Binding A Neck Opening

Some of my new girls’ tops patterns have an opening at the neck but no seam, and need to be bound.  I have noticed online that people are very inventive in how to deal with this situation, some with more success than others.  I haven’t seen anyone use the traditional tried and tested way, which is a shame because it produces really good results and is not difficult to do.  So I thought I would share this technique with you and a variation of it.

I have used two different colours for the main fabric and the binding and also a contrasting colour for the stitching so you can see what I’ve done.  They will look so much better in the same fabric with matching thread.  In fact, you will hardly notice it at all and you won’t have a gap in your fabric, just an opening which closes completely.

First measure and draw a line on your fabric in tailor’s chalk where the opening is going to be (but don’t cut it).

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Cut some bias binding (on the diagonal) four times the width of your finished binding.  (I want my binding to be 6 mm wide, which is tiny but good practice for sewing children’s clothes, so I have cut my bias binding 24 mm wide.)  Iron the binding flat.  You will need to cut two strips about 1 cm longer than your drawn line.

Place one strip on your fabric with one edge along the chalk line and pin.  Repeat the other side of the chalk line with the second strip.  Next sew the first strip to the fabric 6 mm away from the line.  Repeat with the second strip.

Cut along the chalk line to about 6 mm from the bottom, then turn the fabric over and clip a small diagonal cut into each corner leaving a triangle at the bottom, being careful not to cut your binding strips.

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Double fold the bias binding over to the back of the fabric and hand sew in place around the cut raw edges.  (If you wish to machine sew them, cut them 2 mm wider initially, make sure they cover the stitching at the back and stitch ‘in the ditch’ from the front.)

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From the front, lift the fabric and push the small triangle through to the back.  Sew a line of stitching across the triangle and both strips of binding.  This forms the base of the opening.

You now have a neatly bound neck opening with no gaps.  When I use this on a garment, I then trim the ends of the binding strips and neaten them and the triangle with a row of zigzag stitches – but I am extra fussy, you don’t need to do this!

For the variation you will need your bias binding strip to be four times the width of your finished binding and two and a half times the length of the finished opening.

Start by pinning your strip next to your chalk line.  At the bottom fold the strip at right angles.  Then fold it underneath and back up the other side of the chalk line, forming a triangle at the bottom.

Remaining 6 mm from the line, sew down one side, across the bottom and back up the other side.  Cut along the chalk line and clip into the bottom corners towards the stitching, forming a small triangle as with the first variation.  Push the binding strip through the gap, double fold on the back and hand sew or top stitch in place.

These both work really well and they join all the way down!  I know I’m really picky, but I don’t like to see a gap.  Keyhole neck openings are gorgeous and I often make them, but these straight bound or faced openings can be made without a gap.

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These techniques are used in my new blouse patterns for girls and can be found in my Girls’ Patterns section in my Etsy shop.  I will be doing a tutorial in a couple of weeks on attaching facings which will also be useful for sewing clothes.

 

 

Binding Raw Edges

Bias binding is simply a strip of fabric cut on the diagonal to make it stretchy which is used to bind a raw edge.  I have used these techniques in my girls’ blouses.

To make your bias binding find the diagonal by folding your fabric into a triangle and cut a strip off the fold, four times the width of your final binding**.  Fold the bias binding in half lengthways and iron.  Fold both sides into the centre fold and iron.  Then fold the whole strip in half and iron again.

If you need to join two pieces of binding, place them at right angles to each other with right sides together and sew a diagonal seam.  Trim and iron.

I have seen people (including a professional wedding dress maker) sewing to near the end of a strip of binding, folding over the raw edge of a second piece, placing it under the end of the first piece and continuing to sew.  I’m not sure about this, it does leave a noticeable bump.  But it is easy and quick, so it’s up to you.

Hand Sewn Bias Binding.

This will produce a decorative edge with no visible stitching.  To bind a raw edge pin the bias binding to the right side of the fabric.  Sew along the first crease, fold over to the inside and hand sew in place.

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This is the one I use the most.  The stitching is invisible but it takes a while to do which is not normally a problem for me as I like to hand sew.

Machine Top Stitched Bias Binding.

A neat row of machine stitching will be visible.  Pin the bias binding to the wrong side of the fabric.  Sew along the first crease, fold over to the right side and sew a line of top stitching close to the edge.

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This is not a bad result.  It is neat and was quick, but it is a bit flat and you can see that stitching.

Traditional Machine Sewn Bias Binding.

**Cut your bias binding 2 mm wider than normal.  When you fold and iron it, remember to have the crease 2 mm off centre, so that when you fold the sides into this crease and iron you will have the second side of binding wider than the first.

Pin it to the right side of the fabric.  Sew along the first crease (the narrower of the two).  Fold over to the wrong side, ensuring it covers the stitch line and pin in place.  From the right side sew a line of top stitching ‘in the ditch’ just below the binding.  It will catch the binding on the back but miss the binding on the front.

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This one has definitely turned out the best.  The stitching cannot be seen, but as I used a machine the stitching is firm and has pulled the fabric together giving the actual binding a more rounded appearance and it didn’t take any longer than the machine top stitched version.  (I just need to remember to make it 2 mm wider and to fold it 2 mm off centre.)

It has been really useful to make all three versions at the same time with the same fabric for comparison.  I will probably use the third version the most from now on instead of sewing it all by hand.

To avoid a lump at an underarm seam, whichever method you have chosen, once you have pinned your binding on, sew the ends together, trim and iron open before sewing the binding to the garment.

Self Binding For Gathered Edges.

This is for when you want to neaten a seam that is made up of a gathered piece of fabric and a flat piece of fabric such as attaching a sleeve or a gathered skirt to a bodice.

Sew the gathered fabric to the flat fabric with a straight seam and trim half the seam allowance from the gathered fabric but not the flat fabric.  Double fold the flat piece over the trimmed gathers and top stitch in place.

This provides a really good looking, non bulky finish that doesn’t really take any longer than trimming and zigzag stitching or over-locking the edges.

An Elfin Rag Doll

My second rag doll pattern is now available in my shop.  This one is an elfin-like, quirky doll.  I just love her striped legs.  (Not that she has to be made with striped legs.)  I have called her Ailla which is a Cornish girl’s name meaning ‘most beautiful’ and I think she really is!

She has a beautifully shaped face and a soft rounded body (but not too round; just right to be carried around by a small person).  I have added slim arms and legs, combined with pointy ears and large pixie boots to update her.  There is also a pattern piece for more realistic ears, so that you have the choice of making a little girl doll or a pixie/elf doll.  I think this pattern lends itself to being made in bright, unrealistic colours such as blue, green or pink for the hair.  Obviously, normal ‘hair’ colours would work just as well but you could also go a bit over board with this one.

Normally if I am making a rag doll, an embroidery, a drawing, or even a cake, I avoid trying to recreate something to look exactly as the real thing – this almost always results in failure and anyway, that’s what photos are for.  However, due to the shape of the face on this rag doll it does really need to have more of a real eye shape (sort of), but larger.  I always find that choosing how to embroider the face is the hardest part of making a doll.  There are so many variations and the slightest change makes a huge difference to the expression and way the rag doll looks.

The fabric I chose for the body, face and arms is a lovely soft, woven cotton especially for doll making and comes in a range of skin tones and a striped quilting fabric for the legs.  But, again, calico would work fine and could be dyed to your chosen shade using tea or coffee.

This pattern is more involved to make than the French-style rag doll.  It still isn’t difficult, there are just extra pieces to make a more rounded, 3D shape and the arms and legs are jointed so that they are re-positional.  There is also more detailed embroidery for the facial features, but obviously they can be simplified.

I have included patterns for her outfit.

 

A French-style Rag Doll

When I was about nine or ten, I can remember making little rag dolls and soft toys for my cousin Rachel.  At the time I thought they were pretty good, but it’s probably just as well I don’t have any photos of them as they were almost definitely terrible, given that they were made by a small child.  But I loved making them.  My girls always had plenty of homemade dolls and a pink furry flamingo with very long pink felt legs, as I recall!   But I’m not sure they would appreciate them now.  I do miss doing things like that, and in the absence of grand children (despite plenty of not-so-subtle hints), I decided to make some rag doll patterns to put in my shop and I shall give the finished dolls away.

The first one is a French style rag doll, so I have given her a French name, Élodie.  I have made her from calico which is a traditional fabric to use for doll making.  It is natural, cheap, quite firm and can be dyed with tea and coffee to the desired skin tone.  I left mine in its original colour as I wanted a very pale, neutral colour scheme.

In keeping with my use of natural products, I created the hair from cotton yarn (although embroidery silk would also have been good to use) and I used wool for the stuffing.  It is tempting to go into the local fabric shop and buy their toy stuffing off the shelf but I prefer to purchase either scoured wool or kapok as they’re much healthier and won’t melt if it comes into contact with a flame.  It does mean waiting a few days for my order to arrive but that’s the trade off.

This really is a very easy pattern to sew and you can be really creative with fabric use, facial characteristics (mine are simple and not very realistic, which is the way I like it) and decorations.

I have included patterns for two outfits.

Kerenza Dress pdf

Even though it’s pretty manic around here with Christmas being far too close I have finally managed to get another of my girls’ dress patterns ready for sale. Kerenza Cross Front Dress is now in my Etsy shop.  I’m not really sure why it has taken me so long.  I drafted it and tested it over a year ago.

Kerenza means ‘love’ in Cornish and the pattern is in sizes 2-3, 4-5 and 6-7 years.  The front bodice crosses over so that it looks wrapped but it is actually in one piece which is much more secure for a little person while they’re running around.

The version on the front of the pattern has been made with an opening and fastened with a cute little button and rouleau loop but I have put a variation on the dress pdf pattern to make it without the button as the cross over front will allow a child to get it on and off without needing an opening at the back as well.  The sizing on my patterns is quite generous to allow for growth and movement but, obviously if you chose to make it without the back fastening it would be more of a squeeze to get in and out of in a year or two’s time, so might not last quite as long.

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I hope people like this dress pdf, it is a popular style with companies selling hand made children’s dresses but none of the pattern companies seem to sell a pattern for people to use at home.

A Driftwood Christmas Tree

 

Something a bit different this week as it’s Christmas (well nearly).  We did need a new Christmas tree this year.  I have been putting it off for a few years.  Ours is a bit pathetic.  Although I would like a real tree it didn’t seem right to cut down a living tree that had been growing for years just so that we could decorate our home with it for a couple of weeks.  So I looked around for a nice-looking artificial one.  I was slightly shocked at the prices, to say the least.  We definitely did not pay that much last time!  So I decided to make my own.  Home made stuff is better anyway.

We’ve had a few storms in Cornwall recently, so, perfect for beach-combing which is one of our favourite things to do.  Gradually, over the past few weeks we have collected loads of driftwood and sea glass to make a Christmas tree and some tree decorations.

We went up onto the north coast one morning after a storm and found, amongst other things, a heavy piece of sawn timber which was not quite as heavy once it had dried out, but did fit in my husband’s backpack which saved me from having to carry it!  It proved to be just the right size and weight for the base of the tree.

After several trips, and several storms, I sorted out all of the bits of wood.  I wasn’t overly hopeful I would have enough as a lot of the driftwood in Cornwall gets used to fuel fires and barbecues on the beach and sometimes when you collect it it is not always clear whether the wood looks a dark colour because it’s wet or because it has been blackened from a fire.  This time I was lucky and it mostly dried out a lovely pale, driftwood colour.

The only things I bought to complete the tree were a metre long threaded metal rod, some washers and nuts.

The tree was not difficult to make.  Basically, I drilled a hole through the middle of the longest piece of driftwood and through the base, slotted a long threaded metal rod through both and secured underneath with a nut and washer, counter sinking the nut to ensure it did not stick out from the wood.  (The tree would not stand up otherwise.)  Then I drilled the centre of the next longest piece of wood and slotted it on top of the first and so on until the tree was tall enough.  Regarding the tree, when I say ‘I…’ I really mean my husband as he does not trust me with power tools!

Due to breakages, we managed to end up missing the vital top piece so had to go out beach-combing one more time (shame).

Then for the tree ornaments.  Again, really simple; I wrapped some silver coloured wire around the pieces of sea glass and hung them onto the tree with cotton thread.  I added to a couple of them by attaching them to some more wire shaped into angels.  They’re not going to be that strong as the wire was quite thin so I will have to pack them away carefully to save them for next year.  I didn’t manage to make as many as I could do with but I have plenty more pieces of sea glass and can make some more decorations when I have a spare minute or two.

Our old Christmas lights would have been far too big for my new tree so I bought some very cheap battery operated lights.  I’m not sure what their lifespan is but they’re exactly what I needed for now.

I already had the cute clip on white bird, and my favourite fairy that I’ve had for about ten years went on the top.

I’ve saved myself a lot of money making my own tree.  (In total I spent about £7 and the trees in the shops were all over £100.)  I think a unique, hand made item is so much nicer at Christmas as well and I hope we get to use it for many years to come.

 

 

 

 

 

Knitted Handspun

A few weeks ago I handspun a skein of Blue Faced Leicester and promptly forgot where I had stored it.  Consequently, when I spun another one this week it was a different weight entirely.  The first one, which later turned up, was definitely an aran weight and the second one a double knit, so when I come to knitting it into something I will have to be a bit creative!  Despite the difference in size, I am really pleased with how they turned out.  They are every bit as soft as merino, BFL is tougher, it has an incredible lustre that is missing from merino and it is British.  I still have plenty more breeds of sheep fleece to try but I know I will use BFL again.

I hand painted these two skeins in the same pale lilacs, blues and greens so that they can be used for the same project.   What project that will be, is yet to be decided.  At the moment I am just enjoying looking at them.  They are very pretty – and shiny.

Earlier I handspun some pre-dyed Corriedale fleece into a double knit in shades of pale pink, dark pink, salmon and cream.  Corriedale is very fine and soft (not quite as soft as merino) and these colours have worked well together. So I decided that this handspun wool would be knitted up into something for myself.  It was a bit of a dilemma deciding what to make from it and a curly scarf Rustic Potato Chip won out, but I will probably spin up more to make some gloves or a hat, or both.  Probably both!  (Assuming I ever finish the scarf.  It is really easy but really time consuming with lots of short rows.)  This was a free pattern from Ravelry.  I might have said it before, but I love Ravelry.

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I also knitted some fingerless gloves this week, not with my own handspun but at least they have been finished.

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Disclosure:  This post contains links to products, websites or patterns.  I do not receive any reward for mentioning them.  I only recommend items I use personally and think will be of interest to my readers.

Hand Dyed Yarn

Another new section in my shop: Bramble Patch Hand Dyed for natural yarns hand dyed in my studio in Cornwall.  When I dye fabric and wool for my own use I rely on completely natural dyes from my garden and kitchen and I know that I may have to re-dye them if they fade .  But the yarns in my shop need to be colour-fast, so I have used commercial acid dyes for these.  That sounds scary but the only acid used is a couple of tablespoons of distilled vinegar.

All the hand dyed yarns newly introduced into my shop are in a soft merino 4 ply or sock weight and are 400 m long.  Kammneves is a rainbow coloured merino yarn.  I have used two methods of dyeing Kammneves but have used the same batch of dyes so the colourway is exactly the same.  The one pictured above has been hand painted while the other two were kettle dyed.

Koswik is hand painted in fabulous bright greens and yellows like a forest and Koswik law is kettle dyed in the greens and pinks of exotic birds and flowers in the rainforest.

I just love these hand dyed yarns.  In fact once I had taken all my photographs I had second thoughts about selling them especially the hand painted version of Kammneves.  I shall try to resist temptation but if it doesn’t sell soon you might see me down on the beach with a beautiful rainbow coloured, hand dyed, lacy scarf!

 

 

How To Wash Wool

Why buy items made from wool or spend hours making things from wool when it is so high maintenance and there are so many synthetic ‘easy care’ ready made items of clothing/ carpets/ rugs out there?  Well, the manufacturers of the synthetic products have done a really good job of advertising those products and they’ve made a lot of money.  But I think more and more people are becoming aware of the short comings of these fabrics and how good our natural fabrics actually are.  Maybe you can’t just throw your handmade woolens in the washing machine and tumble drier – or can you?   I’ll come onto that in a minute.

Why Wool?

Wool is actually quite awesome.  Completely natural and renewable.  Anything you wear made from wool keeps you warm in winter and cool in summer.  It does not need washing nearly as often as any other fabric.  Even socks can be worn for several days without washing as long as they are aired at the end of each day, and your wool carpets will not need a coating of chemicals on them to resist the dirt.  Wool does that anyway.

Wool has a memory;  it’s elastic.  It takes dyes easily, even completely natural ones and it already comes in a range of colours straight from the sheep!

There are literally hundreds of breeds of sheep all of which produce wool with different characteristics.  Some produce really fine soft wool to make baby clothes from (obviously, that’s not why the sheep produce fine wool), some produce wool that is suitable for outer clothing like coats while others produce wool which is really tough and can be made into bags, rugs and carpets.  The others fall somewhere in between.

Caring for your woolens:

So, first of all what to wash it with?  You could use just water!  What you must not use is your standard chemical laden biological detergent, however tempting that maybe.  Biological detergents contain enzymes which eat and destroy wool.  So, unfortunately, you do need a special cleanser made for wool – they have a woolmark symbol on them:

If you don’t have any in or don’t want to buy one just for your woolens just use water; it should work fine.  There are lots on the market such as Eucalan Lavender 100ml No Rinse Delicate Wash.   I use  NIL Ecover Delicate 500 ml which has the woolmark image on the front.

Can you put your woolens in the washing machine?  Well, yes and no.  It depends.  (Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.)  Some wool is ‘super-wash’ treated.  Most shop-bought wool garments will be super-washed and can be put in the washing machine.  But always put it in a netting laundry bag first to stop it stretching.  Many people also partially tumble dry these items on the lowest temperature setting.  Personally, I have never been brave enough to do that so couldn’t recommend it.

Also, some sheep produce wool that does not felt easily, such as wool from the Perendale sheep, so items made from their wool should also be fine to put in the machine without it felting.  Oh yes felting.  You know the ‘felt’ fabric we’ve all used (especially as children) to make small items or to add decorative applique to things because it does not fray.  It’s the same thing (in fairness nowadays most felt is synthetic but traditionally and in my house felt is made from wool) and you don’t want your gorgeous wool jumper turning into that!  Most wool will felt, though, if you subject it to too high temperatures, sudden temperature changes, or just by agitating it.  This sounds scary but is actually a really good excuse to do less.

Washing wool is really easy:

  1. Pour slightly warm water into the sink and add a cap full of wool wash.
  2. Drop your wool item onto the top of the water.
  3. Go and have a cup of coffee or catch up on your emails for twenty minutes.
  4. When your wool garment has sunk to the bottom, you know it has absorbed enough water and cleanser.
  5. Drain the water and refill with water of the same temperature to rinse without agitating your woolen. (Some wool cleansers do not even require rinsing.)
  6. Rinse once more then drain.
  7. Very gently squeeze out the excess water.
  8. Roll your wet garment up in a towel and squash to remove as much water as you can.
  9. Gently pull your garment back into shape and air dry flat, out of direct sunlight.  I have a Leifheit 72408 Mesh Clothes Drying Rack Sensitive Air which is a folding, pop-up net hoop which is very good for this as it can be rested across the bath.

Remember to make sure it is completely dry before packing away as wool can feel dry but still contain over thirty percent water!

Moths are attracted to wool so you do need to protect your woolens from attack.  Traditionally cedar chests or cedar lined drawers were used to store items to prevent insect infestation and this is still the best method today.  Most of us don’t have cedar chests of drawers, though, and have to resort to sealing them in plastic bags.  I really don’t like plastic but it is very effective in keeping out moths.  It also doesn’t hurt to have a few draw string bags or bowls of wood shavings impregnated with drops of lavender or cedar essential oils nearby. Just like our grannies used to do.

 

 

Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links.  This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.  I only recommend books or products I use personally and believe will be of value to my readers.

Handspun Yarn

I’ve been busy with my new Kiwi spinning wheel for the past couple of weeks and now find it easier to use than the borrowed one I had been using.  It is costing a fortune in fibre but I’m finding it a bit addictive and it’s not leaving much time for knitting or sewing!

I’ve put another section in my shop: Bramble Patch Handspun for my handspun yarn.  The first item in this section is ‘Avalow’ which means ‘apples’ in Cornish.  I have used shades of salmon, mulberry, green and pink to create this apple coloured skein.   It is handspun from soft corriedale fibre which has become even softer and fluffier after washing.

Corriedale wool is perfect to be worn next to the skin and can be also be used for children’s clothes.  As it is a natural wool which can felt, it does need to be hand washed gently in cool water.

I shall be adding to this section over the next few weeks.