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

Tuesday 4 June 2019

V1564 - Sandra Betzina raincoat in oilskin

Settle in and buckle up, this is going to be a long one!

I've finally finished my Vogue 1564 raincoat.

The idea of sewing this pattern and the initial muslin fitting goes back over a year when I was convinced I could sew it in this vintage gifted fabric. I couldn't.

And I realised why I thought I could: The pattern I was working from was missing a whole sheet of pattern tissue and so my first layout on the fabric looked promising. Once I came to sew the muslin and realised a pattern sheet was missing, I was in trouble. 

Until I realised I had inadvertently bought the pattern twice. Well of course I had, it was such a good idea after all. I had all the pieces needed to make a muslin, but now knew I needed a different fabric. The idea got shelved until autumn of this year. (meanwhile I returned the faulty pattern copy, scored a second good one and have now on-gifted that one)
Excited to be making the coat last year I had already tracked down some closures at Jimmy's Buttons. The closures were brown leather and so that would dictate my new fabric choice somewhat.

It seems that sourcing closures one likes is about the hardest part of this whole coat and there is a blog post dedicated to just that problem on the Sandra Betzina website.

I had decided that the Merchant and Mills Dry Oilskin was going to be my fabric. I just had to get my head around the $60/m pricetag.... Armed with my Christmas work shopping giftcard I hit up Fibresmith. I was looking at the different colours of the Merchant and Mills dry oilskin and then commented on the one bolt of the oiled oilskin.

It turns out that that had been an order in error, but it's lovely. It looked like it would age with a really nice patina and be quite awesome. I was about to buy it when I said, in passing, to Leslie that I could only be happier if it were to be dark brown (I don't even remember what colour it was).

She let me in on a secret: There was a bolt of fabric in the storeroom that I might like. It's an Australian made oiled cotton. Probably that famous brand that keeps you "dry as a bone", wink wink. She didn't have it on display as everywhere this fabric bolt leant, it left an oily mark. Do you remember Soul Glo? Think of this as the fabric equivalent! :)

The drape was so much better. Holding up a couple of metres of each fabric it was clear that it had to be this one, unless I wanted to look like a scrunched paper bag. Bonus for being cheaper too!

So I had my fabric and my closures. I just needed a lining. 

I grew up wearing the quintessential Driza-bone drover's coat. I set my dad the task of trying to find a photo of me from the early eighties at horse riding school in a Driza-bone, but that might have been too big a challenge. I'll add it if it ever turns up.

My memories of those coats is that they were always lined in a flannel or cotton, never a slippery lining. And I figured this coat should be a cotton lining, not a slippery synthetic. I wanted an abstract, geometric print that wouldn't require me to match plaid or stripes and that was in grey or brown tones. How perfect is this Stof cotton from Fabric Deluxe?!

I set to work sewing.

The pattern calls for every seam to be flat felled and since the coat is lined, that could feel like a waste of time. But I really like a flat felled seam. They're not hard to do, they have a satisfying thickness to them and they're just so neat. (Here's a tutorial if you've never tried it before)

Flat felling the seams of sleeves is never quite as much fun, but when the sleeves are adult sized and in a regular fabric they're not so bad  (never again flat felled seam blog post here!)

The other pattern instruction I had to take literally was to "press" my seams. Usually we interpret that to mean "iron" them, right? Not with this fabric. I did test iron a scrap for a laugh and instantly soaked a press cloth in warm oil!

I used my bamboo point turner and "pressed" every seam. In making this coat my hands have never been more moisturised and the backs of my dining table chairs have never been better polished!

Eventually I had the outer coat constructed and the lining made. The only changes I'd made to the construction was to sew the sleeve closure tabs to the sleeves before closing the inner sleeve seams, and likewise to sew the back flap closure on before constructing the rest of the coat. Just much, much easier that way.

I'd also added some corduroy flat piping to the facing/lining seam just cause I had it in the stash and thought it looked good. I suspect it was a gift from Emi ages ago? There was exactly the right amount too!

Then just before I sewed the lining in I had a flashback to how awfully cold that oilskin coat of my youth had been. A cotton oilskin, lined with cotton does very little to keep you warm, even if it is keeping you dry and free from windchill.

This coat was already so long in the making, a day's delay to buy some wool batting and insulate the mother wasn't going to kill me, or the budget.

Spotlight had this pure wool quilt batting on sale and it was so wide I only needed a metre. Not only would it add some warmth, but I figured the wool would help soak up the oils and stop the lining from turning into a greasy, stained mess. Have you got the impression this is an oily oilskin yet?!

There's just a tiny peak of my Kylie and the Machine "Yes I Made It" label that I added.

I simply cut and sewed another lining and then basted them together around the periphery.

I was nervous about a batting underlining causing it to be thick and doona-ish, but I think it's just thin enough. I can feel the insulating quiltiness, but I don't get the feeling that I'm looking like the Michelin man due to the extra layer. I'm SO glad I added it.

In sewing in the lining I machine sewed the sleeve lining using that weird technique where you put one inside the other. It's hard to describe but always reminds me of an intestinal intussusception. Medical folk will get it from that description (and understand that it's fatal if you don't get it turned out correctly!). I tried to follow the pattern's instructions for the hem lining but I'm not entirely sure what was going on where the facing met the turned up hem. It worked, but perhaps not as it was intended to. 

I'm pretty happy with the coat worn open, open but not belted, or belted. It's working for me every which way!

The pockets are welt pockets which were well explained in the instructions. I do rather wish I'd edgestitched the welt flap. I wonder if that was in the instructions and I missed it, as I did see another reviewer of this pattern who edgestitched her welt flaps ("welt flaps" is making me laugh, I keep mis-typing it as 'wet flaps")

Those belt loops are reminding me, I reached for my little plastic shim thing for sewing those on and it worked a treat. Otherwise I did nothing too special in this sewing of this fabric. I started out with a denim needle for most of the coat construction. Then I switched to a universal 70/10 for the lining cotton, then forgot to switch back to finish the coat and even to sew on the leather closures and you know what, it made absolutely no difference. If you give the little Janome a bit of verbal encouragement she can do anything. I think we get too hung up on technicalities in sewing sometimes. Just have a crack.

little bits of wool batting fibres stuck to everything!

To sew the closures on, I used my zipper foot so I could get in close, lifted the top flap of the leather closure and stitched a horseshoe shape under that upper circle. It's nice and secure and perfectly hidden. The clasp side is simply sewn in a curve V shape from the free edge to a point just before where it folds back on itself then back to the free edge on the other side of the press stud.

To mark all the pattern markings on the fabric I had to do tailors tacks as there's no chalk or pencil that would mark this fabric and with flat felled seams I didn't want to cut notches into my seam allowance. I have said it was a long, slow sew, haven't I?

Fitwise, the pattern is pretty good with a few points of note. It is described as oversized, and oversized it is. The sizes are given as letters A through to J. I measured at the bust and hips of a D (typical Vogue 14/16) with the waist of a C. Yet this is essentially a size B.

I did grade out about one size over the hips as I wanted to be sure it would close comfortably over my hips and that is noted on the pattern to be the one part that is fitted.

I would add the lower sleeve. They really narrow down for a coat sleeve.

The upper raglan part of the sleeve is roomy, but the cuff is relatively narrow. The sleeves are also short (emphasis necessary!). I'm aware I'm well endowed when it comes to arm length, but my muslin suggested I need at least 2 inches extra sleeve length. I added 1 inch at the lengthen line and another inch just before the hem allowance, and then maybe an extra 1/3" in a lesser hem turn up. Given how the sleeve narrows it would probably be wiser to add it all at the lengthen line which is around the bicep/elbow area.

I also gave the whole coat 2 inches extra length. One inch of that I added above the waist (and then remarked all the closures accordingly), the other inch I added at the hem. Thankfully I'd made all those notes for myself back when I sewed the muslin last year.

The hood essentially forms a nice collar. Given the oiliness of my fabric I probably need to wear a scarf most of the time! At risk of a bit of Soul Glo hairstyle I popped the hood up for a photo. I wouldn't plan to wear it like this, but at school pick up yesterday in a sudden squall of rain I did, and it worked a treat!

I'm delighted with every choice along the way with this coat. I expect it will last for many years and it will be fun to watch it age, dry out and change over the years. Meanwhile it has it's own coat hook in the hallway so it doesn't rub against anything fancy in the wardrobe.

I'm feeling well prepped for our Melbourne winter drizzle now, and I feel like I nailed the inner-urban-country look :)

Pattern: Vogue V1564
Size: B, graded out 1 size over hips
Modifications: 2 inches extra body length, 2 inches extra sleeve length. Interlined. Piping around facing
Fabrics: Cotton Oilskin from Fibresmith, Stof cotton lining from Fabric Deluxe, wool batting interlining from Spotlight
Notions: Closures from Jimmy's Buttons
For interfacing I used a cotton muslin from stash. The facing and hood are fully interfaced, and sections of interfacing were basted behind each welt pocket, belt loop attachment, closure etc before they were sewn on.
Three ( seriously!) x 100m spools of Gutterman thread.

Sunday 2 June 2019

Simple skirt gift

A friend of A's was having her birthday and she's one of the few kids that I try to always add a handmade gift when it's birthday time.

This skirt is super simple but came up looking really nice, I think. Although of course I should have ironed it before taking photos!

The skirt pattern is the skirt from the Building Block Dress Book, in size 6 with size 7 length (you guessed it, that's what I already had drafted)

I used my own tutorial for Oliver + S to sew an exposed elastic waistband : click on the picture below for the link

That version was in a knit, but it works just fine in a woven too. The skirt pattern being intended for a woven fabric. 

This gifted skirt was a fine teal/aqua check and might be a bit school uniform reminiscent if that was your colour. The fabric was from deep in the stash and I suspect came from a local Vietnamese fabric shop, the patterned elastic was from Eliza if I remember rightly and I found a little bit of miniature pom pom trim in my stash that matched the yellow in the elastic.

The hem is finished with an external facing and the pom pom trim was sewn to the raw edge of the facing before it was pressed under and stitched down. The external facing is also a technique covered in the Building Block Dress Book.

I rounded up the fabric and notions Thursday night and then sewed it up on Friday afternoon after a half day at work, for it to be gifted on Saturday. Cute and easy.