Sunday, 25 December 2016

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, everyone

My post on the Knitting and Stitching Show 2016 had a massive omission in it which is this - I completed the crochet kit bought at last year's show and surprised my mum with it today.

And whilst we're nearing the end of the year, I thought I'd take a look back at the cross stitch projects I managed to fit in around everything else (ok, two of my planned things didn't even get started)!

There was the cat coasters for a belated house warming present for my friend, which led to her creating an even more charming feline ginger ball for her kitchen wall.  Then there was the wedding card for another friend, who had a fantastic day,  And a few bits for myself; a message board for the kitchen in my flat along with one (out of a planned six) Christmas coaster by my favourite designer, Emily Peacock. 

But there's no crafts to be done today; I've got some trifle and Christmas cake calling me. 

Merry Christmas.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Knitting and Stitching Show, Harrogate 2016

How quickly the year has flown since the last Knitting and Stitching show;  I can't help reading my blog about it and thinking I've achieved a fair amount more than I was expecting.

After the workshop for beginners on crocheting granny squares, I blogged about my learn to crochet course in Ramsbottom, which I finished in March.  Since then crochet definitely became my thing for 2016.  From my Easter wreath and chick, to my pumpkin at Halloween, I crocheted something for every holiday this year, and lots in between.  I haven't yet started on a granny square quilt, but it's on the cards.  And all of this whilst moving my life to London in September; those long train journeys are responsible for about 10 coasters! 

But of course we finish the year with Christmas and I love this free Christmas lights pattern from my trusted teacher at Cotton Pod.   In a bid to not spend any more money I decided to make a set using the shades of wool I already have; so behold my pastel fairy lights.

Apart from developing my crochet skills I also made good progress with my other investments from last year.  The batik has been professionally framed and hangs in my kitchen, some of the fat quarters were used to make a Japanese patchwork bag present for Mother's Day and my mini seascape cushion sits on my sewing chair to remind me of warmer days.

The other fat quarters were all chopped up and are well underway to resembling a quilt which I have aptly named 'The quilt with no name'.  This is going to be my big project for 2017, let's see if it's finished before the next Knitting and Stitching show comes around.

I completed my factory dress from Merchant and Mills, and to get more value out of the pattern, and also because I love the finished dress, at this year's show I bought some nice navy floral cotton from one of the exhibitors to make it again, this time for the summer months.  

The only disappointment is my efforts with my patterns from Sew La Di Da which have unfortunately not escaped their envelopes. Unfortunately I was unable to return to my sewing classes due to my London move and I've not yet found any courses near my new place.  I suppose there's a slight mental barrier to starting them because of this; I've always associated dressmaking with my chatty class and it just doesn't feel right to plough through on my own.  But I do miss my dressmaking very much, so first thing in January I will be enrolling on a course and making these patterns my priority.

That's a lot in one year (the centre picture was after the 2015 show)

So, having looked back on last year, here's this year’s purchases!
My purchases - Harrogate 2016

There's a wedding sampler for my brother and his fiancĂ©, which needs to be done for August 2018.  I’m so excited to be a bridesmaid for the first time, I wonder if that will bring extra sewing tasks my way... There's also another cross stitch, this one will be for my parents, and perhaps it will be a mother/father's day present. Both were bought from Trudy Ann Designs, available online here

For me I've got a lovely crochet scarf to work on from Janie Crow, available online here.  It's incredibly soft with alpaca wool and I can't wait to make it over the Christmas break (that's the plan at least).  I went for the grey colour, isn't it pretty?

I needed two new crochet hooks as well and now my airport liquids bag is looking like a shabby excuse for these hooks.  

And to round it off, here are some of my photos from the day of things I liked or that I found inspiring.  

A simple Christmas wreath, a cheap and quick alternative to a real green one

Ceramics and homeware by

Vileseline Christmas star decoration - free instructions were available

As always Harrogate delivered a fantastic arrangement of stalls, inspiration and variety.  Until November 2017, I've got a lot to get through!

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

The quilt that has no name - part 1

This is the pattern of the quilt, from the book Fast Quilts from Fat Quarters

After the Knitting and Stitching Show last year I blogged about a quilt I wanted to make which, terribly, remains nameless.  I bought  all of my fabric at last year's show and in an effort to be super effective I immediately pre-treated it.  But as this is my first quilt, I decided to ease myself in gently by attempting the Japanese patchwork bag fist. I was glad I did, as it helped me with using a rotary cutter to cut layers of fabric accurately, which requires miles more pressure being placed on the ruler than I imagined. Or maybe I'm just getting weaker. 

Anyway, before I could even start cutting I spent a few hours making a full size cutting plan in mount board and covering it in sticky back plastic.  The book did helpfully suggest this as a useful tool, and it certainly kept me from destroying lots of fabric during the many, many hours of crossed eyes cutting that made up my month of March. 

The book calls for the cutting plan to be made to scale

There are over 1000 pieces in this quilt!

April and May were consumed with starting the construction process.  Playing around with different combinations of blocks is fun whilst also slightly frustrating to my inner OCD tendencies -
 when I can't quite get a perfectly balanced and pleasing spread of fabric shades, patterns and scales of pattern.

The centre star

Experimenting with block combinations
And since then the quilt has, again shamefully, not been given the priority it deserves.  The second half of 2016 has been so busy with relocating for a new job that the sewing machine desperately needs dusting down.  I'm determined this quilt will be finished by November 2017 - two years on from buying the fabric.  I'll need to write all of these new year's sewing plans down at this rate to keep track of my arbitrary deadlines!

Monday, 31 October 2016

Halloween 2016


I was planning on a patch, but I'll settle with these two. One of which is now soup. So just one crocheted pumpkin this Halloween, but how cute is it?!

I used a kit from Cotton Pod which I impulse bought on a trip to Stitch in Ramsbottom for some wool supplies (I'm making more coasters again)!  The pattern was very easy to follow and the pumpkin was complete in two evenings.  I can't wait to make more of these next year.

Now it's time to plan the Christmas crochet makes...four weeks to go until the Harrogate Knitting and Stitching show!

Monday, 4 July 2016

Summer vibes, by the seaside

It feels good to be back behind my sewing machine!

Finished cushion with the kit image
I thought I'd reminisce about the glorious Nha Trang beach in Vietnam with a little 10 inch square seascape cushion.  I picked this up as a kit for a mere £7 at the Knitting and Stitch show last winter from Sally Holman and I managed to complete it in one weekend of evening sewing.   

It's simple yet effective, I particularly love the applique images as I got to mess around with decorative stitches on the machine.  The instructions for making the cushion front are very good; the only thing missing from the kit is instructions for making the cushion up and some more stranded cotton for the embroidery (I ran out very quickly)! 

I really enjoyed this project and hope to see Sally's other designs at the show this year. 

The only thing left to decide on is where to put it...


The seams are hidden between the interfacing and decorative fabric which is folded and pleated to add texture
Lighthouse with machine zig zag stitch
Seagull with free form feather stitch
Beach hut
Sail boat with blanket stitch, by hand

I managed to finish my crochet daisy headband whilst on holiday!  Here it is...
I used a cream top stitch thread to finish off the inner seam of the outer border

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

The Factory Dress

Ten sewing evenings later the simple and sleek Factory Dress is finished.  

The pattern from Merchant and Mills creates an oversize dress and combined with the heavy wool fabric it looks like a 1940s dress a woman would have donned for work during the war.  I'd give the pattern a impressive 10/10 for design and style; its effectiveness lies in it's simplicity. 

It features a v neck pull over front, bust darts, two types of pockets, collar, sleeves and front pleats

It has handy side pockets which you can only see properly from the back as they're set back from the side seam
Collar finished with black topstitch thread
Collar layering was particularly important with this heavy fabric
The collar has a full facing
Turned up sleeves really create that factory feel

The dress is not lined so keeping the inside tidy was quite important (I even darned in the overlocking thread ends)

Where this pattern is lacking is in the finer details of how to construct the dress, with some instructions simply being missing (how deep should the hem be?)  

After a while I also found myself getting frustrated with the diagrams which are quite simple and they use lots of cross hatching. I felt they were quite confusing as I'm used to precise and technical drawings from the leading brands.  I was also surprised when I came to attach the skirt to the bodice that there was no notch on the skirt front to line up with the bodice centre seam.  I ended up improvising by measuring the centre of the distance between the two sets of pleats and lining this point up with the seam to ensure the front was sewn accurately. 

Thankfully I've learnt from experience to not just take instructions at face value. However I did think this was a real shame for beginners; the pattern should be suitable for them but first it needs some improvements.  

All in all the £13 price tag is steep for the quality of the instructions but the finished design is really impressive.  With only two meters of fabric used (@£14 a metre), two spools of thread and some interfacing (which I already had) this dress has cost a total of £45.  I think it's going to be a winner at work. 

Friday, 20 May 2016


It's been a busy few months since my Easter post in my attempts to get better at crochet.  I've been practising away with a set of six coasters which I thought would help me to try and maintain my tension across different pieces of work.  So inevitably coaster number two was smaller than coaster number one and had to be pulled back.  But after that mishap I managed to get into the rhythm and produce six circles that appear the same size.  

This quick pattern was one given to me on my learn to crochet course at Stitch studio.  I've given them to my mum as a little birthday present; she found them quite fitting as, unintentionally, I have made them in the colour of different grapes, which also happen to be associated with wine and the glasses of white and red that she has already tested out on these coasters!  If you fancy trying this pattern out, head over to Ravelry - you can find me there as CharGoonan; I've put them on there with a link to the designer!

I've also started going along to a social group in Ramsbottom, aptly named 'Crochelize' where I've been making granny squares for a bag pattern.  

It's part of a kit I picked up at 2015's Knitting and Stitching show in Harrogate; although I didn't mention it on my post about the show for fear of getting ahead of myself (I'd only been on a two hour taster course)! 

Luckily for me I had taste for a pattern that is actually very suitable for beginners, consisting only of chain, treble and double treble stitches (so far).  It's from Hooked By Design, a Yorkshire based company which sell lots of crochet and hooking kits on their shop here

My Vietnam holiday is only five days away and I've already packed my handmade summer clothes (my Ramie blouse and satin silk dress)!  Now I can focus on deciding what crochet projects I can pack for the flight.  

I'm thinking I might take this Naissance Mandala pattern:
Naissance Mandala by Cotton Pod made with DROPS Paris
This is the work of Sharon at CottonPod (where you can download the pattern for free).  She's also published a tutorial on her blog here.

I'm also thinking about taking the wool for my granny square bags.  I might be able to construct all of the squares whilst I'm away, even if I just do five squares a week and then construct the bag when I'm back.

AND I'm toying with making this floral headband to wear just after landing back in the UK for a Stone Roses gig (it's that or a paint splattered t-shirt). 

Is three projects, two unread magazines and a book a little bit excessive for two 15 hour flights?!  I best order some spare hooks in case they don't make it through hand luggage security...

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Summer Ramie blouse

My latest dressmaking venture is one inspired by holidays and the beaches of Vietnam where I will be spending many hours this summer.

I've picked a simple cropped blouse which I've made using Ramie fabric from the Organic Textile Company.

I had no idea what Ramie is but after a little research it seems to be made from nettles!  It feels just like linen and creases like cotton, but not quite as bad. It's the first time I've worked with it and I've never worn it before but it feels very durable when I tried it on.

The pattern is from an old edition of Burda, although it's beginning to feel a little less old now I've started a cross stitch pattern from a 2006 copy of Cross Stitcher!

It's a simple design with a simple set of instructions to match so I chose simple things in the construction like matching thread and pale buttons.  The look I was going for was seamless and I think it's quite effective for a casual throw on beach blouse.

This was also my first attempt at proper button holes.  And by that I mean ones that I have to position properly and sew straight for the blouse to look half decent (so not just a single one on a bag!)  I'm very pleased with them but next time I won't be too risk adverse with allowing for the depth of the button; they're a tiny bit too wide!

It might be nice to try creating a more striking look with some contrasting thread and buttons.  That can be my last minute holiday project!  But for now I've made a start on the holiday wardrobe...only two months to go!

Finished collar
Collar construction

Nha Trang beach, Vietnam - not long to wait now!