Saturday, 31 December 2011

Looking Back and Planning Ahead

As the year draws to a close, this also marks the end of my first year of sewing. Although I did not start my blog until March, my sewing and crafting journey really started at the end of last year, when I was given a sewing machine for Christmas. It's interesting to look back and see how much I have learnt and accomplished in a year...so much more than I ever imagined. Initially my plan was to use my sewing skills to alter clothes I already had, or purchased from vintage clothing sales, rather than to make new clothes from scratch, which I considered to be too challenging at the time. However, in the past year I have done much more of the latter than i could ever have anticipated, and hardly any refashioning!

In the last year i have sewn:

- 3 dresses
- 1 skirt
- 4 Sorbetto tops

I'm pretty pleased with all my makes, not bad considering i had barely made anything this time last year. Also, and most importantly i think, i actually wore the clothes i made! I also made a few smaller items - 7 bags, an apron and 4 small bags/purses.

 

A few of my makes in the wild: L-R New Look Dress, Lonsdale Dress and Sorbetto Top


As well as sewing, in the second half of the year i also started to improve my knitting skills. Knitting-wise this year i made:

- 2 snoods
- 2 baby cardigans
- 3 scarfs



Knits clockwise L-R from top left: Ribbed Scarf, Baby Cardigan and Snoods

 So that was 2011! What, then, does 2012 hold? I think that for me, 2011 was about embracing the crafts, and picking up as many skills as possible. I went on a number of courses on sewing, knitting, applique, jewellery making and hand embroidery. I am very much aware of the phrase 'jack of all trades, master of none' and so i think that next year, i would like to concentrate on using and improving on the skills i have picked up. The one exception to this may be crochet, which i really am keen to learn.

Rather than resolutions, i would like to list my aims and hope for the next year. These are, in no particular order:


1) Make more basics

So far, i have mostly been making pretty things. I love everything that i have made so far, however most of the garments (with the possible exception of my Crescent skirt) tend to get saved for special occasions. Therefore, i would like to make more garments that i could wear on a daily basis. The first of these will be a Pendrell blouse, which i have been planning to make for a very long time! I would also like to sew more things in plainer colours, enabling me to mix and match garments and therefore get more wear out of them. Of course, this is not to say that i will not still make pretty things...but i do hope to concentrate on more wearbale makes.


2) Stash Bust!

I'm sure this will be on many lists around the blogosphere! I have learnt that fabric shopping is incredibly addictive, and in just a year i have built up a pretty impressive fabric (and wool) stash. This is all very well, but i do tend to shop impulsively and have therefore ended up with a lot of fabric which i have no direct plans for. This year, i would like to curb this impulsive spending a little, and instead concentrate on sewing with fabric i already have. When i buy new fabric, i would like it to be with a precise plan in mind.


3) Interact more with the blogging community

This year i would like to meet more bloggers in real life! I have yet to attend a bloggers meet up, and hopefully this will be the year. I would also like to give back more to the blogging community, for example by hosting my very first giveaway.


4) Be more patient

This is something that i could really do to apply to all areas of my life, not just sewing! To often i am too impatient to get things done, to get a garment finished, and so sometimes i rush things rather than taking the time to make sure that everything is done properly. I really would like to take time with my makes, and finish everything to a high standard, rather than zipping through to finish as soon as i can.


5) Take part in a craft fair

I think it would be fun to try a craft fair, so this will be another aim for this year. I think it would be a great opportunity to get out there, meet other crafters, and maybe earn a little bit of pocket money! Of course i know that there would be a certain amount of work involved, but i am hoping that if i build up a collection of things over several months, it should be do-able.


So there we go - fours aims, hopefully achievable! Other than that, i am just really looking forward to seeing where 2012 takes me! I have really enjoyed my first year of sewing, knitting and being part of the online community - here's to another fun-filled year!

Happy New Year Everyone :)

K xx

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Christmas Gifts - Given and Received

Now that Christmas has passed and all my gifts have been gifted, i am finally able to share with you some of the things i have made over the last few months! 

 
Washbag



Apron and Book Bags

Gift Tags



Edible goodies! Clockwise from top left: Marzipan fruits, Cherry and Ginger Fudge, Lebkuchen,
Rum Truffles and Orange and Pistachio Stollen



Links to recipes for all the edible goodies can be found in this post i wrote for the Crafty Christmas Club.

As well as giving some homemade gifts this year, i was also lucky enough to receive many gifts handmade by some of my very talented friends! I love how everyone is embracing the homemade this year, it's just fantastic...not to mention the fact that it gives me inspiration for next year :) A crochet owl made by another of my friends can also be seen here.


Homemade goodies i was lucky enough to be given this Christmas! Clockwise from left: Orange Liquor,
Mini Christmas cake, Chocolate Chip Biscuits, Maple and Cinnamon Nuts, Chilli Jam and Mango Chutney. Yummy!

I was also given a few sewing related gifts...

Adding to my library!

Little sewing kit from Father Christmas...i especially love the ribbon of thread
 I'm very lucky to have received so many goodies! While i was visiting my parents i also popped into a craft shop which has recently opened in my hometown. While i was there i picked up a collection of fabric scraps...sorry for the terrible pictures but you get the idea!




My boyfriend is especially impressed with the Magic Roundabout-related scraps! I'd love to make him something with these scraps but not sure what yet. They are very small pieces...no more than about 20cm x 30cm. Hmm. Any ideas welcome :)

I hope you all had a fantastic Christmas :) Did anyone else get any fabulous sewing goodies?

K xx

Monday, 26 December 2011

Discovering Ravelry

I hope that everyone had a very merry Christmas, and that those who were gift making got everything done in time! I did...just about...phew! I have really enjoyed following everyones progress with handmade gifts this year, largely through the Crafty Christmas Club. I now have so many ideas of gifts for birthdays etc, which is just fantastic. I'm so inspired! I intend to summarise my finished Christmas gifts soon, but for now i want to mention something else...Ravelry!




I have been aware of the existence of the online knitting and crochet community Ravelry for some time now, mainly through other bloggers who knit, however i must admit i hadn't really investigated it until very recently. Last week a crafty friend of mine persuaded me to sign up, not that i took much persuading if truth be told! So i am KraftyKat20 if you want to look me up :)

I am very excited about getting to grips with Ravelry, as i have heard great things. The number of free patterns (yes free!) available is just astonishing, and the added bonus of being able to read reviews and follow others knitting the same projects is just fantastic. I am still getting to grips with the site at the moment, so any hints and tips are greatly received. If you are already a member...how do you use Ravelry? I can't wait to get stuck in! Off to have a play right now...

K xx

Friday, 23 December 2011

Revisiting the Knitted Squares!

Regular readers of my blog may remember the blanket my mum and I are planning to make out of knitted and crocheted squares, first mentioned here. Back in the summer i was giving regular updates on my progress which was considerably (and quite embarrassingly) slower than my mum's who is a super speedy knitter. The knitted square count got a bit waylaid as i got caught up in my holiday wardrobe challenge, and you may have thought i had forgotten. But no! Here is proof!




The plan was always to try and complete all the squares before the end of the year. Now i am back home for Christmas, 'Operation Squares' is back with avengence. And i am pleased to report....that there are but 6 squares left to complete! Let's not dwell on the statistics of how many i knitted and how many my mum knitted (it's probably 3 or 4 to 1....shameful!), the point is we are NEARLY THERE! It will soon be time to brush up on my mattress stitch and get joining those squares together! It would be overly ambitious to hope that the blanket will be completed by the end of this year...but there is definite progress :)

What with all the frantic knitting i imagine this will be my last blog post before Christmas...so HAPPY CHRISTMAS everyone, i hope you all have a very merry time!

K xx

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

A Crafty Christmas Update!

Hello Everyone,

Despite the radio silence of late i can assure you that i have been busy beavering away on Christmas presents! I was more than a little ambitious at the start and didn't quite manage to live up to all of my (rather optimistic) plans...however i still did manage to complete a number of homemade gifts. Most of these i cannot share with you just yet, but here are a couple which i can....

The first is an apron i made for my boyfriend, complete with hand embroidered chicken....




Secondly a little washbag i made for my Nana (thanks go to Handmade Jane for tips on the use of waterproof lining!). If you recognise the material, it's because it is made from the remnants of fabric from my Crescent Skirt...see i'm trying to get over my adversion to reusing garment fabrics!




Finally, i made a lot of baked goodies this year...here is some Lebkucken i made using this recipie. They are so simple to make and taste yummy (i think!), so all in all a great gift idea...i made two batches! I bagged them up and tied with ribbon to make them look pretty.




I will show you a few more crafty gifts after Christmas, but for now i would like to leave you with a homemade gift i was lucky enough to receive, made by a very clever friend of mine....regular readers will know of my love of owls....how awesome is this!



I so need to learn to crochet....!

I hope everyone else is seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for crafty gift making...there's a few more days to go yet, so no need to panic!!

K xx

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Hand Embroidery Fun!

Back in October I blogged about an appliqué course I went on, run by the lovely Donna of Spinster's Emporium. Well today was the second session, in which we learnt hand embroidery. I know after the last session I enthused that appliqué was my new favourite skill...well now it has competition! While I have dabbled in cross stitch before, hand embroidery was completely new to me. We learnt a whole host of cool stitches, which you can see in the sampler below, and then put these into practise by continuing to work on the garment we used last time for appliqué.



A sampler showing the different stitches we learnt

I love how these stitches are really quick and easy to do, but they are also really effective. I think my favourite is chain stitch, once I got the hang of it! We used quite thick thread for our embroidery, I think it was in fact thin knitting yarn, but you could also use a few strands of embroidery thread or even a single strand, depending on the desired effect. I personally like the chunky effect that you get from this sort of thread.


Adding some embroidery detail to a top

I now have a whole host of ideas as to how I could apply my new found skills to add to my makes...a little bit of embroidery may find its way onto some of my Christmas gifts methinks!

In other news, I was lucky enough to be given the chance to have a month of free advertising for my blog on Ohhh Lulu...if you are not familiar with Sarah's beautiful lingerie I highly recommend that you pop over to her blog and Etsy store and have a look around...her makes are just divine!

K xx

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Snood Glorious Snood(s)

So unless you have been hiding under a particularly large rock for the last few months, or perhaps sunning yourself somewhere far away in the land of no Internet access (and if you have i am very jealous!) you may have noticed that the blogosphere has gone a bit mad for the humble snood! Some call it a cowl, some call it a snood, i see it as a handy solution to a cold neck and an unravelling scarf. The craze all started off when Karen from Did you make that? posted her version of the free snood pattern so kindly made available by the Guardian. Since then it's gone viral, with many versions popping up all over the place. So of course, i couldn't resist giving it a go myself! So far i have made 2...




Snood #1, made with the free pattern mentioned above and 2 50g balls of Sirdir Indie shade #0155 (I'm sure it had a name but it's not on the label!). I used Moss Stitch - you basically knit one stitch, purl the next etc and then on the next row do the opposite...knit on top of a purl and purl on top of a knit. I love the bobbly effect this stitch gives!

Snood #2 was made using one of the suggested modifications to the pattern - i cast on 140 stitches. This was knitted using a circular needle - it was the first time i have tried this and i must say i loved it! It was very easy to get in the zone and just knit away whilst watching TV without worrying about counting rows or changing needles. 


Close up of the Moss Stitch

For this snood I used a 200g ball of wool i picked up from a local shop for a bargainous £4.50, and basically kept knitting until the ball finished. The wool is so soft and lovely, and i like how i can wrap it round many many times! I hindsight though, i chose a really boring colour....expect to see a more cheerful version 2 coming up in the near future!

I love knitting with chunky wool, it's so easy to knit up. I think both these snoods were completed in just over a week. Now if you'll excuse me...off to start snood number 3...!

K xx



Saturday, 26 November 2011

FO: Colette Crepe Dress

This week i finished my Crepe Dress from Colette Patterns, just in time to wear to the Christening of my soon-to-be Godson on Sunday! This is the second pattern i have made from Colette, the first being the Sorbetto Top, of which i made several versions. The instructions for both patterns were very clear and the garments came together very easily. One of the best things about this dress was the lack of closures...the easy wrap style is effective and simple to make. It's a winner :)

 
Spot our cat's tail in the background...!

I am really pleased with my fabric choice, although i'm not exactly sure what type of fabric it is...i thought it was cotton, but when i was cutting out i noticed that it had a bit of a stretch in it. At first i thought i had done something very wrong and was cutting on the bias, but nope! I suspect it is some kind of cotton blend...probably obvious thinking about it, but this is the first time i have come across this issue so i was a bit surprised!

Can you tell it's a wrap dress?
Colette patterns have very generous measurements...i cut an American size 10, and i think that i may have been able to get away with an 8 as there is still a lot of ease around the bodice. However, the tie waistband overcomes any small fitting issues....that's one of the things i love about this dress. Another is the pockets!!



I do love a good pocket :) This was also my first time sewing facings, which i was prepared to find tricky, but the instructions were very clear to follow and i had no problems. I really like how they have turned out too, they make the finishing really neat.
 
 

Before i forget, a big thank you must go to my boyfriend for his first outing as the official KraftyKat photographer...so much easier than navigating the timer function on my camera!!
 
In other news, this morning i managed to rescue my Minoru Jacket pattern from the Post Office, where it was being held hostage (as so often happens!). You may remember that i was lucky enough to win this pattern in a giveway held by VickikateMakes. When i opened the package i was delighted to find that my patterns was signed to me by Tasia , the Sewaholic herself! What a lovely surprise, thank you Vicki!
 

Now that my Crepe dress is finished i really must concentrate on sewing my way through my Christmas gift list...so much to do, so little time!!!

K xx
 

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Ribbed Scarf and other odds and sods

Hello Everyone!

Thanks for your comments on what to do with leftover fabric. It's always interesting to hear other people's thoughts :) Today I am excited to show a finished project after a bit of slow going recently...a ribbed scarf which i have made as a birthday present for my boyfriend. It is the first thing i have made for him (the less said about the UFO that is his iPad case the better...) so i hope he likes it!


The pattern is basically a double rib stitch (knit two, purl two). I added stripes in a different colour which was my first attempt at knitting with two different colours...it was a bit fiddly at first but i think it turned out pretty well in the end and i love the contrast of the colours. I am particularly pleased with the edges...


In my knitting class we were taught to knit the last stitch every time even if it is on a purl row...i think this gives a really nice finish, and also makes things a lot easier if you are sewing bit together.

In other news, and to prove that i have been doing some sewing recently, here is my Crepe Dress muslin! Not modelled i'm afraid, but still evidence it exists :) Shocking lighting i know but it can't be helped...it's just so dark and dingy at the moment!



I am pleased to say that it is a very good fit, so aside from altering the length i think i'm ready to start with my fashion fabric, here's a reminder of my intended fabric and contrast lining.


One final thing to share with you before i head off to the Lake District for a long weekend is some amazing fabric i picked up last weekend from my favorite fabric stall at Leicester Market. I have no idea what i am going to do with it yet but how cute is this???


I snapped up 2 whole metres as i knew it was unlikely to be around for long. I'm sure i can come up with some ideas for some little people i know...and also perhaps some not-so-little people!!!

K xx






Wednesday, 9 November 2011

What do you do with your leftovers?




Leftover fabric that is.

I'll be the first to admit that I am a compulsive over-buyer of fabric. I just can't help it. When i was just starting out, before i fully appreciated the amount of fabric required to make a garment, I had the awful experience of finding out I didn't have enough of my beautiful, carefully chosen fabric. The next weekend I hurried back to the market to pick up another metre...only to find there was none left. This has happened to me twice since, and the result is that I now buy far more fabric than I could ever need....just in case. Far far more. The pattern says 2 metres? Let's round it up to 4 just to make sure! The situation is made worse by the fact that I habitually shorten shirts on patterns (despite being tall!), meaning I use even less fabric.

The consequence of this is that I now have quite a few lengths of fabric in my stash which I now identify with a certain garment, for example 'crescent skirt fabric', 'New Look dress fabric' etc. It wouldn't be so bad if they were plain fabrics, but i have a tendency towards prints, which makes them instantly recognisable.

Personally, I am of the view that one can never have too much fabric. I am hopeful that I will find a use for every piece of fabric in my stash eventually, whether it be garments or smaller items such as bags. However, I am a little bit hesitant to use fabric that has already been used for one garment for another. Each fabric was carefully chosen to use for a particular pattern, and it would feel slightly wrong to now use it for something else. Also, there is a risk that my wardrobe would become very matchy-matchy! Perhaps I'm thinking about it too much, but I'm not sure it would feel right.

My question to you is, what do you do with the fabric remaining after making a garment? And let's be clear, I'm not talking about scraps here, I'm talking about metres. I would be interested to hear your thoughts! Once option which occurred to me was a fabric swap, so if anyone would be interested in getting involved and swapping some of their leftover fabric with mine, just let me know by commenting below and I'll dig through my stash and see what i have to offer.

In other news, i have finished my Crepe muslin! I am pleased to report it is a good fit (the joys of a wrap dress!), so hopefully I'll be able to get on with the real deal very soon. Pictures coming soon if you're lucky ;)

K xx

Monday, 7 November 2011

I won I won! Woop-de-do!

Hello Everyone!

I am VERY excited. Today i received a lovely email from Vicki from VickikateMakes to tell me that i was the lucky winner of her latest giveaway. The prize? None other than the new pattern from Tasia the Sewaholic...the Minoru Jacket!



I am super excited to have won my very first giveaway, and even more excited (if that were possible) because of how FANTASTIC the prize is (lots of capitals today. I told you i was excited.) Those of you who are regular readers of my blog will know of my slight obsession with Sewaholic Patterns. So far i have made a Crescent Skirt and a Lonsdale Dress, and am planning at least one Pendrell Blouse and another Crescent Skirt. So yeah, i like Sewaholic patterns.

I have actually been eyeing up the Minoru Jacket pattern since it was announced a week or so ago. It is a lightweight jacket which can be made with or without a hood, and is ideal for cycling - perfect as i have recently started cycling to work. Here it is modelled by Tasia herself...



So big thanks to Vicki for hosting this great giveaway! Why not pop over to VickikateMakes and check out her funky possible fabric choices for her Minoru jacket...and while you're there, take a peek at the super cute bags and purses available in her Etsy Shop!

K xx 

Saturday, 5 November 2011

"Improve Your Dressmaking"

Hello Everyone,

Happy weekend...and happy Bonfire Night for those in the UK! As i write this i am listening to lots and lots of fireworks being set off outside...the poor cat is not very happy :(

This week we had a couple of friends stay for a few nights while they were having work done on their house. As a thank you, i received this gem of a book, entitled "Improve Your Dressmaking".


I must admit that I had not heard of Ann Ladbury before, but a little bit of googling has taught me that she was very well known in the 60s for a number of television programmes which were dressmaking "how tos". Imagine that, TV sewing courses! Fabulous! I even found this article which refers to her as the "Delia of dresses". So there we go!

Back to the book. The edition i have was published in 1978 and the best bit about it, in my opinion, are the fantastic line drawings which appear throughout. Aren't these just great??






 As well as the illustrations, there are step by step instructions on a whole host of techniques, some of which look incredibly complicated, but all of it will no doubt come in useful! You can't really see it in the photo, but here is an example...




 In other news, here is what we did in this week's knitting class...



You may not be able to tell, but trust me when i say it is supposed to be the neckline of a jumper! This was the most complicated bit of knitting i have ever done as it involved putting some stitches onto a stitch holder whilst we shaped the neck and then picking the stitches back up again from the "ladder" between stitches. It sounds complicated and it was, but i am very pleased with the result so far!

I have also made a start cutting out for some Christmas presents and have high hopes that i may begin a muslin for my Colette Pattern's Crepe Dress. Hopefully more on this coming soon!

K xx

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Intermediate Knitting #2/3: Increasing and Decreasing Fun

Hi Everyone!

This week was my second Intermediate Knitting Class. Technically it's the third one, but i had to miss the second session. Having covered a number of ways to Cast On in the first session, we have now moved on to learning how to increase and decrease on both knit and purl stitches. It's great to learn the correct techniques and methods since up until now i have been mainly self taught, so i think i have picked up a lot of bad habits and sometimes just guessed at how to do things. Naughty i know!

We were taught to increase or decrease two stitches from the start/end of the row, as this leaves a nice parallel edge to the knitting. I have attempted to take a few pictures to illustrate the techniques here...hopefully they make sense. If this is helpful, or if you would like more pictures, please let me know and i'll see what i can do! (apologies for the very chipped nail varnish!!)


1) Increase on Knit Stitch

 To increase on a knit stitch, we were taught to use the "make" method. You first pick up the "ladder" which connects the previous stitch to the next.



Loop this around the needle to create a stitch, and then knit through the BACK of this loop, as below. Knitting through the front results in a hole, as i found out!



2) Increase on a Purl Stitch

Increasing on a purl stitch starts off the same way as for a knit stitch, by picking up the "ladder" between stitches, and looping it around the needle. Then purl the stitch through the back, as so...




3) Decrease on a Knit Stitch

Decreasing on a knit stitch basically involves knitting two stitches together. By knitting through the back of the stitches at the start of a row, and through the front at the end of the row, this creates a nice "triangular" pattern. Here i am decreasing at the start of a row.



  
4) Decrease on a Purl Stitch

As for increasing, decreasing on a purl stitch is very simialar to decreasing on a knit stitch. Again it involves knitting two stitches together, but the opposite way round as for knit - at the start of a row purl two together through the front, and at the end of the row purl together through the back.

Hopefully this made some kind of sense! Here is a bit of increasing in action...



This week i also started a new knitting project, a scarf for my boyfriend (he knows as i wanted to check the colours!!). It is basically a simple rib pattern of knit 2, purl 2. Here is a sneak peak!


K xx

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