Sunday, 24 November 2013

Straight Stitch Wallet winner and some twisted chain stitch

I haven't finished the quilt but I had to do some hand stitching while sitting on the couch in order to watch Dr Who

Meanwhile the Straight Stitch Society Have It All Wallet has been won! Congratulations to Darcy. Not to diminish your win, but the odds were pretty good huh?!

Have It All Wallet: Giveaway

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Friends, Sewers, Quilters: Lend me your ears

I don't usually post about works in progress but I'm a little bit stuck and I'm asking for opinions here. Tell me what to do next...

To keep ahead of the pack in the Little Things to Sew Challenge and to try and stick to some sort of schedule I've started making the Travel Quilt. And because I think it will make a nice Christmas present for P.

Here's a picture from the Oliver + S blog:

I've sewn my quilt top just like this one, only with a little twist regarding the colours and fabrics. It's a nice, easy quilt to piece together with all those straight lines. I think cutting the strips took longer than sewing them together.

But then some ambitious quilting gene escaped it's normal suppression and burst forth and I got all fancy on the backing.

And I confess I actually sewed the back before I sewed the front. Can you do that with a quilt? Does the back then technically become the front if you did it first? What happens if you like the back better?

Anyway, I made my first ever quilt block using freezer paper and the instructions from Bright and Breezy Patchwork by R. Norum & H.A Krohg

I think this is the most inappropriately titled book I own. What puts me off patchwork quilts more than anything is their "brightness" and let's face it, tackiness. This book is full of the most tasteful, muted and beautiful quilts. They are all made from shirting materials, and seemingly random bits of leftover quilting fabric and every single one just works.

Apart from being incredibly inspiring, the instructions for how to make quilts are first rate. So I let that ambitious quilting gene have free rein and made a "Star Boat" block.

Admittedly I paid no attention to which way my triangles pointed as I sewed them together, so the pinwheel in the centre looked more like a plus sign and the seam allowances were pretty tights at some spots. But it worked.

And here's the completed back of my Travel Quilt (to be)

My questions to you, dear reader(s) are:
  • Do I quilt in straight lines as per the Travel Quilt pattern?
  • Some other quilting pattern? Please make suggestions. Remember I'm a total novice at this but that one little quilting gene is up for anything you can suggest (you just might need to link to an explanation cause I probably won't know what you mean)
  • Should I bother changing the quilting thread colour as suggested by the Travel Quilt pattern so the thread blends with each coloured fabric? If so how do I deal with all those stopping and starting threads? (I'll be machine quilting it for sure) Maybe just a neutral mid grey thread that will blend with everything? (that's the lazy gene expressing itself loudly)
Any suggestions you have will be greatly appreciated.

And now I'll leave you with a picture of the little doll's cradle sized quilt that I made this time last year for a Christmas present for A. Over the last year it's become so lovely and soft and crinkly as it's been played with. As an exercise in doing something new, I made this one entirely from leftover fabrics and it was pieced, quilted and bound all by hand sewing. Every section had it's own quilting pattern all with a love heart/flower theme. Maybe I am a quilter after all?.....

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Straight Stitch Society: Pattern Reviews and Giveaway!

Sometimes it's fun to sew things just for the sake of sewing them. When life gets hard and sewing feels easy it's time for the Straight Stitch Society.
These patterns are cute little patterns that you'd make just because you can, because you have fabric scraps, because you don't care to watch that American Horror Story lesbian witch TV thing that your husband's watching in the background...
And, if you're lucky, 'cause you know someone who'll like what you make.
These nonplussed looking critters are the Feed The Animals Coin Purses. With their mouths open, they take on a completely different personality! The kids have had a ball playing with them and doing funny voices while gobbling up anything in sight. I kept them zippered and quiet during the photoshoot!
It's a great pattern for using up small scraps of fabric and stray buttons. As with any Oliver + S patterns the instructions are superb. There are clever tips, well worded instructions, plenty of diagrams and inside the pattern wallet is a couple of points from the manifesto.
I knew I'd found my sewing love match when I opened the instructions and read:
6: Sometimes a glass of wine really does improve your sewing. Or at least your attitude. Same difference.
I didn't get a photo of it, but it makes me smile to know that, inside that cat's mouth, is a little octopus from my leftover Sarah Jane Out to Sea fabric. Lucky kitty!
A bit more grown-up is the Have It All Wallet.
I have plans to make my mother in law one of these for Christmas (it's all right she doesn't read the blog, even though I've offered to sign her up! ;)) along with a tote bag from a Japanese pattern book. I thought I'd have a practice run first with some fabric from my stash.
The zippered pouch was a revelation and as it came together I was very impressed with the pattern and the instructions. I'm less pleased with the interfacing that I had to hand as it's one of those non woven ones that looks a bit like felt and is prone to creasing.
My edgestitching is neat, the fabrics are pretty together, the wallet will hold everything one would need a wallet to hold....
Are you getting the impression there's a 'but' coming?
I think I'm just not a fabric wallet kind of person. I have a lovely leather wallet for everyday use. I have a plastic zip lock pouch for my essentials when I'm on the bike. I'm just not the kind of person who'd use a co-ordinating fabric wallet, as much as I like it. And I do.
In summary: I love the pattern, I'm grateful for the practice run, I'm really proud of the end product and now I just need to be lucky enough to find someone who'll appreciate it.
Anyone want to help me out? I'll happily post this little wallet anywhere in the world if I can feel like it will find a happy reception and be put to use.
Perhaps an early Christmas present for yourself? Maybe for a sewing blogger friend that you promised you'd make something for but really don't have the time? Shhh. We won't tell, there aren't that many Bartacks and Singletrack readers that you couldn't get away with it!

This time I've given you a competition entry method that allows you to leave me a lovely blog comment but not inadvertently win a wallet you don't want either. But if you're loving the wallet and want it for yourself, use that widget and enter. Good luck
Have It All Wallet: Giveaway

Monday, 11 November 2013

Hats Galore: and a no hand sewing tip

For those of us in the southern hemisphere, Kid's Clothes Week in "fall" aligns well with the start of the summer hat wearing season. This time last year I cut out seven hats in advance and sewed one each night for a week. The kids have outgrown those hats so it was time for some more.

First up for A, the Bucket Hat from Little Things To Sew. Last summer's version was a size small with some shoestring straps. This year, a size medium for a big girl who's learned to leave her hat on!

The pattern is truly reversible, and if you're neat enough (tip coming...) then it's hard to tell which is the side that's meant to be the outside!

P had just slightly outgrown the Large size. I thought about upscaling the pattern but just went with sewing a 3/8th inch seam instead of 4/8th inch and that gave enough extra room for this year at least.

I don't think my kids have bigger than average heads, but the measurement put him at the upper end of the size range for the Large size. He's five and a half years old, and the pattern suggests the large size is for 6 to 8 year olds. Maybe he does have a big head after all. Most importantly, be sure to measure your kid rather than go by age alone.

I've made the Bucket Hat many times now and the instructions are great. I especially love the oval shape and the generous brim.

Next up, I went back to the Nicole Mallalieu Kid's Hat pattern. A size medium for A first:

This pattern has a round crown and quite a different shape. It comes with four different brim widths for each size (this is the second widest) and lots of suggestions for finishing the brim. Here I used binding cut on the grain which the pattern says will pull the brim up into a sharp bend. It doesn't really. this brim will happily be down, although I guess it curves a bit. if you wanted it to be completely straight out then you'd use bias cut binding. These tips are in the pattern instructions.

The pattern has the side piece and the brim piece cut as single pieces, whereas the Oliver + S hat has two symmetrical pieces with seams at the side. The brim is a bit narrower at the back than the front. Because of the single piece patterns and some very strict rules about cutting on the bias it uses more fabric than the LTTS hat. But because of the bias cutting it comes together a lot more easily and it's not necessary to clip into the seam allowances. The instructions show the crown being "eased" into the side section without any pins apparent in the photo. I've made it four times but I'm not that good. I use a lot of pins!

The size range is a bit bigger than the Oliver + S hat and the straight size Large fit P perfectly. With these two hats I hand stitched the lining fabric at the brim as there's no topstitching required, but read on for some tips on avoiding hand sewing for the Oliver + S Bucket Hat.....

The first method is described beautifully by A Little Gray on her look no hand sewing tutorial
Essentially you make the outer hat, then the lining hat. Put them right sides together, sew most of the way around the brim before turning them right side out and finishing by edgestitching the brim closed.

If you wanted to add some bias binding (or straight grain binding) then you could make it even easier by putting the hats wrong sides together (as if finished) and use the binding to finish the brim edge.

My way is to use iron on adhesive and effectively stick the hats together before edgestitching through both layers. You'll need some Heat'n'Bond (or similar) and an ironing sleeve board

Construct the hat as per the instructions up to the point where you would handstitch the lining in.
Press the side seam well to press the seam allowances and side wall away from the brim
Then press the edge of the lining hat 1/2" to the wrong side as per the pattern instructions
Now turn the lining hat right side out and try it on the hat and see how the folded edge lines up with the sewn seam.
You may need to adjust the depth of your folded seam allowance of the lining piece is too small or too big. If you've been fairly accurate with your other seams it should be just right.
Take it off, turn it inside out again and iron the fusible web along the folded edge the whole way around the side wall of the hat lining.
Then peel off the paper backing
Put the hat lining back onto the hat with wrong sides facing and iron it together
Make sure the folded edge is exactly on top of the stitched line where the outer side wall is sewn to the brim. Here's where you really need a sleeve board as the hat needs to retain it's "openness" while you press. If you don't have a sleeve board then a rolled up towel shoved inside the hat can work.
Now edgestitch around the hat. You'll be edgestitching both sides of the hat really nicely and it will be hard to tell which was the outside and which the inside when you're done!
Then, make sure you put your Bucket Hat in the Little Things To Sew Cover to Cover Challenge Flickr group here
I love iron on adhesive and use it for small bound cuffs on sleeves, to avoid hand sewing collars before edgestitching them and especially for positioning bias binding so it looks great when viewed from either side.
And ever since I made these hats we've been plunged back into some very cold weather. Here's wishing for sunny, hat days soon!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Fairy Tale Sewing

I finally did it, and, as often happens, I'm wondering why on earth I didn't do it earlier. I made the Oliver + S Fairy Tale Dress

When I bought the pattern A was only wearing pants and had no interest in twirls or dresses. I'd read all the lengthy discussions in the forum about fitting and darts and muslins. I figured it could wait...

Then I got the pattern out to draft the belt and bow to add to this dress and amazingly I bothered to draft the whole pattern in size 2.

A little while later Once Upon A Sewing Machine invited me to pattern test their wonderful Ruffled PJs (how my kid loves those pyjamas, I just can't tell you!) and that required me to measure my little tacker properly for the first time. What do you know, she was exactly the size 2 measurements.

Could I do away with making a muslin and just jump straight in? Well, when I found this sheer blue/grey fabric at that $3/metre shop the answer was yes, yes, yes!

Once I started sewing the fairy tale really started coming true. It fitted, it was fun to sew and the possibilities for the pattern just seemed endless. This is another of those patterns that, through the excellent instructions and the pattern itself, will cause you to be seriously impressed with what you can sew.

My main fabric is very sheer and I thought about hairline seams and what to do. Quite a bit of thinking for me, since I tend to cut first think later most of the time. I could do hairline seams, but what about the collars seam allowances, they'd show through? And what about the waist darts?

The answer, in the end, was to cut extra copies of everything out of the cotton lining (probably a batiste or similar) and treat one layer of sheer stuff and one layer of cotton as the single main fabric layer. I think it's an answer someone in the forum had already come up with (but of course I'd forgotten to check there), and Nicole then did exactly the same thing, so I was feeling very confident it would work.

I'd like to say it was a dream run sewing it up, but like most good fairy tales there was a sticky bit in the middle when I sewed the invisible zipper on such that the dress would have to be half upside down and inside out in order to close. No great problem, I mean it's not like I lost one really good shoe at a party. A bit of unpicking and slowing down to concentrate and then all really was happily ever after.

When I had sewn just the bodice and skirt I held it up to have a look and suddenly I was wanting to make a sleeveless, collarless version. Then after adding the collar I thought the one after that should be sleeveless, but with a collar. I set the sleeves in and obviously then wanted one just like that without the belt...

It's easy to see how Rachel at Nest Full of Eggs has managed to make ten of them! (well, no actually, it's easy to see how she could conceptualise ten of them, making them all is quite an extraordinary achievement)

Having the sheer fabric underlined with the cotton made it easy to hand sew the hem and make it truly invisible. This was my first time playing with tulle* and I decided to use two layers as the poofiness of a single layer just didn't seem sufficient. This is the nice, soft stuff but I guess a single layer of the stiffer, scratchier stuff would be fine as there's a lining layer to protect little legs.

*excepting my handmade bridal veil I wore on my bike helmet on the morning of my wedding day - who'd waste a perfectly good Saturday morning with hair and make up appointments when there's a bunch ride to join?!

My happy cup of joy was really spilling over when A was watching me sewing it and becoming increasingly excited about it. She absolutely LOVES this dress. Obviously she'd prefer if it was purple, or pink at a stretch. But with some persuasion, and the help of some theme branded Band-Aids she's come around to the idea that Cinderella wore blue and so will she (and "Cinderella has an ouchy on both her knees just like me too").

I'm not sure this is how Cinderella poses for pictures,....

But I am certain that this:... how she does her bench dips to keep her triceps toned.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

I'm a sewing blogger, and I'm proud!

I was at the park today, with the kids, and I spotted a little girl wearing a lovely dress. I looked closer. Definitely handmade,.. lovely fabric,... probably a bit too nice for a craft market purchase,....

Casually, I commented to the adult male attending to the little girl that it was a lovely dress. "her mother made it" he replied. I studied the dress. Something about it looked familiar, the bodice, the gathered skirt, the shape of the shoulder sections....

A little while later the mother wandered over and I tentatively struck up a conversation about the dress.

Me: That's a gorgeous dress. Did you make it?
Girl's Mum: Yes.
Me: It's a quilting cotton, right?{letting on that I know a little about these things} What's the fabric?
Girl's Mum: It's from Dear Stella's Piper range.
Me: Lovely. The dress looks familiar, what's the pattern?
Girl's Mum: The Sally dress.
Me: Ah of course it is.
{a flash of recognition crosses the woman's face}
Girl's Mum: Are you....
{leans in closer and asks in a conspiratorial whisper}
... are you a sewing blogger?
Me: {laughing} Yes, yes I am. But my blog's only about 8 months old...
Girl's Mum: What's your handle*?
Me: {now I'm leaning in and whispering, as I feel a bit ridiculous. My sewing alias was never meant to be said aloud}... ah... Lightning McStitch...

* Ok, she may not have used the word handle, but you get what I mean.

And on we chat for a bit, about making kid's clothes, independent pattern designers, where to purchase fabric, other blogs we both knew, our blog names and so on, when her partner wandered over...

Girl's Mum: Hey, guess what, this ladies a sewing blogger too.
{male partner makes snorting derisive laugh type noise and promptly turns on his heel and retreats}

My little one has an urgent need to wee so we excuse ourselves and make our way home. When I get home I start to tell Flipper what has just happened...

Me: Honey, you'll never guess what just happened?
Flipper: {looking vaguely curious} Hmmm?
Me: I saw a little girl in a handmade dress, and I recognised the dress pattern...
{Flipper rapidly losing interest and returning to looking at the newspaper}
Me: It was a lovely fabric and the pattern is called the Sally dress, and I knew that, or at least I did once she reminded me
{I think this might be more information than he cares to hear}
Me: And guess what, she is a sewing blogger too!
{Flipper makes a snorting, derisive laughing noise and starts to leave the room}
Me: {shouting at his retreating back} But that's not the best bit...
Guess what the best bit is?...
{no answer from the other room, but I know he's there}
... the best bit honey...
Is she knew who I was!

So, if I may be so bold as to make the introductions: Here's Haus of Harridan and her very pretty Sally dress. So nice to have met you!