My new Ashford Kiwi 2

My new spinning wheel has arrived.  An Ashford Kiwi 2 with a super flyer!  I’m so excited.

I learnt to spin (badly) on a drop spindle a couple of years ago but wasn’t interested in using a spinning wheel.  I had an image in my head of the pictures from fairy tales of huge room-filling, ornate wooden objects in dark wood that just did not appeal.  At some point I spotted a more modern wheel and fully intended to buy an Ashford Kiwi 2 the last time I was in New Zealand as we would be driving right past Ashford’s shop in Ashburton.  Before we got there, we met a lady in a market in Raglan who was spinning on a beautiful modern upright spinning wheel that looked like a carved work of art.  She told me that what I really wanted was a Majacraft and so a seed of doubt crept in and I didn’t buy my new wheel at that point.  Once home I researched further and discovered that she was right; I did really want a Majacraft.  Unfortunately, they are a tad pricey.

Then I discovered that Ashford have brought out a super flyer to go with the Kiwi 2 for making art yarns.  My decision was made; back to my original choice.  I would buy the Kiwi 2 which will spin most of the yarns I want as it is, with a super flyer for chunky art yarns, and a high speed adapter for fine yarns.  The day I decided to take the plunge and order it,  I noticed that a couple of shops had dropped their prices, probably due to the drop in the New Zealand dollar combined with the strong pound.  Then I discovered that a lady called Jane Deane who lives in Tavistock in Devon (and who conveniently was visiting our local Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers this week to give a talk on dyeing) also now sells Ashford products.  She managed to get me a really good deal on the Kiwi 2 and all the extras, better than the larger companies and said she would deliver it too!

The traditional spinning wheel I have been borrowing from the Guild has been fun to play with but it’s not really designed to make art yarns, so I am really looking forward to using my new wheel.  I just have to put it together now…

 

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.

 

Tourmaline Birthstone

There has been no time for sewing this week (I haven’t even started on my outfit for the graduation which is in two weeks) and I’ve only managed about two rows of knitting.  It’s that time of year again when I start to get the garden ready for winter and it is a big garden.  But I know that if I get it all done now it should stay looking good until the spring, apart from the lawn which will not stop growing all year here in Cornwall.

We have a birthday party to go to on Sunday and I was really struggling to find a suitable present. One of my girls suggested giving her one of the necklaces I’ve made, which would have been the easiest thing to do. But I decided to look up the birthstone for October which happens to be both tourmaline and opal.  A few items in my shop do have tourmaline and opal stones but I thought I would make something just for her.  (Why do I do that?  I am pleased with every item in my shop and any one of them would have been fine.  But it wouldn’t be me if I took the most obvious route!)  I decided to go with the tourmaline birthstone in a pretty pink and white.  Tourmaline comes in a huge variety of colours making it difficult to choose.  I was very tempted with some of my various shades of green tourmaline and there was a gorgeous peach coloured one.  The pink ones are my favourite, though,  so that’s what I opted for and hopefully she’ll like it too

It was very enjoyable to be hammering some silver again; it’s been a while.

Fingerless Gloves

I like hand knitted fingerless gloves and, unable to find patterns I liked, I decided to make some of my own. I’ve made a few pairs of these recently.  They’re all made from aran weight wool and knitted in the round.  Some are knitted from a really soft merino and some are a mix of alpaca and merino.  I was going to keep them for myself as I like to have unique items that nobody else has, but I have now decided to put the patterns in  my shop.

They are really quick and easy to knit on a circular needle using the magic loop method, or they can be made with DPN’s and there is no sewing to do.   I have recommended the Old Norwegian cast on for them as it is stretchy and neat.  When I was taught to knit I only learnt one cast on method and it wasn’t until about two years ago that I found out there were other ways.  After a bit of research I found Cast On, Bind Off by Leslie Ann Bestor.  54 ways to cast on and cast off.  It was a revelation.  This is actually one of the best books I have ever bought and I have quite a few.  It doesn’t have any pretty, colourful pictures. Well, it does have pictures but they are useful ones showing what you can achieve for the various methods; it’s not a pretty coffee table book.  But it covers so many options to cast on and off.  It is spiral bound, so lies flat when you have your hands full of wool and needles, and has really detailed instructions and diagrams for each method.  The only downside, and I’m pretty sure it is the only downside, is that some methods cover two pages so that when you have yarn in one hand, needles in the other, it is virtually impossible to also turn the page to see the next step.  I refer to this book all the time and every knitter should have one.

As with all my patterns, these have Cornish names; Delen meaning ‘leaf’, Kadon meaning ‘chain’ (a cable look without the cable needle), Todnow meaning ‘waves’, Nedha meaning ‘twist’ (another cable look without the cable needle), Mor meaning ‘sea’.

 

 

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.

Winter Door Curtain

Winter is nearly here again.  All the apples from our old Bramley have been turned into jams, chutneys, crumbles and sauces.  I’m even attempting cider making at the suggestion of my brother in New Zealand.  I asked him for ideas as he’s a really good cook and expected some exotic recipe to come back.  But he just said ‘make cider’ and actually that’s a really good idea as that requires a lot of apples and my pile of Bramleys wasn’t diminishing very quickly.  The Christmas cake, pudding and mincemeat have been made and stored away to mature.  I’ve even made a few Christmas presents and have been looking forward to lighting the wood burner again now that the evenings are drawing in.  I love this time of year but it is becoming apparent that the house is not that warm so I’ve decided to draught proof the front door with a new  interlined curtain.  I do realize it will take a lot more than that to make this house warm, but it’s a start.

This curtain is really easy to make.  I’ve made a few over the years when I’ve decided I needed a new colour scheme as they are quick, simple and inexpensive.  We have a portiere rod above the door which we leave turned away from the door during the day (and all through the summer) and we swing it shut across the door in the evening during the winter.  So I will be making a channel in my curtain for the rod and I won’t need any heading tape or rings to hang it.  But, because you see the front of the curtain during the day and the back of the curtain during the night, I will be using the main fabric on both the front and the back.  My summer curtain does have lining on the back because it is really for decoration only.  If I actually used it I would be able to see the lining at night when the curtain was across the door.  Shop bought curtains do not often have interlining so if you have an old draughty house it is worth tracking some down and having a go at making your own. The interlining I bought is made from cotton and feels soft and fleecy similar to quilt wadding.

To start, I need to measure the height of the portiere rod that the curtain is going to hang from.  Then I add 15 cm (10 cm for the hem and 5 cm for the frill at the top) and double the total to get the amount of fabric required.  As well as the curtain fabric I need some thread and one length of interlining.   The height of my portiere rod plus 15 cm came to 2.4 m.  So I need 4.8 m of curtain fabric (2.4 m for the front and 2.4 m for the back) and 2.4 m of interlining.

First I need to fold the main fabric in half with right sides together and with the interlining placed on top.  Then I will sew down either side leaving a 5 cm gap, 5 cm from the top on each side.  If you do not want a frill on the top, just start sewing 5 cm from the top and continue straight to the bottom.

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After hand sewing a 10 cm deep hem all the way around, the curtain needs to be turned the right side out.

Lastly I will sew a line of stitching right across the curtain 5 cm down from the top and a second line of stitching 5 cm further down to form the channel.  If you are not putting the frill on the top you will only need the one row of stitching 5 cm from the top to form the channel.  If at this point you realize you forgot to leave a 5 cm gap in the side seams, it’s not the end of the world you can easily unpick the few stitches from the ends after sewing the channel.

Now all that’s left it to thread the portiere rod through the channel on the curtain.

 

 

Still a W.I.P.

Why can’t I finish this?  This is probably the most simple jumper I’ve ever knitted.  It’s knit in the round so it is nearly all plain knitting with just a few rounds of garter stitch, a small amount of I-cord around the keyhole and some increasing and decreasing to form the ruching.  I mentioned the Ruched Yoke Tee I was knitting several weeks ago.  It has progressed but is still nowhere near finished and I really don’t know why.  I have a few more cardigans lined up for when this is finished and usually that’s all the motivation I need to finish what I’m doing so that I can start the next one.  But not this time, apparently.

I usually have a few W.I.P. (work in progress) on the go but only one jumper or cardigan at a time.  (Several pairs of socks, gloves, hats and scarves, but only one cardigan.)  It is useful to have a W.I.P. or two to hand for different situations.  A small, easy pattern in your handbag for when you have five minutes waiting for something when you’re out, some intricate lace or cabled socks when you have the house to yourself (not that that happens that often) or a plain stockinette stitch jumper when you’re chatting in a knitting group.

But this one is just a chore and I have no idea why.  My other half asked why I didn’t just start my next cardigan before finishing this one.  That does seem like defeat and I’ve never done that before but that’s precisely what I am going to do.  I will come back to this one!  Really, I will, if only because I shall need the cables for another project.  Now I just need to decide between another Peasy in a rust coloured alpaca and merino or a second Acorns in a light olive coloured alpaca and merino.

 

 

 

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.

A New Pink Top

This pink top has been sitting in my sewing room part made for about two weeks.  I used the upper bodice pattern piece for the sweetheart bodice dress from Yoshiko Tsukiori’s Sweet Dress Book: 23 Stylish Outfits from Six Simple Patterns and my own pattern for the rest which I made from a drape, just as I did for the cream one I made a while ago with the pretty bridal lace section at the top.

I get a lot of comments on this one and have wanted to make another but took my time thinking about which fabric would be best.  I really like it in the cream and was tempted to make one in a similar colour.  I think the pale pink was a good choice, though, as I did not have a pink top.  I have some more fabric to make another one when I can find the time.  It is a pale coffee coloured cotton and a mesh fabric with coffee coloured spots on.

The pink top has turned out better than I thought.  Rashly, I decided to do a hand sewn scallop hem because they’re so delicate and pretty.  It took so long and it doesn’t even show up in the photographs!  I love the pink shell button I chose.  It really needed a more lightweight one so that the delicate chiffon wasn’t weighed down.  But my heart won out and I used the one I liked (again it doesn’t show up in the photographs).  It is a pink disc made from shell with a metal shank which ends in a square of metal in the centre at the front.

 

 

 

 

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.

Shell Tuck Stitch Hems

Shell tuck stitch hems this week.  The shell tuck stitch makes a really decorative hem.  You could use it on a variety of garments: blouses, baby clothes, lingerie and accessories.  It  is a very versatile stitch and it’s easy to do!  The shell tuck stitch hem can be done on a sewing machine and it can also be done by hand.  The methods are very similar to the rolled hemming techniques from my last hemming post (you could almost imagine I planned that).  There are a few ways of sewing a shell tuck stitch hem by hand but I shall just show you my preferred one which is, I think, the most durable because you secure every third stitch.  Again, as with rolled hems, the shell tuck stitch works best on a finer fabric.

For both of these shell tuck stitch hemming techniques you need to match in your thread to your fabric to make them as inconspicuous as possible,  but I shall be using a contrasting colour so that you can see what I’m doing.

You need the same sewing machine presser foot that you would use for a rolled hem and it is basically the same technique, except that you need to increase the top tension on your machine so that the shells are pulled in tighter and you need to use a blind hem stitch; you might need to use a mirror blind stitch depending on your machine so that the zigzag part goes to the right.  You will probably need to experiment with the correct length and width for your stitch but it should be about 1.5 mm long and between 3.5 and 4.5 mm wide.  The needle needs to miss the actual hem both sides.  So, your straight stitches need to fall in the single layer of fabric to the left of your hem and the zigzag stitch in the middle needs to fall off the right hand side of your hem to pull in the shell shape .  If your machine won’t line up properly (like mine today; annoyingly my old machine does this really well, but this one does not want to play ball) you can sew the hem first with a long stitch then try to align the blind hemming stitch again. Afterwards remove the original hemming stitches.

For the hand version, you need to turn under a very small double fold about 6 mm deep and hold it with your left thumb and working from right to left (apologies if you are left handed).  Secure your thread to the lower edge of your hem and take a very tiny stitch from the fabric below it.  Insert the needle back into the hem in the same place it came out and push it along the fold and back out about half a centimetre along.  Take another tiny stitch from the fabric below, and again insert the needle back into the hem the same place it came out, push it along the fold and out again about half a centimetre along.

This time, taking your needle over the top, insert it into the back of the hem and out through the front, pulling the hem down into a scallop.  Repeat this stitch so that each scallop has two threads pulling the fabric down, and as you tighten it catch the thread with your needle to secure it (this is not the type of hem that you want to unravel).

You have now completed the first scallop or shell and you just need to repeat this all the way around your hem.

The machined version of the shell tuck stitch hem is more subtle but more uniform and very fast.  Obviously it would be better with a matching thread but I still think the stitches would show quite a lot.  But the hand sewn version I love.  I could work on uniformity!  But apart from that I do prefer the result to the machined one and I enjoy hand sewing a hem as well.  Now I just need to think of a project to use it on.

Homemade Food Wrap

More Christmas presents.  This time some safe, re-usable food wrap.  I’m going to be making some round versions to cover food in glass bowls in the fridge and I’m also going to be making some food wrap that can be used to wrap sandwiches.

WARNING: if you are making these during the summer, close your windows and doors prior to melting any beeswax.  Bees are attracted to the smell of beeswax (ask me how I know)!!!  I should have thought about it a bit more as I have looked into keeping bees and have several books on the subject and the thought of getting a free swarm of bees by putting beeswax around the ‘door’ on the beehive has always appealed to me.  A memo to self: think things through.  (Fortunately my hubbie came home for lunch at just the right time to save me.  I know, a bit pathetic and girlie, but there were far more of them than me and maybe bee keeping wouldn’t be the best thing for me, after all.)

So back to the task in hand.  This food wrap is made from safe, natural products.  They can be hand washed in cold water.  All you need to make food wrap is some cotton fabric, some pinking shears, a baking sheet, some grease-proof paper and some beeswax.  I bought my beeswax in a pellet form but if you can only find a block of it, you’ll need to grate it.  You’ll also need access to either an iron or an oven.

So, for the bowl covers you first need a template.  Turn your bowl/ dish that you need a lid for upside down on some paper and draw around it.  Then draw around the whole shape again but at least five centimetres further out.  Cut this template out and pin it (or use weights) to some nice cotton fabric and cut the shape out with pinking shears.  As you can probably tell, I didn’t use a template and had my usual problems with inaccurate measuring and cutting.

Place some grease-proof paper onto a baking sheet and put your fabric on it.  Sprinkle beeswax sparingly onto the fabric.  Then either put another sheet of grease-proof paper on top and iron it or put the baking sheet in the oven at about 110°c for ten minutes or until the beeswax has melted.  If you have any patches without beeswax, just repeat until the fabric is covered.

Once cooled the fabric is pliable but stays put when folded over the top of your container.

The sandwich wraps are made in exactly the same way except that you need to be able to wrap them around a sandwich instead of making them bowl shaped.  I experimented using a piece of paper (and a sandwich) to make sure my fabric would fit around my sandwich leaving no gaps. Amazingly these do not seem to open when you don’t want them to, but to make sure you could put a button and loop on them.

I am secretly very pleased with how these turned out and will be making more for myself and my family.

Mug Rugs

It’s that time of year again when I start to think about making Christmas presents.  I like to be organized.  Last year I wasn’t, as we went to visit our son and my brother in New Zealand for a month and ended up having about two weeks to sort Christmas and, frankly, that’s not for me.

So, I’m starting my first presents today and I’ve decided on some mug rugs or coasters.  I’m not sure where I got the idea from initially but they really appealed to me as they are basically just mini quilts.  I love making quilts and a mug rug miniature version would be far quicker and easier to do.  I’m making my mug rugs smaller than the ones I’ve seen online but bigger than a coaster would normally be – just big enough for a mug of coffee and a biscuit.  These could be made in different sizes and used as place mats and coasters for a dinner table.

First, I cut out  a rectangle of wadding in the size I wanted for the finished mug rugs and two rectangles the same size in cotton fabric for the front and back.  For my applique (you don’t have to put an applique on it) I chose a cupcake and a cup and saucer.  I drew rough templates on paper and then cut the individual pieces out of cotton fabric.

Then I stuck the pieces to my mug rugs’s fronts so that they would stay in place as I sewed.  I used an iron on ‘Bondaweb’ but you could use any temporary fabric adhesive.  My sewing machine has a really good stitch to attach applique which looks like a hand sewn blanket stitch, but today I decided to use a zigzag stitch around the edges of the appliques.

Next, the fun bit; the quilting.  Using a long stitch and my walking foot, I stitched around the edges of the appliques to make them stand out a bit more and then sewed some random, slightly wavy lines.  Much easier than straight, evenly spaced lines and you really can’t go wrong!

For the binding I cut a long strip of fabric about 6 cm wide ( it wasn’t necessary to cut on the bias as the edges of my mug rugs are straight) and folded it in half lengthways and ironed it.  Matching the raw edges, I pinned the folded binding to the edges of each mug rug front and sewed it about 1 cm from the edge.

Lastly, I folded the binding over to the back of the mug rugs and, again, using my walking foot, top stitched around the very edge of the binding being careful not to catch the binding on the front of the mug rugs.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that the binding on these mug rugs is not my finest work (I am usually very fussy with my corners) but I think they’ve turned out quite well.  The first of my Christmas presents finished!

Girl’s Dress PDF Pattern

About a year ago I drafted some patterns for little girls’ dresses with a view to turning them into PDFs.  Unfortunately,  just as I had finished about six months worth of work to achieve that the EU, in it’s wisdom, brought in new rules for VAT regarding selling PDF patterns to European countries making it unfeasible to continue.  Luckily, I kept all my work (I could easily have thrown it all in the bin at the time) because Etsy recently emailed me to say that they had put a system in place whereby they would be responsible for collecting and making the VAT payments to the various countries – hooray!!

So, I immediately dug out all my sketches, photos and drafts for the first dress I designed and it is now available in my shop  I’m really excited about this as it’s my favourite out of all my designs so far and  I really hope other people like it as much as I do.

I’ve given all my lingerie and dress patterns Cornish girl’s names.  This one is called Caja which means ‘daisy’.

The Caja dress has a curved bodice at the front and a gathered skirt which makes a very flattering look for a little girl.

The instructions with this PDF pattern include the finishes that I would normally use on a dress, i.e. french seams, deep hand stitched hem, lined bodice with the raw edges concealed within it, rouleau loop (although I often make my button loops from thread) and a covered button to make a very special garment.  Although, obviously you can use any finish that you want.