The third series of The Great British Sewing Bee is well under way, and the past few episodes have seen the participants pit their wits against different types of fabrics, from simple hard-wearing cottons, through structural costuming materials and onto the sometimes daunting world of …
The internet can be a scary place. Alongside the more unsavoury areas of the web there are also the sites that will not set the safesearch filters twitching, but instead pose the more genteel threats of the desire to make, try to sometimes buy all …
A week or two ago I was sifting through my contacts’ new uploads on Flickr when a favourite knitter of mine who produces some of the most amazingly beautiful knits had a new set of pictures that caught my eye. The sweater that she had recently completed and modelled was the Twisted Cable Sweater from The Designer Knits collection by Sarah Hatton & Martin Storey.
The cabled sweater in question is actually used for the cover design of the book, sitting about the frame of a particularly sullen-looking model who may have just been stood up by a prospective date whilst waiting in the cold before being told by the photographer ‘cheer up love, it might never happen’. Every time I look at the picture the model looks a bit more angry, so I’m glad to have seen my knitter-friend’s jumper warming up someone with a smile on their face. Perhaps it was the original joy that encouraged me to want one of my own – I wanted to have my own happy-making knitwear, and added it to the mental list of things I might fancy making, one day.
It was only a week or so later, however, when enjoying a day-trip to Chester to visit Black Sheep Wools that I happened across the book that bore the sullen looking lady with the gorgeous cable work glaring at me from the racks of pattern books. I had a flick through the designs and decided that as I was in a yarn shop I might as well just go with my fancy, and I picked up the book and the yarn to go with it and made my way home. I already have a knitting project on the needles and a sewing project blossoming in the forefront of my mind, so could I really cheat on those current projects by casting on something anew?
Of course I could. My knitting needles cannot get jealous, and this is a love affair that I was too strongly drawn towards to ignore. In a rush of emotion at starting something new and exciting I cast on this exciting new project and into the ribbing.
Oh my goodness the ribbing lasts forever.
I think that time had actually started to move backwards by the time I reached the increase row to begin the cabling. It’s not that the rib section is particularly deep: about 7cm – but the knitting to get the desired gauge is very dense, so the row height is quite compact.
Looking at the projects listed on Ravelry, I can see that I am not the only person who has had trouble hitting the correct gauge with the given needles. In fact, every project listed seems to have used a needle size 2-3 sizes smaller than that given in the pattern, so maybe the pattern gauge needs to be revisited to give a more ‘average’ needle size for initial gauge experiments.
Nevertheless, I am now past the ribbing and into the exciting cabling areas. I have decided to knit the body in the round rather than flat as given in the pattern, because then I only have to do it once, because some love affairs should never be repeated.
After making the Retro Bag from my newest and favourite book purchase 101 Fabric-By-Fabric Ways To Sew A Metre I decided that I couldn’t wait to get back to cutting, basing, pinning and sewing. I have found myself in a rhythm these past two weeks …
Whilst knitting myself a sweater I promised Mr Awesome that once I had completed the knitting, blocking and making up of the project we could, if he ever fancied, perhaps look at a pattern for a sweater for him. I said this quite tentatively as …
After the relative success of the shopping tote I made on Friday I decided that I would allow myself loose on one of the pieces of fabric that I had brought back from our weekend of shopping in Wales. I have been kind of building up to this as I have never followed a sewing pattern, even a simple one, up until this point, and I really wanted to give my new book, 101 Great Ways To Sew A Metre by Rebecca Yaker and Patricia Hopkins a try.
I decided to try my hand at making a bag, partly because I seem to be on a bit of a roll with bags at the moment and partly because I don’t think you can ever have enough pretty handbags, carry-alls and shopping totes. My favourite of the bags in this book is the Folklore Bag, with it’s slightly voluminous bottom (to match my own) and structured top band. The example in the book is made of a charming little squirrel motif fabric.
I had considered making this bag out of a squirrel print too, but thought that the larger motif on the print might become too obscured by the pleats in the bag to make best use of the fabric design.
Instead I decided to use a big, bold graphic design fabric that, if centred properly, should have still looked good with the pleats in place. The issues of pattern repeat placement was something that struck me when planning this bag. I am sure that with a project like this it is customary to centre any symmetrical motif, but I couldn’t find any basic information or tips about this kind of thing in this book. That’s not a criticism, it is a book of patterns and project ideas rather than a ‘how to sew’ book, but it’s something that I hadn’t considered up until this point and I am lucky that it occurred to me when it did.
If buying this book as a real beginner at sewing (such as myself) it might be good to also purchase a beginners guide to sewing type book for general sewing and machine hints and tips, such as how to use paper patterns.
This was the first time I have ever used a paper pattern and it was a slightly daunting prospect. The patterns in the book either come with basic geometric measurements to marks and cut your own pieces, or for slightly more complex shapes the patterns are included on four gigantic tissue paper pattern sheets. As there aren’t any real instructions on how to use these I went about with pure guesswork. I ironed the sheets flat first as they were slightly wrinkled from being in the pattern envelope. Once they were all laying nice and flat I carefully cut the pieces out before transferring the cut pieces to my fabric, lining them up with the design on the fabric so that the bold graphic motif was perfectly centred.
The instructions included for the pattern were clear and easy to follow with clear and simple diagrams detailing any confusing steps.
I did make one (accidental) deviation from the bag as shown in the book. The pattern shows two little sets of dots which are supposed to be lined up to form the pleats. The information on how to do this is minimal, and where the pleats in the book leave the centre piece of the main panel at the fore, the sides of my bag sit forward of the centre. This is something that I should have noticed if I had paid attention to the photograph of the bag in the book, but I don’t think one way is aesthetically beneficial over the other and rather like how my pleats turned out.
One thing that I did find very positive about the book is that it doesn’t seem to ‘cheat’ on the one metre (or one yard, if you have the American version) rule. The pattern for this bag can be made with a single metre of fabric, including the lining. Obviously, this might be compromised if you have a very large print which might require more fabric if you centred the motif.
As it happens, I decided to use a different fabric for my lining, for two reasons. Firstly it would leave me with enough fabric for a matching coin purse one day, and secondly because the fabric I was using was so bright and busy I was worried it might be difficult to locate my items in my bag.
With the lighter coloured fabric lining the bag everything is bright and easy to see and locate – better than rummaging for my purse whilst the bus driver rolls his eyes.
The pattern and instructions gave enough instruction so that even a complete beginner sewer can make a not only functional but attractive bag. If I were to make this again I would change only one thing. Because of the bold fabric design that I chose it makes it hard to see or appreciate the pretty curve that the structures top band has. It would have looked lovely if I had just edges this with a piece of chartreuse or dark purple piping so that that slight curve was more noticeable.
I can see this bag getting a lot of used, and I am really impressed with the professional results I got from following the book instructions. So much so that I have decided to treat myself to the second book in the series: 101 Fabric-By-Fabric Ways To Sew A Metre.