Why it pays to do a practice run ...

Why it pays to do a practice run first...

Or something like that. The title for this post might more accurately read: "Why you probably shouldn't squeeze in a little sneeky sewing when you're supposed to be starting dinner and you stayed up too late the night before..."

Anyway. I sat down, when I should have been starting the dinner, and decided to "whip up" a couple of Noodlehead's, funky  Open Wide Zipper Pouches. One as a practice that I'd keep, and one for my Grace kal prize. You might be looking at the pretty pouch in the photo above and be wondering what I am on about. It looks nice enough doesn't it? I love the rich red cotton velvet and the linen floral is super lovely. Well, let me show you why it pays to do a practice run when you leap into a new project...

Why it pays to do a practice run first... Why it pays to do a practice run first...

It all actually starts with the top photo. Look closer, my flower fabric is upside down. And the velvet? You know how it feels smooth when you run your hand over it one way, and rough the opposite way? That affects the colour too you know. Mine runs smooth from top to bottom on one side of the bag, and smooth from bottom to top on the other. Remember to check which way your fabric is lying!

In the zip photos above you'll see two things. In the left photo, you can see that my zipper isn't inserted evenly on both sides. The gap between the zipper teeth and the floral fabric is slightly wider on one side. So what? you might think. You hardly notice. Well, I (eventually) noticed. It meant that the floral fabric is longer on one side than the other. So, put in your zip carefully!

In the right zipper photo I've showed you my wonky zip end. It's not too bad, but it's just a bit messy. I resolved to try another way to deal with the end of that zip. Actually, in my next bag (which I saved until the next day and thank goodness is much, much better) I basted my zip to the outer fabric before sewing on the lining. It makes sewing in the zip much easier and more accurate. For the end of the zip I folded it back on itself and then off to the side, so the end is straight, not angled...

Why it pays to do a practice run first...

And, there's some shonky lining up of seams. It didn't help that my fabric wasn't even because of my dodgy zip. Can you also see how the velvet is a different colour on each side? 

Why it pays to do a practice run first... Why it pays to do a practice run first...

But it didn't stop there...

I skim read the step in the tutorial about making the bucket bottom by sewing seams along my inside corners. And, instead of measuring 4 1/2" horizonally across my corner, I measured vertically, down from the tip. Bad move. That meant my bucket bottom is much smaller than it should be and my pouch is both smaller overall, and the top doesn't stand tall quite like it should. Plus, look at my seams! No way near lined up... If I'd been on the new hit show Great British Sewing Bee - I'd be going home by now... So the lesson? Read the instructions!

Why it pays to do a practice run first...

But I got there. It did get finished, despite all the crazy sewing. And, it's pretty and I'll use it. And, it was a good practice.

But then, I remembered something - I was supposed to use the grey & white spot for the lining ...

The Big Reveal - Outfit 3

Handmade Wardrobe 2013 - Outfit 3

It was cold, oh so freezing cold when we took these pictures. We left the kids in front of a movie and nipped out the front door of the little cottage we were staying in, to take photos in front of the house across the road. I loved the black and white backdrop but felt a little self conscious posing in front of someone looking out their kitchen window (in front of me) and had to leap out of the way every time a car zipped up the road. Needless to say, it was a quickie photo shoot...

But, I'm totally loving this Outfit! You can't see them, but I wore black lacy tights and black leather ankle boots with it. Not quite bare legs, but it felt like it!

Handmade Wardrobe 2013 - Outfit 3

Where shall we start? Grace, my cardigan. It's the second time I've used a baby alpaca/silk/cashmere fingering this year and it's sooooooo warm. I can't tell you. Creamy soft, slight halo and wonderfully cosy. If you can get your hands on some, do. It's delicious. 

Handmade Wardrobe 2013 - Outfit 3 Handmade Wardrobe 2013 - Outfit 3

I enjoyed knitting Jane Richmond's lovely cardigan along with the other "trulygrace" knitters. If you fancy joining in the Knit Along, there's still time! It wraps up on April 15th - but you don't have to be finished by then. Just get started, tag your project and give it a good shot...

Details about my cardigan can be found on my Ravelry project page. The generous gauge gives this cardy great drape and I love how it sits nicely, even unbuttoned.

Handmade Wardrobe 2013 - Outfit 3
Handmade Wardrobe 2013 - Outfit 3

My t-shirt and skirt seemed to take forever to get going. I'd dyed the fabric for the skirt and had everything ready to go but it took a weekend of sewing to actually get them done. I'm pretty pleased with both. Remember I twisted up my skirt to crinkle it? Isn't it cool? It just lifts it from an ordinary flouncy skirt into something a little more fun. 

Handmade Wardrobe 2013 - Outfit 3 Handmade Wardrobe 2013 - Outfit 3

In the end, thanks to suggestions from BillJones on Ravelry, I hand-picked the neckband and sleeve cuffs of my t-shirt to match my hand-picked zipper on my skirt. The non-stitched fused hems just didn't sit well with me and Bill agreed :) So, he told me about the "catch-stitch", a criss-cross hand-stitch that wouldn't break when stretched, and sent me a picture as a guide.  I also looked it up in my trusty "New Vogue Sewing Book" circa 1964 and there it was too. "Catch-Stitch: for finishing hems on non-frayable fabrics and for tacking facings. Work from left to right taking a tiny stitch in hem or facing, then in fabric as shown". It wasn't tricky, and anyway, I love hand-sewing. The result? A next to invisible hem of tiny stitches on the outside and a pretty crossed stitch inside. Thanks Bill!

Handmade Wardrobe 2013 - Outfit 3

I wondered today, what do I love more, cardigans or bags? In the end I decided bags, although it's close. I especially love little handbags that swing over my shoulder. LOVE THEM. 

Handmade Wardrobe 2013 - Outfit 3 Handmade Wardrobe 2013 - Outfit 3

I'm having a hard job wrestling this cute bag off my girls. It was in action the minute the photos were taken and they've tried to "help" me by flinging it over their shoulders ever since...

The brick-coloured linen/cotton lining and brick zip work really well with the tangerine yarn. It still "pops" but the darker colour tones it down just a tad. Inside I've included a pocket for my phone, and if I was making it again, I think I'd pop another on the other side too. My strap is about half the length suggested in the pattern, and about twice as wide. I've also inserted a tube of lining fabric up into the handle and secured it at either end when I stitched the yarn handle shut. I've included all the details on my Ravelry project page.

Handmade Wardrobe 2013 - Outfit 3 Handmade Wardrobe 2013 - Outfit 3

Finally, my necklace. Oh goodness, what a wonderful world beading is! I'm quite hooked now. Rest assured, there will be more. My lovely local bead shop even runs classes!

So there you have it. Ta Da! Outfit 3! 

I've been doing a little sock knitting between finishing Outfit 3 and starting Outfit 4 ... I'm one sock down but with such little bursts Mr Myrtle's socks are going to take until Autumn to finish! In the meantime, it's time to start Outfit 4. It's going to be a little different ... and I'll tell you all about it soon.

The Neverending Outfit

Outfit 3 - Firefly Bag

It's often the last little things that seem to take the longest time, don't you think? Like the last inch on the strap of my Firefly bag or sewing the buttons onto my Grace Cardigan. They seem to go on and on, forever and ever ...

But, I'm nearly, oh so nearly there now. Outfit 3 is almost FINISHED! Just my bag to line, my skirt yoke to iron, and then it's photo time.

We're off to the beach this weekend (Not a warm swimming type beach. This is England, remember?).  But next week I'll be back to tell you all about my plans for Outfit 4 (if you follow me on Instagram you've already had a peek), and of course the Big Reveal of Outfit 3. Excited? ;)

Stay tuned!

Step Away from the Knitting!

Firefly bag

The knitting for Outfit 3 is going pretty well. It's nice to have a contrast between the plain stockinette of my sleeve and the lace of my Firefly bag and I'm enjoying getting them done. Sewing, on the other hand, has not yet begun. I've figured out how I want my top and skirt to look but as yet, it's all still in my head. I can't quite start and I'm not sure why.

It might be the weather. It's cold again here in the UK. It seems that spring is reluctant to start no matter how much we want it to. Outside the sky is grey and this definitely makes me feel a bit lacklustre. Sunshine is like my battery. Just the tiniest glimmer and I'm energised.

It might also be day to day family life that is stopping me from getting going. With three kids at school, each also doing a bunch of activities and a pre-schooler under my feet all day, it's a bit of a whirlwind at times. This week I waited in for the groceries on Wednesday morning, only to discover that I'd booked them for Thursday. I forgot to get the money in for school photos on time and I've still not paid the library fines or re-enrolled the kids for swimming... it just might be time for a holiday!

So, until I get cracking with any sewing we'll have to keep looking at knitting... I'm sure you won't mind :)


The top photo is the underside of my Firefly bag. It starts with a Turkish cast on, which I hadn't tried before, and I loved it. You hold two needles together and wind yarn around both, before knitting into one side and then the other, creating a double cast on. There are instructions in the pattern but I referred to my copy of Cap Sease's great book Cast On, Bind Off, as well. 

I'm using 3mm needles because I don't have the recommended 2.75mm and gauge isn't crucial. But, I switched one of my needles for a 2.5mm for the winding part so my first row wasn't sloppy. It worked a treat.

The photo above is looking down into my bag. Once you've cast on, joined in the round and increased on either end a wee bit, the bag starts to take shape. 

Firefly bag

Here's the gusset at one end. It's all very neat isn't it?

The lace is a geometric pattern and I'm pleased with how it is turning out. It's pretty straightforward, mostly yo's and ssk's at varying widths. So far, I've noticed only one mistake in my lace ... and since it's at the bottom and I'm sure no one else will spot it, I'm not going to rip back and fix it.

Something I haven't come across before is slipping the stitch marker "into" the first stitch rather than next to it on the needle. I'm hoping I've understood correctly, because it means that the stitch marker stays at the bottom of the work. I've overshot it a few times when I've not noticed it coming up in the round. Is this something you've encountered before?

Do you like the pattern on the tray under my bag? I'm looking at it and thinking "necklace". Of course nothing's decided yet ... I have to put my knitting down first.

By the way - I'm officially a Knit Nerd! Check out my interview this week on Of Yarny Notions Thanks for having me Vicki :)

Stand Back & Breathe

camera bag



I've hit a wall with my new bag. I set out to make something like these. Aren't they fab? I've got beautiful teal green boiled wool for the outer fabric and some colourful Anna Marie Horner for the interior and have coupled them with some zippers from my stash, brass rings from an old bag that was falling apart and 1/4 inch foam for padding. The cord is to insert into the handles. They'd run out of piping cord at my local shop so I am going to have to make do with this.

First, I noted the measurements of the bag I was trying to emulate and made a paper pattern. So far so good. It took a fair bit of thinking through how I was going to actually construct the bag before I started, and the first thing I did was the internal pocket on one side of the lining. I used this great tutorial and I'm really pleased with my little pocket. Next, I ironed interfacing to the lining and the outer fabric, sewed strips of velcro to the lining (there will be a movable divider eventually), and sewed the side seams and all but one of the bottom seams to make two pouches, one in the outer fabric and one from the lining (I've left one side of the bottom lining open so I can turn the bag the right way out once I've sewn the lining to the outer fabric).

With me? You can see that next I slipped the lining pouch, right side facing in, over the pouch in the outer fabric ... and then ... I stopped.

Now I have to sew the zipper to a couple of pieces of outer fabric, form two padded curved strips with the zipper attached, make loops in the outer fabric for the rings and insert all these bits in between the lining and the outer fabric in perfect position, so I can sew around the opening of the bag in one go, turn the lining to the inside of the bag and (hopefully) get onto finishing details like top-stitching and handles. I know. I've lost you. It's fine, I'm stuck too. Sort of paralysed actually. I can't quite get on with it. I'm worried it won't work. Or at least, it'll end up looking homemade, rather than handmade and I'll hate it.

Clearly it isn't a great tactic to just do nothing. This bag isn't going to make itself. But, I've decided that rather than push myself in this state of mind and stuff it up, I'm going to stand back, let it be and trust that one day soon I'll suddenly have a burst of energy and enthusiasm and I'll tackle my bag. I just hope I don't have to wait too long...

On a brighter note, I spent a fantastic afternoon this week cutting glass and assembling some chunks which I'm planning to use for rings and earrings after they're fired (I'll show you when I get them back from the lovely ladies who are firing them for me) and, some faux fur has arrived in the mail for my scarf-cum-stole thingy. The fur and the jewellery shouldn't take too long so I might not get my bag finished in time for my reveal of Outfit 1 - it's February already and I'd love to get the photos done soon ... but I'm really hoping my bag won't be too far away.

So tell me, I'm not the only one am I? What do you do when things get tricky? Dither and procrastinate like me? Throw a wobbly? Or, just plain give up?