Peasy Summer Cardigan

It’s nothing short of miraculous.  I’ve finished a summer cardigan in time for summer!

This cardigan pattern, Peasy by Heidi Kirrmaier has been sitting in my Ravelry favourites for months.  I’ve read all the comments people have posted about it and looked at all the photos of their versions.  I think the reason I was stalling was that I was unsure of the sleeves.  I’ve never really gone along with the whole three quarter length sleeve idea and, frankly, I was having difficulty getting past the fact that they reminded me of Spock’s trousers.  Maybe I should try out some cardigans with shorter sleeves though because I do spend all day pushing my cardigan sleeves up my arms!

I’m glad I eventually took the plunge and started this cardigan, but I did do the sleeves very differently from the pattern and I used an alternative yarn as well.  I chose an ice blue cotton which is such a departure from anything I normally use both in fibre and colour.  I usually favour warm fibres and warm, muted colours.  Once I made the decision and bought this yarn, I was ridiculously excited to get it finished.  It is so, so pretty and I just love knitting lace.  So much so that I tapered the cardigan’s sleeves, and added sixteen rounds of lace at the cuff to make them full length.

I loved knitting this pattern.  I did highlight the instructions for my size and jotted a few notes as there were so many things going on at once.  It worked out really well and I have some rust coloured alpaca and merino wool set aside to make another at some point.  There was one downside to this one.  It did use a lot more yarn than stated – a lot more. I usually have at least a ball of wool over at the end of a project but this time I had to buy four extra!

Now we need some more sun so that I can wear it.  My first attempt at getting photos of it ended in disaster as it was too cold and windy out on the cliffs to remove my raincoat or beany, so we had to come back to the garden to take them.

 

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.

 

Inserting an Invisible Zip

This was a bit of a revelation to me.  Things have moved on so much in the sewing and knitting industry.  There are so many ways to sew a zip.  As a child I was taught to sew them by hand using a pinprick stitch.  But I’ve since found there are better ways and better zips.

You need a special zip designed to not show once it’s attached.  The other important thing you need is an invisible zip presser foot which has two channels in to hold on to the zip and to uncurl it as your machine sews a line of stitching really close to it.  You can use an ordinary zipper foot but you have to tack the zip in place securely before sewing and you have to constantly push the presser foot against the zip as you sew.  You can buy very cheap generic presser feet online and it’s definitely worth the investment, it makes life so much easier.  INVISIBLE, CONCEALED ZIP, ZIPPER FOOT WITH TAIL SNAP ON, COMPATIBLE FOR BROTHER, JANOME, TOYOTA, NEW SINGER DOMESTIC SEWING MACHINES  (Unless you have a 9 mm machine like I do and then you have to buy one specifically for that machine and that is VERY expensive, but actually, still worth it! Another difference in the invisible or concealed zip and any other you might have used is that you attach it to your garment first before sewing the seam, which is much easier.

So, first of all you need to finish the raw edges of your seam.  I’ve only done the top bit which will run the length of the zip because I’m going to do a french seam which will all be enclosed.

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The zip needs to be undone and placed face down 1.5 cm away from one edge and pinned in place.

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Then sew along the zip with it inserted into one of the presser foot grooves.

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When you near the zip pull, fasten off the threads and do the zip up before turning it over onto the other side of the seam and pin in place as you undo the zip.

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Then sew down this side with the zip in the other groove of the presser foot.

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Do the zip up and sew the seam below it, holding the zip out the way.

You now have a completed invisible zip which is concealed from the outside.

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These pictures make it look like I only have one arm, but I do have two!

 

Decorative Hemming

Decorative hemming or cheat’s entredeux!  In case you haven’t heard of that, as it is a bit old school, entredeux is a piece of lace that is inserted between two pieces of fabric.  Apparently people used to have time to do that.  It’s no secret that I like lace and have I often look for ways to incorporate it into garments.  This hemming technique combines hemming your garment with a really flat, non bulky hem and a very pretty, decorative strip that looks just like lace.

There are so many ways of hemming a skirt but I find this technique just amazing. This is the type of hemming I used on the duck egg blue spotty fabric on my reversible skirt.

You really do need to practise on a spare piece of fabric first with this one.  It is very scary when you have spent hours sewing a garment and finally got to the hemming and you’re faced with a wing needle which is going to put a row of holes into your lovely handmade item!  But it is so worth it.

So, as I just mentioned you will need a wing needle.

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I can’t stress enough the need to practise on a spare piece of fabric.  I’m generally very slack on this point but I did practise this one – a lot.  I tried several stitches and labelled them all with biro before deciding which one I wanted to use.  Luckily, my machine has a few stitches which are for this purpose.  It also has several stitches designed for other uses but I found they worked very well for this.  Some stitches complete this task with one row of stitching while others need two passes using the same holes.  To do this, stitch one row, then leaving the needle in the fabric while in the left hand position, turn your fabric 180 º and sew another row next to the first and the wing needle should go back into the same holes with each stitch.  You can do this very effectively with a simple zigzag stitch.  I eventually decided to use one of my machine’s built in hemming stitches.

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I set my machine to do a 3 mm wide and 2.5 mm length stitch.

Fold your hem and press.  Mark a line on the right side of your fabric where you want your line of stitching.  I marked my skirt 8 cm from the fold.  I should mention that you are meant to use a very fine thread such as Madeira for this, but I didn’t.  Once you are happy that you’ve chosen the best stitch, that your machine is set up properly and behaving, just complete your row (or two rows depending on which stitch you chose) without stopping.  Then turn your garment to the wrong side and trim off the excess fabric.

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Turn your garment the right way out and you’re done.

 

Next week I shall be showing you how I insert a concealed or invisible zip.

Twin needle pintucks

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As promised, this is how I made the pintucks on my reversible skirt.

The skirt didn’t really need any pintucks I just thought it would be a nice added detail to make it more unique.  In days gone by if you wanted pintucks you would have had to mark where each pintuck was to go, fold it, press it and then sew a row of stitches very close to the fold of each pintuck and then press them all to face the same way. Obviously, you could still do it this way and you will get a very lovely effect.  But if your sewing machine has a twin needle capability then it’s much better use of time to do your pintucks with a twin needle.  If your machine has this facility you will have a second spindle that slots into the top of your machine to hold a second reel of thread.  My old one stuck straight up out the top so the second spool was vertical and my new one lies on its side like this:

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Then all you need is a twin needle and a pintuck presser foot.  Mine has lots of grooves on it so I can produce much finer pintucks.

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Attach these to your machine and thread it as usual.  Then thread the second reel of thread and thread it into the second hole on your needle.  You have to make sure the threads don’t get tangled which is why I only thread one at a time and my machine does have a little hook above the needle to help separate the two threads.

Experiment with your machine’s tension.  I found that a tighter tension produced a more raised pintuck which I preferred.

For twin needle pintucks you only have to mark where you want the first one to go.  Use this as a guide and just sew straight stitches along the line with your twin needle.  When you complete the double line of stitching go back to the start and use the grooves on your presser foot to line up the next pintuck.  I’ve used alternate grooves on this skirt.

I think they’re a really effective way of achieving a very traditional sewing technique with far less effort.

I also put them on the hem of my new yellow/green seed head skirt, but I did a few more of them!  This time I did a group of three twin needle pintucks, left a gap and then sewed another group of three.

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Next week I shall show you how I did the decorative hem technique that I used on the pale duck egg blue fabric on my reversible skirt.

Reversible Skirt Tutorial

This week I came up with an idea to make a reversible skirt.  I wanted a reversible skirt that didn’t look like a reversible skirt.  My aim was to have a normal looking skirt which just happened to be reversible.  After buying the fabric I wanted, I thought I would check other reversible skirt tutorials before starting to sew.  There aren’t that many and I noticed a lot of people are asking questions about how to make one.  So, this is my version and how I made it.

The first thing is to take some measurements.  You will need your upper hip measurement (a) (this is where the top of your skirt will be) , your hip measurement (b), the distance between where your upper hip measurement was taken and where your hip measurement was taken (c) and the length of your finished skirt (d).  Then you need to transfer these measurements to a piece of paper with seam allowances to make your pattern. This is actually really easy to do and not something to panic about.  The front and back skirt are the same so you need just one pattern piece for both.  As the skirt is symmetrical, each piece will be cut on the fold, so the pattern piece you draw is for half the front/back (a quarter of your hip and upper hip measurements).

Hopefully, nobody actually has a figure like this one, sadly my drawing skills are lacking.

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Fill in your measurements, remembering to divide your hip and upper hip measurements by 4 as shown and add your seam and hem allowances on.  I don’t tend to put in much ease on my skirts but if you want yours a bit roomier around the hips just move the line slightly further out.  (Every 1 cm wider on the pattern will increase the width of your skirt by 4 cm!)

I have drawn this pattern as a slight A-line, wider at the bottom.  This is up to your personal preference as to whether you prefer a straight cut or A-line skirt.  However, do bear in mind that you will need enough room to walk but if you make it too wide you won’t be able to fit both pieces on one width of fabric, so will have to buy twice the amount.  I usually adjust my patterns so that both pattern pieces just squeeze onto my fabric.  I bought an 80 cm length in each fabric for this skirt which was plenty.

Cut out two pieces of fabric on the fold in one fabric and two pieces on the fold in a second fabric but make this one about 6 – 8 cm longer than the first. (You’ll see why later.)  You will also need a strip of fabric in each colour measuring about 7 cm wide and 25 cm long.  This will form a button placket or tab to fill the gap behind your buttons and loops.

Sew and finish the side seams of both skirts leaving a gap at the top of one side measuring ‘c’ + 1.5 cm.   (This will give you enough room to get the skirt on and off.)  Try both skirts on at this point to check the fit.  My skirts are always too wide at the waist at this point partly because my measuring is so bad and partly because I’m worried I might make it too tight and then I would have to start again.  Last time I used this pattern I altered the top to make it fit first time, but I still cut it larger this time just in case!  So I had to do my side seams twice.

Make four rouleau loops and attach them to the top opening of one skirt flush with the fabric edge.  I sewed about three lines of stitches across the rouleau loops to secure them.

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Sew the placket with right sides together across the top down the side, along the bottom and a little way up the other side.  I have interfaced mine.  Trim and clip the seam allowances and turn to right side and attach to side opening. Check that the raw edges match up with the opening on your skirts (leaving a 1.5 cm seam allowance at the top) and that the finished end of the placket extends below this edge by about 5 cm and attach it to one skirt opening.

Sew both skirts together along top seam allowance with right sides facing.  Turn right side out.  Top sew along placket, across rouleau loops and around top edge of skirt, sandwiching the placket and rouleau loops.  Sew four buttons on opposite the loops.  This can be on the seam allowances of the skirt or on the inner edge of the button placket, whichever you prefer.  Then reverse skirt and sew four more buttons in the same place onto the skirt now showing.

Hem shorter skirt to desired length.  Fold longer skirt, iron and hem so that about 2.5 cm is showing behind the shorter skirt and making sure that the hem is hidden from view.

I hope this tutorial has been helpful.  There will be follow on posts on how I made the rouleau loops and some of the other techniques I used to make this reversible skirt, such as the pintucks on the brown fabric and the decorative hem I used on the duck egg blue spotty fabric.

 

 

 

Harvest Moon Cardigan

I’ve finally finished my aran weight winter cardigan just as summer arrives in Cornwall.  It is a lovely pattern, Harvest Moon by Heidi Kirrmaier.  I had about a fifteen year break from knitting, then about eighteen months ago I discovered Ravelry online and was inspired to start again.  Things have moved on so much.  Circular needles (they were actually invented in the thirties, but I hadn’t heard of them), seamless, top down knitting – what a revelation!  And socks knitted two at a time from the toe up.  Who knew?  Actually, who knew you could knit socks at all? Obviously, thinking about it, at one time everyone would have had to knit their own socks or they wouldn’t have had any.

I just love that the internet has allowed so many independent designers to flourish.  When I ‘need’ a new pattern I just go on to Ravelry, type in what I’m looking for and there they are, hundreds to choose from.  The best thing is (apart from being able to download the pattern instantly) that you can see who else has already knitted the item, look at their photographs and read their comments so you know if it’s really the pattern for you.  I just wish I had discovered that earlier, it would have made me think twice about purchasing the yarn for a certain summer cardigan a while back!

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Anyway, I have been really inspired by knitting designers such as Melissa LaBarre, Carol Feller and Gudrun Johnston.  They all seem to favour the top down seamless method.  It is weird that although I absolutely love sewing and I sew practically every day, I hate sewing up a garment when I’ve finished knitting it and now I don’t have to, ever!

I’ve already started on my next cardigan, Peasy which is also written by Heidi Kirrmaier.  This time I am knitting in an ice blue cotton yarn.  I just need to make sure I finish it before autumn so I can wear it a few times before packing it away for the winter.  It’s so pretty.

My daughter’s make-up bag is finished.  Maybe I could have made it a tad smaller, but she did say she wanted it as big as possible.

 

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.

 

 

 

More Daturas

OK, so I have not been very motivated this week.  I had intended to make some more lingerie so that I could put the patterns in my Etsy shop.  The problem is that I have too many projects backed up and this week it seemed a bit overwhelming.  This is entirely my own fault because I see some gorgeous fabric (at least twice a week) and know exactly what I could make with it and then I buy it without thinking about the fact that there are only a certain number of hours in each day and that I already have a whole cupboard (and the top of my desk) full of fabric that I knew just what to do with!

Anyway, this week I did not do what I was going to.  But I did make my youngest daughter a cover for her tablet.

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My oldest daughter has been asking for a new make-up bag which I will now have to get on with or I shall be getting complaints.  I have been dragging my heels a bit on this one as she wants a frame clasp and I’ve not used one before and haven’t even got around to making the pattern although I have seen a tutorial on U-handbag.  I’m just going to have to take the plunge.  I have bought the fabric.  So that’s a start.

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Also, I made another couple of tops in the Deer and Doe Datura style.

The first Datura was in a grey, embroidered cotton voile.  I did the peter pan collar version but lengthened the back and put in a pleat to give some extra room at the bottom.  I attached a lovely diamante button to a bow and sewed it to the front bodice, which doesn’t show up particularly well in the pictures.

Then I made a Datura similar to the original in a really soft floral fabric and added some bright cerise and diamante buttons to the back.  I am beginning to notice a bit of a theme with the diamante buttons!

After the first peach coloured one I shortened the yoke and lengthened the top of the bodice.  I think it works much better like this.

Hopefully, I will be inspired to sew lingerie next week.

 

My Deer and Doe Datura

The Deer and Doe Datura is a really popular pattern and so many people have posted pictures of their versions online.  I have spent hours looking at them. Seriously, hours!  I just love this pattern. Some people are so inventive with their use of fabric and make really effective colour and pattern choices.  Sadly, I do not, but I live in hope that one day inspiration will strike.

I have a confession to make.  I didn’t manage to buy this pattern, I drafted my own version.  There are a few suppliers listed in the UK but nobody seemed to have any in stock and I’m too impatient to wait for one to be posted from France.  A few months ago I made myself a block for a top from draping my tailor’s dummy, and all the tops I have made since then have been adapted from this. This one involved more changes than most, though.

True to my indecisive nature choosing fabric posed its usual dilemmas so I ended up buying enough for two tops.  In fairness, I would have gone back to buy more to make a second one anyway, so actually, I saved money on fuel.

The first one I made was the peach and cream Datura version with the cut out triangles.  I have read that the bodice construction was causing some confusion as most of us have been used to turning both pieces the right side out, machine sewing one shoulder seam and then hand sewing the lining to finish.  But by only turning one piece the right side out and inserting it into the other piece, you can machine both seams and sew the seam allowances flat to finish them neatly, then when you turn the other piece the right side out it’s finished with no hand sewing to do – brilliant!  This is going to be my preferred technique for lined bodices in the future.  The recommended way of turning under the lower bodice lining to finish is the way I always do it except that I would normally hand hem it instead of machine top sewing from the right side. This is actually the first completely machine sewn garment I’ve made and that includes the buttons.  I like the finish you get with hand sewing so this is slightly outside my comfort zone but I am happy with the results.  I chose not to put in buttonholes as I can get the top on and off without them and it eliminates the worry of someone undoing them without me noticing which could be embarrassing – and drafty.

Patrick Grant of The Great British Sewing Bee made a comment last week about a top with buttons down the back needing to stay closed at the bottom but I have made mine to separate at the bottom as I think it looks much nicer especially when worn with a short cardigan.  So I made the back of the green and white one the same way and found these gorgeous green and diamante buttons to complete it.  They cost about the same amount as the fabric but I think they’re quite cute and worth it.

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I thought the peter pan collar version might be easier to do than the triangle cut out version as I found it fairly tricky to attach the bias binding in the right place (it would have been quite simple if I had just put it on my tailor’s dummy to pin it, but for some reason I didn’t think of that at the time).  However, with the second version it was hard to judge where to sew when I got to the middle of the collar so I ended up drawing a guide line in tailor’s chalk.  Again, if I had thought to do that in the first place it would have been very straight forward.  Still, I’ll know next time.

These tops do take a little time to make but I just love them so much I will be making more of them very soon.