Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Finished Just in Time

I started this scarf last winter, but with so many other things going on, it got put to the bottom of my to-do list.  I got half way through when I realised I needed to get another ball of wool, and the shop is an hours drive away, so it was about a month before I actually purchased the lovely soft alpaca and silk yarn.  Then about a month after that I couldn't find the pattern anywhere, so had to just use my detective skills and try to work it out.  But seeing it still incomplete in my crafting bag next to my seat in our lounge room, I decided to just crack on and get it finished.  So I nutted out the pattern and now here it is, all finished with two balls of Debbie Bliss Andes.

(It's pretty cold here, this photo was taken at about 4pm and already it's pretty dark)

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

An Oldie but a Goodie

(That's if you call 2011 old)
We were planning a holiday on a remote Scottish Island two years ago. I didn't blog then, but thought you might like to read this. The cottage we had booked was an ancient drover's cottage positioned on a rocky point of the island.  It used to be a port for cattle to be rounded up towards, and they were then tethered up and swam to the next island, walked across that one, then swam to the mainland, ready for a long walk towards the highland cattle markets!  The cottage only has a bath and no shower, the water is brown as it comes from pipelines on the island, there were minimal conveniences - no phone or TV or wifi - just electricity for cooking, heating and lighting and a lovely log burning fire.
We loved it! The remoteness, the rustic living, and the simple basics.
We had planned to do some walks and some drives on the island as well as some fishing.  I had planned to be all domestic and do knitting by the fireside, read, play board games and do all the cooking myself! It's not often that I can spend all day fiddling over the evening meal, and I had built up a collection of "Want to Try One Rainy Day" recipes that would be perfect for Autumn cottage living.
So, apart from all this, there was something else I wanted to do....ssshhh.....come closer......it's my guilty little secret that I don't tell any of my real friends but feel safe in sharing with my online friends....here it is....
I wish I lived in the past. I wish I could wear period costumes in the day time.  I wish I could go for walks and do the cooking in a hoop skirt.
And so I decided that I would!  We would be so secluded that nobody would see.  So I bought a sewing pattern online, went to the fabric shop and chose some lovely material, and I began a massive sewing task! My Mr thought I was a bit silly but I didn't mind.

Simplicity 3727

Here is some of the review that I've written onto the Pattern Review website.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
My sleeves don't appear as gathered as the ones on the envelope, they are definitely pleats, but I don't mind, I really like the sharp look they give. But I did iron them in, you could probably just not press them.
Were the instructions easy to follow?
Yes, very easy to follow.  Lots of details too.
What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I liked everything about it.  There was a lot of hand sewing involved though, but I guess it is trying to be as authentic as possible, which is probably a good idea.  The skirt pleats took ages but they do look amazing and I can't imagine them working as well done any other way.
Fabric Used:
A shiny, jacquard curtain fabric from Dunelm Mill.  I tried hard to match the patterns on the bodice and sleeves.
Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
I didn't add the trim at all, as I felt that the dress was pretty impressive as it is, and didn't need any embellishments on me.  I did buy brown velvet ribbon but decided not to use it here.
These are the  only change I made: First on the white sleeves.  Instead of attaching them to the dress, I put elastic in the hem and wear them snug around my upper arm. This way they are unattached and can be easily washed.  I also didn't attach the collar, but instead just tuck it in and it stays quite well.
Second was the opening at the front. It gaped a little where the hook and eye closures were, so I hand stitched a length of the brown velvet ribbon to the inside of the hooks so that if you do get a peek, at least you aren't seeing the corset underneath, just the brown velvet instead.
Third change was the pillow bustle.  I did make this, but when I wore it, I didn't think it was flattering at all, so it's in the cupboard.  I am fairly well endowed in the hip and bottom area so was able to get away with just emphasising the thin waist and relied on the hoop petticoat I got from ebay to give it all the sticky-outy-ness it needed.
Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
I'd like to do the bodice again but without the high neck or sleeves.  If I made just the bodice and small bell sleeves, then it could be worn with the skirt as an evening gown.  That way I'd get more wear out of it.
Love it! Loved making it and more than that, I love wearing it.

So finally, here are some photos of me on the Isle of Mull, Scotland.  Please scroll down, as there are a quite a few.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Half the job is in the preparation.

My own guilty UFO.

I enrolled in a Block-of-the-Month (BOM) program where I was supposed to follow an applique/patchwork pattern and get one 20" square finished each month. For the first three months I was always on target, and then life interrupted, as did other more interesting sewing and knitting projects.  So I got a bit distracted and instead of having 9 finished blocks by November I have only got 3 and a half done.
This is the progress of block number four.

Having this blog makes me feel a little accountable, so I decided I would photograph the process of finishing block 4, in the hope that I would then be re-motivated to press on with the work.

First I trace each shape from the pattern onto the paper side of Freezer Paper.

Then I label each piece to indicate position, then cut them out
(with paper scissors) and store them carefully.
Then I choose my fabric colours, using the pattern photograph as a guide.

Then I sit the pattern pieces of freezer paper spaced-out onto the fabric,
plastic side down, and dry-iron them onto the fabric.

I let them cool, then start cutting them out, leaving about 1/4" edge of fabric,
to later become the turned under hem.
Then I match the fabric colours to some thread, and keep it all together
in a zip-lock bag so that I can grab it and go, and I know everything
 I'll need is inside ready to be worked on.
All of this takes MUCH longer than the actual sewing, I spend about an hour one day doing the paper tracing and cutting, then on another day I will choose the material and press the pattern pieces onto the material and cut them out. Then on the third crafty session I can actually start the sewing part!
Actually, now that I have typed this out I have noticed that it is the same with my dressmaking.
Day one I cut out the paper pattern, for about an hour. Day two I pin it to the fabric and cut that out. Not until the third day do I actually spool on a bobbin and begin the sewing... I wonder if I could have made an entire dress in the same time as it will take for me to finish this block?? Hmmm...

Thursday, 10 January 2013

A New Workshop!

I had often bemoaned the lack of fabric shops within any kind of 'drivable' distance of my home, when a work colleague of the newly-moved-into-the-area-so-I'll-explore-everything kind shared one of her discoveries... a fabric shop! 
So we went online together and checked out the address, opening times and other details when we happened upon their list of up-coming workshops! Amongst a lot of long-term beginner courses and twee projects, there was one workshop that I thought I could benefit from.
It was a machine quilting class, only £20 for 4 hours. Bargain! And within an hours drive!
We were given good instructions to hold the fabric firmly and let it do the moving, and were then able to practice on a fabric/wadding/fabric piece first so as to build up our confidence with the possible speeds, directions and styles.
Then were were given our (ugly) sampler fabric, and drew up the grid boxes to fill with 6 different styles of quilting stitches. Inside each box is an attempt at a different stitch. Clockwise from top left: Watery stitch back and forth, Stipple stitch, handwriting, Pebbles, stippling around an appliqued shape (I removed it), and "didn't get time". Around the edges are two examples of a running border, one is butterflies and the other are little flowers.

My favourite was the pebbles one. It really makes the fabric puff up beautifully and is the only one to make this hideous fabric look any good.
So in the end I bought myself the free-quilting foot for £12 and although my sewing machine doesn't let the feed dogs drop, it does have a darning plate to cover them up, which is something I wouldn't have learnt if I hadn't gone to this workshop. A whole new world of sewing possibilities has been opened up to me, just by knowing my machine a little bit better and by enrolling in my first workshop. Now I won't be as shy or nervous next time.

Monday, 7 January 2013

I'm Home at long last!

I have been away from cold, grey Scotland for 5 weeks visiting family and friends that I haven't seen in over four years in Victoria Australia, which is where I am originally from.  It's been very busy visiting lots of old and meeting lots of new.  My Mr and I did get a chance to have 3 nights to ourselves but every other night was spent in the company and hospitality of others. Imagine it... I am sure you can.
Along the way I did get a chance to do a little fabric shopping. So here are a few photos of some of the lovely things I was able to bring back with me in my overweight luggage.
I mentioned to my Mum and an Aunt that I quite fancied making a dress out of old doilies and voila! Off they go to Second Hand shops and bring me back this lovely little collection! (Did you notice there is even a lace collar in there? Can't wait to find the perfect garment for that little pretty!)

I had admired this collection of fat quarters whilst on holiday in Skye but I didn't buy it then and regretted it later. So when I saw these in a Victorian town called Bright I just had to snap them up. On the top right is an extra print by an Australian designer - which is a great souvenir from my trip.

Got these three lovely rich fabrics in a Quilter's shop in Ballan Victoria, called the Mill Rose Quilts. It's a Surprising little shop with a huge collection.

Got these fat quarters in a storewide 30% off Sale in a Ballarat Patchwork shop! Delicious!

These were also 30% off - I couldn't resist these Australian birds - I simply Must make a souvenir quilt!

This fabric was in a remnants basket in a small crafts hall in a lovely, rural Victorian town called Beechworth. It feels silky and luxurious, and was only $10 Aus. Blouse or skirt?

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