Covered Tape Measure

I recently needed a new tape measure.  Unable to find one I liked locally, I searched online and found them to be fairly uninspiring as well.  So, I made my own.  One for me and a few extra for my  shop  all with a beach/ surf/ campervan/ Cornish theme.

They are colourful, fun, retractable tape measures with both imperial and metric measurements.  They are only 5cm across so easy to carry around in your pocket or handbag.

Knitting With Cotton

Most of the clothes I sew are made from woven cotton.  I love it.  You can iron it into really sharp creases, pleats, hems and seam finishes.  It stays put while you sew it.  It behaves.  Cotton fabric does exactly what you ask it to.  Cotton yarn does not!

Yarn made from wool is just great to knit with.  It feels nice and soft.  Wool yarn seems to merge together hiding any joins and inconsistencies.  Cotton yarn does not.

I long ago learnt various ways to join wool yarn in my knitting and whichever method I choose (and I am always changing my mind as to which one is best) there are a few rules I always follow: never join in new yarn at the edge of my knitting, never ever knot my yarn and one of the most invisible ways to weave in ends is to use a duplicate stitch from the right side.  Each wool garment I make has fewer mistakes and looks more professional than the previous one but I was close to giving up with the cotton ones until I discovered that the rules I needed to follow were exactly opposite to the ones I use for wool: only join in new yarn at the edge, you need to knot the ends or it will unravel and don’t attempt to do duplicate stitches when weaving in ends because it will be very visible!

So, knowing the rules, I have now completed a couple of cardigans that I am really pleased with.  I still don’t really like knitting with cotton, it’s hard going and quite tough on your hands.  But it is nice to overcome problems and learn new skills and I refuse to be beaten by a ball of cotton.

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I was so pleased with the little shrug I knitted for my new niece that I decided to make one for myself.  The small version was from a pattern called Entrechat by Lisa Chemery that I found in One Skein Wonders For Babies and the adult sized one is called Madame Entrechat which you can find on Ravelry.  Rashly, I chose some purple cotton from my stash and it’s not turned out too badly, except for one minor hiccup.  It was knitting up really quickly and three quarters of the way down the back I tried it on for fit (perfect) and was quietly congratulating myself on creating such a lovely garment (mainly because I was following the simple, but essential rules for knitting with cotton) when I made an error in judgement and decided to play yarn chicken.  Why do I do these things?  I am normally very cautious and, frankly, it was obvious I did not have enough yarn left in the ball to get to the end of the row.  But I did it anyway and only got half way across.  So, obviously I undid that row…  No, I did not!  I decided that the reason the shrug was looking so good was because my knitting had miraculously just improved and that I could cope with a join in the middle and carried on knitting…  I can see the join, so everyone else can see the join!

The reason my recent cotton garments are successful is because I followed the rules.  The second I decide not to do that – disaster strikes.  I will not make that mistake again.

 

 

Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links.  This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.  This post also contains links to other products, websites or patterns.  I do not receive any reward for mentioning them.  I only recommend books, patterns or products I use personally and believe will be of value to my readers.

Felt Art

Recently I have been working on creating felted textile pictures to put in my shop.  I had never thought I would be making felt of any description, it just didn’t really appeal.  Then I discovered felt art pictures and nuno felting and cobweb felting.  There are some really talented felt art artists out there like Moy Mackay who is a huge inspiration.

Wet felting is really, really hard work, but I love it.  It’s got everything, colour, texture, creativity, wool fibre, embroidery (both machine and hand) and it saves me from going to the gym – not that I ever intended to do that anyway.

These two are based on local Cornish scenes.  The first one features the lighthouse at Godrevy with thrift and corn coloured grasses growing on the cliff and the second one is the engine house at Chapel Porth near St Agnes with bright purple heather in bloom on the cliff.  I just love the different blues, greens and turquoises in the sea.  I lined both of these with calico and sewed a ring on the back so that they can hang on the wall, but they would also look very effective framed under glass (I just wouldn’t want to risk putting them in the post like that).

This one was inspired by the gorgeous paua shells which you find strewn about the beaches in New Zealand.  This seems amazing to me as the shells on our Cornish beaches are very tiny and less colourful in comparison.  I have sewn it to some mount board ready to be framed.

Very different again is this field of foxgloves.  I enjoyed the free motion machine embroidery on this one and decided to sew pockets to the back to enable it to be hung with a piece of doweling.  This could easily be removed allowing the picture to be framed.  Again, it just makes it easier to post.

These were all fun to make and they are looking lovely decorating my walls until they have a new home to go to.

 

 

 

 

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.

How To Print Up a PDF Pattern

Most of us have printed up a PDF before.  It’s easy, you just click on ‘print’!  Unfortunately, most of us who have tried to print up a PDF pattern have found that if we just click on ‘print’ we get a printed PDF but it’s not the right size.  Most PDF patterns have something on them such as a shaded square that you can measure to see if yours has printed up correctly.  It is very tempting to measure this and think ‘Well, it’s almost right, it’ll be fine.’  With PDF patterns it won’t be fine.  A small discrepancy in that measurement will multiply over the whole pattern and you will end up with a garment that is totally the wrong size.  Very disappointing!

In the past I have spent hours getting advice about this online and altering all the settings on my printer and computer (like the incredibly clever IT geeks told me to do).  So frustrating.  Their advice would be fine for most things but every time it printed up just slightly off, only slightly, but over a whole pattern…  PDF patterns really do need to be accurate.

Finally I stumbled across the way to do it and it is so simple.  I mean really simple:

Do not alter the settings on your printer, do not alter the settings on your computer, do not even view the PDF through your browser or ANY programme that comes with your system (not even Adobe Reader if it came with your computer).

Download Adobe Reader for free.  View the PDF pattern with your downloaded version of Adobe Reader.  Set the size of your paper on Adobe Reader.  Set Adobe Reader to print up your pattern (only the front sheet initially so you can measure to make sure it is accurate before printing the whole pattern) with ‘no scaling’, ‘100%’, ‘no re-sizing’.  Each system varies as to which setting of fit and scale you require, so make a note of what works for you, but it will work.  Viewing your PDF through your browser and trying to get the correct scale will not work.  I know, I’ve tried it and wasted lots of time, paper and ink.

If you are conscious of the cost to yourself or the environment in ink and paper, you could choose to only print the pattern pieces and to view the instructions on your computer.  Again this is really easy to do.  View the whole pattern on your computer to see which pages are pattern pieces and when you go to print just type in the page number range with a hyphen in between or individual page numbers separated by a comma eg. ‘4-9’ or ‘2, 6-8’.  There are advantages to this other than saving money and the environment.  PDF pattern instructions are often much clearer on a computer and you can enlarge any pictures you need to.   Which brings me onto the last thing you need to know.  Most PDF pattern instructions consist of written text, diagrams and photographs.  The vast majority of these photos will have been taken with a digital camera and will be very detailed.  Most people, me included, have their printer set on a low resolution to print text and drawings/ diagrams (not photos) for speed and to save on ink.  So if you try to print without changing your settings your printer will only receive half the information it needs to print a clear picture.  If you were unaware of this you might think the designer has sold you a pattern with poor quality images which is frustrating when you’ve handed over your hard earned money.  (Also slightly embarrassing if you only discover this after complaining or leaving them a bad review.)   My printer does have several settings for this (again, I alter these settings through Adobe Reader not the actual printer) and it is worth spending a few minutes checking yours.  I set mine to ‘photo quality’ printing and I also set it to the type of paper I am using eg. ‘glossy’ or ‘plain’.  But in all honesty, mine prints up adequately on a low resolution setting (not perfectly, but good enough).

Hopefully, this saves you hours of experimentation leaving you time to make your beautiful creations!

 

 

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.

 

Attaching A Facing

Facing a raw edge is a really great alternative to using a binding.  I have also used these techniques in my girls’ blouses.  They are similar to bias binding but they are completely on the wrong side of the fabric instead of being around the edge.

Facing A Seamless Neck Opening.

Cut a rectangle or square of facing fabric.  If you are using interfacing, cut it to the same size and attach it to the wrong side of the fabric.  Neaten the edges with a zigzag stitch.  Place and pin it onto your fabric with right sides together and draw a line to show where your opening is going to be.

Stitching really close to the line, sew down its length, across the bottom and back up the other side.  Cut along your drawn line, clip into the corners and turn to the wrong side.  Iron and top sew the edging if needed.

The dark coloured fabric I used so that you can see it easily does not do this technique justice.  It is really effective when you use the same fabric for the facing.

Using Bias Binding As A Facing.

Pin the bias binding to the right side of the neckline, armhole or hem.  Sew along the first crease.  Turn the whole strip of facing to the inside and top sew along the bottom edge.

Again, this looks a lot better when you haven’t got a dark colour showing through your fabric.

 

 

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.