Thursday, 26 January 2012

Vintage Knitting and Crochet Patterns

Recently, my thoughts have been turning to knitting and crochet. I always seem to want to do it at this time of year after the chaos of Christmas but while we still have the long dark evenings to cosy up inside. Finally the last of the Christmas chocolate is gone and I need something other than Twitter to occupy my fingers after dark. I prefer to sew in daylight so sewing is never an option then, plus I do like to be in the same room as my family sometimes.

Although my knitting repertoire is pretty limited, I do have a growing collection of patterns (I've only just discovered the online sources such as Ravelry). A few years ago, I realised that charity shops are an excellent source of needles and patterns, although you do have to ask about needles because they seem to be an 'under the counter' item!

Increasingly, I am finding that the types of pattern I'm drawn to are not necessarily for garments I actually want to make, but rather for their comedy value. Going through my folder today to find a pattern for some super soft baby wool I bought today, I had a little giggle and thought I'd share the best with you.

As a firm Blue Peter Fan, I just had to have this. I thought she was so cool when I was 10!

Incidentally, I don't actually know how to crochet yet, unless you count the ability to make a very long chain; it is a skill I'm hoping to master soon.

If you fancy using any of the patterns here please let me know and I'll pop them in the post. I'd love to see them interpreted for the 21st century!

Thanks for stopping by,
Beth x

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Sewing Machine Cover - A Tutorial

At the top of my Wish List for 2012 was a sewing machine cover. At the moment, I have got two machines. One is my hard-working Brother which I bought new in 2002. It doesn't really have the guts for the kind of sewing I do but it tries it's best.

When I need something with a bit more oomph, I use this Jones machine, which was given to me by my Mum, purchased from the local tip for the princely sum of £5, complete with manual.

When it first arrived, I gave it a thorough clean up and oiling and although it isn't keen on doing the perfect straight lines I desire, it is capable of sewing through eight layers of oilcloth without breaking into a sweat. Although it doesn't do any fancy stitches, just straight and zig-zag, it does have a movable needle which I find very helpful.

As the cover from the Brother fits the Jones, I tend to just keep it on whichever machine I'm not using. Generally this works out fine, but over Christmas when I wasn't doing any sewing, the un-covered Jones accumulated a lovely layer of dust and grime.

I had been meaning to make a cover for a while but putting it at the top of my list actually spurred me on. So this is what I did.

Firstly, I laid the cover out flat and measured the six panels which make up the front, back, left, right, and either side of the handles.

I then added 1 inch to these measurements, to give a half inch seam allowance, and drew up a little cutting chart, NOT to scale!

I then cut the six pieces from my chosen material. I used oilcloth because I find it great to work with and it is quick to piece together - no fraying edges. If you wanted to make a cover out of cotton, I would suggest either cutting a little bigger to allow for hemming, or binding the seams inside for a neat finish.

To start, I turned over my half inch seam allowance on the sections to go either side of the handle and sewed a line across the top. The piece you can see underneath is the other handle section which I turned wrong side up to stop the cloth sticking to the machine.

The handle pieces were then put right sides together with a side panel and stitched along the half inch line. This is what it looks like from the wrong side with the two pieces attached.

The other side panel was added in the same way, then I put the front panel on, wrong sides together, making sure it was carefully lined up over the handle hole (which is off centre). Again, I stitched along the half inch line.

The back piece was then attached in the same way. This is how it looks right sides out with all six pieces joined together.

I'm afraid at this point I got rather carried away by the excitement of it having come together so quickly and I forgot to take any more pictures until the end, but all I did was join up each side seam and stitch along the half inch line.

After forming the box shape, I trimmed all the bottoms to the same length, then turned over a last half inch seam and sewed that all around the edges.

And that was the cover done!

Since the cover fits both of my machines, I would venture to guess that it would fit most standard models, but if you already have a soft cover you could try measuring it like I did and drafting your own pattern.

I haven't tried to write a tutorial before so any feedback you have would be appreciated and I would love to see if anybody else makes a cover for their machine, whether to this pattern or your own, or someone else's!

Thanks for stopping by,
Beth x

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Resolved to Sew 2012

Very Berry Handmade are currently running a fantastic giveaway called Resolved to Sew 2012 . Up for grabs are a whole heap of fabric goodies from a range of online stores.

To be in with a chance of winning, you need to leave a comment about your sewing resolutions for 2012. If you blog, you can be in with another chance to win by writing a blog post about it.

Since I have already blogged about my resolutions here I won't list them again. I can just add that I am failing miserably in my resolve to use up existing fabric before buying more, but it is very hard to resist, what with all the sales. Speculate to accumulate and all that!

Anyway, pop over to Very Berry and leave a comment. You never know.

Thanks for stopping by,
Beth x

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Chilling on the Prom

This afternoon my youngest announced that he wanted to ride his bike at the beach and wouldn't be fobbed off with a visit to the park. The other Magpies steadfastly refused to go out in the cold, so leaving our middle son with the two teenagers, Mr Magpie and I bravely wrapped up ourselves and the insistent youngest and duly headed off.

It was very, very cold and windy but he was determined to reach the park further down the prom.

We lasted all of ten minutes in the park before deciding to head back, this time walking into the wind. It certainly was a bracing walk, but the scenery made it a little more bearable.

For years I didn't appreciate where we live properly but I think now I have travelled more I understand how lucky we are. As much as I love the beach in the summer, I find it all the more appealing in the winter when there are fewer people around. As we walked back, the sun was just setting. We have been having some fantastic sunrises and sunsets lately.

If you look carefully, you will see that there was someone out kite surfing. I love to see a bit of dedication!

Chilly Magpies

As we were getting near to home, our funny little boy announced that we had had a 'lovely journey'. It was; I'm glad that sometimes children make you do things you wouldn't  do otherwise.

Thanks for stopping by,
Beth x

Friday, 13 January 2012

A New Bed for an Old Friend

I would like to introduce you all to a very old and dear friend of mine. His name is Stripey and he has been with me for more than thirty years. I can still remember being with my Mum when she bought him for me and as you can see, he has been very well loved.

When I originally ordered the Three Bears Sleeping Bag pattern from Florence, I had thought I wanted to make the sleeping bags as gifts for some little girls I know. Having started on the pattern though, the perfectionist in me realised that my first attempt wouldn't be quite up to scratch. Inspiration struck, and I thought of Stripey, squirrelled away somewhere in the deepest darkest recessess of my teenage daughter's bedroom.

Having been an early recipient of my developing sewing skills, I knew that Stripey wouldn't mind at all if his new sleeping bag had a couple of minor imperfections.

Over the years I have done quite a few patch-up jobs, none very skillfully, but somehow I don't want to rectify the mistakes now.

 I managed to make the sleeping bag over a couple of evenings and I think it turned out ok.

It was my first time quilting properly, and ideally I should have used a walking foot to eliminate any puckering of the material but unfortunately it didn't seem to work properly so I ended up using an ordinary zig-zag foot.

The line that goes through the yellow pear is the one done with the walking foot. The stitches are uneven and really tiny. So tiny that I really couldn't face ripping them out!

The pattern was really simple to follow, your hand is held through every step. I cheated slightly by using bought bias binding for the trim, but next time I think I will try making my own; Florence offers great instructions on how to do this.

To get the quilting lines even, I found a good tip online about using electrical tape. I only had masking tape to hand, but it worked perfectly.

Also now, thanks to Florence, I can tell you that the stitch I showed you in Bad Seam, Good Seam is actually called Ladder Stitch. Thank you Florence!

I think Stripey looks very cosy in his new sleeping bag, infinitely preferable to his previous lodgings. He will now be living in the dining room with me and all the stitchery!

Thanks for stopping by,

Beth x

Monday, 9 January 2012

Musical Sewing - What are you listening to?

Whilst reading one of the new blogs I discovered over the weekend, I noticed Angela of This is Wiss asking for any music recommendations.

As someone who loves listening to all kinds of music, I had been thinking for a while that it would be nice to have a list on the blog of some of the things I listen to as I sew.

I had wanted to be able to do links to iTunes (or similar) but as yet my technical skills are still developing and also I'm not sure about the legality/ethics etc of doing this.

With that in mind, I have decided to keep the list simple, without links. If you want to try any of the recommendations I'm afraid you will have to source them yourselves.

The list isn't a comprehensive guide to my audio collection, just a taster of what I've been listening to recently. The idea is that I will change it as my fads change, and I am reliably faddy!

I would also love to know what you are listening to; finding new music is great.

Thanks to Angela for motivating me into getting the list started!

Oh, yes, the list is a permanent addition and will live in the right hand column, just scroll down to find it.

Thanks for stopping by,
Beth x

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Wish List for 2012

I really want to improve my sewing skills further this year and challenge myself to try new things. With that in mind, here is a list of some 'makes' I've got in mind.

1) Sewing Machine Cover. My second machine doesn't have one at all at the moment. There is a pattern for one in the latest issue of Mollie Makes, but it looks like it would end up being a bit flimsy. I seem to remember seeing a patchwork quilted one somewhere along the line, and since I need to improve both those skills (I've never properly tried quilting actually) I think the cover would be a good place to start.

2) Teddy Bear Sleeping Bag. I bought this pattern from Florence just before Christmas, hoping to make some as gifts but I ran out of time. The pattern looks lovely with really clear instructions and will be another good way of improving my patchwork and quilting, not to mention using up some of my stash and being lovely presents for some of the little ones in my life.

3) Miz Mozelle Dress. As I get older (ahem) I am finding that I really don't like the clothes in the stores where I always used to go shop, and I'm not quite ready, mentally if not physically to shop in the 'old lady' shops. Since I seem to wear my favourite clothes to death, I have been looking for a pattern that is reasonably straight forward to make up into actual clothes, that I can then replicate as needed. The Miz Mozelle dress looks as if it might be that pattern. I have been looking out for dressmaking classes locally but haven't found one so I'm just going to order the pattern from Alice at Backstitch and have a go, once I have completed Florence's pattern, I don't want to add to the WIP list! (see below)

4) Table Runner. When The Pier used to have it's post-Christmas sales, we always used to buy the table runners. I don't really like to have a tablecloth in the dining room but I like a runner for adding a splash of colour and to protect the centre of the table when we're having a 'help yourself' type of meal. We're down to our last two runners now and I think that instead of hunting around for a new place to buy another I really should make one.

5) Beanbag. This was another project that never made it off the list last year. I want to make one for the children. I have patterns in both my Cath Kidston book, and also in The Liberty Book of Home Sewing, although I think I will need to increase the size of whichever I make.

Aside from actual things I want to make, some other points to add to the list are:

1) Finish W.I.P's (works in progress). A rather shameful count up of the WIP's in my knitting bag revealed no less than five. I am intending to finish some and unravel the others. Apart from the knitting, I have two quilts in progress (one started for a friend's baby - the baby is now three and a half!), three accessory covers cut, interfaced and ready to be stitched up plus a photo collage waiting to be put together. Also, a very long time ago, my Mum gave me a box of old photos that she wanted me to arrange into albums. I got halfway done. Sorry Mum.

2) Organise Crafting Space. As I mentioned in my last post, I need to overhaul my work space. I used to sew up in a corner of our attic room and it was lovely as all my materials were to hand and it didn't really matter if it wasn't too tidy as nobody ever really saw it. Now I'm in the dining room I need to be tidier and must get some more storage sorted out.

3) No New Fabric! I bought quite a bit of fabric last year, partly because I love it so much, and partly because I was trying to gauge what people would like at the fairs I did. I have used lots of it, but there is still so much left that I really can't justify buying anything new until I've worked my way through the piles. * I will just need to buy some for the Miz Mozelle dress, as it needs either a knitted or stretch fabric and I have neither.

4) Start Selling Online. I have been wanting to set up either an Etsy or Folksy shop for a while now, but my technical skills (or lack thereof) have been holding me back. I'm sure it will be fine once I actually start and I'm hoping I can do more making to order rather than making blindly trying to guess what will be the most popular at a particular event.

5) Keep Mr Magpie Happy. I have just been reminded that I promised to make curtaining to cover the attic storage eaves (about 12m wide in total, yikes!). Since he has been very supportive through this last year of me sewing much more frequently, cluttering up the house with fabric and disappearing to craft fairs on a regular basis I think this one ought to be nearer the top of the list!

I'm hoping that having put my wish list out into the public domain it will serve as a great motivational tool. Perhaps I'll review the list in December and see how I got on!

Thanks for stopping by,
Beth x

Monday, 2 January 2012

Happy New Year!

Just a quick post to say I'm still here. We've had a lovely Christmas, despite most of the Magpies being ill at various stages and are all getting ready to go back to work and school. Not much craft has been happening; my main work space is in the dining room which was very much in demand throughout the festivities so I had to pack everything away. I am planning a massive overhaul of the room over the next week or two so that I can feel comfortable enough to get creative again, more on that another time methinks.

I haven't got any craft fairs booked in for 2012 yet, but I do have quite a long list of things I need to make for the house and things I'd like to make for myself, so there will be plenty to keep me occupied. My daughter very kindly bought me a crochet book for Christmas, I've been saying for ages I want to learn so that will keep my fingers busy when I'm tempted by the mountain of chocolate we still seem to be surrounded by.

Out of curiosity, I'm wondering where other people do their crafting? Do you have a dedicated space, or have you got a clever storage solution? I'm trying to think of all possible options for my own stash. If you'd like to leave me a comment, I'd love to hear from you.

Happy New Year to you all, I'm looking forward to a very crafty 2012!

Thanks for stopping by,
Beth x