Not a Knitter?

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Neither was I but I've been converted by this cosy aran cardigan.

Why I've fallen in love with knitting:
  • Knitting fits in with a busy life: I can knit for a few minutes in between cooking, marking essays and all the other daily tasks;
  • When I'm watching television, I often start snacking. This temptation never seems to arise if I'm knitting;
  • A pretty cardigan is the perfect accompaniment to all the summer dresses I sew.
As you can see below, I'm currently knitting a summer cardigan; I'll post on this once I've got a little further.

Belt Tutorial

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Before we start the tutorial, let's talk supplies.If you're reading this in America you're super lucky: belt making supplies are readily available. Spare a thought for sewers in the UK where belt making supplies are rarer than hens' teeth. Usually, I import Dritz belt backing at huge cost but even that has proved impossible this month. I have twenty meters of aforesaid backing on its way from the USA but it has yet to arrive.
While I wait, or actually fail to wait, I thought this would be a great opportunity to see if it is possible to make a half decent belt by substituting belt backing for Fuse and Fold. It is possible.
For this tutorial I'm using a 1 1/2" buckle kit, 1 1/2" Fuse and Fold and 4mm Prym eyelets.

Firstly, set a dry iron to the correct temperature for your fabric. Pin the waistband interfacing onto your pre cut belt fabric: press each section for 7 seconds rather than ironing across the fabric. Allow the belt to cool completely before stitching.

Iron on Fuse and Fold
Check that the interfacing is fully bonded with the fabric. If you find any loose spots repress. Continue as follows.
Taking your buckle cover kit, remove the paper covering one side of the adhesive pattern template. Smooth onto your fabric and trim.
Using sharp scissors, pierce fabric in the centre and remove the excess. Be careful not to cut beyond the slits.
Having peeled back the paper from the other side of the pattern, centre the buckle over the pattern and smooth the edges down.
Next, place the smaller buckle bottom into the finished buckle top and press firmly together. Press edges (inside and out) all around to clinch tightly together.
Lastly crimp the centre bar together with pliers. Place the tong over the bar and close with pliers.
How you create the eyelets is dependent upon the supplies you're working with, this is probably the most basic way. If you're using the method below, remember to place the rounded side through the front side of your belt so that the crimped side is underneath. The plastic part of the tool rests on the front, smooth side of the eyelet whilst the metal part crimps the back.
Once you've placed the tong through the eyelet, you just need to turn the belt end under the centre bar and sew securely. Try your belt on to mark your other eyelet and you're done.

Enter Another World

Monday, 29 December 2014

Having heard lots of good things about Luminaries, I'd wanted to read this book for a while. However at over eight hundreds pages, I waited until the summer holidays before I began reading.

Given that you're reading a sewing blog, I'm guessing you have some interest in sewing? Fellow sewing enthusiasts, there's something special in this novel's plot for you. Obviously, I don't want to spoil the surprise but this is the only novel I've read where sewing plays a crucial role in the mystery.

It is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men, who have met in secret to discuss a series of unsolved crimes. A wealthy man has vanished, a whore has tried to end her life, and an enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into the mystery: a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely patterned as the night sky.

Unusually, astrology controls the novel's chronology. The Luminaries is divided into 12 dated parts, spaced at almost monthly intervals. We begin on 27 January 1866, but in Part Four, dated 27 April 1866, we also go back to the events of a year earlier, and the remaining eight parts replay the events of 1865, moving phase by phase through the zodiacal pattern. This is the most elaborate machinery of all, because the decreasing lengths of the succeeding parts mimic the waning moon, each part being half the length of the one before it. Some reviewers have been exasperated: how could such hocus pocus provide the ground plan for a serious work of fiction? Does this all sound a bit confusing? I know nothing about astrology and have even less interest in it but I still loved the story. Truthfully, I was probably a third through before I even realised the role that astrology was playing in the plot.

If you like a challenging mystery to unravel, this book will not disappoint. However if you're anything like my mum, you may end up thinking that it's just too confusing: too many characters. Honestly, there were moments when I couldn't face picking it back up but most of the time I simply couldn't put it down.


Winter Weekends

Sunday, 14 December 2014

When I'm not sewing, I'm reading; actually most of the time I'm at work, running children to sporting events or doing housework. Perhaps for these reasons my reading time is super precious so I'm always quite picky about what I read. I thought I'd share some of my favourite reads of the year, can't guarantee that they'll be anyone else's cup of tea but I whole heartedly reccommend them.


As the new year approaches, and some of us begin to ponder where our lives are going, I thought I'd share this truely great read: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. Do you ever wonder where the time has gone? What happen to the twenty year old you? Sentimentality is probably a fault of mine but I'd wager that most readers over the age of thirty will find some truely moving moments in Harold's weird journey. Even better, the narrative is peppered with moments that will at least raise a smile or, more likely, have you laughing out loud.


This touching story opens with the arrival of an unexpected letter and an impulsive act. When Harold Fry, a timid man in his later years, discovers that a former friend is gravely ill, he sets out with the intention of posting her a letter but instead starts walking hundreds of miles from Devon to Berwick-upon-Tweed. Harold hopes that in some way his journey will help his friend to live. While Harold makes his 'unlikely pilgrimage' his wife Maureen waits angrily at home; eventually his distance allows her emotions to resurface. She remembers her husband as he once was and everything he once meant to her.

Joyce's narrative is simple but so touching. Along the way Harold encounters many interesting characters. Some are moved by his act, others confused. At one point he attracts a growing band of fellow pilgrims and becomes the centre of a media storm. The story is laced with loneliness, with life's numerous small disappointments and the 'great grey weight of the real'; the last chapters deliver a couple of unexpectedly savage emotional blows. But this is tempered with real humour and a sense of quiet celebration.


Totally adored this book, it really resonated with me. Harold's an everyman who becomes an extraordinary man.

It would be super to read your views on this book or your recommendations for other books in the comments.



Creative Darts 2

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Curved or French darts aren't often seen in today's designs but they're some of my favourites.

I suspect that one reason they're rare is that they do take a little more time and skill: staystitching and careful clipping are essential.

Slicing in colour can create even more impact and help to sculpt curves in all the right places.

Creative Darts 1

Thursday, 30 October 2014

As the title of this post suggests they'll be more to follow. I know I've written lots of posts on darts but I just keep falling in love with them all over again: they're useful, flattering and creative. Over the next week I'll be posting some ideas on how to experiment with placement, seam finishes and angles of darts.

In case you're new to darts here's the basics:

The Anatomy of a Dart

This side front angled dart (below) is a useful variation if your patern requires bust gathers. One of our sew-alongs last year, Butterick 5813, called for bust gathers which look great in medium to light-weight fabric but this time of year you may prefer a heavier fabric.

Butterick 5813

Moreover, if you have a fuller bust, darts are sometimes more flattering; in this case 4 darts, rather than the two below, would be a good option.

Side Front Angled Dart

Smooth Sleeve Caps

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

I grew up in the 80s and painfully remember those awful shoulders! It is perhaps for this reason that I so prize a smooth and understated shoulder. Here's how I like my shoulders:

Poor construction of this aspect of a garment can ruin the whole; I know I say this about almost every aspect of construction but stick with me. A poorly set shoulder isn't just an eyesore in itself, it can also:
  1. Distort the neckline;
  2. Ruin the alignment and hang of the sleeve itself;
  3. Affect the ease and fit across the back;
  4. Create tension and puckers which affect the bust and underarm darts.
I know it's hard to get excited about shoulders; they're just there aren't they. True, beautifully set shoulders are just there; unremarkable by their perfection. However trust me; if they're wrong you'll soon notice them.
The first step to perfection is setting your sleeve cap so here are some tips for smooth sleeve caps:
  1. Run three lines of easestitching between the cap matchpoints. Don't run right across the cap; run from the centre top to the front, repeat to back matchpoint. This is because there will always be more ease to distribute on the back; if you try to distribute the ease equally across the entire cap you will pull the sleeve cap out of alignment.
  2. Match pin to armscye, pull up and tie off fullness at front match point, repeat for back match point.
  3. Unpin, place on tailor's ham to shrink out the ease using steam. Place your iron on 'steam' allow the iron to hover or rest over the seam line. Do not press down hard or steam too far into the cap itself. This always takes longer than you think and feels as if nothing's happening but those fibres will be gradually shrinking out the ease.
If you follow the above tips your cap line should match the top of your armscye perfectly, removing the need distribute ease when sewing and ensuring dimple free, smooth shoulders.
Look out for forthcoming posts on completing, attaching and lining sleeves.