Sunday, April 6, 2014

Knitting obsession

During the first week of January this year, I enrolled in a local knitting class with a neighbour.  The instructor asked the group what we wanted to make so I showed her a knitting book my mother had used to make sweaters for my children when they were little.

I bought 4 balls/skeins of Paton's Astra maize coloured yarn, needles in size 3.25mm and 4mm and I was away to the races.

Casting on was a nightmare and it took me several days before I cast on 38 stitches and then attempted a second row to begin the rib stitch hem.  I was sure I would never figure it out but was determined not to let it get the better of me.

During the following 3 months as I plodded away on the project I learned how to knit, purl, cast on and off, seam, block and most importantly, read a pattern.

I need to practice on button bands and seams. Seams sure are difficult. It's not like I can shove them through my serger. That would be much easier.

The bottom line is … I did it.  I made a cardigan with raglan sleeves, a folded collar and button bands.

I know that with practice my tension will get better too.  One pattern I made as an extra circular activity while making the yellow cardigan, was called In Threes.  The pattern was easy to read and perfect for practicing tension.  So I made it again using Lions Brand Baby Wool (orchid) that was on sale for $1.99 at Michaels. I bought 4 skeins and cranked out another In Threes pattern in size 3T this time.

It all went well except I totally screwed up on the band at the front.
Oh well.  Good excuse to get more yarn and keep practicing.
The Chickadee agrees.

I think this cardi would look good with a white long sleeve shirt underneath and a jean skirt or a pair of jeans.

Friday, March 14, 2014

More knitting

I'm on a roll.
Now that I figured out how to cast on, cast off, knit, purl and read a simple pattern, I'm quickly becoming addicted to knitting.

In a knitting shop recently, I spotted this pattern: 4402 by Hayfield with cable stitches up the front.
The whole pattern looked fairly easy with the exception of the cable stitches: C4B and C4F.

So I looked on You Tube for C4B and C4F and found this demo here.
It was easy!

Using yarn by Hayfield called Bonus Chunky I made a cable knit sweater in size 2/3 for Mr. A.

I had a difficult time with the neckband and the seams are awful.  I definitely need a lesson on seams and bands. Toss in a lesson on blocking too.

But hey, I did it and it looks not too bad at all.

Here's a closeup of my knit stitches and the cable. It's not perfect but for a second attempt at knitting something other than a scraggly scarf I'm happy with the results.

….. off to knit something else……….

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


Knitting is something that has always eluded me.
When I was really young, like maybe 10 years old, a friend showed me how to "cast on" by twisting yarn between her fingers and then slipping the loop onto a knitting needle.
Then she showed me how to do the "knit" stitch.

Over the years, and I'm talking decades, that is all I've been able to master. Casting on a bunch of stitches and knit until something roughly resembling a scarf appeared on the needles.

When my children were little I desperately wanted to make them something nice knitted. I made the girls smocked dresses and sewed many of their outfits, but I couldn't master knitting needles to make them something that looked half-way decent that was knitted.

My mother could whip out Fair Isle sweaters like nobody's business but she was unable to teach myself, or my sister for that matter, how to knit.

Now I find myself a grandmother. What is the measure of a grandmother?
The only grandmother I had lived in England and I only met her twice so not having a role model, I have invented my own grandmotherly standard.  And that standard say's that among the home crafts like making costumes, fancy clothes, toys, beading, weaving, and felting I must also be able to knit.

In January I went with a neighbour (whom coincidentally has grandchildren almost the same age as mine) for knitting classes.  Neither of us were too hopeful that we would actually produce anything, but hey, it's worth a try.

Well guess what?

I did it!
I knit something that actually looks like what it's supposed to look like!

Oh sure there are lots of mistakes in the sweater and I ripped it out many, many times before finishing it but the bottom line is …. I made it with yarn and knitting needles!

I found that pattern thanks to Cindy.  Her mom (also a grandmother) used this pattern to knit two of these sweaters.

The pattern is called In Threes by Kelly Herdich and I bought it as a download from

At first I thought it might be daunting but persevered and in the end, it wasn't so daunting at all.

The yarn has pilled somewhat and I suspect that's because I ripped it out so many times.  But no matter. I have learned volumes about yarn, tension and all things knitterly.

And there verdict?
Dad likes the sweater and the style.
Mom loves it and say's to make more but is sorry I didn't conquer knitting when she was young … oh, and she wants me to show her how to knit.
Miss C loves it too and told me I was a "good knitter". Music to my ears.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Spring dresses

This past week it's been -28 oC in the morning and snow flurries in the forecast.  It's been a long, long winter with record low temps and snow amounts. However there are spring shadows shaping up when the sun does make an appearance and that's been putting me in the mood to make some spring dresses.

A dress pattern that appeared in Sew Beautiful magazine issue #80 way back in 2002 has been on my bucket list for, well, I guess the past 12 years. I like the bateau style neck, the non-puffy sleeves and the raised waistline. The dress is called Pascale and was designed by Laura Jenkins Thompson.

Since there's no time like the present, I found some mauve micro-check cotton in my stash and finally, at long last, made a Pascale dress.

The dress came together beautifully and easily.
Instead of white piping, I went with a greeny-yellow colour and made self covered buttons too.
There wasn't enough fabric to make a wide sash so the thin one will just have to do.

I made a decorative hairband too to go with the dress; grosgrain ribbon with a purple pansy.

I am more than pleased with the outcome of the dress as it fits well and it was so easy to make.

For the next two dresses, I used the "Tinny" pattern from Straightgrain.

I have to say that whenever I hear or see the word 'Tinny' I think of our aluminum fishing boat we fondly call The Tinny.

For the first Tinny, I used Aneela Hoey fabric called Walk in the Woods and used the pleated skirt style from the pattern.
I made two belt loops to hold the red leather belt I bought her from Nordstrom.

When I initially made the dress, I felt the hem wasn't long enough and overall it might be a tight fit.
Before I put in the sleeves, we had a 'fitting'.

Good news .. it fit!

So I put in the sleeves that I made a little longer than indicated on the pattern but simply created a thin rolled hem.

For a hairband decoration, I made a little fox face in felt and stitched it onto some grosgrain ribbon.

For the second Tinny dress, I used the circle skirt that's included in the pattern.

The collar was inspiration from the dress Rachel made made from the Belgian book Stof-voor-durf-het-zelvers.

In discussion with Rachel, she suggested using Oliver + S pattern Playdate dress, and using the bib section, play with it by folding into pleats.  So in other words, the collar flap piece was a deep U-shape and folded into pleats.
I cut mine out smaller than hers with fewer pleats and tried it on before adding the sleeves.

It fit and looked okay!!

I put in the sleeves but was annoyed at myself for not adding some length to the hem.  Using a 3mm rolled hem foot on my machine, I made the hem.

I didn't make matching decorative hairband much to Miss C's chagrin.

Duly noted and I'll get on that right away!

Monday, January 20, 2014

School Days Jacket

At a Fabricland sale about a year ago, I spotted pale pink Melton wool and immediately thought about making Oliver + S pattern School Days Jacket.

While I've made this pattern before as a sort of test run, it's taken me a whole year to make it using the fabric I bought on sale.

For the lining I used a product called Kasha.  It's a flannel backed satin that quite thick but not too heavy.

Like all Oliver + S patterns it was easy to make because of the detailed instructions and the outcome was professional looking.
Although it would look a little more professional with a touch up on the sleeve with an iron!

Right now it's -20C and I don't think this wool jacket even with the flannel backed lining would be warm enough.  When the weather gets warmer and hovers around 0oC, then this jacket will be a welcome change from a down filled snowsuit.

Like the jacket I made before, I used toggle closures.
On the previous jacket I made the cording longer so the front placket sat flat.  By doing so, the toggles kept coming undone.
This time around I cut the toggle cords the length called for in the pattern and while the front placket buckles a little bit, they don't come undone.

 I finished the sleeve hem differently from the pattern instructions.

On the outside, I turned up the sleeve hem and the lining hem (as it would look when finished) and put in one pin to hold it in place.
Then I put my hand up between the lining and the outside of the jacket and pulled the sleeve through.....

...and with the sleeve inside out and finding the pin, repinned the hem so that right sides were facing each other.

I was able to stitch all the way around the sleeve hem....

....and that gave it a nice finish.

Turning the Oliver + S book 'Little Things To Sew', I made some mittens to go with the jacket.

I added 1 inch to the mitten hem and using scraps of melton wool, made an Inuskuk design on the front.

An Inukshuk is usually made of stones or boulders in the Arctic to point the way for hunters or travellers to keep them from getting lost.

My Inukshuk mitts are pointing the way too in the deep snow.

I am pleased with the outcome of this jacket.  It's size 5.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Secret Agent Lab Coat

A wonderful activity for children is playing dress-ups. Whether it's a princess, a mermaid, a doctor, a name it, it's fun to put on an outfit and pretend.

One dress-up item I made recently was a lab coat using Oliver + S pattern, Secret Agent Trench Coat.
It was a perfect choice to use because like a real life lab coat, it can be worn over layers of clothing. Or even a jacket if perhaps, let's say, you were going to make a house call to your backyard playhouse.

The fabric is an old heavy cotton table cloth.  After many washings due to wine stains from too many dinner parties with raucous guests  stains here and there, it shrunk.  I kept it though, planning to make some dinner napkins.  In the end, it turned out to be the perfect weight for a playtime lab coat. It's not too thin and not too heavy. And since it's repurposed fabric,  it doesn't matter if it gets trashed from being worn in a sandbox or at the lunch table with lots of dripping ketchup and mustard.

I left off the belt, sleeve cuffs and shoulder flap from the pattern.  I kept it double breasted but simply made one row of bright red buttons.
There are two big patch pockets, one has a felt red cross stitched on it.
Using my embroidery machine, I stitched her name.  I could have used a red Sharpie, or hand embroidered her name for this task but the machine was handy so went with using it.

She loved the lab coat and her first patient was her brother.....

Then she became a vet and checked out Bunny.......

....and the owner was thrilled to have Bunny back and in good health. (Too bad the owner isn't wearing pants.)

No task is too small or too big for this amazing doctor!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

School Photo Dress sew-along

There's a sew-along for the School Photo dress on the Oliver + S website, hosted by a sewing friend, Sharon. 

She did an excellent job describing all the steps with accompanying photos. Thanks Sharon!

It's been a while since I made the School Photo dress and because there's no time like the present, well, I made one during the sew-along.

The fabric a poly blend wool type micro check and the colour is egg yolk yellow and white.  Perfect for spring.

Size 5.  Lining is off white batiste.

The dress has a 60's Jackie Kennedy vibe to it, at least that's how I interpreted it the last 3 times I made this pattern.

First time around the dress looked like this:

For the second one I found some totally awesome thick polyester 60's fabric.

If I had found Go-Go boots for a toddler, I would have bought them to go with this dress.

The 3rd time around I used a complementary collar and cuffs. Totally a Jackie Kennedy look, I think.

For some unexplained reason, I need to put buttons down the front of the dress. As per usual there is piping: for this dress it's on the yoke and cuffs.

Initially, I was planning to make this dress in pale pink faux suede. Maybe it's called moleskin or microsuede. I'm not sure.
Anyway, we were in the midst of a week long blizzard and accompanying squalls and I couldn't get out to get a matching pink invisible zipper nor microtex needles.  Having a white zip and some spring like fabric handy, I went with this instead.

The weather has cleared but the roads not so much. Therefore, it's a perfect day to stay at home and get some outdoor photos of the fauna ... it's too early for the flora!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Collection completed again!

I've made at least one view of ALL the Oliver + S patterns, including the free children's wear downloads.

The Library dress is the last one I needed to make to reach my self imposed milestone.

Using leftover wool that I used for the Art Museum Vest and Trousers pattern I made size 5 of View B from the pattern.

For the collar, I put a layer of organza over satin as I wanted a somewhat dressy look.  The dress has a Japanese vibe because of the obi belt style waist so grey wool and a shiny collar seemed a bit of an odd choice, but I like the outcome.

I've been struggling with buttonholes for years, no, decades.  I used to blame the machines yet deep down I know it's the operator.

This dress calls for 6 buttons down the back so fear and terror set in while setting up the machine for buttonholes.

In a recent conversation with Emily from FrancesSuzanne, she reminded me about Fray Check.  Nicole always does her buttonholes twice.  
Thinking about stitch density I set the machine length to 0.2 and with to 4.5. 
Then I used a buttonhole chisel instead of ripping (which may fray the fabric) or cutting (which might cut the stitches).  Lastly, I dabbed the neat opening with Fray Check.

Guess what?

Perfect buttonholes!!!

I really enjoyed making the Library dress.  The instructions were clear and straightforward. Because organza over satin isn't exactly pliable, the cuffs didn't turn out as well as they should have.

Next time around I would like to try out some mods on this pattern.  I really like the pleats on the skirt portion, as well as the sleeve cuffs. So I'm wondering what the bodice might be like just plain with a small Peter Pan collar?
On the other hand, the obi belt-style waistband and cross-over bodice is the main attraction for this dress, so perhaps simply experimenting with other fabrics would be a better idea.

Overall, I do love the Library Dress.

I can see this grey wool dress paired with white tights and red Mary Janes.

The local Blue Jay's might suggest also creating a peanut laden Fascinator.

Oh, and the white flecks is snow falling.  30cm expected over the next couple of days to add to the already 190+cm that's fallen so far.  Perfect weather to stay indoors and sew!