Monday, 25 November 2013

Easy autumnal headbands

After last week's knitted headband tutorial, this week I thought I'd write a quick post to share a couple of other ideas for easy headbands that I've made recently. Personally, I think that headbands are great for this time of year when your ears can end up feeling a bit chilly but it's not quite cold enough for it to be proper hat weather yet. Plus, they're usually quick and easy projects which can be good for a bit of a break when you're in the middle of working on bigger things!

I made the first of the headbands using the 1950s pin up head scarf pattern which is available as a free download from Bluegingerdoll. It's super simple and a great way of using up material left over from other projects.

I used a vintage Laura Ashley brushed cotton, which makes it nice and warm! You can wear the head scarf knotted on top of your head, but I prefer it knotted at the back, like this...

My second headband is a crochet turban headband from the book Geek Chic Crochet (which has quite a few nice patterns if anyone is looking for some new crochet projects by the way!).

This is another really simple pattern - I only learnt to crochet earlier this year and I would still definitely classify myself as a beginner but I managed it no trouble. 

They've both been getting quite a lot of wear in the last couple of weeks as the temperatures have dropped.

I've got a couple of bigger WIPs which I'm close to finishing so I'll be back to share those soon!

Sunday, 17 November 2013

How to make a knitted headband

Today I thought I'd share a tutorial of how to make a knitted headband - I improvised the "pattern" myself so, given my limited knitting abilities, it must be simple and it was really quick (this is the project I mentioned in my post about my polo neck top the other week) so it would make a great addition to your winter accessories or with (dare I say it?) Christmas rapidly approaching, it would also be a lovely handmade gift. I added a bow to mine, just because I quite like bows, but you could easily make a plain version too - which would make it even easier and quicker. Here's a photo of the finished headband...

Want to know how I made it? Here we go...

First up, supplies! I used Stylecraft Swift Knit in Viola (I needed less than one skein) and 10 mm needles. You'll also need a darning needle later on.

Cast on 10 stitches, then knit in stocking (stockinette) stitch until the band fits around your head, I knit mine to be 65 cm, but as I've said before, I do have a massive head so don't necessarily use that as a guide!

Cast off, leaving a long end. 

If you want to add the bow, you'll need to knit 2 other pieces...

For the first, cast on 8 stitches and work in stocking stitch until the piece measures about 10 cm - this will be the main part of the bow. For the second, cast on 4 stitches and again work in stocking stitch until the piece measures about 10 cm - this will be the middle piece of the bow. Once you've cast off, weave in the loose ends on these two pieces.

Now to make up the headband! 

Take the main piece of the headband and, using a darning needle, thread the loose end through all of the cast off stitches. Pull the wool through so that the end of the headband gathers up.

Repeat on the other end of the headband, then join the two gathered ends together.

Find the middle of the bow piece and, thread the wool (still attached to the main headband) through to gather up, then match the gathered middle to the gathered join on the headband and secure the two together.

Take the short piece, wrap it round the bow piece and the headband, and secure together at the back. Weave in the loose end.

And you're done!

Depending on how you want your headband to look, you may also want to stitch down the ends of the bow so they don't stick out too much. 

Here's one last picture of me modelling it for you...

I'd love to see any versions that you may make for yourself - happy knitting!

Monday, 11 November 2013

Sleeveless Colette Laurel Dress

In my life outside of sewing, knitting and general creating, I work as a freelance translator. Most of the time that keeps me nice and busy, but sometimes it means I end up with a random day when I have no work. When I first went freelance this tended to result in the onset of panic that I would never get any more work again and would end up penniless and running home to my parents, but now I'm more confident that won't happen so when I'm being sensible I see it as a chance to catch up on boring admin, but more often than not it turns into bonus creative time! The Friday just gone was one of those days, and I used it to sew up a new dress which cost me almost nothing, yay! It's a sleeveless version of the Colette Laurel dress...

I made version 2, with the cute little front pockets, but missed off the sleeves. This was partly because I realised I had just enough of the pretty needlecord fabric left from the Hollyburn skirt which I made earlier this year to squeeze out a sleeveless version of the dress, and partly because I quite like layering sleeveless pinafore-type dresses with long-sleeved tops/jumpers in the autumn and winter anyway, so I knew it would definitely be worn a lot.

To finish the armholes and the neckline, I followed the suggestion for the sleeveless dress from the Laurel extras booklet and used bias tape to create a facing, which I machine stitched to the outside and then flipped over and hand stitched to the inside. It's not especially invisible hand stitching from the inside but you can't see a thing on the outside so it's all good in my book!

I used the same size 12 as I used for both of my Laurel tops (here and here), and then graded out to a 14 for my lovely pear-shaped hips, but as it turned out I didn't need to do that and I ended up taking some width back out of the side seams and using a slightly larger seam allowance down the centre back. If I make another dress (which is quite likely at some point in the future) I think a straight size 12 would work fine. I added a couple of inches to the length so that I could wear it with tights as well as leggings - the hemline still falls well above my knee but for some reason it looks longer in the photos!

I used a regular zipper instead of an invisible one, purely because my local shop didn't have an invisible zipper in the right length and colour combination and I wanted to buy something there and then so I could get it finished all in one day. Me, impatient?! Never! I think it works fine with this dress and material combination.

Overall, for a dress that cost me a grand total of £1.70 for new supplies (the binding and the zip), I think this is a pretty good day's work - it's a great casual dress, and nice and cosy when layered with a long-sleeved top, and really comfortable so perfect for wandering around enjoying all the beautiful colours of the autumn leaves!

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Thursday, 7 November 2013

Shopper Bag from Sew!

Today is my sister's birthday so, given that she'll have opened her presents by now, I thought I'd show you one of the things I made for her - a cute little shoulder bag...

I used the Shopper Bag pattern from Sew! by Cath Kidston, which was actually the book that was responsible for getting me into sewing (I always enjoyed making things and had been talking about possibly buying a sewing machine for ages, so my Mum bought me the book for Christmas a couple of years ago to encourage me to stop talking about it and actually do it!). I hadn't made anything from the book for a while, but I remembered the bag patterns and thought that this one would be just right for what I had in mind.

The material was from the remnants bin in John Lewis a few months ago (my sister was with me at the time and said it would make a nice bag, so I decided there and then to keep this for her birthday present) and I had just enough to make the bag and the strap. The lining is a light blue chambray, which was also in the remnants bin at the same time - some good finds that day!

The book says to use webbing for the strap, which I probably would have preferred, but I couldn't find any locally (having been so convinced that I would find some that I left it too late to order online) so I improvised and interfaced the material and it worked out fine. 

The pattern is quite simple but effective and the bag is a good size for all the essentials, so a good choice to make for a present I think.

I'm now off to carry on with some more selfish sewing - see you soon!

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Sunday, 3 November 2013

Chunky knitted polo tank top

Once autumn arrived, and I'd finished my Granny square cushion, I felt the need for more wool-based crafting to curl up on the sofa with. Don't get me wrong, there's still definitely sewing happening too (I'm working on a muslin of a dress and waiting for some lovely fabric for the final version to arrive in the post at the moment), but sometimes when it's chilly snuggling up with some wool seems more appealing than sitting at the sewing machine. I already had a project waiting for me in the form of a chunky polo neck tank top I started knitting towards the end of last winter, and thankfully for me the lovely thick yarn knits up really quickly so I've finished it already.

I used a pattern from Sirdar Big Softie Knits for Beginners and the yarn was Sirdar Big Softie in meringue. I'm not a complete beginner when it comes to knitting, and I have knitted a couple of scarves and hats before, but this was the first time I'd made any clothing (or at least the first time I'd finished any clothing - more on that below) so I think it was good to use a simple pattern to get my confidence up, and this did just the job! There are simpler patterns and smaller projects (hats, scarves, fingerless gloves etc.) in the pattern book and it contains a pull-out section with instructions on how to knit so I think this would definitely be a good introduction to knitting for a complete beginner, or a nice collection of quick and simple patterns for the more experienced knitter.

The only problem that I had was that, as the name suggests, the yarn is very soft so when I was using it to stitch up the seams it had a tendency to stretch and pull apart leaving me with lots of wispy pieces (but I have since thought of a use for them which may be either ingenious or ridiculous, so it's all good!). Apart from that the pattern was really straightforward, clear and easy to follow, and the pull-out section was useful for the only part that I was slightly unsure about (picking up stitches to attach the polo neck and sleeves).

I'm modelling it here with my second version of the Sewaholic Hollyburn skirt, which is now being worn as it was originally intended to be with tights and boots and is proving to be a very useful and pretty skirt! 

I'm happy with the top but I think I need to wait until autumn turns into winter to wear it properly - the chunky wool means it's a little too cosy still at the moment.

I've now moved on to finishing off a cardigan that I started waaaay back at the start of winter in 2011 which uses double knitting wool and 4 mm needles, which seem very small in comparison with chunky wool and 10 mm needles! And the knitting takes so much longer to grow! The cardigan is looking lovely so far, but part of me is missing the speed at which my tank top grew, so here are a couple of close-up photos of the lovely chunkiness...

To alleviate my craving for quick knitting, I'm currently planning a small chunky wool project to add to my autumn/winter accessories collection. More on that soon!