Saturday, 19 April 2014

By Hand London Anna Dress for Dolly Clackett

Firstly I must apologise for my very long absence from blogging, for which I have no real reason. I have been making as much stuff as ever, but I just haven't felt the need to document it. The reason for today's post is a dress which I felt compelled to create because of another blogger who is getting married in May this year and in whose honour a sew-along was created.

I have been reading Roisin's blog for a while now and it always makes me smile, plus, she makes A LOT of pretty awesome dresses. Seriously, does she have a second home for her clothes?

Coming back to my blogger programme, I see that I had first intended to post about the Anna dress back in August of last year. I had bought the pattern after seeing some lovely versions made up by sewing bloggers and I duly completed my very first dress. The fit of this dress is great straight out of the packet but unfortunately the cheap-ish cotton I used to make it looked fine on the bolt but, I think has the unfortunate appearance of a hospital gown when made into an Anna.

Buoyed by it's sort of success, I then went on to make another for my daughter when she needed a frock for a wedding she was going to. At first I was really sceptical about the print that she insisted upon but I think it looks brilliant as a dress and had to concede that my daughter was right. So, apparently my fabric-choosing skills are sadly lacking when it comes to dress making. Unfortunately, my computer has decided to hide my old pictures away in an as-yet undiscovered file so you will have to make do with a hanger shot and a picture of a photo!

I love how you can't tell what the print is until you get close and then suddenly you think 'Oh, Pandas!' Note to readers: my daughter looks decidedly unimpressed with her frock, but actually, she loves it. That's the closest thing you'll get to a smile from her.

Fabric-wise, I had read about the sew-along and had toyed with the idea of participating, but then, browsing through some home-furnishing fabrics whilst looking for some fabric to make a present with, I came across this fabric which immediately shouted 'Roisin' at me. May I present 'Anna in Paris'.

Because of the print, I knew that the seven-piece Anna skirt would look very odd unless I was prepared to pattern match and waste metres and metres of fabric (I wasn't) so a gathered skirt it was to be. As a complete dress-making novice, I now realise that pleats might have been a better choice as they would not only have been more flattering, but they wouldn't have taken a whole morning to do because of repeatedly snapped gathering threads.

I french-seamed the bodice sides initially, until I realised that my gathered skirt had a front piece and a back piece and therefore nowhere to insert the zip at the back, so I did an ordinary seam up the back and finished it with bias-binding. I un-picked one of the side seams and placed the invisible zip there instead.

The waist seam was also bias-bound although the gathers made this a bit tricky, but the dress sits well on me so no harm done.

I was just going to do a bias-finished hem too but I really liked the contrast so I decided to show the binding on the outside. It was also a perfect match for my purple shoes, which I bought years ago but have never had an outfit to match.

I can even twirl like a princess and not feel remotely stupid as a middle aged woman doing so. Ahem. 

I'm not quite sure where I will wear this dress (although I will most likely be heading to Paris over the next twelve months) but I really enjoyed the challenge of making it and learned some new techniques along the way.

I wish Roisin and Nic a very happy wedding day and a long and gin-filled married life. Congratulations chaps! xx

Monday, 3 June 2013

Granny Stripe Blanket.....Done!

I know I said I wouldn't be blogging so frequently any more, but I didn't really expect to be absent for quite so long. My apologies and grateful thanks to anybody visiting.......

Things have been busy as usual over at Magpie Towers and although there have been bits and bobs of crafting going on, not many of them have made it to the finish as yet.

With then kids back at school after half term, I am having the annual panic of thinking "S***, I've only got seven weeks in which to spring clean/redecorate/learn a new language/address monobrow,  etc. before I have NO time in which to do these things because I will be performing earth mother of the year duties keeping my little darlings fully occupied and joyously happy for almost two months".

So, this week I will be attempting to clear a backlog of little jobs whilst having a little creativity thrown in.

I thought you might like to see that I can get some things finished. Here is the blanket which I started when I first learned to crochet last March, and which I finished a few weeks ago with a fetching border....


I am really happy with this, not least because it is finally finished, but because we have already been using it for over a year, it has been washed several times and still looks and feels lovely.

The only trouble is, there have also been a few tussles over who will get to snuggle under it at night, so it is back to the crochet hook for big blanket #2.

See you in another few months?

Beth  x

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Colour Explosions

.... It wasn't just me apparently, Blogger is having some issues at the moment. I have skirted around the problem by using a different browser. If only it would find the wordy part of the post that Blogger helpfully lost too!
Anyway, are you ready to have your day brightened up? These funky ripples are from the secret project I was working on before Christmas. They were to be turned into a cushion for Mr Magpie's sister.

I revisited the Neat Ripple pattern from Attic 24 for the cushion, it is so simple and effective and works up quickly. I did the ripples randomly, unlike my Baby Blanket, which was more of a repeat.

To begin, I made a chain slightly shorter than the width of the cushion pad. I then rippled happily away until I was just short of the height, then made the reverse side with the same starting chain and the same number of ripples (forty-ish I think). Although the pattern was random, I did try to make sure that colours weren't used together too often and that the two sides weren't the same.

I intentionally made the two sides smaller than the cushion pad as I wanted to use a new contrasting colour on the edgings. I did this by making two trebles in the end of each row along the sides, once I had woven in all the pesky ends.

I had intended to flatten the ripple on the top and bottom but when I held the sides together I realised that they interlocked perfectly and all that was needed to join them together was a row of single crochet.
When I had joined the wavy ends, I turned the cushion inside out and sewed a zip along the row of treble pairs. Once that was in place I trebled all down each side again and then joined all the edges with a final row of singles. I'm afraid I forgot to take close-ups of this part.

So this is the finished result. I must say I was very pleased with it left it on the sofa for a few days so I could admire it! The recipient was pleased too and has requested more cushions on each birthday and Christmas for several years to come.

The next present was the Spectra scarf I was making for my daughter, which ended up being finished over the holidays. Again, I was really happy with the finished item so wasn't too cross when, after trying it on for the first time and keeping it on for all of seven seconds it was pronounced 'too itchy' and handed straight back to me!

I've been struggling to find a way of photographing this scarf in a flattering way, it really does look a lot brighter in 'real life' and I love the way it drapes when worn.
As predicted, I have enough of the colourful Poems yarn left over to make another, which I will probably do.

The next colourful creation is my Granny Stripe blanket, which gets the odd row added here and there when I can wrestle it away from whoever is snuggling under it of an evening (or afternoon, it has been in great demand by the various poorly Magpies who have been using it as a comforter). It really is huge now and unless I continue with my original plan to make it double-bed sized, I think I will be adding a border soon so that I can pronounce it finished.

My thoughts have already been working out the next sofa blanket I need to make (necessitated by the arguments over the Granny Stripe) and I have been steadily stashing the Stylecraft ready to make a start.

Until I make a decision, I have decided to embark upon my own crochet cushion covers and am planning to make several in different colours, but using the same group of colours for each, starting with the purple shades.
To the untrained eye it looks as though I am rippling again. I am, but this time using a different pattern from my Handbook of Crochet Stitches. This pattern does a TR3TOG at the bottom of the valley, five trebles in between and a TR, CH, TR into the mountain, which produces the holes you can see below.

Currently I am trying to find a combination of knitting pattern and yarn I like, but not having much success. Looks like the crochet will be taking over again!

Thanks for stopping by,

Beth x

Monday, 14 January 2013


I know it's been far too long since I last posted but I seem to be having a problem with blogger that has persisted for a few weeks now and I am at a bit of a loss as to how to fix it.

When I am trying to add photos to a post, I click the picture icon but the 'browse files' button fails to appear as it used to and I can't work out how to get it back.

Is anyone else having this problem? I've got loads to show you but I don't know how!

Hopefully I wil be back soon, problems solved,

Beth x