Friday, 19 July 2019

Secret Valentine Exchange Part VI

It's time for the July instalment of my year of crafty gift giving that is the Secret Valentine exchange 2019*

I loved the brief for this one....

Back in January when I put out a call for suggestions I was flattered, to great effect, by Kathleen.

She said, and I quote: "I really admire your style Shelley, so here's my idea: I have a new house that I'm struggling to decorate as it's so much bigger than the old one (also because I have no talent for that kind of thing). If you wanted to make some sort of furnishing/accessory/ornament for my living room somewhere in a cream/wood/teal/gold colour scheme that would be lovely."

That kind of open brief and lovely compliment will get you everywhere!!

When I got thinking about a wall hanging that would be fun to make I decided it was time to make those macramé feathers that were all the rage (possibly last year, but shhh, some of us may only just be catching up now)

I have plenty of three ply cotton macramé rope but I'd seen an image of what happens when you use that. It's a bit like unplaiting your daughter's hair - it goes all crimpy! This project needed single twist cotton string and it just happened that String Harvest had a partial reel on sale. Done! (and now I've realised I can't recall what size it was. Maybe 7mm?)

Sitting in the car at lacrosse training one night I made a miniature version in the leftover chunky cotton. The technique is well described in this blog post: Honestly WTF macramé feathers 

I wanted to make a series of three for Kathleen and try to match her colour brief. I did think about using natural dyes and did a bit of research as to how I could get wood tones or a nice gold from onion skins. But it seemed that apart from needing to get through a few kilos of onions in one week to save all the skins, I would also need to buy a couple of different metallic mordants. I figured it would be just as easy to buy some fabric dye.  

I used some Procion dyes from my local art shop along with soda ash. The instructions on the bottle were brief, but then I found the online instructions and threw some salt in the mix as well and suddenly the colour was setting more deeply. I used the Teal and a combination of Rust Orange and Chocolate Brown.

Of course, because of the tight twist of the cotton cord, the dye was never going to penetrate completely. I stirred and steeped for ages, but it was clear it wasn't going to be a homogenous colour as if I'd purchased coloured macramé cord. But perhaps this funny variegated effect would actually be better?

Once the feather is knotted and roughly trimmed, it's brushed out and here's where the variation in dyeing became most apparent. Short of redyeing the feather after brushing it, there was nothing for it but to embrace the result I had!

The Honestly WTF tutorial suggesting using a fabric stiffening spray to "set" the feather. But I found Peanut Butter and Jelly Bean on Instagram with a tutorial for making feathers that was a bit different. Her knotting technique has the cord on only one side with each attached loop which gives a sparser feather. But her giant feathers have such exquisite shape - the key is a felt backing. Follow the tutorial button in her Instagram feed for more info.

So I cut some felt backing shapes and got out the hot glue gun!

The felt backing allows the use of a map pin to help hold the feather flat against the wall when hung. Once the pin is in place, a little grooming with the mini cat comb and the pin is neatly covered up.

I delivered the feathers on Wednesday only to discover my giftee had a nice high, secure front fence with a gate lock and a standard letter sized slot for mail. I'd found an enormous, novelty sized gift box at the local $2 shop and short of climbing the fence with it on my head I was stuck...

Luckily a neighbour came out as I was standing on the street and I convinced her to play cupid for me and take delivery of the package. That was an added bonus of the whole Secret Valentine Exchange in that I forced a bit of friendly new neighbour interactions! :)

Kathleen sent me a lovely thank you email with a photos that showed the feathers perfectly matching her teal lamp, wooden side board and painting. Hopefully they'll fill a little space on the wall until she decides they're weirdly naff and so 2018. Rofl.

* The real Secret Valentine Exchange is in hiatus. It normally takes place in February of each year. I'm creating something every month for someone else until February 2010 in the hope that that I can keep the torch alive.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Metallic Loveralls

These overalls were a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. One moment they were awesome, the next they irritated me... And as with any thrilling ride the end result was a moment of elation and then a kind of flatline. For both of us. Anyway let's look at some pics while I ramble....

It all started with the fabric. I found this black stretch drill with a silver metallic face at ClearIt and snapped up a couple of metres. It's a denim weight and I figured it would be perfect for stretch jeans.

Then A was wearing a denim overalls skirt that her granny bought her and said she'd like overalls instead of jeans. I was convinced I'd have a vintage overalls pattern, but no. OK, I still have that Loveralls pattern, and where I went wrong last time was using a rigid denim. This time they'll be perfect.

Previously I'd printed off only the size layer I needed and used that for the pattern tissue. That meant reprinting and taping the whole pdf and gee I hate doing that. I emailed Celina and she kindly sent me a voucher to download the pattern again as it now includes an A0 copy shop version. Of course I also bought all those cool Urban Jungle doll patterns that I'd been eyeing for ages, so she won too!

Creffield did the printing for me, and I was ready to rock. I traced off the size 9 and added leg length around the mid thigh. I recalled they are very slim lower legs and adding length at the hem would never work. I was upsizing by almost a size and a half, thinking they'd fit for next winter, but probably no. These are perfect now and destined to get snug.

Thank goodness for stretch! The fabric really was perfect for the overalls and I was starting to get excited.

The only place it misbehaved was in turning the straps where my fingernails managed to tear a hole in the fabric just pulling it through. I'd prefer to make overall straps in a thick fabric by folding in and topstitching both sides rather than trying to turn a tube. It was a beast of a job.

But to get my happy juices flowing again I added a couple of Kylie and the Machine's labels

By ironing the Handmade label I could get it to curve a little and follow the line of the pocket nicely.

The "You Can't Buy This" is one of my favourite labels. These little iron on faux rivets came from Jimmy's Buttons ages ago and were the perfect dull metal finish to match the fabric.

I was on a maker's high at this point and decided that since I'd added lots of leg length, and they'd probably be worn cuffed, I should bind the lower leg seam allowances. A bit of Liberty lawn was just right for the job.

I fell a little out of love with them along the way as I found some of the instructions a bit odd. There was interfacing where I couldn't see any need for any, and none where I thought there should be some. I changed the way the front pocket was attached and was bamboozled for a while by the side tabs before finally figuring it out.

And then the jeans buttons. Oh, man, the jeans buttons. What perverse corner of hell are they spawned in?

I had plenty in my stash but only two of any one design, and I needed four (or more, but I'll get to that later). I was convinced that all the ones I had came from Buttonmania and the ones I liked best were the ones I'd already inserted in the straps.

So I zoomed down to Buttonmania only to find that they had sold me all the other ones, but not those two particular ones. I later worked out I'd bought them from Thread Theory ages ago and just slipped them in the Buttonmania bag so all the jeans buttons were in one place.

Since I was there I bought another half dozen of the ones I thought were the best match. The only thing left to do was hammer in two more jeans buttons for the sides.

I was nervous about the straps having no interfacing and being only two fabric layers thick - and tearable by my fingernails no less. So I had used some leather scraps as washers under each button. The strap ones had worked perfectly. To get the next two in took about 8 attempts.

Tap gently and nothing happens. Tap more firmly and still nothing happens. The button still pulls out. A final firm tap and the whole thing crumples sideways and is ruined. I was using a steel back plate to hammer against. But I also tried without it, just on a wood surface. I tried using a rivet set to hold the button completely square. No better. I tried trimming the shank slightly so it's shorter. I tried without the leather spacers (so the shank is effectively longer). After ruining so many buttons I finally got them set. Or so I thought.

I remembered this being a shit of a thing on my last set of Loveralls and I'm open to any suggestions as to how it might work better. Basically, I'm resigned to not using them without access to an industrial press. An internet search doesn't give anything beyond; make hole, insert button, hit with hammer. The Thread Theory rivet setting tutorial is the most helpful I've ever found.

Finally they were done and I was excited for her to try them on. She tried to match my excitement but it was clear the rise is definitely too short and she kindly explained that she was expecting them to come up to her chest like her other overalls.

Yep, I guess so was I. Note to self, the rise and bodice is short. Add lots of length.

And then one of the buttons on the strap popped off. 

Isn't it funny how you can produce something that is really not bad at all, but have totally lost the love for it along the way. :)

Anyway, I fixed the button, again. I hope they'll get worn. I briefly toyed with the idea of stretch jeans for me in this fabric and then I heard my daughter walk in them and they sound like metallic corduroy! Definitely not for me and my lack of thigh gap!

I've been reading the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy to the kids and I'm imagining this whole blog post read aloud in the voice of Marvin the Paranoid Android.

Life. Depressing, isn't it.


Thanks for reading xx

Friday, 12 July 2019

Jalie 3355 - birthday jumper

I've got so many things to catch up with on the blog and feel the need for a quick, simple one...

Two days before his 11th birthday, P was moaning about how nobody was making enough of a fuss and he doubted he'd "even get a homemade T-shirt this year". Well, as soon as I heard what a "special tradition" that was I thought I'd better give him his lousy birthday sweater after all!

Two nights before his birthday I quickly traced off the pullover from Jalie 3355 and rummaged through the stash for sweater knits and ribbing.

All three of these fabrics had only just enough for the this sweater and nothing left and they seemed to go together nicely so the cutting was done.

Then, of course, I decided it needed some kind of decoration. I found a bike chain love heart image on the web and used my (still) on loan Silhouette Cameo to cut it from iron-on vinyl. It was fiddly to place all the bits and iron it on, but it's kinda cool and he liked it.

To be honest, part of the reason I had put off making him anything was that I had already put in a purchase order for this sweater from Fyxo, with it's amusingly ambiguous bike love slogan.

But, it hadn't arrived in time. (I know, I could have made it myself, but I like to support people with cool ideas, and Andy has so many cool ideas!)

And as you can see, when it did arrive it had an extra bit of printing that I hadn't expected and so really should have been my bike love sweater! :) He got that one too and adores it.

I got a little bit fancy with the Jalie pattern and added a back neck binding using the instructions from the Basic InsTinct Tee.

And then I added one of Kylie and the Machine's cool labels in the side seam. I wish I'd thought to iron it straight first, as I stitched it in straight but it was folded/printed slightly crooked. Tiny details that weren't going to slow me down the night before the birthday.

I'm very happy with the fit of this pullover pattern. I made size O, with no adjustments, not even to sleeve length. It's so great to know that I have a pattern company that I can pretty much pick a size and make it and it fits the kids perfectly. I mucked up the sizing a bit on my Jalie for adults pattern sewing, but that's entirely my fault and is another blog post to come. It involves cool things and bike love too, so worth waiting for in my opinion! :)

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Secret Valentine Exchange Part V

This is June's edition of my year of making gifts for the slumbering Secret Valentine Exchange. I've just received word that it has arrived at it's destination, so it's time to share here.

Quite what it is, is debatable. Why it came into being, doubly so. But there was no doubting the genuine delight and warmth from the recipient when she received it.

This one was not commissioned. I simply started making something with no intention and when the kind @ecoleemhof on Instagram said it was beautiful, that decided it. It would be posted to her. 

Off it went to Florida, where Valerie, aka ecoleemhof was having a rough day and feeling a bit overwhelmed and lonely until she opened the post. How fabulous that my giant, pointless doily could brighten someone's day on the other side of the world. That's what it's all about!

I crocheted the thing (trivet, doily, placemat?) using two strands of the chunky cotton and one strand of the wonderful Habu paper moire from String Harvest. Possibly a size 9 crochet hook but I confess I forget.

The pattern is one from the Crochet Workshop book and is intended to be made with a single strand of finer yarn, and a smaller hook and end up no bigger than a drink coaster. Upscaled it turns out kind of cool.

I almost cried when I read Valerie's lovely thank you note and what a gift it is to be able to make something and send it off to someone for no reason other than you're sure they're a good person and it would be nice to give them something.

As a treat for myself I bought some flowers purely so I could photograph my big, pointless doily thing looking pretty. And that cheered my day up too. What a treat.

Wednesday, 26 June 2019


I seem to be a bit prone to the following scenario: Life gets busy and there are unpleasant, daunting or tedious tasks which need to be done (think tax return and beyond kind of stuff). So what do I do? I find a new craft activity and go mental for it!

I am 100% hooked on crochet at the moment. Being an instruction following kind of person rather than a free spirit inventor, I bought myself a few books.

Actually more than a few, but my obsession with Vanessa Mooncie and animals will have to wait. Now I'm just practicing some patterns and stitches.

The first crochet book I'd ever seen that I found visually appealing was Crochet Workshop by Erica Knight. This scarf is a quickie take on a pattern from that book.

I was faced with sitting still for a few hours (also referred to as watching a gymnastics competition) and decided my fingers could be busy so I took along the book, some chunky cotton and a hook. By the end of the competition I pretty much had an infinity scarf made.

This book doesn't use diagram charts and I guess for a beginner that might make things easier, but I'm becoming familiar with the charts and actually kind of like them in addition to a written description. The stitch pattern is fairly simple and is made up as follows: (I'm not going to reproduce the whole pattern as that would be naughty, so if you don't understand the abbreviations you need to buy the book! :) )
After making a chain of the desired length and a turning chain, the pattern repeat is: 1tr, 2ch, 1tr, miss 2ch, 1 puff stitch in next ch, miss 2ch: repeat. (note this is the version of a treble that is sometimes called a double - I haven't yet got my head around who are the brits and who are the yanks in this field)
The first bit gives the open V shape and then the puff stitch is made by drawing four loops through the stitch you're working into all before yarning round the hook and pulling it through all of them. From memory I think I used a size 7 hook

I was using some leftover chunky cotton yarn that I'd bought at Easter time. My width and length was determined simply by how much leftovers I had. The original project in this yarn is my June instalment of Secret Valentine Exchange but I hadn't heard if it has reached it's destination yet.

Once I ran out of yarn, and was confident it would fit over a head, I gave it one half twist then attached the short ends together. It makes a neat infinity scarf.

And you can wear it lots of ways :)

In the same book there are instructions for various crochet stitch samplers. The first one I had a go at (before the scarf above) was a basketweave stitch. This is a series of treble crochets working into the front or back of the stitches below to create a really fun textured pattern.

Using the cheap, leftover acrylic practicing yarn I had lying around I quickly found myself making a scarf for P

I thought it would be fun to use the three colours and then decided it should be like the sewn scarf pattern from Oliver + S Little Things To Sew and have it's own hole to put the end through.

That turned out to be easy as I simply stopped crocheting at a mid point on one side and then turned back. Once I had a hole of sufficient height I did the same on the other side before joining them again at the top and continuing on with full rows. It seems this making stuff up part isn't so hard after all!

The hole is a bit deeper than it needs to be, and a bit too far from his neck, but it works and it's a cute scarf. I imagine made up in some really nice wool this could be a great stitch pattern for a scarf.

I felt like I was ready for some of the good stuff now, and to make myself a scarf. I went back to the infinity scarf pattern I'd used for A's scarf and hit up FibreSmith for some lovely wool.

I went in with the book in my hand as I don't know my Aran from my Sport and had no idea what the weights and lengths would equate to. It turned out what I needed was this Aran 10 ply, and their own hand dyed wools are just divine.

In the store was a knitted scarf using the same type of wool and including a superfine strand of fluffy stuff (technical term until I find the link) - here we go, superfine 2 ply silk/mohair

It felt so nice with the mohair bit added, so I bought three skeins of the wool and one of the mohair and I turned the world off and crocheted non stop for a week.

It's hard to photograph the true colour of this yarn. It's darker than it appears here, but by lightening it up a bit you can see the variation in the browns and greens that are throughout. Essentially it looks like a very dark brown with grey/charcoal tones.

For this one I followed the pattern, although I didn't bother testing the swatch as I figured a slightly different sized scarf wouldn't matter. I crocheted to the same length as the pattern but hadn't counted rows as I went and I ended up using almost all of the yarn and the mohair and the wool pretty much ran out together. Bingo!

Part of the reason I suddenly found myself needing a scarf was the oiliness of my coat that I'd just finished. I pointed it out to Leslie at Fibresmith that, having sold me that super oily fabric I was now back having to buy her wool to make a scarf to go round my neck. Clever shop keeping, hey.

The puff stitch wasn't really any trickier to work using the two strands at once, but I discovered the real problem lay when you had to rip back. I'd made a mistake at one point and need to go back about five rows. The superfine mohair thread didn't always get pulled through every puff stitch perfectly, and while that didn't matter so long as you were going forwards it was a nightmare if you need to go backwards. Getting it right first time was the plan from that point on.

It's quite long and weighty and deliciously soft and warm. The morning after I'd finished it I wore it on the school bike commute and we all got caught in a downpour. It kept me lovely and warm even when wet and I was very pleased to find that the hand dyed colour didn't run at all!

I'm guessing that wearing a brand new garment in a downpour is not how you're meant to "block" your new woollen garment. 

So now I've further stalled from my boring, daunting and tedious tasks by writing about my procrastinating, I better get back to them.

One of them, in fact is not boring at all. It's daunting, very much so, but also super exciting. I'll go work on that one!

Patterns and instructions: Crochet Workshop by Erica Knight
P's scarf: Acrylic yarn, probably 8ply from Spotlight, size 5 hook from memory
My Scarf: Aran yarn (x3) and mohair (x1) from Fibresmith, size 5 hook

Monday, 17 June 2019

Metro T for Flipper

It was birthday time and while all he ever wants is World Peace, or that model of bike that isn't released yet but has already sold out all over the world.... I figured I'd make him a T-shirt 'cause that's always sure to please!

He still wears the Galactica cross-stitch T-shirt all the time but it irks me that the sleeves are a bit short.

So this one is the same size XL Liesl & Co Metro T-shirt but with about 1" extra sleeve length.

The fabric is a bamboo jersey from the stash and I used self fabric for the neckband, then decided to add a back neck binding using the method described in Sasha SecondoPiano's free Basic InsTinct Tee.

The camera is stitched using the design from the another of the Amy Kallissa patterns that I picked up. (Here's Cedric the cat). There's no way I could use the iron on transfer on such dark fabric. I tried tracing onto tissue paper and stitching through that but it didn't work. I know I could have bought wash away stabiliser but I was trying to make do with what I had. Eventually I found that tracing the design with a chalk fabric marker then rubbing it face down onto the fabric gave me enough of an outline to stitch over.

It has a suitably shaky, handstitched look, no? :)

This T-shirt pattern suits him so well, giving me the perfect excuse to keep stashing good quality solid knits when I find them. 

Size: XL, +1" sleeve length at hem
Fabric: Bamboo jersey from stash
Embroidery: DMC cotton and Amy Kallissa design