Thursday, 31 May 2012

Hitching and Rippling

As predicted in my last post, I did cast on my Hitchhiker scarf over the weekend, which was easy, since the cast on row consists of only two stitches. The pattern is very clever really; you always increase on the toothless side (with a one row exception) which gives that edge the lovely curvy shape.

The pattern is worked in sets of eight rows, with one tooth being formed with every set. As you consistently increase by nine stitches in each set and only cast off five (the horizontal edge of the tooth) the scarf gradually grows outwards.

My mind is a strange world, and some things have to be ordered just so. In my said strange mind, it doesn't feel right to stop knitting until I have reached the end of a set of eight rows. This was fine when the rows were smaller, but I can see me having to have a word with myself soon to prevent myself from becoming chained to the spot until I finish a set.

Anyway, I digress. This was my progress as of yesterday. I was going great until somewhere around tooth ten, which was reached on Saturday night, whilst channel hopping and eating Malteasers (other choccies are available).

I was reminded of why I fell out with knitting. I don't possess the necessary skill to knit backwards or to retrieve dropped stitches and I usually end up having to pull the whole lot of the needles (apparently known as 'frogging' so I'm told) and starting again.

I was determined to rescue my mistake and did eventually succeed in picking up all those tiny little 4ply loops with an even teenier DPN and managed to make a good impression of a salvage job. Tooth ten looks a bit different than it's pointier brothers but nonetheless, it's staying.

I did manage to discipline myself enough to finish my zigzag baby blanket before casting on the Hitchhiker; I am really really pleased with how it looks and will be taking it with me to Larmer Tree. Thank you to everyone who has complimented me on it so far, it really means a lot.

In the end, I decided against my original plan of doing two rows of trebles along the long sides as I felt that my beginners luck in shaping the corners might not extend to a second row. Sometimes knowing when to stop can be an art form!

Since I managed to complete this project in under a month by utilising time that would normally be spent just sitting (on the bus, in the park, waiting for a train, watching rubbish TV with a bag of sweets) I decided that I should have enough time before the festival to hook up a sister blanket.

The pattern I decided on for this one is from Lucy of Attic24. You can view it here. I decided I would have to learn the mysterious tr2tog stitch and it turns out that it's really not that difficult, especially following Lucy's excellent instructions.

So here is what we have so far:

I'm using Rowan Handknit Cotton again, which I have really come to love working with, it seems to suit crocheting perfectly. This time I am using less colours, and dividing each colour strip with a half-stripe of a lovely crisp white.

I have done a thick wedge of the gorgeous mauvey-purple shade at the bottom, which I will repeat at the other end and the around the sides at the end. There is also a green shade to be added (the same one as the darker green of my first blanket).

This pattern will not be random like the first, but a repeat. I didn't consciously plan to used red, white and blue together in the design, but I think my aforementioned scrambled brain carries on blithely without me sometimes, and sometimes things work out all the better for that.

Next week we are camping in the New Forest and it has been pointed out to me that it might be unwise to take a crochet project that involves a beautiful white yarn to a place where cleanliness may be somewhat compromised. With this in mind I have decided to take my Granny Stripe to work on, and no doubt some other little portable bits of stitchery that are festival-bound.

I wish you all a lovely Bank Holiday weekend however you are celebrating (or not) the Jubilee and look forward to updating you on festival and non-festival progress again soon.

Thanks for stopping by,

Beth x

Friday, 25 May 2012

More Zips, More Ripples and a Tangled Mess

After the success of my little Union Jack purse/accessory cover last week, this week I have been mostly making some more. I started off with the remainder of the scraps of blue fabric to make three more identical versions.

Blue fabric all gone, I turned to the rest of the hessian-type remnant and got busy with other scraps of fabrics and some more ribbons from my stash. The Cath Kidston Stars ribbon is a recent purchase. I finally got to visit the new store in Bournemouth, which unbelievably took me about three weeks to get round to!

More stash-busting.

And finally, at Mum's suggestion (thank you Mum!) a way of using up some more Cath Kidston scraps and keeping our friends from across the pond happy. I really love how these two turned out but am resisting temptation to claim one of them. I need some stock to sell!

In crochet news, lots of happy outdoor time at the park in the thankfully arrived sunshine has provided plenty of hooking opportunity, and my baby ripple blanket is almost complete.

Having never got to this stage of crochet before, I asked my crochet guru Bex at SnB last night if I was edging it the right way. Apparently I am, so Yay! I firstly went along the edge in double crochet, and am now making my way back along with trebles. In some versions I have seen, people 'fill in' the ripples along the top and bottom, but it is the shape of the ripples that I love about this blanket so I want to keep them.

At the beginning, I shaped the corner by using a double crochet, then a half treble, before going on to the main trebling. I'm quite pleased with how it's looking so far.

A little gratuitous close-up shot to make your eyes go funny!

As well as being a crochet and knitting guru, Bex is also a spinner and dyer of yarns. She has a shop online which you can visit here. I had been admiring many of the Hitchhiker shawls knitted by members of SnB and decided to have a go at one myself. I ordered the pattern and a needle and Bex very kindly brought me a lovely selection of yarns (see, I'm slowly coming around) to look through last night.

I settled on a lovely wool/nylon 4ply sock yarn dyed in gorgeous deep purple and turquoise tones and last night after SnB set about turning a skein into a ball. This was my progress as of 12.37 a.m.

Not really sure what I did wrong, but another hour or so this afternoon has left me with this.

I'm off dancing tonight so can't make a start just yet and it feels a bit ridiculous to start knitting a shawl when it's so blinking hot, but no doubt this will be another WIP by the end of the weekend!

Wishing you a lovely hot weekend with sun loungers and pina coladas.

Beth x

Friday, 18 May 2012

Inserting a Zip (The Magpie Method)

I have been having a lot of stitchy fun this week whipping up a big batch of zippy pouches. Some have become purses, some pencil cases and others have evolved in padded accessory covers. All of these designs share one crucial design element, the Magpie Method of zip insertion.

When I was learning to insert zips I read lots of great tutorials. When I made my first zippy pouch I used this tutorial.

You might just be able to see that the zip has covered ends. If you read the tutorial you will see what I mean by that, and how to insert a zip using this technique. It is effective and I know some people prefer zips to be covered at the ends.

For me, I don't mind the look of covered zip ends, but they do create a couple of issues. Firstly, the presence of the covered end obstructs the opening of the pouch a little. This doesn't matter so much on longer items, but does have an impact when you are making little purses or phone cases.

Secondly, covering the zip ends makes for more work. You have to cut (and preferably interface) extra fabric, you have to sew that fabric over the zip ends, and it also helps to stitch the ends of the zipper together to keep everything neat.

I like neatness, but I am all for time saving too. With this in mind, I quickly abandoned covered zip ends and through the process of creating a multitude of wash bags, pouches and purses my own method has evolved, which I will share with you now.

For the process of this tutorial, I will be making a small, lined purse but the method would apply to a variety of pouches of all sizes, with straight bottom edges such as this one, or flat-bottomed. For items such as cushion covers I would use a different method, as this one does not give perfectly angled corners.

Firstly you will need to cut your fabric to the required size. As a general rule, I sew with a quarter inch seam allowance, so if I wanted my finished item to be 5 x 7 inches I would add half an inch to each measurement to give a cutting size of 5 1/2 x 7 1/2 inches. You need to cut two pieces of your outer fabric, plus two for the lining. If you are being really good, I would also recommend interfacing all four pieces, so you will need four pieces of Vilene (or equivalent) of the same size.

Since we are making a zipped pouch you will also be needing a zip. Here is where the Magpie method comes into it's own. When you buy a zip, they are sold in different lengths and the length usually corresponds to the length of the teeth. The actual length of the whole piece is normally an inch longer.

The tricky part about sewing in zips is avoiding the metal stopper and the zip pull itself.

In some methods, you  start with the zip closed and then when you have sewn past the zip pull you have to raise the foot of the sewing machine and wiggle the zip pull open past it. When I was still new to zip insertion I found this a bit tricky. My method is simple; I choose a zip that is at least two inches longer than I need it to be to keep all of the metal parts away from where I am sewing.

At this point we need to rummage around to find the zipper foot for your sewing machine. Don't be scared of the zip foot, it's a great little helper. It looks something like this.

Some machines have snap on feet, others have a little screw fixing which may need a screw driver, usually supplied with the machine. Normally you are able to attach it on either the left of the right side. I always attach mine to the left.

Zipper foot attached on the right

Zipper foot attached to the left. This is where we need it.

So, you have all your pieces assembled, interfacing ironed on, co-ordinating thread installed in the machine, zipper foot in place. The first step is to assemble what is commonly referred to as the zip sandwich. Place your exterior fabric right side up, then lay the zip on top, with the right side facing down.

Align the edge of the zip with the edge of the fabric. When it is in place, you put your lining fabric right side down on the top. If the pattern of your fabric has a particular orientation, make sure you have it the right way up, the top is where the zip is.

Now, you can pin everything in place, but it probably isn't necessary on smaller pouches and anyway, I like to straighten as I go. Take your little sandwich over to your machine, align the edge of the fabric with the outside edge of the zip foot, and bring the foot down into position.

You can make a few backstitches at the start of the seam but don't worry too much as the ends will be sewn over later.

Sew down the length of the zipper to the end of the fabric. Just ignore the ends of the zip hanging loose.

At this point I like to iron the sides flat, and then bring the wrong sides of the exterior and lining together.

I then give another little press and fasten with a pin.

Now we repeat the zipper sandwich. Put your second exterior piece right side up.

Place the sewn zip sandwich face down (so the lining is facing up) on top, lining up the unsewn edge of the zip with the top of your exterior fabric.

Lay your second piece of lining fabric right side down, again aligning the top edge to the top of the zip. Try to match up the side edges too as this will save too much wastage when you trim later on. 

Place your sandwich on the machine as before and sew along the fabric, aligning the edge of the foot with the edge of the fabric.

When this is done, repeat the ironing and pinning, making sure to get the fabric as flat as possible and away from around the zip.

Now we are ready to topstitch. This step makes for a neat finish but also keeps the fabric from getting stuck in the zip when the pouch is finished. For personal preference, I do my topstitching with my ordinary foot; the zipper foot lets you get closer but I find that matching the edge of the zigzag foot with the zipper teeth gives me a line to follow, which helps keep the stitches neat.

Topstitch down both sides of the zip. Again, you can do a little backstitching at the beginning and end if you like, but the ends will be tucked in later so don't worry too much.

When the topstitching is done it is time to trim all the edges to make sure that they all get covered by the seam. I usually start with the bottom edges then move on to the sides.

Trim the side with the stopper first.

Next slide the zipper two thirds of the way down and trim the other end.

Don't do what I did twice this week which was cut the end with the zip pull on the wrong side of the cut. It can be salvaged but it is a complete nuisance and I did get a *little* bit cross about it. As well as saving you from making my mistake, it's also important to keep the zip open from this point as you will need the pouch open for turning out later on.

With your edges neat, you are ready to match up your exterior sides and the lining. Match the exterior sides first, pinning around the sides and making sure the zip itself is pushed towards the lining side.

If you want to add a little tag to attach a key ring to, now is the time. Make sure it is inserted right side inside the pouch.

Now pin the lining together.

Pinning done, go back to your machine and sew around the edges of the fabric, starting at roughly the point you see in the photo, i.e, about three quarters of the way along the bottom edge of the lining.

When you reach the corners, leave the needle down through the fabric, raise the presser foot and turn the fabric 90 degrees anti-clockwise. Bring the presser foot down again and continue down the lining towards the join where the zip is.

Go slowly over the zip. Because of the Magpie Method you can be confident that you aren't going to sew over any metal parts, but it is still tough for your machine over this part so go steady. I like to go over the zip part at least twice for extra strength, using the reverse button on the sewing machine.

Finish sewing roughly three inches away from the beginning of the seam; you need to leave a turning gap.

When you have made sure that your seam has secured all the layers of fabric you can trim any excess away. Don't trim from the turning gap as it makes it tricky to oversew later, but cut all the corners off as close to the stitching as possible.

Now it is time to push the exterior through the gap in the lining and wiggle out all the creases. Grab your poking tool of choice (mine is a flat-ended screwdriver) to push the corners out as flat as possible.

You will have to manoeuvre carefully to push out the corners of the zipper.

Here I like to give everything another little press while the lining is still on the outside.

I also iron the open seam underneath before stitching it closed as close to the edge as possible. You will need to backstitch the ends of this seam.

Stitching done, the lining can be tucked into the pouch, corners poked in and another little press given before hey presto! You did it!

Once you have mastered putting in the zip itself you will be able to add all sorts of embellishments to your purses. Ribbons and appliques should be applied after interfacing but before the zip is sewn on. I like to put buttons on after sewing the zip in as you can get a better idea of where to place them then.

Also, once you are more confident about your seams it is possible to achieve a neater corner by positioning the metal stopper just inside the seam so that it is visible on the outside, but we'll leave that for another day, along with flat-bottomed pouches!

I hope you found the tutorial useful. Please feel free to get in touch if you need help with any part. I would love to see any purses/pouches you make too!

Thanks for stopping by,
Beth x

p.s I have kept all but the top picture small to make the page load more quickly but if you need to see more detail, clicking on the pictures should enable you to enlarge them x