.C.! My photos don’t do it justice, but you can see the scale from the ones next to houses and people.

 

Photos of parts of Malmesbury Abbey:

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Stunning gardens at Stourhead, designed in the 18th century (having first diverted a river and dammed some medieval fish ponds, of course!), complete with grottoes and follies. Now owned by the National Trust. Must look fantastic in the autumn!

 

Lastly, Salisbury Cathedral – great place to see stunning embroidery! I somehow managed to omit taking a photo of the central aisle down the length of the nave, which was very long. There is an incredible font in the centre, commissioned in 2008, with constantly flowing water. The Chapter house dates to 1260 and has an amazing frieze running round it, above the benches were Chapter members sit, carved in stone and showing biblical scenes.

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Rosehips block

For the next block of my autumn quilt, I wanted to make a block that showcased the fabric with the rosehips on a brown background. After the last few blocks I did with the bold autumn fabric flanked by less conspicuous ones, which I thought worked well, I thought I’d try it with another bold fabric alongside less in-your-face ones. In the end, to get colours that went well together, I included the fabric with a woodgrain background and naturalistic animals, but I hope it doesn’t detract from the rosehips too much. I’m afraid it is a bit bland, but I need some bland alongside the more, ahem, ‘interesting’, ones… I had trouble getting the points to line up, and had to redo a few of the flying geese; not sure why unless it’s because the cottons are different thicknesses, but it’s turned out okay in the end.

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I have, however, done the binding on both sleeves of the top I’m trying to sew. One per weekend! Doing one takes me a whole afternoon. Now I’ve got the remaining seam edgings to deal with, the button to work out, and the hem to do. I haven’t done edgings to date well at all, can’t manage the overstitching on my machine, so yesterday I spent a small fortune on a pair of pinking shears, which will have to be what I finish things off with, all this faffing about is not good!

Ages ago I bought a pack of cotton yarn at a knitting and stitching show in London and knitted myself a summer cardigan, then with the leftovers made a baby cardigan. I was going to send it to a school friend who had a baby but a) the baby was too old for it when I finished and b) the yarn’s a mix of colours and they came out badly spaced on a small garment and looked weird and I  didn’t think my schoolfriend would want it. It’s hung around for ages, I bought buttons for it then lost them, but then when I wanted a button for my top I bought a pack which it turned out were the right size, as well as colour, for the cardigan. My parents’ neighbours’ daughter, who’s a few years younger than me so we weren’t friends, but we grew up in next door houses as children in a friendly way, is having a baby in September so on Saturday I put on the buttons and posted it home to Mum so she can judge whether to ask if they’d like it. They don’t know if it’s to be a boy or a girl, but it’s a fairly gender-neutral colour(s). Also, the mum-to-be is an artist so may be okay with the interesting colours!

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Next weekend we’re going to Wiltshire for a few days. The county where Stonehenge is, but I doubt we’ll go there, it’ll be too busy. We’re staying near Malmesbury the first night, then near Salisbury for four nights. Both have mediaeval histories, which I’m keen on but as usual should read more about. I’m delighted to see (on Wikipedia, but I can check if it’s right!) that William of Malmesbury, the mediaeval chronicler, records that in 1010 the first ever attempt at human flights was made, when a monk called Ailmer tried to fly a hang glider off the tower at Malmesbury Abbey – made it 180 feet before crashing and breaking both legs, poor chap. All hail human endeavour, though!

Autumn block and first attempt at neck binding (unrelated!)

Something of a lowering sky when I went for a quick walk earlier this afternoon, but I saw some magnificent red kites, one swooping quite low over my head; my photos don’t do it justice.

I worked hard to finish a new autumn block this week, inspired by having a plan to use the same colours as last week’s, and by wanting to feel I’d achieved something by the end of the week if sewing the neck binding on my top didn’t work out! I’m pleased with the result:

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The more boldly patterned fabric is much thinner than the higher-quality Moda fabrics that make up the rest of the block, and I can feel how much better (for which read, easier) it would be to have fabrics all of the same quality. Unfortunately I haven’t had time this weekend to choose fabrics to put together for the next block, so will be deprived of sewing to do on the train. Might actually start reading a book, I used to read so much before I took up sewing! I’ve just finished Life of Pi and it took something like 4 months, oh dear. I listen to audiobooks all the time while sewing on the train, but don’t know if that counts the same way.

On Thursday night I tried to use the overlocking stitch for the first time. Not a resounding success, alas.

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I put the edge of the fabric up against the guide on the overlocking foot, but obviously sometimes it got too close and the edges have turned in. At least no one will see it. It went wrong near the bottom of the seam so I’m going to do that by hand.

I have spent so much of the last two weekends looking at YouTube videos! So much good advice, but people do things differently and I don’t always understand all instructions, so it’s still a lot of puzzling out what best to do. I confess that in my ignorance before I looked at these videos I thought the binding went on the outside! I now know that’s only if it’s to be a decorative feature, which in this case it most certainly is not. It took me in the end I think two and a half goes to do the binding round the neck of my top.

First time I used all these pins…

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It still didn’t work out, and I did misjudge it a few times and had to lift the needle to get a pin out then carefully put it back in the right place. The curve of the shoulder seam has  been the main problem. This was a wildly off-kilter part after my first go:

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Oops. I thought of just unpicking that section, then thought of the mess I make when I tie off an end of stitching mid-length and reneged. I thought I’d try to just add the correct stitching without unpicking this one… yes, I know, it didn’t work! So I unpicked the whole thing and tried again, this time, and I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner, with basting. It still wasn’t neat like the woman in the video’s is neat, and I sewed over a few basting stitches and had fun picking them apart. But on the whole it was better.

Then as per instructions I trimmed it so the fabric was flush with the binding, and cut in little notches to help with the curve (thanks to having tried a little bit of needle-turn applique this idea wasn’t a novelty, so that was good), then turned  it inside the garment.

I saw on some blogs that some people do something called understitching, but I didn’t follow what exactly I was meant to do, and some people didn’t do it, so I decided as it seemed okay without it and my fabric’s not very stretchy (deliberately chosen for that reason) I would give it a skip. Then I basted the binding in place, by hand, then sewed it down with the machine. Again the problem with the shoulder, this time meaning I missed the binding for about 2 inches, but this time I did unpick from the  armhole edge to the offending part, and got the sewing machine needle in at the right spot and redid it. I stitched the thread ends in by hand, but don’t think it’s noticeable from the right side unless you’re looking really closely at the stitching, not if you’re just talking to me when I’m wearing it.

Having pressed in place, I think the binding’s  okay, a bit may gape in time but it’s fine for now (and for a first attempt) and for just me wearing it. A pity the two parts of the back are slightly misaligned, I really hadn’t realised until after the binding was done and I was going to take this photo. This whole thing has shown me – well, reinforced what I knew – that accuracy is so important, but also so difficult! I don’t think dressmaking is going to be my ‘thing’, I’ll make tops with the fabrics I’ve bought and I haven’t given up on making  pair of tartan pyjama bottoms in a nice thick or brushed cotton one day, but overall, I’ll stick with patchwork and knitting!

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Making a cotton top – the beginning

I’ve spent this weekend trying to make a top, or the start of one at any rate.

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Choosing the size wasn’t easy and at first I cut out the pieces for a size bigger than the one I’ve since settled on. I forgot to cut out notches first time round so taking it down a size meant I could cut out notches this time (except for one that was too close to the edge). I spent a lot of time looking at online tutorials on umpteen different blogs, starting with those on sewessential.

Laying out the pieces – the front of the garment is one piece so is on the centre fold, the back is in two pieces but I cut it out on the double layer of fabric. I used the layout as shown on the pattern and was pleased I did when I read later that is so the pattern on the fabric joins up the right way (so in my case the swallows won’t be upside down).

I followed online instructions for stay-stitching round the neck (the pattern said to do stay-stitching but I’d never heard of it!), and did directional stitching like it said. At this point I realised I’d never sewn a curved line with the sewing machine before! I said as much to my husband, and I swear he sniggered. You can go off some people.

I also basted it, but faffed about for a while trying to get it the right distance from the edge, in the end using dots of yellow chalk, as it’s on the back it shouldn’t show up. Don’t know what the best way of measuring the seam allowance is – my mother-in-law seemed to do it by eye!

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The pattern has an opening at the back, which I didn’t expect from the photo on the front of the pattern, so this was a bit of a challenge. Not as much of a challenge as the binding is going to be next weekend!

There’s no measurement for where the ‘black dot’ on the pattern is, but it looks like it’s a bit to one side of half-way between notch and top, so I just guessed. The pattern also says to buy a button, but nothing about a button loop or where exactly to put it, so I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

This is the seam joining the two halves of the back, pressed open, and the seam above the notional black dot folded under again.

These have to be stitched, and square-stitched underneath. I basted it and tried to do it without taking my needle out of the fabric, but sadly this didn’t work at the corners (below). Not sure what I did wrong there, lack of experience with the sewing machine. While unpicking it I realised it actually looked fine on the inside! Typical.

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This is it when the three lines were sewn separately (I hadn’t unpicked the one on the left, so only had to redo the ones on the right and across the base). Looks okay from the front, I hope, though I know the one on the right is wider than its counterpart and wider at the base than the top, but not loads and I hope you wouldn’t notice when I’m wearing it unless someone’s staring at the back of my neck, and if they’re doing that I don’t want to talk to them!

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From the inside, not good because of the difficulty of fastening in the ends of all those lines of stitching, particularly as machine-sewing leaves you with two lots of thread for each line. I did extra stitches inside the seam with knots pulled through so they’re hidden, but I hope they aren’t going to be uncomfortable and it doesn’t look tidy:

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Where I did back stitches at the beginning of each row it’s gone loopy, somehow I need to unpick those and resew by hand, sigh:

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That’s as far as I could get this weekend, despite spending a total of about 7 hours on it!I hope I may be awake enough on weekday evenings to sort out those nasty loopy bits and read up on overstitching and try to do that on the seam I’ve done. I only saw from a blog heading today that it’s something that has to be done, it isn’t something I’d thought of before. I also tried looking up some info. about hems, something that could prove a challenge later on. If I can do that through the week, then next weekend it is joining the shoulder seam and tackling the binding on the neck. Ooph! I’m feeling mentally exhausted now!

I stopped at 3.30 and went out for a walk, which I like to do at the weekend if I can before being in the city all week. Corn must be nearly ready to harvest. I was delighted at the end of the week and this weekend to have some heavy rain, after all the horrible heat (though it was still muggy when I was out today), but on this particular walk it leaves a stretch of pathway almost impassible. This bee was happy though!

 

 

New autumn block (and some shopping!)

This one came together quickly, in terms of which fabrics to put together, which makes a pleasant change for me! I’m pleased with the result, it’s got a proper autumn feel to it.170718

Where that big, bold fabric is concerned it’s better to put it with plainer ones, something I wish I’d come round to sooner! I’m going to try to make the next block in the same colours but in a different combination, though I don’t know what yet.

Oh, and once again I’ve been searching for more of a fabric that seems to have disappeared from the shops, though I only bough it in early May. It’s the beige background colour, from the Moda Thistle Farm range. I think I’ve ordered some but the online shop didn’t have a picture and the name’s slightly different to the one I saw in an online US shop but didn’t want to pay to order from overseas, it’s not that vital! Both were tonal sand but one had ‘seed’ in the title too, so we’ll see. I’m hoping that even if it isn’t the same I can still use it.

I went to a fabric warehouse sale on Sunday, in Henley-on-Thames; husband kindly took me. I got these lovely fabrics, to make tops with:

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The pale blue with swallows and the burgundy Japanese-style stripe were both half-price, so I got 2 metres of each. The lilac / purple stripe was more expensive because it’s a Kaffe Fassett design, but I loved it so bought 1.5 metres, which is enough for a sleeveless top using the pattern I already have, but I might use a different one. It’s a lighter weight cotton than the others in the shop were, something to do with the weave, which is exactly what I’d need for a sleeveless top. I won’t try to make that until I’ve made something with the swallow fabric first, because I don’t want to make a mistake and waste the one I like the best. I may make a long sleeve tunic with the burgundy cotton, I’ll wait and see how I get one with the swallow one, there’s no rush.

Yesterday Mum alerted me to a flash sale of pattern on the website http://www.sewessential.co.uk. I got two patterns, one for what they term a ‘kimono-style’ top, which looks like a t-shirt but the sleeves are of one piece with the front / back (I think), and the other for a scoop-neck vest top. If they come in time I might start the pale blue swallow one on Saturday afternoon.

We had a lot of thunder and scary lightning where I live last night, which I think went on for most of the night but cleared the air. In London this morning, it is muggy and horrible, eyes stinging and damp trickling through my hair (we don’t have air-con where I work), I hate it!!!