Making a cotton top – the beginning

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

pattern pieces

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!

pattern instructions

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!

 

 

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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!!!

Funky Owl revamped and a new block

In my re-evaluation of early blocks which I wish I’d done differently, I decided I could make this funky owl, which I wanted to keep, less cluttered.

The one on the left is the original, the one of the right after I  reworked it.

The bright orange round the centre square is a fabric I bought early on (I think because it had the word ‘autumn’ in the title on ebay!) and in the light of what I’ve done and fabrics I’ve found subsequently wish I’d never gone near – though it’s not as bad as the yellow version of the same pattern!

If I’d had enough of the brown fabric with orange leaves I might have made all the flying geese around the outside with that as the base fabric, but I didn’t and there’s none to be bought anywhere that I could see. After a lot of faffing about and laying different fabrics alongside each other, I eventually decided to take apart the centre flying geese and replace the orange with dark cream / beige. Happily, I had the fabric I bought at the Edinburgh Knitting and Stitching Show but at the time didn’t know what I’d do with!

The main thing was to get rid of the busy patterns next to each other that create a diagonal of messiness at the wine-coloured corners. Although it might have been better to change the dark fabric in the centre flying geese, in the end I just remade those which had the multi-coloured  leafy fabric as the base and replaced it with the dark orange, which has a fairly plain pattern.

Not perfect, but better! It fits better with the other blocks.

It took a lot of fiddling with to get the pieces to fit, for some reason they didn’t want to very neatly, so I admit it’s better from a distance than close to.

The other block I took apart is this one, which I put on the reject pile:

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The red had to come out, but I thought the outside flying geese could be recycled, if I replace the camouflage-type triangles on the geese with the dark orange base with the same green as the alternate flying geese, so they created a more symmetrical pattern.

I took it apart and actually made the altered flying geese, convinced I could make something of them.

Here are various options I came up with:

None of them quite worked! The one in the biggest photo was, I think, the best, but having pale squares at the outermost corners sucked the whole thing in and made it look squashed, but putting the darkest fabric at the corners made the pale inside square too much of a contrast.

In the end, and after driving myself nearly made, all I kept of that original block was the bold autumn leaf fabric of alternate outer flying geese. It seemed to work with dark corners and middle and the rest paler. For the centre flying geese, I ended up  using another fabric I’d bought without purpose (though I’d bought it with three others with the same design theme and which it was intended to complement, so I must buy some more to replace it before it’s discontinued, as everything seems to be so quickly).

I think I’m pleased  with this, it showcases that fabric, which initially I loved (except for the purple), but it’s hard to get anything to go with it, and I realise now I should never have put anything with it except the plainest patterns.

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This weekend, apart from swimming, going to church, and having another bad driving lesson (sigh), we went to my in-laws on Saturday afternoon and my mother-in-law started making a top with me. I brought pattern and fabric, but of course didn’t get it right in both cases! It was very good of my m-in-law to help. By the end of the afternoon the heat in their tiny flat was such I was ready to keel over. We  got as far as cutting out the pattern pieces, my mother-in-law sewed the darts in the front then when I asked explained what she’d done, marked out the seams using tacking, and sewed back to front. Trying it on at that stage, unfortunately it doesn’t suit me at all and looks like a tent – not my finest fabric-choosing hour. Next session, m-in-l will have very kindly sewed on  one sleeve and will then use the other to show me what to do. There is then the notch-neck to do and we’ll take up the hem, as at present it is far too long.

Next weekend, however, husband has agreed to take me to a fabric sale at a warehouse 20 miles away.  A website that I occasionally use (I’m now trying to remember if I’ve ever actually bought from it) has a warehouse that opens Mon-Fri, no good for me as I work, but on special occasions opens at weekends. It’s opening for a sale this weekend to make way for autumn stock, so we’re going to investigate. I hope to get material for another top, which I’ll try to make myself using the same pattern but for the sleeveless version, and will choose a better fabric, which is  easier to do when you can see and touch the fabric instead of buying online. I’ll also look for possible patchwork bargains, and / or the cream fabric I used for that last block, and I fancy getting some thicker tartan / plaid / brushed cotton, but am not sure for what (other than some pj bottoms  if ever I make it that far) or whether they’ll have that in a sale of summer stock.

Something to look forward to to get me through the week!

Best do dishes now – 10 mins before Poldark starts!

 

Two cute harvest mice, and some decisions

Goodness, what a weekend, largely spent in eradicating moths, what joy. What a week, too, with the horrible heatwave particularly in the first two days, thank goodness it’s over.

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Here is the positive, however, the block I made last week to be a friend for the other harvest mouse with purple and brown; I rather like this one, and am glad that the cream fat quarter I bought on spec in Edinburgh turned out to be the best one in my stash to use. I like this Lewis and Irene fabric, with the two cute mice facing each other on the branch. Maybe not the easiest to match fabrics to outwith those designed to co-ordinate with it.

Here it is beside the other one, similar but different, which  is what I wanted.

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I laid out all the blocks, except those I’d already decided I won’t use (mostly those with red in them), but have taken out another few that I’m not sure whether or not I’ll use. These are the ones that are not going in:

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They make you go cross-eyed, apart from the one with the bird, which is too Christmassy but I would love to use in another project.

This is all of the rest to date, but the uncertain ones are all in a row next to the sofa:

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This is them without the uncertain ones:

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I’m not sure how clear the difference is in the photo, particularly as it’s over-exposed (still haven’t read the camera instruction booklet). These are the ones I don’t really like as they are, they’re either too bright or too busy, or both:

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I do like the majority of the bottom one, with the owls, but it includes three bold patterns which perversely blend into each other, and I really want the owls to stand out, so am going to redo it. Ideally I’d like to change the big triangles on the outside edges so that the brown with orange leaves are used for every triangle, replacing the multicoloured leaves; however, I’ve run out of that fabric. I’d also like to replace the bright orange centre triangles. This is the alternative I’ve come up with, after several hours of deliberation, though I know it’s not perfect:

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I’ve taken most of it apart, so am going to try tomorrow on the train to make two of the flying geese for the inner square – I know from experience it’s difficult to make flying geese when recycling old ones that have already been trimmed, so am not looking forward to it!

The other crafty thing I  did today was make jam. (The elderflower cordial of a few weeks ago was good, by the way, but it’s a bit sharp on the teeth, must be the citric acid. I make it in a really weak solution, but I must confess it’s nice in a gin and tonic!). I tried this jam a week and a half ago because I bought at random some apricots from the greengrocer’s, allegedly a bargain though I now know otherwise, then had to decide what to do with them. Found a recipe on BBC online for apricot, carrot, ginger and almond jam, with the promise it sounds weird but tastes good, and it happened to require the exact quantity of apricots I had, and I had enough carrots in the fridge, though as is always the case with anything that uses up ingredients, the other things I had to buy to complete the recipe cost more than the things I was using up. The end product tasted good but I’d overset it so you need a knife to get it out, so I wanted to try again but not leave it for so long. Part of the problem last time was that I used a sugar thermometer but the quantity I had was not much and spread over too large a surface area because I didn’t have the right type of pan, so I don’t know that the thermometer was far enough into the liquid. Anyway, I’ve tried again and hope it’s better, so can give the bigger jar to Mum because I think she’ll like it! I can make a cover using fabric and give it to her when I’m next visiting my family before Christmas, be like those House Beautiful magazines and look like I spend all my time crafting beautiful homemade gifts!Jam

Lastly, here’s two photos of honeysuckle I took on a quick pre-dinner walk today, I like to on a Sunday if I can, knowing I’ve nasty petrol-fumy London coming up tomorrow:

Block reconfigured

Quite a while ago I took a photo of all the blocks to date in the autumn quilt, and could see those that stood out for all the wrong reasons. This one stood out partly because of all the orange fabric round the edge, though it seemed like a good idea at the time because it made it simpler, but also because alternate the red and beige flying geese don’t work; the red stands out, the beige disappears, and it makes it all look wonky, which I didn’t realise from close-up but you see it from a distance. I really like the middle, and don’t want to lose the animals, so  decided to take it apart (gulp).

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I kept the middle as is, but gave it a new outside. (Yes, that took a lot of decision-making and mental energy, not my strong point). I finished with this:

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I would have used the same green that’s in the middle for the outside corners, but ran out.

Then I used the red flying geese, and came up with this:

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(Both photos are a bit overexposed). I wanted to be able to keep the animals, but I hope that here the orange isn’t so overpowering. I might have preferred to have brown on the outer corners, but orange triangles where the brown is now didn’t work because it replicated the orange on the inner part too much, so I just left it like this and quit fiddling. I did have to order more fabric to get the beige triangles at the middle of each outer edge, which involved getting a pack of pre-cuts and has landed me with a lot of other pre-cut squares in shades of brown which I’ll never use, but there you go.

I spent a goodly portion of yesterday tackling moths which are eating our carpet and were partly living under the box I keep fabric in, which was a bit depressing and involved moving a lot of furniture to get underneath, not the best on a hot day.

So I will have to find a  way of using the remaining fat quarters from the original block, but I think these two are better than the original. Phew, all this colour choice is exhausting! I’ve laid out most of another block, using purple-ish / brown-ish colours to give the last mouse block some company, so will do that before deciding on a new way to use the beige / orange flying geese from the first block shown here.

I have taken a photo of blocks to date, excluding some I think I won’t use, but shall contemplate that in another post. In the meantime, the forecast is for hot in London this week (maybe not by southern US standards, but by mine!), so I shall suffer on the underground on my way to and from work. This chap’s happy, though (taken last night from our living room window):

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Japanese folded patchwork box

I finished making the Japanese folded  patchwork box from the kit I bought at the Edinburgh Knitting and Stitching Show. It’s 5 inches square which is actually bigger than I thought and holds all the reels of thread I have with room for more. The photos look a bit overexposed but it gives you the idea of the nice fabrics supplied with the kit. I like that it means  you can use a plain background to each square and showcase the lovely fabric on the inside of each square.

The kit gives instructions on a clever way to get a circle with a folded-under border, using a cardboard template, a circle of fabric that’s bigger than than the cardboard template, and making a running stitch between the two that you pull on to draw it up round the cardboard and use spray starch to iron it down. I though this must be the ideal way to make a circle for needle-turn applique too.

This weekend was very busy, I’m more tired at the end of it than I was at the beginning! Very pleased to get the talk I was giving on Friday over and done with, though. I think it went quite well and the people were nice, but I’m glad it’s done nonetheless. I do get myself wound up about these things, and there was a lot of preparation involved. Only as I was leaving did I think to take a couple of pictures. Here’s one, but I don’t actually know which part of the building it is, where we had tea I think.

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I did remember this weekend that I wanted to try to make elderflower cordial, I thought of it last year only after the elderflowers had  all died, but I did buy the citric acid needed (and used a little bit for a different flavoured cordial but with fruit you buy in the shops, so it’s not the same!). We picked some elderflowers today and following the recipe on the BBC website I’ve got them infusing in a mixture of sugar dissolved in boiling water (cooled), citric acid, and slices of orange and lemon. They’re to stay in there for 24 hours, then when I get in from work tomorrow the liquid’s to be strained through muslin and put into sterilised bottles.

Right-oh, bedtime!

Harvest mouse!

I realise with a shock that it’s been a month since I last posted a blog entry: crumbs. However, at last another autumn block, easing myself back into the saddle after some time away working on the Farmer’s Wife cushion. I have also, to my delight, finished a jumper I started some 20 months ago!

Mouse and brown

I’ve wanted to do another block with the harvest mouse fabric for a while, but find the purple difficult to deal with in the context of the quilt as a whole, and from that point of view it wasn’t a good fabric to choose despite its autumn theme. Putting it with the dark brown and cream autumn leaf fabrics has worked well, I hope, to tie it in more with the other blocks and help the purple-ish ones I’ve already made blend in better. At least, that’s the theory! The colours remind me of copper beech trees.

It’s been a busy month because I’ve been working hard on a talk I’m giving on Friday relating to my work, which has meant lots of reading in the hopes I’m not going to make any obvious mistakes and will be able to answer questions at the end, and choosing carefully what to talk about, to keep it down to the required 40 minutes. I’ve been working on it at work and at home, so will be very glad when Friday’s over!

I’m also on a mission now to finish lots of projects so I can clear some of the backlog lying around in the flat (and attracting moths and damp, great) and start new things! Could take years… But I’ve finished a jumper I started making in Sept. 2015, a complicated cable knit which I had some problems with but also left lying fallow for months on end while I worked on quilting projects, like the green and pink lap top for my aunt. So hip hip hooray for that!

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I’ve started on a new jumper using a self-striping yarn I bought either last year or more likely the year before, when the knitting and sewing shop in our village downsized and was selling off stock. I love the colours and that it’s cable-free, so am going great guns on it. For the next patchwork block I’m afraid I’ve taken apart one I did in the early days of the project but which isn’t working well in the quilt as a whole, so intend to keep the central square of the block but make a new outer part to it, and use the flying geese I’d made  for the original one with different fabrics in a different combination. It’s requiring more mental energy than I’ve had to spare in the last fortnight, so I hope I can resolve that this coming Sunday (Saturday being fully booked and looking like a write-off, crafts-wise).